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Thursday, 16 March 2017

Seeing the woods for the trees ... Isaszég 1849 AAR

Isaszég was one of the biggest Hungarian victories of the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848-1849. An audacious Hungarian strategic outflanking manoeuvre surprised the Austrians, who then fought hard but were defeated. As this war is my current obsession, I did the research, wrote a scenario, and even got a battlemat specially printed. (See my previous post about battlemats.) I ran it for the first time at our second BBB Bash Day in February, and this week I finally got to play it myself.

Near-contemporary map from the Austrian Second Military Survey (1806-1869).
Village of Isaszég where the pin is; Hungarians approached from right and lower right. 
Note the grid of lanes through the well-managed forests.

I commanded the Austrian left around Gödöllő, and Mark had the Croat corps on the Austrian right around Isaszég. Our Hungarian opponents, Dave and Nigel, had a bold plan: instead of doing the historical thing and driving the Croat outposts back through the King's Wood on the direct route to Isaszég, they tried a big left hook around the difficult terrain of the wood to cross the river near Pécel and roll up our right flank.

They were doubly stymied by Dave's dismal movement dice and Mark's lethal gunnery dice. Meanwhile Nigel's movement dice for Aulich's corps in the Hungarian centre were equally sad, and he spent all game milling around in the woods, trying to finish off a couple of our diversionary/ delaying units. They only managed to capture one objective, not even close to the 3 for a draw, never mind 4+ for a win.

After the game I reflected on how hard the woods had made it for the Hungarians to get anywhere close to a historical result. Even after discounting for the unusually uneven fortunes of the dice, it was difficult for them to get to grips and beat the defending Austro-Croats in the limited turns available.

At that point I remembered a couple of lines of description from my translation of a Hungarian account of the battle. The King's Wood was described as: "a well managed, loose leaf forest and does not seriously hinder movement. The numerous clearings in it greatly facilitated formation changes, command and control.

So I looked at a map of the time from the Austrian Second Military Survey. This does clearly show that the woods are criss-crossed with lanes, indicating that they were indeed well-managed forests that could have been relatively easy for troops to move through in good order.

I have therefore updated the scenario to reflect this, treating the King's Wood as 'Crops' rather than 'Woods'. This means it still gives cover and blocks line of sight the same as woods do, but without the heavy movement penalties for being in Difficult Terrain.

So let's call that a successful playtest. I have put the revised version of the scenario in the BBB Yahoo group files. There are also some photos of the game in Flickr.

Now if only I could revise my battlemat ...