Thursday, 31 January 2019

Tartan Terrors Two

I've summoned up the courage to have a go at the Jacobites. Before I do, however, I really must point you at this blog, which I found when looking for finished pictures of Strelets figures: link. Rod McArthur is a man after my own heart (although, in truth, he got there first). He only collects 1/72nd plastics, which he converts into anything he needs, and he has the most brilliant spreadsheets for planning his painting schedule, complete with GANTT charts. Hats off to him. Hopefully I will find a way of meeting up with him at some point.

Anyway, suitably inspired I set about my first Rebel units. I settled on doing the Royal Ecossois (no tartan there) and a generic unit of Highlanders.

Which had a lot of tartan. This is going to take forever, if this unit is any thing to go by.

For the Royal Ecossois, who were raised and equipped in France, I used some figures intended for Lowland Militia in the " Militia & Loyalist" box from Redbox. There's a bit of flash on them, but they are fine figures with nice detail. The officer is obviously intended to be some Edinburgh big wig (literally) and he has lovely facial detail, including glasses perched on the end of his nose.

I note that Rod M has taken the same view on the REs, so I'm in good company. Some illustrations have them in tricorns, but I rather like the bonnets.

The other units is a mixed bag of Redbox figures from the "Militia & Loyalist" box and some from each of the Strelets Jacobite boxes.

You'll note that I've gone for deeper bases, and I'm using 5 figures per element as well. I wanted to show a mix of firearms and melee weapons, and also get a sort of "two ranks" effect, without doubling up the number of bases. Jury's still out, but I'm coming round to thinking it works.

Here's a command stand with a piper. Again the Redbox figures have some lovely detail. Shame about the flash you get with them. The Strelets are a bit more rough and ready, but they're certainly animated as you can see from below.

I even have a man in trews in this lot.

The tartan is looking okay, but it is increasing the painting time a lot. Can't see a way round the problem alas.

This is going to keep me busy until summer, I think.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Tales of the Cid

After a bit of a break for them I got out the plastic Reconquista figures again. I wanted to give them a go with Armati after I'd had another look at the army lists. I'm struggling to be satisfied with any lists I've looked at. The evidence we have is sketchy in detail, so individual interpretation is King. For my part there are also things I think look "right" but run contrary to most designers requirements. I prefer my cross bows with 3 figures per base rather than two, for example.

It was thus on a cold and snowy night that we were to try out some small experiments with El Cid & Armati.

So the armies were a bit bigger than the normal Armati armies, and included a different troop mix and some extra troop types, too (why does no one like slingers?). I wanted to try something with a fight on a plain near to a rocky mountain area. I did the mountains and valleys by putting together a number of hills with gaps between. This then cried out for a river to flow out of the hilly area. Then Richard arrived and observed that my "Great Wall of China" looked a bit like a Spanish fortress, so that filled in the corner.

We started the game with Richard & me as the Arab alliance of Al-Andalus and the Almoravid invaders. Tim & Steve took the Christians. Phil turned up a little later and helped them out (although he couldn't do anything about Tim's die rolling).

Richard had the left wing and pushed our light troops into the hilly uplands.

Both sides moved steadily towards the stream. Our secret weapon was the camel units mixed in with the heavy cavalry, to confound those hard charging Christian Knights

On my wing I was facing off against Steve, who was giving it all considerable thought. He'd been lumped with the set up I put on the table, which Phil dissected in the post match discussion (the reserves are too big to manoeuvre properly, and the foot have been deployed too wide for starters).

I confidently decided we did not need to evade in our turn, but had estimated the distances completely wrongly. Consequently my LC with javelins got caught by Heavy Cavalry, and my LC with bows got caught by Steve's LC with javelins, who have a higher fighting value. Oops. In this period LC are key units. This could have proved a costly error, as there's nearly enough BPs up for grabs out there to break the army.

Over on Richard's flank he'd set up a flank trap for Tim's cavalry, although this was at the risk of being duffed up by the Light Heavy Infantry Cross Bows.

I got lucky on my flank, and succeeded in killing one of Steve's light cavalry, causing a division break and pushing the initiative in our favour. My light cavalry javelins are holding on against the Christian Knights. The Caballeros Villanos are lining up to come through the gap which it is expected will open up soon.

