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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A moment of inspiration...

                        I now have the luxury of leaving my games in place and continuing them at a later date. I also have at last regular opponents. Two nights ago I stood looking at a cliff hanger game
 wondering just what my opponent would do when a memory of a long forgotten article in wargamers newsletter came into my mind. It was one of those items that stay with you forever as having changed your thoughts on how you game and your attitude to gaming. I immediately left off my perusal of the battle field , went up to the bedroom and pulled out the large box that contains those long OOP magazines that I promised my wife I would one day take to the tip.. (I do hate lying to her ) The article I wanted was in my collection of the Featherstone "wargamer's newsletter" that provided me with so many inspiring moments all those years ago.
                       I spent ages searching for that elusive article when suddenly there it was written by Don Houghton back in 1972. It's wonderfully emotive title " I'm worried about the Inniskillings". It lit a spark in me for personalising my wargames and writing backstories that has stayed with me over the years. I reproduce it below in the hope it works for you too

 (I do hope I'm not breaking copyright rules here but whatever tales like this should never be lost)


I'm worried about the Inniskillings 

I'm worried about the 27th of Foot - the Inniskillings. Not just mildly worried or apprehensively worried - but sick-worried. It's absolutely no consolation to me to know that Wellington felt the same way about them on the eve of Waterloo. He was to learn the next day how they would perform. By all reports they didn't do too badly. As for me - I shan’t know for the best part of a week. Not till next Saturday.

Of course, I have no one to blame but myself. I've left them formed up in a sort of lopsided square defending the southern approach to a small bridge. The battalion's position is overlooked by a hill. And sitting on top of that hill, looking very smug, very dangerous and very superior, are a Regiment of Cuirassiers, two squadrons of Polish Lancers and the biggest damned Regiment of Carabiniers you've ever seen! And I have a horrible suspicion that there are some infantry forming up behind them. Probably the Imperial Guard Grenadiers. It would be just my luck. The Guard invariably have a strong battery of Artillery in support...

Trouble is - my Inniskillings are such a rag-tailed mob. All shapes and sizes. Some Hinton Hunts, a sprinkling of Minifigs, a few old Alberken and at least four or five figures that defy any identification. And their uniforms are really a disgrace. I must have painted the majority of them in one heck of a hurry -or perhaps when I had a hang-over. The whole battalion should have been shipped back to its depot months ago. Years ago. For example, there is a Sergeant in the Fourth Company, a great towering oaf (I think he started life, in better days, as a Hinchliffe) who, for some inexplicable reason, parades himself in green facings and silver lace. He looks odd amongst the buff and gold of his colleagues. And he will persist in drawing attention to himself by continually falling flat on his face, despite the fact that, like all the others, he is supposed to be firmly stuck to his Company tray. I wonder what Regiment he’s a fugitive from? Only in the ranks of the Innisklllings could a deserter find sanctuary!

And I don't like their Colonel. Never have. He rides that ridiculously small horse of his with a decided (and perpetual) list to starboard. He’s got so much tarnished bullion on his uniform (ostentatious devil) it’s a wonder to me that dwarf-nag of his doesn't give up the ghost and spread eagle itself beside the Adjutant — who doesn't even boast a horse.

On top of all that their Regimental Colour isn't a colour anymore. It's more of a chipped dull grey shade with specks of buff clinging onto it here and there - and, as far as I know, they've never owned a King's Colour!

And this is the battalion I've left holding an important vital bridge, a direct access to my Reserve Division. could so easily have sent in the splendid Coldstreamers. Now there's a Regiment. A joy to behold. A full complement of fine Rose figures, beautifully and painstakingly painted by an expert in Colne, Lancashire. Every musket at just the right angle, every button shining. Just the sight of them advancing is enough to scare the living bejasus out of a faint hearted opposition.

Or the 95th Rifles. I could have sent them. Not as immaculate as the Coldstreamers - but they've got an exemplary battle record. And they're lucky with the dice.

