Thursday, 17 May 2012

What I love about these blogs

I am just so impressed with this blogging business and with all of you 'blogger friends'.

I think it is fantastic that we have a medium that allows like-minded people who share a common interest, nay passion, across the world to easily share information, ideas, photos and to 'discuss' topics of interest. Like the one below: "An attack of Zaporozhian Cossacks in the steppe" by Franz Roubaud, which is from Wikimedia Commons. Isn't it a great, evocative painting?

I also appreciate the civilised discussion that we have, where alternate views and ideas are put in a reasonable and polite manner. Of course, this is nothing startling as it is just how mature adults conduct themselves, yet it is not the norm in e-land.

We could teach other, less civil 'discussion' groups a thing or two couldn't we?

Thanks all. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Another view of Shako

You have read a lot of positive comments from me/us about Shako. In fact Julian was only musing on the weekend as to whether we are in a “Shako bubble” and that it would be good to hear from other wargamers who have used them, especially if they did not like them, to get their feedback.

Well, Vive l'Empereur has come through and has posted a detailed, critical review of the Shako II rules from his experience/perspective. It is great to read his comments. I do have a few responses from my/our opinion and experiences, of course! I do not intend this to be any kind of "battle of the blogs" and had originally tried to publish my comments on Vive l'Empereur's blog. Unfortunately, it did not go as I have come up against the character limit!

So, I am putting them here, as an extension of the discussion.

Ouch! Comparing Shako with DBA. That’s a set that I like a lot being compared with a set at the other end of the spectrum IMHO. I think perhaps we are at a slight advantage as we came to Shako II after using Shako. Shako II added some good ideas and amendments, but also stuffed up in many areas and added a ‘fast play’ feel. We suspect that Arty Conliffe was little involved, but could be wrong. In Shako ANF have taken the approach of using Shako as the basis, adding ‘good bits’ from Shako II, plus our own gems(!!).

To me, Shako are like an “Empire-successor” set; one can see the influence of Empire in several aspects. Commencing a turn with artillery fire is one of these. This makes sense for bombardment. Of course, Shako includes all artillery fire here, but it still seems to work well. The defense of battery fire is covered in the mêlée factors; a stylised approach, but not one that has troubled us.

We have not had a problem with slow movement rate in our battles, some of which (e.g. Eylau and Fuentes de Oñoro) have involved significant movements of troops across the battlefield. The exception to this was when we realised in our Eylau game that l’Estocq would not be able to intervene as he had historically if we had him enter towards the north-east end of the table. Our solution was to have him come on more towards the south-east end. We have considered introducing a ‘march move’, but we reckon that is fraught with problems of troops suddenly ‘appearing’ at another part of the table, so we have dismissed the idea (at least for now).

Personally I like the restriction of infantry changes of face to wheeling. This restricts gamesmanship by wargamers. I have been in too many games, especially in the Empire days, where a unit did an echelon move, wheeled, moved by echelon again and then was on the flank of defenders that had sat and watched it all happen! Besides this, my reading of accounts of Napoleonic battles over 30 year suggests that they did attack more or less straight forward.

I really like the way skirmishers are handled in Shako. They allow for a few ‘pixie tricks’ without being too ridiculous. It is stylised, but less so than merely having a skirmish factor. Shako II reduced the no. of hits that a skirmish base could absorb to one (it was originally three), so that was a really good change!

Fire zone from Shako. I had not really realised that we don't use this by the book!
Vive l'Empereur's comments about infantry fire being restricted to straight ahead really got me thinking, as we have not noticed it as a problem! I think it is a combination of the fact that straight-ahead fire is the most appropriate in many/most cases, because a unit has friends on the flanks and foes more or less in front. We have not noticed it under other circumstances, as we use a volley zone of up to 45º to a flank, while keeping it as a rectangle of unit frontage X range. We just seem to have adopted this change without realising that we had.

I reckon Shako handles towns and fortifications well. These are difficult nuts to crack, which is entirely appropriate--think Borodino, Albuera, Fuentes de Oñoro, Waterloo, Aspern-Essling to name a few.

I think that perhaps Vive l'Empereur may have mis-read a couple of aspects.
• Artillery bouncethrough is modified for reverse slope (-1). This is a significant modifier when the chance to hit is generally 1 in 6 (a ‘6’) or 2 in 6 (a ‘5’ or ‘6’).
• There are options to reduce or remove bouncethrough due to mud, rough terrain and woods that are provided under the terrain rules.

