Today, on a hot and steamy Auckland day, five of us played a Franco-Prussian War gsme. There were three French players and two Prussian engaged on a beautifully set up table.
The scenario was a relatively simple one around a triangle of three small villages near a railway line. Both sides have a need to secure these villages and which ever side held the greater number of village at the end of the game would be ruled the winner.
Of the forces engaged, on the French had three brigades of eight battalions, two field batteries and a single regiment of dragoons. The Prussians counted two brigades of seven battalions, one brigade of nine battalions, three field batteries and a regiment of uhlans.
In this narrative I shall refer to the left and right from a Prussian perspective - since I played Prussians.
Two villages were nearer to the French than the Prussians and they chose to move against the left hand village with one brigade, while the other brigades would take the village on the right, with the possibility of pushing further on to take the village on the Prussian side of the track. They moved the two field batteries to a high hill between the the two villages.
The French move to take the right hand village
We Prussians chose to move the nine battalion brigade to occupy the village on our side of the tracks. One of the other brigades would move to engage the French in the village on the left, while the third brigade would fill the space between the two wings where it could support either flank. The guns took the only high ground available from where they could support all forces.
The French easily occupied their villages on their side of the tracks. The Prussians threw the uhlans forward and drew the fire of the dismounted French dragoons, before making a desperate attack agains the French batteries on the hill. The end of the uhlan attack was messy for the cavalry, but for a few turns it drew the attention of the French guns from the infantry.
The first serious action developed on the left where the French had occupied some of the buildings of the town and had taken up positions behind and inside the railway cars there. An initial Prussian attack was repulsed, but a second one drove the dismounted dragoons from the railway cars and allowed a Prussian battalion to push beyond where they overpowered a battalion of Turcos in the café on the edge of the town, driving the Turcos back and taking possession of the café, which the would hold for the rest of the game.
On the right the action developed around the Prussian village when one of the French Brigades pushed forward. The Prussians immediately committed their reserve brigade against this force. Initially the French had some success here, but soon outstripped the supports. When the Prussian reserves got into action the French began to crumble and the brigade from the village in the right had to be committed. The Prussian advance was relentless on the right and when we broke for lunch, all seemed lost for the French.
After lunch the situation changed dramatically. The Prussian reserves now found themselves exposed and the French rebounded. In two or three turns the Prussian reserves were driven off and largely dispersed, but the fighting had taken its toll on the French on the right. One brigade was destroyed and the second fell back across the railway to defend the village on the right on their side if the tracks
In the left hand village the action swayed too and fro. Despite the fact that the dice Gods did not favour them, the French continued to contest the village.
In the end it became a matter of attrition and as the Prussians closed in on the village on the right, it was decided that it was only a matter of time before they would carry the two villages on the French side of the tracks. The game ended with a Prussian victory, but at a huge cost - eleven battalions had been forced from the fight.