Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Battle of Gross-Beeren 1813 - the game

Battle of Gross-Beeren 1813 - the game   (August 1813/2015)

Peter "the Mathematician" excepted my invite for a go at our rules 'GdC' to see his new charts in action ( well, I created the charts based on his calculations of the dice variables).
Reynier's Saxons and French engaged with the Prussians of Bulow's corps 
The historic Napoleonic Battle of Gross-Beeren during the autumn campaign of 1813, was the large battle which ended the French move by Oudinot to take Berlin.  Oudinot's various corps travelled in parallel routes in a very Napoleon inspired method but failed to have each support each other, and thus, Reynier's corps of Saxons and French move toward the town of Gross-Beeren was not supported by either Oudinot himself from the west, nor Bertrand who was moving to Blankenfeltle, some 5 km ( 4 miles) to the east who emerging from forest was content to occupy the Prussians there rather than help Reynier's 'middle column'.

Bulow's corps is the three blue blocks on the upper centre of the map.  Gross-Beeren "Gr-Beeren" and the small windmill symbol forms the centre of the battle, while Dohschule's Division of Tautentzien holds Blankenfeltle aka Blankenfeld and which forms the game table

As Bertrand did little that day and the few Prussians facing him were content with that situation with all of the Prussian Bulow's large corps now able to face Reynier without interference, most scenarios often ignore that area and concentrate around Gross-Beeren itself.  However, that would mean too few elements for the afternoon, so I gave Peter and myself a bit more to play with!
The town is Gross-Beeren with the Windmill Hill off to the left off camera.  Blankenfeld is off to the right.  We see the Saxon division Sahr (left) and Durette's French division (right) initially engaging the lead Prussian elements.  
The short synopsis of the game is that it surprisingly went much like the historical battle.  While the Prussians overall had some numeric advantage - 24 elements to the French 20 - Bulow with his 17 could take on Reynier's 10 while Bertrand and his 10 element strong corps made no headway against the smaller Prussian all Landwehr force holding Blankenfeld.

I took the French side while I gave Peter the opportunity to use the larger Prussian force.  Like Bertrand, I was met with effective cannon fire ( rolling well, Peter took out my leading light horse which prompted a corps morale rolled which, I my usual style, I rolled very poorly for and forced me to halt my advance, in file, within the woods.  Again like Bertrand had facing concentrated Pussian artillery fire that day in 1813.  I furthered this poor situation by totally not realizing, until Peter suggested late in the battle as the idea then struck him, to expand into the woods to work around staggered lead brigades!  The elements in the woods would be disordered and more trouble to order about so not ideal but could in time give combat to the Prussian and earlier moves might have changed things perhaps.  However, I could now see Bertrand's issues that day in 1813.
Wurttemburger's of Bertrand's corps.  These are Perry plastics with modified Austrian shakos - they had gone to this shako from the helmet in 1813. I scraped off all the Austrian cockades and such and added a small lozenge badge.  With the distinctive Austrian roll cut off the pack and removal of the Austrian canteen, together with a couple of the bottom buttons scraped off the tunic to allow the Wurttemberg half-lapel.... the Perry plastics make great models of these German troops. 
one of Fontanelli's Italian brigades disordered in the woods
My Reynier in the meantime faced against Peter's Bulow, who was allowed to deploy very close to the town. Historically heavy rain masked his advance made easy by Reynier's thought that the day was done and allowed his Saxons and French troops to start to bivouac!
heavy action at 'Windmill Hill' located just west of Gross-Beeren
As a rules note, the new command allowance give more pips for larger commands than we have used previously, and while players will enjoy more allowed play with all their elements, sometimes a lot of 1s on the dice, can really be troublesome if they have a big command!  However, like Bulow, Peter managed his large but not overly powerful force with a lot of finesse as it had many very fragile Landwehr (militia) units.
new markers include small green flags (same construction as the white ones) which, by adding or removing, allow for a more gradual step-down of the important Command Morale modifier die with each loss of a command's elements. The small "4 d" indicator provides players a reminder of the # of dice to roll for each command {important should a player have multiple commands to play).  The wheel indicates the artillery is limbered and thus can/has moved.
Prussian Landwehr cavalry.  Calpe Miniatures with "English shakos" in the rear.  I received these in a trade. They match well with the Perrys. 
However, battles go to those with the bigger battalions as the saying goes, and the Prussian numbers came into play.  Interestingly Peter, like Bulow in this battle, thought the open left flank of Reynier was key, which Reynier - and I - had no reserves to match; and like the Saxon division holding that area, my Saxon elements were obliged -- well, OK, forced by my adverse Command Morale losses -- to fall back.  Again, like the actual battle.  Love the confirmation of the historic outcome.

The French in retreat.  Rather more organized than in reality......


  1. Nice report, great eye candy. Looks like the new charts worked for you?

    1. The revised charts are a more proportional way of keeping everything fair for players regardless if they are commanding historically very large or very small formations.
      The green flags, as mentioned in the post, are a 'step-down' device for those large commands as we are still restricted to using d6 - the frames on on the bases and I ain't changing nothin' ! - grin-

      The green flags add an additional loss per die pip reduction to the d6 on the base. A 4 element command starts with 2 pips. The first loss, the pips go down to 1 and the green flag added. On the next loss, the flag is removed but on the chart the command still has +1. On the third loss the pips are now zero - 75% of starting total.

      And so it is with a huge corps of 16 elements ( the many infantry brigades, attached light horse and supporting artillery batteries combined into ratio-ed elements). It will start with 6 pips and a flag. its first loss will have a flag removed but the pips remain at 6. Next loss the pip is now 5 and the flag again placed on The third loss the flag is removed and so on.

      I arbitrarily start each command at 75% of its strength and once down to zero pips, even the best of die rolls by the player will not allow new attacks to occur. At 75% depletion of combat effectiveness, the formation is spent. Still a game so I am generous; historically it would be MUCH less.....

      So yes, the charts worked. Perhaps not as restrictive - good for the playing - less for the "realism" but certainly more fair for all.
      Thanks for the kind comments.

  2. Great looking game and figures as always, Doug. I like the windmill as well as the Wuttermburgers.

    1. Dean, the windmill was quickly made from single image of wood siding from off the web, copied over and over printed on paper and designed to cover an ad-hoc card frame. Don't know much about windmills so structural engineers might have a conniption, but I needed one to represent the one used by Napoleon at the Battle of Ligny. It has been used for other battles with famous windmills. Looks better from further away -grin-