Monday 9 September 2019

18th Century mini-campaign - Raid on Vestisle: Part 2 - Mainly about sailors

Two blog posts ago I gave the Introduction and first blood about our mini-campaign which culminated in a weekend of wargaming in mid August 2019. Please take a look at that post if you need a reminder, or have just arrived - welcome!

18th Century Special Forces or just an excuse for some fun?

You might recall that I said the British and Hanoverian Allies had a sort of wild card in an independent battalion sized unit of sailors which could be landed anywhere on the West, South or East coast of Vestisle Island and operate as light infantry. Ken chose to land them near the Chateau du Roi on the north-west tip of Vestisle and had given me the following instructions:

"..........initially tasked with locating and securing any prizes present around the Chateau du Roi. If circumstances permit, it may be possible to infiltrate them into Abrantes in the guise of Jacobite supporters. If successful, they should disable the battery pieces protecting the harbour (intelligence suggests that a magazine explosion would not come as a surprise to the residents). Volunteers to assist in this endeavour should be sought from the highland battalions with the expedition. – NOTE TO UMPIRE, just think Hornblower, Aubrey, Ramage or any of the other naval fiction from this era – you know you want to ."
Yes, indeed I did want to! Without me prompting him Ken had got the idea exactly that I saw these as a kind of 18th Century Special Boat Service and he had worked a background idea into the campaign for me to develop.

Guy had chosen not to have any of his characters nor troops at the Chateau yet both sides knew that this was the guest residence being used by Prince Charles Edward Stuart as his permanent HQ. Guy chose to have Charlie doing unseemly acts elsewhere on the island so I saw no reason not to allow the sailors a free hand. They landed at 5am in sea mist and took an hour (as per my rules) to sort themselves out on shore so by 6 a.m. I needed to roll a die to decide how long it would take them to work out there was nothing of strategic value at the Chateau or its neighbouring farm, and to loot what Royal valuables and farm livestock were worth taking. The answer was 3 hours and so they were stuck till 9 a.m when the next part of the plan could be enacted. Since there were only passive servants and a few farm hands present there was no need for any shots to be fired to alert anyone to trouble, so initially I gave Guy no clue there was a landing there.

What I did give to both sides, as I have said, is a series of situation report (sitrep) photo maps, and here is the one at the West side of Vestisle around 0900. The ones I gave to the players had key elements blurred when units were beyond their proper knowledge. Ken's sailors (B4) were blurred to both sides and under my GM control, but Guy was able to order the Abrantes Militia battalion (F3) to break camp on the Cime de Cassatte and march towards the Chateau to investigate that "mysterious red blurry blob" which I had tactfully made him aware of!

Ambush in Chateau Woods
Unwittingly this was falling into Ken's hands as this coincided with the time the sailors were free  to occupy the wood; they could see the Militia marching along the road and laid a trap. Time for a small solo game.... I had made them Superior quality though Standard Light Infantry for firing. The poor Militia were only Inferior quality. It was pretty predictable but nevertheless I wanted the dice to take their course and see what happened. Please follow the photo captions

I determined that the sailors were sufficiently disciplined not to spring the
 ambush early, so positioned the marching militia
where they were surrounded on both sides of the road
The Sailors were all still "under command" as the road was only 5cm wide
The Sailors are some of the superb new set from Crann Tara Miniatures sugar-islands-campaigns range
 (see more pics below)
The Militia are an eclectic mix from my days of French and Indian Wargaming - painted as Pennsylvania Provincials, now with an Imagi-nations flag
The first volley caused 3 hits. Not enough to stop the Militia but sufficient to
blunt their already poor performance ability
The Militia scored 6 for their Initiative, a Double Move!
Yes I could have retreated them but it served my campaign purpose better to fight on.
 So they formed line and attacked......
Not surprisingly, when the sailors had a chance for pre-melee fire they scored another 3 Hits and the Militia broke 
In the sailors' turn they were able to follow up with sufficient speed to catch every
fleeing base, which suited me. The resultant hacking resulted in 2 more Hits and
 nothing in return on the Sailors

Now with 8 hits, even under my Post Battle Attrition rules the Abrantes Militia could not survive, so it was an easy decision to say that by around 1030 they were about 50% killed and 50% captured with no one allowed to escape to tell the tale .....or so they thought.......

None of this was going to be known to Guy and Ken for some time so as GM, how best to convey the news, and when, so as not to unrealistically influence events?

