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Bonaparte at Marengo: unfolding the game board

Bonaparte at Marengo Board Bormida Austrian army (Melas) Peterbona Marengo Time Track Morale Track Castelceriolo Victor and Lannes French counter-attack Desaix

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Note #1 Time Track. The game is played as a series of rounds, each representing one hour of time in the actual battle. Time is marked by putting a marker on the Time Track and advancing it one square each round. The game begins at 6:00 AM, 14 June 1800. The game begins as the Austrian army moves out to attack the French army on the opposite side of the Bormida River.
Note #2 Morale Track. Both armies have a numeric morale level in the game, which is recorded by markers on this track. That level is reduced by one for each loss it suffers, indicated by moving that army's marker one step closer to zero. On reaching zero, an army becomes demoralized and loses much of its effectiveness. An army wins by demoralizing the enemy without becoming demoralized itself.
Note #3 Victor and Lannes. Of the three French corps Napoleon depended on to defeat the Austrian army, only two, those of Generals Victor and Lannes were able to reach the battlefield to face the initial Austrian attack. The pieces representing those two corps are placed on the board at the start of the game. Their ability to move, however, is restricted to represent the French unpreparedness for an attack by the enemy.
Note #4 The Austrian Army. The Austrian army had assembled in order to attack the French army before it could concentrate to meet them. Under the command of General Melas, they numbered about 30,000 strong, much stronger than the French forces that could immediately oppose them. The Austrians needed to exploit this superiority to defeat the French before the rest of the French army could show up to take away that advantage.
Note #5 Bormida River. The Austrian initial attack was hampered by the need to cross the Bormida River. This greatly slowed the development of their attack as units had to wait at the bridges to cross. Further complicating the attack was the terrain occupied by the French: an oxbow lake and numerous swamps protected the French right flank, while a bend in the Bormida protected their left.
Note #6 Peterbona. The first objective of the Austrian attack was the small village of Peterbona, which was held by the most advanced unit of the French army, Gardanne’s division of Victor’s corps. This unit was attacked by the Austrian advance guard and driven back across the Fontanone stream where it joined the rest of Victor’s corps.
Note #7 Marengo. It was here that the French army made its stand. Both armies rushed reinforcements forwards. For the first several hours, the French just had the two divisions of Victor’s corps, which were then joined by Watrin’s division of Lannes’ corps. The battle was fairly even in numbers. The Austrians did have an advantage in artillery, which was offset by the French advantage in the terrain.
Note #8 Castelceriolo. The battle had been raging around Marengo for several hours before either army made a move towards this town. This changed when an Austrian column under General Ott was ordered to take it. On reaching the position, Ott turned south and turned the flank of the French position at Marengo. Even though Monnier's division came up from the east to attack Ott, the French position at Marengo could no longer be held and they were forced to retreat.
Note #9 Desaix. Boudet's division from Desaix's corps was too far from the battlefield to arrive before the French army was driven from its position at Marengo and forced to retreat. As this force finally came up late in the afternoon, and moved west from the village of San Giuliano, it passed through crowds of French refugees, fleeing the battle. Coming up behind them was an Austrian pursuit column.
Note #10 French counter-attack. Around the newly arrived division from Desaix’s corps, the French army was formed up to renew the battle. The Austrian pursuit column was unexpectly blocked at this position, and in the confusion of the fight that followed, was charged by French cavalry under Kellerman and was broken. Fleeing back towards the Bormida, thousands of Austrians were taken prisoner. The French had won a dramatic victory and the battle of Marengo was over.

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