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The Battle of Castiglione, 1796


The Napoleonic Wars, French Revolutionary War, Carnage & Glory II, 28mm

Every so often you get to play a game that is so pretty that you consider it a privilege to take part. This was one of them. I was attending Historicon 2010 – the big US wargame show, held this year at King of Prussia, outside Philadelphia. When i saw this game on the brochure I signed up for it immediately. The game was a refight of the Battle of Castiglione, part of Bonaparte’s Italian campaign in 1796. I have a long-held fascination for this campaign, and for the past couple of years I’ve been slowly building up an Austrian army for it. Therefore I jumped at the chance to take part in this game.historicon-021The rules were computer-moderated. While I still think this takes part of the fun out of the experience – namely the chance to roll dice – it flowed really well, although my hat goes off to the poor guy at the laptop, having to type everything in. Tom Garnett was the chap with his fingers on the keyboard, and the whole thing was sponsored by Rob Walter of Eureka Miniatures, USA who – naturally enough – sell a stunning range of figures for this under-gamed but colourful period.historicon-032The aim of the battle was to stop Bonaparte before he could become Napoleon. In other words, to give the little Corsican general a bloody nose, and therefore stopping his fast-track to the top of the French political tree. General Wurmster’s Austrians were on the defensive, and I volunteered to play them rather than the more colourful French, partly as I had an affinity with the army, but mainly  because I was far too hung over to cope with being an attacking commander. I won’t go into much detail about the way the battle panned out. Essentially the French launched an all-out cavalry charge on the right, in an attempt to turn the Austrian flank. The aim was to capture the redoubt on Monte Medolano that pinned our whole wing. The Austrian cavalry counter-charged, and surprisingly they drubbed the French after a long and hard-fought melee, fought out in a picturesque cornfield. Meanwhile the two French divisional commanders – Massena on their left and Augereau on their right) launched a series of infantry assaults against the Austrian line.historicon-020To cut a long story short we held them off, and we ran out of time before they could pull themselves together enough to launch another major assault. They paid the price of a lack of co-ordination, and not even Bonaparte himself could get the French to hack their way through the well-defended Austrian front line. My part of the line around Solferino wasn’t seriously threatened, although the nice American chap playing Messena was poised to drive me out of the key village of Staffalo, and thereby threaten my flank.historicon-007Still, I reckon my Grenzers could have held him off for a good few hours if need be. In the centre Augereau’s division was pretty much halted in its tracks by Austrian fire, and with the Austrians winning the cavalry fight the chances of a real French victory had passed. historicon-017 In Carnage & Glory you enter in all the data, press a button, and it gives you an analysis of the battle. After a lot of whirring the computer told us what we all pretty much knew already – Bonaparte had been repulsed, and honours went to the Austrians. Of course, students of the campaign will know that in the real battle another French division was marching to the sound of the guns. During the afternoon it appeared behind the Austrian left flank. This forced Wurmster to retreat, allowing Bonaparte to claim the laurels of victory. Our refight halted before Seurier’s Division arrived.historicon-015The real joy of this game was the chance to play on a stunning-looking table, and to use beautiful figures. It certainly inspired me to renew my efforts painting up my Austrian army of the period, and within minutes of the game ending I was at the Eureka Miniatures  stand, pawing over the figures! I probably won’t use computer-moderated rules (I’ll stick to the tried and true General de Brigade or Black Powder), but I’ll certainly redouble my efforts to wargame this great and colourful period. Best of all, I now have some great terrain-building tips – those little things that say “Italian battlefield”! Thanks, Tom et al!historicon-005

  In C

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