Thursday, 17 June 2021

Reject Richard's - The Battle of Stoliboz, 1 October 1756 P7 - Crisis, Resolution and Victory Gained

 An Alternative Seven Years War Remote Wargame

The Battle of Stoliboz, 1 October 1756

A Guest Blog

Part 7 – Battle Phase 6, Crisis and Resolution – Victory is Gained.

As the two forces increasingly engage in the centre, it is the fierce French commander Surjit who is putting incredible pressure on Austrian Ray in the north at the town of Stoliboz.  Whilst, in the south the massed teutonic cavalry of both Ian and Ray try to impose their will on the French flank.


If you have just joined this then you may want to catch up on all the action from the start by looking at the previous posts on this battle.

  1. Introduction and details - (link)

  2. Phase 1 – deployment in the fog - (link)

  3. Phase 2 - First Clashes and Jockeying for Position - (link)

  4. Phase 3 – Probing the Flanks - Position - (link)

  5. Phase 4 - Southern Flank warms up - (link)

  6. Phase 5 – Bold Cavalry Moves - (link)


The commanders on both sides clearly recognised the significance of their orders for this phase of the battle, if their meticulous calculation and the obscene length of questions asked of the umpire is anything to go by.


The following was the situation at around one o’clock in the afternoon.


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French Lee’s 1st brigade artillery in the centre spit out vicious fire and compel the Austrian 8th Regiment to withdraw in haste.  However, Ian had prepared a nearby unit to move in to the now yawning gap in the line.


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Meanwhile, north of Stoliboz, the long running (and increasingly irrelevant) skirmishing in the woods finally concludes…


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…with the Austrian Liccaner Grenzers succumbing to the superior numbers of French chasseurs.  However, the Austrians gave a sterling show by destroying the Montagne regiment and effectively exhausting the remaining chasseur unit.


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Surjit’s French 3rd brigade create nervous tension in Ray’s troops by putting increasing pressure on Stoliboz and quickly advancing his 2nd Grenadiers and Chartres regiments.


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The Austrian 12th Hussars (by the way, Ray is completely out of any control of them as no orders can get through) are tardy in their charge, which gives the Bandeville regiment the chance to form square and give a pause to the Germanic marauders.


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At the other end of the battlefield, on the southern flank, Ian’s dragoons and Ray’s cuirassiers pounce on French John’s La Reine dragoons.  Other cavalry continue to sweep around the flank.


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Being outnumbered and outflanked has meant that La Reine dragoons have been utterly swept from the field.  Now vulnerable infantry flanks seem very attractive.



Choosing to exploit their success, Ray’s cuirassiers in an uncontrolled breakthrough fall on the flank of the Auxerre regiment while Ian’s dragoons attack the artillery.



The inevitable happens.  The French infantry take near catastrophic losses and break towards the town of Chinwitz.  They now view another flank in close proximity.  Ian’s dragoons slaughter the French gunners but decline a frontal assault on the Languedoc regiment.


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With their blood well and truly boiling the 4th cuirassiers tear into the open flank of the French Saintoge regiment.


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The rampant heavy cavalry wipe out the unfortunate soldiers who had already been weakened by Ian’s earlier artillery bombardment.


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The situation at approximately 1:15pm.


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The morale of the French Guards breaks under the relentless canister fire of the Austrian gunners.


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Volley fire ripples up the lines in and around Stoliboz.  The lines of the French 1st Grenadiers are thinning significantly, and their morale is creaking and extremely brittle.  However, the Austrian 1st regiment has also taken a pounding from Surjit’s 2nd Grenadiers and Chartres regiments – though their morale is holding firm.


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Along the lines the French infantry are forming squares against Austrian cavalry.  However, the morale of the units is fragile and the Ian’s line infantry is rushing forward to unleash deadly fire into the dense French formations.


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The situation at half past one o’clock.


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Conclusion:  At this point both the French and Austrians were subjected to army morale checks.  With the French now suffering significant army casualties, loss of effectiveness and with an enemy that is on their southern flank and with infantry to overlap that flank.  Thus posing a real danger to their line of communication, the gallic forces of King Louis XV has asked to leave the field of battle unmolested and with honours.  Ray and Ian have given their consent.

Victory goes to the Austrians.  Though honours also to the French.


The view along the lines from the southwest.  It is possible to see that the French risk being trapped around Stoliboz.

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Analysis:

This has been a hard fought battle, particularly around the town of Stoliboz.  

This became a battle of two flanks.  French Surjit and Lee seemed to be massing overwhelming force in the north in order destroy Ray and his hold on Stoliboz.  Then there was the south where the Austrians could quickly muster superiority of cavalry against John.  As the umpire, it seemed that the side that acted decisively and took the risk first and with conviction might find things in their favour.  In this regard, the Austrians moved just before Surjit did.  Though they were prompted to act because they could see what the French were planning to do… so they say!

The forces

There was some asymmetry to the forces.

The French had 19 infantry, 7 cavalry units and 5 artillery batteries.  This amounted to 306 figures.

