Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Battle of the Day - Lodz to Poznan mini campaign, 1813

Mini Campaign - From Lodz to Poznan - 1813

Area of Operations - Objectives

This map shows the layout of the critical objective locations (shown with the red stars), important objectives (blue stars), and the available road network with waypoints (gold stars).
This is a simple quick and dirty campaign, with 2 players :
  • Player 1 - in command of a number of Russian Corps
  • Player 2 - in command of a number of French units
Its 1813, the Russians are advancing through central Poland on a Westerly bearing.
The rest of the report is strictly from the Russian player's viewpoint.






Day 1 - Russian Player Forces in more detail

Marshal Kutozovskyvich with 3 Infantry Corps, and 1 Reserve Corps.

Advancing from Lodz to Poznan, with 3 Corps up and 1 in Reserve.

Each Corps is within a few Leagues of HQ.

II Corps leads the way, advancing towards Konin via Kolo.

It is expected that there is at least 1 French Corps in the vicinity of Poznan, and possibly another in support somehere in the area.

Nothing else is known about the enemy forces at this point.





Day 3 - Operations near Kolo

As II Corps marches along the main route towards Poznan, with 8th Division leading, 9th Division is sent North to occupy the town of Kolo.

As soon as 9th Div takes Kolo, then II Corps will have 2 clear road routes to continue the advance towards Poznan.

Progress is slow at this point, as the secondary road conditions are pretty poor, and there is a fair amount of wooded areas and farmlands to be negotiated.




Day 3 - Contact to the south of Kolo

The leading elements of 8th Division report small pockets of enemy activity to the South East of Kolo.

8th Division is already across the river, and 9th Division might still be an hour or 2 before it can reach and occupy Kolo.

Given the situation, 8th Division is ordered forward to probe the enemy positions.

If possible, drive the enemy back and secure the Western approach of the road into Kolo.

9th Division is to continue its advance on Kolo.

The Reserve Grenadier Bde is to contunue the advance across the river, and deploy behind 8th Division in support.




On to the tabletop !

Transferring this to the tabletop now.

The contact is anchored on the Russian Right by the town of Kolo, and the active front extends some 3-4km from that point.

Running along the Russian main line of advance a major road, and to the left of that road there are some major countours which define the left most boundary of this battlefield.

(see the topographical map above to see the nasty ridgeline defining the left boundary).

There is a minor road running Nth-Sth into Kolo, which runs straight across the middle of this battlefield.

Looking at the topographical map for the 3-4km front, the ground is mostly flat, with some minor woods.

Transferring all that to the tabletop, we get something like this :




Turn 1 - 0900hrs
 
Flat ground, with a few woods, and some definiing roads criss-crossing the battlefield.

The 'Yardstick' laid across the tabletop is measured off into 6-inch segments, each being 1/4 mile in scale.

Each 'base' of troops here represents around 200men in close order.

In the case of the Russians, 4 bases here make up an understrength regiment.

8th Division is deployed in 3 wings, each with its own Bde commander:
  • On the Right, a Light Bde with a handfull of Jager Bns advance towards the woods in column.
  • Up the middle, 2 Brigades of line infatry advance in column of companies.
  • Taking the left flank,and deploying to the front is the Divisional artillery battery under it's own Bty commander.
Note ** Those little orange pop-sticks placed on the tabletop show the objective points for each of the 3 Bde commanders. I have placed these manually on the tabletop for the sake of the photos, to demonstrate whats going on where.

The Enemy Approacheth !

Turn 1 - 0900hrs
 
On the other side of the table, a number of French columns start to file out from the defiles and deploy into position.


By the look of the number of troops appearing, the French are approx a reinforced Bde, possibly a whole Division.

Not looking good for the Russians being able to make an easy sweep of the table at this early stage of the game !

Note ** In an actual game, only the lead elements that are visible to the other player need to be placed on the table. I have put all the French units on the table in this case for the sake of clarity. This also includes some orange pop-sticks to show the French objectives.


