Weil Campaign – Day 4

If you are new to the campaign, here are the prior posts:
Weil Campaign – Day 1 and 2
Weil Campaign – Day 2 Battle of Neuben
Weil Campaign – Day 3
Weil Campaign – Day 3 Battle of Stautz
Weil Campaign – Day 3 Battle of Sägwell

After the draw at Stautz and the French win at Sägwell I updated the map and forces. One wrinkle of the current campaign rules is, that you cannot retreat into a location with two forces already present. This means that Austrian II Armeekorps has been effectively dispersed in the retreat.

The Austrians could have avoided this but I simply forgot. Maybe I have to address this, as it does feel very forced to move in such a way to avoid it. It also seems not historical to split up retreating forces into different locations.

With the French now at 7 victory points and the Austrians at -3 I decided to stop the campaign here. Even with a fresh force still at Weil the losses have been too severe and the strategic position is untenable. The Austrians have to retreat and the French have won a major victory.

The overall losses are heavily weighted in favor of the French after the battle of Sägwell:
French: 4000
Austrians: 25000

Thoughts on the Campaign Rules

For the first playtest the rules worked fine. Some of the mechanics to keep the armies on a broad footing strategically seem a little bit artificial. A more open map might help here to force armies to spread in order to cover ally approaches.

Thoughts on Volley and Bayonet

The more I play the rules the more I like them. Although I usually prefer more restrictive command and control rules the campaign did its part to come up with interesting scenarios that were challenges to commanding a force in itself.

Only artillery seems a tad too strong, especially on defense. But this can easily mitigated by fielding less dedicated artillery.

Weil Campaign – Day 3 Battle of Sägwell

This is the second battle happening on day 3 of the campaign and the biggest one. Several French and Austrian Corps as well as both C-in-Cs are converging on the village of Sägwell and the nearby crossroads.

Deployment

At 0800 in the morning Darche’s French III Corps is arrayed in defensive positions on a small hill. Sägwell is to the left while the strategically important crossroads are to the right. Darche knows that C-in-C Gérard will arrive with the Guard later in the day to his right. He also knows that another enemy Armeekorps is on the move against him.

In the distance II Armeekorps of Austrian general Brandauer marches to battle positions. Kress will arrive with reinforcements soon to his left (which is upper right int he image). Rumors of French reinforcements are unconfirmed.

The small wooded area lining the road will be a point of conflict all day.

0900 to 1100

The French moved to occupy the woods and Sägwell. Excellent defensive positions buffered by extensive skirmishers screens. The Austrians start probing attacks.

Both side use artillery to soften up the enemy

Thick clouds of smoke billow up from the woods. Although the French are outnumbered and outgunned, skirmishers and cover seem to be enough to even the odds.

1100

C-in-C Stroheim arrives on the field with Kress’ I Armeekorps in tow. The long line of troops make their way to the crossroads to pressure the French flank.

Having the upper hand in troops on the field Brandauer orders to take the woods and pressure the enemy. Soon Austrians are streaming through the woods with Frenchmen in flight. With his forces stretched thin Darche opts to reform his left flank on the hill but keep one regiment in Sägwell. This proves to be a vital decision, as the Austrians have to deal with the village before they can roll up the flank.

Meanwhile reports of dust clouds on the horizon arrive Stroheim. It seems that the French have more forces in the area after all and he will not have time to defeat the Freench one after another.

1200

C-in-C Gérard and the French Guard under Daucourt arrive. They too have the crossroads in sight as a way to connect to Darche but as they aproach, Austrian troops are already deploying along the road.

The situation as seen from the French table edge. Darche is out of image to the left, Daucourt’s small but formidable reserve to the right. The Austrian road column scrambles to wheel to their left to deal with the new threat.

1300

After hours of preparatory fire and losing the woods Darche sees Austrian columns coming in along the entire front. Fortunately, his artillery is still intact and the attackers are raked with canister fire and musket volleys. The Austrians run before they can even reach the hill and are in dire shape.

