Tuesday 2 April 2024

Leipzig Refight 28mm, 1/100th Scale - Recap and Reflections

The troops are packed away, the tables and scenery stowed. The refight of Leipzig is over! Thanks to all the players involved. You can watch a video playlist of the battle here

Here's a post summarising the refight and some afterthoughts, including about Leipzig scenarios, books, and rules.  


Introduction

Leipzig is a battle I had vaguely planned and been painting towards for about a decade(!), though the impulse to actually do it now occured only about a month ago, which on top of some significant work tasks, was no mean feat to organise and make happen in time! The key thing was my wife would be away for a week which would be a good excuse to take the house over with Napoleonics. This coincided with me picking up some new scenery in an estate sale, and realising that with painting by myself and other local gamers over recent years, we actually had enough to run the battle.

Leipzig is such a massive battle that it is often best refought as multiple battles, and scenario books often approach it that way. Alternatively, and as was done here, you can play it at a Brigade level (e.g. where each tactical unit is a brigade of approximately 2400 men, so 1/100th figure to men representation with figures we use). I briefly considered using a specific brigade set of rules for the refight, (and it would be interesting to try this at some point), e.g. Blucher, Volley and Bayonet, or DBN.  However, I've played these rulesets very little or not at all, most players would not have played them at all, and there was no time to play test games beforehand, so this would have been a recipe for disaster! Thus I was left with modifying the most recent rules we have used, which are battalion regiment scale (i.e. tactical unit is battalion or regiment i.e. 600-1200 men, and 1/25 or 1/50 figure to men representational scale).  I made as few changes as I thought I could get away with here, - essentially just halving the ground scale, removing separate skirmisher representation (too detailed for this level of game), and making units a bit clunkier to do multiple moves with. Formations were kept as is, to enable representation of all/many units in brigades being more prepared for situations like fire, melee or movement.

Additionally, a decision needed to be made about how to represent brigades that were composed of multiple units with different types of uniforms, as some at least were. Generally I went with a single choice for that unit because it is aesthetically pleasing and adds to ease of distinguishing units on the table and hence playability. This was most particularly the case for the French Imperial Guard cavalry squadrons which were intermingled historically, though with different weightings per Brigade. Also some of the cossacks were left out due to an order from Perry arriving late, along with a French Light Cavalry unit to balance this somewhat - though of course most cossacks would also be raiding/scouting rather than taking part in a regular battle like this in any case.

The Leipzig map

Here's the map, that as I said in a previous post was abstracted as wargame tables need to be, while hopefully ensuring that critical features of the battle at this scale were represented. I ruled that the Elster (the left river) could not be fired across anywhere due to dense undergrowth on the banks and the actual geographic distance. However, the Pleisse (right river) could be fired over, with any troops on the road on the west bank being in musketry and cannister range of the east bank.  Each square was 60cm square, and each square approximately 2km in terms of ground scale, so 1km = 30cm.


The Forces

Here's the force list, with each unit representing approximately 2400 infantry, 1200 cavalry, and 30-36 guns.  Some of the larger Corp were split into a couple of divisions. 

Total figures were 3256 foot figures, and 812 mounted figures, for a grand total of 4068 figures.

FRENCH EMPIRE AT LEIPZIG 16TH OCTOBER 1813 - 95 units: 51 Inf, 25 Cav, 19 Art

NORTH

Ney

Reroll death 

VI Corp Marmont (B2): 4 Vet Ln (Marines), 2 Ln, 2 Foot Art 

III Cav Corp Arrighi (A2): 1 Huss, 1 Drag, 1 Horse Art
27th Division Drombrowski (A2 Wiederritchzwsc): 1 Vet Pol Ln, 1 Vet Pol Lancer 

IV Corp Bertrand (D2): 1 Vet Light, 3 Ln, (1 Ital, 1 Wurt), 1 Foot Art
Leipzig Garrison Magaron (C3/D3): 1 Raw Ln, 2 Baden Ln, 1 Baden Drag, 1 Foot Art

