Sunday, 29 December 2013

Assyrian Archers

A quick posting of some pictures of my first Assyrian light infantry unit.

These are supposed to be Chaldeans based on what I can find. The piant scheme is taken from all over the place, but an especial nod goes to Stillman's "Chariot Wars" which has some nice pictures in it.

As you can see you get two poses in the box (these are from the Assyrian Allied Infantry box) and a third which has a turban on and is probably meant to be an Aramaean so destined for a different unit..

There's quite a lot of detail on the figures without the designer resorting to putting in a lot of over-sized cuts or highlights, so impressive really. Look at the fingers on the figure who has just released the arrow. Almost makes up for the fact he has no neck.

These are mostly painted using Colour Party paints which have proved to be much easier to use for the detail as their consistency is quite a bit stiffer than both my normal GW & Tamiya. What this means is little pin-pricks of paint stay where they're put.

I've got a unit of Aramaean archers and Assyrian regular infantry with the tall shields on the desk all priomed and ready to go as well.

Now off to Shedquarters to paint some terrain and plan a game for the end of the week.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Assyrian Agyain

More Assyrians, this time the chariot. It's taken a few days to finish, what with Christmas and all, but it has come up okay I think.

In order to keep the platform level I mounted the chariot itself on a base to get it up to the same height as the horses before I stuck it onto the main base. This is something Phil has urged me to do with other chariots in previous armies, but it hasn't been necessary because of the amount of play in the yoke. This time it sort of became essential.

It's a bit of a squeeze getting all of the crew in, but it is worth the effort and they don't look like they couldn't cope if it went into action.

The driver is a nice pose, but there's a lot of plastic between his arms which I might carve out next time round.

Used lots of my new colours on this one as well.

So, although I don't do reviews, I'll make an exception in this case. There's a review here: PSR Assyrian Chariot Review already, but I feel entitled to my two-penn'orth. As you can see from their picture, the chariot isn't on a base and so slopes back quite a bit. Good decision from me on basing it up, I think.

Anyway, what do I think? Well, it is a nice looking model. The pieces are well realised and the figures have lovely, fine detail and once you get them together I think it looks really, really, nice. Things aren't all rosy, however.

Firstly the plastic is very soft. That isn't a problem for the infantry and cavalry but in anything where you're trying to push pegs into holes, it's an issue. Also, I found, unlike PSR, that it doesn't "fit together pretty well". The holes in the base of the chariot are in the wrong place for the pegs on the yoke. After much wrestling with it in the end I made new holes using a mapping pin. There's no point in even trying to hitch the yoke to the horses with the holes and pegs on the figures. I just carved the pegs off and glued it in place.

The crew don't fit in the chariot if you try to put their pegs in the holes in the base. It isn't clear who goes where and it is really, really, fiddly.  These do not assemble as well as either the Sumerian or Indian chariots.

In a way that isn't a surprise. They're a good deal less "chunky" than the other vehicles, and the detail is finer.

So, what about the positives? Well, it paints up really nicely even with a muppet like me daubing the colours on. The figures are beautifully detailed without being ridiculously over sized or loaded up with deep cuts. They are strongly reminiscent of the old Ral Partha stuff. Once you gut the pins off the crew's feet they superglue into the chariot easily enough.

The big plus is the affordability. I paid about £6 a box from Hannants, and each box has 3 models in it. That's £2 for a four horse, four crew, 25mm chariot. There's no close equivalent from the big suppliers. Warlord Games don't even do a 28mm plastic Assyrian Chariot. Theirs is metal and comes in at £15 per model. That's a huge difference. Even though I could afford to buy them, I say to myself "why"? I even prefer the look of the Hat figures, and at least I can pick up the box once the army's complete without getting a hernia.

So, that's what 2014 holds for me. Another 8 of these chariots, and an awful lot of infantry and cavalry as well.

I might even get round to putting some games on.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Paint picture

I treated myself to a lot of new paints for Christmas. Here is a picture of them:

As you can see, currently I'm quite a fan of blue. I also bought a box of horse "sheens" so I can get the glossy coat look.

Then remembered I smother everything with a thick layer of Roneal Antique Pine wood varnish. So, waste of time springing for the extra 25p per jar.

