Thursday, June 30, 2011

Are we the baddies?

They have skulls on their hats, but unlike the Brunswickers, these guys are definitely the baddies.

I've been eyeing the Quatre Bras and Waterloo scenarios included in the Command & Colours: Napoleonics scenario book for quite some time now. I had intended to field a mixed bag of Belgians, Dutch and Nassauers, but some practical considerations have come to the fore.

I play as much Command & Colors: Napoleonics as I can - generally with anyone who will stand still long enough. However, few of my friends and regular players are aficionados of Napoleonic uniforms. Consequently, I have had to make some compromises in the way I play the game - I no longer field units of British Grenadiers or Guards. I usually replace them with Highlanders because players who are not entirely au fait with the period often have difficulty spotting a shoulder wing or blue facings on a 1/72 scale figure.

My Waterloo Anglo-Dutch army will to muster some extra troops before it's ready to take the field. I need six line infantry units, two units of light cavalry, one units of light infantry, one unit of militia, one general and two units of foot artillery. These will represent the mix of Hanoverians, Nassauers, Brunswickers, Dutch and Belgians that were on the field. I had considered using a similar mix of figures to represent this polyglot force, but after play I think it might be fairer to at least have some consistency between troop types. It will make it easier for novice players to distinguish between them and I can add additional regiments as and when I wish.

I've decided that the line infantry will be Dutch, supplied by Hats offering, which gives me an admirable two units per box. The militia will be Dutch militia, that is Hat Peninsular British infantry with a paint conversion.

For guns, Waterloo 1815 do a Dutch-Belgian Artillery set. The guns will need to be replaced, something I can't pretend that I would have realised without plastic soldier reviews trenchant review of the set. But I have some replacement French guns that will do very well.

I've never been taken with HAT's cavalry figures, so I won't be fielding any of their Dutch light dragoons. In fact, I can't think of a single HAT cavalry figure that I've really liked. Their cossacks are passable, but more useful than attractive.

I have a unit of Brunswickers; they dress in black and they wear skulls on their hats*. I like to think of them as the rebellious teenagers of the Napoleonic era. How could I not? I'm also a big fan of Millais as it happens, but these fellows will not be taken into account as I'll only be fielding them when I feel that they won't confuse the situation for new players. Much the same can be said of the squadron of Kennington Dutch-Belgian Carabiniers that I ended up with.

Which brings me back to the problem of Light Cavalry and Light infantry.

The Light Cavalry are a more complicated question. I ended up with the Carabiniers due to a mix up when I ordered some Brunswicker Hussars at rest from SHQ, but didn't send them back because I liked the castings. I would like some Brunwicker Hussars, but I don't want to muster a unit from a range that lacks officers or trumpeters.

And who shall my light infantry be?

It is indeed a puzzlement.

*They are also quite clearly not the baddies - this is important.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Mrs Kinch comes bearing a gift...

We celebrated our anniversary last week. It hardly seems like three years and we've come a long way since then and achieved some extraordinary things.

It did also lead to a rather odd conversation that Mrs Kinch had with a lady in a restaurant, "Oh so you're into leather."

I was very confused.

I certainly wasn't confused when Mrs Kinchs entirely apposite gift arrived today. A print of Lady Butlers "The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras" which will be taking pride of place in my study as soon as it is framed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A very generous gift

From left to right: Kennington Spanish Infantry, Hat Dutch Line Infantry, Minifigs French Dragoon Officer, Der Kreigspieler (nee Hinton Hunt) Dismounted French Dragoon. As always click to embiggen.

The Napoleonic collector faces something of quandry - there are so many Frenchmen. In much the same way that the collector of the Second World War will usually have a collection of Germans that surpasses his needs even at their most extravagant, the Napoleonic gamer is haunted by visions of Chasseurs, Lancers, Grenadiers of the Guard and six different kinds of hussar.

I have achieved most of my purely personal goals in Napoleonic toy soldier collecting; I have vivandieres for many of my regiments, I possess a good supply train, I can field the "Die Hards" and a troop of the Sixth Light Dragoons. There are other goals and to be honest, I add more all the time, but one that has dogged me for years is the desire for a regiment of Dragoons.

