Sunday, October 8, 2017

Battle of Eckmühl Day 2: Württemberger Assault on Eckmühl

After the great initial solo game of Eagles at Quatre Bras, I wanted to try the rules out with a proper sized battle with real forces, so I used the scenario from the Austrian Supplement of Commands & Colors Napoleonics "Eckmühl Day 2" which features the Wurttemberg assault on Eckmuhl and the Schloss Castle.  It's a nicely sized scenario that isn't overwhelming in terms of forces so I thought this would be a great battle to try out with Norm Smith's outstanding Eagles at Quatre Bras.

Wurttemberg troops and a Horse Artillery Battery along the Gross Laaber waiting the order to commence the assault.

Grenzers (I used Nassau light troops...) and Hungarians in the Schloss Castle along with the Austrian command

Gudin's Division awaiting the order to start the assault.
The Wurttemberg troops are commanded by Von Hugel.  The plan is to cross the Gross Laaber in column, fighting through the screen of lights in the woods, and then break through to the Schloss Castle and assault it. 

Gudin's Division on the right is to seize the high ground on the French right, driving the Austrian guns off so they cannot threaten the assault on Eckmuhl itself.  I started taking notes throughout the battle so I had a proper transcript of the battle.  The narrative that the game has produced so far as been outstanding.

The battle commenced at 8:00am.

Von Hugel's horse artillery opens the battle by firing on the Austrian grenzers in the woods who are attempting to prevent the Wurttemberg troops from crossing, but the fire is ineffective.  The Wurttemberger troops storm the bridge over the Gross Laaber in column and seize it while the disordered Wurttemberg columns ford the creek.  

On the right, Gudin's division crosses the Gross Laaber to move to contest the high ground.
Wurttemberg troops storm the bridge over the Gross Laaber!  Von Hugel (mounted) is directing the operation.

Gudin's supporting attack steps off.  Note the high ground with the Austrian batteries.

Gudin's troops.  Rear most Brigade is in reserve.
Meanwhile as the French attacks take shape, the Austrians move a Grenzer unit into Eckmuhl itself to contest, and all Reserve Regiments march towards the Gross Laaber (GL).  Austrian artillery fire forces back one of Gudin's Brigades in disorder as it fords the GL.  Along the GL in front of the Grenzers where the Wurttembergers are forming columns, the Grenzers fire at Von Hugel's horse battery and drive them off!  They'll be back soon enough though to support the crossing.  Von Hugel muses that they were probably in the wrong place to begin with...

Grenzers move into Eckmuhl to defend against the Wurttemberger attack.

Horse Artillery is driven off in disorder!
The Wurttemberger Horse battery moves up to support the Gross Laaber assault while all the WRTMBGR units form column to assault the Grenzers in the woods to their front.  Von Hugel's position with the Battalions who carried the bridge are in a position to offer a "flank assault" bonus against the Grenzers and they assault the Austrians, pushing them all back in disorder as most of Von Hugel's troops cross the GL and carry the position after sharp fighting.  one Wurttemberg Brigade is stalled in fighting with stubborn Grenzers who turn "every tree, rock, and undulation of the earth into a fortress."  
Wurttemberg Horse Artillery supporting the Gross Laaber crossing.  Their fire is mostly ineffective here.  Note the solid wall of white coated Austrians to the rear of the Grenzers.  It's going to be a long day.

Wurttemberg troops expanding the bridgehead by assaulting the Austrian reinforcements.

The river crossing.  Von Hugel sets up a "flank attack" and garners an extra 2 attack dice against the Grenzers in cover.  

Wurttemberg troops (French but I'll work on that!) Crossing the Gross Laaber under fire!

Pressing the attack home.  Note the column in the woods!

Von Hugel and troops in Eckmuhl - the village would change hands more times throughout the day.  Something I love about these rules.
 Von Hugel's assault with the WRTMBRGERs, supported by the Horse Battery, into Eckmuhl is successful in driving off the Grenzers and they carry the town!  The WBGRs move up their columns and expand the bridgehead on the French left, also moving to counter Austrian Regiments who have moved up.  Combat with Grenzers in the open yields 2 "heavy casualties" on the Austrians.

