Wednesday, 13 May 2015

More from the Russo-Turkish War

This post is a bit out of sequence as we played this game last Bank Holiday and I've been doing other things and evenings have been a bit tight for time (especially as it was after this game and the following attempt to do the Battle of Northampton that I had to completely re-write the latter rules).

A simple scenario was laid on. The Turks are on a ridge line, the Russian are going to attack them. We may have been here before. What can possibly go wrong?

I was the Russians again. We were trying the squares options I've written about before. You may not be able to see it in the pictures but my green mat now has very discrete brown dots painted on it to create squares.This enables us to be a bit more creative with unit formations. Neil Thomas (for we are using a variation on his 19th century rules) represents attack columns with skirmishers as just the column. For this game we show the skirmishers as two advanced elements with the remaining two as a column behind. Firing lines are three elements with a fourth command stand behind. Cavalry are unchanged.

As usual, being Russian, I started with a general advance everywhere I could. Because the Turks were on a hill I didn't mask my guns immediately.

My shooting was not as effective as it has been. Chris has discovered that in a change to doctrine the Russians no longer massed their guns, but spread them out in penny packets. I was thus unable to blast a hole in the centre of the Turkish line,

Since we last played Chris has painted some white caps on his Guard troops. They look nice.

I press forwards, into the hail of shot and shell. Being Russian I am largely not bothered by this and the increasing piles of corpses piling up.

By this time the photo evidence would indicate that Phil has arrived and has taken charge of the Turks. He is doing his best to get out of the way of my superior cavalry (well, dragoons actually) and slow me down. This is important as my cavalry are my best troops and my main hope is to turn the end of the line.

Soon the armies are almost at bayonet point all along the line.

I'm being well shredded at this point, but I include the photo mainly so you can see the brown dots on the mat.

I'm starting to run out of units. Again. And I can't crack the ridge position. I need some new tactics, but alas I'm Russian.

Game end, and everything Russian is either dead or fleeing. Curses.

I think we are getting there with the rules and the squares. A bit more scenery would help as rifle fire is quite nasty when you are in column. And it'll be good when Chris has done the standard bearer bases.

After that we tried to play my WotR rules on Phil's Northampton board. As I indicated earlier it was not good.

But that's the value of play testing before you go public with something.

Monday, 11 May 2015

On Campaign Again

Over the five or more years I’ve been doing this blog I have had occasion to remark on how much I like Campaign at Milton Keynes. It isn’t the biggest show but it wins because of its location, depending on what you think wargaming shows are for.

Mostly we know they are for taking part in competitions, off loading stuff at the Bring and Buy and then spending too much at the trade stands. Personally I like the idea that they are about explaining the hobby to the public and enticing in newcomers. Campaign wins on the latter score every time as it is free to come in and it takes place in what our American friends would call a shopping mall. Yup, - it is set slap bang in front of John Lewis and Next in the Central MK shopping area.

 I’ve not been for the last two years. Two years back it clashed with CoW, and last year it didn’t happen as Centre Management had decided it was inappropriate. This year it was back in its more regular slot. I went along with Phil to help him run the combined Society of Ancients/Northampton Battlefield society / Naseby Battlefield trust stand. Phil took along his lovely Northampton and Naseby 15mm battlefields and I wrote a quick game to be played on the Northampton one.

I had been struggling to make Rapid Raphia work for the battle and failed dismally last time I tried it out (an as yet unblogged game). I was on the point of giving up on the design when a series of ideas all clicked together and I ended up with a 20 minute game where the players can actually make decisions, is reasonably tense but also steps through most of the known events that occurred during the battle. It’s not necessarily a game you’d want to play more than once or twice, but it delivered what I wanted.

I ran the game three times over the weekend, - not very often, I’ll admit. Mostly this was because a lot of the passing traffic were people from Northampton on a shopping expedition who wanted to know more about their local heritage. I think I should have been bolder about getting people to sit down and play, but I didn’t want to scare people off. We need local support to preserve the battlefield and that needs to be explained clearly and carefully.

Of the three games we got some good results. The first game ended up as a Lancastrian win, despite Grey changing sides as an initiative to reach a negotiated settlement brought the battle to an end with no Lords being executed and a shared council being created. The second game was an out and out Yorkist win with Lord Grey changing sides at the critical point. The final game went the same way (and was the only game where I didn’t play the Lancastrians, - Will & Phil faced off) but both Fauconberg and Warwick were killed in the fighting.

Elsewhere the participation games were a bit hit and miss.

The centre piece was the Dambusters Game which won an award at Salute this year.

