Sunday, 15 August 2021

Cotswold Wargaming Day - Update

SUNDAY 3rd OCTOBER 08.30 - 17.00
Westwoods Community Centre
Bassett Road
Northleach GL54 3QJ

The good news is that this event is going ahead as planned. The restriction in numbers has been lifted, and the only covid issues will be a requirement to sign-in and use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the venue. Masks are not required.

An email has gone out to all on my mailing list. At the moment, 9 games have been offered, but not all are confirmed yet. We will have the use of a decent-sized side room this year which will give a bit more space, but I think I'll set a limit of 10 games to avoid overcrowding. If anyone not on the mailing list or who hasn't received an email wants to get in touch and/or swap contact details, I think the best plan is to send me a private message via the Honours of War website. If you have any problems let me know by leaving a comment here.

It's looking like it could be a great day. Not much to add to the post I put out on 12th April. If you've attended before, it will be the same format but with a smaller second room in use. If you're a new attendee, I suggest you bring some food (although the town is 2 minutes drive away and has a cafe, wine bar and pub if you prefer), and bring any stuff you want to sell or give away. And bring some cash to buy other people's stuff to replace the stuff you've just got rid of.

Ooh, I think I'm getting a bit excited!

See you there!

Friday, 13 August 2021

The Clash At Kutzdorf

I decided it was time for a SYW bash. My Post of Honour rules have been languishing for some time, what with getting Shadow of the Eagles ready and dabbling with a new set of WW2 rules, so I decided to dust them off and see how well they worked, playing solo to give me time to fiddle with the rules as I went along.

I also dusted off the 'Clash at Kutzdorf' scenario from Honours of War, which gave me a battle of just the right size for my needs, and I was able to use my new Geek Villain terrain mat for the first time. Happy days.

The Prussians would be attacking, and I tweaked the Prussian forces to add an extra unit of light infantry to their left wing. Having had a few years to reflect on the balance of this scenario, I have found that the attackers tend to need a little bit of a helping hand if they are to have a roughly equal chance of success. Otherwise, all was as in the rulebook.

The Game In Pictures
The first picture shows the set-up. The Prussian light infantry at bottom left consisted of Freikorps, 2 units deployed as light infantry backed up by a formed unit, and all inferior. The Prussian cavalry were regular class dragoons, and one of their infantry units was of grenadiers, the rest being regular.

The 6 Austrian line infantry units were all regular. Their 2 batteries of artillery were rated superior for firing but otherwise regular, and their cavalry was 2 regiments of cuirassiers, the leading unit being superior but the other rated regular.

I thought the new battle mat looked very smart!

The Prussian cavalry decided to stay west of Kutzdorf as they advanced, leaving their flank exposed.
The Austrian infantry started to move off the ridge to form a south-facing line.

The Prussian grenadiers decided to risk a lone charge at the nearest Austrian unit, and the gamble paid off. The supporting Austrian artillery scored no hits, but the Prussian dice rolling was decisive. 7 hits equals Austrian unit routed!

The 2 sides were soon facing off in a solid linear fashion.
Apart from those Austrian cuirassiers dodging round to the east of Kutzdorf. 

Meanwhile the Prussian grenadiers continued into another Austrian battalion
who were also bundled off the table.

At this stage the Prussians were in high spirits. Having wrecked the Austrian right,
 the grenadiers were joined by the Freikorps in an attempt to exploit their advantage. 

But trouble was brewing on the Prussian right as the cuirassiers emerged from behind Kutzdorf. Not to mention the Austrian battery causing mayhem with high dice rolls combined with an opportunity for grazing fire - note the orange dice, meaning weakened units. 

The Freikorps skirmishers were re-based Stuart Asquith figures.

And here we go - the Austrian cavalry co-ordinate their charge
 and the Prussian dragoons are in trouble.

Oops. The right hand Prussian dragoons rout, and they carry away
the other regiment and the nearest artillery battery.

Suddenly things are swinging the Austrians way. The cuirassiers reform, then overrun another
Prussian battery before crashing into the right wing of the Prussian infantry.
At top left, the Prussian grenadiers continue their successful day and another
 Austrian infantry battalion is caught in flank, charged and routed.

The end. After 8 moves, the Prussians have lost 7 units and they have broken.
The Austrians have lost 4 units, damaged but triumphant.

For a solo game, this was a lot of fun and some unexpected things happened. I think the lesson for both sides was watch your flanks! It was good to see the rules producing moments of drama. Post of Honour has the same core rules as Shadow of the Eagles, and players seem to have found Shadow also capable of creating some nice turns of fortune. This is good.

'Til next time!

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Geek Villain Gaming Mat

I can't remember how long I've had my old 6' x 4' Games Workshop mat. Fifteen or twenty years maybe. Digging it out recently for a WW2 game I realised how tired it was looking - not to mention that its plain green colour was looking a little boring alongside the funky mats you can get these days.

The power of the internet soon led me to Geek Villain, who had plenty of good reviews online, were a UK-based family-run business, and had an excellent and established range. Their website works well and it's easy to choose the mat you want.

