Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Leuthen Wargame

A detailed model of the famous Leuthen Church as rendered by Herb Gundt.

{NOTE: Click the pictures to enlarge the view}

At this year's Seven Years War Association, I hosted two wargames whose common theme was that both were fought in the snow: Mollwitz in 1741 and Leuthen in 1757. Since these battles also happen to be Frederick the Great's most famous actions against the Austrians, I thought that it would be appropriate to run both games on my winter terrain set up. I want to thank that master modeler and wargame architect, Herb Gundt, for making the buildings, roads, frozen rivers, trees etc from the photos of the actual churchyard and town, and for taking my sketches for terrain features and small buildings and making them a reality. The winter mats were made by a company called "The Terrain Guy" and he did a nice job of recreating the look of ground in the winter.

Alas, my colleagues in the SYW Association did not deem my games to be worthy of the "Pour le Merit" trophy given to the best game at the convention. I daresay that even the most unbiased observer who looked at all of the games would say that the Leuthen/Mollwitz games had the best looking terrain, the best painted figures, and an exciting game scenario that was not decided until the very last couple of turns. I think that any historical museum would welcome such a realistic display within its walls.

While I was very disappointed at this decision, on the plus side, I kept my losing streak of never having won the Pour le Merite trophy alive, the people who played in my games all seemed to have a good time, and finally, I know that I did my very best to present one of the highest quality games that was EVER displayed at the SYW Association convention, the likes of which are not likely to be seen again.

The Opposing Forces
Prussian Army
Prussian Infantry: 8 musketeer btns + 2 grenadier btns = 10 btns x 60 figures = 600 figures
Prussian Artillery: 2 10lb. howitzers + 4 12 lb. Brummers = 6 guns x 6 crew = 36 figures
Prussian Cavalry: 5 sqds light cavalry, 5 sqds dragoons, 10 sqds cuirassiers = 240 figures
Total figures = 876 plus command figures

There were four Prussian infantry players (3 + 3 +2 +2 btns per player) and two cavalry commanders for a total of six Prussian players in the game.

Austrian Army
Austrian Infantry: 8 musketeer btns (60 figs) + 1 grenadier btn (36figs) = 516 figures
Austrian Artillery 5 guns (4 x 6lbs. + 1 x 12lbs.) = 26 figures
Austrian Cavalry: 6 sqds light cavalry, 4 sqds Saxon dragoons, 12 sqds cuirassiers =264 figures
Total figures = 806 plus command figures

There were three Austrian infantry commanders (3 btns each) and two cavalry commanders for a total of five Austrian players in the game.

Scenario Notes
My thought was that it would be too time consuming to try to recreate the opening flank attack of the Prussian army on the Austrian left wing at Leuthen. So instead, I decided to fight the battle at the point where the Austrians had reformed their battle line, completely perpendicular to their initial deployment, around Leuthen and facing the oncoming Prussians. Thus, the forces could be relatively equal, albeit with a slight advantage in Prussian figures since the onus of attacking the walled churchyard was on them. This resulted in a highly competitive game on both cavalry flanks and in the center, where all of the infantry was deployed.

The Austrian Deployment
I will keep commentary to a minimum and simply post captions to the pictures that follow. I think that they do a nice job of conveying the action during the game.

The Austrian High Command observe events as they unfold, from the high ground behind Leuthen village. As Phil Olley says, "every wargame worth its salt should have a windmill on the table". I agree - windmill by HG Walls.

The Austrian left wing cavalry and infantry deploy and await the Prussian attack.

Austrian infantry (Front Rank figures) line the walls of the Leuthen churchyard. This was part of the two brigades that defended the center.

Another view of the Austrian center. Old Glory Hungarians on the right and Front Rank Austrians on the left. RSM95 limber team supports Front Rank Austrian artillery crew and gun.

Field Marshal von Piglet reviews his Austrian troops (at the request of Her Ladyship, Lady Emma Cuddlestone-Smythe). The picture also depicts nearly all of the Austrian infantry deployed in the center.

Prussian Deployment

Von Zieten's light cavalry brigade of Stadden hussars deployed on the Prussian right.

Der Alte Fritz confers with his staff before the battle begins.

The Prussian army deployment, as viewed from the left flank of the army.

Driessen's heavy cavalry brigade protects the Prussian left flank. Suren dragoons, Elite Miniatures cuirassiers.

The Game Action in Progress

Austrain hussars attack Zieten's hussars from the front, whilst the de Saxe Uhlans outflank Zieten and charge across the bridge, on the Austrian left (Prussian right) flank.

As you can see, the Austrians were getting the better in this melee. Eventually though, both cavalry forces in this sector neutralized each other.

With the threat of the Austrian light cavalry removed, the Prussians commenced their assault on the village. Their plan was to work around the left and right flanks of the Leuthen churchyard before launching the final assault on the churchyard itself. An interesting strategy that worked.

Prussian left wing pours into the town of Leuthen, having routed off most of the Austrian infantry on their right flank. Minden Prussian figures on the bottom left.

The Prussian left wing infantry also converge on the town after their cavalry won the huge melee in this sector.

Tom Miller (standing) leads the Prussian heavy cavalry brigade on the left against the Austrians and Saxons commanded by Bill Protz (seated wearing cap) and a gentleman named Rolf (seated in the background).

Tom's Prussians finally gain the upper hand on the Prussian left (Austrian right), which allowed the Prussian infantry to advance onto the town.

With both flanks caving in, the Prussian finally launched a direct assault on the Leuthen churchyard (after whittling down the garrison with several turns of artillery fire). Patience in a wargame can be a virtue, as the Prussian players demonstrated. The grenadier battalion in the front of the church were repulsed, but the Guard Grenadiers were able to rush through the side gate - although it took them 2 turns to push down the heavy wood gates as they forgot to bring their pioneers with them (this was determined by dice rolls each turn - bad dice rolling meant that the Guards could not enter the churchyard).

