Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Shako Peninsula Fight - French Division Attack

Played my second "proper" game of Arty Conliffe's "Shako" today with my 20mm troops and it was a smashing success. Shako is a Napoleonics (and Seven Years War) game that allows you to take command of a quite large force and it retains a very decent tactical and operational flavor.  It has wonderful simplicity also.  I can't stress enough how simple it is and I love it.  I will play many, many more rounds of Shako,and since my troops are so darn photogenic, you'll be seeing all of the pictures of these games!

Today's fight pitted a very large French Division of five Battalions of regular line infantry, one Battery of Foot Artillery, and one Cavalry Regiment against a British joint Division of two regular line infantry battalions, one Foot Guards Battalion, one Foot Artillery Battery, one Portuguese Battalion, and a small Skirmisher unit of lights.  Can't forget the mounts either...The British were lucky enough to have a small regiment of King's German Legion Cavalry and the French had a Regiment of Cuirassiers.

The British were charged with defending a narrow pass with an impassable hill anchoring their right. So the French had to go right through them...

French Division Commander.

Two Stands = one Battalion...until I get a third stand painted up for everyone.

Cool picture.

Cool picture 2.

The French plan was simple.  Advance and smash a hole through the British line and pour the second line into the hole.  The British plan was equally simple.  Stand here and don't let any Frenchmen past you.

British division - actually a brigade but since there was cavalry playing. I couldn't get away with calling them a brigade.

Entire French division advancing. The guns are "limbered" hence their facing. One day I'll get around to buying more horses.

The French advanced into the British shot and cannister early on.  Since my table isn't that big, the French found themselves tasting grapeshot almost as soon as they cleared the rough terrain.  Their Cavalry took some casualties early on and so did their skirmishers as you can see by the red dice in the pictures.

British light NCO urging the men on.

British skirmisher units engaging the French Voltigeurs at long range!

And the Voltigeurs fire back!

French cavalry crash into the Foot Guards.

KGL sees a limbered French battery!

Don't fire until you can smell the garlic.

The French used their cavalry as bait, keeping at a safe distance from small arms, but also soaking up cannon fire as well.  The threat of Cavalry on the flanks of an infantry position is always going to give an enemy ground commander pause.  At least this is what monsieur general was thinking..

Once their Infantry were within musket range of teh British, the French launched their Cavalry Regiment at the same time the British launched the KGL at the Artillery.  The French Cavalry were repulsed with losses while the French artillery battery evaporated. By now the infantry closed with each other and the musketry began in earnest across the line now.  The British skirmishers were driven back by French formations and would not rejoin the fight.

Look at the expressions on the gunner's face as the KGL trooper is about to strike. I LOVE this picture! Looks like he's trying to run away.

French closing with the British line.

The first melee does not go the French's way at all.  The two lead Battalions are cut to ribbons by the British musketry and the British are still holding on.  This is where the French Artillery would still have come in handy.  Two French Battalions are sent to the rear with casualties.

The second line moves into the assault and gets the job done.  While the Guards are sent packing from a bad roll, the first British Battalion evaporates on the British left.  The center Battalion is still holding strong next to their artillery, which is, at this point, fighting for its very life.  "Time to get the Portuguese chaps in the game eh?"

This sends the British line reeling.  They assault with the KGL to plug a hole but it doesn't work and the KGL  retreat.  The British division must not conduct a retrograde to a smaller hill behind their initial position.  The Guards have already rallied and have occupied the hill.  The British Division commander begins the retrograde movement but knows the Artillery's going to be lost in the process. There are too many swarms of French infantry around the guns now...It's only a matter of time.

Portuguese troops waiting for the order to go into action.

Situation prior to melee. You can see the KGL cavalry in the lower left and the French cavalry in the upper right

The second melee. This is where the French punch numerous holes in the line.

Second melee shaping up!

Second melee.

Two French battalions retreating after losing the first melee.

