Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Battle of Montmirail, AAR

The battle of Montmirail, February 11, 1814, resulted from Napoleon's attempt to isolate and defeat the allied Corps of Sacken and Ypork in detail. There is excellent meterial - background, maps, OOB's etc here. This was done as a playtest of this battle to be run at Historicon in July with Field of Battle, 2nd edition rules by Brent Oman.  It is a unique battle where almost all of the outnumeberd French force is composed of the Imperial Guard, with the exception of Ricard's Division of conscripts. A classic case of Quality vs. Quantity results. Barry played (and brought) his Russians, while I had the pleasure of leading the Guard! On to the action...

Initial setup:  French right Flank -   far right -Young Guard Cavalry Division (as my friend James would say, "disguised as Line Dragoons, Chasseurs, and Lancers"), middle ground small  1st Old Guard Cavalry Division of Polish and Dutch Lancers of the Guard, far left part of the 2nd Old Guard Cavalry Division. 

Initial set up:  French Center - far right 2nd Old Guard cavalry Division, including the Empress Dragoons, and 2 Units Guard Chasseurs a Cheval (the 2nd including the Mamelukes), 2 units of Guard Grenadiers a Chveal (the 2nd with 2 stands of Elite dragoons in bearskins, shortly to be replaced with Gendarmes d'Elite), middle ground, Guard Artillery, 2 units each a Cheval and a Pied, far left Old Guard Infantry Divuision of 6 units (including Italian, Polish, and Wurttemburg Foot Guards as stand ins for three of the units).

Initial Set up: French Left flank - Ricard's Division of conscripts. They performed admirably this day historically, under the eye of the Emperor.

Initial Set Up: Russian Right Flank - 2 Russian Infantry Corps (Stcherbatov and Lieven III), each Corps of  2 Divisions, each of 2 Jager and 4 Line units, plus 4 batteries per Corps - 2 x 12#, 1 each x 6# Foot and Horse).These are Barry's beautiful Front Rank figures. They are considerably larger than my own Foundry/Old Glory etc mix, and he bases his units a bit differently - 4 stands of  4 figures, each stand in 2 ranks. While my own units actually have 18 figures on 4 stands, for FoB games with others  I usually only use 4 of the stands for clarity. My wife came home shortly after we started playing, and saw the masses of troops that Barry had on the table, and assumed that I was losing badly!

Initial Set Up : Close up of  Stcherbatov's Corps, Russian far right.   Impressive!

Initial Set Up: Close up of Lieven's Corps... likewise!  After seeing these pics, I am thinking maybe I'll field my French Infantry units at their full 18 figure strength for this battle when it is run at Historicon!

Initial Set Up: Russian Left Flank - Vasiltchkov's Russian Cavalry Corps - 2 Divisions, one of 4 Hussars and one of four Dragoons, supported by a 6# Horse Battery. Barry's Dragoons have established a notorious track record of under performance in our games so far, handsome though they are. Will today be different?  Seen of in the far distance, Pirch's Prussian Infantry Brigade, marching to effect a union with Sacken's Russian Command... call me, maybe?

The French win the first imitative roll, but turn a succession of useless (at this point) cards). The Russians maneuver the trailing Division of Stcherbatov's Corps to march to the flank.

The entire French Imperial Guard cavalry - 12 units - trots forward, trying to intimidate and overwhelm their Russian opposition.

Michel's Middle Guard Division enters the battle, swinging out to the French left flank in support of Ricard's raw conscripts.

The first of a great many cavalry charges on the day - 2 Young Guard regiments charge the leading Russian Hussar units - they look small because these two are the only Russians I contributed (old Glory figures). 

One unit of Russian Hussars is destroyed, but the remaining melee ends in a draw, and will continue later.

The French turn an Artillery Reload Card. They could have used the (potentially devastating) Grand Battery fire, but this would leave them "unloaded until the next  such card, and that seemed too risky. Instead, they pounded the only available targets - the masses of Russian Artillery deployed opposite them at long range.

Perhaps the (nearby) Emperor laid some of the guns himself, as 2 batteries of Russian guns are destroyed. The Russian return fire fails to make any discernible impact of the the Artillery of the Guard, much to Sacken's dismay (I rolled very high and Barry... did not!) . he even brought his own dice today. He should have taken the famed "Jalepeno Dice",  instead, I think!

The cavalry of the Guard charges again, their targets including the lone Russian Horse battery on the Russian Left. 

Another view of the swirling Cavalry melee on the French right. The French bare attempting to use their advantage in numbers and quality to seep aside the Russian horsemen, and thus threaten the flank of their infantry and prevent the Prussians from actively intervening. 

Aftermath - Russian Horse battery over run, one Young Guard cavalry regiment broken, and the third repulsed. The 2nd battalion, Arsamass Hussars turned in the star performance of the game for the Russians. Brown is Beautiful!

