28th July 1812
This morning we reached Aleshki. We took everything and burnt most of the dwellings. The screams of the village-people and their animals had still ringed in my ears if not replaced by the thunder of battle. My eyes had still been burning with soot if they had not burned with gunpowder smoke.
During mid-day time when all our troops were finally gathered to march south the french approached. Lacking any cossacks we were surprised, and the hussars had been instrumental in gathering all supplies. We were forced to battle to save our now, quite loaded wagon-train. But the gallant drill of our infantry and artillerists saved us. The battle was terrible, I lost half of my infantry, but they hold their ground. What a soldiers! Anyhow I know that I can not afford one battle more like this. The artillery under Panchulidzev worked miracles and showered the french in close-range canister until they broke. Our hussars was roughly handled by french lancers (my men has dubbed them "the iron riders") and infantry. Lieutenant Lanskoi killed a french officer in duel. As the french withdrew they abandoned plunder in the smoke and confusion, my men loaded it on our own wagons.
This very night word reached me from Captain Sabinov.
Strategic overview and forces
As the Main Force has split up to more effective deny the french the fruits of the land, the central road was now ungarded, as the Vanguard (my strongest force right now) now was into the attack on Gleboff Monestry. This was deliberate on my half as A) The french would probably don´t march down the road this turn B) I had a good chance to jump on them from behind if they did C) I needed my troops to burn Aleshki AND Gleboff Monestry, as that´s one of the victory conditions, and I think I´m really behind in the burning/looting game.
Now, as I had won the initiative in The Battle at The Gates of Gleboff Monestry the Umpire let me burn Aleshki first and face the French column after this. My plan was to just retreat with The Main Force if it got attacked, as I did not want to risk all my wagons and force commander. But fair enough, I could not have the cake and eat it, so the umpire gave me the choice of A) retreating and give my newly plundered three supply to the enemy or B) Fight it out. This gave me a real headache, as It was I who plundered the square the supply was totally free for the french if I gave it up! But my plan was to not risk my Main Force in this vulnarble, split up state. After pondering it during a few hours I decided to fight for victory, I could not give away victory points so easily!
As well this is a campaign and we should embrace opportunities to exiting games with much at stake! So a little anxious, with the quite one sided Battle at The Gates of Gleboff Monestry fresh in mind, I accepted battle.
The french are upon me. Before I have blinked they got four formations bearing down on me. I respond with some skirmishers to protect the central woods where I planned to put my centre of resistance. I did not deploy my hussars thou I could as I wanted them as reserve. The french lancers in the centre did cause me some worry.
The overall commander of the russian forces in this campaign, Lieutenant Colonel A. Steingell II is in place with his troops and retuine, consisting of a drummer, Captain Essen IV, the physic Captain W. Lüders and Father Cherbatov. Major Dombrowski was drunk and therefore missed the battle (I forgot him!).
The position was good (central and in a wood) but the left flank was dangerously exposed, pointing the flank towards the centre of the battlefield. I had my group of strelski (skirmishers) to protect it, but would that be enough?
Captain Lieutenant Panchulidzev has deployed his 12 pdr gun at my left flank. I really hoped that the french did not bring any guns to thus figth, but to be on the somewhat safe side I deployed my gun so it was in light cover (making the crew in "hard cover" in total) from the french DP that cold be used to set up a gun that saw my 12 pdr. I directly started to shoot canister on the french voltigures in the field in front of the gun. As a brought my cassion, I had unlimited canister for this fight!
The french attack developes. I am very concerend about the lancers, pointing their pointy sticks in the direction of my Jägers exposed left flank! In that unit I got like, very many eggs! The only thing that makes me a little secure is that the lancers can not gallop out of the wood, they need to start at trot and that won´t give them enough speed to attack me at one activation. This will give me varning and some time to respond to this threat. My response being my hussars!
Th rest of the french advance steadily, with voltigures hiding in the fields (getting them hard cover so they don´t even take as much damage when i fire canister in direction of their plumes!).
Oh no! Mein got! Jonas (playing the french) draws a lot of flags and the a Tiffin (this is the Sharp Practice 2 equivalent to a "double turn" in Chain of Command - scary shit when you are at the reciving end). This enables him to take like a whole turn without me being able to respond at all. The whole french line surges forward, and the lancers trot out from the woods! Next turn, he will be able to attack my left flank with the lancers if he draws his lancer-activating card before I draw a card that makes me make an effective counter move (my hussars, as I really can´t put myself in square as the lines of french infantry approaching then will shoot me to pieces - actullay this is napoleonic tactics when it really works, and different troop types and formations interact).
Jonas continues to draw his activations before mine. As a consequence almost all of his formations gets into (most close!) range of my formation in the woods, and fire of without getting any return fire, you may see this as the french infantry formations has no shock! Also, his lancers charge the woods with the Jäger strelski and Jägers. Before that however, I had the opportunity to fire on them with the strelsik and my 12 pdr, which, as the urgency of the situation dictated had to forsake it´s canister fire to haul a roundshot at the lancers. Again this proved artillery with it´s long range so valuable on the defense.
