Thursday, 26 November 2020

Solving the Housing Shortage

The usual issues of Time and Space have meant that the battle at Rahden remains in hiatus - impatient grumblings may be heard from the troops confined to their storage box.  I hope to return to that very soon, but in the meantime a small diversionary effort  may be in order - let's look at some scenery. There were a couple of approving comments on the buildings of 'Rahden' that featured in the game, so I thought I'd show you them here. 

Keen-eyed readers will have noticed that none of  the previous 'Portable Seven Years War' battles have involved villages or towns - because I had no buildings in the right scale. Or so I thought:  but casting around for scenery for the town in my recent game, I remembered a few likely models acquired from The Works - I think they were sold as Xmas table decorations, at about £3 each. 

 I think they look suitably Central European. 

They needed some colouring, though. Being anything but a skilled painter, and also being in a hurry, I went for an extremely simple scheme - starting with thinned PVA as a sealer, then just a red/brown or grey roof, and white or buff walls, and a grey-brown base. 

Keeping the paint quite thin allowed the etched details of roof tiles, doors and the the clock on one of the houses  to show through, and the  simple overall effect seems in keeping with the generally nostalgic feel of my Seven Years War setup.  They bring to mind Charles Grant's home-made Germanic-looking buildings, as featured in his 'The War Game' and 'Battle - Practical Wargaming',  images imprinted on my mind since childhood. I couldn't really do anything else, could I? 

As you've seen, they were ready in time to play the role of 'Rahden' in the recent game, and looked fine, to my eyes.  I think they may see plenty more action. 

Finally, I should also show their special extra feature - not sure if it will ever be used in a game: 

Night actions, perhaps?  

I don't know if they are still available from The Works, but I think I've seen similar things in other gift/general merchandise type shops ( a shout-out to Roys of Wroxham, for East Anglian readers!), and it's the right season.. I'll take a look in my local branch once they re-open, as I think we are promised for non-essential shops in England next week. A couple more houses could be useful. 

Next time, back to the battle.  Meanwhile keep safe and well, everyone. 

Monday, 16 November 2020

Soldier King Campaign: Battle is Joined

My attempt at a 7YW-based campaign using the 'Soldier King' boardgame has thrown up its first battle, as the Austrians sieze the intiative to strike with superior force at the town of Rahden, where the Prussians have the advantage of what the game map calls 'fortifications'. I don't have any model fortifications, so I will take the excellent suggestion from Neil Patterson and simply assume the town is in a naturally strong defensive postion - assisted by my new-minted walls ( from my  previous post ).

So here we are: first the Prussian defenders of Rahden,  translated from the  ratings from the board game to the Strength Points (SP)  of 'The Portable Wargame'  - essentially  'Guards' become 'Elite'  and 'Veteran' become 'Average'.  All cavalry conveniently the same, i.e. 'Heavy', and I allocated each army one artillery unit , as artillery pieces  are not included in the board game, presumably just 'factored in' to available forces. 

von Gehirne and his gallant ( and suprised ) defenders

        Generalleutnant  von Gehirne  ( 6 SP )

        Von Kleist Horse Grenadiers, rated Elite    ( 4 SP ) 

        1st Battalion, 44th Fusiliers, rated Elite ( 5 SP ) 

        1st and 2nd Batalions, Von Kleist Frei Korps infantry, rated Average, ( each  4 SP )

        1  gun and  crew, rated Average  ( 2 SP ) 

    A total  of   25 SP, with Exhaustion Point after loss of 9 SP. 


  And the attacking Austrians, led by the experienced General Dachs : 


General Dachs' strike force

         General Dachs ( 6SP ) 

        1st and 2nd 'Grenzer' Cavalry, rated Elite ( each 4 SP ) 

        1st and 2nd Battalions Botta  Infantry, rated Elite ( each 5 SP  )

        1st and 2nd Battalions  'Wildganse' Jaeger,    rated Average ( each 4 SP ) 

        1 gun and crew, rated Average ( 2 SP )

    Totalling 34 SP, with Exhaustion Point after the loss of 12 SP. 


