Monday, May 27, 2019

The Olmutz Convoy: A Wagon Train scenario

A page from the Southern Sortie magazine
of the Christchurch Wargames Society, 1993.
Having just seen this wagon train scenario on the blog spot Blunders on the Danube, I bethought myself to writing up this one - The Olmutz Convoy - played and published in Southern Sortie, the local war games magazine, over 25 years ago.

The following is from the  published article:

"The Background:
After his spectacular campaigns on 1757, culminating in the victories of Rossbach and Leuthen, Frederick the Great of Brandenburg-Prussia was disappointed to find his French and Austrian enemies remained determined to fight.  With Tsarina Elizaveta of Russia now also an active enemy, his army would face double its numbers.

To free his hands to deal with this new adversary, already overrunning East Prussia, Frederick decided to take the field early in the campaigning season of 1758 with a diversionary strike against Austria with the view to neutralizing them at least for the time being.  To besiege the Moravian fortress town of Olmutz would place a direct threat against Vienna, and induce a large scale diversion of Austrian troops to a location from which they could offer no help to the Russians.  Could they be beaten in battle as well, so much the better."
Hildberghausen Infantry.
"The Situation:
The Prussian army marched in April, and by early May invested Olmutz without interference.  Once the train arrived, the siege could begin in earnest, but the garrison proved lively, the investment somewhat casual, and the siege went badly.  Though in the offing, the main Austrian army, led by Count Leopold Daun, declined to be drawn into battle.  By late June, maintenance of the siege depended upon the safe arrival of a vast convoy - some 3,700-odd carts and wagons laden with provisions, ammunition and one million thaler in cash.  Escorting the train were strong forces of all arms, though a third of the infantry were recruits for the army, organised into provisional battalions."
Arenberg and Alt-Colloredo Infantry.
 "The Scenario:
The Austrian attacks on the Olmutz Convoy struck me , as described in Peter wilson's article in Military Modelling (April 1985), and in Christopher Duffy's Frederick the Great: A Military Life (London, 1985), as a most interesting and challenging scenario for the tabletop.  In part this is due to its unusual flavou, but, to add spice, the action along the Autliebe-Domstadtl road proved decisive for the whole campaign.

This road passed through a region of 'little rounded hills and valleys, and isolated blocks of conifers... not particularly wild, but... well suited for ambush.' [Duffy, p159].  The original escort had comprised 12 battalions (4 of recruits) totalling 7,261 officers and men; about 220 jager and freikorps, nearly 1800 cavalry from various units, together with 16 light cannon.   According to Duffy, Zieten's arrival brought in addition 2 grenadier battalions, 2 cuirassier regiments and 600 hussars.  Here he diverges from Wilson, who mentions a third grenadier battalion, 200 dragoons and a further 300 hussars [Wilson, op. cit.].  However, as Zieten is said to have sent on ahead a detachment to Domstadtl, there might lie the source of the discrepancy between the two accounts."

The Austrians were, of course, very interested indeed in intercepting this convoy, and sent considerable forces to intercept it.

"The Austrians were in separate commands. Southeast of the road lay Major-General Ziskowics with 1200 fusiliers, 500 grenadiers, 1000 grenze, 2000 'home grenadiers', 400 each of dragoons, hussars and Saxon chevauxlegeres and 100 Saxon hussars - some 6000 troops in total.  At Baern, to the northwest, Baron Loudon had with him 2000 fusiliers, 1000 grenadiers, 1000 grenze, 400 hussars and 200 dragoons: 4,600 in all.  All these forces are from Wilson's article.   Unusually for this type of action, the forces were quite large: some 13,800 Prussians against 10,600 Austrians."

Early moves of the Olmutz Convoy action.

For the purposes of the war game, played on an 8ft by 4ft table, these forces were scaled down:


Generalleutnant Hans Joachim von Zieten
2 Line Infantry Regiments @ 36 figures = 72
1 Grenadier Battalion @ 19 figures
1 Jager Company @ 7 figures
1 Cuirassier Squadron @ 10 figures
1 Dragoon Squadron @ 10 figures
2 Hussar Squadrons @ 10 figures = 20
1 Battery @ 2 guns and 9 figures.
Total, 147 figures.

30 wagons (actually there ought to have been 37, but I ran out of matchboxes with which to scratch more together!)


Major-General Ziskowics:
1 Infantry Regiment @ 36 figures
1 Hussar Regiment (under strength) @ 15 figures
1 Grenze Company @ 10 figures
1 Cannon @ 5 crew figures.
Total, 66 figures

Baron Gideon von Loudon:
1 Infantry Regiment (less 1 fusilier company) @ 28 figures
1 Hussar Squadron @ 10 figures
1 Grenze Company @ 10 figures
1 Cannon @ 5 crew figures.
Total, 53 figures.
Overall Austrian total: 119 figures.

I added some notes here of 'Special Features' of this game.

1. The troops came out of my Imagi-Nations armies which, as it happens, are modelled upon the adversaries in this action.

2. The action was held to open at 8am, and end at 8pm with nightfall.  Twenty-four game turns represented this 12 hour period.

