Sunday, 17 February 2019

Back at the keyboard

It's been quiet here for the last couple of weeks as Mrs T & I have been off on holiday. We've just spent a couple of weeks in Myanmar (Burma to most of us), on a River Cruise down the Irrawaddy and then visiting some other sights such as Inle Lake and Yangon (Rangoon).

I felt this trip would be quite safe, as I already have a couple of Burmese armies. I've had XIVth Army and opposing Japanese for quite a while (Peter Pig miniatures for the XIVth Army, - much recommended, despite some quibbling from those who asked for them). And I bought an Irregular Miniatures Burmese DBA army after my visit to Cambodia, so that should be enough for anyone.

I read a bit about the three Anglo-Burmese wars fought in the 19th century*, and despite the presence of elephants and different shaped straw hats to normal I avoided the temptation, and continue to do so. There were some nice pieces of silver work we saw of military elephants and some other art work, but nothing that really gave me time and place and inspiration to get involved. I got the feeling that the Burmese aren't that comfortable about talking about their military history so much. They did run a fairly brutal military regime from the 14th through to the 19th century, in one form or another, with routine massacres of their own people and the various minorities that make up modern Myanmar. Perhaps their post-colonial failures to get a settled democratic government shouldn't be a surprise. It just hasn't ever been the way things are done. (I found that the non-Burmese guides from the minorities were more comfortable with British rule, as it stopped the majority Burmese kicking them about**).

Also, unlike Cambodia, their temples/pagodas/monuments don't have the profusion of carvings like you see in Angkor and for various reasons we didn't visit the national museums with the relevant artefacts. And I didn't see any handy English language Burmese history books to pick up either.

So, what did I see or do that was relevant to my hobby? Well, I took George Macdonald Fraser's memoir of the Burma campaign with me and read that, trying to fit his descriptions in with the landscapes and countryside buildings I saw. Reading that convinced me that those who carp about the Peter Pig figures are wrong. GMF clearly says that he and his section went into action in Bush Hats and not helmets, so there you have it.

 I did keep an eye out for any model buildings that I could fit into a DBA camp or use with the XIVth Army.

Turns out this was harder than expected. As a guide explained to me everyone wants little model Buddhas. Why would you want a model Stupa in your home? Alas the thriving laser /die cut wooden puzzle building industry that reaped such a harvest for me in Iran & China has not made it to Myanmar. I did in the end pick up a couple of models, and some mini elephants to make the statues that stand guard at the entrance to the compound.

I'm not sure how to deal with them all yet. Clearly some metal primer for the elephants and the stupa on the left, but I don't know what to do with the shiny one. After all, pagodas etc in Myanmar are very shiny:

Problem is that natural metals/materials never look right in my eyes when you scale them down.

We did end up in Rangoon/Yangon on the trip, and toured the City a bit. It is in need of some TLC, but has massive potential. There are some really magnificent colonial era buildings that are falling into disrepair that would make very nice hotels or company offices. The only one that is receiving any serious attention for now is the Secretariat, which was the home of the Government Offices, until the military junta set up their new capital up country. The Secretariat is very special to the people of Myanmar as it is where Aung San Su Kyi's father (General Aung San) was assassinated. It'll be impressive when it is done.

So that's where I've been. Nice country, nice people, lots of temples and stupas.

(NB A temple is the home to Buddha statues where you can pray. A Stupa is a memorial/prayer building which is solid, - i.e. you cannot go inside them. A Pagoda, in Burmese terms, is the name given to the complex that contains temples and stupas together).

* Unusually we did not start this one. The first Anglo-Burma War was caused when the Burmes invaded what was then India, because they thought that the East India Company were a bunch of softies. That proved not to be the case.
** Plus, under the British, production of rice and teak went up massively, and when we left Burma was the rice bowl of South East Asia and there was more acreage of teak than when we arrived. That is no longer the case. Clearly Empire is wrong as a general idea, and self determination is a Good Thing, but not everyone benefits all the time.

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.