Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Battle for Pratzen Heights

French elite batteries deal death from the Pratzeberg
To Christen his recently completed "Game Palace," Scott held a Napoleonic game to mark the occasion.  The MacPhee Game Palace is a beautiful addition to the existing residence.  Although housing a detached garage, the building offers a large play room for the kids and a fine gaming room on the lower level for the adults.  Well stocked with everything a gamer could need, this is a fine gaming venue.

Since the game was held on December 2, Scott picked a portion of the Battle of Austerlitz to commemorate the 212th anniversary of this famous battle.  Using the rules, General de Brigade, the action would recreate St. Hilaire's attack on the combined Austro-Russian forces as they fought for control of the Pratzeberg.

While Scott provided a mostly unbiased accounting of the battle at MacPhee's Miniature Men, I will provide an account from the perspective of the Austrian commander in whose role I took.
Initial deployment
The battle begins with a Russian column strung out as it marches to take the Pratzen Heights.  The objective of the 20 turn game is to be the last to occupy the Pratzen Heights.  While St. Hilaire's force is an elite formation with nary a line battalion, the Austro-Russian force is a large rabble.  The Austrians especially represent a poor force with most battalions being composed of conscripts.  With a poor command structure, the Allies have a tough job even though they outnumber the French.

When the battle opens, the long Russian column is committed to a march upon the Pratzeberg.  Even though the Pratzeberg objective is in hand with lead elements of the Russian column, the Austrian column commander, Kollowrath, wanted to send new orders to the Russians.  Although the Russian commander fails to respond to the Austrian's orders, he does make the change under his own initiative.

Fearing if he continues on his present course he will be defeated in detail by St. Hilaire before the Austrian conscripts can come up, the Russian 4th Column reverses course and begins retracing its steps.  Back across the valley they go and climb the heights from which they only recently passed.  
Russians reverse course
Perhaps ordering the Russians to retrace their steps was wise since the Austrian rabble has great difficulty in undertaking any action. 
Austrian rabble frozen in place
While St. Hilaire's French advance upon the Pratzeberg, the Russians deploy on the heights opposite the heights.  Only the French batteries make the climb up the Pratzeberg.  Russian guns, although inferior, score a few hits as the French guns unlimber under fire.  
Face off on the Russian left
Finally, the Austrian column steps off with a goal of applying pressure to the French left.  Although outclassed by a wide margin, the Austrians are hoping to apply enough pressure on the French left to prevent these elite troops from reinforcing the Pratzeberg.
Austrian infantry advance upon Pratzen.
The Austrian jagers are thrown forward to harass the French legere.  With the jagers screening the advance, the Austrian brigade on the far right passes through Pratzen while the other Austrian brigade bypasses the village to the south. 
Austrians reach Pratzen
Zoom in on the Austrian right
As casualties mount on the jagers in their attempt to screen the Austrian columns from deadly French musketry, artillery begin scoring a few hits.  Allied artillery fire is not as effective as expected with only one in three finding its mark.  
Artillery fire dominates the valley
Perhaps contrary to doctrine, the Russian guns focus on silencing the French guns while the French batteries adhere to doctrine and target the Russian infantry.  With only French guns deployed in isolation on the heights, the Russian guns have no alternative.  If French guns can be driven off, the Russian infantry may have a chance to cross the valley without threat of annihilation. 
Face-off on Russian left continues
French guns in isolation
After taking significant casualties but satisfied they have allowed the Austrian brigades to approach the French left, the jagers fall back through their troops.  Austrian guns continue their harassing fire upon the French lines.
Jagers fall back through Pratzen
Having found itself as the sole target of the large Russian battery, one of the French batteries routs from the heights after suffering more casualties than even elite gunners can manage.  On the French left, the Austrians form up within musketry range of the French legere and pin the French in place.
One French battery withdraws from the heights.
Sensing an opportunity with a French battery slipping off the heights and the reluctance of the French infantry to take its place, the Russians step off and descend the hill.  With only a few turns left in the contest, hopefully the Russians have timed their attack appropriately.
Russians finally advance on the Pratzeberg
Still, the French make no move to take the heights.  With that, the Russians make a general assault on the Pratzeberg.  With their guns masked, the Allied infantry is forced to engage the French without support.  The threat to the remaining French battery is too great.  It limbers and breaks for the rear.
Allies make a general advance
Having pushed the last French battery off the heights, the Russians are in control of the Pratzeberg.  In the confusion of close range musketry fire, the French brigade commander finds himself in Russian hands.  With its leadership temporarily absent, the French do not counterattack to retake the heights.
Russians crest the Pratzeberg
To ensure that the Pratzeberg remains in Russian hands, the Russian grenadiers coolly pass through its faltering brothers.  The Pratzeberg is ours!
Russians hold the Pratzeberg
With 20 turns in the books, the game concludes with an Allied victory.  Wow!  What a battle!  Even though the Allies outnumbered the French, the quality differential in both troop and leadership was daunting.  Compounding the difficult task the Allies faced, the French held the initiative throughout the game.  That meant French formations could both move and fire first each turn.  Ouch!

