Thursday, May 13, 2021

Napoleonics Thursday: Books Recently Arrived

Napoleonic wargaming seems to require vast quantities of books, which is probably not different from any gaming any other period, but even when it comes to uniform guides, it seems to help to be a bit of a bibliophile.

I found Hayornthwaite’s Osprey book on Napoleon’s Line Infantry (1983) on a used book site and was happy to buy it because it several years ago when I started in 6mm Naps I found the colour plates online, downloaded them, and happily used them as a painting guide.   I have always felt guilty about that little digital theft (mea maxima culpa!) and so jumped at the chance to atone for my sins.

Re-reading it, I was struck by how dark the blue of these uniforms appears in the plates, as dark as the Indigo worn by Union troops in the American Civil War.   Painting 6mm, I usually go a share brighter, just for visual effect.

 

Another OOP Osprey title arrived all the way from a used bookstore in France!  A quick rant on Osprey - I’m puzzled why all of their OOP titles are not available digitally, and why of those that are, some can be found in Kindle format via Amazon, while those digital versions sold directly from the Osprey website are not Kindle-compatible and have to be read with another application (in my case, the Books app on my Mac Book).   Very perplexing.

At any rate, I have several bags of lovely 6mm Bavarians from Baccus awaiting my brush, and wanted something more reliable than just my vague memory of cornflower blue uniforms and black hats.  Bavarians are a great force because they make useful allies for the French up to 1813 (the Austrians hated them) and then switch sides, so a useful force.

This Osprey book is quite good, and the plates by Richard Hook are full of animation and humour - a soldier cuddling a liberated piglet, a dragoon on horseback having an animated conversation with a young woman in a window, and a cheerful Colonel with a glass of schnapps.    All very different from the stark realism and mannequin postures of Bryan Fosten’s please in the above book.

Speaking of Bavarians, the painted 28mm army on the VonPeter Himself website are simply luscious, and really, the entire site is worth regular visits for Napoleonics done well in the big scale.

 

 

Finally in the book roundup, this arrived in the post from the UK recently in a remarkable display of generosity, a good illustration of what young Conrad Kinch likes to call “the Freemasonry of the hobby”.   Someone in the UK, one of my Twitter mutual follows, knew that I was looking for a copy of this book, Hayornthwaite’s one-stop shop for all things Napoleonic, which has been sadly missing for my library.   The owner was quite happy to mail it to me free of charge as long as I gave it a good home, so I am happy to pay the favour forward and am also painting two figures for this person’s collection.   Such a grand hobby that it inspires so many friendships, most of which are between people who have not yet met in the flesh!

As proof of this book’s usefulness, in the entry on Bavaria, we learn that the American-born Benjamin Thompson, the Graf von Mumford, after  serving the Elector of Bavaria as War Minister, “retired to pursue a brief marriage with the wife of the guillotined chemist Lavoisier and two live in seclusion in Paris, where his lasting achievement was the invention of the coffee percolator!”  Feel free to drop this tidbit when you return to the post-Covid cocktail party circuit, and don’t thank me, thank Hayornthwaite.

My next Napoleonic projects are to finish some 6mm Baccus Austrian Uhlans, draw up the unit labels for the Battle of Wertingen, and get that fight on the table as a way of visiting the Dave Brown General d’Armee rules.  What in the way of Napoleonics are you working on?

Cheers and blessings,

MP+

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Battle of Seven Pines (ACW): Gaming the Battle, Piece by Piece (2)

 Towards the end of April I described here my intention to try and game the American Civil War battle of Seven Pines (1862), the battle fought within earshot of Richmond and which marked the high water mark of US General George McClellan’s advance up the Peninsula.    I’ve now fought the first phase of the battle, the initial attack by D.H. Hill’s division, and will offer a brief play by play for those interested in battle narratives, and will end with some thoughts on how this scenario could be better tweaked as the first in a series of linked engagements.

