Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Load of Blocks

A selection of modern unit labels of the type for which a half sized block was made for.

Readers of the blog will no doubt be aware of my fondness for block based games and indeed, some of the most purple of my purple prose has been devoted to the after action reports arising from games using these. The blocks I use are sized at 63mm x 21mm x 12mm and with the MS Paint drawn labels look pretty good on the table top. I am also really looking forward to using these for the inaugural game on my Hexon terrain (once it arrives of course!) in due course.

However, they are not without their disadvantages. As deployed they look fine for anything linear and ordered but are a little clumsy when used for detachments or smaller units - I am thinking gun batteries or skirmishers here - and so having a smaller size would seem to the ideal. In fact, when I first mooted the idea of using blocks my pilot set made use of some blocks that had been cut in half. With my current version however, I have no such provision simply because I lack the correct tools to cut these accurately enough as they are produced in a hard wood. My joinery skills are modest and the tools of the trade are lacking so rather than try and have a go at cutting them in half I simply didn't bother.

With the certainty of night following day though this was never going to be a permanent solution and so the niggling itch has taken hold to the extent that something needs to be done about it. As a result I have made a few enquiries in my local area and I have managed to locate a joiner that is prepared to chop the blocks in half using the appropriate tools and above all accurately for the cost of 'a drink' aka cash in hand. I will have six sets (288 blocks so the 'drink' may have to be a fair size!) that will be treated thus and so it will mean a couple of relabeling sessions in due course but that is of no matter. The following half sized blocks will be produced - command, infantry, cavalry, crew served weapons (artillery, AT guns, MGs), skirmishers and vehicles. When used in conjunction with the full sized versions this will give me a whole lot flexibility on the tabletop and thus the overall look of the thing. The significance of this is immense as I will also be able to use blocks almost as stands which will place less reliance on the use of rosters - especially when using  the 'Memoir of' or 'Portable…' series of rules. A good example would be to use a full size block with a couple of half sized versions to represent a unit. The unit takes a casualty and so one of the blocks could be removed. It also paves the way for a better representation of unit formations.

I am really pleased about this development as it offers a lot of potential for the blocks going forward and it will give me a much greater degree of flexibility in their use in the short term.

The smaller size is also eminently suitable for naval usage….;-)

Monday, 30 January 2012

Action at Sea....Game Number 3, Part 2

The game was enormous fun to play albeit pretty quick. I was very pleased with the way the rules worked out and even more pleased with the fact that the inevitable revisions were fairly minimal. To be honest one change was fairly extensive but I was very pleased with the fact that change did not appear to upset the balance of the rules to any great degree.

The two biggest changes were that I have bowed to the inevitable and have increased the gun ranges by a hex. This does not sound much but using the larger models (the Minifigs ships) it looks better having them slightly further apart. I have taken this decision with one eye on including dreadnoughts at some point and I am looking at a maximum range of 8 hexes. With this in mind it means that Heavy guns now have a range of 6, medium 5 and light 4. I have added an additional gun category - quick-firers - to include anything smaller than a 3.4" and they have a maximum range of 3. The reason for this is because during the period under consideration many ships made use of untold numbers of 3, 6, 9 and 12 pounder weapons which should not really be included within the light guns category. I am sure that salvo firing 3 pdrs looked pretty effective but probably wasn't when used against anything with any form of protection. Light guns are now for weapons between 3.4" and 6" in calibre. The final touch with gunnery is that within each category there are now four increments of combat dice, reducing in effect in alphabetical order i.e. B is worse that A, C worse than B etc.

Movement is unchanged other than to turn a hex side now costs a movement point.

At the moment I have no lists of ships specifications completed although I will add some guidance notes for those that wish to customise their navies - as I will probably do for my own in due course.

In the meantime I will see about getting the rules on the blog for all to see - once I have grappled with a couple of formatting issues!

Action at Sea....Game Number 3

The write up for this game will be a little different from my usual approach for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the game was very much a play test of the latest version of Memoir of Battle at Sea 1890 to 1905 (with thanks to Bob Cordery for the loan of the title!) and also was fought using unpainted models. Apologies in advance then for the less than flattering pictures!

For inspiration I have used the River Plate action from WW2 but with a pre-dreadnought twist - the red fleet consisted of a Lord Nelson class battleship whilst the blue fleet had a pair of Highflyer class cruisers and a Drake. In terms of the game the ships were rated as follows:

Lord Nelson: speed 2, 10 hit points, Heavy Guns (A rated), Medium Guns (F rated) and Light Guns (K rated) and one torpedo attack.

Drake: speed 3, 7 hit points, Medium Guns (F rated), Light Guns (K rated) and one torpedo attack.

Highflyer: speed 3, 5 hit points, Light Guns (K rated) and one torpedo attack.

The gun ratings are based on the number of combat dice rolled at the range to the target ship and they decrease  in alphabetical sequence. Heavy guns are rated A to E, Medium guns from F to I and Light guns J to L. Heavy guns have a maximum range of 5, Medium 4 and Light 3 - which is also the range for torpedoes.

Firing is very simple. Heavy and Medium guns may only fire in the gunfire phase (which is the first phase of the turn) whilst Light guns may fire during the gunfire phase and in the Torpedo Attack phase. A 6 scores a hit with a 4 and 5 being an additional hit - provided at least one qualifying 6 has been scored from the current salvo. Light guns firing at Cruisers or Battleships or Medium guns firing at Battleships need to score hits in pairs. Battleships firing Heavy guns at Cruisers count 5 and 6 as qualifying hits. Any hits scored can be applied at the owning players discretion against the hit points, speed, or weapons. A hit applied to a gun type reduces the letter to the next one e.g. A to B, C to D etc. Torpedo hits  can only be applied to hit points or speed.

The action commenced with the battleship, having no doubt returned from a raiding foray, being intercepted by a cruising force of the enemy. In order to minimise the effect of the heavy guns being concentrated against a single target the cruiser commander split his force into two - the pair of protected cruisers to the north and the armoured cruiser to the south of the enemy battleship.

The opposing plans were very simple - the red fleet needed to inflict as much damage on the opposition as possible (at the very least slowing the enemy ships down sufficiently so that an effective pursuit would be impossible) in order to make good their escape whilst the blue fleet needed to sink or seriously damage the raider so that the heavier elements of the fleet could catch up with the action and finish off the battleship.

The end of turn 1 and with continued apologies for the unpainted models in use!

The opening turn saw the blue ships heading straight for the red and maintaining their course and heading in order to assail the red ship on either beam. The red ship responded by lining herself up to do battle with the largest of the blue ships - the armoured cruiser - whilst turning towards the pair of protected cruisers.

Turn 2 was virtually a continuation of the opening move but with the difference in that the battleship and the armoured cruiser were close enough to exchange long range shots with their Light guns (at range 3 either ship could roll but a single d6 and both missed).

Turn 3 saw the battleship and the armoured cruiser open fire with everything they had at a range of 3 and despite having the superior weight of guns the red ship missed entirely whilst the blue ship was able to score two hits - one with her medium artillery and one with her light. The battleship opted to take these hits from her hit point total of 10 reducing this to 8. The movement phase for the turn saw the armoured cruiser cross to the rear of the battleship whilst the two protected cruisers turned in to face the foe.

Turn 3 - whilst the armoured cruiser keeps a healthy distance after her bush with the battleship her two lighter compatriots take up the gauntlet (the shell splash markers are from the game Mastermind and serve merely to illustrate the action).

