Saturday, December 16, 2017

The 12 Worst Christmas Songs

It is that time of year, the Christmas season, and that means that I have to hear the same bad songs over and over again on the car radio. I don't know how many more times I can listen to Mariah Carey mangling Christmas songs.

"No more Mariah Carey...I'm losing my will to live!

So without much further ado, here are my 12 worst Christmas songs, a sort of Twelve Daze of Christmas if you will.

  1. Last Christmas (I gave you my heart)  - George Michael & Wham
  2. All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
  3. Dominick the Donkey - by ?
  4. Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt, I think
  5. Santa Lost A Ho - by ?
  6. Jingle Bell Rock - various artists
  7. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
  8. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - by ?
  9. Christmas (Baby Come Home) - Mariah Carey
  10. Frosty the Snowman - Jimmy Durante version
  11. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - Michael Jackson
  12. Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney

I have noticed for quite a few years that the radio stations minimize the playing of any songs that mention Jesus or Christ,  that is, the whole reason that we have a Christmas in the first place. On Christmas Eve, they grant us a concession and play the traditional Christmas songs and carols. 

I think that radio stations buy "canned programing" and so every station plays songs from the same list. Presumably, their songs have been tested and polled for popularity and so that is why they are on the play list, for good or for bad.

The problem is, there are fewer and fewer people that are even aware of some of the old popular Christmas carols for the simple matter that they don't hear them on the radio. So Millenials and following generations can only vote on the same bad songs as the most popular and listened to songs.

Here are twelve of my favorite Christmas songs that hopefully will get all of those bad songs, on my list above, out of your memory.
  1. White Christmas
  2. Silent Night
  3. O' Come All Ye Faithful
  4. Sleigh Ride
  5. Here We Come a Caroling
  6. Oh Christmas Tree
  7. Good King Wenceslas
  8. The Christmas Song (chestnuts roasting on an open fire)
  9. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
  10. Oh Holy Night
  11. Walking Through a Winter Wonderland
  12. I Saw Three Ships A Sail One Day

Merry Christmas everybody.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Perry Cossack Wagon

Russian munitions wagons, built from scratch by Ed Phillips.

Now that I have set all of my Russians and Prussians out on the table, I can determine what items are missing to complete the armies for the Zorndorf game.

The Russians have no munitions wagons or limber team sets and I need to paint the generals as well. Actually, I have plenty of ammo wagons, both 2-wheel and 4-wheel versions, that were hand built by Ed Phillips. Click on the picture above to enlarge the view of these awesome models. I need to paint draft horses and riders to pull the wagons along the road.

The Perry Miniatures Napoleonic figure range has some very nice Russian wagons that easily fit with my SYW army. The 4-wheel wagon driven by a peasant or Cossack could be used for nearly any period of Russian history.

Cossack style Russian supply wagon made by Perry Miniatures.

Rear view of the Cossack
The wagon model was a little bit fiddly to work with and assemble, but eventually all of the parts made sense and I was able to assemble the model. The trickiest part of the model is attaching the rope cables from the front wheel to the horse harness. I had to use a little bit of green epoxy putty to attach the wagon shaft to the horse leather work (I don't know what the names are for the various parts of the horse's equipment that attaches everything together). 

The peasant driver sits atop some meal bags, and while there is a slight indent in the bag, I thought it would be a good idea to drill a pin into the underside of the peasant's rear and attach it into another hole that I drilled into the meal bag.

I really liked the way that the wagon model turned out. Now that I have assembled one model, I have another one that should be easier to put together now that I know the ropes. The model was easy to paint and I had fun with the painting of the model.

I highly recommend adding a Cossack/Peasant wagon to your Russian SYW army.

Count Galitzen
Galitzen commanded the Russian corps that was deployed between the two grunds : Zabern Grund and the Galgen Grund. I used the Minden French colonel and used two dismounted Crann Tara Savoy officers to complete the command stand vignette.

General Galitzen

A frontal view of Count Galitzen 


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Zorndorf ; Creating the Scenario

Carl Rochling - Prussians Marching to Kustrin on the way to Zorndorf.

Now that I have selected the Battle of Zorndorf for my next wargame scenario, let me share with you how I created the tabletop and the forces for both Russian and Prussian armies.

Overhead view of my Zorndorf table, the 12ft long version.

