Tuesday, 30 June 2020

18th Century mini-campaign - Raid on Vestisle - Part 4 Evening and overnight deployment

Many apologies for the extreme delay in presenting this fourth part of the series, blame lockdown distractions if you wish! (more on that in due course). This time I will describe the aftermath of The Battle for Bellune Hill and how we managed the arrival of the reserves and the deployment for the next day's battle.
For those who need a reminder here is a link to Part 3 - Battle of Bellune Hill and from that you can get back to Parts 1 and 2.
I'm sorry that this part will not have many pretty soldier pictures but it should interest those who want some insight into taking a mini-campaign from one big battle to another overnight.

Very quick recap: August 1756 - A British corps-sized force under the Duke of Marlborough has invaded the French island of Vestisle with the aim of disrupting a large gathering of Jacobites who are training, under French auspices, to try another attempt under "Bonnie" Prince Charlie on the English throne. A big battle has taken place across the middle of Vestisle island from around 1200 midday to 1420 in which an outnumbered French and Jacobite army has just about held off Marlborough's corps but had to give up vital ground. Both sides suffered fairly horrible localised casualties and, according to my campaign rules, needed to pull back at least one map square (500 metres) apart to recover.

Gratuitous view of the southern part of Abrantes City with French troops by Guy Barlow just for eye candy
Now I will have to ask your indulgence (bearing in mind this weekend was last Summer) in my describing what follows, as I'm having to condense about 8 real waking hours of campaign admin and socialising and about 5 hours sleep into a coherent whole. Also the description covers campaign time from about 3pm on Saturday 10th August to 0600 on Sunday 11th August.

I had written some post battle attrition rules especially and we now had to put them into practice. Here they are in case anyone wishes to adapt them for yourselves:

Post Battle Attrition (PBA)
The right hand column of the Orbat is to be used to keep track of the status of any unit that has suffered casualties (Hits). During a game this will be done by hit counters as normal and this column only needs updating after an action. Hits represent losses, disorder, desertion and general lowered morale or ammunition state etc, so can be recovered after an action.

For any unit that is in a reasonable state to recover (one or more complete map squares from enemy) Roll a D Average and deduct score from the end-of-battle Hits. Certain senior officers (see Orbat) can add 1 to this score). Units “done for” deduct 2 from D Average.

The result is their PBA:
Any 0 or Minus result will mean the unit enters the next battle completely fresh. 
Score of 1 to 3 - unit enters next battle with those Hit Points
But any score resulting in 4 or more the player has a choice:
Either: 1. Lose a base, reduce by one unit size, and enter next game with 3 Hit Points
2.  Stay the same size and enter next game unable to fight until rallied to 3 by normal HoW recovery system.

Outstandingly Good or Bad battle conduct
Any unit that performed particularly well in a battle, yet survives to 1 HP or less, may raise its status by one level (eg. Standard to Superior)
or if it did particularly badly and results in 4 HP or more then it lowers its status by one level (eg Standard to Inferior).
Performance is judged by umpire and two opposing players.  If they cannot agree then each rolls a D6 and the three are totalled. 
Score Total 3-7 = British view prevails
Score Total 8-13 = Umpires view prevails
Score Total 14-18 = French view prevails

Decide this before rolling for their success or otherwise in PBA score


So we had some fun in discussion about the conduct of certain units and generals in the Battle of Bellune Hill. Good naturedly there was a consensus but the only bits I remember were:
- The Cameron clan battalion was promoted to Superior due to facing and repulsing three Hanoverian battalions single handedly!
- General Trump was demoted to a Dithering commander due to his succession of failed initiative tests (what's in a name eh?)
- Lt General Barbier was upgraded to Dashing for his bravery and persistence in salvaging the French cavalry situation and conducting the entire left flank battle as a successful withdrawal action.
- I think the British 11th Dragoons were upgraded to Superior as they saw off the Apchon Dragoons and then pressed on to lead the repelling of Lauzun's Hussar brigade.

At that point I had each commander in succession up to my magnetic map board to agree on pull back positions and then, accompanied by some refreshment, they all agreed to assess the post battle attrition of all their units which had suffered hits.

Each set of players briefed me privately on how they saw the approximate state of the Army as a result. In fact neither viewed the total losses as disastrous; some units had been lost completely but with the addition of generals many recovered completely. A few units were left with Minus 1 or 2 hits to start the next battle and in a few instances that proved critical. To be honest my PBA rules as written are too lenient if you want more decisive results but they were fit for our purpose. In between the players all pulled together and cleared the table of troops and stored them on trays in their brigades, or packed the destroyed units for home.

In return for the briefing I gave each commander the results of the arrival times and positions of their reinforcements. This was not entirely down to me but was prints of photos of the map which I had done previously in response to Graham and Dillon's written instructions. We had kept the fog of war realistic during the weeks of emailing prior to our August get together. As I said in an earlier post, around 1100 game time I had got Ken and Guy to issue written sitreps/advice/instructions to their reinforcement commanders who were on the high seas just a few hours sailing off Vestisle. I arranged this so there was just time to get to the coast, send off the letters by cutter to the respective fleets and for the leaders to consider and issue orders. In reality those orders and intended timings were emailed back to me and I applied the rules for "Shore landings" to work out where the units might be at "end of play" around 7-8pm campaign time.