A swathe of Light guns opened fire during the Torpedo attacks phase with the battleship missing her nearest opponent whilst suffering a long range hit from the furthest of the two protected cruisers. Both the battleship and the nearest protected cruiser elected to use torpedoes  with disastrous results for the blue fleet as the protected cruiser was torpedoed and suffered four points of damage. Captain blue opted to take 3 hits from the hit point total of 5 leaving 2 and to reduce the ships speed from 3 to 2.

Turn 4 saw the battleship open fire with all her artillery against the battered protected cruiser but only managed to score but a single hit - much to the red Captain's disgust and the blue Captain's relief! The armoured cruiser fired speculatively at long range but failed to secure a hit.

Turn 5 saw the battleship again give her full attention to the damaged cruiser and this time her persistence paid off as she managed to score a further three hits which the blue Captain used to reduce his hit points by 1 (leaving but a single remaining point of damage) and his gun dice by two from J to L. The ship was riven with shell holes but was still able to make a speed of 2. The other cruiser kept a healthy distance and headed around the rear of the battleship whilst he armoured cruiser attempted to take up the fight once again.. Some long range Light gun salvoes were exchanged but with no damage inflicted by either side.

The damaged blue cruiser headed away at best speed from the action - her temerity in attacking her larger and more dangerous opponent being unsuccessful.

Turn 6 proved to be the climax of he action as the battleship proceeded to hammer the armoured cruiser at a range of 2 with all her guns and managed to score four hits for no return, the armoured cruiser being bow on to the battleship and thus firing with a reduced number of guns. The Armoured cruiser took the damage as 2 points from the hit point total of 7 leaving 5 and reduced both her Medium and Light guns by one each: from F to G and J to K respectively.

Endgame - The Red battleship about to hammer the blue armoured cruiser in company with the sole undamaged ship on the table.

At this point the blue fleet conceded the action as with two heavily damaged cruisers (one in imminent danger of sinking) she was unable to prevent the escape of the enemy warship.

More to follow....

Sunday, 29 January 2012

(Funny) Little Wars - The Insanity Commences

Nothing a new coat of paint, a change of wheels and some plastic card detailing couldn't put right!

It was the first of this years Toy and Train Fairs at my daughter's school today and so I went along to take a look and to seek some inspiration. Nothing to report on the ship search but I was able to acquire a brace of firing artillery pieces for the long term Little Wars style project. Usually this show is awash with such items but today, despite being packed to the rafters with visitors and several new dealers, the artillery was minimal - or more accurately, either too expensive or in need of too much restoration to be worthwhile (sorry Tim, nothing useful to report!). My acquisition was a pair of 'Britains' (yeah right!) firing pieces which look suspiciously like 25 pdrs although are quite basic models which leads me to believe they may be copies. I am not hugely keen on the wheels as they look a little on the modern side but beggars can't be choosers. The  gun barrels are fixed with no means of elevation and the muzzle brakes are missing. The paint is a little chipped around the edges and so a repaint will be called for - probably in a shade of grey.

The firing mechanisms for both pieces are absolutely fine and the obligatory matchstick round fired from each reaches to a very respectable 9 or 10 feet. The pair of pieces cost £5 which is pretty good value and with a little work they will be added to the artillery park of my Little Wars collection. In fact, at the moment they are my Little Wars collection....;-)

At the moment....;-)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

On the Hunt for some Old 'Toys'

At this point in time there are two things I am looking for. Firstly there is of course the Minifigs Canopus from their old warship range - this is in danger of becoming something of an obsession as I am desperate to get hold of one! I would also like to get of their 'Early Turret Ship number 14' which I have on good authority is an HMS Edgar class cruiser.

The second item(s) I am after may come as a little bit of a surprise but I am after some Peter Laing 18th century figures - specifically AWI infantry command figures; officers, drummers, ensigns, sergeant and perhaps mounted officers if possible. I have said Peter Laing simply because these figures need to be small and most current 15s are too large. Even Irregular Miniatures 15s are too big but the Laing version would be ideal.

Actually, a 12mm figure would be about right but to the best of my knowledge the only 12mm figures I can ever recall were those available from Hinchcliffe and they were only Napoleonics but I stand to be corrected. I know Minifigs has a 12mm range but I am unsure what is available - I know there are WW2 and ACW but I think that is about it at present.

Still no Hexon so the game tomorrow will be plan B and I apologise in advance for the fact that the models in use will be, shock horror, UNPAINTED!!!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Planning for an Inaugural Game....Part 2

"Meep, meep!" - Straight from the ACME Inc. School of Advanced Project Planning

At the time of writing my Hexon terrain has still not arrived so is probably still in transit. Despite this however, the planning has continued for my first action using it and is now pretty much complete. I have drawn up the roster sheets, ensured that all the gaming related material is to hand - dice, hit markers etc (not essential but useful for purposes of photography) and that the appropriate blocks are mobilised and ready for use.

As a matter of course I have also reread the single account of the battle in question that I own and shall be endeavouring to refight, purely for some additional inspiration. I will explain the rationale behind my choice of action after the game has been played but I suspect that given my fondness for certain periods of history, even those for which I have no intention of acquiring figures for, it will not come as a surprise!

I have even mapped out the terrain on hexed paper so that once the Hexon arrives the set up should be very straightforward. My intention, assuming all is well with the post, is to fight this action on Sunday and to have the after action report on the blog that same evening. I am looking forward to this as much as the game itself and the first part of this is already half written. As an aside I have settled on writing battle reports in three separate posts - the background (this will be my pseudo-historical setting - purple prose and all!), the battle itself and then the review and conclusions from the affair.

I hope that having done all of the above that the end result will be worth it - knowing the action as I do I have every confidence this will be the case! In fact, it would take a really concerted effort to get it wrong and mess the whole thing up! Just to be on the safe side though, I have a Plan B in the shape of another game that can be drafted in as a replacement if needed should the Hexon not arrive in time.

To be honest, I can't wait!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

That Warm and Fuzzy Feeling....

1:1200th Warship heaven - "Gonna need a moment alone boys...!"

Yesterday evening was a shocker. I had an interview after work (my contract has just been extended for an additional month but such is the lot of the contractor that you are always on the lookout for your next contract) which meant that I was not back to Liverpool Street station until 6:30pm - earlier than anticipated and so a visit to the club was certainly on the cards.

Overhead power cable problems meant that everything was slow and crowded and as a result I eventually wandered into my house at a miserable 8:35pm. Why are the trains always messed up when I am late anyway?

My low spirits were very soon revived though by the arrival of two of the three parcels I am expecting this week - still no Hexon though.

Basset-Lowke Waterline Ship Models by Derek Head (ISBN 1 872727 72 7 and published in a limited edition of 1,000 copies by Golden Age Editions) is one of those books that can best be described as a piece of pure indulgence and it is absolutely gorgeous, albeit only 160 pages long. the book covers the history and the models produced by Basset-Lowke between 1908 and 1950 at a scale of 1:1200th or 100ft to the inch. Of particular interest to me though is the models that were subcontracted and made as cheaper version of the 1:1200th models (these were being handmade) at a scale of 150ft per inch as these are the models I have a selection of via the Minifigs versions and some die-cast copies of indeterminate origin. These cheaper versions were produced in more limited numbers and production ceased in the 1920s. Sadly the book describes these models as being out of the scope of the title but having said that it has for me answered a number of questions.

Of the 1:1200th models there is much of interest. Ships were produced for a whole range of navies for WW1 and 2 and one wonders if the cheaper and smaller versions were ever produced of these other navies from the earlier period.

I recently saw some Basset-Lowke 1:1200th models on ebay going for some staggering amounts of money as these are effectively antiques and priced as such.

If you like ship models you will love the 'eye candy' in this book and it is a fabulous title to dip into. It is also very expensive (check out amazon!) and I was very lucky to have acquired this copy via ebay for £12.50! I will be honest and say that I would probably not have purchased this book any other way but I am certainly happy that I was able to!

