Thursday, October 4, 2018

THE WORKMANLIKE STUG AND OTHER CARTOON CHARACTERS

Stugging Along in Italy

What with work and other things, there's been a bit of a lull in tangible hobby news. However, there has been a flurry of intangible hobby activity related to our club's upcoming game day in mid October.  A short explanation: once per year, we assemble on a Saturday to indulge in an all-day event, often on a grand scale. Last year, it was Napoleonics. This year, we'll be jumping forward in time to the Salerno/Avalanche campaign of 1943.  Game day 2018 will consist of several linked, simultaneous Iron Cross games (in 28mm) run by a team of dedicated club members who have been planning this event for the last few months. The work of fellow blogger AJ on a stunning 28mm Tobacco Factory for his table is well worth a look as an example of the preparations involved.
Getting back to the StuG--We know that there isn't going to be much "panzer porn" on the tables on game day.  Instead, it will be "Average Joe" stuff slugging it out.  In this light, Kevin, one of the club members, advanced this hilarious characterization of the StuG III in the Panzer family:

I always thought of the Stug III as the work a day panzer. A little paunchy, a little past his prime. His younger, better paid coworkers, Panther and Tiger, went out after work. They'd hit the clubs and score big with the ladies. Stug III punched the time clock and headed home to his nagging wife (a shrew of an old PZ1 converted to an ammo carrier) and their screaming kids, a bunch of hybrid French/German schlepper self propelled guns that looked nothing like him.

Inspired by the above, we followed up with some appropriate cartoon characterizations:
The Sturmgeschutz: Average Joe Personified

The L3/35 Tankette: What You See Is What You Get 

 The Sherman Tank: Takes More Lumps Than It Dishes Out

The Pz V Panther: The Ultimate Baddie

 The Pz VI Tiger:  Eeeek!

We may be looking forward to playing with toy soldiers on game day, but it's not as if we're waiting until then to get started.

Excelsior!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

1866 PRUSSIAN UHLANS

In this post, dear readers, I present a study of my recently completed Northstar 1866 Prussian Uhlans.  Some may recall that this project got pre-empted by a sudden turn to the Balkans (see Romanian Hussars).  For this next project, I returned to schedule (such as it is) and proceeded with the previously planned Prussian pigstickers (how's that for alliteration?). Looking on the interwebs for examples of how others might have done a set of these, as I do when beginning a project, I found only one other example--a superbly done unit on the most excellent Command Base blog, which I heartily recommend if anyone hasn't yet been there.  Thus, I hope that my offering helps to expand the pool of references for other painters interested in the era and to the appreciator of toy soldiers in general.  In this posting, as usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX:
1870 Prussian Uhlan in "Mortarboard" Czapka
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In most cases, Prussian kit for 1866 and 1870 are pretty much interchangeable.  However, in the case of Uhlans, the 1870 headgear (I believe it is designated the 1867 czapka) differs from the earlier, representing a shift to the modern with its stylized "mortarboard" lines. The earlier czapka (of these figures), on the other hand, is still the traditional form, linking back to the Napoleonic era--albeit evolved (think the cover of Flashman).  Although both are stylish in their own way, I think the Victorian czapka is more elegant and adds to the allure of these particular figures.  Interestingly enough, if one includes the guards, Uhlans were the most numerous of the Prussian cavalry regiments mobilizied in 1866.  There were 15 uhlan regiments vs 13 hussar, the next most numerous type--although some of the hussar regiments had 5 squadrons, tipping the overall number of cavalrymen back in favor of the hussars (7,800 hussars to 7,200 uhlans).  The point remains, though, that this illustrates the trend towards lance armed cavalry that was well underway by that time. Eventually, all classes of Imperial German cavalry would be lance armed.  For my project, I chose to represent the 9th (2nd Pomeranian) and 12th (Lithuanian) Uhlans...
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9th Uhlans
I chose the 9th because the white distinctions would contrast nicely with the dark blue base of the horse furniture and jackets and exhibit the classic elements of the lancer uniform (and I also must add that if I was going to go through the effort of scribing all these lines that they might as well be easily visible!).  The figures came with cast lances, but I replaced them with Northstar spears, clipped to the same length.  The lance pennants are the black over white 1815 Prussian Napoleonic versions (from GMB Designs).  I  turned them upside down to represent the white over black 1866 Prussian pennants (let it be our secret!).
The crouching/leaning pose of the charging uhlans is unlike anything I've seen.  It wasn't until I was fiddling with putting these figs on their mounts that I realized that they were "leaning forward" this much.  They manage to crouch without looking like they're drunk or falling forward off their mounts--I think it's the upturned head combined with the overall anatomical rendering that makes the difference. 
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12th Uhlans
I chose the 12th Uhlans because of the rather smart light blue distinctions, in contrast to the white and blue of the 9th (see what I did there...contrast, blue, white...never mind).  I did have concerns about how the light blue distinctions would come out against the dark blue base. However, I rather like the way that these came out, even if they are a bit more subtle.   
Two closeups showing the incredible sense of character that these sculpts have (indeed, as do many of the Northstar--ne Helion--1866 and 1864 figs).  The Northstar horses are fine, but aren't quite to the same level, I must say...
...in a happy accident, as recorded in an earlier post, I once matched Northstar sculpts (Austrian Command figures, above) with Front Rank horses, and found that this was a superb  combination.  I haven't used it beyond these particular Austrian commanders, but it's an interesting option, I think. But I digress...back to the current project: 
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Trumpeter

