Saturday, 18 June 2016

Cid goes Forward and Back

The last posting about the El Cid project covered an attempt to wargame the period using AMW. Whilst it was a tense game it wasn't really Hispanic Medieval Warfare as I understood it. Reflecting on the game afterwards it was clear to me that I needed to try a different approach.

One of my favourite rule sets is Armati. There are known problems with them as a rules set. Once you really know them it is possible to suck all the fun and historicity out of the game through cheesy tactics. And the army lists in the rule book aren't cutting edge either.

However it's quite a good set of rules for cavalry heavy armies, so it's worth a try. I've got nearly enough toys for a reasonable size army for either side (not enough Spanish heavy infantry) and I was comfortable modifying the lists to produce a combined Andalusian/Almoravid army. For this Thursday night outing I was joined by Chris K & Phil, with Chris A turning up a little later.

I took the Moslems, and Chris K took the Christians, helped by Phil.

The Andalusian/Almoravids are to the left, the Spanish to the right.

The strength of the Spaniards is in their heavy knights, which are very colourful.

However these are matched by some pretty good heavies on my side, some of whom also have bows (not in shot). Which I forgot.

The Spaniards won the first initiative and asked me to move first, so I headed off towards the enemy. Alas I hadn't made the table wide enough so I could out flank them with my light horse archers.

Closing the gap triggered obligatory charges for the Spanish Caballeros, across the board. This included my right wing...

...which had got camels in it as well as Murabittin heavies. The ones with bows that I forgot about.

In the centre the offset line up and some crappy die rolling had a unit breaking in short order.

On the far side my camels panicked their opponents (result!), who then broke as they didn't have impetus against my centre cavalry. There's no photo record of this which is a nuisance. This was actually where my chance of winning the game evaporated. The camels were able to breakthrough to line up a flank charge of the rest of the Spanish horse out here. However they got shot away, taking a load of hits from a line of skirmishers, not one of whom missed the target. Three shots, three hits, dead unit, and they had the general with them. The odds on this happening are very low.

And then a few ones on the dice and the other end of the line went too. How annoying.

My cavalry in the centre fell apart too.

I wasn't doing very well on my left wing either.

By this time Chris A had arrived. Which was handy, because we had a rules query and he's good at looking stuff up.

Anyhow, Chris K's fatigued cavalry had to make an obligatory charge into my infantry line, clearing a load of my skirmishers out of the way before they could throw any javelins at their attackers (AMW wins here with the defensive fire phase I think). I reckoned I'd be okay here. Wrong. A 6:1 die roll or two and there's not much you can do.

Then most of my infantry collapsed and my army broke and it was all over.

A fun little game, and it's good to get the shiny toys out. Armati still has its problems but reflecting on the game earlier today I reckon the core mechanisms with a bit of tweaking and some squares might be what I want.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Tiny Terrain

Time to draw breath and update you all on the 6mm Great War project as I haven’t written anything for a while.

On the figure front I’ve got a couple of French corps finished, one German corps done and one awaiting basing. That’s quite good progress as I’m also working on 20mm plastic Andalusian cavalry at the same time.

The finished units in their storage case waiting for their magnetic strip

There’s still plenty more to do. I haven’t cracked open the BEF yet, and the missing bits of my order from Partizan from Mr Baccus turned up recently as well. Mostly more guns.

The figures aren’t really the problem. I have got in the swing of how to produce them and they’ll not be held up. Already thinking about whether I want to buy more*. The fact is that this is a new project in a number of ways, not just period.

Which is to say I don’t have any 6mm scale terrain. So I have to make that as well. What’s more modern warfare in Western Europe is no respecter of terrain. Armies will fight anywhere. In earlier period armies would give battle in locations suitable for both. The number of battles (especially in the ancient period) where the terrain is just a few hills and a river to pin the flank vastly outnumber all other types. Once you get into the industrial age with massed armies basically the armies will fight anywhere and over anything. Consequently you need more table dressing. In the case of what I’m trying to do as well, - Corps level actions up to army size in 1914 – the battles cover large areas and encompass built up areas, big woods, valleys and rivers. Hills ain’t just gentle slopes either.

The other thing is that generally wargames terrain isn’t to scale either, regardless of what we pretend. I’ve got 15mm buildings from a number of manufacturers, all compatible with each other. However in the case of public buildings, like churches in particular, the models are much too small. Churches are really big buildings. Our local village church has probably got capacity for nearly 200 people. If you took the floor plan of most 15mm buildings of this type could you comfortable stand 200 figures in the area? Trees, as well, are way bigger than we model. I’ve got a full grown ash tree in my garden. I can assure you that it is more than the height of 3 or 4 figures.