It certainly brightened up what was a depressing evening transport wise!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Rolling up the Loins and Girding the Sleeves

"Do, or do not. There is no try." Yoda.

I would like thank everybody for all the comments re my 'Great Debate' - as ever they have been very supportive and have also served to bump start my 'reality chip' and so the plan is now back on after my temporary blip. My FLW set up will have to wait awhile (there is plenty of time in any event - especially from the funding perspective!) as I shall refocus my efforts on matters closer to home.

I shall be making a concerted effort to tackle the 15mm Balkan Wars figures first in the guise of the Russian and Turkish armies of the 1890s or Fezia and Rusland as they will be known. The 1935 kit will join the ACW ships on the back burner for the time being - especially as I hope to unveil some really exciting news very soon which will take up even more time but in a very good way.

The two 15mm armies (for which I have everything I need) consist of around 80 foot, 15 mounted and three guns a side. The great figure clean up is already underway and I am really keen to get some figures on the Hexon terrain so want to push on with this as much as I can. Meanwhile, the blocks will be in action once again as plans continue for my inaugural game on the new terrain as and when it arrives.

"All right, let's move like we've got a purpose" Corporal Hicks, Aliens

The Great Debate

Curse my fickle nature! It has been a funny old week or so as I continue to wrack my brains over a solution to my ongoing dilemma. The dilemma concerns exactly what I should throw my painting energies at first of all in respect of figures. The obvious solution is the 1890s Fezian and Rusland troops as not only do I have everything I need to fight with in terms of figures (even paint!) but also the rules and the soon to be arriving Hexon terrain pieces. If not these chaps then the Russo Turkish war must surely feature at some point. The problem I have, which as usual completely defies logic or sanity, is to press ahead with a Funny Little Wars set up for which the only thing I currently possess is an electronic copy of H.G.Wells classic: Little Wars on my ebook reader.

No figures, artillery, scenery, or even the financial wherewithal to start such an undertaking as the budget for the month has been well and truly blown out of the water with the aforementioned Hexon.

On balance the most logical, practical and sensible (not one of which I lay claim to being!) course would be to tackle the 1890s set up on the basis that it would provide me with the tools for continuing the struggle between the Czar and the Sultan but I know from past experience that unless my head is completely engaged with the task in hand the heart will eventually take over and chaos, coupled with yet another half started project (or should that be half completed?) will inevitably follow.

Note that absolutely no mention was made of anything 'ship' related....until then that is!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Planning for an Inaugural Game

This coming weekend will hopefully see the first game taking place on my Hexon set up (assuming it all arrives in time). I have given a lot of thought to how I shall be using this terrain over the coming months and have decided that the first game I use it for will be something rather special and rather out of the ordinary. I am not going to spoil the surprise but suffice it to say it will feature the blocks, the Town in a Bag buildings and the musket based variant of Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle rules for the 19th century. Essentially these will be the rules I used for the Belgium fracas (both of them and should the plural of fracas be fraci?). Fairly obviously then, it will be a horse and musket era game.

For reasons that will become obvious I am really looking forward to this action as in many ways it represents the completion of a circle in my war games career so to speak.

More to follow as the week goes on but I should point out that if the Hexon does not arrive then this particular game will have to be postponed - it would not look as good on the Axis and Allies maps to start with. I do have a plan B though so at least one game will feature on the blog over the weekend at some point!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

In Terraining - The Hexon Way

I own in my collection two sets of Hexon terrain tiles and I am very pleased with them both - the blue and the green flocked set. I have used the blue set on numerous occasions but as yet not the green set. The main reason for this is the absence of any suitable terrain in the shape of roads, rivers and such like. Buildings I have plenty of - the Town in a Bag wooden variety and my Greek ceramics - and a reasonable selection of 'greenery'. I experimented with using felt for roads and rivers but not with any great success. This was the primary reason for my using the Axis and Allies maps for my block games. Well, with a deep intake of breath, I ordered a selection of the scenic pieces available - hills, rivers (actually streams) and roads. I also ordered a bag of the appropriately coloured flock for use with figure bases as and when I get to them.

Hexon looks really attractive and I have been planning this for some time and so I am pleased to have finally been able to secure what will be the missing link in my set up.

The last few days have, for a variety of reasons, given me much food for thought about my gaming plans for the year and I hope to post in a few days the results of my far reaching deliberations.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Megablitzed and a lot More

For me one of the great joys in writing a blog is the contact with other kindred spirits and the exchange of ideas, comment and observation that such a relationship brings. In many cases this is the precursor to establishing long term genuine friendships above and beyond the mere comment on a post. An added bonus is of course that such long distance contact sometimes results in a face to face meeting and I have been singularly fortunate in that I have managed to meet a number of people via the blog that perhaps I may not have had the chance to ordinarily.

So it was yesterday in which I had the pleasure of lunch with Tim Gow of megablitzandmore fame in the West End of London. Tim was in town on business and suggested meeting up for a chat and lunch etc which I had readily accepted and so was delighted to meet face to face to discuss numerous topics of mutual interest aka war games many and varied!

The two hours flew by and during that time the conversation ebbed and flowed and touched on Fletcher Pratt, painting techniques, Funny Little Wars, Megablitz, the advantages of having a dedicated war games space, Tradition, COW and COWs past and present (the annual Conference of Wargamers), WD (no, not WD 40, this being Wargames Developments), Funny Little Wars, my appalling timing in booking a holiday to miss COW 2012 (point noted and borne in mind for 2013!), 1/6000th versus 1/3000th as a scale for naval games, gamers we have known and their legacy, H.G. Wells and the forthcoming centenary of 'Little Wars', Funny Little Wars and the joys of using firing artillery in a wargame.

Oh and Funny Little Wars.

....And King Boris III and the Forbodian Army.

It is always a pleasure for me to be able to ramble on our hobby to a like minded individual and the experience was one that I hope to repeat next time Tim is in town - with the proviso that we discuss Funny Little Wars as I am quite sure his campaign of subliminal suggestion may have planted a seed of some kind.

"You cannot escape your destiny...."

As an added and unexpected bonus Tim also presented me with a very eclectic selection of 1930s 1/1200th aircraft from Hallmark which will be adorning the Fezian Naval Air Service in due course.

It was a great day albeit far too brief and I should like to extend my thanks to Tim for lunch (next time on me) and for the occasional mention of Funny Little Wars.....;-)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Smokestack Lightening....

The legendary bluesman in a cheerful frame of mind

" I woke up one mornin',
Feelin' so bad, I thought I was dead....
Got the wrong warships in my collection,
So I got me a plan instead...."

Ok, so I know it is not classic blues as played by Muddy Walters, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Lee Hooker etc but the idea is broadly the same!

The offending model, of which I have but a single example - note the obvious large calibre guns on each corner of the superstructure.

The warships in question refer to my collection of Minifigs/BMC style 1:2000th scale models and my plan to drop cast those models that I need more of. I have hit a bit of a problem. In a nutshell, the model that I thought was a Canopus type pre dreadnought (and therefore as near to being a standard configuration for the type as you could get) is in fact nothing of the kind. On closer inspection it appears to be a King Edward VII class battleship as it has a distinctive 9.2" gun on each corner of the central superstructure. Although it has the symbol 'B3' on the stern it appears that this was a 1950s era copy of the original BMC models incorrectly described as a Canopus. This is a blow but one I have given some thought to along the lines of some fairly drastic remedial action.

Swiftsure and Triumph - and the potential saviours of my cunning plan!

