Welcome to Marauder Moments - a chronicle of the Mortimer Street Marauders; the games we play, the rules we use, the figures we play with and the scenery they fight over. Hope you enjoy these pages and maybe call back to catch up with our escapades.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Battle of Zbrovski

Ancient readers of Wargames Illustrated may recall this game from an article by Pete Morbey of Elite Miniatures many years ago. In issue 98 Pete set out a hypothetical Napoleonic encounter between a Russian rearguard and an advancing French force hellbent on clearing the road for the main force. We played this same game about a year ago in 15mm using the Black Powder rules - it was a blood bath. This time we revisited Zbrovski in 28mm using General de Brigade rules - it was still a blood bath.
The plateau - Looking east towards Zbrovski in the far distance.
The town of Zbrovski is dominated by a plateau with an un-named village on it and dense woods to the west. To the east of Zbrovski is a boggy valley over looked by bluffs to the north and south. The French are advancing from the north down the road; the Russian rear guard is awaiting them.
Looking west along the boggy valley to the plateau beyond .
The un-named village with farmland and drainage ditches.
The opposing forces

The Russians
1st Brigade - 3 x 32 Grenadiers (elite), 2 x 32 Line.
2nd Brigade - 6 x 32 Line
3rd Brigade  - 2 x 32 Jaeger, 4 x 32 Line
Cavalry Brigade - 1 x32 Cuirassiers, 2 x 32 Dragoons
Artillery - 2 x 6 6lb batteries, must be attached to infantry brigades

The French
1st Brigade - 3 x 36 Line, 2 x Legere (elite)
2nd Brigade - 4 x 36 Line
3rd Brigade - 4 x 36 Line
4th Brigade - 5 x 36 Line
Cavalry Brigade - 32 x Cuirassiers, 24 x Chassuers a Cheval
2 x 4 8lb foot batteries (unattached)

We're just getting the hang of the skirmisher rules so didn't include any in this game.

The Russians refused their right by slapping down four battalions of grenadiers and six 6lbs screened by patches of marsh. This covered any attempt to out flank Zbrovski which was garrisoned by two further battalions with more behind in support! The eastern end of the ridge was held by another six gun battery; the unnamed farming community was occupied by two battalions with two more to each side and the rear. On the Russian far left, out of sight below the ridge line of the plateau lurked Duka's heavy cavalry, 32 Curassiers, and 2 x 32 Dragoons. They had only to ride forward up onto the plateau to effectively prevent any further advance on the French right - how hard could that be...
Zbrovski's garrison with supports and a big battery on the far flank - a tough nut to crack.

The French had a very similar idea...! The French C-in-C elected to make a big push over the plateau and hook around Zbrovski. To this end he put me in front of Zbrovski with two batteries plus four battalions on hold orders - just sit and blast away tying up and pinning the grenadiers opposite. The cavalry were in the center ready to go either way as he saw fit. The idea was to pin the garrison and supporting units whilst the heavier numbers on the right did all the fighting.
Italian gunners squint into the rising sun just before running out of ammo! Elite miniatures.
French gunners looking busy as Saxon heavies maneuver past. Perry Miniatures.
So as the sun rose the French guns opened fire on Zbrovski - the Italian battery realised they were almost out of ammunition so fired at half effect for the whole game - an excellent start. On the right the French columns crested the escarpment onto the plateau and began to flood onto the farmland. The Russians remained stoically in place except the refused flank which decided that "the best form of defense is attack" and made for my small brigade in front of Zbrovski - this took me completely by surprise especially as they double paced and began dragging the canons forward too!

Massed French columns assault the plateau. Perry plastics in need of basing . Ugly markers - I know!    
As the battle got under way a fierce fight on the high ground developed with the Russian battery doing terrible damage to the French, who despite the casualties began to force the defenders from the farmstead. To  reinforce the position the Russians ordered the Heavy Cavalry to attack the French infantry threatening to envelop the whole position. Mistakenly the cavalry general began to retire from the field - blame the fog of war and rolling two double ones for order changes! This was plainly disastrous and began to unhinge the Russian left.
Pressure on the Russian left and the Russian heavies - 3 x 32 silly buggers! More behind them off table. 
To relieve the pressure on the centre the Russians planned to move the unengaged Brigade from behind Zbrovski up onto the plateau, however the French general had foreseen this and ordered my cavalry to charge - thereby pinning them. The purpose of this was lost on me and I got quite annoyed but went in with the Saxon heavies anyway, duly they bounced back through the supporting unit of Hussars - luckily both regiments remained formed. I really needed the cavalry on my left as the Russian "refused flank" was in danger of turning mine. The brave/dumb Russian Grenadiers were walking through cannister and volley fire without slowing pace. I really didn't need this as I had deployed poorly - not expecting an attack the Italian battery was very exposed and low on ammo of course!

Rosy cheeked Russian militia led by a stalwart old veteran from a previous century, complete with massive moustache and walking cane. A lovely regiment by the ever resourceful & talented Tony. Wargames Foundry toys.
The real action was up on the high ground where the farm complex had fallen to the elite Legere, the Russian cavalry had ridden off on some errand and the supporting Russian infantry were faltering. Chris, the French C-in-C decided to press the advantage as the enemy brigades were in a mess by now. As all his charges failed to close due to casualties I crossly reprimanded him "you've pushed the men too hard!" In a rare scene he spun on his heel and bollocked me! (both of us getting a bit carried away there, it really is only a game). As if to punish my insubordination he then ordered my cavalry brigade to charge up the slope and take the massive battery which was holding up his columns. This was plainly suicide which is exactly what I muttered as I walked back to make the moves. The Hussars went in first and predictably went down horribly to cannister, turning tale and fleeing. However the move worked and gave Chris's infantry just the respite he needed to get in amongst the disordered battalions and cause two Russian brigades to break or retire. This opened up the Russian centre and despite the Russian Grenadiers on my left capturing the Italian battery the rest of my puny brigade held and finally pushed back the only credible Russian brigade still on the field.

Vastly outnumbered Russian infantry supporting the farmstead - could do with some heavy cavalry really...
Wargames Foundry Russians, Perry commanders and French.

The Russian rear guard was defeated and the road lay open for the advance of the French main body. A really good game which was in the balance for a long time. I never fully understood Chris's plan so just followed my orders (sometimes grudgingly, sometimes with open hostility). However he knew what he was doing and it all came together. I am convinced that the departure of Duka's Russian heavy cavalry had a major impact, Chris is not so sure, I guess we'll never know.
The Russian battery which punished Chris's columns and massacred my Hussars in their suicidal charge - thanks Chris.
Wargames Foundry Russians - Perry French. 

Thanks to Pete Morbey for the scenario and to Tony and Chris for a brutal encounter. Many more to come.        


  1. Wow! A mighty fine piece of carnage and a rollicking commentary to boot. Look forward to reading and seeing more like this.

  2. Thanks for the kind words - call back soon now!

  3. hardcore - need to see the rules to fully get it but I'll be following you guys now!

  4. Welcome on board Sir! Plenty more action to follow and of course piccies of toys.

  5. Will be refighting this scenario in February thanks to your report -inspired. Will dig out that miniature wargames as well as I know I have it too.

  6. Wow - maybe we should play it again too Carlo, there is something very simple and pure about it, sounds weird but it's true! Be sure to let us know how it goes, have fun.