Monday, 19 August 2019

18th Century mini-campaign - Raid on Vestisle: Part 1 - Introduction and first blood

Regular readers will know that I have been trying to build up my expertise with the "Honours of War" (HoW) SYW rules since 2016 and have been very fortunate to meet Ken Marshall and Guy Barlow via the "A Military Gentleman" forum to help. We've applied the HoW principles to our Imagi-Nations and historical armies and my background imaginary campaign and we've all enjoyed the games, numbering over a dozen by now. Sadly I've not got round to blogging some of the biggest. Last year we had a weekend game in which over 3000 figures from our joint collections took the field with four players. It was too many! We got bogged down and didn't really finish, or have much satisfactory manoeuvring.   I consulted my companions on what to do this year and Guy said he loved the backstories I created from the fictitious campaign (which was all out of my head, not on a map) and could we have a proper one with map moving as he'd never done that?

Mini-campaign challenge
There was a challenge! So I began to think how we could adapt the wonderful Charles Grant mini-campaigns for our weekend using the HoW brigade/corps scale games. Ken came up with the answer and had remembered Charles' "Raid on Vesta" mini- campaign scenario from an edition of "Practical Wargamer" magazine about 25 years ago. I read it and realised it was just what we wanted, specifying:

  • An island involving landings, but not concerned with ship to shore game mechanics
  • Specific, limited objectives for the attackers, not an all out invasion for conquest
  • Time bounded so the attackers/raiders had to get away intact, hopefully achieving some of their objectives
The only trouble was that the CS Grant system uses big battalions and big ranges and his scenario was really a reinforced brigade style game good for two players over two real and two campaign days.  So I had to increase the scale of the island and make allowance for significant forces as, under HoW, a good run of dice rolls can lead to units melting away quickly. Also I wanted to maximise my facilities here in our remote Cotswold village by making an open invitation to my many friends who like 18th century wargames. The invitations went out in the Spring identifying the date as 10-11 August 2019. I got 5 firm takers and, great, they all wanted to stay the night, so we'd have a full house and could spread the campaign over the evening "down-time" too and mix "business" with pleasure over a few bottles of wine and beer.

Without more ado, here is the campaign map I created with Photoshop. I called the island Vestisle, not Vesta and in homage to Brigadier Grant changed the names but slightly to a more Francophile spelling to fit my scenario of which more below:

Vestisle is about 50% bigger than Grant's Vesta but this gave tabletop battlefields ideal for our 28mm battalions using HoW.
A sample 10 feet x 6 feet is shown to give an idea. As it turned out our battles were both bigger and smaller than that.
Raid on Vestisle: Historical context
The next step on from Imagi-nations wargaming is Alternative History wargaming and both my protagonists know their mid-18th Century history so we were guaranteed some fun if I could come up with something vaguely plausible......

I'm putting many of my resource documents available on my Downloads sidebar - 18th Century Historical, for anyone who wants them. Strictly for hobby use though not for any commercial purposes - copyright Chris Gregg 2019. Link here Raid on Vestisle documents

It is mid August 1756. The French have taken Menorca and the British/Hanoverians are smarting with embarrassment and looking for a quick way to build a propaganda advantage before things really kick off on the continent threatening Hanover. The French, for their part, are also looking for a  way to distract King George II so they can strike at Hanover itself. Oh look! We have the little island of Vestisle off the coast of Brittany (any resemblance to Ushant is entirely coincidental as I've only just found it!) and on it we have the remnants of the Stuart pretender's clansmen kicking their heels and waiting for a chance to get back to Scotland and create trouble for King George!  They need money and training from the French, as well as assistance from French troops to mount an invasion of England. So my French side was taking shape thus:

The French
  • The Duc de Vestisle, local governor with a couple of militia battalions, 4 heavy batteries in static redoubts guarding the ports, a citizens' militia to be raised on an alarm to defend the capital, Abrantes, plus a few companies of marines and and a mobile battery to give some dignity to the on-island defence.
    The Cassatte battery overlooks the small port
    Minden Miniatures painted by CG
  • The Chevalier de Muy assisted by Lt General Barbier. He commanded the main French regular forces on Vestisle which consisted of a brigade of line infantry, a brigade of converged grenadiers, both with supporting artillery, and a brigade of heavy cavalry. Their aim was to train and exercise with the Jacobites to help them become proficient after the disaster of Culloden. For protection nearer the coast de Muy had the Legion de la Morliere and the Legion de Lauzun, each brigade strength and including light troops. 
    Part of Baron Joubarbe's Cavalry Brigade  at the Battle of Bellune Hill.
    Elite and Minden Miniatures painted by Guy Barlow
    The Legion de la Morliere (right) prepares to try to see off Schwarz's jagers
     in front of Cassatte. Legion - Crann Tara Miniatures painted by CG
  • Prince Charles Edward Stuart, titular commander of the Jacobite forces, but in reality giving way to Earl Marischal William Keith as Lieutenant General and field commander. They had five clans at battalion strength forming an infantry brigade, two small cavalry regiments, and two artillery batteries of dubious quality.
  • The Jacobite infantry and artillery await the order to attack at the battle of
     Bellune Hill, 10th August 1756. Crann Tara Miniatures painted by Guy Barlow
  • Due to arrive on Beach 1 and Abrantes harbour on the evening of 10th August 1756 was a crack force of French units including a brigade of elite and guard infantry, a brigade of elite cavalry, two brigades of standard French line battalions and a small brigade of French heavy cavalry.  Their light element was represented by a battalion of marines and a battalion strength unit of sailors. These were all under the Duke of Richelieu himself. 

