Home Forums Horse and Musket Napoleonic Battle of Wertingen 1805 – A Polemos AAR from a Rise of Eagles' Scenario

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  • #105043
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    I had a go at converting the Battle of Wertingen 1805 scenario from the Rise of Eagles 1805 Shako II scenario book into one suitable for Polemos General de Division: the refight is here:

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #105119
    norm smith
    norm smith
    Participant

    Repeating the comments that I attached to your post, for the benefit of readers here.

    Very good. I have a board game on Austerlitz 1805, which I rate as being well researched (Eagles of France by Hexasim) Troops are given a quality rating, if we accept 7 as being an average rating, I can generalise by saying French infantry are either 7 or 8, heavy cavalry is 9, dragoons 8, light cav 8 and Grenadier guards are 12 and Guard Chasseurs are 11.

    The Austrian infantry is generally 6, Grenzers are 7, light cav are 7, heavy cav are 9, foot art is 6, horse art is 7

    The ‘Quality Ratings are compared in battle to bring about shifts. So a Quality 7 unit fighting a Quality 6 unit would give a one column shift modifier. The max no of modifiers for everything including terrain etc is -5 / +5, so in effect, the French Grenadier Guards, more-or-less ensure a maximum column shift in their favour, compared to other units doing the same task.

    So a 10 strength unit v a 4 strength unit would give a 2:1 combat value ratio …. then you apply the difference in the quality ratings to get a modifier, this is rather a good way of showing those big Prussian Landwere type units against a smaller but better trained French Line Regiment, as typically that 2:1 advantage would drop a column or two and become 1:1 or worse 1:2 after the quality difference is applied.

    http://commanders.simdif.com

    #105122

    Just Jack
    Participant

    John,

    Wow!  Looking at the initial setup I thought, “okay, that’s quite a hill, but the French numbers and quality should make pretty quick work of this.”

    Was I wrong! That was intense, I wasn’t sure if the French would carry the day or not, right up to the very end.  The French cavalry certainly dashed itself to bits on the Austrian infantry.  I thought the Austrian right flank has seriously overextended itself when it went after the French dragoons, but the were able to shove the French back and return to their position, closing up their exposedflank, pretty cool and very aggressive!

    The only thing that struck me as odd was the paucity of artillery on the table, but you were playing an historical scenario so I guess that’s how it was.  For my money, nothing beats a good scenario book, they’re worth their weight in gold!

    V/R,

    Jack

    #105146
    norm smith
    norm smith
    Participant

    Doh … Landwehr !

    http://commanders.simdif.com

    #105162
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Thanks very much Jack.

    The French cavalry certainly dashed itself to bits on the Austrian infantry. I thought the Austrian right flank has seriously overextended itself when it went after the French dragoons, but the were able to shove the French back and return to their position, closing up their exposedflank, pretty cool and very aggressive!

    The problem the Austrians had was the lack of a mechanism for turning their victories over cavalry into decisive results.  What typically happens is that the cavalry charge, get beaten back, but they then reform and charge again and will eventually get luck and break the infantry (which is what happened in the end).  The only two ways to break them are by long-range musketry (doubtful) or by an attack (only works if the cavalry is very shaken, otherwise the horsemen are just pushed back out of range).

    The French cavalry that actually were broken in the game were those supporting French infantry attacks and it is conceptually a combination of fire and French fusiliers running back through them that causes this effect.

    Incidentally, high ground is very important in Polemos Napoleonics.  It is effectively a minimum of +2 (on opposed D6 rolls) to an infantry defender, more like +4 if the slope is steep.  So the basic tactical problem in many Polemos games is “can the better troops shift the poorer troops off that hill?”.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by Whirlwind Whirlwind.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #105170
    Bandit
    Bandit
    Participant

    Wertingen is an interesting scenario.

