Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Neil Thomas Tuesdays: Napoleonic Wargaming

It being New Years Eve and all that I thought I'd see 2019 out with a nice, simple wargame.  Tonight's "Neil Thomas Tuesday" Fight was a real nail biter with an Austrian and French clash along a nameless river during the 1809 campaign.

The scenario played was actually from the One Hour Wargames book but expanded to 4 x 4, with setup guided by the rules from the Napoleonic Wargaming. book  The resulting clashes were completely isolated on each side of the table due to the fighting around the crossing sites, resulting in 2 completely different engagements occurring independently of one another.

French left grouping making for the hill at speed  
 Forces were picked straight from the Army Lists in "Napoleonic Wargaming" and I stuck to the 8 unit max for both sides, Force composition was selected on the train ride to work this morning 😀

2 Line Infantry Units
1 "Levy" Allied Infantry Unit (Hesse Darmstadt Troops)
1 Elite Guard Unit
1 Light Cavalry
1 Heavy Cavalry
1 Voltigeur Unit
1 Artillery Battery

4 Line Infantry Units
1 Elite Grenadier Unit
1 Light Cavalry Unit
1 Heavy Cavalry Unit
1 Artillery Unit

Austrian columns strike for the primary bridge

General Lodz commands the Grenadiers today.

French Voltigeurs work their way up the flanks on the right moving towards the ford
 Austrians were the "red" player from the scenario and went first.  Their cavalry reached both crossing points on turn 3.

 The Austrians make good use of the cavalry's mobility to reach the bridges first.  They throw their Cuirassiers across to the French side to force the French to stop their advance and crash into an infantry unit.  It's a good idea to disrupt the enemy's advance and prevents the French from crossing the river.  On the Austrian right, the fight will be on the French side of the river and that's a good thing.

Austrian heavy cavalry rumbling up to the bridge
 Meanwhile on the other flank, the Austrian light horse reaches the ford and are swiftly charged by the French light cavalry.  The fight for the ford is nasty, with constant back and forth charges!  Once again, the value of cavalry is apparent as a screening force, buying time for the slower infantry to move up to the ford.

Austrian light horse reaches the ford
And are attacked by the French light horse!  Brutal fighting in the river!

Both sides lick their wounds - one of many charges between these 2 light units during the battle.  Note the Austrian columns moving up from behind.
The Austrians aren't the only ones who have infantry approaching!  French infantry arrive on the scene!
 Classic rookie mistake follows on turn 4 when the French Cuirassier move to attack the Austrian heavy horse on the bridge.  The French fail all of their saves and are promptly thrown back from the combat.  The only problem?  Their retreat path is blocked, and so an entire elite unit of French Cuirassier are wiped out and become the first knocked out unit of the battle.

French Cuirassier - Now you see them...

Now you dont!
 The next turn, the Austrians expand their bridgehead on their right by throwing their own heavy horse onto the french side of the river and assault the infantry to their front.  The French infantry unleash a crushing volley and pass their saves even amidst the massive number of hits (6 hits!).  Only 1 hit gets through but it's enough to force a retreat.

Austrian cuirassier charging

Austrians preparing to storm the bridge

General Lodz supervises the crossing

Firing at the Austrians on the far bank
 On the French left, the situation is not looking good.  That cavalry attack by the Austrians really screwed up the plan.  The artillery is deployed on the hill and the Hesse troops are moving on the flank to fire on the bridge.  General de Division Gruyere doesn't dare put them in anywhere else because they're levy troops and they really don't want to be there...  The Guard are staying put with Gruyere safely behind them.  The French are prepared to repel the Austrians at their bridgehead but it's going to be close.

At the ford on the French right, things are heating up also.

French lights skirmishing with Austrians while the assault column moves up.  The French attempt to charge into the Austrian assault column and are repulsed.  Eventually the French light cavalry are driven off and destroyed by the Austrian light horse.  2 French units down!
 The French columns reach the ford and instead of deploying, they go straight into battle!  Hammering into an Austrian column who were also headed for the ford.  The fighting is bitter and see saws each turn!  The fate of the ford is still well up in the air!

 On the French left, the Austrians throw a Hungarian regiment across the bridge to expand the bridgehead and the Grenadiers are right behind them with General Lodz in tow!

Heavy Combat at the bridge!

Heavy combat at the ford!

The first column of Hungarians makes straight for the foreign allied troops!  They would push these poor fellow practically off the table.

