Monday 29 March 2021

6mm Hungary 1848 army on parade

This post is to showcase my beautiful new 1/300 scale (6mm) Hungarian army for wargaming the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848-1849. The figures are from Baccus (mostly adapted from their American Civil War range), painted and based by the talented Richard Morrill, flags by Maverick Models. My camerawork can't really do these little works of art justice, but still, here they are in all their glory:

The generals: Poeltenberg in green, Gorgei in red arguing with Dembinski in the red hat, etc. 
Figures from the ACW generals pack. The broken cannon wheel is a nice touch.
A rabble of rowdy rebels! Militia armed with scythes and pitchforks. These featured in the battles of Schwechat and Temesvar in particular. You have to admire Richard's work on the red-white-green polearms and the embroidered waistcoats. Figures are English Civil War peasants. 
Artillery! Some gun carriages in red-white-green, others just red-green on wood, others plain wood.
Sadly the photo doesn't really show you Richard's exquisitely delicate scratch-built rocket launcher (the crew at top left). Guns and gunners Prussian Napoleonic, I think.
No Hungarian army would be complete without hussars. Four different regiments are represented here: 4th Sandor, 5th Radetzky, 6th Wurttemberg, 1st Csaszar (I think).
Austrian Risorgimento hussar figures, I believe.
Former imperial regiments raised in Hungary provided a core for the new Hungarian army. They kept their white tunics initially but changed the flags, braid and badges. Oh, and Richard painted the red-white-green sashes around the officers' waists! Austrian infantry from the Risorgimento range. Not quite the right shako for the 1840s, I know, but in 6mm you can get away with a lot.

Hungary's own new army was the honved (roughly 'home defence'). The standard uniform was blue kepi, brown tunic and blue trousers, but there were quite a few variations, as shown here: red or white kepis, black shakos, grey tunics ... Check out the red braid on the officers' chests, more fine brushwork by Richard. There are also a few conversions: these are ACW Union figures who came with more standard-bearers than I needed, so Richard converted the surplus ones into sword-wielding officers.
Not the best troops in the army, but some of the prettiest: national guard units in bright blue, green and grey varieties. Figures are ACW Union troops in frock coat. Amazing paintwork on these tiny characters - Richard has used shading and highlighting!
Last but not least, some 'exotics'. The Polish Legion are ACW Union in frock coat, with tiny squares of cardboard to turn their kepis into red czapkas. Next to them, ACW infantry converted into grenadiers. Those greenstuff bearskins are textured and have had recognisable grenade badges painted on them!
Front row left to right: Tyrol Jaegers with their distinctive red-white-green feather; German 'Death's Head' Legion; and honved jaegers in grey and brown varieties.

The army is based for use with the "Bloody Big BATTLES!" rules. You will find reports of many Hungary 1848 BBB games on this blog (use the label "1848" to find these).

For uniform references I relied on Zoltan Barcy & Gyozo Somogyi, "A Szabadsagharc Hadserege", and Ralph Weaver, "The Hungarian Army 1848-1849".

Richard's talents are in high demand, so if you want him to paint an army for you, you might have to queue for a few months (I did). However, he tells me it does depend on the size and nature of the order, and the best advice is to get in touch and he'll see what he can do. His website at Monty's Wargaming World has his contact details, as well as loads of info and links to photos.

I hope you've enjoyed this parade of an unusual and colourful army. If you want to learn about the actual historical army's exploits, let me modestly steer you towards my book, Hungary 1848: The Winter Campaign.

Friday 26 March 2021

Clausewitz 1799 Vol.2 is published

Closely following the appearance of Vol.1 in December, last month saw the publication of our latest Clausewitz translation: 'The Coalition Crumbles, Napoleon Returns: The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland, Volume 2'. It has been slow to arrive on Amazon - logistics perhaps impeded by pandemic? - but it did so yesterday, only to promptly go out of stock (sold out, presumably). Anyway, for a brief glorious moment last night, both the 1799 volumes and the 1796 book were all in Amazon's Top 100 best-selling books on the history of the Napoleonic Wars:

 As for Vol.2 itself, highlights include the Second Battle of Zurich and Suvorov's remarkable march over the Alps. A favourite episode of mine is Archduke Charles's farcical attempt at a river crossing, in which his 30,000 or so men are repelled by just 200 Swiss jaegers. The accounts of these and many other fascinating actions are all accompanied by Clausewitz's incisive analysis, in turn supported by Professor Murray's erudite commentary.

The previous books are here:

'Napoleon Absent, Coalition Ascendant: The 1799 Campaign in Italy and Switzerland, Volume 1'

'Napoleon's 1796 Italian Campaign'

Books being like buses - you wait ages, then two or three all arrive at once - my next one should appear soon. It's a change of scene but similar format, a translated history with extensive commentary added:

'Hungary 1848: The Winter Campaign'

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Hungary 1848 #5: Isaszeg

Our Hungary 1848 campaign progresses. Isaszeg (6 April 1849) was one of the largest and most important battles of the war. It drove the Austrian army back into Budapest, leaving the Hungarian army free to relieve the vital besieged fortress of Komarom. The Austrian C-in-C paid for his failure by being recalled and replaced.

