Monday, 30 April 2018

Battle of Ath (fictional)

The third battle of the fictional100.5 Days Campaign.
The Prince of Orange with his Dutch-Belgian aide. (Perrys)  Nominal commander of the Allied effort.  His tactical advise was not heeded but probably should have been.  The small independent Allied commands suffered as a result.
The Prince of Orange was nominally in command of the contingent of the Allied army consisting of the Dutch-Belgian divisions of Perponcher and Chasse, along with the British and Hanoverian brigades of Alten and British and KGL brigades of Clinton together with Ponsonby’s Heavy Horse. He was ordered to attack the seemingly small contingent of French sitting on the village of Ath.  Through intelligence confusion, it was thought the French were that of d’Erlon’ infantry and the weaken Exelman’s heavy cavalry corps from the battle at Leuze but it was indeed the corps of the determined Vandamme and Kellerman’s heavy horse ready in a defensive position holding Ath.
The early French movement by Kellerman and Quiot's Division to the left.
The early Allied advances.  On the right, already Perponcher's command is failing.  Ponsonby's small but strong British horse can be seen to his left wearing red coats and the Union Brigade's Scots Greys noticeable on their grey mounts.
Chasse's militia with orange flags are moving purposefully to the village of Ath (upper left of the photo).  Alten's command in line in the centre with Clinton's small contingent behind.  They would make no headway against the fire of the French guns (deployed on each side of Durette's division in the middle)
Given his military record, the Prince of Orange, offered no command assistance due to the experienced British divisional commanders stubbornly would not heeding his advise not to attack such a strong French position and numbers.
 [Ed. Note: I rolled for this eventuality as, while I had laid out the battle and even had DaveB’s agreement to the French deployment, I actually felt the Allies would not win such a game and so wanted to withdraw but was out-voted by the dice!]

Perponcher on the Allied right was to advance forcing Kellerman to counter thus giving Ponsonby and the British Heavies and chance to counterattack with advantage.  In the centre, Alten would try to pin the French centre with Clinton following up.  Chasse’s weak division of Dutch-Belgian militia would serve to pin the French force of Donzelot’s division in the village.
Chasse's Militia advance.  The figures are plastic conversions made from British bodies and French arms and packs!
Rather poor command by Perponcher this day (my poor dice rolling of his command PiPs throughout the game…) had his command already strung out and his rather strong artillery contingent was hurt as Kellerman’s horse artillery deployed far to the front, playing upon the limbered artillery and destroying two batteries which prompted Perponcher to deploy them too early.
Belgian line of Perponcher's command.  Plastic conversions by me from Perry British bodies, Victrix French arms, with Victrix British heads and one of Prussian. Packs are French.  The shako plates are close enough for me to be untouched. "Button-counters" might disagree.
On the Allied left, Chasse’s small division was better handled and immediately assaulted Ath as more to avoid the worst of the French artillery canister fire than in engaging in the urban fight.
However they found some success and fought tooth and nail with the veteran French within through most of the day only to be spent by the early afternoon.
Kellerman (the lone cuirassier wearing the bicorne hat - left-center) directs his cavalry. The green flag on the base is our command 'step-down' indicator which represents a half pip on the black die on his base.
Kellerman’s Horse made slow progress moving to the left against Perponcher’s Dutch-Belgians which held up the French infantry reserves of Quiot’s Division moving to that sector.

Ponsonby was observing these moves but was unwilling to move toward the French guns.  The French numbers in guns would tell in the battle and would influence much of what happened in the battle.  The early success of the artillery already weakened the Allied artillery strength concentrated in Perponcher’s command and the Allies had very little elsewhere to counter the French numbers.

Because of it’s concentration, the Dutch-Belgian artillery did have some success, notable singularly causing the loss of a cuirassier element but Kellerman’s command shrugged at that morale loss ( I rolled the required 6 on the command morale!) and continued to harass the Allied right flank commands.   Perponcher’s infantry was forced into square but some already battered, succumbed to the French horse.

In the middle, in face of massed artillery fire, Alten’s Division sustained heavy casualties and decided to finally heed the PofO’s opinion and turned his command away from the French guns’ canister range. Clinton, behind Alten, halted and thus the Allied attack in the centre faltered.

