Friday 29 November 2019

Battleground Set Up.

Got back about 7 this evening from setting the game ready for the show tomorrow. Being very local has it's advantages for sure. Here are a few pics of the table as we left it (And will hopefully find it) in the morning.
The battlefield seen from behind the British left wing.

The Sikhs were well entrenched. As well as the earthwork and ditch they'd built several raised gun platforms, perhaps like this?
A less ambitious raised platform with a  battery of heavy cannon.
My new banner made for me by my friend Richard’s  ‘customers’ at work.

I’m looking forward to the game tomorrow. Hope it goes well.

Monday 25 November 2019

Battleground Leaflet

Thanks to the wonders both of Technothingy and of my talented designer wife I've completed the handouts for the game at Stockton on Saturday. I'm never sure how many to print out; one year we had too many and last year not enough.  I'll probably print out 30 or so. I'm quite pleased with the end result.

Sunday 24 November 2019

On the wagon........Sikh Wars Vignette.

I do like (allegedly) wasting my time with displacement activities when I have something else I really, really need to get finished.  Otherwise my rapidly clouding immagination would be left to completely fog over when I could be making something as pointless as this. It is entitled "I say you men, stand guard over this broken down wagon full of gin until I can find a man who can fix us a new wheel and a pair of oxen, and get those chaps under control! Are they drunk?” The wagon is something I picked up I know not where (Alternative Armies maybe?) while the figures are Sikh Wars spares from the bits box, a mix of Foundry and Old Glory.The guy on the horse is a 1st Corps Cape Wars British officer. I’m sure it’ll look just the part on the table when I next run a Sikh Wars game, which will be next Saturday 30 November at the Battleground show in Stockton.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Northern Tars in Southern Waters. the Russian Fleet in the Mediterranean 1806-10

The latest from Helion & Co's 'From Reason to Revolution' series is this impressive account of the Russian Fleet's operations in the Mediterranean under Admiral Senyavin between 1806-1810. This is not a small book, running as it does to 675 pages. The original was published between 1818 and 1819 in St Petersburg, in four volumes, written by Vladimir Bronevskiy, detailing his service with Senyavin's squadron as a Midshipman, and is part naval history, part travelogue and part general history, which provide a very readable and detailed account of the campaign. Unlike several translations and/or reproductions of a serving officer's experiences of this era which are frequently, well, quite dull, this is the complete opposite. The translator Darrin Bolland has done an excellent job in presenting an unabridged, fascinating and engaging book. The involvement of the Russian navy in the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars was quite extensive, more so than I thought at any rate, with bloody engagements against the French and Ottomans, particularly along the coast of Dalmatia and around the Dardenelles. Not only do we get the author's personal account of these actions, but we also get details of the broader exploits of the fleet as understood by him at that time. What I liked most about the book and what ties the journal together and makes it more than just another 'personal account' of the 'dull' variety alluded to earlier are the detailed observations on the history, cultures, geography, weather, people, indeed almost everything one might today expect from a Berlitz travel guide! The text is well referenced and annotated throughout with the original notes and corrections. The book is illustrated with the original engravings and also contains several really useful maps that help contextualise the account. This book is a must for anyone interested in the less well documented naval campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars and is certainly a little different to the usual British v French histories that are available and a most welcome addition to Helion's library. There are boatloads of scenarios just waiting to be played out on the tabletop, whether naval, land-based or both, and with the emergence of the Warlord Games Black Sails warships adds another dimension to an already fascinating period of naval warfare. Highly recommended, if only for the cultural stuff.

Sunday 17 November 2019

The Battle of Ferozeshah 21/22 Dec 1845

As some readers may be aware its the 'Battleground' Stockton event on 30 November, more info  here. This is the only show I now put on a demo game, if only because the venue is a massive five minutes from home. This year (previous games were such "mainstream" campaigns as Senaffe in 1674 and Zurich 1799) I’m doing the Battle of Ferozeshah set at the outbreak of the 1st Anglo-Sikh War 1845-46. With one exception, not this one, none of the battles in either of the Sikh Wars is an obvious choice for a game as the Sikhs elected to stand behind entrenchments, on the defensive, while the British did all the attacking. (For brevity I will refer to the combined 'Queen's' and East India Company regiments as British). These tactics are good for the Sikh army as their commanders are pretty poor but possibly not that entertaining for the Sikh player.

