Friday 27 February 2015

Forcing the River Spree: A Seven Years War scenario Part 2, 'The Battle'

This piece follows on from the previous post which described the background to the game and the opposing forces, so now on to battle!

The Russian advance was slowed by poor command rolls which resulted in about half of the army not appearing when required. The Russians had also made their plans based on a very inaccurate and not to scale sketch map drawn by a cossack scout. As a consequence they misjudged the size of the gap between the town and the woods on their right and were unaware of the presence of the sunken road in the centre (marked by the double hedge line). Visibility was also reduced for a couple of moves due to early morning mist.

The Russian artillery was slow to deploy as they were taking fire from the Prussian guns and unable to return fore as they were masked by their own troops manoeuvring to their front. Nevertheless the Russians soon had three brigades or infantry (12 btns) marching towards the Prussians. John decided to take the fight to the Russians on the left and effectively stalled the Russian advance for the remainder of the game. The Russians couldn't compete with the superior Prussian fire discipline and should have tried to drive them off with the bayonet rather than shooting it out with them.

Conrad looks on as the Russians make their (slow) entry onto the table.....well some of them!
The Prussian left flank in the distance led by John gamble and advance on the Russians. These were the best of the Prussian army as almost all the other infantry were Freikorps, Militia, Garrison infantry or recruits, 'stiffened' by a fusilier and grenadier btn.
Clive's hussars and cossacks reach the sunken road while his artillery tries to deploy on the hill top while under fire from the Prussians.
The Russian centre, anchored on the sunken road which was quickly filling up with Russian casualties.
Bosnaiks and the 7th Malachowski hussars recovering after seeing off the Russian hussars seen pulling back in the distance, shaken and out of the battle.
My new church. The village was held by a Freibattalion and a battalion of East Prussian Land Militia.
The East Prussian Land Militia advance, supported by the Frei-Grenadier btn von Wussow and the fusiliers of IR40 von Kraytzen.
The Prussian left, outnumbered 2:1 and under constant fire from a battery of three Russian howitzers, hold back the advancing Russians, just.
The Prussian cuirassiers and dragoons crashed into the Russian horse grenadiers and cuirassiers and pushed them back to the table edge a spent force.
The Prussian centre advances following the collapse of the Russians holding the sunken road.
The Russian right flank faltering under pressure from the Prussians. In the foreground the last remaining Russian cavalry, hussars and cossacks, who would play no part in the battle but would undoubtedly be effective in screening the Russian withdrawal.
The highly effective Russian howitzer battery.
The rather less effective Russian guns in the centre......
Field Marshal Cairns muses over the progress of the battle while finishing his picnic lunch.....will there be time for pudding?
Russian Pandours making very slow progress of clearing the woods of Prussian jager.
Frei Battalion du Verger held the village throughout the battle, and were very happy to remain their safe behind the church walls.

While both sides shot great lumps off each other on the Prussian left, in the centre Clive moved his infantry up to the sunken road. The Prussians countered by advancing a battalion of grenadiers and one of garrison troops to engage them, supported by guns on the hill. The garrison battalion broke under pressure but the Russians were being hit hard. Then Clive threw a blunder and one battalion advanced straight ahead into a hail of musketry and canister fire. The unit broke and with more than half of the units in the brigade now broken or shaken Clive had to withdraw the survivors.

Meanwhile, Clive's hussars had decided to swing right across the front of the Prussian position and were hit in the flank by musketry and cannon fire. They were then charged by my Bosniaks and hussars and driven from the field, taking their attendant cossacks  with them.

The Prussians administered a coup de grace with their cuirassiers and dragoons who were able to manoeuvre through and around the hamlet in the centre following the withdrawal under fire of the Russian heavy cavalry. The 'Norman' dragoons and the 'Prinz von Preussen' cuirassiers crashed into the Russian horse grenadiers and cuirassiers, pushing them back to the table edge shaken and out of the battle. 

At this point the Russians threw in the towel as they had two cavalry brigades and two infantry brigades broken (Conrad had lost one in the prolonged fire fight with John's Prussians). There was no way they were going to occupy the heights. A Prussian victory!!!

It was a great game and a tough scenario. What a super way to spend a Friday! I think everyone enjoyed the game, but I remain very puzzled as to why the Russians chose the weakest of the forces choices available to them. They could certainly have done with some more cuirassiers and horse grenadiers.

Forcing the River Spree: A Seven Years War scenario part 1

First of all I have to admit that I borrowed/pinched the idea for this scenario off James Roach's excellent Olicanalad's Games blog.

