Sunday, 31 October 2021

Space Saving

At SELWG the other week I mentioned to David-in-Suffolk (a.k.a. the Ragged Solider) that my collection doesn't take up much space due to the small scales that I game in. Some time after I checked how much space. Well here's how much:

Under 3 feet wide. 34 inches or 87cm in new money.


To be a little more precise, there are 32 plastic boxes c.21x21x4cm and 7 thick card boxes 24x30x6cm (internal dimensions). A fraction of cubic metre. In fact about 10% of one cubic metre!

In those boxes are 11 'armies', all of my buildings, castle sections, river sections, woods (2 of the card boxes alone), hedges, fences, earthworks, bridges, and my unpainted lead pile. The 'armies' are:

Period

No. of painted and based figures

Armies

Scale

SYW

3520

Austrian, Prussian, Russian

6mm

ECW

1482

Parliamentarian and Royalist

10mm

AWI

305

American and British

10mm

Napoleonic

1956

Anglo-Portuguese-Spanish and Prussian

6mm

WWII

160

Finnish and Soviet

10mm

Total

7423




Guns, limbers and wagons are not included in those totals. The WWII stuff does not include any vehicles yet.

Quite a modest total by some people's standards. But my wife thinks it's enough, and who am I to disagree. Openly.


Thursday, 28 October 2021

Kesselsdorf Refought Solo

It's difficult to know how to start this so I'm just going to jump straight in.

Having laid up the table nearly three weeks ago, I got down to playing the game a week ago. I don't know what was stopping me before. The game only took a couple of hours to play to conclusion. For the set-up, please see the post here: https://horseandmusketgaming.blogspot.com/2021/10/in-jesu-nahmen-marsch.html

One major difference between the table set-up and the map I gave is that, due to the table being too short I could only go as far as Zollmen on the Saxon right. This meant that all of the Austrians were off table. As in the accounts that I've seen (admittedly very brief ones) the Austrians do not seem to take part in any of the key action, I decided that they would only appear on the table on a dice roll after 6 turns. This sounds like a long time, but the turns are completed quickly in the Twilight of the Soldier Kings. Also there appears to be a big gap between the Austrian and Saxon positions and it would probably be a long time before the Austrian commander decided that any sound of battle off to his left was the real deal, and that there was no threat to his front, or that he took the entreaties of his Saxon ally seriously enough to move. The 7,000 strong force of Austrians would also take some time to re-deploy into column and march the three miles to the heart of the action. The dice roll method for the Austrians to appear as fully formed columns on the table would be the traditional 6 on a D6, and decreasing by 1 every successive turn.

One final comment. All the 'Saxons' here are played by Austrians, as the sharp-eyed will note from the flags.

View from above the Prussians' position. Kesselsdorf is the town on the right, Zollmen on the centre-left. Prussian flanking cavalry and grenadiers above the stream to the right.

Normally under TOSK rules, players dice for initiative but I decided that logically it would be fitting that the Saxons got the opportunity to react first with the Prussians having gotten so close. The Saxon batteries in defences of Kesselsdorf immediately poured shot into the blue-coated grenadiers inflicting heavy losses on them. Elsewhere one Saxon infantry brigade advanced into the village of Zollmen, with no real thought other than that it appeared to be a good idea.

Whilst the Prussian grenadiers steeled themselves to assault Kesselsdorf, their brethren in the heavy cavalry orbited the town and attacked the Saxon horse. Despite the advantage of numbers, they were forced to face the Saxons on an equal frontage, squeezed between Kesselsdorf and the marshes and the large village of Nieder Hermsdorf to the south. In other words, they were stopped by the table edge. The action here was to be long and drawn out. Unable to bring numbers to bear, the Prussians were fighting their neighbours on near equal terms.

Slowly the Prussian cuirassiers pushed the Saxon dragoons back.  The three support lines, plus the weight advantage gave the Prussians the edge but the Saxons were doughty opponents. In the background to the right, the Prussian centre has crossed the stream and engaged the Saxons in a prolonged firefight after their initial bayonet 'charge' proved ineffective*.

* In TOSK Prussian infantry in 1745 and the early SYW use 'bayonet tactics'. I.E. they are forced to close without stopping to fire. Only once they are repulsed will they stop to slug it out with black powder. After attempting to close with the Saxon grenadiers defending Kesselsdorf, the Prussian elites staggered back. The task was too demanding. Soon they were swept away by canister and they fled (They had reached 3 losses). The Prussian second line on the right were kept at bay by the Saxon guns.  The Dessauer's men were not having much joy.

