Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kolin, June 18, 1757. A case study

The battle of Kolin- Anonymous

Amongst the Frederician battles, Kolin was the one that most intrigued me; the reasons are manifolds: the first battle lost by the Old Fritz, the endless anedottics –“Rouges, do you want to live forever!”- amongst the others, the beautiful Clash of Arms boardgame (Never played once: I am too old to read 50 pages of rules and 12 of tables. Nevertheless a real pleasure for the eyes and the historical commentary by Christopher Duffy alone well deserves the price):

It is a battle which, in my opinion is not to easy to simulate: no sensible player will hammer his army to the pulp in frontal attacks at “cold steel”, given the Prussian performance. However, when one reads Duffy, the feeling is that of a battle more balanced than it can appear at a glance: moreover it allows for the most aggressive hot-headed players of any Wargame Groups to go wild with the real possibility to perform even better then the King of Prussia…

“Her Majesty, do you want to take those guns single-handed?”

To better enjoy the pleasure of playing Kolin, I decided to playtest it with three different rulesets, whose grain is different within the overall operational picture: that is, no tactical battalion commander decision, rather Corps/Division commander choices. Accordingly I choose:

1) DBHx: the Humberside 1500-1900 variant for DBA v2.2. which has a nice scenario for Kolin. Some notes on the terrain scale: the suggested map size for the scenario is 54”x 30”, presumably with 60mm frontages. Since I want to use my regimental bases for V&B full-size with 3” frontage bases, the scaled size of the map is 67”x 37” or 170 cm x 94 cm. 

2) Maurice: Kolin is one of the scenarios provided in the Rulebook. There is a very interesting discussion about the scale and scenario design and the suggested map is 40BW times 30BW. With a base-width of 1.5” (each V&B bases represents indeed two Maurice bases) we have 60”x 45” or roughly 150 cm x 115 cm. By measuring the distance between Blinka and Radowesnitz on the scenario map (27BW) and those given by Duffy e.g. in “Frederick the Great - A Military Life”,  we may arrive at a terrain scale of roughly 1:3520.

3) Volley&Bayonet: a very nice scenario was provided by Christian Rogge on the V&B Yahoo Group. The scale of V&B is 1”=100 yards or 1:3540. The map is 90’’x54’’ or 228 cm x 137 cm, bigger than those of the previous ruleset.

The first thing we notice is that despite the fact that Maurice and V&B have the same terrain scale, the different way they represents the units makes for two differently-sized maps; as far as DBHx is concerned, one can argue that the scale is roughly 1:3500 with a troop scaling similar to that of Maurice.  In this sense V&B has a “finer” grain than both DBHx and Maurice.

The idea which is at the basis of my posts and which I want to explore in the next posts  is to see how the three different sets of rules give the feeling of the same battle for those like me leaves the niceties of formal drill to somebody else….

The Prussian I/15 Regiment at Kolin. The “niceties of formal drill”…..

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kleiner Krieg outfits and an Orange Tree..

Having completed the Torgau OoB, I am free to paint whatever please me: the recent forays in the battles with the Reichsarmee in Saxony and the willingness to play Kolin prompted me to add more hussars to my Army lists. The first two were the Austrian regiments of Hadik and Szecheny: they were based on an hussar unit bought long time ago; by adding enough officiers, trumpeters and standard bearer and by means of a little additional paintjob I get the two units, which adds to the Kaiser and Esterhazy regiments already painted, for a grand total of 20 squadrons, still few for Kolin. Indeed I need 7 more regiments to arrive at the full OoB, namely HR 11, 17, 34, 35, 36 and the Grenz Husaren (ii) and (iv).

The Prussian Werner hussars have a carachteristic brown uniform which earned them the sobriquet of “Fleischhacker” (butcher), since brown was the colour of the guild of the butchers. To appreciate fully such an uniform one has to look at the splendid 40mm painted by Nigel in his blog.

The HR3, Warnery, is one of the white-coated regiments: here I painted only one battalion, due to shortage of lead: I need to place an order to H&R, the last one was 12 years ago….

This brings the total of my Prussian hussars to 35 squadrons, short of the 50 needed to represent the powerful Ziethen avantgarde at the battle of Kolin. Moreover I need the Prinz Moritz command stand:

Here the former “Enfant Sauvage” is depicted with an Infantry “Fluegel-Adjutant” and a Jager-zu-Pferde orderly, surely with the King order to frontally attack the Austrian position. By the way the church is a Christmas Tree decoration…Here a contemporary print which portraits him: the uniform was that of IR22, with red lapels.

The last painted unit are the Jager-zu-fuss, the unfortunate unit wiped out by the Cossacks at Spandau in 1760. Heroics&Ros correctly portraits them part with the carabines and part with the bayonet-armed musket. By the way I should add a fence in front of the carabine armed ones. The Menzel drawing depicts the hat without lace but other sources give an yellow-laced hat, as I did.

