The “real” bluebloods of Europe have once again decided to exclude the upstart Napoleon from their league and gang up on him. At the tiny village of Austerlitz the Third Coalition, represented here by Austria and Russia, comes to a head with their French nemesis. With no less than three emperors present, the show is bound to be decisive.
The critical point comes when the young Russian Tsar proves his ineptness and orders Kutuzov’s IV Corps to abandon the central Pratzen heights at the center of the Allied lines. The Corsican Tiger (Napoleon) pounces at once, exclaiming: “One sharp blow and the war is over.”
Pratzen heights was the decisive moment of the battle. In this re-fight both sides are attempting to capture the heights with the victory going to the side that controls them after 8 turns. The French army is significantly smaller than the combined Austro-Russian force, yet far superior to them. The French commanders have command value 8 and all the troops are classed as elite (remove disorder on 4+). The Austro-Russians all had command value 7 and the Austrians particularly were quite crap as they were also unreliable (no actions on a command roll of 7). The Russians were quite stubborn so each of their battalions didn’t have to take its first break test.
Order of battle French:
Brigade with 4 line battalions and 2 batteries of artillery
Brigade with 2 light battalions
Brigade with 2 line battalions (entering on turn 3)
2 batteries of heavy siege artillery (entering on turn 2)
Order of battle Allied:
Russian brigade with 7 line battalions (one is elite) and a battery of artillery
Austrian brigade with 4 line battalions, a small light infantry battalion and a battery of light (regimental) artillery
Austrian brigade with 4 line battalions and a battery of light (regimental) artillery
Both forces started an equal distance from the objective – the heights that dominated the center of the board. The Russian infantry was in the process of marching back towards the heights so they were in march columns extending far onto the board. The Austrians decided to deploy in lines while the French opted for the traditional attack columns. The French light infantry was on the right in skirmish order.
Along the center of the board ran a plateau, which was marked with a different-colored cloth. The actual heights that needed to be captured were a large two-tiered hill. The edge of the plateau and the entire area of the “heights” was difficult terrain.
The French plan was to march the 4 line infantry battalions rapidly onto the heights while the light infantry would skirmish with the Russians and buy time. The reserve infantry and all the artillery would then strengthen the right and prevent a Russian outflank from this sector.
The head of the Russian columns:
The French had the first turn, which was quite unspectacular. The light infantry moved forward as planned, but were left out on a limb when the main body failed to act. The big brigade got a blunder and shuffled around in their starting positions aimlessly. This trend continued over the following turns, as the light infantry reached their intended positions quickly while the main body advanced cautiously on turn 2 and then got a second blunder making the whole body move to the left! Somebody was holding the map wrong or waiting for further orders. One of the two batteries was moved forward under the personal command of the French CiC, St. Hilaire.
In stark contrast to the elite French, the poorly lead allies had no problems with understanding their orders. The Russians started to fan out into a long firing line, which started to close upon the hill like some giant door. Meanwhile the Austrian brigades started to rise up onto the hill, but were moving also a bit to the right. Their intention seems to have been to make room for the Russians and also to outflank the French. Below can be seen the situation after the French third turn:
The French right flank quickly devolved into a firefight, with the two light infantry battalions successfully delaying the Russians and even doing some damage to them (together with the artillery now in position).
Around turns 4-5 the situation began to normalize, with the Austrians refusing to follow any orders and the French finally advancing up the hill. The French skirmishers were giving some ground in front of the Russians, who moved up to the summit of the hill before the French main body. The Russian line was dangerously thin and over-exposed, however. The French heavy artillery moved up to positions on turns 2-3 and started pulverizing the Russian flank battalions one by one together with the two 6-pounder batteries and light infantry. The remaining two French line infantry battalions also moved to reinforce the right, ready to launch a counter-attack.
Roughly on turns 5-6 the French sledgehammer was ready to swing. The large brigade charged up the heights singing the Marsellaise and engaged in furious mêlée with the Russians. The Russians ignored their first break test and passed the test on turn 6, but they were definitely losing ground to the French and in desperate need of their Austrian allies.
The charge upon the summit was supported by aggressive French action on their right. One brigade broke under concentrated artillery fire while another one that had been weakened was charged by the light infantry who had reformed in attack column. The charge broke the Russians and their supporting battalions were also pushed back.
Following the French advance on their right the vengeful Russians brought up a battery to fire on the flank of the victorious French. The light infantry battalion, pushed too far, was obliterated. However the maneuver was quite suicidal for the Russian artillery, who was subsequently charged and destroyed by the remaining light infantry battalion.
On turn 7 the Russian infantry defending the heights was finally routed. The stubborn battalion had defended the heights almost to the last man, but now the heights were solidly defended by four columns of French, who had suffered very little casualties (and those sustained were mostly filled by the general’s rally commands). Things were not going much better on the Russian left, where the two reserve battalions of the French were now committed. Concentrated artillery fire and the subsequent charge routed another battalion and pushed the remaining battalion on this flank back with huge casualties. As the French pressed their advantage, they moved forward the heavy artillery batteries to a position where they could fire along the side of the heights at troops trying to rise to the summit!
The Allied position was deteriorating fast, with the Austrians still failing to act. One brigade shuffled forward cautiously while the other was obviously disheartened by the fate of the Russian vanguard – this brigade blundered on two subsequent turns each time getting an order to retire from the enemy!
The French kept up the pressure on the right and charged the remaining Russians. The unit wouldn’t budge despite appalling losses. A desperate “with me” command threw in the last Russians and blunted this attack, but the respite was only temporary. On turn 8 one of the battalions was destroyed by concentrated fire from four French batteries and infantry.
The Russian brigade was now broken (at the end of the game they only had 1/7 battalions remaining). Meanwhile the Austrians traded some shots with the French on the ridge. However the situation was hopeless, as the disorganized Austrians were faced with four relatively fresh battalions and some artillery in good positions on the summit and the remaining French artillery and infantry on their flank. We decided to call it a game.
The game was great fun and very interesting. It was also quite different from our previous few games. In the beginning the situation looked quite unappetizing for the French, who were outnumbered 2:1. The poor command rolls of the French and good commands of the allies on the first turns were also quite disheartening, as it was beginning to look like the allies would receive the French entrenched on the summit and outflanking their small army on both sides. The situation changed though once the success with commands was reversed.
In the end the French right managed first to delay the Russians long enough to gain good positions and then pulverize the over-extended Russians. A good combination of artillery, infantry firepower and well-timed attacks was the key here. The center was won by the French mainly due to the failures of the Austrians. For about 7 turns out of 9 only the Russians were engaged with the French and in the end around 1/3 of the allies never became engaged.
Part 2 of our Austerlitz games can be viewed at: http://www.nopat.fi/2013/sotapelit/black-powder-battle-report-austerlitz-part-2-stare-vinohrady/#more-18889