Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Thomas' Wargaming 19th Century Europe


Having an interest in 19th Century warfare in general and the Second Italian War of Independence in particular, I recently bought Thomas' book.  Wargaming 19th Century Europe is my first Thomas wargaming book so I didn't know what to expect.  Existing reviews are lacking the detail needed to make an informed decision but I plunged ahead anyway on the road to discovery.

Although the book covers a wide span of history (some might argue too large since weapons and tactics evolved throughout this period), Thomas justifies his position by reminding the reader that the mindset of commanders during this period remained practically unchanged.  That is, commanders continued employing Napoleonic tactics over this 60-year span.  This same argument could be made for the American Civil War as well.  

Thomas provides a comprehensive examination from a wargaming perspective.  Thomas breaks the book into a number of manageable chunks.  These components include sections on:
  • Historical background
  • Design notes
  • Wargame rules
  • Generic scenarios
  • Army lists
  • Historical scenarios
  • Appendices listing bibliography, scales and figure discussion, and wargame related vendors
The rules, themselves, only take up eight pages and cover,
  • Units and Formations
  • Basing
  • Sequence of Play
  • Changes of Formation
  • The Charge Sequence
  • Movement
  • Firing
  • Hand-to-Hand Combat
  • Morale
The rules' mechanisms lean decidedly towards the simple end of the wargame complexity scale and Thomas defends this approach throughout his design notes chapter (entitled, Nineteenth-Century Wargaming).  Thomas emphasizes the "simple" rules' design approach to allow players to focus on the game rather than the rules.  The rules have no specified time or figure scale. 

All units of the same type are the same size regardless of historical doctrine.  Unit size is,
  • Infantry - four bases
  • Skirmishers - two bases
  • Cavalry and Dragoons - four bases
  • Artillery - one base
Basing guidelines are provided but any basing scheme should work as long as both combatants are based similarly.  

One interesting step in the Sequence of Play is that formation change is a separate step and that infantry may not move in line.  The result is that infantry may only charge to contact while in column.  Only infantry and artillery may change formation.

In the Charge Sequence, Thomas provides a matrix for easily determining whether a charging unit may contact a defending unit.  Conditional charges are allowed provided that the charging unit outnumbers the target.  If attacked frontally, defenders may fire at the attacker before hand-to-hand combat is resolved.  

In the Fire Phase, firing units throw a number of dice per stand dependent upon unit type (rate of fire).  Ranges are singular per weapon type with the exception that smoothbore guns have both a short and long range, and skirmishers add 8cm to weapons' range.  Hits are cross-referenced with respect to firing unit and target.  For example, an infantry unit firing in line against an infantry in close order line needs 4-6 on each D6 to score one hit.  Each base may take four hits before removing one base.  Saving throws are allowed for provided the target unit is either in cover (woods or towns) or armed with breechloading weapons.  The rationale for the breechloading saving throw is to model the tendency for breechloading armed troops to "go to ground" when under heavy fire.     

In Hand-to-Hand Combat Phase, each unit totals the number of dice it throws against its opponent with each stand receiving a set number of dice dependent upon the attacking and defending unit types.  Like fire, saving throws are allowed for units in woods or towns.  The side taking the largest number of hits retreats after Hand-to-Hand. 

During the Morale Phase, only three conditions trigger a morale test.  These conditions are:
  • Losing a base through fire combat
  • Charging cavalry takes fire from defending target
  • Losing Hand-to-Hand combat
Notice that in the case of a cavalry charge, the defender does not necessarily have to cause casualties to trigger this morale test.  Thomas argues that the process of taking fire during a cavalry charge was often enough to cause 'extreme' disorder within the charging cavalry's ranks.  Units are rated in five distinct morale classifications.  These are, 
  • Fanatic
  • Elite
  • Average
  • Levy
  • Rabble
with each classification given a set range of values on 1D6 for passing the morale test.  Fanatics fail only a on a roll of '1' while Rabble fail on any roll other than a '6'.