The rules used are Dave Brown’s Pickett’s Charge (Reisswitz Press/Too Fat Lardies).  Having just finished a fight using Dave’s General d’Armee Napoleonic rules, I found it relatively easy to try his ACW rules for the second time, as the mechanics are quite similar.

The scenario assumes that the Union picket line has already been driven in, as happened historically.  The fight begins with Garland’s brigade running into the furthest formed unit, the 103rd Pennsylvania of Wessel’s brigade of Casey’s Division.    Why the green 103rd had been pushed so far forward, on the far side of the Union’s abatis defences, is a bit of a mystery, but they do their job, stopping the initial charge of two rebel regiments. 

1st NY Light Battery, stationed between Palmer’s and Naglee’s brigade, has a line of sight on one of Garland’s regiments and draws first blood for the Union.  There were two other batteries stationed further back in Casey’s main line, and the accounts say that they also fired on the advancing rebels, but given the rules and the lack of any discernible elevation on this part of the battlefield, I didn’t see how that could be simulated.

 Sheer numbers make themselves felt.  On Turn 2 the rebels win the initiative and Garland’s 23rd NC flank charges the green Pennsylvanians.

The 103rd are Whipped and fall back 18”, crossing the abatis like white tailed deer.   I couldn’t resist giving them a mounted commander, as the regimental history reports that their OC, a Major Gazzam, found his horse a problem in the dense woods:  “In retiring under the heavy fire of the enemy in the woods, Maj Gazzam was swept from his horse by a limb of a tree, and in the fall his head striking a log, was momentarily stunned.  He remounted almost instantly and succeeded in reaching the Williamsburg Road, to find the Regiment scattered into fragments and the batteries of Casey’s artillery shelling the woods from which it had fled (16-17)"

Once the rebels emerge from the woods, the tactical problem for the Union seems to be:  How best to employ the four green infantry regiments and one battery stationed in advance of the redoubt and fortified positions?   One solution would simply be to concede this part of the battle altogether and fall back behind the redoubt.   However, Casey had no idea how many rebels he was facing or how much time he had to buy.   It’s also quite possible that the sight of their peers falling back with rebels on their heels might have panicked his green division.    So it seems like the best thing for the Union to do here is to use the troops on the table to try and blunt the rebel advance, inflict as many casualties as possible, and buy time for the rest of the army to organizes and reinforce (see the comments on victory conditions below).

The 104th PA of Naglee’s brigade are advanced on the right to cover the withdrawal of the 103rd PA.  The rest of the line braces as Garland’s brigade emerges from the woods.

Casey direct’s Hazzam’s 104th PA to fall back behind the redoubt and reorganize.  They exit the table.

 Garland’s brigade is slowly crossing the abatis, most of its regiments having to reform themselves afterwards, while Rodes’ men begin to emerge from the swampy woods.

 Disaster threatens as the Union artillery throws snake eyes and runs low on ammunition.   They also incur a fatigue casualty for working their guns so hard (and mostly ineffectively.

 

 With Garland’s men pressing ever closer, Casey makes a bold move.  He uses his two available staff officers to send for ammo to resupply the guns.   This move has risks, because if Naglee’s brigade fails is roll to obey orders this turn, then the staff officers are wasted, but the Union is fortunate, Naglee’s brigade obeys orders and the ammo is rushed up in the nick of time.

 Furious firing between Naglee’s and Garland’s brigade as the 104th PA slowly retire to tie in with their comrades.

 

 Shockingly good shooting by the resupplied New York gunners unleashes a blast of canister into the 23rd North Carolina! 

 The tar heels take 5(!) casualties, fail their Elephant Test, and fall back Whipped, bursting though and un-forming the 2nd FL behind them.

 Union now has the initiative.  With Rodes’ brigade hesitating and still emerging from the woods, General Casey sees an opportunity.  If he doesn’t take it, it’s just a matter of time before the Confederates tee up multiple supported charges and then his green boys are done.  “Charge them, by God!” is his order to BGen Naglee.

