Friday 29 September 2017

Madame Guillotine will be working overtime tonight!

Wednesday saw another game set in Flanders during the French Revolution. The Allies (English, Emigre and Austrians) had lifted the siege of Dunkirk and a rearguard had to ensure the safe escape, via the two roads near the coast, of the bulk of the army before the main French field army closed the net around them. Conrad and Paul S were the Allies and Dave Jarvis and new visitor Jim were the French. The game started with three brigades of Allies and three of French, and my cat Coco, on the table. As a representative of the Committee of Public Safety she was sniffing out any Royalist sympathisers in the town.

The Allies had a brigade of English with an entrenched gun on their right, a brigade of Emigre troops stretched across the centre and a brigade of English horse on the left. The French advance guard comprised of a demi-brigade legere, a section of horse artillery and two regiments of chasseurs a cheval deployed around the town, and two brigades of cavalry, totalling six small regiments and two sections of horse artillery in the centre. The sheep were neutral.

The terrain was to prove to be a nightmare as the battle field was bisected by a dyke and raised roadway, and much of the southern half of the table (north being where the sea is) was covered in standing crops and drainage ditches which would slow movement and provide cover. North of the raised road the land was flat and open, with nothing of consequence to get in the way apart from an old French signal tower and a small redoubt manned by the Royal Navy.

 The remaining troops would appear randomly, by picking a slip of paper from a cup. Both sides were mixed together so, as actually happened, the picking side could chose an enemy piece of paper! Or it could be blank.
 Even the sheep were sending out skirmish screens.
 The battlefield with the dispositions described above.
 Above and below, the Royal Navy standing by to offer support should it be needed.

 In the distance the French infantry are moving forward ready to deploy while the horse artillery attached to the cavalry has dashed forward to engage the Emigres lining the hedges to their front. The girl from the opening scene of 'The Duelists' is on the road.
 Dave rapidly moved his cavalry across the bridge to face the English horsemen. Not rapidly enough as it turned out.

 Conrad launched his cavalry forward and charged the French, who countercharged. Outnumbered and outclassed the French disintegrated.
 A sweeping advance by the Household Cavalry hit the flank of Dave's dragoons. In a very short time all of the French cavalry had been broken, although the English would need to take some time to rally hits off all their regiments.

 The French on the left have deployed into line but are taking casualties from the English battery.
 Spurred on by the arrival of a full battery of Austrian artillery and keen to avoid being caught in the open should it chose to deploy to their front, Jim decided to get stuck in and advanced rapidly towards the English infantry.

 Conrad's reserve were taking casualties from the French horse artillery but were able to drop down into the dead ground behind the raised roadway.
 The chasseurs a cheval attached to the advance guard were quickly rushed over to the right flank to plug the gap left by their compatriots.
 Jim's infantry attempted to close with the English but were held back by close range musket fire and by the riflemen of the Beon Legion in the orchard. 
 French reinforcements start to arrive, in this case a demi-brigade of newly raised infantry.
 The reinforcements were thrust forward in support of Jim's now stalled attack.

 Conrad had meanwhile managed to race his Austrian battery along the baseline road and deployed them on the raised roadway where they would be able to cover the withdrawal of the army.
 The English cavalry had been busy reforming and rallying hits off for several turns when one still damaged unit, the King's Dragoon Guards, managed to blunder and charged headlong over the bridge into the waiting French cavalry. The French only needed to get one hit, which they managed, and the English failed their break test and fled the field.
 General Abercrombie inspecting the naval gun crews manning the coastal redoubt.
 Jim's brigade on the left was by now shaken and pulling back, but Dave launched his demi-brigade in a furious assault in the centre. The Emigre's of the Mirabeau Legion were broken and they in turn swept away their supporting English battalion.

 There was now a rather large gap in the Allied line, with more French troops following up the attack.
 The Rohan hussars charged and forced the leading French battalion into square. The English Guards brigade on the road were in danger of being caught in the flank as a full six battalions of French struggled through the cornfields. Six more battalions were also in the process of arriving, supported by a battery of 8pdrs.
 Meanwhile the Austrian artillery had destroyed the remains of the French horse battery facing them. There were now no effective French units in the right half of the table.
 The massive assault in the centre so nearly drove a wedge into the middle of the Allied line.
At this point the French attack in the centre ran out of steam as most of the battalions were shaken. This took the entire French army over their break point so they had to concede defeat.