Last week saw Conrad, Clive and John (the Red) coming to visit to take part in the above game. The Prussians were holding a ridge line covering a crossing of the River Spree. The Russians had to drive the Prussians off, as holding the ridges would make a defence of the other side of the river impossible.

Each army had a 'core' to which could be added a block of troops from one of three options. The numbers represent the command levels for each brigade.


2 x Cuirassier 9

2 x Dragoon 8

2 x Hussars 8

1 x Frei-Grenadier Btn 8
1 x Garrison Btn
1 x Militia Btn
1 x Freikorps Btn
1 x btn gun

1 x Grenadier btn 9
3 x Musketeer Btn
1 x btn gun

2 x Medium Guns
1 x Heavy Howitzer
2 x Dragoons 9

1 x Grenadier 9
2 x Fusiliers
1 x Freikorps btn
1 x Btn gun

2 x Heavy Guns
2 x Dragoons  8
1 x Frie Dragoons

2 x Hussars  9
1 x Bosnaiks

2 x Musketeer 8
1 x Fusilier
1 x Btn gun

2 x Heavy guns in redoubts
2 x Cuirassiers 8

2 x Hussars 8

1 x Grenadier btn 9
2 x Musketeer btn
1 x Garrison btn
1 x btn gun

2 x Heavy guns

John was commander of the Prussians and he selected 'option B'. A wise choice I thought. I was in command of the Prussian right and the catering!

Russian Army: CinC 1D6  1-3:6  4,5: 7  6: 8 (Conrad threw a 1 so their CinC was pants!)

2 x Cuirassier 7
2 x Horse Grenadiers

2 x Hussars 7
2 x Cossacks

2 x Grenadiers 8
2 x Musketeer
1 x Battalions gun

4 x Musketeers 6
1 x Battalion gun 

1 x Pandours

2 x Heavy artillery
1 x Heavy howitzer
2 x Horse Grenadiers 6
2 x Cuirassiers

2 x Cossacks 6
2 x Hussars

1 x Grenadiers 8
3 x Musketeers
1 x Battalion gun

2 x Heavy artillery

2 x Cuirassiers 7
2 x Horse Grenadiers 7

4 x Dragoons 7

1 x Grenadiers 6
2 x Musketeers
1 x Dismounted Dragoons
1 x Battalion gun

2 x Heavy artillery
2 x Heavy howitzer
2 x Cossacks 7
2 x Hussars

1 x Pandours

1 x Grenadiers 8
3 x Musketeers
1 x Battalion gun

2 x Heavy howitzer

Conrad and Clive decided on 'option C'. This puzzled me as it was by far the weakest of the options available, especially as they had enough (useless) light cavalry already and not enough (slightly less useless) heavy cavalry. 

Part 2 will describe how the battle unfolded.....

Monday 9 February 2015

The Battle of Lobositz refought: Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory!

Rob and John came up on Saturday for this game. I also invited Grimsby war gamer Paul Robinson up for the day. Rob supplied the Austrians and we used my Prussians. The game was set up pretty much straight out of Charles Grant's Wargaming in History volume 9, with the terrain juggled to fit my 12' x 5' table (basically the area of the battlefield on the left of the map where the Prussians would enter and deploy was chopped off, so the Homolka mound was about a foot from their baseline).

The Austrians were deployed in their historical positions, although some units, i.e. those behind the Morrelenbach at Sullowitz or in the sunken road were not placed on the table at the outset due to the morning mist. The presence of the sunken road was also hidden from the Prussians until they were close enough to see it (or read the briefing notes! Doh!). Visibility improved from turn one, but it wasn't until turn four that the plain was clear of mist.

The Prussians started the game with their heavy battery on the Homolka Mound, a squadron of hussars on their right flank and a brigade of infantry just on the table in the 'saddle' between the Homolka Mound and the Lobosch Hill. All other Prussian troops would measure their point of entry from this section of the table edge but could move and deploy either slide of the mound. We used Black Powder with the troop characteristics and amendments  from the Last Argument of Kings supplement. Infantry battalions were 36 figures strong. The Croats were 12 figure units. Cavalry units (squadrons) were 12 (or 15 for the Prussian Panzer Korps, er..... sorry, Cuirassiers) figures.

The Austrians had a slight numerical advantage in infantry but were seriously outgunned by the Prussians when it came to artillery. The Prussian infantry was far superior to the Austrians but as the game was to demonstrate, fast shooting well drilled troops die just as quickly as anyone else when faced by massed artillery and musket fire! But just not quickly enough......