 On the right, the 104th PA takes only light casualties from the 34th VA, so the charge goes home, but the Virginians hold steady and after a brief tussle the Keystone State boys grimly retire.

 Unfortunately the 11th Maine take hits from the 2nd MS and flunk their Elephant Test.  Even with their Brigadier attached, they are Whipped and fall back like geese.  Their flank supports, the 100th NY, have no choice to retire and Garland can breathe easier. The New York gunners are grateful that the mayhem is enough to cover their limbering and falling back to new firing positions.  It was a bold move by the Union and could have caused significant confusion and delay to Garland, so no regrets in ordering the charges.

On the Union left, Palmer’s two New York regiments watch nervously as Rodes’ brigade slowly sorts itself out.

 Both Confederate brigades are now in motion with volleys being exchanged as they come.   Casey buys the time to steady the 11th ME while the New York Light Btty moves behind the reforming 100th NY to support Palmer.

 Palmer’s green boys are smelling the powder now.   Mild casualties on both sides.   Rodes is itching to charge.  He knows Hill is somewhere behind him, bringing up the rest of the division, and that he will expect results.

 Rodes throws three regiments forward.   The 12th MS (unsupported) charges the 92nd NY while the 4th VA, supported by an Alabama regiment, charge the 98th NY.  The results were interesting.   The 92nd unleashed a blistering volley which staggered the 12th MS, and then easily bested them in the charge rolls, thus sending the Missippians Whipped backwards, while the 98th NY’s defensive fire was risibly ineffective, and they fled the field as the Virginians howled in with the rebel yell.    Moral of the story in these rules:  NEVER CHARGE UNSUPPORTED IF YOU CAN HELP IT.  TAKE THE TIME TO TEE UP YOU SUPPORTS BEFORE COMMITTING.

 An awkward silence as the 4th VA looks left and the 92nd NY looks right.

 Meanwhile on the rebel left, Garland personally joins the 38th VA, who, supported by the 24th VA (ignore the Texas flag in the photo) hurl themselves on the 104th PA, with BGen Naglee himself directing them.  Who will win?

 Even Luigi the Cat appears and watches this fight.   The result is shocking.   The green Pennsylvanians stand and force both regiments of Garland’s Virginians to retire!   Shockingly bad dice rolls by the rebels that the one dice Support re-roll could not substantially improve.

 On the Union left, another astonishing coup for the New York Light Artillery.  Having unlimbered, they do they bit to support the heroic 92nd NY, unleashing a round of canister and rolling a 12(!) on 2d6!  That’s five casualties for one of Rodes’ best regiments, the Elite 12th MS, and that’s a Serendipity roll, meaning that the regiment’s colonel is killed and the unit automatically Retires 18”.   

 Sadly though, the superior numbers of Hill’s Division make themselves felt.  Because a unit involved in a charge which fires defensively can neither move nor shoot during the rest of the turn, the uncommitted 2nd MS wheels and fires a deadly volley into the flank of the gallant 104th PA, sending them Whipped from the table, busting through the 11th ME behind them and disordering them.

 In the following turn, the 12th MS, supported by the 2nd FL,  charge the un-formed 11th ME and send them Whipped off the table as well.  Casey sees that enough is enough, and voluntarily withdraws the 100th NY and the NY Light Artillery.     The poor 92nd NY catches a heavy volley as they try to withdraw and are also sent Whipped off the table.

 Final Confederate positions.

 

CONCLUSIONS AND SCENARIO OBSERVATIONS

1) I continue to enjoy these rules.   As mentioned above, I was reminded that unsupported charges should be avoided, even if the differences in troop quality is stark.   A green unit can do significant damage with its defensive fire, generating a high hurdle in negative modifiers that one roll of the Charge Dice might not clear, which is when you you need a supporting unit, or preferably two, for those re-rolls.    Is a regimental-scale set of rules right for a battle like this, which could be fought at smaller scales at brigade (15mm) or even divisional (6mm) scale?  Depends on how much you like the actions of individual units.   I enjoy a regimental level battle narrative, and it allows me to become attached to a unit like the star of this game, the 1st NY Light Arty, which redeemed itself with new ammo and HAMMERED the rebs thereafter.

