Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Things Are Looking Up

Well, my painting mojo may be coming back. This evening I completed 14 Suren SYW British that will join the rest of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, circa 1745. It was a hard slog for awhile, but I forced myself to keep attacking the figures and slowly but surely, they acquired paint. This brings the unit up to 40 figures, which is on the small side for our BAR games. I don't really look forward to having to assemble another 20 Surens plus 9 Suren grenadiers, but that is a task for another day.

I also primed 24 of the Minden Austrian cuirassiers tonight and I will probably start on them within the next day or so. Now these are figures that I know I will enjoy painting, so it is something to look forward to.

This coming saturday, we plan to recreate the battle of Minden to celebrate its 250th anniversary. It looks like the British get very little in the way of cavalry to face off against Bill's hordes of cuirassier-wearing cavalry. Steady lads, and aim low!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Back to the Mindens

Regiment Andlau using Minden Miniatures.

I tried painting some of the British Surens, but found that my brushes weren't inspired. So I decided that it was time to shift to what "I want to paint, rather than what I think that I need."

So this afternoon, I cleaned up and got two squadrons of Minden SYW Austrian cuirassiers ready for priming. I am really looking forward to finally getting around to painting these figures and hope that I have found the cure for my loss of painting mojo of late. We shall see.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lost My Painting Mojo

I suppose that it was inevitable, what with the rate I was painting figures over the past two months, but it appears that I have lost my will to paint figures for awhile. I haven't painted any figures over the past week and nothing since we fought our BAR Napoleon game last saturday.

My plan was to switch over to painting some Suren SYW British Guards after the Napoleonic game and get the unit up to 48 or 60 figures in time for our next SYW game on August 1st. But alas, as I started to apply some paint to the Surens, I found that I simply did not have any interest in painting the figures. It may be a matter of the Surens being a little more difficult figures to paint - they don't have smooth surfaces - on the contrary, they have many sharp angles and cuts in the figure. As a result, the brush does not flow smoothly over the figure. In addition, the fact that they are red coats and require a second coating of red paint adds a complication to their painting.

So now I find myself sort of putting my nose to the grind stone and slogging ahead no matter what in order to get the 14 Surens to the point where they begin to be fun to paint. This means after the application of the basic blocks of paint on the figure: red coats, blue trousers and facings, flesh colors, grey shade for the gaitors and haversack, and dark brown for the hair, back pack and musket barrel. Once this stage, and a tedious one at that, is reached, then the application of highlights and details begins. I find this stage of painting to be my favorite, for this is when the figure begins to come to life. You begin to get an idea of what it will look like when it is completed.

On the otherhand, I could put the Surens away and pitch into some of the Minden SYW Austrian cuirassiers that are sitting on my painting table (only 6, or half a squadron in BAR rules). I think that painting some wonderful Minden figures might be just the ticket to getting back my painting mojo. I have enough for a 60 figure regiment and I'd like to get them completed in time for the Big Battalion Game in October 2009. I was looking at the one or two sample figures that I had previously painted, admiring them and thinking that they could the right tonic to cure what ails me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Buehrle Throws Perfect Game!

Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle (left) and catcher Ramon Castro (right) celebrate the last out in Buehrle's perfect no-hits, no-walks, no-errors game in Chicago today. (Chicago Sun Times photo)

I don't often comment on events outside of the realm of wargaming, but I have to make an exception today in honor of the feat that Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle accomplished today. He did what only 17 other baseball pitchers have done in the entire history of major league baseball -- he pitched a perfect game. That's 27 batters going to the plate, and 27 batters making outs. It is a rarity in baseball with the last perfect game being thrown four or five years ago by Randy Johnson. Buehrle is no stranger to perfection though, for in 2007 he hurled a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers and nearly had a perfect game then. One batter, Sammy Sosa, drew a base on balls and was promptly picked off of first base for the out. Mark faced the minimum 27 batters in that game too.

Der Alte Fritz was at US Cellular Field last evening for the White Sox 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. He missed Buehrle's pitching gem by one day. Click to enlarge.

