Sunday, February 24, 2013

Zvesda Lifeguard Cossacks

"Hurrah-ah-ah!" reverberated in the forest, and the Cossack companies,
trailing their lances and advancing one after another as if poured out
of a sack, dashed gaily across the brook toward the camp.

One desperate, frightened yell from the first French soldier who saw the
Cossacks, and all who were in the camp, undressed and only just waking
up, ran off in all directions, abandoning cannons, muskets, and horses.
War & Peace Chapter VI, Book 13

A shipment arrived yesterday from our man in Budapest. I had intended to take pictures of them, but it seemed that I was unlikely to better the photographs taken by the man himself. 

These are Zvesda Lifeguard Cossacks and to be fair, they are generally considered to be some of Zvesda's lesser work. That may actually be the case, but I think that merely highlights the stellar quality of the vast majority of Zvesda sculpts. But that aside, I think TK has done some wonderful work on these. 

The Russian army in the latest expansion only requires one Guard Light Cavalry unit and I think these fulfill that role admirably. The Lifeguard Cossacks and the Lifeguard Hussars were a conjoined unit originally, though they were seperated soon after they were raised. 

The cossacks were raised by Czar Paul and reached a strength of seven squadrons (six field, one depot) by 1812. They look rather well, but I've found precious little about their service in the field. The few British observers I've come across rate the Russian Lifeguard rather highly, but the only reference I've found to their  deployment in battle refers to the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. 

In 1813 at the Battle of Leipzig the Lifeguard Cossacks counterattacked the French and Saxon cuirassiers from the front while the Prussian Neumark dragoons and Silesian cuirassiers struck from the eastern flank. It was too much for the French, they were pushed back everywhere and pursued until the positions of Drouot's batteries. The pursuers were halted only by artillery fire and counter-attack made by the Old Guard dragoons.

Marbot explained why this happened: "This treatment resulted in the enemy centre yielding and it was about to give way when the Tzar of Russia who had witnessed the disaster, rapidly advanced the numerous cavalry of his Guard which, encountering the squadrons of Latour-Maubourg in the state of confusion which always follows an all-out charge, repelled them in their turn and took back 24 of the guns which they had just captured." Tsar Alexander seeing the charge of the Lifeguard Cossacks, exlaimed: "They are going into fight as if they were coming to a wedding."

(taken from here.) 

Command & Colours Napoleonics rates Guard Light Cavalry as a four strength Guard unit. So they are equal to the French Guard Light Cavalry, in fact they may actually be slightly better as they may ignore two flags, which makes them particularly tenacious in battle. 

Regardless of any question of their effectiveness, they are handsome and I'm really pleased to have them on the strength as they bring tone to what would otherwise be an unsightly scuffle. This latest batch has pricked me to step up my infantry basing efforts, so that I can get the infantry and the regular cossacks off to Mark. 

So inch by inch my Russian army grows. 

It's probably a waste, but I still love having individualised casualty markers. I think I'm going to have to come up with some way of storing them efficiently.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day Two - The Cabra-Kildare War of 1962

The port of Enfield (note the roadblock and entrenchments in the background)

The night passed relatively peacefully, both sides were too ground down to contemplate a night attack.  The board also changed somewhat as we added six hexes to the end so represent the port of Enfield, which would hopefully be full of US Marines before too long.  The PRC were able to deploy any troops that "fell off the edge of the world" because of the board change in the same section. They also got reinforcements in the shape of additional infantry, armour and a fearsome T-55. 

The Soviet Super Tank

Now as it happened, one the players wasn't very impressed with this as he'd watched a documentary on the T-55 recently. However, it was brought home to him that if your opponent is only fielding 75mm Shermans that are probably twenty years old, a T-55 is a daunting prospect indeed. Donogh rated it as a Tiger in Memoir '44 terms - a single very powerful tank with extremely tough armour. Now as it happened that he forgot to bring the model, so we ended up substituting a T-35 instead that had seen service during our Finland games a couple of years ago, but it still made a significant impression. 

Comrade Donogh readies himself to take the Lyons Tea Plantatation at last

One of things that became very clear as soon as the ball opened on the second day. John's troops in the Lyons Tea Plantation were overextended and the PRC were well placed to bypass the town and cut them off. After the hard fighting of the previous day, it would be a hard to surrender the town without a fight, but holding it would simply sacrifice troops that could hardly be spared.

