Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Battle of Auerstedt - #2

Slow progress on this game as various real-life events have intervened, but finally getting back on track.

Currently at end Turn 21, so 7 hours in, about 1400. French are behind on the timetable, the push out from Hassenhausen (lower centre in photo) being frustrated by the density of Prussian troops forward of Poppel (top centre with church). However around 1300 major clashes on the French left flank (left of photo) came to and end and both sides had a couple of Brigades rendered hors d'combat and exiting the field. This has now opened things up considerably. However on the left flank the arrival of the Duke of Orange's men is enabling the Prussians to put up a firm new defensive line between Poppel and Gernstedt (top left of photo), although the arrival of Morand's Division is giving the French new men to throw into the fight.

French Right Flank -  Zackwar in background, French on right

The French are also progressing slowly on the right flank, finally moving on Zackwar (upper right of main photo), but initial results have been mixed - again Morand's men may enable them to push through.

The SLS rules are still working well. The big change I've made this time is how over/under strength works. It used to be +/-1 DM for every 15% difference in numbers, I then stretched that to about 30%, but I still found that it made big units almost invincible. So this time round I've broken with my "every unit has 5 damage" mantra, and instead let large units have a capacity for 6 damage. This means that they don't cause damage any worse than a smaller unit, and can take damage at the same rate, but they can absorb more of it - which seems a fair compromise. Working well so far.

The battle for Poppel

Once nice little vignette outside of Poppel. Three French bn from Lochet's 5e Bde fell on Prussian from Reynouard's Bde in front and S of Poppel (in the two now empty hexes above). The two on the French right won, but suffered heavy casualties. Whilst they were regaining order (and with Prussian Hussars loitering with intent N of the road sharpening their swords), the third bn lost its fight once a fourth Prussian bn joined the fray (those units now in front on church with red marker by them to denote disordered). The French battalion routed, and in a morale check took the adjacent recovering French unit with it. That then caused a morale check on the 3rd (most northerly) French Bn, which managed to stand, only to then be cut down by the Prussian Hussars as soon as they were activated. The Hussars then chased the routing French deep into French lines, and came to a halt, unformed, just by some French chasseurs. On their activation the chasseurs tried to charge the Prussians, but were too close for a full blooded charge, and anyway the hussars were effectively in open order, so the Frnehc just round through (both sides got the Open Ranks result - quite common for light cavalry). Come the next turn it will be a race to see who moves first, the Prussian hussars back to safety (but still disordered), or the French chasseurs trying to avoid another Open Ranks result!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Hougoumont Weekend

Gardner's House is white building on left

Nick, Alan and I had a great weekend staying in the Landmark Trust apartment at Hougoumont. It sleeps 4 (2 bedrooms), and whilst not cheap it's a real experience as after the tourists and museum staff have gone home you've got the whole place to yourself!

The sitting room

The apartment is in the Gardner's House - the one above the South Gate. The Chateau itself was never rebuilt after the battle, and the Farmer's House was also pulled down - so it's the only accommodation building left - and you have all of its upper floor. There is a good sized living/dining room (4' x 4' table for gamers, and space to take a 6' x 4' board on it), galley kitchen, one bedroom on the same floor (who's outer window lets you shoot on those approaching the South Gate, toilet & shower rooms, and then upstairs another bedroom with an attic window above the South Gate.

The Gardener's House from inside the courtyard

The gardner's house from inside the courtyard. The flat occupies the row of windows on the top floor and attic.

The flat has a superbly stocked library of Waterloo books, and the walls are crammed with Napoleonic prints, so its a wonderful place to go to to soak up the atmosphere, walk the courtyard and walled gardens, and think what it must have been like in 1815. The son-et-lumiere show in the barn is pretty good (the new film in the main museum by the Butte is excellent by the way), and it's a useful small museum on the site (you have to pay).

Gardener's House from outside - South gate below

One interesting debate is those two filled in white windows - essentially the back of the living room now.

If you look at this contemporary print of the battlefield they are also shown as filled in:

1817 Print from 1815 sketch - William Mudford’s ‘Battle of Waterloo’, 1817

Event though almost every later painting and diorama shows soldiers shooting through them!

Were they blocked up following the battle - or were they like that during it!

