Friday 31 December 2021

JJ's Wargames Year End Review, 2021 and The Plan for the New Year Ahead, 2022

Well well well, as predicted in my Annual Review from this time last year (see link below), the year really only got going in the wake of the vaccine roll-out here in the UK and the onset of warmer weather allowing a more normal routine to resume.

However outdoor and social activities were very much reduced on a normal year with the first meeting of the Devon Wargames Group not resuming until May and with the Wargame Show calendar not really resuming until the later half of the year with a scramble by events normally held earlier to fit in a date prior to the end of the year rather messing up the normal spread of shows and forcing a bit of a choice on many of us wanting to attend but not being able to be in two places at once.

JJ's Wargames - Year End Review 2020 & Plan

So like the rest of the hobby, the good ship JJ's Wargames, battened down the hatches, reefed up the sails and rode out the Covid storms that buffeted it along with the rest of the world, waiting for conditions to change but still managing to get on with activities in preparation for better times ahead.

That fact is borne out by the pleasure I had in scanning over this year's range of posts and finding that much of what I had planned was actioned and a continuance of regular post series that have come to characterise the blog were maintained at a regular pace to hopefully entertain those who like to pop over to this corner of cyberspace and imbibe in some hobby downtime.

My reading this year has included a lot of personal development input that is all part of my drive to take the time retirement has offered me to improve myself and hopefully become a moderately better human being in the years that remain to me, but I like to vary the diet by including regular amounts of inspirational and informative historical reading that I hope reflects in the model collections and the games I like to play and report on here on the blog.

The books reviewed from JJs library this year with a noticeable preference to age of sail and ancient/medieval themes. 

With the focus very much on the age of sail collection of 1:700th model ships this year, the military history reading diet has included six titles focused on that genre and the other six more towards the ancient and medieval themes which I had not planned, but is inline with ideas I have been working on for progressing collections in 2022.

I really enjoy putting the book reviews together, as the writing up of the key aspects of the various books read really helps me to cement my own understanding and learning I take form them, and based on the feedback received here and on other forums it seems a lot of other folks enjoy the reviews and end up buying the books which is great and I hope supports this aspect of our hobby as books for me, and I guess many of us interested in historical wargaming, are a key part of it.

Vassal game modules played this year

An aspect of my hobby that has really changed due to the pandemic restrictions on social interaction was the use of the Vassal platform to play boardgames that I have developed into a regular routine with two friends, Jason and Steve M with Steve, who lives close by coming to play face to face using the computer based software rather than the bother of setting up a hard copy game.

The simplicity of being able to save a game week to week to be able to come back to it the following week and pick up where we left off is great and the fidelity of the modules to the hard copy game is quite superb with many modules that also include neat time saving functions that reduce the laborious need to reset counters and markers or shuffle cards, oh and no need for tweezers.

I still have two games to report on, one that has finished and one still going, namely Napoleon at Leipzig that Steve won just before the Xmas break and 1805 Sea of Glory that is still in play going into the new year.

As the weather improved and us senior citizens got our first vaccine jabs, the opportunity to move about outdoors resumed and Carolyn and I jumped at the opportunity to get out and about in late May with a trip to the Welsh border and North Wales which included a visit to the ancient marvel of Anglesey or the Isle of Mona as the Romans might have referred to and the glorious Stokesay Castle.

The summer months included a trip to Start Point and Slapton Sands

This first trip out was followed by others, with our walks on Neolithic and Iron Age Dartmoor resumed in the summer, a visit to Cardiff Castle and its historic museums, followed later in the year with Mr Steve and I resuming our battlefield tours that included Roundway Down, Braddock Down, Stratton and Sampford Courtenay, many of which I had wanted to do for ever and finally got around to it this year.

Sadly the Wargame Show visits that I would normally include throughout the year were the last part of my hobby life to pick up, with only one show managed before the year end, but it was a good one to end on with a visit to Warfare at its shiny new venue, Ascot Racecourse last month.

Warfare at Ascot was such a nice return to attending shows for me and I hope this aspect of my hobby will return to more normal routine in 2022

Warfare was such a treat after this important part of my hobby had been missing for so long and making one appreciate the fun of going to a show, meeting up with friends for some banter and hobby talk, visiting the trade stands and getting some purchases made, before visiting games for further hobby inspiration.

Alongside these activities has been my games played at club, Devon Wargames Group which has weathered the Covid storm in style with many of the chaps gathering on Zoom when club meetings were postponed just to chat and catch up;

Devon Wargames Group - Blog

and the club picking up where it left off by resuming our normal club routine, running Clotted Lard in September and our Gus Murchie Memorial Game this month which left me feeling very proud of my club and the chaps who make it such a fun thing to be a part of.

Clotted Lard 2021 - The club and our Lardy Friends who attended the show raised £700 for the Veterans Charity, Combat Stress this year, our best year so far

Devon Wargames Group continues to be a big part of my hobby and the chaps in the club have really pulled together in these interesting times to make it as welcoming and enjoyable as ever with new members coming along pretty much from our resuming normal service.

The games at Clotted Lard this year were excellent as in previous ones and it is always a great social event and fun time to spend in the company of fellow Lardies.

The club concluded a truncated year in style with our Mega WWII Gus Murchie Memorial Game to finish off 2021.

Of course no review of the year would be complete without a look at the personal hobby highlights and figure building activities that filled the preceding twelve months and if you are a regular visitor to the blog, I did what I said I would do which was to continue the work on the Age of Sail collection to complete the ships needed to play Trafalgar and a lot more besides, which has seen the small ships collection added to and additional models added to the Spanish collection to facilitate the playing of the Battle Cape St Vincent which commemorates its 225th anniversary next February.

