Friday, 22 February 2019

Cotswold Wargaming Day 2019

When the 2018 Cotswold Wargaming Day went so well, it was no-brainer to have another go in 2019. There was clearly plenty of scope for the event to expand, and this is what I want to happen this year.

The winner of last year's Stuart Asquith Trophy for Best Game - 'Talavera in 20mm'.

Cotswold Wargaming Day 2019

10.00 - 17.00
Sunday 1st September 2019
The Westwoods Community Centre
Bassett Road
Northleach GL54 3QJ

The ethos of the event is a friendly and informal meeting of miniature wargamers, to chat, relax, exchange ideas, and play games. There are no traders. There will be the chance to bring books and gaming items you want to exchange, give away or sell - but not a formal bring and buy. Last year we had 5 games set up, this year I want to double that if possible, but that means more attendees will be needed. So this is an open invitation to come along, and invite your wargaming friends. You can apply to put on a game if you fancy it.

The venue is a modern, light and spacious local community centre, with a main hall, a side room and a decent kitchen area for getting teas, coffees and biscuits (which were provided free last year). I requested £5 a head in 2018 just to cover costs, and I will doing the same this year. If you missed the 2018 event, check these links to see what went on:

It is helpful for me to know how many to expect, so if you think you might want to come and are not already on the mailing list, leave a comment with your email address if you are comfortable doing so. If not, go onto the Honours of War website and leave me (the administrator) a private message. The same applies if you want to put on a game.

If you need more info, I can answer any questions via the 'comments' facility for this post..

I hope to see some of you there!

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Kings Of War Historical - Playing & Discussing

The rules a wargamer will use are a very personal thing, and this state of affairs has always been a fundamental part of our hobby. Donald Featherstone noted in his 1962 book War Games that "there are almost as many rule books as there are war gamers". 

The choices made may simply involve which commercial set you use, but depending on the type of wargamer you are they may extend to personal amendments applied to a commercial set. Those unsatisfied with commercial sets may go further and write their own rules. The latter course is one of the most creative choices a gamer can make in what is, at its best, a creative hobby.

Thus I was very pleased to be contacted by my friend Roy, offering to try out a Kings of War Historical game with myself and Stuart C, the leading light in the Cirencester Wargames Club. The three of us could pool our ideas and opinions and I could increase my understanding of the rules. Stuart plays Fantasy games with the original KoW rules and also plays the Historical set, so he would be able to shed some light on the background to the rules as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Roy kindly acceded to my request to bring over my own newly re-based figures for the try-out. Re-basing of some sort is an issue for KoWH, as they have a simple but fairly uncompromising basing scheme (see my first post on this subject). However, some sort of  collective or 'sabot' basing seems to be the answer - in my case done permanently, in Stuart's with temporary bases which allow him to continue to use his figures for Armati.

As we all know, ask 3 wargamers their opinions on a rule set and you'll get at least 4 answers. Stuart had delved into the background of the rules and was sensibly keen to use them pretty much as written for a basic playtest. This we did, and Stuart was obviously content to accept some aspects which seemed a bit unhistorical, whilst adapting his play to the possibilities of the rules. In other words, he accepted the rules as a game to be enjoyed. I was enjoying the game as well, but constantly looking at what amendments might be made without bending the rules completely out of shape. Roy cheerfully went along with the game but it was obvious he too had his doubts about how the rules represented ancient warfare.

I suppose using 2 imagi-nations to test out the rules could be seen as adding a further layer of confusion, but my imaginary armies are built from a set of historical units which I simply imagine to be acting together - so Legionaries are real legionaries, Companion cavalry are considered to act as their historical counterparts, etc. Anyway, a fun game resulted and I learnt a lot:

The initial set up. We used one of the scenarios from the rule book.
Stuart's elephants start to break through my lightly held centre.
The bolt thrower prepares to play the role of 17pdr anti-tank gun against the elephantine Tiger tanks.
Now That's What I Call A Melee - 1. My right flank meets Stuart's left, under Roy's command.
Now That's What I Call A Melee - 2. Heavy chariots vs. elephants.
I think I heard an historically-inspired 'Harumph!' from Roy at this stage.
I should acknowledge here that Stuart and Roy won decisively. The really interesting thing for me is that, having thought carefully about Stuart's explanations and information, I decided to rudely ignore his approach of leaving the rules alone and enjoying them as a game, and continue with my own amendments exactly as before. That's wargamers for you.

