Sunday, 31 January 2016

Update on my Cid-e project

Whilst it is the case that the Pacific War is the main event in the Trebian Wargaming World at the moment, I'm still finding time to move my Medieval Spanish along. Here's what I've painted since I last posted on the subject.

No real evidence that the Almoravids actually fought on camels, but you gotta have a unit of these, surely? The flag is probably a bit big, and the chequer  pattern should be smaller, but I'm pleased with the effect. These flags are done on tomato paste tube metal, not printed on paper, so the final look is down to my steady or not hand, not my ninja-like skills with Drawplus.

Next up Almoravid heavy cavalry. Probably need some banners of pennants to brighten them up. Nothing distracts from a dowdy paint job like colourful, fluttering loveliness.

These are Andalusian Heavy Cavalry. I like these figures, and the picture doesn't really do them justice. An abundance of nice flags help out a lot.

I've made a lot of progress on beefing up the Christian Heavy Cavalry. Adding in figures from the El Cid Spanish command box has bulked out the units, and I've also had time to paint up some of the sprues I got direct from Hat.

As you can see I now have two AMW sized Christian Heavy Cavalry/Knight units (must spend some time thinking about what an AMW medieval Spanish army looks like). Most of the lance pennons are home made. Some are cut off the plastic lances moulded onto the figures then re attached to metal weapons.

Now on to the Knights' less well endowed colleagues in the heavy cavalry area. These are some Caballeros Villanos, following behind their local church's Holy Banner.

I put two units of Almoravid heavy infantry together for this shot. As with their mounted colleagues I think I'm a bit lacking in the flag area. I should be able to do something about that.

This unit of Spanish heavy infantry has no basis in fact, as far as I can tell. They're based on the infantry in the movie "El Cid". Well, sometimes you just have to, don't you?

Massed heavy crossbows. I convinced myself I needed a unit of these, then when I'd finished them I wasn't so sure. Hmmm.

Spanish light infantry bows. I have a lot of bow-armed figures, and what I think I need is crossbowmen (the sources I've read always refer to cross bows when they write about military equipment, never just bows).

So...I found some metal 25mm light cross bows I bought about 25 or 30 years ago to give to some border horse but then changed my mind. The conversions aren't brilliant, but I'm still working on how to best adjust the arm positions, so a work in progress really.

There are some more Andalusian heavy foot on the painting desk at the moment, then I need to go back to Christian heavy cavalry. I may even think about rules at some point.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Osprey Armies of the Pacific War 1879-83

I've finally got my copy of, and read, the Osprey on the War of the Pacific.

Any new Osprey on a subject you are interested in is always greeted by a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Some Ospreys are really good and some aren't. Having said that when I start a new period I always try to hunt down the relevant Ospreys first to try to get a quick start into the subject.

As there were no Ospreys on the 18979-1883 war when I started I had to go out and find other books as a starting point. I've blogged about them elsewhere and the wargamer is surprisingly well served, given the obscure nature of the war. Alan Curtis' excellent two volume publication from Nafziger is a must buy (get it direct, - it's cheaper) as it is written by a wargamer for wargamers, and the Partizan Press uniforms book is excellent.

The Osprey is a good little book. It's cheaper than the stuff I've already mentioned, for a start. The outline history of the war and the campaigns/battles is well done and very clear, - something not always the case with other accounts I have read. Of course as you've got less than 50 pages it is a very sparse outline. However despite claims to the contrary in the chapter headings there's little in this book to help you understand the tactics of the war and how it was fought.

Of course you mainly go to an Osprey for the illustrations. They're really good and the colour ones are supplemented by a fair few line drawings in b&w but with full descriptions of the relevant uniform colours. However it doesn't really add anything to the Partizan Press book. In fact the line drawings are clearly taken from the same source as the Partizan Press book, often down to the same poses.If you have the latter you don't need the former.

The area that is completely lacking is anything to do with unit flags and standards, which is a major disappointment. However the maps are good.

So, in summary, not a bad primer on the subject, but not a lot there for anyone who has moved on from base camp. It isn't a bad book, - there are no errors in it that I could see on my first read through, which is always reassuring, but it hasn't moved my thinking any further forward. I'd say it makes an acceptable substitute for the Partizan Press book if you don't want to shell out the extra £35 to get your hands on it.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

"It's getting a bit Chile" - first trial game

Thursday evening saw the first play test of the Pacific War rules. I was ably assisted by Chris A and Phil. For this early war battle I had the combined Peruvian & Bolivian forces attacking the Chileans holding a crest line. I played the Chileans as the defence is fairly passive in this type of scenario.

