Saturday, April 7, 2012

1st Battle of Polotsk - August 17, 1812

In addition to Borodino, we'll be running two other scenarios from the 1812 campaign in Russia at Historicon this July. This will be our Thursday afternoon game there, and last month "Czar" Barry and I gathered to playtest the scenario (rules: Field of Battle, 2nd edition, by Brent Oman). The French objective is to hold the bridgehead at Polotsk, and defeat the Russians, while the Russians are to seize the convent at Spas and defeat the Bavarians without risking excessive casualties that might uncover the route to St. Petersburg. In the battle report I'm going to give a much more detailed account than usual of the game mechanics in action, for those who aren't that familiar with the rules. I'll present the scenario itself first, using the same format as my 1809: Blunders on the Danube scenario book:

1st Battle of Polotsk - August 17, 1812

Table Size: 6 x 10 feet

Scale:  1 Infantry unit = aprox 720 men, 1 Cavalry unit = approx 450 men, 1 Artillery unit = approx 12 guns.

Background: While Napoleon and the main army advanced towards Moscow, Marshal Oudinot's II Corps protected the northern flank. Only General Wittgenstein's Russian I Corps potentially prevented the French from marching all the way to St. Petersburg. Feeling that Oudinot was being overly cautious, Napoleon sent St.-Cyr's weak VI (Bavarian) Corps to augment the French advance in the North.

On the morning of August 17, 1812, Oudinot's 20,000 French and St.-Cyr's 12,000 Bavarians were situated rather carelessly in the vicinity of Polotsk. A rural town along the Dvna River, Polotsk represented a crucial road junction in northern Russia. Believing the Russians too weak to bother him, Oudinot had deployed his force on both banks of the Dvna River, spread out and vulnerable to attack. Russian General Peter Wittgenstein recognized this weakness, and hoped to take advantage of the opportunity to inflict a sharp defeat upon St.-Cyr's Bavarians on the northern bank of the Dvna. Meanwhile, St. Cyr was eager to earn his Marshal's baton!

Map: The stream is class II and everywhere fordable. The river Dvna is passable only by the bridge at Polotsk. The lake is impassable.All woods and hills are class II terrain, as are all buildings, except that the walled Spas convent is class III cover (the walls around the convent are separate, can hold one unit, and are class II terrain). Each time the convent (but not the walls) changes hands, the side taking it gains 2 Army Morale Points; there is no limit to how many times the convent may change hands (it happened multiple times in the actual battle) and the bonus awarded!

Scenario Rules:  Oudinot may Rally units (on a Leadership card as usual) at an additional Up1, but rolls a  D10 (instead of a D20) to determine his risk for being hit; if he fails the roll he is wounded (again!), and St. Cyr takes over as Army Commander on the next Leadership card. Losses from the Cossack units only cost a single Army Morale Point for an entire unit, and only when they rout (in which case they are removed from play), retreat off the table (ditto), or are reduced to zero UI/eliminated.

Deployment: Both sides deploy as shown; the French deploy first, and the Russians second. The French Light cavalry must start on the Plotosk side of the stream (only). Doumerc's Heavy Cavalry Division may not act on the first French MOVE card (they were actually at some distance from the battlefield at the start of the action..

Reinforcements: None; although there were two more "French" Infantry Divisions in the vicinity (Merle's Swiss and Croatians, and Verdier's French), they did not see combat until the second day, which is not represented here.

Victory Conditions: If the French fail Army morale, the Russians win a Decisive victory, unless they are also at zero AMP at the time, in which case it is a Major Victory. If the Russians fail Army Morale it is a Decisive French victory unless they are also at zero AMP, in which case Major. Otherwise if either side is at zero AMP at the end of the battle and their opponent is not, it is a Major victory. If neither side is at zero AMP at the end of the battle, the side which has more remaining AMP's wins; if that side has 12 or more AMP remaining than its opponent, then it is a Major victory, otherwise a Minor victory.

Terrain map for  the 1st Battle of Polotsk

Deployment map for the 1st Battle of Poltosk

French Order of Battle:

Marshal Oudinot, Army Commander and Commander II Corps: Skilled, LD12, CR 24"
Skilled Sequence Deck.     28 Infantry, 7 Cavalry, 7 Artillery.     Army Morale Points:

6th Infantry Division, GD Legrand:  Excellent, LD 
3 units French Legere  DD8, CD12
9 units French Ligne  DD6, CD10
6# Foot Battery  DD6, CD 12

Light Cavalry Brigade, GB Courbineau:  Average, LD 
French Chasseur a Cheval  DD6, CD10
French Chevau-Leger Lancier  DD6, CD12

Light Cavalry Brigade, GB Castex:  Skilled, LD 
2 French Chasseurs a Cheval  DD6, CD10