WEST

Napoleon

3 rerolls
+1 Rally
Emperor


Old Guard Friant (D5): 2 El Light
Old Guard Curial (D5): 2 Vet Ln

I Young Guard Corp Oudinot (E5): 4 Vet Ln, 1 Vet Heavy Art

II Young Guard Corp Mortier (E5): 2 Vet Ln, 2 Ln, 1 Vet Heavy Art
Guard Cavalry Corp Nansouty (D4 Res): 1 El Drag, 1 Vet Drag, 2 Vet Lancer, 1 El Light Cav, 1 Reg Light Cav, 2 Vet Horse Art (3 Generals to allocate)

Guard Artillery Reserve (D5 or E5):  2 Vet Heavy Art

SOUTH

Murat

Reroll death

XIII Corp Poniatowski (E3 Markleeberg): 3 Vet Pol Ln, 1 Foot Art 

IX Corp Augereau (E3 Doelitz) 2 Light, 2 Rec Ln, 1 Foot Art

IV Cav Corp Sokolnicki (E3): 2 Vet Polish Lancer

II Corp - Victor (E4 Wachau): 2 Ln, 2 Rec Ln, 2 Light, 1 Foot Art

I Cav Corp Heavy Div - Latour-Maubourg (E4): 3 Vet Cuir, 1 Drag
I Cav Corp Light Div - Berkheim (E4): 1 Huss, 1 Chass, 1 Horse Art

EAST
MacDonald


V Corp Lauriston (E5 Lieberwolkvitz): 4 Ln, 1 Foot Art
XI Corp 31/35 Div Ledru/Gerard (D6): 3 Ln, 1 Light, 1 Foot Art, (Ital/West).

XI Corp 36/39 Div Charpentier/Marchand (D6): 3 Line, 1 Light, 1 Foot Art

II Cav Corp Heavy Div - St Germain (E7 Res): 2 Vet Cuir

II Cav Corp Light Div - Sebastiani (E7 Res): 1 Huss, 1 Chas, 1 Lancer, 1 Horse Art

V Cav Corp - Pajol (E5): 2 Drag


ALLIED ARMIES AT LEIPZIG 16TH OCTOBER 1813 - 125 units: 70 Inf, 30 Cav, 25 Art

NORTH

Blucher


Reroll death

I Corp Adv Guard/1st Brig Katzlar (B1): 1 Vet Ln, 1 Ln, 2 Ldw (Reg) 1 Foot Art
I Corp 2nd/7th/8th Brig Meklenberg (B1): 1 Vet Ln, 1 Ln, 2 Ldw (Rec), 1 Foot Art

I Corp Cavalry Jurgass (B1): 1 Vet Huss, 1 Drag, 1 Lancer, 1 Rec Lancer, 1 Horse Art 

I&IV Russian Cav Corp Korf (A1 Res 6): 2 Drag, 2 Hussar, 1 Horse Art
IX, X, XI Russian Corp Osten Sacken (A1 Res 4): 6 Rus Ln, 1 Foot Art

WEST

Schwarzenberg
Gyulai




I Einthelung Furst & Bubna (D1): 2 Ln, 1 Light, 2 Huss, 1 Horse Art

III Army Abteilung Crenville (D1/E1): 3 Ln, 1 Light, 1 Light Cav, 1 Foot Art
III Army Abteilung Murray (D1/E1): 3 Ln, 1 Ldw (Rec), 1 Foot Art

II Army Abteilung Merveldt (E2): 4 Ln, 1 Ldw (Rec), 1 Light, 1 Hussar, 2 Foot Art
Res Army Abteilung Hessen-Homburg (F2 or F3 Res 6): 2 Vet Ln,  4 Ln, 1 Foot Art
Cuirassier Corp Nostitz (F2 or F3 Res 6): 3 Vet Cuirassier, 1 Horse Art