Any how, it is now Christmas Eve and Amazon have just come to the door with the presents we ordered a couple of weeks ago and were supposed to have arrived yesterday.

Better get on with some wrapping then, before going off to see Hobbit 2 this afternoon en famille.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas to all of you out there who have nothing better to do than read a blog illustrated with a pictire that isn't even of paint drying.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Assyrian Beginnian

With the Indians finally finished and properly blooded it is time to look at the next project. Actually I have loads of rules to work on with existing projects but it is easier sometimes just to get some stuff out on the painting desk and pretend that the rules will write themselves when they are needed.

Next up in the mega-load of plastic figures I bought in September are the Assyrians. Well, not just the next up as the last left in the box. I mused earlier on, back in September I think, that I might alternate painting these with the Indians. That was a silly idea. It'd just mean doubling the amount of time before either army was finished. Silly, silly, silly, idea. So I did the Indians, although I did a test paint job on some Assyrian cavalry at the same time.

The army units will be based on the Armati 2 army lists, with an eye to using both Armati and AMW.The first units off the blocks are some cavalry - a mixture of archers and spearsmen and also some Royal Guard infantry which are the same mix as well.

The figures are from Hat, again, although they look like they were done by a different designer to the Indians. The figures are a bit slighter in build, with finer detail. For the infantry you also get a choice of three different types of shields. I chose to go with the really big round shields because they're really big.

Having done them, of course, I realised it would be a challenge to fit them all on the base. I achieved it by overlapping the shields, which actually looks quite nice. Have to admit I'm not the greatest shield painter in the world, but these just about pass muster for me. I realise they would be completely unacceptable for a game of "Hail Caesar".

Anyway, here are the pictures:

The pictures were taken with a Canon IXUS90 compact camera, using the digital macro setting. This means no flash. The spears were all replaced by pins on all the figures.

They were painted with my normal mix of GW, Tamiya & Dulux. I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the Tamiya paints recently. They separate out and their adhesion is poor at times. The GW paints are fine, if a bit pricey. All of this means that I have decided to switch to Colour Party paints, which I have previously used for specialist flesh colours. Consequently other units will have slightly different colour schemes.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Marlburian River Crossing

The second game of Shedquarters' day was a Spanish Succession scenario provided by Richard Lockwood. I was really looking forward to this as I have dabbled in the campaigns of Corporal John since my first year at university. My armies are bodged up bits and pieces based round Airfix "Washington's Army" and Napoleonics with hat swaps. Richard's figures are Dixon 15mm, and lots of them. They look really nice.

These shots are taken mostly using a Canon EOS350 with a 75-300mm zoom lens. This lets me do the close ups without getting up from my chair. Like this one of an artillery piece and crew.

My massed attack columns look a bit tasty, too. Who could possibly resist them?

The scenario was that the French were defending a river line, which was fordable in places, and were unaware of a bridge on their left flank when they deployed. The Allied forces were aware of the bridge and had sent a strong flanking force to exploit the opportunity. You can see the force galloping forwards in the picture below.

Unfortunately it was a narrow bridge so there was a bit of a traffic jam getting across it which allowed the French to switch their reserves to this flank, effectively neutralising the flanking manoeuvre. They were assisted in this respect by the presence of a rather inconvenient piece of boggy/marshy ground protecting their flank. The overall position several turns into the game looked like this:

We were using C S Grant's "The War Game rules" which are single figure "Old School" in style. They require written orders and the passing of messages between commanders and units, which is fun, but they also (in common with similar rules of this type) have quite a differential between movement rates and firing ranges. That may be realistic but it does mean that it can take an awful long time for a game to develop as troops take so long to get into position. In this instance, in addition to the flanking manouevre, I launched one infantry assault in column across the centre of the board and a cavalry attack on the left flank. It took over three hours to make serious contact.

In the middle the defenders opened fire with everything they had as soon as they could (no holding on and firing at point blank range here). Shame I didn't have a village to attack as well.

Any how, I braved the hail of shot from the Frenchies and waded across the river in a very Marlburian fashion (so many infantry actions in Marlborough's battles involve fighting across a stream, don't they?), and eschewing the opportunity for a proper fire fight just charged straight in.

