Sharp Practice: Struggle for Mariazell

You may remember a little Sharp Practice game Cpt.Shandy and I had last year, the first in a proposed mini-campaign around the Traisental in Lower Austria in 1809. Since then Cpt.Shandy did a bit more work on it, so we met to try out the third scenario.




In this one an Austrian force comprised of Landsturm, Landwehr and some regular line troops (as well as some volunteers) try to retake Mariazell from a French infantry formation.


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Blue dots indicate French Deployment Points (big: primary, small: secondary), Red ones Austrian Deployment Points

The Austrian objective is to take the French primary deployment point, the French objective is to stop the Austrians from doing so and drive off their attack. The little bits of terrain denote a steeper fold in the terrain which can be used by the Austrians to go unseen if they sit right against that line. Behind it (across from Mariazell) there’s a slope and they can be seen perfectly well.

The Forces

Austrians (played by yours truly)

2x Landwehr Militia (Status II leader)
3x Landsturm Militia (Status I leader)
2x Styrian Schützen (Rifles, Sharp Practice, Tactical, one Status I leader each)
2x Line Infantry (Status II leader)

Force Morale: 9


French (played by Cpt.Shandy)

5x Line Infantry (one Status III leader, one Status II leader)
2x Line Voltigeurs (one Status I leader each)
1x Light Gun (Status I leader)

Force Morale: 9


The Game

The French – more as a statement of the fact that there’s no other sensible place to put it – deploy their light gun to glare right down the road towards the Austrian primary deployment point.


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In turn I deploy the Styrian Schützen – one unit on each side. On my left they start pestering the cannon whilst staying out of its line of fire, on my right they start skirmishing with a unit of french Voltigeurs.

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Both of us are a bit rusty on the Sharp Practice rules as well as playing the actual game, so I refuse to deploy anything but the Schützen until they make a good opportunity for doing so. And they aren’t doing badly. The French Voltigeurs and gun crew take casualties. A this point Cpt.Shandy decides it’s time to act and deploys all his line infantry.

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On my right a column of two groups deploys and advances towards my Schützen. That’s some active defence! You can see that the men are a bit thirsty (random event; hampering their ability to move around). Surely they have been liberating lots of schnapps the night before.

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Source: (not an ad, Tabletop Stories is in no way affiliated with Arzberger, but I’m open for cooperations)

At the left – seeing as how I refuse to deploy anything in front of that cannon, the main body of the infantry deploy in line in front of the cannon and along the  road.

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My Schützen in the left (hopping down into the ditch to reload, sticking their heads out to fire, rinse and repeat) are getting some return fire from the second group of Voltigeurs in the graveyard. The Schützen get a lucky hit on the Voltigeurs leader who is knocked out for a bit, but the French Major is keeping things at this flank together and going.

Now that the French deployed all their units and the cards are on the table, I try to break through at the right. And it’s not going too badly actually.

Seeing as this is the case, the French major sends his infantry groups to the other flank. Two groups form column and move up the road, the third jump the fences, shoo a cow away, and storm towards the Styrian Schützen.

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…and it even works. I, sure that they can hold their own (defending an obstacle and all) have the Schützen hold their ground instead of evading. A bad idea, as it turns out. All of the remaining Schützen are killed, with the leader being the only one left alive, and he flees towards the Austrian ranks.

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Meanwhile I bolstered the line by deploying the two Landwehr groups to force a decision on the right flank before the French reinforcements arrive. Doesn’t quite work in time, but at least I got more muskets firing at the enemy now.

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On my left flank the Schützen there also get in a bit of trouble. Not only do they take casualties, but their leader stepped in something icky, costing him his one level of status.



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However! The left flank is only guarded by the light gun now, while Voltigeurs and a slightly shaken (but well-led) formation try to break through Austrian lines at the centre of the table. Time to call in the LANDSTURM. I deploy them in column, ready to STURM down the road and take the gun. But I hesitate.

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The gun crew finally got a target and fire their first shot of the game.

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Due to a mix of circumstances and dice, the shot is entirely unimpressive. I’m happy and to honour the steadfastness under heavy fire, I declare Breuner’s men a Landsturm Grenadier Battalion.

An overview:

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From left to right: Austrian Landsturm enter the table while Schützen in front of them skirmish back and forth. French line fusiliers and Voltigeurs (battered, but hanging in there) try to split the Austrian advance in half. Austrian Landwehr and line infantry attack French units who are in bad shape, but hold their line.

At this point the Austrian force morale is at 5 (after the Landwehr leader takes a wound), the French force morale at 6. Despite causing massive losses, Austrian forces don’t manage to break the French force morale. Instead, the austrian skirmish troops (as much as they still exist) are badly stifled.

Then the cannon crew get going and deliver two crushing volleys against the poor Landsturm Grenadier Sondersturmbataillon “Breuner”. The won’t really get anywhere, as the gun doesn’t exactly fire quickly, but the Landsturm leader is just Status I and he’ll never ever manage to get rid of that shock, even if I fed all my command cards I get into it. Very annoying.

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Finally the French at the far right break and run, but the French main line arrives in time to take on the enemy. The former leader of the French at the far right joins the reinforcements. They took a fair amount of casualties already and have trouble crossing the fences under enemy fire, but now they are led by a Status III and a Status II leader, which is a pretty strong set-up to keep a line together.

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Force morale is at 5-5 now. French Voltigeurs in a pig pen and the fact that the French reinforcements turned up keep the Austrian line infantry from attempting to break through and get to the objective.

Another overview:

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No huge news – the Landsturm are pinned in place and will stay there forever. There’s a stalemate firefight in the centre. The French right are gone, but Voltigeurs within the village snipe at my line infantry.

Finally the French force morale falls to 4, Austrian force morale sits at 5, and we decided to call it quits. This game took us over 4 hours to play.



Hard to tell who actually won. On paper Cpt.Shandy folded, but only due to politeness and having better things to do. It was a very hard-fought battle, I never was quite sure when to finally deploy my lines. Having bascially three different sorts of line troops, each with their own leaders (and the main body being commanded by a Status I leader) is an interesting situation. But also a very Austrian situation to be in, I presume.

Look at that bird! It looks exhausted. Even a double-headed eagle can’t be fat enough to keep all these different coats of arms inside. (Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin, )

Of course we weren’t that used to playing the rules any more, which made the game longer than it had to be as well. And one clear mistake we made – declare the fences major obstacles rather than minor ones. The French had MAJOR trouble maneuvering those. Oh well.

On the up-side – Sharp Practice is just good. Each game gives a great story, interesting moments, interesting decisions to make. There was quite some maneuvering (especially on the French side), and lots of casualties (also on the French side) and still, they held together. We certainly turned Mariazell into Maria-Hell.


Hope you enjoyed this battle report!

2 thoughts on “Sharp Practice: Struggle for Mariazell

  1. Great stuff! Are these 18mm AB (Anthony Barton) Figures…?
    Also, I can tell from one of the knocked-over leaders that they are based on washers, but the figures just seem to stand on top of the unit bases, instead of fitting into ‘sabot’ indents, so have you got some kind of magnetic basing system…?
    Please do tell…!

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