Sunday 27 October 2019

FIASCO Leeds 2019

I’ve not been to this show for a few years for a number of reasons, one being its closeness to Crisis, a trip we’ve made for the past four years. I had been looking forward to a game this weekend (hosted by the Like a Stonewall lads) but that was cancelled for unforeseen reasons and we’d decided not to bother with Crisis and further exploration of Holland and Belgium this year. So instead my long suffering wife took me down to the Royal Armouries, just over an hour away.

These are the only two games (In MY opinion) that were worth a photograph. The remainder were just not my cup of tea, or were boutique-style games or sci-fi/fantasy which don’t float my boat at all. The hall wasn't all that well lit either.  The verdict on the games was therefore one of ‘could do better’ or ‘requires improvement’ with the exception of the two pictured. I don’t actually recall the group behind the WW2 game but the 28mm Napoleonic one was by the Ilkley Lads (James Roach et al). The figures were gorgeously painted to a very high standard indeed.

The hall was pretty busy the whole time I was there, with plenty of punters flocking round the usual eclectic range of traders who seemed to be doing a brisk trade. I genuinely didn’t have a shopping list but I did have some pre-ordered bases to pick up off Warbases and a box of 28mm Revolutionary Wars French and Austrian cavalry of Nick from Eureka Miniatures UK. Apart from that I met up with Tim, Barry and more of the lads from Like a Stone Wall, bumped into a couple of other people I knew and spoke to a number of traders.

We left about 1.30 and were home an hour later, which probably speaks volumes about the quality of the event as a whole. It was a pleasant morning out, but if it hadn’t been for me arranging to catch up with numerous fellow spirits I’d have been in and out much faster as there was nothing to hold me there in any of the games (with the exception of the two pictured) as they were rather dull.

My next show is Battleground in Stockton on 30 November,  which is 5 minutes from our house. We ( the Burrowers) are putting a demo game on of which more later.

Thursday 24 October 2019

The 1799 Campaign in Italy

I was fortunate to pick up this set of four books recently from Caliver books. The translation into English from the original Italian is pretty (very) dreadful, retaliation for the Bersaglieri character in 'Allo Allo' no doubt. Apart from that, once one cuts through the translation (and starts reading with an Italian accent) the content is excellent. Some great maps, orders of battle, information on the key generals and a description of the armies involved maksa dis a great set of reference books for anyone who, like me, has more than a passing interest in the Austro-Russian campaign against the French in northern Italy in 1799. A not a Bonapuarte in sight either. 

Monday 21 October 2019

Back to the banks of the Sutlej. Sikh Wars encounter.

Another Saturday another game, with the added spice of studiously avoiding any way of accidentaly finding out the RWC England v Australia match. (Go England! Great game!). I was joined by Conrad, Richard, Paul S and Shaun. I'd set up a fictional Sikh Wars game to see how Paul's own Panoply of War rules handled the conflict and rather different troop types than used previously. Paul umpired while Shaun and I were allocated to the British/EIC command and Conrad and Richard took the Sikhs. It was a pure encounter game with objectives randomly placed across the table. This meant that the Sikhs would actually have to attack rather than stand on the defensive as they did most of the time during the Anglo-Sikh Wars. With their dodgy command and a fair few feudal troops that was going to prove interesting. I got to use my new desert mat for the first time; very pleased I am with it too.

As usual I will let the photos take you through the events of the game. As I was playing I didn't take as many as usual, but thanks to Richard for contributing some of his pictures for this post.

Kairne Singh the Sikh CinC

The British centre. 
Facing the Sikh centre. Yikes! Three big batteries of heavy guns.
A brigade of Khalsa advancing towards the town of Mogapur

A reminder of the grand battery in the Sikh centre.

The table just after kick off. The British had a holding force on the left, a strong centre and all our cavalry and most of our horse artillery on the right. The Sikhs had lots of everything everywhere.
The British line.

