Sunday, 29 May 2016

Polish Vistula Legion - 28mm Murawski

First of my Polish infantry. As the title says - Polish Vistula Legion from Murawski miniatures. I love these guys! Great uniform, and a crazy rooster flag! Awesome. Quite possibly my favourite unit painted so far.

Speaking of uniform, there's a few conflicts in the sources for various details of this. I suspect there were probably quite a few changes and instances of "using what we had" at different times. No doubt they would have looked very scruffy on campaign most of the time too, but I prefer parade ground look with my Napoleonics. So after a few headaches trying to sort it out I went with the following as a reasonable enough representation.

You'll note I've also painted them up as a regiment of 36, rather than my previous 24's. I've decided to start switching to this for a few reasons. I think it looks better to have more figures and a few other people here play General de Brigade which is at this 1-20 scale. Also it suits these 'French' style organisations to have one complete company of six figures on each base.


The only quibble I have with the figures themselves is the eagle bearer - who is leaning forward holding the eagle at about a 45 degree angle. The whole point of wanting march attack poses is that they don't jam each other or the enemy with pointy out bits so not sure why they made the eagle bearer doing this! I've stuck him in a second rank so the standard doesn't get in the way though and that worked ok.

Speaking of flags this is a 75% size photocopy of the GMB flag, which was too big for my liking. I know there is the argument that "people were shorter in 1800" but I prefer flags that are not so unwieldy looking and I think the GMB flags are still a bit oversize even if you allow for people being shorter. (Edit - checking forums I see GMB offers smaller size flags by special request if you do want them).

Lastly a couple of photos to show the Grenadier and Voltigeur companies who are hidden in the above pictures. Grenadiers have the Czapka shako, and a cornet player is included in the Voltigeurs.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Polish Horse Artillery - 28mm Murawski

More Murawski miniatures. Horse artillery for Duchy of Warsaw.

These figures are clearly modifications of Murawski's foot artillery sculpt. They don't have the cords and pompom for their bearskin hats, but perhaps they are in campaign dress. According to sources I have, they should have a single black crossbelt (and red piping on this and the black facings - which I've ignored due to the scale where it would be a fraction of a millimeter), but the models on Murawski's gallery have them with white crossbelts. After painting up both versions I went with the white crossbelts as they help lighten up what is quite a dark uniform otherwise. Perhaps they pinched the white crossbelts from the Austrians as well as the Austrian six pounders they are equipped with!

Just need to wait for Murawski to make some limbers now!





Monday, 23 May 2016

Mat-O-War review and battlefield expansion...

When 28mm Napoleonics is your thing, you cannot be content with a measly 6'x4' table. One requires vast battlefields! I've been debating what to do in this regard for a couple of years, and eventually made my decision.

I reviewed various options, including terrain modules, but eventually went with the traditional 'cloth' (though actually not 'cloth' as described below...) table cover. The reason for this is that it is very easy to transport to other venues if necessary (like the local wargames club and conventions), as well as being cheap and quick but still looking good if care is taken with other scenery.

I decided upon 'Mat-O-War' wargaming mats from Atenocitis Workshop. They are apparently made from the same sort of static grass you use for basing figures, set in a resin, so they match common figure basing types very well (e.g. see here). These mats are relatively cheap for what they are and very tough. 

I've been using a single 6x4 foot mat for almost a year, and on the strength of this experiment I went ahead and purchased two more 6'x4' and one 8'x6' mat. They were delivered promptly just as the first one was. This will allow me to do a 20x6 foot table(!) or several smaller ones. The mats are also a bit larger than I require (10-20cm) and this extra material trimmed off will become terrain templates for forests and so on. I cut my first mat to 180cm by 120cm and they others will be adjusted too (though not by quite as much due to need for mat overlap on large tables).

The material is initially quite stiff like cardboard, but from what I've read online it improves with age and use, as my first one has started to do. There's records online of people doing multiple washes with fabric softener to try and get them more pliable! My first one went through the wash and then dryer a couple of times with no apparent effect though. Maybe I needed to use fabric softener. Anyway the fact you can wash and iron and treat these mats with much punishment without damaging them is a point in their favour. Be aware though, that initially at least you would not be able to drape them over hills to make contours that way (or not small sharp contours anyway). However this same property also means the mat won't wrinkle up annoyingly during play as some other cloths tend to do!

