Thursday, March 21, 2019

Cycling the Palouse - 1st Day of Spring?

View from driveway
March 20, first day of Spring on the Palouse and the sun has returned!

Still witnessing the lingering effects of a late winter snowfall, this week the mercury began to creep up and the two feet of snow began to melt.  While cycling indoors at the gym, the regulars were commenting that it would not be long before cycling could return to the outdoors.  With temperatures in the mid-50s Monday and Tuesday and a high expected near 60 on Wednesday, I marked the first day of Spring as the day to test both bike and body outdoors for the first time since late fall.  I figured I would take it easy on this first rite of Spring.  Perhaps, 10-12 miles in a quick loop around the bluff where I figured the roads would be well maintained.  If roads looked serviceable and body and bike felt good then the route could be lengthened to include a rural ride.
Snow on the left, grit on the right
Situated on a bluff 600 feet above the city, proper, about six inches of snow still lingered on the ground.  Local roadways were clear of snow and ice but debris left over from the winter sanding regime was brushed off onto the sides of the road.  Often these debris fields were covering the bike lanes and shoulders.  

As I dropped down into the valley, the snow all but disappeared.  Debris on the shoulder was tolerable and potholes, which often appear in great number after a long winter, were minimal.
Climbing up and out of the valley and onto the rolling hills of the Palouse, snow was present but not to the depth as found at the house.  Oh, how pleasant to once again be out on the bike under the warmth of the sun.  Invigorating.
Dropping down into Hangman Valley, snow was visible on the ground and on the heights in the distance but as I reached the valley floor, the snow was all but gone.

With little or no snow in the valley, I decided to extend the ride to include one of my regular routes.  At 25 miles that might provide a sense of how both man and machine endured the long, winter months.  Having elevation change of about 2,200 feet across the route would be a good test too.
Having to ride a little more tentatively due to road debris and water on the road, I completed the route in one and a half hours.  That is about five minutes slower than usual but acceptable given the conditions and the first time out.  Covered in a bit of mud and grit, I returned safely to the house.

Spring looks to have finally arrived on the Palouse and cycling can switch from the monotony of the indoor trainer to the pleasure of the outdoors.  Let's hope the weather continues to cooperate.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Russian Combined Grenadiers in 1799

Of late, painting has taken a very distant back seat to a number of other time consumers including travel for leisure, travel for work, illness, and more gaming than usual.  While the increase in gaming and vacation travel were most welcome, the time spent embraced by a seasonal illness was not so much appreciated.  At least I either picked the bug up on my last day of vacation or on the long international flights back home.  Being sick is ok as long as one is not too sick to paint.  Unfortunately, I was too sick to paint.  
Anyway, off the painting desk today is the first of likely three, thirteen-figure Russian Combined Grenadier Battalions for the 1799 project.  The Russians brought a number of these combined grenadier battalions on campaign to Switzerland and Northern Italy.  Since they featured in the campaigning, I needed to add a few more.  

This battalion musters out as the Moscow/Yekaterinoslav Combined Grenadiers.  Figures are AB Miniatures.   

Maybe April's painting production will see some improvements?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Battle of Maisnon - Italian Wars

It has been a little more than four years since Jake's Italian Wars collection made it out onto the battlefield at the Battle of Maisnon.  The battle was a culmination of his effort to build two forces for the Great Italian Wars.  Four years seems like a long time ago but I remember his game like it was yesterday.  The Imperialists were fortunate on this day.  Will they maintain their luck on a commemorative, anniversary battle?  For details on the original Battle of Maisnon, please visit,

Jakes' Battle Report for Maisnon
and my recounting of the battle at,
Jon's Battle Report for Maisnon

In the intervening years, I amassed a sizable Italian Wars collection as well.  Until now, my collection sat patiently awaiting an opportunity for battle.  Time for waiting is over.  On the morrow, my collection will take to the field in a match against Jake's army.  In this iteration, Jake with be commanding the Imperial forces while I command the French.

The French and their vassals have arrayed for battle south of the village of Maisnon to wrest control of the region from the usurping Imperialists.  As the morning mist lifts, the French forces are ready to take on the Imperialist army of Charles V.  What will face us when the skies clear?
French deployment
With an imminent battle and my army without proper standards, time to break out the scissors, knives, paint, and glue and get to work.  Having a stack of Pete's Flags at hand, I struck to work flagging three pike blocks and three units of gendarmes.

French arrayed in battle lines
My army is ready for battle and we are prepared to give To the Strongest! a go.  What will tomorrow hold?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Serendipity - An Assortment of FRW ABs

For me, finding AB Miniatures on the secondary market is a rare occurrence. Finding French Revolutionary War AB figures on the secondary market defies the odds.  The latter was the situation a few weeks' ago.  I found a fellow offering an assortment of AB French Revolutionary Wars figures on Bartertown.  I have never seen anyone selling secondhand FRW AB before.  I was in luck!   

