Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Napoleonic AAR - Black Powder Blast

Present! Fire!
Hello again to the followers of the Analogue Hobbies Blog!  I was fortunate to host Curt in my neck of the Canadian Prairies last week.  In addition to fun food and wine we were able to throw down some really great gaming.   For old times' sake we had a game of Epic 40k during the Fawcett Avenue Conscripts' regular get-together.  Then on Saturday night Curt was kind enough to put his stunning 28mm French Napoleonics on to the table to challenge my stubborn, charming and poorly-led Austrians and run a game of Black Powder.

Austrian line before battle is joined
French commanders Byron and Bill get instructions from Curt and scheme to overload the Austrian flank
Attack columns anyone?
We did not busy ourselves with undue application of background.  It was the 1809 campaign.  A French force was looking to open the way forward by knocking an Austrian blocking force out of the way.  The road to Eggmuhl? Teugen-Hausen? Aspern-Essling? Raab? Wagram? Why worry about it? Sometimes it is fun to just throw down and play, even in a period as "serious" as Napoleonics.  The French would have eight turns to break the Austrians. That was that!

Austrian dragoons at the far left of the Austrian line
The French advance, led by infantry on their left
French officers blunder their way forward...
To determine victory Curt adjusted the victory conditions process somewhat. The army break point would be determined by the removal of various units through battle, as usual, but we applied the Army Morale feature from Sam Mustafa's "Maurice", where the effect of this would be somewhat random.  An excellent mechanic that fit well with the scenario.

We also tilted the initiative mechanic on its head - it would be harder to maneuver near the enemy, not easier, so free initiative moves were limited to units at least 24" away from the enemy, not within 12" of the enemy.

A dire and ominous concentration of French troops assault along the flank of the table

Another view of the French assault.  Behind the lines, Cam contemplates just how small Dallas' chance for success is...
The French force consisted of six battalions of infantry, a regiment of Carbiniers, a regiment of Cuirassiers and an artillery battery.  The Austrians met them with a similar force - six battalions of infantry, a regiment of Cuirassiers and a regiment of Dragoons.  They would face off along the opposing long edges of a 5' x 8' table.

Curt's 28mm French are a sight to see on the table!

The extreme right of the Austrian line - Dallas holds out...

Some Hungarians in Dallas' brigade hold out under heavy French pressure
To further reflect the national attributes of the forces involved, the French troops were rated as "Superbly Drilled", meaning they could always count on some kind of action even in the event of a flubbed command roll by an officer (although they could not charge on their own).  The Austrians had some command penalties to reflect the indecisive nature of their command structure, but their battalions were large and ready to accept some abuse in stoic defence of the Holy Roman Empire!

The assault is joined! Dallas' infantry goes down fighting...

My artillery battery provided limited support to the Austrian line...but made the C-in-C feel better....

Mike's assault in the centre moves ahead
Byron and Bill took command of the French, while the Austrian command, true to the flavour of the period, was a touch top-heavy, with Dallas taking command of an infantry brigade on the right, Mike F. taking command of an infantry brigade in the centre, and visiting Conscript Cam leading the cavalry brigade on the Austrian left, while I played the role of Austrian C-in-C, with direct control of the artillery (and a pressing concern for a lute I may have left in Vienna).

Dallas' right is broken

Dallas' remaining troops under pressure.  The French gun on the left is about to unlimber...
The French, being the squeezers they are, overloaded their infantry toward the Austrian right.  Dallas looked a little forlorn as his thin spread of three infantry battalions faced five french battalions, supported by artillery, racing to crush his men.  His troops held on grimly, with Dallas hot-rolling numerous saving throws to hold back the French.  Ultimately, in a slight departure from Hapsburg character, he sent his right-most battalion directly forward into the advancing French, thinking it was better to go down in flames charging rather than waiting for the inevitable.

