Sunday, May 13, 2012


This weeks big game was held on Saturday.  It was a 28mm refight of the 2nd Battle of Polotsk 18 October, 1812 played using Black Powder Rules.

swiss brigade defends the convent
Organising the game The game was fought at Hugh Wilson’s house on a 14ft by 5ft table that Hugh had set-up for the game. I provided the scenario and the figures.   To get the game to fit into the space available we used the battlefield from our 1st Battle of Polotsk but with 2 redoubts added to the French deployment area.  My thanks to Susanne for providing the French style lunch.
Their were 6 players and I umpired. Hugh Wilson, Dave Paterson and Olivier Lepreux were the Russian players. Ian Carter, Colin Jack and Jimmy Conquer were the French players.  I have added a special 2nd Polotsk page which gives more complete information on the game set-up, terrain map, rules used, the player briefings and order of battle.

Link to Flickr photoset of the game with further descriptions

SetupI based the OB on the troops I had available taking into account the proportions at the actual battle with the Russians having an infantry superiority, an extra cavalry brigade and more artillery.  The French army deployed with 4 infantry Brigades on the table with the heavy and light cavalry brigades and a Bavarian Brigade in reserve of table. The Russians deployed with 5 infantry brigades and their Cossack cavalry brigade on the table with the two combined Dragoon/Hussar  brigades in reserve of table.

View of the Russian centre with left wing beyond the stream

With the table effectively split into 2 sections by a stream running across it before the game started the 2 sides had to decide on which flank of their armies their reserves would be committed. The French command decided to commit their reserve light cavalry brigade on their right flank whilst the heavy cavalry brigade would support their centre. The Russian command decided to commit their 2 reserve combined cavalry brigades on their left and in the centre.
Terrain map with initial deployments - underlined units of table

These decisions left the Russian left with the  militia/depot infantry brigade, combined cavalry brigade and the Cossack brigade facing a French force of  their best Swiss infantry brigade and the light cavalry brigade. The Russian centre-right with 4 infantry Brigades and a combined cavalry brigade facing 3 infantry brigades supported by a heavy cavalry brigade.   The Russian plan was to attack in the centre towards Polotsk with 3 brigades plus cavalry whilst the brigade on the right covered this attack.  On the left their plan was to hold back with their militia brigade and harry the French with their Cossacks.  The French plan was to hold  defensively based on the line covering the convent, the 2 redoubts and the town of Polotsk.  At least that is what the French CinC Ian thought was the plan.

How the game played
On the Russian left beyond the stream the Russian militia brigade occupied a village whilst the Cossacks harried the Swiss based near the convent.  These tactics and the appearance on table of the combined cavalry brigade held the Swiss at bay.  They and the militia never exchanged a musket shot all day.  The French light cavalry eventually put in an appearance and engaged the Cossacks.  One Chasseur Regt retired from the field almost immediately - shaken so it could not return.  The other regiment broke a sotna of Cossacks and sweepingly advanced into the second sotna.  Amazingly the stationary Cossacks won the melee and forced the Chasseurs to retire from the field shaken so they could also not return.  The Cossacks did not have much time to celebrate their victory as they were broken on the next French turn by canister fire from the French horse artillery.  The Russian combined cavalry brigade had appalling command rolls and only achieved one positive action in forcing a Swiss battalion into square.

Cossacks drive back the Chasseurs a Cheval
On the other side of the stream the Russian juggernaut moved into action.  The right wing brigade quickly occupied the village on the river road and brought their artillery to bear on the French centre.  They were engaged at long range by the artillery from the Bavarian redoubt on the French left.

Bavarian redoubt opens fire
 The Russian centre left brigade moved slowly against the foreign brigade around the 2nd French redoubt.  Constrained into the gap between the redoubt and the stream the foreign brigade lost the Neufchatel and Josef Napoleon battalions to effective Russian fire only leaving the 2 battalions of the Irish legion holding on at the redoubt.

Foreign brigade moves forward briefly.....
Two Russian brigades supported by the reserve artillery and the combined cavalry advanced on Polotsk - it was the main attack.  To their surprise the French brigade holding Polotsk advanced to meet them supported by a regiment of cuirassiers.  The massed Russian artillery broke 2 battalions quickly and though the Cuirassiers forced the White Russia hussars to retire they were then broken by massed artillery and musket fire.  This left only 2 battalions, the lancers from the heavy cavalry brigade and their supporting guns to hold the Russian advance on Polotsk.

Russian masses move forward....
The French infantry had some success in melee breaking the Pavlov grenadier battalion - the best quality Russian infantry unit.  The lancers forced 2 Russian battalions into square  and one was broken by canister fire.  The other brigade became shaken and the lancers charged home on it.  The melee was drawn - the shaken square held on its break test while the lancers broke and fled the field.  The Russians broke the 2 infantry battalions - but the struggle for the town continued as Bavarians from the left flank moved into the town and some battalions from the reserve Bavarian brigade also arrived.  This did prove enough to hold the Russians and it was clear that they would take the town.

Twilight success - Bavarians storm Dvina village....
The Bavarians who had held the French left flank in the last turns decided to attack the Russian right flank brigade and in the gathering twilight managed to storm the village the Russians had occupied at the beginning of the game.  

It was agreed at the end of the game that the Russian successes in taking the town and in only  losing 5 infantry/cavalry units to the French 10  gave them a clear victory.  However the  late Bavarian success on the left at the river would enable the Franco-Bavarian army to successfully retire west across the pontoon bridges over the Dvina.  Excluding the lunch period it took us just over 5 hours to play out the game.


  1. Great game as usual like the terrain and especially the map any specific OB or was that listed earlier. We have shifted to using stacked cannon balls for disorder instead of the grass markers.

  2. Great report and wonderful photos .

  3. Super report and pics as usual. I finally got a copy of Black Powder and I'm keen to try it out!