Last month the monthly napoleonic group’s game was a 1796 scenario set in Northern Italy near Lodi. Not exactly the historical battle of crossing the Lodi bridge but based upon a river crossing theme. Gave WR a good reason to pull out his 1790’s Austrians and some French republican units to take to the tabletop.
Scenario: The Austrians, having been pursued and pressured by the rapid French republican advance across northern Italy, have paused behind the Adda river. Leaving their rearguard and some support infantry along the river edge, the bulk of the Austrian Army of Italy have encamped besides the road from Lodi to Milan. As sunrise lit the morning sky, French battalions, lead by General Massena, were seen advancing towards the river bridge position though Lodi accompanied by French artillery. Calling his weary army to arms, FZM Baron Beaulieu watched as his rear guard engage the initial French efforts near the bridge.
The river was crossable in two locations, along the northern and southern lengths of the actual tabletop river terrain. During the game French scouting cavalry or infantry units just failed to march sufficient distance from Lodi to find the crossing points. Otherwise the scenario allowed up to four French commands (one cavalry and infantry command per each flank) to have crossed the river off table and advance from the northern or southern tabletop edges.
There is a slide show at the end of this post for quick viewing of the scenario game photographs.
Opening positions: As pictured above and below, the Austrian Army of Italy was positioned behind the Adda river with their rearguard and supportive commands protecting the bridge crossing. Behind them the bulk of the Austrian commands were position on or besides the Lodi to Milan road with a river flank guard placed north of the actual road.
Note: Each wooden green block represents either an infantry, cavalry or dummy command before being actually deployed on the tabletop. Actual tabletop deployment is based upon the sighting and nearness of enemy units. Before that moment, the players have scouts (ADC’s) and their senior level commanders available to seek information about the force composition of enemy blocks. The term Commands in our game represent either brigades, divisions or similar sized formations and can greatly vary in size, what they are composed in terms of unit types, and the overall command structure (infantry, cavalry, mixed formations, reserve artillery, HQ command etc).
The French advance guard, with artillery, arrives before the Austrian rearguard lining the river bank. Deploying their artillery, the French start a slow bombardment of the Austrian position and skirmishing chasseurs engage the Austrian grenzers across the river.
As the river bridge position warms to active combat, the arriving French northern flanking force spots a surprise opportunity…. Austrian infantry command still in “strategic march” mode and cavalryman’s wet dream target.
Note: Strategic march mode is a command wide formation status unprepared for combative action but ready for rapid marching with loose ordered ranks. Takes a full stationary movement phase to change from strategic march mode to “battle” mode, with its slower unit “shoulder to shoulder” formations and tabletop movement. Units in strategic march mode can only use column formations and cannot unlimbered artillery. They cannot form square or linear formations and are morale disordered (good order, morale disorder, or rout) for morale purposes.
A French horse battery adds to the action near the bridge.
The Austrian player (Andy) is faced with a terrible choice. He cannot leg it from the French dragoons advancing to charge position as they are too close. He cannot form any squares if he remains in strategic march mode so his only decision is to remain “stationary” for the movement phase and change from strategic march mode to battle mode. Stuck in column formation as the French cavalry prepare to charge.
General view of the opening action with Bob (French northern flank), Andy (Austrian northern flank) and Daniel Austrian CinC.
With Austrian Andy doggedness and some help from the dice gods…. French dragoons charge home, several Austrian infantry battalions rout away, no squares for them but a few key battalions pass their morale rolls and form square in time to repulse the charging French dragoons. Another Austrian infantry command is sucked into early deployment and routing fugitives rout past their positions.
French southern flank forces are spotted by Austrian scouts so their commands face and prepare themselves to receive the approaching French light cavalry.
Note: To represent a command being in battle mode their commanding officer miniature is placed upon the wooden block. Example below shows the Austrian commands in battle mode.
At the bridge, French artillery is repositioned closer to the river bank to bombard the retiring Austrian supportive formations. In the distance, the northern flank action rages on with a French infantry command arriving to support the French dragoons.
Mentioned before, the northern French infantry command (in battle mode) arrives to engage the confused Austrian northern flank. Their arrival allows the French dragoons retire and regroup from their successful charge.
The French main body arrives across the Adda river. Massed French republican infantry await their chance to storm across the bridge and engage the Austrian Kaiserliks. General Bonaparte is seen on far right side of the photo below.
Finally the Austrian northern flank battalions sort themselves out from their near disaster. Linear formations abound with some freicorp skirmisher screens to the front.
