Monday, April 27, 2015

Battle of Waterloo

After months of planning, painting and making terrain, fourteen players from MN and WI gathered to fight Waterloo, based on the historic units and strengths present.  Not a precise refight, in that players were allowed to modify their deployment and a variable table meant the Prussians could arrive very early, or not at all.  Rules were Empire (V), the Emperor was represented by Chuck Meyer of Rochester, MN and the Duke of Wellington by Dan Wideman of Neenah, WI.

Being a huge battle played out over two days, the report will come in two installments to prevent sensory overload.  Lots of beautiful eye candy to be seen here.  One explanation for the pictures you will see: most of our units were painted at or near full strength.  Between rebuilding an army and attrition from Quatre Bras and Ligny, units were well under-strength.  So if you see a black ring over a figure it signifies simply that it doesn't count.  A white or other colored ring indicates a casualty.  Some unfortunate clutter, but better than clipping a figure off each stand.  Click to enlarge pictures.

Distant view of the tables; all are in play for the game.
Looking the long way down the center, sunken road and ridge on the left.
Hougoumont was hand made by Paul Alaniz.  Most of the terrain by Dan
Wideman and team.
The lines are drawn.... (har-har) 
d'Erlon is on the left this time.
Reille on the right. 
Lobau's VI Corps and la Garde on the (decorated) back table.
9:30AM and the grand battery works their way to the middle ridge.
 As  the grand battery rolled forward the allied artillery withdrew to the back side of the ridge.  While this preserved them from fire, it also meant that the French formations to follow would do so without fear of bombardment.  It also meant the death of the garrison of la Haye Sainte.  After two "hours" of bombardment I and II Corps rolled forward with cavalry trailing behind.

Reille advances in a combination of lines and columns.
Reille has a knife-point attack while protecting against surprises from either flank.
Lobau and la Garde advance a bit.  Threat or distraction?
d'Erlon's two leading divisions with corps cavalry engage the allies
with a brigade of cavalry in immediate support.  The others  in the
corps failed to activate their orders.
We had lots of substitute regiments, so a label on the movement
tray was very helpful.
Overhead view of I Corps attack.  Progress is immediately made.
Despite the initial shock effect of British fire values the attack progressed.  On the left, with cavalry charging to force the allies into square and with some supporting bombardment there was more success.  Marechal Ney lead one of the divisions, while d'Erlon urged the other forward.  The right, with a more restricted attack frontage used a methodical approach, relying mostly on firepower.

A view looking down the ridge towards the sunken road.
The French masses are a daunting sight for Picton's division.
d'Erlon's 2nd division penetrates to the back  table.
Kellerman's cavalry and more of I Corps move up in support.
The French light cavalry does great work.
Here we end the narrative for now.  By 1:30PM a Dutch-Belgian division had been broken and two British divisions were testing their determination to continue the fray.  No sign of the Prussians yet.  When will they arrive?  Will they arrive?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

SYWA Con Games

I played in three and contributed to a fourth game at the Seven Years War Association Convention in South Bend, IN last month.  My contribution was making a plan for the Battle of Bungerpat.  I then rode off on my elephant to sample the exotic pleasures of India.

First up for me was the Battle of Cowpens using Guns of Liberty, run by Mike Wedding.  Our group has been dabbling with GoL so I was particularly interested to see if we were playing things the same way.  Happily, we were.  Mike had set the scenario to start as the serious action was being joined.  By a roll-off I was on the British side, which frankly suited me.  Had I been alive in 1776 I suspect I would have been a Loyalist.

The rebel militia held up better than historically so the Continental regulars advanced to form the battle line as my boys swept around to threaten both flanks.  There were many attempted charges but only one actually went home and fought during this refight.

The militia finally collapsed and created a cascading effect.  The British cavalry kept trying to get into the fight but no one would stand against them.

The Highland battalion did great work though finally were so shot up that they relocated precipitously to the rear.  However, that that point it was only a moral victory.  Morgan was dead and most of the rebel army was in rout.  A perfect place for the British cavalry to be, so we called it.  

A fine time with some nice gamers.  Mike kept the game flowing along and the tabletop and miniatures were most impressive.

Next up was a naval game based on the 1759 action based on the action off Lagos between Boscowan and de la Clues squadrons.  I got to try out Jeff Knutson's new (to me at least) system for large actions, "Admirals."  Aptly named because the focus is at a higher level than most with an eye for resolving fleet actions and not worrying about the little things.  For game balance it was assumed that the French fleet had not separated during the night and were formed for the run into Cadiz.

