Heyhey, this week we played the 8th game in our Sharp Practice campaign. This one’s not just another special assignment for Capt. Cruchon and his men – this time it’s personal.
For his last mission Capt. Cruchon of the light infantry was assigned to escort lovely Cäcilia von Pfünz.
The lady is of Bavarian lower nobility and was on her way to her lover and Cruchon’s superior. The wagon was intercepted by an Austrian ad-hoc force who took the lady to a walled farm.
Capt.Cruchon, who during all the travelling did his best to woo the lady, but only impressed her right before the capture, instantly moves out to rescue lady Cäcilia. Also, his luckless second-in-command Merlot, who once more got himself captured by the enemy during the escort mission. Austrian reinforcements, without a doubt keen on taking the lady and Merlot to Vienna, are inbound. Cruchon knows he has to move fast to rescue his love and his friend from the claws of the monarchists.
This time Cpt.Shandy (playing Capt. Cruchon) pulled out all the stops in terms of scenario design. He worked out rules for close-quarters fighting within the walled farm, and an intricate system of reinforcements and force morale modifiers, as well as some interesting events which may turn the game on its head.
The French goal is to enter the farm, throw out the Austrian defenders and hold the farm for three turns. Their second objective is to find and rescue Lady Cäcilia and Merlot and take them off the French table edge.
The Austrian goal is to stop the French from doing so by reducing their Force Morale to 0.
French (Force Morale 13)
5 x Line Infantry, led by Capt. Camille Cruchon (Status III) and his second in command, Sergeant Fougasse (Merlot’s stand-in, Status II), one Sapper, one Physician
1x Voltigeur Skirmishers, led by a Sergeant (Status I) Notes: They got the Sharp Practice special rule.
1x Voltigeur Skirmishers, led by a Caporal (Status I) Notes: They got the Sharp Practice special rule.
2x Line Infantry, led by a Sergeant (Status II). These groups are ‘borrowed’ from Capt. Benés. The men are keen to support their light infantry comrades and of course show them what the line infantry can do, even without all the intricate uniforms, loops and plumes.
Austrians (Force Morale 13)
Deployed in the walled farm at the start of the game:
2x Wiener Landwehr, led by Oberleutnant Leopold Schenk (Status II) Notes: The Landwehr is rated one quality level beneath Regulars.
1x Wiener Volunteer Jägers, led by Ignaz Weibl (Status I) . Notes: They’re armed with rifles and got the Sharp Practice special rule.
Deployed as usual:
3x Line Infantry Grenzers, led by Berislav Knežević (Status II). Notes: They can not form a formation with Landwehr units.
1x Grenzers Skirmishers, led by Korporal Godemir Grgić (Status I). Notes: They got the Sharp Practice special rule.
3x Hungarian Line Infantry, led by Major Jaromir von Eynhuf (Status III). Notes: They got the Stubborn special rule.
As usual with Capt.Cruchon’s missions I play the Austrians, Cpt.Shandy plays the French.
Before the game starts proper, I have to deploy the initial Austrian garrison in the walled farm. I decide to have the two groups of Landwehr sit in the yard, along with Oberleutnant Schenk and lady Cäcilia.
The Viennese Volunteer Jägers deploy in the room to their left, with the chained-up Merlot sitting above them in the attic.
Now the game starts proper. Capt. Cruchon opens hostilities by deploying the borrowed line infantry who instantly are greeted by the Jägers inside the farm.
As the line infantry soak up some fire, it seems like Lieutenant Fougasse has the honour of leading the forlorn hope against the barred-up main gate of the farm. At least they got a sapper with them.
Fire! The Jägers constantly firing at the French line infantry must have led to some mishap and the roof of the farm catches fire.
Both sides deploy their troops as quickly as possible. No reason to hold back; the Austrians have to get their Grenzer troops forward to defend the farm as fast as possible! The French deployed all their troops as well, Capt. Cruchon leading a line of three groups.
As Landwehr men stand on piled-up furniture to fire at the enemy over the gate, the return fire takes its toll and they have to climb back down into the yard to regroup.
The Austrian Grenzer units decide to move around the farm to the left. By now the French line infantry’s taken quite a lot of shock and if the Grenzers manage to get into their hair quickly, they may be able to put severe pressure on the French left flank. There’s some French voltigeurs swarming around that flank though, so the Grenzer skirmishers do their dearest to get rid of them.
Their fire manages to knock out the Voltigeur leader for a while and the skirmishers move towards the river for cover.
Meanwhile the French forlorn hope arrives at the farm. The men and the sappeur go to work hacking at the gate.
Meanwhile, poor old (and constrained) Merlot’s situation right underneath the burning roof gets too hot to handle. He tries to flee down the stairs into the Jägers’ room, stumbles, bumps his head and is knocked out for a while.
Here’s an overview of the situation:
In the top left you can see the French skirmishers with the knocked-out leader, guarding the left flank. In the upper part of the picture you can see the mainstay of the French force attacking the farm. The two groups of line infantry are a bit shakey by now, Fougasse’s groups hack at the gates, and Cruchon’s three infantry groups (deployed in line) sit back as reinforcements. In the far right the second unit of French skirmishers come around the right flank, threatening the Austrian Deployment Point! If they took it Eynhuf’s reinforcements wouldn’t even be able to enter the table!
Swiftly, the French force open the main gate and fearlessly storm the yard.
They are met with musketry and brute force from the Landwehr. The forlorn hope is beaten soundly, and they retreat off the table to regroup*.