The main modelling note though was that the main barns need thatched roofs not tile ones - so need some modelling clay to cover the tilework on the Hovels version!

I also took the chance to take a couple of 360/720 degree photosphere's, one in the courtyard and one in the garden/pasture. You can find them on Google Maps (activate Streetview man) at:

I took along the Command Magasine game of  Hougoumont: Rock of Waterloo to play. It's an SPI type boardgame with about 1 counter = 100 men/1 company. We didn't manage to play to completion as we started twice (the map now has atmospheric blood/wine stains across it), but it seems a good game although you do get a sense of playing to the rules not the scenario (our 2nd game looked very different to the first), and my feeling was that it is an easier  task for the French in real life.

I also had a set of simple skirmish rules for Hougoumont that we didn't get chance to play, and also tempted to try a scenario with Sharp Practice to get to some sort of Napoleonic Skirmish scenario for the place.

We also played a bit of D&D, but the big hit was Palazzo, a Rio Grande mid-size game, over in about 40-60 mins, interesting decisions on every turn - well recommended!

Alan and Nick playing D&D

All in all a great weekend, and well recommended.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Battle of Auerstedt - STARTEX

Finally got my solo game of Auerstedt (14 Oct 1806) started. 6mm, Steady Lads Steady Rules, battalion manoeuvre units, 200m hexes (Hexon 10cm).

Scenario opens at 0700 as Gudin's 3rd Division (bottom of image) of Davout's III Corps tops the defile from Kosen and the Saale valley onto the main plateau. Up ahead of them is Hassenhausen (centre of image above). Problem is it's thick fog so they can only see 100m ahead of them, so they aren't yet aware of Blucher's Light Cavalry Brigade approaching through Poppel (top of image) - and more importantly of the whole Prussian Army (well at least its 1st Line and Reserve Corps). The rest of the French, including Napoleon, are simultaneously engaging the rest of the Prussian's at Jena.

The scenario rules allowed fog to lift at a random rate each turn. All units  not on the table at the start also come on with random delays - so a unit may arrive 6 turns later than you'd hoped.

So, on with the game as it played.

The French close on Hassenhausen at the same time as Blucher. Blucher's cavalry are first in just as the fog lifts, see the French and charge straight out of the town (unformed). The French hold their nerve and send the horses packing.

With the cavalry pushed back (smoke/damage markers) the French infantry can push on into Hassenhausen.

End Turn 9 (1000), Petit's 7th French Bde are in Hassenhausen and Schimonsky's Prussian Bde is about to try and retake it. The second Prussian Bde is swinging south (left in image), and the 8th French Bde (Gauthier) is swinging N (right) to secure the line to Spielberg.

End Turn 12 (1100) - Bloody fighting for Hassenhausen, the Prussians come through the sunken road/woods on the W (right) of the town, get repelled by the French, French counter-charge form the flank, rout the Prussians but then get charged themselves by the Prussian 2nd line.

Nice view from Fr lines S of Hassenhausen towards Poppel church.

Overview of the whole battlefield. Friant's Division is being swung S (left) of Hassenhausen to go against Albensleben. The line to Spielberg is being probed by Prussian cavalry but holding. I was worried that the masses of Prussian cavalry would unbalance the scenario but they've been pretty ineffective against the French and the small amount of French cavalry has also sent some packing. The battlefield is now too crowded for them to be effective.

End Turn 15 (1200)  Battle Royale developing just S of Tuagwitz/Poppel with about 4 - 6 Bn a side getting involved. The  Prussians appear to be getting the upper hand at the moment, but both sides have fresh brigades to throw into the fight.

The Prussian are also now assaulting the French right wing with elements of Wratensleben's Division. Davout is desperately awaiting the arrival of Morand to either shore up that flank, or if it's holding to punch through Friant in the South.

Monday, 10 July 2017

A Finishing Projects Weekend

It's been a busy couple of weeks with dealing with 1:1 soldiers taking precedence over 1/76th or even 1/300th, and haven't had a whole weekend at home for what seems like a couple of months. So in between the gardening tasks I actually managed to get quite a few things finished off this weekend.

