Fighting retreat at Kauhajoki

Finally the Swedish and Russian armies met on the field of battle last night. We created a highly fictional game based on the Fighting retreat scenario in the 1st ed Black Powder rule book. We were rusty on the rules, the board was clutterered with slightly too much terrain, and Napoleon and Ney had to fill in as commanders on the Swedish side (partly due to an unfortunate loss of figures through crashing on the floor…). But it was great fun to be back around the games table! The game also demonstrated that 10-12 units a side is more than enough for a standard sized table. Hopefully we will be able to re-fight this one soon with some tweaks here and there. As I have planned to paint at least 4-5 more units for each side in the coming months, a scenario for a larger battle is also likely – although I dont know how that can be done without a significantly larger table!

Rules-wise, we decided to use as few special rules as possible. We counted line infantry as just that with no additional special traits. Jägers counted as rifle armed, and as skirmishers and sharpshooters. The cossacks were counted as unreliable. We did follow some of the suggestions from the Rebellion supplement book. That meant that infantry did not use squares, attack columns or mixed formations and that brigades would break only when more than half of their units were broken. As can be seen jägers formed separate units in skirmish formation.

These changes (compared to a normal Napoleonic game) reflect the form of warfare which was typical of the war in Finland. What we need to work on for the future is how to deal with wooded areas, cover etc. There are some suggestions in the Dark and Bloody Ground supplement that perhaps are worth looking at, such as a type of open woodland category of terrain. Many battles in Finland were fought on terrain which was at least half-covered by woods, just like in North America in the 18th century.

The armies were composed as follows:

Swedish 1st brigade and cavalry

Swedish army

1st brigade

2 battalions of line infantry (Björneborg & Åbo)

2 small units of jägers (Karelian jägers)

1 6-pounder gun

2nd brigade

3 battalions of line infantry (Savolax & Västmanland/Hälsinge)

2 small units of jägers (Savolax jägers)

2 3-pounder guns

3rd brigade (vanguard posted at the Russian end of the board)

2 small units of jägers (Savolax jägers)

4th brigade (Cavalry brigade)

1 squadron light dragoons (Nyland dragoons)

1 squadron light dragoons (Karelian dragoons)

Russian 1st brigade and cavalry. The artillery, the commander of the Russian cavalry and the dragoons are all in 1812 style kit. Grodno hussars would have been more appropriate, but they are still a WIP!

Russian army

1st brigade

2 battalions line infantry (Petrovsk & Sevsk musketeers)

2 small units of jägers (26th jäger regt.)

1 6-pounder gun

2nd brigade

2 battalions line infantry (Velikie Luki & Mogilev musketeers)

2 small units of jägers (23rd jäger regt.)

1 6-pounder gun

3rd brigade (cavalry brigade)

1 squadron of dragoons (Kargopol dragoons)

1 squadron Don cossacks

Obviously, the Russians were severely outnumbered, but their objective was to move at least half of their units off the table at the Russian end of the board (past the two small units of Savolax jägers posted on the road).

A handful of jägers stand between the Russians and their escape!

The game opened with a surprisingly strong advance by the Swedish 1st brigade, while the 2d became bogged down in the wooded hills on the right flank. The Russian 1st brigade tried to hold off the advancing Swedes, while the 2d tried to dislodge the Savolax jägers who were guarding the road. However the jägers held out for 3 turns of fighting, partly due to the fact that the Russian cossacks proved unable to follow their orders to charge them. By that time the Russian 1st brigade were already wavering in the face of the Swedish assault. We decided to call the game a draw, as the Russians had not withdrawn any units from the table, but neither had the Swedes succeded in really breaking the defending Russian infantry.

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