Monday, 16 July 2018

French Force Leader

Volte-Face also gets a horse, so he can run away that bit faster

If the Austrians were getting a mounted force leader, it seemed only fair that the French had one too. This is another Front Rank miniature. It is actually Grouchy from the Waterloo era. But I loved the pose, face and the flamboyant uniform which contrasts quite nicely with the shabbier campaign look of the French force.

So what's next? Well, 20 or so plastic Austrian militia. A lot of grey and white! And a handful of extra metal "French" officers and NCOs. These are to expand the options for current units, but one officer is destined for the Kingdom of Italy Light Infantry Grenadiers/Carabiniers that I'm really looking forward to completing. Their bicorns, deep green uniforms and yellow facings/waistcoats will make for an unusual group. I posted a test-figure a few months back.

Austrian General / Colonel

Scheittekatte gets a promotion and horse!

Inspired by the Northwest Frontier setup at Deep Fried Lard, I thought the idea of using a mounted figure to indicate the force leader was a jolly good idea. 

This is a Front Rank miniature. I wanted a suitably arrogant pose and Front Rank delivered! I really enjoyed the change of pace in painting a character. 

Leaders for the Grenzer

Leaders for the Grenzer

These have been on the painting desk for quite a while. Given how well the Grenzer have performed - even in the first game where they should have been doomed to instant "freshly painted" failure - they certainly deserve their own dedicated officer and NCO.

These are Front Rank figures. They are a smidge taller and chunkier than the Perry Grenzer but you can hardly tell as they are be individually based and separate to the main groups. Again, the Front Rank figures were excellent to paint and the faces really are superb.

So, on the left: the new, improved Longabuscu
Supported by his new Corporal Curlicu

A "quick group shot" of the Grenzer and their new leaders. In classic "bucket" mode I dropped the Austrian box in the process of setting this up. Thankfully just a broken sword and bayonet. Must click the lids closed in future ... but it makes me wonder if metal might be the way to go in the future!

Austrian Reinforcements

Austrian Reinforcements - artillery

The next game will see the Austrians on the defensive, so I painted up a cannon and crew. Artillery can be a bit over-powerful in SP2 as they can't really "miss" as such. So we have been tinkering with the rules to reduce the number of "kills" that can be applied to groups that are standing either side of the target unless canister is being used.

This is a Perry 6lb cannon plus crew, supplemented by a couple of Front Rank extras to round them off. Whilst Front Rank are a bit chunkier than Perry, I really like their style - great to paint and very characterful faces. Slightly different cockades on display ...

For SP2 games the cannon and crew are led by an NCO, Sergeant Zitspoppen (Level I/II). He's an irascible fellow with a bushy mustache and a big stick.

The cannon fires off into the distance. Only Scheittekatte is standing that way, so I wonder if this is a message for him? Further below, a group shot of the team. Front Rank in the centre, flanked by Perry.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Deep Fried Lard 2018

Deep Fried Lard 2018

Another one ticked off the "bucket list" (whatever that is, but I am a bit of a bucket after all) - "Deep Fried Lard" in Musselburgh. An homage to all games Lardy. I can't usually make this owing to work but joy of joys the stars aligned and I was able to join the throng. It didn't disappoint. I was surprised how many people attended and the distances travelled. There were loads of excellent games from the Lard stables on show. I signed up for a bit of SP2 again for the morning and afternoon sessions - although I do play other stuff despite appearing obsessed in this blog!

If you can spare the day, look up this event. It's fantastic - good venue, loads of great people and fantastic games to play. And the opportunity to chuckle away with Big Rich and the usual Edinburgh-based regulars to boot.

Game 1 - Northwest Frontier - Up the Jacksi Pass
This was a magnificent game, with a heck of a lot of preparation work behind the scenes. The backstory was in the best Lardy traditions. We were the dastardly locals, led by Randi Ghitt and Raz Mataz, who had managed to capture Lady Myarse and imprison her in a fort to the edge of the board. She was wife of the highly acclaimed Sir Roger Myarse who led the British forces in an effort to rescue the Lady. We were tasked with trying to keep the slippery Lady from hopping over the fort's walls and escaping, whilst also seeing off the British advances.

