Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stops and Starts Marks 2014

This year has been identified with some wonderful wargaming highs and some personal lows.  If 2013 was disappointing then 2014 should rightfully be, by me at least, dismal. 
However, the year was saved by the Battle of Blenheim.  A personal high that stills burns bright in my memory.
Staged in August we managed to get a number of individuals from all over the country to come along and play with our toys.  Ramillies last year was good.  Blenheim was even better.  A big task then to go up another gear for 2015 then (and yes Robbie you will get an invite).  Over 4,000 figures on two tables it was quite the spectacle and played with terrific humour and enjoyment from all.
The unforeseen benefit of the Blenheim game was an incentive to paint figures.  I entered the year in a painting funk and I'm leaving it the same way.  However, in the year I did manage to paint just over 400 28mm figures, most of them for the Blenheim game.  I also found a style of painting for the Ebor figures that was so hard for me last year.  Painting figure rate has declined significantly since then.
Spending was up but then again so were sales.  Over the year I think I broke even with figures bought against figures sold.  The rash purchase of the Ronin figures and additional Samurai was rectified by painting them ll and then selling them at a substantial profit.  Other sales saw all my Old Glory French cavalry go over to the other side of the pond.  These were replaced by an equal number of Ebor and Front Rank figures and a fair few infantry as well (just over half of which got painted).

One of the good things to happen this year was the joining of the "A Military Gentleman of the 18th Cent." forum.  Open exclusively to owners of the book of the same title and the brain child of John Ray it is now one of only two forums that I visit.  It helps keep my spirits up and maintain my interest in the hobby when not at the Grimsby Club.

The club too has seen some changes.  A new and improved constitution which should hold us in good stead for the need to comply with increasing bureaucracy.  Improvements to the facilities have made what was already a good place to play into a very comfortable environment to enjoy the hobby.

The lows, at least in wargaming terms, was an even smaller number of games played this year than last.  There has been a continuing trend to play fewer and fewer games over the years and this is something I need to address because it is one of the few things that I really enjoy at the moment.
Disappointingly I've also failed to deliver several of the planned projects from last year.  The Great Northern war in particular has hardly moved on at all.  Even worse, I'm looking at the project with a view to reorganising it again following the improvements and amendments with the War of the Spanish succession rules we've made this year.  The morale here must be to think twice and spend once.
Add to that some problems that prevented me, and continue to hamper, from painting.  Access restrictions aside and deteriorating eyesight not withstanding, painting figures is a problem I must overcome because I really like this aspect of the hobby (apart from painting horses which I don't like).  It is an opportunity to help me relax and focus on something other than issues outside of the hobby - therapy a darn site cheaper than what my trick cyclist charges.

And on that cheery note - I'll save my thoughts of the future for a later post.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recent reading

Not my usual line of factual historical reading I'll grant you but Trajan has always been something of a hero figure for me.  Combine that with actually seeing the magnificent column erected in memory of this campaign and I'm even more interested.
The Dacian campaign is one that has intrigued me for a long time.  From the Roman viewpoint it involved some very creative engineering involving simple pontoon bridges (if spanning the Danube can be called simple) to building a wooden road on a sheer cliff along the Danube - evidence of which still survives.  Add in sieges of strongholds on unbelievably steep mountainsides and pitched battles with cataphracts and warbands and you have the making of some interesting games.
For the Dacians you have warbands and cataphracts, a most interesting combination.  Never mind the questions around the use of the two handed sword so feared by the Romans that they adapted their armour to counter it.
This book is just packed with information about the campaign.  It claims not to be a scholarly reference work but I believe that is not doing it justice.  Full of colour photographs and pictures of the wars, photographs of the incredible amount of remains from the area and a very well thought out narrative and you have an exceedingly good book.
I'm not saying you'll see me bring along any Dacians any time soon but this book makes it difficult to resist the temptation.
If you have any interest in theses wars then this is a must for your collection.  Available through Kawanasary Publications.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Battle of Soor - the refight

Saturday 15th November saw the Grimsby club refight the Battle of Soor.  Thirteen gentlemen, including the umpire, spending a day playing with the 15mm Seven Years War collections of several members, in an attempt to refight a most difficult (at least from the Prussian point of view) battle.
Essentially, the Prussians are out numbered, out gunned and have a terrain disadvantage.  Fighting uphill against a superior enemy - easy! 