Take a close look at the model above - that of HMS Swiftsure, the second class battleship taken over, with her sister, HMS Triumph, and completed for the Royal Navy. They have virtually a typical configuration for the pre dreadnought battleship type - the central superstructure with a pair of funnels atop. There is plenty of space on the top of the central superstructure to add a further funnel if need be and this was something I was considering going forward for representing different classes but then, it came to me (and this is the drastic part).

If I removed the funnels entirely (Smokestack Lightening if you will....) and ensured that the top surface of the superstructure was suitably 'flush' then the resulting casting would need to have these added afterwards. This would be no problem and plastic tubing in various suitable sizes is available for that very purpose.

Why bother? Well, simply put, by having the freedom to position the funnels where I choose, not to mention the quantity, I can represent any number of battleship types, albeit in silhouette. There is room for three funnels easily and so this would allow some of the German types to appear.

The cruiser being considered for some novel surgery

The same idea can also be applied to some of the cruisers I own and so that is also an option I will explore further. It does mean that a couple of originals will be sacrificed for the greater good though - the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few....

Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

More on Napoleonics

Napoleon at Borodino, accompanied with his glittering staff although the man himself looks bored with the whole thing!

My first ever painted army was a 20mm Airfix plastic 1815 Allied army organised as per Bruce Quarrie's Airfix  Magazine Guide: Napoleonic Wargames. I fought many a dramatic action using those rules against my old fighting partner, Paul, back in the mid 1970s. When we decided to move up into metal figures another gaming friend of mine had already usurped the British army (his elder brother was a very talented 54mm painter specialising in the Napoleonic British army - to this day I am unsure if my friend painted all of his 25mm figures himself!) and so with Paul sticking with the French I needed to trawl around for something different.

Inspiration came from a number of directions.1812 by Anthony Brett-James was a collection of eye witness accounts and diary entries in a single volume covering the invasion and the retreat and I had occasion to borrow a copy from the library (mainly because David Howarth's book - A Near Run Thing covering Waterloo was out on loan and these two books have served me well over the years for sheer inspiration value) and was gripped. A quick read of the Russian army section of Bruce Quarrie's book and I was hooked. Enormous gun batteries, Cossacks and infantry that would not lay down seemed ideally suited to my modest tactical ability and so a Russian army of 1812 it would be. The figures I used in those early days were a mixture of Hinchliffe and Tradition (they still 25mm figures than and were still at 188 Piccadilly) and I managed to complete two battalions on infantry in greatcoats, two battalions of grenadiers, two of Moscow militia, a unit of Cuirassiers, some Cossacks and a couple of artillery batteries. Chris Hardman painted a unit of Hussars to add to the collection. Parts of it saw action but the whole lot was sold to Eric Knowles to finance the first of mt naval forces just after I had moved to London.

The years rolled by  and so whilst I have dabbled with Napoleonics on and off over the years it has never been with any serious intent until now. 1815 was always my campaign of choice (meaning that most Napoleonic purists would dismiss me as a mere amateur!) and still is bit now the net has broadened to cover from 1812. I suppose because by then the French, whilst formidable, had shot their bolt to an extent as the rest of Europe had their measure.

The only new addition to this is the Egyptian adventure at the earlier end of the wars and that is a campaign I would love to try at some point.

The rules I have used and are currently tweaking are based on Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle (which are designed for the latter half of the 19th century) and the early test was great fun to play. I was particularly pleased with the fact that the tweaks I had applied beforehand seemed to slot in almost seamlessly with no obvious detriment to the game play. Undoubtedly this is a testament to the soundness of the original concept; fashioned and honed as it has been. Aside from the Napoleonic wars I am thinking that the revised set would also work for the second half of the 18th century and so in due course I will investigate further - especially as  I have a plan for something rather special in this respect....;-)

That Old Block Magic....

Yesterday evening was a useful one of the pottering variety. I had a number of minor tasks to attend to including clearing the Belgium game away from Sunday and so whilst doing this I took the opportunity  to review the Block collection. You may recall that I produced sets of labelled blocks in six colours - red, blue, green, grey, brown and olive. The first three are in sets of 48 whilst the remaining three - grey, brown and olive - have an additional 36 blocks apiece to cover the modern era. This means machine guns, mortars, anti tank guns, tanks, SPs, tank destroyers, armoured cars and half tracks. I didn't bother with lorries as I see these as being more pre and post battle transports rather than 'battle taxis'.

Whilst these are complete in respect of having the labels applied the one thing I have yet to finish is applying the ID labels. These are basically numbered stickers applied to one of the long edges of the block and they serve a dual purpose. Firstly, the convention I have adopted is that the number is always facing the owning player and so is the rear of the unit and is therefore handy for determining facing and secondly, the number also serves as a unit identifier when used in conjunction with the roster sheet. For my recent games the units titles have been largely anonymous and have nothing more elaborate than, for example, 11 Infantry, 45 Cavalry or 63 artillery (the number being from the block and the type being what the unit is). This is functional but hardly inspiring! I plan to make the unit roster sheets more personalised with specific units as I research particular historical campaigns or even the hypothetical ones I plan to undertake. As an aside this will be great fun to do for Fezia and Rusland and that is a task I shall look forward to in due course.

I added the number labels to the grey set last night - at least the base 48 blocks and this means that I have blocks of four colours suitable for the period 1700 to around 1870 - red, blue, green and grey - thereby increasing the army options and gaming potential. The one thing I did not do though was to add machine gun units to the original three colours which will require rectification although not to the scale of the 'modern' types.

After much consideration of how I want the block armies to develop I am looking to greatly increase my Hexon terrain collection by the addition of their road, river and hill pieces as using the blocks on the larger hexes looks really good and with the very attractive terrain pieces available will add enormously to the 3D military map effect I am trying to achieve.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Belgium, June 1815, Game Number 2 - Part 2

Seconds out, round two!....Note the increase in the size of the French force

Well that was much better! It just goes to show that the seven 'Ps' of my earlier post are worth their weight in gold when used properly (or even at all!).

The Allied set up - the 95th Rifles are in the woods in the right centre of the picture

The set up was broadly similar to my earlier game but the forces had been adjusted somewhat. The allies lost an infantry unit whilst the French gained three more; together with another cavalry regiment and an extra gun battery. The allotment of total strength points came out at 54 for the French and 36 for the Allies meaning that the break points were 18 and 12 respectively. The rules were primarily Bob Cordery's 'Memoir of Battle' but with some in house tweaks applied - more of which later. The break point idea is loosely based on the idea of an exhaustion level and features in Volley and Bayonet by Messrs. Chadwick, Novak and others. Essentially when a formation has lost the number of strength points indicated by its break point level it must then beak off the action. I picked 33% as a test figure but of course it could be varied depending on the quality of the army or the scenario.

The approaching French - with extra Va-va-voom!

I will let the pictures do the talking but I will summarise what happened.

The French force essentially attacked from its line of march (a 'hasty attack' to use NATO parlance I believe) but was impeded by the stubborn resistance of the 95th Rifles deployed in the wood astride the road. The French attack was hindered by this for a time until overwhelming numbers began to tell and the Riflemen were forced out of the wood. Despite the support from their cavalry the Rifles were forced to evacuate the wood in the face of overwhelming odds. The leading French infantry unit was able to catch the gallant 95th in the open as they scampered away from the wood they so gallantly defended and with a withering volley decimated the survivors. It had cost the French some nine points of casualties to do this - a skirmisher unit was destroyed; another forced back and hits scored against the cavalry and some regular infantry.

