Last weekend, I went to see our old wargaming friend, Adrian Bird, in Cheltenham. He and his wargiming group had decided to organise a 'big game' on the the theme of Leipzig 1813.
As Guest of Honour (I boast shamelessly), I took the role of Napoleon, cast in the role of underdog, assailed by the mass armies of the despotic and autocratic regimes of Europe (commanded by James, Andy, Stewart and John). My trusty Marechal was David, who did superb work in keeping the Russian Barbarians at bay on Sunday.
The game was played at the Bird Mansion in Cheltenham, an extraordinary house which on the outside is pleasant but modest yet on the inside boasts four or five staircases and endless rooms and pleasure zones, full of soldiers, wargamers and... children. A heady mix, for Adrian is the remarkable father of many battalions of beautifully painted Napoleonic troops and three young children, Fred, Felix and the latest recruit, Conti, a charming but self willed young lady of 12 months. One of my abiding images of the weekend is Conti walking about the kitchen at mid-night on Saturday, gnawing chickem bones while the rest of us played Viking Fury and a motor racing game. Who was the real real viking? No contest.
Happily all was kept under close control and supervision by Carol, who for some kind reason, had decided to tolerate the invasion of her house by a mass of wargamers.
Now to the games.
Saturday - we re-played the battle of Liebertwolkwitz, the largest cavalry battle of the Nappie Wars (nothing to do with young Conti). Masses of stands of beautiful cavalry appeared on the table. The French, commanded by Murat, had to defeat the mass ranks of Prussian cavalry on an openplain, while a small infantry division had to defend a town being attacked by an Austrian Corps.
We played the game using the excellent Shako rules, which I found easy to use and gave an excellent feel of Napoleonic warfare. There was no messy book-keeping, no complications but a very realistic feel, even in complex situations. I will, as a consequence dispose of all my other Nappie Rules and convert to this system, which works.
The Battle itself was a glorious, swirling mass of cavalry rushing forward, fighting and then retiring again (in the rules cavalry charge and then are spent - they take a turn to recover, either at the last point of engagement or retiring a move). There was a real feel of a chaotic battle, swinging to and fro. In the end, the Allied forces came within a whisker of winning, doing severe but, alas for them, not mortal, damage to my French light cavalry. While all this was going on the town of Liebertwolkwitz fell to an Austrian assault, thus securing a nice base for the all out assault on Leipzig on Sunday.
The outcome of the game on Saturday had an impact on Sunday's game, the French victory (huzzah!) restricting the Allies's deployment and having an effect on the numbers of cavalry available.
We played on two tables. The north, defended by David, who had a small French force and a mission to hold off the Russians. The south, I commanded, with a mission to exit the priceless French baggage across the length of the table, while being pounded by Allied artillery and attacked by the combined might of the Austrian, Swedish and Prussian forces. Although defending city walls, I must have been outnumbered by, ooh say 6-1 at least.
The game was dramatic. I won't bore you all with details, but on my table my defences just about held out aginst mass attacks. We had dramatic scenes of desperate French squares being broken in the city centre by massed charges of Prussian cavalry. But they held out long enough for the baggage train to escape, though taking fearful losses. At various points, as Napoleon I received news that the defensive line that we had set up to the North had collapsed, but in fact David valiantly held on long enough to allow Napoleon and his stash of gold and plunder to trundle over the bridge and escape.
What a game! Very exciting, very close. Analysis? The Allies failed to be postive enough, especially on the Northern tablem letting us off the hook. The French were focused on their objective and held outm but only just.
Well done to Adrian for a terrific scenario and thanks to all the players for a good game, fought in a friendly spirit. Not a single argument about rules. Adrian will hopefully now make this an annual event.