My hussars showed no intention to show up, in this most momentous of occasions.
Then it was time for the lancers, and Jonas rolled low on the charge. Because of my focused shooting on them, and the Shock that gave them I think ha had -9 or something like that on his movement roll. He missed the charge with one or two inches. Gulp. Even though catastrophe was doubtless very close, as far I was not beaten.
Here I had some serious thought of quitting the field. I was really worried of my gun, an good charge roll from the french skirmishers would be the end of it! This is one thing making campaign play so intense, I only got two guns in the campaign - loosing one of them would be a major blow against my campaign-effort. But an the other hand, my hussars still in reserve, and my gun able to continue showering the french in canister (if not charged by the voltigures), I decided to hold on for more turns. By this time I was perspiring uncontrolled, my brain was feverishly trying to grasp the situation and I was, needless to say - totally consumed by the game.
The shooting in the middle escalates. At least the french escalate it! With more cards drawn they start to weather down the Jägers and building up Shock on them. Then a fifth french column makes it to the battle-field, you can see them in the uppermost left corner, marching to the battle in attack column. So far I really could not do anything about them, but, they were on their way.
And, where where my hussars!?
Urahhhh!!! Finally I got the hussar card! As the Akthyrka hussar regiment was equipped with lances in 1812, they have the same troop quality as the french lancers. And I had two flags so I could ambuscade them (as we have given hussars Tactical to sort them out from other cavalry). I had 22 dice in fisticuffs, and the quite shocked lancers had 10. Sure of victory I rolled the dice. I lost! But I put so much shock on the enemy that they to had to withdraw. Terrible! Unfair! Outrageous! Totally unexpected! Could not believe my eyes!
As a club-mate overlooking the action said "first battle since you painted the unit?" Actually it was the second.
At least the threat to my flank was saved, but it was not the turning moment of the battle I had fanatsized it would be. The french morale was somewhat on decline, and my hope was that this would be the blow that got Jonas to give it up and not risk further fighting. But the battle raged on.
The french lancers and the russian hussars has repelled from eachother. It seems none want another round of lancing.
Faceoff at gunpoint. Would Jonas try to charge the gun (I think he had to roll 14 on 3D6)? Or would I give him canister until he went away?
I gave him canister. The voltigures broke and run for it. At least some relief.
The battle for the centre rages on. The volitgures defeated I turned my 12 pdr on the french line infantry. The fire-power was instrumental in the fight. You can see how thin my line of Jägers in the wood is. They have taken pounding for turns without being able to shoot back. I have taken close to 50% losses already and casualties will mount.
But with the gun getting into the action the french line infantry takes some beating as well.
Actually, the big Jäger formation and hussars like really did not activate many times. But the 12 pdr was very reliable, and apart from the turn only the french played I think it activated every round during the whole battle, with card or flag. On timely activation with priest, his icon and Stoic serfs put away all the shock. I could fight another turn.
In the absolute top of the photo you can see the fresh french attack column arrive at the scene after the lancers has withdrawn from the battle due to fire from my skirmishers.
How I like artillery! Looks really cool and comes with some heavy firepower. I think SP 2 is the first game I played where artillery really rocks. Usually a couple of rifles are as good as an artillery piece. Not in this game!
The fresh french formation deploys in line. And fire away on the hussars (which has not activated since (ok maybe once... I took away shock and did not have any alternative but different suicidal charges)) their debacle with the lancers.
Now they got suicide i front of first fireing muskets instead. The hussars took 50% casulties, broke and the survivors galloped away to safety.
The thin remaining line of Jägers, now "dressed ranks" down from four to three units. No officers has been hit yet! Only the conscripted serfs gets their payment in lead.
The french carabiniers is wavering and the french line infantry breaks down to the canister fire from my 12 pdr. But the enemy still has their fresh formation that just dispatched the hussars. Everything hangs in balance (I got higher Morale so I don´t give in).
The fresh french line assault the strelski in the wood. In the short battle Lieutenant Lanskoi steps forward and takes on the french officer in duel Lanskoi vanquishes the enemy by cheer luck in his lives first duel. His charming face now smeared with the blood of the enemy, with his sword more red than his cheeks this white-gloved volonteer has had his first taste of death. After this Lanskoi, his sergeant and lone lasting soldier have to flee to not face the retribution of the killed officers men.
But the duel also drops the french Morale even lower and after this the french quits the field as Jonas don´t see how he possible can save the day and take down my Morale before has his own collapsing. Finally a victory. Hurrah!
After the battle
This was a hilarious close affair and I ´m so glad I just did not give in during the mid-game dark phases. Now I won my first campaign-fight and took some supply from the french. It came with a cost though, as my casualties was anything but acceptable. It´s was this force first battle, and I can not afford one more like this!
A Sharp Practice 2 At the Sharp End campaign seems to be a really good way to produce very fine gaming-experiences. Of the three battles fought so far, two of them are among the best I have played during my many years of war-gaming,.
We had two big issues during the game. I felt very unfairly treated by the game, as it allowed (my subjective experience, as I does not have any statisitcs - but I think Jonas agreed with this) Jonas activated his troops many times in a row without me being able to respond. In particular in his, very very fast early advance, and then in the central fire-fight. This is crippling and you can do nothing about it (the turn starts with your opponent drawing three flags in a row and then comes the Tiffin!). Jonas on the other hand, had to face an infinitely canister firing heavy cannon from turn one! This annoyed him a lot, especially as he had no gun and just had to take it (he had one chance to charge it, but could not or did not - can not remember which it was!).
Now, luckily for our gaming-experience this two thing cancelled out each-other and it was a fantastic game! But, if one of these factors had gone the other way (me activating as a maniac, or not having a reliable-firing heavy gun for example) it had probably ended up in a one-sided affair not really fun for anyone.
This said - it had been a better game if I had not been so mad at the activations, and Jonas at my artillery! We could just spared ourself from a lot of cursing and tense passive-aggressiveness in these cases. In the end it was an fantastic fun and intense game. Having a little more laid-back approach had only made it even more enjoyable to play. Now in the end, I think the things we did not like cancelled out and made it a very good game.
Visitskis command, roughly half of the Main force was after the war-council a sent to secure the clerics, brothers, nuns, gold, icons and food at Gleboff Monestry. They were lost in the woods and arrived later than thought. Actually, the had not even begun rescuing the riches at Gleboff as the french approached. At the road west of Gleboff, the two forces started to deploy for battle.
My plan had been to stop the french for at least a turn at Rudnja (See "The Battle of Rudnja"), then NOT being delayed when taking a short-cut to Gleboff Monsetry with Visitskis command, beeing able to secure everything there and march of at least one turn before the french turned up. Now this went awry, and I had to fight a battle with a force I did not thought were ever going to fought it out by itself (this was my smallest force, only 74 points strong and only intended for looting and burning and the re-uniting with the Main force). So, the force was not near well-balanced, but now we were here, the french was here and It was going to be a fight!
This was my battle-plan. After the Battle of Rudnja, I was not at all pleased with how my formations and units deployed and interacted. So I wrote down a small plan, from left to right: A unit of dismounted cossacks (to be a speed-bump flank defense for the carabinieris, as well as sharing casualties with them), four units of carabinieris in line, one 12 pdr gun (between my two biggest units to let the valuable crew share casualties with as many units as possible), a formation of two groups of dismounted cossacks (this cossacks has horses, but leave them behind the woods for this action).
The french deploy a column on march, to race down my left flank, turn up into line and blast me! Seen this working well before in a game at the club I responded accordingly at once. Ok, the marching french was an to tempting target for roundshot!
According to my plan I deployed a two-unit formation of cossacks in the woods. The french deployed a gun on their own. An very exiting artillery-duel commenced, killing his artillery officer and one of my crew.
Much ground to cover. French voltigures deploy, one unit in the wood on my left, the other one straight in front of my gun. As for the artillery duel we ruled that round-shot did not split it´s effects on near-by units! It seemed the most reasonable thing to do, but so much for my plan. But, the enemy without officer and me rolling 16 dice and he 12 I thougth I should be able to win this one!
The carabinieris in place in the battle line, the plan worked so far. Then things started to fail for my gun, I got the "damp powder"-random event. As I had no ammunition wagon it halved my artillery dice to 8! Now I was in a bad situation artillery vs. artillery-wise. I forgot that I had I mounted officer model intended for Visitski. So far he has not got his horse brougth to him!
I fail to adhere to my battle-plan and deploy my last unit of dismounted cossacks in the wood. As the cossacks are "poor shots" and lacks Sharp Paractice the duel with the french voltigures was a very close affair. This way I hoped to gain the upper hand in the skirmish-duel (the cossacks are of course "in" the wood, providing cover and getting them to shoot better as they do from cover).
Visitskis horse has arrived. The french column on my left flank has given up it´s plan and formed into line. The french voltigures has fanned out in their battle with my cossacks. They keep themselves out of canister range from the gun and volley range from my carabinieris.
Bolstered by the confidence of riding his white charger Visitski has decided to give the french a bloody noose, earn himself some glory and smearing his enemy Lieutenant Colonel A. Steingell II:s reputation with his own success. He marches of into volley range from the french voltigures and has his soldiers presenting. This is the aggressive posture Visitski has intended for himself all the way!
(already having a higher Force Morale I think this may have the french to retire, defeating one of his spread out formations with a presented first fire crashing volley from my carabinieris)
"The bayonet is a good boy!". Visitskis eagerness to glory gets the better of him. He have his carabinieris charge towards the french (after bringing the voltigures in front of them to withdraw due to Shock)! After recognizing that his formation is in front of several formations of enemy infantry, cavalry and a gun he understands his folly and orders a retreat. The french are both checked and confused, but stays masters at the field of battle as Visitskis men retreat back to lands south of Gleboff Monestry.
Here I got the "surge forward 2D6"-result at the random events table. My presenting was nullified and I rolled high. In a moment my carabinieris position was very exposed, as I really did not want my best formation (aggressive regulars with crushing volley 2) shot to pieces and finished of with lancers I called the day. We game we played with four flags each, and random event on three flags. It actually turned put to go bonkers as my cannon was reduced to 8 dice and my carabinieris went of on their own straight into the enemies ground. A little waste on an otherwise more interesting battle than we thought it to be, Jonas having around 125 points and I 74. After this to random random-event cavalcade we decided to have four flags for all our coming games, as we had at The Battle of Rudnja, because it was so big.
After the battle
A quite one-sided affair from the beginning (Jonas even reverted one of his two cavalry to reserve to make it more interesting) who was, from my perspective, ruined by random events. My biggest loss was two artillery crew (both ended up "killed kill") while Jonas artillery officer survived!
I both fielded a quite unbalanced force, and facing a 0,6 to 1,0 disadvantage in points this was an lost game from the beginning. Probably this was beyond the really "playable" odds, but even so a good game. The artillery duel was very exiting and trying to get something out of an advantage was fun as well, just sorry the random events did effectively end it for me.
A good thing coming out of it was that I had a good chance getting the initiative as I had higher Froce Morale then the french when I quitted the game.
27 July 1812
This morning we defiled through the dwellings of Tschudowka. Sabinov in front of us, cossacks come and goes with dispatches from him. We got a steady march in the perfect weather. Even the warm wind blowed gently at our backs making the day more like a picnic than a gruesome wartrail march. War can´t be better than this! Only the distant sound of guns firing could have set me in a better mood.
Deep into the forest under an great oak by a gentle stream we took rest for war-council. Cossack scouts with reports from Rudjna and beyond was coming back to our improvised camp, Rudjna is still in our hands, but "french cavalry in big shiny hats" was on the other side of the river. Probably cuirassiers or lancers. But scouting with heavy cavalry would be madness. Could their cavalry suffered that hard already? Probably as the french are the worst horse-handlers in europe. The grief when they took the Saxon cavalrys mounts! But, now as my contrymen are rallied against me, it would be the best if the french kept the fine saxon mounts! The poor cossack Vlastov has not returned but sure will, but adjutant Ilvaiski was back - telling gruesome tales of the french, they are numerous and ravaging the land in a most savage manner. As they done over all europe. Damned antediluvians. Acordning to Ilvaiski the wetlands were silent - they have eaten all the frogs and toads. I can´t tell if it was a russian joke or the truth.
The war-council proceeded. Visitski first used all his native russian charms and then put up a sudden rage on the question of the monastery in the east. Shouting of securing icons, priests and nuns he got several of the russian officers on his side. As the council went on I decided to let Visitski of to the monastery with his command. We must not let the church´s vast riches fall into the hands of the french. As the situation is I need to split my forces to carry out my orders, we will unite later on and take on the french. With the garrison of Rudnja and the sappers already sent of to destroy the bridge, Sabinov will be able to hold the french at Rudnja long enough, then unite with me and Visitski.
We have now split the force and trudged through the forests with the village of Aleskhi as our goal for the night. We have heard guns calling out in the north, the french are upon Rudnja! I pray the sappers got there in time. These woods seems without ending, we have not been able to reach Aleskhi but made bivouac in the middle of nowhere. The cannonade has silenced and I have no words from Sabinov or Visitski. After burning Aleshki we need to get back to the road to not be cut of if the french has crossed the river at Rudnja.
Finally! After almost two years of painting, modeling, testing the rules, designing a campaign and reading a lot about uniforms it was time to kick of this campaign. I have had made maybe six test-games and lost all but one. So I was very curious to see how this was going to roll… Was this going to be another walk-over for the french or should it promise something else for the campaign? Anyhow something great was in the air. We had designed the campaign so a first try to check the french possibly would be against a outnumbered russian garrison at Rudnja. We had had our river ready for just this encounter.
With luck (random event) it was possible for The Vanguard to reach Rudnja in time for the battle. I also sent my sappers to march "against the sound of the guns" to be able to destroy the bridge (we had ruled that the Rudnja garrison could not have any engineers/sappers as this would make it very easy for me to destroy the bridge without risk). I could have march with my whole Main Force to the "sound of the guns", but it would (probably!) have made for to nasty battle for the french - meeting superior forces over the river and it had not let me burn anything! Also, I thought that The Garrison, The Bridge detachment, The Vanguard and my sappers would be enough to keep the french on the other side of the river for as long it would take to destroy the bridge and burn Rudnja. I grasped for everything!
