Saturday 27 August 2016

Seven Weeks War of 1866 150th anniversary game

This week (24 August) saw the 150th anniversary of the end of the Seven Weeks War in 1866 between Prussian and the North German Confederation against the Austro-Hungarians and their largely South German allied states. What better excuse to get my collection out on the table again for a fictitious, enjoyable and hopefully testing game for both sides? I was also keen to ensure that both sides stuck to the tactical doctrines of the time, even if that did mean the Austrians would be expected to form into attack columns and carry out frontal charges against the Needle Gun-wielding Prussians!

Joining me were Conrad (Cairns), Dave Jarvis and John the Red. Robbie was away in Grimsby for a refight of Ramilles and John was still unwell. Conrad and Dave actually volunteered to be the Austrians, so John and I took the army of dastardly Prussian automatons. The armies were pretty well balanced in terms of infantry but the Austrians had a clear 2:1advantage in cavalry (really useful.....not). The artillery were also evenly matched numerically, but  half of the Prussian guns were 12pdr smoothbores. Half of the Prussian artillery was also in their reserve and wouldn't be available until all the rest of the army had entered the game as the Prussians tended to keep their artillery reserve in the rear in 1866. To accommodate the exceptional accuracy of the Austrian artillery I allowed each gun to re-roll one miss each time it fired. I allowed the Needle Gun-armed Prussians 4 firing dice and they could re-roll any misses to represent the high rate of fire they were able to maintain. On reflection I perhaps should have only allowed this at close range. One 'Prussian' brigade was actually made up of a hotch-potch of troops from Brunswick, Lippe, Saxe-Coberg, Saxe-Alternberg and Anhalt who were not rated the same (i.e. quite as good) as the Prussians. The Austrian force included a brigade each of Saxons and Hessen-Darmstadters, the latter for no other reason than to make up the numbers.

The Saxon brigade deployed on the ridge. Their jager were to prove to be a nuisance to the Prussians for the entire battle, as were their two artillery batteries.
The Austrian light cavalry brigade, a regiment each of Dragoons and Hussars.
The Prussian advance guard enters the table through the town and moved rapidly towards the Austrian left flank.
The Prussian advance guard on the attack right from the outset of the game.
The weakly held Austrian left flank. Behind the river (which took half a move to cross) were just a single battalion of infantry in the village, a 4pdr battery and a battalion of jager in the wood. To be fair the fire from the gun and the jager did cause the Prussians to halt their advance for a little while.
The battlefield as the Prussians deploy onto the field. John has moved his allied brigade of various German states' troops onto the table. Conrad's Saxon jager gleefully shot the Brunswick battalion up so badly it had to retire and the Lippe battalion was pinned behind a wall, while the rest of the brigade made for the cover of the woods and dead ground behind the hill. 
An impressive site. The main Austrian force; six battalions of regular infantry supported by a battery of 4pdrs. One of the regiments (i.e. three battalions) were Italians so were classed as lower quality unenthusiastic troops.
The Prussian right closed with the Austrian left quickly and their fire soon kept the entire wing disordered and in a state of disarray.
Prussian hager trading shots with their Austrian counterparts. The Austrians got the worse of the exchange as they were taking fire from Needle Guns at close range.
The main Austrian force advancing off the ridge.

