Saturday 31 October 2020

A Little Action in the Crimea

My disrupted participation in our annual gaming retreat meant that my game, a Crimean War game, that had been scheduled for Wednesday, was moved to Saturday. 

General Background

Following their defeat at the Alma on 20 September 1854 the Russians under Men­shikov retreated on Sevastopol. The Allies decided against an immediate pursuit, a blunder that allowed Menshikov to evacuate the city and move his field army towards Bakhchysarai deeper within the peninsula leaving only a hodgepodge force of 15,000 sailors, marines and militia to defend the place. 

The Allies began the advance on Sevastopol on 23 September and skirmished with Men­shikov’s rearguard at Mackenzie’s Farm on the 25th. Arriving opposite the city a day later they decided not to attack Sevastopol from the northwest side deciding instead  to attack from the southeast, from where the armies could be more easily supplied from the ports in Balaclava and Kamiesch Bays. Not realising that the northwest side the city was poorly fortified and defended by only 5,000 men, the Allies missed the opportunity to avoid a siege. 

Then, once their supply depots had been established, with a nearly five to one advan­tage in numbers the Allies blundered yet again by choosing not to risk an attack on the city before reinforcements arrived. While they dithered the Russians improved their fortifications and some of Menshikov’s army re-entered the city, raising the total number of defenders to 25,000. 

By late October Menshikov, with his army reinforced to 65,000, was prodded into action and determined to attack the British supply port at Balaclava. In the bumbling Battle of Balaclava, fought on 25 October, the Allies claimed victory only by the fact that the Russians retreated. 

British Briefing

Following the battle, the British, supported by a brigade of Turks pushed forward and by mid-October had extended the siege lines as far as a position on a knobbly ridge, that they named Home Ridge, that overlooked the Chornaya River. 

Home Ridge marks the extreme right of the Sapaune Heights that run nearly all the way back to Balaclava harbour. These heights are the back door to the siege lines and are vulnerable to attack from the north. To guard against such an attack four of the five Brit­ish infantry divisions and the depleted cavalry division were encamped on the heights, while single infantry division manned a two mile long front to connect with the French. 

Although the Chornaya River at its mouth is nearly 100 yards wide it narrows to no more than twenty yards two miles east of Home Ridge. After the river narrows it runs through a marshy patch for about a mile before the banks become steep as the river is flows through a series of ravines. Despite the ruggedness of the terrain, a determined attack could force its way across and operate against the rear of the Allied lines. 

The night of 25 October was colder than most thus far in October and an early mist fell. During the night the Turks in the redoubts on Home Ridge, reported considerable activity near the Chornaya bridge and from the direction of Sebastopol. Fearing an early attack, the Turks were called to arms. Messages were sent to the British divisions alerting them of a possible attack. 

The British cannot depend on definitive orders from Allied high command the various divisional commanders will need to formulate a plan amongst themselves.

The game begins the mist is lifting.

Deployment and Reinforcements 

At the beginning of the game only the Turks are on the table in the redoubts. 

All other commands must march to the table based on the map below. Two divisions have two possible arrival points and one division and the Light Cavalry Brigade has three points as indi­cated on table map (below). March times to these points can vary from one to four turns. 

In addition the British can call on a French infantry division as reinforcements at two specific times in the game. The first time is at the beginning of turn three of the game and the second time is immediately after the lunch break. All other calls will go unheard. The intended arrival point must be specified at the time of the call and it will take those reinforcements three turns (maybe more maybe less) to arrive. 

CAUTION: If the French reinforcement option is exercised, there will be a conse­quence for the British - it could be a localised shortage of ammunition, the reinforcements may not arrive where they want them, some of thier troops may face a sudden drop in morale. 

Victory Conditions

Typical of the Allied handling of this campaign the objectives are vague: hold Home Ridge and prevent the Russians from passing across the eastern edge of the table in force (six or more unshaken battalions). 

