Sunday 4 June 2023

Battling it out in Piedmont.

A sunny Saturday brought Conrad,Paul,  Nigel, John the Red, Shaun and Dave together at the Burrow for a game based incredibly loosely (ok, nothing much in common actually) on the battle of Assietta in Piedmont during the War of the Austrian Succession.  The similarities such as they were ended there, as this was hopefully going to be a little less one sided than the real battle. We used BP2 with a few house rules and lots of confusion. Big game, therefore while not always ideal Black Powder work best imho.

Conrad, Paul and Shaun played the combined Bourbon armies of France and Spain against Nigel, Dave and John as the Pragmatic Alliance army of Austria and in this case Modena, the latter standing in as I have no Piedmontese. Both armies were fighting for control of the road and the pass it ran through. The Pragmatic army started with their artillery emplaced in a redoubt and some smaller earthworks on their side of the pass supported only by some Grenzers hiding in the woods, Austrian grenadiers, some hussars and the Modena contingent. Further brigades would or could arrive during the game so the pressure was on the Bourbons to move quickly in overwhelming force before the enemy were reinforced. The twist in the plot was that the more successful the Bourbons, the quicker the Pragmatist reinforcements would arrive, and vice versa. The Modena and Spanish line were all classed as ‘untested’ and almost all the Bourbon horse were downgraded slightly to represent an issue around getting and keeping alive enough decent mounts. It would also give the opposing cavalry a chance as they were outnumbered 2:1 even when all the main Austrian cavalry commands (all good dragoon regiments) arrived.

I took loads of photos so I hope the course of the battle will be made clear.

Sunshine in Piedmont casting its light across the battlefield. Bourbons on the left.

The Bourbon right consisted of French and Spanish horse and six battalions of mostly dodgy Spanish infantry.

A slightly sunny view of the Bourbon right.

The Bourbon centre under Conrad consisted of a mere dozen or so French battalions, including a battalion of Gardes Francais, some Swiss and two battalions of Irish. 

My two regiments of Spanish horse. These were painted some time ago by my mate Vladimir of Old Guard Painting Services in Kyiv 🇺🇦 Old Guard Painters

Austrian hussars on their extreme right wing, facing seven regiments of French cavalry.

Shaun commanded on the Bourbon left. He was expecting three brigades of cavalry but after Paul took two for the other wing he was left with just two. (Ok, a typo on the order of battle didn’t help). However, his command did include two squadrons each of the Cuirassiers du Roi and the Carabiners du Roi, both excellent regiments.

John arrived late to find he was the Duke of Modena in command of his Guard battalion and Guard cavalry regiment and four ‘untested’ infantry battalions. On the upside they’re all a very pretty little army.

Conrad’s infantry advance en masse, a stirring sight.

The French attacking battalions were taking a hammering from the Austrian artillery.

The Irish of Bulkley’s regiment made it right up the mouths of the cannon.

Buckley was supported by another Irish battalion, the regiment Rooth, and the French Royal Italien regiment. Bulkley was soon to break under the pressure.

Modena line infantry holding the Pragmatic left.

The Gardes Lorraine soon took their turn at getting a hammering from the Austrian guns after the Gardes Francais were forced to pull back.

Over at the church of Our Lady of Biscotti St Beluga the Pragmatist the choirboys gave an impromptu concert supported by the  nuns’ cheerleader team!

Conrad made a bold move with his recovered Gardes Francais and swung round and closed to point blank range of the Austrian grenadiers. He did this on an initiative move which allowed him to fire (we use a different sequence of play as all agree it works better - Move CinC, Initiative Moves, Firing, Commanded Moves, Melee, End of Turn).  Another French unit moved up into close range of the Austrian cannon but predictably the French musket fire was largely ineffective.

With the end of the two Irish battalions the Royal Italien found themselves in the front rank. They were blasted by canister from this gun and one in the redoubt and driven off. 

Over on the flank Paul was hesitant about committing his cavalry in the face of steady infantry, even if they were from Modena. The Spanish infantry had advanced on the village and the gap beyond it but were harassed all the way by a battalion in the village, the Grenz in the wood and by a Modena battalion posted to cover the gap. Some of the Spanish foot were classed as untested so their stamina was randomised the first time they took losses, and two of these battalions received poor dice scores resulting in reduced stamina of '2'. During this advance two Spanish battalions were destroyed.

The view from behind the Pragmatic centre. Conrad's attacks were getting nowhere.

Paul then launched his cavalry against the Modena infantry as they had obligingly moved up the the low rise where they could shoot the Bourbon horsemen. Suffice to say the dice gods were clearly Pragmatists and Paul's first wave was destroyed or forced to retreat.

Modena's finest driving off the Bourbons.

The Spanish commander.

More French were attacking in the centre, advancing through a storm of shot.

The Bourbon horse then repeated their charge against the Modena troops. This time one battalion was destroyed and another forced to retreat.

The victorious Bourbon cavalry halted in the face of four Austrian dragoon  regiments which had been supporting the Modena infantry. The opposing horsemen did clash but the result was inconclusive other than for breaking a brigade of French horse.

On the other flank things were very confusing, and I have to be honest and say I lost track of exactly what went on. Suffice to say, the French horsemen slowly advanced, driving the Austrian hussars before them. 

After a failed attempt to hit the Austrians on the hill in the flank, four of Shaun's horse units were disordered by charging across the river, and although they overran some artillery and damaged two Austrian battalions they were forced to retire. This was a good thing as it transpired.

The French cavalry didn't know whether they were coming or going!

Conrad's big attack fizzled out as one brigade was broken and the other perilously close
 to suffering the same fate.
More reinforcements arrived to bolster the Pragmatic army and Shaun's cavalry had to turn to face a new threat to their rear.

The Austrian infantry formed an angle against the riverbank.

A retreating French infantry brigade.

The remnants of the beaten and withdrawing Bourbon centre from the Pragmatic perspective.

The Bourbons were unlucky that they were not able to make best use of their artillery for much of the battle as they were unable to hit their targets due to the French infantry who were up close and personal with the Austrians. 

So, with their main attack defeated and their wings not making much headway this was a clear Pragmatic victory. The Bourbons were very unlucky with their dice as the plan was a sound one. It might have worked if they had managed to get their underused artillery to soften up the Pragmatic centre. If....? Oh well.

This was a super game and it was certainly full of spectacle and action. If the Bourbons had been able to win decisively on even one flank and got their guns into action sooner to soften up the enemy centre I reckon the result would have been very different. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. 

All the figures and terrain are mine, mostly painted by me, and are 28mm miniatures from a variety of sources, notably Cran Tara, Front Rank, Black Hussar, Ebor and Elite. The eagle-eyed will perhaps wonder at the mix of manufactures on the Bourbon side. I got a fabulous deal with Ebor for their WSS French. There’s not much difference in their dress between 1715 and say, the War of the Polish Succession of the 1730’s to the War of the Austrian Succession. The other manufacturers were add ins as the collection grew, mainly as I like the look of the figures. My toys anyhow. 


  1. What a wonderful looking game Colin. The whole period is colourful but the Spaniards certainly make a statement. Love the little choir vignette. Richard

  2. A very impressive looking game, great table and so many lovely miniatures, a real inspirational post!

  3. Another splendid offering from the Burrowers!

  4. Superb looking game as always Colin. Sound plan: Rotten dice - 'twas ever thus. :-)

  5. A fantastic looking game Colin, some fine 18th century eye candy.