Monday, May 19, 2008

In The Grand Manner Napoleonics

Initial set up with Russians holding a line of defense anchored by two villages. The French advanced from the back table onto this center table. Marshall Murat (left, holding baton) begins to move his infantry corps to attack the center.

The 1809 Campaign against Austria did not go as planned and somehow the Austrians were able to stop Napoleon from crossing the Danube after he captured Vienna. This enabled the Russians to join the coalition and now it is 1810 and Napoleon must fight a combined Austrian and Russian army. That is the context of this particular game. As Davout, I had the command of the largest corps plus a division of elite heavy cavalry (carabiniers and cuirassiers). Our battle plan was to attempt to seize the two villages in the center of the table, hold back on the left flank, and attack vigourously on the right flank. My objective was to turn the enemy's left flank and hook in behind the two villages in the center. It appeared that I had the assets to do it, as can be seen in the picture below.

Davout's command: everything from the cavalry on the left all the way to the box of dice in the center distance. That's about 12 battalions of infantry, a 12 pound battery, a 6 pound battery and 2 regiments of chasseurs. Plus the heavy cavalry division of carabiniers, cuirassiers, lancers and a battery of horse artillery.

I started the battle by having my light cavalry lead the advance on the far right, with chasseurs and lancer to the front, followed by the heavier cavalry to the rear. One reason for this was to push my cavalry as far across the table as possible and occupy ground before the Austrians started to arrive.

Light cavalry and horse artillery lead the vanguard on the right flank of Davout's attack.

French chasseurs a cheval screen the advance and deployment of Davout's artillery.

One thing that I have learned about In The Grand Manner ("ITGM") rules is that you have to eliminate the opponent's cavalry before you can fully commit your infantry to the battle. So Davout went on a search and destroy mission for Austrian cavalry at the start of the game, holding back his infantry battalions. The first two turns left the area to his front completely devoid of enemy troops, but Davout's scouts indicated that they had spied long dusty columns approaching from the opposite table. The Austrians would then arrive on turn 3.

French chasseurs and horse artillery prepare to attack the Austrians.

The Austrian columns were now coming onto the table, and it appeared that they were all in one giant jumble of infantry, artillery and horses. In other words, the Austrian commander was having traffic control problems. Davout decided that he would hurl single squadrons or pairs of light cavalry squadrons ahead in an attempt to catch the Austrians before they could shake out into a battle line. The Austrian light cavalry counter-attacked the French chasseurs. For the life of me, I could not roll a natural six on a D6 die (you need 6's to score a kill in cavalry melee). Meanwhile, my opponent was rolling handfuls of 6's out the wazoo. My chasseurs were toasted en brochette and sent tumbling back through my lines. They disordered 3 squadrons of cuirassiers, which rather scrambled up my plans. So I had to delay a turn while I sorted the heavies out. Meanwhile, I kept sending every light cavalry squadron that I could lay my hands on.

Midpoint of the game: Davout's corps (near) is ready to attack on the right. In the center, beyond the little hill with the trees, is where Murat's corps is successfully assaulting the center village of the Russian defensive position. On the French far left, I have no idea of what is going on, nor do I care at this moment.

The picture above indicates that the French attack is progressing fairly well at this point. Murat is about to capture the village in the center and has the Russians reeling backwards a bit. Russian cavalry reinforcements are arriving in the center.

Russian 12 pound battery (6 models) anchors the defense in the center village.

Boy oh boy do the Russians have a lot of artillery. Their batteries are huge! Six gun models in each one and they seemed to be everywhere. However, there is a way to deal with them, and that is to hurl squadrons of light cavalry into them. This is what the French did with great success.

French chasseurs take out the Russian battery.

It took about three different cavalry charges, but by the third attempt, Murat was able to get a single squadron into the Russian artillery battery, defending the center village. Once in , the French horsemen sabred the artillery crew mercilessly. The Russian crews routed, leaving their guns behind. With the battery disposed of, Murat then hurled two battalions of infantry into the center village, and evicted the Russian defenders. The French now had a foothold in the center of the Russian defensive position.

Final French position in the center at the end of the game day. The small village is occuppied and the artillery and cavalry are moving forward to head off the arrival of the Russian cavalry.

To Murat's right, Davout's forces are closing in on the larger village at the end of the game day.

