Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Soldier King Campaign: Opening Shots at Rahden

Let battle commence..

Returning to my fictional Seven Years War campaign based on the 'Soldier King' boardgame, we last saw the Prussians attempting to co-ordinate their three separate columns in an attack on the city of Rahden, against a small but elite Austrian occupying force. Using my improvised 'mini-campaign' setup, we had the two smaller Prussian forces linking up on the western road, while Austrian cavalry kept a watchful eye. 

And so, on Turn 6 of map-moving the Prussians managed to bring on their largest force from the North. The Austrians were just not getting any intelligence from the local population, however ( i.e. terrible dice rolls ), and were blissfully unaware and unable to react until Turn 7.  At that point, they became aware of all three Prussian forces - what to do?  Actually pretty obvious, as the first two enemy groups   were much closer to the city - better meet them first!  Accordingly, the Austrian infantry hastily formed up and marched out on the West road to meet the aggressors -  which they pretty soon did, as shown in this hurriedly-drafted  Austrian intelligence service map:


Within a table's width: contact!

To create a battlefield, I started with the rough map above - the game table occupies '4 by 4' of the small squares, and we have the road running SW to NE, with part of the town at the NE corner. Given that, and my '9 by 9 hexes' table,  I then used Bob Cordery's Terrain Generator system and rolled some dice, just to add some hills and trees. That produced four grid areas of  hills and four of trees, which tended to cluster south of the road, leaving the northern section quite open - good cavalry country? Interesting.

The respective forces were as follows: 


    Brigadier-General  von Stocke :  6 SPs 

    2 battalions Fusiliers, 1 battalion Frei Korps, all classed 'Average' and each 4 SPs 

    2 squadrons Uhlans ( Light Cavalry ) , Average, each 3 SPs,

    1  Gun and crew, Average,  2 SPs

    Total 26 SPs, exhaustion point at 9 SP lost.


    Brigadier-General Rupert den Baren  ( victor of Weihnachten ) , 6 SPs

    3 Battalions Line Infantry, classed 'Elite' , each 5 SPs

    2 Squadrons Heavy Cavalry , Elite,  each 4 SPs 

    1 Gun and crew, Average, 2 SP, 

   Total 31 SPs , exhaustion point at 11 SPs lost. 

In the board game there are no artillery units,  so I decided that adding one gun for each  five units was about right - so one each. 

Even numbers of units, but the Prussians are about to find out that they are up against Elite troops, and their Light Cavalry have to deal with 'Heavies'. They need to at least hold the Austrians, and do some damage, while their main force tries to  'march to the sound of the guns'. The Austrians need to hit the enemy hard but also husband their own strength, ready to turn and fight the larger Prussian force.

I positioned the forces approximately as shown on the map,  and so it begins: an 'encounter' battle, both sides marching into action: 

Enemy in sight! Prussians nearest camera

For rules, I am using Bob Cordery's 'Portable Napoleonic Wargame' with my homespun amendments for the Seven Years War - and also thought I'd give  Mike Lewis'  close combat system ( from his amendments to Bob's rules ) a try, as it does look like it might be an improvement on the original, and also distinguishes between Light and Heavy horse - useful for this battle. 

And so, battle is joined...  now, 'Time and Space' considerations now apply, and the outcome is going to have to wait for another time.   Can the Prussians do enough to weaken those elite Austrian units? Can the Austrians sweep aside the enemy without too much loss?  We shall see.  Until then, keep safe and well, everyone..


Monday, 15 February 2021

What a difference a day makes...

 ... Saturday and Sunday - bitterly cold;  Monday - 14 degrees C. Lunch in the garden! Followed by first outdoor painting session of the year.

I wasn't expecting this in mid-February

 A further squadron of  six  Austrian Cuirassiers being primed,  joined by sixteen ( two 'Portable Wargame' battalions ) Prussian Line Infantry.  These latter are my c. 45-years old chaps, after their immersion in Eco Spirit to remove terrible c. 45-years old Humbrol enamel  paint-job. 

