Friday, September 22, 2017

A Basing Solution?

Prussian fusilier regiment Prinz Heinrich - IR35 using the proposed new basing method.

Recall that a couple of weeks ago I was pondering some solutions to my basing of SYW figures, with the aim of getting the figures closer together than I have been doing with my present collection. Currently, I use five stands measuring 40mm by 60mm with the flags on the middle stand. 

Some have criticized my basing for having the individual figures a little too far apart, rather than shoulder to shoulder...and this is OK because all feedback is good.

Part of the reason for my current system is to have some space on the edges of the stand so that it can be picked up with someone's fingers haphazzardly mashing the muskets and bayonets of my figures.

Here is a unit using my existing basing system of five 40mm by 60mm stands. Admittedly the figures are not exactly shoulder to shoulder, but I like them and I don't plan on rebasing my entire Prussian and Austrian armies,.

With that in mind, I experimented with a tighter appearance for the battalion, using two 40mm by 60mm stands and two 40mm by 80mm stands. The larger stands were put on the ends of the battalion line. These stands had 8 rank and file soldiers and then one drummer who was offset from the rest of the battalion. The 40mm by 60mm stands had 8 figures on one of them and on the command stand there were 6 figures. This was done to keep the size of the battalion down, because I was now increasing the battalion from 30 to 32 figures.

One of the issues with my suggested system of four stands 40mm by 80mm was that this placed the flags a little bit off center when all of the stands were drawn up in a line. So I pondered this for awhile and hit on the idea of going back to four 40mm by 60mm stands and then one smaller stand in the center that would hold the two flags, an officer and a drummer or NCO.

This picture compares the new proposed system with the old proposed system. Note the addition of the extrea base in the center to hold the two flags, keeping them in the center of the line.

So this is where I am today. One other note, I may increase the unit size to 34 figures so as to place one more soldier on each of the two end stands, filling up a hole created by offsetting the drummer out onto the flank.

What do you think, dear readers? I would like to hear your opinions before I start gluing figures to bases. I only want to do this basing one time. LOL.

Friday, September 15, 2017

De Cluttering the Closet O' Lead

The Dumpster: the contents of a 20 foot long dumpster after a week's worth of throwing things out.

With the Heiress off to college and having lots of time on my hands, I thought that now was a good time to start decluttering the house and throwing things away. So I hired a 20-foot long dumpster and parked in my driveway for a week and filled it with things in the garage and basement that were either never used or not currently needed. I used the one year rule: if it hadn't been used over the past year, then I would throw it away.

Once this part of the project was finished, it was on to decluttering the dreaded Closet O' Lead, which was a disasterous mess.

The "Before" picture. It's almost embarrasing to show this.
As you can see, the room was a complete mess and it was getting difficult to find things. The righthand side was full of wargame armies in the long plastic bins, and lots of unpainted figures that I've collected over the past dozen years, and never used.

The lefthand side shelves hold my Minden and Fife & Drum inventory. The pile of bags on the floor are from a new shipment of castings from Griffin Moulds that need to be put away. The grey double box thingy is my indoor paint spraying booth (note the fan on the left side). I only use this on days that are too humid, so as not to get Fuzzy Primed Figures. The back table, now cleared, held my workbench, which was never used because it was too small and I didn't like working in a cave.

My plan was to put a new shipping and packing table inside the Closet O' Lead so that I could be closer to the figure inventory of Minden and Fife & Drum figures. I did a little measuring and found that I could put the 6-foot packing table in the room while still having space for the four other shelves that hold my painted figures and unpainted castings for project.

The problem is that one can't move the shelves with all of that lead weight, so I had to remove EVERYTHING from all four shelves. That was an exhausting chore in and of itself. I was reluctant to do it, but once I pitched into the work, it went fairly fast.

First I had to remove all of the boxes of figures from each shelf so that I could move them around.

