Monday, November 29, 2010

'Black Powder' First Play: Rearguard on the Minho

This past Sunday Dan, John and Sylvain came over to my place to try out a small Napoleonic scenario using my unblooded copy of the 'Black Powder' rules. The scenario I came up with is a fusion of a series of historical rearguard actions that the British conducted during their retreat to Corunna in January of 1809. During the retreat it was not uncommon for the British to attempt to forestall the French by fighting a delaying action at a river crossing, fall back and then demo the bridge. Accordingly, the scenario has a small British force trying to buy time for the engineers to rig the bridge to blow while a large force of French press on in an attempt to push the rearguard aside, force the bridge crossing before it is destroyed and carry on to threaten the main British force up the road.

In this action the British have two infantry battalions as their mainstay. One is the solid 28th which historically fought in many of these rearguard engagements. They are solid regulars. The other is a composite battalion made up of bits and scraps of several battalions that have largely disintegrated during the retreat. I classed them as 'Untested' which means that once they take their first casualty they test to see how they react for the rest of the battle. This can range from near-collapse to raising-up to fight like heroes. The British line infantry is also aided by two companies from the 95th Rifles. These specialized skirmishers can either fight on their own or be attached to any battalions to reinforce their own light companies. The British infantry is also supported by two sections (4 guns - basically a half battery) of Royal Horse Artillery, one section of 6-pound canons and the other of 5.5 inch howitzers.

The French vanguard has a full brigade of infantry composed of four line battalions (roughly 2400 men). One battalion is considered large in size and all are classed as Regulars. In addition the French force benefits from being supported by two squadrons of Dragoons (around 160 troopers). The French commander, a General of Division, knows that the Emperor wants the British 'brought to ground' so I've rated him as a bit of a fire-eater to help keep the French moving forward aggressively.

We rolled for sides with John taking the British while Sylvain and Dan having joint command of the French.

Though this scenario could easily be played on a 4x6, or smaller, we played down the length of a 5x8 table with the bridge about 2 feet away from one end. The British (John) set-up first with one battalion, the 28th, a bit forward of the bridge with a 6 pound section of guns from the Royal Horse Artillery in support. The 28th also benefited by having the both companies of 95th Rifles in skirmish order to their front. John chose to make the 95th as in integral part of the battalion so they would benefit from the rules of 'mixed order' but risk the same fate if things went bad. The RHA howitzer section was deployed behind the river on the British right flank. The remaining British composite battalion was also back behind the river, arrayed in line next to the bridge.

The 28th positioned in front of the bridge with the 95th Rifles acting as skirmish screen and a section of 6pdrs as artillery support.

The untried British composite battalion arrayed in line near the bridge awaiting orders. Note the local monks cajoling the heretics and helping the engineering party with the powder kegs. Better the devil you know...

The French deployed 12" in from the opposing narrow edge. They chose to place the majority of their battalions in attack columns so they would benefit in the better command roll modifier (the rationale being that the compressed nature of an attack column makes it easier to manage as opposed to the more fragile and disjointed battleline formation). I believe the Dragoons also started in column as well to facilitate greater mobility.

The base mechanics for Black Powder are reminiscent of Warmaster but perhaps a little more streamlined and sophisticated. Basically each unit only gets one chance with a command roll but if the roll is especially good (i.e. low) they can benefit with up to 3 actions (moving, formation change, charging). Alternatively if the roll is pooched then that unit does nothing and the commander is done for the turn. This mechanic makes the command phase entertaining as there is much arguing of who should 'lead off', general nail biting, groans and cheers. It also makes movement and charging interesting as a lucky unit can potentially take the bit by the teeth and streak across the table to engage the enemy while other poor souls can have an unlucky streak and flounder.

The French roll forward to attempt to push back the lead British battalion and gain access to the bridge.

The French moved first and decided to keep their formation as tight as possible for maximum impact. The British opened up with long range artillery fire causing a bit of disruption in the French ranks but nothing that a few bawling sergeants couldn't handle. The rifles tried a shot at the cavalry but were just short of their maximum range. The Dragoons arched their collective eyebrows at the rifles' longer range and knew they had to get these fellows sorted quickly.

