Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Madrid Road (part 1)

As previously promised, an account of the Christmas game held in The Shed at Trebian Towers.

Earlier in the year I develped a set of square based Spanish Civil War rules, called "If You Tolerate This". They had a reasonably favourable reception at CoW in the summer, and have since been published in "The Nugget". I therefore decided to set up a rather longer than normal scenario and run it on the Friday after Christmas for the Monday Night Group.

At Phil's earlier prompting I set the game to run lengthways down the table, and desigend the scenario to be the attack by a large Nationalist column upon two villages in a valley on the road to Madrid. The length of the table allowed both positions to be developed in depth if needed.

The forces, particularly on the Nationalist side, were not based too closely on their historical prototype, being selected on the basis of what I had most recently finished painting. Carlists and cavalry were therefore featured heavily, as were Civil Guards.

The board was set up like this, - the Nationalists were to start at the end closest to the camera. The two villages can be seen clearly. Where the roads have walls either side this indicates a sunken road, common in the Spain of the time.

The first village was situated at a river crossing. The bridge dominates the centre of the village, and the Republicans had chosen to defend it with three militia units (including one of Anarchists), some Asaltos and a battery of field guns.

The second village was at the road junction, and boasted a fine church (now converted to a people's reading room). It was defended by three militia units (two communist, one socialist) and a Renault FT-17, hastily transferred to the front.

The Nationalist forces consisted of:

1 cavalry brigade:

1 motorised Carlist regiment:

1 motorised Legion unit of 2 Banderas, 2 Tabors and a battery of howitzers

and a battalion of Civil Guards

So, with the forces all sorted out and deployed on their start lines, all I needed was some players

I had decided by this point to play the Republicans and get my three guests to run the Nationalists. This would enable me to run the Republicans in an authentic style and see what the players made of them.

That's enough scene-setting. The opening moves will be covered in the next post.

(Note the trucks are drawn from my WW1 British and RCW  collections as I am woefully short of Spanish transport. This did mean that the Civil Guards picked up truck mounted MG support however as the figures are glued in).

Shed Naming

Had a proper, full on SCW game in the shed on Friday afternoon, with most of the Monday Night team.

The game will be blogged in due course, but in the interim the subject of what The Shed is to be called came up.

Any suggestions welcomed.....

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Trebian Christmas

I love Christmas. I like all the food, I like the odd drink, I like being with my family, I like presents, I like card & board games and I like the Doctor Who Christmas special. This year I was also looking forward to having a week off, as I haven't taken a break since March.

Things are a bit more difficult to arrange these days, what with my father in care and the children at opposite ends of the country, but we got it sorted with the children coming home at the weekend and my brother and his wife having Christmas lunch at the care home with our parents, then we go across on Boxing Day and have lunch with my mother then off to the home to see my father.

The wheels dropped off sooner than we expected with a phone call from my mother on Saturday morning sounding not very well, so we went over to find out what was wrong. She was in a lot of pain and after an hour or so of phone calls and waiting we got a home visit from a practice nurse who said she needed to go to A&E for x-rays/ECGs. So off we went. Long story short at the end of 5 hours in A&E she was told she had to transfer to the super hospital in the neighbouring town as the local one doesn't have any beds or care facilities or equipment. My mother hates that hospital as she has had bad experiences in it, - lack of information, for a start and the odd nasty nurse as well and being put on a ward with screaming dementia patients just because she is old. In the mean time Miss Trebian had got home to an empty house.

Sunday we went to pick up Master Trebian from the station and went out to lunch (my mother was supposed to be with us and it seemed a shame to waste the booking). Then off to the hospital, where things were looking okay. My mother was laughing and joking with the nurses, and was in a nice, bright, ward on her own due to be transferred to another ward for treatment and tests.

Christmas Eve we had to ourselves and went to see "The Hobbit" as a family, which we all enjoyed. Then a few games and drinks and into Christmas Day (got a Kindle, - recommendations for free books suitable for a wargamer, including 19th century colonial warfare appreciated). Inspired by the film I set up the GW "Battle of the Five Armies" game and tried to understand Rick Priestley's rambling rule book once again. Nice pictures, shame about the text.

