Waterloo 200th Anniversary Game 1815-2015

In early 2015 I was feeling ‘the urge’…

I had fallen out of love with Napoleonics some 12 years earlier, following my involvement in producing a series of Napoleonic mega-games, first for AB Figures’ Wargamers’ Weekends and then with the General de Brigade crowd at the National Army Museum.  I was all Napoleonicked-out and hadn’t played a Napoleonic game or painted a single Napoleonic figure since 2002 (the gap being filled chiefly by 15mm WW2 and 28mm American War of Independence).

However, with the approaching bicentennial, the sap was rising and I decided that I was going to play Waterloo on the day of the anniversary!  However, I still needed quite a few troops and a lot of terrain!  I tentatively tried painting a unit of KGL Hussars from the mound of 2,000-odd unpainted AB Figures’ Napoleonics that had composting in a corner since 2001… Could I still paint them…?

The 1st KGL Hussars – my first 15mm Napoleonic unit in 12 years

The answer was YES, but the first thing I noticed was that my eyesight was a lot worse than it was when I last painted them! Nevertheless, found that I actually enjoyed it and despite the pile of unpainted lead, a massive order was soon winging its way to Fighting 15s for all the 1815 stuff that had been released in the intervening years (which was A LOT!).  Another order went to Tiger Terrain for their incredible series of ‘scale-adjusted’ Waterloo buildings.

At this time, my local town museum in Narberth, Pembrokeshire, were looking for some way of commemorating the bicentennial of Waterloo and highlighting the local men who were known to have fought there (including Sir Thomas Picton), so my offer of doing the anniversary game at the museum was eagerly snapped up by the curator.

In the meantime, polystyrene was bought and the ultra-messy process of carving polystyrene contours was soon underway with the help of my good friend Martin Small and my Minions Carwyn Savins, Oli Crees and Will Poole.

12 weeks later, we’d built and painted a 10×6-foot terrain board, three farm complexes and a pub, 250 infantry, 180 cavalry, 30 guns and 120 gun-crew, re-based around 500 figures, re-mortgaged, sold the kids and almost got divorced…

The Field of Waterloo ready to go at Narberth Museum, 18th June 2015. Martin Small, Paddy Green, Richard de Ferrars and Carwyn Savins in attendance.

Above: The Duke of Wellington and his staff observe French movements from the centre of the Allied line.

Above: The Allies are drawn up along a low ridge straddling the Charleroi-Brussels highway. Forward of the ridge are three fortified farm complexes, which will serve to obstruct any French assault on the Allied lines. In the west (foreground) is Hougoumont, in the centre is La Haie-Sainte and in the east (distance) is Papelotte-La Haie.

Above: Another view of Hougoumont, as seen from General Picton’s position on the ridge. The regimental colours of the British Foot Guards make a brave show. In the foreground, the Light Infantry of the King’s German Legion prepare to defend La Haie-Sainte.

Above: A view of the Allied centre. Nearest to the camera stands General Picton’s 5th Division, with Bijlandt’s Netherlands Brigade (from Perponcher’s 2nd Netherlands Division), in a somewhat exposed position in front of the line. On the other side of the crossroads is Alten’s 3rd Division, with the bulk of Lord Uxbridge’s Cavalry Reserve Corps.

Above: Our local hero, Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton stands resplendent in a distinctly non-regulation frock coat and top hat, while brandishing a brolly. A tough, extremely capable and proven commander, Picton was Wellington’s second-in-command at Waterloo though was suffering the effects of two ribs, broken by a French musket ball at Quatre Bras two days earlier. Historically he was shot through the head while leading a counter-attack, though he would survive our battle, despite the near-destruction of his division.

Above: On the Allied right, we again see Alten’s 3rd Division, with Clinton’s 2nd Division, Kruse’s Nassau Contingent and several British and German cavalry brigades in support. Mitchell’s Brigade (detached from the absent 4th Division) is stationed west of Hougoumont and Chassé’s 3rd Netherlands Division is on the extreme right flank.

Above: The time is now 11.30am and the ground has finally dried out sufficiently, following the night’s heavy rain, for the guns to open fire without burying themselves in mud. The Emperor Napoleon (just visible on his white horse, next to the inn of La Belle Alliance) watches as his Grand Battery opens a devastating cannonade on the Allied centre.

Above: The astonishing weight of fire from the French artillery quickly silences the Allied guns stationed along the eastern half of the ridge. Picton withdraws his division to the relative safety of the rear slope. Perponcher’s Netherlanders meanwhile, are quickly driven from Papelotte-La Haie. The French surge forward to attack the weakened Allied left.

Above: As the infantry of General d’Erlon’s 1st Corps advances through the corn, the armoured Cuirassiers of Milhaud’s 4th Cavalry Corps gallop forward. Galloping with them are several horse artillery batteries, who move forward to engage the Allies more closely. In the distance, the Emperor waits with his massive reserve (Lobau’s 6th Corps, Kellermann’s 3rd Cavalry Corps and the three infantry divisions of the Imperial Guard) to see what develops.

In the west, General Reille decides that Hougoumont, defended by the British Guards, is simply too tough a nut to crack and instead decides to isolate and by-pass that particular fortress. He orders Prince Jerome Napoleon (the Emperor’s brother) to mount a diversionary attack, along with Piré’s cavalry, around the western flank of the Allies.

Above: Chassé’s 1st Netherlands Division move forward from Braine-l’Alleud to support Mitchell’s beleaguered brigade near Hougoumont. The Netherlanders feel secure on their hill, though their confidence is soon shattered by Piré’s lancers, who break them with ease! This French attack succeeds in drawing Allied reserves right, when they would have been more useful on the left!

Above: As Picton withdraws from the crest of the ridge, Milhaud’s Cuirassiers surge forward! The Grand Battery also now turns its attention to the isolated German garrison of La Haye-Sainte.

Above: One of Picton’s brigades (Kempt’s) suffers terribly from the French artillery fire and starts to waver. Seeing an opportunity, Milhaud orders Wathier’s Cuirassiers to charge! In reply, Ponsonby’s ‘Union Brigade’ of Dragoons (represented here by the ‘Scots Greys’, which was one of the three regiments present in the brigade) launches a counter-charge. Regrettably, Ponsonby’s men suffered a storm of shot and shell from the keen-eyed French artillery and are sent reeling back to their own lines. The jubilant Cuirassiers scatter Kempt’s infantry and charge on, almost capturing Wellington himself! Their rampage is finally halted by Somerset’s Household Cavalry Brigade.

Above: Unrecorded by our camera, the French Guard Light Cavalry Division also had a field-day on the extreme eastern flank; they sabred and lanced their way through two brigades of Hanoverian militia, two British light cavalry brigades, three horse batteries and the entire Netherlands Cavalry Division before retiring back to Papelotte.

Above: Unperturbed by the collapse of their allies on either flank, Lambert’s British brigade stands like a rock in the midst of the unfolding disaster on the Allied left wing.

Above: The situation on the Allied left wing, as seen from the French side; In the foreground, Kellermann’s 3rd Cavalry Corps is moved forward to exploit the success on the French right. In the distance, the survivors of Picton’s 5th Division and Perponcher’s 2nd Netherlands Division rally near Mont St Jean, while the ‘Black Brunswickers’ move up to hold the line.

Above: As if things couldn’t get any worse for Wellington; a huge cheer erupts from the French as La Haie-Sainte falls!  However, Napoleon has now received reports of Marshal Blücher’s Prussians marching to engage his right flank! However, they are still some three hours’ march distant and he is confident that he can break Wellington first!

Above: Despite the deteriorating situation on the Allied left (and still no sight of Blücher’s Prussians!), the Allied right remains 90% intact, with considerable reserves that could be moved to support the right. However, Napoleon anticipates the danger and orders Marshal Ney forward with 6th Corps to assault and pin the Allied right.

Above: In the foreground, Foy’s uncommitted French division continues to threaten the Guards in Hougoumont. the rest of Reille’s 2nd Corps meanwhile moves around either side of the farm to join Ney’s assault on the Allied right. The Imperial Guard meanwhile, polish their best uniforms in preparation for tomorrow’s victory parade in Brussels.

“On to Brussels!” “Vive l’Empereur!”

Above: The time is now 2pm. With his left in danger of collapse and with still no Prussians in sight, Wellington considers his options: With the bulk of the army still intact, he could mount an effective rearguard, allowing the army to withdraw on Brussels and then to evacuation at Antwerp, should that be necessary. The other option is to continue the defence, at ever-increasing cost, in the hope of relief by Marshal Blücher. If relief does not arrive, the army will surely be destroyed… What to do…?

‘Smug-Face’

Sadly, it was time for the museum to close and time for our re-fight of Waterloo had run out and we could only speculate what might happen next.

Would Blücher arrive to save the day? Possibly…

But for now, The Emperor Napoleon was master of the field of Waterloo!

