Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Kleine Krieg- The Encounter at Kartoffelkopf

When it comes to wargaming, I realize that I have always tended to enjoy the more modest, smaller engagements rather than the larger set-piece battles with no flanks and hub-to-hub artillery.  

This is partly because smaller games are far more practical to set up and transport (unless you belong to a thriving gaming group whose collective membership can field huge armies, like the one I was lucky enough to be a part of when I lived in Vancouver),  It is also because smaller games could frequently provide more of a tactical challenge as a result of having more manoeuvre space available.  Thus not only were the games less unwieldy, but you had flanks to worry about!

Of course I love the spectacle of the big games, and would jump at the chance of participating in one should the opportunity arise again.  But the smaller games could often end up being more interesting to play.  I always enjoyed the "narrative" that they often generated, especially when they were part of an ongoing campaign.  In these kind of games you are not too busy just rolling dice and keeping track of the effect of endless rounds of musketry, so that an element of role playing can come into things.

And of course, you do not need so much table space!

Now most of my time painting recently has been on my French Napoleonic forces, but progress on the French has been going well enough (by my standards!) so that I have recently taken brush to the Russians, and they are looking good.

I base my forces, as I almost always do, on historical orders of battle.  But by creating the the Freikorps Pfaffenhofen  (as well as the Streifkorps Mussinpushkin from the ranks of the Russian IXth Corps) I can engage in a whole series of small, fictional- yet historically plausible- scenarios that can have me gaming well before my forces ever get finished (and yes, I'm planning on mercenary brushwork at some point to speed up production;.  It's either that, or paint until I'm 135 years old...).

On top of that my gaming partner, Giovanni, has been expressing interest in doing a Napoleonic skirmish game sometime.  Well, I'd be happy to oblige.  

What better way than to start the adventures of the  Duke of Avenberg-Pfaffenhofen and his Freikorps, as they attempt to run roughshod over the German countryside?   A romp which, of course, the French under the command of Général Victor-Eugène Bouillon-Cantinat, are determined to stop.

To kick things off I have decided to start by raising the forces I will need for the Encounter at Kartoffelkopf in 1813, a small skirmish scenario that will see the start of an Allied effort to cause confusion to Boney in the lands around Anhalt in 1813.   It will also give me a focus on my painting for a while, including some cavalry.


 (click on image for larger view)


The armistice with France has ended, Austria has joined the Allies and the Army of Silesia prepares to take on the armies of the Corsican upstart.  As the campaign begins, the Allies are hopeful that France's allies in the so-called Confederation of the Rhine can be persuaded to see common sense, and recognize that since the disaster of the Russian campaign, Fortune has indeed finally deserted the Emperor of the French.  Soon, and with the Blessings of Providence, the people of Germany will rise and finally throw off the yoke of their French masters.

To this end, the Duke of Avenberg-Pfaffenhofen has been sent to the occupied Anhalt region on the flank of the Army of Silesia, with the following brief.
  • To disrupt enemy communications and deny supplies to the French field armies.
  • To raise the banner of Liberation throughout the territories of Anhalt, and to recruit as many able-bodied patriots as can be found for service with the Freikorps Pfaffenhofen.
  • When circumstances are favourable, to surround, cut off, and otherwise render hors-de-combat any isolated detachments of French forces as the opportunity presents.
  • In addition to his Freikorps, the Duke will operating in close cooperation with Streifkorps Mussinpushkin, who will follow and assist the operations of the Duke, and who will liaise with the remainder of the Army of Silesia. 
Action was swift in coming.  Two days after entering Anhalt, French deserters and patriotic townspeople have brought intelligence that the region was teeming with French troops.  A brigade of General Souham's 8th Division under the command of Général Bouillon-Cantinat have been rebuilding strength and numbers in preparation for the forthcoming campaign, and was billeted throughout the region.

Word is that there are two companies of Voltigeurs stationed in the small settlement of Klein Kartoffelkopf,  a half-day's march from Hausenpeffer from the north, and about the same distance from the  town of Trinkenwasser to the southeast.  They are unaware of the presence of any enemy forces in the area.

