Friday, August 31, 2007

Prussian Field Forge & Other Finds

Prussian Field Forge (#207/PR5) from Berlin Zinnfiguren

Der Alte Fritz loves to go shopping, and the other night he was searching the web site of the Berlin Zinnfiguren store and found a treasure trove of 30mm sized artillery pieces, limbers, pontoon and supply wagons, and this marvelous field forge for the Prussian army of the Seven Years War. I have seen pictures of these in some of my reference books, but had never seen one modelled. This little piece of art is a 30mm scale model that the store sells under the brand name Metallmodell and costs Euro 34.00 each. While that is not exactly cheap these days (approximately $46.30 at today's exchange rate of EUR1.00 = $1.36), where else is one going to find such a model? Der Alte Fritz saw it and knew immediately that he had to have one in his army. So faster than you can say "invade Saxony", he bought a field forge, two pontoon wagons and an assortment of cannon and limbers for his Prussian forces.

Prussian Pontonwagen (#207/PR6) from Berlin Zinnfiguren

The above picture depicts the pontoon wagon, circa 1760, that would have been used by the Prussian Pontonier-Corps for river crossings. These cost Euro 30.80 or approximately $42.00. Der Alte Fritz now has a pair of them in his army that will come in handy for some of the smaller river crossing scenarios depicted in the Charles S. Grant book on wargame scenarios. I believe that at least one of these scenarios has been detailed in one of Mr. Grant's Table Top Teasers that he has written for Battlegames magazine. By the way, if you haven't seen or read a copy of Battlegames, then you owe it to yourself to buy a copy and see for yourself what the good buzz is all about. Der Alte Fritz has been known to frequent the magazine from time to time and gives it his highest recommendation. Check the links section on the left hand side of this page for a direct link to Battlegames.

The Prussian bridging train was organizationally a part of the artillery corps and marched and trained with the heavy field batteries. The wartime establishment was only 53 people, giving us some indication of the lack of importance that Frederick may have given this unit. The pontoniers wore a fusilier style uniform and mitre cap. The pontoons were stored at Berlin, Magdeburg and Neisse and were very light weight, being made of thin sheet copper, according to Christopher Duffy. They came in handy during Frederick's crossings of the Oder River prior to the battles of Zorndorf (1758) and Kunersdorf (1759) against the Russians.

Der Alte Fritz's artillery corps will also be augmented by several 12 pounders, a 7 pound howitzer and a 10 pound howitzer. An interesting note about the 7 pound howitzer, which first appeared in 1758 in the Prussian artillery park: it was manufactured in such quantities that by 1762 every battalion was equipped with one of these. That being the case, I guess that I had better start collecting and painting 7 pound howitzers for battalion pieces in my SYW Prussian army. Isn't shopping a wonderful way to pass the time?
By the way, these models do not come with draft horses so you will have to use other brands of horses. My recollection is that Front Rank Miniatures has some very nice 28mm large draft horses that go with its 18th Century equipment range. Front Rank has a nice assortment of ammunition wagons and carts that look very nice and are priced significantly lower than the Metallmodell pieces. They would do quite nicely for those who would like to build up the transportation corps of their SYW era armies.

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

30mm Stadden Infantry & Suren Cavalry (painted by Der Alte Fritz)

I've been a wargamer for over 20 years now and I'm happy to report that a good picture still has the ability to take my breath away. Just click on the picture above to expand it to full size and you will see what I mean. I set this picture up last Winter using some of the terrain that I planned to use for my Leuthen Churchyard game at the 2007 Seven Years War Association Convention in South Bend, Indiana. This one conveys a sense of the spectacular look of the big battalions that we are using in our Batailles de l'Ancien Regime (or "BAR") games. There you have it: 60 figure battalion in 20 files and 3 ranks, topped off by those wonderful GMB Designs flags.

The front line features one of my favorite regiments, IR15/III, or the Third Battalion of the Guards in Frederick the Great's army. Behind that is the musketeer battalion IR7 Bevern. Bringing up the rear are two squadrons of dragoons and two squardrons of cuirassiers. Leading the advance, in a scene reminiscent of a Carl Rochling print, is the Duke of Bevern himself. All of the infantry figures shown are from the Stadden 30mm range, designed by the late Charles Stadden, back in the 1970s. The cavalry figures are from the Suren Willie range of 30mm figures and these also were originally sculpted back in the 1970s.

