Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Mini-map movement - prelude to battle

Back at my 'Soldier King' Campaign, we left our  Austrian defenders of Rahden pulling back to the city after a narrow victory over the smaller Prussian attacking force - and having crucially lost one of their two Heavy Cavalry units. 

Now the larger Prussian army was bearing down from the North, having marched 'towards the sound of the guns' as any decent commander would, and  reached the wooded terrain square as the battle played out to the South-West ( I allowed two map moves to be taken during the eight or nine table-top moves of the battle ).  Knowing that fighting was going on not too far away, a degree of caution entering the woods was in order. If you'll excuse the wear and tear that occurs very fast on a very simple paper map ( using blu-tak to hold the counters in place doesn't help! ) , the situation as the Austirans reached the city was as shown: 

Regrouping after the battle: threat from the North

So, the Austrians reached the sanctuary of the city, leaving their recent opponents exhausted and regrouping to the West, while the Prussian main force was known to be marching down that northern road. Messengers soon reached the  Prussian commander with news of the outcome of the recent battle. 

A 'decision point' seemed to have arrived for both armies: for the Prussians, their main force commander knew that he outnumbered the Austrians by 7 units to 4, including 3 Heavy Cavalry to 1 - but the wooded terrain certainly did not favour his cavalry. Their choice looked to be to either halt and consider their options, being wary of an ambush in the woods, or to boldly advance on the city. 

The Austrians' now had  local intelligence knowledge of the advancing  Prussian force , and knew they were outnumbered by fresh troops.  Their choice appeared to be  to try to hold the city against a storming; to  'go out and fight' at poor odds;  or to try to escape southwards, back to home territory.

How to decide : the dice gods will choose, of course! After a little thought, I came up with options as follows: 

Prussians:  roll 1 or 2 -  caution, hold position. Roll 3/4/5/6 : vorwarts! 

Austrians : roll 1 or 2 : retire South. Roll 3/4/5 : hold the city. Roll 6: attack! 

Taking a deep breath, the dice were rolled :  red for Austria,  Blue for Prussia

that's pretty decisive

Six and One, that's a clear decision! The Prussians would  advance on the city with characteristic vigour; but the poor Austrians had let their doubts get the better of them, and would make a dash for the exits. Could they get away? 

So, on map turn 11, the Austrians  hurriedly departed the city by the Southern Road, while the Prussians briskly marched from the North, their cavalry going ahead and reaching the gates, which were immediately opened to them as liberators!  No time for festivities, though - onward march. The Austrian force being a mix of horse and foot, was proceeding at the pace of the slowest - at least the cavalry stuck around to protect their comrades -  so on the next turn, the Prussian cavalry caught them up.  The Prussian main force foot were some way behind,  but in the meantime the remnant of their force to the West had just re-grouped when  the Austrians were sighted  issuing from the city gates:  the two tired Prussian foot units gathered their strengh and  hurried to intercept.  Which left the situation like this: 

Contact made: action imminent

Now my mini-campaign map  uses 4 by 4  small squares as the size of the game table, so we have a fight on our hands. Prussia has 3 Heavy Cavalry and 2 Infantry vs. Austria's 1 Heavy Cavalry and 3 infantry within a 'table area', - but the Prussians have no less than 4 Infantry units hastening through the city to join in. It looks tough for the Austrians, but there may be a chance.. 

I will pause there, for now : I first thought to have tried to fight out the table-top battle straight away,  but the weather intervened - my free day was Monday and it was 20 degrees and sunny outside, no day for staying indoors!   So, we'll have to wait for the next post. The upcoming Easter weekend forecast is reassuringly cold and damp, so I expect to find some time.  In the meantime, keep safe, and well, everyone. 


Thursday, 25 March 2021

Fnurban #7 : Cartoon Time

 Here's a recent cartoon I stumbled across - from The Spectator magazine

Will 'woke wargaming' be a contradiction in terms?  

In fact you can even buy this cartoon from the magazine - if you have £95 to spare





( If I've infringed copyright here, I will of course happily remove this.)  