At this point you get this individual figure v figure roll off to see who wins.....meanwhile on the two flanks the cavalry started to get to grips.

As you can see on my left the defensive fire, assisted by a couple of guns, broke my lead cavalry regiment, but I succeeded in charging home against the defending infantry regiment. This broke, or rather sort of didn't, as it fell back in disarray up the hill where I overran the gun line. Or in someways didn't. It was all a bit odd. Having broken through the middle of the infantry regiment it then didn't collapse in a heap with a general sauve-qui-peut.

Something similar happened with the infantry attack in the middle. Despite inflicting many hits and having overwhelming numbers all I got was a "retire" result on the Frenchies.

Phil then closed in on the flank of my left hand cavalry as they were hacking their way through the retiring infantry on the hill crest.

At which point we ended the game. I'm not sure which way it would have gone if we had fought it out as the rules were not giving me a feel for Marlburian warfare and the outcomes weren't always in line with expectations. I think they were written more for Seven Years War, but even so it looked a bit odd at times.

This all sounds a bit unsatisfactory, but it shouldn't. We had a very good afternoon's entertainment with some lovely looking armies and we used the battle to chew the fat over what we thought warfare in this period should look like. I was inspired to go back to my bookshelf and refresh my memory of Marlborough's campaigns, and possible to add to my own armies.

I look forward to revisiting the period with Richard's lovely figures and guiding hand before too long.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Hydaspes here we come

One of my protagonists got in first and blogged this game already. You can find his thoughts here: Phil's FoG blog even thought we weren't using FoG. However if you want the full-on version, carry on reading.

This was the morning game of a three game day. We planned a 10am start but were delayed as one of the players got held up on the M11 by bad weather. Who'd have thought it. Ancient wargame runs late due to fog. For this game Alexander was played by MNG regular Phil, whilst Porus was played by Richard Lockwood.

The forces were listed on the previous blog Setting Up Hydaspes together with the rule tweaks. The set up looked like this:

The game started with a strong right wing push by Alexander. His aim was to get amongst the Indian cavalry before the elephants could rough up his infantry too badly.

In order not to create a gap in his line this meant also advancing his infantry in echelon. Richard responded by angling his infantry and elephants forwards to address the possibility of a double envelopment.

I think it is important to state clearly here that Richard's heart didn't really seem to be in his dice rolling. Regardless of the colour of dice he chose he was consistently out-gunned by Phil throughout the game.

Anyway, Richard's aim in angling his centre left and right was to place the squeeze on Alexander's left wing, where he had a numeric advantage and could also support the position with elephants. He chose not to follow Porus' original tactic of transferring his cavalry from his right to left by moving behind his own line. I can't see many other wargamers doing it either and as a tactic it doesn't seen to stack up well. All it seems to achieve is to put all of the Indian horse in a vice with no way out.

The generals survey the situation
You can see in the picture above how the game is shaping up generally. The decisive action is over on the far side. Richard is pressing hard with his elephants, although he is taking a lot of damage.

The rules revisions had enabled the light troops to work effectively against the elephant threat. As you can see above they have reduced an elephant unit to a single base, as Porus (in his chariot) presses forward to try to engage the phalanx. It was at this point that Richard's dice rolling was particularly reprehensible, failing to save virtually any hits on this elephant unit. This unit of elephants was destroyed in the next round of combat, and of course went berserk straight into its colleagues and commanding officer, as you can see below.

On the other flank Phil was trying to avoid getting caught in an elephant/chariot nutcracker, and so was pulling away with one of his Companion units to create a deeper battle, whilst working his light horse around to the flanks (you can just see the edge of the base, bottom left). Richard meanwhile has spotted a chance to open up Phil's centre with one of his cavalry units which he is going to pass behind his extreme right hand elephant unit.

At the other end  of the table Alexander has broken one of the heavy cavalry units (that's his unit with the bronze shields and no opponents) and although the chariots are proving hard work, he has the upper hand and is looking to develop this flank to roll up the Indian infantry.

The battle is starting to pivot, with each armies right wing gaining the advantage, or at least seeming to. In fact what Phil has succeeded in doing is delaying the combat on his left wing until he thinks he can win the battle elsewhere, principally on his right.

