Friday, 31 August 2012

Taiping Era

Since I had half a mind to "do" 19th Century Chinese warfare about a week ago it has rapidly become a whole mind. Of course I gave away the only book I ever owned on the subject in the Summer (it's alright Bob, I don't want it back) but that isn't a problem with my shiny new Ian Heath book on the subject on its way.

Unusually for me I have written most of the rules (well, a pretty good first draft) before I've even decided what figures to buy. let alone buy them or start to paint. My normal approach is to work on the armies whilst I have a really good long think about how I want to do the game. In this case most of the ideas have come out fairly logically as I've sat and typed on the train. The game is currently looking like it will be played on a conventional grid, - no off set squares or hexes this time - and will rely on the EDNA mechanism. I reckon I can play test them with my old 25mm Indian Mutiny figures. The interesting challenge is to produce something that enables me to play native troops v native troops and also native troops v Europeans. Maybe I'll get to push a bit of lead around at the weekend.

The rules at the moment rejoice under the name of "Taiping Error", partly because I gave that book away, partly because it looks funny, and partly because I mis-typed "Era" (yeah, - the train sways a LOT in some places). So, what do you think, - Taiping Error, or Taiping Era?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Whatever's Next?

The upside of the two hour commute is the opportunity to catch up on my reading. I mix it up between fiction and non-fiction and old and new. Recently I just grabbed a book off the shelf on the way out and ended up with a Flashman.

Most wargamers probably have a soft spot for old Flashy, and we can always pretend we read them for the history (I do, honest). My favourite as I remarked on the "Twenty Questions" blog is "Flashman and the Great Game" which lead me to wargame the Indian Mutiny so many years ago. Most of the other books have never lead to wargames, - I looked quite seriously at Rajah Brooke and the Pirates of Borneo but struggled on trying to find sources and the figures.

So re-reading "Flashman and the Dragon" made me wonder why it had taken me so long to think about 19th Century China as a period. I actually did a course in Far Eastern history in my second year at University and studied the Taiping Rebellion so it should have been on my radar. One of the problems with it is the armies are just SO big. Then there's the sources, which are erratic. We have memoirs of travellers in China and people who visited both the Manchus and the Taiping but as with the International Brigades in Spain we know more about the European style "Ever Victorious Army" lead by Chinese Gordon than we do about everything else. Maps of battles are non-existent and exactly what happened in field conflict as opposed to sieges is a bit thin. Sounds perfect for a wargame.

What will make it an interesting problem will be finding a way of fighting smallish armies (the EVA was about 3,000 strong, the British & French expedition in 1860 was about 15,000) against really big ones. Taiping and Manchu armies were a minimum of 20,000 and normally 100,000. I think I want to do not just the Taiping Rebellion battles but also cross over into the "Opium Wars". I think I have a way of doing this but no doubt I'll change my mind after the first game.

So I bit the bullet, sort of, last night and ordered Ian Heath's Foundry work on China in the 19th Century. I've been looking at the availability of figures (15mm) and reckon I can use Irregular's Boxer Rebellion figures, and there may be some others. The Manchu army hadn't changed much since the 17th century, so there are a few ranges to look at I'd guess. Falcon UK do a Taiping Range, but I can't get a decent look at them and it seems I have to order them from the US. I'm at Derby in October, so there's a chance to poke around. I'm fairly sure Mongol cavalry hasn't changed much throughout history.

The British and French from the Opium War of 1860 can probably be put together from Indian Mutiny ranges and the Crimea for the French.

So that will be the next project, I think. I've still got some SCW figures to paint and some other bits to buy, but I can run them in parallel, I reckon, and the MNG needs a bit of a break from my Iberian obsession.

So do I.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Twenty Questions, more or less

Ooooh, - one of those 20 question things. Well, got nothing else to write about whilst sat on the train, so here's what I think

1. Favourite Wargaming period and why?
My bookshelf and wargames collection tells me it's a close run thing between WW1 and the ECW. In truth it changes a lot. Probably the ECW just edges it, as it is just so...quotable. Looking at answers below it has to be the ECW.

