Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Painting gone rampant

Coming off the painting table quickly from the last couple of days. First off, an elite company of French CaC with the fringed epaulettes. Perry plastics.

The Netherlander 4th (Dutch) Light Dragoons of the Waterloo Campaign were a bit more interesting build.

Within the Perry British Light Dragoon box of plastics one can build either the earlier 1800-1812 types or the later 1812-15 uniform. The troopers horse is the same for both (the officer’s saddlecloth comes with the end either pointed or rounded for earlier or later era) Thus, you get an early and late uniform together with different headdress for the changes during the years.

I noticed a great similarity between the 4th Netherlander LD of 1815 and the early British uniform tunic both showing ‘hussar’ lacing so began with the earlier torsos adding spare French hussar campaign trousers from which I removed the large side buttons leaving a wonderful leg seam. Painting hides much of the scraping to a large degree.  I used a brighter dark blue uniform color to add to the distinction from other British and French units and which I have seen in several illustrations.

The later British uniform added a sabretache and portrayed by the Perrys in addition, thus leaving the earlier era scabbard-only, which is perfect as the Dutch light dragoons did not use them.

The headdress is the 1809 Russian infantry shako with the nice long cords and on which I glued a plume removed from spare mirliton headdresses.

The big drawback from using the “second-set” of figures from the box is the lack of horses to mount them upon.  Yes, Perry does offer horses separately but I had a group of Fireforge medieval horses available on which I added green-stuff as front blanket roll to make them a bit more Nap.
I made an error of not allowing for a rear saddle valise/portmanteau under the sword slings (the belts holding the scabbard) so I did not add.  But I did make a few GS forage sacks for variety.

Why the medieval horses?  Well I had picked up them up, along with half-built riders at a Bring&Buy.  At the time I had little interest in another collection of medievals ( I bought them anyway…the hoarder within me, I guess…) but looking at pile of plastic for fantasy but nicely caparisoned horses  ( again, hoarded away....) I decided that, while not fitting perfectly, the riders could be ‘glued’ on with GS forming the saddle.
Thus those medieval riders lost their plain mounts for covered versions and I gained 12 additional Napoleonic horse and, with the add-ons provided, created another two units for what is essentially free.

And their missing saddlecloths? Well, the story is: the colonel seeing them dirtied and water soddened from the heavy June rains, had the men remove these expensive items.  My take anyway!

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Summer game - Albuera

The “Summer Game” this year included a surprise major flank attack.  Always tough to do on the tabletop.  Must keep it secret (or else what is the point…), have the players accept that: “whoops, things are not quite how you might think they are” and still make it still interesting for the players to make a fair game of it.

Luckily for me, as “Game Master / Scenario Designer / Deliverer of Information”,  I had a good group of wargamers who readily accepts such trials with aplomb.  In this case, the Battle is Albuera, the Peninsular War/ Spanish Napoleonic affair, in which the outnumbered French under Soult, sought to out flank the British/Portuguese/Spanish army to relieve a British siege - or as I suggested ‘take Brussels’ as I substituted the afore mentioned with British/Hanoverians/Dutch-Belgians/ Brunswickers from my Waterloo collection.
My Dutch-Belgian militia playing the part of Spanish troops now in an about-face from their original position to face the very wide French flanking maneuver.
Westphalians on the Albuera river bridge.
 Unlike Godinot's efforts they
did not advance against the town.

To keep the subterfuge, I renamed all the commands.  For those who might want to follow at home, I list the OOB:
Colville = Cole (some British, some Hanoverians/Portuguese)
Cooke = Stewart (with the best of the British regiments)
Clinton = Lumley (with all the cavalry)
Alten = Hamilton (Hanoverians playing Portuguese)
Chasse = Zayas (with the best of the Spanish)
Perponcher = Ballesteros (with the rest of the Spanish)
Brunswick = Lardizabal (the black clad lads as the Spanish vanguard)

Junot/Westphalians = Godinot
Reynier/Saxons = Gazan
Bertrand/Italians = Girard
Morand/French = Werde
Pajol with the cavalry = Latour-Maubourg

