Sunday, February 5, 2017

Battle of Albuera

The field of Battle 

I've always had a bit of a thing about the battle of Albuera.  I remember reading about Lt. Latham of the Buffs hiding the colours in his jacket after the near destruction of Colborne's brigade.  He fell having been repeatedly sabred by French cavalry. He lost an arm and damn near lost his life, but he saved the colours and his regiments honour. The account in the late Richard Holmes book "Soldiers" is well worth reading and it gives me chills years later. 

But then again, two of my favourite battles are Waterloo and Albuera, which lead to a friend of mine observing, "What is wrong with you Kinch, that you like battles where every one bloody dies." 

That poor man is dead now and I still don't have an answer for him. 

Regardless, for them as don't know the battle. 

"The Fortress of Badajoz dominated the southern invasion route from Portugal into Spain. The British had invested the fortress, but had few engineers and no siege train to speak of. The French were not idle. Marshal Soult set out toward Badajoz with a relieving force. Beresford, the temporary army commander, marched a force larger than Soult’s to the small town of Albuera to meet the French. Beresford placed his army on the ridge behind Albuera, expecting to receive a frontal assault to split his army. Soult, however, formed most of his army behind the high ground opposite the Spanish on the right flank. 

On the morning of May 16th, General Godinot’s brigade attacked Albuera as a diversion, while Soult’s main force moved unobserved across the Albuera River and delivered a flank attack upon Blake’s Spanish contingent. The first Spanish unit attacked was Zayas’s division, a veteran unit under a good commander. Though pounded by superior French forces, the Spaniards held until Stewart’s British division arrived. Stewart threw Colborne’s British brigade at the French flank and checked French progress, but none of Colborne’ regiments were in square. French cavalry charged and virtually destroyed three of the four regiments. The rest of Stewart’s division went into line behind the embattled Spaniards. The French made a fatal pause to allow a fresh division to come forward. Zayas’s survivors drew off under no pressure. 

Now a solid line of British muskets awaited the French columns that had been successful against Zayas. As the fresh French and British formations met, both did fearful execution to each other at close range, British line fire prevailed, causing the battered columns to retreat. French reserves (Werle’s division) advanced toward Stewart’s remnants, but help was coming. Sensing disaster, General Cole advanced his British division without orders. His action won the battle, as British line fire triumphed over the French columns, but again at a high cost in British casualties. Soult could see Harvey’s fresh Portuguese division advancing, and with no more fresh troops available, ordered a French retreat. 

Although considered a British victory, when Wellington heard he had lost almost 6,000 irreplaceable British soldiers, he was reported to have said, “Another such battle will ruin us."

The French drive into the town of Albuera on the Allied left

French dragoons outflank the Spanish line on the Allied right

The rest of the French cavalry push on the right

A counter attack launched by the 4th Irish Dragoon Guards

General Du Gourmand contemplates his cavalry...

...and opens a bottle of Dr. Du Gourmands Healthful Nerve Tonic. 

"These Chasseurs offend me!"

Uncle Westprog considers his options

The 4th Irish Dragoon Guards ably supported by some Spanish hussars do the business

As much prized French horse flesh is sent to the Knackers Yard... 

...General Du Gourmand clutches his chest and decides that he better play something good to get himself of trouble. 

But not so fast. 

There is a rule in the Spanish expansion for Commands & Colours Napoleonics called the "Spanish Guerrilla" rule.  The Spanish (or allied player) can play a "Spanish Guerrilla Token" to cancel the effects of a card played by the French player.  This effectively gives the Spanish player two turns in a row, which can be very powerful. Normally the player takes a small card token, but they were packed away and I didn't have them to hand. Uncle Westprog however felt that the "Spanish Geurilla Stick" was a far more effective means of remembering this vital game mechanic.  This was accomplished through the medium of whacking the card out of Du Gourmand's hand. 

Yet another benefit of a classical education. 

That's quite enough of that. 

French grenadiers holding the town. 

Meanwhile over on the left, the French grenadiers had dragged the Allies in to a meatgrinder of a battle around the town. They were eventually driven out and broken, but not before exacting a punishing toll on the British. 

As the French right was being driven out the down, the cavalry again came into their own. 

General Du Gourmand ordered the Vistula Legion to attack supported by the French infantry. 

Taking the Spanish hussars in the flank. 

With predictable results. 

"I'm not sure if Cavalry Charge is the card I want to play..."

Oh but it is and the Irish are sent packing by the Poles. 

Which leaves Uncle Westprog with a problem...

