Monday, December 29, 2014

Tidying Up...

Additions to the inventory of the Raesharn Imperial Army.
The FlaK vehicle need a bit of work...
Whilst my next BB4ST posting is still in draft - piccies: need piccies - I have been doing a bit of a tidy up and cull of the enormous quantities of paper that I have accumulated over several millenia aeons decades, full of mathematical and arithmetical calculations (I never use a calculator: tending to forget that I have one until the batteries turn septic and kill off the tech; this of course makes me a Bad Person), ideas for rule sets, orders of battle, battle maps and scenario designs... all sorts of garbage, really.

Early repairs/ modifications to the FlaK vehicle - I think
I'll call it a Walrus Class AFV.
Yesterday I was forced (grin) to suspend operations when Brian (A Fistful of Plastic) phoned.  Still in the throes of packing for his move permanently to the North Island, he later dropped by (with his sister) with a few items surplus to his requirements.  His sister (I was introduced but have this anti-Napoleonic thing with names: I can't remember them.  Most embarrassing, so my apologies are heartfelt), Brian told me, had scanned my miniature b+w silhouette pictures of British, Colonial and Maori soldiery into machine-readable files.  I'm still looking forward to seeing what he does with those.

Potential in potentia: what will these become?  Buildings
ships of war? Bridges?  
The FlaK vehicle was badly in need of TLC - the guns had been torn apart and the road wheels were flush with the side skirts; the thing wants its tracks, and probably drive and return sprockets as well. The guns have been rejoined and reinforced, and as the trunnions were very loose, the twin mount has been glued in an elevated position. Had I my wits about me, I would have carved of a tiny bit of the bottom rear corner for a firmer hold. That the guns would have been elevated slightly higher as a result would have been no bad thing.  A plastic strip glued along the bottom 'edge' of the side skirt now gives a better impression of the road wheels behind them.  I think that at some time this vehicle had been earmarked to stand as a wreck: a couple of holes have been driven in on the left hand side of the turret.  Not sure yet how to fix that.  Ideas?  The Patton tank will be a welcome addition to my Raesharn 'Heavy Tank' platoon...

Different thinknesses, too.  Plenty of scope for
But for sheer potential, here is the real treasure. I can only surmise Brian did not envisage himself making any use of all this lovely balsa sheets any time soon, probably owing to lack of time.  I admit I don't use it all that much myself, but I can see all kinds of possibilities here!  Parkinson's Law, you see, or a corollary of it.  If I have it, it will be used.  Eventually.

Hand drawn and hand painted Confederate battle flags.  The
nearest 3  are the Army of Northern Virginia version of the
 Genl Beauregard designed flag. The central figure of these is
of course a Louisiana Tiger, the slough hat trimmed into a fez.
Brian asked about how I designed my flags, especially the skewing to improve the 'drape'. Occasionally I hand draw flags, but that is really possible only with fairly simple designs (for a given value of 'simple'). E.g. these ACW images.  Could they be 'Photo-Shopped'?   I don't know.

The Army of Northern Virginia flags of the three Louisiana regiments in the foreground were hand drawn (with the help of a ruler) onto paper, and coloured with felt pen (the type used for overhead projectors).  The stars were painted on.  There is a trick to that.  You need a brush with a very fine point, and you make a shape like the 'anarchist' A without the circle. A little delicate 'filling in' yields a very satisfactory star.  
Left hand view.  The nearest two were fashioned from two 'spare'
Airfix advancing figures with the firearm cut away, the left arm
trimmed down, and bent up using the hot water technique.  I then
drilled through the hand with a pin and shoved in a wire flagstaff.
It is true that these flags are over-scale.  The ANV flags were 4ft square, and even then were large by the ... erm ...standards of other CSA armies.  Mine look to be scaled  25-50% larger in linear dimensions.  The Union flags were much larger, 6ft in the hoist at least. The white flags of my Texican regiments were painted back in the '80s on, I think, milk-bottle top (don't you miss home deliveries?).  They are even more over-scale, flags of the Western armies being more rectangular than the square ANV ones, and only 3ft to 3ft 6in in the hoist, at that.  However, the canton being so small I didn't attempt 5-pointer stars, but satisfied myself with four-pointers instead.  They look more stellar at that than dots would have been.
Close up of ANV Confederate flag bearer.  The figure was
originally Airfix  Union, one of those running figures with left hand
 raised. He makes a very fine flag-bearer, especially if you can drill
through the upraised hand, as here. 
But I don't think I skewed these flags, or if I did, it wasn't by much.  Could the pictured flag be photo-shopped into a more 'regular' image?  It begins to look feasible.

During the weekend, I bethought me to start making ensigns for all my ACW riverine vessels.  Rather than hand draw these, I hunted around for some pictures of ACW ensigns, and downloaded them (select image, copy and paste onto a 'Word' file).  Printed (size didn't matter) and scanned (I have an ink-jet scanner/printer - excellent device) to create a .jpg file.  Then from this file you select the picture and open with Windows Paint.  Say what you like about Microsoft Windows (and I have done in no uncertain terms), I do like this piece of software: so handy for making flags (and for labelling on battlefield photos).
Flags as copied from an online source onto a 'Word' file, and
then printed and scanned onto a .jpg file.  There may be more
 efficient methods, but this I know works.
Using 'Paint' I can go from the above picture to the multiple images below with comparatively little effort - certainly less than hand drawing the things.  The red background behind the Union ensign was a result of hitting a wrong button at the wrong time, but as it didn't affect anything (except use up red ink), I didn't bother to remove it.  
The 'Paint' work space transformed with multiple copies of
the respective CSA and USA ensigns.  With 35 stars, the latter
is subsequent to W.Va's statehood; and the sole 'stainless' CSA
 ensign will be flown by scratchbuilt CSS Tennessee.
You begin by separating out the flags as scanned and dragging them over to the right hand side of the work space.  It is not a bad idea to re-size smaller at this point so as to get images onto one screen where they are easier to move around and to see what you are doing.  Then select a flag image, copy and paste next to the original, leaving a narrow gap.  Now select and flip the left-hand side of the image pair (it's part of the 'rotate' menu). Select the left hand image and 'skew vertical' (part of the 'resize' menu) any number of degrees you feel OK with.  For these I chose a 10-degree skew, but have used 5-degrees and as much as 15-degrees.  Often I'll vary (from flag to flag, of course) just for the sake of variety. Then select the right hand side and do a 'negative' skew (minus10 degrees, say).
Before and after ...
The gap between the skewed images I filled in with the nearest approximation the software's available palette, not concerned at the difference from the flag image colours, as shown below.  This gap is to wrap around the jack-staff or halyard, say.  I suggest a 3mm gap, but really just fudged it here.  A closer look suggests I could have chosen a darker blue for the sleeve of the Union flag, but it will do fine as is.
The reason for the gap between the inverted image and its
original: to wrap around the flagpole.  That the filler colours
differ from the originals has to do with the supplied
palette, but for mine makes no odds.
It is a good idea to preview before printing to make sure the flags are about the size you want.  The above array turned out to be fine for ensigns for my gunboats.  I might have preferred them a thought larger for my Airfix infantry, say, but for them I would have begun with a different image anyhow. Incidentally, you can stretch and compress the images to fit your requirements.

The box in the following picture contains 6x27-figure Regiments of Union Infantry, whose flags were hand drawn over the last weekend. The original flags I had made were quite unsatisfactory; the tin foil was looking very tired, one had never even been painted, and another was carrying a bare, unpainted pole.  I much prefer paper flags anyhow.  These had to be drawn to fit the staffs, and that was not easy: the yellow border 1mm wide all round, and the stripes each 1.5mm - a total, then, of 21.5mm in the hoist.  Now, the thing with skewing is that it makes the flag seem longer (which in fact it is, measured along the fly). I measured the horizontal width at 20mm, and dropped the outer corners by 10mm (quite a deep skew: arctan0.5, whatever that comes to!  Over 26-degrees, you say? Well, there you go!)  A bit rough in the execution, but they don't look too bad... at this distance...
Two brigades of Union Infantry - all Airfix.  Its commander
began life as an Airfix Cowboy.
Of course, I didn't even try to paint 34 or 35 stars on these flags, but rather tried for an impression of lots of stars.  I have occasionally been intrigued by the mathematics behind designing arrays for the cantons.  Thirty-five stars can simply be drawn as a 5x7 (5 rows of 7) array, but what about 34?  It is a 4x5 array with a 3x4 array nested within it; an extra star top and bottom of the middle column of stars.  But i didn't do this.  A 2x4 nested within a 3x5 array have the effect I wanted.  Occasionally I'll vary by placing several stars in a circle.

