Sunday, 29 January 2017

SCW City Fight

This game took place over a couple of afternoons recently.Following on from my blog on New Year's Eve I felt the need to re-explore the Spanish Civil War some more.

What I never really did properly with the "If You Tolerate This" rules was do some fighting in built up areas. Despite me saying the air rules needed looking at I thought I'd better go back and look at the core mechanisms first to make sure they were performing as desired.

After the previous games there were a few things in the rules where I couldn't understand why I had made those decisions when writing them. Re-reading and re-playing them also made me really aware of my influences at the time and I felt that there were some bits that stuck out as really borrowed from elsewhere, and not in a good way.

Consequently I threw together a quick scenario that looked a little bit like the attack on University City in Madrid. The attackers were a column of Spanish Foreign Legion, complete with Moroccans and a Regular Army Division.

The defenders were some workers militias and some International Brigades, supported by a unit of Asaltos.

The Nationalists had some open ground to cover, but they were supported by some decent artillery. The Regular Army are on the right, the SFL on the left. They are faced by the Workers and IBs respectively. The Asaltos are at the back in reserve.

Phil had the Fascists and I played the Republicans. Phil, being Phil, used his Moroccans to turn the flank of the position. It was at this point that I started to wonder about some form of "zone of control" mechanism as the "Reserve Fire"process was misfiring a bit due to the turn sequence. In fact Reserve Fire was barely used in the game, and has subsequently been dropped from the game system to be replaced by "Interrupt Fire" for anything that comes within a square of a unit without attacking it.

On the other flank The Workers are defending in depth and the Regular Army are taking some fire trying to close.

They move up slowly and camp for most of the game in front of the defended buildings. I got some of the rules wrong during the game and some of these units should have been broken. In any event I also decided that the casualty system needed revising. Units can take an awful lot of punishment if they are re-organised regularly, so I have since taken out the re-organisation option and dropped the hits a base can take from three to two.

Phil slipped a Regular Army unit in between two of my units (see comment on ZOCs above) and camped in the city park, and then pressed in with the SFL

A lot of fire was pouring into the defended positions, and those Regulars in the Park took a lot of damage but they mucked up my reinforcement lines. Vigorous Close Assaults have evicted my IBs from two of the three buildings they were defending, and they have been bounced back into my second line of buildings.

As his troops are just in front of the buildings Phil has been required to lift his artillery fire to the second line of defences, which pins my supports in place.

My Aslatos counter attack through the Park and drive the Regulars out in Disorder. They fall back into buildings occupied by a Legion bandera. Note that there is now a difference between merely occupying buildings and actually defending them properly to get full benefit in hand to hand fighting. When I attack this double occupied square I find I have some rule issues to deal with as I hadn't had that happen before.

Elsewhere Phil has infiltrated his Moroccans to the rear of the position, cutting off escape routes.

I'm now completely bottled up, but holding on defiantly with my Anarchist Militia. The IBs have been completely overrun.

Overwhelming force finally sees off the Anarchists and it is all over.

Lots of lessons for me from this game and I've gone away and re-written chunks of IYTT. If anyone out there ever downloaded the rules and wants to help play test the next version, let me know.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Northampton 1460: How to Buy & FAQ

"Northampton 1460" is a boardgame-in-a-book published by the Northampton Battlefields Society (NBS).

Based upon the very successful participation game this book will enable you to refight the 1460 Battle of Northampton on your own dining room table. 

This two player game, which can also be played solo, is quick to learn and easy to play for both children and adults, providing an insight to the events both preceding and during this important battle during the bloody and treacherous Wars of the Roses.

Speed of set up and play means that you can play the game multiple times over to try out different  plans and strategies. 

Can you change the course of history and defeat Warwick the Kingmaker?

How much does Northampton 1460 cost?
The game costs £9.99 for Society members and £12.99 for non-members. For details on how to join NBS, please look here: link

Where can I buy the game?
The game is available at Society meetings which are held on the 3rd Thursday of every month in Northampton. More details are available on our Facebook page link. We will also have copies on our stand which you will find at most large UK Wargames shows, usually together with the Society of Ancients.

