Friday, March 2, 2018

Manteuffel's Attack at Zorndorf - Game Report

Russian Shuvulov "Secret Howitzer" greets the Prussians near the Stein Busche.

I wanted to test drive one of my Zorndorf 1758 game scenarios ahead of the Seven Years War Association Convention on April 5th and 6th this year, so I played a solo version of the scenario yesterday. The benefits of play testing a game are obvious: it uncovers problems with the terrain set up, the balance of forces and any other gremlins that might pop up in a game. Better to deal with them now and fix them rather than be confronted with the problems in situ.

One of the issues in any scenario design is creating "brigades" or player commands to use in the game. I try to give every player at least four troop elements and to position their commands in places where they can get into the action within the first couple of game turns.

I will be hosting two games at the SYWA convention this year, both based on the Battle of Zorndorf fought in August 1758. The first game will take a slice of the battle and just focus on the opening phase of the battle when Manteuffel's advance guard attacked the Russian left wing, which was isolated from the rest of its army by the impassible Galgen Grund terrain feature.

A good map is key to understanding both a battle and a wargame scenario of that battle. One of the best maps is that found on the Obscure Battles blog   Zorndorf Map - Obscure Battles Blog . The maps and the blog are created by Jeff Berry and both wargamers and historians are fortunate that Jeff has done such brillian work on these battles. A copy of Jeff's Zorndorf map is shown below.

The attack scenario takes place in the area between the Zabern Grund steam on the left and the Stein Busche woods on the right. Click and double click on the map to enlarge the view.

An excellent map of the Battle of Zorndorf, created by Jeff Berry on his Obscure Battles blog.

The second game will be the grand enchilada, the whole game, in totus porcus if you will. This version will be played on a 6ft by 15ft table with a couple of 2.5ft by 6ft side tables that can be moved around to provide needed depth on the table top battle field. This game will cover the area from the Zabern Grund to the open plain to the right of the Stein Busche, per the map above.

Attack of the Prussian Advance Garde at Zornforf
What follows are some pictures of the smaller scenario involving the Prussian advance garde assault on the Russian right wing at Zorndorf. The table view and directions during this game will be made from the Prussian perspective of the table. Thus any mention of the "left" represents the Prussian left wing that is anchored on the Zabern Grund (obviously, this is also the Russian "right") and the "right" is the command of Kanitz, which has its right flank anchored on the Stein Busche wooded area.

Prussian Order of Battle
 1. Manteuffel's Brigade (3btns of grenadiers, 1 btn of musketeers, 2 x 10pd howitzers)

2. Kanitz's Brigade (2 btns of musketeers, 2 btns of fusiliers)

3. Dohna's Reserve (2 btns of musketeers , 2 x 12pd cannon

4. Seydlitz's Cavalry Brigade ( 2 regts of hussars, 2 regts of cuirassiers, 1 regt. of dragoons)

Total Prussians: 10 btns of infantry and 5 regts of cavalry and 4 heavy cannon

The Prussian cavalry brigade of Lt. General von Seydlitz is deployed on the west bank (left) of the Zabern Grund, and is thus separated from the Prussian infantry that is deployed on the east (right) bank of the same terrain feature.

The Russian brigade of von Browne is isolated from the Russian right wing by the Galgen Grund. Historically, the majority of the Russian army was deployed east of the Galgen Grund where von Browne's command is located on our table. So he is not alone....

Russian Order of Battle

1. Saltykov's Brigade (3 x musketeers, 1 x grenadier and 1 x 12pd cannon)

2. Galitzin's Brigade (4 x musketeers and 1 x 12pd cannon)

3. Gaugreben's Cavalry Brigade (1 horse grenadier, 1 dragoon and 1 Cossack regt.)

All of the above brigades are deployed to the west of the Galgen Grund feature that is in the center of the battlefield. One infantry brigade of von Browne is deployed to the east of the Galgen Grund.

4. von Browne's Brigade (1 grenadier, 2 musketeer and 1 Observation Corps musketeer regt., plus one heavy Shuvulov Secret Howitzer.

