Saturday, 26 January 2013

Wagram 1809

Not the whole battle, I would need a table the size of a tennis court to do that, but Davout's flank attack on the second day.  Napoleon gambled that Archduke John would not arrive in time to catch Davout's corps in the rear whilst it attacked Rosenberg's IV corps.  The Emperor's judgement that John would not be too eager to help his brother Charles out proved well founded and Davout's attack forced an Austrian retreat.

Rosenberg's orders were to hold the high ground and prevent the French from rolling up the Austrian line. The village of Markgrafneusiedl and the tower were classified as 'town sectors' for the Shako rules and therefore gave bonuses to the defence.  Although not high, the escarpment was steep, aiding the defence and impassable to cavalry.  However, towards the east (right hand side of the map), the slope diminished and provided good going for cavalry.   The Russbach stream, although narrow, had steep sides and north of Markgrafneusiedl was impassable to cavalry and artillery.

Rosenberg had attacked Davout earlier in the day and now was back in position and found himself outnumbered and outgunned with little hope of receiving reinforcements.  For his part Davout knew that speed was vital; both to relieve pressure on the French left and also to achieve his objective before Archduke John's forces arrived.

Gudin had been given orders to attack Markgrafneusiedl from the south, rather than directly across the Russbach and this had the added advantage of shielding him from the Austrian artillery. Puthod meanwhile advanced straight ahead towards Swinburne's brigade.  Morand's men suffered the most from the Austrian artillery, particularly the 23rd Line, whose 3rd battalion was all but destroyed.  Rosenberg did not have things all his own way; the French reserve artillery soon found the range of the Weidenfeld regiment in Meyer's brigade and it too began to suffer.  Anxious to disrupt Morand's advance, Rosenberg ordered his cavalry to advance against the French flank.  As the Austrians moved forward they were met by the French cavalry.  The usually proficient Austrian light cavalry had a bad day ( ie my dice rolling was a little below par). Leading the way, the Stipsicz Hussars clashed with the French 2nd Hussars and were driven from the field.  To their left, the Carl Ludwig Uhlans prevailed against the 1st French Chasseurs, and their colleagues the Schwarzenburg Uhlans managed to stop the French Hussars as they followed up.  However, brigade command broke down and the remaining Austrian light cavalry began to withdraw; fortunately Montbrun's men also fell back to rally.  Nostitz's command of a cuirassier regiment and an uhlan regiment now tackled Grouchy's dragoons.  The Kronprinz Ferdinand Cuirassier defeated the 7th dragoons, but the Merveldt Uhlans fared less well.  They managed to hold against the 1th Dragoons, but were hit in flank by the 4th Chasseurs and driven from the field.  Seizing the initiative, the Chasseurs continued their advance and hit the cuirassier in flank as well.  Caught at a disadvantage, the Austrian horse was forced to fall back to rally. In a relatively short space of time Rosenberg's left flank was in tatters and the infantry's flank would be vulnerable unless he committed his reserves.

 The Lindenau regiment, which provided the garrison of Markgrafneusiedl was watching Gudin's advance with some concern.  The Grenz regiment which covered the gap between the village and the escarpment was being pounded to pieces by the French guns and the Austrian artillery had had little or no effect on the advancing French battalions.   In an attempt to cover the retreat of the Austrian artillery and also disrupt the French attack the Grenz charged the leading French battalion.  The attack was stopped in its tracks by a well delivered volley and very few survivors made it back to the Austrian main line.  But the spirited attack by the Grenz must have inspired the defenders of Markgrafneusiedl because they drove of the first wave of French attacks, even though outnumbered 4 to 1.  To the north of the village the 2nd battalion of the Deutschmeister regiment was attempting to slow Puthod's advance.  They drove back the French skirmishers and their volleys  forced the 1st battalion of the 54th Line to fall back.  But, even with the support of Swinburne's artillery they were unable to hold against three times their own number, especially as Gudin's men were by now making their way round the rear of the village and threatening Deutschmeister's flank.  Gudin had by now reorganised his division and  supported by the fire of the divisions artillery the French surged forward again.  The gallant men of the Lindenau regiment fought for every house but they were eventually overwhelmed. This loss and that of 2nd Deutschmeister, who were destroyed by musketry, inflicted a test on Weiss's brigade which they managed to pass, which was fortunate, as they provided the garrison for the tower and that was the target for Friant's division which was now closing in.  Friant's advance had been greatly aided by Morand, who had drawn the fire of all the Austrian artillery on his division as he advanced on the escarpment.  The contest between the divisions of Meyer and Morand was brutal.  Volleys were exchanged, both sides tried charging their opponents, but the dogged Austrians still held the escarpment.

 To Meyer's left the remnants of the Austrian cavalry was struggling to maintain their position against twice their numbers of French cavalry.  The attached horse artillery managed to disperse an attack by the reformed 2nd Hussars, but when the Schwarzenberg Uhlan advanced they were caught and destroyed by the 1st Chasseurs.  Pressing home his advantage, Grouchy attacked the Kronprinz Ferdinand Cuirassier, who had just reformed after their earlier reverse.  The cuirassier resisted briefly, but were soon driven from the field.  In their retreat they carried away the sole remaining Austrian cavalry, the Carl Ludwig Uhlans; the Austrian infantry were now on their own.  Fortunately, Hessen Homburg had had time to bring up his grenadier reserve and they now formed squares shoring up the left flank of Rosenberg's line.