Another Day, Another Game...
To give my thoughts another run out, I set up a solo game at home shortly afterwards. This was based on a scenario contained in Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy 75, called 'A Fickle Flanking Force'. The author, Steve Jones, publishes scenarios in various magazines from time to time and invariably comes up with something interesting. Using this scenario was part of my determination not to have my ancient games fall into the rut of just lining up the armies opposite each other along opposing baselines, usually with little or no terrain.

The clever part of this scenario is that one ends up having 2 games going on at the same time, each linked to the other. As the first photo shows, the table is divided by a river. The 'main' battle is seen in the background of the photo - one side holds a ridge against a slightly superior attacking force, tasked with breaking through their line. On the near side of the river, allies of the defenders are advancing through a wooded area with the intention of crossing the bridge and attacking their comrades' tormentors in flank and rear. This flanking force is in turn about to be ambushed from the woods on each side of the road. 

Overall set up. 
Battle for the ridge - opening positions. The Paphlagonian army is in the foreground,
with infantry from the army of Latium holding the ridge
The ambush - opening positions. Light forces from Paphlagonia haunt the woods.
The flanking force is made up of cavalry, elephants and a carro-ballista.
The Paphlagonians hurry forward to attack the ridge.
Chariots try to outflank on the right, with heavy cavalry and warband going to the left.
The ambush is in full swing. The Paphlagonian ambushers are being dealt with,
but time is ticking by.
The Paphlagonian pike phalanxes reach the ridge and desperate hand-to-hand fighting commences.
Meanwhile, back in the woods...
The ambush is almost entirely overcome, but a significant delay has been imposed.
The hoplites of the Latium 'Kingdom Infantry' are putting up a stubborn defence,
but can the flanks hold?
The various melees swing back and forth,
but those outflanking chariots are becoming a real threat.
Eventually, the brave defenders crack. A couple of moves later and the ridge has been swept clean of defenders,
although the Paphlagonian Companion Cavalry have been lost in the process.
Too little, too late. The Latium flanking force crosses the bridge, led by the Auricomus cataphracts,
only to find their comrades have already been routed.
For me, this was an enjoyable solo game which confirmed that the amendments I was using at least worked, whether or not anyone else would agree with them. At the moment, I am getting considerable pleasure in solo games, which I can set up when I like and play at my own convenience and speed. Doubtless I am turning into an anti-social old bugger. I never bother with any particular refinements to make my solo play more sophisticated. In the words of George Gush, I am one of those players "who play mainly for the interest of seeing the battle unfold before them" - so I find simply alternating between playing one side and then the other from move to move perfectly satisfying.

Changes To The Rules
I should start with 2 points - firstly, KoWH has a very limited online presence and I have a suspicion that it may not be very widely played. I hope any of those who do play it may be attracted here, but I accept I may be broadcasting to thin air. Secondly, when I have actually paid for a set of rules, I prefer to play them as written. In the case of KoW I have departed from that principle, but I have at least tried not to alter the spirit of the rules.

In this respect, then, I felt the strict IGO-UGO concept needed to be retained - but with one important exception. I couldn't in the end resist putting in a simple 'evade' rule, as without one I felt period feel was significantly compromised. Evading is available to skirmishers, individuals, and units with the 'nimble' special rule. Such units are allowed to move away when charged. 

Other gamers find the IGO-UGO format rather too restrictive - check the comments from Jim Webster on the Society of Ancients forum if you are interested in alternative ideas.

I have also added a simple command and control mechanism, based on the old 'command radius' idea. Units out of radius of their generals need to roll to make moves towards the enemy. I have also restricted the 'double move' idea - these can only be made when no part of the move comes within 12" of enemy units. Charges are also altered in a similar spirit - in this case, rather than charging a double move, single moves plus a 'charge bonus' are mandated, the bonus being 2" for infantry, elephants and cataphracts, 4" for everyone else. Difficult terrain and obstacles are now crossed at half speed.