    Rating the Austrian infantry for it is difficult. The bulk of them are grenadier battalions, however, each battalion contains a high percentage of non-grenadiers, many of them had also been run out of Hohenreichen earlier that morning. I don’t recall the distance between Hohenreichen and Wertingen, but it isn’t just a mile or two. The French dragoons dismounted and charged Hohenreichen to break through the ad-hoc defenses of the Austrians there. This itself is a bit strange, I’ve never walked in knee high stiff riding boots, but as I understand it, running in them is… difficult.

    So, how should the Austrian grenadiers be rated? It is hard to say. Once they form up at Wertingen they fight first east of town and get pushed back to where your game started on the slopes of the hill to the west. Once they reform west of town the dragoons have effectively tired themselves out and start bombarding them with their 8-pdrs. Honestly, it is one of the only engagements where you have an example of “cavalry force infantry into square and then guns come up to blast them” that we all talk about happening constantly, it would seem that historically, it really happens infrequently, but here it did happen. Now, here is the interesting part, in your average wargame – the infantry would get blown apart this way, however, historically, the Austrians mostly hold against the artillery fire. Auffenberg orders the 3-pdr battalion guns to form a battery and fire back on the French guns, despite the fact that the French guns are at the extreme range of the Austrian canon, and up hill from them, making them a terrible target. My general understanding is that Auffenberg ordered the guns to fire knowing they’d be ineffective, because it would stiffen his infantry. Better than being bombarded with no reply right?

    The really bad news comes for the Austrians when Oudinot’s grenadier division arrives nearly behind them. They can’t freely maneuver because the dragoons have rested (and Fauconet’s light cavalry have come up), they can’t out shoot the French artillery, and now they are outflanked by the fresh French infantry which effectively cut their route of retreat. And lastly, they must have been outright exhausted.

    What I find most interesting is the performance of the French dragoons. Exelmans shows up with effectively two divisions of dragoons to confront ten battalions of infantry. As I understand the action, the dragoons are committed in subgroups – as is supposedly the usual method. A brigade goes, a division goes. It is not until the final moment that everyone goes. This illustrates what interests me: The need to rotate what cavalry is fighting is important. The initial contact at Wertingen is made a bit before 10AM. Before that the dragoons marched to Hohenreichen, fought at Hohenreichen, and then marched to Wertingen. The Austrian infantry don’t break until around 5PM. Anyone who keeps horses will tell you that no horse is running full out more than a couple times during that period.

    This also illustrates that the whole “make infantry go square and blast em with guns” notion is not as accurate as often portrayed on the tabletop. If it was, the Austrians would not have lasted until 5PM.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #105241

    Just Jack
    Participant

    John – Thanks for the explanation of the rules!  It all makes sense and sounds reasonable to me, and looked like a lot of fun, certainly was fun to read!  Would love to see some more of your GIs in Italy though 😉

    Bandit – Thank you for writing up the historical perspective, that was fascinating!

    V/R,
    Jack

    #105244
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Thanks very much Jack.  And yes, GIs coming up.  Plus I am working something else up (probably for January) that you are going to find interesting…

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #105245
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Thanks Bandit, another great post.

    What is your explanation for why the artillery fire didn’t work as (wargame) advertised?

     

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #105247
    Bandit
    Bandit
    Participant

    Whirlwind and Jack,

    Thank you, glad you find it useful/interesting.

    What is your explanation for why the artillery fire didn’t work as (wargame) advertised?

    Putting a fine point on it: I think this has everything to do with the expectations of players, and the notion that we incorrectly model casualties.

    I think we overplay how powerful artillery is against a dense body of troops, and perhaps it is necessary to broaden the conversation to how we address losses vs the relative impact of casualties in a given battle. In *many* wargame systems, losses only have a very dire impact on morale when they hit 25, 30 or even 50%, whereas historically in real combat examples, 10% losses to a given unit is very significant.

    Taking Wertingen as the example, just since it is the battle that started this, Austrian *killed and wounded* are supposedly around 400 (captured are estimated at over 2,500).

    400 is not many. The total Austrian force present is believed to be approximately 5,500, including 400 cavalry and ~100 artillery. So the total losses to the Austrians were approximately 7%. That is less than losing a single Austrian battalion. We can safely assume that some of the 400 killed and wounded occur after the Austrians break, which means they broke having taken *less than 7% casualties*. Which causes a question: What wargamer is willing to accept that their troops will run when they have taken such low losses? Some, but few.