Here's the massed forces of the Alliance. Bolivians to the right as we look at them.

Here's one of my new haciendas from Irregular Miniatures, guarded by some Chilean infantry.

And out for their first airing the 1st Cuirassiers of the Bolivian Army.

An opening salvo from the Peruvian guns inflicts a Disorder marker on the unit opposite. You should be able to make out the smoke from the gun and the white disorder marker.

The Chilean artillery returned fire and caused a lot of damage. First indication I may have got this bit of the rules slightly wrong.

This was evidenced also by the Peruvians pounding one of the haciendas, which seemed to provide little shelter.

Yup. Artillery probably too powerful. Notes were made on my print out of the rules. That's why the photo record is incomplete. I spent a lot of time making notes.

See, there's a gap where the Cuirassiers are duffed up by some scruffy Chilean dragoons, and Phil had to deploy the Colorados (the guys in red) to protect his flank.

Elsewhere Chris had one brigade that had adopted modern Open Order tactics and was so making better progress.

However, being in Open Order makes for a tempting target for a cavalry charge. The cavalry got thoroughly trashed. Mostly because the units are half the size of the infantry. Time for a rethink there as well.

Out on the left we had a cavalry clash too. I won this one, which created a problem later.

With the cavalry driven off the firing into the hacienda caused a small conflagration.

With the cavalry in retreat the Peruvians closed the distance and drove the defenders out with heavy, close range fire.

I followed up after winning the cavalry melee on the left and then was caught by a fresh unit and broken. This rather exposed my left flank. Shouldn't have been greedy.

In the middle the Peruvians continued their advance, and started to bring up their artillery. I had withdrawn my guns at this point as they were causing too much damage and I wasn't going to be able to play test some of the other rules.

We had another cavalry tussle on the right...

...which I won, having shot off the Colorados from the ridge line.

The Peruvians drove on in the middle and captured the well.

On the left I got completely flanked and was charged in the rear by the Peruvian cavalry. Not sure about this. I think I might restrict cavalry to flat ground only.

Of course this is sour grapes as my unit was broken immediately.

In the centre the Peruvians were held off from the hills I was occupying by sustained rifle fire. This bit looked fine

Alas my left had collapsed completely, so we called it a night.

The core mechanisms being tested held up well enough. I need to run through the numbers to make sure I've got the values spot on but the D8>D6>D4 mechanism discussed previously worked well, and the disorder process tied well with the formations. The players followed this really quickly, which is good, as I've sometimes had problems here.

As I said before there are lots of rules still to add in, but the central engine looks good. Very pleased with progress so far.

As a footnote I should say something else about the formations. In conversations with the late Paddy Griffith he, and others, were of the view that if we are playing army commanders we shouldn't trouble ourselves with giving orders for formations at battalion level as that's the job of battalion commanders. Generally I think that's right, but in this case there's sufficient evidence of formations being decreed from on high and people possibly getting it wrong that I think this is an important part of the rules.

Friday, 22 January 2016

"It's getting a bit Chile" - first draft musings

Following the previous post on the subject and the helpful comments from Natholeon, Chris G and Martin Rapier I had a bit of a rethink.

After much humming and hawing I decided that the 6" squares were giving me too much of a problem for how to deal with stacked units and so on. The simple solution was to drop to 3" squares, each representing about 250 yards. 

Rather than re-dot my sand coloured cloth I repainted my vinyl mat to match my base style and then marked it up with white sticky dots. These will be replaced by small green paint dots probably once I've fully firmed up this is what I want. Or perhaps not.

I also went over the formations again, as I'm sure that getting these right is the key to the game. So above we have a firing line with skirmish screen and supports.

This is a double strength line. No skirmishers, no supports. This is an everything-up-front maximise firepower formation.

This is a unit in "guerilla inglesa" or Open Order. It has two bases in a firing line and two as supports.

March Column. No skirmishers, no supports.

Attack column. Two skirmish bases and a column. No supports.

A square. 'Nuff said.

I've struggled getting my ideas sorted out so that I'm not just pinching someone else's ideas and passing them off as a new set of rules, as no one ever does that, do they?

The firing mechanism works like this, I think. When a unit is fully formed and subject to no Disorder it rolls one D8 per firing base. So, in a firing line, it rolls three dice, because supports don't fire. An open order unit rolls two dice, as does an attack column, and a double line rolls four.