 The crisis of the battle was now approaching.  Puthod was attacking Swinburne, but coming off the worst in the action, the Austrians putting up a resolute defence. Gudin had now reformed and was moving to assist Puthod and Morand had pinned Meyer whilst Friant developed his attack on the tower.  The remaining two battalions of Deutschmeister  held the tower area, one as garrison, one as support, much depended on them.  Friant's men charged forward, led by the converged elite companies of the light infantry regiments.  Stubborn as they were, the Austrians had to give ground and the French surged into the tower.  The supporting battalion charged forward through a storm of musketry but could not retake the position and had to fall back. Now was the time for the Austrian grenadiers, but they had been deployed to cover the flank.  Rosenberg had no fresh reserves to call on, all he could do was fall back as slowly as he dare delaying the French advance.

 This was an enjoyable battle with fluctuating fortunes.  We were particularly pleased that the amendments to the divisional  morale which we had formulated seemed to work well.  On two occasions the revised table allowed the Austrians to remain in position (admittedly at a disadvantage), rather than automatically move to the baseline.  This prolonged the conflict and made the French job a lot harder.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Patriots and Loyalists playtest

Towards the end of last year we tested three sets of AWI rules and decided that Patriots and Loyalists suited us the best.  In our recent game we experimented with using different ability rates for the brigade commanders.

A fictional scenario was set up proposing an encounter battle between two forces.  The terrain was rather congested, as was often the case in the AWI and this hampered the deployment and movement of both forces.  A roll of the dice allocated the American force to me.  I had three brigades of similar size under the command of Archer, left flank (average), Bannister, centre (good) and Cowman, right flank (poor).

This view shows the battlefield from behind the British left flank.  Archer's men in the far corner face the fields, Bannister's face the wood and hill. Cowman's men had a more open area before them, so had the sole unit of cavalry attached.  My plan was to use Bannister to seize the centre ground and with Archer defeat the British brigades opposing them.  Cowman, as befitted his poor command status, was to advance as far as the gap between the marsh and small lake and then stand on the defensive.

At first things went smoothly, all three brigades moved forward, pretty much together, although Bannister's men were hampered by the hedges to the left of the wood.  Archer pushed forward his riflemen into the field and began skirmishing with the British light troops who had moved into the wood on the far left.  It was Cowman who had the most success, high dice meant that his brigade moved forward quickly, belying his 'poor' rating and soon his artillery was firing at the British brigade advancing towards him.  Caught in column,  two of the battalions were forced to fall back to rally after failing morale tests.  Seeing the disruption suffered by his opponent, Cowman perhaps became over ambitious and sent a battalion into a wood on his right, with the aim of bringing flanking fire on a British battalion which had taken up position on a hill (seen lower left on photo above).    Once in position, the battalion fired, but to no effect.  The volley in reply was effective and sent the Americans tumbling back the way they had come, forcing them to spend time rallying.

Meanwhile, Archer had continued to move his battalions forward in support of the riflemen.  This support was needed as the British infantry were advancing in numbers towards them.  Archer ordered his riflemen to fall back, but in doing so they hampered the advance of the line units behind them and the British infantry, taking advantage of the confusion, advanced and fired.  The lead unit of continental infantry was forced to fall back to rally.  Their supports, caught in flank by the jubilant British also fell back.  Archer, quickly moved to the stricken units to rally them.  As he did so the British light infantry crept forward and began firing.  Astride his horse, Archer was a tempting target and not surprisingly was hit.  Mortally wounded he was carried from the field.

In the centre Bannister had at last got his men onto the central hill.  His riflemen started exchanging fire with the Hessian jaegers who covered the advance of the central British brigade.  The leading American unit of continental infantry moved through their skirmishers and charged the Hessians who quickly fell back, evading the charge.  Carried forward by their momentum the Americans hit the lead British unit, a converged grenadier battalion.  The Americans had out-distanced their supports, but the Grenadiers had not and this proved decisive in the ensuing melee. As the Americans fell back, the grenadiers continued their advance. 

Ignoring the fire of Bannister's artillery they charged and defeated a second American unit.  Bannister joined his remaining reserve battalion and led it forward towards the seemingly unstoppable grenadiers.  The melee was short but decisive; the grenadiers were defeated, driven from the field, but at heavy cost.  Bannister was killed in the fight.  The American commander rode forward to rally Bannister's men,  but the day was lost.  With two brigade commanders gone, most of the artillery ammunition fired and losses rising the only thing to do was retreat.  Cowman's brigade was in the best shape and they formed the rearguard as the American army fell back.

