Sunday, 21 June 2015

Our Small Tribute to Waterloo... or Waffles all around!

Last Saturday (yesterday), the Hamilton Road Games Group of London, ON decided to set up a small-ish game to commemorate the battle of Waterloo on its 200th anniversary. Just something to engage in the almost world-wide remembrance of Napoleon's last Huzzah, as it were. We used Arty Conliffe's Shako rules for Napoleonic battles and decided to do a "bath-tub" version. Well, it was more of a toilet bowl version since I didn't spend enough time organising it and setting parameters. However, the players appeared to enjoy the game although both Kevin and Andy might be buying new dice, since the ones they used were "toxic" and probably should be sealed in concrete and buried in a controlled landfill somewhere.

A "Bath-tub" game takes a larger campaign or huge battle and telescopes it down to a workable, playable level. This was not a true bath-tubbed game, but I don't show any other way to describe it. Martin, Andy, and Beth handled the Imperial French side. Martin fielded his Imperial Guard units for the first time ever in his attempt to honour his namesake, Marshal Lefebvre, as well as a division of French regulars. Andy commanded French troops while Beth commanded her Italians, who were leased for the day to the Empire and were issued French identity cards for the duration of the battle. On the other side, Kevin commanded two divisions of British troops, Bear commanded a division of Prussians, and I bravely led the Dutch-Belgian contingent, using my War of 1812 US troops and some Allied cavalry from Belgium and Hanover.

(Photos courtesy of Beth, Martin, Andy, and myself.)

A big view of the table during the set-up

The Dutch-Belgian contingent. No, that's not a Maryland flag you see; you're drunk again.

Martin and Andy consider a move or a cannon shot.

Beth and I in the middle of getting out the figures.
The British and Dutch-Belgians were set on the top of the ridge along the west side of the board (west in real directions) while the Prussians would enter on the north edge once Bear arrived or on the third turn if he was delayed. As it was, he got in early. The objective was for the Allies to hold the ridge and deny the French the road to Brussels. For the French, the objective was to push the Allies off the ridge or punch a hole in the line large enough for the columns to push through and gorge themselves on Belgian waffles in the national capitol.

As the game began, the Allies stuck to their ridge and the Prussians marched in. Beth turned to engage Bear and his Prussians and the battle flared up there. Martin and Andy began their advance toward the ridge and used their artillery to soften up the defenders, although the dice for artillery did not cooperate much.

Kevin attempts to entice the French forward with a portion of his sandwich.

Kevin's forces on the ridge with skirmishers deployed.

Baron Larrey and his ambulance unit make preparations.
Beth served in the US Navy as a medical corpsman and loves to field this set of figures.

A view of Beth's Italian division.
As I said they served as Frenchmen that day. Historically, the Italians were on a par with the French for the most part.
The troops of the Kingdom of Naples... somewhat less so. A LOT less so.

French light cavalry advances in the centre, passing the Sand pit and the farm of La Haye Faux and their cattle.
"Biftake tonight, boys!"

The heavy cavalry - Cuirassiers and lancers - follow up.
The Imperial Command including Boney (we're on a first name basis since we're "buds" and I painted him),
a marshal, a topographical engineer, a bodyguard from the Old Guard grenadiers, the Guard Chasseur a Cheval,
and the Horse Grenadiers.

Prussian regulars advance singing "Ein' Feste Burg ist unser Gott."
I realised that I hadn't painted any Prussian generals so General Andrew Jackson (the red-head on the horse)
 was detailed to lead The Boys from Berlin for the day, including a battalion of the Guards.
The small green die indicates one casualty on the unit. A side-ways stand denotes the unit is "shaken."

The Duke of Wellington hangs out under the tree and has the Big Green Die indicating turn behind him.

The Italians have taken some casualties, indicated by the small white rings.

The French light cavalry hit home. They hurt some of the British units, but were thrown back
... if memory serves.
Beth and Bear battled it out on the Allied left. Andy began an end run around a small woods held by the Rifles of the 95th of Foot on the Allied right. Martin kept trying to soften up the middle to send the Guard in. My Dutch-Belgians - all "second-rate" troops - took an occasional cannon ball but were left alone. I was surprised, to tell the truth.

The French advance.
It's pictures like this that explain why Napoleonics/Horse-&-Musket games are my favourite.
(Figures by various manufacturers.)

The Highland Light Infantry stand ready to receive. (Essex Miniatures with a Minifig gun crew)

The columns go forward while the Highlanders get ready for the assault.
Andy completed his end run and engaged the British light dragoons with his hussars and dragoons while his infantry smashed through the British Troops on the ridge. In Shako, attack columns cannot fire - only lines can - but columns can attack lines at a 3:1 advantage in hand-to-hand fighting, that is three battalions in column can attack one battalion in line. If one battalion is staggered by the line's fire the two others can still come on. At about this point, both Kevin and Andy cursed their dice and might set up a small auto-da-fé to punish the guilty and encourage the wavering.  Martin brought up the Guard, including the Marine de la Garde battalion and threw back rest of the defenders on the ridge. Wellington may have been captured; things got awfully confused at this point.

