martedì 31 marzo 2020

Austerlitz 1805 - Battle Report

I finally managed to play the Austerlitz 1805 scenario I described here. Lots of proxies and a few map distortions to make it fit the limited space... but it worked!

Set up from the French side

Set up from Davout's entry point (lower left)

Set up from the Bagration (lower left) vs Lannes (lower right) side

The game started in an historical fashion, with Buxhowden's wing racing to the Goldbach while the French main force (with Bernadotte's I Corps and Soult's IV Corps at the front) attacked the enemy center. However, an unique string of die rolls actually allowed the Allied army to coordinate better: I rolled "1" three times in a row for pulse determination, which meant that turns 1-3 only had 1 pulse each! Thanks to this, the French command superiority faced a decent Allied army command, with Buxhowden even activating by initiative once!

In short, Kollowrath and Lichtenstein managed to build a solid defensive line at the top of the Pratzen and check Bernadotte's advance, while Buxhowden pressed its attack. On the Allied right, Bagration actually managed to stop Lannes' advance and even push him back a little.

Kollowrath and Liechtenstein manage to (briefly) check the French advance

However, disaster struck on turn 4, which followed a more traditional pattern (3 impulses played). Bernadotte was able to resist the Austrian Kuirassiers charge, while Soult's IV Corps stormed the top of the Pratzen pushing back Kollowrath's recruits.

Soult gets to the top of the Pratzen, while Kollowrath's
wekeaned recruits try to establish a new line.

Kollowrath tried to re-establish a new defensive line but was wounded. He returned shortly after, but was killed by another bullet, and his replacement decided to launch an ill-fated counterattack, which was easily defeated by the French. Murat's Cuirassiers then charged the weakened Austrian center to seal the victory, while Soult's troops, with the help of Devout, rolled Buxhowden's troops that failed to take Sokolnitz despite repeated attacks. On the Allied left, Bagration was getting the upper hand against Lannes (Walther's cavalry routed and Caffarelli's division was effectively spent), until the French Imperial Guard Cavalry charged the Russian Jagers and routed them in turn, stabilizing the situation.

Murat's cavalry breaking through the Allied center on the Pratzen,
while Kollowrath's command is broken.

Vandamme and St.Hilaire (Soult's IV Corps) rolling the Allied left

When turn 4 ended, Lannes was able to rally Walther's light cavalry, but the Allies were unable to rally any of their routed units due to the French being too close. With 9 units routed, the Allies had to check for Army morale (their Break Point being 5).

Routed allied troops

The Army Morale check was failed (roll of 9 + 4 turns + 4 routed units beyond the Allied break point of 5 = 17) and the Allies routed. The Austro-Russians still held a slight advantage in light cavalry, which prevented a French pursuit, but the French victory was undeniable.

Some post-game thoughts:

  • Balance: the game favors the French, but is not so skewed as to be pointless for the Allies. Some key combats could have easily gone in a different way, and Bagration showed that a reckless French advance can be met successfully. However, the Allies were favored by the first 3 turns lasting only 1 round each, which mitigated their command issues. Still, the game is fun and not easy to win. If playing with a newbie, let him play the French: he will have fun but still face a challenging, stimulating situation.
  • Light Cavalry: the French can dominate but still fail to have enough light cavalry to pursue the fleeing Allies when they break army morale. Therefore the French player has to be careful in when (or if) commit them. The Allies most likely will need to use at least part of their light cavalry, or will be thrashed early. Probably this is part of the scenario balance too.
  • Allied command decisions: the Allies have some very interesting command decisions to take. Using CPs to keep Buxhowden under control is useful to be able to keep forces on the Pratzen, but this costs a lot and might be pointless if a turn lasts for more then 2 pulses (you won't have CPs to sustain it). In addition, having his wing take Sokolnitz quickly may be useful to put additional pressure on the French if they are checked on the Pratzen. Kollowrath and Liechtenstein are, instead, probably the keys to the Allied battle plan: Liechtenstein can either go to an historical position to check the French I Corps advance and still have the powerful Russian Guard in reserve, but this will leave Kollowrath's forces with no reserves. This is what happened in my game: ultimately the French broke Kollowrath, splitting the Allied army in two. Or, if the Allied cavalry remains behind Kollowrath, this will create a powerful center, but Bernadotte's I Corps will have an easier time in flanking the Pratzen, and the Russian Guard will have to enter the fight (it may need CPs to keep Constantine active), with no-one else behind it as a last-ditch reserve. Tough choices.
  • Lannes vs Bagration: yes, it's almost a side battle. I'm wondering if eliminating them will let me expand the rest of the battlefield a bit and make it less crowded. Somehow I'm hesitant, because they were a part of the battle after all, and if one of them wins quickly, it will create new battle dynamics. But eliminating them can be an option, especially if play space is limited.
  • Overall judgement: the game was good and had a great Austerlitz (and Napoleonic) feel! I loved it!