In the end rules are “horses for courses”, with the ‘courses’ being a combination of the scale of game (unit size, figure size, table size, size of game, duration of time to play) and personal preference for a style of rules. For our ‘course’ Shako (morphed into our Shako ANF) is the best we have found, by a long way.

I had thought that Grande Armée were too stylised for us, but I reckon we must give them a go, at least, based on Vive l'Empereur's comments to my original comment under his post on  New Spanish Unit: Estremadura Regiment and his further comments in his review of Shako II.

So, Vive l'Empereur, thanks again for posting this review of Shako II.

How about others of you? What are your preferred rules for Napoleonics? What is it about a particular set of rules that makes them the 'horse' to suit your 'course'? I know that Lee is looking closely and seriously at the best set of rules and overall game system to use with his 6 mm figures. Grande Armée has been suggested to him too. What about others out there?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Pont du Bois

Capture that bridge!
This game was the battle that we used in our nostalgic re-test of the Bruce Quarrie rules. Unlike our usual historically-based scenarios, 'Pont du Bois' is a fictitious battle that has been Julian's 'standard' play-test scenario for many years. As the name implies, the game involves a bridge (over a river that divides the battlefield) with nearby woods on either side (Photo 1).
Photo 1: View of the battlefield showing central river and the crucial bridge. The Prussians were allowed an extra move initially to ensure the distances were equal.
The game began with the race for the bridge, which the Prussians 'won' by a slim margin, placing hussars to cover the road, sheltered by the farmhouse and with infantry able to provide fire down the road from the bridge (Photo 2). In an attempt to prevent them from establishing their defensive line in depth, the French immediately sent their chasseurs à cheval in a desperate charge over the bridge (Photo 3). The chasseurs were met with a devastating volley and then charged in the flank by the Prussian hussars and sent back reeling from whence they came (Photo 4).
Photo 2: Prussians form a position in defence of the bridge
Photo 3: French chasseurs à cheval charge across the bridge...
Photo 4: ... only to be met by an infantry volley and flank charge.
The French had brought their infantry in support of the chasseurs and these now formed up to attack across the bridge and to hopefully succeed where the cavalry had failed (Photo 5). The légère lead the charge, but suffered the same fate as the cavalry and were forced to retreat (Photo 6). These were followed by the lead battalion of line infantry, which reached the end of the bridge (Photo 7).
Photo 5: View of the French infantry attack lead by the légère...

Photo 6:...which went the way of the chasseurs

Photo 7: High point of the French attack as the line infantry reach the far end of the bridge
After those failed attempts and some ineffectual firing across the river, the French called off the attack. That, combined with our fatigue from struggling with the rules, lead to the end of the game, which was deemed a Prussian victory.
We decided that we had moved on from the old Quarrie rules and they were best left as a fond memory of how we began in the hobby all those years ago. We also concluded that Julian was “evil” for having devised such a horrible scenario!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Action at the River Côa, 24th July 2010—Version 2

