Tuesday 13 March 2012

Battle of Jenastaedt 1813 - The Assault

Battle of the Day

... continued from Part 4

Events in the early afternoon, around half past one :

The Russian engagement on the left has all but fallen into chaos.

A fierce engagement has cost them their remaining infantry regiment, whilst the forward most regiment has now lost contact with the commander as it proceeds to loot and destroy Jenastaedt itself.

The main Russian artillery body has closed with the main French force, which has a very strong defensive position in the outer suburbs of Jenastaedt.

(Base contact with BUA = under medium cover figthing from the outer buildings.)

Once again the Prussian line is pushed back with a bloodied nose.

The Grand Battery of 12lb guns now concentrates on the approaching Prussian artillery, systematically reducing their numbers with well aimed counter fire.

The Grand Battery is also under cover of the suburbs, and gets an additional bonus for having a dedicated artillery general in command.

First contact leaves the French in a bad position. Another regiment of Legere holds the wooded ridge line, with skirmishers out, and the remaining troops now in battalion squares to resist the Hussars.

The French need to make a decision about this flank soon ... its may be best to fall back to the town and hold on to the more strategically important bridgehead.  Orders are to hold the flank though - so what to do ?

The Charge of les Invalides !

Over on the Allied Right Flank :

By mid afternoon, the Austrians have managed to envelope the French flank, destroy the light horse artillery, and surround the Legere. Orders are now enqueued for the Austrians to start their general assault, so it looks like the French flank is gone. 

Sunset is fast approaching though, the Austrians need to make good time to land a hammer blow on the French centre - which by now is sitting in well prepared positions in the built up area, and the Prussians are being held back as well. 

Still very much in the balance, and time is becoming a factor for both sides.

So that leaves 5 or 6 turns to force a decisive conclusion.  7 turns sees this into around 7pm, by which stage the light will be well and truly failing and the troops exhausted after a long day. in the field

Overall, the limited attack concept is working reasonably well. I wanted to make sure that as an Allied commander, I could engage the French so as to pin them down, without risking a wholesale panic due to severe combat losses.

That part of the rule mods does the trick. However, there is a nasty side effect - which is that troops on Engage orders get to attack twice per turn, with little risk of disaster.  That aspect, unfortunately, makes them a little too powerful.

Allowing a force to move in their own phase, as well as the enemy phase ... sounds good in theory when you are writing the rules, but is actually a mess to organise once the game gets rolling. After many turns, you simply loose track of which unit has moved in the current phase .. and I am sure that I may have skipped a unit here and there, or maybe even moved one twice. That aspect will only get worse as the battle gets bigger.

Easy fix - is to allow troops on Engage orders to make a single full move in their own phase, with the defender still able to make minor reaction moves to either perform a fighting withdrawal to avoid contact, or adjust their facing to conform to the attacker.

A unit on Attack orders operates in this fashion, and they get an additional charge bonus if that allows them to end the turn in contact. That part will still work well.

Units on Probe orders still make a half-move each phase, which is OK since they do not end the move in base contact with the enemy. So that should still work.

Another small concern, is that twice now in this game, I have had large infantry formations charge into artillery ... and get beaten off at bayonet point by the gunners !   In each case that is due to unusually large gaps in the opposed die roll, and I suppose there are plenty of historical precedents for that. Still - feels a little strange.

Combat Results for Limited Engagements :

For limited attacks, I am using the 'Infantry Assaulting' table below, but ignoring any breakthrough results.

If the attack fails, then instead of applying 'Panic' results for the attacker, I get them to be pushed back 2" per Panic level.

This generally seems to work OK.  However, because the results table is written to assume that the 'assault' is a full assault, the resultant events do not feel very much like the results of a firefight. (Could be psychological).

What I might do is create an additional results table with some intermediate 'limited firefight' results ... if only to add a little more flavour to the game, and remind the players that this is a limited action.

To balance that, I could tweak the Infantry Assaulting table to be slightly more bloody for both sides, to represent a full on no-holds-barred slog with the bayonet.

Lastly, I am not 100% overjoyed by the new morale / rally resolution rules. That mechanism is described in the rules here :


The rally table is shown on the above QRF. It works like this :
- Lookup the table for the troop grade / current morale state.
- This provides a number. Add a D10, add modifiers, this provides a new number which should be higher (but could be worse after modifiers).
- Lookup the new modified number on the table = the new morale state of the unit.

Its actually as brilliant idea, well implemented. At the start of each phase, the phasing player rolls for each unit with any morale hits to see if they recover somewhat, or possibly get worse. Its a neat mechanism that includes all the detail and accuracy you could hope for.

In practice, it involves a die roll + some mental arithmetic + 2 table lookups for each case where a unit has waivering morale ... each turn.  In practice it is something of a daunting process - especially for a larger game with stacks of units on the table with less than perfect morale.

Playing a huge battle, it would get even worse.

