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.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Battle of Altdorf: A Polemos General de Division AAR

The Battle of Altdorf* is the first scenario in Michael Hopper's scenario book Eagles Over Bavaria covering the first period of fighting in the Danube Valley in the 1809 campaign.

(*yes GW fans, really!)

This clash features advancing Austrians opposed by a Bavarian force which is attempting to resist, or at least slow, the advance of Archduke Charles' army into that country.  The Austrians are pressing forward on the line of march, and so will arrive somewhat piecemeal.  The Bavarians are deployed in some depth, which is why some of their elements arrive as reinforcements: if I were playing with a larger table, I could have included both the Bavarian 2nd Brigade and Radetzky's forces on the board from the beginning, but I have re-jigged things from the published scenario to fit a 5'x3' table.

The Forces:

As ever, I convert the order of battle given in the rules for use in my favoured ruleset, Polemos General de Division.  The scenario gives details of individual units and numbers but Polemos uses a broader brush, ending up with the following:

The Bavarians:

C-in-C: Deroy (Capable) commanding 3rd (Bavarian) Division of VII Corps
1st Brigade:  1 (2) base Trained SK2 infantry, 4 (6) bases Trained SK1 infantry, 2 bases 8lb Foot Artillery

2nd Brigade: 1 (1) base Trained SK2 infantry, 3 (6) bases Trained SK1 infantry (arrives beginning of Turn 3)
Seydewitz' Brigade: 1 (2) base Trained Dragoons, 1 (2) base Trained Light Cavalry
Preysing's Brigade: 2 (4) bases Trained Light Cavalry (arrives beginning of Turn 12)

The Austrians:

C-in-C: Archduke Charles (Decisive)*

Advance Guard/V Korps: Radetzky (Decisive)
2 (5) bases Trained SK2 infantry***, 1 (2) base Trained Lancers, 1 (2) base Trained Light Cavalry, 1 base 3lb Horse Artillery (arrives on Turn 1)

1st Division/V Korps: Lindenau (Capable)**
Hessen-Homburg's Brigade: 7 (11) bases Trained SK1 infantry**** (arrives beginning of Turn 7)
Mayer's Brigade: 5 (10) bases Trained SK1 infantry (arrives beginning of Turn 6)
Cavalry Reinforcements: 2 (4) bases Trained Lancers (arrives beginning of Turn 12, become part of Radetzky's command)

*The Archduke was supervising the advance of the whole army and could easily be left off the table, or, as I did in my refight, be confined to the Austrian table edge.
** Players could roll for his skill, according to the relevant charts in the Polemos Napoleonic Companion.
*** The Polemos author, Chris Grice, normally gives Grenzers a 'Raw' status rather than 'Trained'
**** Those players with a lesser opinion of Austrian capabilities could rate the infantry as SK0 instead.

n.b. The average size of battalions is very large in this game.  Players wishing to use larger forces could easily use the force sizes given in brackets instead.

The flat terrain in front of the hills and the town is marshy.  It does not affect infantry or cavalry, but guns must move on the road.

The Set-Up:
The town of Altdorf is situated in a little valley

And is defended by the infantry of the leading Bavarian brigade

The initial Bavarian position covers the town and the high ground, but there is plenty of space to manoeuvre in between.
The Battle:
Radetzky advances up the road

A wiser perspective: the Austrians are advancing (bottom), the Bavarians defending (centre and right); the eagle-eyed may notice the Archduke Charles blending into the background as he watches on (bottom-right)...

The second Bavarian infantry brigade arrives to reinforce the position

Radetzky deploys his Advance Guard at the foot of the hill, ready to attack

Another view

Radetzky's attack goes in!  Or at least, his cavalry goes in. His Grenzers seem strangely reluctant to follow suit...

The Austrian main body begins to arrive

Bavarian Dragoons (given the advantage of the high ground) prove more than a match for Austrian lancers!  The Austrian cavalrymen recoil...

The Bavarian Light Horse charges to try and join in the fun, but although a bit shaky, a fine volley by the frontier fighters sends the Bavarians straight back up the slope

The Bavarian Dragoons prove unstoppable however and the Austrian Lancers are routed and the Horse Artillery overrun!

