Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Battling with Bastardized Black Powder: Big Bash Based upon Borodino, Part 2

The action resumes with the start of French Turn 2. Napoleon is giving instructions to Friant and Razout. The first French move was started at 10:30 AM, the first Russian Move at 11 AM. Being on the defensive, there was a lot less movement to do on the Russian turn, with most of that happening on the Southern, Utitsa table. It is now 11: 15 AM. 

Ledru advances up to the stream on the far North of the field...

whilst Dessaix moves up to engagement range from the Great redoubt!
When asked for comment he allegedly said something like "We have marched hundreds of miles since we crossed the river Nieman and the big battle has evaded us. It is here now, and we will not shirk from it!" At least that's how it will read in Le Moniteur...

French and allied troops under Bruyere and Ochs advancing bravely upon Utitsa and the woods to its North. 

A major French assault by Razout begins just South of the Fleches. The casualties are likely to be heavy, but the Emperor will likely be generous with bestowing the coveted crosses of the Legion d’Honneur  and other awards to the survivors, non

Close up of action around Utitsa and the nearby woods. My cherished readers, this is very awkward to repeat, so let us borrow a term from the battle of Eggmuhl, and call this the "Hanging Woods" for future reference. 

Razout throws more troops forward to join his assault upon the Fleches!

Panorama of the battlefield, mid French Turn 2. 

General Ochs threatens a mass of Kapsevitch's infantry and a massed Russian battery  with a Cavalry Brigade. They look a bit lonely out there, though...

The fire of Och's own Grand battery, although distant, puts some serious hurt on one of the Russian batteries, and out right eliminates another (failed break test - note the gap). With 2 hits on it, the battery has reached its stamina level and will become Shaken as well as Disordered. Och's cavalry are feeling a little bit better about their position now!

Razout's assault upon the Fleches continues. 

The gap in Kapsevitch's grand battery widens; more hits on the shaken battery have caused another failed break test resulting in it's elimination. A third battery has now taken damage, and become Disordered as well. The Disorder will last until the end of the following Russian turn, thus effecting their firepower. 

Razout at the Fleches  - "Beat the pas de charge!"
Excusez-moi, mon général, but does not le reglement state that you must the charge declare prior to attempting a move?  Oui? And that is why they are waiting for their chance to charge on your next turn?   Pardon!

French Troops threaten the heavy batteries stationed in the Great Redoubt at the end of French Turn 2.   "For what we are about the receive..."

SCORE:  French 7, Russians 2 at the end of French Move 2.  Their troops are within engagement range in many parts of the battlefield, but with the Russian turn coming up, French losses are inevitable as the forces of our glorious  Tsar get their chance to fire!

Russian Turn 2 commences circa 11: 40 AM, with Uvarov, Voronsov, and Neverovsky consulting the Artillery fire modifiers  at the Fleches . That's +1 for artillery firing at close range, -2 to saves for the targets hit by Heavy Artillery. That's gotta HURT!

Kapsevich finds his Cavalry (Russian Dragoons, along with some Hussars) are a bit too far away to charge the French infantry safely, so he advances them far enough to seriously threaten the advancing Westphalians, screened by some Russian Jagers. Mean while, his own infantry are preparing a Light Cavalry Sandwich - double dice for shooting into a flank. Sacre Bleu! 

Successive lines of French and Russian Infantry clash between the Hanging Woods and the Fleches. 

Russian fire from the Great redoubt is effective, but not crushing thus far...

Russian infantry on the extreme Northern end of the battlefield, confronted by masses of French cavalry with very little infantry or artillery support, form square, and wisely so. 
Dyatkov to Ledru - "You magnificent chevalier flamboyant, *I* read the book!"

Marshal Kutosov orders some troops forward from the Reserves. Your roving reporter had the opportunity interview the General briefly. First let me say that reports read elsewhere typically state  that this fine officer was said to have been besotted on the day of this great battle, but as an eyewitness I can confirm that he was anything but. Asked for an explanation fopr sending troops forward so early in the action, he observed that Kapsevitch was pressing forward aggressively, and would likely need reinforcements when his advance ran out of steam. In addition, he observed somewhat sheepishly, the Russian 3rd Corps, which were the trooops committed, were actually supposed to have started on the table, but there simply was not sufficient room for them! 

Russian troops maneuvering in and around the Hanging Woods. 

Overview of the Southern (Utitsa) sector form the Russian vantage-point.

SCORE:  French 7, Russians 6 at the end of Russian Move 2.  The Russians dearly love their Artillery, and brought lots of it to the battle. Despite that. their performance  was somewhat disappointing this turn!

We then broke off the action for a short repast. With 22 teenage guys, 8 adult men, and a couple of moms taking part, there was still lots of pizza left over.  Incroyable!
It was, after all, Napoleon himself who stated "An Army marches on its stomach!"

The action recommenced  after some pictures, with French Turn 3 at about 1:15 PM.

Hordes of French cavalry ford the stream. charging into the North woods, while some French infantry shifts to their left to confront the Russian Squares. 

Action around the Fleches on the center table. 

The French surround the  Great Redoubt on three sides, trying to poor in heavy fire. 

The action is nowhere more intense than on the Southern (Utitsa) table. Note the cavalry charging a Russian line in the flank in the foreground. "We'll *enjoy* this!"

Masses of troops in waves fight it out!  As Jared observed, "Now THAT looks like a Napoleonic battle!"

