Monday, March 31, 2008

Venture Miniatures SYW Hanoverians

Venture Miniatures Hanoverian Musketeers & Grenadiers (click pics to enlarge)

I have been admiring the Venture Miniatures range of 28mm SYW Hanoverians for a number of years now, and I think that it is time to give this fine collection of figures its well deserved accoulades. The company was formed by Jude Becker and some of his friends who have an interest in the Seven Years War in general, and specifically in the Hanoverian army, which fought as an ally of Great Britain during the war (1756 to 1763).

The Venture range of figures current offers Hanoverian musketeets, grenadiers and the necessary officers, musicians and NCOs that one would need for a wargaming army. The company added the Hanoverian horse and dragoon regiments, horse grenadiers, artillery and artillery crew within the last year. Jude advises me that the SYW French will soon be available. I saw some metal masters of the French at the SYWA convention and they look like they will be just as nice as the Hanoverians.

Hanoverian Musketeers from Venture Miniatures

The infantry offerings, shown in the picture above and at the top of this blog page, include 3 grenadier poses (marching, officer with drawn sword, and fifer) and 6 musketeer poses (marching, officer, officer with upright sword, NCO with spontoon, standard bearer and drummer). All figures are designed to depict a battalion of infantry on the march. There are also some mounted infantry officers and two styles of horses (cantering and walking).

Hanoverian artillery crew and cannon. Note the mounted officers in the background.

The artillery component of the range includes 5 poses: crew with spongestaff, linstock, holding cannon ball, trailspike and an officer with telescope. There is also a rather large 12-pounder that I saw. I don't recall seeing a smaller calibre of cannon, but I'm assuming that these are available as well. I like the fact that there are 5 poses, rather than the industry standard 4 poses because it gives you a little more variety.

Hanoverian Horse Regiment.

The Hanoverian army had two types of battlefield cavalry: dragoons and heavier "horse" regiments. Venture provides both types and they are working on some figures to represent Luckner's Hussars.

Hanoverian "Dragoon Regiment" figures, including the horse grenadiers.

Hanoverian Cavalry Organization
The regiments of Horse were the standard heavy line cavalry and were descendants of the earlier cuirassiers of the 17th Century, although the cuirasse had been abandoned by the time of the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War. The dragoon regiments were originally meant to be mounted infantry. Accordingly, they included a company of mounted grenadiers. This is how one can distinguish the dragoons (they have horse grenadiers) from the horse regiments (they do not have horse grenadiers). The dragoon regiments were larger than the horse regiments, so that "horse holders" could be included to hold the horses while the troopers dismounted and fought on foot. However, by the mid 18th Century, it was rather rare for dragoons to fight dismounted.

Hanoverian horses were sought by all of the armies in Europe, and the horsestock was raised at the national stud in Celle since 1735. Accordingly, the Hanoverian army was usually able to remount its cavalry regiments with native grown horsestock.

There were 8 regiments of Horse (each of 2 squadrons totaling 348 men) and 4 regiments of Dragoons (4 squadrons totaling 698 men plus a kettledrummer and 5 musicians). There was also a single squadron Garde du Corps regiment of Horse.

How to order Venture Figures
You can contact Venture Miniatures via its website at for a complete list of stock numbers for the individual figures as well as ordering information and postage requirements. The figures are $2.00 each and the horses are $2.50 each. The company accepts personal checks and money orders. You can also send them a letter at Venture Miniatures, PO Box 2223, Ames, Iowa 50010 in the United States.

Figure Compatibility
I do not have any samples in my hands and thus I cannot measure them and compare them to other figure ranges. Visually, these are thin and have correct anatomical proportions, so that puts them high on the list as far as Der Alte Fritz is concerned. Just eyeballing the figures, I would say that they would be compatible with RSM95 and Minden Miniatures in terms of height, slenderness and overall proportions. The sculpted details on the figures are done to a high standard. I intend to use these figures when I get around to painting Hanoverians, so I am backing my endorsement of the Venture range with my wallet. I think that most wargamers would be very pleased with these figures in their armies.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

SYW Association Convention

Venture Miniatures 28mm Hanoverians

The 25th annual Seven Years War Association Convention was just concluded over the past weekend, March 28 and 29 2008 in South Bend, Indiana. Attendence seemed to be up rather dramatically, although I will have to get information on the final attendence from the convention organizers for the final tally.

The day started off on the wrong foot for me, as I had packed my car the night before and was all ready for an early start on the 120 mile journey from Hesse Seewald to South Bend. My car battery did not cooperate and so I did not depart until noon. Consequently, I had to cancel my BAR game on friday afternoon. Fortunately, there was sufficient interest in my endeavor to stage the game at 7PM that evening. I ran a scenario that was loosely based on the battle of Reichenberg in 1757. See the picture below for the opening set up of my game.

The Battle of Reichenberg - Austrians vs Prussians

There were 25 scheduled games spread over the two day convention with a dozen on Friday and thirteen on Saturday. Both days had three gaming sessions: morning, afternoon and evening. In general, the evening games tend to be skirmish style games that are a little more light hearted in nature. The lineup of game judges read like a Who's Who of the 18th century gaming establishment, including Tod Kershner and Dale Wood - authors of the Age of Reason rules, Bob Hagerty with his beautiful WSS figures, Chris Engle with one of his famour Matrix Games, Dean West running his Final Argument of Kings game and Bill Protz with his Batailles de l'Ancien Regime (BAR) rules. Just to name a few.

Dean West (center) discusses the finer points of strategy with Sam Tinaglia during Dean's Final Argument of Kings game in 15mm.

Battle of Kolin using Carnage & Glory computer assisted rules.