War by Sail, To Covet Glory and Narrow Seas featured in January and February as Solo gaming and Virtual gaming replaced normal face to face gaming in the first months of lockdown in 2021

The year started out with me trying some ideas with the collection as it stood at that time with some play testing of single ship engagements using To Covet Glory and Narrow Seas, with the action between HMS Scourge and Sans Culottes a French privateer brig that was videoed to YouTube as Bob and I got our heads around wargaming over Zoom.

Another YouTube experiment tried out a Solo play through of the Black Seas scenario, 'The Leeward Line' using War by Sail, which was a lot of fun and helped me formulate ideas for a larger Trafalgar collection.

The Trafalgar Collection which includes every ship in the battle from the largest, Santisima Trinidad to the smallest, HMS Entreprenante was finished in April with plans to wargame the battle in 1:700th illustrated. 

The Trafalgar collection was finished in April and showcased on the blog and YouTube to show what this scale of model has to offer the Age of Sail gamer and to complete my first project objective for 2021.

With the Trafalgar collection built, work continued to add the other ten ships to the Spanish contingent to allow the Battle of Cape St Vincent to be recreated and that was also finished this autumn with the last Spanish 1st Rate added and another objective crossed off the list.

More models were added to the collection with the Spanish Cape St Vincent contingent, L'Orient, sailing and at anchor for a future Battle of the Nile game together with sloop conversions and a game at Clotted Lard in September

Play with collection ramped up as social restrictions eased in the year still further with my game at Clotted Lard being a variation on The Leeward Line Scenario using Kiss Me Hardy which played very well and game me a chance to try out the fleet morale rules I've developed for this and other fleet action games.

Trafalgar fought in Nottingham with the model collection built in the previous 18 months up to April 2021.

The playing of the collection ramped up another notch as I was invited up To Warlord Games in Nottingham to help them celebrate the anniversary of Trafalgar with a game of the battle using Black Seas and with all the models on the table from the Black Seas range of model ships.

This was yet another highlight of my year and with it being the first time I had played Trafalgar, a real treat to share it with Gabrio and the chaps who came along to play and watch the game; and all those who followed along in the wake of the post game reports on Facebook and other forums, as well as seeing eighteen months of work come to fruition and another objective crossed off the list.

Finally the work on the model ship collection reached a natural conclusion with the addition of a small ship collection to run scenarios from the Sapherson & Lenton 100 Small Actions booklet that saw the building of schooners, sloops, cutters and merchantmen and with a 'Let's Build a Sloop' tutorial on YouTube illustrating how the model is scratch built from the Warlord model brig.

The small ship collection took centre stage in the latter half of the year which included Revolutionary French frigates and brigs, Batavian Dutch frigates & brigs, Spanish & French schooners & cutters, merchantmen and culminating in a 'Let's Build a Sloop' tutorial series of posts and video.

I still have more I want to do with this collection and there are gaps in it yet to be filled with new models and terrain items that will make it the collection I envisaged and to allow the games I want to do, but that is for the future.

Another collection that was demanding love and attention this year was my American War of Independence Mohawk Valley collection of Perry 28mm figures designed to allow me to game a particularly interesting theatre of the war that saw a campaign of revenge attacks launched by enraged Mohawk Indians and Loyalist Americans into the bread-basket of the revolution.

My Mohawk Valley Collection offers the possibility of doing the French Indian War on Steroids and a project demanding more attention in the New Year

This campaign practically brought the Rebel insurrection to a standstill as their armies stood impotent outside New York unable to break the stalemate in 1780 whilst all around them burned, leaving destroyed foodstuffs, livestock and property, and the Continental army unfed and unpaid and teetering on collapse until Yorktown offered Washington his chance.

The war was definitely not lost in the north and Sir Frederick Haldimand, Sir John Johnson, John Butler and Chief Joseph Brant perhaps deserve more recognition for a brilliantly orchestrated campaign that presents the wargamer the opportunity to do the French Indian War on Steroids with all the colour of warfare in the horse and musket era on the Great Lakes Frontier this theme has to offer.

Target for Tonight is a game I fell in love with back in the early 2000's and for me demanded a level of game that kept all the drama of the original but incorporated one that immersed the player in the command challenges faced by Bomber Operations Planning Teams and Senior Command who led the force during it's most challenging campaigns. That was done this year and you can now download a copy of 'Reaping the Whirlwind' campaign rules for Target for Tonight.

Finally another project that has long been dear to my heart was brought to a successful but delayed conclusion thanks to the 'Old Kung Flu' which was my Target for Tonight campaign recreating the bombing campaign launched by Bomber Command in the autumn of 1943 against Berlin.

The return to club allowed me to finish the play test of eight linked games, recreating the first large scale bombing attacks against Berlin and other key targets in Nazi Germany began before Covid stopped play and leaving three games to complete.

Based on that test I was able to bring together the hotchpotch of rules that we used into a coherent set for others interested in playing TfT in a similar way simply called 'Reaping the Whirlwind' and at some stage I will come back to this game as I have done for the last twenty odd years previously to use them for another campaign I would like to play, namely the Battle for 'Happy Valley' or the Rhur as this notorious target zone became known to the crews of Bomber Command. 

Every time I sit down to write these reviews of another year gone I am always amazed at how much has happened in twelve months and am pleased that the time has been filled with such a fun hobby that has given so much pleasure to me and others and that never seems to ever be done and with one project leading inevitably on to the next and explains why it is my passion that is a pleasure to share with like minds.

