Friday, November 25, 2011

Ellis Con 2011: Doubts and Redoubts (Borodino)

A group of us from the Hartford Area Historical Gaming Society (HAHGS) ran part of our big Borodino scenario (planned for Historicon in July, 2012) at EllisCon in Danielson, CT on this past Saturday, November 19th. I'd estimate we had about 60% of the troops that will take the field there with us for this one, although we didn't wind up using most of the Reserves. Gary, Roger, Joe, Barry and I all contributed troops to this one, as we will in July as well. Even with the reduced sceanrio, it still took me 6 hours to organize all of my troops by command, and pack them into my car for the 2 hour drive to the convention, which is on the opposite end of the state from me. Here's what my loaded-up car looked like at 7:15 AM, after Barry added his troops and terrain:

The drive was uneventful, and Barry and I arrived at the H.H. Ellis Technical School, where the convention is held, at about 9:15AM. Joe, Roger, and Greg were already there, so we got right to work setting up the table, deploying the troops, etc, and got it all done in less than 2 hours, so that we were ready to start pretty much at 11AM as scheduled. That we were able to pull that off is a tribute to now practiced teamwork of the guys, as well as the advance organization of the commands.

This is a long view of the table setup, with the French and their allies to the left, and the Russians to the right. The buildings in the far distance are the small village of Borodino itself. At the far end, there is a 6 foot wide by 6 foot long wing extending to the left, from whence Prince Eugene's powerful Corps advances. 

Speaking of this wing at a right angle to main table, and Viceroy Eugene's command, here it is! The battle was fought using the newly released 2nd edition of  Brent Oman's Field of Battle rules by Piquet.

Another shot of the set up, this time looking from Borodino, with the Russians to the left and French to the right. The far end of the table is in very bright sunlight at this hour - the convention is held in a high ceiling Aircraft Hangar, with extensive, tall windows at this end of the building. After I  giave a very brief background of the 1812 campaign, and the Battle of Borodino, fought on September 7, 1812, the game got under way. 

From memory, so I may get some names wrong, on the French side Corey and Greg commanded Eugene's powerful Corps, followed by Roger with Junot's Westphalian Corps, then Matt with half of Ney's Corps, then Larry with the other half plus the Vistula Legion, and finally Laura, with 2 Cavalry corps, those of Montbrun and Nansouty. Here I am reviewing Laura's forces with her as she rolls a "Triple Magic Move" at her first opportunity!

Not one for half measures, Laura boldy moves her first Division, Pajol's Light Cavalry, the full 36" forwards! "Hullo there, Ruskis!" For the Russians, Joe has the defenders of Borodino, plus Platov's Cossacks, Barry has the Russian center, including the Great Redoubt, then Matt #2 had the Russian Imperial Guard Infantry, followed by Jeff with  Ouvarov's 1st (Guard)  Cavalry Corps, and finally Zach with General Siver's Cavalry Corps. Those are Zach's commanders looking a bit "exposed" to the French. 

Laura then rolled another triple move with her second Division, this time of Carabiniers and Cuirassiers!  Watch out for the ladies, is all I can say!  :-)

Close up of the conclusion of  "the Grand Gallop" of the French Cavalry!

The remainder of Laura's 2 Cavalry Corps thunder forwards (she only rolled double moves for them), supported by a  French Horse Artillery battery. 

Well, as fate would have it, the French had won a big chunk of initiative to start the game, and a second French MOVE card was turned shortly. Rolling well once again on their Leadership Die, the French charged home! Here is the situation after the resultant melees were resolved - she went 2 for three, destroying a Russian cavalry unit and a horse battery, which was caught before it could even unlimber. Ouch! 

Another view of the aftermath of the Charge - that Russian flank is looking very vulnerable. The Russian player, Zach, took all this with admirable stoicism! 

Elsewhere, those French MOVES were bringing the infantry into the action as well; Ney's troops, with the Vistula Legion in support, are moving on Raevsky's redoubt; the hill and redoubt with ditch were scratch built by Barry. I used my Grand Duchy of Warsaw Poles to stand in for them, as the actual Vistula Legion troops for the July game (all 72 of them) are just started on my painting table.

Eugene's massive Corps advances upon Borodino; as a result of this game, we will make some changes to the deployment and scenario to ensure that Eugene gets engaged sooner. Corey was very patient, but his troops needed to get engaged faster. 

The Russian defenders feel snug behind their ditch and redoubt!

View of the table at this point from Borodino itself. 

Eugene's troops continue to close on Borodino, while the Russians await their chance to disrupt their advance. The colored squares of paper are "Command Cards", and list each Command in the game with it's Officer and his ratings, and all of the troops in the command with their ratings. All the cards of a Corps have the same background color, making the lines of command fairly clear. 

Another view of the advance; evidently the French had the sun in their eyes! For this game, we kept the Command Cards with the Officer figures for clarity, although I had made up color coded labels for them so that the cards could be kept off the table for reference, thus reducing the clutter and "dirt"; we'll have to try using the Commander labels for the next game (we need to test out the changes to the Borodino/Eugene sector, plus the assault on the Fleches by Davout, and  also Poniatowski's flanking attempt). 

