Monday, 6 June 2022

Control The River - A 'Shadow Of The Eagles' Scenario

Just a quick post to flag up a recent SotE game I had with my old buddy Steve. Of particular interest as it uses a table just 4' x 3', and really distinctive 10mm MDF figures. The game in question is scenario 2 from the rulebook itself.

Steve has put out a fine post detailing the action, so I won't tread on his toes by doing the same here. However, there is a supporting post on the SotE blog which adds a few points on the rules and how they functioned.

Angus Konstam
Angus is of course a prolific and highly respected military history author, as well as a well-known wargamer.  I can't resist flagging up Angus's Orkney Wargames blog, as Angus has been trying out SotE recently and seems to be enjoying them. Well worth a visit for the wide variety of games played in all periods.

Hope to see you soon with a bigger post about something really interesting! If I can work out what that might be.

'Til next time!

Thursday, 5 May 2022

The Battle Of Madling, 1753

Occasionally (indeed, very occasionally), I find myself involved in a wargaming event which represents what we might call the pinnacle of the hobby. We have all had the experience of staring at a wargaming magazine or a YouTube video, or reading a classic wargaming book, and wishing we had the chance to be involved in the fascinating games or events presented there. It is indeed rewarding when we are the ones involved rather than being one of those looking on.

I was fortunate recently (on Sunday 24th April) to have such a rewarding experience, when invited to Chris Gregg's house for an 18th century imagi-nations battle, masterminded by Ken Marshall and held at Chris's house on terrain specifically crafted by Chris himself. The game would be played over two days and would form part of a narrative campaign that Ken, Chris, and various of their friends were involved in as a continuing project. As is usual with such events, and in particular with Chris himself, the event had taken considerable preparation, both in terms of mental effort and sheer hard work. The map for the battle created by Chris and based on Ken's ideas is just one example of this preparation. It is shown below.

Copyright © Chris Gregg 2022

The order of battle which I was sent in advance (for the 'Ducal' side of which I was to be a Lieutenant-General) included over 50 units, which would be perhaps 1200 to 1300 figures. The 'Electoral' forces I would be engaging were similar, so overall up to 2,500 figures (in round numbers) would be present on an 8' x 6' table. Three collections had been combined to complete the total. And these would be 28mm figures, all painted and based to the highest standards, as I can attest. And guess what - Chris and his friends use Honours of War as their go-to SYW rule book, so this would be additionally rewarding.

On Saturday the scene had been set by a game involving the clash of advanced guards, which had led to the positions the Sunday gamers saw when they arrived at Chris's house on Sunday morning. The teams of gamers on each day were different, cleverly catering for those like me who couldn't attend both days. We were welcomed, and thoroughly briefed on what had occurred and what our objectives were for the coming game. And then off we went.

I took only a few snaps of the game in progress on an old iPhone 7. I knew Chris and others would make a thorough photographic record of what took place, and decided to enjoy the game without distracting myself and others with a personal need to take extensive photographs. A few of my photos are shown below. I am tempted to say something about the photos not doing justice to the game, but in a way they do. With such numbers of gorgeous figures and the outstanding terrain, plus the excellent light which Chris has contrived for his wargaming room, it is ridiculously easy to take reasonable photos.

The Ducal forces (which had something of an Austrian flavour)
start to march on the table.

Opposing lines form. Looks like linear warfare!

A chance to get an idea of Chris's gaming room.

A final close up. The quality of every detail was astonishing.

Well, Paul (my superior general) and myself started from the north of the map with the highest hopes of driving irresistibly across the table, but the strength of our opponents grew and grew. The ridge you can see on the map at D3, D4 and E4 was the scene of many a dramatic cavalry charge and fierce musketry contest, but eventually our forces were drained and there was obviously no way through. The game was called at around 16.30 in our opponent's favour. Well done to the Electoral commanders.

Despite all the serious preparations, the game was played with light hearts and much banter, just as it should be. Ken umpired marvellously, and Chris was the perfect host, keeping us fed and watered and chipping in as needed where difficulties arose over play. My own knowledge of the rules was embarassingly rusty, despite some pre-game revision, as I had not played a game of HoW since before the first UK lockdown. But small errors were soon smoothed over in a friendly fashion.