2) Staff Officers.   I only gave both sides two SOs, the rationale being that the Confederate army at Seven Pines was woefully bad at coordinating, and Hill’s division was separated by the terrible terrain, so Garland and Rodes are basically fighting their own battle.   Maybe when Hill arrives on the table in the second scenario, he might add a third SO.   The Union only get two because only two of Casey’s brigades are present (Wessell, apart from the 103rd PA, was off in the woods to the right) and in any case it was one of the weakest divisions in the Union Army, all green, and probably not an effective staff at this point in the war.   Two SOs for both sides seems about right.

3) Victory Conditions.   I should have been tracking the number of turns this battle took.  I suspect it was at least ten.   I think you want to give the Union an incentive to stand and fight, and so I would suggest giving the Union 1 VP a turn for every turn after the sixth (or perhaps 8th?) turn where there are still at least two formed Union regiments on the table.   That also gives the Confederate player an incentive to be aggressive and drive hard on the Union.  Casualties are also a factor, as in this game the Union lost 41 casualties while the Confederates lost 31.  However, all the Union units are Green whereas most of the Confederate units are Veteran and a few are Elite.  Thus, perhaps award the Union 1 VP for every 5 CSA casualties are the CSA 1 VP for every 10 CSA casualties?  Something like that.   Also maybe give the CSA .5 VP for every Union unit that is Dispersed (dissolves because of excess casualties) and the Union 1 VP for every CSA Veteran unit dispersed and 2 VP for every CSA Elite unit dispersed.

Based on these VP totals, I would say that based on the casualty totals and the time it took for the rebs to clear the table, the Union won this round of the battle.

4) Where Do We Go From Here?

The battle accounts agree that a significant number of Union troops piled up behind the redoubt and the twin houses as skulkers, and had to be rounded up and reorganized.  I would therefore think that any Union unit that exits the table Whipped in this scenario is not immediately available in the second scenario.   Perhaps a die roll every turn to see if it can be rallied, with whatever casualty levels it had when leaving the table, or even a bit worse.

The table for Scenario Two should have the Union fortifications (above) in the centre of the the table, with the twin houses just behind them.   The Confederates will enter from their table edge, with each CSA unit at the casualty levels it incurred in the first scenario.   From the very first turn, the Union artillery will be able to fire, as it is finally unmasked as the Union first line is pushed back.

Rodes and Garland’s brigades will need to assault and clear the Union positions, with the hope at some point (perhaps after six turns) that Rains’ brigade will complete is movement and flank the Yanks out of their positions (perhaps this would entail Hill sending his staff officers in search of Rains).   Also the CSA will have the benefit of two batteries of artillery (Bondourant’s and Carter’s).    

Eventually the third phase of the battle will be the action at Seven Pines, with elements of Couch’s (Keyes Corps) and Kearney’s (Heintzelman’s corps) divisions arriving to counterattack and throw back the rebs.


Unit Standing at the End of Scenario One showing casualties in brackets and W for Whipped Union unit:

Rodes:  6th AL (1), 12th AL (0), 5th NC (0), 4th VA (7), 12th MS (7)

Garland:  23rd NC (7), 2nd MS (3), 2nd FL (0), 38th VA (6), 24h VA (0)


Palmer: 98th NY (4), 92nd NY (7W)

Naglee: 104th PA (7W), 11th ME (7W), 100th NY (3)

Wessels: 103rd PA (10W)

1st NY Buy A (3)


Thanks very kindly if you read this far and if you have any thoughts on how this scenario might be improved, please do let me know.  I have some printed fortifications on order, and once they are received and painted, I will try the second scenario.    In the meantime, thanks for reading and blessings to your battles.   MP+


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Terrain Tuesday: Winter Terrain for My Canadian Pulp Project 3 and Done

Quick post to make it under the wire for Terrain Tuesday, and calling it a wrap on my Lemax Christmas village trees and 4Ground rustic cabin. 