I've never seen a no hitter in person, but I have seen several via television. Coincidentally, I along with Mrs. Fritz and Lady Emma Cuddlestone-Smyth went to the Sox game last evening and watched our beloved baseball team post a come from behind 4-3 win over the same Tampa Bay Rays. Lady Emma has become quite the Sox fan and I've successfully converted Mrs. Fritz from a Cubs fan into a Sox fan. She says that the Sox have more personality and characters than the Cubs. Lady Emma's favorite player is outfielder Jermaine Dye.

Lady Emma and DAF himself pose for pictures outside of the ball park last night.

At any rate, last night's game was really exciting and I didn't think that anything could top that game, but I was wrong. The Sox and Rays played a day game today, starting around 1PM so I would have to miss it since I was at work. Around 2PM, I happened to check in on a web site that carried an inning by inning game summary, not in real time. It was the fourth inning and I was happy to see that the Sox were winning 4-0. I also noticed that Tampa did not have any hits. "hmm", thought I, "maybe Buehrhe will pitch another no hitter today."

I went back to work and made a brief check of the box score every ten or fifteen minutes. That is when I told a couple of coworkers (and my boss, who is also a big White Sox fan) that a no hitter was in progress. It killed me that I couldn't watch the game and we didn't have a radio on hand, and the web doesn't carry live streams for security reasons. Soon the 7th inning passed with no hits for the Rays. Everyone in the office was starting to check the internet to keep up on Buehrle's progress. The 8th inning came and went without any base hits or walks for the visitors. Now the excitement was at full pitch. Only three more batters to go!

I called Mrs. Fritz to tell her what was going on. She was in the car driving Lady Emma to a couple of doctors' appointments so they listened to the last inning on the car radio. The internet feed that I had was delayed, but I could see that it was down to the last batter. Then Mrs. Fritz called me back to tell me that Buehrle had done it. Little did I know how close a call it had truly been. The first batter in the 9th inning hit a screaming line drive that would have been a home run, but centerfielder DeWayne Wise made a spectacular leaping catch to preserve the perfect game.

I later was able to watch a replay of the whole game on the local cable channel, and watched that catch over and over. What a miracle. What fun. So I tip my cap to Mark Buehrle and the rest of the Chicago White Sox for a game well played.

Lady Emma had a grand time cheering on her White Sox at last night's game.

It looks like we are going to have a rockin' and rollin' time at the old baseball yard for the rest of the summer. We've been to two games this year, both behind home plate, and our record is 2-0 in terms of wins. I guess that we had better go to a few more games to cheer our team on to the division title and the playoffs.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

BAR Napoleon Playtest

A Prussian square, artillery at the corners and some skirmishers: all are essential elements of Napoleonic warfare and wargaming. Click the pix to enlarge the view. Elite Miniatures figures.

French voltigeur company deploys into skirmish order in the light woods. Elite Miniatures figures and The Terrain Guy game mats. Please click all pix to enlarge the view.

On Saturday July 18, 2009 we conducted our first official play test of the Napoleonic variant of Bill Protz's Batailles de l'Ancien Regime ("BAR"), which we unofficially call BAR Napoleon. We had four players for the game with 5-6 battalions per side, 2 heavy cavalry regiments and 2 light cavalry regiments per side, plus a battery of 4-5 guns each. Bill and Earl commanded the French while Mike T. and Der Alte Fritz commanded the Prussian side.

The French 51e de Ligne advances in colonne serre formation (column of open companies or grand divisions) with some Baden Jagers screening their front.

Prussian heavy cavalry brigade, lead by General von Blucher, was comprised of 40 dragoons (DR5 Konigen Dragoons) and 36 converged cuirassiers from three different regiments (that I bought at the Historicon Flea Market - Bring & Buy- in 2008). Figures are from Imperialist Enterprises, now sold through Outland Games in Dayton, Ohio.

Mike T.'s Prussian infantry brigade supported by two 6-pound sections of artillery. IR5 von Kliest is the nearest battalion. All figures are from Elite Miniatures.