 



Reasonably formidable French opposition, as seen looking South from the town of Kolo.

Each 3 bases here makes up a French Battalion.

Deploy for Battle

Turn 2 - 0945hrs - 1020hrs

View from the Russian centre.

On the Right, the first elements of the Jager Bde have reached the woods and are deploying in skirmish order to hold the right flank.

In the centre, the 1st Line Bde (of 4 Battalions) has taken up positions and deployed into a line of close columns by coys.

The 2nd Bde is closing up behind them, still in column of coys.

On the left, the foot artillery battery is making their way around the woods to their form up point.

So far, so good.





View from the Russian center - looking over the shoulder of the 2nd Line Bde commander.

The first puffs of smoke from skirmish fire can be seen around the woods to the right (which is about 800m away)

Contact !

Turn 3 - 1020hrs - 1035hrs

Contact on the right flank, in the woods outside of Kolo.

Russian Jagers in skirmish order on the woods edge engage their French Legere counterparts. The battle opens up with skirmish fire at long range.





The Big Guns open fire

Turn 4 - 1035hrs - 1050hrs

View from the French side of the table, as the opening salvos are fired from the artillery battery.

The French right is anchored by a 6lb Battery positioned on a small ridge.

Looking out from the French Bty position towards the woods (approx 1000m), the opposing Russian battery is making its way around the woods and unlimbering into position.

Since they have a stack of ammo and dry powder ready to go, the French open fire at long range with roundshot to harrass the opposing Russian guns.





Undeterred, the Russians unlimber and get off some rounds into the middle of the French line.

Casualties are minimal at this stage, but the fire does manage to slow down the French deployment in the centre.





Preparatory Skirmish and Bombardment

Turn 5 - 1050hrs - 1115hrs

The Russian player has issued orders for the main centre to form up ready for attack, whilst the skirmishers and artillery prepare the position with a probing attack.

On the right, the Jagers are ordered to form a skirmish line, and press forward to engage the enemy across the front.

With 2 Jagers battalions up, and 1 in reserve, there is plenty of skirmish firepower to create some havoc on the French lines.

On the left, the Artillery battery is to ignore the French harrassing fire, and pour roundshot across the French centre.







Decision in the Centre

Turn 6 - 1115hrs - 1150hrs

After a solid half an hour of intensive skirmish fire, the lead Jager Battalion is pulled back with some damaging attrition to both sides.

The reserve Jager battalion is advanced forward to continue the attack in the centre.

On the Right, sporadic skirmish fire continues in the woods between the opposing Russian Jagers and French Legere (without great effect).

Although losses are light in the woods outside Kolo, the main impact is that both opposing light infantry forces are effectively tied down, and unable to execute new orders until they disengage.

From the Russian player's point of view, this is a good result ... as the decision has been made to activate the Line Brigades, and put in an agressive general advance right up the centre.


Clear lane up the centre of the table ... shall we go for it, or not ?




The Russian player makes a general assessment of the situation, and draws these conclusions :
  • The French have a superiority in skirmish firepower. We wont acheive the objective by trying to outshoot them.
  • Right flank appears to be secure, and the Jagers there should hold for another hour or so.
  • The gunnery duel is wearing our guns down .. they will have to retire soon. However the French guns must be equally fatigued.
  • French intentions are unknown, however it appears that they are only interested in holding the line rather than attacking.
  • It is probably worth the risk of driving up the centre with the Line Bdes, and seeing if the French hold or not.
With that in mind, the following orders are passed down the line :

The 1st Line Brigade commander is given the (optimistic) objective of driving straight up the centre, and attempting to take the defile in the road.

The 2nd Line Brigade commander is to do the same, driving straight up the centre in support.

Jager Bde on the right is effectively out of command (since they are engaged in a firefight), which secures the right flank for the general advance.

