The Battle of Lobositz 1756: A ‘Tricorn’ Playtest

As mentioned last time, we recently had a playtest of ‘Tricorn’ (my Seven Years War variant of ‘Shako’ Napoleonic rules).  I decided to go for a historical scenario (The Battle of Lobositz 1756) rather than a random ‘pick-up’ battle, as I felt it would give us a better idea of how the rules fitted the period. 

This was sharply demonstrated during the game set-up and even before Turn 1, when it was realised that having deployed the two armies in their accurately-scaled historical positions, the two batteries of heavy guns, which were both recorded as performing accurate and damaging fire before the main engagement, were both out of range when using the standard ‘Shako’ rules and artillery ranges! 🙂 

I particularly wanted to test an idea for abstracting battalion guns in the game.  This works by increasing the firepower of musketry (4, 5, 6 to hit in Shako terms) while reducing the movement speed for any unit accompanied by a battalion gun (from 4 inches to 3 inches per turn when in line formation).

Another idea (which we always used when playing ‘Shako’ at W.A.S.P. during the 1990s) is one adopted from ‘Napoleon’s Battles’ rules, which is ‘winner losses’ for cavalry.  This inflicts a single casualty on a cavalry unit when they win a mêlée (maximum of one such casualty per turn).  This represents the accumulation of attritional casualties during combat, as well as men detached to escort prisoners, squadrons detailed off to pursue and accumulated fatigue on the horses.  In ‘Shako’ the winners of a mêlée do not suffer losses, but we found that this resulted in endless to-and-fro cavalry battles and/or élite heavy cavalry units simply ploughing their way through a weaker enemy formation and still being as fresh as a daisy at the end of it. 

The incorporation of the ‘winner losses’ rule meant that even élite cavalry would eventually be worn down by repeated charges and could then become vulnerable to the injection of fresh enemy cavalry into the fight.  Additionally for campaign purposes, players were more inclined to keep a portion of their cavalry fresh and in reserve to conduct post-game pursuit of the defeated enemy.  However, Phil and Mike were not over-keen to adopt this concept and were happy with the existing rules for cavalry becoming ‘blown’ for a turn after combat, so I agreed to play the rules as written and see how it panned out.

Above:  The bulk of the Austrian infantry were deployed in ‘ambush’ positions on the left wing, behind the walled parkland, ornamental lakes, fishponds, boggy streams and reed-beds along the valley from Sullowitz to Lobositz.

Above:  Another view of the Austrian left wing.  Löwenstein’s powerful cavalry wing is just off-table, though could be immediately brought on to table (in two columns) once an ADC delivered orders to Löwenstein, whose figure is visible on the table-edge, behind the far flank of the infantry.

Above:  The Austrian right wing consisted of a number of infantry regiments under the command of Wied, plus four grenadier massed battalions, a position battery with pitifully-few heavy guns and Lacy’s recently-arrived division.

Above:  A closer look at Lacy’s command, plus two of the four grenadier battalions.

Above:  A detachment of the Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenzer skirmishes forward of Lacy’s main line.

Above:  Radicati’s Austrian cavalry division forms up behind the sunken road to the west of Lobositz.

Above:  Hadik’s Advance Guard Division (wrongly assumed by Frederick to be a rearguard covering the Austrian retreat), consisting of the massed Carabinier (élite Cuirassier) and Horse Grenadier (élite Dragoon) Companies plus the Hadik and Baryany Hussar Regiments, forms up on the plain and is immediately taken to task by Kyau’s Prussian cavalry, who have been ordered to mount a reconnaissance in force into the valley.

Above:  Draskowitz’s Grenzer, reinforced by some grenadier companies and Hungarian volunteers, harass the left flank of the Prussian army from the steeply-sloped vineyards of the Lobosch.  Frederick is forced to send Bevern with several regiments to eject the Grenzer from the mountain.

Above:  The view from behind the Prussian centre.  As Bevern begins his ascent of the Lobosch on the left, Kleist’s infantry deploy into line, while Schwerin and Katzler deploy their cavalry.

Above:  As Kleist’s line advances past Frederick’s headquarters at Wchnitz, four batteries of heavy guns follow him down the road.  On Kleist’s right, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick deploys the rest of the Prussian infantry as two more heavy batteries open fire from the Homolka Spur.

Above:  Attended by his staff, Frederick awaits news of the cavalry clash.

Above:  As his few heavy guns open fire on the approaching Prussians, Browne sends an aide with orders for Radicati to support Hadik.  A second aide is dispatched with orders for Löwenstein to bring his cavalry to the centre with great haste!  Neither ADC was seen again and the cavalry remained unmoving…  More ADCS were dispatched…

Above:  Feldmarschall von Katte deploys…

Above:  And so it begins… Hadik and Kyau clash on the plain.  

