Thursday, 30 January 2020

Battle of Albeck 1805 - Battlereport

Another small encounter from the Michael Hopper "Rise of Eagles" book. This time back to 1805 for Battle of Albeck. Part of the campaign where the unfortunate Austrian General Mack was forced to surrender by underhanded French tactics like marching quickly and starting battles before breakfast.


October 14th 1805, Two forces are marching to the sound of the guns and the battle at Elchingen, where Ney was trying to cut off the Austrian retreat. Dupont's veteran French troops meet some unhappy Austrians near the village of Albeck and both sides cautiously engage each other.

321 Fastplay Napoleonic Rules were used to test this scenario out.

(Uniforms of figure here are my 1809-15 collection not 1805 of course!)


The French are outnumbered in both infantry and cavalry, but have better quality troops and the advantage of attacking and taking the central objective of Gottingen first. I decided to make French Artillery and Hussars Veteran, though they could also be regular.

French - Dupont (Strategist)

Crabbe (Strategist)
2 Veteran Light Infantry
2 Veteran Line Infantry
2 Regular Line Infantry
1 Veteran Skirmishers (6 bases)
1 Veteran Foot Artillery

Rouvillois (Strategist)
1 Veteran Hussar

Austrian - Wernick (Cautious)

Hohenzollern (Competent)
3 Regular Line
3 Recruit Line
1 Regular Skirmishers (6 bases)
1 Regular Cuirassier
1 Regular Foot Artillery

Sinzendorf (Competent)
4 Recruit Line
1 Regular Chevauleger

Refight One

My buddy Dave came over for the game, and took the French. Here is the Austrian starting postion, with Hohenzollern in front of Albeck and Sinzendorf occupying it. French setup area top left.  Gottingen (near the bridge across the river) is worth one victory point to the side holding it at end of the game.  Breaking Crabbes formation is 2 victory points to the Austrians, and breaking each Austrian formation is 1 victory point to the French. The river is fordable though rough terrain.

French deployment done off in the distance.

The French, deployment, with skirmishers and Legere in line formation. Veteran Line Infantry in attack column behind ready to advance on Gottingen and hold it.

As the French advance, Austrian cavalry rides forward to threaten them.

However, artillery fire and advance of the French cavalry and solid columns of infantry sees the cavalry fall back.

Sizendorf's formation assaults Gottingen.

But the lead Austrian unit is broken by the veteran French defenders, and some disorder occurs among other units, which fall back.

The French push hard everywhere, Sizendorfs formation breaks, and the Cuirassiers are chased off and broken by the Hussars. The Hussars in turn fall victim to muskety from the garrison at Albeck, as they try to reorder their blown formation in the Austrian rear.

Both sides artillery is broken. Hohenzollerns formation now does its best to see off the French assault.

But with Veteran French infantry advancing on two sides and delivering steady volleys the Austrians quckly break.

French win a 3-0 victory start of their turn 8,  having broken both Austrian formations, and holding Gottingen. French have lost one regular line unit and their artillery and hussars.

Refight 2

Later that evening I decided to have another try of this solo, to see if different tactics might give the Austrians a better chance. I used similar tactics for the French, but the Austrians form a more defensive posture. The plan this time is to use the three regular Austrian line to take the brunt of the French first assault, counter too aggressive an advance by the French with cavalry, and make better use of the double line of Austrian reserves compared to a single reserve line for the French. In other words wear the French down with attrition by using the superior numbers as I should have tried in the first game!

This works much better, as can be seen below, on Austrian turn 10, the French units opposing the Austrian left have been driven back in disorder, with both Legere units breaking in the same turn leaving just the regular line who are in a very poor state.

The Austrians advance on their turn 11, and deliver a volley to break Crabbes formation, which includes the unit holding Gottingen dispersing as it's morale fails. The game thus ends 2-0 to the Austrians this time. Hohenzollerns formation is only a single unit off breaking though, so very close! Both sides cavalry just glared at each other this game, neither side wanting to commit to risk of engagement and being content to support the infantry.

