Monday 30 November 2020

The Lion from the North volume 2 reviewed.

Number 59 in Helion’s ground-breaking series ‘Century of the Soldier’ is ‘The Lion from the North, the Swedish Army during the Thirty Years War: Volume 2, 1632-1648’. I’ve been waiting (not very) patiently for the arrival of this book, by Michael Fredholm Von Essen, for what seems like a long time. Pretty much everything I’ve read about the war stops shortly after the Swedish victory and Gustavus Adolfo’s’ demise at Luthen in 1632, so it is an understatement to say that is a most welcome addition. I’m not going to regurgitate the contents page, suffice to say that the author provides us with a scholarly analysis of the development of the Swedish army under the genius administration of Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna and the military skills of his Field Marshals. This excellent book is the result of a significant amount of research judging by the impressive array of contemporary and later sources listed at its conclusion. 

Well written, impressively detailed, lavishly illustrated, with 32 colour pages showing Swedish uniforms, flags and a lovely map of ‘Germany’ and the various ‘circles’ during the period covered, this book opens up a whole new area of research in the post-Lutzen Swedish army which hitherto, to my knowledge at least, has been largely overlooked in the English language. 

Not only do we get an account of operations leading up to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, but we get, as one would expect, an informed description of the Swedish army and how it was raised, maintained, armed and organised as well as pen pictures of each of its main commanders. As a bonus there are chapters on the war against Denmark, the development of the navy and a fascinating insight into the ultimately doomed Swedish attempts at setting up and maintaining  colonies in North America and West Africa. 

The publisher, editor and the author are to be commended on producing such a fascinating and engaging book. The result is no less than outstanding for anyone interested in the Thirty Years War. 

Tuesday 24 November 2020

The Army of George II 1727-1760

The Army of George II 1727-1760 by Peter Brown is the 53rd publication in Helion’s ‘From Reason to Revolution’ series. I will cut to the chase and say that I found this book to be an immensely readable and informative study of a fascinating period in the development and history of the British army. I positively galloped through it into the early hours, well beyond ‘silly o’clock’.

The book is presented in the well tried structure of the majority of Helion publications in this and many other series, and, following the introduction covers every aspect of the Army, from, for example, recruitment and training of the common soldiers, discipline, the officers, each arm of service, medical services, colours and standards and so forth. All liberally dotted with a fine array of contemporary black and white illustrations and excepts from letters and journals. In fact the use of such excepts really brings the subject, and the writers, to life. In my usual ghoulish way I found the chapters on medical services, the experience of battle and the ‘Butcher’s Bill’ especially interesting and enlightening and as ever it amazes me what officers and men endured when on campaign, in battle and it’s aftermath. The chapters covering overseas service, in North America, India and other locations as far afield as Senegal and the Caribbean provide a useful insight into what was very unpopular and hazardous (from sickness especially) service abroad, and how the army adapted to the rigours of campaigning in the forests of North America to the dusty plains of India.

The book finishes with appendices dedicated to details of regiments raised during the Seven Years War and the uniforms of infantry, horse, dragoons and American Provincials.

As with pretty much every Helion publication we are of course treated to some gorgeous colour illustrations in the shape of nine pages of paintings by Patrice Courcelle and a further seven colour pages of re-enactors in period costume.

Overall then an excellent book and a must for anyone interested in the British army of this era. I have a small British contingent for my War of the Austrian Succession/ Seven Years War collection that has yet to march out of barracks and see service. Maybe this book will be the kick up the backside I need to remedy that!

Some new books

 I was fortunate enough to receive three books off the nice people at Helion last week. I’ll do a proper review of each as I read (or devour) each of them. I am well through the Army of George II so will be posting something about it in a day or two.

Last week I also bought the new Osprey book on Renaissance armies in Italy. 


Sadly I found this book less exciting and informative than I’d hope the title might suggest. I may be well read (whatever that means) but I found this book dull with little in the way of new information. Now, I’ve read the author’s books on the War of the Triple Alliance and came away at the end thinking, “yeah, these are good and I’ve learnt a fair bit I didn’t know before reading them.” Not quite the case with this book. Ok, an Osprey is a very limiting medium for any subject, let alone one as involved as this, but at the end I thought, “ mmm? So that’s it then?” For an introduction to the subject it gives a good if necessarily shallow overview, something I blame the format for and NOT the author. The central colour plates are rather nice, and the numerous B&W illustrations are useful. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the book, I have no regrets about buying it as there is a place for it in my ever growing library. 