2. Next period, money no object?
Just reading Flashman and the Dragon again, so I'd say the Taiping Rebellion/1850s-60s China. I'm so pathetically easy to influence. In 15mm.

3. Favourite 5 films?
Star Wars, episode IV; Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Terminator II, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, 101 Dalmations (Disney animated version)

4. Favourite 5 TV series?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Callan, Farscape & Doctor Who,

5. Favourite book and author?  (let's make it a top 5)
Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser, anyone of the Guards books by Terry Pratchett, A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton, Brentford Trilogy by Robert Rankin, Battle Tactics of the Western Front by Paddy Griffith

6. Greatest General? 
Of all time, - as in the most successful? Probably has to be Alexander. If the question was “Favourite”, it would be Oliver Cromwell

7. Favourite Wargames rules?
File Leader – Original, clever and fun. Just need to sort out those clunky melee rules.

8. Favourite Sport and team?
Cricket, and the perennially under achieving Somerset.

9. If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?
Naseby, 1645. Got to know if that fighting retreat really happened (on a more personal note it'd be June1977 to tell me to take A Level Maths instead of French)

10. Last meal on Death Row?
One that takes a long time to cook.

11. Fantasy relationship and why?
My wife texts me cricket scores when she knows I can't see a TV or PC screen and is currently getting builder's quotes for a wargaming room for me. Does that answer the question?

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?
Morgan Freeman. Or Edward Woodward (if he were still alive). Otherwise if I have to find a bald short sighted person I'm afraid they'd cast Harry Hill.

13. Favourite Comic Superhero?
Judge Dredd. No super powers, just a guy with a job.

14. Favourite Military quote?
“And the Lord made them stubble to our swords”

15. Historical destination to visit?
I've done most of those I want to see that I can see. Otherwise it's a toss up between Baghdad and Tehran. Probably go for Baghdad.

16. Biggest Wargaming regret?
Not buying a Scottish Flodden Field Army from Dixon in the Early 1980s when I did my English.

17. Favourite Fantasy job?
Not having to have one.

18. Favourite Song Top 5?
Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush), All along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix), One of these days (Pink Floyd), Paranoid (Black Sabbath), St Crispin's got our Backs (TANAOU)

19. Favourite Wargaming Moment?
Persuading Phil Barker to swap places with me in the turn sequence in a game of “Londinium's Burning” so I could stab him in the back more easily.

20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
The modern obsession with form over substance.

Reading them back it seems like I have a preference for things that aren't real, which is a bit odd for a historian. On the other hand sometimes history is so awful it's good to escape.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Love at First BAIT (?)

Monday Night, as promised, saw our first play through of BAIT, RFCM's SCW company level action rules, nearly 10 years behind everyone else. Will took the Marauding Moroccans and Phil had the Anarchists. I had the rule book and the final say on what was supposed to be going on.

Just to recap I set the board up and laid out the objective markers so we could skip the introductory game to make sure we got the game finished in the time allocated and also because I wanted to play a scenario that ran across the terrain board in a certain direction. First up let's look at the forces and the terrain board.

The Moroccans. Two infantry platoons and a heavy MG section.

The Anarchists. Four "platoons" and an HMG section.

This is the game board, seen from the side the Moroccans will attach from. Any square with a wall in is partial, as is the park with trees. The other fields are open. The objectives are marked with yellow tiles.

The attackers were allowed 220 points, and the defenders 140. Both chose two platoons, leaving the rest as reserves. The Defenders deployed first, as seen in the pictures below:

 The Anarchists deployed one platoon on the left in the buildings clustered around the fountain plaza. They are deployed behind the first row of buildings in classic PBI style.

Add caption
On the right they adopted a more aggressive posture, taking the buildings and having a command post behind. Positioning of command is even more important for militias as their officers only have a one square command radius.

