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Ambush at Alvensleben, 1813


The Napoleonic Wars, General de Brigade, 28mm

For this game we drew on a trusted old friend – Grant & Asquith’s Scenarios for All Ages (1996). In it was a scenario called “Making the Best of a Bad Job”, and it offered something of a challenge to both players. In it, Blue force was on the march towards the east, but had become badly strung out. Ahead of them lay a wood, but before it, and a little to the south, lay Red force. It had detached half of its strength to go off foraging, and the rest of the force were busy having breakfast when Blue force unexpectedly appeared from the west. the scene was set for a clash where both sides were at something of a disadvantage.In our game Blue force was the French, played by Bill and Campbell, while Red force run by Bart and Michael were Prussians. All I did was run the game. The French were strung out along the road, with a six battalion brigade of infantry, a regiment of cavalry and a gun battery  in the disjointed column. For their part the Prussians had a smaller (three battalion) brigade of infantry and a  big regiment of hussars, backed up by a gun battery and some schutzen. The French objective was to bypass the Prussians, pass through the wood, and then exit the bulk of their force off the eastern table edge. The Prussians had to stop them. Both sides became aware of the enemy on Turn 1, sounding the alarm in the camp, or sending messengers down the column to alert the rest of the force. The French began by splitting their force in two. four battalions stayed on the road, while the middle two – B2 in the map above – peeled off to protect the marchers’ flank. This blocking force was joined by the Berg lancers and the small battery of horse artillery attached to the French force. For their part the Prussians simply deployed their infantry into attack columns, concentrated their cavalry, and advanced towards the enemy. Their only subtle ploy was to deploy their own gun battery on the hill behind their left flank, where it could pound away at the road column with impunity in an attempt to slow it down. True to form, Bart launched his 24-figure Prussian hussar regiment straight at the enemy infantry, catching them before they had a chance to form square. In fact they’d just deployed form march column into line the turn before. The charge took them by surprise, and the leading battalion was routed. The hussars pursued as far as the road, chopping the survivors down. The second battalion of that french regiment formed square though, but found the ground between them and the rest of the French force was now full of Prussian horsemen. The back unit in the road column also formed square, but the rest – the remaining three battalions – kept on marching towards the wood. Now it was the turn of the French infantry. The Berg lancers had already tried a charge, but casualties from the Prussian artillery, infantry and skirmishers drove them back. They lost a third of the unit in the process, and so they pulled back to reform. Still, they remained a powerful force in being, which made the Prussian infantry commander slightly more cautious. The French guns were pounding away at the approaching Prussian squares though, targeting the closest unit – a fusilier battalion. The schutzen did their best to pick off the gunners, but the fire was just too murderous, and eventually a morale test forced the fusiliers to halt, and then to pull back.  By now though, the French job was almost done.The aim was to get 60% of the French force off the road leading off the eastern table edge. We equated this to five of the eight units in the force. Casualties from the squares on each side of them forced the Prussian hussars to retire to behind their own lines. That allowed the fourth and last unit in the road column to move back into march formation and schlep after their companions. Once this battalion passed through the entrance to the wood it became impossible for the French to stop them. So, four of the eight units had effectively made it off the table. One more was needed to secure a French win. Actually, that proved easier than it looked. The threat of a charge by the Berg lancers proved serious enough for the Prussians to put their musketeer battalion into square. That was the key to the game. .With the Prussian cavalry reforming well to the south of the road, and their infantry advance temporarily slowed that left the field clear for the French to quit the field. That’s exactly what they did. The horse battery limbered up and moved back onto the road, racing east. So too did the Berg lancers, leaving just one battalion of infantry behind – the one in square – to try to follow as best they could. At that point we ended the game, and I declared it a French victory. Without anything to stop them the French would have got six units off the table – counting their guns and cavalry. While the last battalion would almost certainly have been caught and stopped before it reached safety, that still meant the French had won the day. All in all it was a good and well-balanced little game – and it could well have gone either way.

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