Wednesday 18 November 2020


 I've given up painting Italian Wars figures for the moment as I need a change. I bought this piece off Eureka years ago, well before it appeared in the catalogue ands been in the box of doom ever since. It's a nice little vignette to add to the tabletop.

Now, anyone for a bacon buttie?

Monday 16 November 2020

Crimean War revisited

This week's game was going to be a bit of a nostalgic trip back to perhaps three years ago when I last fielded the Crimean War collection in a fictional encounter to the North East of Sebastopol. I also thought I'd put together some amendments so we could use the mechanics found within Honours of War. The Crimean collection is another  one of those that was exciting to put plan and together, and which visually, though I say so myself, looks stunning and evokes a few memories of Tony Richardson's iconic and very anti-war 1967 Charge of the Light Brigade movie (oh whatever happened to all those cut scenes, like the charge of the Heavy Brigade? Criminal).


Anyway, it is August 1854 and the Russians have sent the VIth Corps to capture a large British supply shipment which had been 'abandoned' due to incompetence and/or corruption in the village of Storye Cheri. Lord Raglan has ordered Lord Lucan to take the Light Brigade of cavalry and the 1st and 4th Divisions to ensure the damned French, er Russians don't sneak off with their loot and leave the army in even more dire straits than they would normally find themselves on campaign.



Brigade of Guards:
3 btn Guards (S)

Highland Bde:
3 btn Highlanders (S)
1 battery 9pdrs (1 model)


Infantry Bde:
Rifle Brigade (S)
3 btn line infantry (S/Smoothbore) 

Infantry Bde:
3 btn line infantry (S/Smothbore)
1 battery 9pdrs (1 model)

Light Cavalry Bde:
5 small regiments S/small)
1 troop horse artillery 6pdr (1 model)

POSSIBLE REINFORCEMENTS: (1D6 to select brigade, arrives on T?)

Ottoman Brigade: (Score 1-3)
1 regiment of cavalry (I)
1 ‘regiment’ of Bashi-Bazouks (I)
6 btns line infantry (I)
1 battery 9pdrs (1 model)

French Brigade: (Score 4,5)
1 regiment Chasseurs d’Afrique (S)
1 btn Turcos (S)
1 btn Zouave (S)
2 btn Line infantry
1 battery 8pdrs (1 model)

British Brigade: (Score 6)
3 btn line infantry (S)
1 troop horse artillery 6pdrs (1 gun)

Orders to Lord Lucan
Due to a staff cock up, i.e. corruption, our supplies were mysteriously taken to the abandoned village of Storye Cheri to the North East of Sevastopol. These supplies include new siege guns, powder and shot, officers’ personal consignments of food and clothing from the finest London establishments, oh, and a few blankets and greatcoats for the men. There might even be some food suitable for the rank and file as well.

You must cross the Gryazukha River, retake the village and drive off the Russian forces before they are able to remove the stores, which they MUST NOT be permitted to do. The 1st Division is the finest in the army, armed with Minee rifles. The 4th Division are still armed with smooth bore Brown Bess muskets (except the Rifle Brigade who have Minée rifles). Half of the entire mounted complement of the army was roused to go on this expedition and you have a cavalry brigades of five weak regiments under your brother in law Lord Cardigan. The only artillery available to join this force is a battery of 9pdrs with each division and a battery of 6pdr horse artillery attached to your cavalry.

Further troops have been ordered to support your attack. Nobody is quite sure which if any will be available to march to your assistance, just hope its not Johnny Turk or those damnable Frenchies!)



8 btns infantry
1 small btn riflemen
1 Battery 8pdr medium guns (2 models)

8 btns infantry
1 small btn riflemen
1 battery 8pdr medium guns (2 models)

Artillery Bde:
2 batteries 12pdr guns (4 models)

Cavalry Division:

Uhlan Bde:
2 regt Uhlans

Hussar Bde:
2 regt. Hussars

Cossack Bde: 
2 regt. Cossacks

Independent Unit:
1 battery light horse artillery (3 models)

Russian Orders: Having by prior arrangement with corrupt enemy commissary officers ‘overrun’ and captured the English supplies abandoned at Storye Cheri during the night, your task is to hold the ground for 6 turns to allow sufficient wagons to come up and remove the stores. They will take 1 D3+1 turns to load up. You may then withdraw if necessary after holding for another 2 moves to allow the wagons to get away.