The opening move of the game saw the Moroccans deploy on their right and launch a dash across the open ground to occupy the buildings that were empty. This turned out to be a bit of a disaster. They took casualties from opportunity fire, and then the Anarchists immediately launched a counter attack in their turn, assaulting the square. In a fierce round of bloody combat the anarchists fought their way in, and this was the result (Moroccan dead markers to the left, anarchist to the right).

I think that the Moroccans never really recovered from this combat, which surprised both me and Will. Phil, having played the game once before was some what less surprised. Undeterred Will moved the rest of the platoon into the neighbouring building.  In this position he was subject the effective opportunity fire from all sides. Not a happy place to be and he took casualties, as you can see in the picture below.

In this position it was only a matter of a short period of time before he'd be under pressure again from the Anarchists, who by this point knew no fear.

This picture shows the result of the frenzied assault by the Anarchists. All the Moroccans dead, and also all of the Anarchists except for their triumphant flag waving command group.

But not to worry, - Will finally got somewhere with a reinforcement roll and his support team were on the table and moving up. The lack of automatic weapons had made both players a bit relaxed about clustering squares. By this stage it was bit academic as there were hardly enough bases on the table to cluster at all.

At the other end of the board the Anarchists started to move their units across to bolster their left, to ensure that there was no last minute breakthrough by the Moroccans (no worries really, as break tests were now being failed) and also to sit squarely on the objective markers.

I just like this picture of the militia in this ruined building. I have no other reason to put it here, and no context.

The HMG's have finally opened up on the  Anarchists and actually hit some bases. Phil was not amused.

The Moroccan HMGs had ensconced themselves into a ruined building and were laying down some heavy fire. Alas it was all too late.

The final desperate attack by the Mococcan Company Commander and his rifle section.  The Anarchists were quick to block them in.

So it ended with a massive Anarchist victory.

The post game de-brief was mixed. There's a lot in PBI & so in BAIT that we like, but it is also infuriating. Phil tried to rally off casualties 5 times, and failed each time, for example. Motivation & APs can still be really annoying, - and we were spared mostly the high point rolls needed for artillery and so on.

I really want a game at this level, and I'd love it to be an RFCM game. I'd really like it to be BAIT. I think we need to have another go, and we probably need to throw in some armour, dinaminteroes and AT guns.

But love at first BAIT? No, I don't think so.

On a side note, this is my 300th blog since I started in October 2009. In nearly 3 years I've doubled my target of, on average, posting once a week, and picked up just over 100 followers (we hit 100 a few months ago, then some one left so I didn't say at the time).

The aim of really talking about being a grownup and wargaming has been more honoured in the breach than the observance, with the "Real Life" series of blogs seeming to have dried up.

My favourite posting is this one: That Whole Yahoo Group Thing. The most popular is the one about Battleground.

The most commented upon is Osprey's Nasty Little Book, another I'm quite pleased with.

Of course those I wrote when I lost my job were quite painful to do and I nearly deleted them. I'm glad I didn't as they brought forth some really heartfelt support, for which I'm grateful.

Next target is blog 500. Hope you are still with me then.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Doing the Ground Work

In preparation for Monday night's game I set up the table, re-read the rules and put the army lists together. We're playing "Bayonet and Ideology 2" (aka BAIT) from RFCM/Peter Pig to provide another take on the Spanish Civil War.

BAIT wouldn't have been a set of rules I'd have bought myself. Although wanting to game the SCW I was looking at higher formation actions, but if you get them free, why not?

I saw BAIT in development through Wargames Developments & CoW  (can't believe it's nearly 10 years ago), but didn't pay that much attention. However, those involved in producing this PBI variant (who included Wayne Thomas) are people whose approach to wargaming and research I respect. My only reservations in reading the rulebook through is that it seems to be an exercise in bolting as much chrome as possible onto a framework that isn't going to be changed at a fundamental level. Mirrored in this set is an argument that raged on the RFCM Yahoo group on and off for years over artillery. Given that is a company level game how much should higher level formations be involved. There was one particular row about the use or not of a British Army Group Royal Artillery. If you include that as an option then the whole playing area becomes a smoking wreck, so it seems fair to exclude it.

