Sunday, March 18, 2018

CGM's Austrian Dragoons

Napoleonics from Campaign Game Miniatures keep creeping into the painting queue.  Since only two packs of dragoons (eight figures total) were ordered in the last restock from Barcelona, only six of the eight figures crossed the painting desk.  These six provided enough figures to field two squadrons of Austrian dragoons. 
Mustering out as the green-jacketed 6th Dragoons, a few more packs from CGM are needed to bring the 6th up to its full complement.  While all of the CGM bicorned French infantry have been painting and fielded, two battalions of helmeted Austrians remain to work into the queue.  Two battalions of Grenz lay in wait too.  Great figures and a great value.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Montcalm & Wolfe: Battle of Fort William-Henry and the Approach of Winter

Huron harass defenders at 3rd Battle of Ft William-Henry
(from Grid based wargaming - but not always)
Following the British defeat at Fort William-Henry, Monckton withdraws back to Fort Edward.  The battle was close but Dieskau persevered and took control of the fort.  Please visit Peter's blog to follow the battle (3rd Battle of Fort William-Henry).

September 1756
Rather than launch another counterattack against Fort William-Henry, the British prioritize pushing Braddock toward the lightly defended Fort Duquesne.  The British roll on the Command Table.  They receive two CPs.  Braddock and one Regular reach the fort as does a second regiment of Regulars trailing Braddock.  Fort Duquesne falls with no loss to Braddock.  The Political Track shifts one space in the British favor.

Needing to get more than one task accomplished, the French, too, roll on the Command Table.  The French receive three Command Points.  With these commands, the militia at William-Henry returns to Fort Carillon, one Regular stationed at Oswegatchie travels to Fort Frontenac.  No losses from attrition although the British Regular in the mountains north of Fort Cumberland had to rely on foraging to sustain itself.  With winter approaching, the Huron, Cayuga, and Illini return home.
Winter 1 1756
In Montcalm & Wolfe, there are two turns of winter between September and May.  Winter turns see more harsh attrition and Native and militia demobilization.  Tough to accomplish an extended campaign in these conditions.  Still, fighting over a supply source makes good sense if the supply source can be captured.  Anyway, on to the Winter Turn bringing 1756 to a close.

Pressured by the French, the British roll on the Command Table to get more than one activation.  The result?  One activation for the French!  With that activation, Drucour, one Regular, and one militia take bateaux from Fort Frontenac and come ashore to the east of Fort Oswego.  Drucour has stolen a march on the British!  Perhaps not in sufficient force to pull off a successful attack against Oswego but the ungarrisoned Fort Stanwix is within a march of Drucour's raiding party.
The British face a dilemma.  Do they opt to roll on the Command Table and risk another failure or take the guaranteed one activation?  A single activation allows the garrisoning of Fort Stanwix at the expense of all other operations.  The British choose the latter strategy and use their one activation to move one Regular from Oswego to Stanwix arriving ahead of the French.  
The French, likewise, take no risk on the Command Table making one automatic activation.  With that activation, Drucour and his force attack the recently garrisoned Fort Stanwix.
Attack on Fort Stanwix
British: 1 x 5-6 Regular
French: Drucour (A0D1), 1 x 5-6 Regular, 1 x 3-5 Militia

Fort Stanwix is situated at a key carrying place between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek. By portaging from the Mohawk River to Wood Creek via Fort Stanwix, a water-borne journey to Lake Ontario is possible.  If Fort Stanwix falls to the French, the French receive a favorable Political Track shift.  The loser of this action will be without supply during winter.  Attrition may be harsh and the loser may perish in the wilderness before reaching safety.