Had the French taken the Pratzeberg earlier, the Russians would have had great difficulty taking the position at the end.  A tight game to the end.  An Allied victory did not seem attainable at the beginning but pinning the French left with the mediocre Austrians worked in essentially splitting the battlefield into two distinct battles.  Allied casualties were heavy but victory was worth the expense.  Yes, this is the account of the action to be delivered back to headquarters. 

25 comments:

  1. Nice write up, Jon. I'm glad you enjoyed the game!

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  2. What a wonderful AAR Jonathon and a game I have every intention of playing myself with GdA in coming months. Absolutely superb.

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    1. You'll have to let us know what you think of General de Armee. Have you played General de Brigade? I wonder is GdA is an improvement. I was impressed with Pickett's Charge.

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    2. Thank you, Carlo! I look forward to seeing your results from this action.

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  3. What a grand looking game, Jonathan. Nice to see so many figures on a table. I remember playing this game at Peter Gilder's Wargames Holiday Centre 30 years ago - two days of gaming with 5000 figures.

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    1. Hi Mark, the game and figures are all of Scott's doing. He is a great painter and it is always a pleasure to push his troops across the gaming table.

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  4. Very nice account of a nicely balanced scenario. One of you pictures confirms my own recent basing dilemma. I had re-based some units to single large bases to try their function, but the problem comes when placed on high ground. The smaller bases hug the contours and look right (like yours), single large bases balance precariously on a high point with most of the figures on the base hanging in the air .... I think I will be going back to the smaller jobs.

    I have the boardgame 'Rising Eagles' from Hexasim that covers this battle - nice.

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    1. Much appreciated, Norm.

      As for smaller base size, they have their quirks too. That is, they have a higher center of gravity and topple over into ravines and steeper slopes. There seem to always be trade-offs in which ever route you travel.

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  5. Lovely board and figures, and an exciting game!

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    1. It was an exciting game and with a favorable outcome!

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  6. Nice looking game, and it would be great to have a gaming venue such as you have described. We lost our table earlier this year, but hope to have it back in 2018. It's just nice to have a place where you can leave a game set up for several days if required.

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    1. The guys with which I regularly game all have dedicated game rooms. It is a luxury, no doubt, but money well invested.

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  7. Looks great! Very nice looking game, and explanatons, for this famous battle Jon...

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  8. Great looking game.....solid Napoleonic gaming in a new venue very lucky 😀

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  9. Great looking and reading game Jonathan!

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  10. Finely written and well presented report Jonathan!

    Christopher

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    1. Very much appreciated, Christopher!

      For me, putting together a (hopefully) cohesive BatRep is hard work. Rewarding to know the effort was enjoyed.

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  11. Good job as the AUstrian commander contributing to an Allied Victory. The Pratzen was touch and go for a while in real life, although the French had reserves they could have committed (Oudinot, Imperial Guard Infantry) if needed. It has made a good game in multiple rules sets!

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    1. Peter, the Austrian commander, Kollowrath, was the overall allied commander. I operated the Russian column too. So, not only did the Austrian commander contribute to victory, he was responsible for it!

      Just got a dispatch from Scott this evening. He recounts a solo rematch. The French were victorious having only suffered moderate casualties. The Allies were retreating in ruin.

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  12. Good looking game, interesting result, nice venue and super AAR!
    Best Iain

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    1. Much appreciated, Iain! Getting a victory for the allies is tough in this one.

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