What a difference a set of rules can make to the experience of a game!
We first played this scenario using a set of rules called Grand Battery. This lead to a game, that, while a bit of fun in itself, did not bear any resemblance to what we consider to be a representation of a Napoleonic battle; based on our collective 100+ years in the hobby!
For our second attempt at this game we used the Shako II rules, with its growing list of ANF amendments. Not only did it have more of the "feel" of a Napoleonic wargame, it was a more closely-fought and engaging contest and played out similarly to the real thing—in so many ways.
The situation, battlefield and armies are provided in the first report of this action on our blog, but the map has been reproduced below.
Figure 1: Map of the battlefield used in the game. The squares are 300 x 300 mm2
Turn 1
Refreshingly, the game was instantly more sensible, with the British piquets forced back by the advance of Lamotte's cavalry.
Photo 1: Having pushed aside the piquets, VI Corps advances on the Light Division
Turn 2
By the second turn the French cavalry had reached their initial objective of the Alvercas Stream, where they awaited new orders.
Photo 2: Lamotte and Gardanne’s cavalry at the Alvercas Stream
Turn 3
Both commanders issued new orders. Craufurd began his withdrawal with Barclay's brigade ordered over the river first, followed by Anson's cavalry.
Ney ordered a full attack. His orders were slow in being dispatched so that, while Simon and Lamotte received theirs, the aide sent to Gardanne was slow in reaching him and the one sent to Ferey was killed by a stray bullet!
Beckwith's infantry formed square in readiness for the French attack.
Photo 3: Beckwith’s troops form square to cover the retirement of the remainder of the Light Division. Lamotte’s cavalry approach in the foreground, while Almeida with its garrison can be seen in the background
Turn 4
Lamotte's chasseurs charged the 43rd Foot in square, breaking in the process. The 3rd Hussars in turn charged Beckwith's caçadores, also in square, and they too broke. Not surprisingly, this resulted in Lamotte's brigade being demoralised.
Photo 4: Lamotte’s light cavalry try in vain to break the squares of Beckwith’s infantry
Photo 5: Another view of the combat, showing Anson’s cavalry and Barclay’s infantry retiring to the bridge in the foreground and Gardanne’s dragoons approaching in support in the background
Turn 5
Gardanne sent his 15th Dragoons against the square of the 95th rifles. They were worsted in the encounter, but not broken, rallying behind the remainder of the brigade.
Photo 5: Gardanne sends the 15th Dragoons to charge the square of the 95th rifles with it’s flanks hinged between Almeida and the mill
Turn 6
Lamotte's horse battery was destroyed by the combined fire from the Portuguese heavy battery in Almeida and Ross' RHA. The French batteries in turn fired on Beckwith's squares and inflicted heavy casualties.
Undeterred by the experience of the 15th, Gardanne sent the 25th Dragoons against the square of 95th Rifles, which had been weakened and disordered by the artillery fire. This time the punt paid off and the cavalrymen were successful!
Photo 6: VI Corps artillery fires at the squares of Beckwith’s brigade in the distance. Simon’s 2nd Brigade can be seen advancing in support in the foreground

Photo 7: In a lucky blow, the 25th Dragoons charge and break the square of the 95th Rifles
Turn 7
Leading the advance of the French infantry, the Chasseurs du siege of the advance guard took heavy losses from combined fire from Portuguese heavy battery and Ross' RHA. In contrast, the French artillery failed to damage Beckwith's remaining squares (caçadores and 43rd Foot). However, Beckwith's caçadores took casualties from skirmisher fire, which was sufficient to break the unit. Seeing their opportunity, the Chasseurs du siege charged Ross' battery and broke it.
Miraculously, Beckwith's brigade passed its 'divisional' morale. So the 43rd fought on.
Photo 8: Covered by Beckwith’s rearguard, Barclay’s brigade retires over the famous bridge, with Anson’s cavalry following
Turn 8 and 9
The square of the 43rd Light Infantry was broken by a charge of the Chasseurs du siege and retreated to the Côa. Anson's 16th Light Dragoons were forced back by a charge of the 15th Dragoons, but rallied in front of the Côa.
The remainder of the Light Division continued its retirement to the bridge over the Côa. The French advancing on their heels.
Photo 9: Having dispensed with Ross’ battery RHA, the chasseurs du siege followed up and broke the square of the 43rd (centre). Ferey’s brigade is advancing in strength in the foreground.

Photo 10: Barclay’s brigade have nearly cleared the bridge and Anson’s 1st KGL Hussars prepare to follow

Photo 11: ‘Under the shadow of Almeida’: 25th Dragoons advance in support of the infantry
Turn 10
While the Portuguese heavy battery in Almeida continued to inflict casualties on the advancing French infantry, the French 25th Dragoons charged and broke the 16th Light Dragoons. Beckwith successfully rallied the 43rd Foot which took up a position on MacLeod's knoll.

Photo 12 and 13: French 25th Dragoons charged and broke 16th Light Dragoons, while the advancing French infantry suffered from the fire of the Portuguese heavy gun in Almeida (at left)

Photo 14: Pleasing progress: Maréchal Ney and his staff watch, contented as his troops close on the retiring British
Turn 11 & 12
The fire from the Portuguese heavy battery continued, this time firing down the flank of the French columns, inflicting heavy casualties. The 15th Dragoons charged the 43rd Foot on MacLeod's knoll, but were beaten back, causing Gardanne's brigade to retreat.
Ferey's foot artillery then fired at the 43rd, causing sufficient casualties to break the unit. Beckwith's entire brigade had now ceased to exist as an effective fighting force.
As French troops began to move over bridge, lead by skirmishers, Barclay's brigade formed a defensive line to contest the crossing.
Photo 15: While the Almeida garrison looks on, the French 15th Dragoons launch their unsuccessful charge on the 43rd light infantry. Note French skirmishers crossing the bridge over the Côa

