Although the title could refer to anywhere, particularly near the toilet roll aisle in a supermarket, it doesn’t! It’s Italy in 1859 and the French are advancing to contact Austrian forces holding a minor river crossing!
After having a couple of wargames by e-mail last year (hosted by my long-suffering opponent John) I thought I’d try and set up and run a game myself. Not having room to leave a normal size game out, I re-arranged and tidied up my desk and set a game up on the cupboard adjacent to my desk. Opening the cupboard doors and laying a removable bookshelf over them, I put a sheet of foamcard over the top and covered it with a small battlemat, using blu-tak to stop any unwanted movement (see the picture below).
That Austrians are set up along the river line, which is against the wall. The board measures near enough 32 x 32 inches. On the far side of the river are two Austrian gun batteries, one near each end of the river, whilst there’s a rocket battery in the middle. A regiment of dragoons is stationed near one of the batteries to provide close protection. There are three Austrian infantry battalions deployed, although the only one visible at the moment is the Grenzer battalion that has just crossed the river on the Austrian left flank and is moving in column towards the village (represented by the single building). The other two infantry battalions are in the woods on the Austrian flanks, one on each flank (at some point the trees can be lifted off and the infantry placed in the woods, the dimensions of the latter being dictated by the size of the base). The river is a minor obstacle that can be crossed by infantry and cavalry, but only infantry can move through woods. The woods, village and units all block line of sight and any small bits of scatter scenery have no effect on the game. Woods and villages offer cover. The picture below is a bird’s eye view – the Austrian line is at the top of the picture and the French forces, dice, tape measure and specs are just waiting to get removed from the table!
The picture below shows the Austrian artillery and dragoons covering the ford on the Austrian right flank.
Shown below are the Grenzer battalion and artillery battery on the Austrian left flank – a regular line infantry battalion lurks in the wood covering the ford and will be put in place when it comes into action.
The French have three battalions of Tirailleurs Algeriens (known as Turcos), one line infantry battalion, one chasseur battalion (infantry), a regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique (cavalry) and an artillery battery. The chasseurs are veterans and all French infantry are allowed to charge enemy infantry even if the defenders outnumber them (furia francese in action). The French forces are not deployed at the start, but will successively arrive at the intersection of the two tracks nearer the left hand side of the French line. The tracks provide no benefit to movement.
As far as the rules go, all infantry are the same and have a firing range of 8 inches (apart from the comments above on the French). Austrian artillery has a range of 16 inches but French artillery has a range of 24 inches. Infantry can only move in column, can’t fire if they move, but can fire in either line or column formation. French cavalry are close combat troops only, whereas the Austrian cavalry are dragoons so can fire if they don’t move – the Chasseurs d’Afrique are, however, much more dangerous in melee. All cavalry are very vulnerable to infantry rifled small arms fire – a charge against an infantry unit is likely to get shot to bits. Cavalry are used for screening or covering gaps in the line.
The Chasseurs d’Afrique and a Turco battalion enter the battlefield and head towards the village on the French right flank. The Austrians respond by moving the dragoons across the river to cover the ford on their right flank, whilst the artillery there limbers up and moves along next to the river. On the French right flank, the Grenzer battalion advances towards the village. The picture below shows the situation at the end of Move 1.
The Turcos and Chasseurs d’Afrique swung left between the wood and village, giving them a clear view of the river in the distance and the Austrian artillery (see picture below).
On the French left another battalion of Turcos entered the battlefield, accompanied by a gun battery, both of which moved to the left of the road to let following units move up in support next move.
At this point the Austrians decided that just waiting for the French to attack was not a good idea, particularly since the French bronze muzzle-loading rifled artillery outranged their own smoothbores. Consequently, the dragoons were ordered to try and move up and threaten the French artillery, whilst the Austrian gunners who had just limbered up their gun turned back and crossed the river in support. On the Austrian left, the Grenzer battalion briskly occupied the village and prepared to open fire on the Chasseurs d’Afrique. Unit positions at the end of Move 2 are shown in the picture below, although the Austrian infantry in woods and the village are not shown (not great pictures I’m afraid, as the sun refuses to put in an appearance).
The Turcos on the French left flank moved up and turned to face the Austrian dragoons, remaining in column. To reinforce the left flank and protect the artillery battery, a chasseur battalion moved up the road in column, halting next to the gun battery. The French gunners brought their battery smartly into action and inflicted two casualties on the dragoons. These troops are shown in the picture below.
While this was going on the Chasseurs d’Afrique swung left around the wood in the French centre to threaten the Austrian dragoons. At the same time, the Turco battalion next to this wood turned and launched an assault on the Grenzer in the village. Austrian fire inflicted two casualties on the Turcos before the latter forced their way into the village but, surprisingly, the Grenzer repelled this attack, inflicting another three casualties, and the Turcos were forced to pull back, having to avoid the last Turco battalion that had just come up to support that flank. The Grenzer defending the village only suffered a single casualty during the French assault. The picture below shows the French centre just after the Turcos were forced back from the village.
