Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Chileans On Parade

I've done most of the Chileans for my 1879 Pacific War project. Well, most of the first batch anyway. A gun or two need doing and there's some more cavalry to be done, but I've got enough for a Neil Thomas style army.

So, a quick set up in Shedquarters and a few photographs were in order.

Here's most of them together. Lighting's a bit off (I'd turned the flash off by mistake). The units are each four bases, and I'm thinking of setting them up with three in line and one as skirmishers when the unit is deployed.

The units are painted for the first/second campaigns and so are mostly in blue jackets & red trousers. Some I've done with white cap covers and some in the basic red.

The unit in grey are the Cazadores del Desierto, who were a National Guard unit and were nick-named the Foreign Legion.

These are the National Guard Battalion "Atacam" No 1. They were unique for being dressed in black uniforms The flag is the national flag of Chile, as I don't have detailed information on the standards by unit. BTW the flag staff is too thin and fragile for a wargames figure. I wish now I had drilled it out and replaced it with stiffer wire.

These are generic cavalry. The sources I have are a bit mixed up on what unit was at what battle, so I've kept them to the basic uniform. The flag is based on the standard for the Carabineros de Maipu.

The army is shaping up nicely, and I'm far enough advanced to think about ordering some Bolivians.

Now they come with some really varied coloured uniforms.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Op14 in the East - part 3

After a few weeks of delay and so on I finally got the chance to run this through to a conclusion. Phil & Chris A joined me, both arriving promptly at 8 to enable us to get the remaining four turns in.

My visitors took the Whites & I ran the Reds. The Whites were in a position to widen out their attacks a bit more. The first move took a while to get going whilst Phil & Chris worked their way through the options open to them

We had got to the point where hard decisions about attacks had to be made if the Whites were to break through before nightfall. This meant moving up the armoured cars.

On both flanks.

Round the station my conundrum was how to drive off Chris' cavalry before Phil's surrounded me without exposing myself to rear attacks. I was able to launch a few attacks whilst Chris' corps was still a bit disjointed.

In my left centre Phil was able to line up an oblique attack on my troops in the forest (with squares representing 2km it isn't a wood).

Phil had got his cavalry nicely round the flank of my infantry, meaning I couldn't support my infantry with my hill-top guns as they needed to redeploy to defend themselves.

Phil shook his cavalry out into line, unsheathed swords, couched lances and headed in on my open flank.

This flowing movement overran my guns and cutoff my infantry in the trees. My cavalry are seriously threatened. That two-base unit in the picture is mine. All the others are Whites. Gulp.

Chris' reserves have come up and I deploy the tchankas to hold him off.

My infantry corps in the forest is being overwhelmed. Assaulted from the front by armoured car supported infantry and threatened in the rear by horse it's all a bit rubbish really.

On the other flank Chris has finally worked through the issues with his infantry and is lining up to give me a thrashing. That face down token at the back of my troops indicats I'm in danger of this corps becoming exhausted, which would be bad.

On the other flank everything has gone.

Chris pushes home his attacks. The white smoke indicates the corps is exhausted, and my troops are fleeing.

The one crumb of comfort is that I've held the station, and broken Chris' cavalry which are retiring at top right of the picture. My two base unit has deployed its tchanka and held off Phil's attacks for two turns, a testament to really rubbish dice rolling rather than my superior tactics

And then night fell. I've lost two out of three infantry corps, although my cavalry are holding on okay. The Whites have lost a cavalry corps, but they have turned both my flanks. They haven't broken through in the day as required but there's now little Red opposition in this sector so they'll be satisfied with their day's work. Other pictures can by found over on Phil's blog: link

Friday, 18 September 2015

Where have all the caballeros gone?

My lack of recent postings means that I’m about due to catch you all up with what’s going on generally. Work commitments and the consequent need to split my time between London & Manchester when I don’t live near either of them is seriously interfering with my wargaming. I’m making slow but steady progress on the painting side, however, so it isn’t all doom and gloom. My first purchase order of Chileans is nearly done, and the Peruvians aren’t looking too bad either. So much so that I’m working on getting an order of Bolivians in shortly. 

If you’ve been round long enough to remember this blog (How to finish a wargames project) you will know that I have quite a strict approach to getting stuff done, which is mainly only doing one thing at a time and then moving on to another project, without buying anything in the interim.