The score to hit is based on the target formation, say 8 for an open order line. Other formations have a lower number. I've put the base scores in a row with high scores to the left and low to the right. Target modifiers shift the target difficulty to the left (eg if in cover or at longer ranges) or to the right if easier (eg if enfiladed or being shot at by elite troops).

The firing units rolls its dice and inflicts a Disorder marker for each multiple of the target score it gets with the total. A unit with supports can absorb that number of Disorder markers with no ill effects on its shooting. Any unabsorbed Disorder markers drop the dice rolled in shooting by a level from D8 to D6 to D4. If you then get hit again you can't fire. To many Disorder markers and the target retires or eventually breaks.

The melee rules are based on those for "Send Not To Know".

There are a lot of things still to add, - like command rules and the full effects of terrain, but those are the core combat mechanisms.

The next post will cover the first play test, which took place last night.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

"It's getting a bit Chile" - opening thoughts

I have committed to running a game at CoW this year with the Pacific War figures. The working title is "It's getting a bit Chile", which sort of hints at the territorial expansion that came about because of the War and also how cold it gets up on the Altiplano.

So, having committed to the session I need to get some rules worked out. I have been thinking about this for a while, - there's been one semi-abortive adaptation of Neil Thomas' 19th Century rules transposed on to squares - but despite having a few ideas nothing has coalesced yet. With some rule sets I wake up in the morning with the system mostly worked out and it's just a case of writing it down. So far this has not happened for the 10 Cents War, so I'm going to have to do it the hard way.

This morning I went out to Shedquarters and started to put some bits and pieces out to see how it looked, and if the various ideas I had would mesh together.

First up squares v tape measures. I think I'm going squares, - it'll help with formations and keep the movement quick and easy. My light brown cloth has one side with 6" squares marked on it, so that'll do for starters. They're normal squares for the moment. I've pondered using offset squares, which give a hex-type effect without the ugliness of the actual hexes, but I'll need another cloth for that, so orthogonal squares it is for now.

Hills & mountains are important, so how do I get those on the squared board? Previously I've cut up lots of blocks of wood (see the Sumerian games) but I'm running out of cheap wood and it doesn't give the look I'm after. I'd really like to use my existing hills and I think I can through the use of sticky black dots to mark the corners of the squares the hills are obscuring, thus:

As long as no one moves the hills during the game, I think that works. The dots are easily peeled off afterwards and aren't expensive. I need to think about exactly how I position the hills so front and rear facing slopes are clear, as are crests and any plateau areas on the top. Who is up and who is down is important in the battles in this war.

Troops formations are the next items to consider. Both sides had learnt from the Franco-Prussian War (modelling their uniforms on the European styles) and adopted more lessons from there than the American Civil War. They also seem to be carrying a torch for the Napoleonic period too, which is tough when everyone is armed with modern breech loading rifles. Where this gets us, for infantry, is four or five basic formations. These are the march column, the firing line with one or two companies in skirmish order out front, the attack column with a screen of skirmishers, and what was known as the "guerilla inglesa", or all troops in open order, based on British Army regulations. Some troops also formed square. On the table these look like the following pictures. Note that using squares means that the layout is driven by aesthetics, and the exact position of the figures isn't crucial.

So this is a firing line. Three companies in a line, with one out front. You can just see three of the corner dots, marking the edge of the squares. Questions - Is that the full capacity for the square? And what ground scale is that? The unit represents about 600 men.

This one is the March Column, which is easier to do as it has no skirmishers. Again, need to consider how many units in a square - which could be different to line units - and in the case of these, the effects of roads on movement.

Next we have the Attack Column. Two companies up, and two in column. This probably over represents the numbers of troops in the skirmish screen, but it looked a bit silly with just one company out.

Finally in the photo section (I forgot to shoot a square) we have skirmish order, or guerilla inglesa. I'm not sure whether this is a one square or two square formation. This is the two square option.

The armies were in a process of transition at this time, and there's a degree of change in what certain terms mean. In the standard Chilean approach before guerilla inglesa the gaps in the skirmish line were four paces. That's not a lot.

There's a really good article in this month's Nugget, No.286, by John Salt on the difference spacing makes to fire effectiveness. Perhaps I need two types of skirmish order.

Once I have formations worked out, I need to think about command and control. That segues neatly, as some commanders didn't like certain formations even though the troops could perform them. Thus only certain brigades might attack in open order, and even then this might be countermanded by the army commander.

