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.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Polemos Ruse de Guerre: Battle of Wartenburg 1813

This re-fight is another twinned refight with the Napoleonic Miniatures Wargame Society of Toronto who played the battle as a bigger club game.  Taking that original but still using the Polemos Ruse de Guerre ruleset, I have re-worked that scenario for my smaller table and for solo play.

The Battle of Wartenburg occurred roughly two weeks before Leipzig and features Yorck's Prussian Corps attempting to force the passage of the Elbe against a mixed Imperial force led by General Bertrand, which would in turn allow the whole of Blucher's Army of Silesia to cross.

Orders of Battle:

Imperial Army:
C-in-C General Bertrand

12th Division (Morand)
Liger-Belair's Bde: 4 bases of Well-Trained Light Infantry
Toussaint's Bde: 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 3 bases of Trained Infantry
Hulot's Bde: 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 2 bases of Trained Infantry

15th (Italian) Division (Fontanelli)
Martel's Bde:  1 base of Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Trained Infantry
Andrea's Bde:  1 base of Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Trained Infantry
Moroni's Bde: 1 base of Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Trained Infantry

38th (Wurttemberger) Division (Franquemont)
Stackmayer's Bde: 1 base of Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Trained Infantry
van Doring's Bde:  1 base of Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Trained Infantry

Beaumont's (Westphalian and Hessian) Cavalry Division
Wolff's Bde: 1 base of Trained Cavalry

Corps Artillery: 4 bases of Trained 6lb Foot Artillery

n.b. I don't have any painted Wurttembergers currently, so I proxied them with Bavarians.

Prussian Korps:
C-in-C: General Yorck

Katzeler's Bde: 1 base of Well-Trained Cavalry, 1 base of Trained Cavalry, 1 base of Poor Cavalry, 1 base of 6lb Trained Horse Artillery
Gatringen's Bde: 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 2 bases of Well-Trained Infantry, 1 base of Trained Infantry, 1 base of Poor Light Infantry, 1 base of Poor Infantry
Steinmetz' Bde:  2 bases of Well-Trained Infantry, 1 base of Poor Light Infantry, 3 bases of Poor Infantry, 1 base of Trained 6lb Foot Artillery
Mecklenburg's Bde:  1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Well-Trained Infantry, 1 base of Poor Infantry, 2 bases of Trained 6lb Foot Artillery
Horn's Bde: 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Well-Trained Infantry,  2 bases of Poor Infantry, 1 base of Trained 6lb Foot Artillery
Hunerbein's Bde: 1 base of Well-Trained Light Infantry, 1 base of Poor Infantry,  1 base of Trained 6lb Foot Artillery
Wahlen's Bde: 2 bases of Trained Cavalry, 1 base of Poor Cavalry, 2 bases of 6lb Horse Artillery

Yorck wins if he can get take and hold Wartenburg and secure the crossing.  Bertrand must prevent this.

The Set-Up:

Wartenburg is centre-right next to the bridge.  Beddin is on the left.  The Elbe is in the bottom-left.  The woods represent a mixture of light woods and marshlands.  The Imperial Forces are concentrated around the two urban areas with their reserves at the top.  The Prussians are in the bottom-centre and bottom-right.

Franquemont's troops defend Beddin.

Fontanelli's Italians provide the reserves

Morand's troops defend the main crossing point into Wartenburg.
Yorck's main force approaching Wartenburg.  His right (top) is formed by Wahlen's Cavalry; along the road is Steinmetz' troops with Hunerbein's force in tactical reserve (top-right); Horn's brigade forms the left of this force (bottom-right)

Yorck's left wing is composed of Gatringen's Brigade (right), Katzeler's Cavalry (centre) and Mecklenburg's troops (left)
Another view of Yorck's left, with its backs to the Elbe
 The Battle:

Yorck orders his left wing to advance to try and get across the stream and pin the Italian reserves; it works to the extent that Bertrand does indeed move his troops forward to contest the crossing

Except for the infantry of Mecklenburg's brigade, which pushes forward to help in the attack around Wartenburg
Yorck then advances his main force

Gatringen's Prussian infantry get the better of the infantry firefight around the stream, and rout some of the defending Wurttembergers (centre-left)
Meanwhile, elements of Horn's (foreground) and Steinmetz' Brigades assault the village and its environs...

Steinmetz succeeds despite the odds and has a foothold in the village, thrusting the French artillery backwards (centre); the French infantrymen however have seen off the attack of Horn's brigade over the stream with heavy losses (bottom)
Katzeler has got his troops over the stream (with Mecklenburg's cavalry in support on the right); but Fontanelli has moved up his infantry and artillery to block them: their musketry and cannonballs wreak havoc and some of the Prussian cavalry wavers (note the Prussian cavalry in the centre of the formation)!

Meanwhile there is another fierce exchange of musketry by the stream near Wartenburg between Mecklenburg's infantry and units of Toussaint's brigade; casualties are about even, and Mecklenburg's gunners abandon their guns, but half of the French infantry are now in rout (centre)...

A slightly wider view, showing Horn's infantry trying to support the attack

Steinmetz' infantry continue their successful attack, shooting down some of the French gunners inside Wartenburg...
Meanwhile, on the other side of Wartenburg, some effective Prussian artillery fire breaks yet more French infantry (centre)...
However, the Italians have completed their stunning victory over Katzeler's cavalry, which is in full rout...