sabato 21 marzo 2020

Custoza and Goito

Last Christmas I received Europa Simulazioni's Custoza: Fields of Doom, a game about the 1848 and 1866 battles during the 1st and 3rd Italian Wars of Independence. Both battles were defeats for the Italians.

Custoza: 1848 introductory scenario

Custoza: 1848 introductory scenario (losses)

In January I also received Goito, a game inside issue 6 of the Parabellum Magazine, which uses the same system but for a smaller battle (roughly 1 Corps vs 1 Corps), which is therefore a good introduction to the system.

Battle of Goito. Austrian attacks repulsed

Battle of Goito: final positions
The system has some unique mechanics (fog of war, command & control) that requires a bit to get used too, but it's not hard to learn and once you get the use of it the game flows smoothly. So far I like it.

domenica 19 gennaio 2020

Battle of Austerlitz 1805 (Scenario)

2019 has been a good year for wargaming, even if I didn’t play or paint as much as I would have liked. Still, since the last update I’ve paint some more Prussian 1813-1815 Dragoons, French Dragoons, Russian infantry and a few others, and I’m currently working on Russian Jagers (from RedBox), Austrian Grenzer (from HaT) and Russian Guard Infantry (from Zvezda).
After playing Saguntum, I decided to work on a bigger battle that would be a bit more interesting. Given my (still) limited unit availability, I chose Austerlitz (more on this later).
Finally, even if miniature wargaming on the Risorgimento is a bit on hold for now, for Christmas I received the excellent Custoza: Fields of Doom from Europa Simulazioni. I’ve played one introductory scenario so far and it looks like a really good game!

Battle of Austerlitz (1805) - Scenario

This is the scenario I'd like to play next with my revised Grande Armee rules. Why Austerlitz? It’s a big but not huge battle with both Russians and Austrians (this helps with miniature painting), an interesting terrain and more challenges than the historical result may lead us to believe.
I based my scenario on the Grande Armee scenario found here. I reduced the scale from 1 unit = 1 brigade to 1 unit = 1 division, more or less. While not all proportions remain equal, I feel the overall strength ratio is maintaned. I’d like to playtest this so I’m going to play it several times.

Some notes on the OoB: SPs represent effectiveness too, and not just manpower. Overall, the French have an advantage in infantry SPs, a very small deficit in cavalry SPs and have 50% less artillery (rest being included into the infantry units SP numbers). Even if manpower-wise this may not be totally correct, I feel the effectiveness ratio is ok. Of course, coupled with the superior command system, this means that it’s likely the French will win again, but I hope it will still provide a fun game. Also, playtesting will be useful exactly to evaluate balance.

Scenario General Info:
1. Basic Length: 7 turns
2. Weather is Normal, with no variation. Ground is Hard.
3. Both armies set up simultaneously, as indicated on the scenario map.
4. Morale of the French Army is Confident. Its Break Point is 7.
5. Morale of the Allied Army is Shaky. Its Break Point is 5.

