Tuesday, 17 April 2018

A Marlburian Muddle, of sorts.

We revisited the War of Spanish Succession last night, using a revised version of the rules. So we could get to the meat of it all more quickly I deployed the armies in advance, rather than require players to advance in column. The results were mixed, but some new ideas came out of it all, and some mechanisms worked quite well. Of course we still suffer from the same old problem of me forgetting what I've written down.

Will turned up first. Because I'm  nice chap I set up the Anglo-Dutch on his side of the table. Because I had been out most of the day visiting a relative in hospital I didn't have the chance to dream up a clever scenario or even reset the terrain from last week.

I have fiddled a bit with the game turn sequence. This means that when you set up as I have done here, with intermixed infantry and cavalry, the units appear to leap frog through each other but it seemed to work okay.

Will went for a general advance in an aggressive way. Play tests so far have indicated that the Anglo-Dutch perform well if they press the enemy hard.

I got to the line of the stream first, and decided to defend it on my left flank, to take a bit of the sting out of my opponent's shock cavalry.

On my right I tried to exploit a slight numerical advantage with a wide hook, and splashed across the stream.

Around the village Will put in a charge against a unit of my infantry. The cavalry made contact and although being disordered by defensive fire still prevailed and drove the infantry back (I need to look at the factors here, - not entirely satisfactory).

Phil had arrived by now and took over my position. In the centre will charged across the stream and broke the French horse. Elsewhere the infantry exchanged volleys and conversation was had about how to simulate the practice of inducing your opponent to fire first.

The French infantry by the village gave ground steadily.

The firefight over the stream intensified. Infantry units cannot close with the  enemy until they have established fire superiority.

The Anglo-Dutch succeeded in forcing the stream line, but the French cavalry were able to extricate themselves and drop back behind their infantry to regroup.

By the time we packed up the French infantry had performed fairly well, managing to close on their opposite numbers in several places and drive them back, whilst the Anglo-Dutch cavalry was besting the French equivalents almost everywhere.

A not entirely satisfactory game. Some aspects of the rules are functioning really well, others less so. I have an issue calibrating the precise values of the DRMs and how long they last for. The means by which cavalry can break off, rally and regroup need looking at again, as does probably a means to enable units to recover casualties.

In other news I have had delivery of a few packages of Washington's Army figures, receiving some from Will McNally via Phil (thanks Will) and also some from an ebay purchase arranged for me by my chum Tone.

I've also got some Airfix Cuirassiers luxuriating in a bath of paint stripper, and several boxes also winging their way from ebay too, - well 3 boxes for £10+p&p. Couldn't pass them up, could I?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

There's Fahsands Of Them. Honest

So to the other reason I went to the National War Memorial Exhibition in Wellington on the Great War.

As part of  the Great War commemoration Peter Jackson commissioned a large diorama of the Battle of Chunuk Bair, which took place in the Gallipoli campaign on the 8th August 1915. This battle was a heroic feat of New Zealand Arms, although it ultimately lead to failure as the ground captured was later lost.

The Gallipoli campaign is a nation defining event for both Australia and New Zealand. It is part of what defines these two countries as independent nations. To say they are key to the national psyche would be an understatement.

The diorama scenery was built by Weta Workshops. The figures are 54mm multi-pose plastic, designed by the Perry twins. The figures were painted by volunteer wargamers and military modellers across New Zealand who signed up to receive a box of figures, paint them to a pre-set standard and return them. As part of creating a nationally relevant memorial for the centenary I have to say that I consider this to be a work of genius. This is a model commemorating a nation defining event, built by the nation.

I was disappointed that there was nothing in the exhibition that talked about how the model was built. I spoke to several locals at the exhibition, all of whom were unaware of how it had been put together, - a missed opportunity to talk about the collective nature of commemoration which should be something we do, rather than is done for us.

The pictures below aren't in any particular order. I didn't know a lot about Chunuk Bair going in, and it was hard to work your way round the exhibit in a coherent way, without going backwards and forwards. The display is open at the top, but with high perspex screens, as you'll see in one of the pictures. This means that to get good pictures you have to hold your camera above the screen and just point. It was easier to get shots by using the zoom for figures on the far side of the display.

