Monday, 20 October 2014

Refight of Battle of Montmirail 1814

With the plan for a game still in effect but with a necessary change in the number of players and their timing in arrival, I needed to have a smaller game with later arriving reserves and so the 1814 battle of Montmirail in the campaign for France seemed to fit the bill.  Well, OK, minor changes required with my Prussians replacing the Russians and the newly painted Hanoverians taking the Prussian's place!  The French were still the French fortunately as my original collection was designed specifically for this battle.

With everyone with coffee and cake in hand,  I had the "umpire chat" with Bob and Ian commanding the Prussians (Sacken's Russians)  With only Ricard's French Division on the table, I told them that they were ordered to take the village of Marchais to open up the road to further advance per the historical plans.   While I did indicate further French forces were moving up, I did not indicate that these were the French Imperial Guard in great numbers!  Sacken was equally surprised apparently.
I commanded the Prussians of Yorck - my Hanoverians - which guarded the LOC for the army.  I took these as Yorck historically seemed to do little which is ideal for me.  Involved with the rules for the others, I often forget to move my own troops!

The "chat" with Dave commanding the French has him wanting to destroy the Allies.  However he has negative victory points for losses of Old Guard elements. Nevertheless he was excited to command an attacking ( ! ) force with good troops for once.  He had the quality, the Allies had the numbers.
Interestingly this battle had few cannon as the mud of northern France during this rainy winter of 1814 made the movement of artillery extremely difficult and only a few batteries were available to Napoleon.  The flat terrain of the area and no significant historical influence meant a flat table.  At this level of combat, the problems of hedges, minor streams and the like, are of no concern of the corps commander/player.  Makes terrain deployment easier anyway!

The Prussians I had deploy first. As they ARE Prussians I left the original command labels on the bases and so Thielemann = Lieven and Bulow = Taillsin's corps.  Ian also commanded Vassilitchkov's cavalry labeled as "Jurgass".   Ian and Bob decided on corps deployment lines and with that, placed all their meagre artillery on the right and left of each respectively thereby creating a 'grand battery' of 17 points ( ! )

 With Ricard's Division holding Marchais, Dave moved the Old Guard infantry forward but was faced with the move by Bob holding a good position to his flank but the massed Prussian batteries to his front.  His moves by the very powerful French Guard horse were a bit less troublesome but he did have to pick his targets as not to get into an attrition contest with the more numerous Allies.  My historical holding back of the Prussians helped him somewhat but he still had to worry about this flank also.
You can read more from his blog at :  link  He writes an excellent report of our battles

The Allies numbers and good tactics were seeming to hold sway for the moment but I had planned for the later arrival of Barry after his early day shift.  I had him command the French Young Guard reserves.  Their arrival on the tabletop was predicated upon when he would show up!  His timing was good as it turns out.  

A few more turns later, the Prussian horse were beaten from the field by the powerful French guard horse and one of the Prussian corps had collapsed.
The Hanoverians with necessary action required with the arrival of the Young Guard, tried to hold Bailly and Fontenelle on the Allies left flank to protect the line of retreat. Widely spread, attacks of the powerful Young Guard and the 'Red' Lancers of the Guard broke the corps eventually.

We forgot to plot the number of turns completed but all agreed there were many and so concluded that on the short winter days of northern France, night was to fall and the fighting concluded.  While a  minor French victory, it cost Napoleon three wrecked Old Guard elements.

A scenario with powerful but fewer French elements in a central position with more numerous but poorer quality Allies holding front and the flanks made for an interesting game I thought.  

Much discussion again about the rules.  I suppose at this point the players all consider each game a play-test and so the rules are now always scrutinized!  Much of the discussion can be more about tactics than about the level we are trying to achieve with these rules, however all agreed they are coming around and are fun to play.  Most of the proposed changes are more procedural than any huge change.

