Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I recently received news that the next two figs that I commissioned with Steve Barber were done. I can't take any credit for the excellence of the product, but I can at least take some pleasure in sharing the news!  Above, you will see a variant on the Hungarian/Honved infantry in marching uniform and shako--now there will be infantry in kepis, too. Many of the Honved units wore the kepi, and some, like the "red cap" and "white cap" battalions, wore distinctive colors (watch for them on this blog once these figures are available!).
I also wanted some variety in the foot officers, so I asked Steve to modify the officer to have him advancing with sword in hand.
These will expand the current Hungarian Infantry and Officer figures (above).  Once these are in production, I (and others) should be able to have a really varied and even more colorful Hungarian infantry contingent. The next commission Steve is working on from me is a mounted officer that will add a higher command element to the range.   I know of some other items in the pipeline that were commissioned by others, like the Honved Artillery that was done in the Fall of 2016.  Once Steve is able to put these all into production, I think the Hungarian range should be a fairly complete line (and I'm thinking of commissioning Hungarian horse artillery, eventually, to add to the range).

Sunday, April 23, 2017


With a lull in painting activity and a pause until the next gaming outing, it is time, dear readers, for another foray into the wonderful world of old/new books. This time around it's a reference that I stumbled across called A Precis of Modern Tactics, by COL R. Home, Royal Engineers. First printed in 1873, it was updated several times, in 1882 and again in 1892 (and possibly in 1878). The digital version of this tome can be had at several places on the interwebs. Choose your favorite version and interface: the original 1873 version is available via Google Books ; the 1882 can be found on the Internet Archive ; and the 1892 can be found on the Hathi Trust . These links, I have found, may open to some odd pages, so be aware that you will have to get to the start of the book once you're there. Click the link and you'll find yourself there.  As usual, clix pix for BIG PIX in the below images.
This is an ambitious and highly useful reference. The conceit of the book, which you can read for yourself in the below "Note," is to present what "writers of worth" on military topics of the day had to say on an exhaustive range of topics. In other words, Colonel Home has read and translated Jomini (and lots of others) so you (and his readers) don't have to. I reckon that it would take one of those bookish Engineers to undertake such an endeavor--hardly the work of a cavalryman. 

The list of authors is impressive (see below). These are the contemporary military thinkers of the day drawing lessons from the recent military events and wars.

The preface (below) outlines in more detail the idea of the book, which was to provide a wide range of information to equip officers not only for examinations but to also to give them an understanding of larger formations of multiple arms that they would need to manage as they gained in seniority (sounds like something wargamers could use, too, no?). 

 A look at the table of contents (below) gives an indication of the exhaustive nature of the study.  Each branch is covered, along with almost every conceivable operation, as well as larger topics of logistics and maneuver.  

 I shan't go into a detailed review of the book, other than to say that it's worth at least poking around in. Nevertheless, I shall hazard a few general observations that I found new or interesting and that will probably make their way into my gaming the wars of the mid/late century...

Conflicted Cavarlymen: You can see the writers struggle on the still-vexed topic of how to handle cavalry. The tension, even in the 1892 version, remains between maintaining massed cavalry for combat action and dispersing mounted forces for reconnaissance. Interestingly, there is no mention of or lessons taken from U.S. Civil War cavalry employment (then again, there are few, if any, mentions of the U.S. Civil War at all in the book). Interestingly enough, the writers refer to the Napoleonic Wars for examples of successful combat cavalry employment--another insight into the traditional-mindedness of the day. At the end of the day, there is still the dominant idea that there will be a time and a place on the battlefield for traditional cavalry shock action by large bodies of horse.
The Evolution of Rifle-Armed Infantry: There are many interesting observations on the transformative effects of small arms on battlefield tactics during this era. I won't cite all of them, but here are some points that stood out for me.

The experts emphasize that lateral maneuver was impossible in the face of enemy fire. This is an interesting point that I had never heard stated so explicitly before, and certainly makes one think about how our units tend to dance about on the table in front of the enemy. It does fit in with other statements (made repeatedly in the Napoleonic context) about the difficulty of controlling soldiers, especially dispersed ones, once in contact with the enemy. 

The effect of long range fire is described as basically inconsequential, making one rethink the whole idea of "how long is long?" when imagining the effectiveness of longer ranged small arms vs the Needle Gun, for instance.

