Sunday, 17 February 2019

Fighting the French Revolution. The Great Vendee Rising of 1795 review.

As promised a couple of posts ago, here is a brief review of the above book.  I was quite excited when I saw it was due for release and ordered it straight away. I thought it would be either very good or that Iwould be left wanting for more information. Well am glad to report that in my opinion it is a very good book. Clearly well researched with loads of primary and secondary sources, the majority of which are French. After the introductory chapters which include sections on the region, it’s geography and it’s people there are sections on the Royalist  Vendée and Republican armies. These include information on organisation and, especially interesting for me as I need to think carefully how to incorporate Vendée troops into my battles and work up some stats for Black Powder, sections on tactics employed.

As for the rest of the book, it follows a chronological, day by day or week by week order of all the events, clashes and engagements that together almost toppled the Republican government, but were put down after much hard fighting with a ferocious level of unbridled savagery by the Republic. There are plenty of maps which will be handy for those of us who like me will no doubt be playing a Vendee game sometime soon, and a few pages of B&W photographs. I would have preferred more of the latter.

The book finishes with biographies of all the main players from both sides in the rebellion together with some orders of battle of the Republican and Royalist armies at various times during the campaign and a pretty extensive bibliography (see my earlier comment). This book compares
favourably with the 1975 Banners of the King by Michael Ross which first sparked my interest in these events 44 years ago!

9.5 out of 10 (the need imho for more photos being the only reason it didn’t get a perfect 10). When I get home from our jaunt I must now finish the 40-odd Vendée peasant types I still have in the painting pile.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Totally random but handy find on Amazon

I saw these today and thought they were worth sharing if like me you end up occasionally (or more often) cleaning your brushes in your tea or coffee.

Now what I REALLY need are some “Paint trousers” and “Not paint trousers!”

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Valmy the Wargame

Saturday morning and the Battle of Valmy began. Steve reprised his role as Dumouriez while Shaun was Kellerman. Conrad and Paul changed their white uniforms to blue to become the Prussian commanders. Paul was Brunswick and Conrad was Hohenlohe. Unlike in the real action the Prussians would not be retiring after a brief 'cannonade', and with the French firmly across their lines of communication would certainly be attacking. The French didn't really need to attack but elected to advance on their right to try and tempt the Prussians forward (not that they needed any tempting) while the centre would hold. Their extreme left was supposed to advance, but that didn't happen.

Without further ado, what follows are rather a lot of photos showing how the game developed. Hopefully the captions will give an indication of how it all played out.

Turn one and Steve pushed his horse artillery forward supported by two small cavalry regiments. Conrad's response in his turn was to charge the guns and the hussars in the foreground. The Prussian hussars survived closing fire from the artillery and rode the battery down. Shaken in the process the hussars withdrew. Conrad's dragoons were driven back by the French hussars but the victory would short lived as the Prussians turned their artillery on the hussars, breaking them.
Conrad's main infantry command advanced rapidly across the table, thanks to a blunder requiring them to make three moves!
A close up of GL von Schönfeld's division negotiating the sheep. The steaming dung heap represents a blundered command.

I must get some limbers or dual task my Prussian SYW ones next time. Prussian horse(less) artillery advances. Steve  tried to order a charge on them with his heavy cavalry regiment while they were limbered up but failed to throw low enough.
Kellerman's Armée de Centre on the hill south of Valmy.
Shaun's dice throwing started bad, got worse, and stayed dreadful for the entire game.  On the left his grenadiers out distanced his chasseurs while his cavalry advanced to try and tempt a cautious Paul forward.
Back on the right with Dumouriez Steve ordered Miranda's cavalry to belt forward and try to force the Prussians into square and halt their advance.
Dumouriez's remaining cavalry likewise charged and forced a battalion of fusiliers into square. The French cavalry was unlikely to make much impression on the Prussians other than to force them into square and thus slow down the advance.
Steve then ordered his regular battalions to charge the Prussians. All did not go to plan. Although they destroyed one battalion together with its support, both of the French regular battalions failed break tests and fled. Thankfully for the French the Prussians were unable to take advantage of this due to the presence of three (albeit small) regiments of French cavalry.
Paul's command included a brigade (Division!) of eight infantry battalions and two heavy batteries. The infantry made a slow start. Paul is seen here checking when he can expect his cavalry brigade held off table in reserve to make an appearance.
And here the are. Five large regiments of cuirassiers and dragoons. I think I was being  over generous in making these large units as it was going to make them pretty unstoppable. Or so we thought.
Another shot of the cavalry as they appear over the crest of the hill.