To me, the most interesting portion of Thomas' book is contained in his design notes in chapter 2.  This chapter allows the reader insight into Thomas' rationale for designing the rules as written.  Some thought provoking ideas are surfaced within and prompts me to consider some of my own gaming designs.  Thomas' rules definitely possess the flavor of classic, Old School wargames as handed down from the pioneers of Featherstone, Grant, Wesencraft, and Morschauser.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Battle of Cedar Mountain Walk

A brief photo journal of a visit to the Cedar Mountain battlefield

Although the battlefield of Cedar Mountain (09Aug1862) remains mostly as it was at the time of the battle, it has not been preserved as some of the better recognized ACW battlefields.  The battlefield remains largely in private hands and a farming complex occupies the Federal lines along the old Mitchell Station Road.

An aerial view of the main Federal attack shows the major features of the battlefield including "The Gate" and the wheatfield.

As seen from Google Earth, the farming complex is plopped in the middle of the battlefield.  At the time of the battle, the James Madison Highway was not present and, thus, did not bisect the battlefield.

"The Gate" closed off the Crittenden Lane (today SR657) from the Old Culpeper Road (General Winder Rd).  The Old Culpeper Road would have continued east along the rail fence.  The photo below is taken where the 1862 gate would have barricaded the Crittenden Lane.

Another view of the Old Culpeper Road looking east out across the wheatfield towards Federal lines.

From The Gate, the Crittenden Lane heads south towards the Crittenden farm.  Along this line, Confederate batteries were deployed.

A second view of the treeline along Crittenden Lane to the intersection with James Madison Highway.  Confederate artillery and Taliaferro's brigade were deployed along this line.  Photo from the wheatfield looking southwest.

Standing just outside the rail fence line looking south, Cedar Mountain can be seen in the distance.  Ewell's artillery was deployed on the shelf and Crittenden farm is seen at the base of Cedar Mountain.  Augur's division attacked across this field (then in corn) from left to right towards Crittenden Lane.

Garnett's brigade deployed on the western edge of the wheatfield in the woods.  The photo below shows the right of Garnett's position, forming line north, perpendicular to the Old Culpeper Road.

The view from Garnett's position looking east across the wheatfield.

Crawford attacked across the wheatfield from right to left up this undulation before seeing the Confederate line held by Garnett.

Cresting the undulation, Crawford's men would have been faced with Garnett's position at the treeline.

On Crawford's right, Gordon attacked out of the woods towards Confederate lines.

Finally, a few regimental markers are scattered around the wheatfield.  The main grouping of Federal markers is near the eastern boundary of the wheatfield.

These set of historical markers commemorate the 7th Ohio, 66 Ohio, 109 Penn, Best's artillery, and the 1st Penn Cavalry.  Information suggests that markers are placed near where the units deployed but these infantry were under Augur.  Augur's division attacked out of the cornfield to the south and not in the wheatfield.  I wonder if these markers were moved from their original cornfield placements into the wheatfield for preservation purposes? 

Below is the "Stonewall" marker although I do not remember where this marker was located.  Does this mark the Stonewall brigade or Jackson, himself?  

Following the battle, a number of hastily buried dead were exhumed and moved to the National Cemetery in Culpeper.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Projects Update

28mm Ancients (2nd Punic War):
Two more Roman units have been added to the project: one 9-figure Roman cavalry unit and one 12-figure unit of slingers.  Both the cavalry and slingers are from Renegade Miniatures.

The Aventine Princepes/Triarii below received the Minwax stain treatment.  Most of the other units in the project have been given the Minwax treatment but I couldn't be certain with these heavy infantry so I gave them a wash when I washed the French cavalry noted in the Napoleonic update below.