Since this was only a playtest, and we were seeking to try out various aspects of the rules, the course of the game action and a description of what happened are not really significant, although a few tabletop miracles and humourous events did occur throughout the game. Suffice it to say that the French lined up on one side of the table, while the Prussians did the same and both sides advanced to the center of the table to secure the first bragging rights of the 1806 Campaign.

The game table was bifurcated (how is that for a big word?) by a large wooded area in the center of the table. From the Prussian point of view, the light cavalry battle occurred to the right of the woods; the main infantry battle took place to the left of the woods, in the very center of the table; and a large cavalry fight took place on the wide open left hand side of the table, fought between the French dragoons and cuirassiers against an equal number of like troops for the Prussians.

The light cavalry battle to the right of the central woods. Three squadrons of Prussian hussars, supported by two 6-pound horse artillery guns with crew, take on the French light cavalry (5 sqds) and a battalion of infantry. Two more squadrons of Prussian hussars and a battalion of grenadiers are just out of the picture. The picture is a little blurry because I did not use my tripod for this shot, as I usually do. Pictures without tripods are a waste of time.

A closer view of the French 12e Chasseurs a Cheval (2 squadrons of 12) from Elite Miniatures. Note the light cavalry brigade commander to the left on the round base. Brigade commanders are always mounted on round bases, while regimental colonels and ADCs are mounted on rectangular bases.

The columns of French infantry and their supporting artillery were moving forward in the center, so I decided to go at them at full tilt and hope that my one battalion of musketeers could crash into the whole lot before they could shake out into a battle line. I move up to point blank range and then hoped to get the first movement card.

Sometimes bold moves pay off. This time it appears that they would not. The French got the first first movement card, enabling them to deploy their artillery, and they also got the first firing card, giving them the first fire into my battalion of IR19 musketeers. Here is what was left of IR19 after taking a "double shot" of cannister from 4 French guns. I was not a big fan of the new "double shot" rule, to say the least.

IR19 survived the French cannister and charged home and put all of the French artillerists to the bayonet. Huzzah! Now you see IR19 von Winning (appropriate name as it turned out) advancing to support IR19's success. The French 51e de Ligne counterattack in column formation.

IR23 von Winning regiment gets attacked from the front by the 51e de Ligne and on the flank by the 24e de Legere. Miraculously, von Winning drove off both attacks, not once, but twice during the course of the game. Poor die rolling by your opponent can often bail one out of a tight spot, so it would seem.

The French 24e Legere regroups and comes back a third time, this time with success as IR23 von Winning found a battalion of the 12e de Ligne (top of the picture) advancing through their rear and they fall back.

The Cavalry Battle

Bill (left)advances the 20e Regt. de Dragoons forward to protect the right flank of Earl's (right) infantry. The Baden Jagers (Pontoonier Miniatures) provide a skirmish screen against some Prussian scheutzen doing the same.

This is what Bill saw in front of his dragoons and jager screen: Prussian infantry supported by Prussian dragoons and cuirassiers.

Cavalry commander von Blucher rolled a Poor charisma rating prior to the great cavalry melee, so the Prussian players let Blucher wander off on his own since he would add a -1 to the morale of any unit that he might be attached to. This was done via a D6 die roll, with 1 being the worst and 6 being the best (+2 to morale).

IR5 von Kliest got slaughtered by two squadrons of French dragoons because the infantry was in line formation. So this part of the rules appeared to work just fine. As a result, the other two Prussian infantry battalions commanded by Mike T. went into square for the rest of the game. The Prussian squares await the outcome of the cavalry melee (top of the picture) between the French and Prussian dragoons. Prussian cuirassiers squadrons are seen within supporting distance of the melee, which the Prussians won.

Another view of the dragoon melee and the Prussian squares, who watch some French cuirassiers, off camera to the right, advancing forward.

More of the dragoon melee. Blucher can be seen in the background while his French cavalry commander counterpart is seen in the thick of the melee at the bottom of the picture.

Three squadrons of French cuirassiers now move into melee position. Elite Miniatures cuirassiers.

