Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Monday 17 December 2018

The Battle of Maloyaroslavets - A Horse, Foot & Guns Refight

The Battle of Maloyaroslavets:

French General Delzons at the Battle of Maloyaroslavets
 The recent issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy had a scenario in for the Battle of Maloyaroslavets which looked promising.  It consists of Prince Eugene's IV Corps attempting to seize the strategically important crossroads and crossing at Maloyaroslavets as part of the initial retreat of the Grande Armee from Russia.  He was opposed by a Russian Corps led by General Dokhturov, who fought throughout the Napoleonic Wars.

I have wanted to have a go at this one for abour 30 years, ever since I saw an article on it in a magazine (Military Modelling, perhaps? If there are any grognards who remember the issue, please let me know!) as a child.

The scenario is written for Over the Hills with suggestions for conversion to Grand Armee and Black Powder.  It is bath-tubbed, so one real-life brigade is represented by a battalion.  I prefer to use rules specifically designed for individual units to be brigades in these circumstances, so I used Phil Barker's Horse, Foot and Guns.

Horse, Foot and Guns
 There was no scale on the otherwise nice-looking map (a perennial annoyance in magazine scenarios!) so I have estimated the size of the battlefield, but I  may have been a bit off (possibly a little too big).

The Forces:

Imperial France:

1 x Command Post (Eugene)
5 x Light Infantry* (2 x Italian)
14 x Bayonets (2 x Italian)

2 x Elite Bayonets (Italian)
3 x Field Artillery (1 x Italian)
4 x Light Cavalry  (1 x Italian, 2 x Bavarian)
1 x Elite Dragoons (Italian)

*assigned as per scenario; in HFG, all French Napoleonic Infantry is typically counted as 'Bayonets' rather than 'Light Infantry', despite formal designations.

Imperial Russia:

1 x Headquarters (Kutuzov)
1 x Command Post (Docturov)
4 x Light Infantry
15 x Stoic Foot
3 x Field Artillery
2 x Heavy Artillery
3 x Light Horse 

Both the Imperial French and the Russians arrive piecemeal.  The terrain was very difficult off-roads, which is all counted as 'Slow Going' (or rough/broken ground in other rules).  The stream has high banks, so it is potentially fordable by infantry (HFG has specific rules for this, as does the magazine scenario) but not other arms.

Starting Forces:

Imperial French: CP, 1 x Lt Inf, 3 x Bayonets
Imperial Russia: CP. 2 x Lt Inf, 6 x Stoic Foot, 1 x Field Arty


Turn 1: France: 1 x Lt Inf, 3 x Bayonets, 1 x Field Arty, 2 x Lt Cav
Turn 2: Russia (A): 3 x Lt Horse
Turn 3: France: 2 x Elite Bayonets, 1 x Elite Dragoons**, 2 x Lt Inf, 2 x Bayonets, 1 x Field Arty
Turn 4: Russia (B): 3 x Stoic Foot, 1 x Field Arty
Turn 4: France: 2 x Lt Cav
Turn 6: Russia (C): 1 x Lt Inf, 3 x Stoic Foot
Turn 9: France: 1 x Lt Inf, 2 x Bayonets
Turn 10: France: 4 x Bayonets, 1 x Field Arty
Turn 11: Russia (C): 1 x HQ, 2 x Heavy Arty
Turn 13: Russia (B): 1 x Lt Inf, 3 x Stoic Foot, 1 x Field Arty

The letters refer to which road the reinforcements come in on.  A is the road going to the left of Maloyaroslavets, with B the next one counter-clockwise (i.e. left road on the Russian baseline) and C the next one again (the road on the right of the Russian baseline). 

There is one thing I don't understand about the WSS article as written.  It looks like the infantry and perhaps cavalry have been bath-tubbed, but not the artillery. This leads to each side having roughly a battery of artillery per brigade-equivalent of troops.  This seems much too high, even for the Russians.  So I assumed that each French battery was 6-8 guns, each Russian battery was 12 guns, and then converted them into an appropriate number of artillery bases for HFG.

As part of the scenario, I slightly changed the break point rules so that an Army broke once a quarter of the bases that had entered the table by that time had been eliminated.  This was to stop a too quick break for either Army.

The Set-Up:

View from behind the Russian lines looking towards Maloyaroslavets.