The picture above depicts Hulsen's assault on the Oak Wood during the Battle of Kolin, as hosted by Ed Harding, Phil Roberts and Rob Huml. The terrain is made using a canvas painter's drop cloth with the roads and streams painted on. Foam boards underneath the cloth provide the contours. The game uses a computer driven set of rules to determine what happens during the game. Talk about fog of war! This really gives it to you. A fine looking game.

A view of the fine terrain and figures from Jude Becker's Age of Reason wargame.

Jude Becker brought his French and Hanoverian 28mm armies and his spectacular looking terrain boards for several games during the convention. Jude has his own range of 28mm SYW Hanoverians that includes infantry, cavalry and artillery. These are spectacular looking figures and Jude indicates that the French will soon be added to the range. He brought some French masters for "show and tell" and I have a feeling that a few of them will be making an appearance in my armies one of these days. He calls his figure range, Venture Miniatures and I will be doing a more detailed review of the range within the next several days. Very impressive figures and terrain.

Jude Becker's duel vignette from the Foundry range.

A Lady apparently has the vapors over the high quality of terrain in Jude's game. Figure vignette from The Foundry.

Tod Kershner (center) brought back his popular "Iroquois Terror" game.

I was too wiped out from staying up until 4 AM to get up early enough to participate in Tod Kershner's "Iroquois Terror: Revenge of Red Jacket" game. This has been one of the convention's most popular games and Tod really does a fine job of creating a challenging and fun wargame scenario. Iroquois Terror had not appeared at the convention for quite a number of years, so I was glad to see that it had come out of hiatus.

Bill Lademan enjoys particating in the BAR game hosted by Bill Protz and Der Alte Fritz.

Bill Protz adjudicates the opening moves of the BAR game played on Saturday afternoon.

Bill and I hosted our grand BAR game on Saturday afternoon, featuring 16 battalions (960 figures) and 216 cavalry figures per side. The table was 6ft by 20ft with back tables on each side of the playing area. I will report on the details of the game later this week. The French were doing well on their right due to a vigorous cavalry attack, the center had a slight edge to the French, and the Prussians were launching a steadfast attack on the French left. For once, there was not a conclusive or decisive outcome to this battle as it could have gone either way had it been fought out to the bitter end.

30mm Scruby Prussian fusiliers purchased by Der Alte Fritz at the flea market (bring and buy).

As stated earlier, there were a dozen vendors and three flea market tables with all kinds of goods to entice prospective inhabers of SYW regiments. I found a 59-figure battalion of 30mm Scruby Prussians that I snapped up in a hurry. I don't need anymore Prussians, but these were nicely painted, priced to sell and too good of a deal to pass up. I also bought a copy of a recent autobiography on the Prince de Ligne, a copy of the John Mollo SYW uniform book and 120 Imperialist Enterprises 1806 Prussian cavalry. I also picked up some Vallejo Paints from The Last Square and some Front Rank SYW Austrian infantry from The Elite Group. I also took delivery of my tents, campground and command tents from Herb Gundt (pictures to be shown later). All in all, it was a great convention and I look forward to returning again next year.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Great Snafu

Crusader Miniatures Austrian generals. They undoubtedly had to deal with many unexpected events in their dealings with Frederick the Great. Painted by Der Alte Fritz.

Sometimes you think that you have made terrific plans and everything is lined up and ready to go, and then the unexpected happens. I had my car all packed up last night and ready for an early morning get away for the two hour drive to South Bend, Indiana and the Seven Years War Association convention. Then I jumped into the car, turned the key, and heard the dreaded "tickety, tickety, tick" sound of the dead car battery.

Needless to say, my BAR game at 1PM is not going to happen now. This is about the third time this winter that the battery has acted up on me, so I guess it's time to replace it. I'm told that if you don't use the car for several days, the battery loses juice and won't start. I'm hoping that this is all that it is. So I'm awaiting the arrival of the tow truck so that I can get a battery jump and drive to South Bend. If that doesn't work, then Plan B is to rent a car for the weekend. So one way or another, I will at least be there tomorrow for our game (Bill and I). This is very frustrating to say the least.

I am certain that the Austrian general staff thought that they had things all planned out, only to find that they had been hoodwinked by Frederick once again. Now I know how they must have felt.

One good thing about convention game preparation is that it forced me to finally base all of the Austrians that I had recently painted or had painted by others. I was a basing and terraining fool over the past week. Last night, I realized that I did not have enough movement trays for my Austrian cavalry. It seems that I had poached the Austrian stands to use for my Prussians over the past several months. Consequently, I had to cut and saw new bases last night and affix the magnetic sheet to the movement trays. I finished all of this around 10PM last night and finished packing by midnight. At any rate, I'm all set for the next game, whenever that occurs, provided, of course, that Old Methusalah (my car) decides to cooperate. Hmm, I wonder if those wily, rascally Gallians had something to do with my misfortunes of last. I bet that Colonel Enigma could shed some light on all of this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Getting Ready For the SYWA Convention

Crusader Austrian Dragoon Regiment De Ligne on the right, and Josef Esterhazy battalion on the left. Hungarians painted by Dennis Smail, dragoons painted by Der Alte Fritz.

I have been away since Good Friday basking in the warm climat of Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean. I just returned this evening, sans suitcases, which were left behind in Miami by those wonderfully efficient people at American Airlines. It's a long story, and an even longer day, but in the end, the suitcases were found and delivered to my home at 12:30 AM on Thursday morning. Now that I no longer have to stew over lost luggage, I can turn my attention to the Seven Years War Association Convention this coming Friday and Saturday in South Bend, Indiana.

