The Battle of Brienne
As I am an honorary member of the Napoleonic Miniatures Wargames Society of Toronto, Glenn Pearce sends me scenarios from time-to-time to have a go at more-or-less simultaneously with their own game. As they put on quite big multi-player games and I put on small-board solo games it does make for an interesting contrast. Typically I would use the same rules as they use - the Polemos Ruse de Guerre rules - but on this occasion, for reasons I will come to at the end, I used the rules that are in some senses their direct ancestor, the Polemos General de Division set.
The actual 1814 campaign is fascinating and the Brienne and La Rothiere battles particularly so. In essence, Napoleon was trying to defeat Blucher and drive his troops into the Aube before they could be succourred: a difficult task, since Napoleon's forces were not substantially larger than Blucher's.
|The battlefield of Brienne: Allied troops (i.e. Russians!) have Olsufiev's Corps around the town (centre) and chateau (centre-left); Napoleon's Cavalry and Victor's infantry approach from the top.|
|Reversed, so Brienne and the Chateau are in the foreground.|
|And a closer look at the same|
|The French Cavalry|
|And Duhesme's Division and Victor's artillery|
|Seeing the gap between Brienne and its chateau as key to the battle, Blucher hurries up more Russian infantry in support|
|Meanwhile Victor is putting his troops in order ready to attack the Chateau and the gap between it and the town - his infantry threatens Brienne itself but declines to attack|
|Pahlen advances slowly, leading with his infantry, daring the French cavalry to charge it|
|Victor's assault goes into the Russian defences|
|But the Russians stand firm, losing only a few casualties to French skirmish fire, whilst the French infantry have taken severe casualties and retreated|
|Olsufiev and the leading elements of Scherbatov's infantry launch a counter-attack against the disordered French|
|The weakened and disordered French take more casualties, but just manage to retain some form of cohesion despite being forced further back|
|However the Russians have the initiative now and are not going to let it go: another assault is launched|
|And this time it is all over very quickly - the central French units break, their guns are overrun, and the flanking infantry retires in its turn after the defeat of its main attack|
There was some minor additional action as night fell but nothing of any great importance happened, so I didn't bother to record it. Essentially Grouchy demonstrated against Pahlen but didn't attack; Ney arrived and demonstrated against Olsufiev who retired to his starting positions, but both sides declined to attack.
Game Notes: Quite short and sweet this one, since Blucher (or more properly, Olsufiev and Scherbatov) could do - or at least roll - no wrong and Victor's attack entirely miscarried...this left Napoleon too weak to attack again with much hope of success, but every chance of being utterly destroyed. Since this is a 'one-off' game I maybe should have tried but I don't typically play it like that, it somehow feels a bit game-y and destroys the immersion - I probably should re-think this!
Anyway, this was also partly the reason I wanted to give this a try with Polemos General de Division first: I suspected that it might struggle to replicate the real battle...and it did a bit: this is because attritional offenisve strategies can rarely work in Polemos GdD - fire is just too indecisive and really struggles against defenders in buildings, but close assault is risky and difficult too. I suspect it will be a bit easier for the French in Polemos Ruse de Guerre to get a decent assault going.
In comparing the two rulesets, there is only one thing which is perhaps more tricky in RdG than GdD, especially for the solo player: it has many more 'dials' for influencing the initiative (i.e. tempo). Individual brigadiers are rated for competence, as are divisional commanders and corps commanders in this type of battle. There is also an extra stage in the tempo process. As a solo player, that can be quite a lot of extra stuff to record and remember although for the multi-player games that some of these scenarios are designed for, it isn't a problem at all. Anyway, I am looking forward to giving this a try with RdG soon.
More importantly than any of that though it was just good to get a game back on the table. I have sorted out my stuff and hopefully this will enable a few more games to be played, although I will have to approach things in a different way: I will struggle to leave things set up the way I have in the past, so I will have to be more disciplined and prepare games like I was going to a club - set-up, play, take down and put away.
And just to round off, here is a picture of the Toronto club's game: