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.
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.