Wednesday, 8 August 2018


Following our initial trial a couple of weeks back I thought it would be good to give Hexblitz a go in the Spanish Civil War, using my offset squares. Hence "SCW-are Blitz". Geddit? It's like "Squareblitz", only I've spelt square with an SCW, for "Spanish Civil War".

I put this together in  a bit of a hurry, and it showed. I worked through the unit strength points and got Bob Cordery to check them. After the last blog he sent me a set of rules to work on for this variant.  As many of you may know, Bob is an SCW buff of the first order. So I went through Hexblitz and amended what I thought I'd need to change in order to make them a bit more Iberian. I was going to do a refight, as that sorts out terrain and orbats, and is usually a doddle if you have a gridded playing area. That's because I scan maps from books then size them to scale using a drawing package and drop the offset grid on the top. You can then just lay the terrain out as close as you can get. As none of the maps I had to hand had a scale on them that went out of the window. Then the number of likely players went from 2-3 to 4-5, so I needed something big with several commands aside.

In the end I used the tried and tested method of just putting bits of terrain on the table until it looked nice. I then decided the Republicans should defend with two Divisions, and the Nationalists attack with three, including some SFL. In the picture above the Republicans are to the right.

The river has four crossing points but is otherwise impassable. The Nationalists have an engineering unit with bridging capacity. I expected to play a couple of days, so there are lorries with LOG units about the place, which are represented by having white pins stuck in them. The Nationalists have several major roads specifically put out to enable them to close the distance quickly.

Units don't have strength point markers on them. I have a schedule of unit strengths, and intended to mark reductions in my normal way.

Phil & Chris, who were playing the Nationalists, hatched a plan that might have been more complicated than it needed to be. Will and returning MNG'r Richard were lumbered with a poor set up because I did it.

The first combat was when Recce squadrons encountered each other. The Republicans got shot up and had to retire.

The Nationalist recce then headed off to inspect the stone bridge to ascertain the strength of the defenders. The role of recce in the game was much discussed.

On the right the Nationalists pressed forwards, their flag waving Divisional HQ leading the way. Guns, including a Heavy Artillery Grupo, are being pushed out a little wider to provide supporting fire for the inevitable assault on the bridge.

For Hexblitz players, Move = Move, Form = Stationary, Hold = Defend. The Divisions are being reconfigured in an ad hoc fashion to force all the crossings and defensive points at once. The bridging unit is moving forwards, keeping the defenders guessing where it is to be deployed. The Condor Legion's tanks are pressing on the central bridge, threatening the defenders.

The first attack goes in on the town on the Nationalist side of the river. Combats are a bit of slug fest if people are dug in.

The attack on the right flank bridge goes in. The defenders hang on, whilst the Divisional commander rushes up reserves.

Over on the left the SFL go in with a couple of Banderas and a Tabor. The defenders are heard to say "They have how many strength points??". I think the attackers were surprised too (although I did say...), and might have been a bit more aggressive if they'd realised exactly how good the Legion are.

The Condor Legion's Panzer 1s leads the charge over the bridge

The fisrt round of combat is quite bloody...

...but then the T-26 Regiment adds its weigh in a fire support role. The first round of firing is devastating.

The Nationalists seized the right hand bridge at last.

And in the centre a two brigade assault yields dividends.

The attack on the left stalls a bit, but the defenders are one turn away from having to withdraw.

The Nationalists bring up reserves in the centre, but the fighting is so fierce I've run out of white rings.

When people had to go home, - after about two hours of game play - the Nationalists were winning everywhere, but it was proving very hard for them to make a breakthrough. We'd played about 6 turns, - 12 hours of the first day.

Reflections? Well, Hexblitz has its origins in a set of rules for solo play for fairly small sized encounters. With four players and a three Divisions almost a side it might be we're pushing the limits of what Hexblitz is good for. Some felt that the card/move status combination slowed the whole thing down too much. I think we will get faster once we're more familiar with how it works, and I'm more confident running it all.

As I said I have started to make the odd modification for SCW purposes. Units in towns don't use LOG, for example. However, the SCW armies were more flexible in many ways and forcing Divisions to have units close together might not be appropriate.

I have a choice or two to make. I want an operational SCW set of rules. I've looked at Op14, but fear it is stretching it too far. It might also be the case with Hexblitz. Megablitz might be the answer, or a re-working of NQM. I'm just not sure which way to go yet.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Another Nostalgia Trip

I grew up in Rugby in Warwickshire. Someone has to. I suppose everyone has a downer on their home town. Rugby has never been cool. We didn't even have a cinema when I was a teenager.

