Friday, 11 October 2019

Battle of the Coa

Johns trip to battles of the Peninsular took us to the Siege of Almeida this week, and the Battle of the Coa.  At last, some decent troops to fight the Frenchies!

Almeida was held by an Allied garrison, and the Light Division of around 4,000, under 'Black' Bob Crauford was rather unwisely floating a round outside it, despite being warned by Wellington that it was unsafe to stand on the far side of the river. Meanwhile Ney was marching towards Almeida with over 20,000 men and when his cavalry pickets found the small British force in the open, he hastened to attack at once in the early morning mist.

The Coa and the road leading to the fateful bridge. In real life it is a steep ravine (hence the bend in the road) and the whole area was deemed to be out of LOS unless units were actually over the edge of the ravine.

Almedia, with various enclosed fields around it. These were ruled to provide cover for skirmishers only, as irl they didn't prove much of an obstacle.

Almeida! a scan from Google Earth.

The Light Division deploys covering the road to the bridge. The cavalry picquets and Chestnut Troop, RHA, are already formed up to pull back. The infantry are two battalions each of British and Portuguese light infantry, and in the far distance, the 95th Rifles. Sharpe and Harper are in for a hot day. 

Portuguese Light Infantry in the foreground. They are all formed up in skirmish order to take advantage of the walls. Tim and I were the British, and we thought we had a cunning plan.

RHA, flanked by cavalry.

Neys leading division. There are an awful lot of them! Thirteen infantry battalions and four cavalry regiments. Plenty more behind... Graham, Tim C and Jerry took the French.

Our opening volleys were very effective, which rather took the swagger off the advancing French.

The French cavalry shook out into line, but took some losses from the fortress guns. Almeida had over a 100 pieces of artillery mounted on the walls, but somewhat unhelpfully, most of them were sited to fire in enfilade along the bastions.

The surviving French made contact all along the line. Attack columns vs skirmishers, not so good...

Our guys evading back, becoming disordered in the process. At least they had bought some time for the cavalry and guns to get over the river. Unlike their real life counterparts, Chestnut Troop made it across without leaving a disabled cassion to block the road (they passed all their move checks, much to our relief.

The guns began to deploy on the far side of the river, while some Portuguese infantry headed for the bridge. The cavalry fanned out to clear the way.

By now we were in a ring around the knoll covering the bridge as one battalion was over the bridge and another was lined up to do so. Alarmingly two French cavalry regiments were sneaking around the left flank in a typical wargamery fashion.

As the French closed in, were formed up into close order. 95th on the left, Portuguese in the centre, and 'South Essex' on the right of the picture. Crauford went to join the 95th as they seemed to be facing the bulk of the French.

And in they came. Two battalions against the Portuguese, two more against  the 95th and a cavalry regiment against the South Essex.

The 95th didn't do to badly at first, inflicting some losses on the French.

But sadly in the ensuing melee came off much the worst and broke contact into a sort of pudding shaped skirmish formation. To add insult to injury, Crauford was wounded and went in search of medical attention.

The French cavalry followed up into devasting defensive fire from across the river and the regiment routed, leaving a sad pile of white crosses behind.

The South Essex had seen off the French cavalry at some cost and fell back to the knoll as the 95th retired across the river. The Portuguese did not manage to score a single hit in melee at all, and unsurprisingly were overwhelmed by the French infantry.

At this stage it was pretty much all over and the South Essex were clearly going to escape. Ney declined to repeat his historical counterparts series of suicidal assaults over the bridge, so with four battalions over the river it was duly declared to be a 'tactical victory'.

Fighting retreats in the face of overwhelming force are always difficult to model and to game, but that worked OK. Our original plan proved to be over-optimistic in the face of French speed and strength, but we just got away with it. The French didn't feel too had done by as they'd routed the 95th, wounded Crauford and obliterated one of the Portuguese battalions, albeit at the cost of two destroyed cavalry regiments and hideous infantry losses. Ney had flung himself into the heart of the action time after time and missed death by a hairs breadth. Truely, the bravest of the brave.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Zvezda 1/144th scale Lagg-3

Along with their PO-2, I thought the Russians could do with some fighters. Rather than the inevitable Rata (I have plenty of those in 6mm), I picked up a Lagg-3. A nice shiny new monoplane fighter in service in 1941 and served right through the war

Here it is, it is really very small and looks a bit like a Hurricane with a Spitfire cowling. The kit was super simple and went together very easily, even the radio antenna post seems sufficiently sturdy to survive fat wargamers fingers. I chopped off the prop blades as they seemed a bit flimsy.

