Saturday, 28 January 2017

The Retreat continues: a further Ga Pa scenario

Following on from my previous post, the Russian withdrawal eastwards from Grodno continued. Ogilvy requested reinforcements and Moscow sent a brigade (4 battalions of veteran infantry) to strengthen his force.  Encouraged, Ogilvy sought another delaying position to inflict further losses on his pursuers.  Near Ostrino he found what he was looking for.  Although it lacked a ridge, his chosen position had both flanks secured by woods, ensuring that once again the Swedish army would have to make a frontal attack.  Ogilvy deployed his infantry in the centre.  The brigade of Schlepin in the first line, supported by Rostov's brigade.  On the right was Repnin's brigade of veteran infantry.  The few Russian guns were placed in the centre.  On each flank were brigades of dragoons, Menshikov on the right and Denisov on the left.  Ogilvy held the small regiment of Horse Grenadiers as a reserve in the centre, behind the infantry.

The Swedes under Rehnskjold had not been idle.  Reinforcements had been gathered from each garrison and force-marched to join the main army.  Rehnskjold's force now consisted of 9 battalions of infantry in two brigades (Horn and Sparre) and two brigades of horse, (Krassow and Hummerhjelm).  Although outnumbered the Swedes were the more experienced force and keen to avenge the check that they had received at Ogilvy's hand.  Reaching the Russian position, Rehnskjold deployed his force with Krassow's horse on the right wing, then Horn's infantry, Sparre's infantry and finally Hummerhjelm's horse.  His plan was to make a general advance, probing for a weak spot then use his horse to break the enemy line.

Above is an overview of the table before the action started.

Menshikov's cavalry

Repnin's brigade of infantry
The Swedish foot prepare to advance
The whole Swedish line advanced and although the Russian artillery worked hard, they were unable to stem the tide.  First into action were Hummerhjelm's horse.  Menshikov's dragoons were slow to deploy and the Sibersk regiment was driven back in disorder by a charge by the Skansa regiment.  To the right of Skansa were the Uplands regiment.  They were also successful, but were disordered by the melee and whilst they regrouped, the Semyonovsky regiment advanced and fired a devastating close range volley.  Such were the losses that the Uplands regiment took no further part in the battle. On the opposite flank, Krassow's horse were also in action.  Densiov had decided that the best tactic was to use his dragoons' firepower to weaken the Swedes and then charge home.  Schlepin had provided extra help by deploying one of his battalions, (1st Tula) to provide flanking fire. Unfortunately for the Russians, the musketry fire proved totally ineffective when their men were faced by the onrushing Swedish horse.  The Moscow dragoons were totally defeated in the melee and fled, disordering their supports, the Vladimir dragoons.  It was only a charge by the Neva Dragoons which stopped the Swedish onslaught.

Krassow's horse drive off the Russian dragoons
In the centre the Swedish infantry continued their steady advance.  Once in musketry range they delivered a volley and then charged.  Against Repnin's veterans they were less successful, their Russian opponents standing their ground and giving as good as they got.  However, against Schlepin's battalions they made some headway, forcing the Russian line back.

On the Russian right, Menshikov's dragoons had regained the initiative.  Recovering from their initial combat with their Swedish opponents, they advanced against the Taube and Skansa regiments.  Once again the Semyonovsky regiment provided supporting fire and this helped the Sibersk Dragoons overcome the Skansa regiment and drive from the field.  An indecisive melee between the Taube and Czarinski regiments resulted in both withdrawing disordered.  A Russian advance against the Swedish left wing seemed a realistic prospect.  Ogilvy decided that he should commit his Horse Grenadiers to help Densov drive off Krassow's horse and thereby relieve the pressure on his left.  His confidence had been boosted when the 1st battalion of the Smolensk regiment had delivered a deadly volley to drive back the Swedish Grenadier battalion in disorder, just as it prepared to charge.    

The infantry prepare to charge

Artillery support can prove decisive
Rehnskjold, although giving grudging admiration for the steadfast defence of the Russians, issued orders to his brigade commanders to "press on!"  Although his command had been severely weakened in its struggles with Menshikov, Hummerhjelm gathered his remaining troopers together and taking position at the head of the Taube regiment, led them forward again.  Perhaps surprised at the speed and ferocity of the Swedish assault, Menshikov's men met the charge at the halt.  First the Sibersk Dragoons were driven back, then the Czarinski.  Menshikov's third unit, an amalgam of the elite troops of each regiment, was disordered by their fleeing comrades and then driven from the field by the exultant Swedes.  In no time at all, all plans for a Russian counterattack against the Swedish left were left in tatters.  Indeed Repnin's brigade, already holding off Sparre's Swedes, now had to deploy battalions to deter a possible flank attack by Hummerhjelm's horse.  Once again the Semyonovsky regiment saved the day, driving off the Swedish horse with a disciplined volley.

On the Russian left, Ogilvy's Horse Grenadiers had, by their presence, caused Krassow to pull back his leading regiments.  Sensing the opportunity for an attack, the Horse Grenadiers moved forward, but in doing so exposed their flank to Ducker's regiment of horse.  They charged forward anticipating an easy victory.  However, against the odds, the Russians held their ground and drove off their opponents.  With Denisov's dragoon regiments still attempting to recover from their earlier drubbing, Schlepin ordered 1st battalion Tula to advance and drive off the Swedish horse with musketry volleys.  Meanwhile Schlepin's remaining battalions were beginning to waver under the unrelenting pressure from the Swedish foot.  Rostov's brigade were ordered forward to support them, but all these battalions were untried new recruits.

The Horse Grenadiers charged in flank

Sparre's infantry press on
It was at this point that Krassow, seized the initiative and ordered the Hielm regiment of horse to charge the Tula regiment.  A scattered volley was ineffective and rather than meet the Swedish horse, the Russians ran.  Behind them were their 2nd battalion, who seeing the rout, joined in.  With the Abo and Ducker regiments advancing towards Denisov's dragoons, who seemed on the verge of quitting the field, the Russian left was in a state of collapse.

Hielm strike home
With losses amongst the infantry rising, no effective cavalry and increasing pressure on his centre, Ogilvy had little option than to order a withdrawal.  It was a Swedish victory.

This was a nicely balanced game.  When we broke off for lunch, it seemed as if the Russians, having weathered the initial Swedish attack, had the advantage.  However when we resumed and the Russian lines became more disordered, the command structure began to break down and the Swedes regained the initiative.
The wider frontage (fighting across the table, rather than along its length) meant that artillery did not become too powerful.  Unfortunately this also meant that there was not the same depth available for retreats etc.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Retreat from Grodno 1706: a Ga Pa scenario

The first game of 2017 involved an outing for the 40mm Prinz August figures.  I found a scenario on the Renaissance Discussion board on TMP, which had been devised by the Wyre Forest Group.  It is a fictional scenario in which the Russian garrison of Grodno has marched east towards its supports, just before the Swedes arrived to besiege the city. Closely pursued by a Swedish force, the Russian general, Ogilvy has taken up a strong defensive position to cover the withdrawal of his baggage train and heavy artillery.

Russian infantry on the ridge

The dragoons ready to advance
Ogilvy has taken up position on a low ridge flanked by two area of impassable terrain, forcing the Swedes into a frontal assault.  His force consists of 7 line battalions and 1 elite battalion supported by two light guns.  In reserve are three regiments of dragoons.  Advancing towards him are 4 battalions of Swedish infantry and four regiments of cavalry, supported by two light guns.  All the Swedish units are of better quality than the Russian (with the exception of the single elite Russian infantry battalion), and their commanders are more experienced.  However, the ridge does give an advantage to defenders in melee.

The Swedish infantry advance
The dice decreed that Steve would command the Swedes and as he won the initiative, he deployed and began to advance.  At first the Swedish infantry ignored the long range artillery fire from the ridge, but as the range shortened, losses rose and the leading elite battalion became disordered.  The leading Swedish cavalry unit also became disordered, but a supporting unit continued to advance and once within range charged the Smolensk regiment which was holding the left flank of the Russian line.  A totally ineffective volley failed to stop the horsemen and they crashed into the Russian ranks. After a brief resistance the infantry broke and fled towards the river, the door was open, could the Swedes exploit it?

The Swedish cavalry  take the ridge
Unfortunately for Steve, the Russians had done just enough to disorder the Swedish cavalry and their supporting units had failed to follow them forward.  The Swedish cavalry commander also failed to issue and order for them to reform, so they stayed stationary on the ridge, whilst the Russians struggled to plug the gap.

On the Russian right the front line of infantry were beginning to feel the effects of the Swedish artillery, but fortunately the Swedish infantry were too far away to drive home the advantage.

The Russian dragoons counterattack
As Russian commander, I had ordered the left hand unit of the second infantry line to refuse it's left flank to fire at any Swedish cavalry advancing from the ridge.  Unfortunately, being a 'green' unit attempting this manoeuvre had caused it to fall into disorder and it took the rest of the battle to successfully order it to recover.  However, the dragoons had managed to advance and were now in a position to attempt to drive back the Swedish cavalry.  After some hesitation they did charge and force the Swedes to fall back.  Buoyed by this success they advanced again and were successful a second time.

The high water mark of the Swedish advance
By this time the Swedish infantry had managed to force most of the Russian infantry off the ridge, but had taken heavy casualties from the Russian artillery.  With half his force hors de combat the Swedish  commander decided he had better withdraw and await reinforcements.  The Russians were content to repossess the ridge and bask in an unexpected victory.

The game had been closer than the end result suggested.  A crucial bout of poor dice for Steve robbed him of the chance of exploiting his early success.  Also he was not helped by the brittleness of the Swedish cavalry, which although powerful in attack was vulnerable as it had only one strength point. Also the restricted battlefield meant that there was little scope for the Swedes to avoid the artillery fire, which proved deadly at close range.  A few points to ponder before our next GNW game