In BAIT there's a prebattle sequence that gets you to an off table barrage and air intimidation. Whilst those are both important features on SCW battles how important they are down at company level where armies start a few hundred yards apart at most is debatable, so for this evening's game I'll be ignoring those rules. I'll also be skipping the pregame recce sequence as I want to play the table in a certain direction, plus I want to get straight onto the table and start moving figures instead of playing a version of battleships.

The scenario for tonight is a Moroccan company assaulting some Anarchists on the outskirts of Madrid. The armies are:

Moroccans - Veteran Company

Company Command
Officer & Pistol 35 points

2 Rifle groups 16 points

1st Platoon
Officer & Pistol 35 points

10 Rifle groups 65 points

2nd & 3rd Platoons as above

Support Platoon
Officer & Pistol 35 points

3 HMGs 66 points

Total 352 points

NB This is very similar to the Peter Pig boxed army, but the points are wrong on the website listing, with the rifle platoons costed at 5 points to much.

Anarchists Average Militia Centuria

Company Command
Officer & Pistol 17 points

1st Platoon
Officer & Pistol 17 points
10 Rifle Groups 45 points

1 LMG 10 points

2nd, 3rd & 4th Platoons as above

Support Platoon
Officer & Pistol 17 points

2 HMGs 30 points

Total 352 points

One final note on the Peter Pig SCW Black Boxes. They're a great way of picking up lots of packets of figures in a cost effective way, but they aren't always perfect. As I've noted above the points for the Moroccans have been worked out slightly wrong, although you have enough bits in the box to fix the problem. The Falange Box is a mess as it has a lot of female militia in it, and the Falange never gave women rifles let alone put them anywhere near the enemy.

Still, really looking forward to tonight. Battle report to follow.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

New Arrivals

Had the chance this week to put in some work on my latest Peter Pig SCW arrivals. Over the last few days I've succeeded in getting my first batch of Civil Guards finished. They're not a very complicated unit to paint once you've decided what colour green they have to be.All the fun comes from the rather silly hats.

I've set up my table for a game of RFCM's "Bayonet and Ideology" on Monday evening, trains permitting, so I've popped a couple of bases on the table for a photo call, showing them stopping a car to search for Anarchists. or similar.

"So, 'comrade' where did you  get the car from?"
"If we hide here in this ill-lit photograph we'll be able to surprise the Reds!"

Friday, 17 August 2012

What Next?

When I started my Spanish Civil War odyssey I was given a copy of RFCM's "Bayonets & Ideology", the SCW version of PBI2 (not to be confused with the current version of those rules, PBI). I've always enjoyed the PBI style of game although I've never played BAIT as it is known. When I started to paint my figures I kept half an eye on BAIT, although I felt it was never going to be my main SCW game.

My intention was always to produce more than one set of SCW rules, each set focused on a different level of resolution. So far we have "Send Not to Know" and "If You Tolerate This" which are both working quite nicely, so maybe it is time to turn my attention to another set.

The SCW is peppered with some bloody and sustained low level street fighting, - the battle for University City in Madrid being particularly notable.That type of close, claustrophobic fighting is quite well done by PBI, so I'm hoping that BAIT will fill the gap here, at least initially.

It was remarked on TMP that University City would be well suited to 28mm skirmish level games (of course it is a widely held view on TMP that any type of warfare is best simulated by 28mm skirmish wargames, which makes refighting the siege of Leningrad or the Battle of Kursk a bit of a challenge). I think that skirmish conflict is a lot less representative of low level combat in the modern era where modern armies are well versed in squad and platoon tactics, - that makes the PBI/BAIT approach more interesting because it tries to capture that type of combat with proper command and control.

