Monday 28 April 2014

Kronoskaf - We're website of the month

Kronoskaf is my go to resource for all things Seven Years War.

This blog has been chosen to be the very first "Website of the month".

I'd like to thank my family, especially my mum for all...........and when I was five and a half.......and Mr. Fletcher......[ten minutes later].....God Bless the Great State of Navada and all who sail in Her.

:D :D :D :D 

Operation Zorndorf is coming to a close. I've left the schedule due to my month being broken by a trip to Rome. The Prussian army is now completely finished; it is based and all the standards have been done. All of the Russian infantry are painted, based and flagged up. The game plan is finalised. I just have four units of Russian cavalry to paint and base, two flags to do, and four wagons and draught to do. On the terrain front I still have the Grunds to do, but I've collected all of the materials and I have a design. I started the operation knowing it could be done; though I had my doubts over MY ability to do it - and I have worried at several points - but, I'm going to scrape in just under the wire. Deadlines have their value.

Pictures to follow

Thursday 17 April 2014

More Zorndorf action

 We left the action with Manteuffel's infantry having broken and Kanitz engaging around the Stein Busche (off picture to the right). Seydlitz's heavy cavalry (table top left beyond the Zabern Grund) had not moved - please note.
 Kanitz made grindingly slow progress against the Russian centre beyond the Galgen Grund. Most Prussian fusilier regiments are not on a par with Prussian musketeer regiments, let alone grenadiers, and his losses soon mounted as the lack of quality told.
 Then, the focus of the action changed. Seydlitz's cavalry, which were beyond the Zabern Grund moments before, suddenly appeared 12 feet down at the other end of the field! Let me explain: At Zorndorf Seydlitz was, without a doubt, the 'Officer of the Day'. He displayed great presence of mind and ability in bringing his cavalry to bear, at key moments, in exactly the right part of the field. This is kind of thing is hard to duplicate in most war games, but it is doable, sometimes, using Piquet. 

I added a Stratagem card to the Prussian sequence deck. When it was turned, providing Seydlitz's cavalry had not moved from their initial position, or they were off table, they could appear anywhere along the Prussian base line. 

Some might say that this is not realistic; that there is no time for the Russians to observe the move and react. I say, bollocks to that. It was a hot August day and the air would be full of the smoke and dust caused by thousands of troops and guns so it would be unlikely that his movements behind the Prussian line would be seen. On the day, he moved so swiftly that the Russians, even if they did see his movement, were unable to react quickly enough - horses move very quickly, orders don't.

BTW. For Triples, I have decided that Seydlitz's cavalry will be off able at the start of the game. They will be placed where they were for this game on a sheet of card saying "off-table". The Prussian player can bring them on where they are deployed (by simply removing the sheet of card) on a normal move card or anywhere on the stratagem card - it will look smoother that way.
 Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Manteuffel has rallied the remnants of his command and renewed his attack, Kanitz's command is wavering, and the Russians are planning a major counter attack (I think?).
 Seydlitz and Schorlemer launch their cavalry at the Russian left. It's when this kind of thing happens that I realise just how much new stuff I will have painted for this game. I started with eight Prussian cavalry units, now I have eighteen.
Dohna goes in against the Russian centre left.

This battle is to be continued.....

Note: No newly painted figures this week (though the remaining Russian infantry are more than half done). But, the Prussian army is now fully based and all the infantry regiments have standards.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Operation Zorndorf - first play test

 Last night I though it might be a good idea to run through a Zorndorf game. Not everything is finished but by the time it is Sheffield Triples will be upon us and there might not be time to do a full run through. So, now is as good a time as any. So Having filled the gaps in the Russian lines with some temporary Austrian stand-ins, turned a blind eye to the glint of bare metal and dullness of unfinished basing, I sorted out the sequence card decks and army characterization cards (for modified Classic Piquet) and the game began. 

I'm not going to do the card decks randomly. They will be made up as umpire's choice so that they are tailored to fit with historical precedent.