Given that they will be joining a large contingent of  von Kleist Freikorps units,  I thought maybe they should be from a von Kleist regiment too. Christopher Duffy identifies two such: 

- IR  No.4 ,  Kleist 1758-1761 : "A poorish regiment, badly knocked-about at Gross-Jagersdorf and Zorndorf"  ( and the next owner was 'known as a drunkard' ) 

- IR no. 9, 'Jung-Kleist' 1756-1758 : "A Westphalian regiment, though usually in good odour with the king. Distinguished at Prague. Captured at Maxen after a creditable fight. Raised again but shattered in Pomerania in 1761"  ( rated 'very good' by Frederick himself ). 

I reckon it's going to be No. 9. 

Keep safe and well, everyone, and enjoy the mild weather, if it is where you are!



Saturday, 13 February 2021

An Experiment in Mini-Campaigning

 After much  mulling over, I am trying a 'mini-campaign' approach to the pending battle in my Seven Years War period  'Soldier King' campaign. This has involved creating a map of the area around the fortified town of Rahden,  taking the boardgame's map as a basis. I'm afraid I am certainly no artist, so anyone of an aesthetic sensibility may want to look away now:

The Austrian cartographic service is sadly underfunded..

I hope it will however do, for us Ragged Soldiers. The idea is that each large square on the map equates to roughly one of my 3 feet square tables, hence the map covers about 16 tables.   The city of Rahden and the main roads from the game map were drawn first, and then  each large square given a  a dominant terrain type. To do that, I borrowed  from Henry Hyde's 'Wargaming Compendium' chapter on campaign map generation,  using simple dice rolls to decide whether the square is open terrain, hilly, wooded or forest.  The result was a fairly open map, with Rahden itself placed among hills , and a forested area are just to the North , which may make things interesting.    For the actual battlefield terrain when two forces meet, my idea is to use Bob Cordery's Terrain Generator.     

Any sensible person with a 3 feet square table and a map square representing one table  would then have subdivided each large square into 3 by 3 small squares:  but I am not necessaily that person, and besides I had originally drawn only the large squares,  which were 4cm wide on the paper.  So, each large map square is divided into 4 by 4 smaller squares.  I decided that for map movement, infantry in march column  would cover 2 small squares per turn, heavy cavalry 3,  and light cavalry 4 small squares -  diagonal moves counting as 2 squares, to keep things simple.     

So that's the map; now to the forces. The Austrians obviously started with their entire force ( 3 Line infantry and 2 Heavy Cavalry )  at Rahden town.  Local rumours abound of multiple approaching Prussian forces come to liberate the town, so they suspect  something is 'in the wind'.  The Prussians enter from three roads : 

    - Force 1 from Engeholl in the North with 4 Infantry and 3 Heavy Cavalry,  

    - Force 2 from Reuthen in the West with 3 Infantry, 

    - Force 3 from Senden in the  South with 2 Light Cavalry. 

After much psuedo-scientific faffing about considering distances marched, speeds and who started first, I thought I shouldn't be steering things too heavily - what seems 'sensible' may turn out just a bit too predictable.  So I plumped for 'let the dice decide',  and went for randomly choosing which force would enter on Turn 1.  The die was cast: Force 3, the Light Cavalry, duly trotted on from the Southern road.  It seemed to have a nice logic, in fact - they should be the fastest-moving. 

Then I needed to decide two more things : (i) when would the other Prussian forces appear, and (ii) how would the Austrians react?  The dice would again decide.  On Turn 2, a second Prussian force would arrive if a D6 roll turned up 5 or 6. If not, on Turn 3 it would require 4,5 or 6, Turn 4 then 3,4,5 or 6, and so on until Turn 6 - automatic arrival. Which of the remaining forces?  Dice again.  Then on the turn after the second force arrives,  dice again for the 3rd Force - 5 or 6 for success, and increasing chance on subsequent turns as above.  It seemed like a good enough idea to reflect the problems  of bringing three widely-spread forces together, given horse-powered  communications and inevitable navigation/road conditions issues.  

