Monday, November 18, 2013

48th Regiment of Foot: Crusader Minatures and a Blue Moon

At long last, I have completed the second half of my 48th regiment of foot for my Quebec refight. At 34 figures, this is the other half for what will be a 70 figure battalion which makes up Wolfe's entire second line on the Plains of Abraham. As this half includes both colour party and grenadiers, they are arrayed pretty well how the regiment will look when based - but will be twice as wide. For a glimpse of the first half I painted this year, see my posting Crusader Miniatures: Supplemental Review on this blog.
This is the second last unit (prediction) I will achieve this year before packing my bongos and heading for home in the new year. Tonga has been good to me but I have other fish to fry. Divorce, a new home, child care, financial settlement, a new position and a new relationship all loom large BUT I am keen also to get stuck in to my wargaming projects which have languished. Whilst I only managed to add one regiment to the Quebec project this year, it's as big as two or three front line regiments and I am near to 50% done.

In the beginning, few grenadier models took my fancy and Crusader had yet to include their British or French grenadier figures. I had anticipated constructing my own. Was I glad they came out with a range just in time for me? I think they are superb.
I converted an officer to one of grenadiers as well as a sergeant figure - both very easily achieved with a neat head-swap, pinned and fixed with Supa glue, the glue being all the filler required as it happened. In the Front Rank approach, Crusader provides a blank mitre - so just add your own detail.

The drummers are an improvement on the Redoubt Miniatures rendition but I have to say none of my reasonable collection of references provide for the back of the coats - forcing some improvisation for how I painted them.
My Lieutenant Colonel Burton is a slightly converted Blue Moon figure. The Flags are by me - I'll always make my own but the ferrules and tassels are Front Rank. Again, this series of photos was taken with my Canon SLR with a macro lens with various settings and no flash under lamp light in the daytime.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fort Forgetmenot: An AAR

Even in the desert there is colour and flair. Earlier this year my friends and I had a series of wargames, one of which was our 'Sally in the Sands' - the Italian assault on Fort Forgetmenot. A fictional early war encounter which saw forces of Italian colonial fascism attack the ill-prepared forces of Franco-British imperialism across the deserts of North-West Africa. I played Benito's boys whilst Matt and Grant took on the French and Brits in a ten turn fiasco which saw the outcome in the balance throughout.

The Italian primary objectives were to cut the rail line and communications which they would need to hold for two complete turns and seize and hold the fort by games end as a possible, secondary objective.
Jumping off from a deep, protective gorge, a colonial battalion of Askaris and Black-shirts were to storm the telegraph post (Outpost) on the Italian right flank whilst a supported combined light tank battalion advanced on the left flank with a reserve in over-watch to the rear. Some air support was hoped for.

It was unclear the precise strength of the garrison on duty but a fully supported infantry battalion was believed to be in the nearby township of Shoopshawaddi. This was to be a classic seize and hold operation. The colonials would have a hard time of it but numbers were expected to tell in the end and they had their own heavy weapons support. To the brave go the spoils (or so it was hoped) and the allies were going to need to raise the alarm and dice for reinforcements - for both unit type and entry point.
The Italian advantage was that their forces were completely grouped and formed up for the assault - what could go wrong? Further, the allied reinforcements were reliant on continued success in dicing. As soon as a roll was failed, no further units could arrive that turn but each successive turn the chances increased by 1in6 from a 4in6 start until successful.
The Italians moved first and throwing caution with lives to the desert winds, we came out in force on both flanks simultaneously, soon realising the over-watch tank company were hopelessly out of range to be of any use. As soon as the fort acquired the enemy, 18pdr shells rained down taking a steady toll.

It was clear that some serious bleeding was going to have to happen under the range of those 18pdr guns before the small Italian battery could be brought up in support.

The small arms fire even from the Fort was galling and once closing, the colonials took unacceptable casualties from the forward defenders as they rushed the Outpost. A heavy machine gun from the tower was particularly brutal in thinning the Askaris ranks. We used Rapid Fire rules with a twist on the moral system. We give the Askaris 'Regular' fire ability but 'Elite' morale and the same for the Black-shirts. It was assumed by me that they had what it took to take the position.

