Friday, 31 July 2020

The Summer Wargamezebo (part 1)

Lockdown has driven me a bit wargame crazy. As I observed in my last post I don't get on with solo wargaming as much as some people do. However, I noticed some light somewhere in the tunnel. This week we'd have some nice weather, and I have a large gazebo, AND some foldable tables. The latest guidance/rules allow for six people outdoors with a bit of distancing. What did the Quarterly Group think?

The Quarterly Group thought that sounded great, except for Gary who is locked down near Leicester. So, up went the gazebo, and out came the toys.

This was exceptionally good news for me, as it meant that I could get in a proper Taiping Era play test, as I've done a lot more writing than testing than usually happens. By now I should have been testing every other Tuesday night, if not more frequently, with perhaps a COW session as well. Consequently I  have lost a little of the feel for how it all hangs together.

This group have mostly played Westerners against Imperialists, or EVA against Taipings previously, so I went for Taipings against Imperialists, as that should be the core of what really works under these rules. The Taipings, outnumbered but up for it, are on the left. The Imperialists, a bit more diffident but with some Mongols prepared to mix it up are on the right. Richard (standing) and Phil took the rebels, Chris and I took the Imps. I got the wing with the Mongols.

There was a bit of shooting in the middle, by our artillery, and we managed to ding their skirmisher screen. Open order infantry can deploy across two squares. No one does this if I let the players set the toys up, so I put them out like this and left them to it.

In a blink of an eye I launched a charge against the Taiping cavalry on my wing. They immediately evaded - you can see them circled in yellow at the back, out of focus and nearly off the table. My charge got a bit raggedy, as one of my units decided not to bother, despite the imprecations of their Mandarin.

In the centre the opposing skirmishers got stuck in to one another. We had Tiger Men, so what could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a bit, of course, as they take a hit and are forced to retire back behind our right hand main body.

Over on my flank Richard committed his cavalry reserve to stop my Mongols running riot in his rear. This enabled Phil to bring back his unit which had evaded. One of my Mongol bands took a hit from their jingal in the centre.

Richard's reserve cavalry beat my Mongols and pushed them back.

The other opposing skirmishers get into it as well. This is unimportant, as they have fulfilled their function of screening the main body from jingal and musket fire.

As the Taiping's Maio Allies (in grey) press forward they are met by the massed fire of several yings from the Firearms Division of the Banner Army. Much damage is inflicted upon them.

Over on my wing I pressed forwards with my cavalry to force a breakthrough on the flank. Phil was shifting infantry across to shore up his position should I prevail.

Chris had taken charge of the mah-jong box tile distribution.

The Fu Wang lead his reformed cavalry back in a charge on my Mongols. It held up my onslaught...

... but at the cost of his own life.

Meanwhile, Prince Li the Chung Wang was leading his men in pushing back my Mongols.

The Maio press in on the Fire Arms division. Ignore what appears to be a baguette and glass of wine in the background. I can assure you this game took place in England, not France.

My Tiger Men had been given a kicking by the Taiping sword and buckler men. So much so, in fact, I was forced to send a unit of Mongol horse to ride them down.

The first line of musketeers have taken a pasting from the rebels. Perhaps these gunpowder weapons from the West are not the future, after all?

Chris quickly points out to Richard what he has been doing wrong all this time.

Not withstanding Chris' taunts, Phil and Richard look pretty pleased with their progress.

Things suddenly aren't going well for me. Prince Li has broken one of my cavalry units, and my infantry have all suffered from musketry and jingal fire.

On Chris' flank one of his firearms yings turns and flees. The emperor will be displeased - if anyone deigns to tell him.

I do finally break a Taiping cavalry unit on my left, chasing them into the hills.

However, as you can see most of our stuff is now going backwards rather than forwards.

So, as our final unit of Tiger Men are chased off the table, it is clear that we have lost the day, and the Taiping Rebels surge on towards Peking.

A very satisfactory game and play test. It is true that we were all a bit rusty, and decision making was slower than normal. I was really rusty with the rules, despite my earlier solo game, but I think everyone ended up happy.

The massed, multiple units in squares worked well, and having less firepower than is normal when you have Western forces about made it a more close up and brutal game. Luckily for me the core system held up really well, and there were only some items of detail and clarification required. I had the full rule book on my tablet, but I have to say I prefer having a printed rule book when I need to look things up.

Enough of game one. What did Richard have for us?

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Taiping on my own

I took some time out on Tuesday evening to do a solo run through of the latest "Taiping Era" iteration. Work on these has slowed recently as I've been working on the next publishing project for the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, plus it has become increasingly clear to me that whilst I don't mind solo wargaming when I have a choice, I'm not mad keen when I don't. Still, I've been tweaking away at the rules, so I needed to put things on the table and see how it was all shaping up.

