Tuesday 31 December 2019

And now the scary bit! Looking back on 2019 and forward to 2020

As 2019 draws to a close in about 17 minutes I should by time honoured custom risk boring the pants of some readers and look back and see what I’ve accomplished during the year. Thankfully I’ve been keeping a pretty decent record for once, and have some monthly progress reviews to fall back on. So, here goes. It was scary when I added it all up. VERY scary!

Figures completed (not necessarily started during 2019), based and game ready, including everything whether painted and based from scratch by me or outsourced and just based by me = 3839! (Foot = 1; Horse = 2; Cannon etc = 3)

Of which around 60% were completed in their entirety by me (in the case of almost all the Sikhs and lots of 18thC, started up to eight years ago!) while the remainder were painted for me but I completed the bases. Almost half of the completed figures are for the Sikh Wars, with the next biggest groups being French Revolutionary Wars and the late 17thC.

Periods covered throughout this painting spree were French Revolution, Sikh Wars,  Wars of the Polish and Austrian Succession, Renaissance/Thirty Years War, Napoleonics and late 17th Century (Franco-Dutch War, Wars against/for the Ottomans).

I've organised or taken part in  38 games, of which 32 were here at The Burrow, 3 were at the Durham club, 3 at the Wild Geese weekend in Kenilworth and 1 at the Battleground show. Periods played were:

French Revolution -13
Sikh Wars - 6
Napoleonic - 2
Thirty Years War - 2
Ancient - 1
The Wars against the Ottomans - 5
1670s Franco-Dutch War & similar - 2
Great Northern War - 1
AWI - 1
7YW - 3
Colonial - 1
30YW - 2

I’ve spent far too much money buying lots more French Revolutionary War figures, as well as mid-18thC French, 1670s and 80s French, Spanish, Piedmontese and sundry others, Renaissance Cossacks, Italian Wars, the War of 1812. I’ve also recently purchased a load of Strelets and Zvezda 1/72 Marlburian plastics as part of a collective project for 2020.

Next year (as of tomorrow) I'm involved in the 1/72 project just mentioned but am also determined to finish off the few remaining 1670s and French Rev figures and try and get the War of 1812 collection painted and on the table. That, and a bit of furious eBay activity as I have a big box of 'stuff' SNLR to be dealt with.

This is also my 172nd post of 2019, which isn’t bad.

So, with no more hidden treasures under the table I doubt I shall get anywhere near this year’s output, but I shall keep plugging away. I trust everyone out there has a very happy, healthy and productive 2020, and that the dice keep rolling the way you want them to.

Saturday 28 December 2019

Exciting Stuff so start saving now! Forthcoming titles from Helion and Co.

Amongst the many books on wide ranging and diverse topics that Helion will be publishing in 2020 as part of the ‘Century of the Soldier’ and ‘Retinue to Regiment’ series are these little gems. I don’t know when they will hit the shelves exactly, but early in the New Year I expect. I think ‘The Saxon Mars’ is out now.

I’m looking forward to these three immensely.

Thursday 26 December 2019

French Revolutionary Wars: Two nice new books off Santa.

First thing to say, I got these for Christmas following very heavy hints to wife and daughter and emailing them links to the appropriate web store. I’ve done no more than skim through them so far but both look excellent. As an enthusiast of the French Revolutionary Wars (in a wargaming rather than necessarily a political one) Carol Divall’s book on the experiences in said wars of General Sir Ralph Abercrombie is right up my street, as he was a prominent figure in both the Flanders Campaign 1792-95 and the Helder campaign in Holland in 1799. I don’t game the Irish Rebellion (but I might) nor the Egyptian Campaign in 1801 (I doubt I ever will) where he met his end but I am as readers will know heavily into gaming Flanders and the Helder. The Duke of Yorks’s campaign in Flanders appears excellent. Maps. Orders of Battle. Readable and informative text. What more is there to like? when I have finished devouring them I will give my opinion.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Retreat from Flanders winter 1794, Part Deux: Endgame

Prompted by Paul and Conrad after the game last Friday I found time to play out a few more turns to see if a more decisive outcome could be reached. It was interesting and to be honest it didn’t go the way I’d expected, which given that I was playing solo was perhaps a little weird. Here goes then with some more photos of the washup session of the game.

In the distance the French are advancing en masse along the causeway trying to outflank the English Guards Brigade. Ahead of them on the road is an Austrian 6pdr battery. Fire from the Guards and this battery caused heavy casualties on the columns but they weren’t stopped and co tinted to advance.
Over at the farm a further assault by this battalion was beaten back by the fire of the Hanoverian defenders, aided by artillery in the rear from the Austrians close to the bridge. These Frenchmen wouldn’t be taking any more part in the battle.

