Mostly playing with my rules "Balls and fire" 15/18mm figures.
And my 1809 campaign 
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Two versions: B&F 2000 where outmaneuver units are brigades/ regiments + artillery batteries. Command and control important.

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And B&F 1000 where you still roughly go with brigades but they are made of cavalry regiments or "units" of 800-1200. + batteries. (abandonned)

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What if battle of Gjhatsk 1813

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The 1809 campaign   from Spt 23

1809 Armies fighting on the purposely designed mat for Borodino! 

Ended up as a slugfest, about like the historical one despite taking the Davout option, or nearly so; re shuffling the French Corps. The Russians/Austrians lost far less than historically. possibly as they don't have this "stoic" characteristic and far less inspiring leaders, not too tenacious and inclined to the bayonet. First game in the new house, before everything was installed!

WAGRAM (or nearly so, fiddled with OB and starting time for more options). 2017

 Table space 4.5 m x 2.9m; that was before I did the purposely designed mat and heights. 3500 figurines; 2 days, mostly because the bases were not yet with magnets and only two players! Lesson taken. Napoleon did not manage to break them, just push them off pretty much like in 1809. the Austrian player did not counter attack and had a different, more spread use of his fortification. 

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And no you have never heard of this battle...

 4000 figurines; THE huge what if 1812-13 battle; 190000 men for Napoleon vs 160000 for Kutusov. Part of my "what if he waited to reorganize and took care of his rear areas in late August 1812" and re started in early 1813.

Why this place? In his analysis of 1812 Clauzewitz states that the position behind this town of Gzatsk (today Gagarin in Smolensk oblast) was one of the best they could have taken, chosen by Barclay just before he was removed from overall command. We can understand it was abandoned after works had started as too wide to fight the better manoeuvering French (wargaming hint to those who think all commands in all armies are equals) and the available numbers; understatement also means if victorious, it would have been too much of a Barclay's victory;)

In my what if the French obviously would be better off than at Borodino but so would the Russians, which means they'd have enough troops, probably.         And I believe Carl von....

The main problem: I had to find the proper map. I asked and we found Russian sources on line. I did not go to the central library to ferret into the map room and maybe find period sketches and maps, maybe even the report on installing this battlefield! Though whenever I go again I might look.

Using this site I had a map of the place with everything you want from 1871. Other older maps lacking details would be only checked for the villages and extend of the town, just in case it would have changed significantly. Then it has maps from post WW1 and especially a very detailed topographical map from 1941 . Another site has some nowadays flood map that has heights shown in coloured contrasted clear layouts was quite useful to figure out faster the main heights. It also had the feature of measuring things and having local heights with passing the mouse over.  
Even if I started full of elan, I soon realized that the place was complicated and short of doing a huge job of surveying and detailed special 3D full set of polystyrene tiles which I hardly can store (I have a 3x 4.5m surface tables) the main useful features will have to be enough. I am no Bruce Weigle;). Hours of trial and errors using as a bottom layer the 1871 map (after starting with the 1941- but will say further why) I ended up with a not so nice project (as the stuff was after all taken from the internet low rez) but good enough. The choice of the rectangle that would be the battlefield was also a subject of errors and multiple re doing. Studying the stuff as to how would they set up , and how to attack was very important, for all my space, I cannot screw up too much. And actually I did, allowing a bit not enough space for the French, which I realized typically once every single tree and Russian was installed! Obviously I did not redo it. But if and when I play that again, ho I'd wish, with 3 other guys! I would do it right. The game will say it it was a real problem other that aesthetical (not able to put down all the French-some off table!).

I was very careful about the orientation, not to use a simple North East South as on the internet maps. The Russian defenses as described by Carl Von would mainly follow the crests along the main river and the map showed it makes sense. The French need enough to deploy, the Russians too plus recoiling without falling into that ridiculous end of the world, and the flanks, put where they make more sense, keeping in mind it had to fit in 18km by 11.5.

