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The Ambush at Suetovo, 1812


The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm

This week we went for an all-cavalry game. The scenario was lifted from Charles S Grant and Stuart Asquith’s Scenarios for all Ages (1996), which has long been a source of fun gaming ideas. This one was called “Tables Turned”. In it, a powerful cavalry force chasing a weaker one suddenly finds other enemy units appearing at its flank and rear. Hence the name of the scenario, as the hunter becomes the hunted. In our game Blue force were French, and Red force Russia, in a game set in the summer of 1812. A small French cavalry division of four regiments (B1) was chasing a brigade of Russian light horse  (R1). The French had one regiment each of hussars and lancers, and two of chasseurs-a-cheval, in two brigades.The Russian brigade was made up of a unit each of hussars and ulhans. On Turn 1, Cossacks appear at R2, R3 and R4 – six units of them in all, in three “brigades”. At that point, the aim of the French player is to escape off the table edge behind him with the majority of his force – we said 75%, or three units. Actually, we let then get off on that western table edge, or the western two feet of the northern and southern table edges. For the Russians to win, they had to destroy or capture 75% of the French force. Simple. We played the game on a 6×6 foot table, with Gyles commanding the French, and Mally and I playing the Russians.Things started off badly for us, as Gyles actually managed to charge into the back of our light cavalry. We turned to fight, but at the halt, and both our units were badly roughed up, and bundled off the table.  We’d return though – eventually. Meanwhile the first of our Cossacks appeared at R3 and R4, which gave the French pause for thought. That successful charge of course, meant they now had to cross 6 feet of table to reach safety.  The Cossacks closed in, but they couldn’t charge the front of a French cavalry unit unless it was disordered or shaken. The aim then, was to hit them in the flanks. In most cases when we did charge, the French were able to turn and face us. They couldn’t defend every flank though, so we developed a “one-two” tactic, hitting one flank, then backing off when the French turned to face up. In so doing they’d present their flank to another Cossack unit, which then charged home.It worked – after a fashion. In most cases we got at least one of our Cossack units badly battered, but the other held its own, and gradually the French cavalry began accumulating “hits” – and “Shaken” markers. That’s important as “Shaken” units can’t charge – and that makes cavalry pretty vulnerable – especially when Cossacks are swirling around behind them.The first unit to go was the 22nd Chasseurs, swept from the field by a Cossack unit hitting it in the flank while the Polski ulhans attacked it from the front. That in turn caused a Break Test, and Gyles rolled low. Yes, our two light cavalry units had ridden back onto the table, and had recovered from being “Shaken”. Still, the French could still win, and they’d now reached the middle of the table.
Next to go were the 26th Chasseurs. They’d actually broken a Cossack unit, driving it from the field, but in the process they’d left themselves a bit exposed. Two Cossack sotnias closed in, and one of them managed to hit the Chasseurs in the rear. Another bad Break Test saw them run too. So, that meant the French couldn’t win, as Gyles had lost two of his four units. The Russians though, needed to wipe out another French unit to win. Otherwise we’d land up with a draw.
The 7th Hussars and 2nd Lancers though, were made of sterner stuff. Cossacks charged them, Russian hussars charged in too, and every time they emerged battered but unscathed. A lot had to do with fortunate Break Tests – Gyles needed all the luck he could get –  but the hussars especially seemed blessed by the devil. For a turn or two, most of the Russian cavalry were “Shaken”, so couldn’t charge. That gave the French a chance – a fleeting one – to escape.
The only thing stopping them were the Cossacks which had got between them and the south-western able edge. That’s where the French lancers came in, charging them head-on. Both sides were forced to retire, but it bought the French a crucial extra turn. That’s when Gyles made his move. The lancers legged it off the southern table edge, while the French divisional commander attached himself to the 7th Hussars, and with a successful “Follow Me” order he raced them off the western able edge. So, the game ended as a draw, but what a superb free-wheeling swirling cavalry battle it was! I can see us playing this knife-edge scenario again.

 

 

 

 

 

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