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Placenta, 1796


The Napoleonic Wars, Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, 28mm

At long last I managed to bring my Austrian army of 1796 up to two brigades, plus horse and guns, and so, after borrowing my pal Chris Henry’s very pretty French, I was finally able to stage a small game. This was a fictitious battle, set in Italy during Bonaparte’s campaign there, and centred around a French attack on an Austrian force. The French began the game with two demi-brigades, backed up by a gun battery, while the outnumbered Austrians fielded a single overstretched brigade.031Both sides were able to bring on reinforcements as the battle developed – another Austrian brigade marched to the sound of the guns, supported by a regiment of hussars, while the French were joined by a regiment of chasseurs a cheval. The game was played out in Orkney, with Angus acting as the umpire, and local gamers Chris Werb commanding the Austrians, and Mark Colston the French.002The Austrian commander couldn’t do much until his reinforcements appeared, as his line was already over-stretched. All he could really do was to hang on and hope the marching columns behind him would appear as quickly as possible. The French decided to split their attack, with a diversionary assault going in on the right flank, while the main assault rolled forward around the village of Placenta, over on the left. In the centre a battery of 8-pounders deployed behind a stone wall, and began pounding away at the Austrian line.008The French assault on the right went in first, with the demi-brigade deployed in three successive lines – effectively forming a giant column, preceded by skirmishers. They successfully charged the waiting Austrians – the assault being met by a Hungarian regiment – but when they failed to force them back the battle on that flank degenerated into a huge melee, with the Austrian units on the flanks firing into the rear of the column, while the French grenadiers at its head gradually began to push the Hungarians back. Eventually they defenders were forced to retire, and the French continued on up the hillside beyond, and powered into the waiting Austrian grenadiers. 014Over on the French left everything was going according to plan. Skirmishers pinned a unit of Austrian grenzers holed up in a stone-walled field, while the second demi-brigade formed up for what it hoped would be an unstoppable assault against the Austrian flank. That, of course, was when the Erzherzog Josef Hussars turned up, which stalled the advance until the French could bring up their own cavalry in support. When they appeared the two cavalry regiments charged each other, but the Austrians came off best, and the French chasseurs-a-cheval were forced to give ground.028This though, bought the French player enough time to renew the assault, and soon the grenzers were facing a tide of blue-coated Frenchmen. They went down fighting, but their sacrifice bought just enough time for the Austrian commander to “refuse his flank” by turning round his gun battery, and deploying a battalion of IR 4 (Hoch & Deutschmeister) to cover the withdrawal of the grenzers.015That folks, is where we ran out of time. If the game continued the initial French assault had already bogged down, and as that was where the Austrian reinforcements appeared then the brigade was now looking very vulnerable indeed. Over on the French left things were going better for Team Bonaparte, and everything was still to play for. However, if the Austrian hussars managed to finish off their French counterparts, then the French might have found themselves under threat from their flank and rear. The main thing is we all enjoyed ourselves. Both Chris and Mark are lapsed wargamers, and they were both left enthused and wanting more – which is exactly how it should be.016The rules we used were Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, written by Tod Kershner, and available from Caliver Books or On Military Matters. Essentially they’re a much-simplified version of Tod’s Warfare in the Age of Reason, and they produced a fast-flowing and enjoyable game, despite the fact that we were all new to the rules – I’d only played them twice before, and the other two hadn’t seen them at all before the game. They both picked up the basics right away, and my only criticism – and this is a fairly big one – is that the rules are really badly laid out, and it’s often nigh-on impossible to find what you’re looking for in the middle of a game, even though they body of them is just 24 pages long. Still, with a bit more judicious re-reading and note-taking, then we might well be able to use them with more fluency. They’re a Napoleonic set that are fast, simple, and which produce believable results, although they’re not without their quirks, such as the whole reluctance to use columns. We’ll try them again though, after reading them more thoroughly. 017

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