Saturday, March 23, 2019


Part of my ongoing terrain-making blitz includes some refurbishments of older pieces we've been using for some years (some as long as 20 years) and the use of new materials to try and upgrade the aesthetic experience. A couple of years ago on a trip to London, I was able to find some rubberized horsehair. These packages have been languishing in the Terrain Boxes o' Shame since. In the active terrain collection, we've had a number of Games Workshop hedges that have seen better days and some furnace filter hedges that were never adequately flocked. I spent a few days experimenting with the latter and refurbishing the former.

Refurbed furnace filter hedges and GW hedges on curved bases to match our road system.

Rubberized horsehair hedges with some scratchbuilt gates.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

We will build a city!

Since mid-December, I've been on a bit of a building blitz (as you can see from previous posts). The plan was twofold: 1) to broaden our urban gaming possibilities and; 2) to clear out all the unfinished buildings and assorted terrain bits in my Boxes o' Shame. Recently, Michael and I took some time in the Trenton Gaming Emporium to put it all out on the table and see the result. About one half of this monstrosity was created in the last two and a half months (the other half accumulated over the last several years).

Spanish Mini-Campaign 2: Third Battle of Gelsa

Continuing on into 1813, Vidal and I seem to be somewhat fixated on the center of the map and the strategic river crossing at Gelsa. This will be our third go round and I'm keen to avenge my previous two withdrawals (ok, defeats) and to hold the center of the French river defences.

The forces I had available for the battle were not as homogeneous as I would have liked but I would be able to field some Young Guard. The skirmishers had appeared in a previous battle but this would be the first appearance of a formed company. Otherwise, I had a wide range of troop types for the battle. I was also gifted with an extra Big Man to command the force although he proved to be a little less impressive than he could have been: Level I...sigh. After rolling for our accumulated Post-Battle Effects (unit quality ups & downs acquired from previous victories/defeats), my core Legere infantry were downgraded to conscript & volunteer status. Not a huge issue, I thought, but worrying nonetheless.

Vidal's British force, on the other hand, came with a juggernaut of four core British infantry groups and two of these were upgraded to elite status for the battle. Ugh! The one saving grace was that there were no 95th Rifles in the force for this battle (although I didn't know this until later in the game... we keep our force lists secret until units are deployed).

The scenario rolled up as a simple Attack & Defend and Vidal, as the attacker, rolled for two support points. This meant that my French defenders would get only one support point (defenders always get half of the attacker's roll). One Point! So no secondary deployment point or my go-to choice... Exploring Officer. I wavered between a Holy Man and a barricade and chose, in the end, the latter for the artillery (which, as it turns out, was a light gun). Force Morale rolls came out at 11 for the French and 10 for the British... ok, so not a bad start.

After generating the battlefield, I quickly realized that the left (or western) table edge would make for a solid defence and I promptly placed my Deployment Point in the center of the position on the hill. Vidal placed his Primary DP also in the center position from where I always assume his British line infantry will pour forth. This placement would give him two main avenues for his main attack... up the center or swinging onto the French right flank. Surprisingly, he also placed a Moveable DP far up on his right flank, worryingly close to my own Primary DP.  So maybe he was going to push on my right flank? 

My basic plan was to hold the center hills and woods, using the farmhouse on my right and the woods on the left to anchor my flanks. After all, I couldn't get too fancy with only one Deployment Point. Part of the plan was also to hold back the Young Guard and the Guard cavalry as a reserve and commit only when necessary. One advantage for the defender in Sharp Practice is that units can more easily be held back until the point of decision (assuming you're willing to take the risk that when you really need those chips to deploy the reserve, they actually make it out of the bag).

 The opening British move saw a group of Spanish Guerrilleros jump out from the Movebale DP, settling quite close to the French Primary DP. I quickly deployed a group of skirmishers to counter this. 

The guerrilleros (and the opening of the Movable DP) had we worrying for my Primary DP and thus I deployed a group of ligne and attendant skirmishers. Enough to make Vidal pause in his move on that flank?

Perhaps not! Spanish cavalry move up to support the guerrilleros. These and the guerrilleros would prove to have little direct impact other than to open up the Moveable DP to any and all units in the British force.

The next British move did not come from the Movable DP but from the central Primary DP and this was an impressive sight. Four British line infantry groups (two of which were elite) and one group of light infantry to cover. All accompanied by three Big Men (III, I, I). Vidal had done as I expected and deployed his main force in the center but this was partly predicated by the fact that the vineyard in front of the Movable DP would break up any formation moving though it. He seemed then to have little choice. But a choice he did have was to go straight "up the gut" at the center of my defences or swing around on the French left flank where there was some open ground.

To counter this mass of British infantry (or at least try and nibble away at it), I deployed the French artillery in the center of the hill behind their barricade (in the woods) and began to pepper away at the British formation. Unfortunately, it was at this point that a British heavy gun (yes, heavy) deployed off the Movebale DP and began throwing 16 dice of cannister fire at the center of the French defences. You can see in the picture above, Vidal gleefully placing his gun and artillerists on the table. Merde!

So, I had placed an artillery piece (that already gains soft cover status) in the woods (providing a boost to hard cover status) behind a barricade (that would normally provide soft  cover... but in this case was superfluous). I could have placed the barrier to the left of the artillery to cover the accompanying infantry and provide them with hard cover (woods + barricade). 

Although the British gun was firing with 16 dice, I was able to spread the hits around three units, all of which had some form of cover. The double shock from the cannister did, however, start piling up on the French infantry. It was at this point that I chose to pull the infantry back behind the crest of the hill and out of sight. They could rest and remove shock until needed. The artillery would be left alone to face the British gun but I was hopeful they could hold out long enough to do some damage to the British line infantry formation, by now revealing their commander's plan and marching straight up the field.

It was at this point that Vidal had a surprise in store for me. Two British light dragoon groups deployed from the British Primary DP and were clearly heading for the French right flank!

Luckily, I had already deployed my two groups of Legere on the right flank with the dual purpose of countering any British thrust at that point and/or moving against the flank of the British infantry formation in the center. What I hadn't anticipated was a cavalry move on that flank. "Pas de probleme," muttered the French infantry commander. "Presentez les armes, mes amis!"  And again Vidal surprised me by continuing to get into charge position despite the solid line of French infantry. And what he didn't know was that I also had the Young Guard and the Guard cavalry left to deploy in the event I could counter-attack or hold a faltering flank.

After an initial first volley from the French formation and some accumulated shock, the British cavalry came on regardless! I quite content to take this charge because I knew the dice numbers would be fairly even and I also knew I had something to back up a loss (the guard ), whereas Vidal had nothing backing up the British cavalry. As I anticipated,  dice numbers were fairly even  (a slight advantage to the French, if I remember) and this was the result....

And after another volley from the French infantry into the rear of the routing British cavalry, this....

British Force Morale plummeted to 5 after this debacle.

And in anticipation of following up on this success, I deployed the Young Guard. But alas... they were to see no action this day.

At this point, Vidal took a moment to assess his options. Although the British line infantry formation in the center was essentially unharmed and now in a decent position to move against the center of the French defences on the hill, his left flank was now in some jeopardy. French morale stood at 10 and there would still be some heavy fighting to break the French center. He opted for the least damaging result and executed a Voluntary Withdrawal. This would have his Battlegroup retreat back across the river and French honour in Gelsa revived!