Friday 18 September 2015

The Battle of Zorndorf - an exhausting affair!!!!

Robbie and Dave (Jarvis) came up yesterday for this game. Zorndorf was Frederick's first personal experience of the Russian army and they fought him to a bloody draw in the original battle. Prior to the battle Frederick had marched his army right around the Russians who were forced to do a 180 degree about face. This left the difficult terrain they had originally deployed behind in their rear. Two steep-sided and marshy streams cut through their positions, one on their right and one through their centre. A wood covered their centre and any Prussians coming through it would exit to face close range musket and canister theory.

The game required almost all of my Russians and a large proportion of my Prussian army, especially in terms of cavalry, where the Prussians outnumbered their opponents almost 2:1 in squadrons (88 to 50 squadrons, excluding Cossacks, which I ignored for this game). As I noted in an earlier post, the Prussians also had the edge in field artillery but were outnumbered when it came to infantry. More importantly, the Prussian infantry were not as good as those that took the field in the first two years of the war.

Robbie elected to take the Russians while Dave and I shared the Prussians, me in the persona of Frederick while Dave was Manteuffel. Our plan was simple. Use our superior artillery to try and soften up the`Russians a little then refuse our right flank while Dave pushed ahead with Manteuffel's and Kanitz's commands to destroy the Russian right. Seydlitz's cuirassiers were also to move to the centre in order to punch through any weak points in the Russian line. As usual we used Black Powder, with a few modifications for the scenario. Cavalry units were of 12 figures and infantry were in 36's.

Prussian Army

C-in-C: Frederick II King of Prussia (9) Aggressive/Decisive
Assisted by Gen Der Inf Moritz Furst von Anhalt-Dessau (9) Decisive

Left Wing Cavalry:
GL Freidrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz (9) Aggressive
Cuirassiers                 4
GM Malachowsky (9)
Hussars                      3            
Right Wing Cavalry:
GL von Schorlemer (8)
Cuirassiers                 2
GM von Bredow (8)
Cuirassiers                 1
Dragoons                   1
Independent command: Von Reusch (8)
Hussars                      2
Reserve Cavalry: GM Marshall (8)
Dragoons                    4

Infantry Centre:
Left, 1st Line: GL von Manteuffel (9)
Grenadiers                 1
Musketeers                2
Left, 2nd Line: GL Kanitz (8)
Grenadiers                 1
Musketeers                1
Fusiliers                     1
Right:GL von Dohna (9)
Grenadiers                 1
Fusiliers                     1
Artillery: Colonel Moller (9):
12pdr battery           4 x heavy guns
Howitzer battery      1 x medium howitzer
Fortress battery        2 x super heavy ‘Brummer’


C-in-C: General of Cavalry Villim Villimovitch Fermor (6) Useless T**t

Left Wing Cavalry:  Maj-Gen Demiku (8) Hesitant
Cuirassiers                                         3
Hussars                                              4
Right Wing Cavalry: Maj-Gen Gaugreben (7) Timid
Dragoons                                            1
Horse Grenadiers                                1
Hussars                                                1

Infantry Front Line: Lt-Gen Petr Semenovitch Saltykov (8)
Infantry btns                                     4
Grenadier btns                                  1
12pdr bty                                          1 x heavy gun
8pdr bty                                             1 x medium gun
Howitzer bty                                      1 x medium howitzer
Infantry Second Line: Lt-Gen Galitzin (7) Hesitant
Infantry btns                                     4
Grenadier btns                                  1
Observation Corps: Lt-Gen Browne (8)
Musketeer btns                                 3
Grenadier btns                                  1
8pdr bty                                             1 x medium gun
Secret Howitzer bty                          1 x medium howitzer

Back in 1758, Fermor mysteriously left the battlefield for much of the day. To replicate this from the end of turn  Robbie had to throw 2D6, +1 for each broken or shaken Russian unit. A score of over his command level would result in him leaving the field ‘to get a wound dressed’. Fermor would not have the chance to return until 1D6 + 2 turns but then would have to roll under his command level to do so, +1 for every broken or shaken unit. While he was away Saltykov would  act as CinC .