The element ratio to actual troop numbers is a bit different for this battle as it is a bit smaller than our usual affairs so 1:1,000 for the infantry, 1:800 for the horse and 1: 1 battery for the artillery.  The experienced Ron and James  (who drove all the way from Oregon to participate!) were amazed at how few artillery shot they would have, especially after the cannon heavy affair of Borodino a few games ago)
Duchy of Saxony "helping" the French...a good excuse to get these boys on the table.  (converted plastics) 

Now for readers familiar with this historical battle, I did not have the player place their commands in the actual positions but allowed a rather ‘free-form’ affair.  To be forthright, I did describe much of the pre-game scenario set up to suggest the French would attack all along the river.  To add to the surprise for the British/Allies, I shifted the centre of the battlefield, as indicated by the bridge and town of Albuera, a bit to the right so leaving the tempting large area of their left open so subtly suggesting (?) the attack from that side whereas the historical attack, and that I allowed for the French players, was to the other. Not to have them cover the “corners” too closely I suggested they heed the military axiom that “he who defends everything, defends nothing”.  However, the Allies commanders ( James and Ron ) did spread themselves a bit thin as the frontal divisions covered much of the table. In their defence, they have played enough of my scenarios to know I will have surprises!  James said their plan was to have the Netherlanders and Hanoverians do all the initial fighting.   “To let the foreigners do all the fighting and then have redcoats come in finish the job and get all the glory. Instead, it was the Brits who took the blunt of French flank attack and we (shamefully) needed the arrival of Germans to save the day. The French very well could of had the better of us, but for stiff upper lips and all that…”
Birds-eye view of the initial French flanking maneuver. Much deeper toward the Allies rear than the historical attack.    
View of the French masses with the cavalry leading.  The French commander admitting that he left himself little maneuvering space.
As I did allow each side to plan in secret, even I was surprised by the British blocking force in front of the French cavalry. 

And indeed the French (et al) almost did collapse the British.  However, inexperience with the rules by the French players and a spirited defence allowed the British to recover and bring in fresh troops into the fray.
Alten's Waterloo uniformed Hanoverians (playing Hamilton's Portuguese) slowly, with Ron's poor move dice unfortunately, finally prepare to come into the battle.

The British army now virtually facing in the opposite direction but still allowed to maintain formations as the French fail to pin much of their army.

At a certain point Peter who controlled the majority of the flanking attackers for the French, did not think it prudent to continue the battle and so withdrew the majority of the force before it would collapse completely.  This left Jim, who controlled Junot’s/Godinot’s command, dancing around at the bridge, to accept the result and so end the battle.  James and Ron sighed in relief but British American (!) pluck saved the day.
As in the real affair, the French attack simply ran out of steam.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

“Glutson’s Run”

Battle of Harmony Creek - A ‘War of 1812’ fictional game

The local New York State militia commander needed to help his flagging political career and what better way for an American politician than a good ‘ol military victory!  What excites the American voter more than the triumphant conquerer.

A decent orator, he was quick to enflame the local militiamen to quickly leave their jobs and loved ones and, still in their civilian dress, conduct a raid into Canada across Harmony Creek to capture the nearby farmhouse.

Singing patriotic songs the American militiamen were oblivious to the green-jacketed Glengarry Fencibles (a trained long-term Canadian militia unit) deployed along the creek.  The Glengarry commander had strict instructions not to engage the Americans unless fired upon or the creek was crossed, so was somewhat baffled as the noisy American column seemed not even to notice his unit but continued to the bridge upstream.
The Glengarries, uniformed in riflemen's green but armed with muskets wait along Harmony Creek.  The seemingly nearsighted officer checking his orders once again.  "What to do if they ignore you?"
Mrs. Secord informs the Canadian commander of the threat.  "Many thanks Madam".
 The uniformed militia await orders.  Many of the Canadian militia were provided British infantry uniforms but in green with a variety of red, yellow or blue facings along with blue coloured pantaloons and stovepipe shakos or top-hats. 