Man-handling their own support weapons under artillery, heavy machine-gun and small arms fire without the ability to move and shoot in the same turn; the colonials were dangerously exposed. Even if they were able to close the gap, the arrival at any minute of the wrong kind of British support would have doomed the flank to total ruin. All the allies need do was to inflict 20 casualties and force a morale test. Once failed, the colonials would be caught paralysed or worse in the open.

This was always going to be an all or nothing gamble - or was it a calculated risk? The entire battalion went forward, all companies providing mutual support. Eventually, the casualties mounted sufficient to cause that dreaded morale test.
Thankfully, the Brits in Shoopshawaddi were doing what they did best - tiffin seemed to go on and on and their French allies struggled to hold on. For them also, casualties were mounting even behind prepared defences. The Italians were getting the best run hoped for but eventually, the wrong sort of help finally got through.
Two Morris armoured cars can and did do a hell of a lot of damage to a poorly supported infantry battalion. If it wasn't for the morale of the Askaris and Black-shirts they'd have broken as soon as they came under their mobile machine guns. They did reach the Outpost and clear it with hand-grenades but broke soon afterwards with further casualties and subsequent morale tests.
Fate appeared to intervene for the Allies at this time. With the colonials driven back, a 25pdr battery arrived just in time to set up safe 'n' sound and commence a fierce bombardment of the Italian left flank.

Having much ground to cover in the long sweep to their left, the armoured advance stalled under heavy damage sustained by the Royal Horse Artillery. At this juncture all seemed lost as allied armour approach from around behind the Fort just as the Italians crossed the other side of the track. Things were looking grim once more for the new Roman Empire.

Yet the allies continued to be dogged by minimal support from their forces in the town. Poor communications, perhaps antipathy toward the French or (we surmised) the Commander was otherwise engaged with more pleasant distractions to be bothered with exaggerated reports from one bunch of emotional continentals about another. Who can say, but does she look a little Latin to you?
After a savage and short tank battle, the Italians survived the piece-meal counter-attack just in time for the fortuitous intervention of the otherwise absent Regina Aeronautica who promptly swept the 18pdr gun crews to Hades.

The rear echelons having by this time cut the rail line and communications, all that was left for total victory for Il Duce was to breach and take the fort. A solitary M11/39 closed to short range and promptly blew the doors to the courtyard of Forgetmenot and the battle was over.

I highly recommend wargaming this period and this theatre of operations. The Italians in particular are a fun and curious army, full of unusual equipment and colourful troop types.

We gamed this fanciful scenario using 20mm figures and models accumulated over the years and continue to add to them bit by bit.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fokker EIII & the Paratrooper Pilot