The picture above features a squadron of the De Lign dragoons in the Austrian service. I will have to cut out some foam core movement trays in the morning and affix the magnetic sheet to the foam core. Since I use metal bases for the figures, they adhere to the foam core movement trays quite nicely. If I want to change the size of the unit for different sets of rules, then it is a simple matter of cutting out a new foam core base. I started using foam core as a temporary expedient during one of our early BAR games. It seemed to work nicely, so I have stayed with the method. It's not the prettiest looking movement tray, but it works. Eventually, I plan to convert everything over to brown hard board (MFD, MFA or something like that - I forget the acronym). I am tired and must get off to bed, but I wanted to give everyone a brief update and to explain why the blog has been silent over the past week.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Austrian Recruits Have Arrived

Gaisruck (left) and Josef Esterhazy (right) have been based and are ready to fight. Crusader Miniatures painted by Dennis Smail. A half battalion of Minden Miniatures Prussians can be seen in the background.

The Austrian army is on a recruiting binge of late, having added the two infantry battalions shown in the picture above as well as two more squadrons of cavalry. The prospect of an imminent wargame convention does wonders towards concentrating one's mind. Since my Austrian army is woefully understrength in comparison with my Prussians, I have a lot of work ahead of me to get the Austrians close to parity with the Prussians.

Last evening I terrained the bases of the 150 figures shown above. That can be a bit of a drag doing it all at once. I keep telling myself that I won't let the basing work pile up, but I never heed my own advise and then pay for it with marathon basing and terraining sessions. It takes about one minute per figure to apply the wet spackle mixture, sprinkle on some railroad ballast and flock, and then move on to the next figure. As tedious as it can be, the end result makes it all worth the effort. Now I have to cut up 12 foam core bases to make movement trays. Arrrgghh!!!!!!

New additions to the Birkenfeld Cuirassier regiment and the De Ligne Dragoon regiment (one squadron of 12 figures each) plus general of cavalry Graf Lucchesi of Leuthen fame. Crusader figures painted by Der Alte Fritz.

I have been on an Austrian cavalry painting binge of late. The Birkenfeld Cuirassiers were completed two weeks ago (bringing the regiment up to 36 figures or 3 squadrons) and then last weekend I completed another squadron of the De Ligne Dragoons (also now at 36 figures). I really do not enjoy painting cavalry all that much, unless they are Prussians. So I trick myself by only painting a 12 figure squadron at a time. It makes the project much more palatable. Next on the painting table are a dozen Saxe Gotha horse grenadiers. These lads are dressed in colorful red coats with light blue facings and those every so cool bearskin hats. After that, I will probably paint a dozen of the Saxe Gotha dragoon company men.

And then lo and behold, a package full of Minden Miniatures Austrian infantry arrived today from the UK (thank you Frank) and I'm sure that I will want to shoehorn some of these figures into the painting que. So you can see that the Austrians are getting my full attention.

Der Alte Fritz's painting table (click picture to enlarge).

The above picture gives you an idea of what my disorganized painting table looks like these days. In the foreground on the right are a dozen Crusader SYW Austrian horse grenadiers in the process of being painted as the Saxe-Gotha Dragoons. Behind them, are some Connoisseur Sudan Black Watch that I'm dabbling with. Then we have some Front Rank SYW Austrian generals in black primer and Eureka Teddy Bear Grenadiers waiting for a coat of paint. In the back left is the growing artillery park, with some Eureka Arquebusiers de Grassin that I'm painting for a client, and then a couple of Prussian generals. Note the Foundry general placed on a Stadden horse. I'm using 2" round bases for commanders so that the command stand sticks out from all of the other cavalry figures.

I have run out of time to paint any more figures before the Seven Years War Association convention on March 28 and 29 in South Bend, Indiana. A short business trip will eat up my spare time and then it is time to start packing up the figures for the convention. The following weekend is the Little Wars convention in Lincolnshie, Illinois and Bill Protz and I will be hosting games at both shows. That should keep Der Alte Fritz too busy to invade Saxony or Silesia.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

BAR Game At Chimaeracon In Texas

Opening shot of Ed Youngstrom's BAR game in Texas

I wanted to give a "shout out" or special mention to a worthy Man On Horseback, Ed Youngstrom who ran a visually exciting SYW game at Chimaeracon down in San Antonio, Texas this weekend. I would encourage everyone to follow the link to the Hesse-Fedora blog site and read more about this battle. The rules used in the game were Batailles de l'Ancien Regime (or "BAR" for short), naturally.
Ed reports that he is using 48-figure infantry battalions and 24-figure cavalry regiments. If you look at the pictures (and be sure to click them on to enlarge the view) you will see that these slightly smaller units look every bit as good as the 60-man battalions and 36 to 60 man cavalry regiments that Bill Protz and I use in our games. And that is really the point that I am trying to make here: i.e. that one need not have huge armies in order to play an enjoyable wargame with the BAR rules. I have played games using "half units" of 24 to 30 figures per battalion etc. and find that the rules work very well with different unit sizes.

Ed's game was played on a table measuring 6.5 feet wide by 10 feet long. Each side had 5 battalions of infantry and 4 regiments of cavalry (at least I think that is what the sides were, based on my visual inspection of the pictures). That is another point to make about BAR, when you have larger units and a smaller table, then it is a necessity to reduce the number of units on the table. Bill and I have played a number of games on my smaller 6 by 10 table in my basement and play with about 4 battalions and 2 cavalry regiments per side. This allows us to experiment with smaller scenarios, especially some of the enticing Table Top Teasers penned by Charles Stewart Grant, Jr in Battlegames magazine.

