Monday, 29 February 2016

Fame at last, for sure

Finally found a copy of MWBG.  I am the only blog this month but according to Henry I'm a gem.

I may subscribe.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Even Chile-er

This week saw a visit to Shedquarters by an old and valued acquaintance. Richard Brooks, the military historian, came to see us and give a talk to the Northampton Battlefield Society. As he was coming all the way up from the south coast it would be silly for him to come all this way and not squeeze in a game.

As Richard is fairly knowledgeable on the France-Prussian war and late 19th century warfare in general (well, actually most periods, to be honest, but he has produced a good set of 1870 period rules) I thought it would be helpful to shove him head first into the maelstrom which is the 1879 Pacific War.

Due to work commitments I didn't have much chance to put any thought into the scenario so I went with a simple encounter battle using all the toys I have. The Chileans are to the right, the Alliance to the left. To break the game up a bit the Peruvians have a forward outpost of local troops on the prominence in the middle of the table.

After some lunch and discussion Richard took over the Chileans. It turns out he spent the early few years of his life in Lima, so was aware of the degree of tension between the nations in that part of the world over the outcome of the war. My other player was to be Phil, but I took over the Allies until he arrived.

Stage Centre I had President Daza of Bolivia and his elite Division, lead by the Colorados. He pressed forwards, eager to get at the invading Chileanos.

On my left there was a Peruvian Division under Colonel Cacares.

On  his left Richard sent troops forwards to seize the heights and get his guns in a dominant position.

On his right he moved forwards slightly more cautiously, adopting Open Order as soon as possible. This was based upon his knowledge of what happened to troops in dense formations facing breech loaders in the Franco-Prussian War.

On the right we soon had a cavalry melee as the brave, but outnumbered, Peruvian caballeros gave it their best shot. They were driven off with minimal difficulty.

In the centre the main Chilean Division, consisting of pre-war regulars, advanced to take the hill.

Phil had taken over by now, and had got Cacares up to support the central units. His aggressive handling of his foot enabled his cavalry to retire and reform without being chased down by the Chileans.

Undaunted Richard pushed forwards on his right. You'll note that for this game I broke up the line of sight a bit through deploying some wooded areas.

Desultory fire broke out on this wing and it looked to me that it might take a while to resolve.

In the centre the Chileans had got to the base of the hill and were engaged in a firefight with the occupiers of the summit. This is where the Chilean attack started to get bogged down quite badly.

Over on the Allied right a lone Peruvian Division edged its way forward.

The intensity of the firefight in the centre increased but the Chileans were unable to fight forwards from the bottom of the hill.

Over on the Allied left the fight round the wood was causing a fair amount of confusion.

On the right the flanking Division finally emerged and deployed for action.

In response Richards troops on the hill top deployed into Open Order and started a disruptive fire.

In the centre the Chileans brought up mote troops but were still unable to launch an assault.

As often happens when old friends meet after a long gap games take longer to play and discourse can become more important. I'd say in 3 1/2 hours we probably got in about 2 hours worth of play so we didn't reach a conclusion.

However the time was not wasted. The revised close combat rules did get used and I am pleased with the outcome for both cavalry and infantry combat. Richard made some suggestions about move speeds and infantry moving/firing. Apart from that the system still seems to be holding up.

In order to get these fully tested however I'm going to have to limit my ambition a bit. I keep putting on multiple division games that don't always get to the point. I need to run a series of smaller solo games to try out specific scenarios and see what happens if people actually do what I think they should do.

Still, progress is being made.

And Richard's evening talk on Simon de Montford was very interesting too.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Fame At Last?

I’ve been blogging now for over six years and have climbed to the dizzy heights of 201 followers (down from a peak at the end of last year of 214 – what did I say to offend you out there?) which gets me out of the range of the Leibster Awards for small plucky blogs nobody reads.