Left to right - Minifigs French Dragoon Officer, Minifigs French Dragoon Ensign, Minifigs French Dragoon Drummer, Der Kreigspieler (nee Hinton Hunt) Dismounted French Dragoons. As always click to embiggen.

Easily done you say, there is the fine Italeri set, go to it young man - but I am an awkward sort and want Dragoons mounted, dismounted and horse holding. This is more difficult - I had Italeri Dragoons and the Strelets dismounted set had some good (and some very bad) figures in it, but it didn't completely scratch the itch. My chum John C was able to provide me with some Der Kriegspieler French dismounted dragoons. I had been pondering what to do with these, should I convert some of them into horseholders?

I have since learned that the original figure was a horse holder that was converted by the addition of a musket.

This did leave me with the tricky question of what to do for officers, musicians and other such harmless persons?

Left to right - Hat Dutch Line Infantry, Minifigs French Dragoon Officer, Minifigs French Dragoon Ensign, Minifigs French Dragoon Drummer. As always click to embiggen.

By an incredible stroke of luck, I got to corresponding with Mr J of Chicago, who had in his collection not only some more Kriegspielers, but also some Minifigs in the shape of an officer, a chap with an eagle and a drummer. These he sent off and they are now tromping around my wargames table, sowing panic and dismay in their wake. They are of a height with the other figures, though considerably bulkier, but I think with a lick of paint and the same basing they should do the job. The tricks the eye can play are extraordinary.

I don't think it can be too long before I have a troop of Dragoons, charging and on foot. Just in time to do some damage when the Command & Colours Spanish supplement arrives.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On His Majesty's Service - Allan Mallinson

The last few days have been relatively busy, so I took the opportunity today after work to do absolutely nothing at all. I spent a rather pleasant afternoon lurking in my study, listening to an E W Hornung audio book and basing some figures. There were plenty of other things that I should be doing, some of them house, others work related and damned if I didn't so any of them.

It's a curiously liberating experience.

I received some parcels over the last few weeks, which deserve their own entries really as there are some cracking figures within - but suffice to say that I have been a very lucky chap of late and have reason to be grateful to those in the fraternity. Pictures to follow. I would have taken some, but I was busy basing those very same nice figures and generally luxuriating in an intoxicating idleness.

I also spent some time reading "On His Majesty's Service", Allan Mallinson's latest book. I have learned that Mallinson like O'Brian is a pleasure to be sipped rather than gulped and I am taking my time with this one. Mallinson's writing still has that wondrous quality of historical ventriloquism - his diction is perfect and has the ability to transport me to the early 19th century in a way that few writers are capable of. Given that I am happier there at least in imagination*, I particularly prize this skill. The book progresses relatively slowly and much attention is given to the relationship between Hervey and his new friend Fairbrother. If the observation of the friendship between the two men is not as well polished as it could be, it is likely because Mallinson has not explored this theme before and is competing with O'Brian, who wrote possibly the greatest 4000 page long novel on male friendship ever crafted by the hand of mortal man.

I'm about half way through it at present and will continue to read slowly to make it last. Thus far though, recommended; though I would certainly pick up the earlier books first. A new reader will be very confused - not surprising when picking up book eleven in a series.

* I am not such a fat head as to think that I would have been happier in reality, death in childhood would have most likely have been my lot, but it does make for pleasant fantasy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Games Night

Phil Olley's Vanguards Collide, Command & Colours style, from Issue 1 of the Classic Wargaming Journal

We had a games night on Thursday, which went rather well. We played the Combat at Aire scenario several times and also gave my version of Phil Olley's "Vanguards Collide" scenario an airing. I didn't get many pictures as I would have liked, though something approximately a battle report will no doubt raise it's ugly head in the next few days.

As it happened we had two players a side with me umpiring. The players held cards in common and played one per turn after a certain amount of bickering. Perhaps the best moment we had was when Savage decided to use a little psychological warfare. For those of you unfamiliar with the Command & Colours system - each player has cards which they play to activate units. Part of the game is not knowing what cards your opponent has in hand - Savage decided to try something a little different.

