Operational Design in Wargaming Prelude Part IV - A farewell to Montebello

Once more into the breach!
In preparation for our final attempt at the Montebello 1859 scenario, Jon gave me the opportunity to try my hand with the Austrians.  As with the previous two outings, I opted to treat this as an opportunity to over-analyze the situation to look for a better solution.

Previously I identified the the primary advantages and disadvantages for the Austrian side:


  • Numerical Superiority
  • Strong force massed along Northern flank of my axis of advance (Hesse)
  • Two regiments within striking distance of an Objective (Baum)
  • Brigade strong points on three objectives
  • 2 powerful units holding Genetrello supported by two regiments at close range at the beginning of scenario.
  • Larger units have more resiliency, very strong in the defense
  • More artillery


  • Elements and spread out East to West in depth, not massed.  
  • Poor Leadership limits units on the offense
  • Only two brigades capable of acting each turn.
  • Artillery limited to 10" range
  • Larger units making it harder to mass Brigade fires.
  • Larger units are more likely to intermix/overlap and increase disorder.
Now I needed to consider the essential problems for the Austrians:

In all three the of the previous attempts at this scenario the Austrians were hampered by their own forces: units tended to fall back through other units resulting in disorder across the line, larger battalions prevented massing of fires, etc. This meant that forces were unable to mount  a credible defense or degrade French units.  I therefore need to ensure that any plan emphasizes the need to mass fires while preventing units from interfering with each other. 

The Austrian cavalry is deployed in penny packets and in serious danger of being isolated and destroyed rapidly by the superior French cavalry.  I need to find a way to mass them in such a way to provide a credible threat to the French cavalry and/or disrupt the French plan.

The Austrians can only activate two divisions per turn, unless the French cross the Coppa river.  By default that means that either Hesse or Paumgartner will activate as Scaffgotsche will be hard pressed in the center and will need to be activated until he can no longer effectively contribute to the battle.  I need to figure out how to best use those forces or lure the French across the river early.

The Austrian's best units are deployed forward in Genestrello and with Hesse in the North.  In all three previous games those were either destroyed or badly mauled in the opening turns of the game.  I want to find a way to preserve those units to provide an offensive punch when I need them.

The biggest problem for the Austrians is the threat of being defeated in detail.  They are numerically superior to the French, but so spread out that the French can easily achieve local superiority at any point along the front.    In previous games, the forces centered on Montebello and Hesse's brigade did the majority of the fighting, while the reserves East of Montebello played no meaningful part in the battle.  

The scenario itself has two different, and not necessarily complementary, victory conditions:

Minor Victory:  Control more objectives than French for longer.  (5 objectives = 1 point each per turn, end the game at +4 or more over the opponent.)

Major Victory:
(Austria)  Exit 3+ Regiments off the Board to the West towards Voghera.
(France)  Take and Hold Casteggio
Getting tired of it yet?

In both cases, a Major Victory can be achieved without meeting the conditions for a minor victory.

In the previous game I decided to have the French ignore the Minor Victory objectives and make a play for the Casteggio instead. Looking at Jon's solo report as well as both of my games, it looks like the Austrians were caught in a defensive mindset with the focus on denying objectives to the French rather than taking them.  Is an Austrian Major Victory possible?

So is it time for a problem statement?

How can the Austrian Corps successfully defeat the French attack while retaining the capability to attack west towards Voghera?

My plan then is going to focus on achieving a breakthrough to Voghera.  It needs to be a true breakthrough, and should not rely on 'gamemenship' to sneak unsupported units off the board while leaving the remaining Austrians to be decimated.  To do that I will need to create a method to trap the French in a battle of attrition that will take away their freedom of maneuver and allow a breakthrough along a flank.

This raises some new considerations:

  • The French Center if Gravity is Bueret's brigade in the center.  Destroying or disrupting that force will force the commitment of Blanchard which will create the opening along the Northern or Southern flank to execute a breakout to the west.  
  • While the two regiments under Baum could reasonably take Cascina Nuova, they cannot hold in the face of overwhelming French attacks.  Previous efforts have shown the futility of putting them forward unsupported.
  • The same is true for the units in Genestrello.  They can delay the French, but only at the cost of two elite regiments.
  • Hesse and Scaffgotsche have the only forces deployed far enough forward to realistically breakout to the west before nightfall.
  • Paumgarten's forces have yet to be meaningfully engaged in any of the previous play attempts at the scenario.  

