Monday, 21 July 2014

More Austrian infantry

Earlier this year I published a post on some Grand Alliance infantry I had just painted.  Well, after many false starts and being sidetracked by various projects, I have eventually got around to painting two more units.

The previous unit used plastic figures, but these are mainly Essex, with officers and pikemen from other manufacturers.  Using the Pike and Shot Society book on the Austrian army as my main source I decided to paint the figures as the Herbestein and Metternich infantry regiments.


Only one more battalion to go and that will complete the brigade. Perhaps completion by Christmas?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Road to Philadelphia

A return to the AWI this week with a fictional scenario from the British advance on Philadelphia.  The American general Gates decided to make a stand on a river line, hoping to delay the British advance to allow a larger American force to coalesce.  Once again we used the 'Patriots and Loyalists' rules which always seem to produce a good game.

I commanded the American forces, 4 brigades of infantry, Woodford, Smallwood and Maxwell in the front line (left to right), with Carter in reserve.  The close terrain favoured the defence, but I decided not to defend too far forward. Only Woodford placed troops across the river, two battalions were on the wooded hill in the bottom left of the photograph below.
The view from the American left     

Steve, commanding the British had his force organised into three brigades, Von Donop's German troops on his left, British line battalions in the centre and the elite grenadiers and converged light companies on the right.

First into action were Von Donop's men who pushed across the bridge to try and secure the field beyond.  The Jaeger made good progress, driving off the American riflemen and then turning their attention to the supporting battalions of militia.  The German fusiliers fared less well.  They deployed under fire and then moved towards the field only to be sent back across the river by telling volleys from the continental infantry.  The Americans did not have long to savour their victory; a battalion of grenadiers took the place of the fusiliers and after firing a volley they moved forward to cross bayonets with their opponents.

The grenadiers attack
In the melee that followed both sides suffered heavy casualties, but it was the Americans who broke and the battered remnants fled the field.  As the victorious grenadiers took the ground they were subjected to volleys from the American battalion which had been in support.  The casualties from these volleys proved too much for the Germans and they too broke, allowing the Americans to regain control of the field.

In the centre there was little action, the British brigade was making slow progress through the terrain, deployed to meet a threat that didn't materialise.  Smallwood's men, lining the hedgerows and fences readied themselves for the firefight to come.  The British 'right hook' was also making slow progress.  Woodford's men waited until the British were in close range and then opened fire.  The grenadiers suffered some losses, but their NCO's kept the men in formation and undaunted the grenadiers continued their advance.  Faced by this steady advance, the American line began to waver, especially as they lacked bayonets and could see that the British did not.

Woodford's men oppose the British advance
 A volley from the grenadiers, plus the sight of the converged light companies moving around their flank, was too much for the militia and they fell back through the woods, heading for the perceived safety of the far bank of the river. Their supports did not even wait to fire a volley, isolated and with their comrades heading for the river, they too felt that it was far safer to put some distance between themselves and those bayonets.  Whilst the fight for the hill had been going the American artillery, plus the remainder of Woodford's men had been trying to slow the advance of the rest of the British right hand brigade.  In this they had not been successful, in fact losses to British volleys had forced the infantry to fall back to reform, leaving the artillery as the sole defender of the ford.

In the centre, the British were at last making progress, two battalions were moving in support of Von Donop, whilst the remainder pinned Smallwood's men in position.  The skirmishers were particularly effective.  Their fire forced one of Smallwood's militia units to fall back and then they turned their attention on his artillery, which had been proving a nuisance.  The American gunners took to their heels, abandoning their guns, much to Smallwood's annoyance.

Smallwood's men hold the centre
 With British support, Von Donop made another attack on the field.  The reformed fusiliers fired volleys at the American defenders whilst a British battalion moved up on the Americans' flank.  A concerted charge proved too much for the Americans and they were driven from the field.  Maxwell's brigade was now in a bad way.  Two units destroyed, two more with casualties from the jaegers, they were only kept in the line by the presence of the brigadier.  I therefore committed the reserve brigade to the right flank to push back the Germans (who had also suffered quite heavy casualties) and perhaps regain control of the bridge.  It was just in time; as the men of Carter's brigade advanced, Maxwell's men broke and the brigade headed off to Philadelphia.  A new line was formed, but with Woodford's brigade also on the brink of collapse the American position seemed lost and Gates ordered Smallwood and Carter to fall back.  The British (and Germans) had suffered quite heavy casualties and were content to consolidate their control of the river crossings and regroup before advancing further.

