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?

Monday, 3 June 2019

Blucher 100 Days Campaign - Crunch time!

Note: View the 100 Days posts for background and previous installments.

Nick and I have finally got the Blucher 100 Days campaign moving again after the Skirmish at Gembloux back in March.

With my (French) main thrust between the Allied armies frustrated by the 2 day Battle of Sombreffe, and my flying column trying to seize the Prussian supply points being equally frustrated at Gembloux it was time for a rethink.

This was the situation at the end of the 18th June. The area around Sombreffe was declared out of bounds (nobody wanted a Day 3!), and columns P and B had bounced apart after Gembloux - although my B was now conveniently on the eastern side of the river.

My new plan was to switch my focus to a race to the victory exits (B1 and A6). I have to exit 12 units of any one of them (not in combination) by end 25th June, otherwise the Allies win. To achieve the goal I decided to do a bit of deception. B would split and move towards both supply points still, but expecting P to cover them and move E of me, I'd then shoot N and W to get to A6. The main force would sent two weak columns (but Nick didn't know that unless he scouted) towards A6, pass some village of Waterloo. Crucially the main bulk of my Army would take the very last moves, so hopefully getting him to commit to a N or NW move before it's obvious where I'm actually going.

As it turned out Nicks moves were pretty much what I wanted, his Brits moving a bit too much W, but as my B moved N and actually hit the A row (with his P eventually coming in  pursuit) he actually dispatched two more Prussian columns away from the main body to protect A6.

This was the situation on 21 Jun. The British made good speed towards B1, I was never going to get it unopposed, but A6 gathered a good (and wasted) defensive screen, although he eventually released W and V to help the other Brits once M and O were in position.

My main column have swung south as far as Charleoi had move W and then rapidly up the Soignies-Hal road (Wellington was right after all!), shaking out into their battle order as they went.

By the 24th the units were in position and battle was ready to be joined. I now only have one more day to exit from B1 or A6 - so I need to either beat the Prussians (which seems unlikely, but a pity as the exit square - the gates of Brussels - is actually on the table), or fight through to B2 during the Battle of Hal on the 24th, then probably fight another battle on the 25th centered on B1-B2, but at which I just need to cover my rear whilst the Grand Armee marches off towards the Channel Ports!

Talk about playing it down to the wire!

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Games Expo 2019

Just back from a good day at Games Expo. Really need to think about 2 days next year so as to get more time to actually play games and to hear some of the lecture sessions. As ever compared to Salute the audience is a lot younger, more gender balanced and full of families.

So, some of the things that caught my eye:

It's always worth a quick walk around the competition tables to see what is going on. This is the miniatures end with (I think) Fields of Glory and DBM competitions.

 Some heavy duty 6mm troop lines!

The ultimate RPG table - a flat mounted video screen that can display whatever terrain you want!

Where wargaming and table top gaming collide. Song of Ice and Fire table top game (I think) with simple plastic miniatures. Ugly as sin! Why bother with the fancy terrain cloth?

Love it! Gaming the retail space!

Multiverse War. My daughter (serious gamer) rated this best-in-show yesterday and tempted to agree with her. It has elements of wargaming and boardgaming, but strikes me it combines them better than Memoir 44 etc. You start with hidden hex tiles between your bases and uncover the terrain as you advance. Some simple DMs for terrain and troop types, and development ladders and unit manufacture akin to an RTS. Going to Kickstarter soon. Check it out also on BoardGameGeek and Facebook. I'm already working out how to play it on 10cm Hexon tiles with my 6mm or 20mm WOTR armies!

Blast from the past - L'Attaque. My uncle used to have this and we played it a lot as a kid. My parents then got me Tritactics (the land/sea/air version) one Christmas which got played continuously.

Leaders. Sold out by the time I got around to it.  A cross between Risk (which the board is almost stolen from) and Twilight Struggle, but mediated by a tablet app. Looks well worth buying.

Didn't try it, but they 3D scan your face off a smartphone and then 3D print you onto a figure. Very tempted to give it a try.

My only real purchase, Beyond Waterloo is a counterfactural hex-and-counter style game from an old (2011) copy of the Against the Odds magasine which recreates the whole of the situation in 1815 after Napoleon returned from Elba. So this isn't just the 100 days, but the Spanish, Italian, Rhine fronts as well. Very apt as Nick and I are just getting to the culmination of our 100 Days Campaign (see next post) and have been talking about a whole-1815 campaign like this for a while.

I did buy a couple of other things - but didn't walk away with them so I'll wait til they arrive. Things I didn't get were a moon mat (but think I can source from Deepcut) and a Traveller book (as they'd sold out of the new Compendium.

All in all though a good day.