Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Can Kunersdorf be Fought Without Cavalry?

I'm wondering what readers think about the concept of refighting the battle of Kunersdorf in 1759 without using cavalry in the wargame. My thinking goes like this:

The Russian cavalry was largely deployed in dead ground on the far right of the battle line. The majority of Prussian cavalry was deployed on the Prussian left, behind the three large ponds and the village of a Kunersdorf.

Final cavalry action - Christopher Duffy map 

If the Prussians focused solely on the fight for the Muhlberg and Kuh Grund and Spitzerberg, then they would not have needed to send the cavalry into the battle, knowing the difficulty of filing through the ponds area and then redeploying under fire from Russian artillery. So if the Prussian cavalry does not advance, remaining the refused wing of the army, then the Russian-Austrian cavalry never has the opportunity to charge into the Prussian cavalry. The terrain obstacles restricting the Prussians would also have deterred the Russian cavalry from attacking.

Ergo, no cavalry action in the area beyond Kunersdorf village.

What do you think? Please provide your opinion and comments in the comments section of this thread. I know that many readers choose to "lurk" on this site, but I really want your opinion and hope to get 15 to 20 comments
Battle of Kunersdorf- Christopher Duffy map

Monday, December 10, 2018

Kunersdorf Project - Muhlberg earthworks WIP

The Muhlberg hill at Kunersdorf. Click all pictures to enlarge the view.

With the 260th anniversary of the Battle of Kunersdorf, in the Seven Years War, arriving in 2019 I have been working on creating a table top scenario to refight the battle. One of the great terrain needs is to build the Muhlberg hill that anchored the left flank of the Russian defensive position. The Russian Observation Corps troops occupied the hill and dug in behind a wall of gabions, fascines and cheveau de frises. Accordingly, I will need a lot of earth works pieces to fight this battle.

This weekend I started work on the Muhlberg hill, constructing it out of 2-inch pink foam insulation board that you can purchase at any DIY store. I used a hot wire knife to sculpt the board into a passable looking rise in the ground.

Once the sculpting and terraforming was done, I sprayed a dark brown coat of Krylon paint over the surface and let it dry for an hour or two. Then I followed up with another spray coating of a lighter shade of Krylon brown paint, working from a dark layer to successive layers of lighter brown paint.

The next step was to break out some of my old Howard Hues acrylic paints, notably Geo Hex Brown and do some extensive dry brushing over the surface of the hill. 

Eventually I will lay down some Woodland Scenics green flock and seal it with Dull Kote or watered down PVA glue. I did an experiment with the flock and some static grass, just sprinkling some of each over the surface, without gluing. I find the static grass to be too bright, so I am going to go with the grass colored flock going forward.

View of the rear of the Muhlberg position. The low area behind the position is the Kuh Grund.

My plan is to make some earthworks/gabion modules affixed to a cork board that measures 8-inches by 16-inches, cut from a cork-backed table mat that I bought at Target Stores in their kitchen wares section.

The edges of the cork section will be filed down to achieve a tighter fit to the adjacent module. The boards will also be spray painted with the dark brown undercoat, but then I will glue down the gabions and fascines and then trowel over some wall board paste that is mixed with brown paint. Another name for the paste is Spackle Compound. After that, more dry brushing over the ground part of the module and then it should be nearly finished.

The front elevation of the earthworks.

Front left corner gun position.

Front right corner gun position.

Close up view of the left side of the Muhlberg.

 Stay tuned in the future for more reports on the progress of this terrain project over the next several weeks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Battle of Leuthen: December 5, 1757

Third Battalion of the Prussian Liebgarde (IR15/III) assault the Leuthen churchyard
defended by the Rot Wurzburg regiment. (from Dorn & Englemann).

Today is the 261st anniversary of the battle of Leuthen, Frederick the Great's signature victory over the Austrian army commanded by Charles of Lorraine. One of the key actions during the battle was the heroic defense of the walled churchyard by the Rot Wurzburg regiment in the Austrian army. The Wurzburgers fended off a number of attacks by the Prussian Guards before succumbing to the weight of numbers that favored the Prussians.

