Monday 29 April 2024

Remote campaigning, Springtime for Napoleon in Germany 🎶

As any readers may be aware I have been away in India since mid March and I return at the end of May. While I’ve been baking in Bangalore the guys at home have been playing a Napoleonic campaign based on the one that can be seen on YouTube’s Little Wars TV set in the Spring of 1813. The wonders of technology being what they are, I have been able to take part, in the planning, plotting and so forth, if not the battles, as we (the combined Russian and Prussian armies) attempt to ruin Napoleon’s day. John H and Nigel set up and are running the campaign, using the Roll20 app to give everyone wherever they are access to the map and indeed the ability to chat in real time.

Part of the map at the end of turn 2.

I am playing the Russian General Wittgenstein in command of the Army of the Elbe, a combined Russian-Prussian force. I don’t want to give any real details of what has transpired so far as I would hate the French to obtain any intelligence from the Allied Press. There is however a battle to be fought outside Dresden at the of turn 3. The allies W of Dresden pulled back in turn 3 and the giant blob of Frenchmen descended upon them. The vastly outnumbered but morally superior Allies have stood to fight. When I find out what happened I shall post the outcome.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Another Review - Gripping, and Dripping with Details

I’m on an extended trip to India so the best I can offer at the moment is another book review.  So, cutting right to the chase, this is a truly absorbing and gripping account of Britain’s role in the War of the Austrian Succession (1744–1748). The author explores the consequences of the political decision making and management of the war on the outcome of the military operations, and indeed how the failure of the operations in the field influenced the politicking back home. Indifferent politicians, most of whom I am ashamed to say I had never heard of other than in the vaguest terms) often driven by their own agendas, competing priorities, the appointment of inadequate commanders and the general mishandling of the army, both British and |Hanoverian, all contributed to Britain’s failures in the war on a military, political and diplomatic basis. Add to these the impact of the Jacobite Rebellion and the strain this placed on British manpower it is all too easy to understand how the situation evolved and unravelled.(Interestingly the French may well have been the victors but they were to gain very little out of their efforts, and the stage was set for their failures in the Seven Years War some few years in the future, thanks in part to the lessons learnt by Britain).

I have some understanding of the battles of the war (the defeats, at the hands of the French, of Rocoux, Laffeldt and especially Fontenoy) but the author has conducted extensive research to present an exhaustive deep dive into the conduct of the war, resulting in a scholarly yet highly readable account of the war in its broader sense, which for me is far more interesting than simple accounts of its battles. Not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps but for anyone seriously interested in the war this is an invaluable piece of research, and the conclusions the author draws from the outcome of the war are argued well.

The book includes a number of contemporary black and white portraits of the key actors in these events (it is always nice to put a face to a name, and these portraits often give an inkling into the character of the man portrayed). There are also several maps, of the theatre of war and of the three key battles of Fontenoy, Rocoux and Laffeldt, together with two reproductions of contemporary maps originating in 1747.

This is another fine addition (number 116 no less) to Helion’s ‘from Reason to Revolution 1721–1815 series and one well deserved of a space on my bookshelves.

ISBN 978-1-804513-37-8 Soft back 263 pages.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Victory or Death! Wargaming the American Revolution

‘Victory or Death, a Wargamer’s Guide to the American Revolution, 1775-1782’ by David Bonk is the latest in Helion’s growing ‘Helion Wargames’ series. 

The author’s enthusiasm and fascination with the American Revolution is clearly apparent when reading this comprehensive study of the war. He provides us with his raison d’etre for wargaming this conflict. There then follows a detailed strategic overview of the war. Interestingly the war in the West Indies is covered in a separate chapter but this does provide us with a succinct narrative of actions in that theatre, the importance of which to the British is often neglected.

Mr Bonk then gives a comprehensive breakdown of each of the ‘armies’ involved in the war; not only the Continentals and British, but also American state militias, Loyalists, the French, the various German auxiliaries and Native Americans. Included are, for example, sections on organisation and training, recruitment, muster rolls, orders of battle and uniforms. This section takes up half of the book and contains a significant amount of detail so loved by the wargaming fraternity. It is followed by chapters on weaponry used during the war and on the critically important aspect of the Revolution, the war at sea.