My obviously Photoshopped completed model. Kurt must have jumped.
I have modeled this Fokker EIII on that flown by Kurt Student in early 1916. More famous and best known for his pioneering generalship of the Fallshirmjager in WWII, I learned of his exploits as a pilot in the Great War and thought to model his machine rather than one of Imperial Germany’s famous aces. Unlike most of his more accomplished counterparts, Student of course survived the war, survived the next one, his trial and short term of imprisonment to live a long life until 1978, aged 88. As you will read, I also modeled this particular airframe because Student failed to score any confirmed ‘victories’ in it. I rather like the idea of representing a young, keen and no doubt aggressive young pilot, cruising about the skies, frustrated with his failure to find and defeat his enemies. There’s something a little challenging to me in celebrating a pilots score of ‘murders’ and then venerating them for it so this trade-off suits me nicely.
First; a little about the man. Kurt Arthur Benno Student was born in Birkhonz, Germany on 12th May 1890 – yes, he was a Taurus. A graduate of the Royal Prussian Cadet School, Potsdam, Student entered the Imperial German Army as an officer candidate in 1910 and was commissioned a lieutenant in March 1911. Clearly, the young Student was a product of the Prussian military machine. At the outbreak of war, he served with the J├Ągers then transferred to pilot training and obtained his military pilot license on 8th August 1913. From 2nd August 1914 to 31st March 1914 he was attached to Flying Station Posen (Eastern Front) with Fleiger Battalion 2 and made an active pilot on 2nd June.
From 2nd August 1914 to 9th February 1916 he flew with Feldfleiger-Abteilung 17 (Field Flying Detachment 17) and achieved the rank of Oberleutnant on 18th June 1915. Of interest to me were his next two assignments. He transferred on 10th February to Kampftaffel 19/Kampfgeschwader 4 of the Army High Command till 16th May 1916 and from there on 17th May until 15th October 1916 with the 3rd Army Fokkerstaffel - a hunting group of Fokker EIII and EIV’s. It was here that Kurt Student scored his first three confirmed victories.
Student was credited with six confirmed and one unconfirmed victories as a fighter pilot in the Great War. Whilst his first and unconfirmed score was on the Eastern Front, I am more concerned with his first three official scores. He was credited on 6th July 1916 with forcing a Nieuport 11 to land when engaging it over Peronne. What is particularly interesting about this chivalrous victory was that he later flew it himself in combat of which there is surviving photographic evidence. This victory was followed by his defeat of a Caudron over Vaux on 1st August 1916 and then another Nieuport over North St. Souplet on 8th August 1916.
Image courtesy of
References state Student claimed to have secured these confirmed victories flying his ‘faithful’ Fokker EIV. The Fokker EIV largely appeared in service from June 1916. As we have the attached photo of our young Oberleutnant posing with his machine’s ground crew beside what is clearly ‘his’ Fokker EIII, I can only conclude that what is believed to be Fokker EIII 409/15 was flown by Student in the months prior to his adoption of the EIV. I am presuming he flew the EIII sometime at least between his posting to Kampftaffel 19 and up to June 1916 in time for his adoption of the EIV and his subsequent forcing down of the Nieuport 11 on 6th July.
This attempt is from the 1/72nd scale Revell plastic kit. This was a surprisingly simple and straight forward model to assemble but there are a couple of tips which it lacked and I'd like to pass on. First is the need to consider if you are going to rig your model. Many wargamers in this scale do not - I feel the need. There are two wires stemming from the engine cowling to the inner forward holes - which are partly formed in the model, you just need to drill them through. There is no explanation as to how you are supposed to thread through the cowling but I elected to drill the holes myself and fix the ends on the inside of the engine assembly with Superglue before fixing it to the fuselage. This means for much of the assembling, there are two loose threads dangling about but after the model is painted, it's a simple matter to thread them through the wings and tie them off at the undercarriage.
For my model, I had the above photograph to work from. The decals for the fuselage do not come with the white background for the imperial cross. You will need to paint it on before applying the decals - something I failed to anticipate and ended up painting around the decal. Tricky and less precise and not recommended.

Having learnt from my previous Pfalz eindecker, I replaced the flimsy plastic support strut on top of the fuselage with a steel wire I fashioned myself. My wire extends below the engine cover down the floor of the fuselage and is buried in a lump of Greenstuff. The wire is also fixed with Superglue through the holes I was required to drill through the engine cover. The bend is not the acute angle of the real thing or the plastic part (being bowed) and the apex required some wrapped and Superglue thread prior to the rigging to prevent the support threads slipping off the central point. The support is incredibly rigid and took the strain to prevent slack in the rayon thread I used.

You can also see from this shot another hole (of which there are two) for two further wires which I should have pre-threaded.

My first image is a bit of nonsense I've been keeping in mind to imitate since seeing a similar graphic on someone else's blog. As yet, I have no pilot so the effect is incomplete. I can't abide the lifeless, ill-defined blob which came with the kit and am awaiting a replacement. Perhaps the above shot might have been better against a cloudy sky? Anyway, for those in the know, it was a straight forward enough Masking exercise which took some time to define properly - especially for the propeller. The image was taken from a photo taken against an orange background which shows through - I'll bet getter next time and even throw in some effects like fumes and a flack burst.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CRUSADER SYW British: Supplemental Review

