Background image is Les Dernières Cartouches (The Last Cartridges) by Alphonse de Neuville

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Carlist Wars

Isabellino Infantry Command
I confess, to no one's surprise, that I'm a huge fan of the work of the Perry brothers, amazingly talented sculptors who produce an impressive range on historical wargaming figures for their own company, having previously worked for Games Workshop and Wargames Foundry.

One range I've been very tempted by, but so far resisted, is their line of figures for the First Carlist War. As far as I know, they are the only company that produce figures for this conflict, a post-Napoleonic civil war (1833-1839) between the national army (supporters of the liberalist, centrist government of Regent Maria Christina) and a rebel alliance (advocates of the pretender Carlos de Bourbon, a highly conservative member of the royal family with allies among Spain's autonomous regions of Catalonia and Euzkadi).

BAL Infantry Command
The Perrys' work never fails to impress, and this line is no exception. The Isabellino (loyalist) forces include government troops and their foreign allies--the British Auxilliary Legion (BAL) and the French Foreign Legion (FFL). This was the FFL's first taste of battle outside Algeria and was the end of the orginal Legion, as the French government turned it over to the Spanish, lock, stock, and barrel, and raised a new legion in its place some years later.

The Isabellino regulars include infantry, artillery,
heavy cavalry, and lancers. BAL forces include line infantry, riflemen, lancers, and British Royal Marines. FFL troops include infantry, artillery, and Polish lancers.

Don Carlos and His Generals
The Carlist list includes a large number of civilian figures, both Carlist militia/volunteers, noncombatants, and armed clergy. Their troops also include Navarrese Guides, Valencian Volunteers, and most of the troops wear the Basque bonnet (rather like a large tam-o-shanter).

I was reminded of this line by two recent events, wholly unconnected. One was my reading a trilogy of short historical novels set in Spain immediately
Carlist Infantry
before the war. Another is the current standoff between the Catalonian government and the Spanish central government over the former's desire to hold a referendum on whether to form an independent country. Interestingly, though the current political climate puts the movement for Catalonian separatism at the liberal end of Spain's political spectrum, Catalonia, Navarre, Euzkadi (the Basque country) and other regions favoured the Carlist rebels in the 19th century because that highly reactionary faction promised to retain their ancient separatist privileges, while the liberal, modernist central government took the position that Spainish unity should be preserved so that government and social reforms could be applied throughout the country.

I am still resisting the temptation to dive into the First Carlist War with both feet, though I did pick up the excellent book produced on the conflict by Conrad Cairns and sold by the Perrys (and other outlets).

Armed Priests
To make things even more difficult, the excellent Warmodelling (a Spanish miniatures company) also does the Carlist War, in their case in 15mm rather than the Perrys' 28mm. Very handsome figures there, too, though.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Operation Brassard: The French Return to Elba

Goumiers and their mules boarding a landing craft.
While I'm trying to keep a lot of my gaming attention on exploring the Great War in this year of its opening's centennial (as featured in my other blog, The Hissing Fuse), I haven't entirely given up on other subjects. Last weekend, as mentioned, I had a chance to play Fire in the Lake (and I'll have a longer post on that shortly). But I'm also enjoying an abundance of Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) games recently. My friend Bryan and I got in two Starter Kit (ASLSK or SK) games on Sunday. I also have several games going by email, some SK, some full ASL.

One opponent who I lucked into just recently was kind enough to agree to try out one of Laurent Martin's ASLSK web-distributed scenarios. As a completist, I love the challenge of playing all the SK scenarios--a goal that I might realistically accomplish, where playing all published full ASL scenarios is almsot certainly impossible.

Three of M. Martin's scenarios deal with Operation Brassard, an effort I had not heard of before I came across his webpage. This assault on the island of Elba took place in June 1944, a week and a half after the Normandy landings in France. Ostensibly aimed at neutralizing German observers who were interefering with Allied movement along the Italian coast, the invasion was probably also aimed at giving troops slated for the invasion of southern France a bit of on the job training before putting them up against more significant enemy forces.

With a French commando battalion, a battalion of Moroccan goumiers (and their 200 mules), two regiments (six battalions) of Tirailleurs Senegalais, plus British commandos, bomber and fighter aircraft, and naval gunfire support, the two battalions of German infantry on the island were outnumbered by more than four to one. Despite several missteps by the Allied invasion forces, the German resistance, initially fierce, collapsed after three days. Most of these same troops, the French 9me Division d'Infanterie Coloniale, went on to seize Toulon during Operation Dragoon--the Allied invasion of southern France.

Free French forces had liberated Corsica eight months earlier. With the capture of Elba, France might be said to have completed two legs of a Napoleonic trifecta. But, Axis forces never having reached the southern Atlantic in strength, the Free French were never called on to liberate St Helena.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

More COIN in my pocket

That's got to be a new record--my copy of Fire In The Lake hasn't arrived yet, and I've already played it once.

My friends Eric and Amir came over, with Eric's copy of the latest Volko Ruhnke Counterinsurgency (COIN) title, FITL, which covers the US war in Vietnam. We walked through the programmed demonstration in the play book to learn the mechanics, they played on from there.

We had a few questions, but between the clarity of the rules and my experience with the previous COIN title Cuba Libre, we didn't find it too difficult to play. We had to stop before we were entirely played out, but the next card up would have provided a break to check victory conditions, and Eric (playing with both the VC and NVA hats on) would have won as the VC.

We all agreed that we enjoy the system and will enjoy playing both this instance and others in the future.