Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is This Really 2013?

Warning#1: Another non-wargaming post!

Warning #2: This is my opinion. You do not have to agree with it, but please respect my right to express it.

In 1993 the great Nicky Winmar of  AFL team St. Kilda  lifted his jumper and pointed to his dark skin as a response to racist abuse hurled at him from the Collingwood cheer squad. He was saying to them "I'm black and proud. Your abuse can't change that!"

Nicky Winmar's iconic gesture to the Collingwood crowd in 1993
Fast forward 20 years and in the Indigenous Round of the 2013 season, no less, Sydney Swans captain Adam Goodes was called an "ape" by a teenage girl in the crowd. Yep, another Collingwood supporter.
Goodes, another indigenous player, singled her out for security to escort from the ground. He was reportedly "gutted" by the abuse and wasn't present to celebrate their victory over Collingwood, so deeply did he feel the hurt of the abuse.

Adam Goodes nearly as iconic gesture to the Collingwood crowd in 2013
Now for all of you who don't follow Australian Rules Football, this may be news to you, but here in Australia, this latest incident has dominated the headlines and talkback-airwaves over the last week. Not only because of the issue of racism, but in the dignified response by Goodes, not blaming the girl who was too young to know better, and clearly describing the effect of racism on him personally and the Aboriginal community in general. Collingwood president and media personality, Eddie MacGuire, also gained much respect by personally apologising to Goodes straight after the match and making it clear that racism is not to be tolerated in the game and in society generally.

But Eddie undid all his good work by stupidly suggesting that Goodes should be used to promote the musical version of King Kong on his morning radio show yesterday morning!

How a lot of people reacted to Eddie McGuire's brain fail
He has unreservedly apologised and tried to explain that somehow between his brain and his mouth the words got mangled, but has been howled down for making the situation worse. His intentions don't really matter: the effect does.

And that's what has got my goat in all this, especially listening to talkback radio; the lack of empathy about what it means to be an Indigenous Australian and the effect that casual racism has. Ignorant opinions expressed on the radio that "they're all grown-ups and should take it on the chin" just don't take into consideration the ancestral dispossession, disadvantage and despair handed down from generation to generation. People like Goodes, who have made it to the pinnacle of elite sport, have done it despite their aboriginality, not because of it. They are the exceptions to the rule, but still carry the burden of disadvantage. Indigenous Australians constitute 2.4% of the overall population, but are disproportionately represented in the figures of alcohol abuse, unemployment, victims and perpetrators of violence, incarceration (including deaths in custody), mortality in general - the list goes on. Succeeding in the face of all that burden and then copping the sort of crap that's made the attention of the media in the last week, I can totally understand Goodes' saying that he's been cut to the bone. Especially when his abuser was a child who knew no better, and had obviously picked up on what adults around her had taught her.

Eddie's brain fart just topped a week that left me open mouthed with disbelief! (To be fair he has admitted since that what he said was racial vilification, no matter what his intentions were.)

Let's hope that this all translates into a focus on how we as a nation can lift the living standards of our indigenous population from its current abysmal 3rd world level to something approaching the rest of the population.....Hang on; it's an election year. There's no votes in aboriginal affairs. Silly me!

Viva Pepe Botellas!*

Here's the 1er Battalion Joseph Napoléon Regiment for my Borodino IV Corps project, using HaT set 8095 and a couple of interlopers by SHQ/Kennington.

Both the officers and grenadiers have had the Frankenstein treatment and received new shako-wearing heads, replacing the original bearskins.

The flag didn't print as clearly as I'd hoped (printer issues), but the original image made by MS Foy is a thing of beauty. I'll have to reprint it at some stage.

They'll receive their baptism of fire tomorrow night. Come on Garry and Pete; do your worst!

*BTW, Pepe Bottellas was Joseph's Spanish nickname. Literally translated means Joey Bottles, referring to his rumoured predilection for booze! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lesson in Agression

I actually made it to the club on a Saturday (quelle horreur!) and was given a game by Andrew B, master of Cold Steel and creator of the Dennewitz scenario. I am a naturally defensive player, so I need to practice at being a bit more agressive on the table-top, so Andrew complied, by coming prepared with Russians and playing a more defensive game. 

