Monday, January 19, 2015

Next batch for Blucher

Two line brigades and two grenadier brigades for the Russians. Three line brigades for the French.  Each side now has a unit of light field artillery.  I added skirmishers to the French bases and to one of the Russian bases.  One line brigade on each side has a small battery of integral artillery.  I'm waiting to get my copy of the rules before I affix the labels to future units.

Friday, January 9, 2015

First units for Blucher

My first serious miniatures army was 15mm Napoleonics, which I painted while I was in high school and college.  After a long wargaming hiatus, I decided to sell my 15mm armies and get back into the game with 6mm armies. I found myself unsatisfied with the scale, being unable to tell armies of different nationalities apart at the benchmark three feet, so I sold those units and started over yet again with 10mm.  I enjoyed that scale a lot, but a lack of opponents and a rule set that stirred my passion, and my failure to take advantage of the scale to create larger units cooled my enthusiasm. So when I joined the Ambler Gamers, I happily upgraded to 28mm.  So Napoleonics have the distinction of being the only period I have gamed in four scales.

The immanent publication of Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules caught my eye. I have long wanted to try a game that captures an entire Napoleonic battle, rather than just the maneuverings of one corps (at most) against another.  I looked at Volley and Bayonet, and while I found parts of those rules interesting, there did not seem to be enough substance to the rules to make repeated play desirable.  Blucher's mini-campaign system piqued my interest, and the activation system establishes an unpredictable pool of command resources that promise to add nail-biting excitement to every turn.

The game seems to cry out for big bases filled with small minis. I still had some unpainted 10mm French Guard units from Old Glory in my basement, so I made a few tests with cardstock bases. While I supposed I could have simply played the game with groups of bases from my 28mm figures (they would make nice 80mm x 80mm squares), I wanted the start over, yet again, with 10mm. For those of you keeping score at home, this will be my fifth go at Napoleonic armies.

I have not done Russians yet. So...Russians.  Again from Old Glory, as their OG Army discount is hard to beat for a gamer on a budget.  I chose 3" bases, and I left 3/4" of each base clear so that I could affix a label containing unit information.  I do not have a copy of the rules yet, so these labels, held on with a humble glue stick are just prototypes.

Here are those Old Guard and Guard lancer units that were left over from my previous go at 10mm.  I was able to fit 50 infantry and 14 cavalry on each stand. At this scale, it seems a little ostentatious to have two units of Guard in bearskins, or two units of Guard cavalry with lances (I painted one as Dutch and one as Polish, but still...), I may have half of these units sit on the sideline when it comes time to game, or I may designate them as more generic "Guard" and "Guard light cavalry" units.
.
Here are my first Russians.  That's heavy cavalry (dragoons and cuirassiers) in the front and line infantry in the rear. I did not add any skirmishers or integral artillery to the Russians yet. In the late wars, Russian artillery doctrine was starting to favor the formation of grand batteries over parcelling out batteries to individual brigades. I'll probably put a few guns on later units, but for now they are just infantry. As for the skirmishers, I will probably aim for about 33% of my Russian infantry to have skirmisher support, reflecting the rough percentage fo brigades that fielded Jaegers (who may or may not have been effective skirmish troops.  Mine will be).

A view of the French showing the labels.  The Old Guard infantry could certainly have thrown out a skirmish screen, but I made the decision to withold skirmishers from any units likely to be held in reserve at the start of the game.  I want that massive attack column of guardsmen like you see in the movie "Waterloo"!

A similar view of the Russians.  Each infantry stand holds two units of twenty figures each. I experimented with three potential deployments: columns, lines in echelon, and line with rear support. I'll probably continue to use all three to add some visual interest to my armies.

Some cuirassier goodness.

Voici les Grognards!

Next up: some artillery units, line infantry with skirmishers and integral artillery, and perhaps some Russian grenadiers.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Rumble

Ambler Gamers rang in the new year with a Napoleonic rumble in Joe's gaming Mecca.  In a change from our usual "more lead!" approach, this time we played a scenario where Prussian and Russian armies sought to link up while a French force in the middle tried to scramble into a position where it could deny its opponents the chance to achieve their goals.   Lots of open space on the table, with lots of reserve forces waiting in the wings.

Before the game started, though, we had our usual show and tell session. Scott brought some of his Martian tripods. He had already rigged up some of the bigger models with LED lights, but was frustrated by the inability to fight both LED and battery pack in the smaller models. His solution: create a diorama, with batteries hidden inside the wrecked units on the base.  Looks brilliant!

I brought some of the Front Rank Spanish I have been painting up. Everyone agreed that yellow was an underutilized color in the Napoleonic Wars. What was less certain was whether or not that was a Good Thing.  At any rate, these pretty boys did not stick around for the carnage to follow. That was strictly going to be a French/Russian/Prussian/Bavarian/Polish/Wurttemberger affair.

The table at setup.  French on the Right, Prussians at the left, and Russians at the far end by Joe.

