Thursday, January 31, 2013

Battle of San Martino - The Game

The Battle of San Martino comprised the northern portion of the larger Battle of Solferino on 24JUN1859 fought simultaneously to the south.

The battle began as the Sardinians sent out a number of reconnaissance forces to probe southeast from Lonato and Rivoltella towards Pozzolengo.  Rather than fielding an integrated advance guard to act as the recon force, the Sardinians drew off battalions and squadrons from each division and sent them on their way.  

One of the largest of these recon contingents was drawn from Mollard's 3rd Division.  Not expecting Austrian resistance on the west bank of the Mincio River, Mollard was surprised to run into Austrian forces at Ponticello.  What was initially thought to be only Austrian screening elements turned out to be Benedek's VIII Corps centered on Pozzolengo.  Benedek, likewise, was surprised to discover the Sardinians bearing down on his corps in force.  

From Google Earth, the battlefield today is dominated by agriculture with vineyards that would have hampered artillery and cavalry movements during the time of the battle.  Mollard advanced south of present day A4 along SP13 towards Roccolo and Orteglia farms with an objective of seizing Pozzolengo.  
Photos of the actual battlefield can be seen in my earlier posting on this subject.  

Mollard realized his miscalculation and fell back to the heights around San Martino.  While Sardinian columns continued streaming towards Mollard's positions at San Martino, Mollard prepared for a defensive action until sufficient force could be gathered to push Benedek back onto the Mincio.  Not waiting for the Sardinian storm to gather over San Martino, Benedek counterattacked to prevent the Sardinians from compromising the Austrian line of communications over the Mincio.

The scenario picks up where my narrative ends.  That is, elements of Mollard's recon column hold the San Martino heights while reinforcements continue their march to San Martino.  Benedek has several brigades from two divisions poised to attack the heights.  The Sardinian objective is to cut the Austrian line of communication across the Mincio by taking  Pozzolengo.  Since Benedek's force anchors the far right of the Austrian army and protects the army's line of communication, the Austrian VIII Corps is tasked with holding the Pozzolengo position until ordered otherwise.  Falling back behind the Mincio too early would allow the Sardinians to reinforce the French at Solferino.  
Positions looking from SE
Initial Deployments from above Pozzolengo

Mollard's position on San Martino Heights
My plan is to game this scenario as time permits using my own rules.  Since this will be the rules' first trial, I'll play slowly and take notes on what works and what does not.  Perhaps, I'll make changes as the scenario plays out.  Both combatants have limited cavalry so the mounted arm likely won't see much more than a scouting role unless they can catch some vulnerable battalions in the open.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Painting Update: Samurai and Sardinians

A second mounted Samurai unit rolled off the painting table destined for Samurai Battles play.  This time, accompanied by two leader stands.  To add variety, each Samurai sports a unique sashimono.  This treatment certainly enhances the colorfulness of the unit and I went back to the first mounted samurai unit and repainted the banners in a similar fashion.  Figures are 15mm Peter Pig.

Following the Samurai off the painting table is the 7th Sardinian Line Infantry Regiment.  Each Sardinian infantry regiment is comprised of four battalions, each of 12 figures.  Figures are 15mm Old Glory produced by 19th Century Miniatures.  Another six battalions are in the painting queue as I prepare for the San Martino battle.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Project Plans 2013

Part of the fun of the hobby is drafting out lists of figures to paint, collections to build, formulating orders of battle, games to play, and dreaming what might be.  Well, I'm nearly one month into 2013 so it is time to commit to my project plans for the year.  Knowing that I have only eleven months remaining, I may be forced to scale back my goals.

Like many, the number of gaming projects I maintain exceeds practicality.  I collect too many projects and only rarely do I part with a collection.  In some years, a collection fails to make it onto the gaming table for even a single game.  With thoughts on scaling back, I did reduce my projects by one in 2012.  The collection jettisoned was my 25mm French Intervention in Mexico.  Luckily, it was purchased locally so I still receive visitation privileges.  The problem I have with notions of scaling back on the number of periods gamed is that new periods quickly fill the perceived void.  2012 was no exception.  Anyway, knowing that no plan survives contact with the enemy, on to my project plans for 2013.

Risorgimento 1859 (15mm)

This project has reached the critical mass required to hold a game.  Goal is to conduct a first game with these figures.  Scenario will cover the Battle of San Martino which was a northern extension to the Battle of Solferino.  San Martino pitted Sardinians attacking the Austrians in an attempt to compromise Austrian line of communication via Pozzolengo.  The San Martino layout is on the gaming table now.  I'll begin posting photos very soon.

For painting, I'll continue adding Austrian and Sardinian artillery, cavalry, and some infantry to the collection.  Perhaps begin painting French?