Love this,  - not just for the way it looks, but for the design which was clever but playable and didn’t just require the player to roll a d6 several times.

You even get a proper pilot's control and the wooden device for lining up with the flak towers we all remember from the film. 

Other notable games featured children’s toys, - a Playmobile Chariot Race looked smashing , 

and a Lego Star Wars battle was also featured.

The Staines club had an imaginative take on Agincourt in its 600th year, but alas they were only there one day and I didn’t realise it so I was too late to take pictures.

 Elsewhere there was a good mixture of historical and sci-fi / sci-fan games and board games. The club most local to me were running the classic Gladiator Rules from Paragon Wargames (originally advertised as the game you could put in a biscuit tin).

Shame they can't spell the club name.

The only thing I would say is that much as I am a fan of MDF buildings (and I am) they do need to be painted before you put them on a table. Otherwise they just look like MDF. At least stain the wood with something so roofs and walls are a different colour.

On the trade stand side of things I picked up a couple of books (including a set of watercolours painted during the 1879-81 period of The Pacific War). However it was generally a bit thin on the ground. I wanted to pick up some basic supplies and no one had what I wanted. I’m hoping this is only because of the break in continuity last year and that with the show back in the calendar things will be stronger next year.

Finally, my best memory of the weekend was the man in a wheel chair who said “I didn’t realise this was a thing you could do” and went off to join the local club and buy some soldiers to paint. Brilliant. I hope they make him welcome.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Making the most of working from home

I was able to work from home during the week so I was able set up a game for the evening. I went back to the Chinese "Taiping Era" rules as I'd done a bit of a re-write after the game with Tim in April, and the Taiping boys have only had one run out so far.

As the few of us who gathered hadn't met for a while there was more chatting than playing, and I didn't get as many pictures as a battle report needs I'm afraid.

I was the Taipings, and Chris was the Imperialists. He was defending a few villages. I was going to liberate them and teach them the ways of the one true path to Heaven. The stream is just a drainage ditch and passable to all as slow going except for artillery.

The first engagement happened over on my left, where some of our cavalry clashed in a non-conclusive manner. Well, I got a bit roughed up and driven back, actually. It was during this combat that I started to rethink exactly how melee should be resolved, and that wasn't entirely down to the fact I was losing.

Anyhow, the real combat was going to take place in the centre where my longhairs were sure to triumph over the corrupt shaven headed Imperial forces.

I also reckoned I could capture one village by storming it from the neighbouring paddy field.

In the centre I stormed across the bridge. Alas the support unit decided not to charge. Curses.

But I did overrun the village from the paddy field, forcing the Imps to retire.

Everywhere else we were hotly engaged, but with no clear outcomes. The mini-Mah Jong tiles record the unit's current status, by the way.

My cavalry suffered a little on the right flank from the fire from the village.

And consequently decide to run away.

But in the centre I have seized the far bank of the river. I mean stream. I mean drainage ditch. So I must be winning.

That was about it. When we finished, and the Mandarin hung up his hat, we were locked in combat with reasonable proportions of both sides heading for the base line.

"Taiping Era" continues to frustrate me with the way the mechanisms mesh together. What worked well when fighting Chinese v Europeans is working less well now. I still like the core process, but I had several other thoughts during the game about where changes need to be made.

So, not quite back to the drawing board, thankfully.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The War of the Pacific – First Milestone

That’s one of the problems when you start to research the war between Chile and the Peruvian Bolivian alliance in the late 19th century. “War” and “Pacific” tends to give you results to do with the Second World War. In terms of the relative importance in world history that’s probably right, but the inhabitants of that part of South American still feel the effects of the war. Hardly surprising , - people in the UK still get worked up about the ECW.

Any how, the last week has seen me hit my first milestone on this project. Despite erratic train times and other commitments (“Avengers, - Age of Ultron” for example) I’ve broken my duck on the painting schedule.

I must say that I’ve taken some short cuts. Usually when I start a project like this I split the manufacturer’s packets up as soon as I get then and divide them up into units, ready for painting. This time I’ve skipped that stage as it usually takes most of a Saturday or Sunday morning and I thought I’d just get into the painting as soon as I could.

Plunging my hand at random into the box of goodies I plucked forth some Peruvian infantry, so that’s where I started. My uniform research is based entirely on that marvellous book published by Partisan Press that I have written about in a previous blog ("Uniforms of the Pacific War 1879 - 1884 - The Land Campaigns"). Unit selection for the first trial paint job was based upon units that (a) saw action in the second land campaign and (b) appear in the uniform book. The armies changed uniforms for each of the three land campaigns (some Peruvian units had the picklehaube for the first campaign) but the second campaign has the most battles and there are fewer changes from there to the third campaign.