One of my followers is Henry Hyde (Hi Henry!) of Miniwargs & Battlegames who is a recent joiner, relatively speaking. When I saw him pop up I didn’t really pay it much attention. Henry edits a wargames magazine. It’s safe to assume he follows large numbers of blogs, trawling for the latest hip new trend if such things exist for wargamers.

However this month, in edition 395 of MW&BG, apparently this blog has been nominated as one of Henry’s two blogs of the month. So I had to say a warm thankyou to Henry for noticing and publicising my efforts. I realise that he’s probably been doing this for a year or two and at 2 blogs per month this probably means I don’t make his top 50, but even so….

I don’t actually buy any wargaming magazines regularly every month*, although if I did I’d favour MW&BG over Wargill. I wrote a blog a few years ago explaining my reasons in more detail,  although sometimes I’m tempted. My reasoning is, to quote Kate Nash, “I’ll just read a book instead”. Most of what I want about the periods I’m interested in won’t be in a generalist magazine so I’m going to end up buying monographs anyway. Plus I don’t need to be inspired to do a period by the presence of a nice looking range. Usually my thinking is the other way round except for a couple of one off projects, documented here**.

I will admit, however, that this can mean I miss out on what is currently happening and there’s always a danger I’ll re-invent the wheel. On that front Chris A & Phil are sort of my guides as they attend a lot of shows in the year and will let me know if there is already a solution out there to a problem I’m trying to fix.

On this occasion though I thought I’d pop out and pick up a copy to show some support. Plus it’s about time I did a bit of market research. As I had to go out and renew my season ticket on Sunday my first port of call was the WHSmith’s in my local railway station. Alas no MW there, but then it is a small branch. Consequently I popped into the larger independent newsagent in a local shopping arcade. Many, many magazines, one copy of Wargill, as many railway magazines as you could possibly want, but no MW.  Ho hum. Still, going into the smoke on Monday, so sure to get a copy there.

My first stopping point was the WHSmith’s in Euston (both of them), which didn’t even have a copy of Wargill let alone an MW. Round the corner from my office is Fenchurch Street station but no luck there either. Another WHS, of course, but they did have a single copy of “Skirmish” magazine for the discerning re-enactor.

Honestly this is getting a bit irritating. How am I going to bask in the admiration of an adoring public if no one can actually buy the magazine?

*I obviously get The Nugget when it is published as I’m a WD member but I don’t think you’d class it as a magazine. And it doesn’t come out monthly.

** On reflection that might not be true. I got the Sumerians because I liked the war carts, the Assyrains because of the four horse chariots, the RCW stuff because of the Armoured Train, the WotR armies because they just looked nice, the XIVth Army because of the hats... yes, I might be a serial offender in this area.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Almoravids for AMW

Or Murabits. Or Almohads.

This is the third in the series of pieces on doing El-Cid period army lists for AMW. There might be a fourth - a combined Almoravid/Al-Andalus Army - but this rounds off what I was originally intending to do which was to give my painting schedule a bit of focus. This is my vain attempt for this set of armies to drag myself back to my normal method of finishing projects, which I wrote about a while back: How to finish a wargames project. Once I've done this lot I'll have both an Andalusian and a Murabit army so I'll have enough toys to do either and the mash-up.

Again the root listing is the Arab Army list (620-970AD). This is deficient in a number of areas and is very vague. Plus it doesn't have camels in it. None of Neil's armies have camels in them so he doesn't have any camel rules either. Humph.

This army presented a few challenges and the special rules require real changes in the  basic rules, which isn't perfect but is unavoidable. Despite references to the Almoravids bringing elephants with them there's no accounts of them in combat, so I have eschewed the opportunity to put in an elephant unit. Of course, if you disagree then feel free to swap out any of the mounted units for an elephant.

