The Napoleonic Wars, Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, 28mm
I like it when other people are supplying the toys, and I don’t have to haul several boxes of lead to the wargame club. This was one of those occasions, when Dave Imrie brought along his Russians, and Dougie Trail supplied the French. Better still, these guys are some of the best figure painters I know, and so their figures were a real pleasure to play with. We were also trying out a new set of rules, which added to the sense of occasion. Warfare in the Age of Napoleon are written by Tod Kershner, whose Warfare in the Age of Reason were such a big hit. His slimmed-down Napoleonic variant came out two years ago, but I only heard of them recently. The best thing about them is that they drew on many of the slick mechanisms of WAOR, and they were only 24 pages long – which makes a pleasant change. Granted they had minimal Command and Control rules, but for this trial game we weren’t really concerned about such niceties. We just wanted to get the toys on the table and get cracking with the game.The loose premise behind this week’s game was that during the Grand Armee’s approach to Smolensk, Neverovsky’s 27th (Grenadier) Division was operating on the south bank of the River Dniepr, and it clashed with elements of Ney’s III Corps somewhere near the town of Krasnyi. As Dave’s Russian troops were all grenadiers, we based it around that clash in August 1812. The Russians started with one brigade deployed astride a crossroads. The French (with two infantry brigades and two cavalry ones) had to seize the road junction and drive the Russians back. The rest of Dave’s force (a second infantry brigade, a regiment of cuirassiers and another two gun batteries would also march onto the table after the battle got underway.The Russian secret weapon was a position battery of 12-pounders. In these rules large gun batteries are particularly effective, and sure enough when the leading French brigade appeared Dave set to work shredding its front units. Both sides reinforced the fight, the French sending a brigade of light cavalry backed by horse artillery off on their left flank, while the Russians fed more infantry into the growing fight, deploying them on their own left flank.As soon as the cavalry got into position they launched a charge. Dougie had no sooner finishing telling everyone how his brown-coated 2nd Hussars had never lost a combat when they were forced to retire in disorder, having come off worst in a clash with a battalion of Russian grenadiers. His other hussars were a little more successful, and soon the Russians were pinned in square, as the French horse artillery deployed and began pounding away at them from close range.The Russians, of course, were made of stern stuff, and after re-deploying into line the battalion who thwarted the 2nd Hussars advanced towards the guns, and began firing at them in an attempt to drive the gunners off. This unusual exchange continued for the next few turns, as both sides took casualties, but refused to give ground. Meanwhile, over on the French right the French infantry had deployed from column into line, and soon a brisk musketry exchange had developed, with both sides pounding away at each other at close range. The rules rather discourage charging in using attack columns, so the French relied on their superior firepower instead. Having outflanked the Russian heavy guns they blasted away at it, and forced it to withdraw. That, of course, spurred Dave to launch his second brigade of grenadiers in a counter-attack, and just for the heck of it I encouraged him to charge home in column. The result was discouraging, as despite outnumbering the French battalion in front of him by two to one, his units were forced to retire in disorder. Lesson learned. Line good – column bad.Elsewhere the Russians were holding their ground, despite the heavy casualties they were taking, and the profusion of French units. As a last resort Dougie brought on his dragoon brigade, but it was still deploying for a charge when the time came to pack our toys away. The game was fast-paced, even though we kept on stopping to check the new rules, or try to find the French player who had wandered off again, to speak to cronies at another table.One of the strange things about WAON is the inverted nature of firing and morale. Normally, high is good, but here the aim is to score low – a 1 or a 2 is ideal on a D6. While this turned out to be a very sensible and well thought out system, it took a little getting used to. We’ll certainly give these promising rules another outing soon, but for now everyone came away from the game with a new-found respect for Tod Kershner’s largely unsung set.