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Probing the Lines, Saint-Quentin, 1814


The Napoleonic Wars, General d’Armee, 28mm

Well, this was a red letter day. It was my first game since lockdown began. Huzzah! Actually, it wasn’t a full-one game – just a small “learning curve” one, played out on the dining table. Still, to get my toys out, and to shuffle lead with real people (well, wargamers) was a long-awaited pleasure. The Colston family were visiting – camping in my garden, and the husband Mark is an old friend, and  occasional wargamer. He’s a one-trick pony though, as for him its all about Napoleonics. So, I staged a small game for him, giving him the chance to try out General d’Armee. Also playing was my near-neighbour Gyles, who lives in the next island to me – joined by a causeway. He hadn’t tried out the rules either, and promised to bring along his small force of Saxons and assorted Allies. So – game on! Finding a scrap pitting French against Saxons wasn’t easy – the latter stayed loyal to Napoleon until the middle of the Battle of Leipzig. So, we set this in 1814, when the Saxons were busy propping up the northern flank of Blucher’s Army of Silesia, and probing the defences of Northern France. So, that was it – a Saxon sortie near Saint-Quentin, and a small encounter battle with a French blocking force. Both sides had a brigade each of infantry and cavalry, supported by a gun battery. It began with the Saxon infantry brigade huddled near a small, dismal French village, Gyles hadn’t painted up his guns yet, so I lent him a battery of Baden artillery as support. He had four infantry battalions (one being grenadiers), and occupied a corner of the table anchored by the small hill where his guns were, and the hamlet, occupied by a Saxon infantry battalion.Over on the Allied right, Gyles deployed his small two-regiment cavalry brigade – a regiment each of Saxon cheveaux-legers and Russian dragoons. Mark matched this deployment, with his cavalry on his left, facing a small wood, and his four battalions of infantry facing their Saxon counterparts. Mark through, deployed his two light infantry battalions as skirmishers, and stripped the light companies from his two line battalions, to add to this sizable horde of skirmishers. Clearly he planned to do things in true French style. Watching over this small joint-arm was General-de-Division Pire (above), a veteran French light cavalry commander. Gyles started the ball rolling by advancing his infantry towards the cloud of skirmishers. His plan was to drive them back on their supports, and overwhelm the French before they could regroup into line formations. Instead though, he found his advance hampered by a lack of ADCs – one of the “friction” elements of the rules – and so his infantry spent half their time advancing, and the rest being hesitant. The French skirmishers began to cause casualties, but eventually the Saxon commander got things moving again, and the advance continued. Meanwhile, over on the French left the Saxon light cavalry of Prince Albert’s regiment charged the French 5th Lancers,  and our first melee of the evening began. It ended with both sides withdrawing to reform, having given each other a bloody nose. The french were quicker to reform though, and as the lancers pulled back their place was taken by the 7th Hussars. My one hussar regiment was chosen for the very good reason that it was Caprtain Feraud’s one – Harvey Keitel in The Duelists. As good a reason as any…Anyway, this time it was the French cavalry’s turn to dither, as casualties from the Baden artillery (pictured at the bottom of the post) forced them to check their advance. the Russians were disordered too, thanks to the Saxons retiring through them, so for now the cavalry fight was put on hold. Over with the infantry though, things were moving again, as Gyles launched a charge. His Saxon battalion drove back the skirmishers, and the waiting line of French infantry fired off a pretty poor volley. So, it was a melee, as the two battalions crashed into each other(below).The result was pretty inconclusive, and the combat continued – or rather it would have until the Saxons took enough casualties from skirmish fire to force their supporting battalion back. That left the Saxons attackers out on a limb, and so after another round they were forced to retire. Elsewhere the Saxons were coming unstuck too, as they couldn’t clear a path through the clouds of French skirmishers. Actually, at that point the game sort of ran out of steam. Mark’s wife came in, to report two of his kids were mauling each other, and he had to make the peace. By the time this was all sorted it was time to pack up, as Mark was needed as a camp peacemaker. So, we chatted for a bit, then packed our toys away – Gyles’ Saxons and my French, with a few other odds and sods. As for the rules, Mark is a hard taskmaster. essentially he doesn’t like any rules, if he can’t do what he thinks should happen. That said, he quite liked General d’Armee, and would give them another go some time, once he’s actually had a chance to read them. Gyles and I liked them though, and think they offer a slightly more complex alternative to our usual club set, Over the Hills.  He particularly like the command system, which is pretty slick. However – who knows when the next club game will be. For a while, I’ll still have to be content grabbing an occasional socially-distanced game between friends every couple of weeks. Still – it’s good to be back!  

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6 Responses “Probing the Lines, Saint-Quentin, 1814”

  1. 6th August 2020 at 4:03 pm

    Good to read your battle reports again, Angus. Looks like it was a joy to see the troops on the table again.

    • 6th August 2020 at 4:37 pm

      Oh hell yes, Jason! Painting your toys up is one thing, but the interaction of shuffling lead with others is the biggest part of all this. In fact, I’m doing it again next week, with a try-out of a new set of Ancient rules.

  2. Peter
    9th August 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Angus I’ve purchased Gen d’armee but never really got a game in so I was interested in your AAR. I thought it was larger battles(more 15mm) Divisions and higher or did you not find that?

    Im staying with BP for battles with friends as its what they use

    • 9th August 2020 at 6:57 pm

      Well Peter, Black Powder works well for Napoleonic games, as does Over the Hills, which the Orkney club favours. If you want a set with a bit more of a challenge to it, then I’d suggest General d’Armee. Like General de Brigade before them, they work well for most sizes of games, but I suspect anything more than a division a side will become bogged down slightly once the charges start going in. In my opinion it works best for a couple of brigades a side, and gives you a better feel for the period than Black Powder does. Still, I’m often constrained by time for weekly club games (when they restart), so any game with more than a brigade a side probably won’t get finished in the 2-3 hours we’ve got. Anyway Peter, do try giving them a go. Before you do, best check out the Youtube videos, which give you the basics.They’re very dry, but they do their job.

      • Peter
        15th August 2020 at 4:25 pm

        Thanks Angus …. why would you feel Gen d’Armee would provide more of a challenge

        • 16th August 2020 at 4:23 pm

          Simple because they’re a more detailed set of rules.

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