On the French right, Gudin's troopers cross the GL and assault the gun battery on the heights.  General Gudin brings up the reserve brigade of French infantry and the Wurttemberg horse artillery moves towards the bridge over the Gross Laaber to support the assault against Eckmuhl village.

Von Hugel attempts to press the attack out of Eckmuhl but is unsuccessful.  The Grenzers between the Schloss Castle and Eckmuhl are stubborn and Von Hugel's multiple assaults are sent packing.

Gudin's men succeed in driving off the Austrian Battery on the high ground across the GL.
Gudin's assault against the high ground north of the GL is successful for the opening moves.

Gudin's assault taking shape

Wurttembergers expanding the bridgehead over the GL

hard work on the left flank as Austrian reinforcements gather to try and flank the Wurttemberg troops.  note the Grenzers directly above the woodline.  They were pushed out in heavy fighting.

The last Austrian battery is pushed from the heights by Gudin.  They're still in the fight, though.

The heights are in French hands for now.

The Austrian left is slowly being pushed in and driven towards Eckmuhl.  Soon Von Hugel will be asking for Gudin's help in breaking out of Eckmuhl.
To counter, the Austrians rally off all their disorganized markers and a regiment of reserve infantry on the left is brought forward to support the retreating artillery batteries facing Gudin.  The Austrian position battery in the center runs out of ammo!  hastily scribbled notes are given to couriers and sent to the Austrian commanding general for more shot and shell.

The 9am hour seems like the battle is really going the French way although the Austrians still have an enormous amount of combat power...

The Wurttemberger Horse Artillery crosses the Gross Laaber with dry feet across the bridge seized by Von Hugel early in the battle.  They occupy a battery position west of Eckmuhl and immediately open fire on the Austrians and Hungarians to their front.  Meanwhile more WRTMBRGR troops rally on the banks of the GL and move into the woods to continue the assault against the Grenzers.  The WRTMBRGRs assault a grenzer position on the left and are repulsed.

Von Hugel's horse battery in position next to Eckmuhl

 Meanwhile on the French right, Gudin's men reach the Austrian reinforcements and the fight begins with Gudin's columns against the Austrian artillery.

The Austrian turn sees some hard, bitter fighting as the Austrian position battery opens fire on Gudin's Brigades and sends one back with heavy casualties.  The Grenzers in front of Eckmuhl rally and storm the village!  The send the Wurttemberg brigade back with Von Hugel!  The village changes hands!

Back in Austrian hands again for now...
Gudin dispatches a Brigade to attempt to support Von Hugel and recapture Eckmuhl but the Grenzers are dug in deep!  The first assault is repulsed!  The Grenzers are holding onto Eckmuhl.  Meanwhile the Grenzers are pushed back on the French left after heavy fighting.  Austrian regiments on the Austrian right suffer dearly this turn with up to 4 heavy casualties spread between 2 regiments.

Gudin's Division moving into the Austrian rear area and to support the attack on the schloss castle

Eckmuhl is eventuall recaptured and Gudin's men link up with Von Hugels and are in support.
The Austrian position battery is resupplied with ammo and can now open fire against Gudin's men again but the batteries will be on the backfoot for the rest of the battle now as Gudin's columns can harass them at will.  One of the Wurttemberger Brigades is pushed back, disorganized.  The Austrians try and launch a limited attack in the vicinity of the Schloss Castle but are repulsed.

Von Hugel's horse battery disorders the Grenzers behind Eckmuhl and moves up further.  The Wurttemberg troops attempt an assault across the entire line but are pushed back in every attack except they are able to recapture Eckmuhl.  The Austrians are holding firm in the center!

