Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gettysburg Visit

Der Alte Fritz inspects a 12 pound Napoleon atop of Cemetary Ridge near the Angle.

My recent trip to Historicon included a couple of side visits to some of the French & Indian War battle sites in western Pennsylvania and a four hour tour of Gettysburg, before we finished the final leg of our drive from Chicago to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I hadn't been to Gettysburg for a long time and I was keen to see how things had changed during the interim. A number of nonprofit groups, including The Civil War Preservation Trust and The Friends of the National Park at Gettysburg have done yeoman work in preserving and improving the Gettysburg site over the past four or five years.

One of the "victories" was the felling of the National Tower, that eyesore that used to dominate the landscape. It was purchased by some of these private groups and demolished. Other groups raised and donated money so that a new visitors center could be built, which would include a new home for the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Once these projects are completed, the old visitors center in Ziegler's Grove will be demolished and the site will begin to look more like it did in 1863. Finally, the Park has been cutting down trees and brush that didn't exist at the time of the battle, giving visitors a new perspective on Hood's attack through Devil's Den and Houck's Ridge.

A new view of Houck's Ridge from atop Little Round Top (click picture to enlarge).

The most impressive restoration work is undoubtedly at the site of Devil's Den/Little Round Top/Houck's Ridge. A picture of the site as it presently is is shown above. When I was last in Gettysburg, some 6 or 7 years ago, much of what you see in the picture was covered with woods. My recollection is that there was a substantial woods around Devils Den, but now it is completely open. Now it just looks like a pile of rocks when viewed from Little Round Top. If you click on the picture you will get a very nice view. The little shed (rest rooms/WC) used to be obscured by trees. Everything to the left of the road and beyond Devils Den was a forest of trees.

Moving back into the picture and up the ridge (Houck's Ridge), everything to the left of the lone tree was woods and only the gap between the lone tree and the woods on the right existed. This was the famous view of the triangular field which was attacked by Benning's Brigade of Georgians in Hood's division, leading to the rout of the Union forces from this ridge. Now the visitor can see well beyond the triangular field and can appreciate the view that Major General Warren had when he reached the summit of Little Round Top. Undoubtedly, he could see Hood's whole division coming his way.

A view of the Valley of Death from atop Little Round Top. The tree line marks the continuation of Houck's Ridge to the north of the previous picture.

I understand that the Peach Orchard has been cut down and replanted with new peach trees. The trees apparently have a 20-year life, so the park replaced them this year. I didn't take any pictures because it was late in the afternoon and my camera was pointing directly into the sun.

Alonzo Cushing's 'A' Battery 4th US Artillery at the Bloody Angle on Cemetary Ridge.

Finally, here (above) is a picture showing a section of Union artillery at the Angle on Cemetary Ridge. I show this picture because it provides some insight into the amount of space that a battery of artillery requires on the battlefield. Beyond the guns, you can barely make out the limbers. Beyond that, there would be caissons and horse teams taking up even more space. So the depth of a battery is rather significant. That is something to consider when depicting an artillery battery on the table top.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Historicon Overview

Our Day One battle featured the Prussians and Austrians fighting in the snow. Buildings and roads and trees by Herb Gundt, of HG Walls fame.

I arrived home last night at 7:30 PM after a surprisingly pleasant 12 hour drive from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Hesse Seewaldt (Chicago area). Randy, Bill and I took turns driving every two hours so the driving was not too tiring. We brewed up lots of good ideas for future convention wargames, tweaked the rules a bit to deal with some of the unusual events that took place in our three games, and discussed future SYW related projects. This is the best way to travel to a wargame convention, with a group of like minded souls. We all had a terrific time. My knees and ankles were rather achy after standing up for so many hours, but things are beginning to get back to normal now that I have had plenty of rest and sleep.

Randy (left) and Bill (right) take cover behind the Mountain of Stuff that we brought to Historicon for our three wargames. This was my room.

We had every thing packed into a 15-passenger van, with three rows of seats removed. You can see the collection of stuff that we hauled in the van, in the picture above. Since my room was closest to the game area, we all thought that it made sense to store everything in my room. Oddly enough, Randy and Bill had double suites, which would have been better suited for storing the Mountain of Stuff, while I had a single room, but as I said, common sense said to put it in my room, and I didn't really mind. I spent the late evening hours talking to the French figures and putting the fear of God into them so that they would perform poorly on the table top. It must have worked, as the Prussians won two of the three games.

A view of the "wolf pits" that flanked the Prussian attack on the right wing.