Total Russians: 12 btns of infantry, 3 heavy cannon, and 3 cavalry regiments

Rules: I used my own Der Alte Fritz rules for the game and will do so for my two convention games. You can download a copy of the rules for free by visiting the Fife & Drum Miniatures web store site Free Rules

If the rules link is not working for you, then go to the Fife & Drum web store and click on the "More" pull down menu and select Rules and Articles and scroll down to the PDF marked sywrulesmay2014.pdf for your free copy.

The rules are printed on one side of a standard 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper and are very very easy to learn and understand. This is a necessity for any game hosted at a wargame convention because the players need to understand the rules quickly and they don't want to be bogged down in military minutia in the rules. I find that my game players have the rules basics down by the second turn of the game.

My unit organization: I field infantry battalions of 30 figures and cavalry regiments of 24 figures. The cavalry are sub-divided into two 12-figure "squadrons" for game purposes (they are not really historyical squadrons as there would typically be 5 squadrons in a cavalry regiment). More recently, some of my Russians have 32 figures in their battalions. Artillery sections have one gun model, four crew, 2 helpers, a limber team and one munitions wagon.

Each brigade has a brigade commander and one ADC, both of whom can be used to augment the morale of a shaky unit. There is also one army command figure.

The Game Report

So the forces were set up on the table and I gave the first move and first firing phases to the Prussians, since they were on the attack. Artillery bombardment and casualties caused by the same occured on the first two turns and there was no musket fire until turn 3, when both sides closed within musket range of 8-inches.

A little skirmish of no consequence broke out on the west bank of the Zabern Grund as some Russian Cossacks rashly decided to charge the Prussian Puttkamer Hussars. It did not turn out well for the Cossacks since they were unformed troops fighting formed troops - a very bad situation in my rules. The Cossacks scrambled back to the village of Quartschen, where they were content to sit out the rest of the game and loot the Russian encampment on the back table.

Prussian Puttkamer Hussars (HR4) open the show by driving off some Cossacks
to the west of the Zabern Grund.
The pictures below depict the deployment of Manteuffel's Prussian advance guard brigade on the left, and Kanitz's brigade to the right of Manteuffel. A Prussian battery of 10-pound howitzers were deployed on the Fuchs Berg so as to fire over the heads of the advancing Prussians. The picture does not show the ground elevation very well, but the hill was one inch higher than the flat area. Since the Prussians are shooting howitzers, I have no problem with them firing with there own infantry in front of them. However, once their infantry close to within musket range, then the howitzers can no longer fire at the Russians that are in front of the Prussian infantry.

Manteuffel's Advance Garde Deploys in front of the Russians.
A battery of 10-pound howitzers deploys behind them on the Fuchs-berg.

Kanitz's brigade deploys to the right of Manteuffel, resting its right flank
on the Stein Busche wooded area.

The Russian infantry are deployed in brigades, with Saltykov on the right, Galitzin in the center, and von Browne on the far left. Saltykov and Galitzin are separated from von Browne by the impassable Galgen Grund.

Saltykov's Russian brigade on the Russian right, anchors its flank
to the protection of the Zabern Grund.

Wisps of cotton smoke indicate that the artillery are firing at the advancing infanty, who are not in musket range until the third turn. Prussian infantry generally moves 8-inches in line formation, compared to 6-inches for Russian infantry, who are not as well trained as the Prussians in the art of marching.

Both sides open up with their artillery as the Prussians advance into musket range.

A Prussian 12-pound battery opens up on the Russian left near the Stein Busche.
Two battalions of IR5 Alt Braunschweig get diverted into the woods.

Turn 3 found Saltykov and Manteuffel trading opening volleys at one another. The Russians had the honor of firing first, but two of their front line regiments must have aimed too high as they completely whiffed on their volley. To make matters worse, the second battalion of the Permski Regiment failed its morale when the Prussians returned the musket fire, and routed 12-inches to the rear -- on the first turn of musketry no less!

Manteuffel's Advance Garde trades volleys with Saltykov's Russians. The Perm Regiment (white and green flags) routed.
(Russian right flank/Prussian left flank)

Turns Four, Five and Six saw the Prussians winning the important first fire. We use an IGO-UGO system in the rules. The two commanders have a dice-off with a D10 (ten-sided die), but the Prussians get an extra plus one to the number on the D10 since they have the superior commander in Frederick. The side with the highest initiative roll gets to choose between first move/second fire or second move/first fire. As you might surmise, it is usually better to choose the first fire because units that take casualties are required to test their morale immediately. Thus the receiving unit could run away before it gets an opportunity to fire back. Such is the unfairness of war...

