Friday, 9 March 2018

Hills and Templates

Hills are needed for wargames, and how to represent them is a dilemma.  The classic problem is that 'realistic' curved sloping hills are not great because figures tend to slide down them, or at least look odd leaning on funny angles. The way to avoid that is to have very shallow slopes, but then it ends up hardly being a 'hill' at all due to the reduced ground scale you use in wargames (i.e. where one figure represents 20 men or so). On the other hand flat-top or 'step' hills are great for figures to stand on, but don't look as natural.

After some consideration I decided to go with the latter flat-top hill idea, preferring this to having  hills with figures are sliding or leaning at odd angles on them. However, I still chose to give the hills some slope on the side and combined with the paint and flock finish they look more natural than some of the step hills you see used - at least to my eyes.

Here's one of my new hills below, with Austrian Hussars and Artillery for scale.

For these hills (and templates) I commissioned local wargaming buddy Clinton Whelan to make them all to specified dimensions, leaving me with only the flocking to do. Thanks Clinton! Time is precious, and Clinton is something of an expert at terrain making, managing to produce it efficiently and quickly in large quantities. Hence his products are popular with many local wargamers. Another local Napoleonic wargamer recently had some hills made by Clinton, and I knew I had to have some when I saw them!

These hills and templates all have a 3mm MDF wooden base (cut out irregularly with a jigsaw, and beveled with sand paper/sander), with polystyrene stuck on top with PVA. Clinton apparently just uses a standard craft knife to shape the edge of the polystyrene to make the slopes. Here's some work in progress shots Clinton sent me for review.

After they are shaped, Clinton coats the whole thing in thick mix of PVA and sand. This makes the whole structure very solid. He then paints them brown and drybrushes a a couple of lighter brown colours over the top. Normally Clinton adds his own choice of flock after that, but I wanted to use my own in this instance in order to better match my figures and table.

And here is the finished result. Many hills and templates! 2 x large plateau, 4 x long ridge, 2 x shorter ridge, 2 x medium hill, 2 x small hill, plus loads of templates for forests, rough ground etc. I may still do some more work with flock etc, adding more of the colour matching the ground mat, but they satisfactory at this stage I think.

Some closer shots.

Lots of scenery! Filling up a 6'x4' table, but a good amount for some of the 6'x12' and larger battle fields and scenarios I have planned.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Casualty Markers

Casualty markers are something needed for all the various Napoleonic rulesets I play or have played recently, General d'Armee, Blackpowder, and Lasalle, included. Casualties in these systems are generally taken to represent a combination of casualties, fatigue, and sometimes general disorder. Overall the more casualties a unit has taken the more its morale and effectiveness is degraded. Number of hits needed varies according to rule system. For example in Blackpowder and Lasalle each standard unit can take up to 3 hits, while in General d'Armee each standard unit can take up to 12 hits.

It's a simple system that avoids multiple cumbersome traits for each unit, or fiddly casualty removal, hence it's popularity. It seems that many rules, even the Games Workshop ones, are requiring casualty or damage markers these days. How to represent them is the question.

One of the easiest ways to represent casualties is to just stick dice next to units. The trouble with this is the casualty dice might be knocked over by other dice, or accidentally picked up, and it's a bit fiddly rotating the dice trying to find the right number each time. And of course it detracts somewhat from the visual aesthetic of the game.

Casualty dial bases are another option. For a nice example see fellow New Zealander Brian Smaller's casualty bases here. I have a load of casualty figures and I might get around to doing these some day too. Warbases make wooden casualty dials and Litko make acrylic ones. Local New Zealand company Battlekiwi makes both wooden and acrylic dials and offer a bulk discount.

In previous battle reports I've used fire and suppression blast markers that I use for 6mm sci-fi gaming.  They are not really the best thing for Napoleonics though, as barring a few canister rounds from artillery most firepower impacts didn't involve explosions. Also I didn't have enough of these once game size increased, and I would need a lot more for bigger games.