Given their durability I think they would probably be great mats for a wargames club and the constant use would also help wear them in more quickly. For another review, see here, and for discussion on making them more pliable, see here!

These mats were delivered to New Zealand folded up, which meant some long time with the steam iron reducing the crease lines... I used the water spray function on the iron to dampen the mat, then placed a tea towel on top as is recommended, before ironing firmly.

The next thing required is more trestle tables. These are from the Warehouse here in New Zealand and are exactly 180cm x 60cm which is very handy. I have two and have just bought another four, and the plan is to add another four at some point. Currently this means I can do a 12'x6' table, and a 20'x6' table if I get another four. 

Still plenty of space in here, though the wife isn't as convinced! :)  As I noted in a post last year, I was planning on using the double garage for my mad Leipzig plans, but I see that with some gentle furniture rearrangement this lounge would also be pretty good and more convivial... :)  

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Horse Foot Guns Playtest and Review

Here's a simple 1813 French vs Austrians playtest using the 'Horse, Foot and Guns' (HFG) rules. I've done a fairly detailed report to try and provide information for others who might be curious about this ruleset (and also so other HFG players can advise whether or not I'm playing it correctly - I point out a few mistakes I made where I am aware of them, mostly at the start of the report! Edit - see bottom of post for some helpful feedback I received on this!).


Horse, Foot and Guns?

First off a brief bit of background. I've always been a fan of the DBX family of rules by Phil Barker, and recently a ruleset suitable for Army level Napoleonics based on this system was released - 'Horse, Foot and Guns' (hereafter referred to as HFG). It's actually a generic set covering a much wider period than Napoleonic, but of course it includes Napoleonic specific rules. The rules have actually been floating around as a free download for ages, which I have, but now a published version with army lists is available from Lulu - get it here. (Fishpond might be best option for New Zealanders after a copy - see here.)

HFG is probably primarily aimed at people using smaller scale figures than 28mm (though it does accomodate the latter).  The typical suggested scale is 40mm frontage bases, (or 60mm for 28mm) However my plan here was to use 100mm square bases (in fact 4 x 50mm bases for each unit of infantry or cavalry). Each of these 100mm square bases representing a Brigade. The ground scale for this game will be 50cm = 1 mile if I've done my maths correctly. Basically what I am aiming for is lots of pretty figures on the table, with simple rules, and a lack of record keeping.

Forces

For this first playtest game I wanted to keep things VERY simple. So a French 1813 Infantry Corp vs an Austrian 1813 Infantry Corp. (Taken from some old lists).

French have 75 points, and 16 element equivalents:
  • 1 Command Party
  • 8 Bayonets (French Infantry Brigades)
  • 2 Line Artillery
  • 1 Horse Artillery
  • 1 Light Cavalry (Inferior grade due to lack of good horses in 1813 - Chasseurs)

Austrians have 74 points, and 19 element equivalents:
  • 1 Command Party (Inert - meaning the General subtracts 1 from his command die roll)
  • 9 Bayonets (Inferior grade - Line and Landwehr both count as inferior in this year)
  • 2 Light Infantry (Inferior grade - Grenz)
  • 2 Line Artillery
  • 1 Heavy Artillery
  • 1 Light Cavalry (Hussars)
The list for a standard Austrian Infantry Corp actually has 3 less Bayonets, but I added those to make the points roughly equal to the French. The French have quality and a better Commander, the Austrians have quantity and their cavalry is also better - all one unit of it!

Corps become demoralised when they lose 1/3 of their element equivalents (EE). For this purpose artillery count as 2 EE and all other elements as 1 EE. This means the French will break after losing 6 EE, and the Austrians after losing 7 EE.

Setup

Here's the table setup, that includes roads, two Built Up Areas (BUA's), and 3 hills.

The table is 180x20cm (6'x4'), which at the ground scale I am using means it is just over 3x2 miles. For an army level game of 400 points I would use a 360x180cm (12'x6') table. For Leipzig, I would use an L-shaped table 600x180cm (20'x6') table, to give an approximately 9 mile area.