I have a secret (well, no longer secret)  feeling that when you get down to very low level combat that not a lot has changed over the years. The more detail you put into how fast a man moves and the types of weapons the less it actually matters. What gives warfare its character is when large masses of people act together, - it is at this level when the combined interactions of weapon systems create battles in the way we understand them. After all what is Pike without Shot? In a ECW skirmish game the pike man soon becomes superfluous and you might then be anywhere up to the end of the Napoleonic wars.

BAIT seems to me to be at about the right level, although I also think that Martin may have overdone some of the colour. I'm not convinced in a company level game that we should be too bothered with pre-battle barrages and air support/intimidation.

So that is the project for Monday Evening. Learn BAIT over the next few days and set up the table on Sunday afternoon.

And hope the trains run to time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Machine Guns and Horses

The death of cavalry as an effective arm in popular perception is widely linked to the rise of the machine gun, with harrowing stories of cavalry charges being massacred on the Western Front. In fact the evidence for such events is very thin, if not non-existent.

Cavalry as we know persisted into the Second World War effectively in the role of mounted infantry, the important fact being that a man on a horse is much more mobile than a man on foot, and that in a semi-industrial society a reliable horse is cheaper and easier to obtain than a reliable truck.

Plus a horse is much better off road, so its use persists in parts of Africa in particular. Who amongst us who plays AK47 hasn’t bought Mr Pig’s very fine looking modern professional cavalry? 

Any how the corollary of using cavalry as mounted infantry in the industrial age is that they have to have all of the kit that goes with being an infantry unit. In respect of the Spanish Civil War (where Moscardo’s cavalry were very active and recorded only one actual charge) sabre squadrons carried LMGs, and cavalry regiments had MG companies.

I raised the question before a couple of blogs ago as to what an MG company might actually look like. Every wargamer knows that in the Russian Civil War the problem was solved by mounting the MG on a cart or carriage to create the tchanka, much beloved of Nestor Makhno and the anarchists. These are a fun model to own and use in a game, and my Russians have quite a lot of them, again courtesy of Mr Pig.

If you read the comments on this blog you’ll know that Tim of “Megablitz and More” has shared with me a photo of his Polish MG cart, which as far as I can see are purpose built, compared with what seems to be a persistent ad-hoc approach to their provision adopted by the various forces in Russia. For those of you who like everything in one place, I repeat the picture here.
In respect of Spanish Cavalry I’m prepared to accept a view that says in an army where the pre-war height of military technology was the Renault FT-17 that the idea of mounting an MG on a cart might be a bit revolutionary, so in the absence of any actual pictures for Spanish Mounted MGs units I’m looking for inspiration elsewhere.
I’ve found a few photographs on the internet that might be informative.

The first comes courtesy of a Romanian WW2 cavalry re-enactor (who’d have thought there would not only have been one of them but also one who specialises in MG pack animals). Alas I'm not an expert in Romanian uniforms so it could be that this has been broken down to use in difficult terrain and it's a mountain company horse.

As you can see gun and tripod are securely attached, and lead in this instance by hand.

However, here's a picture of a US cavalry packhorse using the  M1924 Phillips Cavalry Pack Saddle, complete with machine gun hanger, M1919A4, M2 tripod, and spare parts chest (according to the forum I ripped it off from).

And here's a close up of the pack assembly itself. I'm becoming convinced that this is what I need to build, only with a Hotchkiss on it, rather than a Browning.

When I was looking for pictures last night I found a WW1 period photo of a US pack horse with a Vickers gun slung on the back of it. Of course now I come to put it in a blog I can't find the picture, and I'm posting from another PC so the browsing history is no good either.

Putting it all together I reckon I know what I'm going to do now, so I need to find some spare horses and start to play with some wire and tubing and Miliput.

I wonder what Mr Steele is up to these days?

Monday, 13 August 2012

What happened there?

