Home Forums Horse and Musket General Horse and Musket Franco-Prussian War – battles

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  • #142039
    Sane Max
    Participant

    I am building up a 15mm army for this conflict, and am musing on how to represent the two sides using Hail Caesar.#edit# DUHHHH BLACK POWDER of course #edit# I am thinking the first half of the war up to Sedan and Metz.

    as best I can tell from what I have read, the French had a better rifle, the Germans better artillery. Both side’s cavalry were equally inappropriate for a late 19th century war – the Prussians used theirs better for recon, but on a battlefield both sides were equally just big horsey targets for modern weapons.

    all those things aside, and taking into account they were badly fed and supplied and were harried from point A to point B and then back to A Via C by clueless commanders, the individual French units seem to have fought perfectly well when given the chance, a fact represented by the heavy casualties they inflicted in most setpiece battles.

    I hate games where one player is forced to behave stupidly, and I was thinking that other than making French musketry better and German artillery better, other than that I should really let the players make their own mistakes, rather than applying any sot of command modifier to the’Generals’. But then, i worry it will end up too generic. what do people think? what else should I be doing to give period and National colour to the game?

    #142046
    vtsaogames
    Participant

    Prussian units were stronger, 1,000 per battalion to start. The chaotic French mobilization led to only ~750 per battalion actually showing up at the front, if we are talking about the Imperial phase. Prussian divisions had more artillery and there were more Prussian divisions. The French rifles should be markedly superior to the Needle gun (basically a carbine), the Prussian artillery somewhat better and more numerous than the French guns. Being outnumbered most of the time will lead to defensive tactics. French regular infantry made furious bayonet charges the few times it was possible, the “Furia Franchese”.

     

    Once the Empire goes under, you have better-led French with poorly-trained and poorly-armed troops bolstered by the few regulars who haven’t gone into the bag. The French have greater numbers in this longer phase, and the problem with their artillery fuses was solved.

     

    Edit: back in 2017 my club finished a simple campaign of the war. The summary can be found here.

    This too shall pass

    #142051
    Sane Max
    Participant

    Nice Blog!

    Yes, the outnumbering I was taking as read, and the French obsession with holding ‘Magnificent positions’ and allowing the Prussians the initiative as a result. So you would agree with not handicapping the French Generals once beyond the objective and scenario stages of the battle are over? I was intending to build the Chassepot’s superiority into number of shots rather than range – partly because I suspect most infantry firing (now, even, never mind back then) is still done well under any weapon’s maximum range, partly because in BP there is a high chance of units lingering in range and getting shot to bits ‘unreasonably’ – So that a French unit would be smaller, more frangible and cheaper than a Prussian unit, but have the same effective firepower.

    I am not sure yet about whether to give Prussian artillery range or firepower, I am tending toward range as this is where counter-battery fire matters.

    #142069
    Steve Johnson
    Participant

    If you can, the Bloody Big Battles rule book and scenario book are worth getting. Ditto Bruce Weigles 1870 rules which contain plenty of info on both sides, to allow you to tweak BPII to your hearts content.

    #142084

    I second getting Bloody Big Battles (also free scenarios available in the https://groups.io/g/bloodybigbattles) and the 1870 rules set. Even if you do not play the rules, the scenarios and reference material are a must.

    "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

    Axel Oxenstierna

    #142090
    vtsaogames
    Participant

    Yes, BBB rules have a number of full battle scenarios. And 1870 is chock full of detail about the armies and their weapons. I have never used the 1870 rules but pick it up for the reference value from time to time.

    This too shall pass

    #142097
    Chris Pringle
    Participant

    So you would agree with not handicapping the French Generals once beyond the objective and scenario stages of the battle are over? I was intending to build the Chassepot’s superiority into number of shots rather than range – partly because I suspect most infantry firing (now, even, never mind back then) is still done well under any weapon’s maximum range, partly because in BP there is a high chance of units lingering in range and getting shot to bits ‘unreasonably’ – So that a French unit would be smaller, more frangible and cheaper than a Prussian unit, but have the same effective firepower. I am not sure yet about whether to give Prussian artillery range or firepower, I am tending toward range as this is where counter-battery fire matters.

    Hi Max,

    On the generals: no, I don’t agree. You don’t have to be incompetent yourself to struggle as a C-in-C when you have inadequate staff, personal rivalries between generals, and doctrine all pouring grit into your not-very-well-oiled machine. I’d really urge that the Germans should still have some command advantage over the French. (Look at Sedan, where the French army tries to attack through itself in opposite directions; or Mars-la-Tour, where a corps commander contrarily sits tight when he should have pressed ahead; etc, etc, etc.)

    On the rifles: this is still an age of massed targets in the open. The Prussian Guard at St Privat is the most notable example, where they get shot to pieces a mile away, unable to respond. Plevna a few years later, in the Russo-Turkish War, provides a similar case. I’d recommend giving the chassepot its range advantage.

    On the Prussian artillery: breech-loaders had a rate-of-fire advantage over the French muzzle-loaders, and they used it. Some of the German guns burned out their breech blocks at Beaugency. I’d advise a firepower advantage as well as range.

    Anyway, welcome to the FPW. The asymmetry between the two armies makes for really interesting tabletop challenges. (And thanks, guys, for all the kind mentions of BBB, which was indeed created primarily to fight FPW battles.) Have fun!