The Flying Farmers put a Sturmovick in the air to devastating effect

As it turned out, John didn't get the opportunity to pull back as he was hammered by a combined ground and  air assault. This was the first time we'd used the Air Rules from the Air Pack in a multi-player game. The Commonwealth had managed to get a plane into the air earlier in the game, but lost it to engine trouble (failed Air check) before it managed to accomplish anything.

The Sturmovick above caused devastation, using "Ground Support", which didn't effect the Commonwealth troops directly, but negated the benefits of terrain, which allowed the supporting PRC ground units to pound the defenders. One armour unit was wiped out and the infantry roughly handled.  I had been disappointed by the showing put in by planes so far, but this was in a way a vindication of my decision to include them.

A burning, murderous vindication.

PRC paratroopers

Speaking of aircraft, the Royal Air Force had an airfield outside of Enfield, from which they'd put in a rather poor showing so far. However, it was worth an important two victory points to the PRC and they dropped a three unit stick of paratroopers on it. This put them right on the route of retreat from the Lyons Plantation and  put them almost on top of two victory points and within striking distance of a third. In one turn, the PRC had managed to go from one victory point (the Barry's Tea plantation) to four, taking them half way to victory in one fell swoop. 

The sole survivors

John's troops in the Lyons Plantation had been whittled down in a single stand. They had been shelled by tanks, assaulted by infantry and strafed by fighters, but they kept fighting. Now with only one stand left, they decided to evacuate. Unable to move back to their own lines, they struck out and assaulted an undefended battery of 203mm guns. 


And wiped them out! That was an astonishing feat in a game that did not lack for them. John continued pulling them back and duty done, they continued to retreat for the rest of the game. 

The Beast (t-35 masquerading as a T-55)

One of my regrets is that I didn't get enough pictures of the left flank as there was some hard fighting over there. The PRC had managed to chip away at Dom's entrenched infantry, but he'd extracted a high price. Consequently, the PRC decided to send their T-55 unit away from the port, sweep into our centre and finish off the few Commonwealth infantry units that were still standing after an epic battle with the PRC.  These infantry had had to come out into the open to see of the Para's.  This left them vulnerable to the Red Menace that came rattling and clanking across the plain. 

The end!

Contrary to all expectations - the T-55 wiped out a single infantry unit and got nailed by a lucky bazooka shot. An event that was 36 to one against. This finished the last of the PRC armour, something I hadn't noticed at the time, because I was trying to hunker down under shelling and send reinforcements to see off the PRC paratroopers. As it was five o'clock in the morning and Dom had to be up for church in nearly four hours we called it a night. 

It was a gruelling, hard fought game and I don't think the score line does the PRC justice. Comrade Donogh, Sydney and Pedro gave us a hard, hard fight and we were lucky to hold them. The collapse would have been sudden when it came. I think it is a testament to the ferocity of their onslaught that I just didn't notice that they were using their armour up. 

I think I'll have to spare some time to gather my thoughts about what worked and what didn't - but I think more things worked than not. Donogh's rules amendments were remarkably robust. 

The background was workable enough and might support another game or two, though I rather like the Commonwealth and I'm not sure I'd wish to subject them to continuous war. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day One - The Cabra-Kildare War of 1962

The Field of Battle (note Lyons in the centre)

This game was a rather large affair played on two "Breakthrough" board pushed together. I had intended to borrow a board from Du Gourmand, but when gameday rolled around he was uncontactable and presumably is dead in a ditch somewhere, so I improvised with the paper matt from "The Cadets of Samur" set. This was fleshed out with some cork hills and 1/300 scale woods and buildings. We used the hex tiles that come with the game for roads, rivers and the tea plantations.

Lyon's Tea Plantation
(note the pile of boxes indicating a victory point)

The figures themselves were my Irregular Miniatures Russians facing Donogh's Irregular Miniatures Americans. The buildings were a mix of Timecast and Irregular. All painted by me for a change!

