Sunday, May 8, 2016

Preparing for first Sharpe's Practice game.

Time for my sort-of monthly blog post and there's been plenty going on since painting the French-in-Egypt Camel Corps. For starters there were hordes of Galloglas axe murderers and a few Saxons to paint and base for Doug to pay for my Badener army.  My apologies to Paul of Murowski Miniatures as almost as soon as I'd bought Doug's figures Murowski announced their range of superb Badeners. Bad timing dammit. Nonetheless I can't complain as I now have another full brigade to game with which won't take me long to get up to gaming standard - if I ever get the time that is. Having a few health issues and storm damage to my house at the same time has seen me also preoccupied with many things other than the hobby.

Preparing the single based officers and NCOs for Sharpe's Practice
The boys have discovered Sharpe's Practice from the indomitable Two Fat Lardies and after their experience with Chain of Command, want to try a small unit skirmish rule set for Napoleonic warfare. Given that skirmish tactical doctrine began  in this era of massed infantry formations (Sir John Moore's famous Light Division that gained deserved fame in the Peninsular Campaign being the ancestor of modern squad infantry tactics) I was somewhat skeptical of the historical accuracy of applying such a set of rules to that era. However, I must say the rules read well enough and they are, as most rule sets nowadays, well presented and full of eye-candy enough to entice any old rusted-on Napoleonics gamer. So I thought I'd give'em a go save for one small problem - an unforeseen family issue arose and I had to miss the game - so I'm still waiting to play it.  Despite this setback I have had the time to prepare figures for three armies: French, Austrian and Russian. All the figures are now painted and based, just have to make up the movement trays.

Officer and NCO in forage cap lead the dismounted French dragoons

Here then are the figures and units as per the SP lists. For the French I made up an 8 figure unit of dragoons under an NCO. They are the only cavalry unit that can dismount and fight on foot (historically the Austrian light cavalry especially dragoons also skirmished on foot but rarely did so as they trained to shoot from the saddle) so I adapted the Perry's plastic dismounted dragoons, creating a junior officer and a horse holder stand.

Dragoon horse holder conversion. Thinking of putting a carbine in a bucket strap on one of the horses to represent the horse holder.
All in all its a lot of extra work for a small unit that will probably operate 90% of the time as cavalry but at least it gives you the historically accurate option. They were also armed with the long carbine rather than the quite useless short cavalry carbine carried by everybody else and which was as accurate as the Charleville musket in trained hands i.e. 100-150 paces effective range.

Officer and NCO for the three 8 figure line units.
I've tried to come up with a minimum of one NCO and one officer for each group of three 8-figure units, with another NCO for the specialist skirmisher unit, with two groups of six infantry units commanded by a mounted officer. Each group of six has a light gun (6 pdr) & 4 crew and an 8 figure cavalry unit attached (Dragoons for one and Line Chasseurs for the other).  For the first French army this included 3 x Ligne (Line) units, 2 x Legere (1 x Voltigeur, 1 x Carabinier) and one specialist skirmisher Corsican Light Infantry (Tirailleurs du Corse).  The second French skirmish army is 3 x Ligne and 3 x Foreign Regt. #4 (Irish)/Croatian/Chasseurs d'Elbe - technically Legere (Light Infantry) also with a specialist Tirailleur skirmish/sharpshooter unit led by an NCO.

Legere led by the Corsican Brotherhood (aka 'the Emperor's Cousins') NCO and a Leger officer.