North African Islamic Invaders (1000 - 1200)

Heavy Spears (Dark Ages/Medieval Infantry, Light Armour, Average) 3 - 4
Black Guards (Dark Ages/Medieval Infantry, Medium Armour, Elite) 0 - 1
Murabittin (Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Armour, Elite) 0 - 1
Christian Mercenaries (Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Armour, Elite) 0 - 1
Berber Horse (Light Horse (javelins), Light Armour, Average)  1 - 2
Archers (Light Infantry (bow), Light Armour, Average) 0 - 2
Skirmishers (Light Infantry (javelin), Light Armour, Average) 0 - 2

Special Rules
1) Knights Charging: Christian Mercenaries roll and extra D6 per base in the first round of combat
2) Heavy Infantry firepower: Heavy infantry units are either armed with javelins that they can use in defensive fire phase of the charge sequence, regardless of charge distance or the rear rank can be equipped with bows with
3) Camels: The Christian Mercenaries can be replaced by a unit of Camels (Light Horse, Light Armour, Average). As horses are "uncomfortable" around camels in Hand-to-hand combat against horse mounted units Heavy Cavalry deduct one die per base and do not receive any Knight charge bonus. Light Horse may not charge Camels.
4) Light Horse & Infantry Tactics: The light horse normally sheltered behind the Heavy Foot between sallies out to harass their opponents. Light horse may therefore interpenetrate and Heavy Foot on their own side provided they commence the move either directly behind or in front of the interpenetrated unit.
5) Yihadist foot: Some sources imply that the Alomravids were supported by swarms of lightly armed religious fanatics. If required up to two of the light infantry units may be replaced by Yihadist foot: Warband, Light Armour, Levy. They are classed as levy as they appear to melt away quite quickly and were used as a "speed bump" by Almoravid commanders.

Friday, 19 February 2016

More from South America

After a brief excursion into the Middle Ages it's time to get back to more modern happenings with another playtest of "It's getting a bit Chile".

In the last couple of weeks I've been off around the country on business which gave me a bit of time to work on the missing areas of the rules. That means for this playtest we get officer characteristics, higher level formations and the effects of terrain on movement. As well as all of the other amendments that came out of the last playtest.

The Divisional level and above officers come with a card that looks like this:

It folds back on itself and for the moment goes in a playing card wallet. When I've finalised the details I'll laminate them.

In addition to this I've been busy with the scenery. As I wrote in this blog My Favourite Things Part 1 one of the most useful things you can have as a Grownup Wargamer is a powered jigsaw, so I've been making more hills. I've also painted up a dozen Bend Sinister llamas and done some more pampas grass to break up the otherwise endless flatness of the Altiplano.

I had two players for this game, - Will & Phil. The two Chris' were off either pretending they had other friends in another part of the country (a likely story) or were supposedly unwell.

I set up an encounter battle with a Chilean force trying to seize a river crossing and an Allied force trying to stop them.

The Chileans are on the right, the Alliance on the left. Here's a picture of the Chilean General and his Army Reserve:

At the start of the game Will took the Chileans and I took the Bolivian/Peruvians. Will, eschewing the opportunity to test the new terrain rules, decided not to advance across the ridge line on his left and redeployed for a central thrust towards the bridge:

On his other flank I had set his troops up such that he had to advance down the hillside, affording me the chance to take this picture:

Funny how you suddenly notice how bent your flag poles are when you post a picture, isn't it?

In response I dragged the artillery from my left hand division up to the highest point I could in order to deny the river crossing. The new terrain rules give a number of squares movement deductions depending upon the terrain type. You can offset these deductions (which sometimes mean you can't move) by taking  Disorder markers. As you can see in this picture I have rushed the guns up so I can get them into action, although possibly at reduced effect. I have sent the Divisional commander with them to help remove the Disorder for when I'm ready to fire them.

In the centre my Brave Bolivians pushed forwards. Their commander was hoping for a heroic showing here in order to bolster his Presidential ambitions.

Will, however, was not to be deterred and marched bravely towards the bridge.

You will note in later photographs that the bridge gets an upgrade as this one (a lovely Peter Pig resin model) is too narrow for the bases of my foot.

In previous rules players have been reluctant to use any form of March Column, despite them moving faster. In these rules I think I have fixed the problem by allowing them to be much more manoeuvrable and also letting them deploy into "looser" formations quickly. This may have over compensated, but it does mean that troops are moved to the point of conflict quicker and can, occasionally, get caught out whilst in column.

