Thursday, December 7, 2017

Zorndorf 1758 - Terrain Decisions

King Frederick and his staff discuss lunch plans before the battle of Zorndorf.
Click all pictures to enlarge.

Another staff meeting of sorts. Some things never change over time.

With the 260th anniversary of the battle of Zorndorf approaching in 2018, I have started considering how to recreate the battle on the tabletop at conventions next year. And with some progress being made on the Minden Russian musketeers and grenadiers, I will hopefully have a lot of new figures to paint and display (show off) in the game.

Map of the battlefield at Zorndorf - historical marker.

Another view of the historical marker at Zorndorf. Signs for battlefields are so few in Europe
that they really stand out and catch your eye when you do see one.

So I set up my first stab at creating the terrain for Zorndorf so that I could get a better sense of how much table space I have relative to the number of troops that will be in the game. The layout tips me off about potential spacing problems with the troops or terrain features. The first picture below illustrates the main terrain features at Zornforf.

Annotated view of the Zorndorf battlefield.
Last evening I found some 3/4-inch pink insualtion sheets in my storage area and I cut up some of the pieces so that I could slide them underneath the game mat that I use for all of my games. This creates a nice gentle elevation change that you can hopefully see in the pictures below. Eventually, I will place insulation sheet under the whole table and make cut outs for the various "grunds" and depressions on the battlefield.

The view of the Zabern Grund from the Russian right flank point of view looking back
towards the Prussian advance guard commanded by Manteuffel.
I used the Clash of Arms boardgame map for Zorndorf to create my own map on paper and then scale it down to a 12 foot long game table. I can easily extend the table another four feet and add the cavalry action on the Prussian right wing near the Langern Grund terrain feature.

I used the Osprey Campaign book on Zorndorf for my order of battle. To scale things down, I basically substituted a brigade of actual soldiers for one wargame regiment. More about this in a future blog thread.

Compare the picture of the tabletop Zabern Grund with the picture of the actual terrain feature on the battlefield today. This picture, below, was taken in October 2016 while I was on Christopher Duffy's tour of Frederician battlefields in Germany and Poland.

A view of the Zabern Grund today. You can see how deep the low ground is on the left, relative to the plowed field. With all of the battlefield smoke during the fight, it is easy to see how von Seydlitz could have hidden his Prussian cavalry and approached the Russian right wing virtually undetected.

Prussian 12-pound artillery battery with its left flank resting on the Zabern Grund.
You can see the Stein Busch in the background.

This picture provides a little sense of the slight elevation difference
 from the bottom of the Zabern Grund to the top of its embankment.

The Galgen Grund separates the Russian right wing into two sections.

What is left of the Stein Busch in the Prussian center.
In 1758 the wooded area would have covered considerably more ground.

The Prussian right wing (refused wing) commanded by Dohna.

I will post more threads about the development of my Zorndorf game in the coming days and weeks and months. I just wanted to get the ball rolling while things were still fresh in my mind.


  1. A well-timed prod towards Zorndorf 2018!

  2. Fabulous. Should be a cracker of a game.

  3. Superb, a wonderful looking table with nice explanations...Well I'm leaving you, time to choose my lunch menu!

  4. Amazing work there, I am gob smacked!

  5. Always a tricky thing to get the terrain 'right' for a game. In my experience, it may take a few run throughs before everything is sorted out. Looking forward to more posts on this subject.

  6. One of my favourite battles!

    It looks like it will be a great re-fight. I would definitely add the extra four feet. The cavalry there greatly effects the freedom of action of Dohna and Browne.



    1. I agree so I added 3 more feet for a total of 15ft long ( my maximum table length) last night. It really opens up the Langer Grund area of the table.

    2. Indeed. There is, in my experience, no need for 'dead space' flank ground here beyond the Russian deployment. As the Russian line extends further than the Prussian line and the Prussians don't have the numbers to match up, the Prussians are outflanked and must make do.

      Will you have Cossacks? I'm always at a loss as to how to model them. Making them as useless as they were makes them a pointless addition. Making them useful makes them over powerful, sometimes battle winning.

