Friday 12 July 2024

1813 Campaign - the Battle of Mittenwalde

The latest battle in our 1813 campaign was played here on Wednesday . The allied Army of the North under Bernadottte had been covering the southern approaches to Berlin and had moved to chase off an advancing French force.  Bernadotte followed up then halted as the French turned to fight. It was pretty clear that more French troops were on the way; we suspected Napoleon himself was also close by. 

Richard and I played the Allies, on the le3ft of the picture above. Shaun was Oudinot (?), supported by Nigel. Conrad was on the way with Paul and Jim  but his carriage threw a wheel so they missed the game waiting for an army of serfs to courier the correct replacement from St. Petersburg.

Richard (Bernadotte) attacked the enemy right with the bulk of his forces, made up of Russians and Swedes. The Prussian III and IV Corps in the centre and right also advanced to pin the French centre and left. 

Richard’s attack almost (so very nearly) rolled up the French flank before the enemy reserve cavalry corps and Napoleon arrived to stem the rot. The Allied attacks in the centre and right faltered and with the arrival of a somewhat delayed French corps the decision was taken to disengage, which was accomplished skilfully without further loss. It was a French victory of sorts but a costly one. Here are a few photos of the game which hopefully give an impression of how the battle developed. The armies are all 15mm from John and Nigel’s collections. The rules used were Snappy Nappy, which I actually quite took to as they worked rather well with this big game. The size of the battlefield (13' x 6') meant that there was plenty of room for manoeuvre with these large 15mm armies.

Prussian IV Corps lurking behind the river. 

Prussian II Corps in the centre

The French left. 
This is the allied left. A Russian cavalry corps, Russian infantry and lots of guns.

Hidden by the wood is a brigade of English/Hanoverians and their famous Rocket Troop. Then there's a big gap before the mass of the allied army over on the extreme left. 
II Corps in the centre advance. 

The French got cocky and advanced their artillery too far, and both batteries were ridden over by the Prussian cavalry.
IV Corps (all Landwehr) cross the river.
Several spirited attacks by the Prussian II Corps failed to dislodge the Bavarians from the village.

The French cavalry came to try and rescue their guns. They didn't manage that but did cause some losses on our mainly conscript cavalry. The second French battery was overrun at this point, failing rot cause a single hit as they were ridden over by my cossacks.

Walmoden's reserve corps of Hanoverian Landwehr and a lone English battalion in the centre/left.

The Swedish Livregimentkurassier. Very pretty they are but after a brief success were driven from the field.

The full weight of Richard's attack can be seen in the distance. The French losses were heavy, especially among their guns, but they just about held on even though several units were shattered.

Most of the allied cavalry on the right had been driven back by the French heavy cavalry.  The Prussian Landwehr were somewhat rattled.

A very tardy Marshal Victor arrives a turn late on the French left. Time for the allies to withdraw.

The allies execute a perfect withdrawal and pull back towards Berlin.

Well, what a tremendous game. The allies oh so nearly beat the French right wing before their massive numerical superiority could begin to tell. Losses in campaign terms were quite heavy for the allies and proportionally  much heavier for the French. Having given them a bloody nose and a slap in the face it was time for Bernadotte to lead a masterful disengagement and withdrawal over the Spree towards Berlin. The French were too battered or too far away to prevent this. Ok, it was technically a French victory if one follows the usual convention, but we (the allies) can afford the losses while the French must husband their troops as best they can.

It is now time for the allies to make their Turn 2 of the Autumn phase of the campaign. 

Tuesday 9 July 2024

A Smorgasbord of Danish and Swedish Bits

A few things managed to complete the passing out parade this week and find their way to their respective barracks. A bit of a mix- Swedish Lifegaurd Cuirassiers and Danish Guides (based for use as ADCs under GdA as I much prefer actual figures to markers any day) and a pair of Danish amusette 1pdr pop-guns to add to my growing collection. Bugger all use I’m sure and how to represent them in GdA but I will think of something. Here they are in all their shineyness. The Guides were used as messengers, scouts and so on, and included officers and other ranks. They changed uniforms from green to red in 1808 or thereabouts hence the two different uniforms.

