Heya, I hope everybody’s mighty fine. Here’s my first Song of Drums and Shakos battle report. Light escort duty in beautiful Tyrol in 1809.
Song of Drums and Shakos is a set of rules for fast-paced Napoleonic skirmish games fought between 6 to 20 combatants a side. You can find an introduction to the rules and my review here.
May 1809, Tyrol. A small detachment of Austrian regulars was sent by Feldmarschallleutnant Chasteler to link up with Tyrolean resistance fighters. Along with them the soldiers bring supplies and orders from Vienna. This should be a simple task – nice weather, fresh air, a bit of a hike through Tyrol. The perfect job for a handful of regular infantry of little combat experience and eager, but untested Landwehr men. Little do they know that French cavalry scouts spotted the wagon. Immediately they report back to camp, grab who ever is available to help them out and set up an ambush to take possession of the wagon and the important looking contents…
I took this scenario right from the More Drums and Shakos supplement book. It’s a simple matter of one side having to escort a wagon across the table, while the other force is split into two, ambushing from the woodlines.
Red’s (Austrians) objective is to move the wagon along the road off the opposing table edge, Blue’s (French) objective is to stop them from doing so.
The force sent to escort the wagon consists of one infantry officer (Hauptmann Föttinger), 5 Line Infantrymen, 2 Line Conscripts, 6 Landwehr infantry (Klagenfurt Landwehr) and their NCO (Obergefreiter Strutz).
The French force is split into two groups: The first consists of two Line Grenadiers, one Line Voltigeur and an infantry NCO (Caporal Chalet). The second group consists of an officer (Sous-Lieutenant Rembert) and three Chasseurs á Cheval.
Each of the groups will deploy in one of the wooded areas. Since this is a solo game I decided to randomly determine where they would be positioned as soon as the ambush would happen.
This was actually the baptism of fire for all of these figures. I had painted the French mainly for display and as part of the French force for a big Waterloo game at a convention a few years ago. The Austrians are part of my Sharp Practice force.
On the table the game looked like this:
The yellow line indicates the end of the playing field. The fork in the road just denotes the results of the game. The wagon gets across, it’ll turn left, across the bridge: Austrians won. But in fact it only has to move across the yellow ‘finish line’.
The wagon enters the table, led by the Landwehr group and their NCO, Gefreiter Strutz. They’re having a great time chatting, bragging, waving their muskets. Strutz is doing his dearest to keep his guys quiet and in order, but with little success. This way the ‘proper’ infantry will never take them seriously.
The men of IR16 Lusignan follow up. Hauptmann Föttinger takes care that his subordinates make a good impression compared to the unruly Landwehr ahead.
The wagon moves across the table at a gemutlich pace. The only one being really concerned is the wagon driver, who keeps checking the woods to his left for movement.
The Austrians get about two thirds across the table …
…as French infantry pop up from the woods to the left and behind the trek!
The men are a bit disgruntled. Originally they were supposed to do only light duty today and mostly lie around as those hot-headed Chasseurs came charging into their camp, urging them to follow up to ambush some Austrians.
From behind the woods at the junction the Chasseurs bolt towards the Landwehr men. With armes blanches and bloodcurdling howls their leader goes straight for poor Obergefreiter Strutz, another one charges at the two men by his side. The third horseman charges across the front of the wagon (as the wagon horses rear up), slashing his light cavalry sabre at the Landwehr man behind it.
None of the infantrymen attacked flee outright (maybe they are too startled), but none of them is present enough to fire their musket at the cavalry either.
As the Landwehr are entangled in close combat, the wagon driver urges his horses on:
He doesn’t get too far, but since the ambush snapped so far down the road he’s very close to getting off the gaming area. Just one or two more actions and he’s off any on his way.
Meanwhile the first Chasseur (outstretched sword, centre) wounds NCO Strutz and takes him out of the game. The second Chasseur (in the picture right) throws one of his opponents to the ground, the other one still trying to fend off the wild horseman. In the back in the top of the picture you can see sous-lieutenant Rembert ordering the Chasseurs to attack.
Here’s an overview of the first moments of the ambush:
Close combat between Chasseurs and Landwehr in the front, the wagon moved ahead a little. You can also see what happens to the rearguard in the meantime: The grenadiers grumble and egg the Voltigeur on that surely he couldn’t take out any enemy at this range. Voltigeur Oeilbois takes aim, fires, and one of the Austrian Line Conscripts goes to the ground.
In fact the young conscript is not wounded, but dove to the ground and would stay there for a good while to come.
