Wednesday, October 24, 2012

AAR: The Famined French - A Napoleonic Skirmish

A Song of Drums and Shakos Battle Report


Time for yet another documented game of Song of Drums and Shakos (SDS), a Napoleonic skirmish game from Ganesha Games by Sergio Laliscia. An introduction to the game can be found in our first AAR, found here.

For this game we used one of the scenarios in the core rule book: ”Foraging Mission”. Unfortunately our logistics department failed in getting some cows and sheep on to the table but that didn’t stop the French and Prussians from having a go at each other. :-) I guess the cattle were at the other end of the corral, off table...

Anyway, the fight was the result of a french foraging mission running into a few more Prussians than they bargained for. The Prussians were normal line infantry (musketeers) while the French consisted of light infantry (légère) of some elite status. 

The Scenario stipulated that the Prussian sentries moved at random until combat (ranged or hand to hand) were initiated or any Frenchman came within line of sight (being dusk vision was some what reduced). When the alarm was set off all sentries reversed to normal rules and the rest of the Prussians, still in the cabin, could try and activate as normal to come out and join the fight.

In order to take advantage of our full 120x120cm (48x48”) board we used the measurements intended for 40mm miniatures (that are supposed to play on a table of that size) but with our 28mm miniatures.  

The opposing forces

French Light Infantry (Légère)
1 Light Infantry Officer
1 Light Infantry NCO
1 Drummer
2 Light Infantry Chasseur
2 Light Infantry Voltiguer
1 Light Infantry Carabinier

The French Foraging Party

Prussian Line Infantry (Musketeers)
1 Line Infantry Officer
1 Line Infantry NCO
1 Drummer
10 Line Infantry Musketeer

The Prussian Defenders

The initial set up
The table

The deployment

Prussian sentries guard the corral and the cabin while the French appear in one of the woodland areas.

The game

With hunger in their stomachs the French foraging patrol observed the Prussians. The French seemed to outnumber the Prussians. But how many were in the cabin?
The calm before the storm. The Prussian sentries circle the premises.

Chosing speed over caution the French burst from the woods. The Voltiguers with their distinct yellow markings on their shakos together with their NCO moved towards the cabin to keep the rest of the Prussians at bay while the majority of the French advanced on the two sentries by the corral.

The French burst from the woods.

The alarm was raised straight away as the French chasseurs advanced and opened fire on the surprised Prussians by the corral. One of the two sentries took a mortal wound and fell while the other Prussian to no avail fired at the French carabinier storming towards him. First blood to the French!

Much to the dismay of the French the Prussians in the cabin reacted very quickly and efficiently to the turmoil outside and all of them appeared in the yard in a heartbeat. It turned out to be a lot of Prussians!

Prussians. A lot of Prussians. Maybe the French bit of more than they can chew?
The Prussian sentry at the corral face the wrath of the French Carabinier.

The French Voltiguers took up positions overlooking the cabin as the strong Carabinier knocked the lone sentry to the ground by the corral.

The very next moment the Prussian lost all momentum as one of the sentries, private Günter, appeared from behind the cottage, dragging his feet. What had he been up to? The initiative was lost to the French with the Prussians still in their starting blocks. 

The French Carabinier killed the Prussian on the ground to the sound of the Voltiguers opening fire on the Prussians in the yard. The Prussian Officer apparently still startled by private Günter's performance failed to issue the necessary orders  leaving them exposed in the middle of the yard yet again.

The French voltiguers taking shots at the Prussians.

Having killed the last Prussian by the corral the attackers consolidated behind the stone wall. With no live stock in sight they realised they would have to fight the Prussians instead of sneaking off with some much needed supplies.

The French voltiguers continued to fire on the Prussians to no or little effect as the Prussians finally got their act together and formed a strong firing line by the fence. Again Private Günter dragged his feet and failed to join the line. Most definitely drunk! 

The Prussians getting their firing line in order...
...well, almost. Private Günter fails to get moving yet again.

The French in the corral got their volley off before the Prussians killing the Prussian NCO with a lucky shot. The Prussians responded with a powerful volley splitting their fire between the voltiguers and the French in the corral, knocking Frenchmen to the ground. Both sides reloaded and fired again. Even though no casualties were made it was obvious that the Prussians now had the upper hand and that the French were very lucky to have survived the exchange so far.

The Prussian NCO bites the dust as the French fires from the corral.
The Prussian response is terrifying.
The French suffer the might of a strong firing line, both at the corral...
...and amongst the trees.

With the Prussians formed in line in a very good position the French needed to come up with something fast or be mowed down by Prussian volleys. In an inspired move the French NCO brought his voltiguers in a sprint to outflank the Prussian firing line. Being marksmen the légère voltiguers, now close, then fired and killed two of the exposed Prussians. At the same time the French in the corral kept up pressure by firing another volley, knocking a Prussian to the ground.

The French voltiguers rush forward... outflank the Prussian line...
...with great result.

Realizing the danger the Prussians musketeers fired on the voltiguers as the Prussian officer and drummer moved out of harm’s way. But with the French on their flank the Prussians couldn’t get their full numbers to bear and their sporadic fire didn’t put any of the French out of action. However, being up close and personal the French NCO now lost momentum and didn’t manage to get himself out of the field of fire. Luckily for him the Prussian Officer also faltered in this critical moment and didn’t manage to get his soldiers into action. The French in the corral fared a bit better and fired yet again but to no effect.