Allied Order of Battle

1st Infantry Division

Guards Brigade Brigadier General Bentinck 

  • 3/Grenadier Guards 
  • l/Coldstream Guards 
  • l/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

2nd Infantry Division:

First Brigade: 

  • 41st Foot Regiment 
  • 47th Foot Regiment 
  • 49th Foot Regiment 

Second Brigade

  • 30th Foot Regiment 
  • 55th Foot Regiment 
  • 95th Foot Regiment 


  • Battery B RA 
  • Battery G RA 

4th Infantry Division: 

First Brigade: 

  • 20th Foot Regiment 
  • 2lst Foot Regiment 
  • 63rd Foot Regiment 

Second Brigade: 

  • 46th Foot Regiment 
  • l/Rifle Brigade 


  • Battery E RA 
  • Battery P RA 

Light Division:

  • 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 


  • Battery C RHA 

Cavalry Division: Lord Lucan

Heavy Cavalry Brigade: Brigadier General Scarlett: 

  • 4th Dragoon Guards Regiment 
  • 5th Dragoon Guards Regiment 
  • 1st Dragoon Regiment 
  • 2nd Dragoon Regiment 
  • 6th Dragoon Regiment

Light Cavalry Brigade: Brigadier General Lord Cardigan 

  • 4th Light Dragoon Regiment 
  • 13th Light Dragoon Regiment 
  • 8th Hussar Regiment 
  • 11th Hussar Regiment 
  • 17th Lancer Regiment 
  • Battery A RHA 

Turkish Brigade: Pasha Youseef Ali Burni

  • Istanbul Regiment (4 battalions) 


  • 5th Artillery Battery 
  • 7th Artillery Battery 

The Reserves 

lst French Infantry Division

lst BrigadeGénéral de brigade Espinasse

  • lst Chasseur à Pied Battalion 
  • lst Zouave Regiment (3 battalions) 
  • 6th Line Regiment (3 battalions) 

2nd BrigadeGénéral de brigade Vinoy

  • 20th Line Regiment (3 battalions) 
  • 27th Line Regiment (3 battalions) 

Artillery: Chef d’escadron Huguenet

  • 3/8th Artillery Regiment 
  • l/9th Artillery Regiment 


Rifled Muskets: 

  • All British infantry except the line battalions of 4th Division 
  • French Chasseur and Zouave battalions 


  • All Turkish troops 
  • All French line battalions 
  • The four line infantry battalions of 4th Division

What happens if the Allied forces call the French Reserves

They can call up the French reinforcements at one of two occasions:

  • At the end of Turn 3 
  • At the beginning of the first turn after lunch

Two turns AFTER they have been called, at the beginning of the Allied player turn, they will open an envelope then roll 1 xD6:

  • If a 1 or 2 is scored open the slip marked Option 1
  • If a 3 or 4  is scored open the slip marked Option 2
  • If a 5 or 6  is scored open the slip marked Option 3

Option 1

Potential morale drop

French reserves arrive as scheduled, but:

Each player rolls 1xD6 for each brigade and battery under their command and on a score of 4, 5 or 6 every unit in the brigade or each battery will take an additional casualty up to shaken.

Option 2

Potential Ammunition shortage

French reserves arrive one turn earlier than scheduled.

Each Player rolls 1xD6 and:

  • If the score is 1, 2 or 3 artillery ammunition in their command is in short supply – re-roll all artillery hits from this point on
  • If the score is 4, 5 or 6 small arms ammunition in your command is in short supply – re-roll all infantry hits from this point on

Option 3

French Reserves arrival not what you expect

French reserves arrive one turn late and not where they expect:

  • 1st Brigade (less the chasseur battalion) arrives at the GREEN deployment zone
  • 2nd Brigade arrives at the BLUE deployment zone
  • The artillery and the chasseur battalion arrive at the RED deployment zone

Russian Briefing

Following the battle of the Alma the British pushed forward and by mid-October had ex­tended the siege lines as far as a position on a knobbly ridge, that they named Home Ridge, that overlooked the Chornaya River. They also established signif­icant forces on the Sapaune Heights that run nearly all the way back to Bala­clava harbour and provided the back door to the siege lines. 

By now the Tsar was becoming nervous of the outcome of the war and sent his two sons, Grand Dukes Mikhail and Nikolai to the Crimea to urge Menshikov, who now commanded 107,000 men, to act. 
Although the attack at Balaclava was a failure, it was enough of a “near run thing” that Menshikov is encouraged to make another attempt to drive the British off. 

