Thursday 29 February 2024

Charles XII's Karoliners, Volume 2: Swedish Cavalry of the Great Northern War 1700–1721


There was a time not very long ago when anyone wishing to research the Swedish army during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries would have struggled to find much, if anything, available in English. Over the last couple of years Helion has been hell bent on remedying this situation, to the point where we have been presented with a bumper series of titles, the latest being this one, Charles XII’s Karoliners, volume 2: The Swedish Cavalry of the Great Northern War 1701–1721 by Ukrainian author and artist Sergey Shamenkov.

I will avoid regurgitating the contents list, but the book covers, in great detail, the organisation, recruitment, arms and equipment, uniforms of the officers and men of the wide range of horse, dragoon and Drabant (guard) units in the army, as well as those of musicians and their instruments (a nice touch), and the horse furniture for all ranks.

There are 34 full colour plates, all by the author, and they are absolutely wonderful. They cover examples of the uniforms of some of the numerous Swedish cavalry and dragoon regiments, including some particularly nice ones of musicians, but my favourite is the one depicting a mounted dragoon complete with what looks like a rifle grenade or hand mortar for lobbing grenades at the enemy; not something to be attempted lightly from the back of a horse I imagine. There are also numerous black and white images, some contemporary, some previously unpublished, and others that are photos of surviving equipment and clothing items.

A perfect companion to volume 1, this is well presented and full of detail, and is a welcome addition to my collection of books covering this subject. Highly recommended.

ISBN 978-1-804513-51-4. 165 pages softback

Marshal Joachim Murat

Another personality for my growing French Napoleonic army for 1807-1808. I’m not the best of painters but I am rather pleased with the way he’s turned out. Mostly done with ‘speed’ paints but then gone over with the proper stuff so it wasn’t exactly a speedy job. The model is from Gringo 40s.

More Goodies from Helion - Light Troops in the Seven Years War.

Light Troops in the Seven Years War. Irregular Warfare in Europe and North America, 1755–1763 is another valuable addition to Helion’s ‘from Reason to Revolution’ series, tackling as it does an often overlooked aspect of eighteenth-century warfare. Be they Rangers, Grenzers, Jagers or Freikorps, the impact of their almost constant operations was not insignificant, especially when taken within the wider strategic context. Author James McIntyre has done an excellent job examining the operations of this eclectic mix of ‘irregular’ soldiers, across Europe and North America, who by their successful actions were to elbow themselves into the collective consciousness of the Great Powers, most of them anyway.

Beginning with an examination of the re-emergence of irregular, or partisan, warfare during the first half of the century the author then looks at the efforts of the great Marshal de Saxe and others to codify or regulate the conduct and experiences of the ‘small war’. I was struck by how seriously this was taken, especially by de Saxe, and the French ‘establishment’ in particular.

The heart of the book is the chapters covering light infantry operations in Europe, North America, illustrated with accounts of the actions of Gundersdorf and Domstadtl. North America is not forgotten, with an examination of the raid on Fort Bull in 1756. These successes in battle had significant consequences far out of proportion to the size of the actions themselves.

The stars of this book are, in my opinion, the eight gorgeous colour plates by Alexandr Chernushkin, depicting many different types of light troops, such as von Kleist’s Pandours (one of my favorites) and the Schaumburg-Lippe-Buckeburg Jager Corps. There are also several contemporary black and white images and several useful maps to support the narrative.

The author concludes with chapters on the emergence and development of light infantry in the British army and their role in the ongoing frontier warfare of North America, which rounds off a very informative and satisfyingly thorough examination of the subject matter. The author has had much to tell about this somewhat obscure aspect of eighteenth century warfare, and has done so very well and in an engaging way; as ever I enjoy reading the contemporary correspondence carefully threaded into the narrative as a way into getting into the heads of the people there on the ground.

