Monday, August 30, 2010

Wargaming as crack

Hi, my name's Rosbif* and I'm a crap wargamer. It's been 2 days since I had my last disastrous game. Admitting I have a habit is the first step in a long journey. There'll be relapses on the journey, I'm sure, but with your help I'll be able to kick the habit.

Last Friday I took on Johnny W's recent acquisition of Tim's British and Brunswicker Minifig army. As he is one of the best tacticians in the Napoleonics group, I think I'd talked myself into losing before we even started, as many French generals did when faced with Wellington. I had vague plan of concentrating my infantry in the centre and using the light cavalry on the left flank and using the cuirassiers as a mobile reserve. I was going to use the buildings on the right flank to guard against the advance over the bridge and use the high round to attack what was in front of me.

All went well with me winning the initiative roll and getting to go first which allowed me to send my skirmished light batallion to seize the ridge, but from then on I made stupid decisions which played into his hands. I totally negated the advantage I had in cavalry by hiding them behind the ridge after they took a casualty from artillery fire, instead of using them aggressively in concert with the horse guns, which could have really hampered him. I seem to have a fear of taking casualties which doesn't really go well when playing French. In the end, it was his Brunswickers who did the damage on the right flank, and my lack of firmness in keeping to the buildings. I also bottled up my cuirassiers in defense of the bridge, rather than using them as I had originally intended.

Too late, I tried a couple of charges, one with my chasseurs against his line of Highlanders and later by a brigade in l'ordre mixte in order to try to stem the rot. Of course, neither worked as they went in unsupported. Also, lines can't charge as far as columns (duh!), so the 2 columns went in, leaving the line short of the target!

The gap between my main formation and the buildings was ruthlessly exploited by John and he got in on my flank and began rolling up the line

The columns I took out of the buildings to deal with the Brunswicker threat, then copped flanking artillery fire from across the river which negated any chance of a successful charge against the threat they were sent against.

So, both flanks had broken, the centre was under extreme pressure and my cavalry had done nothing. Not a great night's fighting for me. Afterwards, while we discussed the evening's proceedings, it was pretty clear what my problems had been, but in the moment I tend to get overwhelmed by the possibilities and try and guard against all eventualities, rather than stick to my original plan. One day I'll overcome this and no longer need to attend CWA (Crap Wargamers Anonoymous).

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The battlefield

Initial French dispositions

2 infantry batallions and cuirassiers head off to block the river cossing

The British

French reach the ridge first

Infantry batallions following up the ridge

1st defeat; skirmish line forced back behind columns after losing skirmish combat against the rifles

Cowardly cavalry take a casualty and scuttle to safety

Brunswickers approach the bridge

Infantry occupy buildings

Brunswickers begin their flanking movement on the ridgeline

1st brreaking unit, victim of close range artillery and musketry.

L'ordre mixte and the growing gap to the right

Dangerous gap about to be filled by British line

My feeble attempt to win back the right flank. Building up to a charge by 2 batallions; left column will be repulsed by close range artillery, while right will be clobbered by flank fire from across the river

Unlimbered artillery about to clobber my flank

Batallion forced to retreat from close range artillery

The rolling up process begins...

...and continues

Run away!

Last throw of the dice goes awry as the line gets left behind and the cloumns get clobbered by artillery and small arms before they make contact.

Left like a shag (oo-er!) on a rock.

Highlanders advance, but my line can't resist. Divisional morale failed after this turn and game over.

Meanwhile on the other flank, the Brunswickers are over the bridge.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book review - Galloping at Everything

I've just finished reading this book which I started when I was deciding what unit to paint my British light dragoons as.

The author's contention is that the cavalry has had a bum rap over the years due, in the main part, to the towering reputation of Oman's histories of the Peninsular War. He examines the main battles fought by Wellington's troops in the Peninsula, as well as the battle of Waterloo, but also looks at a lot of less well known engagements that took place without the Great Man looking on. Despite the reputation that has followed the British cavalry since Waterloo, Fletcher contends that they were very professional and did sterling work, especially on piquet and patrol, and that besides a few glaringly obvious occasions, performed very well in battle and had thoroughly cowed the French cavalry they came up against in Spain.

The shadow cast by Oman's work has influenced all subsequent historians who have not investigated the primary sources nearly closely enough, according to Fletcher. The well known complaint uttered by the Duke, which indeed the book's title is taken from, has become the end point of historical research, not the start. Like his often quoted damnation of his infantry after the retreat from Burgos as the 'scum of the earth', it did not reflect his overall opinion of his troops, just an expression of frustration related to a particular incident. However, historians have picked these quotes as indicative of his overall opinion.

The most famous incidents of his cavalry 'galloping at everything' were at Vimeiro, Talavera and, of course, Waterloo, but in most histories these disasters are never qualified by the fact that the regiments involved were usually raw and inexperienced. Fletcher even makes the point that even though the cavalry, especially at Talavera and Waterloo, were effectively destroyed in these disastrous charges, the threats they were sent against were neutralised.

The 2 most controversial, but less well known actions, that supposedly illustrate the Duke's criticism are examined closely by the author who then goes on to explain why they are actually individual exceptions to the generally excellent track record the British cavalry gave during the Peninsula and Waterloo campaigns. Campo Mayor and Maguilla being the 2 cases in question, Fletcher examines the background the the battles, the personalities involved, the unit morale and gives very reasonable explanations as to why things went wrong. He also compares them to successful actions and explains why they went well.