As a reminder here are links to PDF files of the two Orders of Battle for the campaign:
French/Jacobite Orbat
British/Allied Orbat

Space and time does not permit me to include the very detailed correspondence between the generals of each side at this time, but I must pay tribute to the four protagonists who entered fully into the spirit of the 18th Century in their period style language and courtesy to one another. Ken and Guy received their letters around 3pm campaign time (but with pre-dinner drinks in actuality!) which enabled them to consider the contents and discuss them privately with Dillon and the two Grahams. Hopefully the following two photos will give you what you need to know for the moment. I used Photoshop to blur out the enemy and own units beyond local knowledge to keep real intelligence information suitably vague.

Dillon had a powerful force of mostly German allies and mercenaries:
- Hessian Fusilier brigade, each of its 5 battalions equipped with battalion guns
- mercenary German infantry brigade of 5 battalions (of Ken's Imagi-nation Prussian types)
- brigade of mixed Grenadiers - 4 battalions
- British Dragoon Guard brigade (2 regiments)
- German Dragoon brigade (2 regiments)
- plus artillery

British: Dillon as the Marquis of Granby (still in favour in 1756!) landed everything at Beach 4 and
ordered his light troops up the road North from Cassatte as a flanking movement,
while his infantry and cavalry formed a reserve block beyond the beach where they could be called up
quickly to the front line. (Front line positions shown are c1100 hours prior to the Battle of Bellune)

Graham C was taking the role of the French supreme commander, General Le Duc de Richelieu, so had taken Guy's letter as advisory and issued his reply as orders.  He too had a strong force, some of the cream of the French army, which had originally been intended to impress the Jacobite Scots and test them in a mock battle exercise which was scheduled for Sunday 11th August. That, of course, was now cancelled as the British/Hanoverian invasion had turned everything real.
French reinforcements:
- sailors and marines each in battalion strength
- Guard/Elite infantry brigade of 5 battalions
- 2 Line infantry brigades totalling 7 battalions
- Guard/Royal/Elite cavalry brigade of 5 regiments
- brigade of a Dragoon and a Cuirassier regiment
- plus artillery

French: Richelieu had to consider, sight unseen, how the river bridges might affect his ability to reinforce whatever situation General de Muy had presented him with on arrival. So he had been cautious by only landing a small infantry brigade, plus marines, on Beach 1 and eventually decided to send them West as a reinforcement towards Abrantes. The bulk of his army landed in successive waves at Abrantes harbour and its adjacent beach. From there they would fan out to extend the French line towards the Chateau du Roi and bulk it up considerably through the city and south beyond its walls.
Armed with all the information they were going to get I asked the players to give me a rough outline of their hoped for deployment and intentions for battle due to take place the next day. They had the option of moving any map unit one square in the night but still leaving a sensible gap to allow for enemy piquets. With a rough idea of where battle would be expected I worked quickly with photocopies, pencil and ruler and finally on the iMac with Photoshop to produce the definition of the tabletops we required, shown in this photo.

For this one I needed to reverse the tables West to East as we could see that the Jacobite camp and Bellune Hill could provide a self contained smaller game that might then need to impact on the main event. The 12 x 6 table would contain much of Abrantes City and surrounding countryside to the South. Sadly I could not include the Harbour too. At the NE corner of Abrantes City is the stone bastion battery guarding the harbour.
I presented the players with their copies of the new map for consideration while we all went off to "The Butchers Arms" for a date with our pre-booked evening meal.
https://butchersarmsoakridge.co.uk/gallery/ (It's re-opening on 4th July - hooray!)
Much refreshed by Graham C's tales of running Crann Tara Miniatures and the other chaps' many wargaming adventures (and they paid for my meal - thanks Guys) we staggered the short distance back and there was still "work" to do.

I think it was somewhere around this point that my dear wife produced her delicious and legendary apple and blackberry crumble (with custard requested by Dillon!), Ken opened his vintage whisky, and Graham C the first of his several very fine bottles of Malbec. Did I say work?

Below is roughly what they were were working on. This is a photograph of my master map with magnetic unit markers showing the units surviving the Battle of Bellune Hill plus the new arrivals around 0600. Most markers are brigade size but some are individual units and the tiniest ones are the main leaders

The red marker in Abrantes City was not revealed to the French but it relates back to Part Two of this series and the British sailors who had infiltrated the City during the night - more on that in the next instalment.