The cuirassiers are from Eagle Figures down the road from me and splendid they are too. The Danes are all from Perry. I wish the Perrys had not just focussed their Swedes on the Finland campaign of 1808-1809, so as to include a wider range of units but we should be grateful for what they have done, especially my bank manager!

Sunday 7 July 2024

Franco-Prussian War. The Destruction of the Imperial Army Vol 4 - Catastrophe: Sedan, Strasbourg and Metz 1870

It is almost with a touch of sadness that I am writing about the final installment in Grenville Bird’s tremendous accomplishment in bringing to life these few weeks in the summer of 1870 that saw the end of the Imperial France  of Napoleon III. I am also very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to review and comment on the entire four-volume series. So, ‘The Destruction of the Imperial Army Volume 4: Catastrophe: Sedan, Strasbourg and Metz 1870’ is another epic, and an absolute whopper of a book (546 pages!), drawing on yet more contemporary documents and correspondence; again, much of which has never been published in English. 

This volume follows the same tried and tested format as the previous three volumes, and is profusely illustrated with 58 images, many of the battlefields, both then, and as they can be seen today, some of the latter annotated with key points of interest from the actual battle. There are also a number of more somber photographs of graves and monuments to the fallen. This tremendous range of illustrations are accompanied by strategic and tactical maps which together with the narrative combine to present a free flowing and detailed account of events.

The book begins at the end so to speak, with an account of the surrender of Sedan, much of which are the letters and reminiscences of those present in the proceedings. The following chapters each focus on one significant event, that is the fall of Strasbourg, Metz and the battle of Servigney, and the siege and fall of Metz.  We then delve into the immediate aftermath of 'La Debacle' , the questions asked of how could this have happened, the recriminations and the bold decision by the new republic to continue the war. Every chapter contains a vast a mount of first-hand experience and contemporary documentation; as always I find the private correspondence especially interesting as a direct window into the thoughts of those caught up in the war.

The final two chapters provide some excellent reading for those wishing to wargame the conflict, as each covers, in some depth, the tactics of both the French and the Germans. I think these will attract a great deal of attention.

As ever, there are numerous appendices (31 in all), providing a vast array of detailed information on subjects such as orders of battle, casualty returns and after action losses. The bulk of the appendices include capitulation treaties and correspondence and reports on  subjects as diverse as the destruction of the French eagles to German siege operations. The best appendices for me are the last four as they examine the effectiveness of French artillery, the Mitrailleuse and a comparison between the French and German weapons.

This is a fitting final volume in what has been for me an absolutely wonderful series. I am now hoping that the author will not rest on his laurels but will now examine the Republican phase of the war in as much detail. Please.....

ISBN 978-1-804514-59-7  softback, 546 pages

Wednesday 3 July 2024

A Savage and Romantic War - the First Carlist War book review

         As wargame guides go this is one of the best in the series by Helion. A subjective assessment yes, but ‘A Savage and Romantic War - A Wargamers’ Guide to the First Carlist War, Spain 1833–1840’ brings to life a brutal, confusing yet colourful war replete with some fascinating characters, a variety of foreign interventionist forces, the pitting of extremism versus ‘liberalism’, the brutality and horrors of a civil war, lots of eminently gameable battles and gorgeous uniforms.

The First Carlist War is a period that to me for a long time hovered on the edge of ‘mainstream’ wargaming, like many post-Napoleonic conflicts and before the widespread introduction of rifled muskets. The author has a lifelong interest in this bloody war, and Conrad Cairns’ previous book on the subject, published by the Perrys many years ago was a pretty groundbreaking venture, one that coincided with, or was the cause of, the excellent and extensive 28mm range of Perry miniatures for the period.

This new book is by no means a simple re-hash of the previous one. It is far more aimed at helping the reader better understand and wargame the conflict, with 13 new scenarios for the gamer to try out as well as a campaign based on the operations leading to the battle of Oriamundi. Of course, there are sections on the background to and course of the war, detailed chapters on the organisation and uniforms of the Isabellinos, Carlists and the British, French and Portuguese interventionist or auxiliary forces (although technically the former were raised by the British and employed by the Spanish crown rather than being part of the British regular establishment) and the aftermath once hostilities had ended.