    The reality is that exhaustion; physical, mental, emotional exhaustion is what plays the pivotal role in the Austrian defeat.

    So where do these 400 casualties come from? I suspect, mostly from the French artillery fire. The dragoons conduct several charges against the infantry, but some of these won’t close, some that close won’t inflict many losses, etc… Thus, I believe the conclusion that the majority of the 400 killed and wounded are caused by 1) the French artillery fire and 2) during the breaking of the Austrians, is reasonable.

    We know that the French artillery came into action between 10AM and noon, then continued firing on the Austrians until at least 4PM when Murat and Lannes arrive. The French artillery fire is not described as intense, so if we assume they are maintaining a ‘paced’ bombardment, that is one round per tube every 3-5 minutes. There’d also be breaks in there when the dragoons charged and perhaps some other pauses. If the French were firing constantly without a break for (we’ll assume) five hours, they’d be expelling about 400 rounds of ammunition. The Austrians are about the best artillery target you can have: stationary, dense, on lower ground than the firing platform, and not responding in a practically threatening way. Even if we assume that the estimated French ammunition expenditure is 4x too high, that means that ~100 French rounds killed and wounded less than ~400 Austrians.

    There are a lot of assumptions in all of this, and I hope it is clear that I am trying to work with reasonable assumptions for the purpose of illustrating a more general notion and not trying to conclude something exact. With that said, let’s unpack this a bit:

    Killing 400 Austrians with 100 French rounds of fire. That actually sounds pretty effective. ~4 men hit per round fired. We know this number is high because not all the Austrians are killed or wounded by artillery fire, and we don’t know how many French artillery rounds are fired, but sticking with it for illustration:

    I’ll pick on Empire because I know it decently well, it has 30 minute tactical turns, a figure represents 60 men. So, imagine a game where in 10 turns you score hits on 6 figures with your artillery, and you make several cavalry charges – all of which are repulsed. I think that if any of us played that game, and then the defender broke up and routed when enemy infantry showed up behind them – not inflicting any more losses to speak of (because we’ve already assumed all the losses are accounted for by the 6 figures taken by artillery fire) – we’d be floored by the results.

    I do actually know some gamers who’d say that makes sense, but they are not in the mainstream by any stretch. I think what this indicates is that it is exhaustion, of several varieties, not actual killed and wounded that make the difference. But, starting in the ~1970s, we have been largely fixated on “hits”, and will pay some lip service to “hits” representing more than “just” killed and wounded, however, I would challenge that in many systems this is simply a justification of the design after the fact, rather than the intended model. In the last ~5 years, we have seen more systems that move away from this and design to a broader notion of “effectiveness”, and I happen to think that is good.

    With all that said, to answer your question directly: I think many wargames have artillery firing on a square causing massive casualties because “hits” is the only tool in the toolbox of many game systems to represent reduced effectiveness, thus, when a square gets hit, we have to represent damage, let’s apply more hits. I believe this to be a bad model, specifically because a square – as is easy to illustrate with examples like Wertingen, but also many others – is unlikely to break from only ranged fire, a large part of the square’s benefit is its intrinsic morale bonus. “Sure, you’re a terrific target for enemy fire, but you feel great about it!” This becomes very difficult to model in a traditional, “score hits to cause casualties” design, and the result is we have gotten many inaccurate representations of this “square vs artillery” scenario, in my opinion. The most common output of these traditional designs is higher casualty rates in wargames than in historical actions. Because of these inflated casualty rates, we can’t accept relatively low casualties causing morale catastrophes. Thus, we deflate the impact of casualties on morale, and this is where you get many systems where losses have minimal impact on morale until you reach strangely high, double-digit percentage losses. In effect, “hits” being our only tool has driven a bunch of other strange design methods in a feedback loop. The result is the system of high casualties drive morale failures does not model these situations effectively, so on the wargames table, it is pretty easy to find a game where you can rout enemy infantry in square by throwing enough canon balls at them, despite it being difficult to find historical examples of this.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #105268

    Just Jack
    Participant

    John – Can’t wait for the GIs, and hell, now I can’t wait for January! Color me intrigued 😉

    Bandit – Wow! Very impressive, and as a wargamer, this is my favorite type of discussion. Not just what happened, but an analysis of what happened and it’s application to what we’re trying to do on the tabletop.

