Last 15 posts from Avon Napoleonic Fellowship

Race for the bridge: Action at Pretzsch, 29 October 1759

Posted on June 26th, 2017 under Posted by

This is the first of several reports about games that we played at the end of 2016 and earlier this year.

The Action at Pretzsch is a little-known rearguard action involving an Austrian retreat (how unusual for this period?) under strong pressure from advancing Prussians. A brief summary from the excellent Kronoskaf website Project SYW  describes the action thus;

“On October 29 in the morning, Arenberg quitted his positions to march to Wittenberg. When the Prussians heard of his departure, Finck marched immediately to follow Arenberg’s Corps. When Wunsch reached Gemmingen’s post at the defile of Merckwitz (unidentified location), Arenberg retired precipitously on Düben through the forest of Torgau, closely followed by Gemmingen. The latter sent Colonel Haller at the head of his vanguard (2 000 men) on the heights of the Sackwitz wood to cover his retreat. Haller’s detachment had not yet reached the summit when Jung Platen Dragoons along with Prussian hussars appeared on the crest. The Prussian cavalry immediately charged the Austrian grenadiers and drove them back, capturing Gemmingen along with 1 400 men. Wunsch and Rebentisch then encamped at Meuro.”

Our game of this action, based on the scenario in Charles S. Grant’s Refighting History Volume 1, involved General Gemmingen trying to extract his troops from heights behind Sackwitz and across a bridge at Reinharz with Wunsch’s Prussians hard on his heels.

We played the game twice. The first game, using Age of Reason rules, involved Mark as the Prussians with Julian (and then me) taking the Austrians. The second, with our Seven Year’s War rules based on Zimmermann, with Mark again as the Prussians and me as the Austrians.

This is a combined report of both games.

Version 1, Age of Reason

As I came in late, the report of the first version is somewhat abbreviated.

When I took over the Austrians, they had made good headway to the bridge, with Prussians close at their heels.

I sent the Serbollini cuirassiers and Jung Modena dragoons (heavily disguised as Saxe-Gotha) to drive the Prussian hussars away from the Austrian left. This was greatly successful, capturing the Prussian brigade commander in the process!

As Gemmingen’s men fought for their lives, Arenberg’s column proceeded to retreat unmolested.

With only a few units safely over the bridge, accumulated losses meant that the Austrians failed their ‘army’ withdrawal test and would retreat.

Game 1 over. Prussian victory.
Version 2, Zimmermann

We re-set the table to the original starting positions. Sackwitz can be seen in the distance, with the heights this side of the town. The bridge is in the left foreground. Gemmingen’s Austrians are deployed in and around Sackwitz with the heights at their back. The Prussians are coming on from the far table edge. Arenberg’s column can be seen at the right of the photo.

This time we began with some aggressive cavalry action, the Austrian dragoons and cuirassiers again seeing off the Prussian hussars, bloodied but not beaten.

As the Prussian infantry advance, the Austrians ‘head for the hills’, leaving sacrificial grenadiers to protect their rear.

Early on it was looking good for the Austrians (apart from the last grenadier battalion). “This is gonna be a walk in the park, I thought!”

Arenberg’s lead battalions neared the table edge and exited to safety.

On my left the Austrian cavalry were conducting a model withdrawal?

Gemmingen’s first infantry unit safely over the bridge. “This is *easy*, I thought.”

Wunsch’s Prussians had other ideas, easily overwhelming the ‘forlorn hope’ and rushing towards the rear of the retreating Austrians.

Still looking good with nearly three units over the bridge and one about to exit to safety.

Time for the cavalry to join them, I thought.

Looks like another unit of grenadiers will have to be lost for the greater good!

The foolishness of my version of the ‘Julian manoeuvre’ was now made glaringly apparent to me as the lead, fresh unit of Prussian hussars took the Jung Modena dragoons in the rear, driving them headlong towards the bridge, bringing chaos and confusion!

Still blissfully ignorant of this (or not caring) Arenberg’s last units make their safe exit.

The Jung Modena dragoons have reformed, as have the Serbollini cuirassiers at top left (now much reduced in numbers). The rear units of Austrian infantry joining them as an ad hoc rearguard.

The Prussians have reached the edge of the heights, more Prussian cavalry are coming down the right of the woods.

The Jung Modena dragoons selflessly sacrificed themselves to enable the guns to get over the bridge and away.

The escapees: Gemmidgen’s much reduced force.

The Austrians had been a bit more successful in extracting troops the second time around, but lost all the cavalry and grenadiers in the process!

Game 2 over. Prussian minor victory due to those significant losses which were similar to the historical version (without the loss of Gemmingen).

This was a fantastic scenario. As the Austrian player I initially thought it was going well and easily, but the Prussians soon caught up and there was pressure galore to try to extricate troops while putting up a delaying defence.

Plenty of pressure for the Prussians too, trying to rush headlong at the Austrians while maintaining a viable attack formation.

An excellent scenario. Thanks Charles! Thanks Mark for providing such wonderful figures to fight it with and to Julian for the venue (ANF-HQ)!

Battle of Bagradas River (Tunis) 255 BC

Posted on June 24th, 2017 under Posted by

The Battle of Bagradas River, Battle of Tunis or perhaps first Battle of Bagradas River was fought in the First Punic War between a Roman expeditionary force under consul Marcus Atilius Regulus and a Carthaginian army led by the mercenary general Xanthippus of Sparta.

This game was played on 11th June and is the most recent of those that we have played during the period Nov ’16–June ’17 when I lost my ‘urge’ to blog. We used Zimmermann’s “The Wargamer’s Handbook”, that old set that I have enjoyed using since Mark introduced them to me a couple of years ago. We have now compiled the rules for ancients into a document and set of tables that we can refer to (both of documents are works ‘in progress’).

Mark put together the game largely based on the scenario in the Warhammer Ancient Battles supplement Hannibal and the Punic Wars. and with reference to Patrick Waterson’s palindromic-titled article Amazed I Am Ere I Made Zama from The Slingshot no. 262 (2009), He also supplied the troops, table (and venue), as he so often does!

I took the bait and played as Roman…

Nah, actually it is good taking the side that was trounced historically as you can only do better, or else it goes according to the ‘script’, so fair enough. Either way you cannot lose, surely?!!

The forces were arrayed on opposite sides of the open plain.

Regulus’ 15 000 infantry formed the large centre, deployed in the usual four lines: velites, hastati, principes and triarii with his 500 cavalry split between the flanks.

Xanthippus had 12 000 infantry, 4 000 cavalry and 100 war elephants. He placed the Carthaginian spearmen in the centre, mercenary infantry on the right with light infantry and Carthaginian/Numidian cavalry split between the two flanks. Those 100 war elephants formed the front rank of his centre.

This was according to the historical record (map from Wikimedia Commons).

As were the opening moves: bring on the pachyderms!
Elephants are from Zvezda (left) and Hät (right) War Elephants sets. Velites by Hät.

The velites evaded, leaving the hastati to try to stop the crazy grey beasts.

They passed the panic test, but were no match for the lunging Loxodontini…
(Roman figures mainly from Hät, some from Zvezda at right of photo).

who pursued through to the principes.

 Pachyderm pursuit soon turned to…
mayhem for the Romans!

Regulus sent his cavalry in a ‘death or glory’ charge in an attempt to break up the Carthaginian attacks on both flanks. On the right, they were at first successful against the Carthaginian cav. (in distance), but pursuing onto the light infantry came unstuck.

Taking stock after the initial shock of the elephants, the Roman line reformed, but would it hold?

The best form of defence is attack! Desperate Roman counter-attacks, but are they merely delaying the inevitable?

Not much sign of the Roman lines in this broad view of the battle.

On the Roman right the triarii have driven back the cavalry and skirmishers-—for now.

The Roman left was under great pressure from a hail of javelins delivered by Numidian cavalry and skirmishers.
(The keen-eyed will notice the Atlantic figures in the foreground amongst those from Hät and Zvezda).

The pressured Roman army looks like a hollow square, assaulted from the left…
and right!