The cabin has a wonderful little porch with removable roof, which is handy as there isn’t quite room to fit a 28mm figure on the porch otherwise, let alone to see it.  I haven’t painted the cabin and not sure if I will.   There are other more important projects queuing on the bench. 

A dangerous standoff!

I’m hoping to tell the next instalment in The Rockies Ablaze soon, and this cabin will feature prominently, in which case I will dress the set with some Christmas village glitter snow.

Next on the Terrain Bench are some 6mm TImecast buildings for my Napoleonics project, and hope to have them done soon.

Cheers and blessings to your world building!

MP

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Books On The Go: The Fighting Padre

I made the mistake of browsing the excellent Pen and Sword website recently and in due course three books arrived in the post (trans-Atlantic mail has improved remarkably since the start of Covid) including this collection of letters from a British infantry chaplain of the Great War, Pat Leonard.




 













Leonard was a young Anglican clergyman whose youth and vigorous physique (he was an accomplished boxer, hence his nickname “The Fighting Padre”) allowed him to thrive in the trenches when older clergymen quickly broke down under the physical demands of frontline service.    He was attached to a British Army infantry brigade, and later in the war transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, supporting a number of different squadrons and aerodromes and earning a respectable amount of flying time in the observer’s seat.

Chaplain memoirs and letters are a fairly niche subject.   For the clerical reader, it’s always interesting to see how frontline padres tried to support the men under their care, often travelling long distances between units to bury the dead, offer the sacraments, counsel and encourage.  For the general reader, they offer a fascinating look at daily life in a war zone, in and behind the front lines, and glimpses of the culture of the men they served.  Chaplains were almost all civilians before the war and thus lacked much military knowledge, but they were observant, intelligent and articulate, and so they offer a great “fish out of water” look at the war around them.

I wanted to read this especially because Leonard was friends with a chaplain hero of mine, Philip (Tubby) Clayton, who ran “TocH” or Talbot House, a soldier’s rest centre in Poperinghe, a town within the Ypres Salient.  Tubby’s picture is on the left of this blog’s header - his own memoir, “Tales of Talbot House”, is a brilliant book in is own right.  

I’ve just started and haven’t met Tubby or any aircraft, but have found Leonard an engaging and friendly guide to life in the trenches.

Cheers and blessings,

MP+

 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Friday Fantasy: GW Ringwraith on Fell Beast (or, Meanwhile, in Mordor)

As a rule I disapprove of super-monstrous units on the wargaming table.  My WW2 collection only has one 15mm and 1 20mm early-model Tiger tank, and you will search my collection in vain for a Maus, JSII, or King Tiger.   I confess I look askance at people who are all too ready to put such figures, or a French army consisting of just the Imperial Guard, on the table.  It’s just not right.   If you can’t eke out a win with PzIIIs, T34s or line infantry, then you aren’t really trying.   OK, I’ve confessed my prejudice, feel free to disagree.

However, if one is going to do the Lord of the Rings in a large way, then there are certain epic fights where you want a Nazgul lord on a horrid flappy mount, because if nothing else, you want to motivate your orc hordes to throw themselves onto the bright spears and swords of their noble foes.    When I found a Battle of the Pelennor Fields box set in my local games store at 50% off because, said the owner, no one wants this stuff anymore, I jumped at the opportunity, because it included a number of large models in plastic, including this guy.

I didn’t put a massive amount of work into the painting.  I started with an undercoat of Vallejo German Grey primer and then drybrushed with several lighter shades of grey craft store paint.  I picked out the veins in the wings with a medium grey.   The Ringwraith was black with successive shades of grey highlights on the folds of the robe, while his armour was Citadel Warplock Bronze, then a wash of Nuln Oil, then a dry brush of gunmetal.  I put the most work into the ringwraith’s sword.

 

I think most of my effort went into the detail on the base, to be honest.

