The last weekend in September was a significant one for the Eagles.
First and foremost was the victory to the mighty West Coast Eagles in the AFL Grand Final on Saturday 29th September!
Julian has already reported another victory to eagles (of sorts); the mercenaries, lead by "former Roman veterans", at the Battle of Utica.
Later that same day, across the Avon River, John (of Serpentine War Game Club and honorary member of our ANF group) and I held the Action at Abbach (Battle of Eckmühl) 22nd April 1809: pitting the French vs Austrian eagles.
John brought the scenario and the majority of the figures while I provided the venue, the Ralph Fisher Memorial room (aka ANF annex B), food and essential beverages!
The scenario came from Michael Hopper's^ scenario books of the 1809 campaign (see end of this post). We used the game as a playtest (for me) of the General d'Armée rules.
(^In an interesting aside, we had some extensive correspondence with Michael a couple of years ago, firstly with Julian and David (of the Wargames Retreat) about War of Spanish Succession but moving to Napoleonics. He had mentioned producing scenario books, so when John said that he had some excellent scenario books for 1809 and told me more about them I said, "Hang on, there are not by Michael Hopper are they?" G'day to Mike if you are reading this!)
|Game map from Michael Hopper's scenario book|
|This map of the final positions after the Battle of Eckmühl from the Jean Lannes website shows the location of Abbach (Abach) on the left flank of the French positions, bottom left of map, near the Danube.|
|Weber's powerful Austrian infantry division ready for the 'off' (Klenau's advance guard in front of them).|
|Opposed by Boudet's French, part of Oudinot's command.|
|Overview of the table looking west, Poigen in the foreground.|
|In the distance could be seen the impressive St Peter's cathedral at Regensberg—John would not let me put it on the table, something about it being too large, imagine.|
|The artillery exchanged 'pleasantries'.|
|Weber's men, supported by Klenau, moved to attach Boudet's out numbered defenders west of Poignet.|
|Over on the French right flank (western side of the battlefield), Pajol's mixed division faced Vécsey.|
|Colbert's chasseurs soon arrived to add some support.|
|Pajol attached with the 5e and 7e hussars, supported by the 11e (heavily disguised as the 16e) chasseurs.|
|Austrian infantry formed square and drove back the 5e while the chevau-légers and 7e hussars/11e chass. fought an indecisive action, both retiring.|
|"Into the valley of death..." Colbert's 20e chasseurs charged the guns. A damned silly move and I realised that I had deployed them to the wrong part of the battlefield. More of that post Grand Final clouded thinking?!|
|Back on the French left, Weber's Austrians exchanged volleys with the defenders of Poignet.|
|Overview of the battlefield looking west (as we had left it having called it a night, Saturday night, to be precise).|
|Master of disguise: Pajol (disguised as Lasalle) leading the 11e chasseurs (disguised as the 16e) in a 'glory' charge! A 'glory' charge provides an extra mêlée die, should the charge result in a mêlée.|
|Back to the charge: no glory to be had.|
|Boudet's stupidity awoke Klenau: the Archduke Charles Legion charged.|
|Buoyed by this, they went on (next turn) to firefight with the French line.|
|Bloody hell, they were all getting in on the act. The Hesse-Homburg hussars charged...|
|and there went the unformed square, in retreat.|
|Weber's infantry charged the defenders of the stream...|
|who retreated (in this case able to form up behind the gun).|
|Back on the right, Pajol had reformed his hussars for another charge: the 7e towards the Austrian chevau-légers and the 5e the infantry.|
|The 5e took fire from infantry and guns.|
|The chevau-légers did not stand before the mighty 7e hussars. |
They break through onto the infantry behind.