Our game scenario attempted to recreate the attack on Leuthen village, rather than trying to do the entire battle from start to finish. The Prussian objective was to capture the churchyard and drive the Austrians out of Leuthen.

Grand vista view of Leuthen village - picture commissioned by the local chamber of commerce.
As the scenario designer, I positioned the cream of the crop of Prussian battalions in front of the Leuthen churchyard. There were two Guards battalions and two grenadier battalions, assisted by a pair of heavy 12-pound cannon. I envisioned that the Prussians would weaken the defenders of the churchyard with a couple of turns of bombardment before going in for the churchyard assault.

The Prussian deployment in front of the Leuthen churchyard. Click to enlarge the annotations.

Well, the Prussian attack on the churchyard started out alright, with the two Guards battalions converging on the churchyard as shown in the picture below. Note the empty street on the right side of the picture and envision Prussian troops in miter hats rushing into the gap and breaking through the church's gate. Alas, that is not what was going to happen.

Two regiments of Prussian guards close in on the Leuthen churchyard.

A counting of noses or heads indicates that the Prussian Guards outnumbered the Rot Wurzburgers in the church by a wide margin. However, the Prussians made no attempt to charge into the churchyard. It appears that they decided to wear down the garrison with musket fire before attacking the walls. Eventually one of the Guard battalions drifted off over to its right to assist the attack in that vicinity, leaving just the one remaining Guard battalion in front of the church.

King Frederick must have wondered, "what is going on and why aren't my Guards inside the churchyard by now?"

The Guards brigade had been deployed (by me before the game began) with two regular grenadier battalions positioned to rush the church and soak up musket balls and wittle down the garrison. Then the two Guard battalions were to follow up and surge over the churchyard walls and on into the village. By the end of the game, I looked at the two Guards battalions and they had suffered very little in the way of casualties.

Overhead view of the Prussian infantry converging on the churchyard.

Austrians defend the east gate of the churchyard.

Heyden Grenadier Battalion attempts to enter the village, but they are repulsed
by the Austrians in the streets and in some of the houses.
The Prussian Assault on the eastern edge of Leuthen
While the mighty Guards Brigade was taking their time trying to capture the churchyard, the left wing infantry of General Hulsen advanced smartly towards the eastern half of the village and quickly engaged the Austrians in a firefight. They mauled the Austrian musketeer regiment that bravely stood out in the open. Then a reserve battalion of Austrian grenadiers strode forward to take the place of the musketeers and they too were in for rough treatment at the hands of the Prussian Prinz Ferdinand regiment.

Hulsen's Prussian brigade closes in on the Austrians deployed on the eastern edge  of the town.
First fire is about to happen.
Prussian regiment Prinz Ferdinand engages the Austrian musketeers
 in a firefight along the eastern edge of the town.
The Austrian grenadiers made a brave stand before the threat of being outflanked forced them back into the streets of the village. The Prussian Gensdarmes cuirassier regiment had an opportunity to ride down the Austrian grenadiers in the streets, but the card draw initiative favored the Austrians. Still, the IR5 Alt Braunschweig regiment arrived from the area of the cavalry action on the far left and deployed on the flank of the grenadiers, who were now faced front and flank by blue coats. This forced the Austrians to pull out of the eastern part of the village and fall back on the reserve position on Windmill Hill.

Austrian grenadiers are about to be outflanked by Prussian reinforcements from the left wing cavalry field.

As time expired on the game, both sides agreed that the Prussians had captured enough of the village, or at least threatened to with more time, to compel the Austrians to retire, albeit in good order, from the village and fall back towards Breslau. That's pretty much what happened historically.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Leuthen Game Report - Part I Cavalry Melee

The Battlefield of Leuthen - Austrians on the left and Prussians on the right.


On Saturday December 1, 2018 our group convened in Brown Deer, Wisconsin to fight our version of the Battle of Leuthen ahead of the anniversary date on December 5th. Rather than stage a scenario with the opening Prussian flank attack on the Austrian army, we decided to stage the action around the Prussian assault on the village of Leuthen.  The Austrians had regrouped a bit and organized a make-shift battle line around Leuthen. If the Prussians could dislodge the Austrians from the town, then they would achieve a game victory.

