Wednesday, 21 June 2017

La Haie Sainte inspires 100th game idea

Unknowingly, I have followed the course of John at "The Nameless Blog" who posted back in March that he had recently completed the Waterloo Farmhouse by Sarissa Precision—and a fine job he made of it too.

I thought at the time that it looked a lot like the sets of MDF kits that I had purchased from Italeri in late 2015 under the 'Waterloo 200' banner (Waterloo 200 Battle at La Haye Sainte, La Haye Sainte Stables and La Haye Sainte Barn). It would and should though, wouldn't it, being a model of the same thing?

Fast forward to the weekend and I decided, when yet again moving the boxes to get to something else, that it was time to get on and make the d@mned things! It was then, looking at the instructions, that I saw the co-branding of Sarissa Precision and realised that they *were* the same thing!

I completely concur with John's comments. These are fast, fun buildings to construct. The instructions are clear, the pieces snap out easily, fit together really well (and easily), using PVA glue. The trickiest part for me was the bit that I decided to do first, the dormer windows on the farmhouse.

While not yet painted, I think you'll agree that it looks impressive nonetheless. You'll see what the finished thing can look like by looking at John's painted model on his blog.

The Sarissa Productions/Italeri Waterloo Farmhouse, Stables and Barn.

They even provide a card version of the pond, in two sections.

The buildings are a mixture of MDF (the majority) and card (for smaller gates, gate backing, window-sills, dormer windows and pond).

The gates of the main entrance have simple pin inserts into pre-cut holes, so are able to open.

It fits together so well that I was able to leave the rooves un-glued to enable troops to be put inside, if desired (and to aid with painting).

Completing this (construction, at least) has me thinking of an exciting and appropriate game for our 100th (we recently completed no. 97)—the central section of the Battle of Waterloo, from Hougoumont to the 'western' half of the Anglo-Allied ridge. I reckon that we could take in an area of about 2.5 km x 2.5 km at a ground scale of 1 cm to 1 m and figure scale of 1:20. My grandiose idea would be to make it of the entire battle, with forces entering either by player command or according to historical events (especially the Prussians). The more practical version is to focus purely on troops that were in that area from around 14:30 onwards. This would make for a semi-recreation, with options and outcomes determined by the players. I'll discuss it with the other fellas and we'll see.

A plan in the development, let's say!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Ligny 202 (plus 1 day) at the NWS

On Saturday I joined some of the fellas at the Napoleonic Wargaming Society for one of the 'Games Day' (weekend wargaming days), of which there are three or four per year. This one, inspired by the Open Day held for the bicentennial of Waterloo, is meant to have a Waterloo/Napoleonic theme.

It was not a great turn out, but I was one of five players who had the pleasure of being part of the game of Ligny organised by 'Marc' of  'one-eyed', I mean 'One Sided' fame! :)

You'll get more detail and background to the game from the report on his blog. I have taken his 'one-sided' mantle for this report!!

The table at game's start.

Zieten at his command post, Blucher is just the other side of the windmill.

What they saw.

I had the joy and pleasure of acting as Dominique 'Jean-Claude' Vandamme for this one.

I immediately sent Girard and Lefol against St Amand La Haye and Habert against St Amand.

Both attacks were repulsed.

Roeder's 2nd brigade (represented by hussars) had the audacity to charge Domon's horsemen. An indecisive mêlée saw them recalled to safety to reform.

Zieten ordered reinforcements forward to support his outposts in the villages, under the watchful gaze of Blucher.

Milhaud launched his 13th heavy cavalry division across the Ligny brook to assault the left flank of the Prussian reserve artillery.

Meanwhile, I sent Girard's, Lefol's and Habert's men in for a second attempt on 'the St Amands'.

More Prussians on the move! Note that Milhaud's cavalry have retired back over the brook.

 This time we were successful in St Amand la Haye...

 but staunch defence beat off our attack on St Amand.

 On the French right flank, Gerard made a concerted attack on Ligny.

Meanwhile, back on the left, Roeder's horsemen were at it again. This time two brigades ganged up on Domon, causing the latter to withdraw.

The Prussian's 1st brigade got carried away with the victory, only to be seen off by the square formed by Girard's 1st brigade.

Another attack on St Amand. This time it was Habert's men who attacked the village, supported by a brigade of Berthezene's men, who took on some of the Prussian reinforcements attempting to deploy on the southern side of the brook.

 The Prussian supports were driven back, but so too was the French attack on the village.

