Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Battle of Eggmühl, 22nd April 1809

Wargaming yesterday; delighted to welcome Goya and Stryker from Up North (or Further Up North, I suppose). Goya brought along an Austrian army (on the train - we are always at the leading edge of technical innovation here at Chateau Foy) and Stryker brought along Marshal Davout. Stryker and I were to command the French forces.

Our game was - unusually for me - one of the published scenarios from Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. This was No.312 - Eggmühl - Day 2 - French Left, which I think must be from Expansion 3 (the Austrian bit). One reason I am always hesitant about using other people's scenarios is because they are usually designed to give both sides a chance of winning, which is OK from a social aspect but sometimes dubious historically, and often (I have found) they give you a grinding match while one side waits for a lucky dice roll or a show-stopping card to give them an edge. I'm sure that GMT Games and their countless fans will not worry at all about my views, I hasten to add.

Anyway, we used the scenario, and it looked interesting, and in fact it gave us a nice game. A feature of the day was that we also used some experimental house tweaks to the rule system. I don't wish to say too much about these at present, since they are still under development, but they seemed promising.

Neither am I going to discuss the real (i.e. historical) battle, since it is well-known, and the portion of it we were playing, though it makes a decent standalone game, is a bit odd in isolation. I will, however, mention briefly the small matter of spelling. If you know better, or can give a better-informed view, please do pitch in here. The locals call the place Eggmühl - I have a locally-produced tourist souvenir of the battle, and there it is - Egg - as in Scrambled Egg. Not Eck, as in Prince of Eckmühl, or as in Bloomin' 'Eck. I assume that the proper German name must be Eckmühl - "the corner mill" (bend in the river Grosse Laabe?), and that the local Bavarian dialect says Egg. The French have always called it Eckmühl, of course, but their track record with German place names is not good anyway. [Ratisbonne? What's that?]

As usual, I'll attempt to fill in a narrative around the photos. In passing, I managed to get hold of some brighter bulbs for the over-table lighting (1200 lumen halogens, two of them, which are supposed to give the same light as old-money 150w jobs, but much less heat), so the photos may be a little brighter than in previous efforts.

As a spoiler, I have to tell you that the French lost [damn]. It wasn't a complete whitewash, but the field is very busy with villages and woods, and the Austrian line infantry, slow-moving and potentially brittle though they are, have 5-blocks-worth of musketry per battalion, and that is a very serious prospect all round. And, of course, Goya commanded his defence rather better than did Rosenberg in 1809. Our rules of the day stipulated 10 Victory Banners for the win, but the situation was sometimes quite difficult to follow, since there were temporary VBs available for possession of the villages, and the exact timing of when these counted was sufficiently complicated for me still to be unable to understand it this morning. I think the final score was about 10-7 to the Kaiserlichs, but I'll take advice on that. French did well enough, but couldn't keep up any kind of momentum in the face of the Austrian musketry.

By the way, if my account of the day shows a little French bias, I hope you will indulge me - the defeat is too recent and too painful. Like all military history, it may take some years for a truthful impartiality to creep into the narrative.

General view from behind the French right flank, at commencement. The French cavalry in
the foreground were always going to struggle to get some open ground to work in. Beyond them
are Von Deroy's shiny new Bavarians, then St Hilaire's Division, and at the far end Friant's boys.
The villages are, in order of proximity to the camera, Unterlaichling, Oberlaichling and
Obersanding, with various arrangements of VBs available for each.
View straight down the middle of the table at the same stage - note that the Bavarians
have some distance to advance across open farmland to attack the village and woods
in the centre.
Unterlaichling - first attack and the Bavarians took the place. A brief moment of glory -
subsequently the village and its neighbouring woods changed hands so many times I
lost count, though our lot never seemed to be in possession when it came time to tot up
the temporary VBs.
On the French left, Friant made a big push through the woods and towards Obersanding.
Heavy going. The dude on the right hand edge, on his own, is Davout, currently Duc
d'Auerstadt and, sadly, destined to remain so.
The problem - too many Hungarians in the Plastic Forest. You're sure of a
big surprise.
Erm - and suddenly the French had a lot less troops advancing on the left...

...and St Hilaire's division in the centre didn't fancy their chances much...
...and the Bavarians, though they are fleetingly back in Unterlaichling here, with some
French légère boys on their left, were running out of men and out of steam. 
Theme for the day - the French needed a bigger superiority in numbers to win the day.
Here they just don't have enough fresh troops left, and we are getting near the end.
After the official VB target was reached, we played on for a little while. I fiddled around
with some of the under-employed French cavalry on the right flank, which was fun but
enhanced neither the result nor the historic narrative. Faint shades of Borodino - some
cuirassiers capture an artillery position on the Bettelberg, but it makes no difference!


  1. Most entertaining.
    I'm not sure that the small Corsican chap will be happy though.

  2. Looking magnificent is a sort of triumph all of its own.

    But are trains really all that modern? I seem to recall seeing pictures of uniforms for Napoleonic train drivers.....

    1. Excellent point. And something must have run on the Lines of Torres Vedras?

    2. No doubt but I think the price for boarding was quite steep.

  3. In defence of Davout, he had to ride to battle in a little box in my rucksack on the train and therefore never got to do a full reconnaissance. It was a good fun game though but one thing I have learnt is not to attack Austrians, best to wait for some Prussians to turn up!

    1. I think the Austrians were maybe tougher than they should have been. It may have been the Maxim Guns, as you suggested. Davout looked pretty wide-eyed and alert when he arrived - keen to get to business.

