Thursday, 24 September 2015

Guest blogger (7): Battle of Tolentino, 2–3 May 1815—Part 1

Our guest blogger Phil from York, UK sent me the first part of his bicentennial game of the Battle of Tolentino.

Without further ado, it's over to Phil to describe his wonderful looking game.

Tolentino is not a well known battle. It was fought over two days in May 1815 in Northern Italy between the Forces of Murat King of Naples and the Austrians under Bianchi. Murat’s defeat meant that the Austrians were free to march on France’s southern border, making a French victory in 100 days campaign unlikely in the long term and putting Napoleon under pressure to defeat Wellington and Blucher quickly.

Murat, King of Naples

This was one of the hardest battles to recreate as so little has been written about it and a lot of that is contradictory, especially the maps. I wanted a table that could be used to fight both days of the battle and in the end I had to resort to drawing my own map using Google earth with various landmarks identified from the written accounts (as it was I manged to put Casone on the wrong side initially). There was a certain amount of guesswork and compromise to provide dispositions and armies that would give a reasonable battle.

Battlefield from the West.

The battle also required the painting of a Neapolitan army (though various units were appropriated from my existing Italian, Westphalian and French forces). These are Franznap Guard Velites bulked out with some grenadiers from the Zvezda staff set.

Turn 1

Murat sights the Austrians and commits his troops to battle, sending orders to his outlying units to join him tout de suite. Here the Neapolitan Guard and cavalry mass behind Cento Gallo on the south of the battlefield (Murat’s left).

His centre also advances (the dice mark hit points).

The Austrians send out some hussars but otherwise remain on the defensive.

Turn 2

The Guard advance.

The assault on the hilltop town of Monte Millione begins.

The attack in the centre builds.

In their bound the Austrian centre withdraws to allow their artillery to pound the Neapolitan columns.

The Austrian hussars catch the light infantry in column and isolated causing them to rout.

Turn 3

Monte Millione is assaulted in force,

... and falls.

In the centre Lecchi’s division attacks but is thrown back.

And on the left the Austrian battery is stormed by The Guard Voltiguers and the Royal African regiment. The attack is successful but the Voltiguers take heavy casualties and are broken. (This attack unfortunately occurs right over a large gap between boards!).

Over on the right the light infantry are pursued by the Austrian hussars but manage to form square.

Turn 4

The victorious Neapolitans move off from Monte Millione in an effort to turn the Austrian right.

Heavy bombardment eventually takes its toll on the garrison of Trebbio (on the Austrian right) and they are destroyed.

The Guard Velites and Royal Africans advance to Casone and trade volleys with Baron Eckhart’s Brigade.

While the First Light throw themselves at the Austrian Line (right centre) but are repulsed with heavy losses.

In the Austrian bound the Royal African are destroyed by Austrian volleys and the 3rd Light are routed completely by the Hussars far over on the right – Not a good turn for the Neapolitans.

Turn 5

Situation on the eastern side of the board: The Austrian flank has been turned and Ambrosio brings up the centre to support this attack.

His forces now rather depleted; Murat orders forward the rest of his Guard. (He should be pointing the other way really !)

They are repulsed.

The Neapolitan cavalry finally make an appearance...

The Austrians maintain their positions, content to shell their opponents from a distance.

Turn 6

The cavalry retires!

But Ambrosio’s men slam into the Austrian left causing it to collapse.

Together with mounting casualties from the long distance bombardment by the Neapolitan artillery, Bianchi’s army is ‘exhausted’ and cannot continue. Victory to Murat... Stay tuned for day two!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Seven Year's War battle: a fictitious game

We played this Seven Year's War battle using Zimmermann's rules.

Mark, who is our Seven Year's War devotee(1) kindly set-up this game which broke my wargaming 'drought' of more than a month(2). In addition to providing the opportunity for an enjoyable game using some of his beautifully painted Seven Year's War Prussians, Austrians and French, it was a chance to trying a few tweaks to the rules, which worked well.
1 He has even been heard to say that he prefers the period to Napoleonics—can you imagine any greater heresy?!!
2 Mark had already broken his own with a solo game the previous week and being involved in the first day of Mark H's Waterloo v2 the day before.

The main adjustments were a slight reduction to the range of artillery (following the game we plan to downgrade canister further) and a reduction in the effect of musket fire. During the battle we also added a mechanism to enable senior commanders to rally troops and to determine when such commanders may be moved (plus the potential for them to become casualties).

Mark set-up the game based on an article introducing people to the period that in one of his old copies of Model Soldier magazine (February 1980). I managed to forget the camera, so iPad photos it was.

Armies lined up, Prussians at bottom, Austrians at top left and their French allies at top right.

Closer view of some of Mark's beautifully painted Prussians.

Ditto, for French and Austrians.

I advanced the Prussian right, while holding back my left. Mark held the line with the French and Austrians.

The cavalry on the Prussian right came to grips with the French on the second turn...

with a pleasing outcome for the Prussian heavies.

Meanwhile the Prussian infantry advanced, allowing for an exchange volleys.

The cavalry mêlée also went the way of the Prussian 3rd cuirassiers over the Austrian dragoons (see here retreating behind their fellow horsemen).

The infantry firefights continued along the line, the Prussians beginning to get the edge, perhaps?

Having rallied the French cavalry came on again. This time they would be more successful, the horse grenadiers (at left) defeating the stationary, weakened 5th cuirassiers and Prussian dragoons (centre of photo).

On the Prussian left, the second Austrian dragoon regiment forced the 3rd cuirassiers to retreat and lined up the 1/16 grenadiers.

That brought us to the end of the fourth turn (~ four hours of battle). The Prussian's and French were on an army test for one-third losses (from the sum of 'broken' units and current 'casualties' to units on the table). The Austrians had not yet reached that level.

We decided not to do the test (an optional rule with a 50% chance of failure) and to play another turn that we were sure would be decisive.

That it was as the Prussians and French both fell below the automatic army break point of 50% losses, while the Austrians had not yet reached that level, just...!

Just goes to show that, had it not been a fictitious game/rules tweak-test, we would have been better to do the tests, rather than fight to the 'death'!
A colourful, enjoyable and closely-fought game using Zimmermann's 'oldie but goodie' rule set. Mark has these rules in mind as our 'standard' for Seven Year's War games. I for one am more than happy with his choice.