Daucourt urges his Guards forward through the screens of Austrian Grenzers. Heavy cavalry also attacks against enemy light horse with surprisingly mixed results. Still, Stroheim feels the initiative slipping as Brandauer reports mounting casualties and Kress is under pressure.

1400 and later

Gérard sees the opportunity and orders a general counter offense. Darche is quick to react and pushes his troops forward. Morale is high and the Austrians are seen retiring. Near the woods the Austrians face difficulty maneuvering and are dispersed.

Kress has to shift his forces as he sees Brandauer retiring. Meanwhile the Guard presses on like clockwork. A mere three hours after arriving Stroheim orders a general retreat.

This image has been take some time later at around 1600. The Austrian committed their last fresh troops to cover the general retreat but it is not going well. Darche’s discipline in holding back his cavalry paid off as the dragoons are now advancing next to the Guard to sweep everything in their path.

The rearguard action goes on for two more hours before it end an uncoordinated retreat. Stroheim’s army has been severely beaten.

Aftermath

I played out several turns of the retreat and it was brutal. We often read about commanders fighting a brilliant rearguard action and saving the army. This was not the time and place. I don’t know how close a game of Volley & Bayonet can come to reality (I suspect not that close) but I definitely experienced the challenges of extricating a broken army from the field and the effect fresh cavalry can have in this phase of the battle.

The casualty rules of the campaign were harsh after Sägwell. Maybe a bit too harsh:

French: 1.000
Austrians: 13.000 (>30% casualties)

Several flags, battalion guns and horse artillery pieces were captured by the French as well. I will deal with the campaign implications in another post.

Weil Campaign – Day 3 Battle of Stautz

After Andris’ forces received a thorough beating at Neuben another French attack puts pressure on the Austrians at Stautz. This battle begins relatively late in the day and will only last a couple of turns but what the Austrians don’t know is that the French have a flanking force on the march.

Deployment

Two Austrian Armeekorps in defensive position at 1500. Stautz is in the upper right wedged between a stream and a ploughed fields which makes it easier to defend. Therefore the job falls to the battered III Armeekorps of Andris. Meanwhile Sandmeier deployed on and around the hill. In the distance Philidor arrives.

The forces arrayed for battle.

Barnier arrives

Dust clouds on the horizon mark the arrival of further forces as Philidor moves his forces forward to pin the Austrians in place. A heavy skirmisher screen is thrown forward to navigate the rough ground near Stautz.

On Philidor’s right Barnier arrives at 1600 with his Corps and immediately rushes his cavalry forward to bring disorder into the Austrian formations. Meanwhile his infantry traverses the stream and artillery is send down the road to support Philidor as it cannot cross the stream.

The defenders react by shifting the reserves towards Stautz and form some battalions in masse.

The First Attack

The French commit to the center while keeping away from the enemy on the hill. Artillery is brought forward and begins to wreak havoc among the Austrian defenders.

Barnier brings the full weight of his assault columns to bear but is beaten back in the first attack. The Austrians have successfully formed a defensive line on their left flank but these are the already weakened forces of Andris and they are missing artillery support.

The overall situation at 1800. Sandmeier had to retire somewhat on the right under mounting pressure. But Philidor’s men are tired and casualties are mounting. They don’t have another attack in them.

On the left the next attack is clearly aimed at Stautz which has been shelled by artillery for nearly 2 hours while French and Austrian troops battle at the outskirts of the town.

The Second Attack

The second French thrust easily dislodges the enemy from Stautz and supporting attacks along the defensive line makes any attempt to recapture the town already impossible.

As this goes on Sandmeier counter attacks Philidor’s troops with some success.

End of the Battle

After 2 hours of quick but intense attack maneuvers the Austrian forces retire from the left flank.

Word arrives Sandmeier while his forces are advancing against Philidor. He has no choice to pull back. The French hold Stautz and broke Andris’ foce again while narrowly avoiding Philidor’s Corps breaking. On the field of battle this would count as a tactical victory but in the strategical rules it is counted as a draw as neither side’s will to fight was completely broken. Casualties confirm this:

French losses: 1.500
Austrian losses: 4.000

But within the campaign this is not a good result for the Austrians. Andris III Armeekorps is barely holding together, nearly half in size after two battles and unknown to them there is another French Corps on the way.

