Monday, 9 February 2015

We Won The War


The Campaign of Nations has come to a magnificent conclusion with the ultimate(?), decisive Battle of Lubben.

Fought on 12–13 September 1813 (fictions), the battle involved three French corps, including the Imperial Guard, pitted against , ending in a hard-fought French victory.


See the report of the battle here.

This great battle likely brings to a conclusion this marvellous campaign, which was run expertly and generously by David 'MurdocK'. No doubt a summary of the campaign will follow soon describing the capture of Berlin, aggressive attacks of Marshal Blücher (leading his largely Russian army), strange actions of the King of Prussia and the constant question at Allied Headquarters: "Où est Bonaparte?"

Click this link to go to the campaign blog.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Wargaming Waterloo 2015

This is a shameless 'plug' for our sister blog, Wargaming Waterloo 2015, which contains photos of and links to games of the Napoleonic bicentennial years.

Here is a selection of photos from recent games featured on the blog.

 

A link is provided back to the full report of each game.

A series of tabs at the top of the blog feature links to reports of bicentennial games that have already been played relating to battles from

1792–1811 : 1992–2011
1812 : 2012 : incl. War of 1812 (–15)
1813 : 2013
1814 : 2014
1815 : 2015

These are updated regularly.

Your game not there? Please let me know.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Battle of Vimeiro, 21st August 1808

Our first game for 2015, the ‘traditional’ Australia Day game, was a re-fight of the Battle of Vimeiro using Chris Leach’s Fields of Glory scenario and Zimmermann’s The Wargamer’s Handbook rules.

As with the real thing, the French made piece-meal attacks, but managed to turn what looked like certain defeat early in the game into a victory by turn (hour) six. A better second half performance, aided by some helpful combinations of good and bad luck, plus British inertia on the ridge, lead to this history-changing result.

Here’s how it came to pass…


We set up according to the scenario but, in using Zimmermann’s rules, we had variably sized units, based on the strengths from orders of battle, scaled at 1:33.

Photo 1: Looking east down the field of battle, British at left, French at right. Vimeiro in the left foreground, Toledo in the centre and Ventosa in the distance at left.

Photo 2: View of the French side of the battlefield. Brigades (left to right) Charlot, Thomières, army artillery (223 guns), Kellermann (grénadiers réunis) and Solignac in the distance on the isolated ridge.
The green block (purple in photo 1) is to expunge Montmorand's brigade that I incorrectly placed, discovering my error in the second turn—more on that later!

Photos 3 & 4: Close-up of the French troops in the western and eastern sectors.

Photos 5 & 6: On the other side of the battlefield, Anstruther’s and Fane’s brigades defend the area west of Vimeiro (above) supported by Acland’s and Nightingall’s brigades, plus Taylor with the 20th light dragoons, east of the town.

Photo 7: Ferguson’s artillery fired at the exposed end of Solignac’s line, but a 1 for windage saved them.

Photo 8: Thomières’ men were not so lucky, Fane’s artillery causing losses to the 2/86e ligne. Note dice for windage (white) and effect (red).

Photo 9: The French batteries tried some counter-battery fire, missing everything. The range was too far to be effective, so move forward they must…

Photo 10: Junot ordered Charlot’s and Thomières’ brigades to attack, supported by the incorrectly placed troops of Montmorand (pale green box).

Photo 11: The mistake rectified, the French attack did not look nearly so imposing!

Photo 12: Overview of the battlefield viewed from the north-west.

Photo 13: A dramatic third cycle (hour) began with a fire-fight between Charlot’s 3/82e ligne and Anstruther’s 2/97th (represented by another unit). A die is used for each group of six figures firing, white for a partial group at half-effect. Displaced figures show the casualties. Casualties inflicted increase for die rolls from one to three and again from four to six.

Photos 14 & 15: Thomières’ lead units attacked Fane’s men, the 2/86e losing their mêlée, while the 1/86e won theirs (dice indicating the random factor in each mêlée).

Photo 15: Anstruther’s and Fane’s brigades retreated from the western end of the ridge-line having failed their morale tests at 1/4 and 1/3 losses. Meanwhile, Thomières’ brigade passed at 1/2 losses...

Photo 16: … thus remained in sole possession of the ridge.

Photo 17: Could they make it to Vimeiro to secure it for the French?

“It’s never a good tactic to throw 1s for morale tests!” Mark remarked.

Photo 18: Overview of the battlefield, this time looking from the south-east.

Photo 19: On the French right (eastern) flank, Montmorand’s brigade finally arrived—at the correct location this time!

Photo 20: View from Nightingall’s position west of Ventosa, as Wellesley sends Bowes’ brigade (foreground) to sure up his right.

Photo 21: Junot hurries Kellermann’s grénadiers to support Thomières’ depleted troops, and repositions the guns to fire at the British right-centre.

Photo 22: Overview of the battlefield at the end of the 4th cycle (hour).

Photo 23 & 24: The next cycle was mainly taken up with manoeuvring, along with some deadly fire from the re-positioned French guns. Here the view from Acland’s position showing the mass of the French guns, Kellermann’s grenadiers réunis and the newly-arrived cavalry of Margaron.

Photo 25 & 26: In the eastern sector, Montmorand’s brigade continued its advance towards Ferguson’s position, now supported by the arrival of Catlin Craufurd’s brigade and Trant’s Portugese. The cavalry of the latter having forced Montmorand’s 2/70e ligne to form square.

Photo 27: Casualties from the French artillery forced a morale test for Acland’s brigade. Another 1 result meant that they too quit the field.

Photo 28 & 29: Wellesley’s right flank was now severely compromised.

Photo 30: Thomières’ brigade occupied both sectors of Vimeiro.

Photo 31: This geographic objective, coupled with the loss of three British infantry brigades (plus Taylor’s cavalry which was to also retreat having been reduced to half-strength and failed the morale test) left the French in a strong position.

Photo 32: In the east Solignac’s orders arrived, so his brigade moved off in support of Montmorand’s attack.

Photo 33: View from Ferguson’s position.

Photo 34: Close-up of Montmorand’s 3/2e légère.

Not wishing to sacrifice his army in a do or die effort, Wellesley ordered his remaining troops to retire from the field. The scenario result was a major French victory, which was downgraded to a victory as Junot had called on Margaron’s cavalry.

Photo 35: Overview of the table at battle’s end.

Photo 36: Nightingall’s brigade standing strong to cover the withdrawal.

It was a fast-paced game without being ‘fast play’ and served to increase my liking of the overall mechanics and many of the specific mechanisms in the Zimmermann rules. We now plan to re-play the scenario, using our ANF version of Shako. It will be a most interesting comparison.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Refreshingly Old: Battle (based-on) Kolin and The Wargamer's Handbook

For most wargamers, certainly of the Napoleonic variety, the 18th June is a momentous day in history. Last week we played a game based on a battle that occurred on that auspicious date, albeit 58 years prior to the one which we, and numerous others, will be re-fighting in its bicentennial year of 2015.

Background to Kolin, 18th June 1757

Having secured an alliance with Britain, Frederick II of Prussia pre-empted the mobilisation of the Austrian, French, Russian and Saxon armies with his attack on the latter state  on 29th August 1756. Quickly knocking them out of the war he incorporated the Saxon troops (reluctantly and eventually disastrously,) to reinforce his own. Buoyed by this early success, Frederick invaded Bohemia, hoping to repeat the dose.

He defeated Browne’s Austrian army before Prague, forcing them to retreat into the city, which he then besieged. Austrian Marshal Daun, ordered to relieve the city, marched directly on Prague, then headed north-west in an attempt to outflank Frederick’s left. Frederick in turn attempted an outflanking manoeuvre of his own, but Daun learned of the threat and turned his 60 000-strong army towards Kolin. He arrayed his troops in an 8 km line with the centre in a strong position on the Pzerovsky and Kzeczhorz hills.

Photo 1: Our game (based-on) Kolin, showing the strong Austrian position.

Early in the afternoon of 18th June, Frederick attacked. Considering the Austrian left and centre too strong, he marched his 32 000-strong army across the Austrian front so as to attack with his left (Zieten and Hülsen), joined in echelon by the centre (Moritz), while refusing his right.

Frederick’s plan unravelled. His right was delayed and provoked to attack by some grenzer that Daun had placed in the wheat field forward of the Austrian left. Moritz lead the Prussian centre to attack prematurely, driving at the strong Austrian centre rather than supporting the attack on the enemy right. Frederick further weakened his centre in an attempt to sure up his right, and the gap that had developed between it and his centre.

Taking advantage of the surprise caused to Hülsen’s ‘left hook’ by the infantry and cavalry that he had positioned behind the oak wood on his right, Daun sent in well-timed counter attacks by his Saxon cavalry and Austrian infantry and the Prussian army was soon in full retreat.

Our Game

The Battle of Kolin, fought on 18th June 1757, is often subtitled ‘Frederick’s first defeat’. Mark laid out a game for us, loosely based on the battle. Our aim was two-fold. Firstly, to play a game utilising most of his figures for the Seven Years’ War, the majority of which he has painted in the past year. Secondly to revisit, in Mark’s case, and use for the first time, in mine, a set of rules that served as his first introduction to the hobby, The Wargamer's Handbook.

Photo 2 & 3: Layout of the table, showing the well-worn cover of Mark’s copy of Zimmermann’s booklet of rules. View looking roughly east, Austrians at right.


The Wargamer's Handbook: Rules for Wargaming in Six Periods of History by Richard (Dick) Zimmermann was first published in 1973. I immediately took a liking them, chiefly because of a couple of standout aspects to me; the alternative movement system and the resolution of melees, but I really enjoyed the entire mechanic of the rules.

A big attraction of the rules for me is the way that Zimmermann deals with the turn sequence, or ‘cycle’ in his parlance, particularly alternate movement. A simple die roll (or card draw) decides the ‘winner’. That player may elect to go first or invite his opponent to do so. Charges are declared (we wrote these down). The player moving first moves his units half of their movement, as determined by orders (which we did in a 'Shako fashion’ of defend, attack such and such position/troops or move/manoeuvre to such and such position). The other player then moves his troops half their allotted/desired movement. Both sides then fire (considered to be simultaneous). The player who moved second then completes his movement, followed by the player who moved first. Thus in a simple and quite elegant manner Zimmermann reaches a reasonable and workable mechanism as to when in the move firing occurs, negates the advantage of moving first or second and enables a lot to happen in a single cycle, representing one hour.

Mêlées are resolved as the penultimate act of the cycle. This was another aspect of the rules that I particularly liked. Each side gets a score determined by the weighted value of each figure (determined by troop type and position (i.e rank occupied) in the mêlée) multiplied by the sum of two D6 to give a total. The side with the highest score is the winner. Losses (in figures) are determined as a proportion for each side that is read off a table for the winner and loser against the respective die roll in the mêlée. The loser retreats in an ‘orderly' or ‘disorderly’ fashion, based on a die roll, losing three points of morale along the way. The winner gains three points of morale and may pursue, remain in place to rally or move up to a full move back to rally, also depending on a die roll. At the end of this movement a cycle is complete.

Now, multiplying the number of figures by a value and then a die roll may sound like too much mental maths for those used to modern rules, but it was actually not too onerous. Also, since the required result is simply which side gets the highest score it is possible to determine this based on the numbers involved in the calculation without completing the arithmetic or, in some cases, the die roll may be a give-away as to who has won.

The mental maths involved is not too onerous!

That’s enough about the rules for now. Let's get back to the game. I’ll include a few more comments and observations about the rules as I describe what happened.

Photo 4: The Prussians (Mark) won the roll and elected to move first. Being gentlemanly, the Austrians invited them to fire.

Photo 5: The system for artillery fire is yet another excellent mechanism. For each battery firing, the owning player rolls two dice. One determines the direction, the other the effect. In this case the Prussians rolled a ‘5’ and a ‘2’, a slightly wayward shot that caused one casualty on the Modena cuirassiers and a bounce-through casualty on the Sachsen-Gotha dragoons behind and to their left (out of the photo)!

Photo 6–8: Their heavy guns lined up the Austrian grenadiers, but a roll of a pair of ones meant a wayward shot that caused no casualties. Lucky Austrians!
Another aspect that I liked. Zimmermann has mixed up the random factors so that results of 1 to 3 produce increasingly good results for the player rolling the die. This then ‘re-sets’ so that the same is true of 4 to 6.

Photo 9: First mêlée of the game involving a charge of the Hadik hussars against those of the away team (also charging).


Photo 10: With odds even, the Austrian boys got the worst of the die rolls, losing 1/3 of the figures involved, compared to the Prussians 2 in 9 (rounded down).
I’m partial to rules where each side takes losses in a mêlée so, you guessed it, chalk another one for Zimmermann’s rules!

Photo 11: The Hadik boys retreated in an orderly fashion… off the board.
(The narrow board at ANF Annexe 1 meant that mounted troops would be likely to retreat off-board in this game.)

Photo 12–15: In the second cycle the Prussians once again moved first, advancing along the whole line.

Photo 16: Good shooting from the guns with Weid’s grenadiers took heavy toll on the advancing Prussian grenadiers.
The rules are at a scale of around 1:20. This meant that the effect of canister was quite devastating in our game, so we would need to adjust it for our larger figure ratio.

Photo 17: The Prussian guns were also ‘on song’ this turn (up-turned figures done purely for the camera).

Photo 18: The Erzog Joseph dragoons caught the Prussian hussars at the halt, avenging their hussar comrades!

Let's pause to take an over-all view of the table-top at the end of the second cycle.

Photo 19: Firstly, roughly from the west.

Photo 20: The same view, slightly elevated.

Photo 21: From the Austrian (south-ish) side of the table. Note the rules being consulted. In a booklet of only 74 pages most questions can be answered, if players are prepared to play in the 'right' spirit.

Photo 22 & 23: The firefight intensified in the centre of the battlefield around the wheat field.


Photo 24: In the east, the Prussian grenadiers tried to outflank Weid’s grenadiers by entering the oak wood.

Photo 25: At the north-western end of the battlefield (bottom left of photo), the Bretlach dragoons failed to charge the freikorps infantry, suffering from the latter’s volley.

Photo 26: Sincere and Starkenberg’s brigades still form an impressive defensive line on the Pzerovsky and Kzeczhorz hills.

Photo 27: In the east, the remaining cavalry gather for a final mêlée…

Photo 28: which is won by the Prussian hussars…

Photo 29: leaving the horse grenadiers as the only Austrian cavalry left on the field.

Photo 30: Another large cavalry stoush in the west of the battlefield where the Wurttemberg dragoons had caught the Prussian 2nd cuirassiers at the halt, the latter joined by some dragoons.

Photo 31: The Wurttembergers were victorious, capturing the Prussian’s colour in the process!

Photo 32: The retreating Prussian horse set off a chain reaction causing several of their comrades to retreat also.

Photo 33: Our game based-on the battle was turning out quite like the real thing with the Prussian army breaking up from the left (western end).

Photo 34: Starhemberg’s infantry continued to hold out against Bevern’s Prussian infantry.

The accumulated losses were sufficient for the Prussian army to fail its morale test and so would quit the field.


Some final photos.

 Photo 35: Aerial view of the battlefield at the end of the fourth cycle (hour).


Photo 36: View of the battlefield at the end of the game, looking from the north-west.

Further thoughts on The Wargamer’s Handbook

In addition to the points that I have mentioned above, there are a number of other facets about the rules that I liked.
  • Variable morale
    At the beginning of the game we threw dice to determine the morale level of each unit. Modifiers can be used for élite and guard units, but we did not utilise them. This gave starting morale levels from 1 to 6. These may increase or decrease following a winning or losing mêlée (as I mentioned in the description of the rules above). The highest that we reached was 9, but it could get to 12 or 15 in limited cases. A unit must retreat when its morale reaches 0, but can be rallied to above 0.
  • Command
    Simple rules provide some meaning to the unit command stands. A die roll after a loss from volley fire or mêlée (only these as I recall) determines whether the unit’s commander is a casualty and, in the case of a mêlée, whether the unit’s flag has been captured. Loss of these impacts morale and the ability of the unit to act on initiative.
    The role of senior commanders is limited to sending orders (directly or via aides) and to attempting to rally troops.
  • Unit break-point
    A unit that falls below half-strength is considered to be ‘broken’ and is removed from play.
The booklet comprises base rules with chapters adding specific rules for ancients, mediaeval/renaissance, American Revolutionary War, Napoleonic Wars, American Civil War and World War Two. Obviously, such rules are quite generic. Zimmermann, who includes much humour and wit in his writing, clearly states that they are not intended to be all-encompassing, but are intended to get people quickly into playing games that are enjoyable, fast-paced and relate to the history. 

The game that we played was over in four cycles (four hours), and things happened quickly, but not to the point of fast-play aspects where units are one-shot weapons and every attack is conclusive. One could add additional modifiers, special cases and the like—but I reckon this should be approached with caution as it would tend to defeat the purpose of a simple set of rules wouldn’t it?

Going back to a set of rules like this is surprisingly refreshing when such a set is well-constructed, has some genuinely unique, simple and elegant mechanisms and with the benefit of added experience and maturity to fill in ‘gaps’.

Interestingly, after we had completed our game, and I was 'waxing lyrical’ about how much I enjoyed the rules, Mark mentioned/remembered that several years ago he had re-fought the Battle of Barossa (1811), as a direct re-fight, doing everything exactly per the accounts of the battle. The casualties had come out exactly the same as history for the French and 20 more for the British. I thought that was pretty impressive for rules that occupy a total of 74 pages, covering six periods.


Overall an enjoyable and good looking game with the added interest of trying a set of rules that were refreshingly old, haha!! Thanks Mark.