Situation after the second melee. The guards are just off camera to the right.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Industry News II

A second day in a row of good news from Adler Miniatures. Adler has announced the release of two more codes of Napoleonic miniatures. Today's release is for late war French which are suitable for Waterloo; fusiliers and elites marching. Pictured below are the fusiliers.

With the addition of these two new codes, Adler now offers a total of 31 for 182-1815 French alone! The line comprehensively includes: infantry, artillery, and cavalry. As I boasted in my previous Industry News post, these figures are sure to cause one to think twice about their gaming scales. I am currently contemplating migration to 28mm for my scale of choice (from 15-18mm), but am seriously considering buying a smattering of figures for simply the joy of painting and collecting. No commitments to a big project, just the simple joy of ownership.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Industry News

While perusing The Miniatures Page, I noted that Adler Miniatures is still at work filling in the blanks within their exhaustive 6mm (actually 7mm) Napoleonics range. British/KGL hussars and command. They already have an impressive number of codes for the massed miniatures gamer to choose from making them quite enticing. Oh, how I wish I had the patience to paint them with the techniques I like!

Adler has long since had the controversy of large-ish heads and headgear being their signature sculpting style. Fear not this undeserved criticism. For starters, there are but a few manufacturers (scale be damned) that sculpt in a true-to-physical-form fashion. Foundry Miniatures (28mm) are thick; Brigade Games Miniatures (28mm) have grotesquely large hands and goblin-like faces; Essex Miniatures (15mm) have short legs; and on, and on. Although many critics feel that the heads are just "too much" for them, I personally feel that they help to give the figures character. The sculpting style also makes it easier to identify your armies while they are beyond arms length. True 6mm figures, such as those by Heroics & Ros, are much too thin, much too short, and much too undefined (smooth with little detail) to receive this same level of recommendation.

If you are ready to build an entire Volley and Bayonet Army, or you simply wish to test the Adler waters, I assure you it is worth your time to buy a sampling of figures. Some will become instant converts while the rest will merely be left scared by the uncontrollable desire to add another gaming scale. In the end, all will be singing praise!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sorry for the Pause

Steve, this is for you! :-) Well, after a long haiatus, I am finally back to a wee bit of painting. I expanded on my first test figure and have finsied up the first 16 figures of a 36-figure battalion. Here they are based and pom-pomed to be the 1er and 2er Compagnie de Fusiliers.

I went with a "dry-ish" basing scheme for summer campaigning. The plan is to build generic forces for the Peninsular War, so again, it seemed most appropriate.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Even Snappier Nappies

Last night I painted up more of my Hat 20 mm 1/72 French Fusiliers. While not completely historically accurate, I think they look OK. I', not totally happy with them, but they are for gaming, not for winning at any contests!

I have a dilemma as far as basing them is concerned due to their size. I'm not sure the Age of Eagles basing convention was ever supposed to support 20mm figures or larger. I invoked what the French would call "linence poetique" and I upgraded the bases...

These are 1-1/2" bases and I think they look very nice when all of the figures are glued on them. I had previously had them on 1" square bases, but they were too crowded. Then I put them only two to a base and the line looked too skimpy for a period when "levee en masse" was in effect.

So the reader is left with this - a base that is large enough to accommodate six figures and still small enough to form an Age of Eagles brigade. I will give them one thing, when I have a brigade of six to eight stands, it's going to look super impressive on the tabletop. Unfortunately this doubled my painting time. Instead of three troopers per stand, it's now six, and these pesky French already took me weeks to finish.

I think I hear the "pas de charge!"

Marching towards the lines at Talavera.

Command stand is incomplete. I still need to finish the musician and the color bearer.

The officer turned out nicely. I wonder what his decoration is for?

The Brits should be easier with less soldiers; the Russians harder with triple the amount. Either way, looks like I won't be playing an Age of Eagles game for about 15 years.

