Friday, 14 June 2013

Napoleon's Retreat 1812 - A skirmish game

One of our fellows is creating his very own skirmish ruleset for Napoleonics. Especially for Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. The game is campaign and scenario based. It entwines around historical events during November and December 1812 and each match is to be lead by a gamemaster. It can be played with one or more players and each leads a small group of retreaters which is called his company. Depending on the composition of the company it may contain between five and twelve men who can be recruits, soldiers, veterans or heroes. This state determine their basic abilities and additionally they can gather new skills or special equipment during the campaign.

However we met up on Friday evening and Bernhard had prepared the third scenario of his test series. It was a bit difficult to imagine the harsh Russian winter of 1812 with about 25 °C outside but his table gave an idea of the snow covered wideness of eastern Europe. The vegetation isn't winterly so far but he and some other guys from the team are working on a new winter gaming table. Anyway for this game the excellently painted miniatures on the table fixed the rest. Most of them Perry and Front Rank miniatures from Bernhard's large collection and my five conversions. So sails were set for a great game...

Altogether we fielded four companies:
Holger lead a group of stragglers which gathered around Colonel Marbot (which you might know because of his sledges), Axel commanded some cavalrymen who lost their horses, Heinz was in charge of a mixture of Old Guard veterans and I participated with the grenadiers and one chasseur I modified myself.
Our mission was to close the gap on the retreating forces after we lost contact while foraging the surrounding hamlets. We had to reach the road before night closes in (after nine turns) or otherwise our severely wounded comrades (those who were dropped to 0 life) would be doomed to die. Unfortunately our soldiers had only three shots each but we knew that there was an amunition cart left behind somewhere in the woods. Naturally the area between us, the train and the caisson was packed with wolves, cossacks, Russian Jägers and other dubious encounters...
The battlefield with the ammunition caisson in the left forest and the retreating column at the other end of the table.

The retreating army... and our safe harbour.
Some figures of Axel's company.
We knew that three shots per man are absolutely insufficient to force our breakthrough. Hence we decided to turn our attention to the left flank and the abandoned cart. At least Heinz, Holger and I did so while Axel was disposed to secure our right flank. A typical task for cavarly... Mounted or not... But this time it held more danger then we thought. More about that later.

My men heading towards the woods where suddenly Russians Jägers appeared.
Our first contact where some Russian Jägers who were lurking around in the forest. Heinz, Holger and me set combined musket fire on them and felled most of them. Then Axel's men rushed forward and shot the last two of the Jägers.
Russian Jägers under heavy fire.
But men weren't the only danger which was couching in the woods. Axel desided to circle the pond counterclockwise and met a pack of savage wolves:
Wolves asking for a dance.
Meanwhile we on the left flank reached the ammunition caisson and looted it. Our men filled their pockets with as much ammunition as possible and we continued our march clockwise around the pond.
My men gathering ammunition.
Thus Axel was alone on the right flank running out of ammunition. An unfortunate and dangerous situation since we noticed an indeterminable number of enemies closing in from the right and the front...
Each of the counters behind Axel's men might represent an enemy or is blank...
Since time was elapsing quickly we rushed forward. Heinz and Holger had their men run straight to the road while I formed kind of rearguard. When Bernhard turned the counters face up then we realised that we got seriously trapped:
Cossacks advancing behind and in front of us. Actually we were surrounded.
So our two forward companies formed lines and shot at the group of cossacks near the road. Heinz's and Holger's men shot very well and annihilated the whole unit.
Marbot and some of his men beating some cossacks off.
Meanwhile Axel lost contact to us completely. His men were cropped at the other bank of the pond and had to receive the fierce attack of some cossacks and another unit of Jägers. We thought this to be the final nail in his men's coffins.
Axel's company in misery.
But his men proved hard as flint. They killed cossack after cossack and suffered only one casualty. Brave bastards! However he spent his last shots and the Jägers were still threatening them.
Axel's last stand.
That way the penultimate turn began. Axel's cavalrymen fought bravely but any casualties he might suffer from now would be doomed to die since he couldn't bring them to the road in timely. On the other hand I hadn't taken many wounds until now and all my men were healthy. If I woudln't reach the road I would lose victory points (1 for each soldier who reaches it before nightfall) but Axel might lose his entire unit.

Thus while Heinz and Holger retreated to safety already, I decided to support our brave cavalrymen on the right hand side. I made my men run around the pond and in the very last turn I entered the fight. The Russians were too surprised to execute serious resistance and we defeated them without a lot of fuss.
My Old Guardsmen running around the frozen pond.
That gave Axel two turns to retreat in good order. Unfortunately one of his men died of his wounds but all other reached the road during turn 9 and he received plenty of victory points in return. On the other hand my men lost too much time with fighting. Only one reached the road before nightfall and collected 1 victory point. The others arrived too late. Alive, but tired and unrewarded.

Nevertheless after the game two exceedingly brave soldiers were chosen for promotion. One was chosen by the players and we agreed to decorate Axel's dragoon who fought extremely stubbornly. The other one was chosen by our gamemaster and he chose one of my grenadiers substitutional for the bravery and helpfulness our my entire company.

Thus a very entertaining and fascinating game ended and our companies will continue their way back to France. Hopefully they'll experince more events which are worth to be presented here...

By the way. After the game we discovered who gave our men the extraodinary bravery. The "Bravest of the Brave" was among us and guarded the road as well as he inspired our men:
Ney among his brave comrades.


  1. Great Bat Rep Monty,
    With all the latest retreat from Moscow figures a skirmish rule set is a brilliant idea.

    1. Thanks Paul.
      Truly 1812 delivers a great background for skirmish games or a campaign full of atmosphere. And the current version of the ruleset we used supports that very well...

  2. Great report with beautiful miniatures aswell! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks a lot.
      I'm really looking forward to see them on a "real" winter table. Maybe this autumn...

  3. Great AAR - The mini's are fantastic and the scenario looked very well thought out.

    1. It was indeed well prepared. Our gamemaster has a knack for designing exiting storylines.


  4. Wow, wery nice looking games.
    Looks terrific.

    1. Thanks Engel.
      In fact I enjoy those winter games a lot. The storytelling aspect is very unique indeed.

  5. Very interesting report with great pics and wonderful figures...very nice atmosphere!

    1. Thanks Phil.
      Although the board was a bit impromtu, it proved atmospheric.

  6. Lovely looking game and enjoyable AAR!


  7. Stefan that was amazing. I have managed to resist Napoleonics so far but this has really got me thing.

    1. Then it was a pleasure to seduce you. ;-)
      Those new miniatures are that excellent and impressive, you wont regret the purchase.

  8. Very cool! You realized a scenario that many have dreamed of! Excellently done. Best, Dean

    1. Thanks Dean.
      I'll pass this laud to Bernhard who designed it.

  9. Very enjoyable and a tempting conflict.

  10. I love it! What a great advert for those new Perry figures. Looks like a fun time was had by all.

  11. This is just great, fantastic figures, painting and a great scenario, it might have to pinch this one for the Napoleon in Egypt project.

  12. Very interesting looking game. I hope to read more about the retreat.

  13. Fabulous figures and terrain and a great report of what sounds like a beaut game. The rules obviously 'worked'!