Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Photo time: 69th NY, a Vauban Fortress

I decided to post some photos of figures and a fortress.

First up, a 54mm (2 1/8 inches) color sergeant of the 69th NY. Thomas' Tin Soldiers were designed, sculpted and produced by my late friend Tom Loback. He did prodigious research into the regimental flags in his line. He persuaded the regimental armory in New York City to let him photograph the actual colors of the 69th. As you can see, my photography doesn't do this justice. I'm better with 15mm figures at longer range. 
Next up is a 15mm scale Vauban fortress. These forts were effective from the late 17th Century until the late 19th Century, when the increasing range and power of artillery rendered them obsolete. Bill's French Seven Year War figures and some of my siege artillery shelter behind the walls and the covered way that crowns the glacis. The glacis was designed to protect the base of the walls from artillery fire. That was where solid shot was aimed to breach walls. Besiegers needed to advance their works onto the glacis to get a shot at the base, usually requiring that the covered way be stormed. The glacis was also designed to be devoid of cover, and that muskets laid on it from the covered way or along the fortress walls would send shots grazing just above the surface - in short, a killing zone. Bastions and ravelins were designed to cover each other against assaults with enfilade (flanking) fire.

According to Duffy's "Fire and Stone", fortresses in the Iberian Peninsula were made using the old Roman concrete recipe and usually required twice as many cannon shots to make a practicable breach.

After visiting the fortress of Naarden in the Netherlands, I suspect the entire fort of Ticonderoga in upstate New York would fit into one of Naarden's bastions. Both are star forts but of different size.

I have toyed with ideas for siege rules for decades. I'm starting to think of them again. My favorite simple close combat rules are those in Bloody Big Battles. There are 3 levels of fortifications: rifle pits (1), entrenchments (2) and forts (3). Going by that system, I'd rate besieger's works as rifle pits, the covered way as entrenchments and the fortress walls as forts. I think that would cover storms quite well. Now to figure out the rest, with fortress/besieger morale, ammunition, food, effect of bombardment, etc. Holding your breath waiting for my results is likely hazardous to your health. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Monongahela 1755 revisited, Post of Honour

We played another game of the 1755 Battle of the Monongahela using Keith Flint’s simple Seven Years War rules, which now have the title “Post of Honour”. The development of these rules are cracking along and we should try them in a game set in Europe one of these days. Rick and Ken commanded the French & Indians while I played General Braddock. A single red marker indicates weakened status, a yellow marker shows a unit in bad morale retreat, and two red markers shows a routed unit, about to be removed from the table after sowing dismay among friends. Cotton smoke shows who has fired. Scenario is here Monongahela 1755 scenario

I wanted to see how the game played with the latest update on the rules and also my variant rules for the Indians; allowing them to charge weakened enemy line infantry. The starting deployment below shows Braddock’s redcoats marching towards Fort Duquesne (relieved at having forded the Monongahela without ambush) colliding with Beaujeu’s French & Indians, who were heading toward the ford to lay an ambush.
Immediately Gage’s advance guard was beset by swarms of enemy, as in the actual battle. His command was made up of the grenadiers and those extra grenadiers Braddock had decreed, hence the “grenadiers” label. I treated them as line.

The “grenadiers" suffered heavy losses to Indian fire and collapsed when charged, spreading disorder.

French Troops de la Marine charged the guns. The gunners fired and hid behind the grenadiers, who fell back under heavy fire. I ruled the gunners fled the field.

And on the 5th turn it all came undone.

Eagle’s view of the table at game end.
We played 5 turns in a little under 2 hours. The British suffered 47 hits (many of them from seeing friends retreat/rout) while the French & Indians took 11 hits. A couple of their units were on the verge of becoming weakened, but none crossed the line. It was time for dinner, and some wine.

I’m pleased with the results. The advanced guard was shot up badly, disordering the main force coming up as in the actual battle. The rule for Indians checking morale when hit by artillery was moot. The French kept to the center and the Indians rarely got within visibility of the road-bound guns. Perhaps allowing the Indians to charge was going overboard. This seems to have made them the “grenadiers of the woods”. I’ve seen a similar effect for Morgan’s Rifles in an earlier set of rules. The Indians went through weakened units like a hot knife through butter.

I’m thinking that the Indians waited until the enemy army’s morale broke before they charged. Without this rule the British army might have held on for another turn or two before folding. I can also think of ways to prolong the game further for the Brits. The scenario is heavily balanced against the redcoats, as it should be. They lost nearly 1,000 of their 1,400 troops against a claimed 100 of the enemy on that fatal day. One difference: all the mounted British officers were hit that day, along with the French commander. We lost none. I might have to increase the chances of officer casualties for this scenario, given the fighting was all at close range.

Scenarios set later in the war wouldn’t be so unbalanced since the British started acquiring light infantry of their own; light infantry companies, Roger’s Rangers, the 80th Foot, etc. Also the line infantry learned to take some shelter among the trees, though this made them stationary until rallied back into close order.

