Fall of Empires:
Scenario Preview, Part Seven
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
A long time ago, I designed a Panzer Grenadier game with 112 scenarios. I remember why we did that, and it was a stupid reason. While I like stuffing games with scenarios, so you can play them over and over without repeating yourself, 112 was way too many.
Infantry Attacks: Fall of Empires has 40 scenarios, because experience shows that’s right at the sweet spot before “I can have fun with that game many times!” turns into “I will never be able to play all of those scenarios.” I designed way more than 40 scenarios for this game (that’s an effect of it remaining in the design stage a very long time), and while some of them will go in the Franz Josef’s Armies book, I’ll still have a lot of leftovers.
Eventually, we can worry about those. For now, let’s have a look at the seventh chapter of Fall of Empires, another small one.
Komarów, Day Three
As losses steadily mounted, Gen. Moritz von Auffenberg of the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army remained confident. Both flanks of the opposing Russian Fifth Army now appeared vulnerable. To the west, the defeated Russian XXV Corps had not re-entered combat and Auffenberg’s staff - armed with nothing but assumptions - decided that it had withdrawn from the battlefield. To the east, the Austro-Hungarian XVII Corps finally began to enter the front line, while Auffenberg convinced general headquarters to commit the elite XIV Corps on his right wing as well.
On the Russian side, Gen. Wenzel von Plehve and his staff knew that they had hurt the Austrians in the center and ordered their two corps there to attack, while the newly-arriving XVII Corps would strike the Austrians in what was assumed to be their open right flank. Those orders sent the Russian XVII Corps blundering directly into the path of the two oncoming Austrian corps.
Batteries of the Dead
28 August 1914
Survivors of the destroyed 30th Infantry Brigade collected themselves around the village of Pukarzów, where they were soon beset by further Russian attacks. Gunners from the 17th Field Cannon Regiment unlimbered their inadequate steel-bronze guns in the front lines to fight the oncoming Russian infantry at point-blank range. Corps commander Svetozar Boroević ordered Col. Karl Bardolff of 29th Infantry Brigade to take command of the division and rescue the remnants.
While the Austrian attack pushed the Russians back, it failed to break through to the remnants fighting in and around Pukarzów. The gunners fought their pieces until overrun, allowing many of the infantrymen to escape singly or in small groups, but no organized units made it out of the cauldron. The artillerymen fired all of their ammunition and lost 25 guns, 17 officers and 486 men. The 17th Field Cannon Regiment had performed its duty.
The Austrians have to break through the Russians and rescue another group of Austrians trapped in the top left corner of the map. It’s a big map, and there are a lot of Russians, and they have a lot of firepower. This one’s going to be tough for Franz Josef’s boys.
The Hill at Janówka
28 August 1914
Col. Karl Bardolff had failed to relieve the trapped Austrian troops at Pukarzów in time, but corps commander Svetozar Boroević was impressed by his energy and placed him in temporary command of 15th Infantry Division. The troops were exhausted and dispirited after a full night of defeat, but Boroević ordered them forward in the afternoon of the 28th.
The Austrians took the hill at Janówka, their immediate objective, but could not secure the own itself in the face of heavy resistance. The Russians regrouped and drove the Austrians back down the hill, leaving the battered 15th Infantry Division - now no more than a brigade in strength - once again in disarray. After the enormous losses suffered less than 12 hours previously it was amazing that the division could fight at all, let alone take the offensive, and Bardolff received the Military Order of Maria Theresa (and thereby instant ennoblement) for his energy and courage.
The Austrians aren’t in real good shape, but they have to press on. They can charge straight on or try to outflank the Russians by moving through the woods. But is there enough time for that? So many decisions!
Blue Sky Thunder
28 August 1914
The Austrian XVII Corps had not yet arrived on the battlefield when fighting broke out on the 26th, and its divisions spent the next day marching rapidly to join the fighting. When his 19th Infantry Division fell into line on the right flank of the battered VI Corps, FML Karl Lukas heard the sound of cannon fire to the west, where the Austrian VI Corps fought the Russian V Corps. Not waiting for orders, Lukas directed his troops to march to the sound of the guns.
After hours of hard fighting, the oncoming Austrian division blunted the advance of the just-arrived Russian XVII Corps (confusingly, the opposing Austrian and Russian formations bore the same number). Though costly, like all Austrian attacks in this campaign, Lukas’ prompt response kept the Russian XVII and V Corps from linking up and opened the way for the encirclement Auffenberg hoped to accomplish.
It’s a meeting engagement, and while the Austrians have an edge in numbers and morale, they also have to achieve a lot more with them. Their field guns remain shockingly crapulent compared to the Russian 76.2mm divisional guns. There are a lot of troops jammed into a relatively small battlefield, so this one’s going to be a bloody affair.
The Austrian attacks on their right flank began to cave in the Russian left, as the Russian XVII Corps found itself badly outnumbered. Plehve’s attacks in the center had little success, and what ground they did gain merely pushed his own troops deeper into Auffenberg’s trap. But Auffenberg intended a sweeping movement with exhausted troops who had already suffered what should have been crippling losses. Only the immense enthusiasm of the war’s early days kept the Austrians pressing forward, but that could not last for much longer.
And that’s Chapter Seven.
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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.