Friday, January 19, 2018

Battle of Mollwitz - Game 2 BatRep

Berlichingen's Cavalry Wing Turning the Prussian Left
After fighting a much closer battle than it looked at first blush in Game #1 (see Dashing Through the Snow), the combatants were reset to their starting positions in anticipation of a rematch.  That awaited rematch occurred one week ago in the first 2018 edition of Friday Night at the Fights.

In the rematch, we switched sides with Jake taking command of the Prussians while I commanded the White Menace.  Having several weeks between games, we both had plenty of time to rethink strategies and prepare for the day of battle.  For Jake's thoughts and strategies on Mollwitz, see Operational Design in Wargaming.

Like Mollwitz Game #1, Game #2 is resolved under the Honours of War (HoW) rules.  With no terrain objectives to target, the object of the battle is the destruction of the opposing army.  In HoW, an army breaks once it loses half of its total number of BMUs.  For the Prussians, Army Break Point is 11 units.  For the Austrians, the Army Break Point is set to 10 units.  Being Prussian, Frederick holds an advantage in both first movement and first fire.

The Battle of Mollwitz, provides a challenging tactical problem for both combatants.  With both Prussians and Austrians deploying in a traditional battle line with infantry in the center and cavalry on each wing, the setup initially looks balanced.  Looks are deceiving!  The Prussian cavalry wings are poorly led and poorly trained while the Austrian cavalry wings are well-led and well-trained.  The infantry lines in the center are the opposite.  That is, the Prussian infantry is well-led and well-trained while their counterparts are poorly led and a bunch of rabble.  With a strong infantry center and weak cavalry wings, the Prussians must close with the Austrian infantry and defeat that body before the Austrians can defeat the weaker Prussian cavalry wings and turn their line. Of course, the White Menace must do the opposite.  Destroy the Prussian cavalry wings before the Austrian musketeer rabble in the center is pushed back onto Mollwitz and exterminated.

