Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Review: French Guardsman vs Russian Jaeger: 1812-14

French Guardsman vs Russian Jaeger: 1812-14
French Guardsman vs Russian Jaeger: 1812-14 by Laurence Spring

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not decided about this new Osprey Combat series yet. Not surprisingly, this series feels a lot like the Duel series where tanks, combat planes and ships are compared. The results there are mixed, and I’m less a hardware man than a tactics man, so I have only bought one or two of those.

It’s a good thing that Osprey’s taking a few lesser known Napoleonic actions and focussing more on the tactics, but the series is hampered by combining tidbits you’d expect in Warrior series (recruiting, equipment), Essential History (Background), Campaign (Into Combat) and Elite (tactics). In this case it meant that it took a long time before you got to the actual battles.

Author Laurence Spring has a good knowledge of the period and, most importantly, first hand accounts of the battles (although those on Leipzig are very limited, but I guess they needed to include one big battle) which add spice to the narrative. In fact the account of the Young Guard Voltigeurs’ destruction ay Krasnyi had me holding my breath. But this is what I would have wanted more of, and less historical introduction.

Also, the choice of Russian Jaeger and French Young Guard is not the most obvious, because they are not wholly different troop types. In fact, as Spring shows, they both could use light infantry tactics and operate in close formation.

This doesn’t mean that the idea behind the series can’t work. But there have to be significant differences in tactics or equipment between the two sides to make it work. I can see how Zulu Warrior vs British infantryman could work, or Greek hoplite vs Roman legionary or in even terms of Napoleonics: Cuirassier vs infantry (I would actually love to see an Osprey book about horse artillery in action). But the present choices seem too similar.

So my gripes so far with this series is not that I don’t like the idea, but that they make the wrong choices of adversaries and what to focus on. The choice for small and lesser known actions combined with tactics and first hand accounts has my blessing. I’ll catch another one from the series later, but don’t hold my hopes too high.

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