Friday 31 January 2020

A Trip to the Club. Peninsular War with General d’Armee

John and I parachuted into a Napoleonic Peninsular War game at the Durham Wargames Group last night as two of the British commanders were unable to be there. The British were hard pressed, with their right wing under assault by half the French army, and their left had suffered a reverse when a regiment of KGL Light Dragoons were driven off the table. Conrad was already in command of the right so John had the centre and I took the left. Shaun and Nigel were the French. The gorgeously painted figures are all from Shaun's collection.

British heavy dragoons on the left flank.
The British centre is deployed behind the ridgeline, with the exception of skirmishers and a battery of artillery.
The French had captured half of the village but were now massing for a major assault against the battered British right. 
John's brigade in the centre makes a move forward to break the deadlock. Our artillery withdrew out of sight as it had been acting as a cannonball magnet for most of the game and was on the brink of dispersing.
The French hussars (right at the back in blue) had declared a charge on my troop of RHA just out of shot. My heavy dragoons launched an opportunity charge so both groups of cavalry thundered towards each other. In the charge resolution phase I threw an 11 and Neil, even with a re-roll, managed a 6 or 7. When the other factors were included there was a seven point difference and the French routed before we got to cross sabres. Their supports had to retreat and ran out of table. The British cavalry then had to charge on and hit a regiment of  chasseurs. We both managed to repeat our extreme dice rolls so again the French fled. Victory and strike one French cavalry brigade. Neil hastily formed some of central infantry into squares.
Conrads troops held off several French attacks, causing heavy casualties, but in the end one battalion routed, leaving a massive hole in the line.
There was little the British could do on the right as the centre and left wings were by now advancing  towards the French. 
We had to stop then as it was time almost 10pm but the game will continue next week.  It’s good to see GdA being given a run out at the Club. They’re certainly now the go to set of rules of choice for my French Revolutionary Wars games instead of Black Powder. I would probably still use the latter in one of my big multi-player FRW games where players were unfamiliar with GdA as BP are maybe easier to get into. GdA require a great deal more cerebral activity (in a good way) to get the most of the game, especially given the many nuances of the ADC command tasking.

York on Sunday, which I’m looking forward to. 

Monday 27 January 2020

Novi part 2: a postscript

Once the dust had settled on Saturday's game I thought it might be interesting to play a few more turns solo before clearing away the troops.
The Russian Cossacks charged the flank of a battery of French horse artillery. The artillery passed their test and were able to limber up and evade.
The French gunners making a tactical redeployment  (fleeing from the Cossacks).
Mike's division in the centre had  been taking a battering from enemy artillery in the shape of two batteries of 12pdrs, one of which was a Russian large battery. This round of firing tipped the balance and saw one battalion disperse, making the brigade faltering. 
I noticed thus battery of French cannon on the rear deployment area. Surely the French hadn't forgotten about it and left it off the table? Seems so.
The Russian grenadiers advanced towards the now faltering French centre, as did the remains of Neil's brigade in order to cover the grenadiers flank. Consequently they weren't bothered by the French cavalry to their front. Brave men. Indeed, the French cavalry did charge but were unable to close and were driven back.
The Austrian grenadiers had been repulsed once but would soon be ready to have another go.
Another shot of the Russian grenadiers.
In the following turn the Austrian/Russian army won the initiative. The Austrian grenadiers charged again, as did the regiment to their flank. This time the grenadiers made it to contact but the line battalion was driven back.
Winning the initiative meant the Cossacks could charge the limbered up French horse artillery, which failed to escape and was overrun and destroyed.
The Austrian grenadiers defeated the French line, forcing them to retreat. This was not good news as the. Brigade was now faltering due to losses elsewhere.
Both the Austrian and Russian heavy batteries targeted Johns battery, taking it over the point at which they would disperse. The gunners fled, abandoning their cannon. 
The French are in real trouble as their centre is collapsing.
I quickly rolled for the two French faltering brigades. The one that had been to the left of Novi had been forced to retreat off the table and was lost. The one in and to the right of Novi threw a 1 in its Faltering test and so it was every man for himself! They too disappeared off the table!

