The inspiration for this example was from a post by Archduke Piccolo.
I wanted a small scenario to show an Austrian column attacking a French line to see how it would play out using my favourite Napoleonic rules, Napoleon's Battles.
Page 110, Napoleon & The Archduke Charles by F Loraine Petre gave me a bit of context:
At 9am Stutterheim with the advance guard of the Austrian IV corps found the edge of the wood east of Schneidhart occupied by 12e and 21e Ligne commanded by Petit, part of Gudin's division. Stutterheim was unable to drive them out of the wood after a long struggle.
The only Austrian troops I currently have are IR 29 Lindenau (28 figures - it also masquerades as the Prussian 29 IR) and IR 43 Graf Thum (16 figures). This gives some 5,000 muskets which is probably representative of the force available (the woods would have negated cavalry and some reinforcements could have been received from the remainder of the IV Corps). Any attached artillery can be considered integral to the depicted forces as per Napoleon's Battles force structures.
Against these two large regiments (effectively brigade equivalents) I have provided the French with one brigade of 24 figures, or 3,000 men (Napoleon's Battles scale is one infantry figure represents 120 men).
Petit is a 3"A(6)+0 general and Sutterheim is 3"G(5)+0 and so will not be a significant factor in the game. Both sides have fatigue and morale of 1.
Petit 3"A(6)+0 1F 1M
Stutterhiem 3"G(5)+0 1F 1M
12 & 21 Ligne 24FrLN 12D
IR 29 28AsLN 14D
IR 43 16AsLN 8D
As the following table shows Line Infantry at this stage of the wars are very similar in capabilities.
The French have 21 and the Austrians 35 points excluding generals. The French general is worth 9 points and the Austrian general 10.
The absence of higher level commanders means both these generals can be considered to be in command (otherwise the French would have a 60% chance of a half move and a 40% chance of no move each turn, for the Austrians it would be 50:50 which might make for a dull game, but would benefit the French as the defender). If command was to be used it would be necessary to use Force March in order to change formation.
The area for the engagement has a road and some woods.
I have assumed some familiarity with Napoleon's Battles. One of the things I like is all combats require competitive dice rolls. I've included the details in the write-up; die roll is first and then the modifiers).
Bird's eye view of starting position.
Stutterheim is wearing the uniform of a Prussian general - figure shortages.
The Austrians advance.
The French are confident they can hold off the Austrians.
09:00 finds the Austrians 1,000 yards from the French. They make a full move closing to within 200 yards and a long range fire fight ensues. With a choice of two targets, the French focus on the largest Austrian column, the 29IR, but to no effect (5+1 to 9). The Austrians return fire with deadly effect (4+1 to 3 and 9 to 4 making for 3 casualties and disorder).
The French hold their ground and recover their order. General Petit joins them. The Austrians fire disordering them again and inflicting another two casualties. The disorder means the French cannot return fire, they have also now lost a base and will no longer get the +1 for have six stands firing.
The Austrians charge in.
09:30 and seeing the enemy disorder the Austrians charge. Just 29IR as 43IR would not add anything to the combat given its size (which I now see was a mistake as the French were no longer six stands and so the Austrians would have been eleven stands in total which would have given them a plus one for mass). Instead the 43IR forms line, just in case the assault is repulsed. The French are disordered so there is no defensive fire. The 29IR fire without effect (2+1 to 6), but the 43IR get in a shot causing another casualty (6 to 5).
The French fall back into the wood.
The close combat is evenly matched, the French in line are disordered which makes their base factor the same as the Austrian column. The result favours the Austrians (6-1 to 5+2-3). If the French had been in good order the single casualty would not have mattered, however being disorder they had to withdraw, which they successfully did (9+6-3 to 3+5). The French retire 300 yards into the woods. The Austrian column advances to occupy the position.
A firefight ensues.
The French halt, recovering their order and welcoming the cover provided by the wood. The Austrian 43IR is out of range. The Austrian 29IR fires, but with no effect (9+1-2 to 8). The French return fire with telling results, causing two casualties and disordering the 29IR (10 to 2).
The French force is melting away and the Austrians prepare for another assault.
10:00 and the Austrian 29IR recovers its order while the 43IR advances. The French fire at the 29IR causing one casualty (8 to 7). The 29IR returns fire disordering the French and causing two casualties and another base is removed (9+1-2 to 2). The 43IR inflicts a further casualty (6-2 to 3). The French are getting close to dispersing (they have received 10 casualties so far, they will disperse on 12 which is half strength for C class troops).
The French recover order and brave the Austrian fire. 29IR fires without effect (2+1=2 to 7). 43IR fires without effect (6-2 to 10).The French now fire and disorder the 29IR (8 to 4).
The Austrians attack in line this time.
10:30 and the Austrian commander orders the 43IR to charge. The 29IR recover their order and prepare to support their companions. The French must fire on the 43IR and they sure do, causing two casualties and disordering their attacker (6 to 2; there is no -2 cover modifier for the Austrians as the whole of their unit is not in the woods, although even if it was it would not affect the result). Now only the Austrian 29IR can fire on the French, but they are unable to get a result (9+1-2 to 9).
