This recent Superbowl Sunday WR had several gaming friends over for miniatures, game watching, commercial watching, and seasonal food. The scenario played was his recently blogged Battle of Aboukir 1799 write-up and historical notes, surely a game scenario rarely played on the miniature tabletop. Dan and Daniel formed the French command player team. David, Rex, and WR formed the turban head team.
The starting historical setup shows the Ottomans busy entrenching themselves on the Aboukir peninsula. With their transport fleet further offshore (not present on tabletop), only a few nuisance arab gunboat dhow sail about on the inshore tabletop waves. The grand 6×8 foot tabletop view below…. from the tip of the Aboukir peninsula and small fort to the peninsula arrival table end of the French Armee d’Orient.
The landed Ottoman Army of Rhodes in their seaside camp and 2nd Line of defenses consisted of: Four units of Sekhan infantry, Greek Martolos skirmishers (tribal), two units of Azapas marines, a unit of Deniz marines, and two mixed positional batteries. The Ottoman Reserve positioned in the camp zone consisted of 4 Janissary Seban otras with their rayas skirmisher detachment and Mustapha Pasha’s personal retainer guard.
Forward of the Ottoman 2nd Line was their 1st Line of defense. Two low-grade hilltop redoubts with more Sekhan defenders in each, another unit of Sekhan infantry near the small village, a supportive Sekhan unit near the sandhill redoubt, a token battery of six mixed positional cannon, and a thin skirmisher (tribal) unit of Greek Martolos doing a poor job of linking the two redoubts.
The arriving French Armee d’Orient starts with several commands on the scenario tabletop at start. The first leading French commands, from left to right facing the Ottomans were; d’Estaing’s brigade consisting of the 4th Demi-brigade Legere (DBL), the 61st Demi-brigade (DB), the 75th DB, and attached foot 8 pdr. battery. Murat’s advance guard cavalry occupied the forward center and consisted of the 3rd & 14th Dragoons with a 4 pdr. horse artillery battery. The division of Lannes’ formed on the right with 22nd DBL, the 13th DB, the 69th DB, and attached 8 pdr. foot battery.
Forming the second line and reserve is Lanusse’s division consisting of 18th DB, 32nd DB, and attached foot battery. Alongside was Army d’Orient headquarters with sapper detachment, a small siege artillery battery (24 pdr.) and the train. Last command starting on the field was Bessieres’ reserve cavalry of the Guides & Chasseur sqn’s. Off tabletop and due to arrive during the afternoon is Kleber’s division with 2nd DBL, 25th DB, and 75th DB. Davout’s screening detachment with 7th Hussars and dromedaries complete the French army.
Viewing the scenario map below, the map counters represent the starting positions on the scenario tabletop by one foot map squares. The map counters represent commands:
French: #1 D’estaing, #2 Lanusse, #3 Lannes, #4 Kleber (off map), #1C Murat, #2C Bessieres, #3C Davout (off map) and the French headquarters (flag). Menou’s command not required as it never actually enters the tabletop or map. It interferes with Lake Aboukir inlet ship movement off map below F6.
Ottomans: #1 1st Line, #2 2nd Line, #3 Reserve, small command in fort, and the Ottoman headquarters (flag). The two arab dhow are placed at whim of Ottoman players.
At sea around the Ottoman peninsula land position are two representative arab gunboats or dhow armed with a light battery of four 6lb naval cannon each. Being at sea their naval cannon accuracy was poor to start with but their purpose is simply to harass the French. The design and construction details can be read on the previous WR Aboukir 1799 posting (link above or just below). Their movement between the three sea zones and naval 6lb bombardment is written up in the Aboukir Scenario Notes file (.doc): Aboukir 1799 Scenario Notes
Defending the Aboukir fort was three reduced units of Sekhan infantry (3×8) and commanded by Mustapha Pasha’s son or Kiayla. Note the former executed French garrison prisoner staked near the fortress and French staked heads at Army of Rhodes headquarters (besides the red tent). Blood thirsty lot these Ottomans. The garrison stayed in the fortress for the entire scenario of play. Most of the Ottoman infantry units are ten miniatures each in size.
