Saturday, 21 March 2015

Black Powder: Battle of Klyastitsy

This Saturday marked the kick-off to our 1812 Russian campaign. We will be playing six central battles from the campaign over the following six months, using Black Powder rules and 15mm miniatures. First up was the battle of Klyastitsy (Yakubovo), 29.7-1.8.1812.

The scenario saw the French II Corps of Marshal Oudinot surprised and assaulted by Prince Wittgenstein's I Corps. The French objective was to defeat the Russian army, hold on to the Yakubovo heights (centre of table) and, if the situation was untenable, block the Russians from crossing the Nishcha river. The French army started the battle strung-out, so they would have to fight a delaying action with General Legrand's 6th division on the Yakubovo heights until help could arrive.

I reached the game quite late, around turn 4, by which time Legrand was already heavily engaged and the French 8th division under General Verdier had only begun the advance towards Yakubovo! General Koulnieff's "advance division" Russian jägers and hussars had outflanked Legrands left and was severely threatening his flank. Meanwhile a second Russian division - the 1st under General Berg - was putting great pressure on Legrands weak right. The pincer was closing, but the bulk of the Russian army - 16 elite battalions of infantry and 4 heavy cavalry regiments - were still far away.

A view of the battlefield from the north (Russian side) upon my arrival:

Verdier's division marching to the rescue:

Legrand's right about to cave in:

Legrand's left being worn down by Russian jägers in skirmish formation (and retreating to the forest whenever assaulted):

Mêlée in the centre - the thin French line is buckling:

French heavy cavalry under General Doumerc to the rescue:

Finally, Legrand's division is broken (around turn 6) - only a few battalions remain defiant on the extreme right and the centre-left. They put up a stubborn fight utilizing square formations and skirmish order to waylay the Russians. Verdier's division is still a ways off, with blunders and poor command rolls slowing their advance.

Things were looking bad for the French, but over the following couple of turns the crisis passed. The Russians from Berg's division gained a strenuous foothold of the Yakubovo heights with their worn vanguard units. These battalions were routed by concentrated fire from three French batteries which had deployed at the base of the hill. There was some sort of breakdown in the Russian command chain and the Russian reserves advanced sluggishly to strengthen their position on the heights. Finally, the large Russian concentration on the French right was decisively slowed down by harassing fire from a few of Legrand's remaining Légère battalions in skirmish formation. The moment passed and soon Verdier had the hill back in French hands and a strong defensive line set up.

The Russian sledgehammer - 8 battalions of grenadiers (including the Pavlov grenadiers) heading for French centre-right:

The last stubborn defenders of Legrand's centre-left are cut down in their squares:

Around turn 8 the Russian reserves were finally (but a turn or two too late) engaging the French - 16 fresh battalions were heading for the French centre, whilst the French left was still being ground down (but not overrun!) by the outflanking jägers and the French right was buying time and being reinforced:

The French right was finally got under control by concentrating several batteries and some six fresh battalions there. The batteries laid down a devastating bombardment, which was supposed to prepare the way for a French counter-attack on the Russian flank once the Russians became fully engaged in the centre. 

A view of the battlefield from the north (Russian side). The calm before bloody close-range fighting erupts across the length of the line:

The wait was not long. Russian grenadiers in the centre were the first to close with the French defenders. The combination of the grenadiers assault and well coordinated supporting fire from Russian artillery opened numerous gaps in the French line. The gaps were promptly plugged from the French reserve, which was dwindling at an alarming rate.

The grenadiers' assaults were soon followed by the Russian line infantry of General Sassonov's division on the French left. However this attack was all-together more poorly coordinated and failed to make a mark. 

The French responded with their own counter-attacks on both flanks. The chasseurs à cheval on the French left gave the Russian jägers a chastising, but failed to defeat them before being driven off by Russian cuirassiers and dragoons. These in turn were met by a counter-attack (or should I say counter-counter-attack) by French cuirassiers, which broke the Russian cavalry brigade and routed a number of Russian jäger and line infantry battalions! This flank was safely in French control.

The French also counter-attacked on their right, though this proved to be a costly failure. The timing of the French infantry assault was off, since they could have either attacked earlier with the enemy in disorder or later after a more sustained bombardment. Instead, they chose to do a brief bombardment which failed to do sufficient damage but was just enough of a delay to allow Berg to get his division in defensive order. The French assault made some headway and caused some damage to the Russians, but the cost in French lives was far greater.

These were the final acts of the game. With daylight fading fast and both armies spent, the Russians withdrew a few kilometres to the north and the French huddled down to lick their wounds. 

Final situation:

It was time to tally up the casualties and, in a casual gentlemanly way, engage in a civilized intellectual discussion amongst the generals over who won. The historians are still debating the issue, but according to the latest, best informed and barely francophile-biased research this was a minor victory for the French. The Russians had suffered greater losses in terms of battalions destroyed, brigades broken and the poor state of the remaining battalions. The Yakubovo heights remained in French hands. Finally and most importantly, the cuirassiers (commanded by myself - naturally) had gloriously sought out the enemy's elite cavalry and decisively defeated them in hand-to-hand combat. A glorious feat that will celebrated for centuries to come!


  1. Ossom report. Happy to have been part of this battle as Legrand.

  2. Good accout of the fight, thanks!

  3. Great pics and a battle well fought!

  4. Thanks guys. I can hardly wait for next month's game!

  5. Nice report. Go the Russians!

    1. Thanks John, although I do try to spin the reports so that they favour the French ;)

  6. Very nice report, I would like to know if you have the scenario notes. I would like to recreate it

    1. Thanks Alejandro! If you provide your e-mail, I can send you my notes.

  7. I am enjoying reading your battle reports we are getting ready to start our black powder adventures with French versus Russians also could you please tell me what you're doing for the Russian army have you created your own special rules and stats please let me know I'll include my email so you can send me anything that you have if you like thank you

    1. Thanks! We´ve given Russian infantry a stamina of 4 and Russian artillery an extra dice of shooting.

      I sent further details of our special rules and the game plan for the Klyastitsy game to your e-mail.

      Happy gaming!