Monday, 24 April 2017

Salute 2017

Last year, my post on my first trip to Salute ended by saying that, enjoyable as it was, it was unlikely I would attend the show for a few years.  Well, due to Mr Branson's munificence Steve and I ventured south once again.  (with the travel costs being less than half what they had been in 2016, it would have been churlish not to take advantage!).

Once again the journey was swift and uneventful and by 9.30 we were helping set up the Lance and Longbow stand.  There was time during the day to wander around and make those planned (and unplanned) purchases.  My impression was that in spite of the number of visitors there was plenty of space to view the games, a high percentage of which were participation games.  This has to be a good thing.  Not only to attract new 'blood' into the hobby, but also allow established gamers to try out a rule set/period, before splashing out on rules and figures.  Some of the trade stands were attracting considerable interest, with people queueing to  make purchases, so hopefully it was a worthwhile trip for the traders.

Overall, I think the Sci Fi/Fantasy quota was down on last year, nor were there any of the large 'diorama/display' type games which attracted so much attention.  Given the size of the venue if someone (club or group of individuals) can stage such a spectacle I am sure it would be a good 'draw'.

Here are some photos of the show, other blogs will already have posted their far more numerous offerings, but I hope this selection will give a flavour of the event.

Wyre Forest Wargames Club's 'Kalisz 1706'.  The quality and detail of the painting of these 6mm figures was inspiring.

Raphia 217BC by Simon Miller and the Wargames Holiday Centre.  The blocks of pikemen were very impressive.

One of several games based on the Russian Civil War, this one was 'Carry on up the Volga' by the League of Gentlemen Anti-Alchemists.

This ECW game attracted quite a bit of attention and used the 'Pike and Shotte' rules.

Essex Warriors put on this very impressive SYW game, the Battle of Prague.  I would have liked to get back to this later in the day to see how the battle developed.

This 15mm Napoleonic 'Dresden' caught the eye, and one in 25mm by the Old Guard.

An often overlooked campaign, the Italian Front in WW1 by the Scarab Pals.

The modelling on this Samurai game by Oshiro Modelterrain was excellent.  Although not games, I felt I had to take photos of these terrain features created by 4ground.

Certainly gave me a few ideas of what to aim for when building some defensive features for my Muscovites.  This frozen landscape was also impressive

Also very impressive was the terrain for the 'Freebooters Fate' game

I had originally planned to restrict my purchases to sufficient figures to make up a unit of dismounted dragoons to supplement my French Grand Alliance forces.  However, in my wanderings I found the 'By Sword and Flame' stand.  Although I have 25mm armies for that period, the rule book and its supplements do provide loads of information on organisation etc and so I also left London clutching the revised rule book.  A pricey purchase but one which I anticipate will help me get historically accurate forces together for my Eastern Renaissance games

The big plus of a show like Salute is the opportunity to meet up with friends/acquaintances who you rarely get the chance to meet in person.  Neil, Rollo and Barry worked with Steve and I on the society stand and Bill, Jim and Ben did a great job with their participation game, with a good number of youngsters trying out their modified 'Lion Rampant' rules.

Some things don't change, the light levels, the noise and the hard floor (none of which the organisers can be held responsible for), but Salute is an excellent show, giving a gamer a chance to see the widest range of wargaming 'stuff' in the flesh rather than online.  

Friday, 14 April 2017

Medellin, 1809 : a Shako scenario

This week's battle came from  "Fields of Glory; Napoleonic scenarios for Shako rules"  book by Chris Leach and Arty Cunliffe.  The Spanish army commanded by Cuesta is growing in strength and King Joseph has ordered Marshal Victor to attack immediately to eliminate this threat.  Victor had argued that he required more troops, but was over-ruled.  Cuesta has helped him out by abandoning a strong defensive position and attacked the outnumbered French army.  Victor cannot afford to suffer heavy casualties and would prefer to avoid committing Ruffin's division (even though it represents 25% of his force).

When the two armies deployed, the Spanish (actually Russians as I do not have any Spanish troops) overlapped the French line due to their infantry being deployed in two long, mutually supporting lines.  The cavalry were held in reserve; they like half of the infantry were second rate formations, which, if 'staggered' would be difficult to rally.  A roll of the dice allocated command of the Spanish (Russians) to Steve, whilst I commanded the French.  Overall the Spanish (Russians) had 26 battalions, 3 units of cavalry and 3 guns, organised into 5 divisions.  The French had 20 battalions
(only 14 on the table at the beginning),  4 units of cavalry and 4 guns (one of which was with Ruffin) in 4 divisions

My plan, such as it was, was to 'soften up' the Spanish line with my artillery, then breakthrough with the cavalry and follow up with an infantry advance.  Steve opted, as had Cuesta, for a steady advance, maintaining the line of infantry.  He intended when in range to overwhelm the French line with musketry.  The old adage "no plan survives first contact with the enemy" held true yet again.  With their first shots the Russian artillery found the range, inflicting kills and 'staggers' on three of my infantry units.  In reply the French artillery achieved nothing!

