Monday 31 October 2016

Annual Gaming Event - Day Two - The Crimean War

This was the second game of our wargames week. Since I organised this game I have included more detail of the scenario here. It was set immediately after the Battle of the Alma and takes a bit of a liberty with history by allowing the Sardinian Brigade to arrive in the Crimea a full eighteen months before they did in reality (well I had painted them so it seemed a shame to not have them there).
After the Alma the Russians had retreated south towards Sevastopol while the Allies had regrouped and rested just south of the battlefield.
Relieved that the Allies did not immediately pursue the Russian Commander, Prince Menshikov, left a small garrison at Sevastopol and retired on the town of Simferopol in the centre of the Crimean Peninsula with the larger part of his army. From this new base Menshikov hoped to operate more effectively against the Allied armies. With a level of efficiency rarely seen in the Russian Army of the day, the army was fed, re-equiped and reorganised in just four days.
In the meantime the Allies began to move south to isolate Sevastopol. Allied command soon realised their error in letting the Russians retreat unpursued and a portion of the army was organised into a field force that turned east to defend the flank and rear of the army. This force consisted of three British and one French infantry divisions, supported by two brigades of cavalry and a recently arrived Sardinian brigade. Typical of the Allied effort in this war there was no unity of command and no senior commander was appointed.
Advancing east, the Allied troops encountered Cossacks near the village of Bakahchysarai in the evening 26 September. The divisions went into camp and awoke on the morning of the 27th to the news that a significant Russian force was reported as approaching Bakahchysarai. The army was called to arms and a conference amongst the divisional commanders was hurriedly called.
From the Russian side the Cossacks reported the advance on Simferopol of an Allied force. Determined to recover his reputation after the disaster at the Alma, Menshikov ordered the 7th and 8th Infantry Divisions, supported by the 2nd Cavalry Division to face the advancing allies. But, in an abdication of responsibility that would typify his command in the peninsula, he remained in Simferopol and left the direction of the fight entirely up the divisional commanders on the field, none of which knew whether they should attack or defend. The divisions approached Bakahchysarai around midnight and went into bivouac. The Engineers constructed a redoubt across the Simferopol/Sevastopol Road while the senior generals gathered for a conference.
Technical Details


The rules were my own homegrown set. Developed over a number of years by borrowing a mix of ideas from many different sources, at the centre of the rules is the belief that as long as your units are in control, are in good order (not shaken or distrupted) or have not suffered heavy losses, that they will pretty much do as you the player wants. But if units are not well managed or are heavily stressed, things can go very badly wrong very quickly.

The Map and Deployment
The Russians arrival zone is indicated by the green bar.
The Allied arrival zone is indicated by the blue bar, but their arrival had a few restrictions:

  - At least one infantry division had to arrive to the left of the river
  - the Sardinians arrive at the point indicated by the red bar and can be called on at any time, but will attract a penalty if they are called. That penalty is greater if called early in the game as opposed to later in the game.
The table before any deployment with the Russians coming from the right and the Allied troops from the left

Terrain Restrictions
The only restrictive terrain was the river and its tributary. Both are shallow with low banks.
   - Infantry and cavalry treat either water courses as minor obstacles and can cross at any point except at where the light woods are on the banks.
   - Artillery can only cross the river at the bridge and the stream at where the road crosses.
Russian Order of Battle

7th Infantry Division, Lieutenant General Count Alexi Onatop
  1st Brigade: Major General Sergei Pestov
    Smolensk Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
    Mohilev Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
  2nd Brigade: Major General Demetri Lacksavich
    Vitebsk Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
    Polotsk Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
  7th Artillery Brigade:
     9th Position Battery (2)
    10th Position Battery (2)
    17th Light Battery (2)