When it came to the Austrian response, the dragoons lost their nerve in the face of French artillery fire and retreated back to the wood near the ford on their right flank. The Austrian artillery battery that had just crossed this ford came into action and, along with fire from the rocket and howitzer batteries, opened fire on the Chasseurs d’Afrique, causing four casualties. On the Austrian left, the infantry defending the wood formed up into column and advanced across the stream to provide some flank support to the Grenzer. The picture below shows the situation at the end of the move.
Out in the middle of the battlefield the Chasseurs d’Afrique were in a very exposed position, but in keeping with their reputation they wheeled to their right and charged the Austrian infantry crossing the river. Behind them the Turco battalion that had been repulsed from the village formed up into line, while the last Turco battalion moved up to support them (see picture below – the sharp-eyed will spot that there’s no sign of the French cavalry, so read on).
On the French left the Turcos and chasseurs advanced, being careful not to obstruct the field of fire of the French artillery. The chasseurs were followed by a freshly arrived French line infantry battalion on the road (the picture below shows the French left flank).
The charge of the Chasseurs d’Afrique was met by a devastating volley from the Austrian infantry that cut them down in droves. Whereas Austrian firing was very lucky, French morale throws were the opposite and resulted in the complete destruction of the cavalry! On the French right, the Turcos traded fire with the Grenzers in the village, with both sides taking some casualties. On the French left both sides exchanged artillery fire and whereas the Austrian artillery achieved nothing, French fire hammered the Austrian dragoons, forcing them to manoeuvre out of the view of the French guns. The picture below shows the situation at the end of Move 4. I’ve now added some numbered markers to make it easier for French units to be identified (and for some reason I opted to paint these freehand rather than dig out a marker pen for them).
On their left flank the French Turco battalion formed into line and opened fire on the Austrian dragoons but only inflicted a single casualty. On the opposite flank, both Turco battalions opened fire on the Grenzer in the village, but also only inflicted a single casualty! This was enough, however, to force the Austrians to check morale and failing this test resulted in the Grenzer being reduced to half strength. In the French centre, the chasseurs turned sharp right and advanced through the wood to get into a position to support the Turcos facing the village, while the line infantry battalion advanced slowly up the road towards the ford over the river. French artillery was also in action, inflicting a casualty on the Austrian gun battery in front of the ford.
Despite being in an exposed position, the Austrian dragoons traded shots with the Turcos immediately to their front, supported by long range artillery fire from the battery at the ford, but the French only suffered a single casualty. The situation was similar over at the village, with the half-strength Grenzer battalion only inflicting one casualty on the Turco battalion that had been repulsed from the attack on the village earlier. The Austrian infantry that had beaten off the French cavalry opted to stay put as it spied the chasseurs moving up through the wood in the centre, while the Austrian battery covering their left flank limbered up and started moving across to the other flank. The picture below shows the situation at the end of Move 5 (note that trees from the wood in the centre have been removed to allow the chasseurs to get into position – the trees are cosmetic and it’s the base that the trees are mounted on that defines the size of the wood).
On the French left the Turcos carried on trading shots with the Austrian dragoons, with the latter taking one casualty. As the French line infantry battalion advanced to support the Turcos, their supporting artillery managed to bring down fire on the Austrian battery at the ford, inflicting another casualty on them. Fed up with sitting tight in the woods next to the ford, the Austrian infantry battalion there decided to form up into column and advance against the French infantry on the road (visible in the distance in the picture below).
In the centre the chasseurs moving through the woods formed up into line and joined the two Turco battalions on the right in pouring volleys into the Grenzer in the village, the Austrians taking two casualties but still hanging on! Return Austrian fire caused one casualty amongst the battered Turcos that had been repulsed from the village, forcing them to take a morale test . . . which they failed, reducing them to only a quarter of their original strength! In the meantime, the Austrian infantry battalion that had been advancing to support their comrades in the village decided to change direction to threaten the French line infantry on the other flank (the French view from the centre is shown in the picture below).
So, quite a bit of moving and shooting, with the Austrians maybe coming out of it slightly better. The picture below shows the situation at the end of Move 6.
With Austrian infantry now moving to threaten the French left and centre, the latter prepared to temporarily switch to a defensive posture. The line infantry moving up the road towards the ford turned to face the oncoming Austrian infantry, in preparation to forming a firing line (although the picture below already shows them in line formation). In the woods in the centre, the chasseurs formed into column and advanced to the edge of the woods, also getting ready to engage the oncoming Austrians.
On the French left, the Turcos continued their firefight with the Austrian dragoons, the latter now reduced to a quarter of their original strength, their return fire ineffectual. The French artillery could still see enough to also be able to inflict a casualty on the advancing Austrian infantry. On the French right flank, the Turcos continued to engage the Grenzer in the village to no effect, although the Grenzer managed to inflict a casualty on the battered Turcos on the extreme French right.
