Thursday, July 4, 2019

Franco-Prussian War Battle: Kepi and Pickelhaube

Alex was over last night to premier his outstanding "Kepi and Pickelhaube" rules which are his take on the Neil Thomas 19th Century Wargaming rules and he brought with him some outstanding borrowed 15mm Franco-Prussian figures to take the rules for a test-drive.  WOW is all I have to say!

We played with the equivalent of a Corps per side with all the toys - Cavalry, Artillery, and of course the Infantry - the Queen of Battle.  Admittedly this is the first time I've ever played the NT 19th Century rules, and also the first time I've ever played a FP War game - so I had almost no pre-conceived notions about this game or the period.  I can tell you, however, if you're like me and your thoughts about the FP War are: "Napoleonics with longer-ranges," you're mistaken!

2 companies of Bavarian skirmishers lead the way.  All of my troops are in column in order to move.  In these rules, you may not move in line unless you're a skirmisher unit.
 I will say it is always a great thing when you can walk away from a game and feel like you learned something.  I learned a ton from last night's battle.  To set the stage, both the French and Prussians are trying to control 3 of 4 objectives on the table.  3 villages and the hilltop in the center.

General Von Oberdorf
 My deployment sees my Cavalry weight my left flank, across from Alex's Cavalry.  I have 2 x strong, combined arms groupings (brigades or small divisions) with infantry, artillery and cavalry.  Your infantry are very potent and powerful, shooting with 2 x dice per stand!  But they are rather immobile once the shooting starts.  My plan is to actually avoid the center hill objective but demonstrate against it, and shoot for the villages, including the one in Alex's rear area. 

note the small village on top of the hill.  I send a detachment to capture it however as fate would have it, Alex captures it first and my troops must take the village by storm!
I get a rude awakening charging infantry with my Cavalry.  The more modern firearms make Cavalry charges against infantry a very risky proposition in this game.  Point taken, Mr Thomas!

Alex's French troops advance!
 on my right, I attempt to force the valley between the 2 hills to get into a position to flank the hill objective, all part of my demonstration.  Alex is able to slip his skirmishers into the town on the top of the hill and I send up a battalion of infantry to capture it!  Great excitement here!

Note the infantry column on the right headed towards the town.

In my center, I send troops towards the wooded area which will be my jumping off point to mount an assault against the rear village, in French control.
 Alex and I both identify the woods north of the hill as key terrain.  Luckily I'm able to grab them and my infantry can advance relatively unscathed for the time being.  Alex moves up Guard infantry to guard the exits of the woods and I'm starting to get nervous!

Moving the Prussians up through the road and into the woods!

Prussian Hussars!  (actually Napoleonic Austrians, but you get the idea!)

In the foreground, note the masses of cavalry galloping towards each other!  The small hill there would be the scene of a brutal back and forth action almost the entire evening.

Prussian cavalry assaulting the hill to be repulsed with extreme prejudice!  Note my infantry going up the slope on the far right as well.  Alex turned the hill into a fortress!

Prussians back in command in the village on the right.  The red bead means a stand lost.  "Hans, is this a pig sty?"  "Ja Herr Oberst"

Firefight!  Prussian infantry battalions fire against a French battalion arrayed against them in the valley. 

The situation in the valley. 
Note the Prussian columns advancing through the woods on the left.  They would double-time it to the edge and move directly to assault the French guards posted there, sending them back.  Unbelievable, Alex would only score 1 hit in the pre assault volley.

A swirling cavalry battle on the left.  

Cavalry.  My Prussians were gaining some ground but were eventually forces back.

Prussians go into the assault after emerging from the woods.

The fight against the hill is going Alex's way.  I need to keep enough of his forces pinned down for my lighting (blitzkrieg?) assault against the flanks!

The French Guards are treated roughly here but they'll have their revenge!  Note the "1" on the Prussians. 

The French retreat and Alex must reorganize a second defensive line here as I have 2 more infantry battalions coming up.  My Krupp guns and skirmishers are keeping Alex busy on the hill but truth be told, I needed them in this coming fight on my left.  Victory hangs in the balance!
I start to lose the Cavalry battle now but both sides' Cavalry are blown by now.  Note my infantry columns lower right emerge from the woods.  Alex is organizing his second defensive line in front of the town.  Plenty of firepower and he sends another infantry battalion from the hill in that direction!

Press the attack, boys!  Vorwarts!

Meanwhile i try to move my units on the right aggressively.  Alex moves a unit on the ropes into the woods protecting the flank of the hill.  They're easy pickings....or are they?  Amazingly they mount a desperate defense and my Prussians are sent retreating!?!?  

Lots of red beads on my Prussian cavalry, too.  The assault in the center must now go in or we will surely lose the day!
 Alex has also deployed the reinforcing infantry into line in front of the town.  I'm facing 2 battalions of fresh infantry, 2 batteries of fresh guns, and a big skirmisher detachment, which Alex moves into the town to garrison it.  If I can break him from shooting, I'm never going to take the town!

last picture of my Prussians going in to finish off the unit in the upper right in the woods on turn 7, only to be sent packing!  Lots of exciting things like this happened during the game.
I called the game around 1030pm when it became apparent I was not going to pry my way into the last town.  WOW what an exciting game and a very different an unfamiliar period for me.  So what did I learn?