With those thoughts in mind, on to the battle.  While the Prussian line holds steady, Romer leaves the Austrian battle line and begins his slow advance through the snow to the Prussian right.  The Austrian hussars move up to screen their infantry from the Prussian 12 pounders.  Both hussars suffer for their bravery.
Initial dispositions with Romer having already moved out of line.
Both sides step off with their infantry lines while the cavalry wings jockey for position.  The poorly trained Austrian hussars suffer enough casualties to force flights to safety behind the advancing musketeers.  The Prussian right is beginning a line refusal in the face of Romer's advancing cavalry.  
Hussars retreat to safety while lines close.
As Romer's cavalry closes with Schulenberg's command and the Austrian line continues its slow march forward, Prussian infantry on the ends of the line wheel in an attempt to bring the Austrian horse under musketry fire.  The Prussian plan works as Romer's cavalry begins taking unnecessary casualties.
Prussian infantry face the Austrian cavalry
Romer's dragoons attack Schulenberg's dragoons.  While the numbers are equal, the Austrians hold the better troop quality.
Clash of the dragoons
The clash proves deadly as the lead dragoons from both sides retreat with heavy casualties.  Heavier casualties for the Prussian dragoons since they scatter after having retreated through their own poorly trained supports.  Prussian muskets drive off one of Romer's cuirassier formations and damage a second. 
Romer wins the first cavalry clash
While Romer continues his attempt to turn the Prussian right, Berlichingen's cavalry on the Austrian right moves to do the same. Prussian guns in the center continue to pound the Austrian line. The leftmost regiment in the Austrian First Line has had enough and retreats back behind the Second Line.  Being poorly trained, the regiment passed through suffers casualties.  
Austrian line falters.
Even as the Prussian right bends in anticipation of Romer's threat, Frederick orders his combined grenadiers to advance through his cavalry to dissuade Romer from charging.  Prussian guns continue wreaking havoc on the weak Austrian line.
Romer tries to turn the Prussian right
Romer's cavalry wing drives the Prussian horse back and catches the Prussian dragoons.  A second Prussian dragoon regiment is destroyed.  Seeing the Prussian right turned, Frederick is being encouraged to plan his escape.  Not yet, he says!
Austrian cavalry destroy a second Prussian dragoon regiment
After destroying the second Prussian dragoon on the Prussian right, Romer finally turns the corner to effectively make his presence felt in the Prussian rear.  Both Prussian flanks are straining under the pressure from Austrian cavalry as Berlichingen's cavalry probes the Prussian left.  Falling under Berlichingen's sword are the Zeiten Hussars of Posadarsky.  If only the Austrian infantry had the capability to sustain an offensive! 
Romer gets into the Prussian backfield
King Frederick has seen enough!  With both cavalry wings turned and Schwerin's encouragements, Frederick abandons the battlefield and turns command over to Schwerin.
King Frederick has seen enough!
Having effectively turned both Prussian flanks, the Austrian cavalry must put the Prussians to flight before the might of the Prussian infantry can come to grips with the Austrian infantry.  Not an easy task since Prussian infantry are knocking huge gaps in what is left of the Austrian line. 
Austrian cavalry in the Prussian backfield
Thinking the time is right to attack the Prussian rear, Romer charges in with two cavalry regiments.  One of the combined grenadiers coolly unleashes a devastating volley into the face of the oncoming cuirassier.  In the following clash, the grenadiers stand their ground and scatter the remaining heavy horsemen.
Cuirassiers vs Grenadiers
In the final act of the battle, Prussian musketeers pour a lethal volley into the few remaining Austrian musketeers.  The musketeers are "Done For" as is the Austrian Army.  A convincing victory for the Prussian Army having lost only three elements in the process of destroying ten Austrian units.
The isolated Austrian infantry are Done For
The second battle of Mollwitz was much more one-sided than Game #1.  While Game #1 saw the Prussians break the Austrian Army while losing eight units themselves, Game #2 saw the Austrian Army break while Frederick lost only three cavalry regiments.  Jake pulled off a much more convincing win as Frederick than did I.

As noted at the beginning of the Battle Report, Mollwitz presents a challenge to both sides.  In retrospect, the Austrians have a much bigger challenge.  While the Austrian cavalry wings are powerful and well-led, the Austrian infantry are all classified as Inferior.  In HoW, that is a big hurdle to overcome. Inferior units have less resolve in both fire and melee and have great difficulty in recovering hits once sustained.  Getting the Austrian infantry beyond the 30cm requirement for rally proved difficult.

With that being the situation, why did I order the Austrian infantry to advance in the face of such adversity?  Well, that is a good question!  My original thought was to advance to pin the Prussian center while my cavalry wings turned the Prussians on both flanks.  If the Prussians continued to advance on Mollwitz, the Austrian line would give ground gradually while trying to minimize Austrian casualties.  Once committed, I found an orderly withdrawal was not possible since an Austrian regiment only seemed capable of sustaining one or two Prussian volleys.

The Austrian hussars were sacrificed with no real purpose.  While they did protect the Austrian infantry briefly, the hussars fell back after only a short encounter with the Prussian guns.  Not only did they fall back quickly but they retreated through the inferior infantry causing casualties to the musketeers they passed through!  Ouch!

After two games, I suggest an Austrian victory is almost out of reach.  Still, a fun evening on the miniature battlefield even in the face of defeat.  Having a number of games under our belts, I see tactics beginning to emerge on the gaming table.  As the number of games increases, our tactics evolve making for more interesting play and more, nail-biting decision points.  HoW rules produce a bloody, decisive, yet interesting game.  HoW should remain in a frequent rotation.

33 comments:

  1. Ouch. The Austrians certainly have their work cut out for them in this scenario.

    That's a nice way to say that they have almost no chance! Oh, for some Napoleonic era cavalry!

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    1. It is a tough fight for the Austrians as it was historically. If the game keeps yielding the historical result, it cannot be too far off track. Good to have history on your side!

