Friday 25 July 2014

The Battle of Monmouth - Washington tries to save the day!

...............and fails, but not miserably!

Paul was up this week for our monthly game. I was keen to have another AWI battle, mainly as the figures were not all put away from the last game! (Also, I do like the period and I'm in the process of tidying up both armies as they are a little worn and battered). To be a little different we adopted some changes made as described in a recent MW article for a large SYW game in 10mm run the Grimsby lads (forgive me but I can't remember the battle). Basically, instead of being automatically disordered on a 6, when a 6 was thrown during firing the target unit had to throw on the Hail Caesar break test table. They might be ok, they might be disordered, or they could even  break.  I wasn't entirely convinced as I thought it might detract from the whole purpose and dynamics of the game where command and control are king, but I was very happy and willing to give it a go.

This scenario is right out of one of the British Grenadier scenario booklets, with the troop types/characteristics and orders of battle converted to fit Black Powder. The battle starts with the British entering the table having beaten off Major General Charles Lee's precipitous morning attack on the British army which was in the process of retiring from Philadelphia.  The American attack had been halted decisively and the troops routed. Clinton, the British CinC ordered a pursuit and the British encountered the Americans who, rallied by Washington were to be steadily reinforced during the course of the battle.

The forces involved in the game were as follows:

British: CinC Lt Gen Sir Henry Clinton (Command 8)

Right brigade (Erskine): 1 btn Highlanders, 1 btn light infantry, Queens' Rangers Hussars, Queens' Rangers infantry (skirmishers), 1 x 3pdr gun (Command 8)
Left brigade (Cornwallis): 2 btns grenadiers, 1 squadron 16th LD, dismounted troop 16th LD, 1 6 pdr (Command 9)
Artillery (Cleveland): 1 x 6pdr, 1 x howitzer (Command 8)
Guards brigade (Mawood): 2 btns Guards, Combined Guards' light companies (Command )

plus one line infantry battalion joined each of Erskine and Cornwallis' brigades at the same time as the Guards entered the game.

Hessian brigade: 1 btn grenadiers, 1 btn fusiliers (Command 8)

The Hessians were included as an optional extra and to get two new units on the table!

Americans: General George Washington (Command 9)

Right brigade (Wayne): 3 btns, 1 6pdr, 1 unit skirmishers (Command 9)
Left brigade (Scott): 3 btns, 1 6pdr (Command 8)
Knox's artillery (Knox): 2 x 6pdrs (Command 9)
Brigade(Glover): 2 btns, 1 unit skirmishers (Command 9)
Brigade(Woodford): 1 btn, 1 unit skirmishers, 1 6pdr (Command 8)
Brigade (Alexander): 3 btns (Command 8)

I classed all the Americans as Continentals (mainly to give them a fighting chance) of varying degrees of effectiveness and for once their commanders were superior to those of the British. The British were all 'Crack' and benefited from the 'Ferocious Charge' rule to give them a (supposed) advantage in a bayonet charge, which seemed about right. Everyone had the first fire rule.

Objectives were simple. The British had to force the Americans off the table in order that they could safely continue their retirement from Philadelphia. The Americans had to prevent the British from doing so by blunting their attacks sufficiently to cause more casualties than they received.

I let Paul take the British. They made a slow entry onto the table, leaving several battalions in march column and vulnerable to artillery fire. Sadly, my artillery fire was pretty ineffective although the Highlanders on the British right did take some damage. The early moves of the game saw the Americans make some adjustments to their line and their artillery take up a position on the hill in their centre that dominated the battlefield. I forgot to bring on my reinforcements when they were due but when they did arrive they were able to plug a very wide gap in my line in the centre, opposite the British Guards brigade.

On the British right the Highlanders and Light btn advanced towards the waiting Americans. The British artillery was ineffective but the American battery damaged both British battalions. In the firefight that followed one American battalion was forced to retire disordered but the Highlanders were broken. The Queens Rangers skirmishers occupying the orchard were also forced to retreat and never got back into the battle.  Meanwhile the Light battalion was now under fire from two battalions of Continentals and a battery and, shaken by the weight of fire was broken. The British on this flank wore now in no position to continue their attack.

