Last Friday WR and Daniel (son) traveled to FND* to play the Voltri 1796 scenario and an evening of French revolutionary warfare. Voltri was a small Ligurian coastal engagement, just before General Bonaparte marched on Montenotte, it was a French rearguard action caused by the Austrian advance. This report covers the actual miniature tabletop action between the Austrian advancing columns and the scrappy French republicans. For the scenario set up information and notes see my previous post on this battle: Voltri 1796
Scenario starts at 1400 hours and weather is cloudy. No optional special event scenario cards were used for this game but are available in the scenario notes. There is a slide show at the end of this post for quick viewing of the scenario game photographs.
Turn 1400: Game starts with the Austrian eastern column under GM Philipp Pittoni von Dannenfeld facing the French Chef of Brigade Laubespin at Pegli. GM Pittoni and his column have been marching since early morning light across the Ligurian mountains to the Genoese coast then turning west to met French at Pegli. Colonel Vukassovich’s Austrian column has an hour more arrive on the northern “road” entrance. The two French “demi-brigade” command groups are widely separated. One at Pegli under Laubespin facing GM Pittoni and the other under Chef of Battalion Jean Lannes at the village of Mele on the northern road. French senior command GB Jean-Baptiste Cervoni starts at Voltri behind the starting French lines no doubt tasting the local wine. Three photos below to show the starting positions as described.
Some quick data points: Miniature scale ratio is 85:1 for this scenario, 50 yds to the ground inch. Typical musketry range is 0″ to 4″ while the positional mixed artillery battery can engage out to 24″. Infantry basically has 8″ column, 6″ linear and 10″ open formation movements. The sole cavalry regiment in the scenario has a base movement of 14″. The suite of posted game mechanics videos, charts, table etc can be located at: Napoleonic rules & videos of play
French or French allies normally have first move in our games (its a French thing…). The Voltri scenario has 1st turn French movement restrictions in that they can only deploy skirmishing forces. Daniel (playing GB Cervoni) positions some French skirmishers along the Pegli stream while the remainder of his 75th demi-brigade is stationary and occupy the town buildings under a Defend order. Austrians await their movement turn with Attack orders.
At Mele, scenario design had the French holding stationary for the 1st turn with only skirmishers deployment. The starting orders for the Mele garrison command was March, so French skirmisher deployment was prohibited. The arrival of the Austrian column under Colonel Vukassovich (pictured off table below) is expected in one hour (3 turns).
The French garrison at Mele was formed from the 51st demi-brigade and a battalion of converged grenadiers under Chef de Battalion Lannes.
The French movement done, the Austrian column under GM Pittoni advances to within skirmisher musketry range. The uhlans swing out and advance to the stream bank preparing a charge. The deployed French skirmishers fell back quickly into the Pegli town as the Austrian cavalry galloped forward. Thinking ahead, Daniel has already formed a square behind the town to counter the flanking Austrian cavalry. Thinking ahead is a talent required since the sequence of play rewards players forming proper formations before the need arises.
Sequence of play information: Sequence of Play Standup with Austrians as Side 2 and French as Side 1.
Turn 1420: The French infantry held their ground and engaged the Austrians from the Pegli buildings during their movement and firing. During the Austrian movement phase, the cavalry wheeled to face the coastal road, Austrian fusiliers advanced in linear or column formations to start the assault on Pegli. Austrian grenz crossed the stream to cover the crossing (2″ terrain cost) Austrian fusilier battalion. Small 4 cannon mixed battery* (1x 12lb, 1x 6lb and 2x small howitzers) tossed a few shots into Pegli. Lots of smoke…but no lasting damage.
* Mixed batteries are batteries with different weight or caliber artillery cannon. Very common during the French republican wars it seems.
Turn 1440: The French republican infantry quickly exit the rear of Pegli leaving only some skirmishers to slow up the Austrian infantry columns. When exiting a building only column or open order formations are permitted. French square slowly retires to confront the Austrian cavalry as Austrian skirmishers poop off their shots. The Defend order coin marker determines the 12″ radius of movement for the command (the French infantry) under only a defend order. The order choice is placed under the actual commander base so the “red” base marker under GM Pittoni indicates Attack order, the “orange” under Laubespin indicates Defend order.
