Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Arrivals

Ah, the arrival of much-anticipated figures! I won't post pics of the new lead mountail I have waiting for me, but I have pressed on and painted a few bases of 6mm Wars of the Roses figures. So, here's a little eye-candy for you!

Here's the full crowd so far of ten bases plus a commander. (There's no overall scheme, I'm just painting them as the mood comes to me!)
The rank-and-file, Retainer Longbowmen. I've painted one set plain red, and another blue-and-white. I'm not basing it strictly historically, just on what looks decent and plausible!
The General, plus bodyguard and herald, mounted on a 2p coin. Retinue Billmen in the background.
Men At Arms - possibly the fastest to paint, thanks to the 'white' armour with no heraldic colours on them! Makes them look far more scarily business-like, I think. No banners are made yet, but that's my next task.
Mounted knights. I bought these mainly to give me the option of later-HYW battles, plus in my fictional Lavancia campaign things will have a HYW-WOTR flavour, and there's always space for some hard-charging cavalry in any army of mine!
Finally, a close-up of the billmen. Second-most numerous troops on the field, being outnumbered by Longbowmen roughly 2:1.

Painting continues, so updates - and ultimately a battle will follow, as soon as I have the time!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Waiting and Waiting...

AAAaaaarrrgghh! Is there any annoyance in a wargamer's life to compare with a much-anticipated delivery not arriving? (Probably not, beyond the time when I accidentally misjudged picking up some marching Musket-troops and got a line of bayonet-wounds in my hand.) As of the time of writing, no sign of the delivery of the Wars of the Roses Army.

I sent the order on tuesday, thinking 'wednesday if I'm lucky, but count on thursday.' Nothing on Wednesday, so fair enough. Thursday - nothing. Hm. Still, no cause for alarm. There's still friday, and then even if that fails there's saturday morning, so I'll still be able to do something over the weekend. Friday - nothing. Then, damningly, Saturday - nothing! Can Royal Mail really be playing mind-games with me? Does the postman secretly hate me? Is there somebody down at the sorting office with a hankering for late-medieval 6mm figures?

So, the weekend has been spent in something of a wasted-time zone, with me reading up about livery colours and banners to fill the gap. Come on Monday - all my hopes lie with you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Planning Projects

There have been some new developments afoot, which I thought I'd relay on the blog. The ACW campaign is still on the go, although 'real life' has compelled me to tidy my board away right now and make some space. Soon, I'll return to it! In the meantime, as the blog is meant to cover all my wargaming activities, I thought I'd bring news of a new project.

I pondered a new period for a while, and spent much enjoyable time planning out what I was going to do. The options it finally came to were a pair of Thirty Years' War armies or a set of Wars of The Roses troops. I finally plumped for the latter, and then spent time mulling over scales and daydreaming as I shopped cheerfully around online. I was going to do it in 28mm, then 15mm, then 28mm again, then not at all, then 28mm, then 6mm, then 15mm. An absolutely crazy process, but highly enjoyable! In the end I selected 6mm, not least because in these days money is tight, time tighter, etc. (I'm sure you know how it is!)

What finally swung it was the Baccus 6mm armies and deals. To put it in perspective, a sum of about £30 would have bought me a pretty decent set of figures in 28mm, which I could probably have made a few units with. The same sum in 6mm could buy me an entire army!

My aim isn't just to 'do' the WotR entirely, but to at least partially do it in another form. For some time I've been running a medieval campaign of my own (unpublished on the internet, but written up in my notebooks) for the "Kingdom of Lavancia" as I call it. Lavancia is a fantasy realm in the Late Middle Ages, torn apart by fractious Dukedoms and noble houses. It was initially used by me for my old DBA 15mm Hundred Years' War armies, but I've rather gone off this option. DBA is actually quite poor for doing the HYW, as the variety of troops drops away and a lot of DBA's fun is lost. Plus, bases of four men I painted years ago tend to look a bit underwhelming to my eyes now, after appreciating the impact larger bodies of troops can have!

