|Cavalry clash at Lobositz. Prussian blue dragons (Suren) and blue hussars (Stadden) in melee with the Saxon Rutowski regiment (Elite Miniatures). Click pix twice to enlarge the view.|
This afternoon we refought the battle of Lobositz (October 1, 1756) using the Charles S. Grant scenario that is found in his book titled, "The Wargame Companion". The game was played with three Prussian players (Der Alte Fritz himself, Keith L., and Chuck the Lucky) and two Austrian players (Bill Protz and John M.) and it was staged in the basement man cave of DAF. Mrs. Fritz kindly prepared a lunch of chili and pumpkin bread, which was served around 1 PM. Keith L. kept our tummies full with some wonderful chocolate chip oatmeal cookies that were baked by his wife, Donna (AKA, "the World's Best Baker").
Both sides had 8 battalions of regular infantry and the Austrians were allowed to augment their forces with two units of light infantry (72 Croats on the Lobosch Hill and 24 Arqubusiers de Grassin in the wolf pits in the center of the field). The Grant scenario provides for about 10 battalions per side, but I thought it best to trim the rosters down a little bit as I did not want to overwhelm the players with the masses of figures that required movement. Both sides had 20 squadrons of cavalry, but the Prussians had more armoured cuirassiers. Artillery pieces were 5 for the Prussians and 4 for the Austrians.
The following game map, copied from "The Wargame Companion" by Charles S. Grant, illustrates the table layout for the Grant family version of Lobositz. The Prussians were advancing onto the table from the top of the map, between points "C" (Homolka-berg) and "A" (Lobosch Hill). Point "B" is the town of Lobositz, adjacent to the Elbe River, which cuts across the lower right hand corner of the map. Point "D" is the only passable ford across the Morellanbach Stream, which runs diagonally across the lower left corner. The Austrians were located behind the Morellanbach, around Lobositz village, and on the Lobosch Hill.
|Lobositz game map created by Charles Grant (senior) for his original Lobositz scenario wargame, (map is from "The Wargame Companion" by Charles S. Grant.|
In our wargame, we used the same basic table set up, although our table was 15 feet long by 6 feet wide with two back tables (2ft by 15ft) that provided extra depth to the battlefield.
|Pre-battle situation. Prussian artillery is located on the Homolka-berg (middle left). Part of the Morrellanbach Stream and the village of Sullowitz can be seen in the right corner. The Lobosch Hill is at the far end of the table.|
|Prussian Vanguard approaches the field - initial starting position. They are deployed on one of the "back tables". The aisle space does not exist in terms of the battlefield area. Troops move from one table to the next without penalty.|
|Village of Lobositz on the back table. The blue terrain is the Elbe River. Austrian cuirassiers deploy in the center of the Austrian battle line.|
|Austrian right wing showing regular infantry deployed near the hamlet of Welhotta. Croats defend the Lobosch Hill.|
Some of the special ground rules for the game:
1) it takes two game turns to cross the Morellanbach. Any unit doing so emerges on the other side in a "disordered" condition. It may not fire muskets whilst in the Morellanbach.
2) the Elbe River is not fordable; it may only be crossed at the bridge.
3) on the Lobosch Hill, light infantry may move about without any penalty to movement. Regular line infantry will be "disordered" during any turn in which it moves on the hill. If it doesn't move that turn, it is not "disordered".
4) the Homolka-berg may not be scaled from its front due to the height and steepness of the hill. It can be assailed from the west side though.
5) the Austrians have a pair of "wolf pits" that they can deploy in the center of the field; however, these are not placed on the table until spotted by the Prussians.
6) any Austrians deployed behind the Morrellanbach will not be visible until Turn 4 or if any Prussian unit is within line of sight under the current weather conditions.
7) weather conditions: the field is covered in an early morning fog. On game Turn 1, visibility is only 12"; increasing to 24" on Turn 2; and 36" on Turn 3. Beginning Turn 4, the fog has lifted and is no longer a factor in the game.
|Prussian vanguard emerges from the valley in order to deploy on the plain in front of Lobositz.|
|Austrian infantry deployed behind the Morellanbach is sighted by two squadrons of Prussian hussars.|
|Turn 2: Prussian mass of cuirassiers (7 squadrons in the front line, and 6 squadrons in the second line) advance towards Lobositz, supported by the first Prussian infantry brigade (3 btns).|
At this point in the game, I found that I was really busy moving my cavalry command around the field, and so I had little time to take very many more pictures. I believe that Bill took a lot of pictures of some of the individual melees and he will post them on the Campaigns in Germania blog later.
My massive brigade of Prussian cuirassiers was moving unopposed across the center of the table for the first three turns, as the fog prevented either side from seeing much of the field. As the fog lifted, the Austrian and Saxon cavalry advanced to meet the Prussin threat. The double line of Prussian cuirassiers appeared to be unstoppable in the center. Over on the right, my dragoons and the Garde du Corps (3 squadrons) were winning melee after melee and whittling the Saxon cavalry down.
