Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Battle of Tarvis: May 17, 1809

This game was run on Thursday night at Historicon, in July 2010. Prince Eugene, having chased the Austrians under Erzherzog Johann out of Italy, comes upon an outnumbered, realtively demoralized and poor quality Austrian force under Gyulai holding a strong prepared defensive position near the village of Tarvis. With almost all of his artillery bottled up by the small fort blocking the Alpine pass at Malborgetto, he decides to attack! To win this scenario, the Austrians merely have to avoid failing Army Morale by nightfall - the end of action on the 6th Austrian MOVE card turned. We used the "What if" option that allowed Colloredo's entire force to arrive on the battlefield some tome after the scenario has already begun.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera that trip, and so all my pictures are lousy ones from my i-phone. Fortunately, Gabriel was there with his amazing photo equipment. Thus, the blury, indistinct pics are invariably mine, and the excellent, sharp ones are his! Rules used were Field of Battle 1st edition, but also playtesting some of the changes (which we liked) that became part of the 2nd edition, released in late 2011.

Joe looks on as the Italians (foreground) and French commence the advance.

The first French attack; note the limbered guns moving up behind the attack columns. The rows of stones represent the Austrian earthworks/redoubts.

The French attack begins in earnest; note Austrian Cavalry battery in the foreground, which has just fired at French skirmishers across the Schlitza stream (sounds like a cheap beer to me!)

The Austrian defenders are severely outnumbered.

Cavalry Battery opens fire again, as the Austrian Hussars move up in support on their flank!

You may fire when ready, battery commanders!
(headless participants left to right are Peter, Adam, and Greg!)

The French have cleared the Austrian defenders out of two of the redoubts."I have a bad feeling about this!" The battle could be over quickly, or... not!

Eric: "Roll a 2 or less on a D6 for my reinforcements to enter... I can do that." And he does!

Bidseye view of  the Austrian position, and the overwhelming French/Italian attackers

Gabriel moves up the Austrians of the second line, stationed on the Weissenberg, as Coloredo's arriving troops march forward with uncharacteristically Kaiserlick alacrity!

Austrian Reinforcements deploy!

The thin white line....

This Austrian Brigade battery must have been commanded by Oberst Smola himself, as it inflicted 3 UI loss (each rock indicates a UI lost) on its target almost every time it fired!

Tim (faceless) explains fine points of the rules, while Peter, Czar Barry, and Adam look on. Barry is smiling, so the French must be taking heavy losses around now!

Close up of the Austrian firing line

Fontanelli's Italians have pushed through the woods and are assaulting the redoubt on the Austrian far left. This proved to be a surprisingly difficult position to take!

The French have finally cleared the first Austrian Line of Defense, but the Austrian reinforcements have arrived in the meantime!

Hard fighting on the Austrian right!  Austrian muskets (courtesy of Eric's hot dice) have just routed a French Ligne battalion with heavy losses.

Adam smiles as the French advance, while Peter contemplates scenario design, or something!

Late action on the Weissenberg; the Austrian 2nd line seems to be holding back Eugene and his army of Italy so far....

French Cavalry (chasseurs a cheval) launch a charge!

The French press on, trying to break the Austrians before nightfall allows their shattered forces to slip away...

Austrian Left flank still stands firm. After the campaign, the Kaiser needs to award a number of crosses of the Order of Maria Theresa to the officers and soldiers of that regiment, I think!

Near the end of the game; Michelle's general, left with just the routed Cavalry battery under her command!

Closeup of the fall of  Michelle's General (failed Officer survival check - a roll of "1" on a D20!. Despite his loss, as darkness closes in on the battlefield, the Austrians, with almost their entire army routed, still manage to pass their Army Morale Test for the win!

The players for this game were great, and everyone had a lot of fun playing the game. Rather to my surprise, midway through the action, we were told that the game had won the award for the best game of  the Thursday evening time slot. The presenter commented that it was all but unheard of to see a Napoleonic game where all the players were laughing and smiling! Must have been Tim Couper's dry British wit and non stop puns...

Good gaming, and... always remember to have fun!



  1. I remember it fondly! It was my baptism by fire into the world of Piquet/FoB games. I'm lucky to have signed up and found not only a great game, but a great group of gaming comrades as well.

  2. A most fortunate turn of fate for all of us, truly. Have to get that dissertation finished so you can run a game at HCon 2013! :-)

    Looking forward to seeing you and all the gang in barely 2 months in Fredericksurg, and hopefully some new friends as well!

  3. Hmmmm - dont know if I would give it an Austrian victory if their Army is a fait accompli (kinda phyrric victory?) curious though what is the theory behind the rock casualty indicators?
    And definitely if you get a laughing group of Napoleonic gamers then truly you have reached nirvana in wargaming.

  4. PS ok this was the Austrian version of Sparta and the Movie 300?

    1. I set the criteria that way because if the Austrian Army didn't "break" from Army Morale, that was a far better outcome than the historical one. So, a Technical Victory by the Kaiselicks, although in this case certainly no more than that.

      The "rocks" indicate Unit Integrity (UI) Loss - in general, Infantry units start with 4 UI, Cavalry 3 UI, and artillery 2 UI. When a unit reaches zero, it routs, and if it reaches -1 UI it is removed from play. The rocks are used because they're cheap and relatively unobstrusive. I have some casualty figures (along with the chickens and other critters, battlefield debris, etc) that I use for marking "Out of Command" (like Disordered or Shaken in other rules). I don't use them for UI loss because I need a lot of them and they're expensive and not always that easy to find. Other FoB players use a casualty figure on a sqaure base with the sides marked 1-2-3-4 - the side touching the unit is the UI loss.

      With the Piquet/FoB crowd at Historicon, we pretty regularly get laughter... partly the rules, partly the alcohol (for some), mostly the attitude of the players - a great group. I also try to keep the tone relatively light as GM, and of course Tim's bad puns (the critters provide plenty of opportunity for ad libs and one-liners)make it hard to take the whole thing *too* seriously. We really do have a great time together, with players coming from all over the US!

      Malborgeto is often referred to as "The Austrian Thermopylae" - 300 Grenz held out in a small blockhouse defending the pass for an extended time, which was the reason that Eugene had very litle cavalry and almost no artillery at Tarvis. I don't think the GRrenz were likely as "buff" as the Spartans in the recent semi-animated movie theater version very loosely based upon the real Thermopylae, though, LOL!