The Russian line stretching away into the distance
The Russian advance continued with their artillery consistently out-shooting the French.  One saving grace was that after three or four moves they masked their guns, forcing them to limber up and move forward.  This should have been the point at which I summoned up my reserve, Ruffin's division.  However, I still believed I could hold my ground and if I committed the reserve the best I could hope for would be a' limited victory'   In retrospect this was the crucial error, that couple of moves was my last chance to achieve ANY sort of victory as events would prove.

Revest's Division
On my right Revest's division was holding a low hill, behind which sheltered two units of dragoons. The horse gun attached to the division had successfully canistered the 1st battalion of the Kexholm regiment (part of Kemnsky's division) and Revest judged the time right to attack.  The 16th dragoons moved forward and then charged towards the Kexholm battalion which, supported on its flanks remained in line.  As the French dragoons closed they were swept by volleys which emptied many saddles.  The cohesion of the charge was broken and the cavalry were unable to break through and had to fall back to reform.  In support were the 7th dragoons who overwhelmed a unit of skirmishers and attacked Kamensky's cavalry, the Siberian Uhlans.  These were driven from the field, but no exploitation was possible as the dragoons were faced by solid squares of infantry.

On the opposite flank Mouton's division was faced by Gladkov's division.  Mouton had two units of light cavalry and anticipated that he could drive off the Mounted Eger supporting Gladkov.  However, the Russian cavalry, although 'second rate' totally destroyed the 4th Chasseurs and  Mouton had to commit the 2nd Hussars to push back the Russian cavalry.

The 16th Dragoons are driven off

In the centre, Dupas' division was taking on the divisions of Ulanius and Neverovsky.  The front lines exchanged volleys, with the advantage going to the Russians.  Slowly they began to gain the upper hand and then their artillery, which had moved forward joined in.  Great holes were torn in the ranks of the front line and the divisional morale began to waver.  By now, both Revest and Moutin were in serious trouble.  Their losses were approaching 50% and disaster beckoned.

Dupas comes under increasing pressure
Only now did I call up Ruffin, but it was too late.  Mouton failed his divisional morale test and retreated, Revest had his last two infantry battalions overwhelmed and a 'death ride' by the dragoons resulted in the 7th breaking the line but the 16th being torn to shreds by musketry.  Revest's command was broken.  Dupas had also lost over 30% of his effectives and a failed morale test meant that he too had to fall back.  All that Ruffin could do was to cover the retreat of what remained of the army.

The scenario notes stated that this was a hard scenario for the Spanish to win.  Our battle seemed to contradict this.  One major French difficulty concerned the initiative.  The rules give the initiative to the army with the highest proportion of divisions on attack orders.   This meant that the 5 Spanish divisions could be the first to move and the last to move; allowing them to respond to any French attacks.  Our local rule has a die roll to determine the initiative, but even so the Russians could always react to any French attacks.  A solution may be to adopt the Konig Krieg method of dicing for initiative after each division moves.  That being said I was not helped by my delay in calling on the reserves, nor failing each divisional morale test I took.

To close I must thank those who have taken the time to post the generous comments  on my last two reports, they are most appreciated by myself and Steve.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Affair at Wadi Yahmeen: a Sudan scenario

This week we were bank in the desert.  Steve had devised a scenario where the Egyptian troops are trying to disperse the Mahdist forces assembling at the remote desert oasis of Wadi Yahmeen. Reports suggest that the Mahdi himself may be there.  If so, capturing him would be a tremendous coup.  The Egyptian forces consisted of two brigades of infantry, each of three battalions, one brigade has a field gun, one a machine gun.  They are accompanied by a mounted brigade of one cavalry regiment and one regiment of mounted infantry.  The orders are:  capture the oasis, drive off any Mahdist forces and if possible capture the Mahdi.

The Egyptian infantry advance
Naturally, the Egyptians have no idea how many enemy units they are facing, or where they may be, so, under my command their advance was rather tentative.  I had decided to send the mounted brigade to the east of the oasis to scout for enemy units whilst the infantry would approach the  northern side.  As the leading unit of Sudanese infantry crested the final ridge overlooking the oasis they came under fire from a gun sited at the wall of the village.  The fire was very accurate, and stopped the unit in its tracks.  As they reformed into line they were hit again and refused to advance.  Whilst the officers struggling to regain control, their job was made more difficult as the Dervish riflemen opened up a steady fire from the village.

