Star of Bravery Ep. 7 – Sour Grapes

“Boys!” Hauptmann Franz Schrammel looked at the eager faces of his Viennese Volunteers. “I don’t know about you, but I’m thirsty. I’ve heard there is a fine wine cellar at Gut Rebleithn, two hours marching from here. Let’s celebrate our victory, what do you say?” Enthusiastic cheers of “Vivat Schrammel!” were the answer.

Schrammel grinned. His men had done well, ambushing the coach, driving away the French and taking that strange Bavarian woman into custody. Boy, was he glad to have her out of his hands! “Rotund,” she had called him. Well, let Lieutenant Schenk deal with her. As Major von Eynhuf wanted to have a word with the lady, Schrammel had ordered Schenk to guard her at a farmhouse while he and his men went for a well-deserved drink.

When the column drew near the estate, Schrammel stopped short. Something was off. Silencing his chatting men, he looked for Lieutenant Gigerl. The Jaeger commander was already running towards him. “Seems we are not the only ones to enjoy good wine. The damn French are also here, and they are busy emptying the cellar!”

“Gigerl, quick, secure the manor house while I form line. We have to get that wine!”

The Jaeger rushed forward and were already at the doorstep of the house when a volley from the first floor windows tore into their ranks. 

While the surprised Jaeger collected themselves, French jeers could be heard from the top floor. “Lieutenant Papuča, send some skirmisher around our left flank and draw the frogs’ attention. I have an idea,” Schrammel told the Grenzer commander. Then he turned to his men: “Boys, there’s wine behind that fence. Form line, keep steady and don’t mind the French and their fancy uniforms. Forward march!”

As the Landwehr advanced briskly towards the estate, Schrammel could see a French line deploying and manoeuvring to meet them. He spotted the French officer talk to the kitchen maid, but laughed when he heard the brave girl shout “Leave me alone, you Ungustl!” while walking away.

While the French were still manoeuvering their line, Schrammel decided that it would be good for morale to get the first volley in and ordered his men to fire. The volley hit the French hard and his enthusiastic men continued to load and fire. Schrammel knew that it would be difficult to get them back under control. Fortunately, he saw a small column of Frenchmen move towards his left flank. “Excellent, this means that the Grenzer sharpshooters are in position. Papuča, your move!”

Lt. Papuča deployed his men in column and marched them towards the Austrian right flank. He hoped that, while the Landwehr pinned the French main force and the skirmishers lured the others over to the left, his men could nimbly slip around at the right flank and block the foragers’ escape.

While a fierce and brutal exchange of musketry took place in the center at almost point-blank range, the Grenzer hurried to the right. Schrammel knew that his men couldn’t stand indefinitely against the French regulars, but he was quite content with their performance – they sure gave as good as they got. Unfortunately, this could not be said of the Jaeger, who started to fall back under the fire of the French skirmishers in the mansion. When Gigerl was hit and fell, his men completely lost their nerves and broke.

Lt. Papuča and his men were crossing the paddock when two disordered groups of Frenchmen charged them in the flank. “Getting desperate, aren’t we?,” thought Schrammel. “Ha, look at the brave Grenzer chasing them away!”.

And indeed, the Grenzer brushed the French away with ease and continued their march. However, Schrammel could also see that the foragers’ wagon was fully loaded and ready to go. “Hurry up, Papuča!”, he shouted. “Victory is almost ours!”

But then another volley hit his line and suddenly his men started to waver. “No!”, he cried, “Stand firm, you Fetznschedln! Can’t you see that Papuča has them outflanked!” But the volunteers had had enough. They started to fall back and, after another volley, they finally broke and ran.

With the main line broken, the Grenzer were in an untenable position and retreated in good order. The fight was over and the wine was gone.

Ten minutes later from a safe position, Schrammel and Papuča watched the French march away from the estate fully laden and in good spirits. “Fixlaudon!”, Schrammel cursed. “What do we do now?,” asked a weary Papuča. “Now,” Schrammel sighed, “now we go looking for my men.”

Wow, this was a very dramatic game full of suspense until the last moments. I was quite happy with my performance – Sigur took my bait and deployed his troops to secure his right flank (and probably capture my primary deployment point), where I had positioned a group of skirmishers. When I launched my Grenzer column to slip around his left flank, he had to reshuffle his troops, which got pinned by the fire of my main line. The firefight between the main lines was brutal – we had one turn when both delivered a crashing volley. From that moment on, it was a race for time. A very close game with dramatic as well as fun moments, such as Bénes’ failed attempt to sweet-talk the kitchen maid.

