Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Napoleonics: The Russian Front

Mike & I added  2 divisions each to Chris' Napoleonic Russians so it was time to give them a run.  We rate the Russian infantry as about as inefficient as the Spanish, but instead of Break if Spanish they have our Stubborn rule = add 1 to all Break Test totals. They also get lots of artillery & have reasonable cavalry (except for bad command). 
The French are on the left with 3 infantry brigades of 5 units, hussars, dragoons & 3 batteries.  Mike commands the left, Jim the right.  The Russians have 3 infantry brigades of 6 units & 2 batteries each, light & heavy cavalry.  Steve commands their left, Mitch their right. 
The French plan was to attack on their right with most of their force hoping to break the Russian left & roll up their line while their poor command inhibited any Russian counterattack on the weak French left.   They crossed the creek with infantry supported by cavalry & artillery & seized the farm to cover the flank of the attack. 
Regrettably the pics I thought I took of the fight over the creek disappeared in some kind of glitch so  a lot has happened between the last 2 pics.  The French cavalry was slow to advance & the Russian cavalry counterattacked the infantry after it crossed the creek.  The French got crazy brave & took on the cavalry in line with some unfortunate results.  But a second line of squares supported by artillery & eventually cavalry turned the tide.  The Russian cavalry was eventially beaten with both brigades broken.  The French cavalry is largely shaken, but the surviving infantry is in good shape, has formed columns & has resumed the advance to attack the left of the Russian infantry to complete the plan.
In the centre the French have held onto the farm under heavy fire.  On the far flank not much has happening other than Russian reinforcements being sent towards the centre .
The French are being pushed back out of the village by the Russian Guards.  The French have redeployed their battery to assist their centre.  Their right is still advancing on the left flank Russian infantry brigade which has already lost units in the fight for the farm.
The Russian guards have taken the farm, but the defending brigade has pulled out without breaking. The French hussars have forced the Russia infantry into square to stop it retreating & is waiting for the infantry to arrive to finish them off.  The dragoons are still being rallied now well in the rear.
One of the Russian guard units got a blunder and charged the guns.  Defensive fire drove them back, but even repeated volleys from the massed battery didn't break them & they retired behind the house shaken, but not broken.
After putting up a desperate fight the surrounded Russian square at the end of their line (now removed from the hole between 2 French columns & the cavalry) has finally broken.  With its loss the Russian left flank infantry brigade broke & that was 3 brigades out of 5 so the Russian army broke.

The difference the different break test rules make between the Spanish we got so familiar with in the campaign & the Russians is stark.   They say it was not enough to kill the Russian infantry, you had to push them over as well.  The French won again, but it was a tough struggle even with a good battle plan & good use of combined arms.  The French cavalry only has a couple of unshaken units left & 2 of the 3 infantry brigades are on 1 bad break test off of breaking.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Practicing for Bolt Action Tourney at Devonport

The Devonport Tabletop Gaming Club is running Operation Sudlicht, a one day Bolt Action tournament next weekend.  This week we had some practice games at Good Games.
On Wednesday: Mark's Soviets v. Jim's Panzergrenadiers in a Point Defence Scenario.  This is an attacker/defender scenario where the attacker has 3 objectives.  The attacker wins by taking 2, the defender wins by keeping all three.  The Germans attacked.  They grabbed the objective just off shot to the right but couldn't get a second one.  We find this scenario tends to be a draw as it's very hard to defend all 3 & very hard to take more than 1.
This afternoon John's British Commandos took on Jim's Panzergrenadiers in a Key Positions scenario.  This mission has D3+2 objectives placed alternatively by the players 12" min apart - before deciding table sides.  Today there were 3 objectives  - one on the hill in the foreground, one on the road junction & another on a hill just off-shot towards the far corner.  The Brits put 3 units on flank attack to attack the RH objective.  The Germans put all their forces on the table & pushed forward to take the centre objective & fought a delaying action on their right.  The Germans had far higher casualties but the lack of a 7th turn allowed them to hang on to 2 objectives at the end of turn 6 to win.  A 7th turn may well have swung the battle the Brit's way.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Battle of Benburb 1646

