Sunday 29 September 2019

Wissembourg 26 December 1793, the assault on the Geisberg.

Another battle from the War of the 1st Coalition yesterday, the final one in my series of games depicting the French reconquest (or attempts to in the refights) of Alsace in December 1793 and a bit of an homage to Lazare Hoche.

The battlefield. My tabletop representation cut off the stream and villages at the bottom of the map . The map is again lifted from a Vae Victis magazine.

I’d sent out briefing packs to the players beforehand which I think I shall continue to do as it is quite well received and helps set the scene. Dave Jarvis was Hoche, assisted by Richard, while Paul S played Wurmser, aided by Neil as Funck the 2ic. The briefings and orders of battle can be found at the end of this post.

The scenario was pretty straightforward. The Austrians and their allies were holding the Geisberg, a large hill covering much of the tabletop to the south of Wissembourg. They had been retreating in the face of intense French pressure for many days and the army was required to hold the crossing points over the river in order to pull back out of Alsace and thus abandon the region to the French. The French had to force the Austrians off the Geisberg and capture Wissembourg. Not an easy task even with a numerical superiority, especially as the quality of many of their troops was questionable. Indeed all seven of the Volunteer/Levée battalions were about to have their wargames debut! It was never going to be an easy one for the French but I had high hopes that they'd see their way through the problem and win.

Lots of pictures as between us Richard and I took quite a few. In time honoured fashion I will let them help tell the story of how the game unfolded, to a most unexpected outcome. For a change I decided to use my Faller and Volmer HO/OO scale buildings, last seen when I refought Zurich 1799 almost a year ago.

The battlefield seen from the West.
More of a bird's eye view showing the tactical problem for the French. Big hill. Thick wood in the centre. Lots  of Austrians.
GM Jordis' command (Neil) on the Austrian right.
The French centre.
The Austrian centre, with their reserve of grenadier battalions in the rear.
Paul commanded the Austrian cavalry on the left in front of Alstadt, supporting some Hessian battalions.
Richard was GdD Ferino (no relation to the Incredible Hulk) on the French right 

The game started with Austrian jager opening fire on the French, who promptly charged into the woods to try and dislodge them. 
The French left, Taponier's division.
Over on the Austrian left, Richard had ordered his entire division to make an all out assault, but failed to get the required number of moves. His division simply ambled forward.
The French attack on the Austrian left came under accurate artillery fire at once.
Back in the centre Paul opted to attack with his infantry, hoping to overrun the French artillery. Sadly they failed and were thrown into disorder by the canister fire.

Heartened by this, Dave ordered his cavalry to charge the disordered Austrians.  They were able to form a square but  were disordered, enabling the French to charge home. In a dazzling display of poor dice rolls, Dave's cavalry were unable to break even a disordered square and were sent packing.
On the right wing Richard had sneakily deployed a battery in a lane to enfilade  any possible Austrian attack. Paul then sneakily snuck his uhlans up and charged the battery, which either missed or had its hits saved, either way the uhlans contacted unscathed apart from becoming disordered as a result of crossing difficult terrain. (House rule: Cavalry crossing difficult terrain/linear obstacles become disordered on a throw of a 6 and must stop at the end of the move. In this case the end of the move took them into the battery). The battery was overrun and the gunners stabbed and sabred. The only good thing for the French was that the uhlans were now well out of command and were to remain mobile for the rest of the game.
Austrian cuirassiers then charged Richard's division. The regular light infantry battalion that was targeted threw a double 1 so failed to form square and was broken. 
The cuirassiers then carried out a sweeping advance and hit a battalion of French in the flank.   Predictably the French were destroyed. We were barely two moves in and Richard's infantry brigade was shattered as a further battalion had been shaken by artillery fire. 
In the centre the French attack against the wood was repulsed but they pressed home their attack against the Austrians, who were wilting from the results of French artillery fire.
GdB Dubois led his small regiment of dragoons against the Austrian artillery. The cavalry were shaken  during the approach but sabred the gunners. 
On the French left Dave's troops (Taponier's Division) were slowly closing with the Austrians, who were pulling back in the face of the French advance. 
French artillery pounding the Austrian line in the distance.

Richard's dragoons charged the now exhausted Austrian cuirassier and broke them.
An open flank and a large gap but sadly the French were unable to exploit it.

Dave ordered his regulars to attack. Unfortunately they yet agin suffered at the hands of the dice gods and were broken.
Back on the Austrian right, the Grenz battalion was caving in under pressure from the French. Luckily a Hessian grenadier battalion was there to shore up the line.
The centre in turn four. The French have been thrown back.
In a last gamble Dave ordered his cavalry to charge the exposed flank of an Austrian battalion.  He failed the required dice score by one so didn't make it, ending the turn right in front of a battery of Austrian artillery. Traversing fire from the battery spoilt the French cavalrymen's day and the regiment was sent packing!

