Friday 4 February 2022

The Battle of Graukirchen, 1813, with ‘Soldiers of Napoleon’

This was a play-test game, not really for the rules, these all seem to be working well, but to again try a 3 brigade game (sort of the standard) on a 6 x 4 table, to see how it felt for space and whether it was too many miniatures for the tabletop to allow any manoeuvring at all.

The battle saw my Austrians, using the 1813 army list, taking on the French at the fictional village of Graukirchen, somewhere in Saxony. For this game I decided to be bold and attack, using the All Out Assault tactical order (this is what higher command have asked you to do today) and a strong light cavalry brigade for its speed. I would attack on both the left and right, either side of the village, which was occupied by a single landwehr battalion and foot battery of 6 pdr guns. The French were more cautious, with two infantry brigades lined up, on his right the Italians, mostly poor troops (except the Italian Grenadiers) with a 8 pdr battery. On his right, the French, a large brigade with many recruits, again with a single small veteran battalion to stiffen them and a 8 pdr battery. His reserve brigade was cavalry – dragoons, lots of them! I hoped to do the required damage before they arrived, in a rapid attack. Here is the Austrian force’s 3 brigades.

General-Markgraf Ritter von Battenberg - Commander of Note: ‘Old Go Forwards’

Infantry Brigade - Zedlitz’ Brigade
Fusilier Battalion    6 stands + Jaeger detachment
Fusilier Battalion    6 stands    
Fusilier Battalion    6 stands
Fusilier Battalion    6 stands
Landwehr Battalion    4 stands
Foot Battery     2 6 pdrs + full caissons

Light Cavalry Brigade - von Schonberg’s Brigade
Chevau-Leger Regiment    5 stands    
Uhlan Regiment                 6 stands
Hussars Regiment              5 stands + fine horses
Horse Battery    2 3 pdrs

Heavy Cavalry Brigade (Reserve, on the right, on turn 3) - Martinic’s Brigade
Cuirassier Regiment        5 stands + ruthless commander

and a sketch map of the 6 x 4 tabletop, from the game's random terrain generator

Austrians from the top, French at the bottom.

It started well, all my battalions and regiments moving up in columns (they are bit faster) and the French gunners for once missing their mark. It’s easy when the enemy aren’t fighting back yet. He deployed his skirmishers, I sent out mine, but that would be an inconclusive stalemate, no advantage to either side for once. My horse battery deployed on the high ground and the uhlan pushed up on the extreme right, forcing his end battalion here to form square or face pointy-death. The 3 pdr battery was in range behind though and in the next turns its fire mangled the square and later broke the battalion. Perfect!

Seeing my weak centre, the Italians came forwards, a light infantry battalion in skirmish line supported by the grenadier’s column, and that forces me to divert a battalion to face them or be outflanked on my right. My main infantry attack was down to 3 battalions not 4, as the flank cover formed line and opened up a volley fire, supported by the 6 pdr foot battery. The Italian ‘leger' battalion returned volley fire and my Austrians fell back, bloodied and in disorder from the losses. The pressure was on here at the weak point in my lines.

On my left, my infantry advanced in columns and the Italian muskets started to cause losses and disorder. I wanted to co-ordinate the two brigade here, try to get them all charging at once, which would 1. Win me victory points for conducting the all out assault I had been ordered to, and 2. Give him a problem of too many troops taking damage to rally quickly, and thus break battalions, especially those raw recruits and poor Italians. This is not so easy, because demand on cards is always far greater than the orders they give you, and you'll need to rally off damage too, so just rushing forwards takes hard work. Card choices make for tough decisions throughout the game. Plus, I had in mind to wait for the Cuirassiers and hit him with them too, or at least force most of his French brigade into squares. The Cuirassiers would f*** this right up by failing to arrive on time, and then failing to arrive again! So I delayed a few turns… for nothing, and just took more damage instead. My hussars suffered from French gunnery again and retired to regroup… then my flanking fusiliers in line broke and fled, so I had to replace them with another battalion to avoid being overrun in the centre. The bold all out attack had stalled. Still I was giving some back too, his Italian grenadiers broke under canister fire from my foot battery. They’ve had 2 bad games now…

On turn 5, the attritional game ended, when his dragoons arrived… and in a splurge of useful cards they came ‘at the gallop’ streaking in columns of march through the centre, then straight after, using ‘well-drilled’, to marched up again and deftly swing into lines. Oh no! Suddenly, two strong dragoon regiments were on me, sabres out and ready to charge! I had no time to respond before the first dragoons charged my foot battery and easily overran it, sending the gunners fleeing into the village and taking the guns. His next regiment targeted my chevau-leger, who counter-charged to meet them in an uneven fight of heavier cavalry vs lights. The chevau-leger sacrifice at least held-up the French charge! My Cuirassier at last showed up… but were not going to make it into the centre to meet those dragoons before they shredded my lighter units… too late boys, too late… it was all going wrong!