An alternative I eventually decided upon is the following. With most plastic 28mm figure boxes these days you get extra bits. For example in Perry French and Austrian Napoleonic boxes you get extra heads to provide you with options. And in Victrix Austrian boxes you get twice the number of backpacks you need (so you can make Line or Grenadier units). 

It struck me that these extra bits could make some characterful, non-obtrusive, and also low modelling/painting effort casualty markers that would be suitable for a variety of Napoleonic rules. I ordered some cheap plastic counteres off e-bay. I then stuck spare shakos and backpacks onto them with plastic glue (cutting the shako off the head first). A quick undercoat, paintjob and some flock, followed by heavy varnish, resulted in the following which I'm pretty happy with.

I made rather a lot. 110 French shakos and 40 backpacks, and 110 Austrian shakos and 40 backpacks. This should be plenty for big games given past experience. Of course, not every Napoleonic unit had shakos and backpacks but the majority did, and shakos and backpacks tended to look similar across armies, and the standardisation should reduce confusion! 

In General d'Armee the shakos will represent one hit, and backpacks four hits. This has the added advantage that it will help make degrading points clear. I.e. in General d'Armee at 4 hits and 8 hits a unit suffers cumulative degrading effects on its firepower/melee/morale – so having distinct 4 hit counters is a useful reminder that this has occurred, i.e:
 1 Backpack = -1; 2 Backpacks = -2 (to shooting, melee, and morale tests)

The other thing I've been working on is more terrain - many hills and templates. These will follow soon in another post!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

French Voltigeurs - 28mm Perry/Victrix

Some Skirmisher bases, added for General d'Armee rules. 12 Ligne, 6 Legere.
I painted these up in time for the game a couple of weeks ago, so here's some better pictures of them. 

These are Perry figures but some of the arms are added from Victrix French Infantry kits to increase variety.

I've gone with a clump of three figures on each base, as for past Skirmisher bases. The 50mm square bases help protect the muskets from damage in transport and play.



Saturday, 6 January 2018

Davout at the Crossroads - General d'Armee Game

Time for a another General d'Armee battle with four of us participating this time. Ion and Paul commanded the Austrians, and Andrew and myself the French.


At the start of the 1809 campaign, Davout's III Corp was out of position and a portion of this Corp clashed with the Austrian IV Korp at the Battle of Teugen-Hausen. In a "what if" variant of this circumstance, I instead line up Davout's entire Corp against the Austrian II and III Korps in an encounter battle between these roughly equal forces. The points using the General d'Armee List Creator are about 5000 per side.

The Austrians in this scenario have twice as many artillery as the French, but their command is poor and they are lacking in light troops. The French while low on artillery, have excellent command and a great number of light troops. Both sides have similar numbers of cavalry.

For this game, things are "bathtubbed" to make things a little more manageable, with each unit representing a regiment of two or more battalions/squadrons rather than a single battalion/squadron, and each pair of guns representing two batteries.  Each "Brigade" in GDA terms is thus a Division.

French have 20 infantry regiments, 4 artillery, and 7 cavalry.
Austrians have 18 infantry regiments (all but two being large), 8 artillery, and 6 cavalry.

Victory Conditions
Both sides have similar objectives - take strategic positions around the central crossroads and press the enemy. Points are scored for the following and whoever has the most points when the game ends wins.
  • Each enemy Division destroyed is 1 point
  • Each built up area held is 1 point, holding the enemy baseline built up area is 3 points
  • Committing any reserves is negative 1 point

Game Length
The game is 12 turns, but from turn 10 the game ends start of each turn on a die roll of 5-6 due to severe thunderstorms (such thunderstorms ended the battle of Teugen-Hausen).


All French Divisional Commanders are Excellent (free reroll if Hesitant result).

