Monday, 23 December 2013

Game 20 : Wagram

This is the largest Napoleonic game to date, the battle of Wagram. Certainly in size, it ranks in the top three of largest of all Napoleonic battles. This battle was fought with a constriction of the front line, otherwise the table would have been too small. The battlefield extended from Baumersdorf on the Austrian left flank to some way past Anderklaa on the Austrian right flank.
The set up was fairly historical. The French were deployed historically with the same objectives as in the actual battle. This included the retaking of Anderklaa, previously vacated by Bernadotte against orders. Massena was given the task to retake it. The French would win by holding the battlefield and punching through the Austrian centre over the river Russbach stream.
Forgive me if I assume that you have a good idea of the actual battle. The Austrians were deployed historically with one major exception in that the reserve, although starting behind I Corps, could be ordered as the Archduke saw fit. Most of these pictures come from our second game as we managed to play it twice. As to the outcomes, wait until the end.


This shows a Division of I Corps in the background advancing on Anderklaa, in the foreground, which has been re-occupied by St Cyr from Massena's Corps. Village fighting is protracted and the fight for Anderklaa would see Divisions from both sides severely mauled and depleted before a result was obtained.

This is a picture of the French reserve, deployed near Rassdorf, their main line of communication. Rassforf is the strategic target of the Austrian flank attack by III Corps under Kollowrat. The reserve you can see consists of the following : 6 regiments of Cuirassiers in 2 Divisions, 3 regiments of Guard Cavalry, 6 batteries of Guard Artillery, 2 batteries of Line horse Artillery and 12 battalions of Guard Infantry.

This is taken from the eastern end of the battlefield. Baumersdorf is immediately to the right off camera. In the far distance you can see the Austrian columns advancing on the French flank with the 2 smaller divisions of Massena's Corps, plus Lasalle, facing them off.

Same shot but with the camera moved northwards to show the front lines. Baumersdorf is in the foreground, Anderklaa is way down the table and the Russbach is to the right of the picture. This was at set up and the Austrian formations would thin out as they deployed to occupy and contest the front line.

This is from the rear of Baumersdorf looking south. The Austrians would defend the village on both banks of the Russbach and French columns can be seen in the background preparing to attack.

This shows a division from I Corps bearing down on Anderklaa and immediately behind them are 2 reserve divisions of Grenadiers.

Playing with the camera, the next major investment. The picture shows a General with his various ratings used throughout the rules.

This is later in the game. The Austrians still hold the main line and the French are now sending all the reserve cavalry along with the Italian division of Lecchi from MacDonald's Corps to reinforce the left flank which has been shattered at this point.

At the same time, French Guard foot artillery has been released to  pound the Austrian mail line which now pulls back to the far side of the hill to try and get some relief from the fire.

Anderklaa has eventually fallen to the Austrian I Corps, which although looks like it is preparing to advance, would actually halt to rest and lick its not insignificant wounds.

This is general action along the whole front line.

The French Young Guard have been committed to the centre as all previous French assaults have failed to punch a hole in the Austrian centre.

At the same time on the French left, the Austrian flank attack has been reinforced by a 2 reserve Cavalry divisions and a reserve Grenadier division. At bottom left can be seen French Cuirassiers form the French reserve cavalry. The clash is imminent!

This is just south of Wagram where having cleared Anderklaa, the Austrians are now beginning to role up the French centre with the Russbach stream to their left.

This is a continuation of the tactical situation going south. The reserve cavalry from both sides would clash, most importantly the Austrians were set up to give effective support fire. The result would be the throwing back of both French Cuirassier divisions as they could never get their weight of numbers to deploy.

Just before the charge, Austrian Cuirassiers attacking French Cuirassiers at the bottom of the shot.

Not all the Austrian infantry in Kollowrat's corps were as confident. Prudence was the order of the day

More general action, but you can now see how the French centre is being shortened by the advancing Austrians. Not long after this, the French attack would be called off before large elements of the French army became trapped.

The French did manage to take Baumersdorf late in the day. The Austrians eventually ran out of men to throw into the fray. The French would still try to advance across the stream around Baumersdorf until the battle was called off.

