Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Scenario planning, and nice nostalgia

Having set up the situation for the second battle of  my 'Soldier King' campaign in the previous post, it's an interesting challenge to work out a tabletop scenario.   

All (red ) roads lead to Rahden - and battle

The issues are that (i) the forces are radically unequal, (ii) I'm not sure I have enough figures to represent them all on one table, and if I have, (iii)  I'm not sure I will have space for them all on my three feet square table. So I've been thinking a bit about how to represent the forces and produce an interesting ( and hopefully not too  one-sided) game.  The thing to avoid, it strikes me, is having the heavily outnumbered Austrians just dug in at the town, being ground down by frontal  assaults from their attackers.   It's a nice problem to have, of course, and not least because it has sent me to look in some grand old books and publications. 

The simplest option is a basic one-off battle scenario, and  I found something that looked relevant in Grant and Asquith's  'Scenarios for All Ages' - entitled 'Encirclement or Breakout'.         

from the masters of scenarios


On a single table , 'Red' is stuck in the middle, with no less than three 'Blue' forces of varying strengths closing in from various directions. Very conveniently, I have an Austrian army  in Rahden, with three Prussian contingents converging on them by  separate roads.  In the scenario, the Red objective to escape, getting his units off the table - and perhaps this is  the best hope for the Austrians in Rahden. Can they find the weakest of the surrounding forces and brush it aside, thus escaping? Can Blue close the net around them, and capture a good proportion?    So, a potentially useful scenario - though conditions (ii) and (iii) may not be met very easily, given my resources of figures and space. I think Charles Grant and Stuart Asquith assumed a fairly large table and plentiful troops for their setups! Also, with such a disparity between the two armies, in a small space there might not be much scope for finding that crucial gap.. but it's worth considering. 

I think perhaps a better bet, though, is some sort of 'mini-campaign' arrangement,  with a map area that encompasses several 'tables-worth' of country with the town at the centre, and  the Prussian forces arriving at different times on their respective roads, giving the Austrians the possibility of fighting them 'in detail'  in more equal combats,  while trying not to be worn down by repeated battles.  A smaller version of the King Harold's 1066 situation, perhaps?   General inspiration for this comes from Donald Featherstone's War Game Campaigns - he clearly loved  the  map-to-table translation of action. I think I acquired the John Curry re-print first, but then found the original at Salute or SELWG the other year and couldn't resist. Anyway, great for getting the ideas going. 

So good, I bought it twice

Finally, one of those lovely series of magazine articles from the old days that never quite gets 'archived' from the mental files system. In this case,  George Gush's  'One-Day Wargame Campaigns',  which turns out to have  been the first proper  article in the first issue of 'Miniature Wargames',  back in , was it 1983?     

Issue no. 1, article no. 1 - not a bad start..  

Really aimed at big club  games involving multiple players, a large space and as many figures as possible, so not quite appropriate here! I think I thought of it because of the mulitple-table aspects. Anyway, it gave me a very pleasant hour's reading on a grey winter's day, and those games must have been great fun.  George Gush was an early hero, from his Airfix ECW guide, WRG Renaissance period rules,  and his 'Renaissance Armies',  which I still have  ( sporting a 'Fourth Form Prize' label inside the cover, it was a long time ago! )  - and of course he gave me the title of this blog.  Is George still with us, does anyone know? 

All the above is of course  a way of saying  'I haven't set up the battle yet',  but ideas are being mulled over..which is all part of the fun.   Keep safe, and well, everyone. 


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Soldier King Campaign : 1757 with a bang!

I recently returned to my 'Soldier King'  boardgame-based fictional Seven Years' War  campaign,  moving things on three turns from Autumn 1756 to Spring 1757 in search of the next tabletop  battle.  

Autmn/Winter: Prussian Light Horse's deep raid

Following the opening battle for the northern border town of  Rahden,  the Austrian force (gold counters)  there found it could not progress any further into Prussian territory, as Prussian reinforcements (blue counters)  reached the area.  The rest of the  Austrian forces moved slowly North, taking control of the neutral province of Lower Waldrow and capturing most of neighbouring  Upper Waldrow - these would be very useful  as recruting grounds come the winter season, allowing their army to expand.  But there was a large gap between them and their northern comrades.  Despite terrible dice-rolling for initiative and too many  rolls of '1' for the number of marches available, into this gap the Prussians were able to move their '6th Brigade'  of Light Cavalry. 

With typical elan the 6th swept south-east,  capturing  the town of Wittingen to deny Austrian control of Upper Waldrow, and then onward into Austrian home territory, taking two further towns,   threatening the rear of the Austrian northern force and  causing consternation for the Austrian commanders,  as refugee civilian worthies no doubt berated them 'you are not defending us from these terrible Uhlans!'

With the onset of winter, the Austrian strategy of occupying neutral territory paid off, as they could now increase their army size from 11 units to 17,  placing six new units around their possessions (only one per recruiting city, though, and new units are rated as untried 'Levy' quality). The Prussians by contrast, could only restore their forces to the original 12 units. So, a big strength advantage for Austria, if it could be brought to bear. 

Winter : recruits rush to Austrian  colours  

And so opened 1757. For  the  Spring turn, as had become almost obligatory, the Austrians won the initiative roll and moved first.  But they were a little slow  getting their troops on the move - only two marches available, with which they began to move new-raised troops to join their comrades. Meanwhile, the Prussians had spent the winter formulating a plan - and for once the dice gods smiled on them.  With five marches available after their die roll,  the plan and their army  swung into action ....