    The French Elite Cavalry brigade under the Duc d'Orlean moves to its
    forming up position prior to the Battle of Abrantes, 11th August 1756 (mostly Guy's)
I had to give some context to the actual military action other than the macro-strategic story given above, plus define some objectives. OK, this was a wargame campaign and I could kid no one that there would not be an invasion sometime. It was only a question of when, so I invented the device of the French and Jacobites having organised a joint training exercise for 11th August and the Chief Secretary of the Treasury in Paris, the Chevalier Dumonnaie, was due to come with his wife for a little holiday and bringing two mule-loads of gold with which to pay for the Jacobites invasion - if they earned it by showing suitable professionalism in the training.  As we had the benefit of a couple of months of emailing prior to our weekend I had Dumonnaie arrive on 8th August and Guy had to devise "entertainment " for the couple which would determine their whereabouts, and possibly the other characters including Prince Charlie, for the next few camapign days. The idea was that he would not be able to predict the date and time of the Allied raid.

You can find the complete French Order of battle here

The Allies

I gave Ken the chance to start his Allied landings anytime from 5 am on 10th August at Beaches 2, 3 or 4, and also a battalion worth of British sailors as a kind of "special forces" which could land anywhere other than the North coast.  I gave him the following map of approximate French positions plus a long letter from a spy in Abrantes explaining what I wanted Ken to know from which to make his plan and dispositions.

French dispositions from Allied spy. This was not of course completely accurate but contained enough real information to be fair to both sides. The French deployment round Delmotte was largely dummy units but also Lauzun's Legion and some marines watching Beach 2.

He landed his first wave of light troops at 5 am then there was an enforced gap of an hour to clear the beaches so the main forces arrived in two more waves from 7 am to 9 am.

This is what the campaign map (an 18 x 12 inch print attached to a magnetic white board and with magnetic tape units) looked like to me as umpire around 0800:

Umpire's Map. I used Photoshop to blur out the detail of those enemy units that were too far away or out of sight on the maps which I gave to each player.
I was using a very simple set of campaign rules which gave me what I needed to run this by email and then on the weekend. Here is a link to them in the sidebar Download section Vestisle mini-campaign rules

Ken had landed two dummies on the eastern part of the island and my rumour mongering kept Guy's real units busy there till about 10. 30 am. He landed at Beach 3 a brigade of Government Scots Light troops followed by a Hanoverian infantry brigade and then a brigade of two regiments of German cuirassiers. A couple of batteries of artillery and a few companies of the recently raised Royal Corps of Sappers and Miners (yeah, I know they weren't created till later in 1756 in reality!) completed this force under Lt Gen von Brunck. The initial aim was to mount a quick attack to neutralise Bellune town and the two bridges across the Ruisseau de Vestisle but the Scot's scouts soon discovered that Bellune was well protected. They observed Grenadiers barricading all the southern approaches and were receiving howitzer fire from the town as well as occasional, but ineffective fire from the Bellune heavy battery. Von Brunck decided to retreat out of range back near Beach 3 and await further developments.

The main force, led by The Duke of Marlborough, assisted by Lt Gen Lord George Sackville, landed at the South end of Beach 4.  Major General Schwarz advanced carefully towards Cassatte with his German Jaeger brigade while Major General von Aststadt scouted across the Cime d'Abrantes with his three Light Cavalry regiments. Rather to my surprise Guy ordered Morliere's Legion to retreat back to Cassatte rather than try to disrupt the landings.

Ken was cautious with the main force of two infantry brigades and a cavalry brigade and waited by Beach 4 and the Auberge till all his Line brigades and artillery were united. The infantry finally moved off about 0900, but more of that later....

You can download the full Allied Order of Battle here

Below - Sir Alastair Campbell's Brigade of Government Scots facing Bellune town

Fraser's Highlanders - Parkfield Miniatures painted by CG
Montgomery's highlanders - Old Glory Miniatures painted by CG.
Small Converged Grenadier battalion and Light Artillery battery behind
Campbell's Highlanders - Fife and Drum Miniatures painted by Ken Marshall
Engineer companies behind and Hanoverian infantry beyond
French and Jacobite sub-plots
It's worth taking a little time to wonder what is happening to the French and Jacobite "characters" as they will become important later.

