Zorndorf Solo Play

Pre-Battle looking East
After 8 months of preparation we finally played our 260th anniversary Zorndorf game over at Jon's.  The game was quite enjoyable and presented some interesting tactical problems.  Interesting enough, that I felt compelled to try a solo re-fight when I got home to test out a few ideas.

Thus I went from this:

Jon's set-up
to this:
my interpretation
I chose to use my 6mm Napoleonic collection to re-fight the scenario.  I went with 1x 60mm stand to represent each regiment,which allowed me to cut the scales we used in half for using Honours of War.  The part of the Russian army was played by the Austrians with my Bavarian Corps providing the lion's share of the Prussian forces.

Zorndorf makes for a fairly easy solo game as the size and disposition of the Russian army makes them easy to 'program'  There is little room for movement in their position, so they are essentially left to sit in place and roll dice for most of the game.  With that in mind, I established a base plan for both sides to guide the scenario.

Here is the order of battle from Jon's site

and a map to review

Table top guide

 Prussian Concept

Mission: The Prussian army attacks north between the Zabern Grund and the Langer Grund IOT to fix and destroy the Russian Army.

Commander’s Intent: I intend to pin the Russians in place with aggressive movement against both Russian flanks. Cavalry forces will destroy the Russian cavalry and then threaten the Russian flanks to draw forces away from the main assault. The Primary attack will be against the forces south of the Quartzchen. The defeat of those forces will isolate the Russian army and force their surrender.

Russian COG: The Russian COG is the powerful first line under Saltykov occupying the Russian right. The destruction of that force will allow us to seize the Russian baggage and pin the remaining forces against the Hosebruck river. The Prussian army currently sits on the Russian LOC to its own supply depot. The loss of the local supplies and freedom to maneuver will force the Russian commander to surrender.

Concept of the Operation: Manteuffel will lead the attack against the Russian right with Kanitz in support. Seydlitz (supported by Marschall) will destroy the Russian cavalry west of the Zabern Grund and seek a crossing point North of the Russian front line to threaten the Russian baggage. Dohna will lead a secondary attack east of the Stein Busch in order to prevent Russian forces from moving to support the 1st line. Schorlemmer will conduct a screen to the right of Dohna to prevent Russian cavalry from interfering with the attack. Units are to continue the advance and not wait for a preparatory bombardment. Artilery will focus on counter-battery fire to protect the advance, and then maneuver to engage the flanks as the infantry passes.

Task and Purpose by unit:

Russian Concept

Mission: The Russian Army defends south of the Hosebeck river in order to defeat the Prussian Army and force Prussia to sue for peace.

Commander’s Intent: I intend to make a strong stand along the Southern Bank of the River and inflict devastating casualties on the Prussian infantry as they advance. Units are to ensure that the flanks are secure and that Prussian forces do not get behind us. There is a river at our back, and our supplies are beyond the Prussians. There can be no retreat.

Prussian COG: The Prussian COG is the vanguard striking force. The destruction of the Prussian elite formation will break the Prussian will to continue and they will quit the fight.

Concept of the Operation: The army will array between the two Grunds with the Hosebruck river at our backs. This will give us a secure rear area and allow more defensible flanks. The cavalry will screen the flanks with the intent of denying Prussian freedom of maneuver. The 1st line will focus fire on the Prussian Vanguard with the 2nd line rotating regiments forward to relieve units in contact. The Observation Corps will defend west of the Stein Busch in order to secure the left flank of the Army.

Task and Purpose by unit

With that in mind I launch the forces.  I opted to use markers to note which commanders had moved.  I noticed in our large game that we sometimes forgot where we were.  In this case I found it useful to place a marker by the commander when his command activated, and then remove it when they fired.  It seems like a useful practice for the future. 

Turn 1

In the first turn I launch all units forward.  Under Honours of War, a dashing CinC can be used to improve the rating of a subordinate.  I chose to alternate my two CnC models between the infantry commands to maintain the momentum of the attack.  In this way I was able to avoid any of those poor results which would slow the advance.  Seydlitz moved out immediately and I moved the reserve cavalry over to support him.  This activated the Cossacks, but was worth the risk as I had more cavalry and could recover hits rapidly.  The artillery batteries started firing, and I used the grazing fire rule which resulted in some additional hits to the infantry behind them.  For the most part this was rallied off well before the Infantry came within range.  

Turn 2
I opted to forgo a lengthy bombardment and simply try to overwhelm the Russian defense.  With that in mine, Schorlemmer crossed the Langer Grund to confront Demiku. The Prussian cavalry took advantage of the cover provided by the Grund's to advance well ahead of the infantry.

Turn 3
Turn three and four saw the first major engagements as the Prussian Hussars engaged the Cossacks on the left while Curassier's went head to head on the right.
Initial Battle on the Prussian Right

Bloody exchange
 Schorlemmer's force lost a Curassier regiment, but managed to badly bloody Demiku's force.

Seydlitz starts his attack on the left. 

Cossacks give way rapidly
On the right, the Prussians swept the Cossacks away with the Hussars.  This left Gaugreben's small force at the mercy of the heavy cavalry.

