The Napoleonic Wars, The Shadow of the Eagles, 28mm
These rules were a big hit the last time we played them. So, we decided to give them another spin. One of the things we all like is that they’re simple and fast play enough to let us easily finish a game in a club night. They also have a subtlety to them, which we’re beginning to appreciate. This game was set in Silesia in August 1913, near the town of Löwenberg (now Lwówek Ślaski in Poland). It lay on the River Bobber, which acted as the front line between the French army to the west and the Allies to the east. A few miles downstream, near the village of Gross Rackwitz was a bridge which was defended by a Saxon division. A Russian division was tasked with fighting their way across the river, to pave the way for Blucher’s army. This then, was our game – an opposed river crossing. We played it out on a 6×4 foot table, with Gyles and Sean commanding the Saxons, and Bob and I dividing the Russians between us. Our objective was to establish a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Bobber, and obviously the Saxons were out to stop us. There were two ways across the river – either by the bridge or at the nearby ford at Gross Rackwitz. We both had similar-sized forces – two infantry brigades and a cavalry one, but the Russians had a slight edge in numbers – an extra battalion, horse battery and a sotnia of Cossacks. Still, it wasn’t much of an edge, especially as we were attacking two bottlenecks – the bridge and the ford. I took one brigade towards the ford, while Bob headed for the bridge. Apart from the screen of Cossacks and the horse battery, the Russian cavalry stayed in reserve. So did the Saxon cavalry, deployed midway between the two crossings, on the eastern bank. Obviously we needed to soften up the defenders first, so the artillery was first in action, firing from just outside musket range. On the other bank the Saxon battery near the bridge and the Baden one by the ford fired back, but the bigger Russian batteries had the edge. In The Shadow of the Eagles you can give the Russian guns three firing dice rather than two, to reflect their bigger batteries. They gradually began wearing their opponents down, and helped reduce the damage the Saxon and Baden guns did as the Russian infantry approached the river. Then though, the Saxon muskets joined in, and Russian casualties began mounting fast. At the crucial moment though, the Russian horse artillery finally silenced the Saxon battery near the bridge. Then, Bob’s Russian guns had a field day.Over by the ford leading to Gross Rackwitz (above), the crossing was defended by the Baden battery, and three battalions – one Saxon, one Baden and one Hessian. My Russians were suffering badly, and I had to pull two “weakened” battalions back to be rallied. The rest though, opened up a musket duel across the narrow but deep river, with each side adding the weight of their guns , with both sides firing canister at that range. Now it was the German allies who had the worst of it, and eventually the Saxons broke and ran.That gave my Russians a breathing space, and having rallied my first wave, the two reserve battalions headed across the ford. There was movement by the bridge too, as Bob tried the same when another Saxon battalion broke under fire. It wasn’t all plain sailing though – his Russian battery was plagued by heavy fore from the Saxon light battalion on the far bank, and so couldn’t support the assault. The fight was now reaching a climax. The horse guns didn’t have a clear target now that they’d routed the Saxons in front of them, and with the Russian troops now on the bridge they couldn’t really fire into the looming melee. Bob’s Russian musketeers charged across in attack column, and met the Saxon grenadier battalion, who piled in too. This was clearly going to be the deciding melee!In the end it all came down to dice – and Russian stoicism. The Russians rolled better fighting dice, and while both sides were battered, the Russians held their foothold on the eastern bank, as the Saxons gave ground. That was all Bob needed, and his Cossacks charged over the bridge next, with the rest of the Russian cavalry following on behind. The brave but “weakened” Saxon grenadiers were too busy regrouping to intervene, and so were unable to stop the advance. Bob had his bridgehead. What could have stopped him in his tracks were the Saxon cavalry, especially the Saxon cuirassiers, who were very tough cookies. However, they’d already been committed, and at that moment they were passing through Gross Rackwitz, and deploying for the attack. The leading unit was the lighter Saxon chevaulegeres though, who charged the leading Russian battalion. It tried to form an emergency square, but didn’t fully make it. So, both sides had a chance. Again though, although the losses were equal, the Russians counted as “superior” for motivation, and so stood their ground, leaving the Saxon horse to pull back. That was Saxony’s last chance. With that the rest of my brigade fanned out on the eastern bank of the river, and the second bridgehead was secured. That’s where we ended the game. Despite the Russian win it was quite a hard-fought contest, with the Saxons and their German Allies giving a very good account of themselves. The Russians had the edge though, thanks to their stoicism under pressure, and their big gun batteries. More importantly, all four players enjoyed themselves, and found the rules were easy to pick up, and fun to play. So – another big thumbs up for The Shadow of the Eagles.