A view from the American right at the end of the action.  Carter's men are forming a rearguard.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Reinforcements - a Ga Pa scenario

It has been some time since the Prince August figures had an outing, so this week I created a scenario set in the years following the Russian defeat at Narva.  The Russian forces are still recovering and Peter is expanding the army to meet the demands of the Great Northern War.  Three new 3 battalion regiments are accompanying a supply column on its way to join the main army.  With them are three trained battalions who will help to teach the relatively new recruits the 'joys'of campaign life.  Attached to the column is a brigade of three dragoon regiments and two batteries of artillery, one light and one medium. The main body of the column, commanded by Major General Repnin, has halted at a small village to allow the  rearguard (Colonel Schweden) to catch up.  Colonel Roshnev (commanding the dragoons) has taken the opportunity to go foraging.  Repnin's lunch is disrupted by the arrival  of a Cossack patrol which claims to have seen a Swedish force heading towards the village. The Cossacks are sent to find Roshnev and order him to return to the main column.  Meanwhile, Repnin deploys his 8 battalions in two rows of four,supported by his artillery.  His objective is to preserve the supplies in the wagon train.

A Swedish force in three columns is advancing on the village.  The right hand infantry column (Colonel Sparre) has 4 battalions (one being guard) and a very light artillery battery. The second column, commanded by Colonel Stackenberg has 5 battalions and will arrive opposite the left hand side of the Russian line.  The arrival of Colonel Creutz's cavalry (3 regiments) will be decided by die roll.  Overall, the Swedish objective is to drive off/disperse the Russian regiments and capture the supplies.

Repnin's line
 Sparre's column arrives on the field first and their line of advance will outflank the left hand end of the Russian line.  Not wanting to allow the Swedes the opportunity to concentrate on the end of his line, Repnin ordered the Fraserski regiment (one of his trained units) to move from the second line to extend the front line.  The poor leadership rating assigned to the Russians by the Ga Pa rules meant that unless Repnin attached himself to the Fraserski regiment it was unlikely to follow orders.  However, doing this left the rest of the front line 'out of command'.  The regimental colonel for the Novgorodski regiment took it upon himself to order an advance and the line began a wheel to the left to meet the Swedish advance. 

This should not have been too much of a problem, but as the Russian line began its movement, out of the tree line appeared the second Swedish column and they were now in a position to attack the flank of the Russian line.  As he galloped back to a central position, Repnin was relieved to see the battalions of the Narva regiment which comprised Schweden's brigade coming into view. With luck they would arrive in the nick of time to form up on the right of the Russian line and oppose the Swedish attack.  Less welcome was the sight of the Swedish cavalry forming up behind Stackenberg's infantry. The ferocity of the Swedish cavalry charge was well known and Repnin hoped that his  men were up to the challenge.

Sparre urges on his men
 Roshnev's dragoons now appeared on the Russian left, but their advance was impeded by the Fraserski regiment and the leading regiment the Moscow Dragoons had to form column to move round their infantry.  As they moved to find the Swedish flank they were hit by a volley from the Swedish guard battalion which drove them from the field in confusion.  However, the threat of the remaining dragoons was sufficient to make the guards form square.

Elsewhere, the Russian artillery was making an impact.  The Varvat Framlings regiment was forced to halt to reform its ranks as losses from artillery mounted.  An unusual hesitancy now gripped the Swedish infantry (ie Steve had a run of very bad dice) and to maintain pressure the Swedish cavalry were ordered forward.  The Finnish regiment Abo led the way, but, strayed within the arc of fire of the second Russian artillery battery.  The concentrated fire reduced the regiment to a shambles and they took no further part in the battle.  (The Swedish/Finnish cavalry regiments only had one step whereas the Russian dragoons had two).