The game began with us breaking into two teams of three players.  One player would take the role of Commander in Chief and the two others Field Generals. You can read a little bit more about how Overlord games are played here

As the defenders we gave the attackers the room and retired to the drawing room to make our plans.  I often take the role of Commander in Chief in these games, but it was decided by mutual agreement that it would be good to allow one of the other chaps a go, so I commanded the right flank. John took our centre and Dominic took the left.  We had some key decisions as we had two very powerful assets to deploy (or not). The Field Hospital would allow us to replenish depleted Infantry units and the Supply Dump which would give us six Supply Trucks per day. 

Supply Trucks are counted as an infantry unit and may when activated remove one of their figures to replace a figure in an adjacent unit. 

Deploying these units would be a great asset, but each of them was worth a victory point to the Reds.  

Donogh in atypically ebullient mood

Our plan was to try and defend the built up areas with our infantry, so that the Reds would have to deploy and burn cards to shift us. We were playing for time and were hoping to run through the deck as quickly as possible, but with nearly 120 cards - it could take a while. 

First Comrade Donogh outlines "the plan".

Comrade Sydney seems very confident. 

Kildare snipers prepare to take a heavy toll on the PRC infantry
(Barry's Tea Plantation to the right)

On the right my job was to hold the Barry's plantation (right), I took great pains to keep my armour and artillery back from the plantation as I didn't want them to be targeted by Sydney's far more numerous armour and guns. I held the plantation with infantry in the hope that he would have to clear them with the bayonet - he could blast me out with guns, but doing so would take longer and would hopefully take time.

The snipers above did an excellent job of picking away at the PRC infantry, until Sydney lost patience and flattened them with a three battery strong barrage of 203mm shells. From a brutally pragmatic point of view, I was willing to accept this as it bought the Commonwealth another turn at the cost of the sniper's lives. 

The PRC throw the first of what feels like many endless waves of T-34s and KV-1s down the road

There followed a hard fought engagement around the Barry's Tea plantation. I ended up committing my few tanks a little early in an effort to wipe out the exposed PRC infantry. I also sent my reserve armour over to John in the centre, where they were used to good effect around the Lyons Tea Plantation.  The inevitable counter attack was savage and took half my armour and decimated the rest, but again it tied Sydney up and forced him to bring his infantry into the open to try and shift my boys. 

The Loneliest KV tank

I didn't take as many pictures on the left as I was busy with my own flank, but from what I saw Dominic and Comrade Pedro were hotly engaged. Dom spent most of the time hugging the terrain and trying to avoid the barrages of 203mm shells that prepared the way for Pedro's attacks. Pedro did fall into trap that befalls many inexperience players of being too aggressive too early with his armour. He outnumbered Dom and had heavier armour (KVs versus Shermans), but he allowed them to outrun their infantry (see Exhibit CP1 above). 

Lonely indeed

And Dom took no chances, cutting off and eliminating the isolated units. Note my masterfully improvised roads, cut from a manila envelope after I realised that I hadn't brought enough. 

Pulling back behind the Barry's Tea Plantation

Having done everything in my power to grind down Sydney's offensive force, I pulled back  and established a new line at the choke point on the road  between the tea fields and the forest. I pulled my infantry back and settled down for some long range shelling using my 75mm pack guns. This meant that I had to surrender the victory point to Sydney, but I thought it better to maintain a force in being rather then set up a thin defence that he could just punch through and then blitzkrieg his way to Enfield. 

Things hotting up around the Lyons Tea plantation

In the centre, there was a massive tank battle around the Lyons Tea plantation. Donogh and John set at it with guns, tanks and infantry for several hard turns. Some poor dice rolling on Donogh's part couple with some well times counter attacks by John, effectively blunted the PRC advance. Clever use of the Field Hospital to refresh depleted infantry units and husbanding the Supply Trucks to refresh weakened armour also played a key part. 

Commonwealth and PRC infantry fighting house to house

With both sides armour staying out of the plantation, there followed a savage infantry battle as both sides attempted to take the crossroads. I was reminded of the village of Ponyri during the battle of Kursk, which was so heavily fought over that it became known as "Little Stalingrad". 