End of Turn 4

Seydlitz strikes Gaugraben directly

Sparse damage from the artillery

Russian right blown open
By the end of Turn 4, the Russian cavalry on their Right was open and Seydlitz went into recovery mode as he consolidated his forces West of the Zabern-Grund.  The Russians rushed a regiment to cover the gap before the Prussians could launch an attack against the 12lb battery.

Turn 5

Turn 6
By turn six, Prussian Cavalry had progressed further North, forcing Galytsin to shift regiments to cover the flank, which started to open a gap in the center of the line.  At the same time the Russian cavalry on the other flank were hard pressed causing, the Observation Corps to deploy its reserve to protect their flank.

Mantuefall's vanguard entered into range of the Russian 1st line and casualties began to mount.  Midway into the battle the Russians had lost 9 Regiments, while the Prussians lost 2.  The remaining units were than able to re-consolidate to reduce their damage.
Casualties so far

Turn 7
By turn seven the battle was fully engaged, Dohna was driving his attack in against the Russian left and observation corps began to falter.  Both sides were able to rotate units forward to replace damaged units, but the pressure on the flanks meant the Prussians had gained local superiority at both points of attack. Dohna's secondary effort rapidly began to transform into the main battle.

Russians are forced to redeploy to protect their rear, while the Prussian infantry assault intensifies

Russian right is hard pressed as the Demiku's command is swept from the field.  

Turn 8

Turn 9
By turns nine and ten the Observation Corps had fallen back after a savage battle of attrition with Dohna's corps.  The Russian second line began to feed units forward to create new flank defense, but many of the first line units were starting to culminate.  Superior Prussian leadership ratings allowed them to recover assets more rapidly which had a telling effect on the battle.

Turn 10
In turn 11, Seydlitz' corps had recovered enough strength to attempt a breakthrough.  The first attack was repulsed bloodily, but with sever damage inflicted on two Russian regiments.  The Prussians were able to move up reserves for a second assault, but the Russians had no units to bring in to help their beleaguered regiments.
Turn 11, first cavalry assault is repulsed

Observation Corps is brokem, while Dohna attempts to reform

The Russian left continues to bend.

Seydlitz manages to break through to the Russian baggage.
A second assaulted by Seydlitz managed to carry part of the Russian position, allowing Prussian cavalry to sweep in behind the Russian lines and seize the baggage train.

Russians lose the Langer-Grund

Prussian horsemen pour into the shattered Russian rear, Russian losses exceed the breaking point.  
At this point the Prussians had more than exceeded the victory conditions and it was clear that they could prevent any attempt by the Russians to cross north of the Hosebeck river.  Trapped with his train being pillaged and a Prussian army standing between the army and its supplies, the Russian commander requested terms.

Final butcher's bill:  Prussia 11 units lost, Russia 30

Survivors on parade.
Lessons learned:

This is a tough battle to model.  Historically it was fought to a stalemate, but that required some key events.  The Prussian army was not able to coordinate its attacks, the Russians broke the Prussian vanguard and then pursued, allowed the Prussian cavalry to savage the Russian infantry.   The Russians were able to watch the Prussians move for several hours before the attack took place.  That said, some lessons from the two battles:

  • The Russian Cavalry cannot effectively expect to delay or hold ground against the Prussians.
  • Any movement South by Russian forces resulted in significant damage from concentrated Prussian artillery fire.
  • Early deployment of the Prussian Cavalry resulted in significant loss to artillery and infantry fire. 
  • Russian forces need to conduct any redeployment early as there is little space for movement and low command initiative will often delay necessary movement.
  • The two Prussian CinCs can be leveraged to upgrade two division commanders to ‘dashing’ each turn. This allows them to ensure that units can stay on-line and continue the advance. 
  • Prussian artillery superiority can be leveraged to isolate the schwerpunkt by disrupting flank movements. 
 Overall I am quite happy with Honours of War as a ruleset as I still find them relatively transparent.  I fought the battle as it made sense tactically and then referenced the rules to determine outcomes.  I didn't have to think in terms of modifiers.  The casualty system requires some abstraction has units near destruction were able to bring themselves back up to fighting strength to return to the fight in a few turns.   

Zorndorf is turning out to be an interesting tactical puzzle as Russian options are severely limited by the terrain.  Their actual performance seems more likely determined by die roles or rule sets rather than creative generalship.  That said, I am interested to see what we can come up with for future battles.  


  1. Interesting analysis. IIRC, historically it was a blood bath, with both sides suffering heavily. The Prussians were perhaps less able top replace the loss of their well trained troops.

    1. It is now considered a draw although at the time both sides claimed a victory back home. It was sold as a Prussian victory by many historians in the 19thC, but that may have had more to do with selling the idea of German unity. One of the characteristics we were trying to capture was reputation of stubborn resistance on the part of the Russians. The Prussians thought it unsporting that they should continue to fight so viciously when they should have accepted defeat. Such things happen when you attempt to box with a brawler.

  2. Excellent analysis and your 6mm game looks great. You transferred the Zorndorf layout to 6mm very convincingly. Thirty Russian units lost is a decisive result. I look forward to a rematch. The Russians can do better.

    1. I am sure they can, I just wanted to try an exploit I saw during our original game. I kept the Russian plan close to one used earlier and modified the Prussian approach.


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