Meanwhile, the sort of thing I've been tidying up, before I was so courteously and generously interrupted, is shown in the following pictures, although these are more select, shall we say, and may well be retained.  These date from a time when I lacked the equipment for war games photography. First, a selection of Napoleonic battles: a refight of Thann in the early 1990s using 15mm figures and a rule set adapted from Paddy Griffiths' Napoleonic War Games for Fun; a refight of Castalla using my rules (I was Marshal Suchet); the first battle of a fictitious campaign in northern France (Napoleon having been spirited out of St Helena by a desperate band of former Old Guardsmen); and a pick-up Peninsular War action.
Junk or a valued archival record?  Several Napoleonic battle maps
from more than 20 years ago.  Wooh.
What follows is a closer view of the First Battle of Rheims, 8 February 1816.  Commanding the French was Rodger (Rebel Barracks; Jacko, Painting Little Soldiers had the British in this campaign). Although the nominal figure scale was 1:25, they counted as 1:100 just to make the campaign numbers look a bit more ... erm ... comme il faut.  My Austrian Army had to be augmented by two battalions of Brunswickers even to reach the modest total of 190 figures (19,000).  The 'all in action' in the centre was as exciting cut-and-thrust as it looks from the diagram: the Austrians lost half their artillery overrun, for which the Uhlans took drastic vengeance; a Brunswicker battalion was ridden down when it failed to maintain its square (I had forgotten my own rules, which allowed the square to move, however slowly); and, despite the overall Austrian defeat on this occasion, the Hohenzollern-Hechingen Kuirassiere established an ascendancy over the French cavalry that endured for the entire campaign.  

First Battle of Rheims.  The Austrians ran into more
trouble than they expected, and had eventually to
yield the palm the the enemy.
A busy few days.  In my less active moments (I must mow the lawn this pip emma) I have been enjoying the fourth in the series of Pratchett, Stewart and Cohen's Science of Discworld. Factsinating! - though you might come away with the notion that the world of Science Academia is less given to acrimonious controversy than it usually often is.  Not that that is its central thesis of course.  I'm never fully clear where the authors stand on religion as such.  It is not clear they draw any distinction between religion as an expression of wonder to be shared, or religion as expressions of dogma to be imposed.  Not religious myself,  I can see from an outside perspective that such a distinction ought to come into consideration.  They do mention, though, the US evangelist and proselyte who claimed that scientists had found God by looking through the Large Hadron Kaleidoscope (Colliderscope?).
Food for thought - even though reading these days
sends me to sleep.

Friday, December 26, 2014

An Eyrie of Eagles ... Part 2

Continuing from the previous posting:
Karkharowski's Grenadiers attempt to storm Spas Convent.
Given the objective in the first instance of taking the Spas convent, General 'Prince Wittgenstein' placed his trust in his best available troops, the large formation of grenadiers forming his Reserve Division commanded by Karkhowski.  All four brigades, in 'masse' formation, at once charged the Convent before the French (II Corps) and Deroi's Division of the Bavarian (VI Corps) could hope to supervene.

The Commander of the Bavarian (VI) Corps, General Gouvion St-Cyr anticipated an early attack and placed General Wrede in direct command of the Convent garrison - some 2880 infantry supported by 8 cannon (8 infantry stands plus a gun stand, with Wrede 'attached')*.  St-Cyr himself stood on the hill on the far side of the ponds with the Division's second Brigade and the remainder of its artillery.  
The first assault on Spas.  In the backgound, Russian cannon
move up.  Legrand's French Division and the cavalry can be
seen on the Bavarian left beyond the hill.

In command of the battle as a whole, Marshal Oudinot directed Deroi's Division to the support of Wrede's right flank, whilst the available elements of his own II Corps - Legrand's Division,  the Corps cavalry and a single gun battery, came up on the left.  For his part, Wittgenstein concentrated almost all his troops between the great woods and the North-east road.  This implied his Reserve Division being left in the rear (off table and therefore subject to 'Reserve Movement', with the problems that implied).