The Dervish defenders of Wadi Yahmeen
The cavalry had made good progress and soon spotted the dervish cavalry which had been placed behind the village.  Whilst the mounted infantry dismounted and formed a firing line behind which the cavalry could rally if required, the cavalry charged the nearest enemy unit.  After a fierce fight the Egyptians prevailed, though they had been reduced in numbers.  As they reformed they were charged by the second Dervish cavalry unit.  The Egyptian cavalry fought bravely, but the more numerous Dervish cavalry prevailed in the end, though at considerable cost.

The first cavalry melee
Meanwhile, other infantry units had come to the aid of the Sudanese.  The fire of the riflemen in the village had slackened as two Egyptian infantry units opened fire on them.  To increase the pressure, I rather foolishly sent a unit in column on a flanking march to add yet more fire and threaten to attack the western side of the village.  Naturally they marched straight towards the one Dervish unit positioned outside the village, hidden in some rough ground.  As the Dervish infantry appeared as if by magic and charged towards them, the Egyptians had just enough time to form line and fire a rather feeble volley before the Dervish mass hit them.  Amazingly they held the first rush, but then a second Dervish unit came out of the village, formed up and charged into their flank.  The Egyptians had almost destroyed their initial attackers, but this second attack proved too much and they were cut to ribbons.

The surprise attack

The end of the 'flank march'
The other brigade was also coming under severe pressure.  The Dervish riflemen in the village, who had fired off all their ammunition, formed up and charged.  Even though the field gun added a close range 'rapid fire' salvo to the volley from the Egyptian infantry, the Dervish line swept on, seemingly unaffected.  The Egyptian infantry had also tried a 'rapid fire' volley but as a result had run out of ammunition.  This counted against them in the melee and their losses were heavy.  The survivors battled on and managed to drive off the attack, but at heavy cost.   As the officers reformed the thinned ranks and sent runners for more ammunition from the brigade supply mules they were dismayed to see yet another Dervish unit heading towards them.  Again the supporting artillery fire proved ineffective and to add to the brigade commander's woes, the gun also ran low on ammunition. Unable to fire a volley the Egyptians awaited the attack with a bristling line of bayonets, determined to sell their lives dearly.

The dismounted infantry drive off the second Dervish cavalry unit
Over in the east, the dismounted infantry awaited the onslaught of the Dervish cavalry.  Their disciplined volley thinned the ranks of their attackers, but could not stop them and a tough fight ensued.  Eventually, the Egyptians prevailed, but their ranks were dangerously thin.  Led by the Dervish cavalry commander,  the final Dervish cavalry unit swept towards them.  Again the volley failed to stop the attack, but it did account for the Dervish cavalry commander.  After the initial clash the melee reduced to individual combats where the greater numbers of the cavalry gained the advantage.  Eventually, the final knot of Egyptian infantry was overwhelmed and the Dervish cavalry prevailed.  As they prepared to advance they came under fire from the reserve battalion of infantry of the second brigade.  Although at long range this was sufficient, given the death of their leader, to persuade the remaining cavalry to withdraw and eliminate the threat to the Egyptian flank.

The machine gun jams
The first brigades problems were multiplying.  The Sudanese were still suffering from the fire of the Dervish gun and with casualties now at over 75% the remaining men turned and ran.  The one remaining battalion fell back towards the 2nd brigade, which left the machine gun to face the attacking Dervishes on its own.  As the enemy massed, preparing to attack, the machine gun inflicted heavy casualties.  When the charge started a final close range fire was ordered, but after a few rounds the gun jammed.  Before the crew could get away they were overwhelmed by a wave of Dervishes.  Carrying on their charge the Dervish infantry swept towards the remaining Egyptian infantry.  The final battalion of the 1st Brigade fired volley after volley at them as they approached.  With a final effort, the Dervish flags were raised overhead and the remaining Dervish charged towards the Egyptian line.  None reached it.  The final 'rapid fire' volley reduced the attack to a bloody ruin with few survivors.

The Egyptians finally reach the outskirts of Wadi Yahmeen

As this attack was being dealt with the Dervish attack from the village struck home.  Casualties were heavy on both sides, with no quarter asked for nor given.  In the end it reduced to small groups of survivors, all weary and bloodstained, who, as if by mutual consent, agreed to fall back. A

An Egyptian attack was eventually launched against the village and managed to drive back the unit defending the northern wall.  However, before the Egyptians could advance, another Dervish unit came forward, with signs of another assembling further into the village.  With only half his infantry remaining, little ammunition and no cavalry, the Egyptian commander decided that honour had been satisfied.  When they viewed the extent of their losses, surely the remaining Dervish units would decide to drift home?

A most enjoyable game with action close throughout.  The Egyptians were plagued by 'low ammunitionitis' , perhaps they had not had time to check that all the ammunition boxes were full before they set off?