Colorful Russian munitions wagons that were scratch built by Ed Phillips

Information Sources for Zorndorf
I always begin a scenario design by looking at "The Army of Frederick the Great" by Christopher Duffy for a short battle overview. Since Duffy is the premier authority on the Seven Years War, I trust that his information is going to be accurate.

My other main sources are Kronoskaf and the Obscure Battles web sites. Click on the links below:

I also consulted the Osprey campaign series book titled "Zorndorf 1758, Frederick faces Holy Mother Russia" by Simon Millar

You can click on the above links at your own time and convenience, but taken together, I think that you will have a pretty good database of informtion on the battle if you are interested in learning more.

My Russian brigade of Galitzen, right flank resting on the Zabern Grund.

Zorndorf by the Numbers

Any historical scenario has to start by examing the numbers of forces in each of the combatant's armies.

So starting with Christopher Duffy, here are the numbers on the armies:

a) Prussians: 38 battalions (25,000), 120 squadrons (10,500), and 193 cannon (including 117 heavy pieces, the balance probably being 3-pound regimental guns)

b) Russians: 55 battalions (36,308), 21 squadrons (3,382), circa 3,000 irregulars - Cossacks, 136 cannon (no break out of heavy vs. regimental guns)

Once I am satisfied with the number of combatants, I calculate the ratios of one army to the other to help me plan my game order of battle. One quickly sees that the Russians have a distinct advantage in infantry, but this is offset by the Prussian superiority in cavalry and artiller. Yes, the Russians are outgunned in this battle.

The infantry math: 36,308 Russians divided by 25,000 Prussians equals a Russian advantage of 1.4x the number of Prussian infantry.

The cavalry math: 10,500 Prussians divided by 3,382 Russians equals a Prussian advantage of 3.0x the number of Russian cavalry. Note that I do not include the Cossacks in the Russian cavalry ratio.

The artillery math: 193 Prussian cannon divided by 136 Russian cannon equals a 1.4x Prussian advantage in artillery.

Converting the Historical Numbers Into Wargame Forces

Now we are getting down to the essential element of the game design, which is figuring out how many wargame figures to use, based on the ratios calculated in the above section.

Reducing the forces by half method: Sometimes I will employ the method of taking a percentage of the actual forces and turn them into battalions of infantry and squadrons of cavalry. For example, if I reduced both armies by half then I'd wind up with something like 26 Russian battalions and 10 squadrons versus 19 Prussian battalions and 60 squadrons of cavalry. This is still a huge wargame to stage plus I do not have the figures required to stage such a game.

Reducing the forces by thirds method: Next I try reducing the forces by one-third and hope that this results in a more manageable force of wargame figures. So 55 Russian battalions are divided by 3 to yield 18 infantry battalions; 21 squadrons divided by 3 equals 7 cavalry squadrons. The Prussians would have 38/3 = 12 battalions and 60/3 = 20 squadrons. This is actually doable relative to the number of Russians and Prussians that I either have already or will have after painting needed figures.

You could obviously use other percentages such as one-quarter of the actual forces to suit your needs and/or the size of your game table.

Using Multiples of the forces that I have method: The one-third method might work for me, but now I want to come at the numbers from a different direction. That is, starting with 12 Prussian battalions of infantry and multiplying that number by 1.4 (the Russian advantage in infantry) and this equals 16.8 Russian battalions, rounding up to 17 battalions. The cavalry go the other way, starting with the 18 squadrons of cavalry that I have in my collection of Prussian cavalry, and then dividing that total by 3 (the Prussian advantage in cavalry) which equals 6 squadrons of Russians. I have 7 squadrons in my collection of Russians so I might fudge a little bit and give them the extra squadron.

Player Commands: I now compare the forces above with the number of players in the game and create infantry and cavalry commands. Using my famous "Jim's Rule of Fours", which states that the average wargamer can comfortably handle four elements of infantry and cavalry regiments, I can easily divide my 12 Prussian battalions into three brigades of four battalions.  Conventiently, the Prussian army was divided into three commands at Zorndorf: Manteufel's advance guard, Kanitz' left wing (or center) and Dohna's refused right wing.

