Saturday, 12 April 2014

Toulouse 1814 - 2014 The end of an era?

Assisted by whichever wargaming club I belonged to at the time, or even asking bored shipmates on a long patrol to join in, since 2007 I have strived to commemorate the major actions of the Peninsular War on or around their anniversaries, not least to give me the same sort of time perspective on these events that a contemporary might have had. And 1807/2007 does seem a long time ago now...

Since retiring from the Navy, obviously my battles have been more lavish, although there still never seems to be enough time to do things exactly so! However, I am very grateful to my wargaming mates both at the Hall of Heroes Campbelltown, and at the University of Wollongong, for indulging and assisting in these games.

But this Thursday was the end of an era, since 10th April 1814/2014 saw the Battle of Toulouse as the end of the War, fought after Napoleons abdication, duly played out as a Black Powder game at the Uni. And of course this battle, and more importantly those fought in North Eastern France, put an end to the era that history will dub 'The Napoleonic Wars', now that the Emperor is safely ensconced on Elba, and Europe can once more settle down to a long peace...

Toulouse was a heavily fortified city in a naturally strong defensive position, protected by a complex system of rivers and canals. However, the populace was Royalist and even more strongly against suffering the inconvenience of a siege and subsequent sack and pillage, so Marshal Soult was forced to conduct something of a forward defence rather than allow his young Conscripts be disaffected by the city’s inhabitants. To overcome the defences, Wellington planned a carefully coordinated attack to assault all points simultaneously. Hill would feint from the West, Picton feinting from the North West, the Spaniards making the real attack on the distracted French from the North, and Beresford, sweeping up the remains from the South East. Nothing was left to chance…
…apart from Hill getting lost, Picton seeing red and ordering an all-out assault on the most heavily fortified sector of the city, the Spanish getting stuck in a bog, and Beresford… 

Our game only represented a fraction of the city's defences...
Well, with Beresford, the ‘Butcher of Albuera’, the only thing guaranteed was heavy casualties, not least to his own men… Our Game concentrated on Beresford’s assault on the Heights of Calvinet. Here Cole’s 4th Division and Clinton’s 6th Division, escorted by Somerset’s Light Cavalry Bde, after a long flanking march, will assault up the slopes onto the plateau, outflanking all but one of the redoubts, but finding French Infantry and cavalry waiting for them… Each Anglo-Portuguese Division advanced in Brigade Echelons with Battalions in line, shown above as red blocks 11-17, with Somerset’s cav as 27. They were opposed by Taupin’s Infantry Division G-J and two Cavalry Bdes L and M.   

Ground. A lightly wooded plateau is bisected by a track leading to Toulouse, protected by 2 redoubts; the Syphiere Reboubt, which will be facing the allied Assault, and the Colombier Redoubt, or Redoute, which faces away to the North. Each redoubt provides heavy (+2) protection to its front and houses a battery of artillery. The South Western approaches to the plateau are steep but as these had been passed by the British Columns when the action closed these will not be represented on the table. However the lie of the slopes may come into consideration with any cavalry combat conducted up/down slope…
The game was played diagonally across a 12’ x 6’ table, with the Colombier Redoubt in the NW Corner and the South East edge of the Plateau in the opposite corner.

Mission. The French Mission was to hurl the British off the plateau, the Anglo Portuguese was to take both redoubts. Note that these objectives were not mutually exclusive…

Execution.  Per Commander’s Quick Battle Orders. +

French Orbat. General Taupin CV9 (Provided by Ralph)
Redoubts – ea 1 battery 12 Pounders.
4th Infantry Division (Taupin)

Brigade Rey (CV8) 2 x Bns 12th Legere;  2 x Bns 32nd Ligne, 2 x Bns 43rd Ligne – 6 Battalions 
Brigade Gasquet (CV8) 2 x Bn 47th Ligne; 55th Ligne, 58th Ligne – 4 Battalions.

Light Cavalry Bde Vial (CV9) 5th, 10th, 15th, 22nd Chasseurs a Cheval (Models may be represented by Dragoons and Hussars but all will fight as Chasseurs)
Anglo Portuguese Orbat. (Substitute as required) (Atts & Dets – 2 x Division Foot Batteries RA detached)
6th Infantry Division (Clinton CV9) Provided by Ralph

Lambert’s Bde (CV8) 11th, 36th, 61st Foot Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions
Douglas’s Bde (CV8) 8th, 12th Infantera, 9th Cazadores 2 Line, 1 Light (Rifles )Battalions.

Pack’s Bde (CV8) 42nd, 79th, 91st  Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions

4th Infantry Division (Cole CV9) Provided by Philip
Anson’s Brigade (CV8)  3/27th, 40th, 48th Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions
Vasconcello’Brigade(CV8) 11th, 23rd Infantera, 9th Cazadores – 2 Line, 1 Light (Rifles) Battalions.