The Austrians had 13 infantry, 7 cavalry units and 4 artillery batteries.  This amounted to 276 figures.

The French had more and slightly better infantry, with a guard regiment, and more artillery.  However, the Austrian cavalry included those with better morale.  In this way I tried to strike a balance.

The Cost

With 11 out of 26 French regiments either destroyed or reduced to half strength or less, it is no surprise that morale crumbled.  Or to put it another way 5 out of 8 brigades were reduced to half or less or destroyed.  

The Austrians, in comparison, have 4 out of 20 regiments destroyed or reduced to half strength or less.  That is 3 out of 10 brigades.  

In total, French casualties had risen to 40.2% of their army.  Meanwhile, the Austrians’ casualties were at 25.4%.  These reflect well, the higher end results of 18th century battles.

The Austrian artillery had given good service and created significant problems – e.g. breaking the French Guard and undermining the 1st Grenadiers effectiveness.  However, by the end 3 out of their 4 batteries had been destroyed and the remaining was at half effectiveness.  

The French fared better.  They had 2 out of 5 destroyed, 2 were down to limited effectiveness.  Unfortunately, they were unable to bring their last battery into the front line at Stoliboz.  This tally could be put down to the French making an early decision to use their guns to achieve artillery superiority and then hammer the Austrian infantry from range afterwards.  Ray and Ian were late to this tactic, having concentrated their fire on infantry.  

There have been 12 melees during the battle.  The French won 1 of them, the Austrians won 10.  Nine of them were cavalry on cavalry encounters, in which the French found their only victory.

Army list and remaining combat effectiveness are as follows:

Austrian (Ian and Ray) Army

French (John, Lee and Surjit) Army



Remaining combat effectiveness



Remaining combat effectiveness

1st Brigade (infantry) - Ray

1st Gren.

IR1

IR8

Med artillery

42%

62.5%

62.5%

destroyed

1st Brigade (infantry) - Lee

Garde Franc.

Artois

Champagne

Montfort

Med artillery

33%

100%

100%

100%

50%

2nd Brigade (infantry) - Ray

IR10

IR11

IR17

Med artillery

100%

62.5%

100%

Destroyed

2nd Brigade (infantry) - John

Auxerrois

Saintoge

Navarre

Languedoc

Med artillery

33%

Destroyed

92%

100%

Destroyed

3rd Brigade (infantry) - Ian

IR35

IR36


100%

100%

3rd Brigade (infantry) - Surjit

1st Gren.

2nd Gren.

Royal

Chartres

Med artillery

42%

83%

83%

100%

50%

4th Brigade (infantry) - Ian

2nd Gren.

IR27

IR20

Med artillery

100%

94%

100%

50%

4th Brigade (infantry) - Lee

Aunis

Bandeville

Picardy

Piedmont

Clare

Med Artillery

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

5th Brigade – Ray

Liccaner Grenzers

destroyed

5th Brigade

(skirmishers) - Surjit

Chasseurs

Montagne

58%

destroyed

6th Brigade (Cavalry Heavy) - Ray

3rd Cav Regt

4th Cav Regt

100%

75%

6th Brigade (cavalry - horse) - Surjit

La Reine/ Conde


Roussillon/ Orleans

Destroyed



Destroyed

7th Brigade (Cavalry Heavy) - Ian

5th Cav Regt


100%

7th Brigade (cavalry - dragoons) - John

La Reine

Dauphin

Horse Art.



Destroyed

100%

Destroyed

8th Brigade (cavalry – dragoon/medium) - Ian

1st dragoon

6th dragoon


75%

42%

8th Brigade (cavalry - mixed) - John

Turpin Hus.

Bercheny Hus.

Commissaire General Heavy


Destroyed

Destroyed


Destroyed

9th Brigade (cavalry – Hussars)

6th Hussars

12th Hussars


Destroyed

42%




10th Brigade – Ian

Oguliner Grenzers

100%





The main clash throughout the conflict was in the north around Stoliboz.  The casualty toll of the Austrian 1st Brigade and French 3rd and 6th Brigades give testimony to that.  The table might also suggest Lee never committed.  However, being last on with his troops, he found himself always playing catch up to deploy.  Plus, any delays in the French columns (and there were) adversely affected him.  This may have been a reason why Surjit and the French were not more aggressive around Stoliboz.

Once the opposing lines were established and the French seemed to be developing artillery superiority, it would be fair to surmise that the Austrians were in increasing danger around Stoliboz, where the French were massing.  This seemed to act as the prompt for the assault in the south.  This appeared to be aided by the French cavalry not really having anything to anchor their flank on.  I also suspect French command and control was not always as coordinated as that of the Austrian pair.  I am sure that the players will wish to express a view on these points.

In the end, the Austrians being able to move on the flank of units was devastating.  With the French cavalry all but annihilated and the infantry exposed, the Austrian cavalry and more importantly their infantry would roll up the gallic forces.  The only option was to withdraw to secure the line of communication, and the result of the army morale check confirmed this.

