Saturday, 29 August 2009

Terrain Making

Apologies for the hiatus in blog updates, our last three game nights have been spent making more terrain and finally laying the carpet in the garage. We'll be returning to fighting battles on wednesday next when Neils' troops get to fight against Andy's untried French corps. The trial campaign has pretty much run its course but before we end it we've decided to give Andy an opportunity to command his troops in a full scale game. Andy is relatively new to Napoleonics so it will be a good opportunity for him to see what does and doesn't work.

I think I've mentioned before that we have had real problems with the 3ft x 3ft terrain boards warping once they were finished. As you can see by the photo it's quite pronounced and has caused all sorts of problems in maintaining a stable playing surface. We've tried various remedies including wetting them down and placing weights on the corners, and even clamping them to the table for several days at a time, but all to no avail. A few days later they're back to looking like Ali Baba's slippers. This has led to drastic measures. We've been forced into screwing lengths of wood onto the underside along the edges in order to straighten them out. Not only has this involved extra cost it has also meant that all of the existing boards have had to have the screw holes back filled and repainted, all of which eats into gaming time.

Here's a group of the new boards that we've been making at an early stage in the process. I would point out that though we're very happy with the boards they are designed as much with functionality in mind as with aesthetics. If you want to see some really lovely terrain along with an excellent step by step guide then I'd recommend you look at the following blog: http://fuentesdeonoro.blogspot.com/ You'll need to search back a bit for the relevant post but it's definitely worth it and it's also a really fine blog. The photo above shows the new boards which have been PVA'd and with hills made from insulating foam. This stuff is easy enough to shape and helps keep the weight of the boards down. Also there are Polyfilla roads which we striate (real word?) with a fork to add the rutted effect.

The next stage sees the the open spaces and hills covered with a mixture of paint, PVA and sawdust to which we've given the technical term gloop. This stuff takes an age to dry but when it does it's rock hard. Here you can see Dom, who takes a strange delight in "glooping", lovingly applying the muck in a coat about 5mm thick.


When it's finally dry the grassy areas are painted with a dark green base coat followed by a lighter green dry brush. This is then dry brushed with yellow to get the desired effect. Similarly roads are undercoated chocolate brown and highlighted with a lighter shade. This is also applied to the tops of hills to delineate crest lines and seems to work well. The boards are all geomorphic which simply put means that the roads enter the boards at the centre and this allows us to vary the terrain enormously,

The final effect as you can see is quite effective and we'll soon be working on new river boards and possibly a few which have specific features like sunken roads. The main thing is that we now have more than enough boards to cover both tables which should make the games far more interesting.
So the next thing on the agenda is to fight the final battle of the trial campaign and then get the new campaign started. We've made quite a few changes for the next one and I'll hopefully be able to outline them before we get started.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

New Wurtemburgers

Just a short post this time. If you read the comments on some of the posts you'll have seen that Chris is painting a Wurtemburg division for me. Well he's been good enough to send some photo's of the latest two units, a foot battery and another battalion, so here they are.

The figures are from firing line miniatures and I'm assuming that the flags are from GMB.

It looks like Chris has gone for the "misty morning in the mountains" look. Very atmospheric and much better than what I would have thought of. I need to start putting more thought into setting up good photos, you can't just keep sticking a couple of trees behind a battalion. As you can see Chris has done a lovely job on these lads and they'll shortly be joining the two other battalions that Chris has done so far. The plan is to have six battalions and a foot battery eventually with perhaps a regiment of light cavalry to round it off.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Second Leipzig: French Commanders' Report

Here's French Commander, Dom's report and his version of our last outing. I'm not sure where he's received news of an armistice, there's another battle waiting to be fought between Neils' Prusso-Austrians and Andy's French Corps. However that game will have to wait for a couple of weeks while we do some much neeeded work on terrain and the garage in general.