Above:  Kyau has a massive advantage in terms of quality and quantity and with Radicati’s cavalry still stationary behind the sunken road, Hadik doesn’t fancy his chances against the mass of Prussian cuirassiers!  

Above:  On the Prussian left, the battle is initially even between the Prussian Gelbe-Reitere (so-called due to wearing dark yellow coats instead of the usual pale straw colour) and the massed Austrian Carabinier companies, but the Carabiniers eventually fall back.  Next to them, the massed Austrian Horse Grenadier companies fare badly against the ‘Rochow’ Cuirassiers led by their talented Colonel, Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz.  The ‘Baryanay’ Hussars are similarly beaten off by the Prussian Leib-Carabiniere.  So Round 1 goes to the Prussians.

Above:  But what’s this?!  Having not been engaged in the initial combat, Hadik’s own regiment, the ‘Hadik’ Hussars charge alone and unsupported against the Leib-Carabiniere, who are blown following their combat against the ‘Baryanay’ Hussars!

Above:  Astonishingly, the ‘Hadik’ Hussars throw the Leib-Carabiniere back in disorder!  In their panic, the fleeing Prussian horsemen disorder the ‘Bayreuth’ Dragoons and the ‘Hadik’ Hussars use the confusion to retire back to the safety of their own lines.

Above:  On the opposite flank, Bevern’s infantry come under intense skirmisher fire from the Grenzer hidden among the vines, rocks and stone walls on the steep slopes of the Lobosch.  However, casualties are remarkably light.

Above:  Waiting behind the skirmishing Grenzer is a stronger line of formed troops.  Draskowitz has placed his strongest element, the combined companies of grenadiers and Hungarian volunteers, in the centre with Grenzer formed on the flanks.  The position is very strong and Draskowitz is optimistic that he might be able to hold the position, or at least inflict significant damage on the Prussians. 

Above:  As the battle rages on their flank, Kleist pushes forward onto the plain as the guns move up, ready to deploy and bombard the waiting Austrian line.

Above:  Frederick watches as the battle for the Lobosch unfolds.  He is alarmed that he has misread the situation and that the Austrians now seem to be making a stand, though is confident that they would crumble in the face of his army, just as they had in the last war.

Above:  On Frederick’s right, Moller’s battery on the Homolka Spur hammers away at the Austrian battery, but to little effect.

Above:  Katzler’s Prussian cavalry division forms column to the right and moves around the back of Wchnitz and the Homolka.  Descending through the saddle and into the plain, Schwerin is intending to follow his orders and move across the plain (cleared by Kyau) to engage the Austrian battery and the left flank of Wied’s Austrian infantry.  However, Kyau has not yet cleared the plain…

Above:  As its supporting artillery opens fire on the approaching Prussian cavalry, the Austrian left wing waits for orders… Two ADCs can be seen galloping over the bridge on the west side of Lobositz, yet both fail to reach their destination… A suspicious-looking group of Grenzer deny all knowledge, yet are sporting very nice new pelisses…

Above:  Hadik’s cavalry mill around blown following their previous combats and are in danger of being swept away by the freshly-rallied Prussian cuirassiers.

Above:  However, the Austrian gunners earn their pay as they ignore the incoming fire from the Homolka and accurately bounce some round-shot through the Prussian cuirassiers, stalling their advance.

Above: Things are about to get very hot for the Austrians, however…

Above:  With the Gelbe-Reitere damaged by Austrian guns, the Austrian Carabiniers charge again and throw back the yellow-coated Prussian horsemen, who rally at the foot of the Homolka, disrupting Prince Ferdinand’s attempts to get his infantry into some semblance of order!  The Prussian ‘Rochow’ Cuirassiers meanwhile, utterly rout the Austrian Horse Grenadiers, though this remains the only bright spot for the Prussians at this time, as the heroic Austrian hussars throw back the combined unit of Gensd’armes and Garde du Corps and completely crush the 2nd Battalion of the ‘Bayreuth’ Dragoons!

Above:  On the Lobosch, Bevern’s Prussian infantry finally engage Draskowitz’s main line, though casualties are now starting to mount.  The Grenzer skirmishers have fallen back, though continue to be an irritant. 

[Something I noticed here is that in Shako 2nd Edition, skirmishers can only suffer a single casualty before being removed from play.  In 1st Edition they dispersed on their third casualty, which I prefer, as it makes them much more of an irritant]

Above:  Schwerin’s division of Dragoons and Hussars follows Katzler onto the plain.  Katzler has formed his cuirassier division into line near Sullowitz, though is waiting for Kyau to clear away Hadik’s cavalry!