Also of note, on the right a recruit Austrian unit did superbly by managing to rally under fire repeatedly for about four turns, keeping the French back long enough with support from the Chevaulegers.  Not a typical result or one to rely on though! 


Another interesting little historical scenario from Michael Hopper. The French have the advantage in being able to take Gottingen first (and the one victory point it is worth), which forces action from the more reluctant Austrians.  The battlefield used here was 8 x 6 feet, or 240 x 180cm. However, I expect it could well be played entirely in the 6x4 foot area anchored at the Austrian deployment area as venturing across the river just seems like a way to divide your forces unhelpfully and put yourself at a strong disadvantage.

How one rates units is another point of decision to make with this scenario. Making both sides Cautious in terms of command ability might help reflect the actual situation where both sides were hesistant about advancing. They didn't know where other enemy might be and consequently the actual battle was more of a draw. The French assaulted the Austrians but then pulled back.

In these refights I had also rated the French hussars (1st Regiment) as veteran as compared to the regular Austrian cavalry units, which I'm not sure is justified. That meant they were equal in melee prowess to the Austrian heavies under rules used (but with a better chance to retire and rally instead of breaking if they lost the melee), and superior to the Austrian light cavalry. But if the Austrian Cuirassiers had an advantage over the Hussars as they may well have had, that would give the Austrians a boost in the scenario and more options.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Rules Review - Blackpowder 2

Next in my series of Rules Reviews is Blackpowder 2.
For more detail on my approach to reviewing rules please see my Rules Review Index Page.

Command Level: Divisional Commander or Corp Commander.
Basic Tactical Unit: Infantry battalion, two or more squadrons of cavalry, or artillery battery.
Figures per unit: Works with any, units are just "tiny, small, regular, large"
Ground Scale: Not stated, though perhaps 6" or 15cm = 100 yards in 28mm seems about right.
Time Scale: Not stated, though 15-30 minutes a turn perhaps.

Organisation: 2/5
The Blackpowder rules have been criticised as "conversational" or meandering rather than just delivering specifications succinctly, though this seems to be a stylistic choice that will appeal to some. They also contain many distracting pictures and background material which often fills space rather than being linked to the text in any planned way. This might be a bug or a feature depending on your preference. For myself it is more of the latter, as I prefer rules to get to the point with a minimum of text rather than flicking through background with which I'm already familiar, and I also prefer that rule and justification are not mixed up.

The rules cover a large period which makes it harder to parse out just the Napoleonic specific material if that is all you are after. Consequently a local gaming group wrote out the Blackpowder 1 rules from scratch, with additional notes to resolve ambiguity and increase clarity, and making sure it was more tightly focused on Napoleonic as opposed to a broader period of warfare. That is quite some effort of course. 

A common description is that Blackpowder provides a toolkit that you can tailor to any "Blackpowder" era wargame. For example I've played variants of it for Napoleonics, American Civil War, American War of Independence, and the Sudan, and it is quite easy to switch between these once you are familiar with the core system. If you play several Blackpowder eras this is a definite advantage then. Unfortunately the new cover of Blackpowder 2 makes it look like just another set of Napoleonic rules, whereas the first edition cover (below) clearly advertised that it covered a broader period.

A caveat to this toolkit approach, is that much Napoleonic material is in three Blackpowder expansion books: Clash of Eagles, Albion Triumphant Volumes 1 and 2. So you could be looking at the annoyance/cost of needing four books rather than just one for Napoleonics.

The fact that it can be challenging to play "straight out of the box", rather than setting up different  special rules for what you want to do, could be something of a drawback. On the other hand the encouragement to adapt as you see best matches history and your gaming preferences frees one from overly stilted rule adherence. 

Unfortunately it seems poor proofreading in the new version of Blackpowder 2 may contribute to confusion for new players as this review indicates. On the other hand, there are also a number of improvements in both rules and organisation in the change from Blackpowder 1, listed here in this summary of changes.