There was one striking difference between the 1871 map(s) and the 1941 map. In 1941 the woods seemed bigger, and there was a lot of water, what looed like ponds, marshes etc . along the river. I guess having been along The Volga, the Don, the Dniepr and many smaller ones (notable at Maloyaroslavets) one bank would higher than the other, and a more or less wide expense of low ground would flat and able to be flooded in spring on both sides. Villages and cultures be on the starting elevation and up. The soviets in their 1920s mess and their innate socialist belief that even Nature (not just human nature) will bend to their will, probably messed up the 1000 years proven local ways. So the floods that were contained or kept harmless would have destroyed newly forced upon agriculture, the collectivisation and industries nearby made these quite numerous villages caring no more about the land around them (I was surprised at the number of villages on this map as one striking Russian feature is- emptiness- in France and Germany you easily have a village every 2km- hence the range of the Milan ATGM-) in European Russia you can go 20 km without one. Maybe more nowadays than then, surely but still... and had a bad feeling about "shall I not have enough "eastern houses" (prompting Timecast and Kerr and King orders!). They also had a railway and a motorway built in 1941, the soviet way, not necessarily caring about water extraction-a standard feature of Moscow streets with heavy rain;).

While doing the order of battle of the 1812 in 1813, more funny things in, as French guards of 1813, the Russian volunteer cavalry from the nobles, who never had time to be fully raised (I have a full division of them with funny dresses, mostly accurate) could be put in play. And then I discovered I need more Russian generals, and Prussian batteries...

One of the things that would be of importance, most but not all the eastern bank of the river is higher than the "French" bank, This one often not significant for the game.                I decided the higher bank would be 2 levels high, the higher steep (a common feature of Russian rivers) one marked with "crests". Some of the highest places were put as hills as featured on the modern height map. Most of the rest of the banks as crests, being level 1; reducing the polystyrene storage and allowing for more variant for re using the thing.
One inch from the river is level -1 in case. Some level 3 crop up south mostly and I curtailed the woods that otherwise bisect too much the Russian position. Clauzewitz says they were on the rear nicely covering the path of retreat. The bigger forested area maybe modern (even 19th century modern) effect of better agriculture and less cultivated land further from villages. Russian woods normally are high trees with not so much brush underneath, only at the edges. So dark and relatively easy to move in, but still surely not in close order formations.

Now ready to install it! it will take the whole available space 4.5m long on three tables, totaling 2.95 m deep. 18km by nearly 12!

Creating the thing:

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Bottom layer, polystyrene 2cm tiles.

This layer features most of the big solid level 2 heights. Fortunately it happens that I could recycle many of the Wagram "heights" with a bit of added depth. Only one big 120x 60cm was to cut. It all goes under the mat so precision is not needed..and ...

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The magical sand

and... the Swedes had Gustavus and more but more significantly to me now they sell Kinetic sand. It stays up, does not make a mess and is most useful for redoubts, finishing the sides of a hill, the approach of a bridge, junction between tiles that do not fit well, transforming the side of others.

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So a redoubt on a round hill top? Da

Here it goes. With sculpted and painted balsa bits bought from Timecast, plus sticks to maintain the thing up, stuck behind the sand ad you know redoubts need support behind the earth. Actually I should not have angled the balsa so much.

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Bottom heights then rivers..

Put the felt mat on it, then add rivers. the beauty of my flat plastic rivers; I can do junctions everywhere I want. Ideally I could even put them into suitable lower dents in the polystyrene but that was too much job and makes the tile less multi use.

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Chalk in.

I use chalk to write on the felt (it is even easier on fabric mats. the harder part was to find the right coloured chalks a half success so far. Some greenish one to mark the woods. I also use some funny material for woods zone on one off battles but here they had to be as much as possible following the map.

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Roads in chalk or thin earth.

Chalk can be more or less easily dusted/ brushed off. I also use the better stuff which is real earth, thin with little rocks (sand for cement) in it. On the felt taking it off needs two people not to waste too much of the stuff and limit the amount of mess on the floor. As for this I was start alone, better mostly use the less sriking chalk.

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Hills on top and under

Some of the dozens of flocked hils I have are 30 years old! Most resist adamantly being hidden under the felt mat sticking to it and losing some cover in protest. So they often end up on top even if distract with the colours unity.

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surprisingly made of trees; done as discribed elsewhere on this site, with lichens and clumps from Woodland scenics, plus some trunks (twigs) and scatter gathered from previous terrain or flocking mess. Plus some real rocks.

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Even managed to squeeze in some of my newly made marshes and some of the magnificent Timecast ones. On the North side trusting partly the 1941 map, which also explains why a further northern approach by the French would be too difficult.

