Monday, November 12, 2018

Rivoli: A Progress Report

Initial Deployments
Having declared back in January that staging an early Napoleonic battle would be one of my objectives for 2018, I wrestled with which battle to stage for a long time.  Thoughts of finally getting Suvorov's army into the fray was one direction but motivations kept pushing me towards Northern Italy with either a refight of Marengo or Rivoli.  Refighting either Marengo or Rivoli would provide a chance to revisit two interesting tactical situations with new troops and, perhaps, even new rules.  Both Marengo and Rivoli have seen action on the gaming table in the past but not with the forces raised in the 1799 project.  
Battle deployments from Napoleon Museum in Rivoli
The final decision was to tackle Rivoli with troops in earlier uniforms.  The forces in the 1799 project have French in bicorne and Austrians predominantly in casquet.  These early uniforms would be more appropriate in the fields of either Marengo or Rivoli than would the 1809 uniforms mustered for these earlier games.
Rivoli 2004 with Rivoli in background
When my notes for the Rivoli battle were dug up and reviewed, I was surprised that the game last saw action on the table in 2004.  Fourteen years ago!  I have said this before and I say it again.  Time flies.  While the battle sketch map shows a 2008 date, this must have been a revision from my earlier map used as a guide in the 2004 game.  A couple of the photos from that 2004 battle are included
Rivoli 2004 seen from Mt Baldo
For troop deployments, an accounting shows that the only remaining formation to yet field is the 22 Chasseurs a Cheval regiment.  While this unit could be fielded in the later uniform more appropriate for 1809 campaigning, Chasseurs wearing the earlier uniform are in the painting queue.  A dozen of them will be needed.  The full OB is shown below.
OB only missing 22nd Chasseurs a Cheval
I have some painting work to finish before the OB is complete but not much.  It will be fun to revisit an old battle in, perhaps, a new light. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Babylonian Infantry

Newline Designs' Babylonian spearmen.  Two such units are already mustered for the Assyrian Wars project.  These Babylonians with their large shields may just be my favorite figures from Newline Designs.  I love them!  Sculpting is great and having the attached, grounded spear integral to the figure is a big plus.  The figure is uncomplicated, making painting a snap.  The shield is a fine piece of sculpting too.  
Returning to the Assyrian Wars project has been very enjoyable and absent from the painting desk for too long.  Expect to see a few more units for this project appearing in the painting queue.  In the last Newline Designs' sale, I picked up these figures and a few other packs to field a second unit of Hebrews and an Assyrian chariot.  It will be interesting to compare the Foundry chariots which comprise the entire Assyrian chariot force to a Newline Design chariot.  Upon first glance, the Newline Design cart looks smaller.  The horses are smaller too.  Hopefully, not significantly smaller.  The Newline Design infantry fit very well with the Foundry infantry.  Next sale, another unit of Babylonian infantry will likely find its way into my shopping cart.  Great figures!

Note:  Newline Designs is offering a 25% discount NOW!  Yes, I added a bit to The Lead Pile.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Egyptian Spearmen

Having dipped my toe back into the waters of the Assyrian Wars project at the end of September, I decided to add another unit into the painting queue.  Actually, figures for two units were placed into the queue.  The first off the painting desk is this stand of a dozen Black Tree Design Egyptian spearmen.
First, the sculpting on these Egyptians is superb!  Having painted only a couple of units from BTD's Egyptian range, I am quite impressed by what I see. The sculpting is crisp and the poses are good.  Sometimes BTD poses are a bit chaotic but these Egyptians look disciplined and ready for business.  I can envision fielding a small entourage of Egyptians to fight either along or against my massive Assyrian Army.  After almost a year of painting 15s, it feels good to add in a 28mm unit from time to time.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Arbeit Macht Frei - Dachau, Germany

Arbeit Macht Frei translates as Work will set you free. 

