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Wissembourg (1870): Playtesting the Franco-Prussian War



In last Wednesday's War Room game Doug's new 6mm Franco-Prussian War figures were on display as we tested Bloody Big Battles rules. The Battle of Wissembourg was the first of the conflict, with a Bavarian division and elements of two Prussian corps attacking the eponymous town, defended by a French division.



Brian (8 battalions, three batteries) and Rob (four battalions) were the French, with the Bavarians (Pete: 12 battalions, two batteries) assaulting Wissembourg, and two Prussian divisions (Alex: 11 battalions and eight batteries; Mal: 7 battalions and four batteries; Patrick: six battalions) attacking Brian on a large hill.



Rob quickly moved three battalions to reinforce the one in the town, which Pete set about assaulting.



Mal's brigade of seven battalions began a flanking move along the high ground to Brian's right. As Alex inched forwards, Brian was repeatedly left cursing his luck with poor dice rolls for artillery fire.



Pete moved six battalions up to the town in line, and another six in two columns of three bases (battalions) moving to Alex's right towards Brian's position.



The whole night was a question of the players becoming used to the rules, which Doug explained as new situations arose.



One of Pete's Bavarian regiments lost a battalion to Rob's defenders firing from the town, and the other two battalions had to retreat. Yellow spots, denoting disruption, began popping up all over the battlefield as effects of firing.



Unlimbering the formidable Prussian artillery of six batteries of breech-loaders, Alex managed to destroy Brian's mitrailleuse on the hill, leaving just two 12-pounders in service.



Brian continued to miss with his artillery fire and infantry fire, though briefly disrupted two of Alex's batteries (soon rallied). Pete's six battalions continued their march on Brian's flank.



Mal likewise continued his flanking move.



Patrick now crested the ridge with his six battalions heading for Brian's line of infantry.



While two of Brian's battalions were ensconced in rifle pits on his extreme left, he lost one of these to infantry fire from Alex, despite destroying one of Patrick's units.



By now down to one 12-pounder gun, Brian soon faced a close assault from Alex's infantry and Patrick's infantry on the plateau of the hill. Pete and Mal were also approaching from either end of the line...



In a huge melee, four of Alex's battalions attacked the one remaining battalion in the rifle pits. Patrick's five battalions assaulted three French units.



Alex duly destroyed the French battalion on the extreme left. Meanwhile, Patrick overcame the centre of the main French line in two successive combats. First both Prussians and French lost a base each, the remainder becoming disrupted. Next, the French lost two further battalions.


The French had lost! (They did in 1870 too. Better uniforms don't always cut the mustard, it seems...)



So we played it again: this time the French had more units (Alex with 12 battalions, Patrick with 9 battalions) against the Bavarians (Rob) and Prussians (Mal and Brian - 12 battalions each).



As before the Prussians crested the hill and attacked the French under Patrick. In a number of firefights both sides became disrupted.



Brian's Prussian artillery dealt havoc to Alex's French guns (which lost two batteries).



Eventually Mal and Brian's Prussian infantry charged into the nine French battalions on the hill. Brian managed to rout Patrick's left-flank regiment of three battalions. Meanwhile, Rob managed to push Alex's French out of Wissembourg.



Conclusion



Overall, two quick games in under three hours of play with multiple bodies in the room using new rules is no mean feat. This bodes well for battles which are bloody and big as Doug acquires more figures and terrain. The rules resembled Fire and Fury with fire points and disruptions, but seemed quicker and simpler. The representation of units (battalions of single 16-figure bases) was flexible and seemed right, and their removal from play dispensed with casualty counts. There were no saving throws!


The key to wargaming this new period for the club (Noel's earlier 15mm FPW games notwithstanding) is balancing out the strengths and weaknesses of both sides historically. The French Chassepot rifles have longer range (12") than the Prussian needle-guns (6"), but the Prussian artillery is both more numerous, heavier, and longer ranged (24" vs. 18") than the French artillery. Scenarios and rule adjustments may be the key here.


This was a good night's play with impressively painted figures in a panoramic scale: 6mm at its best. A thumbs up for BBB seemed to be the consensus, with only a suggestion that the French rifle be given the option of prone firing to simulate its superiority better. The prospects are bright, even considering that the figures can be used in other Continental wars such as the Austro-Prussian (1866) and the Franco-Austrian (1859)! Congratulations to Doug for bringing the neglected FPW to the tabletop.





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