Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Coulmiers 1870: a "Bloody Big Battles" Game in 2mm scale

French recruits in autumn 1870


The Battle of Coulmiers was a combat engagement  between a Bavarian corps under general von der Tann and two French corps from the Army of the Loire under General Aurelle de Paladines on 9th November 1870, which ended with a victory of French arms.  

Coulmiers in the centre, view from the north east

Historical situation in autumn 1870

After the German victories in the border battles and at Sedan the bulk of the regular army of the second French empire was either in German captivity or encircled in the fortress of Metz.  Meanwhile the German main force besieged Paris. The task of securing the siege lines towards the south was entrusted to the 1st Bavarian Corps under von der Tann. This formation  succeeded in capturing the City of Orléans on the Loire on 11th October.

The German troops in and around Orléans faced the recently concentrated forces of the Army of the Loire. This French formation had a continuous influx of volunteers, which brought the army to a total strength of ca. 200,000, out of which 120,000 were fully effective. 
Problems resulted for the French side from the fact that the volunteers lacked training and that there were too few officers and non commissioned officers to train and lead them. However, the French did all they could to achieve a proper level of training and at this stage in the war there were still sufficient supplies of arms and equipment.

The positions to the west of Orléans on the morning of  November 9th, 1870

In the beginning of November 1870 general Aurelle de Paladines had ca. 70,000 effectives available to undertake an offensive in the direction of Orléans. The objective of this offensive was to destroy the isolated Bavarian 1st Corps, recapture the city and turn it into a base for the relief of Paris. The advancing French units were however spotted by German cavalry already on 7th November and appropriate counter-measures were taken by the German side. 

Orléans was evacuated on the night of the 8th to the 9th November and the larger part of the troops (ca. 23,000) took positions in the area of Coulmiers, where a battle was fought on the next day in cold and windy weather. General von der Tann was confident that his weak corps would be able to outmanouvre the numerically superior but less well-trained and inexperienced Army of the Loire.

The gaming table, 120 x 180 cm,  corresponding to the actual 21 x 14 km battlefield,
positions of Victory Points marked red

Historical course of the battle on 9th November 1870

The Bavarian troops deployed in a wide arch from St. Peravy over Coulmiers to La Renadiere. The French attacked in the late morning from the south west and first made contact with their right wing. Immediately after contacting the Germans, the bulk of the French army turned and attacked in the centre and on the right wing. Because of their widespread marching formations it took a while until all units were able to participate in the battle.

The first attack at ca. 1:30 PM succeeded in getting very close to the Bavarians, who were running out of ammunition. Here the French were narrowly beaten back by the German artillery that advanced to close range and thereby saved the Bavarians.  A second attack at ca. 3 PM was directed towards Cheminiers. Again the French could not succeed in coordinating their attacks properly, giving their opponents the chance to reinforce the critical positions in their lines and beat back the piecemeal assaults by the French regiments.
After these failed attacks the French gardes mobiles withdrew in disorder. Only with great difficulty did the French officers succeed in restoring order to prepare the next assault.
Despite their numerical superiority the French could not dislodge the Bavarians from their defensive positions. The French cavalry was positioned too far west, so that the Bavarian right wing was not enveloped for a long time.
When the French infantry eventually succeeded in storming Coulmiers head on, von der Tann was forced to withdraw his Corps from the battlefield to avoid encirclement. The Bavarian retreat was in good order and the French cavalry did not pursue, neither was there a French  advance towards Paris.

Vie from south towards north, St.Ay in the right foreground

Coulmiers as a wargame Scenario in 2mm scale 

The Coulmiers scenario  can be found as a free download in the "Bloody Big Battles“ Yahoo-Group:


We considered it very suitable as a starting point for gaming the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 because of the relatively small numbers of troops involved.
The gaming table, or rather cloth, is, as in our previous battles, a beige-coloured paper tablecloth sold by the Company Dunicel, which was airbrushed and painted with acrylic paints. Details were then added with colour pencils and artist's Crayons.

The paper cloth without buildings and vegetation

Rivers were covered with acrylic gloss varnish for a more realistic water effect. Villages and houses are from the 2mm ranges of Irregular Miniatures and Brigade Models. All woods consist of homemade "autumn flock". Inspiration for the layout came from internet pictures of the Loire valley and historical battlefield during November.

