Thursday, 30 August 2018

Plastic Fantastic and Not

I managed to squeeze in a couple of painting sessions over the last few days, so I started on the figures I picked up last time I visited the model shop in Rugby that I wrote about which is closing down.

These are Hat Italian Allied Cavalry from their Punic wars range. I have put off buying any of these for close on 10 years now (just checked - actually 15 years) as I finished my Republican Romans and Carthaginians and had enough figures for all the options in the Army Lists for the rules I was using at the time. I had added units from the Infantry Allies box, but I never went fully into making pairs of legions with one Roman and one Allies. With the Society of Ancients Battle Day next year being the Battle of Telemon I thought I should have a look at my Republican Romans and Celts. I need to beef up the Romans and paint some of the Celts I have been accumulating over the last decade.

So when I saw a box each of the Italian Ally Cavalry and Infantry in Jotos I picked them up with the closing down sale discount. I need a box or two more probably (and maybe some rebasing...) but it is good to get a start .

As it is a Hat box, so to speak, you don't get lots of variety in the cavalry with 4 poses and three sprues. The poses aren't anything clever, but are understandable for soft plastic figures.  They mostly have ring hands for javelins, with one figure needing the plastic javelin removing and replacing with a pin, as usual.

The horses have all got body armour, which is probably excessive but looks nice. Same with the feathers. I suppose I could take the feathers off, but what the heck, they look nice.

I think another box will do me, for now. I'm at Hereward in Perterborough this Sunday, so I might get some there.

So, some nice looking figures that have painted up quite nicely with my normal technique. The depth of the carving on the figures isn't excessive but is just enough to take the tinted varnish.

So that's the Fantastic Plastic. Now for the less so.

As I reported in my blog about my visit to the Other Partizan I was the recipient of some very old Airfix figures including some Washington's Army and some others from a WD wargaming friend.

The Washington's Army have been separated out and bagged up in battalion sized units ready for painting. When I was doing this one of the figures snapped of its base, which was annoying but not a problem as I had some spares.

I then turned to the Waterloo Highlanders. The aim with these is to take off their packs and feather bonnets and turn them into Highland units for the '15 & '45 risings both Jacobite and Loyalist.

Alas this didn't go well. Firstly the muskets started to break off when I picked them up. Then as I carved them they started to powder away...

...and simply snap off their bases, and then arms and heads just came away. I have never seen plastic figures become so friable. I've heard about it as a problem, but I have figures of this vintage and never had problems like this.

I then thought I'd just need to sort the figures and find the ones that are good, but none of them are good. The ones that might just make it are losing the ends of muskets, and I'm now worried that even those that feel solid will come apart when I use them. I resolved that if the musket won't flex back when you bend it then the figure has to go.

So far I've got none that have passed that test.

And I've got a tray full of Ancient Britons from the same source that seem a bit fragile too.

Oh toot.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

An evening at Issus

MNG newbie Steve said he hadn't done any ancient wargaming, last time we met, so that needed to be rectified.

I settled on using AMW quickly as that's easily learned. I then chose Macedonians and Persians fairly quickly too as I think the phalangites look stunning. I was going to do just a "pick up" battle, but re-reading AMW I flicked through the Issus refight, and thought that might work quite well. So the table was quickly set up and doubling the number of units to 16 a side looked quite spiffing, so that was settled. For this game we used the General dice re-roll house rule we've used before, and also a single base in melee combat has to take a morale roll every turn to stop melees going on forever..

Will took the Macedonians ("Because they're going to be the winning side"), and Richard joined him. Phil and Steve took the Persians.

For this game I fiddled with the army stats a bit. I upgraded all heavy units to having medium armour, and I raised the quality of the Kardaces/Heavy Archers from Levy to Average. The Heavy Archers have a tough enough job as it is, without running away at the drop of a hat.