Now to the battlefield, and the battle!  The Southern outskirts of the town of Rahden, with the road from the south passing between hills and woods, and with some convenient walled enclosures making good defensive positions. To reflect the Austrian's grabbing the initiative in the campaign, I decided von Gehirne's troops would start in and around the town rather than fully 'dug in' on those hills, for example, as Dachs' Austrians hurried up the road to attack - entering in march column on Turn 1. The picture below looks South to North, with Austrians arriving in the foreground.

Raus! Raus! Prussian defenders at starting positions, Austrians arriving 

Von Gehirne placed his gun and his elite  Fusiliers behind the walls by the road, with the von Kleist foot divided between the two flanks , and his Horse Grenadiers on his right (West) flank, hoping these three could race up to defensive positions on the hills outside the town.  Precious few units, though, and the cavalry outnumbered two-to-one.   

I gave the Austrians first move in Turn 1, and I used Bob Cordery's card-driven unit activation system,  whereby each side gets to activate a number of units each turn according to card draws.  The Austrians would be able to activate 3, 4 or 5 units each turn  and the Prussians 2, 3 or 4. The Austrians drew a '5' on turn 1, and accordingly 5 units marched onto the table from the south: both their cavalry units, their gun and one battalion each of Jaeger and Botta ( 'Guards' ) infantry. The Prussians drew only a two, still a bit sleepy perhaps? Von Kliest 2nd Foot in march column raced forward to secure the Eastern hill and stone-walled  enclosure,  while the Horse Grenadiers reached the Western hill. 

The fighting started on Turn 2, with the Prussian gun, overseen by Gehirne himself, getting first blood with a hit and 1 SP taken from 1st Austrian Jaegers ( caught in Column ), and the Horse Grenadiers charging downhill in line to catch the Austrian 1st Cavalry in column, hoping to knock them back, though in the event the melee was indecisive.  The Austrian 2nd Cavalry came to the rescue, charging into the Grenaders' flank and pushing them back onto the hill, whereupon something of an epic cavalry fight continued back and forth over the West Hill for  the next several turns. The Horse Grenadiers, supported by the 1st Von Kleist foot,  did a fine job against twice their number, while the dastardly Austrian horse even took to charging from the cover of the woods. By Turn 7, the Prussians were pushed off the hill but still intact, while the Austrian horse had suffered losses of  2 SPs  ( I used pennies as loss markers ). 

Prussian Horse Grenadiers dispute West Hill, heavily outnumbered


Meanwhile the Austrian foot and gun concentrated on the East Hill, bravely defended by the 2nd Von Kleist infantry, with the Prussian gun firing in support from the town. The Austrian gunners were not shooting very straight, making only one hit from five turns of shooting!  Their Jaegers were more determined, charging straight up the hill repeatedly, being repulsed no less than three times by musketry and close combat, and suffering 3 SP losses by turn 6, but crucially taking  2 SP from von Kleist, with the gunners' sole hit taking another SP. The defending Prussians could not afford to take 'retreat' results when hit, for fear of abandoning the walled enclosure, so were forced to take SP losses. 

Austrian Jaegers bravely - and repeatedly - assaulted  East Hill

I found the card-driven activations added a level of uncertainty and challenge to the commanders' task.   They could not assume they would be able to do everything they might like  to each turn, with limits on the numbers of units that could be activated. One result was that for a while the Austrians were too busy fighting with the units on the table to be able to spare activations to bring on their last couple of battalions!  The need to  keep attacking East Hill with infantry and bring up guns, meant that Dachs had to resist using too many activations on the possibly less decisive cavalry fight on the other flank, however demanding of attention  the swirling mass of horsemen might be! 

On Turn 7, something of a turning point, as the Austrian 1st Jaegers stood off and gave the Prussians a musket volley, scored a hit and took the last SP from 2nd von Kleist foot, breaking them and leaving East Hill there for the taking - only for the Prussian Fusiliers to let fly with their first volley, at long range from the town, and inflict the same punishment on the Jaegers, who were destroyed at the moment of triumph! 

End of Turn Seven - all to play for?

Which leaves us, at the end of Turn 7, with an 'interesting' situation - the Austrians have cleared the East Hill and pushed the Prussians back from West Hill, but the fight for the latter is by no means over, and the  main town is still defended by a gun and two foot units, one elite and manning the walls. The losses so far : Austrians  6 SP ( Exhaustion Point 12 SP ) ,  Prussians 4 SP ( Exhaustion Point 9 SP).  General Dachs has made progress, but the town looks a tough nut to crack.