A few new Special Rules have been introduced. Most heavy infantry (particularly hoplites and pikes) suffer from the Inflexible Charge rule, which prevents them from pivoting during a charge move. This seemed like common sense. Before the KoW forum was taken down, there was some discussion about the rather over-powerful nature of elephants, and I agree with this view. I have therefore introduced a Stampede rule for elephants, which sees them having a chance of charging off randomly if they are 'wavering' or 'routed'. I have also tweaked down the 'nerve' values of elephants, making them easier to waver or rout.

On the subject of tweaking stat values, this approach is both a blessing and a curse. It makes for a simple and flexible way of adjusting the effectiveness of units in accordance with one's historical views, but the rules lack any background on the basis for the various stats. Altering the points values of units as you alter the stats is tricky for the same reason - the method for deciding points values is not given and the process is completely opaque (not to say rather incomprehensible when various points values are compared).

I think the fighting of melees is a strong point of the rules. However, whilst you can attack a single unit with more than one of your own units, you can only engage one enemy unit at a time - so if your attacking unit overlaps a second opposing unit, this has to be 'nudged' aside. In the first battle described above, the heavy chariots fighting the elephants were in 2 units of 2 chariots each. The 4 attacking elephants were in one unit, and therefore could concentrate all their attacks on half the opposing force, destroy them, and then move on to the other half. This doesn't make much sense to me. Stuart tells me this was done for simplicity in melee calculations, but I am prepared to accept one or two more simple sums for a better representation of combat. In my amendment therefore, if you charge and contact more than one enemy unit, you have to fight all of them.

There are a few more changes in my lexicon, but I think that will do for the moment. As I mentioned, I have a strong suspicion that these comments will have a rather limited audience.

That's All Folks!
Apologies to those for whom KoW Historical are of no interest. I am enjoying playing them immensely, and I am hoping that some players of the rules may be attracted to this blog when they search the rules title. If that is you, please make contact in the comments section.

'Til next time!

Monday, 28 January 2019

I Love HCH Figures' Persian Immortals

With the crappy Warlord Games figures placed in the spares box (see previous post), I decided to splash out and get myself a painted unit of HCH Figures Immortals. Now, I acknowledge these figures (from the Tin Soldier range) may not be to everyone's taste, being perhaps a bit old-fashioned in look, but I have come to like them very much. 

As usual, customer service was excellent. The lady at HCH was willing to swap a couple of shields so that my officer and standard bearer shields matched everyone else's. The figures were despatched the same day as they were ordered, and arrived next day, Royal Mail first class. Each figure came in its own bubble wrap pocket, with shield and spear individually wrapped in tissue paper. And all this for less p&p than Warlord charge - I have waited a week for my Warlord orders to arrive.

The photos below will, I hope, speak for themselves. Total cost including 16 figures, painting and p&p was £66.50, or £4.15 a figure. I had to assemble the figures and base them myself. The quality of painting alone makes this price a bargain, IMHO.

As you can see, the spearmen come without bows so I added in 4 bowmen figures to give the impression of a unit with both shooting and toe-to-toe melee capability. 

A great unit which I can't wait to get on the table. Eat your heart out Warlord!

Thursday, 24 January 2019

I Hate Warlord Games' Persian Immortals

Warlord Games' ancient range has been one of my two main sources when building up my ancient armies - the other being the Victrix plastics range. Warlord's plastics are excellent - lovely models and well priced. Their metal figures - well, I have my doubts about some of them. Their Companion Cavalry, for example. Nice figures individually, but really too delicate for wargaming, especially the spindly legs of the horses. And they also suffer from a more common fault with modern figures that I find particularly irritating - the apparent need for variety in figure poses, and for those poses to be of the 'action' variety. So those Companions are all waving their xystons around with gay abandon, doubtless poking each others eyes out and wounding each other's horses.

This exasperation with the need for action poses reached its peak when I purchased a unit of Warlord's Persian Immortals. Of course, they look great in the beautiful pictures on the Warlord online shop, but I got increasingly frustrated as I put the figures together, then painted and based them.


In my opinion, the problems are twofold - history-wise, and wargaming-wise. Historically, I am under the impression that the Immortals were basically heavy infantry, relying on cohesion and formation to fight effectively in melee. Yes, I know many gamers might class them as 'mediums', depending on what rules one is using, and also that they carried bows and had a significant shooting ability. But nevertheless, to fight in the line of battle (as they did), they fought in formation using big shields and long pointy things. And those shields in particular had to form a solid front if they were to provide proper protection to the formation as a whole.