At the end of turn one the Rifles had taken casualties but were fighting hard as the rest of the French force continued to march to the sound of the guns

The Rifles are hanging on with a furious cavalry melee securing their escape route - for the time being

Both sets of cavalry withdraw to reform and reorganise - with fatal consequences for the embattled Riflemen. The black counters indicate artillery hits, the white from everything else

The end of the Rifles; caught in the open and on the flank the survivors were decimated

The French cavalry paid for its temerity as the troopers of the Dragoon Guards charged them and put them swiftly to the sword. Whilst this was going on the remainder of the French army was attempting to deploy into the open and out of the narrow confines of the road; inhibited as it is with an area of rough ground and the aforementioned wood. Sadly for them as soon as a unit appeared at the head of the column so it became the target for the Allied artillery (very effectively handled) and soon the entire leading regiment had suffered grievously from the guns.

After reforming the French cavalry set off to outflank the Northern end of the village - only to suffer from long range light infantry fire and the attention of the Allied cavalry. A furious succession of charges, counter charges, push backs and rallies took place which ended up with both sides losing a unit leaving the Allies with a single regiment and the same for the French although the remaining Gallic horse were on the opposite side of the village,probing the Southern end of the village.

As the Rifles were flanked so the cavalry of the opposing sides continued their bloody work with far reaching results

At this point, after some exchanges of long range musketry fire in the centre (where the French had finally managed to deploy units of regular infantry and the artillery was coming up to enter the fray) a quick head count had revealed that the break point for each side had been reached simultaneously and so the action ended as a technical draw.

Endgame - with their cavalry ruined and heavy casualties in the centre, the French attack has ground to a halt but with telling casualties inflicted on the Allies

The game was huge fun and the tweaks required are very few and are more around clarity of purpose and personal choice as much as anything else. I want to formalise the melee procedure - especially for cavalry - and write up fully the break point/exhaustion level process. Movement and firing worked a treat although I may reduce infantry fire for units that have moved in some fashion otherwise light infantry are only just slower than cavalry and as deadly at close range (as the Rifles found out on turn one when they were 'bounced' by two units of French skirmishers and suffered three hits out of four dice rolled!).

As a battle I would say that it felt right and suitably Napoleonic - cavalry charges, skirmishers and Riflemen all playing their part - and with a little work the rules will be absolutely bang on the money for what I want. The beauty of this particular rule set (primarily designed with the second half of the 19th century in mind) is that it can be dressed up with period specific tweaks as required without the underlying mechanics being compromised in any way.

All in all then, a good recovery from the previous effort and I shall look forward to not only using the rules again but also reacquainting myself with the wars of Napoleon.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Belgium, June 1815, Game Number 2

Brigadier Hyde-Bowned reviews his troops

After the less than satisfactory outcome to last weeks game I have decided to replay the action using a little more forethought and a different set of rules. I have changed the size of the forces so the allies are smaller and the French larger and the rules of choice will be the latest version of Bob Cordery's 'Memoir of Battle' - a brilliant combination of Command and Colours, Morschauser and with an added dash of Cordery thrown in for good measure. The report will follow tomorrow and I promise to keep the purple prose to a minimum (and no, I did not have my fingers crossed when I said that....).

Friday, 13 January 2012


....but for goodness sake let's do it RIGHT!!!

My recent foray back into the world of the Napoleonic war game has given me much continued thought over the last few days. Aside from reigniting my interest in the era as a whole it was, as I mentioned previously, an object lesson in the importance of being properly prepared for a game beforehand. It is something I shall consider more carefully when planning my next action for sure as the time I have for gaming is limited and so making the most efficient use of the time available is an important consideration. Obviously one could plan a game to within an inch of its life and still have it turn out like a lemon on the day but at least all of the basics would have been covered beforehand.

With this in mind I have given myself a mental checklist of points to be covered before even a single dice is rolled. These are mostly obvious but as my own recent experience has shown, even a veteran of some 40 years of gaming can overlook something really basic!

  • Scenario - the game itself - is it (to use a financial services term) 'clear, fair and not misleading?'
  • Rules - understood and with the appropriate charts and tables etc to hand - unless the game is a designated play test
  • Terrain - as required - is it readily available?
  • Forces - the right toys or if 'subbing' units due to non-availability then clarity of type and purpose e.g. 'I shall use that unit of Moscow militia as the Pavlov grenadiers as the scenario needs them but I don't have the correct figures'
  • Time - in the words of the Magners cider TV advert - 'Time, dedicated to you'
This is all straightforward stuff and so I hope that by adhering to this approach I will avoid a repetition of my earlier frustration!

Game number 2 of 2012 will take place over the weekend and I have already ticked off most of the above list in readiness.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

2012 and Anniversaries Abounding

Napoleon no doubt thinking about warmer weather somewhere else - this was of 1814 but is usually always associated with 1812 and rightly so, capturing as it does some of the wintry bleakness of the dreadful retreat, at least in its early stages

From a wargames perspective the chances are that almost every year at some point will bring an anniversary of some campaign or event that strikes a chord and invariably generates a few ideas for games and projects etc. 2012 is for me one such year. For my own particular palette the anniversary calender includes the following major campaigns:

  • The Balkan War of 1912
  • Napoleon's invasion of Russia
You could easily add the Turkish-Italian war of 1912, the war with America and of course the battle of Salamanca in Spain.

The two I have mentioned are favourites both old and new as the Napoleonic Russian Army of 1812 was my first ever painted metal army (now in the collection of Eric Knowles) dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Balkans are a much newer interest for me but a significant one all the same. Over the course of the year both of these campaigns will feature from a gaming perspective as I shall be undertaking battles using my block collection for each.

Of course 2015 will be a vintage year for sure!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Reflections on Game Number 1 - A Self Critique

Awkward Moments Number 1 - When you realise that the no matter how much you dress it up you still cannot make a silk purse from a Sow's ear!

Taken as a whole the the recent Napoleonic game was a largely frustrating experience and my after action report was very much an attempt to 'dress it up' or, if you like, an attempt to salvage something from the time and effort expended! Only two things of note took place during the game - the attempt to drive the rifles out of the wood and the disastrous French cavalry charge and even then the former was a largely half-hearted affair. The write up was very much a piece of self indulgence for which I offer no apologies (apart from the purple prose that is!) and as mentioned, was largely my effort to extract something tangible from the experience.

I must confess that I did not plan this game with anything like my usual thoroughness and boy did it show! The biggest problem was the rules and that was largely my own fault and they are not really designed for the scale of game I had planned. Worthington Games Napoleon's War is all about refighting the great battles of the era which is true to an extent of any of the similar Command and Colours series but for some reason if just felt plan odd with the scenario I was playing. The rules are fine when used as intended; albeit at a much higher level of command. My preferred option going forward would be to use a Napoleonic derivation of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame or even Memoir of Battle as either of these sets sit far closer to my own rule preferences. Command and Colours Napoleonics would work better at this level but has the disadvantage of not being particularly solo gamer friendly due to the use of command cards.

I felt that the scenario was sound enough although giving the attackers a larger force would have made them more inclined to attack. I would certainly revisit the idea at some point though, subject to those points being taken into consideration.

Visually the game looked fine and it was rather satisfying seeing the red blocks on the map alongside the blue - it had a real battle map kind of feel which was very satisfying. I really need to get the Hexon terrain collection completed sooner rather than later as this kind of affair will look much better with the larger hexes.

Overall then, the game was a frustrating experience but this was largely of my own doing (which made it worse!) as not only did I give insufficient consideration to the rules I also did not think about the composition of the forces engaged. Having said that, the action that did take place was enjoyable in its own way - it is just that I would have preferred rather more of it! Still, and to borrow from Alfred Lord Tennyson:

'Tis better to have gamed and lost, than to have never gamed at all!'