    All I can do is echo your sentiment on morale; we all had to know that “troops test morale at 50%” is sheer lunacy.  I don’t want to let you down, but there’s literally nothing I can add, you are clearly the expert here!  I’m James Carville:

    V/R,

    Jack

     

    #105294
    Bandit
    Bandit
    Participant

    All I can do is echo your sentiment on morale; we all had to know that “troops test morale at 50%” is sheer lunacy.  I don’t want to let you down, but there’s literally nothing I can add, you are clearly the expert here!  I’m James Carville:

    Ha! That is incredibly kind.

    I do believe this drives a design conundrum as we have to make things playable, not just accurate, and that becomes a balancing act of what to track – no one wants a notebook full of stats they have to track for each unit. We also want to make sure there are variables to prevent high predictability of results by players – no one wants to know exactly when any given unit will break.

    The trick is how to accomplish these things together, and it can be difficult. Its methods and difficulties also vary by the scope of game being designed. You could play Wertingen with a tactical system or with a grand tactical system. It is, relative to the other, easier to design a mechanic to accomplish these goals in a grand tactical system where you are more focused on macro results. With the more granular tactical system, you are likely to find some of those more macro mechanics less satisfying, thus, you may need more micro mechanics to address them and provide a satisfying game.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

    #105297

    Doug Melville
    Participant

    Except that Austrian cavalry were generally rated as superior to French in the earlier part of the Napoleonic Wars, and were in larger units.

    Really, it is all a bit reminiscent of ‘National Characteristics’ as per Quarrie.

    #105306

    Just Jack
    Participant

    Doug,

    Sorry man, but I don’t understand which part you’re responding to.

    V/R,

    Jack

    #105321
    Bandit
    Bandit
    Participant

    Except that Austrian cavalry were generally rated as superior to French in the earlier part of the Napoleonic Wars, and were in larger units.

    Sorta.

    I’d completely agree that Austrian cavalry were, in many cases, better cavalry, at least in the case of their küirassiers. The chevaulégèrs were likely better than their French dragoon counterparts, but when there are 200 chevaulégèrs and 1600 dragoons, it really doesn’t matter. And there is reason for this, the Austrians rarely trained or drilled in cavalry formations larger than the regiment, and commonly that level itself was relatively rare amongst the largest cavalry regiments which focused on squadron and battalion level drill. Meanwhile the French were up on the channel coast drilling by division and even corps. This means that once the campaign begins, one side does not have the means to operate large bodies of cavalry in coordination, while the other does. Thus, each move towards their strength and operate based on how they know how to.

    Which goes to the other part, while Austrian cavalry regiments were huge compared to their French counterparts, during the 1805 campaign you won’t find any Austrian cavalry operating in as large of formations as their French counterparts. Austrian cavalry regiments might run upwards of 1,000 horsemen, but they were rarely all assigned to the same parent body. Even in 1809, 1812, and 1813-1814, it is very common to see a regiment of hussars, dragoons, or chevaulégèrs split up, operating with two or three different parent formations, a squadron here, a couple squadrons there. In 1805 this is even done with küirassiers, which is how Auffenberg ends up with 200 küirassiers attached to his infantry column.

    Meanwhile, French regiments are *drastically* smaller, but generally don’t only operate intact, but also in conjunction with substantially larger parent formations of the same troop type. Hence what we see at Wertingen.

    Really, it is all a bit reminiscent of ‘National Characteristics’ as per Quarrie.

    Here I’m with Jack, I’m not sure what the “it” is referring to.

    Cheers,

    The Bandit

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