General Gruyere watches the crossing

Hesse troops evaporating under the approving eye of General Lodz
 Meanwhile things are not going the Austrians' way at the ford.  Both sides deploy into line after some hard but inconclusive combats.  The combat see saws back and forth but some bad rolls and very bad morale check rolls later, the Austrian infantry unit guarding the ford evaporates and the French still have a line unit and a light unit in the battle.  The Austrians, needing to slow the French advance and whittle their lead elements down, throw their exhausted cavalry back into the fight.

Mein Gott they want us to charge again?!!?  Austrian cavalry charges teh French infantry at the ford.

 The Austrians have 1 reserve regiment and throw it in at the bridge, making its way straight for the French battery in the hopes of assaulting it.  Problem?  The battery is within 8 cm's of a line infantry unit and cannot be charged.  The Austrian column switches targets and assaults the line troops, but they're repulsed with heavy losses.

This was really the climax of the battle, and the last chance for an Austrian win.  The French meanwhile train every gun and musket onto the advancing reinforcements coming off the bridge!  The artillery gets 6 shots, and teh infantry shoots as well.  The advancing Austrians never had a chance.

Shoot at them with everything!  They're coming straight for the hill!

French resisting the Austrian crossing

At the ford, the French are advancing to the Austrian side!  Note the lights are reduced to a single stand!
 You know it had to happen - the Guards face off against the Grenadiers at the bridge!  General Lodz glares at General Gruyere!

The generals glare at each other as their troops unleash deadly volleys
 The guards are hit and I roll for Gruyere's casualty check....box cars!  the General goes down.

 The French exact a mean toll on the Austrians for the loss of their General, and Lodz's unit is shot out from under him!  The Grenadiers evaporate after rolling a "1" on their morale check.

Lights cross over at the ford
French line troops storm the bridge and destroy the remaining stand from the Hungarian regiment.   Both crossing sites are in French hands and the Austrians are down to 2 units. The battle is over!

Thoughts and Lessons Learned

I haven't played a proper game of Neil Thomas' "Napoleonic Wargaming" in awhile and this was a great refresher.  The rules are simple and to the point and I believe they really deliver on what they promise.  You will make decisions about the timing of attacks, the best place to deploy your artillery, and whether or not to commit your reserves.  Speaking of reserves, the attrition-based nature of the combat means that the game will likely last almost the entire 20 turn limit suggested by Mr Thomas in his rules and so the timing of when you commit your reserves is extremely important.  No doubt, throwing a fresh Austrian regiment across the bridge towards the end of the game could have been a disaster for the French if their artillery was 1 single centimeter further from its infantry, as they would have forced 2 French units to leave the field if they would have exited off the table.

Cavalry proved itself extremely useful as well and you really can use cavalry doctrinally in these rules by screening for your slower troops to deploy and disrupting your enemy's attacks by forcing his infantry to deploy to defend against your oncoming cavalry..  Admittedly I never used the light cavalry shooting capability and I probably should have done that, but I did make good use of my cavalry's mobility here.  Finall y on the subject of cavalry, ensure you are leaving plenty of room for them to retreat from a combat!  There is nothing worse than losing your "elite" Cuirassier unit when it only has 2 hits garnered from an inconsequential combat!!!

All in all, a great game and a very good time.  I'd like to keep this tradition of "Neil Thomas Tuesdays" going but in the future I will likely not have the kind of time I had tonight and will probably play something a little quicker like One Hour Wargames. 

Happy New Year everyone! 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

2020 Wargaming Projects and Priorities

Happy Saint Stephen's Day everyone!  As 2019 comes to a close and we prepare to ring in 2020 (I'll be going to bed early) I wanted to post my thoughts about my wargaming projects and priorities for the new year.  The last few years of setting priorities has been helpful towards enabling more hobbying and gaming but not as effective as it could be.  Lack of time, distractions, and the "shiny new objects" in this hobby are always pulling me one direction or another.

This time I sat down and actually wrote out what projects I have right now, whether they are in conception (with miniatures on-hand) or actually in progress on my desk.  Here is a list of projects that are spanning 2019-2020:

(highlighted projects are Top priorites.  All others are tier 2 or 3 priorities that will be nice to get to but not pressing.  First up in the New Year will be the 1/285 Cold War project and the continuation of the 10mm SYW and Napoleonic Project.)

  • 10mm Napoleonics Project
  • 10mm Seven Years War Project
  • 10mm World War I Project (yes you read that correctly - The Great War in glorious 10mm scale!)
  • 15mm Ancients 
  • 15mm Vietnam
  • 15mm World War II 
  • 15mm American Civil War
  • 15mm American Revolutionary War
  • 15mm Seven Years War (I still have unpainted SYW troops)
  • 6mm 1/285 World War II for Flames of War
  • 6mm 1/285 Cold War for Team Yankee
  • 6mm 1/285 EPIC 40k FOW Style (yes you read that correctly, too)

It's important to note that all of these projects should get some brush time and some table time this year.  The questions are waht are my priorities, sorted by goal?  I am looking at priorities in terms of objectives and that should drive my work accordingly.  At least that's the plan!