If the Duke can sieze this town and take it's garrison captive, it will enhance his reputation and that of the allies, improve the prospects of future recruiting, and force the French to use valuable troops and time dealing with this new threat to French arms.

Time will be of the essence, as the rest of the French regiment is believed to be stationed in nearby Trinkenwasser, and may be expected to attempt to relieve the detachment one they hear the sound of the guns.  

The next post will cover scenario details, rules, and figures!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Workbench update...

Here in the suburbs of Tokyo, I'm lucky enough to live in a nice house that is quite spacious by Tokyo standards, and which is surrounded by a lot of green hills and is close to the Tama River. I also really enjoy my work here, which takes me to various locations in and around the Tokyo area and beyond.

But the downside of life in this metropolis of 12 million people is that commuting can really eat into time and- moreover the energy- for painting. Still, I've been trying to discipline myself to do a little something at least every day, even if it is for only twenty-thirty minutes or so.

The weather- and light for painting- has been crummy recently. The paintbrush muse has clearly been off on his summer vacation these past few days, so instead I decided to go for a change of pace and try to get some more figures assembled and ready for painting.

Above is a shot of the workbench. In the foreground is a 10 pdr. licorne howitzer of the Russian Horse Artillery (a section of two guns in gaming terms) for the Streifkorps. It's just waiting for the epoxy to cure.

It will have a crew of four, be mounted on a 60mm x 80mm base, and will have a battery commander on a separate base at the rear. The commander himself is a simple conversion, a SYW Prussian in cloak with his head replaced with that of a spare Russian dragoon trumpeter. He is accompanied by a British officer- no doubt making sure that His Britannic Majesty is getting sufficient "bang" for his subsidy guineas.

In the background you can see "Da Boss" himself- General Olsuviev waving his hat. This is actually the Front Rank single-piece casting of our beloved Czar Alexander, but I'll demote him a few ranks so that he can serve as the commander of the IXth Corps.

I had doubts about the strength of the horses' rear legs, so I
drilled a hole -very carefully- through the base and up through one of the legs, and epoxied in a piece of hard steel piano wire. Short of banging him directly on the head with a mallet, he'll now stand up to pretty much any abuse the tabletop can offer (although damage from disobedient cats and from earthquakes is a much bigger risk!)

Assorted aides and hangers-on in the rear. The figure in white doffing his hat is another major conversion. He's a cuirassier officer, in undress order, serving as an ADC on General Langeron's staff. He'll be bringing orders to Olsuviev, and is here accompanied by a cossack in a epoxy putty cloak. In the back is another conversion, a rather haughty and arrogant looking Cossack officer. Looming in the background on the right in black is a Russian ADC in hussar uniform.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Iconic imagery...

Russia's Greatest Love Machine? (until 1916 anyway)

"Our Lady of Novodski-Nargil". Every self-respecting Czarist corps needs its Icon and Orthodox Priests to inspire the men.

I've been working on these on and off for a long time now, and have finally finished them. They are the most complex conversions I've done so far, involving a fair amount of epoxy putty and paper clips!

The priest
on the left (or is he a monk? I know little about the organization of the Russian Orthodox Church) began life as a Front Rank French Napoleonic line infantry standard bearer, and I replaced the head with that from one of their Seven Year's War Cossacks. I filed down the uniform details on the body, and then slowly built up the robes from epoxy putty. Once the robe was done, I added a fuller beard.

The icon itself is, of all things, the bridge section of a
1/700 Tamiya Fletcher class destroyer (it came with two optional versions). I added plastic card "doors" to the icon and mounted it on a wire pole. It took me some time to do the Virgin and Child!

The venerable gent blessing the troops is a real hodge-podge. The basic skeleton was a
Ral Partha ashigaru figure from a fantasy Oriental range. The head was again from a Front Rank SYW Cossack, and I added arms from a Dixon 25mm ACW Union officer! I once more built up the robes from epoxy putty, modified the cap, and added a ZZ-Top-inspired beard. The crucifix was cobbled together from wire and putty, with a chain added from twisted fuse wire.

