Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Finally! The Battle of Borodino!

   It's taken me a while to finish up this report (And it's gone through two different incarnations!), but the simplest way is generally the best. So here it is, the showstopper of Alamocon: The Battle of Borodino.

That's a lot of lead on the table.

   Our host, Tom, had told us that we were doing everyone coming to San Antonio that we were going to do the full Battle of Borodino with battalions as the basic unit. However, as someone who doesn't play Napoleonics often and had little previous interest in the period, the nature of this achievement was lost on me. Much like the Matrix, this could not be explained to me with words; I had to experience it for myself.

   A full 25x8 feet with two wings for the flanks, with 15mm figures blanketing the table. With such a large game, the first worry is about the rules set: Can it handle such a thing? Thankfully, Tom and Charlie put together a set of rules which had enough detail to make both sides handle differently without bogging things down in minutiae. It's a testament to them that the game itself was able to finish in one day without any real problems. As the French, we were looking to break through along one of the roads to Moscow, thus we intended to focus ourselves on the holding off the Russians on the left so that the Poles could break through the weak left side. If only it had been that easy, though...


A few quick visual notes:
  • The caps on stands represent casualties on the unit, with stands being taken off when appropriate.
  • The small colored balls represent routing units.
  • The little colored dots on the table represent a spot where a casualty was taken (Blue for French, Green for Russian). At around the mid-point of the battle, we began to forget about them as the intensity ratcheted up. If we had done it the entire battle, the right side of the Redoubt would be covered in green with blue speckles by the end.
Eugene (Myself) and Davout (Anton) line up on the Great Redoubt

The left flank of the French.

The left flank of the Russians and the objective of the French: The Old Road.

The Poles and Junot deploy, prepared to break through the Russian lines.

Neys (Dan) advances on the Flèches.

Davout advances forwards, into the guns of the Redoubt

One of the two Grand Batteries. It didn't fire for long, as we advanced quickly to beat out Russian Reinforcements.

A bit blurry, but Eugene's forces advance on Borodino against Barclay's elite Jaegers.

The Poles are slowed by the forest and an early injury to Poniatowski.

Eugene's cavalry on the outskirts of Borodino.

As Eugene assaults Borodino and the Russian flank, the French advance into the guns.

Eugene gets to grips with the Russians while tries to advance on the Redoubt

Davout covers the gap between the fortifications with cannon and men.

Neys and Davout prepare to assault the flèches. Horrendous casualties would follow for both sides.

While the Poles recover, the Russian commander decides the best defense is a good offense and moves forwards!
Davout gets slammed by Bagration, but continues on.

Almost... there...

Such wonderful formations. A pity they're going to get ripped apart...

Junot (I believe... on a table this big I barely saw this!) is stymied in the forest.

Utitza is occupied against the advancing Russian lines.

The brave Moscow militia decides to get to grips and buy time for the strong right flank to break through.

If only Poniatowski hadn't drunkenly fallen off his horse, the Russians would never have gotten this far.

The French's reserve of Cavalry head to the right to help Eugene's Cavalry while the fight for Borodino continues.

Just before the divisions hit...

Davout's Cavalry prepares to take advantage of a few Russian units foolish enough to break through.

Davout's line wavers, but does not break...

I prepare to deliver a butt-whooping I shall never be able to replicate again.
The French Cavalry watches as Russian reinforcements trudge towards the Great Redoubt.

Junot and Davout reaches the flèches. Now the real battle has begun!

I hope you like grapes...

A cavalry melee breaks out as the Russians begin their counterattack in the flèches.

French cavalry comes to the rescue as the infantry form square.

The French keep the pressure on as the Russian counter-attack flounders.

10 combats, only 1 lost! Eugene's men do him proud and smash a Russian division in a turn!

By the mass of Russians in the background, apparently Kutuzov decided to not fool around and commit the reserves to battle!

Remember those foolish Russian units? Well, they got too close and didn't have time to form square. Nasty...

The Italians get into it, too, with the Italian Cavalry looking for a chance to get into the fray.

Note the mass of cannons on the back hill. I practically had to charge, lest I give him an open shot at my units!

Davout's situation on the right is decidedly less sunny than Eugene's.

Eugene's Cavalry spends almost the entire battle in a staring contest against Barclay's cavalry across the field.

"You want to know why don't join the infantry, Johan? Just look at that mess!"

Russian cavalry comes into support the Redoubt... but their choice of location will hamper them later on.

Davout's other half starts to stream around the woods rather than join the fighting inside it.

A daring cavalry charge over the flèches actually hits home! Fortune favors the bold indeed!

The French center begins to push through the Russian counter attack...

... while Poniatowski finally sobers up in time to push against the Russians. Note the green markers showing where the milita actually managed to charge Polish lines!

The Russian flank starts to show its weakness as the militia rout off in the background. They did their duty!

The French use their cavalry to bolster the flèches they just took.

Russian cavalry in background attempt to stop the French advance.

Artillery bring up the rear.

The center of the battle, about halfway through. The fight around the Great Redoubt still rages strong.

Barclay's Jaeger's hold Borodino so tightly the artillery rushes up to help flush them out.

A little blurry, but Junot and Poniatowski begin to execute the plan of clearing the road.

The flèches are cleared, just in time for the Guard Cavalry to show up. Merde!

The French reorganize behind the flèches. The Russians committing the Guard had a rather demoralizing effect on us all...

By this time, most of Davout's forces had been whittled down, leaving an opening in the middle...

...which both sides would try to plug with cavalry. While the engagement was even, the nearby French cannons swung things back to the French advantage.
The remnants of Davout's Corps bravely takes the Redoubt on the right. Unfortunately, that's the last place they want to be.