This and the remainder of the photos are my Crann Tara 18th Century Sailors just photographed in my cabinet

Aftermath of the ambush(French)

As previously reported The Duc de Vestisle was busy in Abrantes Town Square organising the local Homeguard Citizens Militia and as its members had to come from far and wide I reckoned it would take till midday to fully assemble. But around 1000 am it was going to be obvious there was a lot of firing coming from Chateau Woods, so I told Guy and he asked for a volunteer to come forward from the citizens to ride to investigate and report back ASAP.
One Caporal Jeannes, an Abrantes Charcutier, stepped forward with a flourish. "I will go Sir! Just give me a fast horse and I will go sort out those rosbifs Your Honour! And if they give me any trouble I will use by bayonet and my sabre as they don't like it up 'em!   I was in the Navy in the War of the Spanish Succession y'know, Sir?"   So Caporal Jeannes was given a horse (all the fast ones had been commandeered already by officers) and set off through the North gate. 
Guy's response: His portly captain who is given to pomposity said something along the lines of ‘well done Jeannes, I was waiting to see who would spot that. Quiet Pyke or I’ll send you home to your mother’.
Fast forward a bit and Caporal Jeannes, using his hard earned scouting skills from the Boer War, took till about 11 a.m. to reach the battle site......
No more was heard from him till, back in Abrantes, a messenger found the Duc de Vestisle about 7 pm that evening, and said:

"Caporal Jeannes of the Abrantes Citizen Militia has appeared at the North gate badly wounded and much distressed. This is a verbatim account of what he told us.

“Your Honour, as I set off from Abrantes by horseback the firing in the Chateau woods died down. From the amount of smoke it was evident that the Abrantes Militia had met their match  in numbers.  Distressed figures emerged running from the smoke, Sir, then they were followed by men with  muskets, bayonets and cutlasses.  I knew that these were British sailors, your Honour, as I had fought them in the recent war for the Austrian Succession.

They slaughtered all the fleeing Abrantes men and I took shelter by a tree, or so I thought, Sir…but the devilish British had sneaked up on me Sir and shots rang out and killed my horse and wounded me. I crawled into a ditch and played dead.

They did not find me Sir and I peered up later only to see our brave fellows being marched off under guard towards the Chateau.

Don’t panic, Don’t panic! I said to myself! I did not panic, Sir, but had to wait till it got dusk and then crawled back in considerable pain to give you my report, Sir.”

Guy, (as the Duc) seemed rather unmoved by this dramatic account and carried on with his supper! I blame the rather good wine brought by a certain Mr Cummings :-)

Aftermath of the Ambush (British)
Meanwhile Captain Cochrane RN, in charge of the Naval contingent, had been very busy and wrote to his superiors with the result and intentions:

Message for the Duke of Marlborough’s Headquarters
From Captain Cochrane RN

(Delivered by Lieutenant Bradshaw RN)

Chateau du Roi 1100 10 Aug 1756

I am delighted to be able to tell you my battalion of the Royal Navy contingent has carried out its orders so far without a single loss.
We found the Chateau and farm undefended. The chateau was searched from top to bottom but no persons of Scottish royalty were found; there were merely servants and evidence of the Prince’s private quarters but no papers of any significance nor monies.

We lay in wait as instructed in the nearby woods and about 0930 a battalion of local militia approached by road. I had my men arranged either side of the road in ambush and their discipline was such that we did not open fire until the French were totally within our trap. Many were killed in the first volley but they attempted to charge us and so lost many more and the rest broke. But they were not able to get away as my sailors ran them all to ground and we captured probably 200 or so. As far as we know none got away to tell the tale.

I have had to allocate a company to guard them all in the chateau and farm.

My intention is to wait until dark and then approach Abrantes town with the remaining four companies and enough gunpowder to cause mischief if we can infiltrate during the night. Our French speaking Scots volunteers may be useful. My priority will be to silence the bastion battery and secure the harbour, beach and harbour gateway until relieved.

I base this partly on instructions and partly on intelligence gained from an “interview” held by Bosun “Bruiser” O’Halligan with a captain recently taken prisoner (see attached)

Any further instructions will be gratefully received and acted upon

Your Servant 
Charles Cochrane
Captain RN

(The Attachment to the letter) Following gleaned from “interview”:
  • Abrantes is garrisoned by a battalion of the German Bentheim Regiment
  • The church bells ringing at 0900 on a Saturday indicates that the citizens militia is gathering in the town square. This usually takes 2 to 3 hours as there are about 500 men from all around.
  • Duke de Vestisle is likely to be there
  • Prince Charles was last noted at Bellune the previous day and presumably night
  • A senior official from the French treasury arrived on Wednesday said to be carrying a significant amount of gold for the Jacobite army. He did not know where it is stored but suggested some safe places are The Duke’s Residence, The Hotel de Ville,  the cellar of the Town Inn, or  the stone bastion casemates.
  • A very prestigious force of French regulars, led by the Duc de Richelieu is due to arrive mainly in Abrantes in late afternoon with the aim of a joint exercise with the Jacobite Army on the morrow. However, plans might be changed due to the invasion!"

