Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Last Saturday we played our large Borodino game at Willy's place.  He added a table to extend the length of the sand table to over twenty feet, and we played right across the whole table.  The force ratio was roughly one unit to two infantry battalions, cavalry regiments or artillery batteries.  Mark from Northern Ireland came over with most of the French and Poles in his car, and his forces were supplemented by William's Westphalians and some others.  I provided most of the Russians, with some extras from Willy and Euan.  We had players from Glasgow, Ayrshire, Coventry, York and of course Mark.  Figures were 15mm and the rules were Shako II, with a few minor tweaks to speed up such a large game.  Willy reckoned there must have been almost 7,000 figs on the table.  Photos of the Russian deployment:
Utitsa on the Russian left, looking past the old road towards the jagers infesting the woods.  Karpov's Cossacks are in the right foreground.  In the centre of the shot is a Line Infantry Division with Stroganov's Grenadiers behind them, including the famous Pavlovs.  Tutchkov (Scottish Mark) ran this lot as a separate command, almost a little army in its own right.  I took the rest of the photos of the defenders from the French side to give an idea of what they would be attacking:
The fleches, held by Neverovsky's 27th Division.  These guys operated as the rearguard to the Russian army as it retreated in the face of the Grande Armee's march ever deeper into Russia.  At Borodino, they gave Davout's corps a particularly hard time.  To the right of the photo are some combined Grenadiers, with Duka's Line Cuirassiers in reserve.  At the top left you can just about make out the massed reserves of the Russian Imperial Guard.
Moving further along is another Russian Grenadier Division holding the area between the fleches and the Raevsky Redoubt.  Euan as Bagration had already decided that he would send a messenger to Kutusov asking for the Guards to be released as soon as possible.
The Grand Redoubt itself, with its formidable artillery contingent.  Paskevich's Infantry Division is in immediate reserve, with orders to retake the redoubt should it fall.
Barclay de Tolly's powerful forces on the Russian right wing, defending the Smolensk-Moscow highway.  David from York played Barclay, which was good because as an experienced Shako player he would be able to keep the game moving in this area.  At the rear of the Russian army are Platov's Cossacks, Uvarov's Guard Light Cavalry, and two other Cavalry commands.  They won't really be needing much help here, then!
Rounding off the initial deployments is a full length shot of the whole table, with the French massed to the left of the photo.  I didn't take this one!  Over the course of the day we had maybe twenty players on and off in total, and a good day seemed to be had by all.
I stayed at the Utitsa end of the field for most of the game, mainly for reasons of space.  The action started here almost immediately as Scottish Mark sent in the Cossacks against Poniatowski's (played by Hugh) light cavalry in an attempt to disrupt any enemy intentions.
The longer range photo above shows the Polish advance on the woods at the same time.
Another shot of (Irish) Mark's resplendent Poles.
I moved along the table a bit to take this one of Davout's assault on the fleches...
...and this one of the massed weight in the French centre.
Above you can see the advance on the Grand Redoubt.  As Napoleon, Mark had detached one of Davout's powerful divisions and deployed it opposite the redoubt to mask it.  Billy, though, had other ideas and attacked anyway!
Back at Utitsa, the Cossacks have been seen off smartly by the Poles, as expected.
Tutchkov deploys Stroganov's Grenadiers in anticipation of the impending Polish attack.
The action is really heating up in this sector.
I moved along a bit and took the photo above from the French centre.  It looks towards Utitsa at the top of the shot, with the struggle for the fleches in the foreground.  Nasty.
The French advance continues just to the left of the previous photo.  The Grand Redoubt is just out of the frame to the left of this one.
Billy's assault columns reach the Grand Redoubt.
On the French left, Eugene's corps mixes it with Barclay's infantry divisions.
Davout's pressure on the fleches begins to tell.
Back at Utitsa, Karpov does the unimaginable and rallies all of the Cossacks for another go.
A long shot of the action at this point, which is now general right across the field.  The Poles engage Tutchkov in the immediate foreground.
A shot of the battle at Utitsa at the same moment, from the Polish viewpoint.
Looking towards the area to the left of the Poles, from the same viewing position.  Some of the Poles have entered the woods, rather gingerly in the face of telling fire from the dispersed jager battalions.  Pressure is now being applied against the converged Grenadiers and the French cavalry reserves under Murat (Alan) have moved into position.
Neverovsvky's division has all but ceased to exist by this point, and Davout is poised to advance beyond the fleches.  Davout did a lot better here than was historically the case.  Some really poor tactical dice rolls by the Russians combined with dreadful divisional morale on the part of the Grenadiers.
Looking more towards the French centre, the battle develops further.  Only one fleche still holds out tenaciously.
The French mass their forces in the area between the fleches and the Grand Redoubt, helped by the relative inactivity of the Russian Grenadiers.
More French cavalry arrive here, and even the French Imperial Guard makes it onto the field.
French pressure is telling in the middle of the field.  The Russian Guards are waiting patiently at the very top of the photo.
The struggle for the Raevsky Redoubt.  Unlike the historical battle, hardly any cannon shots were fired at it - the French were far too busy piling in with the troops!
Eugene makes very little headway against Barclay.
Above is a long shot of the battle lines looking from the vicinity of Utitsa.  To the right, the Russian players await the French impassively.
Back at Utitsa, the Poles have finally driven off the Cossacks.  Seeing a Russian infantry battlion in line, the Chasseurs a Cheval break through to charge them, only to see the stalwart Russians unhurriedly form square.  One of the two units of Poles is obliterated.  Their lancers retire, with the command demoralised.  The Cossacks might have been destroyed, but half of the invaders' cavalry on this flank is now out of the battle, and Tutchkov has bought himself more time.
Davout has taken the fleches.
Above is a final shot of Neverovsky's last battalion before it too quits the field.
The French make headway against the Raevsky Redoubt, albeit at horrendous cost.
The attack takes a battering, but still they come.
The French reserve cavalry have a bad time against the converged Grenadiers.  The latter have recovered their morale and hang on in there grimly.
The Raevsky Redoubt falls, only for the French to find Paskevich's division waiting for them...
The French left is thrown back by the might of Barclay's force here.
At Utitsa, the situation has stabilised somewhat as the initial Russian line division holds on.
In the centre, Davout's victorious troops swarm across the fleches, with cavalry in support.  A confused fight breaks out as Duka's Cuirassiers attempt to stem the tide in vain.
The pressure mounts with Ney's corps surging forward to Davout's left.  At the top of the photo, the Russian Imperial Guard waits impassively for a nice juicy target rich environment to roll towards them.
The division detached from Davout's corps is too weak to withstand Paskevich's counterattack.  I think the French were Morand's troops, but I'm not entirely sure.
And this is the final situation for Eugene's corps.

