Lobositz Refought

Frederick, Seydlitz & Zeiten

Despite the much much fawning over the greatness of Frederick The Great this is one of those battles where the greatness is not so evident.

Lots of generals!

In brief, the campaigning season of 1756 kicked off with Frederick crossing into Saxony with the intention of knocking said state out of the alliance of states ranged against him. At the same time an Austrian army under Field Marshal von Browne was marching through Bohemia with the intent of keeping the Saxons on side. On October 1st the Prussian advance guard caught sight of what they thought was the Austrian rear guard deployed around the town of Lobositz and the Prussian main army hurried forward.

Early deployment

In fact the Austrian rear guard was the main army which von Browne had deployed in and around the town making good use of the terrain which created a funnel through which the Prussians must advance. On the Austrian right the slopes of the Lobosch Hill were defended by a strong force of Croats and regular musketeers under Lacy, the centre comprised the town, defended by more musketeers and a sunken road in which were hidden a line of more Croats and Grenadiers supported by cavalry, the left was the main army hidden behind the marshy stream known as the Morellen Bach; out in front on the valley floor was a brigade of cavalry screening the Austrian deployments from the Prussians. As best we can tell from the sources, von Browne’s plan was to fight a holding action that would give him time to march the main army across the River Elbe behind Lobositz and join up with the Saxons.

The Prussian plan, such as it was, seems to have been to arrogantly power on forward and drive the Austrians from the town!

Croats

The battle, in brief, consisted of an early morning artillery duel which inflicted some serious losses on the static Prussian infantry and some losses on the Austrian cavalry manoeuvring on the plain. Battle proper started with the Prussian left wing infantry under Bevern ascending the Lobosch and engaging in what turned out to be a day long musketry duel with Lacy which finally turned in favour of the Prussians. On the valley floor Kyau’s cavalry brigade, which included the Garde du Corps and the Gendarmes, galloped confidently forward and got their arses handed to them by the hidden guns and muskets. The remnants joined the main cavalry body and the whole lot then attacked without orders! half of them got into the sunken road but where seen off by a counter attack by Austrian cuirassiers and the other half ended up stuck in the Morellen Bach where they were easily shot down. After the cavalry debacle Frederick left the battle (again!) leaving Ferdinand of Brunswick to direct the main infantry attack which eventually convinced the Austrians to relinquish the now burning town in the late afternoon. Frederick claimed victory by dint of the fact that he was master of the field (even though he personally wasn’t there!) although von Browne had in fact achieved his aim, the main army marched successfully behind Lobositz and across the Elbe. Losses were about even.

Bevern’s infantry foreground, main cavalry body behind

For our refight we mainly relied on Christopher Duffy’s ‘Frederick The Great. A Military Life.’ plus a couple of articles of refights from ‘Battle’ (Charles Grant on matters military) and ‘Practical Wargamer’ (Paul Stevenson’s ‘A Bohemian Rhapsody In Fifteen’). Using Duffy’s map we had enough battalions and regiments to match the numbers although not necessarily the specific units – we didn’t have the Garde du Corps or Gendarmes for example and we reckoned that as long as we had enough Austrian units to line the Morellen Bach that would be enough as most of the main Austrian body took no part in the battle. Regarding the terrain we had a large ridge section that stood in for the Lobosch rather well, the marshy stream was no problem nor was the town itself and the nearby villages of Wellhotta and Sullowitz; the sunken road we created using our TYW siege line pieces.

Prussian cuirassiers

Recreating the ad hoc affair of the battle was more of a challenge and after some thought we opted for everything to be deployed as was and put narrative proscriptions on the players, so, Kyau’s cavalry had to attack straight forward, Bevern had to attack up the Lobosch, the Prussian main body couldn’t advance until Kyau’s cavalry retreated or broke, and all the Austrian commands had to hold unless a personal message was received from von Browne. this asked a lot of the players but actually worked rather well. We also overrode the rules regarding artillery arcs and firing overhead for the Austrian guns so that the effect of the opening cannonade could be felt.

Bevern’s command

Playing the game was a long one (but we had all day ๐Ÿ˜€) and at the end we were tired but pleased.

Bevern

In the opening turns, Bevern slogged his way up the Lobosch while the artillery duel took place – in typical wargamers fashion both sides ignored counter battery and tried instead to wear down opposition units; the Austrian guns were better at this ๐Ÿ˜.

The opening cavalry clash

The first real action took place on the valley floor where the Prussian cavalry did better, at first, than their historical counter parts, seeing off a dragoon regiment in the first clash of swords and then having a series of swirling melees, retreats and reforming with the Austrian hussars who proved remarkably resilient – helped no doubt by the support fire of the entrenched Croats.