As to the Austrian reaction - I assumed that once an enemy force arrived on the map, there might be lags in both intelligence reaching the town, and in the occupying force getting organised and sending out units to intercept. A similar die roll system seemed good - so on the turn that a Prussian force arrives,  roll a D6, and if 5 or 6 rolled then Austrian units can move in response. Next turn, 4,5 or 6 , and so on. 

And so, off we go. Prussian Light Horse having been reported in the South, the Austrians reacted commendably fast, and on Turn 1  their two Heavy Cavalry units clattered out of the town gates to investigate - sure enough,  at the end of the turn they found themselves in the neighbouring small square to the Prussian Lights.  I decided this means 'contact' : being only 1/4 of a wargames table apart. 

Does 'contact' mean 'combat', however?  The Prussian Light Horse commander, facing equal numbers of  'Heavies' and with no support, would be quite unlikely to risk fighting, surely? He can move faster, thus easily get away, and  he might try to draw the defenders away from their base. So, roll a dice - 1 to 5 means retire, hoping to draw the Prussians on, but 6 means a rush of blood the head and 'charge!'. Die duly rolled - a 3, so the sensible option taken, and combat refused.  For the Austrian Heavy Horse, do they hold their ground, having checked the Prussians progress, or do they go forward in hopes of forcing a fight?  Hmmm, how about roll 1-4 means hold, 5 or 6 'vorwart'?  So they rolled - 3 again, hold ground.  Is this essentially 'Kriegspieling'  it?  It seems to work.. 

 So, Turn 2.  Does the Prussian second force arrive? Roll a die : a '1', so the Light Horse are on their own.  They back off, South and West, looking to reach the Western road, along which friends may arrive. The Austrian Heavy Horse shadow them by moving West, not too far from home.  Turn 3: Prussians roll '1' again, so again no second force! The roads must be bad..  The cavalry's wary moves continue, with the Prussian Lights reaching the Western Road, and the Austrian Heavies moving to block it, nearer town, all the time no more than one 'table' apart.   Turn 4 : finally (needing 3 or more, rolled a 5)  the Prussian second force arrives : and the die decides  it is 'Force 2',  comprising three Infantry units, entering via the Western road, nicely placed to link with their light horse.  Interesting...  the Austrians roll to react : needing 5 or 6, rolled 4, so news has not reached them yet. The Prussian Light Horse sensibly remain astride the road, waiting for their foot to come up; the Austrians Heavies maintain position and keep a watchful eye. 

 Perhaps that's enough for one post: we seem to have a system, and we'll see how things develop. I feel an engagement on the West road is likely. 

This post has been a bit delayed; 'time and space' as ever intervened, including a long weekend with no internet or phone connection! That did at least allow some  time for reading, and some painting - here are the almost-finished  first squadron of the Austrian Erzherzog Ferdinand Cuirassiers. Just awaiting basing, they should be ready for whatever battle ensues. By my standards, I am quite happy with them - I haven't the patience or skill of Stokes over at the excellent Grand Duchy of Stollen, but I don't think he's watching here, so I may get away with it. Anyway,  let's see how they fight! 

just don't try counting buttons..

Hmm.. that officer's sword wants straightening, though.    Until the next time, keep safe, and well, everyone.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Fnurban #6: A Tinfull of Nostalgia

 Recently I mentioned George Gush in a blog post, and my old mate LiverpoolDave commented : "I found myself as a result of reading your post looking up George Gush's numerous contributions to Airfix Magazine. I was particularly interested in the articles he wrote regarding converting Airfix soldiers to Renaissance figures"...

That rang a bell, and reminded me of my 'tin of nostalgia', recently recovered from the loft. I had a feeling the contents might be relevant. 

An appropriate tin..

looks interesting..