This is a scenario from the Pike & Shotte supplement To Kill a King.  A battle in Ireland in the aftermath of the English Civil War.
The Anglo/Scots army is on the left with Mike as general Munro.  The Irish army is on the right with Mitch as Mitch as Owen O'Neil CIC & Jim as Henry O'Neil commanding the cavalry.The Irish foot regiments have large pike blocks but only 1 musket block each.  2 of the musket units are large.  The A/S infantry regiments are standard with 1 pike & 2 musket blocks each. Only the A/S have artillery.
The Irish immediately attack rather than endure artillery fire to which they could not reply.
The Irish lancers charge up the hill at the English cavalry but the rest of the Irish horse hang back.  On the far flank the A/S foot advance & the Irish foot halt at the creek line.
On the near flank the Irish lancers were broken while the rest of their cavalry refused to advance.
In the centre the Irish have crossed the creek & charged up the hill over-running the guns.
On the far flank there is a general firefight across the creek.
The English cavalry units shaken while beating the lancers have been withdrawn while the 3rd unit delays the timid Irish horse.  In the centre both sides are having mixed fortunes.  The firefight continues on the right.
The Irish attack in the centre has faltered & fallen back but they have now crossed the creek & attacked on the right.  Their horse has finally advanced on the left.
The Irish attacks have faltered all along the line, but the A/S's also have heavy casualties & can't land a killer blow
The battle has turned into an exchange of musketry between largely shaken opponents, but the A/S have the most units left & have the upper hand.
Eventually, the bad break tests mount on the Irish & they fail their army break test.

The Irish plan was for their superior numbers of horse on the near flank to sweep away the English horse on that flank & then support the infantry attack on the enemy centre to roll up their line.  Their failure to do so due to poor command dice left the Irish foot attacking frontally uphill with no tactical advantage to counteract it.  The uphill advantage then seemed decisive in blunting the attack.

The mix of large & standard sized units is something we hadn't tried in this era before & it was an interesting twist we will try again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Campaign in Spain 1809: History of the Campaign

Camp Cromwell’s 1809 Campaign in Spain

This campaign was fought in April through June 2017.  The battles were fought using Hail Napoleon – our house variant of Hail Caesar converting them for the black powder era & have been chronicled in this blog over the past 10 weeks.  Until now I have been unable to provide a history of the campaign itself without compromising the hidden movement & fog of war aspects of the campaign.  I expect that much of this report will be interesting news to the participants.

The campaign rules are our own house rules.  The campaign map was a map of Spain from www.murat.ca/maps.htm which we modified by superimposing hexes.   Battle terrain was determined using on-line Michelin & Google maps & satellite images with obviously modern features removed.

The campaign system includes hidden movement, incomplete intelligence, supply & fog of war.  It relies on a good umpire with time on his hands.  Features of the system include:
·      It is not turn based.  The players give the umpire their orders and the umpire plots movements using pinned counters on a print of the map until he decides a Decision Point has been reached.   This can be a force reaching their objective, contact with the enemy, a spy or scout report, or a message from a comrade.  The players concerned are then given an Intel Report & given the opportunity to issue new orders.  This system allows potentially tedious periods of manoeuvre to pass quickly & the campaign to progress rapidly from one interesting potential battle situation to the next.  Throughout the campaign we got from one battle situation to the next within a few days, so always had a battle ready to fight on our regular Tuesday night meeting.

·        Supply is a vital issue, but it is done without tedious record keeping.  If the players keep to the guidelines in the rules they won’t have problems, but if circumstances force them to go outside those guidelines, there are penalties.  The allies have to move in such a way that they do not out-run supply trains to the towns behind them.  The French have supply problems if they stay in the same place too long, or march on a route that has already been stripped.  Supply problems can cause the force to slow down to seek out supplies, or to accumulate Fatigue Points.

