Saturday, 25 June 2016

W-Ourcq in Progress

In order to take my mind off how depressed I am at the collective act of insanity committed by the English & Welsh yesterday I had a go at refighting some of the Great War for Civilization. A bit in which the British took no part, using my new Baccus 6mm 1914 French and Germans

Working from Ian Senior's "Home Before the Leaves Fall" (aka "Invasion 1914") this game is an approximation of the first day of the Battle of the Ourcq in September 1914. The Germans are holding a line of plateaus just in front of the Ourcq River; the French are trying to drive them off that position and back across the river.

For this game of Op14 I had a whole load of freshly painted hill tiles which I needed to try out. And a new bridge from Baggage Train that Phil had given me.

The French, commanded by Phil, are on the left. They have a couple of Reserve Corps, which consist of 6 brigades each, plus a standalone Moroccan Brigade on the right and a Regular Division of two brigades on the left.

The Germans have a couple of Corps, one of which has one Division entering centre right, and a Cavalry Division protecting its right flank.

Over on my right I started by using my cavalry to cause the French Regular Division to deploy, thus slowing down their advance. For those not familiar with Op14 units are activated by playing cards (tiles in my case) . The suits of cards sometimes mean units can and can't do certain things.

On my left Phil sent the Moroccans out on a wide sweep to flank the defensive line.

In the centre my Reserve Division was rushing forward to plug the gap on my right centre.

On the right my Uhlans had a brief skirmish with a French Infantry brigade.

The French are now pressing forwards all along the line, but my reserves are winning the race to get to the crest line.

Over on my left the Moroccans turned the line, forcing my flank unit to pull back to stop being overrun.

On the right my Uhlans had crossed the river (all villages/buildings are crossing points) and again triggered the French deployment, allowing me enough time to get my infantry onto the ridge line.

On my left the Moroccans drove back my flank brigade

All along the front I'm holding on fairly strongly, except for the left. The French Soixante Quinzes are delivering repeated rounds of ferocious bombardment and causing a lot of damage.

Up to this point we'd been playing the playing card tiles face up, as is normal in the game using cards. A brief discussion between us over the consequences of this ensued. As I said above certain suits mean units can't do things. One of these is that French Reserve units don't move if they're dealt a spade. This means that the Germans know where it is safe to advance/fall back and so on. A stroke of genius was for us to draw the tiles and stand them on their edge, revealing them as we count up from the Ace of Hearts to the King of Spades.

My left wing is starting to crumble despite me deploying my MGs.

On the positive side my centre had been completely unthreatened all day

On my right the Soixante Quinzes thundered out. Hits on units in buildings are not applied immediately, but are stored up until the unit moves or is assaulted. Instead of putting playing cards on the unit as suggested I have made some shell holes to remind me how many cards need drawing when the assault happens.

My right wing is a real mess, following the bombardment. One brigade has been blown away and the other is at half strength. The Uhlans have moved up in order to dismount and protect the wing. At this point we are about a move or two from nightfall. Can I hang on?

The game closes with everything on the right, both French and German, looking a bit ragged.

On the left I've held on, but I have no where to go, with my back to the river.

Then night fell. As we were about to work through the End of Day sequence we realised we had forgotten the unit exhaustion rules. This meant we had probably fought on much longer than we should have and I probably would have caved in on the right.

In summary we had an interesting game that gave us a believable result. It was a useful refresher of the rules and sets us up for more of this campaign over the next few months.

I also need to make a lot more rivers and roads. And trees.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Cid goes Forward and Back

The last posting about the El Cid project covered an attempt to wargame the period using AMW. Whilst it was a tense game it wasn't really Hispanic Medieval Warfare as I understood it. Reflecting on the game afterwards it was clear to me that I needed to try a different approach.

One of my favourite rule sets is Armati. There are known problems with them as a rules set. Once you really know them it is possible to suck all the fun and historicity out of the game through cheesy tactics. And the army lists in the rule book aren't cutting edge either.