The French manage to get another MOVE card, while the Russian guns make good use of some ARTILLERY FIREPOWER cards. Junot's Westphalians are seen advancing in the Foreground (Jerome had already departed  the army a month earlier in a fit of Pique over Davout having been given authority over his Corps when the two of them closed upon the Russians).

Russian musketry mows down more than a few French assailants! Although it was far from the biggest battle of the Napoleonic Wars (Wagram, Leipzig, Dresden, and Bautzen were all bigger), Borodino was the bloodiest single battle of the entire 19th century in Europe !

The remainder of Ney's Corps is engaging the Russians between the Redoubt and Borodino, with a Wurttemburg regiment in the lead. Note the French batteries in the background. 

The first French attack succeeds in pushing many of the defenders back from the Redoubt (rolling high and EVEN in Field of Battle is always a good thing!)

...but the Russians have plenty of Reserves available!

On the far Russian right flank, the massed cavalry of Platov and Korff prepare to advance, the Russians finally having turned a MOVE card!

Back on the Russian left flank, the MOVE has now allowed the the cavalry of Ouvarov (consisting of the Imperial Guard horsemen) and Sievers to charge themselves. As always in our games, the chickens, pigs, sheep, etc indicate units that are "Out of Command" (much like Disordered in other games), while rocks indicate Unit Integrity (UI) loss. 

A swarm of Cossacks beset Eugene's advance upon Borodino! We have added a special rule for Cossacks (and also the Russian  militia "Opolchenie", which don't appear in this sector) for these troops, borrowed form Piquet's Archon/Band of Brothers 2nd editions. Their lousy D4 defense die type (compared with a D6 for most regulars, D8 for elites, and D10 for guards) makes them a choice target for artillery and musket fire. However, we are playing that they only cost a Morale point when they are destroyed or routed, not for each UI loss they suffer. However, once they rout for any reason, they  are removed from play, with no chance to rally. This makes these troops fairly expendable, which is pretty much how we feel the rest of the army would have viewed them!

Some Cossack Horse artillery are deployed in support - Steve Barber Models from Barry's collection. 

The Viceroy has sufficient forces that he isn't overly worried by the approaching "Riders of the Steppes". 

As the sun moves lower in the sky, the fighting around the Great Redoubt intensifies!

Matt and Roger watch the fierce fighting around the Redoubt. Matt has played in several of our past games, and is now pursuing a PhD at a nearby school, so we hope to see more of him at the Hartford area games. Joe and I first met in college as well, almost 40 years ago now, and that led to my meeting Charlie Sweet (and quite a few games at Charlie's house in Joe's hometown of Bristol, CT). Charlie was one of the true "Old Guard" of our hobby; a true gentleman with a passion for toy soldiers, history, and games. 

The French Assault on the Redoubt has achieved mixed results.   The better cohesion of the Vistula Legion as compared with the French regulars is evident! The Vistula legion had a complex evolution, but traced its origin back to Polish volunteers serving the French Republic as early as 1798; the 1812 campaign was their first chance to really come to grips with their traditional enemies, the Russians. 

    A joke told by the professor of  Joe's Polish History class at Central Connecticut State University a few years back comes to mind....

 "You're a Polish soldier and you have a German coming at you from your right, and a Russian from your left! Quickly now, who do you shoot first?"

"That's an easy one - the German!"


<shrugs>  "Business before Pleasure!"

A final push by the French attackers on the fourth French MOVE card pushes all of the Russian defenders back from the Redoubt, routing several units, which later exited the table. This was a bit of a surprise to the Russians, as usually there are only three MOVE cards in an army's Sequence Deck, but Napoleon came up with a Superior deck, even though Borodino was far from his best day as an Army Commander; evidently a severe cold that he was suffering from hampered his usual efficiency... or that's the excuse that history gives!

A different view of the situation  around the Redoubt at the end of the Turn (which represented about 4 hours of combat, about the same length of time it took to play). 

Back on the Russian far left, the massive cavalry action has swirled, ebbed, and flowed into a confused tangle of flanking and outflanked horsemen of both sides, with the Russians gradually gaining the upper hand. Here the Polish 13th Hussars (in the light blue shakos) has just completed a bold charge into the flank of some Russians, and threatens the rest of the Russian rear! Both French and Russian cavalry died like flies on this day, with two French and one Russian cavalry Corps running out of Morale Points in short order; no one failed their Corps Morale roll (done on the appearance of the ARMY MORALE CHECK card, however!