Both sides rolled a die and add their Aggression for their nationality and year (2 each in this case), and Austrians end up defending. They therefore set up to halfway across the table, and no closer than 1200 paces (30cm) to the side of the table. After they setup the French deploy up to 1200 paces in and no closer than 1200 paces from the sides, and also take first move as attackers.

From the French side, left flank. 

From the French side, right flank.

Austrians calmly await the French attack.

French begin their advance with an attack towards the BUA on the right of the Austrian line. 

French General rolls his command die (D6) and gets a 3 which means he can move 3 units or groups of units. The Chasseurs, Horse Artillery and a group of 2 Infantry Brigades advance. Light Cavalry move 1600 paces (40cm), Horse artillery 1200 paces (30cm), and Infantry and Line Artillery 600 paces (15cm). Each turn represents approximately 10 minutes.

The two French batteries try and silence the Austrian battery opposite them and the Austrian guns reply, but there is no effect.

Range for artillery is 1600 paces (40cm) or 2000 paces (50cm) for heavy artillery. The left dice in photos represents the unit combat/shooting factor, and the right dice represent the random die you roll to add to it to resolve each combat. Dice are white for Austrians, black for French - here and in all other photos. 

Artillery's factor is 3 vs other artillery. The French are one factor higher because of the extra battery supporting the first.  The total score is 7 for the Austrian and 8 for the French. 

The basic combat mechanism is pretty simple - if you double the enemy they are typically destroyed but there are exceptions depending on the unit types involved. If you just beat the enemy but don't double them, then often you will force them back. However artillery needs to be beaten by at least 2 to be silenced (can't do anything for a turn) or it can instead choose to be repulsed (retreat back 800 paces (20cm) and also can't do anything for a turn). 

(Now I actually made a slight mistake with this first combat, because artillery firing at other artillery at over half range adds +1 to its dice roll - so the basic factor should actually be +4. Adding plus one like this increases the difficulty of doubling the enemies score and hence of destroying them at long range.)

Next the French Horse Artillery bombards the Grenz in the BUA. 

Infantry are factor 2 vs artillery, but +2 for defending the BUA (and should also have added another +1 for artillery shooting at them from more than 400 paces (10cm) away). Artillery is +3. Total score is Austrian 8 (should have been 9), and French 6, so no effect. Additionally the BUA itself has a factor of 5, plus the Austrian die roll of 4 = 9. If the Artillery score more than a BUA, then the BUA catches on fire, and no longer provides a +2 defensive bonus for defenders from then onwards.

Last firing this turn, Austrian line artillery fire at a French Infantry Brigade, with no effect.

Artillery is factor 3, Infantry Brigade is factor 2 (should have been 3 because artillery is not within 400 paces or 10cm). So total score is 6 for the Austrian artillery and 9 for the French Brigade.

Now the Austrian turn. The Austrian General orders another Grenz unit to move up behind the BUA, and advances the Heavy Artillery, and that's it for this turn.

Austrian general rolls 5 on his D6 for command points, and subtracts one because he is 'inert'. He can therefore move 4 units or groups of units.  However, the generals in this game are just Corp Commanders not Army HQ's. This means that if they want to order a unit to move that is more than 800 paces away (20cm) it costs an extra command point (Army HQ's have a range of 2400 paces or 60cm). So 2 points each to move the Heavy Artillery and Grenz.

Shooting again. Austrian artillery shoots at one of the advancing Infantry Brigades and forces it to recoil (back 200 paces or 5cm).

Austrian Artillery is factor 3 and die roll of +2 for total of 5. Infantry is factor 2, plus one because artillery is more than 400 paces or 10cm away, and die roll +1 for total of 4. So at 5-4 the  Infantry is beaten, but not by twice as much, so just recoils 200 paces (5cm).

The French artillery tries to silence the Austrian battery and succeeds this time.


Factor 3 for Artillery, +1 because over half range, French adding another +1 because of their extra battery. Austrian adds +5 with die roll for total of 9. French +6 with die roll for total of 11. The Austrian battery is silenced because the French have rolled higher than them, and at least 2 higher, but not doubled them.  A puff of smoke is added to remind that the Austrian batter is silenced and won't be able to fire next turn.

