Thursday, October 30, 2014

My First Black Powder Game

Thanks to Simon C I had my first game of Black Powder last night.  Not only that, I got to play with his amazing Seven Years War army, which if I understood correctly came from the paintbrush of Phil Olley (some of them, not all of them).  Simon had changed some of the ranges to better fit the table space we had and the more plodding nature of the troops.  I was in command of four French brigades and faced an equivalent number of troops from the German states commanded by Mark B and Stephen N.

I'd left my camera at home and was reduced to using my phone, so there are not that many photos (from me - others were taking shots so there might be more eye candy in the future).

A beautifully turned out French unit.

The mythical Battenbergs.

The forces arrayed against me.  There are cavalry also, but sadly out of picture.

The enemy advanced on their right and we met them on the hill and after a prolonged fight we were victorious.

The way the fighting would go, they would score almost no hits, but when they did score one I couldn't save.  I was able to inflict lots of hits, only to have them nearly all saved.

I liked the command system, but not that they could move and fire before I could fire (except when they had closed to combat).  The dice rolling for fire and close combat is also a mechanic I find a bit tedious.

Would I consider using the rules for my favourite black powder periods?  No, Napoleon's Battles and Fire and Fury for me!

Would I play these rules again?  Of course!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Napoleon's Battles Example - Somewhere East of Schniedhart 19 April 1809

The inspiration for this example was from a post by Archduke Piccolo.

I wanted a small scenario to show an Austrian column attacking a French line to see how it would play out using my favourite Napoleonic rules, Napoleon's Battles.

Page 110, Napoleon & The Archduke Charles by F Loraine Petre gave me a bit of context:

At 9am Stutterheim with the advance guard of the Austrian IV corps found the edge of the wood east of Schneidhart occupied by 12e and 21e Ligne commanded by Petit, part of Gudin's division.  Stutterheim was unable to drive them out of the wood after a long struggle.


The only Austrian troops I currently have are IR 29 Lindenau (28 figures -  it also masquerades as the Prussian 29 IR) and IR 43 Graf Thum (16 figures).  This gives some 5,000 muskets which is probably representative of the force available (the woods would have negated cavalry and some reinforcements could have been received from the remainder of the IV Corps).  Any attached artillery can be considered integral to the depicted forces as per Napoleon's Battles force structures.

Against these two large regiments (effectively brigade equivalents) I have provided the French with one brigade of 24 figures, or 3,000 men (Napoleon's Battles scale is one infantry figure represents 120 men).

Petit is a 3"A(6)+0 general and Sutterheim is 3"G(5)+0 and so will not be a significant factor in the game.  Both sides have fatigue and morale of 1.

Petit                       3"A(6)+0     1F 1M
Stutterhiem       3"G(5)+0       1F 1M
12 & 21  Ligne      24FrLN        12D
IR 29                 28AsLN          14D

IR 43                 16AsLN            8D

As the following table shows Line Infantry at this stage of the wars are very similar in capabilities.

The French have 21 and the Austrians 35 points excluding generals. The French general is worth 9 points and the Austrian general 10. 

The absence of higher level commanders means both these generals can be considered to be in command (otherwise the French would have a 60% chance of a half move and a 40% chance of no move each turn, for the Austrians it would be 50:50 which might make for a dull game, but would benefit the French as the defender).  If command was to be used it would be necessary to use Force March in order to change formation. 


The area for the engagement has a road and some woods.


I have assumed some familiarity with Napoleon's Battles.  One of the things I like is all combats require competitive dice rolls.  I've included the details in the write-up; die roll is first and then the modifiers).

Bird's eye view of starting position.

Stutterheim is wearing the uniform of a Prussian general - figure shortages.

The Austrians advance.

The French are confident they can hold off the Austrians.

09:00 finds the Austrians 1,000 yards from the French.  They make a full move closing to within 200 yards and a long range fire fight ensues.  With a choice of two targets, the French focus on the largest Austrian column, the 29IR, but to no effect (5+1 to 9).  The Austrians return fire with deadly effect (4+1 to 3 and 9 to 4 making for 3 casualties and disorder).

The French hold their ground and recover their order.  General Petit joins them.  The Austrians fire disordering them again and inflicting another two casualties.  The disorder means the French cannot return fire, they have also now lost a base and will no longer get the +1 for have six stands firing.

The Austrians charge in.

09:30 and seeing the enemy disorder the Austrians charge.  Just 29IR as 43IR would not add anything to the combat given its size (which I now see was a mistake as the French were no longer six stands and so the Austrians would have been eleven stands in total which would have given them a plus one for mass).  Instead the 43IR forms line, just in case the assault is repulsed.  The French are disordered so there is no defensive fire.  The 29IR fire without effect (2+1 to 6), but the 43IR get in a shot causing another casualty (6 to 5).