I pushed my Dutch-Belgians off the ridge to try to take some of the pressure off the British. I attacked an Italian horse battery with my Hanoverian hussars and got them thrown back by the close canister of the battery defending itself. I charged an Italian line battalion with Belgian light dragoons (rated 2nd Rate.) The infantry attempted to form hasty square... and FAILED! Now was my big chance! The infantry couldn't fire, but did fight with their full Morale Rating. So I charged... and was annihilated by the Italians! Soon after that, time was up and we called it a French victory. The position on the hill was pierced and the French columns were last seen headed for the waffle stands of Brussels. The Prussian were kept in check by the Italian and could not assist the defenders of the ridge. They each probably retired for stollen and cannoli respectively. The Dutch-Belgians had a good seat to watch the goings-on. It was not an easy game and neither side had a "walk-over."

I was not pleased with myself and my lack of organisation and planning for the game - a consistent fault of mine. (I even lost my temper at one point and had to visit the street outside the library for a breath of air, as it were.) Still the players appeared to enjoy it... and that's what really counts. As Bear reminded me and Andy had said before, any day you get to play is a good day.

Many of you reading this might have played larger games based on Waterloo and some of you might even have gone to the reenactment in Belgium. We just did what we could.

The French heavy/shock cavalry continue to take casualties, but they can take it.

Prussian reserve infantry battalions battle the Italian units hand to hand on the left.
On the right, the Dutch-Belgian light dragoons make their death ride into a unit that couldn't make hasty square.

The Guard begins its assault on the ridge.

I just got a new camera and we tried using the flash to see how it looked.
This is how it looked.

The Highland units had evaporated and the ridge is open on the right of the British position.

End game over-view. The French are all over the ridge. The Italians are in a fairly even fight with the Prussians.
The Dutch-Belgians are twiddling their thumbs.

Another view of the Guard's assault on the ridge. The Marine de la Garde are facing off with a British line battalion.
The brave heavy gun of the Royal Artillery continues to spit defiance.

The Marylanders of the Dutch-Belgian contingent.

Italian light horse, dragoons, artillery, and command, including Eugene and his pals.

Italian line infantry and skirmishers.
I'm including these because my wife does ther own painting for the most part. (I fill in with the weird and the special.)

Prussian line and reserve infantry and skirmishers
A division in column.
The valiant defenders of the ridge.
Andy's end run with his cavalry.

"When in doubt, consult the rules."

Bear's Prussians formed square at one point to head off an Italian cavalry charge.

That cavalry charge, in fact.

The British light dragoons having been thrown back, it doesn't look promising for the Allies.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Battle of Lehmhausburg

This past Saturday, a few of us gathered to field figures for the Seven Years War using the Black Powder rules. Andy, Bear (for a while) and Mark pushed Prussians, while Martin and I handled the French-Allied side. Kevin and Beth kibbitzed and made helpful suggestions. I enjoy the gaming and I like being with my friends. I don't even mind losing so often... but I'd enjoy winning a bit.

Enough whining! 

Martin and I won the toss and had the Prussians set up first. Actually both sides set up their cavalry brigades and then their infantry brigades. The Prussians had Frederick the Great as their over-all commander (Command rating of 9) while the French-Allied side had some letter Bavarian light in command (Command rating of 8.) The other Prussian generals rated "8" and the French and Allies had two lesser generals at "8" and the rest at "7". (The SYW Russians have to have a few generals rated at "6" and are referred to in the rules as "idiot generals." It'd be like having Yosemite Sam with narcolepsy leading your troops.)

So we deployed and even got the first move. Martin's French dragoons moved forward in a very pleasing manner while my Bavarian dragoons, kurassiers, and hussars took a nap, completely failing their command roll.

Andy's Prussian dragoon and kurassier regiments.
As with most gamers I know, Andy dislikes painting horses (I dislike it too although I'll do it), so these
troops are from my collection. (One of the dragoon regiments is actually Russian. Shhhhh!)

The Bavarian cavalry under my command are actually my wife's troops who did much of the painting herself.
Two dragoon regiments, one kurassier regiment, and one hussar regiment.

Martin's French dragoons - two from Andy and one from me.

One of Andy's photos of his Prussian line entering the field.
Mark took the right flank and Bear had an appointment with another game that started later.
You can see the buildings of Lehmhausburg in the distance on left. It was so named because Andy provided some ceramic buildings. ("Lehmhausburg" = "Clay house town" Oh, so clever!)

So as you can see, things started off badly for Allied side from the word "Go."  The Prussian infantry is "superbly drilled" according to the rules and I was playing the Saxon/ Reichsarmee Bierstube units as "freshly raised" which means that their abilities are unknown until they fire or go into hand-to-hand combat... which they never did. I kept failing my command rolls so getting them to move and pull their tiny pewter thumbs out of their... never mind. It's not worth it.

