Monday, 30 December 2013

Deploy Skirmishers!

Just a quick post to promote the new year's painting challenge at La Bricole, our small (but friendly!) forum dedicated to Napoleonic wargaming.  

The theme this time is light infantry or cavalry of any description, in any size and scale and in any numbers from vignette to brigades, depending on your productivity and ambition!

So if you have any eligible unit lying around unloved and unpainted, now could be a good time to get it down and to share your success with others!

More information can be found here.

Newcomers always welcome. Deadline for completed entries is February 10th, 2014.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Krushing the Kaiserliks

Or, Waxing the Whitecoats...
No update since August, since I haven't had the opportunity to play in any games- at least here in Tokyo.

It's been an eventful few months.  I took a few weeks off to visit Vancouver in late September.  Not strictly for holiday, and I was on my own as I was there largely on some personal business (which has also been keeping me busy since my return).  

To make matters worse, the very evening before I left we had to take one of our cats to the vet as he had been ailing.  Turns out he had advanced lymphatic cancer, and held on just long enough to pass away at home with us the day after I came back.   

My wife and I were shocked and devastated- we both were really fond of the old boy.  He was very much my wife's cat, as I had bought him for her as a present twelve years ago when we lived in Iwate, but the loss was felt keenly by the both of us.  He was a very gentle, huge softy, as are most American Shorthairs.  And after twelve years with us he had truly become a part of the family. 

So we did what all committed cat-aholics would do- we got a new one just this past weekend.  Another American Shorthair, this one a ten-month old kitten.  He has grey and black markings actually very reminiscent of the mottled pattern seen on Luftwaffe fighters during WW2. 

But my suggestion that we call him Hermann fell on deaf ears, so we settled on Kumazo instead. 
This one clearly scored high on the adorability table when rolling up his character.  And being an energetic and outgoing little chap, he is keeping us pleasantly busy!

Anyway what with business abroad, pets, new contracts at work, and assorted other demands on my time, there simply hasn't been much room for me to think upon gaming these past couple of months.  

Nevertheless, I did manage a game in with Dave Smith, Walt and the rest of the North Shore Gamers while I was in the Great White North, and Napoleonics at that.  And I have the pictures to prove it!
The game was held in Walt's basement, and Walt and Anne are always great hosts- this general cannot complain of not being well-fed on the eve of battle!

The game scenario was based on a rather well-known action fought somewhere in Belgium and which involved Allied troops on one side defending a ridge, and the French attacking them from across the valley.  At either end in the centre of the field were two farmsteads; one large, one small.  Sounds familiar?  Only in this case, it was the Austrians defending. 

I was, mais naturellement, to be commanding a division of French. The game was in its second day, and one of the French players from the previous week's game was unable to make it.  So we assumed that he had fallen on the field of glory, and that I was to leap nonchalantly into the saddle and lead the troops on to la victoire. 

Rules used were Shako II by Arty Conliffe, Chris Leach, and Dave Waxtel.  Chris Leach is one of the leading lights in the Vancouver and Lower Mainland gaming scene, and in fact had been the original owner of most of the Austrians on the table.  These are now part of Walt's collection IIRC.

Walt also had these fine buildings for us to fight over.
The French had taken shot and shell in their advance towards the ridge, and I would be going in with some battered and bruised troops.
It would be fun taking on the Kaiserliks for a change- an army for which I've always had a sneaking regard.
Time for the "Old Trousers!"
Artillery hurled their hate at one another, as well as at the French columns, but nothing really decisive seemed to result.
Walls of White.  But would they stand?
It was interesting seeing the large skirmish stands used in Shako- they appealed to the modeller in me!  Most skirmishers were more conventionally based, and this seemed to work fine with the rules.

One thing that struck me after being used to using Black Powder was the more "strict" treatment of things like line of sight,  formations, and the like. Black Powder is much looser about such issues.

Both approaches have their pros and cons, and it really depends on how you like your Napoleonic rules to play- and for that matter on the attitudes of the people you game with.

The French assault was touch and go- the first wave was forced back. 
There was a mass of cuirassiers and light cavalry- chasseurs and hussars- on our left, but these didn't really achieve much beyond pinning some Grenzers.
But a second surge by the Boys in Blue knocked out enough Austrian units to push the line back, thus gaining the field- a French win! 
Break out the champagne boys, you may never see its like again...
Chagrined Austrian Commanders.  Here Dave can be seen in the foreground, at this stage in the game clearly regretting the availability of cheap flights from Tokyo to Vancouver. 

The game was fun, although I missed some of the uncertainty that comes from Black Powder what with its blunders and multiple moves.  

But having only had one evening's worth of play under my belt, I don't have enough experience with the rules to get a real feeling for how Shako plays, especially as I had not been there for the previous week's game when a lot of the action took place. 

Still, they seemed to do the job; we got a clear result, and there were a lot of units on the table.  Our games in Tokyo have fewer units, but we use larger number of figures which makes moving and deploying more of a challenge.  Different rather than better.  

But of course, having won the game left me with a warm feeling towards Shako II then and there; as regular visitors to this blog know, the Goddess of Victory has not been overly-biased towards the French in our games here in Tokyo.

Suffice to say I wouldn't mind giving Shako II another try one day.  And it is always a real pleasure to play with the North Shore Gamers- we go back a long way!
Back in the Land of the Rising Sun, and this coming Sunday, November 17th, will see the West Tokyo Wargamers put on a Napoleonic game at a gaming convention across town in Funabori, way over in East Tokyo near Chiba. I hope to have a few new units for the event, plus some buildings I've been working on.  

Here's one: what all wargaming tables need, a monument to some local boy who made the big time in some way or another.  May come in useful as an objective marker.
The Funabori event is predominantly a board gaming convention, but it gives us a chance to "show the flag" for the growing miniatures gaming hobby here.  

Photos will follow. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sparring Partner

I've a week's vacation ahead of me, and as it far too hot and humid to spend much time outside, this means a golden opportunity to pull up my sleeves and to get down to some serious painting.  

So here is the first result, and should all go to plan this will be followed in a few days with a more substantial offering.
In our last game we realized the need for more brigade and division commanders.  This was more of a concern for the Anglo-Allied side, who found themselves having to elevate cavalry officers (or even pioneer figures of disgracefully low birth) to high command due to a shameful lack of appropriate miniatures.  

But even we French found ourselves scraping the barrel for adequate command figures, so I took the opportunity to tart up an old miniature I had converted many years ago, and put him on a command stand along with an unfortunate Russian jager who has given his all for Holy Mother Russia.

I usually go with fictional names with my generals, but this one represents an actual historical personage for once. Baron Louis Ernest Joseph de Sparre,  in the crimson facings of his regiment, the 5th Dragoons.  

Serving in Spain for much of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1814 he took his dragoon division back over the Pyrenees to serve his Emperor in the Campaign for France.  

After the disasters of the Russian campaign and Leipzig, experienced cavalry were in woefully short supply in the Grande Armée.  The arrival of Sparre's veteran dragoons made for a very welcome addition to what was by now a rapidly-shrinking French order of battle.

Sparre's dragoons were soon in the thick of things, seeing action against the advancing Allies under Blucher- hence the symbolic addition of the hapless Muscovite. 

You can read more about the gallant Baron here on the Histofig site.
This figure began life as a Front Rank French infantry officer in an overcoat.  The original was doffing a bicorne, but I cut off the bicorne-waving arm and gave him one from the spares box that was wielding a sword.  I then replaced with head with one I cannibalized from a dragoon which had been used in a previous conversion.  

After a bit of work with the epoxy putty to rebuild the collar and the new arm joint, I was very satisfied with how he turned out.  

I was a lot less happy with the shade of green I had originally painted his overcoat, which I realized later was much too bright and vivid.  So I gave it four or five thin coats of Games Workshop's Thraka Green wash.  

Not only did this bring the shading more to life, but it also gave the coat a deeper & darker tone, which I thought much closer to French dragoon green without being too dark for a 28mm miniature.  

The supine Russian is also a Front Rank figure, and I enjoyed painting him very much.  In fact, I'd love to get working on my Russians- trouble is we never seem to have enough French!
In this shot you can see the light blue armband worn by French brigade commanders.  This was also fashioned from epoxy putty. 

Now the only problem is that I find myself with a French General of Dragoons, but without actually having any dragoons for him to command!  Nevertheless, for the time being he will be equally capable of leading our lancers and chasseurs to victory until a more suitable commission comes along.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Humbugging the French (...again)

Despite the summer heat and humidity turning my hobby room into a Turkish bath, I managed to get around to finishing the battle report for our last game before it recedes into the lost depths of my memory.      

The game was held on July 14th- Bastille Day.  This coincided with a long weekend here in Japan, so many members of our club had long-standing plans to be out and about with family.  Subsequently only three of us were on deck on the day to put on a game. 

So with the whole (thankfully air-conditioned) room to ourselves for the whole day,  Sada, Rod and I plunked terrain and miniatures down on the table for what turned out to be a really interesting game.

One thing we learned from our last outing was that having all the units starting on the table lined up against one another didn't really lend itself to sweeping maneuvers.  Why place brakes on our ability (or lack thereof) to showcase those flashes of tactical genius worthy of the Beloved Emperor/Corsican Despot himself? 

Having brigades come in on passing a predetermined dice roll gave it a much more Napoleonic "feel".  However,  this time we neglected to use the divisional commanders.  In our last game, this proved to alleviate the chances of untimely command failures, and without them it was back to the gnashing of teeth as units refused to budge when the commanders just dropped the ball.

Usually at key moments, of course.  At one point during the battle, the French cavalry brigade commanders would be seen weeping tears of frustration and rage, as a once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity to sweep all before them was lost as the dice just refused to cooperate.  

We came up with a scenario that worked very well, and one that made good use of table space.  We settled for one road running diagonally down the length of the table, with another crossing it along the table width.  At the crossroads was a town of three built up areas, including the monastery from last game. 

A few marshes and ponds with a solitary stand of trees at one end of the table,  and a row of low ridges along the other, and that made up the Field of Honour.
Looking down the length of the table towards where the French and Confederation troops would be entering.
The view from the French lines.
Sada's felt-and-rubber roads fit nicely over the hills!
The table was approximately 10' by 5' in size- three GW gaming mats worth.  We could have added a fourth had I thought to borrow it from Giovanni, who was off camping that day.  

The ball would open with the British and Portuguese allies holding onto the village.  The French and Confederation troops would be tasked with evicting these impertinent squatters from the Emperor's rightful domains.  Simples.     

Our last few games hadn't really seen many blunders (command rolls of twelve) at all.  This one made up for it- with interest.  Heroism (a.k.a the most abominably undeserved luck) abounded in the game. Two of Rod's regiments, his Portuguese infantry and the 44th Foot, proved resistant in the face of overwhelming- and I mean overwhelming- odds. 
"'Tis but a flesh wound..."
Historically, the 44th Foot were one of the most shot-up and disaster-prone regiments in the British Army.  Brave 'eroes of Gandamack, and all that.  And in this game, they were to reflect that reputation. 

But despite having rank upon rank mown down by enemy fire, they were to perform with remarkable stubbornness- and downright devilish good fortune.  In effect, they held up the advance of the entire French reserve brigades of horse, foot, and guns.  

Bloody fools...   

More on that later.  Here is the report, in photos.
Highlanders garrison the monastery, and begin their search for alcoholic refreshments.
Reinforcements wait their turn.
Sada's new battery of British Foot Artillery.
The British defensive lineup, aided by a battalion of plucky Portuguese.
Sada had his new British artillery battery.
Between them, these two battalions were to cause the French side no end of frustration.
Confederation troops advance to contact!
Soldiers from Saxony and Anhauser-Busch prepare to bleed for the Emperor of the French...
The buildings are garrisoned by British infantry and "The Sweeps!"
Unimpressed, the French form up for advance...
...and are up to the challenge of having their Confederation allies absorb Allied shot and shell.
The French horde is faced by a single battalion of the 71st Highland Light Infantry.
Meanwhile, British reinforcements also await a favorable roll of the dice to enter the battlefield.
The French voltigeurs are sent forward, as are dismounted dragoons.  Spain is harsh on horseflesh.
A combination of good command rolls by the Portuguese- and initial reticence on the part of the 44th's colonel to obey any orders at all- saw the bluecoats ready to flank the Confederation attack, but all on their own. 
Masterly inactivity on the part of the regimental commander of the 44th.
Meanwhile, the French and their Allies advance to the beating of drums and the creaking of wagon wheels.
"Deploy voltigeurs!"
Bavarians refuse the Confederation flank to counter the (now isolated) Portuguese.
And Germanic hordes attack the British garrisoning the inn.  This was to be a meatgrinder of a contest.
Things are looking rough for the 71st HLI.
...very rough indeed!
"All eyes on the prize, mes amis!
The Anhauser-Busch contingent is repulsed ignominiously from the Inn.
The French had a "Cunning Plan" which involved a flanking attack en masse... the Bavarians traded shots with the Portuguese.
The 71st decides that discretion is very much the better part of  valour, and after a few ineffective volleys take to their heels towards the rear. 
"Something wicked this way comes, laddies..."
The Scots are astonished to see the French horde advance all the way past the monastery in one dense mass.  So too was the French command staff, who had envisioned  a more "dynamic" deployment once clear of the road.
At this point, the first reserves successfully rolled to come on.  A brigade of infantry for he French...
...and one for the British.  Snap!
Here's a "les frères Montgolfier"-eye view of the table.
French infantry appear on the scene.  We diced to see which side of the table from with the arriving brigades would enter.
Rod and Sada, pondering which direction the battle would be taking in the coming turns.
The 44th finally consent to march to the support of the hard-pressed Portuguese, who have just got charged in the flank by my emerging brigade of French. 
While yet more French emerge from the other side of the wood, threatening the Allied rear.
The Portuguese concluded that they had done more than enough to satisfy Lusitanian honour, and repair post-haste to the safety of the nearest cantina.
And now the French cavalry entered- it was looking good for French arms this day.
Brigadier Gerard, nattily dress and accoutred as usual, chomps at the bit for action.

Now looking at a position like this, you would thing the Frogs had it all in the bag!  Not so, as from this point on the Dice Deities decided to desert the Gallic host, and would henceforth pour their golden sunshine upon Milord Wellington instead. 
"How could you MISS!?!"  The cavalry could/ would do nothing until the infantry had been seen off first.  This didn't happen.
"Die hard, men!"  With shot and shell raking their ranks from all directions, the worst the 44th would do was to halt or fall back,  rolling 11's and 12's on their break tests despite excessive casualties. 
At one tantalizing point in the action, the French cavalry had a wide open space to charge across, with only an artillery battery that was facing the wrong direction to oppose them.  Brigadier rolls a 10- 'nuff said.  The following turn, the 44th was able to turn flank to face them, thenceforth keeping two brigades of horse effectively at bay.
All that fire, all those casualties, and all those numbers opposing them, and STILL the damned 44th refused to budge!
While of course, THEY were able to disorder the cavalry and prevent them from charging in!  Proving again that God is, indeed, an Englishman...
Mind you, it didn't help the British that their reinforcements under their Brigadier, Col. James Lentulus MacDawdler, were still strolling into action at one move per turn at best.
Resulting in quite a few bar brawls after the battle, no doubt.
Meanwhile in the centre, the decimated Confederation contingent- shorn of the Saxons who are trying to help defeat the 44th-  lick their wounds, as the Italian Guards charge repeatedly at the inn- all to no avail.
Finally it is the Bavarian jagers who give the French a toehold on the village.  After a vicious struggle for the stone cottage, the defending 95th Rifles- out of ammunition and having taken heavy casualties- finally break!
"For you, Blondische Englander type, ze war ist over!"
Over on the other side of the table, Sada's flanking attack on the village had bogged down into an indecisive firefight.  A lot of his own units were unable to bring their fire to bear due to a very congested deployment. 
As with the French cavalry, a large force of troops found themselves unable to influence events on the battlefield Nonetheless, the British and French managed to take out a unit or so each in the firefights.
Eventually, the French began to be enfiladed both from artillery and from the Highlanders in the monastery, the combination of which succeeded in breaking a regiment of light infantry.
These were HaT figures, which I have to admit looked pretty good when painted up.  Smaller than other 28mm's, but on the table top they looked just fine, especially given Sada's capable brushwork.
So with the majority of the buildings in the town in British hands by the end of the day, the Anglo-Allied forces were deemed the undisputed victors.

The hapless French were left to fall back to their start positions, rethink strategy, and- in the case of the general officers- cast about for scapegoats.

At least we saw off that ill-bred rogue Sharpe, along with his green-clad band of poachers and brigands. 

Having the brigades come in at different times and places made for fun and uncertainty.  However, both sides really missed being able to make use of the divisional command stands as we did last time, which allowed players to more easily recover from vital failed command throws.   For games this size, they really are necessary. 

The French were certainly unfortunate in that the heroic, Roland-like stand of first the Portuguese infantry, and later the 44th Foot, effectively stymied our attack and rendered our cavalry impotent.  

But such is the nature of war.  
"Will ye nae skelpit back tae Paris, yon Johnny Foreigners!"
Our flanking attack on the rear of the monastery was mishandled, and we should have been more aggressive while making use of our (at the time) superior numbers to feed in reserve units when needed while simultaneously fending off any British attempt at relieving the garrison.  

It must be said that the French artillery was decidedly ineffective.  Stuck behind the traffic jam that was the French cavalry, my battery never got into action. And with nary a roll of 5 or 6 in sight,  Sada's guns may as well have been firing off cabbages for all the difference it would have made. 

If time had allowed, we all could easily have gone for four more turns.  Both sides had ample units in play to continue the fight, and the French had as good a chance of seizing the real estate as the British had of really giving us an even bloodier nose.  

But in the end time eluded us.  We all wished we had the luxury of leaving the game in situ so we could have come back in a week and fight it out to its conclusion.  But even so, gaming more than once a month is not really practical for most of us due to work and family commitments.  

As usual, more pictures of the game can be seen here on Sada's blog. 

This game was for Pete- we're all hoping to see you back in the saddle one day.  Ganbatte, mate.