So, this is in my view an outstanding book which I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with an interest, no matter how fleeting, in eighteenth century warfare. For an insight into irregular warfare of the era this is the perfect answer.

ISBN 978-1-804513-43-9. 154 pages.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

A few Napoleonic Additions.

 Not much been going on this week for various reasons, but I have finished a couple of command stands for the Russians and one for the French. You can never have too many commanders. They always look worse in the photos, so say I at any rate! They will do nicely.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

New Pike and Shot Wargame Rules and Army Lists


I recently acquired copies of these two books from Helion and Co, part of their Helion Wargames series. Now, I have not played these rules, although I have used their sister set, Mortimer et Gloriam, so my opinion is mostly based on reading and understanding them rather than on how they play. As n experienced and somewhat set in his ways wargamer I find new ideas a struggle at times. Not in this case though.

The main rule set is a fully revised second edition of the rules, originally published elsewhere. The layout is really good, with lots of diagrams and examples of play to support each phase of the game. These are the stars of the book as, unlike many other rules sets where such things are often missing, they provide clear guidance in order to help players through their first games until they are more familiar with the mechanics.yes, the mechanics are interesting, look complicated but are not. They are different (unless you’ve played MeG), but easy to get to grips with in pretty short order. The Colour Based Command (CCC) system, using, if you wish, bespoke dice, is intuitive and quite a challenge, in a good gameplay way. It is NOT necessary to buy special dice, as any other method to activate troops can be adopted to fit into the CCC approach.

I think these rules are well worth trying out, and perhaps I will give them a go sometime in the near future.

The army lists cover the Thirty Years’ War and the British Civil Wars, all 60 of them. The lists need to be read in conjunction with the main rules, but are presented in such a way as to make it possible to adapt them to any other preferred rules. I’m pretty confident that the lists of those armies about which I have more than a passing knowledge are ‘accurate’, although that term can be rather subjective knowing the psyche of most (all) wargamers. Whatever your thought on army lists, these are really handy, especially someone new to the period and the rules.

The last section of the army list book is devoted to a campaign or pre-battle system which I quite like as it can help provide an appropriate context for a game.

Both volumes are well set out and I like the large print in the rule book, are easy to follow, and the unique game mechanics are actually quite simple. The rules are beautifully illustrated throughout with photographs of troops (as I’ve said earlier these provide a good guide to interpretating the rules) and a good number of lovely colour images drawn from other Helion books from the Century of the Soldier series.

ISBN 978-1-804514-56-6 for the rules, soft back,  238 pages, A4 format
ISBN 978-1-804514-45-0 for the lists, soft back, 140 pages, A4 format.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

The Generosity of Others

A long-standing friend of some 50 years called in this week for our annual catch up, bringing with him these delightful and unexpected gifts as he is culling his book collection. Apart from the Featherstone book, which is of course a classic, there is a complete set of the pictured Time Life History of the American Civil War, in pristine condition. I look forward to reading them all.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

The Battle of Mohrungen, 25 January 1807

 This week’s game was based on the battle of Mohrungen, between the Russians and a French corps under Bernadotte. I used the scenario laid out in Age Of Eagles as the basis for the game. A description of the real events is at The Russians started with an advantage of around 2:1 in infantry and 3:1 in artillery, but French reinforcements  would, when they arrived, balance the numbers (more or less). The Russians had to hold and defeat the French and keep their lines of communication open. The French needed to occupy the areas marked ‘V’ on the map, and while doing so destroy the Russians. The French reinforcements would be arriving at Blue Star 1 on the map, while the main French body started in the south west corner. The Russians could deploy  anywhere north of (and inside) the enclosed farm. The Russian CinC GL Roman Anrep (classed as a 9) was not on the table until T6 before which they were commanded by a very mediocre GM Markov (7). 

The view from the southern table edge. 