One battalion of shattered Hanoverians was retreating while the Emigre infantry started to deploy into line. The  Royal Etranger in Red were planning on sw8nging around the back of the farm while the Rohan Light Infantry (the small unit) supported by the Damas Legion infantry prepared to attack the farm.

The Damas Legion Chasseurs had infiltrated the wood and were now able to make a nuisance of themselves and shoot at the French cavalry. 
The cavalry of both sides was poised for yet another charge. This French heavy cavalry regiment  bore the brunt of the  Emigre Chasseurs’ firing.
At the town, the French attacked the English Guards brigade. Just for once the firing dice  were on my side and  their fire was devastating. The assaulting column was forced to recoil shaken.

The English cavalry on our left decided that sitting behind a dyke was most ungentlemanly so both regiments advanced with a view to breaking the French squares (formed by Levee en Masse, I.e. pretty poor).
Carrying out the charge, the 15th Light Dragoons had to suffer crossing fire from French Horse artillery and closing fire from the already shaken square (it’d been under artillery fire for a few turns). Both failed to make any impact on the Light Dragoons and the square failed its stress test and broke.
Choosing to avoid the Guards, the rest of the French veteran division made for the Austrian artillery. Sadly the leading column was enfiladed by another Guards’ battalion and the battery fired canister at point blank range. Amazingly the column passed all its tests and overran the battery. The column was by now permanently shaken and still taking fire from the Guards on their flank.
At the farm the Emigre regiments are readying themselves for the attack. 

The Rohan Light Infantry closing on the farm.
Assailed by musketry from the farm and cannon from the rear these French are close to breaking.
The Uhlans Britannique charge the French heavy cavalry while the Rohan Hussars (in red at the back) charged the other heavy cavalry regiment. The Uhlans failed to dent their opponents and as neither side took any casualties both sides recoiled. In the other combat the French beat the Emigre Hussars, pushing them back. Following up they were in turn beaten by their target, and some bad dice, and recoiled. 
The rather ineffective Uhlans Britaniques. If you get out of this it’s the Leeward Isles for you lot!

The Damas Legion Hussars (l) and the 1st Rohan Hussars are still a little nervous after the earlier melee.
The Austrian gunners fled , abandoning their guns but the  French columns were in no fit state to exploit this success.

Meanwhile the English Light Dragoons ploughed into the flank of a French battalion and rode it down. Sadly their rout didn’t cause any of their supporting battalions to follow them.
The town is about to fall to the Guards and the Dutch.
I decided that darkness had fallen and called it a night. On the Allied left, they were about to take the town and had wrecked several battalions of enemy infantry but their cavalry was taking casualties from close range artillery and musket fire and very exposed. Along the causeway the French attack had been halted but on the right the Emigre cavalry had covered themselves in indifference. As they’d failed to beat the French cavalry facing them and there were three more French regiments about to pile in I reckoned they would beat a hasty retreat with their tails between their legs. The Emigre attack on the farm never got started before the Hanoverians left in the farm were captured. All the Emigres could do was make a fighting retreat towards the town. I threw some dice and the result dictated that as well as all the Hanoverians being lost, the cavalry galloped off eastwards while most of the Emigre infantry were ridden down in the pursuit as darkness fell. The Royal Emigrants escaped relatively unscathed but two of the other units (The Damas Legion infantry and the Salm-Kirchberg infantry) were badly cut up, two (Rohan and Mirabeau) captured and the survivors summarily shot, and another, the Damas Chasseurs, dispersed and avoided capture.

So, it was still a French win, but due to the VPs attributed to the town and farm being equal, it was all down to broken units, of which the Allies had more. I can put the figures all away now.

So, Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2020 to all. Back soon.

Sunday 22 December 2019

All at Sea from Helion

The latest from Helion and Co’s From Reason to Revolution series is this fascinating and often overlooked aspect of the American Revolutionary War, entitled ‘All at Sea’ by John Dillon.

The third of my recent Helion offerings (part of their Reason to Revolution series) is this account of an important and complex but often overlooked subject relating to the American Revolutionary War is the provision of naval support for land forces engaged in operations at the end of a long and hazardous lines of communication and supply, in this case across 3000 miles of the North Atlantic!  The big issue facing His Majesty's Government at the outbreak of hostilities was how to supply and reinforce the pitifully small regular forces in America while also safeguarding Britain's own trade and other global interests. The army in North America was to expand to 90000 men during the course of the war, a war waged among what was now largely hostile or ambivalent civil population. The book presents a scholarly analysis of how these problems were overcome (or not) and is packed full of facts and figures that demonstrate the shear scale of the supply requirements. The text is complemented  by numerous contemporary quotes or accounts of the progress of the war within the context of the Navy's role in sustaining the army in its fight against the rebellious Colonists while waging its own war at sea against privateers and then the French. We all know how the war ended but without the considerable contribution of the Navy it is very clear from the evidence presented by the author that the war would have been lost much sooner. The book is well written, well referenced and includes a comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources. It is also illustrated with several useful maps. I enjoyed it and can recommend this book to anyone interested in the American Revolution and the role of the Royal Navy. In fact anyone wishing to factor in as part of a campaign the supply of troops overseas in the Black Powder era would also find this book of interest.