So with 2021 receding fast in the rear-view mirror, it's time to concentrate on the journey into 2022 and hobby plans ahead.

JJ's Wargames is fast approaching its tenth anniversary in December 2022, and I can't quite get my head around how fast the time has gone, since the decision to start writing this thing on a regular basis, with around two posts a week to create the magazine style that I wanted, together with my own personal journal of my hobby time; designed to record all the fun and to allow me to use the blog to keep a discipline to my hobby outputs with a plan of commitments written down and worked to, knowing that I can't deny that I said I was going to do something and am thus committed to seeing that declaration through.

The year looking forward is still somewhat unpredictable with governments around the globe still unsure of imposing further restrictions on public movement, but possibly the first glimpses of more freedom to travel coming back.

This may well impact hugely on my plans for the New Year with a big long holiday delayed because of the pandemic perhaps a possibility towards the end of the year and so that possibility stands as a caveat to my overall plan for the year ahead.

CAD illustration from Warlord Games of their planned small third-rate alongside the plastic current common third-rate for comparison and a likely component for a possible Dutch fleet build in 2022

That said the header to this post points to three current projects remaining front and centre in 2022, namely the Age of Sail collection of ships, with two big battle anniversaries coming up for Cape St Vincent 1797 and Camperdown 1797 with the collection ready for the first and if Warlord launch their planned new models of the small third-rate and fourth-rate ships a new Dutch fleet to complete in time for the second.

Camperdown would be a fun and interesting battle to fight in the 225th anniversary year of Admiral Duncan's important victory

Alongside planned future big battle projects for the New Year I plan to roll out the collection in a series of games to further develop ideas around playing Age of Sail more regularly and more widely, more anon

Cape St Vincent is very much in my plans for 2022 with the anniversary of the battle on 14th February 1797 fast approaching and the models ready to go.

In addition I will be working on some models for a friend and adding some key models to my own collection in between other work to keep my painting and rigging skills up for more major builds going into the year.

A Christmas present from Carolyn, my brand spanking new frontier fort and stockade from Ironclad Miniatures to add to my AWI terrain items requiring some work in 2022

Thus with the focus on Age of Sail likely to be in a certain state of flux, I plan to mix in more modelling time to the other key projects that have taken a back seat in the last two years to eighteen months, namely the AWI and Romano Dacian Collections and with Rebel militia and Roman legions very much in mind I plan to add further units to those collections in coming months together with terrain items as the time permits.

The Romano-Dacian collection is very close to completion and I am keen to donate time in 2022 to moving it closer to that goal and enjoying more games using it.

Alongside the model building and big game plans the blog will continue with its broad mix of articles and posts covering games, books, shows and visits to interesting places and I am keen to further develop the YouTube channel for JJ's Wargames which has been a growing adjunct to the blog, facilitating video tutorials and game reports which seem to have added another popular way of showing the games, collections and historical themes I find interesting in a more informing way.

Finally with work planned for 2022 very much focussed on the three themes outlined I thought I would share my ideas for two other themes going forward that I am keen to develop collections and games around.

One is my Wars of the Roses collection and the post this year looking at  Rob Jones's rule set 'Blood & Horse Droppings' adapted from the Perfect Captain's ' A Coat of Steel', alluded very much to that future project with all the Perry 28mm figures bought and ready for building, together with the terrain items and all the required banners and flags.

The other collection I plan to work on going forward which will take a fair proportion of my future games budget is something new but a theme I have always wanted to build a collection around, namely the English Civil War, which the terrain items required will allow me to mix and match from those built to use with the Wars of the Roses collection.

My embryonic ECW collection started to take shape with some lovely presents from friends and family which will allow me to pack in plenty of pre-reading and planning during downtime between the key projects worked on in 2022

This Christmas saw the first acorns planted towards that project with a couple of exploratory figure boxes and a pile of Osprey books to compliment my plans in that area.

So there we are, another year almost done and another one to look forward to.

I hope my little outline was fun to read and inspires you with your own plans for 2022, and if like me you probably can't wait to get stuck into them.

As always JJ's Wargames will keep on, onwards and upwards and hopefully sharing the love.

I wish everyone a very happy, productive and peaceful New Year in 2022.


Wednesday 29 December 2021

Mohawk Valley Collection - American Militia Scratchbuild

The Perrys provide the answer in getting more variation into my Rebel Militia

As mentioned in my last post looking at the Jaegers and militia that were added to the Mohawk Valley AWI collection, my attention would be turning to Rebel militia units and State Levee companies that formed the principle defence against attacks by Crown troops and Indian allies.

As anyone who has built a collection of AWI figures using the Perry range of miniatures will know, the range of militia offerings is somewhat limited given the range of civilian attire these chaps likely turned out in and the need for plenty of pose options to give that very irregular look of militia that you don't associate with regular troop types.

Which started me thinking about how to best represent these troops in my own collection and get those variations in the look I was after as I experimented with a few metal and plastic Perry figures while I concentrated efforts on my Crown forces.

Interestingly the Perrys faced a similar challenge when they were building forces for a planned AWI campaign they later ran and posted an article on their Facebook page that was just the solution I was looking for and I have posted the results of the first stages of that option, namely to create my militia from the AWI American Continental Infantry box set with the use of extra variation provided by the British Napoleonic Infantry plastic box set.

You can see an example of their build project in the header picture and is exactly the look I'm after for my Albany and Tryon County boys, and the other pictures show the various combinations I have come up with so far, using this idea, ready to be painted once I've finished Bob's ships which are in the shipyard as I write.

