Tuesday, 31 March 2015

1877-78 Imperial Russian Army Reference Book...

Well here's a bit of a light read for all those Imperial Russian Army of 1877-78 buffs and yes I know there are a lot of you out there! It's a haughty tome and at just 486 action packed pages I am sure you'll breeze through it in no time!

Quite seriously though this book by F.V. Greene gives a great period review (written in 1879) of the Imperial Russian Army of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

I found it very useful when putting together my hypothetical 'The Russians Are Coming' campaign set in 1879.

I found Part I the most interesting section of the volume as it covered all aspects of the Imperial Russian Army of the time and I'm sure this would still be valid well into the 1880s for those gaming in that decade. Curiously though the author refers to the Russian Gorlov machine guns as Mitrailleuse guns and on looking this up it appears that to some people of the time the word 'Mitrailleuse' was interchangeable with the term machine gun, by jingo the things you can learn on the InterWeb!

Also found in this book is a full OOB of the Imperial Russian Army of the time very useful!

Next time we'll be looking at the new Steam Powered Landship or maybe Scenario Four of 'The Russians Are Coming' campaign stay tuned to see which...

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Crossroads AAR

This third Campaign Game Scenario was the first to see the Colonials on the attack and it was the first where the defensive position had open flanks in the previous games the defenders were in locations with all round defensive bonuses. The scenario had ten replays plays but the first four could not be counted as the design of the game changed radically during them. With six ‘proper’ games played four of which were face to face there were four South Australian victories to two Russian ones. So this round is a win to the gallant South Australian defenders leaving the Campaign Game running total at two wins to the Colonials and one to the evil Russian Invaders.

For this scenario the South Australians elected for the Hero option so Lieutenant Lime was replaced by the valiant Captain Darling! This really gave the Colonial units a huge advantage with positive modifiers to morale rolls when he was in their line of sight. Luckily for the South Australians even though wounded once the Captain was never removed from the board as a casualty despite putting himself fearlessly in the line of fire several times. This scenario can really be affected by the initiative rolls if the Russians are lucky they can have their Cossack reserve right up close to the action before the Colonials can defeat the Siberians with their initial weight of numbers. Attacking at dawn helps the Colonials approach with the defenders firing into the sun. The attackers also have a lot of options to choose from to advance, one game even resembled a Zulu attack with one unit acting as the body pinning the Siberians while the other two acted as horns rushing the flanks! Another game saw all three South Australian units form a line approach the barricade loose of a devastating volley in their turn’s first action phase and charging in their second one. Every game we played had a melee at the barricade and with a lot of raw troops it was fairly bloody, whenever the Cossacks could get into melee with the Redcoats their superior combat value really counted!

Here's how our selected 'historical' game ran...

Just before daybreak on Friday August 22nd the men of the Norwood Volunteer Rifle Company were position as per their orders and ready to launch a surprise attack on the Russians before them. Anxious thoughts were running through each individuals mind when the sounds of nature were interrupted by a clang and groan! Sergeants Fraser and Kerr move stealthily to the location of the moans of pain to discover their commander Lieutenant Lime writhing in pain an animal trap clamped to his ankle! He said calmly to his worried NCOs through gritted teeth, “Damn it! This is going to make it awfully difficult to get to grips with those pesky Ruskies!”

Captain Darling arrived at this very moment, “Oh Harry ol’ boy that looks a nasty scratch you have there, I doubt you’ll be a part of this foray now!” He turned to the pair of Sergeants with authority oozing from his every pore, “Don’t worry boys I’ll lead the attack, let the men know we jump off as scheduled!” Sergeants Fraser and Kerr acknowledged Darling and with grins on their faces swiftly returned to their sections, Darling grabbed Harry Lime’s whistle saying, “You’ll be fine Harry and don’t fret I’ll look after your lads!”

Soon the Colonial ranks were alive with excited whispers as the troopers learned that the famous Captain Darling would lead them in their first engagement with the Russian invaders. Enthusiasm was rife in the ranks and all the pent up anxiety was dispelled there was no longer the fear of defeat in their minds only thoughts of victory; some men even haughtily remarked they’d be drinking at the Henley Beach Hotel that evening!

