Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Marengo Campaign: Battle of Alessandria

The real Marengo campaign culminated in a big battle at Marengo about 10 km east of Alessandria.  Our campaign also lead to a big battle near Alessandria, in our case about 10km to the north & a bigger battle than Marengo because our wargaming generals took longer to get there but came with a larger proportion of the available troops.
Situation at dawn 22 June 1800

Two days previous the Austrian army had moved north from its supply base at Alessandria (off the bottom left of the map) to find 2 French Corps deployed to their front in hilly wooded country.  Having learned the hard way in previous battles how hard it is to fight the French infantry in rough terrain (given his own army's doctrine of linear tactics & the French skill at skirmishing) Melas was reluctant to attack.  He deployed his advance guard on a ridge about a km south of the French position & the rest of his force behind it.  Next day Melas sent strong cavalry detachments out on both flanks to try to find out where Bonaparte was.  They found nothing to the west or to the east, but the cavalry on the Valenza Rd (top right of map) was pushed back by superior French cavalry.

Normally we use a ground scale of 36"/km, but at this scale the battlefield would not fit on the table space available & we'd struggle to field enough suitable figures.  So the battle was set up with a ground scale of 24"/km & the number of units reduced to 2/3.  So our standard 12 figure infantry units represented 1125 men rather than 750. The table was 16' long, 8' wide at the ends & 6' wide in the middle, with a 4'x1' tack-on at the western corner.  The rules are our Camp Cromwell Action house rules.

The current C19 rules now allow 5 players at the table, we had 4 on the table & 4 others took an active part via Zoom, some of them in Canberra.
View from the SE at the start with Austrian cavalry in the foreground.  Melas immediately started to move his own corps, the grenadier division & reserve cavalry this way, obviously concerned about his line of communication with his supply base at Alessandria.
As Melas had expected, large numbers of French appeared down the Valenza Rd & through the woods north of it.  The Austrian cavalry on that flank has attacked the French cavalry as they debouched from the valley. 
The Austrian cavalry attack was beaten off, but the Austrian reserve cavalry is coming up fast as the French infantry emerge from the woods & their artillery come down the road.
At the other end of the field the Austrians are clearly intending to defend.   Ott's infantry on the Austrian left formed square to face the French cavalry (in foreground).  Suchet is moving up artillery & infantry to support his cavalry.  Moncey's artillery has silenced Haddick's & his infantry has begun to advance.
Melas with much of the Austrian army is marching down the table leaving Ott & Haddick to defend against Suchet & Moncey.
 More French are appearing from the woods as the Austrians march east to cover their line of communication & supply.
Suchet & Moncey are now advancing their infantry towards the Austrian position as their artillery soften up the squares.
The Corps of Duhesme & Lannes have deployed onto the plain with artillery & cavalry on their left flank. More French infantry have just appeared in the woods on their right.

This is where we got to at 10pm, our usual cut-off time.  There are now about 1,400 figures on the table representing over 100,000 men.  We will continue the battle next Tuesday night.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Prelude to Jutland

Last week I tried to improved the playability of my Dreadnought rules by using a computer for record keeping & doing the sums.  I didn't really like the result, so I looked at improving the manual system instead.  But the exercise of trying to use the computer wasn't a waste of time, it helped me find  better solution to the issues I was not happy with.

This afternoon Chris commanded the Germans, & I the British, as we fought a scenario based the prelude to Jutland.
The 5 German battlecruisers are on the right, the 6 British in the foreground, on converging courses.
The DDs & CL's stay discretely out of the way as the big boys trade salvos with both lead ships suffering some big hits.  
The Seidlitz copped a rudder hit & ploughed on too close the British line & even she couldn't take the resultant pounding.  But while the Brits were concentrating on sinking the Seidlitz, the Germans were inflicting significant damage on all the British ships. 
At this stage the British Queen Elizabeth squadron came onto the table as did the lead squadron of the High Seas Fleet.
Despite the arrival of the Super-dreadnoughts the British battlecruisers were clearly in trouble & turned away laying smoke.  But the Lion, like the Seidlitz, had rudder trouble & ploughed on into the valley of death. 
The British DDs lay smoke to help the BC's escape.
 So far only the lead battleships have found the range, but the range is closing fast.
The British battleships had bigger guns (15" to 12", but the Germans had more guns, better armour & were better shots.  As the German battlecruisers turned back from finishing off the Lion, the QE's turned away.
The British DD's rushed forward laying smoke & firing torpedoes as the British ships made their getaway.   The Germans evaded the torpedoes, but they did their job of slowing the pursuit.

