Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Just recently Karen and I flew to Oz to visit daughter Ursula and her man, Aiden.  They live in Redcliffe, a short distance north of Brisbane, where the climate in July is sunny and mild - or at least it was while we were there.  It was while there we took in the annual mediaeval festival.

A couple of jousting knights.  This extreme sport of heretofore
seems to attract as many women practitioners as men, and
they are bally good at it, too.
This is quite a big affair: plenty going on and to see, plenty to buy as well, if you're so inclined.  Possibly the highlight is the jousting, although I was especially interested in the cannon and Late Mediaeval handgun (man, these guns are loud - you'd frighten an enemy just with the noise!).  There was also archery (long bows - I don't recall seeing any crossbows, now that I think on it), wrestling (missed that), foot combats, and plenty of souvenir shops and workshops featuring armour, weaponry, clothes, food, drink, ... you name it.

I could have taken a whole lot of pictures, if I had remembered to get some batteries for the camera.  The first five of these are from the internet, but convey well the colour and flavour of the event.
Action in the Tournament.  The combats here are on foot.
The Varangian Guard were popular.  There were two groups of these guys.  I have no idea why. The lamellar armour of the guardsman on the left is very striking.
One of the groups of Varangian Guard.
The helmeted rube in the picture below is myself, moustaches hidden by the throat-protecting mail.  The stick I'm clinging to is in fact a rather crude battleaxe.  No pretty weapon, it would probably be effective enough in action.
Myself in a vaguely Viking sort of helmet.
The thing was fairly heavy, but not uncomfortably so.

Helmets, halberds and hauberks ...
...harmour for the haughty.
One of the more interesting exhibits for me were the mediaeval board games.  In visiting last year, Karen brought back for me a little booklet on mediaeval board games: chapters of Tafl games (the inspiration, I believe, for Terry Pratchett's Thud! game), Morris games, Chess variants, Rithomachia (the Philosopher's game), draughts types, race, and Fox-and-Geese type games.  A very informative little book, actually!
Rithomachia - the Philosopher's Game - a game for
arithmeticians, really.  Four down on the left side, and
four up and one in from the right are the Black and White
'pyramids', comprising 5 (Black) or 6 (White) individual
pieces.  A most peculiar looking game.
Unfortunately, although there were a few examples of these games on display, including a chess set, no one seemed to know how to play them.  I had hoped (as I was passing) to 'get in' a game of Mediaeval Chess, which I know how to play (that is to say, I know the rules up to and including the 'King's leap'), but have (as far as I can remember)  never actually played.  Never mind.  There were plenty of other things to see.
It was a great day, a well organised event in balmy weather.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - Playtest continued

The Play test, continued from here.

Crossing the Danube: Loison's Division, Marshal Ney and light cavalry.
Beyond, around the villages, await the Austrians.
The Division of Loison, followed by the Corps Artillery, Marshal Ney himself and the Corps light cavalry marched westwards along the south bank of the Danube River to force a crossing close by Elchingen village, whilst Dupont's division pushed westward towards Albeck (just off the table along the road heading north.
In the far distance, Dupont's Division about to attack the Austrian left.

Dupont's division advancing close by Unter-Elchingen
 The brigaded voltigeurs (4 figures) led off the French attack to protect the rest of the corps troops as they crossed.  They were soon augmented by as many chasseurs of the light infantry (I enacted that one French Division would have an extra skirmishing capability, which allowed 8, rather than 4, skirmishing figures  to become available).  This proved quite a stiff fight, though the fact was that the Austrian Grenadiers' extra firepower (3 dice per 2 figures, 6s to hit, as against 1 die per figure), was more than compensated for by the light infantry's dispersion (ignore the first 'hit').
First engagements: French voligeurs (brigaded companies)
encounter the Austrian grenadiers.  First blood went to the Austrians.
 The grenadiers were drawn up in two lines, and were also supported by the Austrian artillery.  The latter proved mightily ineffective all day (we might have to look into this, as the French Artillery didn't achieve a whole lot, neither).   The first line of grenadiers might have closed the range to drive off the importunate voltigeurs and chasseurs, but perhaps that is an option we could try another time. Suffice to say that after drawing first blood, the grenadiers were out shot, pretty much, in the ensuing firefight.
Austrian cuirassiers and fusiliers march to engage
Dupont's Division.