Nevertheless, having worked on my Sikh Wars collection over the past 12 months (but technically the last eight years) and on the basis that they all look very impressive when on the table, the Sikh Wars and the Battle of Ferozeshah it is. Here is a link should anyone wish to read about the battle and the campaign. I thought I'd better give the scenario a rehearsal to make sure it wasn't too one-sided an affair so, playing a short line out so to speak, was joined by Conrad, Paul S and Mike for Saturday's game. Conrad (Gough) and Paul (Hardinge) were the British, while Mike (Lal Singh), aided by my good self were the Sikhs. Full OoB can be found at the end of this post. In this game each British unit in the OoB is represented by a battalion/regiment/battery/troop on the table. Some fudging and stuff was needed with the Sikhs but the ratios were correct.
Map of the battle.

Interestingly both armies were pretty evenly matched numerically, but very different in terms of quality. Fully a third of the British army were very tough European infantry, while half of the Sikh infantry were Feudal types. The Bengal Native Infantry were average but nervous facing the Khalsa. The British mounted arm was generally superior to the Sikh cavalry, IF the Sikhs decided to show up for this re-enactment, as in the real battle they swanned about just north of the entrenchment and didn't engage even when to do so would have been catastrophic for the British. The Sikh artillery is however far more numerous, heavier and more effective than the Bengal Horse and Foot Artillery. Of course the British commanders were far better than those of their opponents. Would that be also true of their flesh and blood avatars standing around the table? As usual, I will let the (many) photos and snappy captions tell the tale of how the game unfolded. North is the Sikh long table edge.

View of the battlefield from the Western table edge. The Sikhs had cleared the low-lying jungle around their entrenchment to produce a killing zone devoid of cover over which the British would have to advance.

The most heavily defended section of the entrenchment is the South West corner, held by heavy guns and elite  Sikh regulars.
The attack begins with General Littler’s division advancing towards the South West corner of the  entrenchment.
The interior of the entrenchment which included the village of Ferozeshah, the Sikh encampment and artillery park.
Vultures (definitely not of the Bedknobs and Broomsticks variety) gather anticipating an evening of feasting.
Brigadier Brooke of the Bengal Horse Artillery and in overall command of the British guns overseas the deployment of  9pdr guns as they emerge from the jungle.
Lal Singh the Sikh commander on his elephant.
Littler's division made good progress towards the entrenchments. Sikh artillery fire was largely ineffective. Paul had ordered the BHA to move with the infantry but they failed their command roll and stayed put.
General Gilberts Division (well one brigade) attacks the Eastern end of the entrenchments.  Conrad's BHA raced forward and deployed in front of the enemy.
In the centre General Wallace's weak division also attacked. There was clearly a cunning plan afoot to overwhelm every part of the Sikh line at once.
Littler's infantry begin exchanging fire with the Sikhs, who in return managed to inflict no damage on the British! This wasn't going well for the Khalsa.
Littler's leading brigade then launched a bayonet charge. The BNI battalion was beaten back in melee but the European battalion was poised to hit the defenders in the flank while another BNI battalion bravely charged the guns.
The Sikh gunners were renowned for fighting to the last around their guns so I allowed them to ignore the result of their first break test in melee should they loose. Their closing fire was abysmal and after two rounds of melee they were overrun.
The abandoned Sikh cannon. The battalion of BNI that had destroyed the battery withdrew back into the ditch, shaken.
There was now a large gap in the Sikh defences. After a battalion of Sikh Gurkhas fled after a failed attempt to oust the British from the entrenchment, a single rallying battalion of Sikhs was all that was immediately available to face the British advance. Intent on piling on the pressure, Paul brought up a brigade of cavalry but they were unable to cross the ditch and embankment.
Seen from behind the British centre, Wallace's division has to withdraw as most of its units are shaken after an unequal battle against Sikh heavy artillery and regular infantry. The BHA can be seen pushed right up to the edge of the ditch in an attempt to blast a way through with canister.
Over on the other flank Conrad tried to emulate the exploits of HM 3rd Light Dragoons in the real battle by charging across the earthworks, but got stuck in the ditch, unable to find a way through the embankment. All three regiments took heavy casualties and became disordered, and were forced to make a hasty retreat.
All four batteries of the Bengal Foot Artillery crept forward while trying to inflict a few casualties on the Sikhs.
One of Gilbert's brigades then charged the entrenchment. A Sikh Feudal battalions in the angle had been driven off by musketry and artillery fire before the charge was launched. Closing fire from the Sikhs was hopelessly ineffective.
The Sikhs rushed to seal yet another gap in their defences, as the whole SE corner of their entrenchment was now completely exposed.
In the real battle, the Sikh cavalry (approx 7-8000 of them, mostly irregulars) failed to get involved  with the British even after the camp was broken into. In this game there was a chance that under dire circumstances they would intervene. Well the circumstances were certainly dire and the dice Gods favourable for a change so six units of Gorchara appeared on the Western side of the entrenchment. A mixed blessing in truth as their effectiveness was measured in inverse proportion to their colourfulness!

The British were still facing stiff opposition in the SW corner but it was unlikely the Sikhs would hold up the advance for long.
In a moment of madness I declared a 'follow me' with my level 6 commander and passed, so charged the British artillery directly to our front. My Feudal irregulars (in reality more like semi-regular professionals) survived closing fire and overran one battery, but were then blown back towards the encampment by canister fire from two of the other batteries. Their leader clearly led a charmed life and survived. This rather rash act put one 'brigade' of Feudal infantry out of action as by now all its units had been broken or shaken.

Meanwhile the infantry battling to get over the earthworks had managed to overrun the battery but were facing unexpected opposition from some Feudal infantry, but not for long. Very soon the entire Eastern side of the entrenchment was won and the British were pouring into the camp. It was at this point that the British realised that they'd again forgotten to bring Smith's reserve division into action, not that they were needed!
Back on the opposite wall the Sikh Gorchara were fighting a loosing battle against  the 4th Bengal Light Cavalry (Lancers) and the Governor General's Bodyguard. 
Very quickly and not unsurprisingly the discipline of the Bengal cavalry, supported by the fire of two troops of Bengal Horse Artillery,  drove the Gorchara back to the table edge.
The only remaining units of Sikh regular infantry were being worn down by canister from two more troops of Bengal Horse Artillery.
It was obviously a very decisive win for the British in what turned into a bit of a slug fest. I took quite a few things away from the game that I need to think about before it gets its next outing, including:

  • The Bengal Native Infantry were not especially enthusiastic when it came to fighting the Khalsa and tended to hang back. Most of the fighting and a disproportionate number of the casualties was done by the European regiments. I shall need to reflect this more somehow, perhaps by making them wavering and/or randomising their stamina.
  • The Sikh artillery was pretty ineffective in the game even allowing for some unlucky dice rolls. They completely out shot the British guns but this wasn't at all obvious in the game so needs looking at. Indeed the weak points in the defences in the game were where the artillery had been deployed. I need to make them harder to overrun as the rules for artillery in melee are very unkind in BP.
  • The Sikhs need to be much harder to dislodge from the earthworks by musketry and cannon fire alone. Cold steel and a charge by European infantry should be the only sure way of clearing the Sikhs from their earthworks.
  • The Sikhs need more infantry on the table from the start.
  • The possibility of the Sikh cavalry deciding to partake in the action was a very real worry in the minds of the British commanders, so needs to be reflected in the game somehow, even if, unlike in this game, the cavalry don't show up.

Overall it was a great game that presented plenty of tactical challenges, even for the Sikhs. It was certainly a colourful game played with the usual good  humour and occasional well intentioned 'sledging'. A very few bits remain to be completed, e.g. a couple of limbers, a troop of BHA and various bits of tabletop ephemera/vignettes and the like plus the edges of the movement trays need painted or landscaped. That, and the usual supporting admin stuff and I'm done.

I might be able to squeeze another game in before the Battleground show on 30 November. I hope so however unlikely, and if not then roll on December. Thanks again to the guys for coming to play the game and be used as guinea pigs to try out the scenario.

As mentioned at the top of this post here are the OoBs for the game.

BRITISH ARMY OF THE SUTLEJ: General Sir Hugh Gough (9)

2nd in COMMAND: Lt. General Sir Henry Hardinge, Governor General (8)

Cavalry Bde: Lt. Colonel Harriett (7)
3rd Bengal Irregular Cavalry, 8th Bengal Light Cavalry

Cavalry Bde: Brigadier Gough (8)
Governor General’s Bodyguard, 5th Bengal Light Cavalry

Cavalry Bde: Lt. Colonel White (8)
HM 3rd Light Dragoons, 4th Bengal Light Cavalry (Lancers), 9th Bengal Irregular Cavalry

Artillery: Acting Brigadier Brooke (9)
6 troops BHA (light)
4 batteries BFA (medium)
1 battery BFA (heavy howitzers)

1st Division: Maj-Gen Sir Harry Smith (9)

Brigadier Ryan (8) HM 50th Foot42nd & 48th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI)

Brigadier Hicks (8)HM 31st Foot24th & 48th BNI

2nd Division: Maj-Gen Walter Gilbert (8)

Brigadier McLaren (8): 1st Bengal European Light Infantry,16th Bengal Grenadiers45th BNI

Brigadier Taylor (8): HM 29th & 80th Foot41st BNI

3rd Division: Brigadier Wallace (8)
HM 9th Foot, 2nd Bengal Grenadiers, 26th & 73rd BNI

4th Division: Maj-Gen Sir John Littler(9)

Brigadier Ashburnham (7): 33rd 44th & 53rd BNI

Brigadier Reed (8): HM 62nd Foot12th & 14th BNI

The Sikh OoB is somewhat conjectural, based on the numbers of each troop type rather than actual units, except for the 'Avitable' brigade.


