Sunday, 19 January 2020

A few days in Eastbourne

I know, holidaying in Britian in January?  what more proof that madness prevails in this country do you need?  Nevertheless last week we spent a few days in and around Eastbourne.  The south coast has seen its fair share of invasion scares (and actual invasions too) and naturally some defensive measures have been taken.  During the Napoleonic Wars three large forts were planned along the south coast, at   Eastbourne, Rye and Dymchurch as part of a scheme which also included 83 Martello Towers.  In the event only 74 Martello Towers were built and the fort at Rye was cancelled.

The view of the moat from the access bridge.  Unfortunately the fort is only open at weekends over the summer months so this was as much as I was able to see.  During the Napoleonic Wars the fort fired only two rounds 'in anger', against a passing French frigate, both of which missed.

At the other end of the promenade at Eastbourne is a Martello Tower, called locally the Wish Tower.  As noted above it is one of the 74 built along the South coast, another 29 were constructed to cover Essex and Suffolk.

The towers were surrounded by a dry moat and had one piece of artillery, housed on the roof.  For details of the other south coast martello towers see this link.

Some time ago Steve and I organised a 'Lion Rampant' game for the RECON show based on the battle of Lewes.  As the town was near to Eastbourne it seemed only right that myself and management should go and visit.  The battlefield site has changed completely of course over the centuries, but the castle still stands proudly over the town and the ruins of the priory can be seen. As part of the castle entry you gain access to the SAS (Sussex Archaeological Society) museum.  This houses several interesting finds including Anglo-Saxon swords and shield bosses

The restored barbican for the castle

Unusually, the castle had two mottes, with an enclosed bailey between them.  The view below looks towards the older, northerly motte from the top of the other.

We enjoyed our stay and there are plenty of interesting sites in the area.  Perhaps we may visit again when longer days and warmer weather arrive.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Maloyaroslavets 1812

This scenario was by way of an experiment.  I had come across the Age of Eagles rules website and spotted some downloadable scenarios (link).  It looked like an easy way to set up a Shako scenario so I gave it a try; the 'clincher' was that the game was set up for a 6 x 4 table.  The OOB provided was of course aimed at the Age of Eagles rules which have the  brigade as the manoeuvre unit and I carried this across wholesale to use in the 'big battles' version of Shako.

A view of the set up; the leading French division, (at the bottom of the picture), is just across the river ready to occupy Maloyaroslavets.  At the top of the photo are the Russians, ready to advance and eliminate the French bridgehead.  All French reinforcements arrive along the road leading to the bridge, the Russians either along the roads entering along the top of the board, or, from the right.

The French light cavalry charge home
The scenario gave the first round initiative to the French and they used this to occupy Maroyaroslavets with one brigade while the other blocked access between the village and the church.  This of course left a gaping gap on the French right, covered only by the French artillery.  Hopefully the first wave of reinforcements would arrive in time to hold off the Russians.  The first to arrive were Ornano's light cavalry division (2 brigades), followed by Broussier's infantry and the corps artillery.  Having crossed the bridge and moved to the right of the village they faced three brigades of Russian infantry. One brigade of cavalry charged, but the other had to deploy to cover the flank as a mass of cossacks and light cavalry had appeared.

The cavalry are hit in the flank by the cossacks

The Russian light cavalry attack
The French cavalry were victorious in their charge, but before they could rally the cossacks were on them, driving them further to the left and away from the bridge.  A further setback to the French cause followed, as the remaining light cavalry brigade was driven back by the Russian light cavalry, ending up back across the river.

By the time Broussier's infantry managed to cross the river they found their right threatened by Russian infantry.  Only the fire from the French artillery stalled the Russian advance.  On the French left two Russian brigades bore down on the single French brigade covering the area.  A third moved further to the left and captured the church before Broussier's infantry could get there.  The French infantry did their best, but outnumbered they eventually had to give ground and were chases back across the river where it took some time for them to rally.

