|Frederick the Great during the Seven Years War.|
The two belligerents stumbled into each other near Lobositz, a town on the banks of the Elbe River, early on the morning of 1 October, 1756. At first, contact between the two forces was sporadic and relatively light. The Prussian army, which was approaching Lobositz from the west, initially received fire from its left (the area of the Lobosch Heights), and the limited nature of this action led Frederick to think that he had encountered a small Austrian rearguard. Visibility was poor — a thick morning fog made an accurate assessment of the enemy’s dispositions impossible — however, as the volume of fire increased and spread to his front, the Prussian monarch, who was still convinced that he faced an inferior force, ordered his cavalry forward to determine the strength and intentions of the enemy troops in his path. What Frederick’s horsemen discovered was an unpleasant surprise to the Prussian king: a large Austrian field army, instead of a small blocking force, was deployed in a defensive north-south arc across the Prussian army’s entire front. This arc stretched from the Lobosch heights in the north, passed in front of the town of Lobositz, and then continued south to the marshes near the hamlet of Sullowitz on Frederick’s right. The Austrian defensive position, although not perfect — von Browne’s line south of Lobositz was bisected by a shallow stream, the Morellenbach — was still strongly situated with the Elbe River and Lobositz anchoring the Austrian right while Sullowitz and a combination of marshland and forest covered von Browne’s left.
|Marshal Maximilian von Browne|
Not surprisingly, given his initial misappraisal of the situation before him, the battle did not begin particularly well for Frederick. The fog hampered most of the Prussian king’s initial offensive moves against the Austrians, and also limited the effectiveness of his artillery. As the morning mist gradually cleared, however, the Prussians slowly began to gain the upper hand in the fighting around Lobositz. Finally, after being repeatedly repulsed, the Prussian infantry was at last able to storm the town at bayonet point: a success that forced the Austrian center to fall back. The Battle of Lobositz lasted most of the day, but finally ended when von Browne, having lost ground on his right and center, decided to withdraw his army from the field; which he did in good order.
Lobositz was far from Frederick’s finest battle. In fact, early in the day, after having lost heavily from among his best cavalry formations, the Prussian king actually thought that the action might be lost and considered abandoning the field to von Browne’s forces. Fortunately for Frederick, the discipline and élan of the magnificent Prussian infantry retrieved the situation before he could make any additional mistakes. Both sides lost about 3,000 men, but von Browne’s withdrawal left the Saxon garrison at Pirna with no option but to surrender, and (as was typical of the times) transfer their allegiance and service to Frederick and Prussia.
DESCRIPTIONTHE BATTLE OF LOBOSITZ is a grand tactical (regiment/brigade/wing) simulation of the battle between 24-29,000 Prussians, led by Frederick the Great, and an Austrian army of 34,000, under Marshal Maximilian von Browne, which took place on the banks of the Elbe River in and around the Saxon town of Lobositz on 1 October, 1756.
LOBOSITZ is played in “Igo-Ugo” game turns, and each game turn represents 30 minutes of real time. An individual game turn is composed of a Prussian followed by an Austrian player turn and sticks to a set sequence of player actions: the Movement phase (the active player moves any or all of his eligible units); the Rally phase (the active player rolls to rally any of his demoralized units); the Offensive Fire phase (the acting player fires any units that did not move during this turn’s movement phase); the Defensive Fire phase (the non-phasing player conducts fire attacks against any enemy units within range); and the Mêlée phase (the phasing player conducts adjacent mêlée attacks in those cases in which both the attacker and defender have passed their pre-mêlée “morale checks”. The game is 16 turns (eight hours in real time) long.
Combat in LOBOSITZ, as already alluded to, can take one of two forms: fire combat and mêlée combat. Each type follows its own unique combat resolution procedures, and each has its own influence on the flow and “feel” of the game.