Battle of Austerlitz opposing armies (source: The Art of Battle)

French Army
Napoleonic Army of 6 Forces
Napoleon (Great)
Break Point = 7 (Confident)
Imperial Guard (G)Bessieres (V) 2/6"
OG/GOld Guard9SP Sk2Guard
GN/GGrenadiers9SP Sk1Elite
GC/GGuard Cavalry8SP HCGuard
A/G6-pdr Horse Arty
I Corps (I)Bernadotte 4/6" Cautious
1/IRivaud7SP Sk2Veterans
2/IDrouet7SP Sk2Veterans
III Corps (III)Davout 1/6"
2/IIIFriant7SP Sk2Veterans
C/IIIBourcier5SP LCTrained
A/III8-pdr Foot Arty
IV Corps (IV)Soult 2/8"
1/IVSt.Hilaire7SP Sk2Veterans
2/IVVandamme7SP Sk2Veterans
1/3/IVLegrand 16SP Sk2Veterans
2/3/IVLegrand 26SP Sk2Veterans
A/IV12-pdr Foot Arty
V Corps (V)Lannes (V) 1/6"
1/VCaffarelli7SP Sk2Veterans
3/VSuchet7SP Sk2Veterans
C/VWalther4SP LCTrained
Cavalry Reserve (CR)Murat (V) 4/6" Aggressive
HC/CRCuirassiers7SP HCVeterans
LC/CRDragoons6SP LCVeterans
A/CR6-pdr Horse Arty
Allied Army
Traditional Army of 5 Forces
Kutusov (Poor/Average)
Break Point = 5 (Skaky)
Buxhowden Left Wing (B)Buxhowden 5/10" Aggressive
AG/BKienmayer6SP Sk2 MXTrained
2/BLangeron7SP Sk1Trained
1A/BAustrian 6-pdr Horse Arty
2A/BRussian 12-pdr Foot Arty
Fourth Column (4)Kollowrath 2/6" Aggressive
A/4Austrian 6-pdr Horse Arty
Fifth Column (5)Liechtenstein (V) 4/4" Aggressive
HC/5Austrian Kuirassiers7SP HCElite
LC/5Russian Light Cav6SP LCVeterans
CK/5Cossacks4SP Sk2Raw
A/5Austrian 6-pdr Horse Arty
Advance Guard (AG)Bagration (V) 2/6"
1/AGRussian Jagers5SP Sk1Trained
2/AGRussian Line6SPTrained
C/AGRussian Light Cav6SP LCVeterans
A/AGRussian 6-pdr Horse Arty
Russian Imperial GuardConstantine 4/3"
I/CRussian Guard Inf9SP Sk1Elite
C/GRussian Guard Cav8SP HCElite
A/GRussian 12-pdr Foot Arty

Special Rules
1. Kutusov quality: Kutusov was the nominal Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Army but the command situation was confused and the presence of Emperor Francis I and Tzar Alexander didn't help. In theory, Kutusov should be rated as "Poor", but in order to make the scenario a bit more balanced, roll 1d6 at the start of each turn. 1-3: command confusion. Kutusov is rated as "Poor" for this turn. 4-6: the Emperors let Kutusov run the battle without interference for a while. Kutusov is rated as "Average" for this turn.

Scenario Options
1. Historical Allied command situation. Rate Kutusov as "Poor" for the whole battle. Keep in mind this will make it even harder for the Allies to win.
2. Better Allied command situation. Rate Kutusov as "Average" for the whole battle. This will help the Allies.
3. Better Allied Morale. Rate the morale of the Allied Army as "Fair". Its Break Point becomes 6. This will help the Allies.
4. Davout is late. Do not set up Davout's force on the board. At the end of Turn 1, roll a die. On a 4+, Davout enters on the first pulse of the next turn. Add 1 to the die roll at the end of each turn until he arrives. This will help the Allies.
5. No Lannes and Bagration. Lannes and Bagration faced each other for most of the battle and effectively cancelled each other. This will be a likely result most of the times, even if there's a slight chance that one of them will overpower the other soon enough to then turn towards the rest of the battle. As an option, players wishing to use less units or needing a more limited play space can eliminate both Lannes' and Bagration's commands and reduce the terrain accordingly. If this option is chosen, French Army BP becomes 6, Allied Army BP becomes 4. 

