Sunday, 15 May 2022

Scenario 2: Control The River

It's been about 2 1/2 years since I've hosted a face-to-face game at home for rather obvious reasons. But recently with the weather improving (although it's pouring down as I type) it has felt safer to make a return to more normal gaming with friends. So after the game a Chris Gregg's last month, my good friend Keith Flint and I were able to meet up as planned for a game of 'Shadow of the Eagles'. I've only ever played these solo, so it was great to not only to play them FtF but also with the author!

I suggested the second scenario from the book, which Keith thought a good call, as it's a decent sized game to give a good run out of the rules. With a deadline approaching I managed to finish enough of my Commission Figures troops for the scenario, but completely forgot on the HQ's front, meaning I had to make a last minute substitution of some cavalry bases to use for them.

The scenario was inspired by a map on the Little Wars TV site that was used as part of their Marengo campaign. Forces wise I fancied something set around the 1809 Danube, as the French aren't uber powerful nor the Austrians as weak as a wet paper bag (famous last words). Keith was happy with this choice, so everything was pretty much set for his visit.

Luckily the weather was great so with the windows and patio doors open to keep things cool and help on the Covid front, we settled down to the usual pre-game chat and then once we'd rolled for command quality etc, we were set for the game. I didn't take any notes as I wanted to concentrate on the game itself, but took some photos which will help explain how the game unfolded. So without further ado:

An overview of the table, with the Austrians South of the river and the French appearing from the Northern table edge. The river can only be crossed by two fords or the bridges, with the objectives being the two towns occupied by the Austrians, plus the fords themselves.

A small Austrian brigade occupies the town on their right flank with two battalions of infantry and an artillery battery. Note the unit bottom left are reinforcements that will arrive later on on a random Turn as dictated by a die roll.

Two Regiments of light cavalry occupy the town on the left flank. Again the troops at the bottom are reinforcements.

An independent Austrian Light Battalion occupies the wood and steep hill in front of the river to try and slow the French advance down.

The French have a significant numerical advantage at the start, but need to move swiftly to make this tell. However the wood and steep hill in front of their centre will make this possibly difficult to achieve.

The French advance on their right and the Austrian Light Battalion push forward to the edge of the woods to engage them.

The other French Brigades move forward, watched by another Austrian Light Battalion in the woods.

The Austrian Light Infantry Battalion have fallen back, to avoid coming the grips with the French. Light Cavalry clash to the left of the photo, with the Austrians managing to push the French back.

A view from the Austrian left flank. The Austrian Light cavalry brigade has moved out of the town to cover the bridge. Their French counter parts watch, unable to risk a near suicidal charge acorss the bridge in line. A Mexican stand off develops, with both commanders exchanging details of their tailors, invitations to dances, point-to-points etc.

An overview on Turn 3. The French are pushing forward in the centre, but the steep hill is lowing their progress. Their Heavy Cavalry has crossed the ford, but is unable to do much without artillery support, which is still limbered up to their rear. The French right flank Infantry Brigade is being held up somewhat by the lack of room to deploy due to the woods and the cavalry. Austrian reinforcements have begun to arrive and advance to cover the ford over the river in the centre of the table.

The Austrian Light Infantry harass the advancing French coming over the steep hill with flanking fire.

More Austrian troops arrive, this time on the right flank, where they can either reinforce the town, cover the approach of the French heavy cavalry or move towards the centre. They choose to deploy their artillery to cover the French heavy cavalry, whilst the infantry move past towards the town.

The Austrian Heavy Cavalry move up on the left flank towards the ford in the centre of the river.

Both sides race to reach the ford: who will win?

Austrian reinforcements arrive on their right flank. The French Heavy Cavalry face a formidable obstacle in the form of the artillery and infantry lining the town.

An overview around Turn 5. The French have driven off the Austrian Light Cavalry that were slowing down their right flank, but are still struggling to bring their infantry brigade into the game. In the centre, the French have begun to cross the ford, led by their Guard Infantry. On their left flank, the Infantry Brigade has begun to attack the town as best they can. 

Even though the Austrians have been beaten to the central ford, they have a strong position from which they can attack any units that begin to cross. On the steep hill, the Austrian Light Infantry Battalion has moved up to shoot the French artillery battery in the flank.

The Austrians are taking casualties in the town, with their artillery battery being particulalry hard hit by counter-battery and musketry fire. The French infantry are taking equally heavy fire, with Austrian Light Infantry (just seen top left) enfilading them.

A view from the Austrian right flank in the town.

