Thursday 22 June 2023

Oudinot's attack across the Russbach Stream @ Wagram, scenario 8 with Soldiers of Napoleon

Game 8, and this time a supporting attack by Oudinot's Corps to pin the Austrians in place in their left-centre and stop them reinforcing the beset left flank. A tricky scenario to write, as the French must attack but with far weaker infantry force and the  Austrians stronger forces are only defending and trying to (when requested) send some spare battalions off the table to their left. It took some tweaking after the scenario to get this right and feel balanced and stop a French commander from simple sitting back, shelling the Austrians a bit and not actually trying to get across the Russbach stream, which is roughly across the centre of the table. Anyhow, playing the game is part of writing the scenario, to iron them out and, historical scenarios can always have extra, special or exceptional rules added over the usual. This one has a fair few now, but feels a bit different to the all out attacks of earlier.

In our game, played over the same battlefield as scenario 1, the village of Baumersdorf on my far right and stream across the front, with the Austrians still on the high ground, played out with the French seeking to attack at Baumersdorf and in the centre, whilst holding back their weakest (their right) brigade. Behind them, they do have Colbert’s light cavalry in resrve, but only for emergencies or in certain situations can they deploy (it didn’t occur in our game). I’ll keep this quick, but the attempt to capture Baumersdorf (again) was thwarted because with dire dice rolls, so most of the village was already on fire, making occupying it with our large battalions impossible. Te village was flaming ruin. Only a few skirmishers would operate here, and the fight for the village itself was a complete non-starter. However, the fight just outside it and across the stream was the crux of the battle. French columns came up, under some (pretty rubbish) Austrian artillery fire (little changes, except for a single howitzer that just couldn’t miss, first 4 dice all hits!, I am a howitzer convert).

I moved up to block the line of the stream and try and hold it, but early French artillery fire and a solid volley from two columns set one battalion fleeing early, leaving a hole in the lines. I had to send down another battalion to try and block it. Meanwhile, there was musket fire all along the Russbach, all even-stevens, as both sides took some damage but rallied it off. I was waiting until Turn 6 when I could start to move battalions off left and gain VPs for them, and had my landwehr ready to be sent left (sorry, all we can spare!). The French were not waiting though, they sent a first charge across the Russbach and beat my infantry back, then followed up with a withering volley (thankfully only with columns) than broke another Austrian line battalion. Ouch! They pushed hard to exploit the hole in my lines on the Russbach, with skirmish fire (some at my gunners, who had to duck for cover). I was forced to rally again and the French had, after breaking 2 battalions, jumped out to a lead on VPs.

Out on the left (French right) there was a skirmish fire exchanged a few volleys that didn’t do much and the fight here was desultory. The real melee was in the centre and the French charged again and drove another of my battalions back, showing greater grit. I counter-charged and, by some miracle of terrible dice, lost the fight. In the meantime, I also lost the ‘How Goes the Day’ roll badly, my boys were windy and news from the left flank was bad… the Wagram might fall… and the French were now close to winning. In turn 6 I got to march 2 landwehr battalions away and gain the VPs, and the French made a Rally or two to gain me a few more, but the pressure in the centre was too much. Somehow outnumbered here now, I lost a third battalion trying to hold the stream line, skirmish fire, volley and a last gasp bayonet charge saw them run, and that was that… the French had won.

It was a solid victory, a poor showing from my boys and making it 11-2 on  campaign VPs to the Grand Army. General Oudinot had done his job with his pinning attack, helping doom the Austrian left flank. We move on game 9 of the campaign, back to the far left flank as the two side’s cavalry brigades clash (an all cavalry fight, something a bit different). But it seems, the Wagram position is doomed and Napoleon will win the day… Archduke Charles is already thinking that retreat might be best course of action (and it is only lunchtime). Two games to go, let’s see if the Austrians can salvage some martial pride.

Full array of Austrian deployment. We ran out of stream so improvised with a line of small ponds/marshes (note, buy 2 ft more stream).


Austrians deployed along the Wagram, overlooking the Russbach.

March up to the stream, under heavy fire, and suddenly, they break... an early set back.

Forget Baumersdorf, its on fire. Our 5-6 stand battalions could  not deploy into the remaining buildings to occupy them. The French make a detour around it.

French are across the stream, reserves move up at the quick to drive them back. It didn't go well.

Vive 'L'Empereur! Columns across the Russbach in the centre, Voltiguers already out and making a pain of themselves.

The hieght of the battle, as the French oush over the stream under fire. We mark a battery with smoke when it is low on ammo... in the rear, smoking Baumersdorf.

A last ditch counter-attack by one of my columns.

They charge... they lose! No stopping these Frenchmen with their dander up.

Austrian MVP, a single howitzer with a dead-eye crew... it lob shoots, it hits.


Tuesday 6 June 2023

Morand's Advance at Marksgrafneuseidl @ Wagram, scenario 7 with Soldiers of Napoleon.

Game 7, and we are in the heart of the campaign now. This scenario would see Morand’s division, of Davout’s Corps, launch its part in the Corps attack on the French left, at Markgrafneudeidl to take the eastern end of the Wagram and turn the Austrian flank here. At around 10am Davout launched his critical assault. The Austrians met Morand’s advance in the fields just east of the village, counter-attacking with two large infantry brigades, part of Rsoenberg’s Corps. It was all Rosenberg had to commit. For an hour there was heavy fighting and the Austrians counter stalled the French, but Davout still had another division to commit from reserve, Rosenberg’s cupboard was bare. We be recreating that hours fighting east of Marksgrafneuseidl.