The mounted units clash on Richard and Tim's flank. Tim has staggered the charge to avoid too many units hitting the camels. The camels on the far end, however, do manage to panic their opponents, which will be great news if we can get the flanking light cavalry involved.

This is just a colourful eye candy shot.

The light infantry are at it in the mountains. This terrain stuff needs a bit of working out.

On the right the light cavalry battle has gone in my favour. I'm wheeling that unit on the right in order to make a flank attack next turn. Then I realise, after a prompt, that by stepping one of his reserve cavalry units forward Steve will be able to catch them. Ah.

The tussle on the left continues. Still looks lovely and colourful.

Richard has broken the end Christian Knight unit, and his camels and light horse fall upon the next victim. The camels again panic their opponents, which leaves Phil incredulous. Surprised me too. Never seen it happen before, let alone twice for the same unit in the same game.

Having inflicted a shooting hit on the Villanos, my light horse go for the evade move. We were going to lose the initiative roll anyhow (BTW I'm using blue counters as I've run out of black "fatigue" rings).

Richard was steadily winning the battle for the hills and valleys, but this was now a sideshow as no key units were out there.

Richard rolls up another group of Christian riders. I'm now reduced to using green markers for fatigue.

Finally I fluke a win in the big cavalry melee on my flank, giving Richard & me the game 6 kills to 5.

I note that I don't seem to have taken many pictures of the big infantry melee in the middle of the table, which is a shame, but it was proving inconclusive.

I can't claim we showed any particular tactical prowess in achieving our win. As I said above we were helped by some abysmal die rolling by our opponents that enabled us to inflict quite a few shooting hits before closing, and the camels out performed expectations massively.

I have never written my own rules for these armies, and I don't know if I want to now. Using Armati as a basis for scenario games, with specific tweaks for each battle might be the way to go. But it might also be an idea to have a look at Dux Bellorum too for a comparison.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

More Russian About

Following on from the 28mm skirmish last week we were back in the USSR for some more Red/White action. As this game was held on the day of the first snowfall of 2019 I was concerned that I might be down a bit on numbers. However we had a good turnout, with Tim, Richard & Dave all showing up. I was pleased to reflect at this point that these were all people I was not wargaming with 12 months a go, so it only goes to prove that wargaming is a social hobby where you meet real people.

So this game is a return to my last set of RCW rules "Return to the River Don". These started out as a bit of a mashup based on Peter Pig's ACW rules, but it slowly morphed into having its own character. Notable changes from the set posted on the blog, top right, include a complete re-write of the melee rules (now much more streamlined) and simplifications to the command rules and morale suggested by Mark Grindlay and Peter Clarke of the Phoenix Club, who used the rules for their 1920 Polish campaign.

For the evening's entertainment we had a prosperous village (new buildings courtesy of Bob Cordery) defended by a Regiment of White Infantry, a Brigade of Cavalry and a battery of guns. The Reds were aiming to liberate it with two Regiments, an armoured car, a battery of guns, and possibly some cavalry.

Tim took the Whites. Here's a battalion lining the edge of a built up area.

This is the overall layout for the village. The Whites have cunningly placed an artillery spotter in the church tower.

The Reds shifted all their troops to the left to attack the White right flank with their full power, whilst pinning their left with a feint attack.

Richard had the "left left" and Dave the centre left. It's turn one, and everyone is obeying their orders nicely. See all the "Da!" markers on the table.

The armoured car veers off the road to support the attack.

The defenders of the farmstead have taken some casualties, and drop back having failed a morale check (I should not at this point that Tim had some very bad luck with his command rolls)

The Red commanders drive their men forwards.You can just see the odd "Coercion" marker appear behind units, as the Commissars give them a talking to. In the distance the White Cavalry has been sent off on a wide flanking manoeuvre. Will they get there in time to make a decisive intervention?

Richard's Naval battalion turned the flank of the Whites who had retreated previously, and routed them.

Dave was having less good luck. In an attempt to drive his infantry forwards he got into a bit of a "Coercion spiral", and his troops ended up refusing to advance (note the Mutiny marker at the back of the board). The chaos resulted in some shootings taking place. In addition Dave's clever plan to deploy his MGs separately and shoot up the farm prior to reserving fire against a potential cavalry attack came a bit unstuck, and the unit never got the order to reserve fire.