As usual, the gallery picture of the reprobates that played. There is another, Paul, who played earlier in the week, but he had to leave early. More next year. The rules will also be published, hopefully by Easter. Victory was assigned to the Austrians in that they forced the French to halt their assault and lick their wounds until another day. So, until then!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Game 19 : Austerlitz, the Southern Front

Having tested Aspern Essling to death, this game was to be new challenge in a variety of ways. This game would see 12 gamers, the maximum that I would want to do for the table size. This game would also see the "Command & Control" rules used for the first time. All rules were now in play.
Austerlitz is really too big a battle to do, even with 24' (8 metres) width if you want a decent troop density. I had already split the battle into 2 fronts when playing in 28mm, north and south and I picked the southern front for this game.
A problem with Austerlitz is that it does work better if neither side is really aware of the historical outcome, from deployment to events that occurred. To try and emulate this, I decided to be French and so fixed the French deployment to a largely historical one. For the allies, I found an amenable volunteer in Steve Miles to be the Commander in Chief and sent him a map, OB and a strategic background to the campaign so far and the present situation. I also gave a false date to hide the battle. I asked Steve to come up with a deployment and orders that were timed.
Amazingly enough, the allied plan virtually mirrored the historical plan with virtually all the allied columns in the historical positions.
Now it was to the game. Before showing lots of piccies, I will share some points that make these rules fundamentally different to existing rules and how this influences gaming.

The changes all really relate to 2 major changes, figure scale and the treatment of cavalry. Because units are larger in game turns, it takes a lot longer to degrade units. Simply put, 3 times longer. As a result, units that engage in melee early on tend to get a result that maintains the status quo because the units are still relatively fresh. Attacks have to be prepared and the enemy weakened or unformed. This is where artillery is also now different. A 12pdr battery blazing away at long range against an infantry unit will spend most of his time killing some men but unlikely to seriously damage any unit in the short term. Artillery is now most effective as a support weapon. You get the artillery into a position where it can attempt to support the attacks.

Cavalry now need space, and crucially, a proper reason to go charging all the over the place with no real purpose. Otherwise they will get degraded quite easily.

The order system has now completed the misery for the player who simply wants to go where he wants, when he wants. I grade Generals according to my interpretation of their historical ability or specific behaviour in a given battle.

Now, without further ado!

The allied plan was an extended left hook staring from the far left. The centre would advance when the 2 villages nearest were taken, Telnitz and Sokolnitz. The allies now new the game but things were in motion. The Russian right was to take the village to their front, seize the stream crossings and then hold. The village to their front was Puntowitz.

It was the French who were hampered initially by "command and control" as there was only 1 French General, St Hilaire, deployed thinly from Telnitz to Sokolnitz. This meant that the village of Telnitz fell fairly quickly and the defence in this area had to be undertaken from the far side of the Goldbach stream.

This was an immediate allied assault, led by Russian Grenadiers, on Sokolnitz. This would be the first of four major assaults, the French holding them all off (with some timely luck in places).

This is the allied advance between the Pheasantry (off camera to the right) and Puntowitz (off camera to the left) where the Austrian contingent was attempting to force the crossing of the Goldbach.

This is the allied highpoint on their right flank as they attack Puntowitz from 2 sides. The French would hold after the infantry combats because both sides were still relatively fresh.

This is a view that shows the assault on Sokolnitz in the foreground, allied columns advancing in the centre following their timed orders and the allies on their right, struggling to neutralise Puntowitz. I should have added earlier that the battle started with the area swathed in dense fog and formations were not allowed to even attempt to change orders (either side) until someone in the formation saw visible enemy troops. This worked well. The "fog" was controlled by a predetermined time when it would start lifting (known only to me) albeit the players were given indications based on how the fog had behaved on the previous few days.

This shows Russian troops, preceded by Jaegers, advancing on the Pheasantry. The feature was held by 2 Elite light infantry battalions, the Tirailleurs du Corses & du Po, who would hold onto this feature all day

A view of the whole battlefield, not long before the French hammer blow would fall on the allied right flank, roughly where Gordon (big oik at the end of the table) is standing.

The French, with Puntowitz stable, now start to attack with Vandamme, to the right of Puntowitz and up the Pratzen.

This shows the French attacking between Puntowitz and Pratzen village. The Russian guard can now be seen deployed, at the top of the picture, in an attempt to stop this flank attack.

This is a picky of the final major assault on Sokolnitz, from 2 sides. This assault was also checked. The battalion actually in the village, would end the day still in place (mainly because I couldn't get it out!).

This is the standard gallery picky of the players. We had quite a few newbies this time. From the left, is Neil, of Reinforcements by Post fame. It is not without his considerable help and understanding that this project has come on so far and relatively quickly.  Next from the left is Keith, picking his brains on building regs has been quite fruitful. Then we come to the guys on the right who all normally play together at home (gaming that is). Far right is Brian, just retired from teaching. Next is Iain, both famous and infamous from Boleyn's fame (ask no questions) who appears from his expression to be reminiscing about Boleyn's? Then comes Paul, usually seen propping up Iain at Boleyn's.

I included this one as it now includes Steve (in the loo apparently for the previous piccy) and also Iain who now seems to be back with us..?!?!?!

A last picky of the northern end showing the French assault up the Pratzen with the Russian Guard to the left being slowly but inexorably being pushed back and at the far end the remaining allied columns being checked.