These are the words welded into the wrought-iron gate at the Dachau Concentration Camp outside of Munich.  What does this phrase really mean?  Is it to be taken literally?  Some prisoners were released.  Hoess, the first commandant at the Auschwitz main camp, described in his autobiography that the phrase meant that work sets one free in the spiritual sense.  Misery is lost in toil, I suppose.   Was this phrase SS propaganda to mask the nature and purpose of the camp?  To those living outside of the camp, the words, Arbeit Macht Frei, might suggest the purpose of the camp as a labor and re-education facility.  This connotation might diminish and sanitize its true objective.  
Commandant's quarters
First established as a concentration camp for political prisoners, the camp later held captive citizens from a number of countries and ethnic groups as Nazi aggressions rose throughout the 1930s and 1940s. 
Dachau camp layout
Upon arrival to the camp, prisoners would pass though the Jourhaus building with the wrought iron gate shown above.  The Jourhaus was the main office of SS camp personnel.  This building segregated the camp from the outside world.  Each day, camp work-groups would march out through this gate to the factories and then back at the end of the work day. Each day, the prisoners would be reminded that Arbeit Macht Frei. 
Having passed through this gate, the visitor is met with a stark expanse of the camp grounds.  Where thirty-four barracks once stood, the ground is barren with the exception of two reconstructed barracks and foundation outlines remaining from the thirty-two razed barracks.  Dotting the landscape are several watch towers.  For these long gone barracks, remaining as a testament to their existence is the foundation outline circumscribing each of thirty-two cement barracks' numbers.
Camp where barracks once stood
Foundation outline with barrack number
Guard tower in background
Near the entrance to the camp is the International Memorial which reads,
May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 -1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and respect for their fellow men
International Memorial
At one end of the compound is a large, U-shaped Maintenance building that today houses the memorial exhibitions and movie theater.  The exhibitions provide details on each room's historical function.  Prisoner kitchen, laundry, baths, storerooms, and workshops are all presented.  Also on display is the Shunt room whereby newly arrived prisoners were processed for admission into the camp.  At this stage, a new arrival was stripped of everything including individuality.  On the roof of this building was once painted the phrase,
There is one path to freedom. Its milestones are: obedience, honesty, cleanliness, sobriety, diligence, orderliness, self-sacrifice, truthfulness, love of the fatherland
Prisoners would face this building during Roll Calls with this phrase as a constant reminder.
Maintenance Building with Memorial in foreground
Two of the barracks have been reconstructed for the memorial illustrating the living conditions under which the occupants lived.  Each barrack housed 140 people.

At the opposite end of the camp and segregated from the main camp is the crematorium.  The crematorium is divided into several rooms, each with a specific purpose.  At the height of operations the furnaces were working 24 hours a day.

The crematorium at Dachau has a gas chamber in an adjoining room as well but was not used for that purpose.  Exhibits in the Maintenance building suggest that while it may not have been used for its designed purpose, it was used for SS interrogations and torture.  
Gas Chamber
When we first discussed travel to Austria and Germany, Dachau was one of the sites that my wife wanted to visit if we could fit it into the schedule.  Well, Dachau is an easy half-day trip from Munich and can be reached in about 40 minutes using a combination of train and bus.

I pondered sharing this visit long and hard.  The camp was not easy to experience firsthand.  The exhibits were heartbreaking.  Reviewing these photos of our Dachau day-trip, the thoughts and sensations relived tempted me to reconsider this post more than once.  In the end, sharing this horrific piece of history seemed appropriate.  

Quite an overpowering experience.  With memorials such as Dachau, how could such brutality ever be forgotten?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

1st Grenadiers of the Guard

Seems the French have taken center stage at the painting desk in October.  That trend continues with the third French entry for the 1859 project during the month.
Off the workbench today is the 1st Grenadier of the Guard regiment composed of three, twelve figure battalions.  The variety of animation ought to make these figures instantly recognizable as the work of Old Glory now owned and produced by 19th Century Miniatures.
As with most of the Old Glory figures in this range, the variety of poses in each bag allows for the construction of very dynamic stands.  Not only is the choice of pose dynamic and evocative of the French impetuousness in battle but the sculpting style seems to channel works of some of the famous battlefield painters of the Second Empire.  Great figures but the molding process leaves some of the weapons and heads lacking the strength to withstand the rigors of combat.  I expect to lose a few musket barrels when these guardsmen first encounter opposition and rough handling.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Van Dyck Models: WSS in 10mm

I have long held a passing interest in gaming the War of Spanish Succession.  A serious project for this war has yet to materialize.  Yes, I thought of making a stab at it in 28mm using Front Rank figures.  A handful of the Front Rank figures were purchased as a test.  That is as far as it got.

If I were to tackle such a project, my interest and objective points toward large scale actions recreating full battles.  Given that criteria, a regiment as the basic building block or Basic Maneuver Unit (BMU) made sense.  Perhaps a battalion-level project would be doable?  Given this criteria, 28mm would be too large for that train of thought.  A project in 10mm seemed most appropriate for what I had in mind.  After seeing Old Glory's 10mm  range of SYW figures, thoughts turned toward the 10mm Old Glory approach. 

That direction took an abrupt detour when I saw a recent advert for Van Dyck Models & Figurines.
Van Dyck Models & Figurines
Van Dyck Models offers a burgeoning line of WSS metal figures in 1/144 scale or 10mm.  At present only French/Spanish infantry and command are available.  With my curiosity piqued, I placed a sample order of a few packs of infantry and command to see for myself.  The package arrived very quickly from Belgium to the USA.  Kris, the proprietor, was friendly and helpful in fielding several questions regarding plans for expansion.
When the package arrived and figures unpacked, I was astounded at the quality of the little figures.  Beautiful sculpting and such delicate proportions.  The marching infantry have several variations including different heads and hairstyles.  To better highlight the features, the figures were based and a brushing of Minwax Tudor stain applied over the unpainted metal.  The result is eye-catching as seen in the photo below.  The stain brings the intricate sculpting to the fore. 
I placed a US one cent piece upright on the base behind the line of figures to provide a sense of scale.  Figures are about 12mm from sole to eye.  Tiny but so fine!