The first game that we hosted on thursday evening featured the Austrians and Prussians fighting in the Silesian snows. I just needed an excuse to use all of the wonderful winter terrain that I had Herb Gundt construct for me for my Leuthen Churchyard skirmish game of two years ago. I was reading about the Croats using improvised "wolf pits" at Lobositz and Reichenberg. I took these to be hasty rifle pits positioned forward of the main battle line. Herb did his usual excellent job of rendering my ideas into a final product. I had Herb make wolf pits for both winter white and summer green. These were positioned across the table in various places and they proved to be very pesky to the Prussians, who had a hard time evicting the Croats from their wolf pits.

A view of the Austrian centre and the village that they were defending. The Prussians have finally negotiated their way past the dreaded wolf pits in the foreground.

You can read all about my rediculous spending in the dealer area from the previous blog posting. Suffice it to say that there are many temptations in the dealer area. Eureka Miniatures, Old Glory and Pontoonier Miniatures were the lucky dealers that tapped Der Alte Fritz's wallet today.

Day Two - Friday

Chris Brooks' Spencer Smith Miniatures game caught my eye on the second day. The entire table was nothing but SSM figures that Chris has been collecting over the past two years.

More Spencer Smith Miniatures in their classic marching pose.

I later discovered that the Spencer Smith game was actually a refight of Charles Grant's Mollwitz battle from his book, "The Wargame."

I tumbled out of bed around 9 AM and headed for the Vista Lounge in search of fruit for my breakfast. In this I was successful as there was plenty of berries, melons and orange juice to be had. The body craves healthy food after eating so much sugar and carbs for two days. I had a nice conversation with old friend Bob Coggins and had a nice chat with Duncan MacFarlain and Herb Gundt over the breakfast table. Then it was off to the dealer area again, on the odd chance that I had missed something yesterday. Dash it all! Those fiends at Pontonnier Miniatures now had those Baden 1806 Napoleonics painted and displayed at their booth. My will power broke like a dam in a rainstorm and soon many pounds of figures were flowing into my shopping bag. I also bought a copy of Waterloo and Der Grosse Koenig (with English subtitles).

Otto Schmidt's "Oh God, Anything But A Six!" game with Surens and Staddens and RSM figures, oh my!

I finally got a chance to meet Jerry Lanigan and Otto Schmidt, of the Society of Daisy Group, and I had a good time chatting with them. Otto's mind is full of many wonderful ideas and I could have talked with him all day. It looked like kids and grown ups were having fun playing in his games.

Later in the afternoon, Randy and I helped Bill Protz set up miniatures for his discussion of 18th century battalion tactics. We formed a battalion at a 1 to 1 figure to man ratio, so that was 600 figures lined up in three ranks, just like they would have been in the 18th century. Bill used a normal BAR 60 figure battalion to represent a peleton or platoon of French infantry. Eight participants were designated as platoon commanders and they maneuvered their platoon from column to line and back into column again. It was really interesting watching the evolution of the battalion through its various formations. Everyone came away with a better sense of how difficult it could be to maneuver a battalion in the field.

Colonel Protz issues commands in French to his platoon commanders as they march across the table in a column formation.

The platoons wheel to the left to form up in line formation.

We then set up another wargame for the Saturday evening battle between the French and the Prussians. Friday's game had 15 battalions and more cavalry than I can count. So we scaled it back to 12 battalions for tonight's game. Alas, I forgot to take pictures of the game. I commanded a battery of horse artillery and the battalion of the Guard Grenadiers in the Prussian army. I was facing a young lad who was very aggressive and coming at me likety split. I begged my neighboring commander to loan me some jagers, anything in fact, in order to entice the lad into spending his first fire (+5 bonus in the firing tables) before he reached my Guards (who were the only infantry in the sector). A battalion of Prussian fusiliers also edged to its left to help me out, and finally, after getting hammered by Prussians on both ends of his battalion, the lad fired off his first volley and dropped a lot of jagers and horse artillery crew. With 12 saving throws, I somehow saved all but one of the crew. Huzzah. Now that the French player had spent his first fire, I advanced into point blank range and unleashed a withering counter fire of 60 muskets, inflicting 45 hits. The lad saved probably half of them, but I tip my cap to this unknown youngster who nearly had me on the ropes.

Day Three - Saturday

A view of the Prussian encampment of Der Alte Fritz. Buildings by HG Walls, roads by Der Alte Fritz, terrain mat by The Terrain Guy.