Deroi's Division  coming up upon
Wrede's right
Karkhowski's assault beaten back.
As the Karkhowski's grenadiers stormed the Convent, the garrison had to rely upon its own resources. Outnumbered three to one (30 infantry stands - over 10,000 infantry) in 4 'masse' columns versus 8 infantry and a gun stand) the garrison fired ineffectually.  On came the Russians like an ocean wave - but the wave met after all a firm rock.  The attached leader (+1) and defensive walls, though not very strong (+1) reduced the disadvantages of numbers (-3) and quality (-1 net) to a mere -2 overall.  The die rolls in favour of the defenders (+4) was enough to throw back the attackers.*  But this was by no means a repulse - not yet.  The grenadiers drew back to reorganise for a second attempt.
Wrede's Second Brigade on the hill being directed by
Gouvion St-Cyr in person.  Doumerc's cuirassiers have
been intercepted near the distant woods
by Russian Cossacks and Hussars.
West of Spas, Wrede's other brigade had formed, together with two batteries upon the hill overlooking the ponds, the Corps commander himself overseeing it.  As well he might, for this brigade was to come in for a destructive bombardment from eventually no fewer than five Russian batteries.  One of the Bavarian batteries was silenced early, and eventually wrecked, whilst the infantry was also knocked about.   But in choosing not to deploy west of the great woods near Prismenitsa, Wittgenstein began quickly to experience serious traffic problems.  Pressing Berg's Jagers into these thick woods, he had to send his heavy horse through the village itself,  whilst the defile between there and the tall timber was barely wide enough to accommodate the columns passing through it.  
Looking east, this time.  Berg's Jagers advance slowly
through the dense woods, too far off to intervene in the cavalry
Concerned about the approach of the French cuirassiers, Wittgenstein ordered his light horse to charge the Cuirassiers.  A real death ride as it seemed to be,  its purpose was simply to gain time and space for the following infantry columns.  As it transpired, the light horse did very well indeed, carrying out two charges before at last being scattered to the rear.  The first charge ended with the narrowest victory for the cuirassiers, the cossacks and hussars withdrawing only a short distance. Rallying 'with elan' the following turn, they flung themselves back into the fray, but this time the margin was too great.  All the same, the time thus gained was invaluable to the Russians.
The Grenadiers' second assault easily and destructively beaten

Where has the Russian light horse gone?

All this while, the action around Spas had continued unabated.  Deroi's move to Wrede's right flank had been somewhat dilatory ('Cautious' result on the tactical move chart, the leading brigade two moves in succession). Fortunately, the second assault was enfeebled by the failure of the flanking brigades to rally betimes.  After a little hesitation Karkhowski flung in the two centre brigades.  The storm of canister and musket fire that greeted them told heavily ('Telling Fire' on the 'Volley and Cannonade' chart against both brigades - the Bavarians' shooting was superb on this occasion - both brigades lost a stand and were disordered).   The heavy loss and disorder left the defenders with the advantage in the close order scrimmage that ensued (a net +5).  The attackers were unceremoniously flung back, leaving over a thousand prisoners in Bavarian hands (the 'Bayonet and Sabre' roll was a massive 10-1 in my favour!).

General view of the action.  Deroi's command
fronts up to the stream on the eastern flank, the
trailing brigade already having crossed.
Unperturbed by this shattering defeat, and though one brigade was now spent (reduced from 9 to 4 stands) and another worn (reduced from 6 to 4), Karkhowski was not so easily deterred. Deroi's Division was not yet so close, even though the trailing brigade were now crossing the stream hard by the convent, that one more attack could not be mounted.  Placing two batteries to face Deroi, Karkhowski flung in his third attack.
As Karkhowski prepares a third assault on Spas, only two
batteries face Deroi's whole Division.
He had managed this time to rally all his brigades (though now just 23 stands remained of the 30 with which his Division began), and in they went.  Once again the advantage lay with the attackers (a net +1 I think, +2 if Karkhowski attached himself to one of the brigades).  Although the shooting was moderately successful, it was the close combat about the convent walls that decided the issue (The Bavarians out-rolled the Russian combat dice a third time - by a margin sufficient to fling back the attackers).  
Behind the Grenadiers, Sazonov's huge Reserve line infantry
Brigade moves up.
On the other wing, having thrown back the Russian light horse, the cuirassiers rallied for an assault upon a dangerous line of three batteries in front of Prismenitsa village.  Though showing little elan (The roll on the 'Disorder' chart was enough to rally the heavy horse, but allowed them to move at only half their standard rate.  This was just barely enough to reach the nearest battery.  In they went.
French cuirassiers charge the guns.  Now that I look at it closely
I see 7 stands there, and I know I lost just the one in the charge...
The charge was attended by a fearful risk: three Russian light batteries shooting into masses cavalry at point-blank range.  Having already lost a stand to gunfire early on, the elite cuirassiers might well have been reduced to less than half strength, disordered and spent before even making contact! Three Russian light batteries at 11 fire points - 33 total.  Geoff rolled a D10: a four!  It could not have been much better for me, and might have been a whole lot worse: a ten would have cost 3 stands and left the horsemen spent before the close combat.  The cuirassiers lost a stand and were disordered, but with General Doumerc himself leading the charge they were in a trice among the gunners with pistol and sword.  Though deadly shooting at close range, artillery aren't all that much chop when things get up close and personal.  Defending with trail spikes and rammers, the gunners were no match even for disordered armoured horsemen (a net +3 as the unit was elite).
French cuirassiers charge the guns.  There ought to be 6 stands in
 the picture as well as General Doumerc.  I do not know how that happened...
The result was as might have been expected: the three batteries driven back through the village and silenced. Behind this charge, rank upon rank of Oudinot's infantry could be discerned approaching Prismenitsa as rapidly as might be.  It was at this point we found it was time to call a halt to the battle.  But there remained the matter of the 'breakthrough charge' against the infantry column between village and wood.  We decided to play this out.