Ross’ Brigade(CV8)  7th, 20th 23rd Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions

Light Cavalry Bde Somerset (CV7 +2 when giving a ‘Charge!’ order)
7th, 10th 15th Hussars, Gardiner’s Battery RHA. (Provided by Ralph and Philip)
The game opened with some effective French bombardment from the Syphiere redoubt's battery, and some frantic hauling and repositioning of the heavy 12 pounders in the Colombier redoubt, which, sited to cover the North East, Beresford had flanked in his long approach march...
 However it was insufficient to dampen Austin's ardour and he duly advanced his Portuguese brigade boldly, drums beating and Colours flying, into jump off positions to assault the Syphiere redoubt, with British Regiments closely supporting...
 There was little the French could do in response except continue the bombardment, particularly as Alan, our Cavalry commander, was late to the game after lingering over the brandy and cigars at some fund raiser or other....
Here the Royal Irish Regiment represent the Portuguese 11th Infantry Regiment taking the redoubt.
So sure enough the well planned and supported assault, after several turns of desperate hand to hand combat, succeeded in taking the redoubt. If the Allies captured the other one, it was game over!
However by this point Alan had deigned to join us, and more than made up for his tardy arrival by using his Cavalry brigade, which was without organic horse guns, to force an entire British brigade into square within effective range of the Colombier Redoubt!
However pesky Portuguese Cacadores by sniping at the gunners, who had been forced to manhandle their guns out of the now useless fortifications, and so were shooting disordered or shaken...
So that the squares survived long enough for the British Light Cavalry to come up in support:
Photo courtesy Kobold Press Agency
The ensuing cavalry stoush failed to drive off the French cavalry, so that the British right flanking advance was effectively stalled in squares... Whilst the French Infantry were able to retake the Syphiere redoubt. At this point I called the game, with honours about even as the Allies had not taken the redoubts, but the French had emphatically not driven the Allies from the table, and were indeed rather battered and about to be forced back into the city!

 I should like to mention here that many of these models used in this game were professionally painted by my mate Fons's team at Mabuhay Miniatures Painting Service, which I heartily recommend should you want a large 28mm army fast!
I would also point out that Alan has also give an excellent, and far more detailed account of the battle as seen from the French Cavalry's perspective here Toulouse 1814
The references I used for this scenario were both from Colonel Nick Lipscombe's works, the Peninsular War atlas, and his Osprey Campaign 'Bayonne and Toulouse 1814', both highly recommended.
But my particular thanks and gratitude to fellow gamers, even if only to pass the tedium of a long dog watch, who have helped me on my journey to commemorate these anniversaries...Should the Emperor loose the Eagles once again, so shall we!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Black Powder 123

As part of the Waterloo 200 Project, we have been concentrating on increasing our knowledge of the Black Powder ruleset. Whilst we feel its imaginative mechanisms are the only ones to allow us to realistically be able to wargame this epic battle in a couple of days at our scale of orbat, it has to be said that some of the rules are subject to sub clauses found else where in the book, or are open to interpretation!
'Black Powder 123's are my mate Philip's idea, and encourage the playing of small, yet interesting scenarios consisting of only, wait for it, only 1, 2 or 3 units of any one Arm of Service. Typically, 3 Infantry, 2 Cav and 1 Arty, but different scenarioes that he has come up with will have different permutations. Now I must admit I am a 'Big Game' addict, always tempted to cramp as many models as will fit onto the table into my scenarioes! So I was initially a bit sceptical, and prepared to look upon these as simply some 'training pain' that would pay of in terms of better understanding of rules. But I've played these twice now, and actually they can be quite challenging and engrossing, quite apart from having the time to look up a rules question properly....

So for example this particular 'Ambush' scenario consists of 3 units of line infantry, a skirmish unit escorted by 2 units of cavalry being ambushed by the 321 units of Infantry, Cav and Arty, with the actual ambush being sprung by a small skirmish unit in the woods. The actual objective in the middle of the road could be the baggage wagons, say...

Austin and I spend the Sunday morning at our local convention, 'GongCon', playing through 3 of Philip's 4 scenarioes he has designed so far. As I lost 3 out of 3 games I don't propose to go through the games in detail, but I will say that it was an enjoyable as well as educational experience!

And it does force you to play with those arms that you perhaps, in a multi player large game situation, sometimes avoid - in my case, cavalry!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Battle Group Kursk at the Uni!

Last Evening we played another introductory game of Battle Group Kursk at the Uni.

When I say 'we', I mean Caesar and I - for a variety of reasons what was to have been a large multiplayer game with me introducing the rules and managing the scenario and 3-4 players, each with a battle group actually turned into a 2 player game...To paraphrase Wellington, the only thing worse than playing at a Wargames club is playing solo! 

The net result was that the overall scenario was far too ambitious for the two of us to play and for me to interpret these rules that I am still unfamiliar with. As you can see above and below the terrain was laid out with 2 attacking German Battlegroups in mind - in the foreground a deep balka ravine leading to the objective, and in the distance the crops of State Farm No.3 providing a covered approach from the other direction.