The set up was broadly speaking historical. Both armies had their heavy cavalry on their right, faced by javelin armed light horse. Will started off aggressively with the intent of crossing the river with Alexander and then going through the Persians like a knife through the proverbial. Phil told Steve to do the same - get out wide and get round the Macedonian flank as quickly as possible.

Phil appeared to be disputing the crossing, but in fact he was drawing Will in so he could use his javelins, supported by the bows of the Kardaces. Phil is the local master of light horse, so Will had no easy task.

Steve is trying to do something clever with his horse to produce two waves. This is probably not a good choice as it takes up time and lets Richard get his troops into position to refuse the flank better. Soon the hanging around is causing a problem as Richard's archers inflict a couple of hits.

The Companions splash into the river, lead by Alexander. The Persian javelins are starting to take their toll (BTW how do you feel about the new back drop doing? I think it is making things clearer).

After some cajoling from his colleague Richard moves up to the river with his phalangites. Steven has halted his Kardaces so he can shoot at them as they cross.

And the Persian heavy cavalry is into the river, taking a couple of hits in the process. Up at the top of the picture the inner most of the front Companions takes some withering fire from the Kardaces, and lose a couple of bases. That's a surprise.

The various missile units on the Macedonian left have inflicted enough hits to take bases off three units. Richard had his light archers stand their ground to get another round of shooting in. He is hoping to hold the cavalry in place then take them in the flank with his phalangites.

At the far end of the table it is carnage amongst the Macedonian cavalry from the hail of missiles. One unit down to a single base, and another carrying three hits.

The Persian right flank is all a bit laboured, but Steve is getting there. Another cavalry unit into the river discourages the phalangites from attacking the open flank, and the others are fanning out to force the light horse back and open up the rear of the Macedonian centre.

Without support the light archers are overwhelmed. Steve just now needs to work out how to unlock this end of the line properly.

In the centre of the battlefield the Persians' mercenary hoplites strike lucky as their opponents fail saving rolls and a morale test to be reduced to half strength. There are muted Macedonian recriminations as to whether trying to cross the river was a good idea.

With no cavalry opponents to get his hands on Alexander leads a unit of Companions head on into some Kardaces.

The melee now rages along the line of the river. Up top Alexander has taken quite a few hits, and the infantry aren't broken.

The Persian heavy cavalry has turned the position successfully, and are lining up to get as many units as they can to attack that beleaguered phalangite unit whilst keeping the light horse and javelins out of the way. Alas for them most of the targets they want to attack, - the Macedonian heavy infantry - are now on the other side of the river.

The game has moved on elsewhere. The Kardaces on the right of the Persian line held their position and didn't defend the river, to maximise the amount of shooting. They have now been caught by the opposing phalangites, lead by one of Alexander's subordinates. To the centre left the severely weakened Companions have been allowed to catch up with the light horse in an attempt to wipe them out quickly. At the top Alexander has killed one Kardaces unit, but it is taking too long. In the centre the line has become fragmented, and units of phalangites and hoplites are manoeuvring to line up opponents.

Following some dreadful attack dice rolling the Macedonian General commanding the centre intervenes personally to great affect causing 4 hits by using his re-roll attribute. Alas he dies in the attempt as well.

On the Persian right the cavalry are concentrating on clearing up the light infantry. The phalangites are rooted to the spot, awaiting the inevitable.

Finally Richard's nerve cracks, and he swings round to attack the horse on the river bank. He needs a quick win here, as the Persian horse won't be tied up killing the skirmishers for too long.

The skirmishers actually strike gold. They inflict a hit, which knocks off a base, and the unit fails its morale test and so loses another. The other Persian horse piles into the rear of the phalangites. At the top of the picture two units of Persian horse have finally pinned one of the Macedonian light horse units in melee.

Units are disappearing fast now. One of the Kardaces units under Steven's command lucks out and kills its phalangite opponents.