 

I should add that during this game we were visited by BBC Radio Wales and I was forced at bayonet-point to do a radio interview… This was then picked up by BBC1 TV, who then rang the museum to invite us to come on the One Show (the BBC’s flagship daily magazine programme) that evening, to appear next to Dan Snow and describe the battle using our game!  Sadly, it would have taken about an hour to dismantle the game, five hours to get to London and two hours to set it all up again and the programme was due to broadcast within four hours, so we had to decline!

But that’s not the end of the story, as the game was shipped down to W.A.S.P HQ for a ‘proper’ two-day re-fight over the following weekend, so there are more Waterloo Witterings to follow…

Posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic Wars, Scenarios | 1 Comment

Refight of Quatre-Bras, 16th June 1815

As yesterday was the 203rd anniversary of the Battle of Quatre-Bras, I thought I might post up a report from a refight I did with the Minions back in March of this year.  Napoleonics has always been my ‘first love’ when it comes to wargaming and this game was an attempt to ‘corrupt the young’, as they players were aged roughly 13-15.  Some were less ‘corrupted’ than others, but we had a good game and most of them seemed to enjoy it, despite the constant distraction caused by their mates playing ‘Fortnite’ in the next room!

Rules used were Napoleon’s Battles (4th Edition) by Partizan Press.  At W.A.S.P. we’ve played the 1st Edition since they were published by Avalon Hill in the early ’90s, with various house modifications.  We never even knew there was a 2nd and 3rd Edition, but saw an advert for the 4th Edition last year, just as my 1st Edition was starting to disintegrate into dust.  We were pleased to find that ‘great minds think alike’, as they seemed to have independently included all of our house modifications!

Napoleon’s Battles is a ‘grand tactical’ ruleset, in that the smallest tactical unit is a brigade (or large regiment) and each base of models represents 480 infantry, 360 cavalry or one battery of horse artillery or heavy artillery (light and medium foot artillery is factored into the infantry factors).

Further information on Napoleon’s Battles 4th Edition can be found at http://napoleonsbattles.org/

Scenario Outline

To save boring you with the history, here’s the Wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Quatre_Bras

The scenario starts at 1400hrs, with the Prince of Orange overseeing the defence of Quatre-Bras crossroads by Perponcher’s 2nd Netherlands Division.  Perponcher’s troops have been steadily falling back to this position in the face of Marshal Ney’s advance and are still somewhat dispersed.  Perponcher has two large brigades (Bijlandt’s and Saxe-Weimar’s) and these are each split into two units for game purposes: Bijlandt’s Brigade is split into Line Infantry and Militia portions, while Saxe-Weimar’s brigade is split by regiment (the 2nd Nassau-Usingen Regt and the Orange-Nassau Regt).  The Prince of Orange has the option of adjusting the starting deployment slightly by repositioning each unit within it’s ‘goose-egg’, as shown on the map below.  Bijleveld’s horse battery may be deployed anywhere within one of the ‘goose-eggs’, while Orange and Perponcher themselves may be placed anywhere on the table.

The French II Corps, commanded by General Reille and overseen by Marshal Ney, starts in the positions shown, deploying into battle formation as they clear the town of Frasnes.

Each red/black division on the map-border indicates 1,000 yds, or 1 foot on table.  As our table was only 4.5 feet wide, we had to chop the eastern fringe off the map, including the villages of Sart-Dames-Avelines and Thyle.

The Prince of Orange is clearly on a sticky wicket at the start, but Allied formations are marching to the scene from the direction of Brussells and Nivelles.  Coming from Brussells are elements of Uxbridge’s Reserve Cavalry Corps (1 Netherlands and 1 Brunswick Light Cavalry Brigades), Picton’s 5th Division (2 British Infantry Brigades), The Brunswick ‘Black’ Corps (3 Infantry Brigades) and Kruse’s Nassau Reserve Contingent (1 Infantry Brigade).  Coming from Nivelles are Cooke’s 1st Division (2 British Guards Brigades), Alten’s 3rd Division (1 British and 2 Hanoverian Infantry Brigades) and elements of Cole’s 6th Division (1 Hanoverian Infantry Brigade).  The Duke of Wellington meanwhile, will arrive on the Somreffe road on Turn 1, having returned from his meeting with Blücher.

Ney and Reille have 3 Infantry Divisions (Foy’s, Bachelu’s and Prince Jerome’s) and 1 Light Cavalry Division (Piré’s), for a total of 6 Line Infantry Brigades, 1 Light Infantry Brigade and 2 Light Cavalry Brigades.

Reinforcements for the French include Kellermann’s III Cavalry Corps with 2 Heavy Cavalry Divisions (L’Héritier’s and Roussell D’Hurbal’s), with a total of 1 Carabinier Brigade, 2 Cuirassier Brigades and 1 Dragoon Brigade) and possibly Lefèbvre-Desnoëttes’s Guard Light Cavalry Division, with 2 Guard Light Cavalry Brigades.

The Game

Once again, this was an ‘away’ game and depended upon my extremely shabby terrain and bad photography, so my apologies for the poor quality of the photos!

Above: The Prince of Orange takes control of the situation at Quatre-Bras.

Above: The regular army half of Bijlandt’s Brigade occupies Gemioncourt Farm, closely supported by Bijleveld’s Horse Battery on the high ground to the east.

Above: Saxe-Weimar’s Brigade (the Orange-Nassau Regt in blue and 2nd Nassau-Usingen Regt in green) redeploys to a more concentrated location on the southern edge of Bossu Wood, overlooking Grand-Pierrepont Farm.  In the distance, Bijlandt’s Militia can be seen massing near Quatre-Bras and the Prince of Orange.

Above: With Marshal Ney out in front, Reille’s II Corps deploys into battle formation as it emerges from Frasnes.  Nearest the camera, Bachelu’s division forms to the right of the road, with Piré’s cavalry covering the right flank.

Above: Foy’s division takes up position on the left of the formation, while Prince Jerome’s division and the reserve artillery keep to the road.

Above: Piré’s cavalry move swiftly past Pireaumont Farm, in an attempt to seize control of the bridge at Thyle.

Above: However, Lord Uxbridge has arrived with Van Merlen’s 2nd Netherlands Light Cavalry Brigade, the Brunswick Cavalry Brigade and Van Pittius’ Horse (half-strength) Battery and also recognises the importance of seizing the river crossing.  Neither side gains the upper hand and sit glowering at each other across the Materne Pond (or in our case, the Materne Bog, because I don’t have a model pond).

Above: Bachelu’s Division, with the bulk of the French artillery in support, moves up to bombard Gemioncourt Farm, in preparation for an assault.  In the distance, Foy boldly ignores the presence of Saxe-Weimar’s troops in Bossu Wood and makes a bee-line for Quatre-Bras.

Above: Foy’s gamble may well have paid off, as Saxe-Weimar’s boys initially had a serious command & control problem.  However, with the arrival of Wellington to take command of the army, the Prince of Orange now has the freedom to gallop over and personally take control of Saxe-Weimar.  Galvanising the Naassauers into action, the Prince leads them against Foy’s exposed flank.

Above: Back at Quatre-Bras, the Duke of Wellington is now in firm control of the situation and the previously-isolated Dutch Militia find themselves massively reinforced by Picton’s 5th Division (Pack’s Highland Brigade and Kempt’s Brigade, plus the 9pdrs of Sympher’s KGL Horse Battery).

Above: Further Allied reinforcements arrive in the form of the Duke of Brunswick’s ‘Black Corps’.  The Brunswickers are ordered to reinforce Bijleveld’s Battery, on the high ground to the left.

Above: As Bachelu’s Division deploys in front of Gemioncourt, their supporting 12pdr artillery begins to whittle down Bijlandt’s defending infantry.  However, Bijleveld’s Horse Battery is similarly causing much havoc among the packed ranks of Bachelu’s right-hand brigade (Campi’s Brigade).  A French horse battery attempts to deal with Bijleveld, but does not have much luck.

Above: Recognising the danger presented by Saxe-Weimar’s Brigade to the French left flank, Ney orders Jerome to immediately attack and drive off the Nassauers.  However, Bauduin’s Brigade immediately runs into a hail of fire from the 2nd Nassau and is stopped in its tracks.  Soye’s Brigade (consisting of two units – the 1st & 2nd Regts of the Line) hurries forward to support Bauduin.

Above: The view from the Prince of Orange’s position with Saxe-Weimar’s Brigade.  The Prince has lost his opportunity to drive in the French left flank, but has succeeded in drawing off the French reserves, thus giving time for the Allied centre to strengthen its position.

Above: Back at Quatre-Bras, the Duke of Wellington, Duke of Brunswick and General Picton consolidate their grip on the crossroads.

Above: Lord Uxbridge’s cavalry take up position near Thyle Bridge.  Van Pittius’ Battery takes a few pot-shots at the French cavalry, but does no damage.

