Thursday, 25 August 2016

Balkans interlude: A Crimean War game

If I start this piece by saying that the scenario was set up as a race against time for both sides. Would the Russians manage to defeat the numerically and qualitatively inferior Turks before they were reinforced? Or would the Turks hold the Russians up until their reinforcements (either more Turks, British or French) turned up? As it played out it was slightly (as in very) different as the Russians managed to bodge up their attack before either the Turks were beaten or were reinforced. The Russian attack was blunted and the attack collapsed quite rapidly as two brigades were broken and a third was largely off table due to a blunder, a truly sad day for the Russian bear! Robbie came up for the game. John had planned to have been there as well but he was not well.

Robbie's instructions as the Turkish commander (Rodd Pasha) were:

"You are besieging Russian forces in the Bulgarian town of Silislava. Due to storms and supply issues the Allied army has remained in and around Varna rather than continue with the planned investment and capture of Sevastopol in the Crimea. They are presently supporting the Turkish effort to drive the Russians back across the border. To the north of the ridge and entrenchment is the town of Silislava. To the south is the estuary of the River Vulasychytolova. West are your Allies and to the East is a Russian Corps attempting to relieve Silislava. You must not allow your troops to be driven off or to loose the entrenchment and the vitally important siege train."

Once the Russian attack commended Robbie threw a D6 each score each turn, an odd number resulting in a randomly decided reinforcement arriving either on the west road or on the ridge.

 The field of battle. The blue wall is north. We were fighting more-or-less down the length of the table for a change. Bad idea Colin. The Russians would enter either through the ravine, on a road to the right or the road on the eastern table edge.
 The main Turkish entrenchment. The garrison was a battalion of regular infantry and two siege guns manned by British Royal Artillery.
 One Russian brigade entered through the ravine and quickly got slowed down by the squeeze and poor command rolls and hovering Bashi-Bazouks who even dared a charge into the flank of one of the Russian columns as they moved into the wooded hills! They bounced of course but it was annoying and slowed me down.
 My Cossacks had driven off more Bashi-Bazouks, freeing up the road for the entry of my hussar brigade and a further brigade of infantry.
 My artillery slowly made an appearance and eventually the heavy batteries deployed on the slight rise (near the sheep). Unfortunately they were masked by my cavalry and infantry and unable to engage immediately. When they did it was largely ineffective. I had been banking on the Russian superiority in artillery (4 large batteries of two models each as Russian batteries had 12 cannon) and 16 battalions of Russian infantry being able to punch a hole through the Turkish line.
 Robbie's reinforcements were slow to appear (thankfully) and the first unit was a weak brigade of Turkish Reserve infantry. not very good. In the meantime Robbie had managed to bring both of his infantry brigades and two cavalry brigades up into line.
 The Turkish cavalry chanced their arms and attacked the Russian hussars and Cossacks but were driven back, although not without shaking one of my hussar regiments which was forced to withdraw. My Cossacks then advanced against the retreating Turks but were charged by a fresh unit and hit in the flank by another. Not surprisingly they were broken. I now had half of my cavalry out of action (I forgot almost to the end of the game that I had a brigade of two Ulan regiments to bring on, by which that time was not going to make any difference other than to say that at least my retreat would be covered.
 The main Russian gun line. This represents only half of my artillery as the other half of the brigade was stuck on the road on the other side of the village.
 The Russian corps commander (me) couldn't get anything right, even with the religious support. 
 In desperation I launched eight battalions of infantry against the Turkish line to attempt a breakthrough before the reinforcements arrived. By now there was also a regiment of French Chasseurs d'Afrique and a brigade of English infantry approaching so I needed to move fast. Sadly, the assault had some temporary success but overall failed as some good shooting by the Turks took the edge of the Russian columns and all of them were either broken or shaken within two turns.

So there you have it. The Russian defeat had taken barely 3 hours for me to engineer. To be fair the Turks put up a spirited and active defence, even the Bashi-Bazouks got into the action. Stars of the show were the Turkish cavalry who did excellent work slowing down my advance. Of course, IF half of my third brigade hadn't blundered off the table and IF I'd been able to get my massive artillery superiority into action sooner, and IF I'd not been so impetuous to launch my assault columns in frontal attacks on some pretty tough Turkish infantry supported by artillery then maybe the result would have been different. We shall never know. It was an enjoyable way to get my arse kicked by Johnny Turk and it was nice to see them do so well on the table again. I just need to do a little rebasing and organising and they will be up to scratch with the rest of my Crimean collection. I must also finish off my remaining Russians (a brigade of dragoons and some Naval infantry) to even the odds.