I don't suppose we realised how lucky we were in some ways. We had several good local model shops, and a really good book shop too, because of the proximity of the Public School in the town.

The book shop was George Over's. It was a big shop, with a model and arts supply department too. I could spend most of a Saturday morning in there, and then go up and leaf through the hobby section of the book department, poring over Don Featherstone's latest book, hoping no one would buy it for another week, please. They were also a printers, and did the big Lord of the Rings posters before we had all the movie stuff*. Due to town centre development they moved from their Clock Tower location to a smaller unit in the High Street, but still had good model and book departments. Due to the internet or whatever they went bust or closed sometime after I moved away.

But we were lucky to have a model/hardware shop that did kits and things like "dope" and balsa aeroplanes and all that stuff. Sort of like the Model Shop we still have in Northampton that I wrote about last year. This was known as "Moore's" and was virtually opposite one of the town's secondary schools. You had to go upstairs to the modelling department and that climb up the narrow stairs was full of anticipation. That's now a shop with wheelchairs and aids for the old and infirm. I have no idea when that went, although in my later years in Rugby the quality and quantity of stock was declining. The oddity was Wilson's of Bilton which was a newsagent in a nearby village, within a short cycle ride. That had a whole wall of Airfix kits. Everything you could imagine from bags to blisters to boxes. I used to love riding out there during the summer holidays with my pocket money. That's gone now. I think the shop has even been knocked down. Again, however, by the time I was a sixth former the quality and stock was declining.

And then Joto Hobbies opened. It was set up by a couple of railway modellers, but it had a full range of kits and modelling supplies too. The guys who ran it knew their stuff and were so helpful too.

I would regularly pick up paint and modelling supplies from it. I was buying metal figures by this stage anyway, and cycling out (and then driving) to Bedworth Art Supplies, who stocked Minifigs (and then from the New Model Soldier Shop in Sheffield when at University). But I did buy my first acrylic paints from Joto, - Humbrol's "Badger" range.

And it survived. Nearly 40 years. Every time we go back to Rugby to see family I try to nip in and have a look. If they've got any boxes of figures I have half an interest in I buy them, just to support the shop. If you don't support them, then they'll be gone.

But alas a few days ago we got a call from my wife's step mother saying that they'd got a closing down sale on. Hobbycraft has opened up on the big out of town retail park up near the M6 and they just can't compete. I guess that the upstairs area with the needlepoint and all the other non-modelling stuff was key to their profitability, and they just can't compete with a bigger shop with parking right outside.

Damn shame.

* Actually my memory has played me false here. I woke up in the night and remembered it was actually Jolly & Barbers.

Retro medieval skirmish

A few years ago I won some figures at a Society of Ancients battleday (2006, in fact, but who's counting?). The prize was some 28mm Gripping Beast Crusaders and Seljuks. Enough to make up a few Retinues to use with the rules of the same name that I bought back in the 1980s.

I painted a lot of them shortly after I got them and have painted the rest on and off over the last decade. But on looking at Retinue again I realised they were horribly complicated by modern standards and close to unplayable without a lot of effort.

However, I have a lot of fond memories of playing a scissors/paper/stone based set of medieval rules when I was top end primary/lower secondary school we got out of a Featherstone book - "Solo Wargaming" I think - that were written by Gerard de Gre, I couldn't find a full set on the interweb, but I got enough clues to enable me to reassemble them, near enough, and plug the holes in a suitable simple fashion.

As I'd been wargaming all the previous day, and out all the weekend, I threw a few ideas together quickly and pushed some terrain around the table until it looked right.

The Crusaders have to cross the table with their baggage train loaded with valuables and relics, stopping to water them at the oasis in the middle of the table. The Muslims were in ambush. Their forces were placed on the 8 large playing cards you can see top right. They then had 8 chits numbered 1-8 they placed face down on the table where they wanted their forces to be hidden. Their aim was to cut up the Crusaders and escape with the valuables and the baggage animals. For this game I was joined by Phil (Crusaders) and Chris K and MNG newbie Steve (Muslims)

The Crusader column observed good march discipline at first. Unable to wait, the first ambushers emerged, shooting at the column.

More ambushers appeared off left, causing the defensive line around the baggage to expand. The Muslim archery hit a foot man (signified by a white ring). Knights/armoured figures can absorb 3 hits before dying.