I've got a small but well motivated army of Taipings to the left, and a larger, slightly more tentative, force of Imperial Troops to the right.

I've introduced officer ability cards into the rules. They were popular in "It's Getting A Bit Chile", and they give a bit more variety than you would otherwise get.

As the rules now run to about 90 pages, including historical background, I had them on a tablet, for reference purposes. Most of what you need is on the one page QRS, however.

The skirmishers closed with each other, and the jingals opened fire. Mostly ineffectually.

Despite being led by an inspiring leader, the Taiping cavalry refused to charge (the 8 is their dice, and high is bad), taking the mongol cavalry at the halt. This was a shade annoying. They're supposed to be fighting in the square with the road, so their colleagues can charge the Imperialists in the flank.

The skirmishers in the centre close with one another.

In a flurry of dice rolling the Tigermen fail two tests (the sixes) and the Taiping one (the eight). The Tigers will have to fall back a square, reducing their morale by the difference in failures.

Out on the flank the jingals exchange fire, inflicting some damage.

In the cavalry melee on the left the Taipings stabilise the situation and win the next round of melee. Alas, General Li dies whilst exhorting his troops to greater efforts.

Being strangely aggressive, the Imperialists charge into the flank guards of one of the Taiping shih.

The central yings in the shih close on their opponents.

More Imperial cavalry appear on the left.

Seeking to avenge their fallen leader, the Taiping cavalry inflict three morale fails on their opponents, which will break the unit, as they only have a value of 3, indicated by the mah-jong tile.

The routing cavalry's colleagues, however, hold their ground, under the leadership of General Tso. In the other cavalry melee the Taipings have gained the upper hand, and driven their opponents back.

A wider shot shows that the action is hotting up all along the line.

Some musketry is exchanged. Funny how it's always the unit at the back of the square that fails the test.

I'd been at it for 2-3 hours at this point, proving that I think longer about my moves when playing myself, and also that I'm a bit rustier on the actual interactions than I thought I was. Still, the mechanisms are giving me results I want, and the new officer cards worked out well. I even spotted some typos in the rules, so that's helpful too.

Now I need to tidy up and rest for the next playtest.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Taiping Update

The last week or so I've had a major push working on the "Taiping Era" rules. The download version I put up several years ago (don't look - it's gone now) was 12 sides of A4 with a single page QRS. I thought at the time that I'd covered everything, but the act of writing it up and doing the examples and diagrams showed me that wasn't the case as I've remarked before. I'm up around 40 pages of rules text (still only one page QRS), and I haven't done the historical background and painting guides yet.

Things do seem to be clicking into place, and the core mechanism is robust and generally applicable, in that it can be used in all situations. The recent spell of less clement weather has meant that there's no excuse not to work on them although it is less pleasant sitting in the study than sitting in the garden in the sunshine.

I have also gone back and admitted I need to sort out the French Army for the 1860 campaign. I did buy all the figures to do them from Lancashire games then found them terribly out of scale compared to my existing Irregular Miniatures figures. The Lancashire fellows have gone up on ebay, to an underwhelming response so far, and I sent in an order to Mr Kay. His FPW figures are close enough to the 1860 uniform, although probably a little heavy on the packs. I might have been better to have gone for his French Foreign Legion figures, especially as I had to add neck cloths to the kepis in any event. No matter, the figures are ordered and have arrived. Alas the lockdown seems to have mushed my brain a bit, and I ordered too many trurcos and not enough light infantry. Still, I can make them up later.

I decided as well that I'd buy fresh pots of blue and red paint for the uniforms, so I don't run out half way through the paint job. I usually buy a lot of my paints at shows and my french blue and red come from a non-brand supplier I see at Newark mainly. In the absence of such things, I tried out my Local Model Shop, hoping it would be open. Luckily it was.

Turns out they've never been busier, and there certainly were a few people in there, discussing model aeroplane motors and model railway rolling stock and me hunting through the newly arrived boxes of Strelets figures. It seemed to me that the lockdown had seen a run on blue and red paint, and I ended up buying some Humbrol acrylic, which I haven't done for years, and a pot of Revell, which I've never used instead of my regular Tamiya.

So here we have some Chasseurs, at the back, and a line battalion at the front. It's a compact little force, hampered only in the campaign by a lack of cavalry. They had about 60 Spahis with them, and that was it. And no commissariat. They had to be supplied with lots of kit and so on by the British force, which was one of the best supplied field forces put out after the Crimean debacle.

So, better stop this typing lark and get back to the Taipings.