BP Mechanics: 3/5
Mechanics are generally quite clean and intuitive and not difficult to comprehend, though there is more detail than is initially apparent.

One common criticism of the mechanics is that probabilities don't seem to have been considered sufficiently at times. For example, a shaken or disordered unit has reduced fire effect, but weirdly is still just as likely to disorder enemy.  A common house rule is that disorder occurs on a 1 rolled on the defender's morale save, rather than on a 6 rolled by the attacker, and one wonders why the rule was not designed this way in the first place.  Another example of this might be that command roll odds also don't scale linearly (e.g you are usually more likely to move one or three times rather than just two times), though there is also a simple fix to this.

Support factors can be confusing to remember the allocation of when you have large engagements happening, and may detract from an otherwise relatively simple system. I've seen groups start using extra counters to keep track of these in large refights where you have dozens of units tangling with each other.

Blackpowder can also end up with a large number of "special ability" type rules to remember in an attempt to further distinguish troop types. I don't see this being any more complicated than what is done in other rules though.  Supplements such as "Clash of Eagles" provide a large number of additional optional rules, though it seems most people don't bother with these or only use a small portion of them. I believe the Perry twins of Perry Miniatures fame use no additional rules at all for example, and this approach would seem very wise for beginners also.

BP Simulation: 3/5
I believe Blackpowder is not at poor as some Napoleonic grognards would suggest, once you include the appropriate modifiers. While there are quirks, the overall package still seems to give historical outcomes in large battles, though I guess it could be argued this would often occur simply due to "weight of numbers" in a circumstance rather than guaranteeing particularly Napoleonic interactions are happening.

Many of the issues in the 1st edition have been improved in the 2nd edition, as already noted in this  comprehensive list of changes mentioned above. Still there are some common criticisms. For example musket range seems too far in several respects (18" for muskets when unit in line is going to be about 8 or 10 inches wide for 24-36 strong units in 28mm), and the distance doesn't seem to match up with the shorter artillery ranges either, e.g. canister vs musketry. On the other hand actual artillery effect is still quite powerful relative to musketry despite the unusual ranges specified, so this is less of a problem than it might seem. Artillery battery frontages are small though (one gun), and thus firepower per width of frontage arguably too effective relative to infantry. A common houserule sees wider gun frontages than appears in pictures in the rules. For example using two guns instead of one gun (or three for Russians), though you could also just stick one gun on a larger base.

Another issue many complain of is that it lacks situational character or "flavour" present in other rules.  For example, square forming is pretty automatic for infantry and not dependent on troop quality, existing formation and attrition, how close the cavalry are and so on. Guards are no better than regular or even green troops at forming an emergency square. Few people like massive lists of modifiers to tests, but given what modifiers exist elsewhere (e.g. for command tests), there are equally simple alternatives to the existing rule that could be used to reduce this blandness.  A common "form emergency square" test variant is that you must roll your morale rating or higher, modified by +1 for each move away the cavalry is, and -1 if shaken/disordered.

The issue of disorder being inflicted on a "6" being largely unaffected by troop quality, formation, disorder etc, has already been referenced above, though at least some better troops do have a chance to ignore disorder with the special "Elite" ability. Disordered cavalry can now also fall back in Blackpowder 2 rather than sitting around being shot as occurred in Blackpowder 1 - this being an example of a community house rule that was played by virtually everyone and adopted into the new rules.

Woods rules are simplistic and unfortunately Blackpowder 2 didn't take the opportunity to amend this, despite there being better rules in some of the Blackpowder 1 supplements. Many groups also seem to houserule and abstract or even abandon skirmishers for large games, due to issues with rules for them. This is a shame given the importance of skirmishers in Napoleonic warfare.

The attritional system means there can be an emphasis in ganging up on a unit as much as possible in one turn with micro-management of enfilading and so on, in order to maximise chance of success at the break test. If the morale test is passed though, there is no carryover effect on the target from attrition which can result in what seems like some excessively long engagements. Enfilading can be viewed as a "gamey" and unhistorically common tactic, especially given the multiple moves in Blackpowder, though criticism has at least seen it toned down in 2nd edition (rerolls rather than double dice).

