Monday, August 31, 2009

1813 Campaign: Battle of Gera

We played our second campaign battle on the weekend at MIGS. We've reached Turn 5 of the campaign and the armies are starting to come into more significant contact. The northern wing of le Grande Armee has been trying to consolidate while attempting to locate the main enemy forces. On this turn, Ney did find some of the Army of the North but it seems he bit off a little more than he could proverbially chew. Ney had pushed two divisions across the Saale River from Jena to Gera. This was indeed a bold move considering he had no cavalry accompaniment! And the two infantry divisions were from different corps. Luckily, one of the two corps commanders was present along with Ney in person. Check the map below for the location of Gera. It's to the middle right just south of Leipzig. I can't show the troop dispositions since the campaign players read this blog as well. It's enough to point out that the French lines run roughly along the line of the Saale and the Allied armies are arrayed to the east of the same river.

When Ney arrived in Gera at the head of his two divisions he found an entire Austrian ArmeeKorps waiting for him. The French player decided nonetheless to initiate an attack and so was fought the Battle of Gera!

Grande Armee du nord

CinC: Marechal Ney

11e Corps d'Armee: Marechal MacDonald
  • 17e Division (Wurttemberg infantry)
2e Corps d'Armee: no commander present
  • 16e Division (infantry)

Army of the North

IV ArmeeKorps: FZM Gyulai
  • Advance Guard Division (cavalry/infantry)
  • 1st Division (infantry)
  • 2nd Division (infantry)
Besides a slight advantage in numbers, the Austrians also had cavalry in the Advance Guard Division. This difference from the French force was to prove critical even though the French enjoyed more artillery.The opening phase of the Battle of Gera. The field is split into two by a stream. Otherwise there are no major terrain features. The Austrian commander chose the baseline and deployed his Korps with the Advance Guard Division and its component cavalry on the right. The French began their advance on the right flank (they were the attackers after all). 16e Division had two artillery batteries and its commander was attempting to bring them close to the Austrian lines to use their weight in the attack. Unfortunately, a single Austrian battery was crewed so brilliantly (i.e. fantastic dice rolls) that 16e Division's advance was slowed to a crawl. On the Austrian right flank, the Advance Guard Division began its move to outflank the Wurttembergers. The German troops quickly formed square to hold the Austrian cavalry at bay and were initially successful. Unfortunately, once the infantry of the Austrian 2nd Division moved forward, the French commander had nothing with which to combat the combined arms attack of the Austrians.
The Austrian Advance Guard, working in concert with the 2nd Division, were able to work around the flank and rear of the Wurttemberg division and rout it (but not until after a fanatical defense by the German troops). The losses on this flank coupled with the stalwart defense of the Austrian left (i.e. that artillery battery continued to perform well!) persuaded the French army of the futility of the situation.

I say that the French army made the decision to leave since Ney had long since been knocked off his horse by a stray shot! Marechal MacDonald was also slightly wounded in this bloody battle. No fewer than four Austrian division commanders were hit! "How can that be?" you say when there were only three divisions present. The commander of the 2nd Division was killed early on as were two of his replacements!

In campaign terms, this was a decisive Allied victory and the Austrians gain 6 National Will Points for their efforts. More significantly though, the French army loses 36 National Will Points and the Wurttemberg contingent loses 9 of its own. The minor German states serving with the French army all have their own NWP totals which are substantially smaller than the French. They can be knocked out of the campaign if their NWP totals reach zero (i.e. they are removed from the order of battle). If this happens and the Allies capture the capital city of the same contingent, they change sides and are added to the Allied order of battle (but at a lower class rating). In this battle, the Wurttembergers lost almost half of their National Will Point total.

Ney and MacDonald are also out for an indeterminate amount of time. Napoleon is faced with the decision of replacing Ney with another Marshal. In the meantime one of the Emperor's ADCs, General de Division Mouton, who happened to be at Ney's headquarters, has taken temporary command of the army wing. On the Austrian side, Feldzeugmeister Gyulai, commander of IV ArmeeKorps is also out of the campaign for some time nursing his wounds. He's been replaced by one of his division commanders. Not quite the same as losing an army wing commander!