Meanwhile, the Austrian cavalry and the fusiliers were ordered to confront Dupont's Division, approaching the Austrian left rear.  This led to something of a dilemma for Dupont: whether to retain his column formation, or form square in the face of the enemy heavy horse.  In the event he chose the latter.
 In front of Elchingen, the first line of grenadiers, losing the musketry duel, were driven in upon its supports (This also led to some consideration having to be made how this is going to work.  I had them halt still facing front, immediately before the second line, but it might have been better to have them pass through to stand immediately behind.  If that meant that the second line had to move forward to leave enough space between themselves and the buildings to accommodate them, that sounds reasonable. )  Behind the French light infantry, the remainder of Loison's Division had formed up in an assault column and was about to advance.  The light cavalry were now beginning their crossing.  All this while the French artillery kept  banging away across the river without much visible effect.
 As Dupont's Division formed square (I chose one large Divisional square here; the jury is out whether forming two 'brigade squares' ought to be an option) the Austrians closed the range.  The French knocked over one Austrian fusilier, but otherwise the mutual musketry duel didn't amount to much.
 At about this time - 11 a.m. (Turn 4) - Mahler's Division was putting in its appearance from south-east of Unter-Elchingen.  The three following pictures offer a panoramic view of the battlefield.
Here comes General Mahler!

 At Elchingen, the first line of Grenadiers were driven in completely, leaving the second line to take up the cudgels.
 As the close quarter firefight continued the French horse swung off to the left to outflank the town from the west.

Although the grenadiers saw off the skirmishers with loss, they were almost immediately assailed by at least double their numbers of close order infantry.  Crippled by their own losses, the grenadiers were so reduced that at last, their resistance broken,  they were reduced to a crowd of fugitives fleeing through the town and the Grober Woods beyond.
The Austrians were meanwhile pressing home their own attack against Dupont's Division.  Not wishing to engage the square too closely, the Austrian cavalry stood off whilst the fusilier column closed in, first to musketry range, then to closer quarters. 
Although inflicting some loss upon the fusiliers, Dupont got much the worse of the fight - square not the ideal formation with which to meet a column - and failing its morale at its defeat, broke in rout.
The advent of Mahler's Division forced the Austrian artillery to divert its attention thereto, but with no better effect than before (really, this must be looked into!).

 It was not until Mahler's Division got to within musketry range that the Austrian guns had any effect, but by then the Cuirassiers had broken off their engagement with Dupont's Division (leaving the fusiliers to complete their victory) and were coming down upon Mahler's flank.

By now Loison's Division was closely engaged with the grenadiers' second line, taking a number casualties the while, but hurting the grenadiers rather more.  Within a short space of time, the defenders were driven out of the town...
...  where the light cavalry completed their discomfiture.
The Austrian left driven away, Loison and the cavalry turned towards the centre, where Mahler was in the midst of his own battle.  Brought across the river betimes, the Corps artillery dropped into action in support of Mahler.
It was a case of honours shared on this part of the field.  The close quarter musketry, with artillery support, knocked over so many gunners (2 out of 4 figures) that the battery had perforce limber up and make off. But the infantry got the worse of their encounter with the Austrian cavalry (as a wargames unit, these guys have a terrific history - an almost unblemished record) .  Losing 3 figures to 1 (at least they got one!), Mahler's Division lost the fight, and had to retire.
But somewhat surprisingly, their high morale (roll of 6) ensured that they fell back in good order, turning to face their enemy (I do think maybe the cavalry ought to have got more advantage for striking their opponents in the flank, though columns are possibly less vulnerable to cavalry attack than are lines, especially in the flank. Something to think about anyway).
At this point, it was clear that although victorious on their left, and having fought the French to a standstill in the centre, this action was already lost to the Austrians.  Mahler's division was far from broken; Loison was still full of fight, and the French light horse was barrelling through Elchingen town onto the Cuirassiers' flank (A column of march/ passage of a defile formation is not usually in war games permitted to enter into a close quarter fight.  But apart from wondering how else one expects to force a defended defile [Remember Lodi Bridge?], it seems to be an ideal formation with which to strike into the flank of an enemy line).

