Monday 29 October 2018

A short break. Off to Crisis

This evening we sail for Holland for a short break in a lovely little hotel and spa (a converted coastal defence fortress, part of the ring of defences surrounding Amsterdam)  just south of Den Helder for a couple of days. Apart from taking another look at the battlefields of the 1799 Helder Campaign there's a really good museum in Den Helder that I'd like to visit. I believe that it has a large diaorama of the landings on the beach at Calantsoog. Then after a couple days of being pampered it's all points south for Antwerp where coincidentally one of the best Wargames events anywhere is taking place, i.e. Crisis. I shall course report back in due course.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Swedish invasion of Poland repulsed!

Yesterday saw the table in The Burrow transformed into early 17th Poland, as Steve brought his gorgeous Swedish army down to take on my Poles. The armies were equally matched points wise (we used Pike and Shotte and had about 2000 point each) and after freshly baked croissants (thanks Steve) and bacon we began. Paul and Nigel wanted to be Swedes along with Steve so Conrad and I happily took the Poles. We decided to put all of our cavalry on the right wing under my command, what little infantry we had (a mixture of native Polish units and 'German' mercenaries) and the artillery in the centre, and refuse the left wing. The Swedes were deployed with 'German' cavalry on the left, supported by a brigade of foot, several brigades of foot in the centre and Swedish and Finnish cavalry with commanded shot and a supporting brigade of foot on the right, led by the man himself (Gustavus).

The Swedes trying not to look at several thousand Polish and German cavalrymen lumbered towards them. A unit of Tartars cleverly placed themselves in the front of the Swedish heavy battery, thus preventing them from taking pot shots at my horsemen.
The centre of the Swedish line with those pesky Tartars annoying the gunners. Steve's centre was to be dogged by rotten command rolls and lots of Polish musketeers throwing sixes which left him disordered almost every turn.
The Polish centre; several units of Haiduk infantry.
One of the 'German' regiments on the Swedish left.
Nigel gave a follow me order with Gustavus. In the rules this allows his entire brigade to  take three moves. The horsemen ditched their commanded shot and swept down on the flank of the Polish centre. In the Polish turn that followed, Conrad ordered his mercenary infantry forward, getting three moves as well, placing them right on the flank of the galloping Swedes (and Finns). The regiments closest to the mercenary foot took several casualties, the leading unit becoming shaken and disordered. Two regiments remained 'stuck' in front of the mercenary foot and eventually broke or were forced to withdraw shaken.
Swedes and Finns charging towards the Polish centre. The King is in there somewhere
The German mercenary battery behind the wagon lines was having a bad day. Although several hits were caused on the Swedes, in three turns Conrad managed three double ones, resulting in three of his four cannon running out of shot, or powder, or blowing up!!!!!
A Scots brigade facing the advancing Polish horsemen.
The entire Swedish left wing stood rooted to the spot. Not through choice though but due to some unfortunate command rolls.
HUSSARIA!!! Seven squadrons of Winged Hussars led by the CinC, supported by Pancerni and Cossack medium cavalry.
Winged Hussars took turns to repeatedly charge the Scots brigade which was forced into hedgehog. Although the latter got loads of dice when facing the hussars, they still came off worst in the combat as I managed to save all bar the occasional hit, while the infantry casualties were mounting.
There no shortage of troops on our right flank. My mercenary cavalry can be seen  top left exchanging fire with another Swedish brigade. A wild charge by one of my Cossack units drove through a unit of Paul's horse but were themselves broken in a counter attack.
Over on the other wing things were hotting up. The Swedes and Finns had managed to charge the Polish infantry in the centre, but only succeeded in breaking one unit. The Swedes were forced to pull back and their brigade went 'shaken'. Conrad's mercenary infantry turned to face the advancing Swedish infantry.
Meanwhile, i had failed command rolls on at least three occasions to get my Winged Hussars to charge Paul's Livonian cuirassier and German horse. That didn't include the re-rolls the CinC gave them using the new rule imported from BP2. Finally, when they did get moving they broke the cuirassiers and pretty much destroyed the remaining enemy horsemen.
In what turned out to be the last turn I was able to charge the Scots hedgehog both in the flank and the front, which was finally enough to see it off.
I think by now the Swedes had decided to go and invade Germany instead. Both their flanks were broken/shaken so the game was declared a Polish victory. It was a very enjoyable game with some tense moments, like Nigel's wild charge to try and roll up our centre which very nearly worked, and the inability of Steve to get his infantry moving due to successive disordering hits from Conrad. I have to say that we had a plan and managed to stick to it. It could have all gone pear shaped quite easily, which it nearly did in the centre. But it didn't.

