Tuesday 27 December 2011

Santa shot in back - Shock horror!

I hope many of you will have read the introduction in my previous posting to this bit of Christmas fun had with some members of  my family. If not please do so - 

This posting is the report of our main game played on Christmas Eve, accompanied by consumption of a certain quantity of beverages, and by new grandson Baby Euan as an occasional bystander (Ok...that should be byhelder!)   

In the event we only had four players able to participate so the groups were allocated as follows, and Pirate landing points diced for:
Matt T.   - The Revenue Men  - start at G
Matt B.   - Naughty Nic's Mob - start at F
Lucy       - Luskaya's Looters    - start at B
Jon         - Nasty Natives Group Two - start in village in any dwelling
CG         - GM and non player "characters" 
Here is the table annotated with potential starting points (letters) and potential clue locations (numbers). Not all clues were to be used and it was up to the GM to start each team (except natives) with a suitable clue and thence give them out at the appropriate times (see rules) to keep the game interesting, fun and maybe challenging.

A blow by blow account would be boring so I'll give the highlights and some pictures. The Revenue Men (RM) had to find their first clue at the toe of the boot shaped lake (2) so Matt T. split them into two groups with one heading there and the other heading down the track in anticipation of  being well placed for the next one. 
Captain Matthew Chumley-Smythe leads Sir Bulkily Billt,
 "Black Dog" the bagman, Master Thomas Baxter, and a soldier
 in pursuit of  "revenue" for the King.
I set Matt B. with Naughty's Nic's family (NN) of cut-throats and ex Roger's Rangers, the clue of going to the cat head shaped rock (1 at very top of the table photo) expecting some inevitable conflict with the Revenue Men. His progress there was slowed by an unfortunate Chance card (he had to shoot one of his crew for delaying them by being too drunk!) and meanwhile Santa Gunn had spied their arrival from his ridge top refuge and random dice rolling by me spurred him into action. As Santa approached the second NN group with musket leveled the pirates made a fast move and got right up to him before any firing could take place. By a combination of coercion and pleasant conversation (2 successes from their searching dice) the NN boys got  a clue off Santa Gunn which was to go up to his hut (3) for the next one. After that Santa wandered round by the native longhouse looking a bit phased by his encounter (my random arrow dice).
The Rangers, led by Nic, marched up hill and got the clue from the hermit's hut which led them down to where a waterfall was gushing out of the rock face and supplying the source of the stream (6) which flowed down to the sea. Encouraged by all this success Matt B. abandoned the slow trek to the cat head rock by Jolly Jules' group to reinforce Nic's group at the waterfall.
Jolly Jules decides against long range musketry at the Revenue group
bogged in the malaria infested vegetation by the lake
One group of the Revenue Men had got to the lake edge and by Chance cards found it infested with malaria and vine loop noose booby traps, causing delay and sickness (counted as wounded). Eventually finding the clue, it called for them to go to where a rotting corpse lay under a fallen log on the ridge top (4). Before they got far on that route castaway Santa had returned to his favourite lookout point on the ridge and decided (by dice) that the RMs were hostile. Priming his pan with the extra fine grain powder he had salvaged from shipwreck (giving him an extra two inches range which surprised poor Matt), he took a pot shot at this RM group, but without hitting. Thereafter his dice seemed to represent bottling out as he proceeded at best pace 
(that long coat was not conducive to running!) back across the ridge top, pursued by angry RM officials.
But Santa was going nowhere since ahead of him stood the other fierce group of RMs, by now searching the corpse for their next clue. Without warning, an RM soldier, acting on instruction from his corporal, shot Santa Gunn in the back!
Captured by 18th century CC TV (so that's why Santa is fuzzy!)
Corporal "Pee-brain" lives up to his dirty reputation by ordering the murder.
The Honourable Charles Anstruther is an unwilling witness. 
I'm afraid my saving roll for Santa added another corpse to that ridge....if it had been a movie his sack would have spilled out toys that rolled down to the waterfall...........sigh.
I've got a long way into this account without mentioning Lucy and her mob of Russian pirates who had started right at the far end of the peninsula and was finding clues in fairly quick succession without too much incident. Her first one was at the junction of the streams (12) followed by the next at the lone palm tree (11). However by that time, Wild Rover, the shipwrecked dog, who had been resting lazily in a patch of crops at the edge of the village, caught a whiff of vodka soaked fur coats (24 inch smelling distance) and headed at speed in search of his next meal (at 3 x D6 inches per turn he was potentially the fastest creature in the game).  The sight of the vicious-looking dog heading towards her group put the wind up Luskaya but luckily the dog's nearest opponent was Hawkovitch "the Hunter" and he sent his hawk to attack Rover. However this achieved nothing and the hawk returned to his hand just in time to assist in fending off Rover's snapping jaws. This fight actually went to 4 rounds of hand-to-hand combat, so well matched was the hawk and its handler's sword arm to Rovers gnashing teeth and sharp claws. But eventually the saving rolls went against my little pet and he died under the hawk's beating wings, much to Lu's relief. (I was so excited by this tense action that I forgot to photograph Rover's tussle :-(  ). Lu's Looters (LL) found the next clue which was to lead her men in two groups towards the village bridge (8). As Chance (cards) would have it the vodka was taking effect and her groups fell to rushing wildly into the murky pool (10) and squabbling among themselves, which caused a delay.
Lots of threatening pistol pointing and whip cracking
as Luskaya's Looters squabble among themselves
Jon, who had been very patient and cunning, had held his natives back up till now and sent four out to attack the leading LL group.  They threw axes on approach but only one hit and caused a wound, they had no time to recover the weapons but charged on into combat with knives and shields against Luskaya and her nearest men. One of these was Krakovski "the Slaver" who held off one native spearman with his long whip. But a hard fought struggle took place and the poorly armed natives held up well to the curved sabres and pistols of the Russians. I had allowed them an extra 1 on their saving rolls for shields and bone "armour" and for being athletic in H-to-H combat. Jon was out to capture a prisoner for the cooking pot but without success. Although he inflicted wounds and delayed this group for a couple of moves he suffered badly and only had one man to retreat back to the village, empty handed.
Luskaya herself eventually went down under the knife of
one of the brave natives, leaving Dadski in charge of the band.
Showing no remorse for the loss of his daughter he led them
down to the clue at the bridge
 Back at the waterfall Naughty Nic had organised her group so that three men went down to search at the foot of the falls while she and a Ranger guarded from the top. Dice did not come up favourably so the search continued, but this allowed Jon to attack with four natives out of the long house up the stream and pin the white men against the falls. A terrific struggle then commenced with firing from the top of the waterfall wounding one native, but one of Nic's mob also got wounded in the close combat. In a see-saw action three of Nic's men were wounded, two being captured, but one was released when his captor was killed. Nic herself closed in on Chief Big Horns and shot him dead. Jolly Jules came up with what remained of her party and joined in. Despite his best efforts Matt was unable to prevent Jon from dragging off his wounded prisoner and putting him in the cooking pot nearby. Rolling his two dice Jon scored 9, so that was the first Victory Points  "in the bag"; unfortunately he only had two figures left. Fearing such a dire situation I had said quietly at the start that if all his figures were lost he could bring the second native group into play. In his gentlemanly way Jon did not throw his last two warriors away recklessly but kept them in play as a threat; since they were not attacked that's how he finished the game.
Three of Naughty Nic's mob search the waterfall for a clue

