Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Montcalm & Wolfe: French Lose Oswego

British May Reinforcements
After losing Fort Oswego to Amherst, Drucour and his regiment of Regulars are given the Honors of War and march out from the fort.  For details on how the French lost Fort Oswego, see Peter's account of the battle at Grid Based Wargaming.  Peter continues to modify the tactical combat rules with refinement in the use of leader ratings.  I think his modifications work well and more closely incorporate the spirit of the boardgame.

If the victory on the battlefield is not enough to sway opinion in favor of the British, May 1758 sees a large influx of reinforcements into the colonies.  Six regiments of Regulars arrive and are allocated as 1 x 5-6 Regular to Fort Stanwix to thwart any thought of Drucour making an attack against the undefended fort, 2 x 5-6 Regulars to New York joining Wolfe, 2 x 5-6 Regulars to Trenton, and 1 x 5-6 Regular to New Haven. 

May 1758 French:
The French opt to take no chances and choose the automatic one Command Point.  With that one CP, Rigaud and the 1 x 4-7 regiment of Irregulars travel by bateaux from Montreal to Oswegatchie.  The arrival of a garrison to the settlement of Oswegatchie trumps the British from slipping into the settlement without much of a fight.  Now if the British want the settlement, they will be forced to fight for it.  In addition, the Oneida ally with the French and move against the lightly garrisoned Fort Le Boeuf.  The fort falls to the Natives.  For May reinforcements, the French receive two regiments: one Regular and one Irregular.  The Regulars are sent to Oswegatchie while the Irregulars are sent to Fort Niagara.
French Maneuvers May 1758
June 1758:
The British roll on the Command Table receiving only one Command Point.  With that one point, Wolfe, 2 x 5-6 Regulars and 1 x 3-5 Militia march to Trenton.  Trenton now has a force under Wolfe's command of four regiments of Regulars and one regiment of Colonial Militia.  What are the British planning?  The Seneca near Fort Niagara rally to the British flag.
French Maneuvers June 1758
The French choose to roll on the Command Table as well.  They have better luck scoring three Command Points.  With these, Drucour and his regiment of Regulars march toward Fort Niagara.  With the Seneca blocking the main line of advance, Drucour attacks.  From Fort Niagara, Contrecoeur sends out the regiment of Irregulars to join Drucour in his attack against the Seneca settlement.  From Oswegatchie, Rigaud and his newly gathered force of one Irregular and one Regular attacks the British Regulars in a mountain ambuscade to the south of the settlement.  The French have returned to the offensive with two battles in June!

Drucour's Attack Against the Seneca:
OB:
British: 1 x 3-8 Seneca Warband 
French: Drucour (A0D1), 1 x 5-6 Regular, 1 x 4-7 Militia
In defense of their settlements, the Seneca are prepared to fight savagely despite being attacked on two fronts.

Rigaud's Ambush of the British Regulars in the Mountains Near Oswegatchie:
OB:
British: 1 x 5-6 Regular regiment 
French: Rigaud (A0D1), 1 x 5-6 Regular, 1 x 4-7 Militia
Caught on the march through unfamiliar mountains, the British are surprised by the French attack.

Two more interesting battles for Peter to resolve.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Yucatan: Ek’ Balam

View of Ek’ Balam from the top of The Acropolis
Continuing on from the first portion of our recent journey into the Yucatan (see Yucatan: Chichen Itza), the second phase of the journey consisted of lunch and swim at one of the cenotes between Chichen Itza and Ek’ Balam.
Cenote
Three generations of cenote swimmers
The last stop of the day was at the less visited archaeological site of Ek Balam or The Black Jaguar.  Excavations of Ek Balam did not begin until 1998.  Before 1998, it had been swallowed by jungle and mostly hidden under earthen mounds.  When the private tour was booked, I asked for Ek’ Balam to be included in the itinerary.  The booking agent in the hotel said, "sure, we can include Ek’ Balam but not many go there."  When we arrived at Ek’ Balam and began our short walk to the ruins, the guide asked a similar question.  "How did you find out about this place?"  Not many tours know about this place and few visitors request a visit.  I replied that I had read about the place and wanted to see a large, Mayan complex in a state of restoration and without throngs of tourists.  He agreed and said Ek’ Balam was one of his favorites.  He seemed eager to share his knowledge of the complex.  