Horse artillery misses again.

French turn, and the the General rolls a low number for command points, and just urges the French Infantry Brigades onwards towards the BUA. Musketry is exchanged and the BUA is set alight.

As the French Infantry Brigade has closed within muskety range (400 paces or 10cm), fire is now exchanged. Infantry is factor 3, +1 because the range is over 200 paces for musketry at other foot units. The Austrian Grenz adds another +2 because of the BUA. The BUA itself is +5.  French roll a 3, Austrians a 1. So the Grenz infantry is a total of 7, the BUA a 6, and the French infantry a 7. Actually another mistake here as I forgot to add another +1 to the French Infantry for supporting artillery! This would have also driven the Grenz out at this point but that is about to happen in a moment anyway so little effect on the game.

More counterbattery fire from the French. The Austrians will be silenced again, and decide to be repulsed, retreating back out of range.

The other Austrian line Artillery recoils a French Brigade.

The Austrian Heavy Artillery are now in range, but checking the rules I see it cannot fire overhead despite being on a hill, because friends are within 400 paces of the line of fire. 

The Grenz are thrown out of the BUA (Correct factors on the dice this time!)

The French artillery start to fire at the Austrian Line, and recoil a Brigade.

French turn, and the French advance into the BUA, and bring up the Horse Artillery and Chasseurs in support. Two central French batteries and two Infantry Brigades also advance.

Setback though, as a French Brigade breaks from artillery fire and is destroyed!

Austrian Artillery factor 3 + die roll of 5 = 8. French Infantry factor 2, +1 for over 400 paces from artillery, and die roll of +1  = 4. French infantry's score is doubled and so destroyed.

Austrian turn and they advance their entire line, aiming for the hole in the French line. The Grenz form up to defend the Austrian left flank.

Grenz Brigades manage to force the French Brigade out of the BUA.

French artillery recoils two Austrian Brigades.

But another French Brigade is destroyed by Artillery fire!  Unlucky French.

The French press on in the centre and right.

Austrian turn and they advance into the hole in the French line.

The Austrian Heavy Artillery is firing at the BUA on the French baseline everyturn but not achieving much yet despite it's larger caliber, due to unlucky dice rolls.

Heavy artillery is factor 4 rather than the factor 3 that Line artillery has, in addition to having an additional 400 paces or 10cm of range. It is only factor 2 vs mounted units though, whereas Line and Horse Artillery is factor 3 vs mounted units (presumably representing their greater maneuverability in comparison or something like that).

The French send a brigade to counterattack Austrian centre and keep pressing on the right.

The Grenz are holding, but are being pushed back now the Horse Artillery has come into action.

Centre of the line, French and Austrian Brigades each with artillery support engage in musketry at less than 200 paces (not close combat as French didn't have move to reach the Austrians).

They both score a 6 in total, but the Austrians being inferior, have to subtract 1 if they score equal or higher than the enemy. Thus they end on a 5 and are pushed back.

The French have the option to press forward for winning the contest and do so.

Overview of table.

The Austrian General has a rare moment of brilliance and rolls a 6 for his command points.

And he wheels a nearby Brigade to enfilade and pour musketry into the flank of the troublesome French Brigade. Other Austrian units also advance, including infantry into musketry range (and canister range - 400 paces or 10cm) of the French guns to screen them from supporting the French Brigade to their left.

Units are enfiladed  if a straight line drawn from their rear edge would hit the front edge of an enemy unit shooting at them, as is the case here. Enfiladed units suffer a -2 to their combat factor which is very dangerous!

Despite the circumstances the French Brigade lives and just recoils!

Austrian Infantry is factor +3, +1 for the artillery support, +1 for the enfilading Austrian Brigade support, and die score of +2. French Infantry have factor +3, but -2 for being enfiladed, and a die score of +3. Total score for Austrians is 7 and for French 4. Close to being destroyed but not quite!

The Austrian Infantry closing on the French gun is forced back, and the returned Austrian battery silenced again.

The Grenz manage to force back the French temporarily.

By wheeling to enfilade the French, this Austrian Brigade has also exposed itself to being enfiladed, and that is exactly what happens in the French turn.

But the now enfiladed Austrian Brigade survives and doesn't even recoil.