As you can see the mdf bridge from Warbases allows the figures to stand on it, which is good although I find the model itself less aesthetically pleasing than the Piggy version. Will has got his lead unit over the river and deployed into a firing line but he has suffered a little bit from fire from the guns deployed on the hill. By this point Phil has arrived and taken over the Allies, so everything that happens from now is not down to me.

On Will's right flank he got his troops up to the river and deployed into a firing line. He was worried about crossing the river and being caught disordered by Phil's infantry. However it did mean that a larger part of his army was effectively pinned in position by a smaller force.

In the centre Will continued to pour troops over the bridge.

Phil's Bolivians were able to concentrate their fire onto the troops guarding the bridge head and they broke, fleeing back across the river. His artillery continued to pound anything on the bridge itself. Will's guns are deployed off to the right, but as they're at ground level instead of on the heights their targets are limited.

A pause to take in the whole battlefield. Will has a lot of troops clustered round the bridge, but his unwillingness to cross the river elsewhere is creating a real bottleneck. Phil is bringing his right wing reserves forwards to threaten Will's cavalry who might pose a problem if they can cross the river.

Out on Will's right Phil is losing out in the firefight partly through poor dice rolling but also because Will outnumbers him. I think it is true to say this flank has bogged down until the firefight is decisively won. I think this favours Phil over Will in the overall game context.

Will has now got a lot of troops round the bridge. Both his left hand Division and the Reserve Division under the Army Commander are pressing forwards. We eagerly anticipate someone deploying a Gatling gun in range of a target.

Phil is able to close the range and open up with all of his lead units and he's got the Bolivian artillery deployed as well. You can see blue disorder markers starting to pop up on Will's units.

Talking of which Phil's left flank seems to be taking a real hammering. He is open order to reduce his casualty level but Will's rolling fire is taking a toll.

Sure enough Will's sustained fire breaks one of Phil's units who flee, causing some consternation amongst the llama population.

Will is taking similar punishment in the centre and can't bring his superiority in numbers to bear.

A heroic rearguard hold the bridge whilst Will retires and reorganises on his side of the river.

He has now shored up his position and is holding his side of the crossing. I should note at this point that he has actually managed to hit something with the Gatling gun, which is a major achievement.

This is the scene when we stopped after 2 1/2 hours of play. Will was convinced he couldn't make any progress, and that the game was a stalemate. Phil, however, had a different view. He felt that he had got Will trapped on the river line and that he would be able to turn Will's left flank, whilst holding his own.

So, thoughts. The commander abilities worked well, as did the terrain rules. The board with the river running across it gave me a game I wasn't expecting as the players took it as more of an obstacle than it actually was. Consequently the revisions to the charging/melee rules didn't get a run out.

It looks like the game is evolving nicely and I haven't broken the core system yet. I have some other notes on things that didn't work or I'd forgotten (eg what does a unit look like when it is rallied from rout) but nothing I'm worried about. Feeling very pleased and slightly smug.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Al-Andalus for AMW

Having looked at the Feudal Spanish in the last blog posting now is the time to consider their mainland opponents.

The starting point is the "Arab Army 620-970". This includes Heavy Cavalry in armour, Light Cavalry with javelins, Warband with spears (or Dark Age infantry) and light infantry bowmen. It hasn't got everything I think I need and I have looked at other army lists as well as the WRG book and other sources before coming to produce this.

Part of the problem is that the sources in English (or possibly even Spanish) aren't great and I'm not aware of extensive work on the Arabic sources. We have the situation of troop types that should be there, but aren't in some areas. 