There are too many pictures and commentary to put the game report into one blog posting, so I plan on breaking the action down into three segments: the big cavalry action on the Prussian left flank, the assault of the Prussian Guards on the Leuthen Churchyard, and the action on the Prussian right flank.

Without further ado, I will start with a game report on the cavalry action between the Austrians (Graf Lucchesi) and the Prussians (von Driessen) on the Prussian left wing or flank of their battle line. This starts my report for the simple reason that this is where I fought as commander of the Prussian left wing.

The Prussians
The Prussian left wing cavalry consisted of the following:

CR8 von Seydlitz cuirassiers - 5 squadrons
CR10 Gensdarmes cuirassiers - 5 squadrons
CR13 Garde du Corps cuirassiers - 2 squadrons
HR5  Black Hussars - 3 squadrons

Total Prussian cavalry: 15 squadrons

We were missing one of the Prussian infantry players, so Jim H. and I split up the Prussian infantry brigade. So I took command of the IR22 Alt Dessau and IR5 Alt Braunschweig musketeer regiments. I also commanded two 12-pound Brummers.

The Austrians
The Austrian (right wing - theirs) cavalry opponents consisted of the following:

O'Donnel Cuirassiers - 5 squadrons
Stampach Cuirassiers - 4 squadrons
De Ligne Dragoons - 4 squadrons
Savoyen Dragoons - 4 squadrons

Total Austrian cavalry: 17 squadrons

The action began with both sides advancing their cavalry towards the center of the table. I had posted the two Brummers on the Butterberg (a small hill) and I could see that the Austrians intended to charge the guns and take them out of the game. Knowing that my opponent always does this, I limbered up the Brummers on the first turn and disappeared behind the crest of the hill where the IR5 Alt Braunschweig musketeers provided them with protection. I decided that the Brummers would be useless in the melee area, so I sent them off to the center to help the Prussian Guards' assault on the Leuthen churchyard. I also sent the IR5 regiment to the center where it could help with the overall attack. The IR22 Alt Dessau musketeers were stuck amid the swirl of cavalry around the Butterberg.

The Prussian cavalry advance forward with the CR8 von Seydlitz cuirassiers
and the CR10 Gensdarmes leading the way.
I could tell from the get go that I was likely screwed from the bad deployement of troops on my part. I had the IR22 musketeers on my right front blocking the Prussian Gensdarms from getting into the fight. In addition, the IR5 musketeers behind the Butterberg impeded the advance of the CR8 cuirassiers and the HR5 hussars. Even further behind were the Garde du Corps cuirassiers, who became my de facto cavalry reserve. So rather than having a broad front of cavalry and reserves sweeping forward, I could only send half of my regiments forward while the other two regiments (my best cuirassier regiments) were blocked by my own infantry, thereby delaying their entry into the fray.

The Austrians on the left and the Prussians on the right close in to melee on the third turn of the game.
 As cavalry actions are want to do, the melees break down into the to and fro of individual squadrons, making it difficult to tell friend from foe. Below is a picture of the huge cavalry melee that developed.

The cavalry melee really explodes into high gear.
The initial crash of cavalry seemed to favor the Austrians, who were able to throw more squadrons into the melee at first. I had to sacrifice the HR5 Black Hussars in hope of buying some time for the CR13 Garde du Corps to assist on the left of my forces. The first dozen or so of my dice rolls were exceptionally bad. It seemed that in every melee the Prussians were inflicting 3 to 5 hits per melee while the Austrians seemed to hit back with 8 to 12 hits. My saving throws must have been a little better because after the initial crash of cavalry, the Prussians began to gain the advantage on the cavalry field.

Then just as victory seemed to be mine, the Austrians suddenly picked up steam again and pretty much wiped out the Black Hussars, the Garde du Corps and the Seydlitz Cuirassiers. However, it was a Pyhric victory of sorts as the remaining Austrian cavalry, mostly cuirassiers, were too damaged to be much of a threat to my forces on the right. The solid wall of IR22 musketeers sealed off my flank from the Austrian predators while at the same time, the CR10 Gensdarms vanquished a number of its foes on the right half of my battle area. Obviously my dice rolling had improved considerably during the second half of the game. 