By this time Tim had gone home, so I took over the Whites, and was able to launch a devastating cavalry charge. The Machine Gunners fled.

Despite my success with the cavalry, Richard's Naval Battalion were lining up the defenders of the church compound for another flank attack. Elsewhere Dave was pressing forwards to keep the Whites in place so Richard could administer the coup de grace.

And that was about it. The cavalry was too far away to interfere, and aren't really suitable to counter attack built up areas anyway. Win for the Reds, and they didn't even get their cavalry on.

Everyone said they enjoyed the game, and that they liked the rules. The game is really all about the command and control and the combat mechanisms are secondary. The challenge is to make units actually do something in the order you want them to, and that seems to occupy the players satisfactorily.

As ever there are some changes that need to be made. I was a bit slow on running the game as it has been quite a few years since these boys were out. The firing system has problems that weren't evident in the game, but there are loop holes that can be exploited, so they need a rethink.

But an appropriate way to spend a chilly evening, I think.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

A Tale of Derring-Do amongst the Bolsheviks

For the second game of the year MNG-r Richard brought along his 28mm Russian Civil War figures and his set of the "Triumph & Tragedy" Pulp Era wargames rules. We were a bit thin on the ground, so he had me running the Reds on my own, and Tim playing the Whites.

This was a scenario based around the supposed escape of the Princess Anastasia following the assassination of the Romanovs. She's holed up in the house with some Red Guards and some Austrian POWs who have switched to the Reds, having mistaken them for Germans. A British secret agent ("Algy") has just landed in a plane, top left, to attempt a rescue. It is early dawn.

Algy and the attractive lady pilot/love interest sneak up to the wall surrounding the house where the supposed Princess is supposedly seeking safety.

Meanwhile Commissar Ivanov (that's me) is arriving to take charge of the situation.

Algy tries to bluff his way into the house, but despite speaking fluent Russian, fails his "Con Artist" roll spectacularly by rolling a 3.

Algy and his friend flee, as the guard snaps off a rifle shot. He misses.

The Austrian artillery crews however have grabbed their side arms and let off a fusillade of shots, wounding the pilot.

Help is arriving. The British Naval Attache arrives in his car, just as some Czech Legion cavalry emerge from the woods.

The Austrians rush Algy's hiding place and try to capture him.

Algy is having none of it, and puts up a stiff resistance. Alas for him, the pilot is killed.

Having seen my armoured car, Tim decided to ram it with his Rolls Royce, but bottled it at the last minute as I peppered it with the two MGs on the Austin-Putilov.

Algy is rescued by the Czechs, but he ends up in a face off against the Austrian's officer.

The Austrians drop back and form as firing line to keep off the cavalry.

It's getting tense, so Richard takes refuge in consulting the rules.

The Austrians are charged down by the Czechs, but elsewhere the house is still secure, and the Rolls Royce and its occupants  have been comprehensively shot up. With the pilot dead, and the Roller in pieces, there's no way for the Whites to escape with the "Princess", even if they could have got her out of the house. A Red win.

This is the first time I've played "Triumph and Tragedy", and it handled most of what we wanted to do okay. I'm never convinced by things like "fast talk" or "con man" rolls, and would rather use something like a matrix game resolution mechanism. In any event, in this type of game the scenario is the key thing, and it would have been a different game with another two players.

Still, we all enjoyed ourselves, and I expect to see these fellows back again on another Tuesday evening.

Monday, 14 January 2019

A Board Game In Spain Again

About six months ago I posted a report of a game I played with my boardgame buddy, Gary, from a Polish company about the battle of the Ebro. The report was favourable, and we both enjoyed it with me sneaking a victory right at the end with the Republicans.

For our monthly game in January I thought we should dig it out again and play the second scenario, which focuses mainly on the fighting around Grandesa. For this game we swapped sides and I took the Nationalists.

The game victory conditions this time are for inflicting step losses on the opponent's counters, or either side can get an "instant victory" by taking two cities in the enemy's controlled areas. Gary had to capture Grandesa and Fayon, and I had to take Cordera and La Fatarella. All except Fayon are in the central part of the battlefield. Fayon is in the North, or left hand end of the board in the photos.