...he is trailing in victory points and with the French rampaging around his right flank, he is likely to lose the game in the next few turns. If he remains on the defensive, he will simply be delaying the inevitable, but if he attacks, he might catch Du Gourmand off guard. 

With that in mind, he launches an attack in the centre driving his infantry across the river to hit the battered French 

Even with the Vistula Legion driven off, the French infantry are looking threatening. 

Hold it right there young man...

The British make it across the river, wipe out a French battery and drive 
General Godinot back in confusion

The Vistula Legion drive into the centre, Uncle Westprog tries to form square, but cannot due to a scenario special rule called "Stewarts Folly". 

So he plays a first strike card (allowing him to shoot first) and manages to empty the Legions saddles so effectively that they are destroyed as a fighting force. 

General Godinot is captured. 

The Legione Irlandaise and the 8ieme Ligne splash across the river

And the brave Spaniards are no more

The Royal Horse Artillery rides to the rescue

But it's too late, The French infantry close in and put the remaining Portuguese to the sword. 

A good game, hard fought

Considering Uncle Westprog was down 7-4 for quite a while and managed to turn things around in the final few turns, this was a close game.  I was impressed with how he dealt with things considering Du Gourmand is an exceptionally experienced opponent possessed of a Napoleonic cocktail of decision and aggression.  His cavalry assault on the French should have succeeded and he was unlucky that it did not do more damage. 

Du Gourmand played well, but was let down by the dice on a couple of occasions. On the whole, a rattling good game. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

A new addition to the War Room

The back - note the text on the cards is viewable. 

We're not at home much at present, but I came across these pictures while I was messing about on my phone.  They are from a small project that I completed before Christmas and which I'm very happy with. I was given a collection of cigarette cards by a friend some years ago, shortly before he died.  I think they belonged to his brother.  In any event, they were a complete set of uniforms of the territorial army, beginning with the London Trained Bands and finishing with the TA of 1938. I love their clean lines and bright colours, but I wanted to find a way to display them without covering up the text on the back of the cards. 

The front - a fine body of men

I ordered the mount online, as cutting windows for fifty cards seemed like a ludicrous way to spend my time.  There was also every chance that I would make a balls of it and ruin a perfectly good piece of mounting board. My plan was to get two pieces of glass cut to fit the frame and sandwich the cards and the mount between them. I wasn't sure that the frame would take the weight, but I was happy to be proven wrong.  

This somewhat Trump like construction appeared in Capability Savages garret studio recently. Whatever can it be? 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Battle of Mohrungen

Marshall Bernadotte pictured in happier days
(thieved from here)

I'm not particularly well up on the fourth Coalition - I know it in a general sense, Jena and all that.  But I must confess, I'd never even heard of the battle of Mohrungen until Lord Siskington picked it out of the book.  Though it appears I'm not alone as a google image search for pictures of the battle drew a blank and I had to settle for the picture (above) of Marshall Bernadotte as an introduction. We're staying with Mrs Kinch's parents at the moment, but I needed to visit home to collect some things and feed Sir Harry Flashman VC, so I took the opportunity to arrange a game while I was at.  Lord Siskington kindly volunteered to join me and we had dinner and a game, which was a very pleasant way to spend the evening. 

The field of Mars arrayed for battle, Lord Siskington considering his options. 

I have lent my snowfield mat to someone and I can't for the life of me remember who, so we were obliged to play this on the green fields mat. Pardon gentles all. 

The introduction from the scenario booklet. 

"In early January Bennigsen ordered the Russian Army to go on the offensive. On the 19th Ney, who had extended his line in search of provisions, was attacked and brushed aside. General Markov then advanced toward Mohrungen where Bernadotte was concentrating his forces. 

Both sides had opportunity to deploy the morning of the 25th before Bernadotte’s cavalry launched a charge against the Russian center. The Russian cavalry, with support from their artillery, drove back the attack but were in turn driven back by French artillery fire and fresh cavalry. The ensuing artillery exchange inflicted little damage. The battle began in earnest when French light infantry advanced in the center to threaten the Russian artillery and Dupont’s arriving division pushed the Russians on the left back from their forest defensive positions. As dusk fell the French were making progress all along the line. Suddenly, Bernadotte heard firing in his rear in Mohrungen. Fearing the worst, he called off the battle to retrace his steps. It was a false alarm—only a few squadrons of Russian horsemen had entered the town and were pillaging the French supply wagons. They were quickly driven off."

Lord Siskington, naturally being the guest, had choice of sides and choose to play the Russians.  I was left with the dastardly French. 

