Friday, August 17, 2018

Chaeronea, To the Strongest! Style

Scott's beautiful 15mm hand-painted shields
Scott hosted an inaugural To the Strongest! (TtS!) game using his finally painted 15mm ancients' armies.  On the slate for this day's battle was the 338 BCE battle of Chaeronea between the Macedonians and Greeks.  While I bought a copy of TtS! when first published, no opportunity arose to give them a try.  Until now.  Perhaps not having a ready-made grid mat at hand caused my procrastination?  Perhaps.
The long Greek battle line
When Scott scheduled the game and announced an ancients battle, I figured we would be using his fine 28mm collection.  I was surprised to see 15mm armies arrayed upon the gridded gaming mat when we walked downstairs and entered his game room.  Pleasant surprise, for sure.
Greeks pinning a yellow-shield phalanx
Being absolute newcomers to TtS!, Kevin and I would face off while Scott adjudicated and kept the game moving along.  With Kevin taking up station on the side of the table behind the Macedonians, the Greeks were left for me to command. 
The lone Greek cavalry
Greek Center under Lysicles
The battle began with the Greeks advancing all across the battle line maintaining a close cohesion.  The Macedonians had trouble coordinating their movements due to a number of inopportune aces being drawn from the deck.  In TtS!, an ace stops most activations dead in their tracks.
Greeks advance
While the Macedonians wait
Alexander's left wing cavalry came on boldly into the Greek Hoplites on the Greek right but a sudden repulse made the Macedonian cavalry much more timid.  Fortunately for the Macedonians, both Alexander and Phillip act as Greek Gods in this game each having three rerolls per turn.  Even with Greek success in disordering the Macedonian cavalry, Alexander calmly withdrew, reordered his cavalry wing and waited for the Greeks to come on again.
Greek right
Alexander's cavalry disordered and driven back
Come on again, the Greeks did too.  By now Kevin realized the power and invincibility of his cavalry arm and used a combination of first strikes, multiple activations, and rerolls to thwart any Greek thoughts of making a breakthrough on the Macedonian left.  After destroying a unit of Hoplites, Alexander turned the right flank of the Greek army and began to roll up the Greek line. 
Piles of cards signifies action on the right
With the Greek right crumbling, Greek attention shifted to their center and left.  After much bashing of spears and shields, the entire line was in chaos with pockets of opposing units in deadly clashes.  All semblance to ordered lines had vanished.  Finally, the Greeks accepted the likely outcome of battle and withdrew from the field.  A victory for the Macedonians!
Clash on the Greek left
What are my first impressions of TtS!?  Well, it is a fast-paced game with much tension, drama, and a fair bit of luck.  It was both fun and frustrating.  More fun than frustrating, by a wide margin.  The game mechanisms are quite simple and after a few turns we rarely looked at the QRS.  Movement and combat resolution were rapid with the grid and deck of cards.  Everything seemed intuitive and straightforward.  An elegant system that moves along very quickly.  Since not every unit may act in a turn, force management is important.  I could see tactics developing after having experienced a few games.  I already have a number of thoughts in mind for the next battle.  We completed two Chaeronea battles in under three hours.  That is a huge accomplishment.

TtS! is a fun and challenging game that I want to try again soon.  The game motivates me to put 28mm ancients into the painting queue and build myself a gridded mat.  I think I could defeat the Macedonians next time...    

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hiking the Palouse

Lake Pend Oreille
With friends and family in town recently, we needed an activity to interest our more adventurous visitors.  To enjoy the fine summer weather and beautiful scenery, Nancy suggested a short hike to Lake Pend Oreille.  While, not technically on the Palouse, Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho is only about a 60 mile drive to the northeast of Spokane.  Rather than the rolling hills of the Palouse, a visitor is treated to the timbered forests and stunning lakes of North Idaho. 
Marching single file along the wooded trail
From the trailhead, a path leads down the steep, windy, and rugged trail to Lake Pend Oreille.  The switchbacked trail drops to the lake shore about 1,300 vertical feet below.  The trail, itself, is about one and three quarter miles in length. 