However it starts to unravel for the Indians anyway. A flank attack and a judicious intervention by Coenus breaks one of the Indian cavalry units quickly on Alexander's left. Again, Richard has some poor dice and also fails morale checks.

In the middle Porus is dashing to and fro between his elephant units to keep them in the game with re-rolls. He is getting a bit luckier, but only to the extent that at least berserk elephant units are ploughing into Macedonians. He's also starting to grind down the phalanxes, but probably at too high a cost to his elephants.

On the Indian right  the elephants make a telling intervention on some Companions, but it leaves a chariot unit badly exposed and it is taken in the rear.

Meanwhile in the centre more elephants go berserk and rough up a couple of phalanxes. Alexander's veteran infantry are finding it tough going, but they are gaining the upper hand.

Even Porus in his chariot can't save the last elephant unit in the centre, although that does smash into and destroy a phalanx.

At which point the Indian Army reached its break point for the game. The real final damage was done on the Indian left as Alexander managed to turn his horse into the flanks of the Indian levy foot, trapping them up against on-rushing phalangites.

The game ended with everyone all smiles. It probably tipped against Richard and the Indians quite early on, but there was always the faint hope he might get lucky and break through with some elephants.

I was very pleased with how it went, - about three hours in total without pushing it at all - and the rule modifications worked very well.

The way the rules are working having the elephants out front, as they were historically, masks the archers and exposes them to light infantry. Given a free hand I'd have embedded them in the infantry line and then advanced to within bow shot, softened up the phalangites before launching a co-ordinated elephant charge.

Of course, that all assumes that Alexander's superior horse don't crush both flanks in the meantime.

Another very satisfactory game.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Setting up Hydaspes

Hydaspes, - Alexander’s last battle, fought in the mystical east, and, according to Oliver Stone also fought in a forest.

Fortunately, according to Professor Phil Sabin, it was actually fought on a fairly open plain, so a massive saving in scenery costs right there. Hydaspes has a number of interesting features and was the only battle which was actually determined by the strength of Alexander’s infantry as he struggled to subdue Porus’ elephants. The accounts in Arrian and Curtius and interestingly anecdotal, dominated as they are by the presence of the elephants. The reader is left speculating that the very obvious “elephant in the room” stopped any observers from noting other significant factors in the battle.

For this refight I again combined Sabin’s research with Neil Thomas’ AMW, a combination that has served me well enough on previous occasions. Sabin as ever does an excellent job of sifting out the accumulated crud on our understanding provided by the numerous modern historians and so providing us with what we actually know.

For convenience I again replaced Sabin’s units on a 1:1 basis with their closest equivalents in AMW, and modified the AMW unit classifications where needed.

This battle features probably Alexander’s smallest army so the numbers for them was never going to be a problem (although I did need to plunder my “Successor” cavalry box, so a few of the units of Companions have anachronistic shields). Porus’ army is much bigger and looked like testing my newly painted Indians to the limit.

The armies stacked up like this:

9 x Levy Heavy Archers (144 figures)
2 x Average Heavy chariots (8 models)
4 x Average Heavy cavalry (48 figures)
6 x Elephants (12 models plus 24 light infantry)
Total: 21 units, 168 foot, 48 horse, 8 chariots and 12 elephants. Quite an impressive set up.

This actually left me short of 12 cavalry so some of my gauls made it into the back ranks of a couple of units. That just left me with a unit of light infantry in the box together with the lady Royal Guards. Sorry girls, Prof Sabin doesn’t mention you.

5 x Veteran heavy cavalry (60 figures)
2 x Average horse bows (16 figures
2 x Average light horse with javelins (16 figures)
1 x Veteran light infantry with javelins (8 figures)
1 x Average light infantry with bows (8 figures)
2 x Average phalangites (32 figures)
4 x Veteran phalanx (64 figures)

Total: 17 units, 112 infantry 92 cavalry.

Plus each side had some commanders. The Indians got Porus in a chariot, Alexander got himself and Coenus on the left wing.

I made a few changes to the rules for the game. Firstly I added in my now standard fix for commanders. Once a turn they get to re-roll the dice for one unit they are attached to. In Alexander’s case he can pick and choose individual dice. For the other two they have to re-roll the complete set or not at all.