The Allied retreat from Flanders, 1794

Paul, Conrad and I played a French Revolutionary Wars game here at The Burrow on Friday. This wasn't a historical refight but a scenario based extremely loosely on the Allied retreat from Flanders and Holland in the winter of 1794/95. I took command of the reactionary forces of oppression (the 'Allies') while Conrad was the Republican French. Paul umpired as we were using his Panoply of War rules. My mother-in-law made the soup.

The basic premise was that the Allies had to capture and hold three objectives, namely the bridge, the town and the village/farm complex. The latter held badly-needed stores. I was technically trying to be in a position to exit the eastern edge of the table before the jaws of a Republic trap closed and prevented our escape into Germany. Both armies had one brigade on the table, a dice roll randomly deciding which, and where it was deployed. Other brigades would be available to join from turn 2, as many as possible subject to a successful activation roll, and again their entry point was randomly decided. The ground was covered in snow and it was very cold so the stream and dyke were frozen. The former was just counted a rough ground while the latter would bear the weight of infantry but wasn't guaranteed to do the same with cavalry and artillery. The raised causeways/roadways provided cover and obstructed line of sight.

What follows is an account of how the battle unfolded, or unravelled if you were me!

My best brigade ended up being the one already on the table, which was a stoke of good fortune, as was its  deployment point close to the bridge and the town.

However, seen from this angle there are lots of raggedy French marching up the road towards the town, well placed to  take it and cut me off from my exit point. Still, I managed to quickly push my converged flank companies battalion forward towards the town.

A slight traffic jam on the causeway as the Guards' leading battalion deployed into line, thus wasting some time in favour of parade ground precision.
The whole table as seen from the East. The buildings in the distance represent the other objective, the farm complex where there is an Allied supply dump.
Turn 2 and reinforcements start to arrive. The British cavalry find themselves stuck on the same road a their comrades in the Guards. The only option was to angle off to the left and try and get round the side of the town to threaten the enemy flank.
Conrad's reinforcements all arrived at the far Western end of the table; a brigade of mediocre light cavalry and another of good light infantry with a battalion of less good volunteers attached.
The only other reinforcements the Allies got was a small brigade of Hanoverians (Not the Garde for this game).
Conrad's legere advancing through the woods towards the farm/vilage.

Back at the other end, Conrad's original division was made up of seven newly raised Levée battalions and a battery of artillery. They soon reached the town and occupied the tower and the brown and yellow buildings. My Flank battalion had already occupied two buildings on the other side of the town square.
Conrad's raw infantry wasted no time charging the buildings held by my flank battalion and drove them out!
Reinforcement time again, and my Dutch brigade arrived. Meanwhile the Guards had been sorting themselves out to the right of the town in anticipation of a major French assault. The Allied Austrian brigade also made an appearance on the road running along the causeway. Two small units of Grenz and one of Freikorps advanced up the road while two batteries of artillery followed them. There were no French reinforcements this turn.

The leading Hanoverian battalion reached the village and occupied the building on the right. The French are  poised to try and drive them out.
My Emigré brigades chose this moment to arrive on that flank. Several battalions of rather dodgy  (with one exception) infantry and two equally dodgy regiments of hussars and a better regiment of lancers, the 'Uhlans Britaniques'.
Supported by an ineffective battery of artillery, the French try and drive off the Guards.  The Guards (thankfully despite my dreadful dice rolling) held and forced them to retreat. 
Sadly for me six battalions of veteran French then entered the fray on the road leading to the town! At least  my cavalry were flanking the French levy who were forced into square and the Dutch were advancing. My Grenz and Freikorps had even been ordered forward successfully while one of the Austrian batteries began shooting at the French columns. The other battery had crossed the bridge and deployed to take pot shots at the French assaulting the village/farm. 
The Emigré infantry were advancing slowly towards the farm. Only the lead unit, the  Royal Emigrants were any good. The Emigré cavalry has advanced confidently to close with the supposedly inferior French cavalry.
The Uhlans Britanique and the French Heavy Cavalry charge each other. My uhlans  had become disordered  during the charge and were therefore at a disadvantage. No surprises then that they were pushed back, bumping their supports back in the process. What an embarrassment to be defeated by these inferior egalitarian types.
A view from the West along the table. In the foreground both sides' cavalry regroup for another  glorious charge while the farm is being closely contested by the French and Hanoverians. One battalion of the latter tried to retake one of the buildings and was driven back with heavy losses, effectively out of the game, while one French battalion around the back of the farm was similarly battered and forced to pull back.