I found it a fascinating and well argued account of a particular branch of the Duke of Wellington's force that I previously had not taken much notice of and an excellent warning as to why we should reexamine histories, especially secondary sources, that use all the same primary sources at face value.

Portu-geezers or...... the Fighting Cocks of the Army

Here's the Portuguese unit I promised. The 6th Infantry of the Line, which was with Hill on his raids to the south of Badajoz in 1812. I am also in the process of painting up the 18th, which will have sky-blue cuffs instead of the red. The figures are by Kennington

Below is the foot gun battery from Armies in Plastic. Despite the fact they are in Belgic shakos I quite like the poses in this group. I may have overdone the smoking linstock, though! This would represent a 6lb-er battery and the horse guns a 9lb-er, but the good thing is, the guns fit with either grouping, so I can swap them around. I plan to paint (eventually!) individual guns, so that I can have 2 x 6lb-er, or 2 x 9lb-er batteries.

These are my river sections. The flash has made them seem a lot bluer than they really are, so don't be alarmed by the fluoro colours. The wide section has been made with a mixture of the texture gel and Tamiya sky-blue. The last 2 pictures show the original 2D paper section mounted on cardboard that I originally had, and a comparison with the improved version. Basically, the water is the original colour print viewed though a strip of plastic ripple effect which is secured by 2 strips of thin corkboard glued to the banks, which have then been flocked. The sides facing the water have been crumbled roughly by hand, while the other sides and ends were cut so that they match all the other pieces. The corkboard and rippled plastic were bought at Hearn's Hobbies in the city, so I suppose any good hobby/railway shop would have something similar.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I've been a bit slack in updating this blog as I've been a full-time house husband, while my wife's been on a 3-week work placement for her course. As well as all that the Rosbif home PC is limping along and won't talk to any peripherals, so all in all my leave has conspired to make new postings a challenge!

The good thing about 3 weeks leave is that I got a lot of painting done! Besides the cavalry and horse guns from my last post, I've also finished a battalion of Portuguese line infantry and a British foot gun battery. Pictures to come. The bad thing about this level of industriousness is that I am now suffering from muscle spasms in my back from too much hunching over the lamp at my desk. Ouch!

I've also been working on terrain as well. I'm slowly coming along with my table top mats and I've made some adjustments to the roads that appeared in an earlier posting. Apologies to anyone who's tried to replicate my method, as it soon became obvious that the warping was permanent and no amount of ironing and flattening under heavy objects would keep them flat. After discussing the problem with others at the club, I've glued them to strips of balsa wood which has resolved the problem satisfactorily. I've also made some rivers out of some cardboard mounted paper prinouts I'd got from this website but not being satisfied with its 2-D nature, I jazzed it up a bit with corkboard banks and ripple-effect plastic. I'll post some pictures of the process another time.

Taking my girls to the textiles and craft shops, like Spotlight and Lincraft (Bunnings for chicks, as John R says!) is also an eye-opener to me for the items you can find in the art/craft section. I found some acrylic compatible texture gel, one that leaves a gritty, sandy texture and the other smooth. I use the first on the bases of the figures to hide the annoying 'step' of the figures' bases and the second is perfect for mixing with blue to make water effect.

The pictures below are from the last Friday game 2 weeks ago when I took on Garry's French with my new British cavalry, artillery and the line infantry. I also gave my ridgelines their first outing too. Apologies for the quality of pictures as I should not have bothered with the flash from the start. Anyway, I was obsessed with gaining the ridge and didn't pay enough attention to the danger lurking on my flank. I still don't appreciate the fact that unlimbered artillery are not an obstacle to units in their rear, so of course Garry's lancers barrelled through the battery and cleaned up 3 battalions in a flank charge. Albuera all over again; but I didn't have the excuse of a rain storm covering their advance though!

Light Dragoons covering British left

View down the line from the British left

Advancing foot guns and accompanying infantry

Same view from the right

French view of the advancing British line

The Enemy!

Cavalry and horse guns try a flanking manouver

Infantry advance, rifles on the ridge.

Rifles lose skirmish combat. I'd split them into 2 wings; Bad mistake!

The French seize the ridge. Calamity!

The threat on the ridge I was slow to appreciate. I had plans of pulling this unit behind the woods, but didn't. Why?!

View down the line as the French saw it. Why didn't I?

The lancers launch their charge. Where's that unit of light infantry? If you look carefully, you'll see their remains under the horses' hooves (looks like raspberry jam)

The Gordons retreat before they are contacted by the rampaging wall of Polish horseflesh!

The lancers' charge finally peters out in the cornfield
facing an infantry line which is in all sorts of bother.

After trying to extricate itself, the line is charged and fails to stand, but this leaves the lancers open to my artillery at close range , as well as an approaching column of infantry.

My reserves deploy into line to try and hold the right flank while the Gordons turn around and hold the centre. The guns take a toll of the blown cavalry, while the column advances to its flank.

Here I extract a small revenge by firing on the lancers' flank and sending them flying, but the column has suffered from close range artillery fire on the approach.

The 11pm death or glory charge! I put in a shot from my battery (missed!), then launched a charge against his Cuirassiers, which was met by his counter-charge.

Anticlimactically, we both bounced.

While I had only 2 units broken, the rest weren't in good shape and Garry had plenty in reserve, so we called it a day with the French in the ascendancy.

In hindsight, I should have occupied the buildings and deployed the rest of my forces behind, so that Garry would have to either winkle me out and face the prospect of the reserves counter attcking, or ignoring the units in the buildings and copping flank fire as they passed on their way to tackle the main forces. Aah, hindsight is a wonderful thing!
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