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Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory - Preview

by Gary Morgan


Breakaway Games will be releasing Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory in the very near future and they've chosen a superb second title to follow Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle. Breakaway has done a superb job of reworking the Sid Meier American Civil War game engine and graphical user interface to model Napoleonic tactical battles. This preview will present an example of documented play using the Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory playable demo (38 MB) which was released on December 2nd. The game should be incredible, based on the demo, and lots of fun to play. Austerlitz looks like it might be a game no grognard or Napoleonic wargamer would want to miss, particularly anyone who found Waterloo intriguing. "Miniatures warfare comes to life" in this game system, so invest in a mouse with a scroll wheel (for zooming in and out of the action)!

Background on the Campaign and Battle

The battle of Austerlitz on December 1, 1805, was a pivotal engagement, which many historians characterized as "Napoleon's Greatest Victory". The battle culminated the Ulm-Austerlitz Campaign, where Napoleon's forces plunged deep into Austria, after sweeping through Bavaria to follow up the incredible strategic encirclement of Mack's army at Ulm. This campaign was particularly noteworthy since Napoleon was up against the Austrians and their Russian allies, plus Prussia was beginning to mobilize her forces (he went there next, fighting the battle of Jena-Auerstadt). Time was of the essence and Napoleon pressed straight for Vienna. After taking Vienna, Napoleon swung north through Brunn then east to engage the approaching Allied Army. The town of Austerlitz is east of the battlefield, with Brunn to the west (Napoleon's depot and rear area), and the capital of Vienna to the south firmly in French control.

The battle of Austerlitz may well be the second most-studied Napoleonic battle, after Waterloo and it is a favorite of Napoleonic scholars and historians. Napoleon was blessed with some of his all-time finest corps commanders: Davout, Soult, Lannes, Murat, and Bernadotte. Many French division commanders from this battle would also earn their Marshal's batons soon afterward. The fog and mist of a frigid early December morning in Austria made observation of the field difficult to impossible, and this was truly a battle of information as well as bullets and cold steel.

Czar Alexander was in overall command of the combined Russian/Austrian army with corps commanders Constantine, Kolowrat, and Buxhowden deployed from north to south. Constantine, Bagration, and Lichtenstein are arrayed with comparable number of forces to counter Napoleon's strength to the north (Lannes, Murat, Bernadotte, and Bessieres with the Imperial Guard) while Kolowrat is on the Pratzen Heights against Soult (roughly equal size force) and Buxhowden has about a 4:1 advantage against Davout to the south. Napoleon had probably the highest quality troops at this point of his career, when the effects of prolonged attrition weren't yet starting to deplete his precious cavalry and highly-trained and experienced infantry forces. The Russian and Austrian forces opposing him had not yet been in battle often enough to gain a comparable level of experience and they lacked the inspired leadership of the French marshals and Emperor.

 Breakaway Games Austerlitz Website
Main Menu

Visit the Breakaway Games Austerlitz website for more information and screenshots.

Keith Rocco's exquisite artwork graces several screens in the game like the main menu.

Scenarios in the Demo

The two scenarios in the demo both occur around the southern end of the battle, near the Chapel of St Anthony and the Pratzen Heights. In the actual battle this area was occupied by Davout's III Corps (Chapel) and Soult's IV Corps (Pratzen). Opposing St Hilaire are brigades of Kolowrat's Corps. Soult's division commander Legrand is featured in the second scenario, along with Soult's division commander St Hilaire in the first scenario. The second demo scenario (medium size) shows action late on 2 December 1805, the day of the battle with Soult's corps deployed in a line south along the Gladbach Brook and screening most of the area where the fighting would occur the next morning. Legrand's division is on the far south flank with brigades of battalions highly strung out and skirmishers deployed. Action around the Chapel of St Anthony was particularly fierce, just to the south of the Pratzen Heights. Players will find the second demo scenario very challenging and extremely tough to get more than a tactical victory as the French. Players may also choose to play on the Austrian/Russian side to see how the computer AI handles the French forces, but most computer AI opponents seem to do best when provided with a numerical advantage. Both Austerlitz and Waterloo offer players the opportunity to command forces of either side: the computer AI is a willing opponent who is always happy to play either side and a multiplayer game against another thinking human is always enjoyable.

