Sunday, 21 October 2018

Big Battle Outside Zurich.......again!

This I hope will be the final dry run of the game I am planning to put on at Battleground in Stockton on 24 November. I say that as I need to concentrate on preparing all the supporting bumph as well as putting the final touches to the buildings, sundry items of terrain and various vignettes. Point to note here is that I have booked an 18’ x 6’ table for the game while I only have 14’x 6’ at home so there will be more space for the troops to deploy and for me to fill with things. Lots of things.

Saturday saw “Carry-on'ers” from far and wide  (ok, Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Stockton) arrive at the Burrow to play the game with just about the full complement of forces for the battle on the table. A couple of French units aren’t finished yet so the Lombard Legion were standing in for them this time. After the success of the previous game I decided to try out Honours of War (Amended for FRW) again, this time to see how a multi-player game worked using them. It didn't, but here's how it went anyway.

Sides were chosen randomly, which saw Dave, Shaun and Jim take the French attackers, while John, Paul and Conrad were the Russians. If I’d thought, it would have been better to have split Shaun and Jim as neither were familiar with the rules. Too late now. I will put the orders of battle at the end of this post. Conrad was the Russian commander, General Leutnant Alexander Rimsky-Korsakov holding the centre of the Russian position. John was General Major Essen on the Russian left, while Paul was General Leutnant Sacken, posted across the river on the right. Shaun played the role of Masséna (controlling Klein and Schwartz), Jim was Mortier and Dave was Lorge.

The Russians looking happy while the French (right) move their leading units onto the table
The Russian right under Sacken. Eight battalions of infantry and a battery of guns.
Paul decided to push his troops forward in anticipation of the French arrival.
Russian hussars advancing in the centre to slow the French advance. Jim threw a small unit of dragoons forward but  in the melee both units took four hits and were forced to withdraw.
The mauled French dragoons after their encounter. More French troops are arriving.

Not a digestive biscuit but a reminder that no sooner had Gazan's brigade arrived on the table than he was felled by a cannonball and killed. This stopped the French in their tracks for a whole turn on this flank. 
The French assault in the centre.

On the left the Russians are holding on in the face of pressure from Shaun's cavalry.

Jim's troops charge the Russian centre, held by their grenadiers. 
The French assault was a failure, and was thrown back with significant losses.
Dave finally got moving again on the the French left. The late General Gazan's brigade  lumbered towers Paul,. One of the Russian battalions formed square due to the proximity of French hussars. Dave then charged another unit of Russians who formed square. Fire from the already formed square and the battery on the hill destroyed the unsupported French, who routed back through their infantry. Paul was in command of the Russian cavalry brigade but it failed to move for several turns. With the entrance of more French he pulled his line back onto the Zurichberg. 
My cows are uninterested in the battle raging around them.
The broken and fleeing French Hussars on the left.

The French centre is wilting. Jim's brigade (Brunet) is about to collapse.
The Representative from the Directory looks on as his men assemble and try out the portable guillotine. 
Shaun's cavalry were unable to advance against the fire of Russian artillery under Essen in the far distance  and the gunboat flotilla on the lake.

Too late the French horse artillery is able to start pounding the Russians both in and behind the wood.
The Russian centre after repulsing the French assault.
The Swiss navy! My model sloop standing in for the 19 small gunboats commanded by a Colonel Williams in Austrian service. 
The Russian left under John effectively kept the French right from advancing. 
The French right pinned by superior numbers. Poor Jim had struggled to get it into position due to poor command rolls.
With the battle over, the Russians were issued with extra rations!
Well, with the French centre collapsing and little headway being made on either flank I think it is fair to say that this was a Russian victory. If we'd had time it is highly likely that Dave's flank would have pushed Paul's Russians back into Zurich due to superior numbers, if they could be brought into the fight.

Lessons from the game are several.
1. HoW didn't work this time, mainly as several players had never used the rules, but also because in a multi-player game it was all too slow;
2. The French attack in the centre should have gone in to the right of the central wood (Jim/Mortier), followed by Klein and his grenadiers and superior battalions. This would have drawn in Essen's brigade and given Drouet on the French right something to fight.
3. The cavalry and their supporting horse artillery should have been used to pin the Russian grenadiers, and the two heavy batteries were deployed too far back to be effective;
4. Brunet should have taken the wood immediately to deny it to the pesky Russian Jager;
5. The French didn't make best use of their skirmishers and they didn't really soften up the Russians before launching their attack (in the wrong place imho)
6. The Russian skirmishers were too strong;
7. The gunboat flotilla was too strong.
8. Dave/Gazan should not have tried 'head' that cannon ball!
9. Throw better dice;
10. Go back to Black Powder 2 or General d'Armee for Stockton.

