As is by now tradition, I invited Sigur, Virago and Martin over to have a big game of Sharp Practice for my birthday. This time, we played a historical scenario from the 1809 campaign.
At the beginning of May, the French were in pursuit of the Austrian VI Corps. Marshal Masséna had sent one of his aides, Adjutant-Commandant Trenquayle (played by Martin), to take command of the advance guard of General Carra Saint-Cyr’s division. West of the small town of Eferding, they ran into an Austrian rearguard composed of Grenzinfanterie-Regiment Nr. 13 (Wallachisch-Illyrische) under Oberst Franz von Gratze (played by Virago) and the 2nd Viennese Volunteer Battalion under Oberstleutnant August Ernst Freiherr von Steigentesch (played by myself). The Austrians had taken position behind fences and in the farms outside the town walls, so a cavalry attack seemed imprudent. After a first, inconclusive skirmish, Trenquayle asked Carra Saint-Cyr for reinforcements and attacked with the 24e Régiment d’Infanterie Légère and elements of line infantry, probably from the 4e or 46e Ligne (commanded by Sigur).
The map (from the late 18th century Josephinische Landesaufnahme) shows Eferding and surroundings, with the blue box indicating the area depicted on the table.
As Eferding still had its medieval town wall, this was a great opportunity to finally use the castle walls I bought ages ago (at my first CRISIS, to be exact). However, I also quickly scratch built a town gate to give it a more Austrian look.
This is a 17th century view of Eferding, with the box again indicating the area depicted on the table.
And this is my attempt at recreating the view:
And the overview:
The blue circles indicate the position of the French deployment points, the yellow circles those of the Austrian.
The Austrian objective was to either reduce the French Force Morale to 0 or to withdraw at least 4 intact groups into Eferding. However, they could only withdraw after either their or their opponents’ Force Morale had fallen to 4 or lower. The French had to prevent this.
Quicker to deploy, the French brought in two compact lines, both with a skirmisher screen, as well as one group of skirmishers on their right flank. The Austrians just deployed the Landwehr, which was positioned on the flanks, and the Grenzer skirmishers on their right flank. The Grenzer line groups were kept in reserve.
The massed French advance looked pretty impressive and a bit intimidating to the Austrians, but soon the image was marred by a plucky Grenzer Sharpshooter, who shot Adjutant-Commandant Trenquayle from his high horse! Trenqualye was only knocked out and back on his feet in a short time, but still – it hurt the French pride and, what was more important, their Force Morale.
Unfortunately, the Landwehr skirmishers on the Austrian far left realised that they forgot to pack extra ammunition, meaning they could only fire at close range (random event). They decided to make a virtue out of necessity and worked their way forward on the left, trying to outflank (or at least threaten) the French flank.
They got up to the frontmost fence, but were then charged by the French voltigeurs and driven back with losses. For the rest of the game, the opposing groups continued a fierce musketry duel, with both leaders hit and wounded.
Oberst von Gratze nodded approvingly at the aggressive stance of the Landwehr and decided to make an even bolder move: He deployed two of his line groups at the forward deployment point, right in the center, opposite the gap between the two French lines. They fired and then charged the French skirmishers in the orchard, but inflicted only insignificant casualties. However, the French were now forced to react to the sudden threat in their center.
The French manoeuvred to get the Grenzer into their arcs of fire, withdrawing part of their righthand formation and splitting their left line into two wings. Meanwhile, von Gratze deployed the rest of his force. Everything was now on the table.
The leftmost French line received intense fire from Grenzer skirmishers, taking casualties and shock, but still advancing towards the Landwehr and the French primary deployment point. They opened fire on the Landwehr but only caused insignificant damage. The Landwehr held back for a controlled close volley.
In the center, the Grenzer in the orchard got into a cross-fire, but managed to withdraw in relatively good order and took position behind the fence.
On the Austrian left there was a stalemate, with Landwehr and Grenzer behind the fence awaiting the French advance.
This was the situation when he had to end the game due to time. Things were going quite well for the Austrians: the French attack had stalled, their right wing was somewhat stuck and would have to reorganise the groups that manoeuvred back to contain the bold Grenzer attack before crossing the fence and advancing into the fire of the waiting Landwehr and Grenzer. The Austrians would now have concentrated all their energy on hitting the leftmost French line – the Grenzer skirmishers as well as the Landwehr would have tried to inflict enough casualties to reduce the French Force Morale, which already was at 6, to 4, and then commence their withdrawal into Efferding. Virago and I were pretty confident that we could have pulled it off…
Another excellent game of Sharp Practice! It had a really interesting dynamic, the highlight being Virago holding the bulk of his forces back and then deploying them right in the center. This brought the orderly French advance into disarray, made a dent in their line and eased the pressure on my right flank Landwehr.
The only thing I will consider for next time is to either find a date where we can start earlier or play longer, e.g. a Friday. We didn’t actually play that long (about two and a half hours total playing time), and about 45 minutes more would probably have been sufficient to come to a conclusion, so that will be my benchmark for next time.
After the long COVID break, I’m really happy to play again with my friends. I’m very grateful to Sigur, Virago and Martin for indulging me, this really was a great birthday present! Thanks guys!