The support mechanic seems like an unusual choice for such a simple set of rules, and is coarsely applied so that it has a major impact relative to other factors like troop quality. Like enfilading, it seems like a rule mechanic introduced from a fantasy rule set (Games Workshop's Warmaster on which the system is based) perhaps without giving sufficient consideration to its importance relative to other factors.

Infantry is also prone to experiencing prolonged hand to hand combat in the open, which by my reading never happened in this period. One side or the other would quickly break and run, usually before bayonet blows were exchanged, with fighting in towns being the exception to this.

Of course there exist potential fixes for most of these issues and others I haven't listed, if you see them as issues. There is a useful set of houserules for Blackpowder 2 here for example, and see a previous set of houserules for Blackpowder 1 that we used for several large refights. However, using extensive houserules also makes it more challenging to a new or casual player, which seems to be one of the main target audiences.

Friction: 4/5
The command system adds some nice uncertainty, and even chance of catastrophic blunders with troops going in the wrong direction. This is something that many other rules do not do but arguably should, though it does add some additional complexity compared to other rulesets. There are also some oddities. For example, units close to the enemy get automatic 'initiative moves' - when likely this is an occasion when manouever should become more difficult not less so. Note also the point above about command rolls odds not scaling linearly.

Speed of Play: 4/5
Large moves and potential for multiple of them help speed up play, though extra rules needed to account for these multiple moves can add complication and time. As accumulated attrition disappears after a certain limit units can often last a long time rather than eventually dispersing or having steadily increased chances of doing so. Nonetheless, compared to many rulesets Blackpowder moves quite quickly making it suitable if you want to complete a large game in a reasonable timeframe.

Clutter Avoidance: 4/5
Standard units can take up to three hit counters and become 'shaken' at this point, and then you pile on more beyond this once they reach this level. You take a morale test at the end of a phase for any unit taking these extra hits with a minus for each one taken, and they might break or just discard all those hits beyond three. Thus you need a pile of these hit tokens handy and apart from these no other counters or record keeping is necessary. Disordered status can be simply shown by tilting a base or two at an angle to others in their unit so does not require extra counters.

Pickup Play Support: 1/5
This seems more of an afterthought with points that were quite unbalanced in Blackpowder 1, scenarios barely developed, and no good system for deciding on terrain for a battle. Unfortunately it seems the the new edition of Blackpowder 2 leaves out points altogether. The ballpark points in Blackpowder 1 were still better than nothing and at least a starting point and it's unfortunate these were removed. The authors also acknowledge they are not aiming to provide this sort of support with their product so be aware of this if choosing these rules.

Historical Scenario Support: 2/5
As described above there are three Napoleonic source books for Blackpowder, two for British versus French (Waterloo and Peninsula), and one for everyone else! So a definite Anglophile bias thus far, and very sparse coverage of non-British Napoleonic engagements - which formed the vast majority of the Napoleonic period. These source books are rather heavy on basic background information, but lighter on historical battle scenarios and orders of battle. The background material is helpful enough to introduce new players to the different armies, and if considered from this perspective alone I'd give this category at least a 3.

Overall: 3/5
A good introductory Napoleonic wargame due to the historical background material and relative simplicity of the rules. At the same time it can also require quite some work on the part of players to get it historically optimised and workable for Napoleonics. Most experienced groups seem to use fairly extensive lists of houserules or clarifications, though this detracts from a main selling point of the rules which is simplicity.

On the positive side, action happens quite quickly and it does enable you to fight big games in a reasonable timeframe, to a degree I've not seen with most other rulesets. That Blackpowder is often chosen for this, may speak to the lack of better quality products in this particular Napoleonic niche rather than Blackpowder itself being particularly good.

As others have commented, if you have the Blackpowder 1 rules, another option is to perhaps just keep using that together with a list your preferred house rules and changes, at least until Warlord makes a better effort at proof-reading their book!

