Monday, November 30, 2009

Gaming at Royal Military College

I had the pleasure to host a War of 1812 game at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario this past weekend. Actually, I should say "attempt to host" but more of that in a moment. My sons, Michael and Daniel, both students at RMC, had asked me up to the campus to put on a game with my 28mm War of 1812 collection for them and some of their fellow students. I dutifully trooped along the 401 to Kingston on Saturday and was treated to dinner and drinks with "the boys." Unfortunately, for them, their attempt to out-drink the old man fell by the wayside. In fact, I seem to remember keeping up with the shots (even the evil-tasting Sambucca) and continuing to trounce them at whatever game came to hand (darts, pool, air hockey).

A future leader of the Canadian military trying valiantly to hit the dart board (unsuccessfully, I might add).

But I digress.... After breakfast on Sunday, we repaired to the cadet's mess and set up my game. You can see some photos below that I took with my Crackberry (since I left my camera in Daniel's room...duh).

The game was based (very, very) loosely on the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814. You can see an earlier blog of one of my re-fights of this battle here. The good news is that the table looked good, the company was eager and friendly. The bad news? After an hour of setup and game/rule explanation and a half hour into the first turn, a birthday party group showed up that had booked the entire cadet's mess. This apparently had not been posted or advertised. The cadets regularly use the space for gaming and none had any prior indication of the booking. So, we had to pack the entire game up.

Not a total loss though. We decided that rather than transporting and setting up the game in a new location, we would go to the gaming club room and play a quick game with Daniel's Wild West collection. This would be easier and quicker to setup and would provide a faster game (given that it was now mid-afternoon). I took some quick pictures of the game, again with the Crackberry. All of the buildings and terrain pieces have been scratch-built by Daniel and me and the figures (brilliantly) painted by Daniel. We used the Warhammer western gunfight rules which give a quick entertaining game. The mechanics are the same as for the GW's Lord of the Rings rule set with, of course, period flavour and weapons.

Our attempt at Deadwood. This will grow a fair bit in the near future. Daniel is currently working on an enormous hotel & saloon. We also have some Indian tipis that will look great on the opposite end of the table (it's Hollywood, after all, and historical accuracy is not a priority). Perhaps a train station, a bank, a sheriff's office......

A closer look at the main street. The roof of the barn in the foreground looks great but was a real pain to put together (this building was a joint project between Daniel and me). All the tiles are individually laid and painted!

An admittedly poor photo of some of Daniel's exquisitely painted figures. In some cases, he's painted mounted and dismounted versions of the same figure. Very cool!

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Year's Day '09 Mega-Game

After a spirited discussion following our 1813 campaign battle yesterday, it's been decided that we're going to try a New Year's Day Napoleonic mega-game! We've been talking on and off for some time about trying a massive game with all of our 28mm Napoleonic collections together. The New Year's Day mega-game will be based very (and I mean very, very loosely) on the Battle of Leipzig. In fact, the only things that the two may have in common is a horse-shoe type battlefield and the gathering of all available forces in one place. Everything is preliminary at this point but I've thrown together a quick and dirty order of battle and table set-up to give some impression of what's going to happen. I'll update our progress on this project.

The tables in the diagram are 6' x 4' giving us 28-32' x 14' on the outside of the horse-shoe. The Allies will deploy around the outside and the French on the inside. The reserve tables will have labelled zones that correspond with tables in the main set-up. This will allow reserves to move off-table (rules to be determined) and onto the main table with little fuss. The terrain in the diagram is not as it will be on the day. This is just a basic representation to give an idea of what it may look like. The two main rivers, will, however, be in the final set-up. These will divide the Allied attack into three sectors. On the left will be the Prussian sector, the Russians in the center, and the Austrians in the left flank sector.

Orders of Battle (preliminary)

Most infantry brigades are 4-6 units strong and probably average out at about 60-70 figures each (the exception would be Prussian brigades which are closer to French divisional strength). The cavalry brigades average about 16-24 figures each.