Calculating combat... "What happens when Cavalry charge infantry at the edge of a Woods?"

Overview of the battle from the North. 

Almost everyone has troops hotly engaged now!

Chaos, but well organized chaos!

Razout's troops have pushed forward into a somewhat fragile looking salient between the Hanging Woods and the Southernmost of the Fleches. 

Friant's men assault the Great Redoubt. That closing fire has got to be murderous!

Meanwhile, Napoleon has decided to commit ALL of his reserves, now!  
To the Northern table, opposite the Great Redoubt, are dispatched The Old Guard Infantry, one Young Guard Division, and the 2nd Cavalry Corps. To the center table opposite the Fleches are sent 2 more Young Guard Divisions and the Cavalry of the Guard. Finally, to the Southern table, the 3rd cavalry Corps is dispatched. 

Another view of the attack on the great Redoubt. Note the depth of Russians in reserve behind the fortified position. 

Lots of action around the hanging Woods...

and around Utitsa!

SCORE:  French 17, Russians 10 at the end of French Move 3.  They hold the edge, but the Russians are eager to respond during their half of Turn 3. 

One idea that Jarec came up with for this game was "Command Cards".  Each of the Senior "Wing/Corps commanders had a set of these that they could use to influence the game in their sector, and the respective Army commanders had their own cards as well. 

Here's how they were allocated:

Army Commanders/Corps Commanders:

French:                                                Number of Army Cards:

Napoleon: Army Commander             3

Corps Commanders:                           Number of Command Cards:
Davout                                                 6 (commands a table)
Ney                                                      6 (commands a table)
Poniatowski                                        5 (commands a table
Junot                                                   4

Russian:                                              Number of Army Cards:

Kutuzov: Army Commander                3

Corps Commanders:                           Number of Command Cards:
Barclay                                                            4 (commands a table)
Bagration                                            4 (commands a table)
Uvarov                                                 3 (commands a table)
Miloradovich                                       3

Command Cards: (Upper School Corps Commanders)

Each Upper School student will represent a real life figure from the battle and will receive a set of Command Cards which that can influence the battle.  Each card is one use.  How many and which cards a player receives is dependent on which historical figure the student represents.

Card Possibilities:
1) Leadership:  Re-roll a failed command check.
2) Morale!: Re-roll a failed break test.
3) Divisional Rally: Fall back and perform rally check on all units from a single division.
4) Charge!:  Add 2D6 to any melee attack.
5) Fire!:  Add 2D6 to any shooting attack.

Divisional Rally Test:
Corps commander plays card on division and orders them to all rally.
Units rallying fall back 1 increment.
Each unit takes a LD test.
Fail- unit is destroyed (enemy DOES NOT receive +1 victory points)
Pass or win by 1 - unit regains a rock
Win by 2- unit regains 2 rocks
Win by 3- unit removes all rocks

Army Cards: (Army Commander)

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov have special Army Cards which can be used to influence the battle.  Each card is one use.  Each commander has access to ONE of these cards.

French Army Cards:

1) Desperate Dash:  Spend this card to move the Army Commander to any part of the battlefield and take personal command of ONE division.  The whole division receives a +2 to all command checks for that turn.

2) Seize the Initiative: Play this card at the end of the French turn. Take an immediate free turn. 

3) Artillery Barrage:  Choose any French grand battery on the board.  Each unit receives +1D6 to its shooting total.


1) Desperate Dash:  Spend this card to move the Army Commander to any part of the battlefield and take personal command of ONE division.  The whole division receives a +2 to all command checks for that turn.

2) Stoicism:  Play this card at the end of the Russian turn.  Nominate a Russian division.  Each unit in that division removes 1 rock.

3) Counterattack:  Play this card at the beginning of the Russian turn.  All Russian infantry units receive a +1 to command checks when charging.

 Team Russia

Team France

To be continued...


  1. An epic struggle, Peter! They all look to be having fun.
    I am interested learning how the youngsters are reacting to both the spectacle and the battle.

    1. Most, but not all of the players are veterans of quite a few tabletop battles already, but this Borodino set up was certainly extremely impressive. They all seemed to enjoy the game, and had cogent observations on the game, Napoleonic tactics, and the high level decisions made by the respective army commanders during a brief post game discussion.

  2. Very exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with the Imperial Guard, and whether the Russians can swing the balance back toward them.

    1. Thanks, Lawrence! Well, we shall see. :-)
      I am working on Part 3...

  3. Great storyboard, the participation level in this is just a pleasure to watch. Blogging at its best - thank you.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Norm. The players all seemed very engaged1

  4. Love the Command cards a great idea (but you really need to introduce them to FOB !!)

    1. I think FoB has rather enough cards already, but we did have fun with giving some of the Leaders in our LANNES campaign special characteristics, and I think that would work well with Season of Battle as well.

    2. I meant introduce FOB to the students :-)

    3. :-)
      Actually, I already have. We did Austerlitz with FoB in December 2016. I wouldn't mind doing Wagram next year...

  5. Great post, great pictures, and some great ideas that I'd like to try out in our next game.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Robert. Glad you enjoyed it!

  6. What a magnificent second battle report Peter. The photos are very good and one can see the joy and level of concentration in those young, and older, faces! The Command cards are an inspired idea btw. Looking forward to going right over to Part Three and seeing if the French Imperial Guard strike the killer blows.