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Belgium, June 1815 - Game Number 1, Part 2

Poised at the ready, the men of the 95th take aim

Sergeant Bullwood of the 95th Rifles carefully tapped the tobacco from his pipe into his pouch and placed the well sucked clay carefully in his sword bayonet scabbard. He was positioned safely behind a fallen tree trunk with plenty of foliage all around and a quick glance showed that his men were similarly well hidden. Their rifles had been carefully loaded with slow and deliberate practised ease; not with the usual febrile haste employed by the recruits occupying the village. This would be man's work and it fell, as usual to the men of the 95th to do it. For some fifteen years Bullwood had been in the army and in that time he had seen it all and across a hundred different battlefields. The stripes on his tunic had been hard won. He eased the cramp in his right shoulder, a cramp caused by one of a dozen or so flesh wounds he had received over the years. He new that when he was old and no longer a soldier they would give him merry hell but that was for tomorrow and not the here and now. Here and now were the French.

Not a sound disturbed the riflemen's position; the only noise was the sound of an army advancing. The burbling, jangling, clanking, whinnying of a large body of men and horses marching and as the minutes ticked by so the volume increased. A cough disturbed the silence. Bullwood did not even bother to look around. "The next man to even breath loudly will have me to answer to!" He whispered urgently although in such a way that every man present could hear and understand the meaning. "Sorry Sarge" came the sheepish reply. Bullwood did not bother to answer - his full attention was on the advancing enemy, now some two hundred yards away and with a thick skirmish line ahead. "Take aim lads, go for the officers first and wait for my signal". Bullwood shouldered his Baker Rifle and aimed at the central figure brandishing a sword with animated vigour. He tucked the weapon in as tight as he was able and stilled his breathing until his world shrunk to the size of the French officer's chest. It was almost time, and almost the perfect range.

The object of Sergeant Bullwood's careful and meticulous aim was Captain Leo D'Estrees, a career soldier from Gascony and despite his superiority in rank to his as yet unseen adversary could tell a similar story, they being of an identical age. D'Estrees had fought his way across Europe for his Emperor and had proven his valour on countless battlefields from the high sierra of Spain to the snow covered steppes of Russia. He was of humble origins but the army and the Emperor had given him a prestige and status he would never have enjoyed otherwise. His heart was filled with devotion to the little Corsican that had given his life purpose and meaning as here was the epitome of his definition of glory; being the first man of the first formation to first face the enemy in the name of his Emperor and of France. His company was advancing in a loose line with the lumbering heavy columns of infantry to the rear and just cleared a small copse of trees, the first of three en route to the village of Artois. The second one they were approaching was far larger and so caution would be needed. D'Estrees urged his command onwards and so he raised his sword on high and shouted in almost giddy adulation at the top of his voice "Vive L'Empereur!" With a ragged cheer his men took up the shout and soon the whole formation was bellowing at the top of their lungs - the French were coming, so beware!

The Rifles engage the French Light Company 

"Fire!" yelled Sergeant Bullwood as a hundred rifles crashed out a devastating volley at barely a hundred paces. The timing was faultless; the execution merciless. The proudly cheering French skirmish line was scattered to the four winds like autumn leaves by the raking fire of those terrible rifles. Even before the smoke had cleared Bullwood had given a string of orders; orders that sent more Frenchmen to an early appointment with destiny. "Reload and fire at will!" The riflemen were unleashed to carry out their grimly efficient business.

A bullet from the first volley had caught D'Estrees on the left forearm and had spun him right around and down on the ground. That had probably saved his life as he lay face down across his badly bleeding arm - the blood spreading across his chest and face as he lay. All the while bullets buzzed like wasps over his head. He rolled over to see his faithful servant, Lazard, trying in vain to find some kind of bandage for his master's obviously serious wound. The Captain was momentarily stunned by the impact of his glancing blow but not so his men as they speedily took what cover they could, seemingly oblivious to the plight of their wounded and dead comrades. Shaking his head to clear it D'Estrees quickly realised his would was a superficial one that looked a whole lot worse than it was and so Lazard was swiftly able to bandage his arm. Ordering his servant to the rear D'Estrees readied himself. Gripping his sword tightly he leapt to his feet, just after another discharge from his unseen enemy. "En avances mes ami! Vive L'Empeurer!" He shouted and the remaining men of the light company took up his cry and charged towards the source of the fire. As he stood up, dreadful to behold; his uniform torn and bloodied and death in his eyes he continued to exhort his men to greater efforts. First one, then two bullets found their mark. He sank to his knees, his sword still head high and still cheering his men in a voice that grew weaker and weaker until his sword fell from his grasp and D'Estrees fell face forward into the earth and blessed oblivion.

Meanwhile, De La Salle had taken the situation in with a glance and so ordered his lead infantry to deploy into line to clear the wood in support of his gallant but hard pressed light company. The rest of his force would move up at best speed and he also ordered one of two cavalry regiments to bypass the wood and to position themselves to cut off the escape route for the defenders. It would be like prising open an oyster. Eager to comply, the cuirassier regiment under the command of the mercurial Colonel Lavelle, cantered off into the distance, careful to give the wood a wide berth.

Hyde-Bowned had heard the furious fusillade from the woods and although he could yet see what was approaching had determined that the gallant rifleman would be supported in their fight. Keeping the fight at a distance would waste valuable time for the enemy. He acted quickly. Firstly, he sent a messenger to the Duke informing him that contact had been made but as yet in unknown strength. Through his field telescope he was able to discern enemy horseman positioning themselves to cut off any retreat from the wood so, he correctly deduced, the enemy must be making a concerted effort to first clear the wood before assaulting the village. He pondered this for a moment, the crack of rifle fire carrying over from the wood. A young officer on horseback  was at his side, no more than a boy but very smartly attired. " You sir", he pointed at the serious looking young man and beckoned him over. "Take this message to Colonel Wittman of the Light Dragoons with my compliments. Tell him to make sure his tigers are ready and to move forward to cover the wood to their front - there are enemy horse making a nuisance of themselves. Tell him not to engage them unless the enemy act first." There was little else he could do as he had no idea what was facing him as most of the enemy was hidden from view. With a crisp salute, the young officer spun his horse around and galloped away on his urgent errand. With the orders posted, Hyde-Bowned and the remainder of his small staff turned their attention back to the embattled riflemen.

The fight for the wood continued and thus far the rifles were holding their own despite being outnumbered by their opponents. Every time the French skirmishers approached so a withering fire was directed at them forcing them back into cover. With their gallant commander wounded and heading for the rear their efforts lacked direction but what clear leadership could not solve sheer courage and bravery might yet prevail. Remorselessly they closed on the rifles position, disputing every fold in the ground, every piece of cover, no matter how small. Meanwhile though, De La Salle's assaulting infantry units had just about moved into position with the intention of forcing the issue once and for all.

Sergeant Bullwood was getting concerned although he would not show it. He and the company commander, Captain Partridge, had seen the enemy cavalry moving across their rear and both knew that if they had to fall back nothing short of a miracle would save them from the horsemen. They had to stay where they were and although thus far they were fairly secure the impending infantry assault was a different matter altogether. It looked a bleak proposition which ever way you looked at it and so Bullwood bitterly recalled the words of his captain about Johnny Crapaud not being anybodies fool.