This figure will mostly sit in my display cabinet, but if it ever makes it onto to the table, it would only be for a very large scale battle.   If using Dragon Rampant (my friend James and I really haven’t found a better set of rules for big fantasy battles), I would give him the Goader ability to make the two closest units move automatically, as well as make Good units within a certain radius (at least a foot, I would think) check for Fear unless an equivalent hero like Gandalf was on the table.   

Thanks for looking and blessings to your brushes!

MP+

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Thursday Napoleonics: Baccus 6mm Austrian Hussars and French Generals

Hello friends.

Solid progress on the Napoleonic front this week.  Two regiments of tiny Austrian hussars from Baccus (their code NAU08) were mustered into their Kaiser’s service.   While my painting style is somewhat generic in this scale, these are done to represent the No 8 (Wurmser) regiment in the green (left) and the No 11 (Szekler) regiment in the dark blue (right), though really, they’re just happy to portray any Austrian light cavalry as required.

Honestly I don’t know a lot about these Austrian regiments, but Haythornthwaite and Fosten, in their Osprey Book on the Austrian cavalry, note that the Szeklers were pretty tough customers who “enjoyed a reputation not only for elan but for an uncompromising attitude;  Marbot, for example, claimed with some disgust that the Szeklers were responsible for two attacks upon French flags of truce, assassinating the French plenipotentiaries at Rastatt in 1799, and cutting up the French delegation outside the gates of Vienna in 1809”.    Charming fellows.

 

Also finished this week is this pack of Baccus French generals (Baccus code NFR 11).  I’ve based single figures as brigade commanders, two figures as divisional and three as corps commanders, including bald Marshal MacDonald bottom right.

 

Finally, as today is the 200th anniversary of the death of l’Empereur, here is Napoleon and his glittering staff, just in case the Great Thief of Europe is ever needed on the tabletop.

 

 

Thanks for looking.  Blessings to your brushes and Vive l’Empereur!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Terrain Tuesday: Winter Terrain for My Canadian Pulp Project 2

It’s Terrain Tuesday and I’m doing fairly well in making this a regular theme.    Here are the trees from that pack of craft store Christmas village trees, all based.   I wasn’t happy with the amount of snow on them so I mixed equal parts white acrylic artist’s paint with water, applied liberally to the trees (THAT was a mess of epic proportions, I’m still finding white paint dots on my glasses) and then drenched the wet tree in Woodland Scenics white snow powder.    Once dry I spray the whole base with artists’ workable fixative to help set the snow in place. 

Still adding some winter tufts to the bases and then they’ll be done.

Also making progress on the Mad Trapper’s cabin, which is a 28mm 4Ground model, their Settler’s Log Timber Cabin 1.  I’ve purchased and build several 4Ground models and really like them, and this is no exception, very nice kit, though I did make a small mistake installing the fireplace insert.

 Some scatter terrain inside and outside (barrels, a wood stove, etc) would dress this up nicely, but it will do for now.    I may go hunting for twigs and build a woodpile, rather essential for the winter, I would think.  I should visit Annie’s Bad Squid store and see what she has in the way of scatter stuff.

Good progress made on this terrain project this week and should pronounce it finished by the next Terrain Tuesday.

Cheers and blessings,

MP+

Friday, April 30, 2021

Fantasy Friday: Landsknecht Otter

I painted this 28mm Oathsworn figure at the request of my son, who is an RPG guy and is into Burrows and Badgers.  It was a heck of a lot of fun to paint, beautiful sculpt.   Very tempted to order some for my self, but I really don't need another gaming/painting interest!

If you follow me on Twitter (@marshalluigi), you’ll know that I have a pretty good GIF game that often features cute otters.   This fellow is definitely not cute or cuddly.  I texted these photos to John in BC and he wrote back “Full of bravado, full of himself”.

Thanks for looking.   I have a figure lined up for next week’s Fantasy Friday but it’s certainly not as cute.

Cheers and blessings to your brushes.  A happy bank holiday to my UK and Irish readers.

MP+

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