Friday, 14 July 2017

Falkirk Refight at AMG 17

Better late than never hopefully, here is my second post on the A Military Gentleman weekend in mid -June. This one is a bit more serious than my previous report !

I had never before played a Jacobite Rebellion game but lots of memories from my past, and more recently, conspired to ensure I was not going to miss my chance now.

My Dad was a great history enthusiast and on many holidays to the Scottish Highlands in the 1960s and early 70s we had read each other excerpts from the guide books about Bonnie Price Charlie and the "romanticism" of the  '45 rebellion. We know better now of course but to a young wargamer it seemed like a good idea to see what my pocket money funds could achieve using the, then new, Miniature Figurines "25mm" models. The answer was not much as I recall - probably one battalion sized unit of British and a few Highlanders and then I think the defence budget got hijacked by Napoleonics for the Cheltenham club's 1812 campaign project.......but I never somehow lost that feeling that highlanders offered something long as someone else painted the tartans!!

Then Graham Cummings came into my life via the AMG Forum, and his wonderful Crann Tara Range - "The Finest 28mm Miniatures for the '45":
Crann Tara Miniatures website
and by 2016 I was painting those tartans myself, not on miniatures thankfully but in a large painting where the most prominent figures were about 25 centimetres high.  Graham commissioned drawings for marketing his range and the oil painting "A Highland Charge 1745". Here it is for those not already familiar.

So now I found Graham was treating us to a refight of the Battle of Falkirk, and using Honours of War (HoW) rules, his wonderfully painted Crann Tara British figures, and most of the clansmen lent by Guy Barlow fresh from his "soldier room" in Windsor. All played out on Graham's superbly sculpted and painted teddy bear fur mat.  I found myself alongside Stuart Insch as British commanders pitted once again against Gary Phillips and Jim Purky, today joined by Des Darkin whom I had not met before but who proved an admirably able and gentlemanly opponent. So the scene was set for 18th century wargaming nirvana for the little lad grown up now to be the oldest present!
Graham briefs the Jacobites - Gary, Jim and Des
Stuart holds the British left flank and my forces are in Falkirk town and
approaching up the foreground road
This game was played three times over the weekend and has been written about a lot on blogs and in Forums so I will let myself off a detailed narrative. Our game was the third one, starting fresh on Sunday morning and going on till just after lunch.  A look at the opposing forces might be helpful:

We British only had one Dithering General - in the reserve column

Poor Jim got a Dithering Charlie and one other Ditherer
I must apologise for some of the photos as the light in the room called for greater patience than I have; some of them are pretty good, most average, and I have included few that are poor merely to round out the views of the game.

A demoralised force under Cope was holding Falkirk and with Hamilton's Dragoons and light guns a short way off and nearer the approaching clans. The latter leapt out of the morning mist to take them by surprise. Stuart managed to salvage most but not all of this force and barely held off the attacking Highlanders under Gary until his reinforcing columns (Hawley's force) arrived in the left hand corner.

I had a lesser problem to try to defend Falkirk with two battalions and a battery in the face of Jim as the Bonnie Prince coming at me as fast as his tartan-socked legs would carry him.  I was hopeful that Wade's column would come up in time from my right to relieve them, but Des had other ideas and pressed forward with clansmen and the red coated Irish Piquets to bar my way.

So Jim pressed Falkirk, losing a lot of men, and eventually ejected Cope but his jocks ran out of steam and by the end of the game I was reformed and back in town. Des saw off two out of three of Wade's infantry battalions, but my Dragoons were able to dismount and occupy the ruined barn just long enough for the infantry to reform and regain the initiative. By that time, he too had run out of clansmen.

On Stuart's flank the second half of the game saw Hawley's brigades come on the table but had singularly bad luck with the initiative dice, and Gary was able to scare us with highland charges while the march columns were trying to form lines. At the same time the Jacobite cavalry was approaching but failed to get initiative to charge! Nevertheless Stuart managed to hang on and Gary's clans lost enthusiasm while a combination of Stuart's and my artillery saw off the cavalry.

