Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Fun of Austerlitz

I ran a large "loosely based upon the Battle of  Austerlitz" game for Jared's middle school game club yesterday, 211 years and a day after the anniversary of the actual battle. 

Cast of Characters

There were a total of 16 players involved in the game, plus myself, Jared, and Mike as adults assisting them. Will K and his team marked the Allied deployments on the map, and then Will G and his team marked the French deployments after seeing those of the Allies. Unfortunately, the entry sides for the forces got reversed, so we had to switch them back when we set up the troops. So no one started where they expected to. This was perhaps oddly fitting for a battle which began with dense fog in the morning! Both the French and Allied listings below cover the troops in order from North (Olmutz Heights area) to South (Tellnitz area)

Dylan, Sid
Maya, Sydney
Jacob, Will G*
Carter, Thomas R
Max B., Will K*

Thomas B

* = overall side commanders (thus it was truly a Battle of Wills). I have linked all the historical commanders (except Prebyshevsky, for whom a couldn't find a bio on line) to their Wikipedia entries for those players who would like to read more about them!

The scenario, map, and Orders of Battle  for the battle are here. I was asked how many figures were involved, so I totaled then up afterward:

Grand Totals  
91 Infantry x 12 figures/unit = 1092
34 Cavalry x 8 figures/unit = 272
30 Artillery x 6-8 figures per unit = 190 plus 60 guns
Command = 37 French and 22 Allied = 59

TOTAL: 1,613 figures and 60 guns.

For those interested in a brief account of the actual battle and its background, this version at GreatMilitaryBattles .com has good maps, something vital but lacking in many others that I found.

The Game
I managed to leave home on time a little after 7:30 AM, having organized everything in the evenings of the preceding week, and loaded it all up late Friday night. I arrived in Tarrytown around 8:45 AM, and Jared and I, later with some help from Sid, set up first the terrain and then the troops. We kicked off close to on time at 11:15 AM, after a very brief overview of the historical background and the basics of the Field of Battle, 2nd edition rules. About half of the players were completely new to the rules, but they did very well with them. I assisted the players in the South, Jared in the Middle, and Mike in the North. Due to privacy issues, no pictures of the players are included in this post.

Overview of the Battlefield from the North; the Santon mound is the hill with French artillery atop it in the right foreground, the Pratzen Heights are in the distance on the left. The blue felt far to the south represents the frozen Satchsen Mere lakes.  The sketch map of the initial deployments is in the foreground as well. 

View from the South - to the left are the villages of Tellnitz, Sokolnitz, and beyond that the Sokolnitz castle and Pheasantry. 

Marechal Lannes (Max) got his forces moving to the attack early on, but General de Division Suchet (himself a future Marshal of France) was struck by a stray bullet (max rolled a "1" on a D20 for the office check process). This placed Suchet's entire Division out of command, as denoted by the plethora of sheep, chickens, etc. 

Undeterred, Max pushed his advance forward after making use of two LEADERSHIP cards to restore Suchet's men to command. The general was allegedly heard to say "It was just a flesh wound; I'm not dead yet! In fact, I'm feeling much better!" as he brushed the dirt of his gold braid encrusted jacket.  , Max displayed skill by using 2 successive units of French Infantry in line to blast away at the Cuirassiers of Prince Liechtenstein (Thomas B). Unfortunately, his dice rolling talents were less impressive, while Thomas did much better against him; with 4 rolls of D12+2, the best he could do was to force back one of the tough Cuirassiers units with a 1 UI loss. This failure left the French Infantry in line and unloaded, and hideously vulnerable. C-est la Guerre!

Speaking of Thomas, he blasted some French Dragoons at point blank range with his Austrian Cavalry battery, but a charge by his Russian Hussars was repulsed with heavy losses. Meanwhile, Langeron (Catherine) used the Russian batteries to pound the advancing troops of Suchet's Division yet again. 

Lunch time pictures: Overview of the fierce combat taking place in front of Tellnitz and Sokolnitz.  Langeron's (Catherine) Russian infantry is moving to support Liechtenstein's Cavalry (under Thomas B). 

Near are the Russian Infantry of Langeron (Catherine) moving to the South, and far are Preobyshevsky (Max B's) Russian infantry moving down from the Pratzen heights, ;preparing to assault the line of the Goldbach Stream. 

View from atop the Pratzen heights looking Southwest towards Sokolnitz Castle and Kobelnitz.

Russian positions atop the Pratzen Heights; Murat's Cavalry Reserve is moving up to try to charge the gun line. 

Heavy Artillery fire from the Allied center has already repulsed the Carabiniers. 

Looking to the North and the Stare Vinrohady peak. The building in the foreground is Pratzen itself.

Looking down from the Stare Vinrohady at a determined French attack. 

Austrian and Hungarian infantry of Kollowrat's (Niky) command. 

The far Allied right, with the village of Blasowitz in the foreground, and Buxhoden's (Maya, Sydney) Russian infantry defending the flank. 

Long view of the table at Lunch break, looking from the North to the South. 

Soult's (Dylan and Sid) Corps, with the Santon mound in the foreground. 

Davout's (Jacob and Will G) Corps, infantry and Cavalry moving to the attack; that defensive position looks awfully solid!

Murat's cavalry Reserve trotting forward, attempting to catch the Russian artillery while it is "unloaded". 

Bernadotte (Hadi) has been largely awaiting events. Like much of the French forces, the guns are screened by terrain and their own troops, and unable to fire effectively. 