The perspex panels also had stickers explaining what was going on, which were informative, but also block clear pictures.

Anyway, here are my pictures without the usual smart-arse commentary, and I'm pleased to be able to share them with you. This is a most impressive piece of work.

A final note. As I said above the Gallipoli Campaign has a national importance in both New Zealand and Australia. It would be easy to forget that other troops from other nations were also deployed and fought. This point is made in the exhibition in a board showing troops deployed. Alas my picture of this isn't any good, so the numbers from Wikipedia are:

345,000 British (including Indians/Newfoundlanders)
79,000 French
50,000 Australians
15,000 New Zealanders

plus 2,000+ Chinese "coolies".

So, as you can see, the campaign was mainly fought by British troops of both regular and service battalions from the New Army. As a proportion of population it is probably the case that the ANZACs were a greater percentage, hence the relative importance. Gallipoli casulaites are dwarfed on our war memorials compared with Ypres and the Somme.

There is a part of the national story, particularly in Australia, that basically still sticks to the line that the British were useless in the Great War, from the officers down, and that the only troops who could be relied upon to do anything were those from the Antipodes. I think that this view has been debunked in the writings of the last 20 years, but I have still found it in on-line resources from respectable Australian Military Museums.

There is a similar potentially sour note in this display. There is a reference to the Glosters wavering and being driven back to their trenches by the Wellington Battalion at bayonet point. Since coming back I can't find a reference to this anywhere (although I don't have access to the official history) and so I do not know whether it is true or not, or whether it falls into part of the Antipodean Great War superman narrative.

I do know that out of 1,000 men the Glosters took over 800 casualties, whilst the Wellingtons took 700 out of 760. You don't need to belittle the bravery of one group of men in order to magnify that of another.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Colouring the Past

During our recent holiday in New Zealand we visited Wellington. Wellington has got two exhibitions commemorating New Zealand's contribution to the Great War. Both were organised by Peter Jackson and the Weta Workshops (if you don't know the latter did the costumes, scenery, visual effects, prosthetics and weapons for the Lord of the Rings).

Due to a timing error, - we stayed in Martinborough the night before and the drive to Wellington was interminable* - we were only able to visit one of them, and I chose the one at the National War Memorial, not the one in the national museum "Te Papa" for reasons you will see in this blog and probably the next.

Peter Jackson is a genius. I thought his achievement with LOTR was impressive before we went to NZ. If you then see how he made the films, and then what he has done with the influence he has gained you have to be impressed. His attention to detail is overwhelming, and he has a clear vision and knows how to tell a story.

One of the controversial things he did for theis exhibition ("The Great War Exhibition") was to take photographs from the IWM collection and have them "colourized". This caused a degree of outrage at the time, with the usual "dumbing down" and "pandering to the masses" type comments. As we all know the First World War was fought entirely in black and white.

Except for in the paintings of the war artists.

And we also tend to forget that in the early days of cinema  Georges Méliès had his films hand coloured, so this isn't actually unusual at all.

Anyhow, I was able to get some decent photos of some of the colourised pictures, and I've posted them below. I was really impressed, and I wish I had taken the time to get good shots of more of them, but then I really wanted to see...but more of that next time.

What do people think?

*The road is very twisty and goes across a mountain range. Apparently Wellingtonians love to go out for a Sunday drive on it, and people with camper vans can only manage about 10mph. What looks like a 40 minute drive on the map is closer to two hours. And we had a nightmare getting out of Martinborough as all the roads were closed for a sponsored walk round the local vineyards.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Back with some WSS

It's been quiet here as Mrs T & I have been away on holiday in New Zealand for the whole of March, and a bit more. Despite the jet lag I thought it was time to get back in the saddle, and re-visit my Marlburian rules, which are intended for COW this year.

Alas re-reading what I last wrote did not bring back a feeling of deja-vu, so this was a re-learning experience all round.

