Narrative of Franco Prussian Game
Fought at: ‘The Redwood Redoubt’
Prussians: General Baron Von Powell, General Baron Freyer Von Martin
French: General Rodger Wood, General Gavin Bowden
Rules: Volley & Bayonet
Scale: 15mm (Mostly Essex figures) from Adrian’s and Rodger's vast arsenals of lead armies.
The French Republican Commander is tasked with defending the boundary of a wide river that bisects the centre of the table length-ways from East to West. The river is only crossable at any of the five bridges, which are relatively evenly spaced along its length. There are also three towns similarly spaced. Their objective is to prevent the Prussians from crossing the river and to hold at least three of the bridges and two towns at end of turn 8. (Signalling nightfall)
The Prussians must capture at least one of the towns and get all their forces across the river before nightfall.
The French Army consists of four infantry Divisions, most of which are somewhat inferior troops, including the much-derided Guard Mobiles. The exception being the Division of Marines, who are veteran shock troops. They also have the usual complement of guns and a Mitralleuse section plus two Army guns. The French also have the advantage of six trench-works which they can deploy as they feel necessary. Hopefully this will compensate for their lack of quality troops.
The Prussian Army, although smaller in actual numbers, is its usual efficient self and comprises mainly veteran campaigners, a large artillery train and a unit of Uhlans. There is also a Bavarian contingent not yet arrived.
Rather than give a turn by turn account of every dice roll and move, which will bore the bejeebers out of even the most hard core among you, I will recount the main points and events of the battle as I recall them. I apologise if my recollection of events varies too much from my fellow participants.
Turn 1, Deployment:
The French, realising they can't effectively defend the whole river, choose to weight their defence on the left flank sensing that this will be the Prussian Line of Advance as it offers the least obstacles and provides good going for infantry. They occupy the towns on their left flank and centre and dig in around the three bridges starting from East to West. They also dig in around the woods that border the river and near the centre. They decide to keep their best troops (the Marines) in the rear, in reserve near the centre to bolster whichever sector shows signs of breaking whilst using their lesser troops as frontline cannon fodder.
|The French centre|
The Prussians, whilst arriving as the French expected, opt to make the main thrust of their attack against the weaker French right flank whilst softening up the French centre with the bulk of their artillery.
The Prussians take full advantage of the high ground to position their artillery in massed batteries to pummel the enemy trenches.
|Prussian artillery bombarding the French entrenchments|
The Prussian attack begins with a heavy sustained barrage which falls with unerring accuracy on the French frontline trenches near the centre bridge, scoring no less than ‘nine hits’ of which the hapless French only manage to save two.
The French respond with a cannonade but to little effect. At this range their Chassepot rifles are of little use as well.
The Prussian infantry continue their advance to the centre and French right flank whilst the Bavarians arrive on the same flank and begin an unopposed crossing of the river at the unguarded bridge. The Prussian Uhlans gallop over the bridge in grand style with the intention of outflanking the French and threatening their rear …most unpleasant for the French I’m sure.
The Prussians begin their assault on the central bridge, but as they come within range, the French Chassepot rifle really comes into effect. A well-aimed volley from the stationary and entrenched Frenchmen scythes through the Prussian ranks and their attack falters. The Prussians are stunned by the accuracy and rate of fire the so-called ‘inferior’ troops are pouring into them and they retreat out of range and go to ground.
The French, realising they have been wrong footed, withdraw the bulk of their troops and artillery from the uncontested Left flank leaving a token force to hold the town and bridge whilst moving to shore up the centre and right flank. Aware that the Bavarians have crossed the river and are rapidly advancing on their right flank they position troops on the high ground to the right of the centre wood with the intention of refusing the flank. Where are those damned Uhlans heading for they wonder?
The Prussians ponder another bombardment but decide they need to move their guns forward in the centre where they hope to wear the defenders down by shear weight of shot!
They are forced to rethink their infantry assault on the centre and decide to shift their attack to the now lightly defended French Left. You have to admire quality of command and training that allows the Prussians such flexibility.
The Bavarians, hoping to drive-in the French Right flank, bravely charge up the heavily defended slope but suffer the same fate as their compatriots and are thrown back by a telling French fusillade. The French gain a breather to allow reserves from the centre to rush to their aid.
The Bavarians decide to go to ground at the base of the slopes and try to whittle the defenders down by fire from their needle guns.
The Prussian Uhlans sensing the attack is in the balance launch a perfectly timed flank charge on the French reinforcements. Caught in the open and unprepared the Frenchmen are ridden down in grand style and destroyed. The Uhlans are now free to harass the French rear at will once their mounts have recovered.
On the French Left flank the Prussians assault the lightly defended bridge but once again the awesome short-range firepower of the French Chassepot is too much for them and they stream back across the bridge dragging their wounded and bleeding comrades. The Prussian gunners un-limber and proceed to bring down accurate fire on the French entrenchments with their Krupp breech-loaders in retaliation.
Turns 6 & 7
The Bavarians again assault the heights and succeed this time in pushing the harassed Frenchmen off the hill whilst the gallant Uhlans launch another dashing attack on the French reserve troops that throws the somewhat surprised Marines back in confusion. “Lancers were never meant to be this good,” they mutter in Gallic consternation.
With nightfall approaching, the Prussians launch another desperate assault on the French Left flank bridge. Their accurate counter battery fire has destroyed all the enemy’s artillery including the mitrallieus and the shell-shocked French defenders are nearing exhaustion. The Prussian infantry storm over the bridge and easily overwhelm both the bridge entrenchments and the adjacent town.
The Prussians are now in possession of all but one of the bridges (Centre bridge) and have taken two of the towns. Two of their commands are seriously depleted but still capable of fighting. With all their available forces surrounding the exhausted French centre and with cavalry and Bavarian troops attacking the French rear unhindered it is clear the Prussians have won the day. The French have taken a beating with all their commands near or in collapse and casualties mounting by the second.
Its time to concede defeat and try to extricate what’s left of this shattered army.
Even though I was on the losing side I enjoyed this game immensely. The rules worked really well and allowed quite a complex game to be comfortably completed to a decisive conclusion in two and a half hours.
I thought the game was well balanced with Prussian troop quality and artillery firepower making up for smaller numbers and the quite daunting task of capturing so many objectives and the difficulties that river crossings under fire present.
The French whilst suffering from inferior troop quality did have very favourable ground to defend and the Veteran Marines may have been better deployed in the front line where their staying power could delay the Prussian advance longer.
This game was a sobering lesson in the effect of modern ordnance on exposed formations and frontal assaults over open ground.