Conrad pushed six battalions of veteran infantry along the causeway. They drove off one of my Grenz units and the O'Donnel Freikorps but were taking fire from the other Grenz battalion and the Austrian artillery down the road. The Guards repositioned themselves to meet the French columns.
The French commander and his aide say "I don't think we shall need this today Citizen, unless for any  English Milords or Royalist traitors who fall into our hands!" The Representative of the People stands by silently.
Conrad's attack on the Allies around the town would have been more successful had his artillery been able to perform better. Sadly the dice did not show any signs of egality, fraternity or liberty and mostly missed!
The English cavalry wasn't really tested in the battle but they did seal off the French  right and force several battalions into square, where they stayed for the remainder of the game under largely ineffective fire from the Royal Artillery. My Guards flank battalion managed to capture the yellow house so we now held 60% of the town.
Too late, the Dutch brigade made an appearance, their tardiness possibly caused by the expectations that before very long they would all be serving a different master as a puppet state of France!. very pretty though. Before anyone says it, I know the flags are wrong but information on Dutch flags for the last quarter of the 18thC is sadly lacking. 
We had to call it a day at that point as Conrad and Paul had planned to go to the model shop in Chester-le-Street on the way home to buy/collect lots of boxes of 1/72 Streletz/Zvezda figures for the War of the Spanish Succession before they're unavailable. The town and the farm were still contested, but I'd held onto the supplies long enough and had also captured the vital bridge across the frozen dyke. However, the French had suffered fewer units lost so in the final reckoning had achieved a marginal victory(**). The performance of the Guards was a disappointment, as was that of my Emigré cavalry when facing truly dreadful French, but thats the joys of a wargame when anything can happen. 

I hope Conrad and Paul enjoyed the game as much as I did. I've got the hang of the rules now and have warmed to them significantly. They certainly provide (and provided in this case) a most challenging game requiring much more thought than if we were using, say, Black Powder. Now, I like BP muchly, especially for large multi-player games, but for more 'intimate' affairs Panoply of War work really well. 

Thats it gaming wise until after Christmas but I have another planned for after New Year. If anyone is at a loose end between Christmas and New Year and fancies a game, let me know.

(**) Paul asked me to carry on with the game solo before packing it all away to see if a more decisive result was possible for either side.  I shall have a go and post the results in a few days. Apart from that may all my readers and followers have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and a Happy and safe New Year.

The Army of the Swabian League 1525.

Christmas came early in our house this year when last week I was very fortunate to receive this and two other books from my friends at Helion. I've already put up a post about one, The Army of the Empire during the early reign of Louis XIV, so here is another. The latest in Helion's new 'Retinue to Regiment' series is this excellent book by well known military author Doug Miller. As with all Helion's series this one just goes from strength to strength with each publication. It follows the format one has come to expect from Helion and presents an excellent, informative and detailed (insofar as it possible within the constraints of the size of the book) description of the background to the formation of the League, the organisation of the League army, it's campaigns against Duke Ulrich of Wurtemberg and the Peasants, and is completed by four very useful appendices. The chapters covering the organisation of the army cover everything from the usual command, horse, foot and ordnance but also the Train and Communications. Indeed the latter section (my favourite and a real eye opener) argues that the League's superiority was due in no small part to intelligence gathering, propaganda and communications, using an effective system of couriers and despatch riders. Technological issues aside, the activities described could be easily attributed to the 21stC rather than the 16thC.  The information on the campaigns of the League is well presented and detailed. The whole book is well-supported by nine very useful maps, 39 mostly contemporary black and white illustrations or diagrams and eight pages of glorious colour illustrations of troops and banners. In short, an excellent well researched and well written book, and one I can highly recommend. Of course I have no plans whatsoever to buy any Landsknechts, well any MORE that is. What would I do with them.......?

Saturday 21 December 2019

From deep in the archives. Practical Wargamer March/April 1990

My friend Martin from the South London Warlords sent me these scans of an article written by Paul Stevenson that appeared in Practical Wargamer way back in the spring of 1990. That is almost 30 years ago although it seems longer! I think the game was played in late 1989 which would allow for some lead in time for publication. Anyway, I digress. The article is a piece on a massive 6mm refight of the Battle of Blenheim. I remember the game well funnily enough (not least as my car conked out on the way home thankfully just as I pulled up outside my house, but also for the lunch which I think was put together by Jeremy's nan).

Those pictured above who I'm still gaming with or see around the shows are instantly recognisable, if not a little greyer. Thanks Martin for finding this article and forwarding to me.