At the club this Monday I was to be taken back many years to my early days of wargaming…. I was to play a game of Shako 2 and was going to have a Prussian army at my disposal, and I was looking forward to it, I was going to be using the lovely 15mm Napoleonic figures loaned to me by my opponent.
I had also never played Shako before let alone Shako 2…. Actually, while writing this, I realised that I have never played a Napoleonic wargame using a set of rules!! Ever!!! I have only ever rolled marbles at Airfix Waterloo HO-OO scale figures on a green carpet when I was very young…
So, this game was going to be interesting… probably very painful to watch for my opponent as I am a Napoleonic virgin so would obviously do loads of silly un-historical things with my troops ( and I did )
Note: I will take this opportunity to apologise, and to warn people reading this, that I know very little about Napoleonic army terms or Napoleonic tactics, so please forgive this persons silly mistakes.
So on to deployment…
Prussian infantry lines spread across the table, with Grenadiers holding the flank by the woods, artillery batteries in the centre, massed Prussian cavalry on the far end, and General Blucher at the rear with a division in reserve.
The whole battlefield showing the large French force moving in column towards the Prussian lines, with French cavalry on each flank.
I was given the job ( the easy job ) to be the defending army, while my opponent was to march his French troops across the table into my waiting lines.
The deployment of my figures was interesting, I was given three divisions all with cannon support and two with cavalry regiments, that was a lot of figures.
I put one division with cavalry support on the left and one infantry division on the right, then put the last division at the rear in reserve ( I was thinking that they could plug any gaps that the French got through )
Not much of a plan, but I just could not fit all the figures on the table without bunching them up to much, this way at least I would be able to get in a few manoeuvres without bumping into my own troops.
First turn saw some deadly cannon fire from my Prussian artillery, ball after ball went smashing through the French columns, the rest of my army stood still and just cheered!
The French columns came on fast and were a bit scary!! I was not liking the sight of all those French troops, I was not sure how I was going to stop them, my cannons were doing great, but they were not enough on their own, so I just hoped that I could do a lot of damage with my lines of infantry and their muskets, I was sure that my volley fire would take it’s toll when the French were real close ( more about this later )
Turn two saw a charge that I just couldn’t resist, actually two charges! Two units of Cuirassiers saw red and charged into the French, one smashed into a column of infantry and another hit a French light cavalry regiment.
The French infantry were no match for the Prussian cavalry, they fell apart as the heavy horse smashed into them, the Cuirassiers then saw another column and they charged off into that as well, causing many casualties and panic, so another French column disappears… the French light cavalry were a bit different, some bad dice rolling for me meant my cavalry decided to fall back to safety and regroup.
The Prussian cavalry took out two columns of French infantry but now they were blown and a long way into the enemy half of the table.
My artillery continued to cause casualties and to slow the French columns, and my lines of infantry waited for the inevitable French charge.
Turn three, the French charge!!!
Everything that could reach charged in, French cavalry on the right flank smashed into my waiting Grenadiers, and French infantry columns charged into my Prussian infantry lines.
Note: just before this point in the game I had realised that the volley fire is almost not worth doing in the game, which I find very odd, I know that history says that muskets were not that accurate, but 600 men in three ranks meant at least 400 muskets firing at the very least once maybe two or three times before the enemy hit home with their charge, at close range that is going to make a mess of those charging into that hail of musket balls, but Shako rules make it not worth the effort to fire with infantry!
6” range, a D6 roll of a 5 is staggered, and a 6 causes a kill, on one dice per regiment firing! The chances of actually effecting the charge seems too low to me, but hey maybe it’s because I don’t know enough about Napoleonic battles.
Any way back to the battle…
Combat / Melee is handled very nicely in Shako 2, you start with the MR of the unit then you add or subtract any modifiers, this gives you a combat value, then you roll a D6 and add that to that number, the difference between the forces final combat values is the number of hits the units takes… it’s that simple.
The Prussian Grenadiers holding against cavalry and infantry charges…
The only Prussian casualties of the battle!! two French columns were too much for them to hold…
The French cavalry all took hits and fell back away from my unharmed Grenadiers, the infantry and cavalry attacks on my left flank went slightly better for the French, two columns charged into a valiant Prussian infantry regiment and despite rolling as well as I could the two units rolled better and had higher MR so my infantry broke and disappeared, but the rest of my line stayed steady.
The morale of the three French divisions was not looking in great shape, each had lost eight points of regiments / brigades, compared to my Prussians who had only lost four points from one division.
So at that point ( and only because we had run out of time ) we called it a night, and I thanked my opponent for the introduction to Napoleonic wargaming, and for a great fun game.
The Prussian General Blucher and his aides taking a photo break…
My thoughts on Shako 2 are as follows… from a gamers point of view not a historian’s point of view.
A good solid game, a very fast and simple system, good combat mechanism, artillery were the kings of the table, cavalry are fast and can with a little luck cause a great deal of damage to an army.
The down sides for me were the effects of volley fire with muskets, and also skirmishers shooting, almost not worth bothering to shoot in the game, which for me seemed a bit of a shame, I think apart from artillery fire we only got two maybe three staggered results in the game from musket fire.
Also the books index is not great which makes finding the odd rule a bit of a chore.
But it was a fun game, and all those figures on the table was a great sight, and yes I would definitely play Shako 2 again.