The phalangites on the river kill an opposing base, but are soon reduced to half numbers. The skirmishers are still holding on miraculously. The Macedonian phalanx is down to half numbers

The other Macedonian light horse charge in to try to extricate their colleagues, but fail. However, the Persian right flank General does die in the attack.

The centre is bit empty now. The Hypaspists and Apple Bearers line each other up, each with their C-in-C behind them. Could this be the climactic battle?

The phalangites finally keel over and die. It has been a hard slog.

As it was nearly midnight we stopped it there. It had been a gripping game, and I reckoned a marginal Persian victory.

When I went back into Shedquarters this morning to tidy up I couldn't resist running through a final few moves to see what happens. The Apple Bearers and Hypaspists hit one another and traded base losses quickly which works in favour of the Persians. Alexander was killed just as his last full Companion unit ran into the flank of the Apple Bearers.

The surviving Persian cavalry was now flooding back across the river to mop up the loose Macedonian infantry remnants. The Persian light horse at the top charged the Companions in the rear to even things up.

The Hypaspists die to the last man, and with some other bits and pieces the Macedonian army is now at break point, so it was a Persian win after all.

It was an engaging and intense game. I don't think anyone realised how long we had been playing (about 3 hours), and fortune swung both ways. The light horse had real impact on the game, being evasive and also effective with their javelins. The really did a number on their heavier opponents.

On reflection the armies were probably too big for an evening game, but with two a side we needed enough to keep everyone occupied. Adjusting the factors as described above kept the Persians in the game longer than normal and extended most of the combats.

So, all in all very satisfactory.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

One Hour Wargame in the West

Finally we resorted to Neil Thomas' "One Hour Wargames" as we had about an hour before heading off for dinner. Someone shouted out a number at random ("21!") so we did the Dual Objectives scenario. We then established Richard had some 7 Years War figures that hadn't been on the table yet, so that sorted the armies and the period. We had to cheat on the random armies as the cavalry isn't finished yet, so we had an infantry & artillery battle, Austrians attacking, French defending.

We doubled the size of table, ranges and moves as these are big figures and units. There was a need for general chivvying along as we needed to get this in before going down the pub, plus, in my view, if you take too much time over OHW you rather defeat the point of it. It has to come and go quickly without over thinking anything.

Here's the Austrians in their deployment area. The have to capture the hill...

...and also the town near the camera. Don't pay too much attention to the buildings; they're my old RCW buildings, and they're covered in political posters. Anyway, having put everything out we stopped to take pictures. Chris took the Austrians and Richard and Phil, the French. I umpired in order to keep the game moving.

The French put light infantry in the wood, which Chris attacked with his own light infantry and artillery. His regular foot then started their steady march to take the town.

They did march steadily, so far unaffected by some 1 rolling artillery.

The French chose to defend the town from either side of it, rather than make it a strong point.

The French got in the first volley, which is often telling in OHW, but they were now pinned in place whilst their left flank was turned.

Heavy musket and artillery fire broke one of the Austrian infantry units...

...who turned and fled.

Meanwhile on the French left bayonets were being crossed.

Having inflicted some damage Chris charged into the woods. In truth he was losing out on the fire exchange as the French were in cover, so it was this or death by a thousand cuts.

The Austrians have marched into the town, and the French are now counter attacking.

With 2 on to 1 the French left flank soon folds (NB  I think I might have played this wrong. I thought the rules allowed for an attack on each facing of a unit. I think what they say is only one unit can melee another in any turn.)

The epic struggle for the town begins.

At the other side of the table the French clear the Austrians out of the wood and off the hill.

The French are getting the worst of it in the town. The die on the top of the counter indicates they have taken 14 hits (the counter only goes up to 12) and they break on 15.

Soon enough they have gone.

In the woods the French light infantry have retreated to a corner to make it hard for the Austrians to dig them out, but alas with another 7 or 8 game turns left we reckoned the Austrians would soon bring overwhelming force to bear, so we said it was an Austrian win and went down the pub.

