Sunday, 31 January 2016

A rare wargame...

Over the holidays, bored during winter power outages and on those rainy grey weekends, my wife liked to enjoy a nice game of Scrabble.  I am to her as the opponents of the Harlem Globetrotters.  You know, the guys they maneuver around without mercy.  I am not particularly good at the game and so am thrilled to play a 12 point word while she routinely places the 'z' on the triple letter.

She surprised me today by saying "You want to play a wargame, instead?"
I hardly needed to fake a heart attack.

I chose my French and Indian Wars game as she might relate to it as she enjoys the "Last of the Mohicans" movie.  She picked the French as she said, "then I can affect a silly French accent!"

The quick scenario was for the New Jersey Regiment of Provincials to escort a wagon of whiskey (yes, my scenarios always seem to involve the wagon of booze...) to the fort defended by a few New York Independent companies while the French allied natives and a few French-Canadien militia try to prevent the delivery and capture the wagon.

The terrain of all forest favoured the Natives as the Provincials feared the deep woods.  While the French commander had little idea of deployment in the forest (her military background that only being married to the General du Maison)  but slowly understood the situation and had her forces finally defeat the provincials and abscond with their prize.

The natives halt the Provincials advance.  The length of stick is a set measure of 6".  All troops types move at either 4, 6 or 9" depending on their location.  Part of the simplicity of the rules, based roughly on the DBA model.
This element of Provincials and Quebec militia continued an uneven shooting duel across the creek for the entire battle.

'Conquest' figures (now 'Warlord') 
the capture of the unguarded wagon.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

ACW - the fight of Forney's Field

Free to play at the club's game night at Bonsor,  I joined in Dennis' 20mm ACW scenario which  replicates part of the first day fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg.

My painted boys with the Irish flag added by Dennis.  Of course they continued to hold the wall throughout this game....

map link

Note the yellow stars which indicate "battle objectives"  Now I understand the trademark of Dennis's games -- lightbulb moment!  

He play-tested the scenario and Cutler's brigade quickly collapsed.  Indicating I don't mind if he gave me the "disaster command" I was given these regiments.  In this game however while I did get pushed back,  the Confederate forces could not recover from the combat along the woods so gave me a couple turns to make the right die rolls to get rid of my shaken status.
The yellow star corresponds to the star in the middle of Baxter's command.  Carter's Confederates line the wall.

Meanwhile, the two other Reb commands were making trouble for my counterpart on the other side of the Union's chevron shaped defensive position.  Eventually we were to have limited success holding off the steady deliberate Southern attacks.  The Union reinforcements were scheduled to come on shortly which probably would stabilize the situation for us Northerners.
"Rebs to the left, Rebs to the right...."

the scene of O'Neal's Reb command (see map) advancing.  

For the second time in a many games in which others hosted, I got to play with figures I painted;  in this case the 20mm ACW of Dennis's collection.  Nice to see the boys put to good use!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Inspiration many years ago.....

  I wish I had realized many years ago that my collecting had much do with my very youthful early inspirations.  Movies such as Zulu for my continued interest in colonial South Africa; Cromwell for my inevitable collecting of English Civil War material; and Waterloo for Napoleonics.

Also the Grant book “The War Game” for which I have for 40 years now and one of my first war game references. I show you the book version of the Austerlitz battle and my own.  I did not intentionally draw this comparison but rather came to it in a flashbulb moment looking at the table of a game I recently played.  recent post

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Napoleonic Poles vs British?? 15mm fictional battle

Can't resist playing in any Napoleonics game... actually, any miniatures game.  Monday's affair was set up with a nice map for each side and even off-table troops!  Francis brought out the Poles - all of whom I painted and subsequently sold to him last year and his British - some of which I also painted - to defend a hill position.
My old Old Glory 15mm Polish.  The white clad units are the Polish 13th Infantry Regiment who were distinctive from the dark blue uniformed units of the rest of the infantry.  Staring at this photo I realized perhaps why I sold these as the poses are rather strange, looking as they are of running into hurricane strength winds?  

