Fall of Empires:
Scenario Preview, Part Six
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
If I’ve done this right, then Infantry Attacks: Fall of Empires will play a little differently than other games in the series and its sister series, Panzer Grenadier. The rules are the same as other Infantry Attacks games, and the pieces are rated the same way.
The difference comes in the scenarios and their victory conditions. Fall of Empires is base don the early battles of World War One in Galicia (southern Poland) between the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. The Russian Army is the same as that seen in August 1914 (the first game in the series), with solid morale and leadership, good firepower and an outstanding field gun. The Austrians have better morale and leadership, good infantry firepower (not so much from their machine guns) and utterly crapulent field guns. They also have no care for casualties, at least in most scenarios. The losses can pile up, whole regiments can melt away, but as long as the objectives are held by the black-and-yellow, then the Imperial and Royal Army will declare it a victory.
There are no special rules compelling the Austrian player to launch suicidal mass bayonet charges. There’s a special game rule allowing the Austrians to cram even more men into the same hex, at the cost of heavier casualties, but that’s it. Instead, the victory conditions and short time scale of the scenarios, and those crapulent field guns mentioned up above, are going to compel the Austrians to go right at the Russians. Who are going to shoot back with extreme prejudice.
I’ve long felt that if you write too many special rules when designing a game, then you’re not doing it right. I think we get the effect I was after without them. So let’s look at another chapter, as the blood-letting continues.
Komarów, Day Two
With the Russian XXV Cops defeated and retreating rapidly from the opposing Austrian II Corps, most of the fighting on the battle’s second day would take place in the center between the Russian XVII and V Corps and the Austrian VI Corps. The Austrian divisions had suffered heavy losses, particularly among their officers, but corps commander Svetozar Boroević ordered them to press forward regardless of the blood spilled.
Boroević, who would later garner well-earned laurels as commander of the Isonzo Front but be forgotten by the Austrian First Republic and die a pauper, unwittingly had pinned the Russians in place while the formations to his right and left prepared to encircle them from either flank. But first his attacks had to keep the Russians from breaking contact.
27 August 1914
After its successful actions on the 26th, the 10th Cavalry Division bivouacked on the battlefield - keeping its men and horses tightly packed as in a peacetime maneuver, with few guards set about its perimeter. Cossack scouts discovered the camps, and returned with their friends in the early morning hours.
The Cossacks caught the Budapest-based division totally by surprise, scattering the hussars and inflicting serious losses. The panic infected the neighboring 6th Cavalry Division as well; 10th Cavalry Division would be out of action for the coming day’s fighting while 6th Cavalry Division only recovered in the late afternoon. Though the Austrian cavalry had only limited firepower, Fourth Army had counted on them to cover the flanks of the planned advance and their early-morning rout would have serious consequences as the battle developed.
This is an odd little scenario, as a regiment of Cossacks comes upon a regiment of hussars who believe themselves safely bedded down for the night. The Cossacks don’t have much firepower, but they’re mounted where the Austrians are not, and they have surprise on their side.
27 August 1914
The 15th Infantry Division, a mostly Hungarian outfit, had not been seriously engaged on the first day of fighting. With the Russian V Corps bearing down from the north-east on the Austrian VI Corps, Boroević sent the fresh division to drive them back. They entered the swampy valley of the Huczwa River with great enthusiasm, shouting with excitement as they marched forward.
Austrian enthusiasm carried their attack over the Huczwa, once again at a heavy cost but not enough the dampen their high spirits. What Col. Karl Bardolff of 29th Infantry Brigade called a “victory panic” took hold, and the troops continued their advance until nightfall when the division staff called a halt. The division hastily camped in a swampy valley, ready to resume the offensive on the following morning.
The Austrians are on the attack once again, trying to force their way across a swamp-lined river and to the, well, the further swamps beyond. They have no artillery support whatsoever, not even their crapulent steel-bronze field guns, so that amazing morale is going to have to carry them to victory, or ship them home in boxes.
Misery and Despair
28 August 1914
FML Friedrich Freiherr Wodniansky von Wildenfeld halted his 15th Infantry Division just before midnight, knowing his troops to be tired but apparently unaware of just how close the Russians were to his bivouacs. The Austrians had settled in for what remained of the night when the Russians attacked at about 2 a.m., their advance heralded by heavy and accurate artillery fire.
The Austrians suffered an utter disaster, with half of 15th Infantry Division killed, wounded, taken prisoner or scattered. Despondent, Wodniansky shot himself, thereby assuring that he would take the blame. Following a long-standing pattern in the Imperial and Royal Army, not only was Wodniansky blamed but his superior, VI Corps commander Svetozar Boroević, was promoted.
The Austrians are frozen in place when the Russians fall on them from three directions and rain down artillery fire on them (this is one of the handful of scenarios in this game featuring off-board artillery fire). The Austrians win by fighting their way through a Russian screen and getting the hell out of the swamp. It’s no easy task.
The second day of the Battle of Komarów began and ended with Austrian divisions devastated by surprise attacks allowed by their own schlamperei. Even so, the Austrian Fourth Army stood in a good position to exploit their continued success on their left flank and continue to push the Russian Fifth Army around on the next day. Morale remained very high, and the huge Austrian infantry divisions (sixteen infantry battalions, with some of them going into battle overstrength) could absorb a great deal of punishment. This was fortunate for their cause, as they would continue to receive it.
And that’s Chapter Six.
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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.