2020 Top Priorities

10mm Napoleonics Project.  Recently acquiring a vast ( and I mean vast!) hoard of 10mm unpainted Napoelonics, I must make a sizeable push this year to paint them and game with them.  I will be basing them on single unit stands as I enjoy playing games with single unit stands more, regardless of the scale of battle.

Rules / Games to play include Commands and Colors Napoleonics, Neil Thomas Napoleonics,  Black Powder, Eagles at Quatre Bras, and Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells.

I need at least 20 Austrian and 20 French infantry units painted and based, with about 15 Cavalry units for both sides painted and based, along with 5 to 6 gun units painted and based.  This should allow me to play a game of Commands and Colors Napoleonics on a table with no substitutions.

10mm Seven Years War Project.  Ditto the above my collection of 10mm SYW is expanding and must be dealt with!  Initially I had an idea to base up all of the units one would need for the Neil Thomas ONE HOUR WARGAMES force generator, but then realized Mr Borg will eventually be publishing Commands and Colors Seven Years War and felt that I needed a good size force to play epic Seven Years War battles on the tabletop.  If Borg doesn't publish them sooner or later, I'll substitute / hack the Tricorne rules from the AWI and make my own.

Rules include Commands and Colors, Neil Thomas Napoleonic Rules modified for SYW (it's all in the Napoleonic Wargaming book on how to do this) Black Powder.

There's just no way around it.  I will need to paint every single SYW mini I own in 10mm. 

15mm Ancients.  I own a sizeable horde of 15mm Romans, northern Barbarians, and Carthaginians.  That's great!  Problem?  They're unpainted.  What to do?  Paint them, of course.

Rules include Commands and Colors Ancients, Hail Caesar, Neil Thomas Ancient & Medieval Wargaming, Neil Thomas One Hour Wargames

Objectives are to paint and base at a minimum enough forces from a Neil Thomas Army list in Ancient & Medieval Wargaming.  I feel like this should provide ample fighting forces for any rules set I wish to play for now.  Clearly I will need many more for Commands and Colors Ancients, but I really want to get some Early Imperial Romans and Barbarians on my table!  This is the year to do it!

15mm American War for Independence Forces.  Every year these are a "priority" but they never make it onto the table and I am averaging a single regiment painted per year.  That's dismal and so the AWI needs renewed emphasis for me.  In ye olde wargaming days of yore, I loved the AWI more than any other period and I believe that fascination is still there.  I need to push to finish ALL of the minis I currently own (there arent many units left to do), complete corresponding terrain, and play a game!  Bryan L's game at Fall In 2019 was a real inspiration and a nice marriage of hex game rules and miniatures.  I'd love to host a game of this using my based 15mm AWI armies as I think it would be loads of fun.  I also plan to put on some good AWI games this year using CC Tricorne as it gives a fun, clean game.

Rules include Black Powder, Commands and Colors Tricorne as my favorites.

Objectives are to paint every single AWI mini I own in 15mm.

6mm World War II Forces.  Yes, you heard that correctly.  I'm breaking out the microarmor from storage and rebasing them for exciting, epic Flames of War games (which I've always felt is best played as a micro armor game).  Plan is to be able to field 100 point armies for Germans, Soviets, and Americans in mid to late war.  That also means desert and tunisian forces so that's a big project in the wings.  I'll start "small" and knock out eastern front forces in 2020 so that means I'll be looking at a Soviet tank battalion, heavy tank company, infantry battalion, supporting artillery, aircraft, and anti aircraft forces.

Rules include Flames of War, Iron Cross, and Neil Thomas World War II

Objectives are for 30 T-34s, 30 infantry stands, artillery and anti tank batteries, AAA units, and planes for Soviets, and a Panzer III/IV company mixed, infantry company, stug battery, artillery, aircraft and AAA all painted and based.

6mm Cold War / Team Yankee Forces.  A top priority as the Fulda Gap campaign is about to kick off and I need forces with which to fight!  I have a ton of US armor and infantry, same for the Soviets just need to actually finish them off.  Infantry stands and support weapons, Cobra gunships, A-10 warthogs, and SP artillery.  All the toys that you expect to see on a Cold War battlefield in south-central Germany.