Manteuffel is now fully engaged with the Russian front line.
Kanitz brings up  his brigade in  support (the three battalions in the middle left of the picture)
Turn Five was particularly painful for the Russians as four of their regiments routed (Chernigov, Kazan, Narva and 5th Observation Corps Musketeers). The Prussian Itzenplitz musketeers also routed from the front of the firing line. 

At this point in the game, the Prussians had 41 dead compared to 53 for the Russians. Whenever a stand of infantry is removed from the table I place a fallen casualty figure on the spot where the stand was removed. As the game progresses one can see the ebb and flow of the battle by locating all of the casualty discs on the table.

The Narva Regiment of Galitzin's brigade routs in the center.
Turn Six saw three of the four Russian regiments rallying from their routs. Only the 5th Observation Corps musketeers continued to skeddadle.  One of the Prussian grenadier battalions ("Hessian") also routed on the turn. 

A unit gets two chances to rally before it is removed from the table for good. Morale is tested by rolling two D10 dice and trying to score a certain number or lower, depending on the number of casualties that it has already received. So the more casualties that a unit has, the lower the number it needs to pass morale. For example, a unit needs a "9" or less on two of its dice to pass morale when it has 1 to 4 casualties, but the number falls to "7" then "5" then to "3" and to "1" as the casualties pile up. Extra dice are given to the unit for officers attached or secure flanks. Thus a regiment with two officers attached and secure flanks could gain three extra dice in addition to the two dice that it always uses for morale tests. The player rolls the D10 and keeps the two best dice and discards the other dice.

Turn Seven started with the Russians firing first, but the Prussians all passed their morale tests. The Hessian Grenadier battalion rallied from its rout on Turn Six, On the return fire, however, the Russian Perm and Moscow regiments in Galitzin's brigade routed and the Shuvulov howitzer crew were all shot down. A big gap was opening up in the Russian center around the Galgen Grund.

Turn Eight, Prussian cavalry commander von Seydlitz deemed that now was the time to throw his cavalry into the fray, so he started to send his squadrons, in column, across a ford in the Zabern Grund. Two squadrons of Prussian Hussars and one squadron of the Krakow Cuirassiers charged into the Russian Azov musketeer regiment on the Russian right wing. The Azovs fired off a round of musketry but inflicted only three hits on the Prussian cavalry - not enough to slow them down as they passed their morale tests.

The Azovs went shaken on their morale test, meaning that they could not stand their ground to melee with the cavalry, but they were not routing, only falling back 12-inches. However, the Prussian cavalry got in some free unopposed hacks at the Russians and killed off four of them.

By the end of Turn Eight, it appeared that the Russian center and right brigades were close to crumbling. They had only 4 viable battalions remaining on the field and 4 battalions that were trying to rally from routing. The Russian cavalry was fresh and unused, but it's path was blocked by its own infantry and thus they could not charge into the Prussian cavalry.

Prussian cavalry Lt. General von Seydlitz deems the time right for launching the cavalry
across the Zabern Grund to attack the Russian right wing.

Zieten's Prussian Hussar brigade bears down on the Russian Azov regiment.

Turn Nine saw the Prussian Hussars barrel on into the next Russian regiment, the Perm regiment, while the Krakow Cuirassiers matched swords with the Russian Kargopol Horse Grenadiers. In both instances, the Russians prevailed and repulsed the Prussian cavalry. What heroes are those men from Perm!

Prussian cuirassiers and dragoons provide support to the charge of the hussars.
Elsewhere on the field, Manteuffel's brigade of Prussian grenadiers was nearly played out as all four battalions fell back out of musket range, allowing the cavalry to take over from there. Kanitz continued to press the Russian center, but the Russians had the first fire on this turn and inflicted 10 hits on the second battalion of the Prinz Moritz (IR22/2) Regiment! The ensuing rout was inevitable.