Reserve Artillery (F2 Res 4, or F3 Res 8): 2 Heavy Art

SOUTH

Constantine






II Prussian Korps Kleist (F3): 1 Pr Ln, 1 Pr Ldw, 1 Rus Ln, 1 Vet Cuir, 1 Foot Art
II Russian Corp von Wurttemburg (F4): 2 Rus Ln,  1 Pr Ln, 1 Pr Ldw, 1 Foot Art

III Grenadier Corp Raevsky (F4 Res 2): 4 Vet Ln (Grenadiers), 1 Vet Foot Art
V Corp Guard Yermelov (F4 Res 3): 1 El Russ Ln, 4 Vet Ln (2 Pr), 1 Vet Foot Art
Gd Cav Corp Heav Div, Gallitzen (F4 Re 4): 3 Vet Cuir, 1 Vet Pr Drag

Gd Cav Corp Light Div, Schewisch (F4 Re 4):1 Vet Lancer, 1 Vet Huss, 1 Vet Horse Art

Artillery Reserve (F4 Res 6): 2 Heavy Art

EAST

Klenau



4th Army Abteillung 1st/2nd Div Mohr/Hoh (F6): 3 Ln, 1 Light, 1 Huss, 1 Foot Art
4th Army Abteillung 3rd Div Mayer (F6): 3 Ln, 1 Ldw (Rec), 1 Chev, 1 Foot Art
I Russian Corp Gorkachov (F5): 1 Ru Ln, 1 Ru Light, 1 Pr Ln, 1 Pr Ldw (Rec), 1 Foot Art
Russian Corp Cav Palen(F5): 1 Huss, 1 Uhlan

Prussian 11th Brig Ziethan (F6 Res): 1 Pr Ln, 1 Pr Ldw (Rec), 2 Vet Pr Drag, 1 Foot Art
Platov (D7, E7 Res 6): 2 Raw Lancer (Cossacks)


Both sides had 4 Army Commanders and 25 Generals. The French and Prussian generals were command rating 5, and Austrian and Russian Generals command rating 4 (this being the number needed or less on a six sided die to activate, with up to two rerolls being allocated by each Wing Commander, and commands holding/stalling for a turn if failed). Furthermore the Allies had to contend with the "Meddling Monarchs" card I introduced for this game as a scenario special rule to help balance the game and represent the challenges of the allied command structure - i.e. being a coalition army, and having the three allied Monarchs (Alexander, Francis, and Frederick), at Schwarzenberg's headquarters. This did not affect Blucher who was on the wrong side of two rivers and too far away (and likely to do his own thing anyway!), but did at times it did compromise the allies in the West, South and East according to reports from the allied players!



The Battle

As mentioned at the start, you can watch a video playlist of the battle here, but here are some additional photos and commentary by way of briefer summary.

The battle begins with the Allies advancing on the southern front.

French responding, and the attack on Lindenau occurring on the left.

Polish Cavalry charging in the south.

Allies comitting their grenadiers and guard early and advance on Wachau and Libertwolkwitz.

The Prussians arrive on the northern flank, advancing towards Mockern top centre.


Poniatowski defending at Markleeberg.

Looking towards Libertwolkwitz top centre. Gossa to the right.

Russian and Prussian Guards capturing the Galgenberg and Libertwolkwitz.



Some views of the table end of turn 10, about 4pm.





The battle continues, here's the situation at Lindenau, barricades on the right captured by the Austrians.

In the north a French Marine Artillery regiment breaks Prussian Landwehr units. Prussian Hussars behind the French lines manage to break a Marine square and with support of other allied cavalry drive off Arrighi's cavalry.

French massing to retake the Galgenberg and central villages on the southern front.

Poniatowski's Poles still desperately holding on at Markleeberg.

Galgenberg recaptured by French, looking from allied lines.

And pushing the assault.

Old Guard Grenaders recapture Wachau.

French Guard take the centre.