Austrian cuirassiers

Despite overrunning the Austrian battery the Prussian cavalry were eventually seen off with serious losses – all three were at 50% by the end of the action when the Austrian cuirassiers joined the fight, but this was the signal for the main Prussian body to advance.

Bevern v Lacy

Over on the Lobosch it had taken Bevern some time to get there but when he did we had some spectacular musketry which rolled on for several turns and was really quite tense!

Fighting for the Lobosch

The wargames version of the Bevern/Lacy fight however went somewhat differently to the history; Bevern consistently outshot Lacy and punched several holes in his line which he was able to exploit by advancing into and turning onto the flanks of now exposed battalions. Eventually Lacy’s brigade gave up the fight and retreated for the Elbe.

Lacy’s command starts to falter

The retreat of Lacy now exposed Lobositz itself and Bevern was ultimately able to drive some of the defenders out. Well done Bevern.

Don’t they look gorgeous!

Back on the valley floor the Prussian juggernaut ground forward and this time the infantry line led the way and the cavalry followed filing out from its regimental column into line of battle behind the steady infantry.

Steady

This solid wide line, supported by cavalry, meant that the reserve Austrian cavalry and the remnants of the first line had no means of turning the Prussians and so came front on and in a swift volley all along the line were sent packing in a distinct change to the history.

“message from the field marshal sire”

Having seen how things were likely to play out the Austrian player had sent a message to the brigade behind the Morellen Bach to advance but it was going to be too late, the going was slow and by the time the brigade started out the cavalry had already been shot up.

“all is lost”

A crucial point was now reached. Lacy was in retreat and the Lobositz defenders were starting to be winkled out of the town – although no fires were started despite the best efforts of the Prussian howitzers! The Austrian cavalry were done and although the Croats were very comfortable behind the sunken road they weren’t going to trade shots very evenly with the Prussian foot and committing the Austrians from behind the Morellen Bach wasn’t going to have much of an effect.

Goodbye Lobositz

So, we took stock of where we were. The key factor was that elements of Bevern’s command were now behind Lobositz so, from an historical standpoint, could dispute the crossing of the Elbe. Measuring up how long it would take the Austrian main body brigade to get across the marsh compared to the Prussian line getting into range of the Croats it was clear the Prussians were going to be shooting up (๐Ÿ™„) the Croats before the Austrians could mount a saving attack, even if they could fight their way through the main body of Prussian cavalry.

On to the Elbe!

It was over for the Austrians, von Browne would have to retreat rather than cross the Elbe and join the Saxons – historical note, the perfidious Saxon elites took the money and capitulated to the Prussians anyway ๐Ÿ˜ฎ.

Prussian line

So, a more decisive Prussian victory than history (and Frederick didn’t leave the field ๐Ÿ˜€) and a very enjoyable game. The rules played well and although it was long we enjoyed ourselves all day and that I guess is what it’s all about ๐Ÿ˜Š

Hussars

See you next time. Until then, enjoy your gaming.

Holowczyn Refought

Swedish vanguard crosses the river

Many, many, years ago we fought Holowczyn as part of a convention tour, simulating the ‘tour’ of Russia by Charles XII, culminating in the battle of Poltava, so 3 battles, 3 conventions, but we’ve never played it since so we thought we’d roll out the collection and give it a go.

Bieltz’s Grenadiers

For those not in the know, Holowczyn was the opening battle in Charles XII’s campaign against Peter the Great’s Russia which kicked off in the summer of 1707. By the summer of 1708 the Swedes were well into Russia struggling to come to grips with an enemy that kept retreating and burning everything – that sounds familiar ๐Ÿ˜’ but on June 30th Charles and the Swedes found themselves facing a dug in Russian army over the river Vabitich.

The long line of the column

In what would become his signature approach to battle, Charles opted for the mad idea ๐Ÿ˜, so in the early hours of the morning of July 3rd 1708 he and his men waded across the river at an unguarded point, advanced through a marsh, deployed on the flank of the enemy and attacked. The Russians were slow to respond, not being sure whether it was a full attack or a diversion, and ended up conducting a fighting retreat in a confused and haphazard firefight. Further infantry reinforcements merely added to the confusion and when the Russians committed their cavalry the outclassed dragoons were swept away and the field was clearly in Swedish hands. It was however somewhat of a phyrric victory, Russian dead were 4x that of the Swedes but most of the Swedish wounded (around a thousand) would succumb to their wounds and the losses were mainly among the guard infantry, losses that would be felt at Poltava.

It took a while!

The reality of the battle was that Charles was attacking one division (Repnin’s – the biggest, comprising 2 brigades) of the three positioned along the Vabitch and was inserting himself between Repnin on the left and Sheremetiev in the centre while Hallart was out on the right; to the left of Repnin was Goltz’s substantial cavalry division of 3 brigades. The only other troops to get themselves involved was a brigade detached late in the day from Sheremetiev’s division. The Swedes comprised the vanguard foot brigade, commanded by Charles himself, featuring the 4 battalions of the Guard plus 2 other battalions, then a 2nd brigade of 6 battalions and finally a cavalry brigade featuring the Guard Cavalry & Guard Dragoons and 3 other cavalry regiments.