It is always interesting how just a couple more turns can have such a difference on the outcome, as we now had a resounding Coalition victory.

Great stuff and now to put everything away.

Sunday 26 January 2020

Not Quite the Battle of Novi, 15 August 1799

The Battle of Novi, by Alexander Kotzebue
On Saturday I hosted another large French Revolutionary Wars game, this time set in Northern Italy in 1799. It was based on the Battle of Novi, a major French defeat at the hands of the great Field Marshall Alexander Suvorov, which saw them almost expelled from Italy. The actual battle was a massive sprawling and bloody affair, so the game was heavily bath-tubbed and as a result only bore a passing resemblance to the real thing, but that doesn't bother me really for a game at home. A full account of the actual battle can be found here. It’s been ages since my 1799 Russians have been on the table so that was as good a reason as any for the game, pitching an Austrian-Russian  army under Suvorov against  French force under General Barthelemy Catherine Joubert.
Field Marshall Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov 
General Barthelemey Catherine Joubert
I also wanted to introduce a different army, the Russians, into our General d’Armee learning process. The key to success in GdA, apart from throwing the right scores on dice, is the ADC tasking phase. Understanding what can or can’t be done under each of the ‘taskings’ is critical and intuitive, and creates plenty of fascinating/annoying challenges. Anyway, on to the game.

The Battle of Novi, with the French at the bottom holding the heights and the  walled town of Novi.
John the Red and Mike were the French, while Paul, Conrad and Neil took the Coalition forces, under Paul’s command as Suvorov. I umpired (no mean feat given I’m only a step or two ahead of the others in learning the rules), so in the time honoured manner I will attempt to get the following photos to describe the course of events as the game unfolded.

Something is attracting some serious attention down the table. l to r John, Mike, Neil, Paul,  Conrad . The French had three 'Divisions' plus two cavalry brigades. The cavalry were all deployed on the left with the exception of the Polish Legion uhlans. The Polish and Ligurian Legions held the right while the other two divisions massed largely in the centre. The Russians were deployed on the right half of their baseline, the Austrians on the left and massed reserve artillery in the centre. A brigade of Austrian cavalry was on each wing.
Austrian uhlans on their left flank.
The town of Novi, garrisoned by a demi-brigade of French. Novi was a walled town.
Conrad's infantry brigade advancing on the Coalition left, preceded by a screen of Grenz skirmishers.
The Grenz can be heard shouting "sheep! sheep!" as they neared the enemy.
On the other flank the cavalry of each side was itching for a fight.
Two regiments of French chasseurs a cheval crash into Austrian hussars and cheveau-leger forcing both enemy units and their supports back in retreat.  
French horse artillery supporting the advance of Mike's heavy cavalry in the centre.

One unit of Mike's chasseurs take heavy casualties, canistered in the flank by Austrian horse artillery, but the other charged the rallying Austrian hussars (they had just passed a faltering test), forcing them to retreat off the table. The Austrian cavalry were done for on this flank, although the French were carrying a great many casualties.
Conrad played a 'forwards' order and his brigade advanced rapidly. Being Austrians they spent the next turn pulling back from their slightly exposed position.
In the centre the Austrian grenadiers had been left off the table, not by design but  by accident, but soon appeared and snaked towards Novi very slowly as the brigade kept failing activation rolls. Conrad's Austrians and the combined Polish and Ligurian Legions were locked in a fierce firefight, but the Austrians seemed content to hold their ground.
Neil ordered his six battalions of Russian line infantry to advance. They took heavy casualties from French artillery on the heights outside Novi.
Mike moved his heavy cavalry forward and the Russians formed square. Mike then ordered the brigade to charge. The first regiment drove the enemy skirmishers off then the two remaining regiments each attacked a Russian square. Predictably, especially given the poor dice throws from the French, they bounced and pulled back to safety.
Mike then ordered his battered chasseurs to charge the Austrian artillery that had been peppering them with canister. In another predicable outcome the French recoiled, by now only one hit away from dispersing! 
Austrian dragoons advanced behind their Grenz then charged the French skirmish screen, driving them off. 

Polish legion in the village.

The Russian infantry in the centred to pull back due to the French superiority in cavalry in this sector.