For complete campaign rules and battle summaries, see here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

1813 Campaign: rule addition

After our first campaign battle (see here), I noticed that I had made a fairly significant omission in the rules, pursuit! I have subsequently added the following rule:

4.10 Pursuit

At the end of the battle, count the number of non-routed, non-destroyed cavalry units remaining in each army. If the defeated army has more, there is no pursuit. If the victorious army has a 1.5:1 advantage, all divisions in the defeated army receive an extra "downgrade 1 unit" modifier. If a 2:1 advantage or more, all divisions in the defeated army receive an extra "downgrade 2 units" modifier.

As always, the full rules can be seen here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Carlist Wars: new units

I spent the weekend finishing up the basing on two new Isabellino units for my Carlist Wars collection. First up is the 2e Granaderos de la Guardia Real Provincial. I finished painting this unit last month and I was quite pleased with the way the red on the trousers turned out. I usually have problems with red but I've tried a new technique. Over the black priming I used the red from the Games Workshop foundation range with a sepia wash (of my own mix) and then a red highlight.

Second up is a unit of Isabellino marine infantry (with very cool standard). Unfortunately, when I applied the Dullcote, the highlights on the blue were somewhat suppressed. Note: All figures are from the excellent Perry Miniatures range with Adolfo Ramos flags supplied by North Star.

Two photos of the new units with the Gale Force Nine movement trays.

Up next is a unit of Madrid militia and some line cavalry. Also in the pipeline are two units of British Auxiliary Legion infantry and one of French Foreign Legion infantry from Blaze Away Miniatures (see here for photos of the unpainted castings).

Below are some photos of units that I finished earlier this year.

Cristino artillery.

Elite companies from line battalions.

Generic Cristino line infantry.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

1813 Campaign: rules discussion & additions

A couple of additions to our Napoleonic campaign rules (which can be seen in their entirety here):

In order to prevent armies from deploying on the edge of the baseline and immediately retreating off-table from a battle they never wanted to fight but were perhaps forced into, the following rules now apply.

4.9 Ending the Tactical Battle

An army may not voluntarily retreat off-table during the first two turns of the game. Starting on the third turn, when an Army Morale Check card is turned, a player may voluntarily make the roll and abide by the results as normal. If a player voluntarily rolls on the Army Morale Check card (i.e. his army is not yet at 0 AMPs), all participating divisions will be assessed an extra "downgrade 1 unit" modifier, in addition to any other modifiers from the loss/victory. This will apply even if the player fails the roll by less than 4 and only part of the army starts to retreat. In other words, exercising this option automatically adds the extra modifier, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the battle.

4.6 Deployment

The defending army has a deployment zone 24" in from the baseline and 18" (12" if on a table shorter than 12') from either flank line. The attacker has a deployment zone 18" in from the baseline and 18" from either flank line. A maximum of 50% of an army's units may be deployed within 1/3 of the deployment distance from the baseline. This does not affect an army's ability to deploy up to 25% of the army's divisions off-table along the baseline. The former is assessed by unit, the latter by division.

As well, a short discussion from a recent email exchange about how we use the defensive die type in Field of Battle for melee rather than the normal offensive die type:

I've tried to reconcile some issues I've been having with melee in FoB. I have no problem using the defensive die types for melee calculations and everyone seems to have accepted this modification over the last months fairly well. Another modification we've been using sees "down" modifiers past d4 assessed as "up" modifiers for the other side. I think this may be causing some misconceptions about possible melee outcomes (i.e. if too many "ups" are added to the opposite side, a d4 melee contestant will have little or no chance of winning). This is true but doesn't eliminate the possibility of winning against the odds except when one of the protagonists is seriously damaged or otherwise out-manoeuvered. This was always one of the charms of Piquet systems in that a battered militia unit still had a chance to best a fresh Old Guard unit in melee (however remote the chance). It didn't happen often but for the player with the d4 unit, it meant, at the very least, an outside chance of performing a miracle. Here are a couple of examples:

Example (1) A 10/4 Prussina Landwher battalion is charged by 12/10 Old Guard infantry. Both are in column and both are full-strength (i.e. no stand losses). The Landwher receive "up 1" for column , so d4 up to d6. The OG unit receives "up 1" for initiating melee and "up 1" for column, so d10 up to d12+1. Thus we have d12+1 Old Guard v. d6 Landwher. Not good odds but far from impossible.