I dispatched two formations of cossacks to harass and delay the french descending on Rudnja. The umpire ruled it impossible to delay the french a whole turn because of their overwhelming force but let me delay the french for so long so that my sappers started to roll for arrival the first turn of the battle and not the third.
Destroying the Bridge
Me and the umpire also made up rules for blowing up the bridge during play, as I intended to do this, and it would certainly do for an exiting game (I did not know what I was asking for here…). To destroy the bridge I needed to deploy engineers at the bridge, they would need to have at least one wagon with explosives with them and they would need to complete a task with difficulty 60 to set the explosives. They would then need to complete a task with difficulty 5 to blow it up (set fuses and lit the fire). When the bridge explodes it would kill anyone on the bridge or within 6" from it.
Burning and looting
As I had not looted Rudnja yet, we decided that I would have the possibility to influence this during the game. All houses I burnt and livestock I cached would make it harder for the french to get supplies from Rudnja if they tried to loot it. We left four livestock models on each side of the river. This was to get some "scorched earth" into our game and lure me to deploy troops on the north (french) side of the river. Of course I would try to do this.
The russian force
My force were drawn from several different commands an units. The garrison, The bridge detachment and The Vanguard plus the sappers arriving during battle. This campaign just started up complicated. The garrison was made up of 40+2D6x4 points (the umpire rolled 10 on the 2D6) points:
2 groups of Carabiniers, drummer, level 3 leader
2 groups of Jägers, level 2 leader
1 group of Strelski level 1 leader
2 12 pdr Guns, level 2 leader
To stop the french, blast the bridge, burn all houses and collect all livestock my plan was as follows:
The battlefield seen from the west. The french arrives to the right and my russians defend the right river-bank. The bridge and island are clearly visible. I have one DP one the road behind the big house on the left side, one at the open space in front of the island and one at the road on the right side of the river.
Cossacks deploying on the north side of the river to secure livestock and burn houses. The game is on!
Jäger conscripts advance in line in front of the island. I positioned them far ahed so they would have short range to any island invaders. The first 12 pdr gun deploys as well. My idea was to bring 32 first fire, short range shots and canister to any french trying to venture from the woods at the island.
Cossacks in trouble! Two units of french voltigures opens fire at my sheep-handeling cossacks. I deploy strelsik in the big house to take away some fire from my cossacks and their valuable sheep, and with a little luck kill some french officer. They succeed with the latter but not with the first of these missions as the voltigur officer gets killed. However, this don't save the cossacks!
The french central attack unfolds. At the far side of the bridge the first Jäger formation deploys in it´s defense. At the road the second deploys and starts marching to the bridge. My second group of strelski deploys in the blue house to set up firing positions at the bridge from inside the house.
The french attack on my left (the island crossing). His conscript cannon-fodder leading the way and the elite carabinieris and chasseur voltigures coming after them. What should the lancers do?
To bolster my left flank (at this point I felt more secure about my positions at the bridge) I deployed the second gun there as well, forming an impressive (for being a Sharp Practice game!) battery there. The crew starts to handle the gunned forward to have a good field of fire on the island, and sharing casualties with the conscripts.
Showdown approaches in Rudnja. The sheep-catching cossacks at the left face a whole french formation of line infantry in addition to the voltigures. In the village the french are closing in at the Jägers. The strelski at the north side of the river starts to evacuate their position while setting the building on fire.
Presented and ready to receive the invaders with a warm volley! The first line of defense is in place (literally).
The guns moves forward towards their future targets on the island. They stop to shoot at lancers and voltigures at different occasions. Lieutenant Zotov checks his conscripts, how straight is this line serzhants!?
The Jäger conscripts at the bridge starts to break of to take up firing position at the left of the bridge, covering it. At last the commander of the garrison shows up with his carabinieris.
The sappers arrive as well (they took their time)! A duel of volleys has erupted in the village on the other side of the river. The cossacks and strelski over there better hurry, they are still collecting sheeps and burning things!
The sappers and a wagon with explosives has arrived, they start to fan out on both sides of the carabinieris which is the last defense of the bridge. The Jäger conscripts has taken up their place on the left of the bridge.
The french attack at the island. An hailstorm of lead awaits them. I am utterly confident to blast the french to pieces at the island. They are obscured by the woods so far.
Cossacks doing their thing, burning buildings and catching sheep! This as the first french column approaches the village.
Crashing volley! The french outshoots the Jägers at the bridge with use of Flags for double shock. This breaks them and they are forced to flee back over the bridge. This leaves most of my skirmishers alone one the north bank, with a strong column of french on their way down to the bridge.