I added to the suggestions on how to build these chaps by, as directed removing the lace and shoulder wings from the British arms, but also carefully removed any show of the bayonet scabbards that would have been Continental apparel.

Likewise I have added in the hunting shirt options included in the Continental box set to add yet more variation to the coat and waistcoat sets, and a good mix of hats further helps add to the irregular look.

I really love the options that plastic figure sets offer the gamer and with a judicious mixing in of the odd metal figure from the Perry offerings I aim to have ten units of twelve figures in no time to complete my Rebel army for Klock's Field.

More anon, when I look at the plans at this and the other collections in my New Year's Eve annual review.


Friday 24 December 2021

Happy Xmas 2021 - Another Interesting Year!

I had to smile looking back at the Christmas greetings for last year and remembering what a tumultuous year it was that inspired my post to go with my Seasonal Greetings, with a very uncertain future ahead for everything about normal social interaction that makes life worth a candle, and there doesn't get much more of a socially interactive hobby than wargaming.

A year on and things have definitely progressed in a positive way, but there still feels a way to go before our new paradigm becomes the new normal and I have a feeling the world will never quite look like it did before 2020.

As with last year the blog has had a very 'Age of Sail' theme running through it as the Trafalgar project reached a climax with our big game at Warlord Games in October which was such fun and a real treat to celebrate 'The Immortal Memory' in the Grand Manner and was a great way to celebrate a return to social wargaming in the post-lockdown period the country started to enjoy in the latter half of this year.

The collection when seen as a whole was all that I had envisaged during the building of it and with additional models created since for Cape St Vincent and it being the 225th anniversary of that battle next year, a battle that brought Commodore Horatio Nelson into the public eye and heralded the amazing career of a naval commander that world history would come to know, I am really looking forward to commemorating that event in style in 2022.

However all future plans can wait as time is taken to enjoy the most important things that make life worthwhile, highlighted at this time of year in particular, namely spending quality time with those we love and care for dearly, perhaps only emphasised by the current state of the world and of course celebrating having them in our lives, whilst at the same time abusing our bodies with too much food and other goodies.

In the spirit of that thought I will sign off for a few days to partake in such activity and take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy and safe Christmas and to really enjoy the festive holiday.

Cheers all and more anon.


Thursday 23 December 2021

Roman Conquests, The Danube Frontier - Dr Michael Schmitz


In the week leading up to the Christmas break, I finished reading another book in the series from Pen & Sword Books, covering Roman Conquests, with this particular volume focussed on the Danube Frontier and written by Dr Micheal Schmitz.

If this series of books might be of interest, I also reviewed Roman Conquests - Britain by Dr Simon Elliott back in early October, see the link below.

JJ's Wargames - Roman Conquests, Britain, Dr Simon Eliott

I well remember greeting the publication of this book with great anticipation at the time as I was well into my Romano-Dacian project and eagerly in search for as much information and historical input that I could find to inspire and inform that work and so I signed up for a pre-publication pre-order, with the book being promoted as authored by Philip Matyszak who wrote the volume covering Roman Conquests in Macedonia and Greece.

The last unit added to my Romano-Dacians was a cohort of legionaries back in September 2019 and work remains to finish off the other half of this collection. I love this hobby!

A frustrating delay in the publication followed, during which I took a break from my Romano-Dacians to refresh my palette for my AWI collection followed by a distraction into the Age of Sail, and so I have had this particular book on my pile of reading material since its publication in 2019.

Thus in preparation for a return to work on my Romano-Dacians, I thought I would grab some inspiration from Michael Schmitz's work and refresh my knowledge around Roman activity of this particular frontier

The back of the dust jacket summarises what the book is designed to offer:

Narrates the campaigns to conquer Pannonia, Moesia, Thrace, as well as the great wars against Dacia and their allies.
Describes and analyses the forces, strategy and tactics of both the Romans and their adversaries.
Discover how Roman Legionaries modified their equipment to minimise the effect of the deadly Dacian falx.
Illustrated with maps, photographs and stunning colour paintings.

So my thoughts after reading the book is that if you know absolutely nothing about Roman warfare in this particular part of their Imperial frontier that started to become front and centre of Roman strategy in the wake of the first civil war and the rise of Julius Caesar, through to the Marcomannic War or Northern War fought by Marcus Aurelius and beyond, heralding the collapse of the Western Empire, then this book will really set you up with all the key history points and facts required to get an understanding of what this frontier was all about.

Personally, I only partially added to what I already knew from my other reading and improved upon that with the chapters covering the early campaigns of Caesar, Augustus and Tiberius with the latter being of particular interest setting up as it does the formation of the pre Dacian conquest under the Flavian dynasty (Vespasian, Titus and Domitian) and the factors that led to the decision by Trajan to solve that particular problem by a total annexation of Dacia under a Roman Governor.

Likewise the chapters covering the Marcomannic Wars, first and second, fleshed out a clearer understanding of what is known amid the academic historical speculation adding to other recent reading from sources such as the Ancient History magazine that produced a very interesting edition covering the warfare from this particular period.

I think Michael Schmitz makes a very compelling case in underlining why the rise of a united Dacia, with all its individual tribes coming together under one supreme leader, first under Burebista and subsequently under Decebalus, together with its access to superior weaponry and tactical know how provided by Roman deserters and that it was not just another barbarian confederation unable to keep its troops in the field for long before the need to service its agrarian economy interceded its need to oppose a Roman invasion, makes it very clear why it was such a threat to Roman security.

