Monday, July 7, 2008

Grand Manner Napoleonics

Neys corps attacks on the French left flank. Well, actually I don't recall who the corps commander was, but Ney seems like a good choice.

Over the fourth of July weekend, we completed round three of the continuing In The Grand Manner Napoleonics game that I reported on previously. Round Two occurred on June 18th and since the battle was still in doubt, we all agreed to convene this past weekend. There were only three of us on hand to play the game, so I had the entire French army to command by myself. I am guessing that this amounts to around 1,200 figures (20 to 30 battalions of infantry and three heavy cavalry divisions of unknown quantity. One the other side, there was one player commanding the Russians and one player commanding the Austrians. We managed to complete three turns over the course of the day.

The real purpose of these games is for our Napoleonic group to learn Peter Gilder's In The Grand Manner rules. So the outcome of the game doesn't really matter. The scenario reminds me a bit of Aspern-Esseling, with the French first attacking, then later defending, two villages in the face of overwhelming numbers of Russians and Austrians.

Recall that on the first day, Marshal Murat's advance guard captured one of the villages in the center, and Davout (me) captured the second village. On the far French left, Ney's piecemeal attack was demolished by the Russian massed artillery. The French Guard Corps began to arrive towards the end of the first day and Napoleon (me again) deployed the Guard in the center. With Ney's attack falling to pieces, Napoleon had to send all of his Guard cavalry off to the left to stabilize this part of the battle field.

The Second Day's Action - June 18th

French Grenadiers a Cheval clash with Russian cuirassiers on the French left.

Crossing a terrain obstacle causes a unit to become disordered and fight "unformed". So Ney gladly acceepted the gift of the Guard Cavalry (Horse Grenadiers and Chasseurs of the Guard) on his flank. The Chasseurs deployed on the opposite bank of the stream and dared the Russian cuirassier brigade to come across. They wisely declined the invitation. However, they shifted to their left and crossed the stream upstream from the Guard Chasseurs. Covered by a rediculous amount of artillery, they were able to cross the stream unopposed.

The Horse Grenadiers and a supporting regiment of French Dragoons moved foreward to battle the six squadrons of Russian cuirassiers. You can see some of the action in the picture above. Ney ran into a cold streak with the dice. Even though he outnumbered the Russian cavalry, he lost the grand melee. And by grand, I mean that Ney and his Russian counterpart threw every squadron that they had into the melee. The Russians won, les Gardes Recule! and suddenly the left looked very dicey. Napoleon was regretting sending all of his Guard cavalry to Ney.

In the center, Murat took command of Ney's shattered corps from the first day and organized a creditable combined arms attack in the left center sector. He deployed three regiments into a firing line and faced off against the Russian infantry. Some heavy carabiniers provided support on the right of the line and a battery of artillery was posted on each flank. Things looked promising, except for the outcome of the Guard cavalry melee. This left the remaining Russian cavalry on the left free to roam into the left flank of Murat's counterattack. The Russians charged into the flank of a French battery, driving off some dragoons and the gun crew. Then damn their eyes, but they rallied on the spot, turned to face the rear of the left most French battalion shown in the battle line below.

Murat reorganized the French left and mounted an impressive looking attack on the Russian right flank.

Over on the French right flank, Davout's corps continued to attack the growing hoard of white coated Austrians. Outnumbered and out-gunned, Davout continued to unleash cavalry attacks that were somewhat successful at causing confusing and disorder in the Austrian ranks. If only he could keep up the pressure, for there was a second line of eight elite Austrian grenadier battalions waiting in reserve.

Davout's heavy cavalry continued to press hard on the right flank.

Austrian cavalry were starting to break through a hole in the French right center. French cuirassiers move up to intercept them.

Murat and Davout had been having success holding off the Russian counter attack in the right center, but eventually the Austrian cavalry reserve found a hole and started pouring through. The French infantry formed square and waited for the cavalry to come to the rescue (see the picture above).

