Defence of Irgendwo crossroads
La Feu Sacre, Prussians vs French, 03 Jan 2008


For our test game we (myself, Dick Bax and Jur de Jong) played a game with my 1815 Prussians defending a crossroads, and Dick's 1812 French and Jur's 1812 Saxons moving in to take the crossroads with vastly superior numbers. We'd normally use properly 'synchronised'  army lists but didn't have them prepared this time. This was the first game of La Feu Sacre [LFS] for me and Jur, while Dick had played LFS a few times a couple of years ago.

NB. Opinions expressed are my own.

NB. Click on pictures for a larger view.

Opposing Forces

Prussian: Part of 1. Corps
Commander in Chief: Von Ziethen (Able)

2. Brigade - Von Pirch II (Solid)
3. Brigade - von Jagow (Solid)
1. Cavalry Brigade - von Treskow (Bold, Solid)
2. Cavalry Brigade - von Luetzow (Solid)
French: Oudinot's Corps
Commander in Chief: Oudinot (Gifted)

Infantry Division - Legrand (Bold, Solid)
2nd Heavy Cavalry Division - ? (Cautious, Solid) <- but no cautious card was used...
Saxon Division - von Lecoq (Solid)

Prussian Orders and Deployment

Prussian DeploymentObjective: Hold the crossroads until support from the remainder of 1. Corps arrives - no sooner than nightfall.
Situation: Expect  a French infantry and cavalry division to attack your position, supported by unknown Saxon numbers.

Von Pirch's infantry brigade deploys on the ridge line that covers the crossroads. Von Treskow's Cavalry covers the right flank of Von Pirch, whereas Von Jagow's partial brigade  is to cover the left flank of von Pirch.  The light cavalry under von Lutzow is in reserve, and a further blind is deployed behind von Pirch.

Von Steinmetz expected the majority of hostile cavalry to attack over his right flank, and kept his cavalry back to prevent them being overwhelmed early in the battle.

Orders for all commanders are 'hold', awaiting further developments.

French Orders and Deployment

Objective: Capture the Irgendwo crossroads to allow our army to march through, before nightfall.
Situation: Expect elements from Prussian 1. Corps already deployed to cover the crossroads, of a maximum of 2 infantry Brigades, supported by  a few regiments of cavalry.

Deployment: Legrand's infantry division will attack through the centre, supported by von Lecoq's Saxon's attacking on his right flank. Von Lecoq's cavalry will be in supporting role on the right, whereas the heavy cavalry division will march in support on the left flank.

The French Saxons arrive

During the first turn, the French troops arrive on table, a covering force in semi-deployed formation, followed by a number of march columns. Spotting fails miserably in the first turn, but the next turn it gets interesting.

On the left flank the advancing Saxons are spotted, and they manage to spot von Pirch's brigade covering the central hill. Seeing the cavalry, von Pirch orders his leftmost battalion in the corn field into square formation.
Initial artillery exchanges manage to cause some light casualties on the Saxon cavalry, who are soon overtaken by the infantry advancing towards the yet unspotted von Jagow.

Von Jagow decides to reveal his artillery to open fire on the advancing Saxons, causing some casualties.

Paris traffic

Before they can advance again, the French cavalry is unveiled by the alert eyes of von Ziethen himself. Expecting to be slightly outnumbered, the overall amount of hostile cavalry still came as a shock - but apparently not just to the Prussians. Still on a semi-deployed blinds, the French cavalry is formed as one massive block of horse and men, which will obviously take some sorting out before they can take an active interest in anything other than traffic management.

Having confirmed the main hostile cavalry to be exactly where he expected them to be, von Ziethen orders von Lutzow to move the light cavalry to the right flank, in support of von Treskow's brigade. Obviously von Treskow was going to need all the help he could get.