Yet, despite their Colonel, and the derogatory things I say about them, I must admit to a sneaking affection for the Inniskillings. At least they've got character. Well anyway, they look different. Individualists, obviously. No geometrically dressed ranks for them, no uniformity in size or shape and they'll never find a picturesque home in a colourful diorama on retirement. They'll just slog on, battle after battle, campaign after campaign. And I suppose they'll finally end their days ingloriously - at the bottom of my 'spare-parts' box.

I wonder if other wargamers get as emotionally involved with their troops as I do? It makes for lousy Generalship, that's for sure. I remember one battle - a close run thing - wherein I withheld the 12th Light Dragoons from the fray, simply because they are my favourite cavalry unit. They were amongst the first figures I painted myself (in the days when I had the time to lavish on that sort of thing) and every single trooper is as perfect as I was capable of making it. Probably more by luck than good management, I managed to get just the right sheen on the coats of the horses. And the flashing sabres are all silver-leafed. How there's dedication for you. (Today I don't attempt to paint anything more complex than a simple cannon - and I usually make a fair old hash of that.) It took me nearly a month to outfit the whole Regiment - and just about cost me my eyesight. Anyway, I lost that particular battle - but I had the satisfaction of knowing that the 12th Light Dragoons escaped the carnage in the same pristine, undiminished perfection in which they arrived on the field of battle. I couldn't bear to think of their glittering ranks torn by shot and shell. (Unlike the 95th they have always been notoriously unlucky with the dice.)

Then there's my Brunswicker Regiments. I'm over-cautious with them, too. Possibly a subconscious desire not to offend or embarrass our Allies. But they're a characterless lot anyway - always scowling, their black uniforms dull against the scarlet of the other infantry... Or maybe it's because their morale factor is so abysmally low. They take a delight in vanishing at the first whiff of powder. They arrive on the field all dark and ominous - and then they're gone at the merest glimpse of a French uniform. But back to the Inniskillings. They've given me a hell of a day. I had a production conference this morning. An important one. Can't remember a thing that was discussed or a single decision that was taken. The notes I jotted down are of no help. They concern alternative deployments for the Inniskillings - rather than ideas on how to keep the production budget down. My Director is worried about a £500,000 film - I'm concerned about the fate of ten moth-eaten Companies of raucous Irish soldiers. A motley bunch of Hinton Hunts, Minifigs, Alberkens, and some unidentifiable figures. Good grief, the whole battalion doesn't weigh more than 20 ounces!

Hold on, though - supposing I was to bring up that reserve battery of Horse Artillery to cover their left... It's a disease, not a hobby. I mean, one could so easily find other, less absorbing pastimes. I could collect Jacobean chamber pots - or pictures of Rachel Welch. Or become an authority on the emerging Outer Mongolian jazz groups. Or run for Parliament. Or take up Morris dancing... Or collect pictures of Rachel Welch. The things I could have done with all those lost hours...

But on Saturday I'll know the worst. We'll resume the table-top battle then. My home is in Herefordshire and I'll drive all the way down to Northamptonshire - my Wargame opponent lives there - I'll have a worried, hurried lunch, get a lousy attack of indigestion as a consequence, and then, with frayed nerves, I'll move to the battlefield and watch helplessly as the Inniskillings meet their fate. My opponent is an ex professional soldier. Retired a full Brigadier. Cool as a cucumber - and deadly in command of French cavalry. He'll send in those bloody Cuirassiers, and the Lancers, and the Carabiniers - and any spare infantry he happens to have knocking around in the vicinity. And they'll be Imperial Guardsmen. Bound to be.

It’s his turn. The Inniskillings are waiting patiently. And I have to live through the next four and a half ghastly days. I wish I could parley. I wish I could call a truce – if only for humanitarian reasons. I wish Donald Featherstone had never sent me that encouraging letter years ago, extolling the delights of Wargaming. I wish he’d never got me hooked on this business. I wish he’d introduced me to heroin instead. I wish…

Extract from Campaign Diary. Monday, the 21st:

A week later. It’s a glorious day. The sky may be full of black clouds, it may be teeming with rain and blowing a gale – but for me, it’s a glorious day and my heart sings.