On the West flank, both sides have been more cautious, though MacDonald does retake the Kolmburg. Here are Sebastiani's light cavalry watching Serfertshain to prevent any Allied advance. 


Lindenau falls, though Baden and Wurrttemberg troops still holding the causeway to Leipzig, with II Young Guard Corp in reserve in Leipzig itself.

Markleeberg finally falls to the allies, and Poniatowski himself is felled. Command problems had held up the attack here several times. The generals facing to the rear indicates the command is holding, here both Hessen-Homburg and Kleist are thus affected.

And Libertwolkwitz is retaken by the Prussian Guard in the dying light, as the Austrian Reserve Cuirassiers make some final advances in the centre.

Conclusion

An epic battle that concluded with much the same end result as was historically the case, with the allies additionally capturing Liebertwolkwitz and Lindenau, and inflicting more casualties than they did historically.  In terms of armies reaching their 1/3 army break points in the rules as written, the French had lost 34 of their break point of 32, and the Allies had lost 38 of their break point of 42. Though as I say in the video playthrough, I was not playing with any definitive victory conditions in mind, but rather a consideration of the overall strategic situation.

Furthermore, and much more important than any of that, a big game like this is a spectacle and social occasion, and it was good to get everyone together :) I also provided some Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and Leipzig 1813 era beer I'd been able to track down in order to give the affair some appropriate Saxon flavour. :)


Scenario Considerations

Contemplating the battle afterwards - how does one balance a scenario like this, where the overall situation is unfavourable to the French historically from a strategic point of view, if not as terrible tactically at least on the 16th October? Just saying each side is trying to do better than their historical counterpart is one easy choice. The breakpoints above could also be used as a basis, and the result there was also reasonably close suggesting it could make a good game played that way. Of course treating the situation as part of a large campaign so that movement and arrival of Corps is more uncertain would also add depth and interest, such as the recent Little Wars TV 1813 Campaign.

It is also interesting to see the varying wargaming interpretations of forces and maps for this battle. I had purchased the below two books below over the past year or so. While interesting they did lack what I thought would be some important details, like ground scale on maps, and more details on exactly how the bathtubbing of units was decided upon. As an off the shelf product for producing some scenarios I would still recommend them though, and also if you don't know much about the battle in the first place.  I bought them as much to support authors writing about Leizpig as any other reason, and I've just purchased the new Lutzen and Bautzen book from the first author also. I had the Osprey Leipzig book, which is another good overview but lacking in some details I was after.




In the end, I relied mainly on Nafziger's Leipzig including the online Nafziger Collection for the force lists (which includes actual troop numbers). When deciding on the force lists, a key concern I had was getting overall numbers of troops on the table roughly proportional, i.e. so that it was 1/100th scale. In some instances there are "amalagamated" Brigades, particularly of light cavalary. I.e. there are many small units of cavalry too small to represent at Brigade level (100-300 men), but these would be added to another Brigade's light cavalry so that one in the geographic vicinity would have a light cavalry unit representing approximately 1200 men. I could instead have included "small" units in the game, but for a large game just keeping every unit at a similar size helps keep things simple and practical.

Fortunately I found it very easy to keep track of which formation units were from (marking it off on a force list as they were lost). I had sorted them so that as well as differences such as nationality, there would be other clear distinctions such as having one Corp wearing great coats (for example) to distinguish it from another one nearby if this was an issue. Thus there was no need for labels as I feared might have been necessary otherwise. 


The map was decided upon after consulting every other wargaming map I could get my hands on (including board game versions!), in conjunction with those in Nafziger, and then making some hard choices about what features to include and emphasise. This also included revisiting the large Leipzig refight we did in New Zealand in 2013, where more detail could be included in areas of the battlefield represented, though more off table reserves had to be used given the scale also.