An Austrian cannonade opens up and General Gudin is killed!  The Brigade column he is attached to is also sent back with heavy casualties.  The Austrians get bold and push the Wurttembergers back almost to the Gross Laaber.
The death of General Gudin.  The Brigade he is with takes a 3 dice volley of grapeshot.

meanwhile Von Hugel is back in Eckmuhl with his troops.  Gudin's men are in support to the east and closing in

Very hard fighting on the French left as positions see-saw throughout the morning and into the afternoon.  Eventually the combat starts to go to the French as the Austrians have a series of turns of heavy casualty accumulation.

These Grenzers would eventually be sent packing. along with their sister battalion.
The Wurttemberg troops hit with 2 sixes against the Grenzers in between the Schloss castle and the village Eckmuhl.  With nowhere to retreat to, the Grenzers take additional heavy casualties!  Vicious Wurttemberg counter attacks along the line, especially on the French left, force heavy casualties against the Austrians and push them back.  The Austrian heavy casualties are starting to mount (19).

Gudin's Division closing the iron ring around Eckmuhl and the Schloss Castle.

Gudins columns avenging the death of their general!  Note the position battery at the top of the table.  he's technically off the board now but i didn't realize it...this other battery is about to share the same fate!

Spirited Wurttemberg attacks towards the end of the battle.  They would push back the Austrians and cause some significant casualties by day's end.  Note the Austrian grenz unit in the upper right.  They would not rally until 1:33pm.

An Austrian counter attack forces these Wurttemberg troops back to the Gross Laaber!  It was the last serious attack of the day.
Gudin's men, eager for revenge, capture the Schloss Castle in bitter fighting, pushing the Hungarian troops out as well as forcing 2 x position batteries off the table.  This causes even more heavy casualties, including an Austrian regiment that received 5 heavy casualties (passes its command roll).  The Grenzers with 4 heavy casualties are assaulted by 3 brigades and take additional heavy casualties.  with no room to retreat, they fail their command roll and surrender.  Their attached officer is wounded as well.

Upon checking the heavy casualties, the Austrians reached 25 heavy casualties.  I drew 2 cards, just to see what time it is.  It's 1:27pm.  The Austrians roll for their units and 2 more leave the table.  The battle is over.  This was a French (Wurttemberg) victory.
Gudin's men storm the Schloss Castle and push out the Hungarians!  The Hungarians are now faced by 4 French units!

Battle's end.  Gudin's troops have pushed in all the way from the heights and the Gross Laaber to capture the Schloss Castle.

Meanwhile Von Hugel's Wurttemberg troops in Eckmuhl.

Gudin's troops in the Schloss Castle.

Gudin's division reaches the Schloss Castle and the Austrian rear area and harries the gun position batteries that retreated there.

This solo battle was a ton of fun.  Not only was it hard-fought and challenging, it was unpredictable and decidedly "not boring."  The see saw nature of the combat was enough that the battle could have gone either way, especially with the assault on the Schloss Castle pretty much undecided until the last turn.  I'd say the Austrians ran out of steam at that point and the mounting casualties pretty much ensured the battle wouldn't go their way.  That said, the Austrians probably should have reinforced the center instead of meeting the assaults on the flanks.  The attackers on both flanks had advantages in numbers and those numbers eventually told.

This was a historical refight using Norm Smith's "Eagles at Quatre Bras" but with a scenario from Commands and Colors Napoleonics and I have to say the CCN scenario was literally perfect for EAQB.  This opens up a huge possibility for many other scenarios to play and makes me want to desperately purchase those Prussians I've been thinking about! 

This AAR was a ton of work I have to say.  I used my phone and typed in the action as it happened.  Given the large amount of units this made for a laborious exercise but totally worth it to read the narrative and highlight these great rules.  Probably play some Tigers at Minsk soon if I have the time.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Eagles at Quatre Bras...In Austria?

Not much time for gaming this weekend but I did manage to retire to the gaming bunker after the women and children went to sleep for the night last night for a quick, introductory game of Norm Smith's "Eagles at Quatre Bras."  [link]

If you've been following my blog of late, I've become enamored with Hex gaming using miniatures on the tabletop and Norm Smith's outstanding "Tigers at Minsk" really scratched the itch for me for WWII gaming so I thought I'd try and peer into the vast black hole of Napoleonic grand-tactical wargaming with hexes.