I could not help myself and so decided that I had to include a trumpeter, even if I knew that it would mean that there would be a spare figure.  The distinction of the yellow on white in the swallow's nest (for the 9th Uhlans) does not stand out very well, but I stuck with the historical scheme rather than doing some other combination. In the end, I decided to mount him on a command stand.  Normally, I wouldn't do this.  However, I only have two Northstar Prussian mounted officers, and they are out of production.  Thus, I decided to stop being so precious about details and expand my available Prussian commanders by using the wargamer's expedient of a specialty figure--like a musician--in place of an actual command figure.  Now, I have reason to actually use this smart looking fellow on the table, perhaps even leading a cavalry division or brigade.
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Teetooot Tatoooooo! Charge!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

THE JOY OF SIX: A NINE YEARS WAR BATTLE REPORT

The initial French position as seen from the steeple at Longchamps.

My friend George had been looking into gaming the wars of Louix XIV and/or the late 17th Century.  As such, we had been talking for some time about getting together for a game using my Nine Year's War miniatures and Volley and Bayonet variant to give him a feel for the system and whether it would suit his intentions. Last week we both found that we had Labor Day free and so decided to seize the opportunity to get it on the table.  In this game, I  put together a reduced scale version of my scenario for the hypothetical Battle of Longchamps, described as follows:


In June of 1692, William III marched south to break the Sun King's siege of Namur. Marshall Luxembourg marched north with his 60,000 man Army of Observation to block him. Heavy rainfall and swollen rivers kept the two armies from colliding in what would have been the largest open battle of the Nine Year's War. This game clears the skies and allows that pitched battle to happen.  [A complete game folder for this scenario is available on my Nine Years War page; there is an earlier post on the full version of this game, and a convention Batrep as well.]


In the original game, each side had three wings (left, center, and right), with a substantial reserve.  In this game, I cut out 1/3 of the table and dropped the French left/Allied right wings, and reduced the reserves.  I took the part of Luxembourg (the French) and George took up the baton of William III (the Grand Alliance). As usual, you may clix pix for Big Pix in this report. 
 The French: Must Hold 
The Grand Alliance: Must Force the French Position