Walking the short distance between the ticketing office and the entrance to the ruins few visitors were seen.  Very few cars in the parking lot either.  That was a good sign that we might have the site mostly to ourselves.  First glimpse of the Ek’ Balam compound as we exited the jungle path was the main the gate into the site.
Main Gate
The entrance gate or guardhouse is unique in that all four sides are open.  Entering through the gate, turning right, and a few steps down a steep, stone ramp, the compound opens up into a courtyard flanked by buildings.  Some of the structures featured stairways to the top; another featured round towers.
Oval Palace
Oval Palace
Temple with stairway to top
As we walked through the complex, many of the structures still showed their native state.  That is crumbling and fallen stonework, collapsed roofs, and vegetation growing on and among the buildings.  Often I felt as if I stepped back in time and accompanied Stephens and Catherwood as they explored the Yucatan in the mid-1840s.  Atmospheric, for sure.
Twin towers in ruins reminiscent of a Catherwood illustration
Once the young grand kids caught site of the main temple or Acropolis, off they shot to climb the massive structure.  While kids raced off and parents chased, I continued my stroll through the compound with the guide as he explained the complex and its history.
The Acropolis
On a more leisurely approach to the towering Acropolis, we walked by a stone pyramid with stairway leading to the top.  Climbing the stairs and looking, it became apparent that this pyramid was meant as a viewing area for the ball court.  Opposite this wall of the ball court was a mirror court wall and viewing pyramid.
Grandstand with ball court in background
When compared with the gigantic ball court at Chichen Itza, notice that the Ek Balam court is shaped differently despite the small scale.
Ek Balam ball court
After walking through the compound, the guide and I finally joined up with the rest of our group at The Acropolis.  By time we reached the temple, most had already climbed to the top and were looking down upon us.  
Stairs leading up Acropolis
The Acropolis structure is tall at about 100 feet.  This height even surpasses the height of the temple at Chichen Itza.  While no one is allowed to climb Chichen Itza, climbing The Acropolis at Ek Balam has no restrictions.

The Acropolis, itself, contains many carvings and stucco reliefs that are works of art and masterpieces in craftsmanship. The stela aside the massive stairway depicts the head of a serpent with hieroglyphs proclaiming that the stair was built and owned by the ruler of Ek Balam. 
Serpent stela
Midway up and on either side of the stairway are a number of rooms all ornately carved with stucco reliefs.  The focal of the entrance on the left of the stairway is a massive set of carved teeth.
Gate of the Serpent Mouth
Intricate carvings including some wall paintings
Wall painting detail
The Gate of the Serpent Mouth is believed to guard the entrance to the underworld.  A grave was found during excavation of these rooms.  Archaeologists believe the grave was that of the ruler Ukit Can Le'k Tok who reined 770AD-801AD.  The intricate detailing in the stucco reliefs is astounding.  Such fine works of art buried beneath earthen mounds for about 800 years.
Gate of the Serpent Mouth
The visits to Chichen Itza and Ek Balam were well worth a long day out in the Yucatan.  Although my family came along willingly, I hope they enjoyed the journey as much as I!
Jon at the Gate to the Underworld
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Another Dozen Spanish Spearmen

As hinted at in an earlier post, a second dozen Casting Room Miniatures' Norman spearmen muster off from the painting desk.  Also mentioned in that same post, I love the quality of sculpting, poses and animation in these Normam footmen.  
For the Reconquista project, these Norman spearmen will be fielded as Spanish to oppose the Moors as the Christians attempt to wrest control of the peninsula from the Muslims. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

SYW Russian Musketeer Battalion

Having recently completed the first Russian battalion from Old Glory, I finished off the bag with a second battalion.  Again, these figures are excellent even after all of intervening years since the figures were first released.  Molds are still in terrific condition and turn out a fine looking figure.
While the foot are Old Glory, A Eureka colonel was once again pressed into service to lead this battalion.  The mounted colonel looks quite at ease among the Old Glory musketeers. 
Similar to these two test battalions of Old Glory Russians, likely next off the painting desk for the SYW project will be a sample of Russian musketeers from Lancashire Games.  The Lancashire Games' Russians are fine looking figures too but a much different sculpting style.   

