Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Return to Shedquarters

With the snow melted and the roads clear we had our first meeting of the New Year in Shedquarters. The weather has interrupted us badly and the game has sat on the table for two to three weeks, waiting to be played.

Still, that’s the benefit of having a dedicated area for your gaming. No need to pack away. Alas I seem to have a small amount of damp seeping in at the base of one of the walls following the torrential rain we’ve had since completing the build and the ensuing snow. I think the answer may be guttering, but I’m not sure what to do with the downpipe as there’s no drain in that part of the garden.

Anyhow, back to the game.

This is another SCW game using “If You Tolerate This”, my latest rules for the period, recently published in Nugget and soon to be available from here. The scenario here is a Republican counterattack to the North West of Madrid, tying to seize the main highway and disrupt Nationalist supplies. The attack is designed to show the effectiveness of the Communist Party organisation, featuring two three battalion brigades from the “Fifth Regiment”, supported by squadrons of T26s, a couple of BT-5s, some armoured cars and a decent chunk of artillery. To ensure international support an International Brigade of three battalions have been added, together with three battalions of Anarchists in armoured trucks. Finally, a fairly strong air wing has also been provided to support the attack.

The table all set up. Must find somewhere to put all the junk underneath it
The defence centred around two fortified villages, one controlled by a couple of units of Civil Guards, and a smaller one defended by some Falange. The main road and the town located at the cross roads was defended by a few battalions of regular army, supported by some Condor Legion AA.

The fearless Civil Guards take up position
 Will & Phil were given the Republicans and I took charge of the defence. I did this to ensure the players have a decent amount to do, as the defence at this point is fairly static.

Phil took the Communists and Will the rest. I think they had a tacit agreement that Will would get armour support when he needed. Poor trusting fool....if Phil followed his historical predecessors.

They started by pushing the armoured car recce up the main road. The Civil Guards in the big village opened up with a field gun firing in an anti-tank role and knocked out one of the lead squadron (each model represents three vehicles). I should have savoured that more than I did as it was one of the few high points of the evening for me.

First blood to the Nationalists. Black ring on the roof of the front car
Phil was given the task of taking the right hand village (from his perspective), whilst Will focused on the left. The intention of the scenario was that they should get bogged down with these two and lose focus on the overall objective as happened historically. It seemed to be going quite well at first as they adopted a "maximum force" doctrine and diverted the entire force to the task.

Phil veers to the right
They decided to skirt the olive groves and just go straight at the objectives, reasoning that with armour support they could cover the open ground effectively. Luckily for them the Nationalists were short of covering artillery, otherwise they might have suffered heavily. Even given the lack of heavy weapons their tendency to cram as much as possible into a square effectively simulated the Republican assault technique of attacking, Russian style, in a form of column. Under the rule system when firing you allocate hits to a square and then resolve all the hits against all the targets in the square. No sharing out here. 

The other challenge of the game is to get units to co-ordinate with each other if they are not exactly the same. Thus when you move from one troop type to another (say Communist infantry to Communist armour) you have to roll to activate the next unit. This roll gets harder depending on the types of units. For example it is easier to switch in the previous example of Communist foot to armour than from Communist foot to Anarchists.

This mechanism had the effect of making Phil's advance more stumbling than he had intended. He got his infantry in front of his armour and kept failing to switch to the armour. This enabled the defenders to get in a round or two of firing at the unprotected infantry before the armour pulled up.

Will had a similar problem, exacerbated by his slightly weaker armour force. He didn't have enough to cover his entire assault, so the Civil Guards were able to shoot up his anarchists quite effectively when they dismounted from their armoured trucks.

The Anarchists on the Left start to take some fire.
 The International Brigade were another matter. Their lead unit took a bit of a pasting, but the BT-5's then drove up in support and together with the IB's overran one of the Civil Guard units in the village.

