These angry peasants were in my latest order from Perry Miniatures. They're getting ready to beat up on some French soldiers retreating from Moscow in 1812, but I suppose they could also take part in any events in Russia up to at least the Revolution.
I have another 6 on the painting table. They'll end up with slightly different coloured clothing, but will otherwise be the same.
Can't have a Russian army without Cossacks! My horde consists of three sotnias, representing Eureka Miniatures, Perry Miniatures and Wargames Foundry. Cossacks played more of a psychological role in the Russian army than a battefield one. Their main strength was to raid all over the countryside and put the fear of God into the enemy, including soldier and civilian alike. They apparently had no business being on a battlefield, unless the battle was over and there were some corpses to rob.
Here is the Eureka sotnia. I did some research and found that the cossacks had a uniform in this period. After painting them up, it was pointed out to me, very politely, that the uniform was more of a theoretical ideal than actually achieved, so these must be a special group assembled to put on a good show for the Tsar.
Having taken the advice on the Eureka sotnia to heart, I was determined that the other sotnias would be more rough and ready. Unfortunately, the Wargames Foundry lot are all in the same pose, and their clothes are cut identically. I decided to see how much could be done by mixing and matching colours for jackets and trousers and caps. Shabraques are all similar to give them a hint of being from the same group.
And finally we have the new(ish) releases from Perry Miniatures. These are all in winter clothing, and are ready to take to the (snowy) field to chase down the remnants of the Grand Armée during the great retreat. Lovely figures, very dynamic and fun to paint.
I've completed a unit of 12 cuirassiers, the Military Order Cuirassiers. I decided not to try to get their badge on the shabraque. I chose the Military Order mostly 'cause the name seemed cool, as well as for the black facings. After finishing the unit, I realised that the Russians gathered all the cuirassiers into their own division, so in order to justify having one unit on the table, I'd really need a whole division's worth, or at least a brigade. Anyway, I still like the look and they were fun to paint. Figures are Perry Miniatures, and the flag is by GMB.
Here's the trumpeter - I still haven't figured out how to paint a white horse to my satisfaction, so my musicians are less likely to ride distinctive coloured mounts.
My single unit of dragoons represents the Tchernigov Dragoons. They are also Perry Miniatures, and also GMB flags. I like these Perry single castings for horse and rider - nice not to have to struggle with fitting the rider onto the horse and not have a gap. Plus I really like the charging pose, with the pallasch held point forward - I think it looks intimidating.
My major painting effort over the past few years has been to build a Russian army from the time of Tsar Alexander I. Others might call it "Napoleonic", but since it never belonged to Emperor Napoleon, I prefer not to name it after its primary opponent!
I'll present the army as it is over several blog posts - I'm certain that since it will never quite be finished, I'll end up adding bits to it forever, so this will end up being an open-ended series. My original plan was to collect figures from a variety of sources, and even started off that way. However, the bulk of the figures are from Perry Miniatures. They are just such a delight to paint, and certainly competitively priced, so I find myself going back to them every time I'm inclined to expand on the army. Plus, they keep putting new toys in front of me, and the 'oh, shiny' syndrome gets me every time.
So without further ado, here is the light cavalry. First, the Elizabethgrad Hussars (Front Rank)
Second, the Lithuanian Uhlans (Front Rank)
And finally, the Sieversk Mounted Jaegers (Wargames Foundry)
Here's a list of potential encounters for the Retreat game. Not certain how best to work these out - we could have a table and roll every time there an encounter is triggered (shades of D&D!) or maybe write an encounter description on the back of a card, and flip the card when the event occurs.
Some of these can be ambushers. When the encounter is triggered, the French squad will get to make a test to see if they are surprised. If surprised, then the ambushers are allowed to deploy to take advantage of the situation. If the squad is not surprised, they can redeploy up to one move after the ambushers deploy.
1. Cossacks! d6 (or d8 or d10) cossacks! Will attack from ambush, but will break off the attack if there is strong resistance. Each cossack has d4-1 rations and is armed as the model (typically, lance, sabre and pistol)
2. Angry peasants! 6+d6 peasants armed with improvised weapons will immediately attack the party. Each peasant will have d3-1 rations.