The Grand Battery, moving up for many turns, begins to get in place on the other side of the stream.

Eugene pushes off the third Russian division of the day. If you look to the background, you can see the rallying point for a battered Russian division.

The dam bursts, and the Poles flood through...

... but is it too late for the French left flank?

The French infantry benefit from a Russian tactical mistake: the Russians Guard cavalry screening their own cannon.

Eugene's forces take up Davout's positions on the outside of the Redoubt, and use it as a defense against the Russians inside it.

"Oh man, we were worried that we wouldn't get to charge any cavalry!"

Neys holds his positions bravely, despite fresh Russian forces.

The Russians rush to stop the breakthrough on their left.

Poniatowski, however, looks to push them further from the road and allow Murat (I believe) to rush down the road.

Part of the reason for the stalemate between Barclay and Eugene's cavalry? The range of the French guns, which have decided to move up by unit.
The end is near, but can Eugene's luck continue on the flank?

The French back off as the Russians reoccupy the Redoubt... and the much closer French artillery makes them pay for it.

The Russian left looks more and more desperate...

"Yes, get as close as you can to those cannon batteries and engage them at point blank range!"

Junot's insane bravery pays off, as his assault on the cannons actually breaks the Guards' artillery!

"Man, this is going to hurt..."

Neys and Junot begins to push back against the Russian infantry and Guards.

The forest has finally been cleared!

Cavalry charge the flanks of infantry and the guns. If there was anything luckier than myself, it had to be the French cavalry!

The last charge breaks the Guard lines.

Chaos reigns as the Russian lines fall apart.

The Redoubt is retaken, but outside of artillery support the Russians get hammered mercilessly by French batteries.
The French pull back their lines as they hear news of the French cavalry moving to flank the rest of the army.

More reinforcements (From whose units, I know not. Too many Russians for me to keep track of) try to get around Eugene. Too little, too late.

The Russians begin to pull back as they hear the news of French breakthrough.
   An epic all-day battle, to be sure. I'm almost sure that I got some things wrong, as the battle was so huge I was barely able to keep up with what was happening on my flanks, let alone the far half of the table. I would have identified more of the Russian commanders as well, if I could actually identify which forces were which; it gets rather confusing when there's an unending horde of them to fight off. If any participants would like to correct me on something I got wrong, feel free. Frankly, I think it'd be nice to hear your perspectives in the thread below.

   The aftermath of the battle was costly for the Russians: They had almost fully committed to the battle (Outside of Barclay's Corp, which was only just getting into combat) before being outmaneuvered and encircled. Their cavalry was smashed while the French managed to get away with a great deal of theirs (Eugene's cavalry and Murat were almost untouched). In particular, the entire Russian Guard was lost and Bagration's Corps had been decimated. In the retreat, we decided that Bagration had to sacrifice another division as a rear guard to even make it out. The French weren't without their own casualties: Davout's Corps was devastated, and the Corps in the center had taken noticeable casualties. However, this was definitely an undeniable victory for the French.

   So I pose the question to the readers: What happens next? Bagration is still alive, but his Corps his almost shattered. The Russian Army has completely lost the Guards and hundreds of cannon. Napoleon is bloodied, but a bit better off than he was in the actual battle. So does this change anything, or would history continue on as it did? You tell us!


  1. Lovely. Even in 15mm it is still a huge game!!!

  2. Nice write up, but you've mistakenly given Ney too much credit (his publicist gives his thanks). I wasn't involved in anything beyond (from the French perspective) taking the left and center flèches. If I recall correctly that's actually a mishmash of Junot and Davout on the right and center flèche/forest. I'm pretty sure it was one of Junot's battalions that broke through to hit (and ultimately break) the guard artillery.

  3. Right you are Dan, Davout went after the right-hand fleche and had a division pushing through Utitsa village and woods. A gap was left between for Junot and the cavalry reserve. When the fleche and woods were cleared these flooded through and hit the guns just as the remnants of the division tasked with clearing the woods chased the Russian infantry into their gun-line.

  4. Even standing right next to Anton most of the battle, I was unable to notice most of that. I've made a few tweaks to the captions to try and remedy this.

  5. All I have to say is AWESOME.... What or whose rules did you use? I know you didn't use empire II.

  6. The rules were based on a set that was published in either the old Miniature Wargames or the old Wargames Illustrated (we are talking early eighties, I think) called "Old Trousers". Tom worked out a way of bolting on the command system from Black Powder. It doesn't hurt to have a good bunch of guys who are interested in keeping the battle moving that nit-picking. The best part is that we completed the battle in less time than the real one (acutually several hours less time) and we stopped twice for food as well.

  7. Excellent report and quite inspirational. My group is planning a similar refight (like so many groups in 2012) using 25mm and Shako II. We have already done Wagram and Austerlitz with every unit represented and so Borodino is next. I was wondering what you did about the formations that both sides did not use in the actual battle, most notably the Russian artillery reserve and the French Guard?
    Any info on the scenario rules and the order of battle would be really interesting.


  8. I can't speak for the Russians other than I remember our host rolling for their reinforcements at times. I'll see if I can find out what happened.

    As part of the French Force, I don't believe we had any restriction on using the Old Guard. We simply kept it in reserve for similar reasons to Napoleon, though we did start to bring it on at the end. Considering there was still reasonable risks to bringing it on, I think our host just left it up to us to see what we'd do.

  9. Interesting, thanks. I would think that a scenario that allows use of the guard would impose significant effects on the victory conditions.

    Any info would be appreciated.


  10. The Russians had some restrictions. For the artillery train, the game master was rolling to see if it could be used. The Guards were set back well behind enemy lines (further back than they apparently were previously) and while they started to move from turn 1, they didn't reach the table until Turn 7. That's from Kutuzov himself.