Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Just Des(s)erts (3)

So, here we are, with the opening account of the recent SvP action fought by elements old and new of the Monday Night boys.

First, let us review the forces available.

Here we have a view of the British forces assembled on the plains before their zariba, which is marked on the edge of the table with some barbed wire elements. To either side are some rocky outcrops, useful, perhaps as heliogrpah stations?

Maj-Gen Erskine-May, and his support units. In picture you can see the heloigraph teams, the Engineers with their supply camel and Mr Carlton Edwars and his "friends".

A clearer shot of the infantry baggage. Nearest the camera is the mule drawn water bowser. Apart from the wagons all the figures are Peter Pig. The wagons and limbers are mostly Minifigs, the draft animals are a variety from wherever I could find them.

The Imperial forces debate their plan. From Left to right, Harry Masterley, Sir Archibald Erskine-May, Percy McGringle, Barty Knowles (seated) and Findlay Harrison. An unfortunate rash of fezzes has broken out. No doubt the medical officer can be of some help. At this point the players are trying to resolve three issues. Firstly, who should remain as a garrison, secondly what formation should they adopt and thirdly when should they leave.

They eventually leave a battalion behind, with a section of engineers, a gardner gun and one of the two heliograph teams. In all the excitement one company of the regiment left behind isn't fallen out and ends up being part of the column.

They end up advancing in a sort of open box, with baggage in the middle. As the desert is open they reckon that can get from column to line and hence square pretty quickly. There's a degree of tension over when to leave. The foot sloggers want to leave in the dark when it is cool. The cavalry want to leave after dawn as it is easier to feed the horses in daylight and also much easier to saddle up in the light. In the end they compromise. The infantry will march out before dawn. The cavalry will follow later and through benefit of their greater mobility will catch up with the column at about 8:30am.

The players carefully position their units.
In the absence of any cavalry the Major-General prevailed upon Mr Edwards to send forward his native scouts to provide a recce screen for the column. Despite the Intelligence Officer's surprise and muted objections the M-G insisted and away they went, never to be seen again. Who can say what became of them.

A column with no scouting or recce resources. was too fine a proposition for the Mahdists who launched  their first attack when the British were about an hour from their zariba. Emerging from a fold in the ground they rushed across the sand. Meanwhile the Highlanders coolly formed into a line and gave them a severe volley from their Martini-Henrys. The stopping power of this weapon is now legendary, on account of the heavy bullet it fired. In this instance it did not disappoint. The Mahdists were stopped in their tracks and turned into a liberal sprinkling of casulaty markers. Alas it was all over so quickly I didn't have enough time to photogrpah it, merely the aftermath.

Whilst this was only a minor skirmish the infantry weren't backwards in drawing the attention of their mighty deeds to the cavalry when they finally arrived. There was clearly going to be a need for heroic deeds later in the day to ensure honour was restored.

The column moved off, this time screened by a force from the Yeomanry. After an hour or two's march They espied some smoke in the distance, slightly off the line of march. The Colonel called his unit back together and sent them off to investigate.

The Yeomanry discovered a small village with the buildings already put to the flame. Dervishes were swarming all over the villagers, and on seeing the advancing horse gathered together to meet them. After siziing up the enemy the Yeomanry returned to the column (aka failed a Panic roll) with the news that there were "Fasands of 'em". The lancers therefore took up the challenge and headed off to deal with the menace.

 Deploying into line the gallant horsemen thundered across the desert, accompanied by the Intelligence Officer. The Dervishes readied themselves and......resolutely refused to do anything other than just stand there. It was most annoying. Soon the Lancers were amongst them, pennons dipped in blood.

It was a magnificent charge, completely devoid of any unfortunate surprises and resulted in lots of dead and fleeing fuzzy-wuzzies. The Lancers were triumphant, firmly convinced that honours were now even with the infantry (despite the Intelligence Officer expressing the opinion that contrary to other accounts there weren't "fasands of 'em". Don't know what got into him and why he might want to provoke the cavalry into an indiscretion).

At which point I will close this entry, and leave some more adventures and photographs for a future entry.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Just Des(s)erts (2)

So having decided upon the force and the player characters it was time to get the scenario sorted out. I settled on a march and fight type of evening, starting out in a zariba and then ending at a "friendly" village with some wells. During the time I was writing this I was also reading "Fighting the Fuzzy Wuzzy" (a contemporary account of the campaign) so my ideas were changing slightly, as you'll see below. Anyway, to get people in the mood I sent out the personal briefings out to the players, together with a word version of the SvP Officer's Pocket book that Howard foolish decided to make available gratis a number of years ago (now no longer available, and don't ask me for a copy). That should get them going.