Things to ponder:
1. I have always quite liked Pike and Shotte but the army lists in P&S and the TYW supplement are, in our considered and jointly held opinion, a load of b******s. Troop classifications, missing troop types, you name it. But we adjusted things to match our understanding of things.
2. Steve's Swedes were organised in brigades made up of three regiments. When brigaded together on the defensive they were very tough but slow. Steve is keen to use his Swedes as they were used historically so a great deal of rule tweaking has been/will be called for. This is excellent news to me as one of my mantras is 'Play the period, not the rules!"
3. The Winged Hussars are pretty much unstoppable and invincible. How much of this is down to Polish propaganda I don't know. Ten dice in melee is a real killer. Had we remembered the 'stubborn' rule (which I don't like anyway, preferring to give an extra stamina point) and the effect facing lance-armed troops has on saving rolls the Swedish left wing would no doubt have collapsed far earlier. Maybe after their first charge they need tuning down a bit? 

Enthused by this game I am in danger of getting distracted by painting up some more Polish infantry, Cossacks and even a few hussars, but I need to focus on the French Revolution for a little while yet.

Thanks again to Steve for bringing his enormous army down for the game, and to Paul, Conrad and Nigel as well. Steve's freshly baked croissants were gorgeous, and thanks to Paul for the Stollen cake and Conrad for the 'Mocktails'.

Having a few days away next week in Holland and Belgium,  including a visit to the Crisis 2018 show in Antwerp on 3 November.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Poles v Swedes tomorrow

I have a much anticipated and welcome relief from a surge of French Revolution games tomorrow; a Pike and Shot battle between my Poles and Steve's Swedes. Should be fun (it WILL be fun) and if it goes half as well as in these youtube clips I will be happy.......

Sunday 21 October 2018

Big Battle Outside Zurich.......again!

This I hope will be the final dry run of the game I am planning to put on at Battleground in Stockton on 24 November. I say that as I need to concentrate on preparing all the supporting bumph as well as putting the final touches to the buildings, sundry items of terrain and various vignettes. Point to note here is that I have booked an 18’ x 6’ table for the game while I only have 14’x 6’ at home so there will be more space for the troops to deploy and for me to fill with things. Lots of things.

Saturday saw “Carry-on'ers” from far and wide  (ok, Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Stockton) arrive at the Burrow to play the game with just about the full complement of forces for the battle on the table. A couple of French units aren’t finished yet so the Lombard Legion were standing in for them this time. After the success of the previous game I decided to try out Honours of War (Amended for FRW) again, this time to see how a multi-player game worked using them. It didn't, but here's how it went anyway.

Sides were chosen randomly, which saw Dave, Shaun and Jim take the French attackers, while John, Paul and Conrad were the Russians. If I’d thought, it would have been better to have split Shaun and Jim as neither were familiar with the rules. Too late now. I will put the orders of battle at the end of this post. Conrad was the Russian commander, General Leutnant Alexander Rimsky-Korsakov holding the centre of the Russian position. John was General Major Essen on the Russian left, while Paul was General Leutnant Sacken, posted across the river on the right. Shaun played the role of Masséna (controlling Klein and Schwartz), Jim was Mortier and Dave was Lorge.

The Russians looking happy while the French (right) move their leading units onto the table
The Russian right under Sacken. Eight battalions of infantry and a battery of guns.
Paul decided to push his troops forward in anticipation of the French arrival.
Russian hussars advancing in the centre to slow the French advance. Jim threw a small unit of dragoons forward but  in the melee both units took four hits and were forced to withdraw.
The mauled French dragoons after their encounter. More French troops are arriving.

Not a digestive biscuit but a reminder that no sooner had Gazan's brigade arrived on the table than he was felled by a cannonball and killed. This stopped the French in their tracks for a whole turn on this flank. 
The French assault in the centre.

On the left the Russians are holding on in the face of pressure from Shaun's cavalry.

Jim's troops charge the Russian centre, held by their grenadiers. 
The French assault was a failure, and was thrown back with significant losses.
Dave finally got moving again on the the French left. The late General Gazan's brigade  lumbered towers Paul,. One of the Russian battalions formed square due to the proximity of French hussars. Dave then charged another unit of Russians who formed square. Fire from the already formed square and the battery on the hill destroyed the unsupported French, who routed back through their infantry. Paul was in command of the Russian cavalry brigade but it failed to move for several turns. With the entrance of more French he pulled his line back onto the Zurichberg. 
My cows are uninterested in the battle raging around them.
The broken and fleeing French Hussars on the left.

The French centre is wilting. Jim's brigade (Brunet) is about to collapse.
The Representative from the Directory looks on as his men assemble and try out the portable guillotine. 
Shaun's cavalry were unable to advance against the fire of Russian artillery under Essen in the far distance  and the gunboat flotilla on the lake.