Anyway, this is my best guess:

Andalusian Moors 1000 - 1200 

Andalusian Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Armour, Elite) 1 - 2
Christian Mercenaries (Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Armour, Elite) 0 - 1
Andalusian Jinetes/Mujahids (Light Cavalry (javelin) Light Armour, Levy) 1 - 2
Mounted bowmen (Light Cavalry (bow), Light Armour, Average) 0 - 1
Spearmen (Dark Age/Medieval Infantry, Light Armour, Average) 1 - 2
Skirmishers (Light Infantry (javelins), Light Armour, Levy) 1 - 2
Archers (Light Infantry (bows), Light Armour, Levy) 0 - 2
Slingers (Light Infantry (slings), Light Armour, Levy) 0 - 1

Special Rules
1) Knights Charging: Christian Mercenaries roll and extra D6 per base in the first round of combat
2) Cross bows: One Archers unit may be replaced by cross bows with Average quality

The mounted bowmen can have conventional bows or crossbows but do not get the crossbow saving roll modifier if so armed.

Slightly less happy with this list compared to the Feudal Spanish. This is a purely Anadulsian army and does not include Almoravid troops so I can use it to fight them. After I've done the Almoravids I might produce a "mash up" army of the two of them.

Probably need another box of Andalusian Heavy Cavalry.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Cid for AMW

When Jim (Hi Jim!) gave me the Hat El-Cid boxes back in August 2014 he expressed the view that there enough for an AMW army or two. At the time I didn't really think about the numbers required, and as regular readers will know what I actually did was paint DBA 3.0 armies as a starting point.

Since then it has become apparent that actually there aren't enough figures, mainly because the Feudal Spanish army should be about half cavalry. Hence my quest last year to track down some more Spanish Heavy Cavalry boxes. I'm short in a number of other areas too, so I've added a box or two elsewhere and relieved a colleague at work of a carrier bag's worth of his throw away spares from the range.

However, although I know I didn't have enough, I have never bothered to work out exactly how many more I need. The reason for this is that AMW doesn't actually have a Feudal Spanish army list in it. What Neil gives us is a "Frankish Armies 700 - 1100" list in the Dark Ages section (it's worse for the Andalusians and Almoravids, - they get "Arab Army 620-970").

The Frankish Army list isn't a bad starting point. It has Noble Heavy Cavalry, Retainer Light Cavalry, Heavy Infantry Spears and Light Infantry bowmen. There are rule modifiers that give Normans a charge bonus, enables crossbows instead of bows and upgrades Retainers to Heavy Cavalry.

So all the elements are there, just not necessarily in the right proportions.

One thing that does concern me a bit is that Neil doesn't seem to differentiate between Dark Ages/Medieval cavalry with horse armour and without. He rates all of them as Heavy Armour. The only "Extra Heavy" cavalry are Cataphracts. This is an issue for the Feudal Spanish as it was noted that their horses were vulnerable compared to their more northerly neighbours. On the other hand if I never fight them against northern European troops it isn't an issue, it's just a matter of getting the relative strengths right.

So, I give you:

Feudal Spanish 1000 - 1200

Caballeros/Military Orders (Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Armour, Elite) 2 - 4
Caballeros villanos (Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Armour, Average 1 - 2
Jinetes (Light Cavalry, (javelin) Light Armour, Average) 0 - 1
Militia Spearmen (Dark Age/Medieval Infantry, Light Armour, Average) 2 - 4
Skirmishers (Light Infantry, (javelins), Light Armour, Levy) 0 - 2
Arqueros (Light Infantry (bows), Light Armour, Levy) 0 - 2
Ballesteros (Light Infantry (crossbows), Light Armour, Average) 0 - 2

Special Rules
1) Mounted Troops: At least half the army must be made up of mounted troops
2) Knights Charging: Caballeros/Military orders roll an extra D6 per base in first round of combat
3) Better quality foot: Half of the Militia Spearmen can be upgraded to either dismounted knights or better equipped town militia. Increase armour to Heavy, but keep morale as Average*
4) Skirmishers can be armed with slings instead of javelins.
5) Massed Archers: If desired the Ballesteros/Arqueros may be replaced by a maximum of 1 unit each of Heavy Archers, Light Armour, Average, instead of the 2 in the list.

