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Monday, July 8, 2019

Muskets and Marshals - Russian Revenge!

 Last weekend I spent a lonely Saturday at home trying to teach myself Muskets and Marshals.  Beer was consumed, little toy soldiers were deployed, and many dice were rolled.  All went well except for a lopsided French win, and a dining room table filled with soldiers when dinner time rolled around. This weekend however, I took the show on the road to a meeting of our local gaming club and the stage was set for a rematch. The overwhelming French win made sense in retrospect given the troop quality of the units involved, so I endeavored to make it a little harder on the French.  So now we arrive at the battlefield deep in mother Russia.  The cream of the French army looms on the horizon and advances up a remote valley to the sound of the pas de charge.  

 First a quick orientation to the game.


 Russian Grenadiers line the hillside, flanked by an artillery battery protected by a hastily constructed wall of  Gabions filled with precious Russian soil. 

 Approaching in column is the pride of the French army, the Fusilier-Chasseurs of the Middle Imperial Guard flanked by the 17th line battalion.  Colonel-Major Pierre Vrigny exhorts his troops to advance up the valley.

 The Fusilier-Chasseurs are screened by two companies of the 25th Legere and flanked by a regiment of Heavy Cuirassiers.

 To their right the 6th Legere advances next to a large battery of eight guns still limbered and approaching up the main road to the village.  To the right approaching the woods are two more companies of the 25th legere.

 As the French advance, the Imperial guard cossacks are drawn forward by the exposed line of skirmishers leading the French assault.  Russian Canon deliver an astonishing volley of roundshot into the midst of the French battery still struggling up the road.  Horses and men are tossed about like kingpins and the French have suddenly lost three of their eight guns in the resulting carnage.

Sensing the changing momentum, the Pavlov Grenadiers move forward to engage the 6th Legere.

 The view from the Russian guns.

 Russian jagers on the far left move to engage the 25th Legere in a hard fought battle for the woods on the left flank.

 Despite a few trifling casualties to the infantry, the French forces continue their advance and the guns finally work to deploy out of the mass of entangle horse flesh.

 As you can see we had a great turnout!

 Moments before the clash...

 Final rules consult before the charge and then the die was cast - literally.

 The Cossacks can't contain themselves any longer, form column and charge the skirmish line, hoping to ride it down and engage the enemy behind, which are still not in square.

For a moment it seemed the French luck would hold.  The Cossacks scattered the skirmishers who were able to evade and flow back around their battalions of infantry.  The 17th line battalion formed square just in the nick of time and suddenly the Cossacks found themselves in a world of hurt.  They retreated disorganized. The Cuirassiers counter charged, but didn't have room to gain charge momentum.  Even so they cantered into the disorganized Cossacks who had failed to rally and smashed them utterly.


 The cuirassiers, victory emblazoned on their shiny breastplates, can't hold back their manly vigor and decide the time is right to charge the guns - up a a hill - behind gabions - in canister range.  Needless to say it was ugly and both sides now found themselves effectively without cavalry support.  The charge of the Cossacks had one important effect though.  As the Fusilier-Chasseurs advanced, they now found themselves without skirmishers in front to screen them from Russian musketry, and soon were taking fire from the Grenadiers on the hill and Russian jagers in the woods on their left, all while another Russian line battalion was advancing to support the Grenadiers.

On the French Right the 25th Legere had cleared the woods of Jagers, and the 6th Legere had routed the Pavlov Grenadiers, leaving both sides exhausted and their troops depleted.  It was too little too late though.  Just as the French were breaking through on the right, the Fusilier-Chasseurs, after taking tremendous casualties charging the grenadiers on the hill, finally broke and ran sending a shiver through the entire French army.  General Maucune realized his brigade would never be able to clear the town or push off the Russian artillery which was still sending roundshot into their depleted ranks, so sounded the retreat to save what remained of his once mighty brigade.

We started this game at noon and fought it to a conclusion by 2:30.  The Muskets and Marshals rules were seemingly easily grasped and players were on their own very quickly, with very little coaching needed.  Mike Peccolo, who had only read the rules once, kindly offered to help run the game since we had so many players.  It is rather embarrassing to admit his knowledge of the rules was better than my own despite my test game! I also need to give a shout out to David Raybin, who photographed the game while playing and setting up his own game of the Sword and the Flame that we ran afterwards.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Preparing for Battle - Muskets and Marshals

 With the inclusion of the Tennant Collection, I am finally ready to give Muskets and Marshals a test drive.  To prepare I wanted to experiment with a small selection of figures and convert them to my own basing style, as well as add a few touches that would make them my own, mostly shading and highlighting and the addition of a good strong protective coat of clear glossy varnish.  While I had talked to Dick about using the British in my first test battles, impatience has gotten the upper hand and I felt like I had just enough French and Russian soldiers mounted up to make for a small test battle.

