Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Battle of Borodino - finally, the game!

The convention game finally played!

Finally the day arrived when we could finally place down all the miniatures on the table to do the game which many of us had done much effort to create.  I was worried (but had plans to compensate for) any of the boys not coming through with the figures they had promised to paint.   But they all came through.  Thanks guys.  Good job!
The battle deployment as seen from the southwest.

The French and allies

The Russian deployment.  Six painters contributed to create this army.
Mind you I still had one gentlemen who had me extremely concerned as, even on the morning of the game, he said he was going to apply the flocking and it should be dried in time if he left them in the car to bake in the sun!  He offered beer to calm my heart.  It helped.

After an extensive “training” session so that players would not make poor tactical decisions thereby granting their figures more time on the table, we got to it.

The deployments were based on the historical model but I allowed the players to rearrange within the area to their own whims.  The two what-ifs I allowed was the possibility of Napoleon releasing the French Imperial Guard but only if he thought the battle was won.  However the battle might only be won if the Guard was used. Nice Catch-22……

The other was the use of the Russian artillery reserve which was not used during the real battle. However if used too much the Russian army counts down in their morale (which did indeed happen)

Obviously those who painted up their corps commanded those and a few who are regulars to the rules had their pick of commands.  Seth and I were the umpires and later commanders; and we had a good number of the players with good knowledge of the rules to mentor the others, so we had very little of the usual rules confusion you encounter in many other types of games at conventions.

DavidB with his Tuchov’s Corps and of Sieven’s cavalry
RonP  commanded my Borozdin Corps
StevenN commanded his painted horse of Korff
RodF with his Dokhtorov’s corps
JamesC commanded his Raevsky corps in the centre and his Karpov’s cossacks on the left
BobS commanded his Baggovout’s corps on the Russian right

The French and allies were all painted by me and were commanded by:
BobE with Murat and Ney (he went through all the tutorials and could handle both easily!)
Morand by Keith
Eugene on the left by Lance.
Junot’s Westphalians by Preston
Davout by ShawnMcElvoy
and Pontiatowski by Mark Serafin

The ratio of artillery to troops in this historic battle was the most of any major engagement and so the artillery in this game was truly a killer.  The players soon found that their forces were weakened well before any combat began.  For those who played the rules before, this was expected, but for the couple of “parachuted” players who signed up, this proved not the usual easy-go style of wargame for them and I was extremely annoyed that they had the audacity to whine and complain that “I can’t even do anything!” Or in otherwise, gleefully charge and win. What did they expect?!  For what I and the many other players, understood to be a realistic representation of the horrible blood-fest of the Napoleonic battle. Davout complained that “there is no way I am going to win”  Well, you are in the middle of the battle and facing lots of artillery and must take a heavily defended fortification!  No one said war is fair. Or we have Poniatowski faced with retreating cossacks and a defensive position on a hill, but certainly not admitting that his movement/command rolls were well under average, yelled at me (!) that “what can I do with all that against me!!”  Again, who said war is fair.  Either leave or try your best I respond.   Like I say, extremely annoying and a real buzz-kill to the enjoyment of the all the others who committed a lot of energy into this project.
(footnote: their side decisively won nevertheless….)

opening phase.  

my Polish (Murawski Miniatures)

The game itself turned out to be roughly to the historical form.  The vast amounts of Russian artillery weakened the attacking French, while the French “grand battery” of Davout’s ground down the Russian numbers.
James' Raevsky Corps defending the Redoubt.

Around the Redoubt there was heavy fighting and the French finally took the Fleches (two of the main victory points)
My Russians of Borozdin's Corps defending the Fleches

Murat's Cavalry Corps in full stride.  My version of Murat in the rear (see making of at: link)
Cavalry reserves managed to get into it after the infantry losses gave them the room to maneuver and the clash of Murat’s heavies vs Korff’s horsemen was one of the highlights.

French and Ally cavalry, with Westphalian infantry, advance against the Russian center

The clash of swords!

However, as is the case of many Napoleonic battles the reserves, or lack thereof, would determine the outcome.  It was thought the time had come that the French Guard could be committed and Napoleon released the Young Guard to secure the Fleches and the Guard Horse to support Murat.  Likewise, Lavrov’s cuirassiers were sent to support the middle.  However both failed to engage and it was the hard work of the centre commands of the French to force the victory.
Tolstoy's corps ensconced around the village of Gorki.  It did not move as ordered to the center to support the defence there.  Such is the tide of battle.  However strategically it remained intact to fight effectively another day.

Lavrov's Guard horse dispatched to help Korff in the centre but was not engaged.