The cavalry brigades might be slightly bigger than four. I paint 24-figure cavalry regiments divided into two "squadrons" of 12 figures for game purposes. So 18 Prussian cavalry squadrons represents 9 regiments of 24 figures. I can divide the cavalry into one brigade of 5 regiments and one brigade of four regiments. Or I could have two brigades of 4 regiments and pull out the extra regiment as a "reserve unit" that can be used later in the game. I will have von Seydlitz command the left wing of the cavalry and Schorlemer will command the right wing of the cavalry. I will ignore the reserve cavalry units that were in the battle because I'm effectively assigning those troops to my cavalry command.

This generates five commands for five Prussian players in my game.

The Russians' 17 infantry battalions will have to be a little bit larger than the Prussian establishment. By coincidence, the Russians had three infantry commands at Zorndorf so I will try to shoe horn the 17 battalions into three brigades. These brigades will include 6btns for Galitzen (right flank), 6 battalions for Saltykov (center), and 5 battalions of Observation Corps troops on the left flank. I think that I will adjust things and place 5 battalions in Galitzen's brigade , keep Saltykov at 6 battalions, and increase the Observation Corps brigade to 6 battalions.

As noted previously, the Russian cavalry contingent was very small. I have 2 squadrons of horse grenadiers, 2 squadrons of dragoons, 2 squadrons of hussars, and 1 squadron of cuirassiers, I will place the horse grenadiers on the Russian right flank because that is where they were historically. The other 6 squadrons will be placed in Demiku's command on the left flank.

Cossacks - I have 36 Cossacks broken down into three squadrons of 12 figures. These can be placed anywhere at the discretion of the Russian army commander. Cossacks are not allowed to charge formed units unless they are approaching from the rear. Even then, the Cossacks must take a morale check to see if they will even charge. So Cossacks are not particularly effective on the battlefield, but I want to include them nonetheless.

Determining the ground space of the game

My original goal was to cram the battle onto my 6ft wide by 12ft long game table. This also happens to be a good size of table for most wargame conventions (participation games for our UK friends).

I had several ideas for the game, one of which was to simulate only the attack of Manteufel's advance guard and Kanitz's center command which was supposed to follow Manteufel and give him support. I would then ignore the action on the right flank , which took place in the final phase of the battle and is conveniently out of view of the Prussian advance guard and center.

But I wanted to try to do it all. Fritz doesn't do anything "nice and easy".

Starting with Clash of Arms Zorndorf board game

Clash of Arms Zorndorf boardgame box cover.

The Clash of Arms (COA) company makes some of the most beautiful game maps for the SYW that I have ever seen. They produced Lobositz, Kolin, Leuthen and Zorndorf. I know some of the principals at Clash of Arms so I have a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of their boardgame maps.

The maps have hexes overlayed on them, which follows the convention of most board games. So I had to create a ground scale of sorts in order to convert the COA map into a wargame table top. After a couple of iterations using different scales, I settle on each hex representing 4-inches of game table area.

Clash of Arms Zorndorf game board showing the hexes and the relative
placement of Prussian (red) and Russian (green) forces
This made it relatively easy to measure distances and locations of certain terrain features and translate them into the exact placement on the game table. For example, if the hexes indicated that the Stein Busch was X-number of hexes from the left table edge and Y-number of hexes from the Prussian baseline, then I coul figure out where to place the Stein Busch on my table and have its area relatively accurate vis-a-vis my 12 foot long table.

See the map below of my game table layout (click map to enlarge the view):

Table map showing the 6ft wide center table and two back tables that are 2.5ft wide by 12ft in lenght.

As shown above, there will be a center table and two back tables, separated by aisles, to provide depth to the table surface. I subsequently decided to add three more feet of table length on the righthand side so as to make it easier to game the large cavalry battle that occured on the right.

The three feet of table extension on which the bulk of the Prussian cavalry is deployed. Every game table must have a windmill on it. Stein Busche shown on the lower left corner.

That's pretty much the methodology that I used to create the game table and the orders of battle for my Zorndorf game that will be played in 2018.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Winter Wargaming

Frederick and his staff at Leuthen. (click on all pictures to enlarge)

We received our first dusting of winter snow overnight here in Hesse Seewald and thoughts naturally turn to the Christmas season and all of the fellowship and good cheer that it brings. 