Lastly, while this review contains many criticisms, or at least caveats, please do read this article by the author about the sort of ruleset Blackpowder is intended to be. As I discuss on my rules review page, all rules are aimed at a particular preference. While Blackpowder has some issues as all rules do, I think it succeeds well enough in meeting the purpose it is designed for. And with its emphasis on encouraging house rules, it can be tailored further to meet your personal preference, or that of your group if you have enough consensus.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Rules Review - Lasalle

Here is a rules review of Lasalle, published 2009, at time of this review only available as a PDF. 
For more detail on my approach to reviewing rules, please see my Rules Review Page.

Command Level: Divisional Commander
Basic Tactical Unit: Infantry battalion, variable number of cavalry squadrons, or artillery battery.
Figures per unit: Any - units are small if they have four bases and large if they have six bases. Artillery batteries are 3-5 bases frontage.
Ground Scale: Not stated - depends on basing size. Distances are measured in base widths so that existing figure collections can be accommodated.
Time Scale: Not stated, though perhaps 15-30 minutes a turn.

Organisation: 5/5
Lasalle has excellent layout, referencing and organisation. Attractive diagrams illustrate concepts through the rules. Design note boxes helping to clarify the intent of the author as to why certain rules choices have been made. Quite possibly the best presented Napoleonic rule set published to date if still available as a hardback, though presently only a PDF is available.

Mechanics: 5/5
Mechanics are intuitive and simple. You should be able to memorise the combat factors reasonably quickly.  The "true IgoUgo" sequencing is innovative and clever without being an gimmick for the sake of doing something different, and the game flows nicely.

Simulation: 2/5
There are some issues here for Lasalle I think, and unfortunately the first one is significant and likely a game breaker for Napoleonics. The problem of the effectiveness of columns vs line has been well covered here. Arguably it is too easy to use columns more like a Macedonian Pike Phalanx than anything Napoleonic, and enemy is forced to do the same to counter.  Games can end up with two rows of columns butting heads. A related issue is the ease of doing combined assaults from the same direction. As the linked article suggests, there are numerous potential solutions, for example only allow one attacker per facing (as has also now been done with Blackpowder 2). If you houserule these issues then I'd change the simulation rating to at least a 3-4, but as it stands this issue is unsatisfactory.

Another common complaint is that despite the modifiers, large cavalry formations can perhaps run over squares too easily, and cavalry may also not be limited enough by rough terrain. For that matter large units may also be a little overpowered in melee. See here for more discussion and potential solutions, if you feel this is a problem. If this is a problem the magnitude is less than that of the column issue I think.

Skirmishers are very abstracted in Lasalle in a way that speeds play, but also has some limitations. Formed units have a number representing their inherent skirmish ability (represented by a number of skirmish bases), and you gain a bonus against units with lesser skirmish ability. This is a simple and elegant mechanic, though arguably it may not give skirmishers their due importance in Napoleonic warfare at this scale, for example when it comes to harassing formed infantry or artillery. Skirmishers do have a minor effect in reducing effect of canister on their unit - representing their harrassment of the gunners. 

Like many rulesets, the casualty system also doesn't scale linearly with numbers of attackers, but has stepwise reductions at certain critical points which creates quirks. For example three gun batteries end up disproportionately less effective than four gun batteries because of these threshold points. At close range a four gun battery is over twice as likely to break an enemy battery as a three gun battery is, rather than just being proportionally more effective.

So that's some problems, or potential problems, depending on how you interpret history. More positively, something I do very much like about Lasalle is that units largely just fire straight ahead at whatever is in front of them, rather than the "sniping" like target selection you can get with fire arcs in some other rulesets.

Friction: 2/5
Command is very simplistic - if you are within range of your general you move as you want in Lasalle. So it tends to play as a "always move as you wish" sort of ruleset, with uncertainty coming from enemy action rather than vagaries of your own control ability. Officers can also have a role in rallying units and giving bonuses to combats in the advanced rules.

