Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Napoleonic Bicentenary Wargames Survey Results Published!

Back in 2015 James Fisher of the Wargaming Waterloo blog and I came up with the idea of doing an online survey of all the Napoleonic Wargames that had been fought during the Bicentenary. In the end we had almost 50 respondents and over 300 battles reported on. There is some great data in there, not only on what scales and rules people were using, but also on how close the wargames were to the historical outcomes. You can read the results in the latest issue of Miniature Wargames and Battlegames (#396 - happens to be the Salute issue!). I'm now working with a military history academic to work up a more academic article based on the data.

Monday, 28 March 2016

100 Days Bicentenary - Waterloo

A fitting way to start this re-constituted blog with an after-action review for the last of my 100 Days Bicentenary wargames - even if almost a year late! Will post up the AARs for the other games in due course.

Rules were the "big battles" version of my in-house rules - Steady Lads Steady. Each hexon hex represents 200m. Figures are 6mm. Two elements used to represent a Brigade (so figure ratio of about 1:100)

[Note: Raw unedited text of notes made at the time]

T4 2pm

4/4 Bde of micthell comes to rescue of Byngs' 2nd Gd Bde by flanking HGO and taking Baudin 1/6 Bde in flank, forcing it to retreat. Then counter charged by 2/6 under Soye. With pressure off Byng forces rest of Baudin to retreat. In centre Ducth routed back off ridge, an Ompteda's KGL under pressure at LHS.

T6 3pm

DuPlat moves into HGO to replace Byng. Soye forces Mitchell to retreat. Pire sends Wathiez's 2/2 Cav against Grant's 5th Bde, both open ranks. Grant charges up onto Hubert's 1/2 Bde who send them packing. Wathiez blows out in front of Grant's 13LD who go to charge, but send them running home. Reilly begins a general advance with II Corps and Husson's 1/5 Bde takes casualties fm the RHA on the ridge. Kleinmensagge's Hanoverians come to the support of LHS just in time. Ompteda's KGL are forced back, but the attacking 1/1 Bde of Charlet is routed. Aulard's 2/2 Bde immediately puts in a counter-attack but the Hanoverians just hold on. D'Erlon's Corp reaches the ridge in four Bde frontage, in Bn columns. Bourgeois's 1/2 is forced back by Kempt's 8th Bde. Pack's Highlanders of 9th Bde force Schmitz's 1/2 Bde to a standstill. The French have more success against the Hanoverians where Nogues' 1/3 Bde goes against Best's 4th Hanoverians, and Grenier's 2/3 is against Vincke's 5th Hanoverians. Both German Bde's are looking very fragile.

T8 4pm

Napoleon unleashes Kellermans III Cav Corps against the British soft W flank. They wipe Grant's 5th Cav Bde out, but the first wave washes against the squares of 1st Div and 3rd Dutch Div. Reille starts to move Jerome up in support, and the Emporer also dispatches Morand's Old Guard. Reille tries to assault the British line E of HGO but is beaten back by the fire of the RHA. Kleinmensagge's Hanoverians beat of another assault against LHS, but are so weakened and isolated that they are pulled out, and Campi's 2/5 Bde under heavy RHA fire moves in. On the French right Grenier's 2/3 Bde routs Vincke's Hanoverians, but is itself taken out Hay's 16LD of 4th Bde. Best's Hanoverians manage to beat off Nogue's French. Pack's Highlanders make the mistake of charging forward and clearing Schmitz's French from the ridge just as Milhaud's Cuirassiers of IV Cav Corp surge forward, 1/14 catches them unformed and routs them. 1/14 charges over the ridge and into the disordered Best, routing him, but then as they recover Vandeleur's 11&12LD of 4Bde charge them in the flank while disordered and rout them. Milhaud's other Bdes are pushing forward, Vial's 2/14 stalls against 16 LD but is the charged and melees with Wissells 6th Bde and their KGL Hussars. As the hour draws to a close Wellington orders the Union Bde forward to help see off Milhaud, and the Household Bde to the right flank to counter Kellerman.