Conrad's Austrians advance on the French skirmish screen, forcing them back.
Paul ordered his grenadiers to charge the French line outside Novi. They took something like  eight casualties as they attempted to close and were driven back. The French were well supported so John was able to re-roll twice during the melee contact phase. Just as well as he first threw snake eyes before getting the reroll! The Austrians didn't have enough support, hadn't really prepared the way with artillery fire,  and the `French were fresh so the attack didn't work this time. A lesson learnt.
The Russian grenadiers, all four battalions, made a very late advance across the table. They would have gone through the battered and shattered French to their front like a knife through butter had they been able to close. The French were all graded as recruits, six battalions of them.

So that was it. The French had won a tactical victory but had failed in their objective of weakening the Coalition forces sufficiently to enable them to escape the noose that had been closing around them. The Coalition forces had prevented the French escape but the latter were still very much a force to contend with. I know how I would have played it, but its easy to say that in hindsight, so shall keep my own counsel.

It was a great game and everyone expressed their enjoyment, which is always good.  The rules also got largely positive feedback, which is also good as I intend to use them as my rules of choice for the FRW until/unless something better comes along. There are some things we/I still got wrong but we are on a learning curve of ill-defined and flexible curviness so onwards and upwards till the next time.

Vapnatark in York next Sunday, which is always a good show and a good day out where I will no doubt buy more stuff I didn't know I needed and talk soldiers all day. 

Saturday 25 January 2020

Polish Legion, 1799 Italian Campaign

Prompted by the next big game at the Burrow I photographed my now complete Polish Legion now they’re at full strength.

The Legion deployed ready for tomorrow’s big game set in N Italy in 1799.

Three fusilier battalions covered by skirmishers form the core of the Legion

General Dabrowski with the Legion artillery to his left.

Legion Uhlans

It’s taken a while and many a distraction but I’ve now completed my Polish Legion, part of the French Army of Italy in 1799 (although similar formations also existed earlier, and in other theatres of war).    My mate Rob of Northumbrian Painting Services painted all three battalions, plus the gunners, while I contented myself with the basing. The first battalion was painted maybe two years ago and the last one was completed a couple of weeks ago.

The Lombard Legion, still under strength but on the list for completion in the first quarter of  2020

I’ve brigaded them with my Lombard Legion (also painted by Rob) although when the Lombards are at full strength (one more battalion, two more cannon to complete the battery and half a dozen more Hussars) they’ll both be properly ‘Legion’ in strength and composition. Sounds all a bit OCD to me but they’re my toys, so......

With the exception of the Uhlans which are Elite Miniatures, all the other castings are from Trent. The flags (with the exception of two Lombard flags off The Flag Dude) are either off the internet or from my friend Franco.

Friday 24 January 2020

Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643 - 1715, Vol. 2

This is the 50th publication in Helion's Century of the Soldier series and what a cracker it is too! Volume 2 of René Chartrand's 'Armies and Wars of the Sun King 1643-1715' celebrates the series' half century focusing on the infantry of Louis XIV. The book follows the usual format we've come to expect from Helion. Not a great deal is known about the French army of this period or of the campaigns it waged and having it pretty much all in one place is a definite bonus. The first six chapters give us quite a detailed run through the French involvement in the wars of the period which I found especially interesting as it includes the expedition to Sicilly in the mid-1670's, which I knew nothing about, and the influence of the Ottoman Empire on Eastern Europe in shaping French policy in the West. We then get more, with chapters covering, amongst other things, the business of war, the structure of the infantry regiment (be it native French or Foreign), recruitment, weapons, uniforms, colours and tactics. The book is lavishly illustrated, with almost 200 black and white contemporary illustrations and maps/diagrams, and there are 32 pages of colour plates. These include eight glorious pages of specially commissioned illustrations covering uniforms and colours, and a further 24 pages of other colour plates of uniforms and colours drawn or reconstructed from other sources.

This book is well written, easy to follow, wonderfully illustrated, and a fascinating and informative read. Very little is known about the French army of the 1670's but M. Chartrand has gone a long way towards filling the gaps. As you can tell, I liked it. Highly recommended, even if it means I shall be adding to my 1670's French!