Monday, February 26, 2018

Duel Of The Princes: San Daniele Scenario 1809

A couple of us decided to play the San Daniele scenario from the Italian theater of the 1809 campaign. Michael Hopper having done the research and the other player providing all the figures and terrain, all I had to do was show up and roll some dice. Having a day where I was consistently rolling low, I got the Austrian command and was charged with defending in a rearguard scenario. The baggage wagons were victory points if the French could manage to capture them and we had to protect our line of retreat. Fairly straight forward.

It had been a couple of years or so since I had played Shako II but my opponent was in the same boat. We managed to get through it and for the first few turns my Austrians had to remain on a defend order. The French appeared on the board over a few turns and fanned out to engage the entire Austrian line. The Austrian left flank appeared to be their primary interest and so the first real clashes came from there, following to the center.

The French were taking some time to cover the distance. It can be seen here some French cavalry are along the flank and were to be a major nuisance in the game. After finally reaching contact with some Ausrian hussars, the first clash went to the Austrians. The French cavalry then permitted the infantry to press home the attack. The 5th Austrian hussars managed to break two French battalions who were unprepared and not in square. The Austrian cavalry's victories were short lived as the numbers of the French overwhelmed the useless Austrian artillery and made short work of the infantry attempting to back it up. The command managed to break after being demoralized for a couple of turns.

An early picture in the game around turn 3 or 4. The advance took a bit of time and we probably could have started the French a bit closer without fear or messing with the scenario too much. The time limit was 14 turns, but rolling from turn 11 and beyond to see if it ended earlier. Rolling as I did, the "1" did end the game on turn 11.

The Austrian right didn't see much action until the final turns of the game. Although the right held, the center near the villages did manage to get broken up. The Austrian defense of the villages (which were not objectives for either side) did manage to inflict a lot of damage upon the French and keep them tied up. The French managed to take most of the village sectors but very much weakened for the effort.

Rolling the 1 effectively gave me a victory sort of by default. We agreed to push and see how playing all 14 turns would be. Although the French managed to inflict further damage, they did not manage to take all the wagons or break the Austrians in entirety. It was a fun scenario that didn't follow the historical outcome but showed another possible result. I would have liked to have taken more and better pictures but all I had with me was my phone. We plan to replay the same scenario in May and maybe some additional pictures will get posted along with a possible different outcome.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: The Fox Of The North

To start 2018, I thought a book review might be in order. A biography of General Mikhail Illarionovich Kutusov caught my eye last year when I was looking for some possible information on the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812. Although my expectations for such information were low, the book could not disappoint. Roger Parkinson managed to acquire enough information to give some brief information on that subject to at least present it in a way that it was not just a passing reference or foot note. The information I was looking for didn't really present itself but other details of the life of this often forgotten army commander were presented.

The book's 236 pages covers his life from a privileged birth status, apprenticeship and tutelage under Suvorov to his struggles as commander of the Russian army during the grim 1812 campaign. His health failed him as old head wounds, failing eye sight, head aches and continual weight gain prevented him from being the sort of confident commander that one might expect from his position. Of enemies, he could count nearly everyone. Of friends, he seemingly could not find any. In many ways, his style of command mirrors that of Wellington in that he wished to spare his men's lives, distrusted subordinates and was more than willing to let an enemy wear itself down with partisan attacks and inclement weather.

His early life and the introduction of his father and the references to Catherine The Great were a little dull. It isn't until the author moves into the assassination plot on the Mad Czar Paul that the story picks up. The near insane Czar Paul and Kutusov did correspond and managed to get along with each other. Admittedly, it seems to me that Kutusov was more of an unwilling audience than a friend. Although Alexander was involved in the plot to kill his father, his paranoia and worry of Kutusov was more interesting to me.

I went into reading this biography largely ignorant of the details of the subject at hand. Since I didn't have a bias going into the book, it was easy to follow along with the persuasive writing technique that I picked up on from the author. It's clear the author felt that Kutusov was a victim and was a gifted commander that bested Napoleon but the world just wasn't aware of it and he wished to pen that narrative. At first, I could go along with some of this as indeed, Kutusov does appear to be unnecessarily suspected of intrigue and possibly even a hidden Bonapartist. As I read on, nothing further from the truth could be the actual case. Kutusov lacked personal friendships to attempt a coup of any kind and his behavior in the 1812 campaign shows a deal of fear and respect for the Grande Armee and Napoleon that should not be misinterpreted as concern for his enemy's well being.