By Boxing Day we were back on duty, and over to the hospital. My mother was not happy. They'd ignored her when she told them what meds she was on and relied on an old record from June. She was feeling nauseous, and unable to eat or drink. No tests or scans had been done since she had been admitted, and she was going backwards. I spoke to the junior doctors on duty and went over the medication and got them to look at more recent records from another consultant which cinfirmed what my mother had told them. Hopefully by the time we go over on Thursday afternoon she'll be feeling a bit better. And they'll know what's wrong.

I'm concerned now about how long she is going to be in and when she'll be discharged and what after-hospital care she'll need. I can't just nip out of work to pick her up these days.

Anyway, I'm planning an SCW game for Friday, and I've got a possible ancient game this evening, depending on travel conditions for my potential opponent, so let's be positive.

Then at the weekend I will submit a BIG figure order for the Chinese armies.

Merry Christmas one and all.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cannae I play in your shed, mister?

So here we are at last. The inaugural game in “The Shed” (note capitals). I finally settled on a double sized AMW game – 16 units instead of 8 aside – and a refight of Cannae.  I set the game up on Sunday afternoon and based the orbat and deployment on Phil Sabin’s “Lost Battles”. This is not without its problems, trying to merge Phil’s analysis with Neil Thomas’ troop types, and I had to tweak some of them to get a good fit. Without elephants Neil’s Carthaginian army list is awfully weak in the face of all of that Roman heavy infantry.

The game only used 8 foot of the 12 available on the table, but it did take most of my Roman and Carthaginian figures and a few interlopers amongst the cavalry to get the armies up to strength.

All set up, - Hannibal to the left, Romans to the right.
Due to work commitments and so on amongst the Monday night team I was only expecting Phil to turn up, so I was delighted to see NQM Chris arrive on the doorstep with a bottle of bubbly. We retired to The Shed to toast the opening, along with Mrs T, and awaited the arrival of Phil. Our wait was not that long and we were soon raising our glasses in fine style.
Phil, Chris & me stare at a blinking camera light.
When Phil arrived I realised that I may need to make the odd adjustment to the interior facilities. Some coat hooks (or a hat stand) are needed and a few more surfaces off the table for the placement of coffee mugs, books and the other paraphernalia that wargamers bring with them such as random gifts, - Phil presented me with a Warbases pillar box and telephone kiosk set to go with my Doctor Who collection).

Chris contemplates the Cannae Conundrum
Chris took the Romans and Phil the Carthaginians, the latter on the grounds that he knew what Hannibal did. Before the game as indicated above I modified the Carthaginian army list, so Hannibal’s army looks like this. Note that the number of units doesn’t necessarily represent the actual numbers of men involved but their relative fighting strength.

Left Wing
2 x Spanish horse (heavy cavalry, medium armour, elite)
2 x Gallic horse (heavy cavalry, medium army, average)
1 x African veterans (heavy infantry, medium armour, elite)

5 x Gallic Warband (warband, medium armour, average
1 x Scutari (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
1 x Balaeric slingers (light infantry slings, light armour, average)

Right Wing
1 x African veterans (heavy infantry, medium armour, elite)
1 x Libyans (light infantry javelins, light armour, average)
2 x Numidians (light horse javelins, light armour, elite)

The changes to Neil’s classifications are that I have increased the armour classification for the cavalry and warband to medium, and raised the morale class of the Numidians and the Spanish cavalry to elite. The Scutari don’t exist in the list at all.

The Romans were more conventional, consisting of two legions side by side. Each legion is made up of the following:

1 x Velites (light infantry javelin, light armour, levy)
2 x Hastati (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
2 x Principes (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
1 x Triarii (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
2 x Equites (heavy cavalry, medium armour, average)

Chris points at a legion or two
The main changes here are the downgrading of the morale class of the velites to levy and the triarii to average. Even with these changes two of these are fairly formidable, especially given the fragility of the Carthaginian warbands.

It has been a while since we’ve played AMW and whilst I hadn’t forgotten the rules I had forgotten some of the conventions of how it is played amongst our group. Hopefully these did not detract from the game too much.

The Romans started with a general advance in the centre, but holding back their right wing equites. Phil’s Hannibal (Phillibal?) followed the original plan and tried to develop the flanks whilst drawing in the centre. He bemoaned the tough task on his right where he had to contend with two fairly chunky equites with his Numidians. I had to resort to showing him Sabin’s deployment maps to convince him he hadn’t been stitched up. To be honest I couldn’t see how it could work out for him either, but he didn’t let me down and performed brilliantly with the light horse in a system that in all honestly isn’t that kind to them. Phil is the master of light horse in our group and can usually finesse any relevant part of the game mechanism to make light horse perform as they should.
Phil deploying his left wing very carefully.