A bunch of Akali fanatics, part of a large force of mainly cavalry facing our left wing.
Luckily (as it turned out) the Sikhs placed all their feudal infantry facing a brigade of  infantry and two troops of Bengal Horse Artillery.
One of our two cavalry brigades, 8th Bengal Irregular Cavalry (BIC) leading, then  the 4th BIC and HM 14th Light Dragoons (LD).
Our second cavalry brigade can be seen behind HM 14th LD. The Governor General's bodyguard (GGB), 4th Bengal  Light Cavalry (BLC) and HM 16th Lancers. I don't know why Shaun put the two Queen's regiments in the rear but it worked out ok in the end.
Mogabad about to be occupied by the Sikhs, with Shaun's brigade racing to gain a foothold in one of the built up areas.
Casualty evacuation underway.
The British left flank.

Those damned Akali surging forward!

Sikh regular lancers preceded by Akali horsemen facing my left flank.

The British centre advances, supported by a rocket battery and heavy guns from the siege train.
The British cavalry advance on the right.
BIC face off Sikh Gorchara, charging and driving back two enemy units.
The British as seen from the Sikh CinC's howdah.

Sir Harry Smith urges his men on.

The 8th BIC clash with yet more Gorchara.
The Akali horsemen were getting closer. An attempt to charge a battalion of BNI was driven off.
Elite Sikh lancers in reserve.
Yet more Gorchara lining up to attack the British.

Sikh trops on the right of Mogapur about to engage with a brigade of British.

Continuing from the photo above, the BNI battalion was badly hit by Sikh musketry and canister and driven back. HM 24th then took their place and advanced gallantly into a hail of more canister but held.
There was fierce fighting in and around Mogapur with the town changing hands several times.

The British heavy artillery.

More fighting in and around Mogapur.

Skinner's Horse (4th BIC) hit a battalion of Sikhs in the flank after driving off some enemy cavalry..The Sikh infantry were pushed back but not broken.

The Sikhs rallied and were able to form square and eventually forced the BIC to pull back.
In the centre the Sikh feudal troops had been all but driven off, however their elite 'Avitable' brigade was closing in on the thin British line.

Sadly it was already 4pm so we had to call it a day. The British had captured and held on to most of the objectives and destroyed quite a number of Sikh units while loosing four of our own, resulting in a massive British victory. However, I do believe that a few more turns would have seen a reversal of fortune for the British as several units were wilting somewhat, especially a number of Bengal Native Infantry battalions. Even some of the Queen's battalions were badly battered, and HM 14th LD had been broken! The Sikhs had at least two brigades of untouched infantry so a continuation would have been tight. Thankfully for the "Empire" we stopped. British victory. I enjoyed playing for a change, especially as it was a rare win for me, and I do think the armies and the table as a whole looked stunning, but I am biased.

Paul's rules are good and I like them. They're certainly easy to pick up and follow. If we use them again for the Sikh Wars we will need to think a bit more carefully about how to grade the various troops types to reflect their abilities and historical performance, but I don't think we were far wrong. Of course, the Sikhs suffered badly from their poor command and the large number of feudal troops in their army, which is only right.

Anyway, thats it for now.

Sunday 13 October 2019

Jena on Saturday, not quite on the anniversary but close enough......

Yesterday (Saturday) I hosted a refight of the Battle of Jena, 14 October 1806. A couple of the guys at the Durham Wargames Group have plans for a big 1/72nd scale refight of Leipzig next year and wanted to try out the first iteration of a set of rules. So I offered up The Burrow as a location for Jena. I would sort out the terrain while Mike and John would provide the hundreds of 1/72nd scale 1806 Prussians and Frenchies. The game gave me the opportunity to use my 'up cycled' Faller and Volmer HO/OO buildings which work well even with 28mm figures. Anyone not familiar with the annihilation of Prussia in 1806 click here.

Anyway, on to the game. Mike umpired while John the Red, Conrad and Owen were the French and Neil, Liam and myself (for once off the bench and not watching from the touchline) played the vastly outnumbered and outclassed Prussians and Saxons.

Victory for Prussians would be determined by how well or badly they did in comparison to the real battle. The French would loose victory points the more troops they deployed from their massed legions queuing up to get stuck in, e.g. the Reserve Cavalry or the Imperial Guard.

