Monday, July 26, 2010

Table-top tragedy!

I had a non-campaign game on Saturday, but again forgot to bring the camera. I need to tattoo a reminder on my forehead!

Anyway, my French were up against Pete's Austrians and Jim's Russians with Tim partnering me using my figures. On my flank I was up against the Austrians but didn't fight them using the right tactics. In other games, I've been able to stop them in their tracks by marching up to them in line, or l'ordre mixte, and engaging them in a firefight, which in our rules means both sides firing simultaneously and then taking an immediate morale check. Usually, if they've been peppered by skirmishers and had a figure or two knocked off by artillery, they're fairly fragile and can be put to flight after the superior firepower of the French infantry is brought to bear in a firefight.

In this match, Pete's jaegers were far superior than my own skirmishers, which prevented me from inflicting disorders on his line infantry, and the terrain negated the effective use of artillery against each other's infantry. The upshot was that his massive battalions steamed forward and weight of numbers told against me. He used his jaegers effectively against me, racking up disorders, then formed them up for a charge, which went through 3 (yes, 3!) battalions, effectively winning the game for him. I narrowly saved a divisional morale check, but it was all over by then. I did have one chance of pulling something out of the fire when I deployed a battalion in line on the edge of the vineyard to fire on the flank of an approaching Austrian conscript battalion, but they survived the resulting morale test by the barest of margins. But, that was all they needed.

My cavalry was not well handled either, as I split my cuirrassiers and dragoons into two wings and sent the dragoons too far to the right flank where they were splattered by Jim's 12lb-ers, then Pete's infantry closed column marched up and gave it the coup-de-gras; bye-bye dragoons. My cuirassiers played a blocking role against Pete's hussars, but by the time I withdrew them to help the infantry, it was too late.

The result was I failed the second divisional morale test and had to retire, which then caused Tim to conform with my movement after he had had an inconclusive battle against Jim's Russkis.

I've started a new terrain project; tabletop covering using rubber interlocking tiles. I got the idea from this website, but the price was a bit out of my range (to cover a 8' x 6' area was going to cost almost $245 USD, including postage, which works out at around $274 AUD). I've found that Clarks Rubber here in Australia sell a 4' x 6' pack of anti-fatigue floor tiles complete with edging for $45 AUD. I've used the spray paints I already owned and will probably have to shell out a bit more for another can of paint, some more white glue and another packet of flock, and then start the process again next payday for another set to cover the standard 8' x 6' double table top we generally play on at the club. I reckon I'll still come out way ahead. I'm not saying that the quality will be exactly the same, but I think mine will be up to weekly club game standards.

Spray painted tiles in 4'x6' configuration using 2 shades green and tan

Close up of interlocking teeth. All yet to be flocked.

How I keep off boredom during meetings! Napoleonic doodle

Friday, July 23, 2010

El vinedo II

Here's the finished vineyard.

It's a bit darker than I intended. I should have mixed some grass-green in with the burnt sienna, but I think it worked out not too badly. I'll use it in this weekend's non-campaign game.

As there will be a fair few French players turning up, I dare say my British will get another guernsey this weekend. As always, pictures to come.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

El vinedo

Here's the latest on my vineyard project.

The individual rows weren't stable enough, so I've attached them to a larger piece of corkboard with the left-over putty from my road building project. I think it works quite well as it builds up the rows into a more earthy obstacle. I've left enough room for figures to fit in between the rows as shown below. Once the putty is fully dry, I'll dry brush it to add further texture, and then flock the base. My vines look a bit mangy as I knocked a lot of the flock off in the process of securing the rows. I'll refoliate them once I've finished everything else. In future, I'll leave that to the very end.

The vineyard

Lone Frenchman skulking in the vines

I've received my latest order of Kennington Portu-geezers and French command figures from MBM Models in the Netherlands. I prefer ordering from them, rather than SHQ, as the exchange rate (Aussie dollars) works out cheaper to buy in Euros rather than Pounds sterling at the moment, as well as the fact that MBM has a bigger range and also has pictures on their catalogue. However, I was sent a pack of Prussian infantry instead of a second lot of French command figures and am still waiting to hear back from them to organise a swap.

PS. Aaaargh!!! I just stuffed up my flag counter and blew away all my stats! I'd just broken 1500 visits and my latest visitor was from Argentina.

