Thursday, 30 November 2017

Battle of Jena - ENDEX

Finally got to the end of Jena - not that it took a long time to play but just not had the time. I used to really like (the idea of) Jena, probably from being there for the 200th Anniversary, but having wargamed it twice now (Liphook and here) it really is a bit of a bore as the Prussians are vastly outnumbered and out-skilled, and the French are struggling up slopes and through woods with no room to manoeuvre, and by the time they are out on the plain its all over.

Lannes V Corps made most of the running, although Lutzeroda managed to hold out for quite a long time (about Turn 8/1030). Augeraeu's VII Corps haked its way up the ravine on the L flank to emerge outside of Isserstedt but couldn't get its order resorted in time to make a decent attack. Soult and Ney were very late to the party, although Soult's 1st Div did manage to take out the Prussians by Alten Gonna. In the end it was Nansouty and his Heavy Cavalry Corps that help delivered the killer blows, mopping up the Prussian cavalry, putting weak units to flight and opening up the way for Lannes to finish things off, with the Guard spectating from the Dornberg.

ENDEX was called at the end of Turn 12 (1230) as the Prussian fell below 50% in formations and units and their line between Vierzehnheilgen  and Isserstedt was about to collapse. Interestingly they did manage to roll for Ruchel's Detached Corps to come on at that point, but it was effectively all over.

Overall the French were running just behind the real timeline, but interestingly Prince Hohenlohe ordered the retreat at 1pm in real life, so the French actually ended up just ahead of it!

Overall the rules worked pretty well, certainly felt better, if more complex/slower, than the recent Blucher game, but will be interesting how the BOD-SLS-GT version I'm working on will compare.

Photos are a bit dim as I finished about 2330 on a winter's evening!

French (R) emerge from the woods under Isserstedt (Austrians standing in!)

Vierzehnheilgen church under attack

Another view of the church - like the perspective - just need more light

Balloon (!) shot of the final placings, Prussians in arc Left to Top

Balloon view from behind Soult's IV Corps

Monday, 27 November 2017

Battle of Sombreffe

We finally managed to find the time to play the first big battle of our Blucher 100 Days Campaign.  Alan's French had crossed the border on the 15th and  moved en-masse against my Prussians, resulting in a big battle just N of Sombreffe featuring all of the French bar II Corps, and all of the Prussians bar IV Corps. In a mirror image of Waterloo Nick's Brits were racing to the scene and expected to get a  couple of Corps onto the field sometime during the day, coming in on the Prussian R flank. here's the campaign map:

Sombreffe is buried under column C&F.

The battlefield generated by the map and some terrain choices, with column start areas was:

Which when put out on the table, looking E to W, looked something like this:

The broken terrain was not idea, but interesting, and showed that nice aspect of campaign play that you don't get "simple" battlefields. The Prussians started in control of 2 objectives/map squares, and the French 4! Unfortunately Alan was well enough to play, but after a quick game of Sun Tzu (nice game), Nick changed sides and received Alan's briefing.

The key question was (in true Waterloo style) could the Prussian hold on long enough for the Brits to arrive.

The French pushed quickly forward making good progress on the Prussian left, but being rebuffed on the Prussian right. In the centre 3 Imperial Guard artillery units pushed boldly forwards, to be met by some courageous Prussians, who whilst they didn't inflict any serious damage kept the "beautiful daughters" out of the rets of the game.

Prussians taking on the Beautiful Daughters!

The French advance!

Another French gun at risk, but otherwise pushing forward

At the end of Turn 4 (Allied 2nd turn) I rolled a 1 and so the first British reinforcements arrived behind me, far earlier than I'd dared hope. The immediately blocked a gap on my R flank, and interestingly hardly played an part in the rest of the game!

Highlanders stabilise the R flank.
British and French (well Confed of Rhine) come face to face!

Worse was to come for the French as on my next Turn I again rolled a 1 and the whole of the British Cavalry Corps arrived on my R flank, almost into the rear of the French! The rest of the game on that flank was a series of melees between the Cavalry, including Grenadiers a Cheval and Royal Horse Guards - all a bit of stalemate by the end but stopped any serious French threat from my right.

Light Dragoons mixing it with Cuirassiers!
Scots Greys and Cuirassiers on a collision course!
The nail truly went in French coffin when the Prussian III Corps finally turned up to not only secure my crumbing L flank, but trigger a general push forward on that flank.

Prussian L flank, looking towards the thin French lines!
With night rapidly falling (i.e. we'd run out of time after 15 turns) the French made one last fling against the central hill, aiming to inflict maximum damage before the attrition calculations, and the game was over.

The French still trying to push forward!

At the end the Prussians held 3 squares, the French 2, and the 6th only had a solitary Prussian Hussar unit  who was desperate to seize the glory of the 6th objective in Sombreffe itself, but never quite made it!

Trying to seize Sombreffe - and a vacant objective

As the Prussian commander I certainly feel that the French were saved by the night - Nick and Alan might have other views. In the very last turn the 2nd Corps of British infantry arrived, so I had almost 3 fresh Corps to throw against the Guard and one French reserve Corps - would have been fun!

