Monday, October 29, 2018

Van Dyck Models: WSS in 10mm

I have long held a passing interest in gaming the War of Spanish Succession.  A serious project for this war has yet to materialize.  Yes, I thought of making a stab at it in 28mm using Front Rank figures.  A handful of the Front Rank figures were purchased as a test.  That is as far as it got.

If I were to tackle such a project, my interest and objective points toward large scale actions recreating full battles.  Given that criteria, a regiment as the basic building block or Basic Maneuver Unit (BMU) made sense.  Perhaps a battalion-level project would be doable?  Given this criteria, 28mm would be too large for that train of thought.  A project in 10mm seemed most appropriate for what I had in mind.  After seeing Old Glory's 10mm  range of SYW figures, thoughts turned toward the 10mm Old Glory approach. 

That direction took an abrupt detour when I saw a recent advert for Van Dyck Models & Figurines.
Van Dyck Models & Figurines
Van Dyck Models offers a burgeoning line of WSS metal figures in 1/144 scale or 10mm.  At present only French/Spanish infantry and command are available.  With my curiosity piqued, I placed a sample order of a few packs of infantry and command to see for myself.  The package arrived very quickly from Belgium to the USA.  Kris, the proprietor, was friendly and helpful in fielding several questions regarding plans for expansion.
When the package arrived and figures unpacked, I was astounded at the quality of the little figures.  Beautiful sculpting and such delicate proportions.  The marching infantry have several variations including different heads and hairstyles.  To better highlight the features, the figures were based and a brushing of Minwax Tudor stain applied over the unpainted metal.  The result is eye-catching as seen in the photo below.  The stain brings the intricate sculpting to the fore. 
I placed a US one cent piece upright on the base behind the line of figures to provide a sense of scale.  Figures are about 12mm from sole to eye.  Tiny but so fine!

With enough figures ordered to field two stands of 21 figures each, I set to work.  Since the figures are sculpted with the ventral pouch, two regiments of French infantry were chosen as tests.  The regiments selected are Montfort and Foix.
Is this the start of new project?  Too soon to tell but I really like what I see.  Painting lace on hundreds if not thousands of 10mm tricornes, however, seems daunting.  With only a few packs available in the Van Dyck WSS range, I likely have plenty of time to decide while the range begins to fill out.

Great figures!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Zorndorf: The Thin Red Lines

A second attempt at wrestling with the full battle of Zorndorf took place on the 21st.  We were down a man so three players participated: two Prussian and one Russian.   Kevin commanded the Prussian left and I the Prussian center/right.  Dohna in the center and the right cavalry wing under Schorlemmer would be my subordinates for the day.  Moritz would be in nominal command of these formations.  Scott would command the entire Russian Army.  Since the Russian deployment offers a defensive attitude at start, one player could manage the large masses of Russians without much trouble.  To refresh memories, below is the initial deployments for the armies.  For scenario specifics, please see Zorndorf Scenario.   
Initial deployments
Having the initiative, the Prussians begin by moving the cavalry reserve under Marschall across the Zaberne-Grund in support of Seydlitz's heavy cavalry.  Dohna advances up the middle with the Stein Busch as a destination to provide a covered approach while Schorlemmer peels off to the right to come to grips with Demiku's Russian cavalry wing.  It is a long march across the open battlefield but the battle is on.
Prussian opening moves
Fermor (Scott) looks confident in his chances
Dohna approaches the woods while the Prussian infantry on
the left watches.  Counterbattery is inflicting some damage.
Seydlitz and Marschall snake their way towards the Russian right.
"Be very, very quite and the bad Russians may not see us."
Manteuffel and Kanitz watch the Prussian maneuvers.
Dohna reaches the woods and his advance grinds to a
slow plod as the woods are much more difficult to
 traverse than expected.
The serried ranks of Dohna's force have much potential
 but first the woods must be overcome.
While Dohna tries to negotiate the dense woods and Seydlitz and Marschall make their clandestine and circuitous approach march against the Russian right, the Prussian right erupts into swirling cavalry melees as both cavalry wings snap into action and crash into each other.
Prussian cavalry approaches on Russian left
Schorlemmer's Prussians
Demiku's Russians
The Clash
After much gnashing of bits and clashes of steel, the outnumbered Prussians fall back in disarray.  Both sides fight themselves out and retreat in exhaustion, done for the day.  This flank is spent.  Demiku's cavalry performed their job admirably.  That is, they thwarted a Prussian cavalry flanking maneuver.  In one combat, the inferior Russian hussars added their weight into an existing melee and flipped the balance of power to the Russian heavies and sent the Prussian dragoons packing.  With the Russian left secure from cavalry attack the remnants of Demiku's cavalry wing sends out vedettes as a safeguard.
With Manteuffel and Kanitz demonstrating very slowly in their advance against the Russian right and Dohna entangled within the confines of Stein Busch, Seydlitz leads his heavy cavalry in against the undamaged right of the Russian line.  Yes, Seydlitz launches a frontal assault with cavalry against a combination of artillery and grenadiers.  All defenders are in good order when the cavalry charges home. 
Seydlitz attempts to take the guns
The first Prussian regiment to attack is blasted back during its movement to close.  Next turn, Seydlitz sends in another cavalry attack against the guns.  This time, the guns  are destroyed but the attacking cavalry is scattered as well.  Seydlitz falls from his saddle, dead. 