Mrs. Secord, escorting her cow, had warned the British commander of the threat and the local Canadian militia had formed at her farm to meet the threat.  The oblivious New Yorkers (the US commander’s second roll for ‘situational awareness’ was again a 1 ! ) continued his advance toward the farm only to have the Canadians emerge from the wheat field and along the side fence mere yards from his column.  The combat was rather one-sided routing the first NY unit who piled into the second.  Shocked by the sudden fighting, all the Americans started running for home.
The American column.
The combat near Harmony Creek

The Glengarries meanwhile had advanced across the stream to follow the American column and were reforming from the slight disorganization of this maneuver as the Americans came back in great confusion. While the greencoat’s musket fire caused little in way of casualties, their fire pushed the New Yorkers into the woods away from the blasts.  No hope for the Americans to reform.
The first militia unit collides into the column following.  Quickly both are in rout. The knapsack markers indicate disorder effects
The bird-eye's view near the end of the affair. The routing Americans in the middle with the Canadian militia to the left and the Glengarries in the upper portion of the photo.

The Canadians, now in US territory, did not pursue but quickly returned across the creek with no casualties.

With some dead and many wounded, the main casualty was the Senator Glutson’s election bid.  He lost by 6,200 votes.

The solo game was conducted with my rather simple rules of random rolls for unit’s orders and combat results.  The diced actions then form the narrative.
I started this game by randomly bringing out of the boxes an American civilian dress unit. During this era,  they are usually commanded by a local politician, thus the beginnings of my story…..

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

ACW: 20mm in the Wilderness

Joined DennisC’s game of 20mm American Civil War Wilderness Battle(s) on his special designed mat for the table; a very large dark green outdoor carpet with exact cutouts for the rare clearings in this heavily treed area of Virginia some 150 years ago, unfortunately laying between Washington and Richmond and thus, a battle zone.

The two yellow stars represent the two crossroads the Confederates must take to prevent Union reinforcements coming.

The figures are 20mm metals in Dennis’s collection (but a good portion painted by myself a few years ago) using the new brigade version of “Fire and Fury”.  These employ the same, rather overly complicated, IMHO, firing charts that the regimental rules used.  Some of the players had a tough time trying to figure out how to go thorough them and seemingly forgot each turn forcing me to have it at hand and calculate over and over. This task certainly took much of my attention away from my commanding my own forces (so much so that I think I failed to move some brigades for a turn or two!)
Some of the Union boys (painted by me for Dennis a few years ago)

Command control was important for a huge game like this, as Dennis does a very good job in setting up a historical affair but perhaps a bit to big for the limited time at available on the club’s Friday nights to have a satisfying conclusion.
In this case, the conclusion within the umber of turns, and real time, was a “cheesy” move by John to sidestep his lead brigade, so successful it was behind the Union front lines (!) onto the crossroads yellow star to claim ownership thus eking out a technical partial victory for the beleaguered Confederate side.

As you can see in the photos, “fog of war” were the blocks of wood which hid the potential forces of both sides placed in their historical positions.  As “Commander” of the Rebs, I gave detailed instructions to all three of my co-players who nodded their agreement, then immediately proceeded to wander about doing their own thing!  Sigh. ‘Friction’ indeed. Interestingly I had recently read a wargame magazine article in which the author was suggesting that special rules were not needed to create confusion or command control difficulties for armies on the tabletop; just use lots of players!  Now I know how Lee or Grant felt when battles and their sub-commanders did not proceed as anticipated.
large Union out flanking move...or faint with few or none?  The use of blanks.

John on the right, was rewarded for what he admitted was lucky rolls for himself and poor by the Union player by gaining control of the reserve troops formerly commanded by myself.  Isn’t the dictum “Reserves are to reinforce breakthroughs, not to stop them”?
My other reserves saw an opportunity to race up the other road in march column to take the undefended other crossroads but a single brigade, unengaged as Colin, in the Rebs centre, opted to do a two-on-one attack, leaving this lone brigade to move across the road to block the advance and pour fire on the column.  That the fire-effect was poor (Jim L, the Union player having a rare bad die roll) did not prevent the “blitzkrieg” advance from being halted and the chance of the Rebs down that road was done.
big fight in the woods

The many blocks of Union turned out to be many blocks of troops and thus the Confederate advances could not break through…. I really thought many would be ‘dummies’ but as Dennis, somewhat smugly suggested, “ some are ” (…like only one or two !….)
Great scenario with lots of potential for different outcomes with different dice rolls!  However, like R.E. Lee knew some hundred and fifty years ago,  the Union numbers are hard to beat.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Cognac Delivery

The cognac must be delivered!

