Sunday, October 14, 2018

Little Wars TV

Logo from Little Wars TV - Used without their permission.

Yesterday completely by chance I stumbled across the "Little Wars TV" [click] Youtube channel and watched some of their material after the kids went to bed.  WOW is all I can say!  This is a group somewhere in Pennsylvania (thumbs up there) that meets in their own facility and clearly has a passion for all things military history.
their website is great, too.

Now, lots of gamers and groups have social media platforms [blogs...ahem] and even do videos, so what makes these guys unique?

A few things, I think.  Their production quality is outstanding.  Their miniatures and video batreps are extremely well-done with interviews of the player-commanders and their strategies.  They add in nice, concise histories of the campaign, and so far in the battles I've watched, they try to wrestle with some kind of historical myth or proof that they want to disprove or explore further.  (IE the reason for English supremacy at Agincourt, or the myth of Roman Legions' invincibility, etc).

They also seem to be a great bunch of guys who share your love of pushing toy soldiers around on the battlefield.  I will add that these guys do it in a very classy way!  Just watching the videos makes me want to go down to the basement to paint or game.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that that's probably one of their motives, so mission accomplished.

But don't take my word for it - head on over to their site or watch these awesome trailers to see what I mean.  Don't be surprised if you end up staying to watch some of their slick BATREP videos.

If the videos don't play for you, here is a link:

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Feast your eyes on this epic battle, folks!  Last night I played a solo game re-enacting the battle of Talavera in 1809 and the game did NOT disappoint!  The reader can see the irresistible draw of 15mm Napoleonics creating a gorgeous spectacle of mass!  It's been too long since I played a truly EPIC battle so here goes:

A massive French force bears down on the "thin red line"
 2 French Corps on the table, I and IV Corps de Armee as well as the Grenadier Division from the Madrid Royal Garrison.  A huge force the likes of which have not graced my gaming table yet!  Their job is simple - break the enemy forces.  Facing them are the combined forces under Generals Sir Arthur Wellesly and General Cuesta.

The bulk of the French IV Corps immediately in center of picture.  A Cavalry Division is in lower left.
The map used to create the table was from the Volley & Bayonet scenario in the "Road to Glory" book.
Looking northwards, the peaceful town of Talavera is visible in lower left.  The river Tagus is not visible.  The Portina Brook and the Pejar Redoubt are visible.
The British / Spanish may setup 24" from the western edge (pic below).  The French may set up 24" from the eastern edge but not within 12" of the enemy.

Spanish in the Pejar Redoubt (2x Brigades and Divisional Artillery) and also occupying a walled garden around Talavera.  They are in good positions!  The British occupy the heights north of the town.

British positions north of the town

The Pejar Redoubt!
 The French plan is pretty simple.  The I Corps is on the left and will assault trying to batter through the gap between the Spanish and French Army.  To do that, they'll have to seize the Pejar Redoubt with enough combat strength left to over-run the British Guards behind them!  Their main objective is the smaller hill from the Cerro Medellin.  The French IV Corps' mission is to seize the Cerro Medellin massif, keeping the British occupied and tied down from reinforcing the Spanish.

The British, however have a Division behind the hills in reserve!  The showdown begins!
Elements of French I Corps (lower center) and the entire French IV Corps (top center) step off on the attack

French Corps Artillery 

The Guard patiently waits.  They've played this game before.

2 x French Corps bearing down on you!

The Spaniards await the charge of the French.  They're actually facing Italian volunteers right now.

Spanish reserve units

Spanish take up position in a walled orchard

The French attack steps off.  I Corps lead division sweeps towards the Pejar Redoubt and French I Corps Artillery opens fire!  The Spanish in the redoubt take casualties but are still intact.
 Some problems I ran into with ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL off the bat were Corps Orders.  Each Corps has roughly 9 to 12 Brigades in it!  Rolling 1D6 for orders isn't going to cut it!  I immediately starting rolling 2D6 for French orders each turn.  2D6 for British orders, and 1D6 for Spanish orders (simply because the Spanish force is small - only 7 units in all).

I also started using the rule where if a command element is touching a stand, it can activate free and with no orders.

FIRE!  French Corps Artillery starts the ball.

The air stinks of sulfur and quickly fills with smoke around the busy gunners.  