While explosives are placed my russians are trying to evacuate the north side of the river. Two cossacks groups are on the bridge while the lone wounded cossack with his sheeps are at the same distance as the french! Now this heroic cossack starts to live his own life. We ably name him with inspiration from one of our club-mates and on-looker (as recent technology has has left him knowing he probably has some part Don-cossack in him) - the cossacks name is Andrei from Rostov.
Fleeing Jägers on their way to the safe side of the river, cossacks and a lone cossack leader with his sheep in tow rushes for the bridge. At the same time the sappers are working frantic on placing the charges to blew the bridge! So much are going on now it is hard to oversee what is actually happening. The real chaos of the battle of Rudnja has begun.
The fire-fight at the island has begun. Both sides exchange fire, but french Sharp Practice (on the carabinieris) and cover from the woods make them holding on. The cannon don´t have the immediate decisive effect I had thought, showering these conscripts with canister from two heavy guns don´t make them break and run!
The french attack the cossacks on the bridge from the rear, killing a bunch of them in the process. Andrei is lone man (with sheep) on the bridge. But at this time the sappers has come so long with their work that the french do not dare to venture out on the bridge. Some fire from the Jäger conscripts on the left also keep them in check. The strelskis is now in a really tight spot!
The man of the match has arrived in relatively safety! Andrei of Rostov has done his part for the fatherland.
The Hussars under Sabinov deploys to counter the lancers if they find a way over the river. Infantry reinforcements are also on their way. At the bridge there is now an evacuating operation to not be blown to pieces when the bridge is! The french stares from the other side.
The firefight continues. The artillery crew takes casualties from skirmish fire from the other side of the river. The conscript formation start to break as shock is mounting. Zotov does not seems to have what it takes to rally them!
Chaotic scene from the village as everyone seeks safety, the strelski are still on the bridge, the last russians to evacuate the north side! The french do not dare to follow. Over the head of the foremost left horse at the engineers wagon you may see the head of Lieutenant J. Ditterix, the commander of the sapper platoon, who is working with the fuses. Around here he understands that if he blow the bridge, he will probably blow himself up as well. As he is no suicidal officer (and don´t want to blast his countrymen retreating over the bridge) he decides to move once more to get out of harms way, anyhow, the french are just waiting on the other side. He just needs to lit the fuse, then the battle will be over and the french denied the bridge.
During these hectic moments, the line of Jäger conscripts opposite the island breaks and starts to withdraw from the battle. The pounding from the island (together with voltigures and cannon) has finally broke them. Zotov curses and screams but nothing can hold them back. The 12 pdr battery have taken casulaties but are still fully operational. All their canister is spent, but behind them the hussars moves up to protect the battery. Then as sudden as a thunderstroke. The french conscripts on the island storms over the river, regroup after the crossing and launches themselves over the battery, slaughtering the artillerists who defend their guns to the last man. The somewhat unorderly withdrawal directly turns into a rout, the hussars, with the commander of The Vanguard, also quits the battle to cover the rout. Lieutenant Ditterix concludes that he don´t want to sacrifice himself for the fatherland just yet and run for it together with his men, the fuse unlit. So ended the battle of Rudnja.
Chasseur de Cheval scouts the river east of the village. A group of skirmishers are on the other side to try keep them in check but to no avail, the horsemen do not need to try to force the river here, as the explosives are taken away the can use the bridge.
After the battle
This was as nerve-wrecking as an table-top game gets. It was an hilarious tight story and I could tell of many occasions which could have swinged the battle the other way. Jonas (my opponent) got 4 flag-cards to double-activate his conscripts so they could storm the gun-battery. Then I diced the highest Morale-loss on both the "bad things happen"-dice I took for loosing the guns. My morale was then 0. Game over.
Actually, of many mistakes done by me (including hauling the guns forward as well as having the Jäger conscripts in such a forward position) the biggest was to go on and try to catch the sheep at the western house. Andrei from Rostov´s cossack group gave me really heavy morale-losses while collecting the sheep and being shot up by the voltigures. If I had had only 1 morale left after the battery was lost I could have charge the conscripts with my hussars and then blow up the bridge. So Andrei from Rostov, if you had not been that greedy after sheep I could have won this, or I probably would! Anyhow, it was maybe good for the campaign that the french was not checked so early, time will tell. Other things that make this loss even greater is that the french took the bridge intact (and with a lot of gun-powder under it!) and that gives Jonas four extra campaign victory points, he also get 38 "kills" for taking the two heavy guns (another victory condition), so he position himself very strong on the very outset of the campaign.
Another fun thing is that during mid-game, Jonas was close to give in. I had my triple defense of the bridge, and a four-group formation with TWO heavy guns protecting the crossing at the island. I thought my defences were impregnable, and Jonas thought they were as well. But then we talked him into at least trying, and he went home eating dinner with his wife, then he came back and showed that the french seldom give in, they attack, attack, attack, and that´s what they did! This is only one of all times I´ve seen someone in a war-game thinking continuing is pointless and loss imminent, and then got themselves together and started to do the right things and not let an opportunity got lost, of course they then won the game. Wargames are complex affaires (that´s one of the fun things with them) and a lot of psychology between the players are involved. This was a most exiting battle, and even if it was one more add to my long string of losses, it was kind of a victory that it was so extremely close run!