3. Stragglers. d6 stragglers. Armed as model - possibly no weapons, or may have a musket or pistol. d3-1 rations per model. May be attacked and robbed or recruited to join player's squad.
4. Wolves! Pack of 4+d4 wolves will shadow the squad and will attack any model that moves more than 6" from another model.
5. Bear. Not sure about this one - suggestions?
6. Civilian stragglers. Improvised weapons & pistols, may have a wagon or cart. May be robbed or recruited (bonus points for rescuing?).
7. Grisly remains of another party. The squad finds frozen corpses of men and horses. May be a chance to upgrade weapons. May be able to scrounge rations (frozen horse meat).
If things aren't challenging enough for the French, we could add Russian regulars into the mix, in the form of hussars and/or jaegers.
Please suggest other encounter ideas in the comments box!
We're planning a 'Retreat from Moscow' game, tentatively to be played in January. Here are my ideas for the game.
This will be a multi-player game, with each player in charge of a group of 6-10 survivors of the Grand Armée. Ideally we'll have around four players. The objective will be to get the survivors across the board to the Beresina crossing.
Rations and fatigue: Each team will start with two rations per survivor. Hard physical work like fighting or moving in difficult terrain will cost rations. Teams may obtain more rations by foraging. They may also take rations from defeated opponents, including other players' teams. Rations will be represented by tokens (smarties or m&ms). Any figure for whom there are no rations will be designated as 'fatigued' and will be at a -1 penalty for all dice rolls.
Foraging: The GM will set out a number of locations for foraging, included farms, ruined wagons or carts, or anything else that seems appropriate. A figure may move into contact with the area to be searched, at which time the GM will reveal what is to be found at the location. Possibilities may include:
Angry peasant mob, 6+d6 members. If defeated, these will provide one ration per peasant.
Cossack ambush! d6 cossacks immediately attack. If driven off, they will shadow the team, staying 12" away. Defeated cossacks will group together and once in a group that outnumbers a team of survivors, they will attack.
Ambushers will be played by another player.
Rules: The game will be played using GW's Legends of the Old West (LotOW) and its supplements. LotOW is based on the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. Figures will have weapons and equipment as shown on the figure. Weapons will include muskets, flintlock pistols, sabres, improvised weapons, two-handed weapons, bayonets, lances. Other weapons may be added if appropriate. One change will be that muskets have a half-move penalty rather than full (otherwise we're likely to be stuck and won't get anywhere).
Turn order: At the start of each turn, one playing card will be dealt to each player. Each player will go in turn starting with the highest value card and proceeding to the lowest. In case of a tie, each affected player will draw a second card to break the tie.
S F St G A W P
6+ 2 3 3 1 1 2
Special: Safety in numbers
S F St G A W F
5+ 3 3 3 1 1 3
Special: Life is precious
S F St G A W F
4+ 3 3 3 1 1 3
S F St G A W F
5+ 3 3 3 1 1 2
I'll add lines for heroes once I think a bit more about them. Heroes will include officers, NCOs, village chiefs, cossack sotniks and other significant figures.
Eureka Miniatures have an eclectic mix of figures. I've always fancied the look of these Nanarchists (anarchist Nannies), but could never justify getting them for any project that I was working on. So I finally decided that I wanted them anyway, and picked them just for that reason. Maybe they'll show up in a pulp or old west game. Maybe they'll never come off the shelf! I'm still pleased as punch to have them in my collection.
Inspired by those intrepid Kiwis of the Hutt (see here for a taste), Malcolm and I were inspired to have our own little tribute to the bicentennial of the Battle of Leipzig at UVic on the 13th of October. Naturally enough, we were not prepared to refight the actual battle, as we had nowhere near the correct number of figures, but we managed a nice little rematch with my Russians taking on Malcolm's French. It was my first game using Warlord Games' Black Powder rules. My Russians had three infantry divisions, a reserve division, a cavalry division and a cossack/opolcheniye division. Not much of a historical basis for any of it, but an opportunity to get all my toys on the table, and isn't that what it's really all about?