The still enfiladed French Brigades runs out of luck this time and is destroyed though.

At this moment of crisis the Austrian General does what Austrian Generals do and stares in confusion at the situation around him.

Austrian rolls command points of 1, and -1 for 'inert' and so can't move even a single unit this turn!

The French blast away into the flank of the still enfiladed Austrian Brigade and destroy it this time.

Meanwhile the Grenz are being driven back, and risk being swept from the field.

The Austrian General concentrates his forces against the French right,with canister fire and musketry against a single isolated French Brigade. The French Brigade manages to survive but recoils backwards.

One of the Grenz Brigades quits the field of honour (recoiled off edge of board by the Horse Artillery), and things are not looking flash for it's buddy Brigade either.

Time for great things from the Austrian General, but another 1 and the Austrians mill around in confusion again...

Canister fire from the French artillery and another Austrian Brigade is destroyed.

French Horse Artillery gallops down the road, and enfilades the last Grenz Brigade, who throw down their arms and run for it. Another Austrian unit destroyed.

A French Infantry Brigade enfilades the Austrian Artillery and repulses them.

The Austrian General is inspired again, and all the remaining Austrian infantry advances.

Which immediatly goes badly wrong, as an Austrian unit is destroyed on a 6 to 1 die roll (total score of 9 to 4).

The successful French Horse Artillery close in on Austrian centre. The Austrian Artillery has its own success and manages to destroy another French Brigade though.

But another 6 to 1 dice roll, and another Austrian Brigade is lost. That's seven(!) Austrian Brigades lost, and end of the game due to demoralisation of the Austrian Corp.

End of game positions.

Enormous casualties....

Best Austrian units in the Corp, sat back and did almost nothing of course.

Conclusion

Well that was a mess. At the end it degenerated into little scrappy fights as command and control disintegrated, and desperate firefights between single brigades. The Austrians got unlucky at the end with a couple of 6-1 rolls, after some early luck with their artillery fire. The Austrian General was appropriately incompetent at critical times, all with the simple mechanism of the -1 to his command die roll. Having a larger than normal Corp to control also didn't help him.

It's important to note that this playtest game also turned out to be one without any close combat, nor any cavalry action of note, and the artillery played a fairly dominant role. However the basic factors and combat outcomes seemed satisfactory here, so hopefully the cavalry and close combat is similarly appropriate. 

This is a game where attrition is measured by loss of Brigades within a Corp, not by losses within a Brigade, so complete loss of Brigades can seem a bit sudden at times if you are used to the latter. The gradual deterioration of a Corp and command and control once it is engaged still feels right though. And the rules are of course really designed for playable multi-corp actions, not a single Corp fight like this, so the coarseness of results (Brigades either intact or destroyed) would be less noticeable at the Army level scale I imagine. 

Once I got the hang of the combat factors it also plays quickly and cleanly, and they are easily memorised after a few turns. I'm not sure about artillery counting as 2 EE for morale, as that seemed to inflate break points higher than necessary perhaps? Uncertain.

Interestingly too, even a single Corp action with limited units like this and played solo as a playtest was pretty damn fun. I think fog of war generated by the command mechanism helps make it quite suitable for solo play if people want a rule set with that in mind.

So I'll need to play a game with more Cavalry, but on the strength of this first playtest I think this ruleset might be a nice option when I want big and fast Corp and Army level games.

Thanks for reading!



(Edit): Thanks to Adrian from the HFG yahoo list who sent the following helpful information about rules errors I made:

In the first bound's shooting French artillery fired at Austrian troops in a BUA. Because the artillery was the only shooter and it was beyond 400paces the BUA is the target and the infantry has its own outcome using the scores for the BUA. See top of page 25 in the Lulu set. 


Moving artillery off road is an extra Pip unless in support. 

Foot in a BUA losing in distant combat become silenced, BUAs are only set afire by artillery or Naval (page 28). 

If the Grenz were beaten in close combat they would rout from the BUA and one of the attacking elements would pursue into the BUA. 

If the winner of a distant combat presses forward into close combat the loser halts instead of recoiling (page 28). 

The HFG yahoo mailing list can be found here:
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/horsefootguns/info