Elephants are the next issue. With Alexander having a smaller army this battle would be a complete walkover if the six elephants were operated under the standard rules.

If you have followed my previous games with elephants in them you’ll know I’ve experimented with  a few ideas. I think I may have about perfected them.

Elephants units are now represented by four bases, two elephants and two light infantry. The whole unit still has the standard saving roll of 3-6, but each base is removed with a single hit. The standard dice are reduced in proportion to the number of bases left.

Porus between two new style elephant units

 To compensate for their reduced manoeuvrability due to the increase in size I let them turn like light infantry. They also don’t count as having any flanks. When the last base is removed (and do take off the light infantry first) do a berserk move at full strength.

I also allowed phalangites to have a saving roll if attacked from the front, although I may have forgotten to tell Phil this during the game.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Shedquarters Day

A month or so ago Phil said "Richard Lockwood wants to come up to play a game or two. Who's interested?". Well, in the absence of paid employment, why wouldn't you want to spend a day wargaming with the Society of Ancient's finest? Richard does excellent work putting on the SoA battleday each year and he always has an interesting view on a subject or a game.So I said "Why not? We can use Shedquarters".

So that's what we did yesterday.

As it was a full day's wargaming it'll take me a while to blog about all of it (if I get round to it), so this'll do as a summary.

Starting in the morning each of us put on a game.

Mine was a refight of Hydaspes using AMW, featuring my newly painted Hat Indians. Richard was Porus, Phil was Alexander. Classical Indians is one of Richard's favourite armies, so hopefully he wasn't too disappointed by being on the end of another caning from Alexander. The Indians had 6 units of elephants so I toned down their effectiveness to ensure the game lasted more than 30 minutes.

They looked happy enough at the end of the game.

After a break for a bite to eat it was Richard's turn. He'd brought along his War of Spanish Succession 15mm armies. He is running an on-going project using C S Grant's "The War Game Rules". For this game he also took a scenario from the Grant/Asquith scenarios book. Phil was defending as the French, with me attacking as the Allies.

The War Game Rules are a very old school style single figure game, and Richard is adapting them to use with multiple figure bases. We did not reach a full conclusion when Richard called time, but I think Phil was winning. There's nothing really wrong with "The War Game Rules" in its core mechanisms, although you can argue with some of the interpretations and outcomes. However, as Phil puts it, "We have better ways of doing this now". Even so a really enjoyable afternoon's gaming.

Following a quick tidy up we went down one of the village pubs along with Mrs T for an evening meal, before returning for Phil's contribution.

For the final game of the day we were joined in th evening by three more of the Monday Night Group. This added two Chrises (A&W) and a Richard. They were split up so that we had a Chris & Richard on each side. Phil ran the scenario and I did the rule mechanisms (using original "AK47 Republic"). Chris and Richard played the Soviets and Richard and Chris played NATO.

Phil gave us a light hearted ice bound escapade with lots of nice toys and a bit of silliness. In the end it isn't clear who won, but everything blew up, pretty much and there was a lot of laughter. Brilliant way to finish the day off.

We even had a submarine

What a day.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

FoG in your pocket

One of my most hit postings is one of my shortest. I think it's because it has "wargamer" and "Christmas shopping" in the labels. I think it might be spouses in search of inspiration for gifts for their partners thrashing around the internet in vain. In any case, the post has very little of use in it. This one might be different.

I play ancients, with figures. That much is clear from the blog. I also play board and card games and I like Martin Wallace at Treefrog's designs and have played test versions of numerous of his games at CoW. This Christmas he has several games out, one of which should make the perfect stocking filler for the wargamer.

He's done a card game version of FoG. It's a two player game which will play in less time than a typical game of FoG, and is small enough to fit in your pocket. So very convenient for those moments when you can't actually get a game in because you don't have figures/space/time. At only four pages the rules are really manageable as well. Especially if you've mastered FoG.

Martin's done a really good job of making a card game that works like a figure table top game. It's based round the 2nd Punic Wars, but I would guess that if it proves really popular it might be possible for other decks to be produced. Some of the cards represent terrain features making up the battle field, and then each player gets their own deck to build their army. The cards represent both units and also the resources needed to get them into battle. (BTW the card art is really, really nice as you'd expect from a Slitherine approved product).