Speed of Play: 3/5
Advises that it plays in 2-3 hours, though in 28mm with 10cm moves for infantry in line (assuming 5cm base widths) and 15cm in column, and no option for multiple moves, games could be quite protracted. Especially so if you are using more than a dozen units. However, units are also automatically removed once they take a limited number of disruption hits (equal to number of bases), which helps speed play. 

Clutter Avoidance: 4/5
You need disruption tokens (three per unit, or up five if a large unit), plus cotton wool puff to show an artillery piece has fired and therefore can't move later that turn. So pretty clean.

Pickup Play Support: 3/5
Lasalle has a helpful series of army lists and game setup procedure in the main rulebook, with victory conditions and terrain all highly specified. The army lists are quite restrictive however, which creates a problem of repetitiveness and limits to replayability. You have an non-variable core force depending on nation and year range, to which you add one or more optional Brigades which are similarly invariable.

Historical Scenario Support: 3/5
Little in the way of official support, but fans have developed quite a number of scenarios which are available here, and see my Battles Index for further resources for Lasalle and other rules.

Overall: 3/5 
While Lasalle was initially met with enthusiam, the simulation problems listed above caused consternation after a time and enthusiasm for it dropped off since the release. However, with a few fairly minor houserules to tweak the problematic simulation issues above (mainly columns), Lasalle still gives a good game and many people enjoy it. It's a shame the excellent organisation and mechanics were hampered by the problems described, and that a good effort at including pickup play army lists also made these somewhat inflexible to the detriment of replayability.

There's a great deal to like in the design of this ruleset. Sadly many rulesets never get past a first edition, and thus the design is unable to mature by taking advantage of wider playtesting, community feedback, and further testing and reflection. The author is a fairly prolific producer of diverse and high quality wargaming rule products. From what I can see these seem to be one-off creative efforts  that warrant his attention for a time before he moves to the next project. Whether Lasalle warrants sufficient attention from the author to see a second edition remains uncertain.

Lastly I'll also observe that the author Sam Mustafa has published "Blucher" in 2015. This is a Brigade level Napoleonic wargame with a well developed campaign system. It also has an option to play with cards rather than miniature figures making it a very accessible introduction to Brigade level Napoleonics. I own and have read but not yet played this ruleset at the time this post was published. However, my brief impression from other reviews of Blucher is that to date it has received more positive and sustained regard than Lasalle.

ADDENDUM:  01.02.2020
Just 10 days after this review was published, news arrived that a second edition is indeed in process, and it sounds like the playtesting group is attempting to address many of the issues discussed above.  For reference I've copied Sam Mustafa's news item about this below:

Lasalle: Second Edition
There has never been a "second edition" of any Honour game. I've always been proud that we test and edit every game ad nauseam, until we get it just right. But there has always been one title in the Honour catalog that I wanted to revisit.

It might seem quaint today, but Lasalle, released in 2009, caused quite a stir at the time. It sold out in five months, won three awards, and met with white-hot fury from more traditional Napoleonics gamers. It was the first tactical Napoleonics game intended to be used more like an Ancients game, in which any army can fight any other. It had an army-building system that used no points. It had an abstracted basing system that didn’t correspond to historical companies or platoons. It did not specify how many “real” minutes were represented by a turn, nor a precise figure-to-man scale. It had a funky “reverse” turn sequence in which movement happens last, so that there is no need for traditional Napoleonic conventions like “opportunity charges” or defensive fire at an approaching enemy, or emergency squares, and so on. It had no written orders or chits, nor in fact much of a command system of any sort.

And it had lots of pretty pictures. That made some guys really angry.

Most of the things that shocked people about Lasalle have since become ubiquitous and aren’t considered strange anymore. But I always wanted to revisit this title and address some issues. This has evolved into a full-blown redesign, so I am pleased to announce that there will be a second edition of Lasalle, most likely finished before the end of 2020.

Some Highlights of the New Lasalle

I will do a podcast about this in the near future, but here is a quick summary of the major changes:

- There is now a command/control system that drives a completely "open" sequence of play in which the number and type of phases that occur is driven by player decisions. No two turns are alike. As you do things that provoke or endanger your opponent, you trigger his ability to "interrupt" you by taking control of the sequence. Momentum passes back and forth unpredictably as the players act and react.