We set up our final game on Saturday morning and had everything done 45 minutes before the start of the game. This time, we only used 9 battalions and a smaller number of cavalry. It occurred to us sometime after Friday night's game, that less stuff on the table top equals a faster putting away of stuff at the end of the game.

Five squadrons of Suren Prussian Dragoon Regt. DR2 arrive on the table to relieve the Prussian advance garde.

Today's game was played on the long axis of the table for a change. The Prussians had an advance garde in the center, holding a defensive position on a ridge line. Hoards of French were streaming towards them and a couple brigades of Prussian horse and foot were racing to the center of the table to relieve their Prussian comrades. The French objective was to take the hill and capture the supply camp, shown two pictures above. The Prussian objective was to hold until relieved.

Old School Wargamer Ross Maker looks happy. He should be, his stand of jagers charged into a limbered French 4 pounder and captured it. The picture shows the positioning of Ross's advance garde of the Prussian army as it watches the arrival of the French.

The Prussian cavalry arrives in the nick of time and prevent the French light cavalry from sweeping in behind the Prussian brigade defending the hill.

Alas, it is all for naught, as the French sweep the Prussians from the hill and the rest of the Prussian army has to fall back.

The French finally got on the score board by stomping the Prussians rather convincingly on the third day. On one table, there was a giant cavalry battle that sucked in all of the Prussian heavy and light cavalry. The commander wanted to also commit the dragoon reserve in the center, buy the dragoon colonel (moi, me) declined to throw in the dragoons as they were shadowing the French light cavalry on the other flank. I tried to charge the dragoons up the middle, hoping to rout some French grenadiers and tumble them back into the second line of infantry that was trudging up the hill behind them. If successful, this could have broken the French middle, but the grenadiers held fast and my dragoons routed off the field. I was tempted to charge two more squadrons of dragoons, I eventually did, but they two were repulsed by the French grenadiers. As the left flank cavalry battle turned in the French favor, we had no choice but to withdraw from the field.

I made one last trip to the dealer area before it closed at 6pm on Saturday night. I purchased a hot wire knife to use for sculpting foam terrain pieces. My plan is to make some hills that I can place beneath the game mats that we used in this game. We really liked the mats - they were easy to set up (much better than using terrain boards) and transport. Eventually, we will make some terrain pieces that can be set atop the mat, or for steeper or bigger hills, underneath the mat.

It was an exhausting three or four days at historicon, but we all agreed that it was worth it and we enjoyed meeting many of the Old School Wargaming members. I finally got to meet Otto Schmidt and John the OFM in person, two of the more interesting personalities in this wonderful hobby of ours.

Friday, July 25, 2008

First Day of Historicon

It was a very successful day here at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Der Alte Fritz invested a bit of the national exchequer into the military arms, the Prussians won a convincing victory in the snowy landscape of Bohemia, and I found some fruit.

The Dealer Area
The world famous Historicon dealer area is a sight to behold. It fills up the tennis barn, which is big enough to hold 3 or 4 indoor tennis courts. But who cares about tennis when the barn is chock full of an endless bounty of miniatures, terrain pieces, books, videos and other wargame knick-knacks.
I had a nice chat with Nic Robison of Eureka Miniatures and he indicated that he was considering shortening the time between the release of 100 Club figures to the members and the time when they are made available to the rest of the public. I think that this would be a good thing for the community. He also indicated that the Saxons and Dutch are very close to completion and that the Dutch WAS figures had one of the highest responses of any item that had ever been put up on the 100 Club board. I bought a significant number of French Revolution War infantry in bicorns and I intend to add these to my 1805-07 army. The French line looks like a real winner. He also showed me some figures of Austrian grenz infantry firing muskets which were resting on a pole. Really cool looking figures and I look forward to eventually seeing more Austrian infantry.

The next stop was at the Old Glory booth as I was really interested in seeing the 2nd Generation ACW figures in person. These are very nice sculpts and remind me a bit of the Perry style figures or even the older Dave Alsop Old Glory figures. Thumbs up on these figures. I re-enlisted in the Old Glory Army and received a bag of 28mm figures in various "dueling" vignettes. I also bought an 18th Century coach from Blue Moon Figures, an OG affiliate.

The Sash & Sabre 40mm range is another beautiful line of figures. I don't game with 40mm figs, but the artistry in the castings is of a very high level. Something to consider for the future.
I bought a couple of DVDs at another dealer:Belle & Blade, snagging a copy of Der Grosse Koenig with English subtitles, and a version of Waterloo with some extra minutes not previously available in the US.