Can I buy by post?
Yes. Email me at grahamdevans(at)gmail(dot)com about how to pay. Postage is £2.50 for UK and £5.00 for the USA and Europe for a single copy. If you want to buy more than one or live somewhere else, email me and I'll work out the cost for you. 

What happens to the money?
NBS is a non-profit making organisation. All sale proceeds are used by the Society to promote its activities and to help protect the battlefields of Northamptonshire.

Do You have a BoardGameGeek page?
Yes. You can find it here: link

GAME FAQs and Clarifications

Which counters go on which battle pieces?
Actually it doesn't matter as the pieces are only a mechanism to keep track of the two armies' strengths. In practice, as well, we don't know exactly where a lot of people were. We can't even be certain who commanded the Lancastrian battles either. Of the ones we do know or can guess at, they go like this:

Buckingham's Battle: Buckingham
Egremont's Battle: Egremont
Shrewsbury's Battle: Shrewsbury & Grey

Warwick's Battle: Warwick, Conyers, Threlkeld
Fauconberg's Battle: Fauconberg, Abergavenny (possible)
Edward's Battle: March

When Scrope or Greriffin attack what happens with the pieces?
Regardless of which one initiates the combat move both of the pieces to the "Fighting" squares. Then roll on the card of the side that initiated the fight (the outcome tables are different). One of them will lose and be removed from the board. There are no draws.

What happens if neither side has routed by the end of turn 9?
This is very rare, but possible. If the Yorkists haven't captured the King they will retire in good order and the game is resolved using the Lancastrian Victory points table. If the Yorkists have captured the King they still retire but then use the Yorkist Victory points table instead. Don't forget to roll for commander deaths for any battles that have been wiped out per page 6 of the rules.

Can I pass on any turn?
You can only pass up until the fighting starts over the fortifications.

What is a base?
A base is one of the small, square counters.

These are the ideas that didn't make the final cut that you might like to try.

  1. The original version of the game had 12 instead of 9 turns. Increasing the number of turns will increase the chances of a Yorkist victory.
  2. Add one to the artillery die roll for the Lancastrians from the first sun card. This will increase the chances of a Lancastrian victory
  3. Once battles are engaged and fighting they must all fight each turn, and the Lancastrians must try to fire their artillery. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Northampton 1460 - blow by blow account

I have received a photo report from an early adopter of "Northampton 1460" who has tried the game solo. Apologies if the pictures are a bit small or indistinct, but they're what I've been sent.

The report opens in turn three (yes, the weather cards have been placed incorrectly on the turn track, but it doesn't matter for the moment). The Yorkists have tried to negotiate, and then excommunicated the Lancastrians. The Lancastrians look to me to have initiated the cavalry combat and won it. Even so, the Yorkist morale is higher than Lancastrian, so that's good for them. They have sent in Fauconberg's battle to start the attack on the fortifications.

It seems that the Lancastrians hit back at Fauconberg in their turn as the Yorkist morale is dropping. There's a few Lancastrian casualties at the back of the board, however, so in the balance.

Two turns on and Edward of March has got stuck in as well. Unluckily for the Yorkists Grey has not swapped sides, so it is going to be a hard slog.  The Lancastrians have had an artillery misfire - probably in turn 5 - as they've only got two cannon counters left. However, the red 6 on the board is for their artillery fire this turn, and that means the Yorkists have taken casualties and their morale is now in danger of causing them to rout.

In this picture I think that they've failed the morale test as all their counters are piled up behind the Lancastrian defences.(I hope the die roll isn't from the morale test, as you roll higher than the morale number to rout, not less. Only time in the game when low numbers are good and high, bad).

From a comment from the player added to the picture, I think all the Yorkist leaders got rounded up and killed, making this a significant Lancastrian victory. Losing the cavalry battle at the start of the game means the Lancastrians have pursuit troops, which makes it harder for the Yorkists to escape if things go badly.

So, history turned completely on its head.

Thanks to Richard for sharing his pictures with me.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

On the road with Northampton 1460

We did the official launch of the Northampton Game this last Saturday. Kettering Museum and Art Gallery were looking for an event to pull the punters in on a cold January weekend, so the Northampton Battlefield Society, in association with Harrington's Company, agreed to put on a "Weapons & Warfare" day.

Kettering Museum is a lovely little town museum in a rambling building with all sorts of little rooms. We had three upstairs to put up our displays. As you can see from above with our recent recognition from the Guild of Battlefield Guides we have quite a good display of awards on our table, amongst the weapons and armour.

We have some cross over membership with Harrington's which makes it easier for us to put on these type of events. Here's the room with the Harrington's armour and their fletching display.

They also did a short presentation about putting on armour. This is Corin, one of our committee members, rigged out in all his finery with his Bec-de-Corbin. We had about 15-20 people in the room for this, I think. It was a bit cramped.

Phil had his model in the middle room, along with a little table for our Northampton book. The model is always a good talking point.

I was in the "paper toys" room, which houses the museum's collection of cut-out toys and dolls. A little bit more genteel than my usual settings for running the game.

As it's an old buildings rooms are slightly odd shapes, and the need to ensure wheelchair/disabled access means you can't use all the space as efficiently as you might like.

A few old friends turned up to play the game and buy a copy. The man with the nice jumper is Jerry from Sheffield. He was one of the big fans of the original game when we first put it out at shows and wanted to buy one. He bought two, - one to cut out and one to keep. He also wanted it autographing. I should have given him a discount.

The man playing the game is Graham Hockley, of "Ad Hoc Games" who often does really good participation games at the likes of Salute, with our mutual friend Chris, who is taking pictures in the background. He is playing two of his children. I'm pleased to say he gave them a damn good thrashing.

The daughter of my Heraldic Adviser, Graham Fordham, has been a wargamer from the cradle and plays DBA very well I'm told. She took me on with her friend, and squeezed out a narrow Yorkist win. She wasn't helped by her friend refusing to attack with the cavalry because she didn't want to "hurt the horses".

We had a steady stream of people through and I ran the game about 10 times, mostly with children aged 10 or less. Although all were well behaved and attentive I can tell you that's hard work and hard on the voice. Still, hopefully they enjoyed themselves and learnt something.

We sold 8 copies of the game which on reflection is okay. 5 of them were bought by friends who would have bought anyway, I think, so that's three we wouldn't otherwise have got. 

And one purchaser joined the Society as well, to get the discount on the cover price.

So I think I'd have to say a day well spent.

PS I took sometime later on to set up the game on BoardGameGeek. As I write it is awaiting approval by the moderators. As I was doing it I also found out that some of my SOA games and free rules have also ended up on there, although I'm there under two variants of my actual name. I've dropped them a line to see if the can merge them.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

An evening with the Guides

After our Friday afternoon event with the Guild of Battlefield Guides we were invited back for their Annual Dinner on Saturday evening. Chairman Mike was unable to attend so it was up to Phil and me to wine and dine on behalf of the Society. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it.

You meet all sorts at these things, so it was a pleasant surprise not only to renew my acquaintance with Roger Emerson on Friday, but also with Chris Scott, who was in the Roundhead Association when I was, and eventually rose to be Lord General. He had fond memories of my old regiment, John Brights, and we had a few mutual acquaintances including Pete Berry now of Baccus 6mm. I also bumped into one of my predecessors as Chairman of the University of Sheffield Wargames Society.

Gary Sheffield was there too, so I had a chance to have a chat about The Great War and Paddy G's contribution to our scholarship on the period.

The occasion enabled more in-depth discussions than on the Friday afternoon, so the disappointment I felt about attitudes to the use of games & simulations to understand battles and battlefields was able to be over turned somewhat and hopefully minds are a bit more open.

