Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mulhouse, August 1914

With the centenary of the outbreak of World War One looming, we thought it appropriate to acknowledge the outbreak with a Great War Spearhead game. I say acknowledge rather than celebrate - there isn't a lot to celebrate, but certainly a lot to acknowledge in terms of human sacrifice.

I decided that we would try a play test of the first scenario in the upcoming Great War Spearhead scenario book, the Battle of Mulhouse, 9 August 1914.

We played the game using my 6mm WW1 forces, mostly Irregular Miniatures figures and guns.

Keith and I commanded the German forces, and Jon commanded the French. The situation is that a German infantry division is counter attacking to retake an area lost in an earlier French attack, and currently defended by the French with two infantry regiments supported by two regiments of 75s,

The French defence on the right. A significant feature of the French defence is the railway line and embankment. I lacked suitable scenery and so marked the embankment with string.. as you do.

The Germans decided on a full divisional attack directly towards Cernay and the bridge. The bridge is the only crossing point on the river. The German forces are arrayed on the left of the photograph.

The French defended Cernay.

The view from behind the French defence. Jon deployed one regiment defending Cernay and the bridge, the other on his right (out of view) awaiting what he believed would be a German flank attack.

The German plan was to send a regiment each to the right and left of Cernay while  a third regiment would assault through Cernay and across the bridge. The fourth regiment was kept in reserve. The two flanking regiments each had artillery attached, with the intent of advancing directly with the infantry, firing in direct support.

The right hand German regiment deploying to engage in a firefight with the defenders occupying the outskirts of Cernay (top right of the photo).

The French defenders waiitng.

The German regiments combined an extensive firefight woth direct assault to eliminate the French defenders in the outskirts of Cernay, before finally assaulting Cernay itself. The assault has just gone in and is yet to be resolved.

WIth Cernay in German hands, Keith began bringing down indirect fire on the French defenders behind the railway embankment.

My own regiment also engaged the defenders behind the embankment, causing casualties that slowly whittled away at the defenders' strength.

At this stage we ran out of game time. Not for us the victory of the German division on the day, and ignominy for the French commander. Jon had kept us back across the river.

The scenario offered the option of a flank march for the German division, but the issue of command zones meant that to do so would mean one German regiment isolated across the river, and open to defeat in detail. Hence our decision to keep the division together, concentrated for its assault on Cernay and the river crossings. The flank march option seemed to us to create more tactical dilemmas than we had the forces to deal with.

The scenario offers some interesting challenges for both commanders. For me it was a welcome return to one of my favourite rules sets, and periods, for wargaming after a long break filled with distraction.

We will be playing much more in the months to come.


  1. Excellent photos and summary of a very enjoyable game.

  2. The advancing German division looks irresistible in the opening moves - French élan won the day (and a good defensive position). Great opening game - looking forward to the many AARs that follow, Robin, while I paint furiously!

  3. Excellent AAR Robin, thanks for posting!

  4. Thanks for posting, very interesting. If anyone has a particular interest in the Battle of Mulhouse, I recently wrote a book inspired by my Grandfather's service in German Infantry Regiment 169. My grandfather's journal discusses his involvement in the Battle of Mulhouse, and the book goes into extensive detail on the battle. The book is titled "Imperial Germany's 'Iron Regiment' of the First World War; War Memories of Service with Infantry Regiment 169". It can be purchased on Amazon and comes in softcover and kindle formats. Regards, John Rieth

    1. John .. thanks. Will get a copy. Look forward to reading it. I a have a friend who's father served as an officer in the AH army.. a fascinating personal story. He has accepted my encouragement and is working on a biography.