My usual ‘go to’ scenario for any era, is to have one side escort a wagon of booze, while the other side is tasked to take it for themselves.  It is thus that in the midst of the Russian 1812 campaign, a French cavalry commander has demanded that his precious supply of cognac (being French of course!) given a very large escort, to be moved across the table to be safely delivered.  The Russians want it also and casualties be damned!
My cuirassiers moving over the narrow bridge

Again, a playtest for our Napoleonic all-cavalry version of “Lion Rampant” rules, the French column had my newly-painted Chasseur-a-Cheval followed by a strong contingent of cuirassiers in the lead.  The wagon followed, with Peter commanding the rear guard of two companies of Dragoons and a company of the 3rd Hussars painted by Will.
The French move through the Russian town with my newly 'recruited' 6th CaC in the lead blocking the way!

The cognac wagon had not quite reached the bridge so the French column was strung out with the lead elements still within the confines of the town and the rearguard still in the open areas from the bridge. The race was on whether the French could move out from this poor tactical position before Will’s Cossack horde could attack the exposed rear guard, and Kevin’s and Jim’s Heavies and masses of lancers could cross the table to take the French lead elements before they left the town.  The activiations, the essential key to the Lion Rampant rules, were to mark the crucial points of the battle.
But finally the two companies of the French Chasseurs move toward the Russian dragoons
The cuirassiers move out of the town allowing the following cognac wagon to move along with the rear escort of dragoons in the distance.

Now, as any wargamer knows, the newly painted unit never does particularly well in its first tabletop encounter.  ‘Urban Myth’ or not, I have had this happen so many times not to believe in its truth.  In this case my very fresh 6th CaC missed its first two activations!  As the lead unit within the town, it caused a bottleneck, forcing the cuirassiers to slowly move out to meet the Russians through the narrow streets. Of course this meant the wagon was delayed and more time must be spent fighting off the Russians…..once they got there.  But in good JimF fashion, his activation rolls were horrible and his Russian Guard Lancers and compatriots moving in group formation were halted for several turns and thus not in position to block the French within the town.
a nice birds eye view of the battle with Will's Cossacks in the distance left, the French within the town and the Russians moving in from the right. Off camera, further from the right, are Jim's Russian Guard Lancers.

The battle thus broke down into two isolated actions with Will’s Cossacks dancing around looking for opportunities for attack over the creek or across the narrow bridge while Peter looked to defend these points effectively.  But few casualties resulted.
Action later in the game of Cossacks trying to force a crossing of the creek to harass the French rearguard.

This could not be said of the battle to the south of the town as cuirassier and, yes, finally my CaC attacked the effective Russian lancers and cuirassier units.  At one point late in the battle, Peter looked over to my portion of the table and asked, “Where are all your units? Just a little while ago the table was full of cuirassiers!”  Yes, there was heavy fighting but with the French down to mere fragments of companies of horsemen left, Jim did not roll high enough to move his Guard Uhlans into position to attack the wagon and Peter, rolling for the important cognac wagon, managed to get it to safety!  As the Duke of Elchingen exclaimed, “It was a near run thing!”

Fun game.  Much good discussion about the rules with “less is more” coming to lead the agreements.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

General Grouchy

I recall one of the players during a playtest of the Battle of Wavre awhile back humorously complaining that his wife must have had told me give him "Oscar's" forces upon looking at the command labels.  No, not grouchy like the Muppets' character ,  nor even a military person of a poor disposition, but the commander of the French Army's right wing during the 100 Days Campaign.

The most famous story of his career is one that he did not march to the sound of the guns of Waterloo but continued, as per the instructions he understood, to pursue the Prussians. The story goes that he was casually eating strawberries as Gerard, his corps commander, demanded that he march to Napoleon.

It is from this event, that I used two of the Perry Generals to image this exchange.
The muddy track of that day is apparent.  The square frame is to include a small die for game purposes. I think the raised fist and snarl of his face gives the right effect to Gerard's anger over Grouchy's decision.  
the other signpost reads "Waterloo" ...of course....