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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Sire we are running out of marshals...................

                     May 1809 The Pettino River runs South through Northern Italy close to the Border with Austria. The river and the picturesque valley it lies in, threads its way through rolling, densely wooded hills and ridges. Although not of any economic value it was probably one of the last realistic defensive lines on Eugene's Advance into Austria. The late snows and the prolonged period of heavy rain had turned the river's crossing points into wide marshy morasses and deepened other stretches into impassable deep water runs. A locally spawned stream known to the locals  as  "merdoso piccolo fiume" runs down from the hills to join the Pettino at the town of "Formaggioblupuzzolente" which has a small but thriving cheese industry. To the west lies the town of"quisotto" and to the east "lassù". 

                                   The archduke John who was believed to have died in a previous skirmish had in fact survived and was recovering slowly from his wounds. He had spent the previous night with the rearguard divisions of Chastelers corp at lassù. Around midnight he learned from vedettes that the French were strung out along the road to their rear and apparently out running their supplies. In a moment he decided to turnabout and force a delaying battle at the river line. Hasty messages recalled his retreating columns  and he finally drifted off to sleep planning his action for delaying skirmish that would come to be known as the battle of The Pettino river.

 The nature of the terrain heavily restricted vision and the early morning mist didn't help as this view along the river looking north through the town shows.

Both sides chose to use reserve moves  but with their prior knowledge of the situation the Austrians struck first and occupied the river line

 Eugene adopted a defensive attitude sending Barbou's Division to cover the town and bridge while Broussier occupied the ridge overlooking the river in the north. In the centre Lecchi's Italians formed the link between the two flank divisions. To his surprise the Austrian grenadier battalions marched through the town and onto the small plain to the west.
 11:00am  Wolfskeels grenadiers continued there advance. One brigade occupied the plateau in the south while the second also left the town Knesevich's division of grenze and landwehr hold defensive positions to the east of the river behind the marshes. The streets of  Lassu filled with troops as Besanez of IX corps marched his division into town.
 Besanez swept his division into the rear of knesavitch re-inforcing his position. Eugene looked a little puzzled as Broussier moved his troops down off the ridge to occupy the ground along the marsh 
He assumed he wanted to deny the use of the river crossing to the Austrians. Eugene felt he could relax a little as news arrived that Macdonalds VI corps had arrived on the battlefield and he prepared to link them up with Barbous division  and togetherassault the town.

By now it had become obvious that John was seriously ill. His inactivity was wearing on his generals patience and the lack of order removing all the advantages the Austrians had built till now. Macdonalds corps took up position in Barbou's rear and both commanders prepared to assault the town. To Eugene's horror Broussier led his troops into the marsh and attacked the Austrians on the east bank of the Pettino. As the Austrians outnumbered him 3 to one here, this did not look good. It looked even worse as his troops poured back across the river. D'hautpol's Italians arrived to boost the numbers.

 Eugene entered a period of severe shock and insecurity and seemed incapable of issuing fresh orders- The Italians reinforced the survivors of the debacle on the ridgline and VI corps moved into position but little else was achieved.
 John was still out of action in one of the towns fine houses while his commanders seethed in inactivity demanding he give them orders.The arrival of both the French cavalry corps and the remainder of the Austrian IXth corps was stilled in a cloud of immovable indecision.
For those who are wondering what the hell I'm talking about My opponent had experienced a run of bad momentum rolls that can only be described as crap. The best he had achieved on 2 dice was 5 this turn his first roll with 3 dice he rolled the total you see here. His general was intuitive . I declined to re-roll any dice.  His luck was to continue in this manner till the end of the game. His best total was  11. After Broussier's charge Eugene also rolled really badly for 3 turns hence the apparent inactivity

By 3:30 in the afternoon The French cavalry had moved into the middle of the field to stabilise the position. The last of the Austrian divisions was camping in and around  Lassù in the vague hope that some orders might arrive. The only real effort came from some Austrian cavalry brigades from VIII corps that crossed the river to threaten the Infantry in the centre. Several infantry brigades joined their advance.

 Despite or because the inaction of their companions, the Austrian light cavalry in the centre having crossed the river charged the Italian guard cavalry and an infantry brigade.  The hussars drove the Italians back, while the light horse bounced off the infantry squares. Meanwhile South of the town the Austrian grenadier battalions were being decimated by the continuous infantry fire and 6th corps positioned themselves to assault the town. 
 In an almost nightmarish instance of dejavue, Eugene looked on bemused as Grouchy placed himself at the head of a dragoon brigade and hammered uphill into the ranks of the Austrian hussars. He cheered as the dragoons drove the hussars off the ridge, only to fall into silence as Grouchy placed his hand into his shirt, withdrew it covered in blood and slowly tumbled from his horse. He blanched as he thought how he would tell the Emperor that a fourth  corps commander had died in his service in less than 16 days

 The closing hour of daylight saw some desultory actions with little result. Several French units were destroyed by musketry but niether army managed to make much impact on the other . As night fell the lines seperated. The French set their campsites and John thankful that his planned skirmish having turned into a bloodbath had not got out of hand, quietly withdrew across the Pettino and resumed his return to Austria.

This may not have been the most Dynamic battle I have ever played but it certainly ranks as one of the funniest. Best laugh I have had for years.  I am severely worried because I don't have many corps commanders left!!




  1. Now I must say I do love the look of that table. Simple but extremely effective in my humble opinion. I will pass over commenting on the die rolling in the game.....

  2. Very attractive and effective terrain/table. The best and most memorable wargames tell a story, and that was certainly the case here! Laughs are a bonus, for sure!

    Is the high rate of superior officer casualties a feature of the rules, the employment of the officers, the dice or some combination?

    1. risk in battle is a straight D6 roll needing a 6 for the officer to die so no as far as the rules are concerned 5 deaths out of 6 rolls in the last 3 games is a tad unusual. I think the regularity of unnatural demise in our games comes from really bad luck and my own propensity for thinking officer bonuses should be used rather than wasted hence my gung ho marshals roll at risk more than most I guess heheheh

  3. A splendid table, no doubt! Colors are great and terrain just perfect!