First off, I finished basing my 2nd and last batch of late medieval 6mm. Mostly French knights (see centre block shown at top of blog - 176 of them!), some bow and crossbow, and both Scottish and Swiss pike. All set now for Agincourt, hopefully before the end of the month.

Next up was finishing off the Polish Lancers, 9 figures per Regiment. They'll get their proper bases once I've done the Dutch Lancers. Nice 20mm metal figures from Newline. Didn't realise that about 1/3rd of the "Red" Lancers were actually blue - only the Old Guard squadrons wore red.

In the odds-and-ends category I also finally painted up the 6mm medieval buildings I bought from The Square at Salute, and also some objective markers and sniper/ambush markers for use primarily in mechanised games.

Oh, and you may have spotted some 20mm BAOR vehicles in the background. I found those in a box when clearing out the loft the other day. The Scorpion/Scimitar (latter in AMF(L) Norwegian garb)) are the Airfix kit, but the FV432 and Fox were scratch built by me aged about 17 - from plans in Military Modelling or Airfix Magasine I think.

Well, that's it for the weekend, apart from getting started on the "Red" Lancers. The main aim this week is to start the Auerstedt wargame.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Blucher 100 Days Campaign - The First Phase

The first phase of our Blucher 100 Days campaign has reached it's climax at the end of 17th June with a major battle outside of Sombreffe. In fact what we have is almost a mirror of Waterloo, the outnumbered Prussian line having to hold against the near full might of the French whilst the British are all set to come on as reinforcements during the game.

The starting board will take in columns H/A, I/D, J/E and F/C of the French, and K/L and N/M of the Prussians. However Prussian O will come in onto a friendly square to support N/M and British T likewise to support K/L. Most interestingly British S and U will come onto a hostile square on the flank and rear of H/A!

In a rather bold move Prussian Column P decided to fix French B, since B had stopped it also reinforcing the battle, and to ensure that B didn't go against the Prussian lines of communications.

The other British reinforcements are again too far out to help.

So a reverse Waterloo just NE of Ligny. We hope to fight the game in August.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Military Museum - Porto

Having finished the conference at Coimbra after the Bussaco weekend I had a half a day to look around Porto before heading home. Porto down by the river Duoro is a wonderful place to just sit back and sip some port, and look at the huge cliffs that Wellington had to overcome during the battle in May 1809.

Seen from the North (French) bank looking upstream the monastery of Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar which Wellington occupied is the large building at right, and the initial crossing by boats was made just beyond that first big modern bridge and before the on in the distance.

However one of the main purposes for the stop was to visit the Military Museum of Porto, suitably found on the Rua do Heroismo!

Its a pretty quirky museum, really just showing the things that came their way, and housed apparently in the old Secret Police HQ! As such it has a bit of everything but few coherent stories (at least in English!)

The pride and joy though is the 16,000 (!) figure toy soldier collection. These are mostly ~54mm Britains and equivalent French and German makes (e.g. Mignot).

It is housed in 5-6 rooms, and is mainly WW1/WW2 and Napoleonic, with Lace Wars, ACW and right back to Biblical thrown in for good measure. There are even some of the "cheesecake" vignette's popular in the 70s with hussar officers and half-clothed serving girls. One "unidentified" group of German force figures is obviously 1/32nd Airfix and there's even an Airfix coastal defence battery! There are also some beautiful flats.

Downstairs is a room with some Napoleonic memorabilia and Portuguese Civil War artefacts (they seem to have had a lot of civil wars). Another room is dedicated to the 1880-1920s uprisings.

Outside is a collection of artillery from late Medieval thru Napoleonic to WW2 (incl an 88mm).

The final area is a big hanger like building (in photo above). One half has more artillery (couple of 25pdrs), a photo history of Portugal's 1950s/60s colonial wars, and exhibits from WW1. The gallery around the upper floor was more interesting for me though with a nice history or arms and armour from medieval thru Napleonics to the end of the 20th Century. Mind you what I took to be the bows and arrows to signify pre-historic weapons were actually those recovered from the 20th century colonial wars in Africa!

