The Napoleonic Wars, Over the Hills, 28mm
We try to play a Napoleonic game about once a month, but our last foray was back in January. So, this was the first of two back-to-back Napoleonic games – we’ll be playing another next week. As I often do when I’ve got a game to organise, I looted the scenario from Charles S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargames (1982). We just doubled the number of units. In this fictional game, set on the banks of the River Iser during the 1809 campaign, the Austrians were trying to prevent the French from gaining a bridgehead over the river.There was a bridge over the Iser at Moosburg, and after some geographical manipulation we added the tributary over the River Amper, which had two more bridges, and three fords. In the map above, north is at the bottom, and west is to the right. The Iser was unfordable anywhere but at the bridge behind Moosburg – or so everyone thought. Charles’ scenarios though, are never as straightforward as they sound. The Austrians (run by Bill and Peter) duly deployed in the space between the two rivers. They were on the defensive, and their six line and two grenzer battalions backed up by two gun batteries made for a pretty formidable sight. They were supported by a brigade of two hussar regiments, while a second brigade of heavy cavalry was held in reserve, off the table. Their opponents were a Confederation of the Rhine Division (commanded by Campbell and Jim), half of which was from Wurttemberg, the rest from Nassau, Hesse-Darmstadt, Baden and Berg. When the action began the Wurttemberg light cavalry brigade (two regiments) were strung out in four squadron-sized groups, searching for fords across the Amper. They found three – one on their left flank, one in the centre between the two bridges, and the other on the right, near its confluence with the Iser. That’s when the umpire (that would be me) dropped the game-changing news. The cheveaux-leger squadron on the far right had discovered another ford – this time over the Iser. As the attacker’s victory conditions were to secure a bridgehead over this larger river, this news turned everything on its head. So, Jim’s cavalry (a mixed bag of Wurttemberg horse and Berg lancers) headed towards this new-found ford, as did a brigade of Jim’s infantry (five battalions of Nassauers, Badeners and Hessians).Campbell’s job with the rest of the force (five Wurttemberg battalions, two gun batteries and a cavalry regiment) was to pin the Austrians along the Amper, so they couldn’t re-deploy to counter the main river crossing. The trouble was, Campbell can be an aggressive soul when he wants to be, and he didn’t seem content with merely demonstrating along his front. Oh no. Instead he went hell-for-leather over onto the attack. the result was a series of hard-fought river crossings, all along the length of the Amper.The Wurttemberg light dragoons (or whatever they were) attacked over the left-hand ford, where they were met by a battalion of Grenzers, which managed to form an emergency square in the nick of time. The cavalry went in, but were bounced back over the ford, and spent the rest of the game licking their wounds. Over to their right the Wurttembergers launched two more assaults using their infantry – one over the bridge nearest the curve in the river, the other across the ford between the two bridges. In both cases the Austrians held their ground, although the attackers almost made it, having forced a draw in the first round of combat, and so were able to shake themselves out into a line on the far side of the ford. Inevitably though, both attacking units were bounced. That’s when Jim lent the support of his Baden artillery battery, which pounded the Austrians guarding the brodge as the Wurttemburg assault column rallied and prepared for another go. Over by the ford the beaten-up Wurttemburg battalion was replaced by another one, and both assaults duly went in again. the result was the same. The attackers were repulsed, but by now both sides had taken losses, and their fatigue levels were low.Before the third and final assault went in, Jim’s guns pounded away, until the Austrian battalion in front of the western bridge was reduced to a Fatigue Level of “1”. That meant it was on its last legs – shaken and ready to run. the Wurttemburgers stormed forward again, and this time the defenders were routed. Campbell had done it – he’d got his bridgehead over the Asper! The trouble was, that wasn’t the objective. He needed to cross the Iser to win the game. Fortunately, Jim was a little more focused on the objective.Not completely though – he became drawn into a firefight with the Austrians beyond the bend in the river, and while his cavalry raced off towards the ford over the Iser, his infantry which had been following in their wake gradually became side-tracked, and by the end of the game four of Jim’s five battalions were embroiled in the fight for the lower section of the Asper. To be fair the Austrians mentioned launching a counter-attack across the ford near the wood to cut off the French allies from their new-found ford over the Iser. This though, never materialised, mainly because Jim crossed the Amper ford first! A battalion of his Badeners piled into the Austrians beyond the river, and made a good enough account of themselves to force the defenders back slightly. They were helped by the supporting battalions behind them (Nassauers and Hessians), so by the time the game ended the French allies had two vulnerable little enclaves on the far bank of the Amper. The trouble was, between them and the bridge over the Iser beyond Moosburg was an awful lot of Austrian troops. this really was a sideshow though. The real outcome of the battle would be decided on the far bank of the bigger river – the Iser. Jim’s cavalry raced across its ford to reach the far south bank of the river. In theory that meant they’s achieved their objective. All they had to do now was to hold the bridgehead open until infantry and guns could be brought up to secure it. Jim had three cavalry regiments at his disposal, while one solitary battalion of Baden infantry was marching for the ford too. the rest of his command were still slugging it out along the banks of the lower Amper. That was when Bill’s reserve cavalry arrived, and deployed to the west of the Moosburg bridge, ready to drive the impertinent Wurttemburg and Berg horse. To accomodate all this we actually added another small table, covering a bit more of the ground south of the river. So, the outcome of the Battle of Moosberg would all be decided by a huge cavalry stramash! When it came, Bill’s charge was pretty effective. It took a couple of rounds, but his first unit of cuirassiers destroyed the Wurttemberg chevaux-legers. They suffered a fair bit in the process though, and Jim brought up his Berg lancers (in their pretty pink facings) to plug the gap. Over on the right the Wurttemberg heavy dragoons faced off the second regiment of Austrian cuirassiers, while behind them the sole battalion of Baden infantry finally waded across the ford and planted themselves firmly on the southern bank. that’s where we ended the game. Napoleon’s German allies had done it – they’d gained their bridgehead over the Iser, even though the Austrians still held the line of the Amper on the north bank of the river. Without that hidden ford it would have been a very different game – but then that’s why Charles’ scenarios are so much fun – he always throws something unexpected into the mix. The high point of the game though was the repeated river crossing attempts along the Amper – and everyone had such a blast they plan to play another Napoleonic game next week, using the same rules.