The infantry struggle on the French left
The brigade holding Maloyaroslavets was now isolated and the Russians opened a sustained artillery barrage on the village.  When the defenders had been sufficiently 'softened up' the Russian infantry surged forward and drove the French out of the village and back over the river.

From now on the French made successive attempts to attack across the bridge and try and recapture the village.  Although they had some successes, each attack was eventually pushed back, even the Italian Guard. 

It was clear that the Russians had prevailed and Steve and I shook hands and discussed the battle over coffee.  A couple of things were clear, the move distances from Shako were too great for the table we had.  The initial set up had 6 Russian brigades, with two batteries against 2 French brigades with one battery.  Even though French reinforcements arrived fairly quickly, they couldn't support the outnumbered French before the Russians arrived.  We felt that a crucial factor was that the move distances in Shako are guaranteed, whereas in Age of Eagles they depend on a die roll.  In addition, Shako has no separate musketry segment; the only way to 'stagger' a brigade or inflict casualties on it outside melee is with artillery.   The cossacks were particularly effective, moving fast and able to pass through woods they were a potent threat.  Plenty to ponder before the next trial I think.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Eastfield : a Kelhamshire scenario for Pike and Shotte

For our pre-christmas game Steve and I returned to the county of Kelhamshire.  Following the success at West Dene, Lord Melchett was convinced he could wrest the initiative from Sir Victor.  When word came that the vault at Eastfield Church was being used as a temporary powder store by Sir Victor, his lordship was determined to act.  He immediately set off with the forces at hand, two units of horse and one of dragoons, commanded by Sir Royston a Dames and three regiments of foot under Sir Roderick Hoghton.  Orders were sent post haste to Colonel William Saville to march on Eastfield with all his available units.  This amounted to two units of horse and three of infantry.  Whilst Saville commanded the infantry, the horse were led by Colonel Walter Bracewell, comprising his own regiment and that of Sir James Catlow.

The view from the Parliamentary position

The line of hills which saw much of the fighting,
Weld's Hill in the distance. Eastfield Hill nearer the camera and finally Tomb's Hill in the foreground
When a courier arrived with news of the Royalist advance, Sir Victor hastened to gather a force to oppose it.  In the nick of time he assembled four regiments of cavalry,  six of infantry and a regiment of dragoons.  He led these units towards the range of hills on which he hoped to take up a defensive position.  Sir Charles Lonsdale, with the infantry of the Northern Hundred was on the left, supported by Colonel Edward Robinson's horse.  The remaining forces moved to the right, to oppose Saville.  Colonel William Wanless commanded the infantry and Sir Andrew Goldshaw the cavalry.  Sir Victor took up a central position to direct the defence.

Both commanders wanted to seize the high ground, (Weld, Eastfield and Tomb hills) and advanced at best speed.  Robinson decided to make for the open ground near Eastfield Hill while Lonsdale's infantry were intent on first securing the hedge and enclosure below Weld's Hill.  For his part, Lord Melchett had ordered Hoghton to take Weld's Hill and then move to secure the hedges and enclosures nearer Eastfield, to open the way for Sir Royston to make a rapid descent on the Church and seize the powder.  Sir Royston had already ordered the dragoons to move round Weld's Hill and he held Loughton's regiment ready to exploit a successful advance by Hoghton's infantry.  The remaining cavalry regiment, Stanley's, was on the road and had orders to advance and then deploy when it reached open ground.  Lord Melchett had managed to cajole a team of gunners to accompany his forces, but as the prospect of action increased so did their anxiety and their advance was very tardy.

Robinson's two regiments of horse now appeared heading along the road straight towards Stanley.  Seeing that Stanley was outnumbered, Sir Royston immediately ordered Loughton's men to turn about and follow him and he set off at a good gallop back towards the road.