With Kev holding the right flank, our plan was simple as we had the defend orders. I plunked down on the hill and awaited the inevitable charge up the gut by DaveMc., while Kev had to deal with Francis' onslaught.
Francis lining up artillery fire on Kev's British.  My position is in the foreground with the red coat Marines on the hill.

With woods covering my left and centre, with a skirmish unit within to act as a tripwire, I deployed my artillery in front of the hill knowing DaveMc will aim right at them and so soften him up.  Kev had the same idea and so we lobbed shot after shot/dice into the mass of Dave's Poles and rolled very poorly.  Not one shot hit!   Not one.

The loyal allies of Napoleon then overran my artillery - not that I cared at that point as they could not hit anything anyway so no big loss! ~grin~.  However my steady British Marines stopped their advance with a volley and counter-attack throwing them off the hill.  The units of my left then formed columns to quickly swing inward to complete the disintegration of DaveMc's division.
The Poles charging to be repulsed by the steady (from the dice anyway) Marines.  All these 15mm were painted by me and in Francis' collection.

Meanwhile, Kev had to defend against Francis who is a very experienced Shako2 rules player and who gained the reinforcement of the Polish light horse brigade from off-table.  With Kev rolling rather poorly overall, outnumbered and hit in front and flank, his division collapsed.  However as I would have time to establish a defensive posture in time to meet Francis's forces, the British were given the victory.
The right flank action

Shako2 is very much a tactical game with only an overlay of grand-tactical effect (a simple divisional "arrows" indicating direction of attack).  However it does this rather well with easy to remember modifiers.

Good to see my old 15mm boys in action
A"stagger" marker.  Each nation has their own in a "national" regimental flag

Friday, 8 January 2016

Command in my GdC rules

In a previous post showing the play-test of the Austerlitz scenario,  I made references to my command morale and command control rules.  As I like everything to be indicated on the table and so I prefer markers and numbers directly on the element; avoiding written rosters and the like.

  In the following photo, I have one of the commanders - the name label can be changed for each historical battle - showing,  he has 1d6 roll for the number of command points he can employ to  maneuver each element. (this can change at random obviously and can be rationalized as due to orders being well written or not, couriers being shot or not, etc.).  The larger the command, the more pips the player will be given.

The green flag indicates he has one more step-down until a loss will lessen his command morale total indicated by the small black die which is added to his Command Morale Chart roll.  This allows large commands to be decreased at a similar rate to small ones and allows me to allocate historical numbers to each player without problems of equality for differing quantity, within the rules.

Finally, the white flag indicates his command has previously suffered a loss last turn to which the player must roll upon the dreaded Command Morale Chart.  Early losses should not affect most commands but as the losses accumulate it becomes harder not to have the formations fail to advance or to indeed forced to withdraw. Thus the petering out of the battle in a more realistic way.

The flags markers are simply green plastic toothpicks cut in half and hot glued onto plastic bases (insuring a strong bond) The flags are paper folded over and glued on. ta da.

Too many games are marred by ugly coloured markers or dice and I try to prevent that while giving a 'clean' but effective and efficient look.  At least I try.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Austerlitz Victory Conditions?

Why is not Austerlitz not more often played?

Well, yes, it would take a shed load of miniatures but some of us do have enough.
And yes, to do it "properly" on the table will require a white mat and "snow" on the figures' bases, however that is not really necessary.
But it is hard to recreate the specific conditions of this famous victory by Napoleon as an accurate scenario. There are many difficult factors:
A)  The fog: hard to hide THAT many troops on the table without surprised players yelling "What the h**l!!".
B) The bad command: how to find that many incompetent Allied players... or to tell them "don't worry if you are going in the wrong direction".
And finally:
C) How to convince them that by doing so, will win them the game?

I had read one possible solution in having each village or hill as a point value, with some higher for one side than the other.  Thus, the one side will put more effort into capturing and holding those topographic features thus "pushing" the players in certain directions.