French cuirassiers (left) close upon the Prussian dragoons (right).

A Few More Random Pictures

This looks bad for the Prussian grenadiers, n'est-ce pas? Mais non, les hussards recule! Earl's hussars were roaming around the Prussian rear table and found a juicy flank to charge into. The trouble was, the hussars were still disordered or unformed from a previous melee and so the Prussian grenadiers were actually able to win the melee and drive off the hussars. I will take hot dice and luck any day over sound tactics. Hee, hee, hee.

Bill's two battalions of Dixon 25mm French infantry fit in well with the other figures. They are smaller than the Elite Miniatures, but as you can see from the various pictures, one doesn't notice the size difference when fielding 72 figure units.

Some of the older Dave Alsop sculpted Old Glory limited edition French, painted as legere unit, seen operating in a colonne serre formation.

French voltigeurs stream over the crest of the ridge in advance of the first battalion of the 12e de Ligne regiment. Some old Elite French chasseurs can be seen on the right. They have just finished mopping up the Prussian light cavalry on the far right of the table.

The playtest seemed to work fairly well. The infantry versus cavalry melee worked the way that I had hoped, but I would like to see an even more decisive result in favor of the cavalry as long as the infantry remains in line formation. I want the players to have lots and lots of incentive to form square in the presence of enemy cavalry.

The skirmisher firing rules worked nicely. One simply throws a D6 for each skirmisher and hits on a score of 4-6 (short range), 5-6 (medium range) and 6 (long range). The opponent rolls saving throws as usual in these rules. With respect to skirmishers screening infantry and receiving fire, we decided that the firing unit can fire at the screened target (line or square) and simply allocates the hits to as many skirmishers cover the front of the unit, with the remaining hits allocated to the line or square unit. The skirmishers are easier to save via saving throws, the regular infantry fall easier.

I didn't like the double shot cannon firing. If you chose to double shot your guns, you doubled the number of hits. Maybe this might work for cannister, but not for round shot.

We also decided that infantry in column needs more of a melee modifier so we upped this from a plus one to a plus three during the course of the game.

So for a first effort, I thought that the rules gave us a nice game that captured the essential elements of Napoleonic warfare. I am encouraged by the start and look forward to the next playtest somewhere down the road.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

BAR Napoleon Update

Prussian DR5 Dragoons, circa 1806.

Last weekend Bill P. visited Schloss Seewald so that we could run our first play test of the BAR variant rules for Napoleonic warfare at a 1 to 10 ratio. Bill had all of the quick reference play sheets printed and ready to go while I supplied the troops and the terrain. Sorry, but no pictures were taken of the play test so you will have to wait until our first official BAR Napoleon game next saturday July 18th.

Bill played the French (of course) and Der Alte Fritz commanded the Prussians (ditto) and we set out a few units (3 French battalions, 4 artillery pieces, clouds of skirmishers and a 100 or so cavalry) for the French and a similar number for the Prussians (4 battalions, 2 foot artillery, 2 horse artillery, 36 dragoons and 36 cuirassiers). It was set up as an informal meeting engagement with both sides vying for control of a small town.

The outcome didn't matter much as we were more interested in seeing how certain aspects of the rules worked out. The infantry and artillery were no problem as these elements functioned pretty much as they did during the SYW. So no changes were needed there. We did tweak the skirmish rules a bit. Instead of consulting the firing tables, one now merely rolls a D6 for each skirmisher figure and hits with a roll of 4, 5 or 6 depending on the range to the target. This adds more dice rolling and creates some fun situations. Sometimes your skirmishers will hit everything they shoot at, while at other times, they couldn't hit the proverbial broad side of a barn with there target practice.

The cavalry vs cavalry melees went off without a hitch too. Since Napoleonic cavalry fought in two ranks, instead of three, we limited melees to two ranks deep. This worked ok with the cavalry, but when they faced off against the infantry, we decided that having three ranks of infantry fighting against only two ranks of cavalry was unfair, unrealistic, and resulted in a huge advantage for the infantry.