Lieutenant Bradshaw RN had a difficult journey - a fast boat from the Chateau landing stage to Cassatte harbour, which was by now well under guard from the German Jagers, then commandeering a horse to ride across country where the sounds of battle (see next part) indicated much action on the East of the Cime d'Abrantes where he eventually found the Commander in Chief about 3 pm. I asked Ken to write some instructions in reply and he was to make good use of this information for the next day's action.........but I'm getting ahead of myself.....

Our weekend of gaming had arrived and there was a big battle to fight!

NB These CT Miniatures are very slightly smaller than other 28mm figures in the range so be careful how you mix them. As you may see later on they got juxtaposed with big "28mm" Redoubt Miniatures" and it was not a happy union visually. But super figures in their own right and I will be using them for my next "pirate adventure" at Christmas.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Cotswold Wargaming Day: a growing phenomenon

Last year I was invited by Keith Flint to the first Cotswold Wargaming Day and although "only" 18 people attended it was agreed to be a great idea and so Keith has organised an expanded version in 2019. This year's saw an increase of 60-70% in both attendees and the number of participation games to choose from.  The event took place on 1st September in a very spacious community hall in the ancient Cotswold village of Northleach, where Keith, and Stuart Asquith, both live.  As far as I am aware it wasn't so much about home grown Cotswold games but also by the generosity of some very enthusiastic gamers who were willing to travel far to show us a good time. I'm aware of game organisers coming from Ivybridge, and Exmouth, in Devon, Basingstoke in Hampshire and Coventry in Warwickshire; Roy and Shaun are local though, not sure about the others, but thank you all from wherever.

First a tour of the games then I will dwell on Phil Olley's 1704 game in which I was privileged to control the Astrovian army.

SYW Imagi-Nations with Spencer-Smith classic miniatures
William Harley and Steve Pearse came all the way up from Plymouth once again to put on a lovely looking game with Willz's mid 18th Century 30mm classic Spencer Smiths which have had well deserved airings on this blog before.  Willz is still using Jim Purky's two-page rules which give a very good game

Who can resist Hussars in Light Blue? Not me!
Oops! Where did this gratuitous painting of Natalie spring from?!!!
Oh well, I'm sure Willz won't mind........

Always drawing spectators for what must be one of the nicest looking SSM collections in England
left to right: Steve Pearse. unknown (sorry), Willz Harley, Dillon Browne. Dillon told me he was impressed with the rules and is likely to give them a tryout in his new project - Jacobites from Crann Tara Miniatures (see my sidebar for CT blog link)

Haitian Revolution in 28mm using Sharp Practice rules
Another lovely looking game with plenty of Caribbean character for this unusual subject from 1791. The armies were very mixed containing lots of regulars and irregulars including armed females, always a weak spot with me.

Those musket-armed women crossing a bridge

"The other Stuart" won the Stuart Asquith Trophy for this one
 - overall Best Game

Wars of the Vaubarian Succession by Phil Olley and Steve Gill

The main attraction for me, and more on this game later. This is Phil's latest project using mainly Front Rank Marlburian period figures for his two Imagi-Nation states of Vaubaria and Astrovia. This was the first game he and Steve had ever played with the rules and it was a kind of "live" playtest before they took it on the road to Shows. As Phil's classic approach and superbly presented games were among my chief inspirations about 10 years ago for my own armies this was like being a "roadie" helping your favourite group prepare for a world tour! How special does that make my day?!
I had plenty of time to talk to my hero and it may surprise some to learn that, despite our friendship going back to 2010 when Phil welcomed me to be part of the "team" contributing to his Classic Wargamers Journal, we had never rolled dice across the same table before. I hope it won't be so long before the next time! For now - a selection of photos I took before the pair had fortified themselves with a bacon roll breakfast.

Phil gives me an initial briefing on the game

Well equipped with posters and notices for the tour

Yes this is the famous Phil Olley windmill with battery operated sails
that twirled silently all day

Phil has provided the following: "Apart from the windmill, all the buildings were made by Brian Rigelsford, painted by me.
The close up detail is quite astonishing on many of them (swallows nests under the eaves, broken down chimney pots, and so on). I'm lucky to have them as Brian no longer produces such works of art, having stopped making buildings a few years ago, as far as I know."
The statue in the town square is a fantastic detail

Western Gunfight by Shaun Mutton
I did not see this in action but suffice to say Shaun of Dreamholme Scenics, who is fairly local to me, won the prize for best terrain, and I hope you will see from the fantastic vignettes and buildings in my photos that it was a worthy choice

Mexican Adventure by Matt Bennett and Roy Boss
Roy and Matt entertained me in spectacular fashion this time last year with "Talavera" using "20mm" Hinton Hunt figures. This year Matt had brought along more classics in 25mm and a scenario from the relatively little known French excursion in Mexico in 1862. I think they were once again using the Napoleonic-themed "Muskets and Marshals" rules. Terrain was by Roy and certainly looked the part. From what I saw in gaps in my own action this was pretty fast moving with some sweeping flank moves.