Thus we could have the points values as such:
                          French   Allies        
Telnitz                    2           4
Sokolonitz              2           6
Puntowitz               2           2
Schlapanitz             2           2
Santon Hill             2           2
Blastowitz              4           2
Pratzen Heights      6           2
                              ----        -----
                              20          20
The Pratzen Heights hold only minimal points for the Allies, while gaining them will give the French a greater amount.   As both sides start with an even amount to gain,  offensive action is required.
Perhaps add 1 point for each enemy formation destroyed and a fun but reasonably historically accurate scenario can be developed?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Battle of Austerlitz - the play-test

Having read an article about Napoleon's Battle of Austerlitz (1805),  I got it in my mind to create a scenario for this famous but not often played engagement.  His most famous victory, it is hard to recreate as a wargame as it involves fog (thus hidden deployment) and really inept command on the part of his opposition.  (while not always a problem by many players, hard to force upon them). However I thought to complete, nonetheless, and play out myself as a play-test.

At first I employed a rather small ratio but soon found it too imposing so cut it down to about 1 element per ~ 2,000 (infantry). It is interesting to note the relatively few artillery and in this battle the Allies had twice the numbers as the French. In these rules, and as most analysts would suggest, artillery was the real killers of this era and as I found later in the game, this was certainly the case.

I completed the set up and allocated the appropriate command control and command morale chits to each commander.  Please note:  I used my 1815 Prussians primarily and some of the few Russians I have painted in lieu of the 1805 Russians and Austrians. The French are also incorrect but there you have it.  Also ignore any commander labels on the elements as these are not correct.  I kept each command as a different type so I could remember who was who.  Luckily I had enough on hand to make the numbers.
View from the south-east showing the Allies deployed on the Pratzen Heights.   The white cotton sheets indicate those French formations hidden under the fog.
In terms of numbers they were surprisingly even with the French having 29 elements of infantry, 7 of cavalry and 7 guns @ 12 points of fire.  The Allies have 30 elements of infantry, 7 of cavalry and 10 guns @ 24 points of fire.  Due to the apparent morale of each army I gave all the French infantry an extra morale/combat point. +25%. A large advantage.

While the battle occurred in the middle of winter on snowy ground with frozen ponds, pretend the green mat is white and the muddy ponds, frozen over.   Deployment was as historical as possible with some of the commands combined as they seemed to operated together or at least in the same direction.  Accounts certainly differ on which Generals are used to describe the action as apparently even the historical Allied commanders had some doubt on the command structure that day!  Similarly I combined some of the French commands but these were less of a problem to distinguish.  I will use the historical commanders and place names so those who are very familiar with Austerlitz can kinda follow the game progress.

The key to battle is the vast movement of the Allies south, off the Pratzen heights and the mass of the French coming out of the hiding fog to take the abandoned high ground cutting the Allied army in two and destroying the greater part of it.  Playing solo I ignored the deployed but "hidden" French (covered in some white cotton to remember...I still not sure how to do this with players....) and had the Allies march off the heights.  The French players in the scenario have from Turn 1 to Turn 5 (when the fog burns off) to start their advance.  Davout’s corps arrives Turn 3 to help Legrand fend off the Allies attack just as contact was being made.  As it were, some of the Allies started to blunder into Soult’s forces at the start of turn 5 in any event and so all the timing seemed to work out.
The Allies Columns advancing off the heights toward the south
and away from the French massed under the fog (white sheet)
the view from Napoleon's perspective

The game began as Doktorhov, Langeron, Prebyshevsky, with Lichtenstein and Milovodovich in support advanced upon their objective villages along the southern end of the Goldbach Stream.  These were defended by General Legrand with very few units but were eventually helped by Davout’s small force. When Soult’s and Oudinot’s grenadiers moved against Prebyshevsky’s small force, Milovodovich was still upon the heights and managed (with high dice thrown) to refocus his attack to a steady defensive posture on the hill ( note that only the Santon hill in the northern sector gave any defensive measure)  Meanwhile Lichtenstein’s cavalry seeing no movement opportunity behind Doktohov and Langeron, decided - as was he did historically - to move back north to meet the threat.  A long journey as it turned out.

