Sunday, February 5, 2017

Shako II 1809 Battle & Thoughts

Ken hosted a Napoleonic battle from the Austrian 1809 campaign using Shako II rules and his magnificent Austrian and French 15mm miniatures.  Dave and I played with Dave playing the French and I played the Austrians.  Ken acted as referee and tactical adviser to both sides.  This was the first time Ken or Dave had played Shako, and if I'm honest, the first time I had played a "proper" game of Shako using the Command and Control rules (deployment areas,maps, and formal orders).

We each played with secret orders from our higher headquarters, drew our orders on our maps, and set out for glory!  Each of us commands a small Corps.

I will intersperse my thoughts on Shako II throughout the post.
Austrian Divisions moving into position

Part of the mighty French host advancing into their positions
 First after viewing these masses of troops, a word on span of control.  At no point during the battle, did Dave or myself feel overwhelmed by the amount of troops we were commanding.  This is impressive when you consider there were about 20 to 25 battalions on a side along with accompanying cavalry and artillery.  In fact I think we could have easily handled another division in hindsight.  Remember too that neither Dave nor myself had played a "proper" game of Shako before, and while we may have made some errors, we learned quickly and our 2 Divisions and supporting arms were comfortable even given our level of experience.

French troops moving up to the battle!  "Marches are war" - Napoleon

Dave's right infantry divisions

Austrians moving up to their initial objective
 A word on Command and Control - I have to say that Shako's Command and Control mechanism (orders, drawing the plan on the map, orders changes) probably evokes Napoleonic operational battle planning better than any Napoleonic game I have ever played. You don't always know the enemy's objectives or his designs, and all your planning is, at some point, under some kind of duress to be changed.

You also come to regret your mistakes in the initial planning.  It's a lovely system, and forces you to visualize the battlefield as a whole in terms of the choices and decisions you will need to

Austrians and lots of them!

Austrian cavalry in reserve bottom left - my signature trademark!

David's cavalry in a sweeping end run - Dave would try to use his Cavalry as a shock force and a battering ram.  By purest conicidence, I had my elite Grenadiers on my left flank (admittedly this was not by design).

How not to stop a cavalry charge...

My Grenadiers form a hasty square and Dave's Cavalry get the worst of it - but they'll be back!
 The combat in Shako is slick, easy, and effective, with players attempting to gain a series of modifiers to put them into more advantageous position over the other player.  The players also use their morale rating and add it to the die roll as well.

meanwhile on the Austrian right, French columns are pouring over the hill in front of the town.

Dave's line shakes out in front of the Austrian right

MORE French infantry enroute to the battlefield

French Grand Battery doing its deadly work.  Artillery is powerful in Shako, but appropriately so.  It's not overpowering, nor is it underrepresented.

Dramatic pictures like this are part of what makes  me love wargaming so much!
 In Shako, the look and "feel" of the battlefield is completely appropriate from what these pictures have hopefully conveyed.  I'm hooked!  I'll happily play Shako again.

 With Dave's infantry columns pouring over the hill on the Austrian right, the Austrians shake out and try to beef up their line but I have to admit, I'm getting nervous!

Austrians on the left, French on the right.

The extreme Austrian left

meanwhile elite Austrian Grenadiers are hard pressed in the town

Austrian second and third lines.  
 At this point I realized the error of my deployment within the greater scheme of the orders.  My artillery has been silent the entire game!  even as an Austrian battalion melts away, I'm too close for ballshot!  Crap!

Dave's Cavalry gives it another go.  Instead of forming square, I see what kind of volley my boys can deliver.  I should have formed square...

What wargamer worth his salt wouldn't want to command either of these splendid armies?!?!?  Look at this field!

 on or about turn 7 or 8 Ken says we see dust clouds on the horizon.  The Bavarians have arrived from their Flank March!  This is just what I have saved those Cavalry for...

Bavarians arriving on my right flank

Grenadiers give ground grudgingly in the town

firefight breaks out!

As it turns out, my Artillery is in reserve....

minus one Austrian Battalion

Cavalry reorients itself to meet the Bavarian threat

The issue still undecided!

 Thoughts on Shako II
So besides what I've mentioned so far about the Command and Control and the span of control, I love how the terrain has a subtle effect on the battle.  It's literally a perfect balance of enabling and restricting.
I have to say, I finished the first half of this game exhausted, but not from any vexations of the rules but rather due to the amounts of decisions that I had to make about adjustments of the plan and my overall scheme of maneuver.

Shako gave a great game which was easily grasped, had a very Napoleonic "feel" to it, and also had no shortage of drama or excitement.  I cannot wait to play again.


  1. Great post mate, love the feel of the battlefield management pressures in your narrative. Great stuff!
    Is there much difference between Shako I and II?
    I think my copy of Shako I has been cracked open twice in 20 years. Need to rectify this...

    1. Darren,
      There is a blog called Avon Napoleonic Fellowship that Ken showed me recently. This blog has a listing of all the key differences between the first and second version.

      Off the bat i can tell you the second version has a neat mechanism for alternating division movement that i really like.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you AJ! The game so far has been a blast. All the minis and the table belong to my friend Ken.