Blindenmarkt 1809 – A Sharp Practice AAR

At the beginning of May 1809, FML Hiller’s Corps was cut off from the main Austrian army and in full retreat South of the Danube. While a very costly rear-guard action at Ebelsberg had slowed the French advance, the respite was only temporarily. On May 6, Général de Brigade Colbert advanced his forces along the river Ybbs when he came across a small Austrian rearguard detachment consisting of Erzherzog Karl Uhlans under the command of Major Ludwig von Wilgenheim, accompanied by soldiers from the Grenz-Infanterieregiment Nr. 8 (Gradiskaner) under Hauptmann Basil Ivanovich von Kolinensieg. Wilgenheim, who did not realise the size of the French force, wanted to set a trap for the French and lure them through the streets of the village of Blindenmarkt. The French attacked with a voltigeur battalion, amalgamated from voltigeur companies of several regiments, and two regiments of Chasseurs à Cheval, the 7th and the 20th. Instead of charging through the streets, though, the French deployed the voltigeurs to the North of the village and drove away the Grenzer. Wilgenheim made a desperate charge against the French cavalry but was repulsed. The Uhlans took heavy casualties, but the infantry could, thanks to good leadership, retreat and escape pretty much intact.

Map of the action from the Austrian general staff history Krieg 1809 (vol. III).

Although a bit on the large side for Sharp Practice, I thought that his affair would make for an interesting scenario. I decided to make Blindenmarkt the main tactical problem – both sides would have to decided if, when and how many forces they would commit to the narrow street of the village. I also completely left out the area South of the village – although this was the site of Wilgenheim’s charge, it would not fit unto a normal-sized table and I thought that the most interesting features of the skirmish, namely the town and the wooded hill, would suffice to give at least an approximate impression of the tactical challenges facing the opposing commanders.

I played against Sigur, who voiced a preference to play the Austrians, so I took the French. The French had a numerical advantage, with one group of infantry and one group of cavalry more than their opponents.

Sigur started out cautiously, but of course as the defender, he could afford it. I had to commit, so I deployed my cavalry to my left, intending to head across the fields and threaten his flank. Two groups would cover the village and, if opportunity presented itself, move in. Three groups would support the cavalry, while the skirmishers would advance in the center, ready to support either flank. So far, so good.

Sigur deployed all of his line units on the wooded hill, moving to his right to check my advance across the fields. The hill was a strong defensive position – the woods would give him cover from shooting, and the slope would give him an uphill advantage in melee. My cavalry had some difficulties crossing the ditch, and as soon as the first group was over, it came under fire from Grenzer skirmishers, whom Sigur had also deployed in the woods. This was bad for my cavalry, especially since the first shots killed their Leader!

Although Sigur hadn’t yet deployed his Uhlans, I reckoned that I might risk advancing into the village, especially if I was fast enough to capture his forward secondary deployment point. Two of my infantry groups moved forward in column, while I deployed my last group of cavalry behind them, just in case. This would turn out be one of my rare right decisions in this game.

Unfortunately, the infantry was too slow to capture Sigur’s secondary deployment point and was immediately charged by two groups of Uhlans deploying from there.

The Uhlans went through the poor voltigeurs like a knife through butter, the few surviving Frenchmen took to their heels and my Force Morale took a spectacular plunge. My whole right flank was potentially open. Fortunately, I had the Chasseurs à Cheval in position, who immediately charged the Uhlans. They were repulsed, but did some damage and, more importantly, allowed my skirmishers to move over and take the Uhlans under fire.

Meanwhile, on my left flank, things did not look any better. Sigur suddenly advanced his whole line down from the hill, threatening to unload a volley into my cavalry which was still trying to cross the ditch. The cavalry was in a bad position – I knew they would probably be shot to pieces if they tried to charge. So I made another stupid decision and decided to withdraw them. However, one group didn’t make it across that blasted ditch and caught a volley into their back. This was it – one group broke, the other had to retreat and my Force Morale was at zero. I congratulated Sigur on an Austrian victory!

What a debacle for the French! Sigur stated that he had a lot of luck, and truly his dice-rolling in his first cavalry charge was spectacular. However, he also plainly played better than me. Most importantly, he made no mistakes: he was patient, didn’t deploy his forces too early and committed them only when he knew what he wanted from them. I, on the other hand, made some grave mistakes, the biggest being charging forward with my cavalry without really knowing what they should achieve and than panicking when they where confronted with the full might of the Austrian infantry in a very strong position. The other mistake was advancing into the village before my forces on my left flank were in a position to put pressure on Sigur’s units.