In conclusion, a day of gaming and friendship which was inspiring and highly pleasurable. One of my opposing players was my old friend Steve J, who has recorded his own memories of the day on his own blog. His photo record is more complete than mine. Chris will be placing his own thoughts and photos on his blog in due course, with a much fuller account of events and, I believe, a tutorial on how he created the fine terrain. I look forward to that appearing on his own personal blog.

I record my thanks to Chris, Ken, Steve J, Steve P and Paul for making the day such a pleasure. One of those wargaming days I will never forget.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

WW2: Attack on a Railway Town

Playtesting of my adaption of the WRG 1973 rules for the 1925-1950 period continues. I recently developed a scenario to test the rules with some significant forces, and thought it might be of interest to readers to present the scenario as a generic WW2 game that you can adapt to your own rules and figures.

The action involves an attack on a small town where a railway and road cross. The defenders can deploy anywhere in the top half of the table, whilst the attackers advance from their baseline at the bottom of the map on turn 1. Some armour reinforcements arrive for the defender on one of the first three turns via road 'X'. The attacker is tasked with taking the town, and also if possible controlling the road that leaves the table via 'X'. The defender is tasked with preventing this occurring.

The map shows a 6' x 4' table. North can be any direction you want.

The wooded hills in the lower left corner are steep/difficult (whatever term your rules adopt) and the woods here are dense. These hills can only be crossed by infantry. The other woods are open, and all other hills are gentle. The hedged field in the centre is ploughed and will slow movement. The 'factory' can be any large building, or you can substitute a village of 2 or 3 houses.

These are given for rules adopting a 1:1 figure and model scale. Adapting them for a different scale should be no problem.

Force HQ
Tank Company of 3 platoons, each of 4 tanks
Reduced Infantry Company of 2 platoons
Artillery Battery (off-table) of 4 guns in direct support (with AFO on-table)
Mortar Battery (off-table) of 6 weapons in direct support (with MFO on-table)

In my games the attacker also had a preparatory barrage available - I leave players to work out the details according to their own rules. For the infantry company, choose whatever support weapons you feel are appropriate - MMGs, light mortars, infantry guns, or perhaps even an SP gun of some kind to add spice.

Force HQ
Reduced Infantry Company of 2 platoons
Armoured Recce platoon (armoured cars or similar)
AA Section (defending the railway station - must deploy within 10" of the rail/road intersection)
Artillery Battery (off-table) of 4 guns in general support (with AFO on-table)
Mortar Battery (off-table) of 4 weapons in direct support (with MFO on-table)
Tank Platoon of 3-4 tanks, initially off-table. 
Defender rolls pre-game: 1,2 tanks arrive at 'X' on turn 1; 3,4 arrive turn 2; 5,6 arrive turn 3.

The defender's infantry company should have 2-3 anti-tank guns attached. The AA section should also have 2-3 weapons, with 1 or 2 of these being effective against tanks. The recce section might seem out of place in a defending force but their presence adds interest and assumes they have been thrown in to bolster the defence regardless of their normal role.

Depending on the period and forces chosen, it may be useful to rate the defenders a little lower for morale and skill than the attackers. I suggest that the reinforcing tanks should be of equivalent quality to the attackers. I leave the final balance to you. As for air support, I included a random air support factor, which meant that either side might get a section of ground attack aircraft over the table on any move, but adopting a fairly low chance of this happening.

Below are a small selection of photos from 2 games - the first set in Russia 1943 with the Russians as the attacker (held at Roy's house), the second set in Poland 1939 (against Paul at my house) with the Germans attacking. These are just snaps with an iphone so excuse the quality.

1943. No need for roads to be marked in the snow-covered terrain. Note the
'dummy counters' indicating where defending units might or might not be.

T-34s supported by a KV-2. A bit late in the war for the latter, but I couldn't resist the model.

German armour moves out to counter-attack. I was rather taken with Roy's
Litko 'flaming wreckage' markers and bought some for myself.

1939. An overview of the terrain

The German advance on the town.

More Germans attack via the wooded valley.

The factory under pressure.