The full orders table and the restrictions summary: Orders Table
Turn 1500: The former French garrison of Pegli retire towards Voltri along the coastal road. A French battalion square confronts the Austrian cavalry as French skirmisher screens retire before the Austrian infantry advance. Austrian grenz have reached the nearby rough terrain low hill. During the firing phase, the French commander Laubespin was hit* and seriously wounded by a “random shot”. It will be two turns before a replacement commander is promoted, meanwhile the French lack the commander’s radius bonus for morale.
* Note: Everytime a firing infantry or artillery unit rolls a natural 01 or 00 (100), there is a chance that an enemy commander is hit. Roll 6D; 1-3 Commander unhorsed for one turn (out of action only) if within 12″ of firing unit. 4-5 actually wounded / hit if within 12″ of firing unit and a 6 means wounded within 24″ of firing unit. The firing unit doesn’t need to have the range to hit the commander…this represents the random shot flying about the battlefield. Commanders near the front lines are never “safe” in our games.
The Austrians under Colonel Vukassovich arrive in strategic March order mode (green marker under commander). Units in strategic mode are considered to march faster (+50%) but suffer indication of morale disorder since they are not in normal combative formation. By remaining stationary for a movement phase, the entire command changes into battle mode (normal combative formations). The French commander Lannes sends out a battalion to skirmish and slow up the Austrian advance (and force a quick change into battle mode).
Turn 1520: Pushing back the French skirmisher screen, the French square soon is in difficulty as the other French battalions march westward. Grenz on rough hillside rain shoots into the French ranks with no results (they performed horrible for the entire battle). Since the French had to march outside of the Defend order 12″ radius (remember the orange coin marker), the French commander had ordered his command to change into Engage order (yellow). Engage orders are basically orders to pin enemy formations in position but don’t engage too closely or charge enemy and have no radius of movement restriction. Engage from a distance so to speak.
On the northern road, the Austrians are stationary to change into “battle mode” from their former “strategic” marching mode crossing the Ligurian alps. French battalion has deployed some skirmishers while retaining a close order reserve linear formation.
Turn 1540: Still on the northern road sector, the French skirmishers fired their shots (one Austrian miniature lost by battalion on road). Austrian counter-move was to deploy into linear formations, advance and exchanging fire, caused a French miniature loss. French morale disordered from the loss hence the battalion retired towards Mele.
Note: There are three morale levels in the game: Good morale, morale disordered and routing / fleeing status. Morale disorder status is shown by reversing one miniature in the unit’s facing. Routing or fleeing units have several of their miniature bases “stacked” facing away from enemy formations.
Turn 1600 (no picture): The French square was morale disordered by Austrian linear firepower (miniature loss causes a 10D morale roll). Effected by the rough hill slope movement 2″ movement penalty and morale disorder (half movement), the square couldn’t march away and hence was broken (rout) by morale failure from another firepower miniature loss on the Austrian half turn. The fleeing French infantry ran up and across the rough ground leaving the Austrians behind. Austrian player (WR) is grinning sideways….since his grenz infantry failed to hold ground and routed back across the steep hills.
Turn 1620: French republican infantry form up on the rough hillsides and skirmishers deployed. The routing French infantry battalion (former square battalion) halted their undisciplined rout and rally to morale disordered status. The Austrian infantry fusiliers march across the rough hillside ground or along the coastal road followed by the mixed artillery battery and cavalry. Austrian grenz need to rally for the Kaiser…
The high tall hills pictured in background only allow open order formations to transit for this tabletop scenario. Close order infantry (CO) nor cavalry formations cannot move across the very steep hillsides.
On the northern front the French organize their defense (Defend order). The Austrians slowly advance (Attack order), in linear formation, to below the village of Mele. The French converged grenadier / carabiner battalion engage the grenz with musketry. In the background, the Austrian Alvinczy battalion is marching off to visit Acquasanta (Austrian victory condition).
