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The Retreat from Bitteburg 1816

As I mentioned in my last blog, our gaming group, the White Hart Gamers, played another of our mega games two weeks ago. Once again the battle was based around the fictious town of Bitteburg and following the Allies defeat in the first battle of Bitteburg, we had decided that this would be the last in the series! The scenario was that the French, having driven the Allies from the field of battle at Bitteburg had caught them and would attempt to destroy the last allied army in a final set piece battle.  The set up was very straight forward. There were three players per side, each player having his own Corps Commander as per normal Black Powder rules. In addition, the player in the centre was the overall army commander, who could give three additional orders with no distance penalty. The idea being that, the overall commander could use his influence to link the three ‘Corps’ together.

Set up and ready to go!

Set up and ready to go!

We held back at least two brigades each in the initial deployment. They could be deployed, a brigade at a time, on the Corps Commanders orders, but only within D6 of the centre of the players deployment zone.

Set up complete, the battle commenced. For the French, it was simply a matter of pushing the Allies from the table to win. The Allies were tasked with breaking the French Army. As with all of our previous games, once we were started, the game effectively broke into three separate ‘mini games’ with very little overlap. As the French forces in front of me quickly advanced, I became engrossed in the battle in my sector, paying little attention to what was happening elsewhere!

Joint Anglo Prussian Forces await the French onslaught

Joint Anglo Prussian Forces await the French onslaught

My immediate plans to form a defensive line between the woods and church was thwarted by the refusal of my infantry brigades to move! In fact, the light infantry and Artillery had moved into position only to find they had no support at all from the rest of the army. Even the capture of a French Spy was of no comfort.

A French spy is apprehended!

A French spy is apprehended!

To make matters worse, two of my Artillery batteries blundered, limbering their guns and advancing straight into the waiting enemy!

Under Pressure from the French.

Under Pressure from the French.

As the two Armies closed to engage, a relentless fire fight ensued but on this occasion the British were out fought. The forward British units were picked off and the rest of the army refused to move! Perhaps the previous battles were beginning to undermine morale! Fortunately, I had reinforcements to bolster the Allies and the Prussians deployed in an attempt to relieve the pressure.

Here come the Prussians

Here come the Prussians

The French Brigades began to waver under the Allies numerical superiority and at last their central brigade broke, retreating in disorder. Well, almost… Despite this small success, the Allies were unable to capitalise on the break in the French line and through blunder and failure to move, found themselves again in trouble. Unable to rally the troops, it was now Allied brigades that began to break and create panic in the Army. Matters were brought to a head when a French Battalion blundered and charged the British defensive line. It should have been a bloodbath for the British but the French carried home the charge destroying the Battalion of Hanoverians facing them and causing the supporting battalions to rout as well. Even a late charge by the Scots Greys could not halt the French.

The Scots Greys prepare to charge

The Scots Greys prepare to charge

The British line was stabilised by the introduction of yet another reserve brigade. The French were pushed back but this temporary success was short lived as the French brought up their own reinforcements. As the battle came to a close, it was the French that remained in the ascendancy – the British had decided the day was not theirs and withdrew from battle.

Time to survey the battlefield and plan the final assault!

Time to survey the battlefield and plan the final assault!

The French had edged a victory. If my battle on the left had not gone so well, things were even worse on the right where after some initial success, our Austrian allies had also been pushed back and badly mauled. The battle in the centre was not quite so decisive but overall it was clear that the French had won the day.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this was the last battle in this series and a 3 -0 score overall for the French was a pretty emphatic victory. The next big day will be slightly different. Having experience of running these mega battles has given us food for thought as to whether we can run a campaign in a day with several smaller engagements taking place on different tables. Watch this space to see how this works out.

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