On the extreme British left HM 33rd launched a bayonet charge uphill at a unit of Continentals but were held and eventually thrown back in disarray. Not quite the result either of us had been expecting but in the end it was all down to the dice scores. The battalion withdrew and took no further part in the action other than to be an occasional target for one of my artillery pieces and some under-employed Continentals.

Meanwhile in the centre the Guards had arrived. After a very slow start they managed to deploy along the line of the stream facing a newly-arrived brigade of Americans. The Grenadiers also closed with the Americans facing them and drove them off. However in the course of the fighting one battalion of grenadiers was broken. The Guards charged across the stream and destroyed both Continental units they were facing. They were then countercharged by a further American battalion which threw them back across the stream. It in turn was then shaken and broken by close-range musket fire.

The remaining Grenadier battalion advanced directly up the hill directly towards the American artillery battery. Remarkably they weathered the storm of grapeshot during the artillery's closing fire (for this read I threw some diabolical dice and Paul saved most of them!) but in the hand to hand combat that followed the Americans hung on for two turns before being broken.

On the other flank the Grenadiers slowly advanced and deployed into line facing the American positions. The dismounted troop of the the 16th Light Dragoons moved into a wood while their mounted comrades advanced towards the American line. Paul wisely decided against a frontal charge but the dragoons were too close and were badly shot up and driven off broken. The British reserve artillery had deployed on the edge of field in the centre of the table and made its mark felt by destroying a unit of American skirmishers lurking behind the hedgerows in the centre. This allowed the Grenadiers to advance. The Hessians had made their appearance and were now in position to take over from the somewhat battered Guards brigade. The Grenadier battalion moved in support of the British left flank while the Fusiliers crossed the stream, driving off another American battalion in the process.

(British Grenadiers advancing in column before deploying to face the American right wing)

(The American right waits for the inevitable British onslaught!)

(Knox's American artillery deploy behind the American centre)

("The Grenadiers will advance!")

(Above, the Guards make an appearance while below the British artillery deploys )

(Above, on the American left the Highlanders and light battalion engage the Continentals, shortly before they are driven off. Below, the Guards deploy facing American troops lining the stream)

(Above, the British charged the Americans but after two rounds of combat were repulsed. Below, the Highlanders have broken and the Light Battalion is withdrawing in the face of superior American numbers. In the rear HM 63rd Foot advance in support while the Queens Rangers Hussars lurk behind the lights and the Queens Rangers infantry hide behind the orchard on the right of the picture)

(Above, the Grenadiers successfully assaulted the American artillery positions and destroyed them. Below, the Hessian Grenadier Regiment von Rall advances over somebody's turnip patch!)

(Above, the Guards, supported by the Hessian Fusilier Regiment von Lossburg prepare have driven off the Americans but were thrown back momentarily by a fierce counterattack). Below, a general view of the fighting as the battle drew to a close).

(Above, the unbroken American left flank. Below, the British artillery had occupied a small hill just behind their leading troops and did considerable  damage to American reserves)

(Below: The end of the battle)

So with half of their army broken or shaken it was all up for the Americans. They had held on their right flank and actually forced  the British back on their left but the centre had been (eventually) broken in spectacular fashion, especially once the Grenadiers had taken the American guns out.

It was a good game and I enjoyed it even though I lost. My only comment regarding the use of the Hail Caesar break test table was that when a unit received a 6 during firing which would normally cause it to be 'disordered' this never happened so it meant that we didn't have units being stopped in their tracks, momentarily halted as a result of firing and therefore temporary out of control. I like this aspect of BP as my understanding is that 'disorder' doesn't really mean disorder in the traditional wargaming sense of the word but more that a unit has become temporarily out of control due to officer casualties, disorientation, smoke, or any number of other factors; even weight or intensity of fire.

Anyway, Paul has tinkered with the table and we shall have another go next time, probably using 19thC forces such as my Crimean or FPW collections. Then again, I will hopefully by then have the new BP AWI supplement which will be good for a few ideas.........

Friday 18 July 2014

Inventory II: Crimean War

This was one of last year's projects that got out of hand, indirectly at least. Foundry had a sale on getting rid of a load of regimental deals, including several from their Crimean range. I managed therefore to pick up all my Guards, two battalions of Highlanders, the Rifle Brigade and a couple of British Line battalions for a song. Ebay, a few carefully selected purchases off Foundry,Warlord Games and Great War Miniatures together with Ebor miniatures for the Russian infantry and I suddenly had enough British, Russian and Turkish forces for a good-sized game.