Were this a real wargame, I doubt that the Guards would be leading the advance. Cannonballs and bullets cannot tell the difference between a Guard and a Grunt, but those wily Austrians and French sure can tell the difference. Perhaps foreshadowing the tactics of Napoleon, Der Alte Fritz likes to send the musketeers and fusiliers in first and then he sends in the Guards to clean up and walk away with all of the laurels. That's not entirely true, for often the Guards are the reserve and seem to end up shoring up some crumbling flank or holding some key terrain feature that could decide the battle.

Do you ever set up your figures on your wargame table and then just look at them for an hour or more? I must admit that this happens to me frequently. I will find myself admiring my little beauties and before I know it, it's after midnight and I just know that "there's the Devil to pay" in the morning when I have to get up and go to work. I will work my way around the wargame table, looking at the serried ranks of soldiers first from one angle, and then another. Then I will go back for another look, maybe picking up a stand or two to get a closer look. Finally, I look at my watch and realize that I must go to bed. But then, just as I'm about to turn out the lights in the basement, I just have to go back for one more look at the Guards or that new unit of hussars that were recently finished. Alas, I fear that it is hopeless some times.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Artillery Accoutrements in the SYW

For SYW games using the Batatilles de l'Ancien Regime ("BAR") rules, we like to crew our artillery pieces in the following manner:

Heavy Guns = 6 crew
Medium Guns = 4 or 5 crew
Light Gund = 3 or 4 crew

As you can see from the picture above, the crew figures are individually mounted on 1" square terrained bases while the gun castings are free standing. This facilitates the hooking up of the gun trail onto the limber, which is posted to the rear of the battery. The limber teams depicted in the photograph are from RSM95 and are available from the Dayton Painting Consortium, the owners of the RSM range of figures. To the rear of the limber park, you may have noticed an artillery wagon (Hinchcliffe) with an RSM driver and RSM artillery horses.

The limbers and ammo wagons are a nice touch and they are what I like to call "the accoutrements" of the wargame tableau. Accoutrements are those little extra pieces that improve the visual appearance of the wargame. Other examples of artillery accoutrements might be things such as blown up gun models, disabled limbers, dead limber horses, etc. I know one gamer who makes little artillery vignettes wherein the artillery matrosses (the hired manual labor) have attached ropes to the guns and are dragging them forward. So every time he has the crew prolonging the artillery piece by hand, he substitutes the prolonging vignette for the actual gun model. What a clever idea. Alte Fritz may have to steal, er, borrow that idea. A tip of the tricorn to Mr. John Ray in the UK for that idea.

Other elements of our artillery battery include the mounted artillery officer (the Elite Miniatures SYW Prussian mounted officer), the gun models (Elite Miniatures SYW French 12 pounders painted as Prussian guns), and artillery crew courtesy of Wargames Foundry. In this instance, I went with the larger 28mm Foundry Prussian artillery crew instead of the 25mm RSM artillerist, which would have been dwarfed by the super-sized Elite gun models. The Foundry crew have nice animation and come in 6 different poses. Thus, on a "heavy" gun, I can have 6 different poses comprising the whole gun crew.

I must say that the whole tableau looks very nice once all of the elements are put together. The limbers give one a better sense of the depth of space required for an artillery battery, something that is sorely missing if one does not use limbers in the wargame. I also like the idea of being able to hook up the gun model to the limber to depict the gun section in limber mode. My inspiration for all of this comes from Charles Grant's book "The Wargame" and Peter Young's book "Charge".

