Sunday 26 August 2018

Zorndorf refought - 260 year anniversary game.

As the title says, Saturday was the 260th anniversary of the Battle of Zorndorf in the first half of the Seven Years War (25 August 1758). Conrad, Nigel, Paul S, Shaun, Douglas from Edinburgh'ish and Paul from Grimsby came to the Burrow on the promise of a decent-sized wargame preceded by bacon butties.

In my previous post I described how each side would receive their briefing, i.e. with the use of suitably edited photos of the battlefield from the perspective of either the Prussians or Russians. They were to use these photographic panoramas to make their plans.

Anyone not familiar with this battle see here for a full description.

I decided to use Black Powder for this game as they can handle really large battles and with the inclusion of some appropriate house rules they work pretty well, most of the time. Marmite rules for certain. Of course the big test is whether players play the rules or the period. As expected with my illustrious guests, they all play, and indeed played on this occasion, the period. Even when I explained a couple of perfectly legal but very gamey tactics, which had they employed would have resulted in the entire general staff of whichever side did so to fall victim to random cannon balls.

Nigel (Count Fermor, the Russian CinC) and Douglas (Saltykov) wanted to be Russians (?) so the others threw dice to see which coat they would wear for the day. Conrad joined the Russians (as General Browne in charge of the Observation Corps). Shaun was Manteuffel in the centre, Paul S was von Seydlotz while Grimsby Paul was von Dohna in charge of the right wing. I think technically Shaun was also Frederick. I don't know as the Fred figure and his associated hangers-on didn't move the entire game and was rooted to the spot for the whole game near the burning village of Zorndorf.

As usual the pictures will tell the story of the battle and how it developed and how plans unravelled (for both sides) during the course of the game.
The Russians conferring on the patio. Russian army on the left. Prussians on the right. 
The main body of Prussian infantry under Shaun von Manteuffel.
Seydlitz's cuirassier and supporting hussars on the Prussian left commanded by Paul S.
The Russian right and centre under Nigel and Doug made a small movement forward to  align themselves with their artillery.
Conrad was planning to reposition the Observation Corps artillery from behind the wood to somewhere it could do some good. He threw  a blunder (the only one of the game) and the guns veered left right into a swamp, which being impassable to artillery, mean the artillery were lost. Not a good start.
Paul working out the likely outcome of Conrad's all out charge with his cavalry. It seems the Russian plan was to hold in the centre and on the right and attack with Conrad's cavalry and the Observation Corps. It didn't go quite to plan. The Russian hussars (all four regiments) were all bounced back shaken by the wicked von Reusch Hussars. The Russian cuirassiers were initially successful but were then defeated by the Prussian second line and forced to retreat shaken, putting the entire Russian left wing cavalry out of action by the end of turn 3 as the majority of the regiments in the brigade were shaken or broken!
Russian hussars falling back in the face of their Prussian counterparts.
Paul pushed his infantry up towards the Russians lurking in the wood.
In the background Russian line infantry and the Observation Corps emerge from the wood  and temporarily put a half to the Prussian advance. The Prussian fusilier regiment No 49 was left exposed and unable to move, but Paul's cuirassier were able to pull back out of range of the Russian infantry.
The Prussian advance as seen from behind the Russian centre.

The Prussian attack led by Shaun is taking lots of casualties off the Russian artillery.   Shaun is able to push his second line through the battered first line. The 'new' first line is quickly pulverised and the entire brigade is forced to withdrawn.
The remaining infantry on the Prussian left are soaking up significant musket and cannon shots. They won't last long without some serious intervention. Shaun's reserve cavalry on von Marshall's dragoon brigade  are being lined up for something.
The battlefield from the Prussian right looking along the line towards their left flank.
The Russians on the right have been able to see off several furious Prussian attacks.
Back on the Russian left the Prussian attack has stalled. 
The Prussians almost close with the Russian line on their left but the second brigade  is forced to fall back shattered.
At this point the Russian commander Count Fermor decided he had to retreat 'to have a wound dressed' or check something in the rules perhaps.  Either way the coward buggered off! Command then devolved on Saltykov.
Shaun launched a series of charges with his dragoons to buy some time and cover the retreat of his infantry. Predictably, and in the face of point blank canister fire, they bought about 37 seconds!
More successful was Paul's attack on the flank of the Russian line with the HR7 Malachowsky. They just made it over the stream and crashed into the flame of the leading Russian battalion, forcing it to retreat. They then crashed into the flank of another Russian battalion which they also forced to retreat.
Back on the other flank the Prussian cuirassiers crashed into the flank of the leading Observation Corps battalion with a fortuitous follow me order. The infantry were pushed back, the cuirassiers followed up, and the infantry were shattered, taking their supporting battalion with them. In one move what looked like a Prussian defeat had been turned into the likelihood of a Prussian victory. Nail biting stuff!