However it's quite a good set of rules for cavalry heavy armies, so it's worth a try. I've got nearly enough toys for a reasonable size army for either side (not enough Spanish heavy infantry) and I was comfortable modifying the lists to produce a combined Andalusian/Almoravid army. For this Thursday night outing I was joined by Chris K & Phil, with Chris A turning up a little later.

I took the Moslems, and Chris K took the Christians, helped by Phil.

The Andalusian/Almoravids are to the left, the Spanish to the right.

The strength of the Spaniards is in their heavy knights, which are very colourful.

However these are matched by some pretty good heavies on my side, some of whom also have bows (not in shot). Which I forgot.

The Spaniards won the first initiative and asked me to move first, so I headed off towards the enemy. Alas I hadn't made the table wide enough so I could out flank them with my light horse archers.

Closing the gap triggered obligatory charges for the Spanish Caballeros, across the board. This included my right wing...

...which had got camels in it as well as Murabittin heavies. The ones with bows that I forgot about.

In the centre the offset line up and some crappy die rolling had a unit breaking in short order.

On the far side my camels panicked their opponents (result!), who then broke as they didn't have impetus against my centre cavalry. There's no photo record of this which is a nuisance. This was actually where my chance of winning the game evaporated. The camels were able to breakthrough to line up a flank charge of the rest of the Spanish horse out here. However they got shot away, taking a load of hits from a line of skirmishers, not one of whom missed the target. Three shots, three hits, dead unit, and they had the general with them. The odds on this happening are very low.

And then a few ones on the dice and the other end of the line went too. How annoying.

My cavalry in the centre fell apart too.

I wasn't doing very well on my left wing either.

By this time Chris A had arrived. Which was handy, because we had a rules query and he's good at looking stuff up.

Anyhow, Chris K's fatigued cavalry had to make an obligatory charge into my infantry line, clearing a load of my skirmishers out of the way before they could throw any javelins at their attackers (AMW wins here with the defensive fire phase I think). I reckoned I'd be okay here. Wrong. A 6:1 die roll or two and there's not much you can do.

Then most of my infantry collapsed and my army broke and it was all over.

A fun little game, and it's good to get the shiny toys out. Armati still has its problems but reflecting on the game earlier today I reckon the core mechanisms with a bit of tweaking and some squares might be what I want.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Tiny Terrain

Time to draw breath and update you all on the 6mm Great War project as I haven’t written anything for a while.

On the figure front I’ve got a couple of French corps finished, one German corps done and one awaiting basing. That’s quite good progress as I’m also working on 20mm plastic Andalusian cavalry at the same time.

The finished units in their storage case waiting for their magnetic strip

There’s still plenty more to do. I haven’t cracked open the BEF yet, and the missing bits of my order from Partizan from Mr Baccus turned up recently as well. Mostly more guns.

The figures aren’t really the problem. I have got in the swing of how to produce them and they’ll not be held up. Already thinking about whether I want to buy more*. The fact is that this is a new project in a number of ways, not just period.

Which is to say I don’t have any 6mm scale terrain. So I have to make that as well. What’s more modern warfare in Western Europe is no respecter of terrain. Armies will fight anywhere. In earlier period armies would give battle in locations suitable for both. The number of battles (especially in the ancient period) where the terrain is just a few hills and a river to pin the flank vastly outnumber all other types. Once you get into the industrial age with massed armies basically the armies will fight anywhere and over anything. Consequently you need more table dressing. In the case of what I’m trying to do as well, - Corps level actions up to army size in 1914 – the battles cover large areas and encompass built up areas, big woods, valleys and rivers. Hills ain’t just gentle slopes either.

The other thing is that generally wargames terrain isn’t to scale either, regardless of what we pretend. I’ve got 15mm buildings from a number of manufacturers, all compatible with each other. However in the case of public buildings, like churches in particular, the models are much too small. Churches are really big buildings. Our local village church has probably got capacity for nearly 200 people. If you took the floor plan of most 15mm buildings of this type could you comfortable stand 200 figures in the area? Trees, as well, are way bigger than we model. I’ve got a full grown ash tree in my garden. I can assure you that it is more than the height of 3 or 4 figures.