The scenario as described to the players in the briefing e-mail was this:
Action at Tewphiyt

It is late spring 1885, and the force based at Suakin under General Graham has established its dominance in the region, forcing Osman Digma into retreat.

Tewphiyt is a small village several day's march north of Suakin. It has fresh water wells and provides an excellent staging post or base for actions against Osman Digma's forces who are hiding out in the hilly or nearly mountainous area in that region.

The area is mostly quiet and a significant show of force will keep it that way. In order to support operations in the area a light railway will be built in the future to bring up further supplies. The aim of this action is to occupy the area of Tewphiyt, establish a forward operations post having confirmed the adequacy of the wells to support a sizable force, and then retire having left a garrison behind.

The force has advanced for a day and bivouacked last night in a zariba. It estimated that there are two day's march ahead to the village, although the force has brought supplies enough for at least 5 days, including water should the wells at Tewphiyt prove inadequate.

The ground between Tewphiyt and Suakin is not exactly “trackless waste” and is frequented by goat herders and similar. It is also a minor trade route and although commerce was interrupted initially by the uprising this is steadily returned following the arrival of the British. This is important as it must be shown that rejection of the Mahdi and his ilk will lead to a better life all round. Some scouting has been done and the ground is mostly rock and desert. The going is good, and the acacia bushes whilst not sparse do not provide a significant handicap to movement.
Sunrise: 6:15am, dusk 6:00pm. Temperature c80 degrees, peaking at 90-100 midday (27 centigrade, up to 38)

The surprise for the players was buried in the personal briefings , - the force had a telegraph wagon with them that meant they could get up to date information and guidance direct from Suakin. Having set up their zariba about midnight the telegraph starts to chatter and new orders are received.

A potentially friendly tribe led by Mohamoud Arabi is being threatened by Osman Digma's main force. This village is within a day's march to the North West, in the foothills of the Waratab mountains. "Erskine force" is therefore ordered to march to suppress the forces in that area and stamp the British presence on the area. The current zariba is to be turned into a semi-permanent base with 2 days water supply stored there in the canvas water tanks and a permanent garrison to be determined by the Major-General. When the force arrives in Mohamoud Arabi's area it is to establish a further zariba to over awe the surroundings.

Due to a number of issues to do with work & trains being late I was unable to develop all of the scenario completely, so to a certain extent there was a need to devise some of it on the hoof. The outline of events was to be like this:

1) Player debate about what to leave behind, order of march etc
2) Small ambush about a hour or two out from zariba (aim to force a bit of march discipline and slow them down)
3) Smoke in the distance, - a burning slaver's village with a small force of Mahdists dealing with recalcitrant locals
4) The main action. I set this to be at a point in the foothills where the hills were covered by thick mimosa scrub, where the ground was too steep to take a formed square. There is one gap that is flat enough to put a column through about 600- 800 yards wide, and a dry wadi that runs along the bottom of the hills then out into the desert parallel to the line of march. A force of 8-10,000 Fuzzies will attack the column at this point, starting with rifle fire for the hills. The sword & spear men will emerge from either the scrub or the wadi, depending upon what the players have done.
5) Post action. Depending upon what happens the players should find they don't have enough daylight to get back to the original zariba and it'll be touch and go if they can get to Arabi's village with enough time to finish the zariba, especially as they should now have a lot of wounded.
6) A note on ambulances and water. I designated a couple of wagons as hospital wagons for the wounded as a hint to the players to ensure their wounded are taken with them. I provide each infantry brigade with a mule drawn water bowser (not completely authentic, I know). It should be important to the players to look after this important resource, and if the mahdists break into a square or get in amongst the baggage ensure there is a fight round the water supply. If they lose it or have other concerns and are sensible enough to ask the RE officer they'll discover they have a Norton Tube or two, that will probably work in the wadi

It may not look like a lot of incidents, but on past experience that's enough to get about 3 hours gaming which is enough for an evening.

I think that's enough background. Next post, - the opening of the game.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Just Des(s)erts (1)

The Monday Night Group has a core of players who meet regularly (mostly) but over our nearly 20 years' history some members have come and gone but are still around. This summer one of our occasional members is getting married (one of the four Grahams the group boasted at one point) so we agreed to mark the event with some stag events.

In the absence of anything to watch on the TV we decided to play Science v Pluck on Friday evening. This was chosen mainly because we like it, but also because the impending groom has a penchant for role playing games.