One Austrian regiment veered off to try and reach the safety of the sunken road in the centre.
More Prussians arrived on their right and immediately  pressed forward.
Three battalions of Austrians in close column charged our centre, held by battalions of North German troops. The one taking the brunt of the attack (Saxe-Alterberg) were not armed with Needle Guns and after a brief melee were pushed back in disorder. The Austrians followed this success up by driving off another supporting unit (Saxe-Coberg-Gotha) which they caught in column and also drove back. The Austrians looked like they had a chance to break through the Prussian centre.
Dave moved one of his reserve battalions forward to cover the arrival of the Hesse-Darmstadt brigade, led very cautiously by Hessian Sharpshooters.
Meanwhile the Prussian right had stormed the hill and driven off the Austrian jager and artillery. The Hessian sharpshooter battalion moved to counter the threat but they too were driven off.
The melee in the centre which took place in the woods.
The Hessians finally get on the table but remain in column of march as Dave didn't throw low enough for a third move which would have seen them deploy into line.
The Austrians gain the dubious safety of the sunken road.
The Prussians swarmed over the outnumbered Hessian sharpshooters on the hill with ease.
Conrad moved his light cavalry forward to support the Austrian troops battling in the centre.
The Hessians had to arrive in march column through a narrow defile.
The Austrian reserve cavalry; two regiments of cuirassier and one of uhlans.
More deadly to the Prussians was the Austrian reserve artillery, well they would have been if Dave hadn't masked their fire for two moves as he advanced and forced them to redeploy.
The fight in the centre continues with the Austrian locked in combat with the Saxe-Alternberg fusilier battalion.
The Saxons under Conrad on the ridge. Immobile.
Conrad tried several times to get the Saxons to advance but failed his command test each time!
At least the Saxon artillery continued to do damage to John's German's opposite.
The Prussians had some cavalry; a brigade of two regiments of dragoons.
And a mixed brigade of hussars and cuirassiers that blundered back off the table no sooner than had they arrived!
The village on the Austrian left and its isolated garrison is surrounded by the Prussians.
The Prussian right advancing.
More Prussians now in possession of the wooded hill on the Austrian left.
The Prussian cuirassiers eventually made a reappearance.
The Prussian commander and his staff.
A lull in the fighting allows this Brunswicker time for a picnic. Who said war is hell?
Meanwhile, John had formed his remaining German battalions into line to face the oncoming Austrians in the centre.
More importantly, the Prussian reserve artillery finally made it onto the battlefield right where they were needed, immediately facing the whole punched through the Prussian centre by Dave's assault.
A wounded Prussian is taken to the rear.
The colourfully impotent Austrian light cavalry being held back in readiness for a suicidal charge no doubt.
The Prussian dragoons passed a 'follow me' order and thundered over the river and into the flank of the leading Hessian march column. The Hessians were broken (of course) and the dragoons were poised to perform a sweeping advance when we realised that the Austrian brigades in the centre and on their left were both over their break points, and the Hessians were about to be rolled up back down through the ravine.

Conrad and Dave graciously conceded the game at that point and its safe to say that a good time was had by all. The Austrians very nearly broke though the Prussian centre but the destruction of their left and the refusal of the Saxons to move put them in an untenable position. We decided that their numerically superior cavalry would be able to cover the withdrawal of their army to fight another day.



  1. Lovely figures and a great write up Colin. The "Hyphen" wars of the mid 19thC are an interest of mine too and I used to have large armies in 15mm. Good to see your stuff on the table.


  2. A good looking game and set-up! Glad to see another 1866 enthusiast out there.

    Best REgards,


  3. What a superb looking game Colin!

  4. A grand looking set to Colin, as ever, and a fine battle report!

  5. another good looking game and an excellent write up. Well done sir.

  6. A good write-up Colin, and pretty fair to both sides. From my Austrian perspective, I made two errors that were ruinous to the cause: I spread myself too thinly on the left flank; secondly, I 'overlooked' the chain-of-command in the centre where 'Conrad von Cairnsky' was in charge. I should have deferred to him over how HE wanted the battle in the centre to proceed. My overriding concern was the safety of the Austrian/Italians who were 'stacked-up' in battalion columns, and were juicy targets to the Prussian artillery. No excuse. I shall be hauled-up in front of Messrs. Radetsky and co to 'explain myself'. Himmel!!

    Thanks Colin for an excellent game, and congratulations to you and Von McCannberg.
    Commiserations to yours truly and Conrad who fill be peeling zer kartoffen in a Wetherspoons in Salzburg! :)


  7. A sumptuous game, Colin. IT looks like a lot of fun and I really admire the game set up with lots of details that please the eye and that are useful as well (the buildings most of all).


  8. Outstanding figures and beautiful terrain. Really enjoy the small, colorful vignette that spice up the battlefields.

  9. Nothing short of inspirational. I'm especially impressed that you managed to capture the flow of the game and document it so well. When I run games, I often intend to capture the flow, but often wind not pausing enough to do so. Well done!