They were a lot of fun to do, and painting was the biggest challenge as black isn't easy to do convincingly. I used very dark charcoal grey with washes of very, very dark black greens and blues into the folds. The colours didn't come out so clearly with the camera I'm using, so the image was sharpened a fair amount so that the shading would appear a bit more clearly.

I'm now working on a pair of kneeling Russian soldiers modified from some Front Rank casualty figures. When they're done, I'll add them to a plywood base as a little vignette, and post piccies.

Some mood music- Russian Orthodox choir singing "God Preserve the Czar". A tune which postdates the Napoleonic wars, but which is so synonymous with the 1812 campaign thanks to Tchaikovsky!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Freikorps Pfaffenhofen

The Streifkorps Mussinpuschkin will be working in close cooperation with the Freikorps Pfaffenhofen.

This unit has a unique and interesting- if little known- history.
Herzog Reinhardt Avenberg von Loseth-Pfaffenhofen, Hereditary Duke of Avenberg-Pfaffenhofen held lands in Austria bordering on the Tyrol and Bavaria, and his family had faithfully served the cause of the Habsburg monarchy for centuries. Much of his considerable wealth came from the silver mines that were located in this small, but prosperous, enclave.

Reinhardt Avenberg von Loseth-Pfaffenhofen,
Duke of Avenberg-Pfaffenhofen

But others naturally coveted the Avenberg-Pfaffenhofen lands, and the Duke saw much of his holdings seized by the Emperor Napoleon and awarded to the Bavarian monarchy after Austerlitz in 1805. What remained of the Duchy was confiscated in its entirety after the failed campaign of 1809. The proud and outspoken Duke chose exile and service with the Russians, rather than face the humiliation of having to pledge his allegiance to the Corsican upstart.

Thus the Duke nurtured a bitter hatred towards Bonaparte, and his desire for revenge and the restoration of his rightful inheritance had no bounds. As his family had amassed considerable wealth and influence in many of the courts of Europe, he lost no time in taking advantage of the French disaster in Russia, and during the armistice of 1813 he petitioned the Russian and Austrian Emperors for permission to raise a Freikorps, at his expense but clothed and supplied by the respective governments.

This permission was duly granted, and when hostilities resumed in the late summer of 1813 the Freikorps took to the field and began making life extremely difficult for the French forces unfortunate enough to be within the energetic Duke's reach.

The Freikorps Pfaffenhofen consisted of the following units.

1 Jagerbattalion:

This was uniformed in the Austrian style, as the Austrian Emperor allowed Duke Pfaffenhofen to raise them on the condition that after the peace, the regiment would be incorporated into the Austrian service whereupon the Duke would be compensated accordingly for his expense.

The uniform was identical to the Austrian jagers, except for the initials L-P engraved on the brass buttons. This was a highly drilled and well-disciplined unit.

Two squadrons of hussars:

Dressed in the Russian style, in uniforms provided as a gift from the Emperor Alexander himself, these men wore black dolmans and pelisses with rose facings.

Two squadrons of Uhlans:

Also dressed in Russian style, and in the black and rose ducal livery. Pennons rose over light blue.

One section of artillery:

Supplied and equipped as with the Austrians, but again with black coats and rose facings. Guns were of the 6pdr Austrian pattern, and carriages in the original yellow ochre.

Leib-Jaeger section:

These were men of the original Ducal
Jaeger-garde of Avenberg-Pfaffenhofen, who found themselves pressed into Bavarian service upon the duchy's incorporation into the Bavarian kingdom. Fiercely loyal to the rightful Duke, through various stratagems they managed to avoid having to take an oath of fealty to their new masters, and when the opportunity came to desert from the Bavarian service soon after the Grand Armee began its retreat from Moscow, they promptly went over to the Russians.

the raising of the new Freikorps after Austria formally joined the Coalition, the jaegers were reunited with their rightful ruler, to whom they were to give excellent service in the coming campaign. They are recorded as having worn dark green uniforms with rose facings, still dressed in Bavarian uniforms including the distinctive raupenhelm. They had a reputation for being crack shots, and were considered by Sir Robert Wilson as being equal to any member of the 95th Rifles in enterprise, skill and discipline.