So, my initial campaign will continue but I'll be widening the timeframe an almost imperceptible amount from the Agincourt, French Conquest, Joan of Arc phase of the HYW and adding in the WotR. I'm also switching away from DBA, as I have recently come across Basic Impetus. It looks more interesting, still admirably simple, plus it requires very few bases to field an army. I can, with only a few tweaks, field the armies listed for HYW English, French, York, and Lancaster. It all sounds pretty good, so I'm all set to go and recount here my full army-collecting progress! The order has been placed, and I'm currently awaiting delivery.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grand-Tactical Level

I haven't posted for a while, due to a wry neck putting me out of action for a week. The doctor diagnosed it and used the proper medical name, torticollis, which I thought sounded rather like a type of pasta-shape. Oh well, the end result is: I'm fine now, but wargaming went on hold for a few days! Now I'm back, I'd like to cover an area of the campaign I've missed before now: the grand-tactical level.
On the strategic map I've got area boxes which cover the nominal town or city, plus a fair bit of the surrounding countryside, which have to get transferred in a realistic way to the tabletop. On official campaigns you regularly get randomly generated battlefields, which is perfectly acceptable, but I personally like to have a 'real world' for campaigns with numerous possible battlefields that can be selected and marched to, avoided, flanked, etc. I think it adds a whole lot more. The drawback is that I don't want to map an entire country as I'd spend all my time on map-making rather than playing!
So, enter the area box - in close-up! Each area on the strategic map is split up into an 8 x 8 grid of smaller squares, each of variable 'real-life' distances but of 1ft x 1ft on the tabletop. Out of this, there are potentially 49 different DBA-sized battlefields in a single area. Here's an example:
The Union has a reasonably active August 1861, and sends it's cavalry to occupy Greenock, securing the Rebel-sympathising southern bank of the Clyde estuary leading out of Glasgow. Sadly, the city's shipyards don't yet have total access to the sea, as the northern shore is firmly in rebel hands - for now. More serious is the movement unfolding against the Rebel army that has siezed Falkirk. The trained core of the Union army is at Kilsyth to the west, and attacks them - but in a surprise move, the large army of militia troops in Edinburgh marches in from the east! It's a grand plan, Napoleonic in scope, which will no doubt earn the promising officer George McClellan a command if it should succeed. Now for a closer look at the Falkirk Map Area.
And here it is, drawn on an 8x8 grid! In terms of accuracy to reality, I'd say the map is 10% Reality and 90% Fantasy, but that's all that's needed! I've used the actual town names, placed them relative to each other, and drawn the only significant physical feature, the river Carron, on quite accurately. The road network, woods, hills, and railways are all invented. Pretty much the only modifications for 'reality' came when I looked up some towns on wikipedia and learned some minor fact, but adding in anything like this is pure whimsy - just for the fun of it! It's also worth pointing out that certain thudding inaccuracies will simply be ignored. Stirling, for example, will be mysteriously going without a medieval castle over it's town centre, as 19th Century America tended not to have too many of these!
Anyway, I didn't have time to detail this before the earlier first-encounter battle by the river Carron, but marked on above was how the armies first approached and engaged. The union occupied a slight salient in the river and blocked the main road routh to Falkirk from Stirling (the fictional road network does link in with the strategic map's connections to other areas.) Alas for them, the wily Beauregard souted them out with his superior cavalry and flanked them on the Grangemouth road to gain his close-fought victory. Now though, he is in posession of Falkirk and needs to fall back fast from the Blue pincers, if he doesn't feel like taking on odds of three to one!
With his cavalry watching the roads, he immediately detects the rival Federal army from Kilsyth as it approaches Larbert, plus shortly after this his other cavalry screen detects the larger Federal army coming from the direction of Livingston. Cavalry screens are shown above as dotted red lines, can see 2 squares, plus roughly a half-square if on a hill (I arbitrarily decided.)
Faced with this, Beauregard abandons Falkirk in record-time and begins pounding up the Stirling road, his position folding up like a collapsing bag. Movement on roads is twice as fast as movement across country, so the closest Union army takes Larbert and then sees it's movement slowed, not to mention the cavalry skirmishers slowing things yet more. All movement is simply done relative to each other, so as the Union move 'x' squares, so the rebels move 'x' squares. As such, without the need for a tabletop battle (and I'd been half-expecting a fighting retreat one around Larbert) the rebels escape. No doubt happy at winning a battle and escaping, they can be quite pleased with the disruption caused. Likewise no doubt General McClellan will be happy that he has beaten a rebel force which his spies inform him doubtless outnumbered his own several times.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

