Saturday, July 16, 2011

Battle of Znaim: July 11, 1809 (Historicon 2011, pt 1)

Wow!  Hard to believe it has been over a month since my last post. Well, I have a good excuse; between painting up new units needed for Histoicon, planning for the games I was involved in there, picking out all the troops and packing it all up, there simply wasn't time to add posts here.

I finished painting, etc the last troops I needed for Historicon on July 3rd, and figured I'd have time to get things ready on the 4th, a Holiday, but of course it never works out that way!  So, I started pulling troops and packing the car about 8PM on Tuesday, went to bead at about 3AM, got up at about 8 AM and did more of the same. By then it was obvious that all the troops wouldn't fit safely in my car! Fortunately, a message to Barry brought him to the rescue, and I was able to offload just enough troops to his car so that the rest of the troops (plus the terrain, table covers, and gaming equipment) would fit in the car. I now know my car will fit up to sixty of the plastic shoeboxes I use for storage and transport of my figures! I left a little after 1PM, and about 70 minutes down the road realized that I'd packed my suit case... but forgotten to put it in the car. Duh!  A few minutes consideration convinced me that it was probably best to turn around and get it, even though it would add 3 hrs to the trip total. I even made a check list this year and used it - except to check that it was actually IN the car. Oh well!  Arrived at Valley Forge shortly before 8PM. I met Tim C and Eric B at the room, then we registered for the convention, and met a bunch of the Piquet group at Chumley's in the Radisson (the pre-arranged Cell phone contact list helped a lot!). Tim,  Eric, Andy C and Bob B (Might of Arms), Jeff G and Freddy A from California, and myself had drinks and/or dinner and good conversation, before splitting up to our respective rooms for some much needed sleep. There was some talk of even doing a pick up game Thursday AM, but wiser heads prevailed, most of us being tired from the drive (or flights) on Wednesday.

The next morning I had a roughly 2,000 calorie breakfast at the hotel buffet (I usually don't eat much the rest of the day while at the convention, because I'm too busy doing everything else!), and talked with some of the gang, including briefly to my Band of Brothers 2nd edition co-author, Ken B. and his son Brian. I meandered on down to the dealer's area shortly after it opened and browsed for about 3 hours without finding anything much I had to have. I picked up an order of some 28 mm Russian Napoleonics (for our Borodino game next year) from Falcon Figures UK, and chatted with Kai, a very nice fellow; it seems he has plans for considerable additions to this fine range. I also picked up my pre-ordered Tyrolean Rebels deal from the Eureka USA booth; these will eventually be used for the 2nd battle of Berg Isel, which is in my Blunders on the Danube scenario book. Picked up a new set of dice as well - purple and dark blue with gold numerals; the label called the "Hurricane Dice". Classy! That was about it for shopping, so around 4PM I headed out and, with much help form Barry and many other of the Piquet crowd, started setting up my 7PM game, titled "Downpours and Diplomacy: the Battle of Znaim. This was pretty much ready to go on time.

The Battle of Znaim, July 11, 1809

Following the Battle of Wagram, the French lost contact with the Austrians and were uncertain which direction the main body had retreated. On July 10th, Marmont's Corps finally ran down the main Austrian army near Znaim, which was still enclosed by a medieval wall. Attacking audaciously to pin Karl and the whitecoats in place, he sent of messages to Napoleon, who got reinforcements on the road for the anticipated battle to follow. That sets the stage for this often forgotten battle, played here with Brent Oman's Field of Battle rules by Piquet. We used (more or less) the brand new 2nd edition of these rules, which are due in print this month.. 

The better pictures seen here are by Piquet group member Gabriel, and are denoted by "GF". See his new blog for more great wargames/miniatures pictures! Evidently there was a spy on the field copying the secret map for their own nefarious purposes... (GF)

Znaim: preparing for play are Philip, Dave M, Jeff G, and in the blue shirt, my able assistant, Tim C.

Michelle and ? Nick, playing Austrian commands on the Northern end of the Battlefield. Note the white shirts - very fitting for Austrian players, don't you think? 

French Light Cavalry of  Pire's Brigade  (GF)

 Artillery, French Leger and Ligne Infantry and Baden Infantry of Legrand's Division  (GF)

Cara St. Cyr's Division, poised to cross the river Thaya, with a Cuirassier Division marching onto the field in support   (GF) 

 Overview of the table, with yours truly making some last minute scenic adjustments; the French forces look pretty thin, especially on the far half of the table, don't they?   (GF)

General von Minucci, commanding the Bavarian Division    (GF) 

 Part of the Austrian I Corps (Bellegarde).    (GF)

V Corps (Reuss), with the Grenadier Reserve in support, deployed in front of the walled Town of ZnaimWagram in observation on the Bisamberg.   (GF)

"The White Menace";  III Corps (Kolowrat) and the Cavalry Reserve    (GF)

II Corps (Hohenzollern), entering from Reserve   (GF)

 Michelle adds a touch of class to the game, and keeps the guys from getting *too* rowdy, LOL!  
"Angriff vorgehen? Ja, Fraulein-General!"  (GF)

Overview of the table looking from the North to the South and the walled town of Znaim.  Clockwise: Steve's hand (commanding Calusel and Claparede's Infantry Divisions, Gabriel F. commanding Minucci's Bavarian Division plus supporting Bavarian Artillery and Cavalry, Jeff G., Andy C., Philip, Dave M, Tim C.  There sure are a lot of Austrians on the Northern half of the table!

Gabriel moves his Bavarians forward, while Greg K. looks on.  