*) We decided that having these groups count as destroyed would be too harsh. Since they probably wouldn’t expect to be pursued after an attack on a static point they’d be allowed to regroup off-table and re-enter the game once they’re back in fighting shape. The one-the-fly ruling was as such: Each time Fougasse would be activated Cpt.Shandy rolls one die. The results are kept track of, once they total up to 17, Fougasse and his groups may re-enter the game as usual with shock removed. Casualties stick of course, as does the force morale damage.
Another overview at this point:
The Austrian Grenzer skirmishers are forced to move back to guard the deployment point to keep the French voltigeurs (who emerged from the woods) from clogging up the reinforcements route. Meanwhile the Grenzers in line formation slowly make their way across the ploughed fields.
The French line infantry pivot around to lend some supporting fire against the farm. Capt. Cruchon, who earlier formed his line into open column to flank and surround the farm before Fougasse’s troops ran off, is left with some hard decisions now: He can’t go on surrounding the farm. The gate’s open, and the the time to strike is now. Also, he thinks he caught a glimpse of lady Cäcilia in the yard as well!
It’s now or never. Capt. Cruchon leads his group into the farm’s yard for a second attack. Without support and only fervor on his side, he and his group storm the farm. The Landwehr, who are busy patting themselves on the back and mocking the enemy after the first round of combat, are caught off-guard. The two groups of Austrians have to retreat back into various rooms/stables of the farm.
On the right flank, the Grenzer skirmishers’s presence at the deployment point forced the French skirmishers back into the woods.
The French see the opportunity and keep storming into the yard now, as the fire on the roof spreads. Dramatic scenes indeed.
More and more French pour into the farm and in bloody close combat proceed to flush out the Landwehr. One group fights to the death in the stables, while Oberleutnant Schenk along with a lone Landwehr man flee out through the other gate.
During the nasty mêlées Capt.Cruchon gets wounded twice, but his trusty physician is with him. As the doctor takes care of the wounds, Cruchon calls out for Cäcilia who joins them.
She seems uncharacteristically chatty and flirty with the infatuated Capt.Cruchon, who seems to forget there’s a battle raging on around them. Without orders, his men start to act on their own initiative, which means a mix of looting, trying to keep the fire in check and taking positions to thwart any counter-attacks.
Here’s another overview:
The French stormed the farm and now control most of it, with just the Jägers holding out in their burning building. They do have Merlot with them though, maybe for bargaining. So the French are reluctatnt to storm that particular room. The Grenzers in the left FINALLY get in position to engage the enemy.
They form line, advance calmly (despite annoying skirmisher fire into their backs), present and fire. The French line infantry breaks, but the Force Morale (5) holds for now.
At this point Major Eynhuf and the reinforcements FINALLY show up. They immediately charge towards the farm.
…but they are too late. The French held the farm for three turns at that point after the Jägers were forced to storm out of their building to avoid getting burnt alive. They surrender, and Merlot is in French hands. However, they still have to get him and Cäcilia off table.
The Austrians go for one final push as the clock keeps ticking. They go straight for the gate which is held by just one group of French light infantrymen, and despite a stubborn effort, are kept out. What’s worse – Major Eynhuf is killed in battle!
The Austrian column is far from being broken though. They muster another attack, and the remaining Frenchmen (including Merlot!) in barn have to surrender.
The pressure is mounting, and as the burning buildings collapse, Capt.Cruchon comes to his senses through the pain and lady Cäcilia. He sees his friend Merlot being taken away by the Austrians once more.
“No! Merlot!” he cried. Holding the farm isn’t an objective any more and makes no tactical sense. The French have to withdraw. As Cruchon reaches out to grab hold of Cäcilia’s hand she pulls away. Instead she calls out “Vivat Kaiser Franz!” and waves to the Austrian troops swarming towards the farm.
“She was an Austrian spy all along, by god! That heartless Jezebel!” Dr. Pinceourt exclaims before helping the distraught Capt. Cruchon out of the line of fire.
A rather exciting game. The scenario proved to be amazingly solid, given the circumstances (LOTS of fisticuffs for the farm buildings, timing reinforcements and other things, rarely playtested building rules). It worked really well, went back and forth with some tense moments.
Having both sides start with very high force morale made much sense, otherwise the game might have been over way too quickly.
The fact that the buildings caught fire of course added to the great drama of this scenario. Speaking of which, whose side Lady Cäcilia actually was on was determined at a certain point in time at random and in secret, so neither side would know who she’s with until her card is actually drawn. One of the clever mechanisms you can build into your games if they use card activation.
As per the scenario, this was half a victory for the French. They held the farm, garnering Capt.Cruchon a nice amount of Honour points. Merlot still is in Austrian hands though. Leading several successful charges gets him some more Honour.
His multiple wounds earny Capt.Cruchon another scar from this battle.
Back in camp, and with a good amount of wine in him, Capt.Cruchot got into a kerfuffle with Lt. Profiterole. The ensuing duel is no highlight of Cruchot’s career, and he loses some of the honour points he just gained after the battle.
As the armies of France and their allies march toward Vienna the war of 1809 is proceeding towards the grand finale. Capt.Cruchon decides that he will not be distracted any more. The recent events if anything reinforced his belief that the Austrians are to be beaten and beaten again until their archaic realm is wiped off the map of Europe.
I hope that you enjoyed this battle report! Make sure to read Cpt.Shandy’s take on it, because it’s better than what I wrote.