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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Sacile 16 April 1809

While Napoleon had been distracted in Spain his old enemy Austria decided to take the chance to strike at him. The Austrian army had been reformed and rebuilt following its defeat in 1805 and their emperor was ready to take revenge for his country's humiliation. Whilst the main hammer blow was to fall in Bavaria there were also lesser attacks on French interests in Poland and Northern Italy and it was in the latter that the first battle of the campaign was fought.

Having read accounts of the battle in R. Epstein's Prince Eugene at War 1809  and F. Schneid's Napoleon's Italian Campaigns 1805-1815 I decided to give it a go.

Fortunately for me Frank Chadwick had included a scenario for the battle in his guide to the 1809 campaign for the Volley & Bayonet rules which I use for my refights.

Image result for austria stands alone

Bit of an odd title considering that one of Austria's motivations for the timing of their attack was Napoleon's entanglement in Spain and that Britain was also involved and had agreed to subsidise the Austrian war effort and help in any way possible when hostilities broke out.

The Austrians under Archduke John entered Italy but made numerous detachments to hold strategically important points along their route so became hesitant in their movements unsure of what lay ahead. napoleon's Viceroy in Italy, Eugene de Beauharnais, gathered his troops and went to attack them. Inexperienced in high command he was anxious to prove himself and attacked before his army had fully concentrated. This scenario imagines he had waited a day so there is a chance for French reinforcements.

I simplified the scenery a little and set up the troops:

Turn 1 (9:00)
The divisions of Broussier and Grenier form up west of the stream.

While Barbou's division crosses and approaches the village of Fontana-Freda.
(Buildings are a Newline designs Roman granary and a couple of homemade jobs. Infantry from Esci & Italeri with Irregular Miniatures artillery support)

Whilst on the right Seras and Severoli's Italians move towards the high ground.

In the centre the Austrians mass to meet their foes (just in front of the least aesthetically appealing section of the table).

The Austrian right also waits to see how Eugene will approach them.
Turn 2

No reinforcements for the French. They continue to move towards their objectives.


The Austrians on the right are content to throw out a screen of Grenzers to snipe at the approaching columns.

Turn 3

Broussier  (2nd Division) attacks the IX Corps on the Austrian right. (For those unfamiliar with my particular interpretation of Volley and Bayonet, they are brigade level rules and I represent each brigade with two stands. The single stands are skirmishers or artillery units. Strength points represent 500 men)

The Austrian gunners (Irregular Miniatures) extract a heavy toll on the attacking division and it takes serious casualties.

French Artillery (also Irregular) support Barbou's attack on Fontana-Freda.

The village is taken !

Severoli's Italians climb the hills but are too far away to support 1st Division (Seras) who take heavy casualties attacking uphill to their right.

Turn 4

Pully's dragoon division arrives and the French attack across the whole front.

The French reinforcements

Grenier's division cross the stream in support of Barbou's

General view of the table; in the distance the Italians can be seen ascending the heights.

The garrison of Porcia await them stoically. (Artillery from Newline Designs, Italeri infantry and staff of unknown origin).

The attack of Brousier's division on the right is repelled with heavy losses.

Turn 5

The failure of his main attack has given Eugene something to think about if he is to retrieve the situation this turn.

There are no further reinforcements but Grenier's 52e Ligne ford the river and receive a welcome boost as I realise I had missed the 102e off the ORBAT.

The yellow flag indicates that this unit has become disordered fording the stream.

The Italians launch their assault on Porcia.

Broussier pulls his battered units out of range and holds his position whilst the cavalry moves up in support and his artillery engage their opposite number in counter battery fire.
Elsewhere disordered units hold and rally.
For their part the Austrians consolidate their position and wait.

Turn 6

Still no reinforcements and 1st Division are driven from the hills around Palse.

Grenier moves to consolidate his foothold on the other side of the stream, challenging the Austrian centre. (Note I have hung up a tasteful throw to screen off the unsightly storage area behind the table)
The Austrians do very little this turn remaining content to surrender the initiative to the French, confident in strength of their position.

Turn 7

With a great fanfare Lamarque's 4th Division arrives to reinforce the French army.

The French surge forwards in the centre but pause to exchange volleys with IR53 & 62 in which they come off worse.

The increasing number of French batteries on their left causes the Austrians to loose a battery in the exchange of fire and on the other side of the table the Italians take Porcia through  sheer weight of numbers. The Austrians withdraw to maintain a fusillade from the surrounding hills but to little effect.

To everyone's surprise the Austrians launch an all out attack on their right and in the centre where they overturn Grenier's division and send them running for their lives.

Close range canister fire from three batteries however has little effect and one is even lost to French musketry.

Turn 8

The French reinforcements cross the stream to bolster the centre before a desperate counter attack is launched in the hope of saving the situation.