This scenario has been well tested before. We rolled out the battlemat and it delivered again. It took one and a half evening sessions to fight (about four and a half hours).

The Hungarian attackers chose not to drive straight toward the objectives in the centre. Instead, they opted for sweeping left and right hooks to minimise their exposure to the Austrian gun line on the dominating high ground. They were hindered by terrain as well as their own tentativeness. Thus their advance was slower than it might have been. They did crush a couple of Austrian outpost brigades, but the situation makes that almost inevitable. They managed to replicate history in exposing their centre to a devastating counterattack in the King's Wood.

The situation at the end of Turn 6 (three turns to go). Looking east from behind the Austrian line.
Hungarian units outlined in red, Austrians in yellow.

At that point (Turn 6), things looked bleak for the Hungarians. Both their outflanking manoeuvres were bogging down in marshes or among steep wooded hills. In the north, they had succeeded in bringing VII Cps reinforcements onto the table, but the Austrians had summoned a tough grenadier brigade to counter them. In the south, Klapka's flank march looked unlikely to arrive in time. In the centre, Liechtenstein seemed about to overrun their gun line.


Aftermath of Liechtenstein's assault into the King's Wood. Disordered Austrians consider exploiting their success to roll over the remnants of Szekulics's division and the Hungarian batteries.

But by counterattacking, the Austrians exposed themselves to a counterblow in return. While they milled around in the woods, the 9th honved battalion (the 'red kepis') led a thrust against Liechtenstein's flank and rear, kicking a rocket battery out of the pivotal position in the vineyards. Similarly at Isaszeg, the Polish Legion led the charge across the bridge and could not be driven back again. In the north, Kmety's lead battalion emerged from the hills to capture Godollo, which the Austrians had carelessly left unguarded.


Isaszeg bridge: Polish Legion and Austrian cuirassiers eye each other across the Rakos.

At the start of the last turn, then, (Austrian Turn 9), the Hungarians held four objectives, their victory target. Windisch-Graetz still had his potent cuirassiers and grenadiers available to counterattack. The cuirassiers crossed the marshy Rakos and charged, hoping to retake the vineyards - but were repulsed. All eyes on the grenadiers: and yes, they ejected Kmety from Godollo, retrieving the situation to achieve a draw.


Situation at game end. Hungarians hold three objectives: Isaszeg, the Isaszeg bridge (no Austrians within 3" of it), and the vineyards in the centre. Austrians hold the other three: the Lower Mill bridge, the Besnyo monastery and - newly recaptured - Godollo, for a a draw by the skin of their teeth.


- The variable reinforcements in the north added unpredictability without skewing the game unduly;

- Four objectives all being contested on Turn 9 made it anyone's game and an exciting finish;

- At one point the two Austrian players were exchanging secret messages via WhatsApp, but these were taking several minutes to go through, thus accurately reproducing the arthritic Austrian orders process;

- As one Hungarian player (Mark) commented afterwards, trying to go against the grain of the terrain can be costly. Games like this do show how terrain channels the action and shapes a battle;

- Although Hartlieb's outpost brigades were eventually wiped out, they did not die in vain: their sacrifice caused significant delay and disruption to the Hungarian advance. (And of course, very few of them really 'died', they just routed across the Rakos);

- Players again remarked on how helpful the battlemat is for ease of visibility via webcam;

- Great game, robust scenario, no changes needed.

Draft scenario is in the BBB group files as usual.

Thursday 11 March 2021

Punch-up in chapel! Kápolna (1849)

This week we went to chapel. No, we didn’t really - all the chapels are shut. However, ‘Kápolna’ is the Hungarian word for ‘chapel’. It is also the name of a small village on the main highway that runs east from Budapest. Two 30,000-man armies collided here in February 1849, providing #4 in our series of refights from the Hungarian War of Independence. (The others have been reported here too; the most recent one was Hermannstadt.)

The monument at Kápolna depicts the Hungarian army's chaplain 
leading the counterattack in full ecclesiastical garb.

The battle of Kápolna was preceded by some remarkable strategic manoeuvres. When the Austrians invaded Hungary, Görgei’s corps defending the frontier refused battle. Instead, Görgei conducted a skilful retreat through what is now Slovakia, fighting the occasional rearguard action. The Austrians hoped to trap him between the pursuing forces and Schlick’s division invading from Galicia. However, Görgei not only eluded the pursuers but turned the tables and almost pinned Schlick against Klapka’s Hungarian corps approaching from the southeast. Schlick narrowly escaped to the west.