Scenario Start at 0900 hours: French have the first movement, customary for our games. From their starting deployment position they quickly march towards the Ottoman 1st Line. D’estaing’s brigade (4th DBL, 61st & 75th DB, each of 1×6 battalion size) quicken their pace with their Attack order on the hilltop redoubt. Most French infantry units today are six miniatures each. Murat’s two dragoon regiment (2×3) and 4 pdr. horse battery ride towards the small village following their own Attack order. Divisions Lannes & Lanusse follow their leading Frenchmen under March orders.
As the French march forward, the waiting Ottoman 1st Line defenders steady themselves. Historically they performed with total disgrace and fled the battlefield. Today the Ottomans have their scenario rule to remain stationary (no movement permitted) for the first two turns. This rule to prevent early movement to their rearward friends of the 2nd Line without giving the French a chance to catch them. Will David’s commanding hand and morale hold up (dice rolls)?
Note: Command orders have been discussed below in other scenario write ups. The color coded order is marked and positioned under the command’s officer miniature. Red = Attack, Orange = Defend, Yellow = Engage, Green = March, Blue = Reserve or Rest. Even Corp, column, or wing senior commander have their own order markers…. Black = Advance position, White = Hold position. Army or Nation level commanders require no order marker as they write/issue the orders to lower ranking commanders with two exceptions; Gold = Army General Advance or Silver = Army General Retreat for their entire army at one point during the battle.
Quick to see action is one of the arab gunboat dhow. They sail close inshore and open fire on Lanusse’s marching columns with no effect. Puny 6 pdr. shot skip across the sandy ground or more likely plop into the sea.
0920 hours: The French continue marching forward. D’estaing’s 4th DBL forms into open skirmishers, while the two other battalions form line and column. Murat’s dragoons (3rd & 14th) form line and sound the charge against the exposed Ottoman provincial mixed foot battery. The unknown Bey commander rallies his nervous men as the Greek Martolos skirmishers rout towards the rear (charge morale tests). The Ottoman battery crew and the nearby Sekhan unit hold firm.
Ottoman “mixed” artillery means the cannon are of different shot weight within the battery structure and fire equivalent to a 8 pdr. battery. Most Ottoman artillery is positional unlike the French field artillery for battlefield movement.
After the Ottoman Movement phase is completed, the French charge movement is done, one unit at a time during the Shock phase. The Ottoman mixed battery fires their defensive final fire… a crushing salvo into the closing French horse ranks. Two miniatures drop and the dragoons place themselves into morale disorder (morale test). The staggered dragoon still fight the gunners and wins, sabring down the crew. A costly early victory for the French cavalry. The other dragoon regiment, seeing the stationary Sekhan infantry ready to grimly fight, pull up their charge short (4″ movement) to end the Shock phase.
0940 hours: D’estaing’s French advance to the foot of the hill and skirmish against the Sekhan infantry. The rest of the French continue their advance march supporting D’estaing’s attack. Boldly the Ottoman David elects to charge forward and attack the veteran Frenchmen. Both Sekhan units charge into combat against the French skirmisher screens, leaving the redoubt vacant. French muskets quickly drop two Ottoman Sekhan onto the sandy ground.
1000 hours: As the French Army d’Orient marches for the Ottoman 2nd Line, the fighting intensifies near the vacant hill redoubt with the 1st Line. The French skirmishers close down to their linear formation and fire volleys into the Ottoman ranks. Blood stained white-robed Sekhan fall to the ground led by their unknown Bey commander. The hilltop Sekhan break from the French musketry and flee back over the hill behind the redoubt. Led by their Bey, the other Sekhan crash into the French legere ranks. Grim fighting… bayonets vs. swords, pistol, and spear. The melee breaks with the French running from the head chopping Ottomans, losing half their number to the white-robed devils. Exchanged musketry afterwards drops more on the stained sandy shore.
Passing morale test a’galore, the crazed unknown Bey led Sekhan infantry, locked in musket minimum fire zone by the French DB, turn and charge forward into the ranks of the another French infantry battalion.
