Wednesday, 13 September 2017

West Country Quatre Bras - an introduction

Regular followers of my blog will know we have been playing Napoleonic test games with Rank and File rules over the last 18 months with a view to refighting Quatre Bras at 1:20 scale with 28mm figures. Well the time has come.
That scale, chosen by Kevin East, whose brainchild this is, means that my wargames room can't do justice to the whole battle at once. So we are doing it in two parts. The first will be over the weekend of 23-24 September here in my sleepy Cotswold village. This blog will introduce you to the terrain, which I have custom built for the purpose.

First the map

Historical background 
As most will know, the combined Allied corps of Dutch-Belgians, Brunswick and Nassau troops held a line of rising ground south of Bossu Wood and Gemioncourt Farm on 16th June 1815, blocking the path of General Reille's II Corps on the main chaussee to Brussels. This defence vexed Marshal Ney somewhat and he did not commence his attack until 2pm. Even then his force was not overwhelming and it took a couple more hours to bring up all three of his infantry Divisions and use his cavalry division properly. We are taking our starting point about 2.15 and having approximately 15 minute moves will hope to get as far as 6pm over the weekend's game. During that time both sides will be steadily reinforced which should give our 6 players plenty to do as Kevin will be getting the commanders, Ney and the Prince of Orange, to predict a couple of moves ahead where each batch of their reinforcements will arrive. The French army contained a lot of veterans and the Allies a lot of inexperienced or less motivated young troops, so we expect a battle where advantages lie heavily on one side at first giving way to more difficulty as British and Hanoverians arrive later in the game. Where we end up by 6pm real time on the 24th will set the scene for Part Two, in Spring 2018, covering the period up to darkness about 9.30pm. Hopefully we will need to build the game round the Quatre Bras crossroads for that.

Kevin has worked up the complete orders of battle and the project team members have assembled all the units required for those 4 hours (well I promise my Hanoverian brigade will be ready!!). I'm just the humble terrain builder and host.

The terrain
I put together the map as shown above from various historical and published sources and simplified the contours. I then rebuilt the sides of the table to the same 12 foot long dimension we used for the Waterloo refights in 2015. That involved an 8 feet wide L-shape and a 7 feet long "extra bit" to rest on a side table (I have to clear my paints and brushes away for the event). These big "boxes" were then filled with my usual method of cardboard, polystyrene, paper and papier mache according to the required contours and then covered with all kinds of textured material and plaster/sawdust gunge to represent the roads and crops.  Here is a selection of photos of the completed terrain populated by a  few units just to give a sense of scale.

For these photos the "extra bit" has been slotted in and had to be tilted up at the back on a cabinet. For the game it will be moved to the left onto the side table and allowing player access between the two parts. The last 2 feet (shown by red Xs on the map) is not represented.
Despite my misgivings about scale I have fudged it by about 25% so the units will take up a bit more area than they should historically. The range for Medium guns of 48 inches will be reasonably accurate being about 1000 metres.

Gemioncourt stream seen from the Materne lake
Gemioncourt. All the buildings are Hovels resin painted by Kevin and I have
tried to keep the footprints as small as possible but allowing space for "garrisons"
of about 4 or 5 stands - a battalion's worth

A Warlord plastic bridge, painted by me
Lairalle farm on the extra bit
Gemioncourt stream seen from Bossu Woods

Delsot Farm

Bati Saint-Bernard ridge with La Bergerie at left
Off table movement
There is more to Quatre Bras than we can fit into 12 feet x 8 feet and the players may wish, as historically, to skirmish in Bossu Woods or to contest the Piraumont - Thyle flank area. So they will have limited options to do so on a 15" x 12" map and magnetic counters operated by yours truly using a simplified set of rules in a kriegspiel fashion while they battle out with figures on the central playing area. Assuming the players are suitably restrained in their flank ambitions this will have the following advantages:
1. We can use the full historical orbats in the correct space, such as Nassauers in Bossu woods
2. The players have options to try some manoeuvring on the flanks and can come back onto the main table later if desired
3. We can keep track of losses suffered in any flank area fighting
4. We will be well placed for QB2 to have units already in a wider play area depending on how we decide to reshape the second battlefield.

I will leave you with a taste of some new figures painted by Kevin in recent months

Sunday, 6 August 2017

A Bevvy of Hussarettes

Count Gruzinsky peered out of the window of his Prague lodgings into the warm June night. Wherever had his daughter got to?....and then by the flickering lamplight that gave a friendly glow to the yard of the inn, he saw her.

Walking proud and erect in her uniform of Honorary Colonel of the Gruskinsky Hussars, drawn sabre in hand, she came elegantly towards the inn. But what are those two points casting shadows with every stride?  Oh no, she has been in one of her sabre contests again and she always casts aside her dolman when she fights..........

Countess Natasha Gruzinskaya was accompanying her father on a Russian diplomatic mission to the court of Empress Maria Theresa. It was June 1756 and the Count was to discuss mutual cooperation with Austria in the face of growing belligerence from the upstart Frederick II of Prussia. This stop at Prague was a convenient rest on the way to Vienna, however, diplomacy is boring and a girl must find her amusement somewhere......
Those Austrian officers of the Dessewffy Hussar Regiment at the tavern opposite had provided her with a slight diversion, but she had floored all three of them without suffering a scratch herself.........And next..... some more fun with her ADC, Anton, who was waiting at the inn's backdoor.