The BT-5s lead the way through the wire
 The BT-5s performed very well in this action, starting out in the roll of self propelled guns just outside effective anti-tank range before driving through to  support the close assault. Text book stuff.

The village is occupied

The communists finally got their act together and ejected the Falange from the other village with maximum prejudice. I may have to look at the hand to hand results table when this type of thing happens. Perhaps the defenders should be allowed to take another step of damage rather than retreat.

The Falange retreat under severe pressure
Flushed with success in against the first unit of Civil Guards, the IBs launched another combined attack on the remaining unit. They were ably assisted by the anarchists who drew most of the defensive fire. On reflection the Guards should have kept their powder dry for the assault, and they were ejected from the village in the same style as their Falange colleagues on the other side of the board.

At which point we called it a night. There's enough juice in the game for another evening, so we'll be back next Monday.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Flagging a bit

Spent an hour or two this morning drawing flags for my British in China. I thought I might do them all at the same time and then mount them up en masse when the army is finished. Or something like that.

Anyway, they're in 15mm scale, so are about 1cm square. That means I can get all of them on one sheet of A4 easily, so I can print one sheet, and then cut them out as I go along.

When I say "drawing" I mean putting together on my PC, but more of that later.

Wargamers love flags on their units, - well, I know I do. Fluttering away, distinguishing one generically painted unit in uniform from another. The best flags of our group are hand painted by Phil, which is something I've remarked upon before. Alas I'm not good enough to do that anymore, if I ever was. For the less talented amongst us we have a semi-detached member of the MNG as well, Graham Fordham, who does them on brass poles and sells under the name of "Fluttering Flags".

I noticed on the Colonial Yahoo group recently someone asking for British flags from the Boxer Rebellion. He was referred to Warflags, which I checked out as well, but there are no British 19th Century flags on the site. I wonder what he'll end up doing?

I don't think people realise how easy it is to do your own flags on the PC. I use two packages, both from Serif, "Drawplus" and "Photoplus". The former is a geometric drawing package which lets you combine and crop various shapes together, change line textures and so on. The other is a Photoshop type package, that enables you to recolour photos and other pictures from the web.

My main source for this batch of flags has been Terry Wise's "Military Flags of the World". I got mine in a remainder bookshop years ago, quite by chance. You can buy it second hand for next to nothing, and it's an absolute gem. Terry only has a few flags for each army*, but he gives you enough information to extrapolate flags for most other units in the same army once you've done some basic research (like compiling facing colours).

Anyhow, I've never understood people's problems with flags of the British Army. They're mostly simple with geometric or repeated shapes. That means once you've put together one you just chop and change bits and recolour to produce others. As you go through them you develop a library of pieces you can redraw. The Union flag, for example, is a bit of a pig to do at first, but once you have it done it re sizes into a canton on any other flags you do. Likewise with the central wreath common on the 1844 pattern flags and onwards.

The real challenge is if there's any real "artwork" on the flag. For example the Lamb and Flag on the 2nd Queen's Regimental colour. This is where Photoplus comes in, - you only have to find a picture on line and recolour the background to match your flag colour (easy to do with HSL sliders) and away you go.

Not all of my flags end up being completely accurate, but then a lot of my regiments are generic anyway (like the "Forfeitshire Regiment" who have been wiped out in the Sudan several times). Plus, I do the drawings at a large magnification and once they are reduced to 10mm x 10mm it's quite hard to read the regimental number let alone the regimental name on the roundel. The benefit is, of course, that if you do the work you can scale up for 20mm or 25mm armies as well.

Anyway, once they're done I'll save them as a pdf and post them up the top here, if anyone asks nicely enough.

Now, back to the "drawing board".

* And the 55th turn up a lot, so I guess Terry lived near the regimental museum or something similar.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Shed load of snow

Look, I know everyone has got snow, but I can't pass up the chance for the "shed load" pun.