As for the outcome of the game, the blue-coated Hesse Fedoran army (similar to Prussians) seemed to have taken it on the chin at the expense of their enemies from The Empire (similar to Austrians). Regardless of the outcome, it looks like everyone had a fun time playing the game and again, I would like to extend a tip of the tricorn to Ed Youngstrom for putting on such a fine looking game. Bill and I are looking forward to travelling to Austin, Texas in November in order to participate in Ed's "Texas Big Battalion Game."

I will post the final installment of the Battle of Ritterbrucke within the next couple of days. I have been busy painting Austrian cavalry this past week and completed another squadron of the dragoon regiment "De Ligne" that brings this unit up to 36 figures. These were the lads without moustaches that gave Frederick's army such a hard time at Kolin in June 1757. Since they wear green coats, perhaps I will post a picture of them tomorrow, on Saint Patrick's Day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Schlacht bei Ritterbrucke - Part III

All quiet in the center, but the action is brisk in the Preecewald

I am not sure what to say about the fighting that took place in the center part of the field, because it seemed that for a couple of turns, nothing happened. The two French brigades deployed in the center seemed to be content to sit back and fire artillery round into the the Prussians. Since the Prussians were under orders to defend in this sector, they were not likely to advance. It looks to me that the 8 battalions of the French center could have crushed the 4 battalions of General von Rust's brigade, had they pitched into it right away. However, events on their flanks may have influenced the French actions and perhaps they were waiting to see how the cavalry melee on their right (the Prussian left) was going to turn out before advancing haphazzardly across the field. Also, King Frederick had a reserve of 2 guard infantry battalions, 60 cuirassiers, and 36 hussars forming a firewall behind von Rust's brigade. So there were some other variables to consider.

The French commence their advance in the center.

In the picture above, we see at least 7 French battalions matched up against 4 Prussian battalions, while in the background, the great cavalry melee is running its course. At this point in the game, Frederick was getting a little bit anxious because he could count the numbers and feared the weight of two brigades attacking the lone brigade of von Rust.

The Regiment La Reine charges into the Prinz Heinrich fusiliers.

I was too pre-occuppied with my cavalry melee to pay close attention to the center, but it appears that the French were relying on the cold steel (via melee) to push the Prussians back. In the picture above, we see French Brigadier Kyle launching the La Reine regiment into the IR35 Prinz Heinrich fusiliers, driving off the Prussian artillery in the process. To his right (and out of the picture) French Brigadier Black was giving the IR20 Bornstadt musketeer regiment a taste of the bayonet as well.

The Black Hussars counter-attack La Reine. My apologies for the blurry picture.

La Reine was fairly successful in its melee with IR35, cutting down nearly half of the Prussians in the process. But when IR35 held firm and did not run, Frederick committed two squadrons of hussars into the melee to tip the balance in the Prussians favor. What you don't see in the picture, is that a fresh guard battalion IR15/III is deployed across the gap in the tables waiting for La Reine to finish off IR35. Frederick was holding the guards and the CR8 Seydlitz cuirassier regiment back as a similar number of French Gardes Francaises and the Carabiniers were shadowing the Prussian reserves. We ran out of time, but it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had both sides committed their reserves in the center.

Tomorrow I will post the fourth and final part of the battle report. This involves the hard fight on the far left for possession of the bridge over the Ritterbrucke.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Schacht bei Ritterbrucke - Part II

French brigadier Brent Olsen deploys his line infantry, while the Arquebusiers de Grassin secure the wooded area of the Preecewald.

The Right Flank: the Fight for the Preecewald
The area comprising the Preecewald covered about a five foot frontage of table space and Frederick was not sure if he had enough infantry to cover the whole table. Nevertheless, he recognized the importance of this terrain to the survival of the Prussian army. For one thing, it served to funnel most of the French infantry towards the center of the battlefield, creating some certainty as to where the French might attack. Secondly, the little valley to the north of the Preecewald provided an easy roadway into the rear table areas of both armies. Frederick sensed that the French would attempt to sneak a couple of battalions through this passage.

Brigadier General von Harms was given a battalion of light jagers to contest the woods and initially three battalions of Prussian musketeers to hold back the French. A reserve battalion of the British 20th Foot was deployed on the rear table behind the Preecewald. Frederick released this battalion to von Harms at the start of the first turn when it became apparent that a French push was coming through this sector. Von Harms deployed IR5 - Alt Braunschweig regiment of musketeers in the open passageway and they would cover themselves in glory throughout the battle as they fended off two battalions of enemy infantry, captured a 6-pound cannon, and drove off two squadrons of light cavalry.

The British 20th Foot advance through the woods, driving back the Grassins, while the Alt Braunschweig regiment not only blocks the passageway, bu nearly advances to the back table edge.

The action in the Preecewald started off with a lively firefight between the Prussian Jagers (48 figures) and a rather large battalion (70 figures) of Arquebusiers de Grassin (both Eureka and Suren figures combined together). Due to the negative firefactors for shooting in the woods (-1 for every 3" of cover), neither side could gain much of an edge in the firefight. At this point, von Harms sent the 20th Foot into the woods (operating disordered for being a formed unit in the woods) to root out the Grassins. He also advanced the Prussian IR24 Schwerin regiment on the left flank of the British, en echelon, as well as IR20 Bornstadt on the left of Schwerin, also en echelon. Nifty deployment there, Herr Harms - well done! On the French side of the table, Monsieur Olsen advanced the Regt. d'Eu and the Irish Regt Bulkeley to counter the Prussian advance.

A closer view of the 20th Foot in the woods, with Jagers to their front and the French light infantry falling back.

The fighting in this sector now shifted towards the southern edge of the Preecewald as the 20th Foot and IR24 settled into a brisk firefight for the rest of the game. IR20 had to hold back due to the presence of the French brigade in the center of the table as well as a strong reserve of French Gardes Francaises, Grenadiers de France, and 5 full squadrons of the Carabinier cavalry. So the picture above depicts the furthest advance of von Harms, which was largely a bluff.