I might try this simplified approach instead to speed up this stage of the game :

Simple Morale Test Rules :

For each morale test, roll 2D6, with 3+ = success.

If a unit is in 'Danger' - ie, in range of enemy artillery, or infantry in range of enemy cavalry, then they need a 4+ for success.

If a unit is deemed to be in 'extreme Danger' - as judged by the players, such as sitting in an exposed position in the open, in range of enemy artillery, occupying a burning built up area, etc ... 5+ for success.

If a unit is Demoralised (lowest possible morale grade), then  roll 1D6 as per normal.  This means that Green or Militia units who become demoralised cannot possibly recover morale during the game, and will probably melt away slowly.

Troop Grade0 success1 success2 success
Elite / VeteranUP 1UP 2UP 3
Fall back half a move.
UP 1UP 2
GreenDown 1
Fall back 1 move.
Fall back half a move.
UP 1
MilitiaDown 1 + lose a baseN/A
Fall back 1 move.
UP 1

Fall back = retire from contact towards Division HQ.

If a Divisional commander performs the rally - ie, they are within 2" of the unit being rallied, then the commander can re-roll 1 of the dice.  If the result of that is still 0 success, then the commander has to roll on the leader injury table as an 'Emergency Rally' - and risk getting injured or killed.

If you roll a Double 6, then in addition, the unit gains back 1 base lost from rounding up stragglers and the lightly wounded, and forcing them back into the ranks.

If you roll a Double 1, then regardless of grade, lose an extra base of troops as deserters who turn tail and flee off the field.

Almalgamating Units :

As a large battle progresses, you are likely to end up with a large number of small units.  These rules do not play well with lots of small units - they play better with large regimental or brigade groups.

During the command phase (at the end of the player's turn), any Divisional commander may attempt to amalgamate any 2 units into a single larger unit.

The 2 units must be within command radius of the commander, and 1 of the units must be in good morale (formed). Roll on the 'change orders' table - success = join the remnant units into a single new brigade.

The rating of the combined new brigade will be = that of the lowest grade unit in the new brigade.  Starting morale of the new brigade = that of the lowest morale.  If both units are in good morale, then the new brigade starts life as Disordered.


So those little rule hacks should speed things up, or at least make the mental gymnastics each turn a little less painful.

Not allowing troops on Engage orders to make a half move each player phase should take a little bit of the sting out of their tail as well.

Next up - I need to juggle some real-life work commitments here between games, so I will finish off this game as it is .... and then reset things back to the start and roll through again with the tweaks mentioned above.

I will play this scenario out 3-4 times over the next week or 2, to bed these rule changes in. Tough work - but its the only way to do it :)

Then I will try it again with card activation and/or random initiative, and see how that affects the game.

So ... thanks for your patience, will be reporting back again soon !


  1. Can't comment too much o your specific rules, but presumably "melee" with artillery includes last minute point blank canister/double canister fire, if the battery was able to get off a last round - that's how I'd interpret artillery beating a charge by infantry or cavalry - not that they bludgeoned them with sponges and buckets! :-)


  2. Hi Peter,

    Yeah, that is interesting. Each gun model in this scale represents 12 real guns on a 100m frontage. There are more than likely a few supporting infantry in that lot. Especially given that they are Russians, and some of the nearby infantry brigades have dropped a few bases (550 men per base). So there is about 2000 Russian dead, wounded and the plain scared moping around in that area.

    Where are they going to flee to ? A lot of them probably flee towards the safety of their own guns, rather than their HQ. Who knows ?

    As far as the rules go, the artillery get off a firing round at point blank before contact, which caused 1 base killed and 2 morale hits. Thats a low score from a low die roll.

    It was during the subsequent melee round, where the French rolled a 2 on a D10, and the Russians rolled an 8 on a D8 that caused the greater damage. After all the combat factors were added in, the French were at 2 pips down, so suffered another morale hit and a panic test ... which they subsequently failed. (9+ on a D10 to fail). One of those rare long shots that do happen !

    So in literal terms, the French dodged a lot of the grapeshot ... only to be bludgeoned with sponges at close range, and maybe even dowsed in the buckets !!! Who knows what the Russian gunners fill their buckets with ?

    Another likely scenario - since the whole action occurs over 20 minutes of real time - the initial point blank cannonade stopped the French advance long enough to get another round in and hit them again at even closer range I guess. Its all possible, and it gives historians something to debate over in years to come :)

  3. Very interesting! I didn't know about buckets! Well, nice work, a great report and some good rules explanations...see you soon!

    1. Thanks Phil.

      The weekend is starting to get filled up with non-gaming stuff already, so this may take longer than I hoped :(

      Looking forward to running the scenario again a few times, and I think with the streamlined morale test rules (above), and the simpler Engage rule, I should be able to put a whole lot more figures on the table and play a bigger version of the above scenario.

      I have added some bits in to make the assault combats more risky for both sides as well - more death and destruction coming up ! The extra fatalities should be balanced out by the chance to grow units back to strength again during the rally phase.