We had to stop there because we ran out of time.  Overall, the French were held at their left.  Morand had taken the Grand Redoubt, but his division was destroyed and Paskevich recaptured it.  Junot appeared with the Westphalians at the edge of the table to form the next wave.  In the centre, the French were pouring through in great numbers, with Ney and Davout leading the way, supported by Murat's cavalry and the Imperial Guard.  The Russian guards had just received their orders from Kutusov to go onto the counterattack.  The Combined Grenadiers were still just about in existence, and the Polish attack on Utitsa had been repulsed.

All in all we managed twelve turns, which is pretty good going for a game this size in one day.  The discussion afterwards was quite interesting, as the commanders revealed their pre-battle intentions.  As Napoleon, Mark had always intended the two extreme flanks to be holding actions, so Eugene and Poniatowski both did what was required.  Napoleon's main attack was supposed to be Davout and Ney in the centre, and he was pleasantly surprised by Davout's success.  He had timed his commitment of Murat and the Guard to follow through after Davout had cleared the fleches.  The one thing that didn't go according to the initial plan was the direct attack on the Grand Redoubt.  I think the division there was simply supposed to hold until Junot arrived, and then the two forces between them were to assault it at the same time as the main forces to their right came forward.  Still, it was a great attempt and the commander was acclaimed after the game for his elan.