III Corp Davout - Left Wing, Morand & Friant: 4 ADC's (Andrew)
1st Div Morand: Veteran Legere, 4 Ligne, 5 Skirmisher, Battery
2nd Div Friant: Veteran Legere, 4 Ligne, 5 Skirmisher, Battery
Light Cavalry Jacquinot: 2 Campaign Chasseurs

III Corp Davout - Right Wing, Gudin and St Hiliare : 4 ADC's (Me)
3rd Div Gudin: Veteran Legere, 4 Ligne, 5 Skirmisher, Battery
4th Div St Hiliare: Veteran Legere, Veteran Ligne, 3 Ligne, 5 Skirmisher, Battery
Light Cavalry Pajol: 2 Veteran Hussars, 1 Campaign Chasseur

Reserve 2nd Heavy Cavalry, St Sulpice: 2 Veteran Cuirassiers (Large), (+1 ADC)


II Korp - FML Kolowrat-Krakrowsky: 3 ADC's (Ion)
Advance Guard FML Klenau : Jager, Line Infantry (Large), Uhlans, Dragoons, Cavalry Battery
1st Div FML von Brady: 2 Line Infantry (Large), 2 Skirmisher, Battery
2nd Div FML Weber von Truenefels: 3 Line Infantry (Large), 3 Skirmisher, Battery

III Korp - FML Hohenzollern-Hechingen: 3 ADC's (Paul)
Advance Guard FML von Vukassovich: Grenz, 2 Veteran Hussars*, Cavalry Battery
1st Div FML Lusignan: 3 Line Infantry (Large), 3 Skirmisher, Battery
2nd Div FML St Julien: 3 Line Infantry (Large), 3 Skirmisher, Battery

Grenadier Reserve: 3 Veteran Infantry (Large), (+1 ADC)
Cuirassier Reserve: 2 Veteran Cuirassiers,  (+1 ADC)
Artillery Reserve : 2 Position 12pdr Batteries

*One extra Hussar regiment attached for scenario balance reasons.


I set up the table the evening before the game, ready for a morning start the next day. Here's the starting positions, looking down the table. Reserves are still off table.

View from French side.

View from Austrian side.

Remaining pictures were then taken from the other end of the table and the Austrian side - to make better use of lighting during the day.

The battle opens with French seizing the initiative and 1st and 4th Divisions on each flank surge forward ("Forwards" orders) to occupy the central church and village. 

Austrians advance in more measured fashion toward the French skirmish line.

One of the central Austrian Divisions is hesitant, but the divisions to their left act aggressively with cavalry moving up to counter the advancing French infantry.

Next turn the lines close and exchange fire on the Austrian right wing.

And on the Austrian left wing, French infantry forms square as it is charged by Austrian Uhlans. The Austrian Uhlans retire and the square is pounded by artillery and becomes unformed with heavy casualties. Nearby French infantry lose fire discipline and casualties as they fire ineffectively at Austrian skirmishers in the woods in front of them.

The Austrian cavalry retire to reform after their charge.

Austrians close towards the churchyard.

French Chasseurs charge the Austrian column on the left, unforming them prior to contact, but retiring after a short and indecisive engagement.

 Austrian columns push forward strongly in the right centre and towards the church.

More French Cavalry advance towards the Austrian left...

And charge again! The Austrian Cavalry is part of a hesitant Division and cannot assist their infantry by intercepting. But the Austrian infantry holds once more, and the French Hussars retire before contact.

Austrian infantry is ordered to charge the churchyard, but they think better of it and halt to deliver a volley at the defenders rather than closing to melee.

On the Austrian right flank, the Austrians are finding it difficult to use their artillery advantage effectively due to terrain and position.

On the Austrian left flank, the French infantry defending the churchyard flees as Austrian Cavalry artillery inflicts casualties and panic...

...but the dexterous French are able to reoccupy it with a fresh regiment before the Austrians can take advantage of the situation!

 The Austrians commit their Cuirassier reserve to their right.

And Austrian infantry reforms ready to attack the churchyard once more.

The large Austrian regiments can take much punishment and dish it out, though hordes of French skirmishers are everywhere vexing.

Austrian Uhlans charge again, catching a French infantry regiment in line and running them down...

...then charging on into the French Chasseurs...

 ...dispersing them too!

But on the Austrian right they are hard pressed, with an Austrian line regiment dispersing from attrition.

Back on the left the Austrian cavalry charges onwards into the now hesitating French Hussars.