Roshnev's dragoons
 Sparre's progress now depended on the Jonkopings regiment.  Wheeling inwards they advanced on the 2nd battalion of the Novgorodski regiment.  After an exchange of volleys the Swedes charged.  The Russians didn't wait for the impact, but fell back behind their supports, disordering them in the process.  Pressing on, Jonkopings then fired a volley at the 1st battalion of the Vologdski regiment, causing them to fall back. 

wreathed in smoke the guards' square suffers heavy casualties

By now the Russian line had lost all semblance of order and this made Repnin's job of directing affairs even more difficult.  The sole success was the damage inflicted on the Swedish guards by the volleys from Fraserski and fire from the Kiev dragoons.  Schweden's men had managed to stall Stackenberg's advance and the 1st battalion of the Novgorodski had beaten off a charge by the Upplands cavalry regiment.

Jonkopings press forward
 However, Jonkopings had by now almost reached the supply wagons.  Only the 3rd battalion of the Vologdski barred their way and they were disordered.  Three more of Repnin's battalions were falling back and the artillery had been overwhelmed by the reformed Varvat Framlings regiment .  Repnin sought out Sparre and offered his sword.  Although  victorious the cost to the Swedes had been heavy with most of their battalions suffering step losses.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Up the Nile with the Gentlemen Pensioners

Traditionally Steve hosts a day long game on the Sunday following the Phalanx show.  This year he organised a colonial game set in the Sudan. The scenario was set post Khartoum, for this version of history the relief force had arrived in time, Gordon was saved and as the Mahdi's forces fell back south an expedition was organised to seize their supply base at Ad Dueim.

The Imperial force had three brigades of infantry, two Egyptian and one British (all with artillery support), a cavalry brigade with two mounted infantry units plus a lancer regiment and artillery,plus, on the Nile, a steamer with a unit of blue jackets. Our task was to capture Ad Dueim and disperse the Dervish force.

A general view of the table
We had been offered the option of sending the cavalry brigade on a flanking march, but decided that it would be better to have their mobility and firepower from the start, rather than chance their arrival.  In the event our decision was vindicated because the Dervish cavalry had been placed (by chance) where they could have opposed any such move and the cavalry brigade made the most progress towards Ad Dueim.  The events of the ensuing conflict were rather confused and to avoid any partial accounts by participants the following details have been extracted from the pages of those august journals "The Mahdi Post", the "Cairo Examiner" and of course "The Times".

A report submitted by the Imperial Commander General James Blackadder after the battle stated that the overall plan was to advance with the Egyptian brigades in the centre and the open desert flank to be covered by the cavalry. The naval contingent, under the command of Captain (retired) Alfred Horatio Lines RN on the gunboat Tamei would cover the other flank and provide fire support to assist the Egyptian advance.  The British brigade was to be the reserve, ready to steady the line if the Egyptians faltered and exploit any opportunities as the Dervishes were driven back.

"With the first rays of the sun dispelling the desert darkness, the Imperial forces advanced with a steady step; the months of training under British officers bearing fruit as the native infantry maintained their lines admirably"  (The Times).

The Cairo Examiner lauded the martial attitude of the Egyptian infantry under the charismatic leadership of Ibrahim Bey and Abdullah Zim Bey. Ibrahim Bey had taken the instructions of the British officers extolling the virtue of keeping the men 'in hand' to heart and advanced his men in square.  To his right Abdullah Zim Bey opted for a more flexible deployment, but curiously he made no quicker progress than his compatriot.

Ibrahim Bey's brigade advance
Both commanders sent out scouts to search for the Dervish forces and it came as no surprise when the broken ground to the front of Imperial force contained enemy infantry.  Ibrahim Bey's men prepared to drive off their opponents, the reporter for the Cairo Examiner describes a sense of anticipation in the ranks as the orders are given to fix bayonets.  Ammunition was checked, reserve stocks placed in readiness and the officers drew their swords.