|Battle of Lobositz.|
When it comes to winning or losing THE BATTLE OF LOBOSITZ — as was the case historically — the burden of attack is squarely on the Prussian player; the Austrian commander only has to deny Frederick a significant battlefield success, not win one of his own. The good news for the Prussian player, such as it is, is that there are actually several different ways for Frederick to win the game. If the Prussian army manages, for instance, to sweep the map completely clear of Austrian units — something, by the way, that I have never seen — then the Prussians gain a (richly-deserved) decisive victory. More attainable, but still quite challenging for the Prussian player — in my view, at least — is the modest tactical victory that Frederick actually obtained in the real battle. Unfortunately, to accomplish even this limited success, the Prussians must capture, from the Austrians defending them, both the Lobosch Heights and every one of the hexes (eleven in all) that make up the town of Lobositz. And they must do all this in the face of a powerful enemy force, a blinding morning fog, and a limited number of game turns.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONLOBOSITZ is one of two Series 120 games, designed by Frank Chadwick, which cover battles from the Seven Years’ War. The other half of the pair, THE BATTLE OF PRAGUE, simulates a much smaller action between the Prussians and Austrians that occurred on 6 May 1757 near the city of the title. Both games use the same relatively simple, grand-tactical game platform. In terms of play-balance, LOBOSITZ tends to lean towards the Austrians, while PRAGUE — unless I’m missing something important — heavily favors the Prussians. These games, it should be noted, are not Chadwick’s first attempts to simulate the special nature of 18th century warfare during the age of Frederick the Great: his larger and much more detailed TORGAU had already appeared a full four years earlier, in 1974. And although the two battles depicted in these later, smaller games are both modestly interesting from a historical standpoint, an obvious question, nevertheless, presents itself: Why did GDW choose to feature these two relatively obscure engagements and not a pair of more famous battles such as Rossbach and/or Leuthen?
One possible answer, of course, is that — at the time he began work on these two Series 120 games — Frank Chadwick actually had plans to design larger, more detailed TORGAU-style simulations of some of Frederick’s other, better-known battles at some later date. Such a possibility is certainly plausible; after all, the Battle of Leuthen, as Paul Dangel proved with his superb Clash of Arms game design, LEUTHEN: FREDERICK’S GREATEST VICTORY (1997), turned out to be, in the hands of the right person, an excellent wargame just waiting to be developed. For my own part, however, I have a sneaky suspicion that the designer’s decision to simulate this particular set of actions (LOBOSITZ and PRAGUE) was probably dictated more by the special requirements of the Series 120 design format than by any other factors. Still and all, whatever Chadwick’s original plans may have been for simulating some of the other battles of Frederick IIndof Prussia using this clever, but relatively simple game platform: three decades later, we are still left with only PRAGUE and LOBOSITZ to consider; so I think that it is probably safe to assume that Frank has moved on to other things.
Since we, on the other hand, are at least temporarily focused on this early Chadwick design, I will attempt to move things along by raising an obvious, if rhetorical question: How does THE BATTLE OF LOBOSITZ look now, after having bumped around in relative obscurity for over thirty years? My short answer is that — all things considered — it really doesn’t look all that bad. Admittedly, the graphics for LOBOSITZ — as was typical of virtually all GDW games during this era — are neither especially evocative of the battle’s historical period (see AGINCOURT for a particularly egregious example of this) or even all that interesting to the eye, the “ugly duckling” appearance of this title conceals a surprisingly nicely-done “swan” of a grand-tactical game engine. That being said, LOBOSITZ is not, despite its Series 120 pedigree, really a “gateway” wargame in the same sense, for example, that SPI’s many NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO-based titles are. To be fair, the game is not especially difficult to learn if the prospective player understands at least something about conflict simulations. Nonetheless, I personally do not believe that any wargame which incorporates a multi-stage combat subroutine, elevation differences, “line-of-sight” rules, morale, and step-reduction should ever really be described — by me or anyone else — as an “introductory” game. That being said, and in spite of its somewhat denser than expected design architecture, I do think that LOBOSITZ would be readily accessible to almost any player with even a modest amount of gaming experience. Thus, while I would never recommend this particular title — or most of its Series 120 cousins, for that matter — as an “introductory” game suitable for an absolute novice, I do think that it is an excellent choice for more seasoned gamers of almost any stripe. Particularly if those players are interested in the campaigns of Frederick the Great, but don’t want to spend an entire day refighting one of his battles: which, based on my own previous experiences, is always a distinct possibility when it comes to tackling more sophisticated games like COAG’s LEUTHEN, or GDW’s TORGAU.
- Time Scale: 30 minutes per game turn
- Map Scale: 300 yards per hex
- Unit Size: battalion/regiment/brigade/wing/battery
- Unit Types: infantry, cavalry, artillery
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: below average
- Average Playing Time: 1.5 - 2 hours
- One 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Track and Terrain Key incorporated)
- 120 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Fire Combat Results Table and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
- One 9¼” x 12” Ziploc Bag