The Austrians are repulsed.
Close combat occurs. It is a tie (French 3+2-2 to Austrian 7+2-3-2). One casualty each. As the Austrians are disordered they must withdraw. It is a disaster (French 5+6 to Austrian 5+5-3) with the Austrians suffering three casualties, their feet getting tangled in the trees as they fell back no doubt.
The French hold their position and fire at the retreating Austrian 43IR. Their expert aim inflicts a further two casualties and that is that for 43IR, they disperse (6 to 3). Prior to this fuselage the 29IR had fired, but to no effect (1+1=2 to 1).
The Austrians are fatigued, but the French are close to ceasing to be an effective force.
11:00 and it is looking bad for the Austrians as they are now fatigued (calculated at the start of the Austrian impulse). However the French are one casualty away from dispersing.
The 29IR cannot advance. The French fire. No effect (4 to 7). The Austrians take careful aim. They just need one more casualty...
Nothing (3+1-2 to 2, damn close, the French are saved by the woods).
The French consider withdrawing out of range, but being in the woods slows them down too much and so they abandon that idea and stand their ground.
The Austrians take aim again...
Their aim is off and no casualties are inflicted (4+1-2 to 8). The French fire half heartedly (2 to 2) and breathe a sigh of relief as the end of turn clicks over and morale is calculated. The Austrians break.
Stutterheim looks at his options, but with his demoralised troops will have to pull back and report to the Archduke.
I wasn't expecting such an exciting game.
But bugger, in doing the write up I realise I stuffed up the close combat calculation for the 43IR. It would not have been a tie, but a single casualty on the French and then the 43IR would have withdrawn. This would mean that they wouldn't have dispersed. The Austrian commander could have pulled them back out of range (they would have withdrawn 300 yards, but disordered backwards movement in line would only get them 75 yards, leaving them still within range). The two fire phases the French had during the 11:00 turn would therefore have been directed against the 43IR, but as we saw they had no effect with their rolls. The Austrians could have deployed the 29IR into line. Come the 12:00 turn the 43IR would have withdrawn out of range and the 29IR advanced to contact. Assuming the 29IR was not able to inflict a casualty during fire combat (there is a 25% chance they would have become disordered due to French fire, if they avoided that then they had a 20% chance of inflicting at least one casualty), the close combat result would have been at equal factors (assuming the French had not disordered the Austrians) so anything could have happened. If the French had won (routed their attackers, which would have required a 5 differential on the dice outcomes) they would have suffered a winner's loss. They would have to hope to just best the Austrians and cause them to become disordered and therefore withdraw. At the start of the 12:00 turn the 29IR had only taken five casualties (its dispersal number is 14 and so could have survived anything but an extreme outcome, such as losing two casualties in the fire phase, four casualties in combat - which would certainly disorder them, but given their size, not rout them - and then a further three or more casualties withdrawing).
I cut my teeth on the first edition of Napoleon's Battles and withdrawing during combat due to disorder was an optional rule I didn't use. With the second edition it became part of the standard rule set. In a normal combat the maximum casualties would be the unit's rout number (4 with the troops is this action, although increased by one for units with six or more stands). With withdraw you could suffer one less than your rout number in combat and then your rout number withdrawing. This really hurts the Russians. It should be an option that the commander can invoke based on how critical the combat is and how well they know their troops.
There was some recent discussion in the Yahoo Napoleon's Battles forum about the mass modifier for firing being based on the frontage of the unit. It's not something I'd ever considered, but in this little game it would have dented the Austrians a bit and given them further reason to form line once they were close. Then I got to thinking about the six stands of French in line, maybe they should be getting two shots, one for each arc, but at -1 for 2-3 stands firing. This then lead me to what if the end of the line weren't in range... I stopped thinking about this, deciding that the rules as written were good and represented the brigade's (or large regiment's) skirmisher cloud and integral artillery without complexity.
I went to a bit more trouble with the terrain and even played outdoors so I could get a (slightly) better back drop. All my units are constructed around battalions (the two levels down approach, not that I appreciated that was what I was doing). Did they look like brigades a few 100 yards apart? What about the pose of the figures?
Well, they looked nice, but the answer is of course no in both cases. Good thing we have imaginations. The Austrians were a job lot and the firing pose is not my preferred figure type. If they were a marching pose like the French things would look better, but it is a mute point.
The important thing was I had fun and I was very happy how the rules played out with this small scale engagement (which is a battle size they are not meant for).
I originally thought I have two scenarios, the first where the French defend outside the woods and the second where they defend within the woods. As my game played out both these strategies were covered.
The other variation I consider was using the command ratings This would make for a longer game and would aid the defenders. My style of playing is to avoid being out of command if at all possible, so using this option would be interesting and something I should try out.