Fall of Empires:
Scenario Preview, Part Four
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
The second edition of our Infantry Attacks rules is so different from the first edition that I consider it a completely new game. And since we don’t have a comments section in Daily Content, because we are not quite as foolish as we often appear, that makes it reality.
Infantry Attacks: Fall of Empires is the second game to use the new rules set, and so it’s the first I’ve designed from the ground up in quite a while. It took a long time to finish it, and I re-designed it more than once, but I’m really pleased with it: the game engine does what I wanted it to do, and the scenarios tell the story I wanted to tell.
So let’s take a look at the fourth chapter, the failed Austrian attack on Lublin. It’s a story usually told separately from the Battle of Kraśnik, even though the action began on the next day. The Austro-Hungarian propaganda arm during and after the war broke it apart so that Kraśnik could be claimed as an unequivocal victory, which is already stretching things, by leaving out the failure in front of Lublin. And since that view dominated the historiography for the next century, it’s stuck.
Assault on Lublin
Following the defeat at Kraśnik, Gen Nikolai Ivanov of the Russian South-West Front fired Fourth Army’s commander Anton von Saltsa, and replaced him with Alexei Evert. The Austrians attempted to pursue the Russians, who drew back a few kilometers and prepared to defend the city of Lublin. They clashed again a day after the fighting at Kraśnik concluded, as the Austrians learned what all of the combatants would soon understand: the slow pace of the new age of warfare ruled out sweeping battlefield maneuvers. Ground would have to be taken by infantry and artillery, with little opportunity to seize it before the enemy arrived.
Dusk Action at Rudnik
26 August 1914
The Austrian advance nominally began on the morning after the Battle of Kraśnik, but only later in the day did the divisions fully get under way. In the late afternoon the lead elements of the Austrian V Corps catch up with the retreating Russian XVI Corps. Like almost every Austrian formation during the war’s early days, they of course immediately attacked.
The Austrians failed to make much impression on the Russians, who repelled repeated attacks. Both sides remained tired from the hard fighting of the previous days, and appear to have gladly embraced the falling darkness as an excuse to break contact. Neither of the armies in this campaign showed much willingness to engage in night combat.
This is one of the few scenarios in Fall of Empires in which the gathering darkness plays a role, and then only in the very last turns. The Austrians have a pretty tough road to victory, having to take a stretch of hilly ground (or at least fight their way through it) and then secure one of the large towns on the other side. It’s hard in this system (even more so than in its World War Two sister, Panzer Grenadier) to take rough terrain when the defender’s support weapons are better than yours.
27 August 1914
Having secured the town of Rudnik before night brought fighting to an end, the Austrian 14th Infantry Division’s advance had been stopped as much by Russian resistance as the gathering darkness. When the sun rose, the Austrians did as well and renewed their advance, but the Russians had had time to rest and prepare.
This time the Austrian attacks succeeded in driving back the Russians, once again at a tremendous cost in casualties. The Russians had time to bring up their howitzers from XVI Corps’ reserve battalion overnight to aid the defense. The Austrians had no means of suppressing them or doing anything like the same damage with their own lighter artillery, which lacked the ability to conduct much in the way of indirect fire. Once again, the infantry carried the day, and by mid-afternoon XVI Corps had been routed.
The Austrians have the hills but only one of the towns, and now they have to drive the Russians off the board. Once again, they’ll need to match their superior morale against the Russians’ superior firepower. And they can do that, because this is still the first week of actual combat operations.
27 August 1914
The Austrian First Army’s advance during the Battle of Kraśnik opened a gap between its right-most corps and the left-most troops of the adjoining Austrian Fourth Army. That tempted the Russian Fifth Army, which faced the Austrian Fourth Army, to send its divisions into the opening thus created to smash in First Army’s right flank. But the Austrian cavalry detected the move and the Austrian 24th Infantry Division, part of First Army’s X Corps, came fresh off its victory over the Russian Grenadier Corps to strike the advancing Russian 70th Infantry Division head-on.
The Austrian advance guard blunted the Russian advance, but 24th Infantry Division provided no reinforcements and the battle here became a stalemate while to the west the other brigade of 70th Infantry Division defeated and drove back the 46th Landwehr Infantry Division. The alarming result of the battle, which some staffers at General Headquarters outright refused to believe, was that 24th Infantry Division had taken prisoners from a Russian reserve division - formations that were not supposed to arrive at the front for weeks yet to come. The supposedly slow-moving Russian steamroller had already arrived.
It’s a meeting engagement, with the Austrians have better units in terms of morale and firepower and leadership (after all, these are regulars) but the Russians having a significant edge in numbers (these are reservists). It’s a pretty even fight, all things considered, one of quantity against quality. In the broader picture, of course, then as now quantity has a quality all its own.
Stand at Borzechow
27 August 1914
On the left flank of his First Army, Viktor Dankl still held out hope of crushing the opposing Russian flank and rolling up the enemy’s Fourth Army. His I Corps had inflicted a serious defeat on the Russian XIV Corps just two days previously. With the aid of reinforcements - a March brigade of replacements and a Landsturm brigade of previously-unorganized reservists - Dankl believed that his leftmost division would be up to the task.
The March battalions added little other than numbers to the Austrian assault, which stalled along the river Chodel, at this point little more than a stream. The Russians had recovered quickly from their initial defeats and held their ground, while the Austrians eventually had to retreat back to their start line. Once again, they suffered terrible losses, especially among the raw March battalions - reservists handed rifles and shoved toward the front to die, which they did in droves.
The Austrians have numbers on their side, though some are of dubious help, and they have a long way to go with a river running across their line of advance. The Russians are still kind of shaken from the beating they took just 48 hours before, but they have what they need to old their ground.
While the Austrians scored a few more tactical successes, once again they had done so at the cost of a lengthy casualty list. Dankl had hoped to renew his offensive with the aid of newly-arriving reinforcements, but these March and Landsturm brigades were little more than armed mobs, with many of the men lacking even uniforms. After less than a week his army was exhausted and required rest while the quartermasters wrestled with heavy supply wagons on the narrow unpaved roads of Russian Poland. There would be no grand victory at Lublin, while more Russians - trained and organized reserves, in contrast to the Austrian reinforcements - were arriving every day.
And that’s Chapter Four.
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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.