Autumnal atmosphere in the Loire-valley

We have not forgotten that we promised you a detailed "Making Of" Report for such cloths, this one was already made and stored before we posted the last report, waiting for the Bavarians (and potential Hessian reinforcements) to be painted up. So, next time we will include more details  concerning the set up.

The course of our game


Bavarians in Saintry


According to the scenario rules the German player deploys first. Von der Tann (Arno) chose the option to place a small unit plus artillery in an entrenched advanced Position in the village of  Saintry. 

Deployment of the Bavarians and French advance at 10.00 hours ( Turn 1 )

The French could move first and entered the battlefield at 10 o'clock from the west. The 16th Corps under general Chanzy (Mad Dog) deployed with two divisions north of Coulmiers, the 15th Corps under Commander-in-Chief de Paladines (Yogsothoth) followed further south. The cavalry of the 15th Corps (two units) advanced isolated on the left wing.  

Bavarian reserves in column of march

10.30 hours: Von der Tann reacts and sends his cavalry to his right wing. The reserves advance and stretch the Bavarian line further south at Coulmiers. The infantry of the advance guard withdraw from Saintry.

The Bavarian front north of Coulmiers

11.30 hours: Chanzy's Division is beaten back from Saintry. The Bavarians advance enthusiastically with infantry, cavalry and artillery in the north. The remaining three French divisions attack on the French right wing.

13.00 hours: In the north the French cavalry, with some luck, prevailed and wiped out the Bavarian cavalry. The Bavarians attempt to drive the battered French division from Charsonville. At the same time the French succeed in advancing unmolested on the Victory Points at St.Ay and Huisseau. A lucky throw of the dice creates a concentration of fire that smashes the southern flank of the Bavarian infantry line and Coulmiers is exposed.

14.30 hours: The Bavarians capture Charsonville und wipe out the enemy division. At the same time their southern flank is increasingly under threat. Von der Tann regroups his troops to defend Coulmiers.

15.00 hours: The French roll for reinforcements and are lucky. reserves appear on the northern edge of the gaming table. With their cavalry these troopsare now able to capture the three Victory Points North of Coulmiers completely unopposed. When another unlucky roll of the dice does not give the Bavarians any reinforcements it becomes clear that the 5 necessary Despite horrific losses of the French army (more than a third of the bases), mainly due to Bavarian artuillery fire, Victory Points for the French could not be seriously contested anymore by the Bavarians. Therefore the game was stopped two turns early at 5 PM.

Coulmiers viewed from the north 

End of the game:

We ended the game at the point when the French were in uncontested possession of altogether 6 Victory Positions out of a total of 8. This was at the end of Turn 5, the maximum length of the Scenario would have been 7 turns. For a French victory 5 positions would have been necessary, 4 positions in French hands would have been a draw and 3 or fewer a Bavarian victory.

As usual the game went smoothloy and quickly and in spite of the fact that General von der Tann experienced his very first game with the BBB-rules there were no problems for him to get involved after a quick instruction. 

Retrospectively we found that we might have forgotten to count a negative factor for the French at one time in the battle, which might have given the French more problems, but in our post-game discussion everyone was happy with the rules and the scenario's Balance.  

We are looking Forward to giving this exciting Scenario a re-run!



  1. This was a great game, the Scenario is well-balanced and creates exciting situations. In the beginning it seemed to be almost too difficult for the French, but in the end the Bavarians over-stretched their lines. I am looking Forward to the next time!

  2. Gorgeous game! I'm glad you had such fun with this scenario. It is a classic "quality versus quantity". The Bavarians are much better troops, and they have the advantage of defensive positions. But there aren't many of them, and it only takes one Bavarian mistake or one lucky French dice roll to create real problems for the Bavarians.

    And thank you for the inspiration - I have just ordered my Dunicel tablecloths!

    Bloody Big BATTLES!

  3. Your table looks spectacular! What are Dunicel tablecloths?

    1. Thank you for the compliment!
      Dunicel is a German company that produces tablecloths made of very durable paper, intended for long beer tables. These can be bought fairly cheaply in large rolls. The width nicely fits our gaming needs and the rolls are many meters long and so will last for many battlefields.