Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Taiping Tribulations

Having painted my buildings it was time to include them in a game.

Firslty, however, just for Tony, here are some eye-candy pictures of the finished articles:

I suppose this is the front....

...or perhaps this is? Probably the side with the crenellations is the front, so that would mean the top picture. In which case, this is the back. I put it on a hill because the Great Wall is mostly on the top of hills. At least the bit I visited is.

The Chinese Walled Garden House has now got another set of walls round the outside to finish it off.

So the game was a field force of Taipings defending a town against a force of Manchu and Chinese Bannermen and a few units of Mongol Horse*. My aim in this game was to provoke a lot of hand to hand combat to try out some rule re-writing I'd been doing. I'm having some issues with "Taiping Era" that are proving intractable. The hand to hand rules are not as clear to me as they should be, and the outcomes can swing too violently. Just when I think I've fixed them for European v Chinese combat I find I've broken them for Imperials v Taiping. It might be that my aim to have one set of rules that cover all types of conflict in mid-19th century China using one core mechanism isn't achievable, but I feel I need to keep trying.

So, Taipings to the left, commanded by me & Chris K, Imps to the right with Chris A and Phil.

Phil had the Mongol Hordes and swept up into the hills. I should have made them impassable.

I responded by putting my cavalry on alert and forming a square/schiltron/hedgehog with my Taiping spear men.

Chris was forced to do the same because of the Manchu horse on the other flank.

Soon my cavalry were clashing with the Mongols.

I won the first round of combat and drove them back. With the rest of the horde gathering that might have been a mistake. In the centre the Tiger Men had chased off our jingals in the battle of the skirmishers (NB must write some rules for when skirmishers fight other skirmishers.)

Elsewhere we waited for the Imperial onslaught.

And wondered why the photos suddenly went dark. Both my cavalry units were now getting the worst of it, outnumbered 8 : 2 they were putting up a brave fight, but it wasn't looking promising.

One of my cavalry units was now almost completely surrounded. The Imp infantry charged my square, but it availed them naught.

At the other end of the table Chris K launched a ferocious series of charges on the Imp foot, driving them back. The Manchu cavalry circled round, reluctant to close.

All my cavalry were now broken and were fleeing in disarray. In the centre my foot were advancing steadily.

The Imps facing our left were in a bit of disorder now, as Chris followed up his attacks. The stand off round his square was tying up a lot of Imp units.

The Mongol Hordes were working their way round our rear. It didn't look good. But at this point both the Chris' had to leave, so we put the game on hold.

I played through a few more turns the following morning. My advance in the centre was halted by the need to form square because of the Mongol Horse in the rear.

The other flank was on hold as desultory matchlock fire held off the horse, who refused to charge.

Yes, in the shadow of the Great Wall it was all a bit static.

We continued to drive off the Imp foot on our left, and would probably be able to breakout.

On the other side it was all a bit helpless. Pinned in place and subject to greater firepower it was merely a matter of time before my squares collapsed.

So a win to the Imps, just about, down to their overwhelming cavalry strength. I learnt a lot about the rule re-writes, which seem to be going the right direction. You'll note that compared to earlier games this was played on offset squares, so some adjustments needed to be made. I was reluctant to make the change, but it did improve the way the game worked with all the cavalry about, so it will be persisted with.

Still some work to do.

But the buildings looked nice.

Although I do need some more Taipings and a few more Imp command figures, now I've written command rules.

*BTW I am aware the Pings didn't get as far north as the Wall. But it looks nice.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Chinese Painting Puzzle

Having painted the Wall, I really needed to turn my attention to the walled house. Whilst it is quite effective in its original colour it now looks out of place next to another model of the same sort which has obviously been painted. I also had to cut off the lugs under the base and glue the remnants in place so the building held together and didn't look like it was floating in the air anymoe.

One of the reasons it didn't get painted first time round was it was hard to work out exactly what was what before it was assembled, and once I'd struggled to assemble it I didn't want to take it apart.

I knew I'd have to take the roof off to paint it, so that needed some space to lay it all out and keep it the correct order so I could put it back again. That's why it is out on the table in Shedquarters not on my desk.That then meant I wasn't sure how much I needed to take off. In the end I took out the roof beams as well. For the painting style I based it on my visit to Shenzhou when we were in China back in 2013, which is mainly white with grey tiles and black wooden framing

I stained the wood with heavily diluted paint again so I could see the printing. This was less of a success as the printing was in a light-ish brown instead of black and more easily obscured, and using white made it more difficult as well. Now I'd given myself a problem as I wanted to have external walls white and internal walls in plain wood and I couldn't tell what was what with the roof off.

