Sunday, February 27, 2011

Battle of St. Helene

John R. was responsible for a highly enjoyable Peninsula War scenario (based on a Sharpe story, apparently, but I find that all stories featuring Sharpe blur into each, so I can't say whether or not I've read it!). The rechargeable batteries were on the way out because after ensuring I had full charged batteries in the camera, when I switched it on, they were flat! Luckily Robin came to the rescues and took a few photos on his camera which you can see below. Cheers, Robin!

The story was that the villagers were in possession of the Banner of St. Helene which, if raised on her saint's day (after 12 turns), would spark the whole province in open revolt against the French. The French, obviously, were keen to prevent this from happening and were making a bee-line for the village faced only by a motley band of Spanish guerrillas (me!) and townsfolk who had dragged out the 300 year old gun from the town square to protect their saint's banner (Pete E.). Because the gun was such an antique, when firing it had a chance of exploding on a double 6 or misfiring on any 5 or 6 after rolling 2d6 when the intention to fire was declared! Plenty of misfires but luckily no explosions!

The Spaniards weren't alone, however; The British were coming on a parallel path to the French. Quinny and Garry were the allies coming to our relief, and Tim, Jim and Geoff were the dastardly French come to spoil the party. Each British and French player had a couple of battalions of infantry and a small number of cavalry and a small gun battery. I had a large horde of Spanish guerrillas (24 figures) to do with as I wished, so I deployed 12 in 2 groups of 6 concealed in woods forward of the village, while the main force of 12 remained behind a hill forward of the village. The 2 groups in the forward deployment tried to ambush the approaching French and hassle them as they marched, but both units were quickly wiped out when they left the woods and exposed themselves to French cavalry in open skirmish order. They hardly acted as a speed hump, let alone inflicted any damage. Not an auspicious start for the gallant partidas!

Each turn both the British and French rolled 1d6 and on a roll of 6 had to draw a chance card, which usually resulted in something bad indicated by the chorus of groans from the players affected, usually something like half movement per turn or something similar. The inordinate number of sixes rolled led to a snail's pace race to the village between the British and the French, but Jim's dragoons and guns turned up on the village flank fairly quickly, but isolated from any close support. His dragoons charged the villagers' gun which caused them to flee behind the village's walls after they failed to hit anything with their fire. Jim's gun unlimbered and fired at the wall, but he'd chosen the thickest part of the wall and made no impact with his little 4lb-er battery. Jim then dismounted his dragoons to protect his battery. Meanwhile, I'd formed my guerrilla band into line from skirmish order, as Jim had totally ignored the puny threat my force represented as skirmishers. Quinny's cavalry formed up behind me and suddenly Jim was confronted by a double threat and had no option to form his just-dismounted dragoons into square, presenting me with a lovely target I couldn't miss.

Now, you must understand that in our rules guerrillas are rated as untrained militia. This rating doesn't even get its own firing table; It just uses half Landwehr factors, they're that bad. The truly miraculous happened as if St. Helene herself were smiling down on me: I fired in my turn forcing the horse handlers and the horses to flee and taking off a figure from the square which was now down to 3 figures. I survived the square's answering fire and in my next turn, charged! I expected my brave boys to melt like the snow in spring, but they weathered the defensive fire and hit home, forcing the square to retreat. Not only that, but their breakthrough move took them into the French battery. I took the breakthrough, thinking that there would be no way my command could survive, but in they went and forced the gunners to retreat as well! Bold guerrillas acting like grenadiers!

My general was joined by Quinny's British general during these attacks, so I had his bonus added to my troops as well. While the 2 generals were in proximity I communicated the location of the flag to him so that he could send his infantry straight to the right building to protect it. Initially he was going to stay outside the building so as not to offend local sensibilities with their holy relic being guarded by unbelievers until I pointed out that his regiment were the 88th Connaught Rangers, all good Catholics to a man and gave him permission to occupy the building. How this communication occurred was not spelt out; maybe my man could speak English or his, Spanish; maybe they both communicated in French; or maybe his general was the only native of the British Isles who successfully communicated speaking English vvveeeerrrryyy ssslllooowwwllllyy and VERY LOUDLY while adding 'o' to the end of every second word. "Whiiiich house-o iiiis the flag-o in-o, por favor, senor?"