The effectiveness of moving fire was also described as low. This is another interesting thing to think about when imagining units combining movement and fire on the table.

There is much discussion about the "thickness" of the "skirmish" line in advance of the main body. Like the conflicted cavalry discussion, there is tension between keeping the skirmish line dispersed to lower casualties but also making it "thick" enough to generate effective fire (especially on the move).  At some point, it seems that the term, "skirmish" line isn't what we're talking about any more, but more like the "firing" line. 

Artillery Handling: One very interesting point comes across about artillery. It holds its own place in the line, and is only "supported" by infantry (maybe) as in infantry that is deployed to its flanks. As such, the handling of guns is discussed as an independent arm, with an inherent contradiction between its supporting role and its direct action role. This is, of course, before indirect fire, so the guns must be in the line. Although there is discussion about keeping the guns far enough away to not suffer from small arms, there is also discussion about there being a point when the guns must be handled aggressively and pushed forward: another tension in the tactics. There is no mention, interestingly, of the mitrailleuse.

Smokeless Powder: Very much like another eBook that I had mentioned from this period, the writers in this book speculate on the impact of smokeless powder on operations. Nobody really knew what it would mean. I found these passages interesting not so much for what they said about smokeless powder, but for the assumptions that they revealed about the battlefield up until then. For instance, with smokeless powder, artillery could be employed in depth rather than in breadth, which indicates that it was a given that you employed artillery in linear fashion given the obscuration that it generated. Another point was how the attacker, especially cavalry,had always used the obscuration in the wake of a volley as cover to close the distance to contact, meaning that there was a definite calculation going on between the timing of volleys and charges (on both sides).  Reminds me of the Kipling line about the Fuzzy Wuzzies "rising up out of the smoke" and crumpling the square.

Well, time for me to start up the grill and do the man-thing for dinner this evening, so I'll leave off at this point. Thanks for checking in and I recommend this reference for all who are interested in post-Napoleonic, pre-Khaki Continental Wars.


Sunday, April 16, 2017


The usual suspects gather early... anticipation of another Game Night!

Last Friday our club had it's monthly game night.  As usual, we had three games. This time, I was among the game masters.  As usual, you may clix pix for BIX PIX in this report.

My offering was a preview of the Thirty Years War skirmish game that I will be running at the upcoming Huzzah! Wargame Convention on Saturday morning using my home brew rules, Smalle Warre, a system I'll eventually put on this blog to share, but more about my game at the end of this post...
Look for this sign at Huzzah!
This game night was something of a black powder Baedecker, with three 28mm games spanning the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries. Unfortunately, I was heavily involved with my own game, so I only have some splendid eye candy to present on the others.  Pete Sablock ran a War of the Spanish Succession game using his excellent armies and the Blenheim 2004 Anniversary Rules. 
And Mark, of Come on my Brave Fusiliers! Blog fame, ran a War of 1812 game using Fife and Drum rules and his spectacular 28mm Knuckleduster Figures. For a more detailed report, I encourage you to visit his blog (link above).


This brings us to my game. Those with strong constitutions may continue. Others may wish to down their gin rations before continuing...very well, we'll proceed. 

This is a game that I've run before, dusted off, tweaked, and brought forward to inflict on the unsuspecting denizens of the Huzzah! convention. The game description is below:

Croats and Cuirassiers and Reiters--Oh my! 
Smalle Warre / 28mm Thirty Years War Skirmish (home rules) 6 Players 

On 8 November 1632 “an advance party of about 100 men under Oberst Brandenstein found the main bridge over the Saale poorly guarded and captured Naumburg only hours before two Imperial regiments, De Suys’ foot and Bredau’s cuirassiers, arrived on the scene"(Richard Brzezinksi, Osprey Books). This incident of “small warre” would lead to the epic Battle of Lutzen eight days later. This scenario asks, “What if Imperialist elements had arrived sooner?” Up to 6 players get to find out. Convention-tested home brew 17th Century skirmish rules, 28mm figures, and buckets of dice.

I've been running this system at conventions and club games for about ten years.  Most recently, I've revamped the reference sheets, which seemed to work well in the game. But I digress. Back to the game... 