When I say 'defensive', he still gave me a spanking with his cavalry and wasn't shy in exploiting my failures, though he was decent enough to point out faults in my moves before I committed to them, giving me the option of changing my mind. It was in the responses brought about by chance, like when I attempted to form square and failed (3 times!) that he ruthlessly exploited the opportunity!

My pictorial record of the game begins about a third of the way in due to my neglecting to check if the SD card was in the camera (it wasn't!) and then only remembering that my smart phone has a pretty decent camera in it once the game was well under way!

"You forgot to check the SD card? Then you forgot to use your phone? Seriously?"

Anyhoo, the game started off with my light cavalry division facing Andrew's on the left flank and the infantry lined up in the centre to the right, with a light infantry battalion in skirmish order to counter his jaegers in the woods. I'd gone for another infantry-heavy formation with only one 6-lber foot battery and another 6-lber horse battery. As it was a 2000 point game I had 21 battalions at my disposal with about half rated veteran.

Starting positions
Andrew gave me the initiative as I was the attacker so I started with my elite light troops attacking their Russian counterparts in the woods. The disparity in morale ratings meant my skirmishers forced his back with losses. In the next turn I'd cleared the woods, formed up in column and brought another light infantry battalion up into the woods to threaten the flank of the brigade closest to the woods. 

I advanced my front brigade up in column in preparation for a charge. Originally, I was going to charge across the line, but Andrew pointed out that that by targeting the charge against the weakest point, in this case a line, I'd have a better chance. Also, if I'd concentrated my columns     beforehand I'd be even more likely to have succeeded. As it was I held one battalion back because it had copped many casualties protecting the rest of the brigade from artillery fire, and didn't want to wait another turn faffing around getting myself properly concentrated. So I went in half-cocked with only 4 battalions, rolled poorly and paid the price: my columns refused to go through with the charge, halting at 2" with 2 disorders! In the inevitable counter attack, two of my battalions broke, while the other two retreated.

The rest of the brigade moved up to stop the rot, but in doing so, found themselves in a pretty pickle. Andrew's uncommitted cavalry regiment came over the rise to threaten the flank of my advance. I got the left flank battalion into square, hoping to protect the rest of the brigade as they prepared to charge to their front. Of course Andrew wan't going to let me do that unmolested, though! He gave the square some curry with the artillery at close quarters, then charged the square with a battalion of Jaegers. Goodbye square! This was the signal for his cavalry to charge. Ordinarily, I would have had better than even odds to form square in reaction to the charge from that distance, but 4 battalions all failed to take the opportunity, resulting in a minor disaster for the centre and elevated blood pressure for me! This left my left flank exposed to enemy cavalry while to my front enemy infantry prepared to counter attack after my disastrous charge. Any offensive action in the centre by me would have to take into account all the negatives of breaking and retreating infantry. Not a good place to be! 

Breaking infantry reach the edge of the world!  Only one actually fell off; the others rallied to the general's call.

I did exact some revenge, turning one battalion into the flank of the cavalry and firing. I don't think I inflicted a casualty, but I caused enough panic to get them breaking to the edge of the board. For the moment, they didn't feature in the game, but they did return later to cause a headache!

Nasty cavalry cop what they deserve; a flank shot!

Meanwhile, my cavalry were being pushed back in a series of charges, counter charges, flanking actions and musketry. I always expected a tough time as Russian cavalry has the wood over French cavalry in quality, and as we were evenly matched in numbers, I was at a disadvantage. Andrew wasn't playing to destroy my cavalry, only to bottle them up, which he did very well.

More nasty Russian cavalry

My hussars and a chasseur regiment retired to lick their wounds, while my other  chasseur regiment lurk on the Russians' flank... case they tried to charge, which of course they did!

My charge collected the nearest regiment in the flank, stopping them in their tracks...

