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The Battle of Altefritz, 1813


The Napoleonic Wars, General de Brigade, 28mm

We had six players this week (a full house for the Orkney Wargames Club – and for my attic), so I wanted a game that could accommodate everybody. it also had to produce a result after four hours of gaming. After much thought I drew inspiration from a scenario from Charles S. Grant’s Programmed Wargames Scenarios for Wargames (1983).  To me this book is a bit OTT, with twenty scenarios that can be played solo, with the actions of either side being programmed. Even the maps are variable, which for me just added to the confusion. I suppose I never found this as useful or as clear as Charles’ earlier scenario book, or his tabletop teasers. This was probably because I never really indulged in solo wargaming.Some of the scenario ideas though, are top-notch, as you’d expect from the Brigadier. This one was entitled “The Alliance”, and in its original form pitted three Allies, all trying to stop a homogeneous army from reaching the southern edge of the table. In our slightly simpler version there were just two Allies, but the friction was still there, in that it was harder for the Prussian C-in-C to issue orders to the three Russian brigades under him.We pretty much copied the map too, with a few amendments. Essentially the attacker – the French in our case – had to get 2/3rd of his force off the southern table edge. There were three routes – a central hill, and two table corners, representing valleys. In between these three areas were two impassable areas – steep pine-clad hills. We played on a 10×6 foot table, with another dense wood and swampy area to the west, a small village in the middle, and another more open wood on the eastern table edge.The Allies deployed first – a four-battalion brigade of Prussians, a three-battalion brigade of Russians, two gun batteries (one Prussian, the other Russian, and two brigades of Russian cavalry (one of which consisted of Cossacks). The French had ten battalions of infantry (in three brigades), plus two brigades of cavalry and two gun batteries. In other words the French had a slight edge in numbers, and the choice of whether to break left, break right or forge straight ahead.The Allies (played by Sean, Joe and Alan) set up with the Prussian foot on the left, the Russian foot on the right, the cavalry in reserve in the middle, and the Cossacks on the far right. The gun batteries supported the two infantry brigades. For our part we French (played by Mark, Gyles and I) decided to keep our three infantry brigades and limbered foot battery in the centre, flanked by a cavalry brigade on each side, while the cavalry on the right were supported by a horse artillery battery. We decided to head towards the right – the south-western corner of the table.The plan was to overwhelm the Prussian contingent before the Russians could come to its aid, relying on the likelihood that it would take longer for the Russians to react, thanks to the Allied problem with issuing orders. We each took a brigade, while Gyles on my left (forming the rearguard) also had a brigade of light cavalry, while Mark on my right supported his infantry with another cavalry brigade, and the horse artillery. As the advance guard his job was to work his way around the Prussians, and hit them in the flank while my brigade charged them head-on.This simple but effective plan worked perfectly. The Russians were indeed slow off the mark, and the fast-moving lancers soon managed to outflank the Prussian contingent. Still, the Prussians guns were causing heavy casualties, as were the Prussian infantry and skirmishers. On the Prussian left two battalions went into square as the cavalry approached, and they popped away ineffectually as the Berg lancers rode around them.  By now the Russian cavalry had got in on the act, and the Mariopol hussars launched a charge at the Lancers of Berg. The two sides clashed, and the hussars were forced to retreat. It would take them a turn to recover, and in the meantime the lancers were free to launch a charge into the back of the guns.This coincided with my own charge from the front, and despite causing a few casualties to my infantry the gunners were ridden down by the German lancers. This wasn’t all though. Thanks to them failing their pursuit test the German cavalry got an “uncontrolled advance”, meaning they had to charge the nearest enemy unit to their front.  Now, while the Prussian landwehr sensibly stayed in square, the line battalion next to them had just deployed into line, to avoid suffering heavy casualties from the French horse battery, which had just begun pouring canister into them. This meant that at they were now just in front of the Berg lancers, facing in the wrong direction. Needless to say they got ridden down too.That meant that in a single turn the Prussians had lost a powerful gun battery and a battalion of infantry. French losses were light. All that was left on the far left of the Allied line was a solitary battalion of landwehr in square, with a horse battery now moving up to engage them, and the best part of a French division heading their way. The rest of the Prussians – the fusiliers and the riflemen – were in the village, which had been bypassed by the French army. There, and just outside it, where a solitary Prussian musketeer battalion marked the left flank of the Allied army. it was in trouble too – charged by two battalions of French line. They were duly pushed back, fouling up the reformed Russian hussars, who had been preparing themselves for another charge against the enemy lancers. Things were going well over on the Allied right though, as the Russian ulhans and cossacks swept forward, forcing the French light cavalry to turn and face them.The Polski ulhans charged the 7th Hussars (Harvey Keitel’s regiment), but the French retreated first, thanks to a poor morale test. This in turn was due to the casualties suffered from the Prussian skirmishers and Russian guns. Still, this allowed them to reform on the flank of the chasseurs, and the two cavalry regiments were able to form up, facing the oncoming Russian horse. That though, is where we left it. by now it was clear that while the Allies might win an odd melee or two, nothing could stop the French from achieving their victory conditions. So, the game ended, with victory being deservedly awarded to the French.The unit of the match was definitely the 2nd Berg Lancers, who saw off a unit of Russian cavalry, and rode down Prussian guns and infantry. The award for most patient player went to Sean, whose Russians spent most of the game doing nothing, and finally got underway it was too late to stop the French. With the possible exception of Sean then, everyone had a very enjoyable game, and the scenario was both fairly well balanced and fun to play. Just as importantly the battle looked terrific!This simple but effective plan worked a treat. It took three turns before the Prussian C-in-C managed to get the Russians to move, and all attempts of the Russian brigadiers to use their initiative to change orders also failed miserably. This meant that by the time they started off our infantry columns were 27″ closer to their objective – the Prussians and the corner of the table behind them. The advance was led by the French medium cavalry brigade, consisting of the 2nd Lancer regiments of French and Berg. they bypassed the Prussians, riding around the windmill to deploy for a charge into the Prussian left flank.Behind them the French infantry plodded on, with Mark’s brigades aiming for the windmill, while mine aimed for the Prussians.  The rearguard followed on behind, with the cavalry (the 7th Hussars and 16th Chasseurs-a-Cheval bringing up the rear. They came under heavy fire from Prussian riflemen and fusiliers in the village, and from the Russian guns, but they carried on, hoping to put as much ground between them and the Russian cavalry as possible.

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