Mark surveys the field.  "My, that's a lot of Russians," he thinks to himself.

In the distance, Scott begins to bring his reluctant Russians forward. The Allies suffered from weak command rolls, allowing the French to command the center of the table.  In the foreground, my cavalry makes contact with Herb's.  As poor as my command rolls were, my combat dice were positively charmed yesterday, and what should have been a draw went positively in my favor.

Herb looks on in dismay as my cavalry roll on. Sadly, the infantry behind them is reluctant to engage their German-speaking brothers.  I had hoped to stall Herb with an infantry brigade and my light cavalry while my other division and a half raced to the center of the table, but on this day, "racing" was not in the cards.

A look up the road that should have been filled with my infantry columns. My other cavalry brigade tries to keep it clear from the advancing French. Herb won the ensuing clash of sabres and lances, but his own cavalry was so badly mauled that they were forced to withdraw as well.

At the far end, Scott has problems of his own. His flanking force gets pinned down, and his infantry brigades creep forward at mere inches per turn.  Mark doesn't seem to be regarding the Russians with such dread anymore.

In the foreground, my Prussians continue their slow slog in parallel columns.  In the background, my lone brigade and some light cavalry reinforcements have done an effective job in guarding my flank. 

Mark had two brigades facing the center of the table, waiting for a drive up the middle that never materialized.  Reinforcements were random in type and entry point, so everyone was kept guessing.

Herb tries to push his left flank into the path of my advancing column, but he faced some bad command rolls of his own.

The Prussians did not want for reinforcements.  A brigade of Guard cavalry threatens to smash the Bavarian/Wurttemburg center.

The Prussian columns finally reach the bridge that will take them to the center of the table and their Russian allies, but they find the way blocked by a swift-moving brigade of French.  Though numbers in this sector of the field were roughly even, a confined space meant that I would be unable to deploy a significant part of my force.

Scott tries a cavalry rush around his right flank, hoping to give his attack some momentum.  A fierce defense by the French meant the Russians were running short of option. 

Stand, damn you!

After a few hours, we called it in favor of the French.  Speedy maneuvers at the start of the game helped the French control the battlefield and forced the Allies into bottlenecks that limited their ability to attack.   



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Peace on earth


Peace is possible when we recognize our common humanity.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ambler Goes to West Point, 2014

 I have been having fun with the Ambler Gamers for almost two years now. One of the things that makes the club special is their annual pilgrimage to the USMA at West Point in order to host a miniatures game for the Military History faculty and their students.  We went up yesterday and had a great time, depspite the rain, grey skies, and chilly weather.

The Military History Library, where we are based. This is in the basement of Thayer Hall, the former stables of USMA.  I could spend a whole day just drooling over the spines of the books in this collection.

This case was a small exhibit of artifacts saved by a former POW in Vietnam.  What made the exhibit really special was the selection of audio recordings which connected the artifacts to an oral history.

The table when it was still 100% untapped potential. Joe and Scott start to lay out roads and streams for what will be a gigantic Napoleonic battlefield.  On the left, Olivia sets out snacks for the hungry and appreciative cadets.

We add terrain.  The table was sturdy. It would need to be, considering the lead it would soon have to support.

There we go.  French and their allies on the right. Russians, Austrians, and Prussians on the far side.

Steve Turn ran a War of the Roses game.  Looked like a cool system where players had to plot the tactical dispositions of each unit as they entered combat.

My kingdom for a horse!  Seriously, there was no cavalry in this battle. :)


English vs. English means lots of longbows.

Steve Pilch brought the ever-fun King of Tokyo.

Drool-bait.

I love the West Point military atlas series.  Some of the original maps were mounted on the walls.

After lunch at Grant Hall, we headed back to Thayer.  A good day to be inside playing with toys.

And now the eye candy portion of our report...


Scott's Austrian cavalry for the win.


Mark brought a uber-cool windmill.


I can't imagine a Napoleonic field without Bavarians.  Who else would bring the pretzels?

Prof. John Stapleton, our host, talks some pre-battle smack with fellow professor Maj. Rick Anderson.

My, that's a lot of little men...

Mark lays out the premise.  "Go that way. Shoot. Charge. If you feel the urge to maneuver, ignore it and plow ahead."


The armies creep forward.  Many brigades had a hard time getting the move on.  The cadets at my end of the table wisely waited for an opening before rushing forward, a sharp contrast to the other end of the table.

Joe cackles as the commanders realize that the narrow table means that they begin the game in charge range.

Steve Turn prefers a laid-back approach to umpiring.

Bruce offers sound advice to the Yorkist commanders.

And Tokyo gets stomped. Again.


The Russians were to prove a juggernaut who practically won the battle by themselves.

Contact!

And here is how melees work. Learn these rules well. You'll need them.

Merde! We're losing!

Behold the bear!


Squares can be so inconvenient.

The Guard gets their act together.

The Austrian/Guard scrum in the center of the table.

Does cavalry get a depth advantage?