Rules include Team Yankee and Seven Days to the River Rhine (which I plan on playing more of this year)

Objectives: That includes a full T-72 battalion, full Motor Rifle (BMP-1) battalion, accompanying troops (at least 30 stands of infantry with support weapons, hind gunships, SU25 ground attack aircraft, SP artillery based and finished, an M1 company, M60A3 company, US mech company (M113),  with up to 20 infantry stands completed.

Blog Posts
This is a first for me but I've been brainstorming some interesting and fun topics to post this coming year on the blog.  Chief among those are:

  • Converting Neil Thomas Napoleonics into Seven Years War rules (it's all in the book).
  • Rules Hacks from the Junior General Rules site.
  • Playing Black Powder games with single-based unit stands.
  • Playing Neil Thomas Napoleonic games with single-based unit stands.
  • Hex-based rules with miniatures.
  • Eagles at Quatre Bras/Shako Scenario conversion
  • Black Powder/Shako Scenario conversion

Planned Games in 2020

Here is a list of my megalomania in action as I daydream about games I'd like to play this year in 2020:

  • Neil Thomas Napoleonics Big Battle
  • Neil Thomas Napoleonics-Seven Years War Big Battle
  • Black Powder AWI Big Battle / ACW Big Battle
  • CC Tricorne - Monmouth or Saratoga
  • Neil Thomas WW2 Stalingrad action using the WW2 rules from Wargaming: An Introduction
  • Battlegroup: Kursk Ponyri Station Infantry Assault - the last Red offensive from the campaign!
  • Iron Cross Urban Fighting - Stalingrad
  • Seven Days to the River Rhine WWIII actions in VII Corps AO
  • Commands & Colors Ancients gaming - Punic Wars?  
  • Neil Thomas Ancients & Medieval Gaming Rome Vrs Barbarians
  • Neil Thomas ACW Game Little Round Top
  • Norms Two Flags-One Nation games - Cedar Mountain, Cemetery Hill, Little Round Top, etc
  • 6mm Flames of War games
  • 6mm Team Yankee games
  • Tigers at Minsk - Stalingrad Games
  • Eagles at Quatre Bras more CCN scenarios
  • Commands and Colors Napoleonics

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas 2019!

Wishing all of you out there a Merry Christmas 2019!  Going to read Norm's Christmas Special before/during/after Christmas dinner today and I suggest you do the same!  :)  Check out the Battlefields and Warriors blog at right!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2019: A Wargaming Year in Review & 2020 Priorities Musing

One day until Christmas here in the eastern US.  Ironic that it's been about a year since I sat on my couch and wrote out the "2018 Wargaming Year in Review" post.  I actually sat in the exact same spot and drank coffee all day on my couch during the Government shut down (it sounds amazing, doesn't it?) and penned an epic blog post that covered a year of great gaming!

I'm sitting in the same spot from a year ago, which is becoming something of a tradition for me when writing these retrospective blogreps.

Again, I ask you all - where did the year go?  How did my daughter become 7, my son become 3, and our Ponyri Campaign is practically wrapped up?  Speaking of which, this year we had some great and epic battles fought.  We tried out a ton of new rules, rolled scores and scores of "1"s (not good!), drew bad cards, drew good cards, spent lots of money at conventions, rolled a few "6s" when it counted, hung out with and also skyped with good friends (The Duc de Gobin!), finished a 15mm World War II campaign, played gridded games with grids and hexes, played open games with rulers and tape measures, and had a seriously good time doing it!

Darren's idea to hop on Skype was a great one.  So obvious - why haven't we as a gaming community communicated with each other more?

I'm coming off the thrill of hosting a massive Christmas MEGAGAME of Aspern Essling and that in itself was an incredible time!  What will I host next year that could possible top this?  Norm's rules turned out to be a huge success and they will find a battle on my table again!

Epic 10mm Napoleonic gaming goodness - does it get any better than this?

Rules and Gaming Firsts
This year some of  rules and games we played for the first time include (there are a ton when you look back - I was surprised as I was looking through my posts at how many "firsts" we had this year):
  • Seven Days to the River Rhine Cold War Hot rules played here
  • Brian's ECW Commands and Colors Variant played here as part of an epic double-header day of gaming!  
  • Battle Cry ACW Commands and Colors Rules played Antietam here
  • For King & Parliament (To the Strongest ECW) Battle of Montgomery here
  • Fireball Forward WWII Rules (no blog post, unfortunately!)
  • Norm's outstanding Two Flags-One Nation ACW hex based rules - played Gettysburg's Oak Ridge, a hacked scenario from Scott Mingus' Enduring Valor Gettysburg books.
  • GDW Lobositz Boardgame (1978) with Alex here
  • Pickett's Charge by Dave Brown here
  • Snappy Nappy Wagram Scenario (Davout's Attack at Markgrafneusiedl - seriously - do yourself a favor and check this one out here )
  • Alex's excellent Franco-Prussian War rules based on Neil Thomas' "Wargaming 19th Century Europe" rules here
  • Sam Mustafa's Might & Reason SYW Rules here
  • Sam Mustafa's "Fast Play Grande Armee" Napoleonic Rules here

