Wednesday 12 July 2023

Borodino part II

Part I discussed the setting up and mechanics of the game / scenario. This post covers the action. There is a link to part 1 in the Resource Section below.

The game opens with a pre-game bombardment. With half the French guns still limbered, this advantage very much falls to the Russians. Their guns from the Great Redoubt wreak havoc amongst three French batteries that have set up opposite them.

In the opening hour, the Russian guns continue to deal destruction - the French must do something urgently.

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The Fléches.

In the French centre, the commander of 2nd Division had been fortunate enough when setting up to be rated as inspirational and if that was ever needed - it was now!

He has at his immediate disposal two cavalry brigades, one heavy and one light. He knows it is perhaps early in the battle to deploy the cavalry, especially against the dangerous prospect of charging into a gun position ….. but, this is a calculated risk, set against the certainty of high casualties that will ensue from standing idle in front of the Russian guns.

[note - the system will allow The Fléches defences to be charged, but the charge bonus modifier will be negated. If the cavalry reach the guns for close combat, the crews will automatically abandon the guns, which will each be marked with two hits and the crews will make for the safety of the light infantry battalion to their rear. If the French leave the high ground, the crew will be able to return to their guns, so ultimately, the French will want infantry to move up and hold onto this gain. Being ‘inspirational’ has the chance of increasing unit movement distance - which happens here, to the Russian surprise!].

The order is given and the cavalry advance to get into charge positions and then charge to contact. They are lucky, the Russian guns seem to have lost some of their potency [when guns are charged, the system penalises the defending gun fire with the ‘significant move’ penalty to represent panic and urgency, so they fire at -1, though they do get +1 for canister at these ranges].

Heavy cavalry are on the right, in the background are Russian light infantry.

The lead regiment of each cavalry brigade strikes at The Fléches. The guns are overwhelmed and abandoned by their crew, who flee to the nearest unit, the light infantry to their rear. An ideal opportunity presents itself to press on and attack the light infantry battalion on the rear slope, while they are unprepared, but annoyingly for the French general, the cavalry do not pursue (failed die rolls) and an excellent opportunity in this sector is lost, but importantly, the Fléches are now in French hands.

By the time the cavalry decide to attack the infantry below them, it is too late, they have formed square and both cavalry regiments are repulsed, but The Fléches remain in French control as a light infantry battalion moves up to occupy the position.

Borodino village.

The French assault the village with two infantry battalions. The first is repulsed, taking particularly harsh casualties from a nearby Russian gun battery, but the second brigade, attacking in assault column does break into village and pushes the defenders out. 

Borodino village, two French battalions attack.

The French have managed to take two of the six objectives, but in front of the Great Redoubt, the French guns continued to suffer horrendously at the hands of the Russian gunners, having now lost two of their three batteries.

Borodino and the Fléches are now in French hands.


On the French right, their Polish allies directly assault the right side of the village with two infantry battalions, while a third battalion and light cavalry regiment make to a position that sits between Utitza and The Woods.

The two Polish battalions take very heavy casualties for no obvious advantage and are forced to fall back beyond small arms and artillery canister range, while they re-organise.

French light infantry start to attack into The Woods.

The French attack into The Woods

The Russians react.

At Utitza, the Russians are not strong enough to counter-attack and are content to simply hold the line. Over on the far right however, cavalry and infantry start to slowly assemble at the river’s edge, in readiness to retake Borodino. 

In the centre, two regiments of Russian heavy cavalry (one being Guard) are released from the reserve, to move towards the gap between The Fléches and Semenovskaya to contain the potential French break-through there.

The French are in the middle of re-deploying most of their artillery for the next phase of battle.

At Borodino, seeing that the Russians are preparing to attack across the river, the French infantry battalions move to protect the banks, both above and to the right of Borodino village. So transfixed are they by the Russians at the riverside that the French battalion on the right, fails to consider their left flank that is open to attack from the bridge - and of course, that attack does come! Russian light cavalry race across the bridge.

Russian cavalry charge across the bridge at Borodino

The infantry battalion attempt to reposition their exposed flank, but fail [die roll] and the cavalry crash into them, pushing them back down the road. Here the infantry re-establish their front and bring the cavalry to a halt [drawn close combat] and the cavalry having lost momentum against formed troops find themselves obliged to fall back. The brief possibility of retaking Borodino has been and gone and the counter-attack is called off. Borodino is firmly in French hands.

The French press on.

At Utitza, the third French battalion successfully takes the village, with their light cavalry moving up behind, ready to exploit the rear of the Russian position. The only available body able to plug the gap is the Moscow Militia, who immediately assault Utitza and though for a moment, the occupants have real concerns, they eventually throw the militia back and Utitza is safe.

Militia (top right) attempt to re-take Utitza. The Russian artillery is limbered and retreating.

To their left, in The Woods, two battalions of French light infantry have routed one enemy light infantry battalion and are presently pushing the other one back, The Woods will likely be held by the French soon enough.

In the centre, four French batteries have deployed to bring Semenovskaya under terrible bombardment, yet their line holds and as units fall away weakened by the artillery, others move forward to take their place, but the troops are thinning. Fearing the collapse of the position, the final Russian reserve, the infantry Guard, is released and ordered to defend Semenovskaya.