The French Cuirassiers had cantered off the road, past the small copse and out on to the open land to the east of the village; thereby giving the enemy occupied wood a very wide berth. Colonel Lavelle, the regimental commander, signalled a halt and was satisfied that his position was far enough way to be out of range (it wasn't but his mistake could be forgiven as he had never faced Baker rifles before) of the wood to be quite safe. He was proud of his regiment and proud of the role they had been chosen to play and like D'Estrees was devoted to the Emperor and his service. He was a thoroughly professional soldier and had never been in a losing battle and to crown his career with an act of brilliance under the eyes of his beloved Emperor would surely see him posted to the Guard. His visions of glory were interrupted as his adjutant drew his attention to the scene some quarter of a mile ahead. Enemy cavalry!

Colonel Lavelle leads the charge

Horseman - emerging from what looked like the far end of the village and directly to his regiment's front across some gently undulating farmland. This was exactly what his orders had covered - the threat implicit and so the colonel acted in an instant. Ignoring the reasoned comment of his second in command that by merely holding their position they would deter the enemy from advancing and that they enemy was too close to the village of Artois Colonel Lavelle gave the order to advance. The sabres sang as one as they were drawn and rested across shoulders; their wickedly sharp blades glinting in the morning sunlight. The colonel took his place in the van of the regiment. The shout went up and so the solid phalanx of armoured horsemen moved off, gradually at first but all the while speeding up and eating up the distance to their adversaries.

Wittman of the light dragoons cursed as the spectacle unfolded with awful inevitability - his unit would barely have time to form up, let alone attempt to counter charge. He was also aware of the grave disadvantage his men would face against such armoured giants. He urged and cajoled his men into formation and hastily ordered the charge. It was not a moment too soon as the great mass of armoured horseman crashed into them. Swords rose and fell, screams and curses cried out, horses snorted and neighed and the whole area became a mass of swirling cavalrymen; all order and formation seemingly abandoned. Wittman's men lived up to their reputation and fought like tigers, and fought for their lives.

The French commander had been too eager to cross swords with the enemy and the approach was longer than he anticipated and so instead of a sold wall of cavalrymen impacting the enemy as one the collision was dissipated somewhat. It was not a disorganised charge by any means but it had overrun its ideal distance and so had diluted the effect. It had also proved to be the salvation of the horsemen of the light dragoons. Although Wittman's regiment had barely began to move off when contacted they were ordered and formed, and above all, fresh, and so with a ruthless efficiency they made this small advantage count. Slowly, but with certainty, the French were losing, victims of their own eagerness to force a conclusion. This wholly unexpected turn of events had just occurred to the French commander just as he had seen off a young enemy trooper with a vicious sideways sweep of his huge sword. He caught sight of the remainder of his command being inexorably forced back by the fresher enemy and so made his fateful decision. He was no fool and knew that he needed to act quickly in order to salvage the situation and so he ordered his trumpeter to sound the recall.

The strident bugle rang out and the furious melee seemed to peter out as, in ones, twos and then larger groups the battered cuirassiers fell back to reform and reorganise; their dead and wounded bearing testimony to the fury of their recent battle.

The French Cuirassiers come to grief and the embattled riflemen continue to harass the enemy 

As the enemy was equally disorganised Lavelle reasoned that he would gain a breathing space by temporarily falling back and could yet salvage the situation. It was not to be and fortune decreed otherwise as the light dragoons, abandoning any pretence at tactics and order simply spurred on their battle- frenzied mounts and caught the cuirassiers in the act of reforming. It was more than man and horseflesh could bear and after a minimal and largely ineffective resistance the French simply broke. In vain did Lavelle try to make a stand and to rally his battered troopers. Sensing that the end was near he turned his horse to escape but Dame Fortune had decreed otherwise and so the two young troopers of the light dragoons took him from either flank and without ceremony, ran him through.

De La Salle was incandescent with rage. His plan was in tatters for he dare not push on to the village across open ground with half of his cavalry out of action and with little room to deploy his numbers against the stubborn enemy troops occupying the wood astride his only line of approach. To do so would be folly as he would be forced to bring units into action one at a time meaning that the enemy fire would be concentrated on each in turn. It would not have been so bad had his cavalry obeyed orders and waited for the situation in the centre to resolve itself for the riflemen would not have stood for long against the sheer weight of numbers he would deploy against them. For such insubordination he hoped that Lavelle would have had the good grace to have gotten himself killed in order to save him the inconvenience of a court martial and a firing squad. The light company from the lead regiment had virtually ceased to exist, their commander was being taken to the rear and was not expected to survive his wounds and the survivors were staggering back from the scene of their own private war against the stubborn riflemen. The tattered survivors from the routed cuirassiers limped back; some on foot supporting groaning and gravely wounded comrades, some slumped over their horses sweating and exhausted necks a few in good order but sporting numerous minor injuries. The impromptu blood stained bandages fashioned from anything to hand bore silent witness to the ferocity of the recent fight. He was about to call for the commander when a pair of troopers leading a muddied and sweat streaked horse appeared; tears and blood and sweat and grief competed for space on their swarthy and moustachioed faces. A bundle, unrecognisable swathed as it was in a riding cape was draped across an officer's horse. Colonel Lavelle died undefeated but his regiment did not long survive his proud record.

De La Salle lowered his hat in salute for he could not bring himself to admonish a man whose only fault was to charge the enemy and to die doing so. The attack would now have to be halted and positions taken up to both cover and observe the enemy dispositions and above all, he must get word to the Emperor. Reluctantly, and with a heavy heart the recall was sounded and the French fell back to reform, reorganise and to fight another day.

From the village all Hyde-Bowned could see was the back of his own horsemen pursuing the beaten French and the sounds on musketry dying away from the wood. Had it been taken? A moment of stomach-churning unreasoning panic and sickness washed over him as silence descended. Surely the French had not taken the wood? Were the gallant riflemen dead or taken? He had failed, he had failed….but wait. What was this? A ragged cheer went up from the wood so gallantly defended. The unmistakable sounds of Anglo-Saxon voices, hoarse and tuneless but noisy with the lubricant of victory. They had held, they had held! Hyde-Bowned breathed deeply and straightenend his back just as the sound of a large body of horsemen cam thundering and jangling to a halt just behind him. He turned around and his face went white as the Duke himself with and aide trotted over to him. The duke motioned for his telescope. He took in the scene at a glance and turned to the by now ashen faced commander. "A damned good show" was his only comment. "Ready your men to move" and with that he turned away. A thousand questions flooded through Hyde-Bowned's mind but he knew far better than to raise them with the Duke. For now though, he would enjoy the moment and would then worry about the future when he had to.

To be continued....

Monday, 9 January 2012

Belgium, June 1815 - Game Number 1, Part 1

The Battle of Artois - the French are making full use of the road from the frontier

A scratch formation of British and Hanoverian infantry, supported by some cavalry, a battery of foot artillery and a detachment of the famous 95th Rifles are tasked with holding the vital Belgian village of Artois against the advancing French. The Duke had ordered them to hold for at least half a day whilst he reorganises his army to meet the enemy.

The French have crossed the river and an advanced detachment has marched forward with all speed with the intention of capturing the village, thereby securing the vital crossroads.

Each side was by coincidence roughly of the same composition and consisted of six units of infantry, three skirmisher detachments (for the allied force one of which was the famed 95th Rifles), two cavalry units (one of the French units was of Cuirassiers), an artillery battery and of course the respective commanders.

The Allied Plan

Brigadier Hyde-Bowned surveyed his motley command of raw recruits, old hands and every shade in between with something akin to disdain coupled with resignation. Two days before he had been enjoying a long and leisurely lunch at his club when a string of orders had arrived and now he was tramping across Belgium with a rag-tag command and no clear idea of what on earth he was supposed to be doing. Not only that, Napoleon was now on the march and so he fully expected the full weight of the Grande Armee to be falling on him and brushing his minuscule force to one side with no more effort than one might expend in swatting a fly. As far as he was concerned it was little short of madness attempting to defend this position whilst the full weight of Napoleon's army was heading his way - and he had been foolish enough to point this out to the Duke. Surely it would be better to fall back on the main body of the army and meet the Corsican Ogre with everything the Duke had?  "Damn your impertinence sir, let my order be obeyed!" had been his stinging reply. The recollection of the Duke's scathing comment was still seared into his memory and so he had to make the best with what was available - at least until the Duke was ready.