I want the players to have incentives to use Napoleonic tactics, so I think that we need to severely modify the cavalry versus melee rules so that the horsies have a big advantage once they close with the infantry. For starters, I plan to add a +5 melee bonus to cavalry vs infantry not in line, and then see what happens. There will be a few other changes as well, but I want the infantry commander to feel the need to form a square in the presence of enemy cavalry. And right now, there is no need to do so without more modifications. We shall see how things turn out on Saturday.

I have been working on more Elite Miniatures French chasseurs a cheval this week, building the 12e Chasseurs from 12 to 24 figures. This was a welcome change after spending the past two weeks tediously painting French line infantry.

That's the update for now, more later in the week.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Restoring Order To The Universe

Suren British Guards and Royal Artillery: "we're back!"

This is a reminder that the 18th Century and the Seven Years War in particular are my primary interest when it comes to wargaming and historical research. I think that the recent pictures of that remote and unpopular period known as WW2 created a disturbance in The Force, one that I must fix ASAP. Accordingly, I am posting a picture of my Suren British Guards battalion for all to view. A healthy dose of tricorn pictures should restore balance to The Force.

On August 1, 2009 we are going to recreate the Battle of Minden in order to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the sound whuppin' that His Britannic Majesty's Army in Western Germany (and allies from Hanover, Hesse Kassel and Brunswick) administered to the French army. So after our BAR Napoleonic play test on July 18th, my plan is to switch back to tricorns and finish my battalion of British Guards. I have 27 completed and will need to top them up to around 60 to 72 figures.

And yes, I know that the Guards were not at Minden, but because Monsieur Chevert does not want to trot all of his fine cavalry up to the muzzles of the British brigade and get shot out of the saddle (the cowards), he intends to alter the scenario somewhat. That being the case, says I, why not allow the British Guards to appear at Minden? Why not indeed? And so it goes.

After the Minden game, my next unit in the painting que is three to five squadrons of Minden Miniatures SYW Austrian Cuirassiers. That won't make Frederick very happy, since he has to face them, but I want to have this unit ready for our annual Old School Big Battalion wargame in October and I absolutely love painting Minden figures.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Afrika Korps: 1941-42

DAK battery of 88s, painted by Alex Akers. Click all pix to enlarge.

The Western Desert of North Afrika, circa January 1942, has attracted my attention of late and I have apparently caught the Flames of War bug. This will hopefully be nothing more than a passing fancy as I only intend to have a small division of Deutsche Afrika Korps troops for the FoW game system. My regular gaming group in Milwaukee plays FoW three or four times a year and Bill's accounts of zooming across the sands in his little British tanks sounded interesting. With that in mind, I bought a panzergrenadier box o' figures, some 88s, a few tanks, mortars and machine gun platoons, and some paints and...

I decided that I didn't know a thing about WW2 nor did I have a particular desire to paint any of this stuff. So I did what any self respecting wargamer would do. I sent the whole lot off to a professional painter. It wasn't just any old painter, it was was my nephew Alex (aka "the Heir Apparent" according to Herb Gundt).

A platoon of panzergrenadiers with their supporting vehicles. Painted by Alex Akers.

I thought that the lad did a very nice job of painting the vehicles and the 15mm figures. He also based everything for me. The smaller 15mm figures are a bit harder to photograph and so my pictures probably don't pay justice to Alex's painting skills. He does a lot of Games Workshop figures and enters them into competitions, garnering some awards here and there. I also sent him a few sample 28mm Napoleonics for him to play around with so I can see how he does. I intend to let him help me build up my 1806 Napoleonic collection.

Alex is interested in garnering a few painting commissions, so if you are interested in having some work done, contact him at: for more information. Alex accepts PayPal to make things easier for you.

So eventually I will have three platoons of panzergrenadiers, one heavy machine gun platoon, one heavy mortar platoon, an anti-tank platoon, the wonderful 88s, and probably a platoon of Panzer III-J tanks. I plan to let the rest of the group supply all of the other allies as well as the British and American opposition.

A closer view of the 88s and their support vehicles, by Alex Akers.