Rules considerations

I believe the rules worked surprisingly well given the last minute adjustments for the Brigade scale. I think from a game perspective they would have worked better had I given each wing it's own breakpoint, rather than an overall number for the entire force. Similar to my favourite ancient rules (ADLG and DBMM), I've for some time now used a simple percentage of the total force for breakpoint, and abandoned break tests for units routing and the fireworks display of routing that older wargames rules tended to have (see Sam Mustafa's comments in Lasalle 2 where he makes similar remarks). I'm content that units in the fog of war (and literal fog of war in the blackpowder era), were more typically oblivious to what was happening outside of their own narrowly focused circumstances.

The 321 Fastplay rules we used for this in comparison to other rulesets out there, are probably most similar to the recent Valour and Fortitude rules from the Perry's (so much so that people have asked if the V&F rules were copied from mine given publication dates - though this is not the case!) Both emphasise simplicity being just four pages long, in an effort to faciliate big games. The following three features of the 321 rules I see as being some key differences that may add value for a game like this.
  1. Clear division of actions between turns. This is very helpful for big games.  You have nothing to do during the opponents turn, and so are free to go get a drink, socialise, view other parts of the battlefield etc and generally have a rest and chat while the opponent has their turn. This means the activity of players can be more relaxed without slowing the game down at all. I.e. players wandering away form their section of the battlefield, or being attacked and having to respond to multiple players in a turn, does not slow things down. Of course players will at times be anxiously watching the fate of their troops during the opponenents turn while planning their next moves, or helping the opponent out by telling them details of the troops on the table (particularly at the start of the game), and that is also fine. A potential downside of this is that there is also less interaction during your opponents turn - nothing you need to do, so if that is important to you, you will prefer other rules. But personally I don't mind this and see it as an advantage.
  2. One unit stat (morale), and as few dice rolls and mechanics to get a result as possible. I.e. every shooting action or melee is resolved by a roll of 1-4 six sided dice, and only by the active player, with some easy to remember outcomes. Unavoidably given limitations of D6's. I have had to include rerolls for higher morale status and/or cover when shooting, for flank attacks in melee, and for attached generals in both shooting and melee, but I've not seen a faster mechanism in any other napoleonic ruleset (though some may be just as fast).  This all facilitates moving through turns quickly.  In terms of actual odds ratios for situations, I've gone with something close to General D 'Armee which gets the probabilities of Napoleonic interactions right I think, though the mechanisms are more involved and slower in that game. I also like the idea of forming emergency square being affected by morale and disorder as in GDA so that is included also.
  3. Everyone just blasts straight ahead of them into the fog of war with shooting, (same as in Lasalle). I.e. no choosing primary and secondary targets and working out supports and so on. I haven't seen any evidence of units (other than the occasional artillery battery), having their fire directed by commanders, and doing so would also slow things down, so I prefer the automaticity of just blasting what is in front of you.

Now I have a map and forces organised, I am tempted to try it under different sets of Brigade rules such as the one mentioned above. I.e. Blucher, Volley and Bayonet, DBN, plus I've just picked up a copy of Age of Eagles as another Brigade set of rules. Snappy Nappy is one I'm considering purchasing too.  There are interesting ideas in each I think. And of course playing parts of the battle in a battalion/regimental scale rather than Brigade scale will also happen.

Last thoughts

I'd normally avoid dwelling on the following point, that is obvious to all wargamers I know(!)  - and so please just skip if so! But it is perhaps not as obvious to a casual reader like family or friend, who might also read this given the curiosity our grand game arouses! And I'll admit it has also been somewhat on my mind as I have been preparing all the toy soldiers, while simultaneously dealing with the effects of current wars in my day job as a psychologist. I do not forget that Leipzig was the largest and most terrible battle of the Napoleonic Wars, where people from many nations were slain in great numbers.
So I'll end with the words of H.G. Wells from Chaper VI of the wargaming book "Little Wars" (1913), that arguably started our hobby, and cannot be bettered.

"And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster—and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence. This world is for ample living; we want security and freedom; all of us in every country, except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We want fine things made for mankind—splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more—and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable "patriots," and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers—tons, cellars-full—and let them lead their own lives there away from us.

