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The Battle of Saint-Avold, 1870


Bismarck’s Wars, Bonnie Blue Flag, 10mm

Michael wanted to play a Franco-Prussian game this week, and we agreed, on the proviso that he can’t choose the game for another fortnight! What started out as a small rules re-acquaintance game on a 6×4 foot table turned into a large multi-player affair, albeit still just a Corps- level game, fought on a sprawling 8×6 foot table. Michael supplied the Prussians, while Gerry, Jack and Michael provided the French. So, for once my own troops weren’t needed.I’m not sure what the battle was meant to achieve, but we set it somewhere to the east of Metz, and gave the Prussian Corps the task of attacking two scattered French divisions, one of which was a Guard one. Actually, the Prussians has their own guard brigade, so fancy bearskins and plumes were in evidence.Actually, we hadn’t played the rules for a while, and Michael has tinkered with the basic system – and is still tinkering. As the scenario designer, rules modifier and leading enthusiast for the period he called the shots. So, that meant we adopted his playtesting adaption about movement. In Bonnie Blue Flag, a unit moves, say, 4″, plus another D6 worth of inches. that means an average of 7-8″ a turn. However, in the interests of playtesting we dispensed with the die roll. The result was a slow-moving game, dominated by artillery. That isn’t Bonnie Blue Flag at all. I’ve used them for different periods, and they clip along nicely. my Prussian division plodded forward, and the waiting French artillery began firing at them from long range. I moved my guns up and counter-battery fired with them, which pretty much set the tone of the game. On the Prussian far right Bart did the same, and also had trouble bringing up his troops, apart from his cavalry, which were massed on our far right flank. There his horsemen trotted forward, and were duly forced to retire by artillery fire. They rallied though, and came on again. This time they were counter-charged by their French opponents. A short but bloody cavalry melee followed, which ended with both sides retiring to lick their wounds. The Prussians though, had a slight edge in numbers, and this meant they still had the change to launch another attack, if Bart felt the need. Over on the left my division was getting itself shot up by chassepot fire now, and by close-range artillery fire. My supporting regiment of Brandenburg dragoons were hit. Seizing the moment my French opponent Jack launched his Chasseurs d’Afrique at them, and bundled them off the table. This was an irritant more than a major setback, but it made me have to peel off a regiment to counter the cavalry threat. In the centre the main Prussian advance plodded on, and again the chassepots of the French Imperial Guard had started to fire. The only good news was that we were gradually winning the artillery duel, as one by one Peter’s French guns in their centre was being silenced by Prussian fire. The problem, was that our advance was just too slow, so we were taking more fire than we should have. On the French left things were strangely quiet. over on that flank Gerry say Buddha-like at the edge of the table, sporting a tie you could only look at through sunglasses. I swear it helped his defence, as his prone troops were largely ignored by the Prussian guns – presumably because the little leaden artillerymen were too dazzled to see their targets. Actually his prone bases (above) were something of a revelation – and I now plan to paint up some of my own. Bart though, wasn’t fazed by the tie, and at last he launched his cavalry charge, led by the Prussian cuirassiers (above), supported by dragoons and hussars. The French line held – just – but both sides were badly mauled, and one French regiment was effectively knocked out of the game, and another sent reeling back. So, things were picking up a little for the Prussians. That though, proved to be the only real contact of the game. We’d run out of time, and largely thanks to those changes in the movement rules the main battle lines never came into contact. However, the rules themselves worked really well, despite us all being a little rusty with them. Some players hadn’t even played them before, but picked up the basics right away. Next time though, we’ll all need to read them before we start, and not mess around with the movement either. then they’ll work a treat. 

 

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