|The bitter battle of Lund, 1757.|
The whole idea had been sparked off by a fellow wargamer asked a group devoted to games from the late, great Simulations Publications Inc. which SPI title on the Battle of the Bulge (a famous Christmas battle) had been their favourite. I started wondering about the different Bulge games that I have, which include GMT's Ardennes '44 and Tigers in the Mist, SPI's Wacht am Rhein, Avalon Hill's Bitter Woods, and the ASL modules Wacht am Rhein (Lone Canuck), Baraque de Fraiture (Front Line Productions), Battle of the Bulge (Time on Target) and Kampfgruppe Peiper I and KGP II (Avalon Hill). I could have sworn I owned 3W's Race to the Meuse, but perhaps I sold that years ago when I foolishly thinned out my collection a bit; it doesn't seem by the ratings to have been that good, so perhaps I'm not missing anything.
But what about other winter battles? There have been plenty, surely. What other titles in my collection would be suitable? (And, given the horrendously unseasonable weather we're having here in the Washington, DC, region, maybe give me a little illusory chill?)
|Lund, 1676: The cold radiates off the map.|
|Clash of Arms Leuthn: Frederick's Greatest Victory|
Move ahead to the Napoleonic era and there are two snowy battlefields that stand out boldly. One is a confused, messy, filled with glorious exploits, but overall a picture of bloody devastation, not unlike the battle of Lund on a larger scale. This was the battle of Preussisch-Eylau, fought on the 7th and 8th of February 1807. In it, two armies each of about 75,00 men traded hammerblows for two days in snow and freezing cold, each eventually losing as much as a third of their army in killed, wounded, or missing.On one side of the battle, the Russian army under Count von Bennigsen gathered together a huge battery of over 70 artillery guns to smash a French assault on his center, riposted with a massive column of infantry, and broke the center of Napoleon's army. In return, the French emperor called on the flamboyant Gascon cavalry commander Joachim Murat and flung him and a massive cavalry force of 11,000 men into the flank and center of the Russian counterattack, crushing it and scattering its men far and wide. Both French and Russian armies paused, like a boxer battered nearly into insensibility, and then, reinforced (Napoleon by more French under Marshal Michel Ney, von Bennigsen by a corps of Prussians under A.W. von L'Estocq) pounded each other for several more hours, until nearly midnight. When he surveyed the battlefield the next day, Ney said, Quel massacre! Et sans résultat ("What a massacre! And without result").
|Napoleon and his Garde Imperiale in LBdP-E|
Another storied series that has covered the battle is Fréderic Bey's Eylau 1807, part of his Jours de Gloire system published by the French wargaming magazine Vae Victis: no less glorious, but somewhat more manageable than La Bataille.
The third entry in my library for this battle is Avalanche Press's Eagles of the Empire: Preussisch-Eylau. Characterized by an innovative area-movement system, this game can be played in a mere three hours, compared with Bey's four and the optimistic six predicted for La Bataille.
|Napoleon at the Berezina|
Of course, World War One is most famous for its Christmas Truce of 1914. I do not, I regret, have any games that depict the famous football match that took place before Germans and British were ordered back to their lines.
World War Two, besides the Bulge, has two other theatres where winter fighting was endemic. Since I'd like to finish this post and get to Christmas Eve festivities, I'll just quickly list some of the relevant titles from the famous Finnish Winter War and from the grim battles of the Eastern Front.
Finland: The earliest game I recall playing on this theatre was James Goff's excellent Winter War (SPI, 1972). Another great title is David Ritchie's Arctic Storm (GMT, 1992). A modern classic on a smaller scale is Mark Mokszycki's Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland, December 8-12, 1939 (GMT, 2012). And, of course, Advanced Squad Leader is represented by (inter alia) MMP's Hakkaa Paalle! module and Critical Hit's Jatkosota: Finland's Continuation War.
|Frosty fighting in the streets of Cholm.|
a great older title, GDW's
I'll close with one that still has not made it to my table, but that I'm interested to try one day. Into a Bear Trap: the Battle for Grozny 1995 is the brainchild of the prolific designer Perry Moore. This well-rated game from ATO depicts the modern urban combat waged over the capital of Chechnya by the Russian army and the irregular forces of the Chechen resistance.
As a wrap up, this blogpost by someone much more dedicated than I to the topic lists more than a dozen different battles (or battle-like events) that took place on or around Christmas, for your extended Christmas warfare pleasure.
Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it, and happy holidays to all!