The crossbowmen start to return fire. The green markers indicate if they are loading.

A fierce melee ensues off to the left. Outnumbered and surrounded two knights have lost their horses (basically the horses take the first hit if unarmoured, or two if armoured).

Another Knight charges in, inflicting hits on the more lightly armoured Muslims.

The Crusaders are keeping they marauders at bay, as the baggage plods onwards.

The little melee out on the left drags in more participants.

The Crusade have the upper hand at last.

As the baggage animals get a well earned drink, more ambushers emerge from cover.

For some inexplicable reason Chris has interpreted "capture the animals and make off with them" as "stab and kill anything with a load on its back". Cue question "Can we eat dead mules? Are they Halal?". I thought not.

More ambushers start to rush the Crusaders.

A fierce tussle breaks out round the waterhole, as the Knights counter attack. They steadily gain the upper hand

Meanwhile, at the rear of the column the massed crossbowmen prepare to shoot up the next group of Muslims they see.

So we ended with a Crusader win, as the Muslims were forced to withdraw with heavy casualties. Alas for the Crusaders many of them are walking the last bit of their journey, due to heavy equine casualties.

The rules provided us with an enjoyable few hours but aren't anything clever. The joy is in the scenario puzzle and pushing the lead about. Phil reckoned I need to look at Andy Gittin's "Gladiolus" which was originally published by the Society of Ancients, and uses a modified scissors/paper/stone combat system.

Could be just the thing.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

A Shedquarters Wargaming Day (2)

So, yes, after several hours slogging at one another in the Low Countries we headed off to a nondescript piece of sea probably off Japan for some turn of the century naval action (that's 19th to 20th, not 20th to 21st).

We were using Dave Manley's Ironclad rules based on DBA which he wrote to enable you to fight the Russo-Japanese Naval War in a day. Or something similar. You used to be able to download them for free I think, but I couldn't find a workable link when I was writing this blog. The ships were hand built wooden models made by Chris A, similar in style to those that Bob Cordery has pioneered.

Phil and I had three flotillas, two each of three modern battleships, and one of armoured cruisers.

Richard and Gary also had three flotillas, all of four ships. One, the farthest from the camera, consisted of modern battleships, like ours. In the middle they had four obsolete battleships and then four armoured cruisers.

You roll pips for each flotilla then decide who is moving first. Pips make little difference until you get damage you need to repair. It is the worst example of trying to crowbar a Naval game into the DBA pips/attack factor/defence factor system in the rules. Upfront I have to say that although it gave a lively game the whole logic of it was at times odd and I think we can do better.

We started to manoeuvre out to the wings, whilst holding the centre with our cruisers.

They reacted to us by mirroring our tactics. The only problem for us was that we had matched our armoured cruisers up against the obsolete battleships. Obsolete they may be, but they're still battleships.

Here's a close up of the obsolete battleships. I think the paint might still have been wet. Almost.

First blood to Richard and Gary, as one of our cruisers sustains a hit. The rules have the shoot & support model in DBA. It also requires you to alternate attacks between opposing flotillas, but you can draw support from other flotillas that haven't fired yet. It sort of works, but honestly, it's a bit of a muddle.

We've gone up to grey smoke (more serious) but we have hit one of their obsolete battleships

The aim is to have smoke on wire or paper clips to drop down the funnels.

An admiral's conference with the umpire (centre). The turning and exact positioning of ships was open to question. Phil reckoned this would all be fixed by putting the ships on bases.

As the conference continues, Phil looks on unconvinced.

Our cruisers are starting to suffer. Richard is adopting an edge of the world strategy. This was thwarted by simply pulling the cloth across the table a bit, as we had a fair bit of overhang.

Our damage control teams have got our grey smoke under control. The two flotillas exchange broadsides.

There's hard pounding out on the table edge. I'm trying to bring the enemies armoured cruisers to battle. They have proved elusive.

I finally cross the "T" of the cruisers. Alas my fire isn't that effective (hey, it's DBA, isn't it?), but I have got control of the sea space and am able to dictate where he can go.

As you can see I am forcing the enemies armoured cruisers back on themselves, and am able to concentrate fire on specific ships. Be nice if I could hit something properly.

The fire system has a critical hit on a 6:1 result. So it isn't bad enough that you get hit when you really shouldn't, you also end up catching fire (red smoke). Or blowing up.