...but the other continued on into my stationary cavalry line who attempted to empty a few saddles with musketry.

Didn't work, though!

In the end, Andrew saw off my pesky chasseurs with a frontal charge with one of his hussar regiments

The remaining French cavalry well and truly bottled up.

Back in the centre, the two surviving battalions were desperately back-peddling to get out of the way of Andrew's advancing infantry, who followed up, closing the gap. They were sent on their way after a bruising firefight, but kept in good order to return to the fray at a later stage.

The aftermath of my disastrous charge: out of 4 battalions, one is left in front of the Russian line, one  is repulsed and two have broken and fled

The two remaining battalions attempt to extract themselves with artillery support

Jaegers advance off the hill to try to flank my central force.

The main Russian line follows my retreating battalions...

...who are helped on their way by a volley...

...until they catch up with the main line. Artillery at close range, anyone? Yes please, tovaritsch!

The general successfully rallies the broken brigade!

As Andrew started to move his reserves forward, it was obvious I needed to do something to take the pressure off the centre. The time was ripe for a charge by the right hand brigade. This time I applied the lessons of my first failed attempt at a charge and concentrated the battalions beforehand. With the light infantry in the woods, Andrew was forced to deploy one battalion to protect the flank facing the woods, removing it from the response to the charge. He counter charged with 3 battalions to my 5 and with artillery support was lucky to get away with a minor defeat, forcing him back 12", but still in relatively good order.

On the right flank, the french gear up for a charge

The Russian left flank forms into line to stave off the threat from the woods

Both sides charge; The impact was so great it shook the camera!

The next charge, though, was the real deal! Even though the Croatians on the left got repulsed by artillery fire, the momentum of the rest of the brigade, the fact they were following up a victory and the additional disorders suffered by the Russians ended up in a smashing victory to me! The icing on the cake was that they also went battle-mad, cleaning up the line facing the woods and getting them outside the artillery's arc of fire. HUZZAH!
The light infantry in the woods took the opportunity to apply the coup de grace to the poor old jaegers in a charge out of the woods that sent them packing, despite the negatives suffered for charging in woods. The negatives suffered by the Russians with casualties suffered and by having a whole brigade break within 9" left the result in little doubt, however!

The stage is set for the second charge.

The Croats retreat after taking too many casualties from artillery fire...

But it didn't matter; the charge goes home!

The jaegers didn't stand a chance after that.

Back in the centre, Andrew had moved up his infantry and artillery to within close range to try and force a way through the centre. By that stage 6 of the broken battalions had been rallied by the general after much belabouring heads and shoulders with the flat of his sword. If only I could hold on, the situation would stabilise.

It came down to a charge by one of Andrew's jaeger battalions at the reduced column closest to the artillery. It had suffered for being within very close range, so if he could come to grips with it, he should have been able to break it and then break the other 3 with a frontal attack. That was the plan, but  the weakened column had other ideas. They loosed off a volley at the charging jaegers that destroyed 50% of their front line, causing them to lose their pre-melee morale check and retreat in disorder! Huzzah!

Things looked grim in the centre

But battered reinforcements were on their way

The jaegers charged, but deadly fire from the French column stopped them in their tracks and sent them reeling!

From then on it became a game of trying to get into each other's flanks in the centre, but with my previously broken brigade coming up in support, Andrew didn't have enough infantry to dislodge me off the hill and mine were in too bad a condition to do much other than hold their position.

Flank charge, flank charge and another flank charge!

On the right flank, Andrew was bringing his reserves to bear on my victorious brigade, along with the fourth cavalry regiment which had rallied. With no reserve of my own and no cavalry support, the writing was on the wall: I would have had to break off and withdraw if I was to extract myself from the situation. My cavalry were well contained on the left; my centre was only just holding after being severely knocked around and the right was hanging out in disarray after their successful charges, with no support and ripe for the counter-attack.

Recipe for victory: break more of your opponent's eggs

The chief thing I learnt (or really had re-affirmed) is that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. In order to achieve anything, some units have to be sacrificed, rather than trying to protect everyone and then having everyone break and run when the static position gets thumped by concentrated forces.

