Thursday, April 13, 2017

Montebello: The Empire Strikes Back

Once more, back to the battlefield of Montebello and facing off against my worthy opponent, Jake.  While the first two games saw Jake commanding the French, this time, Jake takes the helm as the Austrian commander, Stadion.  I lead the French and Sardinians (as Forey) in an attempt to thwart the Austrian aggressions in the foothills of the Apennines.
As the battle opens, French general Forey responds quickly to reports of Austrian capture of Genestrello.  Lead elements of Beuret's brigade take fire on the approach to the village.  As Austrian musketry increases, two French battalions are repelled from Genestrello.  Beuret's 4kg guns are disorganized as Austrian jaegers concentrate their fire upon the now exposed guns. 
French advances on Genestrello meet tough opposition
Bringing up reinforcements, Beuret forces the 3rd battalion of IR39 out from Genestrello, disorganized, while half of the 3rd Jager Battalion falls back to cover the left flank of Montebello.  Baum's Austrian brigade, facing Cascina Nuova, falls back to the grain fields to the north of Montebello.  Seems Stadion has no stomach to maintain an advanced position! Instead, he chooses to fall back and prepare a defense.
Austrians ejected from Genestrello
Beuret redoubles effort against Genestrello
With Genestrello in French hands, Austrian wing commander Hesse in the north remaining immobile, and Baum falling back from the center, Stadion's plan for conducting this battle begins to emerge.  The Austrian battle plan seems to focus on a delaying action around Montebello while Paumgarten's center wing is brought up to reinforce Urban as quickly as possible.  No flanking maneuver with Hesse.  Stadion intends to stand and defend in depth!  
Overview of early stage of battle
The Austrian defensive wall begins to align using Montebello as a fulcrum.  No pressure upon Calcabobbio from Hesse in the north and the important rail bridge at Cascina Nuova is safely in French hands.  Scaffgotsche abandons any claim upon Genestrello as the second half of the 3rd Jaeger departs the village on its way to cover the southern approaches to Montebello.
Austrians abandon Genestrello
Montebello, key to the Austrian defense
As the Austrian defensive line stiffens, Forey continues his advance upon these newly formed positions with thoughts of breaking through.  In the north, Sonnaz' Sardinian light cavalry skirmish with Hesse's lancers.  No advantage gained in the north for either combatant.
Forey advances upon Austrian positions
Battle overview from behind French lines
Having committed to a defensive line in the center and Paumgarten's reinforcements arriving in a constant stream of humanity, Stadion stakes out his ground and defies Forey to wrest it from his control.  Without hesitation, Forey obliges his opponent's wishes.
Forey prepares to attack the Austrian line
With Austrian batteries deployed all along the line, the French have great difficulty approaching unscathed.  French casualties mount in trying to close on the tough Austrian positions.
Arrayed in depth, French attempt assaulting
the Austrian positions
Unable to bring the two French batteries into position, Forey presses on without their support.  Taking casualties in the open without redress, French resolve begins to waver while the Austrians suffer few casualties.  In an effort to break the stand off against Hesse on the northern flank, Sonnaz launches repeated charges first against the Austrian cavalry and then against newly arriving infantry.  French suffer great casualties in these efforts with little gain.
Cavalry action in the north while line forms in center
French casualties mount in front of Montebello
As the cohesion of his fighting force deteriorates following wave after wave of French infantry crashing upon the white rocks of the Austrian line, Forey decides that discretion is the better part of valor. Unable to press his attack to push the Austrians back across the Coppa River, Forey orders a general withdrawal back to the security of Voghera.  Forey chooses to live to fight another day.
French cavalry in disarray after repeated charges
What a fine battle!  Jake played out a brilliant hand by foregoing the use of Hesse in the north as a flanking move and rushing Paumgarten's center wing pell-mell to the front.  While Paumgarten raced to the front, Urban pulled back his forward forces to consolidate a line centered on Montebello.  Few casualties were suffered by the Austrians as the French captured Genestrello almost without a fight.
The Long White Line stands firm
The French, upon approaching the Austrian defensive line, suffered greatly from Austrian fire.  Battalion after battalion failed to press on.  Taking even light casualties was sufficient to stop the French attack in its tracks as the French juggernaut repeatedly failed response tests.  This was a battle in which the French really never got into the fight.

Congratulations to Jake as he stymied French efforts at every turn and every roll of the die.  Despite their success in stopping French aggressions, the Austrians were awarded a minor victory.  Pursuing the French back to Voghera would have been an unlikely outcome.  Still, a great victory for Jake and Austria as Stadion pulls out the first victory for the Austrian empire in the mulit-game series on Montebello 1859.

For Jake's battle preparations, see Jake's comprehensive plan of battle (see Operation Design Montebello).  Reading through Jake's post on his pre-game planning, I wager the French had little chance!  I was outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted.  

After cleaning up the carnage from the battle, the table, now devoid of troops, awaits the deployment of troops for the 1800 Battle of Montebello. 
The barren landscape readies for Montebello 1800


  1. Enjoyed reading - thanks. I was left with the feeling from the commentary that you enjoyed this game a little more than the last fight. Did the pre-game tweaks actually make much difference in this particular instance?