Too late the French horse artillery is able to start pounding the Russians both in and behind the wood.
The Russian centre after repulsing the French assault.
The Swiss navy! My model sloop standing in for the 19 small gunboats commanded by a Colonel Williams in Austrian service. 
The Russian left under John effectively kept the French right from advancing. 
The French right pinned by superior numbers. Poor Jim had struggled to get it into position due to poor command rolls.
With the battle over, the Russians were issued with extra rations!
Well, with the French centre collapsing and little headway being made on either flank I think it is fair to say that this was a Russian victory. If we'd had time it is highly likely that Dave's flank would have pushed Paul's Russians back into Zurich due to superior numbers, if they could be brought into the fight.

Lessons from the game are several.
1. HoW didn't work this time, mainly as several players had never used the rules, but also because in a multi-player game it was all too slow;
2. The French attack in the centre should have gone in to the right of the central wood (Jim/Mortier), followed by Klein and his grenadiers and superior battalions. This would have drawn in Essen's brigade and given Drouet on the French right something to fight.
3. The cavalry and their supporting horse artillery should have been used to pin the Russian grenadiers, and the two heavy batteries were deployed too far back to be effective;
4. Brunet should have taken the wood immediately to deny it to the pesky Russian Jager;
5. The French didn't make best use of their skirmishers and they didn't really soften up the Russians before launching their attack (in the wrong place imho)
6. The Russian skirmishers were too strong;
7. The gunboat flotilla was too strong.
8. Dave/Gazan should not have tried 'head' that cannon ball!
9. Throw better dice;
10. Go back to Black Powder 2 or General d'Armee for Stockton.

Thanks to everyone for happily being the subjects of my experiment with the rules. Hopefully it wasn't too bad a day out.  Thanks also to Conrad for the cupcakes and Jim for the Victoria sponge.

I had better clear the table as I have a Poles v Swedes Thirty Years War game on Wednesday.

As promised at the top of this blog, here are the orders of battle for the game:

French Army: General Andre Massena DASHING
Division Mortier (South) (Lt General) DEPENDABLE


Line inf x 2
Chasseurs a Cheval x 2 sqdn (small)
Light Artillery x 1 coy (light)

Bde Brunet DEPENDABLELine inf x 6
Dragoons x 2 sqdns (small)
Artillery x 2 coy (Heavy)

Division Klein DEPENDABLE
Line inf x 2
Grenadiers x 2

Hussars x 2 sqdn (small)
Dragoons x 2 rgt
Chasseurs a Cheval x 1 rgt
Horse Artillery x 2 coy (light)

Division Lorge (North) Arrives T3 (maybe), one bde at a time (Lt General) DEPENDABLE
Line inf x 6
Dragoons x 1 rgt
Hussars x 1 rgt
Artillery x 1 coy (light)

Bde Quetard (left) DEPENDABLE T3 +1Line inf x 2
Light inf x 2

Bde Bontemps (extreme left) DEPENDABLE T3 + 2
Light inf x 3
Helevetic Legion x 1 btn
Artillery x 2 (Medium)

Russian Army: GL Rimsky-Korsakov DITHERING

Division of GL Gorchakov [South] DEPENDABLE

Musketeers x 2
Grenadiers x 4 (1 in Zurich)
Jager x 2 (4 small)
Hussars x 2 (independent units)
Cossacks x 2 (independent units)
Artillery x 1 (medium) (large unit)

Bde GM Essen [South) DEPENDABLE
Musketeers x 2
Fusiliers x 2
Dragoons x 1
Artillery 1(heavy) (large unit)

Division of GL Sacken [North on Zurichbeerg] DEPENDABLE
Musketeers x 8
Artillery x 1 (Heavy) (Large unit)

GL Gudovich [North] DEPENDABLE T4
Cuirassiers x 2(1)
Dragoons x 2

GM Durusov (North) T8** DITHERING
Musketeers x 2
Cossacks x 2 **

Colonel Wilson’s Flotilla DITHERING

Gunboat Lindt - representing 19 small gunboats, counting as a standard sized medium battery

Wednesday 17 October 2018

French Revolutionary Wars game using Honours of War

Paul came for a game yesterday afternoon and we’d decided to try Honours of War for a FRW game, with a few appropriate amendments that I will highlight at the end of this post. The scenario had a defending force of Russians holding both sides of an impassable river that cut the table in two, with the only crossing point on their baseline. There was a demolished pontoon bridge close the French base line which the French needed to repair and make use of to transfer their forces between the north and south sides of the river. (They had half their troops on each bank approaching the Russian position so until it was repaired their army would be fighting as two independent forces). Apart from the usual ‘destroy the enemy’ objective, the Russians had to prevent the French from repairing the bridge and hold their crossing point, while the French had to prevent the destruction of the pontoon bridg, capture the Russian-held crossing point and give the forces of the Reactionary despot Czar Paul and the slaves of tyranny a good seeing too!