Last night i threw some forces on the table reminiscent of the 1809 campaign.  An small Austrian Division is blocking a road.  The French need to open the road.  Austrians have 2 "regiments" and an artillery battery along with their commanding general who has been given modest forces in an attempt to slow down the French steamroller. 

The French have a brigade of elites, along with 3 infantry brigades, a light cavalry brigade, a battery of artillery and 2 officer stands.

The battle opens at the 11:00 hour and the French advance!

French Artillery opens up a cannonade on the Austrians while their infantry boldly advance across the fields.
 The sequence of play is interesting and takes some getting used to but in reading Norm's notes, it becomes obvious "why" certain things happen at prescribed times.  Gamers who appreciate the author's intent for various rules will appreciate Norm's style as he gives superb explanations for his rationale.

The game turns open with the active player attempting to lose disorder/blown, and change formation with a command roll on a D10.  Better troops have a better chance of passing.  Worse troops, less chance.  In this game, all troops were regulars with a value of "7" to beat or less on the command roll.  Officers give you a -1 to the die roll to help out.

The infantry cannot assault this turn as they advanced in the regular movement phase in line! 
 While "grand tactical" the reader will appreciate the subtleties of the rules.  Units are pushed back routinely from disorder and fire but they come back almost as quickly as they left which really adds to the excitement.  For a game like Volley & Bayonet, Blucher, or Et Sans Resultat (All excellent games in their own right) where a few hours' worth of action occurs with the throw of a dice, EAQB gives you a taste of the frustrations, heartache, and joy of a commander on the Napoleonic battlefield as your units are not static.

My unfamiliarity with the rules enables some rash decision and my converged grenadiers advance right up to the muzzle of the Austrians but since they moved in line, cannot attack (had they passed their command roll in the beginning of the turn, they'd have been able to move into columns and assault in their own phase!).  The opening of the Austrian turn sees muskets leveled (or lowered?) and a deadly volley unleased at the Grenadiers, who take a "heavy casualty" and retreat 2 hexes, disordered.

My elites on the left fail their command roll again and are disordered as well as beginning to accumulate heavy casualty markers now.  You do not want to roll high on that D10!
 With the sequence of play the way it is, it's now clear to me that prior planning is necessary before launching an assault.  You have to time your advance, and ensure there are multiple units advancing as well, as enemy fire may well drive a lone brigade off easily enough.

11:28am - I love the timed turns using cards to advance the clock!  Like Tigers at Minsk, the clock really adds an element of realism to the game.
 The Austrians are holding pretty well and the casualty rates are not really excessive.  You need at least 2 hits when attacking to cause a "heavy casualty" result and those aren't quite as common.  I try to mix things up and do the exact thing I chide Dave against - move my Cavalry up as a battering ram against fresh troops!

Thundering hooves and sabers raised - but is it enough to dislodge the white coats?

The Austrians successfully form square and my cavalry passes their command test but bounces back "blown" and "disordered"
 I had a few questions at this point - I also had an infantry unit adjacent to the Austrian square (mass?) formation.  In their assault, they managed to score 1 hit against the Austrian square.  Does the square have to withdraw 1 hex disordered?  (that's the result from the hit table when 1 hit is scored.)
I played the square withdrawing, disordered, 1 hex and still remaining in square formation.  I couldnt find where the rules addressed this situation (that doesn't mean they dont.  It's been a long, tiring week).

12:06pm and the Austrians are stubbornly holding on.  My elites will be fully reconstituted and "rallied" at 12:28pm so they're not ready yet.  that green D10 rolled 9 4 turns in a row so I got rid of it....
 Some more questions about disorder - what "bad" things does disorder do?  Am I still allowed to advance while disordered?  I know I have to pass a command test to lose disorder, and I know I cannot change formation when disordered, but besides that what negative things does it bestow on me?  I couldn't figure that out because from reading the rules it appears as if I can still attack an adjacent unit while disordered.