Monday, July 19, 2010


While Mrs. Rosbif took the junior Rosbifs and Granny Rosbif to see the Mary Poppins stage show yesterday, I got to have the whole day to myself to do with as I pleased! Not a lot to show for it, though, as my hard-earned free time was spent re-touching flaked paint and applying Army painter by brush to the rest of my Peninsula-era French army. All the infantry (bar my regiment of Bardin-uniformed infantry), the command figures, the horse-gun battery and my Hussars are now varnished with Army Painter. To go, I still have the Chasseurs a Cheval, Dragoons, Cuirassiers and the foot gun battery. (As a force for the Spanish theatre, I know my collection shouldn't have Cuirassiers or the 5th Hussars. My excuse is that I sometimes fight Austrians, so they can legitimately be for the 1809 campaign. I do have plans for painting the 1st-3rd Hussars and more dragoons.)

I also converted one of the British command figures from wearing a belgic shako to the more appropriate cocked hat, and tried my hand at making a vineyard row from used matches, corkboard strips and medium flock. See the results below.

Waterloo 1815 mounted officer with HaT Peninsula officer's head

First row of vines. I'll make several rows and flock the bases, too. You can't campaign in Spain without vineyards!

I've also come up with a detachable base for troops in skirmish order, as I find it hard to estimate in inches and using the tape measure can sometimes just be fiddly. Instead of permanently fixing figures to skirmish bases and then swapping them in the midst of battles (not to mention the laborious process of duplicating whole battalions), I've made a 2" skirmish base from sheet metal that my figures stick to, as they all have magnetised bases that keep them in place in the tool-box when transported. I've flocked the edges to match the bases and left the centre bare, so that the figures stick. So now, when skirmish figures are detached from parent units, or whole French battalions are broken into skirmish order, it's just a matter of popping them onto a base and they are the regulation distance from one another and no arguments. The Revell British rifles set also come with detached packs for the action figures, so I added one for each rifleman not wearing a pack.

Skirmish base for rifleman sans figure

With added figure

No after-action report form last week's meeting as it was my turn to do kitchen duty. There were supposed to be at least 3 campaign games scheduled, but due to lack of opponents, there was only one Napoleonic game and it wasn't even campaign related, so all battles had to resolved by the umpire. Fortunately, our battles this round have mostly been resolved in our favour with one outright victory and a couple that the opposition only just managed to save, leaving in a weakened position. I believe this coming week I shall have my first battle of the campaign. So far my role has been more in the diplomatic arena, which I've enjoyed (getting into the role of early 19th c despot) but I am looking forward to a bit of table-top biffo!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Review - Corunna

I've just finished Corunna by Christopher Hibbert and while nowhere near as in depth a study of a campaign as Muir's Salamanca (see earlier entry), it still is a good read that quotes heavily from primary sources.

I knew Moore's little army had a hellish retreat from Salamanca to Corunna in the depths of winter, but I never realised the scale of the misery and how near to total breakdown the army was. Reading the narrative of the retreat left me reminded of the French retreat from Russia in 1812, but on a smaller scale: a large percentage of the army disintegrating into a starving, frozen rabble protected by a determined and disciplined rearguard; desperate soldiers looting the towns on the way of any form of sustenance and degenerating further into drunken mobs; the horrific plight of the women camp-followers.

The book also puts the campaign into the political context of the day which underscores how much war is a political activity and how generals need to be politicians, as well as military leaders. Unfortunately, because of his radical leanings, his humble background and his contempt for those who did not live up to his own high standards, he had a fair share of enemies at home who were quite ready to lay the blame for the failure of the campaign.

General Moore was roundly pilloried at the time by his officers and by the public at home for not doing more to help the Spanish. As this book shows, he was in put in an impossible position from the start. To begin with, it was made perfectly clear that he was not just in charge of a British army of 35,000 men, but THE British Army; there wasn't another force available if this one was destroyed. His orders were only to support the Spanish, not to engage the French on his own, but as the Spanish strategy was almost non-existent with no cooperation between jealous regional juntas, the Spanish armies were defeated one by one in piecemeal fashion: Moore had no-one to support. Extravagant promises of cooperation and forthcoming victories were just not realised, so Moore was left in an intolerable position.

However, he still did his best to assist Spain by drawing the French, who had been massively reinforced after Bailen and were led by Napoleon himself, away from the Spanish south by cutting across the French lines of communication. Moore was extremely lucky in that the French intelligence was surprisingly poor; Napoleon assumed that the British were on their way back to Portugal and had actually ordered his troops west rather than north-west before he realised his mistake. If the French had been less clueless, they could have caught the tiny British army and squashed it like a bug.

As it was, it turned out to be a race for the sea in the most appalling winter weather. The British were the harder marchers and also outfought the French every time the French vanguard caught the British rearguard. By the time the British turned at bay at Corunna, they had rekindled some self-pride by the constant black-eyes they'd handed out to the French, while the French were wary of their enemies, who, although resembling armed scarecrows, came at them furiously.

The 50th foot, which I have painted up in my collection, played a crucial part in the final battle. Led by Major Charles Napier, brother of the writer of the Peninsula War history, they charged the French at Elvina without orders and saved the 42nd foot who were at the point of being overwhelmed. Shortly after this, Moore was mortally wounded, and died later, knowing that his army had defeated the French and could safely embark on the transports for England.

Heroic stuff!

In a post-script, I'll mention a podcast I've discovered called Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. American readers will probably have heard of this already, but I've only just found it. He's not a trained historian, but he's definitely a history enthusiast (his breathy delivery can get a bit tiresome). His interest seems to lie in the ancient world and WW2 (so not a great deal to do with Napoleonics) but he also has a lot of interesting general historical themes to discuss. What I've listened to so far , I don't always agree with , but I like the way he makes me think about his arguments. He's not just plucking stuff out of the air; as you'll see, each episode has a bibliography of the books he used in researching the topic, so he's no slouch.

If I find any more interesting podcasts, I'll review them and link them to this blog.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Campaign Coup

Here's the latest communication sent out from our imagi-nation of Friedland-Hamsburg to the other nations of our campaign world. The story so far for Friedland-Hamsburg is: Friedland took over Hamsburg early on, even though we had friendly relations with them, by making them an offer they couldn't refuse. Since then Hamsburg has been valiantly fighting the forces of our western neighbour Porteous. To our north, Hessen-Darmburg, who initially we had bad relations with, was mollified by a non-aggression pact.

All of that has changed with this new communication. I've taken over the rule of Friedland-Hamsburg and have abrogated all treaties and understandings and demanded the return of my ancestral lands from our northern neighbour.

As always, click the image and expand it to read.

This was followed up by a communication to the King of Hesse-Darmburg demanding the cession of his two most southerly cities in return for an alliance against his enemy Wurst. Failure to respond would mean an alliance with Wurst to crush Hesse-Darmburg.

So far, both communications have been met with the chirping of crickets and the rolling of tumbleweeds. Only Porteous has offered a truce after they took Hamsburg's capital, pointing out that we are about to be dumped on by unspecified enemies. It looks like Wurst and Hesse-Darmburg have kissed and made up, so we'll be in for lots of battles in the near future!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review - Twelve

I promised you vampires in Russia, and here it is!

Twelve, by Jasper Kent, is set during the French invasion of Russia during 1812. Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov is a member of a very select group of Russian officers tasked with espionage and irregular warfare to hamper the French invaders. One of the other officers has invited a group of mysterious strangers of his acquaintance, to help. He met them during the late war against the Turks in Wallachia and was impressed by their abilities. Aleksei and the others are none the wiser as to the nature of these 'abilities', but gradually it dawns on them what they truly are. The elastic nature of morality, both political and personal, is stretched to breaking point and once the true horror is revealed, Aleksei must make a choice.

I really enjoyed this book a lot, even though there were some anachronisms that jarred, especially the use of 'OK' in the dialogue. Beside this, the author really set the scene well and developed a very believable main character faced with an impossible dilemma posed by conflicts of loyalty in his personal and professional life. I didn't see the twist at the end coming, although there were indicators through the story.

I have been toying around with a similar plot for about a decade now, so I was a bit worried that he'd beaten me to the punch, but luckily there's enough that's different between this story and my idea. It's spurred me on to develop my idea more, though.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ole, ole, ole, ole!

Spain win 1-0 in extra time, and I managed to get up early enough to see it. I'm sure they held off just to let me witness it as there was no way I was getting up at 3:30am to watch from the beginning.

My regular route to work after getting off the tram takes me down Johnston St, Fitzroy, through the heart of Little Spain, and wasn't the joint jumping! Copious amounts of beer still being drunk (this was 8:45am), crowds spilling onto the pavement and being shepherded off the road by police (whose riot van was discreetly tucked around the corner), TV cameras soaking up the atmosphere, flags being waved at worker drones' cars who tooted back good-naturedly! Apparently, If I'd been there earlier, I would have seen the whole stretch between Brunswick and Nicholson Streets blocked off with an impromptu party held with salsa in the street!

What I saw of the game was fairly spiteful, with the Dutch being awarded plenty of yellow cards just in the few minutes of the game I watched; professional fouls and arguing with the ref. It seems to be a sad sign of professional sport of all codes that the more money involved in the sport, the more pressure to perform, the more you need to intimidate the officials to get your way. Petulant whinging IMHO. Put up or shut up.

Anyway, enough of the juego mondial.

There were plenty of campaign games this Saturday past, although because of a late order to withdraw before making contact, the game I was going to stand proxy for was canceled. Instead, my opponent, Andrew B. and I had a little skirmish-type game (owing to the fact there wasn't much room left in the hall for a larger table) where I fielded 4 squadrons of French cavalry and one battery of horse guns against his 6 battalions of Prussian infantry. His objective was to take the village on my side of the board, and mine was to stop him.

I managed to break one of his battalions and force another into a retreat, but in hindsight I should have used my artillery more offensively, as well as my cuirassiers. By the time I charged his line, of which I'd broken the his left hand column which anchored it, the cuirassiers had suffered too many casualties by being left too close to his advancing line, and the charge was stopped with another casualty. That was it for the cuirassiers and they were chased away a couple of moves later. I also experimented with skirmishing my hussars on his right flank, but that didn't pay off at all and allowed him to advance in closed column, where previously he'd been stuck in square.
My cavalry advance on the infantry

Cavalry line from left flank

Hussars flank the rough ground

Infantry form anchored line

Dragoons and Hussars on infantry flanks, while guns play on left column

My first charge, almost succeeded!

Repulsed to starting line with disorders.

Circle the wagons, boys. Them Injuns' got us surrounded!

The guns limbered and fled in response to a charge, but came back next turn

Guns back in play, Hussars skirmishing on flank.

Dragoons charge artillery-weakened column, while Hussars reform in column

Destroys column, but then crashes into square and repulsed with losses!

Curassiers' failed charge left them within range, blown and with 2 disorders. Ouch!

Chasseurs try to rescue cuirassiers, after guns limbered and fled, but get blasted in the flank for their trouble.

The same medicine about to be handed out to the weakened cuirassiers.

The Prussians gain their objective! Victory to the Prussians!

Meanwhile, Tim and Pete played a meat-grinder of a game against Geoff in order to try and retake the town of Spitznak. Tim's Austrian hordes tried again and again to get a foothold in the town but were repulsed again and again only by appallingly bad dice rolling! Pete had better luck and although faced with mounted grenadiers, managed to pulverize them with artillery fire until they broke off for greener pastures, then met Tim's fresh hussar unit which routed them. Porteous holds on to Spitznak, but is severely weakened in the effort. Fresh pickings for next round!

Meanwhile, a coup was declared in our team with me rising to rule Frieldland-Hamsburg! (Just a cunning plan by our team to abrogate all existing treaties and do the dirty on Jim, who didn't do too well in his battles on Saturday). I'll post my declaration in another post anon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

TODAY, I have MOSTLY been painting.....dead 'uns

With that weak reference to the Fast Show out of the way, here is what's on the workbench at the moment.

I've started on my l'hommes mort Francais and actually based the first one. I'll probably paint it with Army Painter as well, but this one is just a prototype so far, to see how it looks painted and based. They're ugly little critters, with none of the finesse of the 'living' figures (so much so that I replaced the head of the officer figure), but as they're supposed to be only morale markers it doesn't really matter.

Here's also 3 of the Spaniards I painted last week down the coast, which I also haven't dipped or based yet and I probably won't finish the unit until after I've completed my riflemen. I'm also trying to work out how to incorporate an officer/colour bearer into this unit without introducing another make of figure into the bunch, as they are of a fairly stylised (putting it politely) sculpt that other figures may not blend with so well.

Lastly, here's the 5/60th NCO figure I painted at the same time as my 95th Rifles. He's been dipped, but not yet matt varnished or based. Once I've finished experimenting with my dead Frenchers, I'll go back and finish this unit.

This weekend I'll be involved in the ongoing campaign, standing in for Robin who can't make it, but is involved in a battle. I hope I don't completely bollix it up, but if I do, meh..It's not my army. Only kidding, Robin! ;-) (Note to self; BRING THE CAMERA)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review - Salamanca 1812

I've just finished Salamanca 1812 by Rory Muir, and found it a really good read. I didn't know a lot about this battle beyond the basics; ie. Wellington's first offensive battle, Marmont wounded, the French trying to outflank the British and Wellington sending in Pakenham's infantry and Le Marchant's heavy cavalry to completely rout the French.

The author forensically examines the records and recollections left from the battle and compares them to the accepted historical narrative and comes up with some surprising, but convincing arguments to refute some of the most cherished anecdotes and motives of the battle. For instance, Muir refutes the argument that the French were trying to outflank the British because they feared that Wellington was going to try to slip away. There simply is no written evidence from the French or British side that supports that argument. Rather, he is of the opinion that because Marmont and his next 2 subordinates were wounded so early on in the battle that all command and control was lost and hot-headed local commanders such as Generals Maucune and Thomieres took it on themselves to start a flanking maneuver without waiting for proper support.

The author in part agrees with the Iron Duke's dismissive assertion after the Battle of Waterloo that to write the history of a battle is like trying to write a history of a ball; no one person can have a thorough overview of all that happened with exact times and people involved etc. he sifts through all personal recollections and compares them with official regimental and army returns of killed, wounded, prisoners, missing etc. to try to come up with the most reasonable explanations for what happened, killing a few sacred cows along the way (ie. there is absolutely no hard evidence that Wellington was eating his lunch which he threw away in excitement when he noticed the opportunity presented by the over-extended French dispositions). Muir breaks up each chapter into a narrative section and a commentary on the sources cited in the narrative where he expands on the difficulties presented by conflicting evidence or no evidence at all.

He also makes the point of emphasizing how over the years that authors of secondary accounts of the battle, confronted with gaps in the narrative, have embellished on the known facts to make the story flow better. As each secondary account has been cited by the one following it, these embellishments have grown in size and importance until they have become accepted fact when in reality there is no primary evidence to back them up.

Of course history is written by the victors and there is frustratingly little primary evidence from the French side which has left quite a few puzzling gaps as to why certain French commanders moved their troops as they did and even where exactly they moved their troops. Filling in the gaps as best he can the author has admitted that it will never be known for sure exactly how and why the French made the mistakes they did.

The only other accounts of the battle I have read have been part of other more general histories of the Peninsula War and emphasise the destructive attack on the French right flank by Pakenham and Le Marchant. What I never picked up from these accounts was how hard fought the battle was in the centre where the French actually broke several British and Portuguese divisions. It was only the fact that their left flank was crumbling and that the British reserves were well placed in support that the French were forced to give up their gains in the centre.

This was a heavy going academic read, but I found it really rewarding in the detail taken to examine the sources so precisely. Don't read it if you're expecting a light, easy read; for that stay tuned for my next review: vampires in Russia!

Monday, July 5, 2010

We're All Going on a Winter Holiday!

There haven't been many posts for a while now because the Rosbifs have been on holiday for a week down on the coast enjoying the bracing breezes straight off the Southern Ocean. Great weather for painting, and, fortunately, I was organised enough to manage to squeeze in my painting case and a few figures. I finished the 50th foot and started on my riflemen, completing five 95th Rifles and one 5/60th NCO, and just for a change of pace, 4 Spaniards.

Once home I based and varnished the 50th and 95th figures and photographed them for your visual enjoyment.

50th Foot

Kennington command figures

Kennington colour bearers with Warflag colours

Revell 95th rifles

Rifleman & Bugler

Rifle officer

I also had the pleasure of participating in the annual club fundraising Bunnings BBQ. As first shift on a miserably cold (but luckily not damp) Sunday morning, we set up and sold our first dozen or so sausages-in-bread before 10am. No spruiking needed; it's amazing how the smell of frying sausages and onions sells itself! I got to chat with club members I haven't had the opportunity to talk to before, comparing notes between historical and fantasy gaming.

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