Friday, 16 August 2019

French Chasseurs of the Guard

Not been totally idle on the painting front over the last few months but slow progress on the Chasseurs of the Guard, but they are finally all painted - just basing to do. All four battalions ready for Waterloo in 2021. Only have 2YG and 1MG to go and then I think I may actually be done!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

First Battle of Newbury - 1643

I finally got the 1st Battle of Newbury played through. I used my ECW rules based on SLS ("By These Things...") on a 4cm hex grid. The only real change I made to the rules was to default each using to only 4DP not 5DP, so that they disappear once they get to 4 rather than lingering round on the base line which doesn't seem realistic. Still trying to get some answers to my key ECW questions - see later.

This was the start-up positions, looking N with Parliament on the L, and Royalist on the R.

The Battle

The game played pretty well, but saw a reverse of the historical outcome. On the N the two cavalry units faced off, with the Royalists eventually seeing off Parliament and in the final turns were about to charge the flank of the Parliamentary Dragoons.

In the N Centre it was classic hedge fighting, the Parliamentary dragoons seeing off on Royalist regiment, and the Tercios on either then getting bogged down either side of the hedges. Parliament's Trained Bands were coming up as reinforcements as the game ended.

The fight for the hedges

In the Mid Centre the Royalists started of on top of Round Hill - and stayed there. After a couple of prolonged melees they saw off the Parliamentary attack. At game end reserve Parliamentary brigade was moving up to have another go.

The attack on Round Hill

In the S Centre Royalists made short work of the Parliamentary brigade in the open and by game end had made it across the main road and where swinging N ready to take the Parliamentary reserve brigade in the flank.

In the S the open country meant it was primarily a cavalry battle, as in real life. The clash of first lines was a bit inconclusive but the Royalists had a stronger second line. With the rest of the game stagnating, and by this time Parliament only needing to lose on more Brigade to lose I decided to just fight the last few turns on this flank only. Parliament held out better than expected but with two regiments blown and pulled back in disorder the Royalists still had fresh regiments to put against them and so started a chain-reaction of morale failures which took two brigades off the table.

Parliamentary cavalry sweeping forward on the S flank

All over in about 10 turns, Royalist cavalry controlled the field, and the remaining Parliamentary troops were around to be flanked and encircled.



I think that the rules worked well. The fragility change worked well. I finally picked up a decent book on the minutiae of ECW combat (Going to the Wars by Charles Carlton) which has begun to answer my question about what happens with musket at push of pike (they fire and then melee, there's no real stand-off), but still doesn't answer another one:

  • If a pike based unit loses melee does it just drop its pikes and run

The biggy for me though is finally coming to the realisation that hexes don't really match ECW very well which is very linear, so I play the next game on a 5cm or 10cm square grid.

And a final few photos:

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Just back from a long weekend up at the Edinburgh Fringe. Lovely place to stay in Marchmont with a nice walk across the Meadows each morning, and a nice walk back from Summerhall in the evenings. Similar quality of shows to last time, but nothing that was really really standout (or that bad either). Interestingly we didn’t see a single show that was primarily about the scripted English interaction between two or more human actors!

Feast**1/2 - Summerhall
A bit of an oddity as the actor covered herself in milk and earth and then food. Not sure what it was really all about.

Boulder**** - Pleasance
A puppet take on the Sisyphus myth with a poor puppet trying to push a boulder up a hill. Really nicely done with innovative staging, two scales of the puppet (and boulder) and very well delivered music and songs.

Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein **** - Underbelly
We saw Manual Cinema a couple of years ago. It was a great show then and still great this time. What was interesting was how they’d broadened on the original pure OHP/silhouette model to include both more live action silhouette, silent-move style real video, and a bit of puppetry. They framed the whole story in the death of Mary Shelly’s baby and how Frankenstein was partly a wish to bring her back to life.

Three Deaths of Ebony Black **** - Underbelly
More puppets but a totally different style with a minute venue and two engaging performers and handfuls of cup-head type puppets and the story of Ebony Black told with wit and humour.

1927’s Roots **** - Edinburgh International Festival
We first saw 1927 in one of the dank dark arches of the original Underbelly over a decade ago. It was a wonderful performance then, mixing film and live action in a way that was close to the great Forkbeard Fantasy. The new show didn’t stray far from those routes being a compilation of folk tales portrayed by simple but elegant black and white drawings projected onto a screen from which the actors faces would appear strategically placed to match with the characters and action, or occasionally in front of the screen. The same technical craft and whimsical delivery as ever.

Ontroerend Goed’s Are we not drawn onward to new erA ****1/2 – Zoo Southside

+++ SPOILERS +++

Considering the climate crisis and the question of whether we can reverse what we have done this was a real tour-de-force. Beginning with what looks like an Eve-and-the-apple scene at first you can’t work out if their speaking Flemish, Dutch or something else. They’re moving oddly too. Then it dawns on you (helped by the palindromic title) that they are speaking and acting backwards. As the story plays out (backwards) the apple is eaten, the tree destroyed, bags of rubbish fall from the sky and are scattered about, and final a big golden statue erected. With echoes of Red Dwarf’s classic Backwards episode I was trying to construct the forward narrative and to translate the words (I think I only succeeded with Yes and Sorry). I’d been hoping they might play it forward but didn’t think they dare/do it, but sure enough as the acting ended a screen came down one of the actors struggled into forward speech and then a video played of the whole of the first half reversed, so they story plays out “normally”, with strangely distorted human speech and movement, the statue being destroyed, the litter picked up, the tree planted, and yes, the apple regurgitated and placed back on the tree. Wonderful, and the sheer skill needed to construct it and act it out unbelievable.

Fishbowl **** - Pleasance
We went along purely on the basis of the flyer, but the fact that it was booked into the Grand should have suggested something impressive. The stage is 3 small bedsits, occupied by smart and clean guy, scruffy guy, and newly arrived bohemian girl. The whole performance is then like a modern silent movie following their dramas and escapades as neighbours and more. Crammed full of sight gags and a real stunner of a finale it was a great piece of (French) entertainment which really ought to tour every town and city in the land to show people just how accessible and fun modern theatre can be.

Trying It On **** - Traverse
We saw David Edgar’s play at the MAC in Birmingham last autumn, so it was interesting to see how he’d changed it for the run at the Traverse. The most notable change was giving Dani, the stage manager, a bigger role and how there seemed to be a more explicit handover of the torch for radical (left) campaigning from the older to the younger generation.

Sh!t Theatre’s Drink Rum with Expats **** - Summerhall
A fun and thought provoking piece from Sh!t Theatre’s two actors about their trips to Malta to create and put on a piece at “The Pub” – expat hangout and death place of Oliver Reed – as part of the City of Culture celebrations. After an exploration of the pub’s many characters the piece turns to consider the issues of refugees, those rescued, turned away and who die, and the “golden passports” scandal and the murder of journalist Daphne Galizia. The free beer, for the lucky few some rum, some crowd surfing, great story-telling, life jackets, a dinghy and a dog all made for a very entertaining but thoughtful night.

Mariner’s Tale *** - Paradise
Some nicely delivered story telling weaving family and loss, the Argonauts and a spell on a round-the-world yacht expedition that could have benefited from a clearer structure and aim, and some tighter prose.

CSI:Improvisation ***1/2 – Underbelly
One of the many improvised dramas/musicals on the Fringe, this one based around who-dun-its (and not really anything to do with the CSI franchise. We had the audience selected tale of the murder of Leah Unlucki, a school dinner-lady, by a piccolo. Delivered with gusto and lots of in-jokes developing along the way, a good hours entertainment.

A few things we missed but might hopefully see on tour:

  • She Sells Sea Shells about palaeontologist Mary Anning
  • Wireless Operator about bombing missions in WW2 with the actor hanging in space as though laid on in the nose of the bomber
  • Medea Electronica – “smash hit gig theatre”

Friday, 12 July 2019

Royal Marines showing off near-future kit

Couple of interesting recent posts on the Royal Marines showing off new trial kit on exercise.

First (above) demonstrating Iron Man jet packs - interesting that here they are shown actually coming in from an LCT, the last Marine post on them a few months ago just showed them showing the quick way to go around an assault course, so I guess confidence is increasing!

Then a UGV with what looks like a 0.5” HMG and two Javelin ATGWs.

Need to start factoring this stuff into my Modern Rules!

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Battle of Newbury Drive-by

On the way down to the Lutzen game I wanted to do a quick walk of the First Battle of Newbury as I'm just setting that up in the gaming table. As it was the weather was so bad I restricted myself to a quick drive-by and only dived out once to get a photo, and took one even from inside! Anyway it was useful to get a sense of the lie of the land and will certainly inform the build. What is notable is that the A34 bypass basically runs down the length of the Parliamentary line! I'll remember to keep a better eye out next time I'm driving down it to Portsmouth.

Looking NW from the upper right arrow on the map towards the main battle ground

Looking SW from the upper arrow on the map towards the Parliamentarian lines

Looking N from the lower left arrow to the area around Biggs Hill

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Battle of Lutzen - 1813 (in a barn)

Lutzen has been one of my favourite Napoleonics since we first played it at Liphook (I was the Allied commander, we lost, but played well), and Nick and I visited the real battlefield after Leipzig.

At the weekend Francis (of the Napoleonics 20/20 blog) hosted another "battle in a barn", and after the fun of Leipzig last year I was really looking forward to playing Lutzen in wonderful surroundings, with beautiful 20mm figures and terrain, great company and a very playable set of rules - I wasn't disappointed!

Looking E over Starsiedel towards the four villages

I was again on the Allied side, but this time  a more relaxing role commanding the Prussian Reserve Cavalry of Jurgass and Werder on the left flank. As such apologies to the other players (and readers) if this AAR is biased to the Allies and the left flank!

The Allies go into the attack on (well occupation of) Rana and Grossgorchen

At the very start the Allies had a big, if welcome surprise. Our leading units of Zeithen and Klux had their noses right up against the buildings of Rana and Grossgorchen, and the French were still napping in the centre of square of villages, and we had a free move! So whilst this may have skewed any repeatability of the historical battle we got quickly into the village and ready for the counter-attack.

French gunners at the ready

For most of the next 10 moves (til midday game time, 5pm real time) the fight was very much in the centre. We held the two villages against repeated counter-attack, and even managed to push the French back up against the Flossgraben stream, and almost got into Kaja and Kleingorschen. (Kaja has special memories for me as when we visited we were invited into the small museum that a couple of local guys have their - and one of them even gave us a musketball each that had been ploughed up in the fields outside the village). The gap between Starsiedel and Kaja was also a the scene of heavy fighting with a French gun battery on the ridge charged on both flanks by Prussian cavalry, and Prussian infantry then storming over the ridge into a bloody melee with the French in a reverse slope position.  At some point there was even a blue-on-blue from some Prussian artillery - on the instructions of the umpires! Starsiedel itself was also the scene of repeated attack and counter-attack as we took the church and held it against all-comers, but couldn't get ourselves into the second building.

The fight for Starsiedel

By contrast the two flanks were fairly quite. We secured Hohenlohe on the right (Francis had made the flank villages +3 not +2 VP to encourage flank play - it worked) and then held the line of the Flossgraben against mounting French troops, but couldn't seize Eisdorf.

Uhlans looking for a target

My flank was the quietest. I'd surprised everyone by not taking on the French gun battery on the ridge at the front (a waste of my +2 Heavy Cav!) and instead had grand plans for getting round the weakly held French right flank. I got to Kolzen - the left most village - but just after the French, but I had no infantry to turf them out. By now French re-inforcements were coming in and blocking my grand flanking move, so I sat where I was. Which was just as well as then a whole French Brigade, and then a whole Italian one turned up on the board edge - Bertrand's corps turning up! Since I was stood there the French had no option but to creep onto the board in square and stay there. My horse then charged his one Lt Cav Regiment (he may have started it!) and saw that off (we got extra bonuses for French Cavalry!), and whilst my 2nd line horse kept the French in square my horse gun blazed away, and by the end of the physical day one battalion square was gone.

My cavalry taking damage from distant guns. 200cm range!

A good pub meal, drink and chat and then it was on to Day 2, the afternoon of the 2nd May. This was almost a reverse of Day 1 for a while, with the action on the flanks more than in the centre.

Day 2 gets underway - the view W from the Prussian right flank

In the villages the French brought the Old Guard up to keep hold of Kaja and Kleingorschen, but by the time they arrived we'd managed to get into Kleingorschen and held it til the end. Otherwise the villages, and the Starsiedel ridge seemed quite - fact there was a time when the two front lines formed a lovely lozenge shape, joined on the flanks but a big area of no-mans-land in the centre half. In fact it was so quiet there that the Young Guard were dispatched to Starsiedel. This proved a bit premature as we then launched a fresh attack on the now lightly held ridge with new Russian troops, and our cavalry broke through and almost managed to penetrate to the far table. The French line was completely cut. So the Young Guard were ordered back again - I don't think they fired a shot the whole game! (although they may have been caught up in our general advance in the centre that followed - and let us secure Kaja on almost the last move).

The fight on the Right flank, Hohenloh in the near centre

On our right flank we continued to hold Hohenlohe but against ever mounting pressure, I understand the cossacks did their bit by seeing off some cuirassiers. Eisdorf stayed out of reach though.

Uhlans again!