My game is just as good as their game, and saner by reason of its size. Here is War, done down to rational proportions, and yet out of the way of mankind, even as our fathers turned human sacrifices into the eating of little images and symbolic mouthfuls. For my own part, I am prepared. I have nearly five hundred men, more than a score of guns, and I twirl my moustache and hurl defiance eastward from my home in Essex across the narrow seas. Not only eastward. I would conclude this little discourse with one other disconcerting and exasperating sentence for the admirers and practitioners of Big War. I have never yet met in little battle any military gentleman, any captain, major, colonel, general, or eminent commander, who did not presently get into difficulties and confusions among even the elementary rules of the Battle. You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be.

Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but—the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realisation conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do."

11 comments:

  1. A great effort, and I thoroughly agree with you running it sooner rather than later. There would be nothing worse than a few participants moving away and leaving everyone else wondering what could have been. I think your point about each individual wing's break points would be a good adjustment to consider, but things seemed to run smoothly anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many thanks Lawrence, and yes good points, esp the carpe diem one! :)

      Delete
  2. Fantastic affair sir!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mark -
    Far out and ...Wow! That whole thing looks magnificent! Now you've got me wondering if I can 'shoe-box' the thing on my little board. Probably not.

    Some of the post-action points you make I noted down with the view to responding - as general topics of discussion.

    1. Routing units. I have long argued that no units ever broke and ran just because they 'saw' another unit break and run. After all, what are NCOs for? A unit overrun by routers - yes, their chances of standing are problematical. That rear line troops are at such risk mitigates, I think, against having a rear line, or reserves. Further, it is a rather 'cheap' way of winning a battle.

    2.I do like the 'single' roll to determine combat outcomes. Simple and elegant. In my view one of the best features of your 321-Fastplay rule set.

    3. Player interaction. I am very fond of rules that place emphasis on player interaction. The best I ever saw (on just one playing) was the 'Operation Overlord' rule set under the Italieri label. You had to be on your toes the whole game. Having said that, though, I don't think it would be practical for a multi-player game.

    Finally, I agree with the sentiments expressed by H.G. Wells that you have repeated here. The widening of the war in the Donbass certainly given me pause. It has for over 40 years been my belief that war, as an instrument of policy, outlived its usefulness some time during the period 1789-1815. But I'm probably not the only war gamer who is a pacifist at heart.

    Cheers,
    Ion

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ion, if you made every unit a Corp or part Corp as I have done, that is a max of two dozen units each, though of quite variable size and not quite sure what rule mechanisms that cold be used for it. The Portable Wargamer goes up to Divisions as basic units I see. Maybe make strength points of the Corps Brigades?

      Delete
    2. I have 'done' Waterloo and Ligny on my hex-board, and they pretty much worked (in my view), but Leipzig was on a whole other scale. If I hexed up my 6'x4' table, I doubt I could fit the thing in.

      The variably sized units and formations could be accommodated by numbers and strength points, and probably a fair bit of fudging. But I think one has to bear in mind that for all the regular strength returns, army commanders would probably have only a ball-park idea of the strength of any given formation. Napoleon's phenomenal memory for this kind of thing was, I gather, somewhat subverted by unit and formation commanders falsifying their head counts.

      About 50 years ago I did participate in a Leipzig game, played in the Studass building at Auckland University. I was given the role of Genl Bertrand, defending Lindenau and Napoleon's LOC.

      However the thing was on a far less ambitious scale than your refight - probably fewer than 13-1400 figures on the table. I don't recall the size of the table - maybe two table-tennis tables side by side.
      The prep work would have been a much smaller fraction of the pains you have taken. As it happens I remember very little of that refight, except that I held Lindenau all day - barely!
      Cheers,
      Ion

      Delete
  4. Epic effort. I expect your spouse didn't mind missing the action. A battle of three days duration is hard to pull off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, and yes I think she was happy to be away hiking ;)

      Delete