July 1861

Time is short at present, but I thought I'd post a little 'teaser' at least, to show you the strategic shape after the first battle of the war. Following the Confederate victory at the River Carron, each side has an exposed army protruding into enemy space - the Union at Kilsyth and the Rebels at Falkirk. The Union has superior forces but also has to keep heavy garrisons in the key cities to ensure they stay unassailable. The Rebels have been digging entrenchments at Stirling and Dumbarton, making shifting them a far tougher prospect. The recent victory gives their army some experience, but the road network in the Central belt is well developed and there is no real prospect of cutting the Union in half. The Glasgow-Edinburgh link can be disrupted, forcing massive Union detours, but an outright break would require such a deep and secure penetration that by the time the Rebels could make it, they'd have effectively won the war anyway! Strategically, there seems little to gain on the offensive, putting the Union in the position of having to do all the attacking.

Elsewhere in Scotland, not shown above, there has been some minor activity up in the highlands. The Union enclave at Aberdeen has dug itself in, and new Rebel recruits have been mustered at Fort William, securing each end of the Great Glen.

That's the situation for now. Next up: the Union attempts to up the pressure...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Battle of the Carron

On the banks of the river Carron, slightly north of Falkirk, the Union army under General Wilcox deploys along the river-line. Rebels are visible off in the distance.

However, the rebels under General Beauregard have spied out the position and are crossing a few miles up the stream, on the road by Grangemouth.
The union responds surprisingly rapidly, and rushes troops to face the enemy when the cavalry clashes with it's opposite number.
The rebels press on with half their force, hoping to beat Federal reinforcements to the front.
Union troops come rushing up at speed, but the rebel cavalry has potentially turned the flank of the Union line.
The firing breaks out, and each side loses about half it's force as the militias collapse into helpless disorder. Fighting for the rebels goes best nearest the river.
The rebels press on, turning to outflank the enemy line...
In the nick of time, Union reinforcement divisions arrive on the scene. The grey cavalry are scattered and the infantry sent reeling back on their own reinforcements.
The hesitating unionists are delayed by small skirmishing groups of Rebels while the remaining infantry form up.
The reformed battle-lines clash...
Taking losses, the union keeps it's line straight by giving ground to the screaming rebels.
Disaster for their morale as casualties mount, including the Northern General Wilcox.
The union line is as bent as a snake-rail fence, but can the last division out on the flank save the day?
With a crisis at all points on the line, the reinforcing division sends it's brigades in all directions to try and staunch the flow of troops rearward. It quickly descends into chaos.
Giving the rebel yell, the grey troops are only barely held back by artillery fire point-blank.
Once again the rebels turn the flank by the river, leaving the cannon dangerously exposed, and the disarrayed infantry are in no state to reform.
The exhausted Union troops flee to the rear, leaving the field to the exultant Confederates!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Armies

The armies themselves can be put on the tabletop in either 2mm or 15mm form, but as I've just finished painting up two 15mm DBA-style armies, I'll probably be using them the most. The Strategic game 'A House Divided' rules uses counters to represent a significant body of troops, presumably about 10,000+ men per counter (no definition better than this is given, so we'll just play along.) They can be militia, regulars, or crack troops. At first, absolutely everyone is militia, so as we're all in the same boat no greater distinction is needed just yet! As the war progresses, training and combat-experience will steadily turn our volunteers into hard-bitten veterans!