St Hilaire's Division of Bernadotte's Corps, near the Sokolnitz caste. 

Back to the action between Lannes (Max) and Liechtenstein (Thomas). The charge by 2 Austrian  Cuirassier regiments has over run and destroyed one of the French line infantry units to its front, and even the Cossacks manage a charge that drove off a second French infantry unit.

Buxhoden's (Catherine) Russian Infantry advance, attempting to take some pressure off Liechtenstein (Thomas), while Bernadotte (Hadi) continues to have difficulty getting his men into action. 

Austrian Cuirassiers are "engaged" with some French infantry precariously to their front, but as yet unable to come to blows with them. 

This overview of the battle from the North shows some Austrian Hussars threatening the French Left flank. Meanwhile, Hohenlohe's Austrian and Hungarian infantry is launching a frontal attack of their own. 

French dragoons charge the Austrian guns; this doesn't end well for the horsemen, if I recall. 

Russians from Prebyshevzky's (Max B, Will B)  column enter the woods of the Pheasantry, and prepare to ford the Goldbach stream!

Austrian Jagers prepare to fire at the flank of some rather over-extended looking Dragoons. 

The Russian Imperial Guard reserves enter the table between Blasowitz and Holbitz; if this continues they may threaten the French Line of retreat. 

Lannes (Max) tries the "shoot 'em up" trick again on the Austrian Cuirassiers, who remain seemingly impervious to French musketry! Meanwhile, Walther's Dragoons (under Davout/Max) have successfully over run the Austrian cavalry battery and mauled a Cossack regiment, making good use of a timely MELEE card. 

The French cavalry charge in the center is running out of gas... and horses!  Bagration's guns (Carter and Thomas R) have enjoyed hot shooting dice and some timely ARTILLERY FIREPOWER cards, turning the troopers of Murat (Griff) back in red ruin. 

With the defeat of Murat's cavalry, Bagration's infantry moves to the Attack as well. 

Overview from the North, showing the Italian Dragoons charging a line of Grenz in front of Blasowitz village. A French Infantry regiment is stationed to protect the Santon and the guns upon it. The French Imperial Guard could also have entered by now, but as we were fast closing in on the planned 4 PM stop time, we decided against taking them out of their box just in time to put them back in again. 

Shortly after this we ended the game; at that point, both sides had 33 Morale Points remaining, but the Allies had started with 7 fewer, and were clearly in the better position everywhere except in the South, where Lannes' attack had made steady progress. thus, a marginal victory was awarded to the Allied side. In defense of the French, it is easier to defend a position than to attack one! All of the players were good sports and seemed to pick up the rules concepts quite well. Hopefully we will get a chance to do it again, although probably something less grandiose next time! The large, brightly lit Art Room that we played the game in was a perfect locale for the game as well. Thanks to Jared for hosting the event, and to all of the players. You were all a pleasure to work with!


  1. Great AAR Peter. How did the kids react - did they all enjoy themselves, or were some more engaged than others, and had they read anything about the battle beforehand?

    1. As one might expect from a group of middle school aged students (circa ages 11 - 14), engagement varied by the person and the degree of action in their area. In a large game like this, the inevitable pauses in the action while things get resolved elsewhere means even adults often get distracted for a while when things are slow for them. I wouldn't say it was particularly more difficult to get the kids back on task than it was for adults. I can't really say what the students may have read or heard about before the game, but this is a game club, not a game that was part of a formal curriculum as is sometimes done. However, Jared tells me that the administration, other teachers, and parents have all been very supportive of the club.

  2. Lovely looking game, the castle looks the part ,what a lot of figures! Glad it went well.
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks, Iain. We were please with how it went. I certainly wouldn't do a really big game with a horde of players as a regular routine, but it is an excellent demonstration of how you get caught up in what is going on in front of your nose, and become almost unaware of the battle outside of your area. I think that Napoleon and Alexander (the two Wills) both experienced how difficult it can be to be responsible for the overall coordination of the battle, whilst trying to manage the local combat in you own zone at the same time.

  3. Peter! Your Austerlitz game is a visual spectacle! I would have enjoyed seeing the faces of your middle-schoolers when they got their first glimpse. Eyes as big a saucers, I bet. A generous mentor like you when I was in middle school would have been most welcome and I would have been hooked for life. Wait, I already am...

    1. I think it is fun to see and participate in a really ambitious game like this from time to time, as an indication of what is possible, as well as a lesson in interpersonal dynamics! Since ours is a visual hobby, we aspire to attractive looking troops and tables. For me, though it was the game and the history that were the bigger lures; a bunch of unpainted plastic figures on simple, utilitarian terrain can still be a heck of a lot of fun, even if it isn't as aesthetically appealing.

  4. I bet the kids had fun. Especially the big ones. ;)

    1. They seemed to, Joe. However, I suspect that you're right, and the three big kids had at least as much if not more fun running the game!

  5. Wow, what a glorious mess!!! great looking table and minis! :) Cheers!

  6. Wow that is superb Peter, the kids must have had a brilliant day!!!! Well done putting it all together It looks superb!!!!!!

  7. Wow agreed with other commentators that's just great Peter. How did you find the kids went getting the hang of the rules?? 11-14 seems quite young?

    1. I would say they picked up on the rules concepts about the same as adults new to the rules. We generally did the modifier calculations as we pretty much know them by heart.

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