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.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Planning the French attacks at Borodino

This is the latest in series of posts on our Borodino games this bicentennial year. It might be worth reading the previous post to put things into perspective - if you can be arsed.  

The French plan.

Chris and I had to hatch a plan to unpick the mighty Russian defensive positions in front of us. We asked a nearby little Corsican chap for some ideas, just trying to be friendly you know. He seemed content to sit, one foot up on a drum, sipping champagne served by a Mamluk servant in traditional garb. Thanks for your input – not!     

Our little Corsican chum never moved from his seat, foot up on his drum slowly getting pissed! He only looked up when captured Russian Cuirassier generals were presented to him. Not really a team player sadly.
Foundry Napoleon and Marshalls from ebay; Perry Hussars canter by from Barry Hill; Elite & Front Rank Russians by Tony Laughton. All based by me.     

What must be done seemed pretty obvious – take the Redoubt and the Fleches thereby driving the Russians from the field. Each could in theory be outflanked too; the Grand Redoubt by taking the village of Borodino and crossing the Kolotcha to the north. We could outflank The Fleches by clearing Utitsa and the woods to come up on the position from the south – piece of cake! We also had the responsibility of actually making a game of it for the Russians, i.e. we couldn't just ignore a whole sector and concentrate somewhere else – we needn't have worried as the Russians had plenty of ideas about how to make a game of it!

The Russian general staff gather in a conflab to discuss how to humiliate me next.
Front Rank infantry generals plus Elite Uhlan officer, painted by Tony Laughton.

With this in mind it was really a question of deployment and who wanted which toys to attack which objectives. In time honoured tradition we grabbed a few choice beverages, some coloured crayons, the maps, and printed off the army lists. All but the choice beverages were thrown onto the floor whilst we stood back and scratched chins & heads. By the end of the evening we had a coherent plan – hic. Needless to say we did this again over a few evenings to fine-tune the plan. Eventually came up with a cunning master plan worthy of the Corsican fellow with the drum and booze touting Mamluk.

Looking south over Borodino. Eugene's first attack has been repulsed, the Russians follow up. Davout is across the river about to assault the Grand Redoubt. In the distance cavalry swarm across the plain like angry bees.
Chris's time spent at the gym is paying off - but he has a bald patch - hah!    

Here’s what we had to play with;-

The Grande Armee – Napoleon, Chris and my gentle self.
1st Corps - Marshal Davout – Prince of Eckmuhl
6 x 36 Veterans, 6 x 36 Line, 2 x 36 2nd class, 2 x 24 Light cavalry, 8lb foot battery, 12lb foot battery.
3rd Corps – Marshal Ney – Prince of Moskowa
3 x 36 Veterans, 7 x 36 Line, 2 x 36 2nd class, 24 light cavalry, 8lb foot battery, 12 lb foot battery.
4th Corps – Prince Eugene de Beauharnais – Viceroy of Italy
3 x 36 Veterans, 4 X 36 Line, 3 x 36 2nd class, 24 light cavalry, 24 Lancers, 8lb foot battery.
5th Corps – Prince Joseph Poniatowski
3 x 36 Veterans, 5 x 36 Line, 24 Lancers, 24 Light cavalry, 8lb foot battery. 
8th Corps – General Junot – Duke of Abrantes
2 x 36 Veterans, 6 x 36 Line, 24 Light cavalry, 8lb foot battery.
Imperial Guard – Marshal Lefebvre – Duke of Danzig
2 x 40 Old Guard, 4 x 32 Middle Guard, 8 x 32 Young Guard (elites), 2 x 12lb foot batteries.                    40 Guard heavy cavalry, 40 Guard Lancers, 50 Guard light cavalry, 2 x 6lb Horse batteries.
1st Cavalry Corps – General Nansouty
2 x 32 Cuirassier (elite), 24 light cavalry, 24 lancers, 4lb horse battery.
2nd Cavalry Corps – General  Montbrun
32 Cuirassier (elite), 32 Carabiniers (elite), 24 Lancers, 4lb horse battery.
4th Cavalry Corps – General Latour-Maubourg
2 x 32 Saxon Cuirassier (elite), 24 Polish Cuirassier (elite), 24 Polish lancers, 4lb horse battery. 

2,275 infantry, 634 cavalry, 51 guns with 204 crew, 62 brigade staff, 20 corps staff = 3195 models.
There were also skirmisher models to be deployed if required. 