Above:  On the Lobosch, Bevern has decided to go in with the bayonet rather than engage in a fruitless firefight.  However, his supporting battalions are too far to the rear to provide any meaningful support and the centre battalion (1st Battalion of the ‘Kleist’ Musketeers) is beaten off with heavy losses by the Austrian grenadiers and Hungarian volunteers.

Above:  However, the 2nd Battalion of the ‘Kleist’ Musketeers defeats a battalion of the Karlstädter-Lykaner Grenze and the other Grenzer are starting to waver in the face of determined Prussian attacks.

Above:  Having pushed well forward of the flanking divisions, Kleist completes his orders and halts his infantry as the heavy guns deploy within effective range of Wied’s line.

Above:  Down on the plain, the cavalry battle continues.  The Austrian Carabiniers have pushed too far and are charged by the vengeful Gelbe-Reitere.   The Carabiniers are broken, but Hadik’s astonishing run of luck continues as the ‘Baryanay’ Hussars throw back the ‘Rochow’ Cuirassiers! 

Above:  As the hussars fall back to rally yet again, Hadik (who has now suffered in excess of 50% losses) somehow manages to keep his division in the battle, though his men are now demoralised!  

Above:  The carefully-ordered lines of cavalry from the start of the battle are only a distant memory as the Prussians try to re-order their lines amid the chaos!

Above:  Katzler’s cuirassiers have also now become embroiled in the swirling cavalry battle.  Schwerin’s cavalry also now attempt to deploy onto the plain, but rallying cavalry keep getting in the way.

Above:  It’s not only the cavalry… Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick’s infantry have become utterly disordered by the combined effects of terrain and stampeding cavalry.

Above:  Back on the Lobosch, Bevern’s aggressive tactics have finally broken Draskowitz’s defenders.  However, it wasn’t without cost, especially in the ‘Kleist’ Musketeers.  Although the Grenzer have been beaten off, Bevern still has to fight his way through the difficult terrain of the Lobosch, so it’s going to be some time before his division can join the main attack.

Above:  Draskowitz’s boys run for it!  They had hoped for support from Lacy or Wied, but that support was not forthcoming, due to yet more Austrian command and control problems!

Above:  As Kleist waits for the flanking divisions to move up, his heavy guns hammer Wied’s Austrians.  In the distance, Moller’s battery on the Homolka has ceased fire and Moller is moving his guns forward, to more closely support the attack.

Above:  Here they come again!  As the Austrian ‘Erzherzog Joseph’ Dragoons charge the ‘Bayreuth’ Dragoons frontally, the indefatigable ‘Hadik’ Hussars strike yet again at the left flank of the Prussian Leib-Carabiniere.

Above:  The view from the Austrian side: The green-coated ‘Erzherzog Joseph’ Dragoons clash with the Prussian Dragoons.  The ‘Cordua’ and ‘Stampach’ Cuirassier Regiments finally cross over the sunken road to provide support.

Above:  The view a short while later:  Prince Ferdinand’s attempts to get his infantry into some semblance of order are frustrated yet again by Kyau’s recoiling cavalrymen! 

Note the arrow marker next to the grenadiers at the lower-right; this indicates that the unit is marching in column to its left.  These days I tend to base my SYW units in line on a single base, as they rarely used any other formation unless it was an open column of platoons or companies, whose depth equalled the frontage in line (which is what they’re doing here).  Basing them on a single base also helps to demarcate the separation between units deployed in long lines.  It’s also a lot less fiddly and speeds up movement enormously.

Above:  The view from the other side of the cavalry battle:  The Gensd’Armes and Garde du Corps, having destroyed the newly-arrived Austrian ‘Cordua’ Cuirassiers, are rallying behind Katzler’s fresh cuirassier regiments and the ‘Bayreuth’ Dragoons.

Above:  Pulling back, we can see Radicati’s remaining regiments; the ‘Erzherzog Joseph’ Dragoons and the ‘Stampach’ Cuirsassiers rallying at the sunken road, along with the ‘Baryanay’ Hussars, following their successful charges against the Prussian horse.  However, the ‘Cordua’ Cuirassiers have been swept from the field, Löwenstein is still refusing to move from the left flank and there are still an awful lot of Prussian cavalry on the plain!

Above:  The heroic ‘Hadik’ Hussars, having rallied behind the Lobositz battery, charges yet again!  Kyau’s Prussian cavalry are demoralised and the Gelbe-Reitere are rallying and have already taken heavy casualties.  They are completely swept away by the hussars’ charge!