It was getting 'hot' in the Prussian centre thanks to a successful charge by Milhaud's 14th heavy cavalry division...

 supported by the Young Guard.

The defenders of Ligny had been driven off by fire, but alas, with no French available to take advantage, one of the Prussian reinforcing brigades would be able to walk into the town, occupying it, but not deployed.

Back on the left, Berthezene's 1st brigade stood ready to defend the line of the brook while Habert's brigades reformed for another assault on St Amand.

Unfortunately, we had run out of time. What a bummer given that the battle was heating up and so interestingly poised.

Never mind, having played it this far and all enjoying the challenge, Marc has in mind to run it again, but at Biko's so that it can be left set-up if necessary and played to a conclusion.

Thank you so much to Mark H. ('Marc') for organising the game, providing the figures and umpiring and to Darren, Biko, Stephen and Steve for playing the game in the 'right' spirit—naturally.

I finally felt that I got a handle on Napoleon's Battles, working with and 'in' the system rather than being somewhat bemused and befuddled by what was occurring—as has happened in previous games using these rules.

I am looking forward to playing the game again and this time to the 'bitter end'!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Vale R.A. Fisher

Ralph Austen Fisher died on 28th April at 15:59 AEST, after a brief illness, surrounded by family.

Dad in 1996, hamming it up for the camera in a photo captioned "The Intensity of Solo Wargaming".

Framed award given to him by the French Government in 2001 in recognition of his service in '44–'45 (he remained as part of the occupation forces through to '49).

He had a fabulous 'innings'. Nearly 92 years of mainly excellent health. Certainly much, much more than many others get, but that does not prevent one mourning and missing someone who has been in your life for so long.

My wargaming hobby ('obsession') is one of the many things that I thank him for. From our first game in 1980, involving four units per side using the Airfix "Napoleonic Wargaming" (aka Bruce Quarrie) rules, it has steadily blossomed and I am now enjoying a mid-life wargaming heyday (wargaming 'nirvana' as we like to jokingly say).

We played regular, albeit modest, wargames (fitted around study) during my last years of high school. After I left home to go to university we'd generally fit in a wargame or two in holidays, firstly back in Darwin and then, bigger and bolder, once he and Maude (a great supporter of us both with the hobby) had moved to Tassie. Games based on Talavera (in 1/72nd) and Quatre Bras (in 5/6 mm) were amongst these.

We don't have many photos from the early days. This one was taken in February 1994 during a game based on Quatre Bras.

One of those chance links of someone knowing someone else and identifying a shared interest led Dad to meet Tony, a post-war RAF veteran. They enjoyed regular catch-ups to wargame, firstly using 15 mm figures and then moving to 5/6 mm as this fitted better with the terrain that Tony had built. On Tony's sad passing in the early 90s his widow gave Dad the terrain and figures. It was this that we used for the Quatre Bras game (amongst others) and Dad for his solo wargaming in the mid- to late-90s.

Having played solo many of the French v Spanish battles of the Peninsular War, Dad decided to focus on writing, so, in 2001, he brought the whole wargaming shebang over to me! Serendipity, that great friend of he and I, meant that I had this collection, particularly our original 1/72nd and 25 mm figures as a starting point when Mark, Julian and I formed our little group back in 2010.

Having much in common, I have been fortunate in always being able to speak with Dad. Failing anything else, we could spend hours talking history and/or wargaming! It had been a joy in recent years to share the deeds of our little group at the ANF with him. Better still was to show him the set-up at Julian's (ANF-HQ) in 2015 when he came over as part of a tour around Australia for his 90th birthday. Once more serendipity stepped in as our bicentennial game of Waterloo had gone into a fourth session, so it was that game that he saw. *That* was a real treat for us both.

Sharing a combined birthday celebration with Dad in 2015—the ANF at five years, Stephen at 60, Dad at 90 and Napoleon at 246!

Discussing our game of Waterloo 200.

We got him a 'Warbird' flight as a combined 90th present from we 'children' and our families. He enjoyed it immensely and even opted for the optional aerobatics, including a loop-the-loop!

Making the most of Dad in his 90s became a focus, hence my trip to the eastern states at the beginning of this year 
allowing my son and I to see Ralph and Maude in St Helens—plus my joining the Nunawading fellas for their magnificent game of Austerlitz! A discussion during this visit yielded an unexpected opportunity for Dad and I.

I'd brought some figures and paints with me in the car to do some painting during the trip (I did actually do a little bit!). This got me thinking about the possibility of bringing some figures over to him for a game later in the year. After a bit of discussion and checking the numbers of figures and area required, we settled on having a go at Ocaña, a battle that neither of us had done previously, in November.

