Friday, 29 March 2013

Russian progress.

I have now completed the first 6 Russian units for the C&C Expansion. Line in greatcoat and full dress, a light infantry test base plus the 3 cossack units. Another 'greatcoat' battalion is undercoated for today and will be followed over the Easter weekend by 2 artillery bases (4 guns and crews), a cuirassier base and a second full dress base.... that's the plan, to fit around family gatherings and dinners etc. All in all I don't think it will take me too long to put together 18 to 20 bases, enough for a test game. I'll be adding the Russian Expansion set itself once I find it in stock over here.

The 'Mother Russia' Roll.
There has been a lot of discussion about the new game mechanic included in the Russian expansion, the ability to roll for additional blocks or complete additional cossack units after set up, which will add spice to the games I think. It is even possible to place additional field works to reflect the Russian tendency to build and defend such works. From a practical point of view this means that my unit 'block' numbers could change game to game so I'm looking for a way of making smaller markers that will fit snugly over the rear black area, probably from printed card.

The cossack units are all just 2 blocks each, and the loss of a cossack unit is not rewarded with a victory point to the opponent, another new innovation. This actually makes them useful for scouting and pining actions, they are in fact fairly disposable, but you could have lot's of them !

Russian Expansion review.
As I have added both of Marco's previous C&C videos here I thought I would add the new Russian expansion video as well. It's a neat review I think, I like the guy's style, and it shows a couple of the new scenarios and explains the Mother Russia roll (although he does make an error re cossack units which he quickly corrects!).

Here are a few more pictures of the growing Russian troops and also a shot of 'Gibbo' at work in the dispatch department. I swear I did NOT put him in that box, he climbed in as I was preparing it for packing.

Happy Easter all, have a peaceful and relaxing weekend.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

First Russian infantry battalion.

I knocked these off this morning as we have a family dinner planned this afternoon. This first base was a tester for the shades and colours I will be using. A good look around Goggle images threw up lots of variants on the greatcoat colours and I settled on the two you see here, a mid grey (Foundry Arctic Grey) and Citadel Mournfang brown, a favourite of mine. Little point really in shading in this scale (although it can be done), I prefer to let the black undercoat add depth. The shakos are depicted covered but I did still add the red pom pom as I felt it lifted the overall look slightly.

I'm working hard on improving my 6mm faces too now, it's just a matter of 4 tiny touches, down the nose, on the chin and a fine stroke down both cheeks. It gives a reasonable impression of a face I think and is better than a 'blob'.

I'll replace the 'wonky' flag tomorrow I think. Overall I'm well pleased.

Commands & Colors Russian Expansion tells me Russian Line are 3 blocks, have good firepower and may ignore one flag throw- which I guess reflects the very stubborn fighting ability of these troops.

I'll be painting units in both greatcoats and full dress as well as Grenadiers, lights etc as things progress.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Stop press - The Russians have arrived!

It's a very bleak cold and windy day down here on the Kent coast, everyone seems to be hunkered down in the warm and the place is deserted. But my Baccus Russian order arrived today and I wasted no time in getting an infantry battalion undercoated. First bag I picked up was the infantry in greatcoats so I'll start with them. The level of detail is simply amazing and should produce a fine army. No doubt this battalion will be painted and based by this time tomorrow. 

It's given a fresh impetus to my Napoleonic collection, I hope to add the C&C Russian Expansion in due course. No doubt many interesting and challenging scenarios lay ahead. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Another week flown by.

Not much to report on the gaming front this week, I have been mostly focused on my commission work and have also added a second battalion of the 15th French line Regiment, resplendent in their white uniforms with black facings that they are recorded as having worn into Spain.

When I re-based my 6mm armies recently for the C&C hex grid I decided to change over to the Baccus basing system and I'm really pleased with the results. The 'sand' is much finer than the previously use fine grit, and the static grass is short strand, more in keeping with the scale. What I like best is the 'foundation wash' that covers so well over the dry sand, it's ink like consistency flowing into all the areas of the figure bases. You also get a pot each of 'base coat' and 'top coat' should you wish to further highlight the washed bases, but my preference is for the contrast between the brown and the grass. I'd recommend the kit to anybody doing a lot of 6mm basing.