Talking of which, I have finished some generals. There are none in the Outpost Pacific War range, so I'm using the French ones from their Franco Prussian war range. This one is supposed to be the Bolivian President Diaz.

With all these ideas in mind I put some toys out on the table.

I haven't given the same amount of thought to artillery and cavalry. It is less important with cavalry, I think, and I haven't decided what one gun represents yet. Probably a battery. I also have to think about stacking limits for squares too.

For example I think it is fairly obvious that Gatling Guns are deployed within an infantry square:

So, if a battery can be deployed in a square, what about more infantry? Or cavalry.

Hmm. Thoughts for another day. Or perhaps a long train journey to Manchester. Oh goody. Got one of those next week.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Opening Up for 2016

This Wednesday saw the 2016 inaugural Shedquarters game for 2016. My contract hours have been reduced to three days a week, and this week I'm in the office Monday, Tuesday and Friday, so I had a midweek weekend. Plenty of time to plan and set up a game. My initial intention was to do some more work on my 19th Century Pacific War project, but I struggled to make it work (bit of rule writers block). Plus I had four players to keep occupied at the first meet up of the year, so I needed something that was high on action and low on the need to remember rules.

So I settled on a game of AMW, using my Assyrians and my Persians standing in for Medes. As there were five of us I put double armies on the table - 16 units a side - and also added some scenario interest, requiring the Assyrians to capture and burn a town.

Much as I am a fan of Neil Thomas' work AMW is not without its problems. The armies aren't balanced (deliberately, - as he points out some armies are actually better than others) and I harbour a suspicion that not all of them have been playtested thoroughly. The Assyrians v Medes is not a very fair match up. The Assyrians are mostly Elite and have better armour. They can also move and shoot with their heavy units. I therefore upgunned the Medes in certain areas, improving armour and letting them move and shoot too.

Chris K took leadership of the Assyrians, and Will commanded the Medes. I helped Chris until Phil arrived, and Chris A helped Will. Clear?

Chris K, in the hat, re-arranged the Assyrians, making a strong left wing with all the chariots. His plan was a double envelopment whilst refusing the centre. This was unfortunate as the Assyrian foot in the centre is really good. Perhaps I should have told him. The Assyrian right is also a bit light on cavalry. Will responded by strengthening his right to counter the chariot threat.

Admit it. That's a lot of chariots. Everyone loves lots of chariots.

Couple of moves in and you can see the aggressive advances on both wings by the Assyrians. We are falling upon the fold, wolf like.

Will is hurriedly trying to line his forces up to resist the Assyrian on-rush. It looks a bit futile at this point.

On the other wing the presence of the Median light horse was proving an irritant, and would continue to be so for the whole game.

My, it looks like a car crash out there. Don't give much for the chances of the light infantry in the middle.

Within a turn or two Chris has punched a big hole in the Median right flank, aided by the precipitate retreat of the light infantry. Alas he has lost his cavalry flank guard quickly, much to everyone's surprise.

Storming through the gap there is no way out for the light infantry. The outer chariot unit has defeated all comers and is looking to swing into the centre and roll up the Median infantry.

Meanwhile on the other flank it has got a bit attritional, and the Assyrian envelopment has sort of stalled. Phil, who is running this flank, has ignored the order to refuse the centre and is closing as fast as he can. Wise man.

The Assyrians are now a cavalry unit down on the right flank, but Phil is rushing some Auxiliary infantry across to shore it all up.

The chariot units are so big that exploiting the breakthrough is more problematic than all expected.

A general view of the battlefield shows the centres are closing very slowly.

Some unfortunate dice rolling cut one of the chariot units in half, but they're still through. The other unit was too slow turning, and the Median heavy cavalry succeeded in about facing and catching it in the rear.

The Assyrian cavalry on the other flank is now history.

The infantry finally meets up, and the struggle begins. Can the chariots get round quick enough to make a difference? Meanwhile the other chariots are pinned in combat, and some Median infantry is closing on them.

The Assyrian right has pretty much collapsed in a spectacular round of rolling 1s & 2s.

The chariots have nearly seen off the Median cavalry but they're starting to suffer from the infantry attack.

And that's about where it ended. The Assyrian army was in no fit state to carry on and the Medes had held on.

On reflection I over compensated for the Assyrian strengths and removed their cutting edge advantage too much. The cavalry melees are more protracted than suits a plan as aggressive as the Assyrians adopted as they can't get to resolution quickly unless one side is consistently lucky. However the game was tense for most of its length, and occupied four players for nearly three hours.

Not a bad start to the year.