The Inniskillings held. My opponent sent down the Lancers and Carabiniers – but held back the Cuirassiers, for some unexplained reason. The Inniskillings met their murderous attack – and repulsed them! Gloriously. I even feel a mild twinge of affection for their lopsided Colonel. They gave me a breathing space. Miraculously.

Time enough for me to send in the magnificent Coldstreamers, supported by the dashing 12th Light Dragoons, to relieve the battered but unbowed Inniskilling square. Even that monstrous sergeant in the Fourth Company kept his feet.

Unfortunately the Coldstreamers and the Light Dragoons were cut to shreds as soon as the Cuirassiers joined in. And, of course, I lost the battle.

But the Inniskillings held. 

Monday, 28 September 2015

Blucher bases revisited

     I have been a bit disappointed of late with the visuals of Blucher. I realise now it was the 20mm ticket on the back of the base with all the details. So it had to go. Now a lot of the infoi was redundant after a couple of games . Move distances weren't needed , art skirmish and attached cavalry we had made redundant by using visual elements on the base. In reality the bulk of the ticket was occupied by the elan track. Obviously we could have used a roster but I simply hate them . They produce more table litter and the constant reference drives me insane. To each his own.

       With the decision made a ordered a load of 7mm die frames and dice from minibits and reduced the ticket to 8mm from 20mm. This left a 12mm gap to fill. I simply placed a 12mm strip on the front of the base and matched it to my original bases. Came out well I think without any figure rebasing .. SORTED

The new labels are on the left in all the pictures. I think you can really see the difference visually between the two systems and it still has all the info carried by the bigger tags. 


Friday, 25 September 2015

A thunder in the south .....Pt 2 oh the shame.

                                   Today's battle did not go well. Eugene's troops outmanoeuvred the Arch Duke Charles, pinned him in a heavily outnumbered battle and destroyed him and whatsmore caused him to lose his life in a futile but glorious last charge.  You will have realised by the tone of this report that your hapless author adopted the role of the late lamented Archduke and didn't have the best of days. Here are a few pictorial records of the disaster affair.

 The situation on the morning of the third day was dire!. Archduke John's plan to envelope and crush the French 2nd and 5th corps went sadly awry when Eugene took the initiative and declared battle at C6,7 (outlined in red) and turned the tables on the Austrian 1st and 6th corps. All was clearly lost. Only a breakout to the east could relieve the situation.

John decided his only option seen  through the early morning mist was to throw both his corps east against the Italian reserve corps. The Initial French advance uncovered a  massed horse battery to the front of the Austrian hussar rgt. Deciding he could strike the French guns and still retrieve the rgt from the French lines he placed himself at the head of the rgt yelled for them to follow him and he threw himself at the French guns.

The hussars smashed into the line totally destroying the battery with minimal casualties but as they prepared to withdraw under the archdukes command a dying Italian gunner drove his broken rammer into John's throat . The little hope the Austrians had disappeared with their leader's demise. The brigade was attacked by French infantry that they succesfully defeated meaning the infantry stayed where it was and the brigade withdrew 2 BW west facing the enemy. Damn fine show.

Bereft of leadership (and rolling crap command dice) the Austrians were pushed back on the town. Despite causing heavy casualties on the French brigades they were driven out and forced back into the wheatfields

As they attempted to rally once more they saw the dust and heard the tramping feet of the remaining French corps in their rear to the West and  to cries of  "Gott , wo bist du" They threw down their arms and ran southwards. To the French the glory. 