So overall, probably not worth a special trip unless your a collector of "proper" toy soldiers, but otherwise worth an hour or two if you're ever in Porto - and Porto has more than enough charms to be worth a long weekend for anyone!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Battle of Bussaco - 27 Sep 1810 - Battlefield Tour

I've got to present a conference paper in Coimbra this week, and seeing as its only 20-30km from Bussaco I thought it would be silly not to spend the weekend there first. It also just happens that the convent that was there during the battlefield is now surrounded by the Grand Palace Hotel - formerly a Ducal residence and now a faded but wonderful 5-starish hotel - which Deb and I actually managed to get at a good, if not cheap rate for the weekend. Taxi from Coimbra was Euro33.

I'm blogging this in the rather sumptuous lounge of the palace have seen the sights (or at least what we could on foot with rain looming in 26 degree temperatures and no decent map) this morning. So here's a photo-essay of the trip.

The Palace itself. Totally over the top decoration, even the pillars have pillars. The orange roofed/ochre walled building in the left side is the old convent (actually a monastery in English terms).

There are a whole load of tiled murals of Portuguese history and legend inside and out. There are about half-a-dozen relating the battle - this one showing the Portuguese and British troops repelling the French as they assault the ridge.

Nice one of Massena and his staff.

And Wellington to balance it out.

A nice study of a Dragoon trumpeter.

The first part of today's walk was up to the small museum (2 Euros) just outside the huge enclosed area (~3km x 4km?) of the convent forest.

Portuguese Line infantry man 1:1 painted outside the museum.

Inside the museum was a nice diorama of the battle with what looked like 25mm commercial figs and claiming to be 1/100th scale, but didn't look like 15s and too small to be 1/100 ground scale or even 1 figure = 100 men. There was also a smaller diorama made up of Airfix figs!

The walls had a nice big scale map of the battlefield and dispositions, and also a couple of huge charts of Portuguese Army units and which battles they fought in, including small skirmishes, and the strength by each rank of each unit of the Allied Army.

From a modelling point of view one of the most interesting aspects were two dummies of Cacadores - their uniforms being more of a khaki that the richer brown shown in the L&F books.

From the museum it was a short walk up to the battle monument,

The monument sits on the ridge above Sula, so just above where Crauford's Light Division repulsed Ney's attack. The slope is to steep and wooded to see it properly though. There is a good view however out E towards Moura where Marchand went against Pack's Portuguese.

We (well I) then wanted to walk out to Wellington's command post further along the ridge. Unfortunately its position was only very roughly marked on one local map, and not at all on another. Also paths beyond the convent walls were not shown! So we walk along a path about as far as the SE end of the convent wall which is in the right area, but couldn't see any sign - perhaps we should have stuck to the road route. However this certainly took us along the area occupied by Coleman's 6th Portuguese Brigade and where it was attacked by the lost 2/32nd Ligne. Whilst it would not have been so wooded this photo gives you an idea of the steepness and roughness of the terrain. We were even using hands to get over some of the outcrops.

Having failed to find the command post we turned from home, and at the Cruz Alta you get a superb view SE of the back of the length of the ridge.

And also out onto the plain to the SW.

It certainly highlights how the Bussaco ridge was the last serious obstacle to Massena before he could spread out onto the coastal plain.

A nice walk back through the woods along the Via Sacra, with some incredible terracotta style lifesized models of the stages of the cross, each housed in a little building with a bit barred door - luckily the smartphone camera just fitted between the bars (and most were nowhere nearly as well naturally illuminated as this one)!

The last stop was to actually look into the convent (2 Euros) where Wellington stayed (see plaque at top of the article).

The centre of the convent is a small chapel, and then all around the corridor that surrounds it on 4 sides are the small cells of the monks. I wonder which one Wellington commandeered?

The most amazing thing about the place is that all the doors and the ceiling beams are covered in the cork bark that grows locally. It gives the whole place a very organic feel, but I guess it's a great insulator.

One final Napoleonic photo - the old olive tree outside the convent where Wellington is alleged to have tied his horse.

The whole site around the hotel was busy all weekend with tour groups, a kids festival and a car rally - so it's nice to see that the place isn't too forgotten (or exclusive).

Overall a great weekend, a lovely place to stay, and a nice walk. But really you'll need a car to see the full extent of the battle as distances are big and paths poor - and a lot better map!

Oh, and this is the room I'm blogging from.