Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Battle of Dettingen Refight

In 1743 His Majesty George II took a massive train of servants and gear and joined his army in the field to aid the Austrians against the French in the War of Austrian Succession.  After a lot of differing and indecisiveness he found himself trapped by the French army and only a colossal blunder likely saved him and his army. 

Our refight was based on the excellent article in the March, 2012 issue of Wargames Illustrated.  Their game was played in "God's Chosen Scale" of 28mm figures on an 18' table, while ours was in 15mm on a 9x6' table.  The commanders for each side were given a briefing a few days before and had to give precise orders to different elements of their army as well as develop a plan for the battle.

After many e-mails flying back and forth and each side was ready.  In some cases making remarkably similar decisions to their historic counter-parts but in other cases feeling no obligation to copy their mistakes.

A bit about the table, because the terrain was of major importance.  The Main River ran the length of the long edge of the table and was impassable except at the pontoon bridge the French erected near Seligenstadt.  The Dettingen River split and had swampy ground between the branches.  For our chosen game system, Final Argument of Kings by Dean West, this meant rough ground and slow going.  At the far end of the table (see picture below) was the town of Kleinoshein which had a bridge over the Kleinoshein River.  Both the Dettingen and Kleinoshein Rivers could be passed, but basically just moving from one side to the other.  The camp of the "Pragmatic Army" lay between the two rivers, historically having exhausted both forage and resources.  Failure to get off table via Dettingen or the swamps or the loss of the wagon train would result in starvation and surrender.

Opening positions.  I've occupied Dettingen and the high ground
while another brigade waits to cross the pontoon bridge.

From the other end a French infantry and cavalry brigade will
enter turn one.  Facing what?
The Pragmtic Army with their Austrian allies had a slight numeric edge over the French.  Historically the French out-numbered them but a great many never came close to getting engaged.  The French army did not march in cadence nor emphasize musketry so around half of the line battalions were rated poor with a negative shooting modifier.  However, we had four battalions of the Gardes Francais, plus three battalions each of Irish and Swiss troops.  George had his British and Hanoverian Guards, and a pair of elite Austrian battalions, but the rest was remarkably average.

A view of the Pragmatic camp and rearguard moving out.

Lots of swamp to cover.  French guns are lights but the Gardes
Francais (not pictured) and others await.

From the safety of the far side of the Main, French medium guns
enfilade the advancing British and Hanoverians doing steady damage.
The French artillery park of 6 pounders, generally firing at long or extreme range did much better than historically, due in part to the stubborn decision to continue the advance and give up flank shots.  Eventually they all ran themselves out of ammunition and were starting to replenish when the game ended.

In the distance the French cavalry face their counter-parts.  The
Austrian contingent is at top of the picture.

Squish, squish, squish...  The brigade that crossed at Seligenstadt
is racing for the far left behind the ridge and out of picture.
As the Austrian cavalry and Pragmatic infantry prepared to emerge from the swamp, we were faced with a timing and terrain question.  My cavalry, being part of the Maison du Roi, had an easy decision, charging and routing and eliminating the Austrian horse.  At this time the Austrians were still wedded to the notion of firing pistols at point-blank.  So they receive no charge bonus but do get the firing, which in our case dropped a gentleman from the household troops.

Shooting uphill is tough in FAoK but I decided to
come down and try to pin the Pragmatic Army
against the swamp.

The main French army, starting on the wrong side of the river,
split and sent half to cross at Selingenstadt and half at Aschaffenburg. 
Here some arrive and start to cross the bridge.

The nearly abandoned camp, with cavalry racing to and fro.

Despite facing the British guards the numbers begin to tell and
the Pragmatic army is ripped up.  Yellow markers indicate shaken
units, red ones routed.  All units start with four stands each.

Routers have disordered the second line as George himself
begins to wade the swamp.

The garrison brigade at Dettingen charged and captured 24 allied
guns at bayonet point.

The pursuit force had to sort itself out and fend off allied cavalry.

The cavalry to the rescue of the guns, but too late.

One rule in place was that British cavalry in the WAS was
required to charge in column of squadrons.

George II about have runners race past.  Seeing no practical
option, he chose to ask for terms.

So ended the hard-fought game.  Without the obligation to repeat the French mistakes and with more effective artillery, the out-numbered and split French prevailed.  The Austrian infantry was intact and the rear-guard barely engaged, but needing to get out through the area where the French guards and now Irish were positioned was highly discouraging.  The Wargames Illustrated game also ended with George II being the guest of King Louis, but ours was a bit more decisive in my opinion.


Six stalwart gamers meant the game clipped along and we were done after about three hours.  We are still play-testing 2nd Edition of Final Argument of Kings with the minor amendments added at the Seven Years War Association convention in South Bend, IN last March.  Hopefully we will see it released yet this year.