Curt's stunning French Carbiniers

When you roll like this, you will never, ever charge....
Dallas' troops held out for a long time (considering what he was facing), but at the end of the day it ended in tears, and over the space of three turns two of his battalions were routed.  His stand was prolonged by the French command's tendency to roll blunders, slowing their advance through some random, awkward movements.  Dallas also hit hard with his musketry, and my desultory artillery fire added a little support.

French Cuirassiers run over the Austrian dragoons
On the left flank we braced for an epic cavalry clash.  In between bouts of Hapsburg vapours, I was careful to remind Cam on multiple occasions that the fate of our whole stand depended on his horsemen.  Cam was thankful for the pressure (he may have referred to it as "pre-blame", I can't exactly recall) but he embraced the role with a suitably Austrian vigour.

Victorious French heavy cavalry threaten the Austrian left flank
And the results were...very Austrian...a prolonged standoff, extended by multiple failed command rolls, multiple failed "Follow Me!" was really something!! For several turns, the four regiments stood there nose to nose, waiting for someone - anyone! - to get a damn charge roll off the ground.  In the end I was successful first - but only via a blunder!!!

This lone French battalion held the French centre
But once unleashed, it was a hard core battle!  Cam's Austrian heavy cavalry were able to break the French Carbiniers after two rounds of hard fighting.  It did not go so well for the Dragoons, who proved to be little more than a speed bump for Napoleon's Cuirassiers.

Mike rolls out against the Austrian centre
In trouble on the left, and in trouble on the right.  It was pretty dire....but in the centre - wow! Mike's Austrian infantry brigade steadily and methodically shredded the French battalions in front of them.  He did so well he was able to advance forward into the middle of the French line, threatening the flank of the French infantry blocks on the Austrian right, and safe from the dreaded French cavalry on the left.

Mike's three battalions had solid momentum
The Austrian high command was jazzed about the possibilities of this advance, but in true, cautious, conservative fashion, we withdrew.  Remember those army morale rules we mentioned? Well, we rolled high when checking for the demise of each Austrian unit lost to that point, and rolling high is bad.  Our army morale broken, the Austrians ceded the field, leaving the French a little bloodied and a little baffled...

The French centre faces disaster...those Carbiniers at the top of the photo are already beaten....
It was great fun to play Black Powder again, but in the Napoleonic context it is easy to see the numerous irritations - saving throws from artillery, aaarrrrgh so stupid! - which motivated Curt and his crew to develop their own variant for the period.

Mike's successful assault moves to threaten the French main thrust, just visible to the right
Nonetheless, the game looked awesome, the company was great, and it was a real thrill to get my Austrian lads on to the table against Curt's stunning French troops.

Only Austrians would maneuver to this point, and then fall back...
I want to thank Curt again for putting on the game - he had done a presentation at a conference that morning, made it back to my place just in time to get the game set up and then helped us bludgeon our rusty way through the game.  That takes a lot of energy, and it was greatly appreciated!  Thanks very much dude.  I look forward to the next game!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Final Entry to the Lead Painter's League: Quar Infantry and Assault Tractor

For the last submission to the Lead Painters' League the organizers asked us to provide an entry based around a sci-fi theme, with extra points for providing an opposing side along with some sort of suitable creature or vehicle.

I spent a looong time racking my brain trying to come up with a submission that was suitable, a bit unique and something that I might actually use. Not easy. Finally, I remembered that ZombieSmith offered these fabulous figures from their game, 'This Quar's War'.

The Quar are sort of a mash up of world-weary aardvarks in a quasi-WWI setting... They have a aesthetic that reminds me of the Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated magazines of the 80s. Weird but strangely compelling. I've really warmed to them since starting this first set.

The automatic shotgun team is a very nice set. I decided to tart-up their base with some extra groundwork to give the impression that the team has had some time to prepare their position.

For the fellows with the cheche-like headscarves I wanted to do some of them up in pinstriped coats as an homage to those the Moroccan Goumiers wore during their time in French service in WWII. 

(I think I may go back over these with a dull red pinstripe to help lift the effect.)