Battle report
See this post for a battle report of the scenario and some post-battle considerations.

mercoledì 23 ottobre 2019

Battle of Saguntum (Battle Report)

I've played the Battle of Saguntum scenario. At first the battle unfolded on mostly historical lines: Zayas' Expeditionary Corps advanced towards the French Left Wing, while O'Donnell's Valencians and Mahy's Murcians proceeded to attack the hills defended by the enemy Right Wing. However, it remained effectively two distinct fights, with little influence on each other.

Spanish point of view (Zayas)

Spanish point of view (O'Donnell, Mahy is on the left)

French positions (Right Wing)
Overview of deployment

On the Spanish left (O'Donnel and Mahy), problems with command control led the two sides to close fast, but the Spanish couldn't coordinate properly. They did some damage with the horse guns, but the French skirmishers made short work of the Murcians. The Valencians had some more success when Miranda's division forced the Poles back and briefly gained the top of the hills, but both sides ended up weakened and still facing each other. Once Robert's brigade had eliminated the Murcian infantry alone, it moved to hit the Valencians on the flank, sealing their fate.

Attack by O'Donnell (right) and Mahy (left)
on French positions

Villacampa attacks the French positions, but will be repulsed

On the Spanish right (Zayas), at first Loy's cavalry had the upper hand against the French Dragoons, as historically, but were then routed by the Cuirassiers. These too routed when hit by Spanish artillery, but it was the Spanish veterans that definitely underperformed (compared to historical results). Lardizabal troops faced both Harispe and the Italian infantry and were unable to advance much, while Zayas' division took the worst from Habert's troops. The Spanish first suffered the enemy skirmish fire, then they were counterattacked by the fierce French who scored 6 hits out of 9 dice rolled, while the Spanish only scored 1. They Spanish "veterans" were routed and failed to rally at the end of the turn (it was turn 3). Hebert then attacked a Spanish horse battery and routed it too. At the end of turn 3, with 5 units routed and not rallied (Zayas' division, Villacampa's Valencians, all the Murcians and one other artillery), I halted the battle as it was getting late.

Loy's cavalry routs the French Dragoons...

...but is then routed by French Cuirassiers, who then
face the Spanish artillery while Lardizabal's division attacks

Lardizabal and Villacampa are repulsed (the latter will be
routed shortly after), but Miranda presses the Poles.

I have to say I wasn't impressed with the scenario at first. I knew it was hard for the Spanish, but play balance wasn't the real issue: the battle saw little maneuver, also because of terrain and restrictions to cavalry. Still, it has some interesting challenges: the Spanish player has some interesting decisions to make: it has few CPs and using them on Zayas and O'Donnell looks like the best choice (they are his best troops), but Mahy's Murcians are really weak and due to Mahy's Aggressive status they tend to charge the enemy anyway, which makes them even more vulnerable. They should be kept behind, but this requires using lots of CPs on them and making O'Donnel (in particular) more prone to not activate as desired. This time, the Spanish mitigated this with several good initiative rolls, but it also led to some stops in the advance which favored the hard-pressed French.

For the French, quality is superior but a fresh Spanish division is still hard to face, so it needs to weaken them with skirmish fire at first, and the evaluate when to counterattack. Deciding where and when to commit his reserves (which are very few, mainly the Italian infantry brigade on the Left Wing) could be relevant, also because it risks having his forces effectively isolated from each other. Options are limited however.