1020 hours: The smoke of battle rages before the village. The Frenchmen grapple with the crazed Sekhan infantry. Their brave unknown Bey shouts and rallies his band of warriors. As another French DB battalion forms line on their exposed right flank, the brawling French defenders cannot hold back the screaming Sekhan infantry. Another forced French retreat, another Ottoman pursuit to seek French heads. Chef de Brigade D’estaing falls lightly wounded in the melee. When the dust settles a bit… the Ottoman Sekhan see the stationary formed French ranks on their right….a flash…. a scythe of bullets rips into their ranks. Too much. Unknown Bey and his Sekhan break and flee from the battlefield. Meanwhile, the gunboat dhow offshore, firing away at every opportunity, finally score a French loss.
1040 hours: Almost two hours into the battle. The Ottoman 1st Line is reduced to solely holding the sandhill redoubt with the two remaining Sekhan units. They basically stayed on the sandhill for the remainder of the scenario, on occasion to descend and engage the French or suffer bombardment from the French foot batteries nearby.
The French surge to the escarpment line, chasing the fleeing small remains of the village 1st Line defenders. The escarpment line represents a vertical slope from the higher ground to the lower Aboukir peninsula. Limited defensive advantage but gives some defense from firepower across the line. Should note the painting by Lejuene is taken from the village / escarpment position towards the Ottoman 2nd Line defense and shows the sloped ground.
The pesky arab gunboat dhow, having no French nearby infantry as targets, spot the deployed French headquarters staff and wagons. Several naval 6 pdr. rounds bounce among the scattering French staff. Bonaparte himself on horse, dodges the bouncing round shot till he rode forward to join the advancing columns.
1100 hours: The French infantry and cavalry position themselves along the escarpment position, sending skirmishers across to engage the advancing 2nd Line Ottoman infantry. The French foot artillery batteries are dragged into position to bombard the sandhill defenders. The Lake Aboukir arab gunboat dhow has sailed from the inlet to enter the Aboukir Bay and bombard the exposed French lines.
Mustapha Pasha arises from his rest tent and mounts his horse near headquarters. The four nearby Jannissary Seban otras form up their ranks to support the 2nd Line defenders. Mustapha’s personal guard, the only Ottoman cavalry present, await their orders under the Reserve order (blue). The second phase of the battle is ready to commence.
1120 hours: The French close up and plan for their second half of the battle. The 1st Line was somewhat easy to take but losses were steep for the terrain taken. The Ottoman 2nd Line look a lot tougher and has the Ottoman reserves nearby for counterattack or plugging the gaps. Skirmishers exchange fire along the no-mans land between the armies.
1140 hours: French skirmisher musketry proves to be deadly. The Ottoman Deniz marine skirmishers are forced to retire for the moment after loss, exposing the massed Ottoman Sekhan mob to future French artillery fire.
1200 hours: High noon and Davout’s screening cavalry return to the army’s rear and quickly ride forward to rejoin the French near the escarpment (March order). The French headquarters is finally free of the gunboat dhow bombardment since the ship has traveled along the coast to shell the exposed left French battle-line near the escarpment.
Little movement between the two armies…. who is waiting for who type play. Skirmisher fire and the occasional gunboat dhow round shot skips through as the Ottoman positional batteries fire off their limited stockpile.
1220 hours: Still no French forward movement….. the Ottoman await. Only the arrival of Davout’s and Bessieres’ cavalry commands breaks the French inactivity. The offshore arab gunboat dhow occasionally score a French victim with their bouncing round shot.
1240 hours: Time is judged right by the French player team. WR wasn’t sure why the French team elected to stall their forward advance for two turns while burning MFP points (via their Attack orders). The French linear formation step across the escarpment to drive away the Ottoman skirmishers. All three French infantry commands are in line. On right is Lannes, then Lanusse, and ending with D’estaing on left. Murat’s cavalry, joined by Bessieres reserve and Davout’s dromedaries form on the right flank, opposite the open ground to Aboukir village.
Several quick bayonet charges and musketry chase away the Ottoman skirmisher formations with several losses. The Ottoman 2nd Line sends forth their individual skirmisher companies (‘hey you in front, go out there guys’) from the Sekhan units.
Basic Ottoman infantry has no light company formation in the european battalion sense. But they can just send out some “poor quality” skirmishers from the mob like units. That is also why the Ottoman infantry always stands in two rank or massed mob formations. They cannot form square or linear formation. The european trained Nizam-i-cedid infantry are not present with the Army of Rhodes and never if any Janissaries are present.