Due to a slight cock up at Baccus HQ I am still waiting for the arrival of the Russian order! However, a chat with Igor was followed by a very apologetic call from Peter and things are now in hand. These things happen and I'm just looking forward to getting my hands on them shortly. Baccus have released the first images of the new French Napoleonic  'greens' and the detail looks amazing, I'm sure the final castings will be great and in keeping with the quality of the more recent ranges such as the redesigned British and the Russians.

Commission painting progress.
Have completed the latest two Regiments of ECW horse for Tony's collection, here's a few snaps of them before they get ready to head off home. I really enjoy painting these 20mm castings now. I try to inject a little variation into the units with the odd sleeveless buff coat and touch of bright armour (for the Royalist units). I'm now working on finishing off 40 strips of 6mm Scutarri before I move back to some lovely old 20mm castings for 'Old John's' collection. For April I have a 500 figure 10mm AWI British army to paint, and anybody who has seen pictures of the Pendraken AWI range will know just how good they are. I also have some 6mm WoR cavalry in hand, so all in all I'm keeping busy.

Few pictures below.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Changing rooms & painting progress.

It's been a busy and interesting week here, and while I have been painting away on commission work I have enjoyed catching up on some old TV favourites courtesy of YouTube. I find that I can enjoy mostly listening to them, while glancing at the screen between brush strokes. Recently I have watched all of the Sharpe series again and I'm currently working through the Hornblower series as I missed it first time round and I'm really enjoying it. It's more than just background noise, I find it really helps when I'm painting.

Speaking of painting, about a week ago I decided to move myself out of the upstairs spare room where I have been painting for a good six months now and back downstairs into the dining room. To get the right feel in there we shuffled things around which meant moving the bookshelves - all of which had to emptied first! Result now is a comfortable place to sit and work where I don't feel so isolated ( trying to explain the situation to my wife resulted in a chorus of 'I've got cabin fever'), and I will be able to enjoy the garden again, if bloody Spring and Summer ever arrive. The house is quiet most weekday mornings anyway so it's just perfect now. All it takes is about 5 minutes to set up each morning.

'Gibbo' the cat (who oversees the packing department) has coped well with the move and has been provided with his own chair at my side, family consensus is that I make too much fuss of Gibbo, 'spoil him' in fact (how can you spoil a cat?), I uphold that I probably make 'too much fuss' of all four cats and the dog, which is as things should be.

I'm still enjoying playing Commands and Colors on the board, what I like is how quickly a game can be set up and played. About 15 minutes is all it takes. This game is a non scenario game I'm playing now, just 16 bases per side plus 3 commanders, deployed across the 3 sections with 6 cards per side for plenty of action on a terrain set up I just quickly laid down. The British must attempt to cross the river and seize the two villages - 5 VP's for a win. Both card hands are 'open' this time and simply trying the best for both sides. It's just such fun to play this game. I've added a few more bases recently including more French line battalions and another Portuguese line battalion. No sign of my Russians as yet, I really must get that sorted out as it's been a couple of weeks, most un Baccus like, so I fear they may have gone stray in the post.... I hope not.

Some more game pictures, plus a couple of shots of more of 'Old John's' wonderful Les Higgins castings that I'm painting on commission. This pic was just prior to this batch making the journey home.

20mm Les Higgins Marlburians painted by myself for the collection of 'Old John'.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Planning ahead.

I can confidently now say that I have achieved the 'first phase' of my project, with the rebasing of the figures to sit in the 55mm hexes of the Command & Colours game board. I can now set up a game quickly and easily any time I feel that I want to play. It's taken much experimentation to reach this stage, from dotting out hex grids on Citadel Battlemats, to attempting some kind of texturing on the grid and finally to playing on the actual game board itself. Along the way I have created quite a bit of scenery and terrain items that now sit upon the shelf unused, and my thoughts have been slowly turning back to the possibility of building some proper scenic boards again. This would most likely mean finding a second set of rules that play on a conventional non hex table. Trouble is that I still find the C&C system such a pleasure to use and having tried so many sets in the past it is clearly going to be a challenge to find any other set that gives me such a playable game, so what to do? I have jotted down a few notes/rough ideas etc that I am considering.