Remnants of Seydlitz' heavies and Marschall's reserve cavalry attempt to break the Russian line.  The grenadiers coolly level their muskets and let loose a volley as the Prussian cavalry close.  The result?
Cavalry wave 3 hits the Russian line
Even with support, the cavalry waves are no match for steady Russian grenadiers.  Three cavalry regiments are repulsed as the volley from the grenadiers break the lead Prussian regiments.  Falling back, these fleeing troopers carry most of their support regiments away with them.
Saltykov quite pleased with his grenadiers' performance
With the destruction of his prized cavalry and loss of his cavalry commander, Frederick loses all hope on salvaging the day.  He declares (among other things) that all is lost and there is no hope of breaking the formidable Russian line.  Frederick quits the field.  
Situation when Frederick quits the field
The situation does not look without hope for the Prussian army.  When the army commander's morale breaks, there is nothing more to do but adjourn for lunch.

Two battles; two different outcomes.  In Game 1, the Russians claimed the Russians could not win.  In Game 2, the Prussians claimed the Russians could not lose!
The Prussian position did not appear hopeless when Frederick quit the field.  The final verdict may have remained the same but the center of the Russian first line was weakened in the fight around Stein Busch.  The Russians lost three batteries which would not be missed by the Prussian army if it pressed home an attack on the Russian line.  Different tactics may have produced a different outcome but that will be for another time.
In the words of Frederick on this day,
Wargamers complain lots when they are losing.  Not so much when they are winning.  
Perhaps I will critique tactics in this battle another time.  Perhaps not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Cycling the Palouse

Fall is one of my favorite times of year to cycle on the Palouse.  Days can be sunny and warm, winds are calm, and rain unlikely.  Gone are the scorching hot days of summer and the rain of late spring and early summer.  Very enjoyable time to be out on the bike.  This past weekend was no exception.  Daytime temperatures reached the low 60s F, sunny, and wind was almost non-existent.  

While the temperature was in the low 50s F when I departed for a two and a half hour ride, I knew that both the air temperature and I would warm as the morning progressed.    Temperatures were expected to reach into the low to mid 60s F before I returned.  With sun and no cloud cover, the morning chill would be overcome quickly.

The planned route would consist of a 40 mile loop over both rural roads and urban bike paths.  Most of the urban cycling would hug the Spokane River as it winds its way through downtown Spokane.  With rolling hills and a few steep ascents, total elevation gain would be about 2,000 ft. 

Below is a selection of photos snapped from the GoPro camera mounted on the stem at about three feet above ground on this late October day.  My wife insists I always take the camera as an insurance policy in case of mishap.  I did have a few close encounters but nothing out of the ordinary.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

French Limbers for Second Empire

I don't enjoy painting limbers.  There.  Glad that is out of the way.

In some of my projects limbers are a necessary evil.  In a few projects, fielding limbers and teams is not considered.  In most projects, though, limbers and teams receive their due and are appropriately mustered into the ever-expanding collections.