Suddenly a French chasseur a’ cheval column, led by an intrepid brigadier, charges across the river bridge, seizing the disordered grenzer 3lb battery. The French are coming….
All quiet on the Austrian southern flank. Deployed to met the cautious French, the Austrian fusiliers, backed by chevauleger support, await orders as the light cavalry screens wheel about before them. Army HQ is set up just behind the town buildings.
Note: Senior commanders like Corp, Army or Nation levels have attached headquarter bases to define the game’s line of communication (LOC) rules. The commander can detach like other officers and join (lead) his troops but only himself can move the personal HQ staff base. Generally the LOC rules go from HQ base directly to nearest road or path, then along that road or path to table edge. Cutting the LOC path causes all units, of that senior command, to suffer 10% morale adjustment. Divisional or lower level commands have no LOC rules unless specifically written for scenario.
Following the brave chasseurs a’ cheval, French infantry near the bridge surge across the bridge led by their sapper companies. General Bonaparte cheers forward his loyal Army of Italy as the French artillery continues their bombardment.
Austrian CinC Daniel seems very calm…. what does he know? Another Austrian infantry command deploys alongside the river rearguard command. Austrian do look smart in their linear formations.
French northern flank infantry try to work themselves behind the open hill Austrian flank. Some Austrian fusilier battalions dispute their advance.
Table level photo showing the fine Austrian fusiliers marching back and forth before the French republican infantry… they seem to enjoy the show. A keen eye Frenchmen would notice the two green blocks behind the Austrian front line formations…. real or dummy? The intelligence isn’t reaching the French senior commanders.
Note: Just because the blocks are nearby, the average regimental or lower officer is too busy to forward scouting information up the chain of command. He knows they are present before him but not the senior commanders. So unless the blocks are in adjacent tabletop “squares” the sighting report is not given. Only senior level commanders or their ADC’s can report or scout beyond the adjacent tabletop square. The tabletop has a 1 foot square “overlay” marked on the actual game boards to regulate block movement, sighting reports and placement of miniatures. See block movement and scouting rules below.
Frenchmen surge across the river bridge as the Austrian artillery tries to stem the French masses. Several of the Austrian batteries become involved in counter-battery fire (markers before the batteries) as the French artillery seeks to engage them in counter-battery work.
Note: Whenever an artillery battery receives a hit from artillery fire (cannon destroyed), a special 6D roll is made to determine if the damaged battery will seek to engage their tormentors (counter-battery fire), remain silent or displace to the rear. This is only temporary for the next artillery firing opportunity then the effect marker is removed. Several hits can cause a battery to engage enemy artillery for several artillery firing phases, remain silent or be forced to retire rearwards.
French republican infantry make their late appearance on the southern flank. Little did either side know the future heavy vineyard fighting which left several infantry commands shattered.
Sharp forward movement bring the southern French infantry against the outlying Austrian units. Firefights rage as a French column seeks to flank the defending Austrian battalion. Regimental cannon fire canister into the nearby enemy ranks.
Note: Regimental artillery (cannon attached to battalions) is marked with an artillerymen miniature typically placed sideways behind the attached battalion. Regimental artillery has no tabletop cannon miniature (unlike a normal artillery battery) and gives adjusted +20% firepower modifier to the battalion’s firepower percentage.
The feeble Austrian counterattack prevented the French infantry from outflanking the Austrian northern flank positions but at a cost of three Austrian fusilier battalions. Austrian cavalry charges then are used to keep the French “occupied”.
Bridgehead established, the French republican infantry seek to push forward towards the villages ahead. Skirmishers trade shots in the vineyard besides the Adda river.
Note: The clear plastic gun angles define the (22.5′ each side of center line) arc of firepower. Also used to define the charge arc of cavalry.
Overall north to south view of the tabletop action. Daniel (Austrian CinC), Rob (French southern flank) and Ty (General Bonaparte at the river bridge) conduct troop movements. Table is 16′ by 6′ in size.
Austrian fusiliers disordered by the French linear line and assaulting column combo. They will soon rout exposing the flank of another fusilier battalion.
Note: Morale disorder is shown by turning one miniature base in opposite direction of the unit’s facing. Routing unit formation are massed, facing away from the enemy, and one or two bases “stacked” to show rout status.
Austrian reserves are deployed. Grenadier infantry command ( 8 battalions) supported by a heavy cavalry (2 regiments) command. Nice move CinC Daniel… keeping the best for last.
