Tiny Troops, Big Battle!

Earlier in the year I played a couple of ancient wargames by e-mail with my long-suffering wargames opponent John (you can read about Greeks vs Spartans here and and Greeks vs Persians here)!  John set the games up at his house using 25mm figures and e-mailed me pictures of the developing action so that I could act as commander of the opposing forces.  These games had been prompted by John starting 15mm Punic War armies and wanting to try out the “Hail Caesar” wargames rules.

One of John’s other long-time wargaming interests has been the Napoleonic Wars and he’s got quite a few 6mm troops for this.  Having re-based all of his armies for use with the “Blucher” ruleset, in the past year or two we’ve had a few games.  This time round, John decided on a re-fight of the battle of Wagram, which took place in July 1809 (Wikipedia has quite a good account of the actual battle here).

We started this game at the beginning of July and have only just finished it, probably very appropriate for a battle of this size!  Unfortunately, my record keeping of the game has been pretty lousy, so I can only share select bits of it here.  I don’t find my Chromebook particularly good for recording games (whereas I’d have managed much better with Microsoft Office) and I should have made more notes while it was in progress, but that would have no doubt slowed down my decision making for the game (such as it was)!

Basically, after Napoleon’s defeat at the hand of the Austrians at Aspern/Essling, he was after revenge, having assembled a large army and crossed the Danube.  For this game, both sides had seven army corps, including reserves of heavy cavalry.  Most, but not all, corps had attached cavalry or artillery.  The game was set up on John’s 4 feet x 7 feet table.

Given the small scale of the figures and the large scale of the game, only major features such as towns/villages, roads and rivers needed to be represented.

Wagram Battlefield 1

Shown above is the left-hand end and centre of the field of battle, from the Austrian perspective.  The river is the Russbach stream – small, but in a steep ravine, it delays movement but does not prevent it.  The units are on the table, but have not yet been placed in their starting positions!

Wagram Battlefield 2

The picture above shows the far right of the battlefield, again from the Austrian perspective.

The Austrian forces, commanded by Archduke Charles, are shown below.  Individual bases in the corps represent divisions or corps artillery.  The dice colours helped identify the corps, while the numbers shown on the dice represent unit strengths.

Untitled presentation - Edited (1)

French forces, commanded by Napoleon himself, are shown below

Untitled presentation - Edited

I was commanding the Austrians and initially deployed them as shown in the diagram below (the best NATO standard unit symbols I could manage with my Chromebook)!

Wagram Stuff (1)

With the French in place on the left, the overall table is shown below.

IMG_0484

The Austrians are on the right in a more compact formation, with three corps off board coming up behind those shown.

John sent me loads of photos after each turn, in fact so many that they fried my brain!  The initial moves basically saw the Austrians move forward to the roads at the centre (see diagram below) while the French moved to outflank the Austrian left.

Most of the time I sent instructions by e-mail, using a diagram or annotated photo occasionally (see below).

Once the armies were in contact along the centre, my Austrians started taking a hammering across their whole front. This necessitated me moving up all of my corps and attempting to attack where possible (I have an impression with Napoleonic armies that sitting back and watching what the other side does just invites destruction – since I tend to fight defensively in most games, in this one I was conscious of the need to keep attacking at least somewhere along the line).

Although the French were applying pressure along the whole front, late in the action they faltered slightly in the centre, allowing me to suddenly break through (see below – Austrian corps with white labels behind them).

The breakthrough is difficult to spot above, so it’s shown in more detail below (the three Austrian cavalry divisions in the centre, marked with red dice and part of the Reserve Korps, with the French grand battery to the left and the French reserve cavalry to the right).

Since I was struggling to work out which of my units was which from the coloured dice, I asked John to make some small markers to identify the relevant corps and that made it much easier.

Despite this sudden drama in the centre the French recovered the situation and my Austrians had no choice but to pull back all along the line and try to get into a coherent formation that would allow them to disengage (see below – Austrian corps identified with white markers, French corps with blue/white markers).

As far as the Austrians were concerned, one division of IV Korps escaped the collapse of the left, but VI Korps didn’t.  In the centre III Korps and I Korps were battered but survived, but the Reserve Korps lost all its cavalry and artillery, with the grenadiers being the only survivors. On the right the remains of II Korps are carrying out a fighting withdrawal but are being pursued by two French cavalry divisions.

