Sunday, 20 June 2010

Rossbach Revisited

It's always difficult to wargame a military disaster because rarely will a player make the same mistakes or the strategic situation be contrived.

I have had a French 15mm SYW army for a while and we have a enjoyed a number of interesting western theatre games. However when Richard put together a nice Prussian force there was one battle we had to get out of the way.

French and Reichsarmee cavalry advance with confidence

Following the disastrous summer (for Frederick) of 1757, which saw the Prussians defeated at Kolin and Gross-Jagersdorf, the French decided to have a go at the bluecoats and a motley mix of French, German and Austrian troops headed for Berlin. Heavily outnumbered Frederick repeatedly tried to manoeuvre himself into a decent defensive position but Prince Soubise was not too enamoured with the idea of a frontal attack into the teeth of Prussian musketry.

On 5 November Frederick deployed in another nice position on a ridge between two villages. With lines of communication stretched Soubise was keen to get to grips with an enemy force he esimated to be half the size of his own army. He decided on a enveloping manoeuvre to get around the flank and rear of the Prussians in four great columns. However the ponderous movement was observed by the Prussians who, concealed by the heights, swiftly about faced and redeployed. A devastating cavalry charge swept away the allied horse before it could properly deploy and the Prussian infantry and artillery made short shrift of the enemy foot. In an hour and a half the Allies had lost eight thousand men and their army was shattered. The Prussians lost a few hundred.

We set up a 6 foot by 4 foot table covered with Richard's effective teddy bear fur terrain mat.

The Prussians set up in three lines, two feet away from one short edge of the table stretching from one long edge, on the village of Brauesdorf, two feet across to the centre of the table and Rossbach village and a wooded area. This was the extent of one short side of the ridge.

Unfortunately the camera's batteries went after this piccie.
Columns of Reichsarmee outflank the Prussians on the ridge
As umpire I was fortunate in having the perfect Prince Soubise. I guessed correctly that Adrian, our resident Ancient's expert, may not be familiar with this C18 battle and also that being a nice chap wouldn't be too upset at being set up. No doubt he smelled a rat but saw the idea wasn't too bad on paper.
The contrivance sat with the Prussians, who I gave the opportunity of having a double move in any one of the first three moves. As we were playing Volley and Bayonet this could give the heavy cavalry a forty inch move!
Having the first move the Allies probably assumed that the outflanking manouvre was reasonable and charged their cavalry ahead in an attempt to reach the hill before the Prussians could redeploy. The bluecoats shuffled around in apparent disarray for two moves but on the third, just as the Allied horse reached the foot of the hills General Seydlitz unleashed his Cuirassiers and Dragoons down the slope with their double move.
Using the follow up amendments we have adopted for SYW Volley and Bayonet and Adrian's ability to throw badly on all occasions the Allied horse first column was pretty much wiped out in the third move.
Doggedly Soubise began to deploy his foot into reasonable order. At this point there was a cavalry reserve to arrive and the Prussians were still heavily outnumbered. However this Prussian army was possibly the most highly trained force the western world had seen since the Romans. In the next two moves their better morale ratings proved too much for the Allies and effectively the game was over as the French commands became exhausted. They had no choice but to withdraw, fortunately the Prussian horse was also exhausted and no great damage could be inflicted on the retreating force.
As umpire I was pleased with the recreation of a battle I have been fascinated by since reading Duffy's Army Of Frederick the Great. The result was never in doubt but the timing of Richard's use of the double move was crucial and Adrian played the role of Soubise perfectly, throwing a one in all the right places (sorry Ade).
Today's cheese was Reblochon

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