First, the forces of Union! Using the DBA 1500+ expansion rules and army lists, I've assembled what will be my fundamental Union force:

The massive majority is Rifles (Rf), who are ten of the twelve bases. The remaining two are the Cannon (Cn), and the dragoon cavalry (Dr). I did this primarily because I wanted to have the Union to be pretty infantry-heavy, so the boys in blue wouldn't very often find themselves outnumbered other than locally. I had to have artillery of course, plus some cavalry force, however inadequate, for scouting work. The full list is: 10xRf, 1xCn, 1xDr.
Next up, the Rebs:
Defined mainly by the Union force, I found myself getting basically the same army for the south (the army lists are too flexible and you can form whatever force you like) and then adapting it to get the numbers of infantry down. 7 bases are the ubiquitous Rifles, plus a single Cannon again. I gave the army two cavalry bases so they could have an 'edge' tactically over their rivals (as was historically the case.) The final two were a troop type wholly absent in the Union army, light infantry classed as Jagers (Jg). These would represent lighter concentrations of troops that could support the friendly Rifle bases, and pin down enemy ones. Quite a good way to represent a smaller Rebel force confusing and distracting a more tactically clumsier Union rival, as was so regularly the case - especially in the earlier part of the war. Full list is: 7xRf, 2xJg, 2xDr, 1xCn.
So, let's prepare for some fighting! Here's a close-up of the Central Belt, which you can no doubt view on any internet map site. I've marked up the one below to show the situation.
The rebel forces are mainly around Stirling, with a smaller force in the west around Dumbarton. They're linked by the Forth valley, which runs between them and to the north of the large range of hills in the middle. These hills are the Campsies, and although they block any Union movement, the Rebel forces are too far apart from each other to be mutually supportive. In other words, if one gets attacked, it's on it's own and won't get any help from the other until it's all over!
Not that attack is particularly likely anytime soon. The Union forces are typically scattered, but for a massive concentration is located on the critical city of Glasgow. No real move north to Stirling is possible in strength until this city is 100% safe against a rapid descent by the rebel force at Dumbarton. Consequently, the opening Union moves in the war are decidedly meek. Work begins on fortifying Glasgow, to protect it's garrison. A small component of this force is sent north to Kilsyth, in order to secure North Lanarkshire and prepare the way for a stronger advance later (it keeps those 'On to Glenrothes!' boys in the newspapers happy...)
However, Rebel hopes of success will not be met by sitting passively back, especially when the chance of a bold stroke is there! The chance to establish an inferiority complex and upset the Union in their heartland is too good to pass up! Half of the Rebel force in Stirling is kept in place to prevent it being taken, while the other half strikes at the 2PP town of Falkirk, aiming to wreck the Union force in the area and cut one of the most direct links between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Union force moving forward at Kilsyth will be of no support, as to come to Falkirk's aid would mean moving away from supporting Glasgow. The meddling politicians in the Capital would never allow it! Looks like we have a straight one-to-one fight coming up, on the banks of the small river Carron, to open the war.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Campaign Map

My first task for the campaign was to make a map for the armies to fight over. As I’m using the rules of ‘A House Divided’ this meant it would be a straignt area-to-area map of boxes for key locations, linked by roads or railways or seaports. There was also the matter of production points. For this, I decided to make liberal use of Wikipedia and base things primarily on population. After only the briefest of checks, it was clear that info on Scotland’s population, industry and Railway networks of the 1860’s was not of use at all - I’d have to launch a major historical research project! I rapidly decided to use only present-day information, as this was readily available. This would mean certain ‘new towns’ only built after WW2 to ease overcrowding in Glasgow would anachronistically be created in 1861, but I overcame this problem simply enough – I just decided I didn’t care!

Production proved easy enough to work out. Scotland has a population of about 5.2million, so by taking 1 Production Point (PP) as representing about 100,000 people, I quickly managed to knock together a numerical value for each major city, up to a total of 52PP’s on the map. For the rural population, I took the total for each local council region (equivalent to U.S. States, I suppose) and applied it to whichever town was where the council offices were based – the administrative heart where any rural recruits would be assembled anyway.