But first she had to pass a group of drunken Dessewffy troopers who were billeted in the courtyard.....
"Wie gehts Fraulein?" said  a voice from the dark. "Ich mochte rollen im Heu mit dich, mag dich auch?"
Countess Natasha Gruzinskaya and the Dessewffy Hussar, 1756
Acrylic on board 12" x 8"
What impertinence she thought and turned her head to give an icy stare. The sabre flashed quickly...and the man would not roll in the hay with anyone ever again.......

Now for a bath and something stiff with Anton.

With grateful thanks to Robbie Rodiss who came up with his interpretation of the Dessewffy Hussars for me when I asked about his favourite Austrian uniform, and then he also said how he liked the Russian Gruzinsky Hussar uniform. Of course I had already done that in Hussarette form, see
Natasha and Count Gregorius, and so I felt compelled to put the two together for this little prequel, showing another example of Natasha's liking for undressed combat. Also thanks again to Russian model Yara for the inspiration through her steely portrayal of a very tough lady hussar.

But the story of my latest batch of Hussarette paintings didn't really start there at all........

I had offered to put on a display of my military paintings and drawings at AMG 17 (see the bottom of my previous post for pictures) and so was in the mood for trying to find suitable subjects. Then all of a sudden there seemed to be a purge of members of the A Military Gentleman Forum and a certain amount of disquiet expressed at various locations on-line. This took an amusing turn when the talented flagmaker, Captain William (Bill ) Walker of Florida USA, designed a beautiful Rococo style cartouche bearing the name "Gentlemen in Exile" in black and gold. Immediately the idea flashed to me that a Hussarette in black and gold uniform would look splendid with Bill's design as a sabretache monogram. Permission was obtained to use it and I was about to start when Colin Ashton cheekily hijacked my plan with the suggestion that the historic Prussian Hussar Regiment Nr 5, Von Reusch, wore black and would also look great as a Hussarette. Colin is already a client of my female military genre so was to be taken seriously, and to cut a long story short, he helped develop the ideas for this lovely painting of a lady whom we have called Rosamunde von Reusch.

Rosamunde von Reusch, HR5, 1757. Acrylic on canvas 16' x 16"
The winking death's head skull was Colin's idea!
Ummmmm.....and the unbuttoned breeches was mine ;-).
Well that Prussian leather reinforcement piece would  have looked
too much like a miss-matched area of flesh otherwise!
This one was also based on Yara at a photo session where she was just wearing hat, waistcoat and boots.....and carbine. So I have developed the waistcoat into a dolman, the fur colpack became a mirliton, complete with cords, plume and trailing wing and we've imagined her just relaxing with unbuttoned breeches. I've not gone for a likeness but for this pose Yara had discarded the warlike facade and I got a flash of the eyes and cheeky smile which I have tried to retain. Colin seemed pleased to take delivery of Rosamunde at AMG 17 and display her on his blog here

And now back to Captain Bill's inspiration.  I needed a pose and face that said "I can be lethal, don't mess with me" because this was to be another of my empowered females. After all she was representing the Exiles from the aforementioned Forum and at that time many seemed like they were metaphorically sharpening their sabres.

Searching my archives I found the lovely young Ukrainian, Ella, wearing her "pelisse" opened, tight leggings, and booted foot up on a sofa and with the slung sabre just being drawn threateningly - perfect. Except she was far too sweet for this role - take a look here if you don't remember her. So I managed to find the required super-cool but slightly pouting expression on line, and this is how Lola ended up.

I hope you will agree that she looks hot, but too hot to handle 
Lady Lola of the Legion des Refuses (Gentlemen in Exile), Acrylic on canvas, 12" x 9.5" 
The LR inside the Captain Bill-designed cartouche stands for Legion des Refuses
Out of respect for the sweet Ella I should say that I got the
 bare breast from elsewhere
I explained to Bill that Lola is not a Gentleman (despite the nod to Ray Davies' eponymous hit song of the 1960s) and so preferred the term "Legion des Refuses" as the parallel for this artist was uncannily like Edouard Manet's founding of the Salon des Refuses for the Impressionist rejects of the 1874 exhibition of the Academie Francaise. Bill was happy with that and so was I because I am  a great fan of Legions in my Imagi-Nations wargaming (a report of a game with lots of them will follow shortly). But I'm not sure which came first, my Legion idea or Bill's creation of Lady Lola's Legion in miniature. The man works so fast he had three units take the field before my painting was finished, and each had a unique flag!  Do take a look at some of them on Bill's Duchy of Beerstein blog, such as this one

So Captain Bill bought the painting of Lola and also took a liking to the "cherry bottomed Hussarette" as he termed Natasha. Both ladies are now safely in his man cave in Florida.

I hope this little story will show that the Hussarette project is alive and well, that I love being steered towards an artistic creation, especially one involving females in uniform, and that would-be clients can participate in the enjoyable enterprise.  Just email me with your ideas or requirements, prices are very affordable.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. If you do feel the urge to post any of them elsewhere please respect my copyright and give me credit by name and a link to this blog. Thank you, Chris G.

For those unfamiliar with my other work there are plenty more Hussarettes and examples of military and historic paintings, elegant or exotic ladies, and landscapes, on my web pages.

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