Peter, over to you for resolution.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lancashire Games' 1859 French Infantry

Returning to one of my favorite lines of figures today.  That is, Lancashire Games' 1859 15mm range.  Solid figures with good anatomical proportions, easy to paint, and not too expensive.  A combination I enjoy!  
Off the painting desk is a French Line Regiment consisting of 3 x 12 battalions.  These 36 figures muster out as the 5th Ligne as the French contingent in the 1859 project gets some attention.  While 2017 saw only a handful of units cross the painting desk for this project, a return to a 15mm focus has me ramping up the production line to push our more figures for 1859.
Expect more to come from the 1859 project in the months ahead.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Austrian IR16 Terzi

Two more Austrian infantry battalions for the 1799 Project muster out from the painting desk.  These 2 x 13 figure battalions are called up as IR#16 Terzi.  Seeing action during the 1799 campaign,  these violet-faced battalions will add some color to The White Menace.  Figures are AB Miniatures
While a number of units are making their way through the painting queue for the 1799 project, I have been thinking about turning the project clock back two years and having the collection see action in the earlier Northern Italian campaigns of 1796-1797.  At the top of my list of battles to refight is Rivoli in 1797.
Without the presence of Russians, more Austrians will need to find their way into the painting queue if Rivoli is, indeed, chosen.  While I could field both French and Austrians in their 1809 uniforms to reduce the need to paint, that is not my nature.  For a proper Rivoli, I want French in bicorne and most of the Austrians in casquet.  Yeah, that is what I want!

My 2018 Project Plan included a major battle for this project in fourth quarter.  That provides plenty of time to produce the needed figures for the Rivoli OB.  With such a unique geographical situation, custom terrain would enhance the appearance of the game.  Having always kept to the notion of using generic, modular, and multipurpose terrain, a one-off terrain piece may be more than I want to tackle.  Recreating the steep and narrow Adige Valley and the Rivoli Plateau would be cool, though.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Montcalm & Wolfe - JUN-AUG 1756

French retreat following loss of Fort William-Henry
Following the loss of Fort William-Henry, the two regiments of French Regulars retreat back into the woods with hopes of reaching Fort Carillon before being caught by any pursuing British.  Having lost a regiment of colonial militia and being bloodied by the French defenders, the British were in no mood to pursue.  For an accounting of the battle, see Peter's BatRep of French Indian War Campaign Game 3.

For reinforcements, the British received a regiment of Regulars at Fort Edward but the Oneida marauding near Lake Erie return home.  For the French, the two defeated regiments return to Fort Carillon.  Dieskau, one Regular, and one militia hurry by bateaux from Isle aux Noix to bolster the defenses of Fort Carillon.
Reinforcements and Retreat
July 1756
July begins with much activity from both headquarters.  The British, wanting to accomplish a lot in the heat of summer, roll on the Command Table and receive five activations.  With those activations, Braddock and one Regular march from Fort Cumberland into the wilderness followed by one Regular regiment marching from Carlisle.  One British Regular regiment arrives at Fort Cumberland as a reinforcement.  Is Braddock considering a cross country march to launch an attack upon Fort Duquesne before winter? 
July 1756 Maneuvers
Johnson travels from Fort Stanwix to the Cayuga settlement in an attempt to win over the Cayuga.  That effort failed.   Finally, Shirley with two regiments of Regulars marches from Albany to Fort William-Henry.  Having handed over the two regiments to Monckton, Shirley returns to Fort Edward.
July 1756 Maneuvers
For the French, a warband of Huron join the French cause and travel to Fort Carillon.  With all troops either on supply sources or immune (single Regular regiment cannot fail forage roll), no attrition.
Situation end of July
August 1756
The British, wanting to press on, roll on the Command Table receiving three activations.  With these three activations, Braddock's force lumbers forward towards Fort Duquesne.  This is a risk.  If Fort Duquesne cannot be taken before winter, much of Braddock's expedition will likely be lost.  Johnson succeeds in winning over the Cayuga and the warband sets off for Fort Stanwix.  The British receive one Regular regiment at Albany.
British maneuvers August 1756
The French, seeing that Fort Duquesne is isolated and not defensible by one unit of Regulars, abandon the fort and withdraw to Fort Le Boeuf.  Knowing that a long war is not in French interests as the balance of power shifts to the British, Dieskau strikes out from Fort Carillon with the largest force gathered for battle yet in the war.  With the Mohawk Valley securely in British hands, the only avenue to gain advantage is the Lake Champlain-Lake George corridor.  Once more Fort William-Henry finds itself at the center of a storm.
French maneuvers August 1756
Third Battle for Fort William-Henry
British: Monckton (A2D1), 3 x 5-6 Regulars, 1 x 3-8 Ranger, 1 x 3-5 Militia
French: Dieskau (A2D2), 3 x 5-6 Regulars, 1 x 3-5 Militia, 1 x 3-8 Huron Warband.