As the deck runs down, First Comrade Donogh briefs his men on the next great leap foward

Night falls over the battlefield

As the last cards are drawn, it emerges that we've bungled an opportunity to stage a night attack and have to settle for replenishing our troops and digging in. We've held the PRC rather better than we expected - which in some ways is a disadvantage as it means our supply lines are stretched more than we expected. With more Communist reinforcements on the way, including it is rumoured one of the latest Russian supertanks, there is little optimism in the Commonwealth ranks. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Scenario: Cabra-Kildare War of 1962

Cabrese Militia preparing to march

This scenario was a bit of a departure from the usual sort of thing that Donogh and I put together. Normally, we're quite constrained, looking at a historical battle and trying to work out how an entertaining game can be made out of it. These can often be very challenging - as generals spend their entire careers attempting to arrange battles that are as unchallenging as possible. But until someone builds a really interesting wargame about logistics, we'll be back to the old 19th century decisive battle game. 

The other challenge was how to include all the elements that Sydney had requested.  To be honest, I tend to shy away from complexity in wargames as I think it is often mistaken for realism and can very easily suck the enjoyment out of a game. 

This is the map I prepared for the game. Donogh added the unit deployments as we thought that having the players deploy their own troops would take too much time, particularly with some novice players onside.

The strategic situation is as follows. The Commonwealth of Kildare under Prime Minister Sydney has signed an agreement with President Kennedy to allow the USN to build a base on their island. The People's Republic of Cabra object to this rather strongly as it will make it impossible to achieve their long term strategic goal of controlling the entirety of the island.  The PRC have learned of this through Soviet spy networks as the deal has not yet been made public. The PRC have decided that the best way to thwart this is to mount a sudden blitzkrieg across the island and seize control of Enfield, the largest port and the capital city. The Americans are unlikely to wish to undertake a contested beach landing.

Commonwealth Troops unaware of the coming storm

Consequently, the game was broke into two parts divided into two game days.  On the first day, the PRC blitzkrieg would be unleashed and the Commonwealth forces would have to hold on as best they could. I designed the map above with a defensive battle in mind, no doubt some of you have already recognised that it is a caricature of Waterloo, i.e. two ridges more or less facing each other with three built up areas in between. Using that as a basis, I added the tea plantations because they seemed to make sense and the roads to keep the game speedy and to offer the invaders some options.

It might seem a bit silly that the players were not allowed deploy their own troops, but we've found it can complicated matters a great deal. The players were allowed decide where certain key units went, particularly for the Commonwealth, the Field Hospital and the Supply Depot.

For those of you not familiar with Memoir '44, play is regulated by a deck of cards and it was decided that once the deck was exhausted night would be considered to have fallen. Donogh wrote some rather clever rules governing night attacks (a chancy business), entrenchments and resupply. At the beginning of the second day, the above map would be added to the Eastern edge of the first and the Western seven hexes would be removed. 

We tried a lot of different experiments with this game, two of which I think were particularly interesting. The first of which was giving the PRC players five turns worth of cards at the beginning. The thinking behind this was that they would not be drawing cards for the first five turns, but would have them in hand. This would presumably allow them greater opportunities to plan a sustained offensive. I'll leave it to Donogh to give the verdict on how well that experiment worked. 

The second experiment and this was entirely Donogh's idea was that the victory conditions were rather different than usual. Normally, we operate on one of two systems.

They are: 

Break Points - Each army is given a break point. Any army will break and quit the field once it has lost a certain number of units (usually somewhere between 30-50%).  Certain objectives grant victory points which will add to the army's break point. 

I'm rather fond of this as it closely mirrors my "he who runs away last is the winner" understanding of conflict. 

Medals scored - An army gains a point for each objective captured or each enemy unit eliminated.  This can be satisfying, but I find it gives a more "gamey" feel as units are often ordered in an apparently irrational manner to score points. 

Donogh introduced a third and made objective the sole determinant of victory. There were a number of objective points scattered around the board, eight on the initial board with two additional points going for the Commonwealth Hospital and Supply Dump. The second board contained an additional four.  There were also points going for bringing Marines on shore from USN vessels, but these troops would not arrive until the end of the Second Day and would only have a turn or two to be ordered. 

The PRC would win as soon as they controlled nine or more objectives. 

The Commonwealth would win if at the end of the Second Day, they controlled eight objectives or more. 

