Author Topic: Miniature Wargaming: Battle of Borodino - After Action Review  (Read 1510 times)

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The Wargamer

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Miniature Wargaming: Battle of Borodino - After Action Review
« on: September 14, 2012, 03:16:35 PM »

Once again, the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and General Kutuzov face each other on the field: at Borodino. Can Napoleon break his Russian enemy decisively this time? Or can the Russians hold the French invader at bay and force his retreat before he reaches Moscow?
The Battlefield

 Battle of Borodino, the historical battleplan.
The historical battle of Borodino was fought over a front of 3 miles, which would be far too big to simulate in a wargame in a single day. So we therefore concentrated on the main position in the centre of the battlefield, from the villages of Borodino in the north, to Utitza in the south. Both the Raevsky (Great) redoubt and Bagration's flèches appear on the Russian front line, and both would need to be attacked and taken by the French for them to have any chance of winning. Some ground was allowed by the Russians north of Borodino if the French decided to try and make a flanking move around the enemy right flank. All of the action that followed was played on a table measuring some 16’ x 10’.

 Battlefield viewed from the south.

Setup, Rules and Figures
It was decided that instead of using the historical deployment of the troops, we would have a free setup. This deployment would have to be made by both teams on a paper map, before any of the troops were setup on the table. Hopefully this would ensure some different tactics being employed that differentiated from the real battle, and possibly allow a few surprises during the course of the game. The French players also had to show the umpire their initial battle plan, showing their planned objectives, at the beginning of the game before play commenced.

 The rules—General de Brigade.
We decided to use General de Brigade rules, as the grand scale of the battle would need a slightly more complicated command and control system. It would also be necessary for commanders of both sides to issue and change orders as the game progressed, in response to the opposing team’s strategy. And as this rule set does allow for orders to sometimes go awry or even totally misunderstood, possibly resulting in a blunder, this should (and hopefully would) add a little spice to the game! All of the miniatures that were used in the battle are either AB Miniatures or MiniFigs 15mm figures: all painted to a superb standard!

The French Plan
The French players decided not to try a flanking move around the north of Borodino village, as this would divide their force. Instead, they would attempt flank attacks on the Raevsky redoubt from the north and south, with the bulk of their cavalry forces supported by a couple of infantry corps. The attacks on the Bagration flèches and the village of Utitza would be made by several infantry corps supported by a relatively weak cavalry division. If a breakthrough was achieved anywhere along the line, the Imperial Guard would be unleashed to try and complete a decisive victory.

The Battle
The battle begins with a general advance along the whole length of the French line, with dense infantry columns being screened by skirmishers. This advance is supported by heavy artillery fire on the Russian positions in the Raevsky redoubt, and Bagration flèches by all available cannons—including the 12 pounder “Beautiful Daughters” of the Imperial Guard—, in the hope of weakening the Russian artillery before the attacking French forces get within close range canister fire and start taking heavy casualties.


First contact is made when French cavalry formations threaten to ride around the flank of the Raevsky redoubt to the north. The Russian infantry there form into squares to protect themselves from being charged. This denies the French cavalry a chance to attack the Russian artillery in the redoubt from the rear, as they cannot break through the line of solid Russian squares. Unfortunately, during the combat the French cavalry commander is killed! Not a very encouraging start for the French.

The Russians now move their reserve cavalry from the ridge behind the Bagration flèches into positions either side of the flèches, threatening the advancing French infantry columns in the centre. To the north, the Russians also continue to consolidate their position around the redoubt restricting the amount of space the French commander has to manoeuvre his force, which is mainly made up of cavalry as the supporting infantry formations are not yet in positions to help in the attack. All of the Russian artillery in the Raevsky redoubt and Bagration flèches also now concentrate their fire on any advancing French infantry columns that they can see to their front, trying to cause heavy casualties on these formations before they are close enough to make attacks on the Russian positions.
To the south, the French advance has now reached the village of Utitza, and a fire fight develops between the opposing troops before the French assault goes in. In the woods, just south of Utitza, movement is detected in the trees by French scouts. Are the Russians about to spring some sort of trap?