The French turn the Army Morale Check Card - they are a long way about having to worry about Army Morale, BUT this card requires the officers of any command(s) that have taken losses to fire and/or been in Melee since the last such card . If they roll a "1", they are a casualty, and their Division goes Out of Command. The rules call for rolling a D12, but we found that to be too sanguinary, so we changed it to rolling a D20. So, I roll two 1's in a row on my D20, and as fast as you can say "boda-bing, boda-boom", both Laferrière-Lévesque and Guyot are hors de combat!

The Prussians, having flubbed their rolls on their (earlier) first attempt to Move, finally get under way towards the action. The bridhe at the edge opf the table is representational of the key bridge at Villefort.. 
"Hey you just left us... and that was crazy; but here's your ADC, so we'll come rescue thee.. maybe?"

Grenadiers lead the Prussian advance, one unit deploying into the village of Fontenelle, one unit forming square to cover the bridgehead, and one deploying into line and shooting a few Young Guard cavalrymen out of their saddler, driving them back. 

Fresh cavalry charges - the Arsmass Hussars take on another Young Guard cavalry regiment, while a second Young Guard cavalry unit is charged in the flank by the blue clad Irkutsk Hussars. In the center, a solitary unit of Russian Dragoons in line is charged by waves of  both Guard Grenadiers and Chassuers a Cheval. 

Aftermath - Russian Draggons trampled under and eliminated, the flanked Young Guard regiment manages to avoid destruction and faces their attackers, and the Arsmass Hussars repulse their opposing Young Guard unit... again.

The Prussians see some action around Fontanele. 

Meanwhile, the Grenadiers a Cheval use a Melee card to charge a Russian Dragoon unit, which was swept off the table so quickly I didn't even get a chance to get a picture of the action (rightmost/most forward French unit).

Guyot, freshly back in the action after having his wounds dressed, is hit again. "Sacre Bleu, do these Ruskis think I am perhaps Marshal Oudinot?" he whines as he is knocked from the saddle again!

On the next melee card, the Russian Hussars have finally destroyed the opposing Young Guard cavalry, while the Arsamass Hussars have routed another French Young Guard cavalry unit (by finally reducing it to zero Unit Integrity). 

The Prussian Cavalry enters the table, but the terrain limits their deployment. 

Still full of fight, the French Guard cavalry make multiple charges, resulting in five melees!

Meanwhile, on the same Move card, both the Old and middle Guard Divisions roll triple moves, and rush forward to the attack; it is a given that they will take significant losses from the masses of  "loaded" Russian Artillery at the front of each Corps, but enough should survive to be able to return the favor with their own musketry!

Meanwhile, the last of the French troops saunter on to the table. Gardes d' Honneur "disguised" as French line Hussars. 

Aftermath #1 The old Guard shrugs off the Russian Artillery fire in the center, and are poised to assault the guns!

Aftermath #2, the Polish Lancer of the Guard have destroyed the 1st battalion of the Arsmas Husars, while the Dutch Lancers and Irkutsk Hussars have traded blows to little effect. 

The Middle Guard has taken losses, but two of the 4 Russian batteries of Tscherbatov's Corps ave been eliminated, and the other two are "unloaded' and vulnerable... for the moment!

Further cavalry melee resolution sees the Irkutsk Hussars destroyed by the Dutch lancers, and the 3rd Russian Dragoon unit has been destroyed; the final Russian Dragoon regiment saves some face by repulsing the Chsseurs a Cheval of the Guard with loses.  This happens to be the regiment that Barry painted up as Dismounted Dragoons as well as a mark of dishonor for conspicuous under performance of the Field of Battle. Perhaps it has worked as a motivator as intended?  Regardless, the Russian left flank is looking very, very open now. Where are those damned Krauts?

The Middle Guard infantry (many disguised as fancy Front Rank Young Guard Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs in tall plumes) close with a "silenced" Russian battery (note the 2 rocks and the artillery debris marker behind the near Russian battery), eliminating it, while a second unit fires on the other battery at close range. 

The Old Guard Division has used their muskets to blast away another Russian battery of Lieven's Corps, only to unmask a mas of Russian Jagers and Musketeers behind them!

Symbolic of the their hard fighting, yet another French Guard Cavalry Division commander is hit; this time it is GD Colbert, commanding the Lancer Division. The muddy field was renamed the Bloody Field after the events of this day!

The 2nd battalion, Arsamass Hussars wins at least their 4th combat of the day, routing another Young Guard cavalry unit by reducing it to zero unit integrity!

However, the Chassuers a Cheval of the Guard have charged again, and this time the final Russian Dragoon regiment is scattered to the winds. Five units of Old Guard cavalry with no enemy in sight!  "I have a bad feeling about this" mutters Ivan, whilst Barry gets in the face of his  miscreant Dragoons, threatening them with... E-Bay!