Brief respite. A successful counter-charge by the left-most hastati and principes, drove off Carthaginian cavalry, taking many of their fellows with them.

In the centre though, the Carthaginian phalanx ground forward.

The battle had reached its climax, with what was to be a last turn of desperate mêlées.

Aiming for the triarii to their front (seen just at left of photo), an uncontrolled elephant charge steamed into the rear of the right-most Carthaginian spearmen, sending them to the rear (foreground of photo), before crashing into the spearmen’s former opponents on the left of the Roman line!

Successful against their ‘revised’ foe, they continued towards the messed-up Roman rear; messing it up all over again.

So, what at first seemed to be ‘disaster’, then turned triumph—combined with the successful attacks of the Carthaginian spearmen—meant that it was curtains for the Romans.

A victory to Carthage, but in this we did not completely follow the history. Our version was far closer with only 20-odd figures difference in ‘casualties’: 121 v 100.

This was a fast-moving, challenging game. Being Roman, I was always trying to regain order and put ad-hoc formations into some kind of attack formation. As Carthaginian, Mark kept me on the back foot all game, trying to get his troops into contact as fast as possible.

Since changing to Zimmermann for our games of ancients (this was our third game using these rules) I have been far happier with the ‘feel’ of the games as well as specific mechanics. This was the first time that we have used elephants and those rules seemed to work well, including having them pursue automatically (our addition to the rules) and going ‘awry’ (as per original rules).

La Haie Sainte inspires 100th game idea

Posted on June 21st, 2017 under Posted by

Unknowingly, I have followed the course of John at “The Nameless Blog” who posted back in March that he had recently completed the Waterloo Farmhouse by Sarissa Precision—and a fine job he made of it too.

I thought at the time that it looked a lot like the sets of MDF kits that I had purchased from Italeri in late 2015 under the ‘Waterloo 200’ banner (Waterloo 200 Battle at La Haye Sainte, La Haye Sainte Stables and La Haye Sainte Barn). It would and should though, wouldn’t it, being a model of the same thing?

Fast forward to the weekend and I decided, when yet again moving the boxes to get to something else, that it was time to get on and make the [email protected] things! It was then, looking at the instructions, that I saw the co-branding of Sarissa Precision and realised that they *were* the same thing!

I completely concur with John’s comments. These are fast, fun buildings to construct. The instructions are clear, the pieces snap out easily, fit together really well (and easily), using PVA glue. The trickiest part for me was the bit that I decided to do first, the dormer windows on the farmhouse.

While not yet painted, I think you’ll agree that it looks impressive nonetheless. You’ll see what the finished thing can look like by looking at John’s painted model on his blog.

The Sarissa Productions/Italeri Waterloo Farmhouse, Stables and Barn.

They even provide a card version of the pond, in two sections.

The buildings are a mixture of MDF (the majority) and card (for smaller gates, gate backing, window-sills, dormer windows and pond).

The gates of the main entrance have simple pin inserts into pre-cut holes, so are able to open.

It fits together so well that I was able to leave the rooves un-glued to enable troops to be put inside, if desired (and to aid with painting).

Completing this (construction, at least) has me thinking of an exciting and appropriate game for our 100th (we recently completed no. 97)—the central section of the Battle of Waterloo, from Hougoumont to the ‘western’ half of the Anglo-Allied ridge. I reckon that we could take in an area of about 2.5 km x 2.5 km at a ground scale of 1 cm to 1 m and figure scale of 1:20. My grandiose idea would be to make it of the entire battle, with forces entering either by player command or according to historical events (especially the Prussians). The more practical version is to focus purely on troops that were in that area from around 14:30 onwards. This would make for a semi-recreation, with options and outcomes determined by the players. I’ll discuss it with the other fellas and we’ll see.

A plan in the development, let’s say!

Ligny 202 (plus 1 day) at the NWS

Posted on June 19th, 2017 under Posted by

On Saturday I joined some of the fellas at the Napoleonic Wargaming Society for one of the ‘Games Day’ (weekend wargaming days), of which there are three or four per year. This one, inspired by the Open Day held for the bicentennial of Waterloo, is meant to have a Waterloo/Napoleonic theme.