Ok, as well I really think that it was an opportunity dribbled away. But it´s not often you pull of a game so spectacular and eventful as this, so I´m very pleased we´re finally on with the campaign and that the start was so thrilling! I want more!
The morning after the game I saw that there was dice lying in my bed! Probably I just fell asleep out of exhaustion when trying to dice for the casualties after coming home...
26 July 1812
This morning I got mine orders from Second Army Headquarters. They read as follows:
"March on the Village of Rudnja. Destroy the bridge there. Bring the garrison stationed there with you back to the main army and destroy everything on your way back. Leave nothing to the enemy! Spare nothing! No cattle, no wells, no lodging. Not a single leaf on the trees. Reunite with the Second Army. Delay any enemies you encounter while preserving your forces"
I will dutifully carry out my orders. My plan is straightforward. I take the 3rd batallion and march to the village of Rudnja, destroy the bridge there, ravage the countryside (only the wretched russian peasants will suffer anyway, a small contribution from them to the cause of liberation from anti-christ!) on my way back and reunite the regiment as the 1st battalion marches up as reinforcement. Of course I would like to have the whole regiment in hand, but now I don´t so I will use the forces at my disposal. One good thing about the fact that Visitski got his will through so that we combined the Carabinieri platoons of the 1st and 3rd batallion to a full Carabinieri-company is that we got all these good soldiers with us from the outset. With the brave but stupid russian Visitski at their head they will make a good strike force or last reserve.
Now it´s nightfall and I got a dispatch from Sabinov, the hussar officer who has joined me with two squadrons and a bunch of cossacks, (I can´t wrap my head on how many cossacks there is - they seem to be everywhere). The message reads
"Surprisingly good lodgings in Tschudowka. Much vegetables and butter. Very friendly peasants. Stable bridge. No sight of the french. I will continue down the Tschudowka-Rudnja road before dawn tomorrow. Send any horse artillery you can possibly muster. Also send me my brothers squadron, and I will not let the fatherland down - Sabinov"
As I have any horse artillery and as I would send it to this reckless man if I had? And send of all my line cavalry on this mission? Clearly this russian has very high thought of himself. Wonder if he is in conspiracy with Visitski? Probably not, as he looks absolutely as stupid as an hussar officer should be.
This is the blog-post dealing with the campaign game. Se the entry in the "Umpires blog" for the campaign-rules for this Dawn & Departures campaign. Here I will update my decisions as they are made, and probably some attempts to justify them as well. As I started to write this post after the battle of Aleshki I don´t remember all the details from the first turns.
I felt that I had three viable campaign strategies.
The first was to march straight to the french and beat him in battle, and not try to gain any victory in some other way. I did not spend to much time deliberating at this one of two reasons: Firstly, the french are stronger than me, so in an attack/pitched battle I would be at the disadvantage. To win this campaign I needed to pick battles with better odds than that. Secondly, Jonas (the french player) have beaten me almost in every game so far, so even even odds is not even! I need to play the campaign part smart and choose battles that I can possibly win.
iThe russian force is a combined force of infantry (mainly the 5th Jäger regiment), artillery from the 26th position battery (of Borodino fame, but thats for later - we may just conclude that if they survive this campaign, they will not survive their position at Borodino) and cavalry (Aktyrkha hussars and cossacks). There are also sappers from the Second Army.
The force commander is Lieutenant Colonel Steingell II, a (former) wealthy Saxon who has emigrated to russia to fight Napoleon. His second in command is Major Dombrowski who is not to much of a military man, but anyhow ended up as an officer (as you often do in the Russian imperial army if you are from the aristocracy). The two men get along reasonably well as they honor the commitment to the sacred war. Dombrowski has also the insight that he would not be able to hold the force together as Steingell does.
Other prominent officers of the force is Sabinov, Captain of hussars and commander of the vanguard. An independent-minded officer well suited for the light cavalry. There are also Captain Visitski, who has been given command of the strike force at hand, the 5th Jägers combined carabinieri company. Visitski hates Steingell who, according to Visitski is a treacherous german who has no right to his command in the russian army, he also despise Dombrowski because of what he consider is that mans incompetence (apart from being brave, Visitski has no more military skills than Dombrowski).
The force is divided into three parts. "The Vanguard" led by Sabinov, the "Main force", commanded by Steingall and "The Bridge detachment", which starts the campaign in area 8 and reinforce the garrison there.