Now some of you may think that it is a royal pain in the neck to spend all of that time and money acquiring the limber pieces and spending the time painting them. But let me assure you that it is time/money well spent. As a little added incentive, my colleague Bill Protz and I made an agreement that after a certain date, all artillery pieces had to have a limber team or else the gun model had to be prolonged manually at one or two inches per turn. Believe me, that gave us plenty of incentive to get the job done! So no more of this "turning the gun model in reverse" to indicate a limbered gun. No siree, Alte Fritz has horse power for all of his artillery pieces now. Going forward, I plan to always paint a limber team every time I add a new gun model. It's a good habit to get into.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Alte Fritz's SYW Prussian Cavalry

CR2 Prinz von Preussen Cuirassiers - Elite Miniatures (painted by Alte Fritz)

It's time to take a look at the Prussian cavalry organization under our BAR rules for SYW wargaming. While Frederick the Great's father, Frederick William I, left him with arguably the finest infantry in Europe at the end of the latter's reign in 1740, the cavalry arm was quite a different matter. Frederick's initial appraisal of the Prussian cavalry arm is given below:

"My father left me a bad set of cavalry. There was hardly an officer who knew his trade. The troopers were afraid of their horses, and they scarcely ever rode -- they just went through their drills on foot, like infantry. The cavalry were too heavy, with their big men and big horses, and the consequences in our first war were so bad that I had to re-make the entire corps."

Fortunately for Alte Fritz (i.e. me) we don't have to worry about such things on the wargame table. In our BAR games, all infantry and cavalry regiments start out as "Trained" troops and they are promoted to "Veterans" after two battles. If they earn two battle honors, then they may be promoted to "Elite" troops. Accordingly, most of Alte Fritz's cavalry is now classified as Veteran cavalry, but they have had trouble holding their own against that beau sabreur of the French army, Le Comte de Chevert (Bill Protz). Monsieur Chevert must have been born in the saddle, for he is truly one of the finest table top cavalry commanders that Alte Fritz has every seen. Yours truly, on the other hand, is an infantryman at heart. But I digress...

The Prussian cavalry of the Seven Years War includes 13 regiments of armored cuirassiers, 12 regiments of heavy dragoons, and 8 regiments of light hussars. In general, Prussian cavalry regiments consisted of 5 squadrons with a total regimental strength of 800 to 890 men of all ranks. Note that there were several dragoon and hussar regiments that had 10 squadrons. Yes, you heard me right, ten freakin' squadrons! How would you like to have to paint 120 figures at 1:10? How would you like to see your opponents face when he sees your 10 squadron regiment appear on the table top for the first time? Such pleasures are fun to contemplate in wargaming.

Each squadron had approximately 185 men, including officers, but for our purposes in BAR, we assume that the war time strength of the squadron is only 120 to 150 men, or 12 to 15 castings. We further try to limit our cavalry regiments to 3 squadrons, or 36 to 45 figures in total. Each squadron has one officer, one musician, one standard bearer and 9 to 12 troopers. Since Frederick deployed his cavalry in three ranks, so then shall we. The above picture depicts a 12 figure squadron of Prussian cuirsassiers deployed in three ranks. The figures are from the Elite Miniatures SYW range of Prussian cavalry. These are BIG fellows and are sculpted in an animated style that reminds me of Ted Suren's Willie range of 30mm figures. I have one regiment of Suren Prussian cuirassiers (36 figures) and one regiment of Elite Prussian cuirassiers (60 figures). I like both ranges.

Wait a minute Alte Fritz! (you may be thinking) We thought that you were going to limit your cavalry regiments to 3 squadrons. What's the deal with this 60 figure regiment? Well, to make a long story short, Monsieur Chevert had the audacity to paint 60 French Carabineers and you can imagine the effect that they had on the table top. We called the unit, "The Thundering Herd" or "Death By Cavalry". Alte Fritz doesn't like to be outgunned or outmanned. So he painted up a 60 figure regiment of cuirassiers (CR2 Prinz von Preuessen or Gelbe Kurassiers) to counter the French threat. My usual tactic is to simply shadow the French carabineers. Where they go, so go the Gelbe Cuirassiers in my army.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Alte Fritz's SYW Prussian Army

RSM95 Minatures (Austrians - Left and Prussians - right)

Figures painted by Patrick Lewis - Advance the Colours Painting Service

Since 2005, I have been painting and building my Prussian army at a man to figure ratio of 1 to 10 using 30mm figures. This means that an infantry battalion of 600 men would field a wargaming equivalent of 60 figures. The figures are organized according to a set of rules called "Batailles de l'Ancien Regime", or "BAR" for short. In BAR, we deploy our battalions in three ranks, just as their historical counterparts did, and organize the figures onto stands that represent "grand divisions". A grand division consists of two platoons of men, or roughly 150 men, or 75 men per platoon (zug).