Norm's rules got quite a showing on my table this year as I played games of Two Flags-One Nation, Eagles at Quatre Bras for my Christmas MEGA GAME (Aspern-Essling), and lots of Tigers at Minsk games including the 37th Guards scenario, Power Station Scenario, and lots of the conventional Kursk-style scenarios from the TaM rule book.  Plan to see more of Norm's stuff in the coming year.

We played in multiple, massive, Commands and Colors 100 Days campaign games run by Brian and his crew (I played Blucher and went down in wargaming history turning to my staff with literally 1 card in my hand before the last victory banner was seized by the French and stated "I have an idea".)

Brian's epic Liege CCN game - Why on earth didn't I just put the guns in the redoubt??
My group's gaming this year spanned from the 17th Century all the way to the 20th Century with many wars in between, from the Battle of Montgomery 1644 to the "Battle of Ziegenhain" in 1984 in Central Germany!
Battle of Montgomery 1644 with Ken's outstanding ECW 28mm troops
T-62s square off against Leopard I's on the Autobahn west of Ziegenhain!
Also attended multiple conventions this year, which is always great.  Dave and I hung out at Cold Wars 2019, and I went solo to Fall In 2019 where I got to meet and hang out with and game with Bryan L. and play in some of his excellent hex-based wargame miniature games which I seriously enjoy playing.  Bryan, if you're reading this thanks for everything

It looks as if the real winners this year though, were probably World War II gaming and Napoleonic gaming.  Hardly surprising with the vast amount of WWII games we played during the Ponyri Station Firestorm Campaign (seven campaign turns averaging 3 battles fought per turn is 21 WWII battles alone!) and our continuing quest for the "right" Napoleonic rules.  Of all of the Napoleonics we played this year, Commands and Colors Napoleonics actually got the most tabletime for me, anyways, including an epic Waterloo refight that was the last ride of my 15mm troops!  regarding WWII, the Firestorm Ponyri campaign saw wide use of different rules sets including Battlegroup, Flames of War, Alex's Up the Blue rules, I Aint Been Shot Mum (Jack), and Rapid Fire (us and Darren)

It seems as if grand-tactical or almost operational level Napoleonic gaming was the preferred gaming scale for us this year as we did not play a single "tactical" Napoleonic Wars game (battalions and lower).  The "Black Powder" rules I like so much definitely lost out in favor of bigger scaled games such as Blucher, Snappy Nappy, EAGLES CHEAPER THAN BRAIN CELLS, Eagles at Quatre Bras and similar rules where you command brigades.

ACW and ECW came in next with 3 different games each and modern gaming falling in last this year.  I suspect that will change into 2020 with the new version of Team Yankee coming out and with our Fulda Gap firestorm campaign due to start in January 2020.  My Cold War American and Soviet micro armor are looking sharp on their new bases and spoiling for a fight across the inner German border!

Turn 3 of the Firestorm Ponyri Campaign - What a wild ride that was!
German artillerymen fire into Shirokoye Bulotev during the Ponyri Firestorm Campaign - noteworthy in terms of production I finished ALL of my towed artillery, gun crews, and AT guns for the eastern front.

Soviets on the Attack!

Defending AT Guns - dont let your Tigers get too close without infantry support!

Dont let them get too close!  In a crazy reversal of fortune, Alex gets a tiger KO's from losing a morale check after a failed soviet AT grenade attack in a Battlegroup: Kursk game.  BGK is still my absolute favorite WWII rules of them all but Norm's Tigers at Minsk is slowly creeping up there due to the low preparation time to set up and play a game.

Alex's elite German assault pioniere move through the woods in a battlegroup Kursk game - these guys were not long for this world as a 122mm timed firestrike is about to come down and ruin their day.

 It was a great year for gaming, unfortunately however it was a slow year for blogging and this year marks my lowest number of blog posts since this blog's beginning.