His role in the ill-fated 1805 campaign was fleshed out by the author with some details about his command being mostly in name only. Alexander not wishing to share the glory and being entirely ignorant of tactical sense, held most of the control. Kutusov seems to have been resigned to being a set character and handling more of the administrative matters. His reluctance to advance rapidly with his army and protect Vienna earlier in the campaign foreshadows his future behavior in defending his own homeland. Just as he would fail to defend Vienna, Moscow too would be handed over without a real fight.

General Benningsen, the Hanoverian foreigner in Russian Service, Wittgenstein or the British military attache Sir Robert Wilson, who was his biggest enemy? They all despised Kutusov for his irresolute behavior in going after the Grande Armee. From the time he is in command up until the departure of the Grande Armee, he avoided battle far too often for everyone's liking. Alexander appears to have only retained his services out of popular concerns among the army and upper classes who felt Kutusov was the man for the job.

The battle of Borodino almost didn't happen. Kutusov did wish to prevent the capture of Moscow and the humiliation it would bring, but lacked the resolve to do that on his own. Without strongly worded letters from Alexander it is quite likely he would have danced and maneuvered his army out of the way and the French would have been permitted a swifter entry. The lost battle of Maloyaroslavets was again another failure to monitor the enemy's position and intentions. The constant retreating without major resistance destroyed his reputation among his peers. It wasn't enough to cost him his command, but neither does it place him among the greatest generals of his time.

I found myself feeling some sort of liking Kutusov to eventual pity and then loathing. Although the author Roger Parkinson would try to lead his readers into thinking Kutusov was playing some sort of 4D chess with the mind of a grandmaster, the results of Kutusov's fear of Napoleon/Grande Armee are inescapable. In constantly avoiding direct battle and not pressing outflanking maneuvers, the Grande Armee and Napoleon managed to escape from Russia. Kutusov's claims of wanting partisan attacks and weather conditions to do their work only holds credibility up until Berezina crossing. Placing his army along the line of retreat for cutting the Grande Armee off from home is more wishful thinking. Kutusov and the author seem to believe this but Kutusov's actions show he wasn't firmly committed to executing this strategy.

His dispatching Platov's cossack horde and Admiral Chichagov's force to attempt to check the Grande Armee's retreat was another half-hearted decision. Citing the preservation of the Russian army and wishing other external forces to wear the Grande Armee down, a major opportunity was lost. Such an important death blow should have been carried with far more strength and oversight. Hiding with the main army far away, Kutusov failed to act with any vigor. His critics were certain not to let this go unnoticed and let Alexander know of his major blunder.

His performance in 1813 shows more ability in army administration rather than an aggressive commander who could or rather, would follow up upon a victory. His command ability were responsible for winning the war against the Ottoman Empire but his reluctance or fear to engage the Grande Armee managed to make the war more costly than it had to be. The Russian praise heaped upon him doesn't appear to be just when his actions are under examination.

The books lacks the romance and dialogue of a Bernard Cornwell novel, but the odd details made it an interesting read. The intrigue and erratic behavior of so many of the major players is strikingly similar to that of the Spanish leaders in the other corner of Europe. If you enjoy slow reads and can follow narratives similar to a Charles Oman book, then this is a book you will want to read.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Whores And Saints: The Village People

Some of my favorite figures to paint are the less important types. Civilians, animals and wagons can add flavor to the game table. If you're willing to use your imagination a bit, worked into your scenarios in some way. If you're doing a game for a convention then you've probably considered specially made terrain to be noticed for some award or attracting players. As seen elsewhere on my blog, I have the villages just not much in the way of inhabitants.

Battle Front has a set of villagers that have caught my eye. Though they are of a more recent vintage than the Napoleonic wars, they are the closest figures I can find.

The nuns were an interesting figure choice for the set and suitable. Unfortunately the Battle Front package had some duplicates that probably could have at least had some different poses. The little vignettes add character to a game table.

The one figure in this set that was completely wrong and stood out was the policeman waving his finger. For the 20th century, it would be well suited but not early 19th century. So I thought maybe it could be converted but then realized it was not possible. So I clipped him from his little stand and in his place, glued a spare Napoleonic figure in his place. I had two of these guard chasseurs holding a bicorn and wearing a colpack. This Old Glory figure was from the set with Napoleon and his headquarters set. So I chopped his head off and then replaced it with that of a useless Marshal Brune figure that had a bare head. Now the figure appears to be a high ranking cavalry officer looking for female companionship.

