Sunday, 26 September 2010

Just one of those days

Our group completed a Sudan game this week. I took the part of the Imperial forces and jolly unpleasant it was too. The brief was to defeat a Dervish force which was barring access to an oasis. The rules we used included a random movement mechanism, which meant that you could have several moves without your opponent being able to interfere, providing the cards were in your favour. Casualties (shooting and melee), were inflicted by rolling sixes on normal dice.

The Imperial forces were deployed in a formation enabling them to form square quickly if attacked; given the amount of cover on the table this was essential. However, it did make for slow progress, as the distance moved depended on the total rolled on 2d6. Not all the allowance had to be used, so good rolls tended to 'rounded down' to try and keep formation.

The game began with each side getting a couple of moves together, so I had half my square four or five inches ahead of the remainder. Then the Dervish forces had a run of 6 black cards which meant that suddenly I was attacked without the chance to fire a volley. The melee did not go well; the casualty return was something like 6 - 0 in the Dervish favour and then they fell back. A small unit of cavalry investigated a wadi on my left flank and were overwhelmed by Dervish cavalry (another run of black cards plus an inability to roll 6's).

For the next hour waves of Dervishes attacked the dwindling square whilst my troops seemed to be armed with sticks of celery rather than bayonets. The lack of 'hits' I inflicted became so marked, that at one point the umpire enquired if I was using average dice! My cavalry had been depleted by fire from one Dervish unit and so had only a 50/50 chance of charging. A fresh Dervish unit had charged the Highlanders who had already suffered one third losses and the wagon train of wounded was threatened. The cavalry passed the test to charge, but their movement dice were sufficient to move them all but the last half an inch to their target. Another red card gave me another chance to assist the Highlanders, but the Indian unit failed their test.
Fortunately, the ensuing melee went my way and the wounded were saved, for a time at least.

Eventually things did improve, one of the machine guns got into position and, bolstered by a lucky run of red cards inflicted sufficient casulaties to eliminate two of the Dervish formations. This meant that the way was open to attack the oasis,but with two thirds of my force dead, wounded or missing, such an attack was impossible. It was one of those nights we all experience, when the dice,cards or whatever random factors we use, seem to be against us.

This weekend a far diferent game took place, involving a force of medieval knights and some WW2 paratroopers. My grandson had come to visit and brought his soldiers with him. The game was set up on the kitchen table, we had some simple rules and lots of fun. In the end I was defeated, again, but there was lots of enjoyment from just 'playing'. Which is, after all, what it is all about.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Raab variant

This week saw another run out for the 15mm napoleonics with a 'what if' scenario from the 1809 campaign. Eugene, was trying to bring the Austrian forces under Archduke Johann to battle. Johann had managed to link up with Archduke Joseph and was gathering Hungarian 'Insurrection' troops. The arrangement was that the Johann would take up position on the Csanak Heights covering the entrenched camp at Raab. In the evnt this didn't happen, a position futher east at Kismegyer was held and it was here that the battle was fought in June 1809. But what if, instead of enjoying a leisurely lunch in Raab, the two Archdukes had supervised their troops more closely and the Csanak position had been occupied. How would the French and Italians have fared?

The Csanak ridge was steep and covered in vinyards, and lay at 90 degrees to the Raab river. Between it and the river lay open grassland, ideal for cavalry. The village of Menlo lay by the heights and the village of Gyirmot by the river.

The Austrians garrisoned both villages and deployed two divisions of infantry on the ridge, Colloredo on the left and Jellacic on the right, nearest the river. Andrassy, with the cavalry, deployed on the plain. Frimont, with the grenadiers and reserve cavalry was ordered to advance from Raab to support the main force.

Eugene resolved to attack with the forces he had in hand, two divisions of infantry, Seras and Durutte, plus the light cavalry under Montbrun. Seras would attack the ridge, whilst Durutte would attack the village of Menlo and the adjacent heights where the Csanak Ridge ended.