·        Fatigue Points are accumulated by forced marching, fighting & supply problems.  Excess fatigue affects a unit’s combat & marching performance.  These can usually be recovered by resting.

·        Whenever new orders are issued the umpire determines 3 D10 indices for the command concerned - for Movement, Intel & Supply (1 is good & 0 is bad).  These apply to the troops involved until they get new orders.  The rules state likely move distances, but a bad Movement Index can cause delays.  The Intel Index guides the umpire as to how much detail to give the players about the enemy.  The supply Index can cause or exacerbate supply problems.  This randomness makes the campaign more a realistic exercise in judgement than a precise calculation of distances.  It also has a serendipitous advantage for the umpire in protecting him from player angst, as if he makes a mistake the players seldom notice in the fog of war (& can be written off as just more of it).

·        The D10 Indices are obtained transparently by the umpire, not by ephemeral dice rolls, but by reference to Weather Bureau records published automatically on line.   Each command has a nominated weather station & their Indices are the decimal of the Actual, Apparent & Dew Point temperature recordings 1+ hour after the email containing new orders is sent.  (The 3 in a temperature reading of, for example, 10.3° at a pre-set time & place is near enough a random number).

·        Each side received different initial briefings detailing their own order of battle, starting locations & objectives.  The only info they received of the enemy starting order of battle & locations was that they were based on the historical situation.  The date of arrival of some reinforcements, like Ney & Mortier’s corps was not provided to either side.  The French also had restrictions put on them (unknown to the allies) in the form of directives from Napoleon (who was in Austria).

There were a dozen players involved.  Each of the 6 senior commanders (Wellesley, Cuesta, Venegas, Joseph Bonaparte, Victor & Soult) had two players assigned to them.  This provided redundancy in case of occasional unavailability.  Some of the players were remote and participated only by email.   The battles were fought at Camp Cromwell by whichever players of each side were available on the night - with strategic direction from absent commanders.  The umpire fought in some battles to help with the plastic pushing if any side was short handed – but always under the strategic direction of the force’s commander.

Initial set up:

Wellesley is poised to invade Spain from Portugal.  Most of his army is at Portalegre on the border.  He also has reinforcements on the road from Lisbon & on the boat from England. Cuesta has an army in western Andulusia.  Venegas has an army in eastern Andulasia.  Both Spanish armies have some reinforcements coming later.  The Allies’ objective is to re-take Madrid.

Victor’s corps is deployed in western Estremadura.  Joseph Bonaparte has a garrison & a reserve cavalry division in Madrid along with Sebastiani’s corps.  Soult’s corps is in Old Castile.  Ney’s corps  & Mortier’s corps are marching to Old Castile to join Soult.  Victor & Joseph have orders from Napoleon to defend Madrid.  Soult has orders to stay in Old Castile to maintain order & guard against an attack from Portugal in the north.  He is not permitted to leave Old Castile until Ney or Mortier arrive to take over those duties.  One of those corps must remain in Old Castile at all times.

Battle of Caceres, day 8:

In the west, Wellesley advanced east directly towards Madrid while Victor at first consolidated his dispersed forces at Merida.  When Victor’s scouts reported that Wellesley was heading past Caceres directly towards Madrid while there was no news of any Spanish activity to the south he marched north & struck at Wellesley’s line of communication - providing the first battle of the campaign at Caceres on day 8. 

Wellesley got intel of Victor’s approach & turned back sending his cavalry ahead.  Some of Wellesley’s reinforcements happened to be in the right place at the right time to join Wellesley’s cavalry to delay the French until Wellesley arrived.  Wellesley arrived before the French could destroy his rear guard.  Faced with superior numbers, Victor broke off the action before his army was broken.