Just to the east of the Colonials as daybreak approached a tired Lieutenant Ourumov fretted as he awaken his men and positioned them at the barricade they had constructed the previous evening. Unlike his superiors he feared the South Australians would attack to try to recapture the vital crossroads his men occupied and the noises emanating from the enemy’s positions during the night indicated that was exactly what they were planning to do. He knew there were Cossack reinforcements at hand so he sent word to them to come to his assistance at the first sign of trouble but he distrusted these irregular cavalrymen and wondered why space was wasted on the transports to bring them on the expedition when more regulars could have been accommodated in their place, his thoughts were disturbed at this point though as the sound of battle commenced he heard rifle fire and cheering coming from the direction of the city, he held his hand to his forehead straining to see into the rising sun and gave his men the order to fire!

The Colonials plan was Captain Darling would lead the section of Sharpshooters to the right of Sergeants Fraser and Kerr’s sections that would advance in line directly toward the Russian defences. .A shrill whistle signalled the attack was to begin! The charismatic Captain Darling’s men moved quickly through the apple orchard in open order and were soon clear of the trees where they were able to fire on the enemy while threatening to flank them. In the centre Fraser’s section advanced in line as ordered but Kerr’s men eager for action moved in a column down the road and were soon ahead of everyone else taking heavy fire. Directly in front of the enemy’s barricade Kerr then deployed his men into line and engaged the Russians in a fire fight while waiting for Fraser’s force to catch up. Kerr’s casualties started to grow but his men’s morale was strong!

The Siberians kept up a hot fire on the Redcoats as they advanced but scored few hits at long range due to the the brilliant sun blinding them, their morale in face of the superior numbers was maintained by Lieutenant Ourumov’s continual cajoling. Ourumov was concerned by the Colonials moving to his left and was relieved when he saw the Cossack reserves moving briskly forward, he used furious hand signals to direct them to his left flank he hoped they would have the discipline to follow his commands!

Having heard the sound of battle coming from the crossroads Sergeant Vargas stirred his Cossacks and moved them directly toward the sounds of the guns! He could see smoke enveloping the plain before him as the din of battle grew and he could make out the Siberian Officer, he was signalling for him to move to the open left flank, Vargas thought twice about this as he believed reinforcing the barricade would be the better tactic, he hesitated and in the end ignored his own convictions and followed the Siberian Lieutenant’s order he signalled his men to oblique to their left as fast as they could move!

Once Fraser’s section caught up with Kerr’s the two Sergeants roared the command to charge and a furious melee ensued! Kerr’s men found it hard work breeching the defences in particular at one spot where a giant Russian seemed invincible as he fought like a tiger. Meanwhile the left flank of Fraser’s section was able to move around the southern end of the fortifications and get amongst the invaders from the flank! After furious fighting Kerr’s force’s morale faltered and they fell back. From this new position these men fired at the barricade in support of Fraser’s men who continued to grind down the defenders.

Ourumov continued to urge his men on as the Redcoats engaged them; the brave giant Private Lukashew was a rallying point for the Siberians as he dealt with several Redcoats and roared with every thrust of his rifle. Ourumov himself was soon amongst the thick of it, he now wished he had ordered the Cossacks directly to the barricade and he recalled them from the flank to fill the gaps appearing in his wavering defences.

Just before the assault reached the barricades Captain Darling’s Sharpshooters began sniping at the Russians there only to be distracted by a group of blue clad Cossacks rushing directly toward them from the Russian rear. Darling calmly commanded the men to redirect their fire and they turned their attention to the Cossacks. Shouldering his own Martini Henry which he affectionately knew as ‘Beth’ Darling ordered his men to fire, he repeated the command four times and then he let the smoke abate to survey the results. The Sharpshooters had lived up to their name through the haze they could see they had downed many of the Cossacks and the rest were recoiling.

