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.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Horse, Foot & Guns AAR - Montmirail 1814

The Battle of Montmirail took place on 11th February 1814, one of the actions in Napoleon's famous Six-Day campaign in 1814, when he attempted to destroy one of the armies invading France, the Army of Silesia on Prince Blucher.  Montmirail takes place the day after Napoleon had destroyed Olsufiev's Corps at Champaubert, and in this action, he is trying to repeat the same on Sacken's temporarily isolated Russian Corps.  Petre is always good for a summary.

I was originally hoping to play this scenario using the Polemos Ruse de Guerre set, but the full battle proved to be a bit too big to fit onto my current gaming table, so I used an excellent scenario prepared by the Ruse de Guerre author, Glenn Pearce, as the basis for a scenario for Phil Barker's Horse, Foot and Guns instead.

I got some additional material from an article in an old issue of Miniature Wargames (no. 92) which helped a little with the timelines, although the orders of battle are a bit sketchy.

The Forces:

Imperial French:
1 x Brilliant HQ (Napoleon)
1 x CP (Mortier); 4 x Elite Bayonets, 2 x Elite Field Artillery
1 x CP (Nansouty); 3 x Elite Heavy Cavalry, 3 x Elite Light Cavalry, 2 x Elite Horse Artillery

Arrive 1200 (Turn 7): 3 x Elite Bayonets, 1 x Elite Field Artillery

Arrive 1400 (Turn 15): 1 x CP (Ney); 4 x Bayonets, 1 x Heavy Artillery

1 x CP (Sacken)
1 x CP (Tallisin II): 1 x Light Infantry, 3 x Stoic Foot, 1 x Field Artillery
1 x CP (Lieven III): 1 x Light Infantry, 4 x Stoic Foot, 1 x Field Artillery
1 x CP (Vasilshikov): 5 x Light Cavalry, 1 x Horse Artillery, 2 x Inferior Light Horse

Arrive 1430 (Turn 17):
1 x Brilliant CP (Yorck)
2 x Elite Bayonets, 1 x Elite Marksmen, 3 x Inferior Bayonets, 1 x Inferior Light Cavalry
Arrive 1500 (Turn 19):
2 x Bayonets, 3 x Inferior Bayonets, 1 x Inferior Light Cavalry, 1 x Field Artillery

Sacken is trying to clear the road and march on Montmirail (the road through the French position); Napoleon is trying to break Sacken's forces and prevent his forces withdrawing to the North (the right-hand side in most of the shots).

The fighting cannot last past 27 turns, when darkness falls.
The ground counts as SLOW to artillery because of its muddiness after heavy rainfall.

The Set-Up:

The French hold the East (bottom) and the road to Montmirail (off-board to the East); Sacken's Corps is approaching from the West (top); Yorck's Corps is due to approach from the North (right); The infantry of the Imperial Guard and some elements of Marmont's Corps are to the left, Nansouty's Guard Cavalry are in the centre and right

Ricard's infantry of Marmont's Corps deployed around Marchais (left) and Le Tremblay (right)

Friant's Division of the Old Guard is formed behind its artillery, whilst Napoleon's HQ looks on

Fontenelle sits aside the road (top-right), with a couple of farms to either side of the road

Sacken's Corps: Tallisin is left of the road, Lieven in the centre, the cavalry to the rear and right.
The Battle:
Tallisin's infantry and artillery press forward to attack Marchais, setting some of the buildings alight and discomfiting the defenders

Imperial Guard infantry, artillery and cavalry advance gingerly and enter into an artillery exchange with Lieven's forces

The Imperial Guard artillery destroys the Russian batteries supporting the attack on Marchais, so Russian Light Infantry storm across the bridge to attack the Imperial Guard gunners...

And are successful!  Meanwhile, the other Russian infantry storm forward to attack towards Marchais itself (left)

Napoleon orders his guardsmean to counter-attack (centre-right)

Meanwhile, the Russian Light Infantry rout the left-hand brigade of Ricard's infantry (bottom-left) just outside Marchais (right)

The Guards' attack bogs down into a close-range firefight and melee...

Mon dieu!  The Russians prove the superior bayonet men and a few battalions of Guards rout past Le Tremblay (bottom)

Russian cavalry and horse artillery have made a slow passage through the woods and have now deployed; however French artillery have already destroyed one of Lieven's brigades, weakening the Russian centre

The Russians try to take Marchais at the point of the bayonet...