The larger British fleet is in the foreground with the French, holding a less favorable wind, are towards the top.  My commander, who isn't allowed to talk to me about the game, signaled me to "Engage the enemy van" with my trailing division.

The models are just amazing.  Made from paper they are still highly detailed and extremely resilient as Jeff demonstrated by tossing a frigate about the table.

My commander was displeased with me as I chose to conform to the line one more turn, anticipating a clever French maneuver to both gain a better wind heading as well as to force us into a bad one.  Arriving as a blocking position I backed sails with my squadrons and was able to fire freely without receiving return fire.  All movement and fire is done from "point to point."  This keeps it simple and poses some planning problems for the players.  Win-win.

Near the end where four French ships of the line have fouled themselves while attempting to maneuver out of the trap.  The remaining ships would have to fight their way through my lines, which was likely to happen.  So it was assumed that we would take these four plus the Souverain which was a straggler.  I certainly endorse this game as one that lets you be an admiral without needing to worry about loading chain or double shot in your guns.

Finally I played in a game of Final Argument of Kings with the author Dean West and Alex Burns.  Always a pleasure because the miniatures are gorgeous, the table breath-taking and they always attract a nice bunch of players.  The premise of the game was a "Maxen" like scenario where a first-rate Prussian force has found itself surrounded and outnumbered.  The historic action was at Altenbrunsler and was quite small, but as the number of players grew so did the scenario.

I found myself with four smallish French battalions and two large Austrian with a heavy gun facing four Prussian battalions and a medium gun.  Two of the Prussians were twenty figures and significantly out-classed my boys.  In looking at the table I remarked, "if they are going to try to break out it will have to be through me."  And I was right.  About the attempt at least.

Broad view of the table.  The Prussians have been surprised and are surrounded on all sides.  Break out, or consolidate and hold?  An impassable "river" (except at fords) aids the defense, as does some swampy, broken ground.

Looking through the ranks of my brave boys as they await the Prussian onslaught.  Two Prussian grenadier battalions out of frame have been sent to attempt to flank my position.

A new Prussian force has marched to the sound of the guns.  A blocking force of Austrians bars their way as most everywhere else we press with some success.

Except on my front where I'm locked in a struggle with the attackers, the French and Austrians are advancing everywhere.  Here after crossing a significant water obstacle.

The Prussians, chastened by our staunch defense retire and look for another break-out point.  There was none.  Here we see the Prussian grenadiers marching away with half the remaining force facing me.  Let the grenadiers get another move away and I will attack.  My opponent Skip did not have any miniatures experience but did a good job, suffering from a bad string of dice throws.

And so the Con came to an end.  Dr. Duffy's talk, as mentioned previously was excellent.  I spent some money in the vendor row, picking up some miniatures, inks and flags.  A nice dinner with good friends finished the day.  After a good nights sleep we headed home, highly satisfied with the weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Seven Years War Association Convention - 2015

March 27-28th in South Bend, IN 102 enthusiasts gathered to celebrate all things 18th century.  ;-)  Every hour saw a fine selection of land and naval games to be had.  One of things that struck me most was not the beautiful figures or the creative scenery, but the friendliness of the games.  Now I only played in three, but I never saw any sign of "that guy" or any of his associates.  Everything was collegiale and upbeat.

Scenes from the Battle of Bungerpat.  A series of loosely connected games over the years in which a steady string of French/Allied victories have driven the British and their lackeys from India.  Now, in a desperate attempt to eliminate the Bungerite Cult, they have returned in strength.

So many elaborate games with nifty terrain and systems to eliminate book-keeping.

A view of the main hall.  Something like 9,000 sq. feet of space for gamers, vendors and people just looking to converse or relax.

A lot of naval games were featured, a refreshing change in my mind.  I played in one game (write-up to follow) and there were many more to choose from.

I don't have any scientific data to support me, but it seemed like a high number of games featured Russians as the main opponent.

Games featured 10mm, 15mm, 28mm and 40mm figures over the weekend.  All ones I'd be proud to have in my collection.

The skirmish level games tended to feature the most elaborate terrain.  Eye candy all around.

And of course the grand finale, the talk by Professor Christopher Duffy on Culloden and the recent attempts at restoring the battlefield.  Always filled with interesting facts and pithy remarks, it is not to be missed.

Next year the convention returns to the Waterford Estates on March 31-April 1st, 2016.  I've made my arrangements, I encourage you to make yours.  For just a $25 fee for the weekend it is a bargain.