Although a total disaster the battle does show the ability to arrive at battles that no one in his right mind would set up. It was so much fun. I might have enjoyed it a little more if the army commander had survived his gloriously successful charge but it wasn't to be.  I seem to have an unequalled ability to throw 6's when throwing for officer risk at the moment.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A thunder in the south.. part 1

                         So after a short break in the Shenandoah valley it's back to my wooden warriors and northern Italy. Eugene and John battle it out once again.  Tomorrow is fiesta here in Barcelona so I have a couple of happy generals with the correct priorities and we chose a days wargaming. We would fight it out with the entire army of inner Austria and Eugene's army of Italy. The rules will be Blucher using a small pre-campaign map (actually the Southern Germany map ). I do enjoy the pre match nerves as both armies strain to get all their troops to the field of battle.

The French army consists of a large medium/light cavalry corps, 2 small infantry corps, an Italian corps and Eugenes reserve corps of Italy.

 The map we will be using.. Each side can have upto 6 columns of which two may be dummy.  They will dice for which side they enter and move half pace on the first move. They may each select one column to move a full move

The French 

from left to right we have
Baraguay d'Hilliers's Italians
Grenier                     French
Macdonald               French
Eugene                     mixed
Grouchy                   cavalry

The Austrians 
Left to right

Gyulai      3 divisions
Chasteler  2 divisions

I'm definitely looking forward to this one!

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Kernstown crunch

                  Our ACW R&R this weekend was a great break from painting and playing Napoleonics . We set up the second battle of Kernstown using my hair curler troops (true veterans) Not only did they make some visitors hair curl but most had to get to eye level on the table to realise they weren't your standard table top faire. The rules were Altar of Freedom straight from the box. What a superbly simple but tactically complex system this is. We had an absolute ball. In both battles the confederates refused to challenge the Union command for the clock. In retrospect that was probably an error. The game lasted only 6 complete turns and trying to break the northerners in that time is not easy unless all the cards are stacked in your favour.

 view from east of kernstown

The area of play was 3 miles x 3 miles. I still love the look of haircurlers on "busy" terrain

                                      The game looked pretty and we managed 2 full games in around 4 hours. Lots of fun and unfortunately I was too busy umpiring to take a lot of photos but I managed a couple

Looking from North to south 

Having sated my need for change I prepped three battalions of French Infantry last night. painting as I type. (Now thats dexterity for you)

Slightly worried as my reading choice when I went to bed last night was "Maurice".

(Fluttering wings ? Nah I never heard a thing!)

Friday, 18 September 2015

The heavy mob are eer Arry

                    I have been promising myself some French heavy cavalry for quite a while now. Not sure how I left it so long because I'm drawn to cavalry like a moth to a light. The long term plan was to build the complete heavy cavalry corps from 1809. I decided to do them in order so my natural choice was Nansouty's first brigade/division meaning I get carabiniers as well as cuirassiers.  Here then are the boys to date all of course in 6mm MDF

The first element of the brigade is the cuirassiers. The figures are all straight from the box. The officer is heavy cavalry with bicorne and the cuirassiers the standard figure. Nice. (simple too)

The second is the carabiniers. The 1809 variety isn't covered by any of the Commission figures so it was out with the knife and superglue. I used the cuirassier figures , beheaded them and stuck on the heads for the old guard pack. Well pleased!

So onto the whole ensemble.

First assembled for Blucher

Second assembled for "Altar of Nappy" I still much prefer the aesthetics of these rules. They look great like this.

            I think I'm finally getting the hang of working in MDF. They are starting to look quite snazzy for wood chippings. What a remarkably talented Chap Walter of really is.  I have been working steadily at this project for about 11 months now. That really is a record for me. I first planned 6mm Napoleonics back in 1976. It's only taken me 40 years to get round to it. I guess I have Walt and blogging to thank for me finally biting the bullet. Blogging has been a great way to inspire me to finish stuff and force me to put my thoughts into print.

looks like Blucher.......rules of choice and house rules.

               This follows on from an earlier post I made on which rule set I should be playing . I am still undecided but the group is definitely decided. I intend to change the basing slightly to reduce the size of the label and use a die slot for elan. That however is another story. Having decided on Blucher we took a hard look at things that "bother" us. After a lot of discussion we settled on some changes and carved them in stone for our games. I thought folks might be interested in where we went and why so I repeat here a post I made on the Blucher forum..