It was not a great turn out, but I was one of five players who had the pleasure of being part of the game of Ligny organised by ‘Marc’ of  ‘one-eyed’, I mean ‘One Sided’ fame! :)

You’ll get more detail and background to the game from the report on his blog. I have taken his ‘one-sided’ mantle for this report!!

The table at game’s start.

Zieten at his command post, Blucher is just the other side of the windmill.

What they saw.

I had the joy and pleasure of acting as Dominique ‘Jean-Claude’ Vandamme for this one.

I immediately sent Girard and Lefol against St Amand La Haye and Habert against St Amand.

Both attacks were repulsed.

Roeder’s 2nd brigade (represented by hussars) had the audacity to charge Domon’s horsemen. An indecisive mêlée saw them recalled to safety to reform.

Zieten ordered reinforcements forward to support his outposts in the villages, under the watchful gaze of Blucher.

Milhaud launched his 13th heavy cavalry division across the Ligny brook to assault the left flank of the Prussian reserve artillery.

Meanwhile, I sent Girard’s, Lefol’s and Habert’s men in for a second attempt on ‘the St Amands’.

More Prussians on the move! Note that Milhaud’s cavalry have retired back over the brook.

 This time we were successful in St Amand la Haye…

 but staunch defence beat off our attack on St Amand.

 On the French right flank, Gerard made a concerted attack on Ligny.

Meanwhile, back on the left, Roeder’s horsemen were at it again. This time two brigades ganged up on Domon, causing the latter to withdraw.

The Prussian’s 1st brigade got carried away with the victory, only to be seen off by the square formed by Girard’s 1st brigade.

Another attack on St Amand. This time it was Habert’s men who attacked the village, supported by a brigade of Berthezene’s men, who took on some of the Prussian reinforcements attempting to deploy on the southern side of the brook.

 The Prussian supports were driven back, but so too was the French attack on the village.

It was getting ‘hot’ in the Prussian centre thanks to a successful charge by Milhaud’s 14th heavy cavalry division…

 supported by the Young Guard.

The defenders of Ligny had been driven off by fire, but alas, with no French available to take advantage, one of the Prussian reinforcing brigades would be able to walk into the town, occupying it, but not deployed.

Back on the left, Berthezene’s 1st brigade stood ready to defend the line of the brook while Habert’s brigades reformed for another assault on St Amand.

Unfortunately, we had run out of time. What a bummer given that the battle was heating up and so interestingly poised.

Never mind, having played it this far and all enjoying the challenge, Marc has in mind to run it again, but at Biko’s so that it can be left set-up if necessary and played to a conclusion.

Thank you so much to Mark H. (‘Marc’) for organising the game, providing the figures and umpiring and to Darren, Biko, Stephen and Steve for playing the game in the ‘right’ spirit—naturally.

I finally felt that I got a handle on Napoleon’s Battles, working with and ‘in’ the system rather than being somewhat bemused and befuddled by what was occurring—as has happened in previous games using these rules.

I am looking forward to playing the game again and this time to the ‘bitter end’!

Vale R.A. Fisher

Posted on June 18th, 2017 under Posted by

Ralph Austen Fisher died on 28th April at 15:59 AEST, after a brief illness, surrounded by family.

Dad in 1996, hamming it up for the camera in a photo captioned “The Intensity of Solo Wargaming”.

Framed award given to him by the French Government in 2001 in recognition of his service in ’44–’45 (he remained as part of the occupation forces through to ’49).

He had a fabulous ‘innings’. Nearly 92 years of mainly excellent health. Certainly much, much more than many others get, but that does not prevent one mourning and missing someone who has been in your life for so long.

My wargaming hobby (‘obsession’) is one of the many things that I thank him for. From our first game in 1980, involving four units per side using the Airfix “Napoleonic Wargaming” (aka Bruce Quarrie) rules, it has steadily blossomed and I am now enjoying a mid-life wargaming heyday (wargaming ‘nirvana’ as we like to jokingly say).

