Jul 17, 2015

The battle of Győr/Raab - Blücher AAR

The historical background and outcome of the battle is widely available on the web, so a short note: the battle was hard fought between forces equal in numbers. The French had more cavalry and guns. Four of fourteen units in the Austrian OOB are rated as Conscript, which is close enough to the historical 30%. Some of this is Landwehr, some Hungarian insurrection. 
Based on maps and a virtual walk with StreetView at the current location, Szabadhegy hill is by no means steep or tall, just a very gentle slope. I'm pretty sure the Pándzsa riverbed has been moved since the time of the battle (I imagine if I really wanted to dig deep a city historian or geography geek could answer this), but it runs W-NW to SE, where it joins the Rába/Raab. There is a train station at Szabadhegy, a Tesco around the French advance and Kismegyer has also grown, just like the city to the north. You can see my terrain setup on the photos, it is pretty straightforward. Part of the riverbed was overgrown with woods, but is very well kept nowadays. 

The built areas had little relevance as the battle was decided on the flanks. The capture of Kismegyer and Szabadhegy manor could count as a minor objective for the French player. The Austrians play a strictly defensive role here, and the main French goal is to turn a flank. This is reflected in the relatively weak French centre force as well.

Orders of battle
Based on a Hungarian and a French source. I had less trouble with the whitecoats as the Hungarian source listed the strength in battalions at each brigade and I basically just converted it to élan. The French one was confusing as the brigades and divisions were mashed together and I had to sort it out, plus it was listed by regiments, and I had to approximate each unit's élan. I had beefed up the centre corps' strength in the last minute, as I felt - rightly - that it was too weak at 5 for the majority of units.

Austrian OOB
CIC Erzherzog Johann von Österreich

I Corps, left centre - Colloredo
I/1. Infantry, élan 6
I/2. Infantry, élan 6, Conscript
I/3. Infantry, élan 6, artillery attached

II Corps, right centre - Jellacic
II/1. Infantry, élan 7, Skirmishers (two border guard regiments, didn't find their strength, but the brigade had multiple battalions)
II/2. Infantry, élan 6
II/3. Infantry, élan 6, Conscript

III Corps, right flank - Frimont
III/1. Cavalry, élan 6
III/2. Cavalry, élan 6 (the better of the Hungarian cavalry)

IV Corps, left flank - Mecséry
IV/1. Cavalry, élan 6, Conscript
IV/2. Cavalry, élan 6

R1. Infantry, élan 6, Conscript
R2. Infantry, élan 6, Shock (Steadfast would actually be better, this is an Austrian grenadier unit)
R3. Cav/Inf, élan 6, Conscript (Hadik's mixed reserve)
R4. Artillery, medium

A total of 14 units.

French OOB
CIC Eugene de Beauharnais, Vice King of Italy

I Corps, centre - Grenier
I/1. Infantry, élan 6
I/2. Infantry, élan 6
I/3. Infantry, élan 7, Skirmishers (multiple light units)
I/4. Artillery, medium

II Corps, left lank - d'Hillier
II/1. Cavalry, élan 6
II/2. Cavalry, élan 6
II/3. Cavalry, élan 6, Impetuous
II/4. Artillery, Mobile (Italian horse artillery)

III Corps, right flank - Grouchy
III/1. Infantry, élan 6, Skirmishers
III/2. Cavalry, élan 6
III/3. Cavalry, élan 6
III/4. Artillery, medium

Reserve - Pacthod
R1. Infantry, élan 7
R2. Inf/Cav, élan 7, Shock, Artillery support (Guard)

14 units in total.

Both forces are balanced in the number of their units. Fourteen is a marginally small number for Blücher's scale: our battle took fifteen turns to conclude, so for a battle with more friction and harder tactical choices, I suggest using 2 MO dice instead of 3. We used 3 and usually had enough momentum to do whatever we wanted to.

The game
I have put together the orders of battle, then based on that the forces from match stick armies. Much like the images on the Blücher cards, these are very simple: a blue, green or white coat and black on top. The reason behind this decision was that our printer has trouble doing images and I didn't want to travel to a printing service to do the job. Plus the Blücher 'figures' all have the same color and the difference between the two armies is more distinct this way.
Going for the grand scale effect, a unit represents over 2000 men on average. Each unit has a 45x35mm base, a center point marked on the front and an info plate on the rear. Fast and easy to make. I cheated with the cannon as the rules suggest using an artillery unit for 18 or more while the French artillery units have 12. The Austrian reserve artillery had 18 according to my source.
I built the terrain on the day of the battle. Most of it is plasticard and paper. The small buildings are made of balsa. The hill is a piece of cardboard with edges cut, covered in glue-soaked paper and sand added on top. The creek is plasticard, the vegetation some green card. 
I have printed out the portraits of the two commanders together with the unit plates.

Setup from the Austrian point of view.

French advance on the left, throwing the Austrian and Hungarian cavalry back through the stream.

Austrian right establishing a bridgehead with little success; French centre moving on the woods surrounding the Pándzsa.

Johann commands the reserve in person, leaving Hadik's brigade behind.

The far left is thrown back and the French cross the creek, staying in the woods and shooting the stationary Austrian center up; Colloredo sends reinforcements while under heavy artillery fire. The red pieces are 'Prepared' markers. 

Overpowered and outflanked, the Hungarian insurrection cavalry on the extreme right breaks.

Mecséry's Hungarian cavalry sends a French opponent flying, but a countercharge exhausts it and it's destroyed. The reserve must move against the French right. The Austrians attempt to charge the French centre and send them back to the other side of the stream with very little success.

The French advance on the left and the reserve forms up with what's left of Mecséry's cavalry to stand in their way. The assault takes a heavy toll on both armies' centre corps. Johann intervenes again and orders an organised retreat towards the hill. Hadik's reserve moves in to occupy the Szabadhegy manor. The French centre establishes a foothold on the Austrian side of the creek and lights up the manor with infantry and artillery fire.

The French right finally routs the Austro-Hungarian cavalry and threatens the centre lines. The right is in danger as well. Johann decides to retreat; most of I Corps and the reserve makes it to Győr and to safety. An escaping infantry unit on the right flank is trod down by the French before it can reach the safety of the woods. The remainders of II Corps and the reserve stand their ground a little more to cover the others' retreat, but the French are also exhausted and had taken heavy losses. Their artillery depleted and cavalry weakened, there is little opportunity to give chase.

I think this is the closest possible outcome to the historical one. Mecséry's left corps was the first to disintegrate, although not because of the CIC's poor tactical choice but sheer bad luck. The Austrian and Hungarian army put up a heavy resistance and the French had much trouble crossing the Pándzsa at the centre. The French did not have to commit, and never even moved their reserve, but I imagine it would have had a huge impact anywhere on the field.

I'm quite sure we overlooked a lot of stuff from the rules but that usually happens at a first try. The game was very exciting and although we had to use roster sheets to keep track of exhaustion, it was not tedious at all. The combat system is well thought out and combat resolution is very fast. I liked Maurice and it looks like Blücher will be another favorite.


  1. Sounds great Andras, a good pace and totally absorbing.

  2. Great to see you refighting this battle resulting in an historical result.
    Appreciate that you virtually walked the ground. I have always wondered about the steepness of the heights.