Guy had the Dumonnaies enjoying a lovely Summer break first at Le Chateau du Roi and the next day at Delmotte sampling the renowned Moules Marinieres. They went back on Friday evening, 9th August, to dine with Le Duc de Vestisle at his Residence in Abrantes where they were staying. The Chevalier had taken the precaution of locking the gold safely away in an ammunition casemate in the bowels of the stone bastion battery overlooking Abrantes harbour. Only the Sergeant of the guard knew what they were guarding and the Duc and the Chevalier had the only keys. The pack mules were stabled in the Residence mews. The Dumonnaies were due to visit Prince Charlie at the Jacobite Camp on Saturday but Ken's invasion news roused them from their beds and gave an anxious breakfast in Abrantes. The Duc de Vestisle had to look to the defence of the town and harbour and from about 0900 was very busy organising the Abrantes Citizen's Militia battalion (to the tolling of the church bells) in the Town Square.

Guy had put Charlie, not with his Highlanders in their camp, but in a tavern in Bellune town doing unspeakable dallyings with Rosemarie, the serving wench. So I had a messenger rudely awaken Charlie and Rosemarie early on 10th with the news of the landing of the Government Scots, which was obvious from Bellune church tower. Guy's reaction surprised me. He was adamant that Charles and his immediate retainers and the young French lady would mount up and ride like the wind to Beach 1 to look for a boat!  I was certainly not having him leave the island so soon and therefore he did not find any boats or seamen at the beach - all the fishermen had sailed on the morning tide about their business. This was now about 0830 to 0900 and I offered to waive the HoW rules on Dithering Commanding Generals for him if he would show some backbone and return to the front. No, certainly not said Guy, and he had Charlie pay off Rosemarie, and he and the others set off on tired horses towards Abrantes where he suspected the gold was stored.  Guy was really entering into the spirit of his first campaign and had me chortling over the keyboard at his inventiveness - here is an example from mid -morning 10th August

<<Me: - Charlie is on the road somewhere towards Abrantes, no estimated time of arrival. 

Guy: HQ is not surprised by this as HQ has been made aware of a pop up creperie which has been set up by a buxom cantiniere on the road. Charlie is very partial to a bit of lightly sugared batter and squeezed lemon.>>

and there we will leave the not-so-Bonnie Prince for the moment.

First exchanges on the wargames table
We must now return to the South-west side of Vestisle where Lt General Barbier is closely supervising the Comte de la Morliere's performance in patiently waiting for the enemy to come to him, and is not impressed. I quote for my email exchanges with Guy:
Me -
<<Lt General de Barbier
He is now in Cassatte with the Grenadiers. His Fusiliers de la Morliere are in a skirmish screen where the two Easterly roads enter Cassatte, the light gun is in the line firing at enemy light troops. The Dragoons are formed in line on their left flank to screen the Abrantes road. 
He can see all the green clad enemy jagers now spreading out in a long skirmish line from the road NE towards the Cime D'abrantes, they have a light battery which is firing at the Fusiliers. Beyond them enemy light cavalry are traversing the crest of the ridge, moving northwards. An artillery battery is coming up the road towards Cassatte. This is in within long range of your heavy battery so that won't be very effective against a difficult target and the jagers are no longer within the narrow redoubt angle of fire. South of this position red coated infantry and artillery batteries are forming up in columns - probably as many as 7000 men in the open ground North of the Auberge. He can also see that more boats have landed at the South end of Beach 4 and are unloading horses.
Barbier is now getting nervous that he does not want personally to be cut off from the main army or Abrantes. While he is taking in the scene from Cassatte church tower he receives news from the Comte de la Morliere that his Fusiliers are taking casualties from the light battery (2 hits).

Opening dispositions for the Cassatte game
Pitt's brigade marching inland from the Beach 
What is he going to do? >>

Guy's response from Barbier:
So the stage is set for a quick game involving a short sharp counter-attack by the French
Time for  one more exchange before the game

Me - 
Barbier discusses his thoughts (as expressed by you ARE YOU  A MAN OR A MOUSE?) with Comte de la Morliere.
The latter is Dashing and takes afront at the idea of just standing and taking the artillery fire. This is what he says.
Closer view as the two enemy brigades face off
"Your Honour! if you will support me in person I will order all my troops to advance quickly and try to drive the enemy away Southwards. The Fusiliers will skirmish against some of the jagers, the artillery will support them with fire and the Dragoons will attack the enemy right flank to drive them South. They are only light troops and cannot stand against me! The Grenadiers will come out of Cassatte and support the attack by also advancing with the bayonet. We must try to do that before that new enemy artillery battery takes up an effective position. When they have gone back we can begin to withdraw towards Abrantes"

Lt General Barbier has given his orders to the Comte de la Morliere
(Barbier's foot ADCs courtesy of William Harley of Ivybridge, Devon)

(NB  with Barbier present within 15cm of Morliere he adds 1 to Morliere's Dashing score and within 5cm can knock off a Hit each move (so Fusiliers can start off at 1 not 2)

Guy's response

I was content that Ken would be happy with a fairly passive defence as he had said that Schwarz was not to get embroiled in an attack on Cassatte ("They are Jagers not Grenadiers")

With a short game in prospect I offered my neighbour, Oscar, a chance to take Guy's dynamic Lt Gen Barbier and Comte de la Morliere in this "Delaying action at Cassatte" while I endeavoured to look after Allied interests in as neutral a way as possible.
I used the full 8 ft x 6 ft table with the South end of the Cime de Cassatte and the redoubt overlooking about half of Casatte village and fishing port. Then wide open spaces across the Cassatte valley using the Cime d'Abrantes as the table edge (Squares F2 to F4 down to I2 to I4 on the map).