The British position on Home Ridge is exposed and open to attack. While an attack from two or three miles up the river would bring the attacking force directly behind the British position, the steep banks of the river and lack of roads would hamper operations. When Menshikov heard that the Turks had taken over the forward position on Home Ridge he decided to attack on two lines. He transferred 7th Infantry Division from the North Shore to Sevastopol to attack from the north east corner of the city, while 8th Infantry Division and the cavalry would cross at the Chornaya bridge and advance on the ridge.

Menshikov wants to drive the enemy from the ridge and expose the right of the allied siege lines and gain access to the valley beyond that leads to the British base at Balaclava. But typ­ical of his performance to date Menshikov gave no detailed orders to his subordinates leaving it up to them to plan the details of the battle, while he returned to his comfortable headquarters at Bakhchysarai.


The 8th Division is on the table on turn one, 200mm in from the edge marked by the two blue boxes on the map below. The box on the short table edge extends 600mm from the corner. Artillery can be deployed but cannot fire in the first turn. The start points of the 7th Division and the cavalry are marked and access to the deployment areas are limited to the march routes indicated on the map below. The cavalry can march to the Blue, Red or Green deployment zones, while the 7th Division can only march to the Red or Green zones. 

Each dot on the line of march represents a one turn delay from the start of play that the marching unit is off the table, so that a unit with two dots spends turn 2 marching and starts from the table edge on turn 3. 

Victory Conditions 

The Russians must drive the British from Home Ridge and must either be in control of the high ground north of Victoria Ridge or have passed at least six unshaken battalions of the eastern table edge at the end of the game. 

Russian Order of Battle

7th Infantry Division Lieutenant General Count Alexi Onatop

1st Brigade: Major General Seiruslei Pestov

  • Smolensk Infantry Regiment (4 battalions) 
  • Mohilev Infantry Regiment (4 battalions) 

2nd Brigade: Major General Demetri Lacksalot

  • Vitebsk Jager Regiment (4 battalions) 
  • Polotsk Jager Regiment  (4 battalions) 

7th Artillery Brigade: Colonel Leo Shotov

  • 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) 
  • Infantry Regiment (4 battalions) 

2nd Brigade: Major General Igor Phallinov

  • Ukraine Jager Regiment (4 battalions) 
  • Odessa Jager Regiment #(4 battalions) 

12th Artillery Brigade: Colonel Alexi Banginoff

  • 16th Position Battery (2) 
  • 30th Light Battery (2) 
  • 3lst 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)

Astute readers will, of course, recognise the similarity with this scenario and the Battle of Inkerman, on which it is broadly based.

And so to the game:

The Russians chose to throw their may effort against Home Ridge, with the cavalry extending fo the south to occupy any Allied forces there. Tha allies chose to reinforce Home Ridge with the 1st and 2nd divisions, while the 4th, Light and cavalry divisions were to the south.

Right from the kick off the Russian 8th Division pushed hard against the Turks, hoping to gain some advantage before the British could arrive. Immediately the Russian artillery superiority came into play and the Turkish guns were quickly silenced.

The Russian 7th Division arrived on turn three.

At the same time most of the British troops arrived. The Allies close not to exercise the reinforcements option. Meanwhile the Russian 8th stormed the redoubt.

Meanwhile the British Heavy Brigade made its first appearance on a wargames table just as the Russian line cavalry arrived.

Then followed a series of cat and mouse movement between the cavalry of both sides. The Light Brigade was routed by the Russian cavalry, although it quickly recovered. Meanwhile the Heavies skirmished with the Cossacks that dispersed the heavies, but did not break them.

While the Russian Infantry stormed over Home Ridge, we had a visitor. Aly Morrison who stated on these pages that he would have loved to have made it to the game made a static virtual visit to observe the action in which 80% of the figures were of his design!

Mean while the action on Home Ridge  continued as the two Russian divisions pressed on, despite horrendous losses.

After the lunch break the Allied forces exercised the reinforcement option and the result was option 3. The  end came on the back of  Home Ridge where the Russian managed to pass six good order battalion across the Eastern edge if the table.

So the game ended. Technically the Russians had won, but with dreadful losses.