The overall geography was pretty easy to map out. Scotland is (running south to north) first hilly border-country, then the narrow ‘waist’ of the country at the roughly 40-mile wide Central Belt where most of the population is based - principally in the two major cities of Glasgow in the west, end Edinburgh in the east. Edinburgh is the capital, but Glasgow the largest (and also has the massive shipbuilding industry of the time.) Slightly northwards, and on the east coast we have the small 15-20 mile-wide peninsula of Fife, running eastwards between the Tay and the Forth, and one of the more heavily-populated areas.

After this, the landscape generally builds up into the mountainous Highlands which forms ridges running mainly southwest-to-northeast, but with various isolated routes through them. The west coast is very rugged with lots of islands, but on the east coast you can generally get about 10-20 miles between the mountains and the coast, giving you a coastal corridor running up to Aberdeen. The biggest feature within the highlands is ‘The Great Glen’ which runs nearly ruler-straight from Fort William on the west coast, to Inverness in the Moray Firth. Since the 1745 rebellion by the Jacobites, this has had various forts along it – Ft William at one end, Ft Augustus in the middle, and Ft George outside Inverness at the other end. Pretty useful to control the route!

So, I picked the large cities and towns as ‘areas’ for the map, marking up a photocopied roadmap to sort it out, and drew out the roads & railways as they exist in the modern day (much easier in the Highlands, as the terain usually limits you to only one or two big roads out of each town. I assigned the PPs to each town and got a pretty decent spread. Glasgow was the largest with 6 PPs, but Edinburgh was close behind with 5PPs. Next was Aberdeen in the North, with 4PPS. Eerywhere else got 3PPs (occasional), 2PPs (slightly more common) and 1PP (the large majority). Most places were in the Central Belt, but notable exceptions were Invernes in the Highlands, and Glenrothes in Fife (3PPs each.)

I then spent a quite enjoyable amount of time randomly swapping ownership of various combinations between the Union and the Confederacy. I decided were going to split their initial PP resources 2:1 in favour of the Union, but with the majority of valueless areas going to the Rebels. I also wanted the two factions to be generally ‘coherent’ and connected-up, to prevent small pockets from being overwhelmed. The Rebels would have 17 PPs, and so I immediately ruled out ownership of Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen, the largest cities. Each of these would have carried between a quarter and a third of the whole rebellion on it’s back alone, so one unlucky battle could see the whole Confederacy collapse! This meant a Union-dominated Central Belt, with a Confederacy-controled Highlands, meaning the terms ‘North’ and ‘South’ for the two sides were rather unusable!

Nevertheless, as you can see from the map below, I generally sorted things out along these lines. The Union has the Borders and the Central Belt, while just northwards of the bottleneck ‘waist’ we have the Rebellious States, with their centres of power in Fife (the ‘Virginia’ of the Rebellion) and in far-off Inverness (like New Orleans, a major city far in the rear, but vulnerable to Naval attack.) The city of Aberdeen has held for the Union, but sits in splendid strategic isolation (like Fortress Monroe just down the coast from Richmond in Virginia) and is kept in supply by the Union’s uncontested seapower.

Next, the armies themselves!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My New Campaign

Good grief, a month nearly past with only one post! Never fear, as there’s been plenty of activity. Time for an update! A few things have come together over the last few weeks and formed into the notion of a campaign I could try out, and – because if I delay I’ll get all distracted from the original idea and get bogged down in details – I thought I’d just throw myself straight at it and see what happens. After all, even if I end up relating a step-by-step guide of how not to do things, there’ll always be someone out there who benefits!

First, I’ve got a set of 15mm ACW figures a month or so back, which I have been painting up to completion. They are modest sized armies, which I was intending to use in a DBA-esque sort of game. This was inspired by the blog MrFarrow2U (listed on ‘my blog list’ to the side) which is made up of photo-reports of DBA battles from an extension that runs up from 1500 to ~1900. I bought and painted a set for each, intending a DBA-style campaign.