Improved head and arm protection on display in combat with Dacians and their deadly falx - Radu Oltean

These factors alone put it at the top of the Roman 'hit-list' but then added to when an opportunistic, cunning and militarily able leader like Decebalus took charge looking to build a wider confederation of local allies along the Danubian frontier only reinforced the need for Rome to find a final solution.

Of course the huge gap in our knowledge of this war is that Trajan's own history of it is lost to us save about eight words of introduction announcing where he moved to at the beginning of the war, and thus we are left with a lot of educated guesswork from the wonderful Trajan's column, probably sculpted by artisans who had never seen a Dacian or indeed a Roman army in battle panoply; partially mediated by perhaps a more reliable portrayal of the armies on the Adamklissi Monument, depicting Roman Legionaries in all the different types of armour they possessed together with the improvements to arm and head protection not illustrated on the column.

I think for me, the most thought provoking parts of this book is Schmitz's emphasis on the 'what ifs' and the implied challenges the Dacians presented. Namely, what if a more coordinated response from Dacia's allies in the form of the Sarmatian and German tribes had been formulated to oppose Trajan, mixed in with the undoubted use of Roman know-how that sadly is a point of conjecture alluded to by the sight of Dacians firing ballista at advancing Roman legionaries from the walls of their fortresses on Trajan's Column.

As a wargamer of this period, I am still not sure any rule set I have come across adequately or sympathetically quite captures how a Dacian army operated in the field, with a mix of Roman technology, more armoured troops, heavy falxes as a shock weapon added to your typical warband army as seen on the German frontier, supported by bow and kontos armed Sarmatian cavalry, which is basically what I have produced.

Romans falling in with a Dacian wagon convoy during the Moesian winter offensive in Trajan's Dacian War - Radu Oltean

The fact is that the Dacians were quite able to beat and destroy Roman armies on their home soil and that potential has to be there on the table-top to make sure the Roman player knows he faces a significant challenge to his all conquering legionaries.

On that point as well, Schmitz highlights the fact again and again, as illustrated on Trajan's column, that Decebalus seems to have forced Trajan to relegate his legionaries to an elite body of engineers building bridges, forts and roads in the wake of the real fighting spearhead, his auxiliaries, and German tribal allies carrying wooden clubs; better suited to fighting in the broken terrain of the Dacian mountains, as Decebalus wisely avoided battle in the lowland plain fronting the Danube and pulled back into his mountain stronghold to contest the few passes that allowed access to his capital, Sarmizegatusa. 

In fact the only occasion we see the legionaries in action is at the end of the campaign as Trajan uses them to storm the Dacian fortress in testudo formation.

My other key area of interest, covered by the book, is the Marcomannic Wars fought across and around the Roman province of Dacia against those same German tribes from Trajan's time, the Marcomanni and Quadi, plus a few others together with free Dacians and of course the Sarmatians. 

Again Schmitz does a good job of thought provoking with the limited information available together with a very handy review of the Roman generals that fought alongside Marcus Aurelius and his co-emperor Lucius Verus, adding some useful comments about their abilities which can only help inform those ratings on a wargames table.

I have always thought these wars would make a nice extension to the Dacian collection, with the added problems imposed on my Romans of too few troops and the occasional man dropping dead from the Parthian plague and causing the loss of even more troops. 

That together with snowy terrain and Romans facing of against Sarmatian heavy cavalry, what's not to like?

Ok so this book does the job it lays out on the cover, with a good look at the key Roman campaigns fought in this area, up to the final collapse of it and the abandonment of trans-Danubian Dacia in around 271-272 AD, less than two-hundred years after Trajan had completed its conquest.

Rome likely expended more blood on this frontier over the centuries than practically any of the others and given the threat it posed in terms of access into northern Italy by land or across the Aegean by sea, it is clear why its possession and control was so important to the Empire.

I  enjoyed reading this book and know I will refer to it for inspiration around table-top games I intend to play with my own collection, but I can't end without highlighting a few niggles and caveats that occurred to me whilst doing so.

The text is plagued with numerous mis-prints that become slightly tedious as you find yourself going back over a sentence that does not make sense due to an annoying typo. Even when preparing this review and referring to the dust cover notes, I found one there, which I corrected for this post but actually is written as follows;

Describes and analyses the forces, strategy and tactics of the both the Romans and their adversaries.

Come on Pen & Sword, this is sloppy from a professional publisher like yourselves that fulfil a very important role in publishing military titles for the general reader and our hobby and does a disservice to the work of some very interesting authors such as Dr Schmitz.

In addition, yes the book does come complete with six black and white line drawn maps of the region which is very much appreciated considering the track record of some military publishing today, but they seemed to me to be rather generic in the various towns and sites indicated on them, with many of those mentioned in the text not placed on any of the maps to help illustrate where the heck the reader was being pointed to.

The Dacians took full advantage of the terrain by constructing blocking positions on mountain sides and valleys - Radu Oltean.

Finally, yes the book does come with stunning colour artwork but, I noted with a wry smile, that said artwork was taken from another great book covering the Dacian Wars by Radu Oltean, a treasure among my library and kindly autographed by Radu after ordering it directly from him back in 2015.

I can't recommend this book more strongly and would be a good read alongside Schmitz, if you have the slightest interest in the Roman wars against Dacia and I note this is Volume I so I hope we will get a second volume in time, oh and there is more of Radu's inspiring artwork in this book. 