As always, Sigur’s report, which tells the story from Bénes’ perspective and has more information on the scenario and what happened afterwards, is available here: https://www.tabletopstories.net/language/en/2021/08/sharp-practice-campaign-game-7/

Star of Bravery Ep. 6: Escort Duty

“Let me assure you, Mademoiselle, that I will personally guarantee your safety.”

Cäcilia von Pfünz looked at Cruchon from inside her luxurious coach. “Aren’t you a bit short for an officer?”, she asked with an innocent smile. “Huh. Well, I’m a Voltigeur, which means light infantry, and according to regulations soldiers in the…” But Cruchon never finished explaining the intricacies of French army regulations, as a shout from Sgt. Nonnette made him spur his horse. “Austrians! On our left flank!”

“Form line!,” Cruchon barked when he arrived at his column. His order was obeyed immediately and the French smartly formed a line. “Short!,” he thought.

When Générale de Brigade Louis-Gaspar Delabréjaude informed him personally that his mission would be to escort “a, ahem, special, ahem, friend of mine”, Cruchon immediately knew what was going on. After all, Delabréjaude’s Bavarian mistress Cäcilia von Pfünz and her eagerness to join her lover on campaign had been the talk of the camp for a couple of days. Cruchon had difficulties hiding his smile. “Seems that the lady got the better of you after all,” he thought. He knew that Delabréjaude had sent letters and even an ordonnance officer to dissuade Cäcilia from joining him, but to no avail – the lady had taken her coach and was already on the way to the army, which was on its march through Upper Austria. Cruchon’s mission was to intercept Mademoiselle von Pfünz and escort her to the general, and he had been looking forward to meeting this headstrong woman.

But where did those Austrians suddenly come from? He would have to have a word with Sgt. Nonnette about the duties of skirmishers… “Looks like their local militia, what do they call it? Landsleut or something,” Lt. Fougasse sneered. “One volley, and they will run.” “Hm.” Cruchon looked thoughfully at the tactical situation. The Austrians were approaching through an enclosed pasture, which would considerably hinder their deployment. “Send Nonnette forward, perhaps he can cut them off and scare them away.”

Nonnettes men rushed forward, but at that moment, the Austrian Landwehr formed line and delivered a volley, which was quickly followed by another one. The French skirmishers fell back with casualties and some of the men in the line started to mutter. “We have to box them in before they can deploy properly. I’ll wheel the right wing while you pin them down,” Cruchon told Fougasse.

Before Cruchon could give the order, however, two groups of Grenzer suddenly charged at Nonnette’s skirmishers from behind the Landwehr and drove them out of the pasture. To the Capitaine’s great astonishment, the Grenzer did not stop but hopped over the fence and fell upon the left wing of the line. The fierce assault drove the French soldiers back. 

Completely flabbergasted, Cruchon tried to restore order in the ranks. He wheeled the right wing forward, trying to reestablish his line. 

However, the Grenzer just kept charging and the left wing started to disintegrate. “I’ve heard stories about the American War and the Indians’ way of fighting, but I’ve never believed it. Those Austrians are savages!” Cruchon muttered. In vain, he tried to bring order back into his line, but the men continuously fell back under the onslaught. The Austrians had almost reached the coach. “Sod this,” he thought and pointed to a group of men from the right wing. “Follow me! Forward!” 

Throwing himself into the fray, he managed to finally throw the Grenzer back. One group fled in panic, leaving their wounded and unconscious leader behind. However, it was too late. Austrian skimishers ran forward to save their officer and opened fire at the already shaken French soldiers, who finally decided they had seen enough and broke. “You cowards! Stop! Come back!” Cruchon shouted himself hoarse, but to no avail. The battle was lost, and so was the coach with the Générale’s sweetheart.

However, when Cruchon reported the whole affair to Delabréjaude, the general didn’t look too upset. In fact, he seemed almost jolly. “Ah well, nothing to be done. Glad you are alright, old chap. Life’s too short to die of grief, eh?” Shaking his head, Cruchon left. “Short!” he thought.

The company continued its march through Upper Austria. After an hour or so on some dusty byroad, they came across a commotion. Docteur Pincecourt, the brigade’s medical chief, had trouble moving a number of wounded. Seeing the sad scene, Cruchon immediately detached Sgt. Nonnette and his men to help the doctor. Pincecourt gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you, Capitaine. As you can see, I was a bit short-handed before you came.” “Oui, oui, just send Nonnette after me as soon as he is done,” Cruchon muttered and walked towards Lt. Fougasse. “Short!” he thought.

“Fougasse, sound assembly. We are marching. I want to chase those Austrians as long as the trail is still hot. I have given a personal assurance of safety to a lady, and I’m a man of honor.”