Weil Campaign – Day 2 Battle of Neuben

Prior campaign posts:
Day 1 and 2

Late in the second day of the campaign the French and Austrian forces meet for the first time on the field of battle. Volley and Bayonet will be used for all battles of the campaign. Deployment and reinforcements is influenced by the campaign movement of troops. The Road to Glory system from the rules is not used. There is a turn limit and formation breakpoints to govern victory in campaign turns.

Deployment

The Austrians arrived at Porthaus roughly at 1400 and proceeded to seek good ground to block the French. The village of Neuben (center) some kilometres away from Porthaus was where the forces met.

French II Corps of Marshal Philidor in the foreground with Rochette’s cavalry to the left, Couvreur’s veteran infantry in the center, surrounded by thick skirmishers screens (not depicted). To the right Beaumanoir’s conscript infantry and Corps heavy artillery.

The Austrian III Armeekorps of General Andris consists of Boltzmann’s cavalry to the left. Faymann and Burger field an infantry division each in the center and to the right respectively. The Austrians also have heavy artillery.

1500

The Austrians press on and take Neuben and have a strong central position with artillery on both flanks. Philidor reacts by moving his right wing forward to engage the enemy while the conscripts on the left advance more carefully.

1600

Heavy fighting erupts at Neuben. French skirmishers seem to have the upper hand, though.

On the other side of Neuben long range artillery shells the maneuvering troops.

1700

Around 17 o’clock Austrian cavalry made a move to threaten French infantry. General Rochette reacted promptly by charging the Austrians although he had only light cavalry at his disposal. As one might expect Austrian Cuirassiers routed the Frenchmen and put Rochette’s division into disorder. The French hussars fared better however and dispersed their enemy. A costly action but the danger to the infantry line has been averted.

Just right of the cavalry encounter the firefight showed mixed results. One French regiment broke (lower left) while the other charged (center) and broke their enemy which brought Faymann’s division close to collapse.

On the other side of Neuben, firefights began with the Austrians suffering. Both forces are close to their morale break point as determined by the campaign rules.

1800

Fighting in the outskirts of Neuben continue. Although the Austrians are holding the village the supporting troops nearby are suffering heavily.

In a desperate gamble Andris orders Burger to send his men forward from the protected position on the hill to break the enemy conscripts. The French defend well and then counter attack which sends two regiments routing (top left). The ensuing losses are more than enough to break III Armeekorps and win the day. Although General Philidor’s force needed only two more hits to be broken as well.

Aftermath

General Andris retreats back to Stautz. During the battle I noticed that morale scores of 35 are rather low to start with and changed the starting value to 40. This means a force that loses 40% or more of hits of all their units is considered to be broken.

The situation after post battle moves, stamina and morale adjustments.

Casualty rolls were made for both forces and the Austrians suffered 8.000 losses out of 21.500 men. Boltzmann’s cavalry division has been nearly wiped out. II Corps only sustained 1.500 losses. The disparity is in part due to the pursuit of the losing force which generates additional losses on the losers side.

In the next post I will continue with the strategic side of things.

Weil Campaign – Day 1 and 2

While reading about Napoleon on his campaigns i noticed that almost all the campaign systems I know are quite symmetrical. Armies are pitted against each other that may behave differently in the field but the campaign rules, as a battle generator of sorts assume that there are no differences on the strategical side of things. The systems Napoleon employed in his early campaigns before his enemies caught on would lead to a much less symmetrical campaign, though.

Advantages in scouting and screening, force concentration and a flexible approach about where the own center is situated are things that come to mind. Living off the land as opposed to long and slow supply trains is another difference that will influence how forces move.

I decided to work on a campaign system (code named Project Icarus) to model such differences in a simple way without a ton of bookkeeping. Nothing will be very detailed but in sum I hope to bring more realism to the campaign layer.

Setup

I set up a short and rather symmetrical campaign in order to test the systems in place first. Namely my rules for scouting, screening (preventing enemy scouting), morale, exhaustion and setting up field battles.