SvP is one of those games we play from time to time. I love it, - without doubt it is the best way to wargame the Egyptian & Sudanese campaigns and battles of the late 19th Century. The downside is it takes a fair amount of preparation and thought as an umpire to get the scenario right and to ensure you all have an enjoyable evening. This means we don't play it all that often, and I have to re-learn the rules every time we play. In fact, I think it has been two years since our last foray into the desert.

For this evening's entertainment I decided to run a game around General Graham's forces in Suakin, following a mythical reinforcement of the forces in the port and given a much more aggressive approach to the Suakin operation by HMG.

The importance of such games is to get your playters in the right roles and try to ensure they each have enough to keep each of them occupied and engaged in the evening's entertainment.

I had five players, and set the British forces up like this:

The force is under the command of Maj-Gen Sir Archibald Erskine-May, KCB

1st Brigade:
Brigadier The Honourable Percy McGringle
1st Bn Dumfries Highlanders
1st Bn Rutland Fusiliers
2nd Bn Borsetshire Regiment

2nd Brigade
Lt Colonel Barty Knowles
1st Bn West Flint Light Infantry
2nd Bn  South Wold Regiment
1st  Bn  Somerset Fusiliers

Cavalry Brigade
Colonel Harry Masterley
Westminster Yeomanry (three squadrons)
Rothesay Lancers (three squadrons)

Artillery Support
Major Findlay Harrison
1 battery, RHA (6 x 9pdrs)
1 battery Gardner guns (6 guns, manned by Naval Brigade) Lt Ashley Green, HMS Havoc (NPC)

HQ resources:
1 Company Royal Engineers – Capt William Stokes (NPC)
Mr Carlton Edwards,  Political Officer & "friends" (NPC)

Regimental baggage, including extra ammunition, food and tents. Water trailers and water. Heliograph section, Telegraph wagon, canvass water tanks. (NB Since we last played I have acquired a lot more wagons and camels to provide support to the British as they struggle through the desert in a square with limnited interior space.

The two NPCs are there to enable the Umpire to give advice on engineering matters, - such as laying out zaribas. The Political Officer can give advice on what the locals are likely to do. 

Having decided on the size of the forces I worked out some personal character sheets. I do two of these for each character, - one for the player himself, and a "Pen Portrait" to describe him to the other players. No one sees their own Pen Portrait.

So for this game we had:

Maj-Gen Sir Archibald Erskine-May, KCB
One of Wolseley's “ring” of scientific soldiers you have been given an independent command to prove what proper soldiering is like to the less professional officers. Related by marriage to the well known constitutional theorist you are well connected, if not actually nobility as such.

You are a large, physical man with a very direct approach to issues. Not a noted thinker, you can still hold you own in an argument. No one has ever questioned your personal bravery, and whilst  admired some may find you a bit stand-offish. You have extensive campaigning experience and no one has ever questioned that you are in charge.

Brigadier the Honourable Percy McGringle
A doyen of the Ayrshire McGringles you have the pure blood of Scottish nobility coursing through your veins. Smart & intelligent you have excelled in your career so far and will eventually make a fine catch for a well connected heiress. As long as everyone overlooks your slightly diminutive stature. Some would say compensating for this may account for your ambitious nature.

You have a noble, yet not rash, temperament which makes you popular in the mess. Extensive campaigning with Highland regiments around the world has made you a fighting officer.

Colonel Harry Masterley
“What Ho Chaps, I mean What Ho!! Marvellous to be out here doin' one's bit for Queen & Country. Course it's not like soldierin' in Mayfair, - bit dustier and hotrer, eh? Great thing to be out here with such top chaps, fightin' the fuzzy wuzzy. Followin' in Pater's footsteps only he wasn't in Africa much either (Crimea, - Light Brigade, don't cha know?

After all this is the ultimate test for a manly man, ain't it? It's all very well bein' able to ride all day and knock some rough on his back with one punch but it's up against cold steel that counts.

Don't expect to be found wantin', eh?”

Lt Colonel Barty Knowles
The son of a country parson your military career hasn't been the easiest. In fact it has been a hard slog whilst younger, more well connected, men have moved past you. At last you have been given a chance as you have previously been seconded to the Egyptian Army so your command here results partly from that and also the unexpected illness of the previous brigade commander. Alas your Egyptian Army experience was in Cairo and the delta, so the deserts of the Sudan are a bit of a mystery to you.

The parsonage upbringing means you are no stranger to books, so might be thought of as a thinking man's soldier. Your keenness in the military arts makes you someone people turn to for advice, if not promotion. You have a reputation for being a steady man in a crisis. All of this makes you well liked and respected in the mess. The young chaps sometimes even call you “Daddy Knowles” as a sign of affection.