The vanguard consists of the 4th Squadron, Akthyrka Hussars, 1st platoon of 2nd Jäger company (3rd batallion), Kommissarov XIIs cossacks, Feodosiiski Tartars. Here follows a more detailed list of the officers and troops of the vanguard.
Captain G. Sabinov (lvl 3), Illegitimate offspring of nobility, cad, avarage stamp, Handsome devil, charming, likely reputation
Lieutenant V. Lanskoi Hussar (lvl 2), Nobility with wealth and influence, cad, diminutive but good looking chap, vile individual
2 groups of hussars, musician
Captain Lieutenant N. Sorokin (lvl 2), Poverty stricken military family, honorable, sporting life, diminutive chap, handsome devil, dullard
2 groups of Jäger conscripts
Esaul E. Kommissarov XII (lvl 2), Cossack family with influence but no money, bounder, average stamp, fair of face, dullard
Sotnik P. Morkov (lvl 2), Cossack family with wealth and influence, bounder, strapping fellow, thoroughly dislikeable
2 groups of cossacks
Paul N. Feodosiiski II (lvl 1), from cossack family with influence but the families black sheep. Strapping fellow living a sporting life, handsome devil with an absolutely rotten personality.
2 groups of cossacks
Priknazi I. Sazonov (lvl 2), Poverty stricken cossack family, rotter, strapping fellow, thorougly dislikable
3 groups of dismounted cossacks
Pidpomichnyky Vlastov (Scout), Poor, bounder, View Hallo, sickly cove, no looker, charming
The Main Force
The main forces consists of the Combined Carabinieri Company (Carabinieris of the 1st and 3rd batallion), 1st Jäger company (3rd batallion), Strelski group (1st batallion), 2 12 pdr Guns (26th position battery), 3rd Squadron, Akthyrka Hussars, Kakhovski XXIIs cossacks and a sapper platoon.
Lieutenant Colonel A. Steingell II (lvl 3), Saxon, military family with welth and influence, Honourable, strapping fellow, plain, thorougly dislikable
Major K. Dombrowski (lvl 2), Poverty stricken military family, honorable, sickly cove, fair of face, thorougly dislikable
Captain H. Essen IV (lvl 2), Prussian, military family with wealth an influence, cad, average stamp, face like a pigs arse, affable
4 groups of Jägers, musician
Captain V. Vistitski III (lvl 2), honourable, nobility with wealth and money, fair of face, average stamp, charming
Captain Lieutenant M. Bulatov (lvl 2), poverty stricken military family, cad, average stamp, pleasant manner, fair of face
4 groups of Carabinieris, musician
Lieutenant S. Sabinov Hussar (lvl 2), illegitimate offspring of nobility, cad, giant of a man, good looking chap, pleasant, gambling devil.
Cornet V. Afanasyev (lvl 2), risen from the ranks, affable rotter.
2 groups of hussars
Podesaul U. Kakhovski XXII (lvl 2), military family with wealth and influence, a diminutive but good looking dullard rotter. Loves plunder, if the target is french or russian makes no difference.
2 groups of cossacks
Lieutenant F. Lanskoi (lvl 2), volunteer from a extremely wealthy family, a honorable strapping fellow, charming, with red cheeks and a fair face.
1 group of Strelski skirmishers
Lieutenant J. Ditterix (lvl 2), risen from the ranks, sporting life, a good-looking and honorable individual who lives a sporting life.
2 groups of sappers, 2 engineer wagons
Prikazni E. Zotov (lvl 1), military family, strapping pleasant bounder.
1 group of cossack skirmishers
Captain Lieutenant A. Panchulidzev (lvl 3), a charming cad from a noble family with influence but little money.
Fireworker W. Ilitch (lvl 2), risen from the ranks, honorable giant of a man, affable no looker but with a thunderous voice.
2 12pdr-guns, cassion
Father Cherbatov (Priest), a giant of a man, an vile individual and bounder.
Captain W. Lüders (Physic), a charming handsome devil, personally impoverished but from a family with money.
Adjutant L. Ilvaiski (Exploring officer), illegitimate offspring of nobility, a affable good looking young man.
The Bridge Detachement
The force detached to help defend the vital bridge at Rudnja consists of the 3rd Jäger company (3rd batallion), half the Strelski platoon (3rd batallion) and dismounted cossacks from the Kommissarov XII cossack regiment.
Lieutenant O. Zotov (lvl 2), Rake, poverty stricken military family, average stamp, plain and unremakable, vile individual.
4 groups of Jäger conscripts
Zerhant B. Ivanov (lvl 1)
Unnamed and forgotten cossack leader (lvl 1)
Dismounted cossack group
Shirty is a wargamer currently very into Napoleonics! His further plans in that era is Ottomans, Spanish, Persians, French, Saxons, Swedes and probably some Confederation of the Rhine troops. He also likes left wing politics, the sun and friends. Shirty dislikes right wing politics, dichotomies (some may sense a sort of self-critisim here!) and superhero movies.