  4. Very attractive, but the Iron Marshal not victorious? The rules are obviously rubbish! :-)

  5. Always enjoyable to see your collection arrayed fully across the table. As a complete non sequitur, what is your typical set-up and tear down time before and after these tabletop encounters?

    Best Regards,


    1. Hi Stokes. Typically, once I know the table layout, it takes me about an hour to get the scenery boxes down from upstairs, the battleboards lifted on to the dining table and the scenery roughed out - I might spend half an hour or so designing the villages etc, but that's just amusing myself. How long the troops take to set up depends on who they are - some of my armies are stored already on their sabots, in OOB sequence order in a cupboard in the dining room, but I take care handling them, because haste brings accidents etc. If armies are mostly ready ordered and on sabots it might take an hour or 90 minutes to set them out on the battlefield. If they are among the armies which are stored in magnetised A4 boxfiles (ECW, Peninsular Spanish, all the artillery and generals, and wagons, mule trains, siege equipment then that's slower, because I have to set them out on sabots etc, so that's about an extra hour's overhead. Yesterday the Austrians arrived in a big toolbox, so that took a while to set them up. Once the Austrians had gone home yesterday, I stripped everything back down and tidied up in about an hour and a half - I'm always slow and cautious handling figures, and I always take care to put stuff back where it goes - otherwise next time I won't find it! Big time-savers include not removing casualties in battles, and pre-sorting the eliminated units on trays during the game, ready to pack away. The scenery is all modular, which helps.

  6. This is nothing short of revelatory, Foy. I must get some Austrians!

    Best regards, WM

    1. Scary. If we could have got them running, they'd have been off home. They're good in the woods. [There's a rules inquest under way]

  7. This is a fine looking game, Tony! Since you are the historien officiel for this battle, how could their be a French bias?

    As for Egg/Ech/Eck muhl debate, I default to the names I saw upon my visit. All references were to Eggmuhl.

    1. Thanks Jon - yes - I think Egg is Bavarian.

      Biased history is the received form, is it not? I was brought up on the plucky and patriotic deeds of my forebears - Wellington onwards, and I'm sure it goes further back. History was always about our lot fighting successive waves of bad guys. The American and Australian Napoleonic writers of recent years have been a revelation, but then I began to realise that Elting, Bowden, Kyley, Markham and others were just Napoleon groupies, so the bias is still there! The Elting & Esposito atlas account of Eggmuhl is like a fanzine. Great stuff!

  8. The Kaiserlicks are not contemptible by any stretch of the imagination. Their infantry are tough on the defense and their cavalry are powerful.

    1. No contempt implied or intended. As a military nation in those times, they appear to have been rather handicapped by a reluctance to learn anything new, by an excess of untalented aristocracy in their officer class, by internal hostility between the nations of their empire and by a paralysing mistrust of their own armed citizenry, but they were tough boys and good soldiers throughout. The main fault I can find with the Napoleonic K&K army is that I don't have one!

  9. A jolly splendid looking game sir...
    What size of hexes are you using...

    All the best. Aly

    1. Hi Aly - 7 inches. I started using hexes in 1974 or so, and 7" gave a useful amount of space with my armies. Until a few years ago the hexes were painted the wrong way for C&C, but the game still worked with some interpretation of scenario layouts and a house rule for retreats. I still have my 1971 tabletop which, without the later extensions, is 8' x 5'. By a total fluke, I found that when I repainted the table with the hexes the "right" way round the 7" hexes would fit very nicely to give me a proper 13 x 9 hex C&C board, which saved me starting again creating scenery.

      My armies are sort of old-25mm, 20mm, 1/72 scale - the makes of figures are selected for visual compatibility rather than strict science (i.e. hats and muskets match!). For actual C&C the ground scale is de-emphasised, since the game expands or contracts to fit a scenario, but in the more traditional world in which I operate I assume 1mm = 1m on the ground, which makes the hexes near enough 200 paces across the flats. Since (for example) my infantry battalions are based up to be 100mm wide by 90mm deep in a 2 x 2 column of 4 bases, and are magnetically attached to 110mm square sabots, 7 inch hexes gives a decent amount of space and looks OK (I think). I use 1-size-down buildings (15mm) to help with the ground-scale compromise - smaller footprint, but it works visually (or at least I have got used to it!). Since my wargames use the household's premier dining table everything is packable and storable, and I've put some time and effort into developing modular systems for rivers and so on.

      It's all a compromise, as I say, but it's been developed over many years - mostly by doing it wrong a couple of times first. I grumble, like everyone else, but in fact I'm very happy with the system I've finished up with. I'm lucky, I think, but the luck is probably the result of a lot of sketching and fiddling over the decades!

      I'm sure that explanation will have killed off any interest (!), but if you want any more specific info contact me through the email address in my Blogger profile, or send me a comment for non-publication.

      Regards - Tony

  10. I received a very nice email from a gentleman visitor who liked the trees in the photos, and wanted to know where to get them. In the museum which my wargaming activities have become, I tend to forget about the old Merit trees, though I have built up a fair collection of them and am very fond of them. I pointed my new friend to a feature on them on the excellent "Hinton Hunter" blog, which is worth a look if you are unfamiliar with Merit.

    I have to say that our Eggmühl effort on Saturday may have used more trees than anything this size I have done for a while! Here's a toast to J&L Randall and their Old School trees - they may be crude and old fashioned, but there is not a grain of flock anywhere in my wargames room, and that's a testament to something!