8th Infantry Division Lieutenant General Boris Knockeroff
  1st Brigade: Major General Pyotr Dropoff
    Azov Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
    Dnieper Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
  2nd Brigade: Major General Igor Phallov
    Ukraine Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
    Odessa Jager Regiment (4 battalions)
  12th Artillery Brigade:
    16th Position Battery (2)
    30th Light Battery (2)
    31st Light Battery (2)
2nd Cavalry Division Major General Vladimir Chargenoff
  1st (Dragoon) Brigade: Major General Anatoly Smirnoff
    Kazan Dragoon Regiment
    Riga Dragoon Regiment
  2nd (Hussar) Brigade: Major General Ivan Stroganoff
    Kiev Hussar Regiment
    Ingermannland Hussar Regiment
   Cossack Brigade General Yuri Schpinatop
    4 Regiments
    Cossack Battery (2)
Allied Order of Battle

The British
  1st Infantry Division, HRH the Duke of Cambridge
    Guards Brigade Brigadier General Bentinck
      3/Grenadier Guards
      1/Coldstream Guards
      1/Scots Fusiliers
    Highland Brigade: Brigadier General Sir C. Campbell
      42nd (Black Watch) Foot Regiment
      79th (Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders) Foot Regiment
      93rd (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) Foot Regiment
      Battery A RA
      Battery H RA
  4th Infantry Division Sir George Cathcart
    First Brigade: BRigadier General Horn
      20th Foot Regiment
      21st Foot Regiment
      63rd Foot Regiment
    Second Brigade: Brigadier General Torrens
      46th Foot Regiment
      l/Rifle Brigade
      Battery E RA
      Battery P RA
  Light Division Sir George Brown
      2/Rifle Brigade.
    First Brigade: Major-General Codrington
      7th Royal Fusiliers
      23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers
      33rd Regiment
    Second Brigade: Major-General Buller
      19th Regiment
      77th Regiment
      88th Regiment
    Light Cavalry Brigade - Lord Cardigan:
      4th Light Dragoon Regiment
      13th Light Dragoon Regiment
      8th Hussar Regiment
      11th Hussar Regiment
      17th Lancer Regiment
      Battery A RHA

The French
  1st Infantry Division
    1st Brigade: Général de brigade Espinasse
      1st Chasseur à Pied Battalion
      1st Zouave Regiment (3 battalions)
      6th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
    2nd Brigade: Général de brigade Vinoy
      20th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
      27th Line Regiment (3 battalions)
    Artillery: Chef d’escadron Huguenet
      3/8th Artillery Regiment
      1/9th Artillery Regiment
    Cavalry Brigade: d’Allonville
      1st Chasseurs d’Afrique
      4th Chasseurs d’Afrique
      4/5th Horse Artillery Regiment

The Sardinians
  4th Provisional Brigade: Colonel Vino di Rossi
    4th Provisional Regiment
      Provisional Battalions of 9th, 10th, 15th, & 16th Infantry regiments
    4th Provisional Battalion of Bersaglieri 
    13th Field Artillery Battery
      2nd Provisional Battalion of Bersaglieri 

All infantry battalions and cavalry regiments consisted of three stands. Allied artillery batteries were one stand and Russian batteries two stands.

Total figure count
  • 1414 Foot figures
  • 135 mounted figures
  • 23 guns

Victory Conditions
Each side scores victory points as follows:

Loss of units:
-1 for each unit permanently shaken at the end of the game
-1 for each enemy unit destroyed or quits the field
-1 for each leader killed (i.e. does not return)
Control of objectives
+5 to the side that has uncontested control of the Kacha Bridge
+5 to the side that has uncontested control of Bakahchysarai
+5 to the side that has uncontested control of the church yard

Special Conditions

-10 victory points if they decide to activate the Sardinian Brigade before the lunch break, or -5 points if after the lunch break
-10 victory points if three or more regiments of the Light Brigade are shaken or have quit the field at the end of the game
+ One bonus victory point for every complete five allied units that have quit the field at the end of the game
And the Game...

The Allied forces chose to deploy the French division on the right, near the farm. Next in the line, to their left, was the Light Division with the Light Brigade to their front, then the First Division and the 4th Division. They also elected to bring the Sardinians on the table from the start. Their intention was to take all of the terrain objectives.