We broke at this point and went down the pub for some dinner and refreshment. When we got back it was sufficiently late that we packed up so those travelling distance could get home at a reasonable time.

I like the ships and the look a lot. The rules, - less so. There's things I like (no crossing off flotation points), and there's things I don't. It kept us entertained well enough, so plus points for that. I'm definitely interested in revisiting the ships and the period, but I think we could improve on this.

Whatever, - everyone pronounced themselves happy with the day, and we have another booked, in theory, in under a month's time, due to the way calendars have worked out for all of us. We need to work at how we get more games in during the day, but that criticism is minor. What is better than a day's wargaming with a group of jolly good chaps, anyway? Hard to think of anything else I'd rather be doing.

Sometimes I don't realise how lucky I am.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

A Shedquarters Wargaming Day (1)

Four years ago, to the day, we had a day of gaming in Shedquarters with a friend, Richard L,  from the West Country. We've met up in the intervening years, alternating with Shedquarters West, and it was my turn to host again in the original Shedquarters.

This time we were joined by Phil, Chris A and Gary. We started off with a big game of "Va t'en guerre" as Richard is a bit of a Marlburian buff, and has been commenting on the earlier drafts.

I had made a few changes post-COW. These were mainly to alter the ability of the French to rally back with their cavalry, and also to reduce the Anglo-Dutch power in cavalry melees. These turned out not to be entirely successful as ideas, and some of then will be unwound. It was also the first time the command rules got a thorough work out, and they proved to be too effective, so probably changes there.

The game was sort of Ramillies. The French are to the left. I've got every painted figure I own for the period out here, with only one artillery piece in the box. The sparsity of the second line indicates to me that I need to get on and paint some more figures.

I teamed up Gary and Richard. Gary isn't really a figure gamer, but I can rely upon him to read the rules. He quite likes working collaboratively, as does Richard.

The game opened with the massed cavalry facing up to each other. We would have a big cavalry melee on this flank.

In order to pin the French in position, the Anglo-Dutch moved forward, preparatory to attempting to storm the opposing ridge line. There's a scratch unit of grenadiers to spearhead the attack.

The cavalry fight starts. The Anglo-Dutch have brought their slightly more numerous infantry up in support.

The attack on Ramillies begins. To keep the Anglo-Dutch infantry in place, Marlborough has joined them, to keep removing the Disorder status and otherwise ensure they continue to perform. This can be a risk... the French find out. Down goes one of their Generals who was attached to a unit which has  routed (off picture to the left). The responsible unit of Dutch horse has rallied back and reformed behind their infantry as the line presses forwards.

The allies are well formed up and are pressing the French hard.

The Anglo Dutch cross the stream and start to scale the heights opposite.

Volleys start to be exchanged. In the distance the Anglo Dutch battalion has disordered their opponents and then advanced to bayonet point, forcing them backwards.

The Anglo Dutch launch further charges on their left flank.

Infantry volleys are exchanged as everyone starts to get involved, and the Anglo Dutch try to turn the flank of the French army.

On the other side of the table the attack on the ridge by the grenadiers is bearing fruit, as they punch a hole in the centre of the line. However, as they push forwards they can see the rest of the French infantry deployed on the plain below them.

On the grenadiers' right volleys are exchanged, but the French infantry hold firm.

A large cavalry melee develops on the French right.

The Anglo Dutch infantry finally force their way into Ramillies. As the centre opens up they push forward some infantry in column to exploit the gap.

The French throw in a last ditch cavalry charge, push back the infantry in front of them and rout one of the march columns. To the right of Ramillies the Anglo Dutch infantry is breaking through with a remorseless advance.

Too little, too late, however. The French declare they can't see how they are going to win, and don't want to experience a death by a thousand cuts. We call the game over as an Anglo Dutch win.

Not a bad outcome all round. Probably I was a bit harsh on the French in some areas, - I downgraded all of their commanders relative to the Anglo Dutch, which might have been excessive. I will go back and make a few changes based on experiences here.

I'm not sure where to go with the rules now, otherwise. They deserve further play testing and development, but my usual design cycle finishes with presenting the game at COW. By this point we'll have been at the rules most weeks for over 6 months, and that's a bit more than I can ask of anyone.

Perhaps as I've got some rebasing to do still I'll just take a short break from the WSS and revisit in the autumn when I've painted some more units.

Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

And now, on to the next game, a bit of ironclad naval using a DBA variant.