1300 hours: The French right flank battalions wheel inward to engage the Ottoman infantry while under bombardment from the arab dhow cannon. Even they missed the broad targets of opportunity but wounded General Lannes lightly in his leg. Closer the French demi-brigade battalions come to the central hill redoubt. French artillery is raking the exposed Ottoman masses, causing heavy losses, and soon the units break for the Aboukir Bay shore. The Ottoman positional mixed batteries fire at the bold Frenchmen rapidly in reply but look nervous of their depleting shot supply.
Time to send in the French cavalry. Colonel Bessieres leads his Guides and Chasseurs to crack open the open Ottoman flank. Trotting forward under the Egyptian sun, the Guides & Chasseurs thunder home on the exposed Sekhan infantry. Ottoman skirmishing Deniz infantry scatter for the rear. Murat with his last intact dragoon regiment (14th) chases Bessieres leading his guides.
The Ottoman batteries had 5 RS and 2 canister shots for each battery. Ottoman artillery has a randomly generated number of available shot for each scenario. The arab dhow had unlimited naval shots but low percentage to hit a land target.
The charged morale disordered Sekhan infantry fire their poor volley with limited effect. The French cavalry crash into the huddled mass and expert sabers carve a bloody trail. Too much for the poor Sekhan infantry. They flee as French swords cut down the running Ottoman infantry.
As the Sekhan unit dissolves into a fleeing survivors, the French 14th Dragoons, led by Murat, impact the bewildered Ottoman Topchis gunners.
Murat and his 14th Dragoons charge home… a few brave Ottoman Topchis gunners fire their last point blank salvo… killing a dragoon miniature. In the wild melee to follow they sell their lives dearly for another French dragoon miniature.
Dust settles a bit…. The French cavalry rallies in place amidst the crumpled Ottoman dead and wounded. Seeing the French cavalry, the offshore gunboat dhow scores hits to reduce the French cavalry ranks further.
1320 hours: As the French cavalry retires to lick their wounds, the French battalions advance to seize the ground taken and cleared by the French cavalry charge. The Ottoman left flank is in total disarray. the 2nd Line defenders cannot hold the open flank… must have the Janissary reserves summoned forward.
Seeing the pressing French advance, Mustapha Pasha orders the Janissary reserves forward a bit. The Janissary Seban otras march to the camp perimeter as several Ottoman units flee to the shoreline, having been mortally raked by the French artillery.
Ottoman units flee for one turn away from the enemy (i.e. French) then turn towards the Aboukir Bay shoreline. Failing to rally on two chances causes them to flee into the water (trying to swim for the ships offshore) and scenario removal.
1340 hours: The demi-brigade linear battalions press in against the skirmishers before the hill redoubt. At the “open terrain” Ottoman left flank the French cavalry under Davout, Murat and Bessieres form up. the French foot batteries reduce another Sekhan mob into a bloody ruin. Seeing opportunity, Davout’s 7th Hussars and dromedaries squadrons prepare to charge as the arab gunboat dhow offshore scores a lucky hit. One dead camel and unit of dromedaries falls in morale disorder before their declared charge.
1400 hours: The battle is reaching its climax. Both player teams sense the next turns will determine the scenario victors. With the morale disordered dromedaries blocking the French cavalry charge, all the French can do is prepare their charge for the next turn. The french infantry march in columns towards the hill redoubt outwork. Two columns formed and charge towards the defending Ottoman battery’s exposed left flank.
Seeing the French assault columns, the Ottoman battery commander tries to swing his cannon to face the attackers. One salvo… dead Frenchmen on the parapet, but the French bayonet make quick work of the Ottoman topchis gunners. The redoubt outwork is taken!
On the French left the reduced brigade of D’estaing covers the Ottoman defenders in the shore entrenchment, pinning them in place for now. Occasionally intrepid arab gunboat dhow gun crew score another dead Frenchmen miniature.
Janissaries Seban ortas form a firm front to the French advance. That pesky arab gunboat dhow scores another hit on the enfiladed dromedaries. They break and flee to the French rear. French cavalry is becoming a rare sight on the Aboukir peninsula. French horse artillery unlimbered and scores a hit on the offshore dhow. Disdaining the damage, the Ottoman ship crew continue to fire at the French on shore.
The arab dhow rules are found in the Aboukir scenario notes. Basically they can take three hits from the heavier siege battery before sinking or numerous hits from the field artillery but must pass their morale test on each hit.
