Battles of 1866: Koniggratz
One of history's actually decisive battles, the clash at Königgrätz in July 1866 saw 220,000 Prussians defeat 240,000 Austrians and Saxons on the rolling hills of northern Bohemia. Germany would become united under Prussia's black eagle, leading to a century of European division and conflict including two world wars.
Battles of 1866: Königgrätz is the second of three games based on the clashes that completely changed the face of Europe. Frontier Battles covers the first clashes along the Austro-Prussian border, at Nachod, Skalitz, Gitschin, Soor and Trautenau. Custoza looks at the Austrian victory over Italy in June 1866.
The game system is the same as that in our War of the States games, with a few modifications for the European way of war. Units represent infantry brigades, cavalry regiments and artillery batteries. The game pieces come in two sizes. “Long” pieces are 1 and 1/3 inches long and 2/3 inches wide, a very large piece. These represent infantry brigades. Other pieces are squares 2/3-inch across each side. These represent cavalry regiments and artillery batteries. Prussian, Austrian and Saxon units are all present. Units are rated for combat strength and morale, losing both as they take losses in combat.
Each battleground is recreated as a topographic map divided into irregular areas rather than the hexagons used in traditional board wargames. These are not chosen randomly, but rather conform to the lie of the land to channel movement the same way folds, rises and gullies do on an actual piece of ground.
A unit must fit in the area it occupies, in the direction it faces. If the area is too narrow for one of the large pieces, it’s not allowed to occupy the area, or at least not stay there and face the direction the player might like. Thus troops are placed along ridge lines, for example, not across them. Flanks become even more important; if you leave a unit “hanging” in a position where it can’t turn to defend itself fully against an approaching enemy because it can’t be placed in the area facing that direction, be prepared for serious losses.
Combat can take the form of assault, cavalry charge or bombardment. Each player rolls a number of dice equal to the total combat strength of his or her units involved. For each result of 6, one hit is achieved. For each hit suffered by a unit, it loses one “step,” or level of strength.
But before it can make an attack or move, a unit must be activated. Better leaders are better able to activate their units more easily, giving them a significant edge. Austrian leaders generally add more to combat, reflecting their army’s emphasis on personal courage, while the Prussians are better organized and will do a much better job bringing their forces to bear.
Austria has better cavalry and artillery, but Prussia brings the needle gun with its devastating short-range firepower. Prussian players will want to seize key terrain and force the Austrians to attack them.
The game covers the huge battle at Königgrätz, on one of the largest battlefields we've ever put on a game table. There's the massive scenario of the complete battle, as well as smaller scenarios covering just part of the action — the suicidal assaults of the Austrian II and IV Corps against the advancing Prussian VI Corps, the mass attack of the Austrian reserve cavalry, the duel between the Royal Saxon Corps and the Prussian Army of the Elbe, and several more.