Heavy Cavalry Division, GD Doumerc: Average, LD 
3 French Cuirassier  DD8, CD12
1 French Horse Artillery  DD8, CD12+1

VI (Bavarian) Corps, GD St Cyr: Skilled, LD 12, CR 24"

19th Infantry Division, Wrede: Average,  LD 
1 Bavarian Light Infantry  DD6, CD10
6 Bavarian Line Infantry  DD6, CD10
3 Bavarian 6# Batteries   DD6, CD12

20th Infantry Division Deroy: Average,  LD 
2 Bavarian Light Infantry  DD6, CD10
7 Bavarian Line Infantry   DD6, CD8
1 Bavarian 6# Battery     DD6, CD12
1 Bavarian 12# Battery    DD6, CD 12 +1

Russian Order of Battle:

1st Corps, GL Count Wittgenstein: Average,  LD10, CR 20"
Average Sequence Deck.    19 Infantry,  5 Cavalry, 9 Artillery.     Army Morale points:

Advanced Guard, GM Koulnieff:  Skilled,  LD 
2 Russian Jager  DD8, CD10
1 Hussar  DD8, CD10
2 Cossacks*  DD4, CD8
1 6# Horse Battery  DD6, CD12

Main Battle Line, GM Berg:  Average,  LD 
4 Russian Line  DD8, CD8
2 Russian Jager  DD8, CD10
2 6# Foot Batteries  DD6, CD12

2nd Line of Battle, GM Karkhofski:  Average, LD 
3 Converged Grenadiers  DD8, CD8
2 Reserve Grenadiers  DD10, CD12
6## Foot Battery  DD6, CD12+1
6# Horse Battery  DD6, CD12

Reserve Infantry, GM Sazonov:  Poor,  LD 
4 Russian Line  DD8, CD8
2 Russian Jager  DD8, CD10
2 6# Foot Batteries  DD6, CD12

Reserve cavalry, Prince Repnin:  Average,  LD 
2 Cuirassier  DD8, CD12

Reserve Artillery, GM Jachwill:  Average,  LD 
2 12# Foot Batteries  DD6, CD12+1

The Battle Report:

   First, a word about the various components of the OOB that are unique to the Field of Battle rules. The units have two ratings. First is their Defense Die Type (DD), determined by the unit's rating (Rabble DD4, Raw DD4, Regular DD6, Crack DD8 or Elite DD10). This Defense Die is used when they are fired upon by small arms or artillery, and is never modified. Second is their Combat Die Type (CD) which is used when the unit fires or engages in close combat (or melee, if you will). The CD ranges from a D8 to a D12+1, and in the rules as written it is determined randomly based upon the units rating above, and a D20 roll for each unit before the game. Thus some Guard units that roll poorly will have a lesser CD than Line units that roll very well. In all cases in Filed of Battle, higher is better. Having said that, we usually ignore this and use standard ratings for our units, especially for big convention games. For the Russian Infantry, we rate the Line and Jagers with a Defense Die 8, which is a notch higher than French Line; this makes them more resistant to the effects of small arms fire, and models their famed stoicism. This carries on to the Grenadiers at D10 instead of a D8 for their DD. We rate their CD a notch *lower* than their French equivalents for the Line and Jagers; this makes them less effective firing, while the higher DD usually gives them a bonus in Melee, making them even for that. So far, it seems to be working as intended in our games.

Second, each leader (in this case Division, Corps, and/or Army commanders) have a rating, determined by nationality and/or historical performance; Abysmal, Poor, Average, Skilled, Superior. The French will usually have the edge in these; Once again these ratings are used, along with a D20 roll for each leader (prior to the start of the battle), to generate a Leadership Die Type (LD) for each, ranging from a D8 (many Austrian generals get saddled with those!) to a D12+1 (i.e, Davout, Napoleon, etc on a good day). These values are extremely important as the Leadership Die rolls influence the odds of the Army winning the initiative rolls or seizing the initiative on a LULL card (for the Army C-in-C), determines the number of MOVE segments that a sub-commanders troops get, and also determines how effective the officer will be at rallying his troops.

The quality of the Sequence Deck each army uses is also a factor of the Army C-in-C's Leadership rating and (you guessed it!) a D20 roll, again done prior to the start of the game. These range from Abysmal to Poor, Average, Good, and Excellent. Leaving aside scenario specific and other special cards, all of these decks (for Napoleonic games) have the following cards in common: Three each Infantry Firepower, Artillery Firepower, Army Morale, and Melee, and two each Tactical Advantage cards. Where they differ is in the number of Lull cards (bad), which range from 1 for an Excellent sequence deck to a whopping 6 for an Abysmal one, Leadership cards (2-5), Move cards (3-4), Maneuver cards (1-2), and Move One Command cards (1-2).