The deployment of the Light Brigade, the Light Division and the First Division

The deployment of the Fourth Division and Sardinians

The French Deployment

The Russians chose to avoid the village and the bridge and simply take the battle to the allied army, deploying one division either side of the church, while the cavalry occupied the ground between the  stream and the village. The cossacks would occupy the hill on the extreme right, intending simply to occupy the attention of the Allies in front of the village.

The Russian 7th Division deploys

The Russian Cavalry Division 

The Russian 8th Division deploys

The action started with the Light Brigade swinging left to face the Russian cavalry, pressing forward to the banks of the stream, near where the road crossed it. The Russian dragoons moved forward in an attempt to draw the Light Brigade forward. The ploy worked well and the British cavalry charged forward, across the stream and the Russian dragoons counterattacked, driving off the 8th Hussars and holding back the 13th Light Dragoons. A protracted melee continued between the Russian and British Dragoons, in which the Russians eventually came off the worse. One regiment pursued the broken hussars and slammed into the 11th Hussars, driving them off too before being driven off themselves by the 4th Light Dragoons. But the Russian troopers had done their job and no further British troops pushed across the stream.

The Light Brigade advance to the stream

The Russian Dragoons attack...

...break through onto the 11th Hussars (seen routing away to the left)...

...and then reform after driving off the Light Brigade

Meanwhile on the Allied left flank 4th Division and the Sardinians formed up opposite the mill and the village while the cossacks observed them from the hill on the opposite bank of the river. On the opposite flank the French deployed ready to take control of the church and the heights.

The Fourth Division cross the river

The Sardinians cross the bridge by the mill (astute readers will note that this was the mil that was the subject of a project in January)

In the centre the infantry action began in earnest. The Light Division was thinly strung between the First Division and the French. The Russian 7th Division deployed against them and moved rapidly forward.  Sharp conflict ensued, but the seven battalions of the Light Division found themselves fighting sixteen Russian battalions, supported by three batteries. In a short space of time the Light Division was driven off.

The Light Division face the onslaught of the Russian 7th Division

With their right flank exposed the Guards and Highlanders of the First Division changed face to meet the Russian threat and two battalions of French Zouaves turned to protect the  French left, driving off a Russian battalion, but suffering huge losses in the process.

The Guards and Highland Brigades turn to face the threat from the Russian 7th Division

On the French front the French troops had no difficulty taking the church, but the Russian 8th Division came up in full strength and the French struggled to get the upper hand.

The French approach the church...

...then capture the church (again astute readers will pick this model as a project from earlier in the year)...

...repulse one Russian infantry attack...

...and face up against the Russian 8th Division

At the lunch break - this is a very civilised battle you know - the affair was finely balanced. The Russians had had the better of it so far, but the French were in a position to do some damage to them around the church and the Guards were threatening the right flank of the Russian 7th Division, that was now fighting in two directions. The Sardinians and the Forth Divisions were across the river and occupied the village, but were some time away from getting into the action. 

After lunch the Russians renewed their attack with a vengeance. The 7th Division turned to face the Guards and initiated a sharp fight in which the Russians at first came off the worse. The Guards tried to drive the Russians off, but with still some ten battalions in the field against three guards and three highland battalions once again numbers began to tell and the First Division was compelled to retire. Only the arrival of the Light Brigade and the flank elements of the Fourth Division prevented the Guards from being destroyed.

The Guards and Highlanders attempt to drive the Russians back

Near the church the French failed to exploit some disorder in the Russian lines. Here The odds were more even with sixteen Russian battalions facing thirteen French. But the Russian artillery was devastating and the French, unable to deploy out of their three battalion deep formations were knocked back. When the Russians extended further to the left, far beyond the French line, the French were compelled to give ground. What had looked like a promising position before lunch had turned completly around. Even the French position in the church yard was in the balance.

Looking along the line of 8th Division

The Russian 8th Division extend to the left...

...beyond the French right flank

The Cossacks had withdrawn from in front of the Fourth Division and the Sardinians who were now free to move. 