Usually, instead of breaking a couple of eggs the whole tray ends up on the floor! This game wasn't quite the victory I was hoping for (I was playing Andrew B, after all!) but it was a pointer in the right direction.

"What do you mean you lost the Guard Division?!?"

He lost his divisional morale test!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Joseph Napoleon Regiment - WIP

More work in preparation for Borodino. This time another exotic regiment to add to the IV Corps: The Spanish Joseph Napoleon Regiment. 

These poor saps probably had the longest journey of any unit in the entire Napoleonic Wars (except maybe the Portuguese Legion!). It was formed from the La Romana's Spanish Division which was garrisoning southern Denmark in 1808 (those who failed to escape with the Royal Navy's assistance, anyway, after the outbreak of the Peninsula War). The troops were given the choice of joining a fighting formation or a pioneer battalion. Not surprisingly, enough volunteers were found to form a 4 battalion regiment. While the original idea was to send them to fight in Spain, the realisation that they would probably desert en masse precluded their use there, and instead its 4 battalions were dispersed across garrisons in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. They saw combat in the 1812 Russian campaign in the IV and I Corps, and then in the 1813 German campaign, being disbanded later in 1813.

I'm using HaT's versatile set 8095 again, with some head modifications, and also SHQ/Kennington command figures.

The grenadier figures have had head replacements, with the original bearskin-clad heads being replaced with heads in shakos, plumes and cords from HaT's Middle Guard set 8167.

The command figures have also had the Frankenstein treatment, starting life as Chasseurs of the Guard. The Officer has a plastic head from HaT's Light Infantry Command set, while the standard bearer has a metal head from an SHQ/Kennington drummer. The flag bearer will be carrying the beautiful flag produced by MS Foy at Prometheus in Aspic

Another couple of figure will round out a nine figure battalion, then I'll start on another one. For Borodino, the battalions will only be 6 figures strong, so they'll probably be amalgamated in one 12 figure unit, rather than 2 tiny battalions.

Grenadier conversion #1

Grenadier conversion #2


Officer conversion

Flag bearer conversion


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another Hard-Fought Loss!

John R. reckons he can write my battle reports for me, the smart-ar$e! He reckons that they all start off like this: "What I should have done is...."

Unfortunately in this instance he's probably right! Last Friday night's game against our furthest flung member, Paul, featured 1500 points of my British against a similar number of his French on a single 6'x4' table-top.

I decided to concentrate my cavalry on the most seemingly open part of the table in the hope of forcing  a combined arms attack on to his flank and then rolling up his line with my strongest infantry, the 92nd Gordon Highanders and the 71st Glasgow Highland Light Infantry. Like all plans, though, this one didn't survive contact with the enemy, because he obviously hadn't been told he was supposed to stand there like Muggins and get what was coming! In my first move I had the perfect opportunity to start off with cavalry charge into his advancing infantry, which would have really scuppered his plans for that flank and given me a number of possibilities to exploit, but I elected to use the cavalry more as a threat rather than an offensive force, and the opportunity was lost (and with it, probably the game).

On the other flank, where I'd positioned my Portuguese brigade as a holding force behind the woods I'd supposed he'd have to traverse, Paul started massing infantry and sending his Hussars around the woods. It's safe to say I didn't see that coming! Because I had massed my cavalry on the other flank, I was playing catch-up from then on. Paul had set the pace and I was left reacting to his moves rather than getting him to react to mine.

He had me over a barrel after that and even though I got my light dragoons over to that flank, there wasn't enough room to deploy them properly and it was only a matter of time before he rolled me up on that flank. I had a couple of successes in seeing off a charge in the woods and decimating another attack with the awesome firepower of a line of highlanders! Also, another charge off the ridge by the 50th Foot had a successful outcome, but Paul had the uncanny knack of passing most of the resulting morale tests brought about by these minor wins...dammit!!

Looking from my left flank; cavalry concentrated in the foreground  with horse guns, rockets and infantry in support

Infantry looking from the right flank. The Portuguese in the foreground with a second British brigade in reserve.