The Russians placed jägers in the farm, the mill and the village of Georgenthal, with their main body situated around the hill in the centre and linking the garrisons at each end of the line. Interestingly the chose to keep.their horse artillery battery limbered up well back in reserve, which I thought was a refreshing change from the wall-to-wall cannon tactics often used by Russian players, and definitely playing the period and not the rules. They suspected that some French would appear on their flank, and were correct of course.

Dave and Shaun took the Russians, while Paul, Nigel and John the Red (in charge of the reinforcements), were the French, under overall command of Marshall Bernadotte.

So without further ado, here’s what happened. The French moved first and arrived on the table at the southwestern corner and faced 15 or 16 battalions with eight of their own.

The centre of the Russian deployment zone, literally full of troops, largely held in reserve, but their were three battalions supporting the artillery in the centre..

The main body of the French army advancing on the Russians. They looked splendid, before the Russian cannon opened fire!

To counter the Russian artillery, the French had just this one small battery of 8-pdrs plus another similar-sized horse battery with the cavalry. I’ve still not finished my actual 1807 French artillery so these chaps from the Revolutionary era were standing in.

The French main body was slow to engage the enemy which meant that the Russians were not fully preoccupied when John brought his reinforcements onto the table, as can been above. The Russian reserves were ordered to face this new threat and drive it off.

The Cossacks tried to delay the French but were unable to stop them crossing the stream.

The large mass of Russian infantry seen in the middle ground was about to descend upon the newly-arrived French.

Fierce fighting around the farm.
Paul’s attack on the farm was prolonged and bloody. The first assault was repulsed. The second saw two battalions break and it was only the third assault that finally forced its way into the farmyard enclosure. 

Nigel’s cavalry caught a Russian battalion who were unable to form square., throwing a double 1. Remarkably the disordered infantry held and the cavalry had to pull back. More to do with extreme dice rolling than anything else.

One of the broken French battalions.

The French advanced on the village of Georgenthal.

The village was defended by jäger and supported by a half battery of horse artillery and a musketeer battalion.

Nigel’s cavalry had ridden 108” in two turns thanks to some low scores,and were now in the centre. They had been about to pounce of the Russian flank but Shaun moved his hussars forward to distract the French.

The French were loosing ground on the left wing.

The Russians were thrown out of half of Georgenthal but were facing three battalions of grenadiers with artillsupport.
Johns reinforcements had been halted by stubborn Russian resistance..

The Russian hussars charged across the stream. The one facing the artillery was destroyed and the othe one was defeated by French dragoons. This meant the Russian cavalry, including the Cossacks, were out of the game shattered.

By now we had played 12 out of maximum of 14 turns. It was too close to call.  The Russians had lost all their cavalry and some infantry but still had more than a dozen battalions and two full artillery batteries in play, and were in no way weakened significantly by the fighting to date. The French were well placed to  isolate and destroy the enemy right wing near the mil, and could have occupied the Russian lines of communication off the table, but dislodging the enemy from their central position would be tough. I decided we had a minor Russian victory to celebrate. Hurrah!

I have really gone off Black Powder. We were all very rusty but compared with Valour and Fortitude they seemed quite slow and clunky. I enjoyed the game as did the players, but not the rules, which disappointed me.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Some new French Napoleonics


A quick post to show off three new battalions for my 1807 French. Two white-coated battalions flank the Tirailleurs du Po. All Perry plastic early French constructed and painted for me by a mate of mine. I did the basing (wow big deal!) and need to buy some more tufts to finish off the bases, but they look rather splendid.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Napoleon's Spring Campaign 1813 - Review


