Saturday 25 May 2024

Lutzen in The Cotswolds: Part Two - Our first day's play, 2nd May 1813, 11.30 am to 4.00 pm

 Compared to this post Part One was easy! In that I gave an introduction to the whys and wherefores of doing this massive refight, which took place on the last weekend of April in the Cotswold village of Oakridge. Most of that post is taken up with a straightforward report with loads of photos on how I made the terrain. Thanks to all who have commented so favourably on it.

Parts Two and Three are much more complex and I hope to be able to explain the game as a partial observer, partial umpire. For various reasons I had to spend quite a lot of the time with my back to the table working the map, and also upstairs constantly fetching/carrying and marshalling more troops (and organising refreshments periodically). Tony had arrived on the Friday, and we organised the armies according to his Orders of Battle, linked here, late into the night and early on Saturday morning. Tony worked tirelessly to keep the game going at record pace over two days! Despite my distractions, on Day One alone I took about 130 photos, and I promised myself I'd collate this account with only half of them, yet as I processed the photos I realised what a lot of rich detail I missed during the game itself, and the photos became an unfolding story helping to crystalise my thoughts and aid analysis. So please forgive the quantity I have used in the end. Part Three might prove similarly intense, plus a summary and other  thoughts on the whole exercise. Apologies to any of the players if I've overlooked your favourite exploit, or overemphasised any failings - maybe I was just not around at the right time!

The Players

Slightly erroneous calling this a "Cotswold Lutzen". We had a terrific attendance from 9 players over the weekend, plus Tony (from Birmingham) and me, and only 3 of us live "locally". The rest of the illustrious band come from South Devon, Bristol, Wiltshire, and a clutch from points just West of London.
 
The Day One crew, L to R: James F (Napoleon and Ney), Francis L, Richard N (French Div Commanders); Guy B, Ken M. (Prussians and Russians), Tony Dillon - game organiser, Steve P (Wittgenstein, Allied C in C), CG (dogsbody). There was to be a 3 for 3 swap with new players the next day.

Method and a bit about the rules

As hinted at in Part One we represented the whole of the possible forces by magnetic paper counters on a metal notice board and a big paper version of the map. This gives some idea.

Overall map with all possible units accounted for somewhere

Beyond the marked squares everything is not to scale, so Leipzig, where Napoleon and Ney started, is well off the top right corner. MacDonald and Latour-Maubourg about 8 or 10 miles away, Bertrand's Corps about 12 miles to the West, and the Imperial Guard a bit further back than shown,  round Lutzen town. All the Russian units (dark green markers) are in fact South of the Prussians and will arrive at the whim of Wittgenstein (Steve) and the Tsar (me - otherwise known as the buggeration factor!)

The players had been advised by email of their probable roles before the weekend itself so they could prepare. The two C in C's were invited to write such orders as might have been possible prior to what effectively was a surprise attack on Ney's outlying Divisions, and a surprisingly effective defence from what the Prussians had expected. Tony had opted for basically starting major formations in their historic positions, but then we would  allow the players to write specific relevant map orders as the time and events unfolded. Map movement and any combat was to be resolved by some simple rules devised by me - here. 

The players had been sent a set of Tony's (big game) "Napoker" rules with an explanation, but he won't mind me saying that compared to conventional wargames rules they can't be appreciated just by reading. Consequently a quick lesson was given each day and  all players seemed to catch on pretty quickly.  No point me providing the whole set (two A4 pages) but showing the playing card display sheet for one side will suffice

Each side had one of these sheets and laid down their cards unseen by opponents each turn, and throughout as new cards were dealt.

In essence the C-in-C (or more likely the team "committee") looked at the hand dealt to them. 5 cards for movement were put on the bottom line and had to be allocated to major units (such as Divisions) as long as the tactical units within performed in unison. That meant big formations could be manoeuvred until close action when the cards had to be allocated to tactical units only. Hard decisions therefore had to be made and it was a limiting factor which meant not all units moved each turn and thus speeded up the whole game. 5 cards were chosen for the top line and these were used in various ways depending on that side's priorities that turn - eg Initiative for early movement, advantage for Artillery or Cavalry or Infantry, and the "melee" card was a plus factor in any of them. As in Poker,  picture cards, Aces etc, were matched against the opponent's for the same category and a certain amount of bluff or blank looks (poker faces!) was part of the fun! Critically, map movement was by a conventional method not dependant on Napoker cards, the only variables being in my head and a dice roll for faster moving units to see if they did one or two map squares per Move.  Once on the table any pre-written orders were forgotten as Tony's philosophy is not to restrict wargamers by any artificial command "friction" but let them make their own success, or mistakes! Multi-player games are often good for that anyway.....

