Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Battle of Elchingen - 14 October 1805

Yes, a little later than hoped, but not because I'd taken too long to be prepared, after a few weeks waiting in the stalls my Austrians got their first run out a few days ago; and in a historical refight to boot.

Having agreed a game with Trevor and Andy at the club, we deferred to Trevor's preferred set of rules - Age of Eagles.  I've no particular disagreement with the rules, I'll say in advance, but two issues arose during our game.  Firstly like many American rule sets, they are dismal to look at and terribly laid out, would it have killed to include an index?  And secondly, whilst I like to play a relaxed approach to wargames rules, gleefully skipping parts I don't like or interpreting vague bits on the fly, Trevor is one for going by the book; and this sure slows things down.

Anyway, so far as preparation for our game I had a lot on and so could devote no time to organisation, but I did chance upon a scenario months back on the Age of Eagles website that looked to fit the bill so I sent it on to Trev to consider.  Lo' we ended up playing it.

To summarise the situation; Ney was ordered by Napoleon to seize the crossing of the Danube at Elchingen in the Face of Riecsh's Division.  Initially with significantly greater forces than Riesch, Ney found the defense anchored on a Convent, that effectively acted as a fortress.  Riesch was also able to call upon a second division of Von Lauden's men.  In the end the French prevailed, but the engagement took all day and cost them a thousand casualties, the Austrians five thousand; mostly prisoners.

Trevor, being in the luxury of retirement, had more time than I to prepare for the game.  He spent some time painting a terrain cloth specifically for the scenario, a nice touch.  We finished the layout from a mixture of Trevor's own terrain and the various 15mm club buildings (all made by my own fair hands).  I deployed Riesch's division, trying to offer a broad defence.

Elchingen to the centre of the frame, the Danube to the right
The French would begin by crossing the river, but it seemed from the scenario likely that a flank attack would also develop, so I looked to keep my options open.

A sneak preview of a new Grenadiers unit there... 
I also had the benefit of a subordinate commander, James T would assist by taking command of Von Lauden's division.  Our opponents would be Andy and a chap fairly new to figure games, but willing to play along, Joseph, as Loison and Mahler respectively.

Battle opened amidst much confusion - mostly from the rules - eventually Loison's infantry and artillery advanced across the river and started to move on the village.  I had place only my weakest regiment in the village as a forlorn hope, so they looked nervously on the enemy.  But we placed our hope in the cavalry, nominally under the command of Von Lauden on or right flank to keep them in check.

The Cavalry advance
 Meanwhile my line infantry stood watch from the convent.  Their time would come.

 More French streamed over the river, whilst the first French regiment went into the village.

The Grenadiers turn to the threat
 Sadly the Austrians in the village were badly mauled, and broke, allowing the French entry to Elchingen.  Around the same time, Von Lauden's Infantry began to appear, fortunately arriving behind their screen of cavalry, but unfortunately not moving very quickly.

This could give the impression we can turn the French flank...
 The French under Loison managed to bring their own cavalry to the fore, and a series of clashes between Austrian Cuirassiers and French Dragoons began.  Initially despite being disordered by French artillery the Austrians got the better of the engagements.

French reverse
 But about this time Mahler arrived, with a mass of infantry.  With Elchingen occupied and Our left in danger the Austrians retired to the safety of the convent.  Our long range artillery continued to fire on the village hoping to disorder the troops therein, allowing an attack by the Grenadiers, this was never to come to pass.

Here they come...
 Mahler closed with two large regimental lines and some artillery.  As this wasn't enough there was always the risk of Loisin's men sallying forth from Elchingen itself.

worrying times
 Despite this Trevor assured me and James that we were still winning, as the French were nowhere near their victory conditions.  It didn't feel that way.

Over with James, Von Lauden's cavalry continued to parry Loisin's cavalry, whilst Von Lauden's infantry were unlucky in an attack on a French square.

Disorder everywhere
 But then the inevitable finally happened.  Mahler's Division coordinated a massed assault on the convent.

This isn't going to end well
Despite fierce resistance, my line troops weren't able to hold the convent in the face of three times their number of elite French infantry.  The Austrians retired in disorder, but with some semblance of unity still.

Time was against us, and we had to call the game.  The French may not have won by the terms laid down in the scenario, and the Austrians were far from destroyed as a fighting force, but it was hard not to call the result anything other than a French victory.

A good game in the end, despite mine and James' dice rolling being the very worst imaginable; I think we averaged rolls of '3' - Age of Eagles is a D10 based system.  Conversely our opponents seemed to have the 'One Ring to Rule Them All' of D10's which rolled a ten about one in every three throws and averaged about an 8.  By the end of the game both sides used the same dice just to give an impression of fairness.  Somehow we were still able to slow the French down despite being incapable of making any counter-attack stick.

Given the entire Austrian army was carrying the additional jinx of 'New Unit Syndrome' this wasn't too bad a performance.

Hopefully things will go better next time...

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