The Russian Imperial Guard Infantry and Artillery are the anchor of this side of the hill on which the Grand Redoubt is located; that's an awful lot of first rate troops for one Hussar regiment to tackle! At the top of the picture Matt #2's Guard Jagers are engaged in an ongoing firefight with a regiment of the Vistula Legion, commanded by Larry. A stray bullet has laid low General Lavarov, the commander of the Russian Guard Infantry Division! Note his figure tipped over on the red Command Card. On the ARMY MORALE CHECK card, all leaders who have had at least one unit in their command shot at or engaged in melee since the last AMC was turned must check to see if they were hit; a roll of "1" on a D20 (the rules call for a D12, but we use a D20) the Leader is hit, and all of the units in his Division are Out of Command. A replacement Command Group leader is generated on the next LEADERSHIP card, which is also the car that allows troops to be rallied and/or restored to Command.  

The position of the Polish (Grand Duchy of Warsaw) Hussars after their charge - Out of Command and down a unit integrity as well. In the event, the Russians drew a MANEUVER card, and the Horse Battery seen above, which had retreated from an earlier melee, unlimbered and blasted the audacious Poles to smithereens!

Shortly thereafter, the Sequence decks were exhausted, and with the hour advancing and take down and the drive home looming, we decided to halt play at that point. It was a very hard fought action, that also pointed up the need to make some changes to the scenario.  On the way home, Joe, Greg, Barry and I stopped of at the Pizza place/dinner a few miles form the HS, for some affordable but surprisingly good food, and great conversation about fine tuning the scenario further. As we have the past three years, we had a great time at Ellis Con, and look forward to returning again next year. A small but worthwhile all genres gaming convention with several local dealers in attendance, Ellis  Con is well worth the trip if you live or go to school in CT, RI, or central /eastern MA. I hope to see faces new and old there again next year!



  1. Very impressive game. Another great report. How many player spots will there be in the full game?

  2. Awesome game!! Very good report and photos.

  3. @ Mike: We probably need at least 8 players a side for things to run smoothly, and could easily handle at least 10 per side, with 12 being about the maximum.

    @Roger: Thanks! The photos were a combination of mine, Barry's and Joe's. That worked out well because we were each on a different sector of the table, and although we each took some pics of the other parts, we naturally focused on the action that was taking place under our noses.

  4. Superb Peter,
    A cracking read with excellent pics!!

  5. wow! your trunk looks great!
    As this is my first post also many thanks for the blog. It is a great and valuable read.

  6. @Paul: Glad you enjoyed it; I always enjoy your blog as well!

    @Bernard: Thanks! When I finally had to replace my 17 year old Subaru Legacy, I knew I wanted another Subaru (all wheel drive is a must around here - see the October snowstorm pics!), and a key consideration as far as what model was how many of those plastic shoe boxes it would hold! I've used them to store and transport my troops for decades now; the "lids" that form the trays for the troops when the boxes are inverted are broadly color coded - medium blue for French, white for Austrians, green for Russians and Italians, dark blue for Poles, brown for Prussians, black for Brunswickers, yellow for Saxons, etc. With careful packing, each box will hold about 90 28mm infantry or 32-40 Cavalry, or 30-40 Artillery with guns. So, if you count up all the boxes, you can get a pretty good idea how many men were marching along with us. You've actually been following along for quite a some time, so good to hear from you!

  7. Hi - I've only just discovered this excellent blog. Great stuff!


  8. nice report, sounds like you had a great time.


  9. @ Stryker - glad you're enjoying it; I looked over your blogs, and the Hinton Hunt one was quite nostalgic - my original armies back in the 1970's were Scrubys with Hinton Hunt for variety and some figures Jack didn't make, like Elite company men for the French cavalry regiments.

    @ John - thanks, we did. It was great to have some early teenagers play, and at least one asked if we'd be back so he could play again next year. Perfect!

  10. Great Batrep - thanks. Something to aspire to when we do Borodino next year in New South Wales!

  11. Wow!...Impressive stuff Peter. Thanks for posting.

  12. Hi P

    Lots of lead on that BIG table looks good

  13. @Sparker - good luck with your own version of this epic battle!

    @Steve and Garry - thanks; the table for the whole scenario will be about 50% longer off to the French right, with another 6 foot wing on that flank!

  14. Great battle report - must have been a blast of a weekend.

    Interested to know how you went with the transportation as well - any problems with the storage boxes, or units becoming 'disordered' during the trek ?

    That can be a real difficult problem to solve sometimes. I haven't tried out my method on a big journey yet.

  15. Steve,

    We had a great time, but it was all in one day - left circa 7AM, back home about 9PM.

    As I haven't (yet) gone with magnetized transport boxes. there is always a bit of jumbling in transport, but usually nothing serious. As I am now doing a lot of transporting (at least 3-4 x a year), I am about to go to some magnetic boxes/bases at least for transport if not storage.

    Much more of an issue is the time to pull and organize the troops for a particular battle, and them put them all back in their proper places afterwards. Not surprisingly, I have a very exact plan for where everything goes when just on display. Of course, this takes time even when you run a game at home, but transport is much more time consuming, especially as you still have to set up and take down the game, while at home that's pretty much incorporated into pulling and putting away the troops. It's worth it, though!

  16. A bit late but very enjoyable report. Followed the link on current TMP post. :o)