Thursday, 29 June 2017

Scaling the Heights

I may have done something stupid. Yes, I know it is hard to believe, but I might just have.

You will recall recently that I rebased all of my Opium Wars/Taiping Rebellion figures, putting them on nifty 30mm x 15mm bases, at 3 figures each. That increased my number of Chinese units and gave me some spare Europeans that are in the process of being bulked out to make Ever Victorious Army units and the such like. I reckon I can use my spare Sikhs as the EVA wore turbans. Okay, so I have to make sure you can't tell they've got beards as Malaysians & Filipinos are not notable hirsute, but they'll do.

So whilst I was thinking about adding these I thought to myself why not go the whole way and do the French forces from 1859/60 as well?. They only took a couple of infantry brigades and a cavalry squadron, so a nice compact little army that did fight an action or two on their own.

So what I needed were some early Second Empire troops in summer uniforms, if possible. Luckily the changes to the French Uniform from 1850-1870 are minimal, and I was prepared to use figures in normal dress, - I can always paint kepis white and add neck cloths if needs be. Be nice to have some in the French pith helmet or broad brimmed sun hat, however.

I found information on the uniforms worn in China sparse ( I do read/speak French a bit and so I can search Google "pour les uniformes du Deuxieme Empire en Chine") so I resorted to those worn in the Solferino campaign, mostly.

Based on all of that I started to hunt around for suitable figures that weren't Franco-Prussian war if possible.

I then chanced upon the Lancashire Games range of figures, that purports to cover Europe from 1860 -1880. Result! They also do a Crimean War range, but I went for the later figures as there's a change to uniform just after, if memory serves.

The figures were even in a sale. Result!!, with two exclamation marks. They looked okay in the pictures on line, - a bit bulky perhaps, and they'd all got packs, which wasn't ideal. And no Marine figures, but if I thought I could just use some in a simple kepi as Marine Fusiliers wore them and not berets.

The figures arrived and are, in deed, a bit bulky. The detail is clear, and they painted up well enough. The only fault is that the French trousers/breeches are a bit of an ankle strangler, and that's a weak point in the figure. As you can see I didn't bother with the neck cloths or kepi covers for these.

The problem came when I went to put them in the box.

Yeah. Many of you will have seen this coming. Here they are, lined up with some stout fellows from my British forces, made up of figures from Irregular. Flippin' 'eck. That's a 3mm difference at least. You can just about wear that at 25/28mm sizes, but in 15mm it's a massive difference. 

This was just careless of me. I suppose I should have done a check. It appears that Lancashire Games are quite well known for being on the large size. I know 15mm figures vary in height by manufacturer, but I've mixed Peter Pig, Essex and Irregular in armies and got away with it. Not so here.

On the positive side, the Frenchies were always deployed in their own brigades, so they will be away from the Brits, and Europeans were taller than Chinese, so perhaps I can live with it.

In the long term I'm inclined to build mainland European 19th century armies, so these will make a base for those forces, which I'll match up against other Lancashire Games figures. In the interim I'll keep an eye out for anyone who makes anything more compatible with my Irregular fellows. I mean I will finish painting these, but there's a chance I may end up transferring them to another front or, selling them.

And whilst I'm on the subject, does anyone out there know what the regulations were for the issue of Eagles and battalion colours under the Second Empire? 

Damned if I can find them anywhere, even with my awesome French language googling skills.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Spanish Civil Will's Birthday

Our regular weekly game ended up on Tuesday this week. It was Will's birthday, and having celebrated with his family the day before he decided he'd like to do some wargaming on the day itself.  As ever I was more than happy to oblige.

As I'm still refining things for COW I'm afraid Will got SCW again. For this session we were joined by a very occasional visitor (like over 5 years since his last showing), Mr Graham Sargeant. I was expecting also to be joined by Chris K and Phil, so I gave the two early arrivals command of the Fascists.

For a change I did this as an end-to-end game, rather than a cross table as usual. The Nationalists were attacking up the road. The forces consisted of 6 battalions of Italians, with some tankettes and a couple of artillery batteries, accompanied by a couple of Falange banderas and a unit of Civil Guards in trucks together with a unit of Regular Cavalry.

The defenders were mostly Basques with a few workers militia units...