Graham was Prussian, Peter was Russian, and I held out the domino bag.

After the Prussian preliminary artillery bombardment was resolved on the Russian right (by rolling dAv -3 for stand loss for every unit right of the 'kink') in which the Russians lost about a dozen stands, the battle started with the Prussian hussars under Seydlitz (left) a chasing around after some rather unenthusiastic Cossacks - it was like watching 'kiss chase', only it was hard to tell which ones the girls were.
 Then it got down to the nitty-gritty with Manteuffel's and Kanitz's attacks going in. 

The Prussians are not, by scenario ruling, allowed to hang around. They must move these commands on every available move card. Kanitz's command cannot move further to the left until he reaches the Galben Grund - at which point he is totally committed anyway.
 It was chaotic. The Prussians came under cannister fire. The Russian guns were overrun. A ferocious firefight ensued. The Russian infantry came off worse. The Russian infantry counter attacked with a charge. The Russian front line began to disintegrate.....
 ..The situation was restored by Gaugreben's cavalry and the 1st Grenadiers which charged to great effect. Manteuffel's command buckled then broke completely. Round one to the Russians, but their fighter is staggering in the ring. Most of their units have lost stands.
 Kanitz reaches the Galben Grund. Manteuffel's command has disintegrated so he refuses his left whilst the rest press on.
 An overview of the positions at end of play. Next week the battle will continue. 

Hopefully, for the umpire's sake, not to mention the sake of history, Seydlitz will turn the stratagem card that will allow him to redeploy any uncommitted cavalry to the other side of the Zabern Grund. This move will require no actual wargaming movement; he just shifts his cavalry where he wants them, in any formation, in a single bound. 
A shot of 'the gap'. When my table's drop leaf is brought up (making the table 14' 8" long) there isn't much wiggle room at the end. At Triples the table will be 16' long but the extra room will be counted 'off table' for handouts, the gubbins and detritus of play, drinks, etc.
On the to do side of the game, I started making up the flags required. These were downloaded from kronoskaf, manipulated in MS Paint, sized in MS Word, printed off on cheap photocopy paper. After that, they were cut out, folded and glued to wire pins, bent to 'fly', then coated in PVA. Next I'll overpaint them with enamels. It sounds a complex way of doing things but it looks quite good and works.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Operation Zorndorf - Deployment Decisions

The process of painting the figures for the game is drawing to a close. There will be a week spent basing and a few evenings spent painting flags but the units are all but completed. I have exactly 100 figures to do and 36 of those are nearly done. I also have some terrain to make to represent the 'Grunds' but these are pretty straight forward - ten feet of purpose made stream and ponds - they should be doable over a weekend.

With this in mind, I have spent some time going over accounts of the battle, studying maps, and thinking about how the battle should be represented. Given the usual restrictions of table-top gaming, namely the maximum playable depth that a table can be, I have decided on a quite radical solution to the initial game deployments. This was not my first plan (see earlier posts), but I think it is the best one. To explain why I've come to this conclusion it might be a good idea to briefly go over the start of the battle.

Initially, Fermor had deployed his Russian army in a large square formation facing north across marshy ground in the direction of Frederick's expected approach. Using local guides, Frederick made a night march (starting at 3 am) around the Russian flank so as to approach the Russians from the rear. At 5 am the Prussians emerged from woods on the eastern flank of the Russians (east of Zicher), and whilst the Prussians continued marching around to the rear, Fermor rearranged his army by the simple expedient of repositioning his artillery and getting each unit to simply about face to the south (The front line became the rear and vice versa).
Diagram from Kronoskaf

At 9 am, the Prussians shook out into a battle line in front of the village of Zorndorf and a ferocious artillery bombardment began. After two hours, the Prussian infantry on the left flank advanced. Almost immediately, Fredericks plan to attack the Russian right began to go wrong. The front line [Manteuffel] advanced according to plan but the second line [Kanitz], instead of following in support, began to veer off to the right, towards the Stein Busch and the Russian centre; this was partly because of poor visibility caused by the smoke from the cannonade and the burning village of Zorndorf, and partly due to Kanitz trying to reach out to the refused right wing infantry with his floating right flank.

