Saturday, 18 February 2012

French III Corps vs Austrians - 1809

Battle of the Day

Test battle using my new expanded gaming area and terrain boar. Small encounter between a French Corps and a couple of Austrian Corps, set around 1809 sometime.

Played solo using the republique system, running both sides alternately, with different strategies and a little common sense.

I have put my thoughts as the Austrian commander in
Yellow on a black backgroumd.

And thoughts as a French commander in
White on a blue background.

Expanded the gaming area of the shed by a few metres, which has allowed me to make a larger board now. New board is nearly 8' x 6' - just big enough for some larger battles, and offers that little extra room for movement. Nice. 

Got some room by the sunlit window in the corner there for a dedicated photo desk as well - which is a real time saver for making blogger photos of finished units.

OK, situation at the start of this test battle - 0600 hrs the town in the centre is the main objective. The Austrians are defending this with I Corps, and the Advanced Guard Division.

View from the French line of approach. There is a valley running diagonally through the center of the table, with a road leading through the valley to the township. 

Over the other side, across the creek/river is a large dominating hill with a monastery at the top. Large fields of Orchards line the slope leading up to the monastery.  

For the French, following the road puts them through a lovely ambush position to either side, with light wooded cover on the slopes.

Austrian I Corps deployment. At the top of the road junction before the township, the Corps is arrayed in a defensive line, with restage orders. (blue order token).
Covering the right flank, in the wooded slopes leading up to the township, the Advanced Guard Division (a rather strong unit) is deployed with orders to maintain a watch on the road. 

Should be a walk in the park for the Austrians. 

What could possibly go wrong ?
French deployment.

There is NO WAY we are taking that exposed road.

Lets do the hard yards and march through the dead ground instead, cross the road, wheel to the left ... and then advance across the spur line to take the township in the flank.

Red order chits show the march attack order with the direction of advance. 

Whilst it is tough going, the dead ground offered by the Orchard should assist in getting closer to the target before being revealed.

After an hour or so - its around 0820 game time, some diligent scouts from the Advanced Guard Division report columns of French defying the script, and advancing across the front through the orchards.

Must be a vanguard scouting force for the main French line about to appear up the road, no doubt about it !

French position, taking a hard slog through the orchard.

1st Division is now on the board.

2nd Division is further up the hill slope towards the monastery. Orange order chit on the 2nd Division denotes that they are on support orders for 1st Division ..  so they automatically advance in synch with 1st Division to their left.

Just offboard here, to the right on the reverse slope of Monastery Hill, is a small independent cavalry brigade of 10 squadrons of Dragoons.
Really enjoying the larger board - that extra few scale miles around the flanks opens up a lot more tactical options, where the lay of the ground is an obvious trap.

Well, I am liking it as the French player anyway. Not so sure its such a good thing from the Austrian point of view though :( 

The blue poker chip in the top right corner represents the independent Dragoon brigade, which has made good time and managed to slip over the road already.

Just behind that is another blue poker chip - thats Davout himself, leading from the front.

Seeing the extent of the Austrian position (but not the details of their deployment), he guesses that he has found the extreme left flank of the Austrian position, and orders a quick change of direction for the line of advance.

Taking a gamble, it might be worth throwing in the Dragoons early to probe the left flank.
View from the Austrian centre, towards Monastery Hill.

Thanks to the slope of the groumd, it is evident that there is a second French column advancing alongside the 1st colunm.

The main body of the French is now deployed on the table.

As the Austrian commander, its fairly obvious now that this represents the main French force, and that there will be no columns coming up the well prepared road.

New orders are sent down to the Advanced Guard to advance and engage the tail of the French force.

There is a chance here to encircle them by the Monastery - Kesselschlacht  !
Der Gott verdammnt Teufel !

- the Austrians now also report that French Cavalry are lining up on the extreme left flank.

That has completely altered the situation for the Austrians.

Not really ready for a heavy defence of the left wing at this stage.

Orders are quickly issued for I Corps (white poker chips with yellow labels), to get into defensive positions and form a line of battle with a slightly new direction of facing.

Yellow order chits denote hold/defend orders.

Should be enough time still to catch the French with a good defence, as the main force of the Austrians is back in this position.
2nd Division of I Corps (Austrian) is deployed on table now.

Not a bad unit - large number of solid line troops there, and some good light troops in good position on the flank.

Left most line regiment is ordered into line of battalion squares (square marker on the regimental base)., to cover the Dragoon threat.

Artillery in the centre stacks up the powder and cannonballs ready for a tough fight. 

Meanwhile - no reply from the Advanced Guard Division on the right flank.
View from the French main position.

The columns are making good time, getting clear of the Orchard and into open ground ready to take the Austrian line in the flank.

So far, so good for Davout.

As soon as the troops are in the open, he can switch the line around to assault the Austrian position, with 2 waves of good veteran troops.

If the first line of the Austrians can be broken, he can then roll straight into the Township and avoid the main Austrian force perhaps.
Excellent, the French 1st Division is wheeling into line of columns and getting ready to roll the Austrians.

