Friday, 5 August 2022

Charles XII's Karoliners Vol. 1 Swedish Infantry and Artillery of the Great Northern War 1700-1721

If I was to launch a ‘series special’ then this new book from Helion would, based on reading it, be the one I’d chose. No doubt about it, but Charles XII’s Karoliners, Volume 1: The Swedish Infantry & Artillery of the Great Northern War 1700-1721 by Sergey Shamenkov is one hell of a way to introduce a ‘series special’, with all the accompanying bells and whistles. Before I get going I will say that you must not think, ‘oh, not another book on the Great Northern War’, because while the other books (of which I own many) on the subject are great and all fit for purpose, this particular book is at least one step up the ladder in terms of what it seeks to do, i.e. to give us a forensic exploration of the subject matter. 

I’m going to start with the pictures for a change, as this book contains a large number (61!) of glorious and characterful full colour original pieces (painted by the author no less) depicting a wide range of uniforms worn throughout the conflict by Swedish infantry; officers, grenadiers, guards, line musketeers, pikemen, artillerymen, and not just confined to native Swedish units but also those from Finland and the Baltic lands of Livonia and Estonia. There are also a large number of colour photographs of surviving uniforms and equipment (some of the latter being the result of recent battlefield exploration) to supplement the colour paintings, as well as a good number of contemporary colour and black and white images. There is no doubt in my mind that this is quite easily the best illustrated book I’ve seen from Helion in not only the ‘Century of the Soldier’ series but quite probably the other main series and from other publishers as well. Ever.

The book describes and discusses the formations, tactics, weapons and accoutrements of Charles XII’s infantry, together with the uniforms of the infantrymen, be they guardsman, grenadier, musketeer or pikeman. The different hat and coat styles worn, and every element of the soldiers ’ dress are covered in some detail. Officers’ uniforms and associated paraphernalia and weaponry are given separate chapters to the rank and file. Finally there are separate chapters covering the uniforms of Charles’ artillerymen and those of their officers.

The source material is comprehensive and includes information gained from previously unpublished or little known documents, and the book is well written, highly informative and an asset to anyone interested in the army of Charles XII, be they historians, artists, reenactors or gamers/collectors of historical figures to name but a few. Roll on Volume 2 is all I can say.

Paperback, 152 pages, ISBN 9781804510056

Gettysburg in 54mm

These posts are getting later and later but what to do? Anyway……..

Last Saturday I was at the club in Durham for a massive refight of day two of Gettysburg in 54mm, organised by Conrad, Mike, Tim and his mate (who wrote the rules we used - 'Funny Little Wars'). It was a pretty large undertaking but whatever magic was woven to make it all come together worked, so come 10:00 a.m. on Saturday the table had been laid out and the troops deployed. I think the table was 24' x 12' with a gap in the 12' side so we could reach the troops. The figures were mainly Conrad's with some help from the other organisers and fellow club members. I think there were more than a dozen of us playing. Being a staunch Federal I took the role of General p Hancock and II Corps (in the photo above lining the ridge). Right up front and in the thick of it for the entire game facing a sea of grey and butternut, zillions of them, crammed together as they surged forward; a real butternut squash! I can't begin to try and explain what was happening elsewhere on the battlefield so what follows are some random pictures to give you an idea of how things developed.

The photo above shows the Federal line along cemetery ridge, with the Round Tops several feet to the right out of shot. The second table beyond has the rest of the Federal line angled back to face the attempted envelopment by the Confederates.

Artillery fire was carried out using old (some very old) matchstick-firing models which was a skill you either mastered quickly or not at all. It was fun and not too many eyes were endangered. For canister fire we used party poppers, which was a real hoot.
Rebs lining up     

General Hancock
The devastating effects of canister fire

Thee Confederate forces destroyed Sickles’ command under Conrad but as Sickles had already been KIA by an errant matchstick he didn’t mind I guess. Hancock held on and the Rebs were unable to drive his men off the ridge. The Reb flanking attack also stalled although losses were horrendously high on both sides. Federal reinforcements were arriving all the time so we were not too fussed, well I wasn’t anyway. By late afternoon we’d treached 9pm game time so we stopped. It imho was a clear Federal victory. Rebel claims that they were victorious were baseless and ignored their staggering losses and the two corps of unengaged Federal reinforcements. Strategic sense would have dictated a withdrawal under cover of night by the Rebs. So say I.