The 1859 project in 15mm is one such project in which limbers and teams are built to accompany each battery.  Work continues on bringing the French artillery park up to requirements of one limber per gun model.  When the latecomer French first appeared on the scene for the 1859 Montebello battle, fielding guns was a given priority.  I figured limbers could debouch from the confines of the painting desk onto the battlefield at a later date and at my leisure.  This is exactly what happened.  
Off the painting desk today are three French limbers and teams from Freikorps 15s.  Perhaps one reason for my continuing hesitation to produce limbers is that I chose to field each limber with a six-horse team.  A six-horse limber team is the equivalent of two squadrons of cavalry.  Cavalry that could be quite useful in actual combat operations.  With three limber teams, the effort to paint eighteen horses could easily be diverted toward the production of six cavalry squadrons.  Well, I made my choice.  Six-horse teams look impressive on the battlefield!     

Friday, October 19, 2018

French Consular Guard

Work on the 1799 project continues as units follow the long march through the painting queue.  Off the painting desk today are two battalions of the Grenadiers of the Consular Guard.  These 26 figures are AB Miniatures.  For a bit of pizazz, I issued white gaiters to the troops.  
While only raised in late 1799 and too early to see service in the planned Rivoli battle later this winter, the Consular Guard will be ready for service in the 1800 campaigns in Italy.  With these two battalions now raised, perhaps the Battle of Marengo should be revisited?  One battalion of the Consular Guard was raised many years ago so the regiment now can muster three battalions. 
Many other units are winding their way through the painting production line including a regiment of French guard.  This time, the guard is destined for service in the Second Empire.  Along with the French guard will be three limbers and teams for the Second Empire French.  Two more foot units for the Assyrian Wars project will be mustering in the coming weeks along with a special "test" mini-project/figure review.

Refighting the Battle of Zorndorf this coming Saturday is an activity that I have looked forward too since the anniversary game in late August.  This anticipation has been heightened by my solo game last Saturday.  A few tweaks and amendments surfaced during the solo game.  A rules' clarification or two are fresh in mind as well. These changes prompt a slight revision to OBs and QRSs before Saturday's game. A reset of troops back to their starting positions is required before game day too.  Can the Russians hold their line?  We shall see on Saturday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Zorndorf: Russian Right Attacked!

Manteuffel's grenadiers march off toward Russian lines 
Having reset the starting positions following the Zorndorf game in August, the troops have been awaiting patiently for a second battle since then.  With no Zorndorf replay in September and October half past, I tried a solo replay of a portion of the battle on Sunday.  This replay will focus on the first Prussian attack against the Russian right between Zabern-Grunde and Stein Busche.  See Zorndorf: A Tale of Two Battles for a recollection from that first battle fought on the 260th anniversary date).  Rules in use are Honours of War (HoW)

In the first battle, Russian artillery on the Russian right could not take the counter battery pounding from the massed, Prussian guns.  Before Manteuffel's Prussian Advance Guard got close to the Russian line in its advance, the Russian guns were forced to withdraw.  The Prussian guns, greater in number, eventually overpowered the fewer, opposing Russian batteries as massed artillery fire was concentrated upon one Russian gun at a time.  After the Russian guns withdrew from the battle line, Prussian artillery could be directed towards the infantry.

While the Prussian gunners seemed to have the Russian batteries dialed-in during the first battle, perhaps an adjustment was in order despite the Prussian luck.  Looking at the HIT TABLE, the Prussians must have rolled a high proportion of '5's to cause the Russian guns to withdraw so quickly and effortlessly.  Even if die roll results were more moderate, four guns, massed could produce a similar result.  It would be more difficult to achieve, however.

To mitigate some of this carnage, two changes were implemented in my solo attempt.  Well, one change and one re-reading and interpretation of the rules.  With the historical terrain undulating with many a dip and dead zone, the first change was to provide Light Cover (-1 DRM) to all targets fired from Effective or Long Range.

The second mitigating factor was brought about by a careful study of the TARGET PRIORITIES section.  Having four guns fire on one target allowed enough hits to accrue during one fire phase to either destroy or force back an unfortunate target before any hit could be rallied off.  The TARGET PRIORITIES section states that,
if enemy units within the firing zone are close together, fire may have to be split between them...Distribute hits evenly.  
There are other restrictions on this but this passage suggests incoming fire is not so precise as to allow picking only one target from two that are in close proximity.  Putting this rule into effect limits the amount of damage one unit can take since a nearby unit must absorb half of the hits.  Actually, absorb every other hit with the primary target receiving the first hit in a multi-hit cannonade.  Is my reading and interpretation correct?  Even if not, I like the result and intuitively, I can buy into this notion.  Taken together, these two modifications may reduce the impact of artillery fire at greater than Canister Range in uneven terrain.