(Above Left) Divisions in VnB have exhaustion levels. Rather than rosters, I use on-table camps to track these. The color coding on the camps corresponds to the division colors (Above Right): Units have strength points, for which I use magnets. These are color coded by division. When a strength point is lost, one pulls a marker off of the unit and places it on the division camp (and so you are able to track losses).  In the above picture, Grand Alliance Division Bellasise is denoted by yellow strength point markers. On the back of the stand, I have the unit IDs, morale grades, and some other unit information.   The blue tape marks each army's baseline, which must be guarded.  There is a more full explanation of the system on my aforementioned Nine Years War content page.
(Above Left) The view from behind the start position of the Prussians (ne Brandenburgers) and Hessians of Div Heiden on the Grand Alliance left. (Above Right) The Wild Geese (Clare and Lee) with French Rgt Limoison placed in depth anchor the French right. 
George kicks off the ball by marching smartly forward on Grand Alliance left, forming a line along the road.  Meanwhile, the Colonel General Dragoons holding Leuze brace for the coming onslaught.  
The Grand Alliance Right marches across the field, drifting towards the French right/center: what's George up to?
Next move, the Prussians assault Leuze, and rout the Col Gen Dragoons. So much for hopes of slowing down the allied advance here!
Meanwhile, on the French right/Allied left flank, the cavalry lines begin to jockey for position. The right wing artillery stiffens the line while Rgt Limoison (partially out of picture to the left) is positioned to counterattack Leuze at the base of the hill. 
The view from the French position on the left as the Grand Alliance divisions maneuver to their front.  The I decide to continue holding the line given that George can still shift effort.
A long view of the situation as it continues to develop.  French Rgt Limoison has retaken Leuze (near the center of the photo), but will be ejected and routed in the next turn by the Eppinger dismounted dragoons and Kurprinz regiment.  The gap behind Leuze is held by the depleted (and permanently disrupted) Col General Dragoons, the original garrison of Leuze.  George has pushed the English Fitzharding dragoons into the gap, and has now committed the Grand Alliance foot of the right towards the Leuze gap. The French reserve, the Fuziliers, have been released and are heading to the gap (just visible to the right/center of the photo behind the circular army command stand).  With the Grand Alliance hand now showing, the French Div Segurian, the second line of units on the Hill  (blue markers), will be sent marching to the Leuze gap. It will be a foot race!
The french guns disrupt the allied march across the front (disrupted units have yellow square markers), buying critical time.
Meanwhile, out in "Marlborough Country" on the French right/Allied left, the cavalry lines are mixing it up...
...with the French eventually getting the upper hand, forcing the Grand Alliance horse to bend back to refuse the Grand Alliance left. 
In the center, Lord Cutts and Col. Cambon (Huguenots in English service) draw the lot to mask French Div D'ussol and the artillery on the ridge while the big push goes in at the Leuze gap. 
Div Segurian (blue markers) begins to arrive: the Rgt Du Roi has secured the right flank of the line on the hill while Rgt Normandie and the Swiss Guards continue to march to extend the line to the right of the Fuziliers (blue markers with white crosses). The Col General dismounted dragoons are thrown in as stop gap in front of the Grand Alliance mounted and dismounted dragoons to buy time for them to complete the move.  Meanwhile, Grand Alliance Division Heiden continues to advance past Leuze and the Wild Geese (on the right) are bent back to make a stand against threats from two directions.
The crisis of the battle arrives: the Celts (Lee and Clare) in a last ditch defense on the French right are assaulted by the Teutons of Division Heiden from two directions. The Wild Geese would wind up repulsing division Heiden's all out assault (luck o' the Irish!), which would then reel back down the hill with loss.  The doughty Fitzharding dragoons and Eppinger dismounted dragoons finish off the remnant of the Col General dragoons, but not before the French would be able to establish another line to block the gap. This concluded the "high water mark" of the Grand Alliance advance, and we decided to call the game and go on to the next phase: Chinese takeout!  But it was a near run thing, indeed.
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Although we achieved a result in about 3 hours, the win:loss parameters were always more a framework than an end unto themselves... 
 George, otherwise known as the daring William III

...the game was more about exercising the system and giving George a feel for the rules. It has been some time since I had taken out my 6mm Nine Years War armies and I was reminded of the attractions of gaming in this scale and in this colorful era. One thing I was quite pleased about was the organic "friction" this "old school" system generates without the use of mechanics like activation rolls, activation points, or card draws.  For instance, George's gambit of feinting an assault and then turning aside to march across the front of the French position was, in real world terms, a complicated and risky endeavor.  It could have delivered big results, but in the event it was disrupted by the French artillery, which was luckily placed at a critical point in the line. The guns did not blow units off the table, but their  overall effect was to foul up the clockwork-like interactions among the Grand Alliance formations necessary to pull off a coordinated attack at the point of decision--an impact that seemed quite appropriate and grounded.  There were other similar actions/reactions throughout the game (and in other games I've run in the past).  Playing with my League of Augsburg collections again gave me a renewed interest in finishing the final design in my  Nine Years War "cycle" of scenarios: the Battle of Neerwinden (also known as Landen): perhaps a winter project (there's no shortage of things to do!).

If nothing else, it provided a splendid afternoon of pushing toy soldiers on a day off from work:  Mission accomplished!
Excelsior!

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