Rivers in Europe are really wide as well. Rivers in Britain tend to be narrower and faster flowing than the likes of the Rhine and the Seine. I’ve got a 20mm scale Bellona river that is probably even too small for 15mm. I’ve just pulled up a photo of allied forces crossing the bridge at Nijmegan in 1944. I can count 4 shermans and 8 trucks, all widely spaced and I can’t even see the ends of the bridge. Anybody puit a river like that on the table top?

So really having terrain exactly in scale isn’t going to work, especially as my ground scale is 6cm = 2km.

My first aim was to sort out some buildings. A bit of searching found this terrific website run by a German school  aimed at people who want to build a Christmas diorama: link

These can all be printed out onto card and are free. They’re also pretty much spot on 6mm scale.
I made up three or four of them, gluing the thin card round a polystyrene core** to stop them being crushed and to give them a little bit of substance.

Some German Uhlans with the full size buildings
They do look great, but a single building is taking up most of a square. Plus they are dwarfing the figures. Now I know this is correct, but the wargaming aesthetic is completely wrong. Luckily the buildings are downloadable as pdfs and my desk top publisher lets me load them and break up the graphic elements. I can then scale them down to half size, which means they take up about a quarter of the space.
Some smaller houses, still with Uhlans

 These might be too small, but I’m going to put together a dozen or so of them and try them en-masse on the table. A few of the nets are really simple and I can get 8 on a page.

I had a trawl round 'tinternet looking for 6mm trees but I need a lot and didn't want to blow my figure budget on them. In the end I've scratch built a few.

Scratch built trees. Still those Uhlans
This isn't the best picture ever. The trees are made of plastic coffee stirrers cut to length and hot melt glued to pennies.  The bases are then glued and sanded as with figure bases. The foliage is lumps of packing sponge I got from a box containing some fancy mixer tap we had installed.

Finally I made some road and river using brown paintable window sealant. I followed advice from this website: link but I'm not quite as competent as the author.

So this is everything put together. Reckon it looks okay. Haven't solved the hill problem, however. I need to be able to show forward & reverse slopes plus plateaus in a flexible fashion on a grid. The author of Op14 uses triangles and circles for slopes and plateaus respectively, but I want something a bit more "hilly".

So, thinking cap on.

*Of course I do.

** I have a Games Workshop hot wire polystyrene cutter. Best thing I ever bought from them.

Friday, 3 June 2016

A Ande-y little play test

After a few weeks or so doing other stuff it was time to get back to this year's major project, - the Pacific War of 1879-84. Regular readers will know that the last playtest was not satisfactory, and some work needed doing. The Melee rules have clearly not been right for a while, and needed fixing (I was reminded by my regular opponents that about this time before CoW I normally chuck away the mechanisms I've been using for months and re do them any how, so this has been a long run with the core system).

The answer to the problem was to fall asleep on the train home from work and dream the solution.
All I had to do then was write it all up. I had a chance to do this Thursday morning, so we were set for a game in the evening.

Everyone loves a scenario, so here we have the Chileans attacking a river crossing through a pass between two hills. The massed forces of both Peru & Bolivia stand opposed to them. The river is impassable except at the crossing. The road in the middle is to cover up where the paint has flaked off my gaming mat.

So the set up,  Chileans to the left, with 3 divisions. The Alliance to the right, Peruvians nearest the camera.

I was joined by Chris A and Phil. Phil took the Chileans, and I ran his right wing division for him to keep the game moving. I had strict orders to pin the Peruvian left flank in position whilst he broke in the centre and on their right.

Of course I hadn't really listened properly, and headed off at top speed to engage the enemy. I'm advancing with a screen of a firing line, with reserves in march column. Phil is advancing in columns all along his front. Desultory artillery fire is being exchanged, but to little effect.

I'm starting to take some heavy fire from the troops on the crest, and their associated artillery. My advance has slowed and the support columns have closed up.

We're closing all along the line, but rifle and artillery fire has started to disrupt the advance. Even the Gatling gun has hit something.