Hoghton and Sir Royston advance on Weld's Hill
Lonsdale's infantry secure the hedge and enclosure
Anxious to deploy to meet the oncoming Parliamentary cavalry, Stanley advanced towards the open land.  Unfortunately, he was too late.  As his men attempted to change from road column to line they were hit by the charging enemy horse.  In a trice they were heading back down the lane in total disorder; just as Sir Royston was leading Loughton's regiment to their aid. Both regiments dissolved into a mass of disorganised troopers, with their officers struggling to establish some sort of order.  They were saved from total destruction by the reluctance of Robinson to lead his men down the narrow lane with enemy infantry close by.

Stanley'd men overwhelmed
Hoghton's infantry were also struggling to establish a hold on Weld's Hill.  As they ascended it's slopes they were unaware that Lonsdale had sent Bentham's regiment forward on a similar errand.  Hoghton's front line consisted of Gillibrand's regiment on the left and Smethurst's on the right.  Chorley's regiment was in reserve.  As Gillibrand's regiment crested the rise they saw that Bentham's was almost on them.  Before they could react, Bentham's had fired a volley and charged.  Caught at a disadvantage, the Royalists tried to stand their ground, but they were forced back.  A second push by the parliamentary infantry had Gillibrand's men routing back the way they had come.  Hoghton ordered Smethurst's regiment to wheel and attack Bentham's. This attack stopped the parliamentary  advance in its tracks.  A fierce struggle took place, but Bentham's eventually gave ground and streamed back towards the rest of Lonsdale's force.

Bentham's regiment take on Gillibrand's

Gillibrand's take to their heels
Bentham's regiment driven back 
On the Royalist left, Saville had advanced  towards Eastfield Hill, ordering Bracewell to move over Tomb's Hill and on towards Eastfield.  As Bracewell's troopers crested the hill they saw that an enclosure to their front was occupied by enemy foot.  Moving further to their left they met Goldshaw's command which was advancing towards them.  A swirling cavalry melee ensued which ebbed back and forth for the remainder of the battle, neither side being able to gain an advantage.  The impasse favoured Sir Victor more than Lord Melchett, as the Royalist's required a speedy advance.

Bracewell's regiment ready to advance

Saville's men reached the summit of Eastfield Hill and Clifton's regiment began to fire on Nowell's regiment which Wanless had sent forward to seize the hill.   Undeterred by the musketry, Nowell's continued to advance and charged home against Clifton's.  However, the short range volley from the Royalists disordered the chargers and they were unable to gain the advantage.  Clifton's gained the ascendancy and it was the Parliamentary foot which had to retreat.

The struggle for Eastfield Hill
As the struggle took place on the top of Eastfield Hill, another of Saville's regiments, Strickland's was beating off an attack by Bannister's one of Robinson's cavalry regiments.  This had attempted to disrupt Saville's advance, but Strickland's had stood firm and their solid pike block had forced the Parliamentary troopers to fall back.  This opportunity was exploited by, of all people, Sir Royston.  He had manged to get his command re-ordered and then led Stanley's regiment on a sweeping advance round the enclosures.  He arrived just as Bannister's were falling back and attacked.  The Parliamentarians had little chance and those that survived the Royalist charge turned and galloped back towards Eastfield.  Sir Royston's charge cleared the way for Loughton's regiment to advance and the Parliamentary position seemed in peril.

Bannister's attack
Sir Victor ordered Wanless to move all his infantry to oppose Saville's command, leaving the flank to be guarded by the dragoons.  Robinson meanwhile led his remaining regiment, Clayton's forward against Stanley's still recovering troopers.  The Royalists were driven back with ease and Clayton's swept forward to engage Loughton's.  In the following melee both units fought themselves to a standstill, but the Patliamentarians had gained precious time to reorganise their line.  Sir Victor now had two fresh units to oppose any advance by Saville and on the Parliamentary left  Lonsdale was ensconced behind a hedge, strongly placed to oppose any advance by Hoghton, two of whose units had suffered heavy casualties in the struggle for Weld's Hill.  The attempted flank march by the Royalist dragoons had come to naught and Lord Melchett decided that he would have to withdraw and await another opportunity to attack.

