Thursday, October 23, 2008

KISS Lobositz!

KISS meaning ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ of course! Instead of a campaign, I thought it’d be interesting to refight a quick one-off historical battle, and report it in it’s entirety. I’ve picked a DBA-esque re-enactment of one battle - In 1756, Frederick the Great fought his first pitched battle of the Seven Years’ War, at Lobositz. The rules are my own hacked-down, simplified version of the ‘Horse, Foot & Guns’ rules freely available on - recommended!

When Frederick invaded Saxony and held it’s army down at Pirna, the Austrians prepared an army to relieve them. However, Frederick didn’t await it’s arrival and rushed to intercept it, ultimately crossing over into neighbouring Bohemia and catching the Austrians by the town of Lobositz.

The Prussian army emerged from a valley onto the plain around Lobositz, which was formed by hills to their north and south. South was the Homolka, while north was the larger Lobosch hill, whose slopes were covered with rough going in the form of walled vineyards - filled with Austrian Grenzers.

Before the Prussians, across a short distance of open ground, lay the Austrian main army. The right flank backed onto the impassable River Elbe, while the left sheltered behind a small marshy stream called the Morellenbach. The centre spanned the gap between these two features, taking in the town of Lobositz itself and a sunken road that ran south from the town to the Morellenbach.

The Battlefield - at this scale, a manageable 2ft x 2ft!

Historical Outcome
Thanks to heavy fog reducing visibility, Frederick began believing he was only facing an Austrian rearguard and started with a probing cavalry attack. This was forced back, which together with a mounting artillery battle and clearing fog, it became clear that the main Austrian army was present. Unfortunately the Prussian cavalry reinforced itself and attacked again, only to become tangled up in the marshy Morellenbach and forced to withdraw by the Austrians’ fire.

Things in the north progressed better, although very slowly, as Prussian infantry fought uphill through the vineyards to clear the Grenzers off the Lobosch slopes. Each army steadily reinforced the struggle, which dragged on for hours before the Prussians finally took the hill. Attacking on to the Austrian right wing, they pushed the Austrians back through the burning town of Lobositz, and after 7 hours of fighting the Austrians withdrew without pursuit from the exhausted Prussians.

Taking my figures from the excellent Duffy book ‘The Army of Frederick the Great’ I’ve based my armies roughly on numbers rather than battalions. Each base is around 2,500 infantrymen or 1,500 cavalry, which gives me a force of:

4 Cuirassiers
3 Dragoons
1 Grenadiers
5 Muskets
1 Artillery

4 Cuirassiers
1 Dragoons
1 Grenadiers
7 Muskets
2 Croat/Grenzers
1 Artillery

The initial deployment, as seen from above.

Special Rules
Prussian Cavalry – as Seydlitz had not yet risen to prominence, the cavalry was not yet completely reformed and it ran out of control in the battle, showing more aggression than skill. Consequently, Prussian cavalry must always make follow-up moves to contact if possible, and cavalry groups will require 1 command PIP per turn to not charge spontaneously.

Surprise – Unaware of Austrian positions, the Prussian army’s movements are limited at first. All PIP costs are double until either the first cavalry combat of the day, or the first Prussian base is lost.

Fog – Artillery fire for the first 12 impulses has a -1 modifier.

The Refight!
Starting out, two bases of muskets were sent up the Lobosch hill to clear off the Grenzers. This proved every bit as frustrating as feared, with the Grenzers in their element amongst the rough ground and the Muskets floundered around, trying to get to grips with them.

"Where are those shots coming from?!"

The cavalry promptly rode out into the valley, where two Cuirassier bases moved forward from the rest. The Austrian Cuirassiers and Dragoons in the valley, peering out into the mist, suddenly found themselves being charged by a wall of Prussian horsemen. The Austrians were swept away by the Prussians, with the dragoons scattering into the Morellenbach marshes to the rear with the Prussians in hot pursuit. This proved a mistake however, as the Prussians soon found themselves under heavy enfilading fire from the Austrian Muskets lining the opposite bank.

