Friday, January 25, 2013

Risorgimento 1859 Campaign

This is an account of the campaign that my group and I ran using Piquet's Theater of War Campaign rules and Piquet's Hallowed Ground for the battles.  Our focus for the campaign was the Risorgimento of 1859 with 10mm troops representing the Austrians and Italians.  The campaign map used came from the GMT game Risorgimento 1859.

As you can see the map is area movement and this helped in keeping track of troop movements.

Here is the beginning setup spots for both sides.

The Austrians were commanded by my friend James
He placed his troops here under these commanders:
City/town                  Commander
Besate                        Clam-Gallas
Bereguardo                Zobel
Pavia                          Benedek
San Angelo                Scout
Brescia                       Stadion/Gyulai
Lonate Pozzolo          Scout
The Italians were commanded by my friend Garland

His troops were placed under these commanders:
City/town                   Commander
Casale Monferrato       Fanti w/scout
Valenza                       Camerana w/scout
Sale                             Mollard, Perrier w/scout

The campaign started in March of 1859.

Here are the starting positions for the units involved.  The top photo shows Austrian C in C and a Battle Group in Brescia which in relation to the bottom photo is off to the right.

Week 1:
With the political negotiations deteriorating rapidly between the Italians and Austrians.  Not waiting for the Austrians to come to them, the Italian commander moved out sending Perrier with a scout into Pieve del Cairo.  Grasping the initiative, the Austrians counter moved.  Zobel marched out of Bereguardo to Garlasco.  Benedek left Pavia and headed into Cava Manara.  The Austrian scouts left San Angelo and pushed into Belgiojoso and continued to Stradella. More Austrian scouts left Lonate Pozzolo to Oleggio.
Zobel pushed from Garlasco to Lomello.  The Italian commander continued to push his troops.  Mollard left Sale and moved into Castelnuovo Scrivia.  The scouts in Valenza to Torre Beretti.
The Austrians continued to push towards the Italians.  Benedek left Cava Manara and moved to Sannazzaro de Burgondi. The scouts in Stradella left the pubs and moved into Casteggio.  A bold move by the scouts in Oleggio and took the Italian city Novara gaining 2 VPs for the Austrians.  Benedek moved once more into Pieve del Cairo.
Wishing to strike first Benedek formed up his army and attacked Perrier.  Look here for a after action report.  La Guerra ha Cominicato: War has begun
Wounded but not out of the fight Perrier retreated to Sale.  Benedek did not follow up his victory by pursuing the Italians.
The first week of the war has ended with the Italians losing one city and one battle.
Opening moves of Turn 1
More moves from Turn 1
Positions after the battle of Pieve del Cairo

Week 2:
The weather turned ugly and slowed the pace of the advancing armies.  Commander Benedek finally decided to move his troops into Sale and waited for the weather to clear as he faced Perrier again.  The two armies sat staring at each other, waiting.
Positions after turn 2

Week 3:
With sunny weather appearing and drying out the muddy roads after a week of rain, the Austrians struck out first sending one of the Scouts from Casteggio to Voghera.  The Italians kicked up their heels and Mollard moved from Castelnuovo Scrivia to Sale where with orders from King Emmanuel combined his forces with Perrier.  Finally after little activity Fanti moved from Casale Monferrato to Stroppiana.  The scouts in Stroppiana to Vercelli and Fanti moved on to Palestro.
The Austrians had Fanti move from Lomello to  Torre Beretti and sat looking Camerana's army.  The Austrian scouts in Novara moved on to Vespolate.
Benedek finally realizing he had lost the upper hand and forced the battle of Sale.  The after action report for the battle can be read here. The battle of Sale
Positions before the battle of Sale

Week 4:
After the Austrian loss at Sale, Benedek retreated to Pieve del Cairo.  The Austrian scouts in Voghera moved on to Tortona.  Mollard followed up his victory by pursuing Benedek to Pieve del Cairo and arranged himself for battle.  The Austrian scouts in Vespolate moved into Mortara.  The Italian General Fanti moved his army from Palestro to Vespolate and then onto Vigeano.  The Italian scouts moved out of Castelnuovo Scrivia to Voghera.  The Italians attacked Benedek at Pieve del Cairo and the after action report can be read here. Battle of Pieve del Cairo
Positions before the battle of Pieve del Cairo

Week 5:
Badly beaten, Benedek's routed army fell back to Mortara and Mollard followed up and rested his army in Lomello.  Hearing of the defeat of Benedek's army, the Italian General Camerana finally attacked Zobel at Torre Beretti.  The after action report is here: The Battle of Torre Beretti. Another crushing defeat for the Austrians. The recent Austrian losses have sent a paralyzing shock wave through their armies and they failed to respond to any of the Italian advances.  Zobel retreated to Vespolate passing through Benedek's army.  As the columns of defeated and demoralized Austrians passed their comrades, the Austrian morale sank lower.  Following up his victory, Camerana pursued his defeated foe and now faced Benedek's army in Mortara.
The beginning of the end of the Austrian position in Italy.  Positions before the Battle of Torre Beretti