This has been written up elsewhere already - check out this great blog written up by one of our honourable and valiant opponents (playing the British):
I must admit that the dice gods really did shine favourably on us all game - the two Stuart's dice rolls for movement, firing and pretty much everything else was abysmally low. Except when they needed to roll low and then, predictably, they tended to roll high.

Here's a shot of the table - and literally hundreds of immaculately painted troops for either side. It was an absolute pleasure to play through this scenario. The camera was on the blink, so this is the blurry handiwork of the kindle!

The Fort (where we deployed our only regulars - probably an error), our initial deployment and the mass of the British forces looming in the distance ...

After a lengthy conflab, we decided not to deploy the majority of our forces. The British had repeater rifles which would outgun us in no time. It always feels odd to decline to deploy and the first few turns therefore flew by with us firing little more than a small mountain gun (centre of the shot above). The west coast club had played this through beforehand with the Afghans deploying early, so our decision was quite a surprise. But it paid off overall I think. The British had to move up into the range of our matchlocks and we prepared our clansmen with the Big Choppers for a late deployment and charge. You can see this below ...

And a quick shot from the British point of view. We felt the pressure as the Brits advanced, but from their perspective I can see why they were worried!! So many of the Khazi's troops - where do the British start?

Lady Myarse actually escaped (knotting her steely underwear together and leaping off the back of the fort). The garrison commander rakishly attempted to woo her before she jumped, but to no avail. This was one Myarse that was not for wooing.

No matter, it all came down to whether the clan with the Big Choppers (a mean bunch, make no mistake) would manage to charge into the advanced British line (top right of the picture) where the shock and casualties were piling up. Well we were ready. And would that blinking card come out? No. Somehow, in the confusion, we faced annihilation until enough flags were drawn to allow us to activate the mob (without their Big Men - which reduced their impact and fighting ability). It was a lengthy and risky charge, but they just about made it into the British line. The rest was rather unpleasant. It turns out that Big Choppers are really rather good in fisticuffs and they made mincemeat of the British unit. It turned and fled, which pretty much snapped the British morale (which had been reduced thanks to some unlucky casualty rolls here and there - the officers were dropping like flies!)

The two Stuarts took this very gracefully, because without the card interruption and dastardly dice-rolls I rather suspect the outcome would have been different.

But in the end, the scenario and flavour of the battle was the winner. It was played in a great spirit. The mission itself was tough for both sides and the rules allowed the battle to ebb and flow really nicely.

Anything to learn? Oooo lots as always. Don't deploy your best infantry where they can't do anything. And one day I'll work out how to play cavalry. I suspect they'd be better off deploying late in the game to smash into skirmishers and wavering units. Ours simply deployed and stood still, fearing getting shot up. Repeating rifles are very, very scary (no reloading!) and very different to the Napoleonic era that I'm used to. Last but not least, don't forget the scenario (I totally forgot about the dashing lady in the fort).

Game 2: Peninsular War
This was a belter of a short and sweet scenario. Each commander had a sub-plot as well as trying to defeat the enemy. A bit like Muskets and Tomahawks; something you'll have seen we like to throw into the mix for our SP games.

A small French force of Fusiliers and Voltigeurs was approaching a Spanish village. Facing them were four groups of guerrillas (yours truly in command) and a big block of dubious quality militia.

Above, the deployment and initial moves for the militia (top) and guerrillas (bottom). The guerrillas became instantly useless because their commander managed to tread in dog-doo-doo and left him at status 0. Nice. I must have played a dozen or so full games of SP2 and that random event happens to me more frequently than chance dictates. Meanwhile, the militia pushed on in an uncharacteristic show of bravardo. We had a run of good cards, including a couple of extra bonus leader activations (4 flags). The main French force was commanded by a thoroughly decent chap who had not played the game before. We were honestly trying to play fair. Cue an unusual situation ...

A furious firefight broke out between the Fusiliers and the Spanish Militia and again the cards just kept on coming up for us. After what must have been the third or maybe fourth series of "4 flags" for a bonus activation, the French suffered badly and were driven back, with the leader eventually running off the board. Yup, a chapter ended at just that moment when he could have rallied the troops for another go.

Meanwhile, some of my guerrillas had used yet more flags to activate and hop over walls and into their objective, the house. Bart, the canny Voltigeur leader, had a mission to avoid harm (his leader hating the main French character). But with the Fusiliers in tatters, he elected to see what would happen if his groups of Voltigeurs charged my depleted Guerrillas inside a building. It turns out that is not a good thing to do ... please excuse the blurry photo which fails to do justice to the scene!