In the next turn the French managed their initial moves but did not get the rolls to allow them to charge home. John 'held his bottle' a bit longer to give the approaching cavalry and march columns some more galling fire, all the while risking the coming charge. Next turn, the French used their initiative moves to declare a series of charges from both the infantry and cavalry. The fact that the cavalry were threatening caused the British battalion to automatically recall the Rifle skirmish screen and attempt to form square. The Brits made their roll and formed a solid square to repulse the cavalry. BUT the wily French, knowing the English were vulnerable in this compressed formation have also sent in their infantry to take advantage of the situation. The Brits gave a good account of themselves but were forced to fall back from the combined arms threat. But here was the rub: The bridge hampered their retrograde movement in square and with nowhere else to go the men panicked. The 28th's square broke and its men were swept aside by the French assault columns (the Rifles sharing their fate). The now isolated British horse artillery section fired canister at short range and scampered back to redeploy at the river's edge. The remaining British battalion gaped at the slaughter in front of it while its commander screamed ineffectively at his men to move to the bridge to thwart the French. The Brits needed to hold for three more turns to have the bridge ready to be blown.

The golden moment had arrived for the French. The screening British battalion had been shattered, its supporting artillery pushed aside and the bridge was wide open. To make matters worse for the British their isolated battery was assaulted on its flank and silenced by a French regiment using its own initiative. Dan duly picked up the dice to send in the first column across the bridge - and uttered something unmentionable as (of course) his roll failed. John breathed a sigh of relief as he knew he had just been given a new lease on life. (Note: Particularly astute BP players will notice that the entire British force should have been 'broken' at this point as half or more of it's numbers were now out-of-action. I pointedly ignored this as the scenario was so small and I wanted to have as long a game as possible. I also reasoned that both combatants knew that the 'stakes were high' and would have greater resiliency for this action. Besides, why let a petty truth get in the way of a good story!)

In his turn, John rolled for a 'follow me' order and moved his command stand to join the British battalion (they used three actions to change formation, move to the bridge and shake-out into line). The howitzer section had a perfect target with the French battalion that had just silenced their brother unit. They fired canister which caused the battalion to fall back in disorder, out of the action. Two turns left.

Dan rolled for the French Brigadier and he led the leading column across the bridge to assault the British on the other side. The Brits fired a closing volley and prepared for the assault. As the French were on a very narrow frontage in order to cross the bridge they could only bring a limited amount of men to the fight whereas the British were arrayed in full battle order. The result was that the French battalion was shattered on the British line. Nonetheless they did cause enough casualties for the British to have to test their mettle as they were a composite battalion. If John rolled poorly they could route leaving the bridge entirely undefended. John's luck held and so did the British. John then redeployed the howitzers to enable them to give enfilading fire on a French column marching to the bridge. In a spectacular roll the artillery tore the guts out of the French formation making it combat ineffective. The French were running out of troops and they had only one turn left before the British could see if they could demo the bridge.

The 1st Neuchatel assault the bridge while the British prepare to give close range volley fire.

Sylvain suggested trying to soften the British up with musketry but Dan was chomping at the bit wanting to force the issue with the bayonet (watching the two 'debating' was as entertaining as the game itself). Dan won out and another French battalion was sent in, but alas it too was sent back reeling from the steady British volley fire. In his turn, John had the British stay put, give harassing fire and basically waited for the turn to end. The engineers completed their preparations and John rolled to see if the bridge would go up. The roll was too high so he girded himself to hold for at least another turn to try again (at this point we speculated that during the assault some French rear-rank fusilier had dropped his trousers while on the bridge and put out the fuse).

Things were getting desperate for the French. Dan and Sylvain decided to move the commander to the two squadrons of Dragoons to entice them with medals and easy women and then led them in a pell mell charge across the bridge to see if the British would fail in forming square. They did not. The square was formed and the cavalry were compelled to recoil. John rolled the dice for the bridge and was relieved to see it finally blast apart ending the French pursuit for that day.

The French Dragoons try to force the issue with the British. Note the Engineer by the bridge lighting the fuse with his cheroot...