Rivers in Europe are really wide as well. Rivers in Britain tend to be narrower and faster flowing than the likes of the Rhine and the Seine. I’ve got a 20mm scale Bellona river that is probably even too small for 15mm. I’ve just pulled up a photo of allied forces crossing the bridge at Nijmegan in 1944. I can count 4 shermans and 8 trucks, all widely spaced and I can’t even see the ends of the bridge. Anybody puit a river like that on the table top?

So really having terrain exactly in scale isn’t going to work, especially as my ground scale is 6cm = 2km.

My first aim was to sort out some buildings. A bit of searching found this terrific website run by a German school  aimed at people who want to build a Christmas diorama: link

These can all be printed out onto card and are free. They’re also pretty much spot on 6mm scale.
I made up three or four of them, gluing the thin card round a polystyrene core** to stop them being crushed and to give them a little bit of substance.

Some German Uhlans with the full size buildings
They do look great, but a single building is taking up most of a square. Plus they are dwarfing the figures. Now I know this is correct, but the wargaming aesthetic is completely wrong. Luckily the buildings are downloadable as pdfs and my desk top publisher lets me load them and break up the graphic elements. I can then scale them down to half size, which means they take up about a quarter of the space.
Some smaller houses, still with Uhlans

 These might be too small, but I’m going to put together a dozen or so of them and try them en-masse on the table. A few of the nets are really simple and I can get 8 on a page.

I had a trawl round 'tinternet looking for 6mm trees but I need a lot and didn't want to blow my figure budget on them. In the end I've scratch built a few.

Scratch built trees. Still those Uhlans
This isn't the best picture ever. The trees are made of plastic coffee stirrers cut to length and hot melt glued to pennies.  The bases are then glued and sanded as with figure bases. The foliage is lumps of packing sponge I got from a box containing some fancy mixer tap we had installed.

Finally I made some road and river using brown paintable window sealant. I followed advice from this website: link but I'm not quite as competent as the author.

So this is everything put together. Reckon it looks okay. Haven't solved the hill problem, however. I need to be able to show forward & reverse slopes plus plateaus in a flexible fashion on a grid. The author of Op14 uses triangles and circles for slopes and plateaus respectively, but I want something a bit more "hilly".

So, thinking cap on.

*Of course I do.

** I have a Games Workshop hot wire polystyrene cutter. Best thing I ever bought from them.

Friday, 3 June 2016

A Ande-y little play test

After a few weeks or so doing other stuff it was time to get back to this year's major project, - the Pacific War of 1879-84. Regular readers will know that the last playtest was not satisfactory, and some work needed doing. The Melee rules have clearly not been right for a while, and needed fixing (I was reminded by my regular opponents that about this time before CoW I normally chuck away the mechanisms I've been using for months and re do them any how, so this has been a long run with the core system).

The answer to the problem was to fall asleep on the train home from work and dream the solution.
All I had to do then was write it all up. I had a chance to do this Thursday morning, so we were set for a game in the evening.

Everyone loves a scenario, so here we have the Chileans attacking a river crossing through a pass between two hills. The massed forces of both Peru & Bolivia stand opposed to them. The river is impassable except at the crossing. The road in the middle is to cover up where the paint has flaked off my gaming mat.

So the set up,  Chileans to the left, with 3 divisions. The Alliance to the right, Peruvians nearest the camera.

I was joined by Chris A and Phil. Phil took the Chileans, and I ran his right wing division for him to keep the game moving. I had strict orders to pin the Peruvian left flank in position whilst he broke in the centre and on their right.

Of course I hadn't really listened properly, and headed off at top speed to engage the enemy. I'm advancing with a screen of a firing line, with reserves in march column. Phil is advancing in columns all along his front. Desultory artillery fire is being exchanged, but to little effect.

I'm starting to take some heavy fire from the troops on the crest, and their associated artillery. My advance has slowed and the support columns have closed up.

We're closing all along the line, but rifle and artillery fire has started to disrupt the advance. Even the Gatling gun has hit something.

This is just a close up of the Bolivians behind their ram-shackle defences. As they're behind a wall I've put the notional skirmish base deployed with a firing line behind the main firing line, whilst keeping the support stand back.