  • Steve Jones' 'Napoleonic Squares' rules are a possibility. I have read through them several times and I like them. No physical marked grid is required and they are specific 6mm rules. By using 4 of my small 'battalion' bases together to represent the larger formations I could make this work. 
  • I could return to experimenting with playing C&C games on a conventional table using Distance Units instead of hexes. It does work, but it's not true C&C of course and you have to get the hex grid somehow to the back of the mind when playing that way. There were issues with things like leader retreats and movement paths etc, but the basic mechanics of the rules can still work well in a more conventional manner. The upside is of course being able to play on a fully textured table with each of my little bases representing one block. This is very much on my mind right now!
  • I could try more rule sets. I have looked at Polemos, I own a set of the rules and they seem very popular, but I'm just not sure about them. There are of course many others out there and I have been following Steve as he seeks to find a set that will give him the type of game he's looking for, I fully identify with his frustrations because that's exactly where I was before being introduced to C&C Napoleonics and I'd rather not go back there again.
This weekend I'm going to set up and play another experimental non hex C&C game in order to test a few more theories. It will be a small affair using larger units (3 to 5 'blocks' as required) on a simple terrain board with just 3 small hills (non hex), a village, woods and a river. I'll be using my trusty old DU stick which is marked out in 80mm sections. As previously each DU represents a hex, so for example line infantry move 1 DU, lights 2 DU's or 1 and battle, musket range is 2 DU's, rifles 3 DU's etc. When units move within 1 DU of each other they melee etc, and flags cause retreats of 1 to 3 DU's back towards the players own table edge etc. Units and leaders count as support when within 1 DU etc. By keeping in mind that 80mm DU as a sort of virtual grid the game plays pretty well as I hope to demonstrate to myself this weekend. 

Why would I bother some might well ask, why not just play C&C on the game board or the old hex table? The answer is probably that I'm now so familiar with the mechanics of the game, which I think are simply excellent, that I want to stick with them if I can. I also want to be able to play using much larger units, as I feel this is the whole point of 6mm armies, and a solid block of 80 infantry figures (4 of my battalion bases) looks so much more convincing as representing higher formations. I placed a '4 block' unit of French light cavalry on a non hex hill for a quick photo, 56 figures, and as you can see it's pretty impressive!

Meantime I'm still happy playing out quick set up solo games on the supplied board, which I love, and have no intention of giving this up, but there is no doubting the visual impact of the larger formations.

I'll report back on the experimental game after the weekend, I intend to run through all of the features of conventional C&C including squares, combined arms, leader casualty checks, retreats etc to see how they work.

Beyond this I plan to update both the gallery page and the 'guide' page with the new basing style using the Baccus kit, which I feel is a big improvement, and a new painting guide reflecting my latest methods which includes improved face painting technique for these tiny figures, the detail is there to be picked out and a simple flesh 'blob' is no longer adequate! I'll also discuss brushes and illustrate my method for 'steadying' tiny fine strokes and some ideas on how best to work with paint that skins over fast such as whites and blacks, some of which hopefully might prove useful to other 6mm painters.

First Russians will also follow shortly.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Foz do Arouce – 15 March 1811. C&C scenario.

I decided to have a change around in my painting room yesterday afternoon, in order to allow myself to both paint up there during the day and to be able to play out C&C scenarios during evenings and weekends should I wish to. It feels much more comfortable now and allows access to both sides of the table at all times.

Some time back I laid out the Foz do Arouce scenario but did not get round to actually playing it out, so decided to have another go on the C&C board this time. It looks to be an extremely well thought out little scenario, with Ney commanding the French rearguard in typically aggressive style. The French can gain victory points by getting infantry units safely back across the Ceira river as well as routing enemy units, while the Anglo Portuguese are faced with the possibility of outflanking   the French right and cutting off the retreat across the bridge which is the only point at which the river may be crossed. The 'Light Division' on the British left can move fast ( 2 hex's or 1hex and battle), although the French position is very strong, with hills and the village of Foz do Arouce being well defended. Overall a well balanced scenario with opportunities for both sides.