The French fall back into the wood.

The close combat is evenly matched, the French in line are disordered which makes their base factor the same as the Austrian column.  The result favours the Austrians (6-1 to 5+2-3).  If the French had been in good order the single casualty would not have mattered, however being disorder they had to withdraw, which they successfully did (9+6-3 to 3+5).  The French retire 300 yards into the woods.  The Austrian column advances to occupy the position.

A firefight ensues.

The French halt, recovering their order and welcoming the cover provided by the wood.  The Austrian 43IR is out of range.  The Austrian 29IR fires, but with no effect (9+1-2 to 8).  The French return fire with telling results, causing two casualties and disordering the 29IR (10 to 2).

The French force is melting away and the Austrians prepare for another assault.

10:00 and the Austrian 29IR recovers its order while the 43IR advances.  The French fire at the 29IR causing one casualty (8 to 7).  The 29IR returns fire disordering the French and causing two casualties and another base is removed (9+1-2 to 2).  The 43IR inflicts a further casualty (6-2 to 3).  The French are getting close to dispersing (they have received 10 casualties so far, they will disperse on 12 which is half strength for C class troops). 

The French recover order and brave the Austrian fire.  29IR fires without effect (2+1=2 to 7).  43IR fires without effect (6-2 to 10).The French now fire and disorder the 29IR (8 to 4).

The Austrians attack in line this time.

10:30 and the Austrian commander orders the 43IR to charge.  The 29IR recover their order and prepare to support their companions.  The French must fire on the 43IR and they sure do, causing two casualties and disordering their attacker (6 to 2; there is no -2 cover modifier for the Austrians as the whole of their unit is not in the woods, although even if it was it would not affect the result).  Now only the Austrian 29IR can fire on the French, but they are unable to get a result (9+1-2 to 9).

The Austrians are repulsed.

Close combat occurs.  It is a tie (French 3+2-2 to Austrian 7+2-3-2).  One casualty each.  As the Austrians are disordered they must withdraw.  It is a disaster (French 5+6 to Austrian 5+5-3) with the Austrians suffering three casualties, their feet getting tangled in the trees as they fell back no doubt.
The French hold their position and fire at the retreating Austrian 43IR.  Their expert aim inflicts a further two casualties and that is that for 43IR, they disperse (6 to 3).  Prior to this fuselage the 29IR had fired, but to no effect (1+1=2 to 1).

The Austrians are fatigued, but the French are close to ceasing to be an effective force.

11:00 and it is looking bad for the Austrians as they are now fatigued (calculated at the start of the Austrian impulse).  However the French are one casualty away from dispersing. 

The 29IR cannot advance.  The French fire.  No effect (4 to 7).  The Austrians take careful aim.  They just need one more casualty...

Nothing (3+1-2 to 2, damn close, the French are saved by the woods).

The French consider withdrawing out of range, but being in the woods slows them down too much and so they abandon that idea and stand their ground.

The Austrians take aim again...

Their aim is off and no casualties are inflicted (4+1-2 to 8).  The French fire half heartedly (2 to 2) and breathe a sigh of relief as the end of turn clicks over and morale is calculated.  The Austrians break.

Stutterheim looks at his options, but with his demoralised troops will have to pull back and report to the Archduke.


I wasn't expecting such an exciting game.

But bugger, in doing the write up I realise I stuffed up the close combat calculation for the 43IR.  It would not have been a tie, but a single casualty on the French and then the 43IR would have withdrawn.  This would mean that they wouldn't have dispersed.  The Austrian commander could have pulled them back out of range (they would have withdrawn 300 yards, but disordered backwards movement in line would only get them 75 yards, leaving them still within range).  The two fire phases the French had during the 11:00 turn would therefore have been directed against the 43IR, but as we saw they had no effect with their rolls.  The Austrians could have deployed the 29IR into line.  Come the 12:00 turn the 43IR would have withdrawn out of range and the 29IR advanced to contact. Assuming the 29IR was not able to inflict a casualty during fire combat (there is a 25% chance they would have become disordered due to French fire, if they avoided that then they had a 20% chance of inflicting at least one casualty), the close combat result would have been at equal factors (assuming the French had not disordered the Austrians) so anything could have happened.  If the French had won (routed their attackers, which would have required a 5 differential on the dice outcomes) they would have suffered a winner's loss.  They would have to hope to just best the Austrians and cause them to become disordered and therefore withdraw.  At the start of the 12:00 turn the 29IR had only taken five casualties (its dispersal number is 14 and so could have survived anything but an extreme outcome, such as losing two casualties in the fire phase, four casualties in combat - which would certainly disorder them, but given their size, not rout them - and then a further three or more casualties withdrawing).