Next, I started the assembly of the work table. I bought the 6-foot table from ULine and they delivered it this morning. I had ordered the attractive maple top and this weighed a ton. I had to put it on a hand cart and carry it around to the front door. At this point, it was a two-person job and so Mrs. Fritz helped me to pick of the table and nudge it through the front door and into the hallway. We slid the table on a rug, which was Mrs. Fritz's idea, and then let gravity do the work of taking the table top down to the basement.

The assembly of the legs was easy enough, but attaching the table top was a monster of a job. I had to turn the surfac upside down and then screw 16 wood screws into pre-drilled holes in the underside. I started with a large screw driver, but eventually each screw needed a wrench to finish the job. This was very tedious and difficult. However, after about four screws, I had the method down and the job became easier.

I bought a new shipping/packing table from ULine and began to assemble it. The maple top weighed a ton and nearly did me in trying to move it from the driveway to the basement.

With the table all assembled and upside down, I somehow had to turn it rightside up and shove it into its final place. Recall that the table top weighs a ton, add to that the weight of the legs and supports, and you can see that righting the work bench would require Olympic Weight Lifting prowess. I was able to turn the table onto its side, don't know where I got the strength for that, and then placed some shims (in this case, a couple of hammers) under the table edge. This gave me some leverage to lift the table onto its feet. Again, I don't know how I found the strength to do it, but I did.

Now it was just a matter of sliding the table into its place. I used the cardboard sheet that the table top was shipped in as a means of sliding the table around the floor. Take a look at the picture below - can you spot the problem?

The shipping table is now assembled an in place. Can you spot the problem with this picture?

Yep, the backside of the table was facing out and so I had to turn it around 180-degrees, a chore, but not too difficult.

I did a little more fine tuning position of the figure shelves and then began refilling the shelves with all of my figures.

Finally, everything was finished and I ended up with a very clean and useful storage and packing room in the Closet O' Lead. It was hard work, but well worth the effort. The work bench is really great because I can now store my shipping supplies underneath the table on a shelf. And because it is higher, I no longer have to bend over to pack figures or bag sub-component parts into finished goods bags.

The Closet O' Lead is now cleaned up and reorganized and I now have a nifty packing table right next to all of my figure inventory. The higher table (30-inches) is much easier to work on because I don't have to bend over to pack the figures.
Then to top things off, I place a framed poster of the uniforms of the Prussian army, post Seven Years War, atop the bench so as to fill up the cold looking concrete wall with something more cheerful and colorful.

After taking a couple hours of well deserved rest, I started clearing off the old packing table, outside of the Closet O' Lead, so that I could move my finished goods bagged inventory closer to the packing table. Now I can pick an order and carry it a few steps to the packing table and get the order packed and ready to ship. I feel sort of professional now.

Finished goods inventory bins.
But there is still more work to be done.

My Game Room
Some of the clutter in the game room is stuff that I removed from the Closet O' Lead and so it needs to be stored away in the garage, probably, now that I have lots of space in the reorganized garage. There is still a lot of clutter underneath the tables that I would like to deal with, but that is a job for later. I deserve the rest, I think. The tables have a game set up for Reichenbach, which I still need to play.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Sands of the Sudan

A quiet and isolated desert oasis, teaming with fanatical Dervish warriors of the Mahdi. (click on all pictures to enlarge the view)

This past weekend Keith L. played host to our group so that we could fight the Dervish in the Sudan once again. Keith is the owner of Peter Gilder's Sudan collection that was featured in Wargames World Issues 1 to 4 in 1989. Given the provenance of the collection, it is a real treat to play the Sudan at Keith's house (although some would say that we really attend so that we can eat the sumptuous lunch that is always served by Donna, Keith's better half.

The gamers all gathered in the basement to take in the vastness of the game tables, which seemed to stretch on endlessly, much like the Sudan. Then, from out of nowhere, loomed our host to greet us. We were caught off guard to find that our game judge was wearing the Dervish Jibbah and some wondered if their dice would have favorable rolls throughout the game.

Our host, Keith L., attired in period Jibbah of the Dervish.

We were using The Sands of the Sudan rules which are basically the Peter Gilder rules that he used at the Wargame Holiday Center. The Dervish forces are usually programmed by card draw and dice throws, and commanded by the game judge, so all players are on the home team running brigades of British and Sudanese/Egyptian troops.