And as an interesting side note, I only have to make three of these bases to form a Shako battalion, and I can fit one base on a sabot to make a Volley & Bayonet brigade. So that's not too bad. Back to painting for me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Snappy Nappies

Finally got around to pinting a HaT French Fusilier. I think he came out pretty well considering I was using crappy brushes, and had bad lighting. Anyone who knows me, knows my ultimate objective is to have decent or nice looking troops, but the overall goal is to "get them in the field!" This is the opening shots of my Peninsular project. I am going to base a bunch of units for Age of Eagles and hopefully play a few segments of Talavera or Slalmanca. Then once I do that, I'll play a whole, damn battle in Volley & Bayonet! Huzzah!

This was my first go at a French soldier. Note the furniture on the musket; paint had already started to chip off. I thought I'd get lucky, but all of his battle-buddies received a bath prior to prepping.

Unfortunately, with modern HD cameras, you can see all of the imperfections (or my imperfections are just noticeable!), but all in all, he looks pretty good I think. Note the chevrons on his arm and his decoration on cuffs.

Needed an Osprey book or better reference for his kit. It didn't look like the Fusiliers had any ornaments on their cartridge box on the HaT packaging. Just the light infantry and grenadiers. By the way, the detail on these HaT guys is extraordinary!

Here he is marching off to find dinner.

The officer and a Fusilier next to our corporal. It's going to be a long campaign!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Amateur Hour: A Lesson in Task Organization

Played an game with Frank Chadwick's excellent Volley & Bayonet rules once again pitting my hardened British 6mm Peninsular troops against Napoleon's finest troops in Spain.

Once again I have to commend Mr Chadwick and Mr Novak on their work.  Volley and Bayonet is a Solid rules set and great for novices up through hardened, seasoned veterans.  While I "tweaked" one or two aspects of the rules, this is in no way because of a shortfall with the rules, but rather because of shortcomings in my play area, terrain, and forces.  (I used Regimental stands and values instead of Brigade stands/values and measured in centimeters instead of inches due to my small tabletop)

I diced for startup and for the scenario.  both sides attempted to control a road junction, dominated by a small hill in the center of the board.  This hill affected line of sight on both sides as you will see.

While I don't have time to give a play by play, I will give an executive summary of what happened along with a review of the lessons I learned this time.

This week's lesson centers around your Task Organization.  Task Organization is the assignment of units to specific objectives and what resources those units have at their disposal.  In modern armies, Task Orgs are very dynamic and change with the temporary addition or subtraction of resources.

When  you assign an objective to a force, ask yourself, "does the unit [company, regiment, brigade, division, etc] have what it needs to accomplish the task I have given them?"  In a historical miniatures tabletop wargame, you dont have the benefit of a staff coming back to you and telling you their unit isn't up to the task without resources.  I learned that lesson the hard way today.

This game pitted roughly 2 French Divisions against 2 British Divisions of very  equal size.  Both sides had a Cavalry Division, 3 Batteries of Field guns, and about 8 Infantry "Brigades" grouped into 2 units of 4.  (remember on the table they were Regimental stands).

Both sides had an offensive mission; to seize the hill and control the road in 10 turns.  It turned into a British Rout, and with that route, a few lessons I picked up myself.  I will let the pictures tell some of the story:

British on the right, French on the left. All are in march columns. The British heavy cavalry brigades are both seen with their small, yellow disorganized dots for moving through rough terrain. The olive grove and grapevines are visible in the center.

British heavy cavalry division.

French brigades move out.

British cavalry charge the French in an attempted spoiling attack...

And are beaten!

British plan morphs into a defensive scheme and the left units take up positions behind the olive grove.

French gunners supporting the advance on the right.

From the pictures you can see how the battle immediately progressed.  The British launched their Cavalry Division out to spoil the French advance, and give the British time to take the hill, and transition to the defense.  That didn't happen.

The British Cavalry Division advanced into a kill-sack and were assailed on all sides by French guns, and murderous volleys of musketry.  Not an auspicious beginning...

