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6mm Napoleonics: Battle of Friedland (1807)

I prepared for last night's club game - a 6mm Napoleonic refight of the Battle of Friedland (1807) - by producing multiple copies of the latest incarnation of my rules for this period: 'Coup de Grace: Generalissimo'. Using my usual online publishing platform, I ordered eight coil-bound copies of the rules, which were a slightly tweaked version of the ones used in the Austerlitz game last year.

Rob, Patrick and Theo were on the French side, attacking with superior quality and numbers against the Russians led by Doug, Philip, and Phil. By the end of the game, the French looked to have emerged victorious, with Theo piling in with three corps against Doug and Philip, and winning most of the melees that resulted. Philip, however, managed to outflank Theo's army, and may have stabilised the situation before the town of Friedland, had there been more time.

I am reasonably pleased with these rules, which attempt to bring together a scenario, player initiative points, command and control, higher formation orders, as well as tactical decision-making. A few minor points of confusion arose about melees, but nothing that couldn't be resolved with the roll of a dice. The overall feel and look of the game is as envisaged, however, which is to say that multiple players are commanding a whole army in a relatively short space of time, using 'playable rules', while having to face multiple challenges.

Next time I think I will give my British army a run out, probably in a Peninsular War clash with the French.

Gangs of Ruś: More Units Completed!

A quick update here on some more units I've finished off for Gangs of Ruś, my Eastern Renaissance wargame ruleset.

First up, a 20-strong unit of Ottoman musketeers. These guys can be used by the Turkish faction, and fill a gap in my collection, due to the fact that all my other Turkish musketeers are Janissaries. Apart from this, the figures would be suitable for Muslim forces from the Balkans, which often were used as allies by the Turks. At a push they could pass for Cossack foot, as well.

Next up, two units of Ottoman Turkish Spahis. I already have several Turkish cavalry units, and these supplement them. I painted one unit with green horse cloaks, the other with reddish-orange, just to tie the units together. While they are meant to be heavy cavalry, they can pass for other sorts too. The castings were old fashioned, but I think I've managed to give them a respectable paint job.

Finally, I needed some Light Cavalry units to add to my collection. These two are jacks of all trades, painted in different colours, and can pass for Polish-Lithuanian, Muscovite, Moldavian, Wallachian, Hungarian, Transylvanian or Turkish, light cavalry. They could also be used for medium cavalry at a push, wearing chainmail as they are.

All in all, I'm really enjoying building this collection up. I would like to paint all the remaining figures I possess, including ECW castings as Swedes, for some 'Deluge' (1650s invasion of Poland-Lithuania) skirmish scenarios. The last image depicts the 1655 Swedish Siege of Częstochowa - the Pauline Monastery containing the Black Madonna icon - successfully repelled by monks, local volunteers, and Polish nobles.

The fun never stops on the Polish-Lithuanian borderlands!

Gangs of Ruś: Last Stand of the Devil of Łańcut

Last night’s club game saw the first trial of my new eastern Renaissance rules, Gangs of Ruś: a multiplayer skirmish-roleplaying wargame inspired by the history and cultures of the mighty Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (c. 1569-1683). The setting is the Palatinate of Ruthenia (Red Rus), a religiously diverse border territory now in western Ukraine, with a rich history, transnational links, and many different resident communities.

We played the ‘Devil of Łańcut’ scenario: being the last stand of Stanisław Stadnicki, a volatile Polish Calvinist nobleman (and real historical character, d. 1610), against his encroaching opponents led by Jan Zamoyski, the Crown Grand Hetman. Philip played as Stadnicki, with Theo his co-religionist ally, Zborowski. Rob played the role of Zamoyski, with Doug supporting him as Stadnicki’s antagonist Opaliński. Phil elected to play the role of Mellechowicz, a Polish Muslim Tartar Colonel and noble, allied to the Zamoyski faction. The objectives were to take/hold the Reformed church, sack the town, capture or kill Stadnicki, and capture the hidden treasure.

The Stadnicki faction - initially made up of two gangs - held Stadnicki’s town of Łańcut, and occupied several buildings with musketeers, holding their cavalry back. The Zamoyski faction, with three gangs, advanced steadily to the river-line, which they had to cross to enter the town. Philip’s Reiters and Doug’s Pancerni cavalry fought it out on one flank, while Rob took a few casualties from a gun position but advanced across a bridge in the centre, with Phil’s Tartars holding back for a suitable opportunity.

About halfway through the game, Rob’s Winged Hussars burst into the town and pillaged a number of townsfolk. The Stadnicki faction looked to be losing, but happily a Turkish contingent arrived in their rear as reinforcements. The townsfolk (controlled by me) were in uproar at the chaos, however, and attacked the Janissaries, but to little effect. Yet, another Zamoyski ally, a Transylvanian gang commanded by a mercenary captain, also played by me, arrived on Theo’s flank. The Turks promptly stabilised the situation for Stadnicki, with several melees between them and the Hussars. Yet Phil’s Tartars and my Transylvanians finally managed to wreak havoc on Theo’s flank - weakly held by a few Hajduks and some Ottoman irregulars - opening a path into the town.

As a trial game it was successful frolic, with Stadnicki escaping justice, the church and treasure safe in godly (Reformed) hands, and only minor damage to the town: all this only through the intercession of the dreaded Turks!