Straight away in our pre-game discussion Tony and I realised that Napoker was too variable and fluid to match a set time period during a historical refight, and for that reason I could not be too pedantic about map movement times either. Instead we turned it to advantage to achieve one of our aims - which was not to overcrowd the table with wargames figures just because we could! I settled on one map move being about 20 minutes and as the day progressed I figured that Tony was getting about 50% more moves in on the table, than me on the map. It didn't matter as Tony had empowered me to organise the arrival times and locations of all the manoeuvring off-table groups as I saw fit in accordance with their written orders and all the detracting or mitigating factors we had agreed could affect performance. Mostly I got it right, and importantly, Tony was free of such distractions so he could generate the on-table moves at an electric pace. 

Allied commanders get their initial briefing from Tony

Opening Moves

Steve and Guy commence Blucher's attack on Gross Gorschen


Souham's Division tries to stem the overwhelming tide

Girard's Division holds back a  minimal force in Starsiedel while marching urgently to cover the centre near Rahna

French commanders confer while Tony advises on the initial best uses of their Napoker cards on the side table card display holder (example below -  it looks a decent hand with a Jack for Infantry and an Ace as "Melee" card.)


Where was Napoleon?
James is not in the photos above as I had a job for him away from the table. He had to take on his roles as Napoleon and Ney and write orders for the various components of La Grande Armée. They could hear the cannon fire at Gross Gorschen from Leipzig, so swung into action. He sat in the lounge for about 30 minutes and gave me back index cards with the intended plan and orders of march and hoped for points of arrival at or near the table. I had to add on notional time for couriers to get to the commands, troops to be organised on the march, and then proceed with the map work throughout the weekend. Ney was to head for the battlefield and hope to speed up Brenier, Ricard and Marchand's Divisions along the way. Napoleon was to ride to Lutzen and organise his Imperial Guard. Historically this naturally took a few hours and I knew that Richard and Francis would have to hang on a bit longer with only Marmont's nearby Corps as immediate help. Bertrand's Corps had pre-written orders by James to approach the battlefield via Gostau village, and he now matched these on the French left by ordering Latour Maubourg's Cavalry Corps and MacDonald's infantry via Eisdorf and Hohenlohe. It was going to take around 12 to 15 of my map moves (4 to 5 hours game time) for them to get there.

Prussians have taken Gross Gorschen and Rahna

This would become a familiar site - Steve with a tray of new soldiers at the Russian baseline. In response Girard's Division is contesting Rahna and the French battery has now deployed on the low ridge joining Rahna with Starsiedel. James is back - to operate Marmont's Corps

Von Roeder's Prussian Guard Brigade arrives South of Gross Gorschen and part of Prussian 1 Corps artillery limbers up to move to a better position

Von Klux's and Von Zieten's infantry are pushed out of the villages by Souham and Girard's counter attacks

First French reinforcements arrive

Below is a photo of the map as it looked to participants around this time. I had covered up the sides with paper flaps which were pulled aside to let me move the counters and judiciously to allow a player to see, when that was appropriate.  I'd made the South edge of the table contiguous with the line of the crest of the high ground. Historically this masked the Prussian and Russian approach and continued to do so throughout our game. Wittgenstein's command group had a good view from Monarchen Hugel so I informed Steve as Marmont's troops approached from the West. Once battle joined there I assumed smoke would prevent his foreknowledge of future events. Likewise battle smoke limited any warning to one square beyond the table edge. On the right low hills beyond the Flossgraben restricted the view so Guy had sent 1 Corps Cavalry brigade (Katzler) off the map to scout as far as that watercourse would allow.

The situation on-table about 1230 game time

Prussian 2 Corps cavalry at the baseline eye up Girard's distant columns and come under fire from the French battery

Guy moves von Roeder's units to attack Gross Gorschen. At the top end of the table Marmont's Light Cavalry Brigade (Lancers) has turned up

While Guy and Ken's Prussians battle over the villages Wittgenstein has brought up von Dorf's large Cavalry Corps - these are the Heavy cavalry in a central position, and the first of Yorck's Prussian 2nd corps is also there

Francis forms some of Girard's regiments into square, backed up by Kellerman's cavalry, to show them he means business.....a great target for the Prussian guns

"One more step forward and I'm comin' to get you!!!"