Conrad has updated his original material where appropriate to provide what is to me essentially a new book with a new focus. The tactical maps that accompany each of the scenarios are excellent, as are the strategic ones. The orders of battle presented for each encounter and for wider operations are extensively researched and detailed, and without doubt are going to be pored over by wargamers alongside the catalogues of their miniature manufacturer(s) of choice. Numerous photographs of the superbly painted Perry Miniatures throughout the book certainly whet one’s appetite to explore this war as a new gaming project. Other photographs depict examples of surviving equipment and weapons, mostly I understand from the author’s own collection.

So, a beautifully presented and clearly written account of the war and how to wargame it from an author who’s enthusiasm for the conflict oozes through the very pages of the book. An excellent addition to the series.

ISBN 978-1-804514-55-9 A4 soft covers, 137 pages.

Sunday 30 June 2024

Spanish/Danish/Dutch alliance prevail over the Swedes.

John and I had a rematch of sorts on Friday, swapping sides for another game featuring the Swedes holding off the Spanish/Danish/Dutch corps intent on invading Southern Sweden. Never happened of course but there were plans to just that while the Swedes’ attention was diverted by the Russian invasion of Finland. All the Swedes had to do was repulse the enemy, who had to win control of the road leading off  the Swedish base line. Three Swedish infantry brigades and two of cavalry were facing four allied infantry brigades and two brigades of cavalry. I did have the option of deploying a British brigade (again it could have happened as Sir John Moore and a large expeditionary force were bobbing around in Swedish ports without permission to disembark) but if I had done so John would have got a brigade of French. Probably wise not to use the British I thought. 

Using General D’Armee 2 most of the Swedish infantry were classed as ‘reservists’ while I had upgraded the Spanish from ‘recruit’ to ‘reservist’ as these were arguably Spain’s finest. Everyone else, with the exception of the Swedish Guard and Grenadier battalions were ‘line’. The two aforementioned battalions were classed as ‘grenadier’. Most of y Swedish army was built up for the Finnish campaign but I have no intention of producing more non-Finnish infantry.

So followed a brisk action to determine the fate of this little part of Sweden. As per usual here some photos of the action, suitably annotated.

The Swedes are on the right. The other lot are on the left.
The Spanish cavalry amd one of their infantry brigades on the enemy left.

My brave troops lining a wall in the face of a whole brigade of five battalions of Danes supported by artillery.

The Danish cavalry brigade facing my left flank.

The other Spanish brigade on my extreme right, no doubt trying to outflank me.

The main line of battle as seen from the Swedish right.

My only reserve was this brigade of two dragoon regiments. Would they be enough?

I forgot the move sequence momentarily and left this battalion in line, thinking I’d have time to form square later. Nope. I was charged and failed to form square, becoming unformed as well! Oops!

Predictably my infantry ran away at first contact!

The Danes had to take the ground rather than pursue so in the next turn my other cavalry brigade, led by the Lifeguard (in their full dress uniforms) hit these Danes and bundled them back.

Meanwhile the Danes were closing in on my thinly held centre. My musketry forced one battalion to pull back but there were plenty more behind..

The view from my centre. The Kimgdom of Holland brigade were about to loose their skirmish screen, but their infantry columns were inching closer. My line was being hit by the enemy artillery just out of the picture and taking losses.

The Danish cavalry were forced to retire quite some way, giving me a bit of a breather on this flank.

John duly ordered the Dutch to charge but they were thrown back by accurate musketry from my defenders. 

It was getting a bit tricky on my right so I decided to sacrifice a regiment of dragoons. The Spanish skirmishers withdrew to the woods.

My Guard and Grenadier battalions were my best troops, and were taking casualties from the Spanish artillery.  My entire flank was also in danger of being turned. Not even these fine chaps would be able to withstand eight battalions of Spanish!

Lots of Spaniards, supported by their cavalry brigade ready to pounce on my Guardsmen and Grenadiers.

Throwing caution to the wind my dragoon regiment charged the Spanish guns that were doing too much damage to my Guards. Johns infantry had all formed square the previous turn, so I suppose their advance had been halted, but what the hell I thought, ‘go for it!’ Moments later my dragoons were streaming to the rear, battered but not broken.