Fritz Pasha going Old School by climbing up on the huge table in order to push his troops forward (short legs, wide table).

One of the advantages of staging a game at Keith's house is that he has a HUGE basement that is large enough to accomodate three 6ft wide by 26ft long game table. The aisles between the tables are virtual and do not exist. One simply hops one's troops from one table to the next.

The vast terrain of the Sudan is remarkably recreated across an endless vista over three game tables, each 6ft wide by 26ft long.

Four brigades of British deploy across a 26 foot long table.

The action commenced promptly at 9:30 AM with four British brigades stepping off smartly from the baseline of the lefthand table. Their objective was to attack the village of El Teb, an important gathering point for the Dervish armies. The left flank cavalry force was commanded by Protz Pasha, who was ordered to skirt around the jebel in front of El Teb and make an dash for the oasis two tables away.

Chuck the Lucky was in the left center and his orders were to follow Protz Pasha around the jebel with his infantry brigade. General Earle commanded a British brigade in the center and his orders were to demonstrate in front the jebel and keep the Dervish attention focused on him. And finally, my alter ego in the Sudan, Colonel Archibald Sinclair, commanded a Brigade of Highlanders and Sudanese troops with orders to skirt the right flank of the jebel and lead the dash into El Teb. A brigade of British Hussars and Indian Guides cavalry were also attached to Sinclair's task force.

The Dervish had built fortifications on a jebel that blocked access to the village of El Teb.

Almost immediately, Dervish started popping up seemingly out of the ground and attacking the Imperials. Protz Pasha seemed to attract the largest group of hostiles (the poor chap) on Turn One and would continue to fight them off for the whole game. A hoard of mounted Dervish nearly overwhelmed Protz Pasha's Camel Corps, but while severely cut up, they survived due to the timely intervention of the Bengal Lancers.

Peter Gilder's Dervish horsemen bear down on the unfortunate Protz Pasha.

Meanwhile, Chuck the Lucky did not live up to his nickname today as he had to face down this hoard of Dervish fanatics.

Colonel Sinclair was having some early success, having sent out his hussars ahead of the brigade in order to trip any ambushes that were hidding in the rugged Sudan terrain. The Highlanders brushed off a small group of Dervish horsemen and bull dogged forward onto the second/middle table. At that point, the sands seemed to erupt with thousands of screaming Dervish intent on wiping out the English dogs. At one point, Sinclair's aide de camp, Cavendish, looked at the looming hoard of warriors and declared to nobody in particular, "we are doomed".

Sinclair's Highland Brigade sees off the charge of the Dervish camelry.
The Highlanders calmly held their ground and tumbled the Dervish back to where they came with the loss of only three of the Good Guys. Said Cavandish, "I knew that we would see them off!"

Osman Benson can't believe that his war band was repelled by the Highlanders, so time to check out the rules just to be sure.

There seemed to be an endless supply of Dervish war bands everywhere we looked.
I don't know what was happening in other parts of the table, because I had my hands full and did not have the time to wander off to the other end of the table. The Highland Brigade was about to traverse the middle table to the third table, when the Dervish let it be known that they had had enough for the day.

The Prime Minister shall be pleased.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Battle of Reichenbach - August 16, 1762

Prussian defense of the Fischer-Berg at the Battle of Reichenbach.
This afternoon I cleared my table of Fontenoy terrain and set up the terrain for Reichenbach in 1762. The battle was a part of the Prussian seige of Schweidnitz. 

Game Table Logistics
I wanted to fit everything on to 6x10 feet table, but decided that I needed more depth and thus added the side tables for the game, giving me an extra 2 feet of depth on each side of the table. The map below shows the layout of my war game table, absent the two side table which will run parallel to the horizontal edges of the table. The area of the map where you see woods along the horizontal axis of the table represents one of the side tables. The area of deployment for Lacy's and Brentano's corps represent the side table along the lower horizontal axis.

Map showing the proposed Austrian attack on the Prussian army deployed on the three bergs  (light brown shapes). Click to enlarge the map.