The tabletop was set, with the eastern end of the Wagram and a few buildings on the outskirts of Markgrafneuseidl, a meander in the Russbach stream and the rest as open flat fields, some cornfields. Morand commanded two large brigades, left and right, each of full 6 battalions and all at full strength (and his guns). The Austrians also had 2 large brigades, left and right, each of 8 regiments (each 6 musketeers, 2 landwehr) and guns. Very even.

With few brigades, and lots of units in them, Orders would be an a premium for both commanders, and it was obvious some battalions wouldn’t be able to get heavily involved. Obviously, for my Austrians, the 4 landwehr battalions were placed at the back, out of harms way and a second line, waiting it out unless needed (and saving those Orders). The French began by moving up on their left towards the village cottages, having already held on to a ‘Take the Strongpoint’ objective (luck deal that). Light infantry in extended line screened marching columns to wade the stream at speed, moving ‘at the quick’. Up on the Wagram, my brigade fired their cannons and moved down to counter them. I couldn’t stop the French taking the cottages quickly, but held on to a ‘Grand Assault’ objective, as I was going to counter-attack and try and meet the French in the field’s centre, I might as well claim the extra VPs on offer as I did so (or so I thought). Both of us would really struggle to complete the battlefield objective (the French started with Grand Assault) because getting four battalions to charge on a 4+ (best we had) would prove hard (with our dice today).

Fighting around the cottages would soon flair up, as attack columns met, mostly refused to charge and volleyed at each other instead (lots of that this game). The first engagement was inconclusive, the French won a melee, but then fell-back to rally, the Austrians won 1 melee, but then also had to rally. On the other side, both sides moved battalions up to face-off in attack columns, guns fired, did a few hits, but then the French guns were low on ammunition, so that nerfed them. The French claimed the handy strongpoint of the cottages and had a early lead in VPs… as usual.

Now the fighting heated up, both switching Orders between brigades. The French pressed hard at Marksgrafneuseidl with 3 battalions in the attack, but 2 refused to charge and volleyed instead, leaving just one to take a hammering from Austrian fire and a counter-charge. It fell back and had to rally with losses. The Austrians stood firm here on the lower slopes of the Wagram, but their supporting battery also ran low on ammo… after doing good work. Artillery wouldn’t feature much from now on, it was all down to the infantry columns.

On my right, the first clashes had seen the French driven back by my counter-charges, then rally well, get back swiftly in good order and charge back at me, driving my musketeers back in turn. It was even here, 4 line battalions each facing off, with a bit of skirmish fire adding to the damage, but in all, stalemate. On the VP scores, the French had edged further head, on melees won and a few cheap rallies for them. Drat! I need to complete the Grand Assault to get back in it.

So, to the last turns and the Austria fixation on trying to get 4 charges off… I got 3, but the others all refused (command point re-rolls had long gone by now). It seems, on average, I pass about 1 in 3 50/50 dice rolls. Thwarted, I had one turn left to do it, or give up more VPs to the French for failure (I thought, why did I take this card?). By now, both sides had broken just 1 line battalion each, at Marksgrafneuseidl, bt all the others were in bad shape, all in disorder and with high disruption, but still fighting in a sort of mob brawl. Notable, my brigade commander was in the thick of it, taking 4 at risk tests per turn and still remaining at the front. Heroic stuff from him.

Next turn, the 6th I think, saw the Austrians try, try again to complete the damned Grand Assault objective and when my first 2 charges on the turn succeeded, but were then driven off by the French again, I had a chance, but it was costing me VPs too. In end, I did it, declaring 8 charges and getting an average 4 in (for once)… and with the last Orders card of the turn. So just in time, whilst the French had failed, despite trying, they to, cannot roll a 4+ when needed. Was it enough to win it? I could claim the ‘Grand Assault’ and my starting ‘Hold the Line’ (easily done) and for the French failure to ‘Grand Assault’ me… a big haul of VPs got me ahead, but the loss of another line battalion in the fighting on the right got the French back even. Both sides had broken, both by the same amount (3 I think). It was a draw, a rare dead-heat!… we had fought each other to a standstill. Pretty much the historical result. So, being behind on campaign VPs, I gained 1 to the French’s 0, so after 7 games it is now 8-2 France. I still need a solid win from somewhere, maybe in game 8, next week. 

View form the end of the Wagram, edge of Markgrafneuseidl and beyond, the Russbach.

Meander in the Russbach, over which the French left must splash, not a great obstacle though, except for cannons.

Austrian infantry brigades form their lines, musketeers forward, landwehr behind (hiding).
Austrian left, nice a neat to start with, before a musket shot in anger...

The French left navigate the stream and head for the village cottages at speed.

The French right also advance in columns, under cannon and skirmish fire.

The Austrians move up to meet them, 4 battalions aside line up.

The fighting around the edge of the village heats up, to become an all-in mob brawl by the end.

French attack, Austrians counter... muskets volley, neither side gains the decisive advantage. It will be a long grind.

Supporting cannon fire from the Russbach, not adding much today, this is an infantry to infantry fight.

French storm up the lower slopes, but are thrown back down again.

The Wagram hill holds firm, for now....

Austrians charge down the slope and drive the French back again. Red dice is the 'at risk' tests required for the brigade command stand. In the thick of it, leading from the front, undaunted until the end.