Sometimes this planning technique comes apart. Most recently (well, about a year ago) Jim donated a quantity of figures from the Hat El-Cid range to the Trebian Benevolent Fund, from which I was able to put together armies in accordance with the DBA 3.0 army lists. My intention was always to upgrade this to make AMW and probably Armati armies as well. This project has been towards the back of the burner. I have added a few extra elements here and there but not made significant progress.

One of the things holding me back was I needed to order some more Spanish Heavy Cavalry. The Spanish used a high proportion of knights during the Reconquista, and furthermore Christian Mercenaries didn’t really seem to care who they fought for as long as they were paid, so they appear on both sides. This means that you need a lot of Spanish Heavy Cavalry (box 8213). I had painted all those Jim gave me and fleshed out the units with the mounted figures from the Spanish Command box (see pictures on this blog), but it was now time to order in some more boxes.

And here’s the problem. All the other boxes in the range are freely available.However box 8213 is about as rare as a very rare thing that has just had the last supplies destroyed in a “let’s destroy really rare things” event. There are a few boxes here and there but only single boxes with prohibitive postage. I’m not a cheapskate*, but there are limits. I’m not paying £10 all in for a box of 12 soft plastic soldiers.

I mentioned this in passing to Mark at work (he of the obscure toy soldier project blog link**). He thought he had some in his bits box as he had decided to use Strelet  Norman knights instead as he thought they looked a bit more manly than the Hat equivalents. Turns out he had a few of the command figures so I might get a couple of elements out of them. He also brought in some Strelets for a comparison and although I admire his dedication to the obscure they really are the sort of figures that only a mother could love. A look around the web indicates that ranges of 1/72nd mounted Norman style knights are very few and far between. Basically this Hat box & the Strelets.

So what am I to do? Hat say on their website that they are restocking. I’ve written and asked if this includes the Spanish boys, but no answer yet. I’m up at Derby on 3rd October, so I’ll do a trawl of the stands there and see if there are any tucked away. I’m on the Society of Ancients stand with Phil & his Battle of Yarmuk flats, so if you have any spares pop by and drop them off. You never know, I might even offer money for them. 

*Actually I am
** Apparently got some extra sales after the blog post. Thanks for letting the manufacturer know. Maybe he’ll send me free stuff.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Op14 in the East - part 2

I took the opportunity over the Bank Holiday weekend to run through the next couple of turns solo.

Untangling the problems at the river crossing on the left exercised me a little bit. I had to push units further forward than I would have liked and the lead unit supported by an armoured car took a bit of punishment from the Red battery on the hill, top right.

Around the station the main need was to form the White cavalry up as their flanking movement had left them a bit strung out and exposed. The Reds moved up quickly. The picture of them above is just before they are about to deploy.

I then moved up the White right wing, starting with an outflanking movement with the cavalry.

Here's a better view of the right as the infantry also cross the river. The Reds are hiding out in the wooded area.

The Red cavalry have shaken out into attack formation and are set to overrun the White cavalry in the station.

The Reds took the station comfortably and threw the Whites back on their supports. Having got themselves strung out the White cavalry were a bit overwhelmed. They'll need to regroup and have another go in the next few turns.

There are four more turns left in the "day" and much work for the Whites to do. They're not badly set up but they need to develop the right wing quickly and find a solution to the Red infantry opposite their left. Perhaps the cavalry would be better used surrounding that position rather than hanging on to fight out the railway objective.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Marshal-ing the evidence

I’m having a bit of a Richard Brooks month.

Having gloried in the publication of my photgraphic work in his Osprey book on Lewes & Evesham I found myself last week using his Op14 rules for a Russian Civil War game.

Because my every waking hour and action is tracked by Amazon they popped a recommendation for Richard’s book on William the Marshal into my in box. Normally I wouldn’t consider myself to be a medievalist so I hadn’t paid much attention to this work when it was published last year. However Amazon was offering the Kindle version for 99p*, so I was sorely tempted if only to give me a break from reading Anthony Trollope’s back catalogue on my daily commute.

First off I have to say that the Kindle isn’t the ideal medium for reading this type of book when you know that maps are going to be important. However I probably wouldn’t have read it all if it hadn’t been an Amazon offer.

Which would have been a shame.