Klein Gorschen is not yet contested, allowing the French a little respite

But von Klux's men approach

At the far end the Light Cavalry of von Dorf's Corps are opposing Marmont's Lancers. In the centre Souham's and Girard's troops are suffering and now having to fall back to consolidate a line from Klein Gorschen across to Kaja 

View of the approaching Prussian cavalry from the French III Corps artillery position

Compans' Division of Marmont's Corps moves to protect the flank at Starsiedel but immediately all form squares to deter any cavalry breakthrough that will threaten the arrival of the other Divisions

Some relief for the French centre as Brenier's Division marches forward in columns of attack. Another artillery battery is very welcome and they intend to unlimber on that ridge, covered by a skirmish screen

Steve and James cross sabres for the first of many engagements around Starsiedel village (difficult for me to photograph that end and I had to await my opportunities for close-ups)

The card movement system is now making it difficult for the French to decide priorities with so many new units arriving. Bonnet's Division of Marmont's Corps has to be brought on behind Starsiedel, so all of Brenier's moves en bloc in front of Kaja. That is leaving an unhappy gap in the right centre which a Prussian Hussar brigade looks like exploiting

Souham and Girard now have their second position consolidated, just in time to be reinforced

With two villages in their pocket Wittgenstein has halted any further advance by Blucher and Yorck and is bringing up more reserves as they slowly approach from the South (still off table)

Readers might well be questioning why the Prussians and Russians don't press on their attack while the French are struggling. Partly it is to use their Movement cards on the left against Starsiedel, but in fact the Allied plan, not yet revealed to you dear readers, is to gain the villages and high ground and then defend and let the French attack them to be ground down. So far it is going as planned for them.

Action around Starsiedel
It's now around 2.30pm game time and the Allies are succeeding in bringing round Russian reserves, one corps at a time, to their left flank. Their plan is to take Starsiedel eventually but it is proving no easy task with one of Girard's regiments holding that village and two of Marmont's three infantry divisions deploying in the vicinity as fast as they can.

The French lancers have been forced back onto Compans' squares, and Steve is using subtle tactics of attacking with only one or two "squadron" (300 men approx) formations at a time 

Hunnerbein's brigade awaits events with the left flank regiments in line

Unit 61! - the name/number labels have been transposed with the two Prussian light cavalry brigades 

So this is in fact Number 58 - 2 Corps cavalry...and they are put off from all out attack by the French battery now deployed in the valley just beyond the ridge. Currently the Hussars are sitting in the sweet spot in the shelter of the ridge from those guns and hoping that the nearer ones remain distracted by action near Rahna.

Another view of the Allied left flank.
Dorf's Light Cavalry and Horse Artillery are continuing to pin
 Compans' infantry in square.
Bonnet's Division is a bit undecided where best to head yet

Kellerman's Cavalry contest the centre ground

Arms folded, deep in thought, but it's not the stalemate it at first appears. To the right of Rahna the French have at last coordinated good Movement cards with a Cavalry and Melee card to take advantage of  Yorck's infantry by a charge of Kellerman's German Light Cavalry.....

....that proves a success and the two front regiments are broken

The approximate positions around 2.45 pm game time. Map placement is only a rough guide due to a variety of factors, not least the lack of flexibility of the magnetic counters representing 3 to 6 tactical units each


Francis organises Brenier's Division as a support line by the Flossgraben. James is slowly advancing Compans' units in square to keep Dorf's cavalry back
Nice view of Brenier's and Girard's troops

Bonnet's and Friedrich's Divisions of Marmont's Corps forming march columns to snake round North of Starsiedel and reinforce the gap across the open plain towards Rahna......

....while Dorf's Light Cavalry press home attacks on Compans' squares. Yorck's Light Cavlary are still in that sweet spot between the gun lines, except now one of Marmont's batteries is onto them (far right)

In the centre of a triangle formed by Steve, James and Richard it is evident Kellerman's cavalry are pressing on to attack the second line of Hunnerbein's brigade...but further back even more Allies have arrived on the high ground



I had a timeline on the wall and was keeping track of my map moves. I started trying to note when major formations appeared on the table but by Move 8 I'd given it up as hard work trying to keep up!. Now we are somewhere round 3pm game time. With the players' help I did manage to record most of the tactical units actually destroyed, throughout the whole game


At last the Prussians attack Klein Gorschen and succeed in expelling one of Souham's remaining regiments

Katzler's cavalry had reported no sightings off to the northeast so Guy recalled them to hold his right flank on-table

Honours seem roughly even at the moment with the Allies claiming
a territorial advantage - but will that make any difference to the outcome?...
we shall see.

Prussian cavalry try to break the deadlock

All of a sudden a lot happens! Most notably the Prussian 2nd Corps Hussars seize their moment to charge the guns - probably encouraged by the prospects of artillery fire from their left flank and that Kellerman's cavalry brigade has suffered a defeat and is in retreat to their front.....