Having completed painting the first half of my grand 48th battalion of foot for my Quebec British army, I thought to submit a post-script regarding the Crusader Miniatures British Seven Years War figures. Firstly, let me say they were a joy to paint and just as well given the numbers I have committed to for this one battalion. It is an interesting fact that you can never really appreciate a model soldier fully until you've painted it. The un-coated, bare white metal figurine can hide detail and present new difficulties even after the undercoat is applied and the full complexity of any sculpt is rarely revealed until after a painter starts to 'colour his world'.
At this stage I have as yet to paint any grenadiers or any musicians (drummers). The level of simple detail and the depth of some features simply drove me to put extra effort on such things as their hide kit bags. I ended up apply three shades of dry brushing to raise the relief of the fur. I would also like to amend a previous comment I made about the identicle faces. Whilst the variously and subtly posed figures have a strong likeness to one another, they are in fact different, made more so with the application of paint - at least with my 'washing' style. These chaps really came to life for me which again spurred me to put just that little bit extra into them. I had previously commented on the fine lace relief and that did prove fiddly and thus slow going. Having said that, the rise from the body caught the paint off the brush easily enough and it proved less hard going than I anticipated. Thanks to an old mate of mine (Grant) who reminded me to use a tooth-pick to dot the lace, what could have been nightmarish was only laborious. Hell ... I'll take what I can get.
I was pleasantly surprised about the poses themselves inasmuch as some details were hid and I avoided several pain points such as the pocket lace. In fact, much of the lace is hidden by external kit and the positioning of the arms and musket. There is defined lace for the rear of the waistcoat, exposed by the turn backs which I elected not to paint. Most half of the left lapel and coat lace for both pockets are obscured. In turn, the musket underside is couched in the crook of the left arm hiding the trigger and guard with the musket bracing covered by the musket sling. All very handy. Whilst I prefer painting bigger gaiter buttons found on other sculpts, these are simply far more accurate with a better finish. There is no butt-plate on the musked stock (less detail for me) and I had no inclination to affect one through painting. Also, the ram-rod end is not well detailed but again, this does not detract from the painted figure. Many of these details are most probably over emphasized on other figures for the 28mm scale in any event but that's no doubt up for debate. I ended up applying a wash to the musket barrels and locks after my traditional aluminium over gun-metal approach and am pleased with the effect.For some reason these figures asked for it and now I see myself doing so in future for all muskets. What is it about getting fussier with age?
I'm not able to base these figures whilst I am stationed in the Pacific as I will transport them wrapped on my trips home. Nevertheless I couldn't help but lay them out for the grand shot of the half-battalion. Incidentally, they stand up on their own - well centred and balanced with very neat bases. No blue-tack! Now that I've freed up my cork painting stands, I can move on to the rest of them and the first of my Light Brigade regiments for Balaclava which will feature on my other Blog.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

HMS Bristol - the First

According to my information, this amazing ship was in service for 60 years before finally being captured and later sunk by the French. They don't build 'em like that anymore.

Built by Tippetts of Portsmouth and launched in 1653, the HMS Bristol was a 44-gun fourth-rate frigate of the English Royal Navy, and the first ship to bear the name Bristol. In 1677 her armament was increased to 48 guns and in 1693, she was rebuilt at Deptford as a 50-gun fourth-rate ship of the line. In April 1709 she was captured by the French (renamed Agincourt) but was recaptured two weeks later, at which time she was sunk. She fought at Lowestoft 1665, Four Days' Battle 1666, Orfordness 1666,  Solebay 1672 and the Texel in 1673. 

As for her action in the Four Days Battle, the HMS Bristol was in the very thick of the fighting. By the second day her Captain, Philemon Bacon had been killed in action and was replaced by John Holmes, previously of the Triumph.

My model is another by Rod Langton. The largest vessel in terms of rating, armament and size in my collection, this brings up my English squadron to four vessels. I have only dared to make my models with running rigging using rayon twine but one day, perhaps on the larger vessels I'll extend myself to fully rigged - we'll see.

Good Ship DORDRECHT of the Maze

Port-side Dordrecht - Admiralty of the Maze

This is my finished model of the good ship Dordrecht, a stalwart naval fighting platform of the United Provinces (Dutch) republican fleet during the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid-seventeenth century. She is from the superb range of 1/1200 scale vessels designed and produced by Rod Langton of Langton Miniatures fame (where else) and included his optional brass etched sails.
My rendition is for the Dordrecht during the second Anglo-Dutch Wars and is taken from the lists provided in Fox's Four Days Battle of 1666 but for the life I me I cannot recall from which battles returns the statistics refer. In any event, imagine my Dordrecht carrying 46 guns, 161 sailors and 25 soldiers and captained by the fighting seaman of Maze, Philips van Almonde.