Finally each army has a certain number of Army Morale Points (AMP), averaging one per unit but varying +/-25% depending on - a D12 roll this time, once again made for each side prior to the start of the game. The number of Morale Points each side starts with is secret, as is their total, until they drop to zero. Having zero AMP's is bad in a number of ways, but the biggest is that it makes you subject to the Army Morale Card when it is turned; fail that roll, and it's Game Over!  There is more about Field of Battle on this blog in my post about it last year. Now, on to the narrative...

Game set up; Franco-Bavarians (played by myself) to the left, Russians (played by Barry) to the right. 

Another view of the setup, showing the advanced position of Wrede's Bavarian Division, posed in and around the Spas convent. 

A final view of the set up, looking from the Russian right flank. 

Like any game of Field of Battle, this one started with each of us rolling our C-in C's Leadership Die; in this case Oudinot rolled a "2" on his D12, while Wittgenstein rolled a "6" on his D10. As the winner of the opposed die rolls, Barry chose to go first. Since the difference in the rolls was four pips, the Russians would act with 4 impetus, which meant he would turn 4 cards. 

The first Russian card was - MOVE ONE COMMAND; Barry chose the Infantry Division with the Grenadiers that was deployed opposite the convent. The Divisional Commander rolled a "2" on his D10; this allowed one move segment, and the Russians moved up 8", just short of the Bavarian-held Convent. The fact that Barry  rolled "even" with his LD would have allowed some or all of his units to change facing or formation, limber/unlimber, or engage in melee immediately if in contact with the enemy. None of these were relevant in this case. With the Russians now within small arms range (6" or less), although either of us could have fired our infantry at that point, neither of us did. The Russian artillery of the Division, however, chose to fire first and then limber up. 

The next Russian card was INFANTRY FIREPOWER. How convenient! Only the troops opposite Spas were in range, and as they were already loaded, there was nothing to lose by shooting. As the defender, I declared opportunity fire in response, my troops would also get to shoot, but the effect would be spontaneous; had I declared fire at him previously, as he completed his move, the effect of my fire would have preempted his fire, if any, and any adverse effects upon the Russians would have been assessed *prior* to them being able to issue fire in return. The result of the exchange of fire despite the Bavarians being in cover, was that one of the Russian units suffered a loss of 1 Unit Integrity (UI), and the Bavarian defenders, targeted by two Russian units,  suffered the loss of 2 UI. Each infantry unit ordinarily has 4 UI, Cavalry units have 3 UI, and Artillery units have 2 UI. Each UI loss costs an Army Morale Point (AMP); any unit that reaches zero UI automatically routs; any unit reaching minus1 UI is removed from play. It takes a difference of three pips on the dice between the shooters modified Combat Die and the defender's defense die type to score one UI loss; simultaneous fire is cumulative as far as pips, while sequential fire is not.  Because one of the Russian units rolled "even" and greater than the Bavarian Defense Die, the Bavarian defending unit became "Out of Command", a negative morale state similar to being "shaken" or "disordered" in most other rules sets. Ordinarily, in such a case, the Bavarians would also fall back the difference, in inches, between the enemy even CD roll and their DD roll; however this fall back requirement doesn't apply to unlimbered artillery or units defending structures, so the Bavarians stood their ground on the convent walls.  The Russians then used the Firepower card to "reload" the two units that fired. 

The third Russian Card was a MOVE card. The Russian right flank command rolled a "1" for its Leadership Die; whenever this happens, that command can make NO move. We allow the Corps or Army Leader to re-roll with their LD; Barry did this and also rolled a "1" with that - epic fail! On the left flank he rolled 2 segments and even, and thus launched an assault upon the convent; this resulted in the Russian attackers being forced back Out of Command with a UI loss. 

The situation on the Russain Left after the failed first assault on the Convent; note the fox marker, indicating that the Russian unit is "Out of Command". 

The central Division then  rolled an "8" with its LD, while I rolled a "2" on my opposing D6; this difference of six pips allowed *three* Russian move segments (i.e., up to 24") and because the LD was "even", they could also use a segment to change facing or formation, as well as engage in melee immediately if in frontal contact (flank or rear contact always allows immediate melee resolution); a so called "Triple Magic Move". In the event, the Division used it to move up and exchange fire with the French, the foot artillery being particularly happy, as this allowed them to Limber (one segment), move 8" (seconds segment), and then unlimber (third segment). AS they had not yet fired and were still "loaded", this put them in excellent position, just out of enemy small arms range. Barry took the opportunity to fire at my Bavarian artillery, who of course returned fire. 

Situation after the Russian center Division's "Triple Magic Move, and the resulting exchange of artillery fire.