Commander in Chief: Lal Singh (6)

3 heavy batteries
2 medium battery
1 light battery

Cavalry Bde: (7) Off table
2 x regular cuirassiers
1 x regular  lancers

Cavalry Bde: (7) (off table)
7 x Feudal Gorchara cavalry
3 x zambarek camel ‘batteries’

Akali: (8) (off table)
4 x Akali

‘Guard’ Infantry Bde: (8)
4 x Fauj-i-khas btn

Infantry Bde (Orange): (7)
3 x regular btn

Infantry Bde (Red): (7) off table
3 x regular btn

Infantry Bde (Green): (7) off table
3 x regular btn

Infantry Bde (Black): (6) off table
3 x regular btn

Infantry Bde: (6)
4 x Feudal btns

Infantry Bde: (6)
3 x Feudal btns

Wednesday 13 November 2019

More Bengal Native Infantry

The top picture shows the 2nd Bengal Native Infantry (Grenadiers). The unit is a right old Bertie Bassett. Most of the Sepoys are Studio Miniatures that I had lying arou d. The rest are Old Glory and there's even a Tradition of London officer.

I also finished another command base for one of the three cavalry brigades I'm fielding for Ferozeshah. The brigadier is uniformed as a Bengal Native Cavalry officer  in 'undress' accompanied by a European cornet from the Governor General's Bodyguard.

Now back to some limbers and stuff.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

More Sikh Wars oddments

It's been a slow couple of weeks in terms of getting  stuff finished. I have just competed these pieces for the Anglo-Sikh Wars however.

 I thought a few Indian civilians wouldn't go amiss. I quite like them, especially the gang of kids about to rob the old beggar. Eureka miniatures.

I had some odd British figures left over so I've done a command stand for Bengal Artillery, complete with a bearer offering the officer a cup of something. 

They'll all do I reckon.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Monthly progress, October 2019

A very lean month for me in terms of figure production. Lots on the go but not much ready for action.

Rebased 40 painted Sikh Irregulars kindly given to me last month.
Based, ‘distressed’ and/or painted seven 1/72 scale buildings for the Jena game.
Hosted three big games here at the Burrow
Attended one show (FIASCO).

On the go at present, and with a deadline of the end of the month are two battalions of Bengal Native Infantry ( only the one really  needed for the game) some more Sikh irregular infantry, a troop of Bengal Horse Artillery, two BHA limbers and guns, plus a couple of generals and other ephemera for the game at Battleground. The terrain for the game needs some finishing touches but nothing major I hope. Mainly tents for the encampment. Then the general admin prep for the Battleground game, another game to prepare for here at the Burrow in the diary for 16 November and then it’ll be December!

That’s all for now.

The Campaigns of Sir William Waller 1642-45

Another superb offering in the ever-expanding Century of the Soldier series from Helion by one of their regular authors Laurence Spring. I wouldn’t claim to be especially knowledgeable when it comes to the English Civil Wars beyond a lifelong interest that has for some reason never become more than a passing one. In that context then this book is excellent although I’m sure it’ll satisfy a broad spectrum of readers many of whom will be more (not difficult) expert than I. It whet my appetite for the subject and certainly rekindled my interest in the period as a whole. In fact it’s the sort of book that from a wargaming perspective is dangerous for the bank balance, or might be if I had any money in it! The book is well written and covers Waller’s campaigns in detail, including Roundway Down, Cheriton, Cropredy Bridge, Second Newbury and the 1644 campaign around Oxford. The text is well referenced and supported by numerous black and white contemporary illustrations, present day photographs and some nice maps. The central eight pages are a set of sumptuous original colour plates of uniforms and flags by talented artist Mark Allen. In addition there are a couple of useful appendices, in particular the one covering the logistics required to keep the army in the field. Recommended.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Giving General d'Armée another try - French Revolutionary Wars

John the Red and I played a number of GdA games last year which, once we’d mastered the rules, were very enjoyable, even if as I recall I lost all of them. Another game with them seemed appropriate so on Friday John, Paul S, Conrad and Richard “the bringer of cake” were round for a wholly fictitious battle between the Revolutionary French and a Prussian/Bavarian force set somewhere along the Rhine in 1793. Purposely the armies were not balanced. The French had slightly more infantry (but of very mixed quality) and their cavalry was decidedly inferior in quality. The French artillery was however much better than the Prussians. The Prussians were hindered by having a brigade of Bavarians attached, classed as recruits. I asked each side to throw for the quality of their commander in chief and both ended up with “Campaigners”. As the French had one less brigade than the Prussians they had one less potential ADC to play with each turn.