The Second Battle of Leipzig is over, and this report is written in the knowledge that the scale of losses inflicted upon the Russians by this French victory has dictated the speed at which a truce has been agreed in the current campaigning season.
For all of that this was one of the more unusual battles I have experienced. This was driven partly by the fact that the second battle fought only two days after the first meant that the Corps was 5 infantry battalions short of its usual compliment of 31, as well as missing some skirmishers and one artillery piece; the Russians would be at full strength, but the loss of their supply depot would affect them with deductions in morale, so both sides faced impediments. The Russian Corps was also a bit of a curate’s egg. The rumours were of guard or elite troops across all three arms. It was likely to be smaller than our force, yet of a much better quality.
There was however a sense of nervous anticipation amongst the French command team, because in fighting the Russians as the second set piece battle, there was a very real feeling that the enemy had made a mistake. The Russian attack would be outnumbered, and 2 Divisions of Infantry no matter how good could be counter-attacked and defeated. The Corps might suffer heavy losses, perhaps even lose, but the losses to the Russians could effectively turn the immediate course of the campaign in the French favour. This indeed turned out to be the case.
The first challenge was deciding which side of the table to defend. The battle was brought about by the Russian advance on Leipzig, and as the player holding the ground I had to choose which side to occupy. The map for Second Leipzig would suggest that with woods and villages skewed to one side it would have been the natural choice to defend. However I chose the other side of the table for a couple of reasons. Firstly the villages and woods cramped the Russian advance toward to the French lines. The Russian batteries are made up of 6 guns, the tight terrain left them with either little room to deploy as single batteries, or forced batteries to separate, removing the option of a ‘battery hit’. Also by offering the attacker so much ‘defensible’ terrain, there was the possibility that units would become detached from any attacking manoeuvre to hold on to these gains. The Russian contention is that the battle did not begin until turn 11; I would suggest that by turn 11 the battle was over, it was merely a matter of the scale of the losses that we could inflict upon the enemy.
The Corps deployed with the two healthier formations on the flanks, 12th on the left (10 Infantry battalions and artillery), and 13th on the right (9 Infantry battalions and artillery). 14th Div with only 7 Infantry battalions held a central position. Just to the right of the14th and behind some rough ground the Corps 12lb battery, 14th’s own battery and a Horse gun battery were deployed. The plan was to maul the Russian infantry with artillery and counter attack when possible. When the enemy positioned itself to begin, 1st Russian Div with eight infantry battalions headed for the villages between 12th and 14th Div, whilst 2nd Russian Div occupied the two villages between 13th and 14th Division. Between them sat a mass of Guard Heavy and Light Cavalry with a number of artillery pieces.
The early turns were a series of artillery exchanges; the Russian infantry did its best to use the villages as cover. The Russian 2nd Div held its ground and chose (quite wisely) not to advance toward three or four gun batteries (13ths guns could not find too many targets because of terrain limitations). The Russians waited for their elite guns to tell and break the French batteries in the centre, but advanced on our left. 12th Div occupied the woods with some skirmishers and began to pepper the forward Russian columns, while the horse battery redeployed to add its weight of shot against these targets. A French column from 14th Division was then sent into the woods, to reinforce the skirmish screen, but primarily to provoke a Russian assault. The moment that the Russian attack was ordered against the woods the enemy was on the point of being defeated.
The Russians attacked in two columns, with supporting pairs of columns coming on from behind. At that moment 12th Div launched a cavalry attack deep into the Russian flank on the battery that had deployed to the left of the village now occupied by Russian infantry. This had the aim of tying down the battery and holding the infantry in the village; we also choose not to reinforce any fighting in the woods. The enemy was attacking 2 columns wide and three columns deep in wooded terrain that would always be un-forming to their formations. After the French battalion had been beaten in the woods the whole of 12th Division fell upon the flank of the Russian 1st Division. The enemy was hampered by terrain and routing troops, and in its efforts to extricate itself from the woods was effectively strung out with no means of supporting any melees. The first of the attacks from 12th Division commenced on Turn 11, and the Russians were never to recover on this flank; the woods, and village were taken, the battery suffered massive casualties and the fleeing troops interpenetrated much of the enemy cavalry.
The battle then became a matter of the scale of losses that could be heaped upon the enemy. In retrospect advancing 14th Division was a poor move as it suffered at the hands of the enemies Cuirassiers and the order to attack on the left with 13th Division was probably a turn too late. The attack by the 13th was ultimately unsuccessful, and their retreat covered by some sterling work by the French Heavy Cavalry. These were though, mere blemishes on a victory which left the French as victors in the field and in terms of the campaign able to undertake offensive operations in some 5 to 6 days, while the Russians would have been a retreating corps, perhaps out of action for some 20 days due to the cost of replacing higher quality troops.