IN order to spice up solo play a bit my plan was to command the British following the roughly historical plan and to use Tony's excellent 'Dummy Blind Hand' trick to command the French in accordance with an overall plan of battle that Tony also obligingly supplied upon request.

Here is the scenario map, you can see the bridge, the only exit point for the French, at bottom, occupied by French light cavalry at the start of the game.

And here is the scenario laid out on the board.

The wargame.

The game begins with the British moving first and immediately playing a left flank card. The Light Division begins to advance and the French counter by quickly moving light cavalry out wide. The French plan was to get the Chasseur a Cheval out wide in order to threaten advancing infantry and if possible to pin them in square in order to slow them down. This in turn should enable Ney to order his central infantry to pull back towards the river crossing when the time is right. The RHA battery supported by the Rifles also advance and first blood falls to the accurate shooting of the rifles, who have a 3 hex range, causing 3 block hits on a French infantry battalion with attached leader Marchand, who survives a leader casualty roll. On the British right opening volleys also ring out, causing slight loss to another French battalion with Mermet attached, who also survives a casualty roll.

The 'Blind Hand' is playing very well and adds a new dimension to a solo game for sure. The French being frustratingly unable to get the other Chasseur unit across the bridge and out to scout on the flank.

The action continues mostly in the French centre and right flank. Both units of Chasseurs are now operating out on the right and one unit charges the most advanced British light battalion, which elects to form square on a 'wood' hex which they can. The combat is inconclusive and the second unit of light cavalry also attack the square. The square stands firm, forcing one cavalry unit to 'bounce off' while supporting fire from the RHA battery causes damage to the other. Ney orders back his two depleted infantry units towards the bridge, covered by fresh battalions. The French battery is left somewhat exposed upon the hill though and takes casualties from British rifle fire again. 

The French need to move the exposed battery across in support of the Chasseurs to concentrate some fire upon the square, but the cards are not allowing this so far. Instead the French elect to use the 'left flank' card drawn (best of the 2!) to move the isolated light infantry battalion adjacent to Mermets battalion in the hope of covering it's withdrawal across the bridge in due course. So far no VB's have been awarded as it's mostly been about getting into position and replacing weakened units, but things look about to hot up. 

Picton, commanding the British and Portuguese units on the right flank now decides its time to move against the French centre, and under a 'La Grande Manoeuvre' card he's been holding orders 4 units to attack, foot artillery being raced up in support as troops enter the woods adjacent to Foz do Arouce in order to contest the village. The French must now begin to inflict some casualties in order to gain a couple of VB's before they begin to fall back over the river to safety. 

With the French centre under pressure Ney extends his line to the right as fire from British musketry and artillery begins to take it's toll, forcing the cavalry to retreat from it's pinning position on the square and a battery of artillery to fall back to the reverse ridge. Covered by this new French line a battered battalion unfit for further action and reduced to a single block crosses the river to safety and the first French VB. 

The British now begin to take casualties as they press the centre and commence the assault on the village, but in the exchanges of fire a second French battalion is reduced to a single block and falls back towards the river crossing before it is totally routed which would give the British a VB. Things are quite tense now. The next French card selection under the Dummy Hand is a 'bayonet charge' card, and in typically aggressive style Ney orders a counter attack in the hope of inflicting maximum loss on vulnerable units. The British infantry are driven back from the woods in front of Foz do Arouce but unfortunately the single block battalion is lost in the combat. Score now is 1/1 but many units are reduced to 1 or 2 blocks.

The French follow up by sending forward the strongest Chasseur unit against some Portuguese lights moving up on the extreme flank, forcing them into square. Long range fire from a French battery across the river scores a lucky hit and the cavalry v square combat (just 1 dice each)  results in the square being reduced to a single block. Portuguese troops held back in reserve on the British right begin to march towards the French centre.

Battle rages and the VB's start to mount up, both French cavalry units are eliminated and after some hard fighting just 3 French units remain intact on the 'worn' side of the river, the Light Division pushes slowly forward, volleys from the 5 block lights having devastating effect upon the depleted French. It's now 4/2 to the British and the French have clearly had it now.