The Austrians have great trouble getting any sort of defense going given the sudden outbreak of violence. Sous-lieutenant Rembert aims to maximize this effect and stop the wagon from getting away, so he screams at the lead Chasseur to turn back and stop the wagon. Here we see just this happening, as the wagon driver tries to hop off his horse. Too late, he is wounded by the cavalryman’s sabre and takes a seat by the wheel to nurse his wounds.
Then something bad happens: The third chasseur at the other side of the road kills one of his Landwehr opponents in a very dramatic fashion. That’s too much for the green troops. The four Landwehr men who are still on their feet flee as far as they can. Two get right off the table, two more (lower right) flee towards the right table edge.
Landwehr come with the Special Traits Unreliable and Green. If a friendly unit anywhere remotely near them gets killed outright by an opponent they have to roll for morale. The line infantry behind them aren’t impressed by the display (neither the murder, nor the fleeing comrades).
Well, not quite. Voltigeur Oeilbois takes another shot at the formation and this time the musket ball finds its mark – one line infantryman is killed outright. The one standing conscript they got with them (the other one’s lying on the road as he dodged the Voltigeur’s first shot) also decides that this is too much for him and retreats as well.
The first rank (i.e. two dudes) of the line infantry, as if they were just waiting for a line of fire to clear, make ready, present and FIRE! The volley strikes the chasseur who made such a bloody display just a few moments ago and kills horse and rider.
Only two out of the four fired because Hauptmann Föttinger ordered to Fire and Reload. The men pass the unloaded muskets back to their comrades behind them to reload while they receive the loaded muskets from their comrades. This way the first rank is immediately ready to fire again.
The two chaps in the first rank subsequently take out another Chasseur as he tried to charge at the retreating Landwehr men.
This might turn things around for the Austrians. One of the two remaining Landwehr soldiers (the one who’s been on the ground in front of the second Chasseur finally got killed) turns around to face the enemy.
The last remaining Chasseur certainly didn’t expect any more resistance from the green-coated guys with the odd hats. The Landwehr soldier fires, the horse is startled, and the Chasseur is thrown to the ground.
All of a sudden sous-lieutenant Rembert feels very alone and vulnerable.
This singular action gets the other formerly retreating soldiers (another Landwehr soldier and the line Conscript) to rally around the heroic Landwehr man to form an unlikely gun line.
Here’s an overview of this stage of the game:
In the left you can see the formerly-retreating-now-avant-garde collective of Landwehr and Line Infantry Conscript. The bigger line infantry formation is still on the road and currently busily reloading muskets. In the right the grenadiers get bored with sitting in the bushes and get out there to move up to the enemy and maybe draw some fire away from the downed Chasseur and their officer. The Voltigeur and the NCO hang back in the woods, taking shots at the Austrian formation.
At this point four Landwehr soldiers down (or fled), as well as Obergefreiter Strutz and one line infantryman are down on the Austrian side. French casualties are far lower with just two Chasseurs á Cheval, but the French force needs way fewer casualties to have to start having to roll morale checks, and Chasseurs are a very, very valuable asset, so losing those is twice as bad. Both sides are close to morale tests at this point.
Things are looking up, so Hauptmann Föttinger himself pulls the conscript (still lying on the road behind the formation up by his collar. Seems like this is the moment the Voltigeur waited for – he fires another shot, this time the conscript is hit and sinks out of Föttinger’s grip and back onto the road. Meanwhile the Chasseur gets up on his horse again as conscript and Landwehr try to work out how to fire a volley.
The French are dead set on forcing a decision now, so the Grenadiers open fire at the formation. They take out one of the Austrian line infantrymen.
This forces each remaining Austrian model to roll for morale, and this proves decisive indeed.
All but one infantryman run off to the nearest table edge.
I take this as a hint that the Austrians are not willing to play any more and Föttinger orders to withdraw. It’s a French Victory.
The French claim not just that, but also the wagon (including driver, who gets a makeshift bandage and a big sip of Schnapps). Sous-lieutenant Rembert orders his men back to camp for a close examination of his spoils of war. Any supplies not arriving with the rebels will shorten the campaign in this god-forsaken land swarming with fundamentalist loons.
Well, that’s my 28mm figures’ baptism of fire and my own first game of Song of Drums and Shakos. Fun game, as anticipated. Quite fast too, despite the fact that I had to learn the rules and look up seval things on the pdf version of the rules.
Well, I hope that you enjoyed this battle report! Let me know if anything was unclear or if there’s anything you’d like to see more or less of. You can let me know here in the comments, via the Tabletop Stories Facebook page, or via Battle Brush Studios!