Friday, August 21, 2020

Battle of Eckmühl Day 1 - Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells

Erik over at "The Swedish Intelligencer" blog has been playing a bunch of "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells" Grand-Tactical Napoleonic games lately, including a historical Friedland refight.

Reading Erik's multiple battle reports really made me want to get a game of "Eagles" back on the table, especially being one of the rules I am testing out as part of the "simple wargaming" project.  Truth be told, I have not yet fought a large historical refight with Eagles before so I felt the time had come!  Eckmuhl and the other battles leading up to Aspern-Essling have some scattered and localized actions and I found some scenarios based on the French III Corps actions in the northern half of the battle on day 1, where Davout must hold out for reinforcements and Charles picks his moment to attack.

French III Corps staring at the Austrians across the field.  

For this game I used 3D6 for French orders, and 2D6 + 1D3 for the Austrian orders, representing the sluggish nature of the Austrian command.

Grandeau's Infantry Brigades poised to seize Obersanding

The French start with initiative on turn 1.  Both sides rolled up good orders on turn 1 and move out with the French arranging themselves for an assault on Obersanding.  They'd demonstrate against Oberlaichling.  The lights in the center will skirmish with the Austrian Grenzers in the woods for almost the entire battle.  BTW, the battle was to last for 15 turns but with a twist.

If neither side had reached a "breakpoint" of 6 stands knocked out along with their geographical objectives held, I would roll to end the game starting after turn 15.  If on turn 16 I rolled a "6" the game ends.  If on turn 17 I rolled a 6 or 5, the game would end, and so on.  As it turns out, I did not need that rule in place.  More on that later. 

The breakpoint was a new concept as well.  I chose 6 units, with each unit being a victory point, and the geographical objectives also being worth a VP each.  Once your army hits its break, it must roll under the Breakpoint minus every stand that is knocked out over breakpoint.  So if you have 8 stands knocked out, that is 2 over your breakpoint.  6 minus 2 is 4.  Meaning you have to roll 4 or less for your army to stay in the game.  This also became a convenient way to end a large battle.

Turn 1 and both sides move out towards their respective objectives and adversaries!

Naturally, with 2 divisions poised against each other in such close proximity, Obersanding would become the scene of incredible violence as Brigade after Brigade from both sides smash themselves against it.

Turn 2 - Austrians steal the initiative from Davout!

The Austrians get the jump on the French and garrison Obersanding and Oberlaichling.  It's tough to coordinate all of the Austrian brigades but they are able to eventually move up a number of reinforcing brigades around Obersanding.  Grandeau's men are determined to take the village!

Blue dice are orders

Grandeau's Brigades massing to assault Obersanding!  Note the "commander" figure who represents a free order.  Alex's intent was 1 general stand per 6 units.  I only used 1 since the general roll of 3D6 per the French.  It also really made me think where to use the commander each turn.

One of Grandeau's Brigades go in to assault Obersanding!
In Eagles, you roll your current strength points, adjusted for terrain or position, in close combat.  The first assault on Obersanding is incredibly violent and destructive as the defending Austrians score 100% hits against the French Brigade, who also score 100% hits.  A French brigade is destroyed on turn 2!  The Austrians suffer 3 hits themselves.

The French go in with a fresh Brigade in another assault!

Obersanding is in French hands!

Surrounded by Austrians!  

The French capitalize on their positioning but the constant attacking is wearing them down.  Good thing I have a reserve ready!

Austrian Grenzers fighting it out with the French Voltiguers in the center woods!

French Brigades on the right move slowly into position.  

Turn 3 The Austrians keep the initiative

Austrian Brigades preparing to recapture Obersanding

Heavy fighting continues around Obersanding which changes hands again as a Hungarian infantry brigade takes it by storm.  The French are pushed back and there are a concerning amount of French infantry brigades with a significant amount of hits on them.  Time to rally some of those off!

The French are kicked out of the town!

The French are kicked out of Obersanding, but recapture it on turn 4, only to lose it again on turn 5!  This see saw action is exactly why I love these rules!  

The French in Obersanding see an opportunity and strike at the wounded Hungarian Brigade who were just pushed out, eliminating them!

The French getting greedy?  Another French Brigade routes after being repulsed by Austrian line

Turn 6 and the French are bringing up reserves and trying to rally off hits.

