Monday 16 February 2015

Austro-Prussian War Game

Yesterday we played an Austro-Prussian War game. The scenario was quite straightforward. A Prussian infantry division, supported by a cavalry brigade, a Landwehr infantry regiment plus six batteries from the Corps reserve were sent to secure a railway bridge in Bohemia. Three Austrian brigades, supported by a cavalry brigade and the corps artillery reserve were sent to oppose them.

The armies were organised so that the Prussian battalions consisted of four stands, while the Austrians were three stands. To represent some of the tactical differences, the Prussian Needle Gun infantry would roll one and a half dice per stand when they fired. To represent the Prussian schnellfeur good order infantry could re-roll misses in closing fire. The Austrians has the advantage of rifle range, but had a slower rate of fire (one side per stand). The Prussian landwehr infantry, armed with rifled muskets, had the same rate of fire as the Austrians. The Austrian line infantry were encouraged to make use of attack columns by making it one point more difficult to activate if not formed in column. If the columns got into contact, the full depth of the column cold contribute to the melee. The rules, as usual, were home grown and suit our style of play.

The terrain was pretty straightforward. Looking from the Austrian side, on the right was a stream crossed by a railway line. Near that crossing was a small farm. About one and a half meters to the left, pretty much dead centre of the table, was a small town, laying in the hollow of a shallow valley. Still further left was a walled farm.

The Austrians were on the table at the start of the game with all three infantry brigades near the centre of the table, one slightly to the right of the town with the other two slightly to the left. The cavalry held the extreme left. The Prussians had to march on and were centred near the town

The action began slowly. First because the Prussian troops rolled really badly for their activation and were "tardy" and second because neither side had any artillery in position. That said both sides split their forces into three groups, each aiming to control the three key points on the table: the railway line, the town and the farm on the Austrian left.

The "tardy" Prussians

The Austrian left and centre

The action developed on the Austrian left first, where an infantry brigade and the cavalry brigade faced off against the landwehr regiment and the Prussian cavalry. The initial cavalry tussle proved inconclusive with each side driving back one of each other's regiments before each side pulled back to observe. But the infantry action was more deadly. The landwehr occupied the farm but a powerful assault by the Austrian jagers, supported by two line battalions, drove them out, while two other battalions took care of the other landwehr battalion and then drove up the hill beyond and, despite heavy losses, captured two Prussian batteries there.

Th Austrians asdvance on the left

They carry the farm...

...and attack the Prussian batteries on the hill

The cavalry renewed it tussle and although the Prussian troopers pushed off most of their Austrian counterparts, they were held in check by the Austrian artillery.

The cavalry fight

In the centre the fighting became particularly hot. The Austrian seized the initiative and stormed forward in their assault columns, covered by the jagers. Two Austrian battalions were badly knocked about early by artillery fire and the initial assault by the jagers was stopped short of its target. However, three battalions following the jagers managed to press home the attack and drive back the Prussians in front of them. Two battalions to their right drove forward against a badly battered Prussian battalion and, despite taking heavy fire into their flank, drove the Prussians from the field. The Austrians then struck the second Prussian line which, despite being heavily disadvantaged, held. A desperate fight developed. In the end the Prussians came through the town and struck the rear of the attacking Austrians, all but destroying this Austrian brigade, but they had taken severe losses themselves in doing so.

The Prussians occupy the town

The Austrians move on the town

The Austrians attack in the center

The Austrians on the right made it across the stream and covered the railway. The Prussians on this flank continued to move tardily but when they did finally get into position, their superior musketry began to tell. As the game came to an end it became obvious that the Prussians would eventually gain the upper hand here.

In the end the honours were pretty much even. The Austrians were in good shape on their left, with only a regiment of Prussian cuirassiers left there to oppose them. In the centre the Austrian infantry brigade was wrecked, but the Prussians had suffered heavily too and were in no shape to press forward against the massed Austrian artillery. On the Austrian right, the tardy Prussians had been roughly handled, but were pretty much taking out one Austrian battalion at a time with rifle fire.

The tweaks made to the rules had worked really well and caught the flavour of the period. The Prussian musketry was dominant and by making the battalions four stands it meant that they could outshoot the Austrians two to one in a  stand up fire fight. The Austrian assault columns were also well represented. Against a well-positioned Prussian battalion, they could take terrible losses, but if they did manage to close they could sweep the field. The problem for the Austrians was keeping the momentum going. Only on a few occasions could the Austrians make use of their additional rifle range.