The Puffs of "smoke" indicate units that are "unloaded"; they may not "fire" again until a "RELOAD" card of the appropriate type is turned, which allows the "smoke" marker to be removed, rendering the unit "loaded" and able to fire once more. Small rocks indicate loss of UI. One Bavarian artillery unit suffered the loss of 2 UI and was "silenced as a result of the heavy Russian fire; this is the Artillery equivalent of "routed", except that the unit doesn't retreat involuntarily.

The fourth Russian card was a LEADERSHIP card; the Russians tried to rally the units that had taken UI losses and/or were Out of Command ("OOC"), but failed to do so, their LD rolls being too low. The modified  LD roll must exceed an opposing D8 to rally a unit from Rout/Silenced or OOC status, and for every three pips it exceeds the opposing D8, one lost UI is restored as well; no AMP's are regained in this process, however. The initiative then passed to the French.

My French now had 4 cards to act upon; the first card turned was INFANTRY FIREPOWER. As my "unloaded" unit in the convent was in short range (within 2"), it reloaded and fired; it rolled poorly (a "2") on its CD and failed to have any noticeable effect upon its target. Its puff of smoke was restored at the end of this to indicate that another Infantry Firepower card would be needed before it could "fire" again. Two other French Infantry units that had targets fired at longer ranges and immediately "reloaded". They both rolled "1's" with their CDs, and thus similarly there was no noticeable effect from their fire (and they used up their one-time "First Fire" modifier). Yikes!

The second French card turned was the ARMY MORALE CHECK card. If you do not have any units Routed presently on the table, this card doesn't cost anything to turn; as my Bavarian Artillery was Silenced, we decided (perhaps incorrectly) that it cost me an impetus to turn the card. The first thing done when this card is turned is to check for Officer Survival. Each of *your* Command group leaders that have had any units in their command fired at, in melee, or in contact with an enemy unit since the last Army Moral Check Card must roll for survival. The rules call for this to be done with a D12, but we use a D20 as we found that otherwise there were too many officers lost, which slowed the game down more than  we liked. The Army/Corps leaders also have to check if they have used their LD to roll for initiative for any sub-formations and there are any units in their command structure that have met the above criteria, or if they have attempted to rally any units under their command. A roll of "1" results in the officer in question being lost, with all of his units immediately going Out of Command. The Officer is replaced on the next friendly Leadership card. In the event, I had to roll for Wrede (only), and he didn't roll a "1", so he was OK.

I then turned the next French card... another ARMY MORALE CHECK card! "Who shuffled this deck, anyway?"  Oh yeah, I did. Quite thoroughly, in fact! Well, the good thing is that I just played the card, no tests are needed, and I have plenty of AMP's left, so there will be no ill effects. The bad thing is there is nothing positive I can do with it, and the Ruskis just had a great run of cards. "Merde!"

The fourth and final French card was a TACTICAL ADVANTAGE. This card is saved and allows you an additional UP one on any die roll *except* Army Morale. "Keep it and try to remember to use it" is our standard observation on this one! The French initiative was then over.

Well now, we may both have played the same number of cards, but the Russians had a very effective sequence, while the French had - a pile of garbage! Ouch! Time for a new Initiative roll. Wittgenstein tosses his LD cockily, and it turns up a "9"! Oudinot attempts to roll his with bravado as well, but scores only a "3". No question there, Barry chooses to go first with six cards to turn; following the four he had already, and my utter failure to accomplish anything with my own, this is probably gonna hurt!

Barry turns his first card... a glorious LULL! When this card is turned, both C-in-C's roll their LD, and if the non initiative player beats the initiative player's roll, they get to turn a card now and act on it immediately. "Yes!" With a D12 vs his D10, I have a slightly better than even chance to "seize the initiative". Oudinot rolls... yet another "1". Nope, that isn't going to work!

The next Russian card is a MOVE! The LD/D6 rolls come up 12/3, 7/2, a "1", and 7/4. That gives one command a "Triple Magic Move" (the Russian right flank infantry/cavalry command, and two others double moves without "fancy business". The final command (with the Grenadiers, opposite Spas) can't move on this card due to the "1".

The cossacks contemplated this charge, but when they figured out that the French Legere skirmishers would be rolling a D12 +2 (base D12, UP one each for First fire, Close range, and shooting at an Attack Column, down one for shooting from Skirmish formation) vs. their D4 defense die, they reconsidered. We have a special rule for Cossacks (and also Rabble-type Russian Opolchenie), where they only cost a single AMP when they rout (or are reduced to zero AMP, which is really the same thing), but not for UI losses otherwise. Even with that allowance, discretion seemed the better part of valor!