Austrians attempting to shut the door in front of Oberlaichling - the French advance on their right has been very ....leisurely.

Obersanding on the French left getting ready to change hands again - nothing new here!  But these are the last "fresh" Austrian brigades coming in.  This French brigade is on the ropes with 6 hits!

Bombarding Obersanding

Charles bolstering the morale of his footsoldiers during the battle!
Turns 7 and 8 see the lines become more organized as both sides shepherd their fighting strength.  There aren't as many foolhardy charges anymore.  The lights in the center need to get into the fight.

The Austrian Hussars move over to Obersanding and act as a guard against the Voltiguers emerging from the woods.

Speaking of the woods, heavy fighting between Grenzers as they tie down 3 French light units!

The Austrian line on their left forms.

The game is 4-3 right now in favor of the Austrians, who hold both geographical objectives.

Turn 10 sees more French efforts to take Obersanding but nothing materializes.  Have the French shot their bolt?  The Austrians successfully rally hit after hit off and their forces in Obersanding are looking good.

With something of a stalemate on the French left, they switch focus to the right and possibly taking Oberlaichling.  The Austrians see what's up and pull back closer to the town.  The French will have to fight through a division's worth of troops to get there!

Turn 10 sees a consolidation of the Austrian line and the French line pushes forward on both flanks!

Lots more shooting on the final turns as both sides settle in and there is much less maneuver.  The yellow dice are "disorganized" units after suffering 3 hits from the same volley.

The French lights - finally getting their act together?

The French right finally getting its act together?

The French give it one more big push against Obersanding and a fresh Brigade goes disorganized, getting hit with a volley from an "ordered" unit.  This is one of the dangers of going first in "Eagles" - assaulting a unit with an order on it can see the unit "react" by shooting prior to melee.  The defending Austrians disorder the assaulting French.

The French lights harass the Austrians with high hits in an effort to kill more units, but it's obvious the French will not be able to capture either town.  I call the game!

Yellow die unit shoots and melees with 1 less die in every combat due to significant casualties and losses.
The Austrians put their Hussars to good use and assault the advancing French on the right in the flank!  The powerful charge and ensuring melee wipes out BOTH units - I told you this was a brutal and violent battle!

Hussars battle with French Grenadiers and wipe each other out.

The Austrians are the undisputed masters of Obersanding - which is now a burning hulk of a town!

WOW What a game!  This was great fun, loaded with reversals of fortune as the initiative constantly changed hands during the battle.  The French and Austrians both took advantage of battlefield opportunities and the violent and quick thrusts in the beginning of the battle were tempered with more static shooting during the second half as both sides licked their wounds and rallied.

That may have been due to me not playing the rules in a long time but either way it was great fun.

I really love the orders system which is in place so you can't do everything you want on every turn.  This forces you to identify your main effort for the turn.

  You can set up your forces for attacks, bombard the enemy to soften him up for a ground assault, and use cavalry for a killing blow to a unit on the ropes.

For this battle, I feel as the French I could have used my lights more effectively to cut off Obersanding and harass the defenders with ranged fire.  For the Austrians, the "demonstration" in front of Oberlaichling could have been more aggressive and harder on the French but all of my focus was really fixated on the left in Obersanding.  Couple that with a few turns of relatively little orders (3 turns in a row of only 5 or 6 orders for BOTH the French and the Austrians!)

I like the fact that when you're 1 base width from the enemy, it costs 2 orders to order a unit.

I like the ranged fire even through some decry it in a "grand tactical" game I still enjoy shooting and these brigades had many resources in the form of skirmishers, artillery, and maneuvering line battalions.  The ranged fire represents the more "close fight" going on at the battalion and company level.

 EAGLES is really one of my favorite games because of the story it creates.  I plan on playing another "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells" game and will apply the "Simple Wargame" questions to it.

This is probably all of the gaming I needed to convince myself to singly base these units.

Some things that need to be looked at:

Retreating/Withdrawin units and "traffic jam" rules
Officer casualties
Breakpoint and Endgame for "open" battles not taken from the OHW scenarios.


  1. Lovely looking game and a great acid test to demonstrate a ‘thumbs-up’ for single unit basing. I agree the ‘French are kicked out of Obersanding, but recapture it on turn 4’ type too and fro action is really compelling and draws you in.