Same bloodied ground as the previous two battles at the fort.  This time, the British are defending.  In the previous two battles, the defenders were thrown out of the fort.  Will we see the same outcome this time?  This looks like an even match up with the French led by a slightly better leader.

With a minimum of four units and a leader for each force, the Third Battle of Fort William-Henry will be classified as a Major Victory for the force holding the ground at the end of battle.  A Major Victory shifts the Political Track two spaces.  A Major Victory for the French could push the Political Track into a situation whereby the French could end the war by holding onto all gains until the end of September.  Had the French Regulars remained to garrison Fort Duquesne, Braddock could have bypassed the fort and threatened Fort Le Boeuf anyway.  A difficult choice for the French to make.  With Fort Duquesnes likely to fall, the French would need a political gain on another front.  Not a likely outcome but possible.  A chance the French believe worth the risk.

Peter, you can probably set this battle up in your sleep after two previous outings!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Yucatan: Chichen Itza

El Castillo
Wanting to escape the cold and snow at the end of January, we loaded up the family and flew to Cancun, Mexico.  Pre-trip, the family's main planned activity consisted primarily of sitting on the beach with drink in hand and grandkids in water.  At the top of my list was one day trip into the Yucatan to visit Mayan sites I have yet to scramble around.  Perhaps more if time allowed.
El Castillo
At first, I figured I might be heading out alone since my wife indicated she was not interested in seeing more Mayan ruins.  Nancy is a good sport and has joined along on many of the excursions to visit yet another ancient ruin or battlefield.  Several good stories originate in those excursions including an interaction with a Guatemalan army patrol on the Belize-Guatemala border in 2006.  

After discussing my plans at dinner for a day trip to Chichen Itza, interest increased.   Without much convincing, all agreed that a daylong excursion out into the Yucatan jungles would be a fun family event.  With all joining in, a motor coach, driver, and guide were booked and off we went.  After a two and a half hour drive, we reached Chichen Itza, purchased tickets, and entered the park grounds.

