Saturday, July 23, 2016

HISTORICON: The Engagement at Klagenfurt, June 6, 1809

    The engagement at Klagenfurt took place as a result of Austrian FML Chasteler's attempt to extricate his Corps from the Tyrol and return towards Graz, there to link up with the forces of Erzherzog Johann, himself lately ejected from Italy by Prince Eugene's Army of Italy. There is superb background on this action on the excellent blog of my e-friend Michael ( aka Wargamer Rabbit), as well as his own scenario for this most unusual battle. I used my own scenario (from my Blunders on the Danube, 1809 scenario book), but modified it for use with classic Piquet, Les Grognards 2nd edition. I felt that the quite small forces involved might be more fun to play out with this  more chaotic rules set. Both of our scenarios are based upon the account and OOB's in  John Gill's wonderful 1809 trilogy, "Thunder on the Danube", in this case, volume 3. If you're a Napoleonic military history buff and you haven';t read this euic and yet engrossing work as yet, well...  just do it!

Deployment: Looking West from St Peter towards the walled town of Klagenfurt. The Advance Guard of Lachovsky is represented by a unit of Jagers; this is being kind to this small command, which in fact had only 1 - 2 companies of Jagers, with the remainder made up of inferior troops. To the South are the commands of  Marcal and Fenner - 2 battalions of regulars, 5 of Landwehr (one recruited from Klagenfurt itself), a detachment of Chevau-Legers, and a battery. The Austrian objective is to exit their baggage wagons off the table on the road in the foreground, which leads to Volkermarkt. 

Deployment map, from my Blunders on the Danube, 1809 scenario book. The table is 6 x 7.5 feet.

Long view from the South East.

View form the South. The Austrian in the foreground are the command of the ill-fated GM Schmidt. His performance and conduct during and after the battle was so appallingly bad that even the Austrians felt obligated to convene a court of inquiry after the war; Schmidt committed suicide rather than face it. 

The table from the West, with those cumbersome wagons. It's a long way to Volermarkt! Nearby is the command of Volkmann. he Franco-Italian defenders are seen within Klagenfurt, under the watchful eye of GD Rusca, perched high in a church tower so that he can see over the tall wheat fields surrounding the town. The Austrians had no such vantage point.  Historically, Schmidt;s command was surprised by the French issuing forth from the town; evidently the wheat concealed them until the last minute - small Austrian observation forces posted opposite each of the Town four gates eveidently having failed utterly in their job of alerting their fellow Kaiserlicks to such action!

This game was a Family Affair, with the Franco-Italians being captained by Duane, his wife, Kris and their son, Alistair. The Austrians were lead by Andy C and his son, Sam, assisted by Hugh. Opening moves saw Volkmann's infantry move up to cover the wagon route (the wagons did NOT have to stay on the roads - indeed, they could not possibly do so and reach their destination). 

Their destination seems well guarded at least -p aside from the fact that much of the forces seen here are Landwehr!

Duane seems very happy with the French card has just turned. Wonder what it is? 

"Cavalry Move in Open!" The sole unit of French cavalry charges West out of the town, but falls a fraction of an inch away from the flank of some Hungarians. Who gets to play what card next could be a big deal here!

A pair iof French infantry battalions head South of the Town, concealed in the tall wheat (special scenario condition). 

Four Italian battalions deploy East of Klagenfurt; Rusca is pursuing a very active defense, even though he is outnumbered roughly 3:2!  Now only the two artillery units remain behind within the walls. 

Austrian Artillery on the Kalvarienberg attempt to discomfit the French Chasseurs a Cheval, but the range is fairly long and the French horsemen are not distracted! Shortly thereafter, the Hungarian battalion is finally hit, and routed. The Wagons manage to slip by, however. 

The Austrian cavalry commander says, Dies ist ein Spiel, das wir Österreicher auch spielen kann!
The Chevauilegers hit a French battalion in column in the flank,. disordering them!

The Austrian players had dreadful luck throughout this game, and thus the French stood off the flank attack and turned to face the Chevaulegers, routing them!

With a seemingly endless supply of impetus (even using the "rule of 1/3"), even the French and Italian batteries have moved out of Klagenfurt, and unlimbered ready to shoot some Austrians. They proved to be deadly this day!

A "Heroic Moment" card, followed by an "Artillery Reload" card! By the bodacious bosom of Maria Theresa, this French battery could fire, reload, fire, reload again, and fire yet again! Kinda spoils your day if you're at canister range from them, doesn't it? Schmidt's men have now figured out the French wheat field, trick - perhaps a bit too late? You like your croissant toasted well, eh Fritz? 

Two Italian battalions press forward, trying to seal off the Austrian escape route!

The Italian battery East of the city peppers Fenner and Marcal's men with shot. 

The cannoniers infernale have now blasted Schmidt's other battalion to rout and ruin. It seems he will likely meet his appointed fate once again, as two Hungarian battalions attempt to cover the wagons on their attempt to reach safety. In Klagenfurt itself, the French Chasseurs, who were routed by a point blank volley after their epic charge, have been riding rings around and around the town square, looking for solace. It will take them quite some time (and many morale chips) to rally!

The French and Italian Artillery is as accurate as the Austrian guns are ineffectual throughout the battle. The two units of Austrian regulars have routed!

