Following on from our trip to the Alma, I wanted to try Belle Epoch out for some other nineteenth century conflicts. It is some time since I'd run Froeschwiller with Rifle and Kepi, so I dug out the scenario and lightly reworked it. There is actually a Froeschwiller scenario provided in the LesGens expansion for Belle Epoch, but it was far too big to run remotely.
I like this battle as you get Prussians fighting alongside their rather reluctant Bavarian and Wurttemburg pal up against one of the best Corps in the French army, albeit handicapped by the chaotic French mobilisation which left many regiments under strength. The whole thing is a bit of a mixed bag.
Battlefield from the west. MacMahon's reinforced 1st Corps is deployed along the Froeschwiller ridge above the town of Worth. Five infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions, although 2nd Division has been mauled by an earlier encounter with the Prussians.
Tim C was MacMahon, while John commanded the cavalry and the attached division from 7th Corps.
The Prussian 10th Division observes the French from the heights above Worth. The Prussian Army was a bit polyglot in this battle, with two Prussian Corps, elements of two Bavarian Corps, the Wurttemburg Division plus a couple of brigades of cavalry.
Tim G commanded the Prussians, Simon had one Bavarian Corps and a cavalry brigade, while Pete had the Wurttemburgers, the rest of the Bavarians and another cavalry brigade.
The environs of Froeschwiller were strongly held, with 1st Cavalry Division in reserve. I put the figures on magnetic movement trays so they were easier to move around. I'd made these bases up a while ago, but I've realised the green I used is a bit dark to look good on the Hexon terrain. I'll need to do something about that.
2nd Reserve Cavalry Division behind the Eberbach stream. The figures are all Irregular 6mm.
The lengthy column of Prussian reinforcements. I put temporary coloured and numbered labels on the bases to distinguish the different commands and divisional IDs. The first few turns were mainly spent with Prussian units marching on, and a bit of long range cannonading, in which the Prussian 10th Div came off rather badly as half the entire French Army shelled it. In these rules, artillery is modelled as integral to the divisions (hence the little cannons on each base).
4th Bavarian Division marched on above Lagensaltzbach. It took some losses from French artillery fire, but just plunged into the valley and charged 1st Division on the heights above! We will see how that turned out later. The little coloured dice show if the unit has been activated - it is a chit based activation sequence, you put as many dice as units into a hat and draw them out, then choose which unit to activate. I was a bit dubious about this, but it actually worked very well as it made the turn interactive and the players had some decisions to make about when it was best to activate. The French 1st Div has already activated, which is why the Bavarians charged - no short range defensive fire as the French had already fired.
Over in the south, one Prussian Corps is pushing over the stream, while the other is sorting itself out on the ridge above Worth. Long range French artillery fire has chipped a few hits off, but the French guns are rather worse than the Krupps breechloaders, luckily for the Prussians.
Back at Lagensaltzbach, the impetuous Bavarians find out the hard way that charging headlong into an undamaged division in cover, uphill, and armed with breech loading rifles and machineguns is a very bad idea. The entire division disintegrates in a hail of bullets, and the French are rather cheered.
The Germans had opted for Stosstaktik in this battle (close order) rather than Feuertaktik (open order), which improved their manouverability but left them quite vulnerable to fire. The muzzle loading rifles the players were used to from the Alma weren't quite as lethal as these Chassepots.
At Worth however, the Prussians showed how it was done. A massive artillery bombardment weakened the French, and then 9th Division crossed the bridge at Worth and assaulted the French 2nd Division.
The weakened French were routed and the Germans advanced onto the plateau, outflanking 3rd Div and facing off against the French cavalry in Froeschwiller.
Back in the north, another Bavarian division appeared. This one was a bit more circumspect than its predecessor, and settled down in the woods lobbing shells across the valley.
Up on the ridge above Worth, Prussian Generals oversaw the action. I used the figures to keep track of how many command dice each side had (one dice per figure). The number of dice depended on the number of stands left in each army. Units had a base activation score, and extra command points could be added in to help. The Prussians and French had quite high activation scores, while the German allies were a bit more dilatory.
McMahon is suddenly looking a bit lonely in Froeschwiller!
Meanwhile in the centre of the ridge, the Prussians chipped away at 4th Div.
As the Wuertemburgers crossed the river, 2nd Reserve Cavalry Div moved up in support of 1/7th Div.
The Wuertemburgers were supported by an Uhlan brigade.
The Bavarians managed to hit 1st Div with their Krupps guns. At a range of 2000m they were quite effective.
Things are starting to look a bit sticky for 3rd Div in Froeschwiller as Bavarian 1st Div joins the Prussians.
The fresh Bavarians push the French out of Froeschwiller with light casualties. This puts them adjacent to 1st Cavalry Div.
Over near Eberbach, 2nd Cavalry puts in a charge against the weakened Prussians in the valley and routs them.
McMahon leads the 1st Cavalry in a desperate charge against the Bavarians. Putting cavalry against infantry armed with breechloaders in a built up area goes as well as might be expected.
The French 2nd Cavalry come under close range rifle fire, and the Uhlans charge them in the flank, with predictable results. It is just like the Heavy Brigade at Waterloo.
By now there isn't much left of the French Army. Only 1st Div from 7th Corps is largely intact over near Eberbach. They lob a few long range shells at the Germans in the valley.
As two entire Prussian and Bavarian Corps cross the Eberbach stream, discretion is the better part of valour, and the remaining French units withdraw.
The Prussians are well on their way to Paris.
And Froeschwiller and Neerwiller are firmly in the hands of the Bavarians.
That was actually closer than it looked as the French had inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, but the Germans still had five unshaken divisions across the Eberbach at game end, when they only required four. A couple more hits would have pushed two of them over the edge, but it was not to be.
Despite my misgivings about the activation system, that actually worked very well, and the players said they enjoyed the extra decision making from allocating the activation attempts. With all the extra stuff to keep track of and extra choices to make, it naturally slowed things down - I think four turns per one hour fifteen minute game session would have been achievable.
There were a few things I'd tweak: making the combat modifiers more consistent, reducing the crap shoot aspects of assault, and possibly having some cavalry breakthrough combat; but by and large it all hung together well and produced a reasonable feeling result. One slightly wierd thing was that troop quality had no influence on assault, just numbers and tactical position. I think that is something I'd definitely change and is quite easy to fix.
I'll try another game of that at some point for another asymmetrical conflict - Northern Italy in 1859 or 1866. Magenta or Custoza, not sure which yet.