Above: An overview of the battle at approximately 1600hrs.  In the centre, the French artillery continues to batter Gemioncourt as Bachelu’s infantry wait for the order to assault.  On the French left, Jerome is attempting to strike back at the Nassauers. while Foy attempts to continue the advance in the face of stiff fire from Picton’s division, which is rapidly forming a solid line between Gemioncourt and Bossu Wood.  Nearest the camera, the opposing light cavalry have essentially cancelled each other, though the Brunswickers are moving forward and might be able to tip the balance on that flank.  In the distance, the leading elements of Kellermann’s III Cavalry Corps (Guiton’s Cuirassier Brigade and a horse battery) have arrived, while the head of an Allied column has appeared on the Nivelles Road.

Above: With the Allied left wing stiffening along stream and high ground east of Gemioncourt, Piré attempted to disrupt the Allied manoeuvres by launching a charge across the stream.  However, Specht’s Brunswick Line Infantry Brigade (with the sky blue and yellow flags) was able to form squares and beat off Wathiez’s lancers, who quickly scurried back across the stream, to the safety of Piraumont Farm.  To add further insult, Bijleveld’s Dutch Horse Battery then managed to knock out the opposing French horse battery and Heinemann’s Brunswick Horse Battery was also now inserted into the line to further discomfit Bachelu’s Division.

Above: On the Allied right, Picton’s division had now formed a solid line flanking the Dutch Militia and now had further reinforcements in reserve, as well as forming in Bossu Wood on their right flank.  However, Kempt’s Brigade was starting to suffer casualties to accurate French artillery fire coming straight up the road.

Above: Cooke’s 1st Division (Byng’s and Maitland’s Guards Brigades, Kühlmann’s KGL Horse Battery and Beane’s Horse Battery) arrives at Quatre-Bras and is placed in reserve by Wellington.  They are closely followed by Best’s Hanoverian Militia Brigade (from Cole’s 6th Division).

Above: Jerome, now recovered from the initial clash and reinforced by a brigade from Foy’s Division, starts to turn the tables on Saxe-Weimar’s Nassauers.

Above: Marshal Ney, frustrated at Jerome’s lack of progress, arrives to take control of the situation and leads the division across the stream.  However, Ney is shocked by the tenacity of the Nassauers and comes VERY close to being beaten off.  Nevertheless, after  hard-fought fight, the Orange-Nassau Regiment is completely dispersed and the 2nd Nassau, accompanied by the Prince of Orange, flee for the safety of Von Alten’s Hanoverians.

Above: With the left flank secured, Foy’s division resumes the advance, now accompanied by Guiton’s Cuirassiers.  Piquet’s Dragoon Brigade and Lefèbvre-Desnoëttes’ Guard Light Cavalry Division have also now arrived.  The massed French guns are now causing massive casualties in the Allied lines; mainly on Kempt’s Brigade and the Netherlanders defending Gemioncourt Farm.

Above: With the walls of Gemioncourt being beaten down and the defenders demoralised, Bachelu finally throws Husson’s Brigade against the thick farm walls.  Bijlandt’s men are swiftly ejected and the Allies can only look on in horror as the keystone of their line falls to the French!  Nevertheless, the Dutch and Brunswick horse artillery continue to hammer Campi’s Brigade.

Above: Battered first by French artillery and now by close-range fire from Husson’s French infantry in Gemioncourt Farm, Kempt’s Brigade is rapidly becoming combat-ineffective.

Above: Guiton’s Cuirassiers move forward with the intention of taking advantage of the effective French artillery fire, but the mass of French horsemen immediately attracts the attention of Sympher’s 9pdrs and the Cuirassiers are quickly thrown back in disorder.

Above: Alten’s 3rd Division moves past the Prince of Orange and the rallying 2nd Nassau and moves into the Bossu Wood to shore up the Allied right flank.  Behind them, Best’s Hanoverian Militia form up, ready to support Alten’s advance.

Above: It is now around 1700hrs and the remainder of the reserve cavalry have arrived.  In particular, the Guard Chasseurs à Cheval insert themselves between Foy’s Division and Gemioncourt Farm, in preparation for a charge on Kempt’s disintegrating brigade.

Above: anticipating the collapse of his centre, Wellington forms a second line with the two Guards Brigades and the Brunswick Cavalry Brigade.  This is fortuitous, as at that moment, Kempt’s Brigade collapses and Sympher’s Battery is silenced by the superb French gunners!

Above: Timing their charge perfectly and led by Lefèbvre-Desnoëttes himself, the Guard Chasseurs à Cheval smash into Bijlandt’s Dutch Militia!  The Brunswick Cavalry Brigade counter-charges, but the Guard Chasseurs contemptuously brush them aside and then rout them with ease, along with the Dutch Militia and Sympher’s KGL gunners!  Seeing a line of redcoats to their front, the Chasseurs charge on into Byng’s Foot Guards.  In the ensuing pandemonium, General Picton finds himself in the path of the rampaging French horsemen!  He and his staff succeed in cutting their way out of the maelstrom, but Picton is seriously wounded in the process and is carried from the field to have his wounds treated.  This is a serious blow for Wellington, who considered the Welsh war-horse to be indestructible.

Above:  The Guards, being made of somewhat sterner stuff, coolly form squares and send the Chasseurs packing!  Disaster narrowly averted, the Guards form the new Allied front line and prepare to receive the next assault.

Above:  The situation at around 1830hrs: The battle pauses following the French cavalry charge, as the French infantry advances to contact on the left wing.  Routed elements of Picton’s, Perponcher’s and Brunswick’s Divisions rally around the crossroads, while Kruse’s 1st Nassau Regiment arrives from Brussells.

However, once again our mums had called us in for tea at a critical point in the game!  It didn’t help that the Fortnite-fest going on next door was a massive distraction for my teenage players, but full marks to those who stuck to their guns and enjoyed somewhat more cerebral gaming!

So we had to stop short of a clear conclusion, but the general opinion of the players was that while the French had knocked holes in the Allied centre and right flank, the Allies still had plenty of infantry and artillery and were in a strong position.  The nature of the terrain also made it very difficult for the French to exploit their massive cavalry advantage.  In campaign terms, the French judged that they would find it very difficult to further push their attack without suffering unacceptably high casualties.

Personally, I think that Jerome could have pushed back Kielmansegge’s Hanoverians in the woods with relative ease, while Foy’s two brigades, in concert with some heavy cavalry, could have mobbed Pack’s Highlanders in very short order, while the massed French guns and cavalry harassed the Guards… This might be a scenario to revisit in the future, kicking off from this final situation…

Thanks to all who played!

The models are all from my own collection, being mostly AB Figures, with a few units of Old Glory 15s (namely the Dutch Light Dragoons, the Brunswick Horse Artillery and the Hanoverian infantry).

Posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic Wars, Scenarios | 4 Comments

A Clash in Schleswig-Holstein, 1984

My mate Bertie was asking for Cold War stuff to appear on the blog, so here’s a game I did a little over a year ago with the Minions.  We were playtesting some ideas and unit cards for ‘Battlefront: First Echelon’, a Cold War variant of ‘Battlefront: WWII’ that has been a very loooong time in the making (and is still nowhere near finished…).

In this game, set in the Schleswig-Holstein region of West Germany in 1984, a West German Panzer-Grenadier unit attempts to fight a delaying action against Soviet spearhead forces at a succession of defended minor water obstacles and small towns, while the Soviets attempt to push through (or ideally bypass) the blocking position and push on to Denmark.

You’ll have to excuse my rubbish terrain… I normally rely on the lovely club terrain when playing games at W.A.S.P., but when playing ‘away games’ my own terrain is decidedly shabby and battered by 20+ years of being driven from game to game in the back of my car!  In recent months I’ve invested in a lovely new wargames cloth and hundreds of trees, so my next ‘away’ games should look a bit better!

Above: The battlefield: Elements of the Soviet 94th Guards Motor Rifles Division are entering from the far table edge, with the objective of bypassing and containing NATO resistance, breaking through and driving for Hamburg.

Above: Waiting for the Soviets are the men of the 161st Panzergrenadier Battalion (Mixed), part of the 16th Panzergrenadier Brigade, 6th Panzergrenadier Division.  This consists of two Panzergrenadier companies mounted in Marder IFVs, a Panzer company and attached elements from divisional recce, anti-tank, air defence and artillery units.  They are part of the Danish-German-US-British LANDJUT Command blocking the way to Hamburg and the Danish border.

Above: The 6th Panzergrenadier Division is one of the last regular Bundeswehr formations fielding the Kampfpanzer M48A2GA2 medium tank (a West German upgrade of the venerable M48 Patton, fitted with a 105mm gun and modern fire-control) in lieu of the far more modern Leopard series.  Nevertheless, these old beasts of war successfully ambush and destroy the Soviet recce element’s T-64B platoon as it noses its way out of town.  The rest of the Soviet recce company dive off the road and luckily manage to spot the rest of the German panzer company, though don’t spot the dug-in panzergrenadiers lurking along the wooded ridge.

Above: Hoping to lure the Soviets into an ambush, some of the panzers fire a few ineffectual shots and withdraw, covered by a section of Jaguar 1 tank destroyers, lobbing long-range HOT missiles into the mass of Soviet armour.  In the meantime, there are some remarkably ineffectual calls for fire by attached FOOs on both sides!  The German FAC has better luck however, and manages to call down a strike by Jaguar GR1s from 54 Squadron RAF (part of the UK Mobile Force reinforcement to Denmark).  However, the Soviet regimental air defence troops aren’t napping and an SA-9 ‘Gaskin’ SAM section manages to luckily splash the first RAF Jaguar!

Above: A second RAF Jaguar strike fares a little better and survives its run, though is ‘Disordered’ by the SA-9 and only manages to suppress a few AFVs before limping back to base.

Above: As the Soviet commander wonders how he’s going to get his MTU-54 bridgelayer through the arch (!), the following tanks decide to avoid the traffic jam in town and hook right, past the burning recce T-64 platoon.

Above: The lurking M48s managed to knock out the lead T-64 platoon as it attempts to cross the bridge; much to the annoyance of some German recce troops, who were lurking nearby with Panzerfaust 44s ready to deal with the first Russkis to cross the bridge. A BRDM-2 scout car is also knocked out as it attempts to recce the river valley.

Above: The West Germans have the bridge well covered by fire from several M48s, as well as a Jaguar ATGM section, a Panzergrenadier platoon and a Recce platoon.

Above: A Motor Rifle company arrives at the bridge.  Troops dismount from their BMP-1 IFVs and prepare to storm the bridgehead on foot.  The regimental artillery group has promised to support them, but as yet has not delivered much in the way of fire support (nor has the West German artillery, to be fair).

Above: On the German right flank, the Soviet tanks, rashly pursuing the withdrawing panzers, have run straight into an ambush, courtesy of the dug-in 3rd Panzergrenadier Company.  One T-64 was destroyed outright by panzergrenadiers as it attempted to overrun the position, while another was destroyed by a flank-shot from a MILAN team. A third T-64 got bogged down as it overran the position, was counter-attacked by panzergrenadiers and surrendered!  However, the panzergrenadiers were mainly driven back, though with only light losses and were soon able to rally.

Above: Not so lucky was the MILAN team, which pushed its luck and was soon overrun by vengeful Soviet recce dismounts. Nevertheless, fire from the remaining M48 within the wood managed to suppress the surviving T-64s and a lot of bad luck saw the Soviets scurrying back toward the safety of their comrades.  This gave the Panzergrenadiers the time they needed to jump into their Marders and drive like hell for their fallback position at the factory.  However, in the meantime they lost a further panzergrenadier section and the Panzer Company commander, who bravely attempted to launch a single-handed counter-attack on the flank of the Soviet tanks.

Above: With the river crossings being strongly contested, traffic-jams start to build at the rear of the Soviet column.

Above: At the rear of the German position, the 2nd Panzergrenadier company is dug into urban terrain, while a Flakpanzer Gepard section lurks nearby, ready to deal with any Soviet air threat.

Above: As the 3rd Panzergrenadier Company falls back from its position on the forward-right flank, the 2nd Panzergrenadier Company in the town prepares to engage the Soviet pursuit.  The 1st Panzer Company meanwhile, adjusts its position to face right, ready to engage the Soviets advancing on the right.

However, time had run out and our mums had called us in for tea, so that’s where the game ended.  All in all, an excellent test of the rules!

Models: They’re a mixed bag and I started building my Cold War collection long before the Team Yankee and PSC models started appearing.

For the West Germans, the infantry, Marders, Jaguar, Gepard and Luchs are all by QRF, while the M113s are plastic models from Flames of War’s Vietnam range (modified by the replacement of .50 Cal HMGs with spare MG42s (identical to the post-war MG3) and British WW2 tank crew figures in berets.  The M48A2GA2s are Skytrex M48s, heavily coverted by the talented hand of Martin Small.

For the Soviets, the T-64s, GAZ-66 trucks, MTU-54 and ZSU-23-4 Shilka are by QRF, the BMP and BRDM variants are by Skytrex and the infantry are by Khurasan.

The Jaguar is a 1/100th die-cast model by Italeri.

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Scenarios | Leave a comment

“Glory, Glory Hallelujah!” (Part 1): Building a 10mm Union Army for the ACW

As discussed in my last article, I’ve decided to do ‘one last great wargames project’ in the form of 10mm American Civil War.  I opted for 10mm figures primarily because I want to do BIG battles (using Fire & Fury rules) and I want to get it done in a short space of time for minimum cost.

I’ve decided to work my way through the orders of battle for Gettysburg rather than build ‘generic’ armies for both sides.  To most people, Gettysburg is the iconic battle of that war and is the one that wargamers want to play (like Napoleonic wargamers generally HAVE to play Waterloo).  It’s far from a typical battle, but once you have the armies built for Gettysburg, you have the forces to fight pretty much any other battle of the war.  Building specific units also gives me  a clear objective and impetus for painting.

I’m pleased to say that Pendraken’s 10mm figures exceeded all my expectations for quality and ease of painting and I painted the entire Union I Corps in just three weeks!  Back when I did 15mm ACW, the same force took me four months to paint…

Why I Corps?  Well after the initial clash between Buford’s Union cavalry and A.P. Hill’s Confederate III Corps to the NW of Gettysburg, Reynolds’ I Corps was the first formation to relieve Buford (followed by XI Corps and XII Corps) and rapidly became embroiled in a bitter encounter battle as each side attempted to gain control of the critical terrain around the town.  For a bit of extra interest, I Corps also contains a smattering of interesting and colourful units.  Here’s see my completed I Corps on parade:

General Reynolds

Major General John F. Reynolds commanded I Corps at Gettysburg, but was tragically killed on the first day, while encouraging the men of Meredith’s ‘Iron Brigade’ (1st Division).  Reynolds’ headquarters pennant was of the approved standard type for a Corps HQ, being a large swallow-tailed pennant in dark blue, emblazoned with a white ornate cross, superimposed with the corps number in red (see below).  Each corps was given a simple symbol as a field recognition sign which would be worn as a badge by members of the corps, as well as being repeated on Divisional and Brigade HQ pennants.  In the case of I Corps, this corps field-sign was a simple disc and this eventually replaced the cross on the corps HQ pennant, but at the time of Reynolds’ death at Gettysburg, his HQ was still using the flag shown here.

General Wadsworth

Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth’s 1st Division was the first formation of I Corps to arrive at Gettysburg, relieving Buford’s cavalry and rapidly becoming embroiled in a desperate fight around the Lutheran Seminary.  The division comprised two brigades, Meredith’s and Cutlers, totalling 3,860 men.

As mentioned above, Union HQs were identified by a fairly standardised system of marker flags.  Each corps was identified by a specific symbol (a disc for I Corps) and each division was then identified by a colour, in the order 1st – Red, 2nd – White & 3rd – Blue.  On the rare occasion where there was a 4th division, the symbol would be green.  Divisional HQs would typically have rectangular flags in white, except for 2nd Divisions, where the flag was dark blue in order to contrast with the white symbol.  The red disc on a white flag shown below is therefore Wadsworth’s HQ for the 1st Division of I Corps:

Brigadier General Solomon Meredith’s crack ‘Iron Brigade’ was numbered as the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division and comprised the 2nd, 6th & 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana and 24th Michigan Regiments.  Widely regarded as the elite brigade of the Army of the Potomac and possibly the entire Union Army, the Iron Brigade was quite distinctive in terms of dress, as they wore the full-dress frock coat with the tall and wide-brimmed full-dress black ‘Hardee Hat’ (or simpler black slouch-hats), with distinctive sky-blue piping and hat-cords, as well as a smattering of white canvas gaiters.  The Pendraken Iron Brigade figures are absolutely lovely, so I went to town somewhat on these.  Note that there should actually be only nine bases (1,800 men), but the pack contained 30 figures, so I painted them all up:

Brigadier General Lysander Cutler’s brigade was the 2nd Brigade of Wadsworth’s 1st Division and comprised the 76th, 84th, 95th & 147th New York, 56th Pennsylvania and 7th Indiana Regiments, numbering a little over 2,000 men (10 bases).  Arriving piecemeal into a chaotic situation, the individual regiments of the brigade found themselves fighting alongside the Iron Brigade, Buford’s cavalry and isolated Union artillerymen, suffering very heavy casualties as a consequence.

Five of these regiments wore the standard US blue uniform, but the 84th New York (also known as the 14th Brooklyn Militia) wore a very distinctive uniform of the fashionable ‘Chasseur’ style, featuring red trousers, a blue coat with red trim and a red kepi with blue trim.  This leads to a dilemma: In Fire & Fury, each unit represents a brigade of several regiments.  So should I paint the typical blue uniform worn by the majority of the brigade?  Or should I opt for the spectacular red trousers and caps of the 14th Brooklyn, or should I do the majority in blue and drop a couple of bases into the unit to represent the 14th Brooklyn…?

As if there’s a choice…  🙂

In my defence, the rest of the Union force for 1st July is wall-to-wall blue, so they will add a rare splash of colour.  Further down the line, when I come to doing the II, III, V & VI Corps, there is a fair smattering of ‘Zouave’ units, so I will have to restrain myself and perhaps only do one Zouave unit per corps at the very most, or it’ll start to look like a French army!