This is a lot of kit but then we had a 32 foot frontage to play on and a disastrous amount of stupefyingly resilient Russians facing us behind uphill earthworks. 

Foundry Russian 6lb battery massed against French attacks near Utitsa. Painted and based by our Tony. 

Chasseurs a cheval attached to Davout's massive 1st Corp advance. Victrix plastic from Rich's collection, painted by Barry Hill and imaginatively based by Rich. Note Cuirassiers in reserve up on the bluff behind.  

Here’s what Tony and Rich could rely on...

Combined  Armies of the West
Mikhail Kutuzov
1st Army of the West – Barclay de Tolly
2nd Infantry Corps – Lt General Baggovout
4 x 32 Veterans, 6 x 32 Line, 2 x 32 2nd class line, 12lb foot battery (6 guns).
3rd Infantry Corps – Lt General Tuchkov
3 x 32 Veterans, 8 x 32 Line, 3 x 32 Militia, 12lb foot battery (6 guns).
4th Infantry Corps – Lt General Ostermann-Tolstoi
2 x 32 Veterans, 8 x 32 Line, 2 x 32 2nd Class Line, 6lb foot battery (6 guns).
1st Cavalry Corps -
32 Dragoons, 32 Uhlans, 32 Hussars, 3 x 30 Cossacks.
2nd Cavalry Corps -
32 Cuirassiers (elite), 32 Dragoons, 32 Uhlans.
3rd Cavalry Corps -
32 Hussars, 32 Dragoons.

2nd Army of the West – Prince Bagration
7th Infantry Corps – Lt General Raevsky
8 x 32 Line, 4 x 32 2nd Class Line, 6lb foot battery (6 guns).
8th Infantry Corps – Lt Borozdin
3 x 32 Veterans, 7 x 32 Line, 2 x 32 2nd Class Line, 6lb foot battery (6 guns).
4TH Cavalry Corps -
2 x 32 Cuirassier (elite), 32 Dragoons.

Lifeguard Corps – Grand Duke Constantine
6 x 32 Guards, 4 x 32 Elite. 32 Guard Cuirassier, 32 Guard Uhlans, 32 Guard Hussars.                       Guard 12lb foot battery (6 guns), Guard 6lb horse battery (6 guns).
Army level reserve; 3 x 6lb horse batteries (3 guns each).

Russian Totals
2368 infantry, 506 cavalry, 51 guns with 204 crew.
(Game totals; 4643 foot, 1140 cavalry, 102 guns 404 crew plus general staff, over 6400 models – hurrah!)

Russian Cuirassiers await the order to advance from reserve. Front Rank models painted by Tony Laughton.
Based by me for my Allied Life Guard Corp collection which first saw action in this game. 

Here’s what we decided to do. Broadly speaking we would go up the middle but make efforts to turn the extreme flanks of the line with infantry and cavalry in the hope of being able to starve the centre of reserves and possibly get around behind either the Fleches or the Grand Redoubt.

Good shot of Russian musketeers in the treeline of the Utitsa woods.
Foundry models painted by Tony, usual handmade flags with Bicorne finials and cording.

Russian Jaegers in the Utitsa wood arrange a hot reception for the approaching Bavarian battalion - FIRE!
Here goes;- Foundry Jaeger by Tony, Foundry Bavarians by Nigel Cox or Tony Laughton for me with GMB flags.
Perry General by Barry Hill. General & Bavarians based by me. Last Valley trees, wood base by S&A scenics. Flowers on the Russian bases by Antonwotsits workshop. Phew.

