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
( and also to the rules used  ). 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

Sunday 20 November 2011

Entertaining day of Warfare

Every year I go to "Warfare" at Reading, staged by the Wargames Association of Reading (WAR) and, in my opinion it is a show that has it all - a wide variety of games, many of very high quality, more traders than I can possibly give enough time to, and a big Bring and Buy that is very well organised and run. It's a weekend show and this time I went on the Saturday, it seemed busier to me than ever before, but maybe that's just a "first day" thing.
I had lots of friendly chats with traders and gamers and also did well at the B and B - disposing of my 20 year old 15mm Peninsular War armies (I expect they will turn up on Ebay!) and getting the bargain of a lifetime - about 200 unpainted Foundry and Front Rank 25/28mm Prussians to add to my growing metal mountain to augment the Imagi-nation armies.

I always liked to share my photos of the best games in the "Greatfield Galloper", but this year I have a blog instead and so can present the efforts of some of these very talented people to a wider world.
This was, in my opinion, the best looking game at the show. Run by Skirmish Wargames in their "one true scale" - 54mm, it was a proper battle, not a skirmish, using the Black Powder rules, based on action at Leipzig in 1813. Maybe I'm biased  as I have known the ringleaders - Mike Blake and Ted Herbert, since the late 1960s when we all started and they were pioneers of the idea that each man could have personal characteristics, and that very small scale actions could be gamed with realism and fun. These days they have stepped up the scale somewhat, but, as you can see from the photos, every figure is treated with a flair for detail and accuracy, as if victory depended on him in a big battle just as much as in a skirmish. French, Russians, Austrians and Prussians were battling for supremacy over a very realistic terrain notable for me by the hairy rugs that gave fields with tall wild grasses, perfectly in scale with these bigger figures.
Ted and Mike were constantly busy and in demand
 but they each managed to spare some time for me
Mike explained to me that the size of figures easily adapted to "Black Powder" by halving the amount of figures for a unit, and the game went quite quickly - they were due to have a different scenario on the Sunday. In fact, adding his to other good comments I've heard about BP I was inspired to seek out a special show deal of the "Black Powder" rule book and the 18th century supplement, "The Last Argument of Kings".  At £40 this was a bit much for an "impulse buy" so The Duchess was quite amenable to paying for them and keeping them for me for Christmas. That will be a treat to accompany the after-dinner port in Greatfield Manor, and then it will be a while later before I can organise a game to try them out.

You can see more photos of Skirmish Wargames' Leipzig here:

Another game I liked, because it was Mid-18th Century, and had lovely figures and buildings (in 15mm), was the Hastings and St Leonards Club rendition of Chotusitz in 1742 (above). I had a nice chat to Graham Cross who was responsible for the armies and he told me they were the result of being invalided with a broken leg a few years ago. I sort of thought that my hospitalisation this Summer might have had the same beneficial effect on my own figure painting schedule - but I recoved far too quickly! Anyway - a really nice effort Graham, thank you. Please take a look at his work in detail here:

Finally, one other game seemed worth  my photographing. This was a battle between Japanese and Allies somewhere in the jungles of South East Asia in the early part of World War Two in 28mm, put on by Battle Group South. It included a river port and buildings full of character as well as the Japanese and other soldiers and small tanks you don't often see on a wargames table.  It was very convincing, and although my general photo above is not well focused you can enjoy those sinister Japs in detail by viewing the slideshow here.

Sunday 13 November 2011

About "Wigs and Wine"

Before I describe to you the battle we fought over the terrain shown in my earlier posting
I'd like to tell you a bit about the rules we used which I've called "Wigs and Wine" (WiWi for short).
They are derived from "Wigs and Wampum" (WaW) my rules for French and Indian War gaming. WaW was designed for small scale battles with a figure ratio of 1 figure representing 5 men. Most players say that they give a good feel for this period and are fun and unpredictable, but, given average luck, will reward the skillful player who uses his troops properly. WaW was originally derived from a very simple set of Don Featherstone type AWI rules downloaded from the old school wargaming news group files archive. However, here in Cheltenham, we worked on them over several years to play up the Indian and frontier fighting characteristics and added usefully adapted  bits from other rules such as "Brother against Brother" and "Habitants and Highlanders". You can download a set from my Downloads sidebar, under FIW Collection.