Next was a visit to The Last Square where I bought a copy of Rise of the Eagles 1805 Battle Scenarios for Shako II. I thought about buying Shako II, but the $40 price tag gave me pause. The battle scenario book looks very useful as it includes all of the battles in the Austerlitz campaign.

A relatively new miniatures company is Pontoonier Miniatures based in Milwaukee, WI and they had some attractive Baden infantry for 1806-1811 that caught my fancy. I was tempted to buy some of these figures and add them to my 1806 Project. They are really good looking figures. The company plans to add more of the German countries that have not been covered by other miniatures companies.

The Wargame
We set up our SYW winter snow game in the main lobby and had our usual 6ft by 20ft table with two parallel 2.5ft by 20 foot back tables. I will post some pictures when I get home, but it really looked nice. Well, what would one expect when it comes to Herb Gundt made terrain pieces. Herb added some Wolf Pits for me that we used in the game. These are basically hasty fox holes or rifle pits that were occuppied by the Croats at Lobositz and Reichenberg. The Prussians had a difficult time evicting the Croats from these foreward positions and found that the melee didn't work in this situation.

A brief game summary, on the Prussian left, they seemed to get every first fire card for several turns in a row, causing the Austrians to get decimated. The Saxon cavalry arrived to hold back the tide of Prussian blue, and in this they succeeded admirably. However, the early infantry losses were too much of a penalty for the Austrians to overcome. On the Prussian right, they found their advance flanked by a wooded hill that was teaming with Croats and more of those infernal wolf pits. The Prussian jagers screened them off, allowing the rest of the Prussian infantry and cavalry to bypass this obstacle and attack the Austrian regulars. There was a huge cavalry melee in this sector that appeared to be going strongly in the Prussians favor. The center was a bit of an Austrian success in the left center, but the Prussians were firing their way through in the center right. So all in all, it looked like a Prussian victory. The Austrians and Saxons gave a good account of themselves, lacking only in first fire cards and jokers. The Prussians nabbed two jokers on two consecutive card draws.

The Finding of Fruit
I'm already feeling sugared and junk fooded out. My bod was craving some fresh fruit or something healthy after all of those carbs etc. We had dinner at the Pancake House at 1 AM since we got into town so late. The breakfast buffet had large bowls of melon, orange juice and other nutricious fruits that I eagerly ate this morning. Since our game began at 6pm and the setup was at 4pm, I missed dinner and everything was closed down by the time we concluded the game and packed everything away. So my dinner was a package of Strawberry Pop Tarts. Sigh!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On The Road to Historicon

Der Alte Fritz is travelling along the road from Hesse Seewald to Historicon, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Bill Protz, Randy Frye and I loaded up our rental 15 passenger van with tons of lead figures, terrain and other assorted game goodies. We removed all of the seats, save for the front and second row seats and had the van stuffed to the gills.

The driving has been fairly easy as we trade off driving every two hours. The only difficulty was driving through a driving rain, thunder and lightning storm near Youngstown, Ohio. I turned on the old laptop to look at the weather radar and found that the only storms in the whole state of Ohio were in the exact area that we were at. Then Bill announced that we were nearly out of gas, and nary an exit could be found on the Ohio Turnpike. We finally found an exit and found a gas (petrol) station, much to our relief. Bill swears that we were coasting into the station on fumes.

We passed through Pittsburgh and settled in for the evening at Uniontown, PA. Tomorrow, we will stop at nearby Fort Necessity and Jumonville Glen, both sites of the French & Indian War. After that, we will continue the trek eastwards and make a stop at Gettysburg. I'm looking forward to seeing the brand new visitors' center and the refurbished Little Round Top/Devils Den area (they have cut back the brush and tree growth in these areas that didn't exist at the time of the battle). I haven't been to Gettysburg in about 8 years, so the changes should be significant.

On thursday, I will be running a BAR game featuring Austrians vs Prussians on some fabulous Herb Gundt made winter terrain. The game event number is T-101 on Thursday at 6PM. So if you happen to be at Historicon, then stop on by my game and say hello. Or better yet, participate in the game.

Painting Update
I have been in a bit of a painting funk or dry spell during the month of July. I have done a little bit of work on some Elite Napoleonic French artillery and crew, but have only completed 8 crew and a couple of guns. I wonder if I'm spending too much time on Napoleonics - perhaps this is sapping me of my will to paint. After Historicon, I think that I will try working on SYW figures again and see if I get the old painting mojo back.