Overall it was a very good game, enjoyable, and much fun, although it was a bit untidy for my taste, and no doubt we shall have another 54mm extravaganza next year. The armies were  tremendous especially Conrad’s artillery gun teams which can be seen racing into action in one of these photos.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Encounter in Northern Italy 1795, using Soldiers of Napoleon

This post is appallingly late but much activity surrounding the Burrow last week that got in the way of hobby time. This game actually had a young General Buonaparte in command of the French army in this fictional encounter set in the ‘imagination’ Republic of Waldensia, up in the Italian Alps, landlocked between France, Piedmont and Switzerland, all of which is irrelevant to this game and geographically somewhat far fetched, but I’ve had armies fighting over this part of Italy from the Italian Wars onwards so like to maintain the back story if only for my own amusement.

It was a straightforward encounter battle with beating the enemy being the only victory condition, although I suppose NOT loosing would be another equally-ranked objective. The rules generate Victory Points for one side or another, usually for gaining some minor goal or killing an enemy unit, as  game unfolds which is quite a nice touch.

Conrad was the child Napoleon, supported by John and Shaun. I played GL Melas the Austrian CinC, with Dave and Paul as my subordinates. Both armies were of roughly similar in size, but the Austrians had  a slight advantage in numbers and to a certain extent troop quality. Except for the Piedmontese division, which I mainly classed as militia, if only as this was to be their first appearance on my tabletop. The terrain was deliberately quite congested, to try and reflect the Italian practice of surrounding fields with ditches and said ditches and other streams were thick with vegetation, slowing movement and impeding visibility. It looked quite nice anyway. 

The French deployed all their infantry on the battlefield and left both brigades of cavalry off table as the designated reserve. Conrad commanded the Polish brigade as well as being CinC. Shaun was in the centre with two brigades of French infantry and John was on their right with another French brigade and the gorgeous chocolate-box uniformed Lombard Legion. We held the Piedmontese division in reserve, due to join the game from turn 3 on our right, which was held initially by a single cavalry brigade, with two Austrian infantry brigades in the centre and another on the left, supported by two regiments of hussars.


Initiative went to the French to start with (and for most turns in fact). The cards were dealt and the CinCs issued them to their subordinates as they saw fit. I like this aspect of the rules as it forces the commanders to make some important decisions under pressure as they attempt to organise their battle plan using whatever cards they’d been dealt.  Their army began a general advance to try and capture the town, the monastery and the high ground in the centre. The Austrians, being experts at lumbering, lumbered forward slowly but smartly. I will let the pictures tell the story of the battle, so buckle in, tray tables put away and seats upright and we shall begin.

The Austrian right was lightly held by a brigade of cavalry.
The French left safely anchored behind the stream.
The Piedmontese cavalry brigade appeared on the Austrian right.
The Lombard Legion moving against the monastery.  They were to eject the Austrians from the building and take over occupancy.
Austrian right.
The Piedmontese arrive. 

Dave's left wing making slow progress thanks to the difficult terrain.
More of the Piedmontese. They’re relatively new. The  infantry, artillery and  cavalry are Eureka and Irregular miniatures.
The Poles advanced quickly and took possession of the town.
Poles occupying the village until it became too dangerous due to fire from enemy artillery and riflemen.
French horse artillery advance in the centre.
Poles on the French left. They had withdrawn from the town as they were attracting too much attention from Austrian and Piedmontese artillery and Austrian jäger.
John's French brigade on the French right.

An heroic pose from the Young Napoleon.

The centre of the battlefield where my troops were making little progress against the French.

Piedmontese on the move.
Piedmontese cavalry regiment.
The Austrian right seen from the French perspective towards the end of the battle. The Piedmontese  are advancing on the Poles formed into square behind the stream. 

We had been playing pretty solidly for about four hours (plus lunch) and called it a day. The Austrians had made no real progress with their attack and as French had acquired many more VPs than the Austrians they were declared the clear victors. I think we've got the hang of the rule mechanics now, and I for one am happy with the way the game developed. We all played the period rather than the rules which certainly helped. (Then again, the penalties for playing the rules and not the period here at the Burrow can be severe). 