Once departing the trailhead, a hiker must go up before going down to the lake.  Once the bluff is crested, a partial view of the lake is visible.  A stunning view it is too!
First glimpse of Lake Pend Oreille
Continuing on down the trail on the descent, the views of the lake from high on the bluff are even more spectacular.  While the views of the lake are often screened by trees along the path down, many breathtaking views of the blue water and mountains present themselves for a quick snapshot.   


After many a switch back and an hour later, we arrive at the serene waters of the lake.  Beautiful 180 degree views showing the calm lake waters and surrounding mountains are present with every turn.

The hike down was hot so after reaching the lake we found a suitable stretch of graveled beach to rest.  After a light lunch, cold drinks, several photo ops, and a quick wade into the cool lake waters, we gathered our belongings and headed back up the steep trail to return to our vehicle.   
The day's hikers
While indoor activities of our hobby frequently beckon, when the weather is pleasant and friends and family are willing, enjoy these opportunities to connect to both family and nature.   

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Montcalm & Wolfe: Capitulation!

Battle of Oswegatchie from Gridded Wargames
With the severe mauling of the French at the battle of Oswegatchie and the death of Rigaud from wounds suffered during the battle, the remnants of Rigaud's force retreat into the woods.  Unfortunately, the militia having sustained heavy casualties have had enough and disband.  For details on this hot engagement, please visit Peter's Gridded Wargames, FIW Campaign Game 20

Still reeling from the heavy losses at Oswegatchie, the French choose to roll on the Command Table to set their forces into motion.  The result?  No French activations!  A band of Algonquin join the French cause and move to join the retreating Regulars from Oswegatchie but no French forces respond.  The loss of Rigaud and Oswegatchie must have been a hard blow for the French.  A hasty retreat back to Montreal seems the only option for the defeated survivors of Rigaud's force.  
Heavy French losses at Oswegatchie
June 1759
The loss of any French activations provides the British with a chance to take a double move.  The British could play it safely and opt for a guaranteed single activation or choose to roll on the Command Table.  The British choose the latter and roll three activations for June.
British maneuvers in June
With those three activations, Monckton, Abercrombie, and two Regular regiments depart Fort Carillon and march on Fort Isle aux Noix; one Regular regiment marches to Fort Presque Isle to join Braddock; and Loudoun and his victorious force embark in bateaux and travel upriver to Montreal.  Loudoun finds Montreal without a significant military garrison and Montreal surrenders without much resistance.  The French are in trouble!

With Braddock threatening Fort Niagara in the west, Amherst blocking any attempts to gain access to the Mohawk Valley at Fort Stanwix, Fort Isle aux Noix under threat, and both Quebec and Montreal under British control, the French government sees the writing on the wall and seeks terms of surrender.  Of course, the British accept.  The war is over.

Well!  This campaign game has yielded much more enjoyment and many more interesting battles than I imagined when first conceived back in February.  In February, I never expected the campaign to command six months activity.  In that time, Peter has fought 20 battles on his gridded gaming table while the operational situations were conjured up by me using Rob Markham's DTP game, Montcalm & Wolfe.  While I became very familiar with Markham's operational design, Peter honed his own gridded, tactical rules.  I enjoyed seeing Peter's rules evolve over the course of the campaign.  Seeing his troops battle it out on the table was always a joy.   

What began as a response to Peter's desire for campaign context for his gridded battles, this Montcalm & Wolfe campaign blossomed to develop an interesting and captivating narrative punctuated by Peter's tabletop battles.  While the campaign would draw up the forces and location for each battle, Peter crafted the terrain and tactical situation to reflect the context of the campaign.  Sometimes the battle outcome was expected; sometimes it was not.

Montcalm & Wolfe presents difficult challenges for the campaigner.  Due the nature of the terrain and harsh attrition rules, movement is channeled through only a few corridors protected by forts within one month's march.  Those few corridors such as the Mohawk and Hudson Valley drainages saw much action during the campaign.  How many times were battles fought over Forts William-Henry, Stanwix, or Oswego?  Many!  Those landscapes became quite familiar territory to the follower of this campaign as the reader was treated to Peter's tabletop renditions of the terrain. 

The French have a difficult time in Montcalm & Wolfe.  A war of attrition cannot be won with the uneven reinforcement schedule.  To do well, the French must strike early and often before British troops begin pouring into America.  When the balance of power changes, the French must adapt quickly.  Having played through one complete campaign game, I have a very good feel for the play and design of Markham's game.  Perhaps a review and thoughts on the game, itself, will follow at a later time?  