Fourth Division finally emerge from the village.

It was now around 4:30 and drinks on the deck were calling so the game was called. The victory points were only marginally in the Russian favour, largely because the Allies had hald onto all of the terrain objectives. But the church yard was probably going to fall and the Allies had lost two British and one French divisions. Victory was given to the Russians.

The 8th Division advancing

Would the victory have changed the result of the Crimean campaign? Probably not. The Russian 7th and 8th Divisions were pretty much fought out and it seemed unlikely that the Russians would have been able to push any further. The Allies still had eleven fresh battalions and five batteries close to the Russian line of retreat.  Menshikov, on the other hand, had very few reserves and none on the field.

The victory would have certainly helped to recover the Prince's reputation and would have tarnished Raglan's.

It was particulRly pleasing for me to see these great armies, that have been the focus of my painting efforts for twenty-seven months, on the table and being used. 

A general shot of the game at its height (around 2:30 PM). The 8th Division is fighting the French in the foreground, with the Zouaves facing some of the 7th Division to the left of the church. In the left middle-ground the Guards are fighting the 7th Division. In the right middle-ground the Cossacks can be seen moving to fill a gap, while in the distance on the right the Russian cavalry is leaving the field, having been roughly handled by the British guns. In the distance the Sardinians and Fourth Division can be seen exiting the village.

Annual Gaming Event - Day One

I like traditions. Their familiarity is a comfort and can give a focus to life. Our gaming group has a tradition that is now in its 32nd year. Once a year eight of us trek down to the centre of the North Island for an annual wargames event. We call it the Tarawera Weekend, because it is held at one of our member’s holiday home on Lake Tarawera, and once upon a time it was just a weekend. Now it runs Tuesday night to Sunday afternoon.

The event is greatly anticipated and often provides a catalyst for a new project or a prompt to finish off one that has been in play for some time. For me this year it has been the catalyst to finish the Crimean War project.
The tradition is pretty settled now. We arrive on the Tuesday afternoon, play full day games Wednesday through to Saturday, then a half day game on the Sunday before we drive back to Auckland. Each of the games is organised by one of the group, shared out over the years.
As much as a week of gaming it is a time for a group of friends to catch up – one or two we see quite infrequently - and relax away from the pressures of work and home. It is an opportunity to drink too much wine and eat food wouldn’t normally be allowed at home – l you won’t find any tofu on the menu.
This year the five games are:
• 15mm WWII – Soviets vs Poles in 1939
• 28mm Crimean War
• 28mm Northwest Frontier
• 28mm 1066 Norman Conquest
• 1:600 scale Ironclads – Austrian vs Italian in 1866

So last Tuesday morning four of us met up to pack the cars and left Auckland with a light rain falling. Within an hour the rain was gone and we drove on to Matamata, or Hobbiton as it is known to many, where we stopped for coffee. By noon we has made it to Rotorua where we had lunch and stopped to buy the week's food supply. We then headed out to the lake where we set up the table in the garage and then over a few wines began the process of winding down. Two other members of the group arrived in the late afternoon.

A panorama from the deck on Tuesday afternoon

Wednesday dawned with heavy rain falling, but by 7:00 the rain had passed and the sun was shining, although the forecast was for more rain and the sky to the North looked threatening. 

Early morning on Wednesday

After hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs was served, we started the Soviet vs Polish WWII game about 9:30. 

The scenario was a that a mixed Polish force consisting of an infantry company, a dismounted cavalry company, supported by a platoon of tanks, two batteries of artillery, two platoons of anti-tank guns and a section of infantry guns defending a village against a large Soviet force of an infantry battalion, supported by three platoons of tanks, an artillery battery, a platoon of self-propelled artillery, two platoons of anti-tank guns and a reconnaissance platoon.