The French counter-attack at the edge of the woods. A spectacular view of linear warfare.

Monsieur Olsen had a surprise or two up his sleeve, rolling out the 60 figure Grenadiers de France to match up against the British 20th Foot in the woods. Then he shifted the d'Eu and Bulkeley regiments out into the open and to the right to square off against von Harms' two Prussian battalions that were out in the open ground. This seemed to bring the Prussian advance to a halt for a short while. At the same time, French brigadier Earl Kyle was advancing his brigade of four battalions into the center of the battlefield. You can just barely see the lead battalion of La Reine from Kyle's brigade advancing in the center.

French regiment Bulkeley (Irish) falls back and defends the French artillery battery. Irish figures are from the Capitulations range of WAS French. These are very nice figures.

The brigades of Olsen (French) and Harms (Prussian) continued the fire fight out in the open, with regiment d'Eu finally taking so many casualties that it routed away. The Irish Bulkeley regiment was whittled down severely and fell back towards the protection of a French battery. The French paid out an equal amount of damage to the Prussians, as shown in the picture below. IR24 and IR20 appear to be at or close to half strength. In BAR, when a battalion falls below 50% of its original strength, then it must take a morale check each time it takes casualties.

The fight in the open appears to be played out with both sides taking severe casualties. The Grenadiers de France appear to have thwarted the British 20th Foot's advance in the woods. Brent has skillfully hidden the powerful Gardes Francaises behind him, so things look better for the French in this sector than the picture would suggest.

While all of this was going on, IR5 Alt Braunschweig was fighing off everything that the French could throw at them, including a couple battalions of Russians, of all things.

IR5 Alt Braunschweig covers itself in glory as it defends the pass north of the Preecewald. Russians are RSM95 figures and the Prussians are my own Potsdam Miniatures.

In effect, the French and the Prussians fought to a draw on the right flank. However, a draw was as good as a win as far as the Prussian victory conditions were concerned, for Harms was protecing victory points in this sector. The French still had a powerful reserve of the Gardes Francaises and the Carabinier heavy cavalry deployed in the center on the back table. This would have been sufficient to deter any further Prussian advance in this sector. I didn't spend much time watching the fighting on the right flank, as I was heavily engaged with the cavalry, but it appears that all of the players gave a good account of themselves and nobody made any errors that could turn the outcome of the game. It was well played by all!

End of Part II. Tomorrow we will look at the action that took place in the center of the battlefield.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Schlacht bei Ritterbruch - Part I

Initial set up of forces at Ritterbruch, with the French on the left and the Prussians on the right. The Preecewald woods is seen off in the distance and beyond that is the Monument Hill where we place our victory columns from battle past.

On Saturday March 8, 2008 Der Alte Fritz and his Prussian army travelled north to Brown Deer, Wisconsin and the Chateau de Chevert to fight our first large battle of 1758/2008. The game was played using Bill Protz's Batailles de l'Ancien Regime, or "BAR" for short. The French had a slight numerical advantage of +5% due to their recent victory at the Muhlenberg in January. In our campaign, the victor of a battle gets a +5% advantage in his next battle, and if he wins that one, a +10% advantage in the subsequent battle. We had 8 players with approximately 900 infantry points and 450 to 500 cavalry points per side. The game lasted 5 hours and ended with a definite victory for the Prussians.

The Layout of the Land: Please refer to the picture above for a general overview of the battlefield. All directions (left/center/right) in this battle report will be from the Prussian perspective. The French deployed on the left side of the table and the Prussians defended the right. The wooded Preecewald dominated the right flank of the table and beyond the woods there was a passageway or roadway that would allow either side to advance to the opponent's back table area. Moving any units onto the opponent's back table was worth 5 victory points. So this passageway had some strategic importance.

The center of the battlefield was completely open and quite conducive to maneuvering large amounts of infantry and cavalry. The center area contained two roads and the exit points of the roads were worth 5 victory points each. So a strong push into the center could result in a victory.

The left center was also open without any significant terrain features. In the foreground of the above picture one can see a windmill. This feature anchored the left wing of the Prussian battle line. Behind the windmill, on the back table, was the town of Ritterstadt. Here the Prussians deployed a dragoon regiment, the Garde du Corps cuirassiers, and a battalion of the Guard infantry to hold down the flank.

The town of Ritterstadt on the back table. The two battalions of Guard infantry are on the left, and the Garde du Corps are on the right of the picture. In the background, elements of CR2 Prinz von Preussen cuirassiers are seen shifting over to the Prussian left to counter the growing French cavalry threat.

On the extreme left on an adjacent table, there was a causeway that led to the bridge across the Ritterbrucke river. The bridge was worth 5 victory points. As with the passageway on the far right, so too did the causeway lead to each sides back table area, where 5 victory points could be earned simply by placing a unit in that area.

Prussian Strategy: King Frederick knew that he was outnumbered and that he didn't have enough troops to cover the whole battle front. He reasoned that it would be difficult for the French to effect a break-through in the center, so the two roads (+5 points each) were probably safe. Just to be sure, the King set up a reserve of two 60-figure cuirassier regiments and two battalions of the Guard to use where needed. He placed his most experienced light infantry general (Jim Harms) on the right to contest the Preecewald and to hold the passageway. Harms (5 btns) and George Rust (4 btns plus access to the Guard infantry) were tasked with holding the middle and allowing the honors of attacking to go to the French. On the far left, Rob Oldenburg was given a strong task force of 4 battalions of infantry (including one elite and one grenadier battalion), 3 six-pounders and a regiment of dragoons. The King took personal command of the cavalry. He reasoned that the victory would be gained by holding the Prussian side of the table and capturing the 5 points at the Ritterbruch bridge. So Oldenburg's task force was the key to victory.