So far he has managed to make use of the extra area on the tabletop, and completely swing the battle around to a new facing.
1000 hrs - first action. 

Throwing a little caution to the wind, Davout orders the cavalry to go all-in and charge the extreme flank of the Austrian line.

No time to prep for this attack, but realistically the worst case scenario is that the cavalry will be repulsed with minor scratches, and be ready to try again later.

Best case scenario is to create a significant breakthrough before the battle even begins.

Definitely worth the risk. The Dragoons head up the hill at the charge !
View from the Austrian left flank.

The French are straight into it. Wheeling around to face them, large swarms of skirmishers covering the advance.

This definitely looks like the main French gamble now. 

This should be the decisive ground where the battle is to be fought.

Really need the Advanced Guard to move - NOW, before this battle develops. It is a perfect opportunity to catch the tail of the French columns, and trap them in this valley.

No word from the Advanced Guard at this stage (what ARE they doing over there in the woods ?)
The Dragoon attack was a roaring sucess.

The first line of Dragoons breaks through the Austrian lights (Jager battalion plus some Charles Legion), leaving them in disarray and severely rattled.

The second line of Dragoons then following close behind smashes into their broken ranks and completely annihilates the Austrian light infantry. 

Completely wiped out.

The Dragoons are now in the interesting position of being on the top of the spur line, directly in the rear of the Austrian position, with nothing to guard the actual Austrian Corps HQ, or Army HQ.

The horses are blown though, and they need time to regroup.

No time to waste for Davout now.

Ideally, it would be good to get the artillery in position and take the Austrians apart methodically, but that would buy them time to redress their line.

No time to waste now - the die is cast, press the attack and hope for the best.

From the Austrian commander's point of view, this seriously looks like game over. My (Austrian) thoughts on this are best described here : The tragic fate of the Charles Legion.

Austrian artillery in the centre - firing saved fire at effective range into deep approaching columns head on.

The lead French Division is torn apart, losing 2 battalions ineffective, and cutting the morale level down to demoralised.
The shattered remnants of the French lead regiment are placed away from the action, around the Monastery.

Later on, they may be able to be convinced to field a couple of battalions if needed.
Panic sets in to the French 1st Divison already.

Seeing their comrades swept from the field by cannon fire, the other regiments from 1st Division decide to fall back out of cannon range and take a holding position in the orchards at the foot of the hills.

This requires leaving behind one of the medium batteries.

13e Legere, already engaged successfully on the right flank, remain engaged in combat with the Austrian flank.

 There is always the element of luck in a battle .. but that is something that needs to be managed instead of feared.

In this case, Davout has arrayed the attack in 2 distinct waves, so if the first falters then the second may have a chance to recover.

Luck swings both ways with dice, so one should give the opponent every opportunity to taste bad luck of their own.

Finally, the Advanced Guard takes up orders to move forward.

Units are deployed on the table, and Attack orders are placed (red order chits), leading them towards Monastery Hill.

It appears that fortune will favour the Austrians after all, and possibly catch the entire French III Corps in a devastating trap in the valley. 

Both Bellegarde and Archduke Charles have managed to skirt away from the danger of the Dragoons, and things are now finally happening for the Austrians.

What looked like 'game over' an hour ago has now swung quite the other way.

By the lunchtime break, it is looking like a much more even contest, although the French have been very clever in being able to swing the line of battle across to ground which will now be to their advantage.
For the Austrians to engage their full line against the French, they will now have to fight against an uphill opponent, in the cover of woods, whilst they cross a river obstacle.

Not over yet by a long shot.
Indeed not - the French are now doomed.

The engagement on the left wing is going well, and here in the above shot is the whole uncommitted reserve line - advancing forward, and faced only by the broken remnants of many French regiments which have turned tail and fled from the battlefield.

And there is a grand battery containing 24lb cannon right in the middle of the new line, plus 2 brigades of dashing Austrian Hussars.

The French are doomed I say ! 

Should we offer surrender terms to Davout before the clock strikes 2pm ?
Looks can be deceiving

The regiments that fell back to the orchard are in good order and ready to attack again.

The heights overlooking the Township are in the hands of the French cavalry, and the situation on the Austrian left flank is engineered so as to reduce the element of luck.

Well may the Austrians finally shuffle across to take Monastery Hill, but by that time both the Township and the strategic crossroads will be firmly in French hands.

If it all turns to hell, then we have a clear line of departure thanks to the road that we now hold.

As the French player, it looks like we hold all the aces.
Not to mention some tasty options at hand as the Dragoons are now reforming on the heights above the Township.

I say, let the Austrians plod forward out of the safety of the woods, and then we shall wrap this action up once and for all.

Thats all I have time for today ... will pick this up again tomorrow morning and bring it to a conclusion.


  1. Great batrep!!! I like the blue and black boxes, with the opposing point of views.

  2. Solo games can be surprisingly interesting. My usual rules are Piquet/Field of Battle, which are exceptionally well suited for solo play. I like the contrasting boxes with the POV from each side as well!