Bonaparte's Legions falling into line

On the face of it, this is a very tough row to hoe for the Russian player. The French player has cavalry superiority, the advantage of numbers and the edge in troop quality.  The only thing in his favour was the terrain and time.  There was a mechanic which allow him to move a marker at the rear of the field which would eventually bring him 50% of the victory points required to win the game.  This meant that we Frenchers could not afford to hang around. 

My opponent rolled rather well on the Mother Russia roll.  This is a special rule the Russians use, which takes account of the add hoc nature of their mobilisation.   The Russian player is allowed add infantry figures to some of his units, raise extra cossacks or dig entrenchments amongst other things.  Lord Siskington created an overstrength, entrenched battery in the centre of his line as a result. 

Lord Siskington's lovely daughter
(aka Tolstoy's Death Star)

This was a perilous looking piece of ironmongery to tangle with and I spent most of the game trying to avoid it, while the Prince Mishkin Hussars (seen the left) pinned my infantry in the centre under its guns. I spent most of my time working around on the right and keeping an eye on the clock. 

Victorious French dragoons

Fortunately,  my success on the right caused Lord Siskington to thin his centre so much that I was able to mount an attack and isolate the battery.  The French guns mounted a Talavera style "artillery charge" combined with some dragoons who managed to get around the back of the redoubt and take it in the rear.  This spelled the end of the Russian gunners. 

French infantry advancing through some curiously un-snowbound fir trees. 

Once the Russian artillery was dealt with I was able to roll up on the right and take the defence apart. This is a tough scenario for the Russian, as the statistics on the CCN website indicate as they win less than a quarter of the time, but regardless it was a good game. Lord Siskington was good company as always.  We put the world to rights over a brandy afterwards.

An evening well spent. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Lifeguard Trumpeter

I've had my hands full recently, but I'm hoping to get a little painting done over the Christmas season. I'm torn between some Mahdists, which I have helpfully got based and primed or some 1/72 Zvesda Pikemen and Musketeers for Pikeman's Lament. 

In the meantime, I can spare the time to appreciate the really fine work our man in Budapest has done on this Lifeguards Trumpeter. 

The pictures here don't do this chap justice.  He's 1/16 scale and is currently guarding one of my bookshelves. An old Airfix figure, he towers over almost anything else in my collection. 

Mr. Tibi has done a very fine job on this chap. 

I particularly like the subtle tonal shifts in the red.  Painting red or white are a pain in the neck at the best of times, but he's has done it very well. 

There's been a lot on for the last few months, but hopefully we'll get back into something approximately a decent routine shortly. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Barbarossa - The Day of Battle

Note: This games day was run in September, but for a variety of reasons I've been worrying away at this report for a little while. 

The Soviet High Command putting their heads together
Comrade Siskey (left) has clearly been marked for purging and didn't get the memo.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Barbarossa Campaign in Memoir '44 Campaign Book One.  It is a campaign of two player Memoir '44 games linked together.  The campaign is divided into Army Group Centre, Army Group North and Army Group South.  Each player takes on control of one of these groups and plays through a series of games that advance that particular part of the grander campaign. All the players draw from a greater pool of reinforcements which are assigned at the beginning of the game.

The game is divided into two phases.  The first phase consists of two scenarios, after which each side can deploy their reserves across the whole front.  The second phase consists of another two to three scenarios.

The dastardly Germans doing the same

I had set things up before most of the players arrived so we were actually able to get the show on the road reasonably quickly. Du Gourmand had not need able to make it, but had generously lent me his copy of the Campaign Book so that we were able to give each side a copy each. Sydney brought his along as well - which speeded things up admirably. 

A soviet excursion party by the River Bug thinking "There are an awful lot of Germans over there."

Over the day we had ten players, some of whom were able to stay for the whole day and others who weren't - but everybody who wanted one got a game. I was happy with that.  One advantage of the single board format rather than our more usual Overlord is that the players can play at their own pace, rather than playing at the pace of the slowest player. 

The German assault started with the traditional drubbing at Bug River.  This is one of the most unbalanced scenarios in the game, so much so that the German player must win by a margin of three medals to count it as a win.  It does run up the German medal count though and Mr. Target really struggled with the Commissar rule. 

The panzers are laying all about them at Brody

Meanwhile, the Soviets at Brody were dealing with a massive penetration of German armour and again were on the back foot from the word go.  Mr E began the game damning the Commissar rule and it was a refrain that lasted for the rest of the day. Brody wasn't quite the kicking that Bug River was, but it was still a German win. 

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Commissar rule. In Memoir '44 each player has a hand of cards which he can use to activate his units.  Each turn he plays a card and then draws another.  The Commissar rule simulates the often crude command arrangements of the Red Army in the early portion of the war, when it struggled to overcome the legacy of the purges, which had stripped it of senior leaders. 