My monastery lacked monks for a long time and so I purchased the praying monks figures made by Essex. There were 6 figures with there being three sets of duplicates. I used 5 of the figures here and did them in the traditional dull brown robes.

Not a lot of use for such figures but they were a great break from all the serious painting I've done throughout the year.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review: Eagles Over Bavaria & Duel Of The Princes

A while back I announced the upcoming release of two new scenario books from the talented historical researcher Michael Hopper. Having played many scenarios that he has written, I knew these books would be accurate and detailed to the level any fan would demand. Having now purchased and reviewed them, I can say they do not disappoint.

The old saying of not judging a book by its cover may be true, but in this situation the cover artwork is beautiful. Keith Rocco's works were used and offer a unique and meaningful presentation for these book covers. Classic paintings could have been used and might have well sufficed, but Michael Hopper chose to not cut any corners in this area. The glossy and eye catching cover was a great choice.

The beginning of the scenario book has some map keys and unit totals for the historical scenarios. These battles are quite manageable for 2-4 players with average sized collections. Larger battles like Eggmuhl, has a northern and southern scenario for fighting a portion of the battle. Abensburg has northern, center and southern scenarios for those portions of the battle. For rule sets like Lasalle where the general idea is that you're fighting a portion of a larger battle, this fits nicely. For Shako players, playing a large battle may be possible but be limited not by the rules, but by the game space available or number of players.

Of the two, Eagles Over Bavaria was the book I was looking forward to more so. Since I have a good number of Bavarian troops that sort of sit around in reserve status, it is nice to have some scenarios for me to structure an Austrian army around. Altdorf is one of those smaller battles that would be easier for player to recreate and offer some challenges for maneuvering. This particular scenario is one that I will work to get Austrians to be able to refight.

Duel Of The Princes has the same easy to follow lay out and scenario details. One detail that players may pick up on that weren't always available with other scenario books is that details of unit strength and artillery battery compositions. A 6lb gun might be rated differently depending on which rule set you're using. Knowing if a French foot battery was composed of 6lb or 8lb guns might impact whether the guns are deemed light or medium. Those details matter and Michael Hopper delivers. The morale and training ratings are listed for units in the order of battle. Different rule sets approach this information with varying levels of consideration, but having it will let you decide how to apply it.

Many scenario books are written to promote a particular set of rules and players are forced comply or spend time translating information into a different set of rules. These scenario books are specific on details for the scenarios but open enough to be applied to the rules of your choice. These scenario books are being printed in a limited run and so if you want to obtain your copy, you can contact Michael Hopper at

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Massena At Wagram

A couple of summers back, while browsing for 15mm wagons and carts on eBay, I came across this set. The set appeared to have only two limber horses, the postillion and Massena with his arm in a sling. No coachman or other horses? I knew of the set's mythical existence and had inquired some time ago and discovered that the mould had been damaged beyond repair during the transition from one owner to another. These little vignette pieces are genuine treasures and I had only ever seen one other in existence.

It isn't as if the Danube Campaign is of any great interest of mine, it is just the collector side of me wanting to add it to my collection. After all, I've got pontoon wagons, wagons full of fodder and lumber, why not a nice carriage model? On the Blog of Phil from Association - Les Riflemen, an Essex brand carriage can be seen. It is nice, impractical - but nice. And impractical is why this has sat unpainted in a box for a couple of years.

Well impractical and what color is it supposed to be? There aren't many sources available and the images agree on basic design but not on color. Either something close to white or possibly black. An image search for this type of caleche carriage appears more often black than white, but these are modern images. Had it been some unusual color, it would seem someone would have noted this. So this leaves me with either a white or black decision.

I decided to order other figures to complete the set as to how it historically appeared. There is no way for me to know if the original Old Glory model had four horses and a coachman, but the real carriage did. There isn't a great deal of information written about Massena's carriage, but from what there is I will have to make do. My quest for a proper coachman lead me to consider either ordering some other carriage model and rob the figure from that set or convert something. Alternative Armies makes a 15mm range known as Brickdust. Oddly enough, they happen to have a package of 8 identical seated wagon drivers/coachmen. Who knows what the motivation was for such a casting by itself, but it fills a need. Did Massena's coachman wear a bicorn or a type of top hat? Again, no information available. Since he is a civilian, I'll settle for the top hat.