On the Roman right Phil got stuck into Chris’ equites and started to give them a bit of a seeing too. However Chris had cannily drawn Phil forward so he could throw some hastati into the mix whilst shielding them with his velites.

Across the board the infantry lines closed inexorably. In the distance you can see Phil working out where to put his Numidians. Alas I have no pictures close up of this end of the board.

The armies engage all along the line
Near the camera the Roman right has finally collapsed and Phil is working his cavalry round to try to get an advantage. The rules as written are a bit unhelpful here, so modifications are in the pipeline.

Phil has broken the Roman cavalry on the right but some hastati are still in the way
 The rules involve rolling quite a lot of dice, so the luck evens out. Isn't that right Chris?

"So Chris, you've got 8 dice looking for 4's, 5's & 6's."
 The Romans finally started to get some real traction in the middle, destroying warbands as they went. But it was long hard work and it didn't all go to plan. Too many Roman units were being destroyed, whilst Phil was able to extract remnants of his so they didn't count as lost units. Cunning. Chris is wheeling his triarii to exploit a gap growing on his right centre, but his inability to break the warbands decisively is causing him problems by this point.

By now Phil has got his African Veterans into the game. These are elite troops that hit on a 3-6 instead of a 4-6 and are almost as good as it gets in AMW. I also have to say they are serial failures to deliver. Unable to clear the remnants of the unit in front of them they take too many hits and lose formation too quickly.

It was now getting late and Chris had to leave as he has an early start in the morning, so I took over the final couple of moves. In best AMW fashion I broke the centre decisively and sent my heavy infantry off on the sprint for the enemies baseline to force a game end. It was probably too late for this in all honesty as I was slightly behind in number of units killed,- as mentioned above Phil is good at habouring his forces and stopping units being destroyed completely. The aim of the game is to destroy 3/4 of the enemy army, in this case 12 out of 16 units. This final picture captures the moment before my final demise as the top right melee is just about to go against me.

All things considered a very satisfactory start to "Shed Life". I made full use of the fact I no longer need to tidy everything up at the end of the game.

Final note: AMW are a funny little set of rules and I like them a lot. They are not the best drafted, nor the most detailed and the armylists can best be described as idiosyncratic at times. They function best if the players don't try to break them and play "culturally". A couple of thoughts for the next game:

1) No charge move can include an about face.
2) Units can only fight to their front. Therefore any unit that gets in a flank attack gets a turn one free hack.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Shed Update (5)

I think we are just about done.

Well, done enough to have a game Monday evening. Here's the photo's of Saturday's labours.

Firstly I relaid the carpet, having discovered another large piece of burgundy lurking in the garage. Then Mrs T helped carry in the table(s) from the garage. You can see one part leaning against the wall.


Looking back towards the door more bits of  table are in evidence. Having got to this stage I went outside and put up the solar powered PIR security light. Hopefully this will activate when visitors come through the side gate so they can find the door way in the dark. It'll also light the way to the back of the house.

Here's the table re-assembled. It's in four bits, acquired over the years.It includes a pasting table and ex-workbench I believe belonged to a great uncle, part of a kitchen workbench, and one bit constructed from mdf and the remains of a futon.

The chest of drawers is another family heirloom, and the zamba metal shelving has lurked around for years. It was my original wargaming storage. The garage had purpose built shelving (as opposed to shelving built by accident) sized to my storage boxes. For the moment the zamba will have to do.

 As you can see, the zamba has taken my toy soldier boxes quite nicely. Couldn't resist a picture of me standing smugly in front of them. It'd got a bit cool by this point as the fan heater thermostat had broken and the heater had fused. Went out and bought another one.

 Now I'm moving more stuff in. The rolled up blue thing is my double sided sea & desert mat. Or it may be a square green play surface. It's a great thing. I got if from Chris Kemp of "Not Quiet Mechanised" when he ran a shop. It's two BIG vinyl advertising displays that you can paint and still remain flexible. The green boards leaning against the wall are participation game terrain boards I did for the Society of Ancients. One of them is The Trebia, from where my internet handle derives.