Lindenau is bringing up his leading brigade to restore the situation (bottom-left) whilst watching thr disheartening sight of their cavalry fleeing at the gallop (bottom-right)!

A closer look at the fleeing Uhlans

Realizing that success has brought its own dangers, Seydewitz orders a charge before being trapped...

Again the Austrian infantry becomes shaken...

But still delivers a very fine volley or two to bring the Bavarians to a halt.  A bayonet charge pushes them back...

A combination of casualties and seeing their comrades trapped leads the Bavarian Light Horse to withdraw from the field.  However, their infantry supports are just coming into line...

Whilst the surviving Bavarian Dragoon surrender after a very exciting 30 minutes or so of action!

Meanwhile the remaining Austrian infantry advances over the marshy ground towards the other side of the town...

But accurate gunnery from the Bavarian artillerymen by the side of the town delays the attack!

Artillery supported by infantry defending buildings can feel confident in their position against direct frontal assaults...

Meanwhile, Radetzky and Lindenau slowly get their men in line for another attack, whilst the Bavarians occupy the ground vacated by the defeated cavalry...

The Austrians on the left still struggling to advance through the roundshot...

The Austrians realize they are not going to take this at a rush: Hessen-Homburg's brigade deploys.  That still doesn't stop the Bavarian gunners from halting the advance of the left-hand units...

Austrian cavalry reinforcements rush forward

Unfortunately too late: Radetzky's and Lindenau's combined assault on the hill has been firmly repulsed by the Bavarian foot, with heavy losses incurred: only on the left of the Austrian attack was any appreciable damage done to the defenders

Unfortunately, after a short further exhange of fire, Radetzky's troops feel they have suffered enough and run, or gallop, for the rear

Radetzky's command in flight

Which, unluckily for the Austrians induces a panic in the main infantry formations too!

Seeing the demoralization on the other flank, the remaining Austrian formation turns about and marches to its rear...
Game Notes:

A decent game, very typical of a Polemos General de Division small action.  Intense periods of combat and some very decisive morale successes and failures determine the result, in between times when most effort is spent manoeuvring and organizing attacks.  The end result was a Polemos classic: a brigade broke, which led to a two-brigade division becoming spent, which led to the whole force becoming demoralized.  Odds-wise, the first event was roughly a 66% chance, the next step was a certainty (two-brigade divisions automatically become spent when one of them is defeated), and the last step was a 33% chance.  So, it wasn't a 'likely' result that the game would end there, but it was a distinct possibility, which doesn't seem unfair.  There is thus an interesting trade off within divisions, larger brigades are more robust, but the division itself is not.
The importance of the Bavarian artillery fire should not be under-estimated.  This prevented the Austrians from launching a quick simultaneous attack in two different locations at once, which can be quite nasty in Polemos, since it is hard for the commander to effectively support combats in two different places in the same time.  However, the Austrians also knew that if the Bavarian infantry was able to reach the Bavarian cavalry before the latter was defeated, they would really struggle to ever get up that hill.  So despite the Austrians being defeated, it must be put down more to the fortunes of war than poor tactics.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings mainly by Leven, others from Timecast.

The game was another good reflection on one of Michael Hopper's scenarios, since he has unearthed many smaller actions which have never been covered in any of the magazines or other books, as far as I know, and giving a good opportunity to get my Bavarians onto the table.  It has even inspired me to order a few more reinforcments from Peter at Baccus...

The Eagles over Bavaria scenario book can be obtained direct from the author by email: 

Please click this for another gamer's take on the book


  1. Austrian Inf should be classed as SK(0) as they have no organic skirmishing company and very few individuals trained to act as such if so required.

    Agree with treating Grenz as trained - but I give them a shooting penalty of -1 as they weren't good at volley fire as this wasn't what they were trained to do.

    1. Thanks very much for that Steve. A lot will depend in this regard on whether one thinks that the third rank which was supposed to provide the skirmish screen could actually do it or not.
      More broadly, I have never been totally convinced by the way skirmishers are incorporated in Polemos, although I could replace 'Polemos' with nearly all the rulesets I know of and would think the same.

  2. Looks very nice, interesting scale to play with...and beautiful buildings!

  3. Thanks Phil, appreciate it. One of the projects for next year is to beautify the terrain, in particular the urban areas.