I came up with several Courses of Action (COA), but really could only find two viable courses.  (I considered leaving the route North of Montebello open to lure the French cavalry across the river as I had done the previous game, but the new condition triggering the release of all three wings per turn meant my opponent would be unlikely to take the bait.)  The primary difference was the utilization of Hesse's brigade:

COA 1:  Hesse launches a spoiling attack towards Genestrello to destroy/disrupt the French.  The forces drive hard until spent.  Scaffgotsche withdraws to Montebello.  That opens the opportunity to release Paumgarten across the North in the hopes of opening up an avenue for Scaffgotsche to punch out through Genestrello.

COA2:  Paumgarten advances to defend the Coppa river while Scaffgotsche fights a delaying action.  Once Paumgarten is positioned, Scaffgotsche withdraws to a flank.  Hesse then activates to drive across the French rear and onto the Voghera road.

Both COAs were viable, although COA 1 looked most like the previous attempts, so I opted to discard it.  Instead I would focus on getting Paumgarten forward as it would allow me to mass forces, and use either of the forward Divisions for the counterattack when the opportunity presented itself.

Once again we have a mission

Urban’s Corps defends the Coppa river line IVO Casteggio in order to prevent French penetration east of the Coppa river and prepare for counterattack.  o/o the Corps will attack west to capture Voghera.  

Now to flesh out the concept of the operation:

The Corps will trades space for time to concentrate forces along the Casteggio-Casatisma line in order to defeat the French attack.  Hesse’s Brigade will be held in reserve in order to counterattack to re-establish the defensive line oriented north of Genestrello.  The Corps will then make a rapid advance along the Voghera- Stradella road to seize Voghera.  We accept Risk by ceding control of  Cucina Nuova, Genetrello and Calcobobbio to the initial French advance.
Non-doctrinal operational graphics! Noooooooo!
  • This plan will have three phases:
    • In phase one Scaffgotche(SE) will establish a defensive line centered on Montebello to delay the French forces as Paumgarten (ME) establish the main defensive line along the Coppa River between Casteggio and the Railroad bridge.  Phase one ends when Paumgarten has three Brigades established to defend the River.
    • In phase two Scaffgotche(SE) will disengage and move South of Montebello to allow French forces to pass through to engage Paumgarten (ME).  Phase 2 ends when the main body of French forces move east of Montebello and are decisively engaged with Paumgarten (ME).
    • In phase three Hesse(SE) will attack to the South West to seize the Voghera road west of Genestrello.  Alternatively, Scaffgotche(SE) will reconstitute and attack West to seize Genestrello and then push west to capture Voghera.  

From here I can extract some specific tasks

So what happened?

Upon arrival Jon informed me that I had misidentified the Railroad bridge north of Casteggio as an objective.  Instead the bridge was actually the gap North of Genestrello. This required a hasty modification to the plan.  Defending the river was no longer viable as the French could simply take all five objective without the need to force the river.  If he chose to take the easy Minor Victory, I would not be able to make a play for Voghera.  What to do?

A quick revision was necessary

  • Phase one: Scaffgotche(SE) will establish a defensive line centered on Montebello to delay the French forces as Paumgarten (ME) establishes the main defensive line Running from the RailRoad Gap North of Montebello to Hesse’s left flank.  Phase one ends when Paumgarten has three Brigades established to defend and is prepared to assume defense of positions north of Montebello.  
  • Phase two: Scaffgotche(SE) disengages Elements North of Montebello, and withdraws south of the city.  Phase 2 ends when the main body of French forces move east of Genestrello and are decisively engaged with Paumgarten (ME).
  • Phase 3: Hesse(SE) will attack to the South West to seize Voghera.  Scaffgotche(SE) will reconstitute and attack West to seize Genestrello and prevent French forces from falling back to engage Hesse.   

Changes in Yellow
So how did it work out?

Jon has not had an opportunity to post the battle report yet, so I will defer to him to illustrate the engagement.  After all, it was his house, models and rules.  Also, he provided dinner.  He also took pictures which are honestly what everyone here wants to see.  Graphics are neat, but beautifully painted figures on well laid out terrain is what this hobby is all about.  Thus you will have to wait for part II.  Apologies in advance for this outrage.   


  1. Well, I wager many will be just as interested in your first-rate analysis and planning as they will to my battle recap. This is great stuff, Jake and honestly, I was completely outplayed in this game.

    From your pre-game preparations, your plan unfolded on queue and stymied the French attack. Well done!

    1. Thanks. However, I must point out that I still did not manage to disengage a unit and achieve the breakout I was after. We ended in a gunfight, and fortunately I had more guns.


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