In the left center, the Old Guard was beginning to deploy and setting up their batteries of 12 pounders.

Murat's squares (center)provide cover for the Guard artillery (towards the rear of the table) and infantry to deploy towards the end of day two. Russians are shown in the foreground.

The Third Day - July 5th
Today I had the task of commanding the whole French army by myself. Needless to say, it took a long time to complete a turn with just three players, but it was manageable, if slow. I made a rather muck of things on the French left where Ney had set up a nice battle line of 3 battalions plus a column in reserve. From the previous day's action, the Russian cavalry had rallied on the spot and so they charged into the rear of my left most battalion. There was nothing that I could do about that. The battalion turned around, but could only fire a volley at long range, which virtually guaranteed a Russian cavalry breakthrough. It did, and the battalion routed. The center battalion held on for one more turn. The right most battalion got caught in the grill by a squadron of guard cuirassiers. It seems like every Russian horse on this battlefield is "guard". I think that I'm being hosed, but I am having fun anyway.

Things are starting to get serious in Davout's sector on the French right. The buildup of Austrians is too much for my meager French forces and so Davout's attack begins to run out of steam. Nothing more happens in this sector, but it is obvious that Davout will have to fall back and go on the defensive. Let the Austrians charge into artillery batteries for a change. We are outnumbered 17 battalions to 9 battalions and out gunned 15 guns to 11 guns.

In the right center area, between the two villages, (left of Davout's position) the Austrians are beginning to push cuirassiers through a gap in the lines and there is insufficient French cavalry to stop them. Davout has thrown three battalions into square, which seems to have stopped the Austrian cavalry, but I could see Austrian artillery moving foreward into the area. At the same time, the Austrian elite grenadier corps is forming up to assault the village in Davout's sector.

The only area of the battlefield where things are looking good for Bonaparte is in the center, where his Old Guard (9 battalions, 12 by 12 pounder guns, and 2 squadrons of Polish lancers) are beginning to dominate the field.

Napoleon took advantage of some squares formed by Murat's remnants (all at or near 50% in strength) to form up his artillery and cavalry. By the end of the day, the Guard 12 pounders were in position to start belching cannister on the Russians. Napoleon sent two battalions of Guards into the nearby village, which was empty for a couple of turns. Thank goodness the Russians didn't have any infantry available to occuppy that village.

There was a splendid cavalry battle in front of the Guard deployment, with French cuirassiers and the Guard Lancers driving off the Russian Guard Uhlans and sending them crashing through one of their own batteries. The Russian center was a big ball of confusing as numerous cavalry squadrons kept tumbling back through their own lines and disrupting all attempts to create a cohesive line of battle.

The Polish Lancers killed 8 Russian guard cavalry in the melee (I've never rolled so many "6's" in my entire life.) On the morale check, I rolled 3 snakes eyes. Merde, tout est perdu! But wait, this turns out to be a good thing. I had reckoned that such a low morale throw would generate a rout. But it turned out that the outcome was an uncontrolled pursuit of the defeated Russian cavalry. Guess where they went? Uh huh, right through another formed battery of Russian artillery plus a battalion of Guard infantry. All things in green uniforms were disordered.

On the next turn, I sent a squadron of line lancers into the artillery battery, and the crew abandoned the guns. "Cowards! I'll have you on a stick!" A feint smile cracked across Napoleon's face. He smelled opportunity in the center. It was time for the Old Guard to go onto the attack. However, we had to call it a day at this point and so I will have to wait until August 16th for the fourth round of the game in order to see what will happen.


  1. Magnificent, hard to beat the spectacle and ebb & flow of a huge Napoleonic game. Thanks for a very enjoyable report, looking forward to August's round.

    Steve Gill

  2. Hi Jim,

    I'll echo Steve's comments. Looking forward to the next installment.

    Best Regards,


  3. I actually had the opportunity to play a napoleonic game with Peter Gilder at his home in England some years ago. Thanks for the memory...Bill