Sergeant Vargas lead his Cossacks toward the flank threat and he was confident he could engage the Colonials successfully he observed that the Redcoats they were approaching were not even looking in their direction and they were busy firing on the Siberians. While considering his best charge options out of the corner of his eye he noticed the Siberian Officer now beckoning for him to bring his men to the barricade. He shouted the order for his men to change direction when suddenly all hell broke loose about him Cossacks started falling to the ground and the others hesitated, the last thing he remembered as pain seared through his body was calls of ‘to the barricade’…he slumped unconscious to the ground.

Darling’s Sharpshooters now continued to snipe at the Cossacks as they ran to help their comrades at the barricade.

Fraser and Kerr’s sections in the meantime had got the better of the Russians at the barricade the key had been turning the southern end of it. The Siberians morale finally broke and the survivors fled back toward the beachhead at exactly the same time as the Cossacks now leaderless and with many casualties panicked and bolted to the west too!

The South Australians cheered with delight at their victory and disdainful taunts were hurled after the routing invaders!

Captain Darling hastily brought the men into order and addressed them. He praised their actions but warned them their work was far from done, “there are plenty more Ruskies where these ones came from’ he said and he continued “great feats of endurance are expected from you all in the coming days!”. The men roared! Darling then issued orders; Frasers section were to pursue the Russians, Kerr’s men were told to hold the barricade and the Sharpshooter were to take the wounded including their fallen foes back to the aid station, Darling himself grasped the hand of a wounded Cossack NCO hauled him from the ground and assisted him to the rear...

This particular game was a fun as the South Australian’s hero was in the fore and there were options for the attacking units to manoeuvre. The Russians can win and one very interesting tactic was used twice by them and gave them their two victories! Saying that to balance this game more you could make the Siberians  trained with a veteran officer, or change the single group of thirteen Cossacks into two sections of ten a piece that’ll make the Colonials job that little hit harder!
In the early turns the Colonials centre advanced and the Russian fire dice rolling was pretty bad in this game inflicting only a few casualties on Kerr’s section as they rushed down the road but with the Hero Morale bonus they never failed a morale check.

Kerr's men are centre here with Fraser’s section to their left and rear:

  This is turn four and Kerr’s men are duelling with Ourumov’s Siberians the fact they rushed ahead of the other units saved them from any Russian fire not a bad thing as those units were unhurt for later in the game.
Kerr and Ourumov's men and the Cossacks can just be seen in the Russian rear:

A melee began around the barricade on turn six and seesaws for three turns, Kerr’s section roll badly and fail a morale check falling back for one turn the Russian pass all their morale checks both sides start taking casualties. Fraser’s men can be seen slowly working their way around the fortifications while Kerr’s men keep firing. The Russian player sends his reserves to the left flank at this point it turns out to be a serious error!

The melee around the barricade, Vargas’s Cossacks can be seen on the right of picture moving to engage Darling’s Sharpshooter section:

A close up of the barricade melee around turn five Darlings Sharpshooters and the Cossacks are in the background due to the initiative rolls they are about to get four action phases in a row to fire at the Cossack in the open:

After the smoke clears and four rounds of firing the Cossacks are badly hurt their morale roll results in a hold for an Action Phase which mean they are stuck in the open a bit longer!

Captain Darling in his usual blue tunic stands out amongst the Sharpshooters:

Kerr's section suffered a fall back morale result when they failed to injure any Russians and had several of their men wounded in the barricade melee, one particular Siberian figure was deadly and his die rolls were nothing but 7's or 8's, he gets a mention I the battle history plus he survived the action...so maybe he'll have to appear again later in the campaign?

Once their hold morale result is finished the Cossacks rush to the barricade and start filling it from the northern end allowing Ourumov to feed his infantry into the action against Fraser’s men:

Turn seven and the Siberians failed their morale at this point but luckily it was only a fall back result meaning one reward Action Phase move after which they promptly turned around and ran back to the barricade in the second Action Phase of their turn.

This picture shows the situation after the above moves noticeable is the wounded men who only get one Action Phase a turn are still to the rear only the fit men were able to get back:

 Ourumov’s men continue to fight against the odds in turn eight their morale holds again on this turn meanwhile Captain Darling’s Sharpshooters keep picking off Cossacks their dice rolling proficiency is not up to their earlier efforts though.