The outnumbered Russians (me) split their forces evenly between both banks, with their best troops (four grenadier battalions) holding the centre and awaited the French attack.

The right wing of the Russian army, eight battalions of infantry, a large battery of cannon and three regiments of cavalry. With a pair of 'dithering' commanders!

The French appear in the centre.

Despite having orders to advance the Russian right wing failed to do so!!!
Instead they just lined up and looked splendid!

As did these dragoons.

On the other wing the sole regiment of Russian dragoons were about to face a load of trouble as the next French brigade appeared and started taking pot shots at them with their horse artillery.

The French centre. Six battalions of infantry, two batteries of 12pdrs and swarms of skirmishers.
Those 12pdrs! Thankfully they were to be underemployed for most of the battle.
Seen from the French right, Russian infantry have occupied the village and a regiment of dragoons has just exposed itself to fire from the horse artillery battery.
My dragoons taking a pounding from the enemy artillery. They were force to retreat, which for me was good.
The French pressing home their attack in the centre, with their skirmishers trading shots with Russian jager. My artillery just out of shot to the right was also causing a fair bit of damage to the advancing French infantry.
Still in the centre, one of the Russian hussar regiments almost caught a battalion of French out but they were able to form square in time.
My other hussar regiment was about to be overwhelmed by a mass of French horsemen.  As it turned out they actually  did quite well before breaking as my artillery then managed to further weaken the damaged chasseurs a cheval with a few lucky (er..well-directed) shots. 
The French cavalry brigade was an awesome threat and one I had nothing to counter it with. The only option was to push hard with a counter attack in the centre and hope to break through before the enemy cavalry could swing round the wood and hit me in the rear.
Over on the Russian right a regiment of cuirassiers boldly charged the advancing French,  but although they failed to form square their closing fire and that of their supporting units was enough to halt my charge. Job done though as the French never moved an inch closer in the remainder of the battle.
A view of the Russian right advancing towards the village and the fight for the centre in the background.
Remarkably, the combination of a foolish charge bu my hussars and the concentrated fire of my jager and a battery of  twelve 12pdrs  ( large unit in the game for shooting etc) had broken one battalion of French, battered a couple of others and dispersed their skirmish screen. Time to advance methinks.
Back on the right we were doing just that. All eight battalions of Russians were piling it on, forcing the French back and destroying several battalions by a bit of handy bayonet work. The threat posed by my cavalry and the effect of my artillery paralysed the French on this flank.

Peekaboo! My remaining hussar regiment wishing it were somewhere else no doubt.
The Russian left decided to attempt to drive off the French facing them. A brave move but ultimately a futile one, other than it pinned the enemy in position.

Russian grenadiers begin their attack in the centre.
While Russian hussars try and stem the advance by the French cavalry.
The Russians continue to pile ton he pressure on the right wing.
Paul had by now completed repairing the bridge and was trying to transfer his reserve brigade across the river where it might to some good. There was no room for it to manoeuvre on his left and it risked being swept away by the hard-pressed brigade locked in combat with the Russians.
My hussars were forced to retreat but not broken, and the chasseur a cheval regiment they'd been fighting, already weakened, had been broken. The troubles that I now only had a battalion of jager protecting my advancing grenadiers.

Thankfully, divine intervention stepped in after some heavy praying and swinging of incense as it was time to pack up. Pheww! The French left was in the process of collapsing, the French centre had collapsed but the presence of their cavalry and reserve artillery would stop me exploiting my success, and my left was in complete disarray following their failed assault. It seemed fair to agree to a draw, albeit somewhat in my favour in terms of enemy units destroyed. 

Well, that worked rather well. A few more tweaks may be needed to try and get the difference of linear old-school armies fighting against more fluid French, but it had been a good idea and a great experiment.

Notes about the rule amendments:
1. Infantry charged by cavalry had to throw 1d6 to see if they formed square, requiring 3+;
2. Squares were treated as BUAs when shooting, and columns received a minus one when shooting;
3. Squares and columns attracted a plus 1 modifier to artillery shooting at them, and columns moved at the march column rate;
4. Each French brigade had a skirmish screen deployed as a distinct unit. If charged they would try to evade. If they failed they were removed from play permanently. If they were forced to retreat having suffered 4 hits they would disperse permanently, likewise when they became ‘done for’;
5. Russians were classed as inferior for shooting and superior for melee. I had thought about making them superior for being shot at to reflect their renowned stoicism under fire but forgot. Russian batteries were classed as large units;
6. I fiddled with the rules covering formation changes etc to try and reflect the more rigid Russian approach. However, an earlier French army would be beset by all sorts of problems if they tried to move out of column, but thats for another day;
7. I think we busked a few things as they cropped up but nothing major except for a new element in the command and control phase where brigades were given orders that could only be changed by sending an ADC.

I have a game on Saturday so watch this space for the report.