Artillery battery on the left is to continue shooting up the French line in support of the general advance. They are to continue this fire for as long as possible.

Keeping in mind that the French battery on the left is giving them a pounding and causing some damage ... the ultimate decision remains with the battery commander.

Russian Divisional commander crosses fingers, and wishes the Line Brigades the best of luck !




Russian Line Brigade forms into column of battalions by coy, and begins the dangerous drive up the centre !



Tally Ho lads !  
Courage and Best of Luck. 
May all the Saints of Mother Russia be with you !





Sideshow in the woods outside of Kolo

Turn 6 - 1115hrs - 1150hrs

Bit of an apparent bonus here for the Russians.

A couple of phases into the general advance, and with the support of some Fresh reinforcements from the Reserve Jager Battalion ... (plus a 3lb Battalion gun that the Jagers dragged along with them) ... the lead elements of the French Legere have pulled back from the woods.

Unbeknownst to the Russian commander, the Legere have actually pulled back and consolidated into the township of Kolo with 2 whole Legere Bns, which they are preparing for a solid defence.

However, it looks to the Russians as if the French have conceded the position on the right flank.

Too late to react though - orders have gone out for this phase of the battle, and the Russian Div commander is focused on the general advance for now.





A report from the French viewpoint - General position of the table, birds eye view from the French side, as of 1130hrs.




On our left, whilst the Russian Jagers are making a wide sweep of the woods, our position in Kolo is extremely strong, and not likely to be threatened by a single wave of Russian jagers.

That little 3lb peashooter will have little impact on the battle there.

The right flank is in no danger at this stage, although the guns are almost ready to withdraw to reserve.

The centre looks ominous with a huge Russian column approaching, however our line troops are fresh, have light casualties only, and an excellent skirmish line.



We can probably sustain a few waves of attacks from the Russians if need be.

The enemy will likely be shot up pretty badly on the approach, thanks to our guns and our skirmish line.
 
We have excellent lines of retreat, should they be needed.


May as well hold the line for a bit longer then !


Decisive Action

Turn 7 - 1150hrs - 1230hrs

View of the Attack from the Russian Lines :



Russian Cmdr: The column advances, without reaction from the French.



Russian Cmdr: Jagers doing well on the right, however dastardly French skirmish fire rips into the 1st Battalion, who failing their fire discipline check decide to return fire and kill some French skirmishers.

The downside of this is that the 1st Battalion is now shrouded in smoke, and bogged down in a firefight with the skirmishers, in the early phases of this turn !

Will have to wait till the end of the turn to effectively cease fire, clear the smoke, and resume the attack with the bayonet.



Russian Cmdr:
Now there is drama on the left as well !

Our gun battery is taking more losses from the French battery.

Line battalions have fully deployed and are advancing on the enemy, so our battery can no longer bring fire to bear on the French line.

Our battery gives the French battery some return fire !



Russian Cmdr:
Aha ! The 2nd Battalion in the leading line holds their fire discipline, and presses on with their attack, bayonets leveled.



Russian Cmdr:
Artillery battery decides to limber up and call it a day.

They retire back to reserve under the cover of the woods.

Its a shame to see them pack and go like that ... but then again, they cant really contribute to the action in the centre any more.


Turn 7 - 1150hrs - 1230hrs

View of the Attack from the French Lines :







Left flank holding well, as the skirmishers from our Line troops are a match for the Russian Jagers.



And over towards Kolo, we have thoroughly consolidated the position there, with 2 Legere Battalions. Kolo wont be changing hands any time soon.



Here comes the first wave of the main Russian attack.

As long as we can hold back a few Russian battalions, we can then recover our lines, and possibly retire with little or no losses.

This will leave us in good shape for the next battle, whilst severely disrupting the Russian general advance.


That column does look intimidating !

No covering skirmish line though, so its going to be expensive for the Russians to push forward.