General Gorman takes his subordinates suggestion with
the calm and stoic manner typical of the man.

I had amended Phil's scenario somewhat to take account of the card based activation mechanic. Essentially each player had a hand of five relatively low value cards (scouts and probes) which he played to bring his troops onto the table. He had to play his entire deployment hand before he could play any of the cards that he drawn. The players found this an interesting wrinkle and certainly one that made them think about deployment in a way that they didn't usually when playing C&C.

Unfortunately we had such a good time that we managed to knock a whole in the floor and by we, I mean Dave. The floor wasn't in great nick, but I hadn't planned on replacing it before Christmas. In fact Mrs Kinch had promised me a new floor as a Christmas present. We may have to step that plan up a little.

On the brighter side, I realised that this is the perfect opportunity to add a trapdoor to my study. Ostensibly this is because it would allow for extra storage, but really, I just want a trapdoor.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Salamanca (British Attack on French Right) - 22 July 1812 - Part 2

When we left our gallant gamers, the British had pushed across the river - and as you can see, the French pushed them right back. This was something of a theme for the rest of the game.

Over on the French right, French Hussar Captain "Henri Le Oddball" is putting his dictum into practice.

"Zere eez onlee un wai tu attack ze Breetesh eavy dragoons, in ze arse!"
The 4th Dragoons Guards are driven from the field, leaving General Brock isolated. He was then promptly captured by troops of the 8ieme Ligne, ending the battle.

A good night was had by all - even if the dastardly French did win. Donogh has recorded the other game that we played over at Land War in Asia.

Plenty more to come I hope.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Salamanca (British Attack on French Right) - 22 July 1812 - Part 1

Packenham's Third Division* crashing into Thomiere's troops
(image stolen from Wikipedia where it is not credited, I think it might be a Caton-Woodville)

The night before last was games night at the Kinch household. The study is beginning to look a little more comfortable and Donogh and two of Mrs Kinchs cousins came to play a few games of Command & Colours: Napoleonics. We played the first Salamanca scenario (the French left) first, though you'll be seeing that on Land War in Asia, I had to make sure that Donogh had left the building before starting the second battle so that he didn't pip me to the post with pictures - the dastard!

Salamanca is one of the Duke of Wellington's finest battles - there are any number of excellent accounts out there, but in brief Wellington had pushed into central Spain only to be confronted by Marmont superior force. The Duke began to pull back towards Portugal while Marmont tried to cut him off from his base.

Brother against brother, facing each other across the Pela Garcia River
Behold Ned, like a bespectacled eagle, poised to strike
(Click to embiggen)

The shadow boxing continued for weeks with each side trying to find a weakness. Mark Urban's "The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes" gives a fine account of this phase of the campaign. Eventually after a great deal of hard marching, Marmont over extended himself and the Duke counter-attacked. Apparently, this flash of insight came to him while he was eating a chicken leg, whereupon he gave a whoop, threw it down and launched his attack.

A chicken leg,
very similar to one carried by the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Salamanca

Sadly history does not record that exact method of preparation of the chicken leg, whether it was boiled, fried or roasted, breaded or unbreaded? As a consequence, no corresponding dish of Chicken Salamanca has survived to vie with Chicken Marengo upon the checked table cloth of battle.

Surely, all those with a passion for history can join with me in mourning this culinary defeat wrenched from the very jaws of victory.

Hat Chasseurs confront Italeri Hussars
(Click to embiggen)
The 18th Light Dragoons (Hussars) move forward on the British right in an attempt to pin the French left in square. Sadly they ran in a storm of dice from the French lights who stood their ground and wiped them out in a statistically unlikely volley.

Strelets Crimean Highlanders face Hat Chasseurs,
supported by Hat Young Guard (painted as line infantry)
(Click to embiggen)

Buoyed by their success the French lights advance to take on the British Grenadier Guards. In this case represented by the 92nd Highlanders. I thought it would be difficult for new players to distinguish between the Guards and the Line Infantry, so the Highlanders stepped into the breach. There's almost certainly a McFarlane in there, I'd recognise that sporran anywhere.