I recently came across this rather splendid painting of a moment during the 1st day of Gettysburg, when the 14th Brooklyn of Cutler’s Brigade and the 6th Wisconsin of Meredith’s Iron Brigade found themselves intermingled in the line:

General Robinson

Brigadier General John C. Robinson’s 2nd Division was the last division of I Corps to arrive at Gettysburg, taking up position on Wadsworth’s right, north of the railway cutting.  However, in this position they soon found themselves outflanked by the newly-arrived Confederate II Corps, commanded by Generaal Ewell.

Robinson’s division comprised two brigades, Baxter’s and Paul’s, for a total of 3,027 men.

As the 2nd Division of I Corps, the divisional badge was a white disc, which is displayed here on Robinson’s HQ flag.  Note that for 2nd Divisions, the Divisional HQ flag colour changes to blue, in order to contrast with the white formation symbol.

Brigadier General Gabriel R. Paul’s brigade was the senior brigade of Robinson’s division and consisted of the 94th & 107th New York, 11th & 10th Pennsylvania, 16th Maine and 13th Massachusetts Regiments.  I’ve gone with the Fire & Fury strength of 8 bases, though a few orbats show an actual strength of 1,829 men, which would suggest 9 bases.

As mentioned above, the corps badge would be worn as a field-sign by the men of that corps, in the divisional colour, usually attached to the headgear, or sometimes to the breast of the coat.  These were often privately-purchased and took various forms – usually a cloth patch or enamelled pin-badge.  At this scale, they simply appear as a white dot on the cap.

Major General Henry Baxter’s brigade was the 2nd brigade of Robinson’s division and comprised the 83rd & 97th New York, 88th & 90th Pennsylvania and 12th Massachusetts Regiments.  Curiously, the Fire & Fury orbat pegs this unit as 7 bases, as shown here, though the historical orbats tend to show 1,198 men, which would suggest 6 bases.

Again, their parent formation is shown by the white badge on the cap.  Painting a white disc at 10mm scale is simple… Painting the XI Corps crescent or the XII Corps star is going to be a bit more tricky…

General Doubleday

Major General Abner Doubleday was a distinguished officer, who famously fired the first shot of the war at Fort Sumter and who had commanded brigades and divisions with distinction.  In 1863 he commanded the I Corps’ 3rd Division, which was the second infantry division to arrive at Gettysburg, shoring up the desperate situation that Wadsworth and Buford had found themselves in on Seminary Ridge.  Doubleday’s 3rd Division was the strongest in the corps, consisting of three brigades and totalling 4,711 men.

In addition to commanding a division, Doubleday was also Reynold’s second-in-command, so took command of I Corps following Reynolds’ untimely death.  With the situation rapidly deteriorating north of Gettysburg in the face of superior forces, Doubleday ordered I Corps to fall back to more defensive positions south of the town, on Cemetery Hill.

However, Reynolds had also been commander of the ‘Army Wing’ consisting of I, XI and XII Corps.  With his death, command of the Wing fell to General Howard, commander of XI Corps.  Howard appears to have made very little effort to personally investigate the tactical disposition of I Corps and misinterpreted Doubleday’s sensible withdrawal to a better position as a panicked retreat.  Howard therefore unjustly accused Doubleday of cowardice and General Meade (the Army Commander and long-time enemy of Doubleday)wasted no time in having Doubleday unjustly removed from command.

Doubleday’s headquarters was marked by a white rectangular flag, bearing the I Corps disc in dark blue.

Brigadier General T Rowley’s brigade was the senior brigade of Doubleday’s division and consisted of the 121st, 142nd & 151st Pennsylvania and 80th New York Regiments.  The brigade was 1,387 strong at Gettysburg, equating to 7 bases.

Note that where the divisional sign was blue, the badges worn by the men became sky-blue in order to make them contrast from the dark blue of their uniforms (note the sky-blue dots on the caps).

Colonel Roy Stone’s ‘Bucktail’ Brigade was the 2nd brigade of Doubleday’s division and consisted of three Pennsylvania regiments, the 143rd, 149th and 150th.  The brigade was raised by ‘absorbing’ the fame of the original 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment (‘The Bucktails’), who had made a name for themselves as sharpshooters and being easily recognised by their habit of wearing a buck’s tail on their caps.

In 1863 the original 13th Pennsylvania ‘Bucktails’ were serving in V Corps, but one of their senior officers, Colonel Roy Stone had been tasked with raising an entire brigade of new ‘Bucktails’, which was then assigned to I Corps.  Numbering 1,314 effectives, they weigh in as 7 bases for Fire & Fury.

In my old 15mm army I had some ‘proper’ Bucktail figures (by Old Glory, I think?), which had distinct bucktail plumes on the left side of their caps.  However, I’ve not found anything similar in 10mm.  Although it’s not very obvious, I’ve attempted to depict the bucktails by painting a white & brown striped flash on the left side of each man’s cap.  The unit also carries appropriate Pennsylvania state colours.

An original Bucktail, wearing his bucktail

 

Missing from the 3rd Division is Brigadier-General George T. Stannard’s Brigade.  This strong brigade (10 bases in Fire & Fury) was not engaged on the 1st day of Gettysburg, so I’ve cheated slightly, taking the view that by the time Stannard turns up, there will be ample troops in the ‘dead box’ from which to form the brigade!

Lastly we have Colonel Charles S Wainwright’s I Corps Artillery Brigade.  In game terms this is represented by four gun models, each representing a ‘battery’ (two of brass 12pdr Napoleons and two of iron Ordnance 3-inch Rifles).  However, in reality this brigade consisted two 12pdr Napoleon batteries and two 3-inch Rifle batteries, each of six guns, plus a fifth (understrength) 3-inch Rifle battery with four guns.  In game terms each ‘battery’ model represents eight guns, so the fifth battery has been ‘absorbed’ into the others.

More soon!  My first batch of Rebs have just arrived in the post from Pendraken, so with a Rebel Yell, I’m off to the painting table…

Posted in 10mm Figures, American Civil War, American Civil War Union Army, Fire & Fury (Brigade) | 3 Comments

“Absolutely NO More New Wargame Projects!”… [6 Months Later]… My New 10mm ACW Project! :)

About six months ago, I stated that under no circumstances would I ever start a new ‘major’ wargames project… Yeah, right…

I forgot of course, that I still have at least one unsatisfied wargaming itch to scratch in the form of large-scale American Civil War gaming.  I’ve got a stack of books on the subject, I love the classic Fire & Fury rules and the period fascinates me.  It also does not require sources to be read ‘in the original German’…

I once even assembled a corps-sized 15mm Battle Honours/AB Figures Union Army, but realised that it would cost me a FORTUNE to build an army large enough to refight any of the notable battles and I foolishly disposed of it. However, the bug recently bit me again and I ordered a 10mm Union army from Pendraken Miniatures before I could talk myself out of it!

So why 10mm?  It’s not a scale I’ve done before, but I think it looks great for massed battles and has the added advantage of making them rather more manageable in terms of table space and cost.  I also anticipated (correctly!) that they would be easier and quicker to paint than 15mm.  In fact, it took just two weeks (nine painting sessions) to complete the Union I Corps for Gettysburg and a further three days to paint Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division, including all the dismounted cavalry and horse-holders!  A 15mm army would have taken at least 2-3 times as long and would cost me around eight times as much!  At this rate I’ll have enough troops completed to fight the first day of Gettysburg by the end of the summer (and dozens of other battles to boot).

I don’t have any 10mm scenery items in my collection, but then I don’t have any American-style scenery in any scale anyway, so will still need to buy a fair amount of scenery and that’s going to be a lot cheaper in 10mm than in larger scales.  Some of my 15mm scenery, such as trees, roads and bridges, will do equally well for 10mm battles.  Thus far, I’ve sourced buildings and fieldworks from Pendraken and Timecast Models, stone walls and bridges from Battlescale Models and a heap of laser-cut MDF ‘snake’ fencing from Blotz Models.

So why Fire & Fury?  Very simply, I’ve played them before and love the rules.  I’m very familiar with their WW2 set Battlefront: WWII, which at its core uses the very similar ‘Manoeuvre Table’ system, which combines the Movement and Morale sections of more ‘traditional’ wargames rules.  The set is designed for big, multi-division and multi-corps battles and as such, each unit on the table represents a whole brigade, while each model gun represents a whole battery.  Each base of figures represents either 150 or 200 men, depending on the game-scale chosen.  This isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I already play Napoleon’s Battles which is set at the same level.  Simply put, I want to be playing the Great Battles of History, commanding entire corps and divisions, rather than manoeuvring individual battalions and skirmish-screens.

As it happens, while purchasing my new collection, I discovered that a 2nd Edition of the rules, now called Brigade Fire & Fury (to distinguish it from Regimental Fire & Fury, which came out a few years back and which caters to those who like a more tactical-level battle) was released very recently, so I immediately bought a copy!  As expected, the rules seem excellent, though do add quite a bit more detail, especially in terms of separating out various types of infantry and artillery armaments and unit fatigue levels.