JJ's Wargames - Dacia The Roman Wars, Volume One

Roman Conquests, The Danube Frontier is 162 pages which includes:

List of Illustrations

Chapter 1. Illyricum: The Push Towards the Danube
Chapter 2. Julius Caesar
Chapter 3. Octavian's Illyricum
Chapter 4. The Danube as the Northern Frontier
Chapter 5. The Pannonian Uprising of AD 6 to 9
Chapter 6. The Dacians: an Emerging Empire
Chapter 7. The Flavian Danube
Chapter 8. Trajan's Dacian Wars
Chapter 9. Hadrian
Chapter 10. The War of Many Nations

Conclusion: 'The Best Defence is a Good Offence'?
Select Bibliography 

Maps include (Dacia, the Danube theatre in relation to the wider Roman Empire, Illyria, Pannonia, The Western Empire, Thrace)

My copy of the book is in hardback and has a list price of £19.99 UK / $39.35 US but I note at the time of writing can be purchased from around £14 to £15.

I quite like this series of books based on the two I've read and I think are a useful resource if the area covered is a theatre of interest to you.

That's it for now, as I'm off to prepare for a Christmas break with friends and family, and I will post my annual Christmas Eve greeting to readers tomorrow followed hopefully by a post covering some Xmas gaming fun enjoyed in the holiday and my annual year end review.

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Mohawk Valley Collection - Jaegers & Militia


With Christmas fast approaching, I was determined to finish off one more piece of work before the end of year which was to get my detachment of Hesse-Hanau Jaegers and some additional Rebel militia added to the AWI Mohawk Valley collection to complete my planned projects for 2021 and to be able to sit down for my Xmas dinner happy that the year was finished off as planned and not have these chaps glowering at me as I passed the painting desk to prepare the year plan for 2022.

My three units of Colonel von Kreutzbourg's Jaeger force to join the Mohawk Collection in 2021

If you are just catching up with my little AWI project that has been running in between Romano-Dacians and Napoleonic ships you can catch up on progress in my post from October, link below, which brought things up to date back then with the addition of more Mohawk Indians, British Regulars and a few more Rebel Militia, which will be getting much more focussed attention in the New Year as I work on bringing General Van Rensselaer's forces up to strength.

In accordance with the 1776 treaty between Great Britain and the German Principality of Hesse Hanau, just under 2,500 troops were sent to serve alongside the British forces serving in America during the War for Independence, which consisted of a regiment of foot, one artillery company, one ranger corps and one light infantry corps, the four-hundred odd men of Lieutenant-Colonel Karl Adolph Christoph von Kreutzbourg's four company Jaeger force. 

The first company of the contingent arrived in the summer of 1777 for service in Canada and the disastrous Saratoga campaign, during which the Jaegers saw service at the Battle of Oriskany under Brigadier-General Barry St Leger, that would see the other three companies arrive after the siege of Fort Stanwix had been lifted and the force withdrawing into winter quarters near Montreal. 

In a British army that saw riflemen and jaegers as very much a German troop type and with these specialist marksmen having proven themselves in the wars with the French in 1758 in Europe they were a key component of British light forces operating in the broken and wooded terrain of the Canadian-New York state frontier.

These men were indeed specialists, recruited from huntsmen, gamekeepers and foresters, just at home in the woods as their American counterparts dressed in their typically green uniforms and carrying personal short octagon barrelled rifles not designed to fit a bayonet and thus requiring the men to carry short-swords as a side arm.

In 1777 the then British Governor of Canada, Major General Sir Guy Carleton, disgruntled at not receiving the command of the British Northern Expedition under General Burgoyne resigned, to be replaced by General Sir Frederick Haldimand, who arrived in Quebec in June 1778.

Northern Department Sphere of Operations 1775- 1783

He was responsible for a vast swathe of territory titled the Northern Department extending as far west as Fort Michilimackinac on the straits between Lakes Huron and Lake Michigan and his regular troops amounted to just 4,000 British regulars, 2,000 Germans and three below strength provincial corps, the Royal Highland Emigrants, the King's Royal Regiment of New York and Butlers Rangers.

Frederick Haldimand was a Swiss professional soldier, born in 1718 in Neuchatel, and began his military career in Prussia, later serving in the Swiss Guard in the Netherlands.

General Sir Frederick Haldimand c 1778 - Joshua Reynolds

During the Seven Years War as Britain raised provincial troops in the American colonies, with many potential recruits being Dutch and German settlers, the call went out for German speaking officer candidates and Haldimand recieved a commission as a  Lieutenant Colonel in the 60th Foot in 1756, serving with distinction through the war in North America and gaining a good understanding of warfare in the region.

Naturally, as a Seven Years War veteran, Haldimand had a great suspicion of the French settlers within his Canadian provinces and the military alliance between the Continental Congress and France only added to those concerns, with the threat of arriving French regulars in Canada only likely to inflame any potential insurrection.

Thus the safety and defence of Canada was Haldimand's first concern and given the province's secondary role in relation to the main British base in New York, with regards to resources, financial and military, he was at first very cautious on spending commitments to raise more troops and military operations over the border likely to cause rebel retaliation.

However by 1780 he was more amenable to allowing Colonels Sir John Johnson and John Butler to launch raids into the Mohawk Valley and beyond, whilst also authorising further loyalist recruiting to complete and enhance the strength of his Provincial Corps.

In the late summer of 1779 the Continental Congress authorised a major expedition against the Six Nations and their dependencies to deal with the threat from British Indian allies in the Mohawk region once and for all, led by two rebel generals of experience, John Sullivan and James Clinton.