The excellent news for the Northampton Battlefield Society was that we won an award. You can see Vice Chairman Phil with the "Nathaniel Wade Award" looking very pleased with himself. I'm fairly sure the lady next to him hadn't dozed off by this point of the evening. Apologies for the quality of the picture. I was using a smart phone and I'd had a glass or two of lemonade as well.

Here's the details of the award from the Guild of Battlefield Guides Website:

Award Ethos:
The Nathaniel Wade Award will allow the GBG to publicly recognise the contribution of an individual, group or organisation associated with the GBG, who through their efforts has made a significant contribution to the craft of battlefield guiding and the wider Military History community.

Qualification Period:
This is an annual award which will be presented at the GBG AGM – however, the award is not restricted to events or a contribution made in year. The recipient may be recognised for their contribution or achievements made over a number of years.

Qualification Criteria:
The Nathaniel Wade Award may be presented to GBG members or non members; both categories are eligible to be nominated for this award.

Any Guild member may nominate a potential candidate to the Secretary for consideration by council. Final selection of a recipient(s) will be made by the GBG Council.

Previous Winners:
2012                       Battlefield History TV
2013                       Battle Honours
2014                       Centenary Battlefield Tours
2015                       The Belgian Tourist Office London

We're quite chuffed that we've picked up an award previously won by the Belgian Tourist Office and also the other winners, who represent serious players in the Battlefield Tourism industry whereas we're just a small bunch of enthusiasts with a battlefield everyone wants to build on.

The trophy is really nice, - Nathaniel Wade was in the Duke of Monmouth's army, so this is him in full rig, - and we'll be using it to get some more publicity for our cause. You'll also be able to see it on our stand over the next 12 months. Stop by and say hello.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Joining the Guides for a Day

One of the members of the Northampton Battlefields Society is also a member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.This year he was responsible for organising their AGM, and chose to do it in Northamptonshire. The real business of their meeting is on Saturday but he arranged a taster get together on Friday afternoon to look at the Battle of Northampton and the work that NBS has done to promote and protect the site.

NBS was represented by Chairman Mike, Vice Chair Phil and me. Mike was there to talk about the battle, Phil to demonstrate his battlefield model and I was there with the participation game and the newly printed book.

Ironically the meeting was held in the Delapre Golf Club function room. The Golf Club has been our "bete noir" over the car park development on the edge of the battlefield, but on this occasion we were able to build some bridges. Still going to oppose their proposed works however. We had a little side area where we could get our kit out, slightly away from the area where food was being served and big coats were being worn.

I think we put up a pretty good display.

Looks quite professional. How successful we were it's hard to say. These are "professional" guides and won't be guided by anyone who isn't a Guild member. Neither Mike, Phil nor I fall into that category, so we weren't going to lead the actual walks for the two syndicates. Clearly our member who is in the Guild knows the area, but the other group were led by a guide who hadn't looked at the ground and was working off maps. Based on where he took his party I'm not sure we would entirely agree on his interpretation. As we've been working on this site for a few years I think we'd have the view that you need local knowledge to tell you what the maps are telling you about what is new and what is recent modification to the terrain.

I was also disappointed by the attitude that a number of Guild members took towards the use of models and game-based simulations to understand and promote the battle. I suppose I'm so used to being amongst people who take what wargames can tell you seriously I wasn't expecting such a dismissive approach. Some Guild members got it, or were on their way to seeing the use, (sold a few games) but we probably needed more time than we actually had once everyone had seen the gunpowder demo and the field walk.

This is what the Guild looks like at play.

This is an old friend, Roger Emerson, who I haven't seen for 30 years. He was explosives officer for the Roundhead Association when I was a young musketeer back in the 1980s and taught me gunpowder safety. Great character and great bloke.

The guns were provided by the English Free Company.

They had a nice stick gun as well as the breech and muzzle loading cannons.