And I also wasn't sure how to paint the central courtyard.

As you can see the white isn't as white against the pine wood colour as you'd like. I also decided to varnish the internal floors with wood stain varnish and ended up varnishing all the floors as, again, I wasn't sure which were in and which were out.

With some relief I was able to get the roof back on in the right sequence. The paint made some of the wood swell so it was a bit of a push to get some of the pieces back in place.

A quick splash of green on the base still showing externally finished it off as a bit of contrast to the white walls.

The following morning when I got it back inside I realised I had gaps between the wall and base, so I needed to put pollyfilla round the outside and repaint in green. I also found that the over painted printing didn't work so well so I painted over the symbols and window markings in black. This had a mixed success as my hand went a bit wobbly whilst painting.

I wasn't sure how you capture the effect of the Chinese Garden, either. I thought about gluing in some pebbles and other bits and pieces to make it more 3D like, but decided not to as it is the only flat space you can stand figures on in the model. I therefore did some impressionistic blotches in grey, brown and yellow and hoped for the best.

I think it looks okay, which is a relief. Painting a model like this is a bit of a risk, because if you don't like the result you can't undo what you've done because it's wood and you can't dip it in paint stripper.

Any how, ready for Monday's game.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Building the Great Wall

Well, it's no good buying one of these if you don't build it, so I set aside an afternoon and set to it. I 'd had an initial go a few days back, but got confused about which way round things went. I decided I needed more space so I could lay out the sheets of pieces like they were in the instructions and also have room to build it, so I put all the pieces back in the frames and set it aside for a later date.

One of my tables in Shedquarters turned out to be perfect for the resumption of the build. The light is good, and these do produce a lot of bits and saw dust, so it's best to be out of the house as well.

It wasn't completely intuitive at first, and the numbers in the instructions were really small. I also felt the need to glue some bits in place in preference to using the locking-lugs which protrude from the base area.

As I added more bits it all became clear how it was supposed to look. Some bits were a tight fit, and others left gaps. These kits are not as well engineered as those I got in Iran last year.

A quick test showed that after my re-basing my Chinese would be able to mount guard if required.

A bit of clamping was needed, however, to keep it all together whilst glue dried.

Shaping up well, I think.

I didn't finish it all in one afternoon, and had to retreat in doors to avoid Storm Brian whilst I put together the vegetation. Surprisingly annoying as I didn't need to snap the lugs off after all, - concealed by the bushes - and I was thrown by a typo in the numbering of the pieces.

I decided to try to paint this model, but was concerned that I'd lose the stonework printing. The puzzle is made out of soft plywood so I mixed up some really dilute vinyl paint and used it as a wood stain. I was able to trial it on the frames left after I'd taken out the pieces, and it looked like it would work okay.

I disconnected all the shrubbery round the base and stained it green. It was important to keep the pieces in order and not mix then up, something I almost achieved.

It clipped back together okay.

So I nipped out to Shedquarters again and put the guards back on it. They won't fit "All along the watch tower", something I'd try to cure if I had my time again.

I think it looks rather spiffing.

In summary, easier to build than the Chinese house, - or at least easier on the fingers. It is about two feet long, - so not sure how practical it is. It'll just probably sit in the corner of the table and look cool, although the shrubbery looks like it might have wider usage.

The experiment with the staining is a success, so I'll revisit my other building when I've got the time.

Yes, feeling rather chuffed with this.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Uploads Updated

It's been a while, but I have updated some of my download links over on the right.

You can now get my Sumerian Warfare rules "To Ur is Human", and also the most recent versions of "Taiping Era" for warfare in mid-19th Century China, and "If You Tolerate This" for the Spanish Civil War. Both of these latter two have had significant changes from the previous versions.

It's been a while since I tried to upload any links, so let me know if they don't open.

Any comments welcome.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Monday Night in Mesopotamia

It's been a few days since a posting, and the frequency has dropped off a bit for a number of reasons. The main one is that I'm actually doing paid work on a contract which involves commuting to Belfast and that's taking up time, cutting into my wargaming as well as my blogging.

Anyhow, this Monday I'm back at Trebian Towers and not due to jet off until next week (a sound choice, I think you'll agree, with Hurricane Ophelia bearing down on the Emerald Isle) so a chance to re-assemble the Monday Night Group and fit in a game.

Whilst I've been spending some time on my 19th Century Chinese I thought I'd go back to a project I last looked at in 2014. That's the Sumerian armies, and my "To Ur is Human" rules. Well, why not?

It is always entertaining going back to something you wrote a number of years ago and wondering "What does that mean?" and "Why did I do that?". It's also quite helpful. When developing rules you can get into the same loop in terms of looking for game play solutions and taking a break can free up the thought process. Certainly taking a few year's break from the SCW improved "If you tolerate this" an enormous amount. "To Ur" has a central combat system that is still essentially ripped off from Neil Thomas' "Ancient and Medieval Wargaming" and probably needs replacing (although Phil likes it because (quote) "I understand it".

The scenario was that King Ergan of the Arkadians was out to punish the Erammites who had stopped paying him tribute. He had brought a large force with the aim of crossing the river that marks the border of Eram, burning a few villages and taking some Erammites as slaves.


Will and Chris K got the Arkadians, and Phil got the Erammites. In the picture below Will and Chris are to the right, Phil to the left. I did a quick introduction and ran through the salient points of the rules. Chris K missed the whole "To Ur..." development cycle and both Will and Phil claimed not to remember anything (although particularly in Phil's case you could see his eyes light up as he remembered how it was all supposed to hang together.

Chris took a look at the board, asked me whether the Battle Carts were Tanks or Helicopters* (er...neither, they're sort of fear and pursuit weapons) and then positioned his unit lined up on the ford for an opening charge, rather than leave them on the wing for a lightening dash to the rear which was where I'd put them.

So turn one, scene one, battle carts ordered to charge.

The rules have a three level Fear mechanism. Units are either in Fight, Fright or Flight mode. In order to charge you take a Fear Test, which tells you if the chargers will charge and if the defenders will stand. The test takes into account a few modifiers, such as support and whether you're likely to win the melee and cross references them with a die roll and unit type (Elite, Trained etc). That tells you if your fear level goes up or down.

In this case the Battle Carts looked at the block of infantry with supports on the ford and decided not to go, dropping to Fright mode. Even so, they were urged forward a square, and sat opposite the Erammite unit glaring at one another across the ford.

As both sides had a fair number of light troops with javelins, slings and bows casualties were already being inflicted.

The fords were proving to be a particular focus of attention.

As his Battle Carts resolutely refused to charge, Chris moved up his Lugal (General) to encourage his Carts to get on with it. They weren't having it.

On their right flank Will pushed forwards with his Battle Carts supported by massed archers.

Will then launched his Carts at the slingers guarding the stream. Phil by this point was demonstrating that he could, on occasion, exceed the odds on the dice consistently. Not only did they refuse to run as the wagons rumbled towards them....

....but they also inflicted a reverse upon the nobles of Arkadia that they will find it hard to live down.

By this point Phil was feeling quite pleased with himself and Will & Chris, whilst not in actual despair, were gazing upon the ruination of their plan with dismay.

Chris had to try to extract his carts in order to bring up his Guard infantry (the blokes in the white capes).

This occasioned a counter attack by Phil's infantry across the ford, which saw the Carts leave the field in a hurry.

The heavy infantry of both sides was now engaged all along and across the line of the stream. Some of the Arkadian infantry was already heading for home.

Chris had succeeded in forcing the line of the river and was fighting amongst the huts of one of the villages. His elites had also broken their opponents and were about to cross at the ford.

In the next two moves it all went a bit gooey for them, however. A counterattack in the village sent Chris' infantry away in Flight, and on the other side of the Arkadians at the ford, vigorous use of combined heavy and light troops had also broken the rest of the Arkadian phalanx. It was game over for the invaders. The Erammites won't be paying any tribute for a while.

I was a bit rusty with the rules, but I think we soon got into the rhythm of how it all works. The Fear Test component can be a bit extreme at times, but overall it works as I'd like. There's no real need to tamper with the system, but I might take some time to look at the combat mechanism if I'm not working on anything else.

Quite a fun way to pass a Monday evening.

*This is short hand in the MNG devised by Ian Russell Lowell. It means are they battering rams, like Assyrian chariots, or do they flit around shooting lumps of folks like Egyptian ones.