In the centre the Saxons also took first blood, driving off one Prussian brigade in rout. Leopold's day had not got off to a good start. But whilst the Austrians were far off by the Elbe, he had the advantage of numbers, and could replace the destroyed brigades. The sixth turn and then the seventh came and went with no sign of the Austrians.

The infantry battle in the centre. The Prussians are gaining the upper hand.


Across on the Saxon right, the cavalry and infantry advanced close to the stream, but stayed back just far enough to tempt the Prussians. The Prussians advanced to the stream. And waited. They were not going to take the bait. It was almost as if their commander could read his opponent's thoughts. He moved a battery up into range of the Saxon foot who had strayed too close to the stream.

Whilst this played out, relief began to arrive on the Saxon right rear.

Les Autrichiens arrivent! It would be a race against time. Could they get to the Saxon centre before the Prussians break through?


Meanwhile back at Kesselsdorf, the Prussian second line made up of Musketeer regiments assault the Saxon lines. In the course of the action they suffer two losses but manage to inflict one on the Saxon grenadiers. On the far side of the town, the Saxon infantry tries to influence the cavalry action by firing into the flank of the Prussian cavalry, but with limited effect.

This is where TOSK gets interesting. It models deployment into line really well. Troops without Improved Movement (which is everyone but the Prussians) have to march into line by first wheeling at a right angle to the line of march, then turning to the front. This takes more than one move. Troops with Improved Movement can deploy off the line of march, and this is quicker. In the end this is what slowed the Austrians down. The Prussian infantry in the centre finally break the Saxon foot. On the Prussian right, their cavalry, despite losing one brigade, force their opponents into the centre of the position.

Breakthrough! Prussian infantry left in command of the centre. Saxon infantry  is left isolated in Kesselsdorf. The Saxon cavalry brigades in the centre of the picture each have two losses; one more each and they 'rout'.

The Saxon right at the end. The Austrian foot is seen in their slow deployment into line. The Austrian cavalry had already been removed at this point.


So a decisive victory in the end for the Prussians. But for a long time the game hung in the balance. I say a long time. It was several turns, but the whole game of about 13 moves only took 2-3 hours. I'm still rusty on the rules, and I'd like to try them out some more. But I'd say they probably fit the bill for what I'm looking for better than anything else. At some point I'd like to try an encounter game with both sides deploying from march columns. That will take a much bigger table than I have got currently.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

A show, a game, a walk and a bench

It's been a strained couple of weeks which I might elaborate on at some point. However, I finally got down to some wargaming. After two weeks of the game being set up and ready on the table, I got down to running through Kesselsdorf with my rusty understanding of the Twilight of the Soldier Kings rules. More of that anon. The weekend before I had a trip up to north London for SELWG and met the Two Davids of The Ragged Soldier and St Cyr on Wheels blogs.

I enjoyed my day out (I'll gloss over the hordes of maskless NFL fans on the Tube) and it was nice to put faces to names from the blogosphere. Stand out displays for me were the 1930s Thai civil war game, the 1950s French Indo-China game, and the 2mm Ancients game which seemed to have a fully-engaged group of participants. No damage was done to my credit rating on impulse buys either.

The intriguing venue for SELWG

View down the length of the Thai game

Close-up of the Thai game. Government forces moving up to confront the rebels. I was taken by the 'mule train' (If I remember correctly, they were actually donkeys).

More action from the Thai game

French Indo-China

From a great looking Sikh War game

Ditto

The aforesaid ancients game

More recently we had a family trip to my home town. Most of the branch down here and the Liverpool branch. We all assembled (6 in total) in Cleethorpes and had some good quality family time together, and some good quality fish and chips too. Forget everywhere else as far as the national dish is concerned, as it is a pale imitation. On the Sunday we walked along the south promenade and after deciding not to wait for the next departure on the miniature railway, we continued walking down the coast towards Humberston. I then remembered something I'd read about in a recent Grauniad [sic] article and suggested we head there.

This is the overly alliterative, but fabulous Buck Beck Beach Bench. Originally it was a makeshift bench made out of driftwood on the seaward side of salt marshes and dunes. Over time it has been built up, swept away, re-built and swept away again, only to be built up afresh. Nine or ten times. More can be read on it here. https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Blimey%2C+Buck+Beck+Beach+Bench%27s+blossomed!+the+origins+behind...-a0650673599

Looking like the last stand of a British column in some far flung part of the  Empire

With random dog walker

Nundanket Junior and paramour inspecting the installation. Random dog walker guarding the premises




Some of the flotsam and jetsam used 

Not so random wife-type person contemplating the enormity of the sky

Back in old Cleethorpes town, the old post office. There are some other architectural gems around this part of town. Sadly I didn't capture any of them on the camera. This is fairly close to the site of a Zeppelin raid in WWI where several members of the Manchester Regiment were killed and wounded. The building destroyed in the raid is now the site of a 1960s built Baptist chapel. The town was big on Non-Conformism and had several Baptist and Methodist chapels.


