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Sunday, May 6, 2018

New Napoleonic Scenario Books

In the ongoing publishing of scenario books for the Napoleonic Wars, Michael Hopper's soon to be released scenario books 3 & 4 finish up the 1809 campaign. As long as demand remains, these scenario books will continue to be published. Other theaters and years are planned in the future and this is the time to show our support for the work put into constructing the information into a usable form for wargamers to use.

As with previous scenario books, Michael Hopper has made the information within the scenarios detailed enough to convert to any rule set you use. That flexibility makes these books useful for anyone in Napoleonic gaming. With the expected official announcement of release later this month, be ready to obtain your copy while supplies last. Spread the word and let's support the time and effort put into this creation for our benefit. You can contact Michael about ordering his books at his email address: log1cal.mh@gmail.com

You can see my review of the previous two books here.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Return Of The Spanish

It has been some years since my Spanish army has made an appearance. They were brought out in a defensive struggle with some historical army composition in mind so that not every cavalry unit I had for them would be fielded. The Spanish suffered from a deficient cavalry and artillery arm and so this battle will reflect the difficulties not commonly discussed. The French are seen marching onto the field, confident and ready to rush in.

The center of the Spanish line with the singular Spanish battery. To the left of the battery the Regiment Irlanda is present. On the French side, the Irish Legion also makes a guest appearance.

The Spanish left has light infantry followed by two units of guerillas and a battalion of militia. This flank should be less involved in the fighting and so the stream will be the main defense in slowing down an enemy attack.

The full Spanish line can be seen in the upper portion of the picture. A redoubt manned by a converged grenadier battalion protects the objective, the town. Behind the town is a small reserve of some militia and cavalry but unfortunately no additional artillery.

I had considered finding some way of increasing the defense of the town such as maybe giving the Spanish a sapper for the engineering rule for defending a town. double the garrison perhaps? The problem with the Spanish army on the field is that their weak morale is always a disadvantage for melees. They rarely could field any sizeable amount of artillery and so good dice rolling is the only real hope.

Seeing the French dragoon brigade moving up quickly and boldly positioning itself for an assault, the reserves break right to prepare for filling any holes. It isn't pessimism, it is simply experience.

The French leisurely make their way toward the Spanish left. The Spanish reserves might end up being useful down here but the amount of enemy cavalry on the other side makes the matter more pressing.

The reserves fan out to form a third line as this appears to be the main thrust from the French. The French horse artillery deployed and opens fire at extreme canister range.

The Spanish artillery opened fire on the French artillery as it deployed. The first exchange failed to accomplish anything but on the sescond exchange the French artillery was forced to limber up. After it was determined the Spanish artillery would need more fire power to deal with the French horse artillery, they decided to hit the dragoons. In retrospect, going after the dragoons from the beginning could have had a change of events on this wing.

Two dragoon regiments attack the square. The Spanish managed to form up confidently enough, but failed to score any hits in the melee and were broken.

French foot artillery deploys and bombards the grenadiers in the redoubt. The rest of the Spanish left wing moves forward to try and cover the crossing and the bank of the stream.

The French center pushing forward along the stream.

Now the French are gathered for the push across the stream. It appears they're going for a frontal attack along with a smaller flanking maneuver coming down from the hill.

Meanwhile in the center right of the Spanish line, the Regiment Irlanda found it did not have enough space to form square and had to rely on fire power and melee to save itself. The subsequent firing was ineffective.

So the extreme right of the Spanish line had two squares get smashed and the hussars tried in vain to counter charge the French dragoons, only to get pushed back. Here the mounted guerrilla cavalry decided to try their hand at a charge with also less than successful results.

The artillery not having the intended impact upon the grenadiers, the only other option was an infantry assault. On the right, the Swiss unit in Spanish service is facing off against the Irish Legion. The Swiss had been expecting some dragoons to rush at them and so had formed square in advance of the expected charge. The Swiss failed to reform as a charge reaction when the Irish Legion decided to take a chance and charge.

