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, 9 February 2019

Battlegames Campaign - Battle of Steinwasserberg

The Battle of Steinwasserberg:

After a period of manoeuvring after the last couple of battles, the majority of the French forces were still in position south of Martinstaadt, which was occupied in its turn by the main Austrian army.  Several diversionary moves had taken place around Iferbrucke to the North and more importantly, Osace to the South-East.  General Prost, realizing that a third direct attack was no more likely to succeed than his previous attempts, therefore detached one of his divisions to threaten Osace and subsequently Jesseldorf, as part of his new strategy of containing the Austrians around Martinstaadt, relying on the Martinstadtian forces to help him by masking Iferbrucke.  However, this subtly changed the odds in the Steinwasser valley: would Prince Lauda feel that a successful attack was a possibility?  Seizing the initiative, he detached half of his Grenadier Division to hold off the Martinstadters around Iferbrucke, and brought the remainder of his Reserve Korps to reinforce his main army, then launched his attack on the French who were defending a position around 30km south off the capital...

Gen Prost accepted battle without too much reluctance, hoping that a successful defensive battle might change the fortunes of a campaign which was beginning to seem hopeless for the French.  And so the die was cast...

The Strategic Situation on 21st May 1809:
(arrows show broad movements over last week)

The Forces:

The Imperial Austro-Hungarian Army:
C-in-C: Prince Lauda (Decisive)
1st Division: 4 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1
2nd Division: 3 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2
3rd Division: 3 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2*
Dragoon Division: 1 brigade of Trained Dragoons
Heavy Cavalry Brigade: 1 brigade of Trained Heavy Cavalry*
Grenadier Division: 2 brigades of Veteran Infantry SK1
Reserve Division: 1 brigade of Veteran Cuirassiers
Light Cavalry Brigade: 1 brigade of Trained Light Cavalry
Artillery: 1 base of Foot Arty, 1 base of Heavy Arty

The Imperial French Army:
C-in-C: General Prost (Decisive)
1st Division: 4 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2
2nd Division: 3 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2
Gd Cavalry Brigade: 1 brigade of Veteran/Elite Heavy Cavalry
Dragoon Division: 1 brigade of Trained Dragoons
Guard Division: 2 brigades of Veteran/Elite Infantry SK1, 2 brigades of Trained/Elite Infantry SK1
Artillery: 1 base of Foot Arty, 1 base of Heavy Arty, 1 base of Horse Arty

*indicates the presence of a brigade of allied Martinstadt troops.

The Set-Up:

The Austrian Left of two infantry divisions, supported by two cavalry brigades (bottom) faces the French divisions deployed on the hill (top) and in the farmland (top-left)

A third Austrian infantry division, the Austrian Grenadiers, and a further two cavalry brigades on the Right, facing two brigades of Young Guardsmen, with the remainder of the Guard troops in the rear (top)

A comprehensive shot

A closer view of the two French infantry divisions, with a brigade of Dragoons in the rear (top)

A closer look at the Young Guard brigades defending the farmland on the French Left.

A view along the Austrian line from Left (bottom) to Right (top)

Austrian infantry massed

The Austrian Grenadiers, supported by artillery, on the road
The Battle:
The Austrians begin to organize their advance (note the couriers and officers around the various formations - bottom)

The Austrians send a light cavalry brigade on a long flanking manoeuvre (top-right)!

The Austrians on the left indicate that they will make their point of attack the hill rather than the farms adjacent to the river by bringing in their left-hand division in slightly to support the attack on the hill; meanwhile Prince Lauda concentrates an infantry division and his Greandiers ready to assault the Young Guard (centre-right).

In goes the attack, with Prince Lauda at its head (left) - can Austrian numbers overcome French skill and the defensive terrain?

Another view

The Austrians triumph!  The Grenadiers and musketeers rout the Young Guardsmen and overrun their supporting artillery in after a stiff fight and take control of the farm.  However the Austrians have taken severe casualties and will need to spend some time re-organizing before resuming any forward movement.

The morale of the entire Guard Infantry has collapsed though and they march for the rear!  The French Left has been crushed early on...

The second phase of Prince Lauda's plan: a massed assault on the Steinwasserberg...

The Austrians push deep into the French centre, but hold on the flanks...

Although the French artillery was overrun and some brigades were pushed back, a French Legere Bde has routed some of the Austrian attackers (bottom)

Overall, a narrow French victory: they hold the crest of the hill and are still disputing some of the forward slopes

However, Prost is still facing an appalling situation on his left: he leads the Horse Grenadiers into action to try and drive the Austrians back before they regain their poise...

The Austrian Grenadiers push their Horse-riding opponents back

The nicely-timed flank attack by the Austrian Light Cavalry goes in onto the French artillery

...which is quickly overrun

The French Guard Cavalry is pushed back up the hill to reform

Prost again leads the Horse Grenadiers into the charge...

The Horse Grenadiers rout the Light Cavalry in short order, but Prost is seriously wounded at his moment of triumph!  He is carried from the field...

Prince Lauda has got his infantry into action again

And launches another attack onto the hill, this time supported by the Grenadiers (right)

A wider shot; note that the remaining Austrian infantry division is still sorting itself out (bottom)

These French units are victorious, routing their Austrian opponents (centre-left)

However the remainder of the Austrian attack has carried the French position and routed the French defenders

One of the Austrian divisions has been broken and is streaming down the hill...

But the French army's morale has collapsed with the collapse of its centre...

The Imperial Guard cavalry is riding hard for the rear too

The position at the end of the battle: with the French Left and Centre destroyed, only its Right is intact but must hastily withdraw to avoid being crushed...and with unused Austrian cavalry in reserve, their retreat will be perilous indeed...
Game Results:
A decisive battle, and one which summed up the French campaign: some moments of success, but the Austrians just seem to  have the Gods of War on their side.  The 'hidden' part of the game, the tempo, was firmly in the hands of Prince Lauda: he always had the initiative and the French could never organize decisive moves to counter his attacks in time.   The French losses were grisly: c.3700 infantry and 900 cavalry, plus all 50 guns.  The Austrians losses were around 2400 infantry, plus 600 cavalry.  Worse perhaps was the demoralization, as French troops began to surrender on the wayside to the pursuing Austrian Dragoons...

Game Notes:
A good game, although I don't seem to be able to buy a win for the French in this campaign!  I had a choice of whether to play this with General de Division (a base is a battalion) or Marechal de l'Empire (a base is a small brigade/large regiment).  I have plenty of troops to do the former, but I am beignning to prefer slightly smaller games for their own sake, so I decided upon the latter.  I don't think there are any real points to cover with the rules in terms of problems.  One interesting point is how much time everything takes in this ruleset: setting up a divisional attack (or Corps) takes about an hour, so this game took a notional 4-and-a-half hours or something - which feels about right, maybe.  In some ways, because of the abstraction level, it plays a little more smoothly than General de Division at the expense of those little moments of diverting detail.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Leven, rules from the Polemos series.

Realistically, the campaign is at an end.  With their main army in rout, their General severely wounded and the main objectives in Austrian hands, it seems unwinnable and Gen Prost must sue for a ceasefire to allow his retreat. It has been quite good fun, if somewhat one-sided!  I will be writing another blogpost shortly, to tie it all together.

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