Sunday, 21 March 2021

50 Up , and a heads-up


"..And that's his 50 up, a good solid start"... The opener raises his bat in casual salute to the gentle applause rippling around the ground, adjusts the visor  of his cap against the afternoon sun, dabs at some imagined bump on the ‘track’ at his feet  and prepares to face the next  delivery with the confidence of having got his eye in...

Not sure why I went with that image, as  I was hopeless at cricket at school, couldn't catch, couldn't bowl, rubbish batting! Same with all sports, to be honest - much happier with my nose in a book, and so I have remained.  But anyway, here we are at post number 50, which I am pleasantly surprised to have reached.  This blog started in early February 2020, a  bit more than a year ago , and therefore not quite the  one post a week which I'd like to aim for, but still quite a satisfying strike rate given 'time and space' constraints.   A great big thank-you to all of you who have dropped by, the 28 of excellent taste who have opted to 'Follow',  and especially those who have left so many friendly and supportive comments - you have been a great inspiration to me to keep posting!   

It seems a good time to pause and reflect on hobby activities, and think a bit about what might come next. I wouldn't go as far as saying I have an actual plan,  but  I do have a few  ideas I'd like to pursue. 

In the Seven Years War period, the purchase of some of the late Eric Knowles' figures via David Crook , and the arrival of Bob Cordery's 'Portable Napoleonic Wargame'   was the stimulus that go the whole thing started - instant armies, and simple but elegant rules, and we were off! It has proved eminently 'do-able' to stage interesting and fun games in a space of no more than 3 feet square, with brigade-size forces, and the aim is to continue, and  gradually add to the forces  as spare (painting) time permits.  Using the 'Soldier King' boardgame as a fairly loosely-defined  basis for a fictional  campaign  has worked well, and I will try to keep it going. 

There are still plenty of Eric's figures awaiting painting  - some interesting Austrian border troops, for example, which should fit in nicely to the slightly 'backwater' nature of the campaign. The Prussians will be reinforced  by  own vintage Minifigs  Line Musketeers, and  the fantastic recent  gift  of Spencer-Smith figures from Neil Patterson has set me thinking of a 'third force'  representing Saxony - for which the recently acquired  books 'Between Scylla and Charybdis' ( vols 1 and 2 ) by Marco Pagan should be a great help.  I envisage the Saxons as somewhat fickle and  unreliable allies/opponents  for either of my  Austrians or Prussians..

Inspiration for the 'Third Force'
And who wouldn't want to field a unit of these colourful  Saxon Chevauxlegers / Dragoons, as illustrated in the first volume? 


For the 'D-Day Dodgers'  WW2 in Italy,  there has only been one game so far, but I am aiming to bring them forward again soon.  I've been doing a bit of reading around, and forming some ideas of how I'd like things to develop. Having started from rescuing childhood Airfix 20mm figures, I was happy with a general 'British vs. German' theme, but  I wanted to do something different to the Normandy 1944 scenarios that seem to dominate.  

'Really Useful' WW2 forces

The Italian campaign has certain advantages, to my mind:  (i) 'mid-war' setting of 1943 onward, allowing a spread of equipment and not just the late-war classics;   (ii)  much more varied terrain, from scorched summer Sicily, to coastal plains, to maybe even snowy mountains;   (iv) many and various nationalities, especially in the Allied forces, and perhaps even  Italians on both sides! (v) not dominated by armour,  more of an infantryman's war - I rather recoil from some WW2 games where the tanks are seemingly wheel-to-wheel.  

 A post in the near future will look at the recent reading which has got me thinking, and perhaps put forward some sort of plan, however vague..