3. The whole section of road between Autliebe to Domstadtl was compressed into an 8-foot by 4-foot table.

Two infantry regiments, formerly in the service of
4.  The Prussians: 
- Begin on table, with the wagenburg just west of Autliebe, and the troops (apart from a detachment in Domstadtl) in or within 15cm (6 inches) of the village itself. 
- A detachment of at least 1 company (9-10 figures) strength must be located in Domstadtl at the start of the action (though they may move away from there). 
- Until the Austrians appear, the troops must remain within musket shot of the road (30cm/ 1 foot in my rule set).
- The wagons each occupy 10cm (4 inch) of road (so you can see that when the head of the column passes through Domstadtl, there will still be wagons waiting to exit the wagenburg).  The wagons' first moves must be to exit the wagenburg onto the road.  They may not travel cross country.
- Each wagon is being driven by a more-or-less civilian driver who will abandon the vehicle as soon as any enemy get to within medium (20cm/ 8 inch) musket range. Abandoned vehicles may not move, but can be taken over by a soldier figure, who will continue on at 2/3 normal rate (I think 20cm), they being less skilful drivers.  Alternatively, soldiers may clear the road by pushing wagons off.

5. The Austrians:- Begin off table.  Ziskowics may enter the table at any time he chooses, from move 1 or later, with at least half his force southeast of the Autliebe-Domstadtl road.  To simulate ambush, he may wait until the Prussians have completed their move before bringing his own troops onto the table in the same turn, and completing their moves.
[Note: my rule set used 'simultaneous movement', rather than IGoUGo].
- Apart from the stipulation supra, Ziskowics's troops may enter the table on any edge but the Autliebe end, and not within 30cm (1 foot) of enemy troops.
- Baron Loudon must wait until the end of Turn 6, and from then will enter the table on an even score on a roll of a D6 die.  The Prussians having completed their 6th Turn, the Austrians may determine the arrival of Loudon's column, then, if successful, bring the troops onto the table and complete their moves.  As Loudon arrives along the Baern road, all initial moves must be measured from the point at which the Baern road enters the table.

6. Terrain:
- Close order troops are disordered in wooded areas.
- The stream before Domstadtl is fordable.

7. Objectives and Victory Conditions:
Before nightfall to carry all (or as many as possible) wagons from Autliebe through Domstadtl and off the table where the road there exits.
Prussians score 2 points for each wagon successfully brought off.
Prussians also score 1 point for each wagon not exited, but still under Prussian protection (even if for the moment abandoned), up to the number exited.  Any excess count zero. Wagons count as under protection if they are NOT closer to enemy than are friendly units.
Before nightfall, capture destroy the whole train before it passes through Domstadtl.
Austrians score 2 points for each wagon destroyed or captured.  Wagons abandoned, and not under Prussian protection, count as captured.  So is any wagon that exits the table by any route other than at Domstadtl or Autliebe.
Austrians score 1 point for each wagon exited from table at Autliebe, even if under Prussian protection.
Both sides score 1 point for any gun they capture.

Von Ruesch Husaren.
8.  Rule Set.
These were my own Imagi-Nations rule set, which owe their provenance to ideas from Young and Lawford's Charge!, from Charles Grant's The War Game, and from the board games Terrible Swift Sword and Wizard's Quest.

'Prussian' Infantry, with their beloved chieftain.


  1. A great scenario and a lesser known combat of the SYW. And I like the figures in my favorite scale:-)

    1. Thanks, Uwe. One of the most interesting moments of the Seven Years' War, and shows that the Austrians had its share of enterprising commanders!

  2. Cracking scenario. Might have a think about how I can adapt it to my 6mm blocks with no figure removal.

    1. Shouldn't be too difficult, nundanket. I admit that when I set the thing up, I wondered about its play balance. But the wagon column was so long that it was hard for the 'Prussians' to protect all of it, and even with smaller numbers, the Austrians were able to target unprotected wagons.

      As played out, the thing was less than the complete disaster the Prussians experienced in 1758, but a considerable Austrian success all the same.

  3. A lovely little tabletop teaser topped off with re-purposed (via a coat of paint) Airfix figures. I spotted the British AWI Grenadiers first as I painted these as Old Garde in my youth when Airfix didn't do many Napoleonics. The British hussars also served as CaC of the Garde as well their true selves.

    I'd like to know what rule mods you use as I play CHARGE! with my metal SSMs and try not to tamper with them but the temptation to do so usually wins out.

    1. Hi Rob -
      The rule set I used was my own, which owed much to CHARGE! and to Charles Grant's 'The War Game' (especially the combat mechanics). But I used the morale concepts from 'Terrible Swift Sword' board game, and the 'Die Range' concept from 'Wizard's Quest'. I have an unfinished version on file under the name 'Cornet and Drum'.

      In more recent times I have been using Bob Cordery's 'Portable Wargame' and my own Army level rule set 'BE4ST - Big Engagements for Small Tables'. I have played 'Corps d'Armee' and 'Age of Eagles' in recent times. I have found that once having 'got my head around' the design of A of E, it is quite a nice rule set. You do require a lot of cannon, though.

      Those Airfix AWI figures were very versatile at a time when there was little else in the plastics line for the 18th Century period. The other thing I liked about Airfix is just how well they paint up.