That was how we had to end it as time was drawing on. Whilst I'd have liked the cards to come out in favour of the French for the sake of a new player, this was actually a great introductory game because all the key mechanisms came into play. I also very much doubt anyone has ever used militia and guerrillas quite so brazenly!

Roll on Deep Fried Lard 2019. You know what, it's probably time I actually ran and umpired a game for a change ...

Friday, 13 April 2018

Loitering Around Bad Faschingskrapfen

Loitering Around Bad Faschingskrapfen

With the campaign's initiative swinging to the Austrians, Scheittekatte has spotted an opportunity to drive the French away from Gross Lardsdorf to the fringes of a nearby spa resort. Spurred on by rumours of a delightful tea-room and sauna, Scheittekatte is in the mood to hand out another drubbing. After a strong start, Volte-Face's forces are on the defensive. As luck would have it, we rolled up the "defence in depth" scenario which seemed perfect.

The French were allowed to deploy in two lines. The first (advanced/secondary deployment point) was placed in the centre of the board, just to the south of the track running across the battlefield. The main deployment point was placed at the back of the board, between a derelict farmhouse and a copse of trees. It's game over if the Austrians capture the main deployment point or if either side's morale collapses to zero. The French started with a slightly higher morale, perhaps boosted by the return of their trusty artillery piece.

The French Voltiguers deployed first but as you can see the entire Austrian force deployed rapidly afterwards. The plucky Austrian Fusiliers entered on the road, enhancing their potential to move fast, accompanied by the Grenadiers. The Grenzer took off from the other side of the board. Whilst this showed his hand, Scheittekatte wanted to push on and hopefully get through the first deployment zone before the French had time to respond. It also meant that the French could not concentrate their forces on one point and simply stand behind cover and blast away.

Into turn/phase 3 already. Volte-Face deployed his larger Fusiliers unit in the centre where it became snarled up on terrain and walls. Bad decision! The larger unit would have been better held further back in reserve. The Grenzer were already half way down the battlefield and threatening to scoot quickly onto their main objective. Well, scoot may be pushing it a bit far. Faced with crossing a big hedge, Longabuscu delivered a rousing eastern European "huzza" and charged on, only to find his Grenzer lollygagging behind the aforementioned shrubbery. They had rolled a mighty 4 on 3D6 - in fact they alternated between lung-bursting sprints of over 15 inches and pretty much standing still for the rest of the game. Ah, the delights of random movement!

As the Austrian Fusiliers trotted gallantly down the road to join the fray, Blase's Voltiguers seemed caught in two minds. They leapt the hedges to close the distance, then shimmied back into cover, before sniping at the Austrians from the safety of the hedgerow. In SP2 you just never know what might happen. Last time out the Voltiguers could barely hit a barndoor with a very big barn-door hitting stick-thing. This time it was different. You might just be able to see that pretty much every shot hit and caused either shock or a casualty.

Disaster! Calamity! Scheittekatte was hit ... it looked like being the shortest game in history. After the usual blundering around the rule book, we discovered he's been knocked out (no doubt dreaming of fluffy meringues) and would hobble around on a gammy leg for the rest of the game (owing to the gout). This left his Fusiliers already badly mauled and hanging in the breeze within range of the fearsome Italian cannon.

Whilst Scheittekatte slept gently behind his soldiers, the battle then ebbed towards the centre-ground. Here, Volte-Face's larger unit had split - he sent off Sergeant L'Excraimont and an 8-man group to harass the Grenzer whilst the remaining two groups formed up to deliver a volley at the cocksure Hungarian Grenadiers led by Kapitan Hamsarni. Volte-Face's formation definitely came off the worst.

Scheittekatte groaned as he came to and limped back into action. In a fit of derring-do he steadied the Fusiliers who surprised everyone by nearly annihilating the left-hand Voltiguer group (above, bottom right). Nearby, Flatulento gesticulated wildly and finally brought his cannon around to point at the Austrian Fusiliers. Scheittekatte held his breath as his Fusiliers were pounded by two successive rounds of canister split by the tiffin chip, which gouged holes in each flank and piled on shock. Ooof. All three Fusilier groups wavered and withdrew, causing a dip in the Force Morale. Alas, three flags came out in a row and poor Flatulento realised that he had been supplied with damp powder. No amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth could alter the fact. This meant that all future firing from the cannon was halved. This undoubtedly saved the Fusiliers and probably swung the match back towards Austria.

