Twilight of the Emperor: 1812
Played in December 2023, this game was a play-test of Nick's "Twilight of the Emperor" rules, still unpublished at the time of writing.
The game was an imaginary scenario from the 1812 campaign, played on a 10' x 4' table with 6mm figures and 3mm terrain all supplied by Bryan. There were over 4000 miniatures deployed on the table and the overall effect was truly impressive and realistic. Gordon was the Russian army commander, Bryan was playing the role of Napoleon and Neil W was in charge of two French corps. Nick acted as umpire and 'unofficial' advisor to Gordon. The battlefield had a river running the full length of the table, there was a large hilly and wooded area on the French right, more forested areas on the French left and various villages and hamlets scattered around. The Russians were defending and so deployed their forces on the table first, placing three corps on the field and keeping an infantry and cavalry corps in reserve. The French then came onto the table from their base edge, deploying four corps in total in the opening moves and retaining a cavalry corps in reserve.
All the players had played a game using the rules at least once and we were all familiar with the basic 'Twilight' concepts but there were many features and nuances which Nick has introduced, inevitably leading to many questions and clarifications, that made progress fairly slow, at least to start with. The sheer size of the forces involved also contributed to the leisurely pace. The game took place over two days and probably comprised over eleven hours of play. We probably bit off more than we could chew in terms of the size of the scenario - the only excuse I can offer is that we always have a big game at Christmas.
The order of battle is shown below:-
Napoleon's plan was to march an infantry corps through the lightly defended high ground to pin the Russian centre while screening his left wing with another infantry corps. Meanwhile, Davout's 1st Corps and Murat's cavalry were to skirt the forested hill and wheel round to deliver a hammer blow to the Russian left wing. However, due to the terrain and congestion of units on the French right, progress was painfully slow and it took some time to contact the enemy. It soon became clear, to the chagrin of the French generals, that there was insufficient room to deploy both Davout's and Murat's forces to conduct a combined arms assault. A prolonged cavalry combat then commenced, in which neither side was able to inflict serious losses, while the bulk of Davout's infantry pulled back and began a long march round the rear of the high ground to re-deploy in the French centre.
As these manoeuvres were taking place, French and Russian infantry units clashed in the centre, the French troops inflicting heavy casualties on their adversaries and routing many brigades. They were not having it all their own way, however, as St Cyr's Corps started to suffer losses from concentrated battery fire from the heavy Russian guns, which eventually induced them to retire off the table to get out of range. Napoleon then deployed his reserve cavalry corps in the centre but this too came under heavy fire, so much so that it suffered 50% losses and had to take a morale test. Of course, it failed and so the remaining units in the corps hastily made their way off the field. The Russians, however, did not have much time to savour their success as continued pressure from the French infantry in the centre forced Tuckov's Corps to test for its morale and they immediately fled the fight.
Shortly after this reverse, Barclay introduced his reserve Grenadier Corps as Davout's infantry were getting into position to try and force the issue in the centre. By now engagements were taking place all along the line, units on both sides routing as fatigue and losses took their toll but neither side could achieve a decisive advantage. Darkness fell over the battlefield with the outcome still in doubt.
Everybody thoroughly enjoyed playing the game and the reaction to the rules was extremely positive. The command and control mechanism worked very well, the balance between infantry, cavalry and artillery felt right and the game had a good ebb and flow. There were a few concepts that we struggled with, for example the bunching rule and the different combat modes available to the infantry units, but these were mainly due to ignorance of the rules rather than flaws in the design. Nick is going to look at a few suggestions that were made during the game such as depth of support but overall he should be congratulated for producing a playable, realistic and enjoyable set of rules.