Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Battle of Aspern-Essling

On May 20, 1809, Napoleon's Army of Germany began crossing of the river Danube,seeking to bring Archduke Charles and the Austrian Hauptarmee to battle and hopefully defeat it and end a war that he had never wanted. As we know, instead the crossing was plagued by repeated breakages of the bridge and lead to Napoleon's first unequivocal defeat on May 21-22.

The first set of pictures are from the May, 2009 playtest of  the Aspern - Essling scenario, run almost exactly 200 years after the actual battle at the Time Machine in Manchester, CT,with the assistance of members of the Hartford Area Historical Gaming Society.

Long view of the 18 foot by 6 foot table, looking from Essling towards Aspern. The road (and accompanying low berm) runs between the two villages, about to become famous in history!

Another view of the setup, looking towards Aspern from the Austrian lines.

An eye level view of the Set-up.

Austrian troops near Essling

A view of the long central portion of the battlefield. Note how sparse the French defenders are, compared with the masses of Austrians approaching in the distance.

A close up view of Essling and the far end of the battlefield.

The Austrians surge to the attack at the village of Aspern.

Heavy fighting around the church at Aspern, which was destroyed in the process of the two day, bitterly fought battle.

Cavalry combat swirls around the road and its associated berm.

Austrian and French Cavalry contest the center.


The next batch of pictures are from the actual convention game, run Friday evening at Historicon 2009. Dan Beattie was lead 'Rat for this one. He also supplied the handsome buildings used in this game, as well as some additional Hapsburg artillery - correctly painted, Dan tells me, with *black* barrels on the guns!

David moves the Austrians of his command to the attack near the village of Aspern.

"Just don't roll a 'one' on that D20 Leader Survival check, and you'll be fine." 

"Uh... Ooops!"; A field ambulance picks up a fallen Austrian general.

(For Field of Battle Veterans, we 'Rats use a D20 for leader survival checks instead of the D20 called for in the rules; otherwise we find there are too many leader casualties for our tastes, and that slows the game down considerably)

"Sacre-bleu, Mon Capitan - zere are so many whitecoats out on ze Marchfeld it looks like ze snowstorm in Grenoble!"

In this version, the Austrian attackers have swept the French from the Church early on, and are now pressing the assault on the rest of Aspern with grim determination.

Smelling Frog blood, the White Menace has infiltrated across the branch of the Danube onto the Gemeinde Au, and from thence are launching a separate attack on the "back" side of Aspern.

Darren moves his Austrians carefully forward on the attack!

The French are down to just one remaining building that they are clinging to, heavily outnumbered by the fired-up Austrians!

As the day draws to a close,  masses Austrian Infantry prepare to attack Essling as well.

This game ended with a marginal victory for the Austrians, but had the action continued on into the second day, it is hard to see how the French would avoid defeat. Faced with this situation, Napoleon might well have withdrawn overnight rather than fighting on another day, hoping to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

I found these games very helpful in understanding better just how heavily outnumbered the French really were, and yet how much difficulty the Austrians had in bringing those numbers to bear effectively, especially in the center, where at first glance it seems the Austrians will clearly sweep the sparse defenders away with little ado. Somehow, that never happened in either game, although the French defenders are stretched extremely thinly between the bastions formed by the two villages.

Until next time,



  1. Enjoyed the report and the nice pictures. thx, Michael

  2. Thank you, Michael; we had a lot of fun designing and running the games as well!