This was very unusual and was not something I was really comfortable with, but I was surprised as how well it worked. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Peoples Democratic Republic of Cabra

The Farmers & Workers Militia of Cabra taking delivery
of T-34 tanks from the USSR 1962

CIA FACTBOOK 1961 Edition

The Peoples Democratic Republic of Cabra (formerly part of the Commonwealth of Kildare)

Founded: 1958

Principal Industries: Tobacco, Mining (Gold, silver & bauxite)

Population 16.7m
Ethnic Makeup: mixed 73%, white 16%, black 11%

Head of State: First Citizen Dastardly El Gorman
Premier: First Citizen Dastardly El Gorman

Capital: Cabra City 4.2 million
Government: Peoples Republic (Totalitarian one party state)

Language: Spanish (official) Creole (official) English (unofficial)

Land mass: 48,670 sq km

Eastern two thirds of island of PG Tipps, shares border with Commonwealth of Kildare. Claims entirety of the island.

Climate: Tropical maritime; little seasonal temperature variation; seasonal variation in rainfall.

Terrain: Rugged highlands and mountains with fertile valleys interspersed

Allied with the Soviet Union
Strong trade ties with People Republic of China
Extensive Cuban involvement in industry.

                                                   Fighting in Tetley province in 1957

Formerly a part of the British colony of PG Tipps, the PDRC was founded after a brief but bloody civil war that wracked the island from 1957-58. A peace deal signed in Paris in December 1958 partitioned the island in two, the Peoples Democratic Republic of Cabra and the Commonwealth of Kildare.

Named for a guerrilla, Invideous Gormando McCarthy El Cabra, who fought an unsuccessful guerilla war against the British in the early 1800s – the infant PDRC has made a name for itself particularly for its aggressive foreign policy under First Citizen Dastardly El Gorman.

Aligning himself with the Soviet Union, who supported his guerrilla campaign, El Gorman has massively expanded mining in the interior of the island and is determined to drag the mostly agrarian population into the 20th century. Increased industrialisation has had mixed results with agricultural yields dropping, with the result that the PDRC has had to import food for the first time in its history. This coupled with rural unrest caused by the forced migration to Cabra City as well as religious persecution has given the First Citizen cause for concern.

With that in mind, Dastardly El Gorman has increased the strength of the Farmers & Workers Militia of Cabra and imported surplus Second World War armour from the Soviet Union.

The Farmers & Workers Militia of Cabra on manoeuvres
in the Summer of 1961

Armed Forces

Army - The Farmers & Workers Militia of Cabra 62,000 men approx
Four infantry divisions
Infantry armed with SVT-40, DP LMG, Ppsh SMG, DsHK HMG, 82mm & 120mm mortars.

Three tank brigades (T-34)
Six batteries of artillery (122mm & 152mm howitzers)

Yak-9's of the  Flying Farmers & Workers Militia of Cabra

Airforce - The Flying Farmers & Workers Militia of Cabra 3,400 men approx

Four squadrons of Yak-9 fighters

Navy – The Farmers & Workers Militia of Cabra at Sea 1,300 men approx

A few coastal patrol boats

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cabra-Kildare War of 1962

I was lucky enough to take part in an epic wargame last night, kindly hosted by Sydney, who commissioned McCarthy and I to create a large scale Memoir '44 scenario. He had a couple of requests, that the battle be stretched over two game days, that there be fortifications, plenty of opportunity for combined arms as well as paratroopers and couple of other things. 

Donogh and I put our heads together and decided that it would be simpler to write a bespoke scenario rather than trying to find a battle in history that fit the requirements. Thus was born the Cabra-Kildare War of 1962. 

But first a little background. 