Streifkorps Mussinpuschkin- order of battle

Major The Count Mussinpuschkin

The Streifkorps Mussinpuschkin was created by order of Marshal Blucher to Count Langeron, and was to cooperate with the Freikorps von Pfaffenhofen in reconnoitring the French rear areas, attacking convoys and other targets of opportunity, and generally to tie down forces which would otherwise be used against the Army of Silesia.

General Olsuviev was given instructions to detach the following forces for service under Major Mussinpuschkin, who had demonstrated a flair for independent action during the engagements along the Katzbach:

2 squadrons,
Kinburn Dragoon Regt.
(12 figures)

Sotnias, Ukrainian Cossacks
(12 figures)

Tirailleur companies, 1/22 and 3/22nd Jaeger Regiments (8 figures)

1/12th Jaeger Regt.
(32 figures)

1 bttn. Kolyvanskoi Infantry Regt.
(32 figures)

10 pdr. Licorne section,
Horse Battery #8
(1 gun)

This is a really small force- but doesn't seem too daunting to paint, and will allow me a quick game!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Streifkorps Mussinpuschkin

The Czarist Bear has awoken from hibernation!

Other than the base coating the occasional greatcoat or two, and some (hated) figure preparation, I've been making little real progress on my Russkis recently. Mainly because I've been concentrating my Napoleonic painting on my French collection these days.

As I've mentioned here before, one of the problems with not having a club or a regular group of like-minded gamers nearby is not only the lack of peer pressure that helps project discipline, but also the fact that both sides need to be painted! And although the French can be fiddly with all the elite company trimmings and so one, they are fun to do. Which, along with working on other non-Napoleonic projects, has meant that what painting I have been doing lately has been at the expense of my Russians.

Another related problem is that having set myself the task of wanting
to ultimately paint up a Russian Corps as well as a French Division (roughly 15 battalions each), it is clear that this is a daunting target!

I fully intend on achieving it, even if it means that at some point I'll have to look to outsourcing the lions share of the painting. But I do want to have some of my own painted units to game with, and I really want to get gaming as soon as possible. Yet painting even a brigade of infantry per side is clearly going to take an age at my current pace, and I've been getting quite discouraged about ever getting any actual gaming in.

But I may have found the solution- a Streifkorps!

I had come across references to Streifkorps in many orders-of-battle for the 1813 campaign, and they seem to have been very mobile,
ad hoc collections of cavalry (often cossacks and/or hussars), infantry (often light infantry or Freikorps such as Lutzow's gang) and even on occasion artillery.

Usually consisting of a total of five or six squadrons and battalions, these formations were detached from their various corps and sent off to reconnoitre, raid, and generally raise merry hell in rear areas held by the French.

Two articles from wargaming magazines jump-started my jaded brain, and made me realize that here is a way I can get gaming with a varied force of miniatures that I can field on a small table, and that will not take a decade to paint up.

First I came across this old Miniature Wargames article that I had way back in 1994, and which I clipped out and saved for a rainy day. Well, it's pouring now and it looks like keeping it on file was a smart thing to do.

click to enlarge pictures

The article sets out a short scenario for a fictional Freikorps- von Strieker's- that the author created for a mini-campaign as a break from his usual big-battle Napoleonic fare. It made for a fun read, and apparently for some fun games.

The other inspiration was the scenario featured in the Table Top Teaser special publication by Charles Grant for Battlegames magazine, in particular Teaser #4, "Plunder and Pillage" (with a name like that, there can only be no end of fun for your average Cossack!)

Now this seems the way to go. Reasonable painting targets, variety, and the promise of some practical gaming! So, I have decided to "flex" historical fact and create a mixed-nationality detachment led by Major Mussinpuschkin of the Vitebsk Infantry regiment, with the brief of racing ahead of the Army of Silesia and inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm on isolated detachments and convoys of the benighted forces of Bonaparte!

Mussinpuschkin was an actual person (he commanded a brigade of the IXth Korpus in the 1814 campaign), but his Striefkorps itself will be a flight into alternative history.

My next post will look at the organization of the Streifkorps Mussinpuschkin.