The end result was just one ship sunk on each side, but even so it was a clear German victory. 

This time my improvements to the rules did work - the game was significantly easier to play.  The main things done were:
- A better OOB chart (prepared on a spreadsheet) which lists the data for each ship present & includes a space to record proposed moves & targets each turn & to record details of special damage. 
- The use of coloured counters & mini-dice on the ship bases to record hits & damage (the counters don't record all the details of special damage (like which turret is hit) but they remind us on the table it's there & the details of the special damage written on the ship's log only need to be referred to if needed.
- Some tweaks to the firing system to significantly simplify the system.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dreadnoughts again

Our Marengo campaign is still rolling along with a lot of maneouvre, but no battles. 

So after last Sunday's game I thought my Dreadnought rules might work with some computer moderation to keep track of the complexities of naval warfare.  I designed a Excell spreadsheet for the job & we gave it run tonight.With C19 restrictions easing a bit Mike was able to join Chris & I tonight.  The battle had SteveD in Canberra CIC British & Mark in Lenah Valley CIC German.

The scenario was Dogger Bank, modified by the Germans having the older battlecruiser von der Tann in place of the armoured cruiser Blucher.
The Germans are on the left, the Brits on the right, both battle squadrons surrounded by DDs & CLs.  In very un-historical fashion both sides started off with a death ride for their small ships, their smoke making it hard for the big boys to do their gunnery.
After a flurry of activity, the surving LCs & DDs drew off to let the big ships play. 
The opposing ships traded ranging shots for a while & one by one most of them got the range.  The Lion landed one devastating salvo on the Moltke, then lost the range when her control system was hit & couldn't finish her off. Otherwise it was mainly the Germans landing the heavy blows.  Suddenly all but one of the British ships was getting into critical damage & they had no choice but to turn away laying smoke.  Only the Indominable, last ship in the British line was without serious damage (as the outnumbered Germans never fired at her).
While the von der Tann & Molke had some heavy damage, it was clear German victory.

The experiment with using the computer had mixed results.  It was good for calculating the no. of dice & to-hit factors, then keeping track of damage, but I have work to do on the interface to make it easier to use.   

Sunday, May 17, 2020


This afternoon Chris & dusted of the Dreadnought rules for battleship actions.  These are another of set of house rules that have been evolving at Camp Cromwell for decades.  We hadn't had a go it for a while & ran the old battle criusers at Jutland scenario.  We left out the destroyers & light cruisers to concentrate on the battleship action with a view to maybe updating the rules again.
 The battel began as historical with 6 British & 5 German battlecruisers coming together.
The Germans turned to port to keep at a sensible range after the Moltke went down under a couple of devastatingly accurate salvos from the Lion.  The orange counters record which ships have ranged in on their target.
Beatty then got a bit overexcited & closed the range further.
The Germans fight back with the von der Tann putting the New Zealand down & the Lion copping a pounding.
The Lion too goes to the bottom. 
The Princes Royal has joined the procession to Davey Jones locker & the morale rules have it that the British have to break off.

The rules worked fine but we found it a bit difficult to keep track of who's ranged in on who.  It has occurred to me that this may be a rare example of a game that could be improved by computer moderation.  Maybe another C19 project for me. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Napoleonic Naval by Zoom

Jim (at table): French: 2 1st rates & 2 3rd rates, all regular crews.
Dale (in Canbaerra by Zoom):  British: 1 2nd rate & 3 3rd rates, all elite crews.
Rules: Camp Cromwell's Men o' War.

The fleets started close hauled on opposite tacks.
The French turned off the wind while the Brits continued to windward.
The French run down past the island. The Brits turn off the wind.
There is a clockwise wind shift & the fleets sail apart as the French go round the island.
The wind shift gave the Brits the weather guage but they continue to sail away as the beat to windward.
As the fleets converge the French turn off the wind, but going upwind it takes longer for them to get their rear ships up than the Brits & Brits have 3 ships firing to 2.
The French flagship was forced to break off with severe damage, then the 2nd French ship caught the converging British fire & soon also had the break off.  Then there were only 2 French ships in action v. 4 british.  They too turned & fled downwind.  The French were fortunate to have avoided serious rigging damage & were able to escape.  So though they sunk or captured no ships it was a clear British victory.