Major Lord Findlay Harrison, RA
As the third son of the Duke of Handsworth you could have joined a fashionable Regiment, but preferred instead to join the Artillery, and make the most of your ability to blow stuff up. At School (Eton) you excelled at the modern sciences and was one of the brightest of your year, this, allied with your robust physique made you a good all rounder. You are a diligent officer, but sometimes pettifogging detail gets you down a bit. What you want is to be dashing to the front with your guns, engaging the enemy at the closest possible range. The modern artillery man is what puts the wind up the natives these days. These characteristics make you the darling of the mess, and this isn't entirely down to you being a member of the nobility.
Your campaigning experience is limited, - it may be due to the Army not wanting to expose a distant cousin of the Queen to danger, so here is your chance.

Just to round it all off you are also a very fine horseman. Your only weakness is your affinity for the bottle, but mostly people haven't noticed as you have a remarkable ability to be able to stand upright.

The Pen Portraits, together with the allocated players were as below. You'll notice that how people see themselves differs slightly from how others do.

Maj-Gen Sir Archibald Erskine-May, KCB (Mr Graham Hockley)
Well connected, both to Wolseley’s ring and socially. Large man, known for physical courage and leading from the front. Has a reserved manner and thinks good order and discipline comes from not being overly familiar with subordinates. At least that’ how it seems from outside.

Brigadier the Honourable Percy McGringle (Mr Graham Sargeant)
A doyen of the Ayrshire. Smart & intelligent with an excellent career record so far. Linked socially with a number of well-connected heiresses. Not the tallest of men, noted for his ambition and noble, yet not rash, temperament. Popular in the mess. Extensive campaigning with Highland regiments around the world has lead to a reputation as a fighting officer.

Lt Colonel Barty Knowles (Mr William Whyler)
The son of a country parson and  no stranger to books, so might be thought of as a thinking man's soldier. Someone people turn to for advice, if not promotion. Career path has been long , but not stellar. Younger, more well connected men have moved past him. However luck may have turned his way as he has moved into this position as a result of illness to the appointed commander and a commission in the Egyptian Army. Steady man in a crisis. Well-liked and respected in the mess. The young chaps sometimes even call him “Daddy Knowles” as a sign of affection.

Colonel Harry Masterley (Mr Philip Steele)
A fine Cavalry Officer, from a family of cavalry men. Father was in the Crimea and survived the “Charge”. Reputation for bravery and taking direct action, but with limited field experience. Well regarded amongst elite Regiments for having all the right characteristics.

Major Lord Findlay Harrison, RA (Mr Christopher Ager)
Third son of the Duke of Handsworth remarkably chose to join the Artillery rather than a fashionable regiment. Known to be exceptionally bright, but with a robust physique means he is a good all-rounder. A good horseman, and surprisingly aggressive and dashing for a gunner. Popular in the mess, but campaigning experience is limited. Also a very fine horseman. Alas all of this can be easily overlooked when he has had one or two too many, which happens a little too often for comfort.

Lt Ashley Green, HMS Havoc (NPC)
Typical tar. Thinks the Navy can solve anything. Seems to respect Harrison.

Captain William Stokes, RE (NPC)
Older than other officers of the same rank in infantry regiments. Confident and technically competent. Not pushy and takes direction well. Not at all well connected and knows his place.

 That'll do for now. I'll post up the scenario in my next blog then get on with describing the action.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

RUGged performer

Hopefully I've written before of my love of Irregular Miniature's "Really Useful Guns" range. They're a range of large-ish 15mm guns covering the late 19th century through to the end of WW2, so they sit perfectly with the modern 15mm figure. By putting different parts together from a standard set of bits you can get a vast selection of pieces all at really, really reasonable prices.

As I'm a fan of lots of guns in the modern era this suits me down to the ground.

My latest acqusition is one of the range's few "one offs". It's the Russian 76.2mm AA gun Mod 31. You know, the Soviet one that looks a lot like an 88mm without a gun shield. It's a little bit crude but I think it is a cracking little model to go with my SCW forces.

I liked it so much I went as far as to carve the bases off some gun crew so they can stand on the crew platform. How super-detailing is that?

Alas they don't do an 88mm, so I'm going to have to go and see Mr Skytrex and pay top dollar for them. Ho hum.

Anyway, here's another picture for you. Taken from the other side.

On a final note I've got a couple of pictures of this gun from a catalogue of captured Republican weapons. The kit comes with a pair of wheels, which I can see from, the display photo attach under the platform when the gun is being towed. But I can't work out what happens when the gun fires. The photo I have implies they are put on the top of the crew platform, but if they were the crew would trip over them. So I've guessed they are removed and put to one side. Alas I have few sources on WW2 Russian artillery to verify this, so if anyone knows, drop me a line.


