Friday, 12 October 2018

The Secret Expedition, part 2, a review.

As promised here are my thoughts on this rather excellent book from Helion & Co.

The author states that this is something of a life's work, as he's spent several decades researching the subject. I believe he published an earlier version of the book in Dutch several years ago have to say that the author's depth of knowledge shows in the almost forensic detail found within the book. This is a campaign with which I am very familiar, and as well as reading everything I've been able to find on the campaign I've walked the battlefields to try and understand the issues facing both sides. Not surprisingly I've been waiting for the publication of this book for months. I am not disappointed. Its great! The build up to the landings is described in detail, as is the make up of each of the armies involved in the campaign.  Most helpful is that each of the battles are picked apart and presented step by step, supported by some very useful maps and orders of battle that make sense of some very confusing engagements. My understanding of the battles themselves is now much clearer than before. Every chapter is well referenced and filled with contemporary correspondence and diary excerpts to add a further dimension to the overall story. The book concludes with the close of the campaign and the evacuation of the Anglo-Russian army followed by a number of handy appendices detailing the composition of the forces involved, both on land and at sea. There is a comprehensive bibliography and a useful index of people involved in the campaign. As well as the maps the book is illustrated throughout. My only criticism is that all the maps and illustrations are in black and white. This is a little disappointing especially as the original contemporary paintings of, for example, the Battle of Castricum or the final withdrawal are of course in colour. I presume that this was to keep publication costs down. Overall, and excellent read and an impressive piece of work. You won't be surprised to learn that I shall be refighting this campaign in The Burrow, starting once I've got Battleground out of the way at the end of November.

I can't finish without reminding readers of the other recent and excellent publication on this obscure campaign, " A Waste of Blood and Treasure" by Philip Ball. 

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Zurich gone wrong

John came over on Wednesday evening for a game so I reset the table for Zurich and organised the armies around Black Powder this time, as I had just received my copy of BP2. I will give my opinion of the rules in another post, but I have already noticed a couple of glaring typos/type setting bloopers, and it would have been useful to summarise all the changes in the rules somewhere, not that there are that many. Anyway, I shall get my hi-lighter pen out another day, so on to the battle.

What a bloody disaster for the French (me). We outnumbered the Russians but half my army didn’t get more than a single move onto the table thanks to some dire command rolls. One demi-brigade and a battery of 12pdrs never even made it onto the table! My right flank brigade got bogged down in rough rocky ground, although as they only ever passed two command rolls the entire game that factor doesn’t really matter. My left hand brigade likewise made a swift advance in their first move but were then pinned by Russian cavalry, effectively blocking the exit of the mountain pass that they’d appeared from, so as I mentioned earlier three battalions and a battery of 12pdrs were gridlocked off table. My cavalry brigade also failed to appear on time, and their attached horse artillery never made it at all.

While all this was not going on, my centre advanced, my hussars and dragoon’s drove off the Russian hussars but were in turn pushed back and ultimately broken, shaken or driven off the table. The infantry pushed forward, forcing some Russian j├Ąger to retire but then John counter attacked with his grenadiers and went through my infantry like a knife through butter. It was horrible. In no time at all the centre was broken and in full retreat. Ok, two of the Russian grenadier battalions were knocked about and the Russian cavalry on that flank was likewise somewhat battered,  but it couldn’t have got much worse.

Here are a few photos of the French disaster. Of course, had we been able to play on I would like to think that the French would have overcome their early reversal, at least on the left flank, and pushed the Russians back into Zurich. Hahahahahahaha!

The French advance guard on the south of the river. They charged the Russian hussars, drove them off shaken but then had to withdraw themselves.
South of the river the main body of French advanced under fire from Russian jager in the wood and artillery outside Zurich. They cleared the wood but were held up by Russian cavalry threatening their right flank and a counter attack by Russian grenadiers.

The extreme left wing of the Russian army. The French tasked with attacking them were bogged down in the rocky terrain so the regiment of dragoons was able to threaten my centre.
Russian artillery - obviously the sheep are deaf!

My victorious cavalry having seen off the Russian hussars.

John's hussars recovered and moved up in support of the dragoons who charged my shaken 5th Hussars, breaking them.
North of the river part of my force emerged from the mountains ready to advance.
They were pinned and forced into square by the advancing Russian cavalry. 
Finally the French cavalry brigade made an appearance, minus its horse artillery battery!
The indestructible Russian grenadiers ploughed through three battalions of French, leading to the  ruin of main body in the centre, which was broken and out of the game.
At this point, and with it being a 'school night' a conceded defeat. My centre was broken, my right was stuck and suddenfly very outnumbered although my left was in good order and strong enough to drive the Russian back into Zurich. Perhaps.

