This is probably one of the biggest games I've played so far at the club. One of our members Mark had put an email around asking if anyone would be interested in another of his ever popular 10mm Franco-Prussian games. Ever since I'd taken part in one of his games a couple of years back I'd become more and more interested in the period. On this occasion I was finally happy to provide some of the Prussian forces. Doing Gravelotte-St. Privat in its entirety was going to mean a serious amount of figures on the table. Even if the limited time scale before the game gave me little respite in what became a hectic painting schedule: Two Saxon Divisions along with nineteen batteries of artillery (finished only the afternoon beforehand!).
As always for Franco-Prussian we used the Kallistra Hexon Terrain system (Paul from Kallistra was also in attendance). This always speeds up the game, as there's no general measuring and mucking about. Just a counting of Hex tiles. Again we also used Mark's own reworking of the excellent '1870' rules.
The actual battle of Gravelotte-St.Privat was an extraordinarily bloody affair. The French had dug themselves into the heights and linked up several farm strongpoints with earthworks. Due to their restricted view the Prussians had mistaken the French troop movements as a rearguard force, and it was only later as the battle unfolded that they realized that the enemy had arrayed itself to face them and had made all the necessary defences. The only weak position was considered to be the French right - a flat area north of St.Privat. But rather than wait patiently for the Saxon Corps to make its way round in a wide arc (and for reasons still hotly debated) the Prussian Guard in the Second Army were ordered forward into brutal and bloody assaults against the fortified position. Similarly the First Army in the Southern aspect had been sent careering into the Manse Ravine just under the eyes of the French guns, and where they spent several hours being shot to pieces. The day was finally won by the Prussians (though both sides were in doubt about the outcome for another 24 hours afterwards) by the Saxon flanking move and continued pressure on St. Privat by the Guard.
To do a quick overview, in our club game the breakthrough was actually achieved more in the south. The spirited surge of Prussian forces had (though with some difficulty and loss) broken out onto the heights around the Farm strongpoints of Moscou and Point de Jour. Alternatively the Commanders around St. Privat (including me!) had sought a huge cavalry engagement on the flatter plain, and got one in the form of some fierce French cavalry counter attacks. This incident swirled around like an enormous bloody cauldron for many turns until both forces were nigh exhausted (like Dave said - "impressive but tactically pointless" - which pretty much sums up the real experiences of cavalry during the Franco-Prussian era). The Saxons unfortunately were absolutely dogged by bad luck (read: 'bad dice rolling') and could hardly get a decent charge into the enemy. The slow moving, hesitant troops were being somewhat easily held up by French troops secure in their defences much to our frustration. Nevertheless some success was scored by the Prussian Guard Infantry who finally assailed part of St.Privat and started to push the enemy back....that was until the French Imperial Guard turned up as reinforcements! Achieving what the French had failed to do in reality, and giving them a marginal victory.
On a final note, all thanks has to go to Mark for putting so much effort into what was a brilliantly enjoyable game. Also to those members of the Sons of Simon De Montfort Wargames Club for turning up and providing the fun, friendly atmosphere!
The French defences around St. Privat.
Prussian Troops prior to their assault before the Manse Ravine.
The Saxon Corps attempts a flanking move.
The Prussian Assaults go in!