Sunday, 6 February 2022

Wrestle on the Weser

The Situation

It is the spring of 1813, and following his defeat at the Holzberg, Napoleon has withdrawn his army to recruit and reorganise behind the River Weser. To this end a rearguard under Marshal Ney has been ordered to destroy the last remaining bridge over the river. The work has barely commenced when the first enemy scouts begin to appear.

Ney: Courage, mes braves! They shall not pass!

Ney (sotto voce), to the Engineers: Hurry up, for goodness sake!

The Battle

Things did indeed get off to a roaring start for the Prussians with the appearance of two strong brigades of infantry and an artillery battery west of Der Dunklewald at the beginning of Turn 1.

The Baron von Driberg (for it is he): Ha ha hah! Ve haf zem cornered meine Kinder!

But in a sign of things to come, the Prussian infantry immediately started to suffer heavy casualties as the Combined Voltgeurs swarmed out of the woods.

While Driberg's regular infantry (the 1st Silesians and the Russo-German Legion) were able to absorb the losses and advance, this was not the case for the Landwehr, who rapidy became disordered.

On Turn 3, however, the arrival of  heavy Prussian reinforcements from the north threatened to turn the tide.

Nevertheless, Driberg's deadly Silesian Schutzen were ill-placed to counter the Voltigeurs.

Meanwhile, the Prussian infantry continued to suffer appalling losses as they advanced.

This situation looked grim as Ney's reserves of infantry and artillery took up their positions north of the Weser.

In Turn 4, Driberg's final infantry brigade and cavalry arrived, but the Leib Hussars were immediately thrown into confusion as they passed the landwehr, who were still clogging up the approaches.

By this time both the Russo-Germans and the 1st Silesians had suffered horrific casualties. The French, on the other hand, had hardly lost a man.

Driberg decided that there was nothing for it but to commit the cavalry.

The 6th (Lützower) Ulans bravely charged the 8th Cuirassiers, but as the cuirassiers had had exactly the same idea things were not looking very good for the Prussians.

In the subsequent rout, a whole company of the Silesian Schutzen were ridden down by the pursuing cuirassiers.

In the meantime, the 1st Silesians had been virtually annihilated, and the Russo-Germans were about to go the same way. Prussian officer casualties were particulary severe.

But it was not all plain sailing for the French. Raked by cannister from the RGL artillery, the 8th Curiassiers were thrown into disorder. Nansouty was killed.

RGL: Kaboom!
8th: Aaaaarrgh!
The Silesian Schutzen were also able to take out an entire French artillery battery with a single volley.

Driberg: Good Lord, I've hit somezing!

Nevertheless, Driberg was fast running out of infantry. An attempt by the Leib Hussars to rush the Neuchâtel Battalion was also thwarted when the Canaries saw them coming and formed square.

Ney. Not so yellow after all!

The overthrow of the Empress Dragoons (not one of my luckiest regiments) by the Garde du Corps did little to improve matters.

By the beginning of Turn 9, it was obvious that there was no way the Prussians would be able to reach the bridge in time to prevent its demolition.

His Dastardliness looks on in disbelief.

Only a single C-class battalion (the Lützowers) retained good morale, and it would take at least two turns to get the Prussian guns into action, assuming they weren't mown down by the voltigeurs. With his cavalry also gravely depleted, Driberg decided it was time to throw in the towel.

Driberg (sensing imminent dismissal by the Prussians) :
Hmmmm, I vonder if ze Kaiser might be looking for a new general? 

And so the battle ended in a manner not dissimilar to 1978, when Red's light infantry had played a similarly decisive role. It was also clear, however, that Mr Stryker's subtle tweaks to Muskets & Marshals have had some remarkable effects. It is simply suicidal, it seems, to attempt advances in column against unsupressed infantry and artillery fire. C-class infantry in particular haven't a ghost of chance. The congested approaches also made it virtually impossible for the Prussians to get their artillery into action.
The casualties: nearly all Prussians.

Wellington Cat, however, was not particulary impressed.

Driberg promises to return with a horde or Austrians.

I'd better get painting some then.


Edit 09/02/22: DF has sent me scans of the entire 1978 article, whch I post here for those who might be interested. He also included a scan of the back cover of the February issue as a special treat! I've no permissions to do this, so will take them down again if there are any objections.

Sunday, 30 January 2022

Table Top Teaser

Yesterday my friend, DF, and I had a go at the first of Charles Grant's intriguing "Table Top Teasers", which was published over two issues of Battle for Wargamers in February and March 1978.

The Scenario

A small but powerful rearguard must hold a bridge for the time it takes to blow it up, while a much larger advance guard tries to capture the bridge intact. The original battle map, showing the starting positions of the "Red" (defending) and "Blue"(attacking) forces, is reproduced below.

In our slightly modified version, Red has two heavy cavalry regiments and two battalions of infantry north of the bridge, while a battalion of light troops is occupying a nearby wood. South of the bridge another battalion and pair of artillery batteries are in reserve. Engineers (at "X") have begun preparing the explosive charges, which take a full 10 turns to make ready. Whether they actually explode in time will depend on dice throws. A small village is immediately to east of the river crossing on the northern bank.

Blue, with two light and one heavy cavalry regiment, two batteries, six battalions of close order infantry and one battalion of light infantry are nearly all off map, with the exception being small parties of light cavalry scouting the approaches. How, where and when Blue forces will arrive (at either points A, B, or a combination of both) was unknown by either side, as the columns had become mixed during their march towards the objective. Things were so arranged, however, that Blue was guaranteed to have all his units on the table by the begining of turn six at the very latest.