In the northern sector, Bagration was doing well and had Lannes’ Corps fall back but which recovered (needing a roll of a 6 to do so! Lannes talent coming through? ) to support Bernadotte’s forces who had taken up the fight against Bagration for Santon hill and key to the French left flank.

Meanwhile back at the southern sector,  the Allies advance stalled and Doktohov’s forces needed to regroup falling back from the stream. (a rather unfortunate ‘Command Morale’ roll, of course) This was to the relief of both French Generals Davout and Legrand whose forces were seriously worn.

One of those lulls in the action now took place as both sides make the time to consolidate their positions or realign troops for coordinated moves ( i.e. group moves).  Milovodovich reinforced his defensive line as Prebyshevsky fell back.  Langeron held the village of Solokwitz which was his objective and seemed determined to stay, while Doktohov again moved to take the village of Telnitz and destroy Legrand’s French.

Meanwhile, the Russian Guard under Constantine finally advanced slowly as he struggled with his command (rolling 1’s each turn!) Bagration to his fore with his now exhausted command tried to work with Constantine to form a viable Allied flank under pressure from a much depleted Bernadotte and Lannes.

Murat now with maneuver room, charged against the square formations of Milovodovich’s right wing as Oudinot marched up and immediately threw himself at the Russian's center.  While these attacks were somewhat successful, Milovodovich’s command morale continued to be very strong despite heavy casualties ( his die rolls were always high! )
Oudinot's Grenadiers (my Young Guard types from the latter years of the wars) advancing past Napoleon.

Murat, after his impetus first charges having half his heavy cavalry unable to defeat the Russian squares and subsequently destroyed from Russian guns, became more circumspect and used his horse artillery to destroy the squares
Murat's horse guns firing to soften up the Allies squares. Yes, they CAN fire through
their own troops. A funny game incident occurred as each these guns fired twice (noted
as the two pips on the black dice) at each respective square.....
.....and can you guess which gun did more effect?  Yes, correct, upon the left one to my "death and destruction"
Landwehr unit!    [the cubes represent the element being in square formation] The element on the right was unscathed.
Unlike the historical events, Doktohov finally pushed away the thin French line in the south.  However Soult finally started to push his forces to the south in support but his poor command staff (it would appear from his continued low dice, and to be fair, disordering crossing of the stream) did not have him influence the affairs in the centre of the battle.

The French were losing steam.  Murat was down to half his cavalry strength and unable to make headway against the Russian squares and Lichtenstein’s cavalry and the Russian Guard heavy horse (my Prussian heavies actually) were now reinforcing the heights and meeting Murat's boys.
Heavy Cavalry vs Heavy Cavalry
{my Prussian Cuirassiers in campaign dress.  Old model Connoisseurs riders on Front Rank horses vs. Perry plastics}

 Lannes and Bernadotte were spent forces and only continued due to ceasing any self-destroying offensive actions. Oudinot’s grenadiers were making little impact and Davout and Legrand’s commands had ceased to exist. The only uncommitted force was Bessiere’s small Imperial Guard force ( this force would balloon later during Napoleon’s reign, but at this stage of history was very few).  Napoleon thought that if only one more Allied command could be broken, it would conclude the affair and he chose the weak Allied right flank under Bagration to attack.  The Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard led the attack but quickly were dispersed by cannon fire.  The tight ranks of the blue-clad infantry followed only to meet the same fate.
Combined arms attack in action upon the French Guard who are loathed to form square as to give the artillery a better target, but if not, will be easy meat for the heavy cavalry.  

With the final French reserves gone, the fighting gradually petered out (as I designed the rules to do…) with the weakened elements unable to attack without themselves being eliminated from attrition and failing any commanded offensive actions.

The Allies with still a strong Guard force, plentiful artillery and Milovodovich’s remarkable defense of the heights had defied history and held the field in a hard fought affair.