So at the end of Turn Nine, things were still looking grim for the Russian army, but they had stopped the charge of the Prussian cavalry on their right flank, albeit if only temporarily, and the rout of the Prussian Prinz Moritz battalion bought some time for Galitzin's musketeer regiments to recover from earlier routs.

The Prussian hussars ride over the Azov regiment and carren headlong into the the  Perm regiment in the second line of Russian infantry in Saltykov's brigade. Russian dragoons await their opportunity.

Aeriel view of the action later in the battle, after Kanitz's Prussian brigade attacks the Russian center next to the Galgen Grund and their baggage train. At the top of the picture, the Prussians have launched a cavalry attack
on  Saltykov's brigade (see top of the picture)

Turn Ten was deemed to be the end of the game. While the Russians had staved off disaster on the prior turn, it was clear that the Prussian had the upper hand in the battle. 

There were four squadrons of Russian cavalry still in play but they were faced off against ten squadrons of Prussian cavalry on the Russian right wing (Prussian left flank). In the center and right, there were only two viable battalions of Russian infantry and two more battalions in von Browne's command on the far side of the Galgen Grund, which as you may recall, was impassable to infantry and could not offer any help to the Russians on the west side of the Galgen Grund.

The Prussians had two fresh unused fusilier battalions in Kanitz's brigade and at least one, maybe two viable grenadier battalions still in Manteuffel's brigade. The Prussians had also assembled a grand battery of four cannon in the center of the battlefield where they could easily blast any remaining Russian infantry into oblivion. 

As a result, the Russians decided that they would have likely retired from the field with what infantry and artillery remained and cover the retreat with the Russian cavalry. This was not too unlike the result of the actual battle, save for the fact that the historical Prussian infantry was shattered and it was their cavalry, commanded by von Seydlitz, that was winning the battle for them in this sector.

Recall that nearly half of the Russian army was still intact and untouched on the east side of the Galgen Grund.

The Butcher's Bill
The numbers show that it was a very bloody affair for both sides:

Prussians 79 casualties out of 336 figures at the start of the game - 24% lost (4 routs during game)

Russians 116 casualties out of 360 figures at the start of the game - 32% lost (5 routs in game)

Historically, I recall that casualty rates higher than 15-20% were considered unusually destructive to the army, so in this battle, both sides would have gone off somewhere to lick their wounds and recover. Again, the outcome resembled history, but how it got there was a little bit different.

Some Final Thoughts
I thought that the rules worked fairly well, as expected. I have been using these rules in some way, shape or form since about 1994 so most of the bugs have been worked out of them a long time ago. I tested some new ideas designed to shorten the playing time:

1)  battalion guns fire as artillery until the battalion closes into musket range of 8-inches; thereafter the battalion gun simply adds an extra D10 die to the battalion's musket fire. Once two stands of the parent battalion's infantry are lost/removed, so too is the battalion gun removed from the game.

2)  cavalry melees were changed so that the defending infantry could fire off a shot in defense and hope that this might stop the cavalry charge. If the cavalry passes its morale from any casualties received from musket or cannon, then the infantry is deemed to have not stopped the cavalry charge. The infantry will either retire 8 inches facing the enemy or rout 12 inches. The cavalry will get some free and unopposed hacks at the infantry before they leave.

3)  cavalry fight a maximum of two rounds of melee. If neither side wins, then both units retire a full charge move to the rear to reform. I don't worry about them moving through or around their own units as long as they are not routing. I just pick them up and put them 20-24 inches to the rear and place a disordered marker on them. 

4)  Early in the game, I removed a couple of Prussian cavalry regiments from the game as it was clear that I had given them too much cavalry. I think that I will also reduce the Prussian infantry from 10 battalions to 9 battalions while keeping the Russian infantry at 12 battalions.

See you in South Bend, Indiana on April 5th through 7th at the SYWA Convention!


  1. Very impressive game 👍🏻

  2. Magnificent stuff. A fantastic spread.

  3. What a wonderful looking game and nice to read your thoughts on how the battle went and what you needed to tweak.

  4. Thanks for sharing, that’s truely a wonderful sight for us Lace fans.

  5. Beautiful figures and stirring photos of the game. Just mouth watering. And thank you for recommending and linking my blog post and map on the subject.