Looking across the field, despite their territorial gains, the Jacobites had run out of units still in worthwhile battle order anywhere and Graham called it a British victory.  I felt as if we'd earned it!

Now some more pics and I'll comment further down.

Wade's British battalions

The Highland

Stuart's light guns try to make a getaway

Bonnie Prince Charlie encourages his men against Falkirk town

The Scots never reached this gun as Graham had kindly deemed that it was in hard
cover as part of the Falkirk town defences. It caused Jim considerable trouble all game

From within Falkirk a view of the charging Highlanders.
The waving fur grasses are particularly effective

Jim makes such progress against Falkirk he needs to come round to my
side to move them

Wade's three battalions now deployed in line, but it is an illusion of solidity.
I think Graham said that these troops were fresh from defeat at Prestopans
 and most were dubbed "inferior" now from the horrible experience

Jim's charges against Falkirk

Gary's highlanders nearly catching Stuart's surprised vanguard

Something amuses Gary, Graham and Jim while they leave Des
 to get on with the serious business of moving up Jacobite cavalry!

Some of Stuart's Dragoons are forced to pull back in the face of broadswords
 and Lochaber axes........

.......while a light gun is caught by the other clan battalion

Better news for us was that a significant part of the Jacobite force failed to move
during the early phases of the game

Jim's Bonnie Prince has ejected my two battalions from Falkirk but I think his
clansmen have found a barrel of Macallen's in the pub!

Graham's Royal Marines well deserving of a close up as they reform on the baseline

Des's wild charges forced back Wade's two weakest battalions. The better one,
Barrell's 4th Foot at top right, has been repulsed by the Irish Piquets.
My dragoons occupy the ruined barn.

Closing stages of the game now. Yet another attempt to gain Falkirk in the foreground, but all the Jacobite units have red casualty markers. Jacobite cavalry are making a show but not with the right initiative dice! At far left Hawley's reinforcing troops have been held up by spirited localised attacks from Gary.......

....and sure enough, he comes back for some more!

Poor picture but I wanted to show that the Irish Piquets seemed to be the most successful Jacobite unit, as well as looking one of the prettiest! Des never gave up pressing, and my dismounted Dragoons barely hold on to their light cover.

This was an extremely clever and well thought out scenario and seemed balanced as by no means all the British soldiery was adequate, "standard " in Honours of War speak. The Jacobites had several units of Lowlanders who were less warlike ("inferior") but most had the "Highland Charge" option. On the receiving end, as I was, this meant that Highlanders could fire once only during the game just before closing and then charge in with full melee effectiveness. The British were also allowed to fire at close range so it sort of balanced except psychologically.  As a regular HoW player I expect to get the firing advantage when stationary in defence so it is unnerving to receive casualties from your charging enemy. If your troops are inferior or have already suffered hits it can make them give way in the face of the charge. This added to the excitement and it felt genuinely hard work to stave off the relentless attacks. I always think that's a sign of a successful game  (whoever wins) if you feel a bit drained, and slightly relieved when it's over!!!  Well done Graham.
There are many more photos and historical background on Graham's own blog here
The two weekend games, mostly thanks to Gary's expert guiding hand and friendly opposition, taught me a lot about the discipline of conducting HoW withdrawals and recovery to the letter of the rules. it is well worth the effort as you get a good feeling of the importance of withdrawing as far away as you can with the optional two move retreat - that's always supposing your scenario and forces allow you the luxury! Later reformed units can be a useful resource to winning the game. Yes, it's obvious, but like most rules when you have a long enough game to practice it they make more sense. I've made my own batch of red markers for that stationary reforming turn, thanks Gary.

There was a lot more to the AMG weekend and I really wish I could have taken part in Martin Gane's splendid "Sands of the Sudan" (complete with pith helmet!) and Paul Robinson's War of the Spanish Succession mega game, but there were other distractions, such as talking to folks about my display of military paintings and drawings.......and when smiley Dave Hall says "Come and have a drink with us in the sunshine" it is hard to say no!