Charles XII

Looking at our collection we easily had the numbers (and we’d sold a third of it back in 2020!) and even had most of the named regiments/battalions, unfortunately only 3 Guard battalions but we reckoned it wouldn’t make much difference (it didn’t ๐Ÿ˜Š). Measuring up the space that would be occupied by the battalions representing the actual number of Russian battalions behind the earthworks we reckoned they would need about 5 foot, give or take, so the 8 foot x 6 foot standard table would allow us to deploy them, allow space for the marsh and give space on the table end for the later Russian reinforcements. Our trusty river section we positioned 2 foot in and used the section with a pontoon bridge on to represent the crossing point (the Swedes did have pontoons but abandoned them – why do it the easy way?) and at that crossing point we constructed a substantial marsh. Along the rear of the Russian table edge we put on plenty of trees and down part of the left flank; into these we placed Goltz’s cavalry division (on the left) and Renne’s reinforcing infantry from Sheremetiev (on the right) while in the centre behind Repnin’s division we put on the army camp.

Swedish field artillery

Our thinking with the Russians was that Repnin’s 2 big brigades would be positioned facing out across the river and wouldn’t start responding until the Swedes emerged from the marsh and then only the brigade that could see them (Schweden). The reinforcing cavalry and infantry could only be activated by Repnin finding out from Schweden that they were under attack and sending a message off to Goltz who would then roll a D6 for the number of turns after receipt for when he could start to emerge, said messenger would then carry on to Renne to release his infantry using the same process. The process was made deliberately slow (wargamers are very good at responding to things they can’t see unless you stop them ๐Ÿ˜‰) which is just as well because both reinforcement commands rolled a 1! Deploying the Swedes was more straight forward as they only had one route so we strung out the infantry battalions, led by the Guard, all the way from the table edge, across the pontoons and into the marsh with the 1st Guards on the edge of the marsh, somewhat disorganised, ready to go; this signalled the start of turn 1. As a side note, the Swedes, for once, out gunned the Russians so we placed some regimental guns next to the crossing point to fire in support and some big field guns on a low hill to pound the entrenched Russians, the Russians only had regimental guns strung out along the line.

Guards face off to the Grenadiers

Rather than go balls out, the Swedish commander decided to remain stationary with the 1st Guards to shake the accumulated disorder and wait for the 2nd Guards form up alongside and do the same, this gave the Russian grenadiers time to about face and wheel out of their entrenchments to face off and allow the Russian high command to panic and send for help.

Repnin and Schweden

With the grenadiers and Guards in range both opened up on each other at effective range, losses were even, so no morale failures and the rest of Schweden’s command started to turn about as more Swedes emerged from the marsh. Another volley and Charles decided it was time to force the issue so the 1st & 2nd Guards moved into close range and fired again forcing one of the grenadiers to rout and punching a hole in the the shaky Russian line.

1st Guards

First brigade morale test of the day (due to the grenadiers rout) and Schweden’s brigade failed spectacularly, hotfooting along the entrenchments and into the camp. Fortunately Repnin and Schweden were able to rally some of the units further back and start to restore order but they would now count as a failed brigade for any further tests which for Russian morale was always going to be a worry. The collapse enabled Dalcarian (2 battalions) and the 3rd Guards to get out of the marsh and form up with the 1st & 2nd into a fairly coherent line while Sparre and the other brigade marched on through the marsh to eventually emerge at the top end and march south on the other side of the camp.

Rallying the troops

As Repnin and Schweden tried to stem the flight Goltz received the request for help and rolled his 1 so Illfland’s brigade was first out of the woods and headed along the top edge of the camp in what would become a collision with Sparre. Back with the Guards, Charles went all out now and threw the 1st & 2nd into close combat with the rallied Russian foot, who of course had almost no losses at this point and managed to repulse the Guards, shouts of “huzzah”. Testing for losses the 1st Guards failed and routed but the subsequent brigade test was passed with ease (it helps having Charles XII as your brigade commander ๐Ÿ˜‚) and the 1st were rallied by him pronto but sat out the hard action for a while as they called in stragglers and tended to the wounded.

That’s a lot of cavalry!

While the infantry slogged it out on one side of the camp Illflands dragoons advanced on Sparre’s infantry, who due to the terrain could only deploy two battalions abreast, but non the less Vasterboten forced Narvski back and slowly ground forward – the dragoons were never going to charge the Swedish infantry so it became a shooting match which for a while the dragoons did ok in but eventually legged it for the woods.