    The rules seem to give quite decisive results, i.e. rather than see engagements drag on over multiple turns, units seem to push back or bounce off readily.

    1. Thank you, Norm for the comments. Glad you found the BatRep an enjoyable read.

      All of the Montebello games have been enjoyable but this one was particularly challenging due to my opponent's aggressiveness in bringing his far-flung reserves into a position to affect the outcome of battle. Something I was unable to accomplish when I was commanding the Austrians.

      As for minor rule changes, the EZOC did not figure in much at all. That result was likely from Hesse's inactivity on the Austrian right flank. EZOC did play a role in a couple of situations but only minor.

      Results can be decisive if Response Tests are failed after either firing or close combat. Unfortunately for my French, the troops failed more Response Tests than they passed. My thoughts of an offensive petered out rather quickly when most of my troops found themselves either disorganized and stationary or disorganized and retreating. Still, results were satisfying from a design perspective and historically believable. Perhaps, Jake will weigh in on his thoughts too?

    2. Norm! Very good to see you make it into Top 10 Commenters!

  2. Great overview Jon, and a well fought game. I concur that I would not have been able to make the breakout. We were locked in an exchange in the center that meant I couldn't safely opt to activate Hesse and still maintain the pressure in the center.

    On the EZOC discussion, I will add that they influenced my decision making everytime I considered what I was doing with my Cavalry. The few times we discussed it were when the answer was not obvious to me. I enjoyed them as an addition, and think they give cavalry a way to influence the fight in a historically accurate way. (The historical account I read mentioned the Sardinian cavalry harassing Hesse's infantry)

    1. Jake, it was an enjoyable an challenging fight, as always.

      I am glad the addition of EZOC introduced some added decision making into the process for you. With your Right Wing under Hesse somewhat sequestered and protected, Sonnaz really had not much opportunity to pass through any EZOC. That small rules' addition will be useful in other situations.

      Historically, the Sardinians fought courageously all day and performed admirably to hold off Hesse's advance.

    2. In their defense, Hesse did not get a chance to advance in this refight either....

    3. Again, the Sardinians did their duty!

  3. Oh, and for those looking for the other perspective, I just posted my synopsis of the battle. Less figures and more maps though.

    1. Really enjoyed your battle analysis! I will follow up with more thoughts on your blog.

  4. A very enjoyable read. Lots of photos and those with arrows helped support the narrative. I was trying to gauge the table size as it provides plenty of space for flanking moves.

    1. Glad to read that you enjoyed the BatRep, Peter!

      Annotating game photos poses a bit of a conundrum for me. Some like seeing arrows detailing all of the troops movements and results; others prefer the unadulterated game photos. My preference falls somewhere in between the two poles, I suppose although I do both. Sometimes, I annotate liberally; other times I do not.

      With this BatRep, annotations only made it into the first few game photos. I agree with you that annotations make for an easier following of the action. I will put more effort into annotations.

      The game table for this battle was 12 feet by 6 feet. Quite a bit of room for maneuver and the Austrian reinforcements had a long march to make it into action. Jake did a good job getting his Center Wing on the move early.

  5. A wonderful game Jon, and congrats to jake for making his plan work.

    What rules were used - I am failing to remember?


    1. Thank you, Greg! Pleased you found it enjoyable. The rules used are my own concoction. They have been holding up well and producing good, historically viable results.

  6. Grand stuff Jonathan. I am so impressed by this series that I havr dug out all miy reference material this period and trying to find a range of 28mm Austrians that I like.

    1. Mark, your unending support and encouragements are most appreciated!

      Although my project is in 15mm, a few 25/28mm manufacturers of Austrians are:
      Cibo's Little Dude's:
      Battle Honors:
      North Star:

      There are likely more but these are the ones I can identify off the top of my head.

      If you do go down this route, I have plenty of reference material too.

    2. Mark, you made it into the Top 10 Commenters List too.

  7. great looking game a real sense real sense of scale nice 😀

  8. What an excellent report Jonathan!


  9. Getting two battles out of the same tabletop. Clever AND frugal.

  10. Great report Jon, a spectacular and beautiful battle, well illutrated and explained...Lovely work!

    1. Thank you very much, Phil! No animations like your terrific BatReps but a story is still told.

  11. Another great looking game and sounds like a fun game! I'm looking forward to the earlier incarnation of this battle.
    Best Iain

    1. Iain, your positive reinforcements are most welcome!

      Montebello 1800 sees the French attacking from the east rather than from the west as in the 1859 battle. Casteggio and the Coppa River will once again be a focal point. OB and scenario are still under development.

  12. Another great looking game and fine battle report; the varied versions (and Jake's planning and analysis) combined make for especially fine reading pleasure!

    1. Glad you liked the BatReps, Peter. I especially commend your fortitude in sticking through all the various playings and replayings of Montebello 1859.

      The layout will be utilized when attention turns toward the Montebello battle fought 59 years earlier. You are likely more familiar with the 1800 battle than the 1859 episode.