All in all a good game, it had a very historic feel with the outcome mirroring the historical battle. This game will get some other outings and the game in December is now in planning, but what to do as it largely depends on the arrival of painted cavalry units. We will see no doubt!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Game 18 : Aspern Essling day two

Only a few pictures for this game. Day 2 differed in that the Austrian reserve was now used, more cavalry and more good infantry in the Grenadiers of the reserve. In game terms, the new kit made the action in the centre more even in the sense that the Austrians felt confident to advance, albeit slowly over the 2 days of gaming.
However, as before, the main action revolved around the two main villages, neither of which were to fall to the Austrians. Aspern was especially memorable for all the luck going the French way and when the Austrians needed something not to go wrong, it went wrong. Typical gaming really!
The following piccies are snippets of the action, much akin to the action in day 1.

Above shows three Austrian columns trying to attack Aspern directly and the reserve Grenadiers trying to flank the village. The crux of this fight was the heroic defence of the church with luck from somewhere and the failure of the column near the nearest village to take it when 2 of the 3 battalions ordered to charge decided to stay still!

This shows the height of the attack on Essling. The Granary would hold firm throughout the 2 days of gaming and the French even launched a counter-attack to regain the portions of the village lost on the first day of battle.

More of a panoramic view of the battlefield. The centre was a bit of a stand off, but the French reserve cavalry did eventually move out and blunt the initial Austrian advance in this sector.
The game worked as envisaged and all the rules and mechanisms used so far are indeed working well.

Last, but not least, the guys playing the game. Two new guys to the Situation room and Nick and John, standing and sitting respectively on the left.
Aspern Essling has now been put away and a whole new game has been set up. This will the biggest challenge to date. There are 12 players, some who have played the new rules and some who have not. All of the rules will be used, essentially this means bringing in the command and control and order rules. I'm sure this is going to cause some pulling out of hair as master plans get thrown into confusion because the player cannot do what his eyes tell him to do because he failed to instigate the order. Lots of fun, I hope!
The battle itself was a secret as I produced a map, OBs and got one of the players to come up with the allied plan based on a strategic overview, tactical information currently available and an OB. Now that I have the plan and the game starts tomorrow, if the guys read this they will find out it is Austerlitz.

Lets see what happens!!!!!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Games 12-17 Aspern Essling : revisited 6 times!

Starting at Easter, Napoleonics started in earnest. A major driving influence was the fact that the new rules were ready for play testing. Having a stable environment for play testing rules is crucial, hence the first day of Aspern Essling got fought at least 6 times. Some of the guys are now happy that I've at least moved to day 2 of Aspern Essling where the armies have changed and the challenges are subtly different.
I won't go into vast details about the rules as explanations of changes could be nearly as long as the rules themselves. Suffice to say that most areas have been subject to significant change and their are some totally new aspects, namely a full set of rules for command and control, the treatment of Generals and the definitions of terrain, especially villages and built up areas.
Moving to the actual battle, the first 3 pictures show the terrain as seen from the river Danube behind the French lines.

The French right flank showing the village of Essling, the Danube and the woods behind it. The Granary is to the left and forward of the village, albeit I still have to find a 10mm model to suit.

The French centre between the twin villages. Historically, Napoleon found it fairly easy to manoeuvre behind the central road that directly linked the two villages to each other. To reflect this in the game, the road was defined as a form of gentle slope that then affected visibility behind it, accepting that the actual Geography shows know significant feature. The whole ground is open.

This is the French left flank on Aspern, with the church to the extreme left of the village. The streams immediately behind denote the various small branches of the Danube that extended here. The wholes area is deemed to be marshy and suitable for light infantry only.

Austrians forming up to attack Aspern

Austrians prepare to advance in the centre

Austrians advance on Essling. This shot shows both armies. The French are defending the villages with the cavalry reserve in the centre behind the slope and out of sight.

The Austrian advance continues in the centre. Will this goad the French Reserve cavalry into action?

General action around Essling. The Granary is represented by the village section to the left.

General action around Aspern with the "Church" in the foreground. Villages are now very difficult to take. The new rules make all firms of fire fairly ineffective and the only real way to make progress is with the bayonet.
The French cavalry now charged the centre. Some piccies of the event which represents five Cuirassier regiments in what affected to be a divisional charge.

The result was the breaking of many Austrian units and the complete check of the Austrian advance. The French cavalry then withdrew. In real life, the action looked stunning!
Lastly, a couple of piccies of the gamers. As usual, we drank far too much and ate too much! But a grand time was had!!!!

The plan is to now play the second day of Aspern Essling about 3 times. The rules have had slight amendments but I hope the play testing phase will be complete by late Autumn.
Hopefully it won't be 3 months before the next post.