Euan as Bagration saw the relative thinness of the area across from Ney and Davout, and immediately decided to ask Kutusov to release the Guards to move in this direction.  He knew this would take a while, and was determined to hold on as long as possible.  If we had time to play more, there would have been an enormous clash in this area as the Russian Guards were committed.  Elsewhere, Barclay held quite nicely, as did Tutchkov around Utitsa.  The surprise assault by the French on the Grand Redoubt saw it fall, but it was then quickly retaken by Paskevich's counterattack, with the French division destroyed.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it.  I learned from my recent large Heraclea ancients game and gave out command cards so that everyone would know what they were doing, so far as possible.  Each card showed what a division had, as well as its morale decision points and any modifiers.  I also modified the Shako victory conditions to make it easier to play such a large game.  Basically, I borrowed the legion rules for Republican Romans from Tactica II, in which the legion is the unit, not the indidual sub-units.  In other words, broken battalions or cavalry regiments didn't count towards army morale until the whole division was destroyed.  I also varied the values of the various divisions with a numerical score, so that, say, Karpov's Cosscaks were not so valuable as the Grand Redoubt.  I kept track of the scores, and it seemed to work well on the day.  By the time we finished, the French army had lost one-sixth of its value, and the Russians one-quarter: a French tactical victory, then.


  1. Phew! What a stonking game, Paul. Am in awe! What rules? Are they 15s or 28s?


  2. Thanks, guys, that was quick! Rules were Shako II and the figs were 15mm. We had a good time, so by the end of it nobody cared that much about not completing the game, which is probably a good sign.


  3. Wow cracking game.......well done. Nice get together by the looks of it as well.

  4. Thanks Paul, great pics and write up....Tactica II? I didn't know it was out?

  5. Sorry, should have given a bit more detail! Our ancients players have been playtesting Tactica II. One of the most interesting things about it is how it models the legions. Everyone else has to set up in specific, coherent units, but the legion operates as a group of units. Kind of like the concept of the commands in Armati, if that makes any sense. I used this for the Borodino game to make army morale a lot more manageable. I knew that with a game this size there would be no way I could keep track of the loss of individual units, so I kind of cheated. I really hope that Tactica is published properly soon...

    Thanks for looking!


  6. Great game and all having fun. Photos gave a good story line image. Seems the "Guards" are always late to the show..... Still haven't read any Borodino game report where the Russian Guards rolled forward and made "contact". Yours came the closest... Davout vs. Guard...round Two bell to sound.

    Again, nice tight write up and thank you for the game live action photos.

    Michael aka Wargamerabbit.

  7. Thats one stonking great (and great looking) table and collection of miniatures. Looks like this was a cracking game! And I thought Postie had a great set-up!

  8. A superb game - the biggest I've been involved in for years, and a tribute to Ferdy, Paul and everyone who supplied troops, tactical genius, etc.
    A small point of order - Mark did not arrive from N. Ireland by car, but probably wishes he had. His ferry was badly delayed and he had to leg it (with a massive amount of lead to carry by hand) from Troon harbour to the inconveniently-sited railway station ... I think he finally got to Renfrew about 10. Nevertheless as "Napoleon" his "all out attack" plan appeared to work very well.

  9. @ Michael, I know what you mean about the Russian Guard. I'm half tempted to set up a game based on that part of the action as it was about to happen, and then take it from there. Food for thought...

    @ Roy, thanks for the clarification, I hadn't quite caught up on the details of Mark's epic trip. I think we all owe him big time for that!


  10. Wow! Epic game! Great batrep, too.

    What's the terrain made from? Coloured sand?

  11. Hi Rosbif, thanks for looking in on us. The table is mostly sand, with large patches of grass matting and bits of flock here and there. I think the extension table that was used for the Utitsa area and the woods was mostly covered with mats, with sand here and there to make the overall effect a bit greener than the rest of the battlefield.

  12. What a monster game! Great read and it looks like it was great fun. Leaves me wanting to give Napoleonics a spin!

  13. Fantastic! The huge and great table is really impressive!