Dawn breaks and passes, as does noon, and it only in the late afternoon that Lucan arrives in sight of the Russians who have adopted a strong defensive position along the loop of the River Gryazukha and in the village. One of the difficulties of the Crimean War is trying to balance the superiority of British musketry (mostly armed with Minée-type rifles muskets) against the stoicism of the Russian infantry and their rather impressive number of large batteries attached to the corps. (There are two twelve gun batteries of 12pdrs as Corps reserve, two twelve gun batteries of 8pdrs, one per division, and an eighteen gun battery of Don Cossack horse artillery.) I think I got it right and this seems to be evidenced by the way the game turned out.

Mark, John and Conrad played the Russians while Neil, Paul and Shaun played the British, managed to get the Ottoman brigade as their random reinforcements, but at least they arrived in turn 2. What follows are some photos of the game which hopefully will help explain how the game played out.

The 1st Division, led by the Brigade of Guards 
As the 1st Division advances the Light Brigade covers their flank. The Russian 17th Division advances across the stream.

More of the Russian 17th Division advancing on the Guards.

The Russians charge the Guards but are driven back with heavy losses, but the Guards' brigadier is killed.
The Russians prepare for the British counter attack attack on the right.

The 17th Division are pushed back, one battalion routing across the bridge.

The Highland brigade step up, the 92nd Foot taking heavy losses from the enemy artillery.
The Russian right wing/British left settled down to the scene above.
The Russian centre.
In the centre the British 4th Division advance cautiously towards the village, under heavy fire from two batteries of Russian heavy artillery. 
The 4th Division crossing the river under heavy fire. The Russian Uhlans are strangely immobile and come under long range fire.
The British extreme right. 

The Russian centre and right consolidate their position, ie retreat

The Ottomans arrive to face the Russian left. They look very splendid.

Mark launched the Russian hussar brigade towards the Turks, who counter charged with their regular cavalry. Both sides took heavy losses and were forced to pull back. 

Retreating back over the river the Russian horse artillery battery is left isolated.
The Ottomans deploy and begin their attack.

The Cossack horse battery is under fire from Ottomans and British and the survivors are soon forced to pull back, but not before killing the commander of the British brigade facing them.

One Ottoman battalion is shattered by the Russian battery. 
The Russian left is under pressure from the combined British and Ottoman advance. 
The Ottomans have driven the Russian back over the river and destroyed the horse battery that had been causing so much trouble. Bashi-Bazooks in the foreground up to no good about to do some bashing and bazooking no doubt..

Lord Cardigan and the Light Brigade. Once they'd made it over the stream they failed four activation rolls in a row so just stood watching the battle from the wings. 

As darkness began to fall the battle still raged. The Russian wagons had arrived and were loaded up by the end of turn 6, but the road to Sebastopol was blocked by the British 1st Division. The Russians would therefore have to take the captured supplies into the interior of the Crimea and Simferopol. Not ideal but still a victory of sorts.

So, we managed eight turns I think. The Russians could claim a minor victory for retaining the stores but they hadn't got them into to Sebastopol so a major win was denied them. Tactically they had come off second best which was down to a degree of timidness and the preponderance of 'Dithering' generals on both sides. The British 1st Division did well to beat off an attack by the Russian 17th Division but were unable to exploit it due to the presence of superior (in numbers) Russian artillery. In a straight firefight a battalion armed with Minée rifles would in theory have been able to overcome a Russian battery, in much the same way that they outshot the stoic Russian columns. To try and reflect this stoicism I allowed Russian infantry in close order to be classed as a superior target when being fired upon. This worked quite well and offset the otherwise very deadly Minée fire. The large Russian batteries were not as dominant as they might have been expected to be. The divisional battery on the right never really got a chance for any sustained fire, but the three batteries in the centre caused considerable damage to the advancing British but were unable to stop the advance, loosing to rifle fire from the Rifle Brigade skirmishers. My heroic Ottomans did great. Only one unit ran away, expected as it took the brunt of fire from the 18-gun horse battery pouring canister into it. The Russian cavalry didn't get a chance to show how average they were except when they came of slightly better in their combat with the Ottoman cavalry, but then again the Light Brigade proved to be a waste of space as Lord Cardigan sat on his horse (Ronald) and dithered away the game.