What a mess by the waterfall!
Red stickers indicate wounded and the lying down figures are prisoners.
But Chief Big Horns is about to meet his maker
and one of the natives will sneak off with his tasty snack
It was about this point that we got one of those magic moments only a model soldier nerd can really appreciate..... Your daughter, unused to handling 28mm metal miniatures, is bringing her handful of  piratical fighters up to the bridge to start searching underneath. But she fumbles....and drops one.....and he bounces so that his little elbow hooks over the model bridge just as if he's hanging on for dear life!  I assure you this photo is in no way staged, faked or doctored.

Well, order restored, Luskaya's Looters still did not find the clue straight away. Time was now moving on and I realised I'd better start letting the teams have the critical clue to the hidden treasure hoard. Although I had three different endings to allow for future games, for this one I stayed true to Charles Grant's original and had the treasure on the beach under the prow of the wrecked boat (16).  Within about two turns of each other all three remaining players got the relevant clue and since they were all grouped round the native village it was going to become a race to the beach (last one in is a sissy!)

Luskaya's were the first on the scene as she sent one group straight from the village to the beach, they were hotly pursued by the first two of the Revenue Men.   The other group attempted to skirt the high cliff so as to protect the route towards Lu's boats. A good tactic, except while clambering over the wreck she did not get favourable Movement cards.

Rear guard action on the rocks keeps the Revenue Men at bay
What happened next was that Dadski and two cronies got to the prow of the wreck and started digging. Lucy's dice indicated the discovery of a chest full of 20 VPs of treasure. Unfortunately by this time her support group had been reduced to just Hawkovitch and Krakovski who were under fire from some of Nic's Mob and not in good shape. The rest of the NNs lined the cliff top and began to pour fire down on Dadski's Looters while the two nearest Revenue Men took shelter literally under the cliff edge and joined in the firing. The remaining RMs were basically in good health and had by-passed the two last natives to threaten the rear of the NN group.
Lu looks surprisingly happy
while Matt T. acts out the typical Revenue Man facial expression!
The following picture, although the last one I took, does not quite wrap it up. Under the weight of fire two of the Russian Looters had gone down and Dadski was left wounded in charge of a chest full of booty, the only other two members of this group were, at best, two moves away and under close threat.
Nic and Jules encourage their men to all round defence on the cliff top
 while  the remaining Looters can be seen in the distance.
 Captain Chumley-Smythe and Master Baxter in the foreground
have yet to scuttle under the cliff for cover
It was now nearly time for the real Santa to visit and we were all getting a bit tired after 5 - 6  hours play, only broken by a supper of  the Duchess of Grandchamp's very fine vegetable bake followed by chocolate cake. I was called on to make a decision how we should end. Since the discovered treasure was 20 VPs it was more than twice Jon's native's 9 VPs of roast meat, so the natives were unlikely to win. Luskaya's Looters were all likely to die in a vain effort to secure the loot. This just left Naughty Nic's Mob to fight it out with the Revenue Men and since half the NNs were wounded I decreed that Matt T's Revenue Men would be the ones taking the loot back for the Crown (less the coins that just happened to fall into their deep pockets!).