The infantry in square were broken in combat and the Irish advance forward along with some dragoons to break the Spanish center. This square will manage to hold but the Spanish have suffered some heavy losses and aren't going to be on the field much longer.

The grenadiers were overwhelmed in their defenses and the Spanish light infantry shot up and broken. The guerrillas to the left and the militia holding the town are just a nuisance and not going to stop any French advance.

The French foot artillery crosses the bridge in an effort to secure the holding on the Spanish side of the stream. The town is going to be overwhelmed and taken.

The last guerrilla unit is shot to pieces and broke. The French can now swing around behind the town and cut off the defenders and roll up the rest of the Spanish line.

The last Spanish square manages to hold on and is cut off. The Spanish cavalry is pushed back after multiple ineffective combats during the battle. The only reason the Spanish cavalry survived is due to its speed. The Spanish losses at this point were over the 50% breaking point and the French did not have to storm the town and take it by force.

Although the Spanish army may look nice on the field, it is a affirmation of why they are so often neglected or scorned. To win with them is difficult. One must look for major mistakes in your opponent in order to have a fair chance of victory. It wouldn't be correct to change their characteristics or to severely handicap the French. Putting them on to the field has to be for the joy of recreating history and appreciating what it was and not what you can remake it to be.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Somewhere in Andalusia AAR

Although a generic battle, the order of battle had Picton's Third Division against the better part of Reynier's corps with the stray supporting dragoon brigade. The objective was to break the opponent by routing 50% of the units.

The Anglo-Portuguese right wing. My picture taking was a bit off this day and so I missed some better shots that I would have normally gotten. To the immediate right is a supporting brigade of British cavalry consisting of two units of light dragoons and a unit of hussars.

The British brigade here was quickly under fire from the French 12lb battery. Even at long range, the guns were able to bounce through and soften up the line here. In many respects, this really prevented the Anglo-Portuguese army from deciding to advance. The terrain appeared to be better suited for anchoring ourselves in and trying to ride out the storm. In Lasalle, the defender usually must weaken an attacker or risk being swept away.

The French left advancing in checkerboard columns. I was thankful the French horse artillery was largely ineffective and perhaps meant to distract my cavalry brigade from being a little too wild with no enemy cavalry on this end to oppose them.

Having been involved in too many village fights, I chose to relinquish occupation of the village on the hill. Not just from the last battle report, but from numerous others where the defender typically is overwhelmed and annihilated for their efforts did I conclude it usually isn't worth wasting the man power. Considering it was not an objective in this scenario, it felt even less pressing. The French felt quite differently and stormed the hill and occupied the village.

The French 12lb battery was much more significant in its reach and impact. The 1st battalion of the 88th Foot was broken from the 12lb guns and the rest of the brigade had suffered a bit before the French infantry came in the try and finish the break through.

The French right is also moving to engage the British defenders of this other village. The dragoons and French infantry are going to exercise combined arms to successfully turn the British left wing.

So many of the vents unfolded here rather quickly and I failed to capture it all in pictures. The French infantry moved up quickly and the British light cavalry managed to break two of the French battalions and drive the guns off. I had failed to consider the French infantry's desire to take this small village and work on my flank. The battalion I kept in reserve had to be brought up and opposed to keep the new tenants from vacating in my direction.

My British cavalry brigade managed to break the French wing here and threaten the center. The good thing is that the French 12lb battery now had to disengage the barrage they were successfully laying on the Anglo-Portuguese center and turn to defend themselves. I didn't feel so lucky as to overrun such a battery with a head on charge. Call me timid, but the unit needed to recover some of the disruptions.

And fulfilling my expectations, the French overwhelmed the British defenders in the larger village and eliminated the not pictured British left wing. French dragoons have come around behind the village to threaten the nearly ruptured British center.

