Saturday, 9 February 2019

Plug for a new blog

The Chauvinistic Blog is a new blog that I have started that is dedicated to all things Napoleonic.

Napoleon at the Battle of Friedland, Horace Vernet, Wikimedia Commons

Our fabulous little group of wargamers began in 2010 and launched into a programme of games based on the battles of the later Napoleonic years, in line with the bicentennial. Napoleonic remains a large focus for us as a group but, since 2015, games of 'periods other than Napoleonics' have been played with an increasing frequency.

Since the Napoleonic era is my main reason for wargaming, I wanted to indulge my passion and have an adjunct blog that his dedicated solely to things Napoleonic, in the broadest sense of the hobby.

Reports of Napoleonic games will appear either on this blog or that, with links between them, but other 'things Napoleonic', be they book reviews, interesting articles, points of discussion, links to items on other blogs or websites will appear on The Chauvinistic Blog.

So if, like me, you can't get enough Napoleonic, pay the blog a visit!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Fire and Fury, just like it was

As trailed by James, today Mark and I ventured for the first time into ACW wargaming with a rules-test of the well-known Fire and Fury (1st Edition). I selected the Battle of Dranesville for the test. An early-war encounter with, I reckoned, pretty much the right balance of troops - four Rebel regiments, five Union, plus a few cavalry and batteries, and a sufficiently testing scenario for us. And a Union victory, which gave me something to emulate as Brigadier-General Ord, and something to avoid, as Mark's Jeb Stuart. 

My first step, aside from the obligatory Wiki reference and some other online histories, e.g. http://www.civilwarhome.com/dranesvilleintro.htm, was to look at the various available maps. This was one drawn at the time, I believe judging from the script by a Rebel, which shows which regiments were involved and where they were placed by the respective commanders:


Whilst here is the sober official version General Ord submitted after the original battle:

You will have to make your own judgement as to whether I reached a sufficiently close approximation of the outset of the battle in my own recreation of it - and indeed on whose sketch came closer to reality. The view below is from above Dranesville, looking ESE along the line of the battle, with the Union line about to enter the wood and the Rebels ensconced within it, their artillery ready to fall on Kane's 1st Pennsylvanians. A regiment, but an early war regiment and hence like all the other regiments treated in this action as a small five stand brigade. How would the rules stack up? Historically casualties were slight, some 194 on the Rebel side and 68 Union. Would Fire and Fury live up to its name, rather than verisimilitude, and deliver a bloodbath?


The Rebels came up all veteran, which was very nice for them. 



The Union fared a little worse, the 9th and 12th Pennsylvania - the two regiments in the right vanguard in the picture below - both turning out green. Not a good omen. Note Brigadier-General Ord with the reserve, the 10th Pennsylvania. His position there meant that his leftmost regiment, the 6th Pennsylvania, was out of command. He had better remedy that swiftly! If you look carefully you might also be able to pick out Jeb Stuart in the distance along the Centreville Road. He's also too far away for anyone to take a shot at him.


The Union phase of the first move saw their troops close up and make a tentative advance on their right flank, encountering the 1st Kentucky and exchanging desultory fire. Inside a wood is not the  best place to be to score casualties, as both sides discovered. The second move brought the two sides still closer...




...but it was the third move, where the 12th Pennsylvania had replaced the 9th in the line after they had become low on ammunition in a useful disordering of their Kentucky opponents, where the two sides became embroiled in successive melees. Although the Rebels duly got their obligatory +1 on the charge, the melee first became a desperate struggle, with both sides losing a stand (representing 150 men) on the second attempt to settle matters things went hopelessly wrong for the rebels as a result of the dice. Historically, these men did not get into such close quarters, but the result ended the same: one unit of the Kentucky skedaddled, and the Rebels retired on their left flank.


The Union battery finally got going towards the hill on move 4, in which the 12th Pennsylvanians  replaced the 9th in the line. Elsewhere, fire even in the open proved relatively ineffectual, much to the relief of Kane's men, who had been exposed to Rebel artillery fire for the best part of two hours until they could get out of the direct line of sight along Centreville Road, but who were still more accurate in their fire than the 11th Virginia opposing them in plain sight out of the woods.


Note the small force of Rebel cavalry under Major Gordon, which had advanced to threaten the 12th Pennsylvanians. The Union cavalry was moved up to deter it the following move and their artillery also recommenced a move to the hill, though they never actually got there after being left stationary for one move. 