This weekend I finally found time to catch up with some unfinished (and some unstarted) stuff. On the Grown Up side this meant mowing the lawn and taking the hedge trimmers to my front bushes in order to see if there was still a tree in there (there is).

Otherwise I managed to finish the paint work on my 16th Century Irish that I bought over two years ago to use with File Leader. The figures are 28mm Irregulars, like my Elizabethan English, and I have to say I bought them on impulse and have been unsure about how wise a move that was ever since. Now that they're done I'm convinced it wasn't one of my better decisions and I know I'll really have to go out of my way ever to use them. Still, they're done at last, so I can stop worrying about them (and start thinking about my other 28mm folly, - a box of Crusaders and Turks that I won probably 5 years ago and have only ever painted half of them).

Having sorted those I was able to spend an afternoon sitting in the garden sorting out my last Peter Pig order.

When I do a figure order I work out very precisely exactly what I want, and the aim is to ensure no figure is wasted. I usually have a spreadsheet with all the unit sizes and the packet numbers and document what is to be used where. When the order arrives I then break out all of the packets and sort them into units and put them into ziplock bags with notes of what I was thinking to do at the time (eg "Convert SMG into grenade thrower"). These are all then stacked up in a box in the order I want them to be painted.

That means that I can just sit right done and start work when I want to paint without any faffing about.

So, given all of that planning, how come I've got 6 packets of Carlists left over? At least. What's that about? I'd make another unit up, only I haven't got any spare MGs. Am I going to have to buy more packets of figures to use up the overflow here? Who do I know who needs Carlists and might be prepared to swap them for something I need?

In a way it's better this way round than not having enough I suppose. I just can't work out how it happened. I should really go and have a look at that spreadsheet properly and see what sillyness hides within. What is annoying is that the numbers for the cavalry and the Civil Guards worked out perfectly.

Actually, talking about Spanish Civil War cavalry does anyone have access to pictures or information on how the MG squadrons were organised and worked. Were they equipped with the Hotchkiss and was it carried on the rider's horse or on a separate pack animal? I'm assuming they didn't use a tchanka like wagon as that'd be a must have for any wargamer. I note as well that it is a subject not covered by any wargaming figure company in any scale, so I'm suspecting we don't know.

With that done all that was left was to tidy up and go and watch Miss Kate Bush not appear on the Olympics Closing Ceremony.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

More P&S with NT

So this Monday we ran the last trial game using Neil Thomas’ Pike & Shot rules. For this run out I retrieved some of my oldest and best loved figures and we went back to the Early Renaissance.

I started on my Flodden Field Henry VIII army whilst at university, and bought the applicable Osprey when it first came out. At that time Dixon had a chunky range of 25mm figures based mostly on the illustrations in the Almark “Great Battles” book on Flodden. My mate Derek bought the Scots and I bought the English. We’re holding on for a 500 year anniversary game next year.

So I could have some opponents for them and not duplicate the Scots I bought a contemporary French Army and expanded Henry’s forces from Flodden to the 1513 French campaign.  Like my Huguenots they have both had units added as figures have taken my fancy or matched what I could afford.

The 1513 force is as much a late medieval army as an early renaissance and it doesn’t appear in the standard lists in Neil’s book. Likewise his French army is very much Italian Wars and not Northern Europe. I therefore had to do some work on them before we started playing.

There’s a mid-late Tudor army in there so I used that as the basis for the English. I needed to add bill units (counted them as “swordsmen” as Neil doesn’t have a halberdier category) and I put in landsknechts and Burgundians. I then took out  the Irish units and ended up with a list that gives me an army that looks like this:

English Early Tudor Army
2 x Longbow (Shot, Light Armour, Average)
2 x  Billmen (Swordsmen, Medium Armour, Average)
1 x Demi-lancers (Gendarmerie, Medium Armour, Average)
1 x Landsknechts (Pike, Light Armour, Average)
1 x Burgundians (Gendarmerie, Heavy Armour, Average)
1 x Cannon

The French list is okay as you can ignore the southern campaign troops and focus on those more widely available, although I did weaken in my army selection to let them have Swiss rather than landsknecht.

