Friday, July 27, 2007

The Austerlitz refight continued...

The problem with Austerlitz

Continuing the overall Austerlitz theme this weekend I thought that I had better discuss some of the weaknesses I felt within the scenario. In many ways I felt that the scale of the French defeat was too great, or rather the ability of the Austro-Russians to manage the battle was not hindered enough.


My first issue was about the fog. To be honest I do not recall a single Allied formation troubled by this, and I am not sure this was right. Compared to the confusion wrought by the fog in reality we certainly got off lightly. Now this may have been caused by some really good dice rolling but if I had been on the French side I would have felt somewhat short-changed by this.

Command & Control

Put simply, there wasn’t any. Or rather there weren’t any rules for any and it was up to the natural chaos that the players generated amongst themselves to reflect this. Again I am not sure this really reflected the total chaos that was the Allied command structure. As Kienmayer I arguably should have been taking orders from Buxhowden, Kutusov, Kaiser Francis and Liechtenstein. We had two very experienced players in the top roles, one as Kutusov and one as Francis and they did not conflict as they knew this would be disastrous. I am not sure that this really reflected the tension that existed. Certainly a ‘Tsar Interferes’ option would have been possible, as we had umpires (and indeed should be included for all the 1813 scenarios) and should have started as soon as Kutusov thought he had nailed down the Allied deployment. A random intervention of a similar nature could have been made at certain points (either the Tsar, or ‘Buxhowden too drunk to give coherent orders’ etc) to better reflect the confusion that seemed to reign.

In terms of a C2 system now there is one in our new set (Art of Command) but in scenario terms I think, looking back on Austerlitz, we need to do better in reflecting what Dixon calls ‘cognitive dissonance’, especially in Allied command structures but also among competing Marshals. I do not think adding more chaos to the Allies would have saved the French from defeat, but it would possibly have made the defeat less total than it was.

Other Lessons

There were other lessons learned from Austerlitz, the primary lesson being that Newbury Fast Play were actually anything but. So we embarked on our own rules for the Liphook group called Art of Command (AoC). The notion was that commercial rules were just not up to the job of allowing us to fight the big battles that we actually wanted to. So we decided to write out own and see what happened. AoC was used in our next re-fight, that of Jena. Although it did not prove to be perfect (nobody expected that) it did not prove to be unworkable and gave us a better game than NFP.

So development continues, incorporating lessons from our later re-fights of Eylau and Friedland. Things still are left to be done, of course. I am not happy with the charge sequence or the large piles of dead we seem to create in order to get a result, or the use of Cuirassier units as Panzer Divisions against artillery as a weak target, and there are others. But we will sure as not continue experimenting until we get it right, or as right as we can get it.

Command at Austerlitz

Here is a summary of my command at Austerlitz. I have no idea why the Grenz are ‘D’ Class and the line troops under Kollowrat were considered better, but there we are. Life is on occasion shrouded in mystery…

Avantgarde of FML Kienmayer

Brigade of GM Carneville

Vienna Jager C 5 figs
GzIR7 ‘Broder’ C 9 figs
1/GzIR14 ‘1er Szeckler’ D 15 figs

2/GzIR14 ‘1er Szeckler’ D 15 figs

GzIR14 Battalion Guns B 4 Guns

1/GzIR15 ‘2er Szeckler’ D 14 figs

2/GzIR15 ‘2er Szeckler’ D 14 figs

GzIR15 Battalion Guns B 4 Guns

Pioneers C 5 figs

Brigade GM Stutterheim

ChlR 3 ‘O’Reilly’ C 15 figs

UlR1 ‘Merveldt’ C 1 fig
1er Kavallrie Batterie C 5 Guns

2er Kavallrie Batterie C 5 Guns

Brigade GM Nostitz-Rieneck
HusR4 ‘Hessen-Homburg’ C 5 figs

UlR2 ‘Schwarzenberg’ C 2 figs

3er Kavallrie Batterie C 5 Guns

Brigade GM Moritz Liechtenstein

HusR11 ‘Szeckler’ C 10 figs

‘Sysoev’ Cossacks C 4 figs

‘Melentev’ Cossacks C 5 figs

All in all some 105 figures representing 6,349 men and 23 guns at the game’s 1:60 ratio. From memory it was Nostitz-Rieneck who I sent off to support the cavalry offensive in the centre, not that he was needed. Then again his presence was not missed. Stutterheim crossed the Goldbach at Sokolnitz and Liechtenstein at Tellnitz. I also recall that Carneville lost a total of 1 man to enemy action, although both cavalry brigades that got over the Goldbach fought two or three cavalry melees against the French there but eventually drove them back.

The summary on the Napoleon 200 website says it all, really about the battle as a whole:

"This refight proved to be a classic example of the dangers of losing or surrendering the initiative in virtually any military situation. The Allies chose to keep things very very simple (Austrians and Russians are involved here after all) and went for an immediate massive attack on the left Flank (charging straight through the fog) whilst defending in the centre and right. The French decided that they would attack in the centre, but delay things until the situation became clearer. This latter was fatal for two reasons, first it gave the Allies ample time to gain a defensive position on the Pratzen heights and secondly because the Allies attacked the weak French right wing immediately, it threw the French into confusion and tempted them to re-inforce the wing with troops that should have been attacking the Allies."

Next week, the battle of Jena…arguably my finest hour.


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