This is just a close up of the Bolivians behind their ram-shackle defences. As they're behind a wall I've put the notional skirmish base deployed with a firing line behind the main firing line, whilst keeping the support stand back.

From behind the Peruvian defences in the middle the Chilean advance looks like it is faltering. What isn't obvious is that the unit nearest the hill is being attacked by two units, those in the grey uniforms, and those with the light blue flag. The greys are taking most of the fire, so the light-blues will be able to close with the target. Perhaps.

A picture from behind the Peruvian left wing. My troops are labouring at the foot of the hill. The front line has been forced to deploy into Open Order, but is still pressing forwards.

Over on the Chilean left Phil is massing troops to launch a combined attack on the Verdes, whose flank is hanging in the air a bit.

Back on the other wing I had deployed my march columns into attack columns under cover of the skirmisher screen. Chris, however, anticipating what was coming charged my skirmisher screen routing one unit and forcing the other to retire in disorder. He was halted by my massed columns behind.

Massed fire from Phil's artillery and infantry drives the Verdes out of their position, but this is rapidly replaced by one of Chris' reserve columns.

In the centre the Gatling Gun which was in front of the red house has been overrun. On the road a savage bayonet assault has driven the defenders back towards the bridge.

On the left wing (our right) my attack columns counter-charged and drove the two units in firing lines back, routing one of them completely.

When we left it the Chileans had broken in all along the front, but had taken a lot of damage. The next couple of turns might have been interesting as the Peruvian/Bolivian forces had some reserves to counter attack with at the break in points. Still, a lot was got through in a couple of hours play, and at one point when I was making coffee the players happily ran through a turn or two on their own.

The new melee rules, which are based on the firing system, worked very well and gave quick clear results. There are some issues to smooth out (at one point it was impossible for an open order unit in defences to inflict any damage on the unit attacking it and that's clearly not right). Units uphill in melee don't get enough advantage either.

However that's all relatively unimportant and can be easily fixed.

A very satisfactory evening.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The New Project - Update

Over the last few days I have finished off a German Corps to go with my Frenchies who were covered in the last post. I've had some stuff on so these have taken longer than expected although they are easier to do. All one colour with a khaki picklehaube cover.

I also added some bits and pieces to get the French up to strength.

It just so happens that the boards I made up for Hurried Hydaspes have the right sized grid for Op14, more or less. The buildings are some classics. They're from the very first range Baccus produced, - a resin Vauban fortress. I think they're a bit big, so I'm still musing what to do with buildings and terrain generally.

Right, so what we have are two deployed infantry brigades (those with the round MG bases), two brigades advancing behind them, four 77mm field guns, three 105mm howitzers and a command base with a tent. Off to the side is a Cavalry Division made up of Uhlans. They're not part of the Corps.

Here's a close up of a deployed infantry brigade....

 ... and the howitzers.

Because I'm a cheapskate I have split up the HQ base from the Division pack to make more than one HQ. I'll need a few as I need one per corps. Here's the Corps commander in heated conversation with his aides-de-camp.

A quick close up of the Uhlans. The base on the left has two command figures on it. I  encountered my first real problem with the Uhlans. One of the lances was a bit weak and it has broken in half. It's not a big deal, I suppose, but I can't see how I would replace it.

Finally, for the Germans, here's a snap of the infantry in line. You'll note that I haven't gone for the electrostatic flock beloved of 6mm players and featured on the Baccus website. Honestly, I think it looks too long and conceals too much of the figures. I'm happy with my glue and sand look.

Now for the French reinforcements.

First of the Corps C-in-C, relaxing at his map table in the glorious August weather.

Finally a 120mm howitzer. The Corp gets three of these. If it's lucky.

I'm really pleased with the look of both sides. Pete is a terrific sculptor and figure designer. If he worked in 28mm he'd be spoken of in the same breath as the Perry twins et al.

The Op14 rules can be played solo, as they use a playing card activation sequence, so now I've got enough for a game I might give it a go.

When I've made some terrain.