The reign of King John and the other Angevin monarchs was in need of a bit of rehabilitation from my personal point of view. I studied it as part of my degree and failed to be gripped in the slightest. I’ve got essays on Matilda, Stephen and John stuck up in the attic somewhere and I read most of Holt’s books on John (“Magna Carta” and “The Northerners”) and also J H Round’s book “Geoffrey de Mandeville” so it’s not like I’m unversed in the period. As I said. Utterly failed to get interested in either the political or military aspects of any of it (although I did end up reading all the Brother Cadfael novels).

So I read “The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217” partly because a friend wrote it and partly because it was cheap. I have to say, however, that those were both the wrong reasons. I should have read it because it is an inspiring book about medieval warfare and a truly larger than life character.

It is more than just a biography of Marshal. There’s a lot of background that has to be got through in order to understand Marshal’s role in the French invasion. This has been a criticism in some of the Amazon reviews but as someone who hated the period and couldn’t get out of it quick enough you need to know this stuff to understand what is going on.

Right. Now, why should a wargamer buy and read this book? Well, as with the Lewes & Evesham book I wrote about a few weeks ago Richard isn’t just a writer of military history, he’s a wargamer as well. What this means is that when he writes about the military aspects of Marshal’s career he makes sure it makes sense from a wargamer's point of view as well. He’s interested in the mechanisms of how things work. He is concerned to get the numbers of troops right and the amount of ground they occupy. He is interested in the tactics used and how later military thought sheds light on the earlier, less well documented, period. A regular reference work quoted is the British Army field service manual from just before the outbreak of the First World War. If you want to know how fast people move on foot or on horse and how much road space they take up this is a really useful guide. It was prepared by people who had to do it for real and a horse in 1914 moves the same speed as a horse in 1214 and it takes up the same amount of room. It’s a great way of checking what the early writers say when they talk about distances covered and so on. Brooks isn't just taking the details in the sources and just trusting them. He's comparing them to a proper benchmark.

The book covers all of Marshal’s career, so there’s good stuff on tournaments as well as actual fighting, - chevauchees, raids, ambushes, sieges and battles. It has all of the material you need to work out how armies are organised and how they fight. Richard’s understanding of the period informs his medieval rules “Middle Age Spread” which are probably available on the internet somewhere for free, although they also appeared in MiniWargs in 2013. If you want to do re-fights these work really well, although it helps to like squares and playing cards in order to get the full enjoyment out of them,

In conclusion if you have an interest in medieval warfare you should buy and read this book. If you have a real interest, get the hardcopy. Those maps on the Kindle are rubbish.

*I just checked Amazon when I wrote this. It's back up to the normal price of £5.75. You can get the hardcopy for about £7 including postage if you shop around.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Op14 in the East - part 1

Weekday evening games have been a bit of an endangered species over the last 6 - 9 months. However as the project I'm on ramps up (and as my employer sells buildings and moves more people into fewer spaces) there's an increasing requirement for occasional working from home. That means I can get home from work in time to fit a game in.

This Wednesday was one such day. Hopefully the first of many between now and the end of the year when my contract is up. A quick email exchange indicated there were three Monday Nighters available so I just needed to sort out a game. After kicking a few ideas around I thought it would be interesting to go back to the Russian Civil War and see how Op14 will work for it. I spent part of the weekend rooting through my books to try and find a suitable scenario and in the end gave up and just put on the table what I wanted to see. I think lots of cavalry and sweeping movements are the order of the day if it can be achieved.

The game is suggestive of the White drive towards Moscow by Deniken's army of the south. They got two infantry corps and two cavalry corps. The Reds have three large infantry divisions and the possibility of reinforcements in the shape of a cavalry army.

The Whites are on the right of the picture, formed up to cross the river. Infantry & cavalry units can cross the river with relative ease but artillery and vehicles have to cross at one of the towns/villages. The management of the traffic jam round the crossing points would be a major problem for the Whites.

I'd set it up for two White players and one Red. I was expecting players to arrive at different times so I was going to take the Reds at first because they'll be fairly static initially. The White commanders I was happy to have kick off at different times so they'd add the second corps attack when a player arrived and I'd hand the Reds over when it got exciting and the cavalry arrived.

Chris K arrived first and took the left flank of the White army. He lined his artillery up to blast away at the brigade/regiment defending the river crossing, whilst sending the cavalry across to try and turn the flank and capture the railway station, cutting the line.