I left the contenders in two huddles to plan the detail of their deployments as they wished, and were physically capable of, for their forces at 0600 on the 11th August. Meanwhile I grabbed the biggest glass of red that I could carry and headed downstairs to reconfigure the terrain for The Battle of Abrantes. This proved a longer job than I expected to ensure I got everything as close to the map as possible out of respect to the detailed work my mates were putting into their parts, and by about 1 am I was knackered and they had all gone off to bed. I couldn't face making up the small table that night so I got some sleep too and was up at 7 am to get some breakfast and get on with it.

I said it before and will say it again but I must pay tribute to this bunch of wargamers as they (mostly) allowed me to herd them like sheep, not cats. They performed all the tasks peculiar to their roles and helped me out with much general admin as we went along. As far as I was aware it all went off in good spirits and they were (mostly - you know who you are......) fit and alert for a new battle the next morning.

A lovely bunch of mates having deployed their troops and looking eager for a new day and another big game
The small table in the living room space showing the entrance corner of the Jacobite camp and the loyal Scots facing it from Bellune Hill.

Much more next time on crafty subterfuge,  the "fate" of a nonchalant Prince Charlie, and loads of pictures of our all day game. Don't miss it - I will try not to!

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

The Archduke and Duchess of Beerstein: an Imagi-Nations wargamer portrait

Some of you who see me on wargaming Forums might be familiar with me often peddling my painting wares (sometimes as Sir Joshua Gregg RA, noted 18th century socialite and court painter to the rich and famous!).  I hope it doesn't bore you but it does pay off and, over the years, I've been very lucky to be able to visit, virtually and sometimes physically, the wargames tables of some noble 18th Century wargaming aristocrats (you know who you are!!) and put their imaginations, with and without a hyphen, onto canvas or paper.

The latest commission is a wonderful privilege to do a portrait of notable blogger/wargamer, retired US Navy Captain, William Walker of Florida and his good lady, Lynda.  "Captain Bill" is famed for his fabulous digital insignias, cartouches, coats of arms etc, in particular for imaginary wargaming flags as often featured in his blog The Reich Duchy of Beerstein

Bill has been a patron of mine for Hussarettes for a few years and this time we started discussing a battle scene but he wanted himself in it and some of his favourite model soldier regiments. It soon became evident he did not have the wall space for the big scale atmospheric mayhem I was conjuring up so we cut back our ideas. The concept of the portrait was the top priority so Bill and Lynda, as an 18th landed couple, were to feature prominently and with the addition of Reich Duke Wilhelm's bodyguard the Pilsner Leib Horse Grenadiers. I came up with idea of setting them in the grounds of "Beerstein Palace". This was the final result in an oil painting and below I tell the story of how it was executed.

Their Excellencies the Reich Duke and Duchess von Beerstein review the Pilsner Leib Horse Grenadiers in the grounds of Beerstein Palace,  Spring 1757. Oil on canvas 16 inches x 12 inches by Sir Joshua Gregg RA (Copyright © Chris Gregg)
Bill supplied me with a lot of photos of the relevant 28mm figures from his collection of which here are just two, and the colours of the Leib Grenadiers
Command stand and troopers of the Pilsner Leib Horse Grenadier
The Reich Duke and Duchess, and ADC Major Debauchery.
Bill decided he did not need the dogs in the painting
The wonderful design of the Horse Grenadier regimental colour,
duplicated to print as a wargame flag ©William Walker
18th Century aristocrats often liked to show off their grounds and/or their mansion in a portrait painting and I found this lovely building one day in my weekly email from the UK Historic Houses organisation. It is actually Kingston Bagpuize House near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, only about 30 miles or so from where I live. The Reich Duke von Beerstein was receptive to the idea that it could pass for a south German Ducal palace.
I was original inspired for the overall concept by Sir Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of "Mr and Mrs Andrews". Painted when Gainsborough was young in about 1747- 48. It's a super rendition of period clothing and proud, rather haughty, landowners, but significantly Sir Thomas was a pioneer of  English landscape painting, a subject close to my heart, so I wanted to put an interesting background in my aristocratic portrait. 
Mr and Mrs Andrews by Sir Thomas Gainsborough

Apart from that dear Sir Joshua Reynolds had done many, many fantastic portraits of upper class nobs, their ladies, and military gentlemen. Followers of this blog might appreciate a few of the latter:

Captain Robert Orme 1756
John Manners, Marquis of Granby, 1766-70
Sir Gerard Napier, uniform looks 1750s to me.

In addition to being influenced by such works of art as these I perused quite a few 18th century portraits of fancy civilian types for lace jackets and of course needed some period ladies riding side saddle.  Mr Google usually comes up with the goods when I ask him and I found the lovely riding coat on an actress, and Bill and I agreed a softer green and blue shading than on his model. I think it works very well.

Major Debauchery and the standard bearer are both based on two of many pics of yours truly dressed up for a Hussar photo shoot in 2018. Don't laugh, I suffer for my art!