So here is a picture of the shed in our pristine snow covered garden (I went out the front of the house and round the outside to take this picture over the fence to avoid footprints on the lawn) with the shed nestled under its snowy blanket at the far end.

I then went down to Shedquarters and checked it was okay and to brush the snow off the solar panel for the security lights. It seems okay, and the view is quite pretty.

The vague "footprints " at the base of the tree are caused by one of our squirrels. A regular little Winterwatch we are here.

Actually Shedquarters was quite warm even without the heating on, - a testament to the insulating properties of the layer of snow on the roof. Even so, I've retreated inside to get on with my Chinese project.

Next up, the 99th Lanarkshire Regiment in wicker helmets and pugarees and some mongol archers. According to Woleseley's memoir, which I've just finished, the 99th together with the 60th Rifles seem to be the most active regiment in the campaign. This is odd as not only were they in different brigades they were in different divisions as well.

Or maybe Hope Grant just shared duties equally between his Divisional commanders, so not so odd after all.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A visit to Shedquarters

Spent a couple of hours in the shed this morning, setting up the game for Monday.

I learnt a couple of things this morning:

1) The lighting is very good for taking pictures
2) It can still be very cold at first.

Dealing with the last point first I have now got two 2000kw fan heaters, which were soon going full blast and got the shed up to a bearable temperature fairly quickly.

This augurs well for Monday's game, given the weather forecast.

On the other issue, here are some shots of my Chinese project taken mostly without a flash:

The might (?) of the Imperials deployed in the Temple complex

Tiger men to the fore!

Manchu lancers on the left wing

Imperial spearmen. NB I have replaced the flag poles and flags as provided with paper ones.

Manchu mounted archers on the right wing, next to the artillery

60th Rifles lead the column across the causeway over the rice fields
The Sikhs bring up the rear
The Sikhs take occupation of the temple
The 60th Rifles show Buddha who is in charge

The figures are all Irregular miniatures. The temple buildings are self made from little ornaments picked up in various China-themed nick-nack shops, mostly in San Francisco.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Working From Home

In common parlance "working from home" is a euphemism for sitting around in your pyjamas (or "onesie" if you are young and hip). This week I was supposed to be in Sweden on business, but due to illness (upset stomach) I had to remain behind when the team departed.

Accordingly I have been dialling into video conferences using Skype all week. This has proved very successful as I've been able to see the presentations and white board discussions, as well as periodically being carried about and shown the view out of the window. This means that between sessions I have been able to sit at my painting desk, which is something I can't usually do during my tea break or lunch at work.

The consequence of this is that I've completed my first European Regiment for my Chinese collection. My massive order from Irregular Miniatures arrived last Saturday morning, as promised, and I was in danger of having to go a whole week without getting to start on them. Due to illness, however, they are all neatly sorted into units for painting.

Mr Irregular sent the figures in a box that's suitable for the pre-painting/post-sorting storage. Each ziplock bag is a regiment or battery of guns, together with (where necessary) organisation and painting notes, in case it takes me 6 months to get round to painting them and I forget what I meant to do. I sure love ziplock bags.

The Regiment I chose to paint was the 60th Rifles, as they seem to have a prominant role in the 1860 campaign, and make a nice contrast with my exisitng sikhs, who are in red. The Napoleonic rifle uniforms in dark green with black equipment always look very nice, and the 60th with their grey trousers and red facings add a dash of colour absent on the 95th. Furthermore I've painted them with white "Havelock" cap covers, so that adds a good contrast too. All in all I really like them.

I was also able to finish off my single unit of Taiping rebel spearsmen. In this order I focussed on Imperial Chinese and the British of the 1860 campaign, so they'll be on their own for a while. I hope by giving Ian at Irregular some heavy hints there may be French and Taipings available from him by the time I'm ready to paint them.

In addition to the Irregular delivery my Mongols from Museum Miniatures had also arrived. Bought in their "25% off everything January sale" these are a real bargain. It's a shame that the 25% off seems to include several of the horses not having tails.