And a wider aerial shot.  From the left counter-clockwise, the Russian reinforcements will enter on Roads A, B & C respectively.  The French reinforcements all come down the road at the top leading to the bridge into Maloyaroslavets

Another shot from behind the Russian troops

Delzons' Division of Eugene's Corps starts with its leading brigades just entering the town

And a view along each line; initially the Russians have more troops but the French have the better position
The Battle:
The French have entered the town, which the Russians have advanced towards and are preparing to assault: Franco-Italian reinforcements speed down the road (top)

The first Russian assault fails, with the right-hand brigade being destroyed by musket fire and the bayonet!  The French infantry moves forward (centre-right)

A wider shot of the same

The central French unit (i.e. occupying the nearest part of the built-up area) is showing signs of weakness (note the single figure denoting this result) so Docturov throws further troops at the town.

That assault was defeated, but the Russians rallied and have tried again.  Note that this time both French brigades are showing disorder.  Meanwhile, the French infantry brigade presses forward and attacks another Russian formation (bottom-right)

The fighting is intense at the edges of the town as the Russians try and break in.  Eugene is just about to get his second Division into the action (centre-top) whilst the Italians approach in the background

The Russian infantry recoil from Maloyaroslavets again (top) whilst the French infantry continues its attack (bottom-right)

Riding their fortune, the counter-attacking French infantry are again victorious!  The Russian reserves (bottom-right) move to counter its advance

But this brigade of heroes remains the hunters, not the hunted...

And rout a third Russian brigade!

They pursue them into the woods, where the Russian infantry dispersed

Struggling over the broken ground, Eugene brings more troops into action

The French infantry brigade that has successfully destroyed three times its number of Russians - MVPs!

A wider shot of the battlefield.  Not looking great for the Russians: they have not managed to get into the town, and a French brigade has broken their initial right-flank, whilst Eugene is getting stronger by the minute as his reinforcements arrive

The Russian artillery is finally starting to have some real effect though: the edge of Maloyaroslavets is ablaze and the defenders are disordered...

...and are driven out by a combination of Russian musketry and artillery fire

A wider shot

Russian reinforcements face off against the victorious, but now very isolated, French infantry brigade

Russian infantry have finally managed to take part of the town (left) - and have routed another French brigade in the process, although this one subsequently rallied (top), but French infantry have started another counter-attack (right)

After some initial reverses, the Russians are finally managing to push the isolated French infantry brigade back down the road

The French infantry attack is again successful here! (right)

Unfortunately for Docturov, his infantry were no more able to hold onto the burning part of the town than the French were, and they are routed after some close-range street fighting

Finally the leading French brigade has succumbed to the vastly superior forces (centre)

Eugene develops his counter-attack, pushing past Maloyaroslavets (right)

The Russian position is starting to collapse...

The coup de grace was given by the French artillery (right) which destroyed the opposing Russian Jager.  At that point, Russian morale collapsed and Docturov ordered a retreat.
Game Notes:
A good scenario led to an excellent game.  Since it is a while since I have played Horse, Foot and Guns, there were a few disjointed moments and my tactics were pretty unhandy (for both sides).  I am a fan of the simple die-roll PIP mechanic of the DBx family of games, although I know that it has its opponents.  It does give a tense and interesting game though and works very well solo, being the "distilled essence" of many of the other systems which try to limit command and control.   Likewise, the combat system is quite stripped down compared to many other systems, although how much this matters is a matter of taste: it does contain the distilled essence of others, except for its emphasis on shock rather than attrition.  This seems a much more debatable point than in the ancient and medieval period, in which shock action clearly seems more important.  However, I mainly play Polemos which fundamentally shares the same outlook.  Rallying routed troops is possible but difficult.  Anyway, the plan is to get a few more games played and then do a fuller review.  Like all DBx games, it really does rattle along and it is also quite a complete set: there weren't too many moments of doubt about how to resolve any given situation.

Figures and buildings by Baccus 6mm (I clearly don't have enough Russian artillery so the Austrians were helping out!  I need to remedy this...).


  1. Thanks, I really enjoyed that. I have the magazine, so your game gave some life to that and you have peaked my interest in the rules.

  2. Thanks Norm. It seems a pity not to use all the good scenarios that get published. With this and the Dunkirk one done, I might see if I can get the Koge scenario (in some form or other) onto the table too.