Bill supplied me with a photo of himself as a naval captain and Lynda in their younger days looking very distinguished in an oil painting done way back then.  I got the four foreground horses from my art photo archives and chose a small grey for the Duchess and an impressive black for the Reich Duke.  I then photoshopped the whole thing together on a background of the adapted Kingston Bagpuize House and grounds. I duplicated some of the lines of Bill's models to produce two ranks of Horse Grenadiers awaiting inspection. I then got his agreement that this was along the lines he wanted. The following photographic sequence gives a snapshot of some of the key stages in developing the painting on the canvas:

At left is my photoshopped mockup which gives me proportions and a good start point. That is transferred to the squared up canvas in pencil and then outlined in thin black acrylic to secure it.
This shows what we call the grisaille stage.
Main areas of light and dark are rendered in a thin wash of Paynes Grey acrylic
to help focus on compositional elements
The grisaille provides a confident enough base to roughly fill in with acrylic
in colour. That allowed me to satisfy myself that the chosen colours would
 work and try them on Bill for his approval, which he gave.

When to do the background in oil can be problematic - first or last?
I tend to play safe by sketching the main colours thinly in oil with only a small
 amount of medium
Time to move to the foreground figures and I started with the faces of the
 stars of the show but never aimed for a finished look yet.
It's just that they feel more real as one moves onto the clothing and horses
Tightening up the details of Duke and Duchess and their horses. I'm using now
a rich mixture of water-based oil and special "quick drying" medium.
 It dries properly overnight as opposed to taking about 3 days without it.
This bit was challenging - I had the digital file of the flat flag design but had to
interpret that as flapping in the wind from its pole. It was a multi-stage process of brown,
yellows and white then left to dry before completing glazes of darker and lighter shading,
taking cast shadows into account on the gold detail
Pretty much finished the foreground figures now but not tackled the cast shadows or background yet
A more competent artist than me might be able to render the background building
in one go with just the right amount of detail and soft colouring, but not me.
 I tend to paint the background layers in full bodied oil with detail and then
fade them down, when dry, with successive layers of glazing containing
 tiny amounts of White or Naples Yellow
The building glazed I moved on to the Horse Grenadiers.
On the 16 x 12 inch canvas the officer and trumpeter are roughly
 the same size as 28mm model soldiers, but two dimensional of course! 
The Grenadiers take shape now......
........but only with sufficient detail as one might perceive at 40-50 metres away. A couple of horses are restless and even the best trained can't stand still for too long.....when is he going to inspect us?
The finished result minus signature (©Copyright Chris Gregg) awaiting final approval, which it got. By this stage I had tried for  facial likenesses of our heroes from the painting Bill had supplied and as I painted Lynda the eyes got bigger than they should.  But the more I looked the more I thought, hey she looks young and sexy - lucky chap that Reich Duke.  And, although I offered to repaint it, luckily for me Bill agreed. He also agreed to the accurate rendition of his moustache, though many might think an 18th Century aristocrat should either be clean shaven or have an impressive moustache like Major Debauchery's. Anyway, I think it looks suitably charismatic.
Well I hope you have enjoyed this insight into the painting process, and the work itself will soon be wending its way to Florida, assuming the postal services both sides of the Atlantic feel safe to do so. If this gives any of my readers inspiration for a painting you will find my prices are much more reasonable than you would expect, just get in touch and we can discuss -  Chris Gregg

Monday, 6 April 2020

Seb's Soldiers: Maybe a learning opportunity locked down with your children?

The present unfortunate situation most of us face around the world means that many wargamers, or parents of children who like military toys, are stuck at home, possibly for weeks or months looking for new ways to amuse and educate their kids.  I created this project last year inspired by my 6 year old grandson, Sebastian, who likes playing with my soldiers. This blog post will tell the story of how I made the armies from "classic" 1970s 25mm figures, wrote and tested some rules and laid on the first game of "Seb's Soldiers - Napoleonic" for some of the family. I hope it will be of interest to my more experienced readers who like the classic toys many of us started with, and to those who have children to amuse. There will be links to the rules and resources to help give some stimulus. Talking if which there is even a Russian Hussarette along the way!

Seb and his Dad, Scott, deploy their army at The Battle of Ashton Keynes
Rossen and Lucy provide the opposition
The Origin
About 18 months or so ago I went to a party (you remember those gatherings where people get close and chat?) and over the drinks and nibbles found myself talking to a nice chap named Phil. A glass or two of wine had loosened my usual reticence and I admitted I played with model soldiers as a hobby. "Oh," said Phil "I used to do that when I was young, I've got a box of soldiers somewhere in the loft I haven't used for 30 years, you can have them". I gave him my contact details and thought little more of it till several months later when I got a call and arranged for Phil to bring them round.  I was amazed by his generosity as the box contained about 150 classic 25mm Miniature Figurines Napoleonic British and Russians and about 200 Waterloo style Minifig Waterloo troops in 15mm.  The latter proved a gift to my friend Richard to join his 15mm Peninsular War armies and I had to ponder what to do with the 25mm ones........