In our version the opposing forces consisted of the following:

Red Force: Marshal Ney

Combined Voltigeurs

3rd Infantry Division
3rd Swiss Regiment (General Castella de Berlens)
The Neuchâtel Battalion (Marshal Berthier)
4th Bavarian Line Infantry Regiment (General Quisestil)

1st Heavy Cavalry Brigade
8th Cuirassiers (General Nansouty)
Empress's Dragoons (General d'Ornano)

Provisional Artillery Brigade
1st Battery, Horse Artillery of the Guard
1st Battery, Foot Artillery of the Line

1st Line Engineer Company (played by the Carabiniers of the 13e Legere)

Blue Force: His Dastardliness, The Baron von Driberg (graciously impersonated by General Wallmoden)

2nd Silesian Schutzen Battalion

1st Brigade
10th (First Silesian) Infantry Regiment (General Zieten)
2nd Neumark Landwehr Infantry Regiment (General Pirch)

2nd Brigade
1st Brigade Russo-German Legion (General Arentschildt)
5th Wesphalian Landwehr Infantry Regiment (General Gneisenau)

3rd Brigade
25th (Lützower) Infantry Regiment (Colonel von Lützow)
18th (6th Reserve) Infantry Regiment (General von Bülow)

Combined Cavalry Division
Leib Hussars (Colonel von Clausewitz)
6th (Lützower) Ulans (Generaladjutant von der Infanterie)
Garde du Corps (Generaladjutant von der Kavallerie)

Freikorps Artillery Brigade
1st Battery, Russo-German Legion Foot Artillery
1st Battery, Lützower Foot Artillery

The outcome, shall we say, was full of surprises. A full report follows next week.

Till then

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

The Lone Huntsman

You'll have heard the news, no doubt, that New Zealand is not going through the best of times right now, and that it's about to get a lot worse.

I'm dealing with some of the anxiety by painting soldiers, which may partly account for the promising start I've made on my latest regiment, which is to be the 4e Chasseurs à Cheval. Once again, the plan is to paint the whole regiment in one go, with the sole exception of the wee test chasseur pictured below.

He's a vintage Hinton Hunt FN 122: French Chasseur a Cheval of the line charging. I think he's one of the loveliest HH one-piece-castings I've ever handled.

Far more impressive, however, is recent work by Rob G., who's been building a vintage 20mm Spanish army. Impossible, you say? Not if you have the artistry and ingenuity of Rob, who also turns out to be a genius with a soldering iron.

First up is Rob's 2nd/10th Guadalajara Regiment, which started life as what I think were Scruby 1806-era Prussians.

Not content with that, Rob has also produced the 1st/27th Princesa Regiment, using a few more of the Scrubys and grenadiers converted from Der Kriegspielers British Guard Grenadiers.

Simply stunning.

As my friend, DF, and the Wellington household are all vaccinated to the gills, we will be going ahead with our battle on Saturday. It's promising to be a corker.

Stay safe everyone,

Edit: an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that it was the 127th Princesas, and that the grenadiers were converted British fusiliers!

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Battle Stations

Happy New 2020, now entering an unprecedented third year.

I'm really supposed to be working on a regiment of French line chasseurs à cheval at the moment, but I promised my friend DF (aka the dastardly Baron von Driberg) that we would fight a battle, so most of the weekend was spent working on my new system of vinyl tile terrain pieces.

The tiles, which were all a foot square and came in any colour I wanted as long as it was black, were picked up from my local tip for about 5p per tile. I bought a hundred of them. I wasn't at all sure how well they would respond to paint, but as they were pretty solid affairs and a mere 2mm thick I thought it would be worth a try.

Seen below, using some very basic Thomas-the-Tank-Engine/Brio-style geometry, is what I did with a few of them:

The scenario we're to fight is the very first 'Table TopTeaser' by the late Charles Grant, which appeared in Battle for Wargamers magazine in February and March 1978. I was only eleven back then. The battle is to be fought next weekend.

A battle report will appear in due course, but before then I may also have a test chasseur ot two to show off.

Adieu, and wish me luck (on both counts),


Sunday, 14 November 2021

Newcastle United

 It is the Spring of 1813, and the Emperor has called for his Chief of Staff.

Napoleon: Ah, Berthier, I've made you Prince of Neuchâtel!
                 Look, you get your own battalion.
Berthier: But Sire...I haven't led troops since 1778!
Napoleon: Don't worry. I've written instructions!

Berthier can barely decipher the Emperor's appalling handwriting.

Berthier:..Oh, Wheel Right!

Under the Emperor's watchful eye, Berthier scrambles to correct his mistakes.

Berthier: No, no, no! Halt! Face Front!

Berthier: MERDE!

Cambronne is scandalised.

Cambronne: My word!

The Emperor has seen enough.

Napoleon:...Nom de Dieu!

Today's vintage vignette was brought to you by:
Minfigs 25mm ('intermediate' range) FNX 12: Napoleon Standing;
Minifigs S-Range, NSF 1S: French Marshal Passing Orders; and
Minifigs S-Range, N 1S: Napoleon Seated at Table.

My special thanks to:
Aly Morrison, who sent me his wonderful Neuchâtel Battalion, which I 've finally got round to rebasing;
Rob G, who helped me get my grubby mitts on an FNX 12; and
The Archduke, who did the same for the N 1S.