Guard Foot Artillery on the N side of the Flossgraben trying to retake Kleingorschen

The battle around Starsiedel never let up, and the Russian Guard arrived just in time to slip into the church and relieve a battered Prussian unit just in time for the final attack - which never came as the attacking French brigade rolled low and ended up on a Hold order!

Russian infantry on the attack!

Finally to my flank. The Russian Guard Cavalry (and some Guard Infantry) was hot footing it over so as to give me some weight to ideally take Kolzen, but also since the French Guard Cavalry was heading my way to take them out. The only issue was that the space between Kolzen and Starsiedel became a valley of death, with 3 French batteries lining its sides against one of ours - and the cavalry needed to charge though it. I tried to place my weakened cavalry as a sacrificial screen, but one of them got blown away. My lead Regiment could't quite reach the French - who were timorous in coming forward - so settled for an infantry unit out of square hoping to get the cavalry on the follow-up, but the infantry gave too good an account of themselves and the cavalry was gone. So I had two very battered regiments that finally made contact with the Empress Dragoons and Grenadiers a Cheval. I lost, but the French follow-ups were short and so they fell back blown, well out of range of my waiting third line. Luckily gun fire from our advancing centre soon disposed of them!

Heading towards the big cavalry melee, from the Prussian lines

Casualties are mounting!

The final vignette was played out around Kolzen. My Guard Horse battery had taken on square-bashing duties. The French battalion in Kolzen had been taking pot-shots at them but then got bold enough to come out, form up and charge the battery! The Russian Guard artillerymen fought them to a draw! Then my Guard Light Cavalry came to their assistance, and the French were toast. This of course left Kolzen unoccupied (worth 3 VPs!). Most of the French were in square as my cavalry continued to menace. An Italian battalion further back fell 5 cm short. A final French battalion was in line and could just side-step to make contact, but the Brigade rolled a 1, the only roll which would put them on Hold orders, and so Kolzen remained unoccupied at the games end!

An empty Holzen!
Overall it was a good Allied victory. I can't remember exact numbers but it was something like 60 points of French destroyed against 40 points of Allied. In VP terms we had around 11 to their 6 I think - so Kolzen wasn't quite a decider, but between that and the French Cavalry it was!

Overall a great game, all played in the best of spirits with lots of help and advice along and across the table. The rules work really well - although perhaps reinforcements moving across an empty table should get a x3 move as only half the Allied Guard made it into the game, and the French Guard also had to take their time. But otherwise a really wonderful game all round, and many thanks to Francis for hosting yet again.

Some final photos.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

D-Day - looking back, and back, and forward and forward!

The 75th anniversary of D-Day has inevitably got me think about relative time. I first went to Normandy in the early 70s, maybe not even in my teens. Let's say 1974, 30 years after the event. At that time I was a lot close to D-Day than I was to now (30 vs 45!). For my parents (both kids at the time) D-Day was then a 30 yr old memory - the same as my memories of 1989 (when I was just about to leave the Army, and so much seems like only yesterday).

But turning to matters more military, compare the above D-Day photo with this one.

1982 - the landing at San Carlos water. Still with landing craft and guys crouching on the ground with packs and rifles. Not really a lot had changed in 38 years. OK we don't see the Harriers and Skyhawks, or Sea Kings, but otherwise? But by now surely things have changed?

US/South Korea exercise in 2017. OK the AAVs have now driven up onto the beach, but still mostly men with guns. And here's the Russians recently.

Although in some areas things are changing a bit...

Yes we have aircraft (but air superiority), guided weapons, the beginnings of drones (and anti-drone weapons), personal radios and the start of personal battlefield computers, but it's still the Poor Bloody Infantry getting wet running up the sand. Domestic life may have changed a lot, but has military life - particularly in extreme undertakings such as these?

No though, let's think 25 years out to the 100th anniversary of D-Day - 2044. Procurement cycles being what they are we probably have a fair idea what the big bits of kit will be like. We're expecting no real innovation in locomotive technology, ships and APCs may have lasers for defence, possibly for offence, UAVs and UGVs will be more numerous, the multi-domain battle will be being waged far from the beach, but its all a logical extension.

But let's go 75 years out, to 2094 - we're half-way between D-Day and that date. 2094 puts us well beyond estimates for "the singularity" and most estimates for Artificial General Intelligence superceding human intelligence.  If military landings haven't changed much in the last 75 years, and may not for the next 25, I think there's a good bet that 75 years out they may be completely redundant as we currently see them. Either the whole need and rationale will have just evaporated, or if you do need physical bodies on physical beaches, then they will all be robotic (or bionic), probably lots of them very small. Half-way to oblivion?