Thursday, June 12, 2014

Battle of Altendorf 1756

 Inspiration and Background
In 1756 Frederick kicks off the Seven Years War in Europe by invading Saxony.  Historically the Saxon army is isolated by the Prussians and surrounded in their camp.  Austrian efforts to march to their aid are thwarted. The battle of Lobositz is an Austrian defeat in this time. Empress Maria Theresa orders General Browne to relieve the Saxons and he marches with 8,000 picked troops in a wide march around the Prussians. They intended to link up with the Saxons; however nothing was going well for the Saxons and their repeated river crossings or other troop movements were thwarted by the Prussians. So, the Austrians march away and the Saxon army surrendered a few days later.
With that in mind, I wanted to change history a bit. I’d starting collecting the Eureka Seven Years War Saxons and was itching to use them in a battle with my other troops. Here at Altendorf, I’ve contrived a way to represent something in the spirit of what may have happened in October of 1756 if the Saxons had a bit more pluck, or the Prussians had a bit less luck.

The scenario that unfolds starts at the point where Browne has reached Mittelndorf with his hand picked force. We are going to take some liberties in the force compositions. How egregious these changes are to history we will leave to our audience. For one, there were no Cuirassiers in Browne’s force. Also, a few units that show up later in the war make an earlier appearance.  Having let the Austrians have some Cuirassiers it would be unfair not to give their worthy opponents the same. Also, the force mix of my Austrian-Saxon army having 1 more brigade of infantry, I often give the Prussians an edge in cavalry to compensate and did so here as well to make a more balanced convention game. When I do have a better selection of painted troops at my disposal I will align the forces to be more accurate. Historically, the Saxons had a poor showing and with all types of calamity operationally surrendered leaving us no big Saxon/Prussian battle to reflect on in a game. Here though I will allow for a little in excess of a brigade of some Saxon infantry and guns to have made it through the Prussian encirclement. I place these just outside of Altendorf, the next village over from their Austrian friends. 

What follows are the details of the game ran this past Saturday at NJCON, a great 2 day convention in central NJ. This game had space for 12, was played with 10 participants (5 per side), and wrapped in 4 hours. The rules were Black Powder with many of the Last Argument of Kings supplemental rules. Figures were mostly Minden, with Eureka, Sash&Saber, RSM, and a few Old Glory.

Each side was given briefings and allowed with limited information of the enemy to deploy their forces with limitations. Here’s the two maps provided to each side and the choices. It's important to note that this was a 4x16. Along the long edges it was essentially thick woods, gullies, and streams. Thus, what the armies were fighting in was a thin stretch of land like a valley. There's an impassable hill near the Saxon camp, and one of the Prussian lines of advance comes down a much larger hill with a gradual slope where the road comes in from Bad Schandau, but flanked on either sides by difficult woods on steeper sides.

Prussian Map

The Prussians would be marching on to the table from the Southwest. Here are their deployment choices and selections.
·         March Road 1 – Any Infantry or Cavalry Brigade, no Heavy Guns.  (Choice- Both Infantry brigades, Dragoons)
·         March Road 2- Any (Choice- the heavy guns)
·         March Road 3- Any (Choice- the grenadiers, then both cuirassier brigades)
·         March Deployment 4 – Any Infantry, no cavalry, no artillery, no battalion guns. One unit enters in any formation per turn. (Choice- the gers only)

Furthermore, After they finalized their orders, I had the Prussians roll for road quality, it being October and historically a bit of rain and assumed mud. Road 1 was good allowing up to 3 moves on to the board, Road 2 was very poor allowing only 1 move onto the board, and Road 3 was poor but allowed 2 moves on to the table. Once on the table, movement would be normal.