Under the Kriegsspiel rules, the defenders with skirmish superiority can either keep up a rolling retreat, or hold their ground and cause the attacker to close with a disadvantage.

In this case, both the Grenadier and Voltiguer companies are pulled back into the line, and the right flank of the French line decides to hold.



Brilliant !

Great shooting from the skirmish line in the middle, drops a large number of Russians advancing in closed columns, and causes them to return fire.

This loss of control in the Russian centre will hold them up for a while as they break out in sporadic musket fire.


The left of the line is looking fine, just have to hang in there with the right most units in the line.

Hopefully the artillery battery on the ridgeline will be able to bring some nasty cannister to bear on the threatening Russian battalions in enfilade as well !

After that, it will be time to retire the whole line in good order, leaving the Russians tied up with securing Kolo against the prepared defences of the Legere Brigade.


Crossing Bayonets

Turn 8 - 1230hrs - 1245hrs

The leading Russian Battalion lowers their bayonets, and with great discipline marches straight into the French line.

The odds are stacked pretty evenly here, with equal numbers.

The French gain a benefit from having Skirmisher superiority and a clear firing line.

If they can halt the Russians before contact, the Russians are done.

The volley fire is held to the last minute, and scores a number of kills, but the Russians hold their discipline and close with the bayonet.

Rolls the Dice

 

Total Defeat to the French !

The French reel back as the veteran Russians march over them with fixed bayonets.

Rolls Dice Again
 
... the French eagle falls to the ground, and is trampled over with Russian boots.




Definitely NOT a good look !

Lucky for the French, there are support lines close behind them, so all is not lost.

Where are the French guns anyway ?

Out of ammo, severely fatigued, and having lost some guns to the Russian counter battery fire ... the Battery commander has retired the battery, and is in the process of replacing the unit with an infantry battalion to cover the withdrawal.


All things considered, with the growing pressure on his right flank, the French commander decides to call for a general withdrawal of the main line.

The French Division begins a withdrawal from the field through the defile, leaving the Legere commander to secure and hold Kolo until the evening.

The Russian commander has almost secured the road leading West out of Kolo, but will need some time to regroup his forces and occupy Kolo itself.

At this stage, neither the French nor the Russian commander knows what Reserves his opponent may have in the area on the campaign map .... and both must now decide whether to reinforce this battle, or push forward somewhere else.

Lets see what happens next encounter ....

Game Summary / Technical Analysis

Total Playing Time :

Just under 2 hours of tabletop time to cover 4 hours of battle simulation time.

Total Losses :

All artillery was fatigued out for the remainder of the day.

Light losses on each side - About 400 losses in men for each side.

Russian Player

During the game, the Russian player got to make 2-3 major decisions which affected the flow of the battle:
  1. Engage the Jagers in the woods on the right, deploy the guns for support on the left, and form up a main battle line behind the road in the centre.
  2. Engage the French in an extended skirmish / bombardment in preparation for an attack if required.
  3. Based on the outcome of 2), launch a risky attack up the middle when appropriate.
During the course of these major decision points, the Russian player got to make 3-4 minor tactical decisions during each phase.

These are mostly concerning targetting priorities for the guns, and ranges at which to open up with the skirmish firing.
 
Once units were committed to an action, the units tended to act autonomously, and the player had little control over the units once they were engaged.

Holding back some reserves on the right flank made a big difference to the engagement in the woods, and holding the main line brigades back in reserve allowed the player to decide when and where to launch the decisive move.

The Russian player used aggressive major decisions (compared to the French player), which allowed the Russian player to hold the tactical initiative on the day, and dictate the pace of events on the tabletop.