Rather than playing a card from his hand, the Soviet player must take a card and place it under the Commissar chip. This card is then played NEXT turn, where it may have been totally superseded by events. 

"Sergei, does that look like a lot of tanks to you?"

Cut off at Pripet marshes - the Soviets launch a counter attack. 

Kiev - a grudge match between Mr E and Savage

This was, if memory serves, a very tight game. The armoured train proved tough and childhood foes Mr E and Savage, conducted a close fought match.  

I'm no poker player, but I think Comrade Siskey's Ivanskoye counter attack is going rather well. 

As I only had one Commissar button, so Savage produced this thing. 

Lady's and germs that is a gold Kruger-rand. I can only presume he hand forged it from gold he pulled from the teeth of his enemies. 

It's all getting a bit too much for Savage as Mr E takes that last roll of the dice. 

And fluffs it. 

Phew! A win for Team Nazi.

Meanwhile, the Germans mount an amphibious landing on the Baltic islands.  

I was very happy with how this turned out.  The beach landing setup was the first outing of my beach and sea overlays. I made these using a stencil from Litko accessories and felt.  They were laid over the standard green mat and shingle added with cat litter. Ultimately the plan is to try some of the D-Day scenarios, but that might take a little while and the addition of some landing craft. 

If I recall correctly, Siskey had a hard time dealing with the German onslaught.  The combination of an amphibious and a paratrooper assault being too much for his defences. 

Mr. Target is looking distinctly nonplussed at the Gates of Moscow 

It's all very serious here. Sydney versus Lorcan Hibernia McEireanneach

Well he's not happy with that dice roll. 

But even less happier when a German flanking force shows up in his rear. 

And the dice are on fire at the Gates of Moscow. General Creaner and Mr Target can't even look...

After a hard days gaming, we retire to the bar 

The end result was a major German victory.  Looking back on the campaign, the German team were able to stack up a commanding lead in the first few scenarios of the campaign.  As their resources began to peter out, the Soviet numbers began to bear, but the Russians were unable to make up the ground.  This is the second time we've run this campaign and the second German victory.  I wonder perhaps if it might benefit from just a shade of rebalancing, perhaps scoring the Bug River scenario differently might be an idea. 

After the battle, the tidy up. 

I really enjoyed the day, though I'm not sure I would do things the same way again. Because each player was playing his own game against his opponent as an individual and there was no concluding Overlord battle which brought all the players together, I think it lacked some of the shared experience that I've found so rewarding in our other games. 

That said, playing so many individual battles allowed everyone to play at their own pace and ensured that no-one was stranded in a "quiet sector".  There may be a case for a middle ground approach* to a games day which combines a series of two player games with a multi-player Overlord to finish. A series of starters with a main course to finish? 

All the boxes must go back on their shelves before Kinch can declare the game over. 

But dissecting the technical aspects of the day aside- it was an exceptionally pleasant way to spend a few hours in the company of good friends, who turned up and played the game in the best way possible. 

NOTE: I've received a couple of emails wondering where exactly "Joy & Forgetfulness" has been of late and suggesting that I should get a wriggle on and write something. Thank you for taking an interest in the blog - I'm always mildly astonished that people do so, particularly so much so that they take time to write. 

I'm afraid that I will not be able to post to J&F as much as I would like for at least the next couple of months. There are two reasons for this.  The firstly, I've become a father, which is wonderful and of which more later.  Miniature Kinchs demand a great deal of time, which sadly leaves fewer hours in the day to write for you lovely people. 

But secondly and to be honest, the far more limiting factor at present is that I'm recovering from a brain injury.  A confrontation in work in August resulted in me taking a blow to the head from which I have yet to fully recover.  Fortunately, the Good Lord has blessed me with an unusually thick skull so I've avoided all the nastiness of a depressed skull fracture, but it has left me with balance problems, headaches** and even more frustratingly, difficulty concentrating for prolonged periods of time. This has impacted on my reading and, even more maddeningly, on my writing.  I have to ration my attention carefully and make the best use of available resources.  Unfortunately this means that I have to prioritise and J&F has had to take a back seat for a little while.  

Thankfully, there is no permanent brain damage***, but the recovery time is a little longer than I'd hoped.  I'm still writing, just slowly and in small bursts. Facebook is proving a useful means of keeping my hand in in the mean time. 

But J&F is not going anywhere. It's just catching it's breath. 

*Ok, so some days I'm more Anglican than others.
**I will never complain about another hangover ever again, so help me God.
**To quote my darling father, Mr Kinch Senior "How would they tell?"