More Hat Young Guard in the French centre, supporting Zvesda French Foot Artillery
The British a hodge bodge of Hat Light Infantry, Strelets Crimean Infantry
and Revell knock-offs
(Click to embiggen)

More bodies pile up on the British right as the Guards drive off the French lights with musketry. Ten dice with no retreats rolled punished the unsupported French advance, as the Rangers, the 4th and the rest of the British line supported by gunfire push across the river against the weakened French centre. Knowing that this led by a distinctly windy fellow by the name of Foy, William believed his redcoats would have little difficulty in seeing off the frog eaters.

The high tide of the British advance,
the redcoats capture the French guns, but only temporarily
(Click to embiggen)

The Duke (aka William) looking rather pensive as the French counter-attack drives his men back across the river, whole but not unbloodied
(Click to embiggen)

And we'll come to the end of this particular battle in another post. Good night all.

*I suspect the chaps in bear skins are meant to be fusiliers, though to my knowledge they only wore these on home service.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Loot from Hay on Wye

A collection of loot from Hay on Wye*

The Falklands collection picked up for a song in Hay on Wye. I've always had something of a shine for the Falklands as it is the first contemporary conflict that I actually remember being aware of, admittedly some years after it occurred. My mother bought me a book about it when I was small, Raymond Briggs polemic "The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman." My view of the conflict has become somewhat more nuanced since then.

I took part in a Falklands war campaign, which was something of a curates egg, the results of which were described in an issue of the Classic Wargamers Journal. I also ran an abortive matrix game version which I got from a magazine, but that didn't progress as I radically underestimated the difficulty of umpiring the game.

I have a yen to do something in that line again, hence the haul of books. I have the Two Fat Lardies "We'll have to bloody walk" expansion for I ain't been shot Mum, but I think most likely I'll use an adapted version of the tried and trusted Memoir '44 rules, probably leaning rather heavily on the rules presented in the new Winter Wars supplement.

*The Ospreys were bought from an elderly chap whose observations amused me greatly.

"Lovely people the Argentinians. Great at football and shite at war."

This is no where near as funny when divorced from the euphonious Welsh accent in which it was delivered.

Friday, June 3, 2011

More camp followers

No, not you Kenneth...

One of the oddities of my collection, along with the shocking lack of Grenadiers of the Guard (sorry John), is that I'm very fond of camp followers, surgeons, vivandieres and all those other hanger on types. Admittedly, I have scaled that back somewhat as I have rather a lot of them at this stage.

The Drogheda Cossacks had a reputation for looting and pillaging, but lest we forget someone had to carry the loot, so allow me to present the official "hangers on" of the 18th Light Dragoons.

(click to embiggen)

A young chap leading some cows, stolen no doubt. I'm not au fait with the history of dairy farming in Spain, so I have no idea if the Freisian is appropriate for the Iberian peninsula. Figures from IMEX's American Pioneers set and painted by Mark Bevis and Graham Tormey.

(click to embiggen)

Another stolen piece of equipment, this time an Italeri French supply wagon accompanied by a metal figure that I think was made by Uwe Emke, but I'm not sure.

Civilians are often an interesting addition to the battlefield and often underused. Past uses have included -

1. As objectives, players have to attack/defend a wagon train, seize a particular person, etc. Seizing the French baggage train at Vittoria would be one example from the period.

2. As terrain, you can use civilians as a means of clogging up roads, complicating movement in urban areas and generally not doing what they are told.

3. As a source of intelligence. Players in my games have learned that I rarely place civilian figures on the table for no reason, they can be an invaluable source of information on local fords, where the enemy has been in the area, etc. Two examples of this sort of thing that I'm rather proud of.

a) A player observed that there was a hut on one side of the river and that there was a shepherd and some sheep on the other side. Divining correctly that a shepherd would be unlikely to traipse around to the bridge, he went looking for a ford between the shepherd and his house.

b) There were two built up areas on the board. One was populated with civilians and the other deserted. The player worked out that of the two built up areas, the ambush which he suspected had been set was most likely in or near the deserted town.