Battle of Diamiel, day 12:
In the east, Venagas advanced north towards Madrid.  When Joseph got news of this, he sent Sebastiani south to deal to deal with him.  On day 12 they met just north of Diamiel.  The Spanish put up a pretty good fight but were defeated.

Battle of Miajadras, day 15:

After Caceres, Victor retreated to Montanchez.  Both sides then sat about for a few days making their minds up about what to do next.  Victor finally got a report of Spanish activity south of Miajadras & set off south to clear the threat to his line of communication.  Coincidentally, Wellesley decided to move south to attack Victor on the same day as Victor moved off.  The French usually march faster than the British so Victor kept ahead of the British pursuit.

Cuesta got to Miajadras before Victor.  Victor arrived there on day 15 & immediately attacked.  Cueasta was defeated and retreated south.  Wellesley gave up following Victor and turned back to Caceres, then continued east on the road to Madrid.

Victor only stayed in Miajadras long enough to rest & regroup his corps after the battle, then marched east hoping to outmarch Wellesley in a race to Madrid.

Battle of Peuto Lapice, days 26-27:  

Venegas had rallied his army after its defeat, received reinforcements & had moved back past Diamiel to Alcazar de san Juan.  Hearing of Victor’s approach, he used Google Maps to locate a good defensive position a day’s march east of Alcazar where he could try to block Victor’s route to Madrid.  Victor arrived there in the afternoon of day 26 & immediately attacked.  The Spanish managed to hold on until nightfall & despite heavy losses stood their ground so the battle continued into day 27.   Again they fought pretty well, but by noon they broke off the fight & pulled off to the south letting Victor past, content that they had delayed his march to reinforce Joseph by at least 2 days.  Victor continued to Alcazar to meet Sebastiani’s light cavalry which had been sent back down the road to help him out, but had arrived too late to do so.

Battle of Toledo, days 35-36:

On day 27 the French were told that Ney had arrived at Valladolid & Soult became free to move out of Old Castile leaving Ney to take over security of the province.  Soult sent an infantry division to Madrid to support Joseph’s defence of the capital & marched the rest of his corps south towards Wellesley’s line of communication.

Victor paused at Alcazar de san Juan for his men to rest & regroup from the effects of the battle & his long march through hostile territory before resuming his march north to join Joseph.

Wellesley marched east from Caceres up the valley of the Tagus to Talvera.  From there Wellesley had a choice of two routes to Madrid.  He sent a cavalry brigade on the north road & marched his main force on the south road.  Joseph guessed right & had deployed Sebastiani’s corps just east of Toledo to defend the road to Madrid.  Wellesley attacked on the afternoon of day 35.  Soult’s infantry division brought Joseph’s numbers up to match Wellesley & with a good position to defend they held off the British attack until nightfall.  The next morning the British renewed the attack, but they had made little further progress before Victor’s army appeared on their right.  Venegas’ stubborn fight at Peuto Lapice had delayed Victor & bought Wellesley time, but not enough.  Wellesley called off the attack & retreated in good order but with significant casualties.

Joseph had also sent a cavalry brigade on the north road.  There was a small fight between the cavalry brigades won by the British who moved south to join the main army, but delayed enough to be of no help other than as a rear guard.

Battle of Navalmoral, day 38:

After his defeat at Miajadras, Cuesta retreated over the Gudiania.  After resting & regrouping his army & receiving some reinforcements he again advanced to Miajadras knowing that Victor had long gone.  He continued east to Casas de Don Pedro, then north through the mountains towards the Tagus where he could follow Wellesley’s advance. 

The British Light Division was still at sea when the campaign started, but was now about a day’s march behind Cuesta on the road to Navalmoral, heading east to join Wellesley.

Cuesta reached Navalmoral on day 37, to receive news that Soult’s corps was advancing towards the town from the NW on the Plasencia road.   In the morning of day 38 Soult attacked.  The Spanish had a good numerical advantage & for a while looked like they might win, but it was not to be.  The army broke just before the British Light Division could come onto the field.   The fresh British division covered the retreat, but Soult occupied the town thus cutting Wellesley’s line of communication.