 The Artillery limbers really bore the brunt of the cross Atlantic journey, and I am simply overjoyed to have taken the mangled limbers and been able to re-assemble them in a way that rivals the condition they were in originally.  The hand made traces were the work of Mr. Tennant and I am thrilled to have been able to save all of that delicate work.  In all of his artillery companies, he has included a set of artillerymen on the march, as well as deployed for action, a really nice touch!

 In this instance, the artillery is being guided along the road by a divisional staff escort.  There were four of these chasseurs included in the collection, and I believe they are the paint work of the esteemed Peter Gilder.  I added a few highlights as the original color scheme was quite dark, and in some cases a bit faded, but essentially tried to minimize my contribution to his work.

 Deployed for battle!  I am going to try using a six man artillery unit to represent an eight gun battery.

 Depicted here is the only major reorganization of figures that I anticipate for the Tennant Collection.  I have taken two of the large 36 figure battalions, and with the inclusion of three companies of Voltigeur from Peter Gilders collection that were included, have been able to rearrange into 4, 24 man legere battalions.  This did require a bit of custom work and repainting of a few figures.  I was a bit torn when doing this as it is a bit of a departure from the original structure of the units, but in the end the appeal of expanding the number of battalions and being able to field two of them in skirmish order, felt like the right thing to do.

 Cleaning each figure for painting proved to be a challenge, and in the end I decided I really needed to brush each figure lightly with a soft tooth brush and water to remove dust, and what I suspect was a very slight film of tobacco smoke.

 The process of cleaning did dislodge a little paint, mostly I suspect where it had been chipped or loosened by the shipping process.  I did my best to match the base coat colors, and then added highlights and some shading to help make the figures pop.  The cornetist is one of my all time favorite figures!

 I am following Mr. Tennant's lead and modelling the corp after Messena's Army of Portugal at the time of the battle of Fuentes de Onoro.  Here we have the General de Brigade Antoine de Marcune who led the 6th legere and 69th de Ligne.

 Dick did a wonderful job painting him and I made very few modifications.  I particularly love his treatment of the horse!

 Here is the 6th legere in close order.

 The 25th Legere is deployed in support of the artillery.  These figures were originally painted by Peter Gilder as Voltigeurs, and here I fear I have made changes to some classic figures I may someday regret, but decided to do a slight repaint by changing the epaulets and pom pom colors so that I could incorporate them into a battalion of legere.  The carabiniers are actually fusiliers from Mr. Tennant's work, that were extra to my needs, which I converted to carabiniers by adding, somewhat clumsily, a pom pom and changing the color of the epaulets.

 I hope the resultant finished battalion justifies the changes made.

 Command figures were painted by Mr. Tennant.

 The fusiliers converted to Carabiniers.

 Very minor changes here as all I did was add some highlighting and left these figures as elite voltigeurs.  These were painted by Peter Gilder

 The majority of the figures painted by Peter Gilder were these.  I repainted the collars, pom poms, epaulets and sword knots so they could serve as fusiliers of the 25th.  My assumption is that these are early Hinton Hunt figures, but I am not 100% sure, as they seem just a bit crude compared to most of the Hinton Hunt sculpts I have seen.  I would love to hear from any readers who might be able to ID them.

 The 25th Legere in close order.

 And finally a few teaser shots for the coming battle.  The French Fusilier Chasseurs, screened by half a battalion of the 6th Legere, prepare to assault Russian Jagers dug into a village.

 Is that le pas de charge I hear?

 Opening volleys

Russian reinforcements to the rescue of the embattled jagers, but will they arrive in time?

The overview of the coming conflict.  Hopefully the battle will go well, but as with any new ruleset, I'm sure it will be slow going as I work out the details.  With any luck a battle report will follow.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Alaskan Adventure

 Miniature painting took a back seat last month, as we had our son Connor's graduation from Rose-Hulman with a degree in electrical engineering to celebrate, and then a thirtieth anniversary trip with the whole family to Alaska.  In true vacation style of my spouse's family, we had to suffer in order to earn our vacation, so the order for the trip was backpacking in the wilds of Denali National Park and then a guided kayak camping trip in the Kenai Fjords National Park.  I managed to sneak in some pretty sweet luxuries on occasion though!

 The obligatory tourist shot with the totem pole as we prepared to board the train for Denali.

 The train ride was definitely one of the luxuries I snuck into our itinerary.  With a dome car and a pretty nice private dining room below we were nicely spoiled!

 Off we go!

 "Suffering" through a nice breakfast with beautiful scenery rushing by.  Even our vegan daughter found a suitable breakfast on the menu - I ate Rudolph rolled into a sausage, much to the chagrin of our daughter.

Views along the way.

