Star of Bravery Ep. 4: The Bridge over the Laber

“Croissant!” the gallopping ADC shouted. “Name’s Cruchon,” Capt. Cruchon wearily replied. The arrogant staff officer in his fancy uniform didn’t even bat an eyelid. “Get your men moving! Générale Delabréjaude wants you to secure a bridge over the Laber!” Cruchon got out a map and the ADC pointed his sword at it, making a huge tear where “Polstermühle” was written. Without another word, he made his horse rear and gallopped away. “I see we had a visit from young Lt. Profiterole,” Merlot chuckled as he walked over. Cruchon sighted. “Looks like it’s going to be another hot day in Bavaria.”

As the French column hastened towards the bridge, Cruchon sent Merlot’s skirmishers into the woods to his left and Bouffard’s Chasseurs à Cheval ahead along the road. Merlot soon reported a heavy column of Austrians on the northern road, screened by what looked like Jäger.

It now became a race towards the bridge. The French column was a bit faster, but the Austrians were preceded by their Hussars, who seemed eager for a fight and headed directly at the French column.

When Bouffard saw this, he immediately counter-charged, hitting the hussars hard. The fierce melee resulted in the Austrian cavalry fleeing back behind their infantry.

The Austrian commander could be heard to shout at his men to hurry up: “Vorwärts, my children, to the bridge!” When Cruchon saw the column approaching, he immediately formed line with his three groups. For a moment, he thought about opening fire, but he knew that while the enemy column would certainly take casualties, it might just continue their march and make it over the bridge. “Then charge it is,” he murmured and gave the command to lower bayonets. His groups crashed into the head of the Austrian line. The Austrians fought stubbornly until sheer exhaustion made both sides fall back. Brave Cruchon, however, lay unconsciously in the mud, having been hit by a musket butt.

For a couple of minutes, the soldiers of the French line were baffled. What now? Their Capitaine was down and the rest of the Austrian column was continuing their march towards the bridge. A part was already on the bridge when Bouffard’s cavalry charged them in the flank. “This is how you do it!”, the brave cavalier shouted. 

When his horsemen came cantering back in disorder, having been repulsed by the Austrians, the foot soldiers burst out laughing. But now the spell was broken and the line rushed forward on their own account. Another fierce melee followed. The Austrians fought tenaciously and both sides started to accumulate casualties. Fortunately, at that moment, Lt. Fougasse, Cruchon’s second-in-command, arrived with a fresh group. He immediately dressed the ranks and had the men open fire. Austrian Major von Eynhuf did the same and a short firefight erupted at almost point blank range. Both sides were close to exhaustion. When Fougasse got word that the French skirmishers in the woods were broken and Jäger might be threatening his rear, he knew a decision had to be forced. Remembering his drill manual, he ordered the pas de charge and his line moved forward in splendid order, breaking the last of the Austrian line and securing a French victory.

When Cruchon came to, he was pleasantly surprised. “Well done, Fougasse!,” he said, clapping the proud Lieutenant on the shoulders. “One group of Austrians managed to escape over the bridge,” Fougasse said with chagrin. “Never mind! We got the rest and the bridge. Let’s celebrate our victory!” Cruchon let his gaze wander over his exhausted men. “But where is Merlot?” An exhausted skirmisher timidly came up: “The Jäger got him, Capitaine. There was nothing we could do.” “Zut alors! Check the prisoners. Where are those damned Jäger?”

But the Jäger were not to be found. The crafty woodsmen seemed to have slipped through the lines and taken not only Merlot, but also Major von Eynhuf with them, as the Austrian commander was also not among the POWs.

A couple of hours later, the rest of the French column came up. When artillery wagons got stuck in the mud and Cruchon’s men were labouring to get them moving again, Lt. Profiterole dashed up to the Capitaine. “Cruchade!” he shouted. “Hurry up! The Générale has a special assignement for you!” Cruchon looked into the sneering face. “Va te faire foutre,” he murmured. “What was that?” “I said, give the general my regards, I’m at his service.”

This was a hard scenario for the Austrians. They had to cross the bridge with at least four intact groups and then destroy it by spending actions. However, it might have gone differently when the initial cavalry clash had resulted in an Austrian victory. For a change, I played very aggressively, which paid off in the end, although my Force Morale was also pretty low by then.

Most importantly, however, the game was fun and the story keeps developing. Cruchon finally got some Honour Points, but his old comrade Merlot is a prisoner (again). And Cruchon seems to have caught his superiour’s eyes, as he got a special assignment.

For Sigur’s view of the game, visit his blog, where all his AARs may be found.

My First Attempt at Sculpting

For a long time I had the idea to try my hand at sculpting a miniature. However, when I read about sculpting or watched tutorials, I usually got intimitated. Everything seems so easy and the result is usually perfect! Add to that the comment of one sculptor that, if you can draw something, you can sculpt it. It probably was intended to show that scuplting is not that difficult, but for me, it had the opposite effect, as I can’t draw for the life of me.