We had a load of fun with the game with the result going right down to the last turn. The rule's mechanics were very easy to pick-up with us basically using the single quick-reference playsheet after only a few turns. Later I noticed I made a few slips here and there but I attribute that to the natural learning curve on any new ruleset and it did nothing to hamper the enjoyment of the game. I think they would be great for a large group of players as the command rules are quite streamlined promoting quick resolution of turns. On our part I think I can safely say that we'll be giving them another try.

In a couple weeks we'll give "Republic to Empire" a run through using the same scenario. We'll let you know our thoughts.

Deadline met for Napoleonic British

"Waddya mean we have to paint more crap for this battle...?"

Two weeks ago we were visiting our good friends Amy and John Bertolini in Saskatoon and I invited John to come down to Regina to play a game of 28mm Napoleonics. On the drive back home I thought up a small scenario we could do, but to pull it off I needed to rebase and finish off my lone British battalion, complete another, do-up a couple artillery pieces with crews and come up with command stands for both sides. A tall order but I've always liked working with an objective in mind and I really wanted to try out the 'Black Powder' set of rules. I had most of the stuff on-hand from past purchases except for artillery which I quickly ordered from North Bay Hobbies. So brush in hand I dug-in for some marathon painting and here are the results.

I want to build Colbrne's ill-fated brigade of four battalions which was over-run by Polish lancers and French hussars at the battle of Albuera (almost a 70% casualty rate). This first unit is the 2nd battalion of the 31st (The Huntingdonshires) which was the only battalion of the brigade that managed to form square before the cavalry hit. Twenty four of the figures were previously painted and based but I added a colour party, a mounted officer and some additional casualty figures to flesh it out - so 12 points here.

The next battalion is the 2nd battalion of the 48th (The Northamptonshires). This unit was mauled by lancers, rallied and then endured a protracted firefight with a French brigade. It lost over 400 men during the action. All these boys are new additions - so 35 points all told.

Next are the artillery. Royal Horse Artillery from the Perry twins. One base is a crew running up its 5.5 inch howitzer and the other is a 6 pounder being fired. I dunno what you count for artillery pieces but there are 8 crewmen in total.

The French command stand depicts a Divisional general taking a report from a couple officers from his command. 6 points.

The British command stand is a Brigadier general chatting with an officer on foot. The mounted guy is from a month or so ago but the foot chappie is new.

The last unit I prepared was a French battalion in greatcoats. I did these up as 3rd battalion conscripts fresh from the depot. They are pretty grotty looking, with some veterans seeded in the ranks to chivy them along to the front. I got a chunk of these off an eBay purchase and so I rebased them, inked them, touched up their highlights, did a bit of weathering and then added a fresh mounted commander and two sergeants and ten rankers to bulk them out a bit more.

I've done some completely mental painting binges in the past but I think this one takes the brass ring. I think this batch adds around 76 points to my tally (plus whatever for the guns). I'm completely knackered and will probably take a few days off from the painting desk...

Oh, and incidentally we did have our game yesterday afternoon which was a blast! I will post an after action in the next few days.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bretonnian trebuchet

After some pressure from Dallas (smack talk actually), I finally finished my scratch built trebuchet for my Bretonnians. It's so damn big that one would assume it must be worth at least 200 points. Try 90!

FuturKom on the March!

If nothing else, the Painting Challenge has concentrated me on finishing stuff that has been hanging around unpainted seemingly forever.  Two great examples are in this post.

I picked up these models out of a bargain bin at Phoenix Games in Minneapolis, several years ago.  (Phoenix is now defunct and has been for some time if that gives any indication of how long they've been laying around).  I decided to paint them as "FuturKommandos" in advanced power armour suits, the pinnacle of technological advancement of the latest 50-Year Plan.  Five are armed with plasma rifles and one with a heavy plasma cannon.  For the tactical markings, I used some red star decals from Company "B" that were in my decal folder.

Behind the Kommandos stands another converted walker I have dubbed the "KomBot".  The base model is from WotC's Star Wars Miniatures game line (I have no idea what it's called) and I picked it up cheap a couple years ago at a local shop, thinking it might come in handy someday.  I reckoned that for about $3 it was a great deal.  Some GW weapons (and of course a standard-issue spotlight from Future Industrie GmbH), a Futur-green paintjob with chips and rust, and it is ready for battle, with the addition of decals from Company "B" and GW.

