Monday, June 3, 2019

Battle of San Martino - Game 1

As scenario designer, one anticipates how the scenario is likely to play out.  When drafting an historical scenario, an attempt must be made to allow for the possibility of reproducing the historical outcome.  Overfitting a design to a specific battle account should yield to a broader narrative within the confines of the rules, scenario, and historical situation such that the historical outcome is possible but not guaranteed.  Objectives are set to help in guiding that narrative.  The translation from concept to reality is sometimes very different.  Luck plays a role in the scenario's outcome as do the actions and reactions of the players.  Sometimes, other factors, altogether, conspire to change the outcome.  Warfare leads to uncertainty.  The first run-through of the San Martino scenario is a case in point.

The San Martino scenario is large.  With two players committed to participate, a two-player game would provide a lot of troops under each individual's command.  Too many troops to command?  Perhaps, but feasible.  I would act as umpire.  As often happens, I was convinced to take an active player role in the game.  I took command of the two reinforcing Austrian V Corps brigades entering on the south edge of the table.  With most objectives concentrated around San Martino, this small secondary command would likely not be the primary focus of the action.  Wrong!  

The battle began as expected with the Sardinians under Mollard skirmishing with lead elements of Benedek's Austrian Corps for control of the San Martino Heights.  Rather than strike hard against Mollard's recon column, Benedek committed few troops to this action.  Throughout the action, Lippert's Austrian brigade fought gingerly over the heights in an attempt to wrest control of the key villages from the Sardinians. 
Skirmishing on San Martino Heights
The Sardinians showed more activity than the Austrians and did not waste time.  Upon the arrival of the Cuneo Brigade to San Martino, Mollard directed Arnaldi on his task.  Arnaldi was to deploy his brigade on Mollard's left and relieve pressure on the attacks against San Martino.  Drawing up on Mollard's left also prevented the Austrians from flanking the San Martino position from the east.  The Cuneo Brigade, in position to deploy, fanned out to the left of Mollard.  At this point in the battle, Mollard launched two of Monferrato's light cavalry squadrons to disrupt the Austrian countermove to oppose Arnaldi.  Miraculously, the Sardinian cavalry succeeded beyond expectations in this spoiling attack.  The target of its charge panicked and fled to the rear.  Turning its attention to the closest enemy infantry battalion, these Austrians, likewise, fell back from the attack.  Blown but pleased with their success, the Sardinian troopers returned safely to friendly lines.
Arnaldi deploys on Mollard's left
In response, Benedek reinforced and extended his right flank while keeping the bulk of his formations in reserve.  These large Austrian formations would remain inert for the entire battle.
Much of Benedek's Corps remains in reserve
On the road from Lonato, Durando's Sardinian division, consisting of two regiments of grenadiers and supporting Bersaglieri and cavalry marched quickly to the south.  Their objective was the bridge spanning the river.  Getting there first provided an opportunity to drive a wedge between Benedek's Corps and the bulk of the Austrian Army busy fighting at Solferino.

Gaal's Austrian V Corps brigade arrived near Madonna del Scoperta and passed through the town.  Gaal's objective was to reach the bridge before Durando's division.  It would be a race against time.  Gaal reached the bridge first but only just.  Durando's Division was deploying along the river banks almost as Gaal entered the town.  The intense firefights pushed many of Gaal's battalions back from the river.
Battle lines forming along the river
Gaal's small brigade was no match for the power offered from Durando's grenadiers.  Even armed with rifles against the Sardinian smooth bores, the Austrians were outclassed.  Some of this mismatch was not of their doing!
Firefight along the river
As Sardinian troops from Lonato continued arriving on the battlefield, the Sardinians prepared for an attack against the San Martino Heights from the west.  To counter this threat, Benedek ordered Reichlin's ad hoc brigade to march around the high ground to address this situation.
Reichlin marches to the sound of the guns
Reichlin was not alone to respond to the call to arms.  The second V Corps brigade arrived at Madonna del Scoperta and rather than setting up a defensive position to backstop Gaal, Koller's Brigade began crossing the river near Madonna del Scoperta to place his brigade on the north bank of the river.
Koller marches to sound of the guns
Without support from Koller, Gaal's brigade was in serious trouble.  As each of Gaals' battalions fell back from the river, confidence rose among Durando's grenadiers.  The time was ripe for an assault across the river.  The Sardinian grenadiers splashed across the water obstacle nearly unhindered and crashed into the already wavering Austrians.  In a few minutes, Gaal's brigade was done for and went streaming back from the field of battle.

