Sunday, 10 August 2014

Battle of Wartenburg replay

"Hey Doug, I'm in town. Are you available tomorrow evening for a game?", asked MikeB on the phone.  "Heck yeah!", was my response, so I had to come up something quick.   I am still on my Nappy bend and the big game is in a week so good for a primer game.

The scenario I had in my back pocket was the Battle of Wartenburg.

During the Autumn campaign in Germany of 1813, The Prussians looked to find a crossing across the Elbe River and moved at Wartenburg.  Morand's corps awaited the Prussians confident in their defence as the area was low lying and crossed with marshes, woods, muddy ground and irrigation canals.
Looking north-west with the town of Wartenburg on the top of this photo with the Prussians to cross the Elbe River at the far table edge.  Historically they did attacks against the village as they made their way south to take the village Bleddin seen on the bottom of the photo sweeping up to the hamlet of Globig [ upper left ] thereby flanking the French and forcing Morand's retreat.
As with most re-creations on the tabletop, there is much compromise in the terrain as this very is dependent upon what items one has, their dimensions and scale.  A large determining consideration must be the rules themselves and how the terrain will effect movement and combat results which will approximate the historical battle.
seen from the south west, the centre pond and plowed fields represents the difficult terrain facing the Prussian attackers.  The villages of Wartenburg and Bleddin at left and right respectively and the hamlet of Globig nearest. The Elbe River along the upper right forms the extent of the battlefield.
view from the north and that of the Prussians.  Always in these photos, the amount of 'green area' looks soooo much more than the actual eye conceives.

The troops deployed were of near equal strength with both corps at some 12,000.
 Prussian OOB  French OOB
Due to the 'small' size of the battle, at least for these rules, I dropped down the ratio to 1 infantry element to 1,000 actual men and cavalry elements to a few squadrons each.
The lead Prussian elements
Surprisingly little on the net for this battle but I had an old article from the now defunct Practical Wargamer magazine by Phil Wilkins which I used as a basis.
Again due to the 'small' size of the action, as each force was of corps strength, I placed each under one command and allowed the player to take elements as they saw fit with no regard to divisional integrity as usual. I kept the historical organization and deployment for the French but for the Prussians I left it open.  [I used Bulow's corps of the 100 Days campaign which fit well and thus I did not need to change the labels!  The French labels were also not adjusted so ignore them for the narrative ]

Knowing the scenario and with the French in a passive mode, I gave MikeB the Prussian attackers. I took the French forces which included Italians and Wurttemburgers which are as yet unpainted in my boxes, so more French were employed.

Historically they apparently made a passive defence as the Prussians masked their positions with heavy attacks.  Nonetheless,  a thrust was made to the south end of the position at village of Bleddin thereby flanking the French position around the hamlet of Globig forcing a retreat.

With the look of his initial column of troops Mike had me thinking he was going to follow history,  as the lead light horse units with accompanying horse artillery moved near Bleddin.
In an attempt to divert some of the lengthy column I sent out, foolishly, a lone brigade which was quickly routed and with its loss, further weakening my forces.
The Prussians swinging around to assault the village of Wartenburg 
The Prussian infantry then turned right and moved toward the town and the defended muddy field.  As historically the French benefited from irrigation canals in the area to break up the Prussian attacks I placed a small waterway so the Prussians are disordered in their assaults.  Mike was hoping for good artillery support but the French artillery had quickly silenced much of his artillery so his assaults were stalled and his additional artillery could not do much effect on the French in the town.

Meanwhile, the Italians of Fontanelli's command awaited the Prussians across a disordering muddy field to mimic the boggy fields of the area through which the Prussians were forced to move through.
The round markers with abandoned backpacks indicate these elements have been disorganized by muddy fields and such. I  always use 'discrete' markers for my games liking a nice, clean battlefield!  
We each had 14 elements and each had only a d6 for PIP movement.  To provide a greater degree of command control, The Prussians were given two General stands to better keep elements in command range.  For future games, this might be employed for those multiple commands for example.

As it was late in the campaign and the French corps having many allied contingents, I kept the French element strength levels fairly low while the Prussians were given higher values for their "War of Liberation".  With similar strengths but with important disordering terrain to fight over, the forces were thus even and this showed in the combat which wore down each side tremendously.

 Having a well timed barrage, the French were able to weaken the last of the Prussian strong brigades and thus drive the battle into a stalemate with each side unable to amount any further attacks - all elements were at only 1 MP at this point!
It was a good point to end the game as Mike needed to get up early for more business appointments. Later as I tried to get a conclusion to the game, it became apparent that nothing would be resolve as each force was on its very last legs and combats merely destroyed both.

While the artillery seemed now to have the correct effect and firepower in the rules, "divisional morale", to use the Shako rules parlance, needs to be addressed somehow. Each battle seems to produce a single emphases on the rules which is thus thought upon and corrected which has thus been a good thing for its development.  Perhaps this "army morale" question is the final puzzle to be solved?

Mike seemed to enjoy himself and got to push around some lead - mostly plastics mind you - and I was happy that the scenario worked and we could have a 'big' Napoleonic battle on a small 5' by 4' table size with 28mm.


  1. Cool looking game, love the last pic, what a great action base of figures!!

    1. Ray, the "death and destruction" base is one of my Silesian Landwehr units which has an Old Glory mounted officer in one of their 'weird' poses, a horse of the same ilk, a couple of Warlord casualty types and a poor fellow for which I accidentally broke off his ankle. Yes, I could have spread the wealth, but altogether they give the effect of Napoleonic warfare at its best.
      The base can be seen in the overhead shot on the muddy field.

  2. Great looking terrain, set up and figs, Doug. The game actually looks like it's being played on a board bigger than 5X4'. Inspiring!

    1. So far I have successfully played the historic battles of Ligny, LaRothiere, Hanau, Montereau, Corruna, and with plans for many more and even Waterloo on these fairly small 8' by 5' tables.[the size of the convention table not coincidentally ]
      However the mass effect is still there of Napoleonic warfare but with maneuver space available. Obviously other compromises are made, but the whole of miniature wargaming is full of those so you pick and choose for the 'look' .
      The effect of the camera lens helps to create lots of empty space which the real eye does not observe but which still exists which give the players maneuver space. So bonus on both accounts.
      Again, Dean, thanks for the continued kind comments

  3. Excellent AAR, love your beautiful armies (love the basing too!), minis are just perfect! The first and last pictures are simply amazing!!

    1. I love painting Napoleonics; just not a lot of them. So with this 'abbreviated' basing of only a few figures, I get the best of both worlds. The terrain I try to keep simple so fast to do but "earthy" and use the same flocking than that used on the mats so they 'blend' into the landscape as it were.
      Thanks for the kind comments, Phil.

  4. thanks for the positive comment!

  5. Nice scenario game with the flavor of the actual battle. Gaming with small dioramas it seems like. Excellent idea.

    Michael aka WR

  6. Just surfing and found this. Great article and nice figures.
    I am pleased you found my article useful - I had almost forgotten about it - actually more of an excuse to paint some unusual uniforms!

    1. Well, it was a good article. Thank you.
      The painting of the Allied contingents is always fun. This IS Naploeonics, is it not?
      And, yes, the Italians and Wurttemburgers have now been done. Time to revisit the battle?