1420 hours: Time for in play photo….. Team France in the Grey t-shirts (Dan and Daniel) as the Ottoman dude looks on.
Time for the French big push to end this battle. The two infantry columns which assaulted the redoubt outwork turn and march against the Ottoman janissaries outside their camp. Other French battalions climb up the hill to seize the vacant Ottoman battery position. General Bonaparte is near his infantry, leading them forward into the Ottoman camp and Aboukir town. The Ottoman’s only victory chance will rest on the four units of Janissaries Seban as the remains of the Ottoman 2nd Line command reaches 60% losses…. more swimmers in the bay.
Combined French assault. The French battalions march forward in columns as their 7th Hussars call a cavalry charge. Murat calls forward a small dragoon regiment to charge the Janissary Seban infantry with Mustapha Pasha nearby…. planning to play his “Call out Pasha” event card no doubt. Bonaparte is ready…. the French march forward…. this is it! What can go wrong? Murat charging…. Davout leading the 7th Hussars, Bonaparte leading his veteran egyptian infantry demi-brigades…. three gods of the future French napoleonic wars.
The Ottomans pull a fast one… Foaming at the mouth the Janissaries seek glory as the “desperate action” event card is played. Their unknown to history Janissary Bey commander shouts out…Win or… it’s a swim in the bay for us.
The Janissary Seban fires their defensive volley at the surging French columns. Two assaults on the Janissary Seban. A massed infantry column and the charging 7th Hussars. The French team go for the kill and choose the column with Bonaparte leadership up front first. Bonaparte is leading up front on his white horse, Ottoman volley, French miniatures are hit… 5% chance for leader hit…. the dice roll is made….
The volley smoke clears and General Bonaparte is hit along with French infantry. Mortified seeing their beloved leader go down, the French infantry continue their assault. The Janissary Seban holds their ground, and with sharp sabers and muskets, cut down the French, forcing their column retirement. General Bonaparte is found hit in the chest and soon dies on the battlefield. His loyal aides strive to recover the limp body.
The 7th Hussars charge home, led by General Davout. But seeing the repulse of the French battalions and hearing the sad news of General Bonaparte fate no doubt, their lackluster charge and effort is repulsed by the ever victorious Janissary Seban infantry. Murat’s charge is thwarted by the massed Ottoman infantry counterattacking the sole remaining nearby French battalion.
French fortunes betide away. The only cheerful point is the late arrival of General Kleber’s command marching past French headquarters.
1440 hours and scenario end: The French did another turn of movement, reorganizing their battalions for another push into the much reduced Ottoman ranks. But with the French cavalry now scarred by battle losses, only the French veteran infantry and artillery can win the battle. But, when the next game hour turn (1500 hours) arrives the French army is found to have exceeded their army MFP threshold causing an immediate drop of morale by one. The process of army morale decline will start, one level for each hour till nightfall. With the death of General Bonaparte the loss of LOC causes another minus one to the unit CMR’s. Cumulative minus two for French morale tests. The Ottoman Army of Rhodes is not much in better condition. They will suffer army morale decline starting with the 1600 hours turn. In short, both armies are played out for the battle day with the side note that the French army is higher CMR rated (veteran), and has ability to absorb the MFP forced CMR every unit reduction, compared to the Ottoman army.
Team France huddles and makes the determination to back away from the tattered Ottoman defense but hold the escarpment line. The Ottoman Army of Rhodes cannot force the entire French army from the field of battle with only four Janissary Seban units and their sole Pasha guard unit. Stalemate it seems for victory determination. Looking over the victory determinations… The scenario is scored by the players as an Ottoman Minor victory for team turban. Alternative history it seems – General Kleber will take command of the Armee d’Orient a bit sooner than historically he did (by three weeks).
Thanks to David, Dan, Daniel and Rex for the enjoyable game. Its halftime for the big game.
WR comments on tabletop play: The Ottoman play was simple… defend their positions and blunt the French attacks. With limited cavalry available it was going to be hard to chase away the French infantry screens without exposing the massed (mob like) Ottoman infantry to the French artillery. So hide behind the low entrenchments and counterattack French assaults. Hopefully bleed the French dry.
