Monday, March 2, 2015

Vorwarts! Blucher project complete

Last year, I got the hankering to do Napoleonics on a scale that allowed me to command armies rather than divisions.  I love my 28mm figures, and I enjoy both Black Powder and the quick-play house rules we use in the Ambler Gamers.  But I wanted the chance to say "Order the Fourth Corps forward!" and "Commit the Guard!" and to refight the epic battles of the period. So I did what any good wargamer would do: commit to gaming in a new scale and search for a good set of rules.

For a long time, I considered Volley and Bayonet, which was exactly the scale I desired. However, the command system left much to be desired. My test for a good set of rules is if it forces players to worry about the kind of issues that commanders at that level  worried about.  

I heard about Sam Mustafa's upcoming Blucher rules, and they seemed to fit the bill perfectly. After months of breathless anticipation, the rules were released in February. Based on two read-throughs, I believe I made the right choice. I can't wait to take these rules for a test drive.

In anticipation of Blucher's release, I started painting up 10mm Russian and French armies on 3" square bases. You can see that I left a 3/4" strip at the back of each base clear for unit labels, which will allow me to keep track of stats and elan losses without having to resort to a roster.  Units have skirmishers deployed and/or artillery attached to signify units with those characteristics.  All other information will be on the labels (you can see a few prototypes fixed on with a glue-stick).

The large command stand is a C-in-C marker. The one with two generals will represent a significant sub-commander. The otehr command stands will be used to show when a unit is "prepared".

The figures are all Old Glory 10mm. With the OGA discount, they come to about $.10 a figure.  These are some Bavarian allies for the French. If I ever get to Phase II, I will add some Poles and Italians. And maybe some Austrian allies for the Russians. And, you know, that Ottoman list looks pretty cool...

The Russian infantry. 10mm is large enough that I can pick out the mitre helmets of the Pavlovski Guard units at this range.

French cavalry. Two units of Dragoons, Guard Lancers, and Chasseurs, plus one unit of Cuirassiers.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The next generation

Every year, the tabletop simulation I run with my Military History class (open only to seniors) is listed as one of the high points of the class.  This year, to get the most out of the simulations, I moved the course to the spring semester, where there is less pressure to be hardcore academic. I also built the body of the course around case studies in which we watch a film, do some primary and secondary source readings, and then play a simulation. So, after we are done with Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Marlantes, it's off to the games! After we're done with the American Revolution, it's off to the Napoleonic Wars and Rorke's Drift.  Guess what films were watching for each unit!

Because our school has a historical connection with the Battle of Germantown (the original building is represented by the white clapboard church on the table below), we fight that battle every year.

Team America.  This is the first year I'm happy with the tabletop setup. I compressed the east-west dimensions and broke up the fields around Germantown with hedges which channeled action around Germantown Pike.

Team King.  With an all-male class there was a (slight) increase in the amount of smack talk between the two sides.  We used a slightly modified version of Black Powder, as it is quick to teach and it is easy to fit two turns into a single class session.

The view from the Wissahickon Valley.  The Hessians began in a strong position along the creek but rashly advanced against the Pennsylvania militia.

The Chew House held out valiantly for a few turns, but it was not the stronghold that it was historically.  A valiant charge ordered by Washington cleared the light infantry out of their nest.

As is common among beginning players, both sides wanted to get into the fight as soon as possible. The Continental militia rushed forward without support, while the British army rushed forward, abandoning their formed lines in Germantown.
The fall of the Chew House was a triumph for the Continentals, but the main column took a long time to get reorganized and only reached the main battle in the final few turns.

The main battle took place on the northern outskirts of Germantown.  Greene's units eventually reinforced the militia, and the British found the Americans were made of sterner stuff than they had experienced in New York or Brandywine.

Armstrong's Pennsylvania rifles used their long range fire to maximum effect against the headstrong Hessians.  Poor Knyphausen would send a unit over the hill, only to have it pulped by massed firepower.  While the British eventually regrouped and fought the Continental army to a standstill, the Americans could take pride that they had done better than Washington had done historically.
Earlier in the week, out class had a visit from fellow TMP'er Eric Turner, who shared stories about life in the Continental army.  He freaked out a few students walking across campus when he fired off a few rounds. here, he is showing off his impressive Levitating Musket trick.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Un-Snow Day

First, they forecast over a foot of snow.  Then, downgraded to 4-8".  This morning, just a white dusting and a two hour delay.

Teachers also love snow days.  *Sigh*

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.