T9 4.30pm

With 2/12 Bde holding Byng 2nd Gd Bde in square the powerful 2/6 Bde of Soye unleashes guns and muskets and breaks the square, forcing the guards to retreat back up onto the heights, almost unnerving the Hanoverians. I and II Corps turn W to face this new threat, including 4 RHA batteries. The Dragoons of 1/11 charge into Melee with the Household Cavalry, and again superior size seems to be winning. In front of the ridge the KGL Hussars of 6th Bde and Cuirasiers of 2/14 break apart, KGL coming off worst. Cuirassier of 2/13 charge up onto the ridge and into the Union Bde. The Guard artillery moves forward ready to exploit any success, but most of Milhaud's cavalry has been committed without acheiving a breakthrough. Thhe first Prussian Bde (16) comes into site E of Placenoit. Napoleon Orders Lobau and YG to confront it. The GCaC also turns to face it, forcing the lead units into square.

T10 5pm

Baudin's 1/6 Bde forces Halkett's 3rd Hanover square to break. The Hanoverians retreat through the RHA battery, blocking its fire and the French carry on up to the gun position. The Dragoons of 1/11 just get the upper hand on the LG who retreat off board. The Blues&Royals come through and attack the Carabiners, but again luck seems to be with the larger French units. Morand's Chasseurs swing round W of HGO and are ready to assault the ridge. Kellermans other Bdes come forward ready to take on Grant and keep him away from the captured guns. There is a lull in the centre with not enough infantry or cavalry to make headway. Dubois' 1/13 Cuirassier move up past LHS but get raked by the RHA batteries that have moved into the centre. Thhe Guard and I Corps guns move aggressively forward but are devoid of targets and not enough protection to reach the ridge. Delorts's 14 Cav Div finally gets orders to move his Lancers forward, but to help the attack on the ridge, ignoring the Prussian 15 Bde that is just reaching Haie. Prussian 16 Bde remains pinned by GCaC, but it's LW occupy the woods N and S of Placenoit, and the IV Corps guns come in. Lobau and the YG reach the edge of Placenoit. Hardly surprisingly Napoleon and Wellington are far too busy issuing formation orders to worry much about individual brigades.

T11 5.30pm

The Blues and Carabiners break with almost equal damage. Byng's 2nd Gd Bde counter attacks Buaduin's men occupying the RHA gun line and forces them back. In ttheirs retreat they disorder Guiton's 2/11 Bde Cuirassier who are then charged by Arenachildts 7Bde KGL Hussars. Morand's Chasseurs try to go in against Adam's 3 Bde but are held off by the weight of his firepower. Pire's battered light cavalry moves up to help in the flanking manoeuvre, and now that the RHA has gone Reille starts to move the remnants of his Corps (Jamin) forward E of Hougoumont.
On the ridge all is quiet, Traver's 2/13 Cuirassier are beaten back by RHA fire, and d'Erlon is now bogged down with cavalry support. Bruno's 1/1 Chasseurs emerg from W of Papelotte to provide the support and are counter charged by Vandeleur's 4 Bde. Napoleon dispatches Pajol's I Cav Corps to try and block the PRUSSIANS now emerging around Papelotte. Around Placenoit the newly arrived Prussian Schwerin 1 Bde cavalry valiantly charge the GCaC and actually melee. The YG and 19 Div of Lobau move into the village, whilst 20e Div drives the 1st Schleisen LW of 16Bde (Fischer) out of the woods S of the village. On almost all fronts just a strong Division or two would probably tip the balance in Napoleon's favour, but he now has on the GD Hvy Cav and the Gd Grenadier Bde in reserve.

T12 6pm

Left: Donop 2/12 Cuirassier relieve risk on reforming Guiton's 2/11 and take out RHA guns again, cause protecting inf to retreat and then pile into Dornberg's 3 Cav Bde. Morand's OG finally go in against Adam's 3 Bde forcing them back along the ridge. Jamin's 9 Bde moving E of HGO takes  1 St KGL Bde behind 3 Bde in the flank and also forces them back. Again just not enough Fr Inf to exploit.  In centre D'Erlon still stalled. On R two more Prussian Inf and Cav Bde arrive. GCaC see off one Bde, but are blown when 2nd Cav Bde arrives. 15th RIR of 16 Bde gets into Placenoit, but is soon under attack by YG. 2/20 of VI Corps routs 1st Schlesien fm wood S of Placenoit. Pajol's 2/1 Cav Bde (Gobrecht) get to Papelotte and keeps advancing Prussian 15 Bde bottled up having routed 18th RIR.