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Plenty of villages

One or two houses with fences and a bit of a garden 600m c 400m which includes the 150m all around that would be the firing zone ogf guys inside. I assume in the game system no one would go there unless assaultin the stuff. No firefight against villages, no.

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A bit of thinking as to where to put them. I calculated at Borodino all in all they had "12 length of works" counting Shevardino and the great redoubt as two each. Here I assume they had more time, more material, some more stuff which consists of redoubts, breasworks, abattis and fortifying villages.

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Village, redoubt river and crest

The ground is not flat I use crests to mark some cover and the slight changes of slopes. idea taken from Bob Mackenzie's Web Page.
they are my "level one" thing. or the change of slope crest on top of a hill if needed. I mark fortified/prepared villages with sand (earth) on walls, and barricades. they give better cover and resist better fire and battering.

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Breastworks from trees and abattis

done at the end of the center woods to slow down and guard the deployment of French on the main road. Also would act as a strong "bell ringing" for the Russians who have no line of sight there if the French really pushes on. To be maned by good Jaegers. I did some 3D, photo then printed. Not perfect but handy.

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Kutusov inspecting

and the numbered labels for hills, villages (which often have actual names written but not this time) and woods, for ease of orders in case they have to be written and for orientation. another redoubt made from a gabion battery position sold by Wargamer.pl with added sand, making it fit a rouded top.

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The thing done.

three tables as I have back problems and un extendable arms, also makes the best use of the room which is deceptively not at all rectangular. NOT one corner is 90°. No.

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What it looks like then.

Picture with fog of war. Forget the troops underneath, that is what the French would see, with a few added dummies. Very different story when done. Not as realistic as computer game but still instil the right stuff.
I won't as no need and ugly for the purpose of this show. Actually, if one wants nice tables still, put the figs, not necessarily the right ones, with some inconspicuous marker that says unknown. In demos, as lazy one, often puts the right troops, but of course the other side cannot completely bet on it. This thing left is it opolchenie or a grenadier division? You see. Then recon cavalry orders are welcome.

That is where the Cossack mass is invaluable, screens your dispositions and often sees  the other side, or forces him to commit and tire cavalry.       

The French cavalry being outnumbered waited; the Austrian should have had an attack order earlier than I did, but it might have changed nothing. The overall getting more points for command of the French did help if not in a spectacular way. The Austrians were too spread out for Vuskassovich to distribute his points everywhere needed. The cavalry  charged each other, the French maybe getting the worst of it, but succesful Austrians pursued out of command which means stuck as the poor brigadier had 7 units with an average of 2-3 points.  

The game worked well. If you know what you are doing, and have 2 players, it should be fast enough, though it might bog down if too many troops with the intricate sequence of playing the brigades with different orders in different phases. Nothing that would not be eased with  for ex the use of the coloured die making the command points of each commander. put on 1 at the beginning of each turn, each played is rolled when his turn, then put on 6 when done. This plus the action markers  works. I put only one on a brigade where all did something, near the leader. Les markers, nicer and faster.

Before the game I did study in detail the rules; already a few thing itched, (already in previous version) , but nothing that can't be adapted. see the part on house rules and analysis.

Historical set up. Only 32 pictures when the game was  enough to see the outcome. The Austrian went as fast as he could ahead, the French tried to prevent him from getting out of the woods where his great artillery superiority and the few cavalry units would be a great trouble. Overall the French succeeded. The left after 7 turns put to flight the small brigade of Stutterheim (will he talk of it in his memoirs?). On the French right a mix of delaying, and stiff fighting in which the whitecoats got the worse. They never managed to get their guns out. In the end the French left was threatening enough their right that they had to  withdraw, casualties too had their offensive power eroded.  Falling back in time before things got really bad and putting the burden of attack to the French. 
What about the system?
8 turns deemed to  be 1/2 h each to  get a solution for around 18000 men engaged on each side, not bad at all. I could have carried on, but the French too were damaged and going through the woods on the offense against the guns, maybe too much. A French minor victory, one village taken, one Austrian brigade out. It is quite slow to  get to  grip with the enemy, the guns not much efficient from a distance, quite dangerous close. I figured out  a few house rules would be needed to paly such a game. First the three levels of command do not work well: corps; division, brigade. It is intended to have only two really. Nothing in there that cannot be twisted. See my house rules

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