These were my commanders:
Russian Corps Commander: General-Major Vladimir Ilych Ulianov 1 Infantry Division: General-Lt Iosep Jugashvili 2 Infantry Division: General-Lt Feliks Dzerzhinsky 3 Infantry Division: General-Lt Aleksandr Karensky Reserve Division: General-Lt Mikhail Tukhachevsky Cavalry Division: General of Cavalry Vyacheslav Molotov Cossack Division: Hetman Nestor Makhno
Bruce stepped in to control the Russian centre and left flank (consisting of 2 and 3 infantry divisions and the cossacks), while I took the Russian right flank with the cavalry and the 1 infantry division. Malcolm controlled the French with help from Joel's Ottomans (who I believe were left out of previous official histories of the battle).
Here is Malcolm's after action report (shamelessly lifted from the UVic Wargame club forum):
Highlights of the battle included a grand charge by the Russian cavalry divisionin the opening moments. The French infantry flipped into square and returned devastating volleys and Turkish infantry skirmishers were cut down but the attack hinged on an Uhlan charge into the teeth of the Turkish heavy artillery. The horse would manage to press home into the gunners despite horrible losses, but would fail to win the melee.
The Russian infantry division on the far right would be plagued by poor leadership and so would spend the day unable to advance and so takinh nasty losses from those Turkish guns all day long.
In the center the French tried to advance against the Russians but the lines of guns and a stream made it impossible. The two sides would settle into an artillery duel throughout the day. At one point one Russian division had every battalion and battery shaken, but their steady quality prevented a rout and three generals and a medical wagon rushed to rally the division.
Russian Opelcheny got thrown out of the woods by French infantry. They were not steady, but they did make the fight last longer than anyone had expected.
The advancing Jannissary infantry were making good progress to take advantage of failures on the Russian right but Russian cuirassier pulled off a difficult charge across the stream and into their flank, and the Russian General would be heard to remark, "Those Cuirassier are reliable."
When the Russian Guard infantry marched into the forest to do battle with French light infantry everyone got to see the terrifying qualities of elite veterans.
The Russians would win it when the Ottoman and two French infantry divisions were broken.
And here are the photos!
This is the battlefield at the start of the game, with Russians on the right and French on the left, with the Ottoman division at the upper left.
Here are the Russian cavalry just after making their glorious but impetuous charge against the French/Ottoman flank, when they found out that infantry automatically form square and so are immune to cavalry.
Here the Uhlans are about to allow the Ottoman heavy guns an opportunity to show the effectiveness of cannister at close range.
Meanwhile on the left the cossacks are about to discover that sweeping flanking manoeuvres cannot succeed if the enemy doesn't have a flank! (at least not unless one is willing to slip off the edge of the world...)
Dragoons and Horse Jaegers about to bounce off of the French squares!
The Russian centre at the start, with the Reserve Division of Grenadiers and Cuirassiers in the foreground, with the pharmacist's cart waiting behind the line infantry. The cart proved to be crucial, helping the Russian centre to rally at the crisis point of the battle.
And for fairness' sake, a look at the French centre. You can just barely see the cantinière in the upper left; she played a similar role to the Russian pharmacist in helping to rally shaky troops.
Here is a shot of some of the action on the left flank. Opolcheniye are holding on in the woods, but you can see that they've been abandoned by the cossacks. The Opolcheniye were very resilient but were eventually wiped out.
The Russian right at the end of the battle. The guns continued to pound throughout the battle. The infantry were paralysed for most of the fight, as their commander wasn't able to give an order for most of the game.
Here the Pavolvsky Grenadiers are about to easily clear the French defenders from the woods - guard infantry are very potent!
And finally the centre just as the French line is about to collapse. It looks much like the start of the battle, but the units have been pounded to the limit of their endurance.
In all, I enjoyed Black Powder. The game moves quickly, with occasion for humour (like when I left a unit confused by an order to advance without specifying where).
We probably had too much artillery - a simple fix might be to count pairs of guns as a single battery, which would allow a big footprint without letting the guns overpower too much.
The potential to move 54" in a single turn is daunting (the table was only 48" wide), and is what ended up leading to the destruction of the Russian cavalry - they could reach the enemy, so they did! Maybe consider cutting movement rates in half?
I have a few ideas for fiddling with the 'must form square' rule, but will probably need a game or two to see if they work.
And while I love the look of the table bowing under the weight of all those figures, leaving a bit more room for manoeuvre might be fun (even better, use a bigger table!).