Chris soon had his troops in position for the attack but held them back until he felt he had effectively suppressed the defences with his guns. The face down chit indicates an artillery hit. It will be flipped to reveal the effect when the attack goes in. That isolated brigade is looking a bit exposed. As the shells started to fall I considered dropping them back to get them under command, but then thought again about what the Cheka would think about that and left them there.

As it turned out a couple more turns of artillery firing preceded the assault and when it came in the pile of potential hits turned out to be all hits, so the attack was a walk over. Of course in Op14 it wasn't without consequences, with a couple of White battalions being rendered hors de combat for the rest of the day.

On the positive side for the Reds this had all taken quite a long while. We were now at midday in game time and the Whites were still effectively on the river line. Their right wing had stalled completely due to the absence of their commander.

Whilst the assault on the town was being worked through Chris succeeded in infiltrating his cavalry corps round the outside of my position in very open order. It looked like he'd be able to get to the station and capture it, but...what's that in the distance? Could it be some proletarians on horse?

By this point we'd played about a couple of hours with no sign of our other two players. It turns out they were both held up unavoidably so part of the scenario didn't fire as well as it could have done and we stopped.

I've left the table set up as we can pick the game up in the future if there is any appetite from the players. Either that or I can solo through a few turns over the bank holiday weekend. Having put all the toys out it would be a shame not to get some value out of them.

There are some bits of Op14 I need to look at and I need to revisit the orbats for both sides for future games. The basic unit size is 4 brigades, - anything between 4,000 and 8,000 men - and RCW armies are not necessarily that big, so a bit of downsizing might be on the cards.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Who'd a thought it?

I see Warlord Games have announced a range of Doctor Who(TM) figures and a set of rules to go with them.

This isn't the first range and set of rules to be produced. Harlequin Miniatures produced a range at the back end of the 90's (ie before the Russell T Davies renaissance). Now, I'm a bit of a Whovian so as a wargamer I suppose I should have been in the target audience.

Even so  I missed the range when it first came out and didn't really pay much attention when I did hear. Then I saw some of the figures and realised that they were really good. I mean really, really good. So when the figures came down slightly in price and the company did some bulk discount orders I was in.

I painted the figures back when I could do fine detail and had the time and patience to do shading and so on. They're what we would call 28mm now, but I don't know that a scale was ever published. The character figures (several Doctors & assistants, Weng Chiang, Mr Syn, Bok, the Master plus others) I painted to display standard and they're in a cabinet in the dining room. The others were painted and varnished to use as figures in a game, but they still came up okay.

The figures actually looked like the people they were supposed to be and were well proportioned. The UNIT troopers are well built, but then they're professional soldiers. However they are slim and weedy next to GW muscle men. Yeah. They look like people. See it is possible.

Here's a small squad of UNIT troopers, with the Brigadier in the centre (I have another Brigadier in the famous sweater and cap but he's in the display cabinet) and the UNIT Land Rover in the background (plucked from a remainder bin in Forbidden Planet, Birmingham).

This Brigadier figure suffers a little bit from where the face fitted in the mold, but it's a nice pose and he has a nicely chunky Browning automatic.

I painted him with brown leather gloves, because he always seems to have dressed that way.

One of my favourite characters.

The bazooka team came out okay too. I'm not sure the loading pose is entirely correct, but who is arguing when faced with Daleks? It's funny how variable the effect of these weapons is against Dalekanium.

These came from a UNIT heavy weapons pack, which included a mortar and a Bren gun team.

The bad guys were very well realised as well. Here's some Ice Warriors with an Ice Lord on the right. Another personal favourite, and sadly not a fixture of the latest series, especially as they are from Mars.

The Yeti were robots, of course, controlled by the Great Consciousness (reprised by Richard E Grant in a recent series, sans Yeti alas). Deeply scary as they inhabited the Tube in one story.

Of course no collection would be complete without some Daleks. Here are a couple of standard Daleks flanking a demolition Dalek, from the Sylvester McCoy story "Remembrance of the Daleks".

This was a much under rated episode, which featured the first levitating Dalek on screen. Well worth revisting. In the background are a couple of Dalek troopers from the Peter Davison episode "Resurrection of the Daleks".

Finally here's unit battling it out with some Ice Warriors. The game -  "Invasion Earth" -  came with some cardboard buildings, which you can see in the background. The telephone box was obtained for me by Phil. Can't remember who it is by.

Okay. An excuse to get the new camera out. Fair cop.