Perhaps the rebuke he had received from the Duke had served to stiffen his resolve or perhaps he had realised that the stage of history had beckoned; either way Hyde-Bowned determined, despite his misgivings, to seize the day and to make his mark.

The Allied deployment around the village of Artois - note the position of the rifles in the van

His dispositions were simple, conservative and as good as they could be under the circumstances. He garrisoned the village with the Hanoverians and strung out the remainder of his infantry in a line from the outskirts to a small wood. The artillery was in the centre of this line and the far side of the village had the remaining infantry unit and the cavalry. The light companies and the rifles were placed in some small wooded areas either side of the road leading to the frontier. The rifles were deployed furthest forward and so would be able to harass the enemy at a distance and hopefully use up valuable time as a result of their action. It was a compact deployment and when Hyde-Bowned surveyed his small command fully arrayed for battle his confidence, thus far at a low level, rose with the Belgian sunshine.

All he had to do now was to wait on Napoleon's pleasure and so the coming hours would be a test of patience as much as a trial of arms.

The French Plan 

With much humbugging the French army under Napoleon have crossed the frontier with Brussels firmly in their sight. Speed was of the essence and so the Emperor assembled a small and fast moving task force ordered to both locate the main body of the allied army and to seize if possible, the small but vital village of Artois. It was perhaps indicative of the malaise that had gripped both the Emperor and the Grande Armee that the orders were both unclear and contradictory to an extent. The force was too small to force a decision if any major resistance was encountered and too large to avoid keeping out of trouble. This was the conundrum facing the young French commander - Brigadier Jacques De La Salle.

As a veteran of many years service De La Salle was under no illusions about the complexity of the task facing him. He was very wary about facing the accursed English in any kind of firefight on even terms with his unwieldy force (had it been his decision he would have taken only a brigade of cavalry and some horse artillery) and so chose to interpret his orders as meaning that he needed to find and fix the enemy rather than trying to force a conclusion. Technically he would still be following the Emperor's orders but silently he cursed the shoddy staff work that left him in such an unenviable position. Such confusion would never have happened had Berthier still been around. He knew full well that the Emperor would need every man available to deal with the Duke's men when it came to the climax of the campaign and so was not about to waste the lives of any of his command in a futile gesture against the English muskets.

The French advance - note the men of 95th rifles lurking in the small wood aside the road

Everything was going down the one road and in the interests of both speed and security De La Salle made sure that all his skirmishers were deployed to shield his infantry. Long experience fighting the English had taught him that usually it was not the troops you could see that were the problem - it was usually the ones that appeared from nowhere that caused the damage. Unpleasant memories of reverse slopes and sudden ear shattering volleys from cover made every obstacle, every clump of trees, every farm a potential threat so De La Salle was desperate to avoid any untoward surprises. It was with this in mind that he made sure that all his light companies were deployed to shield the main body. His cavalry operated on either flank of his main force and could be used as required - either offensively or in support of the infantry.

Speed was of the essence because if the village was unoccupied then De La Salle was confident he would be able to hold it until the main army arrived but if it was not then he would be able to deploy to cover the approaches; thereby fulfilling the letter, if not the intent of his orders.

The scene was set and as the early morning sun rose high on the horizon, bringing with it the promise of a long and balmy summer's day, so the two forces prepared for action; the weight of expectation and destiny laying heavily on the shoulders of the two commanders.

To be continued....

Sunday, 8 January 2012

And then there were two....

Two of Rusland's finest - Krasnyi Dekabrya and her sister ship

Pictured above are the models of two ships that make up the Krasnyi Dekabrya class battleship as used by Rusland in the Fezian Sea. The ships are based very heavily on the Historical KGV, Nelson and Jean Bart and the construction process I have already described so will not bore you with repeating it!

I have hit a minor snag in the building process as I have now run out of the appropriate thickness of balsa wood for use with the hulls so another trip to Model Zone during the week will be in order.

Painting will be next and of course I will also need to give some further thought to basing the models as well - and the rules I shall be using!

Meanwhile though, back in Belgium, June 1815....

Friday, 6 January 2012

Worthington Games Napoleon's War - The 100 Days

The initial release - covering a particular favourite campaign of mine!

The game I shall be putting on over the weekend will be using my blocks on the same mapboards I fought Keder Sirt on from the Axis and Allies miniatures game. The period will be the Napoleonic Wars and the rules will be those from the board game of the title.

The system used is a variation of that designed by Richard Borg and used in his Command and Colours games including Ancients, Napoleonics, Battle Cry and Memoir 44 (not to mention Battle Lore). The biggest single difference is that command cards are not used. Instead each side has a number of Action Points (rather like DBA and similar) that are varied based on a dice roll. The dice used are also standard d6 rather than the more exotic icon dice.

These changes have the effect of making the game seem more like a war game and having played and enjoyed both systems I would say that I prefer the version without the cards but it is very much a personal opinion. The games featured in the two sets available (and the two sets of expansion map boards) are actual battles and so there is no variation in respect of the terrain available. The initial release covers the 1815 campaign whilst the second covers the usual European angle - Austerlitz, Marengo, Borodino and Aspern-Essling. the two expansions are more of the same except that expansion pack two is devoted to the war with America in 1812. the game pieces are hard plastic figures, rather like in Battle Cry and Memoir 44 and are both basic and generic (and roughly 15 to 20mm).

The game I shall fight will be a hypothetical action and, for a change, will probably feature the British and the French. The rules are suitably period specific and capture the flavour of the era as I hope my game will demonstrate.

I have even made sure that Brigadier Gerard is fully loaded up on my ebook reader - just to stoke up the Napoleonic fervour!

I may even have to watch (for the umpteenth time)  Messrs. Steiger, Plummer, Hawkins et al for some real 1815 overload!

The First of the Many....(I hope!)

I have decided that this weekend I will play a war game at some point. Of necessity it will be a solo affair in the newly tidied man cave. I say tidied because up until Tuesday the boxes used for the Christmas decorations were in plain sight (they live the rest of year tucked away from view in the eaves of the roof) but they are now stored in their customary space until next December.

I shall spend the time today pondering exactly what I shall play - I feel like trying another land action rather than naval - and when having done so will make the appropriate preparations. It may well be something removed entirely from my current interests but variety is the spice of life they say. I will try to avoid this 'dabbling' from growing into a full grown new project though and so will endeavour to keep such excursions into other periods as 'one offs'. I will of course report the action on the blog with the accompanying photos and have also decided to number the games I play in order to see haw many I manage to fit in over the year!

Needless to say I am looking forward to it!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Fezian and Rusland Armour Support....Part 2

Mad, bad and dangerous - but to whom?!

As promised (and for the benefit of the treadheads amongst us!) above is the picture of two of the newest additions to the collection being acquired for the great Fezian Rusland war of 1935 - a T28 and a T35. I have two of each of these and they are lovely models. They certainly look impressive enough and I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer size of the T35 - it is huge!

There is a minor amount of assembly to be undertaken with these - including the rail around the top of the turret - and of course they will need a paint job in due course. At the moment I am leaning towards Rusland using T35s and BT5s whilst Fezia has T28s, T26s and Vickers light tanks.

Each side will probably have around 10 tanks which will be more than sufficient but will give me a usable variety.