Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Eckau from Long Ago

So good we lost it twice.

Yesterday was a fighting day - we were re-playing the Battle of Eckau (July 1812),  of which I confess I had never heard before. The real battle has two alternative dates, depending on whose calendar you use - it was fought between Prussian and Russian forces at and around the small town of Gross Eckau (modern Iecava, in Latvia) - the Prussians, of course, were temporarily working as part of Marshal MacDonald's X Corps.

The real battle was fairly small (by our usual standards), and was won by the (real) Prussians. Yesterday's version was hosted by Count Goya, at his castle up in the remote Arctic, so Stryker and I arrived to do our bit to make a mockery of history.

The soldiers were all from Goya's collection, and he had set up the scenario so that we had something like a 1:1 representation of units present.

Goya's sketch map - North at the top (no Gregorian compasses)
The Order of Battle for the game was

8 battalions, each of 3 blocks
1 light cavalry regiment of 4 blocks
1 dragoon regiment of 4 blocks
2 foot artillery batteries
3 leaders

Prussians were split into 2 brigades - one on the east, one in the south west.
The east brigade consisted of:
3 line battalions, each of 4 blocks
1 light battalion of 4 blocks
1 light cavalry regiment of 3 blocks
1 horse artillery battery
1 leader

The south-west brigade was:
3 line battalions
1 dragoon regiment of 3 blocks
2 foot artillery batteries
2 leaders

Since this game does not lend itself well to a left-centre-right command system, we used the Ramekin variant of Commands & Colors:Napoleonics, which employs a dice-based activation system. We did not use the C&C Tactician cards. Stryker  took command of the Prussian "south-west" brigade, I controlled the "east" brigade, and Goya had the Russians.

The river was fordable at all points, troops in the water had the usual combat disadvantages. The victory target was 6 banners. No objective-based banners.

Stryker and I decided we would avoid the built-up areas as far as possible - the problem with Russian line infantry, you see, is that, though their units are fairly small, they are able to ignore 1 retreat flag (unquestioning valour or something), which makes them a formidable proposition in a town. Since the retreat flag exemption greatly reduced our chances of frightening them out of any of the bits of the town, we most certainly did not feel very optimistic about simply shooting them out of the place. Thus the grand master plan was that we would mostly ignore the town - I would steam down the road from the east with my brigade, to the north of the buildings, opposing the Russians' left flank, and Stryker would nip smartly across the fordable river, and take them from the other side. We envisaged a mighty meeting in the middle, like a meat grinder. We were also nervously aware, of course, that the scenario plan of splitting our force into two bits, with the looping flank attack from the East, immediately gave our opponents the central position which Napoleon would have recognised as the place to be. 

The meat grinder, alas, did not come to pass - my East Brigade was stopped and decimated disappointingly quickly, leaving my general helping out with a surviving horse battery, and Stryker never got across the river, so we lost very convincingly, and quite quickly, 6-1 on Victory Points. The Russian boys in the town were undisturbed, happily making turnip broth.

Russians in the town, very comfortable, thank you - we are looking north here
From the East, you can just see my brigade starting their march to glory - Stryker's brigade is just visible in the far left corner
There they are - just starting to march on to the corner - all they have to do is keep left and then cross the river
While my boys from the East are cracking on nicely
Here's a view from the south-west, with Brigade Stryker preparing to leap the River Iecava (not too chilly in July)
It didn't go very well at all - this is a (Warrior) Prussian battery, which was about my most effective unit
Back to the south-west, you see that Stryker has got nowhere near the river yet, while in the distance two of my battalions have taken so much damage from artillery that I can't do much more with them, my cavalry has vanished like snowballs in Hades, and another of my battalions is cut off on the hills and in serious trouble
Here they are, in fact, about  to be eliminated - miraculously, the general commanding survived and went to join the artillery battery
Yes - that's right - Stryker still can't get over the river - hmmm - maybe the town would have been easier...
General view from the East - the units with all the red counters are just standing watching - their orders are to avoid becoming more Victory Banners - if you have exceptional eyesight, you may spot a single white counter over in the far left corner - that is our one and only VB. By this point we had lost 6-1
The game ended quite early, so in the afternoon we tried it again. Same line up - the only changes to the scenario rules were that we reduced the Russian allocation of order chips each move (since in the morning they had had far more than they needed) and we allowed the Prussians three Iron Will counters, which allow an emergency cancellation of a Retreat Flag if all else fails. 

This time, the Prussians went for Plan B, which was to arrange for the East Brigade to get back over the river to the southern bank, join up with the South-West chaps, and attack the village in the approved manner. We actually gained just a little success this way, but not enough - we lost again, though this time the score was 6-3. You may decide for yourself if this is a worthwhile improvement. 

Righto - Take Two - Goya fishing in his Ramekin pot, looking for order chips
Some of Stryker's boys very quickly captured the southern-most part of the town. Gott in Himmel!
And my eastern chaps are splashing over the river to join in the fun. The two units with the blue order chips are about to be sent in against the nearest bit of the village (the Manor House, apparently) - the intention was that support would be arranged by the horse battery (currently in the river), but it didn't work out - not enough orders, and the horse artillery is disappointingly lightweight for bombarding towns.
Defeated again - this time by 6-3, but certainly defeated. Stryker's brave attack has run out of men, and further up the table you can see that my own attack on the built-up area just fizzled out
Excellent day - great lunch, good chat and a nice, interesting game. Many thanks to Goya, and compliments on the game design. Smaller armies gave a refreshing break from serried ranks of shoulder-to-shoulder. At the end, the Prussians had rather more space available than we needed. Things to note:

Russians are tough boys to flush out of a town.

Their artillery is very serious indeed.

I think we were using Russian dice.


  1. You can console yourself that as Prussians fighting for Napoleon you were only going through the motions. No excuse in 1813 though ūüėÄ

    1. This is not a published C&C scenario, so there is no element of staged tweaking to balance the chances. No problem with that, but we discussed after the second game what the Prussians would have needed to reproduce their historical victory. One suggestion was that the real Russians on the day were demoralised and badly led - maybe we should have adjusted their stubbornness a bit? Some VPs for possession of bits of the town might have been included (though we hardly got any!). Interesting - I'm still thinking about it.

  2. Your table always looks elegant, Tony. 6-1, 6-3 are thrashings, for sure, but you are making improvements. Yeah, losing 6-3 feels much better than losing 6-1.

    It must have been an enjoyable day.

    1. Thanks Jon - it was a challenging little game - excellent fun. I can't claim any responsibility for the appearance - they were my river and roads and hills, but the venue and the table and the soldiers and the scenario were Goya's - I may be a bad influence, of course (!), but I take no credit here.

  3. It was a tough nut to crack for our Prussians, with double the numbers we may still have struggled! A good game however and interesting to have a three-way game scenario that gave us each a distinct command. At some point the Prussians will have a victory!

    1. It's very tough without the Landwehr...

      Breaking the army into two autonomous parts is a nice touch - we must do more of that!