Monday 10 July 2023

Epic Borodino 1812 (sort of!) Part 1.

The Shadow of the Eagles (SofE) ruleset by Keith Flint, published by Partizan Press, has a rather interesting scenario based upon the Battle of Borodino 1812. 

Influenced by Keith’s friend, the late Stuart Asquith, the scenario is themed on the battle by taking the major terrain elements along the front and arraying them along the middle of a six foot table.

In his book ‘Guide to Solo Wargaming’, Stuart had condensed the battlefield to its six main points of Russian defence. The fact that the Russian defence was very linear in nature and that the attack consisted of a brutal frontal assault, makes this formula of boiling the battlefield down to its bare essentials, stretched along a table, quite straight forward.

Keith has created an order-of-battle (bath tubbed) that is generic enough that a player can take this base scenario and use whatever nationality of forces that they have in their collection. Further, it is suggested that the names attributed to each defendable location on this famous battlefield can be changed to move the situation to a theatre of the players own choosing.

I am going to be playing this with Keith’s rules and Warlord Games Epic figures on a 6’ x 3½’ table. If interested, please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.     

Down the middle of the table, starting from the Russian right, there are 6 major features, each sitting within a one square foot area of the table, so combined they fill the six foot length.

A rough idea how the terrain / objectives will look.

The First is Borodino village (on the right), with its associated bridge over the River Kolotcha, next is the Great Redoubt, sitting on high ground, together with a section of the river. Then we have Semenovskaya on a hill. The next three sections cover The Fléches, The Woods and finally Utitza village, including the Mound. There are of course other terrain features on the table.

This string of defensive positions each have a victory point value and the purpose of the game is to capture / hold these objectives and to inflict casualties, to gain the most VP’s and win.

Obviously, the Russian Army occupy the defences, but in the scenario, they are generically described as the Red Army, so you can put any nationality here i.e. the one that is in your collection.

The text describes what unit types should go in each location. So for example at Borodino, the Red Army must place 1 Light Infantry Battalion, 1 Foot Battery and 1 Light Cavalry Regiment.

Positions one to three will be occupied by ‘1st Division’, positions four to six by ‘Second Division’ and then there is a reserve ‘3rd Division’ that can be placed anywhere along the Red Army base line. 

This configuration loosely gives a corps style force (the term is descriptive for practical purposes, not a reflection on how the Russian army was formed) that could be managed by three players if wished. 

The real battle had several corps / wing sized organisations per side, but what we have here is all part of the ‘boiling things down’ nature of the scenario. For command, on the table, there will be command stands for individual brigades, also for each division and of course the army commander. In total, Red Army will get 25 units (including artillery batteries, but not commanders).

The attackers, historically were the French, but here they are simply referred to as the Blue Army and likewise can be formed of whatever other army is in your collection. They have a total of 29 units and set up near to Blue’s baseline.

Blue Army is divided into three divisions, with the proviso that each division has at least two brigades.

The scenario is allowing us to run an army sized battle on a 6x4 space, with the compromises that brings, it looks to be a splendid way of the wargamer dealing with this battle in a domestic setting, with a modest collection.

To provide enough forces for this game, I will turn to my Warlord Games Epic figures and select the French (Blue Army) as attacking and the Prussians (Red Army) as the defenders of those six terrain objectives. However, since most of this is unpainted, especially the Prussians who are done in black plastic, I will simply proxy them as Russians, so that we get a better sense of this actually being Borodino.

To get the number of units needed onto the table, I will need to drop down to just two infantry / cavalry bases forming a battalion sized unit (frontage 120mm) and a single gun model as a battery.

As we are using Prussian figures instead of Russians, we could have transported this battlefield to somewhere else where the French fought the Prussians, perhaps Ligny in 1815 and renamed the various defensive locations to give a flavour of the Ligny battle, though Ligny in fact had greater depth with some villages laying beyond other villages, so we would need some map abstraction to make that accord to the principles of this scenario.

One point that should be made is that Keith’s rules classify each army to reflect its manoeuvrability on the battlefield. The French for 1812 are described as New Regime (better), the Russians are still classed as Old Regime, though they can use both line and column, except the Opolchenie (Militia) who use only column.

Keith’s army lists describe units by their capability, so for example, the French line are mostly regular, but 25% should be considered inferior to represent the ‘provisional’ battalions of lower quality depot troops.

I have played a boardgame on the subject (by White Dog Games) several times and have enjoyed the variables of cossack, militia, guard etc feeding into the nuances of play, so I set up the boardgame and noted where there was any concentration of those unit types and brought them into the tabletop game.

Boardgame by White Dog Games

Keith’s scenario allows both sides to have a pre-game bombardment, which sounds like an important element that should benefit the battle narrative - so I will open the battle with the guns!

Russian force defending the 6 objectives are in black, the French, in blue, are placed on their own baseline.

Above - This is what the table looks like after set-up. I have slightly adjusted Keith’s instructions by classifying some light cavalry as cossacks and an Infantry battalion as Guard and another as militia, placing cossacks and light cavalry on the right, the Guard behind the Great Redoubt (on the hill), together with the heavy cavalry and the Moscow Militia are behind Utitza on the left.

The right half of the battlefield, nearest is Semenovskaya, then the two battery defences of the Great Redoubt, backed up by infantry and then in the distance we see the river, bridge and Borodino itself.

For the French, I re-named one brigade as Polish, and changed the classification of one heavy cavalry unit, one infantry unit and one artillery unit to Guard. 

The Fléches, with two large batteries of 12 pounders

The French right assault group are Polish. The Guard units are  roughly opposite Semenovskaya and the heavy cavalry placed near to their high ground in the centre. 

Utitza on the Russian left (with the small mound in the background) and part of The Woods, as seen from the French lines

The Russian guns open fire, their large batteries of 12 pounders reaching out to the advancing French, immediately ……..

I will likely play this over the next couple of days, with a few turns here and there, depending how comfortable / uncomfortable the room is (it is under glass).

The next post will give an overview of the action, plus some observations etc.

Edit - part II is up, see link below.

The Russian right, the ‘Legion’ of defenders in Borodino look on with dread as the French advance towards them.

Resource Section.

Part II is now up 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.