My first Bavarian infantry brigade with a half-way competent commander moves up
after being delayed by a small stone wall.

Bierstube battalions of the Reichsarmee's Swabian Kries (or Circle)
Fun figures to paint and great flags to do up, but they continually surprise me with their incompetence on the table. 

On the other hand, the Prussian infantry can walk, chew gum, do cost accounting, and write novels on the march.
Some of these are Andy's who based them for Warfare in the Age of Reason, 6 to a base, while mine were based for Koenig Krieg, 4 to a base, with two battalions strapped together for the sake of the game.

Martin's French infantry from Andy's collection.
They formed a brigade square when Mark's cavalry threatened them.

Mark's cavalry from my collection
Death's Head Hussars, Freikorp hussars, and the Garde du Corps kurassier.

The Bavarian infantry
Front unit - Freikorp 15s, rear unit - Old Glory
I've always been pleased with how they turned out.

With my cavalry stalled on the right and one of my two Bavarian infantry brigades held up by lack of orders getting through, my advance was ponderous at best. The Reichsarmee troops moved into the town and three of the five regiments immediately got lost in the maze of street. The church was looted, the tavern emptied, and every goldfish in the town turned up pregnant. The two units that obeyed orders blocked one of the entrances to the town and held it under Prussian artillery fire and severe mockery from the Prussian players.

A Saxon regiment serving with the Reichsarmee squeezes between a wall and the forest on their way to defend the town.

Prussians menacing everybody.

Andy's cavalry with infantry not far behind.

My two competent Reichsarmee units cut off a slower unit and some artillery while the Reichsarmee brigadier directs traffic ...or orders another schnapps. The way "he" rolled command, it was probably the second!

With the Baden regiments defending the road and standing up to artillery, the Saxon-Reichsarmee unit blunders to their left.
On the command roll, a double 6 ("Boxcars") was rolled, indicating a blunder for the unit. A d6 was rolled and the regiment was required to march to its left, which bottled up the road. From their vantage point of looking into the church door, they decided to stay there for almost the REST OF THE GAME and practise modern interpretive dance... or something.

Andy's cavalry begins its left hook. They destroyed the hussars and chased off a dragoon regiment... without ever actually fighting.

Martin's reinforcements - The Irish brigade, the Brittany regiment, and a combined Bavarian/Irish Brigade grenadier battalion plus that big gun standing there.
 Martin's reinforcements marched left to guard against Mark's cavalry turning the flank while his French Brigade held in square atop a small hill. A lot of artillery was fired but I don't remember any musketry.

Prussian grenadiers, musketeers and fusiliers continue their advance. The troops had to break into skirmish order to enter the woods. We made a "house rule" of sorts that any infantry can enter the woods after paying the cost to change into skirmish order and then moving slowly in the woods. Once they come out of the wooded area they MUST reform since they aren't skirmishing infantry. We did this for mounted cavalry in an American Civil War game. I personally don't think that cavalry in the SYW or Napoleonic Wars could do this. Maybe they could but the disorganisation  and reform cost would be tremendous!

"What do you mean, you're 'out of schnapps'? So early in the day? I shall take my custom elsewhere, my good man
...after a cheesesteak sandwich with poutine on the side."

Although the French are streaming over the hill before them, the Prussians have not even broken a sweat
 ... accept for the gunners.

The Bavarians of my first brigade with their attached French battery.
As it ended up, the Allies conceded the field to the Prussians. It was curfew time and we had some planning to do for next week's Waterloo-ish game. (Martin has been busily painting his uncle, Marshal Lefevbre's division. Andy had a batch of French. Beth has Italians who will pinch-hit as French. I have French, British, Prussians, and Americans who will sub in as Dutch-Belgians. All for Shako. I'm looking forward to this.) 
Andy and I confessed to the group that we find "Horse-and-Musket" to be our favourite period of gaming. Martin likes it as well but prefers "Pike-and-Shot" which runs a close second for me. Kevin will play just about anything, as will Bear, although I suspect they like WWII. Hey, it's all fun!

The Bavarians stood their ground as good soldiers.

The Prussian advance through the woods.

Mark's cavalry - the hussars facing the French and the kurassiers of the Garde du Corps begin their end run.

The Prussians with "sell-sword" Russian dragoons in the service of Prussia for the afternoon behind them.
This would be Tsar Peter III's dream!

Mark set himself on the hill and just below it for maximum firepower.

The Bavarian line and a noodnik Saxon-Reichsarmee unit who moved into place and then froze... in column... broadside to the Prussian artillery. Amazingly they didn't take too many casualties when, by rights, they should have been slaughtered.

The brave/fool-hardy Bavarian kurassier sit atop a hill while the Bavarian dragoons fall back
in the face of the Prussian left-hook.