The first battalion of the Itzenplitz (IR13) marching through the Winter snow.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland, a view of my street today.
I went crazy on the outdoor lights this year and probably put up twice what I normally do. I would finish a section of the front yard, step back across the street to view my work, and then decide that I needed just a few more lights on the right side of the house.

A view of the outdoor lights at Schloss Seewald

Needless to say, the outside of Schloss Seewald is looking very festive. We are going to purchase our Christmas tree this afternoon and decorate it today. Somehow, it doesn't seem like the holiday season until the tree goes up.

Winter Wargames
I am fortunate to have purchased some Winter terrain mats from The Terrain Guy five or six years ago, before the gentleman closed down his business. The mats are made of canvas with some kind of flock (I'm guessing) adhered to the canvas. Some bits of brown and grey coloring were added to the mats to create a realistic Winter look. Herb Gundt scratch built the snow clad buildings, the roads and frozen streams, and the leafless Winter trees in keeping with the Winter theme. Yes, I actually have buildings and terrain specifically for snow battles and conventional terrain for the non-winter season.

Over the years, I have used these mats to fight battles such as Trenton, Mollwitz and Leuthen along with several fictional battles from my Hesse Seewald collection of figures.

On the Road to Leuthen

Another view of the Itzenplitz regiment on the march. Winter roads, trees and buildings for snowscapes were  made by H.G. Walls major domo, Herb Gundt. The figures shown in the pictures are Minden Miniatures.

I have refought Leuthen a number of times over the years. At least two of them were fought using our 60-figure big battalions for the Batailles dans l'Ancien Regime rules. More recent versions of Leuthen were fought with my Minden Austrian and Prussian armies using a more manageable 30 figure battalions.

The pictures posted in this thread are from a large solo Leuthen game that I played in early 2017, if I recall correctly.

The iconic Leuthen church, manned by the heroic Rot Wurzburg regiment.

Linear warfare at its best - the Austrians form their battle line to stop the Prussian assault.

The Prussian Guards finish off the Reichsarmee troops.

Battle of Trenton

I fought the Battle of Trenton on, appropriately, Christmas Day in 2015. History repeated itself as Washington's army prevailed over the poor Hessians. The figures used in the battle were from my Fife & Drum Miniatures line of AWI figures.

View of Trenton on Christmas Day 1776.

Frozen streams, snow on the ground and bare Winter trees make for a bone-chilling scene.

The Chew House from Germantown doing double duty in Trenton.

The Battle of Mollwitz

This iconic battle was Frederick the Great's first battle (and sort of his first victory). Frederick wasn't so great that day as he allowed Marshal Schwerin to wisk him off the field to safety. He only found out the following day that Schwerin had won a convincing victory over the Austrians.

For wargamers, the Battle of Mollwitz evokes thoughts of the book "The War Game" by Charles Grant Sr.

Long ordered lines of Prussians advance on the Austrian army at Mollwitz. There is a reason for calling this the Age of Linear Warfare.

Austrian counter-attack aims to outflank the Prussian left wing.

The Prussian center is gaining the upper hand in front of Mollwitz.

The Army of Hesse Seewald

In December 2016, my nephew Alex and I played a game over the Christmas holiday, as my Hesse Seewald army "saw the elephant" for its initial battle. The green clad Hesse Seewalders prevailed, just barely, over the white clad Saxon army.

The Saxon camp on a quiet Winter's morning.

But things quickly heat up as Hesse Seewals dragoons (in green on the right)
launch a surprise attack and are met by Saxon dragoons.

the largely green clad Hesse Seewald army advances towards the Saxon camp.

The Saxons fall back from their camp, save for one lonely regiment
that is trying to buy some time for the rest of the army.

The Liebgarde of the Hesse Seewald army are the exception to the rule of wearing green uniforms.

Close combat ensues with the Hesse Seewalders gaining the upper hand in the fire fight.

Winter warfare is a fun change of pace style of tabletop warfare. I am fortunate to have been able to collect some beautiful terrain pieces over the years and refight some of the famous historical battles fought in the 18th Century - the Age of Linear Warfare.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Zorndorf 1758 - Terrain Decisions

King Frederick and his staff discuss lunch plans before the battle of Zorndorf.
Click all pictures to enlarge.

Another staff meeting of sorts. Some things never change over time.

