Napoleon Retreats


After dispatching Blücher’s Army of Silesia at Vauchamps, Napoleon diverted temporarily toward the Seine at Montereau, for an inconclusive brush with Schwarzenberg’s Army of Bohemia. Blücher received reinforcements from the Army of the North, and soon was threatening Paris. 

Cutting short his operations in the south against the Army of Bohemia, the Emperor set out on an 80-mile, three-day march toward Blücher’s last known location, La Ferté sous-Jouarre on the Marne. While Macdonald’s 42,000 men contained Schwarzenberg, his force of 35,000 would steal a march on the Prussians.

On March 1st, Napoleon’s sudden appearance on the Marne forced Blücher to break off the action and retreat toward Fismes on the 2nd. The Emperor was unable to get the bridge at La Ferté repaired until the 3rd.

Blücher welcomed tidings of two strong allied corps on their way to join him—just in time, as the Silesian Army was beginning to unravel. The bonds of discipline showed signs of strain under recent losses; baggage and wounded were falling by the wayside.

These two fresh corps under Bülow and Winzin-gerode captured Soissons, opening a line of retreat north over the Aisne river for Blücher. Had Soissons held out for another day, Napoleon might have arrived in time to interfere with the rearguard at Fismes, although Blücher would probably have escaped. The retreat went smoothly and all his troops were across by the morning of the 5th.

After crossing at Soissons and at Vailly (S3219), Blücher deployed along the north bank of the Aisne, while Napoleon moved to outflank him, seizing the stone bridge at Berry-au-Bac (E1205), to march upon the ancient cathedral city of Laon (N0719).


Battles Simulated

Craonne, Struggle for the plateau des dames, 7 March

The chemin des dames runs the length of a continuous ridge from the N2 to the N44, the two main highways leading north to Laon. Blücher stationed Sacken and Woronzoff’s infantry on the plateau just west of Craonne. Napoleon decided on a frontal attack up the chemin on what he believed to be no more than a 20,000-man rearguard. The Russians begrudgingly gave ground, gaining it back in a counterattack, and throwing Ney off the Plateau. Once the French Guard cavalry had stabilized the situation, the Russian right flank began to give way under combined pressure of infantry and cavalry. Napoleon directed 88 guns from the Guard artillery to destroy the Russian center and sent the Guard infantry to attack along the chemin to complete the victory. The Russians withdrew in good order.

Laon, Beginning of the End, 9-10 March

Marshal Ney advanced on Laon in the morning snow. Bülow with 17,000 men held the suburbs of Semilly and Ardon. On the plain west of Laon, Winzingerode was posted with 25,000 men; east of Laon at Athies, Yorck and Kleist held another 25,000 men; Langeron and Sacken were in reserve with 36,000; Napoleon attacked with fewer than 40,000. As the southern suburbs traded hands, Blücher thought that he was being attacked just by an advanced guard, but Napoleon threw everything into Ney’s attack up until 6 PM. Marmont commanded a separate force of 10,000 which had managed to fight their way to Athies by 5 PM, camping for the night. At 7:30, the Prussian Yorck launched a combined arms attack that routed Marmont’s entire camp. A small group of French Guardsmen managed to halt the pursuit. Marmont lost 45 guns, all his wagons, and 3,500 men. Blücher lost a chance to destroy his foe’s small army.

Reims, A Quick Success en passant, 13 March

On March 12th the Russian General St. Priest (pictured to the right) snatched Reims from its small French garrison. Hearing of this, Napoleon and his small force moved east on the 13th, beginning their attack at 4 PM, quickly driving out the enemy, and cutting communications between Blücher and Schwarzenberg at the same time. Only 10,000 French troops were actually engaged against 15,000 of St. Priest. St. Priest was killed along with 3,000 men while losing 23 guns.

Game Components

Napoleon Retreats

Each game includes:
Game Box
3 Maps 34"x22"
One 22"x17" map
2 Counter Sheets (560 Die-Cut Units)
2 Booklets (System Rules and Study Folder)
16 Player Aid Cards (TRC x 9, Initial Setup x 6, Casualty x 2, Combat Results, Reorganization, and Weather)
5 Resource Cards (Adding the Cards, Combat Tables, Sequence of Play, Victory Worksheet, List of Cards Removed).
2 Card Decks (50 cards in each deck. Same decks as La Patrie en Danger)

Visit our Game Components section for details

Thursday Night Gamers

Napoleon Retreats

Watch the Thursday Night Gamers play Napoleon Retreats, Campaign, Part I. To see Part II and other OSG gameplay videos, visit their YouTube channel.

game maps

napoleon retreats

Each game includes three high quality 22"x34" maps (shown below).  All three maps fit together to create an irregular playing area (44"x68") and covering an entire week of fighting.

Operational Studies Group (OSG) is a leader in the design and production of Napoleonic Wargames. Our maps are extensively researched, historically accurate, and printed on heavy cardstock in full color.