On the Tamei, Captain Lines ordered the helmsman to move closer to the bank to give covering fire.  The Dervishes under the command of Emir Mustafa Maq advanced with determination, reports in the Mahdi Post describing the men chanting verses as they closed on the enemy.  However, the concentrated fire from the Tamei caused such casualties that the advance stalled. Emir Maq was saved by the jamming of the machine gun on the Tamei as the barrel overheated.

The Tamei steams upstream
  Abdullah Zim Bey meanwhile was facing a determined advance by Emir Abdul Garab's men.  He met this threat with his cavalry which charged forward and inflicted heavy casualties on the Dervishes.  As the remnants of the attack disappeared into the broken ground Zim Bey decided to dismount his cavalry and deploy them in skirmish order to cover the flank march of his infantry battalions.  On the Imperial right, Brigadier General Midland, in command of the cavalry was making good progress.  Abdul Garab had been inspired by the Mahdi's speech before the battle and led his men forward against the Imperial troops.  The Dervish artillery had been silenced by the British guns and the lancers had deployed to cover the formation of a firing line by the mounted infantry.  Once that line was established the fire from the infantry proved too much for Abdul Garab's men and they retreated to a walled village.  Once again the cavalry and mounted infantry advanced and set up a firing line.  Even with the cover provided by the buildings the fire from the British was such that the Dervishes had to fall back again.

Seeking new 'prey' the lancers advanced past the village and soon found all the opponents they could wish for (and more if truth be told).  Suddenly the cavalry troopers found Dervish infantry to their front and both flanks .  The Mahdi had brought forward some units of Hadendoah and Emir Mohammed Roy had brought forward his troops in support of Abdul Garab.  Leading from the front Mohammed Roy and his men surged forward in what the Times correspondent likened to a "tidal wave".

The lancers in their final charge

The colonel of the lancers was heard by a survivor to have said "I didn't come all this way to turn back now" and ordered the bugler to sound the charge.  As the cavalry gathered speed the fluttering lance pennons dipped and the men crouched in their saddles.  The impact was terrific, men and horses tumbled to the ground, lances, swords and spears clashed and glinted through the dust clouds.  Unbelievably, the lancers held the first Dervish attack, driving off two attacking units. Amongst the dead was Mohammed Roy, the charismatic leader had been in the front line of the Dervish attack and was felled with multiple lance wounds.  Before the lancers could catch breath another wave of attackers surged forward and this time, inspired by the presence of the Mahdi the Dervishes prevailed.  Slowly the line of lancers was pushed back and their formation broken.  Little knots of men, their horses dead, fought back to back against overwhelming odds.  One survivor, a young lieutenant told the Times correspondent how a veteran trooper gave him his horse and told him to ride back for reinforcements.  Suddenly, it was all over, a few lucky survivors escaped and made what speed they could for the safety of the Imperial lines, but the lancers would play no further part in the battle.

Meanwhile Mustafa Maq was carrying out his orders with some success.  He had deployed skirmishers to shoot at Ibrahim Bey's men and a firefight ensued. Little real damage was inflicted on either side, but it did buy time for more Dervish troops under Emir Talik Bak to move forward.

Problems for the Tamei
On the river Captain Lines had problems of his own.  He was 'encouraging' the young artillery officer to fix the machine gun "with some speed" and whilst he was thus occupied the Tamei came in range of the Dervish artillery in Ad Dueim.  A few ranging shots splashed harmlessly in the river, but soon the Dervish gunners found the range and splinters began to fly from the exposed woodwork.  The helmsman had not been in action before and when the shells hit the boat he automatically turned the wheel.  The Tamei was soon broadside on to the river and drifting back towards Khartoum at some speed.  This encouraged Mustafa Maq's men who now began to gather for a renewed attack on Ibrahim Bey. Captain Lines  made his way to the wheelhouse and took control of the wheel.  Requesting more steam from the engineer he turned the Tamei back into the current and moved back to the flanking position the Egyptian troops expected.  Fortunately, the machine gun had by now been unjammed and with the bluejacket officer ordering 'rapid fire' a deluge of fire was directed at Mustafa Maq's men, stopping the charge in its tracks.  However, the machine gun jammed again and the bluejackets had fired nearly all their available rounds.  The firing from the Tamei slackened as runners brought up more ammunition from the hold.  The disorder in Mustafa Maq's force did allow Ibrahim Bey to advance.