Next, there came a search for other rules which I could possibly use. I discovered the 2x2ACW rules at freewargamesrules.com as a further option for small-scale battles, and also considered my old (and excellent) boardgame ‘A House Divided’ by Phalanx Games. Well worth a look! The link below is for boardgamegeek’s description:


So, there were plenty of low-complexity rules for tactical and strategic campaigns, but I was a little vague about how I would link them. Next, there was some straight-out googling of ACW campaigns to see if any other clubs had helpfully posted details of how they did it. There were indeed, and I as particularly caught by this one:


These gamers had even (like myself) based it all on A House Divided, but had the excellent method of drawing up extremely large 12ft x 12ft maps for each box on the strategic board (the ones you actually fought in at any rate, to save you drawing a continent!) So, it looked like that was that.

However, as all this continued slowly, some other ideas which I thought were totally separate continued to bubble away. First was a hunt for an out-of-context campaign, which was inspired by a comment in some old book I remembered. I think it may have been in the Osprey Campaign Series book for The Ardennes 1944, but basically it pointed out that if you set up a campaign with Americans in a forested region in winter, a player would instantly think ‘it’s the battle of the Bulge’ and fight defensively, but if you set it in 1941 with Germans advancing on Moscow through woods in winter, they would have the attitude of the Allied generals that they were moving in to finish off a defeated enemy. Their reaction would then be all the more authentically confused when they were hit by an unexpected armoured counter-offensive.

I think it’s called a ‘disguised scenario.’ I do solo gaming, so it was only really of use to generate ideas from mixing up different times and situations (my best one was an Alexandrian Successor Campaign but transplanted into the 19th Century, when Napoleon was unexpectedly assassinated in 1810 and his marshals fought it out to hold his empire together.)

Anyway, this idea came in when I stumbled across a link (sadly lost, as I didn’t bookmark it and now can’t re-find it! Aargh!) to a report somebody had written on an ACW campaign but in Ireland. Yes, Ireland. They were fighting a conventional battle between the Blue and the Grey, but the map just happened to be of Ireland rather than some fictional back-water state. I liked the idea, and it grew on me. The final eureka-moment came from this:


And this led to this:


So, after Wargaming Miscellany once more fixed me up with some good signposting, I was reading about somebody running a fictional campaign in their own country. An interesting idea, appealing, and with a touch of quirkiness to make it fascinating. So, finally it all came together and I thought ‘what if I did the ACW campaign and set it on a map of Scotland?’ There are at least a few similarities for the strategic situation:

a) Large population and industrial concentrations in one area (the ‘North’)

b) Geographically large hinterland with small rural towns (the ‘South’)

c) Very large and complex coastline to be blockaded (the Anaconda Plan)

d) Large regions for irregular warfare (‘Kansas and the frontier’)

e) Close-proximity critical cities where fighting could focus (‘Northern Virginia between Washington & Richmond’)

So, I’m currently drawing up maps everywhere, and mainly on MSPaint (the most infuriating drawing package in the entire universe) so I can post updates for people to follow the whole strange experiment. I’ll keep battering away at it and hopefully the map should follow soon, along with a full explanation of how I devised it. Wish me luck, and thanks to all the disparate/desperate people above who helped in whatever way to give encouragement!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Treffenwasser post-mortem

First, a big apology to all for the long delay in a post: I had it in mind to wait until I had another battle report ready to give, and then publish all the 'intervening' stuff in a big rush! I decided against this however, and shall just post as I go. So, here's the analysis as promised for the last post - the battle of Treffenwasser! I don't know how others' tastes run, but I always like these sort of things in history books and it's a good way of examining how a game went and making yourself rethink things.

Good grief, but Napoleon was having an ‘off-day’: in a nine-turn game, the first seven turns saw the allies take the initiative! Despite this lack of ‘double-moves’ by either side, the game still proved massively back-and-forth. I’ll just quickly round up my thoughts on how each sides’ strategy unfolded, and the review of the rules set – which I’ve used for the first time on a big scale.