Spring 1757 : Rahden surrounded!

Prussian high command had spotted that the Austrian force of five units had been left rather isolated at Rahden: using four of the available five marches, the Prussians were able to combine their entire army of twelve units into three forces, and all three  attack Rahden,  from three  different directions!  A positively Fredrickian strategic concentration of force,  which showed how well they had listened at the officers' mess dining  table,  when their venerated king had made his last tour of inspection in more tranquil times.  If they could destroy the Austrian force, the numerical odds against them would  be evened at a stroke, and the cream of the  Austrian army might  be 'in the bag'.

The odds don't look good..

And so, we have a battle to decide.  Five Austrian units, all 'Guard' quality, but outnumbered by more than two to one. Let's hope for their sake that they improved the town's defences over winter. The Prussians have five cavalry regiments to two, and seven infantry against three, surely decisive odds? But they have to co-ordinate an attack from three directions, which could be challenging, Also challenging will be my job of setting up a game with these forces on my three feet square table! I am going to be leafing through my scenario books with a furrowed brow, I think..

It looks set to be an 'interesting' game, whose events will be related in a post in the near future. In the meantime, keep well, and safe, everyone.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Ponderous Painting Progress

Botta d'Adorno Regiment - march!

Painting my small corner of the late  Eric Knowles' Seven Years War collection continues, albeit at a somewhat glacial pace. I had hoped to have daily painting sessions during the Xmas/New Year break, but didn't quite manage that! One good piece of progress, however, has  been completing a second batch of Austrian Fusiliers of the Botta d'Adorno  regiment.  Some matt varnish went on them the other day, and I gave them and the previously-completed group each some colours as a finishing touch. I'm keeping it simple, I know they aren't going to win any prizes, but they look fine to me, especially at 'table top distance'. I am in fact inordinately pleased, as this is the first time I've painted a unit like this in several decades!

As you can see, I now have 32 figures completed, Having started with Bob Cordery's 'Portable Wargame' rules, they make four battalions for Bob's brigade-level game - though it seems the real-life regiment only numbered two field battalions.  But I also want to be fairly flexible and use other rules too, so  I think they could  also be used as follows: 

-  two 16-man battalions in WRG 1685-1845 rules

-  two 'companies' for Young and Lawford's  Charge!

-  two  four-base ( 4 figures = 1 base ) 'units' - generally battalions - for Sam Mustafa's 'Maurice' 

- for Keith Flint's 'Honours of War', perhaps three battalions if we reduce to 10 figures per unit, or one full-strength (20) and one weaker battalion (16).

- no less than four Brigades for  'Volley and Bayonet' - big battles! 

All this depends on not being too precious about base sizes, of course. For Volley and Bayonet, for example, I think temporary thin cardboard bases might be used for the 'brigades', with the figures (which are based in twos)  gently tacked down on them using blu-tak or similar. Or just group 8 figures together so that they obviously represent a brigade - probably 2 ranks of 4 will do.  I am interested to compare and contrast  different rule sets - I think the current mini-campaign using the 'Soldier King' boardgame could be made more interesting by choosing different tabletop rules to try out for each battlefield encounter. 

I also have some Grenadiers for the same regiment. I think perhaps I should paint, say, four or eight of those.

Meanwhile, I have finally made a start on some cavalry -  just six of the Erzherhog Ferdinand Cuirassiers.  In 'Portable Wargame' terms they will make a regiment; in other rules, perhaps more like a squadron.  A small unit to start with, and practise on - baby steps for a beginner - seemed right, not too daunting. 

Erzherhog Ferdinand : starting painting

As you can see it is very early days yet - Henry Hyde's 'Wargames Compendium'  has a good page or two on horse  markings, which I found useful.  That pot of red paint in the background is going to play an important part..

For reference, I have Eric Knowles' painting notes  - I will honour  his ideas by painting these as the regiment he had in mind. 

Eric's Notes: sadly I don't have 'MW' Feb 1990 issue..

It occurs to me that Eric must have planned his forces in some detail - I wonder if he intended to put together the order of battle for a particular campaign or engagement?  I found the 'Seven Years War Project'  website at , which conveniently summarises each regiment's service during the war - perhaps with a cross-reference between the several units I have from Eric, all might become clear.

Meanwhile for a bit more knowledge and  detail on those Cuirassiers, I have Osprey Men-At-Arms no. 271 'The Austrian Army 1740-80 (1) The Cavalry' which is proving most useful. My chaps should be not a million miles from the fine-looking Cuirassier Officer at right on the cover. 


Good ol' Haythornthwaite and Younghusband

Now back to a working week, so I have less free time, but the lockdown and the weather is likely to make the next few weekends pretty quiet, so I have some hopes of pressing on with the above, and more. I've also been keeping the 'D-Day Dodgers' Italy 1943-1945 in mind, doing a bit of reading around that with some interesting books, and I hope to mention that in an upcoming post.

All is rather grim in poor old Blighty at the moment, the next several weeks of winter  are going to be a long haul, I'm afraid. So, I hope we can all use our hobbies and interests to help get us through and keep us cheerful. Keep safe, and well, everyone.