Not sure I'll play this scenario again due to the general lack of options for maneuvering, but at least it was useful to test the rules again, which was positive.

venerdì 6 settembre 2019

Battle of Saguntum (scenario)

For my next battle using the Grande Armee rules I chose Saguntum, again taken from here. I wanted to try the rules again, and add the rally rules in. I'll also switch and test FPGA-style skirmish fire, with both sides rolling a die and adding the Sk factor. Whoever has the higher results inflicts 1 SP loss to the other. If result is a draw, nothing happens. If one side is beyond range (like Sk1 engaged at Sk2 range) or has Sk0, it will not inflict SP losses on the opposing unit even if it rolls higher.

This time I needed very few modifications to the existing scenario. Under my rules modifications, I thought that Loy's cavalry (for the Spanish) couldn't really attack if it had only 1SP as in the scenario, so I merged both cavalry units in Zayas' command as a single 3SP Trained cavalry unit, which would also make them behave more historically anyway.

The Battle of Saguntum in 1811 was a small but important clash between Suchet's forces (which were besieging Saguntum) and Blake's relieving forces. Blake was defeated and the town surrendered soon after.

Scenario general info:
1. Basic Length: 6 turns.
2. Weather is Normal (with no variation). Ground is Hard.
3. See original scenario for terrain effects: Streams count as obstacles. Horse may not enter the Carob groves which are all land to the NE of the streams between the Expeditionary Corps and the French except for a 3" area along the Valencia- Saguntum road. Horse may not enter any upland area.
4. Both armies set up simultaneously, as indicated on the scenario map.
5. Morale of the French Army is Confident. Its Break Point is 3.
6. Morale of the Spanish Army is Shaky. Its Break Point is 4.

Scenario map:

French Army
Army Commander: Marshal Suchet (Good)
This is a Napoleonic Army of 2 Forces

Left Wing (L): Suchet 1 / 12"
1/L Hebert's Brigade                    Trained   9SP   Sk2
2/L Harispe's Division                 Veteran   9SP   Sk2
3/L St.Paul's Italian Brigade        Trained   6SP   Sk2
1C/L Cuirassiers                          Veteran   3SP
2C/L Dragoons                            Trained   2SP

Right Wing (R): Chlopiski (V) 1 / 12"
1/R Poles                                     Elite        6SP   Sk2
2/R Robert's Brigade                   Trained   8SP   Sk2
C/R Italian Horse                         Veteran   2SP

Spanish Army
Army Commander: Blake (Average)
This is a Traditional Army of 3 Forces

Expeditionary Corps (E): Zayas (V) 2 / 9" Aggressive
1/E Zayas' Division                      Veteran   8SP   Sk1
2/E Lardizabal's Division             Veteran   7SP   Sk1
3/E Velasco's Valencians             Raw        5SP
C/E Loy's and Caro's Cavalry      Trained   3SP
1A/E 4-pdr Horse Arty
2A/E 4-pdr Horse Arty

Valencian Corps (V): O'Donnell 3 / 5" Aggressive
1/V Miranda's Division                 Raw        6SP
2/V Villacampa's Division             Raw        6SP
3/V Obispo's Division                   Raw        6SP
C/VSan Juan's Horse                   Raw        4SP
A/V 4-pdr Horse Arty

Murcian Corps (M): Mahy 4 / 3" Aggressive
1/M Creach's Brigade                   Raw       3SP
2/M Montijo's Brigade                   Raw       4SP
A/M 4-pdr Horse Arty

This isn't an easy battle for the Spanish to win. Only a few units are veterans and reliable, while the rest is of low or very low quality, with their Raw quality meaning they are unlikely to recover once routed. They also have a difficult command situation, even if the "Aggressive" status of their Sub-Commanders (which in this battle means they are prone to follow their attack battle plan) helps move them forward even in face of few CPs. Suchet instead will have little or no problem in controlling his higher quality forces.

Cavalry is very limited in numbers and strength for both sides. Yet its ability to interdict skirmishers (especially for the Spanish versus the French), threaten infantry flanks and face opposing cavalry trying to do the same may prove vital for both sides. In the end, this is a fairly small scenario that lends itself well to being used for introducing new players (in this case, just let them use the French!).