I did paint one SYW Prussian 12 pounder and limber to use in my game. This is one of those Berlin Zinnfiguren models that I bought last year. Perhaps this will get me started again.
I will post some more updates each day at Historicon, but alas, no pictures until I get back home. I brought the digital camera and tripod and plan to leave no memory space unused. Well, goodnight and see you tomorrow. I'm looking forward to some sightseeing tomorrow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jacobite Victory At Carmudgeon

Jacobites scale the town walls (built by Ian Weekley). Old Glory SYW highlanders doing double duty as rebels in the Forty Five.

On Saturday July 12th we convened at Brown Deer to fight the next battle in our Jacobite rebellion. The scenario was that the Pretender's forces were seeking powder and arms to supply their growing army and word filtered back to Prince Charles in Edinburgh that the town of Carmudgeon, to the north, was loaded to the gills with ball, powder and several thousand brand new Brown Bess muskets. The Jacobites quickly put a strike force together to raid the arms depot before word would reach the Government garrison, commanded by Colonel Munro of His Majesty's 44th Regiment of foot.

The battle was to be divided into 3 separate battles, each covering a day. On Day One, the Jacobites would assemble in front of the town of Carmudgeon and attack it. Hopefully, they would drive off the garrison of the town and move on to Carmudgeon Castle, where all of the munitions were being kept.

On Day Two, the Jacobites would attack the outer defenses and the redoubt that guards the road to the castle and drive the garrison back into the fort.

On Day Three, the Jacobites could elect to scale the walls of the castle in an escalade (complete with purpose built ladders for the game) or settle down into a siege of the castle.

The town of Carmudgeon and the Cardhu Burn from the Government's side of the water.

Nicholson' s Redoubt - the object of Day Two's battle. Redoubt built by Herb Gundt.

Carmudgeon Castle - the Day Three objective where all the munitions were stored. Castle walls from Miniature Building Authority.

The Respective Forces
The Government forces commanded by Colonel Nicholson consisted of 120 foot, 60 militia and 40 dragoons, plus 36 pounds of artillery and supporting crews. Their quality was determined by the roll of a D6 (six-sided die) as Poor (1-2), Trained (3-4) or Veteran (5-6). Additional reinforcements were available, as determined by a die roll of which I, as Jacobite commander, was not privy to. Local farmers advised the Prince that a column of redcoats was marching down from Fyvie-o to support the garrison of the castle.

The Jacobites had a rather large force of 360 foot and 6 light horse plus up to 42 pounds of artillery and crew. (In practice, we only used two 3 pounders and I think that we only fired them once or twice throughout the whole game). Jacobite troop quality was 1/4 each of Poor, Trained, Veteran and Elite. If I had to do it all over again, I would eliminate the Elite troops from the Jacobite force as they had plenty of foot soldiers to overwhelm the redcoats.

Day One: Storming the Town

The Jacobite army deploys in front of the town in two wings: the right wing commanded by Lord Talisker and the left wing by Lord George Murray. The Prince and his escort are seen in the center.

The dilapidated town walls of Carmudgeon town did not prove to be of much help to the Government garrison. The Jacobites rapid movement of 15-inches plus one D6 meant that they were storming the town walls by Turn 2. Several companies of the 44th Foot manned the walls, the bell tower and a few of the buildings, but Captain Nolan, the leader of the town contingent, quickly saw that a defense was useless and so he pulled his troops out of the town lickety split.

By Turn 2 the Jacobites were already in the town. Murray's wing skirts around the town and heads for the stream, hoping to cut off the retreat of the redcoats, while Talisker's wing attacks the walls with scaling ladders.

Lord George Murray placed two of his clan regiments (MacDonnells and Clan Chisholm) under the command of Colonel vonn Bergmann, an adventurer from Tradgardland who had come across the North Sea to join the Rising, and gave him the task of capturing a battery of Royal Artillery. Afterall, the Jacobites needed cannon as much as they needed ball and powder.

Colonel vonn Bergmann leads the MacDonnell's (left) and the Clan Chisholm regiment to the burn, where a brace of 6 pounder Royal Artillery awaits them.

The Jacobites stormed across the stream like possessed demons. Nothing could stop them and soon they overwhelmed the Royal Artillery battery that tried to cut them down with cannister. Vonn Bergmann grabbed the lieutenant commanding the battery, pointed his sword at the fellows neck, and declared, "I'll have those guns sir - surrender or die!" With the rest of his battery crew either dead or running away, the lieutenant had no choice but to surrender the first battle trophies to the plucky Tradgardlander.