Russian Imperial Guard

1st Division

1st Brigade (guard infantry)
2nd Brigade (grenadiers)

2nd Division

1st Brigade (guard cavalry)

1st (Russian) Corps

1st Division

1st Brigade (infantry)
2nd Brigade (infantry)
3rd Brigade (infantry)

2nd Division

1st Brigade (infantry)
2nd Brigade (infantry)
3rd Brigade (infantry)

Attached Division

1st Brigade (militia infantry)

2nd (Russian Cavalry) Corps

1st Division
1st Brigade (light cavalry)
2nd Brigade (light cavalry)

2nd Division
1st Brigade (dragoons)
2nd Brigade (dragoons)

3rd (Austrian) ArmeeKorps

Advance Guard Division
1st Brigade (infantry/cavalry)
2nd Brigade (infantry/cavalry)

1st Division
1st Brigade (infantry)
2nd Brigade (infantry)

2nd Division
1st Brigade (infantry)
2nd Brigade (infantry)

4th (Austrian Reserve) Korps

1st Division
1st Brigade (grenadiers)

2nd Division
1st Brigade (heavy cavalry)
2nd Brigade (heavy cavalry)

5th (Prussian) Corps

1st Brigade (infantry/cavalry)

2nd Brigade (infantry/cavalry)

3rd Brigade (cavalry)


Garde Imperiale

1er Division
1er Brigade (old guard infantry)
2e Brigade (old guard infantry)
3e Brigade (young guard infantry)

2e Division
1er Brigade (guard cavalry)

Artillerie de la Reserve

1er Corps d’Armee

1er Division
1er Brigade (infantry)
2e Brigade (infantry)

2e Division
1er Brigade (infantry)
2e Brigade (infantry)

3e Division
1er Brigade (light cavalry)
2e Brigade (light cavalry)

2e Corps d’Armee

1er Division
1er Brigade (Berg infantry)
2e Brigade (Berg infantry)

2e Division
1er Brigade (Hesse-Darmstadt infantry)
2e Brigade (Hesse-Darmstadt infantry)

3e Division
1er Brigade (Berg cavalry)
2e Brigade (Hesse-Darmstadt cavalry)

3e Corps d’Armee

1er Division
1er Brigade (Wurttemberg infantry)
2e Brigade (Bavarian infantry)

2e Division
1er Brigade (Saxon infantry)
2e Brigade (Baden infantry)

Brigade de Cavalerie (Saxon cavalry)

4e Corps de Cavalerie

1er Division
1er Brigade (dragoons)
2e Brigade (dragoons)

2e Division
1er Brigade (cuirassiers)
2e Brigade (cuirassiers)

1813 Campaign: Battle for Prague

We played the latest battle in our ongoing 1813 campaign yesterday at the club. This was a follow-up battle to the one last turn at Pilsen where Napoleon served up a sound thrashing to Schwarzenberg and his army of Bohemia. Schwarzenberg had fallen back on his Base of Operations at Prague after the fight at Pilsen, whereupon Napoleon quickly followed up. At Prague, Schwarzenberg did not have the benefit of a large garrison or extensive earthworks (though small amounts of both were available for this battle) as he had enjoyed at Pilsen. His army was also suffering under some serious negative modifiers that downgraded the quality of a number of units. Here you can see on the campaign map where the Battle of Prague took place (bottom right of the map):

I have no photos of the game this time so maps and narrative will have to do. First up, the orders of battle.

Army of Bohemia
CinC: FML Prince Schwarzenberg

I ReserveKorps (GdK Hessen-Homburg)
  • 1st Division (grenadiers)
  • 2nd Division (cuirassiers)
I ArmeeKorps (GdK Merveldt)
  • Light Division (infantry/cavalry)
  • 1st Division (infantry)
  • 2nd Division (infantry)
IV (Russian) Cavalry Corps (GL Vasilchikov)
  • 1st Division (light cavalry)
  • 2nd Division (light cavalry)

Grande Armee (sud)

CinC: Emperor Napoleon

Garde Imperiale (Napoleon)
  • 1er Division (infantry)
  • 2e Division (infantry)
  • 3e Division (cavalry)
  • Artillerie de la Reserve
3e Corps d'Armee (GD Bertrand)
  • 8e Division (infantry)
  • 11e Division (infantry)
1er Corps de Cavalerie (Marechal Murat)
  • 1er Division (dragoons)
  • 2e Division (cuirassiers)

So, on with the Battle of Prague.