After  several decades in storage in a variety of lofts, I had no real idea what might be inside. Only one thing to do - empty it all over the table! 

revealing a mess of (mainly) Airfix

Unsurprisingly,  the vast majority are Airfix - after all, they were about 20p a box when I was buying them! Metals were way out of my financial reach. These would have been acquired mostly at Beaney's model shop, Turvill's toyshop  and Blundell's department store in 1970s Sittingbourne - all long gone now. David Crook, if you are reading this, you  may remember them..anyone else, perchance?

So, let's have a sort through them: 

things become a little clearer..

 ..Revealing a fairly random selection:  Ancient Britains,  heavily outnumbered  Romans, Napoleonic French, British and Scots,  ACW Artillery,  half-painted WW2 Russians, and some odds and ends - including a few WW1 French, and British 8th Army - of which,  more later.   

The Ancient Britains are a bit of a mystery - there are seventeen chariots!   I think you got two per box, so did I really buy 8 or 9 boxes? I think I painted up some warbands and based them, having acquired WRG Ancients Rules ( probably 5th or 6th edition ) - I could afford the rules, but for figures it was Airfix or nothing, so Brits vs. Romans it was.  But seventeen chariots? I must have had a Boudicca complex - and  some swapping must have been going on!  The Romans had a couple of chariots too, those orange figures include two huge four-hourse racing chariots right out of 'Ben Hur', but no use at all on the battlefield!  I thought they are the old Atlantic make, and sure enough, Plastic Soldier Review confirms it  - Roman Cavalry, vintage 1978  - albeit with a pretty sniffy review!  

The Napoleonics are (pretty roughly) painted in rather odd colours - some of the English in blue coats, and French in red! I remember these were for an early attempt at Imagi-nations inspired by Charles Grant's  'The War Game' - again, a case of Airfix or nothing. I suspect their painted brethren  fought variously under Grant's rules, then Bruce Quarrie's, and finally WRG 1685-1845.

Among the massed plastics lurked a handful of metal :


oh, those Russians..

I reckon these are Warrior Miniatures 25mm,  the musket-wielding chaps are marked 'RN1' and the officer 'RN2'.  Still available,   RN1 is 'Pavlofski Guard advancing' and RN2  'Pavlofski Guard Officer'. I must have saved up for those! Quite nice simple old-school figures, to my mind. Perhaps from the Bruce Quarrie period - and I would guess, acquired from Mr Beaney's upstart rival (now equally long-gone)  model shop, 'Man and Boy'.  Each one of those would have cost a packet of Airfix.. I fear they were never finished because I realised I would never afford enough of their comrades - and anyway, the butterfly teenage mind moved on. 

And finally - back to LiverpoolDave's comment: here we have, I am pretty sure,  Renaissance ( Tudor period )  English, converted as described by George Gush. 


The archers are just a paint conversion, of course - from the  Robin Hood set ( I had the castle too!), but the figures at the front are more 'proper' conversions They explain the presence of those WW1 French and British  8th Army. Step forward, billmen, arquebusiers, and even Landsknechts! Those were the days. I reckon George knew his young audience well - he was a teacher, wasn't he?  But why did I bother?   I think back then, you just did  - with only Airfix magazine and maybe  'Battle for Wargamers' for inspiration, and endless  Airfix figures, you saw the article and had a go! I think by this time I must have been getting interested in the period too,  I had his lovely 'Renaissance Armies' book.  And lots of time,  no social media and only heavily-rationed TV.. 'We made our own entertainment'. 

I'm not sure what to do with this tin full of nostlagia, if I'm honest. But it has whiled away a wet winter's lockdown Sunday afternoon, and evoked a lot of happy memories.   I think there's more in the loft, too...   Keep safe, and well, everyone.


*** UPDATE: after a little searching on-line, I found the article which must have inspired my attempts at conversions :  - clearly one of the series of articles in 'Airfix Magazine' by George Gush, which eventually led to his magnum opus  'Renaissance Armies', though the modelling/conversion ones did not make it into the book, at least not in my 1978 paperback edition.  This article is from November 1975 : looks to me like I followed it quite closely!