Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Saturday 30 May 2015

Miniature Wargames Scenario AAR: Battle of the River Piave 08 May 1809

Issue 383 of Miniature Wargames magazine features Steve Jones' amazing 6mm French and Austrians on the front cover and he has a scenario inside to get them on the table, based on the Battle of the River Piave fought between the French Army of Italy under Napoleon's stepson Eugene and an Austrian Army under the Austrian Emperor's brother, the Archduke John.  I too am the proud owner of French and Austrian Baccus 6mm Napoleonic armies - even if they are nowhere near as pretty as Steve's little gems! - and so after the success of my last game using one of Steve's scenarios (Teugn-Hausen) I decided to give this one a go too.

Taking the forces described by Steve, this ended up as the following order of battle for the Polemos Marechal d'Empire which I used for the refight:

The Austrian Army:

C-in-C Archduke John (Plodding)

Rearguard: Frimont (Plodding)
1 x Trained SK0, 1 x Raw SK2, 2 x Veteran Lt Cav, 1 x Horse Artillery

VIII Korps: A Gyulai (Plodding)
3 x Trained SK0, 1 x Raw SK2, 1 x Veteran Lt Cav, 1 x Foot Artillery

IX Korps: I Gyulai (Plodding)
3 x Trained SK0, 2 x Raw SK2, 1 x Veteran/Elite SK0, 1 x Veteran Dragoons, 1 x Foot Artillery, 1 x Horse Artillery

The Franco-Italian Army:

C-in-C Eugene (Plodding)

Advance Guard: 2 x Veteran SK2, 1 x Trained Light Cavalry

The Right Wing: McDonald (Capable)
1 x Veteran SK1, 5 x Trained SK1, 2 x Foot Artillery

The Centre: Grenier (Capable)
2 x Veteran SK1, 4 x Trained SK1, 1 x Foot Artillery

The Left Wing: D'Hilliers (Capable)
3 x Trained SK1

The Reserve: Serras (Capable)
3 x Trained SK1, 1 x Trained/Elite SK1, 1 x Trained/Elite Dragoons, 1 x Foot Artillery

Sahuc's Light Cavalry Division: 3 x Trained Light Cavalry

Grouchy's Dragoon Division: 3 x Veteran Dragoons


The game starts with the French advance guard having just crossed the river, opposed by the Austrian rear guard deployed along the line of the Piavesella stream.

And the battlefield in its entirety at the beginning of the game.
Eugene's First Triumph and Austrian Glory

Eugene leads his advance guard in person against the Austrian infantry and artillery holding the village and bridge of Campana led by the Archduke John in person.  Frimont has led one of the Austrian hussar units and destroyed the French advance guard light cavalry in short order!

Same position but wider shot: note the French reinforcements at the bottom and the Austrian reinforcement at the top left and centre.

Eugene, at the head of his Voltigeurs, clears the village and the Austrian artillery only just escapes being overrun!  More crucially however, the Archduke John is slightly wounded and this throws the entire Austrian command into confusion, as (unfounded) rumours of his death create paralysis amongst his subordinates!!  Sahuc's cavalry arrive in the nick of time to just manage to push Frimont's Hussars back.
Reinforcements Enter the Battle

Whilst the Austrian commanders are paralyzed, further French reinforcements pile onto the board tothe left and centre...

...and on the right, Grouchy's Dragoons have already crossed the Piave ahead of Grenier's corps.

A French Attack Fails

Serras' Corps on the left tried to take the river crossing at Barco (the crossing of the stream on the left), but the Grenzers defending it not only replused the French assualt, but counter-charged and routed the leading French regiment!  Serras has hurriedly brought up the infantry and cavalry of the Italian Guard to restore the situation.
 The Main Assault

Having prepared his units, Eugene advances over the stream, supported by two cavalry divisions.  IX Korps is finally ready to get moving (notice the pile of blue tempo (i.e. activity) points).

Frimont's rear guard is spent, as McDonald defeats the Austian Hussars.  The grenzers to the left pull back, leaving the Barco crossing uncovered.  McDonald's leading brigade can be seen to the left, just crossing the stream.

Eugene leads the advance guard again, and he again is victorious, defeating the opposing Austrian infantry: however, is horse is killed in the fighting and this gives the Austrians a brief respite.  Austrian cavalry supported by artillery has reached the stream in the centre of the picture and Grouchy declines to cross.  Note the approach of Grenier's infantry toward the Austrian flank at the top right.

The Destruction of IX Korps

Austrian infantry from VIII Korps rushes to stabilize the situation on the left.

The combined attack of Eugene's advanced guard and Grenier's brigades hitting the IX Korps flank rout it: the infantry escape off the top edge of the table, the cavalry and the horse artillery by the stream attempt to escape the French by rushing towards the top right (they fail and are taken prisoner by more of Grenier's infantry).  Surprisingly, the Austrian Army morale doesn't collapse.
 All is lost, except glory...

In a desperate attempt to retrieve the situation, A. Gyulai leads his cavalry personally into combat, charging Sahuc's division at odds of 3:1 against...but the superior skills of the Austrian cavalrymen defy these odds and break Sahuc's leading brigade (seen crossing the river in the centre of the shot) and severly shaking his other two brigades (red shaken marker adjacent).  Sahuc's Division's morale collapsed at this point and they moved towards the rear.  Gyulai's troopers are reforming just above the bridge at Campana.

And the last Austrian formation - VIII Korps - is routed, with its last two brigades hanging on in the top left corner.
A closer shot.  Fittingly, D'Hilliers Italian infantry deliver the coup de grace to finish of both the Austrian VIII Korps and the battle to conclude a very comprehensive Franco-Italian victory.
Game Comments:

Two factors - slightly better French infantry troop quality and much better subordinate commanders made all the difference in this game.  The early injury to the Archduke John was a key moment in the game:  the French reinforcements were able to steal 2 turns' (40 minutes) march on the Austrian VIII and IX Korps, who remained paralyzed on the Austrian baseline until Archduke John had recovered and then issued new orders.  The contrast couldn't have been greater with the French when Eugene was injured in the middle of the battle: the French Corps commanders could maintain enough activity to keep on going.  In game terms, 'plodding' commanders - in this case, all four Austrian generals - do not generate any 'tempo' (i.e. activity points) of their own, but the 'capable' French subordinate commanders all do.  It only takes a single point to maintain an advance, so each French Corps commander was able to sustain his main effort for the crucial 20 minutes when Eugene was hors d'combat.  The French pressure meant that the Austrians were never really able to get their artillery or cavalry in the battle too much: on the couple of occassions when the Austrians were able to get their better sabres in contact with the inferior French light cavalry, the results were devastating.

This battle also showed again how important aggression is in the Polemos MdE rules.  Attackers get a +1 bonus in most circumstances, which is equivalent to 'Veteran' or 'Elite' status by itself. They get another +1 if led by a general, so you can stack up +2 on an opposed d6 die roll just by attacking with a general accompanying (the defender cannot nullify this by having a general attached to the defending unit, but the phased combat system in MdE might allow the defender to use him when counterattacking).

In all, another thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing game, reflecting great credit on the scenario and the rules!