The different command ratings for the brigadiers worked well, injecting a little uncertainty into movement.  The use of a single d10 for morale throws was not as successful, we will look at using a d20 in future games.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Eisdorf - 1813

This scenario is based on a flank action from the battle of Lutzen.  Learning of the attack on Ney's III Corps by the Russo-Prussian army, Napoleon had issued orders for his corps to concentrate on the battlefield.  Macdonald's XI Corps was advancing on the right flank of the allied force which was covered by Wurtemburg's II Corps. The action took place around the village of Eisdorf and the Flossgraben stream.

Macdonald's force had three infantry divisions (22 battalions), with accompanying artillery.  One third of the infantry were poorly trained conscripts and this reduced the advantage gained by having superior numbers.  His divisions were advancing along a single road and would arrive at intervals, (determined by an average dice).  Wurtemburg had only 12 battalions, but he did have two units of Cosacks, the only 'cavalry' present.  Macdonald's orders were to seize Eisdorf, the bridge over the Flossgraben and if  possible, the high ground.  (The bridge was needed to get artillery across the stream. )  Wurtemburg had to hold the line of the stream. 

I took the part of Wurtemburg and elected to defend Eisdorf in strength, counting on the Russian infantry to beat off the first attack and then fall back to the line of the stream.  The cossacks were placed in the wood on my right flank, ready to swing round the enemy line as it closed up to the stream.  My opponent's plan was that his first division (Fressinet) would take Eisdorf, clearing the way for Gerard's division to take the bridge. Charpentier's division would assist Gerard and, if possible, then move towards the high ground.

At first things went well for the Russians.  Schachafoski's division, which was holding Eisdorf , inflicted losses on Fressinet's troops as they advanced, the artillery proving particularly effective.  The first attack on the village by the 3rd battalion of the 10th line was easily repulsed by the jaegers providing the garrison.  However, the Russians became a little too confident and the New Ingermanland regiment advanced too far forward against the Irish Legion and exposed it's flank.  Fressinet manoeuvred the Joseph Napoleon regiment  into position and ordered it to charge.  Totally surprised, the two Russian battalions were swept away by the Spaniards and Schachaforski had lost one third of his men.  In light of this he ordered three battalions to withdraw to the stream, leaving the garrison of Eisdorf to hold on as long as they could.  The battalions of the Kaluga regiment slowly withdrew, exchanging volleys with the 10th line.  The 1st and 4th battalions of the 10th both melted away under the Russian fire, but reinforcements were on their way. Gerard's men moved forward and the 8th Legere charged the Russian line.  Assailed by fresh troops the first line gave way and this rout carried away the supports too.  At the same time the 2nd battalion of the 10th finally ejected the Russian defenders from Eisdorf.  As the Frenchmen pursued their opponents they were caught by the supporting jaeger battalion and routed.  This gave a little respite, but the Russian position was desperate.  Schachafoski's command was severely depleted and was streaming back towards the high ground where Wurtemburg attempted to rally it.  St Priests division would need to move to it's left to block the French advance.

As the ADC  galloped off with the new orders Gerard's men were reorganising ready to cross the stream.  Fressinet's division was worn out; four of it's battalions were dispersed and the remainder had suffered heavy losses, so it took possession of Eisdorf village.

The second phase of the action took place near the bridge over the Flossgraben stream.  Schachafoski's retreat meant that the crossing of the stream by Gerard was unopposed and St Priest's men struggled to get into a position to control the bridge.  Led again by the 8th legere, the French advance was met with volleys from battalions of Russian jaeger.    As the firefight continued the line extended as more battalions joined in.  Eventually, the Russian fire began to slacken and the French judged the moment right to charge.  As the blue-coated masses came forward the Russian line began to waver and then gave way.  Two Russian battalions were destroyed and soon all of St Priest's command was in retreat; the day belonged to the French.

Over our apres battle cuppa we discussed the action and the first conclusion was that the Russians tied too many troops to the defence of Eisdorf and then had insufficient to hold the line of the stream.  The cossack 'ambush' was never used as French plans didn't envisage a prolonged contest along the length of the stream.  The rules played a major part in the Russian problems through the divisonal morale die roll. In the last two Shako games, a division with one third losses has been unlucky enough to roll a one and thus has had to retreat.  It has abandoned a defensive position and moved back to the base line, waiting to be rallied.  We felt that this was unlikely and are looking at modifying the results table to try and avoid this happening.     

Sunday, 6 January 2013

New Year

Happy New Year to everyone,  and I hope you have a properous and fulfilling 2013.  This year promises to be a busy one for the Napoleonic enthusiasts with the bicentenary of the 1813 campaign in Germany.  We will be spoilt for choice with Lutzen, Bautzen, Dresden and Leipzig, together with a host of battles which would be significant on their own in any other year eg, Dennewitz, Katzbach, Kulm and Wartenburg. There is also the small matter of Vittoria for those gaming Wellington's battles in Spain and Portugal.
I have started a recruitment drive to 'beef up' the allied armies and hope to play at least one of the 'big four' during the year.  After a two week break my batteries have been recharged and with luck there will be some progress on the 'lead mountain' over the next month.  Normal posting should begin  next week following our midweek game.
Little did I think when I started this blog three years ago that it would still be going.  Page views have now passed 25000 and with 36 followers it has proved far more successful than I imagined.  Many thanks to you all!