"За то, что мы собираемся Получать. делают нас по-настоящему благодарен!" *
Uh-oh! Three French Old Guard Cavalry units charge home; none will count as flank charges, but the Horse Artillery battery is "unloaded", and the two infantry units lack sufficient field of fire to shoot in their own defense, either.
*  "For what we are about to receive. make us truly grateful!"

Meanwhile, the Dutch and Polish Lancers of the Guard turn to threaten the pesky Russian "Brown" Hussars, and also discourage an excess of initiative by the nearby Prussians!

Aftermath of the Old Guard cavalry charge - Russian Horse Battery destroyed, Musketeer Regiment forced off of the table, and the Jager regiment forced back to the table edge... and a wide open Russian flank!
"Сохранить О Боже, народ Твой"
(Save oh God thy People!)

The French are nearing the end of a huge, 11 card Impetus run, and very good cards and a generous dose of luck  have helped Napoleon make the most of it. The Old Guard cavalry charges yet again!

Close up of the charge of the Guard...

and the seemingly inevitable aftermath! 

The Russians now have 11 cards of their own to play, but have the Old Guard cavalry to their left flank, and the Middle and Old Guard Infantry to their Front. They are actually still ahead on Morale points due to their substantial advantage in troop numbers at the outset, but have 8/9 artillery batteries, 7/8 cavalry regiments, and 6/24 infantry units out of play! There are 12 units of fresh Prussian allies available, but they are 4 feet away from the action, and with intervening French Guard Cavalry and Artillery to oppose them, they might as well be in Berlin. French losses were not light, but completely eliminated units amounted to 1 Old Guard and 2 Young Guard Cavalry, one Old Guard Infantry, and one Line Foot Battery. We scanned through the eleven Russian cards, and there were no game changers; Sacken opts to withdraw. With his lines of communication cut, he can expect heavy losses in stragglers, etc before he is at last able to link up again with York and Blucher. The Corsican Ogre is not finished yet, it seems!

I will make some minor changes to the scenario based upon this test, and post it here later this month. I tink I will use a mostly brown table cloth for the Historicon version - the battle was far more notable for mud than snow, even though the white table looks pretty!



  1. Enjoyable BatRep, Peter! After all of the Russian hussar charges, their Arsemass be draggin'...

    1. Hence the brown uniforms... :-)

      Thanks, Jon!

  2. That's a great looking game, no doubt! Beautiful pictures an minis Peter!

  3. All the figures look great with lots of pictures to boot! thumbs up!
    great battle report....


    1. Glad you enjoyed it; Barry's Russians definitely added to the scene!

  4. Nice report. Pity about the Russian Dragoons and ebay.

  5. I don't *think* Barry was serious... but don't tell his Dragoons that!

  6. Great looking game, entertaining report and a French win; brilliant! What’s even better, it was ‘merely’ a playtest, so you, and we, have it all to look forward to all over again come July. Marvellous!

    1. Thanks,James; you'll probably see 2 reports for the July game, as I think sanity is dictating that I run tis one twice rather than 2 different games (I will also be running some other non-Napoleonic ones)

  7. Very enjoyable Peter and a great looking game - it is quite amazing how well those Russian hussars performed.

    Looking forward to the revised version.

    1. The Russian Hissars poerformed admirably, in part making up for their Dragoons...

  8. Great report, the French managed better than when we played it. Also it never occurred to me that this one was fought in the snow... Doh!

  9. Great AAR. This may be worth a play. I like the idea of a brown ground cloth

    1. It is a unique battle and an interesting scenario (forthcoming soon) with manageable numbers, Mike.

  10. Read with some glee for once a historical game with the OGd up front and not hiding behind their brave line berthen.I concur about the Russian Dragoons... they perform sub-par on my tabletop with one exceptional stand out... the Riga Dragoon regt. They have won every fight even against my OG cavalry (Empress Dragoons and OG Grenadiers a cheval). The rest of them are soon placed back into their "coward box" and sprayed with blessed water to avoid their game losing performance from spreading.

    M aka WR

  11. My own Russian Dragoons (a mere 2 units of venerable Minifigs) have been unremarkable, but not dreadful. One suspects the Russian Dragoons were the bottom of the barrel for the Russian historically, too. By the later part of the Napoleonic Wars, Russian Dragoon units were being converted wholesale into Uhlans and/or Mounted Jagers!

  12. Brilliant stuff> Roll on Historicon! [Pedantic FoB2 point: in the first cav. melee you write "but the remaining melee ends in a draw, and will continue later." In FoB2 unlike FoB1 and PK, melees are always fought till at least one side loses a UI, and therefore falls back or routs (p57). Clearly house rules always apply, though]

    1. Thanks, and right you are Tim - Pulse of Battle goes back to the maximun of three rounds per card, and it's been a while since we played FoB2, so we goofed it up!