"Onward to the glorious future-socialist future -- FUTURKOM!!"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Glade Parade

"At the end of this parade of Elves,
our enemies will find no "HoHoHo"
but "Woe, Woe, Woe"".
(Queen Ariel improvising a joke at the
annual Glade Guards Review without
consulting her speech writer.)

So this is what I have so far. Initially, I've bought 3 battalion boxes. Later, I've bought a nicely painted army that included 60 Glade Guards, 12 Dryads, 10 Wardancers, 1 Treeman and 4 heroes. I've decided to repaint a few of the figurines I bought, to help create a cohesive look. Now the total is:
- 120 Glade Guards (1440 points)
- 48 Dryads (576 points)
- 10 Glade Riders (240 points)
- 10 Wild Riders (260 points)
- 10 War Dancers (180 points)
- 10 Waywatchers (240 points)
- 1 Treeman (285 points)
- 6 characters on foot
- 4 mounted characters
So the Wood Elf Army went from 0 to 219 figurines in about 3 months.

Now some people (nobody in particular in mind) may think that 120 archers might be too much. But consider this: statistically, it would take 162 shots to kill an average dragon with Toughness 6 and scaly skin 3+ at a range of 30 inches. Even with 120 archers, the Wood Elves can't kill a dragon in 1 turn!

Here is a close up on the special and rare units as well as on the characters. When painting the Waywatchers, I made their face green, as if they would have dyed their skin, and their weapons black, as if they were blackened by fire smoke to prevent the steel from shining. Oddly enough, they ended up looking like mini Doctor Dooms.
Because this is my first 28mm army, I was eager to see how chain painted figurines would look like. From left to right: a single figurine I painted 10 months ago, a figurine I bought painted, my first Glade Guard and my last Glade Guard. I'm happy with the progress I made painting faces. I still find highlighting clothes challenging. Oh well, I'll just keep on practicing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

FuturKom: Монстр

Of course, with Greg working on his TruKom rebels, the Spacekrieg escalation must continue.  With this in mind I set about painting a mechanized death machine to serve as an example of revolutionary engineering prowess and the inevitability of victory for the latest 50-Year Plan.  So what if a few million peasants starve in the process -- look at this frickin' cool giant robot we built!!

The base model is, of course, the Destroid "Monster" from Robotech - "the largest mech ever constructed by humanity" or something.  All I know is that it looks vaguely Russian and has some very big guns.

I was pretty lazy and just painted it straight up - no conversion.  Me, I'm not that familiar with the Robotech universe so it doesn't look odd to my eyes to see a Robotech vehicle in FuturKom livery.  

This shot gives a good impression of the large size of the Monster - it's big!  Look out Space Panthers!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Elysians - a bit of heavy boltin'

Although I am still in Sylvain's dust (and Dallas' for that matter - WTF?) I am continuing to plug away and I managed to finish more Elysian heavy weapon teams. This time, three two-many heavy bolter crews. I hope these will come in handy when confronting the horde-like Hive Fleet Nostromo among others.

One of the sets - pictured above - is a very cool "set-up-on-the-drop-cannister" vignette. Looking at it now, I think I could have done more with this one, adding some markings to the crate, so I may go back and do that, but for now, they are ready to let rip on the enemies of the Imperium.

To keep up the Rogue-Trader theme in the main command squad, I have also added an RT-era medic, and equipped him with spare arms from the other Elysian packs. The benefit of the medic is dubious - a "feel no pain" attribute is hardly terrifying when it comes to the meagre close action abilities of an Imperial Guard command team - but it just seems right to have one hanging around.

In terms of infantry, the Elysians are pretty close to completion....three full ten-man squads, one special weapon squad, two heavy weapon squads. I need to add a couple more figures to round out the command sections. I also have some snipers, and I think I want to get those done while the momentum is going - maybe I can get to those on the painting night this week!