Upon entering the gate, visitors almost immediately encounter the most famous structure of Chichen Itza.  Of course, one reaches the main plaza only after winding one's way through rows of vendors.  Luckily, we arrived early in the morning and the vendors were still setting up their tables for the day.  Emerging from the labyrinth of vendors, we faced the imposing temple of the Kukulcan or El Castillo.  From our vantage point, the temple dominated the landscape.  The stone head of the serpent, Kukulcan, can be seen at the base of the main temple stairway. 
El Castillo
Unfortunately climbing El Castillo is no longer permitted due to a visitor's fall.  El Castillo has been restored to its prior glory with the exception of the eastern stairs.  
El Castillo showing unrenovated east face
The eastern stairs are still in a state of disrepair following years of stone removal from the structure.  Local builders once raided the temple to reuse the stones in their own building projects.  One hotel in the vicinity is composed of stones "quarried" from Chichen Itza. 
El Castillo showing unrestored east face stairs
Having wandered around El Castillo, we turned west and headed in the direction of the Grand Ballcourt.  On the way, a small alter was passed.  Notice the pair of Kukulcan heads framing the stairs.  Also note the fine engravings on the face of the platform. 
Tzompantli platform
Tzompantli platform
Also on the brief walk to the Grand Ballcourt, we passed the Temple of the Jaguar.  Notice the worn statue of the jaguar upon which dignitaries would sit to receive guests and the fine carvings on the interior walls.
Jaguar Temple
Carvings inside Jaguar Temple
As one enters the Grand Ballcourt, a stairway leading up to the top of the ballcourt wall is passed.  From here, spectators would climb these stairs to take up positions overlooking the action on the court below.
Grand Ballcourt Entrance with stairs to spectator area
Detail of temple on top of ballcourt wall showing weathering
Ubiquitous to Chichen Itza, the serpent's head protects the entrance to the Grand Ballcourt.
Grand Ballcourt Entrance with serpent head
Upon entering the ballcourt playing area, one is immediately struck by the size and scale of this structure.  While the design of Mayan ballcourts take many forms, the Grand Ballcourt at Chichen Itza is the largest such Mayan ballcourt yet discovered.  The two scoring rings on either side of the ball-court are about 30 feet off the ground.  Spectators would sit on top of the two walls enclosing the court to watch the game.  
Grand Ballcourt
Grand Ballcourt
Grand Ballcourt
Between the "scorers" platform and the playing field, a gruesome story is depicted in carvings on the wall.  In the carvings, the two teams of six (or was it seven?) players face each other.  The two scorers from each team face one another with teammates lined up behind.  One scorer is kneeling before the other other sans head while the other scorer is standing holding a long knife and his opponent's head.  It was not the scorer from the losing team that lost his head but that of the winner! 
Scoring Ring
Dignitaries Viewing Stand: Grand Ballcourt
Dignitaries Viewing Stand: Grand Ballcourt
Leaving the Grand Ballcourt from the other end, one passes a long line of blocks, each with a carved skull.  This is the Tzompantli Altar or "Skull Platform."  "Winners" of the ball games, would have their heads impaled and planted on the Tzompantli for all to admire.  I am sure others had the honor of having their heads planted here too.
Skull Platform
Skull Platform
After once around the ballcourt, a short walk to took us through the city walls and up to the Sacred Cenote.  While the Yucatan is pocked with cenotes used as sources for drinking water, this cenote was reserved only for religious purposes.  Jewelry, pottery, and skeletons have been brought up from the Sacred Cenote.
Sacred Cenote
Our guide told the story of one of the rituals that would take place at the Sacred Cenote.  The "honoree" would be dressed in celebratory garb and jewels and then confined in a sauna (stone ruins adjacent to cenote in photo below).  The heat and humidity from the sauna would cleanse the human offering and well as put the recipient into a state of trance due to a combination of dehydration and medicines.  In such a state, the victim was lead out of the sauna and pushed into the cenote below.  The state of the victim and weight of accoutrements prompted the sacrificial offering to sink quickly to the bottom of the pool.  
Sacred Cenote with sauna ruins
Back from the stroll to the Sacred Cenote and again on the main plaza, we reach the Temple of the Warriors.  This is a massive structure.  A statue of Chac Mool rests atop the temple.  Fronting two sides of the Temple are the "Thousand Columns" each ornately carved.
Temple of the Warriors
Chac Mool
Temple of the Warriors
Thousand Columns
Thousand Columns
Thousand Columns
Having spent about two and a half hours at Chichen Itza walking the grounds, our guide herded us back to the motor coach to continue our journey.  The second stop for the day would be a cenote where we could take a swim and have lunch before heading out for our final stop of the day at Ek Balam.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Ronin and Samurai Heroes

The workbench continues to see Feudal Japan figures as the last (well, almost last) of the 15mm Peter Pig Samurai figures clear The Lead Pile.  Not much left in inventory for this project except for a few miscellaneous cavalry/mounted leaders, a command screen, several packs of disordered troops, and perhaps enough teppo to make up a unit of arquebus.  Not much at all, really.
Today's offering consists of a pack of Ronin and a pack of Samurai Heroes on one heavy element stand.  One more heavy (Red) element to add into the mix.  With the addition of this stand to the project, 39 elements can now be fielded for battle.  Since the collection has not seen action in a long time, pulling the stands from storage boxes and parading them for a photo op may not be a bad idea.  The parade review may even motivate me to get them onto the gaming table for a battle.  Who knows?
This has been a fun and colorful project to develop but the painting phase may be reaching a logical conclusion.  "Logical conclusion?"  How often does painting for a project reach a logical conclusion?  I typically keep on painting past that point.  This project may be no different.
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