I think the scenario worked very well although it didn't go at all like I had imagined it. I kind of assumed the French would use their advance guard to pin the Allied rearguard and then launch all their cavalry over the dyke to overwhelm the English horse, followed rapidly by their first reinforcements using the benefits of march column on a road to eat up the inches and position themselves where they could threaten the two exit points. That didn't happen of course. Instead we saw the French advance guard stung into an attack, closely followed by all their reinforcing infantry which headed slowly through the worst possible terrain to get to the Allies. They got bogged down and were unable to use their superior numbers nor were they able to get their field artillery into action. As for the French cavalry, they didn't stand a chance without the two chasseur a cheval regiments, but they did at least put the English horse out of the game for several turns while they reformed. 

A frustrating but enjoyable game I think. Better go and get the guillotine blade oiled up.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Long live the Revolution! Death to the Aristos!

Well, I suppose I had to have one of these. It's an old Wargames Foundry kit and every self respecting  French Revolutionary Army should have one, partly to deal out 'justice' to reactionary enemies of the State, but also 'poor encourager des  autres' should any of my tabletop commanders ever fail to do their utmost on the field of battle and not die trying........or manage to quietly defect.

I even got the blade to run freely up and down the scaffold but the Health and Safety people made me tie it off.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Blast from the past. The Pretenders.

No not the Roger Moore and Tony Curtis 'epic (NOT) but the series set around the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 that was first aired on Harlech Tv (iirc) way back in the late 1960s or early '70s.

It's available to pre order on Amazon after 40 odd years. How good is that?

Thursday 14 September 2017

My new Man Cave takes shape.

Work started on our 'new' place in late July. The house we're moving into has been literally gutted and is having new heating, electrics, plumbing and numerous other improvements made, such as a bigger kitchen, bigger conservatory/sun room, a new garage for Katherine's MGB, and a new Man Cave, as seen above. The photo was taken from the doorway into the room and looks down towards the garden end with French windows which will open out onto a patio area and eventually a hot tub! The roof will have several large skylights so there will be plenty of natural  lighting. The 'cave' is 22' x 15' so there will be masses of room for a large table, (probably 15' x 6' with 'deployment areas' running along each of the long walls), storage for all my figures, plenty of wall space for my paintings and bookcases, and a paint station at the far end.

Roll on December.

Sunday 10 September 2017

A Sorry Day for the Revolution

On Saturday John the Red came up for a long awaited game. Flanders in 1794 was to be the setting so    I pulled together a scenario pitting the French (under the command of former hussar corporal and retired government inspector, 'General' Nicolas Cindre du Tonne) against a combined and rather dispersed alliance of English, Austrian and Emigre forces commanded by the famously liberal for his day and future United Irishman, Lt. General Sir John McCann, 1st Viscount Roseberry. With the exception of the Emigre brigade under the Prince de Rohan and the Allied (largely English) cavalry brigade the arrival of reinforcements was to be a bit of a lottery. Six numbered and scrunched up pieces of paper were put in a cup, with the numbers representing each of the six possible reinforcing brigades. From turn 2, two pieces of paper were selected at random. One was immediately discarded without looking at it and the other was kept and the appropriate brigade would deploy on the table, either through the woods, at the crossroads or along the road on the Allied left. That way neither side had any inkling about what was left 'in the pot'. I have to say it worked rather well.

The objective of the game (apart from the destruction of the enemy) was the crossroads in the centre of the Allied position which were vital to a successful defence/attack on Brussels some miles to the north. The French started with their advance guard on the table, and would be reinforced every even numbered turn. For reference the blue wall with the paintings on is north. We used Black Powder with a few appropriate period tweaks.

So, en avant! A bataille!

 The battlefield from the south east. The French have a demi-brigade legere in the centre facing the Emigre-held farm and adjoining fields, with their cavalry brigade deployed facing the Allied cavalry which is just out of shot. A Royalist sympathiser on the staff managed to get the accompanying horse artillery 'lost' on the march, (which is to say I forgot them) so only a single section was deployed, supporting the infantry in the centre.
 The Allied cavalry brigade. 