By now, however, the fight had really gone out of the Rebels. They had lost two stands, one of the 1st Kentucky in the melee on the right and one of 10th Alabama due to a fire-fight in Move 5, which had also seen the 11th Virginia and the 6th South Carolina disordered, whilst two stands had skedaddled, one from 1st Kentucky on their left and one from the 10th Alabama on the left whose melee had also gone disastrously awry. By contrast the Union had lost just one stand, in the melee on their right flank.  No wonder that Jeb Stuart called it a day and abandoned the field to the Union. It was a really bad day at the office for him exactly as historically, As Brigadier-General Ord, I was grateful he did quit the field, because I still could not be certain how many more Rebels there were in the woods, so I had given the order to halt. 

Mark and I felt that Fire and Fury (1st edition) had passed our test with flying colours. So far as verisimilitude was concerned, the losses (at 150 men per stand, and assuming actual casualties of around 1/3), came extremely close to the historical results. Not only that, but six game turns had been fought in around four hours even though we were almost entirely new to the rules, which bodes extremely well for fighting much more significant actions with them later on. We therefore resolved to fight again later in the year once the armies on both sides were larger. We also resolved to look at whether the 2nd edition of the rules brings any improvements, or just complexity for its own sake. I had always wanted to fight ACW, and now I have. Why did I wait so long?




'

Monday, 28 January 2019

TSC™

More about the strange title later.

I have been inspired to put up this post after reading other bloggers' posts about plans for the year, as well as a long discussion with Julian about our own plans. So, here goes with a navel-gazing post that I hope is of interest to others.


On the drawing board, chez moi

In brief, the plans for our little group consist of individual projects that are in the mutual interest and will increase the diversity and perhaps frequency of games that we'll play over the coming year (and years).

• Julian has several wargaming 'itches' to scratch. He is focussed on 'sorting out' American Civil War, World War I and World War II in terms of capacity to stage games and preferred rules for each period. He'll be hosting the first of these next week, so expect a report soon.

Added to these he'll be continuing with Napoleonic naval (now that he has 'found' Grand Fleet Actions for us) and War of Spanish Succession.

• I have not asked specifically what he has planned, but expect that Mark will 'do what Mark does'; that is quietly churn out a steady procession of beautifully painted units until he says, let's have a game of 'x'. I expect that he'll continue to add units to late-mediaeval, ancient (Greco-Roman and perhaps earlier 'classical' eras) and Seven Year's War/War of Austrian Succession armies, with some Napoleonics thrown in. He has mentioned about a game of Mons Graupius, so I expect that will happen soon.

• In my case, I have a couple of 'itches' to scratch.

The first is to bring some of my many part-painted and unpainted figures to completion, focussing on Napoleonics. I began late last year with some French cavalry, 18 regiments of chasseurs à cheval, to be precise. I like to paint a lot of units at once. I doubt whether this increases my rate of output, but it helps with my self-perception (self-deception?).

The second 'itch' is an opportunity that comes from the first. I want to try a wargaming idea that I have had for some time—I think that I dreamt it up myself, but one can never be sure. It is to stage the same game at two or more scales. At its grandest this would involve representation from the strategic situation, to the overall battle, to sections of the battle, to detailed action within a section of the battle. I have dubbed it the 'telescoping scales concept' (TSC), hence the catchy title for this post. This is partly tongue-in-cheek and partly as an homage to the 'telescoping time concept' (TTC) of Empire.

In essence it is nothing more that what wargamers do with campaigns, but with a few extra levels added in. The 'gold star' version would involve several tables, or sections of a table, with figures of different scales depicting aspects of the same battle (perhaps even campaign). Play and players would move between the tables according to the desire to 'zoom in' on the action. This could be codified, but I prefer it to be at the whim and interest of the player(s). The results of actions conducted at the lower scales would be reflected back to the larger scales of the battle.

It definitely can be done, the question is whether it will work well enough to provide an interesting game and add to appreciation of the historical action. Once I have a few more units painted to completion, I plan to have a go at it solo.

I'll probably only use two scales to begin with, the overall battle and a specific section or two, all with 1/72nd scale figures. Having a go solo, I'll I be able to try a few different combinations of rules for the various scales. If it works for me, then I'll see if anyone else is keen to join in. It will be fun trying, of that I have no doubt! :)

Anyway, that's a fair bit for a year I reckon. The combination of our efforts should keep us well and truly 'off the streets'.

As with all plans it will be interesting to see how we go, what gets done, what is added or changed and what remains an 'itch' come late 2019.

Not sure whether this is like David Essex in Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, but "I have made a start already"!

I began painting in earnest with the chasseurs à cheval, plus a few dragoons, late last year.
I made some pretty good progress, by my standards, before I went away, but 'lost' much of December and most of January.


I use a black undercoat (Paynes' Grey to be precise) and like to stick figures on bases and riders on horses as soon as possible, so the figures are dark and on equally dark looking horses during the early stages of painting. 
I'll throw in the odd unit from other periods, to keep them trickling along. Jones' regiment of foote at rear, nearing completion.

Hat Thracians, Dark Alliance Amazons and a mix of Revell and Mars figures as Hesilrige's Lobsters. Base coat completed (not on all of the horses).


Another little 'extra' thrown in, my new girl friend, Maria, of the Vistula Lancers. Base coat completed at time of the photo. Figure by Bartek Drejewicz purchased from Valhalla online shop, Poland.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

3 500 km to Austerlitz no. 2: Part 4

In our last episode, I reported that the French were "looking good" across the battlefield. This left us pondering, could it all be over by lunchtime (in real time and also game time)?

Before I launch into what occurred on Saturday, the third day of the game, I'd like to reply to some questions that were asked in response to my previous post.

Looking down the driveway at the venue for the game, aka Tim and Jill's garage. We were 15 players in all, including me; seven French and eight allied.

The game began on Thursday evening (3/1), after a barbecue dinner, around 18:00; or perhaps it was more like 19:00? Anyway, that night we played about ten turns (I think), finishing around 22:00 or so—each turn representing about 15 minutes of real time. The turns that night were reported in part two of this series of posts.


On Friday (4/1) we re-commenced play at 09:00, with a brief break for morning tea, about an hour for lunch, a rolling afternoon tea and further time out for dinner. We ceased play around 22:00 (see part three).


Saturday's play, the subject of this post, began a little more leisurely at 09:30.



Tim remembered that he had specially painted some limbers for the game, but had forgotten to deploy them. I quickly jumped in and said that I'd use them with the guns of I Corps (Stephen, honorary member of our ANF, would approve!).

The rules that the NWA fellas use are called 'Cold Steel'. They are a house set of "Empire successor" rules developed by the NWA Napoleonic wargamers. Ben 'Rosbif' has a link to the latest version on his blog (see the tabs for Cold Steel rules and charts). Those familiar with Empire will recognise the base for the rules, but they have been simplified and edited considerably over the eight versions. They are a detailed set, arguably too detailed for such a large-scale game. Indeed, several of the fellows mentioned that they are not completely enamoured with them. Nevertheless, they work and work well. The players all come together in the spirit of enjoying the game, camaraderie and fellowship so that the weekend and the game is a completely wonderful and enjoyable event. To help with moving the game along, each side is give 15 minutes on the 'penguin' (an egg-timer in the shape of a penguin) to complete their turn. This is ignored for particularly involved turns, but is a great way to keep things moving.

The table is some 24’ x 14‘. Referring to one of my reports from the first NWA big game that I attended back in 2014, I said that:
There is a central table that is 24’ x 4’ around which are ‘layers’ of 8’ x 2’ tables. These latter are on casters so can be wheeled in and out as need for game play, over-view of the battle—and photos.
I think that Tim may have increased the length of the table a bit since then and may even have added another set of tables on wheels, but you get the idea of the immensity of the set-up.

This year's game was dedicated to two members of the group who have sadly passed away; Peter and Jim. I was most fortunate to have met them both and to have played wargames with them. Lovely gents.


To the action from Saturday (5/1)!


Soult and d'Hautpoul continued from where they left off, driving north-west in the general direction of the Pratzen heights (away to the top right of the photo, well out of camera shot).


 I Corps (Bernadotte, yours truly) consolidated, ready to take the lesser heights on Soult's left.


 On Bernadotte's left, Murat's heavy cavalry continued to face-off with Liechtenstein's troopers.


 In the north, Lannes and Bagration continued their arm-wrestle.


 In the south, Oudinot's 'grenadiers' had helped to stabilised the French position.


With the Russian 12 pdr battery temporarily withdrawn, my 8e ligne attacked the isolated Russian infantry (those guns represent battalion guns).


 Not successful on this occasion, taking minor casualties and two disorders.


 In the south, Davout was getting the upper-hand over Keinmeyer's advance guard...


 ... while Legrand faced off against Langeron.


 This left Oudinot's 'grenadiers' free to move towards the Pratzen heights.


 Back in the north, Lannes had established a strong position opposed to Bagration.


Back in the centre, that d@mned 12 pdr battery had deployed again, so I sent infantry of 1st division to outflank it, some Cossacks had other ideas...
 ... but thought better of it when they saw the steady French infantry.


 More cheeky Cossacks over on Soult's right, in what seemed an isolated attack.


 They were however, followed by Constantine and the Russian Guard.


 The same viewed from the allied perspective.

 The Guard Hussars drove off some French cuirassiers, but then took some flank fire from Soult's infantry.


 Next it was the turn of the Guard infantry (once again, the guns represent battalion guns).


 They accounted for a foot battery,


 ... then broke-through on the square behind.


 The Russian Guard Hussars, 'charging' while blown, cleared away the next French gun,
 ... but did not have sufficient impetus to break the square beyond that.


 My stout fellows from 1st division again tried to outflank the Russian position,
 ... being only partially successful.


Suddenly, it seemed that everyone was activated, with charges across the table.

In the north, Bagration's light cavalry took on light and heavy cavalry from Murat's reserve.  
With mixed results.

A unit of cuirassiers was caught in the flank,
... but the Russian hussar's breakthrough onto the infantry square was not to be one of those rare successes of history.

On the left of I Corps the ground shook as the heavies came to grips—each side rolling a one!

That produced something akin to a nil all draw.
(It was Tim's fourth '1' in a row. His dice that afternoon were awful).

On the Pratzen Heights, Kutusov prepared his line.
Oudinot's men launched an aggressive attack and made some headway.



With Rivaud's 1st division infantry of I Corps pulled back from the 12 pdrs, Nansouty sent in the supporting cuirassiers.
Success! How to follow-up?

Soult had reformed his troops following the attack of the Russian Guard.

The action continued across the table.

Light cavalry chequers in the north.

Oudinot pressing on the heights.

Legrand and Davout beginning to join up their lines in the south.

Back with I Corps, Rivaud prepared for a division assault to finally take the hill,...
...but the sight of Russian horse guards (or perhaps chevalier guards), coupled with 'Sire's' orders to 'keep them occupied and not do anything rash' stayed Bernadotte's hand.

The stalling of the French attack in the centre did not matter as Legrand and Davout had achieved wonders in the south. First one and then the other of Docturov's brigades retreated, followed later by Langeron's.

Similarly in the north, where Lannes was now in clear control.

In fact, it was only in the centre that the allied line held.

They can been seen in this photo, clinging to the 'edge of the world' (top left of photo).

At this point (Saturday night) the game was called as a French victory.

Let's do a quick recce. of the table.

Lannes ascendant in the north, what is left of Bagration in the foreground.

To the left of Lannes, Liechtenstein and Murat's cavalry back to facing off.

I Corps' still in reasonable shape, but failed to take 'that hill'.

The Pratzen heights back in French hands.

In the south, the allied left flank n'existe plus!

Interestingly, the plans of both sides had failed. The allies intended to use Buxhowden's wing (Langeron and Docturov) as the hammers against the anvil of Kollowrath with the Guard and cavalry joining in the assault. The French had intended to break the allied centre and then swing right (or left) as befitted the situation. While the French attack on the centre achieved some success, it was blunted by some dour defence, hesitant attack (especially by Bernadotte) and the Russian Guard's counter-attack. So it was that the brilliant success of Davout and Legrand (in particular), and Lannes' holding action which became a local victory along with the successful attack on the Pratzen heights that decided the day.

While not the utter rout of history, the French victory was significant and may well have lead to the treaty desired by Napoleon. It would have tested the theory of historians such as Alistair Horne who have assessed that Napoleon's compete victory at Austerlitz contributed to the on-going wars and his eventual downfall. One can only ponder such alternative histories.

It was a fabulous game. A huge, public thank you to the wargaming hosts with the most, Tim and Jill and to all of the NWA Napoleonic group for allowing me once again to join them for their special, annual mega-game. Thank you all.

After the packing up on Sunday, I did some more visiting of rellies in Vic. and SA that afternoon/evening, Monday and Tuesday. I left Adelaide to hit the road in earnest on Tuesday afternoon, reaching WA early afternoon on Wednesday.

I had my biggest drive that day (1 254 km), stopping at a marvellous camp spot west of Caiguna.

Up before dawn for the 885 km trundle home.

So, just after lunch on the 10th Jan. the VU-Au was parked up in front of the Ralph Fisher Memorial room.


Epilogue
Part two of this series of posts stimulated a bit of discussion about summer temperatures in different environments across the world. We had one of our common, hot summer days yesterday (max. over 41ºC), with a cool change to 37ºC today ahead of mid to low 30s for the rest of the week, and associated cool nights of around 15ºC (my personal preferred summer pattern). It's a much drier environment than Drouin, especially in summer, but there is plenty of beauty.
Here's one amazing example, that we have not previously seen. This normally orange-flowered Bougainvillea has, on one branch, both orange and purple flowers. It's wonderful to see the ranges and changes in the landscape and vegetation as one drives across Australia, but there are always wonders in one's own front yard. Isn't nature wonderful?!