Monday, 4 November 2013

Charles Grant rides to the rescue yet again!

It is time to ring the changes and, with next year's demo games at the back of my mind, I have decided to do some Seven Years War gaming to inspire me to get more painting done. And I do need to get inspired because I have over 500 more SYW figures to paint by the end of next spring if the Zorndorf demo-game is to become a reality. In need of a quick scenario to get the juices going I turned to my book shelves and took out an old favourite.

This scenario is largely based on Reserve Demolition by Charles Grant in his book Scenarios for Wargames (published, WRG 1981). This is a book of 52 scenarios, one for every week of the year, covering all periods of historical war gaming and including tactical teasers for everything from basic attack defence set ups, through ambushes and coastal raiding, to games involving helicopters and trains. It is one of my all-time favourite war game books and definitely worth picking up if you don’t already have a copy – although many of the scenarios are oft run and commonplace wargames fare (in one guise or another), having them all in one place as an aide memoire is always comforting when you are stuck for a scenario to do. Reserve Demolition is scenario number 20; it features in Part 2 of his book dealing with river scenarios.

What follows here is my adaption of the scenario for a game, with a fictional Seven Years War backdrop, to be played using Classic Piquet rules. Because of the armies and the rules, changes have been made to the detail of the scenario, but the general underlying ‘plot’, terrain and overall force sizes are mostly unchanged. 


“A “reserve demolition” is the modern parlance for a bridge prepared for demolition but which must not be destroyed until the time is right.”

The year is 1759 and Frederick the Great has been rebuffed at Kunnersdorf. His army has ceased to exist as a fighting force capable of strategic action. Nothing but small forces now remain between the Russians and Berlin. Frederick has given orders that all bridges that might be used by the enemy are to be prepared for demolition. They are not to be blown without direct orders from the King as he might yet use them, if he is given time to concentrate a new army, for a counter-stroke.


The object of the scenario is a single stone bridge that crosses a deep and swiftly flowing river.  At either end of the bridge three ‘town sections’ make up a small village. Due east of the village, commanding a crossroads, is a walled farm (single ‘town section’). North of the farm is an open wood (type II terrain), south of it a small gently sloping hill (type I terrain). To the south east a large, steeply sloping, flat topped hill dominates the whole area (slopes are type II terrain). All other terrain is ‘virtual’. In the photo above, the 'chain-line' marks the limit of Prussian deployment east of the river.


  • Commander in chief, four field officers. 
  • 2 units of elite grenadiers – Fire D12, Melee D8, Morale D8. 
  • 6 units of line infantry - Fire D10, Melee D8, Morale D6. 
  • 2 units of elite cuirassier – Fire D4, Melee D12, Morale D8. 
  • 1 unit of elite horse grenadiers – Fire D6, Melee D10, Morale D8. 
  • 1 unit of dragoons - Fire D6, Melee D8, Morale D6.
  • 2 units of hussars – Fire D8, Melee D6, Morale D6. 
  • 1 heavy artillery battery – Fire D10, Melee D4, Morale D6. 
  • 1 medium howitzer battery – Fire D8, Melee D4, Morale D6. 
  • Note: Officer Quality deduct - 2; Unit Quality - no change; Opportunity Chips - 3; Army Characterisation Deck cards (divisor 4) - 3; Sapper Task - D6.

Capture the bridge intact.

You command an advance guard tasked with seizing a vital bridge over which the main army will cross to reach Berlin and end the war. You can advance on the bridge from any of three directions east of the river – using the east road, the north road, or the south road. You can divide your force into two columns, sending one by a circuitous route and approach from two directions, or keep your force concentrated and approach from just one.

In game terms: You must choose one or two roads on which to enter the battlefield. If you choose two you must choose the mix of each force and choose which will include the commander-in-chief before the battle begins. The force with the commander in chief will arrive as soon as the game starts with the first units being allowed to make an on table march of one move at full rate before the first throw for initiative. Units entering the table need not be in column of route but must start their move in contact with the road. The second force, if there is one, arrives immediately following the second appearance of the player’s Stratagem card, as per the main force (the delay is caused by the circuitous route the second column must take).

Intelligence suggests that the Prussians are preparing all of the bridges in the immediate area for demolition. For the operation to succeed speed is of the essence. Once on the bridge any demolition charges must be neutralised and a bridgehead on the western side of the river established.

In game terms: If the bridge has been prepared for demolition, and you have infantry on the bridge, you can clear the charges by making a successful check on your sapper task card. Because your infantry are not sappers they carry out this sapper task with a down 1 modifier. A bridgehead can be established by occupying the two buildings on the western side of the river, which incidentally also prevents the bridge being blown.