What a dramatic game. I like to think that at the end, it was really close – my Force Morale was at 1, while Sigur’s was at 2 – but to be honest, Sigur outplayed me fairly and squarely. Almost until the end, he dictated the pace of the game, and what a furious pace it was! He took a huge risk by placing his Deployment Point extremely close to my skirmishers, but I took the bait and had them run towards it, which resulted in them getting driven away and never recovering. I was completely caught on the wrong foot and for most of the game I just reacted, and badly at that – I had the strange idea that I have to restore order before I could conduct an orderly counter-attack. While I did this, Sigur dismantled my left flank – not with the finesse of the rapier, but with the brute force of the sledgehammer. When I finally got my act together and had Cruchon charge, I managed to reduce Sigur’s Force Morale considerably. However, he was in a much better position and shape, while the groups on my left flank were just barely holding on, so in the end, he got a very deserved victory.

However, Cruchon got some honor points for his charge, which also counts as a heroic deed in the eyes of Cäcilia von Pfünz, so maybe when he meets her again, she will be more impressed. And helping the doctor also gives me a physic as a support option, although it means Nonnette’s skirmishers will be late for the next game.

Sigur has also written an AAR of the game, which you can find here: https://www.tabletopstories.net/language/en/2021/08/sharp-practice-campaign-game-6/

Star of Bravery Ep. 5: Bénes outfoxed

Major von Eynhuf cursed as brambles tore another hole into his uniform jacket. After following the Jaeger through the woods to escape the French troops which had blocked the bridge over the Laber, he no longer looked like the spiff Austrian officer he usually was. And now he was led by an agitated farmer to some godforsaken village where, if he understood the rustic fellow’s gibberish correctly, a group of French foragers were plundering the locals.

Peeking through the bushes, von Eynhuf spotted a Frenchman in the uniform of a Capitaine. “I’ll be damned!”, he exclaimed, “I know this guy! That’s the scoundrel who ambushed me! Oh, let’s see how you like it when the tables are turned!”

Heading back to where his ragged column was resting, he mustered the men. After the Laber fiasco, he and the Jaeger had managed to collect a motley crew of scattered units and stragglers, among them regulars as well as Grenzer. “Ok, that’s how we do it. I know the French playbook, they usually follow their doctrine, so we will give them a little surprise. Korporal Turšija” – he looked at the Grenzer NCO – “you will take your men and frontally assault the village. If you meet resistance, keep pressing on, as we” – he looked at his Hungarian regulars – “will take them in the flank, which will panic them and secure our victory. Wegerich, your Jaeger will head towards the French escape route and block it. Let’s move!”

Fifteen minutes later, von Eynhuf watched the Grenzer form up and march in line towards the village. He could hear french shouts, followed by a large number of men running towards the road and forming up to counter the Grenzer’s advance. Chuckling to himself when he saw that the French had deployed everything against the threat, he only spared a quick thought for poor Korporal Turšija, whose men came under a withering fire.

“Quick now!”, he shouted to his own men. “They won’t stand that for long! Form up and advance!”

His men formed a line and advanced towards the village from the South. He could already see the forager’s wagon standing unguarded on the road. From the corner of his eye, he watched Turšija fall and the Grenzer wavering and finally routing. His skirmishers, eager to revenge their comrades, positioned themselves to shoot into the French line’s flank.

“You fools! Don’t attract their attention! Get to the wagon!” von Eynhuf cried. Too late! The French commander had seen the skimishers and started to wheel a part of his line. To prevent himself from being outflanked, von Eynhuf also wheeled. He also detached a group to cover the Austrian wagon’s escape route, as the Jaeger were nowhere to be seen.

With the line wheeling towards them, the skirmishers were less eager to fight and finally remembered their orders. They ran towards the churchyard, jumped over the fences and drove away the drivers. Manning the seat, they drove the already heavily laden wagon away from the Austrians.

With the Grenzer gone, the Jaeger absent and the whole French force showing an alarming interest in his tiny line, the Major decided that his work here was done. The order to fall back was obeyed promptly, almost, as he saw with indignation, eagerly.

When they finally arrived at their rallying point two miles to the Southeast of the village, von Eynhuf saw the Jaeger lounging around the captured wagon, munching sausages and drinking beer. “Where have you been?”, he angrily asked Wegerich” “Oh, we though we would do a little ambushing ourselves.”, the cheeky officer replied with a twinkle in his eye. “After all, we are huntsmen!”

This game must have set the record for the fastest game of Sharp Practice ever. I think we played no more than 30 or 40 minutes. It was great fun, though, especially since Sigur took my bait hook, line and sinker and deployed everything against my poor Grenzer. I knew I had only limited time when he started to shoot but was a bit surprised how fast he had annihilated those two groups. But my flank attack worked and my skirmishers were fast enough to get to the wagon before Sigur could react.