Back on the other flank Conrad's attack had been halted by the presence of cavalry and the advance of several battalions of very eager volunteers. The latter were class as untested and newly raised in the rules, i.e. they had randomly generated stamina and could react very well or very badly to their first taste of combat. Steve kept throwing 6's so several his volunteer battalions had a stamina of 4!
Shaun looking slightly awestruck as the Prussian horsemen head right for his part of the line.
The thinly held hilltop south of Valmy. At least most of the French regulars were posted here.
The Prussian cavalry again. Sorry, but I just love these regiments. Not all the figures are on the table as  the regiment are actually organised into five squadrons of six figures each. Still an impressive sight and you could almost feel the table vibrate in reaction to the hammering of horses' hooves! Maybe this was where Napoleon got his inspiration for massed cavalry at Eylau 15 years later?
CR No 12 about to charge.
Paul elected to charge Shaun's horse artillery. The battery could have evaded but chose to stand. They did well, causing 3 hits before they were overrun. Previous casualties from artillery fire on the Prussian cuirassiers meant that this regiment was close to becoming shaken.
Another cuirassier regiment poised to attack the French dragoons seen at the bottom of the picture. 
Paul then threw in his infantry.
The very confused melee atop Valmy Hill.

CR No 12 charged the French dragoons, forcing them back. In doing so they became shaken had had to retire to rally.
The lines are thinning out as the fighting takes its toll on both sides.

The Prussians were throwing troops into combat as if they had unlimited reserves. Several battalions were broken or shaken but the French too were taking heavy losses, especially among their regular battalions.

Meanwhile, Steve was pressing home his counter attack. One of Conrad's brigades was in full retreat and now it was time to deal with the other. That was then plan at any rate.
The southern end of the battlefield was positively serene by comparison to the rest as neither side wanted or was able to close with the other.
Paul's cuirassiers driving a large wedge into the centre of the French line.
The battlefield seen from the north.

Steve's reserves arrived in the nick of time, but their advance was foiled by an audacious charge by Paul's dragoons that forced the French horse artillery that HAD been limbered up to the left of the green-faced regulars to evade back off the table.
The Prussians then hit an already engaged French regular regiment in the flank, rolling them up.

The victorious cuirassiers charged the French artillery in the flank making a sweeping advance.  No surprise that they rode the gunners down.

The French centre was now in all sorts of s**t!  A further regular battalion, then another collapsed.
All was not up for the French as their right wing under Dumouriez (Steve) had blunted the Prussian attack. The French advance was helped by the fact that Conrad's last remaining cavalry had beaten and pursued a French regiment off the table at a critical point in time.
Supported by a lone regular battalion the volunteers surged forward.
The  target of the French surging.

Two Prussian battalions were pinned in square when the rest of their brigade became spent.
The battle in the centre continued without respite.
The Prussians still had two uncommitted regiments of cavalry. 
The French threw in one of their last remaining cavalry regiments, led by the 8th regiment. In the melee they managed to take the Prussians to 'shaken'. A quick count up showed that the cavalry brigade had run out of steam as the majority of units were also shaken. The French heaved a sigh of relief.
On the French left nothing was moving, as had been the case for the entire game. 
The Prussian reserve artillery. They took the edge off a few French units early in the game.

The Prussian right barely made it to the mid point of the table during the game.

The end of the battle. Three out of five Prussian brigades were shaken forcing the army to retire.
The long road home to Berlin.
Wow! What a dust up. I knew it was going to be a hell of a game before it started and I was not disappointed. The French had won a tactical and technical victory sorts but were so badly damaged that there was no way they'd be able to stop the Prussians withdrawing or marching round their flank to reconnect with their lines of communication. The Prussians had lots of shaken units as well as a few that broke and ran, but the French had the opposite, with a good dozen broken units, including six out of nine regular battalions and half their artillery.

I must commend the guys for playing the period and not the rules throughout, in several instances refusing to perform 'gamey' moves as that would have been downright ungentlemanly. I thought the game flowed well, and everyone prefers the change to the turn sequence as it livens things up and adds yet another thing to think about when pushing your toys around the table. Black Powder still works for me in this period but I'd still like to go back to General d'Armée sometime, or try something new.

Looking at the wreck of his army after the battle Brunswick may well have regretted his gut feeling earlier in the day that "We don't need to fight a battle here today".

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Valmy ready to go

The battlefield seen from the South, the Prussians are on the left. Their line of communication is through the French to the East!

The French left wing under Valence.

Dumouriez commanding the left wing and the Armée du Nord.

Kellerman's right wing, the Armée du Centre.
More to follow as usual. I just thought I'd get the juices going.....