Having got all the terrain boxes in and tucked them under the table, it was time to start sorting out a game.These are my plastic Republican Romans and Carthaginians. Mostly HAT miniatures these are the figures that got me into ancient wargaming.

Looking a bit tidier now, and I've got some posters up. Would have been more, but I ran out of pins and sticky pads. Posters are mostly ECW & RCW. Plus a big one of a dalek.

Same idea, looking towards the door. You can see the "Cal it Qids" and "TEITR" game boards leaning up against the wall

So hopefully all set to go, for a lifetime's snug and fulfilling wargaming.

Not sure I even need to replace the table.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Shed Update (4)

We have power!

The interior. Looks big, doesn't it?

Light floods the garden. Looks magical, doesn't it?
Too cold (and dark) to put tables and toys in last night. That may have to wait until the weekend.

Inaugral game so close now i can smell it....

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Evidence for the Bluebear

So for Bluebear Jeff here are two of the least exciting pictures I have ever posted.

Shed with underlay in place. Note careful patchwork design

And now with added carpet that still needs soem work doing on it.
As Jim asked, here are my thoughts on Neil Thomas' books.

I have AMW & love it. There are a few problems with the rules, but you can tweak those. I wrote a long article in Slingshot in praise of the book, the rules and what it means to wargaming.

The other books I'm not so sure about. I've read chunks of the Napoleonic book and been underwhelmed. I've played the ACW rules (ditto) and the Pike & Shotte (likewise). The 19th Century book may have something going for it, but......

Each of the books is a good, simple introduction to each period with lots of information and pointers for where to go next. I love that style and the way it works. However the rules in the Ancient & Medieval period work the best probably because of the way the weapon systems interact. On the other hand the systems are all fairly simple and you could easily modify them without too much trouble.

Shed Update (3)

Hooray! the builder has finished.

Despite the cynicism of some of my followers the builder turned up this weekend to put the finishing touchers to the lining and the exterior, so (apart from a minor piece of ornamental boarding) we are finished and ready for the electricians to arrive on Monday.

I have even put down some carpet, complete with underlay, remnants of some recent redecorating. If I wasn't off doing family visiting this afternoon I'd have started to move in some of the "furniture". Actuwally if I was still at my old job I'd be taking Friday afternon off so we could get a game in.

Any how, I'm pretty sure that the grand Monday Night opening will be the 17th. Just can't decide whether it will be an enormous double-sized Neil Thomas AMW game, or an SCW run out with my new Carlists and Cavalry.

Choices, choices.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Shed Update (2)

No work on the shed for the last week. No sight of the builder.

So I phoned him up this evening. Apparently he fell off a ladder putting up his Christmas lights.

He may be back in action by the weekend

I'm having similar emotions to when you are told your train has been cancelled due to someone deciding to use it as a means of exiting this earthly plane of existence. Annoyance then guilt at being annoyed.

Anyhow, he has given the okay to have the electricians come in so at least we can make some progress this week, I hope.

Friday, 30 November 2012

An old favourite

Following our day’s fun and games in the tank shed and taking weapons apart we had dinner in the mess before returning to the bar for a drink and to play a game or two.

I knew there would be about a dozen of us but not having any games of that size I put in a few six player games, one of my own design and one minor classic.

The minor classic was my 15mm version of Ian Beck’s Chariot Racing game. I’ve had this game since…well I’ve had it a long time. Probably nearly 40 years. It uses the first 15mm figures I ever bought. They’re Minifigs Egyptian chariots which I got because they were the only ones that the stand had six of when I went to buy them (I know the Romans only used to race 4 chariots, but you can't have too much of a good thing, can you?)

I first played the game at the Nationals in Sheffield in the early 70’s. At that time the Halifax club were running it in their 20mm scale arena, - the one with the full crowd made up of every Airfix figure you can imagine in scratch built plasticene togas. My mate Derek & I each picked up a copy of the rules, printed out on a Roneo/Gestetner duplicator in that odd blue ink colour with diagrams in pink. How sophisticated.  I’ve still got them, carefully folded up in my chariot box.

The chariots should take up and area of 3x3 squares on the game board, but I drew the board out before I got the chariots and scaled it down from the sizes given for 25mm models. This meant that when I got the chariots they were too big for 3x3, so they are mounted on 3x4. Can’t say it has ever been an issue playing the game. I suppose I could have redrawn the board but it was quite a challenge drawing up the corners and if I’d enlarged the squares they wouldn’t have fitted on the piece of wood I had (which incidentally was the top of a play desk I had before I went to school).