The map below is fictional but very loosely based on the Eckmühl campaign during the 5th Coalition in 1809. The French C-in-C Gérard has 4 regular Corps and one Guard Reserve Corps starting west. The Austrian C-in-C Stroheim has 5 Armeekorps at his disposal staring from the east.

This is essentially a map of nodes or locations armies can travel between and a rate of one move per turn. It is essentially a test map and not very realistic in regards to the river. More on movement later.

Scouting and screening is modeled by 5 dummy forces (the lighter blue/yellow) on each side. At a distance of two locations scouting rolls can be made to uncover various bits of information depending on the roll.

There is also a stacking rule of 2 per side in place which is very work in progress at the moment.

Stamina and Morale are tracked per force counter. Each move and battle costs stamina and depending on winning or losing the morale is changed. Morale is simply the percentage of losses a force can take during a battle before it is considered broken.

My aim with this test campaign is to iron out quirks in the rules first before applying them to asymmetrical scenarios. It will be quite easy to give one side more dummy forces, better scouting modifiers, stamina or morale. Marching speed itself is more difficult to change but stamina is a good start.

April 11

The campaign begins with a day of maneuvers on standing orders. As no contact was possible on day one I gave all forces a march order and just executed it instead of moving one force at a time.

At the end of the day the French look like they can project quite a few forces towards Weil. In reality they have their center around Kreuznach and are ready to shift their forces south. Gérard is ready to retire his Corps from Weil to lure the Austrians in. Scouting has been bad this turn as the enemy forces B and H at Rabenhaus are not revealed. A and G stay unrevealed as well. Gérard suspects 2-3 Armeekorps in total in the area.

The Austrian perspective shows the wall of possible French troops closing in on Weil. The Austrians indeed have two Armeekorps there but Stroheim’s other forces are too stretched out to support each other. At least their scouting has confirmed that the enemy at Weil is not a dummy but in fact III Corps of General Darche.

Early April 12

This day begins with the standard campaign sequence. Players roll for initiative and the winner decides who moves one force first. After that it is alternating between the two sides. There are two of these movement phases each turn, hence the early/late distinction of the day. Battles might start early in the day but are only fought after all moves have been completed to give reinforcements time to march to the sound of guns.

The situation for Gérard around midday. He drew his dummy forces closer to Weil in order to keep the enemy from launching an attack. It worked and French scouts also identified one dummy (which is discarded) and the names of two real forces around Weil. Unfortunately enemy force C at Porthaus has not been identified. The plan is to shift more forces to the south for a left hook while keeping the enemy at Weil busy with guessing Gérard’s real dispositions.

The Austrians failed at scouting as well and enemy force I remains veiled. So far the French could be anywhere. As III Corps stayed at Weil Stroheim believes that there are definitely enemy reinforcements on route to Weil. He probably should have attacked while he had the chance but hesitated.

Late April 12

The second movement phase begins with French initiative and Gérard decides to pull III Corps out of Weil due to increasing reports of enemy formations in the area. The Austrians don’t waste time and move in with their two Korps and possibly another one behind it. Force J up at Korik has to be dealt with in a day or two as well.

Meanwhile the southern column marches on and II Corps under Philidor discover a dummy at Porthaus before engaging a real enemy.

After said dummy has been discovered Stroheim decides to engage the enemy at Porthaus before forces can be concentrated. As enemy maneuvers around Weil become erratic Stroheim judges that his intel must be wrong and three Korps will be sufficient for the Weil area. He sends Sandmeier with the IV Armeekorps towards Stautz to help in the south and stays at Offen himself to keep both fronts in view.

Battles

Around midday two opposing forces clash somewhere in the area of Porthaus. As the encounter happened in the late part of the turn and both forces rolled high on their time to march, it will be a short battle. Andris’ III Armeekorps arrives first. This gives him choice of table edge but he also has to set up first. The battle will start on turn 10 of 15 for the day.

The battle will be subject of the next campaign post. Volley and Bayonet will make its debut on my blog as the rule set for the battlefield side of things.

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