Initial Deployments and First Phase

Schwarzenberg chose to deploy the majority of his infantry along the bank of the swampy river on his right flank. These divisions were fronted by earthworks (although these are not represented on the maps). His reserve grenadiers were deployed in the central woods. This was a solid deployment that restricted the frontage of any French attack and protected the vulnerable infantry divisions (which had taken some serious damage in the last battle). Interestingly, all of the Allied cavalry was deployed off-table on the left flank. This was not necessarily a flawed deployment choice but these three divisions, a potent strike force, were destined to sit the entire battle without moving on-table (more of that anon).

Napoleon ignored the possibility of moving through the nasty terrain on the Allied right flank and concentrated his effort in the center (as Schwarzenberg had anticipated and for which he ahd prepared). The Emperor hoped to bring as many guns forward to bear on the earthworks and blast a hole in preparation for a massive cavalry and infantry assault. Thus, the infantry and cavalry of the line corps were deployed centrally, using the swamp to safeguard their left flank. The entire Imperial Guard was placed on the right flank, prepared to swing around and contact the left flank of the Allied line (the location of the Allied cavalry was unknown to Napoleon at this fact for the entire battle...but more of this anon).

Second Phase

The French attack moved forward and the Imperial Guard artillery unlimbered within range of the Allied infantry hiding behind their earthworks on the far side of the stream. The artillery commander (with Napoleon's blessing) took a great chance by unlimbering his guns so close to the Austrian grenadiers hiding in the woods but it was thought that the accompanying guard infantry and cavalry could foil any attempts to disrupt the gun-line. Unfortunately, the grenadiers darted out from their concealment (as only Austrian troops can dart) and forced two of the three guard batteries to abandon their pieces. before themselves being chased off by the presence of the old guard infantry. Unfortunately, the guns had been silenced for the remainder of the battle. The gamble had not paid off for Napoleon. And now, the sun was beginning to set. The Emperor had little time left to crush Schwarzenberg's army once and for all.

Final Phase

The Allied position now seemed relatively secure but General de Division Walther, commander of the guard cavalry division, had witnessed impotently the silencing of his artillery brethren and decided to hasten the issue. He trotted before the ranks of his Imperial Guard troopers, waving his sword in the air and launched them toward the enemy earthworks. This charge of Europe's finest cavalry was awe-inspiring, crashing violently into the redoubts and quickly punching a hole in the enemy line. Caught up in the excitement, Marechal Murat, commanding the cavalry reserve, was not to be outdone and led his cuirassiers in support. Murat's troopers poured through the breach caused by the guard cavalry and began to turn inwards on the hapless Austrian infantry.

But the sun had set and darkness descended quickly on the field. Napoleon was not able to take advantage of his success; darkness and the lurking Allied cavalry prevented any adequate pursuit. The Allied cavalry was fresh; in fact, it hadn't moved an inch the entire battle. If Schwarzenberg had chosen to move his three divisions of cavalry on-table, they would have been perfectly placed to threaten the French right flank. Undoubtedly, Napoleon would have needed to redeploy his guard cavalry and at least some of the guard infantry to counter this threat. The power of the guard cavalry would then have been directed away from the more-vulnerable infantry divisions.

Schwarzenberg has lived to fight another day, despite the battering his army has undergone in the last two battles. He has now lost his Base of Operations but can still draw supply from his Temporary Supply Depot at Chemnitz.

On to Turn 10.....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

54mm AWI at Fall In!

I've acquired some pics of the 54mm AWI game at Fall In! hosted by Bob and Matt Lehman of Ohio. Bob and Matt are great friends and good customers of Ken's ATKM figure lines. Bob is a painting and terrain-making machine, as can be seen in the photos below. His collection for this game contained 16 units per side, 11 of which on each side were formed infantry in 14-figure units (12 muskets + 2 command). That alone is over 300 painted 54mm figures! Add to that various artillery, skirmish, and cavalry units and you get a true extravaganza. The amazing thing is that Bob is already planning another, bigger game for Cold Wars 2010! Bob deservedly won a Best of Show award from HMGS-East for his efforts and the pictures below show why.

A view along the main British and American lines. The table was L-shaped and the Americans had a small force trying to turn the British flank (this can be seen in the top-right of this photo). The massive hill in the background is one solid terrain piece.

Continental Line facing the advance of British light dragoons.

American light dragoons preparing to cross the river. This unit would launch a furious charge in the first turn against a Hessian artillery battery. The guns were wiped out without firing a shot but the dragoons would be quickly shown the door as well.

The glorious dead! Oh, and this is where we put the lost figures as well....