Time ran out and the troops have been packed away, but the battle will resume another day. I hope this has been interesting to read, as it was indeed to play. Until the next time, keep well, everyone. 



Sunday, 8 November 2020

We're Gonna Build A Wall..

Botta Regiment wonder if the Mexicans paid for this?

Having set up the premise for the first engagement of my 'Soldier King' boardgame-based campaign, considerations of  Time and Space have been in play, what with work and some chores arising from the renewed 'lockdown' - hence my apologies for a period of silence here. Now turning my mind to the promised battle, I realised I had set a trap for myself by taking note of the 'fortified' nature of the fictional location to be fought over.  Visions of Vauban-style fortifications and elaborate sieges I will leave to the most excellent MS Foy - here at The Ragged Soldier, resources are more limited. I thought about horse and musket period 'Lines' a la Marlborough and Villars 'Ne Plus Ultra', but I'm not certain how to quickly and simply model such an installation  ( must have a go one day, though, having recently read Maurice De Saxe's Reveries on how to attack and defend 'lines' ) .  In the end, I've decided on a much simpler approach - I will just allow the defending Prussians plenty of good stout stone walls to line up behind. 

So, taking a look at available scenery - oops, no walls.  Well, some quite nice model walls ( acquired a few years ago from Total System Scenic ),  but all 15mm scale, which come up roughly to the  knees of the 25mm Seven Years War figures - that's not going to worry the attackers. I want to get the game going pretty soon, therefore there was only one thing for it.  In the immortal words of the 45th POTUS (now, who was that exactly?)  "We're Gonna Build a Wall.."

Score along the lines, fold and glue..

Resources were available: good old-fashioned cardboard cereal boxes. I'm glad to say, it proved fairly simple even for a handicraft klutz such as me to come up with a one-piece, scored-folded-and-glued  'box',  100mm long, 15mm high and about 5mm deep, and then glue that to a card base. What's more, when allowing the glue to set, all those elastic bands that the Postman drops on the street, and I pick up because 'they'll come in handy someday' finally did!   The choice of 100mm is a cunning plan - they are therefore exactly the width of my Hexon terrain hexes, if laid along the centre line.  

Waiting on the glue drying - thanks to Royal Mail

As to finishing, all  equally improvised. A quick coat of grey acrylic paint, then a very approximate 'stonework' pattern drawn on with a black fineliner pen. It's not exactly Flemish Bond, and I assume that any wall actually built to this pattern would fall down even before it was finished! But it looks like a wall, more or less.   I did try applying a wash of  Army Painter 'Light Tone' to one section, only then realsing that the fineliner pen's ink is not permanent. Debate rages over whether the resulting blurry effect is an improvement or a disaster - for the moment that one is going to be kept at the back, like my school woodwork efforts inevitably were at Parents' Day. 

Based and painted: the one ruined/improved by Light Tone wash is at back right

At this point I'd like to fondly remember a lovely old friend of my parents, now long deceased, whose actual job was to do this sort of thing - gloriously titled 'Cardboard Engineer'. I think he designed advertising materials for shops.  Presumably he was very careful when going out in the rain. George, if you are looking down now and wincing, I'm very sorry. (  I also  remember a line from Alexei Sayle "my girlfriend works as a model - this week she's being an Airfix Stuka Dive-Bomber".  I'll get my coat..).    

So there we are - The Ragged Soldier's beginner-grade scenery.  I still need to think of  something to 'weather' them a bit - maybe dry-brushing rather than a wash? And I need to use permanent ink in future!  The green bases need a second coat, there are some rough corners to be trimmed off, and gaps to be filled with PVA glue and painted over,  and no doubt any sensitive soul  taking a close look will be shocked to their aesthetic core - or just laugh at my pathetic attempts. But from a distance on the gaming table, they will do fine.  I've got some walls, and battle can commence. On time and zero budget - how did your wall go, Donald? 

Next time, to battle - keep well, everyone. And of course, on this Remembrance Sunday: 'Lest We Forget'.