Anyway, my boys were performing herculean tasks with ease and Quinny headed straight for the village building with the flag, while Tim and Geoff were bringing up their infantry expecting to have to muscle Quinny out of the way. Garry was still some distance away due to being slowed down by Geoff's dragoons, but after knocking a couple of figures off with his artillery, managed to break the dragoons with infantry fire from the edge of a wood. Geoff had also got his light infantry into the village by running them in skirmish order around the far, undefended, side of the village. He then had the job of playing 'find the thimble' in the village, but Quinny had ensconced himself in the correct building giving the French no chance to evict him before turn 12.

Jim extracted some revenge by trundling his pop-guns up onto the flank of my guerrilla line and firing. They lost a figure and just squeaked in on their morale test, but were looking pretty brittle. I then did what I should have done earlier and broke them up into skirmish order, when Jim fired again. This time there was no mistake and my brave band broke and ran!

Tim's infantry and Geoff's artillery had dealt with Quinny's cavalry, then focused attention on Pete's museum piece. Although it didn't explode, it misfired regularly through the game. When it didn't misfire, it hit absolutely nothing! Tim charged the gun and for the second time in the game, Pete ran to the cover of the village wall. By that time it was over and the flag was hoisted signaling bloody revolt throughout the land and Death to the French!

My brave guerrillieros carry their charge into the teeth of death!
Victory! The guns flee past the ragged square of dragoons who have already suffered at the hands of Spanish anger!
Viewed from the French side. My line behind the hill is my attempt to protect the village gun's rear and flank. Quinny's infantry head straight for the village while the French lines suddenly find nothing in front of them.
At the bottom of the picture you can see Jim's battery positioned extremely close on my line's flank about to give me a shot I thought I couldn't recover from. I lasted one more turn!
Los hombres in skirmish order about to be broken by one gunshot too may. Quinny has occupied the house containing the saint's flag, while Geoff futilely occupies the house at the top of the picture.
Garry about to break the dragoons who'd been dogging his every step.
The village gun about to be neutralised by Tim's infantry.
All the action in one shot; Garry's combat at the top of the picture, Tim's troops in front of the village gun, my partidas about to be obliterated and Quinny's and Geoff's troops in the village.
Holy Banner raised in defiance of the godless French! The Latin inscription reads "Semper in Excretum, Sed Sole Profundum Variat"
The translation!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Terrain WIP

Last Saturday's game was a bit of a weird one (no pics as camera didn't make it to the club. Ooops!) as we were experimenting with 1:120 scale in preparation for applying it to the Wagram scenario in the not too distant future. This worked well for those playing French and Austrian, but for Quinny and I using British and allied troops it posed more problems than solved. Also against us was the fact that everyone bar John W. had misinterpreted Tim's instructions and come along with half sized forces rather than doubling the points and turning up with the usual number of troops. As a result we had lots of space to play with!

British forces of the period were made up usually of 1 battalion regiments, the 2nd battalion usually being a depot battalion back home. Even though some 2nd battalions were deployed, they rarely fought with their senior battalion in the same brigade. Therefore, Quinny and I were at a disadvantage from the start because we couldn't really pretend that one 1:60 British battalion was two 1:120 battalions brigaded together, as the French and Austrians could. We had tiny little 5 or 6 figure battalions facing 12 figure regiments! 

While Quinny was having trouble fending off John W's attacks, I managed to bamboozle John R with my number of tiny units able to get in on his flanks, even though his cavalry brigades easily saw off my individual squadrons. Quinny finished him off in the centre, but in turn was having trouble keeping the field with the pressure John W was putting him under. 

Anyway, the consensus was 1:120 doesn't really work for British forces in our rules.

I've also decided that I need more terrain for my boards as I tend to have too much open space and not enough woods and other impedimenta for my liking. So, I 'borrowed' some felt from my daughter on the condition that I replace it, for the forest footprint, and made myself some more trees.

