Monday, 27 January 2014

Another 1812 game

Last friday at the club we started the final act of our preparation for the Tactica convention in Hamburg this February. This year we'll present a selfmade ruleset for Napoléon's retreat from Russia in 1812. It'll be a scenario driven skirmish game that will make the special situations come alive which French and allied soldiers faced on their way back home. The game is based on an idea of our fellow club member Bernhard Hennen who realized it during the last year with some help from other team members here and there. Holger who is a professional graphic designer formed the layout, Robert one of our most gifted terrain builders prepared the board and I had the pleasure to contribute some humble text work.
Anyway last Friday we played the first test match with the -for the moment- final version of the rules and here's what we experienced:

It's late November 1812. Napoléon's Grande Armée fell at the last hurdle when they found Moscow plundered and burning. They started their imperative retreat much too late and were suffering from hunger and cold from the very beginnings. After they reached Smolensk around 11th November they had no other choice than proceeding because the city was empty of rupply and the Russian forces were gathering to prepare the final blow against the French. A few days later the enemies met near Krasnoi. The Russians tried to surround Napoléon's forces and block their way. From 15th to 18th November there were several skirmishes fought and only a daring attack of the French Imperial Garde made an escape possible because their fierceness and audacity let Kutuzov hesitate. But not all of Napoléon's troops were able to use the chance. Ney who commanded the rearguard was cut off with his corps by Russian troops. So he had no choice but seeking another way. He turned down the Russian offer of honourable surrender claiming that a French Marshal would never surrender. On 18th Novemver he managed to enforce a gap in the Russian encirclement and by night he withdrew over the frozen Dnieper River.

Our scenario starts on the very next morning. Our warbands (called 'companies' in the game) were roaming around in the woods at the Northern banks of Dnieper River. During our nightly passage our corps lost all its heavy equipment including all of its guns and all heavy wagons. In addition a lot of our comrades broke through the partly thin ice and found their freezing deaths. 
But we made the way over the river. Now we are wet, confused and disoriented but at least alive. The land is cloaked in thick morning mist. Behind us there are sounds of others. Are there other French stragglers or the ever-present cossaks chasing us? Not knowing whether these are friend or foe we're stumbling forwards to find a warm and dry place to take breath.
The scenario board... In the middle the first figures, at the bottom our unknown followers and on top the space to discover.
The board was set up rather simple. Because of the fog our sight distance was reduced to 6". We started vaguely in the middle of the table with a lot of unknown things behind us (represented by markers which are labelled on the back) and some unknown terrain in front of us (the empty space on the other side of the table). Our mission was to recce the terrain and find a place to take shelter for a few hours.
My Old Guard company fighting side by side with some ragged cavalrymen.
So on the one hand we wanted to advance quickly to find out what's at the unknown part of the terrain but on the other hand we didn't want to plunk into an ambush. So we split our forces. While Heinz and me represanting some Old Guard troops went forward Holger and Axel covered our backs. Luckily Axel found out that at least a part of our chasers were stragglers which we didn't discover aerlier because of the limited range of sight.
At least one group behind us were stragglers...
While he tried to help some of these unlucky comrades, Heinz and me made our way to the edge of the woods. Meanwhile a well known personality joined our vanguard. Marshal Ney the "Bravest of the Brave" took lead of our band and gave us moral support.
Some Old Guard chasseurs exploring the clearing.
So after the first one or two turn our four companies had spread widely over the gaming board and we were a bit confused where danger and were shelter might lie in wait.
Hoping that all of the guys behind us are just French stragglers we turned downwards to the clearing across the woods.
Here are some further impressions of our approach:
My grenadiers forming a line to be able to stop any surprising assault.

Some of Holger's cavalrymen supporting some weak stragglers.
Finally we discovered that there was a small hamlet in the woods. Although it didn't seem to be very luxurious it looked large enough to provide shelter for our ragged soldiers which were chilled to bones. Suspiciously there came voices from the cabins which sounded Russian somehow...
Carefully we advance...
Actually we wanted to be careful but one of Axel's officers was too chilled to wait any longer. We ran to one of the houses and looked inside. Unfortunately a bit too careless because the cossacks inside spotted him the very same moment he caught sight of them.
The unlucky officer and some upset cossacks...
So hell broke loose. Alarm cries echoed through the village and out of each and every house there were cossacks appearing. Within moments our comrads therein were surrounded and faced grim melee combat. Fortunately Heinz had the presence of mind to rush towards the sled gun which was located in the middle of the hamlet and fired it at the advancing foes. Well, Old Guard chasseurs are no artillerymen. Somehow he managed to hit a single cossack only but at least the canon was discharged and no danger for now.
The Old Guard chasseurs near the large sled rush towards the gun.
So for now the hamlet was save. This was the chance for Holger and me to stormed into the croud of cossacks and slice to pieces. While Axel's German allies were clearing the front of the buildings our two companies charge the Russians which had no chance against our skilful fighters.
We're gaining the upper hand.
Ney cheering bravely.

The Russians last stand.
As fast as the quarrel started it was over. A dozen cossacks lay lifeless in the snow which was dyed red meanwhile. We completed our mission and found safe shelter for the night. One of the rare chances to dry our clothes and rest our exhausted bones.

But luckiest of all was Colonel Marbot the leader of Holger's company. Somehow he managed to catch one of the cossacks' horses and safed a new mount for himself.
A cossack holding the horse which will be caught by Marbot later.
At our next fortnight meeting we'll play another game and will practice another scenario for Tactica. Besides that our collections are growing steadily. Most of the excellent stuff you see above is from Bernhard's collection with a small couple of additions from myself. Figures mostly by Perry Miniatures, houses from Grand Manner and trees mostly selfmade.


  1. That was a nice scenario. I will file that one away to try myself someday.

  2. That just looks stunning! I just find this whole scenario so visually appealing.

  3. Great report,scenario and pictures

  4. Great stuff! Very atmospheric board with those trees and buildings heavy with snow. Sounds like a very tense scenario and game system as well.

  5. Great looking enterprise, really a fun read


  6. Gripping stuff with not knowing who is following on the blinds and what lies ahead. Great looking figures and terrain, especially the buildings.

  7. Lovely look game! I feel cold and miserable just looking at it!


  8. Christ....I've had to stick another log on the fire, very good Stefan!

  9. So atmospheric, with equal parts misery and mystery. Very well done!

  10. That is a great looking gaming board, I feel chilly just looking at it! Great sounding scenario as well, I like the use of counters to add uncertainty, I may have to borrow that idea some time ;-)

  11. Interesting scenario played something similar for several years out of the old USA magazine called the courier from an article written by James Birdseye

  12. Excellent work, very atmospheric!

  13. Excellent senario, pics and story. Well done.

  14. Great post, wonderful pictures, beautiful terrain and minis! Thank you sir!!

  15. Brilliant AAR! The terrain and the minis are all looking amazing!

  16. Great project thanks for sharing. I like the murky last photos -I wonder if you could add to the storytelling and passage of time by playing with the brightness of the in game photos?

  17. Great project ! Great figurines ! Great photos ! Great, great, great !!!!

  18. fantastic figures ~ the paint job actually makes them look cold ~ are they all Perry miniatures?
    who makes the Marshall Ney figure

    1. Thanls a lot, Todd.
      Indeed most of the French are Perry miniatures with addition of some Victrix conversions. The Russians are an absolutely mixed bag. Ney was a special miniature for a wargaming show made by Eureka.