...and a tank or two. I ran them until my late arrivals showed. Despite the Nationalists having the initiative they lost it early on in turn one, so I pushed one of my Renaults up to beef up the defences in the forward village, where Will seemed to be concentrating his armour attack.

Chris K then turned up, so it was time to break out Clyde the Caterpillar. His offensive powers are weak, but he's fairly effective at delaying an offensive.

With Clyde mostly disposed of, we went back to the game. I took advantage of an observer in the church tower to call down a howitzer battery on the Italian guns deploying on the crest line to the left of the main road. Sarge sent his trucks down the left hand road at top speed to try and out flank me.

The lead truck unit was shot up quite badly. They've lost a company and every other base has taken damage. This was the first proper use of the anti-vehicle rules where troop carrying is involved and they worked okay, although perhaps Sarge wouldn't agree.

That unit drew the Republican fire quite effectively, allowing the cavalry to ride up and conceal themselves in the olive grove on the table edge.

Up on the hill crest the Italian guns were having a rough time, and were effectively blasted off the hill and into retreat.  The AA truck unit luckily survived unscathed.

On the Republican right the Italians started to close on the militias hiding in the olive grove. Fire was exchanged.

The Italian advance had otherwise stalled on the line of the sunken road (marked by the dry stone walling) that ran across the line of their advance.

At this point both sides got an airstrike. The Nationalist flew in first, and failed to spot and bomb their target, which was the church.

The Republicans likewise failed to acquire and bomb the units on the cross roads. Yeah. Rule re-write coming up.

Luckily taking the initiative the Regular Army cavalry charged the Basques in the left hand olive grove in the flank. In a tight fought combat the Basques were evicted and thrown back a square.

Inspired by the cavalry Will charged his CV35 flamethrower tank up the road. Chris K was heard to remark "I thought it was a Panzer 1", oblivious to the fuel tender behind it. The Renault and the tankette exchanged fire, all to no effect.

Due to the fact the four of us (yes, Phil had joined us by this point, and Clyde suffered a further butchering) hadn't met up for a while the game wasn't a fast paced as usual. Eating birthday cake also takes up time too. So, after 2-3 hours play we hadn't reached a conclusion, but the game was nicely poised. The Nationalists were having a more difficult time than normal, and their prospects of prospering on this front were diminished.

I considered leaving the game up for next week, but on reflection I decided that if I was to play the scenario further I would reset it and restart from the beginning with a few changes both to set up and the rules.

As I'm only a couple of weeks away from COW I need to get my scenario for that workshop sorted. The game needs to occupy 4-6 people for about 3 1/2 hours, explaining the rules and also the design philosophy, such as it is. Much as the end to end type game has a lot going for it, I think I'll stick with a cross table game as more stuff gets into more action quicker.

Right, now I need to go and finish that Italian AA truck with the 20mm Breda on the back.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Upstairs and Ready*

Previously, on Wargaming for Grownups...

I had cunningly ordered three armies (Khmer, Thai/Siamese and Burmese) at the same time to provide opponents for each other and to save on postage. The genius part of this was to order only three crossbowmen for a unit that required four, so I had to submit a follow up order to Irregular of some bits and pieces to justify the extra figure.

The excellent Mr Kay responded promptly to my need for an extra crossbowman, so I was able to finalise the third part of my South East Asian trilogy over the weekend. This one is DBA III 9b Burmese 1044-1525AD.

This meant I had to leave the last unit until the figure arrived to ensure they all had the same paint job.

I've been annoyed with the depth of field in recent pictures, so I got the camera manual out and had a look. I've set it to Aperture Preferred and set it to F29. This means a longer exposure with camera shake an issue. Luckily I have a small table top tripod, and using this with the timer solved the camera shake problem. To bring out the colours I've used forced flash as well.

The Burmese Army is top heavy in elephants. In fact, the elephants are top heavy as well. When I mentioned I was going to do this one Phil remarked "Oh, that's the one with the double-decker elephants". As I hadn't researched the army at all at that point this all came as a bit of a surprise. The elephants also have escorts. The army list say "large crew or escorts". Well, I thought I'd go for both.

The central elephant is the General, of which more later.