The offensive was broadly successful in the destruction caused to the Indian homelands, suffering few rebel casualties, but in many ways would prove a costly failure that left five thousand native stomachs to feed for the British garrison around Fort Niagara, where they fled seeking food and safety and left the majority of the young warriors unscathed and with a smouldering rage; that would erupt on the frontier in 1780 as Joseph Brant gathered 230 eager warriors from the Onondagas, Senecas and Delawares as well as men from the 'mixed-nations' villages of Oquaga and Owego on February 11th to launch attacks along the Mohawk and Delaware Rivers.

Thus the rage of the Six Nations and the more aggressive stance from Haldimand and his mixed force of Provincial loyalists, British regulars and of course the Hesse Hanau Jagers coincided for the campaign along the northern frontier in 1780 that would see the destruction to property, food production and casualties returned with interest and threaten the ability of the rebels to continue the war.

After Brant's departure, there were three more raiding war parties in February, two in March, seven in April, four in May and five in June, which left and returned 495 warriors in total, bringing in prisoners, horses, cattle and reports of many victims killed and farms destroyed. Ten other parties also departed in that time and had not yet returned in June with a total of 33 raids made in the period following Brant's initial expedition, that caused one Continental Congressman to remark to another that;

"The expedition of General Sullivan against the Six Nations seems by its effect to have exasperated than to have terrified or disabled them."

In mid-March a loyalist scouting party to Johnstown returned with reports of rebel intentions to force all men of military age to enrol in ranging companies for local defence, with refusal causing those concerned to be sent east as prisoners, their homes destroyed and property confiscated by the state.

Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Johnson, King's Royal Regiment of New York

Thus Sir John Johnson was ordered to organise a relief column into the Champlain Valley with a dual mission to raid and destroy rebel property whilst evacuating those men and their families willing to serve the Crown.

Scouts were sent ahead to warn reliable loyalists of the impending expedition and Haldimand involved himself in Sir John's preparations by offering his useful advice based on his Seven Years War experience regarding the carrying of additional black powder, recommending;

'I have found most Effectual . . . putting loose powder into dry Canteens well Corked with a piece of bladder or oiled linen tied over it.'

By the beginning of May the expedition was ready to set out with Johnson's force reaching Crown Point courtesy of the Provincial Marine, at the bottom of Lake Champlain, on May 12th and consisting of:

King's Royal Regiment of New York - 3 companies, 150 men (Sir John Johnson)
Captain Leake's Independent Company- 50 men (Capt. Robert Leake)
53rd Regiment - 36 men (Captain Thomas Scott)
29th Regiment - 36 men
34th Regiment - 36 men
Kreutzbourg's Regiment - 21 men
Mohawk Indians - 130 men
Lake of Two Mountains Indians (Canadian) - 80 men

The nineteen day expedition proved very successful with Johnson's column evading and outmarching a 1,700 man rebel force that included 800 Continentals, assembled by New York Governor, George Clinton to intercept the raiders, arriving at Crown Point just after Johnson's men had embarked.

During the march the troops and Indians covered an arc of some four miles south of Johnstown, burning 120 barns, mills and houses, destroying stores and provisions essential to the rebel cause, targeting with particular attention to property belonging to prominent active members of the 'Mohawk District' Regiment of the Tryon County Militia active in the rebellion, whilst also relieving 143 persecuted loyalists, including women and children, which would enable Sir John to complete his first battalion of the 'Royal Yorkers' and start the build of a second battalion.

Johnson Hall - Edward Lawson Henry
A painting from 1903 depicting Sir William Johnson presenting medals in 1772 to Chiefs of the Six Nations.

The raid also allowed Sir John to complete some unfinished personal business, recovering his silver plate buried at Johnson Hall, prior to his flight to Canada, with the plate dug up and distributed to trusted men within his companies together with a note of each individual piece carried by which soldier so that their collection on return could be assured.

One particular concern of Haldimand on the return of Johnson's May expedition was that the plan had been betrayed to the rebels beforehand, with news of the impending raid being received at Fort Stanwix as early as May 6th and only due to a lack of urgency on their part had it not resulted in a more costly outcome.

The focus of attention turned on the Onieda Indians allied to the rebel cause and suspected of infiltration into Crown ranks as well as interfering with scouting parties sent ahead to raise recruits and gather intelligence.

By August 1780, Haldimand was aware of a good crop in the Mohawk Valley that would need to be destroyed before the rebels could have time to remove it and so another expedition was planned to deal with this and the Onieda problem with an expedition to the settlements along the Mohawk Valley

Cautioning Johnson on the need for the utmost secrecy Haldimand consulted him on the best way of achieving this double objective, to which Johnson proposed an expedition assembled at Oswego, moving from there well to the south and avoiding the settlements in the valley before bursting forth from the forest near to Schoharie, surprising the inhabitants and sweeping back along the Mohawk and across Oneida lands, with a secondary escape route should it be necessary north to Fort Oswegatchie.

The proposed expeditionary force would be assembled at Oswego after arriving from Carleton Island and Fort Niagara, with various sources disagreeing on details but the force likely composed of the following units:

Officer Commanding: Lt. Col Sir John Johnson

From Niagara
8th Foot Light Company - 35 men
34th Foot Light Company - 35 men
Hat Companies of the 8th & 34th Foot - 80 men
Royal Artillery - 10 men, 1 x cohorn mortar, 1x 3-pdr Grasshopper field gun
Butler's Rangers (three companies) - 156 men
Six Nations Indians - 265 men

From Carleton Island
Kreutzbourg's Regiment - 25 men
1st Battalion King's Royal Regiment of New York (five companies) - 227 men
Leake's Independent Company - 60 men

Total Expeditionary Force - 893 men

Johnson's 'Great Raid' would see his force make a twenty day march after hiding the boats used to carry them down to the base of Lake Oneida from Oswego and turning south to likely follow along the Charlotte River, before picking up the Kennanagara Creek that flows into the Schoharie Kill and its major farming district in the Schoharie Valley, being reached on the 16th October after a 250 mile gruelling march along narrow Indian trails.