I really don't know what it is about this period that interests me most; is it the stupidity of it all, the uniforms, or the clash between emerging modern weapons against out-dated tactics, or is it all of them? Most important is that the figures look great on the table and the games to date have been fun and quite a challenge for both sides.

Again, as we get older we might wonder what would happen to our toys when we are no longer able to enjoy them. I'm not sure what an archaeologist 2000 years from now would make of early 21stC grave goods!

3 x 24 infantry - Guards Brigade (F/GW)
3 x 24 infantry - Highland Brigade (F/GW)
6 x 24 Line infantry (F/W/GW)
1 x 24 Rifle Brigade (F)

5 x 6 cavalry - Light Brigade (F/GW)
5 x 6 cavalry - Heavy Brigade (F)

6 guns and crews (F/GW)

2 x 12 cavalry (F)

8 x 12 infantry battalions (F)

2 x guns and crews (F)

16 x 24 Line infantry (E/F)
1 x 24 Rifle battalion (F)

2 x 12 Cossack (F)
2 x 12 Hussars (F)
2 x 12 Uhlans (F)

11 x guns and crews (F)

There are also numerous dithering commanders, various vignettes and loads of casualty markers.

With the exception of a couple of gun crews for my siege/fortress artillery this collection is pretty much complete. I probably could do with another brigade of Russian cavalry.........Some of the Turks (about half) have yet to be based but I think thats it! I certainly have no plans or need to expand the forces at all.

The French and Sardinians? I have loads of the former and some of the latter but I will cover them in another post.

Sunday 13 July 2014

422 page views on Saturday!

Wow! That's a new high for this blog by a big margin. Thanks to everyone for looking and do come back again. I have some new stuff to finish basing and photograph this week and another game planned for a week Monday so more goodies to come.

Saturday 12 July 2014

American Revolutionary War: The relief of 'Sixty Nine'

Ok, not the greatest or most grown up of titles but never mind. The is the second big game at home this week which is absolutely fantastic but I couldn't cope with two every week; maybe every other week! The Crown forces did really have an outpost in the Southern theatre of war called 'Ninety Six' which received much attention from the rebellious colonists, so it wasn't much effort to er...., amend its name for this game, featuring an attempt by said Crown forces to lift the siege and relieve their isolated outpost.

John the Red was free so we arranged a game. I'd not had my AWI figures out for maybe 2 years so this week seemed as good a time as any to give them an airing as well as glue bits back that seem to have jumped off some of the figures in the confines of their display cabinet. The scenario was simple. Outpost, besieged and close to surrender. Important that it didn't fall. More important that the garrison were saved from captivity. Small but experienced relief column which had to batter their way through superior numbers but inferior quality (mostly) of rebels.

Anyway, the game was played down the length of my 10' x 6' table, with the fort (on the table for the first time rather than under it) at the far end, beyond an impassable river crossed by a single bridge. The woods were passable at half speed to infantry and quarter speed to mounted troops. Fences and cultivated areas e/affected line of sight but didn't count as cover, the former slowing troops crossing them slightly.

The forces were as follows, based on the many units I have available but with no real need or desire to do anything resembling any actual orders of battle, especially as I wanted to get my lovely and venerable Hinchliffe Hessians out! We used Black Powder of course, with appropriate troop characteristics added as required which is what I like most about the rules as well as the ability to twiddle and fiddle with stuff as long as you don't go too far and loose the whole point behind the set and the games they produce.

The forces of the Crown: CinC command 9

In 'Sixty Nine'
'Brigade' of 2 loyalist battalions (Volunteers of Ireland and British Legion infantry) and a light gun. Command 7

Relief force:
Left brigade: 2 battalions of Guards and converged Guards' light companies. Command 8
Right brigade: 3 Hessian battalions, 1 Hessian jager unit and a Hessian light gun. Command 8
Reserve brigade: 1 battalion each of combined Grenadiers, Line (HM 23rd), Highlanders (HM 1/71st) and converged Light Infantry, supported by a light gun. Command 8
Cavalry: 1 squadron each of 17th Light Dragoons and Queens Rangers Hussars (1st time out for the latter).