28mm Napoleonic Project:
No new figures have passed across the painting table but these two bodies of French cavalry recently received the Minwax stain treatment.  Minwax Tudor stain adds a bit of shadowing effect by pooling in the model recesses and adds depth to the finished model.  Although the pictures may not illustrate this technique, the result is pleasing to my eye and works well on lead horse flesh.

More Front Rank cavalry are on the way to bolster the cavalry arm of this project.  Included in the purchase are British light and heavy dragoons, French dragoons, French Chasseurs a Cheval, and Spanish dragoons.  All figures are outfitted for the earlier part of the Wars (Peninsular specifically) so the British light dragoons are in tarleton and the British heavies are sporting bicorns.

18mm SYW Project:
Battalion #2 of Austrian IR#2 passed across the painting table in October.  Now, I must go back and paint the combined grenadiers for Infantry Regiment #2.

One of this weekend's tasks is to apply primer to 54 Blue Moon AWI Hessians pressed into service as SYW Prussians.  When completed, these figures will be fielded as one Prussian infantry regiment of two battalions plus one half of the grenadiers (eight figures) for a combined grenadier battalion.  Included in this total are two Eureka mounted Prussian officers with one per battalion.

While the Blue Moon infantry are fantastic, the mounted officers and cavalry are lacking good form.  From the few Blue Moon horse I have, the sculpts appear too thin in the neck and don't match my image of a horse.

Still in the painting queue are SYW light infantry for both Austria and Prussia.  These light infantry will be based in open order having five figures per stand.  Of course, these will be the first open order troops for the project so I may change basing once I have the figures painted.  Sometimes, my plans do not survive contact with reality. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

ACW Battle: A.P.Hill vs Williams, 1862

This battle features the OBs from the 1862 campaign as Jackson moved towards Culpeper, Virginia to blunt Banks' northern aggression.  In this regimental battle, only the divisions of A.P. Hill and Williams are present with Williams holding the high ground in favorable, defensive terrain. 

An earlier replay of this scenario resulted in a crushing Federal victory as Hill used the tactic of sending two brigades up the middle into the 'valley of death' while his third brigade attempted a flanking maneuver against the Federal left.  The flanking brigade advanced too hastily and was destroyed before a coordinated attack from Hill's remaining two brigades could deploy.  As Hill continued advancing into the valley, Federal guns pounded Hill before a proper deployment was prepared.  Savage counterattacks by Federals swarming off the heights put an end to any notion of Confederate offensive activities.  Hill withdrew to lick his wounds.

With Regimental Fire and Fury in mind, the OB for this battle consists of the following:

Unit                   Commander    Rating     Grade

Williams 1 DIV         CinC         Gallant
F,4th US/1             Williams      HS          CRK
F, 4th US/2            Williams      HS          CRK
F, 4th US/3            Williams      HS          CRK
1 Rhode Island Cav     Williams     C 6/4/2      CRK

Crawford - 1 BDE       Williams     Gallant
5 Connecticut          Crawford     RM 16/12/8   CRK
10 Maine               Crawford     RM 10/8/5    VET
28 New York            Crawford     RM 8/6/4     CRK
46 Pennsylvannia       Crawford     RM 12/9/6    CRK
L,2nd NY Batt/1        Crawford      LR          CRK
L,2nd NY Batt/2        Crawford      LR          CRK
L,2nd NY Batt/3        Crawford      LR          CRK

Gordon - 3 BDE         Williams     Able
27 Indiana             Gordon       RM 16/12/8   VET
2 Maine                Gordon       RM 12/8/5    CRK
3 Wisconsin            Gordon (BC)  SM 16/12/8   TRN
Pa Zouaves d'Afriq     Gordon       SM 6/5/3     VET
M, 1st NY Batt/1       Gordon        LR          CRK
M, 1st NY Batt/2       Gordon        LR          CRK
M, 1st NY Batt/3       Gordon        LR          CRK

A.P Hill - LT DIV CinC              Able
Purcell Art/1          AP Hill       LR          CRK
Purcell Art/2          AP Hill       LR          CRK
Middlesex Art/1        AP Hill       LR          CRK
Middlesex Art/2        AP Hill       LR          CRK