In conclusion we all felt the game worked well (even though the Contraband Cards did not turn up frequently enough a fair amount of the Jamaica rum, French wine, English ale and cider, and the rum and raisin chocolate, did get consumed!).  It was very difficult to judge balance among the diverse groups but nobody complained that their force was not powerful enough. Jon's natives were a small but fairly worthy group who had to attack to win, so maybe I was a bit hard not making them up to 10 figures. Apart from that I don't think anything else needs amending if anyone wants to try this. If you do, please let me know how it goes. Don't forget the rules, briefing sheets, map etc are available as PDF downloads  in this shared folder from my side bar:    pirate game files
If you want to see more photos of the game, here they are in a Picasa folder:

Saturday 24 December 2011

Festive Fun on Treasure island

I said in my sidebar "About me" that I get to play games with my grown up kids occasionally and Christmas is generally the best time for this. We have 3 of the offspring, plus partners, for the festivities this year and they all seemed keen on my suggestion to put on a light hearted pirate treasure seeking "wargame". I was inspired by Charles Grant's "Trouble on Treasure Island" scenario in the excellent Battlegames "Table Top Teasers" book .
This gave some terrain ideas and the basic shape of the game.
I then bought Foundry Miniature's "Compendium" at a bargain price wargames foundry compendium and that has a section on pirate games with lots of stimulating photos and more ideas, as well as complete, but simple, game rules. That game includes Chance cards, many of which I have used in my game. However, neither of these was exactly what I wanted for my family, or could do with my figures, so I needed to work up something original.  Now is the point to own up that I don't actually have any Pirate miniatures, but I do have a lot of various 18th Century types that could be "pressed ganged" into treasure seeking service in some way, and more on that shortly.
Having the concept of the various participating groups in my mind I needed to set out the terrain so that I could work out a good deal of clues in order to have plenty of variety and scope for maybe 5 or 6 players. Here's what I came up with using my home made terrain tiles with lots of scenery to disguise the joins and sheer-drop edges. Click to enlarge
I decided a "wild" peninsula, occupied by cannibal natives attached to an island governed by a Colonial power would suit my purpose in bringing treasure seekers to the game area as well as "Government" types who were not above a bit of corruption themselves. This resulted in two groups of officials, one of which had 10 figures, the other 13 including 3 to crew a fixed cannon in a redoubt, and 4 groups of "pirates", two of which had 3 gunners and  fixed cannon on board ships just off the coast. In addition there are two groups of 8 natives based in the village with different objectives directed against all the other parties. I knew not all groups would be used in every game but it gives variety as each group has different capabilities, hopefully well balanced.
In my "Downloads" sidebar under "Pirate game" there are various PDFs covering my rules, full briefing sheets for all groups, the choice of Game master-controlled Clues to guide the various parties, and some cards. However I haven't included the Chance cards in case there are copyright issues. I suggest you make your own up or buy the Foundry book! In the spirit of "skirmish wargaming" the groups unashamedly feature characters inspired by some of the intended participants, either by name or character traits, or both! 
Everything complete, I had a test game with Jon and his girlfriend Katie a couple of days ago which helped me modify the Chance card content and drawing system to give a smoother game - thanks guys. It was quite amusing to see that Jon's "Revenue Men", with his background as his Dad's wargaming assistant for most of his youth, were focused on ridding the peninsula of as many of my natives as possible, whereas Katie's "Trelawney's Treasure Seekers", in her first "wargame", sensibly focused on following the clues and finding the treasure!
Despite having her personal figure of "Lady Katherine" lost in the jungle
 by a Chance card-generated swarm of wasps, Katie looks
 pleased as she's just got the final clue to the treasure. 
Squire Trelawney plans how to get the clues he needs from the native village
Half the sinister Revenue Men gather their next clue from the corpse at the fallen tree
while the others are busy fending off an attack by Chief Red Blanket at the native village.
Just to give you a taster of the other groups here are some more pictures

Luskaya and Dadski lead "Luskaya's Looters". I had been given this fun set of Foundry Cossacks a couple of years ago and not had a use for them till now. However, why not have a Russian band of seafarers scouring the Seven Seas for treasure still wearing their Siberian fur coats and hats? !!! Besides those hats were just asking to be painted in Santa Claus red  with white fur trim........and some interesting rules ideas came from the seeing the guy with the big whip and the one with the hawk on his arm (more lethal than a parrot!)