The battle line elephants are Irregular Miniatures V57, with V58 as escorts. They're quite a cluttered model, and there's a lot going on in the poses. They are a bit fiddly to paint, as I decided to stick all the crew on before I applied the brush to them.

Irregular don't do a Burmese Command elephant. I could have used one from another range with a howdah, but instead I decided to stick with the double-decker. To make it commander-y I added V63 & V64 (Burmese Infantry Officer and Standard Bearer respectively), and hid the bases with Miliput. The army list has the option of putting your general on a "Dragon Horse" and having a Cavalry (CV) unit instead. Yeah. Right. I took the elephant.

I have to say at this point that I had issues with colours and designs again, so this is all made up or based upon best guesses.

The army does have a Cavalry (Cv) unit. These are Irregular Miniatures V59, which come in a mix of styles. I think  the Burmese used wicker shields, so I've had to paint lines on the shields, with mixed success.

Next up with have 3 "Spears", or, in this list, 3 x 3Ax elements. These are Irregular Miniatures V60, together with one each of V63 & V64 again. The figures have quilted armour (as do a lot of the elephant crews), which I've undercoated in black and dry brushed with a pale green.

The army has two units of "Guards". These are the "3Bd" element, using the same figures as the Ax elements. As some of the figures come with cloaks I kept them back for the Guards.

The other Guards are a "4Cb" unit, - those chaps who were a man short and held me all up. These are Irregular Miniatures V62. I would have liked a more active pose with the crossbow, but those can be a bit of a pig to cast, so I understand why Ian has done them like this. Again quilted armour, but this time dry brushed with red leather.

The army has quite a bit of firepower as it has a couple of elements of Archers 3Bw. These are Irregular Miniatures V61 and there are a few variations in the selection so we have a man with a cloak and a few different shield shapes and sizes.

Lastly we have a unit of Psiloi (Ps) Archers, using the same figures as the 3Bw elements.

And here they are all assembled.

They're a nice looking army, - well they've got three elephants - with a bit of colour. I shall be intrigued to give them a go. Perhaps in a three cornered round robin solo tournament.

* For those of you who don't get this reference, then you need to watch this: link

Saturday, 17 June 2017

DBA Double Header

With the outside chance I might be playing some DBA seriously in the near future, I took the time to fit in some practice games.

The event I'm thinking of attending is the Portsmouth and Allied Wargamers Summer DBA event. These are themed, and this year's theme is "The Decline of the Sarmatian Tribes, 201 – 300 AD". I can put together quite a few armies from the list, depending on how accurate I want to be (eg all my Parthian cataphracts are mounted 3 to a base, not 4 and my Romans are a bit early for the proposed list).

Phil was able to pop in on the way back from family duties in the South, so I put together a few armies to choose from. The Germans were quickly discarded (too many opponents with "Knights" that quick kill Warbands) so we ended up with Middle Imperial Romans (Phil) and Sassanids (me).

Phil was defending and made the most of my terrain collection for DBA, which isn't big. I don't often play DBA as she is written, and my major contribution on the subject was the Cannae scenario for the DBA Big Book of Ancient Battles, or whatever it ended up being called. Any how, that hill with the building is a built up area, and the other item is a Difficult Hill.

With the defenders going first I decided not to fight left to right, which was my first thought, as despite my army being faster it wouldn't get out of the terrain in time.

I was helped as Phil only rolled a 1 for his PIPs in turn 1.

With a 3 for my PIPs I was slightly better off, enabling me to chose where the fighting would take place. My Light Horse are double depth to give me a +1 on frontal contact, or expand to give me an overlap, or hopefully both. The cataphracts are lined up with the legionnaries to give me most opportunities for a quick kill, which I did in two contacts, so good news there. Trouble was out on my right every contact was drawn.

What proved to be decisive (apart from a rookie error by me later on) was that Phil's Bows on the difficult hill first recoiled then killed some of my Light Horse, breaking up my line and making it harder to move with few PIPs.

That meant, in this move, that I had one main choice. Either shore up the left flank with the single unit of LH, or go for the jugular out on the right by doubling up some LH. I went for the latter, and got another load of draws. My combat dice were poor. I didn't roll a single 6 in the whole game. Phil's weren't much better, but he did get a 6 on the combat most in my favour.