For the purposes of my scenario, I will not be using the Austrian forces of Brentano and Lacy because they never launched their attack on the Prussian position. There was, however, a rather large cavalry action on the open plain to the right of the Prussian position. I wanted to recreate this part of the fight in my scenario so there is an extensive flat part of my game table that will accomodate the cavalry fight simultaneously with the infantry action on the Prussian left.

If you prefer to keep the game on one single table or, more likely, you do not have the space in your gaming room to accomodate side tables, then you could "shift the terrain" downwards such that the Fischer-Berg is nearly at the lower table edge and shift the wooded area where Beck was making his march behind the Prussian position onto the main table. In this manner, the bulk of your fighting will represent the point in time where Beck's troops emerged from the woods and were counter-attacked by the Prussians in the Schrober-Grund. I might try this after fighting the game as I have initially set up the tables.

Historical Background

In August of 1762, the Prussians had the important Silesian fortress town of Schweidnitz under seige and the Austrian commander, Marshal Leopold von Daun, endeavored to come to the aid of the garrison and lift the seige. If the Austrians could hold onto Schweidnitz it would be an important bargaining chip in the inevitable negotiations to end the war. Both sides understood the liklihood of the war winding down within the year, so the stakes were high at Schweidnitz.

Daun's strategy was to make a wide sweeping move around the Prussian army and come into Schweidnitz from the east, via the broad Richenbach plain. Frederick, anticipating this possiblity, positioned a blocking corps of 9,000 troops under the command of the Duke of Bevern in the wooded hills overlooking Reichenbach. The map below shows the relative position of Bevern's army in relation to the town of Reichenbach as well as some of the key troop movements prior to the firing of the guns.

Annotated version of Christopher Duffy's map of Reichenbach, from his book, "By Force of Arms" pages 364-365.

Daun proposed to attack Bevern from multiple directions, a tactic that had become fairly standard in his bag of tricks. The Austrian attacking force was thus divided into three columns: Beck (14 btns, 5 cavalry regiments) on the right, FML Brentano (8 btns, 4 cavalry regiments) on the left, and Count Lacy in the center. The plan called for Lacy to demonstrate in the center while Bevern's position was attacked on both flanks by Beck (on the Austrian right/Prussian left) and Brentano (on the Austrian left/Prussian right). O'Donnell's cavalry brigade was detached from Brentano's and Lacy's corps as the Austrians anticipated a cavalry action with their Prussian counterparts.

The War Game Scenario

The scenario involves an Austrian Corps commanded by Beck moving through the woods around the Prussian left flank and then attacking Bevern's army in the rear while Brentano's Corps attacked from the front; or typical Austrian tactics of attacking a position from multiple directions at the same time.

War game table top for the Battle of Reichenbach. Annotations indicate the key terrain features of the battlefield.

Considering that neither Lacy nor Brentano were involved in the attack on Bevern's corps (more about that shortly), we are only going to game the part of the battle involving Beck's corps.

Prussian Forces - Bevern
Bevern had 11 battalions of infantry, including 2 of grenadiers, and three dragoon regiments and one hussar regiment. For the war game, Bevern's army will consist of 7 battalions of infantry, 3 dragoon regiments, and 1 hussar regiment. There are also two 12-pound cannon and two 3-pound cannon.

Prussian War Game Forces

Girls-Berg Defenders:
 2 battalions of fusiliers

Fischer-Berg Defenders:
 1 battalion of musketeers
 2 12-pounder cannon

The gap between the Fischer-Berg and the Spittel-Berg:
 2 battalions of musketeers
 1 3-pounder cannon

Spittel-Berg Defenders:
  2 battalions of grenadiers

Lentulus' Cavalry Brigade on the Left Flank:
  3 regiments of dragoons
  1 regiment of hussars

There is a possiblity of Prussian cavalry reinforcements later in the game.