The Basics: each Prussian infantry regiment consisted of two battalions (with a couple of exceptions, notably IR3 and IR15, each with 3 battalions) of equal strength. There were roughly 1,700 officers and men in a regiment. The battalion was broken down into an administrative unit called a company, of which there were five of musketeers and one of grenadiers. The individual company was commanded by a captain, a first lieutenant, one or two second lieutenants, an ensign and up to sixteen NCOs and junker. The company establishment in the Seven Years War ("SYW") was 114 (3 files of 38 men) plus seven or eight supernumeraries.

The tactical formation was different from the company organization. In battle, the battalion was divided into four grand divisions, as noted above, with each grand division broken down into 2 zug or platoons of 75 men each.

The Figures: the SYW is all about "grandeur" and appearance, and nothing is more suited for this than the stately 30mm miniature, as designed by Charles Stadden, Edward Suren and Steve Hezzlewood. Their figure ranges are called (not surprisingly) Stadden, Suren (or Willie Figures) and RSM95 (nee Pax Britannica). Aside from their height, these figures have something in common, and that is the fact that they all have realistic anatomical proportions and the miniatures look like real people. If you look at the pictures of the RSM95 figures shown above, you can see what I mean about realistic figure proportions. These are not cartoonish caricatures with oversized heads and baseball mitt hands or stubby legs. No, by cracky, they look like real people, bless 'em!
My first wargame armies consisted entirely of RSM figures painted as Austrians and Prussians. Back then, I used a 1 to 30 ratio of figures to men, and this resulted in units sized at 20 figures, mounted 4 figures per base on 5 stands. I gamed with this system for nearly 20 years and still have battles with the smaller units when I want to fight a larger battle. With a 3/4" frontage per figure, the 20 figure battalion only takes up a frontage of 7.5". This is significantly smaller than the 1" frontage per figure that we use for our 30mm figures, which yields a battalion frontage of 20". As you can see, the Big Battalions require more space and larger game tables.
At the 2005 Seven Years War Association wargame convention in South Bend, Indiana, I was running one of my games (Kolin, I believe) and I kept looking at the game that was going on at the adjacent table, hosted by Bill Protz. Bill was hosting a French & Indian War game using his 30mm figures and 1:10 ratio Drums of War Along The Mohawk rules. I couldn't keep my eyes off of Bill's game, which rightly won the "best of show" award for the best game. I kept imagining large battalions of Austrians and Prussians at the 1:10 ratio and couldn't get that thought out of my mind.
Afterwards, I approached Bill about developing a Drums of War variant for European-based battles, and out of this inquiry rose the development of Bill's BAR rules. We began to build up our armies, my Prussians and Bill's French, until we had approximately 12 battalions per side. We tinkered with the rules, adding improvements here and there, cutting out ideas that didn't work. We also added rules for cavalry and cavalry melees. After 2 years of extensive play testing, I encouraged Bill to publish his rules. The end result was a very fine set of rules, BAR, which were published in March 2007.