                                                            Tea Plantations of Maynooth

CIA FACTBOOK 1961 Edition

Commonwealth of Kildare (formerly British PG Tipps)

Founded: 1949

Principal Industries: Tea & Tourism

Population 7.6 million

Head of State: HRM Queen Elizabeth II
Premier: Prime Minister Albertus Sydney of the Conservative Party
Capital: Enfield

Enfield – Capital City of the Commonwealth of Kildare

                                                               Nightlife in Enfield

Government: Parliamentary Democracy

Language: Spanish (official) Creole (official) English (official)

Member of the Commonwealth
Strong trade ties with the United States

Kildare infantry manning .30cal mg during fighting in Tetley province,1957

Formerly the British colony of PG Tipps, the Commonwealth formally declared independance after a two year transitional period in 1949. The handover was relatively smooth and a small expatriate community remains. Crop failures in 1951 and 1952 led to a communist insurgency in the east of the island, the states of Nescafe, Starbucks and Bewleys, which developed into a brief but bloody civil war that wracked the island from 1957-58. A peace deal signed in Paris in December 1958 partitioned the island in two, the Peoples Democratic Republic of Cabra and the Commonwealth of Kildare.

The Commonwealth is made up of three constituant states, Barrys, Lyons and Tetley. Barrys is the smallest and richest of three, being home to Enfield, the capital city, and the resorts and tourist spots that bring in much of the Commonwealth's foreign exchange. Agriculture is the countries largest employer, with tea taking up the lions share of the arable land.

While the Commonwealth still has strong ties with the United Kingdom, the United States is its largest trading partner and is also the source of the majority of the islands tourists.

Kildare Armed Forces
Army – The Army of the Commonwealth of Kildare

                                   Army of the Commonwealth of Kildare Soldiers on parade
2 Divisions Infantry
Infantry armed with M1 Garand, .30 LMG, M3 SMG, 82mm mortars and 3.5 inch bazookas.

Sherman tank of the Armoured Corps in combat in
Starbucks province during the Civil War of 1958

One tank brigade
Sherman tanks (76mm gun)

1 Artillery Brigade
M2 105mm Howitzer
75mm Pack Howitzer

Airforce – The Royal Kildare Airforce

                                                            Spitfires of the Royal Airforce
Four squadrons P51 fighters
Twp squadrons Spitfires

Navy – The Royal Kildare Navy

Corvette “The Lady Frances”
Frigate “The Lady Emily”
Coastal patrol boats

Monday, February 4, 2013

Russian Infantry

With the impressive strides being made in the Russian cavalry lines, it's time to get weaving on the Russian infantry. These are some Hinton Hunt castings that I got from Old John. They have a certain delicate charm about them and I've trimmed the plumes so that they can be used as regular infantry, rather than Guards or Grenadiers. 

These I've based on some custom infantry bases made for me by Jim over at Products for Wargamers. Good price, good service, heartily recommended all around. I based them up this morning when I had twenty minutes to spare before going to work. The thing about these units is that under the new Russian rules, they'll be a three strength to the French four, but a certain number of units may be upgraded before the battle. This means that I'll have to find some drummers from somewhere, but I've yet to put my great mind to that one. 

A Hinton Hunt Russian officer leading the charge. I'm hoping to find a suitable drummer or perhaps an Ensign to accompany him, but we'll see. I have a collection of painted Russian troops to base up, so I may have some spares. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hussars of the Isumsky Regiment

There are disadvantages to having Krisztian paint figures - they're in Hungary for one thing, but he over comes that by sending beautifully composed pictures so that you can have a look at what you're missing. 

These are Hussars of the Russian Regiment Isumsky. The silver trumpet dates the regiment to post 1807 as they were awarded a silver trumpet as recognition of the service at Eylau where they prevented the capture of Barclay de Tolly. 

Rear view. 

The figures themselves are from Zvesda's wonderful Russian hussars set which I've adored for years. Before I even thought of raising a Russian army, I recruited some for my Hussars of Conflans. They are one of the finest sets of figures I have ever seen. 

I think the pelisses are particularly smashing. I've never fielded a mixed unit of lancers and hussars before. Apparently the thinking behind it was that the front rank carried the lance, presumably to clear the way for the sabre wielders behind. 

The pennants look rather dashing don't they?

Having done a little cavalry drill, I can confirm that this is absolutely the most comfortable way to carry a sword for any period of time unless you're sloping arms. 

A horde of furious hussars

Pistol packing NCO

Detail of trooper, I particularly like the work Krisztian has done on the horses face. 

Detail of lancer

There is also the glad news that the Russian expansion will be making its way over the water in the not too distant future. GMT announced that they would be charging credit cards on the 5th of February and traditionally the game arrives about four to six weeks after that. 

I better get weaving on those infantry.