By the same token, there was little the French could do to interfere with the Austrian withdrawal, and so here the action ended.
Altogether, although several issues came up in this action concerning mainly the combat mechanics, on the whole this seemed a fairly satisfactory 'first pass' play test.   The losses seemed pretty realistic, too: the French losing 15 figures all up (Dupont lost 7 of those, the other two Divisions 4 apiece), and the Austrians 14 (I think the Grenadiers lost 9 of them, being pretty much destroyed as a fighting unit).  Taken as percentages, that takes 17% from the French and 28% off the Austrians - pretty reasonable for a hard-fought, smallish action.

Monday, June 30, 2014

War of the Imperial Succession - Prologue 2

Continuing the narrative from here.
The breaking dawn revealed to the gaze General Klaus von Klutz the bulk of the Ursaminor Army on the far bank of the Unstroll River, ready to contest the crossings.  There were three bridges, the one at Futtschtampen, another at the outlying upstream village of Armtouisten, and the third as far higher again. Given the relative strengths of the armies, it was highly desirable from the Jotun point of view to find additional crossings as well.  This was going to be a tough assignment, but rewards for success far outweighed, so it seemed to the Jotun-Erbsten High Command, the penalties for defeat.

Army composition:
GoC-in-C plus staff: 2 figures
Engineer Company: 2 Engineer officers and 6 pioneer figures
Leib Brigade: 1st, 2nd Line, 8th Fusiliers - total 58 figures (including command)
Markgravina Brigade:  3rd, 4th Line, 9th Fusiliers - 58 figures
Erbprinz Brigade: 5th, 6th Line, 10th fusiliers - 58 figures
7th Jager Battalion: 19 figures
1st Cuirassiers: 15 figures
2nd Cuirassiers: 15 figures
3rd Hussars: 15 figures
Artillery Jotun-Erbsten: 2 batteries each with 2 guns and 10 figures.
TOTAL:  260 figures (5 command, 190 foot, 45 horse, 20 artillery)

GoC-in-C plus staff: 2 figures
Livgarden Regiment - 28 figures
Norrbotten Infantry - 28 figures
Ostergotland Infantry - 28 figures
Sodermanland Infantry - 28 figures
Vastmanland Infantry - 28 figures
Pomeriania Jager - 21 figures
Rikswacht te Paard Heavy Cavalry - 15 figures
Kronoberg Dragoons - 15 figures
Tevastehus Uhlans - 15 figures
Kopparberg Hussars - 15 figures
Artillery Ursaminor: 2 batteries each with 2 guns and 10 figures.
TOTAL: 243 figures (2 command, 161 foot, 60 horse, 20 artillery).

This action was fought between Paul Jackson (Painting Little Soldiers) and myself earlier this year.  As I had this game set up at my place, I invited Paul to choose sides, bearing in mind which side was doing the attacking.  All the troops were in plain sight, and I expected him to defend.  Nope.  Attack was his choice, and so he took command of the Jotun-Erbsten invaders.  I half suspect his didn't fully notice the bigger size of the Ursaminor battalions that made up the disparity in unit numbers (not to mention that Ursaminor has a significant proportion of guards and grenadiers - types not present in the army of Jotun-Erbsten).

Considering the difficulties faced by the invaders, they came very close to pulling off the near-impossible.