On victory points earned so far it was very close. The French had claimed 1 battlefield objective, ‘Hold the Line’ - no enemy units in his deployment zone when the reserves arrived. The Austrians had claimed 1 too, ‘Guns on High Ground’, the 3 pdr horse battery had moved and deployed on the hillock my right to claim those VPs. I still had the ‘Grand Assault’ objective in hand to complete…and just 1 turn left to do it or take the VP hit for failing to complete the assigned mission in time. I'm trying alright!

Desperate measures were required in turn 6, which would be the last. My lancers charged.. at last, and smashed into a reservist battalion, sending them reeling back. My chevau-leger had to try again so, wheeling about, charged at the Dragoons again to resume that fight. The hussars were ordered in too, but refused… useless! My best light cavalry unit had done nothing but be French artillery target practice all game. On the left, I threw my last 2 infantry battalions forwards too, and they staggered through the Italian fire to get to bayonet range, and both won the melees… but not by much.  It was chaotic and a real brawl of cavalry and men on the right and, in the end, return fire from the French line broke the uhlan and my chevau-leger were forced into retreat again. But I had at least completed the ‘Grand Assault’ objective by the efforts, costly though they be. On Victory Points gained, when it all was added up, the Austrians had 24, the French 23… too close to call, a draw really, maybe marginally to the Austrians… but both sides had to pull back, but a cracking fight.

Another close tussle, the French were really saved by the arrival and amazing speed of their Dragoons (useful special events cards can sometimes, luckily, stack-up for such drastic effects). Another turn without them and I think the French would have broken, but their cavalry counter-attack made for real drama and excitement… cavalry save the day… as they should. Those damn Dragoons are the bane of my Austrians…

Happily, all worked well on a 6x4, busy, but not too crowded and some manoeuvre space, enough to avoid a simple, and dull, head long clash anyway. In all, 3 hours 20 minutes gaming, we timed it. So the target of roughly 1 hour per brigade in game length is working OK too.

Pics of the day's action at Graukirchen. 

Graukirchen village and church, beyond the windmill and miller's cottage, the French/Italian lines.

The French left, reservist lines with supporting columns behind, to counter-attack and send out their own skirmishers as well.

Facing von Schonberg's light cavalry brigade, about to appear over the low knoll, 3 pdr battery on limber following, to deploy on the hillock. It's fire mauled a French square.

Old General von Battenberg is joined by his Corps' commander (a special event), checking see how the attack is coming along and lend some advice (or interfere). Each staff dragoon model is a 'command re-roll point', removed when the point is used in the game, it just looks better than a dice.

The uhlan and chevau-leger threaten the French lines, but where are the hussars? Driven back by cannon fire, they failed to show-up at all when things got hot. So much for elan! All fancy trousers, no action...

The fight gets hot around the miller's cottage in the centre, Austrian 6 pdrs' would break the Italian Grenadiers, only to be overrun by speeding dragoon's that came out of nowhere.

Here come those dragoon's, sweeping into action in front of the village, across the road, all before the Austrians could react. Massacre those gunners...

On my left, the second dragoon regiment is in line and closing in on the chevau-leger, who are already under Voltiguer fire and must wheel and counter-charge. 

Things about to blow-up on the right.

Martinic's Cuirassiers arrive past the church, too late to intervene though... some terrible dice rolls to get my reserves here.

The end, a swirling cavalry melee sees the chevau-leger driven back and uhlan then broken by French fire. The French recruits only stood because of the arrival of their brigade commander to lead and rally them. The uhlan were left to attack the main line on their own... so no surprise they got hammered. It was supposed to 3-4 cavalry regiments at once!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely looking game and a 6x4 just makes that so useful to me.