Part of the small port of Cassatte
In the spirit of the email campaign I present the battle to you dear readers as the two somewhat biased accounts I had to give to Ken and Guy, with photos of the game from which you can draw your own conclusions.

Battle of Cassatte - Allied version
<<Around 0840 the right hand Jager battalion (Wyle Tal) was attacked by the Dragoons de la Morliere and they fired and hastily withdrew but obviously caused loss to the cavalry who then swerved to their right to attack the rifle jagers. At the same time the Fusiliers de la Morliere attacked in the same area and ended up trying to take the German Light battery in flank.

The Morliere Dragoons and Fusiliers have been driven back, but held Schwarz up in the process
At this point Sackville was sent forward (from the main body) to try to retrieve the situation and report back.
Here is his report at an hour or so later:

"As I rode forward it became evident that the French were bravely attacking all along their front and our light troops were fighting back but in fact also successfully evading and giving ground. As the smoke cleared I could see that General Schwarz had the situation well in hand. The Dragoons had been repulsed as had the Fusiliers and were themselves falling back to their starting point. A regiment of Grenadiers had emerged from Cassatte and were now attacking the Ost Kenneten Jagers. Their fire, together with the French light artillery, was beginning to cause significant casualties in our own lines and General Schwarz knew it made no sense to press on too hard with his men in the face of canister fire.  The French Grenadiers prudently withdrew to stay in touch with the rest of Morliere's brigade and the crisis seemed to have subsided somewhat. However, the Wyle Tal Jagers, who had suffered least, followed their orders to extend to the right and in doing so tried to cut off the Morliere Dragoons from retreat, but their fire actually broke the Dragoons who fled back to the Abrantes road.

Although they were not, in the event,  to prove necessary, I was following your orders by then leading forward the 1st Reserve Artillery up the road towards Cassatte. It was with great surprise that we came under heavy and very effective fire from the direction of the redoubt on the hill. I was nearly unhorsed by a ball. We realised that  the gunners had taken about an hour to manhandle their heavy fortification pieces outside the redoubt so they could fire on us.

The plucky Cassatte battery gunners slowly haul their heavy cannon where they can
get an angle on the Allies below
By about 10 am the whole French force was in retreat covered by the fire of one heavy and one light artillery battery so General Schwarz had won a notable victory, and we allowed them to go up the Abrantes road unmolested to avoid unnecessary casualties.

I was informed by General Schwarz that the red, white and blue quartered standard of Lt General de Barbier was seen among the disordered ranks of the Morliere Fusiliers so it appears he has taken a personal hand in masterminding this delaying action".

Despite the range of their rifles I wanted to keep those Jagers safely back
As Marlborough orders the two infantry brigades to march up the valley, around 1030, he can see that the naval guns on the hill had been abandoned and the crews slipped away. At the base of the hill, further up the Abrantes road and beyond the wood, the Morliere brigade has reformed into march formation and is about to set off Northwards covered by a screen of skirmishers.>>

In the distance the Morliere Dragoons have been outflanked giving Pitt  the
confidence to begin marching his line infantry up the valley
Delaying Action at Cassatte - French version
<<Around 1040 the Chevalier de Muy receives a messenger bearing the following report from Lt General de Barbier:
"1000 hours East of Cassatte on the Abrantes road -
Monsieur le Chevalier. It is with great pleasure that I report the Comte de la Morliere and I have  held back over 4 times our numbers of English and Germans in front of Cassatte with little material loss to ourselves.
Overall view showing that fire from the right hand Jagers has broken the Dragoons
(below in detail); The Morliere Grenadiers are conducting a well ordered  retreat

As a strong line of German Jagers, some with rifles, supported by artillery, approached Cassatte port the Comte very bravely led all his regiments forward against them. The Dragoons were immediately successful in driving back one battalion and scattering another to the East, but eventually the fire of the withdrawing Germans proved too effective and the Dragoons were forced to fall back. But this charge was so surprising to the English that the two brigades of Foot regiments trying to form behind this skirmisher screen halted in shock! (a 1 on initiative die!!!).

The Fusiliers de la Morliere, despite being only light troops, also joined in the charge when they saw they had a chance to attack the German battery in flank. Unfortunately the guns were turned in time and the Fusiliers were repulsed by canister fire. By this time the Grenadiers de la Morliere had emerged from Cassatte and formed line and they joined in the fight, but it was too late and flanking fire from a third Jager battalion encouraged them to fall back into line with their comrades.

At that point I was worried that the fast movement of the light troops facing us would risk preventing a successful withdrawal but we heard the booming noise of heavy artillery from behind our heads and it became apparent that the local heavy artillery battery commander had used his initiative to drag his guns out of the redoubt. From there they could play on the Germans and English in the valley South of Cassatte but further inland from the coast.