Recognizing a bargain when I see one, I wasted little time in discovering this collection's availability.  The lot was still available.  The deal was quickly struck and the figures were on their way to a new home.  

At a rate of forty cents on the dollar, what did I receive?  The lot contained an equal mix of Austrian and French figures in roughly the same proportions of artillery, infantry, and cavalry.  In total, the lot contained 4 guns, 14 artillerymen, 19 cavalry, and 162 infantry.  Granted, the mix of figures necessitates the purchase of a few additional figures to field BMUs in my standard configuration but I will be able to field many useful units from this core lot of figures.  

A fortunate stroke of serendipity!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Action at Fox's Gap - Another Attempt

Following the Federal defeat at Fox Gap in my most recent game (see: Action at Fox's Gap) and a rules' clarification from Norm regarding Line of Sight to and from elevated terrain, a new Federal plan of attack surfaced.  With both artillery sections capable of bringing their tubes to bear from the beginning of the battle, the Federals may finally have the punch necessary to properly soften up the Rebel positions on the heights.  

As I formulated the Federal response, Norm, the author of Two Flags-One Nation, gave the Fox Gap scenario a try (see: Fox Gap 1862 On A Smaller Grid).  Norm's battle result was the same seen in previous outcomes.  That is, the Federals were unable to take and hold the high ground long enough to claim victory.  Undaunted by another Federal loss, I stuck to the revised Federal plan of attack.

The Federal plan was to compromise Bondurrant's gun position early on and then maintain a steady bombardment on the heights until an opportunity arose to breach the Confederate defensive line.  Key to the plan was to use the Division Commander, Cox, aggressively to bolster Federal chances of success.  Recall, the scenario does not provide a Divisional Commander to the Rebels so this is an advantage to be used to further Federal goals.

The battle opened up with both Federal batteries firing.  The Ohio Light Artillery (OHLA) targeted the small, raw 12 NC in the center of the Confederate line causing one Heavy Casualty (HC).  The 12th NC passed its Capability Test (CT).  Gibson's guns opened up against Bondurrant's guns but did no damage.  For the success of the Federal plan, this is a bad omen!  The WV Cavalry across the field from the Rebel guns manages to cause light casualties.  Bondurrant stands firm.
Federal opening attacks
With Cox leading the 30 OHa on the Federal right with 30 OHb following in support, the Ohioans use the cover of the woods to mask their approach and then pop out of the woods on Bondurrant's flank.  As Cox emerges from the woods, Bondurrant turns a gun to face his attackers and gets off a few rounds.  Bondurrant's impulsive fire misses the mark.  Cox and his Ohioans crash into the guns causing two HCs on the guns while taking one HC.  Bondurrant limbers and retires through the Confederate lines.
Bondurrant's guns are driven off
Garland's boys return fire from their solid defensive position lining the stonewall.  With no artillery to bring to bear, the Rebels must rely on small arms.  The 12 OH takes one HC while the 30 OHb suffers two HCs and falls back in disorder.
Rebels return fire
Having driven off Bondurrant's guns in the center, Cox leaves the 30 OH and rides over to join the 12 OH.  The Federal guns maintain their bombardments of the Rebel positions in anticipation of Federal attacks.  OHLA puts two HCs upon the 12 NC while Gibson's guns gift the 5 NCb with three HCs.  Three hits on three dice.  Fine shooting! 
Gibson finds the range!
Not only are the 5 NCb and 12 NC drawing fire from the guns but a hail of lead is also aimed in their direction.  The 30 OHa hits the 12 NC with one more HC.  Its nerve fails and the 12th retreats back into the woods.  The 5 NCb takes a fourth HC but stands its ground.  With the 5 NCb weakening, Cox leads the 12 OH up the ridge.  The 12 OH gives better than it takes and the Tarheels are pushed off the ridge having sustained a total of six HCs.
12 OH (foreground attacks the 5 NC
Notice in the photo above that the center victory hex is unoccupied.  Due to the stickiness of Enemy Zones of Control (EZOC), a Federal regiment could not move into the empty hex.  No movement from EZOC to EZOC is allowed.

The 12 OH regiment's success is short lived.  At canister range, Pelham's guns open up on the Ohioans as they clear the stonewall.  The 12th suffers heavy casualties (four more HCs) but remains undaunted.  Off to the 12th's left, Rebel dismounted cavalry open up causing a further HC.
Rebels pound the attackers
The Ohioans can take no more!  They recoil back down the slope looking for any cover they can find.  Rebel musketry does not end there.  The 23 OHa suffers two more HCs while the 30 OHa absorbs four HCs.   
30 OH takes four for four!
Having sustained devastating casualties in the center, the Federal attack peters out.  Union guns continue causing casualties to the defenders but only the 20 NC is pushed back from cavalry carbine fire on the right.  
Heavy casualties in the Union center
The destruction in the center is too much.  The 12 OH scatters while the 30 OHa retreats.  The Federal center is gone.  Bondurrant unlimbers his guns along the wall in the center.  With the Federal center gone, only the guns are keeping up a hot fire.  OHLA hits Bondurrant's guns again but the gunners maintain their position.  Gibson hits the 23 NC and it has seen enough.  It falls back from the ridge.