What I love about EAQB - I finally got to attack a square on the tabletop with infantry!!  Usually my games are either too high level to manage this, or the infantry fight is over before the cavalry is sent in.  Here are my lights trying to break their Austrian foe's square (mass?) formation.
 The Austrians get a chance to compose their line and, even though pushed back slightly, they are able to present a wall to the French.

2 Austrian "Regiments" facing the French.
Something else interesting happened - my Austrian artillery goes out of ammo (rolled a "1" on their firing which forces the out of ammo test, then they rolled another "1").  Then they're assaulted on the ground by a French column!  What happens to them now?  

Anyways I played the French assault out and they scored 1 hit against the Battery, which pushed the battery back, disordered.  I know there are rules about running the battery down for cavalry, but what about an infantry assault, and how does the "Out of Ammo" affect the battery's combat?

Note the stacked cannonballs for "Out of Ammo" for the Austrian guns.  The French start to learn the value of their assault columns as well!

not sure if this was played out correctly but the battery was disordered and pushed back 1 hex.
 Another question about disorder if Norm happens to read this - if the attacker rolls a "1" he takes 1 hit himself, which causes "disorder retreat 1 hex" so if the defender is pushed back, but the attacker has 1 hit, do they BOTH retreat?  I did not play it that way.  I advanced the attacker into the vacated hex, but kept his disorder marker.

An Austrian regiment is pushed back to the table edge and the battle is reaching its conclusion!

12:26!  Almost time for the Grenadiers to be put back into action!  (note the 28 on the dice behind the grenadiers)  The battle is almost over now as one of the Austrian regiments retreats to the table's edge with 3 heavy casualties

I desperately want to attempt to set up a "Flank Attack" but the proximity rules don't allow yet!  The flank attack allows the attacker 2 extra dice but there has to be a 1 hex separation between attackers, with no additional adjacent defenders.

Red Dice are "heavy casualties" and the yellow beads are disorder markers.

The final French assault masses and the Austrians are pushed off the table by another French assault column.  The Austrians call it quits!  
 Although I didn't use them, there are rules in EAQB for calling the game but I didn't have enough units on the table to use them.  (tied to heavy casualties received).

Final dispositions
A very satisfying game that has the right amount of period feel to it.  There are some concepts you have to wrap your head about early on, but ultimately, Eagles at Quatre Bras is a simple, fun, and very challenging game.  Even though you're in command, things happen that are out of your control, and you have to plan to mitigate the bad things that can happen when your plan doesn't come off as expected.

I like how assaults/combat are handled with units conducting their "combats" while adjacent and artillery and rifle armed skirmishers being the only units that have ranged fire.

I also like how there are technically no facings to fiddle with, however you can pull off a flank attack on an enemy if you set it up correctly.  The methodology for cavalry charges and assaults is simply brilliant in my opinion.  Cheers to Norm for developing a novel set of Napoleonic rules that captures the spirit of the era and the challenges that the commanders faced.  Here's my list of things that I really enjoyed about the game:

Time clock.  I love that the turns are anywhere from 8 to 60 minutes long, and probably closer to 25 minutes.  I also love that some unit statuses (artillery resupply and some unit rallying) are tied to the game clock, which makes it relevant to the commanders and not just a novelty.

Usefulness of Formations.  Players are rewarded for using their formations correctly.

Simplicity of combat.  The D6 methodology, which is very similar to Tigers at Minsk, is lovely and refreshingly simple.  Also the hit against the attacker for rolling a 1 is nice.  Makes the game much more suitable for solitaire gamers like me.

Narrative.  The ebb and flow of the combats, with units routinely being pushed back and "heavy casualties" being somewhat rare, really makes for a tense and exciting game that produces a narrative like a battle report would read.

once again, my hat's off to Norm.  Please make a Seven Years War supplement!