In terms of the rules Black Powder as always worked well. I make the regular Turkish infantry 'tough fighters' and the Russian infantry all have a stamina of 4 which I think reflects their ability to take a great deal of punishment.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A few skirmishes to pass the time

Last couple of weeks have been a little quiet gaming wise. Ive not been well enough to attend Claymore or The Other Partizan, which was more than a little depressing as I'd arranged to meet up with a few of my Facebook and AMG buddies. On the plus side, Peter from up the hill has been for a couple of games after a six-month layoff due to work and stuff. The first was an ACW game with Black Powder Glory Halleluja, with a small Confereate covering force holding off the pursuing Union troops after the climactic battle of a couple of weeks ago. The Confederates managed to blunt and even drive back the Union attack, and main Confederate army was able to slip away and regroup further down the Durham Valley. We had a fair bit of wine. Well according to Mrs Carryingsonupthedale we did!

Then last Friday night Peter was here again for a Crimean game, using Black Powder again of course.  Accompanying yet more wine were  a division of Russians (12 btns of infantry, 4 large batteries of artillery and a rifle btn) supported by a cavalry division ( 2 regiments each of Uhlans, Hussars and Cossacks) which were  trying to turn the flank of a Turkish position. The Turks had 8 btns and 2 regiments of cavalry, a couple of guns and an entrenchment occupied by 2 heavy siege guns. There were also some reinforcements available, randomly decided.

The Russians pushed forward quickly and got their artillery into position. they then proceeded to dominate the battlefield, blasting Turkish regiments to oblivion! They also knocked out one of the siege batteries in the entrenchment. The Turkish cavalry tried a futile charge against one brigade of Russians, who were forced to form square. One Russian btn was disordered so the Turks were able to come to grips with them, but despite creating mayhem, they lost the melee, failed their break test and ran off!

Reinforcements now appeared in the shape of the British brigade of guards. They quickly advanced, deployed into line and were able to stem the Russian envelopment of the Turkish right flank. The Russian attack against the entrenchment was faltering in the face of determined Turksh counteattacks. With the stabilising effect of the Guards and the dogged defence by the Turks the Russians lost heart and withdrew. No doubt they shall be back.

Actually they will be back, as this game was meant as a precursor to a game which will hopefully go ahead on Wednesday.

Sorry for the lack of pictures this time but I mislaid the charger for my camera.

Friday, 19 August 2016

More Russians

I finished another battalion of Russians for my Suvarov in the Alps French Revolutionary Wars project yesterday. This time it's a battalion of combined grenadiers, Dendrygin, made up of grenadier companies from the Murmon and Apsheron regiments. 

Again, the figures are Trent Miniatures. I don't know if Russian combined grenadiers carried flags, probably not, but there were plenty of unused 'coloured' flags available (regiments didn't carry them all into battle) that giving the grenadiers a flag certainly brightens them up nicely.

I think I've got the basing to my liking now. The Alpine areas the campaign was fought over in September/October 1799 were pretty rough with lots of loose scree and rocky outcrops and while I might have gone a little OTT with the snow it looks good. Well I think so anyway! There probably ought to be a bit more grass showing through but maybe on the next unit I'll experiment further. 

Almost finished is another battalion of combined grenadiers, Lomonsov (Moscow grenadiers and Yekaterinoslav grenadiers)  and next up are a battalion of the 7th Jäger regiment and two fusilier battalions of the Moscow Grenadier regiment that are primed and base-coated. (In grenadier regiments the term fusilier was used for the men in the battalion companies and only the two grenadier companies were actually called grenadiers). I think I will then do a few Cossacks. In the meantime my mate Stuart is making me some alps and a Devil's Bridge. Can't wait to see them.

Better get some French started I suppose. I also suspect that this project will diversify to include the wider campaign fought over Switzerland so I can get some Russian dragoons and hussars and a few Austrians. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

A new project: Suvarovs Russians v the French in Switzerland

I've long been drawn to war gaming  the French Revolutionary Wars, far more so than to the traditional Napoleonic era, but have until now resisted. I recently re-read my dusty old copy of Duffy's Eagle over the Alps and that was it. Over the past few months I've been planning what I would need/like for each army and where to get them. That done I wondered where on earth I'd get the cash for such relatively large project, but that's another story best left off the pages of this blog in case Mrs Carry on up the Dale reads it!

In the end I just couldn't make my mind up so I ended up buying a fair few figures from Eureka (by far the best and if you can stump up AUS$300 you get free shipping or a 20% discount which goes a long way to offsetting the cost of the figures and the likely outrageous customs charge). A also acquired some Trent Miniatures which are rather lovely, and a regiment of cavalry off Elite Miniatures.

Here is my first completed regiment, namely two battalions of the Smolensk Regiment. I thought the combination of green coats, straw yellow pants and waistcoats and puce facing was particularly repellent but they don't look too bad; in fact I am quite pleased with them as I completed them from start to finish in exactly one week.