French Strategy: General Chevert (Bill Protz) seemed to have in mind a strong attack on the Prussian left flank, a holding action in the center, and the hope of a quick strike down the passageway beyond the Preecewald on the far Prussian right. The majority of the French and Austrian cavalry was deployed in the left sector of the table and Der Alte Fritz could see immediately that this was going to cause him some serious trouble.

The Great Cavalry Melee On the Left Flank

This is the unpleasant sight that Der Alte Fritz saw threatening his left flank. He only had two regiments of cavalry available to stop this looming hoard of French heavy cavalry.

Once the forces were set up on the table, Der Alte Fritz had a sinking feeling that it was going to be a long day. The Prussians were at a distinct disadvantage on their left. A mass of French cavalry were advancing towards the flank (112 French against 72 Prussian horse). If the French numbers prevailed, then the left most Prussian infantry brigade of von Rust would be caught in a vise with cavalry on its flank and 7 battalions (versus his 4 btns) to his front. Accordingly, Frederick began to send elements of CR2 cuirassiers (a 60 man regiment) to the left flank beyond the town of Ritterstadt. He could only hope that he would have enough time to even out the odds.

The melee begins and CR2 arrives in the nick of time. DR2 Jung Krakow dragoons can be seen at the top already engaged with the French Commissaire-Generale regiment of cuirassiers. The first 3 squadrons of the Gelbe Kurassiers (CR2) at the table edge, are actually in melee with the Saxon Rutowsky Cheveau-legers across the table gap. The remaining two squadrons of CRs can be seen arriving in support, while the Garde du Corp form a second cavalry line in the center. Note the checkerboard pattern of deployment providing lanes for cavalry to retire or rout without running down friendly forces.

The Saxon Rutowsky cheveau-legers (40 strong) pitched into the first three squadrons of CR2 (36 strong) and the first round of melee was a tie. Frederick fed the other two squadrons into the fight on the next round of melee and the weight of numbers caused the Saxons to fall back. The Gelbe Kurassiers followed up their attack and put the Saxons to flight, capturing their standard in the process.

To the left of CR2, the Prussian dragoon regiment Jung Krakow (DR2 - 36 figures) crossed swords with the French Commissaire-Generale regiment. The first round was a tie - both sides losing the same number of figures. Thus, the melee continued into the next turn. Both sides threw in their second line of cavalry. The French Regiment Royale (36 figures) joined the fray as did the Prussian Garde du Corps (CR13 - 36 figures). This melee lasted a couple of turns before the Prussians prevailed, causing the both French regiments to rout back 24 inches. All of the Prussian cavalry pursued and drove the French off the field, capturing the standards of both the Commissaire-Generale and the Regiment Royale.

The French cavalry have been driven off the field, but wait! Now the Austrians are joining the melee, with similar sad results for them.

All of the Prussian cavalry were now disordered from the series of melees. In BAR, you can remain stationary for one turn to get back into good order. In the picture above, you can see a squadron of the Jung Krakow dragoons resting while their comrades fight off the Austrian curassiers (on the right) and the hussars (on the left in the background). The Austrian cavalry commander wheeled his 30 figure Modena cuirassier regiment and charged into the disordered Gelbe Kurassiers. This seemed like a good move, attacking disordered cavalry, but the Prussians were on a roll, literally, as their dice were hot and given them an advantage to go along with their superior numbers. The Modena cuirassiers were pushed back. This enabled Frederick to throw in a fresh squadron of dragoons and another squadron of the newly arrived Black Hussars (HR5). Again, weight of numbers favored the Prussians and the Austrians were cut down and their flag was captured.

The fateful end of the Austrian Modena cuirassiers at the hands of the mass of Prussian cavalry. Weight of numbers and fresh squadrons in reserve proved to be the difference.

The last remaining Austrian cavalry unit on the field (in this sector at least), was a regiment of hussars that stood little chance of stopping the Prussian Garde du Corps (seen in the picture above fighting the hussars). Had the game continued past this point, the Austrian hussars would have shared the fate of the rest of the allied cavalry.

The Garde du Corps close in for the kill against the Austrian hussars. Light cavalry can only fight two ranks deep compared to three ranks for dragoons and cuirassiers. So the Austrians were at a disadvantage in this melee. Note that the Garde du Corps have now crossed all the way across the center table and will have some juicy infantry targets to deal with after the hussars have been driven off.

I don't play the cavalry commander very often, being more comfortable with the infantry, so the outcome of this grand cavalry melee surprised me. My opponent, Bill Protz, is probably the best cavalry commander in our regular wargame group. He has beaten me like a drum in all previous cavalry battles, so when I saw the initial deployment on our left, I thought that perhaps our Prussian goose was cooked. Fortunately, I was able to redeploy the 60 figure CR2 regiment on the cavalry field and equalize the numbers. Watching Bill's tactics in many a game past, I learned the importance of having a second line of cavalry reserves that one can feed into the existing melees to their front. Weight of numbers and fresh troopers make a world of difference.

As for the Garde du Corps, they were "veritable Caesars" as Frederick the Great might have said. They captured two standards, drove off three enemy cavalry regiments and were well positioned to threaten the French infantry flank by the end of the game. As a consequence, I awarded a battle honor to the Garde du Corps as well as one for CR2 to honor their exploits in the battle.

I will continue the story of the infantry battle in the center and in the Preecewald on the far right tomorrow.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Frederick's Garde du Corps

Der Alte Fritz greets his Garde du Corps cuirassier regiment (CR13) after the victory over the French at Ritterbruck. Elite Miniatures cuirassiers, Foundry general in red galarock and Foundry standard bearer. Frederick figure is from the Suren range and his escort are Staddens. Building by Herb Gundt and all figure painting by Der Alte Fritz.