Paul won the initiative and moved first. This is his central brigade.

My British reserve brigade fans out in reaction to Paul's flanking manoeuvre...

...while the Portuguese move into the BUA and the woods.

The Portuguese battalion in the BUA were supposed to act as a flank threat to any French unit passing either side to attack the other battalions in line. Clever, eh? 

On the left flank, the infantry shake out into line behind the crest of the hill (what did you expect? They're British!)

My opportunity lost; instead of charging the infantry in front, I chose to put my cavalry in line behind the guns to threaten his advance!

Paul quickly backed off and formed closed column in response.

Chasseurs peep around the woods keeping the attention of the heavy dragoons.

Paul's weight of manoeuvre falls on my right flank...

...overflowing around the woods in the form of hussars! The right hand battalion failed to form square, but luckily the middle one did.

The general attaches himself to the near battalion as it seemed the one in most danger.

The light dragoons up sticks to head off to the rescue...

...leaving the horse guns and rockets to keep the French infantry in line.

Meanwhile, the British infantry are deployed in line to keep the French in line, too!

Paul's French enter the woods to come to grips with the British & Portuguese infantry

"Come on, we dare you!"

He also had 2 battalions of light infantry to back up the hussars, with the square in their sights. 

En avant!

The threatened column forms into a closed column...

...while the light dragoons come up in support.

Paul's troops enter the woods to be met by the fire of the riflemen.

Things seemed to stabilise, though the French light troops on the cacadores' flank were still a concern

French light infantry mass...

...while the hussars waited to exploit any mistake on my part.

On the other flank, my infantry occupied the front of the slope in preparation for French aggression.

The closed column moved in reverse to clear the way for the light dragoons, while the infantry in line tried to hold the French at bay.

Paul rashly tried a charge on my cacadores through in the woods, met by  their fire. Multiple disorders casude by my skirmishers and movement in the woods caused the charge to fail spectacularly!

Paul's lone battalion looks around "Where'd they go?" The Portuguese move out of the BUA to threaten the remaining French unit.

Paul's hussars charge the British line behind the cacadores, who managed to form square in time. The light dragoons counter-charged, ending in an inconclusive stand-off. Note Paul's unique blown cavalry marker!

The square was then charged by the 2 light infantry battalions and broken.  The charge carried on into the closed column behind it...

...resulting in the capture of my general! 

After surviving the morale test caused by the general's capture, the Portuguese fired on the flank of the remaining battalion, causing them to break...

...but with the French light infantry in my rear things were looking dicey.

In the centre the artillery were whittling Paul's line.

On the right flank, he began massing against my highlanders...

...while preparing to tackle more cavalry with artillery backed by infantry and cavalry.

The light infantry advanced on the light dragoons who were too close to charge. With their flank open, the cavalry were in a sticky situation!

The satisfying sight of fleeing Frenchmen!

To foil Paul's attack on my highlanders, I advanced and engaged his columns in a firefight...

...causing 4 casualties to my 2 and stopping him in his tracks.

To the highlanders' right, the 50th Foot charged over the hedges

In the pre-melee I rolled as best I could...

...while Paul...didn't!

Still, it only resulted in a minor victory with the French still in good order, although repulsed.

Paul's chasseurs shake out into line in preparation for a charge

The guns and rockets knock the square out of the way and the cavalry set to each other...

The 9lber foot battery pivots to pour in flank fire on the disordered French columns, but Pauls pulled out all stops to stay where he was. Bally lucky, I say!

He wasn't lucky enough to survive a second firefight with my highlanders, though! He fled after taking casualties and failing his morale test. Then again, so did the highlanders!

On the other flank, the inevitable:
His light infantry demolition machine flank the cavalry, fire and send them fleeing. 

Paul forms column from line and backs off in the centre. With the light infantry in my rear and his previously routing units, reformed on my right, it was fairly certain that I was in a pickle, despite my success on the left.
Time to gallantly declare the game over with Paul the victor!
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