T14 7pm

Left: zoulandt's 1st Dutch Cav Bde drives through and starts clearing the W flank of the weakened remains of Kellerman and Pire's cavalry. Morands OG attacks Maitlands Guards but one Bde is repulsed. Reille also pulls back. The French appear to be past their high water mark on the flank. D'Erlon finally starts to push forward again now that Pajol's Cav are operating on his flank. Placenoit is still firmly in French hands but 11th IR has pushed into the wood S of the village. GD cavalry is still engaging PRUSSIANS, whose superior numbers are telling, but it is delaying any serious push against Placenoit. Watzdorffs 2nd Bde has been sent round to Papelotte to unstick the situation there. 13th Bde and Corps Arty is pushing W down the ridge between the two valleys to a relatively empty corridor through to La Belle Alliance. Ghigny's 2nd Dutch Light dispatched the final regiment of Mildhauds curassiers.

T16 8pm

L: Repeated charges by Zoulandt's cavalry and 7th Bde succeed in clearing almost all Fr cavalry from the W flank, with Br Cav now back past HGO - in which the remains of Jerome's 6e Div are sheltering. Morand pulls back the OG after a failed attack on Maitland, and this causes Wellington to issue a call for a general advance. D'Erlon makes a final assault on the ridge with 3 & 4 div but is beaten off by 8th and 10th div. Ghigny's Dutch cavalry and a rested Union Bde clear most of the Cav from the E flank. The Gd Arty pulls back to the French ridge. Most of the PRUSSIANS are now on the board, with 5,14, 7 and 13 Bde against Placenoit, supported by IV Corps Arty, with 10th IR of 13 Bde managing to push Thevents 2/19 Bde out of the village so that they can move in and immediately engages 1/19. 1st Cav Bde fm II corps falls on 3 Cav div reforming E of Belle Alliance and sends them packing. 2 Cav Bde IV Corps finally unblock Papelotte, pushing Gobrechts 2/1 Bde back, and Perponchers troops come streaming out of the settlements and start heading back W. Steinmetz's 1 Bde/I Corps is swinging now needlessly N of Papelotte.

T17 8.30pm

L: OG try to establish a defensive line with remnants of II Corps along Fr ridge. Dutch Carabiners try to outflank round back of HGO but are repulsed by quick action of elms of Foy. 3Bde has far more success, charging and routing elms of II Corp by the NS road, then charging on into another spent unit, which Percipitation a huge rout of spent units, clearing a couple of divisions worth of spent Inf and Cav. D'Erlon makes one final attempt to take the ridge but gets repulsed again by 10Bde. D'Erlon pulls his Bdes back, but on the way they are cut up by charges from Union Bde and 2nd Dutch. On R 1 Cav/II Corps does a good job of clearing troops from the ridge N of Placenoit. although GCaC counter attacks pushing some Prusssian back. 10 IR/13 Bde and 25th RIR/5 Bde are in a struggle for Placenoit, and 2nd Elbe LW of 7 Bde fails to go home against the YG. 2nd Pommeranian LE finally go home against 1/20 div in the wood.

T18 9pm

Morand's Chasseurs manage to hold the line, seeing off attacks by 1st Gds and 5 Bde and bombardment by the RHA. 3 Bde manage to extract themselves as Friant's Grenadiers finally advance. Von Treskow's 1 Cav Bde/II Corps manages to rout several spent Bde's by La Belle Alliance, and a battery of the Guard. 2nd Elbe LW finally joins the fray at Placenoit, seizing the church from the YG after its decimation by 25th RIR, but a counter attack by Chatrand's 1/ YG pushes them back out. Lettow's 10th IR finally wins the battle with Belair's 1/19 Bde, so the village is held one each and one zone vacant. Bony's 1/20 is still ensconced in the wood. A whole fresh bde, 6 Bde, is too late to join the battle. Interestingly about the only operational French units in the end are Guard, inf (5 Bdes), and Cav (2 Bde) and Arty (1 Grand Bty). In fact the are only two operational line Bdes, and no Cav.