And the French win. The Anglo-Portuguese division is at 50% and breaks after this last combat. The French were not that close to breaking and were more or less in command of the field. The only thing saving the British retreat would by the intact light cavalry brigade to screen the withdrawal. Neither side had a numerical or qualitative advantage of any real significance but those 12lb guns sure made an impression.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Duel Of The Princes: San Daniele Scenario 1809

A couple of us decided to play the San Daniele scenario from the Italian theater of the 1809 campaign. Michael Hopper having done the research and the other player providing all the figures and terrain, all I had to do was show up and roll some dice. Having a day where I was consistently rolling low, I got the Austrian command and was charged with defending in a rearguard scenario. The baggage wagons were victory points if the French could manage to capture them and we had to protect our line of retreat. Fairly straight forward.

It had been a couple of years or so since I had played Shako II but my opponent was in the same boat. We managed to get through it and for the first few turns my Austrians had to remain on a defend order. The French appeared on the board over a few turns and fanned out to engage the entire Austrian line. The Austrian left flank appeared to be their primary interest and so the first real clashes came from there, following to the center.

The French were taking some time to cover the distance. It can be seen here some French cavalry are along the flank and were to be a major nuisance in the game. After finally reaching contact with some Ausrian hussars, the first clash went to the Austrians. The French cavalry then permitted the infantry to press home the attack. The 5th Austrian hussars managed to break two French battalions who were unprepared and not in square. The Austrian cavalry's victories were short lived as the numbers of the French overwhelmed the useless Austrian artillery and made short work of the infantry attempting to back it up. The command managed to break after being demoralized for a couple of turns.

An early picture in the game around turn 3 or 4. The advance took a bit of time and we probably could have started the French a bit closer without fear or messing with the scenario too much. The time limit was 14 turns, but rolling from turn 11 and beyond to see if it ended earlier. Rolling as I did, the "1" did end the game on turn 11.

The Austrian right didn't see much action until the final turns of the game. Although the right held, the center near the villages did manage to get broken up. The Austrian defense of the villages (which were not objectives for either side) did manage to inflict a lot of damage upon the French and keep them tied up. The French managed to take most of the village sectors but very much weakened for the effort.

Rolling the 1 effectively gave me a victory sort of by default. We agreed to push and see how playing all 14 turns would be. Although the French managed to inflict further damage, they did not manage to take all the wagons or break the Austrians in entirety. It was a fun scenario that didn't follow the historical outcome but showed another possible result. I would have liked to have taken more and better pictures but all I had with me was my phone. We plan to replay the same scenario in May and maybe some additional pictures will get posted along with a possible different outcome.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: The Fox Of The North


To start 2018, I thought a book review might be in order. A biography of General Mikhail Illarionovich Kutusov caught my eye last year when I was looking for some possible information on the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812. Although my expectations for such information were low, the book could not disappoint. Roger Parkinson managed to acquire enough information to give some brief information on that subject to at least present it in a way that it was not just a passing reference or foot note. The information I was looking for didn't really present itself but other details of the life of this often forgotten army commander were presented.

The book's 236 pages covers his life from a privileged birth status, apprenticeship and tutelage under Suvorov to his struggles as commander of the Russian army during the grim 1812 campaign. His health failed him as old head wounds, failing eye sight, head aches and continual weight gain prevented him from being the sort of confident commander that one might expect from his position. Of enemies, he could count nearly everyone. Of friends, he seemingly could not find any. In many ways, his style of command mirrors that of Wellington in that he wished to spare his men's lives, distrusted subordinates and was more than willing to let an enemy wear itself down with partisan attacks and inclement weather.

His early life and the introduction of his father and the references to Catherine The Great were a little dull. It isn't until the author moves into the assassination plot on the Mad Czar Paul that the story picks up. The near insane Czar Paul and Kutusov did correspond and managed to get along with each other. Admittedly, it seems to me that Kutusov was more of an unwilling audience than a friend. Although Alexander was involved in the plot to kill his father, his paranoia and worry of Kutusov was more interesting to me.