 Snow capped mountains were our constant companion along the whole way,

 as were rushing glacier fed rivers.

 Our first night in Denali was spent at a nearby park campground.  "Carla" the moose decided to camp out with us, and it was some time before we could get to our packs and unpack to cook dinner.  Very inconsiderate of our moosey friend, who was perfectly happy to eat her dinner of salad while making us wait.  In case you were wondering, moose are huge!

 Finally on the trail into the park.  We chose to hike in a zone near the visitor center so that we could hike into the park rather than ride the park bus to more remote zones.  Once about five miles in though, the trail disappeared and we were on our own to find our way.  This is typical of Denali as it is a wilderness without trails.

 We camped all three nights back down in the valley at various locations near Riley Creek, careful to always eat down wind at least a hundred yards from our tents, and store food in a portable bear can which we would store at least a hundred yards from the tents in the opposite direction.  We saw lots of evidence of animals; moose, brown and black bears, probably a lynx, but never had any actual sightings, which was a relief.

 Day two was a mad scramble up a ridiculously steep mountain side to gain the ridge.  This trail-less hike was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done.  There was definitely an element of danger and extreme physical exertion, as well as mental challenges as we sought to navigate our way out of the scrub and up onto the ridge.

The views from the ridge made it absolutely worthwhile!

Day three was what we hoped would be a leisurely hike along the riverbed, but even it was not without challenge.  Beavers had damned a large section of the river, forcing us up onto the bank in an area where the creek was rushing by just feet below us.  A slip here would have been very bad!

There were areas of the bank that were very steep, and the whole time we were pushing our way through Black Spruce trees that love to claw at you as well as low lying Alder and Birch shrubs.  It was great to see the family working together to get across the calm frigid water of the spillway from the beaver dam and up onto the bank, shuttling backpacks and then pushing our way through! 

 We found this print of a brown bear (grizzly) on the bank.  Glad we didn't see one out there!

 The kids managed to wake up in time to see the sunrise around 4 AM one morning.  The sun would set for about four to five hours every day, but it never really got dark, just settled into a kind of twilight.

 Day four was our hike back out along the trail leading in (for the most part).  The views were incredible, but I must admit by this time I was coming down with a cold and was exhausted.


 Words can hardly describe the joy we felt at having an actual trail to hike on the final day.  So much easier to walk when not pushing your way through brush and difficult terrain.

Saying a final goodbye to Riley Creek.

 We hiked out and caught a bus to Talketna, where we spent the evening in an AB&B.  Our host Jeffrey joined us for dinner at a local brewpub, which turned out to be one of our best meals the whole trip.  Jeffrey was typical of the folks we met in Alaska, always willing to go the extra mile to help us out and just full of great stories.

 Another day of travel and we were ready to head out on a three day guided Kayak excursion through the Kenai Fjords National Park.  Saul was one of the boat hands, and he hung out with me on the back of the boat as I am a bit prone to sea-sickness.

 On the way back we saw a pod of Orcas at play.  I was too busy watching them in amazement to really get any photos, but it was magnificent to see.

 Connor and Carolyn on the bank of our new "home".

What a privilege to camp in this pristine place.  Along the cliff we counted at least fourteen waterfalls!

 All  the amenities of home.  And yes, you pack out everything!

 Our Guide Danny planned an incredible trip for us, complete with meals that he and our other guide in training Kyle, prepared for us.  They spoiled us at every occasion with fresh cooked salmon one night, a smoked salmon salad one day, vegan chili, and a breakfast hash that was to die for.

 Our first day out we kayaked to the Aialik Glacier, a massive mile wide bastion of ice.  We slept to the thunder of ice calving off the glacier and was an experience I will never forget.

We kept our distance from the glacier as it was calving every few minutes.

Carolyn immediately saw the T-Rex in this small iceberg.

 Harbor seals come into Aialik bay to rest on the ice for protection from the orcas.  You can see a few resting on the ice in this picture.  We saw lots of seals and even a few moms with their babys, which I have to say, are very cute!

Scale and proportion is so hard to judge in Alaska because of the immense size of things.  In this shot the glacier looks fairly modest in size, but it is at least half a mile away!  The trip back to our base camp was a difficult one, as shortly after we took this picture we had a three mile crossing out in the open water of the bay.  A head wind came up and made the water quite choppy, though fortunately we were able to kayak perpendicular to the waves which is far safer.  I was thoroughly whipped by the time we made it back to shore.

After three days of Kayaking (our guides made us earn our extravagant meals, as they were full days kayaking around eight or so miles a day), we said goodbye to Kenai Fjords and traveled back to Seward for a sit down meal (our best of the whole trip at the Cookery), and then a couple of days in Girdwood for day hiking.  Then back to Anchorage and the flight to Nashville.  We could not have asked for a better trip!