Being only a few steps apart both groups now frantically tried to reload and get into order. The French voltiguers managed to line up reloaded and ready to fire only moments before the Prussians formed a new line facing them. The French voltiguers let loose, killing one Prussian and knocking another to the ground, thereby disrupting the Prussian newly formed line.

The Prussians scramble to reform and face the threat on their flank...
...but the French voltiguers get their shots off first yet again.

As the Prussians again redressed the line two musketeers fired killing one of the French voltiguers in a most spectacular fashion as bullets hit his head! Less experienced troops might have fled the field at the sight but the now single French voltiguer and his NCO fought on with grim determination. The loss of their brother in arms seemed to affect them however as the voltiguer didn’t manage to reload. With the Prussian officer again failing his troops in a most dire situation the French however didn’t suffer from this.

Not only the Prussians take casualties from the close range fire fight

Watching the close range fire fight from the corral the French officer – a bit late! - grasped the overall tactical situation on the field. With the Prussians occupied by the voltiguers on the flank he now ordered his soldiers to advance from the corral towards the Prussians to add extra pressure. Would it be too late? There was a risk of the advance being too late if the Prussians managed to take care of the French voltiguers before the French from the corral closed the distance across the open field.

The French leave the relative safety of the corral...
...having along way to go across the open field.

The Prussians fired a volley at the voltiguers at close range but the lucky French NCO was only knocked down and was determined to fight on. As the French officer continued to move his soldiers across the field and the single voltiguer struggled with his musket the Prussian line managed to reload and fire a volley yet again but the very lucky NCO again found himself on the ground, again with no wound to take him out of action.    

Down but not out.
The French NCO survives yet another Prussian volley
as the French from the corral close in.

Arriving at the farm yard the French carabinier followed by a very enthusiastic drummer boy jumped the fence and moved into combat with some Prussians giving a French chasseur a free field of fire to the Prussian officer. The shot went off but only resulted in the officer being knocked to the ground. In a similar manner, the French voltiguer fired an aimed shot at the Prussian line but failed to take his target out of action. At close range. A fine marksman indeed…

Close combat erupts in the yard.
With the musketeers preoccupied the Prussian drummer takes the brunt of the French charge.

The Prussian officer got to his feet and managed to get some of his musketeers to turn around and join the furious melee that now took place in the yard. A single Prussian fired on the French NCO that again simply refused to lie down and die. 

In the close combat the strong French carabinier knocked the Prussian drummer to the ground and the French drummer boy reached down and slit his throat. No collegial spirit amongst the musicians! Having reloaded the French single voltiguer fired but again failed in his marksmanship. The French chasseur standing just outside the fence didn’t fare any better and failed to get off another shot.

Desperate hand to hand combat in the yard.

The Prussian officer knew that in order to get anything done you have to do it yourself. With his sabre he attacked in a strong fashion and managed to knock his opponent to the ground. Was this maybe the change in fortune that the now hard pressed Prussians needed? Their good flow ended abruptly, however, as the other Prussians failed to take advantage of their officer’s good initiative. Instead the Prussian officer was pushed back from the French attack and as a Prussian fell to the musket fire of the voltiguers the Prussian officer, with half his squad gone, realized all was lost and surrendered, presenting his sabre to the French.

The French had won!

The Prussian officer surrender.


Another great game! Even though we still make mistakes from time to time we are getting a good feel for the game mechanics. It was an intense fight with the French coming out guns blazing and in the early stages getting the upper hand, clearing the area of the corral quite easily. With the Prussians then getting their line in order – and being many more men – it looked like the day would belong to the Prussians. The group in the corral had an awful long way to go across open ground and the voltiguers were too few and too close, exposed to the Prussian volleys. It all changed with the French voltiguers’ flank move. It made the Prussians having to reform and divide their focus. The French almost lost it anyway by taking too long to start the advance with the rest of the men from the corral. A few more turns would have knocked the French voltiguers out of the game putting the rest of the French in a very vulnerable position indeed. With the help of a few Prussian turnovers in critical moments the French managed to complete their pincer move and came out on top.


  1. A splendid looking game.Thanks for posting the pictures!

  2. Nice looking setup! Looks like you had a fun game too, with lots of back and forth.

  3. I do enjoy skirmish games and this was a cracker, thanks for sharing. Lovely painted figures and terrain.

  4. Absolutely beautiful terrain figures and game. Thanks for the battle report.

  5. Very nice, I especially like the top view of the battlefield. How did you do that? Did you go high on a ladder to take pics?

    I will link to this blog post on my site and my social media.

  6. Thanks alot to all of you. Much appreciated.

    @Ganesha Games. The top view is taken standing on a chair with arms streched out over the table. I guess it is a dangerous as the wargaming hobby will ever be. :-)

  7. Brilliant... I got SDS a while ago but haven't been inspired to paint any figures up to play it.
    I've got French dragoons and British Light Infantry, but reading this, I think I might just get some Austrians and put a game together with a similar scenario to yours.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks!
      You really should give it a try. Its a nice rule set and you really don't need that many figures to play it.

  8. Very good AAR !!!

    Best regards Michael

  9. We need to see more of your 15th century project, may be my migration of Dux Brittaniarum would be of interest?

    To inspire you to go on I awarded you the "Liebster Prize" :)

    Chainletter warning but fun anyway at least for now;)

    Best regards Michael

    1. Hey, thanks for the award ("chainletter" or not)!
      Yes we do need to see some more 15th century action on this blog. Of late, however, the GW- and Napoleon-projects have had the upper hand but do not despair. We have some 15th century stuff in the works!
      Your "Dux Suecia" looks very interesting! The Too Fat Lardies have excellent gaming mechanics and philosophy.