The allies called the tune for most of the battle, so we’ll look at them first. The flanking swing, reaching right to the far side of the board, worked nicely – or would have done, if the allied right wing hadn’t been annihilated by the French attack! Similarly, the allied grand-battery in the centre didn’t do anything like the job it was meant to – the fight took place further south from it, and didn’t really develop around the Grosshugel at all. The allies, if anything, swung too wide! A smaller turn would’ve kept the French fighting close in under the hostile guns and would’ve also enabled the two wings of the army to provide a bit more mutual support.

What of the French? Well, the attack on the left went well, after the jager-infested woods were finally cleared. Sadly by that point, the troops weren’t able to roll up the allied line but rather had to go rushing back to stop the French from being swept away! Mind you, the French had some lucky rolls, particularly in their first attack that collapsed the allied right and in their last-turn counter-attack which took handfuls of units off the table. The allies’ continual winning of the initiative proved something of a blessing in the end, as it meant the French counterblow was made at the very tail-end of the game, when each side had virtually no reserves left and the blow proved mortal.

The French also handled their reserve Guard well. Each side had guard troops, but the allies never brought theirs into play until it was too late while the French made energetic use of their Guard to hold up their right flank and finally threaten to take the Grosshugel. I was always told units in reserve are powerful because they can ‘potentially’ be committed anywhere and so influence several sectors, but they do ultimately have to be committed somewhere to avoid just being well-dressed spectators! The French timed the commitment well and ultimately made the transition to ‘actual’ commitment and scored crucial kills in the sectors that mattered.

So, a valid strategic lesson? I think so, anyway. The rules proved good, and provided a colourful back-and-forth effect to the battles. Terrain like woods and hills were fought over and over by each side, changing hands several times. It was fast-moving and a lot of fun, so I’d recommend them! As to our (literally) little Napoleon, what did the victory mean? Size-wise and casualties-wise, it was on a par with massive battles like Bautzen, which the allies recovered from. Plus, the French lost all ther cavalry and the allies kept all theirs largely intact, so no pursuit for our rotund Corsican. Looks like the battle of Treffenwasser will be just another entry in Napoleon's list of glorious but futile victories in the run-up to Leipzig!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Battle of Treffenwasser

Right, time for a battle posting! First out the traps are my 2mm Napoleonics, as the fate of Central Europe gets decided between France and it’s Confederation allies, versus the Sixth Coalition of Russia, Prussia and Austria. For this, I’m giving my first full-scale trial for the ‘Table Top Battles’ rules set, by Mike & Joyce Smith. Here's the battlefield:
Ah, such bucolic bliss! The French will be entering from the south, and they plan to mass their strength on hte left and centre, using the more broken hilly & wooded ground for their attack, reducing their lack of decent cavalry (this is 1813, after all!) Forcing ahead, the notion is to protect their right flank, while their left and centre chop through the allied lines.

Allied plans however focus on the open ground, where they plan to have their line swing on the pivot of the large hill in their centre, where they'll mass their artillery. With their superior numbers they should catch the French in a salient right under the allied grand batteries, where they can be cracked like a nut.

The allied lines

Allied GHQ (mounted on a penny, almost as high as the Grosshugel!)

Napoleon on his white horse, inspecting the Imperial Guard
(those with red tops to their black bearskins)

Turn 1 - a general French advance, while the allies move only on their left. The allies throw out some skirmishers to the Jagerwald on the extreme west of the battlefield, while the French similarly move all their cavalry to the Osthugel, hoping to distract the allied advance.

French cavalry on the Osthugel have a less-than-encouraging view of the oncoming allied masses!

Turn 2 - the French advance further, and minor clashes break out - those skirmishers in the Jagerwald hold up the French attack on the extreme left, while the allied advance on the French right has occupied the large Grandwald woods.

Turn 3 - the allies' advance has battered the French cavalry on the Osthugel, as the fire of the infantry and superior quality of the Allied horse quickly tell. The French, seeing the doomed horsemen are too isolated, refuse their flank in front of the Sudwald to present a solid obstacle to the allies. Infuriatingly, French infantry on the left prove unwilling to charge headlong into the Jagerwald to clear out the allied skirmishers, as the fire of the light infantry keeps on forcing the superior French columns back before they can close.