The game ended with a very convincing Prussian victory. The forces were fairly equal in size the Prussians having 10 battalions and the Austrians 8 battalions. I figured that the attacker needed some extra troops in order to have a chance of success. The cavalry forces were equal in size and there was a tremendous amount of cavalry "back and forth" in the melees that nearly lasted the full game.

The Prussian strategy of neutralizing the enemy cavalry on the flanks, then caving in both infantry flanks, then assaulting the churchyard, proved to be a success. I had figured that the Prussians would bombard the churchyard with the howitzers that I gave them and then send in the elite rated grenadiers to capture the church. You never know what your players are going to do in a game, but their strategy proved to be better than the one that I had envisioned.


  1. What a splendid looking layout! Really atmospheric winter terrain, and Leuthen Church looks just like it stepped out of a Karl Rochling print.

    Well done, all!

  2. I agree that everything looks splendid . . . but I cannot help thinking that the disappointment resulting from Field Marshal von Piglet abandoning the field must have been instrumental in denying you the most well-deserved "Pour le Merit" trophy . . . for I cannot think of any other reason for you not to have won it.

    -- Jeff

  3. Hard luck old chum. Jaw dropping layout as always.

  4. Lovely visuals as always Jim. Excellent narrative also. How many miniatures were used here, or have I missed it somewhere? Well done. - Mike (St. Maurice)

  5. Welcome back from vacation uncle Jim and happy Easter. I dare say I share in a similar disapointment of that weekend, but such is the way of things in life isn't it. I have very fond memories of playing a leuthan game at the old EHQ on that terrain and they all came back seeing in your photo's. Good job to you and Herb.

  6. What beautiful winter terrain. Well done. Looks like a very enjoyable wargame.

  7. Wow, great eye candy. Sure looks like a winner to Reich Duke Wilhelm. I quess, as is war, victory does not always go to the best dressed...
    ps. Happy Easter

  8. This is fun and panoramic eye-catching Old School tabletop gaming in the best sense of OS and without the things that were inefficient/laborious in the old days. For example, a conclusion was reached in four-five hours instead of over a day and a half. Four or five players came back for a second game evidencing a high quality presentation. Well-done Jim!
    I'm biased - of course!

  9. Who did take the Pour le Merite?

    Was there a 1:1 Rossbach in flats that just played itself or something?


  10. Once again, coals poured upon my suffering head. Just because I couldn't come again this year!!
    I remain very, very inspired by the work that you and Bill Protz and others put into the hobby!

  11. Hi
    I like the beautiful winter terrain, so white before the carnage!

  12. Must've been some amazing games going on there if this wasn't first place!

  13. why is it that such a battle will never be seen at the convention ever again?
    Am I misreading your comment?

    It is stunning and inspiring.
    Did Herb make new buildings for you for this game or did you already have all of these?

    Thanks for all you do on this blog. It really is inspiring.\

  14. After many years, I am trying to get back into the Seven Years War. I am starting with Prussians and Austrian figures. But I am hopelessly confused about organization. I know that unlike the Napoleonic organization, the SYW company organization was purely administrative, and that on the battlefiel, the battalions were broken down into 4 divisions of 4 platoons each. I am basing my men at a ratio of 1/20 with each stand representing a battlefield platoon.

    Here is where the problem starts. A lot of sources, including Osprey, just list the company organization of the battalions: 5 for the Prussians and 6 for the Austrians. Christopher Duffy's excellent and authoritative books "The Army of Frederick the Great" and "The Army of Maria Theresa" also address the battlefield formation of the battalions of 4 divisions of 4 platoons each.

    However, the authorities seem to differ greatly on the number of men in the battalions.

    First of all, a lot of the SYW wargames suggest that Austrian German and Austrian Hungarian battalions had different numbers of men; some suggest that the German battalions were stronger (800 men v. 600 men), some that the Hungarian battalions were stronger (960 men v. 800 men). However, the more authoritative works, like Osprey and Duffy, suggest that during the SYW there was no difference in numbers between German and Hungarian musketeer battalions.

    Second, the number of men in the Prussian battalions are variously listed as 570, 600, 800, etc. and for the Austrian battalions as 552, 600, 800, 840, 960, etc.

    The problem is compounded that what I consider the most authoritative source, Duffy, is confusing also. He lists the administrative establishment of an Austrian infantry battalion (no distinction between Hungarian and German) as 6 companies of between 130 and 160 men, thus the battalion is between 780 and 960 men. But then he says that on the battlefield the battalion was broken down into 4 divisions of 4 platoons each, with each platoon consisting of 69 men. Thus, each division consists of 138 men, with a total battalion strength of 552. So even Duffy is confusing: is the Austrian battalion 552 men, or 780 to 960 men?

    The same problem exists for the Prussian battalion, Duffy states that the administrative organization of the battalion is 5 companies of 114 men for a total battalion strength of 570 men. But then he says that on the battlefield the Prussian battalion was broken down into 4 divisions of 4 platoons each, with each platoon consisting of 81 men. Thus, each division consists of 162 men, with a total battalion strength of 648 men. So even Duffy is confusing: is the Prussian battalion 570 men or 648 men?

    Any authoritative help would very much be appreciated.


    Stefan B. Tahmassebi

  15. IN the Yahoo groups there are least four groups which would love to respond to such a question!


  16. I know you use the Terrain Guy's mats quite a bit. I've recently bought a Drylands mat and carry it to the game store almost weekly and have started to notice a little rub-off. Can you give any thoughts on the longevity of his mats?