Sunday, 8 December 2019

The Battle of the Holzberg 2

A feint chance of success

As the Prussians advanced, the Holzberg massif seemed to loom ever larger. Only the line of Silesian riflemen going on ahead could be seen by the massed ranks at the foot of the hill.

Prussian masses: What can you see up there?
Driberg trotted up and down in the rear, urging on his men.

Driberg: Up ze Guts, I tell you!
Realising nothing would divert the Prussians from their course, the Emperor decided to abandon his feint  towards the Prussian left and direct everything towards the heights. The Bavarian 4th Line Infantry duly altered their line of march and swerved in behind the Swiss.

Napoleon (exasperated): For goodness sake, those Prussians are too stupid
to even notice when I'm out manoeuvring them!
Moments later the cannon began to fire. First blood was to the Prussians against the Vistula Lancers on the French right. To the horror of the Polish troopers, their beloved commander, Marshal Murat, was also struck down.

Murat: If I play dead nobody will blame me for anything this time!
Retribution was swift. In almost the same instant, the elite Prussian Garde du Corps was hit by the French Artillerie a pied de la Garde.

Napoleon: Not so showy now, I think!
A wavering in the ranks

Not all was well, it seemed, in the Prussian ranks. Wallmoden's men in particular appeared much less keen to advance. Only a few Silesian riflemen had dared to approach the French left.

Silesians: We'll just tiptoe up und take a peek!
No such hesitation appeared to effect the French. The fusiliers of French First Division confidently wheeled into line, strongly supported by cavalry and artillery...
..while on their left, the crack 13e Légère stole into the woods. The Emperor was confident that no-one attempting to pass the western end of the Holzberg could possibly survive First Division's deadly crossfire.

With their flanks secure and with powerful support in the rear, the Swiss swarmed up the slopes of the Holzberg.

Opposing them, the first wave of Prussian infantry also surged up onto the hill

With the enemy now well and truly committed, the Emperor had no hesitation in unleashing his guard. Pressed together and unable to manoeuvre, the Emperor had no doubt whatsoever that the raw Prussian levies would be swiftly crushed.

Napoleon: (Yawn). Come on then, lets get this over with,
The Ogre strikes

In an instant, the Swiss charged across the hilltop and smashed into the troops opposite. The Prussian 9th Reserve Regiment was sent tumbling down the slopes. The 6th Reserve Regiment following on behind braced for the impact that was sure to follow. Driberg's plans seemed to be in tatters.

With the 45th and the 4th Bavarians also coming on to the hill, the Emperor's echeloned approach was paying dividends. The Prussians on the Holzberg were outnumbered three to two.

At the same time, the 13e Légère prepared to pounce on the unwary Lützowers on the Prussian right.

The decisive moment had arrived. Half the Prussian infantry were on the brink of being overthrown.

Driberg frantically attempted to rally his men.

Driberg: It's nutzing, Boys! Ze 9th are only pretending to run avay!!!
A twist of fate

The fate of all Europe hung in the balance. At this critical moment the Emperor seemed to pause. The colour drained from the scene. He hesitated. Somehow the initiative seemed to be slipping....

As the French in turn seemed to waver, the Prussians infantry let out a mighty "Hurrah!", and charged. The 6th Reserve crashed into the Swiss and sent them pell mell back towards the rear.

Not to be outdone, the 10th Silesians charged headlong into the Bavarians, who recoiled in disorder.

It was as nothing, however, compared to the berserker charge of  2nd Neumark Landwehr. The 45e de Ligne never stood a chance.

But it was the slaughter of the 13e Légère in the forest which was the most shocking. As Quiestil's Chasseurs fled, they were relentlessly cut down by von Lützow's merciless Schwarzen Jäger.

The 73rd looked-on aghast.

Lyon: Good heavens, Driberg, there'll be nothing left for us!
La Garde ...stops dead

The Emperor watched in astonishment as his regiments were sent  packing in panic towards the rear. Everything now depended on the 67th and the Guard. 

The Chasseurs, however, could make no headway whatsoever against the implacable Neumarks.

And the 67th were overthrown in very short order by the invincible 6th Reserve.

Only on the right was there any sort of success when the Leib Hussaren rashly decided to charge the Garde artillery.

The Grenadiers à Pied, on the other hand, were stopped dead in their tracks by the Prussian Garde zu Fuß and the Russisch-Deutsche Legion.

