Sunday 29 November 2015

An Austro-Italian Battle, in 1866

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 First Austrian Assault on the Town

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 heavy cavalry charge...
...and break the jäger battalion

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.

After repelling the Italian light cavalry the Austrians reform...

...and then force the Italian troopers 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.

The first of attack on the church is repulsed...

...but the second succeeds

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 southern bridge is blown

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.

The  Austrian columns converge on the town, but too late!

It was a great game, enjoyed by all (especially the Italian players).


  1. This looks like a great game too! The gallant Genoa regiment sacrificed itself for the Motherland. Bravo!

    So, you commissioned a range of figures custom made for your own use? I would enjoy hearing more about this range of figures with detailed photos if possible Sounds very interesting.

    1. Thanks Jonathan. The figures were designed by me and cast by a local casting specialist. I have had a fascination with the Austro-Prussian War that goes back to the 1980s, but there were no manufacturers around then. After reading the Geoffrey Wawro book on it in the late 1990s I looked at it more seriously and decided to have a go myself. I was happy with the first results for the Austrians – they weren’t the greatest figures in the world, but they were available and they were mine. I continued on to make all the figures – infantry, cavalry and artillery - for the Austrians, Italians, Bavarians, Hanoverians, Saxons and a few Wurtembergers, plus some French and Austrians for 1859 and Danes for 1864 (the figures were designed to be compatible with the Foundry FPW Prussians of which our group has significant collections so there was no need to make Prussians). I had significant armies of Austrians and Italians cast. It was never the intention to set up a range for sale – I spent fifteen years in the “industry” and had no desire to go back there.

      The next phase was to cast up the Saxons, but the caster made a hash of the moulds, over pressurising them and distorting the castings. Only a few of the figures were usable. This episode was rather deflating and I haven’t had the heart (or cash) to continue with it. So there the project has stands, with masters for the Bavarians, Hanoverians, etc, still sitting in their boxes in the cupboard. You never know, one day…

    2. Mark, the collection is in 25mm? Wow! That is a massive collection with nearly 1,000 foot.
      Appreciate the history and contents of your project. Hope to see this out on the table more!

    3. Yes 25mm. All of my armies are in this scale now. I haven't owned a smaller scale figure since the mid 1990s - the only thing I have in smaller scale is the 1:600 scale ironclad Austrian and Italian navies! I too want to see them more on the table but the problem is our group has such diverse interests that it is hard to play any more than one game from a given from period in a year.

  2. What a great looking game Mark (ok, ok, especially for the Italian players!), beautiful armies and buildings...Love the two assaults on the church and the heavy cavalry charge, poor light batallions...Epic!

    1. Well I was playing Italian...and commanded thr cavalry! It was a fun game.

  3. Mark, a splendid looking game. I have always resisted getting Piedmontese to fight my Austrians, to date at any rate!


    1. Thanks Colin. The Italians give an interesting balance to the battles of this period. Since both sides are armed with rifled muskets, neither can dominate with musketry and the Austrian assault columns have a better chance. One of the key reasons I did the Italians is that they can be used for Piedmontese in 1859 - it is a shame the same can't be said for the Austrians.

  4. Very nice game, both to read about and look through the pics (considering I'm on the other side of the world)! Gives me some extra inspiration, since I'm making a start on Seven Weeks War but in 20mm!

    1. Thank. I like this period, but we don't pkay it enough. Maybe next year...