The Russian cavalry formations south of the Bagration flèches now begin to advance out of their front line in an attempt to attack the advancing French infantry, forcing them, where possible, to form squares. Most of the French infantry are able to change formation in time; but a Russian cavalry charge by light dragoons catches a French brigade in column, breaking it and causing it to rout from the field of battle. This also causes other French brigades nearby to halt their advance. Not all of the Russian cavalry attacks here are quite so successful though. Some Russian heavy dragoons are pushed back with loses when they fail to charge home on a French brigade in square.
The movement in the woods, south of Utitza, is now revealed to be a large force of Russian Cossacks that begin to edge around the exposed French right flank. The commander of the French troops here is forced to delay his attack on Utitza because several of his infantry brigades are ordered to form squares, to counter this threat by the marauding Cossacks.

After securing the right flank, the French continue the assault on the village of Utitza. During the delay, the Russian defenders had time to form a strong defensive line and are able to hold off these renewed French attacks with heavy musket fire. In the meantime, the Russian cavalry to the south of the Bagration flèches continue to holdup the French advance with formations of elite heavy cavalry cuirassiers—threatening to charge any target that becomes available to them. A French light cavalry division, originally supporting the attack on Utitza, is moved across to try and help relieve the French troops being held up, in an attempt to get the attack moving again. But they are, in turn, charged and broken themselves by the heavier Russian cavalry. This resulted in a brigade of French light cavalry dragoons being routed from the field, and a brigade of lancers from the same division being forced to retreat—effectively playing no further part in the battle.
Further to the north, French cavalry formations still continue to try and break through the line of Russian infantry squares at the Raevsky redoubt, but are also held off by concentrated musket fire. The Russian cavalry attacks to the front of the Bagration flèches now begin to peter out because they are without new orders to take advantage of their initial success: the cavalry troops here must return to their front lines. Perhaps now, with the Russian cavalry withdrawing, the French advances to the south of the Raevsky redoubt and in front of the Bagration flèches can get underway again.

French heavy cavalry carabineers take the opportunity to assault the Russian front line in the centre. This attack pushes back some enemy cavalry and rides over a Russian infantry brigade behind their position, destroying them. The attack by elite French troops threatens to punch a hole in the Russian position just north of the Bagration flèches. But again, without fresh orders, the troops are forced to return to their lines.
In an attempt to finally break through the stubborn Russian infantry line of squares, the French commander again renews his attacks north of the Raevsky redoubt with a combined arms assault. This attack is supported by an assault on the redoubt’s southern flank by several more French infantry brigades that have moved into position. However, this determined French effort is countered by the Russian commander, who orders a brigade of lancers to charge into the advancing French brigades trying to attack the southern side of the Raevsky redoub. This is an attempt to stall the latest French attack; which they successfully do.

Meanwhile, to the south at Utitza, the French are finally successful in taking the village. They are able to push the determined Russian defenders out at bayonet point. And, having reorganised his forces in the centre, the French commander here orders his troops forward again on the Bagration fleches; in an attempt to take the strategically important man-made defences.

As with all wargames, especially with games of this scale, the real enemy is time. And it is at this point that the game was unfortunately halted. Up to this moment, the Russians had had the best of the action. But with the French having taken the village of Utitza in the south, and their reorganised forces again being able to move forwards to attack the Russian positions around the Raevsky redoubt and Bagration flèches, perhaps they might have had more success later on in the game.

This was an excellent game to play. The Russian cavalry attacks certainly held up and disrupted the French advance on the Bagration flèches in the centre. And, just like the historical battle, it would probably have needed the French Imperial Guard to be committed somewhere along the line to try and achieve a decisive breakthrough. However, this would have also allowed the Russian guard troops to be released and deployed as well. So, here, the battle ultimately settled down to a stalemate, mirroring the epic battle of 1812.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this after action report and viewing the supporting pictures as much as I enjoyed playing the game. My thanks to Steve Lampon, Rob Nason and David McKenna for helping me play the game, and to Tony Gill for umpiring. A special thank you also, to Tony Gill for hosting us at his “Wargames’ Shed” and allowing us access to his excellent collection of wargaming figurines.

 Battlefield overview at the end of the day.

After action review written by: Martin Lampon, Staff Writer

Offline LongBlade

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Re: Miniature Wargaming: Battle of Borodino - After Action Review
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2012, 03:42:15 PM »
Great stuff. Thanks!