 

Friday, July 22, 2016

French/Allied Napoleonic Pass in Review

Prompting from a friend got our group wondering just how many Napoleonics we had painted for Empire and what they would look like at together on one table.  Well, 6,300 miniatures later we had the answer.  Below you will see pictures of two groups of Republican French, several from the Peninsula War, a few from the 1809 campaign with Austria, and one (la Garde) from Waterloo.  With a covey of Marechals fluttering about Napoleon, it made for quite the spectacle on a 16' table.  Click to big-up the pictures.

Republicans on the right, with Peninsula veterans and Saxons onward.

The early French groups are based on the historic OBs for Novi and Marengo.  Which of course prompted one of our group to paint up Suvarov's Russians.

The 1815 Imperial Guard is on the left and front right, backed by
Suchet's III Corps from Spain in 1810.

Surprisingly, among our five players contributing figures, we only had two duplicate formations, the 1er Reserve Cavalrie Corps from 1809.  But who doesn't want Carabiniers in bearskins?

Ney's VI Corps from Spain and Oudinot's II Corps from the 1809
campaign against Austrian, Poles and some generic French.

We decided to include French allies, with Poles, Italians, Saxons, Bavarians, Hessians, among others present.  Their contributions to the early French victories not to be forgotten.
 




Among my collection is a gathering of the French Marechals.  Note l'Empereur and his entourage, Massena in his carriage, and a host of others.  Some not pictured are with their corps.

 
Yes, per Empire the guns should be over-crewed, but hey...



I painted these in the 80s an early 90s and they have served me well.



A grand view of the center and right table.

We weren't even set up completely yet and the army stretches onward.

Next up, the Allies.  Russians and Prussians and Austrians, oh my!  Prepare for an even more cluttered table.

 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Battle on the Mississippi 2016.3 - Flames of War

Saturday we had a small Flames of War, mid-war tournament at Deaf Ear Records in la Crosse, WI.  After last minute drop-outs we had ten players competing for some nice trophies, plaques and BF items.  I took my Italian Bersaglieri company, based on the AS42 reorganization where they broke up the weapons platoons and mixed them with the infantry.  So I had two platoons of four Bersalieri stands, two 47mm ATGs, two HMGs and one platoon with a Solothorn ATR and the other with two 20mm AAG.  Rated "elite" they are an "always defend" company.  I added a Bersaglieri platoon of 8cm mortars, a "Demolisher" (engineers) platoon, a Recce platoon of three AB41s, a platoon of Semovente assault guns, a battery of 100mm guns and, the key to my survival, a pair of 88s with extra crew.  The Germans handed over a few to the Ariete Division in '42 so they could appear on my list.  A total of 1700 points after adding the sticky bombs to the infantry.

Chuck Hiner and crew make it a point of pride to set up some really sharp tables with at least one that goes with each army entered.  So I could be confident that I'd play on the desert table first round.  With good fields of fire for my 88s I felt optimistic.  Click the pictures to "big-up."

Table as expected but facing a Soviet tank company built around
T-34s.  Mission was Breakthrough (Mobile Battle).

Only the 88s could realistically hurt the T-34s frontally, but the
100mm guns killed a couple.

Lovely terrain and models.  Tom made a bold rush but in  the end
it was a 5-2 win for me.
After a lunch break I was paired with "horde of Stuarts."  A lucky pairing since my anti-tank guns could affect them frontally.  Mission was Fighting Withdrawal but with 8 platoons I had some leeway to pull without massively compromising my fighting ability.  Jason was properly aggressive, used smoke to mask one of my 88s and hit both flanks.  However a combination of my hot dice and his frigid dice doomed his attack.  He later deservedly won the Best Sportsmanship prize.

M3 Lees advance in the middle while Stuarts and armored infantry
work the flank.

With the 40" range the 88s can be way back.  Demolishers in the
middle and Bersaglieri on my left.
At one point some American M8 assault guns worked around and engaged my 100mm guns in a direct fire exchange, but that didn't work out for them.  In the end, a 6-1 win.

Last round I got the worst possible table, a burnt out city.  With the 88s needing to stay together and extremely limited "reach out and touch" potential, I felt doomed when the Soviet KV-1s hit the table.  Fatigue also showed since I made some poor deployments and wasn't even keeping track of when his armor went into play.  Otherwise, it was an all infantry force which ended up being my salvation.  Mission was Free-For-All.

So here are my AB41s and Semoventes, facing the KVs they
can't kill frontally or to the flank.

On the left are my 88s, which did manage to kill some stands
but never had a shot at the armor.
Because of the sheer number of stands Jim had to move each turn we ran out of time.  I destroyed a platoon of guns and lost nothing, out of total luck, so it was a 2-1 tie in my favor.  I had the great good fortune of playing three really nice guys, never needing to deal with "that guy" that tournaments can bring out.
 