Above:  Further mêlées on the plain see the Prussian ‘Markgraf Friedrich’ Cuirassiers and ‘Brandenburg’ Dragoons thrown back by the determined Austrian counter-attacks, but the fresh Prussian Leibregiment zu Pferde (here on the left) destroys Radicati’s remaining regiments, leaving the ‘Baryanay’ Hussars feeling very lonely…

Above:  The ‘Hadik’ Hussars rally behind Browne’s headquarters at Lobositz.  At this moment an ADC gallops past to inform Browne that Löwenstein’s cavalry is at last on the move!  However, it’s still going to take some considerable time for the Austrian horse to move from the extreme left flank to the centre.

Above:  With only Hadik’s two weakened hussar regiments left to oppose them, the (mostly) fresh divisions of Katzler and Schwerin can now comply with their orders and engage the left flank of Wied’s line in front of Lobositz.

Above:  Although the ‘Alt-Dessau’ Musketeers are still being arsed about by the milling horsemen, the rest of Prince Ferdinand’s division has finally got itself into some semblance of order and is advancing on Wied.  The grenadiers of Ferdinand’s second line have shifted position to the left and have turned back into line formation (the arrow markers have been removed).  They will now move forward to provide support to Prince Ferdinand’s own regiment in the first line.  The 3rd Battalion of the ‘Alt-Dessau’ Musketeers is similarly shifting to the left, to provide rear-support to the single battalion of the ‘Zastrow’ Musketeers.

Above:  On the left flank of Prince Ferdinand’s first line, the ‘Hülsen’ Musketeers have crossed over the stream to link up with Kleist’s division on their left.  Behind them and just out of shot, the ‘Quadt’ Musketeers have also crossed over the stream and are moving up to provide rear-support.  Seeing the artillery deploying near the culvert, Wied shifts the fire of his artillery onto that point, doing nothing to the Prussian guns, but inflicting casualties on the ‘Zastrow’ Musketeers as the Austrian roundshot bounces through their line.

Above:  On the Austrian right, Wied’s and Lacy’s infantry remain unmoving as orders fail to get through, despite the short distance from Browne’s headquarters! [Phil’s luck in dice-rolling for the hussars was definitely cancelled out by his dice-rolling for the ADCs!]  Wied’s infantry have been hammered hard by the Prussian guns, but now the guns start to fall silent as Kleist resumes his advance and Bevern finally emerges from the vineyards of the Lobosch.

Above:  On the Austrian left, the bulk of the whitecoats remain unmoved (quite literally) by the cavalry battle in front of them.  To their rear, Löwenstein’s cavalry had started to move, but it was all too late.

It was at this point that Phil’s personal morale broke and we ended the game with Browne withdrawing from the field to fight another day.  

Conclusions – The Rules

Even though it was slightly disappointing as a game in that the main infantry lines didn’t come to grips, it did serve the purpose of thrashing out the finer points of the rules and scenario and we had a lot of fun doing it, which were the main points of the exercise.  It was great to have a game after all this time and my thanks to Phil and Mike for such gentlemanly company!  

Anyway, here are the changes to the rules that arose from the playtest:

1.  Artillery/Infantry:  Scrap the idea of incorporating Battalion Guns into the infantry musketry movement rules.  It seemed an interesting idea, but there were too many ‘fudges’ that had to be made.  e.g. If we’re marking units without battalion guns, would that be by unit or by division?  If units enter terrain impassable to artillery, what happens to the guns, etc, etc.

2.  Artillery:  With regard to the above; Add a new class of Battalion Gun artillery to the standard Shako rules with a shorter range, lower firepower and better mobility than the existing Light Foot Artillery class in ‘Shako’.  In previous games it was found that standard Light Foot Artillery was FAR too powerful (using ‘Shako’) when deployed in the quantities that SYW armies fielded (averaging at one gun model (eight actual guns) for every four battalions fielded).  we incorporated a few separate Battalion Guns into this game and found that they worked really well – providing relatively short-range support without dominating the game.

3. Artillery:  Increase the Long Range bracket of Heavy Foot Guns to 36 inches.  Note that historically, there was a bewildering array of gun-barrel weights/lengths and carriage-sizes within each class of shot-weight, leading to many oddities such as Heavy 9pdrs easily out-ranging Light 12pdrs.  I don’t want to add any more artillery classes to the game, but players could keep the standard ‘Shako’ rules for Light 12pdrs and perhaps use the 36-inch range with Light Artillery firepower for Heavy 9pdrs and the like.

