Last month the monthly napoleonic, French Revolutionary game really, was a bit of a fiasco for the French. The French deployed to engage the Austro-Sardinian forces arrayed against the advance French under General Bonaparte himself. The Austro-Sardinian army, centrally positioned on a large hill, extended their open left flank by occupying some vineyards. The French, seeing the Austro-Sardinian deployment, elected to use their flanking command option and also set up on the Sardinian half of the battlefield. Hoping for an early arrival of the flanking French column and pressure on the Sardinians, the French under General Bonaparte (Bob CinC), along with his Italian campaign generals (Daniel and Ty), sought a “grand bulletin” defeat of the their opponents. French advantages included excellent commanders, almost the entire army could skirmish in some way, and tabletop mobility. Plus they have a flanking column to appear on the Austro-Sardinian flank.
For the Austro-Sardinian under FML Alvinczy (Dave CinC and WR), the plan was simple. Hold the heights, control the central town and support the Sardinian half of the army with the Austrian reserve if needed. With stronger cavalry forces and static positions, the French will have to force the Austro-Sardinians from their positions. GM note: Dave didn’t know about the French flanking ability till their arrival.
As the morning sun rose, the players were told there is fog across the battlefield. Maximum visibility is one square or 12″ on the tabletop. A 6D roll every French turn… if a six rolled, the fog dissipates and the day becomes clear weather for reminder of scenario. French drum beats and silly French singing heard…. the scenario begins.
While the French slowly advanced to control the smaller hill, the Austro-Sardinian mass advance forward to secure the vineyard, central town and forward slope of the larger hill. Contact was quickly made in the foggy weather so the leading commands placed upon the tabletop (adjacent foot tabletop squares).
French firmly controlled the smaller hill as the Sardinians below sorted themselves out in the tangle of vineyard rows. Two French infantry divisions (one slightly larger than the other) and attached mixed cavalry brigade formed the French right flank.
Facing the French the Sardinians deployed both their mixed infantry and cavalry commands. Eleven battalions of infantry and two cavalry regiments in each command. But with limited skirmisher capability, only one light battalion in each command, the Sardinians will need to keep their battalions stationary to allow “improvised skirmisher” deployment.
Note: Improvised skirmishers represent the early tactics of sending out a platoon to fire / drive away the enemy skirmishers then retire back to the formal linear formation. The Sardinian battalion cannot move while using this tactic of deploying a center company miniature, as a rated semi-skirmisher, before the stationary battalion. Apart from being stationary, the battalion must also see an enemy skirmisher miniature within 12″ of the battalion.
Since each Austro-Sardinian regiment had attached regimental artillery, the battalions formed linear firing lines to deploy the attached RA cannon.
Note: Regimental artillery (RA) is marked by a single miniature gunner marker placed behind the battalion. One marker miniature per multiple battalion regiment on the tabletop. Battalions with attached RA marker increase their battalion musketry firepower by 20% base percentage factor. Also the minimum fire zone is increased from 2″ for normal muskets out to 4″ for battalions with RA attached. The RA equipped battalion also can fire out to 8″ using just the RA cannon factor of 20%. Armies using RA have less standard batteries in their organization…. ie the Austrians have no brigade batteries today.
While the Sardinians face the advance French, the Austrians deploy their formal lines and control the forward hill slope… where are the French as the fog persists?
The French roll their “special 6D roll”…. no appearance of the French flanking column. The weather gods favor the Austro-Sardinians as the fog suddenly softly blows away and the morning light shines on both armies.
Note: French flanking column appears on a natural six (6D) rolled after every Austrian movement phase is completed during turns 4-6. On turn 7 to 9, roll 2x6D for any natural six and appearance. On turn 10+ roll three 6D for any natural six. For this battle the French players rolled 12 dice rolls before rolling their required natural six. This normally wouldn’t hurt the French with their skirmishing and mobility on the tabletop…. but the bold Austrians thought otherwise.
Like roaches…. when the light turned on the French battalions suddenly changed out to open order formations….
Dave is still puzzled by the French revealed deployment. All visible French against the Sardinians and only one wooden block hidden in the French vineyard besides their Line of C=communications (LOC) road entrance.
The French try a probe attack… what are these Sardinians made of? A French massed column and supporting linear formation advance on the exposed Sardinian held vineyard corner. The poor Sardinian chasseurs keep up their musketry against the French skirmishers on the hill slope.
French right flank cavalry turns to deploy… they are faced by some Sardinian cavalry but more importantly two Sardinian battalion squares. A brief cavalry action ends with equal honors.