You gessed it - starboard-side Dordrecht

Philips van Almonde was born in Den Briel on 29 December 1644 of a wealthy burgher family but went to sea as cadet to his uncle, Capt Jacob Cleidijck aboard the Dordrecht. Making Lieutenant in 1664 at 21 years and assumed command of the ship after his uncle was severely wounded at Lowestoft in'65 - to be confirmed by the Admiralty (Maze - now Rotterdam). We are told he went on to distinguish himself in the Four Days Battle. In later life and after the period my model is set, he went on to captain the Harderwijk (equivalent 4th rate of the Amsterdam Admiralty) and ended his service as a Lieutenant Admiral.
As usual, I mounted this model on cut glass and touched up around the edges of the model with gloss white enamel for the foamy wake of the vessel. Actually, when I Super Glue the model onto the glass, it gets a frost effect so the wake helps smear that into what I find a pleasing effect. I did want my Dordrecht to sport it's Admiralty flag but could not for the life of me get a reference for one on-line. Having started small with my collection - in both numbers and vessel size, the Dordrecht represents my most powerful ship to date for the Dutch.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Observer Section: Part One ... Part Done

Deployed observation section for the western desert
 It sometimes seems to me that a model army for WWII is never finished. There's always something extra to add. Some time back I completed my RHA battery for the early war in the Western Desert. To be precise, they were intended as part of my Jock Column. As I wargame using Rapid Fire rules, no battery of guns is able to  engage in indirect fire without an observation crew - a good motivator to cover off on the more interesting units. As my battery of two guns required four 1/72nd scale Airfix 25pdr kits - two deployed guns and two towed - I had two Quad kits left over as I only previously required two vehicles to pull or park beside my different gun assemblies. How neat? I had just the kits I required for my observers.

The kits required some major conversion. I cut away most of the rear cabin and set about scrounging my bits and bobs collections to gather enough campaign detritus to identically fill the rear tray sections. I was careful to ensure that the models represented the same vehicle - one on the move and the other a deployed variant with the same equipment but moved and utilised in part. Luckily, most parts were to hand, including the radios which I fitted with aerials.

I used the usual Green Stuff to create tarpaulins and rolls, bound planks in wire and created a large box with balsa and more Green Stuff. The real creating came with the construction of the ladders- one in travel mounts and the other fixed and elevated behind the passenger compartment - both made of plastic card. In modelling the deployed observer, I only had one picture to go by which I have in my Osprey Campaign Series issue, Operation Compass.

A few assumptions about what I was looking at were made but the general idea is the vehicle deploys behind a ridge or in a depression - the vehicle hidden from view except the observer, ready for the get-away. Alternatively, the unit can be in the open desert looking from the extent of the horizon. When the model is complete, the deployed variant will have a support cable or chord from the ladder to the cabin, the chap with the coil will have an extension line running to the aerial, and the make-shift table will have a map on it. Anyway, there's a little touching up to do before I'm ready to undercoat and paint this lot as you can see but that won't be for some time. Nevertheless, I'm a lot closer to finishing them off than I have been for years - I've been wanting to build them for a long time.

On the move.

Crusader Miniatures Review: British 28mm SYW

Crusader Miniatures RFH003 British Grenadiers SYW
Crusader Miniatures

A relatively new range of miniatures sculpted by Mark Sims and disturbed through Nick Eyre’s Northstar Miniatures, Crusader Miniatures recently expanded the range of British infantry with the newly included grenadier pack (Code RFH003). Together with codes RFH001-2, these figures represent the best quality 28mm figures available for wargaming in the Seven Years War.

Product Availability, Sales and Service
Almost the only limitation in this range is just that – the limitations on castings to date. This range of British infantry come in a marching or standing shoulder-arms order only, for command, line and grenadiers. Presently in order to represent grenadier officers or NCOs with any real distinction requires figure conversion for anyone wishing to field larger battalion models with greater company definition.

Nick Eyre’s efficiency in sales and despatch is second to none and his website is well engineered making ordering and receipt a breeze. Nick is also an involved merchant, advertising regularly on forums such as TMP and also e-mails updates to the ranges he stocks together with a newsletter and through publication of Kevin Dallimore’s on-line ‘Northstar magazine’. In fact, whilst having purchased the line fusiliers and command packs previously it was my assumed necessity and intention to make my own grenadiers to accompany my Crusader battalion. Nick’s advertising meant that I was able to purchase the grenadiers almost immediately they were released – a great relief.

They are also competitively priced at GBP9.60 for a pack of eight figures (codes RFH001 & 3) and GBP5.40 for RFH002 (command) giving as unit price of 1.2 and 1.35 respectively; Messer’s Sims and Eyre proving yet again that quality is affordable.