But before moving on to this attack, it is possible we made a mistake, here.  You will recall that the Cuirassiers could reach only the nearest of the three batteries.  Now, while it is true that their proximity meant that the other two batteries were collateral participants in the close combat (which made the odds 3:2 rather than greater than 4:1, I am not sure whether the battle results ought to have applied to all three or only the contacted one.  If the latter, a breakthrough charge would have carried the horse onto the remaining two batteries.

Reviewing this action I also perceive that in the heat of battle the loss of one stand reduced the cuirassiers from seven stands to five.  Yet I recall still thinking of the unit as 'fresh'.  I can only surmise that I started thinking the unit began with 6 stands, removed the second stand thinking I had not done so already, and therefore (correctly, as it happened) continued thinking the unit 'fresh.' That seems a plausible enough explanation... How easy it is to stuff things up!
The cuirassiers' breakthrough charge.  
A little earlier, Wittgenstein' had considered ordering this column into battalion squares, but decided against it.  In general, this is regarded as a species of reaction to a cavalry charge, but the rules do permit voluntarily adopting this formation.   For all their rarity, there are occasions in which it might not be such a bad precaution.  This was such a situation.  So close were the cuirassiers when they broke through, that the infantry had too little time to form square.  

The dice were rolled: 4-4. 
+1 leader (Doumerc) attached
+2 cavalry attacking infantry from less than 5 inch (600yd) away
+2 armoured heavies
+1 breakthrough charge
+2 elite
+2 elite brigade (my only elite unit!)
-2 outnumbered 2:1 (this would have been true even with the 6 stands the horse should have had)
-2 disordered
-1 stand lost during current fire phase (i.e. during charge on the guns).
Net Total: +5 plus die roll +4
+1 supported formation
+2 'fresh' unit
+1 regular unit.
Net Total: +4 plus die roll +4
The final score, then, would have been 9-8 to the horse, which would have forced the infantry back a space (2" or 240 yards).  That would have ended the cuirassiers' charge.
The close combat dice rolls - Geoff''s best result all day!
You can see why I am not a fan of all this plussing and minusing: it is so very easy to overlook some vital factor.  Even just now it took me three - no four - goes before I began to get a consistent answer.

Not that a (slightly) negative result would have concerned Marshal Oudinot (me) over much.  The charge was to cover the infantry's advance anyhow, and the result rather better than expectation.  At this point Geoff and I agreed that this was something of a French victory overall, it being unlikely that the Russians could now carry the convent with Deroi's Division well placed to inconvenience the Russian left flank. Geoff allowed he enjoyed this game, which was very generous of him as his luck with the close combat dice was so generally poor.  His shooting was pretty good though.  But then, so was mine ... now and then ...

A couple of interesting points emerged for me that went for (I think) to explain some historical  as well as game command decisions that at first sight might seem poorly motivated.

1.  Leaving troops to be shot to pieces without much chance of retaliation.  This was the position I placed Wrede's second brigade, with General Gouvion St-Cyr close by (but not 'attached').  This brigade, even with two batteries attached, came in for a lot of attention from the Russian ordnance;  5 batteries eventually, which cost it at least one stand and a battery wrecked.  Its return fire from two light batteries came nowhere near compensating.  But placing the brigade behind the hill might have persuaded 'Wittgenstein' to concentrate his batteries against Spas, softening up the garrison for the major assault.  So Napoleon's leaving the Conscrits of the Guard to be shot to pieces 'for nothing' at Craonne (1814) begins to make sense.  Sort of.

2.  'Death rides.'  The apparently suicidal attack of the Russian light horse was in my view amply justified by the time it gained, and helped to clear the front of the advancing infantry.  That the French cuirassiers were still able to attack was simply a piece of luck for them.  Sometimes you have to order your troops to carry out impossible tasks that the tasks others have to undertake become feasible.  So for the comparatively slight risk to his small Polish escort, Napoleon hoped to gain valuable time at Somosierra Pass (1808) by ordering these 88 troopers to attempt the passage.  The failure of this effort cost no time (though the 60 men lost was something) but its success would have gained much.

3.  That 'Wittgenstein' undertook his initial attack without artillery preparation was in my view a good decision as (a) the odds of success with his first attack was nearly 4:1, with French and Bavarian supports to distant to help; and (b) once established in the Convent, the Russians would have been very tough to prise out again.  That might well have been the winning of the battle, right there.