First place went to a Finnish player.  I got second and Best Axis General, while Jim got Best Allied Player.  It was nice to see two of the top spots go to "minor" armies.  Besides the trophy picture below I chose the scenario/campaign book "Battles in Italy," which seemed somehow appropriate.
 


 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Some Summer Reading

This past June I made the decision that forty years in education was quite enough thank you and retired from my middle school position.  Among the many gratifying outpourings of appreciation came a great many Amazon.com gift cards from my students.  So with time no longer a likely deterrent I've been picking up books to pursue my love of reading and history.  Presented for your edification, my initial summer reading list.  Remember to click the pic to enlarge.

First up an account of the Luftwaffe's last gasp attack on New Year's Day, 1945.  Full of planning details and anecdotal bits from both sides of the lines.  The Stackpole series has been very good to me over the years.  Highly recommended.

Next is what I'd classify as one of the final actions of the French and Indian War, rather than the Seven Years War.  All the campaigns in the Caribbean and North America seem somehow interrelated.  I see quite a lot of gaming potential to be found in this one and a chance to use my Spanish figures.

If I could only do one period of gaming for the rest of my life, it would have to be Napoleonics, and having grown up reading Chandler, Oman and Napier the Peninsular War is right near the top.  Converting historic actions to the tabletop is often problematic, so since it's been done, why reinvent the wheel?  Large collections of figures await.

Now this one has some serious eye candy.  Chockablock full of color pictures of some of the most magnificent figures and scenery imaginable, plus history of the hobby and a complete set of rules.  I anticipate hours spent savoring it while perhaps sipping cognac.

This battle has always fascinated me.  So much so that I've played it out on the game table at least three times.  This book will likely inspire a fourth attempt.

The last one was more of a "complete the collection" purchase.  I have the related series on the naval battles during the Republic and Empire plus the War of 1812 and frankly love them.  So this seemed like a no-brainer.  The fact I could get it at an "antique store" for just 15USD was gravy.

Now mind you I have a great many more books that have been piling up waiting for that mythical point when I'd "have time."  Well in theory that time has arrived.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Debacle at El Ka-Bong

December, 1940 and Operation Compass is beginning with the reduction of the Italian frontier forts.  Special rules taken from Burning Empires, played on a 6x6' surface since we upped the points to 2000.  This would have unexpected consequences given the mission rules.  But on to the game.  Click on the pictures to big-up.

Only two platoons are allowed to start the game inside or within 4" of the fort.  The attacker starts with his entire force, no closer than 12".  The defender gets to begin bringing in relief column on their turn one with a d6 dice roll.  1-4 indicates a specific corner, a 5-6 and you get to pick.

The British surround the fort and surprisingly have no armour.
Things seemed to start really well for the British.  Two of three stands facing them are eliminated and the Confident/Trained platoon (our best) was pinned.  The Reluctant/Trained facing a stronger infantry force only took one loss and was also pinned by hits. 

Bottom of one and two platoons of M13/40 "tanks" roll on.
In order to get past 1350 points for the Italians (and the fort is worth 300) I added these two platoons even though they aren't on the list.  Turns out it may be a weakly armored and slow tank, but the M13/40 sports a lot of MGs.

On the other corner the tanks largely eliminate the British mortars
and Vickers.
Top of two and the British can assault.  Both platoons on the gate side recover and move in.  Defensive fire is weak and it is "over the top" to assault.

One platoon ends up on top, the other blasts open the gate.

The M13s rumble forward, eliminating 25pdrs and pinning one
platoon.

On the other side Sahariana cars add to the firepower woes of
the Commonwealth forces.  Artillery unlimbers on the other end.
In a scene reminiscent of the movie "Glory" where the Union forces are over the walls and racing for the interior, only to find cannons and rallied troops, the machinegun heavy Italians rally and turn on the invading platoons.  Few stands are eliminated, but both are pinned between the tanks and fort defender's fire.

Tanks closing, but it is the rally rolls that matter.
So in the top of turn 3 all three British infantry platoons fail to rally from pinned status.  Given that the Italian armor will ravage them in the bottom of three the British concede the game. 

Even our traditional game winners suffered.  This one taken out
by MG fire.
Given that we could automatically bring on parts of the relief column on turn one, even though we were starting farther away than normal on our over-large table, it was a game-breaker to allow tanks.  Sahariana cars, the normal mobile element, has a lot of firepower too, but not as much as the tanks.  The Libyan Mitraglieri platoons are weak, but with four infantry and three HMGs each they can roll a lot of dice for a measly 115 points.

Despite the disaster the historic clock will continue to tick and our next FoW game will be around February, 1941.  But first, a little horse and musket distraction.