General von Klutz chose to put his main effort in and around the objective of the whole campaign: the sea-port of Futtschtampen itself.  The Ursaminor commander, Marshal-General Maxim Stalhandske, abandoning the transfluvian suburbs, had garrisoned the western half of the town with the Sodermanland infantry - blocking the bridge and occupying the warehouses and manufacturies of the dockyard district; whilst the Livgarden Regiment fortified the commercial and administrative precincts.
Erbprinz Brigade led off the Jotun assault,  supported by musketry from 7th Jager.  But the 5th Battalion, charging across the bridge, was brusquely stopped in their tracks by the storm of musketry from not only the bridge defenders by the flanking garrison companies as well.  The Jotun-Erbstenites barely made it to the centre of the bridge, before being swept back whence they came.
Nothing daunted, General Klutz ordered in immediate renewal of the attack.  The failure of the bridge defenders to erect any effective barricade proved their undoing.  The 10th Fusilier Battalion flung aside the defenders, and surged on into the residential quarter of the town.  Immediately following them, 6th Battalion forced the Livgarden Regiment out of the barns and holding pens of the southwest quarter but also the Sodermanland companies to evacuate the Admin quarter.  Ensconced behind the masonry walls of the mercantile district about a third of Sodermanland kept up a steady but ineffectual fire upon the Erbprinz Brigade as the latter tried to consolidate its hold upon the town.

In the meantime, the Erbsten Engineers has discovered an easy ford not far south of the town, whereat General Klutz ordered 3rd Battalion of the Markgravina Brigade to make the crossing.  But he had underestimated the likely effect of the massed Ursaminor artillery immediate overlooking that part of the river ...

(This was entirely fortuitous.  Having laid out the troops for inspection, when it came to the actual deployment, it seemed to me that where I had placed them was fine.  So there they stayed.  The fords were determined entirely by dice roll.  Foe each river section (straight or curved) a roll of 6 would disclose a ford, which was then rolled for type.  This one was easy.  However, we were to discover a glitch in my rules that made easy fords on widish rivers more time consuming to cross than difficult fords.)

Half way across the stream, 3rd Battalion were emphatically pounded into withdrawal, scarcely half their numbers surviving.  However, this disaster was at least partially offset by 1st battalion of the Leib Brigade successfully storming the river bridge at Armtouisten.  the convergent gunfire on the place had already induced the garrison to abandon the buildings, whereupon the bridge defenders were too few to overcome the storming column as it surged across.

The bridges secure, General von Klutz didn't hesitate to press further troops into both localities.  But exploiting their success was proving not so easy.  In Futtschtampen, the company and a half of Sodermanland infantry seemed to have burrowed themselves firmly into the solid buildings of the mercantile district.  Even outnumbered four to one, there was no digging them out again.    Nor were the Leib Brigade able to drive the Ostergotland infantry completely out of Armtouisten.  Passing through 1st Battalion, the 8th Fusiliers tried to storm the west end of the village, only to be flung back rudely by the shortrange Ostergotland fire.

Stalled in his pricipal attacks, in desperation, General Klutz ordered his cavalry to make an attempt upon the southern-most bridge.  There he may have been persuaded by the discovery of a narrow ford hard by the bridge, or maybe it was the half-battalion of enemy light infantry crowding up to the riverbank to harass the Jotun-Erbsten horse beyond.

In a flash, 2nd Cuirassier Regiment had clattered across the wooden bridge and were riding down the exposed jagers with sword and pistol.  But the jagers had emptied several saddles before being overrun.  At that, the other half-battalion were safe enough within the nearby woods; and rather late in the day, Ursaminor vengeance was approaching fast at a canter.  There was nothing for it but to leave, and that right soon.

By this time the morning had advanced to early afternoon, and it had become clear that having successfully broken into the towns, the invaders were not easily going to break out into the open country beyond.  Losses had been unacceptably high, Jotun-Erbsten reserves slender, and Ursaminor stood ready to contain further encroachment.  It was at this point that a parliamentaire under a white flag was seen approaching the Livgarden lines close by Futtschtampen.  

What might this portend?  To be continued...