In the first demo scenario of the two provided (small one discussed in detail here) occurs on the morning of the battle: the Austrians are just moving their advance elements into place on the Pratzen Heights. Players may get badly beaten at first as the French in this demo scenario until they understand how to deploy and command troops, and have a solid tactical game plan. This documented play example should provide most players with at least a tactical victory, and if properly managed, can result in a decisive win, as detailed in this account. The Austerlitz graphical user interface is identical to the one in Waterloo, so experienced Waterloo players should be able to jump right in and play very quickly. As in real Napoleonic battle, proper use of formations in the game is absolutely paramount and unit morale and cohesion are essential to maintaining combat power. Napoleon said: "Morale is to the physical as three is to one", so watch those unit flags and keep them stiffly extended, showing their morale is still very good. When troops freak, combat power (derived from cohesion) rapidly evaporates, as this game system so emphatically illustrates. Fortunately, in the first scenario there is effectively no cavalry on either side (one tiny patrol), so that makes management of formations far less complex (square formation not needed). The second scenario is much tougher, for precisely that reason.

Up the Hill

Start out by selecting St Hilaire (always move division commanders first so they'll be at the center of the action, then move brigade commanders to finesse the specific deployment of their battalions) and pointing him to the top center of the Pratzen Vrch (by the "5 VP"). Use the DoubleQuick (lightning bolt) button (movement arrows turn lilac color) to get brigades immediately into place. Theibault's brigade will move to position the four battalions to the left and Morand's brigade will move to position the two battalions to the right. Move the division artillery to halt between the two, right next to St Hilaire and just below the "5 VP".

Double time up the Heights
Morand bypasses heading toward Pratzen

Move St Hilaire first, then finesse the brigade commanders where you want them to go, then site the two artillery batteries.

Engage Miloradovich's battalion with Thiebault's and keep Morand heading toward Pratzen.

As Thiebault's battalions move up the hill they encounter a Russian battalion led by Miloradovich. Engage this enemy battalion with one of Thiebault's battalions (one directly south of it) and fan the other three around it to flank it. This small element should be dispatched fairly quickly, which will allow Theibault's brigade to get into place and also give the divisional artillery a firm firebase. Keep Morand's two battalions moving quickly toward Pratzen and don't allow them to get mixed up in this small skirmish. Watch out for a tiny cavalry patrol from the 1st Dragoons which may force Morand's battalions into square; artillery should run them off once the guns are unlimbered. A third battery will approach from the west so DoubleQuick them to join the other two batteries on the Heights.

Thiebault forms brigade into Double Line
Morand digs in at Pratzen

Order Thiebault's brigade into Double Line formation, straddling the guns.

Move Morand's brigade into Pratzen and dig in to resist assaults.

Getting Established

Morand's brigade should now be firmly invested into Pratzen and deployed with its attack columns facing to the right. Click on each battalion and look for the village symbol in the battalion properties track to show it is dug in. The next threat will come from the top right of the screen, as two Russian brigades approach to both threaten the Heights and capture the town of Pratzen. Form Thiebault's brigade into Double Line formation (double equal sign button) and move the guns between the four battalions. Once formed, advance Thiebault's brigade northeast toward the road as the Russians approach and leave the artillery in place to fire over their heads and pummel the advancing enemy columns.