Ponsonby’s horsemen wanted a chance to attack the French dragoons and to perhaps grab victory however unlikely (I rolled for the likehood than that of a controlled withdrawal…very realistically given the British cavalry’s historical record!) However the LifeGuards failed to defeat the French veterans and the Union Brigade wisely did not follow but held.
the last important combat of the battle between the British Life Guards of Ponsonby's command and the green clad French dragoons of Kellerman.
At this point, the battle was very much in the French favour.  It might be noted that the brave Alten brought forward his only viable brigade to support Ponsonby’s failed attack of the French left, but Perponcher’s contingent was now spent as was Chasse. Ponsonby withdrew the rest of his horsemen to be prepared to play rearguard along with Clinton’s fine division unhurt in the middle but unable to make any impression on the main French force.
Kielmannsegge's Brigade of Hanoverians.  Each of the different uniforms represent the individual battalion sized regiments which constituted this formation during the historical campaign.

In the late evening, Allied elements were breaking while the French command morale was holding (the result of my rather lopsided die rolling I am afraid. However, the slow disintegration of the Allies was a logical result nonetheless and the morale chart will always reflect this) The Allied commands one by one started to withdraw. The French continue to hold Ath and the Allies withdrew, Ponsonby’s cavalry holding a successful rearguard action against the now weakened French horsemen.
The 52nd Light Foot Regiment and 95th Rifles of one of Clinton's brigades unengaged in this battle.

Vandamme toasted to the victory.  History will record that he did not immediately report his achievement to Napoleon.  His chief-of-staff would suggest the gathering of casualty numbers and dealing with the enemy dead as the reason. Nevertheless, the length of the engagement would not allow either side to offer contingents to any of their other forces in the area.

Analysis: Because of the lack of overall command in the Allies camp, each small division had it’s only a small command morale amount.  And while mathematically the modifying number is proportionally equal regardless of strength, the unified French commands did not suffer the potential morale loss as do the small Allied commands.  Interesting to note for fictional play rather than historical commands which is our usual staple game.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Hal of a battle

AAR of the fictional Battle at the town of Hal occurring during the second day of the 100.5 Days campaign.

[A game scenario created by the map moves based upon the Waterloo Campaign by myself and DaveB who commands the French strategically and offers grand tactical advice for my solo play.]

In a bid to take Brussels, Grouchy was ordered to force march to the town of Hal, defeat or make retreat the small force there and thereby open the road to that key city.

The hard march took a toll on Vandamme’s infantry as he had a large number fall out on the way,  finally reached Hal late on Day 1 of the campaign too late to engage but allowed him a long look at the defences.  Only the hill to the east was the break in the otherwise flat bare terrain around the town.

A French officer questioned a local and he reports "there is only soldiers wearing skirts in the town” and it was noted in the fading light, camp fires behind the town, some British along the river but no masses of horsemen.

The town of Hal was on the north side of the river which could be only crossed by three bridge close to one another.  This would channel the French attacks and negate Exelman’s corps of dragoons until the town was cleared by the infantry at which point they could pursue the retreating Allies.
Eagle's eye view of the Allies deployment. The elements touching the buildings are considered within, the others are in reserve. 

Grouchy as overall commander ordered that the artillery deploy close as to pound the forces arrayed and defending Hal.  Exelman’s horse artillery was stripped from him to help while his horse was moved to the northwest and be in position to pursue the Allies once pried out of the houses.
The French deployment.  Exelman's cavalry are moving to the west while the French "grand battery' of guns are limbered concentrated in the middle of the two columns of d'Erlon's infantry to cross the two nearest bridges to take the town.

The Allies, as noted, were small in number, but Wellington, while shifting the bulk of his forces west to counter the French moves to Ghent, left this road block to Brussels.  It consisted of the elite of his forces: Picton’s Division of Highlanders and Cooke’s Foot Guards.  Along with a brigade of Hanoverian militia and a few batteries of foot guns, they would need to halt Grouchy’s attack.

Gordon commander of his Highlanders wondered aloud if sitting in the town would just allow the French artillery to pound them until they collapsed but Wellington responded “Cant be helped.  To abandon would just allow the French dragoons to force us in square and await the artillery and infantry to destroy us further down the road. No, Gordon, we shall stay.” He mused to himself that the town will mitigate much of their artillery fire.  They can’t sit there all day and the French must attack us at some point.  Grouchy will follow his orders as he always does.
Gordon, taking the silence to mean a rebuke blurted “Och Aye, we must plant ourselves here”.  Wellington, slowly taking himself out of his thoughts, replied “If there is anything of which I do not know, it is agriculture”

Upon seeing the masses of French marching toward him, he ironically waved his hat in salute.
Wellington waves his hat at the oncoming French and Gordon looks on.