CODE RFH0003 Grenadiers
Coming in the poses for standing shoulder-arms, the packs of eight (8) figures are sculpted a various attitudes with arms and heads at various positions and angles. This is very much in keeping with a trend championed by the Perry’s and one of which I heartily approve. The range of figure packs available does remain in its infancy – the same three packs are available in different nationalities including a much needed French grenadier pack. The proportions are very life-like and very much in the ‘modern’ camp of realism as opposed to traditional toy soldier style or the curious caricatures of the competing Foundry range. Good sculptors being in the demand that they are and with their own various interests, it remains to be seen whether Crusader Miniatures Seven Years War range attempts to become comprehensive with advancing poses, firing lines and the like. If it were to do so, I imagine they would form the nucleus of all Seven Years War miniature armies from that time forward.

Starting from the head down, Crusader Miniatures offers a well proportioned mitre cap with good broad front flap and head band for detailing. The face of the mitre is the more common smooth face leaving the detailing for the painter or a decal should anyone treat us to one in the future. The faces are identical throughout and have a set, determined demeanour and are very humanistic – unlike the doll-faced visage of the Front Rank figurines. The detailing of the uniform is superb with small but pronounced buttons on lace and gaiters to aid the painter. Whilst the mitre is piped as one would expect, the lace is not cast on cuff lining or coat other than the lapels. There is a lace line on the waistcoat.

As far as is possible, as I have come to expect, the uniform jacket as of a generic type with a short lapel, turn-backs and common cuff – not overly suited for regiments such as 35th foot with the fishbone lace. Any pocket design is obscured on these figures by the soldier’s equipment – standard cartridge box on the right hip and hide haversack on the left. The grenadiers are also sculpted with, curiously, what is presumably the 1742 or 1751 pattern hanger or infantry sword. I say curiously due to the habit and preference of grenadier’s to adopt basket hilted variety and a lack of regulation governing swords at his time in the British army. The muskets are plain with the slings detailed but not the receivers. It is the bayonets; however, which are to be admired. Beautifully proportioned requiring little filing but responding well to touching up, they are about as good looking as bayonets get – other manufacturers erring on a casting overly thick or too flimsy to last. The castings being of white metal, only the Elite Miniatures range with their pewter content compares to my mind.

The crispness of these figures was only to be expected given the recent release with rubber residue evident on two of eighty or so figures (all codes) which I purchased. Flash is evident in the normal locations: where the hanger meets the coat-tails; at the casting join on the under-side of the tricorns at the hair line (only some) but is in significant evidence about the hanger grip and hilt. For best results, I recommend hand-drilling through the guard and finishing off with a fine bladed scalpel which, whilst time consuming certainly provided for a well defined result. Whilst some hangers guards were incompletely cast, I was satisfied with them as a whole and those with a gap, were closed off easily enough. I also would stress that the handles and hilts are cast away from the body of the figures, enabling such attention to render a clean and fully developed representation which is often otherwise the case with other manufacturers.

British Infantry Sergeant (RFH002) decapitated for grenadier conversion
I have made two conversions for my Crusader Miniatures figures which I am using for the single largest battalion in the field at Quebec – the 48th foot. As such, my battalion model with have ten grenadiers including an officer and sergeant for the company, positioned either end of the line. In order to make my NCO and officer, I have taken spare figures from the second line command pack I purchased and set about swapping heads. Consequently, my sergeant will be fusil armed but gesturing, requiring a spare grenadier head and additional cartridge (‘belly’) box (green stuff) where the line sergeant’s belt buckle is cast. The officer similarly required a new head and will be spontoon armed.

Converted Sergeant (left) and Officer (right) from RFH002

The necks are well defined on these figured without being goose-like and I was easily able to snip the heads off using my Stanley wire cutters. A little light filing afterwards and I was ready to drill the receiving holes in the head and body of the figures with my hand-drill – being sure to drill toward the back of the intended join where the spine would be. A drop of Selleys Araldite and the pins are set into the body of the figures first, then the heads glued on afterwards when the steel wire pins are trimmed to the right length.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Table-Top Battle Report: Protecting the Flank

Firstly, this battle report needs to be read in conjunction with the scenario "Protecting the Flank" written by me (Unlucky General) and play tested by Grant Astill and Matt 'Bluewillow' Williamson. See my previous posting. This game was played on a 6'x8' table using Black Powder rules and 28mm miniatures.
The Table-Top Battlefield
Matt took the role of the British Major Des Astor of the Light Division. In command of four (4) companies of Rifles with two squadrons of Light Dragoons and a battery of Royal Horse Artillery, his mission was to take or destroy the bridge over the Greco at the village of Burro. The initial attack was to be with Riflemen only: the horse and guns to follow after dawn.