Sands of the Sudan - fantastic homage to Peter Gilder's original

Franquenee from the battle of Ramillies
(My poor photos don't do it justice, sorry)

A proper account and photos on Paul's own blog here

And thanks to Colin Ashton for these photos of my art display and sales table. I hope to write a bit about the paintings in a separate post. Thanks to all those who purchased and the two of you who have so far commissioned more work.

Finally I will end the memory of a lovely weekend with another gift (I'm a lucky man). This one is an original Spencer Smith from Will Harley who is known for his wonderfully painted and nostalgically evocative SS armies

This "30mm" chap fits in beautifully with my 28mm armies and he will proudly be leading a brigade of five battalions in a game I am umpiring tomorrow.

Just for completeness I realise I have a lovely video of the weekend made by Tony Dillon which has not had much viewing in public as far as I know. So I hope you enjoy the atmosphere (and seeing me looking worried over my dice rolling!)  Tony's AMG 17 video

Friday, 30 June 2017

AMG 17: Shock Horror - Der Alte Fritz concedes in Leuthen big game

The title says it all but such a significant event as this means we have given over the front page of today's Daily Blitz to our Sports, Arts and Culture editor, Sir Joshua Gregg RA, who reports direct from the Leuthen Stadium in Bohemia.  Well it would be direct but the messenger's horse has taken nearly two weeks to get to our office here in the UK West Country.

Austrian line up - Gary, Dave and Robbie 
Tony and Jim my Prussian colleagues
Colin made wise decisions from the end of the table
"It was a cold, snowy day in Bohemia but the crowds were heaving and sweaty with expectation as the Prussian Plunderers took on Vienna United in the big match final to decide the 1757 Championship.
The crowd went wild to watch such a gathering of stars
"Prussia had called on a new American player manager, Jim "Der Alte Fritz" Purky, fresh from his successes at such New World gatherings as the Seven Years War Association and the Bill P. Petite Guerre big game weekend. Fritz had also shown his ability at attracting a crowd by masterminding something esoteric called the Fife and Drum Forum. Vienna took the opposite approach by having a "puppet" leader in Dave "Smiler" Hall, who lulled the enemy by pretending to know nothing, and having a constant dialogue of advice from his two "assistants" - Gary "I know the rules" Phillips, and the legendary Robbie "Canny Gob" Rodiss.  Fritz was not so well served, but constantly gave encouragement to his two subordinates - on the left flank Tony "Scouser" Dillon and on the right,  Chris "Southern Softie" Gregg (no relation to your reporter).

Jim made this vignette specially for the occasion adorned by an exchangeable flag designed by Captain William Walker of Florida
"To sum up, Prussia sent a big attack led by Gregg on the right which was blunted by equal effort from Canny Gob opposite him. They had a constant North-South tussle the whole day turning the air blue with Northeast Gob-sh*** meeting West country charm, until both sides fell back pretty exhausted.  Scouser on the Prussia left wing was a master of the cautious defence, refusing to be enticed near the touch line by Phillips who instead packed the penalty box with his most powerful players (many of whom were on steroids it seemed) until Scouser played his master card and brought on the substitutes from behind him. But Phillips was made of sterner stuff, and he knew the rules better so the surprise did not last long before Scouser's reserves were spent, injured or sent off to the "sin bin".  Meanwhile in the centre Fritz put all his efforts into going for goal despite when consulting the runes they just kept showing him snake eyes! The centre forward, Billy Brummer, kept lobbing high balls out of the stadium and hitting Leuthen church, much to the discomfort of Smiler. Fritz was so forceful he eventually forced Smiler's players back behind the goal where, the latter suddenly found his substitutes bench had arrived at last and he sent them on in the 75th minute of the match.
Despite his success, and Fritz had by now occupied (admittedly very thinly) the whole of the Vienna penalty area, he had run out of reserves and could only fall back reluctantly to his own half while Smiler had gained confidence and was advancing up the pitch.

"Der Alte Fritz looked around and realised all hope of winning the Leuthen game had gone, and gentleman that he is, shook hands with Smiler and conceded before the final whistle had been blown by the excellent referee, Colin "my back hurts" Ashton.