Results are mixed. One brigade is destroyed demonstrating the inadvisability of frontally assaulting an artillery battery but their comrades are successful and overrun another battery. An Austrian brigade is also sent packing by the fury of the French attack.

On the French left the Austrian attack is beaten off with heavy losses.

On their turn the Austrians move to exploit the disorder and isolation of units in the French centre.

They are routed and the Austrian dragoons ride over the stricken Frenchmen to leave the centre a smoking ruin.

Whilst on the French left their misery is compounded by a further Austrian assault. Though less successful this attack removes two French batteries from play.

Turn 9

It is now 16:00 and things are looking pretty desperate for the French. The centre is in tatters and Broussiers division are 'exhausted' in game terms. Eugene has little left to play with and must surely write a grovelling letter to his step-father ! I should really call it a day but I play another turn to see if there is any chance left.

The French move less damaged units from the right towards the centre.

Unfortunately this relives pressure on the Austrian troops opposite them who are able to evict Severoli's Italians from Porcia.

Turn 10

The French are still trying to regroup but with evening drawing in there is little hope for anything other than ignominious defeat.

Sensing victory the Austrians surge forwards.

They drive the French from their last remaining gains.

Their light troops scurry from cover to begin the pursuit.(These are a cunning conversion from Esci British infantry, made before the HaT set was released).

It is over for the French and as in the historical battle they head back towards the Livenza river to lick their wounds.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Product Details


Well, kind of. This gem has been out since 2008 and has been well received so I doubt I could add very much really. It is well researched, highly detailed and pretty readable, though bearing in mind what I have been ploughing through over the last few years in the pursuit of academic excellence perhaps I'm not the best judge. Well I enjoyed it!

What does it offer the wargamer? Loads. Full orders of battle, usable maps and hods of scenario ideas. I am usually drawn to the big stuff and the main focus in this volume is Eggmuhl, with Abensberg and the storming of Regensburg also covered. There are also a number of medium sized encounters - Teugn-Hausen for example- and the very tempting river crossing at Lanshut which pitches the Austrians against a Bavarian force fighting a delaying action (may be refighting this soon).

Unusually the encounters that really caught my imagination here were the small unit skirmishes between French light troops and the Hapsburg jaegers, grenzers and hussars. Perhaps it is my recent purchase of Osprey's Chosen men that has stimulated my thinking on these lines?

Product Details

I rather fancy seeing a clash of these colourful troops in 54mm though I would have to change the army lists to closer reflect what was actually going on in those Bavarian farms and villages and restrict forces to one or two troop types. To be fair I haven't read the rules very thoroughly or given them a go but it seems to me that these type of skirmish games seem to be about getting a sort of pick and mix of small but diverse units onto the table rather than an accurate depiction of skirmish warfare. None the less I will certainly be giving these a go and will report back on the results.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Towton 1461

Not far from where I live is the site of what was probably the bloodiest battle in British history. Fought in a blizzard on Palm Sunday in 1461 the battle of Towton saw House of York and the beginning of the reign of Edward IV. As I mentioned previously I have fought a number of the battles of the Wars of the Roses across my table and having visited the battlefield on a number of occasions with my friend Nick I thought I would give Towton a go.

By this point I had fallen out with Warhammer Historical, largely because of the large amount of dice rolling - it does give a quite 'heroic' feel to the fighting but after a long game I almost felt like I had actually been fighting.I have also found that I don't like moving large numbers of figures individually any more so I experimented with some rules ideas. First off I tried adapting the old Charge! rules, using large movement trays to hold the units but it was basically a bloodbath and didn't really give smaller units much of a chance so I tried again. This time I made up my own rules using element basing - it was much more manageable but it is quite a while since the experiment and I didn't make any notes so I am afraid I can't remember if the rules were any good!

The battle was fought with quite a lot of figures and used historical deployments (as far as they are known) with the order of battle being based on the Poleaxed source book. Norfolk's contingent arrived late on the battlefield and were diced for each turn.

There were no notes but there are some pictures:

The Lancastrians form their 'battles'.

If I was clever I would have cropped these so they fitted together to give a continuous view of the table - but I'm not -still you get the idea...

At last ! some Yorkists - Edward IV, De la Pole (Suffolk) & Howard (Surrey) - Figures are old Citadel, Irregular Miniatures and some Grenadier and Front Rank at the back.

Fauconberg and other Neville adherents.

Battle is joined - Earl Percy leads the Northern Earls against the Yorkist left where they are met by contingent of mercenary pikemen.

The Northern Levies (assorted peasant figures; mostly Essex with a mate from Standard Games) are fed into the melee.

While in the centre more northern retinues (possibly more Percys) clash with Yorkist nobles.
But there are no more photographs. I recall that Mowbray struggled onto the field to turn the tide in an imitation of history but you will just have to imagine that!
Next post might be a review of something...