|Serbelloni emerges from Oak Wood|
Sometimes, battles can be won or lost upon the initial placement of troops. Deploy wisely and your forces may be tough to thwart. Deploy poorly and you may never recover. The recent clash of Frederick the Great of Prussia against Leopold von Daun of Austria on the heights near Kolin, I think, falls into the latter situation.
|Initial Battlefield Deployments|
Since only the broad sweep of the battle was noted as I moderated the recent, tabletop conflict, the usual Battle Report has been set aside. Rather than a blow-by-blow recounting of the miniature battle, a brief retrospective analysis of the battle using Honours of War is presented.
Turning back to the original premise of this post, the historical battle witnessed King Frederick playing against the odds at Kolin. Outnumbered, he struck against an opponent deployed upon ground favorable to a stolid defense. Of particular interest to me in the historical refight was the redeployments of the latter day Frederick the Great.
|Prussian right flank, heavy with heavy cavalry|
Having the flexibility of a second in command, the Prussians had an advantage of effectively fielding two CinCs. Command would be enhanced as would the ability to rally off hits at crucial points in the battle. With likelihood of gaining first moves and first fire, these advantages might just tip the balance of power at the decisive moment. The effect of these advantages may have been squandered when Freddie stripped all but one gun from his line as well as his reserve cavalry on the left and center. Where were these formations destined? Three batteries and two heavy cavalry were ordered to the right flank to stack up the right at the expense of the center and left wing.
|Prussia puts on the "shift"|
Although Austrian reinforcements were expected to arrive behind the Austrian left, what advantage could be gained by stacking the might of the Prussian artillery and cavalry on the Prussian right? The Prussian left and center were denuded of much punch and unlikely to be able to sustain prolonged attacks. With Nadazdy's inferior Austrian hussars unequal to Zieten's hussars, surely this was an opportunity lost?
|Prussian pre-battle shift complete|
How did this "shifty" planning play out?
The battle began as Zieten moved out from his starting position on the Prussian left flank with thoughts of engaging Nadazdy's hussars.
|Prussian hussars charge in!|
|Croats hold Krechor|
|Austrian center waits|
Nadazdy obliged, promptly throwing his two hussar formations against the Prussians. In two separate clashes, first, one Austrian hussar formation was repulsed as the Saxon cavalry moved up to support while in the second, both parties fell back after a protracted melee.
|Light cavalry clashes on the Prussian left|
|Prussians begin infantry advance in the center|
|Prussians push Croats out of central village|
|Prussian advance in center stalls|
as Austrian artillery takes its toll
Seeing Zieten countered on the left and the Prussian center falling back, Daun ordered Colloredo's partial column to advance down the hill.
On the right, Frederick seemed content to exchange artillery fire with the Austrians. While the Prussian artillery is telling against the guns on the heights, Prussian heavy cavalry take casualties as they stand motionless.
As Frederick's infantry column drew the attention of three batteries, casualties mounted. With Austrian reinforcements arrival upon the battlefield, Frederick ordered his army to withdraw. This, after only four turns of play.
|Prussian counter battery drives off an Austrian battery|
|Situation when Frederick calls it quits|
Another victory for Austria in this fourth battle of Kolin. With four victories to nil, the Austrians seem unstoppable. In this one, did the Prussians have a chance? I think not.
Having stacked his right with the bulk of the cavalry and artillery, Frederick seemed content to sit on his hands while the battle was lost in the other sectors. What was the purpose of weighting his right so heavily? Was it to counter the expectation of Austrian reinforcements? With such weight on the right, why not utilize this force rather than do nothing? Having Austrian reinforcements arriving piecemeal on the Austrian extreme left flank, why not push a Prussian attack against the Austrian right? Austrian support would materialize slowly while the remainder of the Prussian army could pin Austrians attempting to reinforce the right. All questions to which I have no answers. Perhaps a dispatch from Frederick will be found laying on the battlefield?
The pre-game redeployments left the Prussians without the offensive capability to take on the Austrians in either the left or center. When Serbelloni was shifted to the Austrian right to support Nadazdy, Prussian cavalry should have attempted a breakthrough in the now weakened center. Opportunity lost. Perhaps these decisions would have produced the same results but Frederick never gave it much of an attempt.
How did Honours of War work? All players picked up the game mechanisms quickly and were rolling through the turn sequence with ease after only one turn. Casualties, especially from artillery mounted quickly. For an attack to have a chance at success, support and coordination of all arms is required. Both of these lessons witnessed in the earlier HoW game were reinforced in the latest outing. Repeated playings will produce an evolution of viable tactics on the game table. Our experience may be very early in the learning cycle. Perhaps, too early to form opinions.
While Kolin seems a difficult task for the Prussians, could Frederick produce a better showing? Perhaps the historical result was destined just as it seemed in the four playings in miniature?
Regardless of the four Austrian victories, I plan to tackle Kolin one more time while the game is still on table and rules fresh in mind. My plan is to command the Prussians in a solo game while maneuvering the Austrians in a reasonable fashion. Being on the defensive in good positions, the Austrians need not produce animated play. My opponent in the solo replay will rely on a static defense while attempting to seize on any opportunity presented.
Will Frederick have any better luck on the battlefield at Kolin in a solo refight. Maybe not but I want to try before I put the soldiers back into their storage boxes.