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Montcalm & Wolfe: Braddock Reaches Lake Erie

The French fort on the banks of Lake Erie falls to a coordinated attack of British and Native allies.  Losses were high for the French losing two regiments in the battle.  The French commander of the garrison, Contrecoeur, is allowed to march from the fort having surrendered.  For details of the battle, see Peter's BatRep at Battle of Fort Presque Isle.

This is a tough loss for the French and their war effort as their hold on the Great Lakes is greatly hampered.  While still holding onto forts Niagara and Oswego, British forces are tightening the noose with Braddock advancing from the west while Loudoun can threaten from the east.  The loss of the fort advances the Political Track one place to the right and back to '0'.  Recall that only a short time ago, the Political Track was pegged at '5' in French favor.  For the French, the Year 1757 cannot come to a close quick enough.

September 1757 Continued
French roll on the Command Table and receive two activations.  Contrecoeur and remnants from the Presque Isle garrison make a path back to the relative safety of Fort Niagara while Rigaud, one regiment of irregulars, and a militia regiment travel to Montreal.  All Native warbands disband as winter approaches.
September 1757 maneuvers
Winter 1 1757
To avoid taxing limited resources, one regiment of British Regulars marches from Fort Carillon to Fort William-Henry.  For attrition, one militia of British militia disbands.

Winter 2 1757
Johnson moves to take up command of Fort Edwards but is yet to reach the comfort of the fort.  Winter attrition is harsh.  The British lose two regiments of militia (Fort Edwards and Albany) while the French militia in Montreal disbands.  

1757 Strategic Phase
Reinforcements
In the year-ending Strategic Phase, the British receive four milita regiments with Wolfe and Amherst sailing to take up commands in the colonies.  Amherst and two militia travel to Fort Stanwix.  Wolfe and two militia arrive in New York City.

For the French only one militia is recruited and Montcalm arrive.  Both take up residence in Quebec.

May 1758
The British begin the 1758 campaigning season by rolling on the Command Table.  The British receive three activations.  One regiment of Regulars marches off into the wilderness from Fort Carillon.  Loudoun sets off from Fort Stanwix to rendezvous with the Regulars marching north.  Finally, Amherst with one regiment of Regulars and two regiments of militia march to attack Fort Oswego.  Fort Oswego once again finds itself under the gun.  If Fort Oswego falls, Fort Niagara will become even more isolated.
British maneuvers May 1758
Battle of Fort Oswego
OB:
British: Amherst (A3D1), 1 x 5-6 Regular, 2 x 3-5 Militia
French: Drucour (A0D1), 1 x 5-6 Regular
  

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hungarian IR#19 for the 1799 Project

Work continues on the 1799 project with the mustering out of two battalions of Infantry Regiment #19.  A fine looking regiment with blue facings and the traditional, blue Hungarian trousers and short boots.
Figures are AB Miniatures and there is just something about these Austrians or Hungarians in casquet that I find very appealing.  Is it because we are so used to seeing Napoleonic Austrians in helmet or shako?  I cannot put my finger on it but I am compelled to painting Austrians in casquet for this project.  Of course, plenty of Austrians in helmet are readying themselves for a trip to the painting desk but these are my favorite.
Expect to see these fine fellows near year-end on the battlefield as gaming revisits the early campaigns in Northern Italy.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