Not surprisingly they sabre and scatter the gunners and then ride on into the flank of the Baden Dragoons........

.....who surprisingly see them off.....lucky cards this turn evidently. But that mass of Allied cavalry behind has taken advantage of the action to gain a lot of ground.

A useful aerial view about this time. You can also see at the bottom that Blucher is finally bringing in his artillery and cavalry to support von Klux's taking of Klein Gorschen 

Prussian Guards and Fusiliers still have possession of Gross Gorschen

Timely arrival of Ricard's Division near Kaja - but even they form square
 in fear of Dorf's Heavy Cavalry

Another decent French hand of cards

Weather was overcast all weekend but just about warm enough
 for tea and cakes and the Cotswold view with a chat

Prussians build up their strength round Klein Gorschen

Nearing 5pm on Day One real time and the table is filling up. At the bottom the Prussians are consolidating the gain of three villages now, while all the French can do is hold steady. Dorf's cavalry thrust has been thwarted by the arrival of Ricard's new troops, but behind them the Russian 1st Corps is heading straight for Starsiedel. Compans' Division is down to about half strength and Dorf's Light Cavalry too are getting worn from this struggle. The French extreme right looks in danger.

Kellerman's cavalry stands firm back in its original position, while French artillery now find a respite to deploy forward on the ridge. Marshal Ney has arrived at extreme right to take command in person

Still a standoff in the centre - advantage Allies........

......because the Prussian 1st Corps artillery is now in position between Gross and Klein Gorschen and will dominate the open space between the three villages


The position at roughly 3.45 pm game time

Relief for the French right flank

The next bit of excitement was caused by the appearance of the large regiments
of Imperial Guard Light Cavalry due North of Starsiedel and heading to shore
up the ailing French right flank

The view from Marmont's artillery on the ridge just East of Starsiedel where Russian 1st Corps is massing along the road to Rahna

Where James is standing in fact is just about where the Napoleon figure would be at this time. I'd just told him of the arrival of the Guard Heavy Cavalry backed up by the three Guard Infantry Divisions and heavy gun batteries. It would be a couple of Moves before they were deployed, and more importantly had space to march onto the table.

No such problems for the Allies as they had gained ground; but the Tsar
had decided he needed to review and inspect every corps as they arrived
South of Monarchen Hugel. So Wittgenstein was slightly thwarted over
 his reinforcements, for now.

Allied cavalry get closer to the long ridge,  but it's now covered with more guns and lots of French  infantry in squares

Marshal Ney looks behind and realises the Guard has "got his back".......
but where is Marchand's Division he wonders?

At the top the Guard Light Cavalry are manoeuvring round Starsiedel to protect that flank. At the bottom Girard and Brenier are echeloned back refusing the flank as Prussians occupy Klein Gorschen and threaten their position 

Marchand completes Ney's III Corps complement on table

Souham's last regiment can't make much difference any more, but they have survived over 4 hours game time

This wider view shows that Ney's Corps is now complete with Marchand marching
 across the bridges near Kaja to bolster up the left flank

James is boldly advancing on Russian 1st Corps with Marmont's tired Lancers backed by the fresh Imperial Guard Lancers. Only two of Compans' squares remain  - in Square F1  

Tenaciously some German Hussars of Kellerman's brigade charge Prussian infantry who threaten to advance beyond Rahna

Wittgenstein holds his nerve and sticks to the plan - hold the villages and try to take Starsiedel to complete the line. Although the French line looks thin it is not having to fend off any sustained attack in this sector

The four regiments of Marchand's Corps can be seen in column of march at the top of the picture, heading East to join the Souham remnant

The last move of the day and consulting the French cards it seems they are not good enough to achieve anything more significant at the moment. I think Steve is enjoying organising von Berg's Russian Corps for an all out assault on Starsiedel

Double click to enlarge this end-of-Day-One status photo.
The thin blue line shows the French front line.
James and his colleagues have succeeded in holding a bridgehead around Kaja
and a line still connecting to Starsiedel.
It is enough space to bring on the strong Guard elements on the Sunday.

Near the end of the day Richard snapped we two umpires looking pensive!
I'd enjoyed it really - not sure about Tony.

I think we had had about 14 or so Map moves and Tony reckoned it was about 20 on the table. It was now 7pm real time and Richard and Francis started their long journeys back to the Home Counties after a hard fought day. Ken had had an easier time as a Prussian and Russian and felt fit enough to join the rest of us for a nice meal at the Butchers Arms, Oakridge Lynch (hosted by former Warhammer player Ben!)

In the next part (when I've recovered from this one!) we will see the arrival of the French Imperial Guard, the Russian equivalents, and find out about the progress of the three French pincer movement Corps.