Friday, October 21, 2016

Miniature Wargames 403

My subscription copy arrived yesterday.  The first under the new editor, John Treadway, and with the much publicized mandatory SF& Fantasy section.
The magazine has certainly been given a new look.  One that feels as though they are targeting a younger audience because the layout is the same as some of the trendier magazines on newsagents shelves.
The editorial is brief.  Very brief.  No long introduction and background so if you don't know anything about the new editor you won't be any the wiser for buying this magazine.  Given that he says Henry has left big shoes to fill I would have thought some background might have been useful here.
The content is much the same albeit in a different order.  The Forward Observer there, but this time we only get a review (a long review) of the Victrix plastic releases - so less of a Forward Observation and more a detailed review of a new release.  There is the Recce column which seems to make the need for a Forward Observer obsolete by now including new product reviews as well as books.  Diane offers another article on terrain and scenery even she is now pushed to the back of the magazine.  Another wargamer does it "His Way" and this is a column I enjoy reading and getting an insight into different peoples ideas and activities and a column that always provides food for thought.
The other articles are standard fare and discuss several periods, genres and aspects of the hobby.  Although I do think that given we have been given a fantasy/SF section perhaps the article on painting SF tanks could have been put in that section (now a little devil in my head says that because the quality of the article and the photographs wasn't up to the standard of the "White Dwarf" section it didn't belong there and that the publishers have their own ideas about the standards that SF/Fantasy gamers expect against what other gamers will put up with?).
The much heralded and discussed fantasy section I thought actually looked better then the main body of the magazine.  the photographs were of a very high standard and quite appealing.  The layout was neater and easier on the eye I thought.  The content though was not something I'm going to read and so other than looking at the photographs I skipped all the articles themselves.
I've read as much proportionally of this issue as I have of the content of the other two magazines out this month.  So no gain no foul for me.

Jeff Hudelson - Exit Stage Left

It is with a great deal of sadness that I learned recently that Jeff "Bluebear" Hudleson had lost his fight and passed away.
I never met Jeff and I only knew him through his blog Saxe-Bearstein (, where he developed and created his vision of wargaming, and through other groups and forums.  The internet can be a sterile place at times and you rarely get a glimpse of the personality behind the username.  However, with Jeff you soon realised he was a warm and generous soul.  
We traded many ideas about rules for the eighteenth century.  I have certainly incorporated some of his ideas from his "Tricorn Wars" into my own eighteenth century rules which he was happy to discuss and we chatted via the internet a number of times..  His idea for wargaming and game presentation wasn't mine but that did not make any the less appealing of pleasurable to watch and read.
The hobby is diminished with his passing and my condolences go to those who survive him.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Artillery - the Odd balls

 The eighteenth century was a period of military development and change.  We enter the century with the pike still in use and we leave it with images of the infantry in line stopping the enemy with musketry alone.
Well not quite alone.  Artillery had a role to play in wearing the enemy down during their advance and then supporting the infantry lines with canister.  The guns in use at the end of the century were quite different from those being used by Marlborough and his contemporaries.  They were lighter and more mobile.
Mobility was something that was difficult to achieve in the early part of the eighteenth century.  Heavy limbers and a lack of a military logistics corps made it hard to have anything other than the small calibre guns moving around the battlefield - the so called "battalion guns" that many armies appear to have had.
This may be the reason why engineers, who were always looking for a battle winning weapon, cam up with this idea.
It is depicted in Allan Kemp's book "Weapons of the Malburian Period" (one of a three volume set covering Marlburian, Napoleonic and Victorian Warfare).  It seems to show a short barreled canon on something akin to a naval gun mounting all placed on a wagon bed.  The ramrod has been designed to be used from the wagon bed and so one assumes that it was meant to be used as a mobile platform with the crew not required to dismount.  
My questions would be what did they do about recoil?  Once fired the wagon must have rolled back quite a way.
Once fired how did they bring it forward again given that the horse team would have had to be removed from in front of the barrel before firing?
It was probably these questions that stopped it from being used.  Might be fun to have one of the tabletop though to see the reaction of others.

There were other designs that came closer to coming into use.
The Puckle gun was one such weapon.  Designed in 1717 and shown to the Board of Ordnance it was the first weapon to be described as a "machine gun" (meaning a mechanised gun).