I'm not sure I want to use BP2 or even BP1 for Battleground, as I feel General d'Armee gives a better game. We shall see. 

The Secret Expedition, The Anglo-Russian Invasion of Holland, 1799

The very nice people at Helion sent me this to review. Readers will be aware that the Helder campaign in 1799 is something that I have more than a passing interest in, having an extensive collection of English, Russians, French and Batavians in 28mm to wargame this campaign. I've also visited the area to check out the terrain and the battlefields and we’re scheduled to go back again at the end of the month. I will do a full review once I've had a chance to read this rather weighty publication.

Another new unit - French 7th Hussars, Switzerland 1799

In further preparation for my Zurich game I needed to paint a unit representing two squadrons of the 7th Hussars. Having lots of spare Perry plastics it was no problem to assemble and paint them in pretty short order, but then there are only six of them! The trumpeter in the Perry set is wrong for the FRW, so I used the legs of a hussar, the torso of a dragoon officer and the bicorne of an infantryman, with a spare sword arm and a Bicorne Miniatures metal trumpet slung across his back, so he is charging in, sword drawn, presumably having run out of puff and in realisation that a sabre might do more damage than a tin trumpet, no matter how badly played. Anyway, I rather like the way these have turned out, and will be even happier when I've added a few tufts to the bases and toned down the shininess a tad. I don't need more for the game but I am now tempted to do another half dozen.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

A day out in deepest Derbyshire with the Like a Stone Wall Wargames Group.

A while ago I was invited by Tim and Barry of the Like a Stone Wall Wargames Group to take part in a big refight of the Battle of Gadebusch between the Swedes and a Danish/Saxon army during the Great Northern War in 1712. It was Sweden’s last great victory in this war, and was fought I believe to prevent the loss of the city of Stralsund to the Danes. We were using Tim’s own set of rules “The Wild Geese” which I’d never used before but had been sent a copy a few months ago to peruse.

We went down the day before and stayed at a nearby hotel ( using some saved up loyalty points to good effect) as the start time for the game was 08:30 for a 09:00 kick off. In addition to the lads from the LaSW group and myself, they’d invited Nick Wragg, the proprietor of Ebor Miniatures in York.The village hall in the little village of Pentrich had been hired for the day. As an aside, Pentrich was the centre of the last so-called revolution in Great Britain in 1817, when 200 - 300 or so disgruntled and lightly armed labourers from a variety of trades ( iron workers, quarrymen and stockingers) marched on Nottingham with some rather vague objectives. They were betrayed by a government spy in their ranks and two of the ringleaders (including a grandly named Jeremiah Brandreth) were found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. The Prince Regent remitted the drawing bit, so they were just hung and beheaded which was unlikely to have been much consolation. They were the last public executions to be held in Derby.

Back to the game. Actually two games as the first one reached a conclusion around lunchtime so we reset the table and swapped sides. In game one I took the Danish right, made up of ultimately ten regiments of Danish and dodgy Saxon horse and dragoons (assuming the Saxons arrived of course.....). After a shaky start when my Danish Lifeguard were pounded into next week by Swedish cannon, our cavalry closed, albeit slowly as we were both crossing a frozen marsh. Mixed fortunes but eventually, and with some help from the Saxons, the Swedes were driven off in full retreat. This was helped undoubtedly by the death of the Swedish cavalry commander in about turn 3 or 4 which left his entire brigade out of command for several turns until a lucky dice roll resulted in a suitable volunteer being found to take the late commander’s place. Sadly by then the Danish left flank had long since run away and the centre was crumbling. I had taken grievous losses in seeing off the   Swedes and our army break point had been reached. End of game. Swedish victory,  but glory to the Danes on the right. Hurrah!

As it was only just after lunch Tim suggested resetting the game and swapping sides. This second game appeared to be going well for the Swedes on the left (my command) as my bonkers, er, aggressive cavalry had broken a large regiment of Danish horse and had pursued right into the oncoming Saxons almost on the tables edge. It looked like the Swedish centre might have been struggling and the noises from the other flank suggested that the Danes might have been doing better than in previous iterations of the game (i.e. they'd survived more than a couple of turns). Sadly I had to leave at 3pm so don't know the final outcome of the second game but I suspect it would have been a Swedish win.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day with excellent and the very welcoming company of a canny group of gamers cast from the same mould as me in terms of wargaming ethos, e.g. big/grand games, play the period not the rules, enjoying the spectacle and the social occasion that is each game. I also must say that the rules are really good. I picked them up very quickly. They were fast moving, well thought out and I look forward to using them again.

Thanks for the invitation, the warm welcome and the hospitality, (and Barry's missus for the sandwiches). I look forward to meeting up again, next time perhaps in The Burrow.