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

With a bit of pike and a bit of shot

After the first run out two or three weeks ago we returned this Monday to Neil Thomas' Pike and Shot rules. This time round it was the turn of my Elizabethan English and their Spanish contemporaries to be retrieved from their boxes for a rare run out.

These armies are a mixture, mostly, of Essex & Irregular with some Dixon and a few others thrown in. As we were playing a post-Armada landing game I had to re-write Neil's English army list to exclude the Irish units.

The Spaniards had a couple of Tercios (double sized units), some lancers, hargaultiers and reiters. The English had two units of demilancers, some border horse and four regiments of trained bands. Both sides had a solitary artillery piece. Three players turned up so I joined in on the English side rather than umpire (and in that statement is revealed one of the problems in the game, but more of that later). Note as we were using 25mm figures we used inches instead of centimetres as measurements.

Now the Tercio is a fearsome thing, and the Spaniards had two of them. They started the game by marching across the table aggressively, like they owned the place.

Under the rules as indicated above they each count as two of the eight units you're allowed. They're elite and whilst not packing much firepower compared with other units their sheer size makes them really hard to break down. Especially as they are elite as well.

Did I mention they're elite?

We responded boldly to this central thrust by sending most of our cavalry down the left flank to sort out the scruffy Spanish reiters before turning and falling upon their centre from behind. In theory.

You can probably get a better idea of how it was all shaping up from this wide shot. The other cunning plan was to push on with the other demilancers whilst occupying the walled enclosure with the infantry. In the middle our other foot lined themselves up to create a killing ground for the on-rushing Tercios.

On the Spanish left they had a unit of Lancers supported by the hargaultiers. My plan was to enfilade them with the shot and then countercharge with the demilances. It was at that point my desire to be an even handed umpire whilst also playing got the better of me, and I allowed the hargaultiers to manoeuvre like a cloud of huns and they danced round everything to take my demilancers in the side.

A bit like this. This is actually worse than it looks as my demilancers are a four base unit and we're only a move or two into the combat.

I sent forth my infantry to save the situation, but it was all over before they got there.

Having destroyed my demilancers the Spanish horse turned upon our infantry line which was hotly pressed by the Tercios.  This likewise did not end well.

And then the game finished.


Well, I don't like it as much as the Ancients version. I suspect it hasn't had as much development, - after all the rules are in the "Introduction" book, - it doesn't have its own standalone version yet. It is a game system that makes the players subject to outrageous turns of fortune and it still feels really "ancient" in tone. The solution for mixed weapon units is clever in its way but doesn't ring true. Cavalry combat goes on too long, as well (although  that can be fixed with a tweak to the number of dice rolled).

We could probably fix it all. Phil remarked that there were a number of decisions in the rule design where Neil Thomas has done exactly the opposite of what he would have done and whilst I wouldn't go that far there are some perversities.

The game is also heavily beholden to the troop classifications in the army lists, and some of the issues you get from this you have to put up with. Spanish Tercios should be elite, and they should be bigger than everyone else (probably). However this does give a really difficult problem to solve for any attacker unless he's got a lot of artillery and probably some Swiss. Or he's really lucky with his musketry.

I have one last scenario to play through before I consign the rules to the "done that" pile. That's with my early Tudor Henry VIII and their Francis I French opponents, which I'll hopefully get done in the next few weeks.

We ended the evening with a wide  ranging discussion on the nature of the Battle of Bosworth (Phil has new book and has spoken to some people) whilst I mused on the demise or otherwise of the English heavy cavalry mount during the medieval period and we discussed the nature of kingship in the pre-modern era.

All good stuff.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Conference of Wargamer 2012 - Sunday Afternoon

After lunch there's only really time for one more game before the AGM & off home time. This year I got myself a role in John Bassett's "Coldfeet", an RPG type re-enactment of a (very) Cold War incident.

In the early 1960s the USA reckoned that the Soviets were using arctic drift stations to monitor and spy on their nuclear submarines under the polar ice cape. Fortuitously for them the Soviets had to abandon one at short notice due to cracks appearing in the ice runway. Although at extreme range a band of intrepid specialists are tasked with planning and executing a deniable operation to find out what's been going on up there.

The American's secret weapon is the Fulton Skyhook (see Fulton Skyhook for further details). This was featured in the Bomd movie "Thunderball" and enables people and equipment to be picked up by a moving plane. Thus the team can be parachuted in, then "skyhooked" out, so you don't need a runway.

The game is in two phases, - the planning of who is going and with what equipment and then the operation itself.