So I got no kills out of this round, and got some annoying knock backs. In Phil's turn he took advantage of the flank I hadn't closed off, and rolled me up. I had another terrific round of combat rolls and didn't kill anything else. Phil came out a winner 4 elements to 2.

Next up we switched to a non-themed game and blooded the Khmer and Thai armies. At random Phil took the Khmer. We had to improvise the tropical terrain a bit.

The Angkor Wat model looks good with some added palm trees. Phil insisted on the palm trees, even tho' the foliage out there doesn't have much in the way of them. He took the Artillery option, so he has the bolt thrower mounted on an elephant.

Again Phil defended, and although he set up first I made the mistake of putting my elephants in front of his bolt thrower. I could also do with some Psiloi to screen the elephants, but the army only gets one element of them.

It also is a bit of a surprise that elephants are disadvantaged in Bad Going (like all the terrain on the board in a Tropical set up) which is bizarre as Asian elephants are forest creatures, and for the armies in that region formed their centre piece. The idea of not wading into jungle to duff up the enemy with your elephants is a bit odd.

We closed tentatively, not wanting to be the first to get into bow range and not be able to shoot.

Then Phil killed one of my Auxilia with his bolt thrower. My elephants were already dropping behind, due to the double PIP rule for them.

I had to pull more infantry in front of my elephants to shield them...

....which lead to them being killed instead. Meanwhile I shifted one of my beasts across to support my other wing. I was having the usual PIP problems (not a roll above 3), but I did succeed in shooting one of Phil's units with my archers.

That was my only win. The next round we got into the hand to hands, which I lost comprehensively. Oh well. Win to Phil 4 to 1.

So, a good showing by the Khmer, more thought to go into how to use the Thais. Possibly should have picked them as Blades not Auxilia as they'd have been more resilient against the bolt thrower, and even fighting in the jungle they'd just have been on evens against their opponents.

I am clearly in need of a lot more practice, and I need to re-read the rules and work out what they are trying to do more deeply.

BTW I know they aren't the done thing these days, - insufficiently elaborate - but the stockade camps do hold up well for pretty much any army you choose. They're made from matchsticks glued to old smart cards.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Thai for second place

My Khmers now have some opponents. These are Thai/Siamese, (DBA IV/40) using Irregular Miniatures figures from the same range as those I used for the Khmers over on this posting.

I regret that this is a "minimal research" army, unlike the Khmers*, meaning I used the army list and the catalogue listing to put it together, plus a bit of internet "research".

I finished these a week or so back, but I've been off for a week catching some sunshine on a last minute break on a Greek Island. Today was a lovely sunny day so I took advantage of it to get them photographed under natural light.

This is the Elephant General and an Elephant element (Irregular Miniatures V53). I used the same model for both and as it is a one piece casting decided not to do any conversion work on either of them. The main difference is a lot of gold on the General figure, nearest the camera.

Next we have two elements of Archers "3Bw". These are Irregular Miniatures V48. The figure has a lot of variations in pose, costume and equipment, so they make a good light unit. Most of them are posed drawing an arrow in the selection I got, which is a nice dynamic position. These figures also pop up in the Khmer army.

The bulk of the army is made up of "Warriors" or "Levies" or "Soldiers", which are respectively "3Wb", "3Ax" or "3Bd". All of them are on the same sized base with the same number of figures, so they're fairly interchangeable. The figure is Irregular Miniatures V55, which also appeared in the Khmer army. It has a few variations. Some have spears, some have swords and the shields are at different angles. I've painted them in pairs so I can distinguish between them if I want to mix the troop types. I probably should have got some lighter armed figures for the levies on reflection, but these look just fine.

Here they are from the other side, so you can see the shield variations.

Lastly we have a unit of Psiloi (same figure as for the Archers above) together with some cavalry. The cavalry are Irregular Miniatures V54. Again there are variations in the figures. The one in the middle with the spear/lance  stands out quite well. Mostly the costume is the same as the main infantry units.

Here they are, all arrayed ready for action. A good colourful mix if figures.

I probably need to make some jungley terrain pieces to go with them, but then they're good to go.

* 'Cos, like, I bought an ACTUAL book about them.