It was I think an interesting and challenging game, laced with a fair bit of the fog of war, especially where the camera angles made some of the troops invisible due to the terrain. Also, with no close up cameras (deliberately so) commanders didn't always have an especially good 'God's Eye View' of the table, which added to the experience (so I'm told). There were a few issues with the rules. Not the mechanics really, except for moving and firing by alternate brigades, which necessitated a great deal of walking around the table for me; several thousand steps according to my 'tech thingy' which is far more than I can do without serious consequences, ie intense pain, stiffening up and general grumpiness. When we unpicked the game it was agreed that Honours of War are actually quite a slow set when played under these circumstances and not umpire friendly (when it me at least) so we shall be going back to Black Powder and its derivatives and/or General d'Armée in the future.

Saturday must also have been a busy day up in the ether as we experienced a few issues with the speed the images were being uploaded, (which we shouldn't given my kit) but again I was told by players that this only added to the fog of war (for them). It just made me cross.

I shall hopefully be facilitating another game on this coming Saturday. Now, what can I do.....?

Friday 13 November 2020

Italian Wars reinforcements

 I finished a few more units over the weekend, yet more for my Italian Wars armies that I don’t really need but we’re sitting in the ‘box of doom’ waiting to be painted. Who was I to argue with their cries of “paint me! Paint me!”?

Old Glory Italian Gendarme. They will probably be in the service of the Pope. 

Some Warlord plastic Landsneckts with the odd metal figure thrown in. A small pile block of only 48 figures.

These are from Mirliton in Italy and represent a unit of Florentine militia pike. I quite like Mirliton but I think they are very marmite, ie you love ‘em or hate ‘em. I like Marmite.

That’s it for now. There are some more Swiss that need their bases finishing before I post any pictures, but I’m currently working on French War of the Austrian Succession infantry and a couple of commanders. 

Big game again tomorrow.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Italian Wars - Cheerleading Nuns


And why not? I think these escapees from my box of doom are Tercio miniatures originally from their Bloodbowl range. I don’t play Bloodbowl, never had so I can only assume these were bought for a little vignette. Now that I have an Italian Renaissance football team they’re a useful addition. 

Monday 9 November 2020

War of the Polish Succession and a disguised wargame scenario

 On Saturday I hosted another remote wargame at The Burrow. The set up can be seen in the previous post Here . Particularly astute readers will have recognised the scenario as a disguised refight of the Battle of Rossbach on 5 November 1757, (so played almost on the anniversary) but shifted 25 years backwards, a few hundred miles south and with a largely whole new cast. In this game the Austrians took the place of Frederick’s Prussians while the Spanish morphed into the Reichsarmee. The French of course stayed French. We had a reduced lineup due to work commitments and the pandemic, but Conrad and Neil played the Austrians while Paul, Richard and Mark were the French/Spanish. I don’t think anyone other than Mark recognised the actual battle before I mentioned it at the start so well done. I’ve refought this battle at least twice I think. Once at the Battleground 2015 show and once at home when we lived up the Dale. On both occasions the Prussians won, but only just in one case, and not decisively in the other. It’s a difficult one to get right and still remain a playable game for the French and Co. I think I created a balanced game. In this refight  the French could react to the Austrian cavalry onslaught if a little luck were to be on their side, while the Austrians would have to be planning several moves in advance if they were to overwhelm the enemy and not allow their cavalry to get ground down too much to remain effective in the later stages of the game.

The Austrians won the initiative, which was vital if their plans were to work. Note that the Austrians were not turned into proto-Prussians but still retained their own national traits as outlined in Honours of War, so only their grenadiers and cavalry were classed as superior. I decided that their artillery should be standard rather than superior because (a) they represented Prussians and (b) superior artillery is very effective in the rules, maybe too much so. The French and Spanish were a mixture of superior, such as the Guards and Swiss/Irish battalions plus the Royal Carabiners. The Spanish were inferior except for their guard and foreign battalions whom I made standard. Spanish horse and French dragoon’s were rated inferior. So, on to battle.

The Austrian grand battery with their infantry deployed behind the ridge.
The allied cavalry, 11 regiments in all, advancing in column towards the previously unseen Austrians.

Austrian cavalry facing the oncoming columns of French and Spanish.

The main body of the Franco-Spanish army, four brigades of infantry, 14 battalions in all.

Although they had the initiative the Austrians failed to get a double move which would have allowed them to charge the French while they were still in march column. This gave the French under Mark the opportunity to shake out from column to meet them next turn. (I allow all cavalry to form top in two ranks without penalty as it is more pleasing on the eye).

The allied second cavalry brigade deploy out of column. 