I introduced a bombardment phase to the game as the Prussians spent quite some time and much shot trying to soften up the Russians before launching their assault. Predictably, in the game little damage was caused. We also elected to use our first turn to try this again, with similarly disappointing results (we did knock a couple of Russian battalions about a bit but it was hardly gratifying having fired the equivalent of over 100 heavy guns at them!).
Robbie decided to take the battle to us and on his first turn flung four units of hussars at my outnumbered and outflanked right wing. Even from our perspective the rank-upon-rank of Russian hussars looked very pretty as they thundered closer!
Two squadrons of HR5 von Reusch failed miserably trying to stem the tide of Russian hussars. Both units were bundled backwards in yet another scintillating display of dice throwing by yours truly. Never mind, Robbie had fallen into my trip and left his Hussars dangerously exposed. Ha!
Above, Schorlemer's and von Bredow's cavalry on my right, poised to pounce on Robbie's hussars, while below, the Russian hussars about to charge again. Not so exposed now that Robbie's cuirassiers had caught up with them!

HR5 von Reusch just before they were unceremoniously swept off the table by another charge by the Russian hussars. For a moment my right flank was in serious peril as I had Russian cavalry occupying the ground just vacated by the famed and mainly dead Death's Head hussars.
Manteuffel and Kanitz advancing towards the Russian right flank. A battalion of Manteuffel's command is in the wood.
Manteuffel's command took on the Russians in a prolonged and deadly musketry duel. Though much weakened the grenadiers held on long enough to kill off the Russian gun crews and break the Russian musketeer battalion to their front. The grenadiers were to hold the line all day despite taking crippling casualties.
The Russian centre behind the wood.  Gaugreben's cavalry can be seen treading a path over the stream and past the baggage train. This was the last we saw of Fermor (on the grey by the icon-toting priests) as he had to leave the field on urgent business, or something.....
Robbie's second line of infantry under Galitzin marched round to extend his left flank and threaten my right. There were no Prussian infantry available to counter this move, just cavalry and artillery.
One of Manteuffel's battalions can be seen on the edge of the wood, emerging on the flank of the Russian Apcheronkski regiment who were engaged to their front.
Seydlitz's cuirassiers in position after moving from the left flank to the Prussian centre, poised to either plug a gap or deliver a coup de grace, or both as it turned out.
Schorlemer's cuirassiers (the Garde du Corps) hit a regiment of Russian hussars and break them. They followed on and hit another hussar regiment which was also driven back shaken.
IR40 tried to move over to the right to offer some support to the embattled Prussian cavalry and artillery but were hit hard by the Russian artillery and were shaken and disordered, unable to move. Von Marshall's reserve cavalry en route to bolster my right flank.
Robbie launched a regiment of dragoons in an attempt to break the Prussian attack. They survived the closing fire but were driven off in the ensuing melee, out of the battle for the remainder of the game, a spent force.
Von Marshall's dragoon in position to fill the enormous gap between the Prussian centre and its right wing. A gap that Robbie was trying to fill with the Observation Corps.
The Observation Corps advancing and putting my centre under serious pressure.
The Prussian left, with the main attack still stalled by stubborn Russian resistance.
Finally one of the Russian battalions facing the Prussian left broke, but the gap was soon filled by a reserve battalion.
On the extreme left, Robbie ordered his Serbski hussars to cross the stream to occupy the attention of the Prussian hussars. It took several attempts to get them to cross, and when they did, Dave ordered his hussars to charge them, but they failed to reach their target! The next turn the Russians charged, and broke one Prussian unit and drove another back, effectively putting the Prussian hussars out of the battle. Unfortunately Robbie was unable to exploit the situation as his hussars were also shaken.
A large gap appeared in the Prussian centre where von Dohna was facing the Observation Corps when a battalion broke under the pressure of close-range artillery and musketry fire. Worse than that, Frederick had been with this battalion trying to rally it and was swept away in their rout! Anhalt-Dessau to the left of the picture can be seen gazing heavenwards. Donna's command had now reached break point and would have to withdraw out of contact as the remaining battalions were all shaken. In the woods, the Prussians were also forced to retreat as Manteuffel's command was also spent. A grenadier battalion from Kanitz's second line can just be seen moving forward to plug the gap.
The fight on the edge of the wood ended after several turns, with the Prussians being forced to withdraw while the Russian battalion was broken, leaving a nice gap to fill, or exploit.
Von Bredow's cuirassiers charged their Russian counterparts who were unable to countercharge. Hit at the halt they were broken. The Garde du Corps had rallied back but the Gen's d'Armes regiment can be seen in the distance on the Russian flank. 
At this point it is worth noting that four Prussian commands were out of action either spent or in rout. One more and it be all up for Dave and I. Robbie had by now I recall also lost both his cavalry brigades to the battle and also had only to lose one more command to be forced to retreat. The difference was that the Prussians had only a single brigade of infantry remaining (Kanitz) while the Russians had all three of theirs, which were all bigger than ours. We did have all our cuirassiers and dragoons left however, but cavalry are no good trying to hold ground against advancing infantry, the only options being to pul back, stand and get shot, or attack with a good chance of being shot to pieces! Dave is not sucking his thumb, honest!
The view along the length of the table. Lots of gaps have appeared in the Prussian line.
The Observation Corps pressing forward into the gap that was the Prussian centre. In an all or nothing gesture, the Prussian cuirassiers in the distance charged the Observation Corps, survived closing fire and crashed into them. Being lower-class inexperienced troops they the broke, allowing the cuirassiers to follow up into another battalion which was also broken.The dragoons also attempted to halt the Russian infantry. The first unit was forced to recoil due to the effects of closing fire, but the second made contact and was locked in melee with the Russian infantry.
The Prussian cuirassiers smash into the second battalion of Russians; steadier than the Observation Corps they were still caught unprepared and broken. The Russian gun in the picture is shooting at one of the surviving Prussian infantry battalions in the wood.
Meanwhile on the far right the Prussians swung their cuirassiers round the Russian rear and overran a battery of secret howitzers.
At the end of this turn, fortunes had changed massively. One moment in very real danger of suffering a defeat, the Prussian cavalry under Seydlitz had broken the Russian centre, causing their attack and indeed the army to collapse.  
The Russian baggage train.
The Russian acting C-inC after Fermor's vanishing act. The latter never did return to the battlefield.
General Malachowsky who commanded the three regiments of hussars on the Prussian left and who was so ignominiously defeated by a sole regiment of Russian hussars!