Led by the Swiss of Habert's Division and followed by Defol’s determined soldiers, the assault of Hal began while the other three divisions of Vandamme’s command would attack over the wood bridge further to the west.  The artillery was ordered to be concentrated in the centre near the town.  This limbered artillery offered a good target for the British guns positions east of the town and some batteries were wrecked but the toll could have been worse (my die rolling helped!)
Once in position the combined French guns pounded the town but, as Wellington, suspected, not many Highlanders holding this eastern potion of the town were made casualties.
The French columns advance!
The wheels indicate the artillery elements are limbered and moving. (Actual limber teams would create too large a footprint on the table)

Wellington, decided despite the potential artillery fire, to fight the oncoming French Swiss in the open before the bridge and deployed the Gordon’s outside the town quickly regaining their disorder by use of his additional command points.  The Swiss crossed the bridge but bounced off the Highlanders but the Scots were now forced to countercharge or be exposed to the massed French artillery.  While again successful the Gordon’s were now a spent force.  Despite the loss of the Gordons, some third of his meagre force, Picton’s corps morale held.
The moment of combat between Pack's Brigade represented by the Gordon's and a brigade from Habert's division

At noon, a bit of a lull in the fighting as the French redeployed moving back weakened elements and moving the second column onto the middle bridge.  An hour later, now in position, both columns attacked the eastern portion of town.  The Cameron Highlanders now defending, were caught up in a hard fight with no advantage to each side.  (the continual ties in combat die rolls quickly wore down both sides!)

The French artillery, now devoid of targets broke up the ‘grand battery’ moving east and west to find new targets.

With the elimination of the Camerons, Picton decided to commit his Hanoverians in a last bid to retake the eastern portion of the town before they would be destroyed by French artillery in any event.  The attack would take itself but more importantly one of the brigades of Vandamme’s corps forcing a morale check.  Unknown to Picton, Wellington had ordered the supporting 1st Foot Guards to charge the exiting victorious but weak brigade of Bethezin’s division.  The combat was one sided and the French quickly ran (8 to 4 numbers!) but Wellington’s hoped for French collapse did not occur so the battle would continue into the darkening hours.  He was determined to hold to the last musket ball if at all possible; Brussels and the campaign was at stake!
Picton looks on as the British artillery fires OVER the Hanoverians

The last of Picton’s force, his artillery, was destroyed by the French firepower across the river.  Picton’s tophat was plucked off his head by one 8 pounder ball….
In the western portion of the town, the 2nd Foot Guards fought hard to hold the town and lost most of its strength but held on against determined French efforts during this thirteen hour struggle. (played comfortably in a short evening’s time, mind you)
Both sides were forced to assess their chances....via the rule's corps morale chart!   Vandamme’s infantry could not continue any attacks, its losses too great but the British still could hold thus giving Wellington his victory
He muttered to himself, “ That was a very near run thing”
Dusk and the end of the action
death of a popular officer

In game terms, the French lost 5 or 7 infantry elements, the Allies their two elite Highland units, and the Hanoverian element. The 2nd Foot Guards were down 70%.  While Exelman’s Cavalry Corps was not engaged, it could do little further damage and would not attack the town.
The only force with any military value were the 1st FG but they were enough to close the door to the French taking Brussels this day.

Hal of a game, that!
a Guardman gives the finger(s) to the French

Saturday, 14 April 2018

RCW action at the club

DennisC brought out his 20mm Russian Civil War collection for a rare go of it.  I volunteered to help out and frankly play with much of his collection as I had painted much of it quite a few years ago.

Using a simple but sort of frustrating rule set (d10 dice employed with usually needing a 9 or 10 for hits)  which is a 10% chance...and I can not and did not roll many in all the rolls I did this game...

Dennis had me as a Red.  What? a commie bast***d?!  Oh, well.

Hugh, my comrade, had five infantry units and a gun to attack two White units embedded in protective woods and also had to cross rough ground muddy fields (half moves) to get to them and one of our objectives.  He had a tough time of it unfortunately.
Hugh's initial postion on the left, The two White units on the road would quickly seek the protection of the woods behind them.  One of the objectives is the building with the yellow star beside it.

I had a lead of two FT-17 WWI era former French mini tanks and some rather ineffective (as it turned out) mortars to help my three infantry units come from the far right flank to take the hill our other objective.
My contingent with the two tanks leading. The elite Women's Brigade can be seen next to the hill leading the movement of my infantry in that direction while the tanks would continue along the road. My dubious 'artillery support' of mortars are the wagons near the road and rail line.

Yeah, OK I had a train appear with a big gun and another mortar and yet later a band of horsemen but these would start much further from our goals. The train was blocked by debris on the tracks and so could only offer long range fire and with my typical very poor dice rolling, offered little in support.

