The Napoleonic Wars, The Shadow of the Eagles, 28mm
This week’s game was chosen after a message from Keith Flint, the author of these rules (and Honours of War, or Seven Years War set). Keith and his wife were holidaying in Orkney, and he asked if he could meet up. We were delighted to oblige, and so we ran this game, based on a Charles Grant scenario from the old Battlegame magazine. We set this fun rearguard action in the 1812 campaign.The Russians (played by Sean 2 and I) were defending the bridge over the Lukomlio River at Ariechavna, twenty miles south of Polotsk. The main Russian army under Prince Bagration was withdrawing to Vitebsk, pursued by a larger French force under Marshal Ney. The French advanced guard was General Charpentier’s division, led by Keith (pictured below), and assisted by Nick and Sean 1). Prince Sherbatov’s rearguard had to hold the bridge until his engineers could demolish it. The aim was to slow the French advance, and buy time for Bagration’s army to get away.The game was played out on a 6×6 foot table. To add a little spice, there were two “speed bumps”. The first was that only French scouts (the 7th Hussars) were on the table at the start. The rest would appear randomly over the next six turns at either “Point A” – the top left table edge (seen above) or “Point B” – the top right one. The other constraint was the Russian engineers, busily rigging the bridge for demolition. It would take ten long turns before it was ready to blow. Unfortunately for Keith, the first French unit on the table was a lone artillery battery. It appeared within range of Sean’s Cossacks, who duly charged the limbered guns and swept them away. First blood to the Russians! Celebrations though, were short-lived. The next turn two French line battalions appeared at point B, and blazed away at the Cossacks at short range. The battered Cossacks retired towards the river, and the French advance continued. Over at Point A Nick was in charge of the growing pile of French there. These included a brigade of French cavalry, which Nick formed up into an impressive-looking line before sweeping forward to charge the Russian horse, who were stuck well ahead of the village, with French sweeping towards them from two sides. When it came the French charge was brutal and effective. The leading Russian regiment – the Polski Ulhan regiment was hit in the flank by the French 26th Dragoons and the rear by the 4th Lancers. Inevitably they were sent reeling back, with an unrecoverable six hits on them. The Smolensk Dragoons fared a little better, but after being hit in the flank by the 7th Hussars they were forced to retire towards Ariechevna. Things were starting to look a little worrying. That though, was only the first phase of Nick’s spectacular cavalry charge. The next step was the exploitation. While the French dragoons pursued and polished off the Russian ulhans, the French hussars did a pursuit move into the village, which brought them up against a battalion of the Pskov regiment.It had just been interpenetrated by their own dragoons, so the Pskov battalion didn’t get to fire. Still, in the melee that followed the line held, and it was the 7th Hussars who were repulsed with style. While they licked their wounds Nick sent in the 4th Lancers, who charged a Russian jaeger battalion between the village and a nearby wooded hill which the jaegers were busily withdrawing from. Amazingly, the 11th Jaegers didn’t suffer any casualties, despite being caught in the flank, and so the lancers were forced to retire. The jaegers grabbed the chance to high-tail it into the village, while the second Russian unit – a battalion of the Moscow regiment followed up behind them. Nick wasn’t done though, and charged this new Russian battalion in the flank. Once again though, the Lancers failed to inflict any hits, and so were forced to pull back. This though was their third charge in as many turns! By now the Russian engineers had almost laid their charges. It was time to pull troops back over the bridge. This though, wasn’t an easy task, as the first wave of attackers had been reinforced by a Hessian brigade, which pressed on the village from the north-west side. That’s the general station around Ariechevna up above. The Russians though, were stoically holding their ground.The first Russian units began pulling back to the eastern side of the Lukomlio. Sean had abandoned his outposts now, while the Russian guns on the eastern bank were firing into the French and Allied ranks as fast as they could. It was still all to play for though. Sean and I had a quick chat, and decided that now the charges were set, we’d have to blow the bridge, and sacrifice the rearguard. The decision made, we rolled a dice – and found the detonation was delayed until the end of the following turn. In theory that bought us a turn to pull more troops back, but the clock struck 9.30pm, and it was time to pack up before we could play that last turn. Still, the Russians had achieved their objective – it was just a question of the cost in lives. The main thing about the evening though – apart from a really fun and well-balanced game – was that Keith – a lovely guy – was able to keep us on track with the rules. He seemed to enjoy himself too, so let’s hope he gets the chance to visit Orkney again, and can pay us another visit!