Matt MacBell and "Frenchie" Lachance lead a wild group of "MacBell's Marauders" who are mainly of  Scottish extraction, including Euan the cabin boy in tricorne hat at the back. My first grandson, Euan, was born less than 3 weeks ago and since this is his first Christmas I could hardly leave him out....... These miniatures are a mixed bag mostly bought second hand - they are, at least, Redoubt, Old Glory, Front Rank and Foundry figures from my FIW collection.

Captain Hans Schnitzelbeiter and Sergeant "Bully" Hartmann the German mercenary trainers, try to guide "The Local Militia" through some routine drills in the service of the Island Governor. The leaders are some lovely Foundry characters, and the rank and file appropriately are Front Rank Miniatures Prussian Jaegers.
And of course there are a few Games Master tricks up my sleeve too in the form of Santa Gunn the castaway hermit, Goosy Goosy Gander the walking Christmas dinner, and Wild Rover, the old sea dog!
I just knew that Foundry Miniatures Father Christmas,
free with their festive paint set, would come in handy for something :-)
After I've recovered from the festivities (yes, my game includes "Contraband cards " with compulsory swigs of rum, ale, cider , port or wine!) I shall post some more pictures and hopefully an insight into how the main game went.
If you care to use any of the resources from the sidebar downloads please let me know how you got on.
Meanwhile - have a happy holiday.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Rivals rally for Round Robin

Every year the Oxford Wargames Society organisers use their December wargaming Sunday for the benefit of three other regional clubs by staging a "Round Robin" fun gaming competition. The idea is that each team fields four players who rotate throughout the day over four games. Each game is timed to take only 1.5 hours and guarantee a result in which 3 points can be divided as the GM sees fit between the four players - usually 3,2,1 and 0, but not necessarily if there is a tie. The Oxford Society guys spend weeks designing and play testing the games prior to the event and put up all the resources, including the hired hall and free tea, coffee and nibbles. It's an amazing free day of original games and is always fun and a good challenge. My club, Greatfield Wargames Group (Cheltenham) has been very fortunate to be invited to compete for the last 9 years and occasionally we've won the coveted "Round Robin" trophy (shown below). In the spirit of the RR it is home made and bears mostly homemade winners labels. In fact it is totally pretentious of  the Abingdon Club to have bought a professionally engraved brass plaque for their win! :-). It is rather tatty due to being constantly ferried up and down the Thames valley from the Chilterns to the Cotswolds and being passed round winning players.

This year our team consisted of me (Chris G), Mike, Peter and Edward. I'll give you my personal impressions of each game, but I can't pretend my experience will reflect that of everyone....it's a bit like being in the firing line of a re-enactment regiment - you're so focused on your own enemy you can't take in what your comrades are doing.
The first game I played was organised by Kevin and called "Predators". It involved a small number of futuristic warriors, superbly painted Copplestone figures, and really nicely made simple terrain. The idea was each team had to search each of three rubble areas to find a missing piece of technology from a crash. Dice scores notionally represented a successful search and the winner was the first to get all three. Killing opponents was incidental, but could act as a tie breaker if necessary. We played it twice in the time - once as Marines and once as Predators because, not surprisingly, their numbers and skills were very different. I came second equal. Here are some pics of  "Predators":

Kevin was willing to share his game ideas and the rules and I've put a copy in my "Downloads" Sidebar under "Miscellaneous".
Next for me was "Orc raid". This was a dungeon exploration game by the ever devious Mark Barnes and had all his usual hallmarks - simple concept with nice figures but made complex by the amount of choices available to players. Each team had 8 orcs or goblin type creatures who are breaking into a cavern system which houses Dwarf treasures. In essence 2 figures arrived at cavern break-in points two at a time according to a card drawn initiative system and then explored, discovering the corridor and room configuration and treasure as they went. Treasure hoards were neat little cut down luggage labels valued at 1, 2 or 3 points so the hole could be threaded onto orc weapons and literally carried by the figure with cumulative exhaustion effect. Obviously you could fight opponents and steal their treasure and fend off very angry dwarves when they eventually arrived to take revenge  (Mark can be a bit scary as a hammer waving dwarf!)

"Orc Raid" used standard plastic "Lord of the Rings" figures
My participation was notable for: - not getting any initiative in the first couple of critical turns, so constantly picking up the treasure "dregs" left by those carrying higher value luggage labels, choosing dead end routes to explore rather than finding treasure rooms, and not being particularly successful in any of the fights I chose to pick. Nevertheless you couldn't fail to be fully involved and have a load of laughs even when your score result is a big zero!