Rebels/Patriots: Command 8
Coninental brigade: 4 btns of infantry and a gun. Command 8
Militia bde: 4 btns of infantry, 1 unit of skirmishers and a light gun. Command 8
Militia bde: 3 btns of infantry, 2 units of skirmishers and a light gun. Command 7
Militia bde: 3 btns of infantry, 2 units of skirmishers and a light gun. Command 7
Reserve: 2 squadrons of cavalry (3rd Continentals and Armand's Legion)
Covering force: 1 unit of riflemen, 1 small unit of infantry and a siege gun

(Above, the fort and garrison man the ramparts while below the Rebels make ready their siege gun)

(Above, all the Crown forces have to do is get through that lot. Below, the Hessian brigade move forward).

(Above, the Hessians near the Rebels lining the fences while below "The Guards will advance!"; the British left-hand brigade advances).

(Above, the Guards again, ok they shouldn't be carrying flags but I like them, while below a Virginia battalion and supporting artillery ready themselves)

(Above and below, Militia line the fences in readiness for the British to burst through the first line of defenders, which they surely will!)

(Above, the Hessians close with the rebels while below, the British reserve brigade steadfastly refuses to move and looks on as the Guards close with the enemy)

(Above and below the fight to drive off the rebel first line is taking longer than expected as several British and Hessian battalions become disordered as a result of some good shooting by the rebels)

(Above, the local pastor attending a burial at the nearby family plot while the 17th Light Dragoons recover after dispersing a battalion of Virginia militia)

(Above, Rebel riflemen enfilade the flank of the lead Guards battalion while in the distance the Queens Rangers Hussars make short work of an isolated rebel gun. Below, Webb's Continental regiment leads the Continental reinforcements forward over the river). 

(Above, the British reserve brigade has finally advanced and crests the hill overlooking the rebel second line, A fine site! Below, the 17th Light Dragoons are charged and pushed back by the 3rd Continental Dragoons).

(Above, Armand's Legion cavalry forced the Hessian Jager to retire but when they crested the hill found a surprise waiting for them! Ooops! Below, the Queens Rangers Hussars).

(Above, the British line stretching off into the woods and below, the Maryland Continentals lining the fence line about to receive the British assault, perhaps wishing they were back in Maryland!)

(Above and below, the British assault the rebel second line)

(Above, the Grenadiers and HM 71st Foot. Below, the Volunteers or Ireland seen from behind the breach of the rebel siege gun).

(Above, behind the rebel line. Below, the Guards about to make their last assault).

Hopefully the photos give a good indication of the progress of the battle. The Guards and Hessians were held up at the first fence line for longer than John might have wished and it would have helped greatly if the reserve brigade had managed to pass its command rolls several moves earlier! Making the first line of militia wavering and levy did help but while they were in a position to shoot they were very effective; indeed the Guards light companies were shaken then broken early on in the combat and the lead Hessian battalions were both shaken (but they recovered) at one point.

Once the reserve brigade got moving it was probably all up for the rebels. Their cavalry had started 
to move from the right to left flank but the 3rd Continentals turned about and made an heroic charge towards the 17th Light Dragoons and threw them back shaken. In the follow through move they hit the Queens Rangers Hussars and achieved the same result, but not without becoming shaken themselves and having to withdraw. On the other flank, and as pictured above, the cavalry of Armand's legion came to an enthusiastic but sticky end after a point blank volley from Hessian musketry.

Back at the fort we both remembered that we had troops available, John moved his cannon and started taking pot shots at the Continentals moving across the bridge in support of their militia comrades, and my riflemen covering the fort blundered when trying to get into better firing positions and ended up retiring out of harm's way. The siege gun was singularly ineffective and probably didn't even manage to hit the fort, let alone anyone in it!

So, at the end of the game, the British attack was about to push back the rebel second line and three rebel brigades had been broken. As a reminder, once over half of your units in a brigade are broken or shaken the brigade is classed as spent or broken, and once half of your army's brigades are broken "for you the war is over" and the battle is over, unless we've agreed anything different.

A very tough game for the British but once they got started and got their reserve brigade engaged it was only a matter of time. The rebels nearly pulled it off as the British were also close to having the Hessian and Guards brigades out of the game; one more unit shaken from each and the british would have been forced to pull back.

As I write this the long-awaited Black Powder supplement for the American Revolution has become available for pre-order. I can't wait to see it.