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Subject: The battle of the Pratzen Heights rss

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Kåre Dyvik
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It is dawn, December 1, 1805. The pale light reveals a large mass of uniformed men on the summit of the Pratzen Heights, west of the village of Austerlitz in Moravia. They are the avant-garde of the allied Russo-Austrian army, comprised of Langeron’s and Prebyshevsky’s corps. The rest of the army is en route from the east.

From the heights the Russian soldiers can glimpse French soldiers positioned along the creek below. It is the Emperor Napoleon’s (aka Kim) Grande Armée, which somehow seems to be less numerous than the Allies. The Allied HQ believes that the French are too weak to attack, and that they would rather withdraw. But the Allied army is not yet in position on the battlefield. This gives the French the option to attack, if they act quickly. Will they do it, or will they wait and see what the Allies are up to? The two corps of Langeron and Prebyshevsky look strong, lined up side by side, waiting for the rest of the Allied army to arrive on the battlefield.

The first to arrive are Kienmayer and Kollowrath, who are given the task of securing the southern and northern flanks of the Allied front. They don’t have any attack strength, but can put up a defense, and launch cavalry to harass the French. Bagration, Constantine and Dokhturov arrive next, marching up behind Langeron and Prebyshevsky.

The French however, are not intimidated. Legrand and St. Hilaire resolutely launch an attack on the two Allied corps on the heights. Two hours of quick maneuvering, combined with some fumbling from overwhelmed Allied officers, lead to Langeron being chased away in confusion, while Prebyshevsky manages to gather his forces in a defensive position. The French are now masters of the Pratzen heights!

Kienmayer tries to relieve the situation on the southern flank, crossing the Littawa river at Kleine Hostieradek. Dokhturov deploys at Stare Vinohrady to prevent a further French advance, and Liechtenstein approaches with his strong corps.

Kienmayer now challenges Legrand on the Allied left flank, but does not achieve a breakthrough. Instead, Prebyshevsky is overpowered and must retreat. The Allied position is crushed. This does not look promising. Allied and French forces line up opposite each other, forming a front line along the eastern side of the summit. This will be hard to break.

The French now begin a general movement of their corps from the center onto the heights, where more fighting likely will take place. The corps in the northern part of the battlefield stand motionless, awaiting further orders.

Then it happens: Bernadotte's corps arrives from the south-west! The French have definitely seized the initiative. They will not sit back and wait for the Allies, but will attempt nothing less than to demoralize the Allied army. Bernadotte has orders to secure the southern flank and chase away Kienmayer, who must abandon the attempt to surround Legrand, and prepare to meet Bernadotte instead. A cavalry battalion makes a headless attempt to detach from Kienmayer and ride behind the French lines in order to maintain a semblance of a threat of encirclement. But the French quickly surround and capture the Allied horsemen.

Meanwhile, Kienmayer has set up the defense, and awaits Bernadotte’s onslaught. In a fit of bravado Bernadotte lets loose the Imperial Guard! Kienmayer fears this is the end, but he is well positioned to meet this unexpected threat. Even with reduced firepower, he is able not only to withstand the onslaught, but also to launch a counterattack, and manages to throw the attackers back. A shocked Bernadotte must send the sad message to the emperor: "Guard attack repulsed. Additional guard attacks ruled out. Morale low."

After many setbacks in the early stages of the battle, the Allies finally see a glimpse of hope. Behind the front lines, Prebyshevsky has gathered together the remnants of his corps and is ready for new efforts. Bagration and Kollowrath have advanced in the north, Miloradovitch is abreast with the rest of the Allied army, and Liechtenstein has made contact with his comrades on the Pratzen heights.

Napoleon is concerned, and sends the other corps onto the heights as reinforcements. The Tsar sees that French forces are gathering in a small area, and decides to try to surround them. Marshal Kutuzov doubts that this is a sound decision. A rumor has it that Davout’s 3. corps is on its way from Vienna and can be expected to enter the battle anytime and anywhere. It is therefore risky to leave the northern part of the battlefield open. Besides, the burden of attack is now on the French side. The Allies could form a defense line and fight a defensive battle from now. The Tsar, however, uses the night to decide upon a plan to surround the French using Dokhturov, Liechtenstein and Constantine. He chooses to keep Bagration in a central position in order to meet a possible onset of Davout here. In the morning Davout arrives as expected, but in the south! With a concerted maneuver by all of the French corps, the Allies are thrown back with substantial losses, while Bagration and Kollowrath watch helplessly from the other side of the battlefield, not having fired a shot. It all ends with Allied demoralization at 10 in the morning, December 2.

Could anything have been done differently? Yes, of course, on both sides. The start position was probably too advanced. The idea was to deny the French easy access to the red, green and black stars, and also to be able to exploit the possibility of dealing the French as much damage as possible before the reinforcements can arrive. But time is an important factor, the Allies need time to advance to the French initial positions.

The 2-day scenario presents completely new challenges! Both players were very excited to experience new aspects of a well-known game. Playing it this way, it reminds me more of its predecessor BONAPARTE AT MARENGO, as the Allied army has to march onto the battlefield, while most of the French are there already.
Significantly longer playtime. The pace slowed down towards the end, when we were getting tired. The quality of the decisions sank, too. I regret particularly the way Bagration’s corps was used (or misused). He didn’t enter battle at all. A misuse of scarce resources! Some successful bluffs from the French side, and corresponding reluctance on the Allied side helped Napoleon to another triumph this evening.

Edit: Substituted higher resolution images
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Happy Austerlitz Day! I believe this is the first session report on the 2-day scenario. A great read too.
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Jan Ozimek
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Must resist M:tG. Boardgames are my methadone :)
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Great read, but please use higher resolution pictures next time.

We are hard pressed to complete the standard scenario in a weekday evening, so I doubt I will ever get to play the two-day scenario. Still great to know, that it holds the option of a different experience.
 
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Kåre Dyvik
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ozimek wrote:
please use higher resolution pictures next time.

They are now included. Thank you for your request.

ozimek wrote:
We are hard pressed to complete the standard scenario in a weekday evening, so I doubt I will ever get to play the two-day scenario. Still great to know, that it holds the option of a different experience.

You really should give it a try. Maybe start Friday, sleep, and continue Saturday, to keep a fresh mind.
We were a bit overwhelmed by all the new options, and will probably use slightly less time next time (which is scheduled for January). Then again, there's the prestige...
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