Bismarck’s Wars, Bonnie Blue Flag, 10mm
I hadn’t used these little figures for some time, so I brought them out this week, to stage a small fictional Franco-Prussian Battle. This was very much designed as a learning game, as Gyles hadn’t played these fun rules before, and I hadn’t for quite some time. Actually, Michael Schneider from the Edinburgh club brought out a FPW variant for them, but I couldn’t find my copy of his playsheet in time for the game. So, we used the rules “as written”. The game was an encounter battle – fighting for control of a crossroads – and it was played out on a 6×4 foot table, playing from one short edge to the other. We both had six infantry regiments apiece, but the French had six stands, while the Prussians ones were 9 stand units. Both sides had chasseurs or jaegers too – one battalion for the Prussians and two for the French. Both sides had artillery – there were more Prussian than French batteries, while the French also had mitrailleuse machine guns. Oh, and both sides had a small four stand cavalry unit. The game began with both sides advancing towards the crossroads, but at first the French had problems bringing their guns up to the front line. Both sides had divided their troops into two brigades, with a divisional commander in charge of each force. The French anchored their right on the village of Lembach, holding it with their chasseurs, backed up by guns. On the French left there wasn’t anyone really screening the woods on their left flank – instead they concentrated their infantry in the centre, massed as if for an attack. The Prussians divided their forces similarly, with one three-regiment brigade heading towards Lembach, and the rest heading towards the crossroads. However, the jaeger battalion and one infantry regiment marched through the woods on the Prussian right. My plan was to use my firepower to blast the chasseurs out of Lembach, and probe on the right, hoping to entice the French forward into the open ground in front of the crossroads. Gyles hoped to do something similar, disordering me with his guns, then finishing me off with a spirited counter-attack. On the Lembach side things worked pretty well for me. The chasseurs were badly shot up, and the garrison pulled back out of the village. On their left flank the second chasseur battalion came under fire from the Prussian guns and rifles, and eventually it broke and ran (in other words its “attrition level” reached “0”). So far so good. My leading regiment advanced into the village, only to come under heavy close-range fire from the French guns. They caused enough damage to force me back. Fortunately for me, a second regiment was behind them, and they moved forward to occupy the village. By then though, the French had a bigger problem.On the French left the order came to advance. So, the French set off – a whole three regiment brigade of infantry, advancing with three regiments in a column, one regiment behind the other. The guns that should have supported them were busy firing on the Prussians in the centre of the table, as was the other French infantry brigade. So, the attackers were on their own. The advance halted after a few hundred yards as the leading unit of zouaves came under heavy close-range rifle and artillery fire. By now my infantry regiment in the woods had advanced on the enemy’s flank, and was pouring enfilading fire into the French ranks. Meanwhile my jaegers were advancing on the crossroads from behind the French left. This proved too tempting for the French chasseurs-a-cheval regiment, who promptly charged the jaegers. Amazingly the Prussians skirmishers held their ground, and after a brief melee the French cavalry were driven back. That though, didn’t stop them charging in again. This time they charged that Prussian infantry regiment in the woods – the one firing into the flank of the French assault. The same thing happened – the Prussians held them, and the next turn their superior numbers told, driving the French chasseurs-a-cheval back to lick their wounds. Effectively, with an attrition level of “1”, the French cavalry were now out of the game. So too were the 1st Zouaves. They took fire, and in their test they scored less than 10% of what they needed to save – which mean they were lifted from the table. It is a pretty nice little rule that simulates the possibility of something catastrophic happening. It certainly did. The Prussians then concentrated on the next unit – the 2nd Zouaves, and amazingly the same thing happened. They were lifted from the table. That pretty much brought Gyles’ spirited counter-attack to an abrupt end. However, everything wasn’t going completely the Prussian way. The french guns in the centre were firing at their Prussian counterparts, and eventually they silenced a battery, forcing me to remove the two gun models. They also badly shot up another of my Prussian regiments, which fell back, nursing its low attrition level of “2”. Still, revenge was quickly served when another Prussian regiment fired on one of the remaining French regiments, and Gyles rolled another catastrophic less than 10% result. That pretty much sealed the game. The French were down to three slightly battered infantry regiments, and a very battered unit of chasseurs a pied and cavalry.The only bright spot was that their guns and machine guns were all still very much in play, and so were able to cover the French retreat. My own cavalry – a regiment of Prussian dragoons – hadn’t done anything all game, and it missed its chance for its own death-or-glory charge. The main thing though, was that Gyles enjoyed the game, and I got my head around the rules again. Now, armed with German Michael’s amendments, we’ll give it another go again soon. That might actually spur me into painting up more figures for it!