Overall, I believe this was an enjoyable game, using only small numbers of figures (about 20 per person). The rulebook includes three new elements: diplomacy (allowing deals to be struck between players before the main game), honour (key to garnering repute and glory), and religion (holy men, faith loyalties), as well as the baser motive of enriching one’s gang, all of which adds depth and flavour to the familiar and fairly simple combat system.

With 20 troop types and 12 ethnic factions (Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Cossacks, Tartars, Moldavians, Turks, Muscovites, Wallachians, Hungarians/Transylvanians, Mercenaries, and Bandits), enabling countless variations and scenarios from the Commonwealth’s fascinating history, there is plenty to explore and unpack in the future.

Looking forward to the next game!

Eylau Refought!

Last weekend, Rob kindly gave me a lift to Devon for a three-day Napoleonic wargame ably hosted by Philip (10-12 December). We stayed at Juan's lovely hotel in the vicinity. The battle being refought was Eylau: a comparatively lesser known though undoubtedly major clash in East Prussia in February 1807, fought in a driving snow-storm between the French under Napoleon, and the Russians under Bennigsen, which ended in a bloodbath.

Day two saw Paul join the French side. The Russians of Dokhturov's command assaulted the French centre; Leval's French division being their main target. For a while it seemed the former would break through, as Soult's corps was thinly spread across the left-side of the French line near the saw-mill and windmill. On the French right, however, after several turns of pressure from divisions commanded by me and Philip, several units of Ed's Russians at Serpallen village were routed, and Ed had to pull this division back 36 inches. It was a major breakthrough in the game, and rather unexpected as Ed had been winning up to that point. To make matters worse for the Russians, Ney's corps arrived on their right flank. A hard-fought battle in this sector between Francis's Cossacks and Rohan's cavalry eventually led to French success, despite some losses and retreats. Rohan also took Schlodditten village on the French left, only to lose it to a Russian counterattack. He eventually decided to withdraw out of range of Rob's guns. The Prussian corps of Lestocq arrived in the Russian rear, and began approaching Ney's corps. The day ended with most of us fine dining at the hotel.

On the final day, both Francis and Paul had to leave us. Philip decided to clear away Ney's and Lestocq's commands, and allow the French to reinforce their centre with some Guard battalions. This made it harder for Rob and Neil to press home their assault on the French centre, and they eventually retreated back towards the original Russian position on higher ground. This sector did see furious cavalry action between Juan's Guard cavalry and Neil's Russian and Prussian horsemen, though, who effectively cancelled one another out. On the French right, a further determined assault from Augereau's and Davout's divisions provoked a second rout in the key Russian position (10 battalions!), forcing another retreat. Ed still had plenty of troops strung out further north facing the bulk of Davout's corps, and even managed to rout some of Philip's units, but this setback effectively ended the game. Neil, with plenty of cavalry and favourable ground, had held firm in the Russian centre, and Rohan's troops were out of steam on the French left, but the Russians were in retreat everywhere else.

The game was a relaxed and friendly one, with Philip (and Ed) patiently explaining the rules and calculating my results for the entirety! The facilities were good, with a breakout area and kitchen. The 'In the Grand Manner' rules by Peter Gilder were generally fine, and much quicker than I had expected (we played over 20 turns), although some players commented on the short movement distances for infantry, and the difficulty of cavalry attacking infantry which was in line or column. However, the spectacle was fabulous, with some 100 battalions and 50+ squadrons per side. This was wargaming as seen in the wargames magazines, with great 28mm figures painted and based to a high standard. Apart from Philip's figures, a large Russian supplementary contingent was borrowed from Noel, a local gamer.

A lot of time and effort had gone into the game. And while we lacked a few players to allow us to take advantage of all the commands allotted (managing multiple divisions per player is time-consuming), nevertheless the play was smooth and the result was more or less historical, a French victory. It was good to meet new fellow wargamers who share a passion for the hobby and a love of the period. My thanks again to Philip for the invitation as well as for organising and umpiring, and to Juan for making the hotel available to us all, not forgetting Rob's tolerance of eight hours with me in his car!

Overall, a great experience. Wargaming at its best? Probably... :-)

Austerlitz in 6mm

I put on a 6mm refight of the Battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805) at the club last night, using my 'Coup de Grace v. 5' rules. Theo and Jonathan were on the French side, while Doug and Patrick were on the allies' (Russians and Austrians).

Having read Duffy's 'Austerlitz', I prepared for the game by purchasing new movement trays for my 6mm Heroics and Ros figures, and designing the rules to be bespoke for this particular battle. This version of the rules includes Formation Orders, Unit Actions, and Commanders interacting, with players having to juggle a range of challenges to get the best out of their troops.

This battle first got me interested in wargaming back in the 1990s, after reading an article about a refight by Robbie Roddiss in Miniature Wargames magazine. With only four players we could not complete the entire battle, but at least managed to give the rules an initial playtest. I will be sticking with the rules (minor tweaks and clarifications excepted, plus nation-relevant stats added) the next time I put on a Napoleonic battle.

Thanks to those who turned out for a fun evening's play and some enjoyable banter. A post-battle discussion of the rules and gaming in general was a nice way to end the night.

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