  7. Hi James: I have some Cossacks that I want to use in my games, but I don't consider them to be battlefield cavalry. My thought is to tell the Russian players that their Cossacks will NEVER charge into formed infantry or cavalry, but not reveal this information to the Prussian players.

    I might allow Cossacks charge into the rear of an enemy unit.

    Knowing how the demented minds of wargamers work, they will push this rule to the limits and attempt to maneuver their Cossacks around the flanks of the Prussian army and,roam around in the rear areas.

    Should this get too silly then I might compel the Cossacks to seek loot and food rather than charging into some Prussian foot or horse.


    1. The last time we played Zorndorf, using Black Powder, we played them as skirmish only, so they couldn't charge formed troops in any event unless the target was already engaged in melee. In a similar tooth pulling vein we didn't allow them to charge guns either. Their low attack value merely gave them the ability to swing a narrow balance. Given they had to take a break test every time they took a casualty ('wavering' troops) they were generally in, out, and gone in pretty short order when they did charge home. They also activated individually on Demiku's command rolls - so they tended to sit unactivated anyway. (Demiku was nominally in command of all the Cossacks at Zorndorf).

      We did allow them to shoot (very poorly) which served to make them a nuisance - they harassed Schorlemer's cavalry at every opportunity but only had 'nibble' value. I thought this dealt well, in an abstract way, to their usually cowardly tactics of picking off the 'sickly'.

      Of all the times we've played with Cossacks this probably came closest to representing them. Not perfect, by any means, but close enough to give a reasonable narrative.

  8. Jim, I really enjoy your "planning notes" for these events, and watch them unfold. I will "watch this space". Cheers, Rohan.

  9. Hi Jim, in 2016 our Chicago area SYW group did Zorndorf using our Enhanced Age of Reason rules, in 15mm, with a 1" =50 yards ground scale.

    I second James's suggestion on the extra width and the Cossacks. We normally play on a 12' x 5' table which accommodates the battlefield, but added 2" to the East flank to allow the Cav especially the Cossacks the room to maneuver. I agree that the Cossacks are mostly worthless in a regular battle as they cannot charge the front of Formed Inf/Cav, but they could charge flanks and rears of formed and any bad morale units. As the Prussian RW cav engages, opportunities may arise for the Cossacks. Cossack casualties did not count against army withdrawal so it was no loss to the Russians to lose them.

    There will be a lot to think about in planning the battle. These are some of the things I anticipated and prepared for or the players raised in the course of the game:

    Do you allow the Russians to redeploy the RW Cossacks to the Center or the LW?

    Do you allow the Russians to advance their Center Inf to tie up Prussians in the Stein Busch?

    With Zorndorf burning do you have a dice role to see if any Prussians (Kanitz) drift off course so that they are not where the players want them?

    A Russian player will not want to counterattack thus exposing himself to Seydlitz. Do you have an automatic counterattack rule forcing the Russians to advance should Manteufel be repulsed badly and fall back?

    Exploding the myth that the Russian Arty was the best of the SYW (Austria was the best with Prussia a close second), the Prussians outnumber the Russians in Field Arty and Weight at Zorndorf.

    I have seen the Russians have 50, 60, and 80-84 field guns in sources, where the Prussians are pretty well documented at 117-119 field guns. will you have the Russians outgunned in numbers and weight?

    If so if the Prussians are able to not required to do the historical bombardment at long range and instead move their Arty to normal range they can blast the Russians. Do you restrict them and how? If they have to bombard is there a penalty for the smoke from Zorndorf?

    The Prussian Arty has a mix of 12lb's here, Heavies like the Brummer and the Neu/Mit 12lb austrian copy, and Mediums like the Lt 12lb. By my calculations about 50% are Medium guns the Lt 12lb and the Brummers and Neu/Mit are 25% each. Do you account for the difference in Prussian 12 lb's?

    The Russians have a lot of Regt/Lt/battalion guns(BG)types. They have the 3pdr BG. They then have the 60 Shuwalow How and possibly some 1/5 pud guns. Historically these guns were short range like BG and performed poorly. How do you account for them?

    I know you have played with Arty Ammo limits you will need that in this game.

    The Russian Reg Cav is generally Avg to poor especially the Hussars, where the Prussians have the best SYW cav. Does your OOB ratings account for this?