Example (2) A 10/4 Prussina Landwher battalion is charged by 12/10 Old Guard infantry. Both are in column and the landwher unit has two stand losses and is disordered. Looks like a lost cause for the Landwher. The Landwher receive "up 1" for column but "down 2" for the stand losses and down 1 for disordered, so d4 doesn't change. The OG unit receives "up 1" for initiating melee and "up 1" for column, so d10 up to d12+1. They receive an additional "up 2" because of the Landwher's "downs" past the d4. Thus we have d12+3 Old Guard v. d4 Landwher. The latter cannot win. The best result would be a tie. I see no problem with this. A militia unit of questionable stability, seriously damaged and disordered, is charged by a fresh unit of some of the best troops in Europe.

Recently, we experimented with using the defensive die type only when cavalry is involved. Otherwise the offensive die type is used. I think this was a mistake. The modification was tried, I think, because of a misconception that using the defensive die types, coupled with the d4 "downs" turned into "ups" for the other side, would produce situations where there is no chance of winning. Isn't that the point? If the aggressor can get his opponent into a "negative" situation, all the more power to him!

Monday, August 17, 2009

1813 Campaign: Battle of Teinitz

In the ongoing saga of our current Napoelonic campaign, our first battle was fought this weekend. To see the preamble to the campaign and the rules, look here.

After four turns of movement, as players tried to consolidate their armies and scout the enemy, a battle took place on the southern front between the Army of Bohemia and Napoleon's Grande Armee (sud). From the beginning of Turn 1, Napoleon and Schwarzenberg had been banging into one another near Ratisbon (see map below). Schwarzenberg initially pushed I ArmeeKorps (minus the Advance Guard Division) across the Danube at Ratisbon in an attempt to quickly establish a bridgehead there. The small French garrison tried in vain to destroy the bridges leading to Ratisbon but the Austrian advance was too sudden. But when Schwarzenberg approached Ratisbon with I ArmeeKorps, he realized his objective might not be so easy to take. In the campaign, Ratisbon is a major walled city and because the Austrian force was crossing a river to attack the city, the French were able to take advantage of substantial earthworks for their defence. As the Austrian commander pondered his next move, Napoleon moved parts of the Imperial Guard corps and I Cavalry Corps into Ratisbon to reinforce the garrison. Seeing the futility of attacking such a formidable force, Schwarzenberg began moving I ArmeeKorps back across the river towards Teinitz. It was in this small town that Napoleon was able to catch up to the 2nd Division of I ArmeeKorps which had lagged behind the remainder of the Korps.

The Austrian commander was seriously outnumbered and out-classed in this first campaign battle. Unfortunately, the campaign rules force a tabletop army to remain on the tabletop for a minimum of two full Field of Battle turns. After that, the army may attempt to retreat off-board (not always an easy thing to the game or historically).

Army of Bohemia

CinC: Feld-Marschall Furst zu Schwarzenberg

I ArmeeKorps: General der Kavallerie Merveldt
  • I Korps/2nd Division (infantry)

Grande Armee (sud)

CinC: Emperor Napoleon

Imperial Guard: Napoleon
  • 1st Division (infantry)
  • 2nd Division (infantry) [scheduled to arrive as reinforcements]
  • 3rd Division (cavalry)
  • Artillery Reserve

I Corps de Cavalerie: General de Division Latour-Maubourg
  • 1st Division (dragoons)
  • 2nd Division (cuirassiers)
Although the expected result of the battle was agreed by all to be a foregone conclusion, it is precisely these small battles upon which the campaign can hinge. Repeated jabs at isolated enemy divisions can lead to an increasing loss of National Will Points. The most the Austrian commander could hope for here was a marginal loss.

As can be seen, there was not alot of tactical subtlety in this game. The French commander chose to move his cavalry forward to pin the Austrian infantry while the guns of the Artillery Reserve unlimbered within canister range.

Elements of the Imperial Guard cavalry division move forward to pin the Austrian infantry.