They also had some longs bows. Here's Phil, just letting the string loose having done a full draw back to his ear.

And here's a cross bow being shot. I have caught the moment of quarrel release here if you look closely.

I couldn't catch a cloth yard shaft in flight, however.

It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and it went well after we all breathed a sigh of relief following the short snow flurry we had in the morning. Hopefully the Guides learnt a bit from us and about how we have to fight for battlefields with all the resources we have.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Promoting Northampton 1460

As you will all recall before Christmas I announced that the work on the Battle of Northampton game was complete. It went off to the printers and after some hiccups I should receive the final version at the back end of this week.

I have a few not-perfect copies - the centre pages are printed on paper not card as required - and I have been able to produce a demo version of the sale version through the use of a thicker than usual lamination pouch.

It's a relief to see that the concept really works, and the quality of the printing/output is really satisfying. I'd say it stands comparison with the production standards of, for example, Black Powder.*

This means we're confident enough to do pre-launch publicity. The

actual launch will be on the 21st January at Kettering Museum, where there'll be other stuff going on and we'll have copies to buy and you can play the full show version. The price will be £12.99 or £9.99 for Northampton Battlefield Society members. Don't know what the postal cost will be as I don't know how much the final version weighs and hence the cost of the stamps.

Based on what we did with the book Mike Ingram wrote a year back Mike sent out a press release and we got picked up by local radio, as I trailed in the last blog.

So this afternoon I went in for my 15 minutes of fame in the BBC Radio Northampton studios at the top of Abington Street. You can listen to the show on the website for the next month: link. I come on about 40 minutes in. If you hear either David Bowie or Fleetwood Mac I'm on just after them. I have to say the show presenter was very good at putting me at my ease and getting me to talk ("Quelle surprise!" I hear some of you say), and I got most of what I wanted to say across. I had spoken to a production assistant beforehand to cover some of the ground, but I never got across completely why it is important that this is in book format not in a box (although the woman from Library Services who was on after me completely got it).

Having listened back to it I think it's okay, although I say "Um" and "Absolutely" a lot.

Which is, um, I suppose, how I do actually talk. Absolutely.

Come and see me in Kettering to find out for sure.

* I may not like the rules but respect is due to the production standards.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Scruffy Cids

I'm nearing the end of the painting odyssey that is my Feudal Spanish/Andalusian/Almoravid project.

I'm still light a few bases of Christian Knights (probably need another box, if I can find them) and some odd light infantry units. Oh, and I need to do some more crossbow conversions, because you
never get enough in a box.

However, my last unit of Spanish heavy infantry is done. Well, I say last. I've got lots of figures left, (thanks Mark!) so I can do more, but I don't need to do. Up until now I've painted them as dismounted knights and retainers, so they've been fairly uniform in pose and costume. The latest unit is a bit more raggedy, as I've gone for more of a Christian/Muslim borderand feel for them.

I've mixed figures from all three boxes of "El Cid" infantry, chopping off swords and replacing them with spears almost regardless of pose. I had a spare monk/priest from the Spanish command box, so I pushed him into the front rank for a bit of moral leadership.

The poses mostly work. The one I like the least is the one at the back with the blue shield with a white cross. The stance seems a bit odd, but I suppose he could be thrusting with his spear.

These are also a bit odd for what I normally do. I rarely mix poses so extremely in a heavy infantry unit. I tend to the view, especially in units with long weapons such as spears and pikes, that all the chaps in a unit would be doing the same thing, with minor variations. If you don't do that then you end up getting in each other's way, tripping colleagues over with the butt end of your spear and so on. The modern multi-pose fad for having everyone waving their arms about and pointing weapons every which way is a nonsense. Sure, have heads slightly tilted at different angles, and spear points up and down by a few degrees, but for goodness sake have them all point in the same direction.