The painting bench has some Mongols in progress at the moment, and the last figures to make up my "blue" Imperial units are currently waiting for the glue to dry on their bases. If I finish them this weekend that'll be a good week's work. I'll then have enough figures to set them up as an "army" for the next round of pictures.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Scrubs up nice enough

In between hospital runs over the last day or so I found time to do a JGE* paint job on one of my bargain buildings.

I think you'll agree that it's come out alright. I've polyfilla'd and sanded the base area that comes with it, and pulled off the less than tasteful reindeers frolicking in front, but otherwise it is unmodified. The clock is possibly on the large size, but that more than makes up for the lack of any doors.

To give you a better idea of the size here it is again, occupied during the famous Chinese invasion of Europe in the early 19th Century:

What do you mean you never heard of it? It could have only have to read that book "1421". The Chinese could have ended up anywhere**.

* Just Good Enough
** I wouldn't want this comment to be taken as any form of endorsement for a book which is basically a work of fiction. This remark is a joke. Still, makes for some interesting ideas. How about an Armada game with junks instead of Spanish galleons?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Post Christmas Bargains

There's a branch of Robert Dyas hardware round the corner from where I work. They're having a clear out of Christmas decorations, including some laser cut "Alpine Village" buildings from a company called Noma..

The buildings are a slightly large 15mm, or perhaps even 20mm. The scale isn't exactly constant, but at £2 each I couldn't resist.

There were four different types in the shop, so I got a mixture of six. They all come with a little light inside (easily removed) and some tasteful people and animals standing outside which simply snap off. Here's some pictures of them with a Peter Pig figure outside for comparison.

"Mini House"

"Mini Hostelry"
"Mini Church"
"Mini House with Balcony"

With a layer of paint and a bit of basing I think they'll do fine for generic modern era European buildings.

The shop still had a few left. Might leave it a week to see if they cut the price some more!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Madrid Road (part 3)

So, after the refreshment break the Nationalists had reorganised for the push on the second village. Eschewing the attractions of pushing directly up the main road (the historical approach of the Legion) they deployed mostly on the right, taking advantage of the olive grove to mask their approach.

Perceiving the danger the Republicans responded by sending their armoured squadron over to hold them off. Due to the nature of the rest of the defence force, (militia who prefer fighting in towns) it alas went on its own, - something that was to prove a fatal error.

The Nationalists worked their way carefully forward. Chris had cunningly chosen the role of providing fire support to the attack, and deployed his Carlists in a firing line on the edge of the olive grove. Actually under the rules formations make no difference to fire effectiveness (a bit like PBI) but it is good to see the players making an effort. I tried making formations relevant in an earlier version, but they just distracted from the flow of the game.

With the village mostly occupied with the firing to the front the cavalry sneaked round to the rear and dismounted. They were met with a hail of fire which, photograph to the contrary, proved to be mostly ineffective.

The Legion and their accompanying tabors now took on the might of the Republican armoured fist. Amidst much debate about the efectiveness of the armour on a Renault FT-17 (it is as thick as on a Pz 1) the Nationalists closed to assault and finally did for it with a mixture of hand grenades and petrol bombs.This opened up the flank of the village and allowed Nationalist units to approach in relative safety up the sunken road, should they wish to do so.

Bouyed by the success of their colleagues and contemptuous of the effectivenss of Republican small arms fire the cavalry rode round the back of the village and dismounted to attack the village. The communists opened fire and gave them something to think about.

Unfortunately any success here was a side show compared to what was happening elsewhere.The Carlists kept up a sustained fire on the front of the village whilst the Guardia Civile once more did the business in the close combat. They were also aided once again by the Legion bravely drawing fire in the open.

The Guardia cut a swathe through the village and the Republicans found it hard to resist. The game ended with a small pocket isolated in the church, where they eventually died to a man. Or all ran away, depending on whose version of the history you read.