British Grenadier Guards was one of the first units to be completed
One day that week I found myself on granddad duty with Seb, and the classic figures were looking rather dusty and untouched after 30 years absence from the field of combat so I asked Seb if he'd like to help me clean them up. We got a bowl of warm water and some soft brushes and paper towels and began the job of dusting, washing and drying them one by one. The little chap proved surprisingly adept at matching uniforms of the painted ones and the poses of the unpainted ones so that after a couple of hours we had long lines of figures looking a bit like regiments. When he went home I said in an openly questioning way "What did you think of the model soldiers Seb?", "They were so cool!" was the reply, and he gave an affirmative response to my suggestion to paint and organise them for his birthday which was still about 6 months away.

One of several smart Russian Grenadier regiments
The Concept
Gosh, what had I let myself in for? About half the figures were painted, competently but not quite as well as I would have liked - they needed tidying up, and all the bases were wasting away so they would need a coherent approach to presentation. Also Russian v. British was a bit strange, but hey, why not Napoleonic style Imagi-Nation armies where anything goes but in a broadly Late 18th Century/Napoleonic/Regency period way? Create some rules that were straightforward enough for beginners to pick up quickly, give some ideas for setting up games, and even maybe a campaign setting, some basic colourful terrain.......

The Rules
Seb and I had already played some rudimentary wargames with his "Green Army Men" but I thought I could introduce him to the cut and thrust of "Horse and Musket" wargames now.  I showed him my DVD of the movie "Waterloo" as a taster, quickly explaining my way through while skipping the talky bits. He had a great attention span for that.  I wanted to keep things simple and basic but also with challenging elements, so Command and Control was kept to 12 numbered cardboard "chits" allocated at random to units, or Generals commanding one or more units. The 6 sided die (D6) was all we needed for more randomness and most things were in multiples of 6 (Well it was to be his 6th Birthday present!). I did not want any issues of inches or centimetres (BREXIT was looming.......) so settled for measurement in "Basewidths"(BW) which I know is not original but it is practical and means the rules can be adapted for anything. I found most of the base widths I had already used to mount figures was 4.5 to 5 cm so the BW for the game became 5cm and I standardised on 3 Line Infantry per base close together, 2 Light Infantry in skirmish order, or 2 cavalry more or less boot to boot. The amount of figures per base is irrelevant really as all casualties and morale are worked out on bases lost. Small arms Firing is limited to 6 BW and a D6 used to match, with minimal addition and subtractions. The same applies to Melee.  Movement is by BW, and artillery uses the distance of 18 BW for maximum range. So a couple of measuring sticks are advisable and you can see two in the photo above.  Morale gets steadily harder to stand the more bases lost and units can slide through Shaken, Retreat and Rout or Surrender. I played around with these ideas on a flat tabletop first of all and they seemed to work so I now had to find some guinea pigs willing testers. But first I had to make bigger and smarter armies in a classic 1970s style - simple but neat paintwork and slightly glossy finish.

Completed edition of the "Seb's soldiers" rules and Quick Reference Sheet

The Armies
Bigger armies? Yes, I'm a wargamer, can one ever have enough? Besides if I wanted Seb and others to get a feel for a Napoleonic force there had to be a hard corps of close order infantry, some light infantry, about 25% cavalry and two kinds of artillery. Oh, of course there had to be scope for Guards and Militia types too, especially with Imagi-nation armies. While the figures were mostly MiniFigs they were somewhat of an ill-matched assortment of different numbers that didn't always amount to a proper regiment so I began to look at EBay to make up the difference. I soon realised there is a big market out there for the "25mm" soldier and you have to be a bit careful. Mostly Hinchliffe figures were too big or ugly but the occasional Hinton Hunt, and especially Les Higgins, figures were fine. I was glad I had practiced recognising these in the 1960s and 70s when my brain was young and nimble as the Ebay advertisers often did not know what they were selling. Anyway, although this purchasing element took on a feeling of megalomania I rarely bought "finished" figures and never paid huge money. I lost quite a few deals because I refused to bid into silly money. I'd say most cost about 50p for an infantry figure and up to a £1 for cavalry. No doubt real collectors would be prepared to pay more.  I purchased a couple of hundred more over several months and got some cute small mountain guns with mule teams from one of my art clients at Cotswold Wargaming Day!

The "Russian" and "British" armies (more on them later) ended up totalling about 300 finished figures with a mixture of accurate historical units, approximations to historical accuracy, "mercenaries" from other nations, and a few just made up. Photos of the armies available for his birthday in November below; I did add some more cavalry at Christmas.

The "British" army - excuse the French gunners, they just look "cool"
The "Russian" army with some fictitious mercenaries

Test Game One - The Battle of St Misha's Crossroads

The first willing tester turned out to be my old mate Kevin East from Bristol and by chance he could offer a 6 year old boy to help! Kevin was having friends of his Russian wife to stay for a while and was happy to find such an interesting distraction for a boy who had already shown interest in Kevin's own fantastic Napoleonic collection (see for example this Guest page and many of my Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte blog posts from 2015-16). So Kevin brought Misha, and his Mum, Geniia, to the Cotswolds for a few hours of military-related fun, which included dressing up as pseudo Napoleonic/18th century characters using my art props. See these example photos:

But, enough of that frivolity, on to the game!