Archer - 5 BDE         AP Hill      Able
5 Alabama Bn           Archer       RM 6/4/2     VET
19 Georgia             Archer       SM 12/9/6    VET
1 Tennessee            Archer       RM 12/9/6    VET
7 Tennessee            Archer       SM 10/7/4    VET
14 Tennessee           Archer       SM 10/7/4    VET

Thomas - 3 BDE         AP Hill     Able
14 Georgia             Thomas      RM 12/9/6     CRK
35 Georgia             Thomas      RM 12/9/6     CRK
45 Georgia             Thomas      SM 12/9/6     CRK
49 Georgia             Thomas      SM 12/9/6     CRK

Branch - 4 BDE         AP Hill     Able
7 North Carolina       Branch      SM 10/8/5     VET
18 North Carolina      Branch      SM 10/8/5     VET
28 North Carolina      Branch      SM 10/8/5     VET
33 North Carolina      Branch (BC) SM 10/7/4     VET
37 North Carolina      Branch      SM 10/8/5     VET

At the start of the game, the troop deployments are illustrated in the photos below.
Battlefield looking from east

Battlefield looking from west

A.P. Hill's Approach through the woods
Stream Crossing in Center

Gordon defending upper bridges
Archer and Thomas
Upper bridges

Lower Bridge
 My plan is to refight this scenario over the next couple of weeks with updates posted to the blog.  I will be using the Brigade Combat Effectiveness in this scenario as described in an earlier post.  For the Rebels, I'll have to develop a suitable plan of attack that will hopefully avoid the confederate disaster in the first game.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stocking Up For Winter and Portland Book Shopping

With the arrival of fall and cooler temperatures, wargaming thoughts turn towards prepping enough figures to survive the winter painting season.  Once the temperatures drop below freezing, even the garage is not a great place to spray primer onto the figures.  In the cold, dullcoting is especially troublesome.  Over the next two weeks, primering figures may take priority.

In anticipation of the winter season, two orders arrived in the mail recently.  One order from 19th Century Miniatures containing a resupply of figures for my 1859 project and the other from Old Glory containing figures from mix of periods.  19th Century orders over $100 yield a 30% discount from retail which I was able to trigger.  Figures ordered included restocking Austrian line infantry and an assortment of French infantry.  Work had stalled on the 1859 project due to a depletion of my Austrian inventory and I didn't want the Italian forces to surpass their Austrian opponents.  I know, I could have continued painting Italians but I like to vary my painting activities within a project.

With Blue Moon rapidly expanding their 15mm ranges and Old Glory adding onto their excellent 10mm range, I finally opted to join the Old Glory Army.  Holding the Old Glory Army card allows 40% on most ranges that Old Glory manufactures or distributes.  In my first order using the card, I received resupply of several bags of 10mm ACW including the newly released Parrot rifles and supply wagons.  Also in the order were Zouaves in both fez and turban.  Since moving to a smaller scale with regimental gaming, I needed to fill out zouave units that worked well as brigades but do not muster enough men for regimental scales.

I requested and received special packaging on ACW limbers too.  This special request contained 12 limbers, 12 pairs of limber riders, and 24 wheels.  No horses and no drivers were needed since Old Glory packages enough horses and drivers for three pairs of horses per limber.  Regimental Fire and Fury only requires one team per limber so I ended up with a box full of surplus horses and drivers.  My existing painted limbers did contain two teams per limber but I still wound up with a small pile of unused teams.  The pack of limbers, sans teams, will help address this wastage.

Newly released Blue Moon French legere were picked up as were several bags of Blue Moon AWI Hessian musketeers that I will press into service as either Prussians or Wurttembergers for my SYW project.  Hopefully, the Blue Moon figures will fit in amongst the rather larger Eureka Prussian musketeers.  Eureka's Prussian grenadiers are smaller than the musketeers and fusiliers so these Blue Moon figures ought to look fine on the tabletop.  Additionally, the Blue Moon figures are much less expensive at $0.30 per figure vs. Eureka's $0.70 per figure. 