Sadly, Warlord have decided to model these guys basically as a bunch of skirmishers. As the photo shows, the poses are varied and decidedly of the 'action' variety. Most figures seem to be running, and in true Warlord fashion they are also waving their spears around and flinging their shields wildly at their neighbours. How they will reach the enemy without tripping over their shields and getting gored by their comrades is hard to imagine. And the hoplites they're charging are probably laughing their heads off at how easy it will be to get inside that ineffective line of shields and swiftly gore the Persians to death.

And from a wargaming point of view, all this variety causes real problems when basing. Getting them to fit on my fairly standard heavy infantry bases (20mm per figure) needed a lot of fiddling around, as the shields and spears took up way too much space and the selection of poses creates too many problems in the way figures interact with each other. Arranging the group bases is made even more tricky by the tiny individual bases the figures are cast with - the buggers just won't stand up reliably whilst you juggle them around, trying to get a suitable set-up. And when this is finally achieved, the result is so irregular you can hardly pick up the finished bases to move them around without inadvertently bending a soft metal spear or breaking off a shield.

Having completed 8, I have decided to set these guys aside and buy something more suitable. I'll probably get the HCH Figures Early Persian Immortals, ready painted. Check the link - that's how heavy infantry for wargaming should look. Now, for 16 figures that might well set me back nearly £70, but I reckon I will treat myself. That new tyre for the car will have to wait until next month. At least I'll keep my sanity.

Cheers - until next time.

Monday, 21 January 2019

They're Called POST OF HONOUR

Yes they are. It was time to give my 'Simple Seven Years War' rules a proper name, and some recent reading reminded me of this phrase. It keeps the 'honour' theme going nicely. 

Of course, the 'post of honour' is on the right of the line, as I'm sure you all know.

Latest version available for free here:

Download Post of Honour

Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Combat At Asch

It has been rewarding to see some gamers having a go with my 'Simple Seven Years War' rules - see here for example. But there's no getting away from the fact that a good deal more playtesting is needed to improve them. 

Of course, the best kind of playtesting is the kind that involves other gamers, especially those working just from the rules as written, well away from the author. But solo playtesting is bound to be needed as well, particularly in the early stages of development, when you can mess around with ideas without boring other participants in the game.

So I set out to play a decent-sized solo game with the new rules. To give added interest, I thought I'd make it a proper outing with a nice scenario and a reasonable number of troops. This brought to mind Charles S. Grant's Refighting History (Volume 1), which has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years without the gaming inspiration contained therein being properly exploited. A brief overview of my thoughts on the book can be found here.

The first scenario in the book, 'The Combat At Asch' seemed like just the job. As Charles says, "the Combat at Asch has all the makings of a nice balanced action with not hugely disparate forces". The fighting occurred between Prussian troops which were part of the army of Frederick's brother, Prince Henri, and a detached Austro-Imperial force from the army of General Zweibrucken. The town of Asch is present day As, in the extreme west of the Czech Republic. The Prussians were very much the attacking force in the real campaign, and Charles first presents the encounter as it was in real life - a fighting withdrawal by the Austro-Imperials. He then imagines the Austro-Imperials standing and fighting to produce an attack-defence game, and this latter seemed to be the one for me. The fact that this is not what occurred in real life makes the game an interesting combination of the historical and imaginary. The date of the imaginary battle would have been 8th May 1759.

Each side had about a dozen units, which is perfect for a reasonable sized wargame. The one thing Charles doesn't include in most of his games is a consideration of troop and army quality, so I had to do a bit of basic research into the background of the units involved, in particular to try and discover which units might be rated inferior, regular or superior. This resulted in the following assessments:

Austro-Imperial. General Macquire.

1. Darmstadt Grenadiers (presumably the Hesse-Darmstadt leibgrenadiercorps). Regular.
2. Regiment Maynz (Reichsarmee, 4 battalions, apparently well thought of). Regular.
3. Regiment Trier (Reichsarmee, 2 battalions, poor quality). Inferior.
4. Regiment Salm (Austrian IR14, 1 battalion). Regular.
5. Regiment Marschall (Austrian IR18, 1 battalion). Regular.
6. Regiment Gyulay (Hungarian IR51, 1 battalion). Regular.
7. Unnamed 'Croats'. Assumed to be 1 battalion of light infantry. Regular.
8. Old Modena Cavalry (Austrian cuirassiers). Superior.
9. Baranyay Hussars (Austrian HR30). Inferior.
10. Empire Cavalry Detachments (assumed to be dragoons). Inferior.
A. 2 Field Artillery Batteries (based on a given total of 7 guns available). Regular.