                                   I guess this is a touchy subject for some but if we start from the basis that our group loves Blucher as a rules system then in every group, no matter how perfect a rule set are, there will be local preferences .. After a lot of play we have made a few changes to Blucher, some of which I have discussed on this group. The changes were also made after a lot of reading in our preferred period of 1809 Germany  You may be interested to hear what they are.

1/ attached artillery provide a unit with +1 when defending in combat. However if defeated they will lose the attached artillery.
                            We found that most firing was one shot at skirmish range and then a charge next move. Volley fire seldom occurs in our games unless units are depleted or dice are reduced. As a result the players very rarely attached artillery and preferred to use it massed. For our theatre this was not historical most artillery being allocated by battery at brigade or division. We also felt that since massed artillery fired in melee combat when attacked (they use ammo so there is some firing in there somewhere :) ) there is no obvious reason why attached artillery wouldn't fire at advancing enemy attacking "their" brigade during a melee combat. We didn't add this to attack as we saw this as firing into combat.   

2/ Units with the skirmish trait receive a +1 to their elan when fighting in woodlands or rough ground.

                             the series of books by John Gill describing the 1809 campaign describes a large number of combats that took place in woodland especially the Italian theatre. In almost every case the French with troops trained in open order fighting were victorious over their more rigidly trained Austrian opponents. We thought long and hard about this and decided to use the rule described as simple and not hugely game changing   

3/ Troops with the mobile trait may only use complex movement if they wish to fire. ie Horse artillery with 3-1 movement may only fire if they move 1
                          This really is subjective . When used effectively horse artillery in our games were comparable to a mobile machine gun brigade. If you then place an artillery general with them they are almost nuclear. Reducing them to one BW movement reduced what we saw as an OP effect but still left them VERY effective in support.

                                That completes the changes we have made so far. We still have some discussion ongoing re "prepared" but that may be an inability on our part to "visualise" what it represents. The only other is advance after contact. Several players are unhappy that they can't roll up a flank in one turn but this one will need a LOT of talking about   ;D  ;D ;D

                                I really must reinforce the statement that making house rules CHANGE THE GAME and should not be attempted until you have played a lot of games, understand the effect of what you are doing, discuss it fully within your group and if necessary goto the official Blucher forum and discover what Sam's original thinking was! For instance in our games we very rarely see massed foot artillery. Massed batteries are heavy or mobile which to us appears "correct".

                                In conclusion Blucher is a great game system however once you buy the rule book they become YOUR rules. You bought them and paid for them. If you aren't happy with something, change it but be aware of the path you follow. It's your rules, your game, just enjoy it.

Monday, 14 September 2015

whistling dixie and curling your hair.....

                   This weekend in Montmelo the guys I game with are mounting an open war games convention. We are presenting quatre bras in 15mm using the NAW rules system. Not my cup of tea, so they asked me to do something different if I didn't want to be a part of their game. Maybe it was a case of putting your money where your mouth is. Heheheheh I thought I would have a small break from Napoleonics and Blucher and return to my roots. (make a note of that statement it gets clearer). Yes back to my roots. Time to bring out the hair curlers.

                     With that decision made the next was rules and period. Played around with British intervention in the ACW but not enough time to plan that. In the end I went for a straight corps level ACW game using "altar of Freedom" As I have stated previously I consider this rule set with its innovative variable length move system near perfect for this period and level of command. Being basically lazy I went for the free PDF scenario on the AoF site of 2nd Kernstown.

                   This morning I laid out the battlefield and sorted the troops. Hope you like it.

From the overview of the battlefield it looks quite flat. When you get down to eye level it shows just how wrong you can be.

It's a long while since I used these troops. Odd to think I gamed exclusively with haircurlers for so many years. You will probably notice that the union are very much outnumbered by the rebels. Can't wait to hear the screams. No one said it would be a fairfight did they?

