The weekend of 26 and 27 September 2015 was when Legendary Wargames hosted a group of friends who were at Sheffield University in the mid 1980’s together. They also brought along second generation gamers in the form of sons of two of the group.
They had previously organised their own large scale battles in smaller scale, but felt that Legendary Wargames could provide a no hassle solution where everything was set up and provided for them, including lunches and refreshments for both days. Rather luckily as well, they managed to book the weekend that the Yorkshire Airshow took place at our own ex RAF Church Fenton Airbase, so got the added advantage of seeing vintage planes like the Vulcan, Spitfires and Vampire and Voodoos. (This airshow is due to happen again on 2/3 July 2016 so if you want the possibility of combining the two, please let us know urgently).
They decided that they wanted to refight one of their favourite battles, Lutzen from 1813, and so we put together a battlefield consisting of three 21 foot tables; one three foot wide for the Russian setup; one two foot wide for the French reinforcements to arrive from, and the central 6 foot wide board where all the action was to take place. In total there were perhaps just over 5000 figures available spread out over 130 battalions and 30 regiments of cavalry.
Initial size of forces and the arrival times of reinforcements were kept pretty much in line with the original battle, although we timed them not based on move number, but actual time in the weekend to ensure if play was slow, neither side would feel disadvantaged. The Group had now used Grand Manner” rules before, but quickly picked up the basics, and we were on hand at all times to help them with the mechanics and lend advice where needed. Well done especially to Trevor who managed to pick the mechanics up better in a weekend than some who have played them for many years. There were a couple of funny incidents when one payer was trying to score 6’s for long range skirmish fire suing average dice, and when another player accidentally used 8 sided dice for artillery rather than 10 sided, and miraculously got battery hits!
The Allied players decided to put their smaller Prussian 2 Corps up there far right flank over the other side of the Flossgraben. Going left from there were Dolffs cavalry corps covering the open fields before getting to the 4 villages. The main Prussian attack using Blucher’s 1 Corps was to come in on Gross Gorschen and Rhana. To the left of this was 2nd Russian army Corps and the Corps Cavalry, and on the far left was the Russian 1 Army Corps. I think it fair to say the tactics proposed were pretty simply – get forward and beat up the French.
The French deployed one of Ney’s divisions around Starseidel, two in and around the four central villages, and one divison to defend on the northern bank of the Flossgraben at Eisdorf. Minimal forces were used to delay the advance of the allies, and the front villages of Gross Gorschen and Rhana were defended only by one battalion each. Mistake? Read on.
The initial advances were fairly cautious. The players were getting to grips with the rules, but did well keeping their forces fairly organised and together. Dolff’s cavalry advanced towards the bridge at Eisdorf and were picked away at by batteries of French guns situated next to the bridge and close to Klein Gorschen as shown below.
On the far left of the Russian advance, their troops were heading for some very compact terrain which due to the angles and features was going to be very difficult to defend. That said, when Marmont started arriving around lunch time on Day 1, he also compacted everything into a very small area.
The following picture shows the Russians making headway faster than their Prussian friends. The white village is Rahna and above that to the left is Klein Gorschen and to the right is Gross Gorschen
By the end of day 1, the Prussian commander had captured the two front villages and was reorganising in readiness for day 2.On the Prussian right, steady progress was being made by the Prussian 2 Corps, and Dolffs cavalry had retired out of range of the French guns, but was still in a position to attack if the French counter attacked over the Flossgraben from Eisdorf.
The Russians to the left of the 4 central villages had cleared the woods but had become bogged down and gone into square due to the arrival late in the day of the French Guard Cavalry. Their own cavalry had advanced and meleed with Kellermans cavalry to mixed success, and the arrival of their 4 regiments of Cuirassier was about to pose a massive threat to the infantry in front of the ridge between Starseidel and Kaja. Hence the French had wisely formed a line of squares at the bottom of the ridge to protect their grand batteries which sat atop it and were steadily blasting away bits of the Russian forces. On the far Russian left, the French from Marmont’s Corps were slightly on top, although the narrowness of the advance and the defensive line meant that the outcome was far from certain.
Day end of day 1 (or very nearly) saw the fly past outside the Village Hall of the Vulcan escorted by two Gnats, and was the cause of much rushing in and out to see the several passes it made.
On Day 2, on the far Allied right, by midday the Prussians were getting to grips with the French near Eisdorf. Due to a bit of terra forming (we added an extra 3 feet of table) to allow the Prussian Cavalry to expand on its infantry’s flank, and also for the arrival of Latour Mauberg’s Cavalry Corps, we saw some seriously large cavalry clashes. Unfortunately due to consistant bad luck, the infantry were driven off on their first attempt, and while trying to organise for a second go, had more bad luck which disrupted and stopped another chance. The 2 big cavalry clashes (picture below)were initially 50/50 in terms of result, but after both won one (guess which the French won!) and rallied immediately, the second clash resulted in a loss for the Prussians who then routed.
In the four village area, the Prussians had attempted to reorganise and were starting to come through the broken terrain towards Kaja and Klein Gorschen. They were receiving battery fire and skirmish and infantry fire whilst trying to organise for the attack, and although they were very good class troops, the toll was starting to tell. Add to this that the French Old Guard was starting to move towards Rahna to retake it and this made it very difficult for the Prussian C-in-C. What was interesting before the game concluded was that one of the smaller 32 man Old Guard battalions led and tried to single handly charge a lined out Prussian 40 man Guard unit in front of Rahna. In one long range volley and one volley as the French charged they decimated the Old Guard unit and sent its remains retreating back through the following units causing the attack to break up. As we finished, the Prussians here wisely forming a defensive line as the Young Guard were following up the Old Guard.
To the left of the villages, the Russian infantry spent all day 2 pinned in square trying to fight off successive waves of Guard Lancers and Heavy cavalry trying to break them. The very first charge by the Lancers caused a square to fail morale (it had lost 4 officers) and was cut down as it tried to retreat. The next move, another square was charged and rolled 16 (needed 14) on 3d6 to break it and cause it to rout. All remaining charges were beaten off by the squares to the relief of the Russian commander. His Cuirassiers were not able to get into attack as the 4 four gun batteries on the ridge behind the French Squares kept them at bay.
Finally, on the Russian far left, despite a stalwart defence of a very tricky position, the Russians finally caved in under the pressure put upon them by a larger French force.
Overall, no one had been particularly hammered and everyone had had some minor victories and losses. The Russian Grenadiers had firmed up the Russian lines and the Russian Guard had been deployed in theory to stop the end of day arrival of Bertrand’s Corps from the South West of the battlefield. Both sides were in fairly good shape, but as in the actual battle, the arrival of the various French reinforcements gave the French the numerical advantage and the next step would be for the Allies to withdraw, regroup, and fight another day. If we had to give a decision we would say that the French edged the result, so a winning draw to the French.
The players were a great bunch of lads and the weekend was excellent. Richard and I thoroughly enjoyed hosting them and we hope they will be back with us soon to take on another challenge.