At around 6pm, we decided to call it a day and finish the battle off on the second saturday in June. This extremely biased report would have you believe that the French were sweeping their enemies off the field, but the real story is somewhat different. On the French left, the Russians were piling up many squadrons of heavy cavalry and threatening to over run the left. Napoleon had just arrived with the Old Guard corps and was chagrined to find that he had to send all of his Guard cavalry off to the left to hold down the flank. He had wanted to send the whole corps up the middle, foot and cavalry together, but enemy successes elsewhere changed his plans.

This is what awaits the French in the center (on the back table): Russian cuirassiers, and lots of them...

...and two batteries of Russian Guard artillery and supporting Guard infantry

A view of the three game tables: each 6ft wide by 28ft long.

I thought that I would end with a picture showing the vast amount of gaming space that we had in this battle. I dare say that it has even more space than what I have seen at the Wargame Holiday Centre in the UK. That is no coincidence, since our host, Kieth Leidy, has been a frequent visit to the WHC and was formerly the US distributor of the Peter Gilder Connoisseur range of miniatures for a number of years. So he has been influenced by the setup at the WHC, which goes by the name of, appropriately enough, The Enchanted Cottage.


  1. All I can say is: WOW!

    When I was in college many, many years ago, I thought we had big Naploeinic battles, but this one is huge.

    Thanks for the report and looking forward to the second installment in June.


  2. Ditto! Very impressive!
    I like the minis, too, especially the colorful French Chasseurs.

  3. I am finding that the light cavalry is very, very useful due to its 24 inch movement and 27 inch charge movement. It can reach almost anything on the table. They are especially useful as "tank killers" i.e. for taking out batteries of artillery during the battle.

  4. wow, quite impressive!

    Still, it isn't 7YW, is it?

    Quick question. Working on my Mindens, and I'm wondering if you found it necessary to replace the metal poles on the halberds with something more sturdy or just used them as is? They are a bit more stiff than some minis, but the poles are still easily bent. I'd rather replace them now with piano wire if I have to as I'm just in the cleaning and prepping stage for priming them.


  5. Erb: I used the pole arms as is because the metal seems stronger than that of other figures. I used wire for the flag poles though. If I could figure out how to affix the tip of the halberd, spontoon or whatever onto the piano wire, I might try that, but I think that you will be OK if you don't.

  6. Great report. The photos make me wonder about a theory of mine. Would it be better to play length wise rather than across 3 tables? My theory is that the gaps in the table 'disappear' if played lengthwise rather than with the battle naturally concentrating on the middle table. It also makes the commanders concentrate on depth and perhaps allows realistic flank attacks. I appreciate you have the ceiling/roof supports to contend with but I would be interested to hear whether you have ever tried this out.

    My other mad meglomania idea would be to have the 2 outside tables on in built floor runners so that the tables could be pushed together to better appreciate the ascthetics.


  7. Great set up.

    Can I ask how you handle the cross table conflict?
    how do troops move from table to table, is there any firing allowed between the three tables - that sort of thing. they are the issues that give the most problems when dealing with a multi table game I find.

  8. The gaps in the table are really no problem during the game, and in fact the players adjust to it rather quickly. The "gap" does not exist in ground scale, so a unit on the back table can fire or charge into/onto the other table.

    I have found that what often happens is that the gap creates perceptional distortions, thereby creating that "fog of war" that everyone seems to want to have in a wargame.

    for example, near the end of the game, I was thinking that a column of Russian dragoons on the back table were out of range (because they were on the back table). Then I realized that I actually had a flank shot that was within effective range of artillery. I nearly missed the opportunity. Likewise, I missed the buildup of Russian cavalry in the center of the table between the two villages. If you look at some of the pictures near the end, you will see a large group of Russian and Austrian cavalry. It gives Napoleon some pause when it comes to deciding where to place the Guard corps.

    Flank maneuvers aren't a real problem on a table of this size, but one must resist the temptation to "put everything you have" out on the table. I think that in this game, the host/judge has put out too many extra corps, which takes away from the maneuvering. In other words, scenarios still determine whether or not a game is going to be a good one or a stinker.

  9. Jim
    Another inspiring game - looks terrific ! It is interesting to see other periods too.

  10. C'est Magnifique!

    Excellent ideas for table set-ups.

    I have not visited the WHC, but can see why such a space would be popular.

    On another note Der Alte Fritz will be seeing one Prinz Robert (the) Axe arriving soon to take part in the supression of those clansmen!