Battle of Talavera, day 39:

When Wellesley retreating from the battle near Toledo, Joseph’s force stayed on the field to regroup while Victor’s force, which had not had to fight, pursued the British.  After getting to Talavera Wellesley found out that his line of communication had been cut at Navalmoral by Soult.  He had some supply at Talavera & attempted to halt there on day 39 to regroup & rest after the losses & fatigue of the battle & retreat in anticipation of having to fight his way past Soult at Navalmoral.   But Victor was close behind him & attacked immediately.  

So we fought a battle on the original Talavera battlefield.  In our Talvera the French had only Victor’s corps while Welellsley has no Spanish allies.  The numbers were in Wellesley’s favour, but his army was in poor shape not yet having had time to regroup & recover from fatigue.  Victor’s corps on the other hand was in good shape, not having had to fight at Toledo.  The British put up stiff fight lasting into the afternoon, but their losses at Toledo & fatigue made the army brittle and the well lead French won a decisive victory.
The end game:

Wellesley had nowhere to retreat to other than back to Navalmoral which was held by Soult.  Victor pursued the next morning giving Wellesley no chance to regroup his force.  On day 41 Wellesley reached Navalmoral to find Soult deployed across his path with his army rested & regrouped after his battle on day 38.   After his defeat at Navalmoral, Cuesta retreated over the Tagus with the British Light Division holding the bridge while he rallied & regrouped his beaten army.  By the time he’d done this Wellesley had reached Navalmoral where his decimated and exhausted army was trapped between two superior French corps with no alternative but to surrender.

In the east, Joseph fell back to Madrid with Sebastiani’s corps, Soult’s 1st division & the Madrid garrison, blocking Venegas’s renewed advance with a superior force.  Venegas turned back to Andulusia & the campaign was over.

There were 7 battles:                    The British fought 3 battles, winning 1 battle & losing 2.
                                                      The Spanish fought 4 battles, losing all of them.
                                                      The French fought 7 battles, losing 1 & winning 6.

3 of the battles took two nights to fight so we got 10 nights of good wargaming on the table.  The campaign took 10 weeks of real time as we always got to the next battle within the week between wargames nights.

The French certainly had the edge in the battles, but they also did better in the campaigning.  Victor’s strike at Wellesley’s line of communication lead to his defeat in battle, but it lead to a significant delay before Wellesley resumed his march on Madrid – which eventually proved critical at Toledo.  Soult’s sending of a division to reinforce Joseph was also a decisive move as it tipped the balance of forces the French way at Toledo.   Although always defeated in battle, the Spanish didn’t disgrace themselves in the campaign.  Cuesta did his best to protect Wellesley’s line of communication, but met Soult on one of his good days.  Venegas’ stubborn fight at Peurto Lapice delayed Victor long enough to at least give Wellesley a chance at Toledo.

According to the Victory Conditions, the campaign results were:
French:       Decisive victory.  (Good team effort from Victor, Joseph & Soult).
British:       Crushing defeat.  (It's the Chateau d'If for Wellesley - no dukedom & Hobart’s mountain is definitely Kunanyi).
Spanish:      Honourable draw.  (They failed to win, but have fought as well as can be expected & can return to Andulasia with both their armies still fighting forces).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Campaign in Spain 1809: Battle of Talavera 2