My plan was to produce a nice looking battlefield with decent sized forces at the point of engagement thus ensuring action from the start. A small mixed rearguard of British troops was deployed across the crossroads named after St Misha's Chapel. I operated the British while my guests took the much larger Russian attacking force. I had reinforcements trying to cross a single bridge to come out of the town at my rear. Misha and I had to have a dice roll contest for each Move - he won the first one thus keeping me back. My right flank is covered by a very extensive patch of bad going forest in order to focus our attention on closer action in the open. The Russian objective was to control the crossroads and drive all the British away. This picture gives a good idea of the overall situation at the start:

Russians left and British right

And this one as we proceeded to instruct Misha

Now here is a twist. Misha could speak a little more English than my Russian, which is limited to "Thank you" and "cheers". Geniia knew some English and Kevin some Russian, but neither confidently, so the two adults had both downloaded Google Translate audio to their phones and we spoke in our own language into a phone and then listened to Google's idea of the translation. Sometimes the results were hilarious but Kevin and Geniia managed to smooth over the inaccuracies and it took us an hour to do one action-packed move. My 5 units and the reserves each had one of my 6 Initiative tokens while the Russians used individual units and small brigades with 3 generals to take up their 6 tokens. After one move I think the "linguists' and the 6 year old were a  bit exhausted so we lightened up with the dressing up games before they went home. Genia had proved a charming, intelligent and funny female wargamer, and Misha very politely declared it was a great game which he had really enjoyed.

But of course it was not much of a game in just one Move so I finished it off with 5 more Moves soon after they had gone.  You can enjoy all the photos I took of that on Google Photos here but here are a few samples:

The Royal Scots Greys engage Russian Hussars and Dragoons
The 18 BW long artillery stick in action.
A lucky shot set the chapel on fire (a 6 needed if a hit scored)
British reinforcements cross the bridge
Russian Hussars chase the remnants of a British infantry regiment into the river!
As the successful Russian army advances they bring up the artillery. A much depleted (command stand only) Grenadier battalion flees past. Note the artillery ammunition markers
Those 5 more Moves gave me a very good idea of how the rules mechanics were working and moved me on to Version 2.  Artillery could be very bloody so I reduced their effect slightly. I made Morale 1 point more difficult to stand hoping more units would retreat before being destroyed, and I introduced a charge to contact distance to give attackers more chance to get in without too much fire on them. I found the Initiative chits worked a treat and gave an exciting tension to the game but, despite the occasional "big win" produced by a lucky draw, balanced out the more Moves you had. Thank you Kevin, Misha and Geniia for your help.

Test Game Two
And so on to the second test game which was a couple of weeks later and I allocated a full day with pub lunch (remember Pubs?) for this with another old friend, Mike Tovey. I wanted to try the rules with the full sized armies (around 12 units each) and my 8 x 4 foot table. The terrain was a combination of my usual hills and buildings plus the roads and rivers I had refurbished for Seb from a very cheap Ebay buy. I think it looks quite pretty and still has a classic feel. Here is a photo of the initial set up:
A small British Advanced Guard defends a hilltop church and village trying to cover two river crossings and awaiting the Main Force. A Russian force of a small infantry brigade and a cavalry brigade is pinning them in place.
I tried to think up a scenario which would balance the armies and terrain across the whole table, so, inspired by some of Frederick The Great's outflanking moves, I contrived to fix a British Advanced guard in a good defensive position which would be pinned by Russian opposition and then the Russian main Force would arrive in their rear to head for the river crossings. But they would be met by the British Main Force in a kind of unequal race to secure the bridges.  Mike was to command the British and have some choice over allocation of his Main force brigades to roads. For the Russians I divided up my baselines into segments and rolled dice to determine where the brigades would come on or deploy. That would give me a challenge and avoid an unbalancing concentration of force. Some photos (below) with captions might help but here is a link to the full set if you want to see them.

In brief the order of battles were:
 - Advanced Guard of one each of Lt Inf, Lt artillery, Cavalry and large Line infantry
 - Main Force of 2 Infantry brigades and one Cavalry brigade
- Advanced Guard of one each of Lt Inf, Lt artillery, large Line infantry and a brigade of two cavalry regiments
- Main force of two Infantry brigades plus one more regiment each of Lt Inf and cavalry

For those who want the detail, here is a link to the full order of battle as a downloadable PDF

Russian Main Force begins to arrive and head for the Manor house
Mike's Main Force makes quick progress on the roads and
 he occupies the Manor with riflemen
My right flank cavalry began to engage the new arrivals near their bridge
Light infantry contest Church Hill and the British Light Dragoons boldly attack
a large Russian Grenadier regiment supported by Light artillery. This became a
 hard fight with my infantry being the first to fail Morale leaving the artillery
 to be crushed by Mike's cavalry.
More British cavalry join the bridge melee, outflanking my dragoons and I could
 tell it would end badly.........
Mike had set up an artillery death trap between the bridges and
 I could not make headway there. (The red 'E's denote Elite units
and the green numbers are bases lost)
So I launched a powerful attack on the Manor and drove out the
 Rifles, but that did not get my infantry to the bridge in time
These few pictures are just a snapshot of a 3-4 hour game that was full of incident and decision making and I thoroughly enjoyed it; I hope Mike did too. He certainly caught on quickly to the things that mattered, and despite some of my local successes such as taking the Manor hamlet, he had denied me the bridges and Church Hill and the village by the time we had to call time, and my army was very badly mauled.