Rohan Saravanamuttu has produced another excellent wargamers’ guide following the success of his previous offering on the iconic battle of Leipzig. Napoleon’s Spring Campaign 1813, Lutzen and Bautzen has been produced in the same format as the earlier book and is a fabulous resource for wargamers wishing to refight these two great yet perhaps indecisive French victories. This campaign is not one that I have had much interest in for several decades, as my interests in the period lie in the earlier part of the wars, pre-1812. However, this book (and the Leipzig volume) has done much to rekindle this interest in someone who I would readily admit to being a sometimes-lazy researcher, with great reverence for those who do all the work for me.Essentially, in Part I: Historical events, the reader is provided with a good historical background to the campaign and the lead up to the battles in question. As well as describing the events on each of the battlefields, the author provides useful analysis of both very different battles, which together provide the gamer with all they might need in terms of background information.
Part II: Wargaming the Battles takes us further, giving several scenarios for Lutzen and both days of Bautzen which are very much oven ready in terms of getting a game going on the tabletop. Sections on running a campaign, orders of battle, how to translate these onto the tabletop, troops classes, terrain, detailed briefings and victory conditions are extremely helpful, as is the after the battle analysis of the performance of the armies and commanders. The theatre and battlefield maps are well designed and informative and will undoubtedly prove more than just useful to anyone wishing to refight the campaign or either or both battles.

These engagements were both rather large affairs, and the guide is aimed at players or clubs who can ‘go large’, with the space and resources to run either game. That is certainly my preferred approach.

The book is literally full of wonderful photographs of beautifully painted armies and ‘proper-sized units’ by which I mean large, units, and is probably well worth the investment for these alone. an excellent book from a promising new author.

Helion Wargames No 15

ISBN 978-1-804513-59-0 137 Pages (softback).

Sunday 11 February 2024

The Relief of Danzig, 15 May 1807

Another smallish battle from the excellent Battles for Empire scenario book is the attempted Russian and Prussian relief of Danzig, then under siege by a small French army under Marshall Lefevbre. In an attempt to raise the siege some 8,000 Russians disembarked on the Baltic coast at Weichselmude, held by a small Prussian garrison, and moved towards the French forces on Holm island, west of the city, and blocking the way to Danzig.  Most of the besieging army were on the other side of the Vistula so reinforcements would take a few hours to arrive meaning the French would be outnumbered for much of the game. Oh, and did I say the Russians had support from a British sloop of war on the river?

Danzig is off to the right. The Baltic is north amd the Vistula runs down the left side. The Vs are the objectives for the Russians, 2, 4 and 3 are the entry points for the French reinforcements. The red stars are the Russian entry points. The open woods restricted movement by one third but otherwise had no effect on the game. The river/canal was only crossable at the bridge.

Richard and Nigel were the Russians and Prussians, and Neil and Conrad were the French. The French started the game with two brigades of French, Poles and Saxons, totalling no more than seven battalions, one squadron of cavalry and two batteries of 4-pdrs. I classed the French and Poles as veteran and the Saxons as, well, Saxons. The French also had the support of the Vistula Redoubt (on table), the Holm Island Battery (off table) and the 12-pdr coastal battery (also off table). One brigade was deployed in the woods behind some  defensive works while the other remained in reserve to quickly head off any flanking movement by the enemy or provide support to their comrades in the front line. The Russians were limited to bringing onto the table only what would fit in their slightly limiting deployment area. Their plan was to send the Cossacks and two infantry battalions over the dunes to capture the bridge and then to attack the enemy rear. Meanwhile the Russian jäger brigade would advance directly towards the French in the woods, supported by the small attached Prussian brigade, while Nigel and ultimately 10 battalions of Russians marched south to outflank the French in the woods and take control of the objective areas. 

The lonely French brigade in the woods at the start of the battle.

Richard sent his Cossacks and a couple of battalions down the left bank of the river/canal to outflank the French position. Meanwhile the Russian jägers and the first of Nigel’s infantry begin their advance. The redoubt is actually off the table with only a limited range. For some reason the Russians appeared to march round it, even though it was two feet to their rear. I didn’t say anything at the time…..

Richard’s flanking force.