Sunday, 13 September 2015

"Need more troops" says Charles

 In between planning and playing the Wiener Schnitzel scenario I have also been working on a few more Austrian reinforcements.:-

When asked what he thought of his latest recruits The archduke replied " They look a little wooden at the moment but we will soon chisel them into shape"

See what I did there?

At the rate I am using MDF I may be contributing to global warning. ;)

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Wiener-schnitzel and the dance of death

           A light haze obscured the course of the river as the sun rose on the valley. The steady tramp of boots heralded the march of the Austrian IInd corps towards Wiener. The archdukes heart swelled with pride as the rumble of boots and hooves resounded through the narrow streets. Meanwhile the French VII corps under Lefebvre filled the gap in the western ridgeline.

 Both armies rushed to fill the ridge lines on their side of the valley  but Charles was far from pleased to hear a second French corps had arrived to join the VIIth

 Panic set in among the Austrian High command and they adopted a defensive stance as Lannes IInd corps rounded the northern end of the French lined ridge. From his viewpoint on the Wiener road Lefebvre smiled and smelt blood.

In game turn 4 the French threw a 1 and second corps arrived on table.

Kallowrat appealed to Chartles for help but before Charles could reply the Austrian second corps marched onto the battlefield and stormed onto the northern edge of the Austrian ridge. Charles breathed a sigh of relief as the situation stabilised. Little good it did him as Bernadottes Saxons  swept around the end of the Austrian ridge taking them completely by surprise.

The Austrians threw  a one on turn 5 and the French repeated the experience on turn 6. The French now outnumbered the Austrians by 3 corps to two. Lefebvre had tasted victory

His joy was short lived as almost in ambush, a third Austrian corps  a appeared on the same flank. The Saxons deployed to meet them as in the centre the Bavarian cavalry advanced into the valley to threaten the infantry on the ridge.

Yeap another damn 1 from the Austrians! (I played the French) To top it all the Austrians had Bluchers version of a mobile machine gun. Yes a horse artillery battery. It began to pepper the Saxon conscripts with alarming accuracy

In a flash Bernadotte ordered the Saxon cuirassiers to charge the guns. Saxony's finest thundered into the massed battery accompanied by the sound of the dice of death (6 hits of 8) they were later repelled with some casualties by the Austrian hussars.

Meanwhile in the the north Charles believing he had the measure of this mixed bag of European scum, ordered both his corps to advance. and advance they did flags flying and drums beating. As the midday sun rose high in the sky, Lefebvre sensed the Austrian brigade holding the centre of the ridge was weakened and placing himself at the head of a cavalry brigade charged the infantry and swept them away. As the dust settled the Bavarians found their commander gasping his last breath among a pile of dead horses and enemy infantry.  

In the early afternoon the Austrian right flank advanced towards the French whose veteran skirmishers began a slow process of attrition that would severely damage the Austrian IInd corps. Eventually the centre brigade broke under the murderous hail of leadshot. 

In the late afternoon both sides were without reserves , the bulk of their brigades severely weakened and their commanders bereft of ideas. A true dance of death with no sign as yet of a clear victory for either side.

In the north the French broke the Austrian attack with casualties so high that little else could be accomplished. On the south side of the Austrian ridge the Austrian cavalry held the Saxon infantry in a mexican stand off. 

Only in the centre did the Austrians make headway.

As darkness fell they occupied the town of Wiener and held it till nightfall .

The French centre was unable to evict them having been forced into squares by the Austrian cavalry . This final act gave the Austrians a limited victory. As night fell Charles breathed a sigh of relief knowing his troops were on the point of breaking.

The next day would not be a happy one for the French emperor . Not only did he lose Lefebvre but as the last rays of sunlight broke through the northern tree-line,  Marshal Jean Lannes had led his infantry in a glorious last charge to break the Austrian heart. He failed and died.

The dance of death ended at night fall

A great days battling with my new opponent Eric playing in his first game of Blucher. We had a ball with a battle that could have gone either way at any time. Mrs "D" supplied a fine mid day meal and  we ended the day played out, full up and ready for another game in the near future.

What more can a man ask for