The French end in a marginally better position than in real life, but only just. They still hold Placenoit, but their only really operational Brigades are the Imperial Guard. Decisive Victory for the Allies.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Custom Card Deck - ECW

Custom Card Set for ECW Activation

For activation in most of my in-house rules I've been using a deck of playing cards, and have a command figure with the relevant hearts/clubs/diamonds/spades suit and number to indicate the formation being commanded - see almost any of the AAR photos.

Whilst it's simple and works pretty well, there is always the issue of hunting around the table to try and work our where the four of clubs is.

I'd heard from a number of people that it was getting pretty cheap to have custom playing card decks made. Whilst Artscow had been mentioned I was put off by its US pricing, but a quick Google turned up Personalised Playing Cards, based in the UK.

Whilst their web design app seems a bit old fashioned and clunky it does the job. You specify a common card back, whether you want the playing card symbols in the corner, and then a unique image and text for every card (52+2 jokers).  The biggest downside is that there is no way to see all the cards in one go - so you have to be careful to make sure you've defined every card, and haven't duplicated any - especially since the Copy function is very useful, There are also options for having unique backs on each card, and a cheaper option of having 40 Top Trump style cards if you just need simple numeric parameters. My card deck cost £15.99, not bad.

The cards are "Bridge" sized, so marginally smaller than the more common "Poker" sized. The card feels a little thinner than standard cards, but they are coated and shuffle well, and I reckon they'll last at least a couple of years - by which time I'd probably want to update them anyway,

For my first ECW deck I used Hearts and Diamond for the King's Army, and Clubs and Spades for Parliament. King was the CinC, Queen the guns, Jack the Dragoons, and the rest assigned to generic roles of infantry and cavalry, left, centre and right, and first, second and third line. There are enough cards for two in most roles, so one pair of suits was dominated by Edgehill era commanders, and the other pair by Marston Moor/Naseby. I wasn't too precious about who commanded what, I just wanted some suitably contemporary commanders.

For the pictures I tried to source images of the named commanders, OK for key roles, but poor the others. So for the rest I just took a load of photos of my 20mm ECW figures. The two Jokers I made special event cards.

Overall I was really impressed by the result. Delivery was under a week, and I can't wait to play a game with them. A set for Medieval is underway, and then after that Napoleonics.

Imperial War Museum

Isn't it great when a client decides to hold a briefing at the Imperial War Museum!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 14 March 2016

Dice Frames and Movement Trays

Like many wargamers I'm always in search of that elusive best way to show damage, morale and disorder on units. I don't want a paper rosta - I want to look and the table and see what is going on. I also don't want on-table cards I have to mark off - they tend to be too big and need reproducing for every game.

My current solution is small smoke puffs for damage/morale (which look good on table as they show where the fighting is), and red markers (vertical not flat as easier to pick up and blend better with figures) for disorder. But the problem with both is that you place them by a unit and then have to remember to move them - and as battalions start to bunch its easy for the markers to get mislaid.

I'd seen some dice frames at last year's Salute, and decided to pick some up at WMMS to experiment with. I bought a 4mm (green dice) and 7mm (black dice) set. In the image above shows the frames on the back of a couple of 6mm battalions and a 20mm company.

They certainly look neat, and the 4mm naturally fits better with the 6mm figures. I also had the idea that I could use dice colours to reflect unit quality, which I currently do by a paint mark on the base.

But when I used a couple of dice framed units in my Waterloo refight I found that the 4mm ones were just totally impractical. They were far too small to pick up and change without picking up the whole unit and amost using a set of tweezers (or a wet finger!). And the dice was easily dropped whilst changing from one value to another. Things would be a little easier with the 20mm/7mm combination, but I doubt by a lot, and bigger dice will just start to look odd. The other issue at eitehr scale was that I lost that immediate sense of a unis state - I had to deliberately read the dice rather than glancing at a large cluster of smoke puffs.