The Russian Flank command thus used their triple magic move to advance 3 segments (up to 24" for the infantry 36" for the cavalry), thus threatening the French Left flank, whilst their artillery used the three segments to "limber, move, unlimber" forward 8" in support, and then fire, scoring several hits on the French infantry. The two other Russian commands advanced, but not having rolled "even", they opted not to contact the French. An exchange of Infantry fire thus took place along the center of the line, with the French, despite having better units/formations, once again being rather on the short end. The Russian left flank cavalry (tough cuirassiers), boldly moved up to the stream, and then across it. They appeared to have elimination of the Bavarian artillery battery on that side of the stream as their goal. 

The next Russian card turned was MANEUVER. This allows any/all units to change formation or facing, but *not* both. Barry used this to unlimber his artillery which had just advanced. "Evidently these barbarians have learned something from Senarmont's similarly aggressive handling of his guns against them at Friedland in 1807!", mumbled Oudinot under his breath. The rest of his units really required no adjustments, so he made none.

The fourth Russian card was then turned... MELEE! "Sacre Bleu, what foul luck" protested Oudinot, as Czar Barry rubbed his hands together gleefully. In the 2nd edition of Field of Battle, this card is much more useful, as it allows any unit within half a move segment of the enemy to advance into contact with the enemy and engage in Melee immediately, with an Up 1 for initiating the conflict. The unit may incline/oblique as per the normal rules, but may not change facing or formation, interpenetrate any friendly units, or cross a bridge, river, or stream in the process. 2 units of Russians, one Musketeers, the other Grenadiers, lower their bayonets and charge the Bavarians holding the walls of the convent! Despite their position on the walls, the Bavarians have negative modifiers for having lost 2UI already, plus being Out of Command. The Russians, being fresh, have no such penalties, and get modifiers for attack column, initiating Melee on the Melee card, and having a higher Defense Die type ("morale") than the hapless Bayernliches. True, they suffer a small penalty for the class II terrain (light cover) of the convent, but their starting CD is and excellent D12 vs the poor D8 of the Bavarian line infantry. Barring very wayward dice rolling, the outcome was not much in doubt and the Bavarians get truly and royally creamed, losing 2 more UI and fleeing the grounds in Rout; the Russians, wining the combat on an "even" roll, area allowed to advance 2" and seize the position on the walls. "Воля Бог!" (It is the will of God), observes General Karkhofski piously.

The fifth Russian card is an ARTILLERY FIREPOWER. Having fired all of his artillery earlier in the turn, and having his batteries now unlimbered and ready to fire, but potentially vulnerable to attack by the nearby French, this card is a lifesaver for the Ivans. They quietly "reload" all their artillery (remove smoke markers), leaving them "loaded" and likely to deter excessive adventurism by the Frogies.

The sixth and final Russian card of this initiative is the TACTICAL ADVANTAGE; Czar Barry tucks it away for future use.

"Could have been worse", observes Oudinot as he turns the first of six French cards... INFANTRY FIREPOWER. Multiple French infantry units "reload" (remove smoke markers), and some fire scoring a few hits on the Russians; some Jagers break and run, but otherwise nothing decisive. 

On the second card, MELEE, some of Wrede's Bavarians charge the supporting Grenadiers, routing them (they had been softened up by prior infantry and artillery fire, and used the Tactical Advantage turned earlier as well). 

The third card is LEADERSHIP, and multiple attempts were made to rally the silenced Bavarian battery and the routers fleeing the convent, but neither pleas nor curses in either German and French seemed to have any real impact upon them. Other attempts to regain lost UI similarly failed due to cold Franco-Bavarian dice (and hot Russian ones - Barry had chosen the infamous Jalapeno dice set instead of a nice Russian green one; at this point I discarded my original blue dice set for red ones, hoping they'd be "hotter"!).

The fourth French card is TACTICAL ADVANTAGE - duly saved. The fifth is artillery firepower, and most French guns fire and "reload", achieving limited success against the high Defense Die types of the Russian infantry and cavalry. The sixth and final French card of this initiative is MOVE ONE COMMAND. "Scheiss!" shouted an enraged von Wrede; 10 cards and not a single, regular Move card among them! "Wer schlurfte dieses Kartenstapele?" he inquired loudly, looking at me accusingly. General Deroy's supporting Bavarian division was chosen( in actual history, Deroy was mortally wounded leading his troops this day), and rolled up 2 move segments, advancing on the French right to counter the threat of the Russian Cuirassier regiments. Perhaps the change in dice helped?

It is now time to roll for initiative once again, and this time the French at last come out on top, winning by two pips. Becoming somewhat desperate, I choose to go first.