I borrowed the stars from another kit and it has come out looking very colourful. 

Like the PO-2, I did this one in light green/dark green (Humbrol Army Green and VJ Russian Green 894). I also painted in the canopy, the canopy struts weren't too hard to paint as they were well defined.

Usual plain grey underside (VJ Sea Grey). I did the undercart retracted with no underwing decals.

And here it is off to down some Ju 88s.

Ooer, whats this? Its got a friend. I picked up another IL-2 at the same time, because you can't really have just one Sturmovik.

This one is a bit more colourful than my other IL-2. The stripy tail scheme is actually off a Lagg-5, but hey ho. This one is in brown/green camo (VJ English Uniform and Russian Green 894).  I used the black edged stars from the PO-2 on this one so the tail star would stand out.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Peninsular War 1808

Tim resurrected one of the earliest Matrix games I'd seen, Bob Cordery's old game of the Peninsular War covering 1808 and 1809. For the game we assembled the full complement of players, seven, with three French commanders, two British and two Spanish.

I was given the role of the Corsican Ogre, while my competent subordinates, Junot (Graham) and Murat (Richard), tried to put savlon on the Spanish Ulcer. 

A view from the north. Wicked British troops lurk in England up to no good (these were Moore's troops, run by Pete) meanwhile the liberators of Europe bring peace, justice and enlightenment to the masses. I had a truly vast figure of Napoleon to play with, quite fitting.

The turn record was also indicated by a figure of my good self, dismounted this time. Vive la France! The turns were a month long.

French troops stationed in the homeland. My victory conditions stipulated that I couldn't send more than half to Spain, as I needed the rest to keep an eye on the Austrians.

The game started with a firm French hold on Lisbon and Madrid. Various rebellious Spaniards lurked around (Royalists commanded by Tim C, and raggedy guerillas commanded by Diego).

Napoleon inspected the troops on Marengo.

The opening moves were...interesting. I sent a Corps over the Pyrenees to secure Saragossa (I've played War and Peace enough time to know the value of secure supply lines in Spain). Murat secured Madrid, but Junot abandoned Lisbon and set off in pursuit of the Spanish royalists. The little known General Wellesly took this opportunity to simply land his entire army unopposed in Portugal. You just can't get the staff...  

There then ensued a massive battle around Madrid, which to everyones suprise resulted in Wellesly being routed and withdrawing to Portugal. 

Moore landed in Lisbon to link up with Wellesly, but the weakened French garrison at Madrid was mercilessly harrassed by the Spanish, and a general uprising let the Royalists take the city. Things were going really well at this point!

In the event the situation was saved as bad weather kept the British pinned in Portugal, while French reinforcements allowed Murat to take the city.

Wellesley managed to slip through and was defeated again, so things were looking up. However, the Spanish guerillas managed (once again) to sieze Madrid from the French once again with an outrageous dice throw (see above).

Finally we all had to argue why we'd won, and I don't think anyone particularly disputed the Spanish claim to victory. I had done OK but sadly losing Madrid twice wasn't on my list of objectives. Well, I was never actually there, just my useless brother, so it doesn't really count as a defeat. Right, time to duff up some Austrians instead. 

That went really well and it was good to good give such an old game another run out. The new players seemed to get the hang of it fairly quickly and it was interesting to contrast the old school methods with more modern matrix game approaches.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Zvezda 1/144th PO-2

Hannants had re-stocked some of their Zvezda range so I picked up a few more planes. My Russians in particular could do with a bit more large scale air support than just their lonely IL-2! I was after something which could be used as a spotter/liaison plane as well as a light ground attack aircraft and the Zvezda PO-2 was just the ticket.

