Thursday, 3 April 2014

Operation Zorndorf - Deployment Decisions

The process of painting the figures for the game is drawing to a close. There will be a week spent basing and a few evenings spent painting flags but the units are all but completed. I have exactly 100 figures to do and 36 of those are nearly done. I also have some terrain to make to represent the 'Grunds' but these are pretty straight forward - ten feet of purpose made stream and ponds - they should be doable over a weekend.

With this in mind, I have spent some time going over accounts of the battle, studying maps, and thinking about how the battle should be represented. Given the usual restrictions of table-top gaming, namely the maximum playable depth that a table can be, I have decided on a quite radical solution to the initial game deployments. This was not my first plan (see earlier posts), but I think it is the best one. To explain why I've come to this conclusion it might be a good idea to briefly go over the start of the battle.

Initially, Fermor had deployed his Russian army in a large square formation facing north across marshy ground in the direction of Frederick's expected approach. Using local guides, Frederick made a night march (starting at 3 am) around the Russian flank so as to approach the Russians from the rear. At 5 am the Prussians emerged from woods on the eastern flank of the Russians (east of Zicher), and whilst the Prussians continued marching around to the rear, Fermor rearranged his army by the simple expedient of repositioning his artillery and getting each unit to simply about face to the south (The front line became the rear and vice versa).
Diagram from Kronoskaf

At 9 am, the Prussians shook out into a battle line in front of the village of Zorndorf and a ferocious artillery bombardment began. After two hours, the Prussian infantry on the left flank advanced. Almost immediately, Fredericks plan to attack the Russian right began to go wrong. The front line [Manteuffel] advanced according to plan but the second line [Kanitz], instead of following in support, began to veer off to the right, towards the Stein Busch and the Russian centre; this was partly because of poor visibility caused by the smoke from the cannonade and the burning village of Zorndorf, and partly due to Kanitz trying to reach out to the refused right wing infantry with his floating right flank.

This, to my mind, is the crux of the battle and what makes it the battle of Zorndorf. Without this critical mistake being made the battle will not be like Zorndorf at all. Consequently, I have chosen this time, about 11am, as the start point of the battle. This deployment means that the battle begins with some of the main tactical decisions having been made; a table-top teaser with a "get out of that" element is quite often rather good fun.

This initial game deployment has several distinct advantages over one for 9 am and, except for the battle starting two hours after its historical kick off, I can't find a reason that this deployment (especially as I'm using 28 mm figures) is not the one to be used

  • It means that the ground scale need not be over compressed to fit in the four villages that fringed the battlefield (which often appear in games) that had no tactical impact on the battle after 11 am (the smoke from a burning Zorndorf had an effect before this time but not after)
  • It means that there is no chance of an initial lull / boring phase as the game starts with the action under way - not a bad thing for a demo game. The preliminary bombardment will be quickly resolved before the action starts by some dice driven expedient - it need not be gamed step by step. 
  • It means that the Russians can be deployed slightly further forward and the gap between their first and second line need not be overly compressed to allow a decent deployment depth for the Prussians. 

So what will it look like? Well, something like this:

 Most of the field from behind the Prussian right. Except for some cossacks slightly out of shot, there are 1500 figures on the table.
 Manteuffel and Kanitz going forward whilst the refused right stands back. 

Just visible in the top left corner of the shot are Seydlitz's four heavy cavalry regiments in deep formations (he actually formed his squadrons into deep formations later than 11 am to attack across the Zabern Grund  but doing it at the start allows this flank area to be slightly shortened).

 The Prussian line beyond the Zabern Grund from the left. 
 Manteuffels Grenadiers - Frederick led trumps. 

There is a unit of Russian cuirassier missing from between the Russian infantry lines (It will stand next to the horse grenadiers).

Prussian artillery in this sector will start the game 'unloaded'. It will probably have done significant damage in the initial bombardment (determined by simple die rolls on all enemy units in this sector). The Russian counter fire was largely ineffective and be ruled so; it became deadly as the Prussian infantry emerged from the smoke - those grenadiers are going to get a taste of it.
 The Russian infantry. The gap in the centre of the rear line is where the last three Russian infantry units will fit.
The Russian left. There are three units of cavalry missing, a second line behind the first, but the frontage is correct.

There are lots of cossacks floating about the field (7 regts) but they are rubbish and shouldn't feature much.

Absolutely missing from the Russian OOB is the single battalion of dismounted dragoons - I can't be arsed, simples.


Will McNally said...

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Looking forward to seeing it at Triples

Michael Peterson said...

A very sensible solution. I'm sure it will be an epic game and I look forward to the reports from Triples.
Loved your comment on the Cossacks.

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