The guns of the Imperial Guard artillery have unlimbered and begin to pound the Austrian squares that were necessitated by the approaching French cavalry.

Napoleon's "beautiful daughters" unlimber in preparation for the storm they are about to unleash on the hapless Austrian squares.

The game proved to be rather short, which was not unexpected. Once the French artillery began to fire at close range on the Austrian squares, casualties quickly mounted and Schwarzenberg failed his first Army Morale Check miserably. But actually it was to his benefit. The Austrian army (such as it was) broke and ran before any more serious damage could be inflicted upon it. The Austrian division receives a "downgrade 1 unit" modifier in addition to permanently losing one infantry unit from its order of battle (destroyed during game play). All of the involved French divisions each receive an "upgrade 1 unit modifier." You can see the rules here for detailed explanations of these modifiers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blaze Away Miniatures

Two new things to report today! I received some sample 28mm Carlist Wars figures from Blaze Away Miniatures and I played a (partial) game of Cold War Commander last night.

First, the sample figures. I can't recall how I found Blaze Away Miniatures (from down under) but I was certainly glad when I did. They have a small collection of 28mm figures for the Carlist Wars, many of which fill gaps in the Perry Miniatures line. Of specific interest to me were the French Foreign Legion figures. A number of FFL battalions and cavalry squadrons fought with the Isabellinos (or Cristinos) and I thought they might make a colourful addition to my growing collection. So, I ordered a pack of six figures of the FFL and one of casualties (not sure why beyond my constant, but rarely realized, desire to use casualty figures in my games). The service from Blaze Away was quick and easy and they included a couple of extra figures (always a nice touch). My main concern was the compatibility with Perry figures but I was pleasantly mollified. The Blaze Away FFL are slightly more chunky than the Perrys but are easily compatible in height. The sculpting style reminds me more of a Front Rank in the exaggeration of details and clothing folds but certainly not in terms of sheer size and bulk. I don't mind the exaggerated details as this makes painting somewhat easier. While I love the Perry figures, sometimes the detail is so delicate that I have trouble seeing it, let alone painting it. I've included a photo below of the Blaze Away FFL and a Perry British Auxiliary Legion figure for comparison (you can also see a pic of the figure on the right that I've shamelessly downloaded from their site). Note: I've decided that my camera sucks or my photography skills are severely lacking...probably the latter!

Perry Miniatures BAL on the left and Blaze Away FFL on the right. Despite the horrible photo, you can see the compatible heights of the figures.

And the Blaze Away casualty figures!

Second, I stepped into a modern micro-armour game with my sons last night. The previous couple of nights, Michael had put together Cold War Commander games in order to use the recently-arrived rules. These are essentially the same system as Blitzkrieg Commander, amended for modern combat. For my semi-review of BC, look here. I won't bore anyone with another talk about the rules except to say that the only significant issue I have with CWC ( and BC) is the I-GO-U-GO turn sequence. The combat and movement mechanisms are simple and effective. Thankfully, Michael is working on a card system for CWC that may pseudo-Piquet-ize the game. I have some photos below of Michael's excellent vehicle/figure and terrain collection from last night's game.

Overview of the battlefield.

German infantry deployed in defense.

German tanks advancing along the main road.

The German commander.

Artillery deployed for action.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I've been able to get in a couple games of Field of Battle lately. Last week, Michael and I tried out a scenario based on the battle of Teugen-Hausen, during the 1809 campaign. Our first try through this scenario didn't produce a very entertaining game. The French were able to roll over the Austrian defenders before any reinforcements could arrive to help. The second time through we decided to speed up the reinforcement schedule. While this produced a slightly more challenging game for the French (me), the game was never really in doubt. The French in this battle are part of Davout's III Corps and as such are some of the best troops in the Grande Armee, except, of course, the Imperial Guard. The Austrians, while not bad troops, are hampered by poor command and control. I don't think we'll be playing that scenario again!

I'm still having camera problems and I was able to salvage only one pic from the last three games. Here we have some Berg line infantry deploying to attack the Austrian army in the game below. Figures from the collection of Andy Lunny, painted by Steve Thomson.