Sensing the time is right and not knowing that the Russian Guard is on the reverse side of the hill, the French Guard are released and ordered to take Semenovskaya.

View from Semenovskaya as the French Guard advance

Both armies believe that victory for them is close at hand!

An observer of the battlefield might be forgiven in thinking that a French victory is almost in the bag [and the victory point distribution would support that view], however, the situation is slightly precarious for the French, as the hard fight has left several of their units close to breaking and it is possible that a final Russian push might just take the French army over the edge.

A sense of desperation!

At the Fléches, French heavy cavalry are pouring over one side of ridge, while on the other side, the two Russian heavy cavalry regiments are hitting the light infantry and a regiment of light cavalry respectively.

At The Fléches, French heavy cavalry on the left, but on the right, two Russian heavy cavalry units attack French light infantry and light cavalry. 

The French light cavalry take heavy casualties and are forced to fall back a good distance to a position behind their own guns, but losing discipline and rushing straight into a pursuit, the lead Russian cavalry regiment suddenly finds itself positioned directly in front of those same French guns ….. four batteries!

Russian heavy cavalry while in pursuit, suddenly find themselves facing 4 French batteries!

Though the French do suffer the further loss as two more units collapse, the Russians themselves are only one point away from total defeat and when another Russian infantry battalion is lost, escaping from Utitza, the game comes to an end, with a French victory, as costly as it was!


The French end the game controlling Borodino and Utitza. They also have held onto The Fléches, despite repeated counter-attacks.

The Russians control The Great Redoubt and Semenovskaya. They also control The Woods - though in truth are likely about to lose them, making the French victory all the compelling.

Casualties are fairly close, though stand in the French favour and if the French were to retain The Fléches, the two abandoned Russian gun batteries still sitting there would, be counted as fully lost to the Russians, making the French victory even more complete.

The opening pre-game bombardment for the French artillery facing the Great Redoubt was a disaster for them, from which they never recovered, but that was just a dice (luck) thing and could equally have worked the other way.

I did find myself in the rulebook quite a bit, even though I am experienced with the rules, but I think that was in due part to playing Russians for the first time as many of their units have split ratings, such as being regular or inferior for training aspects, but superior for motivation side of things. It is a system that I think helps capture the stereotype of the napoleonic Russian quite well. The Russians are also ‘Old Regime’ and all my previous games have been with ‘New Regime’ forces, so there was some extra double checking there as to movement limitations.

The Warlord Game Epic figures worked well. Unit frontage of 120mm when in line seemed to work okay with my table space.

I recently watched a video on the ‘Sons of Napoleon’ rules (by Warwick Kinrade) and he was using a 6x4 table with 28’s for his system. It looked fairly packed, but also very eye-catching for that, so the decision of what scale I want to end up doing my napoleonics in is by no means settled (will it ever be!). 

I have tried to give an overview of the battle without going into too much detail and there was a lot of nuance going on that could have been commented upon. The activations ‘by division’ brought some interest, as the order of activation changes each turn depending upon dice rolls, with advantage both lost and gained by both sides as this interface plays out.

I have thought as to how the game would run with other rules such as Black Powder, but I wonder whether the mechanic of units not activating at all, perhaps for several turns in Black Powder, might be too impactive on this scenario. Keith’s sequence of play, brings a much gentler chaos to unit involvement.

I thought the six linear objective idea worked well and even on a 6’ table, each location felt insular enough that there was a definite sense of individual focus in several parts of the table during each turn i.e. I am winning over there, but losing over there, oh yeah and over here as well.

The author warns that this scenario is a long play and to set a good half day aside for it. I am just at the end of a heavy cold type thing that seems to have gifted me with some aches and pains in my joints. As I stand at the figures table (sit for boardgames), I did particularly feel the length of this scenario and that (and some recent play experience) has left me wondering whether aches / fatigue aside, I am now just starting to prefer fast and cheerful scenarios / systems / games, the ones that fit into a shorter session rather than a very long one.

Part of that is that I like to see a game played to a proper conclusion, so this idea of playing all day and then having to call an unfinished game and ‘reflect’ on which side may have had the better game to establish the win, for me is just like having a bath with yer wellies on! - pointless, but that’s just me.

I suspect as a hobby, we could do with turning more of our media attention to providing a wider range of scenarios, to suit all player types and needs, rather than creative energy being invested in the habit of having a constant flow of new rulesets coming to market.

I liked this scenario so much, that it leaves me with a bit of a personal challenge of how to get something similar done, but in a shorter time. Less units might make this feel a bit too generic, with not enough swing at each locality, but I might give that a go, just to see.

Overall though, as do all things that require some investment, it did give me a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Mrs. Wargamer wondered who I was was talking to, turns out I was muttering to myself, not always a good sign, but here I think it was a reflection of full gaming emersion.

If you have read both parts I and II of this article, then thanks for taking the time to do that. 

Resource Section.

Part one to this article can be found here LINK

My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’ is being re-configured to showcase various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current projects are up to. Link.