Whilst the Russians try to use their numbers to force back that other brigade of Guardsmen by the bridge...

Ricard's raw conscript infantrymen prove handy with both ball and bayonet in defending Marchais, and Sacken's leading brigade is routed (top-centre)

The remaining Imperial Guardsmen rout their opponents by the bridge

The remainder of the Old Guard infantry and their artillery support arrives

Tallisin's infantry make a renewed assault upon Marchais...

And again, the French Marie-Louises rout their opponents back towards the stream!

A wider shot

Ricard's men counter-attack the Russians

A wider shot. Note that more of Sacken's infantry have been routed (left) and the more Imperial Guardsmen are approaching to assist in securing the bridge (centre); meanwhile, French artillery fire has caused the hamlet to catch fire (centre) and forced back the supporting units (centre-right)

Another wide shot, but with certain key points to note: on the left, Sacken's infantry have been entirely pushed back by the French defenders of Marchais (bottom-left); the Russian horse artillery on the road (centre-right) has been destroyed by yet more deadly French artillery fire

Fearing imminent collapse, Sacken gambles by launching a direct assault on the advancing Imperial Guard (centre)!

Which comes off and more battalions of the Imperial Guard scurry to the rear (Centre)!  But the Russian attack was just too small in nature to achieve decisive effect...

The routing guards are rallied and reinforced (centre) and Nansouty advances (centre-right); the Russian position is untenable in the face of their high infantry losses and Sacken begins to withdraw...

Game Notes: Another good fun game, although I am still discovering the hidden highways and byways of this ruleset.  Overall the effectiveness of the French Imperial Guard artillery was decisive on the outcome, although Ricard's infantry also fought with great heroism performing even better than they had done in reality.  Although casualties between the Russian and French infantry in this sector were similar, the Russians really had made little impression.  The real damage was done more in the centre by the French artillery, which the Russians seemed never quite able to manage or equal.  Overall I think this was a fair result, although the French seemed to have a bit more luck with the dice.  Sacken's attack on Marchais was made in real-life with rather more force which probably explains its greater success; as it was in the game, there was too little infantry and artillery committed to either overwhelm Ricard or to properly pin the Imperial Guards' in the centre of the position.  The action lasted c.14 turns (c.1345), so not quite enough time for the last French or more importantly, the Prussian reinforcements to turn up.  This was partly beecause of some deadly die-rolling, but mainly because the Russians were too aggressive too early, particularly after losing some of their artillery.  The Russians really need their artillery, because otherwise they have to go in with the bayonet directly which is a very high risk strategy; for Russian line infantry, reliance on musketry is a bad, or simply impossible, idea.
As I think I have mentioned in an earlier post, the only rule that I have (deliberately) changed is that I have forbidden more than 1 move per unit per phase.  This stops the admittedly rare exploit where Wellington can get the Light Division to move about 5.6km in 20 minutes or so down a road...The quite stringent penalties on off-road movement to artillery in this scenario worked well to keep things realistically slow!
Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings mainly by Leven.


  1. Russian rabble pushed back two brigades of the Old Guard!!!??? But then the Mary Louises see off determined assaults (looked like three separate pushes)? Would you chalk that up to them defending an urban area, or were those the super dice for the French you were mentioning? Thanks for posting buddy!


    1. Thanks Jack. Some good dice for both sides were key, but also some of the rules encouraged the outcome for the Marie-Louises. The rules have the Russian line infantry as both being able to skirmish less effectively (which at this scale basically reduces the range at which the brigade is effective) so this encourages them to get in close. They are usually less subject to routing also, so this encourages the Russian general to physically chuck them in, whereas French troops can wait until there is an opening and then attack. Unluckily for the Russians, the French were rolling pretty high, and even when they had nullified the effect of the BUA by setting it on fire, it was positioned on a small hill which aided the defence quite a lot.
      The defeat of the Imperial Guards on the other hand were just miserable 1 - 6 die rolls for Napoleon!

    2. Gotcha, John. It all makes sense and seems reasonable, so sounds like the rules work just fine then.


    3. I refought this battle a few times and when the AARs of those come out, you can see what happens when key dice rolls land a bit differently...