A view towards the Prussian commanders.
 So in the style of Fredrick I (playing the role of Fredrick) chose to imitate his decision on the day.  Massed attack against a single point on the enemy line in attempt to overwhelm the Austrians before they could bring their numbers to bear.  Unlike Fredrick I chose to do this further up the valley rather than go against the massed batteries on the major heights. 
Steve had the most difficult job of holding the right flank against vast hordes of Austrians.  In the centre Andy B & Andy H had to storm the low hills and pin the Austrians n place.  Whilst doing this Mark & Mike were tasked with throwing back all the enemy facing them with their massed cavalry.  The Prussian reserve would then arrive and pierce the enemy centre.
The Austrian commanders deploy their troops.
 The Austrians had a far easier choice.  Not knowing where the attack would fall they had to defend the entire ridge line.  However, with their superior numbers it meant that they were never at a disadvantage on the hills. Only the cavalry had that problem on the valley floor.

Prussian cavalry on the right of the picture overwhelm the Austrians
 The Prussian cavalry never quite managed to remove the enemy horse from the table.  However they did manage to pin the enemy foot in place and cause the Austrian reserves to appear on the extreme right of their position, more or less where I had predicted it would.

This meant that as long as the Prussian right flank held the Prussian reserves could attack a weakened enemy centre as more and more Austrians were pulled across to defend their right.
The defenders of Bergensdorf under extreme pressure
 Steve did sterling work holding the Prussian left.  Faced with two enemy brigades and a horde of cavalry, his troops stood firm most of the day.  Unfortunately they fell into retreat just as the Prussian reserves were preparing for their assault.
The victorious Austrians watch the Prussian brigades fall back
At the end the Prussians were forced to fall back before the reserve could be committed.  Constant artillery and musketry from the enemy caused an almost universal retreat from the enemy giving the day to the enemy.
Black Powder were the rules for the day.  I'm not a fan and I'll leave it there otherwise I'll get upset.
My thanks to Tony for the fantastic organisation and planning that he put in to the game.  Well thought out and presented.  Also thanks to the brave commanders of the Prussians - Steve, Andy B, Andy H, Mark & Mike.
Also well played to the Austrians - Mark, Ashley, Malc, Sean & John.   

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

War of the Spanish Succession Game

Another week and another game.  The first time that's happened for a long time.
This time my French force took the field with some German allies (controlled by their owner Chris) to take on a combined Anglo-Imperial army (from the collections of Mark & Andy).

The three lines of the French army.  Picardie to the fore with Alsaace as the third line.
The game was a hard fought action with no clear winner, the first time that's happened for along time too.
Germans in blue face off against the Imperial troops.  The wood in the middle distance formed the pivot - the Germans were victorious beyond the wood and stumbled when deployed in the foreground.
 The French were in an aggressive frame since the English lines before them were fewer in number but with more field guns.  Previous experience suggested that sitting and waiting for the enemy whilst being pounded by those guns was not an option.
Fierce fighting around the wood between the Germans and Imperial troops.
 So with Picardie in three battalions as the lead the French set off.  Keeping an even pace we managed to get into a musketry duel with the English.  Once again my French reverted to character.  Unable to shoot straight and retain their morale the first line quickly became disorganised and out fought by the inferior numbers of English.
The first battalion of Picardie withdraws from the line
 Before long I was forced to start withdrawing the battalions from the first line.  Again I had miscalculated.  The second line was too close and also fell into disorganisation as the battalions of Picardie were unable to pass through cleanly.
The disaster on the left unfolding
 Whilst this was going on, an even worse fate was unfolding for the French horse on the extreme left.  Nine squadrons of horse were routed in quick succession and fled the field.
Picardie has retired and reformed as the second line
 The continual stalling of the French infantry prevented any concerted attack.  It took a long time for Picardie to retire, the second line to reform and then advance.  Eventually, however, the second line did advance only to suffer the same fate.  Move into musketry range and then fall into disorder.  The English lines in contrast held all day long and stopped the French in their tracks.
Second line attack stops at the same point as the first line.
 With the removal of the French horse the English were able to dismount their dragoons and occupy the wood on the left of the French lines.  This enfilade fire from the wood was sufficient to prevent any further advance and the French lines stopped before the fortified manor house.
The situation on the right at the end f the game.  Imperial forces have done enough to hold the lines.
With neither side in a position to press their advantage the game was decided to be a bloody draw.

