Monday, April 1, 2024

SCENARIO 31: ECHELONED ATTACK - Developing an Aspern-Essling Inspired Scenario for One Hour Wargames

 I've been reading over Martin Rapier's "One Hour Wargames" Napoleonic rules of late and I am very much looking forward to getting a game in soon.  Martin's application of sound historical thinking to the One Hour Wargames ethos has had me excited about breaking out my Napoleonics and having a go at some big Napoleonic battles.  The only problem?  I don't want to play Quatre Bras or Salamanca again.  And until I get some Prussian and French Epic Warlord troopers painted up, I'm stuck with the nations that I have now (those being French, Austrian, Russian, and 1815 British and Dutch and the Napoleonic-inspired scenarios in the book...  Cue Donald Rumsfeld: "You go to war(games) with the Army you have, not the Army you wish you had".

Anyways, Martin's rules were written, I believe, with the scenarios from the OHW book in mind.  It's no secret that developing scenarios is one of my favorite aspects of the hobby so how do you do a titanic battle like  Aspern Essling justice?  There are some decent choices in the OHW book that would work now, but none of them are exact hits for this unusual fight, and all would require me to shift terrain types and locations.

Take for example, "Scenario #10 "Late Arrivals".  This scenario sees blue awaiting its reinforcements, and making a nail-biting defense work using the terrain.  This *could* work for Aspern Essling, or at least just for Aspern, by switching the "impassible hill" with the forest, and making the forest "impassible" and allowing the hill to be occupied.  Easy, but there's only one town.  I'd have to add another, and who knows what that would do the scenario.

Easy - just move the town left and up, switch the hills and forest, straighten out the road...seems like alot of work (Taken from OHW without permission, all rights reserved to their respective owners, no challenge to the author's status intended)

Scenario #15 "Fortified Defense" comes closer, and it has 2 built-up areas in it.  You would have to move the location of the woods but it looks like a halfway decent contender, at least for the topography (IE the 2 BUAs).  I just dont like the "troll Corps" that can regenerate to simulate additional attacking waves.  It seems like I'm watching a Ridley Scott Napoleonic battle, only the trenches are missing...

Getting closer - we'd just need to move the BUAs around and move the woods - and no troll Austrian regeneration!  (Taken from OHW without permission, all rights reserved to their respective owners, no challenge to the author's status intended)

While I like Scenario 15, and you could make the argument that the Austrians did come in "waves" against the French positions, I want the Austrian "Columns" to be stand-alone elements, not a regeneration of the entire force.  So Scenario 15 is close, but is still out.

Reading through all of the scenarios made me realize what's needed is a NEW scenario.  A "Scenario 31" if you will, representing an attack that I dont feel is very well represented in the OHW book - that of an "echeloned attack", where blows fall in succession upon an enemy in a timed (but not necessarily intentional) sequence.  Gettysburg on Day 2 is a classic example of an echeloned attack.  You want to know another great example of an attack where the various Corps fell upon the defenders in an echeloned sequence?  Aspern Essling in 1809!  Great!  So how do we do it?  Well Mr Neil Thomas already has a scenario that will *start* to fit our needs...

Scenario #5: Bridgehead.

aside from the fact that AE, 1809 is an actual battle for a Bridgehead, this scenario has some great starting points for our new scenario - namely the various entry points for the attacking force.

It doesnt look like it yet, but we're going to make Aspern-Essling out of these 9 boxes...

The letters on the perimeter represent random entry points for the various antagonists.  What if they instead represented actual, timed locations for the attacker to show up?  IE 2 units enter at Point A on turn 2.  3 Units enter at Point B on Turn 4, etc.  We'll get rid of that river, and move the woods south by 12".  Next we'll put a BUA where the woods are now, and put another BUA 2 squares to the right.  Simple right?

Now THAT is more like it!

We'll need Scenario Parameters too, right?  Can't forget those.  

Situation: The Blue Army has invaded Red territory, occupied its capital and is marching to force a decisive battle against the Red Army.  To do this, it must cross its army over a large river and establish a foothold on the opposite bank.  The Red Army, rather than resisting the passage, allows the Blue Army to build  a small foothold on the opposite bank, while planning to attack the bridgehead from multiple directions so that it can isolate the Blue Army from its reinforcements and destroy it.

Army Size: Both Armies have 6 units (although I'd like to scale up to 9 - if you do, simply add 1 unit to what Red receives on Turns 1, 2, and 3.  Blue should then start with 4 units on the table, and receive 2 x units on Turns 3 and 6)

Deployment:  The Blue player begins with 3 units deployed.  He must place 1 unit in each town.  He may place his other starting unit anywhere between the 2 towns, up to 18 inches from the southern table edge.