A general view of the table. The Soviets would move from the upper edge of the image

The Poles were deployed in position with the anti-tank guns in ambush. The Soviet recce unit had a two turn advantage and the felt out the Polish position. As the Soviet armoured cars approached the first ambush position they came under fire from the Polish infantry guns, but the fire had no effect. The armoured cars then pushed on and were ambushed by the Polish anti-tank guns, hidden in a wood. But the Polish guns fired abysmally and only one vehicle was knocked out. The armoured cars withdrew and leaving the tanks deal with the anti-tank guns. 

First blood to the Poles - an armoured car burns 

When the first Soviet tanks came forward they tried, but failed to silence the Polish anti-tank guns. The Polish guns forced a couple of tanks to bail out, but failed to destroy any vehicles. The Soviet tanks then opened a heavy fire with  machine guns, knocked out two of the three Polish guns and identified a platoon of Polish infantry in support, deeper within the woods. Then with a stroke of luck the Polish infantry guns opened fire on a lone armoured vehicle that just happened to be the senior officer of the  Soviet tank force.

The main Soviet force advances

To the right of those woods the other Polish anti-tank platoon ambushed a unit of Soviet light tanks and again fired abysmally. The Soviet tanks destroyed all of the Polish guns with machine gun fire and found a second infantry platoon in the wood.

Next the Soviet infantry came up to support the attack on the first Polish platoon. In no time at all the Soviets cut the Polish infantry to pieces while the tanks took care of the last of the anti-tank guns.
The Soviets assault the wood

In the meantime the Soviet recce unit had identified a third infantry platoon and the tanks moved to engage. At that same time a Soviet aircraft, that had up to now failed to arrive, made an appearance and attempted, unsuccessfully to bomb the Polish infantry guns.

The Polish artillery was proving completely unable to get range on any Soviet unit. When a Soviet observer spotted one of the Polish batteries and then brought fire down on the Polish howitzer battery, the Poles limbered up and moved out.

The Soviet machine continued to roll forward and soon found the Polish tanks, that launched as counter attack on the Soviets. Again the luck as not with the Poles  and in a short space of time the Soviets destroyed all the Polish tanks.

The Polish tanks are revealed... damage to the Soviets...

...before they are knocked out

The Soviet tanks soon have nothing to stop their advance

The writing was on the wall for the Poles now. The last infantry platoons were surrounded and destroyed. The dismounted cavalry attempted to hold the positions under extreme pressure. The  infantry guns successfully destroyed one of the self-propelled guns before they were overrun. The Soviet tanks now had free rein and swarmed around the village. When the remaining Polish artillery were attacked  by the Soviet aircraft and lost two guns, all Polish resistance failed, leaving the Soviets in control of the field.

The Polish last gasp - a Soviet SP gun burns

The game ended at around 3:00 pm and the table was stripped down and the terrain for the next game was set up. Then we retired to the house  for refreshments and had dinner at at around 8:00. Two more of the group arrived later in the evening.

Monday 24 October 2016

Cavalry, Infantry and a Milestone

It has been a busy week on the painting table with four Carlist War Isabelino units  completed, although the last one still has its bases to be completed. 

The first of two heavy cavalry squadrons is done. They were quite a bit of work really because the yellow tunics take a lot of time. As I have mentioned before I find yellow a difficult colour to work with. The trumpeter, in red, is an impressive figure.

Then there were two line infantry battalions. These are the last line battalions that will be done in full dress. The remaining four will be in greatcoat and fatigue caps.

Finally there is the light cavalry squadron. This is the unit with the basing unfinished. The command group is particularly nice, with the officer glancing to one side and the trumpeter all in red.

Of particular note here is that the light cavalry marks a bit of a milestone for me, tipping my painting count at just over the 10,000 painting points for the year to date (on the basis of  each foot figure = 5 points, each mounted figure or gun = 10 points and scratch built items are rated at 10 points for each hour of work). 

Thursday 20 October 2016

Of Guns and Generals

The expansion of the First Carlist War collection continues withe the completion of three more Isabelino sets.

First is a field artillery piece and crew.

Second is a horse artillery piece with its wonderfully annimated crew

Third is the Isabelino generals:




Three other units are awaiting some work on their bases to be completed on the weekend.