Friday 30 June 2017

A Wargamer's Guide to the Anglo Zulu War

A few weeks ago I began to give serious thought to my next big project, the Anglo Zulu War. The first book I bought was Daniel Mersey's Wargamer's Guide to The Anglo Zulu War published by Pen and Sword Publishing. I wanted to begin this project with a broad overview of the period, the forces involved and the type of actions that this conflict brought up (its not all Hollywood after all!). This book fulfilled that brief completely.

The book is divided into seven chapters starting with an overview of the conflicts origins, its stuttering progress, major actions and inevitable conclusion. There are better history's of the war out there but this is meant as an overview and in that respect it does a very clear job in setting the scene. This is followed by a review of the armies, their organisation and the equipment used. Again this is necessarily brief but pretty concise and I really felt that it was a good place to start for the beginner in this period.

Now we start to get to the meat of this book and the next two chapters focus on the key battles of the war and how to wargame the campaign. As well as the big set piece battles and encounters like Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift there were many much smaller skirmishes that offer a wealth of options for the wargamer. I'm still deciding at what level I want to model my troops so I found this section very useful. After this the next chapter looks at some of the rule sets available. Its not comprehensive but it does cover many of the main sets available commercially and as free downloads. I found this very useful and its given me some ideas of rules I'd like to explore.

The next section reviews some of the miniature manufacturers for this period. For me this was the least useful section, I want to stick with 6mm so I'm limited to just a couple of manufacturers. But for those that have yet to decide this section does give a pretty comprehensive review of what is available out there in other scales. I suspect though that most wargamers will come to this period already with certain ranges in mind so I'm not sure how useful this section will be. The final chapter however focuses on scenarios that could be played and I felt this was quite useful as it helped me have some idea of what would work at different scales and what would make for interesting games. 

I found the writing very engaging and easy to follow. There is a lot of information in this book but it never feels like wading through a text book. I did come away from it with a lot of things to think about and in that respect its proved to be a pretty good starting point for my Zulu war project. 

Wednesday 28 June 2017

The Battle of Klyastitsy 30th July1812

The messenger was dispatched and from every corner of Kent (and one part of Essex) we came. The Rejects gathered in the Shed of War on Sunday for a game with a difference. We brought the kids with us! Four trainee wargamers joined regular Rejects Lee, Ray and Richard to play a Napoleonic battle between the French and the Russians in 1812. The game went very well and by the end of the day I think us old Grognards were about ready to hang up our spurs (and put away the dice) permanently as the young apprentices outperformed us in every respect. 

The Setup
The Battle of Klyastitsy (also called the Battle of Yakubovo) was a series of engagements that took place as the French advanced on St Petersburg. The game starts as both armies head towards each other. The Russians appear to outnumber the French but they are facing superior quality troops and commanders determined to break through. A couple of units of mounted Cossack's are hidden in the woods on the french flank but they will probably be more of an annoyance to the french than a real threat. It all depends of the timing of their appearance...

Order of Battle
6th Corp c/o Marchal St Cyr (Overall commander James)
   1st Combined Infantry Division c/o Gen Wrede  Heavy Gun Battery (James)
       1st Btn - 2nd Infantry(2), 6th Infantry (2), 2nd Lt Inf (1), Bavarian Line, Medium Gun Battery
       2nd Btn - 3rd Infantry (2), 7th Infantry (2), 4th Lt Inf (1), Bavarian Line, Medium Gun Battery
   2nd Combined Infantry Division c/o Gen Merle (Richard)
       3rd Btn - 4th Swiss (Elite) (3), 3rd Provisional Croatian Rgt (2), Lt Gun Battery
       4th Btn - 56th Line (4), Medium Gun Battery
   3rd Combined Cavalry Division c/o Gen Corbineau (Holly)
       5th Btn - 23rd & 24th Chasseurs a cheval
       6th Btn - 7th & 20th Chasseurs a chaval, 8th Cheau-legers (Lancers) 

Russians (1st Army of the West)
1st Corp c/o Lt Gen Wittgenstein (Overall commander Emily)
    5th Infantry Division c/o Maj-Gen Berg (Lee)
        1st Btn - Sieski Rgt (2), Kalvgski Rgt (2), Hvy Gun Battery
        2nd Btn - Permski Rgt (2), Mogilevki Rgt (2), Lt Gun Battery
        3rd Btn - 23rd Infantry, 24th Jagers, Lt Gun Battery
    14th Infantry Division c/o Maj-Gen Sazanoff (Ray/Holly)
        4th Btn - Tulski Rgt (2), Navaginski Rgt (2), Hvy Gun Battery
        5th Btn - Tanginski Rgt (2), Estlanski Rgt (2), Lt Gun Battery
        6th Btn - 25th Jagers (2), 26th Jagers (2), Lt Gun Battery
    1st Cavalry Division c/o Maj-Gen Kazoffskoi (Emily)
        7th Btn - Riga Dragoons, Yamburg Dragoons, Grodno Hussars
        8th Btn - Don Cossacks, 10th Canton of Bachkirs Cossacks, Ural Cossacks (Militia)
        Opolcheme Militia Battalion being raised in the town.

The Action
Initial setup. This is taken from the Russian side of the table. Closest to the camera is the 14th Division. 

In the Russian centre is the 5th Division under my command. 

Another view of the 14th Division looking towards the French 1st Infantry Division

The French advance started immediately. A bold and determined attack on this flank lasted the whole game. 