Moving from FIW to Europe in the Seven Years War proved more problematic as I moved, with WiWi,  to a 1:10 ratio inspired by old school Young and Grant big battalion games. The rules use the old fashioned, Player A, Player B alternate move and fire sequence, musketry volleys of 5 figures per die and 10 melee points per die. We have very few additions and subtractions but varied saving throws depending on circumstances. Morale again is simplified with a check at 10 per cent loss and each 10% thereafter, except only one check per turn. Morale can be decisive, with an unlucky and exposed or leaderless unit leaving the field with relatively few losses, or alternatively stalwart Elites fighting on down to a quarter strength. The biggest difficulty is cavalry which tend to be smaller units and so lose their 10 per cents quickly. Also because cavalry have more melee points per figure melees involving all cavalry tend to be very bloody affairs ending in near-mutual annihilation, not very realistic, and we really want those expensive cavalry castings to stick around longer!

As the battle of Futonville  is only the third big one we've fought with WiWi  we learned a few more things and are currently working on amendments to help the cavalry have a more subtle role and last longer. In addition I tried to have some "big" battalions of over 60 figures, including special rules for integral grenadier companies, as opposed to separate composite battalions. On my 9 foot by 5 foot table they proved too unwieldy, with not enough room to get into proper formations, so we'll change to a maximum of 48 figures for future games. This will  probably mean a change to 1:15 ratio and a reduction in ranges to keep in scale.You can access the "Wigs and Wine" rules from the Imagi-Nations Collection in the Downloads sidebar (I've set it to access for anyone , but please email me if you have a problem with it.). I will post an updated set when I've rewritten them. Feel free to let me have your thoughts if you give either WaW or WiWi a try.

Finally, before I give a battle report in the next posting, an unusual incident during the game. At one point Pete threw his die from a distance to try to get it into the top of the dice tower, it hit the top edge and bounced......right into my glass of beer! Needless to say I didn't need asking twice to down the remaining amber liquid to retrieve his die.....but according to house rules it has to end up in the bottom tray of the tower to count! 

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Jaegers in the marshes

Sorry about the deserted landscape of my previous post, I couldn't be bothered to go from the garage to my study to get some figures out of the cabinets! But then I  thought better of it and couldn't resist taking some photos of one of my other new terrain tiles - a stream running through a marsh. This needed to have some human interest so I've put in it some of my Le Noble Freicorps Jaegers and an officer trying to look business like.

Frog's eye view!

Spookily deserted!

Yes, I know I've missed Halloween ,but these photos were taken on 31st October.....

I finished my second batch of terrain tiles last week and have got them set up for our 1760 Imagi-Nation game this coming Sunday. This is the Vallee de la Chambreuse, and the town of Futonville and the Ferme Le Duvet have been deserted by their inhabitants who have heard that the vanguards of two armies are approaching to do battle for the three crossings over their insignificant, but steep sided stream, La Chambreuse. It will be crowded enough for the game when nearly 800 figures representing Savoy and Reikland will gradually arrive move by move guided by 6 wargamers. This is my version of Terry Preen's interesting "Three Crossings" scenario as seen in Issue 22 of the late "Greatfield Galloper".  Thanks for the idea Terry.

Some very nice buildings by Grand Manner from their American range. The Church is some sort of resin I got from a Bring and Buy for three quid - in a much more dilapidated condition.  The farm is Perry's plastic American clapboard house. Fields by "Astraturf"! Everything else is home made - the trees are mostly "Supertrees", the basic trunks and branches were imported from the USA a few years ago.  But see my next post for more terrain.......