A rotating flintlock firing weapon that was seen as a weapon to be placed on board ships.  After each chamber was fired it was hand cranked to the next and then locked into place.  The test firing for the Board showed a nine rounds a minute firing rate, two to four times that of the infantryman of the time.  However, mechanical issues prevented it being accepted into use although two were taken to the Caribbean by the 2nd duke of Montagu in his ill-fated endeavour to capture  St. Lucia & St. Vincent (no record of them being used in action though).
Again, another fun item to have on the tabletop for those "what if" scenarios.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Action at Kaniv

Yesterday I had the great pleasure and god fortune to host a Great Northern War game with Roger from GA PA Great Northern Gaming (  A fellow enthusiast for the Great Northern War, Roger brought along his enthusiasm and made the day a thoroughly enjoyable event.  I can't really express enough thanks to Roger for the amount of information and ideas that we talked over during the day and for stoking my imagination for the period even more.

The game was based on two real battles in the war, Fraustadt & Poniec, but placed in a fictional setting.

Kaniv is one of the lesser crossing points on the Dneiper River.  The game was based on the idea that in 1707 Charles invaded Russia intent on ending the reign of Peter I.  By July of 1708 he has reached the Dneiper and a Swedish force has been sent to secure the crossing point at Kaniv (which is just eighty kilometres from Poltava).  However a Russian force has already arrived and managed to erect a redoubt to defend the crossing.
The battlefield
At the start of the game the Russian commander, Roger by his own decision, was allowed to place the redoubt anywhere within his deployment area.  He placed it in the open ground between the two gentle hills.
My collection
 An overview of my entire collection as it stands.
The Swedish force
 The Swedes - three divisions of foot (two of four battalions and one of two guard battalions - yes one isn't actually guard I know) and a brigade of horse, all supported by three light guns.
The Russian force with redoubt to be deployed
 The Russians had four divisions of four battalions, a division of horse and two light guns.
 Initial deployment was made with the Russians deploying across the entire ridge line, their horse covering the right flank to face the Swedish horse opposite.  The Swedes had both their large foot brigades on their right.  The Guards were off table to arrive later on one of the two table edges without the Russian knowing (this was decided by rolling a D4 dice and adding the score to turn 1 to determine when they could arrive and odds it would be the left and evens the right flank table edge).

Guards arrive
As it turned out they arrived on turn three on the right.  Emerging from the woods to face the Russians who were obviously not overly surprised by this.
first horse melee
On the other flank the massed squadrons of horse engaged in a brutal but short melee that gave neither side an advantage.  Despite winning the melee the Swedes were unable to break the Russian resolve and both sides retired to lick their wounds.
Swedish second assault
 The Swedish infantry weren't having it any better.  the first assault on the ridge line failed to gain any ground.  The second assault fared little better.  Having suffered from the Russian artillery one of the Swedish battalions was broken and fled the field.  The remaining three battalions then engaged in a long struggle to break the Russian foot who kept feeding in reinforcements to bolster their lines.

Gaps appear in the Russian line
 When gaps did appear in the Russian lines there was never a spare Swedish unit to take advantage and the opportunity for a quick victory slipped pasty.
Out flanked
 In the meantime Roger had manged to bring around a quarter of his foot to out flank the Swedish army entirely.  He'd also cannily held a regiment of dragoons in reserve and these now fell on the depleted Swedish horse rallying at the rear of their lines and comprehensively defeated them.  Led by one of Rogers own squadrons this unit then went on to ride over a Swedish battery that couldn't get out of the way of the rampaging Russian dragoons.
Rogers Russian Dragoons lead the way
 at this point it looked like the Russians were going to win the day.

Follow up
 Then in one turn the Swedes managed to find the will for one final push (actually I just managed to roll more spots on the dice that turn then ANY previous turn).
 And with that the entire Russian left flank collapsed.
Redoubt defended
 The redoubt had effectively split the battle in two and by gaining local superiority the Swedes won.  but it was close.  Very close.  The Russians had the advantage of numbers and were able to keep feeding in reinforcements.  the Swedes in contrast just couldn't initially gain sufficient momentum to roll over the enemy.  If the Russians had held one more turn I do think that the extra division out flanking the army and those dragoons loose in the rear would have done for the Swedes.