This game had proved to me that the rules were satisfying and challenging to experienced wargamers without being unnecessarily bogged down with detail. In particular the 12 Initiative tokens works with any number of actual units if you allocate them to Generals commanding discrete groups of units, or particularly critical individual units. The artillery still proved too dominating so I halved the allocation of hit dice to gunners. When you read the rules this might strike you as unduly complex, for which I  apologise, but it's really pretty simple in practise. And so I was then on Version 3.

The Birthday Game
Seb's birthday was fast approaching and I was content that I had a workable set of rules, complete, balanced armies, and some terrain to get him started. It happened that the day before his Birthday The Duchess and I were on Granddad duty for him and his sister and we had a couple of hours spare before a planned cinema outing. So I set up a battlefield with what I had made for him which was a 4 foot by 2 foot board covered in a Javis grass railway mat and a few contoured hills to match, plus the roads and river and a bridge seen in Game Two, and a wood. He likes building Lego so I suggested, as storage space is a problem at home, he could make his own buildings. Here are some photos and there are a couple more near the top of this post .

Given the short time we had, and that it was his first game I invited him to choose the 5 units he liked the best from the British Army and then I roughly matched them with 5 Russian units. Suffice to say I gave him advice and guidance but he did comprehensively beat me in only 3 Moves! This took about an hour which seemed to match his attention span and of course he was involved all that time due to the random nature of the Initiative chit system. He enjoyed it and we packed it all up for him to take home that day.

The Rules
If you've got this far I hope you might be interested in having a look at the rules. I have produced them in a large font to a make it easier for youngsters to read, the text also explains in simplistic terms the various types of troops used in battles of this period of warfare, so complete beginners can pick it up straight away. There are some photos of games in action too as featured in this blog post. Here is a link to the Downloads sidebar for you to get a copy for free
And for ease of play once you have read the rules - a 2 sided Quick Reference Sheet
I recommend you make your own game counters but if you don't want to here is the sheet I prepared for us in a rather rough state showing Shaken, Rout and ammunition markers
You will also need a set of robust numbers 1 - 12 with one side blank, to pick them blind at random, for the Initiative order of play. You will need some method of keeping track of the number of bases lost per unit.
PLEASE NOTE - All the resources from this Blog are Copyright to me as the creator
Permission is given to download and print or copy them for personal use, and I hope you will, but if you want to use anything for commercial purposes you must seek permission from me first. If you pass this on, share or use anything on social media etc,  please give me credit by name and a link to this blog, thank you.


Wider use of Seb's Soldiers
I was driven by circumstances towards the classic style 25mm figures as stated but I reckon you could use the Seb's Soldiers rules with practically any period or scale. For example in Ancients swap muskets for bows, make slings and javelins just a 3BW range, give pikes or cataphracts a significant plus in melee, a better saving roll for more armour, chariots/elephants can have a single D6 as a weapons platform and a plus 1 in combat, elephants a minus 1 on Morale if within 3BW of cavalry etc, etc.  Make up your own rules to suit. Or how about Space, Science Fiction or Fantasy? Get out those Warhammer 40K Space Marines and mount two or three to a strong cardboard base and form them into units. The different weapons could have varying BW ranges and add or subtract for effect, or if hit by certain blasters - no saving throw and just fry! Same for the longer range weapons. Eldar jet riders can be your cavalry.......do what you need with the rules they are as broad as your imagination.

Talking of which, although I've created a Napoleonic style Imagi-nation, if you don't mind a bloody battle and can overlook the time scale issues, I reckon you could use the rules more or less as they stand for historical battles that are of small scale with battalions as the main unit  (e.g. Vimiero, Corunna, most American Revolution battles etc). If you set your sights higher then imagine doing Waterloo - 1 x 25/28mm figure would represent 100 real men with the basic units as brigades, and you limit muskets to 2 or 3 BW range, Rifles to 4 BW, Light artillery to 12 BW. Introduce heavy cavalry with a plus 1 in Melee, Initiative chits are given to Corps or Divisional commanders, maybe not enough to go round each Move!......... For this your ground scale becomes something like 10 BW is 500 metres if you are translating from a historical map.