As noted above, Rob provided the Austrians and me the Prussians. The armies were as follows:

Austrian (Me and Rob)

CinC FM von Browne: 8

unbrigaded: 1 unit of Hussars on the plain, 1 small unit of Croats in the sunken road
On Lobosch Hill (7): 2 small units of Croats
Lacy's brigade (7) in front of Lobositz: 2 Grenadier btns, 3 Line btns, 2 Heavy guns, 1 Howitzer
Radicati's brigade (8) in front of the sunken road: 2 units of Carabiniers/Horse Grenadiers
Lobkowitz's brigade (7) behind the sunken road: 2 units of Cuirassiers
Behind the Morrelenbach:
Lowenstein's brigade (7): 2 units of Cuirassiers
Hediger's brigade (7): 2 units of Dragoons
Kollowrat's brigade (7): 5 Line btns, 2 light guns

Prussians (Paul and John)

CinC Frederick: 9

unbrigaded: 1 unit of Hussars
Bevern's brigade (8): 1 Grenadier and 2 Line battalions
Pr von Preussen's brigade (9): 1 Grenadier and 2 Line battalions
Kleist's brigade (8): 2 Line and 1 Fusilier battalions
Katzler's brigade (8): 2 Cuirassier and 2 Dragoon units
Gessler's brigade (8): 2 cuirassier units
Kyau's brigade (8): 2 Cuirassier units
Artillery on Homolka Mound (8): 2 heavy guns and 1 howitzer
Reserve artillery (8): 2 heavy guns and 2 medium guns

The Prussians started the battle by advancing their lead brigade towards Lobositz, totally ignoring the Croats on the hill on their flank. In fact everyone ignored them! They spent the entire game taking pot shots at the flanks of the passing Prussian infantry, occasionally causing significant casualties and disorder. The lead brigade suffered in this way, as one battalion became shaken and disordered very early in the game. The remaining battalions of this brigade advanced purposefully towards the waiting lines of Austrian infantry and artillery. They stopped to fire, causing some casualties amongst the Austrian grenadiers in the front line but the return fire was devastating, and the brigade became shaken and had to retire to recover. (I allowed shaken brigades to recover where units had not actually broken but were merely shaken and this saved the Prussians so it was obviously a very good idea.......not). Paul marched his second line up to replace the shattered first line. For almost the entire game the Austrians held firm while the Prussians ultimately lost several more battalions, largely to the combined effects of the three-gun battery pounding away at them from quite close range! One Austrian battalion was forced to retire, but another swung round to enfilade the Prussian line which was showing signs of crumbling.

John's cavalry had made an early entrance but a dismal command score left a brigade stuck on the plain in march column. They were screened by another brigade of Cuirassiers  but the combined Carabinier/Horse Grenadier squadrons charged these and broke them. In a sweeping advance they piled into the columns of Cuirassiers and they too were shattered. The Austrian cavalry had to retreat as they were also badly mauled, not helped by being right in front of the Prussian Homolka battery. Ouch! A slight pause for pictures.....
 (The battlefield: The players contemplate what to do. In the foreground Paul's Prussians are taking a hammering from the Austrian line and Rob's Austrians were struggling to make headway having been hit by the Prussian reserve artillery and cavalry in the flank! l to r Rob, John, Paul.)

Meanwhile, over on the other flank Rob had taken advantage of the mist to move his troops across the  Morellenbach stream using the bridge at Sullowitz and onto the flank of the Prussian advance. This was going really well as when the mist cleared his infantry and cavalry were in a great position to roll up the Prussian flank. Sadly, Rob managed to throw a blunder and his leading infantry battalions were forced to withdraw for two moves! At the same time more Prussian Cuirassiers and Dragoons appeared , supported by two batteries of guns, and drove off much of what was left of Rob's cavalry on that flank before piling into the flanks of his infantry who had just advanced again following the 'misunderstanding' that took them to the rear. In the space of a couple of turns Rob's entire infantry brigade was swept away and his cavalry rendered useless due to the casualties they had sustained thus far.
Back on the right flank, the doughty Austrian grenadiers finally failed a break test and ran away. The reserve cavalry moved from behind the sunken road but were driven off  by the Prussians. No sooner had the Grenadiers broken than the remainder of the brigade proceeded to fold, assisted by the late appearance of the final brigade of Prussian cavalry who caught one battalion in the flank. As a result the Austrian army was broken, although the Prussians had suffered something approaching 40% casualties.

Before lunch I think everyone would  have agreed that the Austrians were going to win. After lunch the tide of battle turned so swiftly I don't think any of us actually know what happened to precipitate the Austrian collapse, on the right especially! Oh well, never mind. It was a great game and a perfect way to spend a cold february Saturday.

Next up, not sure when yet, will be the action at Reichenbach.