Heavy gun now begins long range fire at its best target - limbered artillery
 on the road...............
We witnessed considerable destruction among a limbered English battery trying to approach up the road from the beach, and when this was combined with the threat from de la Morliere's light battery the Germans' dared not venture nearer, and the whole force edged Eastwards to avoid the heavy battery fire.
...........Oscar scored a 5, and even the inferior artillery got 2 Hits on the
 limbered German reserve battery.
Sackville is nearby and within the 5cm danger zone; he survived.
So I am confident I can find a place of relative safety on the road just North of the woods to recover our missing and wounded. After that it is my intention to bring the whole force towards Abrantes (closely marshalled due to enemy cavalry visible on the Cime d'Abrantes just to my South and East). I estimate I can be around the bend where the road approaches the crossroads just South of Abrantes town by about midday to await your further instructions." >>

Above and below: The Dragoons have rallied and the whole French brigade is
now retreating up the valley (as planned!)

By most wargame standards this would have been seen as a defeat for the French (some genuinely unfortunate dice rolls for Oscar) but my fake news worked a treat and after Guy praised Oscar's spirited efforts he sent the following from the Chevalier de Muy to Barbier -

"The performance will certainly be included in the dispatches to His Majesty. If both (Barbier and Morliere) continue to perform well against the perfidious les rosbifs, I will be humbly recommending to His Majesty that both are advanced to the rank of Chevalier of the Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis.

I confirm approval of their movement towards the cross roads. Please endeavor to slow and shadow the enemy and report any movements back to HQ."

The Situation after the Cassatte action
I will leave you with a view of the island giving approximate positions about 1040 on 10th August 1756.

By 1040 the Allies are following Morliere's brigade at a  safe distance up the Cassatte Valley. French infantry are making a stand in front of Abrantes while their cavalry brigade scouts South along the ridge ; the Jacobites are out of their camp and forming a line from the Colline de Bellune to the town itself. In the East the French have finally realised there are no real enemy troops. Von Brunck consolidates his Hanoverians and loyal Scots near Beach 3.

 Next time - The Battle of Bellune Hill and news of reinforcements

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Wild Geese Wargamers weekend 2019: Horse and Musket Happiness!

Once again I was privileged to be one of the 24 participants at the annual get together of the "Wild Geese Wargames Group" in  Kenilworth, Warwickshire. This is a very loose amalgam of gentlemen wargamers that has morphed out of John Ray's "A Military Gentleman of the 18th Century" Forum but still keeps its emphasis on broadly 18th century wargaming themes with a high quality of presentation.  It's a visual delight every year and with 5 games each played three times I was spoiled for choice.  As one of the game organisers was fated to go home with one of my paintings as his prize for "Best Looking Game" I felt duty bound to try the most eye catching and realistic looking ones on offer, more of that later.

Thanks to Ken Marshall I get a lift up from Gloucestershire each time, and it's not far so we arrived about 0845 on the Saturday morning, though everyone else had made a Friday night of it and were eager for the "off".

Here's a quick tour of the room near the start:

Will Harley's 1750's Imagi-Nations game
Michael Perry's AWI game before the appearance of troops
Steve Metheringham explains his unique mid 18th century "shiny soldiers" game with wonderful 40mm miniatures
Tony Dillon's humorous take on a Peninsular War hunt/forage/clash of arms
Paul Robinson's large Danish and Swedish armies had yet to appear on the table at this early hour 
After the handshakes and quick hellos to old friends and "catchyoulaters" to newcomers my priority was to set up my military and hussarette paintings display in the adjoining breakout room. 

Pleased to say seven of these did not come home with me - thank you chaps
I'd barely done that when Will Harley was thrusting his annual gift into my hand - a lovely standard bearer from his classic collection, and saying "If you fancy my game the Prussians await you". How could one refuse?!!

Willz Harley - 1750 Imagi-Nations seize the wagons extravaganza
I found myself commanding the allied army of Savoy and Prussia along with Martin Binks against the Tiberian forces of Paul Spence and Gary Phillips - two formidable opponents.  I'll let the briefs do the talking:

The Tiberians had troops and sundry wagons spread all over the crowded terrain between us and the river and Willz had deployed our army roughly along our baseline. He gave us limited scope to rearrange the starting positions so, without much hope in the face of all those hedges and buildings, I gave Martin two powerful looking cuirassier regiments with the suggestion they led a thrust on the left centre while I held and refused the right flank mostly with infantry. Our task was to capture wagons and get our troops over the river, although, as you can see, the latter was guarded by two powerful batteries in redoubts, so I felt it was going to be a case of enjoy pushing the classic Spencer Smith toys but don't expect much chance of winning! However, the game to was to prove to have hidden depths not evident to my Prussians at the start!