More Paris traffic

Von Pirch's looking glass brought more to the eye than the cavalry - the massed ranks of Legrand's division were now seen. Also still on a semi-deployed blind, this massive division deployed well in depth behind the blinds frontage. Apparently the cavalry was only a first taste of close parking of troops, as this division alone already outnumbered the Prussian infantry. The chaos caused by their premature unveiling, combined with their attack orders forcing them forwards, would mean that Oudinot spent more time helping organise his divisions, than on keeping the larger picture and using his PIPs to give the right orders to the relevant divisions.
Von Pirch, meanwhile, figured that his day would not be a happy one, with these masses of troops deployed to his front. Especially since a third of his troops consisted of the crack Westphalian landwehr who may be good at downing lagers, but certainly did not have a reputation for fighting spirit. Still, there seemed little to do other than to order his extreme right flank battalions into square as well.

Saxon advance on the left flank

Some atrocious dice rolling by the Prussian artillery meant they were not hitting a thing. The Saxons were generous enough to demonstrate just how artillery should be used - and with one salvo of ball caused casualties in the Silesian schuetzen, the Berg grenadiers and the Berg fusiliers behind them.
Truly amazing dice rolling for the bombardment test meant that direct intervention by von Jagow was required to prevent the schuetzen from becoming shaken, and caused the Berg fusiliers to indeed reach a shaken state.
Meanwhile the Saxon infantry had advanced to within pinning range of the Prussian square, which as a result could not revert back to something more appropriate like a column.
Von Jagow moved his musketeer battalion up on the right hand side, to cover the guns in case von Pirch's square failed.

Death ride of the Brandenburg dragoons

On the right flank, von Treskow had been watching the deployment of the French cavalry with some concern. Obviously the French had to be contained in the narrow space between the woods and the squares on the hill - allowing them any further meant they would easily be able to overwhelm his few troops. To make things worse, von Lutzow's landwehr cavalry was nowhere to be seen yet. At least von Ziethen seemed to share his view, given the 'Attack' orders he had just received.
With 2 regiments of French light cavalry (5th Hussars, 24th Chasseurs) facing his Brandenburg dragoons, and the 23rd Chasseurs facing his Silesian hussars, von Treskow ordered his cavalry to charge down the hill. As far as casualties go, the results were nothing spectacular - primarily due to abysmal die rolls by the Prussians. All sides were thrown back, blown. But first of all his cavalry was still intact. And what was better, forcing the French cavalry to fall back blown, caused massive disorganisation for the French heavy cavalry. Over the remainder of the turn, it took the full attention of the French cavalry commander and CiC to get regain some semblance of order.

Saxon infantry assault

On the left flank, meanwhile, the Saxon infantry assaulted the Prussian lines. 2 battalions of the 1st brigade ran into firm resistance from the Berg grenadiers, with both repulsed shaken. A volley of cannister would soon see one of them routing, as well as the line that had formed behind it.

In the other corn field, the odds were reversed. The Saxon line battalion (D class) attacked the Berg infantry square, breaking them in the process. The route of these troops would also sweep up the battalion von Jagow had placed behind them to cover this eventuality - unfortunately just too close. The arrival of 2 fresh battalions drawn from von Pirchs center, however, stabilized the situation.

Watching von Jagow's success, von Ziethen issued a clear order - grasp the initiative, attack and send the Saxons packing.

Death ride of the Brandenburg dragoons, take 2

After the French artillery caused significant casualties on their Prussian artillery (2 hits, causing a 'shaken' result, which was rallied since), Oudinot personally oversaw the advance of his cuirassiers, supported by the lancers - giving the remainder of the cavalry some time and space to regroup. On the Prussian side, the arrival of the Landwehr cavalry provided some relief - but very shaky relief at best.
Unfortunately for the French cuirassiers, their advance and that of their infantry now blocked the field of fire of his artillery. At the start of the next turn, von Ziethen's card came up. He ordered his artillery to fire cannister into the cuirassiers at the bottom of the hill, causing 2 casualties and shaking the French. Even though von Ziethen could not order the charge of the dragoons, the next card up was the Prussian bold commander.
Just what von Treskow needed to send his dragoons back into the fray.
They hit the French 7th cuirassiers, and never stopped going. Breaking the cuirassiers, they sent them crashing through the 2 deployed batteries behind them. Tasting blood, the Brandenburg dragoons kept going, chasing off both of the battery gun crews, when their charge ran out of steam, blown.
Unfortunately von Treskow had been unable to get his Silesian hussars moving again (not enough PIPs), leaving the dragoons very exposed with fresh French cuirassiers ogling the dragoons' flank for a charge. Von Lutzows landwehr cavalry had now arrived on the right flank, but were they close enough?