The French battalions attacked in their usual columns, taking casualties from the Austrian guns, but continuing to advance. Five battalions assaulted Menlo, defended by a single battalion of the Weidenfeld Regiment. The Austrians disciplined volleys caused the attack to stall and Durutte had to deploy screening battalions to reorganise his attacking force. To Durutte's left the French light cavalry attacked their Austrian counterparts. They had the advantage of numbers and quality, as half of Andrassy's men were of the Hungarian Insurrection. However, the French did not have everything their own way, some of the Austrian units overcame their more illustrious opponents and both sides withdrew to regroup.

Meanwhile Colloredo was having difficulty holding the ridge line. The 1st battalion of the Benjowsky regiment was attacked by 3 battalions of the French 2nd line regiment. Two were disordered by the terrain and the Austrian volleys, but the French 1st battalion charged home with the bayonet. The Austrians buckled under the pressure and then broke. Behind them in the second line was an Insurrection battalion, calmly they stood and began to fire volleys into the French on the ridge crest. Jellacic was also having his problems. Durutte had ordered the four battalions of the 46th Line regiment to attack the heights above Menlo. Advancing through rounds of canister fire the 3rd battalion managed to gain a foothold on the heights, and then forced the Lindenau infantry battalion to retreat. Again, an Insurrection battalion stepped into the breach.

The Austrian commanders were dismayed to see yet more French troops in the distance, including Grouchy's division of dragoons. Where was Frimont? without his troops the position could not be held.

Seras launched a second attack up the ridge against Colloredo. Unaffected by artillery the assaulting battalions struck the 2nd battalion of the Esterhazy regiment and scattered it. To their left the 1st battalion of the Ludwig Joseph regiment was also pushed back. Colloredo ordered forward his reserve, the Zach infantry regiment and that retook part of the ridge and gave time for the artillery to be pulled back. Menlo village had aso been taken, outnumbered 4 to 1 the Weidenfled battalion was bundled out of the village. Their supporting Grenz battalion was engaged in a firefight with the combined elite companies of the legere battalions, so one of the Insurrection units attempted to retake the village.

Back with Colloredo two of his Insurrection battalions had tried to hold the ridge but were swept away by Seras troops. His losses were now approaching 30% and still Frimont had not arrived. His right flank was no longer in contact with Jellacic as yet another French battalion forced it's way onto the ridge. Jellacic was concerned about the French cavalry forcing their way through the open area between Menlo and Gyirmot. Andrassy was doing his best, but weight of numbers was beginning to tell and there were the fresh squadrons of Groucy's dragoons approaching. It was time to fall back, before he (Jellacic) was surrounded. He sent his escort in search of Colloredo to let him know of his decision and then ordered the retreat. Twenty minutes later Frimont arrived with new orders for the infanry divisions from the Archdukes. They were to avoid serious losses and fall back to Kismegyer, covered by Frimont's men.

Monday, 13 September 2010


Well, it just goes to show that you shouldn't brag about making a bit of progress with painting. Since my last post almost nothing has been done. There has been a fair amount of the wargamers usual displacement activity, doing a bit of research. Most of you will be familiar with the scenario, "I remember seeing an article on x recently, it's just what I need to finish that scenario oob." Or, "that uniform plate is in here somewhere". What starts out as a 5 minute job prior to the serious business of setting up a game or painting figures ends up taking most of the evening and nothing gets done. In addition I have been reading a book by Byron Farwell called Eminent Victorian Soldiers. It's not even my main period, (how often do we hear that said?), I just play the occasional Sudan game, but the names are well known, Gordon, Kitchener, MacDonald, Roberts, and Wolsley, to name a few. As I read the book, it was amazing how interlinked all the stories were, the petty jealousies, rash actions, and fame, fortune and disaster. Before pronouncing on the book's accuracy I would like to read a few other titles, but for light relief and to ponder how would you create a set of rules to cover these actions, it is an interesting read. The next book in the pile on my bedside table is Zoe Oldenburg's book on the Crusades. I picked it up on a recent trip to York. It is a book I have kept meaning to read, but never quite got around to. Although quite dated now, it was first published over 40 years ago, it may well prove the catalyst for yet more diversions into the early medieval period.
The photo this week is from a game played some years ago now. It was based on the Battle of Copenhagen, 1659 when the Swedes attacked the Danes across their frozen water defences. It had some curious little episodes, infantry assualts on ships and a petard party trying to breach the landward defences.