Close to where the bench is located, last year a walker discovered the remains of an aircraft believed to be a Bristol Beaufighter. I have no idea what happened to the remains after the bomb disposal squad attended the site.

Just offshore from here is one of a pair of WWI coastal forts guarding the mouth of the Humber.


Haile Sand Fort, close to Humberston, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

Bull Sand Fort, behind which is Spurn Head in Yorkshire.

I'll be back soon with a post on the re-fought Battle of Kesselsdorf.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Interrupting the war

Ach, real life getting in the way. I meant to run the Kesselsdorf game by the end of the weekend, but other stuff is getting in the way.

Work has seen an uptick in busyness and more evening calls. Depending on timing, I have dinner before or after, then go for a swim, and then 15 minutes on a mindfulness app. I’m not minded to do the game after that.

Then there are other ‘discretionary activities’. Like going to watch football, listening to football commentary (lately it’s been two games a week). Or getting a haircut - it was getting to the point this wasn’t discretionary if I didn’t want to look like the crazy person that sits next to you on the bus. So Saturday was used up swimming, then haircut, lunch, travel to Woking for football (with the ritual socialising before and after). By the time Strictly had finished I was dozing off on the sofa. Sunday disappeared after a morning swim, with further snoozes on the sofa and later on the bed.

So back to weekday ritual today. Late calls, dinner, swim, meditation. I am snatching some reading time. I’ve started re-reading Twilight of the Soldier Kings to refresh myself on the rules. And yesterday I finished off Flashman and the Mountain of Light. This naturally turned the mind back to the Sikh Wars specifically, and colonial wars generally. Maybe I’d be better off with something more asymmetrical than the Sikh Wars to get that real colonial war feel. Two European trained horse and musket armies might be a bit samey, even if one is in fancier gear.

All of which butters no parsnips, and next weekend is already filling up. SELWG on Sunday where I will hopefully meet up with a couple of bloggers. And Saturday sees the Mighty Mariners (I can hear you sniggering) are live on the Box (BBC Red Button) with their FA Cup qualifier at Bromsgrove. Set your alarm for 12:30 BST, thrill seekers.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Old wine in new skins, or l’Arte de la Guerre

I don’t normally buy wine, or anything else, for fancy labels. In fact, I have a prejudicial view that it is likely to be poor value if it has an attractive or engaging label, or ‘clever’ name. You know the sort of thing. A French wine given the Anglo-Saxon treatment with a punning name. But how could I resist this (in Aldi)?

Grenade. Sponton. Mousquet.

Too soon to tell if this is any good.

Teutoburgerwald? No Manchester

 https://youtu.be/qhSlxxcmD0M


Tuesday, 5 October 2021

In Jesu Nahmen marsch!*

I've been casting around for an inaugural wargame in the cabin. Fancying something Frederician, I flicked through Duffy for inspiration. Ideally I was after something I've not gamed before. Hohenfriedberg (1745) caught my eye. However, it is a beast of a battle, one of the largest in terms of manpower. More to the point though is it is more of an encounter battle in practice. Fred did have a plan but came upon the Austrian and Saxon camps sooner than expected and the battle evolved into a series of episodes involving columns of Prussians arriving at different times. I wanted something simpler to stage. A more straightforward fight, so I plumped on Kesslesdorf, also from 1745. 

I have actually war-gamed Kesselsdorf before, several years ago with my son.

The Background

Kesselsdorf did not actually involve Fred himself. The Prussians were led in this battle by 'the Old Dessauer' (Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau), the famed father of the Prussian infantry and veteran of the War of the Spanish Succession. It was fought on 15 December 1745 in Saxony and was in effect the last major engagement of the Silesian Wars. Fred had beaten the Austrians twice that year, but Maria-Theresa would not give up. The Prussians former allies the Saxons had turned on Fred (who probably deserved it). In fact the Saxons had also been involved in the punch-up at Hohenfriedberg (a.k.a. 'Striegau') where they'd been badly handled by their fellow north Germans. The Saxons remembered this years later and their cavalry serving with the Austrians, charged at the Battle of Kolin with the cry 'dies ist für Striegau'. Fred and Leopold were leading armies on the Saxon capital Dresden from different directions but a Saxon army  under Field Marshal Rutowsky, supported by a small Austrian force, was between the Old Dessauer and city.