The Austrian infantry on their right flank formed into line and combined their fire with all of the artillery against the French line infantry in the centre – to no effect! The picture below shows the situation at the end of Move 7.
By now the French were getting a bit frustrated at not making progress so decided to put a bit of pressure on the Austrians. On the French right flank, the more recently arrived Turco battalion formed up into column and launched a charge at the village held by the Grenzer. At the same time, the remnants of the other, long-suffering Turco battalion formed up and started advancing past the woods in the French centre, ready to support the chasseurs at the far edge of the wood facing the Austrian line infantry column.
The chasseurs, however, needed little assistance. Forming into line, they joined their line infantry neighbours in opening up a hot fire on the Austrian infantry, inflicting three casualties on the unit in the centre. The picture below shows the French in action.
On the French right, the Turcos traded shots with the Austrian dragoons, inflicting another casualty. The French artillery managed to bring fire down on the infantry supporting the dragoons, causing casualties and forcing the Austrians to fail a morale test, which took them down to half strength.
Meanwhile, over in the village, the Turcos’ assault hit home, although they lost a couple of casualties during the charge. The fierce charge hit the Austrians hard, forcing them out of the village and forcing them to flee the battlefield in disorder! It was only small consolation for the Austrians as their infantry and artillery battered the French line infantry in the centre – despite losing five casualties, French morale held and the line infantry remained steady. The situation at the end of Move 8 is shown in the picture below.
Having finally secured the village and routed the Grenzer, the French turned their attention to piling on the pressure in the centre, with the two Turco battalions on the French right flank advancing against the Austrian infantry there (Austrians shown below). For the purposes of an e-mail game, the white and red dice indicate how many bases the unit has remaining and the number of casualties inflicted respectively – for every four casualties inflicted, the unit drops one base (the original rules have infantry units on four bases, but I just use one movement tray and record how many bases it has). For normal games I’ve got round markers that show these stats, but they wouldn’t show up very well on the photos of the complete battlefield.
Over on the French left, the Turcos there (shown below) traded shots with the dragoons, both sides taking a casualty, but with the dragoons still refusing to give up.
French infantry and artillery fire inflicted more casualties on the Austrian infantry, but the latter gave as good as they got against the French line infantry on the track leading to the ford. Austrian artillery fire, despite its volume, was completely ineffective! By now, most of the Austrian units in action were getting a bit battered!
The situation at the end of Move 9 is shown above and below.
Over on the French right, the two battalions of Turcos quickly formed into line and joined the chasseurs in firing a furious volley at the Austrian infantry in the centre, causing absolutely no casualties! The battered French line infantry fired at the Austrians ahead of them and to their left, supported by artillery fire, and this was enough to cause the Austrians to rout. This left the remaining Turco battalion slugging it out with the dragoons, the latter also being forced to rout under such heavy fire! In response, Austrian artillery fire hammered the French line infantry, while the remaining Austrian infantry battalion decided to retreat back to the river. The situation at the end of Move 10 is shown below.
The French opted to keep up a good rate of fire at the Austrians on the right flank, while advancing on the left, with the retreating Austrian infantry taking more casualties from the Turcos and chasseurs in the woods. On the left flank, things started off well, with the Turcos advancing towards the woods next to the ford, the Austrian battery there taking a casualty from French artillery fire. However, when the French line infantry formed up into column and marched across the road to take up a position supporting the Turcos they were hammered by all of the Austrian artillery and were routed (took casualties and failed a morale test). The situation at the end of Move 11 is shown below!
At this point, the Austrians were ready to withdraw, and that decision was hastened by the French artillery dropping a round down smack on top of the Austrian battery at the ford, destroying it completely! So unit positions for the French at the end of the game were as shown in the Move 11 picture, whereas the Austrians managed to withdraw their remaining artillery battery, rocket battery and rather battered infantry battalion from the field.
It was a good game and a convincing win for the French! Both sides had the same number of units, although the Austrians were less mobile with three artillery batteries (including rockets). At the start I was a bit concerned that the longer range French artillery would just batter away at the Austrians with impunity, but in fact it had a limited field of fire through most of the game. The French suffered a surprising reverse early in the game when the Turcos’ assault on the village was repulsed, after which both sides resorted to firepower to try and even out the odds. Perhaps reasonably accurate historically, there were only three charges to close combat in the whole game – the first French infantry attack on the village was repulsed with heavy losses, the French cavalry charge against a formed up Austrian infantry battalion was shot to bits and the final French assault against the village was successful after the defenders had been softened up a bit with rifle fire.
With the French having the same number of units as the Austrians, and with them having to arrive piecemeal on the battlefield, it was quite a tough fight for the French but they won through in the end. I was quite pleased that the Austrians put up a creditable resistance, but it’ll surprise no-one that I was in charge of the Austrians and lost yet again! But a good game nonetheless!