Wagons doing the "Shuffle off to Buffalo", as fast as their nags will haul them!

The French infantrymen's mouths are watering at the thought of the Beer and Bratwurst to be had in the Austrian wagons!

The French  infantry captured two of the four wagons; one other turned back to take the largely unguarded Northern route, whilst the remaining sees if it can out distance the French and reach some of its own forces. Maybe it escaped from the Hussite game?  meanwhile, a Hungarian infantry uinit has routed one of the French units with some timely flank fire, and the spooked French Chasseurs have rallied, and are now in pursuit of the fleeing wagon on the South side of Klagenfurt. In the event, they get a move card and fall short of the wagon by an inch or so. GD Rusca is feeling a bit lonely in Klagenfurt, with no troops to defend him at all!

    Shortly thereafter, the French reach zero Army Morale Chips! Being quite a lot smaller, they had considerably fewer chips to start than the Austrians. Even though they inflicted far more damage than they suffered, the multiple failed attempts to rally the Chasseurs drained their supply. (In their defense, I had accidentally switched the morale chip stashes of the two sides, and it wasn't until well into the game that I realized my error, and shifted 8 chips from one side to the other!)  Soon thereafter, the French turned the Major Morale Check card and failed almost all of their morale checks. At that point we called the game a draw; the French battered the Austrians and captured half the wagons. but the Austrians compelled the French to return to the safety of Klagenfurt, and made off with the rest of the wagons and the bulk of their forces, ready to reinforce Erzherzog Johann... with the Battle of Raab fast approaching. As for the ill fated GM Schmidt, well, the less said the better!

    Thanks to all of the players for putting up with the outrageous slings (and swings) of fortune in this game, and the GM's being rather rusty with classic Piquet after 2 years since my last game played with same. It was a hoot, ladies and gentlemen!


  1. Sounds like you had a super day. I know how that feels : I had a blast exploring the "Maurice" rules set. Not laughed so much in years. I do so agree with you on the Gill books. Since my Napoleonics are aimed strictly at 1809 I would be lost without them. Furthermore the other book that accompanies them is also superb. "With eagles to glory" covering the germanic allies is also a definite must have.

    1. Exactly, Robert I had my copy of "With Eagles" well before Gill's 1809 trilogy started coming out, so I already knew it would be awesome!

  2. Great to see that 'Classic' PK still garners a super game experience.
    What is 1/3 Impetus ? Loser of impetus gets 1/3 of winners rather than none ?

    1. With a small group of players who "get" it, Piquet is still hugely fun. Eric's Charlotte Rule of 1/3 means that the losing side gets 1/3 of the impetus of the winner, rounded down, so closer to about 30% on average. The French rolled really well, and the Austrians twice turned a Command Indecision card at the start of the few longer runs they won!

  3. Fabulous write-up Peter. Sounds like the players had a ball, well, the French gunners at least—until that morale draw!
    Would you say that random effects are greater than other rules, or was it merely this game and the key impacts that occurred?

    1. Piquet is by nature a fairly a chaotic game, that is about managing uncertainty, AND making the most of what you get. Inexperienced players will try to do almost everything with every unit. Experienced players often burn through the card deck looking for the decisive cards they need, rather than wasting impetus on low return actions. In that regard it is a very challenging game, and one that really lends itself to narrative.

  4. Another great scenario Peter and thanks for the "hat tip" to the warren.
    The Franco-Italians played their part.... and the Austrians took it. Interesting the movement of Oberst Volkmann from the heights. And GM Schmidt.... played his poor performance once again.
    Now I have to read your latest game on the Hussite scenario.

    Michael aka WR

    1. The tip of the headwear was exceedingly well deserved (and saved me from having to attempt something not half as well done!) It was quite a fun game, but would have been better with better Austrian luck. I d\id handicap them with the sequence decks, especially the awful Command Indecision Card. However, that seemed entirely appropriate historically. The French also drew an extra "Infantry Move in the Open" card as part of the pre game process, which was a MOST useful; card for this scenario! On the other hand that cost them morale points, which they sorely needed more of.

  5. Great looking aar, nice to see the aged fort works well and good call for the thunder/blunder on the danube as I've succumbed to napoleonics and they sound great!
    All the best Iain

    1. Tnanks, Iain! I had planned on using parts form my nearly as old Gallia Castle, but they wound up getting left behind at our big Winter 1807 Campaign event, and I have yet to retrieve them, so the Fort, hand built by a freind from High School circa 1970, got the call. I don't think there are any books as well suited to what a wargamer wants to know, and as engagingly and well written, as Gill's. Not to say there aren't many other excellent works, of course!

  6. Entertaining scenario and report Peter! At last an excuse to collect supply wagons and paint Italians!

    1. Thanks, David! I have probably gotten more use out of my Italians than any French allies save for the Bavarians. They also fought at the siege of Colberg in 1807, and in 1809 at Sacile, The Piave, Tarvis, St. Michael and Raab under Eugene, and then of course at Wagram as well, in Spain from 1809 - 1813, at Borodino and Maloyaoslavetrs in 1812, and in many of the 1813 battles including Dennewitz. Trust me, David, you NEED some Italians! :-)

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