From the Napoleon Series:

There is anyhow fairly certain that the decisions were taken within the innermost circle (i.e. circle, a strict figurative meaning for party, group) of the subordinates, consequentially from the entourage militaire (i.e. accompanying military suite) of his Staff. The prevailing solution in place of consultation – both medical, and military – was therefore not to leave the line of duty, but to remain as an exampled devotion in the operative theatre, making himself available, utilizing different means of transport.

This sound decision excluded for Masséna the free mobility of walking on foot, as well as horseback-riding; it consequently led to an expedient way out of this situation – certainly significant, and quickly pondering the necessary and demanding military tasks. To take over all the adversities and Masséna’s psychological state of passivity, the selected vehicle of locomotion was a wooden carriage.[6]

"In the first instance artillery horses were to be harnessed to the carriage it was found that they were too long for the pole and not easy enough in their action, so four horses from the marshal’s stable were substituted.

Two soldiers from the transport were to drive, and they were just getting into the saddle on the evening of July 4, when the marshal’s own coachman and postilion declared that as he was using his own horses it was their business to drive. No representation of the danger into which they were running could deter them from their purpose; the coachman got on the box and the postilion mounted just as if they were going for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne".

The last issue was the horse team. I have the two standard limber horses, which I know was the original idea to pull the carriage but were swapped out for four white horses from Massena's stable. I have additional limber horses to spare, but they're not entirely correct as these animals were said to have been too long for the pole/shaft and thus why they were swapped out. Why cut a corner now? No one would likely know, but it shouldn't be hard to find suitable horses without the army harnesses and that are a little smaller. Blue Moon Manufacturing produces a package of wagon horses which are better suited than any other brand I could find. So size and harnessing appears to be a perfect fit for what I'm looking for.

The Napoleon Series also provided some details that I've considered:
Under this precise definition of wheeled transport the reader would be prone to understand that a carrosse (horse-drawn vehicle), a calèche (calash), but not a berline. The correct interpretation leads more properly to the calèche.

On this theme, Paulin, one French officer of the génie and aide-de-camp to Général Henri-Gatien comte Bertrand, presents exhaustive elucidations.

"A midi, rien ne paraissait se décider encore; de grands mouvements s’ opéraient de part et d’ autre. On voyait le maréchal Masséna, rappelant […] Maurice de Saxe à Fontenoy, parcourir les rangs de ses divisions et leur imprimer sa bouillante ardeur, porté dans une calèche que ses chevaux conduisaient partout où le danger réclamait la présence d’un chef".

Trslt.: Wagram - "At midday, nothing seemed yet to be decided; some great movements were carried out from one side and the other. One could see the Marshal Masséna, recalling […] Maurice de Saxe at Fontenoy, traversing the ranks of his divisions and leaving to them the imprint of his hot ardour, brought by a calash that his horses led everywhere where the danger asked for the presence of a leader".

My photography skills may be lacking, but hopefully it is clear enough. I went ahead and tried to imitate the painting with the dry summer grass and white carriage.

As mentioned above, there is little information in the way of dress for the postillon or coachman in Massena's service. For the postillion, I copied the appearance of the one in Napoleon's service. That may have been a bit presumptuous, but it is highly likely since the uniform is identical then the coloring of the uniform would be. The sculptor likely took some artistic license in the production of the piece also due to a lack of concrete information.

The painting earlier in this post showed some sort of coat of arms or seal upon the door to the carriage. Although I can imagine that is possible, I have no way to know if the painting is any more accurate than the sculpt. The image isn't clear enough to even discern what it is, let alone to recreate some approximation of the image. The sculpt did have what I first took to be a moulding line going down each side of the carriage.

Upon closer inspection, this appears to have a contour with the top and bottom shape of the carriage. Not knowing what to do with it and so badly wanting to add some dash of color or detail to an otherwise bland model, I painted a gold stripe atop this line. Such scrolling lines is not uncommon but it does make me wonder all the more just what image did the sculptor use for this piece?

Although I wish there were more detail and complexity to reflect a higher level of painting skill, this is the end result. Who knows if the coachman had red striped trousers and a beard or not, but mine does. The figure fits perfectly on the seat with his feet naturally being curved and positioned without any modification. I had the thought of making the seats in the coach a deep red to add color and contrast, but settled on a leather brown. Did Massena requisition this carriage or did it belong to him? In the end, there are more questions than answers, but at least it is finished.