While I’m sure that it’s a great game and I will eventually get around to playing the 2nd Edition, I think that it’ll be simpler to stick with 1st Edition for now until I get used to it.  It also strikes me that larger, multi-corps battles might be more manageable with the more ‘homogenised’ unit ratings of 1st Edition, but we’ll see.

From browsing other blogs, it seems that most people playing Fire & Fury with 10mm figures seem to opt for the same ground-scale (infantry bases having a 1 inch frontage and 3-4 figures), but fill the bases with twice as many 10mm figures.  This looks absolutely stunning on the tabletop, but rather defeats the object for me, because I want to reduce the cost, space and painting time required!

Consequently I’ve opted to reduce all Fire & Fury game scales by 1/5th, therefore using 20mm wherever 1 inch is mentioned in the rules.  To simplify this and eliminate the need for mental gymnastics and mental arithmetic, I’ve made measuring-sticks out wooden batons, with 20mm increments marked off as ‘game-inches’.

In terms of basing, my infantry bases are therefore 20mm wide by 15mm deep with 3 figures per base (4 figures where a unit command base has two flags).  Mounted cavalry have 25mm square bases with two figures.  Artillery are 20mm wide by 25mm deep, limbers are 20mm wide by 50mm deep.

The last consideration is how to organise my armies.  I could simply go for ‘generic’ armies for both sides, but I always find that I’m at my most productive when painting toward an objective.  In this case (and like many others), I’ve opted for the Gettysburg order of battle, with the Phase 1 Objective being the 1st day at Gettysburg: For the Union, this means Reynolds’ I Corps, Howard’s XI Corps and Slocum’s XII Corps, plus Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division.  For the Confederacy this means A.P. Hill’s III Corps and elements of Ewell’s II Corps (plus a Confederate cavalry division for the purposes of scenario flexibility).

In the next instalment I’ll be looking at the first formation to be painted: General John Reynolds’ Union I Corps.

Posted in 10mm Figures, American Civil War, Fire & Fury (Brigade) | 6 Comments

‘This Seat of Mars’: Our Very British Civil War Game at Partizan ’18

It’s been a few years since I last visited a wargames show, but two weeks ago I schlepped up to Newark for Partizan ’18.  Partizan has always been one of my favourite shows, due to the extremely high quality of games that it attracts.  When I last went to Partizan about 20 years ago, it was still in the ‘Gothic grandeur’ (i.e. dark and cramped) of Kelham Hall, but is now in a considerably more spacious and well-lit exhibition hall at the Newark Showground and the show is considerably better for the change of venue.

I’ve put on several of my own games at Partizan in the past, but this time I was invited by Pete Barfield of the Very British Civil Forum, to take part in his VBCW spectacular, entitled ‘This Seat of Mars’.  The scenario basically involved a Royalist force assaulting a Leicestershire town to recapture the hidden Crown Jewels from under the nose of defending Socialist forces.  I would be supplying half of the Royalist forces, in the form of the Baroness de Loutson’s Young Ladies’ College Cadet Corps and some of their ‘Gentleman Friends’ from the British Union of Fascists.

Above: The Royalist tactical headquarters sets up shop in a busy farmyard.  Someone must have left a gate open, as there is livestock everywhere!

Above: The Cadet Corps’ Foot Hussar Squadron and the BUF Storm-Wing approach the town, closely observed by Baroness de Loutson and her staff (on horseback).  The red tin is a genuine 1930s Craven ‘A’ cigarette tin, generously donated by my late father-in-law, which we use to hold the random event cards used in the game.

Above: On the opposite side of town, some Socialist militia, supported by sympathetic elements of the RAF (bloody Technical trades, no doubt…), move in to Support The Local People’s Struggle Against Fascism And Tyranny/Oppress The King’s Loyal Subjects (delete as applicable).

Above: As their unit band plays the ‘Internationale’, the Socialists move quickly to occupy positions in and around the local garage (which happens to be one of the Royalist objectives).

Above: On the Royalist right flank, Squire Bertie Greengage’s Royalist militia deploy from their trucks and move to assault the Socialist-held garage.

Above: A reconnaissance aircraft passes overhead.  Nobody seems sure as to which faction he belongs…

Above: The local Morris side perpetrate Morris on an innocent and unsuspecting public.  Both sides pre-register the site for artillery…

Above: Supported by the Armoured Troop and a BUF anti-tank rifle team, Captain Gwynne-James-Davies’ Hussar Troop moves forward, intending to sweep through the open ground on the left flank.

Above: The Foot Hussar Squadron and the BUF Storm-Wing move forward in the centre.  Still no enemy sighted…

Above: But what’s that…?  The smell of mushy peas and whippets…?!  That can only mean that a Socialist colliery militia has appeared on the edge of town.

Above: As the Foot Hussar Squadron takes up defensive positions in and around the schoolhouse, a massive volume of supporting fire is put down by the Hussars’ Armoured Troop and Support Squadron and the first coal-miners are cut down, along with some unfortunate civilians, who happened to be in the Royalist line of fire (“The Greater Good…”)!

Above: The miners respond with their ‘artillery’… A large catapult lobbing jam-jar bombs… The colliery fire-support commander is a Royal Artillery veteran who lives by the Royal Regiment’s motto of ‘Ubique’… Sure enough, jam-jars are soon exploding ‘Ubique’ (‘All Over The Place’), but all they succeed in doing is killing a few unfortunate cows.  The Foot Hussars meanwhile put down effective fire across the hedgerows, eliminating some more miners.

Above: More Socialists appear in front of the Hussars – this bunch look a lot more professional, seem to lack incurable lung-diseases/whippets and even have a tank, which proceeds to exchange ineffectual shots with the Hussars’ armoured car.

Above: On the Royalists’ extreme left flank, Lt Col Keir’s Hussar Troop launches a charge on a troop of Socialist Mounted Infantry near the windmill – their first mounted action of the war (side-saddle, of course.  They are ladies)!

Above: Not to be outdone, Squire Bertie launches his own charge on the Socialists; using a pair of MG-armed light recce cars, supported by a truck-mounted HMG.  However, a Socialist HMG firing from cover behind the garage stops them in their tracks.

Both sides ignore the Morris… It’s for the best…

Above: As Squire Bertie launches his assault on the defended garage, his fire support elements go into action… Another bloody catapult…

Above: Unlike the Socialist jam-jar-thrower, the Royalist equivalent lands smack on target, causing much consternation among the defenders, who are dug in around some fuel storage tanks…

Above: In the middle of town, the BUF come under fire from the church tower (their objective) and take cover in a large brick house overlooking the town square.  Just then, a large group of RAF troops march into view and are immediately fired upon by the BUF, who cut down several of the Brylcreem Boys.

Above: The battle for the schoolhouse continues.  Captain de Carnelle’s Foot Hussar Squadron gains the upper-hand over the miners, thanks in no small part to the effective supporting fire from the tankette and HMG section in the lane.

Above: By some miracle and despite heavy casualties, the miners manage to cling on to their position!  At long last they also manage to inflict casualties on the Foot Hussars.

Above: The ineffectual clash of armour continues in the open country outside town.  The Socialists do manage to score one small victory however, as their self-propelled HMG manages to knock out the BUF anti-tank rifle team.  The Socialist jam-jar-thrower switches its attention to the armoured car, but only succeeds in killing another poor cow.

Above: Despite occasional livestock casualties, rural life continues much as it always does, despite the war.

Above: Meanwhile, at the windmill, the continuing cavalry melee is decisively tipped in the Royalists’ favour by the intervention of Captain Gwynne-James-Davies’ Hussar troop. As the last Socialist cavalryman surrenders, the Hussars look set to take to their objective (the brown barn).

Above: The Socialist commanders look on in fury as their plan unravels in the face of Reactionary opposition.  Comrade Arthur attempts to re-invigorate the men with Oliver Cromwell’s famous rallying cry, “Come on boys!  One more push and we can cancel Christmas!”

Above: With high explosive landing effectively on the enemy, Squire Bertie’s boys launch a massed assault on the garage.

Above: The defenders steel themselves for the coming assault. Beyond the garage, one of the Royalist light recce cars lies overturned and burning in the street, while the church is now fully ablaze, thanks to a Royalist rocket.  The Socialists make full propaganda use of the burning church and send photos to the Anglican League…

Above: As they round up their prisoner, the mounted Hussars charge on… But haven’t spotted what’s lurking around the corner…

Above: The Hussars rapidly discover that they have bitten off more than they can chew!  The Socialist section LMG cuts down half of the first troop and the second troop fares little better!  Rapidly passing below 50% strength, the Hussars beat a hasty retreat, leaving the objective firmly in Socialist hands.

