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The Battle of Austerlitz, 1805

Re-Fought at The Holiday Wargames Centre,

Somewhere in the South of England, 7th to 9th December 2012

Rules: In the Grand Manner

By Bill McIntyre




The Holiday Wargames Centre ("the Centre") is a dedicated wargaming facility situated deep in the English countryside just outside the village of Kingsclere, several miles from Basingstoke, and an hour’s train journey from Central London. The Centre stages regular wargaming events and during a trip to UK I decided to invest a long weekend at the Centre when it was staging Austerlitz in 25mm Napoleonic figures using “In The Grand Manner” as rules. I had planned to walk part of The Pilgrim’s Way that weekend but the cold weather dissuaded me. I made a good choice and had an excellent weekend’s wargaming.


Further details of The Centre available on its website:


The Centre provides the layout (the battlefield is laid out in three long permanent table sections allowing players to walk between the sections instead of trying to reach over an impossibly wide stretch of the battlefield), all the figures, and the rules; and an able gamemaster Mark Freeth, a protégé of the late wargaming legend Pete Gilder, directs the set-up and organization.



The battlefield of Austerlitz before troop deployment


This is just a fraction of the figures shelved ready for deployment


This photo (widened) gives some idea of the scale of the inventory of figures stacked ready for action




Cost of a full weekend of gaming for each player is Sterling Pounds 150.00 (about US$240.00). This includes lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and coffee/tea and biscuits (USA: cookies) throughout the long weekend. Participants can travel to The Centre either by car or by public transport. Trains leave London to either Newbury or (more frequently) to Basingstoke (about US$30.00 one way), and then by bus (about US$6.00 one way) to the The Centre which is located at Unit 1-2, Orchard Business Park, Kingsclere England RG40 4SY (Tel: 01256323332). But don’t do what I did and mistakenly get off at the wrong bus stop in Kingsclere village and take your life in your hands walking along the A339 Road – there is no pavement (USA: sidewalk) – but nice scenery though. Or you can drive there - but use a GPS - it is not in the town.


Hotel Accommodation


Recommended hotel accommodation is the Hilton Basingstoke and those without cars should have no problem hitching a ride to and from this hotel with others who have driven to the Centre. (One tip though: don’t think you can negotiate your way back to the hotel in the dark without a GPS – Basingstoke has a notorious number of similar looking roundabouts (USA: circulars) and those who are not familiar with that area can easily get confused). A negotiated rate arranged by The Centre will get you a bed and a real British breakfast at the Hilton for Sterling Pounds 45 which is less than US$75.00 including tax. There is also a negotiated discount on food and beverages at the Hilton but bar prices are steep so a local pub is probably a better bet for the evening strategizing. There is however lots of “scenery” at the bar of the Hilton…..    


The Sides Deploy . . . 


The weekend began on Friday afternoon with players arriving at The Centre by 4pm for a briefing by gamemaster Mark Freeth on the battle, the timetable for the weekend and the rules. Also players decided who would play on each side (in the case of Austerlitz: French or Allies). Team members then allocated units amongst themselves and began drawing up a strategy for the coming two days. Deployment was by large coloured (USA: colored) tiles with unit names written on the back of each tile so that opponents could see that something was deployed at a particular location but not the actual type of unit. I did ask the umpire if false or decoy deployments could be used to mislead the enemy but was advised that would not be allowed for this battle.


The Battle


Following a hearty British breakfast at the Hilton, players reconvened on Saturday morning at The Centre for the start of the battle proper. I was a player on the Allies side. The strategy adopted by the Allies was to:

  1. Heavily defend and to hold the Pratzen Heights in the centre at all costs;

  2. Hold the Left Flank where the chances of launching an effective attack were made extremely difficult by two large frozen lakes with dice-determined penalties for anyone attempting to cross them, plus a thick wood situated between the two frozen lakes; I was posted to command this flank.

  3. Launch a rapid all-out Right Flank attack against the French Left Flank. It was judged that that this French flank would be less able to withstand an onslaught because so many French troops would already have been committed to attacking the Centre at the Pratzen Heights. And, the French would probably have overlooked the risk of an attack against their Left Flank and therefore not kept a sufficient reserve to shore it up against a tsunami.


