Fall of Empires:
Scenario Preview, Part One
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Once upon a time, Infantry Attacks: Fall of Empires would have been a larger game than what we’re releasing, but we felt it important to bring its size and retail price in line with other games in our catalog (chiefly, titles in the Panzer Grenadier series). We down-sized the game by reducing the Austro-Hungarian contingent; it now consists solely of Common Army units, with the two national regular armies (the Imperial-Royal Austrian Landwehr and the Royal Hungarian Honvédség) shifted to the Franz Josef’s Armies expansion book.
That still left plenty of action - two-thirds of Austria-Hungary’s divisions came from the Common Army - but required a slightly different format for the game’s scenario set. Fall of Empires’ scenario set is broken into chapters, but they don’t have a battle game to tie them together. That’s in the Franz Josef’s Army book, along with scenarios from the same battle featuring the Landwehr and Honvédség.
So let’s have a look at the scenarios from the second chapter of Fall of Empires.
The Battle of Kraśnik, Day One
The Austro-Hungarian forces on the Galician Front (southern Poland) were badly outnumbered by their Russian enemies, with the Russians expected to gain even greater strength as time passed and divisions mobilized far from the front finally arrived. Therefore, Chief of the General Staff Fraz Conrad von Hötzendorf decided to attack, this being his solution to every tactical, operational and strategic question.
On the Austrian left flank, Viktor Dankl’s First Army faced the Russia Fifth Army of Anton von Salza. Dankl’s army had deployed to the west of Salza’s, and when he moved forward as ordered the Austrians rather unexpectedly found the opportunity to overlap and roll up the Russian right flank. The first step in that process would be to drive the Russians off the high ground south-west of the town of Kraśnik.
The Other Brudermann
22 August 1914
Viktor Dankl of the Austro-Hungarian First Army placed his 3rd Cavalry Division to screen his left flank and provide a connection between his I Corps and the solid anchor provided by the Vistula River. When Dankl’s army clashed with the Russian Fourth Army, a small cavalry corps of one division and one brigade performed a similar function on the Russian right. While the Austrians probed for contact and information, the Russian Guard Cavalry Brigade reacted with an aggressive attack.
FML Adolf Ritter von Brudermann of 3rd Cavalry Division, younger brother of Third Army commander Rudolf Ritter von Brudermann (and thus known throughout his life as “the other Brudermann”) seems to have owed his position to a sudden string of promotions after Rudolf became inspector general of cavalry before the war. Adolf was noted as perhaps the finest horseman in the K.u.K. Army; as a commander his skills lagged considerably behind. The Austrian cavalry was driven back by the Russian Guards, commanded by the aggressive Carl Gustav Mannerheim, with only the timely arrival of infantry reinforcements restoring the situation and preventing a rout.
Yes, that’s the same Mannerheim - he of the squeaky voice and the corset - who would lead the Finnish Army in the Winter and Continuation Wars a quarter-century later. This is another cavalry fight to lead off the chapter, with both sides mounted but the Russians holding a slight edge in numbers and in morale since they’re Guards but the Austrians eventually bringing in reinforcements.
23 August 1914
At the center of the Austrian First Army’s advance, V Corps sent the 14th Infantry Division to secure the high ground around the town of Polichna. The division had secured the high ground south of Polichna around dawn, but when Russian troops occupied the town V Corps ordered the 76th Infantry to eject them. Aided by several artillery batteries, the infantry began their uphill advance.
Maj. Gen. Georg Schariczer personally led his 27th Infantry Brigade up the slopes to Polichna, where they engaged in a furious close-quarters brawl for the town. The Russians fought house-to-house for Polichna until Austrian artillery fire set most of the buildings alight and they withdrew. Col. Ion Boeriu of the 76th Infantry Regiment joined his men in the hand-to-hand struggle, and he became the war’s first recipient of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, conferring instant ennoblement, while Schariczer received the knight’s cross of the Order of Leopold. “Every soldier was a hero,” Boeriu wrote later of the battle, and while that may have been true, over 500 of them were dead and more than 700 wounded, totaling a third of his regiment.
This is a brutal, close-quarters infantry fight made worse by the Austrian disregard for casualties (they matter, but not as much as in August 1914) and use of the storm column, a special tactic that will give them a better chance at taking their objective, but at a frightful cost. The Russians are in a strong hilltop position and the Austrians have to come to them - something they’re perfectly happy to do.
A Severe Combat
23 August 1914
Just west of Polichna, the Austrian 5th Infantry Division in the center of I Corps’ advance found Russians already holding the high ground in and around Goscieradow. The Czech and German regiments immediately moved forward to attack, with their artillery in the front lines with them. The Russians responded quickly, summoning reinforcements from both of their flanks.
In what 5th Infantry Division admitted was “a severe combat,” the Austrians captured Goscieradow thanks to the heroic actions of Maj. Oskar Hofman, who brought an artillery battery into the rear of the defending Russians and startled them with well-aimed shellfire. That caused a Russian retreat despite their growing numbers. Once again the Imperial and Royal Army had won a tactical victory, and once again they had done so at the cost of unsustainable casualties.
Once again, the Austrians are on the attack, and they have the morale and numbers to make a serious dent in the Russian positions - in these early days of the war, the Imperial and Royal Army is eager for battle. This incident is one of the few where the K.u.K. artillery actually made a positive contribution to the action’s outcome.
The Cossacks Are Coming
23 August 1914
The Austrian First Army and Russian Fourth Army mirrored one another’s deployment: three infantry corps abreast, with a cavalry division guarding either flank. While the cavalry on the western flank engaged in a major engagement when the two armies crashed together, on the eastern flank the Cossacks proved more circumspect and only probed with small forces.
The Cossacks lacked the staying power to get past the Austrian cavalry screen in this sector, and the advance of X Corps on the right flank of First Army would continue unhindered. On the Russian side of the line the Grenadier Corps blundered forward as well, having received no orders to stop despite the setbacks on the Russian right flank and remaining unaware of the Austrian corps moving to attack it in a head-on frontal assault.
This time we have a more nuanced cavalry action; the Cossacks want to get past the Austrian screen (to, ultimately, find out what’s on the other side) and the K.u.K. troopers have to fend them off. The Austrians have an edge in firepower and morale, so they’ll chew up the Cossacks if they get close to them. The Cossacks are faster, and will have to use that edge to make sure the Austrians keep their distance.
And that’s Chapter Two.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published an uncountable number of books, games and articles on historical subjects; a few of them were actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold. Leopold enjoys gnawing his deer antler and editing Wikipedia pages.