All in all a very enjoyable afternoon's gaming. Everyone professed themselves to be satisfied, and I took away a few amendments for the rules, which I will post up in the near future.

Once more Spain has provided an enjoyable location for a game and we will be back for more as the year unfolds. Two reasons for this, - I've still got some units that haven't made it on to the table and also the Chinese project has slowed slightly. It should pick up shortly now as I have a number of historical memoirs downloaded onto the Kindle and I have also submitted my figure orders to put together the forces for the 1860 campaign.

Here's to a lot of enjoyable gmaing in 2013.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Madrid Road (part 2)

As is traditional with my afternoon games we start with lunch, - usually cheese & ham baguettes and this time with the added joy of Christmas cakes of various types.

Suitably incentivised Chris & Will were soon on site and planning their strategy.

This seemed to consist mostly of Will taking the Legion(1)  and between them deciding that Phil would like to have the cavalry, thus leaving Chris with the Carlists in their rather jaunty red berets.

Phil was unavoidably detained on urgent family business(2) but we kicked off anyway. I have no pictures of the first move, but it basically went like this. The cavalry were ordered to push up the river line and flank the village on the right. The Guardia Civile were sent up to cover the left flank whilst the Legion lead the charge up the road.

The defenders of the village opened up with everything they had as soon as the column came in range and in particular gave the leading cavalry unit a real pasting.

The picture above shows the situation following the leading cavalry unit breaking immediately the hit markers were resolved. The mad blazing away characterisitc of militia units was also putting down some hit markers on the rest of the Nationalists. At this point I was struggling to remember what some of the rules actually meant, as it is nearly six months since they were last played. I will accordingly amend them and clarify what I mean before I post them up. This means the version in "Nugget" is a little less good than it should be(3).

The next round of activations saw the Nationalists deploying safely into the sunken road, prior to launching their attacks. The Carlists do look particularly fetching, I'm sure you'll agree(4).

Having got themselves sorted out they began a controlled and orderly fire on the militia in the olive grove. This caused some confusion amongst them and caused them to put their heads down.

This encouraged the Guardia Civile sufficiently that they broke cover and headed into the grove to flank the position (NB They should really have a moving marker on them in this picture). Their HMG truck edges forwards in support. In the middle the Legion are doing a fine job of drawing all of the Republicans' fire.

Having had their flank turned the militia took to their heals and fled, streaming up the side of the road screaming "The Fascists are Coming" or something similar. All very disappointing from a Republican point of view.

In the centre, convinced of their superiority in all ways(5) the Bandera of the Legion launched a bayonet charge down the road into the Anarchists who had been taking some stick.

The Legion were in for some surprise(6) as the Anarchists through their superior self discipline(7) threw them back in some disorder.

The Anarchists will write this up in a grand heroic manner, probably overlooking the role the supporting fire from the Asaltos on their left played in the victory.Their victory was short lived, however, as the Guardia Civile quickly followed through from the olive grove and evicted them from their position on the bridge.

Even more unfortunately the Anarchists were driven out of the town into the path of the flanking Nationalist cavalry. This enabled them to launch a cavalry charge on them as they milled around in the open(8). What with the Asaltos now in considerable disorder the situation for the Republicans was looking a bit grim.

Shortly afterwards the Nationalists rolled into the village and took possession.

At this point in the game we took a coffee/tea break and I allowed the Nationalists a series of free move reorganisations to get them ready for the attack on the second village.

More of that in part 3.

(1) In his last game Will got the Italians, so he is quick to take quality if he sees it now.
(2) A phone call from his mother. We all get them this time of year.
(3) Sorry Alex.
(4) At least that's what the reporter from The Daily Mail thinks.
(5) Talked into it by the umpire
(6) Rolled about 6 on 3D6
(7) Rolled 11 on 2d6.
(8) Cavalry charges in the SCW were very, very, rare. Regard this as a belated Christmas present for Phil