The award winner front and center! L to R: Ken Cliffe (of ATKM), Bob Lehman (the master megalomaniac), Matt Lehman (sports fan extraordinaire).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day '09

My darling daughter Diana and I attended the Remembrance Day ceremonies today in Brampton. I love the innocent and simple questions a ten-year-old can ask: "Daddy, are those swords sharp?" or "Who are the men dressed like cowboys?" [Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their scarlet tunics and broad-brimmed hats] Even questions that coming from an adult could be considered more "loaded" seem (and are) completely innocent and devoid of any hidden agenda:"Why don't the speakers talk about all the Jewish people the Nazis killed in the war?" Now to put that last question into context, she's currently reading The Diary of Anne Frank so it was, I'm sure, a totally logical connection for her.

The ceremonies were blessed by a large turnout and gorgeous weather, the sun shining down on a reverent crowd and highlighting the cenotaph. All the regulars were there (local reserve regiment, veterans, army cadets, police, fire department, etc.) and all the normal things were spoken at the podium. One of the highlights for me was the playing and singing of God Save the Queen near the end of the ceremony. I am an unabashed royalist (regardless of whether I can explain or justify it) and this is one of the things that I believe clearly distinguishes us from our good friends south of the border. Music at this type of gathering can have an enormous effect on people: the lone trumpet playing Last Post, notes ringing off of the surrounding buildings, and the mournful strains of the pipes reaching through the crisp autumn air.

I am always enormously grateful for all that our men and women in uniform have done and continue to do for us, allowing us to live our daily lives in relative peace and security. A tip of my hat to you all...

They shall grow not old

As we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them,

Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun

And in the morning,

We will remember them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall In! AAR

I've been home for a day or so since Fall In! '09 and I've had some time to reflect on the show. TMP has been full of discussions about the show. Check here, here, here, and here (these are just a sampling).

There have been some passionate discussions about the show but I'm not about to comment on the politics etc of HMGS-East, mainly because I frankly don't give a damn, Scarlett.

My perspective is one of a punter anyway. Conventions come and go, gamers come and go, but the hobby never changes substantially (at least not in my 30+ years as a gamer). Manufacturers grow and decline, conventions disappear and re-invent themselves, friends fall by the wayside and I find new ones, and the vocal minority doesn't go away (nor should it). I think what I'm trying to say is that I've seen few substantial changes in the essential makeup of the hobby in 30 years. When I read hobby articles and commentaries from 20 years ago, they are almost indistinguishable from those of today, in the context of intent and tone: the greying of the hobby (yeah, whatever); convention and club management incompetence (a favourite target of those willing to offer criticism but no solutions); and manufacturer gouging (when a manufacturer is small, there is support for the little guy trying to get ahead but when real money is made and proper business and marketing techniques are employed, they're really just trying to screw us).

Is it really that tough to enjoy playing with toy soldiers? Maybe we should all join the French Foreign Legion:

As for Fall In!, I found it a tad under-attended and a little chaotic (the latter is normal for any large show). The games, what I saw of them, were somewhat uninspiring overall. That's not to say there weren't some fine looking set-ups but I think the overall quality has been dropping in recent years. Despite that, I was happy to be present when Bob & Matt Lehman from Ohio won a HMGS award for game presentation for their 54mm AWI game on Saturday night. I'll post some pictures when I can get them from Ken.

As for shopping, this was the first time I believe I have walked away from a convention with no figure purchases (whether Wings of War models counts for this is up for debate). This was partly due to my shopping list having only Carlist Wars figures on it and the fact that there were no Carlist Wars figures to be had. Everything else on my list was a bust as well. In fact, of all the items on my list and the things I was asked to pick up by others, only one was found and purchased. I'm not sure if that is a reflection of the narrowing of my (and others') wants or the paucity of choice in the dealer hall.

Generally, I was happy with my Fall In! experience this year. But that was due as much (if not more) to the friends I met up with than with the convention itself. Bluntly, I wouldn't make the nine hour drive if it weren't for the great times I have with friends there. The convention alone doesn't have the same draw for me.

Just another punter's viewpoint...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fall In! '09....second day

Ken and I have survived a second day of Fall In! Rumours abound of the kerfuffle that is HMGS-East Board of Directors and Historicon 2010. Apparently the world is about to end and Historicon in Baltimore is the cause. Keep your eyes open for the sky a-fallin' and a possible gaming sojourn in King of Prussia (that would be the place, not the person).