Abdullah Zim Bey's dismounted cavalry had found themselves attacked by a mass of Dervish warriors and they were forced to recoil.  Aid was at hand as Zim Bey had deployed a battalion of Egyptian infantry as a precaution and they stood firm repelling this dangerous attack. Indeed the Cairo Examiner later carried a letter of commendation for the officers of this unit, signed by the Khedive himself

Abdullah Zim Bey's men stand firm
The climax of the battle was now approaching.  The Dervish cavalry under Munir Ifitkhar now moved forward.  The Mahdi took charge of a unit of Dervishes and led them forward against the mounted infantry.  Ignoring the hail of fire the Dervishes closed with the Imperial infantry.  In a prolonged melee the initiative swung back and forth.

The Mahdi leads the attack
Unfortunately, we now ran out of time.  The British reinforcements had arrived, but played no part.  A solid mass of Dervish cavalry, supported by infantry was poised to attack.  Two commands, those of Abdul Garab and Mustafa Maq had been severely handled,but three more were still available.  The Mahdi had inspired his men, but was now very isolated and vulnerable to an Imperial counter-attack.  The rules worked well and everyone enjoyed the game.  Who won? well both sides claimed partial victory, another day of gaming would have produced a result, but I think that perhaps the Dervish team shaded it on the day

The Gentlemen Pensioners before battle was joined
Many thanks to Steve for hosting the game and to Chris, Dave, Gary, Ian, Nick, Mark, Phil, Roy and Will for playing in such a good spirit.

 For other views on the game check out Wills blog and Phil's blog


Monday, 16 June 2014

Phalanx 2014

One of my favourite shows of the year is the Phalanx show at St Helens.  The Spartans club have everything well organised and there are plenty of helpers to assist with the transfer of figures, terrain etc from your car boot to your table in the main hall.  As mentioned in an earlier blog, the Lance and Longbow Society were putting on a game based on the battle of Hedgeley Moor 1464.  We were in good company this year as there were other medieval display games on offer.

The second photo is of "The Battle of Kirkburn Bridge" by the Wyrley Retinue, which aimed to demonstrate Anglo-Scots warfare at the time of Bannockburn.

Naval games also had a strong showing with Furness Warlords putting on a game based on the naval battle on Lake Erie in the war of 1812.

Liverpool Wargames Society had an amphibious assault on a Pacific Island, with very well built terrain features.  (The lighting in the hall caused the yellows to become rather over-blown when I used the image correction software).

There was also a game of the Battle of Coronel from WW1.  The Battle of Britain game was well presented, the terrain/map giving a good 'bird's eye' representation of the landscape.

In this year commemorating the start of World War One, there was a 10mm display game of Chateau Thierry.

There was an interesting Marston  Moor game which represented all units which took part in the battle and used the 'Pike and Shotte' rules.

Dystopian Wars were also represented

Another very good show.  An opportunity to chat to friends, talk about the game and, of course, add to the  lead mountain.  We played through our game twice, once with the Poleaxed rules and once with Warmaster Medieval and the Lancastrians won both games, (although by narrow margins in both cases).

My thanks to Steve, Bob, Roy, Will, Neil, Ian and Nick for helping with the game.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Battles for Empire test

As in previous years the Sunday after the Phalanx show at St Helens an all-day game is organised by Steve.  This year it is a colonial game, set in the Sudan.  Previously we have used the "Sword and the Flame" rules but they become rather slow when dealing with several players and lots of units.  This led Steve and I to try out the "Battles for Empire" rules.  It required some re-basing, but this had the advantage (?) of increasing the number of Dervish units.