From the Acquisitions Department:
This year on the materials side of things, some other big milestones in the acquisitions department as I:

Sold off my entire 15mm Napoleonic range (traded, actually)
Acquired a vast horde of 15mm ACW troops at Cold Wars 2019 - I'm literally done buying ACW!  I haven't even rebased half of them yet.
Doubled (or tripled) my collection of 10mm unpainted Seven Years War troops for a project in 2020
Acquired a shed-load of 10mm Napoleonic troops (seriously you have no idea - there are 3 x collections worth of these guys both from Jack's shelf and from my purchases.  once again I have more Bavarians than actually fought in 1809...how does this happen?)
Acquired a shed-load of 10mm World War I troops
Restarted my work on 15mm Ancients (Early Imperial Roman)

What about Painting?
Lots of progress here on the painting front as I finished my 15mm WWII SS Company, and roughly 2 15mm WWII American Infantry Companies along with all of their various supports.  I still want to complete my midwar US Sherman tank company and recce for battlegroup games.  I think over the years we've given alot of attention to the eastern front.  I'd like to look west soon!

This year totally stalled on the AWI front (again!) but I'm hoping to rectify that soon.  I'd also like to play a large AWI battle with Black Powder as that's been something that i've been meaning to do for a few years now.  I have the troops, with most of them painted, too.  I also acquired all of my AWI generals for both sides from Cold Wars 2019 last year so I'm almost ready to do something in this department  Just haven't been able to get past painting 1 Regiment per year....the truly sad thing about this is the fact that I have so few units left to finish and ALL of my AWI figures will be painted, based, and done.

So Many Projects...

I sat down and counted my projects, either in-progress or in conception, and there are MANY.  At last count, there were 14 projects that I actually have the miniatures for on-hand.  What does that mean for 2020?  It means I have to narrow down what I consider the big "priorities" for 2020 and I plan on tackling that in a St. Stephen's Day blog post (kudos if you know when that is) that will cover wargame priorities for 2020 including painting, gaming, and acquisitions (if there are any?!?)

A Teaser

This coming year I have to focus on whittling down on the lead mountain a bit.  I purchased these miniatures for a reason - to play games with them!  At a very minimum, expect progress on the  10mm Napoleonics, 10mm SYW fronts.  Looking across at the other projects, I have a few directions I can go, but some of these units have waited a long time to get their uniforms!  I can tell you my 2020 priorities will span centuries...

So that's it for my 2019 gaming look-back.  I'm happy with the games we got to play, and the wargaming "firsts" we all tried out this past year.  I'm very much looking forward to more great gaming, hobbying, and socializing in 2020 and I wish you all reading this the same!  Merry Christmas to you all and thank you for reading the Sound Officers Call blog!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Christmas Offensive: ASPERN-ESSLING!

The usual suspects were over today for the annual Christmas MEGAGAME and this year we pulled out all the stops, switched centuries, and put a huge battle on the table - Napoleonic style!  Some of you will remember last year's Arab-Israeli battle for Tassa Junction during the 1973 Yom Kippur war using the popular Team Yankee rules.  In fact all of the Christmas offensives have been 20th century affairs...until now!
Austrians of the 4th column marching to the battle

Today we played the entire battle of Aspern-Essling using Norm's excellent "EAGLES AT QUATRE BRAS" rules, and when you're done reading this, you'll wonder how we fit all of that Napoleonic goodness on a single 6x4 table.

French arrayed in battle lines (taken after the battle!)

We played this battle using the reinforcement schedule and unit roster from the Volley & Bayonet "Austria Stands Alone" campaign supplement.  I had spent quite a few weeks in preparation for the game, including putting the roster and unit quality table together, building terrain including the villages of both Aspern and Essling, modeling the world-famous Essling Granary, and the Aspern Church which Alex mused looked like the Munster's house from the old TV show.

The French initial positions.  Aspern is in the foreground and the Danube is clearly visible behind.
 1:00pm - Hiller's 1st Column (IV ArmeeKorps) Arrives
Hiller's Colum enters the table
Units from Hiller's column shake out from the road to Stadtlau and fan out to assault Aspern.  No shooting or combat on the first turn.

Baden-Hochburg troops garrisoning Aspern Church and Cemetery which would be the scene of brutal fighting.  
 1:37pm Hiller edges closer to Aspern.  The French Cavalry sally forth

Hiller's troops continue to fan out to assault Aspern while the French heavy Cavalry to the tune of Pire's Hussars and heavy Cuirassier Brigade Fouler leave the bridgehead position to assault the oncoming Austrians on the Marchfeld!  Ken's Cuirassier are now trapped in a pocket, unable to retreat and taking heavy casualties from assailing Austrian brigades.  GdD LaSalle accompanies them.