It was to be an attack using the cover of darkness and he immediately discovered two rifle companies were separated during the night march on Burro and duly rolled to see where they would arrive. As it happened, one of the two companies ran into the main group upon entry but the other found itself stumbling about in the midst of a cow herd.
Initial Deployment
It was at this time that Matt rolled for the Staff Rating of Des Astor in accordance with the Black Powder rule set and perhaps all too predictably, he rolled poorly. With a rating of just six (6) Matt's Major Des Astor was to live up to his name; described in Black Powder as a 'Poor, an indecisive or reluctant commander prone to dithering.' An evil portent for the British.
Picket hidden by darkness and distance ... until sun-up.
The French, if they were there, were nowhere to be seen but Astor played it safe and moved at half speed (see STEALTH rule) to avoid detection. The company in the cow paddock advanced to the stone wall boundary but went no further. In fairness to Matt, he was unfamiliar with the Black Powder rules and as a wargaming gentleman of the first order, he refused to go back on decisions based on ignorance even when the opportunity was offered by the umpire (Unlucky General).

Before the second turn was up, the isolated company managed to DISTURB the cows and announce their presence to any waiting French - but none were sent to investigate. Worse still, the same company remained at the wall, continued to cause reactions amongst the nervous herd and were not to leave that position until well after sun rise. In spite of his orders, Astor seem paralysed and dithered until sunrise whereby he closed on the bridge and engaged whatever French he could see with rifle fire.

Sunrise - surprise!
Meanwhile, Grant has rolled for his Major Paul Tron who similarly earned his name with another role of six (6)! With both opposing commanders of such poor quality, the wargame was bound to become a comedy of errors.

Through a combination of unfortunate rolling, cautious decision making and a seeming aversion to risk what few troops he had, Astor failed to achieve the bridge before sun-up. Having formed an arc about the Villa end of the bridge, the Rifles appeared to be playing defensively and with full light restored at turn seven (7), everyone could see sentries on the bridge. At this point, fire poured out from the villa where another company of Voltigeurs had been waiting.

The alarm was thus raised and Grant rolled well for the guard to emerge from their billets the following turn. The initiative and element of surprise was certainly well and truly lost by Astor. Not only was he being faced off by superior numbers, but from behind buildings and the village stone walls which commanded the river from the French side. To make maters worse, the following turn (nine) Grant rolled well for the immediate appearance of supporting cavalry - a squadron of hussars which arrived by the church.

By this time, posted sentries on the hills about the church moved together with the hussars toward the river and forced a crossing down-stream from Burro; threatening the rear of the Rifles. The crossing was hard going; however, and at half speed. With a poor Staff Rating, Major Tron was unable to hurry even his cavalry - despite their Marauding ability of ignoring distance penalties for receiving orders, they either moved once per turn under own Initiative or Grant failed his command rolls.

When they finally did get across and behind the Rifles, it was already turn eleven (11) and Astor's Light Dragoons and artillery had arrived. Unlimbering immediately, they opened up on the Voltiguers in the villa and began taking a toll - eventually forcing it's abandonment. At the same time, Grant had rolled for more Hussars and they appeared behind the British front, on the left of their side of the table. Limited by his ongoing command restrictions, they too only made it one move before Matt in his turn rolled for the appearance of a squadron of KGL Hussars who appear immediately to the rear of the recently arrived French cavalry!
Dawn re-enforcements
Buoyed with new found confidence, Matt sent in the charge and a brisk melee took place as the French horse turn to face. Following some famously poor dice rolling, the KGL were off the table just as soon as they had appeared, with the French Hussars retiring to regroup with their comrades.

The Vistula Lancers appear on the British side of the Greco
 and French Hussars join after seeing off the KGL. But there
 are more Light Dragoons ahead.
Pretty much at the same time, on the other side of the battlefield, more French cavalry had arrived to force the extraction of the horse artillery and commitment of Astor's Light Dragoons. To cut a long story short, through the course of this 26 turn wargame, the balance hung for well over half of it, neither side giving much ground about the bridge. Relief squadrons from both sides appeared throughout the day and at all edges of the table, dashing about the place and skirmishing furiously with one another.

