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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Grubbhausen, 1813

The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm

For some of my French and Russians this was their second battle in a week. I’d promised Mark Colston (a teacher) to host a game before the end of the school holidays, so on Friday afternoon he came round to blood his brigade of Prussians. They formed part of an Allied force which was ranged against a small French army, in a game set in the spring of 1813. Both sides had eight infantry battalions in two or three brigades, backed up by four gun batteries, and supported by a two regiment brigade of cavalry. For both sides the only objective was to inflict a defeat on their opponent. The 7×5 foot battlefield was fairly open, with just two wooded hills on it, and a small village. Like the game on Monday evening the windmill was only there for show. As we did for the previous game we used Black Powder, with all ranges and distances reduced by a third.The Allies got to move first, and the Russians began with a spirited advance towards the enemy. The Prussian brigade failed its command roll, and stayed where it was. In their turn the French also advanced slightly, to distance themselves a little from the table edge. Given Mark’s aggressive tactics it was clear that the French would be fighting a defensive battle. On the Allied right and the French left the Russian light cavalry also rode forward, and deployed in line to face up to the French dragoon brigade which opposed them. While the French guns blasted away, the Prussian guns either limbered up or were manhandled closer to the enemy.On the second turn the Prussians began moving forward, while their Russian counterparts kept on advancing towards the French line, which was made up of two brigades in l’ordre mixte, each made up of four battalions – a combination of veteran and inexperienced troops. The French infantry held their ground, and seemed content to fire at the Russians, who were now within musket range. Then, on turn three, the Prussians benefited from a three move command roll, and charged into the French brigade to their front. One of the two small Russian brigades charged in too, so that the veteran French battalion deployed in line as the anchor of their  l’ordre mixte was hit by two Allied battalions at the same time. In the melee which followed it was forced to give ground. The fighting now degenerated in a monumental melee, which sucked in several battalions from each side, either as fighting units or ones supporting the combatants.Over on the French right the second Russian brigade advanced in column, only to be halted by a combination of musketry and canister shot, as the French there had deployed into line to meet the threat with firepower rather than cold steel. At this stage there was still everything to play for, with the Allies concentrating their attack columns against one of the two French brigades, the cavalry gearing up to charge each other, and the secondary Allied assault on the other French brigade regrouping for a bayonet attack.That was when the battle began in earnest. Having been pushed back again the French battalion in line failed its break test and was removed from the table. That left a big hole in the French line, and Allied units began pouring into it. The outnumbered French conscripts were deployed in column, and had no option but to meet the attackers head on. Over to their left the two cavalry forces clashed with each other. While the Russian hussars and their dragoon opponents fought each other to a draw, the lancers pushed back their French opponents, and continued the fight. The supporting French guns hit and disordered the Mariopol Hussars, giving the French a little breathing space. Eventually after another round of combat both sides were fought to a standstill, and the cavalrymen pulled back to lick their wounds – or rather to rally off their hit markers.Over on the French right the Russians took several more casualties from close-range fire, forcing a string of morale tests. One after another the Russian battalions rolled for their break tests, and rolled badly. First the two line battalions broke and ran, and then the supporting jaegers followed them. Finally a unit of Prussian jaegers were also removed, completing a string of bad results for the Allied player. At that point Mark’s wife and kids arrived to take him away. He conceded that his attack had stalled, apart from the fight in the centre. Now, without anyone in front of them apart from a couple of Prussian limbered artillery batteries the French right flank brigade could have swung round and attacked the remaining Allied infantry in the flank. Still, what might have happened next will remain a mystery, as the poor Allied commander was dragged off home for his dinner. Mark is fond of detailed rules, but he’s come to like Black Powder, particularly the speed with which units can move, and the ease with which one can pick up the mechanics. He swore to paint up more Prussians for our next game, while I cleared the table away ready for the following day’s gaming.


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