Turn 1640: Finally the Austrians catch up with the French republicans. They march their linear formations across the rough hilly ground while attempting a turning manuever along the coastal roadway. Supported by the cavalry in open formation, the Austrian advance looked grand. But Daniel saw his opportunity…..French counterattack! Closing up* his open ranks on the hill above the coastal road, the French battalion, in linear formation and replacement commander attached, rolled down the hillside with a wheeling maneuver and impacted the assaulting Austrian column, who moments before thought they just had a French skirmisher screen to push back. It wasn’t even close. Volleyed at close range with musketry and regimental cannon*, the leading ranks of Austrians crumpled to the ground then the rest fled in terror taking the cavalry with them. Chaos in the Austrian ranks at this point.
* Unit formation and facing changes are made before actual movement of the units. It is the first sub phase of the Movement Phase for each player side. In this example, the French battalion was in loose open order formation up on the rough hill so it closed down their ranks into a linear formation then marched down the hill with a wheeling aspect.
* Regimental artillery or battalion attached cannon are represented by a miniature marker placed behind the unit. The battalion increases it’s base musketry % factor by having regimental cannon attached. The “regimental artillery miniature maker” can be moved about between different battalion of the same regiment or demi-brigade. That is why you may see what looks like an artillerymen miniature attached to the French and Austrian battalions during this scenario.
The northern front had Austrians exchanging distant volleys with French skirmishers. The Austrians seemed to get the worst of the exchange with several miniature losses (lucky Daniel % dice rolls).
Turn 1640 continued: Stunned by the French counterattack, WR lead his remaining Austrian battalions in a weak counter-counterattack, inflecting damage with musketry. French demi-brigade reaches 20% losses (marker on tabletop) causing a drop in all future morale rolls.
Turn 1700: French think it is time to retire some more…..they march quickly away with deployed skirmisher rear guards. The Austrians, straightening their tattered ranks, form up again and assault the hill. Daniel keeps a cool head…… plans for his open order battalion to close ranks…..on Turn 1720.
Turn 1720: With the Austrians marching up the hill again. The French battalion coolly changes its formation from open order to linear formation while under fire*. The Austrian assault goes in….panting breaths…the Austrians close in to receive a point-blank musketry*. More Austrians crumpled on the hillside and the remainder break and flee towards the rear.
* Key component of our game is the sequence of play. A good way to remember is “whatever you wish to inflict upon the enemy…the enemy will have a chance to react before you can inflict your action”. The reaction could be formation changes, movement, declaring charges (cavalry) or holding position to receive the action. But if you change unit formation or facing in the “minimum firing zone” (2″ for musketry, 4″ for artillery), the non moving player gets to fire an immediate doubled firepower attempt to cause loss. Sort of a penalty to changing facing or formation while under the musketry or close range cannister.
*All final shock (assault) defensive firepower is doubled after taking a receiving morale check. This applies for both small arms musketry and cannon fire.
As we can see at end of the 1720 turn, the Austrian infantry is shattered with only one morale disordered fusilier battalion positioned across the roadway. The fresh Austrian cavalry now must make its effort to retrieve Austrian fortunes. But, after a quick miniature loss accounting, GM Pittoni (aka WR) tells Daniel that his Austrian command is at 40% loss. That is a notable loss on all future morale checks. Daniel is waving his red liberty caps……
Even the northern front is looking bad for the Austrian side. With the French skirmishers causing losses, Colonel Vukkassovich turns his infantry about and retires a short distance. The grenz shift over to screen the temporary retirement.
Turn 1800: Frenchmen dancing on the hillside…… Well, time to bring forth the “feared” Austrian uhlans. With one Austrian fusilier battalion for support, the Austrian cavalry ride forward along the roadway preparing to charge. WR is thinking easy meat on the lance…… A fresh cavalry unit with ok morale…. just some ragged skirmishers in front…. one “pointed” charge and those Frenchmen will be running for their liberty cap lives!
With the returning Alvinczy fusilier battalion (from Acquasanta) marching back, Colonel Vukassovich leadership directs the Austrian fusilier battalions to outflank the defended Mele position. His battalions start a march around the French who look on with amazement.