Photo 16: Barclay’s brigade, supported by the 1st KGL Hussars prepare to defend the bridge
Turn 13
The Portuguese battery changed targets and fired at Ferey's foot guns, but for once failed to inflict any damage. 
Defending the bridge, the 52nd Foot fired a volley and dispersed Ferey's skirmishers.
Turn 14
Learning from the folly of their change of target, the Portuguese heavy guns returned to firing on Ferey's infantry, inflicting further casualties on them!
Barclay's 52nd Foot successfully defended the bridge against the attack of the first unit of Ferey's brigade, the 4/66e lignewho also lost a staff officer killed by their devastating volley.
Turn 15
The penultimate turn of the game was a dramatic one.
The 52nd suffered losses from artillery and delivered an ineffective volley against the attacking 5/66e ligne, so were pushed back in mêlée. While the 52nd rallied and formed a new line further down road, this opened up the bridge to a French crossing. The French were buoyed further as Gardanne's brigade of dragoons rallied.

Photo 17 and 18: Critical turning point? Suffering from artillery fire, the 52nd Light Infantry are charged and pushed back by the 5/66e ligne
Turn 16
The 5/66e and 6/66e ligne lead the advance of Ferey's brigade over the bridge. Timing it perfectly, Craufurd sent the 1st KGL hussars against the lead French unit, the 5/66e ligne. The infantry did not have time to form square and were broken. Building on this initial success, the KGL Hussars followed up and charged the next French unit, the 6/66e ligne, which also failed to form square and was in turn broken. These losses were sufficient to cause Ferey's brigade to break.
At this point Ney called off the attack.
Photo 18: While Craufurd looks on, the 1st KGL Hussars prepare to launch the charge that he had put them in place to deliver

Photo 19: Saving the day: the 1st KGL Hussars break the 5/66e ligne. They went on to also break the 6/66e ligne, which broke Ferey's brigade and saved the day for the Light Division
The battle was a draw by the scenario victory conditions. The Light Division had escaped by a whisker. The sacrifice of Beckwith’s brigade being the price paid.
The River Côa makes for an interesting and challenging game, which we highly recommend. Please feel free to utilise our scenario for this action. We think it is a particularly good game to use as a test for a new set of rules.

Bicentennial Blog

We have a 'community' blog, Wargaming Waterloo 2015, with links to the activities of various wargamers and wargames groups related to the "bicentennial years" of the Napoleonic Wars, culminating with Waterloo in 2015.

See the recent posts relating to the Peninsula 1812 and preparations for re-fights of Borodino.

If you have a post that could be referred to on this blog, please leave a comment or a contact us directly.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Wargaming Borodino 2012 (2)

Russian Production Line— “this fella paints well”
Most of the figures in the photographs featured on this blog were painted by Mark. This is entirely the case with the Russians.

On the weekend I visited his ‘workshop’ and took some photos of his “production line” of, mainly, Russian units in readiness for our big game in September.
Despite my average photography, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that “this fella paints well”!
Stage 1: undercoat and base coat (Strelets grenadiers and Zvezda cuirassiers)

Another view of stage 1

Stage 2: fully painted, awaiting touch-up (Hät grenadiers)

Stage 2: Zvezda cuirassiers and Hät grenadiers, plus an Italeri casualty as a marker

Stage 3: completed, ready for flocking (Hä Cossacks and grenadiers, plus another Italeri casualty)

Stage 3: showing the flag (hand-painted)

Stage 4: Cossacks ready for action!

Stage 4: close-up of standard-bearer, Platov and Uvarov

Yep, that is hand-painted too!

Stage 4: Russian hussars (Zvezda figures)

Stage 4: Russian cuirassiers (Zvezda), hussars (Strelets and Zvezda) and a few grenadiers, plus a unit of Bavarian chevau-légers (Hät)

Stage 4: Another view, showing the grenadier flag.

Stage 4: Bavarians and Württembergers (all Hät)

Stage 4: another view, showing more of the Württembergers

Stage 4: once again; note commander is a converted Hät Russian dragoon

Stage 4: Württemberg horse artillery limber (Hät French limber and Russian dragoon)