This afternoon we fought the Battle of Ritterbruck, March 8, 1758 between the army of Lt. General Chevert and the King of Prussia, Frederick II. It was a spectacular victory for the Prussians who seemed to have come of age with respect to their cavalry arm. The Garde du Corps covered itself in glory, having captured two standards from the French Commissaire-General and Royale regiments of heavy cavalry. The Garde du Corps also won three melees and was driving the French cavalry off the field by the end of the game.

The Prinz von Pruessen (CR2) or Gelbe Reiter regiment also captured the standards of the Rutowsky cheveauleger regiment and the that of the Austrian Modena cuirassier regiment. The Jung-Krakow dragoons (DR2) and the Black Hussars (HR5) also made key contributions to victory over the vaunted French cavalry. The infantry arm covered itself in glory as well, particularly the Alt-Braunschweig (IR5) regiment, which drove off two battalions of the enemy infantry, captured a 6-pound cannon, and drove off a squadron each of hussars and light lancers.

King Frederick congratulates the commander of the Garde du Corps after the battle.

Today's battle brings to mind the scene in the movie "Patton" where, after defeating Rommel in a battle in North Africa, George C. Scott (as Patton) exclaims, "Damn it Rommel, I read your book!" In much the same manner, I feel that after watching Monsieur Chevert run circles around the Prussian cavalry in so many of our battles, that enough lessons were learned that we were finally able to beat the vaunted French cavalry at their own game. I apologize if this comes across as bragging, for that is not my intent, and I have the utmost respect for Bill Protz and his cavalry acumen. It is just that turning the tables on Bill, using his own tactics, proved successful beyond all imagination.

The Garde du Corps
My own version of the Prussian Garde du Corps, organized into 3 squadrons, consist largely of figures from Elite Miniatures SYW Prussian range. These are big 30mm figures, even though they are advertised as 28mm figures. As such, they are a perfect fit for the 30mm Surens and Staddens that we use in our SYW armies. The regiment has a unique Roman-style vexilum banner as shown in the picture below. As far as I know, the only company that makes this figure is Wargames Foundry. They no longer list it in their range, but if you give Bernard at the Foundry a call, he will probably be able to find a command pack for you. The Foundry command group includes an officer wearing the spectacular formal galarock that was worn for special occaisons. It was too nice not to include it my regiment, so I painted the figure and added it to the command stand as shown below. I placed the Foundry figures on Elite Miniatures horses so as to give the appearance of being equal in size. Elite horses are a bit larger than Foundry horses, which appear to small to my eye, relative to the size of the figures. I think that they look much better atop the Elite horse. I had to place some epoxy putty underneath the saddle of the Foundry rider so that he would sit more firmly on the Elite horse.

Garde du Corps command group. The officer in red coat and the standard bearer are Foundry figures. The other figures are from Elite Miniatures.

The Garde du Corps was created by Frederick II when he became king in 1740. It was originally one squadron strong with 160 riders. Its function was literally to provide an escort for the king and guard his life. The King added two more squadrons in 1756 just prior to the start of the Seven Years War. It was distinguished at Rossbach, Zorndorf and Hochirch and was usually brigaded with the Gensdarmes (CR10) cuirassier regiment. Its station was at Charlottenburg so that the unit could provide escort and protection to the king at his palace in Potsdam. The regiment also held a high level of social prestige.

The Garde du Corps received its baptism of fire in the War of Austrian Succession, at Hohenfriedberg in 1745, where it fought on the right flank against the Saxon cavalry at Pilgramshain. They helped put the Saxon cavalry to flight and smashed two Saxon grenadier battalions, capturing seven standards and two flags in the process.

All three squadrons of the Garde du Corps. Click on this and the other pictures to enlarge.

One final story about the regiment relates to its performance at Zorndorf in 1758. It was part of Seydlitz's attack from the Prussian left flank that day and augmented by the DR4 dragoon regiment. They attacked across the Zabern Grund and into the Russian cavalry, smashing them and breaking five battalions of infantry and capturing fifteen guns and five flags. Captain von Wacknitz shouted out, "a battle must not be considered lost until the Garde du Corps attacks!" The regiment reformed and attacked once again on the right wing, stopping Demiku's Russian cavalry on that wing as well.

After the battle, Seydlitz reported to Frederick that, "the Garde du Corps under Captain Wacknitz has done wonders!" and so Frederick promoted Wacknitz to Lieutenant Colonel on the spot. I daresay that its tabletop version performed similar wonders at Ritterbruck today. I will probably write up an after action report and post the pictures tomorrow evening.

Friday, March 7, 2008

30,000 Visits To Hesse Seewaldt

Minden Miniatures are so gorgeous that this picture is worth a second look. Unfortunately, they won't be engaged in the epic battle against Gallia tomorrow because I haven't painted the standard bearers yet. This is just half of a 60 figure battalion of IR34.

The Alte Fritz Journal reached a milestone of sorts when it topped 30,000 cumulative visitors to the site on March 4th, 2008. I am honored that so many of you take the time to pay regular visits to this site and want to thank everyone for helping to make this endeavor so much fun.

I spent a good part of the evening breaking Der Alte Fritz's Number One Rule of Wargaming: never, ever base or paint figures for a game the night before said game. I am traveling north to Brown Deer, Wisconsin to play in a BAR wargame on Saturday and it occurred to me that I had not terrained the bases of the third squadron of the Prussian Garde du Corps. Arrgghhh!!! Well, I just had to spackle the bases and add a bit of flock and sisal grass to make them presentable for the game. Besides, the prospect of an upcoming game concentrates one's mind wonderfully and I finished the basing in less than an hour. So the Garde du Corps, two Prussian command stands, and the Stadden AWI artillery crew are now based and ready to make life difficult for the Gallians.