We had just completed turn four and it was already a catastrophe for the French. Richard's division on the right was destroyed. In the centre Dave's main assault had been bloodily repulsed, loosing a brigade each of infantry and cavalry. The Austrians had taken losses as well and were buckling on their right flank, but there was no chance that the French had enough strength remaining to win the battle. It had all gone horribly for Dave and Richard from the start and if it could have gone wrong it did in abundance, but they took it in good grace as they were led away by Citizen Saint Just of the Committee of Public Safety for an appointment with the National Razor. Just in time for lunch. 

I think perhaps a more focussed attack on the left, ignoring the wood, would have worked rather than a general one along the whole front where French numerical superiority was dissipated. The French had many more troops in the centre than the Austrians but half were never used as they were fixated on attacking through the wood. The French right (their weakest flank until all the cavalry arrived) ought to have held back, daring the Austrians to reinforce their centre which would have collapsed if all the French in the centre and the left had been thrown at them. That would have been my plan anyway. Never mind. The Austrians are a tricky foe and not to be underestimated. It was a good natured and amusing, if somewhat shorter than usual, game. Thanks to the guys for coming and especially for the smuggled contraband (cake etc) that they'd secreted about their various persons. Not that I ate any of course.......

What follows are some more photos of the action taken mainly by Richard.

As promised, here are the orders of battle and other stuff that might be of interest.


GENERAL LAZARE HOCHE (9) Inspirational

General de Division Ferino (9) {acts as mini CinC for his division}
Gen de Bde Gérard-Vieux (8)

Light Infantry x 1R
Line Btns x 3 (1R/2Vol)
Artillery x 1 battery (6pdr)

Gen de Bde Thevenot (8)
Dragoons x 1
Hussars x 1
Horse Artillery x 1 (4pdr)

Gen de Bde Donnadieu (8) TURN 6
Carabiniers x 1
Cuirassiers x 1

Gen de Division Hatry (7) {acts as mini CinC for his division)
Gen de Bde Wernecke (8)

Line btns x 3 (1G/1R/1V)
Artillery x 1 bty (8pdr)

Gen de Bde Frimont (8)

Cavalry x 1
Chasseurs a cheval x 1

General de Division Lefebvre (8)

3 Line btns (1R/2V)
Horse artillery x 1 (4pdr)

General de Division Taponier (9){ mini CinC for his division)

Gen de Bde Blondeau (8)
4 Line btns (1Leg/1R/2V)
Foot Artillery x 1 (8pdr)

Gen de Brigade Dubois (6)
Hussars x 1 (small)
Dragoons x 1 (small)

* each infantry brigade also had a unit of skirmishers attached.


The armies of the Moselle and the Rhine under Hoche and Pichegru respectively have been attacking the Imperial forces repeatedly throughout the month, in order to drive them out of Alsace. The enemy are anxious to avoid having their flanks turned and are retreating in good order despite suffering a number of defeats, the most recent being Froeschwiller on 22 December and Retschwiller on 23 December.

Your command, comprising troops from both the armies of the Moselle and the Rhine has been tasked with capturing Wissembourg by Turn 12. Pichegru appears to have absented himself from the front so Hoche is in command. For victory, and to save your head, you must first capture the Geisberg and repel all enemy counter attacks, pushing the Imperialist reactionary forces back over the river at the top of the map. If it is not possible to drive the enemy over the river but they suffer greater casualties than your forces then the battle is a draw. Any other outcome is a defeat. M. Antoine Saint Just from the Committee of Public Safety is accompanying your headquarters.


GdeDiv Ferino: troops deployed on the table in the SE corner sector but not within 12” of the table edge.
GdeDiv Hatry: deployed right of centre.
GdeDiv Lefrebrve: deployed left of centre
GdeDiv Tapponier: deployed in SW corner but not within 12” of table edge


Gen-Major Funck (9) acts as a mini-CinC for the Austrians
GM Prince Hohenlohe (8)

Hussars x 1
Cuirassiers x 2
Uhlans x 1

GM Kospoth (8)

Light Btn x 1 (Jager)
Line btns x 2
Line btns (Hesse-Darmstadt) x 2

GM Jordis (7)
Grenz/Skirmishers x 1
Grenz Btn x 1
Line x 2

GM Kavenagh (8) ACTIVE ON TURN 4
Grenadier btns x 4

Artillery – Oberst Kokeritz (8)

Foot Artillery x 2 (Hvy)
Light Artillery x 2 (Light)

1. The artillery may be deployed anywhere along the Austrian front line, parcelled out and attached to any command or held in reserve, or any combination of the above.