Savoy and Prussia on left baseline, Tiberians over most of the battlefield. Battle opened on the left with Martin advancing his Hussars but they were facing Gary's Cuirassiers
Gary and Paul had wagons and troops constantly on the move in both directions - what were they up to? On the near left Martin is advancing his whole wing as fast as possible. My guns and cuirassiers top a hill in the foreground.......
.........where it was evident they would be met by lance-armed enemies
Paul made orderly progress towards me on his left flank
A closer view of Martin's Savoy Army on our left flank.....
.....and the formidable cuirassiers opposite them
A nice overall view at this stage - note the bright red wagon in the centre with all those shiny chests in, wonder what they are?
Martin now had his hands full on the extreme left......
....while the extreme right saw my flank now refused back in echelon.
My plan, if it deserves the name, was to thrust through the centre with my cuirassiers
and guns while edging infantry battalions leftwards to join them - Paul was not about to let that happen!
In addition it was very difficult to make any progress past the walls and
 hedges with those guns opposite
A single Tiberian battalion was to hold that brown-roof house and courtyard against all
 comers throughout the game
Paul was amassing a sinister amount of troops against my refused flank -
 but he was about to overreach himself
Our cavalry finally clashed in the centre. My downhill charge seemed to be
negated by those lances
Both sides had to rally back but because I had taken the precaution of making
 Count Otto Riesling lead my charge I recovered first.
Meanwhile I cruelly used my artillery battery to shoot dead the draught horses
pulling those really fancy chests, so the wagon just sat there awaiting events. 
Not for long - both sides entered the fray, Riesling had sniffed the gold and was not
 to be thwarted easily! Paul's Grenadiers came forward to contest it but happily
 the cuirassiers had strong morale and Riesling to reroll failed morale dice so a fierce
contest was on. 
On our left Gary had managed to amass strong forces to match Martin's cuirassiers
and the latter were not getting the best of it 
Here they are discussing a complex 3-way attack on the brown roof house.......
Never mind the ignominy of the push back Martin, this photo just allows us to drink in the wonderful classic Spencer Smith figures so beautifully painted by Willz
Subtly our opponents were beginning to get their wagons across the river
"Every wargame battlefield needs a pontoon bridge" (Will Harley 2019)
In this overview it appears that Paul has ownership of the pretty red wagon and is bringing up cavalry to cut me off from it while more cavalry are threatening my right flank. But in the centre, somewhat to Gary's dismay, I am, blitzkrieg-like, ignoring the brown roof house and using Grenadiers to storm ahead
"View of the Weser Valley with coffee mug" by Sir Joshua Gregg RA. 
 Er, not quite, but in the foreground those Tiberian cavalry are about to regret coming within
musket range of more Grenadiers
Martin has been repelled from both the brown-roof house and across the whole flank, oh dear!
The initiative dice gods have been helpful, and together with Riesling on hand
 to organise things I am protecting my right while forging ahead with a
Grenadier brigade to get that treasure wagon
Above and below: The indomitable Gary now was determined to thwart me with flanking fire
 but the Morale of those Grenadiers held (Riesling's reroll again!) and they were able to deliver
the death blow to Paul's now very weak wagon guards

Above and below: Paul thought he could thwart my attempt by sending his cavalry
between two buildings and down from the hill but my infantry hopped over the wall
and created a crossfire of musketry which first stopped them and then discouraged
 them from staying around

Above and below: Encouraged as I was by my success the sight of our opponents
 inexorably edging their wagons towards the river made me assume all was lost.

.....especially as poor Martin seems to have been repulsed on all fronts (those are his dead lining the baseline!)
End of game and my right flank is pushing back the enemy with a wall of grenadier musketry
backed up by Hussar support
In the centre I'm undisputed master of the red wagon of treasure at last.......but it was the only one we captured!
It was time for lunch and both sides agreed we had played long enough. For our part on the Savoy/Prussian side doing any better now seemed a forlorn hope but little did we know that our opponents also felt they might have lost!  As Willz totted up the points he gave us 10 for the pretty wagon and 10 for completely destroying one of the enemy units, and he did a quick count of the enemy wagons which would get away - that came to 40 points, so why the long faces? appeared that a significant objective for the Tiberians was to get units to safety across the Weser River and all our zealous efforts had:
a. pinned them sufficiently that they'd sacrificed troops for wagons
b. cut off nearly half their army from successful retreat even though we hadn't realised!

Whatever the actual calculation Willz declared it a draw! What a brilliant game it had turned out to be.
We were using once again the one page SYW rules made available free by Jim Purky and this year I got a really good run with them. Gary, as ever, proved a real asset as he masters rule sets very quickly and was always on hand to make sure of a sensible interpretation when we were in doubt - thanks Gary. Although there were a few points we did not necessarily agree with I would recommend these for anyone who wants a reasonably fast game that is rich in nuanced period tactical elements but free of any command and control restrictions.  Both Gary and I suggested that it would have been a better game still for both sides' objectives if there had been more clear areas on the table.  So for subsequent sessions Willz took out quite a few surplus terrain features and reported later that the game was indeed better for it. Thanks Willz for a very entertaining time.

Perry Twins - AWI: Destroy the rebel arsenal

I secured my place in this one before we had lunch as the terrain was just "to die for", and the armies were the Perry's own from their, mostly plastic, AWI range. Rules were Black Powder, which they knew backwards of course, so there was no rule-book scanning or consultation delays. Alan said it was Michael's game but both of them kept things moving well for the next 2.5 hours or so.