Austrian and Saxon Map

The Austrian and Saxon Players’ Briefing allowed for deployment as follows and placement of the troops on the table.
·         Saxon Camp- any Saxons (Choice- all Saxons)
·         Deployment Area 1- any Saxons, any light troops (Choice- the  light troops)
·         Deployment Area 2- any Saxons, any cavalry (Choice- the Cuirassiers. They also made an error and placed the Austrian Grenadiers here, so I sent them back to the Austrian HQ)
·         Deployment Area 3 (in the town)- any infantry (Choice- the Austrian 1st Line Brigade setup in front of the town.)
·         Deployment Area 4- Any Austrian (Choice- both the Dragoons and the Hungarian/Croat, aka 2nd Austrian brigade)
·         Austrian HQ- Any Austrian (Choice- None, but received the displaced Grenadiers)

PPlay commenced with the Prussians moving on, and they were surprised that the Saxons and Austrians were linked up with a full battle line. The Austrians of course were surprised on the line of advance of the Prussians and that most of their army was not positioned to meet it. 

The far left of the Austrian deployment, going back practically towards to Mittelndorf, begins to wheel brigades to join the battle.  Here the Dragoon Brigade maneuvers around the Hungarian & Croat brigade which itself has turned. Not shown is the small force of Grenadiers that was sluggish moving out of Mittelndorf, and closer to the action the Austrian Line Brigade in the center which also turns to face the Prussians entrance onto the field.

Bottom of Turn 2. The Austrian cuirassiers charge in on the advancing Prussian cuirassiers who countercharge. The Prussians would have the better of this, sending most of the Austrian horse back behind their second line of squadrons. By turn 3 or 4, the Austrian cuirassier brigade finds itself broken with one unit left of the five.

Flush with victory over the Austrian cuirassier brigade, the bold Prussians move on the Saxon camp. This is now the 2nd brigade as the 1st brigade is all sitting back in shaken status to rally. But wait!!  Two battalion guns and unit of fusiliers in good order block the way as this second phase of fighting in the center begins. Closing fire stops the first charge. One unit of Prussian cuirassier leaves the field. 

The Austrian Dragoons work their way in between the two brigades of Austrian infantry to get to replace the Austrian cuirassiers which have effectively quit the field. 

The second Prussian charge on the Saxon camp suffers the same fate as the first, and the lead Austrian Dragoon unit charges in to eliminate this second unit and break the 2nd Prussian cuirassier brigade. Oh my…not a good day of battle for either side’s cuirassiers.

In front of the dragoons,  the Austrian line engages the Prussian vanguard that had marched in on the road from Bad Schandau, which was 1 unit of gers and 2 units of Grenadiers. Behind them on the hill are a Prussian battalion gun and medium gun which had difficulty finding targets in the maelstrom of fighting in the center.

The Prussian infantry of the 2nd brigade and the dragoons that had marched in from Rathmannsdorf are seen here in final positioning. 2 battalions from the first infantry brigade are seen engaging the Saxons while the dragoons move forward to support the now depleted cuirassiers. Not seen here are the heavy guns that arrived slowly on the alternate road from Bad Schandau, and waited the entire game for 3 brigades to move past. (The guns were an extra force and not any player's sole command.)

On the Prussian extreme left, 2 battalions of line engage the Austrian light infantry in the wood line. From the markers it looks like both battalions are not having the best of this exchange.

The Outcome
When we stopped play, the Austrians had a broken cuirassier brigade (at 20%), the Prussians had effectively two small cuirassier brigades broken (1 at 50%, the other 100% shaken at the time). We judged this to be a draw, perhaps the beginning of an Austrian-Saxon victory based on tactical momentum, but still a strategic Prussian victory based on position of the armies. It looked like even with the upper hand that the Allies would not push their way through what was the mass of the Prussian infantry and heavy guns being brought up, and if they did it could be at great cost.

My Evaluation of the Scenario & Game
This was the first time this had been run. The players were great. There were some surprises that the deployment options created, but I think that manner of Fog of War is good to have once in a while.  Some of the troops on the left flanks of each side struggled to get into play before we finished. This was due in small part from the overlap of only 2/3 of each army initially, the terrain and limited frontages, but more so due to some truly dire command rolls on both sides for those brigades. I will be running this again in the future, but I may change the force mixes to reduce the cavalry as they became the focal point of this battle.

1 comment:

  1. This looks to have been a fun game and it is certainly excellent eye candy. I like how you wrote your battle report. Enough text and some evaluation of how the battle ended up as it did; this seems like an ideal format to me. It was a pleasure to read!