Even though the French Guards have begun to cross the ford, they have Austrian units to both flanks and an artillery battery to their front. It doesn't look good to be honest.

The Austrian light infantry enfilade the French battery, forcing them to divert part of their fire.

The view from the other Austrian Light Infantry Battalion that are enfilading the French infantry by the bridge.

Around Turn 6. Things have reached a critical point, with the Austrians close to having to retreat or face the possibilty of routing. Top right can be seen the French Heavy Cavalry that made a Cardiganesque type charge aginst the Russian Austrian guns: it didn't end well.

The French Guards take heavy casualties as they move across the ford and only their Superior status keeps them in with a slight chance of survival.

Turn 7 and the end of the game. Suddenly the French lost around two units of infantry and one of cavalry, with other units having casualties too. With the Austrians in a strong position, there was little hope of the French having any realistic prospect of victory, so they began to prepare to withdraw. As the French commander was heard to say:

"I was in this Position at the battle of Marengo, I lost the Battle at 2 o'clock, BUT I DIDN'T WIN IT BACK AGAIN AT SEVEN."😉

The Austrians have managed to hold on long enough to tip the battle on their right flank in their favour.

The Austrian Light Infantry Battalion are engaged by the French, but too late to alter the course of the battle. Their enfilading fire helped save the town.

The Austrians close in on the ford. With their numerical advantage, the French cannot realistically take it.

The Austrian artillery battery and infantry that routed the French Guard.

Before the French retire, invitations are sent out by both sides for an officers ball in the town.

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was very, very enjoyable and after so long, great to be to be able to have a good friend round for a game. As always the game was played in the right spirit with plenty of good natured banter flowing to and fro, which is all part of the fun of wargaming. Playing the rules with Keith meant that I learnt quite a bit that I wasn't sure about, plus a few interesting points were raised that might lead to some slight clarifications/amendments to the rules. Anyway, a few thoughts on the game itself:

  • The game certainly felt Napoleonic, with all those French columns advancing forward, compared to the recent SYW game we played in. It certainly looked good and had a nice feel to it.
  • The rules came back to me very easily which is always a good sign and Keith was able to clarify a few things as we went along. Both of us forgot or either chose not to use skirmishers on front the infantry units.
  • The terrain certainly hampered the French, much more so than the Austrians who could pretty much move about freely on their side of the river.
  • We both agreed that the French needed some Light Infantry to help them with their advance and especially through the difficult terrain of the woods and the steep hill and to combat the very effective Austrian Light Infantry.
  • Having played the scenario, as it stands it is a hard task for the French. Delaying the Austrian arrivals would help, plus giving the French the Light Infantry for the reasons mentioned above. The central ford is beyond the reach of the French, which they need to secure to be able to flank either of the towns to have any chance of unlocking the Austrian defence.
  • Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but post game we thought that the French right flank should have had the Infantry Brigade move straight towards the town which was only defended by an Austrian Light Cavalry Brigade. Of course the French commander would not have known what units were there, so it could have been a failed gamble. The other options was to push past the woods to move towards the central ford, but really they needed Light Infantry to help them with this.
  • The mdf figures did their sterling job once again and I now want to paint up some more to bulk some of the units up and maybe paint some as a generic third force that can be used as Allies for either side in future games. I just need to check what I actually have before I make my decision.

All-in-all a great days gaming with a good friend. What's not to like? Let's hope that things continue in the same vein. I have no immediate plans for any games as soon I need to go and pick up our daughter from Uni, now that she has finished he final year. So with a full house once again, gaming possibilites are unknown at present.

So until next time, keep healthy and stay safe.


  1. Looks like a great game, Steve! I'm looking forward to trying SOTE. One day soon hopefully!

    1. Thanks Steve and it was a great game, one which I actually won, much to my family's surprise!!! I hope you get to give SotE a run out soon and if so, look forward to reading your thoughts.

  2. Congratulations Steve. Right or wrong I don’t know, but I always regard the Austrians as being one of the weaker Napoleonic armies (other examples being the Spanish or Neapolitans), so your victory is perhaps more impressive still. Well done. Your Austrian light infantry performed especially well, making good use of their skills/abilities.

    Your terrain and figures are, as ever, lovely. Very, very nice indeed. 👏👍

    Good news for me - Commission Figurines have confirmed they will be at wargames show in Sheffield (Sunday 3rd July), so I should be able to pick up enough MDF figures for a small War of 1812 US/British set-up.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Geoff. The Austrians are one of the weaker forces in this period, mainly due to their poor C&C as far as I can see. Their troops were OK, just badly led. Rather like the Russians in early WWII, they are better when on the defensive IMHO. The Light Infantry Battalions did a great job and certainly helped the Austrian cause no end.