Last but not least, especially given the title and sub-heading of the blog, I think it's about time for  my Pike and Shot forces to step up.   When I first thought of returning to wargaming, these were going to be my way in, but the Eric Knowles Seven Years War stuff rather overtook them - they need a bit more effort ( in the way of bases, flags, organisation and some painting )  to bring into fighting trim.  I am determined to try, though, even if this turns out to be a bit further in the future. Meanwhile I had a quick review of forces, and can show the current state of the army of   By the Grace of God, Most Christian King of France and Navarre, Louis XIII: 

Coming soon.. 1636 and all that

Appropriately enough for an army of the Thirty Years War,  most of these are at least thirty years old; 15mm scale, Mikes Models/Essex,  a few Minifigs, and if you  look carefully you may see there are even some Peter Laings in there.  Painted very badly by my younger self and determinedly gloss-varnished, but part of my memories of younger days, and as such  I will keep them just as they are.  With perhaps typical avoidance of the mainstream, I resisted the ECW or the salvee-firing superheroes of Gustavus Adolphus' Swedes, and opted for a French vs. Imperialist/Bavarian scenario - though with maybe  a few too many 3/4 armoured cuirassiers! Some of these  probably first took the field under the George Gush WRG Renaissance Rules, and Terry Wise's  ECW/30YW set, back in the 1980s.    

In recent years  reinforcements have been acquired ( and some even painted )  from Essex Miniatures and Peter Pig, such as the 'Chevauleger' style cavalry at the front.  The flags were done with coloured pencils, I think, and sorely  need upgrading, and a bit more consistency in base colour wouldn't go amiss, but I think it's time they saw some action, and there is an Imperialist host of similar size being made ready to meet them..

I think that's plenty to be going on with; let's hope I can follow up on some of these ideas. I think that this blog is probably the best motivational tool in that respect - having promised here to post about an upcoming battle is a powerful incentive to actually play out the game on the table, and trying to post regularly encourages regular hobby time, in order to have something to post!  I don't think I would have done half as much painting/gaming etc without the blog to spur me on. And of course ( and by  pure coincidence of timing) in this strangest of strange years, it has been a lovely way of reaching out to the world beyond the locked-down home, giving and receiving encouragment to and from far and wide, and having something to think about besides the wretched news.  I hope for  and expect the news to improve eventually,  but in the meantime  this has been a great morale-booster! 

I think we'd better see how things have panned out at Rahden in the next post: meanwhile, keep safe and well, everyone.      


Thursday, 11 March 2021

Soldier King Campaign : Round One at Rahden

Opening shots: battered Uhlans (left)  seek shelter

Back at my campaign driven by the  'Soldier King' boardgame, we have the first engagement in front of Rahden, as the Austrians main army tries to knock out a slightly weaker Prussian force,  before  the Prussian main force can reach the scene.  See my earlier post for details of the combatants - now down to the action.  

The forces approached each other along the western road, with equal numbers of units,  but the Austrians having the advantage of Elite quality troops and Heavy Cavalry, while the Prussians were Average and had only Light Cavalry. With the advantage of initiative in Turn 1, those Prussian Uhlans kicked everything off - perhaps they should have used superior speed to find a flank, but their  first squadron  simply charged the Austrian Cuirassiers. Rather a rash move, as they lost the modified dice roll in the resultant close combat , and with it their first Strengtht Point (SP) , only for the Cuirassiers to folow up in their turn and take another SP, crippling the hasty Uhlans. First blood to Austria!  Meanwhile , at least the Prussian foot were coming forward, and a Fusilier unit were able to gain the central hill, a good position to hold.  


Prussian Fusiliers' precarious perch

Those Cuirassiers having won their first combat, got rather 'carried away' and charged the Fusiliers (uphill) on Turn 2,  only to be bounced back, with casualties, by the stout-hearted Prussian foot.  Next turn  the Austrian infantry coming up,  let fly volleys at the Fusiliers which took 2 SPs from them, and the Cuirassiers charged again - but lost again! At which the weakened Uhlans saw their chance, and hit the Cuirassiers in the flank, only for the tables to turn once more - Austrian dice rolled higher, and the Uhlans lost their last SP  and were destroyed.  Fast and Furious indeed - by end of Turn 3 , losses were Austrians 3, Prussians 5.  The Prussian position on the hill looked beleagured, they were half-way to Exhaustion Point, and their cavalry already half gone, not that good a start. 

