One of the joys and pains of scenario design in Horse & Musket is creating and learning about obscure battles. Sometimes maps and sources are so few that a scenario has to be abandoned, such as Villmanstrand (part of the Russo-Swedish War 1741-43). On the other end are battles for which maps and books in English are plentiful, such as Fontenoy and Culloden. Kesselsdorf lies between the obscure and the famous.
The first step is to read what I can on the battle. The number of books treating the topic in a super specific way is zero. There are not any stand-alone board games, though there is my old scenario for Hold the Line: Frederick War. It got most of the battle right, but I can make it a better scenario using the Horse & Musket system. Since this is a battle featuring Prussians Christopher Duffy is a must. Since it is a battle in the War of the Austrian Successio,n Reed Browning’s account of the war should be consulted to put it into wider context. Lastly, I look at Brent Nosworthy’s Anatomy of Victory and see what he might have to say about any of Kesselsdorf’s tactical aspects. Wikipedia must be consulted, but the entry as of 2017 is brief. Much more useful is the entry on BritishBattles.com, a good resource of battles the British won (entries for defeats are often briefer), and oddly also a good resource for battles of Frederick the Great. Then again maybe not so odd, given the British fascination with Prussia, epitomized by Thomas Carlyle. In my readings I find the excellent quotation “O Lord God, let me not be disgraced in my old days”, and decide it is a great sub-title for the scenario.
View of the heights between Steinbach and Kesselsdorf, where the Prussian center was deployed.
The battle’s entry is written so I move onto the map. For Kesselsdorf there are options and that helps as maps can be compared and tested against each other. Placing terrain is decided by two things. One is what you see on the map, but also terrain that while small was of importance, such as the round forest (Hell’s Half-Acre) at Stones River. Kesselsdorf though has nothing like that in particular. Map creation is therefore straightforward, particularly compared to battles where there is a need for more educated conjecture, such as Ackia.
The mix of forces is decided by what the British Battles map indicates but also looking at the order of battle at the Nafziger Collection of Orders of Battle. The units are set and it is fairly straightforward. There is the possibility the Austrians will come to help. They were in marching range with 7,000 men. Next CAP is to be set. The Saxons were on the defensive and my readings show they were sluggish. The Prussians were aggressive, but were not able to pull off a series of simultaneous complicated maneuvers. The Saxons will have a CAP of 1 and the Prussians a 3.
Leopold von Dessau & Frederick Augustus Rutowsky
Leader ratings in Horse & Musket are based solely on tactical ability, with some leaders being charismatic and able to rally men despite being poor tacticians (George McClellan springs to mind). The Austrian leader Grunne is a virtual unknown, so he is rated a 1. It is the default rating. Frederick Augustus, Count Rutowsky is a hard man to rate, more unlucky than bad. A 1 seems right, if possibly unfair. The Prussians are tricky. Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau was a great drillmaster and proven battle-commander. Kesselsdorf was the high point of his career. He could arguably be a 3, but he was not considered an imaginative tactician and at Kesselsdorf he settled for a frontal assualt. A 2 is fair, and in part it represents his exprience. His son Maurice fought in the battle as well. He was a brave soldier. I wanted to rate him a 2, but at Kesselsdorf he was still inexprienced, and not until after Kolin did he become a good combat commander. A 1 is fair at this stage in his brief career.
Both armies were of the same size and comparable morale so I keep the victory points needed to win even between the two sides. The Prussians can get a victory point by seizing a fort (representing a fortified town) that would turn the Saxon left. The standard Battle Chart is used since the combined total of men engaged is not under 20,000 but does not exceed 100,000. Prussians have several special attributes that show their skill in cavalry charges, bayonet charges, and quick infantry maneuvers. Saxons have none, but they do have a decent position and more artillery, so Kesselsdorf is usually a close affair, with a slight lean towards the Prussians due to higher CAP and abilities. That said, to make the battle more tournament friendly, or balanced (which is not always historical) make Saxon CAP a 2.