June 1807, East Prussia
After the victory at Austerlitz, Napoleon had directed his attention on Russia. The Battle of Eylau in February 1807 had resulted in a stalemate under hard winter conditions. In summer, Napoleon once again assembled his armies and marched to force the Russians out of Prussia. Russian armies under Count Benningsen were ordered to stop the invading French.
Last week we finished a campaign with two other friends playing and me doing the referee job. We used the Clausewitz’s War Napoleonic campaign setting, which was very simple yet detailed and fun. It took about a month. My friends choose to play as French and Russians so we went for a simple campaign; one that evolved around the Battle of Friedland. The French and Russians are roughly at equal strength and it was not hard to get the orders of battle. My friends would use Black Powder ruleset with 10mm miniatures for tabletop games and I decided to give them around 1/3 of real numbers. A unit would be designated as a regiment. They were given separate unit lists and commanders, from which they would form brigades and divisions, also attaching the generals.
I used a simple, lightly photoshopped map from Google Maps, showing around Königsberg, Eylau and Friedland. (Now called Kaliningrad, Bagrationovsk and Pravdinsk.) The French would be deployed to the west while the Russians would start from north-east. Each player was given a set of victory points and location objectives. French were of course blessed with generals like Napoleon, Ney, Lannes and much more who generally had higher Staff Ratings than Russians. The best generals of the Russian side were Count Benningsen and Prince Bagration.
French Positions after Turn 1
Both players got to see only their units and surroundings. We decided on a time limit of 10 turns, after that we would look and see how it went and have a few more turns if needed. Before each turn, players sent me their orders for the separate formations on map. I then checked to see in secret if there were some organizational problem, then I moved the units on map and sent them the last result. If their units came within fighting distance, I asked them their reactions; attack, defend or withdraw.
Russian Positions after Turn 1
To sum up the armies, the French put a 4 brigade, large force under Napoleon. Ney followed him close with 2 brigades. They were going towards Königsberg. In south, Lannes had 3 brigades and on center, Victor had only 1 brigade. This was a tricy deployment for the French because if Russians caught Lannes or Victor outnumbered, it would take much time for Napoleon and Ney to come for help.
Russians formed bigger brigades with more units in them. Prince Bagration commanded 3 brigades and he went south. Benningsen and Gortchakov had 2 brigades each, initially Benningsen was holding the center while Gortchakov seemed to aim for Königsberg. At first, I thought that Lannes and Victor would indeed be caught by Bagration and Benningsen while Gortchakov would try to delay Napoleon.
Towards the end of turn 3, Napoleon came close to Gortchakov. Both sides were tired and I expected Gortchakov to fall back and wait for support while Napoleon would not force his men in dark. But no, no one withdrew and we had a game! I implemented some special rules for fighting in darkness and in this game, the French, far outnumbering the Russians, gained a victory. Gortchakov had lost some units but not all was lost.
Photos from the first game
After the Battle, Russian Map
After the first battle, Napoleon waited for Ney to arrive (he was near Königsberg) and Russians under Benningsen fortified their positions while Gortchakov retreated. Now, Russians knew where Napoleon and the most powerful French army were. Prince Bagration tried to move north to assist the other Russian armies fighting but he faced some difficult terrain and slowed down. Napoleon was quick to hit Benningsen, he now had Ney in reserve and attacked the entrenched Russians.
Before Second Game, French Map
French had the numerical advantage again but now their job woud be harder for they would attack fortified infantry. But once again, the great Staff Rating 10 of Napoleon, combined with Pas de Charge of French infantry proved their worth. They hit the Russians and after some charges, forced them back. Benningsen was also retreating and Bagration was at last coming close.
Photos from second game
End of Turn 6, Russian Map
On turn 6, it was the critical moment. Lannes was holding Eylau while Napoleon and Ney were following the retreating Russians. I think, the only chance left for Russians was now a combined attack with three armies, all concentrating on Napoleon. Yes, it would not be an easy battle but with a little luck, Russians could maybe teach a lesson to this French artilleryman who called himself Emperor!
Last Game, we called it Second Battle of Eylau, Russian Map
But no, the Russians did not go for that. Benningsen and Gortchakov decided to retreat more to the east and became separated from Bagration, sealing his fate. Napoleon decided not to follow them. Lannes had been ordered to hold ground the previous turn so in case a combined Russian attack hit Napoleon and Ney, he would not be able to help. But now, it was Bagration who was surrounded. Victor, with his very little force, stood in way to slow him down. But during the game, the reinforcements of Lannes and Napoleon had arrived later, giving the French a decisive victory.
Photos from third game, the fictional Second Battle of Eylau
End of the Campaign
The French armies met Russians nearly on the same place they fought on winter. Napoleon had forced smaller forces of Gortchakov and Benningsen to retreat and then he turned south. Here, Lannes and Victor delayed and fought the largest Russian army under Prince Bagration but with Napoleon encircling him, the Russians had no chance. East Prussia was now under French control. Tzar Alexander had to make peace with Napoleon and for some time, the Emperor turned his attention away from Russia.
I had immense fun doing the referee job. I hope all who read have also enjoyed it. Clausewitz’s War is a very good ruleset for such campaigns and I hope to do that again in future. Thanks for reading, take care!