Half of the players can be parachuted in, and half are responsible for the flying and the extraction. We flew in 3 on the first wave, and because they were making such a cock of it I flew in on the second wave as team leader to get the mission finished and hide the evidence we were there.

The game's mechanisms are cardboard simulator. Parachutists are physically dropped onto the tables, & woe betide them if they fall into the crevasse in the middle. Whilst the huts are searched the other players build a Blue Peter Skyhook simulator and then when the time comes, extract the players. We built a rather spiffy device using wool, pencils, blu-tack and crucially a pair of scissors sellotaped to a piece of cardboard.

All the team were finally extracted safely, with me lifted of last, eventually, after several failed passes by the pick up plane.

All in all a fun way of exploring one of the Cold War's almost genuine James Bond type events.

An excellent way to round off the weekend.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Conference of Wargamers 2012 - Sunday Morning

And so to Sunday morning, and my SCW game. I was up early to get the tables sorted. I was more nervous before this session that I have been for a few years as the rules have only had a few playtests due to their late genesis. Usually I have a good six months of development behind me and I know what works really well and where I need help. In this case it looked like it could be everywhere.

I'd been given the Panelled Room, which is one of the best venues at Knuston. I needed 4 players, expected 6 and ended up with 5. A lot of people took the early morning hangover option of attending the lecture on Phillipi, - the sort of thing I've done in the past as it eases you into the day gently.

My brave lads turned up mostly on time (thanks to Will, Chris, Alex, Stephen, and particularly Fred for the time and effort they put in). The scenario was a combined push by both sides to seize a key road junction in a village and a bridge across the small river. I'll let the pictures tell the story.

 The Italians on the Fascist left drive forward, led by their armoured units. Will was showing all of his experience here, and at this point had not suffered heavy casualties.
 The Fascist right wing of Legion, led by Condor Legion Panzer 1s surges forward aiming to catch the Reds off balance.
The communists under Chris, with much prompting from Fred, move into the village. In the far distance Stephen's Anarchists start to edge out to the flank.

 The Italians seize the bridge and liberate it from Red control. A message is immediately sent to Mussolini and the victory is announced in Rome. The Reds start to shell the bridge.

A longer shot of the table. The artillery fire on the Italians has become more widespread and effectively pins them on  river line in front of Fred's International Brigade.
Stephen's Anarchists in the top of the picture advance closer to the village. Fred's IBs confidently push forwards to take on the Italian Fascist Hordes.

The Anarchists liberate the village, but the Fascists won't give up and send in their first wave of bombers which on this occasion drop slightly short.

The IBs launch a ferocious attack on the Italian Fascists who take the opportunity to attend to an urgent appointment elsewhere. Fred looked happy, Will looked unsurprised.

Regulares, accompanied by Panzer 1s launch their assault on the village. The Communists find the heat a bit too much for them and are forced to convene a workers' soviet somewhere off the edge of the board.

A wider view of the central struggle. You can see the scale of the problem facing the lone Panzer squadron in the middle of the table  as the T-26s emerge from behind the ridge line. The windmill has been hit with an airstrike.

In the struggle between Fascist and Soviet engineering who will triumph?

The Panzers veered off and decided to clear the town instead, accompanied by the Regulares. This was a success except that some of the dinamiteroes managed to sort out one the Panzers.

And that's about where it ended, with the Fascists holding all the objectives, but the Reds.....well the Reds had a challenge to drag it back but with the armour, who could say?

What I haven't been able to show you is the events in the far village, which the Anarchists occupied, booby trapped, set on fire and then crucified the local priest. It was a whole game I hadn't designed, but Stephen seemed to be enjoying himself.

Which brought us to lunch, amid the arrival of numerous other delegates who turned up to photograph the eye-candy.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Conference of Wargamers 2012 - Saturday Evening

So, we move to Friday Evening, and some ADGs (After Dinner Games). Games intended to be more fun than serious.

I'd signed up for Tim Price's "Footfall", a modern RPG where steely eyed, lantern jawed ex-special forces save the world from Eldritch Terror. Sort of like the X-Files, only with more guns.

The problem was that Tim had put up the wrong sign up sheet so he had twice as many people than he needed. No problem, says he, I'll run it twice. So the group divided into two, with me in the first group.

The thing with these one off RPGs is that you never know exactly how well you've done. Perhaps you only won because it was an easy scenario, so this situation was interesting as we'd  be able to compare the performance of the two squads. An added spice was that the people I normally play with were split into two, - so a chance to find out which of us had a clue and which of us were along for the ride.