Neil ordered his French to advance which caught them on the back foot a little. The Russians close to the camera threw the first of at least five 1’s when trying to activate his brigade which delayed their advance considerably. They could have been in the French rear by turn 4 but didn’t get there until turn 10!

The French exchange fire with Prussian schutzen.

This brigade was made up of Polish infantry, a squadron of French Chasseurs a cheval and some 4-pdrs.

The Chasseurs charged the Russian jäger battalion and as it was caught in line the infantry were routed. The battered Chasseurs withdrew to lick their wounds and sink a few bottles of cheap vodka.

The Chasseurs had to take four fortitude tests due to the losses in the melee and passed them all!  

Conrad’s Franco/Saxon brigade moved to be in position to head off Nigel’s infantry on the other side of the wood.

Nigels leading brigade.

On Turn 4 the French received some much-needed reinforcements in the form of some Saxons, two battalions of the Garde de Paris (who were involved in the real battle) and a light battalion (with the Tirailleurs Corse) standing in for them on this occasion.

The reinforcements heading off the Russians. Nigel’s second infantry brigade had been sucked into the fighting at the other end of the table so was unable to offer any support. 

The Prussian brigade included a detachment of dragoons who charged the French cavalry and drove them back. The dragoons also retired, job done and threat removed, as being a detachment they were very brittle.

The defenders of the woods were attacked by Nigel’s brigade and Richard’s Prussians. The Russian jäger brigade was down to 50 percent strength so was wisely kept out of the action. The French battalion closest the camera broke, and although the Fortitude test was passed Neil decided it was time to pull his troops back before they were overwhelmed.

The French reinforcements attacked Nigel’s brigade while Conrad’s original command pinned them from the front. 

The Cossacks finally made it to the bridge after a string of 1’s for activation, only to find the now recovered French Chasseurs waiting for them.

The infantry of the outflanking brigade were too far behind to offer any support. However although the leading Cossack sotnia was destroyed by the French, the French became shaken. This was taking place at the same time as the Polish battalion in the woods was routed. The Fortitude test was failed which meant that shaken units within 6” of the enemy had to be removed, so bye bye Chasseurs. 

The pressure is mounting on the Russians attacking the southern end of the woods as they are now outnumbered and out classed.

The Garde de Paris. One regiment wore red faced green and the other green faced red. They look superb I reckon.

An example of Nigel’s unfortunate run of crappy dice rolling.

Nigel’s entire brigade was wiped out.

Neil’s brigade escaped being overwhelmed by a great mass of Russians and Prussians and pulled back to Conrad’s position.

Neil’s retiring survivors of his brigade.

Neil even managed to save his artillery.

The last surviving battalion of Nigel’s brigade about to be put in the box.

Well, that didn’t go as I expected! The Russians were the first to admit that their actually quite well thought out plan didn’t work as they were unable to execute it properly, especially with the second Russian brigade getting sucked into the battle for the northern end of the woods. This involuntary diversion from the plan was a killer in the overall scheme of things. Were it to have moved as planned, this brigade would have avoided the fighting in the north and would, I expect, have tipped the balance against the French at the southern end of the woods. Of course, if the flanking force had not wasted at least five turns failing activation tests they would have forced Neil to pull back sooner, but it was not to be. The Russian plan was a sound one but as with such things it didn’t survive first contact with the enemy. 

We played from around 10:30 until just after 3:00, including lunch, and managed 12 turns out of a total scenario length of 14. It was a resounding and unexpected French victory. Oh, and do I say that the RN sloop was sunk by the French 12-pdr battery off table? Well, it was.

The game was excellent and both sides had to work hard; it’s just that the French were less unfortunate with their dice rolling. The rules remain, in my opinion, rated OK. I think that despite the fact that they were written with big multi-player games in mind they’re perhaps too brutal. IMHO a better set is Black Powder with the house rules I’ve included for several years, e.g. the fire then move sequence, so maybe I will go back to them? And when GdA 2 arrive I look forward to trying them out.