Although myself and Iannick have a considerable number of 28mm Napoleonic figures available to put on the table, I have found that less is better, so I decided to go with a small division aside game. I wanted to field both my newly painted Brunswickers as well as a brigade of Austrians that I had painted a couple of years ago, which had yet to see the light of battle. I usually try to find a historical battle to recreate, this was a little difficult with these two forces, but some googling revealed that there was a two month period in the early summer of 1809 when a combined Brunswick-Austrian force existed in the XI Corps of the Austrian Empire. I had settled on recreating the Battle of Gefrees, fought on July 8, when I came across an article in Wargames Soldiers and Strategy Issue 63 with a wargaming scenario for this battle. A few modifications in the order of battle, I did not want to use cavalry in this first outing with this ruleset.
|General Situation early summer 1809|
INSTRUCTIONS TO THE DUKE OF BRUNSWICK (Iannick) FROM FML KIENMAYER (XI CORPS)
Take your 2 brigades to the village of Gefrees, there slow the advance of Marshall Junot’s Corps. They will be coming from the east. Prevent them from crossing the river that runs through the village. Secure the bridge crossing over the river. We also have reports that King Jerome of Westphalia is advancing from northwest with a large force. Your specific orders are to Have your Brunswickers defend the northwestern approach to the village and send the Austrians to west to slow the French. It is critical that you secure the bridge as without it the French cannot bring their supply and artillery train over the river. Local reports tell us that the river is fordable by troops on foot. Approach the village from the northeast in march column. Please report back with your dispositions by next Saturday, noon. I require your specific brigade orders as well as their order of march into the village.
Kienmayer, in Command of his Majesty's IX Corps
INSTRUCTIONS TO GENERAL DE DIVISION RIVAUD (Nicolas) FROM MARSHALL JUNOT
Take your 2 brigades east to the village of Gefrees, there secure the bridge crossing over the river. It is essential as it is the only route for our artillery and supply train east. Local reports suggest that the river is fordable by troops on foot. We understand advance elements of the Austrian IX Corps are in the vicinity.Once the bridge is secured advance to the northeast to join with the Army of Westphalia. Approach the village from the southeast in march column. Please report back with your dispositions by next Saturday, noon. I require your specific brigade orders as well as their order of march into the village.
Junot, in command of his Imperial and Royal Majesty's Corps of Observation of the Elbe
I took the Victory Conditions from the scenario in the magazine. Essentially each player received 1 point for each stand they had on the far side of the river, minus 1 point for each stand lost at the end of the game. Additionally the Brunswick-Austrian force lost 5 points for each Brunswick unit that left their start point in the northeast corner of the terrain (they were forgiven the first 3 units), while the French received 5 points for each intact (in good order) unit that they could march off the board to join King Jerome from the northeast corner of the terrain. Each player placed one brigade in their starting corners before the actual terrain was placed. Their second brigades entered on turn 2. We started our game around 1pm, I expected it to go to around 6-8 turns max, I had played it out twice myself and was concerned that the French had a considerable advantage, even with less troops. Both times I played it they won a considerable victory, both times in 6-7 turns. Well what do they say about the best laid plans! We will follow the battle with some photos.
|Village of Gefrees: Northeast corner is lower left and southwest corner is upper right. We used a 6x4' terrain.|
|The French Light Brigade|
|The Austrian Brigade|
|One problem we had with the Austrians is that their pose was low porte thus necessitating them to be in march column with their bases at right angles. Iannick rapidly advances his horse cannon and his jaegers, keeping his line troops moving forward|
|The Austrian jaegers quickly advance over the bridge, while the French skirmishers rush to prevent their advance. Nicolas meanwhile reforms the rest of his legere brigade in line to assault the river. His line brigade is advancing in the far ground|
|Gen de Division Rivaud with his 2 ADC's|
|The French line brigade appear to be heading for the bridge|
|Reforming the lines|
|Austrians advance over the bridge|
|The Duke of Brunswick surveying the situation, while the Austrian Grenzers as well as the Hungarians advance to the river|
|Austrian artillery well placed for the French river assault|
|The 13e legére advance, followed by the 1e légere|
|The Austrian Bde General moves in to support his troops|
|We are now well into the second half of the game, the French are finally ready to assault the bridge|
|They also start there assault across the river, they have an 70% chance of not getting bogged down for a turn|
|The French Skirmishers realign themselves to allow the French columns to charge the Austrians|
|Frightening looking, non?|
|Meanwhile at the river the 13e and the 1e have advanced but the 13e has lost half it forces to the combined Austrian-Brunswick cannon fire|
|The Duke decides to bring up the Lieb as an insurance policy, they are his only veteran troops|
|The French gain the bridge and throw back the Austrians after a successful melee. Less success at the river as the powerful 13e are thrown back|
|Despite losing the bridge the Austrians are in a great defensive position to hold there side of the river|
|Late game from the Brunswickers POV|
|Overhead view of the French skirmishers assaulting the farm, they are successful and drive out the Austro-Brunswick skirmishers|
|A pensive duke and a laconic appearing referee|
|Few photos missing here but the French have been able to throw back the Hungarians, but they are facing both the Lieb and the Austrian line. Dark settles on the Village of Gefrees, the Austrian-Brunswick force have won, as they did historically|
|Routing in ignominy!|
As we are in a process of testing new rulesets to play Napoleonics, I asked each player to send me their impression of the ruleset and the scenario. First from Nicolas.
First of all, I found the scenario to be one of the best we had so far. The simulation of the fog of war by placing the river in one direction before we deploy our forces, and then replacing it in a perpendicular axis once we had deploy, made a truly great impression of discovering an unknown area while on the move to the point of confrontation. Added the fact that other terrain features where installed after the river had been reoriented made really a great effect of surprise, that completely minored the initial deployment of our armies. Both of our armies consisted of two brigades, and I felt really comfortable with the fact that a first brigade would deploy before the game start and the second after the first turn. It was really a good looking game and the fact that I took almost 10 pictures each turn on John's camera says it all I think. So generally speaking I really enjoyed the Game Design of this battle, and I am sure it made it a very interesting encounter.
Yet, I haven't been so convinced by the Game Play. Although, I found the pace of the game very smooth and easy to follow. I can't help feeling that this ruleset is a little shallow. Of course, as Iannick said once, It is hard to enjoy at first a rule that doesn't give you a victory. None the less, being a player that is more after the historical atmosphere in a game rather than its actual outcome, I felt a little disappointed. To make it short, it sums up in two points. First, I found the rule a little too simplistic to give a good feeling of the period, and a little too generous in several situations, that we, generally speaking, found quite odd: the guns, the bridge, the fortified farm... More over, what, in the end, disturbed me the most, was a strange feeling of a complete lack of a sense of scale, that made some situation quite difficult to evaluate. It is somewhat hard to describe, but I can't seem to find a conclusive adequacy between the scale of movement, the scale of push backs after melee, the rate of casualties, and the number of turns we played. Also, I still perceive a game that doesn't deal with the effect of accumulating disruption on a unit, to be not really fitting the experience of wargaming at the tactical scale. Especially in the age of the black powder.
To conclude, I found the scenario great and I would love to play it again... but with an other ruleset, since some lack of consistency in this one, made it a game probably better fitting the expectation of a player new to the universe of historical wargames."
Then from Iannick.