Wednesday, December 19, 2018

1809; Somewhere in Southern Germany

The first battle of the new 6mm Blucher era here in Canberra has been played and won.

As we've both started holidays, John and I broke out my Austrians and French today for a fictitious battle set in 1809. It was the first game in ages for me, and the first since I've re-based all my miniatures to better suit the Blucher rules (on new 90x60mm bases - ie. Playing card sized so I can use the Blucher cards as the unit labels). For John, it was his first game.

One of the best aspects of the Blucher rules in my opinion is the "Scharnhorst" in-built mini campaign system, which allows players to do some pre-game manoeuvre, try to gain advantage, and provide context for the resulting battle. So we decided to use this excellent system.

I generated two 400pt armies. To bring out some differences, the Austrians (me) were heavier on Infantry than the French, who were heavier in Cavalry and Artillery.

The forces were:

13x Ligne, Legere
4x Heavy Cavalry (Currassier / Carabinier)
2x Dragoons
6x Light Cavalry
5x Foot Artillery
4x Bavarian Line Infantry (three with attached artillery)
2x Bavarian Cavalry

2x Grenadiers
3x Veteran Grenz
3x Avant Garde
12x Veteran Infantry
3x Conscripts, Grenz
4x Currassiers
4x Hussars
3x Foot Artillery
1x Horse Artillery

I expected that as the system required the forces to be divided across four 'columns' to manoeuvre on the campaign map, that only a few would get to the battlefield and the resulting battle would involve forces significantly less than 400 points.

This turned out to be a mistake! John was a cunning strategist and outplayed me in the Scharnhorst mini-game (see below). Tip for young players; make the armies less than 400 points, as a cunning commander may get his whole force to the battle!)

We chose the 'Southern Germany' Scharnhorst map. French in Blue, Austrians in Yellow.

First campaign day: The French move on across a broad front, moving through a village. 1 VP.
The Austrians advance on two axis and grab the two major towns in the area, plus a village. 5 VPs.

Day Two: The French have less VPs, therefore have the option to declare a battle.
John does so, declaring squares E7, E6, E5, D5, D6, and D7 as the battlefield.
John has two columns on the battlefield, against one Austrian. 
A third French column also moves onto the battlefield and the fourth moves to a reinforcing position.
The best the Austrians can do is move two columns to reinforce. The fourth (my Reserve Corps with my Grenadiers, Heavy Cav and half my artillery) cannot get to the battlefield, so instead moves to hold a town and secure its 2 VPs.

The battlefield is marked in red. It is a nightmare for the Austrians. 
Three Columns to one on-table, with another French column reinforcing.
Two Austrian columns are reinforcing as reserves. 
The Austrian 3rd Corps will need to garrison the town and hold out against 3-1 odds until help arrives.
To make things worse, there are rivers all over the battlefield. Whilst these are fordable, they will complicate movement.
 So the battlefield is set. John outmanoeuvred me and brought superior numbers to bear. Three quarters of his army is on-table, with the remainder reinforcing. I have only one quarter of mine on table, with another two corps reinforcing. My heaviest hitters in the Curassiers, Grenadiers and haf my artillery in the Reserve Corps are out of action. This will have to be a heroic delaying action.

Pictures follow. Lighting in Jolt is terrible, so I had to do my best with photos:

The battlefield. Lots of Rivers, a couple of villages (1 VP each) and a town (2 VPs)

Initial deployments. At 3:1 odds to start with, 
the Austrians garrison the town and deploy to fight a holding action until reserves arrive.

Surprisingly, the French lead with a Brigade of Currassiers fording the river...

...along with some infantry

Austrian Line Infantry Regiments defend the flank and rear of the town from the advancing French.
(red markers indicate 'Prepared' units).

A view from the Austrian left.
In the foreground is an Austrian Avant-Garde Brigade, defending the left flank.
The town is Garrisoned by a Veteran Grenz Brigade and a Landwehr Brigade. 

French Line Infantry ford the river and assault the Town from the front. 
This first attack was repulsed.

French Corps artillery

The Regiment of Carabiniers crossed the river with the Curassiers.

Overhead view of the unfolding action in the first turns.

A Bavarian Brigade ready to join the action.

French Curassiers again. 
These guys fought a running battle back and forth with two Brigades of Austrian Hussars.
After several turns, they were charged in the front and flank and were badly mauled, withdrawing from the field.

The Austrian Hussars (bottom right) see off the French Curassiers (top right). 
French infantry cross the river on their flank.

With Austrian cavalry on their flank, the French Line Brigade goes into Squares ('prepared')
and exchanges volleys with the Austrian infantry. 
The Austrian squares suffered badly from French artillery bombarding from across the river (top right).

A second concerted French Assault on the Town.

Overhead view

Austrian Hussars prepare to charge the French flank.

Close up of one of the Ligne Brigades.

...and some Austrian Line.

Austrian Avante-Garde Brigade.

Bavarian Chevaulegers move up to join the action. 

A couple of Divisions of French Cavalry (one Heavy, one Light Division) move around the Austrian left flank.

Chasseur-a-Cheval light cavalry lead, followed by Curassier heavy cavalry.

Overhead view. The Austrian II Corps has just arrived (bottom right) and moves straight into an assault across the river.

View of the II Corps assault.

Austrian Line Regiments leading.

Along with some Grenz...

Massed infantry fording the river.

The skirmishing in the centre continues... do the assaults on the Town. 
A combined French and Bavarian infantry assault drove both Austrian defending Brigades out of the Town, 
capturing the vital 2 VPs for the French.

French cavalry counterattack quickly, before the Austrians can clear the river and form Squares. They inflicted some significant attrition on the leading wave of Austrian infantry.

view of the action from above. The final French Corps arrived on the Austrian right flank and piled into the action.
The game ended after 17 turns due to time constraints (John had to go to cricket coaching duties) with the French in possession of the Town and one of the villages. A battlefield victory, as well as a strategic victory for the French, as the vital 3 VPs changed hands during the game (it was a 6-5 VP strategic victory to the French). My Austrian I Corps never showed up to the battlefield (maybe they could see the way things were going for Austrians on this day?!).

A couple of things we learned:
  • Don't set up the Scharnhorst campaign with 400pts! They might all make it to the battle (like John's did), which makes things really congested! I reckon about 300 is probably right, that games that eventuate should be between 200-300 pts per side.
  • The Scharnhorst mini-campaign is fantastic! It really provided a strategic context and an interesting battle.
  • The attacker needs to pick his battlefield for the terrain as well as the forces that can show up. The battlefield criss-crossed with rivers was really hard going to attack over (for both sides).
  • Placement of artillery to allow it to support attacks is tricky. With no overhead fire (even from hills), and needing 1BW+ gaps to shoot through, it can be tough to get them a clear shot.
  • When it can shoot, Artillery is very effective against infantry in squares.
  • As you'd expect, infantry in villages and towns are tough to dislodge.
Great game, and we're looking forward to many more. Since I have Austrians and French, we're looking at doing a Hundred Days style expanded Scharnhorst version of the 1809 Danube Campaign. Should be fun!