French Early XVIth Century
2 x Swiss (Pike, Light Armour, Elite) 
1 x Francs Archers (Shot, x-bow, Medium Armour, Levy)
1 x Argoulets (Light cavalry, x-bow, Medium Armour, Average)
1 x Stradiots (Light cavalry, javelin, Medium Armour, Average)
1 x Gendarmes (Gendarmerie, Extra Heavy Armour, Elite)
1 x Archers (Gendarmerie, Heavy Armour, Average
1 x Cannon

On the face of it the French look really strong. They have better armour, better quality troops and more missile armed units as well.

We had four players plus me. So whilst I went and put the kettle on they sorted out their layouts and battle plans.

The English contemplate their formation. There's obviously a plan to anchor one wing on the wood, but exactly what troops should go out there? They ended up with most of the English foot on that flank, with the demilancers as a reserve in the middle, behind the line. Their right centre was held by archers and artillery, leaving the right flank to the landsknechts and Burgundians.

The French put the Swiss out on their right with the Stradiots between them. The centre was held by Argoulets and "Archers", with the artillery. The left wing was covered by the Francs Archers and the Gendarmes.

The opening moves of the game. The French have gone at it with aggression and some thought. The "Archers" are masked by the Argoulets who are softening up the English longbowmen with their cross bows before the "Archers" charge home. The Gendarmes have gone off at some pace in an attempt to turn the line.

Here's a shot of the brave Argoulets shielding the...what shall we say "careful" Archers from the longbows. I think this approach may have had wider ramifications for the French as it showed a slightly less than gung-ho attitude.

On the French left the Gendarmes engaged closely with the Burgundians. This proved to be an evenly matched contest, despite the Gendarmes having the advantage in both armour and morale. It bogged down into quite a protracted fight, which did not work in the French favour.

The "Archers" veered round to try an exploit the internal flank, but the demilancers moved across to fill the hole.

In the distance the Swiss had finally got to grips with their English  opponents, and the Stradiots dived in as well.

The Swiss and the billmen get stuck into it as the demilancers and Archers start to hack at one another.

The Stradiots did okay at first, fighting the Longbow men, but soon faded. The six bases v four bases that you get with infantry v cavalry is a big hill for them to climb.

The Gendarmes finally saw off the Burgundians, but by that time it was too late. The demilancers had seen off the Archers with the assistance of the Landsknechts, so it was close to being all up for the French.

The Swiss took a real beating from the Billmen and although they don't need to take morale rolls they were soon no more, - wiped out the the last man. Which was pretty much game over.

Another fun game but there are issues with the rules, and they do not work as well as their Ancient counterparts. I've been using a variant that has the infantry three sections wide, which probably works better for the later period with actual pike and shot. These guys, especially the Swiss, should have been two wide by three deep. The Swiss were a real disappointment although the result is probably right overall. They should perhaps induce a morale roll in their opponents each turn because of the fear factor. On the other hand if the French had got their heavy cavalry in amongst the billmen it would have been a different story.

Some units always turn up a surprise. This time it was the Francs-Archers who, despite their levy class, gave the landsknecht a real run for their money.

So, as indicated before I need to decide if there is a future for these and if I can be bothered to do the necessary work on them. 

Just not today.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Just Des(s)erts (4)

After clearing the village the column pushed on across the desert.The encounter at the village had made the players more wary of what the apparently open terrain may be holding for them. The Highlanders at the head of the column were deployed into line to enable the column to close up into a square in short order should it be required. By mid to late afternoon they could clearly see the fooothills of the Waratab Mountains in the distance.