We talked a bit afterwards and concurred that the scenario presents a hard nut to crack for both sides. The forward Austrian deployment point poses an interesting problem for the French, but also a very tempting lure for the Austrians, while the village is a hazard for both sides. I’d really like to try this scenario again one day. All in all, a great and very enjoyable game! As always, you can read Sigur’s report on his blog:

Back to Napoleonics!

A couple of weeks ago I suddenly got bitten by the napoleonics bug again. After a long break of about a year, I’ve rediscovered my interest in the 1809 campaign. There were a couple of lose threads that I left open when I lost interest at the beginning of last year, so I decided to take one or two of them up. I even have some ideas for new things!

The first thread was the 6mm napoleonics project. When I left it, I had home-made rules that worked ok but did not really inspire me. Having recently discovered Drums and Shakos Large Battles (and played a game with my 15mm ACW figures), I wanted to give them a try with the 6mm napoleonics as the rules include modifications for playing them with one base representing a brigade instead of a batallion. I played the game remotely with Stephan in Sweden, but we both came to the conclusion that we didn’t really like the rules. They sound great in theory, but in practice, they offer far less decisions points than one would think. Also, the activation mechanic, which I love in any other Ganesha Games ruleset, makes the game very slow – there are too many units for such a detailed activation sequence.

My next attempt with 6mm will be Sam Mustafa’s Blücher. I probably should have started with this all along, as a lot of people swear by it. Let’s see how I like it.

However, playing Drums and Shakos Large Battles has actually reminded my how much I love the Song of… series of skirmish games, so I convinced Sigur to play a game of Song of Drums and Shakos, the napoleonic skirmish version of the rules. I also wanted to have a reason to play with Sigur’s magnificent collection of 28mm miniatures and buildings! The game was great fun and you can read Sigur’s detailed AAR on his blog:

By then, I was ready for a game of Sharp Practice! When I left off, I was thinking about a small campaign dealing with the fighting in the Traisen Valley. Sigur and I played one game, an AAR of which can be found here:

I had one more scenario for this campaign prepared, namely the skirmish for Mariazell. As all of the Traisen Valley scenarios, it is an asymetrical affair and quite difficult for the Austrians. Playing the French defender, I also had my difficulties, which resulted in a hard-fought battle. In the end, I conceded, as my situation did not look good. More importantly, I had taken an incredible amount of casualties, which, in a campaign context, would probably made me withdraw earlier.

Again, you can find a detailed AAR on Sigur’s blog:

It was a suspenseful game and a good reminder of why Sharp Practice is my favourite game. Now I’m definitely hooked again and want more of it!

One result was that I did some scratch buildings. First, I quickly knocked together an officer’s tent. I deliberately didn’t put any figures on the base so it can be used for all sides.

The second building project is a bit larger and not yet finished. It’s a model of Schloss Sachsengang, which you might remember from a battlefield tour I did some time ago. This will be used in another mini-campaign, based on the events we toured, but also in another, fictional campaign, more of which some other time…

It’s Been a While…

… since I last published something on here. I can’t say there’s a special reason, I just seemed to have lacked the mojo to write. But I really intend to reinvigorate the blog, especially now that I have left Twitter (you can find me on Mastodon, though, at

I actually played a great variety of games this year. After my foray into 6mm napoleonics, which petered out because I couldn’t find rules I was happy with (this might have changed recently, though), I was bitten by the naval bug. I started printing, building and painting 1/600 ACW ships and developed my own rule-set, which according to playtesters is actually fun. I had quite a number of games with several people, the highlight being the Battle of Memphis when my mate Stephan visited from Sweden.

I also had the traditional birthday game, where I invited my mates Virago, Sigur and Martin for a large game of Sharp Practice. The scenario was based on the historical raid on Little Washington, N.C., in 1862. It was great fun and I finally had the opportunity to use the ship I built ages ago!

The big event and the real highlight, however, was our traditional summer gaming event. This time, our very own “Bernie Orclestone” Virago pulled all the stops and presented us with an assortment of fantastic bolides in the form of various 28mm chariots. Sigur also threw in his collection and we had a chaotic, wild and fun racing game! Sigur also wrote a great report on the Grand Prix of Monte Chaoso:

In autumn, Sigur invited me to for a game with his impressive 30 Years War collection. We played the Battle of Herbsthausen:

I also branched out with the naval stuff. First I painted fleets for the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and started a campaign with K., then I became interested in the 20th and assembled fleets for the Spanish Civil War and for WW2.