We will be testing my scenario for Gaines Mill 1862 via Bloody Big Battles in a couple weeks, and perhaps then return to the French & Indian War – or even the Seven Years War in Europe.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Bailen 1808, BBB

Our first game of 2019 was Mark Smith’s draft scenario for the battle of Bailen, July 20, 1808, wherein Napoleon’s Imperial forces had their first serious defeat. I wanted to play the French since I thought them the underdogs and Rick wanted to play the Spanish so he could command his 1808 figures (aided by some others, including Vendee rebels). Ken decided to go with the Spanish. (All Spanish leaders and units are in italics here and in the photos. Spanish infantry figures are double-ranked on slightly smaller bases. It worked fine.) Dice decided Bill would join me and Jay would be Spanish. The rules were Bloody Big Battles, with a period rule for shock cavalry; such cavalry get an additional +1 in assaults.

Bill got Schramm’s brigade and a cavalry brigade to guard the baggage train (full of loot from Cordova), a thankless task. He also got Dupont to aid his movement rolls. I took Chabert’s and Pannetier’s brigades, Dupre’s cavalry brigade and 3 of the 4 batteries to smash Coupigny’s Division, picked because they only had one battery of guns, where Redding’s Division had two.

Rick played Redding, on the Spanish right, Jay had Coupigny and the left, Ken had Redding’s rear guard. The deployment is below.

A small, veteran French unit was blown away in the fighting. The Spanish suffered too.

All reinforcements on both sides arrived promptly, starting with Cruz-Murgeon’s light infantry on our left flank. There were ominous dust clouds behind us.
The Spanish in front of me were fighting hard.
And now our troubles began.

We broke for dinner, a bottle of wine and the birthday cake my wife had baked for Rick. We then returned to the fray for the last three turns of the game. My photo-journalism wasn’t as tight. Blame the wine. Vedel erupted into the Spanish rear. Bill took over there (definitely more fun than Schramm's last stand) while I directed all of Dupont’s troops. Likewise, Ken moved behind me to command Pena’s Division which was snapping at my heels. I have not seen a scenario before where both sides have major forces arrive behind the enemy.

On turn 7 Vedel was shot by the retreating Spanish rearguard. It was a light wound and our house rules determined he would be back in action in a couple days. I didn’t get the photo, but on turn 8 Vedel’s cavalry charged up Zumacar Grande, rode down a flanked Spanish battery (seizing the objective) and exploited into another Battery and put paid to that. Redding was unhorsed during this charge but he managed to escape. That left them isolated far forward. Schramm’s brigade had been destroyed by this time, so the French cavalry was swarmed but managed to drive off the attack.
The Spanish attempt to recapture El Cerrajon collapsed under artillery fire and a mixed cavalry and infantry charge. Dupre’s cavalry exploited but was repulsed by spent Spanish infantry on the lower slopes of Zumacar Grande.
Hit from all sides, most of Coupigny’s Division was destroyed. Coupigny was badly wounded, out of action for two months. We now had four objectives. If we could hold all four for another turn we had a victory. All of the baggage train was taken by the Spanish. I had forgotten to move Dupont, who was amidst the wagons. His horse was shot but he escaped. I will not dignify the preposterous rumor that he was disguised as a vivandiere with an answer.
I seem not to have taken any pictures of the last turn. Vedel’s cavalry, beset on all sides, turned about and charged Cruz-Murgeon’s Light Infantry, driving them up the hill. This put Zumacar Grande back into Spanish control. Dupre’s tired and disrupted cavalry was hit front and flank by a swarm of Spanish infantry and routed. The game ended in a last-minute tie.

We had played 9 turns in a little under 4 hours. The game moved slowly because we resolved one action at a time, first because the situation was so unusual that everyone wanted to see what was going on. Later on, that and the wine may have slowed us.

French losses were 7 infantry stands gone, 2 more run away, 1 cavalry gone, 1 run off, 1 battery overrun, all baggage lost, Dupont unhorsed and Vedel lightly wounded. Spanish losses were extreme; 18 infantry lost with 3 run off, 3 batteries overrun, Redding unhorsed and Coupigny badly wounded. Before dinner the French losses were higher. The attack by Vedel turned it all around. We had a blast. Everyone enjoyed the highly chaotic game. There was such an array of uniforms on the table that we nearly had "friendly" fire several times. My wife remarked on all the laughing emanating from the room.

I have a couple minor issues with the scenario. In the actual battle, Vedel appeared and was doing serious damage to the Spanish rearguard when a messenger from Dupont arrived to tell him an armistice had been declared. I can’t figure out how to represent that in the game, but having Vedel go amok sure helps the French. Of course, if he had showed up a turn later… The shock cavalry rule certainly gives the French cavalry the kind of wallop they seemed to have had in most of the French-Spanish battles. I do think this should only be effective in open terrain. Last, I’m not sure that the hills Redding deployed on were steep hills. But these are all minor quibbles and I’d rather not spoil the broth with quibbles.

We have played a scenario for Bailen previously with Le Feu Sacre, battalion based rules. I left off Vedel’s and Pena’s troops, ending the game when Pena arrived behind Dupont. That was a good game, but this really opens up the whole game.

We have a game coming up in two weeks, likely a French and Indian War game with Keith Flint’s Simple Seven Years War rules. I have to get working on my proposed BBB scenario for Gaines Mill, 1862. Until then, good gaming to all, may you roll sixes (unless facing me).