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The Battle of Leuthen, 1757


The Seven Years War, Honours of War, 28mm

The third game of my AMG 2017 weekend, played out on Sunday, was one of the great battles of the Seven Years War. Colin Ashton provided both the figures and the terrain, in a game which was a real pleasure to take part in. He’d thought this through, from having command plaques for all the major leaders to sprinkling snow onto his buildings. The centrepiece of his snow-clad table was a lovely reproduction of the church at Leuthen, surrounded by its fortress-like stone wall. All in all the whole thing looked terrific.Rather rashly I agreed to play the part of the Austrian commander, aided and abetted by Robbie and Mark. I’m still a bit of an Honours of War virgin, but fortunately Robbie not only knew the ropes, but he liked dispensing sage advice throughout the game, delivered in an almost impenetrably thick Geordie accent! He took our left flank – the Reichsarmee forces, Mark took the right, which included most of our cavalry, while I commanded the centre, around Leuthen itself.  Opposing us were Guy and Steve II, while Colin bravely umpired the whole thing. Of course we all knew what happened in the real battle, but morale was bolstered by the fact that when the game was played the day before, the Austrians fought the Prussians to a standstill. That sounded much better than the historical result – a decisive defeat. The plan was for Robbie’s Reichsarmee to advance on our left flank, while I would hold in the centre. Over on the right Mark was hampered by the late arrival if his troops, but he used the intervening turns to sacrifice his screening brigade of hussars. More usefully, his battery of guns on Windmill Hill pounded the advancing Prussian assault column, which was heading straight for the village. Clearly while Guy was content to bide his time on the Prussian right, Steve II’s job was to take the village. Just as worryingly, on Turn 3 the Prussian massed battery arrived, and deployed across the table from the church. Were they planning to shoot their way in? It seemed that the battle was about to get serious.

Actually, what they were doing was far more effective. Their battery denied us access to the centre of the battlefield. I tried advancing out of Leuthen, only to have two battalions shot to pieces. On our left the Reichsarmee began suffering too, as did the garrison of Leuthen churchyard. The artillery was so deadly it seemed nothing could stand in its way. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Robbie had a brigade of light cavalry to hand, and so in the finest traditions of the Austrian horse it launched itself forward. In fact the elements which weren’t blown away by the guns were those which were counter-charged and bested by their Prussian counterparts. So, the great battery remained, and we had nothing left that could touch it. Or .. did we? In Leuthen itself Steve II’s grenadiers had fought their way into the town, only to be driven back. This fighting raged throughout the game, and by the end we’d broken the cream of the Prussian force. However, they still had a trick up their sleeve. As Mark’s cavalry manouevred to hit their reforming units in the flank, the rest of the Prussian cavalry arrived in their left flank, ushering in a new phase of the battle. The two sides charged and counter-charged, swirling this way and that, but gradually it was clear that the Prussians were gaining the upper hand. The one charge that went in against the Prussian infantry outside Leuthen was eventually repulsed, despite an initial success. So, that was that. We were being shot away on our left, holding grimly in the centre, and losing a cavalry melee on our right. Things weren’t looking good for Maria Theresa’s boys. When things began unraveling they did so with increasing rapidity. On the Prussian left Guy launched a blistering series of attacks with his horse and foot, piling the pressure onto the outnumbered Reichsarmee. Soon the Imperial troops were in full retreat, and nothing remained to bar the Prussian advance safe for a sole brigade of Austrian cavalry. In the centre the Prussians had gained a toe-hold in the village, and were defying all my attempts to force them out. That gun battery still swept all before it, routing the defenders of Leuthen churchyard through pounding the place into brick dust. On our right, the Austrian cavalry began to rout. So, with his customary diplomacy, Colin drew a veil over the sorry spectacle, and declared the game a clear-cut Prussian victory. I have to say, while I still have a few minor reservations about Honours of War, the rules did the job admirably in this big and challenging battle. Colin had made a few minor changes, like reducing the seemingly long canister range, but the HoW rules themselves were a joy to use. Even with Colin’s tweaks though, the guns were still very effective – largely thanks to the creation of that massed battery. Roddy, Mark and I had a defensive plan, but I have to say we were outsmarted by Guy and Steve II, whose masterly sense of timing and their reliance on firepower won them the battle. Above all though, I have to tip my hat to Colin, who not only acted as the long-suffering umpire, and kept things moving along with grace, but he also provided the whole spectacle of a battle in the snow that was so pretty that it’ll be one to remember. It was a real pleasure to participate – even if we got “gubbed”!

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6 Responses “The Battle of Leuthen, 1757”

  1. Andrew Brentnall
    21st June 2017 at 8:59 pm

    That looks fabulous! Was walking these fields on,y a month or so ago, and very atmospheric they were too. Great job on the church!

  2. 21st June 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I was most interested to read your report Angus. Thanks for your kind comments about the rules – I expect you would have preferred to use Die Kriegskunst!

    Regarding the ‘crazily long canister range’. Your own rules give a canister range for medium guns of 12″/20cm, but this represents a range of 600 yards for 28mm figures if I have my sums right. HoW canister range is indeed twice yours but represents a range of only 400 paces. Perhaps some sort of scale mis-match within the game created a canister range that felt too great.

    Perhaps in these large games where units are not represented on a 1 to 1 scale, reducing the ranges of artillery in HoW is a worthwhile tweak. I would be grateful for your thoughts.

    I can only join you in saluting Colin’s efforts in producing such a magnificent game.

    Best wishes, Keith.

    • 21st June 2017 at 10:13 pm

      I certainly wouldn’t Keith … your rules are much more user-friendly. As for canister, crazily was an inappropriate word, and I’ll change it. The thing is, a lot of later studies were made, which record its reduced effectiveness beyond about 300 yards. Fort Nelson Library has copies. I would have reduced its range in DKK if I had read them sooner. Above all though,canister effectiveness sort of skews the range bands we wargamers use, as it and artillery generally remain viciously potent over a lot of tabletop. In both the HoW games I played this weekend, the umpires reduced the power of artillery and the range of canister, to make it a little less deadly. All agreed though, the rules are a big hit, and that’s coming from a bunch who consider the SYW their big period! Well done!

  3. 21st June 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Thanks Angus for a great report, very descriptive and informative. I too love HoW and have yet to find the canister range or artillery too devastating unless they mass, as here. Even so in our game on the Saturday 3 or 4 Prussian guns occupied the centre position and we still had to concede defeat, so they are not a match winner all the time.

  4. 22nd June 2017 at 7:39 am

    A good looking game deserves a great AAR and you’ve provided that Angus. Thank you.

  5. Colin Ashton
    22nd June 2017 at 9:18 am

    Morning Angus. Many thanks for your kind words and I am very chuffed that you enjoyed the game so much. It was a great game to umpire and the group dynamics were a joy to behold 🤣. Guy and Steve certainly executed a pretty clinical destruction of the Austrian army. Their use of the massed artillery in the centre was quite Frederician as was their switching the position of their right wing horse. A great report and I like the pictures.,

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