My thanks and a warm welcome goes out to two new followers:
#108: 'Stryker'
He has or contributes to 5 blogs at least, a couple of ACW campaign blogs (I'll be looking into those!) and a couple on vintage (?) metal figures (e.g. Minifigs 'S' range, and Hinton Hunt).  I reckon this might be the place to enquire whether I have correctly identified some figures in my collection that I acquired second hand several years ago.  I gather he also recently celebrated his silver wedding anniversary.  Congratulations!
#109: 'Ariel El vikingo dark'
Here's another with multiple blog spots that have been interesting to explore.  Some very fine music to be heard there, too: stuff I've not heard before, but very suited to my tastes (Vaguely similar to Nightwish, what I've heard so far.  Well, I like Nightwish)  Check out his (?) 'follower' icon, but here's a good place to start...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - Playtest

The battle opens.  Voltigeurs of Loison's Division, crossing the Danube from
the south to the north bank, engage the first line of Austrian Grenadiers
between the river and Elchingen, supported by the VI Corps artillery
firing across the river.  The rest of Loison's Division, and the VI Corps cavalry
make their way across the river bridge.

Whilst my rule set for BB4ST remain mostly in my head or scratched out on bits of paper, I bethought myself of carrying out a quick 'first pass' playtest, just to see how the thing would look.  For this purpose, I chose one of the early actions in the 1805 Campaign, namely, the combat at Elchingen.  The forces were small enough: the single VI Corps of Marshal Ney, and a rather smaller force of Austrians under Generals Riesch and Werneck.

From David Chandler Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars,
Arms and Armour Press, London (1979).
Orders of Battle:
The Austrian Corps commanded by Generals
Riesch and Werneck (Minifigs).
Austrian Command (Divisions of Riesch and Werneck):
- Corps command: 2 figures
- Grenadier Division: 16 figures
- Fusilier Division: 16 figures
- Cuirassier Brigade: 12 figures
- Corps Artillery: 4 figures; 1 gun.
Totals: 50 figures and 1 gun (the equivalent of 10,000 troops and 32 guns under my scaling.  A little generous, but see below).

The orders of battle I have seen indicate that the Austrian force comprised a high proportion of heavy cavalry (cuirassiers, the lights being mainly uhlanen) and grenadiers, but lacked light troops (grenzers or jager).  It seemed therefore meet that the Cavalry be represented by cuirassiers.  Of course, splitting the grenadiers and fusiliers as I have is simply convenience on account of the scale I'm using.

Probably the number of gunners is excessive, 3 gunners being a better representation of the Austrian strength in artillery.  And that very notion leads me to the idea that the effectiveness of gunfire be determined by the number of figures crewing the pieces, as by the weight of metal.  A fellow blogger did make a suggestion along these lines, but at the time I was thinking more in terms of formal organization than game terms.  In this action, I drew no distinction between French 8pr and Austrian 6pr equipments.
VI Army Corps, commanded by Marshal Ney (Minifigs).
French Command: VI Army Corps of Marshal Ney.
- Corps Command:  2 figures
- Loison's Division:  24 figures
- Mahler's Division: 24 figures
- Dupont's Division: 24 figures
- VI Corps Light Cavalry Brigade: 12 figures
- VI Corps Artillery: 4 figures, 1 gun.
Totals: 90 figures and 1 gun (approximate equivalent of 18,000 troops and 32 guns).

1.  The first thing to note is the difference in 'unit' (Division) sizes.  One of the things I want my rule set to accommodate is the disparity that can develop among the units and formations within and between armies. True, this can be accommodated by a 'strength point' system, but one way and another, that requires bookkeeping.  Why not let the figures carry the information?

2.  Dupont's Division having been badly mauled the previous day at Albeck, whilst preventing the Austrians breaking out eastwards, ought probably be weaker than the 24 figures allowed it.  A reduction to 18 or even 16 figures might not be too punitive a cost of the gallant stand this Division made the day before.  But that would also indicate  a fairly similar reduction to the Austrian corps, at least some of whom were involved in the same engagement.

To be continued: How the play test went...

Acknowledgements: ...and thanks to my 107th follower, 'El Grego.'  You might want to check out the link through his icon in my Follower list.  He has a number of blogs with a wide range of wargaming interests.

Links to past postings in this topic:
Big Battles for Small Tables
Big Battles for Small Tables continued 1
Big Battles for Small Tables continued 2
Big Battles for Small Tables continued 3

Past postings on similar topics:
Napoleonic Division Column 
A Napoleonic Battle - River Crossing 1
A Napoleonic Battle - River Crossing 2
A Napoleonic Battle - River Crossing 3