I may be being too generous to them, but then it'll depend on how the Moors turn out.

Still, it gives me a painting target.

As ever, thoughts and comments welcome.

*Yes, even for dismounted knights as they really didn't like getting off their horses.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

"It's getting a bit Chile" playtest 2.

The weekend gave me the chance to make sufficient rule amendments following the first playtest to warrant having another go.

I made changes to the effectiveness of artillery by halving the number of dice per base and doubling the number of bases in a battery. I also did minor surgery to the hand to hand combat rules, the rally/disorder rules and also the way troops in buildings are dealt with. There were numerous other minor changes and clarifications as well. Alas I still haven't got the command and control rules sorted.

For this game I had a new player - Chris K - as long as with Chris A and Phil who were at playtest number 1.

Strangely enough I don't seem to have taken a whole table set up photo. Briefly there's a railway running across the middle of the table, a small stream in one corner on the Peruvian left flank, a town on the Chilean right, some trackside buildings in the middle and a few hills mostly in the corners. For this game we're in the littoral area, not the altiplano. The scenario was that the Chileans had landed and were pushing inland with two divisions to seize the railway. The Peruvians were rushing up a similar sized force to stop them and liberate the town.

On their left flank one of the Peruvian divisions had to cross a small range of hills.

The other Peruvian division was more centrally placed. It has one artillery battery and a Gatling gun unit. For this game limbers were supplied by my British Sudanese baggage train.

This is the left hand Chilean division....

...and this is the right hand division.

The first move saw a rapid advance by the Chileans commanded by Chris A, making the most of the move bonus for being in march column.

Chris K, however, had the drop on him and got his troops to the railway buildings first. This proved crucial. In the bottom left corner you can see his Gatling guns heading for the hill top to provide covering fire.

On the left the other Peruvian division was taking its time crossing the stream.

The first firing of the game badly mauled the Peruvian cavalry in the centre, giving me a chance to show off my new blue Disorder markers, taken from my SvP set. You can see that Chris K has sheltered his infantry behind the buildings so he can stay in the faster, more vulnerable march column.

Next turn the Peruvians have seized the station, and pulled back their cavalry, deploying their artillery to cover the troops in the buildings. The Chileans have got their guns on the heights, ready to give the Peruvians sheltering in the centre a hot time.

Chris K is very thoughtful at this point. He's trying to work out how he can stop his troops in the buildings being surrounded and overwhelmed. It looks like he may have trapped himself. Shows what I know.

Chris A with the Chileans presses forward. His right centre is badly threatened however as the Peruvians have got into a firing line along the railway.

The Chileans' other problem is that I have over compensated for the strength of buildings and the effectiveness of artillery. Some rifle fire Disorders their large cavalry unit, centre top of the picture, so Chris pulls it back out of the way, and launches a charge with his other smaller unit. This is evenly matched with the Peruvians and so, barring an extreme dice rolling event,  will provide a holding action that will slow down the Peruvians until the other cavalry can reform.

So the 8:1 outcome wasn't what he was looking for. The Peruvian cavalry routs their opponents and emerges unscathed.

There's a messy fire fight going on in the centre now, and the Chileans are unable to break into the station....

...whose defenders are dishing out some serious damage.

In the centre the Peruvian infantry are having a good evening of it too, clearing away some of the opposing infantry.

Phil had arrived by this point and had taken over the Peruvian left wing. This was starting to encircle the Chilean centre line. Chris A by now was unable to buy a decent die roll, and was collapsing all over the place.

As a last ditch effort he launched an open order charge on the end of the Peruvian line who in sheer surprise were thrown back a square.

The Chileans were in a bad way by this stage and we were about ready for everyone to pack up and go home.

Another successful game from a designer's point of view. The core mechanisms have shown no need for major surgery. Some of the factors aren't quite right and as I said I have over done the adjustments on the artillery rules. All things considered, however, a satisfactory outcome. Compared with my normal development curve I'm well advanced for CoW in July.

Just need to get some llamas.