Michael and Alan Perry explain the forces to us
I volunteered to be "proper British" as Michael put it, rather than rebel British, but as the commands got handed out I was nominated to command the Hessian Brigade, Tim Whitworth got the British Line Brigade and Dave Andrews the Elite Brigade (Grenadiers, Light infantry, Scots etc). Our aim was to march across a river onto the table then get most of the way up it to take control of a rebel arsenal where we could capture the arms and ammo stores and destroy the buildings - well that was the theory!

Our opponents were Douglas Thomson, Steve Pearse and Stuart Insch

Start of the game: Michael and I are standing near where my Hessians are beginning their march on. Doug is about to roll successful initiative for the first rebel brigade. (Photo - kind permission of Stuart Insch)
Hessians march on the field......
.....but American riflemen are lurking
At the bridge on my right Dave got a poor initiative roll to start
Hessian Jagers suffer casualties and a shaken marker (puff of smoke) from the marksmen ahead
The Jagers fall back but their accompanying amusette gun was allowed to lurk under a beautiful Pear (Perry!) tree
The road became a no-go area and so our left column had to march across the fields while my Grenadiers formed line to try to fend the Americans off. Would you believe I rolled 4 "ones" for my first fire with them! Michael P expressed suitably polite amazement.
Meanwhile a rebel brigade marched up to man the arsenal.......
........and those pesky riflemen took up a new position to my front and inflicted more "shaken" which halted the column
Over on our right flank Dave seemed to have formed a nice looking line with the Elites, driven off the riflemen in the churchyard and was pressing on to the treeline. However, the Americans were giving back as good as they got. See the following two photos for close ups of that action

Opposite my Hessians those skirmishers were now being backed up by a line of, I think, militia along the fence
Tim was trying to find a way past my stalled Hessians with his British brigade
and my Jagers returned to the fray along the road
Here's Tim moving his men up watched by Steve and Alan
Dave had unfortunately been forced back to take refuge around the church.........
...but Tim had found that to be an avenue of approach free of enemy fire on him
Dave's retreat had enabled the rebels to try to form another defensive line,
but in doing so one battalion offered a tempting flank
Above and below: for the moment it looked like the Americans had the
 arsenal secured

At this point the battle seemed to turn in our favour (though for me it proved illusory). I managed to roll the magic "3 moves in a row" for initiative. So this photo shows my Jagers and amusette successfully playing on the American line and my Grenadiers moved in to flank that careless battalion, inflicting sufficient losses to prove fatal to their morale. But those are my "hits" you see in the shade of the tree.........
To my right Tim had formed a beautiful two battalion deep attacking column
 My Hessian line battalions had been able to charge and see off the
marksmen but suffered fire from the fenceline as a result - more shaken
Dave seemed to having some luck reforming his Elite brigade......
.....but at the same time incoming fire finished off my Jagers and forced the Grenadiers to retreat.
It was at that point that Michael, somewhat apologetically, broke the news to me that two thirds of the units in my brigade were at maximum sustainable hits and so the whole brigade had to make an orderly retreat from the field!
Just as well that Tim's troops were doing so well.
Above and below: Dave was managing to bring some of his units back into action,
although those hit markers suggest they are fragile.

This overall photo gives a good indication of the temporary lull that had occurred as the Allies tried to recover from losses and the Americans were forced back in defence of the arsenal
Tim's brigade goes on the attack and receives incoming fire
A successful attack - the fence line breached and the American brigade crumbling
This was the last photo I took and with my brigade out of it I wasn't paying close attention, but given this Move was followed by handshakes all round I conclude the American defence had collapsed and the Arsenal was to fall into British hands
So, not my finest hour, and I'm no more an enthusiast for Blackpowder rules than I was before. My Hessians had been used as good mercenaries - take the flak, absorb the opposition effort and let the big boys move in to take the victory. But hey! I got to game with the Perry's with their toys on their terrain, how much better can your wargaming get? (rhetorical question!)

Michael very kindly answered all my questions about the lovely terrain. The setup normally lives in his home and doesn't travel, so we were doubly privileged. I gather it was originally made by Dave Andrews then has gone through several conversions since, finally ending up being coated over most of the surface by a specially made sheet that includes all the grass tufts ready in place, then cut up as necessary and blended in.  No, they are not Warlord commercial tufts all stuck down by hand! Another advantage of this is that cut pieces can be placed at the base of hills to blend them in, as well as to conceal the joins between baseboards. Here are some close-up photos for fans of terrain and Perry Miniatures.........

Thanks Michael and Alan for a very enjoyable afternoon watching how it's done by the originators!

This was followed by the habitual pint in the sunshine in the hotel garden chatting away merrily with my case catching up with Martin Gane, now sporting a lovely beard since his Antipodean and Southeast Asian tour, and his friend Paul Spence. Coincidentally Paul had purchased all my ex-Quatre Bras Hanoverian Landwehr on eBay only a month before, so this was a great opportunity to get to know one another and see a video of his lovely villa in France complete with two storey wargames barn.