My players were to be Will & Phil, who both braved a wet and cold night to be with me. I put together an encounter battle, with even numbers of units aside. Will got the French (top right) and Phil the Anglo-Dutch.

I've got some extra units on the way once I get my paintbrush back in hand, but this is the first time I've got the horse and foot units in the right proportions. This is a column of French, advancing towards the river/stream.

This is a small column of Dutch.

The "English" contingent marching on to the table.

Finally the last column of French.

Both sides took advantage of being in March Column to press forwards aggressively. The French are winning the initiative rolls, but it makes little difference at this stage.

The cavalry is shaking out into line on both sides. A slip up here with the initiative could cause a lot of problems.

The infantry are getting ready to engage over the bridge at the far end of the table, whilst the cavalry shape up to each other.

Near the village an epic cavalry engagement has started. The Anglo-Dutch have the upper hand, but only just. The buildings are being contested by infantry.

The French cavalry is having the worst of it, but the Anglo-Dutch are becoming tired and are too far away from their supports.

We had to stop with the game nicely poised. As we hadn't met up for a month or more our ratio of chat to game play was higher than normal.

Still, good to be back at the table.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Edgcote-ing some more ideas about

Before the snow closed us down a little bit earlier than normal Phil & I reviewed the state of our Edgcote project last night.

My winter work shedule has been to break the back of the painting of the figures for this project. Phil has done a lot of the armour dry brushing and a few of the characters, but due to other commitments and issues on his part I've done the detailed work. This means I've just steadily slogged through the 200 or so figures we'll be using. There are still a few to go, and we need some mounted figures, which we don't yet have, but we're in a good place.

Phil has been experimenting with the basing. We're looking at 8-9 figures on an 80mm frontage in sort of three ranks. Three of these bases make up a standard unit for "Hail Caesar", which will be the core combat system we're probably going to use.

We needed some time to set out what we've got and talk about relative army sizes and so on. That picture above is most likely about the size we need to be for the battle part of the game. The units need to be deployed just in bow range, so that sort of sets the depth we need, and the width will come from the army sizes.

The basing obviously needs to be finished, and some of the figures swapped round. We're thinking of having a simple campaign game that will need army markers to move between off-battle locations. I think that fully armoured knights with some of Graham Fordham's "Fluttering Flags" banners will look rather spiffing. The reason for the campaign element is that there's a lot of interesting narrative to get across, and the battle has less incident than Northampton. We therefore needed a different approach to tell the story of why things happened and ended up where they did.

We ran a few test dice rolls, and we need some casualty markers. "HC" can be prone to massive swings in fortune based on a couple of die rolls, so we may need to temper that a little bit and we might need a few extra really useful rules. We may end up with some troop types and troop factors not previously seen under "HC", which, for all of the claims, isn't really a medieval set of rules. Well, not late medieval anyway.

So it all looks rather good.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Going to War Again

Hard on the heels of the North Korean game Shedquarters was reconfigured for a figure game. Gary was over for his first go at the WSS rules, specially written for him as he's reading Charlie Spencer's book on the Great Duke. The aims for the rules are:

  1. Capture the period flavour of the WSS
  2. Be readily playable by a toy soldier novice
  3. Be quick and simple, with a result in 3 hours

Looks easy, but I think that's quite a difficult ask. The rules we played were in quite good shape due t the previous playtest with Phil, but I was aware bits were still missing (command and control is rudimentary to say the least) and I had to rely on being able to gloss over the shortfalls or just make stuff up on the spot.

Gary and I decided on the scenery between us. I had no scenario in mind, other than an encounter battle. At this point Gary confessed he hadn't got to the bits about the fighting yet in the book, so I filled him in on the basics of early 18th century West European Warfare.

Gary got the Anglo Dutch, - to the left of the picture, - and I got the French. I put my chaps out first, and then put the kettle on whilst Gary sorted out his deployments. He went for a strong left and right wing with a gap in the middle covered by cavalry. I tried to deploy in several mutually supporting lines of infantry and cavalry.

First off we both advanced. Here's Gary getting used to measuring things with a tape measure.