Recently, I was looking for civilians or figures that could be used for vignettes for my 15mm napoleonic project. Specifically, I was looking for something like this lovely set from Brigade Games, as I had just watched the movie The Duellists. To my surprise, there is very little out there in that scale – it seems that people mainly play huge battles in 15mm and need all the space for their big battallions…

So I decided to have a go and try to sculpt a figure myself. To make my life easier, I used a dolly I once bought from Alternative Armies. As soldiers usually took off their uniform when duelling, keeping only the shirt (or sometimes fighting even bare-chested), I didn’t have to sculpt an elaborate uniform.

I used the one labeled I. As the left foot is forward, I decided to make my duellist a left-handed swordsman. I added wire for the arms and the sword and then started to apply Green Stuff.

To my surprise, the limbs were actually not that difficult! The dolly helped a lot of course. The hands were more difficult, but I did manage them in a way, and many 15mm figures only have rudimentary hands anyway. The face was a bigger problem and I’m not really happy with how it turned out.

I used Milliput for the nose, as I couldn’t get a decent one done with Green Stuff. When I painted it, I realised that the nose was not the main problem, but rather the too round face and the mouth. Well, I’ll try to improve it next time.

I painted him with the trousers of a Chasseur à Cheval. When I showed him to my mates, Virago immediately said “Inigo Montoya” while Sigur said “Guybrush Threepwood”, both association I like very much!

Despite the obvious flaws, I’m pretty happy with my first sculpt and I definitely want to do his opponent. But I guess I’ll use a ready-made figure for the uniformed second…

Star of Bravery Episode 3 – Bénes’ Ambush

Capitaine Bénes pointed the tip of his sword at the map spread out in front of him. “There!”, he said to his staff. “There, where the sunken road meets the road to Peising. There we will ambush them!”.

A couple of hours before, Sous-Lieutenant François Bouffard of the 13e Chasseurs à Cheval had brought exciting news: An Austrian wagon train heading towards Ratisbon would take a back road through the Fürstenholz and then pass through a village called Peising. Bouffard said that the train was guarded by infantry, which was why his troopers alone where unable to capture it. But if he could have some infantry support…

The chef de bataillon agreed, so Bénes assembled his company and marched it in a Northeastern direction. During a short rest to let the men catch their breath, he talked his staff through the plan. “The key,” he said, “is to catch them at the right moment. Too early, and the escort will have time to form up and we’ll have a costly stand-up fight. Too late, and the wagon drivers will crack their whips and we’ll never catch them. So, I want discipline – no one is to move before they hear my signal!” The officers and NCOs nodded. “I wonder what’s in the wagons…”, Lieutenant Guy Bonhomme murmured. “Let’s get moving again, or we’ll never find out. Get the men back on the road, Lieutenant!”

Major von Eynhuf looked at the gently rolling landscape in front of him and sighted. Finally they were out of that cursed Fürstenholz! A couple of hours ago, he had seen horsemen shadowing his convoy, but now they were gone. Von Eynhuf was an experience enough officer to distrust this peace. But if the French planned an ambush, surely the wooded area of the Fürstenholz would have been the place to do it. Now they were almost at the village, where they could take some rest.

Suddenly, he heard the cry of “Vive la France!” and, with shock and disbelief, stared at a column of blue-coated soldiers marching out of a sunken road and directly in his direction.

“Form line!,” von Eynhuf barked. His well-drilled troops immediately executed the order and, before the French themselves could deploy into a firing line, delivered a ragged volley. To catch the French in the flank, he refrained from performing a controlled volley and shouted at his men to fire at will. With glee, he saw the French column waver. “Now who is ze ambusched?,” he muttered.

Bénes had not expected the usually sluggish Austrians to react that quickly. When their first volley hit, his men started to waver and for a moment, it looked as if they might fall back. “Courage, mes enfants!,” he shouted, “Let us show them what la Grande Armée can do! Form line and fire at will!”.

A brutal close-range firefight developed between the two lines. Soon, the superior numbers of the French started to count, but the men were still shaky from the withering Austrian musketry. Suddenly, the sound of gallopping horses could be heard. “There is Bouffard!,” Bénes shouted. “Look how our brave cavalry charges them in the flank!”. And indeed, Bouffard’s little band charged headlong at a group of Austrian skirmishers positioned at the right of their line. The Austrians, uttlery panicked from being attacked in the flank, immediately surrendered. However, when the cavalry hit the line infantry, the Austrians fought back tenaciously. Bouffard himself was wounded and had to fall back to regroup.

Von Enyhuf was sweating profusely. The situation was deterriorating by the minute. The musketry from the superior numbers of Frenchmen in front of him caused disorder in his ranks, cavalry was putting pressure on his right flank and now some Voltigeurs had turned up and supported them with their sniping. One of his group of skirmishers was gone – he had seen the cowards surrender – and there was no sign of his rearguard.