I thank the boys for coming down and having a good game.  My motivation is revived.
early moves of the battle with the Old Guard marching up toward the massed Prussian guns of their center, the mass of Bulow's (nee Taillisin) corps behind the farm of Greneaux and the hand of Ian moving up Prussian dragoons trying to hold the mass of the French Imperial Guard horse

Close up of the Prussian infantry
The Old Guard seeing the massed Prussian guns in the distance and probably whispering "oh, merde!"
The initial cavalry clash
My newly painted and seemingly nervous Hanoverians. Rightly so under my rather dubious command.
My Hanoverians - historically the Prussians - thin on the ground with the Young Guard Division about to take the Village of Bailly [ top ] and part of the victory conditions and [bottom] the Guard Red Lancers threatening a brigade in square [noted by the cube marker on the base] in front of the village of Fontenelle.
 my Young Guard in the command of Barry during the battle 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Russian Hussars plastic

Currently ( sigh )  there are not plastic Russian hussars on the market and metals are not light horse.  In my ever present desire to have plastic troops for light weight transport, I would need to create my own.  I have the riders from the Perrys French Hussars box.  The hussar is basically the same in every army in this era with only the headdress as a national distinction.  So with the addition of the kiwer, a Russian hussar could be made.  Then I hit a bit of a snag.  They did not use the wolf-teeth sheepskin saddle cloth of the French but rather the pointed cloth version.  Darn.  Hmm, well, scrape off all of that from the French horses?  Lots of work that and ugly if experience will suggest.  But the local store had a box of FireForge plastic medieval Mounted Sergeants.  Having seen the news items I thought the horses could be modified.
So out came the blade and the 'Green Stuff'.  The medieval saddle horn was removed and the GS used to create saddle rolls - blankets, greatcoats - to give the saddle area some substance. Would not the practical Russians put all the valuable saddlecloths and plumes away on campaign and just carry the necessities of a greatcoat slung over the haunches?  Well, mine are anyway.   While the troopers legs fit surprisingly quite well, these rolls also served to cover up any gaps.

Here is a close up of the saddle rolls (oh dear, with the big lens you certainly can see my horse scrapings from removing a bit of the "medieval-ness" of the saddle... I have subsequently primed them already so I hope my thick paint work will deal with that!)
Perry French hussar rider with Russian head and FireForge medieval (!) horse
You can see the variety of the leg positions from the six horse halves on the sprue of the FireForge plastics.  I had a tough time fitting the separate horse necks onto the combined body halves, and thus hope my thick paint style will cover most of these ills.  They certainly look bad at plus 12 magnification!

 I have also show a shot of the Perry horse and the FireForge example (it is a medieval horse represented)
Perry horse to the left, FireForge (medieval) horse to the right
The Perry sprue comes with one torso without a right arm to allow for a trumpeter or flag bearer.  I used this to create a lance which was used by some in the units of the Russian hussars.  I clipped off the eagle from the top and created a tip.  A bit too thick perhaps but with a pennon, should look the part.  I gave one per unit.
Russian hussar holding a lance - a really thick lance !
Finally we have a pack mule.
Why the mule? Well, as usual, I overestimated the amount of GS I would need.   However I ran out of time to employ it and so balled it up and tossed it in the freezer in a sealed plastic bag. By this point the GS had lost all of its stickiness anyway.  I had learned from reading about GS that freezing slowed the curing chemical process.  Being in the freezer for almost two days however, I was surprised that a short time in my fingers had warmed the ball once again into a fairly malleable state.

Useable now I  looked for something else to do with it as not to waste.  In this case, a had a previously primed mule and thought to add the rather large remainder as tied down items. I used string as the securing cords with watered down glue to make the string paintable.  Further GS 'overstocks' will doubtless be made into other mule's baggage items.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

the widest of bridges

The very wide bases we use for the Napoleonics do not allow for formation changes - nor do we want them to have that capability for that matter.  That would suggest a tactical capability which the rules do not nor want to have.  But this does restrict us to some degree for terrain purposes.  One of which is narrow crossings, such as between woodlands and especially river crossings: bridges and the like.

You can see in the accompanying photos of our wide stands on the normal model bridge does not look that convincing. It also could cause problems in combat adjustments; where exactly is the corner of the stand, etc.   I thought to solve these two problems by making crossings large enough to accommodate the large stands and have a defined 'end' point of the crossing.

While in hindsight I could have just made it to cross my existing rivers, I wanted to create a pontoon bridge and one small pontoon with very little river would look silly.  So I cut out some hardboard in a shape to bulge out the river and so make the pontoons look like being in the middle of a large river.