But the hardest part is still to come - the Valks. Drop troops are lame without air support...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sylvain Gets His Century

Congratulations to Sylvain for being the first Conscript to reach 100 models painted in the Painting Challenge!  Your speed and diligence are an example to us all.  Well done!  Now when will you be bringing those Wood Elves out east for a game??

Friday, November 19, 2010

A few more Elysians

Wow - the progress in the painting challenge has been awesome. It's too bad Sylvain is putting all the effort into painting wood elves, but still - wow! Great job everyone.

My output has been limited lately as I have changed jobs and been pretty busy, but the NFL is still a reliable painting enabler and last weekend I finished a clutch of fresh Elysian infantry.

In my first game with the Elysian troops, I was stung by a lack of heavy firepower. Of course, the Valkyries and Vultures are supposed to do that, so I clearly need to get those painted. But I thought some missile launchers might not be a bad idea. Assembling these was a major pain, but I'm pleased with how they turned out.

I have also been working on the senior officer and command squad for these guys. Some time ago I re-purposed an old Rogue Trader captain, and I thought I would keep the theme up for the senior command group, so I used a Rogue Trader standard carrier for the regimental standard (which I hope Brian will develop....).

Thankfully the proportions of the old Rogue Trader models and current Forge World Elysian are not too far off!

Up next is a set of Elysian heavy bolter teams. And then, it's time for the Valkyries...some good NFL games this weekend, so hopefully I will have more to report (and more points for the challenge!) soon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

1st Ratzer Division

The other 5 points in the painting challenge came from finishing a vehicle conversion... in this case for my Warhammer Skaven army.

I had wanted to do a crazy fantasy tank for awhile and when I jumped in with the Skaven, it was a natural.  In the army list, this will stand in for a Doomwheel, the official model for which I never much cared for.  Much better to have an insane Warpstone-fuelled tank!!

The model itself is a 1/35 Soviet T-18 tank from the interwar period.  The kit is by "Eastern Express" and I do not recommend it at all, except for its cheap price.  Parts fit was poor at best, and the kit tracks were single-link nightmares which I tried to stick together but soon gave up.  (I ended up scratch-making track from foam sheet, of all things).  The boiler is from the plastic Empire Steam Tank and many of the Skaven bits come from the official Doomwheel kit.  The hatch is removable so I'm on the lookout for a suitable Warplock Engineer to cut up for a commander...

To finish first, first you must finish your Finnish

Regular blog readers will have noticed that my total for the painting challenge jumped by 37 points today... mainly because I finished the first tranche of my "Continuation War" 28mm Finns.
The models are from Baker Company out of the UK.  I got them second-hand on TMP, in a fine bit of impulse purchasing.  Anyway, the models shown are packs FA01 (Firefight), FA04 (SMG) and FA07 (LMG).  The sculpts really varied in quality.  Some poses were almost up to what I consider state-of-the-art (Bolt Action, Foundry, the best Black Tree) but several were pretty sub-par with squidgy detail and poor anatomy and faces.  The models almost looked like the work of two sculptors, to be honest.  In any event, I think they look OK painted and they will do for some Continuation War gaming against my Black Tree and Bolt Action Russians.  I received another lot of 24 models direct from Baker Company to finish the platoon - command, more rifles, and an AT section - so those will be up next for painting.

6mm British - Second Wave

I finally finished the second component of my modern British force. This group better represents the 70's and early 80'. It also includes some Puma helicopters for a group of Para's to deploy from. More importantly, it has air defence for both the 80's and 90's. That should come in handy for those Hind joy rides Greg seems to like so much. I'm probably overstating how heavy his use of air power is in 6mm games. It's more the fact that I had virtually zero air defence and thus all air attacks seemed to be multiplied by 10!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Battle of Raszyn, 1809

This past weekend I pulled out my 6mm stuff and we had a small game of Fast Play Grande Armee (FPGA). The scenario was based on the 1809 Battle of Raszyn which is somewhat unique as it is a Napoleonic battle where the French were not one of the main combatants. The background is that as part of the Austrian strategic plan for their 1809 campaign they wished to quickly knock the Poles out of the war so as to have greater freedom on their flanks for future operations against the French and their German allies. Historically the Poles were caught flat-footed, so I decided to have two players control them to reflect their more scattered command. Dan volunteered to run the Austrians and so Stacy and Sylvain had the honour of defending Poland from sausage-eating, lederhosen-wearing tyranny.