By not checking the French advance, the British were forced to modify their plan. Instead of racing to take the hill, they would now have to defend on mediocre ground, completely split up and not properly task organized to accomplish their mission.  In a 1:1 ratio, the defender "should" have a complete advantage but in this game, tactical errors are not looked kindly upon...

British force suddenly realized it wasn't organized to attack, and so they adopt a defensive posture.

Then a French cavalry division strikes their flank!

View from the line..."FORM SQUARE!"

In the midst of the French cavalry attack, the troops can see French infantry start to crest the hill.

On the British right, the French get serious about taking the hill and begin a coordinated, combined arms attack along the entire line.

The pictures don't do the situation justice either.  Aside from some small acts of heroism by a highland unit, the   British force was beaten and routed.  I'm not sure the French were in good shape to exploit but they certainly carried the field.  The British Cavalry brigade that was still standing was used to protect the British right from further attacks and pushed the French Cavalry back at high cost. The French brought in their guns at close range and made short work of the defenders, constantly pushing them back until they broke as well.

Lessons Learned:

Use of Cavalry: In Volley and Bayonet, Cavalry receive 4 attack dice in melee and if their prey is disorganized, they hit on a 5 or better.  deadly!  They are a juggernaut but have their vulnerabilities as well and need to be used properly. Cavalry are best suited to rolling up an enemy's flanks.  Even just the threat of a large Cavalry attack are enough to slow down an opponent's foot advance.  He will have to use his vital artillery to protect his flanks while the assault grinds forward. In the case of the British, the assaulting force was so small that the entire assault up the hill slowed and eventually stopped to redeploy to meet the French Cavalry attack.  Meanwhile the French were able to straighten out their own lines and make better use of space to accommodate more infantry regiments.  Not good for the British.  Instead of facing a Division attack on 2 fronts, they faced a Corps-wide assault on 1 front.  Bad news in Melee (supported flanks and all the firepower that their field batteries could bring to bear) At the very least, your Cavalry pins down his Cavalry, freeing the flanks up.

"If there isn't enough artillery, quit!":  Can't remember which US General said that and when, but sure knew his stuff and gamers are forced to relearn these vital principles again and again.  Take the case of the British in this Napoleonic's game.  All of the British batteries were wiped out whether by counter battery, or direct assault.  The French grouped their batteries together and managed the lanes of fire by which they could contend. The British assigned a Battery per brigade and used their artillery more as infantry support than as a decisive arm.  The game turned into a contest between ideologies.  I have to say, if the year is 1809, you should be massing your artillery for best effect at the decisive spot, unless you are absolutely positive you will be on the defensive. My French "grand battery" was able to hunker down in Stationary, protect anything the British threw their way, and provide wonderful fire support for a grand assault. Napoleon would have been proud.

Task Organization:  Your Task Org should reflect the mission at hand.  Scenario-dependent, for pick up games, Mr Chief of Staff, it is YOUR job to organize your forces with what you will think you'll need for the task. As the Commander, you would, at the very least, approve your Chief's recommendations.  IN this case, both sides were wholly unequipped to handle either task they were given and halfway through the game, morphed into a Corps Frontage for the assault.  Should have been done that way from the start.  Napoleon said it best about attacking swiftly with everything you have instead of shoveling men and material into the fire.  In this case, the British were not tied-in flank wise and not suited for a defensive operation.  There was 1 crucial Artillery Battery and Infantry Regiment attached to the Army HQs in a reserve role (why?  I just thought it would have been a good idea!) The British could have used more infantry units at the Olive Grove and occupied it from the start.  Artillery Batteries should have been allocated to the advancing unit up the hill early on and in a massed fashion.  Additionally, the Cavalry division should never have had infantry and artillery units under it.  They should have focused on reconnoitering the hilltop, French positions, and harassing attacks, not charging wastefully without infantry support onto the battlefield.  Troops would have been better served as being organized into "wings" or a very large infantry division with the artillery, and an independent Cavalry Division.

Planning: There should be a solid plan, not just an advance and an "audible"! How seemingly obvious but rarely put into practice!!