We arrived at the penultimate clash in our year-long Hungary 1848 campaign: Szőreg.
The historical situation was this: Hungary's southern army, commanded by 'the disastrous Dembinski', had been occupying a large entrenched camp at Szeged on the west bank of the River Tisza. As Haynau's Austro-Russian columns approached, Dembinski was fearful of being surrounded, so he abandoned the camp without a fight and fell back to the east bank of the river. He then allowed the Austrians to establish a bridgehead in front of him, again with barely a fight. When the Austrians broke out from their bridgehead, the battle of Szőreg ensued. A distinctive feature of the battle was a massive dike, built to contain the Tisza's seasonal flooding, that the Hungarians had embrasured for 50 guns.
Historically, Szőreg was a rearguard action by one Hungarian corps while the anxious
Dembinski again retreated pre-emptively with most of his army to avoid the
threat of being outflanked.
For our game, I donned the Hungarian kepi, Colin the Austrian shako, and Crispin the Russian pickelhaube. The allies elected to commit all of the Russian division to a big right hook towards Sz.-Ivan, leaving the Austrians to take on the dike defence alone. I therefore chose to gamble straight away. The two contingents of Guyon's IV Corps, starting on-table in the Hungarian rear, are supposed to retreat off-table by Turn 6 if they are to avoid the flank threat. I decided to push them forward initially to delay the Russians' advance.
AAR in five photos follows. Skip to the end if you just want to go straight to my reflections on the game. (Apologies for the fuzzy/grainy screenshot pics - this was played remotely, not because of pandemic but because I am away from home at the moment and Colin has moved up north.)
The now familiar pros and cons of the remote format: the poor ref having to scramble round the table adjusting the camera and moving the troops; the players struggling to see what was going on and explain their wishes to the ref; the game taking rather longer than if we were all round the same table; but nevertheless enjoyable and made it possible for us to have a game that couldn't have happened otherwise.
The scenario produced the ideal last-turn nail-biter. The 'flank threats' rule worked well in several respects: it gives the Hungarian side significant and interesting choices to make about how many troops to commit instead of retreating; that helps to keep the table-top action an even fight; and the die roll to see if the flank threats materialise keeps the result in doubt to the end. (And it proved well balanced.)
The virtue of unified command: as the sole Hungarian player, I think I had an advantage over the allies, who didn't always coordinate as well as a single player can. In particular, when the Russian jaegers crossed the dike in the centre, Crispin specifically asked for Austrian support; the Austrian cavalry crossed to back him up, but then scarpered when the Hungarians advanced, leaving him in the lurch.
Indecision costs lives. I think that on Turn 1 Colin was still recovering from a hard day at the office. He pushed an Austrian grenadier brigade forward mostly for the sake of pushing it forward, but it didn't take advantage of the Austrians' initial surprise deployment to assault, it just halted in canister range and duly paid the price.
Fortunes of war: my three sixes in a row for the assaults on Turn 6 were huge. On the other hand, on Turn 5 I had blown several easy movement rolls, which was why I had to call X Corps's scythe-wielders onto the table to defend Szőreg. That really mattered at the end, as it was that extra flank threat roll that saved the game for the allies.
Strategic choices, an unusual terrain feature, varied troop types, room to manoeuvre, and the flank threat question mark: this was a great combination that made for a great game.