The first French card is ARTILLERY FIREPOWER; unfortunately, most of their artillery is still out of position or silenced; 
however, two shots are taken at the adventuresome Cuirassiers, doing minor damage. "Take that, you  accursed Ruskis!" The second card is MELEE; the only French unit in a good position to use the card is the Bavarian line regiment stationed within the chapel itself; if they attack and fail, the objective will be open to the Russians. The French Cavalry hasn't moved an inch, and is still in reserve way back around the small city of Polotsk, so no action is taken on this card.

Czar Barry then turned a MELEE cad, and the Cuirassiers charged home on an unloaded Bavarian column that has been shooting them up; they rolled well, and the Bavarians were obviously spooked, rolling poorly. The Bavarians suffered 2 UI lost in the first round... but wait; when any unit loses 2 or more UI in a single round to cavalry, it is destroyed instead! The additional UI lost do *not* cost AMP's, however. As the Cuirassiers rolled "even", they do not pursue (which would simply have cost them a UI - without a corresponding Army Morale Point loss) to represent the loss of combat effectiveness due to the pursuit; this loss, like others, can be rallied off on a Leadership card. Parenthetically, rolling "even" is almost always good in Field of Battle, provided you win the opposed die roll - this essentially incorporates an automatic morale/pursuit/etc check mechanism into the game without needing separate procedures for same - very elegant, fast, and effective!

The second Russian card was... another MELEE Card!  "Кто зашаркало этот пакет перфокарт?" ("Who shuffled *this* deck of cards?"). The Cuirassiers tried their luck again on fresh Bavarian units, but this time artillery and infantry "opportunity" fire (yes, there is a good reason to stay "loaded" whenever possible) shot them out of their saddles, routing them. Meanwhile, the Russian Grenadiers decided that this time the Bavarians holed up in the convent looked pretty shaky, and they charged them. Hot Russian dice prevailed once again, and the  Bavarians re routed, the Russians seizing control of the Spas convent. 

The next initiative roll off once again sees the French win, but by only 2 pips.  Note that on a tied initiative roll, the turn ends immediately, and the deck is re-shuffled.  I choose to go first.

Oudinot turns a MELEE card, and 2 fresh Bavarian infantry assaulted the convent, and were unceremoniously dispatched by the Russian defenders. The next card is a LULL; fortunately for the French cause Czar Barry failed to beat my roll.

The Russians then turned an ARTILLERY FIREPOWER card. Life is good; if you're a Russian player with all your batteries in position, there is no more beautiful card in the deck! Russian guns belched forth death and destruction, causing moderate losses to the French, especially in the center, where several units fell back (The Russian guns rolled higher than my Defense Die roll and "even", so the target falls back the difference in pips in inches; if  a single fire by a single unit inflicts 2 or more UI losses and the roll is "even", the target routs back the difference in inches. We actually had a rather higher percentage of routed results than usual in this battle!). This was followed by a Russian LEADERSHIP card, where they were able to rally off a few UI losses, but were unable to halt any of their routing units.

The French won the next LD die roll off, yet again by 2 pips, and chose to act first. A LEADERSHIP card allowed them to return the Bavarian Battery that was silenced earlier to good order and only one UI loss remaining; other minor successes occurred. Next, at last, was a MOVE card! 

Deroy's Bavarian Division got a double move with "fancy business" (pip difference of 3 and an "even" roll), and swept forward to the stream, firing on a Russian Grenadier unit and inflicting heavy losses.

The large French cavalry command at last moved forward one segment, but must stop at the edge of the stream. 

Meanwhile, Legrand's French infantry Division rolled 1 segment and "even", so it attempted to re-position itself somewhat to guard against a potential flank attack by the Russian right. 

On the Russian initiative, their luck at last gave out and they turned (and saved) a TACTICAL ADVANTAGE card, followed by a LULL card; the French, once again failed to seize the initiative from the Russians.

The Russians won the next initiative roll off, still yet again by 2, and turned another LULL card; this time the French did beat the Russian LD roll andf seized the initiative! The French turned a MOVE ONE COMMAND card, and chose to act with their Cavalry, trying to bolster their threatened left flank. However they rolled only a single segment and odd, so they had to be content with getting all their units across the stream, with a few units that had already crossed sidestepping 2 stands width to their left. The next Russian card was INFANTRY FIREPOWER, which they used to conduct (mostly) long range fire at the French center, inflicting more scattered losses.

The French the turned their own INFANTRY FIREPOWER card, returning the favor by inflicting  a few light losses, but surprisingly managing to rout the Russian unit holding the convent! This was followed by a LULL card, with the Russian LD roll failing to beat the French.