As a bonus, Old Glory offers a free pack of figures for signing up to their Army Card.  I chose the 28mm ACW Union Camp Set with Tent.  I don't collect 28mm ACW figures but the figures will make a very nice vignette. 

I spent this past weekend visiting my sister in Portland.  One of the benefits of a Portland visit includes noshing at the dozens of food carts and small restaurants within each neighborhood.  With the presence of large national chain restaurants stifled within the city, the variety and quality is exceptional and prices are very inexpensive.  My proclamation is that Portland has the best food scene in the northwest.

Another benefit to a Portland visit is a chance to browse through the stacks at Powell's Bookstore.  From Powell's, I brought back several books on Jackson's valley campaign, Longstreet's biography, and an Osprey Essential history on Rome at War.  As a book shopping surprise, my visit coincided with the Friends of Multonomah Library book sale.  The sale was held at the Doubletree and when we arrived 30 minutes before doors opened, a line was formed around the block.  Now, this sale was the members only pre-sale so I can only imagine what the lines would have been like when the sale opened to the general public on the following day.

When we made it to the door, I grabbed a map and headed straight to the military history tables.  On the way to the table, I scooped up an empty box.  I came away with nearly a dozen books at bargain prices including Kagan's Peloponnesian War, Sears' To the Gates of Richmond and Landscape Turned Red, and the Illustrated History of the Civil War to name a few.  While I already have a copy of Sears' Landscape Turned Red in paperback, I picked up a like new hardback edition for $3.  In fact, all of the books I brought home from the book sale were in like new condition.   

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Austerlitz Pictorial

After reading Goetz's Austerlitz, I modified my OBs to reflect his revised orders of battle for the combatants.  Having enough figures to fight the engagement, a map was created, terrain laid out, and troops deployed.

My Austerlitz map was built in Campaign Cartographer (I don't recall which version; perhaps, v2 or v3). Campaign Cartographer is a very powerful CAD program with a steep learning curve.  In fact, it takes considerable time to relearn the mechanisms for manipulating objects every time I use the program.  

First, Austerlitz is a big game. The table below is 12 feet by 6 feet and the battlefield spreads over the entire surface.  A larger area would have allowed the Allies more flexibility in initial deployments and maneuver plus removing the constraint of defending the edge of the earth.  Adding an extra two feet to the eastern board edge would relieve this constraint but make the game unplayable.  I cannot reach midway across an eight foot table.  Translating game map to the tabletop produced this result:

Austerlitz Overview from South
The stacks of paperwork should have been removed from the table before shooting the picture but c'est la guerre.

French deployments on northern battlefield 

French positions looking from Zuran Hill
French positions around Girzikowitz looking east

Allied positions on the Pratzen

Pratzen Heights as seen from Puntowitz

Allied positions on Pratzen Heights

Sokolnitz-Telnitz showing Davout's reinforcements

Southern portion of battlefield showing Pheasantry to Telnitz

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fortifications: Brimstone Hill Fortress

St. Kitts was one of the islands visited during a Caribbean vacation.

Unbeknownst to me before arrival, St. Kitts maintains a large, 18th century fortress on the northwest side of the small island.  The fortress sits atop Brimstone Hill which is nearly 800 feet above sea level.  The French and British contested St. Kitts during the 17th to early 19th centuries.  British finally drove off the French for good in 1806.  Small actions could be gamed during the WSS, SYW, AWI, and Napoleonic Wars.  The largest engagement occurred in 1782 when 8,000 French troops besieged the British defenders in the fortress.

The fortress is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fort George Citadel

 Prince of Wales Bastion

Infantry Officers' Quarters with Artillery Officers Quarters
 and cookhouse in the distance