Friday 9 February 2024

The Battle of Provins, 1814 - A Napoleonic Battle Report

At the weekend six members of Postie's rejects got together for a very large and apparently on-it game set in 1814. A coalition of Russian Austrian Prussian and Wurttemberg troops faced off against the French who had taken up a defensive position on a line of hills. The coalition had far more troops that would be fighting against a well-defended position. What followed was an excellent game where both sides fought hard in victory and could have gone either way right up to the last turn. 

Mark was the Russian commander Baron von Sacken, I took control of the Austrian and Wurttemberg troops under Baron von Frimont and von Bach, and Dan commanded the remaining Austrians under Baron Trautenberg and Baron Splenyi. Across the table, Richard commanded the French under Marshal Victor, the Duke of Belluno, with Surjit as General Teste, while Steve took control of the cavalry Corps under Grouchy. 

As usual, we all had a short period in which to plan before the game began. On the coalition side, we all agreed we needed to be aggressive and attack all along the line probing the French for weakness, forcing them to fight what was in front of them rather than being able to reposition troops and reinforce adjacent Brigades under attack. It was a simple plan that took advantage of our weight of numbers... The rest was in the gift of the dice. 

When the game commenced the entire length of our line began to move forward tightening and noose around the French neck. From our perspective, it certainly looked as if we had an incredibly strong position at number in some sections of the French line two to one. But of course, we weren't the only ones fighting this battle. The French used their artillery fire, installing the text from some of the defenders, to weaken our leading units as they approached the French line. Marks Russians were the first to be in a position to charge the French defenders on the hill much to our surprise the French decided to countercharge down the hill! Although the resultant melee's were a bit of a mixed bag for both sides, it did have the effect of breaking up the Russian attack on this section of the French line. 

In the Centre, my Austrians had slightly further to march but managed to get themselves into a position to open fire on the French line on the hill in front of them. Unfortunately, this was the one and only turn where the French won initiative and this meant that they chose to move first and fire first severely weakening some of my lead Brigades. Where Surjit had moved some of his brigades forward, I was able to make contact but once again the melees were messy and not decisive for one side or the other. Mini French standards were captured all along the front, but we had more broken and rounded brigades, and in these rules that is all victory points for the French. 

On my left, Dan took control of our Cavalry and was therefore faced off against Grouchey's French cavalry. However, we had a small numerical advantage here because half of Grouchey's command was behind the French centre and spent the whole of the game riding along the rear of their line towards their outnumbered comrades. Dan moved forward into charge range but got a little too close to the French cavalry so when they won the initiative they were able to charge our cavalry without being countercharged. In these rules both sides declare charges and then the side with initiative moves half of their charge movement distance. If they make contact with the enemy the receiving cavalry don't get to countercharge, which means one less dice in the resulting melee. As it was, the resulting melee was a mixed bag with the French winning two of the three fights. 

The one notable success of this encounter was with one of Steves's heavy cavalry units which took advantage of some poorly positioned infantry under my command. I'd pushed these too far forward and Steve quite rightly saw an opportunity to run them down (with the possibility of a secondary charge into more infantry beyond). However, when he moved his Currasiers their half move they fell just half an inch short of making contact...meaning my infantry could react. I promptly opened fire, immediately causing a quarter of casualties. The Currasiers then finished their charge but now they were meleeing with fewer stands, meaning fewer dice against an undamaged line unit. They still had a lot going for them (this was heavy cavalry against foot) but when the dice were rolled and the dust had settled the French cavalry had lost and were sent reeling back towards their rear in disorder. Somehow my infantry had survived to fight on!

Despite this moment of high drama, it was becoming clear that the French were having a better time of things than the Coalition. By the end of the last turn, both sides had taken a battering but the Russians in particular had been mauled by the French infantry's downhill countercharge. There was still a lot on the table that hadn't seen any action. Dan had eight untouched Battalions of infantry bearing down on the French centre, but time was running out in the Shed-o-War. We all agreed that if we had time (and permission from our significant others!) we would have loved to play a second day to finish the battle. But exhaustion (and fear of reprisals from said partners) meant we had to call it a day and let Stuart work out the victory points. 

After much muttering and scribbling, he announced that the French had indeed won the day with 16 points to the Coalition's 8. Had we been able to play on a few more turns it's possible the Russians and Austrians could have used their fresh troops to batter the French and turn the battle, but equally half of Grouchey's cavalry were still fresh and undamaged and could have swung around our left flank dealing a blow for the French. Instead, such what-ifs had to be reserved for the post-game cup of tea and slice of cake. Regardless of the outcome, we all had a great day of gaming and enjoyed ourselves. And on that measure, we all came away victorious. 


  1. HUGE battle and HUGELY enjoyable battle report, Lee. Your game photos are superb and provide a sense of the grand scope of the game. Looks like tight quarters walking around the table.

  2. Excellent report Lee, gutted I missed the bash!


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