BatRep: Combat at Foz de Arouce, 15MAR1811

As night falls, Ney withdraws
After setting the table and preparing the scenario (see Scenario: Combat at Foz de Arouce), time to refight the battle.  On game day, two participants, each taking the role of either Wellington or Ney, volunteered for command.  With Kevin forever the Francophile, little question as to who would command the French in this rear-guard action.  Jake took command of the Anglo-Portuguese forces (hereafter referred to as "British").  To remind one of the victory conditions and victory point objectives, the two photos below illustrate the situation.  Essentially, the Anglo-Portuguese forces are attempting to push the French across the swollen Ceira River (to the bottom of the photo) while inflicting a disproportionate share of casualties. 
Objectives
Initial troop concentrations
Caught unprepared for a British attack so late in the day, many of the French were back-footed by Wellington's attack.  Although the British got off to a slow start due to miscommunication, the initial advantage in initiative remained with the British throughout most of the battle.  Details of the action are summarized in the captions of each photo.  
Marchand responds to British advances by pushing
his legere forward to defend Poisao
French legere throw out heavy skirmishing screen to disrupt
Craufurd's division moving up through the gully.
Picton gets his troops moving and quickly closes
 on French positions defending in the wooded hills
Mermet launches a counterattack from the woods
 to disrupt the British advance.
Wellington orders his guns to the high ground
overlooking Poisao.
With volleys increasing on the British right, some of Mermet's
 formations become disorganized as they fall back
through the woods.
On the French right, Marchand's two battalions of legere
punish the lead element of British foot.
  Nearly destroyed in a lopsided, close range firefight,
 the British battalion falls back through its support.
Portuguese gain a foothold on the heights on the
 British right as Mermet's brigade gives ground.
Due to effective incoming cannon fire from the heights
 above Paisao, Marchand's battery limbers and evacuates the village.
Pressure mounts against Mermet and the French left.
His brigade is slowly pushed back through the woods.
Suffering moderate losses, Mermet abandons the high ground on the left.
Paisao is vigorously defended by the French while Marchand
 pulls back the remainder of his brigade.
British press French against the river.
With Marchand's troops beginning to flee across the bridge,
 Mermet is backed into a corner with little means of escape.
Will he be able to cut his way through?
Much of Marchand's brigade flees the field and makes
 good its escape.
Mermet may soon be trapped.
Having abandoned Paisao, Ney now worries about
having his escape route cut by the British
before Mermet's brigade can intercede.
Marchand leaves Paisao to the British as he fights a delaying
 action to allow his brigade to pass over the bridge to safety.
The problem for Ney is that Mermet could be trapped if
the British reach the bridge ahead of Mermet.
Paisao in British hands
In an attempt to stabilize the situation and gain time for
Mermet, French cavalry charge with infantry support.
The combined arms force the British infantry to fall back
through supports, disorganized. Weakened and blown
by this effort, the cavalry pull up.
Situation is tight for Mermet.  Already two battalions have
 routed into the raging river and have been swept away.
Craufurd cuts Mermet's escape as the bridge falls into British hands.
Mermet surrenders.
That was an interesting game and a challenge for both but more so for the French.  One challenge for the French is keeping the bridge open long enough to allow Mermet to escape if needed.  In this game and historically, Craufurd and the British Light Division beat Mermet to the bridge.  Unlike his historical counterpart, today's Ney could not retake the bridge and open a path for Mermet.  Cutoff, Mermet's remaining option was surrender.

In the early stages of battle, Marchand's legere man-handled the first British battalion it faced.  Craufurd risked having his attack stall almost before it started.  Rather than keeping pressure on Craufurd, Marchand fell back.  In doing so, he uncovered Paisao to British attack.  Once Marchand began his retrograde, the French position was compromised and casualties mounted quickly.  Craufurd had a shorter path to the bridge than did Mermet.  While Merment fought valiantly to extricate himself from his unfortunate position, he could not.  Surrender was his only option.  The result was an Anglo-Portuguese victory.

With the puzzle that this presents to the French player, I plan to give this action another try.  Perhaps a solo refight is in order to evaluate the situation? Perhaps another outing with active participants is the way forward.  Whichever path is taken, I have a few notions on what could be attempted and maybe improved upon.  Perhaps Massena was right to be irritated with Ney for taking such a position on the wrong side of a swollen river against his orders.  It was very good to see the 28mm Napoleonics out on the gaming table and in action after a long hiatus.
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