The Northern and Central section with all the objectives. Opening position
The Republicans start with a lot of stuff around their two objectives, or so it seems. The combat mechanism is a bit curious. It has a straight odds comparison, then the terrain and other modifiers then shift the combat odds by a column. Thus a 12 strength points in "field fortifications" (ie dug in) attacked by 60 strength points is initially a 5:1, but you get two shifts for being dug in, so making it 3:1. If you have more tank units you get a shift for each extra unit. Tank units aren't very strong on their own, but combined with infantry and artillery the shifts they bring can create a breakthrough. This encourages combined arms attacks, so a big thumbs up from me.

The map is very terrain heavy, so the defenders are normally getting at least one column shift, and these are cumulative. The CRT also mainly gives retreat results, so destroying enemy units is really hard, and you need to surround targets to destroy them. The terrain slows movement down a lot, so this is hard to do as well. This means a lot of thinking is required. The first turn took over an hour, - although we played all 8 turns in about 5 hours in total. It was tense all the way through.

Gary started with an attack on Fayon. Despite surrounding it the defensive modifiers - and Nationalist defensive air support - bounced him with losses. This came as a shock, and heavily influenced the rest of the game. Essentially I think he decided he couldn't break the position, and so didn't really try again.

In the centre he didn't press in the first move, which enabled me to throw up field defences (the yellow counters under the stacks).

After a bit of fencing around we started to get stuck in on the southern flank. This is a gamble that nearly blew up badly for me. I reckoned neither of us was going to take our objectives anytime soon, so I was looking to inflict step losses to build up a VP buffer. I was a few points ahead, and was going for a surprise hit, by chancing a couple of evenly matched combats. Played in the right order I should have been able to bounce at least one unit and then take losses off him as units would not be able to retreat. What happened was almost the reverse, and I had forgotten to put defensive troops in with my artillery (which is under the HQ unit). Gary would pounce on these next turn, and I nearly lost all of them, but he was unable to get behind me, so I was just bounced 3 hexes across the board.

BTW don't the board and pieces look nice?

In the north Gary has dug in and pulled most of his troops out to reinforce the centre.

In the centre I've tried to break through with an armoured spearhead. All I've done is stick some units in a salient. However, I'm now about 6 VPs to the good, so I can start to think about just defending, and making the Republicans come on to me to even the score up.

In the south I've extricated myself from the mess I was in, and have consolidated my forces, so I can turn Gary's left flank.

I managed to get my troops out of the salient with minimal losses, and then developed an attack on my left centre towards La Faterella. I thought this might panic Gary a bit and draw his forces in so I could break through elsewhere.

I was then able to counter attack out of Fayon at the units Gary had dug in up there to pin me in place. Reinforcements helped and I was able to surround them and put them out of supply (that's what the "1" marker means). I reckoned this was 4 VPs waiting to be plucked if I did it right.

In the central highlands Gary's got a unit round in my rear areas. I think he reckons he can pinch out that stack in the centre left with the tank on the top.

My attack towards La Fatarella fizzles out a bit.

Having suckered Gary in to attack that unit in the mountains I'm able to throw everything else I have at it and surround his HQ unit with its supports.

In the North the Fayon counter attack is completely successful.

And the attack in the highlands is successful too, - killing the HQ unit and supports. I'm now +12 on the VPs with the last turn coming up.

A last ditch Republican attack in the highlands results in us exchanging losses, which suits me fine.

This is the final position. Having got ahead I was able to dig in and force Gary to attack me, which he was reluctant to do with out some certainty of victory.

So I won by a big margin in the end, but the game was tense and on a knife edge for a lot of the time. A bad turn and the thing could have flipped. We both made mistakes - bad mistakes - but I was lucky enough to get away with mine. I think I also developed a strategy earlier in the game, - moving second in each turn can be an advantage, especially early on, if the person with initiative doesn't know how to exploit it (I'm sure I wouldn't have as well).

I think this is winnable for both sides, but it is probably an easier hand for the Nationalists.

I like this game a lot (okay so I've won it twice). There are some slight issues with the rules but it plays well and forces believable tactics that look like what both sides were trying to do. What worked at the time works in the game, and it is quite a head scratcher at times. And it does look nice.

PS The system has a hidden movement mechanism that we didn't use. You have counters to put on top of your stacks to conceal what is there until you attack. It's a neat idea for a future game.