In the above photograph, the French are on the left and the Allies on the right. The blue and red rectangular tiles represent French and Allied units respectively which are not yet visible to opposing forces. In the foreground the two frozen lakes are visible with a thick wood between them. On either side of the nearest frozen lake, both French and opposing Allies are lining up to volley fire each other and dissuade each other from making a flanking move. Meanwhile, in the middle ground the fight for the Pratzen Heights has not yet started in earnest. And, in the far distance the first flank attacks by the Allies are beginning to take place. 


On the other side of the left hand frozen lake, I have columns of Austrian units formed up ready to strike but the question being asked is the wisdom of doing so because Davout’s cavalry could suddenly arrive on the battlefield and then the infantry columns would be exposed. This was a continuing source of discussion between myself and my adjacent fellow Allied commander John and actually continued throughout the game. One beneficial side effect of this indecision on my part was to confuse the opposing French commander (also named John).


On the back wall large playsheets can be seen depicting movement, firing and morale tables. The wargaming table you see is as stable as the Rock of Gibraltar – you could have walked across it without disturbing anything.      



Roll them dice!” The Allied attack against the French Left Flank begins. The blue tiles represent French units not yet visible to advancing Allied forces so there was a calculated risk involved in advancing. In the background the red tiles represent Allied units deployed on the Pratzen heights that are not yet visible to the French. Whenever units came within 12 inches of each other they then became visible to the opposing units within that range and the tiles were replaced with figures. 


The Star Tavern


Saturday was a long hard fought day and by the end of the day we were all looking forward to an ale or two at the local tavern. The nearby Star Inn proved an excellent choice for dinner and debrief of the day’s wargaming. Popular, you are advised to reserve ahead.



The Second Day...


Following another hearty British breakfast at the Hilton, Sunday morning saw the now veterans of Austerlitz reconvening for our final day of shot, charge and melee.   



The battle begins to consolidate into three distinct sub-battles – in the far distance the Allies push forward against the French Left Flank, in the middle the French assault on the Pratzen Heights begins in earnest, and in the foreground a stalemate develops with the Allies lining up both inside the heavy wood and along the banks of the nearest frozen lake ready to repulse any French attempts to advance. Meanwhile, on the other side of the frozen lake furthest from the photographer, Allied units originally in column face the French who hold Solkonitz Castle and Chapel of St Anthony, and The Pheasantry with Davout’s Corps arriving soon. The late arrival of Davout’s cavalry eventually forced the Austrian columns into squares – yes they did have some fire effect and some movement but became vulnerable to French artillery and musket fire. But they were large units and therefore had an advantage – the question is: “should I have used that advantage to attack and assault the buildings held by the French to my front?” – although protected by cover, the French would also have suffered losses and their smaller size would eventually have made them vulnerable to adverse morale checks – the smaller a unit the higher its percentage loss from enemy musket and rifle fire.  And if a unit routs then other units around it have to test for morale – under In The Grand Manner rules a single rout can potentially have a serious knock-on effect generating a chain reaction of bad more results (i.e. poor die rolls) and lead to other units marching away from the battle.




The French (nearest the camera) launch an all-out assault on The Pratzen Heights; the allied Army digs in and slugs it out. They hold.



In the foreground the Allied Army begins to threaten Solkonitz Castle and the Pheasantry, in the middle distance the densely packed fight between large numbers of units from both sides vying for the Pratzen Heights prompts a ruling from gamemaster Mark Freeth, and in the distant background the Allied attack on the French Left Flank progressively threatens the entire French Left Flank. 



The final outcome – the French are repulsed from the Pratzen Heights and are pushed back on their Left Flank and Solkonitz is threatened, whilst in the foreground (my command) the Allies suffer heavy losses trying to cross the nearest lake (I had in fact been advised not to attempt this), but hold steady on the second lake and continue to hold the thick wood and from within pour continuous volley fire into the French units forced to protect themselves from a potential flank attack should I break out from the wood.


On the second frozen lake you can see a line of skirmishers walking across the ice to pour fire on formed French troops - an oversight on my part had been not checking at the beginning of the game to find that skirmishers do not in fact face the same disadvantages as formed troops face when crossing the ice; formed troops faced double casualties from enemy fire and each turn on the ice had to throw a six-sided die and suffer the amount of casualties shown by the die roll. 




An Allied victory.


Concluding remarks


A good solid weekend's gaming with excellent terrain, excellent figures, and excellent organization. Yes, I would recommend putting on your "bucket list".

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