Start Spanking: Hard

One pair of Thiebault's battalions should engage the two Russian battalions headed toward the Heights so the other pair can flank around to the left. This will be bloody and quick, if done properly; bound the second rank battalions through the first as they are firing to continue advancing with pressure. Once the two Russian battalions break and run, pursue up the road toward Pratzen with at least a couple of French battalions. Consider taking Thiebault's other two battalions back to the Heights and get them back in place to receive the Austrian assault headed that way from across the Gladbach.
Movement to contact
Deploy flankers

Advance toward the Russians; the right battalions engage so the left battalions can maneuver.

Swing the left battalions around to flank the Russians and break their morale.

Another small Russian brigade has been dispatched to take the town of Pratzen and this is where having Morand already dug in will make a difference. Typically units deploy in Assault Column in a built-up area but see if they will assume Double Line formation for greater firepower. Morand's battalions will engage the Russians as they assault from the right, while Thiebault's pursuing battalions move north to take them in the flank. Once the Russians break and run, send one or both of Morand's battalions to keep them running so they don't regroup later in the battle and threaten Thiebault's brigade from the rear. Move the rest of Thiebault's battalions back to the heights and re-attach all four battalions to the brigade. The northern part of the area should now be fairly secure and the big battle will come across the brook and up the Heights from the bottom right of the screen.

Crossfire outside Pratzen
Continue the pursuit

Continue moving Thiebault's brigade up the road to relieve Morand in Pratzen.

Continue the pursuit and disperse the Russian battalions or they'll harrass from the north later.

Devil's Den, Austerlitz Style

The huge engagement is just about to commence, so ensure Thiebault's brigade is back in place on the Heights and ready to party. Rottermund's massive Austrian brigade is flowing in column from the east and will cross the brook to scale the Heights. St Hilaire's artillery (3 batteries by now) will be blasting them from long range as they approach and cross the stream then will continue to pummel them as they begin to form and advance up the hill. Keep Thiebault's brigade in Double Line formation as the Austrians approach and wheel a battalion to get a good crossfire as advance elements approach. Use the Hold Ground button and possible Volley Fire to whither the enemy battalion(s) down so they break if possible. Morand's battalions need to move down the road when Pratzen looks secure to shore up Thiebault's eastern flank.

Austrians advance
Muskets and cannon rain down fire from above

Austrians come streaming in from the southeast while their vanguard gets pummeled from the "grand battery" on the hilltop.

Establish a firing line on the ridge and engage the advance elements with musket and short-range canister fire from the guns.

Swing another battalion out to position them along the top of the ridgeline. This will create a gauntlet of fire through which the Austrians must move in column. Bring the fourth battalion out to form a wide line so the brigade can't be flanked. Selectively target Austrian battalions with the cannon, with probable emphasis on collapsing one of the wings (preferably the west wing). Watch the enemy morale flags and pummel the ones who are starting to droop. They will begin breaking and running, which will have cascading morale effects on the battalions to either side of them. Morand's brigade should be heading down the road from Pratzen by now to take position on Thiebault's flank where the brook turns to the north; another big Russian brigade is quickly approaching from the east to support the Austrians. Be sure Thiebault's eastern battalion doesn't get too far down the hill by the bridge and try to form a letter "L" with Thiebault as the long component and Morand comprising the short leg.

Deploy battalions into line

Unfold the wings of Thiebault's brigade along the edge of the Heights and hit the Hold Ground button.

"There's A Feeling I Get, When I Look To The East"

Rottermund's big brigade should be crumbling and routing about this time and starting to run back across the bridge and fords to cross the stream. Advance Thiebault's brigades down the hill from the west in pursuit, heading toward toward the stream and swing Morand's brigade into action along the road against the advancing Russians to hold them off across the bend in the stream. Keep knocking the enemy battalions back to the east and advance to stay in contact so broken battalions can't regroup. Continue the pursuit while Lavasseur's brigade approaches from the southeast.

Hold the bridge
Fire and maneuver

Keep the Russians at bay across the stream and hold the bridge.

Fire and maneuver with different battalions and maintain a bounding advance.

Help is on the way! (As If You Needed Any...)