With Cox still leading the 23 OHa, the regiment goes in against the end of the Confederate line.  The raw, 5 NCa manages to repulse the Ohioans and Cox goes down in the clash.  In coordination with the 23 OHa, the 23 OHb charges Bondurrant's wavering guns.  The remainder of the Rebel guns are destroyed.  On the Federal right, the WV Cavalry causes the 13 NC to retire back toward Wise's Farm.
Federals hold two of the three objectives
With two of the three objectives in Yankee hands and a number of Rebel units scattered, the Rebels take an (optional rule) Brigade Cohesion check.  All along the Rebel line, regiment after regiment fails its test and retreats in disorder.  Although battered, the Ohioans have succeeded on this day.

As in the previous contests, this proved to be a bloody affair.  Casualties were high with more than one combat result hitting on all dice.  In the end, the Federal plan worked.  Bondurrant's guns were taken out early and the ridgeline defenses softened up sufficiently so that a concerted attack had a chance of success.  Scammon's Brigade was able to give the Rebel defenders a one, two, three punch on more than one occasion.  First artillery, then small arms, and then finally Close Combat was utilized in sequence to first soften up and then push the Rebels from their defensive position.  Combined arms at its finest. 

For future games, the victory conditions will be modified.  I found the Rebels could take up a "Reverse Slope" tactic and simply attempt to blow away any Federal regiment making it onto the ridge.  Pelham's battery did just such execution against the 12 OH when it took the Ridge Road.  Even though this tactic ultimately failed, a better victory objective criterion is warranted.  To prompt the Rebels to defend these crucial hexes, if at the end of a turn all three of the objective hexes are either occupied by Federal units or unoccupied, the Union wins the battle.  With sticky EZOCs, this is still a difficult task for both in controlling these crucial hexes.

As in the other iterations of this scenario, a lot of action in a little space!

Friday, March 8, 2019

France 6th Demi-Brigade

The latest tranche of figures to march off the painting desk is the French 6th Demi-Brigade.  Total figures mustered out for the 6th DB is 39.  The three mounted officers are AB while the 36 infantry are from Battle Honors.  While both AB and Battle Honors were sculpted by Tony Barton, the AB figures are much more crisp.  
While only slightly more slender than AB, the Battle Honors French are showing their age.  Details are not as crisp as found in AB and the molds are aging.  Flash and mold lines are present on most of the models in marching pose while the advancing grenadiers are still looking good.  
Several, assorted bags of the Battle Honors French Revolutionary Wars range were purchased from 19th Century Miniatures in one of their annual Christmas sales to sample this range of figures.  Some of the packs have aged better than others with the Austrian infantry holding up better than the French infantry.  
Still, the 6th DB is a welcome addition to the 1799 project.  When next the 1799 project sees a batch of new recruits, it will be Russian combined grenadiers making their march off the painting desk.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Misadventures in Shipping

While out shoveling snow following a recent snowstorm, the postman pulled up to the house and hopped out of his truck.  In his hand was the bright orange package shown above.  Fumbling with his handheld device to scan the package as delivered, we briefly discussed the present condition of the package as I put shovel aside and removed my gloves.  Seeing that one end was badly crushed and the box warped, the postman wanted to make clear that this particular package was a "last mile" delivery.  That is, another shipper is responsible for shipping to the "last mile" at which time the USPS takes over for final delivery to the address.  Not recalling the contents of this package, I remarked that I hoped the contents fared better than the packing container.  He smiled and said, "yeah, me too."  
Imagine my disappointment when I opened the box to reveal the contents.  Inside was a badly mauled boardgame.  There was no protective packing material and the shipping box, itself, was rather flimsy without rigidity.  The game box showed a broken spine with severe bending or warping.  This game had a rough journey.  Given Manassas is a relatively rare commodity, I was crestfallen at my loss. 
Since the purchase was from eBay and I felt the care in packing was insufficient to protect the shipment of goods, I requested a return.  Photos and explanation of the shipping damage were sent and the seller promptly replied.  After apologizing for the damage, he offered to accept a return.  A shipping label was sent. Within an hour of receiving the shipping label, another email from the seller arrived into my Inbox.  Rather than refund my total purchase price and pay for return shipping, he suggested I keep the game in its current state while refunding my purchase.  I accepted!

While the game box was badly damaged in transit, the game's components were still in undamaged condition.  I applaud the seller for his quick and satisfactory resolution.   
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