"And now some more atmosphere with excerpts from my post match interviews with the leading game personalities:
DAF, watched like a hawk by Gary, makes use of his 1 on initiative by swivelling a unit
"Der Alte Fritz
Sir Josh:  Jim, defeat on European soil how do you feel?
DAF: Well just being here is a treat for me. It's not about winning but taking part. When I got the message from Prussia to manage the team and play from a central position too I couldn't wait, and it's a real pleasure to be able to work with Colin and see the magnificent Leuthen church with its four round bastions. Too bad my penetration of Vienna's defence was so limited but that's how it goes sometimes. I shoulda known when those snake eyes were staring at me early on that it would end badly but I'd come so far and so had the rest of the team we just had to go on till we were exhausted. I had some admirable help - Tony on the left tried as hard as he could, but up against Gary it was always goin' to be tough. On the right Chris knew what he was doin' and held out all day and never let himself be put off by the constant stream of gobsh*** that I could hear whenever our Billy Brummer stopped making those loud bangs.
Austrians and Reichsarmee infantry defend Leuthen church and village
Billy Brummer opens up on the Leuthen garrison
Dave and Robbie stand in awe of DAF's advance on Leuthen Church
Later DAF saw off the Reichsarmee and piled in against the churchyard
Calculate all your plusses and minuses properly!
View from the Austrian side of Leuthen
DAF' won a foothold but his thin garrison got counter-attacked
Dave's Austrians retake the churchyard
Sir Josh: What did you think of the Austrian performance?
DAF: Got to pay tribute to my opponents today. Even when things weren't goin' well for him there was Dave smilin' through everything. He kept asking for advice from Gary and he got advice from Robbie even though he didn't ask. I saw those two come to blows on the pitch a coupla times but I don't think it was serious. Colin kept playing the advantage rule so didn't intervene, I guess judging that we were better off exploiting their disagreements. I heard Robbie say often "I'll get us stick out to ye, man".... though I don't know what it meant it sounded threatening....Yeah,...they played well.
Sir Josh: And what next for you?
DAF: I'm off to have one of your European beers in the sunny garden, and tonight I'll persuade someone to buy me a Scotch on the rocks, preferably Macallan's.
Our American visitor is the only one sensible enough to wear a hat
"Dave "Smiler" Hall
Sir Josh: Third time at an AMG final Dave, what's the secret?
Smiler: Well Josh, I do what I always do. Be nice to everyone, except Robbie. Act as if I know nothing so everyone seems sympathetic, and learn quickly what the strengths and weaknesses are of the two teams' position on the pitch.
Sir Josh: So how did that help today?
Smiler: Well, Josh, I just pretended the team was short handed, I knew the substitutes would turn up when the pubs closed.  So I let Fritz come on, I didn't expect them to score but we just let them believe it would be easy then hit back with the subs. Gary and Robbie did well on the flanks so we wrapped it by the 80th minute....and I just kept never fails.
Not a smile but deep consultation with his adviser as Dave organises the substitutes bench
"Gary "I know the rules" Phillips
Sir Josh:  You're a veteran of big games Gary, we remember your Minden,  Closter Camp , many outings at the Ayton stadium etc, but how did this feel?
Gary:  Well, any game where Colin is the match official is a bit special. You can guarantee attention to detail, slick but fair refereeing, and a convivial reception to any potential argument. Not only that but Colin knows I know the rules better than he does and so he slips me a pocketful of red cards before the game saying "When my back is hurting Gary I rely on you to keep watch - be sure to catch any player trying to recover too soon, we need to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and lasting injuries". Well Colin's a humanitarian, you see, so he cares......about the players' welfare, but me, I just care about scoring goals.
Sir Josh: Yes, we know you were East Anglia's highest scoring player last season.......
Gary: Indeed I was Josh, but back to Leuthen - wanna know my secret?  I've got such good spacial awareness and great hearing that I can sense, even at the far end of the field, and above the noise of the crowd, when opponents are in trouble. Take Gregg for example. He tried to recover too soon so I slapped a red card on him "You can't move now till you've recovered properly says I", and I got him and others several times like that during the match and that helped Robbie and Dave get up the pitch and score......Know the never fails.
Gary points out a transgression to Colin as DAF's attack goes in. At right Robbie
consults the rule book to try to wriggle out of my attack :-)
Above and below: Gary had been busy with the red cards!