After lunch and a bottle of rather nice beer, I was feeling a bit mellow and became a burgher in charge of a  "City State" in the game organised by Dillon Browne. This was rather like a board game played with 15mm 17th Century musketeers and with model buildings to match. A gridded road network had "cities" and "towns" at the intersections, reached by movement in squares. Each player was alloted a City and a small army, and a mini-campaign system was used to represent the income of cities and captured towns balanced against the upkeep of standing armies and mercenaries. The real innovations were allowing bidding of your money for mercenary figures to augment your army, auctioning the initiative cards to the highest bidder, and trying to bribe a neutral city state to gain influence and more troops. The winner would be the player with the most money at the end of the game - we started off with 100 pounds each. Well, I'm naturally cautious with anything to do with money, even if it was only bits of paper figuratively bearing the visage of King Dillon I, and that beer was making me a bit lethargic so I played it cool to start with. Consequently I never gained the initiative, only won one town and began to think there was no way I could win, until by Move 3 I sussed that there was a way to do nothing but keep taking income and try to get the others to spend their money. A kind of arms race was going on between two players fighting over a town and they seemed to be prepared to pay up to 15-20 pounds for a base of mercenaries at the auction, so I pretended  to be interested to keep the prices high. This worked well till move 6 when I ended up being the successful bidder and got some mercenaries of my own for £12! Suffice to say I did nothing much all game except trying to look a bit threatening and engaged, and just contented myself with counting (behind my hand) my lovely growing income. When time was called my strategy had worked and I had £169 compared to my nearest rival's £155; the keen fighters had only just made a profit being down around £120-130 each.  "My most boring game but one of my most successful victories", thus I apologised to Dillon (who took it very decently) while collecting my 3 point win.

Effects of the beer had now worn off and I was raring to get stuck into the last game which was "The road to Genappe". It was organised by Paddy who seems to love off-beat scenarios, and this was a Napoleonic in 6mm, along similar lines to his iconic and highly successful "Crossing the Berezina" of a few years past. 
The remnants of Napoleon's army was fleeing in large numbers from Waterloo towards Genappe, hotly pursued by Prussian cavalry. Two players had the French (about 18 stands each) and two players the Prussians (about 9 stands). It was basically an initiative card driven race across a squared table to see how many French could get to the safety of the town before being cut down or dispersed by the cavalry. The infantry could use the cover of woods for some protection and to slow down the Prussians, as well as turning to fight should they choose to do so. A key cavalry tactic was to move on past the infantry and turn to cut them off from the town - but easier said than done.
However, the wargaming gods were smiling on me by now as my Prussian cavalry cut down 21 French stands (the record was 22) for the loss of only one of my own. In the second installment of this intriguing game my French managed to outrun the cavalry for an extra turn by a good initiative draw (Ace of Spades!), then turned some stands to fight and incredibly slaughtered three Prussian stands in one go. Not only did this give my other groups some respite but caused my tormentor to reign in some of his survivors so I made more headway. Although the other Prussian commander managed to disperse several of my stands on the very threshold of Genappe I still got a record 10 stands home.
Andrew from Abingdon contemplates the start and wonders where to bring on his Prussian cavalry. Below the confused French don't know which way to turn in the face of the Prussian onslaught.

By this time the other games had finished and the scores were in - but unknown to me. Before the scoring of my game Peter had whispered in my ear "You've only got to not lose this one and we've won the competition". And so when both games scores were totted up I had cleaned up with another 3 points and we had indeed won the Round Robin trophy for 2011.  But as this was our third outright win (as opposed to shared) Oxford graciously presented us with the trophy to keep, but we have to provide something suitably humorous for which the clubs can compete next December. You can see from the score chart that it was a real team effort - particularly our runaway 4th leg.

I need to point out that despite the esoteric nature of the games this "competition" is played by all in the "old school wargaming" spirit of gentlemanly behaviour and fun and it's a joyous way for a wargamer to run up to Christmas. Sincere thanks to Oxford for their efforts and hospitality and to Abindon and Thames Valley teams for letting us win by getting such abysmal dice rolls and initiative cards!
Dillon is happy to field questions about any of the Oxford games and can be contacted at

And finally.
It's worth me showing you a glimpse of Paddy's very clever "Crossing the Berezina" game. This board was made by me and the figures (MiniFigs and Hinchliffe) painted originally by Mike but given "snow effect" and basing by me. This is now in the possession of Peter's after school gaming group who seem to enjoy it. 

Tuesday 6 December 2011

More feasting on Light Blue Uniforms

I'm gratified by all the interest generated by my post on my new Imagi-Nation Grenadier battalions
Thank you to everyone who commented. However, Jean-Louis of Lyon, France has got very excited by the possibilities in my question "What should I do for the next 24 Victrix Austrian Grenadier figures?" In the Comments section to that post he has supplied very many links to uniforms, mostly French, from 17th to 19th Centuries. I suspect many of my readers might not be aware of this mine of information, nor look at the comments section if it is hidden in their visible page format.  So if you are at all interested in uniforms from Louis XIV up to the Franco-Prussian War, or just want inspiration for Imagi-Nation regiments please go and take a look.

For my part I've now checked my Blandford "Uniforms of the American Revolution" by John Mollo and Malcolm McGregor, and my eyes nearly popped when I found Jean-Louis' suggestion to adapt Lauzun's Legion to my 1760 Savoy/French army. Can't resist showing it to you all
Wow - Light blue and yellow, that looks really great, and apart from filling in the bearskin front plate my Victrix Grenadiers will do the trick nicely. So thanks, Jean-Louis, vous- etes un tres vrais gentilhomme!
Shame though - I'll now need to get some more light blue hussars, what a hardship :-)

Saturday 3 December 2011

Grenadiers, anyone?