Vonn Bergmann (in pink coat) leads his men into the maw of the Royal Artillery, with successful results.

Clan Stewart regiment pours a flanking fire into the company of the 44th Foot that are trying to defend the bridge. They fall back to the left of the picture to where the rest of the regiment is formed up.

The 44th Foot reforms on the west bank of the burn. Stewarts and Frasiers are working their way across the water to support the attack.

While the Jacobite left was across the burn and hacking away at artillerymen, Lord Talisker was fighting his way through the town and working his way across the bridge. The 44th Foot retired across the bridge and set up a company or two to block the bridge. The Stewart regiment took up position in the attics of the town buildings and poured a deadly covering fire into the 44th, while the French Regiment d'Albany and the 500 strong Cameron regiment stormed across the bridge.

Albany Regiment has crossed (left) while the Camerons (right) cross the bridge over the Cardhu Burn.

The Government forces reformed on the west bank of the Cardhu Burn and allowed the Albany Regiment to come across the bridge. The plan was to then pour in a volley of musketry and follow it up with a cavalry charge. This proved to be a successful tactic as two squadrons of the 10th and the 11th Dragoons pitched into the blue-coated French volunteers d'Albany and drove them back across the river.

Fortune smiles on the Hanoverians, albeit briefly, as the 10th and 11th Dragoons (Old Glory figures) smash into the Albany Regiment and rout it across the bridge, and into the waiting Camerons. Much confusion on the bridge, and a glimmer of hope that the whole lot will rout.

Some of the Jacobite artillery crew that were crossing the bridge suddenly saw a mass of kilts and horses coming their way. They had no choice but to dive off the bridge and into the water. We rolled a D6 for each figure and a Snake Eye (#1) would result in a drowning. All of the artillerists survived the leap into the water.

A desparate hand to hand melee on the Cardhu Burn bridge. The veteran Camerons repelled the brave British Dragoons and saved the day for Lord Talisker's wing of the army. Some of the artillery crew (Perry ECW Scots) are seen swimming in the burn.

The remnants of the Government cavalry retired back to the redoubt and covered the retreat of the infantry as best they could. One unfortunate militia unit (the von Bungle Hessians), though stayed too long and found themselves charged on both flanks by the Jacobites. After this, the rest of the army retired , ending the action of the first day of battle.

The Hessians get caught on their right by the Athol regiment (white flag with red saltire) and the Frasiers on their left (blue flag). Kids, do not try this at home by yourselves. It is a very bad thing when it happens to you.

I will post a report of the second day's battle (both battles occured in one day of gaming) with more pictures in another day or two. This was a fun battle for the Jacobites, obviously, but the British commander (Bill Protz) did an exemplary job of whittling down the Jacobites and slowing them down for a bit. It was a hopeless assignment, but Bill did as well as anyone in this situation could expect. His cavalry charge could have saved the day had the Camerons also routed, but fortunately for Prince Charles, they held the bridge.

We used Batailles de l'Ancien Regime (or BAR) rules with a couple of minor changes. Unit sizes were approximately 30 figures per battalion or clan regiment and I thought that the game flowed nicely with the smaller battalions. One need not use 60 figure battalions in every BAR game. I think that this game serves as an example of the fact that the rules work quite nicely with smaller battalions in the 24 to 36 figure range.

Thanks go to Bill Protz (Colonel Nicholson and Capt. Nolan) and Randy Frye (Lord Talisker) for providing an enjoyable afternoon of gaming, and to Bill for providing the gaming venue.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Grand Manner Napoleonics

Neys corps attacks on the French left flank. Well, actually I don't recall who the corps commander was, but Ney seems like a good choice.

Over the fourth of July weekend, we completed round three of the continuing In The Grand Manner Napoleonics game that I reported on previously. Round Two occurred on June 18th and since the battle was still in doubt, we all agreed to convene this past weekend. There were only three of us on hand to play the game, so I had the entire French army to command by myself. I am guessing that this amounts to around 1,200 figures (20 to 30 battalions of infantry and three heavy cavalry divisions of unknown quantity. One the other side, there was one player commanding the Russians and one player commanding the Austrians. We managed to complete three turns over the course of the day.

The real purpose of these games is for our Napoleonic group to learn Peter Gilder's In The Grand Manner rules. So the outcome of the game doesn't really matter. The scenario reminds me a bit of Aspern-Esseling, with the French first attacking, then later defending, two villages in the face of overwhelming numbers of Russians and Austrians.