As can be seen, the rules produced a bloody battle. Burning wrecks litter the battlefield.
Polish AA section seen in foreground behind the town.

The Rules
Both battles had numerous halts whilst rules issues were discussed. Many thanks to Roy and Paul for their tactful but honest input, and their patience. Suffice to say there is a long way to go with these rules - since these battles I have made further significant changes which now need playtesting.

Overall, it's great to be returning to face to face gaming and meeting friends once again over the wargames table. I know many gamers are feeling the same as 'normal life' resumes.

'Til next time!

EDIT 2nd May
A copy of the latest 1939 version of the rules is available HERE. The usual caveat applies - this is just the latest version of a distinctly under-tested rule set in its early stages. Also, this is for 1939 only, so only very basic stats - no armour above class E! Let me know of any problems accessing the file, which is stored on Google Drive.

EDIT 6th May
If anyone has been trying to access the rules and coming up against a permission problem, that should have now been solved. Anyone can now access the file.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Polish 7tp Tank - 3D Printing Valley

World War 2 is currently my hobby focus, mainly because of the work I'm putting in on the WRG 1973 rules. More on that elsewhere, but I recently found (as one so often does) that I needed more tanks - specifically, more Polish 7tp tanks for my 1939 collection.

The problem here is that collecting anything for the 1939 Polish campaign these days quickly hits the barrier of restricted choice, or plain unavailability, regardless of the scale you are using. Battlefront/Fow have of course ditched their early war collections (cheers guys), and I thought the only source for the 7tp in 15mm would be QRF. Unfortunately (as I thought) the QRF models are all out of stock at the moment. I have mentioned previously that the QRF Polish tank range is frankly a bit crap, and I stand by this assessment. Then, in an unusual moment of common sense, I simply searched online for 'Flames of War 7tp', hoping to find some second-hand models for sale on ebay. And what should I find but some excellent 3D printed models of the Polish 7tp tank on the ebay page of 3D Printing Valley

As you will find on following the link above, 3D Printing Valley offer a real Aladdin's cave of interesting resin kits in 1/100th and 1/56th scale, of high quality and reasonable price. I'm no expert in 3D printed models, but of those I have seen the ones from 3D Printing Valley are about the best. Let's look at some photos:

Ghost tanks. The models come in a rather interesting translucent resin,
but it was clear straight away these were first class models.

Left to right: model as received, model with undercoat, finished model.

Left to right again: FoW model, QRF model, 3D Printing model.

It was immediately clear to me that the 3D Printing model is the best kit of a 7tp in 1/100th scale that has appeared thus far. It comes in 2 pieces, turret and hull, so no construction at all is required. And it is very hard indeed to find any of the ridges that spoil so many 3D models - the whole thing is remarkably smooth.

Size-wise, the 3D Printing offering is the largest of the three examples in my collection, by a whisker, and may be a millimetre or two too long if my measuring is correct (on the other hand, both the QRF and FoW models are dimensionally incorrect, although in different ways). Nevertheless, I was very impressed. There was no finishing to be done on the 4 models I bought apart from a couple of minutes of filing required to improve the fit of the turret. There is, however, no provision for a command figure in the turret if that is your thing - a fairly major bit of surgery would be needed to put in a hatch.

Look no further for your 1/100th 7tp models - these are great and come highly recommended. I very much hope the 3D Printing Polish range, and in fact all of their ranges, will sell well and expand rapidly. Come on guys, the world needs a decent Polish Vickers tank model, and it needs it now.

Stay safe everyone, 'til next time.

Edit: 16th April
Many thanks to Will who left a comment directing me to Paint and Glue Miniatures. This 3D models company has an excellent Polish range, which includes (be still my beating heart) a very nice looking Vickers 6 ton, Polish version. Plus a TKS-D, a model I've been hankering over for many a year. 

As Will says in his comment, there is a whole range of interesting WW2 models from a variety of nations also available from these guys. Check them out. And thanks again Will!