The IR22 Alt Dessau regiment decides that it would be a good idea to turn one of its grand divisions facing left just in case the Austrian cuirassiers prevail in the nearby melee. The right flank of IR22 seems secure with the Prussian Gensdarmes covering their flank.
With the Austrian cavalry no longer a threat, the Gensdarms turned their attention towards the Austrian infantry battalions that were dangling out in the air to the left of Leuthen (from my point of view). They quickly maneuvered onto the flank of the Austrian infantry and were perfectly positioned to charge down the streets of downtown Leuthen and sweep at least two Austrian regiments out of town. The IR22 musketeers also wheeled onto the flank of the Austrian infantry in support of my cavalry attack. This was going to be fun.

The first initiative card fell to the Prussians and as I eagerly slapped leather and trotted my horses down the road, the umpire decreed that this was not to be. You see, we divide the table into three different game zones - each zone drawing their own movement and firing cards for the first initiative. So my Gensdarms were deemed to have crossed into the middle zone of the table (Leuthen village) and thus I had to wait for a Prussian card draw in the center zone before I could charge. Naturally, when the movement card was drawn in the center zone, it was an Austrian card and so I could not charge until the Austrians moved. They of course changed their front to face my cavalry and so my opportunity for fame slithered out of my grasp. That's the way it goes and I accepted the judgement. C'est le guerre.

The Prussian Gensdarmes having defeated the Austrian De Ligne dragoons, now ride towards the juicy target of Austrian infantry out in the open near Leuthen village.

With the Austrian cavalry no longer a threat, the IR22 Alt Dessau regiment advances across the battlefield,
then wheels right to enfilade the Austrian grenadiers at the edge of the village.
Regardless of what happened with my cavalry, the Prussian infantry held the upper hand in the left section of Leuthen village. Austrian infantry battalions were now taking fire from two directions and there wasn't much that they could do about it. The Austrians were "saved by the bell" in this case, as our house rules call for every game to end at 4PM regardless of what is happening on the table. I really like this concept because it provides certainty to the end and keeps both sides from fighting to the last man. When we stop the game, after time runs out, we have the opportunity to sit around with a cold beverage and discuss the game and tell the stories of what happened. 

Part II of the game report will feature the attack of the Prussian Guards on the Leuthen churchyard.

Part III will follow the action on the Prussian right wing, or it might be included in Part II.

In either event, I have little clue as to what happened in the other areas of the table as I was too involved in my own game on the left. My opponent, Bill P., and I were both exhausted by our play and we mutually collapsed to our chairs at the same time. There were still a few squadrons of cavalry capable of fighting, but neither of us had the energy to keep on going. Thankfully, 4 o'clock rolled around just in time.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Leuthen Game Terrain Is Set Up

The village of Leuthen

This afternoon General Pettygree and I set up the terrain for our Leuthen game tomorrow. I had brought some of the troops and terrain to his house on wednesday, but half way there I realized that I had not packed the winter game mats into my vehicle. DOH!!!!

That's OK, I guess, because my SUV didn't have enough room to carry both my Austrian and Prussian armies plus all of the winter terrain; so I would have had to make a second trip regardleess.

I took some pictures of the terrain in its pre-battle state and I don't mind saying that I think the Winter terrain in my collection looks pretty good.

Leuthen village view from the west.

Leuthen church as seen from the east.

A view of the inside of the town, with Austrians starting to deploy inside some of the buildings.

The famous west gate through which the third battalion
of the Prussian Guard gained entry into the churchyard.

The Rot Wurzburg regiment is deployed inside the walls of the churchyard.

The Prussian Guards Brigade form up in front of Leuthen church.
 As Phil Olley would say, "every wargame table needs to have a windmill". I quite agree with that statement, so here is a picture of my Winter windmill at Leuthen.