The pressure points where the most force was brought to fall were the Grand Redoubt, The Fleches and Borodino. Remember our table was split in two between the Grand Redoubt and the Fleches creating two games, northern and southern sectors. Chris was given the two toughest nuts to crack – ie the frontal attacks up the middle. Our biggest formation was Davout’s 1st Corps with 5 Divisions and two batteries; this vast formation set up behind the central woods with their guns at each end and Girardin’s cavalry covering the southern flank of the columns. Davout’s infantry Divisions of Gerard, Campans, Morand & Friant had only to push through the undergrowth, splashing through the stream, to emerge at the foot of the slope up into the Grand Redoubt. In case 1st Corp couldn’t handle it Junot’s 8th Corp was stationed off table behind Davout; this position was very central allowing Junot to swing his two Divisions under Ochs and Tharreau to support either Davout or north over the pontoons to help Eugene against Borodino. To support Davout further we set up the Old Guard Grand Battery ( 2 x 4 Guard 12lb guns) on the bluffs behind him looking towards the Semenovskaya ridge where dense formations of Russians were waiting to support the Grand Redoubt, also within range was the Redoubt and a Division of Russian Grenadiers and supporting battery protecting the southern approach to the position. Basically everything was to be thrown at the Russians in the centre to make sure Davout and Junot got through. Chris also had Nansouty’s cavalry Corps with St Germain’s Cuirassier and De Bruyere’s light horse with a horse battery; these he stationed south of Davout in open ground to make sure an expected Russian cavalry attack here never threatened Davout’s attack. If the Russians didn't substantially threaten us here Nansouty would swing around pivoting on the ridge line and attack the position of the Grand Redoubt from the south.

More of the same Russian Jaeger battalion, might be the 48th? More battalions line out along the woods edge or lurk in reserve. Notes are the same as above. Resin bits by Snapdragon studio.

More of the above position.

And finally the other end of the Russian lines holding the Utitsa woods. Same notes as above.  

Further south Chris was tasked with also frontally assaulting the Fleches – another very tough position, this time approached over open fields of fire across a stream. (My fragile nerves won’t take this kind of work so I delegated myself to quiet flanking duties at Borodino & Utitsa allowing Chris all the excitement & glory. Little did I know...). For this job I gave Chris the next most powerful formation available to me – Marshall Ney’s 3rd Corp. Once again we massed a substantial heavy cavalry reserve to support this brutal task of storming the earthworks. Ney’s infantry under Wurtemburg, Ledru, & Razout would head for the Fleches and take care of any interlopers threatening the flanks of the attack from Utitsa wood to the south; the northern flank was covered by Ney’s cavalry under Mourier. Ney massed his Corp’s guns to shoot up the Russians as he pushed the Divisions over the open ground – bloody work indeed. We felt that Ney could achieve this but might possibly be shattered in the process and unable to exploit a break through speedily. To this end we allocated Latour Maubourg’s Reserve heavy cavalry Corp of Saxon and Polish Cuirassiers under Thielman and Von Lepel to support Ney and surge forward when the moment was right. So Chris had an enormous amount of kit and two enormous tasks ahead of him!

French 9th Hussars and Line Lancers circle in the central plain. These are from Ney's 3rd Corps operating against the Fleches and making sure the infantry don't get intercepted by Russian cavalry.
Perry Plastic Hussars by Barry Hill with Foundry lancers by Tony Laughton who also did the Trent Miniatures generals.
Flag by GMB, all based by me for me. Rough patches by Products for Wargamers, stream by S&A Scenics.
I need to sort out the flag and lance pennants for those lancers.

So, “what the hell is your role in all of this?” I hear you say. My contribution to the general attack was on the extreme ends of the line. In the north I mounted my charger as Eugene with the Army of Italy (4th Corps), here the task was to attack the wooden buildings of Borodino, evict the defenders and cross the River Kolotcha in force to outflank the Grand Redoubt in the central position. Eugene’s 4th Corp is my favourite formation in the army; Broussier & Delzon command a mixture of Italain and French line whilst Lecchi leads the Italian Guard formations, Villata controls the attached cavalry brigade. The corps artillery deployed to bombard Borodino at close range while Broussier and Delzon move to attack from two directions, Villata was ordered to keep the Russians away from the infantry and try to undermine Russian infantry attempting to support the village. Lecchi  stood with the Italian Guard ready to support the attack and eventually storm across the bridge claiming all the glory for themselves! Vive Eugene!

A poorly taken photo of Eugene, Viceroy of Italy commander of 4th Corp - me!
I gave Tony Laughton a totally free hand to do what ever he pleased with these - I am glad I did! I know how Eugene dressed but I wanted Italian staff who dressed themselves at their own expense however they so wished. The only concession is the Italian Guard Colonel on the left, he's a Perry Miniatures model, the other two are Front Rank. I totally love this vignette; I based it by the way, not entirely idle! If a better shot comes to hand you can have it!    
North of Borodino there was still a wide area of ground, fairly open with rolling hills and the odd wood. In 1812 Ouverov made a good fist of disrupting the French attacks here with massed cavalry attacks including a load of Cossacks. We decided that the river was fordable here. To prevent a repeat performance and knowing Rich owns an awful lot of Cossacks we slapped down Montbrun’s Reserve Heavy cavalry Corp here. This comprised 2 x 32 Cuirassier under Defranc and 24 lancers and a horse battery under Pajol. These should be able to handle whatever they can muster against us. When they have dealt severely with any Russian transgressions they can ford the stream and help Eugene encircle the Grand redoubt in support of Davout. Easy.