With the 260th anniversary of the battle of Zorndorf approaching in 2018, I have started considering how to recreate the battle on the tabletop at conventions next year. And with some progress being made on the Minden Russian musketeers and grenadiers, I will hopefully have a lot of new figures to paint and display (show off) in the game.

Map of the battlefield at Zorndorf - historical marker.

Another view of the historical marker at Zorndorf. Signs for battlefields are so few in Europe
that they really stand out and catch your eye when you do see one.

So I set up my first stab at creating the terrain for Zorndorf so that I could get a better sense of how much table space I have relative to the number of troops that will be in the game. The layout tips me off about potential spacing problems with the troops or terrain features. The first picture below illustrates the main terrain features at Zornforf.

Annotated view of the Zorndorf battlefield.
Last evening I found some 3/4-inch pink insualtion sheets in my storage area and I cut up some of the pieces so that I could slide them underneath the game mat that I use for all of my games. This creates a nice gentle elevation change that you can hopefully see in the pictures below. Eventually, I will place insulation sheet under the whole table and make cut outs for the various "grunds" and depressions on the battlefield.

The view of the Zabern Grund from the Russian right flank point of view looking back
towards the Prussian advance guard commanded by Manteuffel.
I used the Clash of Arms boardgame map for Zorndorf to create my own map on paper and then scale it down to a 12 foot long game table. I can easily extend the table another four feet and add the cavalry action on the Prussian right wing near the Langern Grund terrain feature.

I used the Osprey Campaign book on Zorndorf for my order of battle. To scale things down, I basically substituted a brigade of actual soldiers for one wargame regiment. More about this in a future blog thread.

Compare the picture of the tabletop Zabern Grund with the picture of the actual terrain feature on the battlefield today. This picture, below, was taken in October 2016 while I was on Christopher Duffy's tour of Frederician battlefields in Germany and Poland.

A view of the Zabern Grund today. You can see how deep the low ground is on the left, relative to the plowed field. With all of the battlefield smoke during the fight, it is easy to see how von Seydlitz could have hidden his Prussian cavalry and approached the Russian right wing virtually undetected.

Prussian 12-pound artillery battery with its left flank resting on the Zabern Grund.
You can see the Stein Busch in the background.

This picture provides a little sense of the slight elevation difference
 from the bottom of the Zabern Grund to the top of its embankment.

The Galgen Grund separates the Russian right wing into two sections.

What is left of the Stein Busch in the Prussian center.
In 1758 the wooded area would have covered considerably more ground.

The Prussian right wing (refused wing) commanded by Dohna.

I will post more threads about the development of my Zorndorf game in the coming days and weeks and months. I just wanted to get the ball rolling while things were still fresh in my mind.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Leuthen 260th Anniversary Today

The Battle of Leuthen - December 5, 1757

December 5th marks the 260th anniversary of Frederick the Great's masterpiece victory over the Austrians at the batle of Leuthen -- December 5, 1757.

Aficionados of the era will recall that after an early success at the battle of Prague in May 1757, Prussian fortunes reached a nadir after a string of defeats at Kolin, Moys and Breslau. The Austrians had even captured the Silesian capital of Breslau and victory in the SYW seemed to be within their grasp.

Then in a span of thirty days, Frederick pulled his chestnuts from the fire beginning with a stomping of the French and Reichs Armee at Rossbach on November 5, 1757 followed up by Frederick's forced march back to Silesia where he defeated the Austrians at Leuthen on December 5, 1757. By the end of the 1757 year, Frederick was once again the master of his realms in Silesia and Saxony and his enemies were in a severe state of disarry.

I try to play a Leuthen game every year, but did not have the time to stage the game on its anniversary date due to many life events and a busy season filling miniatures orders for Fife & Drum and Minden Miniatures. So I will post a few pictures of my Leuthen game from last year for your viewing pleasure.

Zieten leads the advanced guard into battle on the Austrian left.

Opening attack formation on the Austrian left wing.

The Prussian Brummers move forward to the Juden-Berg

The Prussian Guards finish off the Wurttembers holding out in Sagschutz

Austrian infantry redeploys from a south facing to an east facing to meet the Prussian attack.

However, the Austrian battle line begins to bend as the Prussian attack en echelon hits the Austrian right flank with continuous attacks.

Austrian reserves defend the town of Leuthen

The stalwart Rot Wurzburg regiment defends the Leuthen churchyard