Samurai (15mm)
My goal is to build 12 units for Samurai Battles.  Having 9 now, that makes three units to field for 2013.  My stretch goal would be to field a total of 18 units.  Hopefully, 2013 will see many Samurai Battles games with some of the games featuring my own figures.

American War of Independence (28mm)
Need to complete one combined grenadier battalion and one light infantry battalion.  These figures were begun by Austin but lacked command.  I'll add command and touch up the figures.  Enough unpainted figures are in-hand to muster four more British battalions and one more Hessian battalion.  My stretch goal is to field all seven battalions in 2013.  Added to the four British and six German battalions already fielded, these seven battalions would push the project towards a battle worthy, sized force.

Napoleonics in the Peninsula (28mm)
I have a number of squadrons of cavalry to paint for both combatants including several squadrons of Spanish dragoons.  In addition to the cavalry, I have four French infantry battalions, one British foot battalion, and two British limbers.  If I can field 32 cavalry and two limbers in 2013, I would be satisfied.

Seven Years War (18mm)
Goal is to hold a first game with these figures.  Plans for scenario must be considered.  In stock, I have about 48 cavalry and 12 guns awaiting the paint brush.  Most of the horse are hussars so that will add a lot of color to each army.  Other horse are either dragoons or cuirassiers which will be used to bring some horse regiments up to their full compliment of squadrons.    If I could get these onto the painting table along with adding two more regiments of Prussian foot, I would be satisfied.  The next Prussian foot will be Blue Moon rather than Eureka.   Also need to muster jaegers and grenz for the light contingents for each combatant.

One goal for 2013 is to pull all of the figures from their boxes and photograph the entire collection.  It has grown much larger than I anticipated.  Readers may agree.

American Civil War (10mm)
While Regimental Fire and Fury requires large numbers of figures, most scenarios are set up so that each player will often only command one brigade of three or four regiments.  My goal is to field more hardware in the form of guns, limbers, and wagons.  I could also use dismounted cavalry.  Add infantry as time permits.

1799 Bonaparte in Italy/Switzerland (18mm)
All but a few figures in this project are AB Miniatures and currently I can field:
  •  8 Austrian infantry battalions
  • 15 French infantry battalions (13 line, 2 legere)
  • 13 Russian infantry battalions
  • 1 Russian regiment of cossacks
Stockpiles of figures are exhausted with the exception of artillery for both Austria and France.  I could press Empire period artillery into service for a game but I prefer to field French gunners in bicorne and AB guns for all combatants.  Not sure what I'll do for Russian gunners at this point.

For 2013, I plan to field artillery for both France and Austria and perhaps pick up a few more Austrian and French battalions.  With about a dozen battalions per side, it may be time to plan a small game with this collection. 

Ancients (28mm)
I have 24 BTD Spanish for which I've ordered alternative shields.  Once these replacement shields arrive, onto the painting table the Spanish go.  I also have one unit each of Aventine Princepes and Triarii.  With no game imminent, I will commit to producing only the one Spanish unit.
Work on other projects will continue as interests change but the above represents an almost achievable goal for 2013.

For gaming, I would like to set a goal of one gaming session per month although with quick-playing Commands and Colors games, gaming frequency can increase without impacting painting and other non-gaming commitments.

We'll see how many of these get accomplished in the year ahead and how many new periods I begin!

What are your wargaming plans for 2013?

Good gaming!

Empires, Eagles, and Lions: The Rules

I must share a recent acquisition from eBay.  The find?  A copy of the New Jersey Association of Wargamers' Napoleonic rules, Empires, Eagles, and Lions published in 1980.

Having been a long time fan of the now defunct Napoleonic wargaming magazine, Empires, Eagles, and Lions (EEL),  I was quite pleased to see a copy of the rules up on eBay.  I maintain a large collection of EEL and I still enjoy re-reading the issues on a regular basis.  The material contained there-in was often thought provoking as well as entertaining.  Mike Gilbert's artwork frequently graced the pages of the magazine and the group's after-action reports containing Mike's sketches were priceless.  These homegrown rules were frequently the topic of conversation in EEL and the magazine often was a forum for discussion of their rules and recent gaming problems.  From the pages of the magazine, I would try to piece together a framework for the game mechanisms through clues sprinkled throughout the mag.  Now, re-reading the escapades of the group's games will be that much easier with a copy of their rules.  I know, I probably overpaid for these rules but what price can be placed on nostalgia?

While I don't have a complete collection of the old EELs,  old issues still appear for sale occasionally.  When they do surface, I'm quick to pick up a missing issue.  The two most missed gaming publications for me are MWAN and EEL.

Oh, if anyone has old issues of EEL they are willing to part with, please leave a comment!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

28mm AWI Project - The British Are Coming!