Heavy fighting develops around Znaim, with the Bavarians in particular pressing forward aggressively!   (GF)

Baden IR von Hochberg assaults a battery in front of Znaim; I actually ran out of Austrian guns, so this unit is a loaner Russian battery of Barry's; not to worry, the incongruity was rapidly removed from the table!   (GF)

"Russian Battery? What Russian Battery? I don't see any Russians here!"    (GF)

Jamie W. (red shirt), an old Piquet friend not seen around the table for too many years, commands the 3 Northern flank French Light Cavalry brigades of Montbrun, while Steve tries to make the best of his two heavily outnumbered  French Infantry Divisions (and succeeds quite well). Good to see you again, Jamie!

Did I say the French Center was "heavily outnumbered"? 

Rather than risk muddying their shabraques by fording the Thaya, Pire's precious Light cavalry decide to maneuver along the river and cross the bridge. As changes of facing are only allowed in certain circumstances under the Field of Battle rules, this is a dicey proposition. Better roll high and even!   (GF)

 The Bavarians continue to advance aggressively on the Austrians and Znaim itself from the East...

while Massena's two Divisions  (Legrand and St. Cyr) and supporting artillery advance across the Thaya from the South, as heavy Thunderstorms render Muskets useless!

The action becomes general; Dave M maneuvers the Austrian defenders around Znaim, while Freddy A, Jeff G, and Peter look on.  Kind of dressed for the referee part, ain't I?    (GF)

Montbrun's French light cavalry try to distract the masses of Austrians to the North. 

"No, *you* charge first!"   (GF)

French, Baden, and Hessian troops under Massena pressure the Austrians South of Znaim; in support is the entire Austrian Grenadier Reserve! 

More action around Znaim; note the French Light cavalry still trying to maneuver across the Bridge! 

Montbrun (Jamie) is attempting to turn the flank of the Austrian Cavalry on the Northern sector. 

Long view of the table looking from the North to the South. Massena has cleverly deployed his artillery reinforcements on a low ridge opposite Zaim (just out of the picture to the upper right); the Thaya runs through a deep gorge there, and in that section it is passable only to infantry in skirmish order. On the other hand, the Austrians have been advancing steadily on the outnumbered infantry of the French Center!

The Austrian center reacts to Montbrun's antics, as well as an advance by Marmont's infantry, weak as it is.

The Cavalry of the Imperial Guard arrive on the field as the supporting French light cavalry finally cross the Thaya. The deluge has ended now, fortunately for the whitecoats, especially as Nasounty's Cuirassiers had already arrived on the field earlier!

Close up of the Cavalry of the Guard    (GF)

The Bavarians have paid a price for their aggressive actions; we use farm animals to denote "Out of Command "status (think "Shaken" in many other rules sets), and rocks to denote Unit Integrity losses (infantry can take 4, cavalry 3 and artillery only 2).    (GF)

....but they do have friends on horseback to support them!    (GF)

The aggressive Austrian center has advanced almost to Zuckerhandel, severely handling Claparede's Division in the process. Not so sweet a spot after all!    (GF)

Clausel's Division has held up better, but is becoming annoyed by the Kaiserlick artillery opposite them  (GF)

Bavarian Dragoons and Chevaulegers shrug off Austrian artillery fire    (GF)

The thinning white line holding the French back from Znaim and the Austrian Baggage!    (GF)

Things are looking grim for Karl's boys...    (GF)

Bird's eye view of the table from the North looking South to Znaim    (GF)

The Austrian Grenadiers have taken heavy casualties from the French and Bavarian Artillery; many of these elite units have routed! 

Having succeeding distracting the Austrians without ever quite gaining their flank, Montbrun's cavalry wisely executes a strategic withdrawal behind a stream. The famed "Jalapeno dice" are seen in the distance. Michelle had some poor die rolls early on, so I suggested she switch to these "hot" dice; evidently her luck improved, as she insisted on them for subsequent games!

Thereafter, the Austrians had a long run of impetus and restored their situation somewhat, but reached Zero morale points in the process. The French had a large reserve of Morale points, and were anticipating using their own long run of impetus in turn to maul the Kaiserlicks; however, a card or two into it they turned the card that resulted in the Armistice being declared, bringing an abrupt end to the promising battle (from the French standpoint). Doubtless they felt some of the same frustrations their historical counterparts did in the same situation 202 years ago! All of the players in this game were great, and many of the Piquet crowd assisted with carting everything in, set up, take down, and carting it all back out again.

About mid way through the battle, a PELA award was given. Here's a pic by Eric of the GM awards coordinator, myself, and Barry. As in the past, the presenter made special comment about it being notable that a large Napoleonic game featured players who looked like they were all having FUN! In part I can attribute that to Brent Oman's excellent rules, but even more so to the great players. Doubtless the large quantities of beer accompanying the LA Piquet Kult contributed to the atmosphere as well...  I should also add a huge note of thanks to all the convention staff, without whom Historicon itself would be completely impossible.

Part 2 will cover the Friday AM  2nd Punic Wars battle run by Eric Burgess using the Piquet: Archon 2nd Edition rules, Eric being the author of same. Till then - good gaming!


  1. Great write-up, Peter! It was an honor to command the Bavarians (who would ever think of saying that?)!

    I still hear the painful echoes of "Armistice! Armistice!" in my head at night.... We had 'em on the ropes and were poised for the knockout.

  2. Looks like a great game! Too bad you did not know about my Austrian battery until too late!

  3. Gabriel,

    Yopu did very well with the Bavarians; IIRC, historically they took a higher % casualties at Znaim than any of the other actions of the 1809 campaign.


    Great start to the blog, and I didn't know you were raising any Austrian Artillery until I saw your blog a few days ago.