I commanded the Imperial force, with an Egyptian brigade (2 units of foot, one of cavalry and 2 guns) and a British brigade (3 units of foot, 1 mounted infantry and 1 lancer unit,plus 2 guns).  The British brigade advanced on the enemy controlled village, the lancers initially 'bold' quickly became 'unsure' and took some casualties from the Arab skirmishers before being persuaded to charge home.

On the opposite flank the Egyptians were faced by a horde of Dervish cavalry and the Egyptian cavalry rather foolishly (mea culpa) charged the leading unit.  In no time the remnants of the Egyptians were streaming back towards the base line.  Unfortunately, they didn't 'stream' quickly enough and were caught by the Dervish cavalry which followed up.  First blood to the Dervish.

The next move by the Egyptian commander was far more sensible, he formed his infantry into square and deployed his guns in support.  As the Dervish cavalry advanced they were subjected to intense fire (Imperial troops can opt for 'rapid fire' which increases their chances of inflicting hits although at the risk of running low on ammunition).  This tactic was successful in driving off three or four Dervish attacks, but 'low ammo' results did eventually allow the Dervish to close.

Another good feature is the reduced effectiveness of the final volley by defenders as the enemy close,perhaps reflecting the morale effect of not stopping the charge. 

Artillery is used to 'unsettle' the enemy rather than kill.  It is the machine guns which are more effective in that role.  Though again, a clever rule mechanism means that the more fire the machine guns lay down the greater the chance of a 'jam'. (I found the guns fell silent after last ditch attempts to stop Dervish charges and had to wait nervously for the jams to be cleared).

If the Imperial troops can deploy their superior fire power against Dervish troops advancing across open terrain then the chances are the charge will be stopped. However, if the Imperial troops have to advance then this needs to be done with care.  Any movement, or change of facing/formation means that the unit cannot fire.  With Dervish infantry capable of moves up to 12 inches (cavalry 18 inches) and initiative diced for at the beginning of each turn the enemy can be on you before you expect it.

The trial was a success and I am looking forward to the game on Sunday.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014


Yes, a long planned family holiday to the sunny Mediterranean.  I had heard very good things about the town walls of the old city and when asked for a destination for our holiday had suggested the island of Rhodes and was quite surprised when it was taken up.  Plenty of internet 'surfing' beforehand had whetted my appetite for having a closer look at the fortifications, but however good the photos, nothing can compare with experiencing the real thing.

I started my walk at the eastern end of the moat by the Akandia Gate; the first major major work being the Caretto Bastion.

This is one of the more modern designs to accommodate artillery and guns from here would command this section of the moat.  As I strolled along, I struggled to come to terms with the scale of the works

The town walls are on the right (this section was the responsibility of the 'Tongue' of Provence), on the left can be seen the outer wall of the moat, easily 20 feet high.  Further along is the St John's Bastion and the beginning of the walls lying within the responsibility of the Tongue of England.

Along this section and that of the Aragonese are outworks protecting the actual city walls.  The photo above shows the scale of these outworks.  The city walls are on the right with square towers providing flanking fire.  In this section there are now two dry moats.

Here is the access to the St Athanassios Gate, illustrating the depth of the moat.  Small bastions project into the moat, covering potential blind spots and giving yet more opportunities for flanking fire.

The Gate D'Amboise is one of the most impressive entrances to the old town and is of a later design, allowing for the placing of artillery on the roof of the towers.

Just beyond the gate is a feature allowing for the placing of a flanking battery.  This projects from the walls and would sweep the moat close to the Gate D'Amboise.

Whilst on Rhodes we found time to visit the Acropolis at Lindos, where a site which had been used as a fortress in Classical times was used again by the Byzantines and the Knights of St John.  The remains of the castle are impressive, as is the view from the summit along the coast.

Here you can see the steps leading up to the entrance to the castle.  These are reached only after having passed through a gatehouse and climbed up to a platform.

There are other castles on Rhodes, particularly Kritinia and Monolithos on the western coast, but I didn't manage to visit them.

Back to the usual routine now, although, with less than a fortnight to the Phalanx show at St Helens we need to get the Hedgeley Moor game finalised.