Surely those dragoons will die now?

When the French cavalry activation came up next,  the dragoons fate seemed sealed. The 8th lancers charged the landwehr cavalry facing them, and the 14th cuirassiers charged the flank of the Brandenburg dragoons. Two surprises came up next. First of all it was now the French who scored abysmal die results, with the cuirassiers and dragoons both falling back blown. In other words, the Brandenburg dragoons survived, much to everyone's amazement.
The 8th lancers did manage to get a decisive result against the landwehr cavalry, throwing them back behind the Silesian hussars.
Overall, this meant that the French cavalry division had been severely blunted, and would no longer play a meaningful part in the remainder of the battle, and a stand-off had been reached on the right flank.
On the left flank, the Berg grenadiers were ordered to attack the Saxon infantry in front of them. Even though they severely outclassed them, this attack fizzled in it's entirety and the left flank came to as grinding a standstill as the right had.

Running up that hill

The last area where a speedy breakthrough could be reached was the center. Two French infantry brigades were advancing on von Pirch's brigade, but short range cannister fire took the most of the sting out of that, in fact sending two battalions routing by sheer fire volume.
Three battalions of the  second brigade however did reach the West Prussian musketeer line, flanked on each side by an artillery battery. The odds here were close and slightly in favour of the French, but apparently the Prussian line proved strong enough that the French could not fight their way through. A firefight ensued, which was won by the West Prussians. Luckily it never came down to the landwehr troops that had been drawn up as supports, as they were very poor quality troops indeed.
With the last imminent danger dealt with, night fell - giving the Prussians time to bring up the remainder of the 1. Corps, and the French to lick their wounds and figure out just what went wrong.


It was interesting to see how even a force that significantly outnumbered it's opponent can run into an array of issues all of it's own.

When the French were spotted prior to fully deploying, their attack orders meant that they had to rush into the attack only half prepared, with their artillery in the wrong place to provide sufficient support, and with troops getting in each other's way. Had they been given manoeuvre orders instead, the situation would have been different, and the Prussians would have had a much harder time. A problem that seems entirely historic, but that is hard to come by in most rule sets.

The French cavalry ran into similar issues, compounded with having very little room to actually attack across. This, combined with some unlucky die rolls, allowed for the vastly outnumbered and outclassed Prussian cavalry to stop the French cavalry entirely in it's tracks. Life would have been significantly easier on the French had they detached  their light cavalry, as right now it took significant involvement from the French CiC to sort  them out. Again, the problems encountered here seem quite realistic, and proved a pleasant surprise as opposed to the expected steamroller result. It was very interesting to see just how critical the 'bold' status of the Prussian cavalry commander turned out to be!

On the left flank, the Saxon attack showed that mediocre and even poor troops can do good things indeed when handled properly - but also that if things go wrong, they go wrong quickly (the battalions repulsed by the grenadiers and then routed by artillery canister). The 'pinning'  rules that kept the Berg infantry in square seemed to also get a realistic result - a formation change with the enemy that close would have been suicidal.

The last attack in the center showed that you can concentrate only so much force on a small front. No infantry columns steamrollering across the lines, drawn up shoulder to shoulder from one brigade to the next. The combat versus the West Prussian musketiers showed that 3 columns have a good chance of breaking through a line, but the Prussian support and preparatory artillery fire brought the balance back to where it could have gone either way. Being able to resolve a 3 battalion attack with one die roll definitely is a pro.

Overall, we spent some time looking up things and discussing the application of some of the rules - only to be expected on the first time playing a new set of rules. Nonetheless, they seemed to work fast enough, and we all felt that the game turned out very interesting. It felt historical, and superior numbers provided much less of an automatic victory than what we have seen with other sets of rules.

On a personal note, definitely tastes like more, and has me painting figures and preparing to rebase my Prussians.

Derk Groeneveld, 04-01-2009