- Skirmishing has been completely reimagined and is unlike any other Napoleonic game. The skirmish screen operates separately from the formed units, without needing to move any figures, other than occasionally "feeding" more troops into it. If your skirmishers get the upper hand you have certain advantages that enable you to suppress enemy fire, baffle your opponent, or control the momentum of the game sequence.

- Movement and combat have been reconsidered to make the former more liberal and fast and the latter more restricted and decisive. We have re-thought the use of formations and relative numbers in combat. You can no longer squeeze both infantry and cavalry against a single defender, for example, nor overwhelm a line by packing columns shoulder-to-shoulder. It is harder to break a square, unless the defender is battered and exhausted.

- The army-building system has been completely reimagined. Each army has a set of "Historical Parameters" to inform you of what was available when, in what theatre, and doing what. But then you decide just how much History you want. Will you permit any army to fight any other, or will you restrict them to their historical opponents? Will you permit armies from different periods to fight one another? Will units appear in periods other than when they historically existed? For example: let’s say that a player in your group wants to create a British force based on Wellington’s army at Waterloo, but including Portuguese caçadores. Personally, I consider it an entirely plausible What If to imagine that Britain persuaded her Portuguese clients to send a couple of brigades to Belgium in 1815. But if your group finds such things to be intolerable violations of the historical record... then you can forbid them.

All of wargaming is a series of “What Ifs” inspired by history. The new Lasalle will lay out the historical limitations but also permit you to improvise to whatever degree you are comfortable with.

It's still Lasalle
As with the original game, you still create a small force of a few brigades and fight a battle in real time, with games lasting 2-3 hours. The figures, bases, and units from first-edition Lasalle will be compatible with the new version.

Second Edition Lasalle is in development and playtesting. Look for more announcements in mid-2020.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Battle of Gospic 1809 - Battlereport

Here's a report of a small divisional action, taken from Michael Hopper's "Road's to Vienna" scenario book. The Battle of Gospic, the first day May 21st 1809.  

As I've mentioned before, while people tend to think of the huge battles of the Napoleonic wars, there were many more smaller actions. These can be quite interesting and much less effort to set up and play, so this is another of those!  Battles this size are also good for beginners who don't need to paint thousands of figures to get started, or if you have limited time.


In this action in Croatia, Austrian General Rebrovich's Grenz reserve force crosses the Licca river to threaten the flank of the main French line of advance. French General Marmont sends a division under Montrichard to push them back and take the bridge and village.  Montrichard is dithering in confusion and so Marmont rides over to take personal command of the action. Historically, a hard fought battle resulted with significant casualties on both sides, and I believe all three French Generals were wounded.

Here's a view of the battlefield. The river is impassable except at the bridge. Hills are good going in the scenario as written and played here (though looking at photos of them on google street view, they might be better classed as rough perhaps!).

In terms of victory conditions,  the French get one point if they take the town across the bridge to the left. The Austrians get one point if they still have a unit within 20cm of the uppermost hamlet at the end of the game. The French get two points if they break the Austrian Division, Austrians get one point for each broken French Brigade. 

Rules used here were 321 Fast Play Napoleonic rules again.


The Austrians have a single large unwieldy division of Grenz reservists under the sole charge of General Rebrovich. The French have two Brigades, with Marmont in overall command as an Army Commander. All generals were rated as competent for these games. 

Austrians - General Rebrovich
2 Large Regular Grenz
4 Large Recruit Grenz
2 Recruit Landwehr
1 Recruit Chevauxleger/Hussars
2 Regular Foot Artillery

French - General Marmont

General Soyez
2 Regular Light
2 Regular Line
1 Regular Skirmisher

General Launay
3 Regular Line
1 Regular Skirmisher
1 Regular Chasseur

First Refight

We diced for sides, and my opponent Andrew ended up with the French in the first game. My Austrians deploy up to the two hamlets. In the scenario the two Austrian batteries have to start deployed on the left side of the river guarding the bridge approaches.  Here's the battlefield after opening moves by the attacking French.  