With four regiments effectively destroyed, and only a single battalion on the Holzberg against five of the enemy, the Emperor realised that the game was up.

Napoleon: Marbot, the Bulletin is to say: "Having decided on a minor strategic withdrawal..."

Driberg: You see, Zeithen? Straight up ze guts! It never fails!

And so it came to pass that after only seven turns I had suffered my most stunning defeat to date. My opponent, DF, graciously tried to reassure me that it was the luck of the dice, but it was clear to me that I had been thoroughly out-generaled. When playing M&M one must never disperse one's forces. I expect I will have forgotten this by the next battle...

Yours, chastened


  1. All I can say is I wish your Prussians had been supporting me this week! Great photos and very entertaining narrative, losing in style is almost as good as winning...

    1. That Driberg is in league with the Devil, Ian! I wept when the Lutzowers destroyed the 13th.

  2. A truly shocking outcome - enjoy your early retirement on Elba...
    It occurs to me that the 'house' Landwehr rule might need a little tinkering with?
    I think some of Napoleon's generals might be losing their appetite for glory. In particular I'd be surprised if Joachim can be coaxed back out of his balmy Mediterranean realm for another campaign in northern climes.

    1. Although, I'd like to say that it was that initiative throw at the critical DF's absolutely shocking run of dice throws immediately afterwards, the truth is that he got to the decisive point fastest with the mostest. The exile is entirely merited!

  3. "The colour drained from the scene." :-) Nice touch.
    Whatever the Outcome, a really lovely Looking table.

    1. The time machine was on the blink again, Paul.
      As for the table, The plan was to keep it clear of clutter this time so that the armies could really get at each other. It's getting just a wee bit small for the size of the armies now.

  4. Beautiful. I particularly loved your Prussian grenadiers and the Swiss, you are a very very lucky wargamer.

    1. I am indeed, Robbie, although not in a dice-throwing sense. Those Prussian grenadiers were what got me started on this deranged endeavour.

  5. Excellent looking game, interesting outcome, thanks for sharing


  6. Great looking figures and nice write up, but, but...La Garde ...stops dead? Can't believe my French ears! Great post!

    1. At least it wasn't "recule", Phil. The GaP was in some danger of being surrounded, however!

  7. In any case, a lovely and rousing spectacle!

    Best Regards,


    1. They look very pretty when they mix it up like that, albeit somewhat scattered on the French side towards the end....DF is still smiling about this.

  8. But I still think the rules need a bit of tweaking if the 'go to' tactic of packing in columns and charging straight in works so well.

    1. You definitely have a point, Rob, although if I'd made better use of the artillery in this instance it might have helped a bit. Adjusting the square-forming rules might be the answer in the long term. For example, if charging cavalry have to cover only a third or less of their move to make contact, perhaps the infantry shouldn't be allowed to form square. That would certainly make massive column attacks much more difficult to pull off...

    2. A simple option would be for the infantry to roll for how far the cavalry get before the square is formed: A class roll 1D6, B class 2D6 and C class 3D6 (A+ could be allowed a -1 modifier or allowed to re-roll once?).
      Not sure how this affects the tendency of infantry columns to bulldoze their way through opponents - I am of the school that reckons it's all about morale rather than crossing bayonets - if the target (assuming not disordered) stands the charge should halt.

    3. It's tricky problem, isn't it. There's a risk of completely freezing up the game if the cavalry are made too powerful. I have visions of tables full of static infantry squares slowly wilting away under artillery bombardment!

  9. Superb battle report WM! I particularly like it that the contour blocks are just the right height for HH firing figures to fit their muskets over the edge. Was this a conscious design criterion?

    1. It was more luck than judgement, Dave. The hills are made from discarded 18mm kitchen cabinet doors which I picked up for a song at the Wellington tip. Their pleasing woodiness and chunkiness is what attracted me!

  10. Absolutely splendid...
    A great sounding game... you could never accuse tt of being boring...
    The table and the miniatures look ... well ... perfect.
    You have certainly encouraged me to got on and do more of my own shiny Napoleonic project...

    All the best. Aly.

    1. They're very far from perfect, Aly! There's an awful lot of very dodgy metal in amongst that lot. The troops appearing in Phase 3, I'm planning, will have a much better provenance.

      If I've provided any encouragement for your own shiny ambitions, then I'm very pleased, but be warned: it's very addictive! I've grown to really love these figures. They're really very simple and unpretentious, albeit with plenty of quirks and character.