Week 6:
With two major defeats in recent weeks the Austrian commander Clam-Gallas moved his army from Besate to Abbiategrasso.  In a strange twist of luck the Italian commander Fanti moved his army from Abbiategrasso to Gaggiano hours before Clam-Gallas and his army arrived.  With the roads open and  with some local advice, Fanti moved into Milano without firing a shot.  A major victory for the Italians and a heavy blow to the already demoralized Austrians.  The Italian commander Mollard moved his army from Garlasco to Bereguardo.  To cover his forward pursuit Camerana sent his scouting party from Torre Beretti back to Valenza.  Bolstered by his recent victory Camerana set to strike Benedek's army in Mortara.  Sensing the upcoming attack and what can be described as an act of foolish bravery, Benedek took the initiative and attacked Camerana first. The after action report the Battle of Mortara is here: The Battle of Mortara

Positions showing Fanti moving towards Milan in the upper right.

Fanti takes Milan and the battle of Mortara seals the fate of the Austrians.

Campaign after thoughts:
While this campaign took "6 weeks" it lasted 6 months of real time, playing at times, 2 twice a month.  One weekend would be a campaign move and the other a battle.  Our little group has enjoyed playing Piquet in the past but this would be the first time where we used it exclusively.  So for a few months prior to the start of the campaign we ran battle after battle getting the rules down so we didn't have to spend time looking things up.  While this was going on, I spent time getting the layout of the campaign together.  I had never done anything like this before and once I started I had no idea the type of hill I had to climb.  Piquet's Theatre of War book was immensely helpful in sorting things out and making the campaign a reality.
After lots of questions by me to the Piquet group were answered, I started taking small chunks of the campaign process and practiced with the two commanders.  This helped in sorting out issues before we got started and allowed the process to sink in and no one was "surprised" by something while we were doing turns.
Once all of this was sorted out, the actual campaign turns moved along quickly and the battles usually wrapped up in a 3 to 4 hour period with a definite conclusion.
I am very happy with the way things turned out.  I learned a great deal and I realized I made things a little harder than it needed.
First was the map, it was too large for the area the campaign was going to revolve around.  In the Theatre of War book one has to label each area with number that tells you what type of terrain is contained therein and a victory point value, if needed.  I went a little nuts giving each space a terrain number. I should have selected certain spaces for special terrain points and allowing the other spaces to remain level 1, which in the rules is a light terrain and easy to move through.
Second was the keeping track of the players moving units.  Each time we did a campaign move, I set up a divider between the two and had to keep track of their map moves by moving back and forth to get  their units movements.  For me as the umpire it was very time consuming.
Third was the amount of paper work I generated for myself.  I should have been more tech savy and done things in a spreadsheet or some other word document.  I could have used my iPad or laptop too collect that data.  By the time I had thought of doing it, the campaign was moving along and I didn't want to screw it up by introducing something new.

Overall, I enjoyed myself and my friends Garland and James did too.  I will do something like this again but I will be wiser the next time.  :-)
I did take lots of notes on what we did and how we did it, so hopefully I can improve it the next time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Battle of Mortara: Death knell of the Austrians 1859

After the fall of Milan to the Italians a few days ago and the crushing defeat of Zobel by the Italian commander Camerana, the Austrian morale was non-existant.  Zobel's retreating army passed through Benedek's army in Mortara causing more friction with stories of their defeat.
Hot on the heals of Zobel's retreating army Camerana blundered into Benedek's army.
No one on the Austrian staff under Benedek could figure out if Benedek's orders were bold or pure lunacy.  ATTACK!

Benedek's commanders arranged their small force against the heavy hills.  It was an unfair fight, 13 units against 23, with only one unit of cavalry and one battery of artillery, the Austrians lurched forward.

Overview of the battle field with the Italians on the right using the hills to their artilleries advantage.

The Italian Artillery opened up on the advancing Austrian infantry.

Over the hill they came.

The Austrians hoping to get to the little town of Mortara before the Italians.

Endless rows of Italians wait for the enemy.

The one Austrian cavalry unit pushes forward and pays the price as accurate artillery and rifle fire devastates them. 

The Italian cavalry tries to turn the flank of the Austrians.

Heavy rifle fire from both sides pushes the Italians back with heavy causalities.  A bright light begins to shine on the Austrians. 

Seeing the Austrian artillery unlimber, the Italian cavalry charged!

The artillerists were killed to the man.

Seeing their comrades slaughtered the Italian cavalry paid the price with heavy losses due to rifle fire and routed away.

More glimmers of hope for the Austrians as another Italian unit routs away.

A bold local Italian commander caught the Austrians in the flank causing them to rout away.

The hills provide some relief but the slaughter was too great under the heavy Italian fire and weight of numbers for the Austrians.  Their morale broke with large losses.
This loss caused the Austrian government to sue for peace with the Italians, which pulled the Austrian troops back to the Quadrilateral.  The Unification of Italy was nearly complete.