Friday, 28 July 2017

The Battle of Chotusitz, 17 May 1742

This week's game was the first at home for a while, but it was a cracker though I say so myself. Conrad, Dave, Paul S and Paul T came up for a refight of the Battle of Chotusitz, the last major battle of the 1st Silesian War, using the Honours of War rules. Although I'd played this battle before, as indeed had Dave, it was a while ago and none of the others had, so I expected an interesting, exciting even, game. I was not to be disappointed, and neither I trust, were the others. Dave was Frederick, assisted by Paul T as Dessau, while Conrad was Charles of Lorraine, assisted by Paul S as von Daun. I umpired and did the catering which by the end of the day was enough to have me flat on my back, albeit happily so with a gin and (not much) tonic reflecting on the game.

For those not familiar with the battle, the Austrians had managed to catch Frederick on the back foot and had surprised his greatly outnumbered rearguard under Anhalt-Dessau deployed around the village of Chotusitz. In reality, the Prussians were slowly pushed back and much of their cavalry destroyed, before Frederick with the main body arrived and turned the tide, halting the Austrian advance in its tracks. The latter withdrew, leaving the Prussians in possession of the battlefield.

Prussian Army:

CinC Frederick II King of Prussia (Dependable)

1st Line: GL von Kalckstein (Dependable)
Musketeers x 2 
Grenadiers  x 2 
6pdr bty x 1
2nd Line: GL von Schmetau (Dependable)
Musketeers x 3 
Guard  x 1
6pdr bty x 1

Gen der Inf Leopold von Anhalt Dessau (Dashing) [Lt.General for brigades below]

Cavalry, left flank:  GL von Waldow   (Dependable)
Cuirassiers x 3
Dragoons x 2
Hussars x 1

Infantry: GL Jeetze (Dependable)
Musketeers x 3 

Cavalry, right flank: GL von Buddenbrock (Dashing)
Cuirassiers x 3
Dragoons x 2

Artillery: Independent unit
Heavy artillery:  2 x 12pdr

       i.         All Prussian infantry were classed as superior in the rules. Their cavalry was classed as standard. I made Frederick 'Dependable' in this game rather than the more usual (for the SYW anyhow) 'dashing'.  

Austrian Army: Prince Charles of Lorraine (Dependable…..just!)

Light troops: [Independent units]
Croats x 4 (Inferior - 2 on right and 2 on left flank)

Infantry, 1st Line: GL von Daun (Dependable)
Musketeers x 5
12pdr x 2 (superior for firing)
Howitzer x 1 (superior for firing)

Infantry, 2nd Line: GL von Konigsegg (Dependable)
Musketeers x 5

Right wing Cavalry: GL Leichtenstein (Dashing)
Cuirassiers x 2 
Dragoons x 2 

Left Wing Cavalry: GM Batthyanyi (Dashing)
Cuirassiers x 4 
Dragoons x 3
Hussars x 2 

Austrian cuirassiers and dragoons were classed as 'superior' while the Croats and hussars were 'inferior'.

And so to the battle, one punctuated by some amazingly bad luck dice rolls, mainly from Dave, but not a few from Paul T, while the Austrians were slow to advance and got in a right pickle trying to control their extended infantry lines in the centre. Amazingly, it was turn 7 or 8 before the Prussians won the initiative for moving, and more often than not they also lost the shooting initiative test, despite their inherent advantage!

 The Prussian right, facing superior numbers of superior quality cavalry. 
 The Prussian left, facing around half of the Austrian army!
 Prussians holding Chotusitz are pounded by the Austrian artillery.
 The isolated Prussian artillery battery in the centre. They did valiant work denying much of the centre to the Austrian army.
 The rather disjointed Austrian attack in the centre, struggling to keep going as several battalions were out of command and failed to move.
 The Austrian front line finally started to take shape positioned nicely as they were within cannister range of the Prussian guns.
 The Prussian right under Buddenbrock holds its ground in the face over overwhelming, but stationary, odds.
 For some reason the Austrians decided to hold their cavalry back on their left flank, which may have lost them the chance to overwhelm the Prussians before Frederick arrived.
 Some annoying and pesky Croats are driven off by a regiment of Prussian dragoons. Both Croat battalions were forced to evade and played no further part in the battle.
 Venerable Hinchliffe Austrian hussars valiantly avoiding contact with the enemy!

 The Austrians finally let loose their cuirassiers and drove back the outnumbered Prussians, but not without loss.

 Paul T managed to get his cavalry on the table but a few failed command rolls meant that they were caught in column by the Austrian artillery and took severe damage, one regiment being broken, who quickly overtook the battalion of infantry that had broken the move before.
 Turn 5 and Frederick arrives at last. Only the front line managed to get on the table, in time to see the Austrian cavalry bearing down on them at great speed!
 The Austrian cavalry on their left rallied and reformed a line facing the oncoming Prussian reinforcements.
 Dave moved his infantry close to the Austrians, daring them to charge. 
 Would they? Wouldn't they? Conrad wasn't sure, but then threw a 6, so as a dashing commander they had to charge! All six regiments!
 The first wave survived the closing fire but was repulsed in the 'melee'.
The second wave however hit the sorely wounded and somewhat unsupported Prussian infantry and both battalions were broken. That seemed about right as two battalions were overwhelmed by six regiments of cuirassiers and dragoons. If the Prussians had been supported then the outcome would have been very different, subject to the dice rolls of course.

At that point we called it a day. The Austrians still had significant numbers of cavalry available, as their right wing had remained rooted to the spot for most of the game. However, the Prussians still had a marked superiority in infantry quantity and quality so were more likely to be able to gain and retain possession of the field. I reckoned it had gone more or less as in the real fight in 1742, so declared it a minor Prussian victory.

It was a great game, and it was pretty close in the end. The superiority of the Austrian cavalry over their Prussian foes was a potential battle winner, as was the superiority of the Prussian infantry. The artillery was pretty effective in denying portions of the field to the enemy, but as I said when Conrad queried the effectiveness I said that the two Prussian models represented 20 12pdrs and four 24pdrs so blowing away an infantry battalion with canister wasn't too unrealistic.

Next time we're all together we shall attempt Hohenfriedberg (part 1 v the Saxons as this can be fought as a discrete game). 





25 comments:

  1. Looks like another terrific game! I've always wanted to have a stab at this battle since reading about it in an issue of Wargames Illustrated way back when in the early 1990s.

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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    1. Thansk you Stokes. It's a great battle to recreate. Not a walkover for Fred and the boys in blue which I like as I always have a soft spot for the Austrians.

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  2. Nice looking armies. Great to see those caissons!

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    1. Thanks David. As they say, "the caissons keep rollin' along". I like to add limbers and a caisson to each battery so it occupies something like the correct footprint on the table.

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  3. Splendid fight, Colin! I am adding this one to my list of SYW HoW games to try.
    Thank you!

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    1. HoW worked well for this game, just needed to fiddle with the national,characteristics in the book a bit

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    2. We have discussed the Prussian 'standard' musketeer rating a bit over our recent Kolin games. What are your thoughts on Flint's rating of the Prussian infantry?

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    3. IMO Prussian musketeer and grenadiers should be classed as 'superior' until maybe 1759/60 then most should be downgraded to 'standard'. I'd rate fusilier regiments as 'standard' and garrison and freikorps (mostly) as 'inferior'.

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  4. Looks terrific, and clearly played very well too. Well done all round!

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    1. Thanks Dave. It was tough umpiring and staying impartial....well almost.

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  5. As ever, a fine game, great AAR & pictures. Good to hear you are back in action!

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    1. Thank you my friend. It was a great game. I shall see you next week at Claymore I trust?

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  6. Thank you for a very enlightening and entertaining report Colin. I have saved your orbat and hope to do this myself one day. It seems that The HoW initiative system and dice rolls aided the Prussians a bit too much given the poor tactical position they start in. You proved that if the Austrians don't exploit it quickly they have far less chance later

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    1. Thansk Chris, I don't think the Prussians saw any advantage this time as they invariably lost the initiative rolls.

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  7. Terrific game all round I would say

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    1. Indeed it was Paul, although I'm still not up to actually playing games at the moment, just organising and umpiring.