Conrad and John were Prussians while Paul and Richard played the French. It took a while for us to get into the swing of things regarding the rules but after a turn or two of frustration, for example at not being able to find some bit or other in the main rules and the fact that the QRS is anything but Q in terms of layout it soon came back. The objective, apart from trying the rules out again, was for the armies to gain control of the town and the bridges (including the partially completed pontoon bridge).

Battle lines drawn, French on the right.
The Prussian right was thinly held by a brigade of infantry and a battery of light field guns.

The Prussians won the initiative in turn one and, using the benefits of plenty of ADCs and a ‘forwards’ order immediately raced forward with  a brigade of infantry to reach the town ahead of the French.
Two battalions of the Prussian Guard on the outskirts of the town
Conrad pushed his light cavalry forward  but stopped well short of the enemy, waiting for their attached horse artillery to catch up and deploy.
Paul had pushed his cavalry up towards the coaching inn on his right flank. Suddenly Prussian reserves, in the form of a brigade of heavy cavalry, arrived on the table facing them. 
Paul got his veteran brigade moving and advanced to the right of the town.
Back over on the right the Prussians had advanced as far as they wanted to and deployed their artillery.
In the centre the French were pushing forward. The Prussians attacked but were forced to retire. In return several unsupported French attacks by infantry columns were repulsed. The French were however winning the skirmisher duel and had artillery superiority in this sector.
A battery of French 12pdrs deployed next to the town and began a ferocious bombardment but the garrison, a battalion of Prussian Guards, held firm.
In the centre the French are  very slowly pushing the Prussians back.

The Bavarian Brigade. Conrad failed to get them to move was for six turns of the trot they were hesitant! SIX turns!
The Bavarians were happy to stay on their hill and watch the battle. Nothing was going to get them to advance. In fact, in all the time these figures have been on the table they’ve done precisely nothing!
In the centre the Prussian skirmishers have been driven off by advancing French columns.

The pressure on the outnumbered and outgunned Prussians around the town is intense.
Over on the Prussian right, little had been happening other than some long range artillery fire and a few exchanges between French skirmishers and Prussian jäger. This was all to change as a Richard ordered his light cavalry to charge the Prussians who were deployed in line on the hilltop. Sadly, the Prussians were able to form square in time and the French Chasseurs a Cheval we’re forced to retire.
Prussian jäger facing the French left.
In the centre the Prussians are being forced back by overwhelming numbers of French.
On the French right it was a different story. The Prussian and French cavalry had charged  each other, and in a series of messy hand to hand combats the French came off decidedly worse. One of their regiments was dispersed causing the brigade to falter. Despite a brief counter attack the remainder of the brigade was driven off by the battered but large Prussian Cuirassier regiments. This flank had been decisively won by the Prussians.
The massive cavalry combat on the flank in full swing.

The town was garrisoned by a battalion of Prussian Guard, who were proving difficult to dislodge. 

The thinly held Prussian centre.

The massed fighting around the town.

Chaos around the town as the French attempt to drive the Prussians back.
A haggard and exhausted umpire (me, in black) looks on at the end of the game. 
So there we have it. I declared the game a Prussian victory as they held the town and had destroyed the French heavy cavalry. Whether they would be able to capitalise on their success and drive the French from the field is one of those great unknowns of wargaming. I suspect that as they’d not brought on their last reserve brigade a more complete victory would have been the likely outcome. But who knows?

It was a knackering game but post action feedback was positive and the players I’ve spoken to are keen to give the rules another go. I still like them and while I am a great fan of Black Powder for big games I sometimes get a little bored by the latter set. For me it was great to get my lovely 1792 cum 1806 Prussians on the table again. Most of the infantry were actually correctly dressed in their silly hats for 1793, and for the Guards and the other two battalions in their brigade it was their first taste of battle. Thanks to everyone for playing the game, struggling with the rules, and putting up with my grumpiness. Special thanks to Richard for the cakes and for my new and incredibly striking ‘banner’ for the Stockton game, courtesy of the lads at his place of work.

I now need to get back to finishing everything off for the game at Battleground Stockton on 30 November. Hopefully also get another game in before then as well, perhaps in a fortnight or so.