Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Battle of Leipzig 1813-2013: New Zealand

I've just spent the weekend with a great bunch of Napoleonic gamers from around New Zealand, refighting the Battle of Leipzig. The key organiser was John  Hutton and huge thanks is due to him for his efforts in planning the myriad details and logistics of the events. I believe this is the largest reenactment wargame played in New Zealand to date, with over 10,000 figures in 28mm scale and around 40 players, on twenty 6'x4' tables. 

Here's a reminder of the map from my previous post. France and its allies were facing armies from Russia, Prussia and Austria. After much manoeuvering the armies meet in force in the territory around the city of Leipzig in October 1813.

Here's a photo of the hall from the South-east, at the end of the first day of gaming.  

The battle was divided into a number of key sectors, and here is my attempt at a brief summary of them.  Other participants please forgive any oversight or error on my part!

West Sector - Lindenau

Historically this town was vital to preserving the French lines of communication, and the French started out badly outnumbered. The photo below shows the initial view from the South, with the attacking Austrians approaching (yellow and white flags to top left and bottom of photo).

Napoleon immediately sent the Middle Guard marching to reinforce Lindenau, here's a photo showing some of them (to the lower left of the photo) about to pass through the outskirts of Leipzig on their way there.

They arrive in time and the French manage to hold off the allies. In this photo taken from the north you can see part of Lindenau has caught fire during the confrontation.

North Sector - Northern approaches to Leipzig

Once again the French were outnumbered here, with Prussians coming from the west and Russians from the north. Here's a view from the west with the Prussians starting their advance.

Here's a view later in the day as Prussians continue to throw in reserves and push the French back. The reinforcements sent by Napoleon, and appropriately highlighted in the patch of sunlight, is the French Old Guard! 

Here's a view from the French point of view near the end of the battle. The French take a battering but hold the approaches, and do particularly well in the north-east driving back some of the Russians.

Central Sector - Connewitz, Doelitz, Markkleeberg 

This was the centre of the French position. Here's Kerry T.'s Polish Troops defending Markkleeberg (my partner's native home town incidentally!).

The first Austrians arrive to attack the bridges...

...and manage to cross the river and capture Doelitz.

Napoleon commits two divisions of the Young Guard and they force the Austrians back across the river. The sector ends in a stalemate with  the difficult terrain hampering movement and neither side able to take the bridges. Another Austrian Corp is committed here though, which was part of the French plan to draw forces away from other sectors. 

South Sector - Wachau, Liebertwolkwitz, Kolmberg Heights

Paul G.'s impressive Austrian Corp marches onto the field, viewed from the east. They advance very rapidly and capture the Heights and stream beyond before the French can contest these.

Here's the view from the other direction, looking from the west.  Liebertwolkwitz is the steeple near the top centre of the photo.

More and more reserves were committed by both sides.

View from the east as a French and Russian Cuirassier division crash headlong into each other. Both are mauled and play no further part in the battle.

The French commit their last reserves, including provincial troops, but it is not enough to retake Lieberwolkwitz and the allies are victorious here.

East Sector - Hirschfeld, Klein Posna

A swinging cavalry battle occurs on the east wing of the battle, as my Cavalry Corp fights Prussian, Austrian and Russian cavalry. As this was my sector I'll do a separate and more detailed post of this interesting encounter soon! This is just a brief summary. (Update, here is the link to the more detailed report).

For a start the French make good progress brushing aside Cossacks, and pressing the allied flank. 

However the allies commit further cavalry reserves to this area and I suffer from a lack of infantry support. Some surviving Cossacks get behind the French lines and cause trouble.

The French reinforce with Dragoons, but the allies reinforce with Cuirassiers. The French Cavalry is forced to withdraw and the allies capture the sector. Désespoir!

Victory and Defeat

All divisions and towns were assigned points values before the game. Most divisions and towns were worth a couple of points. Some key landmarks were worth more points to the allies such  as  Lindenau (7), Leipzig (6), Wachau (6), and Liebertwolkwitch (6). The photo below shows the results being worked out. In the end  the difference in victory points was a difference of about 5% of total points available in favour of the allies, judged to be a draw in tactical terms. 

This would be a strategic loss to the French and their allies as happened historically then, as they really needed a significant victory on the 16th to survive. Two days later on October 18th they started fighting the long withdrawal to France. 

Eventually France and its allies were defeated and the allied monarchs forced the restoration of the Bourbon Kings. However the revolutionary ideas of meritocracy, reason and liberty continued to spread, eventually displacing the tyrannical old order of aristocracy and superstition... Vive la revolution!

For more about the Battle of Leipzg, see this post of useful links, and this post about my Cavalry Corp battling on the Eastern Flank.

Thanks to everyone involved in making this a very special occasion, especially John (the main organiser), Russell and his wife (who very generously provided me with a billet and transport),  and Steve (Napoleon). See everyone at the next one!  I'll add a more detailed account of the eastern cavalry battle soon.

Some Logistics...

Napoleon (Steve Sands - getting into the role wearing the trademark grey overcoat!) writing orders for delivery by his trusty Aide-de Camp, who kept running back and forth delivering them tirelessly to the French players all weekend.

A briefing with the French players at the start of the day. I'm the one behind Brian (he's wearing the hat).

Here's Napoleon's map midway through the battle, showing the simple but effective mechanism for off table movement of reserves around the interior lines of communication. As can be seen, almost all the French reserves are committed by this stage. The allies used a similar system. Command roles from the Blackpowder rules were used to order reserves around off table just as they were on table, creating a nice fog of war effect.

Even with scores of troops on the table, there were still many in reserve for much of the battle, marching to where they were needed, or waiting until the right time to be committed. Here's the reserve tables.


Some Russian reserves, with appropriate beverage.

More allied reserves...

Some of the French Reserves

Lastly, with most eateries being closed on the second day a truckload of pizzas were ordered. "An army marches on its stomach" to quote Napoleon. Amazingly a bunch of wargamers didn't manage to eat them all!


  1. What a great summary of the battle.

  2. Great stuff I'm very jealous

  3. 'Twas good fun even for those of us who had never heard of Black Powder 3 weeks earlier!! :) FYI I started as going to be in command of some of those mauled Russians on the northern flank, but since they weren't going to arrive until at least Saturday afternoon was diverted to "throw some dice" for Yorck's I Corps of Prussians, and ended up running 3 of his 4 divisions all weekend, capturing Mockern and destroying a beautifully painted Old Guard Brigade :)

  4. Wonderful, wonderful stuff Mark. What a fantastic report. Please thank Steve Sands on behalf of us all!

  5. Spectacular looking game! Congrats to all involved!

  6. Cheers guys, was a lot of fun!

  7. Great stuff! The mechainsm for handling the off table reserves looks similar to the ones we used for our own Wagram and Borodino refights. This is not surprising as Field of battle also has the possibility that a given command will move not at all, 1, two or three Move segments, depending upon the opposed die roll results.