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Solo Rules Testing - 3

So, the old 4' x 4' table came out again for my last planned rules test. This time I wanted to remind myself of the ancients rules I'm currently using, Mantic Games' Kings of War Historical. Well, I say 'Mantic Games' but they don't actually sell or support these rules anymore! As usual I'm well behind the times and using old, long forgotten rule sets. But you can check the background to this decision at the posts linked below:

Post: Kings of War Historical

Post: Playing and Discussing KoWH

You can still get copies of the rules if you search around the net, from ebay and other sources. But it's worth pointing out that they differ very little from the original Kings of War fantasy rules, and these are still going strong and in their third edition. Even better, you can download the basic rules for free from the Mantic Games website. This really is the spirit of the hobby and Mantic should get a big thumbs up for this kind of offer. 

In fact, the free download gives you most of what you need to play - as far as I can tell the playing rules are all there, it's only the army lists and various bits of fluff that are absent, and as these are fantasy rules you don't need any of that. However, what turns the fantasy rules into a playable ancients set are the stats and special rules which give the various periods and units their flavour. For this a copy of Historical is really needed, unless you are feeling really creative and are ready for a bit of serious work.

The Game
Anyway, a few captioned photos of the playtest. Sorry for the quality, but I snapped these in haste with an iPhone 7. Those are 28mm figures in use. You don't need a sketch map as the terrain was just a flat board with a terrain mat over it. The small forces involved are from my imagi-nations, the countries of Latium and Paphlagonia, and so you will see various units of hoplites, legionaries, cataphracts and chariots (and others) mixed up in both armies. Sadly my lovely Celts missed the cut.

End of the first move. Forces of Latium in the foreground.

The flanking cavalry come together whilst skirmishers and bowmen
on both sides try to weaken their opponents.

The Blue and Yellow Shields phalanx units of Paphlagonia.

Cataphracts of Latium vs. Paphlagonian heavy chariots.
The chariots lost!

The cataphracts wheel around into the Blue Shields (top).
A gap in the Latium main line has been created by the Paphlagonian bowmen.

The cataphracts crash in but this was a melee too far for them,
resulting in their destruction by long pointy things.

And finally the main lines come together...

...resulting in a Paphlagonian victory. Latium's left flank hoplite unit is destroyed
(helped by a flank attack from light cavalry), and the red markers show the
remaining two are 'wavering'. Game over.

This was a fun little action which reminded me how much I like these rules. They provide a fast moving game, and with a few tweaks they have all the period flavour I want. A great shame they never really seem to have taken off. Perhaps Mantic should try again. If you're listening guys...

This and the previous games in this series have also proved to me that a 4' x 4' table is no real barrier to having nice games, even in 28mm, without having to try those silly skirmish games that are all the rage these days. Skirmish games? Don Featherstone must be turning in his grave!

It feels like I've been through a period of preparation since Christmas, looking at new rules and rules not used for a while, and dusting off my model armies. I reckon I'm ready to go with some 'proper' gaming. Time to phone some friends and re-start the banter and dice rolling.

'Til next time!

Monday, 21 February 2022

Cotswold Wargaming Day 2022

I am pleased to announce that the Cotswold Wargaming Day is back:

08.30 - 17.00

Last years 'Best Game' winner.

Not much to say that's new - the format this year will be the same as last year. An email has gone out to all on the mailing list. If you are new to this event and are interested, you can just turn up on the day to chat and join in, or contact me via the comments section if you want to put on a game. 

Last year was a great success despite Covid and a fuel 'crisis'. I reckon this year could be even more special. Hope to see you there!

Friday, 18 February 2022

Solo Rules Testing - 2

The second of my solo playtest series features the adaption of the WRG 1973 WW2 rules which I am currently working on. Once again this test game used a 4' x 4' table, but the scenario has the option to expand to 6' x 4', and would probably play better with this larger table size. The scenario sketch map is shown below with the full 6' x 4' terrain - the 4' x 4' table leaves out the western two feet containing the village of Strobin.

1' x 1' grid squares.