Twenty two battalions a side and a game lasting under three hours.  A fun way to spend an evening with friends.  So thanks to Mark, Andy & Chris for another good game played in the best of spirits.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wars of the Roses Tabletop action

Inspired by recent reading and wanting a game that was quick and easy to manage (suffering from a serious bout of over work so I didn't want to tax myself too much) I arranged a game last week with my good friend Mark.
 The rules we use are relatively straight forward and uncomplicated.  Each battle has key units and non key units.  The number of key units lost goes towards determining your ability to dictate the actions that the battle may undertake.  The first photograph show the battle under the command of Edward Earl of March.  All his units are key - bows to the fore, then a line of knights flanked by men-at-arms with a supporting line of levy bill men.
 A similar picture for the left hand battle.
 A view down the length of the lines with the mercenary battle in the centre.
Edward storms forward driving all before him.
The game was probably the quickest I've ever played.  I could do little wrong and Mark little right.  The cards fell for me in exactly the right sequence, my archery was deadly and the fighting quality of my knights astounding.  Before Mark had a chance to react the right hand battle under Edward had utterly defeated their opponents and were turning to roll up the line. 
Mark in contrast couldn't get any momentum in his attacks and was more than unfortunate in his turn sequence.  By the time he was in a position to do some damage his command ability had been eroded to such an extent that he could do little other than try and hold his position.
By the end of the game Mark had lost seventeen key units to my eight.

The game revolves around having a deck of ten action cards; three movement, three firing, three melee and one joker (players choice of action).  The combined score of two average dice gives the player the number of points he can spend in that turn, one point per card turned, unit firing, melee fought or battle moved (provided all units in the battle move in the same direction - any unit moving in a different direction costs one extra point).  This deck is randomly shuffled and the layer turns the card over accordingly.  As key units are lost this deck is diluted by adding blank cards to a maximum of ten.
This dilution reduces the actions that the player has available and as the battle wears on commanders have to chose where to focus. 
It all sounds complicated but is actually a very easy means of removing the god like perspective of a wargamer in a period where command and control were difficult concepts to enforce.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Wars of the Roses - new novel

The second in Iggulden's series for the Cousins War (more usually known as the Wars of the Roses).  This time he takes us into battle proper with the conflict spanning the First Battle of St Albans up to the Battle of Wakefield.
The character list remaining from Stormbird returns, and we are introduced to new figures, some of whom are destined to feature heavily in the future.  No spoilers if I tell you that one of these is a young Edward Earl of March.
The story jogs along quite nicely and is reasonably well paced and the author does a good job of making us feel involved in the politics if not overly immersed in the history.
My issues with the book are several.  Firstly it began to niggle me and finally annoy me that in every battle he keeps referring to the practice of all the professional soldiers and nobility using shields in every fight.  I may be completely wrong but I thought the practice of using shields for protection had fallen out of favour by this time.  For a well researched book it seems a simple but frustrating over sight (or is it ignorance and it is not that well researched?).
Secondly, in Stormbird Richard of York was made to be the villain of the plot.  Here his character is transformed into, whilst not the hero, certainly a more likable sole who is simply just misunderstood.  Instead all the villainy of the first book is now transferred to the Duke of Salisbury and it appears that the war is all his fault.
Margaret, so very much the darling of Stormbird, comes into her own.  Whilst Iggulden tries to give some ground to the modern supporters of York he is still very much a Lancastrian and gives the House of Lancaster the upside of any poor decision.
All novels of the Wars have a faction they favour.  This series at the moment lies on the Lancastrian side.  It'll be interesting to see how the story goes after Towton which must be the main feature of the next one mustn't it?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Flags and Figures

I am still painting albeit at a greatly reduced rate.  This weekend saw me provide flags for the Royal Italienne Regiment.
The figures have been completed for quite a while, a couple of months at least, but it was only yesterday that I got around to their standards.  The flags are from Warfare Miniatures and are printed on heavy duty paper.  Simply cut out glue (using diluted PVA) to the staff and attach the Front Rank finial.  I then edged the flag with red or light grey to hide the white edges.

Some new figures have also been created over the last two months.  Two battalions of Regiment Alsaace.

 All the figures for these are from Ebor with flags from the excellent (and free) Warflag website.  The two battalions bring my total for this regiment to three of the four that were present at Ramillies.
They took a long time to paint, not because of the figures but the enforced absence from the painting table.  However, they're done now and I'm please with how they've come out.
I could always wish they were better but they match with the previous battalion quite well.