Another enjoyable scenario from Steve.  My apologies for the quality of some of the photographs, the light was quite fickle; some times bright sun, (too bright on occasion), others gloomy.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

RECON 2019 report

A nice way to end the wargaming year.  This show always has a good selection of traders and there were seemed to be more games on offer this year.  We managed to run through our fictional Clifton 1475 scenario four times; with Strickland winning each one.

Lowther on the attack, but things soon begin to unravel
Next to us was a 2mm scale Napoleonic game using the Blucher rules, run by the Chesterfield group

Nearby was another 2mm game, by James Mitchell, this time featuring Culloden and using a gridded map

Warlord Games had a large trade presence, but also ran participation games of their rule sets, the "Black Seas" one caught my eye

Upstairs was another naval game using the Blood and Plunder rules, run by the Ribble Warriors.

Also near the bring and buy stall was a  Terry Pratchett themed game by Grantham Witch Racing

and a Battletech game by Bradford Battletech Battalion

One trade stand that caught my eye was that for Irongate Scenery.  Their 3D printed scenery is very impressive

Many thanks to Bob, Dave, Lynne, Steve and Will for help with the game.  Also to John, who joined us to try out the rules and stayed for a second game!

More photos can be found on Will's blog and a video of the games on you tube

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Recon 2019

This Saturday's Recon Show at Pudsey will be the last for this year.  Steve and I will be on the Lance & Longbow stand with a 'Lion Rampant' game.  We had a quick run through the scenario yesterday, just to reacquaint ourselves with the rules.  It is our Clifton 1475 game which we ran at Britcon in August.  Various family commitments have interrupted our usual routine of games of late so it was good to get out some figures and roll the dice.  Mind you, Steve had some unkind words to say to the 'purple cubes of doom' when his archers seemed reluctant to shoot at my advancing spearmen.  If you attend the Recon show, please drop by the Lance and Longbow stand to say hello; perhaps even join in a game?

Even though we didn't manage a game for a few weeks, I did finish a book I spotted on the shelves of the local library.

Readers of my blog will know that Ancient battles do not tend to feature, but having seen the films 'Gladiator', 'Troy' and 'Alexander' which are all discussed in the book, I thought I would give it a try.  The author investigates the way in which Hollywood presents ancient warfare and points out the obvious mistakes they make.  However, he does give credit when the film makers get it right and so the book may be of interest to those who recreate ancient battles

Friday, 22 November 2019


This week Steve and I had a change from gaming and went to see the new film by Roland Emmerich on one of the decisive battles of the Pacific war. 

Image result for midway film

Although it is over 2 hours long the time passes quickly with the plot moving along at a pace.  From my admittedly limited knowledge of the battle the film seems to stick to the historical facts.  Nor does it ignore the 'other side of the hill'.  The Japanese perspective is shown, including the tensions within the navy and also between the army and navy.  I liked the depiction of the difficulties faced by the opposing commanders, who had to make a crucial decision, often with only partial information of the enemy position.  It reminded me of the similar episode in WWI when Jellicoe had to deploy his fleet without knowing exactly the location or the High Seas Fleet.  In these days of the all-seeing eye of the satellite we tend to forget how difficult it was for commanders in the past.

The film could not have been made without the use of CGI and on the whole these are very impressive, the opening sequence with a plane landing on an American carrier in particular.  However, the sinking of the Arizona seemed to be a little too much like an arcade game.    

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Teugn-Hausen, a Shako scenario

I am getting a bit behindhand with the game reports due to various commitments.  This scenario was sparked by a post on TMP and I decided to try and set it up on my 6 x 4 table.  I didn't really have the large ridge required so I had to settle for two smaller ridges, but the table seemed reasonably cluttered with hills and woods.