Having work thru Zoom didn't seem to reduce Dale's ability to sail.  His patience in sailing on after the first pass, then doubling back with the weather guage paid off big.  The French on the other hand stayed close hauled for at least 1 turn too long as the ships came back together.

Small Napoleonic

The Marengo campaign has again failed to produce a battle so we set up a might have been scenario.  In the campaign, the Austrians only defended the passes with forts with small garrisons, they never made a serious stand.   Tonight we tried out what might have happened if they had.
The wooded slopes on each side are very difficult ground - much more difficult than they look, but we didn't want to spend all night moving trees out of the way.  Not all teh Austrian troops are on the table, some are hidden in the woods or in houses.
The Zoom set up: Two fixed cameras for over-views & one mobile camera (on small tripod) which also the microphone & speaker.
The French have sent most of their infantry thru the scrub on both flanks.  It's a slow process, but they are in no hurry.  Meanwhile their superior artillery destroys the Austrian bbattery & starts bombarding the town.  
The Austrians have a line infantry & a Grenzer unti in the scrub on each flank, but they are outnumbered & gradually worn down.  The grenzer on the near flank have already broken.  The troosp in the houses are being weakened by artillery.  The writings on the wall, the Austrians concede & begin to withdraw.

We allowed the 1800 era French Line to move in skirmish order thru the srub.  The Austrian line was allowed to be placed there to defend, but limited their ability to manoeuvre in that formation.  The French had 2 more infantry units & an extra gun & cavalry unit.  The result was never in doubt.  So it seems the Austrians were right to not seriously try to defend the passes in ground better suited to the French infantry.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Napoleonic Naval

French (Chris): 2 1st rates, 2 3rd rates,  All regular crews.
British (Jim): 1 2nd rate, 3 3rd rates. All elite crews.
Rules: Our home grown Man o' War rules.  Models: Old Airfix Victories.
The two fleets started on opposite tacks with the wind abeam coming towards the camera.The Brits have turned to port to be close hauled as the Freench come straight on.
The British flag ship starts teh action bow raking the on coming French flagship.
The French turn to be close hauled on starboard tack.  
The Brits show their superior seamanship by sandwiching the French flagship & forcing it to strike.  (We have taken the ships in the same hex off their bases so they fit).
As the 2 flagships drop away, the next 2 British ships hit the 2nd French ship so hard she sinks.
FrenchThe British flagship is badly damaged so is content to escort her prize away as the British 3rd rates turn to chase the 2 remainin  French ships.
The ships close in for more hard pounding
One British ship peels off with serious damage, but the other two are in good condition & concentrate their fire on the rearmost French ship - slowed down by rigging damge.
It isn't long before it strikes.  The 2nd French 1st rate makes her escape.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Marengo Campaign: Battle of Novara 1 June

The campaign started on 14 May 1800.  It took until 1 June to get to our first battle.

Vukassovich's Corps started the campaign guarding the Simplon Pass.  Faced with a larger French force coming down the pass, Vukassovich left a garrison at the fort at Domo d'Ossola & marched south towards Alessandria to join Melas' main army.

But at Mortara he found Bonaparte blocking his route with two Corps.  He about-faced, abandoned his train & marched north with Bonaparte in hot pursuit.  But 10km south of Novara he found another French Corps barring  his way.

The table was set up 16' long, 6' wide, but 7' wide at the far end where the fighting was expected.  The battle was fought by Zoom with Vukassovich in Lenah Valley and Victor & Lannes in Canberra.  Chris & I pushed the plastic & worked the cameras.
Lannes Corps will reach this position on throwing 5+ on 1 dice 1st turn, 2 dice 2nd turn etc.  Victor is at the far end.  Vukassovich is between.  Bessieres is still off the table, behind Lannes.  There will be  4 corps, each about 8,000 men on the table.  Unfortunately for Vukassovich only one of them is Austrian.
Vukassovich deploys out of road column.  Victor advances his flanks.
Vukassovich's cavalry sent the French cavalry on his left packing & his infantry is now sliding to his left.
Victor is wrapping around Vukassovich's right. 
Lannes is on the way, with the Consular Guard cavalry galloping ahead.
The Guard cavalry swept away the Austrian hussars & broke the end of the Austrian line.  The rest of the Austrians fled the field off the far side as a disorganised rabble.  They have lost their train, their line of communication & supply, & are isolated on the wrong side of the French army.