2. The Grenadiers are on the table but remain inactive until turn 4 or if the French come within 24” or shoot at them!


"The French revolutionary armies of the Moselle and the Rhine under Hoche and Pichegru respectively have been attacking your forces and those of the Prussians throughout the month, in order to drive you out of Alsace, which your armies overran earlier this year. You have been hard pressed and anxious to avoid having your flanks turned and your lines of communication over the Rhine exposed, as these undisciplined dogs manoeuvre like slippery devils. Your army is retreating in good order and in good morale, despite suffering a number of defeats, the most recent being at Froeschwiller on 22 December and Retschwiller on 23 December. Enemy attacks on your position yesterday were bloodily repulsed.

Your command, part of the Austrian Army of the Rhine, has been tasked with holding Wissembourg while the whole Allied army withdraws over the river. For victory, you must prevent the enemy from capturing Wissembourg by Turn 12. If your army looses the Geisberg position but you still hold Wissembourg, regardless of losses, the battle is drawn. Any other outcome is a defeat.

There is a remote chance that reinforcements will be available in the form of a brigade of Prussians, coming from the North East." {Ed. there was NO chance of reinforements but one can sow the seeds of hope!}


GM Funck: Hohenlohe on the left of the Geisberg, Kospoth in the centre and Jordis on the right.

Kavenagh: In front of Wissembourgh. May not move until Turn 4 unless the enemy get within 24”, or start shooting at them!


1. Grazing fire is applicable as per BP Albion Triumphant (measure to extent of range band from centre of target and all in path might be hit)

2. Inspirational generals give +1 to break tests if within 12” (once per turn). Disliked/generally useless generals convey a -1 to break tests

3. CinCs and mini CinCs do not give orders as per the rules but can give ‘follow me’ orders

4. Uphill in melee gives +1 in combat resolution. Does not apply if unit looses previous melee round

5. All infantry in line move at a maximum of 9” rather than 12"

6. All ‘linear’ armies are restricted to moving in line or column of march, unless assaulting a fortified position or built up area

7. French conscripts or volunteers may only move in march column, attack column, ‘masse’ or skirmish order (swarm).

8. Conscripts/Levée/Volunteers moving into a ‘swarm’ (skirmish order) must remain in this formation for the remainder of the game.

9. ‘Masse’ is a modified form of open order depicted by leaving a small gap of 1-2cm between each base. It moves at 12” and can evade as the battalion is not trying to maintain a formation. 

a. It shoots and melees with a -1 modifier

b. Enemy artillery do not get any bonus for targeting it. 

c. A battalion will move from close order column to column of mob (Masse) when:

i. It fails to contact in a charge. Include if it fails command test or does not get enough moves from the result. Automatic 

ii. It is engaged in a fire-fight with the enemy for more than one turn of firing. Automatic 

iii. It is stationary or advancing under fire from artillery for more than one turn. Pass command test.

10. All volunteer/Levée units must pass a command test if they wish to form square (or indeed NOT to form square). If they fail must take an immediate break test & if they stand are a disordered square.

11. All units wishing and able to evade must pass a command test as per the rules. Volunteers/Levée that fail must take a break test.

12. Cavalry moving over/through difficult terrain must check to see if they are disordered. A 6 on 1D6 and they become disordered at the end of the move they enter/cross the terrain and must halt.

13. The move sequence is amended to the following: 

a. Move CinC, Initiative moves, shooting, Command throws and movement, Melee. 

b. Units that shoot get a -1 to their commander’s ability when testing to move.

For anyone who is interested, most of the figures (especially the French) are by Eureka or Revolutionary Armies, with a good number of Elite Miniatures among the Austrians. There are also a fair few Trent figures and the odd Foundry/Perry dotted around. The flags are either Adolfo Ramos, Maverick or homemade from images on t'internet.


  1. Apart from the result, tres bien! Another exciting battle in the mini series. The House rules certainly add period flavour

    Possibly a good thing that Jean le Rouge had been sent off on a recon elsewhere and so is not explaining to the Committee of Public Safety what went wrong. Vive la Republic

    1. Yes it was almost sad watching the French plan crumble. I think M. Gervais (Jarvis) may be for the chop.

  2. As ever a fine looking table and an interesting AAR.

  3. Glorious visual spectacle, Colin! Well done!

  4. What a nice battle! Those unknown battles often are a treasure. Cheers!