*  My asides in game terms (as distinct from the overall battle narrative) are denoted by italics.  This convention I adopted long ago, but perhaps I ought to have explained it before now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

An Eyrie of Eagles...

A rather fuzzy panarama of the overall battlefield, looking west.  Geoff, alias
Prince Wittgenstein, can be seen on the skyline, organising his command.
Last weekend, after a hiatus of some months, Geoff and I once again got together at short notice for an Age of Eagles game with his 15mm Napoleonics.  Overnight and during the early morning I knocked together the following scenario, based upon the First Battle of Polotsk , 17 August, 1812.
General battle map of the action of 17 August as played
over the weekend.
During the advance of La Grande Armee into Russia, Marshal Oudinot's IInd and General Gouvion St-Cyr's (Bavarian) Corps were detailed north of the main direction of command partly as a flank guard, and partly (presumably, bearing in mind the vast distances involved) as a link between the main army and Marshal Macdonald's command marching upon Riga.  After several weeks of indecisive manoeuvring, Marshal Oudinot was reinforced by General Gouvion St-Cyr's Corps.  

Seeing the French and Bavarians rather carelessly encamped about Polotsk town, Prince Wittgenstein determined upon a sudden strike at the exposed Bavarian Division of General Wrede about Spas convent.  In the following table-top action, The Russian objective is to take Spas and hold the place: the French to hold the place or recapture it, and, if possible, Drive the Russians from the field.

The scenario was rather hastily knocked together in about an hour or so, including the labels you see in the pictures, so the reseach was not as thorough as it might otherwise have been.  All the same, the forces were as follows:

Army of Finland: 
I Corps: Prince Wittgenstein

Advance Guard: Koulnieff
1 Jager: R6/4/2 Sk (Regular, Fresh/Worn/Spent, capable of skirmishing.
Cossacks and Hussars: C6/5/4 LC
6pr battery: Regular Lt Artillery

Main Battle' Line: Berg
2 Jager: R6/4/2 Sk
1 Line Infantry: R12/9/6
2x 6pr Battery: Regular Lt Artillery.

'Second Line': Karkhovski
1 Grenadier: E9/6/4
2 Grenadier: E9/6/4
3.Grenadier: E6/4/2
4 Grenadier: E6/4/2
1x 6pr Foot Battery: Regular Lt Arty
1x 6pr Horse Battery: Regular Lt Arty
(A very formidable formation!)

'Reserve' Line: Sazonov
3 Jager: R6/4/2 Sk
2 Line Infantry: R12/9/6
2x 6pr Battery: Regular Lt Arty

Reserve Cavalry: Repnin
Cuirassiers: E6/4/2 Armoured Heavy Cavalry

Reserve Artillery:
1x 6pr Battery: Regular Lt Artillery
1x 12pr Battery: Regular Hy Arty.

Note 1: All infantry are columnar.
2. Whole force deploys in the area marked by a line parallel to the northern table edge in line with the front edge of Prismenitsa Village until it reaches the road northeast, and behind the road thereafter.

French Forces: Marshal Oudinot
Elements II Corps (Oudinot) 
6 Division: Legrand
1 Bde: R8/6/4 Sk
2 Bde: R8/6/4 Sk
6pr Foot Battery: Regular Lt Arty

II Corps Light Cavalry: Courbineau
1 LC Bde: R6/4/2
2 LC Bde: R6/4/2

Heavy Cavalry: Doumerc
Cuirassier Bde: E7/5/3

VI Army Corps: Genl Gouvion St-Cyr
19 (Bavarian) Division: Wrede
3 Bde: R8/6/4 Sk
4 Bde: R8/6/4 Sk
3x 6pr Battery: Regular Lt Arty

20 (Bavarian) Division: Deroi
5 Bde: R9/7/5 Sk
6 Bde: R9/7/5 Sk
1x 6pr Battery: Regular Lt Arty
1x 12pr Battery: Regular Hv Arty.

Note 1: All infantry are columnar.
2.  II Corps is arranged between Polotsk town (exclusive) and the hill to the west (inclusive)
3.  19th Division (Wrede) deploys in and about Spas itself, the ponds and the hill to the west of there.
4.  20th Division (Deroi) stands east of Polotsk town.

Grenadiers assaulting the Spas Convent

The narrative of the battle is for a future posting: to be continued...

Meanwhile, may I wish readers all my best wishes for the Festive Season and the coming New Year. Although I am not religious myself, I do think it is well to recall to ourselves its spiritual meaning.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - A failed playtest?

