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, 22 December 2018

Battlegames Campaign - Battle of the Steinwasser Bridge 16th May 1809

Background: The main remaining force belonging to Martinstaadt, the country currently being ripped apart by rival French and Austrian invaders, has been advancing from the remaining Martinstaadt mountain stronghold of Kaiserberg towards Iferbrucke...which is a key position and magazine of the invaading Austrians, astride their main supply route from Austria to the capital of the invaded territory, Martinstadt.  Prince Lauda, upon hearing reports of this advance, has ordered his I Korps, comrising of the Grenadier Division and the Reserve (i.e. Cuirassier) Division to attack and defeat the Martinstaadt forces occupying the bridge over the Steinwasser...General Dekker, the Martinstaadt commander, considered withdrawal but considering the relative parity of forces, in numbers if not in quantity, decided that it was worth trying a general action, fearing that a lack of boldness would seal the fate of his country more than almost any action which wasn't obviously suicidal and that if his force, the strongest remaining to his country, was not prepared to engage in battle then none of the other forces would...

The Forces:

Martinstaadtian Forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands:

C-in-C: Gen Dekker (Capable)

1st Division (Gen Driessen – Competent): 5 Tra SK2 Infantry, 2 Trained SK1 Infantry, 5 Raw SK1 Infantry, 2 Trained Light Cav, 2 6lb Fd Arty Btys (16)

Imperial Austro-Hungarian Forces:

Acting C-in-C I Korps: Wallner - Capable

Grenadier Division (Muller - Plodding): 12 Vet SK1 Infantry, 2 12lb Ft Btys, 1 6lb Ft Bty (15)
Reserve Division (Div COS - Capable): 4 Veteran Cuirassiers (4)

The Set-Up:

The bridge over the Steinwasser is the domianting feature.  The Martinstaadt light infantry occupies the forward farms and farmlands, whilst the main road is blocked with a battery of 6lb guns and two small regiments of light cavalry.  The Austrians are approaching from the East (bottom)

Some of the light infantry occupying the enclosures, with Horse and Guns to the rear

The rear Martinstaadt position: another battery of guns covers the bridge, supported by a small infantry brigade, whilst the two remaining brigades of recruits man reserve positions

The Austrians advance with Cuirassiers on the road and a brigade of Grenadiers on each side, with the third brigade of Grenadiers divided equally on each side in support

Another view

And another view; one can just see a further two Austrian Cuirassier regiments preparing to flank the Martinstaadt forward position (top-right)

Because it's Christmas!
 The Battle:
The Austrian Left advances slowly and pushes into the farm... does the second Grenadier Brigade on the other side of the road

Musketry fire echoes around the hedges and many Grenadiers fall...

The divisional commander gets forward to rally his men (centre)

After braving their way through the fire, the second Grenadier Brigade, under the watchful eye of the Korps Commander, Wallner (Left), get to grips with the enemy Light Infantry

At this moment, the Austrian Cuirassiers dig in their spurs and charge the Martinstaadt Horse and Guns!

The Cuirassiers make short work of the light cavalry, which flee for the rear.  Gen Driessen is  seriously wounded in the engagement.

However, the Martinstaadt artillerymen, pouring cannister into the Austrian Cuirassiers, drive them back down the road!

Both sides suffer some losses around the farm, but Austrian bayonets prove more effective than Martinstaadt skirmishers and the latter are bundled back, trying to reform on the far side of the enclosure hedge.

Around the other farm however, the Martinstaadt light infantrymen are holding their own, keeping the Austrian grenadiers back by the ferocity of their fire.

Unfortunately for Martinstaadt, the sight of one routing regiment of light cavalrymen sets off the other regiment too!! The shame...

Three battalions of the light infantry have performed an admirable retire and reform action (top centre-left) to support the artillery commanding the road; the Cuirassiers have tried another assault but been driven back with heavy losses...

The wider position at this time, with the C-in-C reforming his right-hand Grenadier brigade ready to push the opposing light infantrymen back down the road...

But when the Cuirassiers attack again, they cannot stand the artillery fire, now joined with some quite effective musketry and beat a hasty retreat...

...which causes the other Cuirassier brigade, who have barely lost a man, to withdraw also...

...which leads to a retreat across the line, as the infantry's morale collapses seeing themselves deserted by their horsemen!!!!
Game Results: 
A very unlikely result: the Austrian veteran Grenadiers and Cuirassiers held off and defeated by the remaining free Martinstaadt forces!!!!   Prince Lauda will be furious to see his crack troops defeated by "a force of peasants and artisans more than soldiers"...General Prost on the other hand will be in raptures to see the hitherto victorious Austrians discomfited in such away, and will perhaps allow him to seize the initiative and reverse the hitherto unhappy fortunes of this campaign...
A small detail is that the Martinstaadt forces lost more men than the Austrians:  Austrian casualties were about 340 (200 grenadiers and 140 cuirassiers), whilst the Martinstaadt casualties were ever so slightly more, at about 400, evenly divided between horse and foot.  However, General Dekker considered this to be well worth the cost, to show that Martinstaadt would not give up without a fight...

Game Notes:
Generally a pretty good, if quick, game.  The quirky, but not unrealistic, morale rules here delivered a low-cost battle as successive dice rolls led to the demoralization of an Austrian Brigade, then Division, then Korps.  It is not unrealistic, but might not be the best mechanism for a club game.  The morale rules used in the Polemos ECW and SPQR rules are a lot more bloody...but I think these are pretty good.

More annoying is the occasional logic bomb found in the rules.  Movement is halved in an enclosure, and it takes half a move to cross a hedge.  So far, so good.  But a unit cannot move closer than 1BW without attacking.  So, if the defenders set up 1BW from the edge inside the enclosure, does that mean:

a - disregard the rule and in this case the attackers can move to 0.5BW away from the defender and attack in the next move?  This means that musketry fire will be exchanged at close range but
b - play the rule as written and the attackers may attack in column but not in line? 

Option b seems odd, if that is what is intended.  Plus, there are quite a few instances in the rules which say you can't do something, but has rules and modifiers for when that happens anyway, usually as a result of an outcome move or similar; so it is difficult sometimes to be confident.  It has also never really been clear what happens when a unit attacks two units simultaneously. I have picked on these two since they both ocurred in this short game but there are some others. Obviously I have my ways around all this stuff since I have been playing a long time, and I love the basic mechanisms of the rules, but the set could really do with being tightened up.  I am not sure it has ever been popular enough to justify a third edition though.  I am thinking of writing my own private 3rd edition to smooth out all of the little snags and calibrate some things more to my taste.

Rules were Polemos General de Division, figures were from Baccus 6mm, buildings mainly from Leven

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