In my earlier posting giving a report on our battle at Futonville
the five newest units in my armies got their first outing. Earlier postings, in October, had featured the cavalry units close up. The Hussars of Bercheny and the Chasseurs de Fischer did well in their first game even though Fischer's squadron got destroyed and Bercheny's left the field at a quarter strength. The Royal Dragoons, however, were part of the ill-fated French heavy brigade and came on the field straight into melee with the Imperial cuirassiers. Both brigades only took one turn to sort each other to mutual annihilation, with the Imperial force marginally more successful due to slightly superior numbers, so I never got a chance to take any in-game photos of my new Minden dragoons :-(.  But the other two new units - both Grenadiers, gave a good account of themselves on the day and I think it might be useful to tell you a bit about them.

First up are my "Grenadiers de Hainaut", fighting in the service of France. These had their origins in my desire always to do something on the cheap, and I had a good look on-line at the new Victrix plastic Austrian Napoleonic Grenadiers, and thought......Hmmm....I can do something with them. They are 56 pretty well all usable figures for around £18 and I needed to do a unit of 24 as a first shot.  I chose to model them on Eugene Leliepvre's splendid looking "Volontaires de Hainaut" in Plate E of Osprey's Louis XV's Army - Light Troops and Specialists. Apart from practically identical bearskin hats I thought the combination of light blue coats and black facings was really cool. There was some work to do however, to make a decent match. Here are views of the original sprues.

To enable these Grenadiers to travel back in time to circa 1760 I had to make their hair look like an 18th Century pigtail and their gaiters to be above the knee, not those "modern" Napoleonic shorties. To do this I used Winsor  & Newton Galeria Acrylic Structure Gel, painted on with a brush in layers. I use this to add body in my acrylic landscape paintings and it comes in handy for some model projects too where all you need is a thin layer which would be a bit difficult for the non-skilled like me to do with Greenstuff. I cut my losses on the backpacks - just not glueing them on at all, and cutting away the cartridge box and sword to fit separately. Here is a back view showing that I went a bit mad on some of the hair-dos!

I didn't know what to use for a Regimental Colour, but as I like to make my own anyway I just looked up Hainaut or Hainault on Google for inspiration. Very quickly I came up with the coat of arms and digested a potted history showing the chequered fortunes of that  area of the Low Countries, which suggested I could get away with just using that emblazoned with "Comte de Hainault" in gold lettering, so here is the Colour Bearer:
I still have enough Victrix figures for another battalion of grenadiers but at the moment lack inspiration for what unit to depict - maybe Grenadiers de France with the front plate of the headgear filled in, though any suggestions from my learned readers would be welcome please.

Next for the painting table, a much easier job - Prussian style Grenadiers for the "Imperial" side:

I had a nice batch of Old Glory Prussian Grenadiers which are full of character but unfortunately in several slightly different variants of the march attack stance. I selected as compatible a bunch of 24 as possible and there was no conversion needed on the rank and file figures. For the command group I chose a Foundry officer, looking quite swaggering with a holstered pistol in view, a spare Old Glory British drummer who still looked the part to me, and a Front Rank officer whose cane could be be cut away and a Colour substituted.
For the uniform I used  the Hesse-Kassel Leibgarde zu Fuss from Plate F in Osprey's "Frederick the Great's Allies 1756-63". The artwork of the Embleton's has been an inspiration to me ever since my eldest brother treated me to my first copy of "Look and Learn" magazine way back in about 1962! Again I wasn't too fussy about the flag and used the standard  Hessian stripy lion on a white background. My upscaling from a scanned version required a lot of cutting out of pink background and I lost a fair bit of the corner cyphers in the computer. However, simulating it with a fine liner pen seemed to give an adequate result viewed at "wargames distance".  

Reading about the rather difficult heritage of Hessian regiments at this time, especially those which became Garde or Grenadier battalions, I just called these "Erbprinz Grenadiers", after all, every Germanic Imagi-Nation should have some! 
As luck would have it these two battalions ended up battling each other at the end of Le Pont de Futon, and both retained enough strength at the end  of the game to take their places in the battle line for the next set-to between Savoy and Reikland.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Postscript to the battle of Futonville

Since my previous posting,  being a report of the advance guard action at Futonville, a messenger has galloped up to the gates of the Chateaux de Grandchamp bearing a copy of a letter sent from Baron Valorcine to his commander, the Duke de Deuxchevaux

In case there is any doubt, I hasten to add, as a neutral umpire I am NOT the author of this outrageous slur on General d'Ancolie, who was only doing his best under conditions of great stress!

Baron Francois de Valorcine, over confident as ever, taunts the Imperialists while directing his sole remaining unit - a light gun

The Battle of Futonville - report

In earlier posts I gave a taster to our battlefield for Futonville
(http://notjustoldschool.blogspot.com/2011/11/spookily-deserted.html) and also to the rules used
http://notjustoldschool.blogspot.com/2011/11/about-wigs-and-wine.html  ). A bit late but here is the report of the game. Full briefings containing the details of why the forces are fighting in the Vallee de la Chambreuse, and orders of battle for both the Imperial and French commanders, can be found in the “Imagi-Nations Collection” section of Downloads in my sidebar.

