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.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Even More Montmirail

It is a little while since I have been quite as grabbed by a scenario!  So many thanks to Glenn Pearce (and Miniature Wargames, and Wargames Illustrated!) for designing such a good one.  Again, I was using Phil Barker's Horse, Foot and Guns rules.

The first battle report, which contains all the details, is here.  The second battle report is here. I won't repeat the details of the scenario set-up since they are all on the previous posts.

I gave this a third go to give it a last chance of lasting long enough to let the Prussians arrive.  After the second battle, I began to suspect that although the game isn't particularly deadly in any one combat, the amount of dice being thrown, especially for artillery, always gives a chance of producing elimination results.  Artillery will basically fire twice every turn (in HFG units fire in both the friendly and the enemy turn).  And with so many dice being thrown, the chances of more and more units being eliminated is quite high.

The Set-Up:

Sacken's Corps advancing (yet again!) from the top, Napoleon and elements of his Guard oppose them, with Ricard's infantry holding the left

Sacken's Right

And Centre

Nansouty's Imperial Guard Cavalry on the French Right

Napoleon and the Guard Infantry astride the main road to Montmirail

The Imperial Guard Heavy Cavalry
The Battle:

Sacken's right descends the hill again to threaten Marchais (left)

His infantry columns start to poke forward over the stream...

Sacken's infantry threaten the centre...

...but are hammered by the Guard Artillery!

French troops contest the advance in the woods on the extreme left...

The Russian infantry, having crossed the stream, prepared to assault Marchais

The counter-attack of the Imperial Guard infantry throws some of the Russian infantry back from the stream (centre-left)

Sacken's infantry make good progress pushing on to the left of Marchais

A wider shot: the Russian attack on the French left is progressing nicely (left), but has stalled along the line of the stream (centre)

Sacken's troops determined to hold in the centre in the face of the Emperor's grumblers and his beautiful daughters...

However, the Russian gunners are capable of returning the compliment, routing some of the Guard Heavy Cavalry...

Whilst the Imperial Guard Horse Artillery shows that it too is capable of great execution!

Ricard's infantry launch a counter-attack (left) to push back Sacken's infantry from Marchais

Whilst the French Imperial Guard are in turn pushed back from around the bridge, despite the losses suffered by the Russians...

Sacken's attack, in spite of setbacks, is now developing more fully around Marchais

His attack to the left of Marchais has been successful and the Russians are now around the French left flank!

Whilst there are further gaps to exploit after the defeat of the brigade of Imperial Guards adjacent to the bridge

Not too soon, more units of the Guard arrive (bottom) - a brigade is immediately despatched to help defend Marchais (bottom-left)

The French move quickly to form a defensive position with Marchais as the hinge to prevent an outflanking attack

More Imperial Guard infantry restore the line of the stream around the bridge

French counter-attacks push the Russians back all along the stream: the Russian Right is now somewhat isolated around Marchais

This hasn't affected their fighting prowess though: one of the French infantry brigades has been destroyed in the fighting!

The Russians go back to the attack, pushing back the French infantry in front of Marchais (centre)

Sacken restores his defences on the far side of the bridge

Subject to continuous bombardment from early in the battle, Marchais catches fire

The ebb-and-flow of battle continues - another brigade of Guardsmen has been destroyed and the stream is again passable by the Russians (centre)

Another French brigade in retreat, unable to make progress in the face of Russian muskets and guns

The garrison of Marchais bravely but grimly holds on against mounting Russian pressure

Napoleon rallies some Guardsmen

Just in time, as the Russians launch a desperate attack to clear out the Guard artillery which has caused so much damage around the bridge

But to no avail, as the French Guards and guns restore the position and force the Russians back

French Guardsmen launch a counter-attack to ease the pressure on Marchais (left); whilst more of the Russians retire from the intense musketry from its defenders

Napoleon brings up more guns - he now has 50+ guns blasting the Russian centre

At this moment, Nansouty and his Horse are launched forwards

But suffer huge casualties from the Russian guns (centre)

The Guards' counter-attack is successful (left) even though the French infantry is at last forced from the village (centre)! 

But the Russians are unable to exploit, since the supporting infantry is also pushed back (centre)

The French infantry cross the stream in front of Marchais and Sacken has run out of reserves to stem them...

Nansouty's troopers charge home

The Russian infantry is holding on...just!

But the Russian artillery in the centre is captured.

And there are French horsemen now in the Russian rear (centre)

Sacken's troops can do no more and being their retreat
Game Notes:
Another very exciting re-fight! I think of all the battles, the Russian infantry very nearly did turn the French flank but it was not quite to be.  The French reinforcement schedule does put a lot of pressure on the Russians to attack but by doing so, they begin the engagement which has a gravity all of its own and makes it very likely it will be all over before Yorck's Prussians arrive.  If Sacken simply sits tight, he is probably just allowing Napoleon to concentrate his entire Guard for a single irresistible blow; but if enough dice are being thrown, then the chances are he is going to suffer quite heavy casualties.
The problem here is that these eliminations are (pretty much) just as likely to happen on turn 1 as on turn 10.  I am beginning to think that this flat attrition line will nearly always prevent battles lasting a realistic amount of time.  In comparison to other rulesets, where the problem was simply casualty rates were too high, in these rules it is the lack of meaningful attrition mechanisms.  To be fair, how to combine the importance of attrition and shock in horse-and-musket warfare is not an easy problem - and I'm not sure anyone should be really confident about how it works in detail. Polemos' shaken mechanics, although by no means an ideal solution to this problem, seem a slightly better bet.  But, despite the many sterling qualities of these rules, I am starting to look around for some alternatives.    Perhaps I need to dust off Grande Armee.  Or maybe I need to take the plunge and write my own...
Figures by Baccus 6mm, most of these buildings are by Leven I think.


  1. Great that you've really enjoyed one scenario so much. Shame hte Prussians never got to play. Maybe another ruleset might be more kind to them.

    1. Yes, as you say. I *will* do this again soon and get Yorck's troops involved! To be fair, HFG isn't alone in struggling with timelines for reinforcements.

  2. You might want to try Blucher. I like both HFG & Blucher. Blucher provides a game of wearing down the enemy through attrition. Blucher is the next evolution of Grande Armee, & I believe a better one.

    1. Yes, that is a good idea. I bought the pdf IIRC when it came out but haven't given it a proper go yet.

  3. I always enjoy your thoughtful AARs, and I've thought for a while that I'd love to see you try Bloody Big Battles (BBB). Although it was originally written for late C19 wars, people have been using it very happily for Napoleonics with minimum adaptation (just an extra +1 for true shock cavalry). Eg this review by Manteuffel in Virginia: and you can find various other AARs etc if you search my BBBBlog for Napoleonics:


    Bloody Big BATTLES!

    1. Many thanks Chris, I will look at the reviews.