Gary had a lot of cavalry in the middle in march column. He moved it forwards quite aggressively. I warned him about not allowing enough space to deploy. Like he'd done in "Ney vs Wellington".

My army has shaken out into rows, and it looks quite...."Marlburian", if a French Army can ever be that. Gary has pushed his cavalry quite far forwards....

.... and then, scared by my foot, he about faced and ran away. On his left, Gary has set up all his guns in a big battery, and is lining up to make a defensive corner behind the stream.

And on the other wing he's setting up a defensive line on the hill top. He's covered his flank with a couple of units of cavalry.

Meanwhile my infantry are making a brave showing in the centre, supported by my cavalry. It's all looking good.

The Anglo Dutch cavalry continues to flee before our advance. Perhaps my opponent is drawing me into a trap.

Gary finally unleashes his cavalry straight into the front of some formed infantry. A devastating volley brings them to a halt.

My cavalry then sweep past to exploit the gap that is opening up.

On my right, having softened them up with some artillery and musket fire, my cavalry punches a hole through the Anglo Dutch Infantry line. Alas, the cavalry may have gone too far. What do the pursuit phase rules say?  Oh, I haven't written them yet.....

As I press forwards in the centre the issue with the game sequence becomes clear. You can't fire the turn you step into range, so end up getting blasted by your stationary opponent. This needs looking at (although, as we all know, by the 1740s the accepted tactic was to make your opponent fire first).

It is all looking jolly splendid. I'm on the attack everywhere, but a lot of my stuff is looking a bit ragged. And I'm running out of cavalry as it chases off its opponents.

Not so short that I can't take a chance on over running some infantry trying to cross a marshy brook, however.

Over on my right I deem it time to start pressing my opponent a bit. My troops advance from the village, and I move cavalry up in support.

On my left my single unit of cavalry has seen off one of Gary's, but is in no fit state to face his fresh reserves. Sensing my weakness, the Anglo Dutch have started to advance from their hill top position. My artillery on this flank, by the way, didn't hit a thing all game, pretty much. However, I sense the opening of an internal flank on my left, so I swing some of my centre cavalry across to exploit it.

As predicted my left flank cavalry are off towards the table edge, helter-skelter fashion. By the way, that's a square just to the right of the hill. There's a problem with 3 element units in this period.

In the centre Gary is trying to charge infantry frontally again, after he saw it work for me.

A coordinated infantry and cavalry attack lets me get to grips with the Dutch infantry at the base of the hill.

On the right centre Gary is trying to get some forces in place to cover the return of my pursuing cavalry.

I break the Dutch infantry on the left, who flee up and over the hill. Gary manages to get his other foot out of the way in time to stop it all turning into a rout.

I'm pressing forwards everywhere, but I'm light on reserves now. On my left there's some cavalry out of the picture about to cause me some grief.

On the right two infantry battalions have finally closed and their melee is swaying backwards and forwards.

This the position when we finished the game. I've cracked the centre with my infantry, but have too little cavalry to exploit this. I've got nothing to cover the cavalry on my left, which has over run my guns. On the right I have the initiative, but I'm outnumbered. If the Anglo Dutch infantry sort themselves out I've got problems.

So, how did I get on with my three aims?

Well, it looked like a WSS battle. Phil popped in part way though and agreed on this point, so that's not a bad start. The way we set up and fought didn't give me much chance to test the rules allowing cavalry to fight & recover behind infantry. Units degraded more quickly than I might have liked, and artillery, in Gary's case, turned out to be more powerful than I would have liked.

Gary got to grips with it quickly, and his problems were what to do with his army, not understanding the rules. So, big tick there.

Finally, it took us 5-6 hours to get this far, with a break for lunch & drinks. So, more than the three hours, although part of that was because it was a new rules system.

Good progress I reckon. Areas of the rules need to be looked at, and I think my attempt to get Neil Thomas simplicity has to go. I want flavour in more areas and perhaps it's just a type of rules I can't write.

I wonder if I can get the re-write done before Monday?