Prussian. General Finck.

1. Grenadier Battalion Bornstadt (Gn.Bn. 13/26). Superior.
2. Regiment Bernburg (IR3, 3 battalions). Regular.
3. Regiment Puttkamer (IR9, 2 battalions, apparently highly regarded). Superior.
4. Regiment Goltz (IR24, 2 battalions). Regular.
5. Frei Bataillon Colignon (FB2). Inferior.
6. Frei Bataillon Monjou (FB5). Inferior.
7. Horn Cuirassiers (CR7). Superior.
8. Szekely Hussars (HR1). Regular.
9. Belling Hussars (HR9). Regular.
A. 3 Field Artillery Batteries (based on a given total of 10 x 12 pounders).

This was generally good news as the Prussians (as I had hoped) had a worthwhile edge in quality which would give their attack a fighting chance.

Map and Scenario
The book contains a whole series of good maps for this scenario, which makes setting up a reasonably accurate table for the game so much easier. Table size was 6' x 5'. I had a little experiment with Word and managed to come up with the colour map you see below. My thanks to Dinos at the HoW forum for showing what is possible with a bit of trial and error.

Prussians in blue, Austro-Imperials in red.
All hills are gentle. The watercourses count as streams. The scenario was simple - the Prussians will attack and dislodge the Austro-Imperials from their ridge-top position.

The Game In Pictures
As usual, I will eschew a lengthy narrative account and use some captioned photos.

Set-up 1. The hills were replicated by using a felt cloth over TSS tiles of various shapes and sizes.
Unfortunately the hill outlines don't show up all that well on the photos.
Set-up 2. The arrangement of forces was as per the historical deployment.
This found the stronger part of the Prussian line opposite the weak Trier regiment.
Set-up 3.
On this flank the better quality Austro-Hungarian units face a thinner Prussian presence.
Here they come! Prussian infantry strike at the Austro-Imperial left flank.
The Bornstadt Grenadiers are hindered by the marsh.
The Puttkamer regiment advances. Even with artillery support, the odds are against them.
In the foreground the Austrian cuirassiers have retired under Prussian artillery fire, but the hole is being
plugged by the Gyulay regiment.
The Goltz regiment gets into musket range.
As hoped, the weak troops of the regiment Trier start to give way 
The beginnings of a breakthrough start to appear. The Horn cuirassiers (just visible bottom left)
are in the wrong place and would be invaluable on the Prussian right.
On the other flank, Puttkamer take heavy casualties from Austrian muskets and canister.
Their superior quality is not enough to overcome the odds, and they are forced back.
Prussian high water mark.
Regiment Trier has evaporated, and the Prussian grenadiers have forced away the poor quality cavalry units.
However, the Austro-Imperial line on the ridge is still solid and starts to re-align, whilst regiment Goltz retreats
with heavy casualties. Further assaults are unlikely to succeed.

I called it a day at this point. The Prussians had done well, driving off 5 enemy units on the Austro-Imperial left flank (including an artillery battery), but the main ridge position was still strongly held by good quality Austrian units, and the attacking Prussian infantry had taken serious casualties. As they began to waver, the Bornstadt grenadiers were left feeling rather exposed, as the final photo shows. Reforming for a second assault would be pointless and almost certain to fail. In an interesting side show, the Croats in the woods on the Austro-Imperial left had seen off two charges by the Prussian Hussars. Well done lads!

The rules worked well, as far as I was concerned. My nagging doubt is that rules trying to be 'simple' really need a clever mechanism or two to make them interesting and engaging to play, or they tend to become a bit bland. Whether I can find the inspiration for some original procedures remains to be seen.

Better Photos?
In my search to improve the quality of my wargaming photography, I decided to improve my lighting by the Heath-Robinson set up you see below - a cheap LED strip light rigged up over the table. This produced much better colour matching, but really crisp results still elude me, despite the dining room being lit like a Dentist's waiting area. The search continues!

Thanks for popping over. I think perhaps some Kings of War Historical action may be next up.

'Til next time!