French have all the options…. excellent infantry, cavalry , and artillery. Being a veteran army the French infantry has formed and open order unit capabilities. The cavalry is small in unit size but powerful at the right moments. They should charge home every time while fresh. The French artillery can pound the Ottoman massed infantry till it routs or disordered for the French assaults. So what went wrong… apart from Bonaparte getting shot.
- French cavalry was hurt by the initial attack on the exposed Ottoman battery by the village. Some Ottoman lucky hits on the French cavalry but Ottoman artillery overall, being weak and poor C class firing grade, couldn’t really hurt the French infantry if proper tactics used.
- French infantry can all use open order tactics on the tabletop. Basically means the Ottoman artillery should rarely have a formed unit to bombard. This reduces firepower hit % by half or more. During play the French exposed themselves to Ottoman round shot… and lost several miniatures early on.
- The ready Ottoman counter to massed French open order formation normally would be cavalry. But at Aboukir the Ottomans have exactly one unit of cavalry… Mustahpa Pasha’s personal four miniature guard. With the “Murat seeking out Mustapha” event card, Mustapha Pasha needed to be near his personal guard for protection. So, Ottoman players limited in dealing with the French open order formations, which saves them from the Ottoman positional and naval artillery bombardments. Plus the French can dance through the terrain with little movement cost.
- French cavalry really had one big charge with their small unit sizes. So the cavalry should have been saved in reserve till the French were ready for massed assaults on the Ottoman 2nd Line. Then charge to force the Ottomans into morale disorder since they cannot form any square formations.
- The French artillery did their work once they arrived up front… pounded several Ottoman Sekhan units into bloody piles and survivors fled into the bay waters. The only issue during play was the speed of unlimbering the batteries into range.
- The siege battery only once fired upon the arab gunboat dhows. With 30″ range… the dhow should have been hit and hit again. Thus forcing their retirement to prevent Ottoman MFP loss. If the dhow stay away… 24 pdr. shot into the massed Ottoman ranks will surely have effect.
- Better MFP orders managment. Attack orders are very MFP expensive, costing 4 MFP every hour the order is outstanding. The small cavalry commands, having one or two units of cavalry each, should have used the Engage order (2 points per game hour) or even March order (1 point per hour), thus saving 2-3 MFP points every hour compared to the Attack order. If and when they ready to charge, have Bonaparte nearby to change the order to Attack on the Command phase before declaring the charges. Once the charge completed, change back to Engage or March immediately to save the MFP point again. Cunning players could change command order after the hourly accounting step, ride forward and conduct their charges or two, and then change back before the next hourly accounting step….. hint.. hint to the players. MFP orders management is key to victory in WR scenarios.
- Even if the French Armee d’Orient exceeds their MFP army threshold, they can continue their attacking for one to two hours simply because their units have higher CMR ratings to start with. The typical French unit is 7 or 8 CMR (veteran line or low grade elite). Only the Janissaries were CMR 7 but the majority of the Ottoman Army of Rhodes is 5 or 4 CMR rating (poor line or militia). Veteran units can take more damage and last longer on the tabletop simply put. Militia morale grade tends to see everything wrong (morale wise) and bolts for the rear areas.
- Risking the army commander for a basic assault…. questionable choice. Even if the assault was beaten off the French can rally up and come again. The loss of Bonaparte did three direct results. Caused the Army d’Orient to exceed their MFP threshold (-1 CMR each hour) for MFP officer loss, automatic additional -1 CMR for loss of communication or army commander, and the restrictions on order changes etc till General Kleber becomes the new army commander two turns later. Thus the Armee d’Orient went down two CMR on that result, for every unit on the tabletop. Player morale went into the crapper too. Well, WR two cents and comments above on the scenario play.
For those interested, 25/28mm French and Ottoman tabletop miniatures and terrain from the WR collection. WR choose to use his Armee d’Orient late period uniformed miniatures (Kleber ere) since the mid period Battle of Aboukir post Syrian campaign soldiers were in a transitional uniform period from the early republican wool uniforms. The mid period was basic blue uniforms made of cotton and linen and the new caps for the majority of the army. This led to the explosion of color for the uniforms after Bonaparte’s leaving Egypt under the Kleber regime.
Cheers from the warren. Thinking its time for the Armee d’Orient to have it’s paraded review.