It was then that the unthinkable happened: I watched six squadrons of my cuirassiers engage their Austrian counterpart in the center. I lost the first round of melee by only one casualty (15 for me versus 14 for the Austrians). The side with the most casualties in that round of melee takes a morale test, needing a "6" on two D6 dice plus modifiers to pass morale. Normally, this is a rather matter of fact thing to do. The losing side usually gets pushed back six inches and then both sides pitch into it again on the next turn.
I rolled a "4" on two D6. Even with a few modifiers, there was no way that I could add enough positive factors to move my score up to a "6". As a result, my entire contingent of cuirassiers routed back towards the Prussian lines. In most instances, this is the end of it, as pursuit is difficult to achieve for heavy cavalry. However, you guessed it, the Austrians rolled their dice and the score indicated that they would pursue the Prussian heavies. Not good, so far, if you catch my meaning. I still had one more chance to escape with only the casualties suffered. I rolled a single D6 to determine what speed my horses would run in the rout. They rolled canter speed. I only had to travel faster than the Austrian pursuers to escape. Again, Lady Luck failed me as the Austrians rolled to travel at the gallop.
I was doomed.
Or more specifically, my six squadrons of beautiful Prussian cuirassiers were doomed, for once the Austrian cavaly touched my routing figures, they were all removed permanently from the game. In one fell swoop I lost 72 cuirassiers. Yikes!
All I could do was laugh. Afterall, if you are going to spin, crash and burn, then do it in the most spectacular manner. :)
I turned to my colleagues and said, "well lads, it is time for you to win the battle, I'm spent." I think that everyone, including the Austrian players, were gobsmacked by this turn of events. We took a break for lunch and once we were refreshed, we returned to the wargame to play out the rest of the battle.
The Prussian left wing staged a succesful assualt of the Lobosch Hill. I had to chuckle to myself when I heard the Prussian commander say, "those Croats are impossible to dig out of that damned hill!"
|Prussian infantry rout the Croats off of the Lobosch Hill.|
It was soon 4:30PM, our agreed upon ending time. So we halted the game in order to assess the outcome.The Prussian held the Lobosh Hill on the left and had four battalions, nearly untouched, on the plain below. In the center, there were maybe 3 or 4 squadrons of Prussian cavalry and the heavy battery of 12 pounder atop the Homolka-berg. It was a very thin line of defense. On the Prussian right, three Austrian battalions had advanced across the Morellanbach stream and were heading towards the Homolka-berg, which was only defended by a single Prussian battalion.
We decided that neither side had a meaningful advantage on the table top. We therefore called the game a draw. Presumably, the Prussians would have retired back up the valley towards Saxony, while the Austrians would undoubtedly cross the Elbe River and lick their wounds and recover for a new fight. Neither side had enough offensive power to finish off the other side.
I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable wargames that I have ever played in, even though it featured one of the biggest failures that I have experienced during a game . There was plenty of bad dice rolling all around, which resulted in several extreme outcomes in the probability distribution, but these made the game that much better, in an odd sort of way.
You don't believe me, here is some proof, shown in the picture below:
|One of Bill Protz's dice rolls. They really were that bad! Each set of dice represents the base firing number for groups of 20 figures. You add modifiers to this initial roll of dice, so typically you would hope to roll something in the 8 to 12 range on two D6 to inflict maximum casualties on your opponent.|
I had several consecutive save situations where I had 12 saving throws and only saved 1 figure in the whole lot.
This is the third time that our group has gamed Lobositz, and each time we have had a truly enjoyable game with a lot of ebb and flow to the cavalry battle as well as great feats of valor for both sides. I give the scenario my highest recommendation and hope that I have been able to entice you to give it a try.
The following section provides some historical background to the battle. The excerpt is taken from the Clash of Arms game titled "Lobositz".
Historical Background (excerpt from Clash of Arms board game Lobositz)
August 29, 1756: The Seven Years War erupts in Europe. The Prussian army led by King Frederick II (later "the Great" to his admirers) invades Saxony. "Blitzing" through the neutral Saxon electorate he hopes to open a path to Austria’s rich Elbe River valley in Bohemia. The Saxon army does not directly resist the invaders but withdraws into a fortified encampment on the Elbe River around Pirna, there awaiting rescue by the Austrians. The Prussian invasion grinds to a halt here; Frederick has no choice but to lay siege. Meanwhile in northern Bohemia, the Austrian army under Field Marshal Browne gathers its strength in preparation for the relief of its new ally.
Retaining the initiative King Frederick split his army, leaving half to keep the Saxons penned in Pirna, while he marches with the rest into Bohemia in search of the Austrians. On the morning of October 1, they stumble onto Browne’s army deployed around the little town of Lobositz on the Elbe River. A close fought, ten hour struggle ensues, with charge and counter-charges made across fog masked fields, hills and vineyards before culminating in a street fight amidst burning buildings. Finally, at darkness, the Austrians withdraw in good order, conceding the field.
Although a small battle by Seven Years War standards, the action at Lobositz was significant for having delayed the Austrian relief effort enough to force the Saxon surrender at Pirna. Of greater significance, the Prussians learned that their enemy “was no longer the same old Austrians” they had previously faced, and a quick victory could not be expected. Lobositz would be the first of many battles in a war to last seven bloody years.