So, there you go. Robbie played the Russians masterfully. The Prussians had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in what proved to be the last turn of the game. The Prussian superiority in artillery wasn't really evident in terms of results, and the toughness of the Russian infantry certainly made a very big difference, even if the Observation Corps were classed as untested. I honestly thought it was going to be another ignominious defeat for the Prussians and am not sure how the Prussians managed it as two of our three infantry commands were retreating shaken and all our light cavalry was also out of the game. I guess it was all or nothing at the end when we launched our death or glory cavalry attacks. In the real battle Seydlitz's actions/interventions saved the Prussians from defeat, twice; in the refight he managed to turn a potentially bloody defeat into a bloody victory. As always the rules worked really well, and we managed to achieve the usual cluster of annoyingly badly-timed failed command rolls and blunders.  We all enjoyed a fast-paced, enjoyable and challenging game. 

Next time back to earth with a bump as its Hochkirch.


  1. Colin,
    A first-rate account of an absorbing game. When Robbie 'waved his Russian tricorne' to signal the 'general advance', I thought of nothing else other than finding my carriage and telling my driver 'not to spare the horses'!!
    Great game and thanks for the invitation
    Von Manteuffel

  2. I'm knackered just reading the account. What a slugfest! Great report and pics, glad you all enjoyed it

  3. Sounds like a great game Colin. Always a good write up to support your photographs of the excellent terrain and figures.

  4. Super looking game and great report.

  5. As ever a wonderful AAR accompanied by inspirational photos!