A more or less aerial photograph of the battlefield. Note the orange and blue Stollenian pavilion tent on the northern edge of the table, marking general headquarters, as well as the yellow and purple Zichenauer pavilion on the southern side. The River Elbow is about at mid-table. Speaking of tables, this one measures 6' wide x 8' long.
At mid-morning on 4th August 1773, as the mists cleared along the River Elbow separating the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Electorate of Zichenau, a Stollenian cavalry patrol spotted a large mass of enemy troops setting up camp in the distance beyond the opposite bank. Word was immediately sent to General von Tschatschke, who was still a day's march north with most of the Stollenian Army.
The scouts next withdrew to a safer vantage point and continued to observe as the Zichenauer army began deploying on their own side of the river. Through a telescope, the Stollenian cavalry officer in charge, one Captain von Schenker, recognized the commander of the Zichenauer Army perched atop a fine Arab charger. It was that most notorious cad and bounder, the French mercenary-adventurer General Phillipe de Latte, who was accompanied by his aide the equally contemptible Major Paolo di Biscotti, a lickspittle of the first order.
A seasoned campaigner and veteran of the Seven Years War, von Schenker snapped his telescope shut with great moral indignation and even revulsion at the sight of his enemies. He thought for a moment and determined almost at once that General de Latte's intent, clearly, was to launch yet another invasion of the Grand Duchy. Von Schenker and his men departed forthwith at the gallop to a nearby farmhouse where they commandeered a table and spread out their map of the area. If previous encounters with de Latte were anything to go by, they agreed, the approaching battle would be difficult at best. . .
The Grand Duchess and Young Master were duly shipped off late yesterday afternoon to Coventry for two weeks. . . or as a I privately think about it, the in-laws in Seattle. Time to play! So, a short while ago, I spent a delightful couple of hours clearing assorted stuff from the wargames table and setting the scene for the coming Battle of the River Elbow here in Zum Stollenkeller.
Here, we are looking along the River Elbow from the northeast to the southwest. The tiny settlement of Seydlitz is in the foreground. In the distance to the right, you'll note the equally insignificant dorf Clauswitz.
As I've mentioned before, the scenario, which I'll fight solo using the basic rules (more or less) laid out in Charge!, is based primarily on David Barnes' Battle of the Elbow River, the account of which once graced the pages of the old Wargamer's Newsletter in January 1979. As I cleared the table, dusted it, and made ready to lay out the scenery, it also occurred to me to borrow a few features from the Battle of the Alma River, fought in September 1854. This opening battle of the Crimean War is an action that has always fascinated yours truly. Hence, the line of low ridges added just to the north of the river along with a couple of redoubts for Stollenian infantry or artillery to occupy.
In the third photograph, we are looking from the southeast to the northwest. The slightly larger village of Gneisenau, which even has a church for the faithful in the area to attend, occupies the foreground.
Now, what about the scenery? The bright green I used for my tabletop and the bases of many of my units is Olympic 'Meadow Green' interior latex. The river was made from a few sheets of blue craft paper with vegetation and occasional bunches of rocks modeled using old cork chips dating from the mid-1980s, bunches of lichen, and clump foliage by Woodland Scenics. Since this battle is in pretty rural environs, I used a simple piece of balsa wood to represent a small bridge across the Elbow rather than my fancier scratch-built town bridge that has been featured here at the GD of S blog in previous actions and battles. The various buildings were all scratch-built by me at different times, and, in the Grantian tradition, the outer shells lift off to reveal internal ruins. Each structure, including the fairly large and complicated church, is assembled to hold seven or eight infantry figures.
Last of all, here is a somewhat clearer shot of most of the battlefield. Note especially, the Greater Redoubt midfield and Lesser Redoubt on a neighboring ridge. Stollenian infantry, directed by engineer officers, have been hard at work the last few days finishing their construction.
The ridges are -- surprise, surprise -- styrofoam packing sheets that were hoarded when we moved into the current Stollen Central in April 2008 and ordered several flatpack bookshelves for the library. Imagine my great surprise and pleasure when these arrived a few days later, and I opened the boxes to find 6'x2' sheets of the stuff! The Grand Duchess was not quite as thrilled. She simply wanted the shelves assembled, fastened to the walls, and the books unpacked. Anyway, the ridges were later cut out and painted in the same green as the table top. The evergreen trees come from a tree kit sold by Zvezda, and the deciduous trees are actually cake decorations that I ordered from some party and baking supply place in Philadelphia several years ago. Last but not least, the pavilion tents came from Magister Militum in the U.K.
Here are the initial troops dispositions during the original Battle for the Elbow River in 1978. A special thank you goes out to the Vintage Wargaming blog for the lovely scans of the January '79 Wargamer's Newsletter.
My own armies will be set out in much the same way as the positions indicated above. The Stollenian Army, under General von Tschatschke (aka The Flamboyant Silesian), will defend on the northern side of the river while the Army of Zichenau, led by General de Latte, will attack. Since this is a solo affair, and in the interest of introducing uncertainty and unexpected situations, I'll draw cards each turn to determine initiative. There might also be a few surprises where the river is concerned, and I might include a few chance cards too since I haven't used mine in quite some time, and they are fun. But I am not yet certain on that last point. Ok, enough palaver. Time to set out the troops!