The first three British foot regiments have rolled out of their modest rehab.  All figures are Perry.  These regiments were originally Austin's and I made a few touch ups and rebased to match my existing AWI collection.  Two combined elite battalions, six guns, and assorted skirmishers are awaiting a similar treatment.  Both of the elite battalions require command and those Perry reinforcements have arrived from The Warstore.  All of the recruits below have been added to the AWI Gallery page. 
21st Regiment of foot
33rd Regiment of foot
9th Regiment of foot

Saturday, January 19, 2013

18mm Blue Moon AWI Hessians as Prussians

Earlier I painted a Blue Moon Hessian fusilier regiment as a proxy for SYW Prussians.  I liked the Blue Moon Hessian figures so much that I ordered enough Hessian musketeers to build one regiment of Prussian musketeers as a test.  Below are three photos of the Prussian (AWI Hessian) musketeers fielded as Infantry Regiment #26 including the combined grenadiers. 

Nice figures and I'll be ordering more as a less expensive alternative to my standard Eureka SYW Prussians.
Infantry Regiment #26 Battalion #1

Infantry Regiment #26 Battalion #2
Infantry Regiment #26 Combined Grenadier Companies

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Samurai Battles: Of Dice and Men

Another Ashigaru unit made it off the painting table.  This time a missile unit of the teppo variety.  Like the others before, these figures are Peter Pig and they are a pleasure to paint.

I'm getting down towards the bottom of the Samurai unpainted lead box.  In a little over one month, I managed to paint my way through about 170 of these Peter Pig figures.  With nine units finished, I'll be facing off against Jake in no time at all.  Soon to reach the painting table will be a second mounted Samurai unit. 

For the Samurai Battles game, itself, I created a set battle dice for the game.  The labels were found on Boardgame Geek and printed out on sticky backed paper.  Using a few handfuls of D6 that I bought a Dollar Tree, these labels were affixed to each of the faces of the die.  I think the battle dice turned out well.   Now, I only need suitable substitutes for the tokens.  For now, I'll simply use coins.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Battle for Henry House Hill - AAR

Terry hosted an ACW game using his old Scruby 9's and Regimental Fire and Fury (RFF) on Sunday.  The chosen scenario was Battle for Henry House Hill out of the rather newish Regimental Fire and Fury Scenario book.  We fielded three players per side with Terry moderating.  For two of the players, this was their baptism of fire.  I was entrusted with commanding the Federals while John M. commanded the Rebs.

Initial dispositions show only two Federal regiments and two batteries holding Henry House Hill against Jackson's large command.  In the photo below, Stuart's cavalry can be seen attempting to flank the Federal positions on the far right.  Back beyond the Confederate lines are several broken Rebel units that begin the game routing from earlier combat.  Some of these regiments would never participate in the upcoming battle. 

As the game began, Wilson had only one of his regiments deployed on the Federal right. His other two regiments were log jammed with Franklin's brigade leaving poor McDowell to unsuccessfully sort out the mess.  Heintzelman took direct command of the two regiments and guns around Henry house.  In opening artillery exchanges, Confederate guns pounded Federal guns at Henry house severely mauling the U.S. battery

and then launched an assault against the Federal battery deployed on the left of Henry house.

One gun was lost with the remaining sections limbering and moving towards the rear.  Marines, supporting the guns, withdrew back down Henry Hill.  Coming up to support the Federal center is one of Franklin's regiments deployed in field column.

The Federal setback was brief.  With Heintzelman leading the charge, the marines counterattack both weakened Rebel regiments forcing one to flee the field and the other to become worn and disordered.  Franklin begins to bring his brigade on line as he prepares to attack the Confederate right flank.

"Heavy Casualties" level was reached by the Confederates so in an attempt to partially offset the negative modifier, Jackson orders an advance on Henry house to take the "Key Position" of Henry house.  The entire Confederate line steps out from the cover of the woods and advances on the Federal positions thus masking the Reb guns.  Finally, a reprieve from artillery!  Without the momentum to carry the advance fully into the Federal positions, the Confederates halt and a severe firefight erupts.  Federals pour fire into Jackson's men.

With casualties mounting, Confederate formations in the center break off and withdraw out of the hornet's nest of fire.  

With the center secure for now, Heintzelman gives Franklin the order to press onto the Rebel right.  Franklin accepts cheerfully!

Franklin hits the Rebel right and drives the lead regiments back onto their supports with heavy losses.

At this point, the Confederates throw in the towel and choose to retire from the battlefield just as their reinforcements on the left begin to deploy.

As in my two most recent games of RFF, casualties were decidedly one-sided.  Confederates suffered 68 total stands lost to the Union's 8.  Yes, that is correct; 68:8.  Now, 24 of those Confederate stand losses were due to regiments not rallying and running off map but still a very decisive victory by the Federals.  