I went into reading this biography largely ignorant of the details of the subject at hand. Since I didn't have a bias going into the book, it was easy to follow along with the persuasive writing technique that I picked up on from the author. It's clear the author felt that Kutusov was a victim and was a gifted commander that bested Napoleon but the world just wasn't aware of it and he wished to pen that narrative. At first, I could go along with some of this as indeed, Kutusov does appear to be unnecessarily suspected of intrigue and possibly even a hidden Bonapartist. As I read on, nothing further from the truth could be the actual case. Kutusov lacked personal friendships to attempt a coup of any kind and his behavior in the 1812 campaign shows a deal of fear and respect for the Grande Armee and Napoleon that should not be misinterpreted as concern for his enemy's well being.

His role in the ill-fated 1805 campaign was fleshed out by the author with some details about his command being mostly in name only. Alexander not wishing to share the glory and being entirely ignorant of tactical sense, held most of the control. Kutusov seems to have been resigned to being a set character and handling more of the administrative matters. His reluctance to advance rapidly with his army and protect Vienna earlier in the campaign foreshadows his future behavior in defending his own homeland. Just as he would fail to defend Vienna, Moscow too would be handed over without a real fight.

General Benningsen, the Hanoverian foreigner in Russian Service, Wittgenstein or the British military attache Sir Robert Wilson, who was his biggest enemy? They all despised Kutusov for his irresolute behavior in going after the Grande Armee. From the time he is in command up until the departure of the Grande Armee, he avoided battle far too often for everyone's liking. Alexander appears to have only retained his services out of popular concerns among the army and upper classes who felt Kutusov was the man for the job.

The battle of Borodino almost didn't happen. Kutusov did wish to prevent the capture of Moscow and the humiliation it would bring, but lacked the resolve to do that on his own. Without strongly worded letters from Alexander it is quite likely he would have danced and maneuvered his army out of the way and the French would have been permitted a swifter entry. The lost battle of Maloyaroslavets was again another failure to monitor the enemy's position and intentions. The constant retreating without major resistance destroyed his reputation among his peers. It wasn't enough to cost him his command, but neither does it place him among the greatest generals of his time.

I found myself feeling some sort of liking Kutusov to eventual pity and then loathing. Although the author Roger Parkinson would try to lead his readers into thinking Kutusov was playing some sort of 4D chess with the mind of a grandmaster, the results of Kutusov's fear of Napoleon/Grande Armee are inescapable. In constantly avoiding direct battle and not pressing outflanking maneuvers, the Grande Armee and Napoleon managed to escape from Russia. Kutusov's claims of wanting partisan attacks and weather conditions to do their work only holds credibility up until Berezina crossing. Placing his army along the line of retreat for cutting the Grande Armee off from home is more wishful thinking. Kutusov and the author seem to believe this but Kutusov's actions show he wasn't firmly committed to executing this strategy.

His dispatching Platov's cossack horde and Admiral Chichagov's force to attempt to check the Grande Armee's retreat was another half-hearted decision. Citing the preservation of the Russian army and wishing other external forces to wear the Grande Armee down, a major opportunity was lost. Such an important death blow should have been carried with far more strength and oversight. Hiding with the main army far away, Kutusov failed to act with any vigor. His critics were certain not to let this go unnoticed and let Alexander know of his major blunder.

His performance in 1813 shows more ability in army administration rather than an aggressive commander who could or rather, would follow up upon a victory. His command ability were responsible for winning the war against the Ottoman Empire but his reluctance or fear to engage the Grande Armee managed to make the war more costly than it had to be. The Russian praise heaped upon him doesn't appear to be just when his actions are under examination.