FPGA has a mechanism whereas each turn can last between 1 and 4 'pulses' (determined by a die roll) which makes time rather elastic and adds a bit of friction and nail-biting for the players. In this scenario the game length was set at 5 turns and the Poles definitely wanted the sun to go down as soon as possible so the full weight of the Austrian attack could not be brought to bear. As it turned out poor Dan had to watch as the first 3 turns melted away with only a pulse played for each. The Austrians were barely at their assault positions and the day was getting late! Feeling the pressure Dan threw a cavalry brigade over a ford on his right flank, hoping to occupy the opposite town and force a bridgehead before the Poles could move to block his efforts.

The Austrian hussars made good inroads initially, moving over the river to the opposite bank, but while they were waiting for infantry support the Poles quickly moved a cavalry brigade, supported by artillery, to throw them back.

It was then a race to see who would be able to get infantry into the town for control of this part of battlefield. The Austrians had a moment of hesitation (reflected in a bad control roll) and the Poles stole a march and made it into the town to set up a hasty but firm defense.

The remainder of the game was spent with the Austrians trying to force their way across the river at three crossing points but with no real success.

There were several cinematic moments in the game, one of which was when a Saxon Brigadier General commanding an elite grenadier brigade (allies of the Poles), safe in his town sector position across from the central bridge, got his blood up (i.e. Epic Fail on the control roll) and decided to launch an unsupported assault across the bridge to 'run those Austrian rascals off'. In our mind's eye we could see the Saxons going across the bridge in a route-step march column, with orders from their brigadier that they go in with muskets unloaded and only use the bayonet in the assault. Little did they know that there was a MONSTROUS Austrian brigade across from them with no such romantic notions who let them have it with point blank musket fire. Lets just say there were many grenadier bearskins floating down the river a few minutes later.

Nonetheless, this bright spot aside, the Austrians just could not shift the Poles in a meaningful way and the battle ended as a bloody but solid Polish victory. I had streamlined the skirmish rules a bit which seemed to work well but the artillery still needs to be made more lethal as they just don't have that 'killer-of-the-battlefield' feel. Next time!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Two New French Battalions

I've been beavering away at the painting desk since getting back from vacation and here are the completed results to date. The first unit is a oddball battalion from the Napoleonic French army. This is the Prince of Neufchatel's Battalion better know as 'The Canaries'.

In 1807, as a reward for his service to the Empire, Marshal Berthier was made Prince of Neuchatel (or Neufchatel), which is a small principality in what is now Switzerland. He mustered enough troops to create a battalion and had unique yellow uniforms tailored from his own designs. The 'Canaries' fought in 1809 at Wagram and were then transferred to Spain for anti-guerrilla duties. They were recalled in late 1812 as reinforcements for the Russian campaign but only made it to Smolensk where they met the retreating Grande Armee that was tumbling back from Moscow. The battalion suffered terribly during freezing rearguard actions and when it finally crossed the Berezina there was only one officer and seven men left of an original fighting strength of around 660. They were reconstituted in 1813 but after the Leipzig campaign it ceased to exist as a fighting force.

The next unit is the 1st battalion from the 2nd Regiment of Ligne. This regiment has the unique distinction of having served as ship-borne troops in the Battle of Trafalgar.

In 1809 they also fought against steep odds defending the village of Aspern at the two-day battle of Aspern-Essling, and were again heavily engaged during the Battle of Wagram less than two months later. They participated in all the major campaigns right up to Waterloo.

I really like having the plastic 'bitz' around from the Victrix and Perry boxes. I've been scattering my groundwork with battlefield detritus (broken muskets, abandoned packs, shakos, helmets, etc.) which helps bring the units more to life. Some of the stuff required a bit of trimming , shaving and drilling but I like the effect. In so far as the Fall Painting Challenge is concerned I'm not counting the first unit as I had just started them before I left in September so they fall outside of the Challenge parameters. Nonetheless, the second unit is for the books (32 foot and 1 mounted). Now, back to the table...