With both elements at pip 1, it was a fight to the death for the control of the Fleches

Over on the Russian Right / French Left, the Kolocha River divided the battlefield. (which while not uncrossable, did disorder which has great effect on the troops) Both Platov’s horse (which historically went for a ride into the French Left) was also followed by Baggovout’s infantry corps;  moved over the river and seemingly had a mutually agreeable standoff with Eugene’s large corps.  Observing that “not much is happening over here.  Are you having fun?”  They both said yes at the same time.  So I left them to it.  Can’t complain if the boys are enjoying themselves!
The mutual standoff of the French Left Flank

The "casualties" grouped into their respective commands.  Some hard hit indeed.  Our elimination is combat effectiveness than straight kills.  All will come back to life in a campaign albeit slightly less effective.
Tolstoy’s command was originally assigned but that player unfortunately needed to leave (telling us in advance politely) and it was reassigned. Apparently while “orders’ were given that it move to the centre and while some movement was done, it was largely forgotten in its defensive roll to protect Gorki (another victory point).  Together with the inert Russian Guard of Lavrov and Baggovout’s corps, the Russian Right was intact and was deemed to be able to withdraw without difficulty.  The Russian centre was however destroyed and Tuchov’s corps was on its last legs and Karpov’s cossacks nearly eliminated.  While the French were in bad shape, the battle gave no doubt as to the victor.  The French gave a tired hurrah. A long battle.  As Seth suggested not only are the command morale flagging but that of the players as well.
The centre of the battlefield now very thinly held by both sides.  Hard fought and bloodied 

A quick presentation was given and a couple of artillery models were given to James who held up well defending the Redoubt against heavy attack with his well based figures and his good attitude.  The Tzar model was given to BobE for his help mentoring others and the hard slog in the middle, again without complaint.  He knew what to expect. It was The Battle of Borodino was it not!


  1. Really nice report and great looking game. Well done to all that contributed. There's always a little fussing at convention games, but hopefully everyone really enjoyed it.

    1. yes Rod, everyone might mumble a bit at the dice, heck I can't roll but a 1, but getting yelled at?!
      The is more than a bit of "fussing"
      However, for many of the boys who DID put in effort, we had a drink or two after and all seemed happy with the game.

  2. Very impressive looking game! Very well done sir.

    1. Over a year prep work on this
      Thanks for the comment

  3. Beautiful game and great AAR! Too bad about the "buzz kill" but as above there is always a little fussing.

    1. makes one want to just go solo........
      but thank you for the kind comments
      take care

  4. So, this was an awesome game to play in. It was hard, the puzzle/challenge was how us Russians could hold out as long as we could with known only to us that the reserves (Lavrovs) really were not dependable to come to our aid, but for the artillery! Playing with Doug's mini's is always a treat.

    We had one guy on the Russian Right Flank/French Left Flank who had the best dang dice rolls ever...it was actually a shock when he failed a set of dice rolls after all that he had passed.

    Great work Doug! Thanks for the game, the nudging, and the memories! Now to go clean the back seat of my car where I think there is some flocking and a bottle of glue! ;-)

    1. You are welcome, Rod. You did have me very worried but you came through at the end. Now to get those bases correct *in time* for the next game! -grin-

      It was a very close affair and I didn't want the reserves making it too much and players thinking: "all my hard play barely surviving only to have the enemy reserves crush me....sigh...." So I held off both sides, perhaps a bit too long, but the game ended late nevertheless and with a historical conclusion so that was good.
      We could always do it again with those who really know the rules and thus the play will be even better.
      take care,

  5. A truly inspiring endeavour and a beautiful tabletop result!! Such a joy to see this!

    1. Well thank you very much for the praise. I insisted the contributors base their units in the very same style for game purposes ( labels and dice position) but more importantly for the unifying look which, once they see the table, know it works for a great looking game.
      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  6. Great stuff Doug and co.! A wonderful post of a mighty struggle.
    I always reckon that if the players are complaining about things being tough or that they can't do this or that, it is probably an indication that the combination of rules and scenario are working pretty well!!
    I know that you are only just catching your breath from this one, but what is the next big project? Or will you do a Borodino redux? Or perhaps play out one of the alternative scenarios?
    I reckon that we could easily do three more versions of Borodino; the original again, the original sans the restrictions on the Guard and Russian artillery (which were quite similar to yours, BTW), Davout's plan for a flanking attack (which would require some careful scenario writing as there are many good reasons whey Napoleon rejected it) and even a complete 'open slather', perhaps even allowing players to alter deployments.

    1. Hi James,
      Yes, catching the breath as you suggest. However being the masochist that I am (apparently) I have already thought our next go be the Battle of Dresden 1813 (and yes, the second largest battle of the Napoleonic wars....)
      We probably already have enough troops to fill out the OOB. It has a straight forward scenario and terrain and frankly not that many options. But if Napoleon loses the first day, the game might be in peril! So perhaps start at Day Two and see what happens.

      As for Borodino, the altering of deployments does suggest it become a fictional game; and while those can be interesting, does not have the satisfaction for the players of either changing history or justifying the historical outcome. Davout's flank move is, as you state, is hard to game as it has the Russians KNOWING the flank will be attacked - the cossacks deployed on the flanks were there for this very reason. Not really fun or feasible.
      So it is to be a straight up affair, with, perhaps, a role the dice to allow for the Guards of both sides to come into play (if it were up to the players they would be in by Turn 1! .... mind you, that may be ultimately the best option .... all in at the start

      Thanks for the note!

  7. Hi James,
    Great Blog, Pictures and games. Would you please be so kind to tell me what rules are you playing Napoleonic ? basing system ?

    1. Hi Stefano,
      it's DougH actually. The rules are a home made set which has not been published but has many of the aspects of "Blucher" by Sam Mustafa. If he had introduced his rules a few years before, perhaps I and my gaming buddies would not have needed to spend many hours in discussion over our own development!
      The basing is what you see; a block of 12 cm x 6cm. I would suggest to go to all posts with the label of 'bases' and 'GdC' for more info, and 'Borodino' and 'Hanau' for more about the games.