Monday, October 2, 2017

AB Portuguese Line Infantry

The final battalion of Colonel Champalimaud's Third Brigade in Picton's 3rd Division.

Much simpler to paint up than British line. The first two battalions had flags from Cotton Jim's and I had always meant to upgrade to something nicer when the opportunity presented itself. The flags of Fighting 15's are to the correct scale and quality for the figures being used.

This will bring my Portuguese up to six line battalions and two cacadore battalions.

Happy to to be done with this division and am already in the progress of finishing up another division of British.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Bridge AAR

A battle that turned out to be smaller than I had originally expected. Everyone appeared to be busy this weekend and so a 1-on-1 game is what we settled on playing. So that the game would not drag on relentlessly and appear aimless, I setup the scenario for 10 turns each and to have control over the bridge as the objective for winning. Each side had pretty similar forces but some slight differences in artillery and cavalry. I hadn't finished my 3rd battalion of AB Portuguese, so my Old Glory units filled in the Portuguese brigade for the British 3rd Division.

Both sides cautiously move forward through the center. The natural tendency is to cling to the villages either side of the stream. Although the stream is fordable, it does restrict movement. The bridge is a natural bottleneck and no one really wants to be stuck crossing it in an unfortunate formation such as a column. In my mind, it makes a good objective because you cannot take it and hide within its confines the way you would a village, forest or on top of a hill.

The French (my side) right wing. Both sides had smartly placed their cavalry on the plains where they could maximize their movement advantage. The British light cavalry brigade can be seen at the top moving up to meet the French advance.

The Portuguese move up to secure their side of the stream. The British chose to place the artillery in the center to secure the objective through firepower. I placed my battery beside the village to help sweep the open area. Although I only had a single horse artillery battery, it did prove to be more useful as this position permitted me to get into action sooner than the British battery, which never managed to open fire.

As I tried to close in around the bridge, the British infantry took a deeper interest in my advance in the center and moved to apply pressure on my flank. This ultimately lead me to divert a few battalions to square off against them.

The French dragoons had charged in with the best of intentions but were pushed back. Although the dragoons had a slight numerical advantage, I was unable to really make great use of that due to available space. I did manage to go after the slightly easier target first, being the British light dragoons and saving the British hussars when I could gain an advantage over them.

The horse artillery didn't manage to soften the British line up much here and so the French line infantry are going to have to try and rely on some brute force to break it up. I had to be careful in advancing with the infantry as I was fully expecting the British cavalry to come charging out and force my troops to form square. They showed some uncharacteristic restraint in not charging the infantry, probably more concerned with the French dragoons.

The Anglo-Portuguese have managed to form around the bridge in a position that would permit them to have a crossfire with any of my French troops that look to seize the objective. A solid move.

I had to form into line to counter the firepower that the British troops here were able to deliver. In forming into line, my movement slowed down and when combined with the terrain, bogged my advance down. One battalion tried to advance in column and batter its way across, but the Portuguese didn't give way. It would take repeated attempts to make a crossing.

Part of 2eme Legere, having made its way through the olive rows, attempted to push the British position back. After a couple of exchanges of fire, the British infantry fired upon the French closing up. The left battalion has taken some serious disruptions that will handicap it in the upcoming melee.

A grand charge of the entire right wing. The French dragoons, having obtained a clear numerical advantage by breaking one of the British light dragoon regiments, now decide to proceed all out and perform a combined charge with the infantry. There isn't a qualitative advantage but there is a numerical advantage that the French have in their favor.

From another angle, part of the French dragoon brigade remains in reserve. The combat results turn out to be the loss of the British hussars and the 94th Foot breaks. The light dragoons would be in a horrible and isolated position were it not for the end of the scenario.

The 2nd Battalion of the 2eme Legere broke as the French charge here failed quite miserably. While the French manage to inflict slightly more casualties than they took and obtain a contested foothold on the other side of the stream, it wasn't convincing to declare a victory by the time constraints. The attack column failed to live up to its reputation and the Anglo-Portuguese infantry managed to stay solid and deliver enough fire power to weaken the French attacks. The British leftwing/French rightwing was more in the French's favor, but was not enough to decide the game. More damage would have been required to achieve victory through breaking the enemy force.

The end result was a draw.