Apparently during the scenario development, Dennis did not contemplate the tanks taking on a 'blitzkrieg' type operations as I used them to run them up the hill to take that position despite the artillery arrayed.  While 'winning' the game in this lightning strike, it was agreed I would need to bring up some infantry to secure the position.  My poor dice rolling had my units move ever so slowly. (the rules have each unit move a small distance in inches + a d10 dice roll...which I would consistently roll 4 or less each time!) My units moving in a flanking move moved very slowly indeed.... Another few hours of gaming might have brought us that conclusion but the evening was done and so an unlikely very minor victory for the Reds was the result.  
My tanks would continue along the roads and up the hill later in the game and take the White position and their artillery positioned there on. The second yellow objective marker can be barely visible on the far side of the steep hill.

Fortuitous foot cuirassiers....

The old adage "Stop and smell the roses" tells us that we should appreciate good things which can happen on the way.  It is thus, which for this miniatures wargamer, came to create a unit which I really wanted to build and which happened quite quickly at that.  Let me explain these fortuitous events.

A generous donation of Perry plastic dismounted dragoons added, with the few I had collected,  allowed me to create a nice contingent   (see my post at: link  )

Having just completed this contingent (it was still drying on the painting table!), I was flicking through my reference book and stumbled on an image of a dismounted cuirassier.  I love the look of a French cuirassier - probably developed in my very early years and which sent me in the direction of Napoleonics to begin with - and so I almost contemplated repainting that which I had just done. But reason prevailed.

I was to leave it at that but fate intervened.  Very shortly after, and out of the blue, another wargaming buddy gave me his 8 Perry dismounted dragoons! (Thanks Dave!!)  This would now allow me to create my dream of foot cuirassiers!
The dismounted cuirassiers of the 8th Regiment 

The modelling was not that difficult, being plastics and all. The dragoons lapels were scraped off to produce the cuirassier's single breasted tunic and the helmets could be used with the appropriate paint scheme. However the dragoons arms supplied could not be used being without the necessary fringed epaulettes.  So I used spare cuirassier arms and removed the cuirass frill, for sword in hand, or used spare Victrix arms with the fringed epaulettes and cuff flaps for those troopers not wearing gloves and armed with muskets or carbines; or created them with attached epaulettes as required.  Yeah, OK at three hours it was long but immensely fun (for me it was fun, for others...perhaps not so).  To top it off, in the parts bin I found a cuirassed torso so I would chop one of the walking poses in half to attach the cuirass to the legs leaving in place the tunics turnbacks which fit remarkably well.  I claim to have a steady expert hand in the cutting but probably I was just lucky and thankful the Perrys are very good in keeping all their figures in scale......  Thus I am able to have one of the trooper continue to wear the beautiful armour in all its glory.
the trooper still wearing his cuirass can be seen in the middle of the formation

As my dragoons have red facings, I gave the cuirassiers a contrasting yellow regimental distinction.  The cuff flaps, usually hidden under the large leather gloves, are now on display showing that these foot sloggers are from the 8th regiment.
the group's command is mounted on the right.  The bigger "big man" is the bicorne wearing horseman on the left

Hmm, were the 8th in Russia during the fateful 1812 campaign?  This long invasion of Russia caused such attrition in horseflesh that it was said whole formations became foot bound even before the snows started falling.  This would be the rationale for the cuirassiers ever to contemplate abandoning their mounts in action. (to answer: yes they were and so the setting of any of the games with these blokes)

At this point I don't really have a ruleset in mind for the collection but for most sets one does need command figures so I decided to re-purpose the only plastic General I have for my other Napoleonic collection; itself an conversion by me, and made him my potential overall "Big Man" and his accompanying trooper, as the leader of this cuirassier troop.  As I had, as fortune again would have it, acquired two more cuirass wearing officers in metal recently, these were 'promoted' to Generals to replace the plastic version added to this all-plastic collection. (the unity of grouping and Virgo-ness in me I guess)

Whether I will acquire yet more is for the future; but it is fun to have a very unique collection.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Battle at Leuze (fictional)

The Battle of Leuze
during the 100.5 Days Campaign

A gasping courier galloped up to Uxbridge as he and Cole, who commanded Hanoverian militia and the elite 27th Foot, stared at the masses of French arraigned against them.
Uxbridge did not need to read the couriers note. The French had crossed the border to start the campaign and this would be the first battle.
He turned to his aide, "Please tell The Duke that a corps of heavy cavalry followed by at least a corps of French infantry are making to Leuze.  We cannot stop them and will retire north but they are upon us.  We shall de everything to delay them and protect the baggage.  Go now!"
To Cole he said, "I shall be needing your artillery assets.  The horse artillery may prove useful. Hold as long as possible then retire.  Hopefully my boys will hold the Frenchies for a while."
Cole just nodded and moved away to get things moving.......