As I’m doing these I’m also reading “Andean Tragedy” by William Sater on my morning commute. This is the most recent academic study of the war in English and has the benefit of being much, much, cheaper than “The 10 Cents War” the other standard English text.

“Andean Tragedy” has a better analysis of the causes of the war and the overall political situation than the other books I’ve got (including “To the Last Cartridge”) which are really books for the wargamer or military modeller. Whilst that probably won’t bother most of my readers I find it interesting. I was always a better political historian when at University rather than anything else, despite my desire to excel at military history since then.  I’m beginning to get a better idea of why the war erupted when it did and I’m not sure the writers in the books I’ve read have got it right. Same with the Wikipedia pages where Peruvian and Chileans still do battle over the conflict. I’m also starting to think that with my range of interests over the last 5-10 years that I should probably learn Spanish.

This book is relevant here as not only does it have the political background it also has a good chapter on the formation of the armies and navies of the various belligerents. In particular it has some information on the racial mix of units. Peruvian cavalry, for example, had no native Indians in their ranks as they were regarded as poor horsemen. Accordingly they were made up of black and mixed race recruits with, presumably, officers of European descent. Infantry units were less discerning although there was no reference to any of Lima’s large Chinese population joining the ranks. What this means, however, is that these units have me reaching for at least three different skin tone paints as they are the most racially diverse I’ve had to paint.

I succeeded in finishing off a couple of infantry units on Sunday evening, and quite nice they look too. The Peruvians didn’t necessarily get the idea that all units should wear the same colour uniform (the Bolivians decidedly didn’t – every unit pretty much has a different colour jacket) so I have a blue coated and white coated unit for my first pair. The blue units is the Victoria Battalion and the white with green kepi chaps are the Cazad. Officers paid for their own uniforms and like big bits of the army chose the colour and style of the contemporary French Army whilst looking a bit like Union forces in the ACW.

I think they’ve come out quite well. I’ve switched my varnish to Homebase Quick Drying Antique Pine in Satin as the Ronseal equivalent is becoming difficult to hunt down – I bought the last can on line and did not get a discount for shopping in said fashion.

Other comments. The figures are my first from Outpost and they were bought off the website pictures. OWS don’t do shows any more but they’re good people when you contact them through the website and answered questions promptly and with good humour.  The figures are crisply cast with little flash. The poses are okay, - some of the advancing figures are less than inspiring, but the chap taking a cartridge from his cartouche box is nicely realised. A couple of figures suffer from unnatural limb length but overall they present a pleasing aspect and I’m not regretting my purchases.

Enough of this waffle. Here are some pictures:

Battalion "Victoria"

Cazadores del Misti
They both deserve a bit better camera work, but I think you get the general idea. The unit flags will follow at a later date. These will be generated on the PC in Serif Drawplus, so I'll wait until I've done enough units to warrant printing out a sheet.

A satisfying start, i think.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Oooh! Surprise!!

I was sitting at work, minding my own business, when my phone went off.

It was a text from Mrs T telling me that a book I've been waiting for had been delivered. I was rather pleased at the news as I've started to ratchet up the work on The Next Project and I'd found a book that just suited my needs quite by chance on the internet.

I therefore made an effort on the train on the way home to finish what I am currently reading (an Inspector Ghote mystery) so I could start afresh in the morning.

When I got in, sure enough there was a box for me on the dining room table. It certainly looked like a book, but wait.......

No! It was TOYS instead. Yes, Mr Outpost had put my order in the post without any notificational type e-mail to let me know they were on their way.


I'd just rounded off my latest batch of Spanish El Cid plastics, so the painting desk is free.

If I can fit in an early finish at work his week then I can clean up and undercoat a test Regiment to see how they look.

I'm more excited by this project than I have been on any for a while.

But it would help to have that book.

PS - Apologies to regular readers on the paucity of posts recently. My wargaming has dropped right off and I haven't got much painting done either. Hopefully something positive to right about in the next few weeks.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Andalusian Interlude

Finally managed to finish my Andalusian DBA 3 Army (III/34b). This doesn't have all the options, alas. There are no Christian mercenaries as I need another box of Spanish Heavy cavalry. The ones I have are tied up in the Spanish Army. Having said that I've got some spare figures in the El Cid Spanish Command box, so maybe I can do something with them.