Now I have no pictures of this, and modesty does not permit me to brag, but at the end of the game all the bad guys were dead, no one in the team died (immediately) and England, - particularly Milton Keynes - continued its quiet slumbers on that unquiet Earth.

After that I went off to look at a few games and find Mr Treefrog, because he's always got some thing new for us to play test.

I was clearly on a roll at this point as I won his "refight-all-of-the ACW-in-45-minutes" game (Lincoln) in three turns as the Confederacy by capturing Washington and destroying the North's main army.

Following that we sat down for a go at his next Discworld game. I can't reveal any further details, but it was a lot of fun and quite calming in a way.

Except part way through one of the team from the first Footfall game turned up in hysterics. he'd decided to spectate on the re-playing of the game and let's just say they weren't doing as well as us. They were in the wrong building, they were being chased by police and were on their way to a complete disaster.

Getting back to Discworld II we finished in agreeable style, and I took home the set to playtest with Mrs T. Thank you Mr Treefrog!!!

And then, as Pepys would have said, so to bed.

Conference of Wargamers 2012 Saturday Afternoon

After another jolly good eat-all-you-can buffet style lunch it was back to the gaming. After many years of skipping round them I signed up for Mike Young's Iran Nuclear Confrontation Game.

The problem at the heart of the game
Mike sort of does this thing in real life, so his sessions are always well thought through and researched. This one worked through the options open to everyone (well, the USA, Israel, the "Arabs" and Iran) over whether or not Iran is building a nuclear bomb. The heart of the problem, based on some thorough analysis, is that they say they aren't, but no one believes them. The picture shows Mike's simple analysis system. The yellow says it's something Iran is doing (or not) the small boxes indicate whether anybody has said publically that they want it to happen. Blue is Israel, Red the USA and Green the Arabs. As you can see NO ONE including Iran wants it, but the question marks indicate that some people don't believe it.

The Conference Room
Jim Roche and I ended up being Israel. As the debate went back and forth it was obvious that the end game was when we attacked the Iranian nuclear facilities. All that was in doubt was how much backing we'd get from the Americans and whether the Arabs would turn a blind eye.

As the game went on and Rob Collins' sure footedly danced around Wayne Thomas' Americans and ignored the Arabs' fatwa it became clearer and clearer that we'd have a pretty good run at it. When we cried havoc it got a bit sticky flying over Arab airspace but there was sufficient dissension between Messrs Barker & Salt  for us to get there and back with a stunning attack that put the programme back a whole 6 months and put world opinion firmly behind Iran.

Conclusion of game: the Iranians hold all the cards unless the Americans want to bomb them into the stone age.

The game ended early, after one session rather than the two it was slotted for. So after a cup of tea I went for a wander round and found myself at Jim Wallman's "Funny Little Wars" garden game (inside if wet...).

He was accompanied by Tim Gow & Bob Cordery & the Drury boys who had just finished a game and were looking, as colonial occupiers for another poor dupe to take them on. Well, what could I say?

This is basically H G Wells with big figures and spring loaded matchstick firing cannon. I was given the Crimson Empire (er...Boxer Rebellion Chinese) and told to attack. So I did, and suffered great slaughter but had a great time.

The Evil Imperialists deploy
The melee rules in action. Cavalry take a beating. Infantry all die

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Conference of Wargamers 2012 Saturday Morning

So, up bright and early to see what the day will bring, which, initially is a very fine cooked breakfast. Friday night went on a bit late, but I got to play a Martin Wallace Treefrog game that's just ending development, which is always good. It's based on a BBC TV character and will be in the shops before Christmas.

 Anyway, first session is John Bassett's "The True Glory", a discussion/political game based on the Armada and the associated Catholic scares. I played Sir Francis Walsingham, head of the secret service. I was bit slow at the beginning, but once I got the hang of the fact that I just had to make stuff up, my cause started to thrive.

 Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth (in the pink top) surveys her council as they debate what action to take. Sir Walter Raleigh looks on, eagerly.

The cards on the table represent locations in the game, and ships or people.

The leaders of our fine fleet. Admiral Howard in the middle with Raleigh and Drake. All they ever wanted was more money for the Navy. We wouldn't have minded if they'd actually sunk some Spaniards.

 Oh, look! Leicester and Her Majesty are revealed to be at Tilbury, with the trained bands. Soon Leicester will be off to the North, ineffectually seeking out Catholic traitors.
Leicester looks pensive as Girolami whatever the Italian genius prepares his awesome fireships. Sank more stuff than anyone else. Dr Dee, mysteriously, is not in the picture.....could this be magic?
At last, some serious ship on ship action. By this time I had exterminated the Catholic 5th column on land with the help of my spy, Kit Marlowe, some good die rolling and some outrageous lies. Who can argue with a combination like that?