I finish with a little touch of art. The last week-end of March it was the FAI-day in Italy (FAI=Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano=“Italian Environment Trust”). There were a lot of lesser-know palaces, gardens and museum open for free. Indeed in every place there was a long line of people, both tourists and native, waiting to see these places, which are sometimes little gems. This is a picture of an orange tree (full of oranges, barely distinguible given the poor quality of my mobile phone camera) which is in the Cloister of the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence which was open to the public in this occasion. Maybe an idea for the next town base?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Strehla: the solo play test, Turn III and the end.

Third Turn, 6.00-7.00 am:

The Left wing closes to attack the Durrenberg, whereas the Grenzers erupt frome the wood on the back of the Prussian position. In the plain Guasco attacks Prussian infantry and the Imperial cavalry charges in support. On the Strehla sector the Imperials attack the entrenchements and the city. This is the all-out move for the Austrian….

which ends in a total failure: in the Strehla sector the attackers first fail moral test under fire, then routs and despite destroying the lonely grenadiers garrisoning Strehla, the attackers from the Hessen-Darmstadt column rout desordering the other regiments.

The cavalry attacks in the centre and against the Durrenberg are repulsed whereas Guasco and Wurzburg commands lose all the attacks and becomes exhausted, Guasco in turn collapsing despite winning the melee with Hauss (proxied by a garrison regiment).

Kleefeld croats emerging from woods make non impression at all on the stedy Prussian which in turns counter-attacks. Prussian cavalry takes an holding position against Kleefeld whereas Hauss repulse the Croats in disorder behind the woods (in the following picture the real Durrenberg with the wood, taken from the Kleefeld croats line of advance).

Finally, Prussian fusiliers garrison back Strehla and their artillery bring Roth division to the exhaustion; this is the overall picture of the battlefield at the end of Turn III:

With two commands exhausted and one collapsed, the only Austrian force still available for attack is the Kleefeld division: accordingly Stolberg calls of the attack.


In V&B each point lost is equivalent to 50% of effective losses in terms of man/horses/guns. The Austro-Imperial loss are accordingly in the area of 5000, nearly half from the Reichsarmee. In the real battle the losses were nearly 2000. However in the real battle the Reichsarmee put on only a show against Strehla, not a full-scale attacke as in the refight. Prussian losses are 1000 and 5 guns, very close to the real outcome. Moreover, in the real battle the attack was called off at 7.00 am like in the refight. From this point of view the battle is simulated well enough. However there are some point to consider:

- The Austro-Imperials did only a big mistake, allowing Guasco to expose its open flank to the Prussian cavalry: the other mistake was to deploy the Imperial cavalry on the right, whereas on the left it would be more useful from the very start. The Imperials did their best given their low morale, crammed deployment and poor training of the infantry. The Austrian artillery didn’t make any impression on the Prussian. In this sense, without any further “special rule”, their the lack of effectiveness is portrayed well enough.

- The Prussian defended wisely, reinforcing the right wing and using the cavalry to stop Guasco from the beginning. Their task was indeed easy enough.

- The die-rolls were “average”, that is there was no “bad die-roll” for anybody. The only “unlucky” roll was for the Guasco collapse. A roll of 1 was the only possibility, 1 was rolled…however this changed nothing since an exhausted division cannot move in contact with the enemies. The collapse means that the unit are also permanently disordered like after a rout.

- However, the Austro-Imperial task, to exhaust all the Prussian division seems to out of reach unless the Prussian player is drunk. To attack stationary, higher-morale infantry with more guns, entrenched or commanding higher-ground is a daunting task, even with a nearly 2:1 superiority. Accordingly I think that the victory conditions should be changed into:

Victory Conditions, updated

The Austro-Imperials win if they exhaust at least one of the Prussian infantry divisions. The Prussian wins by preventing this maintaing the control of both the Durrenberg and Strehla. Any other risults is a draw.

I think this scenario would be interesting if played twice with reversed role, the Prussian victory being not so granted. An intact Guasco command together with an early attacking Imperial cavalry could have put the final result more in balance, so I think.