French Cuirassier trapped

Disordered Austrian brigades on the Marchfeld

The gang playing through the first column's attacks.  Ken commanded the French while Dave and Alex commanded the Austrians
 1:56pm Expanding the Bridgehead

Hiller's column reaches Aspern and shakes out to attack with the light troops assaulting the Aspern Church cemetery and structure.  Ken's Cuirassier are keeping the Austrians from mounting a direct assault on Aspern village itself.

2:49pm The Second Austrian Column arrives.

More fighting in front of Aspern as the Cavalry escape and Pire's Hussars expand the fight almost the to the very muzzle of the gun battery! 

Keeping a Hungarian unit in square, GdD LaSalle urges the Cavalry on!

Ken brings up even more Cavalry and expands the bridgehead, taking the fight to the enemy.  
 I have to admit by the end of the 1:00pm hour, the battle looks weird instead of fighting around Aspern, there is fighting north of the town where the Austrian second column will arrive and out.  French artillery is beginning to find targets from within the bridgehead but things are quiet in Essling.  For now.

II Corps Artillery, on scene, are pounding far-away targets!

Troops in Essling and the Granary (left)

Note the troops of the second column arriving top-center.  The French will throw cavalry in their way in the hopes of slowing the Austrian tide.

Austrian units deploy around Aspern as the second and first columns merge for the assault.  Interestingly, the battle for Aspern is being decided well to the north of Aspern in a see-saw cavalry engagement.

Note the Grenzers top-right in line formation assaulting the church.  They'd eventually push the Baden troops back.  The Badeners gave a solid accounting of themselves and withdraw without any heavy casualties yet.
The Austrians step up their assaults on Aspern and the Aspern Church

French holding but taking heavy casualties now in Aspern village

Success!  The Grenzers overrun Aspern church and push the Baden troops back finally!

Situation in Aspern at the end of the 2pm hour Badeners are lower left of picture as Austrians have a toe-hold.  The French lights holding Aspern will be kicked out soon.

3:21 PM Heavy Fighting at Aspern Village

Pressure from the first and second column is relentless as fresh Austrian brigades are sent into the attack.   Renewed assaults against Aspern continue while the cavalry fight on the plains to the north.

Ken's efforts to try and expand the bridgehead north of Aspern with Cavalry
 4:01 Austrian Third Column (Hohenzollern) Arrives.

Austrian infantry flood down from the north and fan out across the Marchfeld as more Austrian guns line the hills ringing Aspern.  While historically those guns proved so troublesome that Napoleon ordered an assault against the guns, this is different since the see-saw fighting with the first and second column, the Marchfeld is now crowded with Austrian infantry brigades and marauding French cavalry brigades.

Manuevering troops towards the battle

An Austrian Battery goes out of ammo!

Cavalry fighting between Austrian light horse and French heavy horse

Ken pushes as much Cavalry as he can forward!
The Austrian Reserve Column arrives to the north!  The Austrians begin planning to assault Essling now.  Aspern is barely holding.  
 It's worth mentioning here that one of the reasons Aspern held on for so long was the presence of friendly units blocking the retreat.  That's a good thing in a number of ways because it guarantees that the village cannot be easily taken.  Unfortunately for the unit holding, it wears it down very quickly.

Under Pressure in Aspern

The 4th Column arrives on the field!  Look at all these troops!
4:49pm The Pressure Mounts - Aspern falls!

 Dave and Alex waste no time in expanding the fight to the east, towards Essling and the flanks.  I have another heavy cavalry division coming on at the same time and a fight will be brewing near the Gardens, an objective, soon to the east and southeast.

General Liechtenstein bringing up the Austrian heavy horse!

More Austrians coming onto the table!

Austrian plan is to drive a wedge between Aspern and Essling.  You can see that plan materializing here.

Austrian heavy cavalry charges the II Corps Artillery next to the granary.  The battery successfully passes its command test and can fire a 3 dice volley at the oncoming horse.  Would you believe it?  3 sixes! 

3 sixes and the Austrian horse retire.  This turn would see relentless cavalry attacks in the center as the Austrians try to chip away at the French positions.

The Austrians even assault the unit Napoleon is accompanying!  (I would move him away next turn!) the unit is hit but Napoleon is okay!
 After numerous assaults, the Austrians carry Aspern with a fresh brigade of Hungarian infantry.  The lights manning the town pull back towards the Lobau to join the Baden troops.  They establish a blocking position and will continue to give a good accounting of themselves.