Total French losses were one infantry division, one cavalry division and one artillery division. Total Austrian losses were six infantry divisions, four cavalry divisions and six artillery divisions, so a fairly convincing win for the French (i.e. not me)! Historically, the Austrians lost the battle, although not with losses as severe as I managed!

I enjoyed this game, since it made me think quite a bit! I do need to develop a better understanding of Napoleonic corps and division formations in action (particularly artillery) and the movements and capabilities in the rules themselves. Playing by e-mail was good because it put me in the position of a general observing his army across a wide front, rather than being a regimental commander down in the thick of the action!

24 comments

  1. Mon Dieu! Ok John, maybe the Austrian Army needed to lose, and they dragged you along with you? Nice write up and congrats on sticking with a game since July! Big table there, and enjoyed the read. Missed seeing any “DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA” though 😄

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Mark! 🙂 It’s been nice to keep the game going for as long as was needed to get a result! With the “Blucher” rules you have to roll dice for what are effectively activation points and I managed to get my highest score (21 on 4D6) just in time to withdraw my troops! It would have been better if I’d managed to organise myself properly and at least get one picture of some of the action in each turn, but I’ll try and remember about some visual clues to the action in future!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good to see that General Varnish hasn’t lost his military touch! I must say I do admire the resourcefulness of playing a large game over many weeks by email. Anything that gets us through these difficult and frustrating times can only be a good thing. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Nice report John, even if you didn’t record it all, easy to see the way things went. Sorry for the loss in greater magnitude than history, but as long as you had fun that’s the main thing

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Steve! 🙂 I like Napoleonics, probably inherited that from my dad, since he used to make and paint Historex 1:32/54mm figures during my early teens! I tend to read more than watch documentaries but will maybe have a look on You Tube! I do actually have a box stashed away in the loft with some Napoleonic books and boxes of 1:72 figures for a project I planned years ago, and it is tempting to think about doing them!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. second time i have written a reply on my ipad and the damn thing hasn’t shown up here, anyway, Wagram was a victory for Napoleon but his troops were not as good as they used to be, he had plenty of them though.
    Great battle report, apparently with armies you need to attack all the time, i dont know as i dont play but i do follow people that do. I think you gave him a run for his victory so well done you..

    Liked by 2 people

    • WordPress is not beyond playing tricks on us from time to time! 😉 I still need to read an account of the battle, since I deliberately don’t read up on these things beforehand so that I can see how I did compared to what actually happened! I think the problem I have is that I try to deploy in depth if possible, or try and leave myself a reserve, but it never seems to work out how I planned it!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Great stuff, John, enjoyed that immensely.
    What you say about playing by e-mail making you feel more like a General is a good point, and I think you did a really good job, as playing so remotely must be quite difficult.
    I wouldn’t worry about learning to use artillery, the Allies never did!
    Napoleon was a master at it. he’d often use his artillery en-mass, and yet he managed to keep it mobile, advancing with the infantry. Part of the reason he failed to break through at Waterloo has often been attributed to the weather and the fact that his artillery couldn’t be moved until the ground was good enough.
    Maybe next time you need to do a report every turn, I’d enjoy that 😁

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Very nice report. Looks like it was real fun to play! Even had a few surprises it seems. I enjoy the little scenery pieces. Wagram was one of the bloodiest battles of the whole Napoleonic Wars, as it was rather unnecessary tactic-wise and was like you said purely a revenge battle for the late Marshal Lannes.
    The e-mail-playstyle really seems like you were the General it really fits who nobles would have planned moves in reality from home.
    That said, did he even use the Old Guard?!
    if you’re interested, this is a nice video about the battle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm9CJCcJrEc

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed reading this report as always! The photos look great and John has great miniatures and terrain too. It is interesting to read about a much larger scale battle as it is a side of wargaming I know very little about and I have never played any games at that size. Protecting your flanks seems to be key in these games and it seems like that was no different here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jeff! 🙂 John spent some time tidying up his figures and re-basing them for the “Blucher” rules, but you can’t really see the figures in the pictures here because of the scale of the game. I’m always conscious of flank security, which is why I concentrated my forces closer to the centre with the left resting on the river/stream – in reality the Austrians appear to have deployed to the left of the stream on a wider front.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, I can see where playing the game by email would give one a much different point of view, as you say, much more like an overall commander than someone up to his elbows in static grass and 6mm figurines. I’m glad you had fun. Sorry you lost [again! 😦 ] but I’m glad Napoleon had his revenge!

    Liked by 1 person

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