      Your certainly game close to an Austrian victory in Game 3. I am surprised you did not succeed.

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    2. Very close. I think if I had rolled better for activations at the start of the game, I may have been able to pull it off.

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  2. Enjoyable AAR, I think you photographed the battle from the best perspective, giving a real look of battle lines, with that lovely sweep of the army with its flanks bowed backwards. The opening shot is also a cracker, it looks very eye catching on my blog reader list.

    Everything I read about HoW (I have the rules) shows them to bring about a decisive result.

    Enjoyed - thank you.

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    1. Norm, your positive comments are always much appreciated.

      I find the battle overview, birdseye photos are essential in getting a grasp of the battle flow. Including the helicopter views helps me remember the narrative of of the battle.

      HoW is a good, solid set of rules with only a few minor issues. Decisive results? For sure!

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  3. A great looking game with beautiful pictures, well done!

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  4. Really great looking battle! hank You for a report!

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  5. Another great AAR. Certainly a tough scenario for the Austrians, with their inferior infantry having little option other than to slowly give ground. Once they start taking hits, it's nigh on impossible to withdraw them far enough to start rallying them off.

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    1. Thanks! Very tough situation for the Austrians at Mollwitz as it should be. Husbanding Inferior troops requires much finesse. Something I still need to refine.

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  6. Great looking game and it must be fun to have you and Jake being seasoned veterans with the rules and various battles of this period; Makes for great generalship!

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    1. Thank you, Dean!

      It is great fun to game with the same group of compatible friends for a long time. Repetition is a successful formula for improved generalship, no doubt.

      With the small nucleus of longtime friends with which I game, I do not recall witnessing a cross word, heated argument, or tantrum EVER over the gaming table. That is a statistic I rank highly.

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  7. Another good looking battle and well described encounter, a lovely collection of figures­čśÇ

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  8. Great looking game and superb narrative, especially after reading Jake's battle plans beforehand.
    Being able to switch side for historical scenarios is n ice, as both players will labor under the same starting handicaps once.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed, the BatRep. Peter!

      I tend to pick historical battles for study. Often, these battles provide interesting challenges to both players. Switching sides and replaying is a good way to put the players into the shoes of both historical commanders. We gain a lot of insight from these battle studies.

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  9. I think the best games come after playing a rule set a couple of times, as the mechanics become well known the tactics take a stronger role. And it’s the tactics that really draw me into a genre and make me feel like I am playing with history! Glad your enjoying gaming!

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  10. Nice report, and good to see so many 18th century soldiers.

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    1. Thanks! It is good to see the SYW collection out on the gaming table with more frequency.

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  11. That's a really tough fight for the Austrians. In the end a lot also depends on the luck of the dice. Either way a great looking game!

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    1. Tough fight for the Austrians, for sure!
      Thanks for taking the time to read through the BatRep.

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  12. Nice-looking game. We have often spoken about swapping sides and replaying games, especially for historical scenarios which aren't points based, but have yet to do this.

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    1. Having a permanent game table is a big advantage for playing the same battle multiple times. I think Kolin saw four playings.

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  13. Four days later, but I posted the view from the other side over on my page. Reviewing the order of battle, it would appear we left out a regiment of Austrian Curassiers, perhaps they were the hammer needed to crack the Prussian line?

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    1. I like your post-game impressions and laid out my response over on your blog.

      What shall we tackle next?

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    2. That looks interesting! A rematch where both participants attempt to correct their shortcomings at Mollwitz. Very interesting.

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  14. Wargamers like balanced games most of the time, but sometimes historical encounters aren't like that. Maybe the Austrians were always going to lose this one, with the Prussian infantry being of better quality. Good to see HoW supporting an historical result.

    Excellent report - most enjoyable to read.

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    1. Thanks, Keith!

      An unequal game provides an opportunity to gain insight from the actual historical events. Mollwitz is no exception and a very tough "ask" for the Austrians.

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