From behind the Peruvian defences in the middle the Chilean advance looks like it is faltering. What isn't obvious is that the unit nearest the hill is being attacked by two units, those in the grey uniforms, and those with the light blue flag. The greys are taking most of the fire, so the light-blues will be able to close with the target. Perhaps.

A picture from behind the Peruvian left wing. My troops are labouring at the foot of the hill. The front line has been forced to deploy into Open Order, but is still pressing forwards.

Over on the Chilean left Phil is massing troops to launch a combined attack on the Verdes, whose flank is hanging in the air a bit.

Back on the other wing I had deployed my march columns into attack columns under cover of the skirmisher screen. Chris, however, anticipating what was coming charged my skirmisher screen routing one unit and forcing the other to retire in disorder. He was halted by my massed columns behind.

Massed fire from Phil's artillery and infantry drives the Verdes out of their position, but this is rapidly replaced by one of Chris' reserve columns.

In the centre the Gatling Gun which was in front of the red house has been overrun. On the road a savage bayonet assault has driven the defenders back towards the bridge.

On the left wing (our right) my attack columns counter-charged and drove the two units in firing lines back, routing one of them completely.

When we left it the Chileans had broken in all along the front, but had taken a lot of damage. The next couple of turns might have been interesting as the Peruvian/Bolivian forces had some reserves to counter attack with at the break in points. Still, a lot was got through in a couple of hours play, and at one point when I was making coffee the players happily ran through a turn or two on their own.

The new melee rules, which are based on the firing system, worked very well and gave quick clear results. There are some issues to smooth out (at one point it was impossible for an open order unit in defences to inflict any damage on the unit attacking it and that's clearly not right). Units uphill in melee don't get enough advantage either.

However that's all relatively unimportant and can be easily fixed.

A very satisfactory evening.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The New Project - Update

Over the last few days I have finished off a German Corps to go with my Frenchies who were covered in the last post. I've had some stuff on so these have taken longer than expected although they are easier to do. All one colour with a khaki picklehaube cover.

I also added some bits and pieces to get the French up to strength.

It just so happens that the boards I made up for Hurried Hydaspes have the right sized grid for Op14, more or less. The buildings are some classics. They're from the very first range Baccus produced, - a resin Vauban fortress. I think they're a bit big, so I'm still musing what to do with buildings and terrain generally.

Right, so what we have are two deployed infantry brigades (those with the round MG bases), two brigades advancing behind them, four 77mm field guns, three 105mm howitzers and a command base with a tent. Off to the side is a Cavalry Division made up of Uhlans. They're not part of the Corps.

Here's a close up of a deployed infantry brigade....

 ... and the howitzers.

Because I'm a cheapskate I have split up the HQ base from the Division pack to make more than one HQ. I'll need a few as I need one per corps. Here's the Corps commander in heated conversation with his aides-de-camp.

A quick close up of the Uhlans. The base on the left has two command figures on it. I  encountered my first real problem with the Uhlans. One of the lances was a bit weak and it has broken in half. It's not a big deal, I suppose, but I can't see how I would replace it.

Finally, for the Germans, here's a snap of the infantry in line. You'll note that I haven't gone for the electrostatic flock beloved of 6mm players and featured on the Baccus website. Honestly, I think it looks too long and conceals too much of the figures. I'm happy with my glue and sand look.

Now for the French reinforcements.

First of the Corps C-in-C, relaxing at his map table in the glorious August weather.

Finally a 120mm howitzer. The Corp gets three of these. If it's lucky.

I'm really pleased with the look of both sides. Pete is a terrific sculptor and figure designer. If he worked in 28mm he'd be spoken of in the same breath as the Perry twins et al.

The Op14 rules can be played solo, as they use a playing card activation sequence, so now I've got enough for a game I might give it a go.

When I've made some terrain.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The New Project

As I have finally finished ALL of the Pacific War figures (last lot was a batch of Generals) I feel I can start something new. Okay, so there's still a load of El Cid stuff to do, but ignoring my own advice I reckon I can start something new.

As I mentioned a couple of blogs back I've acquired some 6mm 1914 armies from Pete Berry at Baccus. I could hardly wait to get stuck into my little Frenchies in their pantalons rouge.

Actually, to be honest, I needed to try out my basing ideas to see if I've got them right. Also I need to try out some painting styles to work out how I'm going to do these.

Pete gave me some advice but it was all about washes and undercoating in different colours and I like black undercoating and dry brushing. Having said that the French are more difficult to do than the Brits & the Germans as they have different coloured trousers and kepis, whereas the other two's uniforms are, well, more uniform.