While fighting continued over the San Martino Heights, Durando's grenadiers, having crossed to the south bank of the river, were a big concern.  What was Benedek to do?  Release his reserve formations in an attempt to take the heights before more Sardinians arrived or protect his Corps and the Austrian line of communications back to the Mincio River?  
Fighting for control of the heights
With Sardinian reinforcements arriving from the north and the heights threatened from both the north and west, Benedek called for his Corps to disengage from battle.  There would still be a hard fight to hold Pozzolengo long enough to allow the army, defeated at Solferino, to retreat to safety.  Little value in holding San Martino at this point in time.

Leaning over the table and surveying the situation, Benedek declared enough is enough.  Disengage!  To lunch!  The Sardinian Army and King Vittorio Emmaneule II are victorious on this day!
With hands on table, Benedek surveys the action
With a concession after two hours of battle, plenty of time remained in the day.  Rather than reset the battle for a second attempt, Commands & Colors Ancients was pulled off the shelf for an afternoon session of gaming.  Good fun!

As for the San Martino battle, a handful of mistakes were made in play.  Having not had the rules out for an exercise in over a year, my memory was a bit foggy.  Even though the rules are of my own design, I forget key facets without regular exercise.  The big mistake in this battle was forgetting that size DOES matter. Austrian infantry battalions are classified as LARGE in size while Sardinian infantry battalions are classed as AVERAGE.  Light infantry half-battalions are classified as SMALL.  The larger Austrian battalions should have been able to give and take more punishment than they did.  Similarly, the half-battalions of light infantry should not have been as effective and suffered losses much more quickly.  Would these changes have affected the final outcome?  Perhaps not.  The battle may have been more closely contested, though.

Expect to see more of San Martino in the future; hopefully, with rules of engagement correctly applied.             

34 comments:

  1. While the battle may have taken an unexpected turn, judging by the photos it was still an entertaining game.

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    1. Peter, the game was short and sweet. Regardless of outcome, having the guys over for a gaming session is always a highlight of the week. Next time, I will remember the rules!

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  2. That's a great looking game Jonathan and quite tumble!

    Christopher

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  3. Thanks Jonathan, I enjoyed the spectacle and the table area v scale gives plenty of room for the armies to breathe and for a bigger story to be told.

    Were the Grenadiers a standard sized unit?

    It can be hard to hold rules in the head, as we play so much variety before we return to a particular game at some point in the cycle ..... Though my regular opponent does hold more systems in his head for longer than I can, so perhaps that tells it's own tale!

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    1. Large tables with great expanses are satisfying to set up and view. I enjoy the scope of the presentation too.

      The Sardinian grenadier battalions are of average size while the Austrian battalions are classified as large. The grenadiers are classed as more effective than the Austrians (Combat Effectiveness of 5 vs 4).

      I think you are playing a larger variety of games than your opponent!

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  4. Great looking battle Jonathon. Its so easy to forget rules, I know exactly how you feel. It'd be interesting playing the game again with all the missed bits put in, I think the Austrians could pull it off??
    Also good luck with Tango.....I wouldn't hold up too much hope.

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    1. Hi Ray. Yes, I will be replaying San Martino several times, I think. Hopefully, with the of the rules. These differences were noted on my QRS but I overlooked it.

