Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Re-fighting Pultusk 1806 - A Napoleonic AAR

Over the long weekend the Canister & Grape lads plus invitees undertook to play a large Napoleonic Wars game in 15mm. The scenario was put together by Nug based on the Battle of Pultusk in 1806. We used Shako II as the rule set and the miniatures were 15mm scale from our various collections including AB, Fantassin and Eureka.

Nug commanded the Russian/Prussian forces and I commanded the French. Both of us had a number of subordinates responsible for numerous divisions of troops from all arms. This was just as well as each side of the battle comprised approximately 35 battalions of infantry, 12 regiments of cavalry and 10 batteries of artillery of varying calibres. In total there was over 2,000 miniatures on the table. The Russians comprised Adam, Cory and Russ whilst the French were Andy, George (and Cory after his casual defection to the forces of good).


The French army was divided in two. The main French force under Lannes consisted of two thirds of the available troops and was tasked with capturing Pultusk before dark. The remainder under D'Aultane was marching on the Russian right flank to arrive on or after turn 3.

The Russian army was divided into thirds, an advance guard attempting to slow the main French advance, a centre protecting the town of Pultusk and a reserve protecting the rear and awaiting a flank march by the relieving French force under D'Aultane.



Battle commenced with a general advance by the main French force against the Russian left. The Russian advance guard put in a stoic defence and held up the larger French force whilst sustaining heavy casualties. Multiple cavalry charges and the fire of massed batteries took its toll but the Russians refused to break. Heavy rain the night before meant moving artillery was problematic and reduced the effect of horse batteries.

In the centre the French cavalry slogged through the woods, their progress hampered by the terrain. This slowed it's arrival and prevented the desired flank attack on the Russian advance guard, as by the time the cavalry were in a position to intervene the Russian centre had advanced to cover the advance guard's exposed right flank. Fighting was by now in progress across the entire Russian left and centre. French forces were making headway but unable to achieve the crucial breakthrough that would allow them to march on Pultusk.



At this point the French relieving force under D'Aultane arrived on the Russian right having also forced it's way through the woods. It immediately charged into the fray on a front combining two entire infantry divisions with supporting cavalry on the extreme flank.

Back on the Russian left the advance guard had now been ground to dust by the French and the Russian reserves were thrown in. French dragoons did sterling service destroying the opposing cavalry before themselves being routed from the field by the Russian heavy reserves. Finally the Russian reserves also began to fail in the face of overwhelming numbers and their resistance wavered.

In the centre the Russian massed battery and supporting cavalry made mince-meat of the French light cavalry and a gap appeared to be opening. The wooded terrain slowed them up however and a reserve infantry division quickly advanced to plug the gap. Still, it was valuable time gained and a moral victory for the Russians.



The Russian right flank now became pivotal. The right the arriving French cavalry made charge upon charge and did the Emperor proud, smashing the cream of the Russian heavies and driving them from the field with minimal losses. The Russian right flank began to collapse and the French threatened to break into the Russian rear.

As the day wound down both Russian flanks were in desperate straights, the right in particular. As darkness drew in the French had failed in their primary objective to take the town of Pultusk by nightfall. They had, however, achieved major successes where it really counted and the Russians were forced to concede defeat. Their cavalry was in tatters and their infantry under mounting pressure with no reserves left to speak of. The French still had a fresh infantry division and their victorious cavalry.


Overnight the Russians were able to retreat in good order, leaving the French in command of the field but unable to follow without spending time to reorganise and take stock. Both sides had sustained heavy casualties, the Russians in particular.

The result followed the actual outcome quite closely and reflects the difficulties of weather, the terrain and the forces involved. Nug did a sterling job putting together a well balanced and challenging scenario. It was a great game, played in wonderful spirit and with all the banter, elan and subordinate disobedience that have come to characterise our biggest games. Now to start planning the next one...

Cheers,
Millsy

10 comments :

  1. With the deployments as shown in your first photo, I expected a slugfest. I wasn't disappointed!

    What are your impressions of Shako II, if I may ask?

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    1. We like it a lot. It scales really well and handles games of all sizes we play right up to this sort of craziness. The table was a bit small for the scenario meaning things were a bit cramped and we couldn't maneuver as we'd like but was the largest we could arrange unfortunately.

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    2. Michael, I appreciate your feedback! One of the guys in our group has ties to the Shako development team so we often playtest scenarios. It produces results quickly (that is an understatement!) but doesn't tick all of the boxes for me, personally. Large games can be played to completion quickly but seems that troops are constantly being lifted from the table for morale failures and a bit too "dicey" for my tastes. I prefer a maneuver unit to remain on table longer.

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    3. Interesting to hear that Jonathan. Our experience is that units fight on longer than expected. Part of the reason the Russians held their left flank for so long was the difficulty the French had in forcing a collapse on morale grounds.

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    4. It probably has much to do with my inability to pass my one chance to rally roll after a retreat!

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    5. LOL. Quite possibly that's it. We seemed to pass them with alarming regularity which is not always the case.

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  2. My word, that's an impressive sight!

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  3. Is that the biggest battle the C&G lads have fought to date? 15mm Napoleonics look pretty impressive en masse.

    I'm not familiar with the historical battle though. "Pultusk" - is that what happens when an elephant visits the dentist?

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  4. Looks great, a beautiful battle!

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  5. 2000 figures?! It's a fabulous effect, all those massed troops.

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