Above: The setup: Imperial start zone to the left and Protestant to the right. There are two opposing hills one on each side, worth 2 points each, and in the middle of the table there are three 1 point objectives, making 3 swing points up for grabs--a formula for a brawl! 
The Imperial Croats start by themselves on the table. 
The scenario can work for up to six players.  On this occasion, four brave souls decided to play in my game...
 ...Left above: Rob and Chris took up the Imperial cause in colorful fashion, while their  protestant adversaries, Charlie and John (above right), maintained an appropriately Lutheran composure.
Above left and right: Early moves. The Croats move to an objective, but then the Protestants bring up some Reiters to contest.  In the foreground the Imperial "Red" Cuirassiers make their appearance. These were part of Rob's command, with whom General Dice was not riding this night. To say that his dice were "cold" would be an understatement, and these cuirassiers, in particular, were nothing short of cursed.

Above: Mid-battle and things are getting interesting as opposing lines come up and cavalry engagements cross back and forth over the center.  A sequence of mirrored events occurred when Protestant Reiters fruitlessly chased the Imperial Croats and the Imperial "Blue" Cuirassiers could not engage some Protestant Reiters who also chose discretion as the better part of valor. 

Above left: The expert German Musketeers come up to shore up the Imperial center. Above right: Protestant dragoons dismount and prepare to support with fire.

Above: Deeper into the game and the back-and forth continues.  Both sides have bounced each other back from the objectives.  Still a dead tie. The kill rings indicate empty muskets (if you're looking closely).

When game night ended, it was a dead tie as far as victory points went. Even my clever tiebreaker mechanic did not produce a decision.  Both sides agreed, however, that the Imperials had taken more lumps and probably would not prevail were the game to go on for a few more turns.  Thus, we called it "advantage" Protestants by mutual consent.  I would like to thank the players and in particular Rob, who wins the good sportsmanship award for  maintaining his good attitude in the face of an awful run of luck. Although I will have six players at the Huzzah! convention, I would say that I'm comfortable with the play balance based on this four-player version.  This game also gave me the chance to exercise the system before the convention to ensure that it will run smoothly there.

If you're in the New England region and going to be at Huzzah! on Saturday morning, drop by the table and say hello.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Victrix Early Russian Grenadiers as Prussians
Switching gears (this blog ain't called "Meanderings" for nothin'), here is another conversion, this time Napoleonic. I haven't posted much about my Napoleonic collection to date, but our group has quite a pile of Napoleonics in both 28mm and 15mm. In this post, we're talking 28mm. Most of us have French (quite a few!), and there are those who also specialize in one or more of the allies. My allied contribution is the Prussian Army of the Befreiungskriege (the War of Liberation--the post-1812 Prussian Army). I very much like the business-like look of this army. Nevertheless, I wanted my grenadiers to stand out, despite the fact that in reality they were garbed in oilskin covered shakos like the other infantry. This is not a problem in 15mm, where you can actually get Prussian grenadiers in the busch plume. In 28mm, however, not so much (well, not at all, actually). Thus, I turned to Victrix early Russian Grenadiers, which are rather stately and fit the Prussian part, both in appearance and bearing (these are metal figures, not plastics--which I don't believe are being made any longer, but you can still find sets of these on ebay).  What makes these figures particularly suitable for alternate use is the clean headgear without the very distinctive Russian shako cords. Although I acquired many of my Napoleonics as painted figs, these are among those that I painted myself.  The rest of my Prussians are the excellent Calpe figures, and I find that these Victrix figs fit in well with those--as separate units. As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX.

                             1st Ost Prussian  Grenadiers                      Leib Grenadiers
Each of the regular regiments of the reorganized Prussian army had three battalions and two grenadier companies, except for the Leib Regiment, which had four grenadier companies. The grenadier companies were converged to form standing four-company grenadier battalions (the four companies of the Leib Regiment formed the Leib Grenadier Battalion on their own). These were fighting units, to be sure. During the Befreiungskriege period, the Leib Grenadier Battalion was engaged in combat in 16 battles and the 1st Ost Prussian in 23.
The cylindrical pack isn't right, but most would probably not notice, especially from the French side of the table.  The figures were configured such that I was able to have one battalion (1 Ost Prussian) in rolled greatcoats and the other (Leib) without. 
The superb GMB Flags really finish the look of any unit.
Front Rank Russian Grenadier Officers
The Victrix officers were in bicornes (very 1806), so I turned to Front Rank's "Mixed Russian Grenadier / Carabinier Command in 1809 shako with busch plume" for my battalion officers (we'll overlook the Russian shako cords).

With this conversion, the Prussians, too, have a shock element that looks the part.
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