First up 1 x General (Cv). Banners are made out of a tomato paste tube, poles from florist wire. The thin tin sheet folds well but it is very stiff and a pig to cut accurately. It has to be put in place before you can paint it so I found these banners hard going. The General's axe has had the original plastic version cut away and the head transplanted onto a pin which was then pushed into the hand and cut off to the right length.

1 x Andalusian Cavalry (Cv). I like the poses and design of these figures. Spears are florist wire and I've done the same trick with the axe head.

 These are a mix of Black Guard and Andalusian spearmen (Sp). They include a number of axe wielding figures who have been converted to spearmen with pins. Everyone else has been suitably pinned as well. I like the figures on the right a lot, but there's only 4 in the whole box of 96, which is a bit of a shame as I'm not buying another 3 boxes to make an AMW unit.

2 x mujahids (LH). Again with pins for spears. The overall colour palette for this army was mostly blue and green with red kept to an absolute minimum. Really stands out when it is used, however.

2 x archers (Ps). Not completely happy with the look of these, - especially the figure with the white hoops on blue. I had half a mind to repaint him & I think I probably should have done. The pose of the figure drawing an arrow from the quiver is good however.

Finally 3 x javelinmen (Ps). The army list says these should be berbers, but I went for a more arab look. These are the most colourful figures in the army, again with pins for javelins.

Don't know how well these chaps will perform. There's a lot of light stuff in there and no real killing bases (no Kn or Bd) but you can never tell with DBA. Adding Spanish Feudals as allies might bolster them a bit.

What with working in London and stopping to do the Taipings these three armies based on the Hat El Cid range have taken longer than expected. I'm pleased with the overall look of them:

That's the Almoravids (Islamic Berber III/75) at the back and Feudal Spanish (III/35b) at the front, with the new guys in the middle.

Having got this far the next step is to ramp up the numbers for AMW. I've already started with the Mujahids and have a couple of completed four base units. Of course I need to decide on the army composition first really, rather than just paint all the stuff in the boxes I've got (although that technique often works as well). As indicated above I'm a bit light in some areas and over supplied in others - mainly arab/Moor heavy cavalry.

This will all be blown of course when the Peruvian & Chilean forces arrive so they may be added to intermittently rather than consistently over the next 12 months. Still, who's in a hurry?

Finally I must say thank you to blog follower Jim who made me the gifft of these figures. They've been a joy to work on.

It was a Good Friday after all

A Good Friday break from work gave me a chance to open up Shedquarters. Phil still needs to do some work on his Yarmuk DBA refight so we agreed to pick that up in the afternoon. Whilst I was waiting for him to arrive I thought it might be interesting to re fight Hydaspes using AMW straight, without any of my various additions over the years.

As its only 8 units a side compromises have to be made. Alex ends up with just a light cavalry unit on his left and the Indians only have one unit of chariots.

It's not a subtle battle. The Macedonian right wing has some fancy manoeuvring as the Companions try to avoid a one on one with the chariots but otherwise its fairly head on.

In the middle the elephants start an all out assault on the main Macedonian line.

At first it looks like it's going badly as one elephant fails three saving rolls and promptly dies.

On the right the Indian cavalry succumb to the Alexandrian onslaught and it looks like they can get two on one with the chariots.

The remaining elephant is doing stunning work, apparently invulnerable, churning its way through the phalangites. The bow units perform creditably in the shooting phase as well.

Half a phalanx shot away and another crushed by an elephant. Not looking good for the invaders.

Another phalanx crushed by an elephant and if you look closely you'll see there's one last base of the other unit just in contact with the archers. Still, the chariots have been seen off and that leaves Alex with two units of companions and one of light horse out of the photo at the bottom.

The race is on to see if the Companions can hoover up the Indian Heavy Archers before they lose another unit to the elephant.

Hanging on by the smallest of margins the archers are still there when the elephant comes up and catches their opponents in the flank.

And that's it. A 3-2 win to the Indians. A very close game that could have gone either way. Perhaps a better outcome than the game at Bletchley?

Just as I finished Phil arrived with Yarmuk. I have no pictures of the game. We played it twice with me as the Byzantines. I won the first game fairly easily. As we reflected on this it became clear than the games we had played featured Byzantine wins on a regular basis with the Arabs infrequently troubling the scorer. The flank march was actually a liability as it got crushed by Byzantine reserves and the Arab holding action in the centre wasn't a great success either.

A discussion of what we wanted to see led to an upgrading of the Arab foot from Blade to Spear and a repositioning of the Byzantine reserves and commanders. The next game then gave us an Arab victory and a much more satisfactory game narrative.

All Phil has to do now is finish the figures, take some more pictures & write it up.