Above: The Socialists detain a suspicious civilian who was eyeing up the cows… They accuse her of being a ‘milk-snatcher’…

Above: Having won their initial clash against the Brylcreem Boys, the BUF casualties rapidly mount as the RAF armoured car takes them to task.  Captain de Carnelle’s Foot Hussar Squadron is also starting to suffer, thanks to the intervention of the Socialist self-propelled MG section.  It seems that Baroness de Loutson’s forces have shot their bolt…

Above: By contrast, Squire Bertie’s boys on the right flank have seized their objective at the garage and are in good spirits.  However, two objectives remain in Socialist hands…

Above: The aircraft continues to circle and observe the final stages of the battle.  It’s still not clear who he belongs to… Perhaps another faction looking to take advantage of the weakened Socialists and Royalists…?

Above: Baroness de Loutson’s Tactical HQ is in a state of near-panic as retreat orders are transmitted and orderlies pack the picnic hampers and champers back into the Crossley.  If they’re quick, they can probably catch last orders…

Thanks to everyone for a great game in good company and particularly to Pete Barfield for setting up this splendid table!  See you next time!

Posted in 28mm Figures, A Very British Civil War, Games, Partizan (Show) | Leave a comment

As Long As We Beat The Aenglish… My First Game of ‘Saga’

As discussed in the last article, I’ve been encouraged to resurrect my near-forgotten 28mm ‘Age of Arthur’ collection with the aid of ‘Saga’ Dark Age/Mediaeval wargame rules.  I found the rules relatively easy to read and understand, but my sieve-like mind soon forgets such things and so I was grateful for the assistance of Mike, the Saga ‘Brettwalda’ in leading me through a couple of trial games.

They’re my toys, so I opted for the ‘good guys’ defending Britannia, while Mike got the hate Saesneg (Saxon) invaders.  In Saga game terms, the Saxon Battle-Board is relatively straightforward, but the Britons have a special rule whereby the Warlord can ‘Galvanise’ units with the range of a Small Saga-Stick.  ‘Galvanised’ units gain additional options and bonuses on the Romano-British Battle-Board, which means that preserving the Warlord and using him to influence other units might be more important than getting him to lead charges… More of that later…

We decided on six army points per side, so as Dux Bellorum, I spent 1 point on a unit of 12 bow-armed Levies, 2 points on two units of 8 Warriors and 3 points on three units of 4 Hearthguards.  The British Hearthguards have the option of being mounted, so I put two units on horseback.  The British Warlord may have up to two Hearthguard ‘Companions’ attached to his element, so I took those from one of the mounted Hearthguard units and combined the remaining mounted Hearthguards into a single unit of 6 figures.  Combining units means that their greater strength gives them more combat-power, but also mean that you lose a Saga Die from the dice pool.

This army list gave me six Saga Dice – 1 for the Warlord and 1 for each of my five formed units.

In deployment terms, I decided to refuse my right flank, placing the poorer Warriors and Levies there, hopefully keeping the enemy at bay with arrows.  My left wing, with the Warlord and Hearthguards , would be my main striking-force.

Brettwalda Mike meanwhile, spent 3 points on three 8-figure Warrior units and 3 points on three 4-figure Hearthguard units.  He split one Hearthguard unit and used it to increase the strength of the two remaining Hearthguard units to 6 figures apiece.

Like me, Mike’s army generated six Saga Dice per turn.

Mike opted for a fairly symmetrical deployment, with the three Warrior units and the Warlord in the centre, with the Hearthguards on each flank.

Note that in ‘Saga’, the Warlord’s retinue is normally represented by a single large base, featuring the warlord and associated hangers-on.  I don’t have anything like that for my Saxons, so the Saxon Warlord here is shown by the small group of figures clustering around a suitable leader figure and the Wyvern banner.  For the British, I have a diorama of a Romano-British warlord (on the white horse) being perpetually mugged by a couple of Saxons.

Not knowing quite what to do, I started by placing Saga Dice in the top row of the Battle-Board, basically activating units for movement.  I wasn’t quite ready to go for the more advanced stuff lower down the board just yet.  With Saga Dice placed, I started activating units, starting with my Levy archers, who used one activation to move within range of the Saxons and a second activation to lob a few arrows in their direction, resulting in a satisfying First Blood for the battle!

With my first turn completed, the wily old Brettwalda immediately spotted an opportunity to knock out my main striking unit of mounted Hearthguards and immediately started stacking the Saga Dice on suitable assault bonuses.  Dice placed, his right-flanking Hearthguard unit charged out to meet my cavalry head-on, deploying several bonuses from the Battle-Board as he does so…

The combat is hard-fought , though the Britons manage to beat off the assault and the sole surviving Saxon Hearthguard falls back.  However, the British cavalry have suffered casualties and are now ripe for a second assault by the waiting Saxon Warrior unit…

Outnumbered two-to-one and with another stack of Battle-Board bonuses deployed against them, the British Hearthguards are destroyed and I will now be rolling one less Saga Die per turn.  However, the strength of the Saxon Warrior unit has fallen below four figures, so the Saxons also lose one Saga Die from their roll.

Having learned a hard lesson from the massive Saxon deployment of Battle-Board bonuses against my Hearthguard cavalry, I use my next pool of Saga Dice to amass a stack of my own bonuses for more targeted strikes against the Saes.  Lord Derfel’s Hearthguards (white star banner) are thrown against the Saxon warlord himself, closely followed by a unit of Warriors.  The Romano-British attacks come within a whisker of taking the Brettwalda’s head (we need four hits to take him down and inflict three hits), but are both beaten off with heavy losses.

However, having positioned himself on the battlefield to achieve maximum command and control effect. Dux Marcus Dangerus suddenly finds himself dangerously exposed…

The wily Brettwalda is quick to take advantage of the Dux’s isolation and sends in a fresh unit of Saxon Warriors, loaded to the eyeballs with ‘Ferocious’ and ‘Sharp Blades’ bonuses…

In a bitter combat, Marcus Dangerus manages to beat off the Saxon Warriors (only 2 Saxons survive, so the Saxons lose another Saga Die), but in turn suffers the loss of both Companions.

The Brettwalda himself now steps in to apply the coup de grace (however you say that in Aenglish) to Dux Marcus Dangerus, who battles on manfully, inflicting some hits on the Brettwalda, but finally falls to the eternal Saxon muggers on his base.  The shocked Britons can only look on in horror and disbelief as the Saxons cheer their warlord and taunt the Wealhas!

“Rally to the Lord!”

All too flippin’ late, the last fresh unit of Roman-British Warriors now charges into the fray and exacts revenge on the Brettwalda, cutting him down without loss.  The left-flank unit of Saxon Hearthguards attempts to save their lord, but too are cut down!  The pendulum of battle swings back to the Britons!

Things are now suddenly looking very bad for the Saxons.  Their army is now only generating two Saga Dice – one for the sole surviving Hearthguard on the right flank and one for the last fresh unit of Warriors.  The two other Warrior units, at two figures apiece, are too weak to generate Saga Dice.  The Britons meanwhile, with four viable units still in play, are still rolling four Saga Dice per turn and have gained a distinct command & control advantage over the Saes.

Lord Derfel’s Hearthguards move quickly to roll up the Saxon right flank – he quickly dispatches the remaining Saxon Warriors near the village and then eliminates the last Saxon Hearthguard.  The Saxons are now down to rolling a single Saga Die.  The Levy archers meanwhile move forward to engage the last formed Saxon Warrior unit.

Having at long last rolled up the Saxon right flank (which was the original plan, after all…), the Britons move in to mop up the weak Saxon Warrior unit.  The Levy archers meanwhile, take the reserve Warriors to task and launch an astonishingly accurate volley, cutting down three of the eight Saxon Warriors!

With the runic writing firmly on the wall, the Britons close in on the last Saxon Warriors, but the archers complete the task for them, eliminating three more Saxons and removing the Saxon ability to roll any Saga Dice whatsoever.  The battle is won!

All in all, an immensely fun and informative first try of Saga!  After a tentative start, the rules quickly became intuitive and straightforward once the Battle-Board was fully absorbed and understood.  We still had time for a second leisurely game after this and with experience we could easily have played three games in a four-hour club-night, which lends itself well to fast-moving campaign play.

My sincere thanks to Brettwalda Mike for ‘letting me win’!  I’m very much looking forward to more Saga.

Posted in 28mm Figures, Ancients, Games, Romano-British Wars, Saga | 2 Comments

The Saga Begins…

The calm before the storm…

Some 20 years ago or so, in one of many expensive ‘wouldn’t that be a great wargames project’ moments, I bought and painted a heap of Gripping Beast 28mm Saxons, Roman-British, Late Romans and Welsh.  This was partly because I liked the look of the armies, but mostly because I love the Arthurian Trilogy of books by Bernard Cornwell (The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur).  I thought I’d use Warhammer Ancient Battles, as ‘everyone’ plays Warhammer…

Saga 2nd Edition cover

The trouble is that, despite there being a truly excellent Warhammer Ancient Battles supplement for the Age of Arthur, it remains a bloody awful set of wargame rules…  We did a few deeply unsatisfying games and even did an Arthurian participation game at Partizan, but then the troops went into a cupboard, never to see the light of day for 20 years.

However, in recent years, there has been a buzz regarding a new set of rules called ‘Saga’ (now actually into its 2nd Edition), which sounded as though they might fit the bill.  So I bit the bullet, bought the rules (and the ‘Aetius & Arthur’ supplement) and opened the crypt to release my old models.