Rules used were my own house rules and I must thank Roger for play testing them with me and for providing advice, amendments and ideas for them.  All the figures, bar some Russian dragoons were mine.  All scenery from the shelves of the Grimsby Wargames Society.

A really good game and a most enjoyable day.

Roger brought down some of his figures and I hope he doesn't mind me showing them here.  They are just exquisite.
Rogers Swedish horse
 His Swedish horse are from the new Ebor range and look terrific.  I really like the way he has manged to create the "V" formation that the Swedes used.
Rogers Swedish second squadron

Rogers Polish Pancerni
 His Polish horse are Warlord & TAG (I think) and are an inspiration to go and get some for myself.  The Polish army still had the look of the more familiar Renaissance forces and provides a real contrast from the pike and shot armies of the west.  If that is not enough inspiration then Rogers' painting should be - it is just stunning.  (His basing department - i.e. his daughter - has done a great job in finishing them off too).
Rogers Winged hussars
Sunday was a great day and a terrific way to end my wargaming year.  From here I'll not be running any games since I have knee surgery scheduled which will prevent any such activities for the foreseeable future.

So again, Roger thank you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bone Tomahawk

I've always liked westerns.  When I was a kid wet Saturday afternoons meant being able to watch John Wayne, Randolph Scott, James Stewart and a host of others win against the odds and beat the bad guy.  Of course one of the premier movies of this genre is "The Magnificent Seven".  
So on Saturday I had a choice between going to see the new "reboot" (why is it a reboot and not a remake?) of that classic whilst the ladies of the house went to see "Bridget Jones in her most recent predicament" or to stay at home.  I chose the latter and rented "Bone Tomahawk" instead.

The film starts very well.  The setting and the scenario is excellent.  The lack of a music score just adding to the building tension and the interaction of the four characters.  I thought all four of the main leads were good but Richard Jenkins was superb in his role as Chicory the deputy sheriff.  the story is simple but none the worse for that.  The action when it comes is brutal and shocking in short bursts.    
The end scenes bear a stronger resemblance to a horror movie then a Western but actually fir very well within the story.

There are a few questions about the movie that didn't work as well.

How did the stranger elude the Indians for so long before arriving at Bright Hope?
How come Arthur spends the entire movie almost crippled and yet skips down the mountain at the end?
Why haven't the cave dwellers travelled further abroad before the movie given that Bright Hope is five days ride away?

I liked the movie and would recommend it  - but not if you don't have a strong stomach.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

When Fantasy & History Collide

I am a landlubber.  I am a "gut puking stench worm" as sailors named the Pilgrims on their voyage to the new world.  And yet I still find the allure of naval wargaming attractive.  Apparently I am not alone as those chaps at Dark Ops have just launched a huge mult-part ship.

Designed for their fantasy series but I can see no reason why it wouldn't host a Pirates v the Royal Navy game.  The ship come apart so that you can fight in the lower gun deck, officers cabins, captain quarters and of course on the main deck.  Terrific.

Even better when they say it is the first of a series of such models.

Now why did I sell those pirates?  Damn I might have to get some more.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Grimsby Wargames Society Fun Day 2016

 The Society Fun Day is now in its second year.  The idea is that genre within the Society presents a game that is quick, simple and fun to play and offers the other members an insight into that aspect of the hobby.
Last year was terrific fun and this years event was no less a s success.
Andrew moves his British foot against Andy & Steve in the first of the four games
The historical gamers were represented by a French Indian war game grandly titled "Winners of the Wilderness" and led by me.  40mm figures skirmished through dense forests to collect various bounty.  
George explains the game to Steve, Andy & Steve
 The card players had an excellent demonstration of "Magic the Gathering" led by George.  a very good introduction to this highly popular game.
Steve & Chris lead the fun that is "Worms" with Kyle, Rob, Mark & Mike
 Tuesday night is an eclectic mix of games and genres and Steve & Chris never let us down with a fun game.  This year was no exception and they presented "Worms", a game based on the addictive video game.  Great fun to be had and merriment throughout the day.
Mike explains the game to Steve & Andy
 Wednesday and Sunday see the board gamers take over the club and this year they were ably represented by mike with "Kingdom Builder".  A short and deceptively simple game that provided distractions for all comers.
The winners - Andrew, Kyle & Andy hold their trophies with Steve and the china mug.
Of course it might be a fun day but we are all gamers and their has to be a competitive edge to the day.  for us the people who play all four of the games and comes away with the best overall score gets a prize.  This year the trophy went to Andrew with Kyle as runner up and Andy in third.  Steve took away the highly prized "stragglers award".