Solid shot plunges into the Pejar Redoubt's earthen walls and the infantrymen cross themselves and pray!
 On the right, the brigades of IV Corps step off but the movement is choppy.  With so few orders, you have to prioritize who will move when.  Timing is everything and the decision is only influenced by you, the commander.  I realized some mistakes could have been avoided with more careful planning and scrutiny of moves.  The lead division reaches the Cerro Cascajal and the light detachments have crested.  They spot their first line of Redcoats on the next rise.  It's a solid wall.  Merde!

French lead Division shakes out to assault

right-most French brigade of IV Corps is stuck in a swamp

The assault goes in but there aren't enough orders to move the second line.  They're very scattered!
 On one hand, I like that I have to diligently prioritize orders.  On the other hand, the majority of the Corps is sitting back watching their comrades go up the hill...  Also, the movement rules are very restrictive.  Even the slightest pivoting of a Brigade reduces their mvoement by half!  This causes quite a bit of lagging and malingering.

I guess to a Corps Commander, your troops will never move fast or precise enough!

The battle lines by turn 2.  notes the action at the Pejar Redoubt!  I Corps' guns are red hot from shooting!  IV Corps is having a tough time getting into position.

IV Corps reaches the Cerro Cascajal!

Italian volunteers reach the redoubt, already close to breaking.  The Spanish finish them with a whiff of grapeshot!  The first unit, the Italians, breaks.

I Corps sends in more Brigades behind the Italians.  They'll have to storm the works!

battle top of turn 3.  The turns are moving quickly, especially with limited orders.

more units preparing to storm the redoubt!  I Corps Artillery is training their fire onto the redoubt and it's working.

Meanwhile elements of IV Corps charge up the Cascajal and are greeting by solid shot from British artillery.  They're having a hard time getting their artillery up with them.  IV Corps even though supporting I Corps' main effort, have the lion's share of artillery since they're going up against the British in the hills.  Right now only 1 battery is atop the hill though!

Storm the works!  The right-most Spanish Brigade behind the works is ready to break.  Skrimsher fire is helping, along with artillery fire.

Preparing to go over the top!
 The close combat works like a charm.  The advancing French get 3 hits to the Spanish 0.  The Spanish brigade evaporates and the French advancing Brigade is in the redoubt!  The Spanish attempt to move their battery back but to no avail.  THe next turn they're gobbled up by the assaulting French brigade.
Meanwhile if you were a commander in IV Corps, you might be thinking things were not going so well over here.  The Portina brook stops movement of your lead elements who are taking musket fire from skirmishers and grapeshot in the scrub valley.

units at an odd angle are turning.
 Forcing units to take 1 action per turn seriously favors the defenders and makes you have to set up your resources in a way to enable the attack.  The placement of artillery, as well as commanders who grant a free order, is of the utmost importance.  I did not grasp the importance of this until I started playing.  Additionally, units turning, moving, and re-positioning themselves have to take into consideration OTHER units.  My French skirmishers from IV Corps blocked their cousins in the infantry brigades who could not shoot or get into position to cross the Portina, wasting precious time and accruging casualties in the process.

The French skirmish detachments train their fire on the gunners from the Royal Artillery.  Meanwhile French Artillery redeploys as best it can to cover the advance.  The fighting on the French extreme right is also hot along the banks of the Portina as troops close to musket range and a fierce firefight develops.

French skirmisher detachment along the Portina sniping and harrassing the gunners of the Royal Artillery

French Brigades shake out.  Note the command stand attached.  This enabled a free order!  
 The action in I Corps heats up as the French seize the Pejar Redoubt and the Spanish evacuate back to the Portina and their pre-planned second line.  Still plenty of Spanish troops to hold onto Talavera. and the French in contact are getting worn out.

Another French Brigade (left) rushes to reinforce.  Meanwhile I Corps Artillery actually reaches the Portina and deploys.

Even amidst murderous Spanish and British Guards fire, the French are trying to rally themselves in the redoubt and prepare for further operations.

The rest of I Corps finally reaches the Portina or close to it.  Their objective seems SO close but it's going to take alot of coordination to get there.  
 The French commander feels victory slipping from his hands.  Progress on the right is not yet happening, and the early gains on the left are slipping away as more Brigades march into sight.