 Turn 1 saw the French cavalry rush forward two moves as their short sighted commander General Maxime Hazard forgot to say how far he meant them to go. Several enemy sheep were driven off without loss.
 In the centre the chasseurs of the Damas Legion held the farm, and began a tenacious defence that would last the entire battle. The French light infantry moved towards the farm and immediately assaulted it from two directions. Both attacks were beaten off and one battalion was ignominiously broken. 
 The 10th Light Dragoons screen the Allied cavalry. Behind them are the 1st Dragoon Guards, a composite Household Cavalry regiment, the 15th Light Dragoons and a regiment of Austrian Hussars.
 On the French left two regiments of Chasseurs a Cheval advance in an attempt to turn the Allied flank.
 The English cavalry charged the rather exposed French and drove off shaken a weak regiment of heavy cavalry, but not without some loss.
 At the start of turn 2 the head of the column of reinforcements made an appearance on my extreme right. Not quite where I would have liked them but......
 John's random reinforcements were a brigade of Austrians made up of a battalion of Grenz, two battalions of infantry and two small companies of freikorps jager. This command was led by a truly dreadful commander (a '6') and appeared marching up the road behind the cavalry on his left.
 The Household Cavalry charged and defeated a second French regiment but wisely did not follow up.
 My Dragoons then charged the Austrian hussars (not seen here as they ran so quickly I couldn't take a picture of them!) and then crashed into the reforming Kings Dragoon Guards. The French were defeated and forced to retire.
 The Austrian column snakes along the road.
 If only the French had won the melee. We might have been able to sweep forward and hit the Austrian column in the flank. Of course, it was not to be. Over the course of the following couple of turns the French cavalry brigade was broken and eventually fled the field en masse! I made a change to the broken brigade rule, whereby rather than surviving units being forced to retire, the entire brigade throws a break test each turn to determine their fate. Unshaken units could still act as normal. As it turned out the brigade stood for one turn then up came the dreaded snake eyes, and all five regiments buggered off!
 The French, taking the advice of the late Queen, brought up their mobile patisserie.
 My reinforcements were making slow progress, possibly distracted by the smells wafting from the ovens and the delights of the cantiniere. The light cavalry had advanced too quickly and were surprised by English reinforcements (the Brigade of Guards no less) who appeared on the edge of the wood and shot them up badly, forcing the cavalry to retire.
 HM 1st Regiment of Footguards (left) and HM 2nd Coldstream Guards supported by a section of 6pdrs on the edge of the wood. A very opportune arrival for the Allies.
 Turn 4 saw the arrival of another two demi-brigades of French on the eastern end of the battlefield. They were classed as newly raised and were pretty crap really, but John didn't know that. He threatened their flank with the Household Cavalry but one battalion occupied the farm and another managed to deploy into line. Their combined fire, help by some poor saving throws by John saw the cream of the British Army flee the field! I wasn't able to advance much further as an Austrian 12pdr cannon and their jager were quite effective at halting my advance. Oh, and an entire demi-brigade (the one on the right) blundered off the table and didn't return for two turns!
 On the French left the original reinforcements were at last shaking out into attack columns and their supporting artillery had deployed.
 One of my chasseur regiments was forced to retreat due to the weight of fire coming from the English Guards. The French artillery began an ineffective bombardment of the English.
 The 1st Footguards were forced into square by my remaining chasseur regiment, and the brigade then began a withdrawal back to the woods.
 The Prince de Rohan was still holding the centre, and had successfully driven off the lone French cannon in the centre. The Rohan Hussars were looking threatening. All John had to do was get them moving.
 John did indeed get them moving, but only across the hedge. My legere were looking rather threatened.
 On the left the French advanced, successfully blocking the line of sight for their supporting artillery which limbered up and relocated on the edge of the fields. They forced the Damas Legion to pull back.
 The French left grinding to a halt.
 The Rohan Hussars charged and made short work of my light infantry who failed to form square and were wiped out. This meant that my centre brigade was broken, but what was left of it held on for a while.
The Austrians marched the length of the table and began to deploy facing my attack. My final reinforcements arrived in the centre but I wasn't keen to throw them forward as they were mostly newly raised troops. The Grenz had occupied the church and the artillery was about to deploy on the left of their infantry.

We had to call it a day by then as we'd been playing since 11 a.m. and it had just turned 4p.m. The game was paused only for lunch and for a spot of bird catching as one of the cats had brought one in from the garden. It escaped and flew into the games room before eventually being coaxed out of the house but it did disrupt my photo taking.

After John left I played two more turns to see if another French attack would succeed. It didn't as the brigade in the centre was unable to break into the farm or drive off the Emigres in the fields and was then run down by Allied cavalry, the attack on the left ground to a halt and the troops on the right refused to move!  So, a French defeat. Merde! Actually it was an excellent game that was a hard fought contest that could have gone the French way. But it didn't. Next time!