Only some of Mecklenburg's cavalry remains steady (-ish)

Where the bayonet has failed, the bullet has succeeded: combined fire from Horn and Mecklenburg's infantry has routed another French infantry unit by the stream at Wartenburg

French light infantry reinforce the town to stop Steinmetz' further progress

The Italian infantry complete their victory by breaking the last of the Prussian cavalry in the centre
However, the Prussians have turned Morand's right flank and will now be able to exert greater pressure around Wartenburg itself.  Both sides overall morale is looking distinctly shaky...(both sides rolled high for their army cohesion loss, and so both are at risk of collapsing when they lose their next formations)

Fontanelli, aided by the reserve cavalry, stops Gatringen getting his troops across the stream...

However, Toussaint's Brigade is in full flight, so Morand has to commit his reserve brigade (Hulot's) centre-left to try and stabilize the situation...

Gatringen's infantry cannot get forward over the stream, but their musketry remains devastating - an Italian light infantry unit runs for the rear (centre)...

A slightly wider view of the same

Recalling a famous exercise manoeuvre from his studies of the Battle of Fontenoy, Franquemont boldly orders Stackmayer's brigade to leave their defensive positions and attack across the river, to threaten Gatringen's left flank...
Horn's Brigade bypasses the ferocious resistance within Wartenburg itself to threaten the flank of Hulot's brigade (left)
The French left is also under pressure from the advance of the Prussians, as Yorck throws in Hunerbein's brigade (centre-right)
Taking to heart Scharnhorst's demands that the fire of the infantry must have effect and "not just make noise", convering Prussian infantry musketry breaks a unit of Hulot's brigade (top)...
Yorck begins to smile now, knowing that barring a calamity, he must succeed...Wahlen's horse artillery and the Brandenburg Fusiliers combine to make life impossible for another battalion of the 8th Leger (centre)...
Whilst Hulot's force cannot resist the Prussian fire either...

But no amount of pressure can force the town...the bodies of Steinmetz' grenadiers lie in clumps around dead French chasseurs and gunners...

Martel's Italians have been used up in the firefight across the stream and have broken, but not before they have routed Gatringen's grenadiers...

A wider view of the same.  Note that the rout of the Prussian grenadiers has somewhat demoralized the 12th Reserve Line too...
Hulot's attached guns have been captured and the remnants of the 23rd line are heavily outnumbered...

Sometimes the boldest measures are the safest, so Franquemont orders a full-scale counter-attack against Gatringen on the Prussian left!*
Stackmayer's infantry routs Gatringen's infantry (the Leib Grenadiers) on his left (centre)!

Then the Westphalian and Hessian cavalry charge through the stream right into the Prussian Landwehr...
Who join the rout, and sweep away the 12th Reserve Infantry too!
Most of Gatringen's infantry are in full flight...

...and the remainder join the rout too!
However, Yorck tastes victory just before he finds out how close he was to tasting defeat: Morand's units break, and Bertrand is forced to concede and pull back his remaining troops

The Prussians are left in undisputed control of Wartenburg and the crossing over the Elbe...

The positions at the end of the battle: despite the destruction of his left, Yorck has triumphed on the main axis (right) and Bertrand must withdraw

 Game Notes: Another really good game and very close, perhaps more close than it reads: the Prussians had only a single point of army cohesion left when the French broke.  The form of the battle was set up by early Prussian successes around Wartenburg in particular, which was very different from the original battle!  This put the French under great pressure from the outset.  However,  the Prussian cavalry was too ambitious too early and the Italians punished this with great skill, and the Imperial Right overall acted with great ferocity and tenacity.  That isn't to say that the French Left was a pushover, but once the Prussian grenadiers had leveraged an opening, this allowed greater and greater numbers of Prussians to participate, which proved irresistible in the end - in particular, the Prussian advantage in artillery allowed them to shoot away the French local flanks.

It is always very interesting to play another gamer's scenarios, since I think I would have made some different set up choices.  This enabled me to take a different look at the whole affair.  Other scenarios I have seen for this battle have made some quite different choices regarding both the terrain and the starting point, which I imagine greatly effect how events are likely to transpire (see here and here, for examples).  I think Glenn Pearce's scenario (the one I am using) starts the battle a bit later on, when Yorck has had a chance to deploy, whereas others start the game with his attack from the line of march.  Both approaches have their merits.

I don't think I have anything much to add on my thoughts on the rules after this game.  The relatively generous move distances in this game for the size of encounter speed things up and would indicate to me that a move should be considered to take double the time it does in Polemos General de Division, for instance.   I think firing is noticeably more effective in RdG than in GdD and the game is probably more deadly overall.

(* can anyone spot the inspiration for this tactical manouevre/whimsy?)

Figures were by Baccus 6mm and Commission Figurines (the Prussian line infantry and line cavalry). Buildings are a mixture of Timecast and Leven.  The table is c.130cm x 75cm.  It took about 100 minutes to play.


  1. Really nice looking game and closely fought. Nice it only took just over 1 1/2 hours.

    1. That's very kind - too kind really! The combination of relatively large movement distances with a small board really speeds up the game. Plus I am pretty familiar with the mechanics and that really helps.