It was a huge game with 1672 foot figures, 166 mounted figures and 31 guns.

The evening saw a great meal of a fillet of beef followed by a steam pudding, washed down with a bottle or two of good red wine.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

I have been thinking about woods again

My planned participation at the group’s annual week away has been thwarted when my wife fell ill on Monday night. Thankfully her condition has stabilised and I may be able to get down for the last couple of days provided that I am satisfied she is fully recovered.

But the time I am spending at home, between hospital visits (thankfully the hospital is only five minutes from home), has bee fruitful. I have turned my attention to the issue of woods. Now woods have always been a bit of a problem child for our group going back for 35 years. And the problem was of my own making because in a set of rules I created back in the mid-1980s I incorporated the concept of woods as defensive zones. The concept itself was not bad in that a wood was a specific size and could be occupied by a single unit which once inside was free to move within that zone without limitation. Where multiple zones were adjacent units could just move zone to zone, forgetting movement rates. The problem was that defensive zones then morphed into fortresses that I didn’t like and I moved away from the concept.

This in turn introduced a whole series of additional problems for me because all of the woods we have are groups of trees fixed to bases an it is an absolute pain in the butt to represent fighting lines because placing the figures Is awkward and there are always arguments about which stands can fire in which direction. So I have decided to return to a form of modular bases, but with some differences.

I decided to make the new bases from 3mm MDF. My first thought was to make them as half hexagons and contacted a local laser cutting company, but when they did not respond beyond the initial correspondence I decided that I would have to undertake the work myself. Without facilities for precision cutting hexes were out of the question, but thankfully a local craft store stocks some precut 3mm MDF in 240mm squares. I decided that my base module size was going to be 240mm wide by between 100-120mm deep with a constant width at the ends (where pieces join end on end) of 110mm. That meant I could get two pieces from each 240mm square.

Another problem I am trying to solve here is storage. Pre-built woods modules can take up a lot of space, but what if the trees could be mounted on disks that could be dropped into the base? This allows the trees and bases to be stored separately in a more compact way. But how could they be sunk into the base? The answer was simple: use two sheets of 3mm MDF laminated. Using a hole saw I could cut the hole in the top layer and the disk that is cut as a result can be used to mount the trees.

So I marked up a sheet of MDF and with a jigsaw cut two sheets together so that I could keep a similar shape for both layers of the base. For the top layer I cut it again trimming 5mm off the front edge.

Next took a 35mm hole saw and cut three holes irregularly spaced. The first hole that I cut almost ended in disaster when the saw jumped and tore off a reasonably sized piece of my thumbnail. There was a lot of blood but no serious damage or pain and the rest of the job proceeded without incident. The cut pieces (complete with bloodstains) are below with the front edges beveled with a rasp.

The top and bottom were then laminated and left to wait for the glue to set under a heavy weight. The laminated piece (with disks in position) is below.

Two pieces aligned back to back...

...and end to end.

Next I applied a polyfiller to the front edge to provide a smooth transition between the layers and when that was set I coated the surface with PVA and applied a coarse sand, a few stones and a couple of rock pieces that I cast from a model railway rock mould. When the glue was dry I sprayed the whole surface black. I then dry-brushed various tones of brown and green, painted the rocks before attaching several types of flock and a few twigs as fallen logs.

And the finished item with trees in position...

...the two pieces together...

And with a battalion of Russian infantry in lurking within.

I am pleased with the outcome although I want to make an alteration that will enable me to secure the trees with magnets. I have started work on some end pieces and have a few other ideas to test.

So how am I going to use these pieces? That is a discussion for a other day.

Sunday 25 October 2020

A Welcome Retreat

Sometime between 0830 and 1400 hours on Tuesday 27 October (NZDST) and again between 1400 and 1800 hours on Sunday 1 November two strange events will affect our world (although many may be thinking just how much stranger things can get in the world at the moment). This strangeness might manifest itself as simply as a picture frame tilting on a wall, the weather might abruptly change, water in fish tanks and swimming pools may slosh about, and shelves may tip or sway - it might be wise to secure delicate and valuable objects.

