Today we played an Austro-Prussian War game, on the Italian front. The scenario was set just after the Battle of Custozza and the Italian Army is in retreat. In an effort to destroy the Italians, Archduke Charles has ordered five infantry brigades, supported by the Army's only cavalry brigade and six batteries from the artillery reserve to swing south, cross the Mincio River at Valeggio Sul Mincio and then swing north to cut the Italian line of retreat.
To oppose this movement the Italian command sent a reinforced infantry brigade, two brigades of cavalry and three batteries from the reserve. The Italian commander was told to destroy the two bridges at Valeggio Sul Mincio. The problem for the Italian players was that it would take six turns for the engineers to lay the charges on the bridges, and even then there was a 50:50 chance that the attempt to destroy them would fail.
Veteran wargamers may recognise a similarity between this scenario withe the Battle of Sittangbad as outlined in the book "Charge, or How to Play Wargames". The rules used for the game were homegrown. The figures were all of my design, cast for me some ten years ago. On the table were 931 foot figures, 128 mounted figures and 19 gun models.
The table was set up with a bend in the Mincio with Valeggio Sul Mincio on the East bank, occupied by most of the Italian infantry, and West of the river, on the heights were the Italian reserve batteries. South of the town were the rest of the Italian infantry and the two cavalry brigades. Of the Austrians one brigade was north of the town, one was east of the town, one was southeast of the town while two brigades and the cavalry were to the south, across a broad fordable stream. The Austrian reserve artillery would have to dice advance onto to the table.
The Italian cavalry south of the town
The Austrians won the initiative roll and moved first. The brigade West of the town moved to attack the town and on the second turn stormed the building in the centre of the town, driving the Italian occupants before them. However having taken that place the were unable to push further. For the rest of the game the three battalions of the regiment were rotated out of the house and gardens as they suffered from from the Italian artillery fire.
The other regiment of the same brigade attempted to take the building immediately to the right, but met with a bloody repulse - a direct result of the owning player rolling three "1's".
The next attempt repulsed
Meanwhile to the south the two brigades beyond the stream crossed the water. The Italian heavy cavalry, taking advantage of the disordered state of the Austrian infantry as they crossed the stream, charged. A battalion of Austrian jägers were routed and the Italian troopers broke through onto the now disrupted battalion behind, routing it as well. But a charge by the second Italian heavy regiment was repulsed and as the Austrian infantry recovered from their disorder, the Italian troopers found themselves in poor shape and soon quit the field.
The Italian Light cavalry also moved to the attack and after some initial success were eventually held in check, then cut to pieces by the Austrian guns and forced to quit the field.
In the town the Austrians carried the southern building on the second attempt, only to be pinned down in the gardens. Meanwhile at the other end of the table, the northern end, the Austrians assaulted the church yard and were repulsed. They rallied, reformed and came back again. This time they carried the place.
With three quarters of the town in Austrian hands, with three almost intact brigades closing in from the south and with the Austrian reserve artillery deploying to the East, the Italians made for the bridges. The southern bridge was blown in the face of the Austrian advance. In the town itself, by a stroke of luck, the Italians stole a march on the Austrians and dashed across the bridge, covered by a line battalion from Genoa.
The battered but sucessful Italians march across the other bridge.
The Italian engineers held their breath and lit the fuse to the charges on the bridge. The didn't have to hold their breath long because it blew on the first attempt. The engineers were subsequently awarded the Order of the Crossed Pepperoni for their efforts. The Italian commander, having left the Genoese battalion on the other side of the river, could never go back to Genoa, but had prevented the Austrians from seizing the bridges.
It was a great game, enjoyed by all (especially the Italian players).