The way I construct is to have a plan drawn out in my head only to change it immediately upon looking at the materials at hand and then totally improvise!     My Virgo vs Libra conflict.  I am right on the cusp and show characteristics of both signs; often together......  So naturally you notice the lack of pontoons as well.  The bridge is fine for what it is for now.  Probably added together I would be surprised by the time it took to create, but with only a few minutes to do one part then let sit to dry for a few days only to go back and paint another part to match the existing river sections and so another small part, feels like very little effort went into it.  Perhaps it shows too!

Anyway here is the completed version of the recently constructed (raw lumber) crossing. The planks are removable.  I may build a stone version, or do as I originally should have, and simply build a model to span the river sections!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

French Napoleonic Genie

Inspired by Westphalia Miniatures production of the French Genie wagon and members, I quickly painted up four of the six available poses (the other two await to work with the Perry pontooniers?)

uniform note: I have repainted the facings in black with red piping and have added white cuirass belts.

It is mounted on my regular sized stand and so could be used as an combat element. For a contested river crossings perhaps?

Here is the link to their website: Westphalia Miniatures

and the posing inspiration from the picture in their gallery:gallery photo

Sunday, 7 September 2014

a Napoleonic board game

David B. came over with his elderly board game Napoleon for a play,  a block style game by Avalon Hill from 1977!  
The rules are fairly simple, a good thing not bad, which often serves to give a better game as one can concentrate on strategy than on looking through the rules each turn.

Based on the 100 Days/Waterloo campaign, the idea is to eliminate over half the respective armies blocks (these based roughly on a half corps each or so with artillery and cavalry elements)

Movement is a simple point to point move with some restriction in the number of block which can be moved all at once. Simple but effective.

As it turns out, the campaign played in about two hours or so, had some exciting moments as both our dice rolling was quite poor and sixes hard to come by.  I hate when sixes are required as inevitably I roll ones.  Perhaps I need more wrist action to get them to turn over?

A neat little campaign idea is to have the Allies lose a whole unit should Ghent fall (one from the Allies), Liege (from the Prussians) or Brussels (one from each!).  This simple mechanic, has the Allies looking to protect these three cities and the French to take them, all the while knowing that the destruction of armies is still the main task.
I have been looking for a simple map system and campaign focus for my miniatures collection as I want to run a campaign to generate tabletop battles and for player focus on the larger campaigning purpose.  How many tabletop battles have you been in, in which the player unknowingly has found himself outnumbered 3 to 1 and under a flank attack?  And he cannot complain as, well, he put himself there!  Good stuff indeed!
Allies (British, Hanoverians, Nassau and Dutch-Belgians - did I miss anyone?) in red, Prussians in green, French in blue.
For the game, I as Napoleon, made my main thrust against Ghent.  After one of the 'opening battles' had some of my French 'retreat' into that unoccupied city.    These initial battles had us practice the 'battle section' of the rules which handle all the engagements under a wholly different dicing system with the player moving around elements from one of three zones, right and left flanks and center and needing basically 6's to hit - sometimes 5 and 6's - but quite the dice game which I have noted we both sucked at.  Averages be damned.  Once a flank is eliminated your army is "in rout" and further hit upon.  Strength, as in most warfare, is the key and in what turn about to the ultimate battle I came close, initially outnumbering the Allies but David had a large Prussian force nearby to keep feeding in reserves.  Sound familiar?  I had a strong artillery contingent so I sat back a continued to bombard to only some effect finally throwing in a very strong element ( the Imperial Guard ? ) in a bid to overwhelm his centre before he took out my flank.  Again sounds like Waterloo?  I had no reserves to put into the fray. "Where are those men!!" However after some exceptionally large amount of 1s, David finally blew away my flank to have my army go into rout.
The "battle board"  This is one of the 'opening' battles which are small and over quickly.  Personally I still like the pomp and colour and eye-candy of the tabletop action!
Yes, that battle went badly but the campaign was not quite over as I still held Ghent.  This meant that David was forced to remove an Allied block which immediately put that army over 50% losses.  Wellington was forced to leave the campaign for home.  No train station named for his great victory I guess.  However, just as Napoleon was writing a victory speech for the people of Paris, the remaining Prussians, themselves close to defeat, followed up on the French remnants of the great battle of Sottegen to finally gain ultimate victory.  Napoleon was overheard as he rushed back to Paris, "It was a near run thing"

Thanks for Dave in coming over, and leaving this game with me to study as use as my guide with my 100 Days Campaign collection in the near future.