An Imagi-Nations Campaign
As you can see from the above the rules can give exciting and varied sized one-off games for all ages but I wanted it to have the potential as a learning experience for Seb as he likes making up stories and writing them in his own way too. So I created a little world that was on his doorstep (he lives near Cricklade over the Wiltshire border from me) but set around 1806 with less roads, no railways, but when the Thames and Severn canal was a new addition to the local economy. Here is the map I drew and laminated for him to draw on if necessary.

I messed around a bit with History where England is in turmoil due to the madness of King George and discontent with the Prince Regent. The "baddie" is Earl Bathurst of Cirencester who has appointed himself Duke of Gloucester. He has a private army which takes its inspiration from the contemporary Russian Army with the odd mercenary or local militia units as well.  The young Duke Sebastian of Purton is our hero and is so loyal to the Crown that his tiny army has been augmented considerably by regular British army units, including Guards, The Scots Greys and Riflemen.

I created a PDF which starts with this story expanded somewhat and gives a suggestion of how the map can be used as the scene for multiple small wargames. It also contains a visual record of the units currently in Seb's armies - names, strength in bases and quality. Obviously this is unique to his eclectic mix of units but it could give an idea for your own version.  Here is the link to the Downloads sidebar
Seb's Wars - A campaign background and order of battle
and a link to the map if you prefer it to the one above
Glos/Wilts campaign map about 1806

A wargame for the family
I put this into practice for the family Christmas wargame (a couple of pics at the top of the blog) and tried a different approach.

I selected an area on the "border" round Ashton Keynes, where Seb goes
to school and allocated 2 or 3 Victory Points to crossroads, bridges and villages
The entire armies were set out behind the playing area edges and the players invited to chose 6 units at their complete discretion. I knew of old that both Scott and Rossen had studied some military history and had good ideas to bring to bear.
But neither of them was familiar with these armies and did not deliberately take troop quality into account
Scott and Seb chose "British" cavalry, heavy and light artillery, 2 line infantry and one light infantry and spread them across the entire baseline to maximise their options in respect of the objectives. I allowed a 6BW start line so we got action quickly
Rossen and Lucy had a different idea for the "Russian" army based on the German schwerpunkt or American "get there firstest with the mostest" philosophy!  Three artillery batteries more or less centrally and two Elite infantry regiments to go for Ashton Keynes village. A cavalry regiment was assigned to thwart any enemy flanking move on the right

Seb's riflemen on his far right were totally unopposed and his other two units only engaging at long range. The good news was that he took three objectives without any loss, the bad news was that he wasn't getting much of a game this time and began to lose interest about the time we realised the Worzul Gummage Christmas special was coming on TV, so we lost him and his Auntie Lucy. The two big boys, however, were relishing the opportunity to use the full force of their chosen units to fulfil their plan. All credit to both for taking it down to the wire and gave me a thoroughly enjoyable second hour helping see what would happen. In a sense both won. Rossen's concentration, especially with artillery, made any hope Scott had to win Ashton Keynes completely untenable, but that village was only worth 3 points and 2 for the road junction. Despite having lost more points in troops/units Scott, with Duke Sebastian's force, had a road junction, two bridges and the village of South Cerney so I declared him the winner.
After his TV programme I told Seb of the outcome "Aagh, they got my school!!!" he declared.

If you still haven't had enough classic wargame figure eye candy you can see all the photos of this game here.

The serious bit
All this happened by Christmas and I have been meaning to blog about it for ages. In the last couple of weeks I realised maybe it could be something of a public service to do it now. It is sad to reflect that Seb can't share "Seb's Soldiers" with his school friends as he is home. His Mum, a doctor, is at time of writing, about to face her first stint on the frontline making life and death decisions over a prolonged period of time. His Dad is having to spend time coping with a full load of home-schooling for him and his sister while still trying to look for meaningful work as a very skilful freelance graphic designer.  I imagine many of my readers, or people you know, may well be in a similar position. As a father of four children (now all grown up) I can well imagine how difficult it must be to keep them amused as well as keep up the learning while locked down and shut in. This applies throughout much of the world not just the UK. Anyone who has made a wargame army, or designed a military-based game, especially if researched from real history or even fictitious literature, knows what a lot of life skills wargaming and modelling can teach.
Decision making
Teamwork and cooperation
Reading and Drawing maps
Making models of terrain, buildings, equipment and vehicles
Painting model soldiers
Research and Analysis
Computer graphics for production of game aids
and probably many more I can't think of.

My own Dad knew all this. He was very keen on history but never wargamed though he and Mum gave over 4 or 5 rooms in their house every month for 10-15 spotty teenage boys to play historical battles. As I got older he told me what a great thing he thought it was that I ran a club to give so much benefit to growing minds.

So now we move towards a very uncertain future I hope some of you may be inspired by Seb and his Soldiers to try something similar while you are locked away and maybe with plenty more time to spare than you ever expected......

Remember all our friends and relations in the Medical and Caring services, many are risking their lives. STAY HOME: PROTECT THE NHS: SAVE LIVES
Thank you