With enough figures ordered to field two stands of 21 figures each, I set to work.  Since the figures are sculpted with the ventral pouch, two regiments of French infantry were chosen as tests.  The regiments selected are Montfort and Foix.
Is this the start of new project?  Too soon to tell but I really like what I see.  Painting lace on hundreds if not thousands of 10mm tricornes, however, seems daunting.  With only a few packs available in the Van Dyck WSS range, I likely have plenty of time to decide while the range begins to fill out.

Great figures!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Zorndorf: The Thin Red Lines

A second attempt at wrestling with the full battle of Zorndorf took place on the 21st.  We were down a man so three players participated: two Prussian and one Russian.   Kevin commanded the Prussian left and I the Prussian center/right.  Dohna in the center and the right cavalry wing under Schorlemmer would be my subordinates for the day.  Moritz would be in nominal command of these formations.  Scott would command the entire Russian Army.  Since the Russian deployment offers a defensive attitude at start, one player could manage the large masses of Russians without much trouble.  To refresh memories, below is the initial deployments for the armies.  For scenario specifics, please see Zorndorf Scenario.   
Initial deployments
Having the initiative, the Prussians begin by moving the cavalry reserve under Marschall across the Zaberne-Grund in support of Seydlitz's heavy cavalry.  Dohna advances up the middle with the Stein Busch as a destination to provide a covered approach while Schorlemmer peels off to the right to come to grips with Demiku's Russian cavalry wing.  It is a long march across the open battlefield but the battle is on.
Prussian opening moves
Fermor (Scott) looks confident in his chances
Dohna approaches the woods while the Prussian infantry on
the left watches.  Counterbattery is inflicting some damage.
Seydlitz and Marschall snake their way towards the Russian right.
"Be very, very quite and the bad Russians may not see us."
Manteuffel and Kanitz watch the Prussian maneuvers.
Dohna reaches the woods and his advance grinds to a
slow plod as the woods are much more difficult to
 traverse than expected.
The serried ranks of Dohna's force have much potential
 but first the woods must be overcome.
While Dohna tries to negotiate the dense woods and Seydlitz and Marschall make their clandestine and circuitous approach march against the Russian right, the Prussian right erupts into swirling cavalry melees as both cavalry wings snap into action and crash into each other.
Prussian cavalry approaches on Russian left
Schorlemmer's Prussians
Demiku's Russians
The Clash
After much gnashing of bits and clashes of steel, the outnumbered Prussians fall back in disarray.  Both sides fight themselves out and retreat in exhaustion, done for the day.  This flank is spent.  Demiku's cavalry performed their job admirably.  That is, they thwarted a Prussian cavalry flanking maneuver.  In one combat, the inferior Russian hussars added their weight into an existing melee and flipped the balance of power to the Russian heavies and sent the Prussian dragoons packing.  With the Russian left secure from cavalry attack the remnants of Demiku's cavalry wing sends out vedettes as a safeguard.
With Manteuffel and Kanitz demonstrating very slowly in their advance against the Russian right and Dohna entangled within the confines of Stein Busch, Seydlitz leads his heavy cavalry in against the undamaged right of the Russian line.  Yes, Seydlitz launches a frontal assault with cavalry against a combination of artillery and grenadiers.  All defenders are in good order when the cavalry charges home. 
Seydlitz attempts to take the guns
The first Prussian regiment to attack is blasted back during its movement to close.  Next turn, Seydlitz sends in another cavalry attack against the guns.  This time, the guns  are destroyed but the attacking cavalry is scattered as well.  Seydlitz falls from his saddle, dead. 

Remnants of Seydlitz' heavies and Marschall's reserve cavalry attempt to break the Russian line.  The grenadiers coolly level their muskets and let loose a volley as the Prussian cavalry close.  The result?
Cavalry wave 3 hits the Russian line
Even with support, the cavalry waves are no match for steady Russian grenadiers.  Three cavalry regiments are repulsed as the volley from the grenadiers break the lead Prussian regiments.  Falling back, these fleeing troopers carry most of their support regiments away with them.
Saltykov quite pleased with his grenadiers' performance
With the destruction of his prized cavalry and loss of his cavalry commander, Frederick loses all hope on salvaging the day.  He declares (among other things) that all is lost and there is no hope of breaking the formidable Russian line.  Frederick quits the field.  
Situation when Frederick quits the field
The situation does not look without hope for the Prussian army.  When the army commander's morale breaks, there is nothing more to do but adjourn for lunch.

Two battles; two different outcomes.  In Game 1, the Russians claimed the Russians could not win.  In Game 2, the Prussians claimed the Russians could not lose!
The Prussian position did not appear hopeless when Frederick quit the field.  The final verdict may have remained the same but the center of the Russian first line was weakened in the fight around Stein Busch.  The Russians lost three batteries which would not be missed by the Prussian army if it pressed home an attack on the Russian line.  Different tactics may have produced a different outcome but that will be for another time.
In the words of Frederick on this day,
Wargamers complain lots when they are losing.  Not so much when they are winning.  
Perhaps I will critique tactics in this battle another time.  Perhaps not.
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