The core of the ‘Saga’ game system is the ‘Battle Board’ (more of which later).  You can’t play a game of Saga without a Battle Board for each side and for that reason you have to buy a game supplement for your chosen period – in my case the ‘Aetius & Arthur’ supplement, which is supplied with Battle Boards for Late Romans, Romano-British, Saxons, Huns, Goths and Picts.

You will need a set of ‘Saga Sticks’, which are used for measuring all shooting, movement and command & control distances in the game.  These sticks are Large (12 inches), Medium (6 inches), Small (4 inches) and Very Small (2 inches).  You can of course use a tape-measure, but the sticks seem to make the game flow far more quickly.

Lastly, you also need two sets of ‘Saga Dice’.  These are a set of eight six-sided dice featuring national/factional symbols: One symbol appears once on each die, while a second symbol appears twice and the last symbol appears three times (I’ll refer to them as Rare, Uncommon and Common respectively).  For example, the Roman/British set has a helmet as the Common symbol, a Draco banner as the Uncommon symbol and a Chi-Ro cross as the Rare symbol.  The corresponding Saxon symbols are an axe, a horse and the Sutton Hoo helmet.  The makers of Saga seem to have cottoned on to an excellent marketing opportunity here, as they are surprisingly expensive to buy (£12 for eight dice).  However, you can make your own from blank dice or simply use ordinary dice, substituting 1, 2 & 3 for the Common symbol, 4 & 5 for the Uncommon symbol and 6 for the Rare symbol.

Saxon (green), Roman (purple) & Welsh (yellow) Saga Dice

However, being a lazy sod with possibly more money than sense, I just bought the dice (discounted!), though I have made my own Saga Sticks!

Army lists (often the bane of Ancient wargaming and certainly so with Warhammer) could not be simpler!  Very simply, each army has a Warlord (who is assumed to come with their own bodyguards and is a unit in their own right) and can spend a remarkably small number of points (6 points seems typical) on their army.  1 point buys you a unit of four Hearthguards (elite troops), eight Warriors (general rank and file) or twelve Levy (peasant rabble).  The army lists for each army then tell you if the units can be mounted, armed with missile weapons or other special abilities.  In most lists, an additional Hero can be fielded in lieu of a unit of troops.  Units may also be combined to form larger units, though this reduces the number of Saga Dice that your army generates (see below).

My 6-point Romano-British army deploys for battle: 1x 12-figure unit of Levy archers, 2x 8-figure units of Warriors, my Warlord (mounted), a four-figure unit of Hearthguards and a large, combined six-figure unit of Mounted Hearthguards. Note that the ‘Britons’ list allows me to take two Hearthguards from an appropriate unit and add them as ‘Companions’ to the Warlord’s element. So, having detached two Mounted Hearthguards as ‘Companions’, I then combined the remaining Mounted Hearthguard as a single large unit.

Saga Dice are critical to activating units, performing actions adding bonuses to combat factors.  They are generated in the following manner: The Warlord generates 1x Saga Die, as does each Hero, each unit of Hearthguards with at least 1 surviving figure, each unit of Warriors with at least 4 figures and each unit of Levies with at least 6 figures, for a maximum of eight Saga Dice.  The Saga Dice are then rolled and are then placed on the army’s Battle Board to indicate available actions.  The most basic actions are simply to enable a unit to move, fight and shoot, though others give bonuses to attack or defence, allow you to interrupt the enemy’s actions, etc, etc.  Here is the Saxon Battle Board by way of example:

Dice of the appropriate symbol are placed on the sections of the Battle Board to unlock those units or abilities.  Normally, only one die is required on each section, though sections with a ‘+’ symbol require both of the dice shown (e.g. ‘Profanation’ requires an axe OR a horse, while ‘Death is Nothing’ requires an axe AND a horse).  You can of course place several dice in one section, to allow multiple activations of the same section.

Once you’ve placed the Saga Dice, you then ‘spend’ those dice to activate as many units as the dice allow until you’ve had your fill.  You can opt to keep dice on the board for your next turn or in order to react to the enemy (if your Battle Board allows).

It goes without saying that it pays to have a good look at the Battle Board before you start to play!

Individual units can be activated multiple times in one turn, though will accumulate fatigue and will run out of steam after two or three activations in the same turn.  The enemy can also use YOUR fatigue points to increase his combat bonuses or reduce your own, so it pays not to over-exert your troops unnecessarily.

I won’t bore you with the details of the combat system, as it’s very straightforward.  The real beauty of Saga is in the innovative Saga Dice/Battle Board/activation system described above, which really does give that feel of Dark Age heroic warfare.

In the next instalment, the heroic defenders of Britannia face off against the Saesneg…

Posted in 28mm Figures, Ancients, Games, Romano-British Wars, Saga | Leave a comment

A Very British Civil War in Pembrokeshire: Armoured Reinforcements

Well I’m back from Partizan, having had a blast playing Pete Barfield’s wonderful VBCW game and seeing an array of incredible games.  The Partizan report will follow, but here are some AFVs I painted last week, after finishing off the reinforcements for the Slebech Castle Cadet Corps:

First we have a pair of Carden-Loyd Tankettes in the Vickers MMG Carrier role.  These will go to the Machine Gun Platoon of the 2nd King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (2 KSLI), who are the Regular Army core of the Royalist Pembrokeshire Division.  2 KSLI had been the Pembroke Dock Garrison Battalion at the start of the unpleasantness.

Models by Warlord Games.  The background farm is by EM4 Miniatures.

Second we have a pair of AFVs belonging to the Army of the Bishopric of St David’s: a Renault R35 Infantry Tank and a Carden-Loyd Tankette mounting an FRC 47mm anti-tank gun.

The R35 was thickly-armoured compared to other tanks of the day, though was painfully slow and inadequately armed.  The Carden-Loyd tank destroyer concept meanwhile, was developed by the Belgian Army, though was found to be hopelessly inadequate due to the lack of crew and ammunition-carrying capacity, not to mention the catastrophic effect of the gun’s recoil on the tiny vehicle’s suspension!  The gunshield also obscures the driver’s vision, so needs to be raised and employed as a ‘roof’ when driving.  Nevertheless, despite their inadequacies, these vehicles are a welcome addition to the Bishop’s long-suffering armoured corps.

Models again by Warlord games.

Posted in 28mm Figures, A Very British Civil War, VBCW Anglican League, VBCW Royalist | 2 Comments

The Baroness de Loutson Marches on Newark!

The Baroness de Loutson and the Cadet Corps of Slebech Castle College For Young Ladies will this week be marching on Newark, to reinforce the Royalist forces in Pete Barfield’s ‘A Very British Civil War’ game at the ‘Partizan 2018′ show.

I can’t flippin’ wait, as it’s been about four years since my last wargames show and coincidentally about four years since I last painted some VBCW figures, so I thought I’d use the game as motivation to reduce the lead-pile somewhat!

If you missed it, I covered the Slebech Castle Cadet Corps in a previous article here: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/2018/04/16/a-very-british-civil-war-the-slebech-castle-cadet-corps/

Sadly, most of the Corps has lain unloved and unpainted on the lead-pile for the last few years, but that has now been rectified!

All of these figures are produced by Hinterland Miniatures in the USA, sculpted by the ubiquitous hand of Paul Hicks and painted by me.  Hinterland’s wonderful, yet deeply esoteric range of ‘Germanic Female Victoriana’ figures can be found here: https://hinterlandminiatures.weebly.com/

Above: The Baroness herself in parade uniform and wielding a vicious-looking riding-crop.

Above: The Baroness in close-up.

Above: While the Baroness is Colonel of the Cadet Corps, the day-to-day running and tactical leadership of the Corps is exercised by Lieutenant Colonel, Lady Aisling Keir, here seen with some of her Headquarters Squadron.

Above: Lieutenant Colonel Keir’s HQ group dismounted.  Note that the Corps’ uniforms are recycled Imperial German Hussar uniforms, sourced from Baron de Loutson’s East Prussian cousin, the Freiherr von Lützen, former Commanding Officer of the German Husaren-Regiment ‘Von Lützen’.

Above: Lance-armed Cadets of the Mounted Hussar Squadron.

Above: Rifle-armed cadets of the Mounted Hussar Squadron.

Above: The Officer Commanding the Mounted Hussar Squadron, Captain, Lady Irene Gwynne-James-Davies.

Above: Cadets of the Foot Hussar Squadron and Support Squadron engage in street-fighting training.

Above: The massed mounted elements of the Corps on parade, including the Mounted Hussar Squadron, Light Armoured Squadron and elements of the Tactical Headquarters Squadron.

Above: The massed foot elements of the Corps, including the Foot Hussar Squadron, Support Squadron and elements of the Tactical Headquarters Squadron.

Above: The whole Corps on parade.

I almost forgot the Music Section…

Posted in 28mm Figures, A Very British Civil War, Partizan (Show), VBCW Royalist | 2 Comments