    Chris

    Bloody Big BATTLES!

    https://groups.io/g/bloodybigbattles

    http://bloodybigbattles.blogspot.com/

    #142119
    Patrice
    Participant

    You don’t have to be incompetent yourself to struggle as a C-in-C when you have inadequate staff, personal rivalries between generals, and doctrine all pouring grit into your not-very-well-oiled machine. I’d really urge that the Germans should still have some command advantage over the French.

    What he said. And many French high-ranking officers behaved as if they were still fighting Colonial wars with small units, they led men but often did not actually command. General Trochu is supposed to have said “Je n’ai jamais eu d’idée stratégique ni tactique” (I never had any strategical nor tactical idea). At Rezonville general Bazaine does not give precise orders to large units but rides on the battlefield giving orders to individual battalions or batteries. There could be some way to simulate this in the game to give the “French” player a taste of this (?)

    http://www.argad-bzh.fr/argad/en.html
    https://www.anargader.net/

    #142127
    vtsaogames
    Participant

    The strategic immobility of the French early in the war (the whole Imperial phase) wsn’t just due to bad leadership. The supply chain was not working and most troops were basically out of supply. My take on it is here.

    This too shall pass

    #142130
    MartinR
    Participant

    I think the main things to model in a grand tactical game are that French infantry significantly outranged the Prussians, the French (Imperial) units were rather smaller than their Prussian counterparts, the Prussian artillery otoh was considerably superior in terms of firepower – steel breechloaders make a big difference, the slightly eccentric French shell fusing perhaps less so. Operationally the French also operated the Napleonic style reserve artillery concept, so the guns they did have were rotated the to the firing line, whereas the Prussians put much more up front and relied on pushing ammo resupply forward which accentuated the artillery firepower advantage.

    In the battle of the frontiers the French forces were also considerably outnumbered and their Corps had much larger spans of control (the Prussian Corps usually only had a couple of divisions) which added to their command problems. In the Republican phase these factors were more balanced as the French Corps were smaller and the Prussians more dispersed. The quality of the French troops was much more variable though.

    It is an interesting period, although the really big battles are quite hard to do justice too (even with the likes of BBB).

    tbh I prefer the Wars of Italian Liberation and the Six Weeks War as they are even more asymmetrical, but I guess there is only so much kicking around of the Austrians you can do (Custoza aside).

     

     

     

     

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #142187
    Chris Pringle
    Participant

    You don’t have to be incompetent yourself to struggle as a C-in-C when you have inadequate staff, personal rivalries between generals, and doctrine all pouring grit into your not-very-well-oiled machine. I’d really urge that the Germans should still have some command advantage over the French.

    What he said. And many French high-ranking officers behaved as if they were still fighting Colonial wars with small units, they led men but often did not actually command. General Trochu is supposed to have said “Je n’ai jamais eu d’idée stratégique ni tactique” (I never had any strategical nor tactical idea). At Rezonville general Bazaine does not give precise orders to large units but rides on the battlefield giving orders to individual battalions or batteries. There could be some way to simulate this in the game to give the “French” player a taste of this (?)

    Merci, Patrice. Yes, I reckon BBB does a fair job of simulating the misfiring machine that was the French army. And now you can even do it in French!

    http://bloodybigbattles.blogspot.com/2020/04/bbb-fdr-version-francaise-disponible.html

     

    #142761
    Brendan Morrissey
    Participant

    What do people feel about a “Sharp Practice” level game, based around small encounters with advanced units?  My sense is that, given the comments above about weapon capabilities and command failings, one might end up with something rather like France 1940 Chain of Command battles, where the French, at a lower level, give a much better account of themselves than one might expect given the historical outcomes of the two conflicts, strategically.

    #142766
    Thaddeus Blanchette
    Participant

    Why Hail Caesar instead of Black Powder? It’s basically the same system, but geared towards the period you’d be playing.

    I wish they’d sell a digital version of BBB. 🙁

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #142837
    vtsaogames
    Participant

    What do people feel about a “Sharp Practice” level game, based around small encounters with advanced units? My sense is that, given the comments above about weapon capabilities and command failings, one might end up with something rather like France 1940 Chain of Command battles, where the French, at a lower level, give a much better account of themselves than one might expect given the historical outcomes of the two conflicts, strategically.

     

    During the Imperial phase, yes. I was looking at doing the Republican phase (using The Men Who Would Be Kings), with large poorly-trained units up against smaller, veteran outfits armed with carbines. But the American Revolution has got my full attention.

    This too shall pass

    #143280
    Sane Max
    Participant

    Why Hail Caesar instead of Black Powder? It’s basically the same system, but geared towards the period you’d be playing.

    Purely a slip of the brain, of course I am using Black Powder, and probably Fire and Furia Francese as well.

    #143290

    I can highly recommend Bloody Big Battles by Chris Pringle for this conflict if you want to fight the main historical battles.

    The FPW is a favourite period of mine and I look forward to your updates.

    Gun Dog Miniature Painting Services
    https://m.facebook.com/gundogminiatures/
    Sniffing out unpainted armies!

    #143295
    Sane Max
    Participant

    it will be a while – the bloke I thought had French has flogged them… so it may well be ‘what if Prussia invaded the USA’ for the foreseeable future.

    1 Division of Prussians painted, Bavarians next.

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