In fact as they closed to distance it became clear that they were marching towards a ridge line covered in thick scrub, where the only safe path through for formed troops was a defile about the width of an infantry regiment in line. The column halted and deployed the RA's 9pdrs and proceeded to reconnoitre the scrub by fire. This was followed up by an aggressive push through the scrub by the cavalry. This was a tense moment, - the visibility in the scrub was severely limited as mostly the horsemen could not see above it.They scouting discovered some blasted trees and the odd mangled Mahdist scattered through the brush.The squadron exploring the defile emerged the other side to discover a deep wadi and evidence of dervishes, - quite possibly "Fasands of 'em". The cavalry, slightly spooked, fell back on the column.

The column reorganised itself slightly band pressed on, as a wadi started to appear out of the desert. As they closed with the ridge line desultory firing broke out from the scrub. It was now quite clear that the column could not get through the defile in the way it was currently deployed. This occasioned a reorganisation, forcing the artillery to be pulled back within the square. It was also quite clear that there was a lot of baggage to get within the square, and it would be a tight fit. Some of the cavalry were forced to dismount to help out, - although the helpful offer to form the back line of the square entirely with mounted cavalry was declined by the Major-General who was more concerned to ensure he had reserve bayonet groups at each corner of the square.

It's always nice when one of the players reads the briefing material from cover to cover and can actually remember some of it. I was also impressed that close attention was mostly paid to where the spare ammunition was, and sides of the square were allocated to the various commanders. Alas for  "Daddy" Knowles he got the side near the wadi.

As the column pushed into the defile the fire from the ridge line got heavier, and the column halted to give them a volley or two. At this point Mahdists started to emerge from the wadi. Seeing some fresh targets, the Cavalry shook out into battle line and then sort of hesitated.

Hordes of fuzzies sped across the desert, sun glinting on their leaf-bladed spears. Clearly massed firepower would be essential to see them off, so "Daddy" Knowles swung the rear face of the square open towards them, and ordered rapid fire.

 The massed fire from the brave Imperial infantry caused massive execution amongst the fuzzy-wuzzies, and their charged seemed to falter. However all that was happening is that their thrust was being adjusted. Several hundred peeled off to face down the cavalry, whilst more swarmed up the line at the back of the square to find their way round the end and into the open square. Down the side facing the wadi the fire had been mostly effective, but some stuttering, ill directed fire half way down the square enabled the fuzzies to close with the square.
I've lost track of what was happening in these photos, but it looked a bit dicey for a while. Down the side of the square the Mahdists had got in amongst the baggage,.ignoring the sword waving of "Daddy" Knowles who had emptied his revolver into them to very little effect.and had wrecked one of the water bowsers. An impromptu bayonet group lead by "Daddy" Knowles and consisting mostly of the heliograph team and some engineers counterattacked successfully.

The head of the column was now under a fairly hot fire, and the Highlanders impressed everyone with their calm and methodical firing.

At the rear of the column it looked like it had all turned into a bloody mess with half of the regiment that had opened the square dead and dying. The dismounted cavalry on the far side counter charged and the Gardner gun was turned inwards to provide support. The Lancers closed up to provide support as well. the tide had clearly turned against the fuzzies who were now scattered liberally across the blood red sand.

At this point the attack had been beaten off, and Osman Digma's forces given a seriously bloody nose. News of the fight was heliographed back to the zariba, and a council of war was held. Carlton Edwards was of the view that the column had broken Digma's main force, and this was a major victory....but at what cost.

The force had taken heavy casualties amongst "Daddy" Knowles' command. There was no probably not enough time to get to the target village in time to build a zariba, half of the water had been lost and the rest of the baggage had taken a sever hit as well. The cavalry was blown, having fought two major actions in the day.

It was resolved to pull back from the battle site and build a zariba here. Engineers were despatched with the Norton Tubes to look for water in the wadi, whilst the wounded were tended to and the dead buried.

All round a satisfying evening's game. I need to work on my understanding of the rules and work out a new scenario for the next game. The players put on a good performance and have made this corner of Africa a place where an Englishman (and a Scot) can hold his head up high.