The French then won the next initiative LD roll off, by 2 pips for the fifth straight time. Acting first, they turn a MANOUVER card, and considered changing their two left flank infantry units into Square to discourage a flank attack by the Russian cavalry, but the presence of 2 Russian batteries and a Jager unit all within range made Legrand decide to stand in this existing Attack columns, with minor adjustments in facing.. This was followed by an ARTILLERY FIREPOWER card; all the French guns that could fired, but this time accomplished very little aside from pounding and breaking the Grenadiers on the Russian far left.

The Russians then turned their last MOVE card; obligatory movement carried many earlier Russian routers off the field and other adjustments were made to their battle line, but their right flank commander rolled his D12 leadership die and came with a triple magic move! 

The ominous result of the triple magic move is seen above; even with the cavalry having to halt their movement at the edge of the low hill (for that segment), they have used their speed (and the facing change) to place the French left in deadly peril!  The Jagers have closed to medium range, and the attached Russian foot batteries have used their three segments to execute another sharp Limber-Move 8"-Unlimber (house rule), placing them at Point Blank canister range from the beleaguered French... talk about a combined arms attack!

Barry then turned an ARTILLERY FIREPOWER card! Three Russian batteries, one of them 12 pounders, blasted the two French line units with a positive hailstorm of canister at Point Blank (under 12") range, with the "loaded" (too much Vodka, perhaps?) Jagers tossing in a volley of their own for good measure. 

The result of the concentrated Russian artillery and infantry fire - two French units streaming backwards in rout, after suffering staggering losses!

The French then won the ensuing initiative roll off, this time by three pips. Desperate for succor for my tattered left flank, I chose to go first, of course! A faint smile flickered across my face as I turned the final MOVE card in my deck! Legrand's beleaguered Division rolled - just one segment and odd; no chance to change formation or facing, and falling back is done at half speed, which wouldn't be enough to salvage the situation, plus the Emperor doubtless would not be pleased if we abandoned our remaining guns to their fate. Gritting my teeth and wafting the acrid black smoke from in front of my eyes, I rolled for Courbineau's cavalry Division. One segment and odd... again! "Nom de dieu!" Not nearly enough. Oudinot himself tries to override the roll using his D12, and manages to roll... a "1"! Russian laughter sounds in my ears, already nearly  deafened by the earlier thunder of their myriad cannon.  Feeling somewhat faint with battle fatigue, I turned the next card - ARMY MORAL:E CHECK! Oudinot must check, along with most of the Divisional commanders. He rolled the D10...  and darned if it didn't come up a "1"; Marshal Oudinot took what must be his 20th wound on the battlefield since his Revolutionary days, and slumped over on his horse. His aides de camp rushed to him, and heard him mutter "Ainsi St. Cyr veut être un Maréchal, no? Voyons-le récupérer cette baise de rat sur le champ de la bataille!" His aides ask him if he is badly wounded, to which he replied "C'est seulement une blessure de chair..." before unconsciousness overtook him.

At this point, it was 6PM and we had been playing (and taking notes and pictures for this report) for about three hours (and about three hours of Battlefield time had elapsed as well). We we were both almost through our sequence decks. The Empress and I already had a dinner engagement to head out to, so we called the game (the wounding of Oudinot is an embellishment, if a fitting one; we didn't get far enough to roll for the Leader Survival checks). The scenario certainly looks like it should be interesting and play out well, and will play much faster with the intended three players per side.

Situation at the end of the battle from the French right/Russian left. 

Close up of the vicinity of the Spas convent at the end of the battle; each "rock" indicates the loss of one UI, while the marker with the stack of cannon balls on it indicates a "Silenced" battery. (Wurtemburgers and Badeners are standing in for some of the Bavarian infantry, as the scenario required more than I have!)

The French and Russian centers; the Cossacks are on the flank of the French just off the left side of the picture.

The (in)famous Jalapeno dice... showing their usual rolls!

At the end of the game, I had only seven out of 36 Army Morale Points left, while Barry had 23 out of 36 left. Had the game proceeded further, the Cossacks would have charged the open French left flank, if they got the chance, and then the Russians would probably withdraw, his Russians having fulfilled their mission admirably. Barry benefited from good dice and a favorable play of the cards, but took masterful advantage of the opportunities he was given, kept his powerful artillery in constant action, and gave me a severe drubbing in this one!

I hope you enjoyed this write up, which took more than four times longer than the actual game did! Field of Battle is fun, plays quickly, and is easy to learn; the 2nd edition has added a number of small but important refinements that further enhance the game. Consider giving it a try if you haven't already!



  1. Great write up Peter,
    My own Bavarians are painted for the Polotsk battles so good to see this area of the 1812 campaign played out.

    The Russians really had a good slice of luck!

    1. They did, but Barry took great advantage of the opportunities he was given, and the situation created by the scenario. I've had a disproportionate share of victories in his games, so I'm quite sure he enjoyed trouncing me this time, LOL!