Monday, 8 August 2016

ACW Campaign: Climactic battle

Robbie and John paid another visit this week to fight what might well have been (but wasn't) the final battle of my mini ACW campaign. The Union army under John had pushed south and were strung out  with their lead elements holding a position near the town of Crawleyside. The entire Confederate Army of the Apeninnes launched themselves at the Union troops in a do or die attempt to drive the Grand Army of the Northumberland out of the valley. Robbie's Confederate persona was deemed sufficiently recovered to resume command. John commanded the Union army, ably aided by myself.

The forces were quite well matched (theoretically) as the Confederates had three strong brigades of veteran infantry against the Unions four brigades of which two were classed as 'Green' or otherwise generally useless, while the other two were rated veterans. There was almost parity in artillery although the Union cavalry fielded two weak regiments to one Confederate one.

The start of the battle (which was to last 14 moves before night fell) saw one Union brigade deployed on Polly's Hill (above) and another in reserve to their rear. Neither were allowed to move in turn 1, and the brigade on the hill wasn't allowed to move until turn 3. The Confederates' first brigade entered the game in turn 1 in the centre of their baseline. The remainder would arrive along the road towards the far end of the table, just out of shot in the picture above. The Confederates had to capture either Polly's Hill or the line of walls on Sandy Ridge, and of course get the better of the Union army. The Union objectives were to hold both the named objectives and defeat the Rebs! No small order then!
The leading Confederate brigade quickly marched across the table and took up positions along a fence line in the centre.
The remainder of the Confederate forces start arriving (in the back ground) while Robbie extended his line to the left.
Robbie being thoughtful as John deploys is veteran reinforcements right where they would be the most useful in foiling Robbie's plans.
The Confederate centre as seen from Polly's Hill.
In the centre the Union reinforcements are soon exchanging shots with the Rebs in the centre.
One brigade of Confederates made straight for Sandy Ridge and tried to turn the Union flank. Robbie threw a blunder so the troops above went a bit further  than was planned!
Yet more Confederates and their artillery arrive.
John pushed forwards in the centre.
The Confederate centre.
A furious melee began in the centre.
The Union brigade on Polly's Hill finally advanced to the road.

The Texans charged home against the green Union troops, who's closing fire was completely ineffective.....

In the centre the Confederates had pulled back and a hole appeared in the union line when one of Johns regiments broke. The Union cavalry was rushed forward to plug the gap, where they took heavy casualties and were eventually forced back.
Robbie chanced his sole unit of cavalry, who drove off a green battalion of Union troops and then found themselves on the flank of the Union brigade holding Polly's Hill.
The Confederates in the centre consolidating their position (i.e. plugging a few holes where units had been driven back 'whipped')
The Union 'Irish' brigade advancing through the woods on Sandy Ridge having seen off the Confederate attack. The Confederates are now lining the wall attempting to rally.
The far left of the Union line. The artillery shells Robbie's cavalry and a battalion of Texans storms up the hill to try and drive off yet another green regiment of boys in blue. My other brigade had started to advance to fill the gap in the front but when I threw a blunder withdrew two moves taking some of it off the table!
On the opposite flank the Irish close with the remains of Robbie's brigade holding the wall in the woods.
The Confederates in the centre pour a withering fire on the Union troops to their front.
With the exception of the Zouave regiment all of the Union troops on this flank are green untested generally pretty poor. 
My reserve brigade finally gets (almost) into action. Robbie's cavalry managed to hit another of my green units in the rear!
Newly arrived and just in time to be charged in the flank by the victorious Texans who had broken the regiment facing them in the previous turn.
Robbie's Texans charged down the road into the flank of one of my unreliable green regiments. They actually held for a turn before breaking. It was at roughly this time that the Union C-in-C copped a stray bullet from a Reb sniper and was killed on the spot.
The position on the Confederate left was looking a bit sticky as the Union Irish brigade surged forward, driving all before them.
To add insult to injury, John's remaining cavalry unit managed to ride around the Confederate flank and appear in their rear!
The Confederate centre holds firm.
With the Union troops on the Confederate right disposed of (both brigades were broken) Robbie switched his troops to reinforce his centre.
The Confederate C-in-C urging the Texans on.
The Confederate left still under intense pressure.

It was at this point that I called time as we had reached the end of turn 14. The Confederates certainly had the best of the battle and none of their brigades were out of action. The Union army on the other hand had lost five regiments broken, two entire brigades had been shattered and their C-in-C was dead. It was a fiercely fought battle played at a quick pace as we managed the 14 turns in a little under 4 hours (excluding lunch). Robbie's aggressive tactics worked well and the dice rolled badly for the Union, and my ineptitude at getting my entire command whipped or broken didn't really help. Technically the battle was indecisive but as the Confederates had captured Polly's Hill a minor victory seemed an appropriate result. However, the campaign will go on as we have yet to have a decisive victory by either side that would decide who would hold the Durham Valley.

PS: ACW buffs among the readership may well recognise this battle, which I have (loosely) based on Kernstown fought during the Shenandoah Valley campaign.