|Sending it packing and carrying on to the next.|
|They stood fast and the hussars withdrew a little.|
|Meanwhile, the 5e had not been so successful, so retreated back to their lines.|
|It had become the classic 'game of two flanks'.|
|All-out assault on the left. Pajol's light infantry should defeat a square of infantry, surely? They got to 'charge with élan...|
|but the jägers performed brilliantly in the mêlée.|
|Beside them Colbert's 7e chasseurs charged a column, unformed at the prospect,|
|... they retreated, but were not broken.|
|The 11e (16e) chasseurs will deal with this square...|
|or perhaps not.|
|Surely the mighty 7e hussars will be too good for a few Austrian dragoons?|
|Bien sur, mes amis! La gloire!|
|Over on the (French) right, the Hesse Homburg hussars expected to over-run Boudet's guns, but were driven off due to the defensive fire.|
|Weber's infantry charged the weakened defenders of Poignet...|
|and captured the town!|
|Conroux's division of fourth battalions arrived, too late for Poignet, but in time to relieve Boudet.|
|While back on the left, Albert's infantry could be seen in the distance.|
The game was a draw by the scenario conditions as each side controlled an objective town and no brigades/divisions had been broken. I claimed it as a French victory, though, as they were in the best table-top position and were being reinforced. Strategically, Oudinot's aim was to protect the right flank of the army and this had clearly been achieved.
We had completed nine turns of what was a close and extremely enjoyable game. It had also been successful as a first play-test of the rules. Having watched the videos describing them, which seemed to indicate some bizarre mechanics and approaches that do not appeal to moi, I had been extremely hesitant, bordering on skeptical about them.
After we stopped on Saturday night I had progressed to thinking that they were a set that I'd be happy to play when doing a game with John. By half-way through our Sunday session, I had changed to considering them well worth another game, preferably with larger forces and to read them (always a good idea).
My concerns over the combat system quickly evaporated and I ended up finding it to be really darned good. The two-step process is easy to work through and, often, the result is determined by the 'charge' bit (morale effects) without the need for actual 'pointed sticks'—which sounds a bit like the descriptions from battles, hey? Cavalry seem to 'work' particularly well, most often in a fairly evenly matched contest they did a bit of damage, or not, and went back to "lick their wounds" and prepare for another go. On occasion they did much more. Most telling in this game was the devastating charge of the mighty 7e hussars (are they on everyone's list of favourites?), which severely disrupted the Austrian right. This was no mean feat, resulting as it did from some beautiful dice rolls by me—following on the heels of a series of most ordinary rolls on my right.
The tables in the rules at first glance, by which I mean simply looking over John's shoulder, seemed pretty daunting. Use during the game showed that looks can deceive. By turn seven, or so, I was able to 'predict' the result, from memory, particularly with firing. To me this was a good indication of ease of use.
There remain a few doubts in my mind regarding the ADC system, but I became more comfortable with it over the course of this game. The description of 'the player's command focus' does not gel with me. To me it encompasses a whole heaps of aspects. Chiefly, good command, overseeing the deployment of the troops, co-ordinating movements—or perhaps the opposite, being paralysed and failing as leaders. Then there is the bit where aides officers, commanders wave their sword, exalting the men to greater efforts. The 'special' command actions such as a 'glory' charge are not ovewhelming, a commander adds a bit to a unit in combat but is not more valuable than the troops. No plus 7s here! Finally it is about time. Good command keeps things moving, hesitant command means that formations may 'muck about' a bit, attacks falter or occur in an unco-ordinated manner. It is possible, with more use, that this system will show itself as a mechanic that is too stylised for my liking. Alternatively, further playtesting may lead me to appreciate it more and more.
A big thank you to John for setting up the scenario, bringing his lovely figures for the game and, most particularly, for backing his judgement and certainty that I would 'like' the rules.
I look forward to testing them with a larger battle. They work as general de division (single corps actions), but will they work for general d'armée (multi-corps actions), or will the added detail make them 'tough' for those bigger games?
Hopper M. & Griner T. (2018) Eagles Over Bavaria 1809. http://wargamingsociety.com/wsforum/viewtopic.php?t=337