As I was now Umpire turmed Player I felt it only fair to place one of the Russian AT batteries out on the flank covering the balka, even though I already knew Caesar's deployment area was wholly on the other flank:

He made fair use of his artillery strike, targetting the road/rail intersection that was his objective - 3 pinned units and 2 casualties:

He then used his on table Wespes to pin my 57mm AT guns whilst closing with his lead PzIV platoon:

And then debussed 2 Panzer Grenadier Platoons right behind them!

Fortunately I had a pair of PTRD anti tank rifles and lmg teams skuling in the hedgerow so was able to take the edge of his assault:

In fact what surprised me about this scenario is how effective these antitank rifles and light AT guns were - albeit against lightly armoured half tracks...My powerful 57mm battery was negated by Caesar's masterly fire and move coordination, and my 76.2 DP guns were stuck right out on the flank on the wrong side of a ravine!

So there are a few AT Riflemen who'll be getting the Order of Lenin - hopefully not just tossed at them in the naafi queue... 

 However despite their valiant efforts the Panzer Grenadiers eventually cleared out the AT battery leaving the way clear for the main Panzer force to advance down the open space towards the objective...whilst the ominous sounds of Stukas could be heard in the distance!

The airstrike was pretty devastating, taking out 2 of my 3 T34s which had been forming up prior to swinging out on Caesar's exposed right flank...

This left him the way clear to roll onto the objective, and a series of frenzied AT grenade and satchel charge assaults by the infantry in the village failed to result in any damage! Technically however Caesar had not been able to fulfill his victory conditions as he had to have infantry on the objective within 6 moves....However it was good to see him using all his various arms in close cooperation, and I think its fair to say he held the initiative from start to finish!

 Despite the setbacks it was an interesting game and I think we increased our understanting of the Battlegroup rules. I must say the more I play the more I like them. The problem just seems to be getting opponents!

This is Caesar's view of the game:

"Thanks Alan for the great write up and pics, and thanks also to Ralph for putting on a very absorbing BattleGroup Kursk game, up to his usual visually spectacular standards. Well done for holding out against my massive numerical superiority - I got embroiled in that field and just couldn't quite reach the objective in time. "

And a link to Kaptain's Kobold's passing references to it on his blog:

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Olustee 1864 at the Uni

At this year's University of Wollongong's Gamer's Guild annual convention, 'GongCon', we decided that our showcase game would be the 150th anniversary of the ACW Battle of Olustee.

The scenery is fairly easy to do as the terrain was dead flat, and we ignored the railroad line that ran through the battlefield as it had no tactical significance to the action.

Each side started with an infantry brigade, the Union plus an artillery battery, the Confederates with an additional skirmish unit. Command and control proved difficult, which meant that the undeployed Union battery found it hard to move forward into the action, whereas the on-scene Reb skirmishers gave the Confederates the edge in the musketry firefight in the large clearing that formed the centre of the field. Accordingly, the first Union Brigade fell back into the cover of the woods....Marco, our first, and only, participating member of the public, rubbed his hands with glee....

However as the dice Gods allowed the second Union brigade on very soon, Connor commanding the Confederate right flank looks a little concerned...However as a Regular Officer in the Australian Army Air Corps he took it all in his stride!

Particularly as a bold charge destroyed the first Brigade's artillery battery before it even had a chance to deploy...

The second Union brigade soldiered on however, manoeuvring to outflank the outnumbered rebels...

We had originally designed the scenario to play up and down the table, as perhaps is traditional for encounter battles, to signify the advance to contact of follow on units, but playing across a 12 foot table gave ample scope for outflanking moves...

Below we see 2 units of US Coloured Troops in such a move, the 35th USCT piling into a Reb unit's flank, with the fabled 54th Massachusetts providing support:

However I don't wish to give the impression the Yankees had the monopoly on flanking moves, far from it - I was just too busy to take snaps on these occasions!

Above, Bryan, the Confederate commander, looks relieved as the second Rebel Brigade finally makes it onto the table - this was a large one its presence swung the initiative back to the Southrons...

Alan, on the hitherto quiet Union left flank was forced to give up the advance and form his units into a line to hold his gains - including, uncharacteristically for him, dismounting his cavaliers...

Above, having seized the initiative, the Rebel team plot to maintain it - their cavalry brigade finally arriving will help! They can just be made out above arriving on the road in the centre...
I did say the Rebs had their fair share of outflanking moves - above, this attack was to split the Union army in two...
So that whilst Alan's hard pressed flank was starting to buckle, the Union army dropped below its break point in terms of units lost, and we conceded victory to the Confederates, who had done well to recover from a shaky start to produce a convincing win.
It was an enjoyable game, a classic encounter battle which saw the initiative see-saw as successive units game on the field. We employed very few 'house rules' and kept the unit stats fairly generic, only making raw units have a morale value of 5. After losing not one but two artillery batteries before they even had a chance to fire meant that this game was not my personal best, but I did enjoy the rare opportunity in 28mm game to really have to worry about my flanks and linking up with my team-mates forces. A memorable game!