Building the game not only required me to buy my first 15mm figures but also my first percentage dice. Still got them.

That's all I can recall of the construction. I can't remember where I got the mustard-yellow paint for the board. I did this before the invention of "matchpots" so it must have been a colour used to decorate a room in my parents' house but which one I can't remember.

So off to the races then. I was slightly surprised that given the ages of most of the participants no one seemed to have played the game before, but it is really easy to play so everyone picked it up really quickly.

Unlike the multiple laps of the arena in its historical prototype this game only requires two laps and the final straight, which is a good thing. In common with the games we played all those years ago players were soon going round corners too fast and flipping their vehicles over. The photo shows one wrecked on the inside of the first corner.

Tactics in the game split into two camps. Firstly go as fast as possible as close to the spine as possible and hope for the best. If you are lucky you can be half way down the back straight whilst others are cornering. Alternatively you can play it cautiously at the back, avoid crashing and hope to overhaul your opponents in the final corner and straight as their chariots increasingly fall apart. In this case  the latter tactics were ultimately successful with Rob turning in a narrow winner.

After the chariots we played "The Elephant in the Room" which needs no further explanation here. Suffice it to say it was a classic running of the game with three out of six velites a bloody stain on the sand and the elephant crashing to the ground one square from the hastati.

We rounded off the game with Munchkin Cthulhu, which went to prove that there's no such thing as an easy game when everyone has had a skin full. One player kept lamenting that the game was playing him rather than the other way round, which I think is unfair. On the other hand if you're a semi-mad cultist, who's to say?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Stripping an AK47

Following on from “Guns, guns, guns” I thought I’d share with you these few photographs.

The Armoury as remarked before has a lot of different guns including the iconic AK47, - probably not the most difficult one to have got hold of. I walked past it at first and didn’t realise what it was as it didn’t have the magazine in place. Shows what I know about firearms.

Anyway the curator went off and found a magazine and we were soon passing it round because doesn’t everyone want to hold an AK47 at some time in their life. From the photos in the paper and the pictures on the news don’t you sometimes wonder if you’re the only person in the world who hasn’t got one tucked away somewhere.*

Having passed it round Tom showed me how to take it apart. It is as easy to take apart as its reputation. There’s a button just above the stock that you press in and it slides apart. The firing mechanism is very simple and safe so even for an amateur and butter-fingers like myself it comes apart quite easily but without the danger that it’ll simply fall apart in combat.

Stage 1,  - removing the magazine
Stages 2-4 - all the pieces removed and laid out

And back together again.

After that Tom handed me an SA-80. The merits or otherwise of this weapon have been hotly debated. Personally as a left hander I’m not a fan. I have shown myself unable to shoot straight left handed so with a weapon that makes me fire from the wrong side or get hot metal stuck up my nose my effectiveness woul;d be reduced even more. (For those of you interested in the political correctness debate and discrimination I think I should point out here that left-handers are the last hidden minority that is routinely discriminated against without anyone complaining).

Taking the SA80 apart was much more involved and isn’t something you could do in a hurry if you aren’t properly trained or maybe even at all if you have below average manual dexterity. Eventually between us I took out about one piece and Tom did the rest, and here it is laid out for inspection.

On the other hand I am a fan of the optical site on the SA80, and it is a nice size and weight to cart about. With the sling attached it fits snuggly under the armpit and doesn’t hang down far enough to trip anybody up. As was remarked, compared to the SLR it is a positively unobtrusive and manageable weapon.

What I didn’t realise (again, shows what I know) is that it suffers from the light-weight bullet syndrome. I think that it fires a 5.56mm round, compared to the 7.62mm in the SLR (equivalent to the .303 in the Lee-Enfield). When you consider that the Martini-Henry fired a .45 round this is quite a reduction in weight of shot and comes with a commensurate lack of stopping power and accuracy at longer ranges.
Good job our lads aren’t firing at Zulus and Dervishes any more.

*Whenever I see parts of the world where the AK47 is this year’s de rigeur fashion accessory I am reminded of a comment by an economist at UBS when asked what to invest in should the Euro look like it was going to collapse. His reply was “Buy precious metals, - and that includes guns & tinned food”.