Thanks to everyone for happily being the subjects of my experiment with the rules. Hopefully it wasn't too bad a day out.  Thanks also to Conrad for the cupcakes and Jim for the Victoria sponge.

I had better clear the table as I have a Poles v Swedes Thirty Years War game on Wednesday.

As promised at the top of this blog, here are the orders of battle for the game:

French Army: General Andre Massena DASHING
Division Mortier (South) (Lt General) DEPENDABLE

Bde Drouet DEPENDABLE

Line inf x 2
Chasseurs a Cheval x 2 sqdn (small)
Light Artillery x 1 coy (light)

Bde Brunet DEPENDABLELine inf x 6
Dragoons x 2 sqdns (small)
Artillery x 2 coy (Heavy)

Division Klein DEPENDABLE
Line inf x 2
Grenadiers x 2

Bde Schwartz DEPENDABLE
Hussars x 2 sqdn (small)
Dragoons x 2 rgt
Chasseurs a Cheval x 1 rgt
Horse Artillery x 2 coy (light)

Division Lorge (North) Arrives T3 (maybe), one bde at a time (Lt General) DEPENDABLE
Bde Gazan DASHING
Line inf x 6
Dragoons x 1 rgt
Hussars x 1 rgt
Artillery x 1 coy (light)

Bde Quetard (left) DEPENDABLE T3 +1Line inf x 2
Light inf x 2

Bde Bontemps (extreme left) DEPENDABLE T3 + 2
Light inf x 3
Helevetic Legion x 1 btn
Artillery x 2 (Medium)

Russian Army: GL Rimsky-Korsakov DITHERING

Division of GL Gorchakov [South] DEPENDABLE

GM Tuchkov DITHERING
Musketeers x 2
Grenadiers x 4 (1 in Zurich)
Jager x 2 (4 small)
Hussars x 2 (independent units)
Cossacks x 2 (independent units)
Artillery x 1 (medium) (large unit)

Bde GM Essen [South) DEPENDABLE
Musketeers x 2
Fusiliers x 2
Dragoons x 1
Artillery 1(heavy) (large unit)

Division of GL Sacken [North on Zurichbeerg] DEPENDABLE
Musketeers x 8
Artillery x 1 (Heavy) (Large unit)

GL Gudovich [North] DEPENDABLE T4
Cuirassiers x 2(1)
Dragoons x 2

GM Durusov (North) T8** DITHERING
Musketeers x 2
Cossacks x 2 **

Colonel Wilson’s Flotilla DITHERING

Gunboat Lindt - representing 19 small gunboats, counting as a standard sized medium battery

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

French Revolutionary Wars game using Honours of War

Paul came for a game yesterday afternoon and we’d decided to try Honours of War for a FRW game, with a few appropriate amendments that I will highlight at the end of this post. The scenario had a defending force of Russians holding both sides of an impassable river that cut the table in two, with the only crossing point on their baseline. There was a demolished pontoon bridge close the French base line which the French needed to repair and make use of to transfer their forces between the north and south sides of the river. (They had half their troops on each bank approaching the Russian position so until it was repaired their army would be fighting as two independent forces). Apart from the usual ‘destroy the enemy’ objective, the Russians had to prevent the French from repairing the bridge and hold their crossing point, while the French had to prevent the destruction of the pontoon bridg, capture the Russian-held crossing point and give the forces of the Reactionary despot Czar Paul and the slaves of tyranny a good seeing too!

The outnumbered Russians (me) split their forces evenly between both banks, with their best troops (four grenadier battalions) holding the centre and awaited the French attack.

The right wing of the Russian army, eight battalions of infantry, a large battery of cannon and three regiments of cavalry. With a pair of 'dithering' commanders!

The French appear in the centre.

Despite having orders to advance the Russian right wing failed to do so!!!
Instead they just lined up and looked splendid!

As did these dragoons.

On the other wing the sole regiment of Russian dragoons were about to face a load of trouble as the next French brigade appeared and started taking pot shots at them with their horse artillery.