This, to my mind, is the crux of the battle and what makes it the battle of Zorndorf. Without this critical mistake being made the battle will not be like Zorndorf at all. Consequently, I have chosen this time, about 11am, as the start point of the battle. This deployment means that the battle begins with some of the main tactical decisions having been made; a table-top teaser with a "get out of that" element is quite often rather good fun.

This initial game deployment has several distinct advantages over one for 9 am and, except for the battle starting two hours after its historical kick off, I can't find a reason that this deployment (especially as I'm using 28 mm figures) is not the one to be used

  • It means that the ground scale need not be over compressed to fit in the four villages that fringed the battlefield (which often appear in games) that had no tactical impact on the battle after 11 am (the smoke from a burning Zorndorf had an effect before this time but not after)
  • It means that there is no chance of an initial lull / boring phase as the game starts with the action under way - not a bad thing for a demo game. The preliminary bombardment will be quickly resolved before the action starts by some dice driven expedient - it need not be gamed step by step. 
  • It means that the Russians can be deployed slightly further forward and the gap between their first and second line need not be overly compressed to allow a decent deployment depth for the Prussians. 

So what will it look like? Well, something like this:

 Most of the field from behind the Prussian right. Except for some cossacks slightly out of shot, there are 1500 figures on the table.
 Manteuffel and Kanitz going forward whilst the refused right stands back. 

Just visible in the top left corner of the shot are Seydlitz's four heavy cavalry regiments in deep formations (he actually formed his squadrons into deep formations later than 11 am to attack across the Zabern Grund  but doing it at the start allows this flank area to be slightly shortened).

 The Prussian line beyond the Zabern Grund from the left. 
 Manteuffels Grenadiers - Frederick led trumps. 

There is a unit of Russian cuirassier missing from between the Russian infantry lines (It will stand next to the horse grenadiers).

Prussian artillery in this sector will start the game 'unloaded'. It will probably have done significant damage in the initial bombardment (determined by simple die rolls on all enemy units in this sector). The Russian counter fire was largely ineffective and be ruled so; it became deadly as the Prussian infantry emerged from the smoke - those grenadiers are going to get a taste of it.
 The Russian infantry. The gap in the centre of the rear line is where the last three Russian infantry units will fit.
The Russian left. There are three units of cavalry missing, a second line behind the first, but the frontage is correct.

There are lots of cossacks floating about the field (7 regts) but they are rubbish and shouldn't feature much.

Absolutely missing from the Russian OOB is the single battalion of dismounted dragoons - I can't be arsed, simples.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Old and new and changing styles

This week I have finished the Prussians for Zorndorf with the addition of the 7th Hussars (Die Gelben / The Yellows). Funnily enough (having discovered that there are two versions of the Prussian OOB for Zorndorf - one gives the 3rd Hussars as present, the other the 7th Hussars), it looks like I might accidentally have the right unit after all.

I have only had to paint half this double strength unit as I already had half of it in the cupboard. I painted the other half over fifteen years ago. This gives an unmissable chance to compare my painting styles, then to now (even if the figures are by two different manufacturers - Front Rank and Foundry - the difference is unmistakable) . It would appear that I have become bolder and steadier and I have a better grasp of horse flesh, and colour generally. It also appears that I have given up doing 'small detail' such as eyelids and fine lacing on pelisses. I prefer my style now to then. It is quicker. It has more visual impact at a 'war gaming distance' of a few feet.

Next up, I will finish the Russians - 70 infantry, 30 Cavalry. 

I think that means that I have already painted: 446 Infantry, 114 Cavalry, 14 Guns and 56 gun crew since mid November last year - wow that is over 100 figures a month.