    Your enthusiasm for the game is a good indication that. You are in the ball park for the type of game that you would like to spend more time doing.

    1. Thanks Norm! I dont think I've ever played a "bad" game of Eagles. While based off the OHW model originally, it has so many modifications and additions it looks nothing like One Hour Wargames anymore.

      I think the additions we've added like rallying, random movement, assault combat, and the orders really make this game. People have liked the "win by 2 to steal the initiative" rule also. It just adds that much more excitement to the game.

      I'm not sure if Eagles is "the" simple game for me, but it certainly helps identify what I am looking for in a game.

  2. Good looking battle, Steve! With your stands elevated above the town BUAs, you give new meaning to the defense teetering on the brink!

    I look forward to the answers to your simple Gaming questions with respect to Eagles.

    1. Thanks Jonathan, you know I like to live " on the edge" hahaha all kidding aside, I wanted to play a "proper" battle with the rules and they did not disappoint.

      I'll probably play another game of Eagles but with a OHW scenario likely tomorrow. I will use that game for the questions and post soon.

    2. Your 10mm Napoleonics look fab. by the way.

    3. Thanks Jonathan. They are on my volley and bayonet sabots now but some specially selected regiments will be moved over to the Army's special "fight as one base" program soon. More to follow so watch this space!

  3. Lovely looking game, with great figures and certainly plenty of action. The sabot bases work well, but personally I like my units on seperate bases, but then I tend to play at a lower level where this may matter more in terms of formations etc.

    1. Thank you very much Steve. These guys are sitting on sabots right now however I plan on mounting many of them on single stands.

      This all started after playing a game of Commands and Colors Napoleonics on a friends table who has gorgeous 1/72 plastics on single stands as large units. Each base was a diorama and I immediately wanted to do this with my Napoleonic troops.

    2. I should mention that the rigidness of the 10mm
      Figures are nowhere near as animated as my friends 1/72 bases, but they will do the job.

  4. Great narrative Steve. I have been reading through the rules too, and they are very exciting - combining elements with reading your narrative and I really need to get these to the table. Many things are more attractive that Blucher, in terms of the tightly written rules and nature of orders 'focus'.
    The figures and setting also look superb. What a fight!

    1. Thanks Darren Alex doesn't miss much when he sits down with a set of rules and so while the inspiration for a grand tactical One Hour Wargame horse and musket set was mine, Alex did all the heavy lifting.

      I really like these rules as you can tell. Based on the simple wargaming analysis of the last few weeks, these really hit the sweet spot in terms of simplicity and thoroughness. I have enjoyed them very much especially for Napoleonic battles. Our Seven Years War GT mods also seemed to work very well. Who knows perhaps an AWI or ACW variant is in the cards?

    2. AWI variant does sound interesting.
      Speaking of Alex' rules tinkerings, I have promised to get back to him on his 'Striker' variant - must get on that too.

  5. Great game Steve! And a good story about it. As I have said before, it’s a good rule set that gives lots of options to the players and lots of action.
    I like the breakpoint system. Good way of introducing some ”battle economy” to have in mind. I read Norms Bosworth Field the other day and was intrigued by the ”flight roll” mechanism.

    1. Thank you, Erik! After seeing all the Eagles games you played, I really wanted to give them a go again myself as it had been awhile.

      I'm taking a hard look at the breakpoints system for ending larger battles. The OHW scenarios have very tight victory conditions but when playing a larger, historical battle I wanted to look at how to end the battles with the capturing of key objectives and the destruction of enemy units. More to come on this!

  6. There's the wheel, then sliced bread, then "eagles cheaper than brain cells".
    Another incredibly biased opinion.

  7. Great battle report and nice looking table. I’ve never heard of the rules but find the title very silly but obviously it’s supposed to be. 😀
    Large battles always look so good when played in a smaller scale. 😀

    1. Thanks, Stew. Youd have to ask Alex how we came up with that name - I cant remember anymore.

      The rules are available for a very exclusive price :) tabbed at the top of the page here. The scale is the same as Volley and Bayonet, Grande Armee, or Blucher.

      I agree the smaller figures look more convincing as a Brigade. I started with the 10mm guys for Commands and Colors Napoleonic and have been hooked on 10mm for Napoleonics ever since.

  8. Nice job with the game and write up; putting these rules on the table myself is on the "To Do" list!

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