      And you're right, there's the second day of 1st Polotsk for another game, and 2nd Polotsk. I'd consider painting more Bavarians, but Roger, one of the guys in the greater Hartford area, al;ready has the entire Bavarian army in his collection, so kind of pointless, eh?

  2. A great report, very well written and some excellent pictures too!!!! I completely understand about how long these reports take to write, but its all worth it in the end. Nice One!!!

    1. Well, of course what makes it worthwhile is when people read them and appreciate them, so thanks, Ray, for your encouragement!

  3. Super stuff and once again shows the great playability and 'story-telling' of FOB2.

    One thing I note that I got wrong in my recent game was expending Morale Pips for remaining UI when a unit destroyed outright by Cavalry.

    Wish I had the patience/time to do a proper ARR like this

    1. Thanks, Garry!

      The adjustment/clarification re: no loss of AMP's for certain situations where the casualties are not caused directly by combat (or inflicted on routers) is new in the 2nd edition; prior we had played it that they all count. Our Cossack/Opolchenie AMP loss limited to to 1 AMP on destruction/routing rule is a variant of this idea.

      I enjoy doing the detailed and embelished AAR's, but they take a great deal of times, so I usually don't go into this much detail; just felt like it this time, for whatever reason!

  4. Wowww.... This was a great battle and a superb AAR. I remember my Polotsk game back to 1997. It was MY FIRST WARGAME WITH NAPOLEON'S BATTLES, after I give up complex Empire type wargames and concentrated on grand tactical battles. It was aRussian victory.
    Field of Glory seems a good ruleset
    Best regards

  5. Oooooppppsss I want say Field of Battle

    1. That;s interesting Rafa, that Polotsk was your first NB game - obviously it sold you on them!

      From John's brief review, Field of *Glory* actually looks more promising than I would have expected, although it would be a secondary set for me, the kind I'd play in someone else's game.

    2. I downloaded the Field of Glory play test to get a feel for what was in them. Can't say that I felt compelled for us to try them out at the ANF. The mechanisms are variations on existing rules and there is no higher level morale-WOT?!

    3. I don't feel compelled to try them either, but they sound like I'd consider playinmg them if other guys in the bigger Hartford group want to!

  6. Great game Peter! Glad to see Barry's units were mostly 'table veterans' for this, or did some of his new troops do some of these wonderful things?

    Too bad I missed this, when is the next play test, huh, huh?

  7. Joe,

    The Russians were all mine; the only relatively "new" units were a few HA, the Cossacks, Hussar, and the Livonian and Semenovski Guards standing in as Grenadiers.

    We do need to set up dates to test the other 1/3 of Borodino and Maloyaroslavets in the next few months...

  8. Great battle report Peter! Sounds like a really good contest; shame about the result! :-) Beaut looking figures you both have and I really like all the flags..

    Thanks especially for writing it in such detail and including the summary of the mechanisms of Field of Battle. It is interesting to see where Piquet has got to since I tried the first edition back in the late 90s#. The card-based randomisation of action and time is an interesting way to remove the "all-seeing eye" of the wargamer and is by far preferable to mechanisms like PIP dice, of which we are not fans! This was one of those genuine rules innovations that, sadly, seem to come along all too infrequently, particularly in recently published sets of rules (*sigh*).

    I was also impressed with the little touches to your post, the alternate green and blue entries for the turns of the belligerents and the frames around the photos; beaut stuff. You are setting the standard for the rest of us!

    I have taken the liberty of putting a link to your report on the community blog dedicated to recording games relating to the bicentennial years: Wargaming Waterloo 2015 (

    # I enjoy playing the original, C17th card game from time to time! :-)

    1. Thanks, James!

      I thought the colored text would help keep it clearer who was acting when; the frames are very easy - it is just a setting in blogger, but I like the look.

      Bob Jones is still doing innovative things - see Die Fighting, which I reviewed in detail here last year, and Zouave! I'm awaiting the Napoleonic version, probably the end of 2012, for serious playtest of that, as ACW/FPW etc aren't eras I usually game.

      I agree with you about the relative sameness of many sets; nothing wrong with refining existing ideas and mechanisms, but the original thinkers aren't that common. I had the good fortune to go out to dinner with Bob, Jim Getz, Sam Mustaffa and some others at Historicon last year, and previosly Bob Jones, Jim, and Bill Coggins a few years back as well... all very creative thinkers!

  9. Great write up Peter. I’m sure it was a pain taking those copious notes, but it really made for a great narrative. I think my first purchase at Historicon will be a set of Jalapeno dice.

    Statistically speaking, given my track record of losses, I knew I’d eventually get at least a draw if I kept at it.

    So, when is our next play test?