I digressed from my tale of the Alte Fritz army though. Let's get back to that. I like the large 30mm figures and the core of my Prussian army consists of the afore-mentioned Staddens (4 btns), Surens (2 btns), RSM (2 btns), Elite Miniatures (2 btns) and my own Potsdam Miniatures (2 btns). Oh, and I painted some Perry American Revolution Hessian jagers as Prussian jagers. So that currently gives me 13 battalions of infantry. Hmm, I'd better paint that fourteenth battalion pronto to fend off my triscadecaphobia.
The cavalry contingent includes one regiment of Suren cuirassiers (36 figures), one regiment of Elite Miniatures cuirassiers (60 figures), on Suren dragoon regiment (36 figures) and one Stadden Hussar (36 figures) regiment. I'll cover the cavalry organization at another time, but suffice it to say, the average cavalry unit is 3 squadrons of 12 figures, or 36 figures. This is a compromise against the established strenght of 5 squadrons (600 to 720 men or 60 to 72 figures at 1:10 ratio). Try lugging a box full of cavalry around and you will begin to appreciate why we are trying to hold our regiments to 3 squadrons.
The artillery arm of Frederick's army consisted largely of 12 pound field guns, 3 pound battalion guns, some 7 pound howitzers and a smattering of 6 pound horse artillery. For the gun castings, I use the Elite Miniatures SYW French gun models. French? Mais oui et certainment! Let me put it this way, there is simply nothing on the market today that matches the quality of the Elite gun models. Each barrel has detailed engraving of Louis XV's royal cypher and other fine details that make these works of art. I can not find anything comparable for the Prussian guns, so I use the French models, paint the woodwork Prussian blue, and tell people that Frederick captured these guns from the French at Rossbach. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
My Prussian army is nearly finished now. I have found that 12 to 14 battalions is close to the maximum number that I can put on the 6ft by 20ft wargame table at Bill Protz's house, and still have room for cavalry and flank maneuvering. As I develop more of my own castings, I may weed out a few units here and there and replace them with my own figures. But for anything larger than 12 battalions, a larger table is required. Bill and I typically run a couple of convention games each year on larger tables that allow us to use more figures. Last year I hosted by own Big Battalion Game at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort, in Lincolnshire, IL (site of the Little Wars convention) and I plan to do this again on October 13, 2007. More about that within the next few days.

Welcome To The World of Alte Fritz

Welcome to The Alte Fritz Journal, a compendium of thoughts, opinions and information on all things germane to the mid-18th Century during the reign of King Frederick II of Prussia. While the focus of this blog will be on wargaming the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763), I expect to touch on other related topics from time to time.

I am first and foremost a history buff. I probably get my interest in history from my father, who had a keen interest in the American Civil War (hereafter called simply, the Civil War). During the Civil War centennial in the 1960s, we would often go on battlefield tours in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. My father would lead our family on a tour of a particular battlefield and he would impart some stories that he had read in one of the Bruce Catton books on the period. My father was able to make history come alive with his stories and this had an impressionable effect on his 10 year old son.

At the same time, I also developed an interest in toy soldiers, which seemed natural given my interest in history. It started with a couple of red boxes of 54mm William Britain's British Guards under the Christmas tree, followed by Swoppets Medievil Knights and a 30mm Elastolin castle and Prince Valiant set that I received on a subsequent Christmas morning. I was forever hooked on toy soldiers.

I drifted away from the hobby of toy soldiers during my college years and early twenties and gave the little fellows nary a thought. Then one day, in 1982, I was visiting London and happened to follow a little winding alley off of Oxford Street that led me to a magical toy soldier shop called Under Two Flags. There in the window was a square of British soldiers in the Sudan fighting off a swarm of Mahdists. I went into the store and bought the whole display, thereby reviving my interest in toy soldiers. I became a collector of 54mm toy soldiers again and this somehow led me to the Little Wars wargaming convention in 1986.

I had never seen a wargame before, nor was I aware that the hobby even existed. Everywhere I looked, there were tables and tables of miniature wargames covering every possible era of military history from Ancients to the World War II. The one game that really caught my eye though, was a demonstration put on by RSM Ltd, featuring the Seven Years War with 25mm figures. I was vaguely familiar with the Seven Years War, but didn't know very much about it. Yet there was something about those tricorn hats, the long tailed coats, the leg gaitors and the color uniforms and flags that told me that I had finally found "IT".

Over the succeeding 20 or so years, I collected hundreds of books about the Seven Years War, painted several thousand 25mm Prussians, Austrians, Russians, British and French soldiers and had the time of my life wargaming the battles of Frederick the Great. I did a short stint (seven years to be exact) as editor of the Seven Years War Association Journal and joined two tours of the Frederician battlefield sites with noted author and scholar Christopher Duffy in 1994 and 1998. The highlights of these two tours had to be walking the fields of Kolin, Rossbach and Leuthen.

As you might guess from the title of this blog, that I have a strong interest in Frederick the Great and the Prussian army of the 18th Century. I plan to post many more bits and pieces of information about this period and my latest wargaming projects and interests.