Two brigades of French horse at the rear of the cavalry formation shake out from column

Next turn the opposing cavalry clash. Losses are heavy and both sides see units break or pull back shattered. This is one of the key danger points for the Austrians (or indeed the Prussians in previous refights) as they risk getting sucked into a series of cavalry melees that gradually deplete their leading regiments to the point of destruction).

Neil marched his leading infantry brigade forwards right through the artillery, preventing them from firing for two turns.

The battlefield from behind the Austrian lines.

Although gaining the upper hand two Austrian cuirassier regiments were destroyed as a result of continuous action against the enemy.

The French and Spanish cavalry had also been thinned out and half of the first and second lines had been driven off or routed.

Neil's infantry cleared the guns just as his second brigade made their appearance.

Turn 4 and the cavalry melee is STILL going on.Add caption

Neil's second line made a left turn, formed column. and began marching around the cannon.

The Austrian cavalry have now broken through to the final line of French horse.

Neil's second brigade on the march.

Richard was in command of two fine brigades of French infantry, five battalions and two batteries in all.

Paul meanwhile had been force marching his infantry out to the flank and Richard formed his brigades into line. Seen here are battalions of the Irish regiments Rooth and Bulkley.

Conrad began pulling his bruised cavalry back to reform. There were only five out of the original ten regiments still capable of fighting, after they'd been able to rally some hits off.

The surviving French and Spanish horse found themselves stuck between the two opposing lines of infantry. The managed to extricate themselves at the cost if holding up their infantry advancing to their rear.

Austrian grenadiers close with the French

In the background the Spanish infantry are pushing towards the left while the Irish brigade deploys to engage the Austrians to their front.

Conrad pulled the remains of his cavalry back to regroup and rally off some hits. 

The main Austrian grand battery recommences firing.

The rather confused French centre, with the remains of the French and Spanish cavalry pulling back to rally.

The Austrians advanced into close range of the French.

The Irish brigade holds the centre but is taking a battering from the Austrian artillery.

The Spanish can be seen deployed into line, supposed by a battery pouring canister into the Austrian line. 

On the Austrian left one of their battalions breaks under the weight of fire from French infantry and canister fire.

The Spanish guard and their supporting artillery break a battalion of Austrians.

The Spanish have now all shaken out into line. 

Spanish artillery pounding the Austrians at point blank range.

A few long shots of the main lines of battle. 

The now silent Austrian battery

Confusion across the battlefield.

So at the end of Turn 14 the game came to an end, with neither side holding a significant advantage. The Austrians did well in holding off the Austrian horse, and in the final turn had broken two battalions of Austrian infantry, one by the Spanish infantry and close range artillery, the other by the French Guards. It is interesting to speculate on what would have happened if we'd been able to finish the game to a definite decision. The Austrians still had four regiments of cuirassiers and one of hussars left, with barely a scratch on any of them. By comparison the Allied cavalry had been reduced to three regiments, two French and one Spanish. The infantry had barely begun to fight so the early loss of two Austrian battalions was a critical one, but if pressure could have been maintained along the line, especially against the somewhat flakey and unsupported Spanish, then perhaps the French on the right would begin to suffer for being so congested if they were forced to retreat. Who knows? I enjoyed setting up and running this game, and am being pulled back into the 18thC, so much so that I've started painting another battalion of French, and finished basing up another two battalions of Frenchmen.

Hindsight being such a wonderful thing, had I been playing on the French side I think I'd have sacrificed the leading cavalry brigade to delay the Austrians and pulled the others back onto the advancing infantry, well outside of the the range of the Austrian artillery. The infantry could then have stood firm or led the way in a slow and limited advance, where superior numbers rather than quality might well have prevailed. On the Austrian side, I've played them (as far better Prussians) twice and fallen into the same trap on both occasions. Easy to say, especially as I've failed to do it myself previously, but the Austrians have got to avoid mutually assured destruction with their cavalry. Their artillery would I feel be better used limbering and advancing with the infantry given that they lost three moves of shooting whilst being marched through by 5000 sweaty blokes from the far corners of the Empire. Whatever. Anyway, it was a great game and everyone enjoyed themselves and yet again the technology (at least as it scooted into the ether from the Burrow) worked well, although I think one or two players suffered occasional buffering problems intermittently through the game.

Another Saturday of gaming over, I was planning on a session with the Virtual Wargames Group but I gave up after about half an hour as I needed to have a lie down.  Next Saturday, another game I hope. Not sure what yet, but plenty of time to decide.