When Görgei and Klapka combined, they were subordinated to the hopeless Pole, Henryk Dembinsky, chosen for political reasons rather than competence. Dembinsky advanced toward Budapest to eject the Austrians from the capital, which they had occupied in January. The fact that he refused to tell his subordinates his plan suggests that he did not have one. On the eve of the battle, not expecting an attack, he had mixed up his different corps and dispersed their divisions across a wide area (probably so they could find shelter against the bitter February weather).

The Austrian commander-in-chief, Feldmarschall Windisch-Grätz, was generally very cautious. However, on this occasion he had acted decisively. Realising the Hungarian army was concentrated east of Budapest, he marched out to pounce on it with most of his army. He also liaised with Schlick to arrange for the latter to descend from the mountains against the Hungarians' right flank while W-G attacked their front.

A two-day battle resulted. On the first day, the Austrians drove the forward Hungarian divisions back behind a small river. On day two, Hungarian reinforcements arrived, but so did Schlick. The Hungarians were defeated, but the Austrians were too exhausted to pursue and exploit their victory. The Hungarian army retreated, regrouped, and returned a month later to defeat the Austrians at Isaszeg.

In game terms, this produces a very entertaining scenario. It is an L-shaped battle, with varied terrain and low enough troop density to allow - indeed, oblige - manoeuvre. Both sides get to bring on reinforcements, both sides have choices to make about where to move, and both sides have to do their share of attacking.

The battlemat in action. Game end: Ilka Top (left of picture) 
and Kapolna (right centre) heavily contested.

It is also colourful, in that it features many of the units that devotees of this war particularly love: the Polish Legion, the German Legion, the Viennese Legion, the Tyrolean Jaegers, rockets, honveds and national guards; Austrian jaegers and Croat grenzers; formidable cuirassiers and dashing hussars.

We fought this battle four years ago, as reported here. The same battlemat was rolled out again for this week's remote game. Csorich's Austrian division was commanded by Colin, whose dice are usually dire. Not so this time. Devastating cannonades and musketry blew away battalion after battalion of hapless honveds. Day 1 belonged entirely to Austria, so the Hungarians fell back behind the Tarna, though they still occupied Kápolna  itself.

Honveds, Polish Legion, national guards, Tyrol Jaegers and German Legion
try to drive Schlick's Austrians off Ilka Top

Day 2 started badly for them as well, as Schlick's grenzers, fresh from massacring prisoners at Petervasara, arrived on the northern end of the battle and overwhelmed Dessewffy at Verpelet. Schlick's cuirassiers rode ahead to sit on the commanding hill of Ilka Top. Meanwhile, Wrbna's gun line pummelled the defenders of Kápolna.

Hungarian reinforcements rushed up to try to turn the tide. Some bolstered the line around Kápolna. Others raced toward Ilka Top. It all shaped up to climactic collisions on the last turn. In the south, the Austrians were poised for a mass assault on Kápolna; in the north, Hungarians (and Poles and Germans) mustered to counterattack on Ilka Top. Crunch! Against the odds, both assaults were repelled - a slightly anticlimactic end, but nevertheless it had been a tense finish to an exciting game.


 Austrians poised for their mass assault on Kápolna.
Apologies for shaky camera work - it must have been the excitement.


- Our campaign is rocking along: 6 games since the end of December (including 2 replays). I seem to be benefiting from having a captive audience.

- Giving the players short briefings about the campaign context and events linking the battles helps  to bring them to life. (The battles, not the players.) So too do character sketches of the generals' personalities. "OK, Puchner is old and ill - anyone feel like playing him?" "Wrbna has been soured by 30 years of peacetime garrison, his subordinates can't stand him, after the war he shoots himself ..."

- The snowy battlemat was a boon, super-easy to set up, and easy for the players to see the troops against it.

- The scenario is a very good one, plenty of choices and movement for both sides, full of replay value.

- The scenario includes a special rule to reflect the historical dislocation of the Hungarian defence by moving a random division to the wrong side of the river after deployment. This is similar to the dislocated defensive deployments at Gettysburg and Koniggratz. Starting dislocated compels the defender to move - a good thing in a game.

- The draft victory conditions provided 'double jeopardy' for the Hungarians: if the Austrians reached certain locations on Day 1, their good fortune in doing so would be doubly rewarded by giving them a victory point as well as forcing the Hungarians back. Bad idea, now amended.

- My players seem to have absorbed the doctrine of the time, commencing battles with an artillery duel between massed batteries.

- Extra photos this time as demanded by 1,000s of eager readers of this blog (thanks, Al).

- Wise words from Dave W: "My test is always, would I play that again? If the answer is yes, the scenario is good enough." Kápolna is good enough.


PS The long-awaited book 'Hungary 1848: The Winter Campaign' which includes a very detailed account of this battle should be going to print imminently - page proofs approved, index finished this week.