Will these changes make a significant difference to the outcome?  Time will tell but I think these changes are a step in the right direction to reducing the long range effects of artillery fire when artillery is distributed disproportionately along the battle line.  Could the same result still materialize as witnessed in the first game?  Of course!  It may not be quite so predestined or likely, though.

As mentioned up front, this scenario focuses only on the initial Prussian assault against the Russian right.  Manteuffel, Von Kanitz, and Marchall will be assigned the task of assaulting elements of Saltykov's 1st Line with elements of the Russian 2nd Line in support.  The action is documented in the series of captioned game photos below. 
At start positions
After preparatory bombardment, Manteuffel passes
 through the Prussian gun line with a double move.
Von Kanitz follows in support.
Long range artillery causes a few casualties
The Russians await
Artillery fire continues as the Prussians
 advance toward the Russian lines
Prussians close to battalion gun range as Marchall's
 cavalry move up to support the right.
Enemies face-off 
Casualties mount but exchanges are not decisive
Rather than facing a first fire from the Prussians,
 Saltykov's grenadiers charge into Manteuffel.
Few of the Prussians successfully countercharge.
Marchall countercharges into support.
Galytsin's 2nd line fails to move up in
support of Saltykov.  Grenadiers go in alone.
The clash!
Saltykov's grenadiers suffer from volley fire
 but shrug off the losses and go in.
Four melees see fierce fighting with heavy casualties.
In the four melee clash, three Prussian regiments
 are Done For against two Russian regiments lost.
A fourth Prussian regiment retreats.
Supports on both sides step up entering into the fray.
Prussian grenadiers on the left retreat
with heavy casualties
while a third Russian grenadier regiment is Done For.
Frederick calls off the attack.
With two Prussian regiments trying to reform, the lead grenadier regiment wavering, and Russian guns still threatening his assault, Frederick calls off the attack.  The Russian right held but only just.  While Saltykov lost all three Russian grenadier regiments, Galytsin's 2nd Line stepped up to plug the gap.  Manteuffel lost half of his brigade.  Had the fight continued, his remaining two regiments would have likely been spent too.

One of Marchall's dragoon regiments sacrificed itself with a frontal charge against a Russian musketeer regiment in order to prevent that regiment from lending support to another melee.  In those two clashes, all four participants were Done For.  Was the destruction of a Russian musketeer regiment in exchange for a Prussian dragoon regiment worth the sacrifice?  Ask the widows and orphans.  

Melees in HoW are decisive with exchanges continuing until one of the combatants is either forced back or destroyed.  Musketry and artillery fire can be decisive too especially if multiple fires can draw a bead on a single, unsupported target.  

What about the end result of a Prussian repulse?  The result seems plausible.  With Manteuffel stepping off before the Prussian bombardment could bear fruit, the Russian line was not suitably softened before the attack.  Even then, the Prussians nearly broke the Russian right.

What about Saltykov's taking the initiative and assaulting Manteuffel as the Prussians came up within battalion gun range?  That was a gamble.  Since Manteuffel's brigade was advancing, it would suffer a fire penalty during the Russian Charge Phase.  With the distance between the two formations close, Saltykov gambled that some of the Prussians would fail to countercharge (50% change to succeed).  Those Prussians failing to respond would suffer in the ensuing hand-to-hand combat.  In that first clash, Saltykov's bet paid off as few of the Prussians responded.

What about the rule modifications?  Decreasing lethality of artillery at long range when the ground is lumpy seemed reasonable.  This is a rule that I will likely maintain when the terrain warrants.  As for the targeting priorities, I like that interpretation a lot as it effectively spreads out the damage allowing units an increased chance of survivability.

Manteuffel's attack on the Russian right was a fun exercise and a perfect size and situation for a solo replay.  With a full battle refight set for this weekend, we will see if these changes affect the outcome.