Wednesday 19 May 2021

Thunder on the Danube, 1809, game 1, Soldiers of Napoleon

Gaming has restarted!! Yeah!!

A return to play-testing for my 'Soldiers of Napoleon' rules project and a first baptism of fire for my newly completed Austrian army. This was game 1 of the campaign system being trialed, with both sides in command of a division for this ‘war’. Mine, 1st Division under Graf Jurgen von Klopp faced General Andre Charles Renard’s division in the first clash, both with 2 brigades deployed and 1 smaller brigade available for reinforcements. Renard’s was a light cavalry detachment of Chasseurs and a horse battery, Klopp’s was a weak Landwehr detachment (who apparently got lost!). They would clash along the road to Rohrzendorf, somewhere in Bavaria.

After randomly generating the terrain, selecting forces and rolling for who had the tactical advantage (the French), for the pick of table edges, first turn, etc. The French got their ‘Steady Advance’ orders under way. The fight would revolve around the two hills, on my left and in the centre, both would become designated as battlefield objectives (special cards used in game), and possession of the high ground would be behind both side’s plans. As ever, mine did not go to plan… the French guns were hammering away early and very accurate (they never seemed to miss on a 5+), and his Voltigeur screen were soon all over my infantry, hard-pressed to drive them off like a swarm of annoying bees.

We both raced up the central hill, but a bold French charge, bayonets fixed, drove me back… crying ‘Vive L’Emperor’ the French were really up for this fight. My infantry were less so, the Grenzer on the left wavering early and becoming panicked at the mere sight of the resolute blue columns coming on. They did seize the left hill, gain me some victory points, but were then heavily engaged by French skirmishers, and broke under the fire. The French had started well…

It went on much like this, his gunners rolling high, my men trying to rally-off Disorder to stand, his skirmishers harassing my lines and driving my initial advance on the central hill back into the cornfield below it (damage can cause a mandatory withdrawal).

On turn 3, his Chasseurs arrived in the centre, I advanced my Hussars to counter them. More accurate cannon fire (notable, in return, my gunners were not having a good dice day), blasted one line battalion on the left into rout… I needed my reserve brigade’s battalions to fill the line, but it failed to show-up… all game! (six attempts at a 4+ all failed). No aid was coming for von Klopp’s stand and by turn 7 the writing was on the wall, pressure mounting everywhere, my infantry were pulling back again. As a last- gasp, desperate attempted to stem the tide, my Hussars came galloping forwards, only to the flayed by musketry. With great elan they rode on through shot and shell, and charged his Chasseurs, seeing them off, but the damage sustained in return was too great, they too fell-back in disarray. As the Hussars withdrew, the Austrian line caved in. Mr Bonaparte will be pleased with receiving that combat report… a decisive French win for Renard's men. For me, well, mistakes were made, I need to use my Jaegers better to thwart his good skirmishers, my gunners need to get some glasses and hit something, and my reinforcements need to actually show-up sometime!

Still, great to be back playing and great fun. A newly painted army in its first fight cannot be expected to win… but they have been blooded though, so they’ll do better next time. In two weeks time, for game 2, the Battle of Rohrzendorf. 

The 6x4 tabletop, Austrian cornfield, central hill, roadside Inn on the way to Rohrzendorf.

The road to Rohrzendorf, French very eager to secure the Inn for the night.

Austrians initial advance across the cornfield and up the hill, French line formed on the hilltop ready.

On my left, Grenzer take the hill, supported by jaeger detachments from the fusilier battalions. 

Austrian guns cover the road, well-stocked by an ammunition caisson. If only they could hit something!

The French left gets moving.

Up the hill, and the musketry starts, before a swift, bold and unexpected French bayonet charge drives me down again.

Things getting hot in the cornfield as lots of French skirmishers get busy.

More skirmishers attack the left hill, once the Grenz had been broken, only the jaegers left try to hang on.

The Austrians have stalled, now pinned in the cornfield and unable to get going forwards again.

French reinforcements, a horse battery and a small detachment of Chasseurs gallop on in their centre.

French battalions hold firm at the Inn, my cannon fire still mostly inaccurate.

Jaegers vs Voltigeur in the copse by the cornfield. Stalemate.

The height of the intense skirmisher battle, both have all their light companies deployed, but the French are winning, steadily.

Last gamble, the Austrian mobile reserve, my Hussars, rush the road and the Inn, to get at the enemy Chasseurs. Bold, but futile, they take heavy damage from French fire and have to withdraw... bravery proven, if not brains. Their defeat signalled the Austrian retreat.