The Saxon left was anchored on the entrenched town of Kesselsdorf, with the right (held by the Austrians) rested on the Elbe. In front of the position was a stream. Leo launched an attack on the town and simultaneously on the centre-left of the line. Initially unsuccessful, a rash Saxon counter-attack led to defeat and the rolling up of the Saxon position. The Saxons routed in panic on Dresden, and despite an Austrian army being on hand to stiffen their resolve, the Saxons quit their capital whilst a now united Fred and Leo marched in to the city. The Austrians sued for peace, leaving Fred in possession of Silesia, the Saxons got off with their territory in tact, and the Austrians were able to concentrate on fighting the French in the complicated series of wars known as the War of the Austrian Succession.

So onto the game. First things first.

The Rules

I'll be using Twilight of the Soldier Kings again as they allow a fairly swift game, with easily remembered rules, suitable for this level of action. I'm pondering the merits of converting them to a hex-grid at some point, as I think they could be good for a remote game. What isn't so good is the scale of my toys, at least with my current cameras (i.e. my phone camera or the built-in camera on my Mac). 

The Map

Map from the Wikipedia page on Kesselsdorf here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kesselsdorf

There's a discrepancy between this and the map given on the confusingly named 'British Battles.com'. The map in Wiki gives a distance of 8km from the Prussian left to the Elbe. British Battles has it more like 6km, though the Prussian left could be shown just a bit later in their advance. Even if that is the case, there's still about 1km difference. Duffy’s map just focuses on the centre and left of the allied position so is not much help. A look on a satellite map shows 8km or 5 miles would be nearer the mark allowing for 1mile (1.6km) from the centre of Kesselsdorf to the edge of the table. 8km/5 miles is approximately 3.miles is something like 175cm in my chosen ground scale. Longer than either my garden table or my desk. I don’t have a permanent wargame table yet.  I could combine the two but the desk is 6cm higher than the table. Hmm.

However I manage it, the table will be covered with my usual green felt, but then overlaid with some semi-transparent ‘accoustic floor foam’ that the builder who did the loft seems to have left. This material is white so I'm hoping it'll be good to represent the snow covered ground. It was sitting in the old shed for 3 years and its day has finally arrived!

Orders of Battle

Overall numbers of men and units taken from Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great, first edition. Prussian breakdown (e.g. between different types of cavalry) taken from the map in Duffy. For the Austro-Saxons I will have to come up with an arbitrary split between cuirassiers and dragoons, and designate some of the infantry as grenadiers, as there seems to have been some at least involved as full units in the counter-attack. About 1/5 of the allied force will be Austrian.



Bns/Sqs/Guns

Bases

Brigades

Prussians





Infantry

31 (21000)




Grenadiers


4

2

1

Musketeers


22

11

5.5

Fusileers


6

3

1.5

Cavalry

93 s (9000)




Cuirassiers


40

8

4

Dragoons


35

7

3.5

Hussars


0



Artillery





Heavy guns

33 heavy

33

3.3

2











Austro-Saxons





Infantry

39 (24000)

39

19.5

9.8

Cavalry

58s (7000)

58

11.6

5.8

Hussars


0



Guns

42 heavy

42

4.2

2






Bases of cavalry and infantry are 60mm wide which notionally is about 300 yards, a space occupied by a 2 battalion infantry regiment or 5 squadron cavalry regiment. Two such bases make up a brigade, the basic game unit in Twilight of the Soldier King. Artillery units represent about 20 heavy guns. My artillery bases are 30mm wide, with 2 going to make up a unit.

Right, that's all organised. All that remains is to set-up the table and run the game on Wednesday (Tuesday night is football night again so I'll be glued to the wireless again).

* If I recall correctly, the Old Dessauer said something like this when he launched his bluecoats across the snow. Not that I was there.


Post Script: The Set-up

Saxons at the top, Kesselsdorf is the settlement on the right. The Prussians in an outflanking position on the right, as well as below the stream. Apparently, the Old Dessauer’s army had marched up on the flank originally, but he sportingly marched them round to the front of the Saxon position.

View from the east. Saxons to the left, Prussians to the right. Given the small table I decided to leave the Austrians off table and dice for their entry. Rather than put the table and desk together to make a bigger space, I opted for the small battlefield because that way I can leave it up mid-game. Which was the whole point of the cabin in the first place. The stream is FAR too wide by the ground scale.