One of the aims is to make it really clear what everything is. It is possible to mix up things like MGs & infantry at a distance.

The infantry are on 15mm square 2mm mdf. I've got two figures on a base. The bases are finished off with PVA glue and sand. These figures are the advancing ones, all ready for a bayonet charge.

Pete also does some firing figures. Had a bit of an issue with the photos here. I'm using extension tubes on my DSLR to get in close, but I'm having problems with the depth of field and focussing. And the light wasn't quite right either.

The real jewels in the crown are the artillery pieces. These are the famous French Soixante-Quinze. The guns are a single casting and the detail and proportions on them are stunning. These are based on 20mm squares.

The MGs are the Hotchkiss variety and come on a round base. The base is about the same size as a penny, which is the same depth all in as a 2mm mdf base, so job's a good 'un.

The figures are intended to be used with the Op14 rules which work at a Corps level. This pictures is of a French Corps, almost. The four bases of infantry each represent a brigade, so this is a two division Corps. The three guns are an Artillery Regiment. I really need one more. The MGs are used to represent when a brigade has been fully deployed. I need to add an HQ base. That'll probably be on a 2p piece, or a 30mm square.

Good start. Pleased so far.

Friday, 27 May 2016

More fame

How time flies! Eighteen months ago I posted a couple of blogs about refighting Cannae using DBA3.0. You can find the posts here and here

The Purple Cover matches the DBA rulebook
The reason for doing this was to do a battle write up for a book showing how you could fight the Great Battles of History, using DBA3.0. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went, wrote the thing up and fired it off to the editor. Then sat and waited. Unlike most of the other contributors to the book I'd used my standard toys and terrain. Most of the others did new armies and constructed purpose built terrain. That all took much longer than expected, and so the book didn't come out when expected, in early 2015. However, it's now done, and it looks rather good. Well worth the wait.

The battle included are:

Troy sometime BC by Pat Lowinger
Gela in 405BC by Charlie Zwinak
Hydaspes River 326BC by John Brown
Bagradas 255 BC by Joe Collins (the editor)
Cannae 216BC by Graham Evans.
Spartacus- The 3rd Servile War by Charlie Zwinak /Bob Beattie
Carnuntum 170 AD by  Robert Madrigal
Hormozdgan 224AD by Robert Madrigal
Yarmuk 636AD by Phil Steele (using Phil Barker's old flats)
Brunanburh 937AD by Joe Collins, the editor
Arsuf 1191 AD by  Dave Cliffel
Bouvines 1214AD by Phil Steele
Verneuil 1424 AD by Tom Thomas
Enguingate 1479 AD by Joe Collins

It's a good list, covering a wide range of battles in both chronology and type. There are infantry and cavalry battles as well as more balanced armies. We're already considering a second volume. The absence of a big Successor battle looks like an open goal for me.

A sample chapter, - Phil's Yarmak - is available for download here.

All of the games use multiple armies, rather than just sticking to the 12 element formula, and all have given good consideration of any special scenario rules. The authors are all, bar me, members of the DBA3 testing team, so they know their stuff in respect of the rules. I got pulled in because Phil felt the book would benefit from having a 20mm plastic game in it, plus NOT ONE WAS DOING HANNIBAL, which was a bit of an omision for a Great Battles of Ancient History themed book.

If you want a hardcopy, then you can buy it direct from the printer, Lulu here. Profits from the venture go to the Society of Ancients, so it's all in a good cause. Early sales have been encouraging, so don't end up being the last person to get one.

As for fame...well the only battle singled out for comment on the Fanaticus on-line review was mine. So I'm revelling in that.

Admittedly there wasn't anything about how brilliant the write up was, but it was mentioned.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Spending some time in the lead belt

I haven’t done a show for a while. I missed Campaign in early May and what with my next usual show being Derby in October I was in the market for a visit. The next show due in the calendar was Partizan in Newark, so that looked promising, despite its reputation for favouring the larger sized figure.

Phil was registered in as a stand for the Society of Ancients and also the Northampton Battlefields Society, so as a committee member of the latter I offered my services. Even though it meant an early start on a Sunday morning.

This is the first show at the new venue. It is sad to be leaving Kelham Hall which had a lot of character. There were lots of nooks and crannies and you never knew what you were going to stumble on next. I suspect this was not to a lot of people’s taste. Plus the lighting was always awful and the parking could be a bit dodgy. And it could be a long trek into the display halls.