Tirailleurs Du Corse  ('Les Cousines')

Legere with Voltigeur (left) and Carabinier (right, in Kolpac)
Chasseurs D'Elbe Tirailleurs with junior officer (left) and senior NCO in Pokalem (on the right)
The battle-hardened Chasseurs led by their battle-damaged officer.
Ligne (Line) officer with its Voltigeur (light) company & NCO 
Mounted senior officer (Captaine) in overall charge of 12 infantry , two cavalry & two guns
French gun & crew. Unfortunately its an old Elite model so more like an 8 rather than 6 pdr.
1st French skirmish army
I've organised the Austrians and Russians the same way. Basically six infantry units, one cavalry and one gun per skirmish 'army'.  The Austrians are best suited as they actually had the right troop types who were also experienced in the irregular warfare of the day - the Grenz or border units from the Balkan frontier being the most experienced - followed by the famous rifle armed Jaeger (who the French nicknamed 'the Grey Devils'). The Austrians are composed of 3 x 8 figure line units, 2 x Grenz and 1 x Jaeger.  The Grenz and Jaeger each are led by an NCO (recognizable by the brass tipped cane NCOs carried). Each Line unit has an NCO and there are also three officers - two line and one light/Jaeger - not because they have them on the list but because I had the extra figures if I just wanted to field Austrians, for example.

Warasdiner St. George (fearsome Serb frontiersmen!) Grenzer with NCO and Austrian LI (or Jaeger) officer.
Jaegers led by an NCO - this can be a specialist sharpshooter unit all rifle armed.

Austrian Dragoner (dragoons) led by a bald NCO type. They are armed with the Austrian cavalry carbine which, better than the standard French cavalry carbine, was not nearly as effective as the long barreled version used by the French dragoons.
Austrian Line officers & NCO, with mounted 'Inhaber' (senior officer) They are old Foundry figures and a bit hobbit-like next to the Perry's 28mm plastics
Austrian light gun & crew.  Austrians still used battalion guns (particularly with Grenz and Hungarian regts) so had plenty of 3 pdr pop-guns available as well as 6 pdrs.
Three units of the Hapsburgs finest - Hoch & Deutschmeister - with their NCOs.
The Austrian 'Skirmish Army'
Although the Austrians had a modicum of skirmish experience with some specialist units as the war progressed the Grenz became more and more like standard line as high losses meant experienced Grenzer were replaced by conscripts only trained in basic drill and formations (column, mass and line - NOT skirmish).  At the same time they did eventually grasp that entire battalions of line could be used as a skirmish screen - same as the French. The true skirmishers were of course Jaeger, a third of who were rifle-armed sharpshooters. They were crack shots but never employed in large enough numbers or formations to be as effective as the British Light Division, for example.  The Russians were a different case again. They had dedicated Jaeger units for skirmishing - usually assigned a battalion for each brigade of line or Guard however they were not rifle armed and Russian tactical doctrine relied on mass formations and the bayonet throughout the Napoleonic Wars. What the Russians did have was a plethora of irregular units developed during 1812 and of course huge numbers of mounted Cossacks. They were the most outstanding irregulars of the period and even before 1812, terrified the French (and everyone else) with tactics that were never really effectively countered, if only because of the numbers of Cossacks available to the Russian armies of the time. Naturally my skirmish army had to have a Cossack cavalry unit. I even have a Cossack light gun (6 pdr) I can swap with the Russian line artillery piece.

Cossack 6 pdr.
There are five line units and one jaeger with three NCOs and three officers (one a Cossack?)

Russian Infantry units with officers, NCOs.

Russian line with NCO, line officer and Cossack officer

Jaeger unit with officer and NCO
Russian Line artillery with 8 pdr

Mounted Russian commander

Russian skirmish army

Because I've had to adapt the basing to fit the single base model used by Sharpe's Practice, only officers and NCOs are individually based. All others are 2 figures on a standard 30 x 20mm base. To indicate casualties I've made up plenty of figure casualty markers for each army.

French casualty markers for relevant skirmish units
Russian markers
Austrian markers
 The only thing left to do now is make movement trays for each unit. I've made them before for WRG basing so it shouldn't present too much of a challenge after just painting and basing nearly 40 figures!  We are just about set for our first game of Sharpe's Practice which I will report on in due course. Really looking forward to it actually.