Austrian Forces - Beck
Beck divided his corps into three columns. The right most column was to swing around the Prussian left flank and fall on the rear of Bevern's position. For this task he had 14 battalions of infantry, 18 grenadier companies (representing approximately 2 battalions), 5 cavalry regiments, and 1 hussar regiment. Beck further divided this column into two groups, with a force of 3 Croat battalions and one grenadier battalion attacking a piece of high ground known as the Girls-Berg. The remaining 11 battalions were to march through the woods beyond the Girls-Berg and emerge from the woods in the rear of the Prussian army.

The Austrian war game commands are as follows:

Beck's main column:
  2 battalions of regular infantry
  1 battalion of elite grenadiers
  2 battalions of Croat light infantry
  1 3-pounder cannon

Beck's second column attacking the Girls-Berg:
  1 battalion of elite grenadiers
  1 battalion of Croat light infantry
  1 3-pounder cannon

Beck's lefthand column (optional as it was unengaged in the battle)
  2 battalions of regulars - Simbschen's brigade
  2 regiments of dragoons - St. Ignon's cavalry brigade

O'Donnell's Cavalry of the left flank:
  2 cuirassier regiments
  1 dragoon regiment

Austrian tactical plan to attack
Beck's column marching through the woods during their flanking movement.

General Beck watches as the tail end of the column passes in front of him. Note the Croats who are flankers protecting the march column.

The third section of Beck's corps was on his left and provided a screen for the flanking movement of the other two columns. The left column consisted of three regiments of cavalry commanded by GFWM St. Ignon (1 cuirassier and 2 dragoon regiments) and three regiments of infantry commanded by GFWM Simbschen. The left column was not engaged in the battle, so it could be left out of the war game scenario entirely.

The Grand Cavalry Battle
Another part of the battle was one of the largest cavalry battles of the SYW in the open plain on the Prussian right flank. Austrian and Prussian cavalry tumbled back and forth until finally Frederick, realizing that a major attack is hitting Bevern, sends cavalry and infantry reinforcements that arrive in the nick of time to win the cavalry battle. You may have seen the painting of Frederick riding to the rescue surrounded by Hussars. It's this battle.

Frederick II leading his cavalry at Reichenbach

Brentano's attack never happened because of the cavalry action that took place on his left flank, so Beck was left to his own devices. Both cavalry brigades start the day with three regiments of horse. The Austrians have three regiments of cuirassiers and the Prussians start with three regiments of dragoons. The Prussian cavalry contingent builds up throughout the day so more units, Prussian cuirassiers and hussars, and even Bosniaken can be added to the order of battle.

The Battle of Reichenbach will be fought as another one of my solo games, using my own Der Alter Fritz rules, which you can download for free from the Fife & Drum Miniatures web site Free Rules

I hope to refight the battle over this coming weekend and post a lot of pictures on this blog.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Starting a New Minden French Army

Regiment Orleans - click to enlarge the picture.

I have decided that it is time for me to begin building French and British/Hanoverian armies with the Minden Miniatures range of figures. I have enough Austrians and Prussians to suit most of my needs so I need a new project and the SYW in Western Germany is it.

For my French army, I think that I will be able to use all of the RSM French cavalry that is already in my collection and concentrate my build on the infantry and artillery, using Minden French figures and equipment.

I thought that I would treat myself to some special figures, so I commissioned Leuthen Studios to paint the two battalions, Orleans and Diesbach, that you see on this page. The German regiment Royal Pologne will be the next addition to my French army.

Independently of this, I plan on painting the Grenadiers de France and a couple white-coated regiments so that I ultimately have 8 battalions organized into brigades of four battalions.

I had the Orleans flags from GMB Designs on hand so I was able to flag that regiment. I don't have the Diesbach Swiss flag so that unit will have to wait for its flags and basing. I want to attach the Diesbach flags to the poles before I glue the figures onto the base and start terraining it with Spackle compound. Otherwise it would be very difficult to attach the flag into a confined space without being able to shift and move the standard bearer.

Swiss Regiment Diesbach
My French and British battalions will use the 32-figure, closely spaced, basing system from the start so I will not have to change the basing in the future. Check the blog link  Here for a description of the basing system that I will be using.