Having crossed the Adda river with their converged grenadiers and carabinier battalions, the French at the river bridge turn to advance on the waiting Austrian linear formations. Front formations get the honor to assault the Austrian artillery batteries damaged by the French artillery bombardment.
Finished with clearing the Austrian fusiliers before the vineyard, the French columns crash into the Austrian defense lining the vineyard front. Can you spot the regimental artillery miniature marker behind the linear french formation?
Another overall view of the proceedings. Scenarios designed by WR tend to not be the line up and go forward format but often have flank actions or uneven forces involvement.
Northern flank has degraded into a skirmisher action. Neither side wish to involve themselves in massed infantry formation fighting for the moment. Republican infantry do like to skirmish as shown below with the open order formations (and reduced casualties).
Note: The rules have several open order formation types. Semi-skirmisher (sort of loose order firing line), full skirmisher (trained/paired soldiers out skirmishing), extreme skirmisher (highly trained riflemen…ie English 95th), Germanic 3rd rank, and improvised skirmisher formations. Each has a degree of open rank formation distance and tabletop coverage.
The southern flank is another matter. Massed and linear formation exchange point-blank musketry amidst the vineyard rows. Seeing the French success, CInC Daniel redeploy the Austrian grenadiers to anchor the Austrian southern flank defense and save the line of communication road exit.
Austrian CinC Daniel receives word that the Mantua garrison is throwing a big party next week…. so per the scenario notes the Austrian army is now allowed to retire from the battlefield. With Frenchmen to the front, on both sides and who knows where else, time to retire to another battlefield.
The French side suddenly realize their opponents have a “Mantua party invite” and they weren’t invited. Frenchmen change their outlook on the battlefield and advance on the defended Austrian positions.
Austrian linear infantry either retires from the advancing French republican masses or become the rearguard units besides the central villages.
Sharp Austrian counterattacks sometimes work or end in bloody ruin. In our club games the withdraw game is one of the hardest tabletop maneuvers to perform.
French infantry on the southern flank, with heavy losses, have cleared half the vineyard. The remains of the Austrian infantry command originally defending the vineyard is soon displaced by Austrian grenadier battalions.
Frenchmen… meet Austrian grenadier. After a short and sharp fight, the Austrian grenadiers shatter the remaining French infantry command in the vineyard.
The northern flank is a mixture of individual battalions and cavalry squadrons. Some Austrian battalions are retiring from the battlefield while other show a stern facing frontage.
Hey, WR shows up as the Austrian southern flank commander. Yes, CinC Daniel (aka son), I made the Frenchmen pay dearly for the grape crop. Any guess as to the school which Bob attended?
Austrian grenadiers chase the shattered French republican infantry from the vineyard position as retiring Austrian fusilier battalions march, along the road, behind them.
Seeing their opportunity, the massed Austrian heavy cavalry redeploy to the hill position then turn about to check any timid French advance. Austrian fusiliers continue their retirement off the battlefield.
The French slow their central advance when faced by the massed Austrian cavalry. Orderly withdraw of the Austrian army continues….
The last of the Austrian northern flank disengages from the French. A few more pictures from the Austrian News Service (ANS).
Note: Command loss % markers remind the players of the additional negative morale adjustments when testing commands with 20%, 40%, or 60%+ effective losses. Generally, tabletop commands with 40% or greater effective loss have trouble passing morale tests.
Called a minor Austrian victory per the scenario victory conditions. For a change, the victory determination was done by adding together all the 20%, 40% or 60% command % loss markers as 20, 40 or 60 points respectively. If the Austrian point total exceeded the French total by over 150% ratio then a French victory. If between 101% to 150% ratio, a drawn result. If equal or less than the French points total becomes Austrian victory. The extra % allowance was given for the difficult task of withdrawing before the engaging French army.
WR wishes to thank all who participated in the scenario game and congratulations to Daniel as Austrian CinC. His first game (and win) as a CinC player in our group. Austrian players: Daniel, WR, Andy. The French team was; Ty (General Bonaparte), Bob and Rob. Each month our group meets in Manhattan Beach CA to play a wide range of napoleonic scenarios. Contact WR directly via email or phone number link for information on our next scheduled club meeting. WR contact information
Game scale is 50 yards to the tabletop inch. Miniatures represents 100 infantry or cavalry, in battalions, cavalry regiments or artillery batteries. Napoleonic Game Primer
Additional game and rules, along with a collection of Youtube videos covering the game mechanics, can be found on this blog at: Napoleonic rules, files and videos link
Rules of play for the wooden block system: Block Movement system link
Slide show format of game photos presented above.
Cheers from the warren,