My Division in the centre is very strong...but that doesn't stop the French advancing to attack. The three red units across the table are Elite Swiss infantry and they are heading right for my line! In anticipation I get all my artillery on the hill ready to deal as much damage as possible before the melee starts. 

Rays troops hold the hill on the left flank and move their artillery forward ready to repel the French advance. 

Two of the young apprentices hold the flank. Their cavalry divisions would soon meet in a huge and decisive melee. 

The French 1st Infantry Division bears down on  the Russian line.

Attack columns march forward to the sound of drumbeats.

Part of Rays 14th Infantry Division ready to face the French advance

Overview showing the fast advance of the French towards the Russian left flank

In the centre my Guns start to open fire on the Swiss and French infantry

Meanwhile Emily (aka the Young Padawan) advances her Dragoons and Hussars into melee with the French Chasseurs and Lancers. 

If the cavalry melee goes to the French then my division in the centre will be dangerously exposed. 

Meanwhile on the other flank the French 1st Division hits the Russian 14th Division. 

The Cossack's emerge from the forest and line themselves up to support the cavalry melee. No one expects them to achieve much, they are just militia cavalry after all. 

Emily's dice throwing produces sound victories fro the Russians and suddenly the French position doesn't look so good.

On the other flank French columns smash into Russian infantry lines. 

My division in the centre has yet to see action but they know they need to hold if we are to capitalise on the cavalry successes on the right flank. 

Amazingly a french column charges one of my guns. Even more amazingly, despite opening with canister shot, the melee hits home. 

A second round of cavalry melee sees the Russians press home their earlier attack this time supported by the Cossack's. 

On the left flank more French columns hit home and start to force back the Russian line. Casualties mount on both sides and there are several Battalion morale checks.  
I pull my line back slightly and hope we win the initiative nest turn so I can advance and fire first. In the whole game the Russians only won the initiative twice.

The Cossack's charge! Emily's dice skills win again and she sweeps the French back. 

With follow through charges the Russian cavalry have effectively swept the whole flank clear of French cavalry. 

Another view showing the open flank. Three Russian cavalry units remain undamaged and with a little redeployment should be able to roll up the French line. However they need to reorganise and this will take a couple of turns...can the French attack on the other flank break the Russians before this happens? 

The left flank has seen a lot of tough fighting. Both the French and Russian regiments have taken serious casualties and its only a matter of time before one side breaks under the strain. 

In the centre my troops patiently hold their ground waiting for the right moment to engage the advancing Swiss and French infantry. 
Both sides now face multiple tests of moral and one French battalion fails. Five regiments flee back a full move and this effectively ends their attack. With the other flank controlled by the Russians the French sensible decide enough is enough and concede defeat.  

Wow. Those kids sure can throw dice! On the French side young James was a sight to behold. His dice throwing was almost supernatural! And on the Russian side my Padawan Emily did amazing things with her Cossack's. Nobody has seen Cossack cavalry perform as well as this in any previous game.

The Russian plan was simply to hold fast and defend, bringing our guns up and into action as fast as possible. We hoped the Cossack's would tip the balance on the right flank but we never expected the result we got. The French sensibly planned on an all out frontal assault and to be fair is came close to paying dividends. The kids all played very well and all seemed to enjoy the game. Their dice rolling skills were simply uncanny and it made us old farts consider just give up wargaming and taking up fishing or something.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Upgraded Storage for my Miniatures

I acquired a new piece of furniture for my future games room (the one I dream about getting at some unspecified time far in the future!). This all metal file cabinet has 15 drawers and is ideal for storing my growing 6mm collections. I already magnetise the bases as my carry boxes are lined with magnetic sheets so moving most of them to the new cabinet was easy and they adhere quite nicely to the metal trays. I had a few more recent models that needed magnetic strip added to the bases and its taken a few days to organise and label the draws appropriately. 

Each drawer slides fully out if needed making it easy to move models to the games table. The only downside, I've almost filled  the cabinet already! I only have a few empty drawers remaining so I guess I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled for a matching companion. This type of unit also comes in a 30 drawer version (with shallower trays) so I may look out for one of those. There a few second hand furniture dealers nearby I can visit and of course the internet is bound to throw up examples for sale eventually. I have seen a couple for sale but they were too far away to collect.

One word of advice if you consider the same option, use decent quality magnetic strip. Some of the stuff I had was so magnetically weak it was next to useless. Luckily I had some better quality material and was able to use that and it makes all the difference.

Moving models from their transport boxes to the new storage unit.

15 Drawers and after transfer just  five spares, two of which have
been immediately earmarked from my Zulu War project
Neatly labelled of course...

It didn't take long for me to fill most of the drawers, and this is just my 6mm collection.

Friday 23 June 2017

Zulu War Books, thousands of em!

OK, maybe not thousands but I couldn't resist. I'm kicking off my Zulu Wars project with some serious reading care of Pen and Sword Publishing. The Rejects prize for wining Best Game at Broadside was a £100 voucher and as I supplied the game and models the rest of the team insisted I get the prize (far be it for me to complain!). It couldn't have come at a better time and will kick start my new project. So here's what I bought... 


In addition my daughters treated me to an Amazon voucher for Father Day last week and I treated myself to several Osprey books to really round off my new Zulu Wars library. Combined with Daniel Mersey's book A Wargamers Guide to the Anglo Zulu War which I bought a few weeks ago I have a lot of reading ahead of me. 

I've just finished reading Daniel Mersey's book and I'll be posting a review in a couple of days. I have a lot more reading to do before I settle on a set of rules or start buying miniatures but I'm determined to take my time and 'do this right'.