"Tony "Scouser" Dillon
Sir Josh: Tony, you too are a lover of the big game. You are a veteran of the Peter Gilder memorial stadium where they played the biggest games in the 70s and 80s yet I sense that you weren't getting the respect you deserve at Leuthen tonight?
Tony: No Josh I certainly weren't, and I think there were a certain amount of racial prejudice on show in Bohemia today. I would 'ave expected better from this crowd but there were shouts of "show us your t*** Lily Savage" on account of me accent yer see. An' cos I'm from Birken'ead.
Sir Josh: Sorry to hear that Tony, but your tactics nearly paid off, tell us about it......
Tony: Well, I'm a great admirer of the legend that is Stevie Gerrard, and so I played the gentle, careful approach, feeling out me opponent then playing it wide to keep 'im guessin'. Let 'im come to me, overreachin' 'isself, too far from his defenders....then the killer blow. So we 'ad a lorra lorra lads waiting around doing nuthin' and I went among 'em to raise spirits and started 'em singin' - "March on...march on....with 'ope in yer' yer'll march  a....lone, yer'll  march a....lone." 10, 000 voices as one, and then it 'appened. The noise must have got to Fritz cos the boss then unleashed the substitute up the left wing and caught Gary up the a** as he was about to take a corner kick.  We thought the match was won but it weren't to be as Gary seemed to 'ave extra strength (must be the steroids - even 'is hair is a brilliant colour). The man is very, very difficult to beat, but maybe next time.........yer never know, eh? But, hey - Man o' the Match me - the referee's choice of Most Gentlemanly Player, so it's true what they say - ref's as blind as a bat.

Tony's arm waving obviously impresses DAF enough to commit the left wing substitute.
Yes that is a cameo appearance by Phil Olley who had a walk-on part as
"Guest Aston Villa supporter"
Tony's "substitute" cavalry brigade comes on at the far baseline to take Gary
from behind (oops!)
But that yellow tape measure indicates a fierce reaction from Gary's hunky cuirassiers........
.....Which eventually catches Tony in the flank in exasperated is DAF's guest vignette that he changes to a red flag.
Fetch me my brown trousers Seydlitz!
"Chris "Southern Softie" Gregg
Sir Josh: Chris you're a veteran of the lower Southern leagues but haven't often had a chance to play with the big boys, how was it for you?
CG: Yeah Josh, you know me luvver, down 'ere in the West oi've spent most o' me loif turnin' out fer Cheltenham Town or vegan Forest Green Rovers, so to run out on the park for the Prussian Plunderers next to yer actual Der Alte Fritz was jus' magic! Leuthen stadium an 'all - Overawed, doesn't begin to describe it m'dear. (See what I did there with the accent - just pretending).  The roar of the crowd as we came out, and then I saw our opponents - tough Gary from the bleak East, and hard man o' the North, but legend in his own lunchtime, Robbie Roddis.  I began to quake with fear until  I saw Smiler Dave and thought "Maybe this won't be so bad after all" but then realised he lives in Nottingham - rubbing shoulders with the top knobs - Perry Twins, John Stallard, Peter Dennis, Ali Morrison and all that lot - they walk on water..........
Sir Josh: You had to face Robbie on the right wing, what was that like?
CG: The whole match was pretty strange but the tone was set early on when Robbie said something like "Reet ye gadgie wazzock, us gannin tae dunch ye canny an' propa t'dae, like, man".  I think he meant he was going to hit me hard! And so he did, time after time, but I kept getting back up until he said "Chris man, ahm in awe o' ye tactics", but I knew he was just employing one of his most famous ploys - sarcasm. I'd watched the other Gary - you know the one who does Walkers Crisps on the telly - give an analysis of it on Match of the Day, so knew what to expect. Robbie also tried to fool me by exposing one of his weakest players, Hans von Reichsarmee, to lure me into the centre, but I gave Hans the slip and went at double speed up the right flank past him. That was when the trouble started as Robbie released some really heavy metal that stopped me in my tracks and I never broke through all day.
Robbie exposes Hans von Reichsarmee
But I send my Cuirassier brigade right past
Which was just as well since his Cuirassier heavy metal appeared directly opposite
Sir Josh: It's rumoured you have a special relationship with the referee, any truth in that?
CG: (looking uneasy) do share a mutual love of,....and er...women partly out of uniform, ....nothing wrong with that! .....But there was a point in the game where Colin was looking decidedly under the weather so I ran over to help. It seemed his usual physio had gone off to Leuthen market shopping, so I asked what I could do for him. "Rub my back please" he asked, so I did, "Now lower and round a bit", so I did . "Lower than that"....NO Colin, I'm not going any lower people will start talking."
Sir Josh: Too late Chris, they already are!