Russian Guard Hussars launch a charge...Urrrraaaahh!
So these are special! I converted these by popping Warlord Games plastic Russian Grenadier heads onto Perry plastic French Hussars, Barry Hill painted them as Russians and hey presto - 32 Russian Guard Hussars. What a cracking unit. This lot got left behind outside Marauder HQ after the game - by the time we noticed we were too pissed to drive back. Chris's Dad very kindly drove out to collect them before some scrote pinched them- thank you soooo much Sir. 

My other role in this game was that of the plucky Polish Prince Poniatowski with his 5th Corp. Different shaped hat to Eugene’s bicorne, Joseph Poniatowski sports the traditional Uhlan headgear - the unpronounceable czapska. I know you think you can say it in your mind but you can’t! Anyway 5th Corps would replay their historical role by attacking Utitsa and the Utitsa Mound. Polish generals Grabowski and Kaminski would lead the two infantry divisions against the village and dominating mound whilst Kameniecki took the famous Polish lancers and hussars along the flank in support.

Turn 1, Rich moves his Russians around Utitsa and onto the Mound. He grins like a maniac because he is. In the fore ground Poniatowski's Poles have lurched forward out of the forest to grapple the village and Mound from Rich's iron grip. There's not a Pole amongst them yet, they get painted next year! In the distance Ney sets off towards the Fleches and the Russians in the central Utitsa wood stare into the void wondering what new form of hell will show up there?   

Between Ney, opposite the Fleches, and Poniatowski in the forest in front of Utitsa, was a large gap in our line. Facing this gap was the tree line of the Utitsa wood – we expected this to be festooned with Russian Jaegers. No fear, into this gap in time we would deploy the heavy cavalry of Latour Maubourg giving them space to move up behind Ney. After them the Young Guard would appear beside the Guard cavalry and eventually the Old and Middle Guard too if needed. Napoleon was very firm in 1812 that the Imperial Guard should not be used, muttering something about not squandering your last reserve so far from home. Fair enough. We held no such qualms, if we didn't need the Imperial Guard well great – if we did, and Rich has the toys, which he does, we will use them! The scenario has them in the roster so what the hell!

The arrival of the Young Guard and Guard Cavalry with Guard Horse Artillery!
Those tree hugging bastards in the woods are in for it now!
Awesome shot taken as the Empress Dragoons and Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard turn up with Guard horse artillery who are in turn covering the attack of the first 6 of 8 battalions of Young Guard. Behind them Latour Maubourg's cavalry set off in vast columes to support Ney's infantry who are storming the Fleches and far end of the Utitsa woods.
3rd Corp's artillery mass on the bluff to shoot up the Russians in the distance.
The Russian plan has been promised to me in written form repeatedly. It seems that Tony is still too traumatized to bring himself to record the events. Rich didn't have a plan – what he did didn't require one and he never promised me one anyway! So when I write up the battle the Russian plan will reveal itself through the narrative as we experienced it – right in the face! On the subject of writing our views on this, Chris has promised me a version of events from his point of view. Like Tony none has been forthcoming. Both have been immersed in new projects; Tony has bought and painted a 28mm German platoon for Bolt Action, Chris has done something similar and of late has been basing his vast white blocks of Napoleonic Austrians with my help – yes – the Army of Bohemia has arrived. We haven’t stopped the Nappies, far from it! Bolt Action provides a fun adjournment from the bigger games and concentrates the mind on points values and getting nasty with each other on a smaller scale. I’ll get some piccies up when I have finished this baby.  

Dressed to kill.

Both pics are Front Rank French Imperial Guard Horse Artillery painted by Tony Laughton for Rich who based them.  