So back to the drawing board I think. The dice frames may still have a role, but right now I'm not quite sure what that is.

I also picked up some movement trays which actually fitted my non-standard basing. They will be great for my Brigade scale games (2 elements per Bde), or for my planned Mega Battalion games (6 elements per Bn).

Sunday, 13 March 2016

West Midlands Military Show 2016

Managed to get across to WMMS having missed it last year. Apart from a huge order from Hexon I picked up quite a few bits and pieces to experiment with, posts to follow. Some good games, and the most interesting game mechanic was a Napoleonic game using playing guards to place on an activation sheet which defined the options you had for different units/troop types. Would have liked to have the time to try it out.

Only took one photo as it didn't strike me the look of the games were as stunning as some years, but this was a nice WW2 game.

Wish that more of the games had had clearer signs of who they were and what rules they were using - I want to join another Birmingham wargames group but apart from asking would have had no idea if any were there.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Campaign: Battle of Corunna

After the Battle of Valencia Nick and I fought the smaller Battle of Corunna, which in game time had actually happened about a week before Valencia, but being so isolated we could play it afterwards.

To recap, I started out holding Corunna with a sacrificial force. Nick took it about Turn 60. Given the speed of communications it wasn't until Turn 70 or so that Marshall Massena is southern Spain heard the news. He then sent orders to Valladolid to send the next reinforcement Brigade to retake Corunna. When they arrived around Turn 105 the city was very lightly defended and easily taken. The British then mustered a force to try and retake the city, but the force was not particularly large - but battle was given.

 Starting positions, Corunna village at bottom
Since the forces involved were much smaller than at Valencia we were able to use 20mm figures and Hexon at 100m per hex.

Initial deployments, view from behind the French lines

My troops held a solid line across the neck of the peninsular. Nick's cavalry came on but were sent on their way by my two batteries. He then pushed light infantry against my left flank, and my forces fell back through the wood. He also pushed his RHA batteries right up to my guns, and then charged them from the woods. A struggle ensued over several turns with first my guns then his guns being over-run and retaken by repeated infantry assaults until finally I sent his guns home. With shattered cavalry, no guns, and much spent infantry the British pulled back and Corunna was safely ours.

British Infantry and Cavalry move up for the attack

French Chasseurs and Legere prepare to advance whilst guns see off a British cavalry probe on the left flank

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Peninsular Campaign: Battle of Valencia

The French deploy onto the table. There are a few more units off on the right flank.

After 108 turns of our 120 turn Peninsular Campaign Nick and I finally got to the first (and only?) big battle.  He'd made a (slow) dash across the whole of the Peninsular to strike at my undefended eastern garrisons - Valencia and Barcelona. My field Army had been just north of Toledo when it heard the news, so it was able to turn about and head for Valencia. Only one of my two Corps had time to deploy, and they were facing a gun heavy, but otherwise weak, British Corps. The game was fought in 6mm, battalion scale, on 4cm hexes using our Steady Lads Steady rules.

The assault on Valencia. Gold tagged units are Old Guard.
Time being of the essence, and the lateness of the game in the campaign meaning that the forces were unlikely to be engaged again, meant that I could through the Imperial Guard straight into the assault. It was a pretty bloody battle, with lesser battalions sacrificing themselves against the British gun line to limit casualties to the Guard units. Valencia was defended by Foot Guards and Fusiliers, so it was a tough fight.

Valencia back in French hands!
I kept pressure up on the right flank too with the Guard Light Cavalry trying to get behind his lines, but a couple of RHA batteries caused them too much damage to be able to exploit their position.

The Guard forced their way into the first Valencia hex on turn 15, but it was on Turn 22 (the last move of the game as night fell) that they ejected the final British unit form the city and claimed the victory.

We had a lot of troops out, but the game cracked along and given that Nick had driven up from Surry that morning we didn't start til about 11am and were finished by 7pm in time to join the wives for dinner. Not bad.