I made the sniper team from a couple odd figures and replaced the marksman's short barrelled weapon with something a little more over-the-top, more reminiscent of a bedouin jezail.

Now I really have a hankering to add a bird marching to the end of the barrel...

The camo scheme for the assault tractor was derived from images of those iconic German helmets worn during the last years of the Great War. 

The style is very mannered but I like how the effect turned out on the whole. I need to touch up some of the paint and add some more stowage and an aerial.

Fun! Nonetheless, all this being said, my Quar haven't really generated much interest amongst the LPL voters. Sigh. Oh well, no matter, I had a great time working on them and look forward to adding some more in the future.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Entry #9 to the Lead Painters' League: 'If the First Effort Fails Send in Ney'

Ney leading the French cavalry to their destruction at Waterloo.
The road to hell is paved with... well, you know rest.

Yes, I had the very best intentions to have a newly painted submission for each week of the Panters' League. With this in mind, I had my 9th entry (a unit of Anglo-Saxons arrayed in shieldwall) painted, based and ready for photos - but then I decided to give the figures a spray of clearcoat. This is were my good friend Francis will groan as he'll immediately know what happened next. Yep, the spray-can that I had picked up, shook and sprayed was NOT clearcoat, but rather BLACK PRIMER.

The Anglo-Saxon shieldwall with an extra helping of gunpowder stains...
Fuuuuck. (And this, by far, was the least of the expletives that were uttered in the minutes following 'the incident'.)

To be honest it was not a complete disaster as I managed to catch my gaff during the first pass. I know I'll be able to fix the figures by touching-up the colours' mid-tones and highlights, but I knew wouldn't have the time to repair the damage before the League deadline, which loomed in only a few hours.

So I sat down, collected my thoughts and went over my options. It was obvious I'd have to forfeit the bonus points for not submitting a new entry, but I had to send in something to serve as a suitable stand-in. So after looking in my display cabinet for a few long minutes I made my decision. As the Emperor would say, 'If the first effort fails then send in Ney.' 

I created this command stand of Marshal Ney last year and it remains as one of my favourites as I really enjoyed working on it. It's composed of four 28mm Perry sculpts - all very dynamic and wonderfully animated. As the submission has to have a minimum of five figures I decided to include a casualty stand of a cuirassier toppling from his charger to compliment Ney and his staff. Again, another excellent Perry vignette which has a great sense of speed and movement. 

So there you have it. Like the unfortunate cuirassier, pride cometh before a fall. It serves me right for being in such a rush (again). 

Next week's entry will conclude the League and it calls for a Science-Fiction theme. To be honest I'm a little out of my element on this one and so I've spent an inordinate amount of time puzzling over what to do. In the 11th hour I discovered some figures that I found quite fun so I'm going to give them a whirl. Come by next week if you're interested to see what I've managed to put together for The Final Push.

(AND my clearcoat spray now has very bright red tape on it...)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Entry #8 to the Lead Painters' League: 'Rise Up, Sons of Scotland' - 79th Cameron Highlanders

Here are a few jocks for my 8th submission to the Lead Painters' League - four charging Highlanders from the 79th Regiment with a couple flanking 'shock troops' for added colour.

I decided to try my hand with the Cameron tartan but soon wished I hadn't. I've discovered, the hard way, why most sensible people stick to the Gordons or Black Watch as the 79th tartan is composed of a bewildering collection of nuanced colours and shades. Nonetheless here is my stab at it, to which I cringe as I'm committed to another 40-odd figures to complete the battalion (eek!).

The charging Highlanders are from the Perry range while the two rude lads are from Kawe's Westfalia Miniatures. All great figures, but I must say I preferred the Westfalia castings as they were incredibly crisp and required very little work in preparation for painting.

I particularly like the 'forward facing' lad. The sculptor has done a brilliant job with the expression on his face - you can almost hear a Sid James' patented 'dirty laugh' coming from him.

If you have the time, please check out this week's round over at the LPL to see what the painters have submitted and vote for your favourites.