Nigel's dragoons then crashed into the rear of the Prussian hussars. In Black Powder cavalry can turn to face so in the melee the hussars did rather well but were forced to take a beak test as they'd become shaken. They broke, taking their commander GM Malachowsky with them. The Russians could not follow up as they too were shaken. (The Russian dragoons were very, very, poor troops but most of us thought that their charge into the rear of the hussars might have been a little more effective. It wasn't a bad result though surely?)
The Prussian cuirassiers had been waiting for this moment since traversing the stream and crashed into the Russian dragoons, breaking them instantly. Also visible here are the remnants of the two broken Prussian infantry brigades and the battered but not broken dragoons. The Russian artillery were holding firm and would not give up their cannon under any circumstances.
After breaking the dragoons the cuirassiers hit the Russian St Petersburg Horse Grenadiers. A tougher target but they still prevailed, forcing them to retreat shaken. This meant that the Russians had reached their army break point in terms of broken brigades and a rather Pyrrhic victory was declared for the Prussians. 

In reality I suspect that with little infantry remaining under arms the Prussians would not have been able to exploit their victory, in much the same way as the Russians, with no cavalry left this side of the Oder, their infantry having taken a pasting and their artillery lost or likely to be overrun, would have struggled to continue the fight.

The game played out more or less true to history. Aggressive Prussian attacks saw their infantry spent. The Russian cavalry on both wings was destroyed. Stalemate. Everyone agreed it was a tough and highly enjoyable game. It was a big battle with lots of troops on the table yet we got a good result. The last time I played Zorndorf the Prussians took a right hammering. If I was to try and unpick the game, the Russians were unlucky their left wing artillery blundered into a swamp and sank, and perhaps their hell for leather cavalry attack on the same wing was a little uncoordinated with their infantry. What was a great feature of the game was that with the demise of the Russian left wing it looked like a Prussian victory was more likely, yet the repulse of the main Prussian attack swung the outcome back in favour of the Russians. It was only the timely flank attacks by both Pauls (in the centre and on the left) that dragged victory from the jaws of defeat and saw a Prussian victory of sorts.

I still feel slightly uncomfortable using BP for these big games but, like Marmite, you like it or you don't. I see their merits and they work for the sort of games I like so unless anything better comes along will continue to use them.

Thanks to everyone to coming for the game, especially Paul and Doug from Grimsby and Edinburgh respectively, and I guess I better get thinking about the next big game. The bacon butties were much appreciated and I shall do them again.


  1. Superb vista and wonderfully painted figures. Excellent.
    This one's always a problem if trying to turn a Russian flank, though it's not every re-fight that the commander buggers off.

  2. As always a lovely looking game and one full of action. Sounds like everyone had a great time, which is the most important thing:)

  3. Agreed! A feast for the eyes, and it looks/sounds like fun was had by all.

    Best Regards,


  4. Looks great, gave a good game mostly historical outcome - not a lot more that you could ask for! I both admire you and thus you're a complete loony for attempting this bloodbath, but you've got company in Jonathan Frietag and his Zorndorf refight planned this weekend.

    I agree with the BP marmite comment, but they give a good recipe that can be toyed with. I'm planning SYW BP this fall, but on a much less epic scale. I'd be interested in your house mods if you'd share them,

    1. Superb looking game and I too would like to see your BP modifications for SYW including that kill the Staff one ! :-)

  5. Beautiful battle, Colin! Excellent action too.

    We fought Zorndorf on the 25th to commemorate the anniversary as well. My version was in 18mm using Honours of War.

  6. Great looking game and a fun report to read.

  7. Thanks for sharing an excellent game. I've not found BP to be marmite, we use them as they are rules no one loves but no one hates:).

    1. I like your reasoning for using BP.

    2. Ah yes the time honoured arbitration technique - pick the option that makes the fewest stakeholders barf.

  8. Stupendous game on a grand scale Colin - as we all know, some time in the planning and preparation, but well worth it by the look of your report. Congratulations on a job well done! I'm not a big fan of Black Powder myself - have played them for Napoleonics a few times and had some weird outcomes - but they seem to be a popular generic ruleset at the moment

  9. It was a splendid day out and much fun was had by all. Thanks Colin

  10. Another fine looking game from oop north!

  11. Another Ashton spectacular...
    A splendid looking and sounding game.

    All the best. Aly

  12. Excellent report and an impressive game.