So, a lot of very diverse projects, and it feels like this won’t change soon. At the moment, I have difficulties concentrating on one topic or period – Last week, I had a sudden urge to play ACW, so I invited Sigur for a game of Drums and Shakos Large Battles.

This is a napoleonic ruleset from the Ganesha Games stable which, with some modifications, works very well for the ACW. We both like it and it might be the answer to my search for rules to use with my 6mm napoleonic, so of course I got the urge to do something in this direction… At the same time, I want to continue with the naval stuff, as Virago is also very interested and has volunteered to paint 1/600 airplanes for a campaign set in the Mediterranean.

Of course I also played other games, but more on those in my end-of-the-year post. I really hope that I will be motivated to update the blog more often. Let’s keep fingers crossed!

I wish all of you Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you might celebrate! Enjoy the festivities!

State of The Raft

Now that the Star of Bravery campaign is over, I feel like it is time to take a breath and reflect not only on what was going on, but also on what I want to do next. The campaign was a huge motivator and drove my painting for the last three months or so. Taking stock, it has resulted in a quite nice collection of 15mm (or rather 18mm) napoleonic figures for the War of the Fifth Coalition.

However, the campaign wasn’t my only gaming-related activity. During the summer, we also had a semi-regular board gaming meet-up, mainly playing The King’s Dilemma.

We have also continued with the remote role-playing and have just now started playing Shadowrun. Although I’ve played a lot of Cyberpunk RPGs back in the day (mainly using GURPS and Cyberpunk 2020), I’ve never played Shadowrun, so I’m really happy to have a chance to try this very influential RPG. And finally, we have re-started with another RPG, namely Les Milles Marches. A friend of mine had offered to DM a while ago, but we stopped because of the pandemic. I’m very glad we continue now, as Les Milles Marches is a very interesting RPG.

It’s a French product, set in Brussels in the near future and we have just discovered that there is some kind of parallel world, or probably a multitude of worlds. I really enjoy the background, it’s something different from the usual fare and I like the idea that the characters are activists participating in a project to create a new European community based on cooperation. It’s multicultural and pretty leftist, so if you enjoy such things, give it a try! Unfortunately, it’s only available in French.

So while I’m pretty well supplied on the boardgaming and RPG front, I’m starting to think on how I shall re-focus my miniature gaming. At the moment, I’m pondering several options: First, designing and researching historical scenarios from the 1809 campaign. I did this for the ACW and had a lot of fun, although I tend to become a bit obsessed by finding even more details and can find it hard to stop the research process. However, I always find it very rewarding and the 1809 project has the big advantage that I can visit at least some of the battlefields, which is very tempting. It would mean building a couple of special buildings and terrain features and painting some missing units (although I’d have to think about using proxies, at least in a modest way, because the variety of napoleonic uniforms would mean that I would have to paint a complete new force for almost every scenario).

Image from the Wien Museum.

Second, I have the idea of playing cavalry-only scenarios with Sharp Practice. Again, this is something I did for the ACW and it worked very well, so I’d really be interested in trying it for the napoleonic period. It would also be fascinating to compare tactics, as a lot of ACW cavalry fighting actually ends up as a fight between dismounted troopers, while napoleonic cavalry combat is much more a succession of charges and counter-charges. Hobby-wise, this would mean reading a bit on napoleonic cavalry, but most of all painting two cavalry forces, at least five groups per side. The upside is I don’t have to make additional dismounted figures for each unit, as I did for the ACW. And funnily enough, I kind of fancy painting horses at the moment, though that may be a temporary mental aberration caused by the excitement of the campaign ending…

Both of these project could, of course, result in a campaign. For the first one, something like the pint-sized campaigns produced by TooFatLardies for Chain of Command would probably be the most appropriate. For the second, a Dawns & Departures campaign could be an interesting option.

Talking to K. about it, she suggested starting with the historical scenarios, as it will take me a while to paint enough figures for cavalry games. But then I had an additional idea: What about a quick Dawns & Departures campaign using the stuff I already have? I asked Julian and Sigur and they both agreed to participate. I will be the umpire, and as Julian lives in Germany, we will play the games remotely. I don’t think there will be that many actual battles, so it should be a quick and fun affair.

I already drew up a map!

Of course I will keep you posted on all those activities. Oh, and I want to continue the terrain series with at least one more article, this time on religious architecture. So, stay tuned!