Withdraw rule

I cut my teeth on the first edition of Napoleon's Battles and withdrawing during combat due to disorder was an optional rule I didn't use.  With the second edition it became part of the standard rule set.  In a normal combat the maximum casualties would be the unit's rout number (4 with the troops is this action, although increased by one for units with six or more stands).  With withdraw you could suffer one less than your rout number in combat and then your rout number withdrawing.  This really hurts the Russians.  It should be an option that the commander can invoke based on how critical the combat is and how well they know their troops.

Fire Modifier

There was some recent discussion in the Yahoo Napoleon's Battles forum about the mass modifier for firing being based on the frontage of the unit.  It's not something I'd ever considered, but in this little game it would have dented the Austrians a bit and given them further reason to form line once they were close.  Then I got to thinking about the six stands of French in line, maybe they should be getting two shots, one for each arc, but at -1 for 2-3 stands firing.  This then lead me to what if the end of the line weren't in range...  I stopped thinking about this, deciding that the rules as written were good and represented the brigade's (or large regiment's) skirmisher cloud and integral artillery without complexity.


I went to a bit more trouble with the terrain and even played outdoors so I could get a (slightly) better back drop.  All my units are constructed around battalions (the two levels down approach, not that I appreciated that was what I was doing).  Did they look like brigades a few 100 yards apart?  What about the pose of the figures?

Well, they looked nice, but the answer is of course no in both cases.  Good thing we have imaginations.  The Austrians were a job lot and the firing pose is not my preferred figure type.  If they were a marching pose like the French things would look better, but it is a mute point.

The important thing was I had fun and I was very happy how the rules played out with this small scale engagement (which is a battle size they are not meant for).


I originally thought I have two scenarios, the first where the French defend outside the woods and the second where they defend within the woods.  As my game played out both these strategies were covered.

The other variation I consider was using the command ratings  This would make for a longer game and would aid the defenders.  My style of playing is to avoid being out of command if at all possible, so using this option would be interesting and something I should try out.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Waterloo Dutch Belgian 4th Light Dragoons

Two boxes of HAT 8032 provided the 12 figures I needed for this unit.  That number does nicely for Napoleon's Battles (12DBLC) and Shako.

I originally thought of doing the figures as hussars but when I saw how accurate a depiction of the 4th Light Dragoons they were it would have been sacrilege to to do anything other than that unit.  The 4th (Dutch) Light Dragoons were over 600 sabres at Waterloo and were heavily engaged against the French cavalry in the afternoon suffering all most 50% losses (courtesy of Mark Adkin's great book, The Waterloo Companion).

I agonised over getting the right shade of blue.  I seem to use VJ Prussian Blue for all my blues and it was getting a bit repetitive, never mind inaccurate.  So far with the Dutch Belgians I've had some success with highlights to the blue, but for the Light Dragoons I wanted something darker.  After testing half a dozens blues I settled on VJ Dark Prussian Blue (kind of obvious in retrospect) with a Prussian Blue highlight.  I was so happy with this I even painted the paints blue only to later check my sources and see that they should be grey.  All this excitement, as well of lack of suitable figures, meant I painted everyone as a trooper.

These first set of photos are before the application of varnish.  I was very happy how they were looking, horses and all, so I decided not to use the paint on matt varnish that was turning gloss That I had been using.  This time I would try a different varnish.

Possibly the head is a fraction too small, but the expression is suitably stern

And now for the varnish

Picture Varnish Matt from Westart which I got for under $10 at Jackson's Drawing Supplies

I even re-varnished one of the previously glossy casualty markers and was happy with the result.

It is not a flat matt, but it is definitely not glossy and certainly the look I wanted.

It doesn't really bother me, but this figure, as noted in the Plastic Soldier Review, does have a very long sword.  When I come to do the other Light Dragoon regiment I might have a go at trimming their swords to a less exaggerated length, but these guys can stay as they are. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My First Game of Impetus

Thanks to Carlo for organising this game and for letting us all use his excellent miniatures.

Impetus had been on my to do list for some time (although given the age of some of the items on that list, I should really say that it has only recently been added).  If I recall correctly I first became aware of the rules when I saw a post featuring some Romans beautifully presented on a big base (I went looking for the post but it is sadly lost in the world of blogs).

Carlo, with a few games under his belt, umpired.  He was also assisted by James of the ANF who, I think, was specially brought in for his expertise and to lead the Romans along with Stephen B who was, I am pretty sure, having his first game with these rules.  For the Persians there was Steve and myself - our first games as well.

I had read the basic rules and this helped me a bit.

Being new to the rules, and also asking tricky questions, slowed the game down and gave me concerns over picking up the complexities of new rules.  We also called on the help of some other experienced players in the club to resolve questions and also uncovered some clarifications and alternative variations - things that make for true Ancient wargaming rules!