Napoleonic traffic jam

The IV Corps Skirmishers sound the recall and leave a dreadful number of their dead behind them.  Victims of the British Rifle units who are skirmishing against them.

the whole French battle line.  2 x Corps on the table!
 The French have the orders and send their Brigades across the Portina and up the slope.  British musketry reaps a deadly harvest as entire lines are cut down in an instant.  Still though, the French keep coming, determined to push into the British line.  Close combat breaks out on the western slope of the Cerro Medellin!  French Brigades are eliminated in the fighting but there are fresh ones behind them.

French from I Corps also reach their objective but there is another wall of redcoats atop it!

French gunners are supporting their brothers in the infantry!

meanwhile in the Pejar redoubt, Cuesta feels confident that they can recapture the works and sends in a brigade to assault the French there.  

atop the cerro medellin, French batteries have established themselves and are supporting the assault against the Cascajal.

note the french across the valley going up the slopes!

Cuesta's counterattack does the trick and pushes out the French brigade!  Note the Guards in the upper right.  They would become the focus of the French guns very soon.

Cuesta's bold maneuver pays off.  He notes dust to the east, though!  French reinforcements?  Cuesta sends a runner to Wellesly, who has also noticed the column approaching.

Elements of I Corps stacked up trying to cross the Portina.  They'll begin their assault shortly.  There is already one unfortunate brigade across and already assaulting up the hill!
 Meanwhile combat against the British is tough but starting to pay off.  1 British brigade and eventually its supporting battery is driven off the hill by fresh French assaults.  It took 3 entire units to dislodge them.

The French have a toe-hold on the hill, but casualties are mounting and the Army can't sustain this level of combat for long.

French attacks bear fruit.  The British gunners abandon their guns as the battery position is swallowed up by advancing French infantry.  There is a fresh brigade behind them, but Wellesly (pictured above) is thinking about sending in the reserve Division now.
 The British from the left-most division sends a Brigade up to counter attack the hill.  It was roughly here where i stopped the fighting to take stock of everything that had happened and jot my findings down from this battle.  Lots of take-aways for the rules that I hope you will find interesting.  I think this was a British victory but I'm still taking stock of what's happened!  The French lost a ton of men.

More French crossing the Portina

French and British firefight along the hill.

The French assault their objective but is it enough?  

Spanish have re-established a battle line after reoccupying the Pejar Redoubt

Talavera sits unmolested save for some errant musket balls and shot.
So I felt that the rules, ONE HOUR GRAND TACTICAL, worked well-enough to support Napoleonic, Corps Sized battles but not without some caveats.

Span of Control:  20 "units" or brigades split into numerous Corps is probably too much for one person to handle satisfactorily during a game.  I found myself forgetting key things or paying for orders even when commanders were attached.  The "sweet spot" for the rules is probably one corps, split into 2 or 3 divisions.  6 to 9 units of maneuver along with supporting arms.

Orders:  1D6 is not sufficient for a large game with a historical OOB.  I found that the entire corps could only ever move UP to 50% of its stuff and with the restrictive movement rules, units became too strung out and coordination was difficult for anything bigger than 3 brigades in an advance.

Artillery is extremely important:  The artillery hits infantry on a 3+ and is absolutely necessary in softening up a defender prior to attacking.  You use your remaining strength points in close combat.  A unit is given 7 strength point dice so if they have 6 casualties, they only get 1 die.  that's huge!

staff work is extremely important:  the timing of assaults, barrages, and movement became critical.  Units turning or executing other maneuvers jammed up other units who were trying to advance.  Units assaulting before their artillery fired screwed up the plan.  I feel as if a Corps COmmander would lecture his division commanders about traffic management and would probably have made a mental note of this to discuss with the Brigade commanders.

Skirmishing Brigades shoot with their normal "To Hit" but with only 1 die.  Skirmishing Battalions or detachments shoot with a 5+ "To Hit" but shoot with 3 dice.

So big thoughts regarding the size of the battles, of movement, sequencing things, and the sequence of play (actions).  I'd like to try this battle with a few changes - namely changes in shooting variations, movement, and even playing in squares on sabots.  The basewidth was 4 inches but when i play with square sabots, it's 3 inches so I think that may alter the game somewhat.

I'd also like to try with Norm's EAGLES AT QUATRE BRAS and the "big" Black Powder that "Blunders on the Danube" portrayed in their big Borodino battle.

All in all a very fun, but also very exhausting game!  I wonder if I played with 1 Neil Thomas 6 unit force structure per Corps if that would make a big difference?  Then a 1D6 could still be used for Corps orders.  Food for though!