Wanting to run through our miniatures rules for the upcoming convention game and, frankly, to give myself some interesting solo games, I asked DaveB to be ‘the other player’ for the strategic maneuvers to generate the scenarios. We using the block game of “Napoleon” by Columbia Games [based on the famous 100 Days Campaign in modern Belgium which produced a few large battles including the biggie of Waterloo] which DaveB introduced to me a few years ago. As it is only between the two of us, and he is in a distant city, we both know it will be a genteel affair with moves done when we can.

After some minor sorting out of the campaign rules, maneuver conditions and overall concept, Dave as L’Empereur made the opening moves concentrating his forces in the east against the Prussians and advancing upon the foremost of the Allied forces at Leuze on the way to Ghent held by the British light cavalry under Uxbridge and the infantry division of Cole represented by the Inniskillen Regiment and Hanoverian Militia.
French commander Kellerman once again urges his heavy cavalry forward

 The French were led by Kellerman’s Heavy Cavalry Corps followed closely by d’Erlons Infantry Corps thus heavily outnumbering the Allied units.  Seeing these numbers, the Allies quickly decided to retire northward using their light horse to slow the advance in order to get the baggage onto the road north.
French deployment somewhat hampered by the woods and small village to each side
The Allies deployment.  Cole's command had to deal with the wagons which needed to be moved and protected

Dave indicated that he wanted to cause disruption and capture baggage etc so I added three wagons to Cole’s command (without the additional command PiPs!) to add to the difficulties of the British withdrawal as the rules do a poor job simulating this aspect of a battle - not having been designed for this level of the battle
The Allied commander Cole trying to direct traffic.  the small green flag is a step-down indicator for his command's morale.

Uxbridge as a senior commander requisitioned Cole’s artillery, being handy horse artillery, to be attached to the light horse and deployed in a rough semi-circle to face the heavies of Kellerman.
While 4 elements of light horse might be equals to the three elements of the French heavies, d’Erlon pushed forward his light horse lancers to help.

Aside: As the game map is not detailed, for the scenarios, I would dice for tabletop terrain with each square foot having a slight possibility of having woods or a small village decorating the battlefield.  In this case, a woods and a small village would funnel the French to a narrow frontage. 

It was up to the French heavies to clear the way for the following infantry to advance.  To counter this, Dornberg’s brigade represented by the 2nd KGL Light Dragoons, immediately attacked the Carabiniers protecting the Royal Horse Artillery which did good service of weakening the other French heavy horse.  A few minutes later the battery will come under attack by the 11th Cuirassiers in fine style. The 11th would do sterling work this day but at what cost for the campaign....
The 11th Cuirassiers overrunning the RHA rocket battery.  Their charges will no doubt be the subject of glorious paintings in the future but cost them a great deal of strength for the rest of the campaign.

Meanwhile Cole was not doing well organizing the retreat (he rolled 1 twice consecutively for command activation!)

In further action in the open fields before Leuze, the fatigued 11th French cuirassiers (rated heavies despite having no cuirass as historically they were not armoured during the campaign) held off a flanking attack by the British 7th Hussars (rolling 3 vs 0 in combat!).
This remarkable result had the 7th fall back into the path of the French Lancers who damaged them in their own flanking attack!

Uxbridge’s command with the loss of half his numbers fell back as a result of command morale, which ironically helped his tactical situation.  Kellerman, in contrast, while also having large losses, was not fazed in his determination (rolling a 6!) and continued to press.  However, his troopers, were close to collapse having few combat efforts left in them most down to only 1 left in their combat rolls.
The advance by d'Erlon's infantry was steady but they did not engage the quickly retreating Allies.

With a temporary separation and finally getting organized (rolling a 6 for command PiPs….) Cole, somewhat jingoistically, had the elite 27th Foot (Inniskillens) about face and race north.  The Hanoverians having been in square with the French heavies about, were later order to retreat north but were caught by the 11th Cuirassiers and decimated.
The bulk of the British baggage had escaped however and the French heavies had some losses with two of the brigades having substantial losses.   d’Erlon’s corps had not entered the action except in a support role for the horse.  One element of foot artillery however managed to deploy and after a round of concentrated fire, caused substantial combat loss to the 18th Hussars which were the only British untouched element up to that point; at which Uxbridge had all units retreat.  With Kellerman’s horsemen exhausted and the following infantry unable to advance faster, the battle came to a close in the late afternoon.
The British in retreat.