My games are set in 1760 when the Duke of Deuxchevaux (DC) from Savoy, backed by King Louis XV of France, has aspirations to extend his own lands in the name of the King. Across the mountains to the North east lies Reikland. This is an extreme outlying province of “the Empire”, loosely based on the Hapsburg Empire which I take as extending for my purposes virtually up to the border of France, and ignoring Switzerland (sorry any Swiss readers!). Reikland has it’s own sub-divisions, one could call them cantons perhaps, based on major towns and these provide contingents mainly for local defence. They are backed up judiciously by Austrian forces and any other Germanic contingents that can be pressed into service. Thus my Imperial troops have a hard core of British-looking infantry and Austrian-looking cavalry and artillery, aided and abetted by Prussians/Hessians/Hanoverians or whatever takes my fancy. The Savoy forces are all French-looking but also have mercenaries made up of whatever I think suitable - such as in this battle a band of free Scottish highlanders selling their services as light infantry, and the Grenadiers of Hainaut.

Colours of the Duke of Deuxchevaux's 1st Regiment of Foot

The Imperial Coat of Arms with motto
"Dracke uber Alles"

The inspiration for the scenario came from Terry Preen (of South Norwood, London) in his game called “Three Crossings” which he devised principally for a smaller table, less figures and 20mm SYW armies. I was keen to adapt it to our group of players here at Greatfield and my own 28mm armies using mostly old school style “big battalions”. Unlike Terry’s scenario which gave one bridge 2 Victory Points (VPs) and the other two 1 point each, I opted to spread VPs all around the table to try to give more to fight for.  The map shows the various values - note that Futonville bridge is the highest prize. Terry had random dice rolls both for arrival and entry points for the various commands. I decided I wanted to give the players more decisions so I got each Commander-in-Chief to decide where each brigade would arrive but left it to dice to decide when. The really clever bit in Terry’s game was that when the entire forces had arrived on the table (being vanguards of larger armies) an imaginary clock started a countdown, so that we allowed 4 more moves of play then rolled a die to see if either main force arrived. Worried about finishing on time I built in a plus one addition each move to ensure it wasn’t open ended.  The side controlling terrain with most VPs when the first main army arrived would win.

I had 3 players and 4 brigades per side, as follows:
1st Infantry Brigade - Pete
2nd Infantry Brigade - Richard
Light Cavalry Brigade, then Heavy Cavalry Brigade - Mike

1st Infantry Brigade - Tony
2nd Infantry Brigade - Sam
Light Cavalry Brigade, and Heavy Cavalry Brigade - Edward

Here is the aerial view of the battlefield with entry points and VPs:
I will unfold the battle briefly using using photos, but you can view the entire photo folder here.

Move One and the French Generals are looking worried. This is because General von Urff got lucky dice for the Imperial brigades and both infantry, plus the light cavalry, arrived in the first turn. Only Baron Valorcine's Light Cavalry have arrived for Savoy (next photo).

Move Two and General von Uberlegen encourages his Cuirassier Brigade towards Pont de Berger. Le Noble Jaeger battalion is crossing Pont du Duvet. The 1st Savoy Infantry Brigade can be seen in the distance arriving just beyond Futonville.

The Hussars de Bechard get a good view of the Reikland 2nd Brigade deploying in the valley below East Ridge. However, failure to press home quickly using a  double move would cost them dearly.

General von Pocks calmly inspects the grenadier company of  Grunburg IR3 near Futonville bridge, while behind him the Fusiliers of Argentiere are engaged in a deadly struggle with Valorcine's hussar brigade. The Fusiliers had been allowed to form line and their volley fire emptied quite a few hussar saddles before the melee.

Eventually both the Valorcine and Bechard Hussars are beaten down to critical levels and face morale checks, but they have taken a  lot of the fusiliers with them. The cavalry figures in front of  the red-coated IR3 are in fact prisoners!

Meanwhile Imperial troops had exploited both the smaller bridges and made such good progress that the Kotztoter Uhlans had closed off  the intended entry point for the French Heavy cavalry. Frantic secret discussions then took place between the French C-in-C and the umpire to find a logical way to bring them on the table.

That proved to be a deviation to the North of the Hauteurs des Moutons but once the French Heavy cavalry got clear of the woods (notionally off-table) they were spotted by General von Kotztoter's light artillery on the hill and General von Uberlegen alerted  to about turn his brigade to face the new threat. In the distance, in front of Futonville, the black Death's Head Hussars have charged full tilt into the Duke of Deuxchevaux's first infantry battalion, catching them before they could get a volley off. Here is a close-up of the Savoy line:

The crate by the artillery piece actually contains little round black 
ammunition counters which are removed as the gun fires.