Regular readers will know I'm a glutton for different and ingenious rules mechanisms. This has both of them. It has a good mix of the simply abstract and the clearly historical. You have to make decisions about how to deploy your army, eg light troops are easier to deploy in difficult terrain. This is a historical situation. The process by with the game enforces this is abstract.

I haven't played the final version yet (it was previewed at CoW this year, and has only just been released). However it's very definitely on my Christmas present list.

One final thought, - because of how it works it might make a good "entry game" to get people from general games into table top games. Cards are deployed like units. Being in depth and outflanking your opponents is physically represented by the laying of the cards (ie where they are is as important as what they are) which crosses over into figure gaming. It might also be a good way of resolving campaign battles with a minimum of fuss.

Buy a copy. It'll cost about £12. You can buy it from here:Treefrog - FoG. The price is quoted in NZD (Martin Wallace lives in New Zealand now) but the exchange rate is pretty good and the orders are despatched from the UK.

Go on. Get one. It's fun.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Picking Up Loose Threads

It's been a while since I posted anything. If you are interested, Mrs T & I are just back from a week's sitting in the sun at Sharm el Sheikh. Lots of booze, lots of food, and lots of books read. Thank you for asking.

Whilst I've been away the Monday Night boys have been playing a bit of ACW. They do that when I'm not around as they know I'm not a big fan of the period. I also missed Ian's last Monday Night game as he went off to retire in Cornwall this week.

Any how, they'd been playing 1st Bull Run or Manannassasssass or whatever. Like "banana" Manananasassas is a word it is easy to start spelling but I'm never too sure when to stop. Will hosted the game and he's on a journey to refight all the battles of the ACW, using plastic 20mm figures and RFCM's "Civil War Battles". A man's gotta have goals in life, I suppose.

Because of the style of games we play we frequently play a game across several evenings, and because of the loose nature of the group we don't always get the same players each week either. Despite their best efforts last week the Group were unable to finish the game, and so it carried over into this week. And they did give it a good go, as is evidenced by Phil's write up: Phil's Blog. However, most of what the Unionists did was put in a massive flank march, presumably ahead of a final assault.

I say presumably as the Unionists were lead by one of our occasional Grahams and Ian. We knew Ian wouldn't be back for part two as mentioned above. And the occasional Graham couldn't make it this week. So the Unionists were handed over to me and one of our very occasional Chrises.

Not having had a briefing from the previous players we sort of looked at where we were and scratched our heads a bit, then just plunged in. I'm not sure what Ian's grand scheme was for my bit of the board but within a move half my chaps were streaming off the table in rout and the others had effectively gone to ground for a protracted fire fight. All very ACW, I suppose, but I was left wondering if I'd missed a trick. My partner in crime, Chris W, likewise just tried to move forward and similarly got into a fire fight. The Rebs, played by Phil & Richard continuing from last week just smiled and held on.

And that was about it really. There was a bit of movement and the odd charge but in essence we blazed away at each other for about four hours of playing time to very little effect. I was left wondering if I'd missed a trick. I'd certainly missed my camera, so you'll need to wait on Phil for some pictures of the second day's gaming. In summary, the Rebs held on easily and the Unionists made a complete botch of it all, ably assisted by discontinuity in command and our inability to know when it was best to roll sixes and best to roll ones.

Will has modifed CWB to make it play a bit quicker but there's still an awful lot of dice rolling to no great effect as the armies bog down into fire fights and melees are a real crap shoot. All very authentic but not always completely fulfilling as an experience. With all of that said Will has got a nice visual aesthetic for the armies and the games, even enlisting Mrs Will to paint some of his hills.

Honestly, try as I might I do not get this period*. I do not find it interesting militarily, I do not consider it to be as important as a world event as most of its gamers seem to think. It is only, in my opinion, because it occurred in such a large, dominant country that it gets so much coverage. Like US police programmes mean most people in thr UK know more about their rights when arrested in the US than they do in their own country many think of the ACW when the phrase "Civil War" is mentioned. I just do not get it.

Still, if the game's there, I'll play it.

