Let me start this post by thanking Tallebois for mentioning this scenario and both Captain Orso and Durk for helping me find it.
The first half of the SuperBowl was fun, but Justin Timberlake’s half time show bored the hell out of me, and I decided to give Borodino a try. In most cases, having a strong understanding of the Napoleonic Wars has been an asset with this game, but in this scenario, it caused me to make a series of assumptions which got me into serious trouble. The background text has never been furnished and therefore I had to guess what my victory objectives would be: Likely the destruction of the Russian army and perhaps a successful occupation and holding of Moscow.
In the scenarios covering 1805, 1806 and 1815, the French enemies acted fairly historically, and I assumed this would be the case here. I expected Barclay de Tolly would fall back, trading space for time, and that the Russians wouldn’t put up much of a fight until Smolensk, with the grand defense at Borodino. … I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumption.
Reviewing my starting position, I came close to omitting a large groan. I hardly had Napoleon’s famed 600K man army. I only had four decent sized corps, many understrength ones, my general skill values were low, and I lacked many important skills. The 4 cavalry corps were little more than strong divisions and there were only 5 generals with a cavalry ability. Even Murat lacked a cavalry ability. I also had very few with the artillery ability and my artillery strength was weak. Worse, my corps only had one supply wagon each.
In the Center I had Napoleon’s understrength army: Davout, Ney, Oudinot, Garde, St. Cyr and 3 small Cavalry Corps. On the right, somewhat close: Eugene, Reynier and in the “for what he’s worth department”- Jerome. On the left up on the coast, MacDonald, Augereau and Victor. And far to the south, Schwarzenberg’s Austrians.
So what was my plan going to be? I just didn’t have the strength to conduct multiple fronts in this fight. I anticipated that my central force would soon take me out of command control from my wings, so should I appoint wing army commanders? If so, I only had several 3 star generals: At most, I could spare Murat to run one wing and Bessieres the other, figuring that Mortier’s artillery skill would be better used by remaining with the Garde. I did try to detach Murat for this purpose and well, the scenario was not letting me appoint any more army commanders. I had the wonderful prospect ahead of having the “Spanish problem”, independent corp commanders under no central authority.
Given my low strength, my strategy would be to bring in my wings, especially my left wing, and march Schwarzenberg north. And in a narrowing wedge take a route from Vilnius to Minsk. From Minsk I would have to adopt shades of Operation Market Garden, sending cavalry ahead to secure control of “a highway” that hopefully my main four infantry corps could quickly march down… Minsk to Vitebsk to Smolensk to Borodino/Moscow.
Who was the general that said that a battle plan is good until the first shot? I had trouble even programming in my first turn orders. Seems like the first turn was preset and upon executing my orders, several of the corps marched in the wrong direction. What a mess! By turn 2 I had everyone marching at least in the right direction. I sent Jerome forward into unoccupied Fort Oleg on the right flank, Eugene and Reynier after Platov, the only Russian force in view. I brought Augereau, Victor and MacDonald in to take Kovno on the left flank, used my cavalry corps to encircle Platov’s Cossacks, and marched the Garde, Oudionot and Ney forward towards Vilnius where I expected little opposition, it being so close to the border!
Wrong! The Garde outmarches the regular Corps and gets to Vilnius to find… Barclay and the Russian Army. Damn! Even odds … I never attack at even odds! 60K men against 60K men. Thank goodness Mortier does a good job and inflicts 2 to one casualties against the Russians, but does not dislodge Barclay. This is probably a good thing, since it keeps Barclay trying to hold Vilnius while I now march the bulk of the French force to encircle him in Vilnius.
Napoleon takes command and Barclay proceeds to lose forces each and every day. Napoleon would inflict serious casualties, a new corp would march in such as MacDonald or St. Cyr and each time, a new round would punish Barclay more. His force was virtually wiped out, this being a consolation for the news on the southern front. Schwarzenberg had “tried” to march north, only to be hit by Bagration and the mean fact was that an Austrian army trying to march across Russian territory is always going to be overtaken by a Russian army. Schwarzenberg’s Corp was destroyed and Bagration, arguably the best of the Russian generals was moving up from the south on my right flank.
Taking Vilnius, and understanding I was a rush to get into Russia before the winter months, I make the questionable decision to split my force, sending Davout and Ney east toward’s Minsk, kept the Garde in Vilnius to regain strength along with St. Cyr who had suffered badly. Napoleon marches south with Oudinot and Victor to strengthen Eugene and Poniatowski against Bagration’s looming army. This is when Winzingerode counterattacks Vilnius from the north, St. Cyr was at a Green-unorganized level trying to replace its strength, the Garde had already been beaten up and only MacDonald was at decent battle strength, well… up until this battle anyway.
Bagration decides to stay safely across the River, and Napoleon with 4 corps sit on their hands at Fort Oleg and this is when Davout and Ney run into Barclay at Minsk, and he has been reinforced by several more Russian Corps! The Russians are like the Walking Dead from Game of Thrones. They just keep coming! It is with horror that I see that the command of the battle has been handed to Ney in preference to Davout! ... but again we inflict more casualties on the Russians.
Leaving Victor with the Poles and Eugene, Napoleon and Oudinot march to Minsk, as I activate the Garde and March it from Vilnius to Minsk. I’m not alone, though, Barclay has units pouring in to reinforce him in Minsk. With Napoleon in Command, the French chew up more Russian Corps and successfully pushes the Russians from the city.
Mindful of the season, I now send Davout, Ney and the Garde northeast towards Vitesbsk, and leave Oudinot to protect Minsk. This is when disaster hits and Winzingerode with an army I didn’t know existed counterattacks and takes Vilnius in the north of my wedge. Damn! Bagration also attacks in the south but Eugene, Victor and Poniatowski hold him off.
As I see the flanks of my wedge come caving in, I have no choice but to march Eugene to Vilnius in an attempt to defeat Winzingerode and reestablish that eastern-pointing triangular wedge. Davout and Ney arrive in Vitesbsk to find… nobody, not Barclay as I expected. And that is because the remnants of Barclay’s army, now under the command of Tormassov had retreated south, been reinforced by the never ending stream of Russian reinforcements and is about to counterattack Minsk.
Double-Damn! I now have to countermarch the Garde from the east with Napoleon back to Minsk where Oudinot, the Garde, and Nansouty’s cavalry corp, deal a crushing blow to Tormassov to give me a victory in the scenario.
Whereas I hand been more successful this evening then Bill Belichick, this was hardly my finest battle. When I have played the campaign game, I was able to invade Russian in a highly disciplined and organized manner, building depots and guarding them with detached units and patrolling divisions of cavalry. This scenario is a clusterfuck, as you are faced with a choice between bad decisions. Nevertheless the scenario is fun, went 10 turns and presents some interesting problems. Thanks again for all who helped me find and play it!