A French Corps of two infantry Divisions, one light cavalry
Brigade and supporting artillery (4 batteries) approach a pass
 that British troops intend to contest.

It has been a long time coming, but it has taken a long time to organise a combat system in my mind for my BB4ST game system.  Before going on, I do confess that with a lot of commercial sets (Paddy Griffith, Snappy Nappy, Age of Eagles, and the systems Tim Gow, Bob Cordery and Ross Mac come up with) designed for the same purpose, I am probably reinventing the wheel, and the axle too.

The British comprise an infantry Division with Rifles attached
a weak Dragoon Brigade, and 3 horse batteries (1 gun with
3 crew figures).  The tape indicates the maximum range of the
 light cannon: 1200 yards, or 1 foot on the table.

But what I have in mind is a 'fistful of dice' system, rather than a tabular.  To be honest I have never cottoned to tabular combat systems - tend to be too 'hit or miss' for mine.  One can't go past them for convenience, of course, which has been the motivation for their creation.  But I am old fashioned enough still to prefer the Charge! methods, and accept what I consider to be a minor inconvenience.

French (or maybe they are Polish)  light horse lancers.
Bought second hand, their provenance is unknown to me.
I replaced the lances with wire and added paper pennons.
Though not apparent here, it is quite a spectacular unit
on the table top. 
Combat is divided into three: artillery, musketry and close combat.  Not that these divisions imply huge differences.
Closing to within the British gun range, the First Division
forms an assault column, whilst throwing out its
skirmish line.

The following table is the default for light, or horse, artillery; most Corps artillery parks, and Army reserve artillery which is more likely to have a high proportion of 12pr field guns.

Canister: 3-6 to hit
3D6 per 2 crew figure
Effective: 5-6 to hit
1D6 per crew figure
Maximum: 6 to hit.
1d6 per crew figure
Light: 3-4pr, 'Lt' 6pr
0+” -CAN =4 “ [10cm]
4+” EFF =8” [20cm]
8+” MAX  =12” [30cm]
Medium: Most army Corps' parks
0+” CAN =5 “ [12.5cm]
5+” EFF =10” [25cm]
10+” MAX =16” [40cm]
Heavy: Army reserve or Guard artillery esp 12pr
0+” CAN =6 “ [15cm]
6+” EFF  =12” [30cm]
12+” MAX  =20” [50cm]

For difficult targets, such as skirmishers, counter-battery, and well protected targets, the 'first hit' per park firing is dropped.  If the protection is very strong - well-constructed fortifications, say, or stout masonry buildings, the first two hits may be dropped.

For vulnerable targets, modify the dice allocation and/or 'to hit' dice as follows:
Canister: 2 D6 per crew figure, 3-6 to hit;
Effective: 1 D6 per figure, 4-6 to hit;
Maximum: 1 D6 per figure, 5-6 to hit
Such targets are columns, enfiladed targets, limbered artillery.
Though columns and limbered artillery are more
vulnerable to artillery fire, at maximum range, the
risks aren't too great...
Elite gunners' (e.g. guards) dice allocation is increased to 2 dice for 1 figure at canister range, and 3 for 2 figures at effective and maximum ranges.  The 3 for 2 allocation is rounded, a 'remainder' crew figure getting 2 dice.
... and in fact the gun fire is altogether ineffective.

A device to determine who is in firing range.  Attackers close to
the 'dotted line' distance, then determine who is in range.
This play test decided me to abandon this device.
Musketry range is 3" or 75mm.  As this represents about 300 yards, this is a trifle generous, but there are two reasons for adopting this figure.  The first is historical, and seems to have derived from the Prussian practice under King Frederick the Great towards the end of the Seven Years' War.  At any rate most  Continental armies seem to have been inclined to open musketry fire at quite longish ranges, presumably in order to intimidate the enemy before they got close, or else to keep up their own morale.  In contrast, the British fire discipline was such as to reserve fire to much closer ranges, where they would be the more effective.  At least, so I (have been led to) understand.

The other reason is simply aesthetic; having enough space between the lines to suggest a fire fight at range, rather than getting up close and personal - close combat, a.k.a. melee.
This orientation makes it clearer that the left-most voltigeur
figure is out of musketry range.

Once the range has closed to 1 inch (100 yards) the combat is regarded as a 'close combat' and is resolved in a somewhat different manner.

Musketry is carried out by one rank only, the standard rate being 1 D6 per figure, requiring a 6 to hit. Supporting ranks may, of course, replace losses (which means you simply take losses of the rear ranks).  Yes, this really is fistsful of dice country.

