Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Man Who Would be King / Liverpool / Treasure Hunt

Driving back from a trip to Liverpool* I switched on the radio for the last hour of the journey. After a minute of channel hopping I found this on BBC Radio 4 just after it started:

The Man Who Would be King

57 minutes well spent. Worth this week's contribution to the licence fee on its own (about £3 a week). The programme ended just as I parked up at home. Nice timing.

* This was the first time I'd spent some proper time in the city. I've been up a number of times - a work trip (ie. stuck in a meeting for hours); a university open day and dropping off/collecting my son there. But it's always been in and out. I've heard several times what a great place it is** and my son loves it (more than the university) and he's been on at me to visit properly. He's coming into his final few months at uni, so as it was the girls' half term I booked a couple of nights through AirBnB and we headed up Thursday.

** Well they didn't lie. It's a fabulous place. Lots to see and do as a tourist. Some great architecture and fascinating history. I only got a chance to scratch the surface. Highlight for me was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King a.k.a. Paddy's Wigwam. I found it an inspiring and moving ediface. Actually I lied above. I had spent a bit of time in Liverpool on 'non-mission centred' activity and experience. On the university open day in 2015**, son and I had a wander around Paddy's Wigwam. What I hadn't noticed before was that all the chapels around the perimeter are a different shape. Obvious once its pointed out. There are still vast areas of the city that don't look like they've seen the benefits yet of the rebirth of the city. Hopefully it won't be too long.

*** Which reminds me of an incident later that day. Son, who I had infected with the virus that is Grimsby Town, had clocked that Town were playing at Southport the same day as the uni open-day. So as we were up there anyway we drove up to Merseyside's premier resort (via the Anthony Gormley statues at Crosby). At half-time there was a commotion amongst a bunch of lads at the other end of the terrace. A couple of days later I came across this. Dangerous and daft. But the sheer innocent joy of it! Sadly the boy in the bin died a couple of years later (from something completely unrelated).

Ah yes, the treasure hunt. The check in details for the flat we rented the first night ran to several pages. First we had to go to a 'nearby' hotel where the owner had rented car parking space (with some cloak and dagger instructions too). Nearby = 3/4 mile. Then go to postcode L1 XXX, identify a bike padlocked to a stand outside a branch of a pub/eatery chain, open the bag on the bike, use code nnnn to open locker S2 to retrieve key to appartment. Then proceed to appartment at L1 YYY (again with more cloak and dagger instructions - not at all suspicious, honest guv). Not once did the host see fit to give the actual street address for the appartment. And despite requests to do so (I'm a little old fashioned, not trusting entirely to tech. Or strangers), the host did not see fit to provide them, merely to re-iterate the instructions. Don't think they'll be getting a five star review.

The view from the flat was worth it though. Apologies for the glare - this was just as the sun was going down. I give you the Three Graces:
Liverpool Pier Head

The Cunard Building (left) and the Royal Liver Building.

Here's a professional shot of the same view:

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Kunersdorf Wargame Part II

I managed to get several more turns in today, but then called it a day. There was no end in sight. Both sides still had lots of reserves of strength. Here are a few more photos with captions bringing things up to date.

The Russians have started the fight back to re-gain the Mühlberg with some success. The Prussians send in more troops from the left of the picture to hold the position. Meanwhile on the bottom left the Prussians have assembled a powerful mass of horse, foot and guns to batter through the waiting Austrian infantry - more Russian infantry and artillery are ready behind them though.

Close up of the Prussian lines referred to above.

And the Kaiserlicks awaiting their fate.

Prussian bases lost at the close of play: 3 infantry, 2 artillery, 1 cavalry and General Finck

Austro-Russian bases lost: 9 foot, 6 cavalry, 2 artillery and 1 un-named general.
Whilst the losses look heavily in the Prussians' favour there are several more Prussian bases with losses and it wouldn't take much to finish those ones off, so the balance of casualties is more even than the pictures look.

