Thursday 9 September 2021

The Battle of Niedrigburg, Soldiers of Napoleon

Continuing the testing, this game was set-up so the French could use their Imperial Guard, which we haven’t included in any of our games so far. This is mainly as neither of us like to play games that rely on the elite troops, both prefer games with the rank and file, but we needed to see how the Imperial Guard played as a single force (if it’s to be an option). Their troops are obviously good, but of course expensive, so the force would be small, but tough, compared to most other forces. Making that balance is something of a trick. We used the army lists from the 1908 campaign for this game, and the random terrain generator for the tabletop, which got us a large hill, a village and 3 woods.

The Imperial Guard ‘division’ was:

Imperial Guard Infantry Brigade
Guard Infantry battalion
Guard Infantry battalion
Guard Infantry battalion
8 pdr Guard artillery battery

Imperial Guard Infantry Brigade
Guard Infantry battalion
Guard Infantry battalion
Guard Infantry battalion
12 pdr Guard artillery battery with full caissons

Imperial Guard Heavy Cavalry Brigade (in Reserve)
Grenadiers a Cheval
4 pdr Guard horse artillery battery

So, 6 infantry battalions, 1 very good (the best) cavalry regiment and 3 artillery batteries

They would face my Austrians, selected as 6 fusilier battalions, 2 landwehr battalions, 1 jaeger battalion, 1 Uhlan regiment, 2 large cuirassier regiments (in reserve) and 3 artillery batteries (of 6 and 3 pdrs).

After deployment, we both knew that possession of the large ‘Neidrigburg’ hill would be key. To leave the other to secure it (and various in-game battlefield objectives encourage this), then the enemy would quickly tot-up easy Victory Points. Same for the village, securing it could be another battlefield objective, so it would need to be contested if not taken.

I deployed my feldjaeger battalion, good light infantry, to contest the village of Niedrigburg, which a singe guard battalion advanced on in column. The hill, the French rushed early and got a battalion on top. It would soon encounter my main infantry attack climbing up the other side, under horrid skirmish fire from his many Voltigeurs. My Uhlan, supporting that attack, were heavily shot-up by these and had to withdraw with severe losses, it took them most of the rest of the game to recover and they then played almost no part in the game.

We traded artillery fire and, for once, my gunners had the enemy’s range and inflicted some severe pain. The Imperial Guard, initially disrupted by the fire soon rallied, but at least life was uncomfortable for them opposite my guns.

On the hill top my two infantry attack columns closed on the French line, but they could not yet close enough to press an assault into melee. I had numbers, he had quality (as in the whole battle really). The French reserves arrived swiftly, the guard heavy cavalry deploying into the centre and their horse-gunners rolling out the 4 pdrs to target the hill as well. Their fire would further disrupt my attack columns.

The Austrian cavalry were also not far away and galloped on the tabletop, to counter his Grenadiers-a-Cheval. Outnumbering them 2-1, I figured if I could break the cream of the French cavalry, it would go a long way towards winning the battle.

The turns passed, artillery and musket fire was traded, in the village the Jaegers skirmished and held their own, driving the French back down the main street a few times. Sustained artillery fire broke one of my fusilier battalions though, but my own artillery also broke a guard battalion on the left (his right)… it was honours even as the ‘crunch’ battle for the hilltop approached.

Forced into disorder by galling French fire, my attack columns changed plan, and deployed into firing line, before a short advance and a crushing volley of musketry (I made use of the ‘withering volleys’ special event). The accurate fire overwhelmed the Guardmen’s line and it withdrew in disorder, and looked like breaking. The hill was almost mine! Return volleys had taken their toll there and both my attacking battalions were badly cut-up. Then, his artillery fire on the hill broke them both… neither of us had the hill top, which was suddenly empty of troops.

With no conclusion here, that left the cavalry fight to decide the final outcome. My cuirassiers deployed into a fighting formation from their march column and moved up, into more accurate French artillery fire (how do they do it?). His Grenadiers-a-Cheval moved up too, forcing my infantry to seek safety of squares. I ordered both my cavalry regiments to Charge! Spurs in, this would be it, glory or defeat, but then disaster, one regiment refused to charge (and I had no command re-rolls left to try again!), leaving the other to attack alone. The Grenadiers-a-Cheval counter-charged and in the clash of sabres, saw-off my cuirassier regiment. That was it, the Austrians had had enough for this fight and, with the French’s accumulated Victory Points exceeding my army’s Break Point, I had to withdraw. Today, the Imperial Guard, outnumbered, would have the Niedrigburg.

Interesting game, close until the end, when the Grenadiers-a-Cheval proved how good they were. His Guardsmen were tough, but far from unbreakable so and I was right in the game until the end. The French’s excellent skirmishing had been a big factor, and their artillery started slowly but then got back on their usual roll (they hit on a 5+ about two-thirds of the time it seems). I broke one Guard battalion and was so close the breaking another (he used a lot of cards to rally it). In return, he broke 3 fusilier battalions and a cuirassier regiment. I like these levels of casualties, it's not complete slaughter to win a game, and feels about right to me, quarter to a third of the force lost is enough, on top of Victory Points conceded due to other factors, like rallying and claiming battlefield objectives.

One change post-game, we decided that instead of having one Imperial Guard infantry unit (Guard Infantry) to give a bit of flexibility to the list and allow for Young and Old Guard infantry – so good, or very good… it also makes the force a little less bland with only having one infantry option. Today, he had effectively fought with a force of all Old Guard… (which would probably include ‘Middle’ guard as well in later campaigns) but would have liked the chance to take some slightly cheaper infantry.

Some shots of the afternoon's action at the Neidrigburg. 

Austrian deployment, centre ready to move against the high ground

French right, a holding action here.

Austrian right, at the village, Uh;an ready to rush to support the uphill assault. Jaegers just getting into the buildings.

French move up and around the hill in marching columns, a rush forwards. Guns quickly deployed in support.

Jaegers vs Guard in the village main street. They held-off the French attack all game.

Voltiguers skirmish forwards and open a galling fire, Austrian skirmishers out-matched. There fire would drive off the Uhlan (already run in this pic).

Eagle-eye view of the Austrian lines around the hill. At the bottom, the reserve infantry battalions, mostly landwehr, await.

The Grenadier-a-Cheval ride into the centre, bringing their horse battery with them.

Austrian columns crest the hill, still under fire. They would soon deploy into lines and open a heavy fire on the Guard line ahead, driving it back and off the hill top.

At the village, Jaeger skirmishers see-off more Voltiguers with accurate rifle fire. 'Get off our sheep pen!'.

The Austrian Cuirassiers gallop onto the field, in speedy columns of march. They would need a formation change before advancing any further, but would do so under accurate French artillery fire.

The reserve infantry still waiting in the rear. Easy-life back here, out of artillery range!

Onward, the Austrian columns prepare to charge, but fail to get going. All those Voltiguers are taking a toll with their skirmish fire...

The finale... a clash of heavy cavalry from reserve. It was supposed to be 2 against 1 for me, but that plan failed me (damn you dice Gods!). So, my glorious Cuirassiers lost and were routed by the elite heavy cavalry of the French army. Still, a belting game.