Turn 4 - just as the allies wheel their attacking left-wing to face directly westwards, the French attack explodes forward! With two bases pinned down at (and yet again failing to take) the Jagerwald, three infantry plough forward, hit the allied line and smash it! The attack can be seen below, immediately before impact, just to the west of the Grosshugel.

the allied nutcracker is swinging into place though, and the allied monarchs watch as Russian infantry descends from the Grosshugel and Austrian/Prussian troops come west out of the Grandwald. The French line is bent at right angles, but still fighting on!

Close-up of the French attack - the Austrian cavalry recoiled from their fire, but the Austrian infantry was destroyed! On the left, the still-defiant Jagerwald can be seen, and the right shows the hotly-disputed Nordwald.

Blucher watches from the Grandwald.

Turn 5 - I've added a yellow line to denote the front-line, now it's less apparent! The French try and flank the grand batteries on the Grosshugel, and move up the Guard to finish the job. The allies' left wing finally descends and engages the French right - just as well, as the French centre held up to the initial allied assault.

Jagerwald finally begins to give way, as the Imperial Guard pass the wood and satisfyingly prove their worth - their fire onto the wood causes half of the allied skirmishers to recoil and flee.

The allied left wing, facing off with the French right, between Sudwald and Grandwald.

Turn 6 - The allied grand-battery swings round to face the French attack, which has made little headway into a storm of defensive fire. Elsewhere, the Allied assault now hits with piledriver force - the French centre has been forced back into Sudwald, where it takes heavy losses. Similarly, the French extreme-right has been turned as the allies bring cavalry and infantry to bear at once, collapsing the French resistance.

French Imperial Guard (in the middle of the picture) were heading obliquely to attack the Grosshugel, but can they storm the Allied bulwark before the rest of the line collapses?

Turn 7 - For one heart-stopping moment, it seems the answer is... No! Allied troops burst through the shattered French left, with Austrians now flanking the defenders of the Sudwald and one unit of Prussian infantry even thrusting daringly into the French rear! Napoleon himself, at his headquarters near Treffenwasser, gets a shock as his infantry need to rush to his protection! Luckily, a single base of Guardsmen is able to destroy the rash Prussian spearhead.

Turn 7 - An overview. The Jagerwald has been finally cleared and the defenders compelled to fall back, but the front-line now rages on the western slopes of the Grosshugel. Imperial Guardsmen and line infantry storm some batteries but can't get onto the hilltop. Russian infantry take the Nordwald and advance in the centre, while the disarrayed remains of the French left try to cling on in the Sudwald while Napoleon batters a new line together around Treffenwasser itself. Each side has virtually no reserves left - surely the end must come soon!

Turn 8 - Napoleon rushes the single base of his Guard in the south to try and hold his extreme right, and orders an all-out counterattack elsewhere. The Guard press on again at the Grosshugel and Nordwald, while the reformed French line advances back to the Sudwald.

The Guard hold the French extreme-right flank, even against the masses of Allied cavalry. What spectacular soldiery! Both Blucher and Marshal Ney look on approvingly.

Turn 9 - Sensing the allies are off-balance, the French press on their last desperate assault. The Imperial Guard drive off and destroy the allied guns, but can't get on to the Grosshugel. Tirailleurs retake the Nordwald and rout the allied infantry, while the French under Ney re-occupy the Sudwald and the exhausted allied infantry before them cracks and flees.

End positions - with almost all their infantry gone, the allies are spent and casualties are rapidly mounting as the day goes on.

Allied HQ cancedes defeat, and rapidly withdraws behind the Russian Guards' protection.

French rejoicing at Napoleon's headquarters - Vive l'Empereur!

What a tightly-run affair! A french victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, and each side looked like it was going to storm to victory several times. I'll put in my conclusion & roundup shortly, but for now it's champagne all round!