On the left the Swedes were gaining confidence and attacked the Danish horsemen. 

The fight went to a second round but John elected to pull back while I had chosen to fight, so the Danish cavalry brigade withdrew almost to their starting positions. A victory of sorts me me.

Sadly, in the centre the Danes charged and overran my centre, breaking this battalion amd causing the brigade to falter. As this happened to be the final turn I tested on the faltering brigade table and the entire lot ran away. Game over.

The Swedish CinC. Not a smiley face.

This was another tremendous game, especially as the rules were coming back to us and we managed eight leisurely turns in about three and a half hours of play. With eleven brigades on the table that was pretty good going. It was certainly a very colourful spectacle with the eclectic mix of nationalities and uniforms on the table. I plan to add to the Danes, Dutch, Spanish and Swedes in due course. I have more than enough French (20+ battalions etc) and there are some Russians to finish off.

Thanks to,John for giving me a good drubbing. 

Thursday 27 June 2024

A Few More Danish Napoleonics

This week’s efforts have been focussed on finishing some more Danish Napoleonic troops, so here they are. A regiment of heavy cavalry and an amussette artillery piece.

Here they are.

This is from the Perry range of Danish Napoleonics and is rather nice. The gun itself, representing a 1pdr amusette, is resin, and very nice it is too with lovely detail. I’m not sure I’d be happy sitting on the back of it to fire even if it is only a pea shooter! I have another one almost done. 

Danish cavalry in overcoats/cloaks. These are inspired by an illustration in Helion’s Danish Armies of the Napoleonic Wars by David Wilson. The figures are all from Steve Barber. The horses and riders are his French dragoons or cuirassiers with cloak covering the saddlecloth. The riders come with separate heads, so the heads shown are Swedish Napoleonic ones in round hats which do nicely for the earlier (up to 1808) headgear. As with much of my Danish collection I’ve opted for the earlier style of uniform as I’m sure delays in replacing stuff would result in some units keeping their old kit post the official exchange date. I do like the red riding cloaks as it makes them quite a distinctive unit.


Wednesday 26 June 2024

Remote Wargame in the Sumer(ian) time.


Yesterday evening I took part in a wargame hosted remotely by Jonathan Freitag of  along with three other members of the Virtual Wargames Group (set up using Zoom during Covid so numerous wargamers across the globe could catch up, chat, do show and tells and so forth). The group is still going strong and we ‘meet’ every Saturday at 16:30 BST for a chinwag. Jon has also taken to offering to run games remotely using Zoom, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to take part. Jon is in Spokane WA, I am on Teesside, and the other players were Stephen in E Yorkshire and Doug and Alan a bit north of Edinburgh or thereabouts.

The game this week was a battle between two Sumerian armies, using Basic Impetus on a hex cloth for ease of movement ent and reference. Once I was into the game the hexes were unobtrusive and certainly were a great help in keeping the game going. Even better for keeping it going was Jon, who as umpire applied his seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of the rules in order to keep us on the straight and narrow. I’d never used Basic Impetus but have used Impetus Baroque (which worked well and provided an enjoyable game but gave me a headache).

Here a few photos I took off my monitor. Doug and I are at the bottom of the screen. Before anyone asks the cotton wool denotes a war cart in motion. Important as they take time to start and get up to full speed and to slow down and stop again. 

Doug and I faced Stephen and Alan. Very briefly, our side went storming forward. My sub-commander got stuck in and drove his mule-power war cart pedestrianaly fast through a couple of enemy units before coming a cropper when a flank attack against some enemy spearmen failed and he was destroyed. A similar fate lay in wait for Doug’s sub-commander, enough for our CinC to be heard to mutter that ‘there’s something wrong with our bloody battle carts today!’

It all got very messy and the fortunes of battle ebbed and flowed all evening with much cheerful sledging going on, until the enemy army gave way. We won, but I’m not totally sure how. Our dice rolling was probably not quite as bad as the enemy’s. This was a great game and a splendid way to spend a Tuesday evening ( or I guess morning for Jonathan?) and I look forward to the opportunity of taking part in another game soon. It may be even something I can take part in when I am next in India.

Again, a very big thanks to Jonathan for running the game. It was great!