All generals played an entertaining and thoughtful game.  They had to take decisions and produce orders with the fog of war denying them a knowledge of geography (initially), the exact number of losses to units (friend and foe), the state of morale of the units nor the usual physical cues given by an opponent facing you on the other side of a table.  

Each phase was a series of game turns.  Completely different to the act and react of a normal tabletop encounter.  In this sense it placed Lee, John, Surjit, Ray and Ian far more in the position of real generals who have to rely on the equivalent of couriers and adjutants relaying information after periods of time and events.  Hats off to them.  

Those are my thoughts.  I’m sure the players probably have their own opinions and versions of the how the battle went. 

Thank you, Ray, for allowing me to guest blog.  

Now I will get on with thinking about the next one… and some painting!

Adieu

.................................

Being as Richard put so much hard work into the campaign, I thought it only best that the players had their say, we'll start with the French.

Lee

"Obviously, as commander of the French, I'm bound to say I think we woz robbed! Lol...Seriously though, that was an excellent game, and the outcome notwithstanding, I think we the French players, had a great game. There were two aspects that really worked, The Fog of War and Command and Control. The Fog was, quite literally fog early in the game but even when the fog lifted and the pictures became clearer it was often hard to piece together what was going on. That being said we got better at that as the game progressed as did our Command and Control. By the end of the game, we were coordinating our respective Brigades better and writing better orders even if our tactical decisions lacked effectiveness! 

Hats off to Richard for pulling this gargantuan effort off. More, please! "

Surj

"This was one of the most enjoyable games I have played, one that I believe came closest to replicating both the fog of war and the friction in command, control and communication which hinders effective coordination and action on a battlefield. This experience was not necessarily inherent to the format of the game but was a product of many finely conceived and employed methods used by Richard in revealing the battlefield to the protagonists. Gone were the omnipotent birds-eye view of the battlefield, the familiar chess-like move and counter move, action and reaction tactics of the tabletop game. Richard's execution of multiple turns before the commanders received an update of the situation removed any possibility of reacting instantly to the opponent's moves, elevating the play to a more strategic level and giving scope for bold opportunistic moves on a large scale as so ably demonstrated by the Austrians in the final coup de -gras. It was a game that would not have been possible without a very able and thoughtful umpire."

John

"Very enjoyable and more 'realistic' than a normal game in the shed as you could only be certain of what your own troops were doing. And in my case I didn't even know what my own troops were doing - misidentifying cavalry for infantry and Austrian as French at one point! 
We (the French) got off to a slow start due to some confusion in the orders (it wasn't my division so even now I don't know what the problem was). Surjit was in the van rushing to occupy the hill that wasn't there while I moved to secure the right flank leaving Lee to bring up the rear. We came onto the table in blocks i.e. Surjit, me, Lee which in retrospect we shouldn't have done. Anyhow I occupied the plateau to the right of our line facing very little opposition. This left me with a dilemma - sit on the hill and do nothing but watch things unfold on the left and centre or get some involvement in the game. I chose the latter which, as it turns out, was the wrong thing to do!
I sent my hussars to attack the Austrian dragoons on the extreme right thinking that they would ride through them easily enough - for some reason I thought they had lances! This was not the case as they were repulsed with heavy losses. From this point on everything collapsed - presumably Richard rolling the dice for me is no better than me rolling it myself! My troops came off worst in every single encounter.
Had the attack on the left been pressed home a turn or two earlier perhaps we might have won but I had no idea of the condition of the units in that sector. Similarly our initial deployment was too slow and cumbersome - some of Lee's troops barely made it onto the battlefield at all.

I should have followed my gut instinct and stayed on the hill! And paid more attention to the instructions - never my strongpoint!"

The Austrians

Ian

"I enjoyed this experience immensely, it gave me  a completely different perspective on wargaming .I actually enjoyed the strategy of the game ,and not always getting a birds eye view of the battle field was excellent.
   The precise writing of orders was so realistic , and if they were vague Richard aired On the side of  caution ,for me it was the most realistic experience, as if i had been a commander in the age of reason .many many thanks to Richard for putting the game on and please,please,please many more games like this."

Ray

Well what an eventful few weeks that was, as most of you know we've all been starved for a game this past 18 months, well in the UK anyway, So this game was a great stand in for us all getting round the table together. But it was more than that in reality, Ian's my pal and has been for 30 odd years and I haven't spoken to him so much in a long time, the clever mechanics of the orders kept us in contact all the way through, each decision we made was a joint one, something that I believe the French didn't do.
We had a game plan and basically stuck to it the whole the way through the game, there were a few minor alterations, when we tried to gain the initiative, the main one, deciding to send my Cuirassiers around the left flank to support Ian's attack on John's cavalry, the plan was hopefully to hold up Surj's attack on Stoliboz. We hoped it would work, and work it certainly did, so thank you John for coming off the hill, we thought we'd try and tempt you and you took the bait. But we never thought we'd do so much damage!
A massive thank you to Richard for all his hard work. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we all did?

Thanks for reading everyone!
Ray