The French advance on the hamlets with the weight of their force on their right. They assault and quickly take the upper most hamlet, breaking the Grenz recruits defending it.

The Austrians then counterattack and retake the hamlet with a Regular Grenz unit, breaking the French line unit that had just been victorious. 

On the right I advance with the Recruit Grenz to chase back the Chasseurs, rather bravely and foolishly deciding to meet them in line. This goes poorly and the Chasseurs run the Grenz down... and charge on and break the Recruit Hussars before retiring out of range of the Austrian artillery.

Meanwhile a massed assault from three directions by the French, also breaks the Regular Grenz unit in the hamlet (on the left below), and retakes this.

Things are going rather terribly, so I pull back the Austrian forces towards the bridge. The large recruit Grenz unit on the right leaves the hamlet retreating back in square to hold off the Chasseurs.  The other Recruit Grenz unit manages to retire over the bridge in march column.

Withdrawing in the face of a massed enemy like this is not easy! The Regular Grenz on the left break a French attack column that charges them in an attempt to quickly end the business. However, both Austrian units remaining on this bank of the river are rapidly falling into further disorder.

The Recruits break under fire and the Regulars, pressed from all sides, also do so in quick succession.  With that the Austrian Division breaks. There is not time before dark for the French to attempt to push on over the bridge but they have won a 2-0 victory.

Second Refight

We switched sides for a second game, and Andrew sets up the Austrians. He decides to garrison both hamlets with the Regular Grenz units, which we both thought was a good idea to make these harder positions to crack.

The French spend much time preparing the hamlets for assault. Fire against garrisons is highly ineffective of course, but the French have numerous skirmishers to pester them at low risk to themselves. Trying to causing some modicum of disorder before charging seems wise!

The Austrian units in the open also suffer heavily from skirmish fire and begin to fall back. Rebrovich tries to rally the central Grenz unit on the hill with a fine speech, but is felled by a skirmisher, causing some further disorder before he is replaced. 

The French press forward around the now isolated hamlets, which are still holding on, with French units reluctant to close with them despite the urging of their Generals. 

The Austrian General is also unable to give any commands except hold and retire most of the time,  but that seems to work in their favour by discouraging too rash action!

The Austrians manage to exact a heavy toll, including French General Launay who is felled by some long range artillery fire while trying to rally an attack column. The Austrian Grenz steadily retreat and file over the bridge one unit at a time in an orderly manner. 

The Austrian Hussars move to intercept the Chasseurs as more Grenz escape.

Disaster for the French now, as the Chasseurs charge but are routed by the Hussars! The Hussars retire back across the bridge, job well done. The French take the uppermost hamlet breaking the Grenz there, but lose another unit in the process. Their Brigade skirmish line then also breaks seeing the rout of the Chasseurs and Infantry, on top of the loss of their General. This breaks Launay's Brigade!

The Austrians have lost two units but have managed to break a French Brigade, so win 1-0!


So there we have it, two games with a victory for each side. I managed to lose with both the Austrians and then the French! 

This is an interesting little scenario, with the Austrians needing to inflict as much damage as they can on the French, while at the same time not leaving it too long to retreat and suffering heavy losses in return, as happened in the first game. There's a fine line between putting up an insufficient fight, and committing too heavily to it!  There's an interesting question too about whether or not you relocate your artillery across the river - both of us decided that doing so would be too risky. Trying to manage a fighting retreat, or pressing this as the French is a challenge.

There's also the question of how to class various aspects of this battle. I did not rate these Grenz as Light Infantry (able to adopt skirmish order) for this battle, as I understand the Austrians were trying to de-emphasise this in drilling these reservists. Doing so would change the flavour of the battle and be an interesting alternative. So would making the hills rough rather than clear going in line with my earlier comments on this, as this would slow the French attack down and further limit the role of the cavalry.