      Good to see feel happy enough to buy some figures from Walt, who is a great guy to chat too if he has the time. Have you figured out what you will use for the Native Americans yet?

    2. Sadly Walt says none of his MDF figures would be suitable as Native Americans. So I guess I’ll be looking at 3D metal figures - dunno which, as I won’t actually need all that many. We’ll see…

    3. I did wonder whether with some scalpel work and a paint job, some of the ACW range might work. Not sure if my eyes and hands would be up to it now though. At least you will have the figures to see which metal ranges might look best with them. As you say, you won't need too many.

  3. I bet that felt good! WNTL indeed!

    1. It really did feel good Chris. Later on I met up with friends from my old workplace and the day after we even had our local May Fayre on for the first time in 3 years. So it certainly felt like things were 'normal' which was great as you can imagine.

  4. Nice-looking game and good report. Is this a 4-base/battalion-scaled game? And if so, how do you push out skirmishers - just move one of the bases in front?

    1. Thanks JWH. Ideally it is 4 bases to a Battalion, but you could class each base as something else if you wish, but as Keith notes in the comments on the rules, if you try and go much larger, then maybe another set of rules would be better. Certainly these work best at the Battalion level IMHO.

      Re: skirmishers, we have simply taken of a base out of the line and pushed it out to the front by some 3". If you had the figures, you could use a dedicated skirmish base in front and leave the line as they were. It make no real difference in game terms as far as I can tell.

  5. Great looking game Steve and must have been exciting to have a real live opponent after such a long hiatus! Really pleased to see the Austrians pill off a win too - they are always on the back foot in Napoleonic rule sets as far as I can see - were they really that bad?? From what I hear, their cavalry was the equal of or superior too any others in Europe - but I guess if their leaders were all blundering, they would not have had much success

    1. Thanks Keith and have a friend round for a game was great after so long solo. I don't think the troops per se were that bad, just the whole Austrian C&C. Reading the opening phases of the 1809 campaign, I can see why they lost so heavily to old Bonaparte.

  6. Hi Steve....I really can't believe these are MDF figures...they are just so good. Sounds like you had a good time socialising as well as a good battle too. Regards.

    1. Thaks Tony and yes the whole social bit of gaming was great to have back. The mdf figures are a joy to behold and there is much more detail on them than my poor eyes or hands can show. If you get the chance to visit the Joy of Six show, then Walt will be there with his figures and you can see how good they are when painted well.

  7. Sorry to come in late here Steve - just back from the NC500 where wi-fi is a bit patchy - plus I was knackered a lot of the time! Loved the game, I'll be putting a few thoughts up on the SotE blog soon. See you for Waterloo in a month or so!

    1. No worries Keith as I knew you were away and therefore rather unlikely to have the time or connection to comment. Looking forward to meeting up again soon too:).

  8. Very neat looking game. I love the look of your terrain Steve.

    1. Many thanks Chris. The terrain tries to mix aesthetics and functionality, plus aiming to be easily stored to. Oh for a games room cum studio such as your won!

    2. Yes I'm lucky Steve but you have achieved a beauty in functional precision that always eludes me.

    3. Thanks Chris, but I do have a bit of an unfair advantage in that this used to be my day job as it were on and off for nigh on 33 years!

    4. Haha! Yes I remember you said now....but you don't look old enough to have 33 years of work under your belt!

  9. Wow! That looks really great!

    If you don't mind me asking, where did you get your mat from? I really do prefer the more traditional, subdued look (dare I say plain) compared to the modern, hyper-real, printed cloth mats.

    Also what are you using for the roads and the built up areas? Is that some kind of vinyl flooring material, specialty product or what? Just curious because it looks like it lies flat and yet still looks good, simple and non-distracting.

    Your terrain palette really lets the figs and the action take centre stage. It is both sophisticated and elegant, a true masterclass.

    take care,

    1. I'm glad you liked the look of our game:). The mat is the one Games Workshop produced way back when, with this being maybe 15 years old now? I still prefer it to the printed cloth/vinyl ones, but I don't know of anything similar still being produced. Shame really as it still looks as good as new, even after all these years.

      The roads are 2mm mdf that I made and sprayed both sides at work when I was still a modelmaker for my sins. By coating both sides they tend to stay dead flat. The speckled effect was achieved by spraying slightly different shades of the base colour, if that makes sense?