Turn 1: Red player places 2 x units at Point A

Turn 2: Red player places 1 x unit at Point B

Turn 3: Red Player places 2 x units at Point C

            Blue Player places 1 x unit at Point E  

Turn 5: Red Player places 1 x unit at Point D

Turn 6: Blue player places 1 x unit at Point E

Turn 9: Blue player places 1 x unit at Point E

Special Rules:*UPDATED*  Blue Reinforcements.  The Red Army is actively trying to destroy the bridges used by the Blue Army to reinforce their bridgehead.  Before placing a reinforcement, the Blue player must roll a 1D6.  On a roll of “1” the scheduled unit will arrive on the following turn, instead of the current turn (IE Turn 10 instead of Turn 9).

Blue Deployment.  The Blue player must deploy one unit in each town when the game begins. 

The woods are impassable to all units.

Game Length & Turn Order: The game lasts 15 turns.  The Red player goes first in each turn.

Victory Conditions: The Blue Player wins by occupying both towns at the end of the game.

I plan on playing this game in a few days with Dave, using Martin Rapier's excellent Grant-Tactical One Hour Wargames variant.  If you decide to try this scenario, leave a comment and let me know how it went!  Suggestions for improvement are always welcome.

You can download the scenario here, and a link is available at the top right of the blog.


  1. Steve, that is a very good scenario 31, done absolutely in the style of scenarios 1 - 30. I very recently played an Aspern-Essling boardgame and I like your map representation and agree that owing to table scales, the waterway / bridge is best kept ‘just’ off table.

    In the boardgame, it recognised that the two bridges (The Large and the Small) were critical in getting french from one side of the Danube to the bridgehead and similarly keeping a route of retreat open the other way.

    Anyway, apparently, the Austrians threw loads of debris, logs and such into the fast moving river, upstream and they had the effect of acting as battering rams agains the bridges and damaging them.

    Once damage, no more movement = no more reinforcements, until repaired. Damage was done by accumulated dice and then repair was done by accumulated dice. The bridges cold break and repair a couple of times over the 2 day battle.

    Anyway, in game terms there was some tension for the French player, whether the the next reinforcement would get across an intact bridge or whether they would be ‘stranded’ on the far bank until repairs.

    I don’t think you have much latitude within the 15 turns to do that without unhinging your scenario. The only way I see would be for the French reinforcement to take an arrival test on its first turn of availability, but if failed, make it automatic on it’s second turn.

    Perhaps only a low chance of failure, but enough of a presence to add tension to the affair.

    In the boardgame, the battle area became very crowded, so even though the Austrians had overwhelming numbers, they could not get everything easily into contact. But it did allow a damaged formation to pull out and have their sector taken over by another.

    The french are given a notably better command ability with 3 commanders on site, the Austrians have one commander, who cannot be everywhere at once, so at any one time, only part of his army activates, the rest must self test for activation.

    These seem to be the main ingredients of the boardgame. The result though, sadly, was a bit of a static game, though the towns did remain central to constant attacking and counter-attacking.

    1. Thanks for this thoughtful analysis, Norm. At first I did not think the bridges needed to be reflected but you are quite right as they can greatly impact the flow of reinforcements. Perhaps a special rule where on the roll of "1", the unit is delayed 1 turn? That would give the "blue" player enough stress but still allow for the possibility ofbthe unit arriving and not throwing off the game?

    2. I updated the scenario file and links so it should be good! I am looking forward to playing this one!

  2. I look forward to seeing how this scenario survives the first contact with two gamers, Steve!

    1. Murphy was a wargamer after all, Keith! Cheers sir.

  3. Nice thought process there and look forward to seeing how the scenario plays out. I played Scenario 10 before and it failed as I was using HoW and SYW armies, where the movement distances were too short, so the defenders had an easy win. I'm planning Scenario 15 for the next few days, but have decided to have all the troops on at the start, rather than the Attacker having a second wave. Not sure how it will play out but feel it should be better...

    BTW have you tried Thomas' own Napoleonic rules? They look good and I keep meaning to give them a run out, but so far have failed miserably!

    1. Hi Steve! Oh yes I have definitely read them and played them probably more so than any other set. They're excellent and give a really good game. They lack a good C2 structure (easily fixed) but for the most part give a great game.

      Scenario 15 is a good one. Looking forward to seeing the results of your game!

  4. Thanks for posting the scenario. It looks interesting and it will be set up on the tabletop at some point in the next week. Most likely for a pike and musket game.

    1. I would love to hear your feedback, on the scenario, Peter!

  5. Funnily enough, Aspern Essling is on my list of battles to do, so thanks for this. I'll enjoy reading the battle report. I would also scale it up to 9 units, it won't be crowded enough otherwise.

    1. No problem, Martin. Interested in any tweaks or improvements you come up with. I've already modified the reinforcements per Norm's suggestions above. Keep me posted!

  6. Thanks for the scenario. I played it solo yesterday, and it worked well. Only ‘issue’ was keeping tabs on the seven different arrival groups (possibly easier in a two player game?). Red won, but Blue gave them a run for their money…close enough that it could have been a Blue win, with a few different combat results.