The French plan was I assume to pile on and quickly overwhelm the Prussians and Saxons by pinning attacks in the centre, a steamroller on our right and a flanking move on our left. The Prussians decided to refuse their left flank and move everything as quickly as possible (in practice not vey quickly) to the centre and right flank. A good plan I thought, especially as it was my idea. Of course you know what they say about plans not surviving first contact with the enemy.....

I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of the game, just the high and low lights, but the photos should give an idea of the game progressed.

The Prussian high command clearly not taking things too seriously! (l to r: me, Liam and Neil)
Frederick the Great looks on disapprovingly from the back wall.
The Prussian right wing, behind Viertzehelingen.
Prussian and Saxon grenadiers in reserve
The Prussian left, with the advance guard on the Dornberg holding the villages  of Closewitz and Lutzeroda at the top of the shot.
Suddenly there were thousands of French pouring onto the table in the centre!
Neil began shifting his command towards the right.
More French march onto the table behind Isserstadt, opposite our right flank!
The Prussian advance guard stopped the French and created a bottleneck preventing them from deploying effectively.  This bought us valuable time.
Feeling confident we charged his advancing columns with two regiments of Hussars, forcing the French into square.  Both cavalry regiments were forced to retreat but not before causing mayhem among the closely packed French.
One French column was hit in the flank by our hussars and, unable to form square, was broken.
The valiant defenders of Closewitz are finally ejected after a brave defence.
Another, this time pretty futile, charge by our hussars in the centre. At least the French were being held up and forced into square.
The man French attack against our right flank.
More French appeared in the centre.
French artillery and cavalry advance towards Viezehnheiligen.
A view of the battlefield from the West.
Yet more French and their allies advance in the centre.
The odds were stacked against the Prussians in the centre as they were very thinly spread until Neil could get his troops over to fill the gap.

The French columns crashed into the Prussians who were unable to halt them. The first line of Prussians was pushed back but the second held and was able to pour volleys of musketry into the heads of the French columns.

Conrad looks on as his infantry (Ney) and the Reserve Cavalry Corps join the battle. The French in the centre have finally broken out of their traffic jam and pushed the Prussians back off the Dornberg.
Marshall Ney attempting to roll up the Prussian left.

Murat and the Reserve Cavalry Corps.

A view of the centre from behind the French right.  Lots of manoeuvring going on.

Prussians still holding out on the Dornberg but in danger of being cut off by Ney's advancing corps.
Ney's VI Corps.

Ney's artillery took a back road and the long way round to the battle.
The Prussians flung two regiments of dragoons towards the French, forcing them into square. This act of sacrifice was to buy the Prussians more much needed time.

The ploy worked as one French square was broken!
More bloody French!
Yet again, in an act of yet more sacrifice more suited to the charges of the French cavalry during the opening weeks of the Franco-Prussian War, the Prussians charged and forced the Bavarians into square. The cuirassiers seen above were the last survivors of three regiments holding the centre against twice their number of enemy horsemen.
The Prussian right was still holding on. The battery was about to be eliminated but the grenadiers of the reserve were just  to the rear.
The Prussians and Saxons on they left were really up against it and were about to be overwhelmed.
The Prussian reserve grenadier battalions deploy to shore up their right flank.
The table at the end of the game. Mike at the end delivers his verdict.
Based on the victory criteria the Prussians had wrestled a minor victory. None of their divisions had been broken and overall losses were heavy but not crippling. My reserve division of grenadiers had barely seen action and Ruchel had just arrived so there was a small chance the army might have escaped total destruction, although if we'd played  a few more turns the French would surely have overwhelmed the Prussian left and centre. 

Jena is actually a difficult battle to recreate due to the disparity of numbers between the two opposing armies. French command and control was also much better and this was also the French army at its (arguably) best during the entire Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The Prussians had no chance of  victory in the traditional sense and it was only by artificially imposing some constraints that it was prevented from being the proverbial walkover by the French.

Anyway, it all worked out really well, and was a great game with super figures, played with the usual good humour and grace. The rules worked fine and in any case are a work in progress, so roll on the next outing in December.

Meanwhile, I have another game planned for this coming Saturday. Not sure what yet but I have several ideas......