What is inherent in RFF that tends to produce such lopsided games?  Is it our style of play? Is it the use of a D10 for fire and combat resolution?  In all three games, the attacker was butchered.  Perhaps, we need to relearn the lessons that our historical counterparts learned only after great cost?  Only time and more games under our belts will tell...

Friday, January 11, 2013

15mm 1859 Project Update

The 1859 Project build towards San Martino continues.  Making it off the painting table this week are the 4th battalion of the Austrian 9th Line Regiment (Old Glory) and four Sardinian officers (Mirliton).

My Christmas order from Mirliton arrived this week.

Included in the package are enough figures for four squadrons of Austrian dragoons, mounted officers (both Austrian and Sardinian) and fourteen guns and crew (8 Sardinian; 6 Austrian).  I submitted a small order from Freikorps this week to sample their 1859 limbers for both Austrians and Sardinians.  Mirliton makes a Sardinian limber but the limber and team is rather expensive.  If I can make do with the Freikorps, that may be the way I'll proceed.  I have one such Mirliton limber and it is quite nice.  I'll add that to the painting queue as well.

A quick examination of the San Martino OB shows that Benedek's 8th Corps is virtually complete with the exception of three 4th battalions.  For the Sardinian contingents, I still have work to do although enough battalions have been fielded to begin the battle.  After I clear the painting table of SYW Prussians, Sardinian infantry should jump to the head of the queue.  Perhaps, I can squeeze in one unit of Japanese teppo before I dig into the Sardinians?    

San Martino Order of Battle

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Battle of San Martino - Battlefield Walk

Nancy and I visited northern Italy in 2009.  One of the stops included two nights at Desenzano on Lake Garda.  Although there were Roman ruins, villas and fortified towns to see, my main objective in a Desenzano stay was a visit to the battlefield of San Martino just a few miles outside of town.  We missed the 150th anniversary celebration of the Franco-Italian victories at the twin battles of Solferino and San Martino in June but a September visit would suffice.  One benefit of a September visit was that we enjoyed the walk nearly alone.

Without renting a car, we relied on public transportation.  With help from the hotel desk clerk and fortified by breakfast, we made it onto a bus that she assured us would get us "close to the battlefield."  Actually, "close" meant getting off the bus at the end of the line and trying to cover the remaining distance on foot.  Well, the bus deposited us near a little tavern at the end of the bus line.  Not knowing exactly where we were, we sought aid from the tavern owners and patrons.  The tavern patrons, while animated and wanting to help, spoke no English and we spoke not much more than very basic, tourist-phrase Italian.  We stood in the parking lot with two gentlemen waving and pointing in various directions when we asked about the location of the battlefield.  Finally, I uttered the key word "torres" and both gentlemen knew how to help in providing directions.  Again, the directions given were a combination of pointing, hand gestures, and relaying compass points in Italian.  Nancy caught part of the message that we would need to head southeast over the freeway.  We thanked them and struck out in search of the battlefield.

After gaining a bit of elevation as we climbed onto the highway overpass, we caught sight of the tower.  Walking south on the Strada Provinciale 13 towards Pozzolengo we reached the road leading west onto the San Martino heights.  The southern approaches to the heights are now dominated by vineyards.  The view from the Strada looking east shows the Ortaglia farm with the tower in the background.  Now, the tower wasn't present at the time of the battle but built later as a memorial.

After paying a modest entrance fee, we entered the grounds of the tower and museum.  The museum contains a number of artifacts from the war including a couple of cannon, uniforms, and flags.
Museo della Battaglia
Austrian uniforms
French uniform plates
Italian uniform plates
After a quick look around the museum, we exited and made our way towards the tower.

Inside the rotunda are a number of plaques listing the units engaged, officers present, and casualties sustained on the day of battle.

Murals cover the inside walls of the tower and paint a picture of the conflict in a seemingly never-ending spiral all the way to the top.  Samples of the murals are included below.
Sardinian infantry fend off an Austrian cavalry attack
Garibaldi's "Red Shirts"

Bersaglieri in action

Reaching the top of the tower, the visitor is greeted by vast, sweeping vistas.  In the first photo, the Monte Cipressi tower at Solferino can be seen in the distance to the south.

Looking west, the road from Lonato (off picture to the right) to Madonna della Scorperta (off picture to the left) follows the heights.  The Columbara farm can be seen in the foreground.  Pinerolo would have attacked from the west towards Columbara.

Looking north, Lake Garda, Rivoltella, Desenzano, and Sirmione can be seen in the distance.  In the foreground is the Roccolo farm with the Monata farm in the center.  The main Sardinian effort advanced on the heights, deployed on either side of the road in the center of the photo.

A closer inspection of the Monata farm.

Inside Ossuary with stacks of skulls