Neither side looked in any danger of collapse and neither had the opportunity to bring overwhelming superiority in one sector. I'd taken a rather unhistorical approach with the Prussians. Instead of rushing in to attack the Allies' right wing, I refused the Prussian left. I did this knowing what Frederick didn't. That instead of marching to the rear of the Austro-Russian position, Frederick had marched around the rear to attack the Allies' front  which was protected by earthworks. If I learned anything from this, it is how difficult a job the Prussians had on their hands. Whilst the Prussians weren't completely overthrown as they were in the real battle, any victory, if possible, would have been a Pyrrhic one.

So what would have been the result if I'd carried on? Difficult to say. There was no end in sight. I had played 20-odd turns. Using the start time of the historical battle, around 11:30 when the preliminary bombardment commenced, that would hhave taken the battle into the late evning probably. Even in the Summer light would have faded. Fighting on would have been very difficult. I think the position would have been similar to Zorndorf a year before, albeit with much smaller percentages of the armies lost as casualties. Unlike Zorndorf the rival armies would have been more capable of fighting on the next day.

I've got some notes on the rules to review and possibly make some changes. Some are things that bothered me previously, but nothing fundamental.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Kunersdorf Wargame Part I

I have managed to get about 5 hours gaming time in spread throughout Saturday and today. The number of turns completed is c 20 using my house SYW rules. The turns churn around quite quickly because (a) that's the way the rules are designed; (b) Kunersdorf presents a narrow front where most of the action is concentrted and there are a limited number of units that can do anything at any one time.  This tendency was reinforced by the Prussians' refusing to pass the village of Kunersdorf and expose themselves to the Russian guns of the main position, and by the Russians' determination to hold their advantageous defensive position and not risk an equal combat with the Prussian cavalry.

The table set-up is shown in an earlier post here and orders of battle are here. House rules are explained in a number of posts last year, starting here if you are so interested.

After an intense bombarment the Prussian infantry storm the Mühlberg defences and gain a toe hold in the NE corner. The Russian batteries were silenced then driven away. You can see here that I have had to use Bavarians and Austrians to stand in for the Observation Corps musketeers.

Around to the west of the Mühlberg the Prussian right wing cavalry engages with their Russian opposite numbers. Here the Russian horse grenadiers do sterling work

More Prussian infantry pour into the defences and expand their foothold on the Mühlberg. Slowly but surely they grind down the Observation Corps. In a couple of cases with nowhere to retreat to, units of the Russians lay down their arms and are massacred where they stood as in the real battle (i.e. if you can't retreat from a push back you take further hits).

A wider view of the position. The cavalry actions continue on the left whilst the Austrian infantry corps can be seen marching up from the allies' right wing, above the stream to the right (block of six bases preceded by two bases of cavalry)

Almost the end of the Observation Corps. Just two bases (regiments) remain on the Mühlberg. Two badly knocked about regiments have been forced off completely. The rest have ceased to exist as formed units. By this point the Prussians had still not lost any bases to about 8 Russians.

The Russians form a new flank beyond the Kuh Grund (just in front of the grenadiers here) and the second line begins to move up in the distance.

Having stormed across the Kuh Grund (the gap in the middle) the Prussian grenadiers enjoy mixed fortunes against their opposite numbers. One base ground down their Russian opponents, the other fought an inconclusive combat for several turns. Eventually the second Prussian base prevails but the first one is caught in the flank by a unit of Russian cavalry which sweeps them away. In the chaos Finck was struck down by a burly Russian curiassier.  One Prussian base remains on the Russian side of the Kuh Grund whilst Prussian musketeers (left) pluck up their courage to renew the assault.

On the western side of the Mühlberg the Prussian cavalry have ground down the Russians to just one untouched unit and two severly weakened ones (note the two units with two casualty markers - 3 wipes out the unit). The Austrian infantry have closed off this flank howeverand the Russian horse had driven away the Prussian artillery in the area.