Bombing run over Berlin by Bruce McCallum
I'm afraid I know nothing about this game but if you are an aircraft fan I imagine you would be well impressed. Even I can appreciate the effort that must go into presentation and execution of a game like this.

Crimean period in 6mm by Dave Fielder

Not really sure if "Crimean" is right but you can see for yourselves from the description handily on display by Dave and his mates from Exmouth. Nicely presented 6mm figures from Bacchus and Adler I believe. We discussed "big heads" versus Heroics and Ros human proportions and an event like this does give you a chance to see another perspective. Personally I prefer proper proportions every time and paint your figures accordingly.

They won the prize for "Most Gentlemanly Wargamers"
Battle of the Elbaubach
Time now for a deeper look into Phil and Steve's lovely (and lively) game.  My opponent, Martin, and I found ourselves with a fait accompli on opening dispositions so we both had to decide how to manoeuvre from there to complete the mission to "command the crossing" of the Elbaubach river.
Martin had the beautiful Vaubarians, in their Bavarian style light blue uniforms, and I had the white coated, but equally splendid, Astrovians.  I'll let the photos tell the story.

Opening move and both sides get nearer the river. I decide to give overhead cover fire from my battery on the hill while limbering the other to command the bridge at close quarters
I formed my grenadiers into column to march behind the front line and hope to contest the bridge - that's what it was supposed to be about after all!

On my left both sides had light troops and I wanted to make use of those woods with mine

Martin was moving his guns up now and the infantry were in musket range.
 His three battalions to my two was beginning to tell
Stuart A came calling on his game judging round
Above and below: I had intended to make a fight of it at the river but the superior musketry  and some cannon fire made me realise pulling back and firing as I went was the only option for survival. My guns were beginning to cause morale checks on Martin's infantry too. On both flanks the cavalry were theoretically within charge range

Above and below: Martin had inflicted a couple of hits on my heavy cavalry with his artillery so he charged with his, and I countercharged. I was lucky to win and poor Martin did not survive the morale test so routed away. Mine were allowed by the rules a free move to "rally back"; that seemed very generous to me.

Above and below: Evidently an attack-minded wargamer Martin charged my Light cavalry with his. I was in a run of rolling a lot of good dice this day and so a similar result happened on this flank too! My die roll indicated that the Hussars followed up their success straight away and that finished off that lovely light blue unit (where was Natalie when they needed her powers of distraction!!!)
On the left I have calmly waited in the woods with my wild and woolly light troops and again Martin has decided to charge in with his smart dismounted Dragoons rather than stand off to fire
The dragoons suffered fire as they charged in and were repulsed.
Martin, not surprisingly somewhat miffed, and Phil suitably sympathetic
The windmill still twirled as Martin began a withdrawal from his riverside position which had suddenly become very vulnerable with cavalry on both flanks. My artillery and Grenadiers consolidated control of the Elbaubach bridge
Martin and his Vaubarians called it a day at that point, don't blame him.
Wargaming inevitable retreats is not much fun and lunchtime was beckoning......
We all spent an interesting time reflecting on the tactics, the rules,
 and giving hopefully constructive feedback
Phil won the prize for "Best painted figures", though Stuart A had to admit he was torn
over these or Willz' SSMs

Phil and Steve thanked us for being "guinea pigs"; well the trial was painless for me at least and extremely satisfying, I had good dice but I also think the more cautious tactics, hopefully reflecting this period of firefights over melee, paid off. Whatever the results had been the chance to have the "Phil Olley game experience" was an ambition I have held for 10 years and I was not disappointed. Thank you both.  So if you see "The War of the Vaubarian Succession" on tour at shows do have a go, you will enjoy it and find the game hosts very friendly and modest.

Being the perfect show host Keith had to have a go at this beautiful game in the afternoon......and beat Steve at his own new rules!

No Keith is not annoyed, just listening intently
Some smoke had appeared for the afternoon game - it would be a shame not to show it

Thanks Keith, you are putting the Cotswolds on the wargaming map. Hopefully just as good or even better next year. Readers - put Sunday 30th August 2020 in your diary.