The show is now at the Newark Showground, a converted RAF base. It’s easier to get to off the A1 and it’s also in a purpose built show venue. Basically a big warehouse like the one at Donnington where they do the Derby show. It means it is light and well laid out, with good big doors you can reverse your car/van up to when loading or unloading. Parking is better as well, apart from the mindless jerks who insist on parking in Disabled Spaces when they don’t have a blue badge.

After a couple of slight issues Phil & I got there a little later than expected. This meant that our other helpers were already on site to carry in the display materials.

For this show Phil had put together a couple of display tables in addition to the magazines and games we also sell for the SoA. The Northampton Battlefield Society has a collection of weaponry and the new book on the Battle of Northampton to sell as well, so we take up some space.

The two display tables were the static display of Naseby (yes, we cover the Naseby Battlefield Trust as well) and a new table that Phil has done for the Battle of Edgecote. This latter was played as a game, with Phil & Chris running the scenario with “L’Arte de La Guerre”, a rule set with which I am not familiar. Both pronounced they were pleased with the outcome, so that was one good thing out of the day.

Edgecote Field

The Yorkists

The Rebels

We had a steady flow of people past the stand but it was never really busy. The layout didn’t do us any favours as we like to put the society stands next to the games. That increases the stop-and-chat flow, increasing our chances of signing up new members and also meaning we don’t need to be in two places at once.

Me, getting excited about Naseby

I had a few good conversations about Naseby and the joy of battlefield visits in Northamptonshire and also spread the word about the threat to the battlefield in Northampton. We sold out of our book, so that was also good news.

My agenda for the day was to pick up some toys from Mr Baccus, some books from Dave Lanchester, a board game or two and play in Simon Miller’s “To the Strongest” with a view to purchasing the rules.

As it turned out I managed two out of the four.

My first call of the day was to Pete Berry at Baccus. Pete is an old friend (like 30+ years old friend) and one of the most interesting thinkers in the hobby. He is always working on something new. On this occasion I wanted to pick up some 1914 period figures for a new project. I’ve been humming and hawing about this for months if not over a year and have finally taken the plunge. I hope I’ve got this one right. I’d hate it to end up in the pile of “Uninspiring Stories” as I couldn’t face telling Pete both that I didn’t really love what I’d got and also that I couldn’t make the project work. Pete was really pleased to see someone buy a 1914 French Army, seeing as they did most of the fighting, so that's a further incentive to make a go of the project.

And they have red trousers. The French, that is.

With the speed I paint I might have something for Pete’s “Joy of 6” show next year.

Dave’s bookstall is always a terrific browse. You never know what you are going to find and he’s another genuinely nice bloke. On this occasion I found a book on the Alsace/Lorraine campaign. Perfect for my newly acquired 1914 armies. I searched in vain for the Osprey on the WW1 French Army and thought I’d leave empty handed on that front only for Dave to turn up with it right at the end of the day. That’s customer service.

Alas my quest for boardgames was still born due to the complete lack of any board game vendors, which was a bit of a surprise.

 Simon  Miller's game was in full swing by the time I got to it. Lots of toy soldiers and a table with one of the most discretely marked grids you could imagine.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to spare enough time to follow the game completely although it seemed to move quickly and the players looked engrossed in it. Using playing cards means there's clutter on the table, and there seemed to be a need for a few too many markers. I'm no stranger to either of these in game design, but I couldn't square their use with the otherwise really pleasant aesthetic of the game.

A quick flick through the rules didn't help me; too many pictures and glossiness to pick up quickly from a casual read. I need to seek this out again at some point before I dismiss it completely.

Elsewhere there was a lot of 28mm stuff all done to the same standard and the same style. A few games stood out to me as being a bit more original.

I loved the look of this enormous age of sail naval game, which seemed to have got most of what you'd want in a game of this type right.

I liked the ships too.

The biggest surprise of the day was a game put on by two old Brixcon AK47 Republic friends, Pauls Hooper & Mileham from Great Yarmouth. Every so often you see something striking and unique. this is one of those.

Armies made out of clothes pegs.

It was all semi-flat, down to the slotted pine trees.

Lots of different troop types, including these Kilties.

Liked the look of the cavalry too.

 And don't forget the native auxiliaries.

Finally my chums from WD's Display Group North were doing their Roman Senator game, which I hope to catch up with a CoW. Not much to look at, but a jolly good time seemed to be being had by all.

All in all a most enjoyable day, even with the disappointments.