Dragoons rout one Hussar regiment, and charge on again running down the second French Infantry that has just been tumbled out of the churchyard! The other French Hussars manage to fight off the Uhlans causing them to finally retire however.

French form hasty squares and the artillery starts withdrawing, and the now unsupported and outnumbered Austrian Dragoons retire for now.  Still the Austrian cavalry have destroyed three French regiments and badly damaged another in this charge, for little cost to themselves.

Austrian Grenadiers arrive to bolster the centre attack.

But on the Austrian right flank, their 4th Division has taken heavy losses, retreats and then disperses.

The French Chasseurs on this flank are led in a glorius charge by Jaquinot. The Austrian Hussars are forced back and their supports move to assist.

The Austrian Heavy Artillery also arrive on their right, but likely too late to do anything other than stall the French advance now.

The Austrian left flank situation.

The Austrian Dragoons charge again and force back the French Hussars. Both French Hussar units are now near breaking.

Austrian Grenadiers form for an attack in the centre, the massed columns taking heavy casualties from artillery. I also run out of casualty markers and have to add various tokens to indicate them - which means over 150 casualties are distributed over the various formations still engaged in battle!  

The cavalry on the right flank swirl about taking heavy casualties and exhausting each other.

Austrian Grenadiers break through the French centre. Two French regiments are sent into headlong retreat with a third about to disperse.

But turn 12 has arrived with the thunderstorms and the battle is over just in time to save the French right wing.  French scrape through to a win holding three built up areas and having dispersed one division for four points. Austrians hold two built up areas but have committed their reserves and have not managed to disperse any enemy divisions, so only have one point.

Austrian dispersed regiments. All of 4th Division lost, plus a Hungarian regiment and many skirmishers.

French dispersed regiments, two line, Chasseurs and skirmishers. The Austrian cavalry were responsible for the loss of the two line regiments and Chasseurs.

Not shown by these lost regiments is the high number that were very close to breaking, particularly from the French right wing which would likely have broken if there was even one or two more turns! Probably close to 200 casualties were distributed among the various formations involved by the end, and many units on both sides were close to dispersing from attrition.


A hard fought game, with the number of regiments actually dispersed a little misleading given how exhausted and close to breaking many formations were.  The French right wing was saved by thunderstorms from imminent collapse, as all three divisions there were about to be unavoidably demoralised due to losses. The situation on the left looked better for the French as far as I could ascertain. In a multiplayer game one tends to get a little myopic and focused on ones own area of the battle though, which for me was the French right wing/Austrian left.

In terms of game balance, rating all the French commanders as excellent (free reroll if hesitant) was a strong advantage for the French , as were the extra ADC's. Checking the overall scenario, the French had about a 5% points advantage, and also the advantage of being able to allocate 1-2 ADC's to the initiative roll, and 1 skirmisher base per 24 rather than per 36 figures. They also had three rather than one division in reserve, and placement of built up areas was slightly more favourable for the French.  

These advantages for the French were something I allowed because I had in mind (perhaps wrongly) that Austrian artillery dominance would likely force the French into the attacking role, which would be more challenging.  As it turned out though, the Austrians had difficulty making the most of their artillery superiority, in part because they went on the offensive quite early themselves! This paid off in places of course, such as the spectacular Uhlan and Dragoon charge on their left flank, and capture of the churchyard. It was less successful on their right though where there was more of a bottleneck. I suspect just having more equal forces would have been fine given the command challenges for the Austrians in particular.

The most important thing of course is that lots of Napoleonic troops battled away for a day! Ion and I started at about 10:30 and were joined by Andrew and Paul about midday. We had finished 12 turns by 18:30, which is not bad considering we were rusty or still novices with the rules! It was Andrew's first game, Ion and Paul's second, and my third. The General d'Armee playsheets are very helpful. It seemed that most of the rules could be worked out using these, with only some of the more complex charge situations requiring reference to the rulebook.

Thanks to Ion, Paul and Andrew! We will see what happens at the next encounter. I understand Paul is adding to his Prussians so perhaps they will make an appearance.

UPDATE: Ion has also written an entertaining account of the battle, see here:
Part 1
Part 2