* And believe me, I've tried. I've built and got rid of ACW armies in the distant past. I even studied its origins at university. I did quite enjoy watching "Glory" however.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Russo-Turks and Rule Ruminations

This week's Monday Night Game was actually held on Monday. It'll never catch on, I tell you. The game came courtesy of our other Chris (not the NQM one) and was set in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, somewhere in Georgia. It was a fairy obscure refight. I say that as the battle doesn't appear in my "Dictionary of Battles" by Brigadier Peter Young, which claims to include all battles, ever, between 1816 and 1970 and is usually pretty reliable.

The game (described below) was fought with Neil Thomas' 19th Century Europe rules. They've given us a couple of interesting and enjoyable games, but we're starting to look at our view of them more critically. It occurred to me that there may be a cycle in respect of wargames rules like the Five Stages of Grief (Denial, Anger etc). In the case of wargames rules it goes something like:

1) Enchantment: eg "Wow, these look great and do what I want"
2) Learning: eg "Ah, so that means that and that's how that works"
3) Familiarity: eg "We all know how this works"
4) Criticism: eg "These don't really do what we want; that rules is silly"
5) Modification/Rejection: Either "We can just tweak this" or "These are actually rubbish, I refuse to play them again"

I think we're around about stages 3 or 4 at the moment with these rules. We understand them, but not everyone agrees with the design concepts. For example dragoons can only attack other dragoons if they outnumber them. Fine in theory, but in practice should this apply to an open flank?

Anyway, the game set up:

Firstly, ignore the crosses on the cloth. They have no purpose in this game. The Turks are defending the ridge line, behind the first stream. Their first line is in situ. We're waiting for the Russians to deploy. They then need to attack the Turks and push forwards off the road. I was playing the Turks, with Ian. Will & Phil got the Russians.

I'm using a new-ish technique for taking pictures. I'm using my big telephoto lens on my SLR, rather than a close up lens. What do you think of this shot of the Turks in their entrenchments?

It works pretty well, as long as I focus on the right thing. Moving on, when the Russians set up, there were a lot of them:

 It looked fairly scary from the Turkish position, as you can see from this picture:

Or at least it would have done if the auto-focus had picked up either of the Turks or the Russians and not the river line. Sort of like in this picture:

The Russians put together their collective imaginations and tactical acumen and decided to storm the position in column. We harassed their advance with our irregular skirmishers, just visible in the top tight hand corner of the picture below.

The Russian Bear lumbered forward, the stream providing little obstacle.

Even to those whose bases hadn't been finished properly yet. Our well aimed rifle fire and our superior artillery started to have an effect, but the Russians didn't seem to care. Their attitude to casualties seemed to be "plenty more where they came from".

Despite our best efforts it was clear that our ridge line defences were going to be overwhelmed. A fierce melee across the entrenchments ensued:

But the Russians turned the position by forcing the defile, and most of the defenders fell back, leaving a couple of units isolated.

Once the Russians had taken the ridge line they could see our reserve line, and were allowed to re-organise. They occupied our trenches, but as we had no intention of counter-attacking this was merely an academic exercise from the game point of view.

Chris temptingly told us to put the men who had run from the ridge on the baseline just in case they might return as reinforcements. Yeah. Right.

The next few phases of the game involved the Russians pounding our entrenchments with their artillery whilst they rushed their columns across open ground. We did a fair amount of execution with our rifle fire, as you can see below.

The final turn of the game saw the Russians charge home against every position, and actually break the line at one point.

This breaking of the line triggered a general retreat by the Turks, leaving the Russians in possession of the field of battle and, in theory, the winners. Although not with many troops.

At the top left of this last picture you can see the cavalry (sorry, dragoon) stand off that was bothering us. I had been able to charge a Russian infantry column head one and break it with my dragoons as it had been weakened by rifle fire beforehand. Although this had enabled Phil to get his dragoons onto the unit's flank he was unable to charge home as he didn't have a numerical advantage. This may be what Neil intends, but it doesn't look quite right.

 As is normal with Neil's rules we got an enjoyable game played to a conclusion comfortably within the evening with everyone pretty much knowing what was going on most of the time. This isn't too bad for a rule system we've only played twice.

Due to his work commitments Chris can only join us irregularly so it'll be a while before we can rejoin this campaign. This is a shame, as I'm quite looking forward to it.