Hamsarni's Grenadiers continued to cause mayhem amidst Volte-Face's once proud ranks of conscripts. Meanwhile, Scheittekatte launched into a courageous speech about the homeland (and its range of exquisite puddings), consolidating his decimated formation into two full groups. The shared shock was considerable but it gave him a fighting chance to withdraw in order and rally the troops out of range of the canister.

With the battle grinding to a halt on the French right, the focus switched flanks (above). Over on the French left flank, the Grenzer had galloped their way past some sniping Fusiliers. Well, perhaps they stumbled their way there. Longabuscu was heading towards the plucky Cliche and the French rearguard, who had swung over to halt the pesky Transylvanian skirmishers. After a brief firefight which rather mauled Cliche's formation, Longabuscu's chip came out again and he elected to charge the hapless French. Cue drumroll and ... the sauntering skirmishers ended up two inches short of making contact. How Volte-Face laughed.

Next: a fourth Red Flag was pulled out of the bag: Longabuscu claimed the bonus round and this time made no mistake. How quickly the tears of joy can switch to tears of pain and frustration! It was a rather one-sided contest as the French had already suffered significant shock and casualties. 7 brave Frenchmen died and they were heavily defeated, driven back nearly off the board. Cliche had challenged Longabuscu to a duel but he came off second best. There he is running away in the picture below, mumbling something about a date with a local girl. The remnants of his unit hid in the trees, attempting to convene with nature in an effort to overcome the shock and shame of their dismal failure. The French morale plummeted but the game was still in the balance, especially with the cannon aiming once again at the Austrian Fusiliers who could easily snap.

The game careened towards a conclusion. On the French left, the Grenzer were hit by accurate shooting from Blase's Voltiguers. Longabscu was forced to consolidate his troops and shock into one group and retreat back around the farmhouse, out of range. But he still had his eyes on the primary deployment point.

On the other flank, Volte-Face and Hamsarni blazed away at each other, neither commander being able to bring his troops under control to do anything else. Volte-Face did use a "pas de charge" earlier in the game to bring the shock down but he was suffering casualties and was pretty much stuck by this stage. Flatulento's cannon continued to persecute poor Scheittekatte but never quite managed to break the Fusiliers.

Then the coup de grace. Longabuscu spent 2 turns leaping wildly over hedges and urging his Grenzer to seize the deployment point. With a reluctant air of bemusement, his troops continued to move erratically but they finally seized the objective with a mighty cheer. The French were defeated!


Volte-Face (still trying to get his troops to stop firing, even though the battle ended yesterday and the enemy had left the field):
Bon sange! Another close-run battle. I honestly did not expect the Grenzer to be able to reach the objective, both given the distance and the likelihood of halting the main Austrian advance. My Fusiliers should have deployed at the back of the board and therefore switched places, but I don't think I'd do too much different if the scenario came up again. The cannon caused a lot of damage again and I honestly feel that the game would have ended in a relatively quick French win if the dreaded damp powder roll had not happened. Cliche, of course, was abysmal. I mean, he barely moved, failed to do much damage on a first-fire at close range, managed to get most of his men slaughtered in fisticuffs, lost a duel and then ran away. That pretty much accounted for the entire army's loss in Force Morale!

Scheittekatte (supping on a sneaky aperitif from his knapsack):
Ha, my boy! What a show! We gave the crapauds a darn good thrashing with a lesson in grand strategy, sound tactics and linear formations. You disagree? Preposterous. Here, help yourself to a garlic croissant whilst I explain. Yes, the Grenzer were able to claim the victory objective, but my regulars laid the platform for their success. They tied up the cannon and the majority of the French force, allowing the nimble Grenzer to do their thing down the flank. Yes, yes, we are thankful for the Grenzer success in fisticuffs but any old fool can charge and defeat Cliche these days (and the charge very nearly failed, had it not been for my masterful use of 4 flags - all part of the grand strategy). The honour and glory should go to the Grenadiers and I will write as much in the dispatch. Now, hand me that weisswurst and go book me a place in a local spa where I can recount the battle in the company of a few local delicacies.