      Regarding Tango01, there may not be much hope but it is worth a try. When I commented about this on TMP, I got my account locked. No more TMP for me.

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  5. Thanks again for hosting, Jon. That was a fun day's gaming!

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    1. You are welcome! It was a fun day of gaming. We need to figure out if the Carthaginians are capable of winning The Great Plains battle.

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  6. Great looking game. Fun stuff when you have ahistorical results that still make sense from the flow of battle. What are the numbers near each unit? Morale/status? Also, silly question, what are the big differences from the napoleonic era with regard to fighting in 59? Were rifles ubiquitous or muskets still the standard arm?

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    1. The results were not ahistorical in the sense that the Austrians under Benedek were forced to retire after news game of the defeat at Solferino to the south. The way in which Durando and his grenadiers beat up Gaal was ahistorical but some of that beating I attribute to failing to follow the rules!

      The numbers denote each unit's Combat Effectiveness (CE). There is no figure removal but a whole stand is removed when the unit's CE drops to zero.

      In '59, the Sardinians still used smoothbore muskets while the French and Austrians used rifled muskets. Some of the artillery was rifled as well.

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  7. Great battle Jonathan, it was joyful to read! My Congrats with the first game played! I believe you intend to play several times in this scenario.

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    1. Thanks, Dmitry! Yes, I plan to refight San Martino several times before putting it all away.

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  8. I hate picking rules up for the first time in ages and forgetting little key details! I look forward to the rematch. I still think the Austrians have got what it takes!

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    1. With the situation, the Austrians ought be able to hold on as they did historically until ordered to withdraw. Next game, the Austrians will be playing without penalty.

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  9. A fun read and it will be interesting to see how the other refights turn out, once the Austrians are given their due.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Lawrence! Yes, once I have leveled the playing field, it be fun to tackle the situation again.

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  10. Looked great, and we'll see how action #2 works out!
    Having written my own rules, I am often the worst person to ask a rules question, as they change many times during evolution, and then you have trouble remembering which changes you kept and which you ditched!

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    1. So true! To add to the burden, when you have written a number of rulesets, mixing up the different systems is easy to do.

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  11. A lovely looking and sounding game Jonathan...
    You have captured the size of the battle nicely...
    I have always been tempted by the Austro-Prussian war of 1866... maybe 15mm would be a better scale...

    All the best. Aly

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    1. Much appreciated, Aly!

      15mm is a good fit for these large, sweeping battles of the Napoleonic and mid-19th Century wars. 10mm would be a good choice too!

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  12. Superb report Jonathan. Sounds like the fighting was every bit as desperare as it was in the real battle.

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    1. Thank you, Mark! The fighting was desperate. A rematch should be as hotly contested.

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  13. Whoa, sounds like the Austrians got ripped off! Lol
    Can’t say I’ve never forgotten a rule or two.
    Still, sounds like the game was fun even if ended a little early. But you all did what every good group of gamers do; set up the next round of fun.
    Till next time. 😀

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    1. Yes, I gave the Austrians short-shrift in this one. Next time, they will fight on a more level playing field.

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  14. Late to the party but lovely looking ( if unfortunate for the white coats!) Game!
    Best Iain

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    1. You are never late to the party, Iain! The whitecoats will get more than one chance for redemption. I will try to remember ALL of the modifiers next time!

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  15. Interesting scenario, I would love to take a crack at it sometime. I really enjoy the fire and maneuver we can develop with your rule set for this time period. Your issue with remembering the modifiers is one of the reasons I have been trying to focus on using the same rules for a awhile. It seems one I get a set of rules down, and new set comes up to try....

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    1. Hopefully, we can sync our schedules to get a game or two in on this one. As for the modifiers, that really was no ones fault but my own. I had the modifiers on the QRS but simple forgot to account for the fact that some of the BMUs were sized differently. I won't make that mistake a second time and the Austrians should fare better in the next replay.

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