But Von Stocke's men weren't giving up, bringing a second Fusilier battalion onto the hill, and their second Uhlan squadron saw its chance, charging the flank of the battered Austrian Cuirassiers - and breaking them!  Possibly the most important event so far, as I had decided that destroyed units cannot be re-grouped for subsequent battles - a cruel blow for The Austrians. 

Uhlans' revenge: the charge that broke the Cuirassiers

The Austrian response was instantaneous, their second cavalry squadron  in turn hitting the Uhlans in flank and taking  2 or their 3 SPs, the tattered remnant retreating from combat, but having done a vital job. 

Fight for the hill: note Austrian oblique order

Meanwhile Prussian Fusiliers fought hard to stay on the hill, charging the Austrian infantry and pushing them back with heavy  casualties.  The Prussian position was now a line East-West anchored on the hill, with their gun hurriedly deployed on the left flank, covering the road.  The Austrians hit back with musketry and cannon, and their remaining Cavalry  caught up with the depleted Uhlans and finished them off. By the end of Turn 6,  losses were Prussians 9 SP, Austrians 6 SP - crucially the  Prussians reached their  Exhaustion Point, and became unable to make attacking moves. They thought it was all over.. 

Prussians Exhausted: Austrian cavalry 'charge for the guns'

Now perhaps  Von Baren should have reckoned his job was done, pulled his force back to re-group and face the Prussian main force; but the blood was up...  Their remaining Cavalry unit having ended up on the Austrian left flank, with their Gun and crew within easy reach - Charge!!  Meanwhile their infantry and gun kept up fire on the Prussian infantry position on the hill. It all seemed to go well, the Horse easily taking 1SP from the gunners - but then the dice gods  intervened. On the next round of melee , the cavalrymen rolled a '1' to the gunners '6' -  losing 1 SP and being forced to retreat, only for the gunners to give them a 'Canister chaser' - another SP lost!   The Prussian foot couldn't advance but they could keep firing,  and did so with effect.   After Turn 8,  losses had reached Prussians 11 SP, Austrians 9 SP  - very bad news for the Austrians.  Half their cavalry destroyed, the remainder shredded by canister,  and a fresh ( and larger ) Prussian army in the offing - things look bad for von Baren.  Von Stocke, the Prussian commander, could reckon on a job well done, despite his heavy losses.  

I rather enjoyed that game, it had a back-and-forth, tit-for-tat quality as the cavalry units knocked each other out and the Prussians held on grimly, with a sting in the tail for the Austrians.  I was interested to try Mike Lewis'  close combat system for the Portable Watgame ( from his amendments to Bob's rules). I had thought the original rules made melee a bit indecisive - Mike's rule gives a 'winner' in most rounds, and the loser takes a 1 SP loss,  AND rolls for 'stand or retreat'.  So, certainly more decisive, but  it also meant the SP losses piled  up quite fast - those poor cavalry!  I am wondering if I might add my own tinkering to the Mike's tinkering - for instance, the loser of the opposed die roll  might take a hit, but then use Bob's system for the effect of the hit.. So then they might lose 1SP,  OR they might retreat - and Elite troops would be more likely to be able to avoid  SP  losses, and be able to prudently withdraw.  I might give that a try next time. 

So, now the Austrian victors retire, knowing that they face a greater challenge, and very soon! We'll see how that plays out in a future post. 

 Finally some real-life  good news : I received this souvenir ( and accompanying substances ) last week at Lavenham. Let's hope we all get the benefit of something like it before too long.  

Thank you, NHS

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning".  

We can only hope. Keep well, and safe, everyone!

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Old School Generosity

Since starting this blog I've been really pleased by all  the friendly and supportive comments from many fellow wargamers, and now added to that is a lovely piece of generosity, for which I am very glad to thank Neil Patterson of  Aufklarungsabteilung  ( 'Intelligence Department': I rather like that )  fame.

