Kapiti Fusiliers – ‘PRATZEN … DRATZEN! A Napoleonic game report’

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This resurrected posting was one of the most popular on the old Kapiti Fusiliers website.  It describes a huge Command Piquet game that took place back in April 2005.  The article was originally written by Fusilier Brian Smaller (who now has his own fascinating Woolshed Wargamer blog) and the  dramatic pictures were taken by Fusilier Paul Crouch.

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Above: Fusilier Greg Simmonds debuted several bases of Russian generals in this game. These are beautifully painted mini-dioramas, featuring various Front Rank and Foundry figures, many of them heavily converted.

Background
The opportunity to play a Napoleonic war game on a 12’ by 6′ table with over a thousand painted figures doesn’t come along every day, so when Fusilier Greg Simmonds suggested such a game we jumped at the chance. The players who made it to the battle were Fusiliers Greg Simmonds, Peter Haldezos, Shane Saunders and of course, myself. The game was played in Greg’s lounge room, on a table suitably stabilized with six trestles. Given the weight of metal I think Greg’s field engineering was commendable.

The Scenario
The table was a scaled down section of the field of Austerlitz with, from the French perspective, a village on the right flank, a plateau in the centre and large expanses of open fields on the left. As this battle was a small part of a larger affair, the armies were deployed very close – in some cases infantry regiments were already in long musket range of the enemy.

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Above:  Approximate positions an hour after hostilities commenced. Note that what appears to be an odd mixed cavalry/infantry formation in the right foreground is actually two cavalry units in the process of passing through the lines of an infantry battalion.

The Armies
The Allied army consisted of Greg’s Russians and Peter’s Austrians and Prussians. The French army consisted of everything I had painted, so was a bit of a grab bag of units that included two Italian, two Swiss and a Bavarian battalion. It was supported by a strong relief force of Fusilier-General Roly’s French, but the story of that command will be told later in this article.

Unfortunately, all our armies are uniformed for the later Napoleonic Wars, but we did not let that get in the way. Not only were they wearing these later uniforms, but we also rated them for the later Napoleonic Wars. We were therefore using 1813 armies to fight the Austerlitz situation.

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Above: Russian general staff direct their formidable infantry forces forward. Greg’s Russians are Foundry and Front Rank figures, many with head-swaps and changed poses.

The Rules
The rules were Command Piquet which have already been reviewed on this site. Both Shane and I had played Piquet once or twice before, but never this variant. Greg and Peter managed to keep us on the straight and narrow.

The Game
The battle started with an immediate Austrian attack on the small village that anchored the French right flank. This position of honour was held by a crack brigade of Swiss with a battalion of Bavarians and a small Bavarian battery in support. Their mission was to hold until reinforcements arrived. For the entire duration of the battle the Austrians tried to break into the village and to cut it off from the French centre but were repeatedly repulsed.

4_done_a1Above:  The Prussians and Austrians march forward, supported by artillery. These are Peter’s Calpe and Front Rank figures with GMB Design flags.

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Above: Austrian infantry attack the village.

6_done_f13Above:  Austrian artillery bombards the defenders of the village with close range artillery fire. More of Peter’s Front Rank figures.

In the centre, both sides battled for possession of the high plateau. Massed Russian infantry attacked the French centre but were beaten off by the 12-pounders of the Imperial Guard and repeated charges by the Grenadiers-a-Cheval and Gendarmerie d’Elite. Meanwhile, the French reserves climbed the plateau and took possession of the flat ground overlooking the enemy centre.

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Above:  Russian infantry advance to the attack. These are some of Greg’s Foundry figures, whilst the flags are by GMB Design.

8_done_f5Above:  Grenadiers-a-Cheval and Gendarmerie d’Elite throw back the Russian advance in the centre.

9_done_f1Above:   Italian infantry march forward to consolidate the gains in the centre. These are Brian’s figures, which consist of a mixture of makes, including Connoisseur, Front Rank and Hotspur.

10_done_f4Above:  French reserve divisions advance. Again, these figures show the wonderful mixture of manufacturers in Brian’s French army.

