Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Game 36 : Saalfeld 1806

This is the smallest Napoleonic battle played so far. Two of us played this twice over the weekend. The game is set as prelude to Jena Auerstadt. It effectively pitches the advanced troops of both armies as they contest the strategic position and occurred outside the town of Saalfeld, a key communication town that sits on the Saal river.
The armies are roughly a division per side with an attached cavalry brigade. The French have what turned out to be a big advantage in that two Corps commanders were present in addition to a very capable divisional commander. The enhance command and control ability would be important.

We still used the whole table so space was not an issue, manoeuvring was not a problem either. This is looking from the south and Saalfeld is top right at the north of the battlefield. The game had three strategic objectives. They were the road network the exited Saalfeld to the north over the Saal river, the road to the south which is to the right of the above pic on the other table and the road to the west which is difficult to see but is positioned to the left of the village in the distance on the left table.

This shows the same area but from the southern road. Saalfeld is at the top of the pic. The French would arrive via two roads and cross country. The roads were to the east of the southern board edge and the road east of Saalfeld. A third force arrived cross country between these roads.
The Prussians and Saxons arrived via the road to the west and their arrival was generally more speedy than the French. Its a bit of a lottery as to who gets to hold the centre ground. Its down to tactics and bravado!!

This shows Saalfeld where the Saal river is off table to the north and the road leading east where the largest French infantry formation arrives.

This is a few turns into the game. This shows the central village which has been occupied by a small French light infantry brigade of 2 btns. Beyond this is the main Prusso-Saxon force and to the right of that is the largest French infantry brigade with the only foot battery on the French side. I said it was a smallish battle!

This is taken from Saalfeld looking south and east. The whole French force, bar a single cavalry brigade, which is in the right distance, off table, of this pic can be seen arrayed between Saalfeld and the central village. The French plan is to screen Saalfeld, advance the centre and secure the villages and turn the Prusso-Saxon flank by defeating the enemy cavalry, thus making the allied position untenable.
The Prusso-Saxon plan was to secure Saalfeld with the Saxons, hold the central position, drive away the French cavalry with their own and then to contest the centre villages.

This was the clash of the cavalry. Saalfeld is top right. It was here that the French had an advantage. The enemy cavalry was slightly better combat wise and had numbers, but the French had these extra commanders that would allow the brigade commander to personally lead his cavalry into combat. For the Prusso-Saxons to adopt the same strategy would be quite a risk and a disaster for the army if a general were to become a casualty. The French fought with their general, the allies did not. However, the hoped for French victory did not materialise. The cavalry fought to a stand off and the allies actually inflicted more losses. The cavalry would then effectively have little say on the outcome of the battle with regards to actual combat but their manoeuvring and potential threat could never be ignored.

Another pic showing the cavalry clash. A total of 5 regiments with the numbers favouring the allies, all the cavalry on the battlefield.

The cavalry clash is in the background and the Prussians in this pic are retiring to the line of the village and Saalfeld so as not to be outflanked if they lose the cavalry combat.

The French light infantry brigade in the centre has exited the village in the centre and is now advancing with the remainder of the French infantry in the background. The allies have yielded this lead village in the centre and are now redeploying to defend the centre village further west. Saalfeld itself is still securely in Saxon hands.
A pic from Saalfeld showing the French advance in the centre

The French cavalry is now trying to cut off the road to the west and also support the advance in the centre. The allied cavalry has also deployed to the west of the village to attempt to disrupt this plan and protect their own infantry in the centre. The French have managed to concentrate the majority of their infantry against the centre and the final attack is about to begin.

There are too many French for the allies to successfully hold as the Saxons are still bottled up in Saalfeld and screened by fewer French. The result is that this key sector cannot be held and the French assault is successful. The allies decide to withdraw whilst they still have access to the road to the west.

The commanders. The game ended in a French victory, influenced by the superior command and control. We turned the game around, and got exactly the same result!!
Next game is back to 1814 and is La Rothiere. Until then........