The Sardinians hold their ground and rake the exposed French column with musketry and cannon. Caught and pinned by the steady Sardinian battalion with its RA to its front, the massed French column is flank raked by cannon, including two positional 12lb batteries on the Austrian held hill.
Static skirmisher firing as the tabletop action shifts to the Austrian sector. Still the French CinC Bob is rolling his 6D for his flanking column appearance.
The Austrian CinC Dave… seeing limited Frenchmen before his Austrian commands, orders the two large Austrian command forward. One to pin frontal, the other to flank the French position in the vineyard ahead. The white coats shoulder muskets and advance down the hill slope.
While French and Sardinian stare off amidst the skirmishing musket fire and occasional cannon blasts, the French center looks a bit open.
In true early French style, the French skirmish with the lucky Sardinian chasseurs. French artillery is massed on the hill-top and the Sardinians start to take losses in the vineyard below. The losses from the earlier French column assault have amounted to 20% command loss in one French division command.
Like a grand hinged door, the Austrian flank command marches in towards the waiting French in the vineyard.
The French deploy their last tabletop reserve in the center. A mixed heavy cavalry brigade to plug the open center. Still failing to roll any “six” on their flanking command appearance rolls. Desaix is lost again…..
While the Sardinians hold position, the Austrian flanking advance closes into musketry, the Austrian CinC Dave calls forward the Austrian reserve command. Four battalions of grenadiers, a kuirassier regiment, and the Karabinier regiment in Austrian service. These units deploy behind the Sardinian front lines ready to advance up the hill.
The sound of close range volleys are heard in the Austro-French sector.
General view of the 12×6 tabletop action. French on right, Austro-Sardinians on the left.
After twelve 6D rolls, the number six shows up…. the French flanking command under Desaix suddenly appears behind the Austrian right flank. Two hussar regiments, Legere regiment (3×6), converged elite battalions (3×6), and two artillery batteries. will the arrival of the flanking command turn the battlefield for the French?
Nope… the French right flank, seeing the deployment and advance of the Austrian reserve command, with one French infantry division suffering losses of 30%, slowly back away from the intact Sardinians.
quickly the Austrians turn a portion of their flanking command against the new French arrivals. Hold and contain while keeping the pressure on the French held vineyard.
With the French right flank slowly giving ground, the French center reposition to support the French army retirement. The French in the vineyard, along with the center French cavalry command, while form the French rearguard. their flank command will retire back the way they marched thus the battle sounds diminish.
Interesting action. The long delay for the French flanking command affected how the French played their plan. On the right the ability of the weak Sardinian chasseurs (only two battalions out of 22 present) to screen off the French artillery and skirmishers greatly helped the Sardinian hold their position. If either of those battalions was routed away, by firepower losses or assault, the Sardinian battalions would have been exposed directly to the skirmisher musketry and French artillery on the hill. Sardinian losses would have quickly mounted and forced Austrian assistance (reserve command) to maintain their left flank positions. The French left flank large command, the flanking command and center cavalry brigade could have held the Austrian downslope advance till the Sardinians broke from losses, especially if they were not so dense in deployment. Early period French armies tend to like open loose formations, spread out and thereby force the Austrians to do the same. Then spot the assault opportunities in the spread out Austrian line, pounce quickly with their superior marching and column formation, supported by available French cavalry charges.
The ability for the Sardinians to contain the French right flank while the large and dense French division (in vineyard) was assaulted by two large Austrian commands won the battle in the end since the late arrival of the French flanking command really didn’t affect the Austrian weight of numbers at the key point.
For those interested the scenario notes and rosters (.xls and .doc files): Austro Sardinian 1796 Army, French 1796 Army, French Flanking Scenario and set up notes. In general, the Austro-Sardinians had more cavalry, a few more points (3300 vs. 3000 roughly), some regimental artillery and set up static position. The Austro-Sardinian disadvantage was in their lack of skirmisher battalions, especially in the Sardinians and the requirements for a “firing line tactics” army. The French had almost total skirmishing ability, excellent army and divisional commanders, plus the flanking command option but had fewer points over all, lack of regimental artillery, and the delay arrival for the flanking command option.
French miniatures from the collection of Bob. Austro-Sardinians 1790’s from the collection of WR mainly from the old Foundry French Revolutionary wars 25mm range. Terrain from Bob’s collection except for the town building and vineyards from WR’s collection.
Thank you Bob for hosting the monthly group game and thanks to Ty, Daniel, Dave for acting as commanders in the fields of Italy.
Cheers from the warren