  • Commander in chief, three field officers, one officer of engineers. 
  • 1 unit of elite grenadiers – Fire D12, Melee D8, Morale D8. 
  • 4 units of line infantry - Fire D10, Melee D8, Morale D6. 
  • 1 unit of sappers - Fire D10, Melee D8, Morale D6. 
  • 2 units of elite dragoons – Fire D4, Melee D12, Morale D8. 
  • 1 unit of hussars - fire D6, Melee D8, Morale D8.
  • 2 medium artillery batteries – Fire D8, Melee D4, Morale D6. 
  • Note: Officer Quality add 2; Unit Quality add 2; Opportunity Chips 4; Army Characterisation Deck cards (divisor 3) 3. Sapper Task D6.

Sappers can be deployed at the bridge (they must be there to effect preparation but not material acquisition or destruction). One unit, or up to two artillery sections, can be deployed west of the river. All other units must deploy east of the river within the marked deployment area. Prussian forces deploy after the Russian player has organised his attack but before the Russian player deploys his first forces on table.

To hold the bridge, with minimal losses, until ordered to destroy it.

You are responsible for holding and, ultimately, destroying the bridge if the orders arrive to do so. Unfortunately, although the enemy are within a day’s march of the bridge, the officer of engineers and his sappers have not received sufficient explosive and other equipment to blow it up – though the arrival of the powder train is imminent.  The officer of engineers has told you, in detail, what is required to blow the bridge.

In game terms: A series of sapper task checks (detailed below) must be made on the appearance of your Sapper Task card. One test is allowed each time the card appears. Failure at any stage will require the check to be retaken on the card’s next appearance until the check is successfully passed. The bridge is old and in a state of some disrepair so all sapper task checks will be made with an Up 2 modifier. 
  • First you must pass a sapper task check to acquire materials (the powder train), which will arrive by the northern road on the western side of the river (wagons count as medium artillery for movement). 
  • Second, and after the powder train has arrived at the village, you must pass a sapper task check to prepare the bridge for demolition. 
  • Third, you must pass a sapper task check to blow the bridge.
This morning you sent a dispatch rider to the King to inform him of the presence of the enemy and requesting further instructions. The rider returned with frustratingly awkward orders: The bridge must be held at all cost and is not to be blown without express orders to do so. You must maintain your force as intact as possible as the King will require it later.

In game terms: Under no circumstances must you let the bridge fall into the hands of the enemy. You can only destroy it if the King orders it directly – orders may arrive to blow the bridge on a successful check on the appearance of the player’s Stratagem card; the player will roll D4 vs D8 on first appearance, D6 vs D8 on the second, D8 on the third, and so on. Whilst fulfilling your orders concerning the bridge you must maintain at least forty percent of your force (14 stands). They must be west of the river if the bridge is blown.

My next post will, with a bit of luck, be a battle report of this river action. Until then I'll leave you with the only worthwhile shot I took (before I smudged the lens) of the last game the Lads played: Sidi Rezegh 1941, at The Venue Formally Known As Saville's - our Fiasco 2013 demo game last month.


Steve J. said...

Lovely looking table and figures as always. I heartily concur re: the Grant book.

pancerni said...

Great book, great scenario!

Dave Huntley (sheepman) said...

Charles Grant scenarios, absolutely timeless.
Really looking forward to reading the report of the game. Lovely figures as usual mate.

Handgrenadealien said...

Cracking stuff, nice to see the SYW getting more attention. Which conventions will you be taking this to?

Regards HGA.

GaryA said...

A mere 500 figures to paint? You're slacking!


Gonsalvo said...

I also agree with the book, and this scenario in particular is one of my favorites. It should be a hoot with classic Piquet!


My plan is to do Zorndorf over the two days of Sheffield Triples - it's too big for a one day show.

Der Alte Fritz said...

I'm not sure about the idea of making any of the Russians "elite". Solid yes, and not likely to run away, but not elite.

I think that you can give them a "fight to the last man" mentality with the infantry and artillery, but Russian cavalry was very ordinary, had lesser quality horse flesh than the Prussians , and a lot of the cavalry regiments only fielded 3 squadrons to the Prussians 5.

Also, given that your scenario is post -Kunersdorf, probably no elites in the Prussian army



I'm in agreement with you on elite status.

We are, however, going to play unadulterated Piquet rather than our ammended 'house Piquet' for this game. Once in a while it is worthwhile to revisit core rules to remind yourself of the changes you have made and if they actually make a difference - sometimes in retrospect changes amount to hair splitting.

We would normally make Russian infantry and guns stubborn by giving them an 'up' versus morale challenges and class the horse as very ordinary.

Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Beautiful looking armies as always!