Better late than never! Poor Richard had a series of very unfortunate dice rolls to get his Savoy 2nd Brigade on the table via La Grande Colline, the slopes of which were also a movement hindrance.

Back at Futonville bridge two squadrons of hussars had been wiped out and the Chasseurs de Fischer squadron nearly so. The Hussars de Bercheny had faired quite well having less opposition and better morale dice. They had achieved so many casualties on the Fusiliers d'Argentiere that this green-coated battalion had fled for two moves, and were rallied by von Pocks, but then took a look at how few of their comrades were  left and marched away from the battle! Nothing new for this mercenary battalion as they had started the campaign in the pay of the Duke of Deuxchevaux but he left them in an exposed position at the battle of Strudeldorf and they marched off the field in disgust and defected to the Reikland Army. However, the intact Grunburg IR3 is forming a firing line to deliver a deathly volley to the Bercheny lads.

General view on Move 5.
Baron de Valorcine only has a light gun on the east bank of the Chambreuse stream now that the remnants of Bercheny's have beaten a hasty retreat to their baseline. At the left the French 2nd Brigade is marching into Futonville. Beyond the town a bitter struggle still ensues between the Black Hussars and DC's 1st  Regiment a Pied.  In the North-west corner Mike and Edward are sorting out the mutual annihilation of their heavy cavalry brigades!

Sam, in his youthful enthusiasm, has made IR3 look rather an undisciplined rabble in his effort to defend the East end of Futonville bridge. The Scots light infantry are taking up position on the East bank, backed up by the Grenadiers de Hainaut. Unseen, DC's 2nd Regiment a Pied has occupied the warehouses on the bank of 
the stream. Below is the same scene from Baron Joubarbe's 2nd Brigade perspective showing the  Languedoc and Bearn Regiments .

The Savoy 1st Regiment has disposed of the Hussars by superior numbers (prisoners in foreground) and survived their morale checks, encouraged by General d'Ancolie. But his influence couldn't run as far as the artillerymen who have temporarily left their piece to lick their wounds. Beyond, the Imperial occupation of the valley objectives is nearing completion with light infantry on West Ridge and both Grunburg Regiments forming impressive blocks in the confined space threatening to attack towards Futonville.

On the East bank Richard has opted for an outflanking movement to East Ridge with most of his brigade while also pushing across the stream from Futonville. Sam has reformed IR3 and is using the elite Erbprinz Grenadier battalion to defend the end of the bridge itself. Part of DC's 2nd Regiment a Pied can be seen by the bridge warehouse.

The decisive struggle begins!
Here we have a lightning double move charge ordered by the Duke of Deuxchevaux across the bridge against the Erbprinz Grenadiers, while the Grenadiers de Hainaut have charged into Grunburg IR3, withstanding the volley fire and actually putting a depleted IR3 to flight who had no stomach to receive a bayonet attack. 

An overview near the end.
Outside Futonville Grunburg IR1 and artillery had been exchanging fire with DC's 1st Regt a Pied and easily saw off this battalion, much weakened after its fight with the Black Hussars. So d'Ancolie had to reform his line to cover the gap to the town while 2nd Regt a Pied had stormed across Futonville bridge. In the distance General von Urff has rallied Grunburg IR3 and brought across the Kotztoter Uhlans from the West bank. This light cavalry regiment completed its move by charging the flank of  the Hainaut Grenadiers. You can see a better view of that below:
Thus we had an interesting mix with each side having two units engaged and a mutual flanking attack. The French narrowly won, and as it was at this point that I rolled the right die to announce the arrival of a main force we checked the Imperial morale and both units stood firm!
Winning the dice contest to get more units on the field first, Tony had set up his Imperial forces in a good position to gain many objectives, some unopposed. As it worked out his dispositions could hardly have been bettered as he had good troops in place to hold the Futonville bridgehead (Sam did well there in his first SYW game) and fluidity with his cavalry to use the river crossings to meet contingencies. Unfortunately for Pete, the collective French failure to arrive early enough meant a sound enough plan was not going to work at all well in reality. There were very few things I could do to try to even things up, but  I did allow the heavy cavalry to shift entry point off table, mitigated somewhat the extent of difficult slopes for 2nd Brigade on the Grande Colline, and gave Peter's troops the benefit of some confusing figure juxta-positioning in the melees round the far end of Futonville bridge. I have to say in retrospect it seemed like a fairly sedate waltz by the Imperials compared to an audacious quickstep by the French, which resulted in more objectives gained by the former by Move 10 - the end of the game. Since the Imperial troops at the bridge stood fast at the end I split the Futonville Bridge points 2 to the French and 1 to the Imperial troops, but all the rest were obvious, resulting in 8 for Tony and 4 for Peter.

Since I had set this in my Reikland campaign the players kindly collated their losses. I can apply to this my post -battle triage system and will probably use a variation on this battlefield to allow larger forces to compete for the Vallee de la Chambreuse in my next big battle in the Spring. Thanks for the inspiration Terry!

This is my first full wargame report on the blog, so I'd be particularly interested in readers' comments, and any suggestions for improvement. Thanks