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.
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!
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.
French forces, commanded by Napoleon himself, are shown below
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)!
With the French in place on the left, the overall table is shown below.
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!