Scenario - The Action at Jarocin
3rd September 1939

German Forces – from 2nd Panzer Division (determined, attacking from the western baseline)

Force HQ - command base
Heavy Panzer Platoon: 2 x PzIV, 3 x PzII 
Light Panzer Platoon: 2 x PzII, 3 x PzI
Infantry platoon x 2: standard, 1 lorried
Recce section: Sdkfz231 (6-rad), Sdkfz 221
Recce section: Sdkfz222, motorcycle recce section
Weapons section: 2 x 37mm ATG and tows, command group
Mortars: 6 x 8cm, direct support, MFO (car, radio)
Artillery: 4 x 10.5cm, general support, AFO (car, radio)

Polish Forces – from 10th Mechanised Brigade (determined, defending Jarocin and the bridges)

Force HQ - command base
Tank Platoon: 3 x Vickers (single turret), 2 x Vickers (twin turret)
Infantry platoon: standard, + 37mm ATG and tow
Recce section: 1 x TKS (MG), 1 x TKS (20mm)
Weapons section: 37mm ATG and tow, MMG group, command group
Mortars: 2 x 8cm, direct support, MFO (telephone)

Any Polish infantry, infantry support or heavy weapons elements may be dug-in if required.

Scenario Conditions
The Germans must capture the 2 bridges and Jarocin by the end of turn 8 for a total victory. If both bridges are captured but not Jarocin, the game is drawn. Otherwise, the Poles win.
4' x 4' table – the Poles can deploy up to 3' from the eastern baseline. The Germans deploy from their table edge on turn 1.
6' x 4' table – the Poles deploy up to 4' from the eastern baseline. Germans may deploy recce units and up to 2 platoons (infantry or tank) up to 8" from their baseline. Other German units deploy from their base edge on turn 1.
Hills are gentle. Woods east of the river are open: to the west of the river they are dense.

Some Photos of the Game

German light tanks were quickly across the southern bridge.

Recce elements lead the way across the northern bridge.
The heavy tank platoon kept the advanced Polish positions occupied.

The Polish tanks engage the advancing German light tanks, but come off worse.
A Polish anti-tank gun covering the south bridge proves ineffective.

The leading German elements press on into Jarocin.
German infantry engage the Poles west of the river.

Overview - the German advance is going well.

The other Polish 37mm in Jarocin also had little luck.
The leading German armoured car knocked it out with close range 20mm cannon fire.

The Polish platoon in Jarocin had suffered steady casualties,
and was eventually forced to retreat following a morale test.
Jarocin could now be occupied by follow-up forces. The Germans had won with light casualties.

The Project
The 1973 rules have been out of print for decades now, and I'm guessing that few of you reading this are familiar with them. They were ahead of their time when published, and I remain convinced they could form the basis of a good, straightforward and compact set of rules for the whole of WW2. The core rules function very well - for an introduction to the project check out my first post on the subject here.

The basic infantry move is now up to a sensible 150mm (6"), whilst the vehicle moves remain mostly the same as in the original. I have tried to simplify the indirect fire rules and modernise the rules for air attacks. The morale rules are very old school with a long list of factors - I have overhauled these but kept the basic system as I found I had a soft spot for the old fashioned feel of them. I have added in some basic rules for troop quality (which were absent in the original), and I am trying to develop some simple rules that allow for hidden deployment and the odd surprise.

Also needed was a good deal of overall re-writing and re-arrangement to make the rules easier to understand. As I have said, they are basically a simple set but a typical 1970s lack of attention to clarity and exposition left them harder to fathom than needed. Overall, the possibility exists for a rule set covering the whole of WW2, suitable for 20mm down to 6mm size models, that could fit into an Osprey 'blue book'. But anything like publication is way in the future. And how Phil and Sue Barker might feel about publication is an unknown quantity.

This has been an absorbing and useful project so far. If anyone wants a copy of my present ideas, I have word documents of a set for 1939, one for 1944-45 Germans vs. Americans, and one for Germans vs. Russians 1943. These contain details of unit organisation as well as the rules. You would have to leave an email address in the comments, which I could delete once I've made a note of it (unless of course I have your email already). Feedback would be welcome.

In other WW2 news, I have recently bought a copy of the 'O' Group rules and I am working through the online videos made by the Too Fat Lardies. They seem like an original set with a number of quite challenging ideas and mechanics. Not sure how I feel about them at the moment.

Anyway, ancients next in this series. 'Til next time!