Next refight Korbitz, 1759, a similar situation with some different twists.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Strehla, the solo play test, part II

Second turn, 5.00-6.00 am:

The Austrian corps of Kleefeld and Wurzburg close on the Prussian right wing: Kleefeld bypass Laas and send the Croats toward the wood, whereas a brigade from Wurbzurg cavalry charges the Prussian uphill and his infantry attacks prussian guns

Guasco corp, a single point from the exhaustion, reply behind Clanzschwitz waiting for a new prussian cavalry attack:

The sabre gleaming in the sun, the Reich Hoenzollern Cuirassiers and the Austrian Carabiniers and Horse Grenadiers charge prussian infantry on the Durrenberg:

to be repulsed back in disorder as well as Puebla Infantry (proxy for Macquire, Luzan and the grenadier coys):

On the other end of the battle the Reichsarmee slowly climbs the Strehla plateau, its second line division forming a “Blenheim style” column of attack against the town and the cavalry wheeling on the left wing (Reich infantry is "Poorly Trained" which means that each facing change cost 1/2 movement allowance: this makes the approach painful and slow in V&B):

however the weak-morale infantry is disordered as soon as it came under the range of the prussian battalion guns deployed on the city limits (the prussian disorder chit is a consequence of the movement into the city: notice that in this picture I changed the original decorative town base with a more practical base with the space for two linear base. Indeed I made both kind of bases, one nice to see, the other practical to use, and switch between them as needed).

It is the Prussian turn: on the right wing the guns on the Durrenberg hit and disorder the hungarian regiment of Forgach (proxy for N. Esterhàzy), whereas in the plain between Durrenberg and Strehla Kleist cavalry replies behind the timely arrived infantry reinforcements: it gained time to allow for infantry deployement and it becomes available for another attack elsewhere:

notice the right-angled regiment which makes the line "cavalry flank secure".

In the Strehla sector, the already disordered Imperial infantry fails a further morale test and rout (red and white chits), disordering in turn other two regiments, whereas Furstemberg took an hit from the Prussian guns. Roth division is in total disarray, and the first Imperial attack against Strehla falters (to recover from the rout, the corp commander must be attached to the units which become “permanently disordered –red chit- and lose the battalion guns: indeed a recovered routed unit is of limited use for the rest of the battle).

This is the situation at the end of the second turn:

 the Durrenberg...

                                  ...and Strehla:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Strehla: the solo playtest, part I

To test the scenario I decided to playtest it, unfortunately by myself since there are no V&B players close enough to me. First of all a look at the deployed armies: notice that since I have not all exactly the units required, there is nearly a 30% of “proxies”. For instance the role of Zweibrucken is played by Daun, whereas the former saxon regiment Hauss is played by a Prussian Garrison regiment and so on.

An overview of the deployed armies;

the Reserve corp with the Prince of Stolberg;

Guasco grenadiers on the Ottenberg;

the Prussian right wing on the Durrenberg;

the Prussian Cavalry and the left wing in the Camp;

The Reichsarmee.

The lonely grenadiers in Klein-Rügel waiting for the Imperials.

The First Turn, 4.00-5.00 am:

The burden of the attack is on the Austro-Imperials. They enter the Kleefeld command whose plan is to point on Laas and then contest the wood with the Croats, whereas Blau-Wurzbug and the Hussars shall attack the Durren Berg on the reverse.

The Guasco corps moves downhill from its position on the Ottenberg to attack the Durrenberg, with the two right flank austrian regiments deployed “en potency  (just outside of the picture...), whereas the Reserve corps closes on the Durrenberg from the other direction. The Prussian right wing seems in a hopeless position.

In the mean time the Reichsarmee moves to attack Strehla and the fortified camp, with the cavalry brigades moving left to contest the plain within Strehla and the Durrenberg.

However the lonely Grenadier battalions Lubath and Burgsdorf entrenched in Klein-Rügeln repulse the attackers (in V&B terms Baden-Durlach –proxy for Rot Wurzburg- fails morale test and is disordered – blank chit -, falling back and disordering in turn Baden-Baden), regiment Furstemberg exchanges a fruitless fire with the grenadiers:

It is the Prussian turn: the grenadiers wisely leave Klein-Rügeln and goes back to the city (becoming disordered); three regiments  moves from the entrenchments towards the plain between Strelha and the Durrenberg to help the right wing:

At the same time Kleist cavalry falls on Guasco exposed right wing (the rightmost regiment is “flank unsecure” in V&B terms, with morale penality in the pre-combat morale test) to allow the reinforcing three regiments to deploy in the plain:

The infantry on the Durrenberg becomes stationary (a unit which doesn’t move can become stationary, with additional benefits on combat: it isi indicated by the green counter) and secure the flanks to better receive the inevitable Austrian onslaught.

The Prussian cavalry attack is successful: regiment Sincere (proxy for Pallavicini) fails the morale test, both regiments lose the melee. Sincere routs and is destroyed, Niepperg (proxy for Sachsen-Gotha) is repulsed in disorder with loss. The Prussian retains control of the cavalry which change facings to search for new targets on Guasco completely open flank:

This is the situation at the end of the first move:

To close the post, another near-contemporary print (1790) of the battle: