Friday, 7 September 2018

Colouring some Celts

So next year the SOA Battleday is Telemon a Republican Romans v Celts battle. The Celt army included a goodly number of naked warriors, and I don't have any of them in my current collection. Just lots of Airfix Ancient Britons.

Luckily over the last few years a WD friend, Tim, has been off loading bags of his "I'll never get round to them" 20mm plastics on me. One of these included some Italeri Gauls. These are quite nice, and, despite having a limited number of poses, include at least one naked warrior. In addition some of the bare chested figures are wearing trousers that are quite tight, and with a bit of carving round the ankles and application of thick paint can easily be mistaken for men in a state of undress.

The carving is quite delicate on the figures, and they are really well done, - nicely proportioned in decent poses. The shields are separate, so you get added variety because you get two shield designs. The javelin men have had their plastic weapons replaced by pins as usual.

I picked up another couple of boxes of these in my haul from Hereward at Peterborough. That also included a set of Hat "Carthaginian Allies", which have amongst their numbers two naked Celt poses, so that added some more variety to the pile to be painted.

With all of that together I have another 5 units all undercoated and ready to paint. As these will now form my "Fast Warbands", being 3 figures on a 60mm x 30mm base. Hopefully that'll be enough for the refight.

With the advent of these units I will probably rebase a lot of my Ancients Brits to make them "Solid Warbands" with 4 figures on a 60mm x 20mm base. That should make some space in my "Celtic Warband" storage boxes.

Looks like I'm going to need another pot of flesh paint, however.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Bridges of Cropredy

Following our epic refight of the Battle of Marston Moor I turned my attention to the southern campaign, and had a look at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge in the summer of 1644.

This is an awkward one. The armies don't line up and face each other, and the battle is fought in a rambling fashion over a large area, mostly by cavalry. On the other hand I was aware that the battle had been re-fought using the "Victory Without..." rules at COW many years back, so it must be possible, right?

My first call was the Nugget reports on the original COW game, and alas, they were not much help. Other than to let me know that the battle was an awkward one to fight.

I had to adjust the battlefield a bit as I wanted to use the squares again. I also modified the movement rules, increasing the distance units covered. Otherwise we'd have been there all night before anyone hit anyone (a problem the game at COW had I think). Unfortunately I probably over did it a bit.

This is the set up. The King's Army of Oxford has been playing cat and mouse with Waller's smaller army, and has got itself strung out as the Vanguard rushes off to the top of the picture, across Hay's Bridge to try and run down some Parliamentarian forces.

Seeing that this has evened up the numbers a bit Waller launches a pincer movement across two crossing points to pinch off the trailing units of the Royalist Army.

Waller and his cavalry brigade are at the bottom, just getting ready to cross the Cherwell at Slat's Mill. In the centre left his number two, Middleton, is ready to cross at Cropredy Bridge and accompanying ford, with the bulk of the army. He has to seal off the split in the Royalist forces by taking and holding Hays Bridge, and then combine to destroy the trailing units.

The game opened with Parliament rushing the dragoons defending Cropredy Bridge and ford, sweeping them away...

...Hazelrigge's Horse pursued them towards Hays Bridge.

The rest of Middleton's force burst across the river, and rushed for the higher ground. Out of shot, Waller's force was more cautious as it crossed the ford by the Mill, and tried to negotiate its way up the steep slope, against the grain of the ridge and furrow fields.

The Royalist column continued to head for Hays Bridge, but a couple of cavalry brigades wheeled off to provide cover.

Sorry for the fuzzy nature of this picture. Hazelrigge's men (centre of the picture)  managed to get up on the ridge line quicker than anyone expected (told you I got the move distances wrong), but the Royalist horse reacted quickly and turned to face.

Much to everyone's surprise the Royalist horse broke, and were pursued past their surprised foot. By this point two Royalist commanders had been unhorsed and captured, but I forgot to take pictures.

The Parliamentarians also had another win a bit further south, and that surprise rendered the unit next to them "Unsteady". So far Waller's plan was going much better than it did historically.

Waller's problem was that he was struggling to get his horse up the steep hill near the camera. Nothing was stopping the onward march of his foot across the table, however.

Eventually they burst up onto the ridge line, breaking their opponents at the cost of Waller falling off his horse.

Alas for Middleton he was unable to get his dragoons to Hays Bridge in time, and elements of the King's forces were able to return.

This prompted Richard, as Middleton, to start to form a defensive position with his foot to counter the threat.

Phil was rushing his cavalry across the river as quickly as the bridge would allow.

Meanwhile Astley had formed his foot into a hedgehog as the cavalry melees swirled around him.

At the bottom of the picture a very confused cavalry melee has some Parliamentarian horse broken by their Royalist opponents...

...who are shortly charged in the rear by some other Parliamentarian horse such that both units flee across Cropredy Bridge together, heading for Banbury and screaming "all is lost".

The Royalists were now holding Hays Bridge very securely.

Middleton is now sort of trying to conduct a retreat back to Cropredy, but he keeps changing his mind.

The Royalists are now firmly positioned on the hill in  front of Wardington. Scrappy cavalry melees are taking place all over the board, with units being caught in the flank and rear as local superiority occurs.

As night fell the Royalist counter attack had stopped the Parliamentarians, who were now certainly falling back from their high water mark. Waller has inflicted significant damage on the Royalists, but at a cost that has also weakened his army. Probably a better result for him than historically, however.

The game proved challenging but did provide an evening's entertainment. I had identified a number of the issues that would occur, but unfortunately didn't get all the fixes right. More work needs to be done to get it right, if I was to play it again.

The rules may have run their course. They have proved a useful tool to get real battles on the table top, but their limitations are becoming clearer. They work best if you use playing card activation most likely, and for a multiplayer game that just slows it down to much. The hand to hand rules are really too much of a blunt instrument with massive amounts of luck in them.

Where we go next, I'm not sure. The figures used for this battle were actually painted as the King's Army at Oxford and Waller's Army, but because of the figure scale I didn't get most of the foot regiments on the table. The units were painted as one base equals 50, but the figure scale here is 1 base equals 200. I want to use more of them in a more detailed and involved system. Phil is keen on Advanced Armati, and that does provide a good game. I think for my own peace of mind I have to look at the whole thing from scratch and see where I get to.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Back to Peterborough

How quickly a year comes round. Or at least it seems so some times. This Sunday we were back in "The Cresset" in Peterborough for the Hereward show, which we attended last year for the first time.

Despite our fairly late confirmation we had a prime spot in the main hall. Due to Chris getting there early we even bagged an extra table so we could set up our favoured U-shape, backed by our banners.

Hereward isn't a big show, but has a good selection of traders and some excellent participation games. We did steady business all day but weren't overwhelmed. Funnily enough although the footfall was considerably lower than at either Partizan we were busier talking to people than we usually are there, and we played the 1460 game more too. And we sold more books and games. Make of that what you will, - suffice it to say, if you live within driving distance of Peterborough then I think you should support the show. We have precious little in the East Midlands area on the wargames show front.

There were some eye catching games. This big DBA Rome v Carthage using the Hat 54mm figures looked lovely although I think I've seen them elsewhere. It is fun to see figures I've got in 20mm plastic looking "all growed up".

Whoever did the armies swapped out the Hat 54mm elephants however, which is a pity as I quite like the originals.

The massed ranks of Republican Romans always look so well organised.

The armies did finally end up hitting each other, but I don't know the outcome.

Just across from us was a Viking game using Playmobile figures and ships. They were full and busy all day with players of all ages, and everyone seemed to be having fun. They won an award for best game of some type. Well done to them for getting people to play games at a show.

The Battle of Malta game on a purpose printed cloth looked really effective. Apparently this is based on Google Earth with all the new build over laid with trees or rough ground. Looked really effective and I could forgive them having the playing aids on the table...

...but the presence of someone's lunch is pretty much unforgiveable.

Elsewhere MNG occasional, Graham S, and his missus enjoyed a game of 7TV, although in Graham's words "It's fun, but it always goes on too long".

Hereward doesn't have a bring and buy, but does have "Table Top Sales", where you can hire a half hour slot on an empty table. Chris A is feeling smiley because he's just picked up some 1/200 ACW river Ironclads at knockdown prices. As I was tied up on the stand he kept an eye on what was up, and sure enough the plastic figure guy from last year was back

This meant I was able to pick up most of the boxes of figures I regretted not buying last year. At 50p a box what's not to like, although alas the Republican Romans turned out not to have many figures in the boxes. However, as I was paying 50p for boxes of figures I paid £6 for a few weeks back it would be churlish to moan.

And then there was this. My Indian Mutiny armies have never had limbers, let alone an elephant drawn gun, so I had to have this, even though it cost me an outrageous £3.

So, all in all a very successful day.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Plastic Fantastic and Not

I managed to squeeze in a couple of painting sessions over the last few days, so I started on the figures I picked up last time I visited the model shop in Rugby that I wrote about which is closing down.