4.  Cavalry:  Reinstate the Winner Loss rule for cavalry; At the end of the Mêlée phase, each cavalry regiment that won its mêlée applies a single casualty (even if it fought more than one mêlée in the turn due to a breakthrough charge), representing attritional combat casualties, cumulative fatigue, men detailed off to escort prisoners, etc.  Where more than one regiment contacted one target, only one regiment (of the owning player’s choice) takes the winner loss.  In campaign games these can be counted separately from ‘proper’ casualties and will be reinstated after the battle.

4.  Skirmishers:  Skirmishers take three hits before dispersing, as per ‘Shako’ 1st Edition.

5.  ADCs/Messengers:  ADCs travel at a standard rate of 16 inches per turn.  Upon arrival at their target general, they roll 1D6 and apply the following results: 1 = ADC did not get through.  2 = Implementation of the order is delayed by 2 extra turns.  3 = Implementation of the order is delayed by 1 extra turn.  4-6 = Order is implemented as per the standard rules (immediately for divisions on Reserve orders, or in the following turn for all other divisions).  ADCs are ‘teleported’ back to the Army HQ and may be used again on the following turn.

Conclusions – The Scenario

1.  Battalion Guns:  In accordance with the changes to Battalion Gun rules above, delete the ‘Very Light Guns’ (these were our playtest Battalion Guns) and add the following numbers of Battalion Guns (in brackets) to each of these divisions: Bevern (2), Kleist (1), Ferdinand (2), Wied (2), Lacy (2), Stahremberg (2) & Kolowrat (3).  N.B. Lacy’s number includes Draskowitz’s guns.

2.  Orders & ADCs:  The limits on orders available to the Austrians at the start of the scenario seems too restrictive.  However, simply allowing the Austrians to do whatever they want from the start will almost certainly result in a general advance as they use their superior numbers of infantry to simply bottle in and defeat the Prussians.  It’s worth remembering that the Austrians started this battle in ‘ambush’ positions, in a foggy valley-bottom, with very little clue about Frederick’s strength or intentions and were waiting for Frederick to come to them.  Phil did have a VERY bad run of luck with his ADCs and using ‘Shako’ 2nd Edition ADC rules meant that statistically they would almost certainly die on a long gallop to the far flank (which all but one did)!  I think therefore that my amended ADC rules will help in this regard, though I am tempted to allow Attack orders to be issued to Lacy and Löwenstein’s divisions from the start, simply in order to allow Lacy to support Draskowitz and Löwenstein to support Radicati & Hadik (as they did historically) before those formations are overrun by the Prussians.

3.  Alternative for Radicati:  For reasons that aren’t clear, part of Radicati’s division was deployed on the flank with Löwenstein.  So as a scenario-balancing option, the Anspach Cuirassiers and the Erzherzog Ferdinand Cuirassiers could be transferred back to Radicati and deployed in the centre, behind the sunken road.

Anyway, that’s all for now!  Sorry for the long wait since the last article, but I’ve got my ‘Tricorn’ rules-notes and Quick Reference Sheets waiting to be posted, along with the first of my Hanoverians, some painting and terrain-building for my forthcoming ACW demo-game and some other bits and pieces besides.

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Eighteenth Century, Games, Seven Years War & War of Austrian Succession, Shako Rules. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Battle of Lobositz 1756: A ‘Tricorn’ Playtest

  1. Martin H says:

    Worth the wait. Thanks for the comprehensive battle report – what a ding dong it was!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Martin! Yes, it was a shame that we didn’t fight on, but I think the outcome was inevitable and aside from Hadik’s incredible performance, everything went wrong for poor Phil! 🤣

  2. James Fisher says:

    Such a marvellous, visually spectacular game and a wonderfully entertaining report. I particularly like your ‘classic’ wargaming terrain with laid-on features which looked superb.
    The changes and additions to the rules sound quite sensible. Removing the ‘fast-play’ aspects of Shako 2 is always a good idea as is adding in key aspects that are missing or do not work appropriately.
    Looking forward to the next one!
    Regards, James

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks James! Credit must go to Phil Portway for the terrain, as he set it up for us based on my map. He insisted on using my new buildings though (first time out for them) and he’s identified a need for a wide river! 🙂

      Something I noticed though is that his terrain-cloth, although exactly the same pattern as mine, is on a neoprene ‘mousemat’ backing and is VERY smooth and shiny compared to mine, which is very matt. That might be something to consider for future games if they’re being photographed.

      My ‘Tricorn’ rules notes and QRSs will be next up. I am noticing that I do largely prefer Shako 1st Edition to 2nd Edition and the core of ‘Tricorn’ is essentially still 1st Edition.

  3. N says:

    Brilliant AAR and a ton of work – appreciated, thanks.

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