In the evening we had a brilliant curry dinner and more games for those who weren't suffering (yet) from excess of food and drink. I had a pleasant hour rolling some dice in a game of "Blood and Plunder" put on by Gavin and Leigh. This is a commercial Pirate game they sell in the shop in Redcar as well as online. Looks good to me if you are into small area, but intense and challenging, skirmish games. Here are some photos of the beautiful figures and ships:

Tony Dillon - being sharp in Spain!
Sunday morning came around and I needed to get my own back on Tony as he's attended a few games at my house and now here was my chance to play one of his. Besides that he had intrigued me a couple of months earlier by sending me a copy of his "Napoker" rules which he had used at a participation game at a show. Very simple to pick up but harder to master. Unfortunately my opponents here were Tony's friend, Phil Walters, who was very familiar with Napoker, and Aly Morrison, who can be guaranteed to thwart an opponent with a combination of devil-may-care attitude, an "I'm always unlucky"modesty, and broad Scottish humour.  I had to handle 11 British and Spanish units on my own, taking on the guises of both Richard Sharpe and Prince "Sweet" William of Orange, so I had very little time to relax and even less to take photos. Happily all the ones I took turned out well.

Phil and Aly in a rare moment of seriousness
The photos can't tell a proper story as I didn't really know what was going on! My units had to find Richard Sharpe's wife Teresa - here's a photo "anyone seen this woman?"

And here is the beautiful Spanish village tabletop on which she may be found. Also it was part of the victory points to gain food, drink or gold in the form of game tokens. The French characters spent a lot of the game (and movement points) in conveying couriers, wagons, supplies, a pontoon bridge, ladies of ill repute, a French Lieutenant's woman and goodness knows what else. Boy, did they appear busy and diverted! But they still found time and energy to send many squads against my men.
The terrain is based on guidance in the "Touching History" Peninsular terrain making book and Tony told me some of the buildings were bought from author Paul Darnell himself. The rest are skilfully made by Tony or adapted commercial resin buildings and scenery. Walls are made from cat-litter!

Above and below: Sharpe's and Billy's Rifles kick in doors and explore
 the houses for loot and Teresa

Above and below: All a mystery to me - skinny dipping French
engineers with a pontoon bridge to build, and various ADCs delivering letters

The next pictures show that some kinetic action was taking place between the protagonists and I was getting the worst of it.

Wagons come into town carrying who knows what?
Tony takes a well earned drink (of fizzy water!). He was working hard to keep it all on track
No, Aly's not bowing to my camera - he's taking a picture with his own while
Phil directs Aly's attack on a house where they think Riflemen are lurking

The pontoon bridge takes shape while the workers display their torsos as if starring in "Poldark"
I had found Teresa fairly early but had a hairy time getting her back to my baseline. Here I'm using Spanish groups to fend off Aly's voltigeurs while she escaped
The French had engineers to help them bash in the doors

Tortured bodies of Frenchmen are discovered

After I got Teresa away and just kept on trying to find the provisions and gold the game seemed to be getting tedious. This was because of the way the playing cards were allocated, and we were both generally firing from cover, no casualties were being lost......until the French discovered one of their objectives. These were the bodies of comrades tortured by the Spanish and it so incensed Phil's forces that a dice roll indicated three of his units had to rush into the open and charge the nearest enemies to get revenge. Unfortunately for him I had a really nice hand that turn with an Ace and a King for Firing and Melee - practically unassailable and Phil and Aly lost about 8 figures in one turn.
that greatly evened up the body count with me still at a deficit of 2. We both achieved maximum points for objectives but I had a 2 point advantage on goods found. So honours were exactly even and it was a draw. A brilliantly devised scenario that kept us guessing all the way to the glass of "looted" wine served to me by Tony just in time for another big lunch and the prize giving!

Tony won the popular votes for both "Best Looking Game" and "Best in Show", so his head was soon too big for his chapeau - well deserved though and he had worked hard to entertain all weekend from the Friday night Quiz onwards.

The other games
There is just not enough time to try everything and it's inevitable that I neglect the games I did not participate in. Here are a few pics of Steve M's and Paul R's games and you can find more on other blogs - especially Aly's (link below).

My personal haul
The WG weekend is always a nice chance to exchange presents or get new stuff without postage.  Willz always gives everyone a hand painted classic figure - he is very generous, thank you. Colin had organised souvenir mugs and at his suggestion I used my painting of the Wild Geese Clare Regiment 1743 to digitise a new design for WGWG19 for us to use on it. Although Graham Cummings couldn't make it we all received our orders of Crann Tara figures via Gavin. In my case it was a load of the new 18th Century sailors and some armed civilians. And to give them something to sail in I got two of the Blood and Plunder longboats from Gavin's store Gaming Figures

So another great experience under my belt and some new acquaintances made. Thank you very, very much to Colin and Katherine Ashton for all they both did to organise everything and make sure it ran so well.

I mentioned the other blogs so here are links to the ones I can find that record this wonderful weekend