Recall that on the first day, Marshal Murat's advance guard captured one of the villages in the center, and Davout (me) captured the second village. On the far French left, Ney's piecemeal attack was demolished by the Russian massed artillery. The French Guard Corps began to arrive towards the end of the first day and Napoleon (me again) deployed the Guard in the center. With Ney's attack falling to pieces, Napoleon had to send all of his Guard cavalry off to the left to stabilize this part of the battle field.

The Second Day's Action - June 18th

French Grenadiers a Cheval clash with Russian cuirassiers on the French left.

Crossing a terrain obstacle causes a unit to become disordered and fight "unformed". So Ney gladly acceepted the gift of the Guard Cavalry (Horse Grenadiers and Chasseurs of the Guard) on his flank. The Chasseurs deployed on the opposite bank of the stream and dared the Russian cuirassier brigade to come across. They wisely declined the invitation. However, they shifted to their left and crossed the stream upstream from the Guard Chasseurs. Covered by a rediculous amount of artillery, they were able to cross the stream unopposed.

The Horse Grenadiers and a supporting regiment of French Dragoons moved foreward to battle the six squadrons of Russian cuirassiers. You can see some of the action in the picture above. Ney ran into a cold streak with the dice. Even though he outnumbered the Russian cavalry, he lost the grand melee. And by grand, I mean that Ney and his Russian counterpart threw every squadron that they had into the melee. The Russians won, les Gardes Recule! and suddenly the left looked very dicey. Napoleon was regretting sending all of his Guard cavalry to Ney.

In the center, Murat took command of Ney's shattered corps from the first day and organized a creditable combined arms attack in the left center sector. He deployed three regiments into a firing line and faced off against the Russian infantry. Some heavy carabiniers provided support on the right of the line and a battery of artillery was posted on each flank. Things looked promising, except for the outcome of the Guard cavalry melee. This left the remaining Russian cavalry on the left free to roam into the left flank of Murat's counterattack. The Russians charged into the flank of a French battery, driving off some dragoons and the gun crew. Then damn their eyes, but they rallied on the spot, turned to face the rear of the left most French battalion shown in the battle line below.

Murat reorganized the French left and mounted an impressive looking attack on the Russian right flank.

Over on the French right flank, Davout's corps continued to attack the growing hoard of white coated Austrians. Outnumbered and out-gunned, Davout continued to unleash cavalry attacks that were somewhat successful at causing confusing and disorder in the Austrian ranks. If only he could keep up the pressure, for there was a second line of eight elite Austrian grenadier battalions waiting in reserve.

Davout's heavy cavalry continued to press hard on the right flank.

Austrian cavalry were starting to break through a hole in the French right center. French cuirassiers move up to intercept them.

Murat and Davout had been having success holding off the Russian counter attack in the right center, but eventually the Austrian cavalry reserve found a hole and started pouring through. The French infantry formed square and waited for the cavalry to come to the rescue (see the picture above).

In the left center, the Old Guard was beginning to deploy and setting up their batteries of 12 pounders.

Murat's squares (center)provide cover for the Guard artillery (towards the rear of the table) and infantry to deploy towards the end of day two. Russians are shown in the foreground.

The Third Day - July 5th
Today I had the task of commanding the whole French army by myself. Needless to say, it took a long time to complete a turn with just three players, but it was manageable, if slow. I made a rather muck of things on the French left where Ney had set up a nice battle line of 3 battalions plus a column in reserve. From the previous day's action, the Russian cavalry had rallied on the spot and so they charged into the rear of my left most battalion. There was nothing that I could do about that. The battalion turned around, but could only fire a volley at long range, which virtually guaranteed a Russian cavalry breakthrough. It did, and the battalion routed. The center battalion held on for one more turn. The right most battalion got caught in the grill by a squadron of guard cuirassiers. It seems like every Russian horse on this battlefield is "guard". I think that I'm being hosed, but I am having fun anyway.

Things are starting to get serious in Davout's sector on the French right. The buildup of Austrians is too much for my meager French forces and so Davout's attack begins to run out of steam. Nothing more happens in this sector, but it is obvious that Davout will have to fall back and go on the defensive. Let the Austrians charge into artillery batteries for a change. We are outnumbered 17 battalions to 9 battalions and out gunned 15 guns to 11 guns.