Curiously, there was only one instance where anyone's cavalry charged down on infantry and that was toward the end when Matt committed a squadron of Light Dragoons against a relieving company of Voltiguers who had crossed over the Bridge. Amazingly, they succeeded in fighting off the horsemen and kept their ground - stalwart fellows!

Sometime after midday (turn 16) Grant began dicing for the arrival of the French main column - none too successfully. Over the course of the following eight (8) turns, he only managed to get two battalions of foot (without skirmishers) and the General de Brigade down the road toward the bridge. The first battalion to arrived was checked almost immediately by the appearance of more KGL Hussars from out of the corn field behind Burro. Forming square, they eventually saw the cavalry off but had choked the road and caused a significant delay. The appearance of a further squadron of British Light Dragoons by the river on the French side made the approach to Burro far from certain for Grant.
The beginning of the end ... for Astor
Great things were expected with the arrival of the General de Brigade who has command of the infantry and any units from the main column. With the two existing and poor commanders, a man of real talent was capable of profoundly affecting this game using the Black Powder rules. Grant rolled, we all fixed our gaze on the turn of the fate as he scored, of all things, a five (5)! How could this be? It seems that le General HAD sent his best man to take the bridge after all as HE was even worse - a fool, "a feckless blustering imbecile, justly despised by his men and fellow officers alike."

Nevertheless, Grant had managed to march two infantry battalions toward his objective and it seems improbable that Matt could achieve his - the destruction of the bridge. Matt's Major Astor had only one more card to play - he knew that the bridge was heavily mined with powder and it appeared the French did not. It was agreed that there would be a chance, albeit a slim one, that a lucky shot from his gun might detonate the charge and blow the bridge sky-high.

The bridge over the Greco was an old stone structure but with a wooden deck. It was agreed that is he could hit it on a roll of six (6), then roll a further six (6) would set off the charge underneath. Looking back, I'm surprised none of us came up with the idea earlier. With so much enemy cavalry movement about; however, getting the gun into position was difficult and in the end Matt only got two shots off and neither of them successful.
Cavalry everywhere and time to move that gun. By days end, this
was all of the table-top left in British hands.
By dusk, the advance elements of the French column were at the village, the bridge was still in their possession and the British further from the Greco than they had been since the start of the game. With re-enforcements not due to arrive until later than night, the next day's battle would see the main British force having to fight their way out of one quatre of the table-top. I rather think Wellesley will elect to withdraw deeper into Portugal.


I think the scenario played out very well and all agreed it was enormous fun. It took us about six hours to play but might have cut that time down with greater familiarity with the Black Powder rules. Grant was of the opinion that whilst great fun, there was too much cavalry and a 2in6 chance for their appearance would have been better.

The British player needs to make best use of the dark and push hard for the bridge. Attacking from several different approaches at once and leaving the half-movement STEALTH advantage until getting closer to the bridge may have served Matt better. Even if observed and contacted, another company may avoid detection depending upon the sentry and patrolling patterns of the French player.

Black Powder firing and especially skirmisher firing can be devastating but in this game, in spite of everyone blasting away turn after turn, it wasn't until the afternoon turns that units began to break. The British need to take risks - do or die. Certainly, a better commander capable of pushing his troops harder would have had significant advantages. If rolling two or even three under a Command roll enables a unit so commanded to move two or three times per turn. At STEALTH movement rates, a good roll would enable the Rifles to move up to 18" over even ground. With a poor commander like Matt's Major Astor, this was next to impossible.

When DISTURBING cattle or pigs, it is prudent to remove the unit using cover of darkness. Matt failed to do this and Grant could have sent a company to investigate but Grant preferred not to leave the confines of the Villa or Bridge and had allowed for no patrols. Perhaps he was right to.


This was the first of four games we played this weekend (different era, scales and rules) before I'm posted overseas for a couple of years. It's going to be some time between games. Between the three of us we have a couple of thousand figures and play at a 1/20 representative scale in favour or big battalions.We could have set up for a massive bash but I have to say, this evolving skirmish 'pre-battle' was something different and great fun. Fighting with skirmishers and squadrons rather than regiments is dynamic and enjoyable.