Just for a change I’ve had a wargame this week! Not sure what I was most excited about, the fact that it was the first face-to-face game for me since March 2020, or that it was the first time I’ve played a Franco-Prussian War game since I started that project over 30 years ago (see here for some background on that)!
I started off by taking a photograph of a marker that reminded me of what move all of the subsequent photos would relate to. The plan was then to take pics as we went through the game and change the marker at the start of each turn and photograph it. Needless to say, this plan didn’t work! I was too interested in having the game that I forgot to take many photos, so I’ll have to tell this story with what I got.
It’s August 1870 and the Prussians are advancing into France. The French, gathering their smaller army together are attempting to stop the Prussians where they can. In the picture above, the Prussians have just entered the board from the left-hand side and are observing the battlefield from the road junction near the small inn. A Prussian hussar regiment has halted and informs the Prussian commander that the French appear to be defending the road along which the Prussians intend to advance. French infantry are visible in the farm closest to the Prussians and in the small wood behind the river next to the bridge. French cavalry have been seen in the distance (top right) along with artillery support, but they appear to be taking no action. The Prussian hussars have not had the chance to scout ahead and so don’t know if the river can be crossed at any point other than the bridge defended by the French. The initial Prussian position is shown below.
The French defenders are shown below, a Chasseur battalion in the farm and an infantry battalion in the wood next to the bridge. Unknown to the Prussians there is a Zouave battalion in the small farm just in view at the top right of the picture.
The Prussian commander decides that speed is of the essence and starts deploying his troops as they arrive off the line of march (shown below).
Prussian infantry advance towards the farm while artillery moves up to support them, the hussars remaining close to the inn covering the Prussian left flank.
However, as the Prussians move up to the farm (shown above), French rifle fire stops first one and then the second of the two attacking battalions, forcing the Prussian commander to commit a third battalion to the assault and bring up his remaining infantry (apologies for leaving my rule cards in the picture).
The volume of fire from the Prussian infantry and artillery starts taking a toll on the defending Chasseurs and they are driven out of the farm by a subsequent infantry assault (shown above – the remnants of the Chasseur battalion are just out of view at the bottom of the picture).
The French had by now moved up their cavalry and artillery, the former moving to threaten the Prussian left flank while the latter deployed in the village to fire down the road at the oncoming Prussians. On seeing the French cavalry ford the river the Prussian realised it could be crossed without using the bridge, so they moved to assault the French infantry defending the wood.
Once again French rifle fire caused the attacks to stall, but more Prussian infantry were now on hand to join the assault (see above). The French infantry were pushed back into the churchyard and, with the remaining Chasseurs, attempted to halt the Prussian onslaught.
In the meantime, the French cavalry had caused some anxious moments on the Prussian left flank (see above). The dragoons launched an impetuous charge at the single Prussian infantry battalion covering the flank and were shot to pieces! The Chasseurs d’Afrique charged into the Prussian hussars and were repulsed, but they fended off a subsequent Prussian cavalry charge and withdrew once they realised the village was about to fall into Prussian hands.
Under concentrated Prussian rifle and artillery fire, the last French resistance in the village crumbled, although the French gunners remained until the last moment before withdrawing. The Zouave battalion in the small farm to the north of the village also withdrew, deciding it was now too outnumbered to be of any use. The Prussians were across the river and ready to continue their advance into France!
The Prussians were commanded by my long-time opponent John and I controlled the French. I set the Prussians the task of being across the river by Move 10, mainly to keep them moving and prevent the Prussians from just sitting back with their artillery and shelling the French into submission. The Prussians managed to get into the village and clear out the French defenders by Move 12 so it was a close run game. Difficult to know how it might have gone, since this was the first time I’d used these rules (Neil Thomas’ excellent 19th Century European Warfare rules) with troops armed with breech-loading rifles, but the result seemed realistic in light of actual events. On more than one occasion in the war French cavalry were launched into charges against Prussian infantry and shot down in droves and that was reflected in this game.
As far as “firsts” go, there were others in this game apart from the two mentioned at the start of this post. It was the first time I’d used this game mat by Geek Villain, a very nice fleece countryside mat that I’m told Midge and Dash have their eyes on for use as a comfy dog bed! It was also the first time I’d used the models of the inn (more details can be found here), the houses in the village and the scratchbuilt churchyard (you can see that here). And some of the troops in the game had not seen action before – the Prussian hussars and one of their infantry battalions, and the French dragoons, Chasseurs and line infantry all saw their baptism of fire in this game (most of my Prussians have seen action against the Austrians in 1866 and a lot of my French army has been used against the Austrians in 1859 and in Indo-China in 1883, but never before against Prussians in 1870).
So, overall, an enjoyable game! Now I’m wondering how my French and Prussian armies will fare against Martian invaders, but those games will have to wait!