On a side note the Northampton 1460 game is very close to being available. I have some trial copies and they look great, - the printer now needs to do the definitive run with the centre pages printed on card, not paper, now I have finished correcting the typos, tightening up some of the rules and giving Margaret of Anjou her coat of arms on the biographies page. Our Chairman has sent out a press release and we're doing a launch at Kettering Museum on the 21st January, where we'll have copies for sale and you can play on the big, original, show game version. I will be doing some publicity on local radio on Tuesday 10th January, so if you are inclined to listen to the John Griff show after 2:30pm, you may hear me in action. I'm not sure how board games work as a strictly aural experience, but we're going to give it a go. As we live in the modern world you don't have to be local to listen, as the shows are available on line: link. They do podcasts if you miss it too.

Cross you fingers and wish me luck

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Convoy Raiding in the Great Pacific War

Back in September we played a trial game with some warships from the 1879-84 Pacific War. That game was a theoretical action where all the ironclads of both sides* turned up and hammered it out, using Ian Drury's rules for the Battle of Lissa.

The game was a relative success but some changes were required. Notably I had to add small arms fire as this was significant in most of the actions, suppressing on deck gun crews and injuring bridge staff. I also fiddled around with some other stuff too, as I can't resist it.

For  the next game I thought I'd do a convoy attack scenario, as that was a large part of the naval campaign as the Peruvians tried to stop the Chileans shifting their forces up north.

The Chileans had one ironclad, the Almirante Cochrane, and a couple of wooden steam schooners protecting 5 troop ships. The sharp eyed amongst you will spot that I'm using an odd mixture of Tumbling Dice ships, including two Cutty Sarks and the Great Western as the merchant ships/troop transports.

The Peruvians have got the Independencia, an ironclad, and two wooden steam schooners.In this scenario the Peruvians are slightly faster, as they often were historically, as they had better dry dock facilities for careening their vessels.

The Peruvians advanced in line astern, the Independencia leading, at full steam.

Chris K with the Chileans had an immediate issue as one of his convoy escorts was to landward, so he needed to turn it towards the open sea. They were also spread out so that they needed to get together to stop the Peruvians picking them off one at a time.

The Peruvians at full speed move twice as fast as the troop ships, which the Chilean naval vessels have to keep pace with. Phil, in Nelsonian fashion, is aiming to cut through the line of troop ships with his ironclad and give them broadsides as he does so.

Chris tries to cut him off with Abtao, but fails. The Independencia lets fly at two of the troop ships, damaging the rudder on one (see red dice) and setting the other on fire. Elsewhere the Chilean vessels the Abtao and the Cochrane are giving the Union a hard time. In this exchange the Cochrane takes a bow hit, and starts to take on water. This is significant for the rest of the game as it quickly slows her top speed. (NB Peruvian broadsides are white, and Chilean black if that helps).

The Independencia having cut the line now circles round to finish off the lead ship. Elsewhere the action has become general with ships firing broadsides when they can.

The lead troop ship has been sunk by a ram from Independencia. The Cochrane is circling round to try to drive off the smaller Peruvian vessels or at least slow them down so that the troop ships can escape.

The Peruvians are having mostly their own way, tearing into the troop ships. The task is too big for the Chilean escorts, and the Peruvians are turning to hunt down the fleeing troop ships.

As the game was called to a close the Cochrane was limping badly astern of the other vessels. It looked like there was nothing that could be done to stop the Peruvians destroying the convoy.

Most of my changes worked okay, although I need to look at the critical hit rules which are insufficiently "Latin American", and also look at the firing mechanisms against ironclads. Compared to the Italian /Austrian ships in Ian's game these are small vessels with limited fire power so fire can take a while to have an effect which means the game may be realistic but is a bit slow at times.

The use of hexes rather than a hex board is still a matter of debate. At times it works really well, at others it doesn't. I tried to introduce a DBA -style conforming rule but that proved difficult to implement, no matter how good it looked on paper. I also may need to number them in sets to track who is going where for the ramming rules.

There's something here worth persisting with, I think, although whether it has enough to go to COW I'm not sure.

*All four of them