French Player

The French player got to make 3-4 major decisions:
  1. Firmly define the defensive line to hold onto, causing the Russians to have to make a lengthy advance against strong skirmish and artillery fire.
  2. Started the action by committing the artillery battery to open fire at long range with roundshot.
  3. Pulled back the French left flank (Legere holding the woods), and created a very strong position around Kolo.
  4. Decided to withdraw the main force, leaving the Legere to hold out in Kolo for the rest of the day. This frees up the French Division for the remainder of the day, whilst the whole Russian force remains committed to securing the now prepared position at Kolo.
The French player had the better choice of smaller tactical decisions to be made, by choosing the distances at which defensive fire was opened against the advancing Russians.

Whilst the Russian player held the initiative and dictated the tactical pace of the game, the French player kept some control over the outcome by keeping a clear withdrawal route, and exersizing the decision to pull back in good order.

By freeing up the bulk of their forces and leaving Kolo occupied, the French player managed to win a strategic initiative for the remainder of the day.

Balance of Luck vs Player Decisions

As far as the flow of the game went, this was entirely controlled by player decisions and commands, with very little impact from lady luck.

After the first hour or so of firing, both players were relying on luck to maintain the fire from their guns.

Once under firing orders, the guns are under the control of the battery commander (not the player), and could decide to withdraw whenever they see fit. (due to damage, lack of ammo, danger or general fatigue).

In all cases of combat and firing there were minimal losses, with a few exceptional cases caused by 'lucky dice rolls', namely :
  1. Some exceptional shooting from the French skirmish line at close range, managed to score some 200+ Russian combat casualties over a 20 minute period.
  2. Some lucky damage to the Russian guns from French counter battery fire, managed to wreck 2 Russian guns and a Caisson in 5 minutes of shooting.
  3. The Russian final bayonet contact, scoring a 'Total Defeat' for the French (about a 20% probability), and the disgraceful loss of the Battalion Eagle (another 20% chance). Whilst this 'lucky' result didnt completely change the result of the game, it gave the French commander a good cue point to issue his withdrawal order that he was sitting on anyway.























































































































































































11 comments:

  1. Excellent report, mon general! En avant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merci Beau Coup mon ami !

      Left you a msg on TMP regarding your extended campaign requirements. gimme an email on steveoc64@gmail.com to talk offline, and start bouncing some mad ideas around. I think we can have a lot of fun with those ideas !

      Cheers mate

      Delete
  2. Loved the report! Which rules? They seem to be I've always wanted in a set. Big battles on a small table with real skirmishers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks David, glad to see the battle report (small as it was), managed to convey that level of detail. They are hard things to write up !

      Rules - I am using the original Reisswitz Kriegsspiel tables for tactical contacts, and firepower effects. Those very old school rules provides a really decent level of tabletop skirmisher action.

      These number crunching tables are then streamlined using 'modern' gaming conventions. Then there is a subtle layer of command and control rules applied on top of that.

      Need to do bit more doco writing, and then Ill be publishing the completed rules as a PDF.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Delete
    2. Hi Steve,

      I really like hoe your system works, both campaign and battles.
      I read through Reisswitz Kriegsspiel tables (heavy stuff :) ) and am intrigued how did you make it work.
      I'm really looking forward to see your take on them in the rules in pdf.

      Delete
  3. Look forward to seeing them some time. I love simple easy games but most lack skirmishers which are important to me feeling like its a Napoleonic battle I'm playing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Looks like this is using your campaign system to set up the battle? I've got to say, I'm looking forward to that being released!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi mate hope things clam down a bit for you, this looks great our club runs on campaigns this will be a god send

    ReplyDelete
  6. Getting there - another week of cleaning up, ANZAC day on the weekend, and lots of other stuff to do.

    Im limited to finding coding time between the hours of midnight and dawn only at the moment - so progress is very slow :(

    What I wlll do this week is clean things up and open the system up to the public in a staged release. Planning on allowing people to login, and start creating their own campaigns and scenarios. Can get that part out this weekend at least.

    See how we go :)

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  8. "Superbe rapport monsieur"
    Splendid terrain and great explanations...

    ReplyDelete