Dad then said that he'd like to have a go at doing some of the painting. "How marvellous," I thought. He decided to begin with Spanish infantry and to work from the top down (in the army list), so I sent over four units of the Vanguard for him to begin with and to see how he enjoyed it. (Meanwhile I had begun with the Spanish cavalry).

He sent some photos of the first unit that he'd done, the Granaderos Provincales. He was enjoying the painting, but reckoned that they were not that good. I disagreed totally; I thought that they were marvellous! He got a second unit, Real Maestranza de Ronda, more or less completed before they left on the trip during which he fell ill, with what we later found out was a long-developing condition.

Granaderos Provincales. Dad's first painting of figures for 10+ years. I'll be ecstatic if I can paint anything as good as this, should I make my 90s!
Figures are by Hät from their Spanish Command and Spanish Grenadiers sets.

Dad's painting table, featuring the Real Maestranza de Ronda, the final unit that he painted. Undercoated Voluntarios de Valencia next to them.
Figures are by Hät from their Spanish Guerillas set.

Sadly, that last wargame with Dad will not happen. We will do the game though, over here, as the first of what I plan will become our annual RA Fisher memorial game. The Granaderos Provincales and Real Maestranza de Ronda will take their place proudly in the Spanish army.

Thanks Dad; for everything. You left an indelible mark and I miss you heaps. You lived your
life to the full in your own way and went pretty much as you wanted--up and about touring one day and gone quickly with a minimal period of incapacitation.

Love you always.

Friday, 17 February 2017

3 700 km east to Austerlitz—follow-up

If you would like to read and see more about this game, I strongly urge you to visit Ben (Rosbif's) blog for his second instalment "The Revenge of Dr Love"

As always an entertaining, balanced account with plenty of piccies. Thanks Ben.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

All about the history

Mais qu’est alors cette vérité historique, la plupart du temps? Une fable convenue. Ainsi qu’on l’a dit fort ingénieusement...
(What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history? A fable agreed upon. As it has been very ingeniously remarked...)
Las Cases (1823), Mémorial de Sainte Hélène: Journal de la Vie Privée et des Conversations de l’Empereur Napoléon, à Sainte Hélène. Cited at

Bonaparte devant le Sphinx by Jean-Léon Gérôme (WikimediaCommons)

This post has been inspired by a couple of recent incidents. 

Firstly, a questionnaire from Hat, one of the manufacturers of the wonderful 1/72nd scale figures that we like to use. They have had a change of ownership recently and have been surveying their customers a lot. One recent questionnaire posed the question:
"Are toy soldiers your main hobby?"
I found the question impossible to answer. For a start, I do not like to call them toy soldiers, preferring military miniatures (a bit coy on my part, I admit). More importantly, none of the options was "they are not my hobby". The collecting of 'toy soldiers' is but part of the wonderful hobby that I enjoy, viz. wargaming.

Secondly, a bit of email correspondence between Julian and myself regarding 'home made' models which made me realise that, while we have quite similar preferences on most things wargaming, the ranking of key aspects of the hobby for each of us—perhaps even what we regard as the ultimate 'point' of the hobby— is quite different.

You see, for me, it is all about the history.

There are so many aspects to wargaming aren't there? Reading and researching the history, reading and researching uniform details, collecting and painting the miniatures, building terrain items and other wargaming pieces, designing scenarios, getting together with friends... not to mention playing the games (perhaps even satisfying a competitive urge or trying to do better than one's historical counterpart)!

History is no. 1 for me. This explains my strong preference for historical wargaming and playing historically-based games. I'll join in with a fictional action but it does not hold the same interest for me. I've even been known to play a fantasy game, but it has been just that, a 'game'.

This may be blasphemous on a wargaming related blog, but, if push came to shove, if I were on a 'desert island'#, I'd take my history books over my figures—all 21 714 of them at time of writing this (figures that is).
# It is quite a well appointed 'desert island', you see! Probably more Gilligan's Island. Marie-Ann or Ginger, that old boyhood question...

So, what is it that most grasps you in this wonderful hobby, interest (obsession!) that we enjoy?

Monday, 13 February 2017

3 700 km east to Austerlitz

Prior to Julian's recent, excellent post about our game of "Glorious First of June", it had been three months since our last post on this blog. The blogging may have been quiet over Dec–Jan, but there was plenty of action on wargames tables various.

For me, 2017 began with a mega-game of Austerlitz, thanks to the Nunawading Wargames Association.