We picked up the battle of Talavera where we left off last week. 
I had moved the terrain & troops 12" away from the British table edge to provide them a bit more wiggle room for resisting the French attack.
The French are now attacking in the centre where their grand battery had driven the British back with significant losses.  The battered British infantry are being sent forward to meet the attack. On the British right Talavera is still holding out & the battery has been rallied and got back into action.
On the far flank Wellesley continues his counterattack, but his tired soldiers are running out of steam & although the French are also badly hurt he isn't breaking through. 
The fresh French infantry are hammering the British centre.  Impetuous or not, the dice have prevented the heavy cavalry brigade from counterattacking.  The battery has been shaken again by the skirmishers in the vineyard & French line has come out to put more pressure on the shaken gunners.
Suddenly it all started to fall apart for the Brits.  Their centre collapsed.  The gunners again fell back shaken.  The heavy brigade has still refused to charge.  Left of centre the light cavalry brigade tried to stem the tide, but French squares stopped them.
With the battery driven back the French cavalry have advanced forcing the British infantry into square.
 The cavalry fell back to allow the infantry to finish off the squares with musketry.  At the same time the defenders of Talavera decided they had had enough & also broke.   With those 2 brigades broken the British army failed their army break test.
On the British left both sides are exhausted, but the battle was decided on the other flank.

The refusal of the heavy brigade to actually do anything at least gives the Bits some protection from pursuit, but Wellesley's strategic position is now desperate.  His only line of retreat leads to Navalmoral which Soult took yesterday campaign time.  His chance if beating Soult with this battered, out of supply, & fatigued force, with Victor on his heels, is not good to put it mildly.    His only hope is for Cuesta to rally his army fast enough to join with the British Light Division to retake Navalmoral before he gets there.  So we go back to campaign mode to see what happens next.

Sunday Bolt Action at Good Games

Matthew wanted to try out his newly minted Fins, so Sean & I took him on with some of Chris' Russians.
The Fins have a lot of special rules which give them a lot of punch for small force.  The Russians proved no match for them, but Sean & I didn't have much luck either.  We had one of those days when the 6's roll for command & 1's for shooting.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Spain 1809 Campaign: Battle of Talavera

At the battle near Toledo, Wellesley withdrew in good order when he saw Victor was coming up behind the french left flank.  He retreated back to Talavera where he received news that Soult was blocking his line of communication to Lisbon at Navalmoral, having defeated Cuesta there.  Wellesley halted his retreat to try & rest & regroup his army before marching on & tackling Soult.  But While Joseph had rested & regrouped his force on the field after the battle of Toledo, Victor kept marching after Wellesley.

In the morning of day 39 of the campaign Victor attacked Wellesley on the historical battlefield of Talavera.  Our battle of Talavera is rather smaller than the historical one as the British have no Spanish allies & the French have only Victor's corps.  The British significantly outnumber the French but the British force has significant casualties from Toledo & has not had time to round up stragglers & recover from the fatigue of the 2 day battle & the retreat.  So the British units nearly all start the battle carrying between 1 & 5 casualties.    Victor's corps has some casualties from past battles, but has had time to recover & his force is in much better shape.
The British are on the left.  Their line runs from the town to the wooded hills across flat agricultural ground dotted with olive groves, vineyards & crops.  
The French have formed a grand battery in their centre.  Wellesley has deployed his artillery in 2 smaller grand batteries. The French begin a steady advance behind a screen of skirmishers.
The French have sent a skirmish screen at engage the battery beside the town while their own battery pounds the British centre.  They also mount an attack through the woods on the far flank.
The British battery was forced to retire by the skirmish fire, but British infantry advanced and drove the legere back.  
The French brought up their cavalry while the Brits rallied their gunners.  

A brave British square held up the French advance while the rallied battery was redeployed.  The British centre has been pulled back after heavy losses to artillery fire.  French infantry have advanced into the vineyard to the left of the battery.  On the far flank the French attack has stalled.
The British right has stabilised for now, but the French infantry in the vineyard are a problem. 
The British left is also holding on & in the woods they are now counterattacking.  The British  centre has fallen back, but none of the British brigades are broken & although several have heavy casualties the Brits are not yet beaten.

This is the situation at 0 o'clock real time when we called a halt, but the battle will continue next week as it started early in the campaign day. 

Sunday Bolt Action at Good Games

We had just one game going last Sunday, but a few lookers & some training for a newbie.
There were some rainchecks for next week, so I'm hoping for a good session next Sunday.