Prussian cavalry, heading for the sunken road with Lobositz on their left and the Morellenbach on their right

Repulsed by this solid defence, not to mention the constant harrying fire from the artillery batteries in the Austrian centre, they fell back. The Austrian s were so encouraged by this robust defence, they moved two of the five Muskets on the south wing into a march column, and redeployed them to Lobositz in the northern sector where Prussian attentions were clearly focused.

A slight pause followed, with the Prussians laboriously reforming their Muskets and cavalry after their repulses, while the Austrians rolled high PIP dice and accomplished their redeployment with a speed and deftness that would’ve done Old Fritz himself credit – most unhistorical! Meanwhile, the Austrian cannons continued to thump ineffectually against the Prussian main line, and the Prussian cannon on the Homolka sat silent, discouraging any advance by the whole Austrian right. On the Lobosch, the Muskets once again wasted more scarce Prussian PIPs by failing to bring the fight to a conclusion against the Grenzers.

Finally, Frederick despaired of the long delays and resolved to attack the main Austrian position, Lobosch or no. The cavalry would lead off and guard the right of the line, while this swung like a door hinged on the (screened) Lobosch to skim past the Austrians in the town, crushing their right wing against the Elbe. Things began well enough, as the cavalry swept out once again and promptly overran the battery. However, the undisciplined horsemen allowed enthusiasm to get the better of them again, and they charged on heedless of the risk. They swept right on to the town of Lobositz, bristling with Austrian Infantry – totally impregnable to horsemen, who were comprehensively repulsed.

Horses and houses - never a good idea.
The PIP dice were once more loaded in Austrian favour, as the Prussian line crawled on forward at a sluggish pace while the Austrians rushed to form a new line facing southwest to meet them.

The lines clash (a slightly blurred pic, no doubt due to the fog!)

The two lines crashed and blasted away, but the town protected the Austrians enough to let them steadily gain an upper hand with flanking fire, unpicking the Prussian line from right to left. The Prussian Grenadiers made a brave attempt on the left of the line, pressing into close range for volleys, but the rest of the Prussian line recoiled back and the grenadiers, unsupported, were finally routed. The Prussian line wasn’t destroyed, but was forced back to reform and long turns ticked by as meagre PIPs had to be squandered rallying troops and stopping the cavalry charging over the Morellenbach.

However, the Austrians had no intention of advancing themselves out of the protection of Lobositz to be beaten in the open, or trying to advance on the left flank where the Prussian guns could break them up. Things came to a final head when the Grenzers on the Lobosch forced the Prussian muskets back again, then diverted some of their strength to fire on the reforming Prussian grenadiers’ flank. Faced with a further withdrawal, and a seemingly endless standoff between the two forces, both Frederick and Browne decided – in true 18th century style – to break off the engagement. In effect however, the result was a Prussian defeat compared to the historical outcome.

No great upsets to history. The Austrians, faced with an intact Prussian army, would have been unable to march to the Saxons’ relief as planned, and Frederick would have been free to invade Bohemia the following year to make his date with disaster at Kolin.

The rules played out very well, although I was a bit caught out by the results being mainly for withdrawals and retreats, rather than elimination. Most infantry are indestructible unless caught in rough ground or by mounted troops in the open. It seemed quite effective, anyway.

I think I went a bit too far with the Special Rules for the Prussian cavalry. Maximum pursuit moves would’ve been adequate on its own, and the requirement for spending a PIP to stop spontaneous moves was a bit unrealistically enervating. They may have been overeager historically, but they were acting like French medieval knights on the tabletop! I forgot my own advice – KISS indeed…

Oh, and one last thought – the tight PIP budget means you need to limit moves and attacks to only what’s needed. The Prussians could’ve probably taken the Lobosch if that was all they tried to do, rather than try to take it, launch cavalry attacks, and move infantry all at once. Ah well, you live and learn – or at least, Frederick did…


Capt Bill said...

As usual great report and photos. I've noticed your photos cannot be enlarged by clicking on them. Is it a setting situation or possibly your camera does not have that feature.In any event keep up the good work....

CWT said...

Thanks Bill, glad you enjoy reading. I'm not sure about the photo settings for enlargement - No doubt something to do with my Blogger settings. I'll try to discover what!