Until then, tremendous thanks go out to Peter for diligently tackling every battle thrown up against him.  His battle resolution gave an extra dimension to the game and added tension as I awaited publication of each battle's outcome.  Twenty games played out on the table for a campaign is a feat not easily duplicated.  Peter, I hope you enjoyed this experiment as much as I.  Chapeau to you!     

Thursday, August 9, 2018

French Horse Artillery - The Early Years

Still spending much of my summer painting sessions alternating between SYW and 1799 projects in 18mm.  As I look down the painting queue, that trend will continue as Austrian artillery for the 1799 project and SYW cuirassiers and hussars await their turn at the brush.

Today is no different!  Off the painting desk today are three French horse artillery stands destined to take their place on the 1799 roster.  The French fielded several horse artillery batteries at Rivoli.  If Rivoli gets the nod as the next First/Second Coalition battle to see action on the table then the French will need a few horse guns.  Figures are AB Miniatures. Excellent sculpts!
Like many other places in the Northern Hemisphere, the Pacific Northwest USA has been experiencing hot temperatures.  This week forecasts for Spokane show highs of 107F Thursday and 105F Friday.  With skies choked with smoke from numerous wildfires, cycling outdoors in the afternoon heat and smoke has been challenging.  What am I leading into here?  Well, getting off the bike after the late afternoon, post-work ride is leaving me more fatigued than usual.  The combination of high temperatures and smoke is taking a toll.  I am not feeling much urge in sitting at the painting desk for even a short painting session.  Most of my hobby time of late has been taken up by planning the Zorndorf scenario.  Something I can do with a cool drink in my hand.

Finally, this weekend I get a chance to try Simon Miller's To The Strongest (TtS) ancients rules.  TtS has been in my possession since it was first released but I have yet to give it a try.  That gap of knowledge and experience will be filled on Saturday as Scott hosts Chaeronea.  Should be fun!    

Monday, August 6, 2018

Zorndorf: First Peek

Prussian form up in front of the burning Zorndorf
The Zorndorf project, in which the Russians have been mustering for eight months, nears realization.  With the 260th battle anniversary approaching on 25 August, the project is ahead of schedule with only a few troops remaining to paint. 

The purpose of this battle pictorial is to set the visual scene and whet an appetite for the upcoming clash between Frederick and Fermor on the fields of Zorndorf.  Zorndorf represents a big battle with about 1,500 figures on the table.  
Battle Deployments
Jake, having a free Friday evening in Spokane, stopped in for a bite to eat, a long chat, and the deploying of troops onto the gaming table.  Before he arrived, the table was readied with the battlefield terrain.  The Zorndorf battlefield consumed the full 12 x 6 foot table.
Battle lines are drawn
Prussians (left) Russians (right)
Friday night's session had three goals:
  • Pull troops from their storage boxes and verify that the historical dispositions would actually fit into the confines of the tabletop battlefield.  They did!
  • Focus on hammering out details of scenario design with an emphasis on troop strengths and ratings and leader ratings.  That "rough-in" was accomplished too!  
  • Verify that all troops needed were present and accounted for.  For the Prussians, I discovered that one more command stand and a few more hussars are needed to complete the OB.  For the Russians, a handful of Observation Corps infantry are all that remains.
Russian First Line
Prussians arrayed for battle
In the background, a view of the long Russian lines
Manteuffel, Kanitz, and Marschall on Prussian left
At Zorndorf, Frederick enjoyed an advantage in cavalry and artillery while Fermor held the advantage in infantry.  Should be an interesting and challenging fight for both.  With the 25 August 260th anniversary falling on a Saturday, the plan is to refight this important battle on the anniversary date.  Of course, having invested in this effort, Zorndorf will likely be seen on the gaming table a number of times.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Montcalm & Wolfe: French Gain a Major Victory