In the right center area, between the two villages, (left of Davout's position) the Austrians are beginning to push cuirassiers through a gap in the lines and there is insufficient French cavalry to stop them. Davout has thrown three battalions into square, which seems to have stopped the Austrian cavalry, but I could see Austrian artillery moving foreward into the area. At the same time, the Austrian elite grenadier corps is forming up to assault the village in Davout's sector.

The only area of the battlefield where things are looking good for Bonaparte is in the center, where his Old Guard (9 battalions, 12 by 12 pounder guns, and 2 squadrons of Polish lancers) are beginning to dominate the field.

Napoleon took advantage of some squares formed by Murat's remnants (all at or near 50% in strength) to form up his artillery and cavalry. By the end of the day, the Guard 12 pounders were in position to start belching cannister on the Russians. Napoleon sent two battalions of Guards into the nearby village, which was empty for a couple of turns. Thank goodness the Russians didn't have any infantry available to occuppy that village.

There was a splendid cavalry battle in front of the Guard deployment, with French cuirassiers and the Guard Lancers driving off the Russian Guard Uhlans and sending them crashing through one of their own batteries. The Russian center was a big ball of confusing as numerous cavalry squadrons kept tumbling back through their own lines and disrupting all attempts to create a cohesive line of battle.

The Polish Lancers killed 8 Russian guard cavalry in the melee (I've never rolled so many "6's" in my entire life.) On the morale check, I rolled 3 snakes eyes. Merde, tout est perdu! But wait, this turns out to be a good thing. I had reckoned that such a low morale throw would generate a rout. But it turned out that the outcome was an uncontrolled pursuit of the defeated Russian cavalry. Guess where they went? Uh huh, right through another formed battery of Russian artillery plus a battalion of Guard infantry. All things in green uniforms were disordered.

On the next turn, I sent a squadron of line lancers into the artillery battery, and the crew abandoned the guns. "Cowards! I'll have you on a stick!" A feint smile cracked across Napoleon's face. He smelled opportunity in the center. It was time for the Old Guard to go onto the attack. However, we had to call it a day at this point and so I will have to wait until August 16th for the fourth round of the game in order to see what will happen.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

ACW Union Colour Guard Leads the Parade today. (click on all pictures to enlarge). Old Glory waving in the breeze is a stirring sight to behold.

I would like to wish everyone a happy Fourth of July as Americans celebrate the founding of our country on July 4, 1776. We celebrate by having hokey, but fun parades, visiting friends and relatives for cooked meat on the barbecue grill, lots of baseball and frisbee tossing, and then ending it all with a grand finale of evening fireworks. My daughter and I went to the annual Lake Bluff, Illinois parade and I thought that I would share a few of the photos that I took. It doesn't get any more American than this.

Lake Bluff Fourth of July Parade

The politicians don't miss a chance to hand out stickers to the crowd. I love the boy in the top hat.

More politics - quintessential Americana

The Shriners and their silly looking motorcycle team are always a sure crowd pleaser.

The parade always has its fair share of motor vehicles and fire engines and antique automobiles. The Humvee is from a local museum of old military vehicles.

A flag adorned Humvee motors on down the road.

The local fire department vehicles are covered with red, white and blue, and boy oh boy are their sirens loud.

A nicely restored 1931 Model A Ford station wagon.

The Cub Scout float. Looks like they are having fun.

Dare-devil circus acrobats. I wouldn't want to try this.

The Father-Daughter Indian Guides Float. I may want to get involved in this for next year.

Another local group publicizing their pancake breakfast fund raiser. Anyone can enter a float or event in the parade. All you have to do is ask. So a lot of local groups or neighbors just get the burr under their saddle to be in the parade, and so they do.

And of course, what would a parade be without the marching bands. They come to Lake Bluff from all over the midwest United States: Kalamazoo, Michigan; Racine and Kenosha Wisconsin and other points nearby.

The Midlothian Pipe and Drum Band, tis always one of my favorites in this parade. Wow, for some reason, those pipes really get me stirred up and ready for some action.

A trio of marching bands from around the midwest entertained the parade crowd.

Here is a picture of the Princess enjoying the parade. She has come equipped with a plastic bag this year in order to have a place to hold all of the candy that gets tossed to the crowd by the parade float participants.

The Princess making some new friends. In the background you can see Jake and Elwood Blues coming down the street (click the pix to enlarge).

The Princess meets and greets a Pug.

Well, that is all for now. I'm off to the cook out for some burger, corn on the cob and some ice cold leminade. We will go to the fireworks later this evening. Happy Fourth of July Everyone.