Ah yes you can't beat a biplane. The PO-2 is surprisingly large but it is a two seater bomber so I suppose that isn't unexpected (albeit with a tiny little engine, which was why it spent much of the war flying at night). 

It went to together very well, even the struts, which slotted into place far more easily than the horrors of things like the Airfix Sopwith Camel, and has a certain racy look to it. The only shame is that there aren't any crew figures. I suppose I could have bought some from somewhere, but I didn't.

I finished it in the light green/dark green scheme which I think is quite fetching. The decals were borrowed from some other kits as I had another use for the stars (edged in black) supplied with the model. I like the great numbers which came with it though.

As usual I didn't bother with decals under the wings. It has a couple of nice big bombs slung underneath, and quite a large fixed undercarriage.

Here it is off to sow mayhem among the fascist invaders. I now have quite a large collection of Zvezda flight stands, a bonus of Zvezda kits!

Friday, 27 September 2019

Battle Ravens

Tim has already commented on this game on his blog, but I missed the first outing so he kindly brought it along to try again. I have a certain interest in Dark Ages warfare (mainly prompted by 'Vikings' and 'The Last Kingdom' and I've always been intrigued about how you make a game out of a period with only one tactic..."Shieldwall!"

I have never taken the plunge into painting any Vikings as after painting far too  many Ancient Gauls, I swore I'd never paint irregular warband ever again, especially if they were riding horses. Anyway, Battle Ravens solves this problem by providing lovely cardboard stand up soldiers for each side. 

Here is what you get, a board rammed with hairy Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Not much scope for tactical manouvre here. So not hugely different to the Western Front in 1916 then. The main troop types are well armed and trained warriors, and a some rather less well armed farmers hastily thrust into the line. They did have specific game names, but I can't remember them. 

These are the guys who stand and the back shooting arrows over the Shieldwall. Thralls? Anyway, they are quite handy as they let you re-roll some attack dice, but they are an expendable resource so use them wisely. 

Along with the chaps, you get a pile of tactics cards and a pile of Battle Raven counters. The counters are what make the game work, as they essentially function as command points. You allocate them to sectors to make attacks, move units etc. More points is more attacks (or more defences). 

One of the tactics cards. These are also self explanatory, but like the thralls are an expendable resource ie you only get to play them once.

What makes things interesting is that each player takes it in turns to allocate their command points to each sector. Once you've allocated to a sector, that is it, no going back. So if you telegraph your intentions with a huge stack, expect the opponent to counter it. A certain degree of poker player bluff is required at this point.

Once the counters are all allocated, there is lots of dice rolling. Attacking dice generate successes, and the enemy cany try to counter some (by throwing dice). Unsaved hits then translate into losses, the farmer types being worth 1 and the warriors 2. Individual stands can also shuffle around, and you win a sector by destroying all the opposing enemy, so shuffling into weak sectors is a good idea.

In the picture above the brave Anglo Saxons have blown a hole in the Viking shieldwall.

And they've managed to create another hole. Isn't this a great set of rules? (You've probably guessed I wasn't playing the Vikings) 

A certain degree of Viking shuffling plugs some of the holes, but not enough to stop my brave boys surging forwards. At which point they take no further part in the proceedings, being busy drinking ale from the skulls of their enemies etc.

The breakthrough in the centre allows me to pile all my raven counters against what is left of the Viking left wing. The Vikings find it hard to counter as losses reduce the number of raven counters.

And with Anglo-Saxon dice rolling like that....

The remaining Vikings are despatched.

And although they chop my left wing up a bit, it isn't enough to stop their line breaking.

So, that was a lot of fun and an interesting approach to attritional warfare. It reminded me to a degree of the Somme card game 'XV Corps' where you play various cards to mount divisional attacks along a fairly static front. Recommended to anyone with an interest in Dark Ages warfare, and more generally, anyone interested in high intensity combat on narrow fronts. The mechanisms would migrate across quite nicely to Verdun, Third Ypres, Kursk, Stalingrad or the Battle for Normandy.