Vasterboten v Narvski

Seeing how ‘well’ Illfland was doing Goltz realised that his other two brigades were going to be no use in the limited space so made the fateful decision to send them both into the woods to outflank Sparre and attack the rear of the Swedes; a bold plan which the Sparre player could realistically not respond to and was a calculated gamble by Goltz that he could be through and out before the Swedish cavalry under Creutz got through the marsh. An alternative plan could have been to dismount in the woods and fire on the flanks of Sparre’s command which might have forced him to stop and deal with the threat – we discussed this after the game and the Goltz player took the view that as the real Goltz didn’t do it neither would he!

If you go down to the woods today…..

Back at the real battle ๐Ÿคฃ Charles and his brigade were definitely in and amongst the entrenchments facing off to a hastily constructed second line by Schweden which Chambers was extending out to the right effectively forming behind Illfland’s withdrawing dragoons – the size of Chambers brigade (9 battalions) made cohesion quite difficult in the space available and we could see why in the real thing they just faded into the woods.

Guard cavalry

To force the issue in the main battle area Charles summoned the Guard Cavalry & Dragoons from Creutz along with Nyland to punch Schweden’s already weakened brigade; this was a risk, it weakened Creutz’s command and if the Guards didn’t do as well as envisaged they wouldn’t have their commander to rally on. Always willing to “roll the hard six” the Swedish cavalry blasted their way in and made some big holes although the Dragoon Guards did pay for a reckless pursuit and got themselves shot up ๐Ÿ˜’

Nyland

Unfortunately for the Russians the holes punched by the Swedes was in Chambers brigade and in the ensuing test for routing units and having Schweden’s failed brigade on their flank the big brigade failed and ran for the woods. Not surprisingly, Schweden’s already shaky brigade didn’t survive their test and they too duly headed for the woods.

“you’re going the wrong way!”

While all this was happening Heinsk’s dragoons emerged from the woods, somewhat disorganised, but all they needed was a bit of a breather and they could catch Sparre by surprise. Even better was the emergence of the lead battalions of Renne’s infantry from their wood. It could all be saved!

Oh dear

Unfortunately for Goltz and Heinsk, regiment Hielm of Creutz’s reduced command had other ideas and charged home smashing the lead dragoons off the table who routed through their brethren behind who were caught in the pursuit and equally smashed resulting in a brigade morale failure (surprise๐Ÿ˜) and the end of the flank move.

Goodbyeee

That was really it, both infantry brigades were on the run, Illfland’s & Heinsk’s cavalry were shattered and running, while Hesse Darmstadt cowered in the woods; the fact of Renne’s arrival was insignificant, yes it was a substantial brigade (6 battalions) but what was it going to do? Clearly a substantial Swedish victory.

It’s all ours

When we analysed the game the Russians initially did better than their historical counterparts – well they stood and fought! but low morale and poor command levels meant they were never going to last that long once things went wrong. I think it’s interesting that wargamers will stand and slug it out even when the odds are stacked against them unlike the historical prototypes who couldn’t get off the field quick enough – mind you it wouldn’t have been much of a game if the Russians had just turned round and retreated! For the Swedes bold play paid off, so very historical but the casualty tables also equated to history with the Guards showing the kind of casualty figures that would make a general think about amalgamating regiments, everyone else was pretty much insignificant.

Guards

It was nice to give the GNW collection a run out, good job we didn’t sell the whole lot! The rules were our own ‘Ga Pa’ – oh how original, we hope you enjoyed the write up, feel free to fire in any questions.

Ian & Dave.

Madonna Dell’ Partizan

IMG_20190818_095907

It’s been a little while since we’ve attended ‘The Other Partizan’, the early date clashes with holidays and shift patterns are more difficult to negotiate, but this year it all came together so we thought we’d do a ‘classic wargame’ and wheeled out the C18th collection, but with a twist; War of the Austrian Succession in Italy. This period and theatre has always fascinated me ever since I read Spencer Wilkinson’s ‘The Defence of Piedmont’ which in turn was recommended in a Peter Wilson article in Wargames Illustrated years (and years!) ago. We decided we would do a battle from the campaign on the way back from the first Partizan, we just needed to decide which one, which in turn meant which one do we have most of the troops for? The best fit was Madonna Dell’ Olmo, a set piece battle fought on September 30th 1744 and featuring all the main protagonists; French, Spanish, Piedmontese, and Austrian but did we have enough? The French were easy, our long standing collection had all we needed, Spanish we had a semblance of a force but cavalry we had nothing ๐Ÿ˜ฆ , Piedmontese we had a significant force from when I first got into the period and Austrians we had a plenty. Undeterred we sent off the forms and then quietly panicked!

Continue reading “Madonna Dell’ Partizan”