For those interested here are the OoB for the game.


Division: General de Division Lannes (8)

Gen de Bde Watrin(5)

Demi Bde Legere [3] Seasoned, D3+, Musket 4+, Melee 4+ (Skirmishers 2) (1MV)

Horse Artillery (4-pdr) Professional, D3, Shot D5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

Gen de Bde Gency(3)

Demi Bde [3] Seasoned, D4+, Musket 4+, Melee 4+ (Skirmish 2) (1MV)

Gen de Division Gardanne (10)

Gen de Bde Mouton (7)

Grenadiers [1] Elite, D3+, Musket 3+, Melee 3+ (Skirmish 2) (2MV)

Demi Bde [3] Trained, D4+, Musket 4+, Melee 4+ (Skirmish 2) (1MV)

Artillery (12pdr) Seasoned, D3+, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

General de Bde Mazzini (3)

Lombard Legion [2] Trained, D4+, Musket 4+, Melee 4+ (Skirmish 2) (1MV)

Artillery (6-pdr) Trained, D4+, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (1MV)

Gen de Div Thomas Jennings de Kilmain (10)

Gen de Bde Champeaux (6)

Hussars Trained, D5+, Shot 5+, Melee 4+ (2MV ea)

Ch a Cheval Trained, D5+, Shot 5+, Melee 4+ (2MV)

Horse Arty (6-pdr) Professional, D3, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

Gen de Bde Kellerman (4)

Dragoons x2 Trained, D4+, Melee 4+, (Shock 2) (2MV ea)

Gen de Division Dombrowski (10)

Polish Legion x 3 Elite, D3+, Shot 4+, Melee 4+ (2 MV ea)

Legion Cavalry Seasoned, D4+, Melee 4+ (Shock 1 lance) (2 MV)

Artillery (6-pdr) Seasoned, D4+, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)


GM Prince Hohenlohe (6)

Hussars x 2 Professional, D3+, Carbine 5+, Melee 3+ (2MV)

Horse artillery (6pdr) Professional, D3, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

GM Wallace (6)

Ch-Legere Professional, D3+, Shot 5+, Melee 3+ (2MV)

Dragoons HC Seasoned, D4+, Carbine 5+, Melee 3+ (Shock 2) (2 MV)

Uhlans Trained, D4+, Melee 2+/3+ (Shock 1) (2MV)

GM Kossuth (6)

Grenz Militia, D5+, Shot 4+, Melee 5+ (Lt Inf/Skirmisher 2) (1MV)

Line btns x 3 Trained, D4+, Shot 4+, Melee 4+ (1MV)

Artillery (3pdr) Professional, D4+, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

GM Jordis (7)

Feldjager detachment Seasoned, D3+, Rifle 3+, Melee 5+ (Lt Infantry/Skirmish 3) (2MV)

Line x 3 btns Trained, D4+, Shot 4+, Melee 4+ (1MV)

Artillery (6-pdr) Professional, D3+, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

GM Kavenagh (12)

Feldjager detachment Seasoned, D3+, Rifle 3+, Melee 5+ (Lt Infantry/Skirmish 3) (2MV)

Grenadier btns x 4 Seasoned, D3+, Shot 4+, Melee 3+ (2MV)

Foot Artillery (12-pdr) Professional, D3+, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

General Conti – Piedmontese (8MV)

Grenadiers Elite, D3+, Musket 3+, Melee 4+ (2MV)

Infantry x 4 btns Militia, D5+, Shot 4+, Melee 5+ (1MV)

Artillery (6pdr) Trained, D5+, Shot 5+, Melee 5+ (2MV)

General Gelato – Piedmontese (4MV)

Cavalry HC Trained, D4+, Melee 4+ (Shock 2) (2MV)

Dragoons HC Trained, D5+, Melee 4+ (Shock 1) (2MV)

CinC to allocate brigades to the ‘divisional’ commanders, also deciding which brigade(s) will form the reserve. Piedmonte bdes must be brigaded together.

Austrian cavalry bdes CANNOT be brigaded together.