Battle for Fort Oswego
As set up in the last Montcalm & Wolfe post, Contrecoeur and Drucour converge upon Fort Oswego in an attempt to wrest control of this key outpost from British hands.  To follow the action of this Major Battle, please visit Peter's Grid Based Wargaming.  In the action, Contrecoeur was wounded and carried from the field.  In the end, the French persevered but it was a near run thing.  The French Irregulars were destroyed but the fort fell.  Defeated in battle, Amherst's militia had enough and disbanded.  With the Cayuga eliminated in battle, only Amherst and one regiment of Regulars escape.  With a French Major Victory, the Political Track shifts two spaces to the left in favor of the French.  With winter approaching, all Natives disband and return to their settlements.  
Winter 1 1758
With snow blanketing the ground, campaigning slows to prevent severe deprivations.  Britain rolls on the Command Table receiving one CP.  Amherst and his one regiment of Regulars slips past the French at Fort Oswego and returns to the lightly garrisoned Fort Stanwix.  Overpowering the garrison, Amherst prepares for winter within the safety of the fort.  The French move Drucour and one regiment of Regulars back to Fort Niagara before Braddock can respond.
Winter 2 1758
In the second winter turn, the British roll on the Command Table and the French get to interrupt with one activation.  With that, the militia in Fort Frontenac travels by bateaux to Oswegatchie to join Rigaud.

Rolling on the Command Table a second time, the British receive four activations.  With four activations, one Regular regiment moves from Albany to Fort Stanwix to join Amherst, Johnson moves to Fort William-Henry, one Regular regiment moves from Fort Edward to Fort William-Henry, and finally, the lone regiment of Regulars stationed at Fort Cumberland for most of the war marches to Baltimore.  The French remain inactive. 
Strategic Phase
Winter is mild and neither attritional losses nor militia disbandments are seen.  French receive one militia as a reinforcement and Contrecoeur returns to the field.  Both make their way to Fort Oswego.  The British receive one militia and Abercromby.  Both of these reinforcements march to Fort Carillon.

May 1759
With the end of winter, fresh reinforcement arrive.  One more colonial militia marches to Fort Stanwix to bolster Amherst.  The French receive two regiments of Regulars; one marches to Trois Rivieres to augment Montcalm's garrison while the other arrives at Fort Oswego.  Contrecoeur is amassing a sizable force on the banks of Lake Ontario.

To begin the campaign year, the British choose to roll on the Command Table.  Three CPs are received.  One Regular regiment marches from Fort Duquesne to Fort Le Boeuf; the Regular regiment in Baltimore is shipped to Quebec; and Loudoun and two regiments of Regulars converge upon Oswegatchie to attack Rigaud.  The British strike north in an attempt to isolate Montreal!
The Battle at Oswegatchie
OB:
British: Loudoun (A0D1), 2 x 5-6 Regulars
French: Rigaud (A0D1), 1 x 5-6 Regular, 1 x 3-5 Militia

With a river to his back, Rigaud must defend the settlement of Oswegatchie from Loudoun's bold attack out of the wilderness.  A British victory here could threaten Montreal from a second front.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Austrian IR15 in 18mm

The 2018 theme of alternating between 18mm SYW and 18mm 1799 projects continues.  Today's offering is a three battalion, 39 figure regiment of IR#15.  Figures are AB Miniatures.
Even though painting has slowed over the summer, yearly painting tally has crossed 700 figures.  That leaves only 200 more figures to reach my 2018 goal of 900.  Making that goal should be a snap, right?  I have also managed to stick to the goal of focusing on 15/18mm figures at the painting desk.  That means good gains for the 1799, 1859, and SYW projects.
On the project front, after putting the 28mm Napoleonic game Foz d'Arouce to rest last Friday, recreating Zorndorf in 18mm is up next for August.  Much planning remains but Jake's Russians have arrived in anticipation of their deployment upon the battlefield.  Having cleared away the three month stand of Foz d'Arouce, a preliminary Zorndorf battlefield has been set up on the gaming table.  The battle will likely consume the entire 12' x 6' table.  Even at half-scale (one BMU = one Regiment), the table will hold a large number of troops.  Should be an enjoyable sight once all are on the table.  I anticipate fighting over the ground of Zorndorf a few times this autumn and fall.

When the calendar turns to winter, I expect the 1797 battle of Rivoli to take center stage.  As noted above, troops continue to muster for the 1799 project with an eye towards Rivoli.  I may change my mind and offer a battle featuring an Austro-Russian foe but an early Wars of Coalition scrap sounds good for the snowy, winter months.
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