After a well deserve coffee/tea break with home made biscuits, it was time for an alternative take on the Armada, with Jim Wallman's "Felissima Armada".

Jim designs loads of games and has no fear of size or scale.I understand he has a lock up storage unit stuffed full of wargames stuff. For this one he got out his model ships.

Oh yes.

 So here's the Spanish Armada. Some Airfix, some Revell, some scratch built. Against this mighty fleet we had four ships, but we were English, so no worries there then.

Tom sailed fearlessly into the middle of the fleet in Revenge (aka he got the move distances wrong), and laid about himself fearlessly. Did I say he was fearless?

I, meanwhile, cut out a small straggler and boarded her. This was to be the first of many such prizes...except.... a stunning series of  "1s"over five turns left me with no crew, drifting in the water.

Still, it looked great and was a lot of fun. Simple rules played by simple folk.

Finally, for this post, a picture of a game I didn't play, - Wayne Thomas' game of Chinese Warlords. Shame to waste it, so here it is, although I know nothing about how the game went.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Conference of Wargames 2012 - Friday evening

In previous years I have blogged as I’ve gone along. This year I was in a room at the front of the main house. This makes it easier to crawl up to bed when you finally need to go, but has two downsides. Firstly the water pressure in the shower is of third world standard, secondly the internet connection was non-existent.

The first problem is dealt with simply enough, - you just stand under the water for longer. The second was more of an issue, and no matter how long I left it no connection was made, nor even a sniff of one.

The weekend opened up with a stunning win. Bob Cordery of "Wargames Miscellany" and wargaming expert on the Spanish Civil War was having a clear our and offered me a number of books from his collection. I accepted in exchange for a book on the "Ever Victorious Army" (not, as I pointed out at the time,  a book about the Republican army in the SCW) from a contemporary writer. I hope Bob is happy with it, as his idea of a few books was enough to fill a couple of large bags and a full shelf in the study. There were very few duplicates with my existing collection, - although I missed one as mine has a different cover. I also noted when sorting that Bob had been caught in the same way and had both the UK & the US editions of the same book.

So, having dumped my boxes of figures in the games area it was time for the bar, and an opportunity to fortify myself before the plenary game, - a forty player mad rush Vietnam platoon post game. Suffice it to say as leader of my squad due to fine leadership, (I instructed my team to roll lots of sixes) we were broadly untroubled by the Vietnamese human wave, who obliged us by dying on the wires in droves.

Here are some pictures of my heroic squad:

Tony savours his pint whilst Russell rolls the dice. 

Max seems to have sorted the drinking bit whilst Roger radios for flares

Note the detailed claymore mine model in front of the foxhole
After we had made the world safe from the Red threat, I grabbed the Call it Qids kit and set up in the Library.

I think I ran it three or four times. I was disappointed to discover that some delegates had received a copy but had not yet got round to playing it....however, I'll cut them some slack that they had the sense to give it a go given the chance. And we sold at least one copy too. But not to one of the players who already had one, as that'd be a bit silly.

Will and Fred give it a go. The empty glass was mine. I fixed that soon after.
So, together with an excellent meal that rounded off the first evening.

Back tomorrow with another update, I hope.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Some Monday Night Photos

Not enough time for a blow-by-blow account this week, but I did take some pictures and here they are. In any event the game was a playtest for CoW, and there was a bit more discussion than playing so no final conclusion was reached.
The Nationalists are on the left, with the Legion surging across the stream. They all have markers on them indicating that they are moving. On the other side of the bridge the Condor Legion waits in reserve. The Republican forces are massing behind the ridge line and village on the right, carefully preparing their counter stroke. in fact they did a very passable impression of Republican staff work, - "I want the Anarchists on the right, no the left, no the right, with those tanks,. yes the tanks that can only be deployed with the Communists so i'd better move them back. when did you want this attack to start?"
A close up of the Legion forces, stating to take some stick from the Republicans in the village.
A ha! The Republican armoured fist is revealed, driving across the ridge line, trying to take the pressure off the Asaltos in the village who were starting to take some hammer.
The Legion closed on the village and tried to take it bayonet point.They failed, being surprised at how tough the Asaltos were and how poor their die rolling was as well.
Another flank, another bayonet charge. This one failed as well.
The armour push on as the Legion stumble backwards with a few casulaties. Not going well for the Nationalists.

All in all a very useful playtest. There are still a few wrinkles to work out, but I think I have something that will play alright and looks right as well.

Next stop CoW, Sunday morning.