Getting there was at least half the fun as I took the opportunity to drive the approximately 3700 km west to east across Australia to get there.

I have been fortunate to have played in one of the other of the Nunawading Wargames Association's January games, having joined them for Borodino in 2014. I was unable to make it to Waterloo in 2015 and they had a break in 2016, so it was marvellous to be able to join them for Austerlitz this year.

I won't try to do a full report of this magnificent game. Ben 'Rosbif' will be doing this and has already begun with Part 1 of his account

The table, prepared by Tim was spectacular as ever.

Darren devised a simple, effective and tension-building way to represent the early morning fog.

The French lead corps entered the fog from the west, heading NE and SE.

The scenario used the historical set-up and initial orders, so the allies held in the north while attacking from the south.

Some early action featuring Lannes' and Bagration's cavalry. As with the real thing northern sector was another world away in this game.

In the southern sector, the Russian 2nd column occupied the orchard between Sokolnitz and Sokolnitz castle and made a right mess of the place. No potatoes, so it was alcoholic cider that day...!!

I was most fortunate to be given command of St Hilaire's fine division from Soult's corps (thanks Andrew!).

As the fog lifted we fell on the disorganised and unsuspecting 3rd column that had become confused and lost, losing all formation integrity.

Next in our sights was 4th column. Vandamme's division took the lead in this attack, directed personally by Marshal Soult. 

It was a fast & furious advance that saw us re-occupying the Pratzen Heights—nearly capturing the Czar in the process.
(Okay, nothing of the sort really, I merely managed to snap this photo before they moved him!).

A couple of low shots to indicate the expanse of the table and grandeur of the game.

Having disposed of 3rd column, I prepared to continue on into 2nd...

Trouble is that the allies had other ideas forming a solid defensive line and sending their cavalry into our exposed flank, which was all the more so as I'd decided to career off to the south instead of swinging to the east with Vandamme.

My over-zealousness contributed to our lack of cavalry to exploit our success (or even defend our flank).

A divisional morale test was called for. Still, good troops, relatively light losses, they'd pass on anything but a...

... ten (i.e. '0' on D10).

Off we went.

Which left a bit of a gap!

Thanks to the timely arrival of Davout's (Bourcier's) dragoons there were sufficient French to hold the line until St Hilaire's division had rallied and come back to the front.

The allies were largely content to occupy the southern side of the Pratzen Heights... in some force!

After two and a half-fabulous days of wargaming the game had reached somewhat of a stalemate in the north, both sides having fought one another to a standstill. So it was that the extended battle for the Pratzen would decide the game as a draw of unlikely victory to one or the other side.

St Hilaire's orders were to attack, so that's what we did.

Forming his units in close column he drove for the 'hinge' held by the Austrian advance guard of Keinmayer.

Aided by good dice from me and poor rolling by John we cleared first the artillery, then their supporting infantry.

Causing the Austrian 'division' to retreat.

The game was called at this stage: a minor French victory. The allied players had done far, far better than their historical counter-parts and we French had done nowhere near as well.

Thanks so much again to all of the Nunawading Wargames Association Napoleonics players for allowing me to join their special weekend game. Thanks especially to Tim and Jill for their marvellous hospitality.

Next year it's Austerlitz again, but this time with freedom to the players to devise their own plans.

The New Year for us began with the Glorious First June. As I noted above, Julian has already put together a fine post about that game.

In coming posts I'll report on the games that we played in November and December last year. Here's a little taster.

Action at Pretzsch, 29 October 1759

An action that we played out twice, once using Age of Reason rules and the second with our adapted version of Zimmermann's rules. Both played out equally well, providing two excellent games and similar results.

Second Sicilian War

Carthaginian hegemony was not challenged by the result of our game!

Battle of Laüs

Based on the great victory of the Lucanians over the Greeks . Mark and I played it twice, changing sides, but neither of us was able to emulate the Lucanian's historical success.

Battle of Mt Vesuvius

First battle of the Third Servile War. Gaius Claudius Glaber's Rome Guard were once again swept aside by the 'Spartacans'.

Caesar's 1st invasion of Britain redux

That's two attempts and two failures for our version of Caesar!

Battle of Sahay 24 May, 1742

Another game from Charles S. Grant's fabulous historical scenarios for the War of Austrian War. A memorable French victory it was too. :)

Guest Blogger Starts Blogging! 

Our guest blogger Phil from York, UK has begun his own blog!
His first report is of his game of the Battle of Austerlitz, recognising a most unusual anniversary!