These are Hat Italian Allied Cavalry from their Punic wars range. I have put off buying any of these for close on 10 years now (just checked - actually 15 years) as I finished my Republican Romans and Carthaginians and had enough figures for all the options in the Army Lists for the rules I was using at the time. I had added units from the Infantry Allies box, but I never went fully into making pairs of legions with one Roman and one Allies. With the Society of Ancients Battle Day next year being the Battle of Telemon I thought I should have a look at my Republican Romans and Celts. I need to beef up the Romans and paint some of the Celts I have been accumulating over the last decade.

So when I saw a box each of the Italian Ally Cavalry and Infantry in Jotos I picked them up with the closing down sale discount. I need a box or two more probably (and maybe some rebasing...) but it is good to get a start .

As it is a Hat box, so to speak, you don't get lots of variety in the cavalry with 4 poses and three sprues. The poses aren't anything clever, but are understandable for soft plastic figures.  They mostly have ring hands for javelins, with one figure needing the plastic javelin removing and replacing with a pin, as usual.

The horses have all got body armour, which is probably excessive but looks nice. Same with the feathers. I suppose I could take the feathers off, but what the heck, they look nice.

I think another box will do me, for now. I'm at Hereward in Perterborough this Sunday, so I might get some there.

So, some nice looking figures that have painted up quite nicely with my normal technique. The depth of the carving on the figures isn't excessive but is just enough to take the tinted varnish.

So that's the Fantastic Plastic. Now for the less so.

As I reported in my blog about my visit to the Other Partizan I was the recipient of some very old Airfix figures including some Washington's Army and some others from a WD wargaming friend.

The Washington's Army have been separated out and bagged up in battalion sized units ready for painting. When I was doing this one of the figures snapped of its base, which was annoying but not a problem as I had some spares.

I then turned to the Waterloo Highlanders. The aim with these is to take off their packs and feather bonnets and turn them into Highland units for the '15 & '45 risings both Jacobite and Loyalist.

Alas this didn't go well. Firstly the muskets started to break off when I picked them up. Then as I carved them they started to powder away...

...and simply snap off their bases, and then arms and heads just came away. I have never seen plastic figures become so friable. I've heard about it as a problem, but I have figures of this vintage and never had problems like this.

I then thought I'd just need to sort the figures and find the ones that are good, but none of them are good. The ones that might just make it are losing the ends of muskets, and I'm now worried that even those that feel solid will come apart when I use them. I resolved that if the musket won't flex back when you bend it then the figure has to go.

So far I've got none that have passed that test.

And I've got a tray full of Ancient Britons from the same source that seem a bit fragile too.

Oh toot.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

An evening at Issus

MNG newbie Steve said he hadn't done any ancient wargaming, last time we met, so that needed to be rectified.

I settled on using AMW quickly as that's easily learned. I then chose Macedonians and Persians fairly quickly too as I think the phalangites look stunning. I was going to do just a "pick up" battle, but re-reading AMW I flicked through the Issus refight, and thought that might work quite well. So the table was quickly set up and doubling the number of units to 16 a side looked quite spiffing, so that was settled. For this game we used the General dice re-roll house rule we've used before, and also a single base in melee combat has to take a morale roll every turn to stop melees going on forever..

Will took the Macedonians ("Because they're going to be the winning side"), and Richard joined him. Phil and Steve took the Persians.

For this game I fiddled with the army stats a bit. I upgraded all heavy units to having medium armour, and I raised the quality of the Kardaces/Heavy Archers from Levy to Average. The Heavy Archers have a tough enough job as it is, without running away at the drop of a hat.

The set up was broadly speaking historical. Both armies had their heavy cavalry on their right, faced by javelin armed light horse. Will started off aggressively with the intent of crossing the river with Alexander and then going through the Persians like a knife through the proverbial. Phil told Steve to do the same - get out wide and get round the Macedonian flank as quickly as possible.

Phil appeared to be disputing the crossing, but in fact he was drawing Will in so he could use his javelins, supported by the bows of the Kardaces. Phil is the local master of light horse, so Will had no easy task.

Steve is trying to do something clever with his horse to produce two waves. This is probably not a good choice as it takes up time and lets Richard get his troops into position to refuse the flank better. Soon the hanging around is causing a problem as Richard's archers inflict a couple of hits.

The Companions splash into the river, lead by Alexander. The Persian javelins are starting to take their toll (BTW how do you feel about the new back drop doing? I think it is making things clearer).