Battle-ready cavalry

 I admired The army of Hrvatska in his recent post, nicely-painted-and-flagged Spencer-Smith figures, and commented that I've fancied to get some of those: Neil surprised me by saying he  had some 'surplus to requirements'  figures, and would I like them?    Well, how could I refuse? I have now received  the figures you see in the pictures here, and I am very well pleased with them!  As you can see, we have an 'all arms' force. Above, the cavalry brigade :  Dragoons at the front,  Hussars behind.  Below, the Infantry - about 50 in all, which gives me six units for The Portable Wargame, or perhaps three battalions in other rulesets. But also I can't help thinking of them as a Charles Grant regiment, just like 'The War Game' all those years ago. Lovely stuff!   

Takes me back to the Vereingte Frei Stadt..

Finally the artillery battery, and some extra cavalry. Two nicely-painted guns and crews, one more gun yet to be assembled and with undercoated crew, and about a dozen more cavalry - of which four look to be lancers,  I think  NP09 'Lancer in Czapka'  from the SSM Napoleonic Range.

A splendid battery - and more to paint

semi-painted horse, and time-travelling lancers

 It's interesting that all the infantry, the painted cavalry and the painted guns and gunners are actually the old SSM plastic figures - only the unpainted/semi-painted artillery and horse in the last couple of pictures are the more recent metals. The plastics seem to have survived OK, and are delightfully light to handle - interestingly some previous owner has decided that the infantry  are too lightweight, and has attached them to individual metal bases for extra stability.   I am not sure how old they might be - can anyone enlighten me as to when the plastics stopped being produced?  I suspect that was quite a long time ago now.. 

Many of the painted figures are as good a job as I could have done, and I rather like the dragoons at the front of the top picture,  in buff-coloured coats with purple facings - I suspect this is an 'imagi-nation' uniform,  It would seem a shame to repaint them, so I think they will join my forces as they are. Perhaps a little-known and cash-strapped neighbouring principality will be hiring them out to one of my campaign protagonists.  [UPDATE: Neil points out that they are perhaps buff and crimson (rather than purple) so we're dead ringers for Prussian cuirassiers of say 2nd regiment... and after a little web-searching I think I agree with him, and the Prussian 'Yellow Riders' will be a nice addition.] The painted gunners look great and could go straight into action with the Prussians,  if required. 

The infantry gives me a nice quandry - who to paint them as? The officers and drummers are already painted and look rather Prussian, but with my own Prussian musketeer regiment already in the painting queue, I think these SSM foot should be something different ( the painted officers may find themselves commanding my Minifigs Prussians, I hope they will be happy with that!). I have in fact been contemplating a 'third force'  in between my Prussians and Austrians,  and I am toying with perhaps a detachment from Saxony.  We could perhaps  suppose that the fabric of history was slightly warped in my alternative Central Europe, allowing  their escape from Pirna, or that Saxony took a different diplomatic course?  I might need to acquire some more officers and drummers, but I will be  happy to place a small  order with the current  Spencer-Smith producer, Peter Johnstone - I see he is only just over the border in Norfolk, so the 'lead miles' will be low. 

So there we have it - I am really very pleased indeed with these, they are straight out of my childhood dreams of Grant-style wargames, so thank you very much Neil,  what a lovely gesture!  I look forward to getting these painted and into battle, we'll see how they fair against the Minifigs.. 

Now I can do a (smaller) good  turn ( 'pay it forward' so to speak)  by pointing you in the direction of a new blog. This is  St. Syr on Wheels, from my old friend and former colleague 'Liverpool Dave' , who is blogging about his adventures in ( mainly ) board wargaming. As you can tell from his thumbnail portrait, he's a specialist on many things Napoleonic,  but not only that period.  He can write a bit, too, so I am sure he will be worth following.  The latest post is a nice account of 'N:The Napoleonic Wars', a solitaire boardgame with an interesting twist. I hope you all enjoy it - and Dave, keep it up! 

Next time, back to the tabletop as Prussians and Austrians tangle at Rahden, I hope. Keep well, and safe, everyone.