A great event and a great day as always.  My thanks to Malcolm for organising the whole thing and my appreciation to all those who came along and enjoyed the fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

War of the Spanish Succession "The Action at Wittersheim"

Last nights game was based on a scenario from Barry Hilton in issue 298 of Wargames Illustrated.

A Franco-Bavarian force has to take the road through the pass in order to attack siege positions around a nearby town.  In addition they should aim to capture the church, on a small rise, to use as an observation post for the forthcoming attack.  They have a strong force of ten French infantry battalions, including four guard unit, six Bavarian foot and twenty three squadrons of horse (fourteen French & nine Bavarian).

The Imperial forces attempting to stop them consist of six Imperial foot (only five actually arrived on the day but one of the units arriving was a composite grenadier battalion classed as elite), six large Dutch battalions, fifteen squadrons of horse and six of dragoons.  they also have four field pieces. 
Action on the French left as the Dutch press their advantage
The game turned out to be a real examination of the rules and a steep learning curve for the Franco-Bavarian commanders.
The Bavarians on the French right soon gained the high ground and captured the church with the Imperial troops being unusually slow to advance as they wanted to keep a unified line with their Dutch allies.  This allowed the Bavarian horse to engage the Imperial horse and after one brief and inconclusive melee to have both sides withdraw,  this withdrawal effectively gave the Bavarians control of the ridge as they narrowed down the operating space for the horse by lining the ridge with foot.
Bavarians capture the ridge and control the church
 When the Imperial foot did get into action it was obvious that their commander must have been suffering from some sort of malady.  Their firing was poor and the morale of the individual units proved to be very brittle with some retiring from the fight after a single round of musketry.  The fight went out of the imperial foot and their lines withdrew from the assault.

View down the lines from the Bavarian flank
On the French left the allies were having more success.   The French commander was sending small units of infantry to try and stop the waves of Dutch.  Having sent all of his horse on a wide encircling move, the French commander soon found himself exposed to a long line of infantry that began to envelop his left flank.  The French also found out that individually the deeper formations of the french were outmatched by the platoon firing Dutch in a wider, shallower formation.
This was one of those games where you wonder if the rules are right.  so uneven was the firing that the French first line was pushed back very quickly.  However, the second line of the French proved more steadfast and forced the dutch first line back.  
In the end though it was the reluctance of the Imperial wing to advance that forced the allies to concede.

The rules do make it difficult for the deeper formations to go one on one with a platoon firing battalion.  What normally happens is that casualties are in favour of the platoon firing unit and a small morale adjustment for suffering the continuous fire results in the deeper formation being thrown into disorder and then retired first.  However, if they can get a two to one advantage the results are far more even with the platoon firing unit suffering more casualties and withdrawing first.  When they do, it is the second line that then stops the deeper formations and causes them to withdraw.
It's been a long time getting this to the stage where both sides are happy.  The smaller frontage units are more maneuverable and should be able to gain a numerical advantage.  The wider units are more steadfast and take longer to wear down.

The other change last night was to experiment with an idea I've been playing with for a while and brought to the fore by a recent article on the Warfare Miniatures website by Barry Hilton.  the idea is that, in this period at least, guard units were not the elite reserve that they became later.  The guard units of all nations were thrown into the fight and often in the first line.  There is no record of them performing any better or any worse than the line units that they were alongside so why do we elevate all their characteristics?
In this game the guard, and grenadier, units all retained their morale roll bonuses but were firing and fighting with the same benefits as the line troops.  
The outcome was quite pleasing.  They were no longer able to sweep away all opposition with a few volleys of musketry.  However, they proved to be very resilient and able to withstand the enemy fire.

My thanks to Mark, Andy, James & Ashley for the game.  Imperial troops from Andy, Bavarians from Ashley, dutch from Mark & myself, french from my collection.  All scenery from the Grimsby Wargames Society.