Windmill Hill - Charles of Lorraine and Leopold Daun are wondering
what the heck happened and where did all of the Prussians come from.

The game kicks off at 9:30AM tomorrow morning on Saturday December 1, 2018. I will probably post game action pictures on Sunday. I hope that you enjoyed the preview of our game.

Battle of Leuthen Game Tomorrow

Battle of Leuthen diorama - Prussian Guards attack the Leuthen churchyard
which is defended by the Rot Wurzburg regiment.

I am travelling north to General Pettygree's game emporium to play our annual Christmas and Birthday Wargame. We do this every December as a Christmas party plus several of our group (me) have December birthdays.

Itzenplitz regiment (IR13) will be travelling to Brown Deer, Wisconsin today.
I am dropping off my Leuthen winter terrain at the General's house today so that we can set up the terrain and position the troops prior to the start of the battle at 9:30AM on Saturday December 1, 2018.

The pictures posted on this thread are from my solo Leuthen game staged last December 2017. New pix of the terrain setup will be posted this evening and of course game pix will be posted over the weekend.

The Austrian army will be waiting for them.

The Rot Wurzburg regiment defends the Leuthen churchyard.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Gabions for Kunersdorf Scenario

Russian redoubt in the Seven Years War


I am working on a game scenario for the Battle of Kunersdorf - August 1759 - that I may run at the 2019 Seven Years War Association convention. The battle features Frederick the Great's Prussian army versus a combined Austrian and Russian army. One of the features of the battle is the extensive defensive earthworks that the Russians built. The Prussians had the unenviable task of assaulting these works.

The left corner of the redoubt covered by a Shuvulov Howitzer.

The Battle of Kunersdorf starts with the Prussian advance guard attacking the Russian Observation Corps, which was hunkered down on the Muhlberg behind some field works similar to the ones shown in the various pictures on this blog thread. To make a long story short, I need gabions. Lots of gabions. And other field works bits and pieces such as cheveau de frises and fascines bundles.

After doing a lot of searching for suppliers of resin and metal gabions, I settled on items from Warfare Miniatures extensive selection of field works components and the large metal gabions that RSM95 makes.

The picture below shows how all of the siege equipment pieces can come together in sections of earthworks, using the Warfare Miniatures accessories. Barry Hilton has done an impressive job on this diorama.

Barry uses cork backed dinner table place mats for the bases of his earthworks. I went to my local Target Stores location and found some cork table mats in the kitchenwares section of the store. The mats measure 16-inches by 8-inches and I cut mine in half, scoring the cork backside with a heavy duty box cutter.

Once I have come up with combinations of gabions and fascines to use on my mats, I will spray paint them a dark brown color, then glue the painted pieces onto the base, add my mix of spackle compound + brown paint goop, and spread it across the mat. While the spackle goop is still wet i will sprinkle fine railroad ballast over the surface and wait for it to dry. Finally, when the spackle dries, I will do a little bit of dry brushing with a lighter color (tan?), followed by some tufts and grass to finish the mat.
Barry Hilton's defensive works with pieces from his Warfare Miniatures range of figures.

Field works "work in progress" by Barry Hilton.
Click the picture to enlarge and get a better view of the gabions and fascines.

Here is a picture of a potential gabion redoubt that I will use in my Kunersdorf game. I still have a lot more pieces on order from Warfare Miniatures so I don't want to finalize my configuration until I have painted the reinforcments.

The right corner work in progress.
The gabions, fascines and cheveau de frise pieces are easy to paint. I prime them with black primer and then dry brush a dark brown across the surface of the piece. I continue to dry brush consecutive layers of ever lighter colors until I get the look that I want. I finished off 50 gabions and 20 cheveau de frise over a weekend, so the work goes relatively fast.

RSM95 minatures has some nice large gabions that I will place around the gun battery positions. RSM does not have an on-line ordering system on their web site and so getting your order involves getting ahold of proprietor Richard Masse via email and then working out a way of charging your credit card. I'd suggest mailing your credit card info in an envolope or call Richard, but do not email your credit card information as your data is not secure using convention email. Most of you already know that, but I thought that I would mention it anyway.