When I began this hobby I experimented with making my own terrain and found a tutorial online (can't remember where now) on how to make trees from kitchen scourers and roofing nails. The results weren't exactly to my liking, so I flocked the canopy  to make the foliage look more leafy. After a lot of handling and use, the flocking that remains looks a little threadbare. I left the trunks bare which made them look a little scrawny, too, so this time I've broken out the old Miliput again to sculpt more realistic looking trunks and roots and used Woodland Scenics undergrowth to provide a more coarse foliage which all in all makes a fairly convincing looking oak tree. 

After seeing teddy bear fur used in wargaming terrain here, I experimented with a small patch to represent a standing cereal crop that you may have seen in some of my previous posts. I still have quite a bit of fur remaining and as I have been suffering from insomnia for a while now, I thought I'd put my wakefulness to good use and create a larger field complex of 3 different crops. I used scissors to trim the path through the crops as well as to trim rows through the bottom right crop, then dry brushed 2 shades of green and some earth tones through the main field, a combination of black, grey and brown along the paths and a slight hint of green through the rows while leaving the bottom left quadrant in its original state. I'm quite pleased with the results!

Rough circles cut from scourer after tracing circles using different sized bottle-tops. Largest at bottom to smallest at top of tree. Holes made by pushing nail through WARNING: try not to impale yourself while doing this!
Roofing nails stuck though roughly ripped pieces of thin corkboard

Milliput added and sculpted to look like tree trunk and roots. Painted dark brown with lighter tones dry brushed on.

Scourer circles stuck on nail, then generous amount of white glue applied to the surface. Flocking applied and pressed into glue. Once it begins to dry, I gave the foliage a generous squirt with matt varnish which acts like hairspray to keep it all together. Base still requires some static grass/flocking.

Teddy bear fur crops

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In preparation for next big January battle, I volunteered to paint the Italian contingent for the Battle of Wagram, expecting to have at least a division's work ahead of me, until I was told that only the Italian Royal Guard were present! I'll probably paint up Severoli's division which fought in Italy under Eugene in 1809 at Sacile and Piave, too, as some of those regiments had battalions serving in Spain. It'll make a change from painting Frenchmen, at least! 

The figures I'm using for the Italian Guard are Zvezda Imperial Guard  figures that I inherited from Ian, another NWA member with an extensive plastic 1/72 collection. He had the obligatory mountain of unpainted plastic that he couldn't see himself ever painting, so he gave them to me when I was still building up my collection. I haven't had much call for guardsmen until now, so I dug them out and will paint them in their fetching green jackets.

Also pictured are the Spanish casualty/morale markers, plus some extra British ones, including highlander figures. I've also discovered Newline Designs carry cavalry casulaty figures, so I'll investigate acquiring some of them too. I haven't used Newline before as they are true 20mm which is 1/76 scale, rather than the 1/72 I use. Casualty markers in this scale may not be discernably different.

First Italian Royal Guardsman off the production line

The silent dead, waiting for matt varnishing

10,000 visits!

According to the Flagcounter app I've cracked the ten grand visitor mark! (Although, the blog's internal stats say I've still got about 1,500 to go. Go figure!) Whatever the true mark, I'm very pleased with the numbers who've found my creation diverting enough to visit and re-visit. So thanks to all my readers and all of you who've left comments. It makes it all worth while to know that you're enjoying my work.

Special thanks go to the chaps in NWA's Napoleonics group who give me lots of positive feedback every week; to regular visitors, especially Señor Pardo, who's been a real mine of information on the Spanish army and very encouraging of my work; and to the friendly mob at the La Bricole forum, who are just as enthusiastic about all things Napoleonic as I am.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Battle of El Chunderosa redux.

Quote of the night: - Garry to Tim as 3 battalions of French turn tail and flee, "These figures you sold me don't work!"