Gary points Colin in the direction of a rule, the latter at that time supported
by his physiotherapist at the touchline
"Robbie "Canny Gob" Rodiss
Sir Josh: Robbie you are well known for the mantra "every one is entitled to my opinions",  so give us yours on this match.
Robbie: Waal Josh I knew it would be a fun dae when I saw thet charva Joachim von Zieten lookin' a reet bobby dazzla leadin' the charge up the Prussian reet flank. So I brought on the big boys tae fettle 'im except the Southern Softie proved a harder nut tae crack than us thought so I tells me marra, Dave  "Hoy owa here some gadgie from substitutes bench Dave, us needs to be gannin a belta at the howfing geet pile o' Tossers the Prussian have 'ere, man".  "Haddaway an' sh*te", says Dave - cos he speaks Geordie too when he's wi' us, so I knew us were gettin' no 'elp from 'im. Then the Southern Softie gives us a dunch in the kidneys and I jus 'stands there muttering "I don' unnerstan', is propa radgie about this" so us calls owa the ref but he's on Softie's side (they have a "special relationship - know what us means man?). So I told the ref he must be gannin micey and us storms of to the netty as us was bustin' from tae much coffee, like."
Sir Josh: Well thanks Robbie, that was very enlightening."

Hans von Reicharmee gets attacked eventually by Prussian Dragoons
Mutual destruction and repulsion by both sides heavy cavalry 
But then I reform and organise that blow to the kidneys in the form of a flank attack;
what's not to understand?
Robbie: Softie's twocked us measurin' stick, hoy us anawa one owa here, marra, afor ah get radgie an' dunch him propa.
Gary: He must get it correct, please give him a measuring stick
Colin: I'm sure you are right, Gary.
By me as CG
Now tongue firmly out of cheek no offence is intended to anyone. This was a lovely set of people to play with, even Robbie. Colin deserves massive praise for planning and devising the refight, providing the terrain and all the figures and umpiring mostly throughout (he really was in pain only recently recovering from a major operation), so a fantastic performance by him. Thank you Colin. Honours of War rules seemed to stand up well again with a big game although it is extremely bloody when two bodies of cuirassiers hit each other. Colin's game also showed over two days that the same terrain and orbat can produce a totally different game with different players. Please see his blog for a proper account of them
amg17-weekend-tale-of-two-battles-of Leuthen

Always plenty of vignettes on Colin's table
More from me on the rest of the AMG weekend later but for now I leave the last word with Robbie.

"AMG weeken' were pure belta an e'en tho' Southern Softie were there ee kept his political views and hummus eatin' to 'issel' so us was able to say -  Let's just be marras about it, alreet?  Next year - Howay man, the Wild Geese!"

Don't know what I did to deserve it but Robbie gave me this magnificent present.

"The Spy" by Robbie Rodiss, a nod to our mutual working lives

And see his wonderful blog too which is written in propa English