On the left, the French attacked with great élan but despite some initial success with their dragoons and lancers, were stalled when their cavalry brigades were repulsed by concentrated Russian artillery fire and Austrian cavalry charges.

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Above:   French Lancers charge to force back advancing Russian infantry.

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Above:  But Russian artillery and Austrian cavalry are ready to repulse the French cavalry.

On the extreme left flank only the heroic actions of the 1st Battalion of 15th Legere managed to salvage what was becoming a serious problem for the French. A brigade of Austrian Dragoons and Hussars had broken the French dragoons and sent them scuttling backwards, but the feisty 15th Leger drove off the Austrian cavalry brigade with several well aimed volleys.

13_done_r9Above:   Austrian cavalry ready themselves to charge the French dragoons, before being themselves being driven off by the fire of a French light infantry battalion. Front Rank figures.

Late in the day the battle was going well for the French, or so it seemed. Their line was unbroken and they had possession of the high ground. The village was still in their hands and the serious position on the left flank had been stabilised. However, the repeated attacks had degraded the fighting capability of almost all brigades and looking across the field of battle the French commanders could see fresh divisions of uncommitted Russian troops and a huge cavalry reserve that had not yet entered the fray.

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Above:  The Russian cavalry reserve awaits orders to advance.

The long hoped for French reserves had taken a wrong turn and in a prelude to the terrible events of 1815, had not marched to the sounds of the guns.

Conclusion
At the time we called a halt, I believe that nothing short of a miracle would have saved the French army. While most of the French army was intact, it had fought itself to a standstill. It is almost certain that one more push by the Allies would have seen the right flank collapse. If only the reserves had arrived……

We played about five or so hours at a fairly leisurely pace. I can only talk for myself of course, but I quite like the Command Piquet rules in that they give a fun game with a lot of surprises. What I don’t like about them is the all-or-nothing nature of combat. Shooting/Melee either does huge damage or virtually none. Still, you take what you can get, aye?

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Above:  Fusilers Shane Saunders and Brian Smaller (French), Greg Simmonds and Peter Haldezos (Allied) holding a mascot in between them. Not in this photo are Fusiliers Paul Crouch (who took these superb pictures), and Roly Hermans (who failed to bring his French reinforcements to the game, but who designed this web-page).

PS: For the eagle-eyes, here’s a challenge – in one of the above photos, can you find the Seven Years War figure that had to be pressed into service for our game?!

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5 Comments

Filed under Foundry, Front Rank, Kapiti Fusiliers, Napoleonics

5 responses to “Kapiti Fusiliers – ‘PRATZEN … DRATZEN! A Napoleonic game report’

  1. This was my favourite article on your old site, I would come back again and again, juts to see the game and the figures. The terrain mat (cloth?) would like to know what you guys used for this? The figures, my favourites are the Russians and it was this article and these photos that provided subliminal messages whispering to me “go on purchase a Napoleonic Russian force, you know you want to…” when I was heavily ancients biased at the time….and I did! IA Front Rank force but then as life does especially day job it got in the way and many a year about 3! my enthusiasm waned. Just the last week I got them out, blew the dust off the box and thought I needed some inspiration, but where? and lo behold Roly, out you pop with the old article. Fantastic stuff! And seeing electricity supply is off all day tomorrow I will have a go at painting them. So, many, manay sincere thanks for uploading a truly inspirational article and cracking figures and game to boot, too!

  2. Joe Fish

    Beautiful looking goame! I agree about the Piquet, the combats are rarely anything but decisive!

    • In thinking about my wargaming over the last decade and a half, I think some of the most enjoyable and exciting games have been those played with ‘Piquet’ – they were certainly memorable ones.

  3. briansmaller

    Reblogged this on The Woolshed Wargamer and commented:
    I wrote this article for the now defunct Kapiti Fusiliers web-site. Roly had recently republished it on his own “Dressing the Lines” blog earlier this year. I was browsing the net and came across it again and thought it worth re-blogging. This was a great wargame and one of the best I have ever played in – despite the fact that I lost.

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