The positions turn eight:

Turn nine sees both Russian units fail their morale rolls by significant margins resulting in rout with no rally results the game is effectively over!

This was how the battlefield looked just before they failed their morale tests:

Scenario Four sees the Russian’s back on the offensive, the skirmishing phase of the campaign was over and the time all-out attack has arrived!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Building a Steam Powered Armoured Wagon Fleet!

Building a fleet of Steam Powered Armoured Wagons was the furthest thing from my mind until I started putting together my hypothetical 1879 invasion of South Australia by the evil Russian Empire, at the very same time I started planning this Alien Dungeons released their All Quiet on the Martian Front range of models and the Martian Tripods looked fantastic. I thought to myself, “Ahhh I could put together a force of 28mm figures for my Russian invasion games and use those same figures in conjunction with a few Martian Tripods to play some VSF games”…I thought again and despite reservations of how much it would cost and where would I find the time I went ahead without regard! The AD Martian Tripods are designed for use with 15mm figures but even in 1/56 scale terms they stand an impressive thirty plus feet high, enough to scare any Victorian age soldier with a rifle! I bought a range of British, French, Prussian and Russian 28mm figures and some Martian Tripods and off I went. The Russians Are Coming games are progressing really well at the moment but before any of my 28mm humans could even think about taking on the invading Martian machines they will need something better than bullets, swords and horse drawn artillery and to save money I decided to build my own Victorian Armoured force.
I initially I considered making tracked vehicles and looked on the net at track and wheel sets that would suit the scale but my hip pocket groaned at the prospect of going down that track (pun intended). So I figured that in the 1870s and 1880s when my games are proposed you would expect the technology of the time to be employed and improved on so I decided to use wagon wheels for my vehicles. A quick search of the net and again my hip pocket groaned the 28mm wagon wheels from gamer related sites were pretty dear. A search of EBay saved my bacon a set of four Lego 33mm wagon wheels with axle bits (and free shipping) came in at around AU$2.50 woo hoo!
I then drew up some designs and came up with the below:

I wanted something simple but and in keeping with the period technology. To save a lot of work my Steam Powered Armoured Wagons were to be held together with countersunk square bolts easier to replicate than hundreds of rivets, my reasoning was the designers went with this idea to allow the panels of armour to be easily replaced! Sounded fine to me!

Below are the parts required to build a fleet of Steam Powered Armoured Wagons, everything was on hand in my workshop except for the Lego wagon wheels and the fiddly Lego bit that would represent the lights but these I bought cheaply as above:

Assembly was easy, I cut out multiples of all the panels and went to work while my partner watched what must truly be the worst TV series ever produced, True Blood. I tell you what the Geneva Convention needs to be rewritten to include this in their banned methods of torture!

After assembly I painted these in a mix of Humbrol enamels, Polished Steel and Matt black I wanted a sort of clear lacquer on steel look hard to describe but something shiny and dark so a bit of brass and silver dry brushing would highlight them nicely. Even though I mixed these in the same proportions each time I found the tins of Polished Steel varied in colour so the vehicles came out in slightly different shades. Again not an issue as these were made in different factories cottage industry style. The cannons (mostly left overs from the Perry ACW artillery sets) were painted in gun metal and brass. I built fourteen of these in total, eight with turrets and six with fixed superstructures in a variety of configurations (Marks) included amongst them is the yet to be revealed flame thrower version and all in pretty quick time. I would say material wise these came in well at under AU$10 each unfortunately I didn't keep track of the hours I spent on them.

Anyway below are a few of the finished products displayed with some of my 28mm British/Colonial and Russian figures (I have made up a lot of national flags to identify these vehicles when used in human on human games). Once I finish my current campaign of colonial expansion these will get a good work out!

I hope this idea triggers off others to make vast fleets of Steam Powered Armoured Wagons to fill the gaming tables of the world…I know I know…
“Tell him he’s dreaming!”

Next Time: the AAR for the Crossroads scenario of The Russians are Coming Campaign