These additional militia figures were completed as a dry-run with the others featured in my October update and gave me an opportunity to get the look I want for my Albany and Tryon County militia which I will start working on in the New Year together with Massachusetts and New York State Levies and supporting artillerymen - more anon. 

The lush farming valley was protected by three 'frontier style' forts, each with a garrison of about 100 to 250 men and the occasional 3-pdr gun with less than 15 miles separating each strongpoint, but Johnson kept his column close and mutually supporting, resisting the temptation to assault the forts but instead burning and destroying property and crops as they moved north towards the Mohawk Valley and masking the forts with mortar fire and sniping as they passed

Lower  Fort above Schoharie Town in the Schoharie Valley, one of three such forts
bypassed by Johnson's force in its progress

The march had entailed fighting several skirmishes with the local militia, the investment of the middle fort, while Jonson tried to bluff the garrison to surrender before moving on but, with the conflagration of burning buildings left in their wake, had left a region capable of producing 80,000 bushels of grain per annum totally laid waste.

On October 17th Governor Clinton arrived in Albany and was appraised of the arrival of the raiders in Schoharie.

All the militiamen of Brigadier General Ten Broeck's First Brigade had already been called out to deal with Major Carleton's diversionary attacks along the Hudson Valley and so he turned to Brigadier General Robert Van Rensselaer's Second Brigade consisting of the merger of the Tryon County militia, badly mauled in the Oriskany campaign of 1777, with the Albany militia and directed him to take his 800 men into the Mohawk Valley in pursuit of the raiders.

Colonel William Malcom

That day Colonel William Malcom, the senior Continental officer commanding the 1st Regiment of New York Levies in Albany put pen to paper writing to the Acting Quartermaster Henry Glen based in Schenectady;

'It is a most disagreeable situation - our country burning on every side and no means of preventing it - It is almost impossible to get the militia to turn out - at least not in time. . . The [Van Rensselaer's] militia from below [Albany] only crossed the River [Hudson] this morning and are now on their way to your city - for which I have even apprehensions. . . I have sent on 8000 cartridges to you, not knowing what may be wanted. . . If genl. Rensselaer shall want any ammunition be so kind as to spare what he shall want. . .'

Johnson led his force into the Mohawk Valley on October 18th destroying and burning the straggling Fort Hunter settlement as they passed through, with, it is presumed, mixed groups of loyalists, rangers and Indians familiar with the local area and operating as detached groups organised to carry out their destructive tasks.

The Battle of Stone Arabia - Gavin K. Watt  (The Burning of the Valleys)

By the 19th October Johnson's force was in the vicinity of Stone Arabia following broadly the course of the Mohawk and leaving a trail of destruction as they passed. Earlier that morning Johnson discovered that two men who had deserted the garrison at Fort Stanwix in the spring and joined the Royal Yorkers had left in the middle of the night and gone over to the enemy at Fort Paris near Stone Arabia.

The two deserters informed the militia commander Colonel John Brown that Johnson's force was split on both sides of the Mohawk and that there was an opportunity for his 360 man garrison to advance and attack and destroy the smaller detachment thus weakening the crown force and holding it in place to allow General Rensselaer's pursuing force to come up in support and complete the destruction of the enemy.

Whether Brown believed these men or that he acted on messages from Rensselaer to act as the proverbial 'speed bump' is debateable. Either way he may have believed he had a better opportunity to help delay Johnson by attacking whilst also defending the properties in and around Stone Arabia at the same time, which was the purpose of his garrison.

The result was that Johnson met Brown's smaller force with his two columns re-joined and turned the flanks of the militia force resulting in a running battle during which Brown and about 40 of his men were killed in the ensuing rout.

However although Colonel Brown's vain attempt to severely damage the Crown force had failed he had achieved his other objective of delaying it long enough for Rensselaer's pursuing force to come up and contact the enemy at a farm owned by George G. Klock, giving his name to the battle that ensued at Klock's Field.

JJ's Wargames- AWI Mohawk Valley Collection, Additions

I discussed briefly this final battle of Johnson's Great Raid in my last post, in the link above, that culminated in the Crown force breaking contact and successfully progressing back to Oswego and will take time to look at this battle in a bit more detail in my next post, as work progresses to build the units representing Van Rensselaer's Tryon and Albany County Militia, together with other associated units deployed during the campaign.

If this particular part of the American War of Independence sparks your interest and I would argue makes an interesting change from other small-war operations such as those in the south then I can recommend no better book to add to your Xmas list this year than Gavin K. Watt's, The Burning of the Valleys, which I refer to again and again while working on this collection.

In addition all the figures I am using are from the great range produced by the Perry's and with the recent release of their skirmishing British 'Light Bob's' and Butler's Rangers, now's as good a time as any to start work on a New Year project.

Talking of books, I'm hoping to squeeze in a final book review for 2021 from my ancients library and I should have a Xmas game report to show you as I get together with friends in the break to enjoy some Wild West action before taking the time as usual to look at the year gone and the plans for 2022, so hopefully lots of chat to entertain over the Xmas break here on JJ's.

Sources consulted in this post:
The Burning of the Valleys - Gavin K. Watt & James F. Morrison
King's Men, the Soldier Founders of Ontario - Mary Beacock Fryer