We played regular, albeit modest, wargames (fitted around study) during my last years of high school. After I left home to go to university we’d generally fit in a wargame or two in holidays, firstly back in Darwin and then, bigger and bolder, once he and Maude (a great supporter of us both with the hobby) had moved to Tassie. Games based on Talavera (in 1/72nd) and Quatre Bras (in 5/6 mm) were amongst these.

We don’t have many photos from the early days. This one was taken in February 1994 during a game based on Quatre Bras.

One of those chance links of someone knowing someone else and identifying a shared interest led Dad to meet Tony, a post-war RAF veteran. They enjoyed regular catch-ups to wargame, firstly using 15 mm figures and then moving to 5/6 mm as this fitted better with the terrain that Tony had built. On Tony’s sad passing in the early 90s his widow gave Dad the terrain and figures. It was this that we used for the Quatre Bras game (amongst others) and Dad for his solo wargaming in the mid- to late-90s.

Having played solo many of the French v Spanish battles of the Peninsular War, Dad decided to focus on writing, so, in 2001, he brought the whole wargaming shebang over to me! Serendipity, that great friend of he and I, meant that I had this collection, particularly our original 1/72nd and 25 mm figures as a starting point when Mark, Julian and I formed our little group back in 2010.

Having much in common, I have been fortunate in always being able to speak with Dad. Failing anything else, we could spend hours talking history and/or wargaming! It had been a joy in recent years to share the deeds of our little group at the ANF with him. Better still was to show him the set-up at Julian’s (ANF-HQ) in 2015 when he came over as part of a tour around Australia for his 90th birthday. Once more serendipity stepped in as our bicentennial game of Waterloo had gone into a fourth session, so it was that game that he saw. *That* was a real treat for us both.

Sharing a combined birthday celebration with Dad in 2015—the ANF at five years, Stephen at 60, Dad at 90 and Napoleon at 246!

Discussing our game of Waterloo 200.

We got him a ‘Warbird’ flight as a combined 90th present from we ‘children’ and our families. He enjoyed it immensely and even opted for the optional aerobatics, including a loop-the-loop!

Making the most of Dad in his 90s became a focus, hence my trip to the eastern states at the beginning of this year 
allowing my son and I to see Ralph and Maude in St Helens—plus my joining the Nunawading fellas for their magnificent game of Austerlitz! A discussion during this visit yielded an unexpected opportunity for Dad and I.

I’d brought some figures and paints with me in the car to do some painting during the trip (I did actually do a little bit!). This got me thinking about the possibility of bringing some figures over to him for a game later in the year. After a bit of discussion and checking the numbers of figures and area required, we settled on having a go at Ocaña, a battle that neither of us had done previously, in November.

Dad then said that he’d like to have a go at doing some of the painting. “How marvellous,” I thought. He decided to begin with Spanish infantry and to work from the top down (in the army list), so I sent over four units of the Vanguard for him to begin with and to see how he enjoyed it. (Meanwhile I had begun with the Spanish cavalry).

He sent some photos of the first unit that he’d done, the Granaderos Provincales. He was enjoying the painting, but reckoned that they were not that good. I disagreed totally; I thought that they were marvellous! He got a second unit, Real Maestranza de Ronda, more or less completed before they left on the trip during which he fell ill, with what we later found out was a long-developing condition.

Granaderos Provincales. Dad’s first painting of figures for 10+ years. I’ll be ecstatic if I can paint anything as good as this, should I make my 90s!

Figures are by Hät from their Spanish Command and Spanish Grenadiers sets.

Dad’s painting table, featuring the Real Maestranza de Ronda, the final unit that he painted. Undercoated Voluntarios de Valencia next to them.

Figures are by Hät from their Spanish Guerillas set.

Sadly, that last wargame with Dad will not happen. We will do the game though, over here, as the first of what I plan will become our annual RA Fisher memorial game. The Granaderos Provincales and Real Maestranza de Ronda will take their place proudly in the Spanish army.

Thanks Dad; for everything. You left an indelible mark and I miss you heaps. You lived your
life to the full in your own way and went pretty much as you wanted–up and about touring one day and gone quickly with a minimal period of incapacitation.

Love you always.