Some more photos from the dealer hall at Fall In! '09:

28mm Carlist Wars demo game using Perry Miniatures.

And again...

My coffee barrista with the morning delivery!

The traveling ATKM World Headquarters and Review!

More Perry Carlists.

British Auxiliary Legions rifles from the Carlists demo game.

Carlist infantry....

Off to enjoy some good-hearted camaraderie, beer, and cigars....not necessarily in that order!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall In! 09

Ken and I have survived the first day of Fall In! '09 and we've made it back to the room to put up the dogs and relax for a few minutes before going off for dinner. I've posted a few photos of the demo games we ran during the day in the dealer hall. We hosted two demo games using Ken's most excellent rules and his way cool 54mm AWI collection. So, in the interests of my own time to relax and drink beer, on to the photos....

The demo table in all its glory!

American artillery waiting for the British advance.

The British army has begun to deploy after crossing the river.

A good view along the British line.

French infantry waiting for its first blooding. These are brand new to the ATKM line.

American skirmishers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Off to Fall In!

Well, I'm off to Fall In! tomorrow. This will be the last year for Fall In! in Gettysburg, which in itself is a good enough reason to attend. This year I'll be travelling with and enjoying the company of my good friends of the Harkness family, Alex, Vicky, and AJ. Alex and I are regular gaming partners and his son AJ, when available, joins the group as well. Beyond our mutual love of the hobby, Alex and I share something else hobby-related. We have adult sons who enjoy pushing around toy soldiers with us. As the young 'uns bitch and complain around the table, Alex and I can reminisce about when they were small and still impressionable. Ah, the good old days when my kids actually listened to me (who am I kidding?).

If you're at Fall In!, come visit the All The King's Men Toy Soldiers booth. I'll be there with Ken flogging the new War of 1812 line and running demo games all weekend. On Saturday evening, we'll be playing a large ATKM game with Bob & Matt Lehman, devoted customers and good friends from Ohio (we never hold that against them!). Seeing these games is believing! A table sixteen feet long crammed with Bob's and Ken's magnificent terrain and line after line of painted 54mm AWI figures. It's a sight to behold! Ken and I will also be enjoying some well-earned cigars and drinks at the end of each day of the convention so if you can find us, feel free to come on over and join in the tall tales and camaraderie.

Oh, and don't ever confuse Ken's website with this one: Of course, if you'd like Ken to make some figures to match those on this website, well....let's just say it would take some serious convincing!

My shopping list is rather small this time in comparison to past shows. I have few figures on the list (hardly surprising given the enormous lead weight sagging the floor of my painting room). In fact the list of things to pick up for friends and family is much longer than my own. It's always fun shopping with other people's money!

My Fall In! Shopping List

1) 28mm Carlist Wars figures from Age of Glory: AoG was trying to get rid of these at Historicon with a 30% discount. I'm hoping the discount is still in effect. I'd like to add some Carlists to my collection to counter the growing government army (and I may get some for Vidal as well).

2) GMB Flags: I'll be looking for flags for my French Imperial Guard cavalry units. I've started painting these Front Rank figures and should have the first unit up on the blog soon (Grenadiers a Cheval). GMB make some of the best flags around and although a little pricey they are excellent value for the money and by golly, my guard deserves it!

3) Front Rank: I'm looking to add some eagles and lance tips/pennants to my guard cavalry as well. FR make small add-on eagles etc that add that final touch to a unit.

4) Carlist Wars books: I'd like to pick up, in particular, Edward Brett's The British Auxiliary Legion in the First Carlist War in Spain, 1835-8. This looks to be an entertaining read. It's actually surprising how large the bibliography is for the Carlist Wars. I've been compiling a list of works and despite the obvious abundance of Spanish sources, there are quite a few in English. Most of these are memoirs (or works based on them) of British officers and men who served in the Auxiliary Legion. Maybe I'll post the list in a future blog.

That's about it for my list but there are always other things that catch the eye. I've been contemplating for a while picking up some Wings of War models and a starter set. The models are beautiful and the rules are easy and fun. And then there are the Eureka Revolutionary Wars figures in 28mm, and.....

I'll try and post at least one blog from the convention so keep your eyes open for photos of drunken gamers with wisps of cigar smoke swirling about their contented faces!