I couldn't seem to stop myself at that point. I had a Foundry cuirassier officer in his galarock (coat) and I just had to have one of these fellows in the Garde du Corps. So I painted him and based him as well. Pictures tomorrow, I hope. I plugged in the digital camera so that the battery is recharged and I'm looking forward to a fun game and the taking of lots of pictures.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Austrian Bits & Pieces

Austrian Field Marshal's Camp Tent - constructed by Herb Gundt

With a little bit of reluctance, I have started to work down that pile of lead that will eventually become my Seven Years War Austrian Army. I use the word "reluctance" only because my painting passions lie on the dark blue spectrum of the color wheel. I can paint Prussians all day with the greatest of ease and never get bored, but Austrians take a bit of gumption and a great heaping helping of "need". When one has 240 Prussian cavalry and only 72 Austrian horse, then there is trouble brewing in Brandenburg. The solution is to find some inspiration and break out the pots of white paint.

Tenting Tonight On The Old Campground: Fortunately for Der Alte Fritz, Mr. Herb Gundt came to the rescue with an inspiring assortment of camp tents and command tents for my Austrian (and Prussian - come on now, you didn't think that I would ignore the Prussians when it comes to the terrain goodies, now did you?) army. The inspiration for all of this goes back many years ago to an article in "Wargames Illustrated" by a fellow named Peter Duckworth. He described how he made his own encampment of tents and I thought that it would look pretty cool on my table top one day. Then fast forward to last year and a viewing of one of Phil Olley's spectacular tabletop layouts, complete with command tents for both sides and, simply put, I knew that it was time to go a tenting. I talked to Herb, outlined my ideas for command tents and tents for the rank and file, and the end results are posted here today. I think that Herb has outdone himself once again.

Prussian Commander's Tent by Herb Gundt

Generic camp group tents for the rank and file, by Herb Gundt

I am already conjuring up a number of uses and scenarios for these tents. The camp group could used as a back drop for a Soor scenario in 1745, where the Austrians nearly caught Frederick napping, so to speak, in his encampment. Fritz attacked in the usual manner and won in the usual manner, but methinks that he should have kept this little episode fresh in his memory. It would have come in handy at Hochirk in 1758. The tents could also come in handy as a target for a Croat raiding party or some similar action. Now, all I need is a field bakery.

Austrian Reinforcements: Thus inspired, I searched through the dark and deep cavern know as The Closet O' Lead and fished out a squadron of Crusader SYW Austrian cuirassiers that I had primed about a year or so ago. I started slapping paint on the unit thursday evening and finished off the 12 figure squardron on Sunday afternoon. I'm sorry that I don't have the pictures at this time, maybe tomorrow. I really don't enjoy painting cavalry as much as infantry because each piece is really two miniatures - the rider and the horse. Experience has tought me that painting cavalry in batches of 10 or 12 figures makes the project more palatable. The prospect of having to paint 36, much less a whole regiment of 60 riders, is too much for me, but breaking it down into bite sized morsels gives me a psychological boost.

The new squadron will bring my Birkenfeld (CR23) regiment up to 36 figures. I would gladly paint some more, but I have run out of cuirassier lead and I'm trying to stick to my pledge to paint more of the lead that I already have, rather than buying more new figures. This means that the next couple of squadrons will be Austrian dragoons. I have 48 of these fellows, also from Crusader, and I'm thinking that 12 will beef up my Saint Ignon dragoon regiment to 36 figures, while the next 36 might become the Saxe-Gotha Dragoon regiment in bright red coats and light blue facings - a truly colorful combination that ought to look splendid on the table top. Following that, I have 36 Austrian Hussars, also from Crusader. As you might guess, I like the Crusader cavalry a whole lot. Mark Simms' castings are easy to paint and they have terrific faces, so they are a breeze to paint. They are moderately chunky so they look like they fit in with my larger 30mm Suren and Elite cavalry figures. Yet they are not too chunky or cartoonish.

February Painting Update: Let's review the painting production for the month of February. I accumulated 81 Olley Painting Points in February, which is right on target with my 60 to 70 points goal for each month.

1806 Project (46 points)
30 Prussian Grenadiers (IR13) - 30 points
10 Prussian Foot Artillery Crew - 10 points
2 Prussian 6 pounders - 2 points
2 Prussian mounted officers (2 points each) - 4 points

SYW Project (35 points)
12 Prussian Garde du Corps (Elite Miniatures) - 24 points total
2 Prussian brigadier generals, mounted - 4 points total
6 Prussian Artillery crew (Stadden AWI artillery crew) - 6 points
1 Prussian 7 pound howitzer (Berlin Zinfiguren) - 1 point

By the way, when I painted the 1806 Prussian 6 pounders from Elite Miniatures, I noticed that these castings were quite a bit larger than the original Napoleonic 6 pounders that he made. The newer versions are really, really nice. For those of you looking for larger cannons to use with your large 28mm and 30mm cannon models, these are worth a close look. Highly recommended, as Hal Thinglum would say!

The 1806 Project will be on hold for a couple of months as I get back to work on some things that I need for SYW convention games at the Seven Years War Association convention at the end of March in South Bend, Indiana; at Little Wars in April; and at Historicon in July. I also have my first SYW game of 2008 next weekend in Brown Deer, Wisconsin at the home of Monsieur Protz, le come de Brown Deer. Der Alte Fritz has a busy campaigning season ahead of him, it would seem.