The most fascinating section for me is the chapter entitled ‘Strategic Overview and Choices Not Taken’. It addresses the strategic options considered and plans adopted by the British and American leadership, including the ‘guidance’ or interference of the British government and Congress. This disjointed approach, in particular the lack of coordination between the British army and the Royal Navy, was to surrender a major strategic advantage. The chapter takes a detailed look at plans and campaigns for each year of the conflict, with a series of tantalising questions raised about a range of ‘what ifs’.  Would adoption of these ideas have had an impact on the war? From a gamer’s perspective there is sufficient here to provide some interesting campaign and tabletop scenarios.

No wargames guide would be complete without a look at the vast range of miniatures available in every scale from 6mm to 60mm. If you are wanting to build forces for this war then you are spoilt for choice. This section also looks at sources for flags and, makes some suggestions for choosing a suitable set of rules, for either pitched battles or small scale skirmishes.  The chapter concludes with a discussion on the terrain fought over and how best to represent it.

The book concludes with several scenarios, which capture the flavour and scope of actions fought throughout the war. These are clearly presented in a generic way so as to make them easily adaptable to the players’ chosen rule set. The scenarios come complete with detailed orders of battle and maps.

The entire book is filled with a very large number of lovely colour photographs of troops (largely Sash and Sabre and Old Glory) in action on the tabletop. These photos give a good representation of the many and varied troop types and also the incredibly varied terrain being fought over and will no doubt inspire many readers to take up this period. Additional colour maps at the beginning of the book help the reader with the locations of major and minor battles, together with the number of men under arms in each state.

Overall this is a fascinating and absorbing book with plenty to offer anyone that is interested in wargaming the American Revolution. I used to own large collections for this war but they are long gone; however, is there an itch to scratch to replace them…….? Not a chance.

ISBN 978-1-804513-57-6   Softback, 213 pages 

Tuesday 9 April 2024

14 Years Old

 Well, this almost passed unnoticed as I’m away baking in Bangalore. I’ve been Carrying on up the Dale for 14 years, which is something of an achievement. I never imagined I’d keep it going but there you go…….

Holiday Reading #1 = The Wars and Soldiers in the Early Reign of Louis XIV, Volume 7


I can’t believe that this is volume VII in Bruno Mugnai’s tremendous study of the wars and soldiers in the early part of the reign of Louis XIV of France. In this volume Bruno has arguably exceeded expectations and provided us with an excellent in depth analysis of some of the main players from within the German states between 1655 and 1690, much of which has not been published in English. For example, as far as I am aware this is the first time the not inconsiderable armies of the influential Prince-Bishopric of Munster have been researched and presented in this way, alongside those more familiar nations of Brandenburg, Bavaria and Saxony.

The book begins with some contextual material, with chapters on the ‘German Universal Soldier’ and what that meant, together with a summary of Germany after the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648. There are then chapters on each of the armies, covering all manner of information relating to their campaigns, organisation, weapons, equipment and uniforms.

As well as being a prolific author and military historian Bruno is also an extremely accomplished artist, evidenced yet again by the 16 wonderful colour plates included within the pages of this work depicting a wide variety of uniforms and flags. It has to be said that the uniforms depicted are quite ordinary or mundane, yet the artist still gives them life and character. The book also contains a vast array of largely contemporary black and white images, and photographs of surviving items of equipment or weaponry together with several useful maps.

Like his earlier works on the armies of Spain and Portugal, Bruno has provided a detailed breakdown of individual regiments, squadrons and companies for each of the armies under review, including the year raised, the colonel proprietors, campaigns and engagements, a brief history and details of uniforms. This would be quite remarkable were it just for the army of Brandenburg, or Bavaria, but to present the same level of detail for Saxony and the Prince-Bishopric of Munster as well is a considerable achievement. Appendix II provides army lists and orders of battle for the entire span of the period under review.

To close, this has got to be of interest to anyone interested in the wars of the last quarter of the seventeenth century which at one point or another drew in almost all the great and not so great powers of Western Europe. Amateur historians and wargamers will find this book an absolute feast, and my own interest in the wars of the late seventeenth century is starting to itch again.

This is of course only the first part of the volume on the German States, and I await the delights of the second with undisguised anticipation.

ISBN 978-1-804510-9 372 pages, soft back.