After arriving at the club late (rotten weather, one car family, Mrs. Rosbif coming home after a late shift, picking up junior Rosbif #2 and collecting takeaway for dinner. Yeah, yeah, I know; excuses, excuses!), I found that Tim had set up his terrain and the boys had just completed laying out their troops. There is a benefit to turning up late after all!  ;-)

Our opponents were different from the last time we'd attempted to play. This time Tim and I were opposed by John W. and Garry. John had gone for quantity over quality while Garry went for mainly veterans and elites. Luckily John W. with his hordes of conscripts and regulars was opposing Tim, while Garry faced me. I also preferred facing Garry as I think we are of a fairly similar level of generalship, while Tim and John W. are old hands who know the rules backwards and have quite a few tricks up their sleeves.

Tim had set up the terrain with a town in the centre flanked by woodlands. I was a bit too gung-ho and pushed my troops through the woods and set up a gun line from the woods to a small village on the right flank protected by the cavalry. I'd sent my riflemen supported by the British light companies to take on Garry's skirmished light battalion, but I should have skirmished my whole light battalion in turn, as his troops were elite. Even though mine were a class higher, his weight of numbers told and beat my skirmish line in skirmish combat.  If I'd taken a leaf out of Tim's playbook, I would have stayed behind the woods and made Garry come for me, but as it was I'd gone through the woods copping the disorders, while the Spanish troops on the left were half-in, half-out of the woods. This was too much of a temptation for Garry, who charged the disordered Spaniards. I did a very un-Spanish thing and counter-charged with the first group and ended up retreating. The next couple of battalions then copped the morale minuses of having friends retreating and broke after being charged. This left a hole in my left which was filled by the French who having gone battle-mad, had to take the break-through and follow the fleeing Spanish. This in turn left them deep in the woods with the resulting disorders with Tim's British battalions on their left and mine on their right. The next turn saw both British brigades turn on Garry's flanks and rout him, hence the quote at the start of this post.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Tim and John were engaged in some fairly heavy skirmish combat through the woods while John's left hand units occupied the closest buildings to secure his flank against Tim's Spanish in the village. Tim's guerrillas attempted to slow the French advance in front of the village, but really didn't even act as a speed bump, eventually being chased of by Garry's skirmishers. The battle in the woods ebbed and flowed with Tim attempting to draw John on and get him to rack up disorders through the woods, but eventually John made it through where a ding-dong battle of fairly evenly matched poor quality troops slugged it out with one trying to outflank the other. At one stage towards the end of the night Tim had got in John's flank and fired, expecting the battalion to crumble and flee, opening the rest of the French line to be rolled up like a Persian carpet. John had other ideas, however, and pulled out a series of morale saves that prove he's sold his soul to the Devil in return for lucky dice rolls when he needs them most! Of course, his troops stood when they should have fled for the hills and in turn managed to savage Tim's astounded troops who were left with their pants down expecting to be facing nothing but the sight of French heels.

Meanwhile, after Garry's successful attack, I thought the time was right for a little cavalry action and charged one of my light dragoons squadrons against Garry's dragoons. I thought if I was successful in driving off his cavalry, his remaining infantry would be pinned in place in square and would be vulnerable to a combined arms attack with infantry and artillery to follow up, leaving his 3 successful infantry battalions stranded in the woods to be mopped up later. However, plans don't always work out as I rolled a 1 while Garry rolled a 6 in our melee. The complete opposite form last week! My light dragoons retreated while my Spanish gunners did another un-Spanish thing and fled their guns voluntarily while the nearest British infantry battalion squared up to meet the battle-mad dragoons who plunged forward despite the wishes of their commander. The square stopped them in their tracks and forced them back, leaving their vulnerable flanks open to attack in the next round, which I duly did. The Walloon Guards formed line and fired, destroying them and making the remainder a fleeing rabble, never to be seen again, while the 71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry on the left formed line and fired into the flank of the nearest French column stranded after its victorious charge the previous turn. Fleeing Frenchmen resulted as previously described. A divisional morale test was asked for and made, but Garry survived to continue the fight.

Garry decided to form a protective line to meet the oncoming attack that he knew was coming and got his skirmishers out front to add to the disorders most of my units were still carrying from their passage through the woods. This time I skirmished the light infantry to meet the threat and to shelter behind in order to regroup and knock off the disorders before going on the offensive. Out on the right flank, my second squadron of light dragoons were occupied with keeping the Vistula lancers at bay and twice ended charges exactly where they started, even with the support of my horse battery, which did more damage than the actual charges.

The night ended on my flank with the 92nd Highlanders and the Walloon Guards advancing in line followed by the re-manned Spanish 9-lb battery and the recovered light dragoons who'd been defeated by the French dragoons. If there'd been time, I was planning an all arms attack on Garry's line that would have cracked him wide open, or at least put a lot of pressure on it that would have been hard to counter.

Tim was under severe pressure on his side of the table, but John admitted that he was finding it hard to crack Tim's defensive line, even though the ascendancy was with him. So, on my side of the board I was on the offensive, but would have been unable to exploit any success as Tim may have had to break off, leaving my left exposed.

It was a corker of a game, enjoyed by all, that swept back and forth without anyone being in the box seat until the end. If only I'd turned up earlier I may have been able to exploit my advantages near the end. Oh well; C'est le guerre!

My Spaniards start the game crossing hedgerows and fences
Tim's forces covered to the front by British riflemen and to the right by line battalions
John W.'s Frenchies
Tim has Hatters too, in fetching sky-blue
My Spaniards advance to their doom!
Light dragoons in column on my right flank
My skirmish line enters the forest
John W.'s enters the woods on the other flank
Some lovely block painting examples in John's collection
En masse
En avant!
Tim's Spanish cavalry; will they have better luck this time?
My Spaniards half in, half out of the woods. Not the wisest positioning of my forces - again!
My right flank
Tim's 5/60th clash with John's Legere
Tim's cavalry bravely holds the gap between village and woods
Guerillas play at soldiers in front of the village
My better troops on the right can't protect the Spaniards from their fate!
Tim's troops in the town about to get a dose of 6lb-er medicine
Tim's Spanish light troops engage John's line in the woods
My skirmish line struggles to hold against Garry's weight of numbers
Garry's columns. An example of the new Hinchcliffe line which, incidently,(Gratuitous PlugWarning!) Garry happens to be Australian distributor for. (0431 454 966 or 
Tim's British columns, or my avenging saviours!
Tim holds the houses to the left and right, but John has seized the upper central building
Garry's Hinchcliffe figures showing his lovely painting  and basing skills. Am I overdoing it Garry? I'll accept a small promotional fee! :-)
The steel backbone of my division; closest to furthest - 92nd Highlanders, Walloon Guards and 71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry.
For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful, Amen!
John's attack progresses through the woods and the gap by the village
Tim's troops advance to meet the challenge
No pasaran!
The first French charge met by Spanish countercharge. Not a wise idea when I'm carrying 2 disorders!
The result? Run away!
The resulting gap!
The 2nd charge and countercharge
And the resulting French breakthrough
The 3rd charge.You can guess the rest!
My death or glory charge in the centre
The moment I realised things were crook!
The dragoons canter into British firepower!
Then cop a devastating flank fire from the Walloon Guards
The highland lights then pour flank fire into the nearest French column
Tim's British join the fun and 3 battalions scarper

Tim's gauchos keep an eye on Garry's skirmishers. They ended up being persuaded to leave the field after a round of solid shot reminded them they had a prior engagement elsewhere!
Reg. Irlanda advances between the Highlanders and the Walloon Guards
 My horse guns spray the Vistula Lancers in the distance
My second squadron of ligh dragoons facing off against the Vistula Lancers.
John's Skirmish line breaks through the woodline
The French columns advance past the village
My dispositions after my successful counter attack
Tim's situation around the same time; the French are through the woods but faced by a solid block of Spanish infantry
The start of the attack on the French line. I 've skirmished the light infantry in preparation for taking on the French skirmishers and remanned the guns in the foreground
Skirmishers ready to advance
Walloons, Irlanda and Gordons advance
French square in a bit of bother threatened by British Hussars and Spanish infantry.
French counter attack to rescue the square
Successfully pushes back the Spanish infantry
The French attack builds on the far flank, but is stubbornly resisted
My developing combined arms attack, but too late to put into effect!

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