And that rounded off our day's gaming. Neil Thomas' scenarios always provide some fun, but I think it is important not to dwell on these things too long, as the rules don't always stand up to detailed scrutiny. It is important to get on with it and move on to the next game if you can.

Alas with it taking a fair while for food to be delivered in the hostelry it was time to head for home, pretty much, when we were finished eating, so no after dinner game. Still, an excellent day out with much fun had by all.

Even me, who didn't win a game of any sort.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Shed Western Desert

Richard said he wanted a Sudan game next, and who am I to disappoint? We played this with my 15mm Peter Pig miniatures and "Redcoats and the Sudan" rules. Richard, who is mostly a "big figure" kind of guy really liked the figures, but he has his heart set on some Peter Guilder 28mm stuff. I think he needs to come round to the idea that if you are wargaming armies wandering around in large empty spaces, - which is basically what happens in the Sudan - then you need to use smaller figures, really.

The scenario was two British brigades with a mounted column were trying to find and destroy some Mahdist forces hiding in some hills and villages. This is loosely based on the Battle of Ginnis, supposedly the last battle where the British army wore redcoats. It's also one of the rare battles with combined Egyptian/British brigades.

Richard took the mounted column, Chris got the brigade with the Egyptians near the river, and Phil took the centre. I ran the Mahdists as the umpire. I had a clever hidden movement/concealment mechanism as I thought we were going to have another player join us but in the end it was quicker and easier for me to wing it as the umpire.

The British moved forwards steadily. The mounted column were supposed to be recce-ing out front, but lagged behind due to some poor die rolling.

They were also fairly careless about where they were marching, and moved in a bit close to one of the lines of hills. Soon a small force of Ansar emerged on the ridge line.

A rapid dismount and some volleys from the Camel Corps and the screw gun battery soon halted them but another rub of believers emerged immediately and surged down the hillside...

Meanwhile over by the river Chris tried reconnaissance by marching through terrain with his brigade.

By virtue of drawing lower cards the Mahdists on the ridge overwhelm the screw guns.

Having seen off their opposition, the Camel Corps turn a sharp left and break the Mahdists with disciplined volleys. Alas too late to save their Artillery colleagues.

With the cavalry scouts still proving laggardly Phil adopts an arrowhead formation to prevent his troops from being surprised.

The first Mahdists emerge from the dense rage of hills at the Umpire's end of the table. The cavalry is finally getting to where it needs to be.

The tussle for the first village begins. A ragged volley from the Mahdists inflicts some Disorder, so they storm out of the village screaming their fearsome battle cries.

Richard has finally got his cavalry out into a reconnaissance screen, and is able to evade the onrushing fanatics.

The Redcoats win the melee and force their way into the village.

In the centre a rub of Mahdists is severely reduced in numbers by rifle fire supported by artillery.

The trap is now sprung, as hordes of Ansar stream over the hills. It might be a bit early for them.

The Camel Corps are caught mounted by a Mahdist rub, and retire quickly towards their baseline, whilst their cavalry colleagues line up for a charge.

The Mahdists rush the Thin Red Line. They are held at bay by sustained firepower. The Gardner gun is particularly effective.

Richard, meanwhile, is dancing around with his cavalry to keep two units of Mahdists from overwhelming his Camel Corps as they reform.

Chris' Egyptian move up into line, adding to the Mahdists' discomfort.

The British finish clearing the village, and are now in a strong position in the centre.

More rifle fire disperses the remaining Mahdists, leaving the forces of the Empire masters of the field.

Everyone proclaimed themselves to be very happy with the game, which had a nice rhythm and narrative. It was Richard's first exposure to these rules, and he enjoyed them. There are issues with them and I was going to rip them up and start over, but a conversation in the car coming home and a subsequent period of thinking has convinced me I can iron out the things that don't work so well in them.

But I'm on a two game losing streak now.