This rate is modified as follows: 
1.  Elite or crack troops get 3 dice for 2 figures (rounded). 

I am inclined to allow this for all but the greenest British and King's German Legion infantry (skirmishers and when deployed in a single line) on account of their superior fire discipline, but also for their habitual 2-rank linear formations.  It is true that the French tended to fire in two ranks only from their 3-rank lines, but as the third rank could easily replace losses, they could maintain their overall fire-power better than the British, without such a reserve, could be expected to do - at least for a while.  So I am disinclined to adopt the Age of Eagles convention of placing British infantry on wider stands for the same number of figures (which does mean that the fire-power per unit frontage under A of E is the same, but recall my comment about replacing losses).
An ineffective skirmisher exchange.  The 'crack' rifles get an
extra D6, so the 4 British figures get 5 dice altogether.
The French skirmish line overlaps the British by
enough to exclude the extreme left flank.  So the French
get only 7 dice for 8 figures.   
2.  Inferior or poorly trained troops (Spanish until properly trained; landwehr, most Neapolitans, most freikorps, irregulars) get 2 dice for 3 figures (rounded: remainder figures get 1 die only whether there are two or just the one).
3.  When firing at poor targets, the first 'hit' from all infantry fires, and the first hit from all artillery fires at the same target in the same bound are ignored, and in some circumstances, a second as well.

Poor targets are skirmishers, deployed artillery, and troops in light defensive cover.  Heavy defensive cover such as solid masonry buildings, revetted earthworks and similar formal fortifications may require the first two hits to be dropped, again taking the total infantry fires and total artillery fires separately.

4.  Poorish targets that are also in cover modify the dice rolls as follows, in addition to dropping the first 'hit' scored:
Elite or crack troops: 1 die per figure;
Standard; 2 dice per 3 figures;
Poorly trained: 1 dice per two.
In all cases, 'remainder' figures get one die. 

There is one consideration I am ...erm ...considering, and that is to ignore the 'to hit' and dice allocation modifiers when firers and targets - especially when engaging each other - are of the same type, namely
- Skirmishers vs Skirmishers
- Counter-battery
- Both sides are poorly trained/inexperienced/irregular
- Both sides are 'crack' or elite. Exceptions here might be that certain troops retain their dice allocation modifier always, e.g. French Old Guard, British Guards Brigade, Russian Imperial Guard.

The abandoned musketry and close combat range devices.  One
of those ideas that seem 'idea-ish' until properly put
to the test.
The diagram immediately above is an experiment that I have decided to abandon as an unnecessary complication of limited practicality.  Instead, it is simpler to enact that once within musketry range, troops on a wider frontage can count up to two overlapping figures on each overlapping flank; at close combat range (1 inch), just the one figure.  Much, much simpler.

Coming under gunfire, the British Dragoons charge the advancing
 lancers, but lose a quarter of the strength to canister fire
 on the way in.
Close Combat, a large topic on its own, will have to await a future posting, so: to be continued.

Thanks to Tim D, member #115.  He describes himself as having in recent years rediscovered war gaming after an hiatus of 20 years.  On revient toujours...
Close combat.  A question remains as to the role, if any, of the
skirmishers, especially on the attacking side.  My inclination
 is to include them in the overall numbers as 'supporting troops'
in the same manner as rear ranks.  

Finally, the pictures in this posting show a simple play test scenario whose 'first pass' was not an unqualified success, though the closing action was exciting enough.  The musketry wasn't very effective on either side, though 1st (French) Division was taking losses from flanking gunfire.  The initial close combat clash had 1st Division scoring 3 hits to 1 received (the Brit line evenly allocating fires to respective enemy Divisions); whilst 2nd Division scored 1 hit for 3 received.

Close of  action.  Second division has been repulsed, and
though 1st Division gave better than it got in the initial clash
its situation isn't looking so good.
Second Division clearly lost its fight, and fell back, but although 1st Division 'won' its battle, the British Division, with an overall 4-4 result certainly had not lost.  Unfortunately, it was getting rather late in the evening, and in the above diagram I seem to have forgotten to remove casualties.  At any rate, with an over all 5-2 score in the subsequent combat, the British infantry held its line having lost 6 figures against more than double that number  (9 from 1st Division).  Meanwhile, the British Dragoons had been reduced to a fleeing rump of 3 figures (600 troopers out of 1600), the lancers having to deplore the loss of just one figure.  

Overall strength and losses:
French: 64 figures (12,800) lost 14 (2800)
British: 33 figures (6,600) lost 9 (1800).

The French having received a check, the British abandoned the pass under cover of darkness, and resumed their retreat.