French Imperial Guard from Rich's collection. Perry Plastic horse and foot by Barry Hill with Front Rank horse artillery by Tony Laughton. I had a rather grizzly task for the Empress Dragoons leading the foot into battle. See below.
"Into the Valley of Death!"
A cynical move by me and a horrid one. The French Old Guard Heavy cavalry, Empress Dragoons, are sent into the heart of the Russian positions to buy time and space for the Old & Middle Guard foot to deploy into formation to counter attack Russian Guards coming around Utitsa having eradicated Poniatowski's Corp to a man. Oh the shame of it all!

In the foreground is Tony's awesome 6lb battery massively converted from Foundry toys. Most Russian infantry by Front Rank - picked up from Ian Hinds and now in Tony's "other" collection. Russian Guard Cuirassiers bottom left by Front Rank, details shown before, Russian Guards in Utitsa & beyond are my Warlord plastics with GMB flags by Barry Hill. Doomed Empress Dragoons are Perry plastics by Barry Hill for Rich.    
A few out takes to help you pick up the story before I tell it.

Chris and Tony slug it out over at the Fleches. Utitsa is in the foreground.
The front line here has moved way off to the left so there are only the odd general and ADC lurking about as a few units retire to lick their wounds or redeploy. Guard foot battery astride the Utitsa Mound in the bottom left foreground.

Russian Guard Uhlans canter off to attack some poor numpty. Elite Miniatures from Ian Hinds now in my collection.

French light cavalry with horse artillery approach the front line. Perry plastic cavalry by Barry Hill, Front Rank Limber from Hong Kong - all based by Rich for his own collection.

Eugene attacks Borodino. My Army of Italy assault Tony's "other" Russians wielded by Rich.
Over the River Davout finds a way through the woods before walking up to the Grand Redoubt.
Turns out Chris had the easy bit!

"The arrival of General Junot - Duke of Abrantes."
Junot's 8th Corps has two Divisions under Ochs and Tharreau, each of 4 battalions, with a 24 strong light cavalry regiment and four gun 8lb foot battery attached.
Where will they go? Left over the pontoons to help poor old Eugene? Right to effect a breakthrough with Davout or straight through the woods into the "kill zone", also with Davout?
Call back to find out!    
At some point I‘ll sort out the actual battle report. It might not be a monster as I have gone overboard on these pre-battle posts which I have really enjoyed writing, not sure why? There are still circa 300 photos to edit, all in good time. Hope you enjoy this epic tale


  1. Excellent, this looks the business chaps.

  2. Russian Life Guard Hussars are great!

  3. Stunning collection and game JJ, Cracking pics, love all the close up shots!!!

  4. Superior figures, paintjobs, and setup. The battlefield looks epic.

  5. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.


  6. Fantastic write up of the "preliminaries", Jeremy. As always, beautiful models, top quality pictures, and a real grand gaming spectacle. Cant wait to see the battle, and what becomes of poor old Eugene!!!

  7. Thanks for all the positive posts - makes it all worth while don't you know! You will get a full write at some point and a guest post by Rich who has supplied some thoughts from the Russian perspective - wonders never cease, didn't even know he could write let alone conjugate! Have fun and thanks again, jj

  8. Wonderful minis, and a fantastic, huge, table!

  9. Big pat on the back for your collection. I really appreciate the attention to detail you've put into your figures. Peter

  10. Wow... I started wargaming in Napoleonics - now I remember why!

  11. Hi Phil, Peter and Steve. Thank you very much for your kind comments - very much appreciated after the hours of preparation, gaming and subsequent blogging. Hope you can pop back to see the outcome and what else we get out to.
    Happy Christmas to you all by the way - hope you had a good one.
    Best wishes

  12. wow thats a lot of beatiful figures on one table great report wonderful pictures thanks heaps

  13. Great stuff JJ, I (and I have no doubt heaps of others) am/are happy to read 'em, drool over the photos (and link to the Wargaming Waterloo 2015 bicentennial blog), so please keep posting the reports!

  14. Fantastic looking game - what an impressive amount of beautifully painted figures too! Warm Regards, Dean

  15. Thanks a lot for your kind feedback.
    Breaking news - Rich has written some words from the Russian perspective! This is incredible - he is an engineer and usually just swears a lot and argues with anything that moves, his contribution is eloquent and insightful, none more surprised than I. What he has to say will of course appear as a guest post when the remainder of the report appears.
    Thanks again, JJ