The book lacks the romance and dialogue of a Bernard Cornwell novel, but the odd details made it an interesting read. The intrigue and erratic behavior of so many of the major players is strikingly similar to that of the Spanish leaders in the other corner of Europe. If you enjoy slow reads and can follow narratives similar to a Charles Oman book, then this is a book you will want to read.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Whores And Saints: The Village People

Some of my favorite figures to paint are the less important types. Civilians, animals and wagons can add flavor to the game table. If you're willing to use your imagination a bit, worked into your scenarios in some way. If you're doing a game for a convention then you've probably considered specially made terrain to be noticed for some award or attracting players. As seen elsewhere on my blog, I have the villages just not much in the way of inhabitants.

Battle Front has a set of villagers that have caught my eye. Though they are of a more recent vintage than the Napoleonic wars, they are the closest figures I can find.

The nuns were an interesting figure choice for the set and suitable. Unfortunately the Battle Front package had some duplicates that probably could have at least had some different poses. The little vignettes add character to a game table.

The one figure in this set that was completely wrong and stood out was the policeman waving his finger. For the 20th century, it would be well suited but not early 19th century. So I thought maybe it could be converted but then realized it was not possible. So I clipped him from his little stand and in his place, glued a spare Napoleonic figure in his place. I had two of these guard chasseurs holding a bicorn and wearing a colpack. This Old Glory figure was from the set with Napoleon and his headquarters set. So I chopped his head off and then replaced it with that of a useless Marshal Brune figure that had a bare head. Now the figure appears to be a high ranking cavalry officer looking for female companionship.

My monastery lacked monks for a long time and so I purchased the praying monks figures made by Essex. There were 6 figures with there being three sets of duplicates. I used 5 of the figures here and did them in the traditional dull brown robes.

Not a lot of use for such figures but they were a great break from all the serious painting I've done throughout the year.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review: Eagles Over Bavaria & Duel Of The Princes

A while back I announced the upcoming release of two new scenario books from the talented historical researcher Michael Hopper. Having played many scenarios that he has written, I knew these books would be accurate and detailed to the level any fan would demand. Having now purchased and reviewed them, I can say they do not disappoint.

The old saying of not judging a book by its cover may be true, but in this situation the cover artwork is beautiful. Keith Rocco's works were used and offer a unique and meaningful presentation for these book covers. Classic paintings could have been used and might have well sufficed, but Michael Hopper chose to not cut any corners in this area. The glossy and eye catching cover was a great choice.

The beginning of the scenario book has some map keys and unit totals for the historical scenarios. These battles are quite manageable for 2-4 players with average sized collections. Larger battles like Eggmuhl, has a northern and southern scenario for fighting a portion of the battle. Abensburg has northern, center and southern scenarios for those portions of the battle. For rule sets like Lasalle where the general idea is that you're fighting a portion of a larger battle, this fits nicely. For Shako players, playing a large battle may be possible but be limited not by the rules, but by the game space available or number of players.

Of the two, Eagles Over Bavaria was the book I was looking forward to more so. Since I have a good number of Bavarian troops that sort of sit around in reserve status, it is nice to have some scenarios for me to structure an Austrian army around. Altdorf is one of those smaller battles that would be easier for player to recreate and offer some challenges for maneuvering. This particular scenario is one that I will work to get Austrians to be able to refight.

Duel Of The Princes has the same easy to follow lay out and scenario details. One detail that players may pick up on that weren't always available with other scenario books is that details of unit strength and artillery battery compositions. A 6lb gun might be rated differently depending on which rule set you're using. Knowing if a French foot battery was composed of 6lb or 8lb guns might impact whether the guns are deemed light or medium. Those details matter and Michael Hopper delivers. The morale and training ratings are listed for units in the order of battle. Different rule sets approach this information with varying levels of consideration, but having it will let you decide how to apply it.

Many scenario books are written to promote a particular set of rules and players are forced comply or spend time translating information into a different set of rules. These scenario books are specific on details for the scenarios but open enough to be applied to the rules of your choice. These scenario books are being printed in a limited run and so if you want to obtain your copy, you can contact Michael Hopper at log1cal.mh@gmail.com