First lesson - this is NOT Napoleonics, which I was maneuvering like it was.  Infantry units are lethal in the defense.  The rules don't even let you attack if you have the same amount of bases. 

Second lesson - I did not use my direct-fire artillery properly.  Ironic for a former artillery officer but the artillery does not need to keep pace with the advance.  They need to find a nice dominant spot to observe and fire at-range.  As Alex pointed out, the French rifles shoot 3" further than the Prussian rifles, and so can fire on you for an entire turn before you can turn your rifles on them.  Your artillery can be causing casualties all the while your troops are moving into position.

Third lesson - cavalry is much more vulnerable than it used to be especially to infantry fire. 

Many thanks to Alex for a great game and a real learning experience.  I am looking forward to playing these rules again and also hoping Alex gives the ACW and Napoleonics the same treatment!


  1. Thanks Steve, I enjoyed all the photographs, the 15's are working well for this game. cheers.

    1. Glad you enjoyed, Norm. The game was a blast and the figures were an absolute joy to play with. Almost, almost makes me want to play FP War :) however I barely have the bandwidth for the eras and scales I have.

  2. Fabulous Steve,

    I must admit really tempted by this period, the Prussians only stopped 20klm from where I live in Western France! 350 Klm west of Paris!

    French Wargame Holidays At L'Hotel de Hercé
    Mayenne, France

    1. Thank you for commenting, Matt! I am glad you enjoyed the report. One day I would like to visit the French Wargame Holidays in Mayenne!

    2. I would be my pleasure mate,

      We have 60 "walk the battlefield then Wargame it sites" within half an hour from Ceasar to ww2

    3. WOW....the best I have is all of the good AWI battlefields in Pennsylvania within a half hour, and of course Gettysburg is about 2 1/2 hours from me. What I wouldn't give to walk some of that ground over there in France, especially in western France. You are a lucky man!

      My wife is from Portugal and I've already told her when we go back to visit, I'm renting a car and driving to the bigger Napoleonic battlefields in Portugal and Spain :)

      Now if only I can convince the wife to travel to France soon! :)

  3. Game looks super, Steve!

    Mid-19th Century European Wars is a favorite period of mine. Love the uniforms and the technological changes evolving on the battlefield. I think Thomas' 19thC rulebook is one of my favorite wargaming books regardless of period. I would be very interested to see the amendments made to his work for the FPW.

    Again, great stuff!

    1. Jonathan, if you want the rules, just LMK!
      aama19147 is my gmail. I'll send them along.
      best, Alex

    2. Will also ask for a copy if that is OK

    3. Cheers, Jonathan! You've been quite busy with your mid 19th Century stuff as I've seen from your blog. I swear, even more so than painting or gaming, one of my buddy Alex's favorite past-times is analyzing, enhancing, and re-writing Mr Neil Thomas' rules.

    4. Jonathan, I sent them over to you. best, Alex

    5. sure David, just send me an email like Jonathan F. did. best, a.

  4. Matt - its a great period and devoid of Napoleonic "experts"!
    Really enjoying it, much more than I planned, so I am now painting up figs for it and abandoning plans for Naps.
    Best, Alex

    1. As the resident Napoleonic "expert" in my house I resent that statement! As I also found out, Napoleonic tactics don't work quite as well when all the other guys have excellent, quick-firing rifles. Sheesh.

  5. A wonderful period to play, and to watch, beautiful minis and great report!

  6. Glad you enjoyed the game. I really like NTs Nineteenth Century rules. I've also fiddled with them quite a bit, converting them to a grid and streamlining the combat to eliminate a lot of the endless saving throws.

    1. Hi Martin,
      These rules were a real treat and very challenging to play. I'd be interested in how you converted them to grid as I've been interested in grid-based games of late.

  7. I recall that there used to be a free set of rules called Kepi and Pickelhaube posted online (either a DBX variant or from the magazine Vae Victis)--not there any more. Also, there is an old set of rules from Ben King by that name. Do you know if one of these contributed to the version you were playing?

    Lovely report, by the way. Funny coincidence: I just posted a report of a post-Napoleonic game as well (must be the time of year).

    1. Hi Ed! I'm not sure about the influence of the K&P rules you're referring to on what we played. We played the Neil Thomas 19th Century Wargaming rules, as modified by my friend Alex (who frequents this blog and has answered a few comments above [ECW40mm]).

      Yes I agree. Anything after June is definitely post-Napoleonic as we are all in that after-Waterloo hangover :)

    2. Hey Ed, no, I don't know either of those rule sets. I just grabbed a name so that I could ID them in my document files! At this point in gaming history, a lot of the best names for rules have been used a time or two, unfortunately.

  8. Great pictures and report. I will be helping playtest a FPW game tommorrow, thankfully followed by a Napoleonic game, although one is off the beaten track and back in the Tyrol.

    1. Sounds like a fun day, Peter. Yesterday I had a double-header myself although Cold War followed by ECW. I know, a strange combination right? But a great day nonetheless. Enjoy your FPW and Naps games!