The French centre. Six battalions of infantry, two batteries of 12pdrs and swarms of skirmishers.
Those 12pdrs! Thankfully they were to be underemployed for most of the battle.
Seen from the French right, Russian infantry have occupied the village and a regiment of dragoons has just exposed itself to fire from the horse artillery battery.
My dragoons taking a pounding from the enemy artillery. They were force to retreat, which for me was good.
The French pressing home their attack in the centre, with their skirmishers trading shots with Russian jager. My artillery just out of shot to the right was also causing a fair bit of damage to the advancing French infantry.
Still in the centre, one of the Russian hussar regiments almost caught a battalion of French out but they were able to form square in time.
My other hussar regiment was about to be overwhelmed by a mass of French horsemen.  As it turned out they actually  did quite well before breaking as my artillery then managed to further weaken the damaged chasseurs a cheval with a few lucky (er..well-directed) shots. 
The French cavalry brigade was an awesome threat and one I had nothing to counter it with. The only option was to push hard with a counter attack in the centre and hope to break through before the enemy cavalry could swing round the wood and hit me in the rear.
Over on the Russian right a regiment of cuirassiers boldly charged the advancing French,  but although they failed to form square their closing fire and that of their supporting units was enough to halt my charge. Job done though as the French never moved an inch closer in the remainder of the battle.
A view of the Russian right advancing towards the village and the fight for the centre in the background.
Remarkably, the combination of a foolish charge bu my hussars and the concentrated fire of my jager and a battery of  twelve 12pdrs  ( large unit in the game for shooting etc) had broken one battalion of French, battered a couple of others and dispersed their skirmish screen. Time to advance methinks.
Back on the right we were doing just that. All eight battalions of Russians were piling it on, forcing the French back and destroying several battalions by a bit of handy bayonet work. The threat posed by my cavalry and the effect of my artillery paralysed the French on this flank.

Peekaboo! My remaining hussar regiment wishing it were somewhere else no doubt.
The Russian left decided to attempt to drive off the French facing them. A brave move but ultimately a futile one, other than it pinned the enemy in position.

Russian grenadiers begin their attack in the centre.
While Russian hussars try and stem the advance by the French cavalry.
The Russians continue to pile ton he pressure on the right wing.
Paul had by now completed repairing the bridge and was trying to transfer his reserve brigade across the river where it might to some good. There was no room for it to manoeuvre on his left and it risked being swept away by the hard-pressed brigade locked in combat with the Russians.
My hussars were forced to retreat but not broken, and the chasseur a cheval regiment they'd been fighting, already weakened, had been broken. The troubles that I now only had a battalion of jager protecting my advancing grenadiers.

Thankfully, divine intervention stepped in after some heavy praying and swinging of incense as it was time to pack up. Pheww! The French left was in the process of collapsing, the French centre had collapsed but the presence of their cavalry and reserve artillery would stop me exploiting my success, and my left was in complete disarray following their failed assault. It seemed fair to agree to a draw, albeit somewhat in my favour in terms of enemy units destroyed. 

Well, that worked rather well. A few more tweaks may be needed to try and get the difference of linear old-school armies fighting against more fluid French, but it had been a good idea and a great experiment.

Notes about the rule amendments:
1. Infantry charged by cavalry had to throw 1d6 to see if they formed square, requiring 3+;
2. Squares were treated as BUAs when shooting, and columns received a minus one when shooting;
3. Squares and columns attracted a plus 1 modifier to artillery shooting at them, and columns moved at the march column rate;
4. Each French brigade had a skirmish screen deployed as a distinct unit. If charged they would try to evade. If they failed they were removed from play permanently. If they were forced to retreat having suffered 4 hits they would disperse permanently, likewise when they became ‘done for’;
5. Russians were classed as inferior for shooting and superior for melee. I had thought about making them superior for being shot at to reflect their renowned stoicism under fire but forgot. Russian batteries were classed as large units;
6. I fiddled with the rules covering formation changes etc to try and reflect the more rigid Russian approach. However, an earlier French army would be beset by all sorts of problems if they tried to move out of column, but thats for another day;
7. I think we busked a few things as they cropped up but nothing major except for a new element in the command and control phase where brigades were given orders that could only be changed by sending an ADC.

I have a game on Saturday so watch this space for the report.

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 jäger 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.