In horror, he watched his men slowly fall back when another volley tore into their ranks. In a couple of minutes, the retreat became a general rout and no amount of shouting, swearing and sword-waving could stop his panicked troops. As he finally turned his horse to follow, he met the men of his rearguard, who told him that Ober-Lieutenant Felber “had stumbled” and was out of action. “I’ll drag the Hundsfott before a court-martial,” he muttered. “Stumbled, eh? Might as well make him a fall guy, then.”

Inside the first wagon, wounded Capt. Cruchon had woken up from musket fire. “What’s going on?,” he asked Merlot. “I think it’s our boys, 2e Ligne judging from the facings.” “Isn’t that Capt. Bénes’ outfit?” Cruchon had, of course, heard stories about the dashing Capt. Bénes, who had been awarded the Légion d’Honneur a couple of days ago for his bravery. The commotion outside reached a crescendo and then ebbed down. Shouts of “Vive la France! Vive l’Empereur!” made it clear who had won the fight. Suddenly, the wagon’s canvas was pulled back. Cruchon blinked and stared at the officer in front of him. His eyes wandered to the medal on his uniform. “Capitaine Bénes, I presume?” “Oui, oui, but you are wounded, monsieur. Fortunately, doctor Pincecourt is with me, he will get you back in fighting trim in no time.” Cruchon sighted with relief. “Let me introduce Sous-Lieutenant Merlot. I am Capitaine Cruchon, and I am in your debt, mon ami.”

Back in camp, Bénes enjoyed a moment of rest when the commanding officer of his Voltigeurs, Lieutenant Florin ‘Le Frelon’ Ouellet, walked up to him. “The impunity!,” he heard him mutter. “What’s wrong?” “One of Bouffard’s officers insulted me. Claims that I’m a coward because I didn’t join in the fray, even though you and me know that I helped doctor Pincecourt transport wounded. Of course I challenged him. I’ll skewer him on my sword!” Bénes looked at the agitated Lieutenant and pondered. Regulations said that he should forbid the duel, but he knew well enough that matters of honour had to be settled. “Well, old friend, then I wish you good luck.”.

But luck was not necessary – the ‘Hornet’ struck again, wounded the insolent trooper and restored his and the company’s honor. “All in all”, Bénes thought as he contentedly let his eyes wander over the rolling Bavarian hills, “not a bad day, not at all.”

This was a short and decisive game. Beforehand, I gave Sigur a map and told him to chose a place for the ambush. And he chose well! The sunken road shielded his troops from the eyes of the approaching Austrians, so they stayed in marching column until the French suddenly burst forward. I was a bit lucky to catch them in the flank with a volley before they could form line, but of course my three groups could not stand long against a five-group-line at close distance. Maybe if I had charged them right away instead of firing, I might have broken the line and pushed them back to clear the way for my wagons. My rearguard commander did not activate for a while and when he did, a random event hit him – he was “accidentally barged down by his men”. Perhaps von Eynhuf’s court martial will find out what really happened back there… When the cavalry hit me in the flank, I knew the game would be over soon.

But it was a exciting game nonetheless and, most importantly, it advanced the narrative. Capt. Cruchon is free and now in the debt of Bénes, so that may lead to further scenarios. Also, the campaign event with Lieutenant Oeullet (who was late because of the last campaign event) was very fitting, and the Lieutenant’s victory in the duel means that he increases his Status by one. Truely a good day for Capt. Bénes, who is quickly becoming something of a celebrity, at least in the Division.

What A Mecher!

Maybe you won’t believe it, but I did something else besides playing Sharp Practice! (Truth be told, I do play other games, but I usually don’t write about them on the blog…).

Soon after What a Tanker! was released, Virago started talking about making a variant for Battlemechs instead of tanks. I always liked the idea of Battletech – the German edition of the boxed set was my first hobby boardgame and I read a number of novels.

This box was my first “hobby” boardgame!

However, the original game is rather unplayable, especially nowadays, when I’m much too old for long-winded, extremely detailed and convoluted rules. What a Tanker!, on the other hand, is a great fast-paced game I like very much, even if I’m not interested in tanks at all.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, Virago announced that he was ready for some What a Mecher! action (incidentally, WaM is a working title…). He had put down some ideas on how to convert WaT to the Battletech setting, which basically means replacing tanks with giant robots. Which is much cooler in my opinion.

So far, we had a couple of games which worked really well. Sigur has written detailed reports here and here, so I’m not going to repeat myself and just show you some images from our games.

The game has everything a Battletech game needs. Virago, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Battletech lore, has devised very clever mechanics for heat management, which is one of the core mechanics of the original Battletech and also features prominently in the novels. There are also rules for different kinds of weapons and mechs and of course for close combat – what would giant robots be without punching each other up?

The game is great fun and I really enjoy playtesting it!