And what, you ask, is this phenomenon? The answer is simply that the centre of gravity of the earth is about to shift. It has happened every year over the last 36 years, although never on the same day, and in extreme cases tsunamis may result, crops may fail, governments have been known to change and global warming can weaken or intensify.

The root cause of all of this is a group of wargamers making their annual pilgrimage to Lake Tarawera for a wargames retreat. This sudden movement of several thousand metal figures, buildings, model trees, bottles of wine, beer, aperitifs and food causes the earth to tilt on its axis.

Given the tumultuous times we live in I am not sure that any of us really believed that this event, that we eagerly await every year, would happen this year.

We are fortunate in that we live in a country we have managed to keep COVID pretty much under control, thanks to our small population and that as an island nation separated from our nearest neighbour by more than 1000 km we are able to secure our borders. It is hard for me to imagine just how difficult things are for readers in countries facing the second wave.

Still we are not immune to the economic impact of the pandemic with tourism, one of our largest industries, decimated. My employer, heavily dependent on tourism, has layed off 4,500 of its 12,000 staff and many more of us have voluntarily reduced hours. The impact of all of this on mental health by way of stress and anxiety cannot be underestimated and is plainly obvious on the faces and in the actions of work colleagues. 

I must admit that when last week it looked like a new cluster of infection was developing and another lockdown seemed possible, my heart sank. But now as that possibility begins to fade I am incredibly  grateful to our host for making possible five days of gaming in the company of good friends.

So be ready for that gravitational shift and if you listen carefully you may just hear that ”YAHOOOOOO” that will be emanating from my car as I get under way.

Saturday 24 October 2020

Two more Paraguayan Line Cavalry Units

Started sometime last week, today’s post features the second and third, and possibly the last, of the Paraguayan line cavalry. It won’t be the last of Paraguayan cavalry though because two units of militia cavalry are lurking in little boxes in my study.

In one of the units have added a few figures in captured blue trousers and white shirts instead if red, just to get a little variety.

Next in the painting queue is a unit of Brazilian lancers.

Sunday 18 October 2020

First Carlist War Game

Today we played our first games as a Group since 9 August. It was great to get together again.

The choice of period was the First Carlist War which I set up with a Carlist force of 21 battalions, six cavalry units plus two field guns and two mountain guns defending a small town in front of which ran a stream. All of the Carlist infantry, except for two small units, were classed as a raw, while the cavalry and artillery were rated trained. Opposing them was a Royalist force of 5 battalions of Royal Guards, 11 of line infantry, 4 battalions of British Legion, 4 battalions of the French Foreign Legion, five cavalry units 2 field guns, 2 mountain guns and two rockets. Of the Royalist force, the guard and French infantry, all the cavalry and artillery were rated trained, while all other troops were rated raw.

The Carlist sought to turn the Royalist right with the cavalry and infantry brigade (my command), while the Royalists decided to hold their right and attack with  the center and left against the Carlist position. 

So what actually happened? Well the Carlist cavalry did gain the Royalist right with some ease, but it took time. Eventually, supported by a brigade of  Carlist infantry, they succeeded in  breaking the French and then were poised to sweep into the Royalist rear. Royalist center tried to take the Carlist centre and made some headway but in then end failed because the collapse of the French freed up units to flank the centre Only on the Royalist left did the Royalist make headway, but the collapse of the troops to their right ended  the battle for them.

I am sure my friend Keith will post a view of the game from his side of the table.

So to my photos:

The Carlist cavalry commence their turning movement 
A brigade of Carlist infantry moves in support
The Royalist centre, the British in the lead, followed by the Royal Guard, advance
The Carlists put pressure on the French
The Carlist artillery in action
The Carlist cavalry sweep around the Royalist flank
The action on the Royalist left (Carlist right)
The Carlist cavalry engages the French...this shot was tajen just after the Polish Lancers were destroyed
The action on the Royalist left continues...complete with a rare “six” rolled by the Royalist player
The French collapsed leaving the centre exposed.
The Royalist on the left put pressure on the Carlists 
The Carlists in the centre press across the stream to engage the weakened Royalists 
My glorious Carlist cavalry
Another shot of my glorious cavalry 
More action on the Royalist Left
The Royalist heavy cavalry advance
The end of the game, only the Royalists on the left remain in action...the rest have quit the field