I'll decide whether to continue tomorrow. If I don't continue I'll have to assess the likely outcome. The Prussians have still only lost a few bases, but a breakthrough looks a tall order.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

It didn’t happen today

‘It’ being Kunersdorf. To not many peoples surprise. This is part of the reason: 
Following M. le comte de Foy’s house style, I have opted for terrain ‘one scale down’. Human figure in 1:1 scale . Tree is 1:1.5 scale.

Rouva Nundanket ordered a mature olive tree in the week. I agreed would be ideal for our south facing garden. Recent summers have been very hot and dry and the expectation is that they will continue to get hotter. What could be better for Mediterranean conditions than a Mediterranean tree that is used to parched conditions.

The corollary of hotter drier summers, is warmer wetter winters. So when this tree arrived on Thursday  (let’s call the old girl Olive for convenience), when Olive arrived the ground was sodden and the rain was about to start again. This was the midweek ‘dry spell’ between two storms we’ve been ‘enjoying’ in the UK and northwest Europe. 

The pot that Olive arrived in was a metre wide - her  tree trunk is over half a metre in diameter in parts (sorry Olive your bum DOES look big in that). It took an hour of hacking the (plastic) pot, emptying soil, squeezing and pushing, and lifting* to get Olive through our 83cm wide side gate on her trolley. * inevitably one of the rear wheels went into the drain just inside the gate. We (Mrs N and I) looked at each other several times as if to say why did we do this. But we pushed on through and a couple of  minutes after getting through the gate, Olive’s trolley had reached the end of the concrete paving. Any further and we’d have had an object lesson in why ECW guns rarely moved once in position and the horses had been led away. The ground was too wet (though it did occur to me later we could have used the left over planking from our building work. Never mind the spot where she came to rest would be ideal and Olive would give us some shade on the patio. Mrs N dug the pit whilst I returned to my own labours indoors. Attempts to lift and lever Olive into position were abandoned before we caused ourselves too much damage to our musculature. 

We returned to the task with fresh vigour late this morning  after I’d dropped off the ever-so-slightly younger Ms Nundanket off to her third ballet session of the weekend. My bright idea to lift Olive worked. The only question is whether Olive will get root-rot with the ground as wet as it is.  Phew! We did it though. We saw the job through. We’d constructed the VKT Line. The conditions to be fair were more like Ypres in 1917 than Karelia 20 odd years later. But still a case of ‘sisu’. We’re available for any 1:1 scale earthworks you have in mind.

That still left most of the afternoon after I’d picked up the ever so slightly youngest up, but hay fever (not the onset of a cold as I thought yesterday) made me very sleepy. Hay fever! At this time of year and in this weather! I blame interfering Brussels bureaucrats.

Oh my excuse for the evening? ‘Why didn’t you get on and wargame after your afternoon snooze?’ nobody asked. Well that was because of a delayed anniversary dinner. Can’t beat that for an excuse.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

It's coming at last!

KUNERSDORF! Finally on the table. Baron von Münchausen's view from his balloon above the Oder in his escape from besieged Frankfurt.

The main Russian position. The Observation Corps on the Mühlberg to the north (top). Prussians appearing from the top.

The southerly end of the position. Austrians towards the bottom left. In the bottom left corner is the Wagenburg.

Frederick's army approaches the Mühlberg. It's going to get very hot soon.

The battery on the Grosser Spitzberg, village of Kunersdorf in the background

Back after a long lay off. Illness and a subsequent loss of my mojo, football watching, spousal and parental responsibilities have all taken their toll on wargaming in Schloß Nundanket. I should get down to the game tonight and hopefully write it up tomorrow.

It took quite a long time to set up the table (3 hours). I took some time to get the dimensions right, using one of the maps from Kronskaf for the overall positions and Duffy (see previous post on Kunersdorf) for the placement of the different troop types. I don't have sufficient Russians for the Observation Corps musketeer regiments so have used Bavarians and Austrians. And I'm a few bases short of Prussian fusileers so have had to use musketeers - must remember this when the game starts.

Table layout with some key dimensions. Had to use a photo of the file on my laptop screen because Blogger wouldn't accept a pdf file of it.