Yesterday at MIGS, I hosted a small Field of Battle for the Austrian player in our latest campaign. It wasn't a campaign-generated game. Instead, I just wanted to give Alex a chance to play with the sort of force he would have in the campaign. Specifically, his army will be (and was yesterday) made up of a broad mix of troop qualities: everything from raw line troops to the crack grenadiers of the ReserveKorps. The scenario was a basic attack-defend type with the French moving against a prepared Austrian defense. I should point out as well that the French army had no French troops in it; instead, there were three German divisions and a German light cavalry division. Well, the commanders were French at least!

French Army

1st (Berg) Division
2nd (Hesse-Darmstadt) Division
3rd (Bavarian) Division
Cavalry Division

Austrian Army

Advance Guard Division
1st Division
2nd Division
Grenadier Division
Cavalry Brigade

The Austrians deploy to cover the large ridge on the left flank, with the Advance Guard in the small village and the grenadiers in central reserve.

The French begin their advance with the Berg and Hess-Darmstadt contingents aiming at the main ridge. The French left flank is refused to hold the Austrian cavalry in place. The Bavarians are meant to occupy the attentions of the Austrian troops in the village.

The Berg and Hess-Darmstadt artillery unlimber at the base of the ridge and begin to bombard the Austrian infantry there. The intention was to assault the ridge after a preliminary bombardment and turn the Austrian left flank. The Austrian commander saw the threat to his flank and began to move the grenadiers to the left flank. On the French side, the Hesse-Darmstadt commander saw an opportunity to move against (and possibly capture) the small central village, contrary to the original intent of the French general's plan.

After a short bombardment of the main ridge, the Berg division sallies forth and pushes the Austrian defenders aside. The Hesse-Darmstadt division ousts the Austrian Advance Guard out of the village only to see the Austrian grenadiers on the far side. Fortunately for the French commander, the grenadier division commander was mortally wounded just as he was about to push his men into the fray and stem the French advance. This news, of course, was not happily received by the Austrian CinC.

The Berg infantry begins to turn the Austrian flank and Austrian casualties have reached a critical mass. The Austrian CinC decides that the best option is to quit the field and concede defeat. Even if the grenadier division hadn't lost its commander, the successful French attack on the Austrian left flank would still have probably turned the flank. As well, the Austrian grenadiers would probably have turned a decisive French victory into a minimal victory. Fortunately for the French (me), the Austrian commander was saddled with poor and abysmal commanders and the worst possible Field of Battle card deck.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lord of the Rings

I was able to finish only 12 28mm Carlist Wars figures in July, giving me a mere 12 Painting Points. At least they're guard! I'll have pictures (hopefully) sometime this week.

Meanwhile, I was able to get some more gaming in on the weekend at MIGS. When I arrived on Sunday, Steve Thomson had his impressive Lord of the Rings collection on the table and I talked him into running a game for me. While not my regular cup of tea, Lord of the Rings has always held a fascination for me (as I'm sure it does for others as well). When Games Workshop brought out the range (how many years ago?), my sons were much younger and we started a collection, which, if memory serves, was rather large and varied. We played many games with the original skirmish-style rules but as the boys got older and my interests went elsewhere, this project was shelved. Steve has taken his collection and re-based them for Games Workshop's War of the Ring. These rules have the familiar feel and mechanics of the original, expanded and improved to handle large formations and armies. I must admit that while these are fairly standard I-GO-U-GO rules (not normally my cup o' tea), they are fun! Besides, I can't give a serious critique of rules that are designed for fantasy gaming. There would seem to be a basic inconsistency there! We played two games on Sunday, Rohan v. Uruk-Hai and Rohan v. Elves. Both were quite enjoyable even though I was on the losing end of both. Using trolls, however, was enough to make the losses palatable. I took a few pics with my crackberry, below (apologies for the quality).

Two trolls taking on Riders of Rohan. The trolls made mincemeat of these horsemen but were eventually overcome by numbers.

An Uruk-Hai pike block trundling forward to support the one remaining troll. These pike blocks are impressive and can take a lot of abuse!

Elf archers supported by swordsmen. These guys are nasty! They hit hard and they move through restrictive terrain as if it weren't there.