Rolling sixes seems to be important and Steve and I managed this a few times, only to see our attacks fail when our opponent rolled a one (repeatedly) on their cohesion tests.  This still meant they were being attrited to death.

The look of the game was good and the feel okay, given it was first time and all.  I am very fond of Field of Glory and so will have to play a bit more to see if I would want to swap over to them.

We played in 28mm and my preferred scale is 15mm.  Also we had, like with the previous week's game of Fire and Fury, a minor calculation to do to adapt the rules to 28mm and that taxed the grey matter at times.

Here are a few photos and there are more on the NWS blog.

My command, attached to a unit of Pushtigban (whatever, they have a VBU of 7).

I was on the right.  The inability of my archers to score hits was matched by the inability of the Romans to chuck javelins with any accuracy.

One of my units of heavy cavalry charged, even though I didn't get the Impetus bonus, I did throw three sixes and the Romans fell back.  I followed up. threw just one six this time, but the Romans also got a hit in, I survived and pushed them back again, but then they got lucky and threw more sixes than me and the attack stalled.  The Romans had been eaten away however and were one loss away from disintegrating. 

My militia got the drop on some Roman cavalry.  It started well, but went down hill when they were unable to follow up their initial die rolling success.

My immediate reaction on the night was that the mechanics rewarded lucky generals, but now having had time to reflect, they produce a plausible narrative.  Sometimes nothing happened, sometimes units broke on first contact, and sometimes melees went on and on and on.

The ultimate question for me comes down to just how many rules/periods I can manage.  I suppose that ultimately depends on availability of opponents and convenience of setting up games.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Waterloo Dutch Belgian Horse Artillery

This is my second attempt to paint up two batteries of Dutch Belgian Horse Artillery for (one of) my Waterloo projects.  My first attempt can be seen here:

I took four Waterloo 1815 figures and removed their backpacks and replaced them with pouches. They have painted up okay, but as I am finding with this project, the varnish is turning them glossy.  I still haven't decided if that is how I will leave them, but it is good enough for now.

A poor attempt an arty shot using an uncharacteristically cloudy sky for Perth.

An unintentional "wet look" to the ground.

It's a bit more noticeable in this photo and the following ones, but I did a bad job on the gun elevation, made worse by the scenic effect on the basing as the wheels are indented, but the trail slightly elevated by the plaster I used to build up the base.

I like the pose of the guy looking hopefully out into the distance while the ball is more likely to bury itself six feet under just a few yards in front of him. 

The guns are detachable.  A style which produces a few loose cannon.

This last photo was taken using a flash, the rest are all natural light.

While I am still thinking up the best way to show unit status etc, it never hurts to have a few casualty markers and so, using the trusty Airfix set, I painted up these three.  The fallen jager is the companion headswap to the officer I did for the Belgian infantry. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The African Campaign

Today Richard and I played Jedko Games' African Campaign.  Despite being a boardgamer back in the 1970s I had never played this game (SPI seemed the dominant/available provider of games, except for Avalon Hill).  It played well after all these years, a true classic.

By April 1942 the Axis were in a difficult position which was only getting worse.

The 8th Army held a line south from Sidi Barrani for a good while towards the end of 1941, until the Axis finally broke through.

This was the final position and proved too much for the Axis who are about to start retreating having placed minefields, but not enough strength to hold the position.

An elegant and simple system that worked well portraying the cut and thrust of the campaign.

Regimental Fire and Fury in 28mm

A double first for me - first game of Regimental Fire and Fury and first game using 28mm figures.  I had bought the rules back in January this year at Cancon from Dean of Olympian Games.  Having the rules for only ten months before actually using them is also a bit of a first (although I'm getting better).

There were six of using trying out the rules and each had a brigade.  Phil C who supplied the figures umpired.

I kept on getting confused with Fire and Fury, but this had started to dissipate as the game went only, unfortunately so did my troops.

More photos and commentary can be found here:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Flaming Fokkers

Last night we played an ambush scenario of Wings of Glory with three Fokkers surprising an Allied bomber escorted by two Sopwith Camels.  We were using altitude but it doesn't show in the pictures.  Basically the Camels were above and the bomber below the Fokkers for most of the game.

The game got off to an immediate start as the Fokkers (I was in command of the red one and the zebra, Simon had the yellow one) swooped on the bomber (Stephen N who also had one of the Camels under his command, with Stephen B taking the other Camel - all the models and accessories are Stephen N's).

Bomber set on fire, but oh dear, the three Fokkers collided!  

The yellow Fokker caught fire and then exploded while the zebra Fokker trailed smoke as it headed for home.

The red Fokker which was suffering engine failure pursued the bomber a bit before it too decided to head for home (both of my Fokkers had taken a lot of damage in the collision).

In heading for home it got a long distance shot in on one of the Camels that promptly blew up!

It made for a very quick game.