Kriegsspiel That Would Never End™ – An AAR, part the last

The AAR has landed ~

Jim Owczarski, 2 June 2018

I have said elsewhere that along this road I learned a lot about running a Kriegsspiel via e-mail.  I have run many face-to-face in my home and elsewhere, but this one created new necessities and inventions.  I have already discussed the oversized wall map and Dalek stickers my wife and I used to track the action.  Shortly into the action, she also fashioned a special ruler, marked off with the map’s scale.

Faded just a bit.

I also learned better ways to keep track of messages.  As I said in the Grogcast, I began with an order form that turned out to be just about as wrong as could be.  It did not take me long to figure out that the best way was the simplest — an e-mail with a time sent, an intended recipient, and orders in good old-fashioned subject-verb-object language.  This would then be matched to a hand-written ticket allowing me to sort the messages by the time at which they were to be delivered.  This did, of course, leave me with a very large pile of tickets, of which I have grown very fond.

I shall miss it.

So, how did it all end?

TL;DR: French win, although not as convincingly as might have been the case.

That is not to say there were not missed opportunities on both sides.

The longer version:  The heart of the action was on the flanks, the flying corps of Davout, Lannes, and Murat to the West and those of Soult and Ney on the East, prevented the orderly withdrawal and concentration that, I think, the Prussians need to win this scenario.  Ruchel and Hohenlohe particularly were victims of a grim numbers game and their losses would prove fatal.  In the early going, Davout and Murat in particular lunged at the Prussians flanks at battles like that at Erfurt and the Prussians never really regained their equilibrium.

That is not to say there were not missed opportunities on both sides.  The videos will show that the French might, with a bit more luck, have afflicted a significant reverse to the Prussians guarding Hof in the very early going.

On several occasions, Soult caught up to Hohehlohe’s men only to be too exhausted himself and choosing to rest for a day rather than attack.  One also wonders how much more quickly the battle South of Leipzig might have ended had Napoleon not commandeered one of Ney’s corps at the very same hour Ney called for it as well.  At the same time, Brunswick might have inflicted a significant reverse on Soult and Ney in the latter stages of the campaign had he chosen to attack them rather than withdraw further North.

I must also observe that Marshal Augereau caused me some of my worst self-doubt as his men pummeled the single Prussian division he had trapped (cf. here the first video below), prudently bombarded the village before attacking it, and even succeeded in setting the village on fire, yet never attacked.  Had they done so, the Prussians would have surrendered, a fact they communicated to their commander in a message that barely got through the enemy cordon.  I always wondered if I should give the commander of VII Corps even a hint of just how desperate the Prussians’ situation was, but I never did so.

The reasons for my adjudication of a French victory are given in the videos, but they would not have been possible without the two most notable maneuvers of the entire game.

The first was Marshal Davout’s persistent — some might say fool-hardy — attacks against the odds at Weissenfels.  His communications, to me and to his peers, made clear that he knew the precarious situation his men were in.  One of his commanders was killed in the first day’s assaults, his other troops were unable to overcome the Prussian position, and the men of Scharnhorst’s division proved as resolute as their reputation.  A more cautious (saner) man might have rested for a day.  He has been publishing his missives and I suspect a review of them will reveal that he gave real thought to a rest.  He did not, however, and that kept up the pressure on bold General Blucher who, unsurprisingly, saw no way but forwards for his men.

Davout’s efforts would have been for less if not naught, however, had Marshal Lannes not bridged the Saale River — twice actually — a few miles West of Weissenfels and out of sight of Prussian pickets.  Using his pontoon bridges, he was able to move several divisions across unmolested and it was the sudden appearance of a division of heavy cavalry in the Prussian rear that sealed matters.

Well, that is it save for the show-and-tell.  Enjoy the videos and I hope to see some of you playing in the next game!

Vive L’Empereur!

(Author’s Note:  It really struck me watching this that not even I could foresee the importance Weissenfels was to have.  I had not even figured out its name.  Watch, too, as the videos progress, what happens at Naumbourg.  Also, Napoleon’s decision to abandon any hope of getting through the traffic jam to his West and instead head East proves fortuitous.  Also fascinating (for me at least) to note the number of weeks that passed between videos.)  


(Author’s Note:  It is fair to observe that Napoleon’s decision to veer left rather than head up the valley had immense consequences.  Also, I was searching for words and should not have called the Prussians dissolute.  Perhaps they were, but, at least in combat, they did not act that way.  Tracking the perambulations of these unfortunates would be amusing all by itself.)


(Author’s Note:  Well, at least I can say I saw it coming.)


(Author’s Note:  Months after the fact, Ruchel’s attempted ruse still makes me smile.  N.B.:  It did not succeed.)


(Author’s Note:  Not sure what surprised me more — that Soult and Ney did not attack when they found the Prussians withdrawing or that Augereau never tried to get into Naumbourg.)


(Author’s Note:  MATHS!  Spot the error?)


(Author’s Note: Medal Awarded — Marshal Davout — Jena Campaign Medal with Citation for Bravery.  Medal Awarded — Marshal Lannes — National Order of the Legion of Honor.)


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