Lavasseur's brigade should be moving hot on the heels of the stragging Russian columns and will probably appear about the time the Austrians are thrown back from the Heights. Here's where a French tactical victory grows into a decisive one! Once Lavasseur's brigade deploys, the Austrian and Russian retreat path will be cut off and panicked troops run into Lavasseur's waiting muskets and bayonets. Continue to advance Thiebault's brigade and keep the pressure on the routing Austrians to slam the hammer down on the anvil and squash them against Lavasseur. Many or most of Thiebault's battalion commanders should earn a Legion of Merite for this action. If the demo is this much fun, imagine how enjoyable the full game will be! Vive Le Empereur!

Lavasseur approaches
Hammer and anvil

Advance Lavasseur's brigade at Double Quick: take the guns and harry the straggling columns.

Deploy Lavasseur behind the Allied line as the anvil, so Thiebault/Morand's hammer will come down on them from over the bridge.

"They Ran So Fast That The Hounds Couldn't Catch 'Em"

Austerlitz looks like it will be an even better game than Waterloo; from playing the demo, it appears that some of the computer opponent imbalance or "cheating" seen in Waterloo has been minimalized so players won't be quite as frustrated, gameplay is more fun, and battle outcomes are more realistic. The demo shows that the game is easy to play and the two demo scenarios vividly demonstrate the excellent gameplay and the very user-friendly interface. This game also continues the extremely high standard of scholarly research into the orders of battle, with some great maps and exquisite artwork. This author is eagerly looking forward to the imminent release of this game and another great addition to his Napoleonic wargame library.

Continue the pursuit
"With such baubles, men are led"

Pursue with Thiebault's battalions against the routed Austrians so they don't regroup. The game is almost over.

Several of Thiebault's battalion commanders should have Legions of Merite, with very lopsided casualty ratios.

System Requirements

Minimum (Recommended) System

Previewer's System

Win 9x/2000/ME compatible Pentium II 266 (higher recommended)
64 MB RAM (higher recommended)
16-bit graphics (800x600 screen resolution or greater)
200 MB of free disk space
DirectX 7.0a or greater
CD, mouse, and keyboard

1.0 GHz AMD Thunderbird
Windows 98 SE+
256 MB RAM
40 GB Seagate HD
DirectX 8.1
MTI StarForce 8818 NVidia GeForce2 3D card
Creative Audigy Gamer EAX sound card
SupraMax 56K modem

About the Author

Gary "Mo" Morgan is no stranger to wargames, computers, or the Age of Fighting Sail. Mo was the designer of Avalon Hill's Flight Leader and Tac Air board wargames during the 1980's and won a Charles S. Roberts award for Tac Air. Mo also designed the Borodino: Doomed Victory issue game for Strategy & Tactics magazine and his companion article on Borodino won another Charles S. Roberts award. He served as a U.S. Air Force fighter jock spending 23 years as an electronic warfare officer in F-4 Phantoms and related staff, instructor, and test director assignments both stateside and in Germany. He retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1997. Mo is currently the producer of The Wargamer's Age of Sail historical section and his NelsonWeb is a featured reading resource on this famous naval genius, based on Mo's research in Greenwich and Portsmouth, England. Gary can occasionally be seen wearing his accurate replica full-dress uniform of a Royal Navy vice admiral around the time of Trafalgar, plus he owns one of Nelson's original letters written in 1803. Mo serves his historic community of Tallassee, Alabama as a chamber director and the city's webmaster and actively supports his church, public education, culture, and the arts in nearby Montgomery. Gary Morgan currently works as an educational technology applications consultant and webmaster to the Air Force's newest college at Maxwell, the Squadron Officer College, where he introduced the commercial strategy game Starcraft into the school's curriculum. He recently completed the Master Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) Designer certification program.

Prelude To Austerlitz by Jeff Vitou
Battle Of Austerlitz by Jeff Vitou
WNLB & ANGV Download Page
Strategy Tips For Playing ANGV by Gary Morgan