In the early stages of the 1809 Austrian campaign Berthier had directed Davout's 3rd Corps to Regensburg.  With the Austrian advance into Bavaria, Davout was now in danger of being surrounded.  As he began to withdraw westwards along the southern bank of the Danube three Austrian columns attempted to intercept him.  The action at Teign-Hausen involved the divisions of St Hilaire and Friant from Davout's corps and  elements from Hohenzollern's corps, (also the 3rd).  My scenario starts with St Hilaire's corps at Hausen with the corps baggage train behind it, with Friant's division following the baggage.  On the wooded ridge above Hausen are Vukassovich's advance guard passing through Teugn on the way to support them

The view from behind Hausen with Friant's division marching along the road westwards.  Their skirmishers have just come under fire from Austrian jaegers in the woods.  The French objective is to get the baggage train along the road and off the western (right hand) edge of the table, and keep the road clear for Friant's division to pass westwards.  For the Austrians, they need to stop the French withdrawal.

As the skirmishing intensified, St Hilaire sent his leading regiment, the 3rd Legere towards the western ridge to support his skirmishers and the 46th Line up the road to Teugn, where an Austrian light battery had appeared.  The 10th Line initially covered the advance of the baggage train. On the western flank, the 2nd battalion of the 3rd Legere attempted to clear the Austrian skirmishers and the French skirmishers moved westwards trying to find a way round the Austrian flank but they were met by a volley from the Grenz battalion placed in support and driven back

A first success for the Austrian defence

St Hilaire's division moves forward
A similar exchange was taking place on the eastern ridge, with the Austrian skirmishers and their Grenz supports attempting to halt the French advance.

In the centre, the Austrian battery had been joined by a battalion of Austrian infantry, (2nd bn Chasteler,) and two battalions of the 46th moved towards the western ridge to oppose them.  In the western woods the French had managed to gain the initiative and were pushing back the grenz and skirmishers, though at a considerable cost.  The tussle in the eastern woods had reached a stalemate, with a battalion of the 46th trading volleys with 1st bn Chasteler whilst the opposing skirmishers bickered away.

Austrian reinforcements, in the shape of Lusignan's command were now arriving; which was just as well, because St Hilaire had at last managed to get his artillery forward and it was firing to good effect against the Austrian centre.  Lusignan sent 1st and 2nd Deutschmeister onto the western ridge and the two battalions  Reuss-Greitz and Lindenau to the centre.  Back at Teugn, the lead elements of Meyer's brigade were beginning to arrive and Hohenzollern sent them forward post haste.  Deutschmeister arrived on the ridge just in time to meet an attack by battalions from the 46th supported by the 3rd Legere which had worked it's way up through the woods.  The 2nd battalion was driven back with some loss, but a counter attack by the 3rd battalion, which had been held in reserve, managed to regain the heights.

The initial French success

The Austrian counter attack
In the east, the fight was entering a new phase.  The baggage train had at last passed through Hausen, releasing the battalions of the 10th Line to support the attack.  St Hilaire sent all these against the Austrian position on the eastern ridge.  An initial push was driven back by volleys from the Grenz, but more and more battalions became embroiled in the fighting in the eastern woods

The first attack by the 10th Line driven back

Pressure mounts on the eastern ridge
St Hilaire's weary battalions were lifted by the sight of Friant's division arriving from the east and launched another attack on the western ridge.  Once again the blue coated ranks surged up the slopes but once again the weary white coated line held.

At his position near Teugn, Hohenzollern received the news that the French had been reinforced by a fresh division.  Vukassovich and Lusignan had fought hard, but were now reaching the limits of their strength, with approximately 50% casualties.  Meyer's force was not large enough to push forward against the French and the main prize, the baggage had moved west.  He therefore ordered that his troops should attempt to hold their ground and then fall back under cover of darkness.

For his part Davout was happy to hold onto Hausen and the road.  St Hilaire's division was exhausted and had losses of 50%, Friant's men were sufficient to hold the line and allow their comrades to withdraw and then move westwards.

A difficult scenario for the Austrians to win, perhaps Lusignan and Meyer needed to be nearer to put more pressure on the French.  The wooded and hilly terrain did hamper both sides and considerably aided the defence.