Losses for this battle were high on both sides. The French lost a total of 254 infantry, 23 gunners,6 skirmishers and 28 cavalry. The Russian losses though lower at 198 infantry, 34 gunners and 22 cavalry will be much more expensive to replace.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Second Leipzig: Russian Commanders' Report

Second Leipzig finished on thursday night around turn twenty with both sides having taken heavy moderately heavy casualties but as a clear French victory. At the end we decided that though the campaign had done it's job of allowing us to formulate a useable campaign system we would have one last battle and then restart the whole thing. In its new incarnation there will be stricter controls on orbats and a revised map movement sytem. In addition we'll be raising the number of points allowed from 4000 to 5000. This will also be in conjunction with a two or three week interlude in gaming to allow us to complete more terrain and get the garage nearer to completion. At the moment one half is more like a workshop and we're unable to use one of the tables.
But without further ado here is the Russian commander, Justin's version of events from our last scrap:


I think I, more than most, was disappointed by the sudden demise of our previous campaign, as I was on the cusp of launching a massive (Russian) offensive against Prussia and Austria. This time around I’m Russian again and misunderstood (or wasn’t listening to) the objective of this new campaign and based my force around one of my old corps orbats but on a smaller scale due to figure limitations (a typical lack of investment by the Boy Bilson – yes I know I could have used Prussians but that’s not the point) and intended it to be used in conjunction with other armies – would that it were, would that it were. So, how did it cope on its ownsome?

The first few turns saw the Russians move into position around the three villages (Eric on the left, Noel in the centre with the cavalry and me on the right) carefully trying to avoid the attentions of the French grand battery in the centre behind the rough ground. Much of the early exchanges were artillery duals, where my elite gun teams were able to mount steady casualties upon their opposite numbers, while Dom found that he was unable to get anything below a 10 on his ‘to hit’ rolls, his subordinate Nick having more success. Both sides were wary, sizing each other up like boxers in a ring and not willing to commit too early.

The action really started from about turn 11 and by turn 20 it was all over, so what happened? Well, on the left, not a lot, as Eric consolidated his forces ready for an expected French counter. In the centre, the mauling of a French battalion by a squadron of guard lancers, forced the other battalions in the division to form square (see Noel’s previous photos). On the right, a regiment of French light cavalry disappeared trying to get into position to charge a six gun battery. The Russians moved up to counter a French thrust through the woods, which resulted in a French battalion routing but left the Russians exposed to the French counter punch. This was delayed as its sister division came out of square and moved forward in column/line. Sheer weight of numbers told on the right, as first the Russians in the woods and then in the village (what was left of them anyway) decided that running away was the better part of valour, taking the guns with them (but not before they’d been shot to pieces from the newly taken village). Casualties for this division came in at over 50%. However, in the centre, the French division decided to came out to play and was promptly ridden down by guard cuirassier, who then rallied on the spot and did it all again. This resulted in something of a ‘gentleman’s truce’, as although the French could clearly move in from the right, the cavalry threat prevented them from doing so, while the Russians were unable to exploit said threat due to lack of infantry…..

Finally on the left, the French counter arrived, a massed division in column, with heavy cavalry in support. But Eric had prepared his plans well and was able to reduce the French frontage from three to two battalions, by launching his own charge. Three rounds of combat later on each melee, and the French were routing off the table. This, I think, was due to Eric’s brilliant tactics and general √©lan and nothing whatsoever to do with the Dice Gods finally giving Nick (The Dice Witch) a bad day at the office. There then followed a quick scrap between opposing dragoon squadrons, where the French came second and Noel was all ready to launch them into the routing mass of French troops to unleash mayhem, except they failed their morale test (yes I know – guard! Cuh). And so that was that.

And that’s that for this campaign too, as we’re going to have one more battle so Andy’s boys can have a bash (although it would have been quite funny to have fought a 3rd battle against Dom with Neil’s returning Prussians, not that we’re ganging up on him or anything) and then we’re going to have a period of reorganisation and reflection, with limitations placed on what people can and can’t have and also what they must have (Licornes? Schmicorns!). Doubtless I won’t listen again (all that rules talk is so dull) and will do my own thing. It all depends on how many points we’ll have to spend but the new Russian army will be a bit different from the old and might even have some skirmishers in it (although I think they should be banned completely, especially at that price). But its central ethos will remain the same; get Dom – Gom.

We wait with baited breath for Dom's response.