Rules-wise there was quite a bit that concerned us about Blucher this time round (my first game had left me with a poor view, but the 2nd seemed to go OK). Key issues appear to be:

  • Guns fade very fast, and even with canister aren't anything to be afraid off
  • Cavalry are just mobile infantry who've lost their muskets as they get no bonus against infantry not in square/prepared, and even if they are prepared the infantry advantage is not massive
  • My valiant cavalry unit tasked with seizing Sombreffe couldn't make it since I could never afford the activation points, whereas in practice it would just be a simple "gallop there" command and not need me to do anything else
  • We just ended up ignoring the Commander cards - but perhaps partly since we were rushing it
  • The 50% damage threshold for campaign attrition means we started "gaming" it in the last turn, just going after the hits that would tip a unit over
It does play nice and fast though, and the activation system is nice if a little gamey. I had already started on a "bucket-of-dice" version of my own SLS rules, so perhaps that may be the way to go!

We'll play out the campaign with the standard rules, but then reassess I think. Also keen to give Over the Hills a try as they seem closer to SLS.

For this game the Blucher rules were hexified (as are all my rules!), and figures were 20mm plastics and Newline metal. We also realised that we really need some nice sabot bases if we're going to do this again!

I've now got to do the attrition sums to find out the campaign impact - my suspicion is that it will actually be worse for the Prussian as we have a lot of Conscript and Understrength units who won't recover, whereas every single one of the French will in some shape or form :-(

10th Hussars about to enter the fray!

Friday, 17 November 2017

History of England Podcast

I've just got to episode 200 of this wonderful History of England Podcast by David Crowther, so it seems a reasonable milestone to blog about it! David's currently at Episode 231 so I'm just under a year behind in real time! In story terms I'm at the beginning of Henry VII's reign, and David is mid Henry VIII with the fall of Anne Boleyn!

If you don't know it the series starts around 600AD, and has been slowly working through English history in 30-40 min episodes. David has a great style, with just the right amount of humour and the odd dramatised interlude (usually involving family and friends). His touchstones in historiography are the Ladybird Book of Kings and Queens, and 1066 and All That! It genuinely is recorded in his shed as you can often hear the birds in the background!

For the wargames and military history buff it has excellent coverage of the major campaigns and the key battles. For instance the 100 Years War covered 61 episodes (including all the domestic events), and I've just finished 31 excellent episodes on the War of the Roses (rapidly becoming one of my favourite periods). The web site that supports the series is also full of maps and original documents to add detail.

David also has a parallel "Shedcast" available to members only which is doing things like a History of Scotland, and he also has a separate History of the Anglo Saxons!

If you aren't listening to it I'd really urge you to start if you've got any serious interest in English History - or drop into the relevant episodes for the things that interest you - but like me you'll soon then just want to start from the beginning!

Monday, 13 November 2017

A Small Skirmish in Africa

Got together with Nick and Alan (Martin - who painted all the figures and scratch-built all the terrain we used - see his tutorials) on Saturday to play  a small game of Osprey's Pikeman's Lament.

I was Portuguese defending a small trading fort/post, and Nick was a Spanish column attacking it, sometime in C17, somewhere in East Africa. Alan umpired (as he knew the rules and I'd never played it before, and Nick only once).

I had two small units of European commanded muskets, two groups of native spearman, and one group of native shot. Nick had two blocks of European musket, one of pike, and two of arab native mercenaries.

The fort had a large area of open ground in front of it, into which came a broad track. Either side of the track was heavy undergrowth/jungle, but with lots of small tracks.

I started with all my troops on blinds, about 16 small dice showing possible jumping off points, but only 5 with units. One native band set up ambush in the left most jungle, one in the right (focussed on the track, and the shot hidden in the bushes near the fort. One commanded musket was in the fort - it could rake fire to the edge of the jungle, the other was in the nearer part of the left side jungle ready to ambush anyone making it as far as the open space.

Nick advanced his Europeans down the track, and put the arabs to work clearing the jungle on either side.

The leading musketeers on the main track spotted my natives who immediately rushed them. They managed to destroy the musketeers, but were themselves toast after taking 1 man off the following unit. It was the same story in the left jungle where my natives destroyed the Arab mercenaries after a prolonged struggle, but were then eliminated themselves as they burst out onto the main track, taking out again just one extra man.

On my right flank Nick's other unit of mercenaries pushed on through the jungle and emerged onto the plain in front of the fort. Before they could rush the door my native shot came out of hiding and lined up ready to take them on, but a few well aimed shots from the fort's garrison sent them scurrying back to the wood.

Nicks two remaining units of Europeans (one each of musket and pike) then pulled out of the track and onto the plain. A firefight between them and my native shot and the garrison gradually wore the force down.

I then pushed my second Commanded Shot detachment out of its hiding place and into Nick's rear. Nick responded by sending his Arab's across the back of his pike & shot to protect their rear, but my well-trained matchlocks made short work of them, but by this time I'd lost my local shot.

Nick two remaining units were rapidly failing though, and we have a wonderful situation where my garrison fire on one, and the commanded shot on the other. Both of Nicks units suffered adverse morale and so had to fall back - into the range of my other unit - who then fired again and sent Nick back to his original position - but losing a man or so each time!

This game of ping-pong lasted a few rounds, but eventually his units gave up the ghost and I won.

Interestingly although I'd lost all my local troops I'd only lost 2 European figures, so I guess that would have been called a result back in those less enlightened days.

All in all a great game, with lovely figures and terrain. A few oddities in the rules and not quite sure about the step change from full to half strength and then no further loss til you've gone, but I guess it made it simple and deadly! Thanks to Alan for hosting!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Middle Guard - 20mm

Finally got the two battalions of Middle Guard I bought at Salute painted. One done as Fusiliers and the other as Chasseurs. Figures are Newline 20mm, and very nice too.

I think I have three more battalions of Middle Guard to do next year to bring the MG up to strength for Waterloo. Just one OG left, but a horde of YG I think.