It's worth mentioning also that here we started to "figure out" EAQB and what Norm is wanting you to do.  The looks on my group's faces were priceless as they tried to set up flanking maneuvers, using cavalry correctly by forcing infantry into square and possibly disorder, then pounding them with extra artillery dice or infantry combat dice!  I dont think a single person in my group was displeased with the results so far.

Aspern falls!  All of my units around Aspern are disordered and I dont have any fresh troops to mount a counterattack at this time!  I'm stuck!

Alex and Dave plotting next moves!

French artillery hammering away at the oncoming wave of Austrians

Speaking of which
 5:32pm The Focus Shifts Towards Essling

With Aspern comfortably in Austrian hands, the fighting is beginning to shift to the center and East.  Alex and Dave know they have to hold the Granary in addition to scoring casualties of which mine are mounting now and I'm getting close to the initial casualty BP.

looking south the Austrians have formed a new line and are pushing a wedge in between Aspern and Essling.  A quick, violent thrust by French assault columns staves off total disaster at the middle of the 5pm hour.

Badeners in line break the Hungarian unit to their front.  Napoleon was very pleased with their performance today.
 In the center, Austrian Grenadiers move to assault the Granary and seize a wooded copse next to it while more of their infantry storm Essling.  The French are pushed out of Essling in hard, heavy fighting and the II COrps Artillery guarding Essling's left flank and the Granary go out of ammo.  The Austrians move to overrun the gun battery and it's pushed back towards French lines.

Grenadiers push into the woods next to the Granary

Essling falls to the Austrians!

Dave and Alex shift their cavalry to their left (French right) to get around the French positions and cut off their reinforcements.

The Austrians overrun Essling but the French are in good position to take it back

Converged Grenadiers

French Counterattacks

Badeners still shooting well!

The French recapture Essling in bitter fighting with General Valory.  I'm learning the value of supporting your brigades by not allowing them to retreat.  If you're pressed for time or need time to stall for reinforcements, it's a good way to hold a geographical objective since it's literally impossible to have them leave their position if they can't retreat.

French Cavalry spar with Austrian heavy horse outside the Gardens.
 At the bottom of the 5:00pm turn, the remainder of the IV Corps shows up and French infantry reinforces the line south of Aspern.  It's literally perfect timing as the Austrians are desperate to put a stop to Lannes' Corps arriving on the field - 9 more brigades!

Freshly based Hesse Darmstadt troops arrive!

I move up French cavalry in the hopes of forcing Austrian infantry into squares.  Then I can hit them with infantry!

Behind the granary, Cavalry and artillery units alike are reorganizing after hard fighting.  There is a massive cavalry battle going on in the fields east of the gardens, on the road to Gross Enzersdorf

5:59 Endgame

The generals are exhausted by now.  We pull cards for the turn and it advances to 1 minute shy of 6pm.  Lannes' Corps will have to wait and the Austrians force the french out of the Granary with a disorder result (single hit).  Advancing into the Granary I am at 32 heavy casualties and each unit will have to roll.  Instead we call the game.  The Austrians hold the Granary and Aspern.  Essling was retaken.

Huge swirling cavalry battle east of Essling!

Hard fighting south of Aspern on the road to the Lobau Bridgehead.

Austrian General Bellagarde - the only general officer killed during today's battle

A pensive Alex discusses next moves

Rallying Cuirassier behind the granary complex!

The gang minus Brian (Alex, me, Ken, Dave) who left before this picture was taken.  Another successful Christmas Mega Game down!  Bring on 2020!
    Man what a battle this was!  Everyone was pretty worn-out by battle's end but all in all a great day of Napoleonic gaming where we fit the whole battle of Aspern Essling on my modest 6x4 table!  Granted, it was getting crowded but it was a great spectacle none-the-less.  I definitely learned a lot today and it was fun getting reacquainted with Norm's rules which I enjoyed very much when I first played them.  Some of my key takeaways follow:

I need more (lots more) Austrian cavalry in all shapes and sizes from light horse up to heavy.  

I realized how much I enjoy playing games on hex grids and games that are simple to learn.  One of my main goals for 2020, at least in terms of Napoleonic gaming, will be playing more Commands and Colors Napoleonics, and playing more of Norm's EAGLES AT QUATRE BRAS game (perhaps using CCN scenarios which I feel go together nicely).

I want to spend more time gaming and less time with the rules and I definitely want to play games that give me a decision quickly.

After the exhilaration and accomplishment of putting on a truly MASSIVE game like this, I'm left feeling a little....lost now?  What next?  I'm actually not sure where to go from here.  More to ponder.

Look for an end of year recap coming up on 2019's gaming soon!  I hope you enjoyed this battle report - it was a real blast to play!