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  8. The artillery effectiveness crops up a lot in our games to. Its a difficult one But always leads at least to great conversation about history!

    Great game Colin.

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    1. Thanks. I think people often base their understanding of artillery effectiveness and deployment on the battles fought in the western theatre of war. Fred often massed his heavy guns, as did the Russians and Austrians, and collectively they blew anyone daft enough to come close to smithereens.

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    2. Agreed, I think perhaps in HoW it looks 'wrong' because of the one gun representing a battery so two model guns can effectively block a huge wing of miniatures! And this did happen to me in my last game. Do you think that our war gamers terrain isn't undulated enough to represent real battlefields and help our infantry out a bit? Something I'm toying with for my next game,..

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    3. A great looking game, as usual Colin. And here's the but, HOW and their artillery effectiveness. Clearly the Prussians were confident enough to strip all their troops from the centre, leaving just a battery of heavy guns to hold about one third of the battlefield without any support. In HOW with the long cannister range, no troops can survive more than two moves if they are lucky. Effectively those guns can start killing very effectively from move one and the Austrians who will have deployed opposite them will disappear irrespective of what they attempt to do.They cant even take the daft option of advancing because they will never be able to get to musket range. Frankly the best option for the Austrian centre is to retire off the table leaving no targets for those heavy guns.Not historical, but at least it is logical. If you think back to the Sunday's AMG game, Guy massed ALL his artillery which effectively finished the game there and then, before a shot had been fired. Absolutely nothing wrong with the rules apart from the artillery rules which have created a total imbalance. Even with the penalty? of just being standard crews, the Prussian heavy guns will always win, given that they are usually firing at standard Austrian troops.

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    4. Purp. I agree. See my answer to Robbie. Good rules though.

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  9. True Robbie. In reality the Prussian artillery were caught deployed out on a limb as the force was effectively ambushed by the Austrians. 24 heavy guns (12 & 24pdrs) would make a mess of anything to their front I reckon. Anyway I do agree that artillery are very powerful weapons in How. Too powerful? Maybe. I'm thinking of going back to the shorter canister range we used to use and maybe even reducing all artillery ranges to something a little more manageable as a gunner's eyeball can only see so far whether he is standing next to 4pdr or a Prussian 'Brummer'. As for the AGM game yes it was naughty of Guy to mass all his guns the way he did. But Jim did the same on the Saturday and it didn't have as much impact, especially as the Prussian lost. On a final point you only have to read about Freds battles to see that he often did mass his heavy guns, as indeed the Austrians, Russians and even the Saxons much of the time. Anyway. Long time no see. Hope you are well and do come up for a game sometime.

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    1. Colin,
      I have been thinking some more about this. Napoleon over 50 years later at Waterloo had a grand battery of over 100 pieces to hammer the allies, Lee at Gettysburg, even later had 120 plus guns, they fired for over an hour, but both failed spectacularly. Frederick in your game placed 20 heavy guns in the middle of a battlefield, with no supports to protect them and effectively controlled the centre of the table,from move one and decimated the enemy. In fact wherever the guns were deployed they would effectively destroy anything placed in front of them, and bearing in mind the maximimum range for cannister is virtually the full width of your table. An opponent can never hope to move without being decimated.If the artillery was so effective in the SYW, why didnt the Austrians, the best artillery theorists at that time not adopt this, and create massed batteries to off set the Prussian infantry? I just think that HOW have got the artillery rules badly wrong and have caused the game to become too unbalanced. To take it one step further, it would pay for the Austrian player to simply march off table until they were able to mass all their guns.Can you imagine what mayhem their Superior gunners would cause. Not historical probably,certainly a game spoiler but definitely a game winner. Just observations and not a criticism of your game by the way.

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    2. Thanks Robbie. I do agree you know. Oddly, in this battle Charles of Lorraine had placed all his field guns together yet in the game they were far less effective than the Prussian artillery except where they caught some cavalry in column.

      Max canister range is 60cm for heavy guns and my table is far wider than that ­čĄö

      Anyway, I shall be trying the reduced ranges again next time.

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  10. An impressive collection and setting with a good bunch of gamers by the sound of it.

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