The game ends on a British 'Forward' card, with an order to 6 units to engage the enemy, ranged fire from the first 3 decide the day, scoring the 6th and final VB. The French have been pretty much decimated, only 2 battalions making it back across the Ceira to safety. Ney surviving 2 leader casualty checks.

Post battle thoughts.
Initially I felt a little flat, as though I had not done the scenario justice but I quickly cheered up. It was frustrating at times, and I struggled to have much control over the French, being driven by the limited card hand, or what I could see of it. But then that unpredictability is of course realistic in battle. C&C rewards patience and the building of strong card hands for the right moment, but my card hands were all over the place! There was a couple of really timely cards drawn that did have a big impact at different stages and I love this aspect of the game. 'Le Grande Maneuvre' is a cracker if it turns up at a critical moment, it really gives the player a strategic boost if used well. Another is 'Fire and Hold' especially when used by British Light's and line units. Both came into play during the game. It finished a bit suddenly, with I think 4 French VB's going in the last couple of turns, but overall now I think it went OK. I will be sticking with the 'Blind Dummy Hand' method for solo play as it does indeed work well in practice. 

Thanks to Tony for his thoughts upon Ney's position and suggestions for a battle plan for the French which also helped to make the solo play more realistic for me at least. It was a good plan but I muffed it, or at least the cards refused to allow me to do much more than I did for the French.   I knew I had to inflict at least a couple of VB's upon the British before pulling back across the river screened by cavalry ..... it went badly wrong, such is the nature of War and a dodgy General (that's me!), great stuff.

Some of the 'playing pieces' .... " Them's Port'guese Sah!" Who's been watching Sharpe again then :-)


Historical Background.
The Combat at Foz do Arouce on March 15th, 1811, was the forth rearguard action fought during Massena’s retreat from Portugal. Once again, Marshal Ney commanded the rear guard. Disobeying Massena’s orders to cross the Ceira River and destroy the bridge near Foz do Arouce, Ney deployed around the town with Marchand’s Division, half of Mermet’s Division, and Lamotte’s light cavalry. It was a good yet dangerous position with the Ceira River at flood stage and the narrow bridge across it already somewhat damaged. 
As at Redinha three days earlier, the 3rd Division attacked the French left while the Light Division attacked the French right. The Light Division caught the French unprepared and was making good progress towards the town as was the 3rd late in the day. Only an infantry charge ordered by Ney allowed the French to cross over to the far side of the river. By nightfall the withdrawal was complete.
Foz de Arouce was similar to the Combat of the River Coa fought on July 24th 1810. On that occasion, it was Ney who pursued the Light Division over the Coa. Now the Light Division played a key role in forcing Ney over the Ceira River.
Ney’s acrimonious relationship with Massena would continue to deteriorate. Within a month, he would be dismissed for insubordination.  
The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. Can you change history?

Battle Notes

British Army
Commander: Wellington
5 Command Cards
Move First

Line InfantryLight InfantryRifle InfantryFoot ArtilleryHorse ArtilleryGeneralLine InfantryLight Infantry
French Army
Commander: Ney
5 Command Cards

Line InfantryLight InfantryLight CavalryFoot ArtilleryGeneral

6 Banners
Special Rules
Any ordered French infantry or artillery unit (regardless of strength and with the exception noted below) that exits the battlefield from the French exit hex will count as a Victory Banner for the French army. Exited leaders and cavalry units do not count for French Victory Banners.
The French foot artillery unit on the far side of the Ceira River must remain on that side. If ordered off the battlefield, it does not earn a Victory Banner for the French.
French units cannot exit from the French exit hex when forced to retreat due to ranged or melee combat. Units must halt or remain on the exit hex and lose one block for each retreat hex that cannot be taken. If the unit is eliminated, the British player receives one Victory Banner.
The bridge over the Ceira River is a Victory Banner objective hex for the British player. If a British unit occupies the bridge at the start of the British player’s turn, the British army gains a Victory Banner. As long as the unit remains on the bridge hex it will count as a British Victory Banner (the French line of retreat has been blocked). If it moves off or is eliminated, it no longer counts.
The Ceira River is impassable except at the bridge.