After some cajoling from his colleague Richard moves up to the river with his phalangites. Steven has halted his Kardaces so he can shoot at them as they cross.

And the Persian heavy cavalry is into the river, taking a couple of hits in the process. Up at the top of the picture the inner most of the front Companions takes some withering fire from the Kardaces, and lose a couple of bases. That's a surprise.

The various missile units on the Macedonian left have inflicted enough hits to take bases off three units. Richard had his light archers stand their ground to get another round of shooting in. He is hoping to hold the cavalry in place then take them in the flank with his phalangites.

At the far end of the table it is carnage amongst the Macedonian cavalry from the hail of missiles. One unit down to a single base, and another carrying three hits.

The Persian right flank is all a bit laboured, but Steve is getting there. Another cavalry unit into the river discourages the phalangites from attacking the open flank, and the others are fanning out to force the light horse back and open up the rear of the Macedonian centre.

Without support the light archers are overwhelmed. Steve just now needs to work out how to unlock this end of the line properly.

In the centre of the battlefield the Persians' mercenary hoplites strike lucky as their opponents fail saving rolls and a morale test to be reduced to half strength. There are muted Macedonian recriminations as to whether trying to cross the river was a good idea.

With no cavalry opponents to get his hands on Alexander leads a unit of Companions head on into some Kardaces.

The melee now rages along the line of the river. Up top Alexander has taken quite a few hits, and the infantry aren't broken.

The Persian heavy cavalry has turned the position successfully, and are lining up to get as many units as they can to attack that beleaguered phalangite unit whilst keeping the light horse and javelins out of the way. Alas for them most of the targets they want to attack, - the Macedonian heavy infantry - are now on the other side of the river.

The game has moved on elsewhere. The Kardaces on the right of the Persian line held their position and didn't defend the river, to maximise the amount of shooting. They have now been caught by the opposing phalangites, lead by one of Alexander's subordinates. To the centre left the severely weakened Companions have been allowed to catch up with the light horse in an attempt to wipe them out quickly. At the top Alexander has killed one Kardaces unit, but it is taking too long. In the centre the line has become fragmented, and units of phalangites and hoplites are manoeuvring to line up opponents.

Following some dreadful attack dice rolling the Macedonian General commanding the centre intervenes personally to great affect causing 4 hits by using his re-roll attribute. Alas he dies in the attempt as well.

On the Persian right the cavalry are concentrating on clearing up the light infantry. The phalangites are rooted to the spot, awaiting the inevitable.

Finally Richard's nerve cracks, and he swings round to attack the horse on the river bank. He needs a quick win here, as the Persian horse won't be tied up killing the skirmishers for too long.

The skirmishers actually strike gold. They inflict a hit, which knocks off a base, and the unit fails its morale test and so loses another. The other Persian horse piles into the rear of the phalangites. At the top of the picture two units of Persian horse have finally pinned one of the Macedonian light horse units in melee.

Units are disappearing fast now. One of the Kardaces units under Steven's command lucks out and kills its phalangite opponents.

The phalangites on the river kill an opposing base, but are soon reduced to half numbers. The skirmishers are still holding on miraculously. The Macedonian phalanx is down to half numbers

The other Macedonian light horse charge in to try to extricate their colleagues, but fail. However, the Persian right flank General does die in the attack.

The centre is bit empty now. The Hypaspists and Apple Bearers line each other up, each with their C-in-C behind them. Could this be the climactic battle?

The phalangites finally keel over and die. It has been a hard slog.

As it was nearly midnight we stopped it there. It had been a gripping game, and I reckoned a marginal Persian victory.

When I went back into Shedquarters this morning to tidy up I couldn't resist running through a final few moves to see what happens. The Apple Bearers and Hypaspists hit one another and traded base losses quickly which works in favour of the Persians. Alexander was killed just as his last full Companion unit ran into the flank of the Apple Bearers.

The surviving Persian cavalry was now flooding back across the river to mop up the loose Macedonian infantry remnants. The Persian light horse at the top charged the Companions in the rear to even things up.

The Hypaspists die to the last man, and with some other bits and pieces the Macedonian army is now at break point, so it was a Persian win after all.

It was an engaging and intense game. I don't think anyone realised how long we had been playing (about 3 hours), and fortune swung both ways. The light horse had real impact on the game, being evasive and also effective with their javelins. The really did a number on their heavier opponents.

On reflection the armies were probably too big for an evening game, but with two a side we needed enough to keep everyone occupied. Adjusting the factors as described above kept the Persians in the game longer than normal and extended most of the combats.

So, all in all very satisfactory.