Zorndorf 1758, when Frederick the Great's Prussians were fought to a standstill by Elizabeth the Great's Russians, is a fascinating battle. Our first game of it using Maurice rules was blogged here: maurice-zorndorf-caesars-court-martial
This time it was Daniel's turn to prepare the scenario. He is shown above briefing John on his duties - John just wandered into the club meet vaguely wondering what was on, and in fact still looks a little dazed...Gary had faithfully recreated the terrain,
dominated by the clumped woods of the Stein Busch in the middle of the field of glory, and channelled by the three swampy ravines, the Zabern-Grund on the Prussian left or Russian Right, Galgern-Grund in the centre, and Langer-Grund out to the east. A channel of clear access was carefully modelled in the Zabern-Grund to replicate the channel that Seydlitz famously was able to lead his cavalry through to fall upon the Russian flank just as they were celebrating victory.
Zabern-Grund in the foreground, then the Galgern-Grund, and at the back, next to some copses, the Langern-Grund.
In the centre, the three wooded patches make up the pivotal Stein Busch
Daniel had carefully calculated the armies and commands for our favourite 18th Century Maurice rules, but for 6 commands, which seemed to be more than the number of available players. As the impact of a virulent flu pandemic steadily decimated the numbers of players who were able to commit, it looked to the handful of us setting up, Daniel, Gary and myself, that 4 players would have to handle 6 commands, as we knew that Alan would be in.
Fortunately he came in accompanied by Satvik, who was a Maurice novice, and so would play on the Prussian side under Alan’s experienced wing. Then John made the mistake of casually turning up to see what was on at the club, and was rapidly informed in stereo by Daniel and myself that he was in the Russian Army now. Probably not the first time wide eyed innocents have wondered how come they’ve suddenly ended up wearing Russian green…
As defenders, the Russians were supposed to set up first, and so we started the painstaking linear deployment process, but the Prussians were eager to start and also started deploying. I was on the left, eastern-most sector of the Russian army, and had kind of assumed that the Zabern-Grund would mark the edge of the battle-field. However my Prussian opposite number Gary was piling huge amounts of infantry and cavalry on the outside flank of this channel,
so I hastily extended my deployment. Instead ! of a comfortable double line of infantry and guns, I was now reduced to a single line,
bolstered by my single elite Grenadier unit as an immediate reserve,
and 2 cavalry regiments out on the extreme flank.
Inadvertently, this also opened up something of a gap between my right and Daniel’s left, towards the centre…still, he who defends everything defends nothing, so it was left hanging – it would be hard for the Prussians to bear down in strength there anyway, channelled as they would be by the Stein-busch…
The Prussian first move was led off aggressively by Gary opposite me and Alan in the Prussian centre, Alan immediately defaulting to playing a dirty tricks card on me to throw my carefully spaced alignment out of kilter. Cards are normally played on the opposite player in the respective sector when we play big multi-player games, but apparently there is an unwritten rule that Alan has to play all his cards on me….I must have offended him in a previous life. Still it meant that what could have been a boring few moves just bombarding...
was now spent reordering my now even shorter line, after Alan’s shenanigans meant that Gary had a flanking charge on one of my units and routed it.
On the far flank John and Satvik seemed content simply to exchange long range cannonballs, apparently with no serious effect.
After a few moves of the Prussians steadily advancing in the centre and their right, opposite my sector, Daniel, the Russian centre commander, had what contemporaries called a ‘coup d’oueil’ – a sudden tactical insight.
Owing to Alan’s difficulties wheeling around the wooded Stein Busch, if I were to drop back my line, he would be forced to enter an area where Daniel could come up on him in echelon. I must admit at the time I didn’t grasp what Daniel was trying to explain to me sotto voce, but a quarter of a century of naval training paid off and I just did what I was told!
Sure enough, a couple of moves falling back allowed Daniel’s infantry to envelop the head of Alan’s columns, and a further couple of moves back up meant my infantry was able to support.
However all this marching and counter marching left my three-gun battery idle, and left my cavalry force, still in their original march columns,
dangerously exposed, as well as outnumbered, by the advancing massed Prussian Cuirassiers.
Worst still, after these fearsome gentlemen having moved to within charge range, I had forgotten to move my General back in order to have them reform to receive a massed Cuirassier charge. (I’m not sure what the ideal formation for that eventuality is, but I’m confident anything is better than being in march column!) Fortunately, Gary courteously allowed me to do this out of turn, so my small cavalry brigade (1 elite Kuirassier Regiment, 1 Trained) was as ready as it could be…
Meanwhile back in the centre, Daniel and I were pouring fire into the Prussians, but Alan seemed to be able to rally off disruption points almost as fast as we could inflict them. Over on the far right John and Satvik seemed to have grown bored with fruitless bombardment,
and almost by mutual arrangement both simultaneously dispensed with the last argument of kings and chose the arme blanche instead, closing with cavalry – with much excitement, charges and whatnot, but, again, apparently little actual result.
On my sector Gary had manoeuvred his infantry very precisely as best he could within the narrow channel between the Zabern-Grund and a small copse and launched his second wave of assaults.
A succession of hard fought volleys and charges saw the Prussians making little headway, so he transferred his attentions to his cavalry out on the far flank…I was not looking forward to! holding off his 4 regiments with my 2! Still, I had been holding onto the all-powerful ‘Stirrups-in’ card for some time. However, so had Gary! However the dice gods were equal in their favours, so that I actually won one combat, and survived the other, Gary having to bounce back.
In my move, rather daringly for me, habitually cautious with cavalry, I charged his defeated regiment at advantage, and saw it off the field. My 2 regiments were only facing 3. A further round of charges saw my trained regiment also sent off in ruin, but it seemed that my lone Kuirassier Regiment was in a position to outflank one of Gary’s Cuirassiers.
I was roundly assured that it was impossible to outflank in Maurice, but Gary was good enough to check and yes, it seemed I was in! Somehow in all the debate and rule checking we got out of sequence, but the outcome was that my gallant Kuirassiers were able to destroy their second regiment in as many moves! Truly now beloved of the Empress!
Looking up from this local excitement to survey the field of glory more generally, it seemed that Alan was running out of battalions to advance into the meatgrinder around the Stein-Busch,
and Gary was similarly out of options. With Prussian army morale slowly but steadily falling into the red, the Prussians conceded. Something of a stalemate, quite a historical outcome, even if the Prussian attempt at Seydlitz’s flank attack came in from the east rather than the west.
Frederick’s main problem in 1758 was the diminishing quality of his infantry, exacerbated by the hard marching which they had done coming up from Moravia. Daniel had replicated the less well trained aspect of the mid-war infantry by denying them ‘Deadly Volleys’. Coupled with the Russian advantage in rallying, and, I have to admit, more than a couple of well timed rallying cards, the Russians were always going to be hard to push off the field.
A well prepared and good looking game, wholly engrossing and definitely giving that big-battle feel!