For an AAR from the French perspective, which also will tell you what Capt. Bénes experienced after this quick skirmish, visit Sigur’s fabulous blog: https://www.tabletopstories.net/language/en/2021/08/sharp-practice-campaign-game-5/

Star of Bravery Ep. 4: The Bridge over the Laber

“Croissant!” the gallopping ADC shouted. “Name’s Cruchon,” Capt. Cruchon wearily replied. The arrogant staff officer in his fancy uniform didn’t even bat an eyelid. “Get your men moving! Générale Delabréjaude wants you to secure a bridge over the Laber!” Cruchon got out a map and the ADC pointed his sword at it, making a huge tear where “Polstermühle” was written. Without another word, he made his horse rear and gallopped away. “I see we had a visit from young Lt. Profiterole,” Merlot chuckled as he walked over. Cruchon sighted. “Looks like it’s going to be another hot day in Bavaria.”

As the French column hastened towards the bridge, Cruchon sent Merlot’s skirmishers into the woods to his left and Bouffard’s Chasseurs à Cheval ahead along the road. Merlot soon reported a heavy column of Austrians on the northern road, screened by what looked like Jäger.

It now became a race towards the bridge. The French column was a bit faster, but the Austrians were preceded by their Hussars, who seemed eager for a fight and headed directly at the French column.

When Bouffard saw this, he immediately counter-charged, hitting the hussars hard. The fierce melee resulted in the Austrian cavalry fleeing back behind their infantry.

The Austrian commander could be heard to shout at his men to hurry up: “Vorwärts, my children, to the bridge!” When Cruchon saw the column approaching, he immediately formed line with his three groups. For a moment, he thought about opening fire, but he knew that while the enemy column would certainly take casualties, it might just continue their march and make it over the bridge. “Then charge it is,” he murmured and gave the command to lower bayonets. His groups crashed into the head of the Austrian line. The Austrians fought stubbornly until sheer exhaustion made both sides fall back. Brave Cruchon, however, lay unconsciously in the mud, having been hit by a musket butt.

For a couple of minutes, the soldiers of the French line were baffled. What now? Their Capitaine was down and the rest of the Austrian column was continuing their march towards the bridge. A part was already on the bridge when Bouffard’s cavalry charged them in the flank. “This is how you do it!”, the brave cavalier shouted. 

When his horsemen came cantering back in disorder, having been repulsed by the Austrians, the foot soldiers burst out laughing. But now the spell was broken and the line rushed forward on their own account. Another fierce melee followed. The Austrians fought tenaciously and both sides started to accumulate casualties. Fortunately, at that moment, Lt. Fougasse, Cruchon’s second-in-command, arrived with a fresh group. He immediately dressed the ranks and had the men open fire. Austrian Major von Eynhuf did the same and a short firefight erupted at almost point blank range. Both sides were close to exhaustion. When Fougasse got word that the French skirmishers in the woods were broken and Jäger might be threatening his rear, he knew a decision had to be forced. Remembering his drill manual, he ordered the pas de charge and his line moved forward in splendid order, breaking the last of the Austrian line and securing a French victory.

When Cruchon came to, he was pleasantly surprised. “Well done, Fougasse!,” he said, clapping the proud Lieutenant on the shoulders. “One group of Austrians managed to escape over the bridge,” Fougasse said with chagrin. “Never mind! We got the rest and the bridge. Let’s celebrate our victory!” Cruchon let his gaze wander over his exhausted men. “But where is Merlot?” An exhausted skirmisher timidly came up: “The Jäger got him, Capitaine. There was nothing we could do.” “Zut alors! Check the prisoners. Where are those damned Jäger?”

But the Jäger were not to be found. The crafty woodsmen seemed to have slipped through the lines and taken not only Merlot, but also Major von Eynhuf with them, as the Austrian commander was also not among the POWs.

A couple of hours later, the rest of the French column came up. When artillery wagons got stuck in the mud and Cruchon’s men were labouring to get them moving again, Lt. Profiterole dashed up to the Capitaine. “Cruchade!” he shouted. “Hurry up! The Générale has a special assignement for you!” Cruchon looked into the sneering face. “Va te faire foutre,” he murmured. “What was that?” “I said, give the general my regards, I’m at his service.”

This was a hard scenario for the Austrians. They had to cross the bridge with at least four intact groups and then destroy it by spending actions. However, it might have gone differently when the initial cavalry clash had resulted in an Austrian victory. For a change, I played very aggressively, which paid off in the end, although my Force Morale was also pretty low by then.

Most importantly, however, the game was fun and the story keeps developing. Cruchon finally got some Honour Points, but his old comrade Merlot is a prisoner (again). And Cruchon seems to have caught his superiour’s eyes, as he got a special assignment.

For Sigur’s view of the game, visit his blog, where all his AARs may be found.