Turn 1820: Riding forward, the turn starts with the Austrian declare cavalry charge phase. The Austrian uhlans roll their morale to charge…… failed!. They sputter to a halt and check the manual. GM Pittoni (aka WR) tosses his head back. The cavalry rally up*…. and the French skirmishers….being smart, quickly retire away. Another charge chance!!…. roll again to opportunity charge….. failed again! More cavalrymen milling about. GM Pittoni is besides himself. It was only a few ragged Frenchmen!
* Quick morale example: Cavalry had starting battle CMR (Combat Morale Rating) of 7. To charge, the cavalry morale check worked out as: 7 CMR base, +1 for French open order formation within 4″ of cavalry front, +1 for commander within 9″ radius (if rated good for battle), +1 calling a charge during the Declared Cavalry Charge phase but -2 for 40% loss level in command. Summed up I needed a 8 or less on a 10D roll to pass morale and charge. Rolled a 9 on the 10D so the cavalry unit is morale disordered and fails to charge (1 to 4 over adjusted morale is unit morale disorder. If 5+ over, the unit routs / flees away)
The next sequence of play right after charging phase is the Rally phase (Austrian side). The morale disordered cavalry immediately rallied since the unit wasn’t in a French minimum fire zone from either close order infantry or artillery battery. Units go from morale disorder to good order without any dice rolling. Only routing / fleeing units require a positive morale result to rally to morale disorder status.
As noted above, changing formation or facing or just moving within a cavalry unit’s frontal facing arc (4″) allows the cavalry player to declare an immediate opportunity charge which is moved during the forthcoming shock Phase after the enemy movement phase. Another reason to declare cavalry charges is all enemy movement within the frontal 45 degrees cavalry arc is immediately at half speed (sort of time distortion effect) out to the normal charge / movement distance.
Turn 1840: With the Austrian cavalry looking very like grazing sheep on the coastal road, the French demi-brigade infantry retire up the road towards Voltri. Just as the last French marches out, the Austrian grenz rolled a 01…. another French commander is killed outright in the saddle. Must be those red, white and blue hat plumes drawing attention.
On the northern road, the French redeployed out some skirmishers to contest the Austrian flanking advance towards Voltri (just off photo top edge). Austrian efforts are centered upon flanking the French Mele position while the Alvinczy battalion rejoins the column.
Turn 1900: Stopping at the village of Pra (building in photo), the French infantry, reduced to 40% losses, will hold Pra till scenario game end. Since the French republican hold both Pra and Mele villages and with no Austrian units in Voltri (cannot reach Voltri by scenario game end at this point), they will claim a French minor victory. Well done Daniel (aka GB Cervoni) who is last seen up on the hills, wine service in tow.
I have placed all the scenario game pictures in a slide show at end of this post.
Quick summary: 13 game turns played in about 4 hours plus some time for setup, take down, and game rule mechanics instruction. Austrian losses were heavy along the coastal road (Pittoni’s column 40%+) while Vukassovich had losses just marching about. French losses matched the Austrian with Laubespin’s command also at 40% losses. Two French commanders were hit (Laubespin received serious wound and the replacement brigadier killed). Both sides exceeded their MFP army level at game end so each would be suffering morale degradation every hour if the game continued.
Daniel played a superb game with the French republican infantry. He never has commanded such a force before so his efforts are commended. WR played a typical Austrian attitude, march, dress ranks, march…fire, dress ranks…..and it showed. Even the dice had the Austrian attitude it seemed. Even with the all arms force of infantry, cavalry and a little artillery, WR couldn’t get the right combined arms effort to chase the French quickly down the road.
The next battle of Montenotte (April 12, 1796) will be featured at the HMGS-PSW October Surprise (October 20th) historical miniatures convention in Azusa, CA. If in the Los Angeles area that weekend, stop in and see the WR. Details at: HMGS-PSW.org
Till the battle of Montenotte….cheers from the warren,
* FND is Friday Night Dice, a local broad gaming group who occasionally play miniature games. Complete details at their website link: Friday Night Dice