A slight downside is that the choice between their cloth and fleece mats is already made for customers - the cloth mats are currently unavailable! I understand they are a bit cheaper (£45 against £60), but I wanted the fleece mats anyway so this wasn't a problem. For the record, Mack at Geek Villain summed up the difference in an email:

"Fleece is more textured and drapes over an object a lot easier to create undulated terrain. Fleece does not crease as much as cloth.


Cloth mats are lighter and more flat, they will crease a lot easier than fleece. 


Both are washable and both can be ironed."

Anyway, the £60 includes postage, and the mat arrived in 4-5 days (I wasn't counting). I chose the 'Autumn' finish - there's plenty of choice, and I was personally tempted by three or four different finishes before settling on this one:

One excellent feature is that the mats come 2"-3" oversize in both length and width.
Neatly hemmed, with a small and discrete logo (bottom left).

Close up.

The mat in use for a 28mm SYW game.
You can see how well the mats fit over hill shapes laid underneath.

Looking just as good with 15mm WW2 figures and models.

Just to clarify a few features - the 'fleece' is a smooth material with no flock or pile of any kind. The pattern is photographically printed. The mat is neatly hemmed all round and feels like a quality product that will last a long time - probably a very long time! It can be washed and ironed. There were a few packing creases, but the photos you see were taken using the mat just as it came out of the packet.

The reverse side is a pure white colour - which I reckon will do nicely for the occasional 'snow terrain' game with the addition of a little green and brown flock scattered around.

Plastic and MDF bases slide along nicely, cardboard ones are a bit more 'sticky'. Using 20mm high hill shapes underneath the mat worked a treat - I couldn't have been more pleased. 

Perhaps the only slight issue is that 6' x 4' is the only size available - gamers only needing a smaller size can't save money by buying a smaller mat; and if you have a big table you'll have to put up with a join between two mats. But frankly I'm struggling to find any downsides in this excellent product range. Customer service was friendly and efficient.

Highly recommended. Standby for a report on the SYW game shown above.

'Til next time.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Wargaming In History - Featherstone and Grant

It all started with an ebay purchase of a copy of Practical Wargamer. I have a soft spot for this old magazine, and now and then a cover will catch my attention and I will buy a copy. And so, an advert on page 6 of the November/December 1991 issue alerted me to two books by my favourite old school authors (as I originally thought), Donald Featherstone and Charles Grant. However, the publication date of 1991 quickly told me that the 'Grant' book would be written by Charles S. Grant, Grant senior having sadly died in 1979.

The two books were evidently part of a series that seems to have passed me by at the time - the 'Wargaming In History' series by Argus Books. This appears to have been a five book series with titles on the Peninsula War, Waterloo, the American Civil War, 'Goths, Huns and Romans', and the Anglo-Boer War. Donald Featherstone was the author of the Peninsula War title, and Charles Grant had written the book on Waterloo. The authors of the other three books are unknown to me. The series editor was none other than Stuart Asquith, and Argus Books were a specialist company who also published Practical Wargamer.

I decided to take a punt and see what those two famous wargaming authors had to say about Napoleonic wargaming back in 1991. Once again ebay came good and I got both books for a total of £25.

The books are A5 size, with around 120 pages each, and black and white throughout. The intention was obviously to provide a background to the period in question, in terms of a basic narrative of the campaigns and battles involved and the tactical and equipment details that wargamers would want. Each book has a short set of basic rules. There are numerous illustrations and a reasonable number of maps.

The basic campaign detail would still be useful to a total beginner in Napoleonics, but the  tactical analysis in both books is a little outdated now. More importantly, both books are too limited by their small size to do their subject justice, and given the limited amount of space I felt there was rather too much history and not enough wargaming. 

Donald Featherstone provides a set of brief descriptions of the main battles of the Peninsula War, but these are illustrated mainly with old maps of variable quality and usefulness. There are only a couple of maps which show an actual wargaming set up. Charles Grant has a rather easier task with the more restricted subject of the Waterloo Campaign, and good maps are provided allowing the action of the campaign and its battles to be followed.

But the main issue is the very short sets of wargaming rules included, both consisting of only a handful of pages. Both are interesting as far as they go, with both authors (Donald Featherstone in particular) providing quite original rules which diverge from what might have been expected from each of them. But they are much too abbreviated to be satisfactory - an experienced gamer might fill in the gaps, but a beginner could well end up rather confused. Quite a lot of space in both books is devoted to a description and analysis of Napoleonic tactics, but how this translates onto the wargaming table is much less well covered.

Thirty years on, these books are really only of value to someone like me - a collector of old school wargaming books. As such I'll be glad to have them on my shelves. The tantalising glimpse they provide of what could have been two sets of very worthwhile rules is frustrating but still of interest.

A bit more WW2 gaming to come soon, and a new battlemat to review from Geek Wargaming, so stay tuned. 

'Til next time!

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Wargames Illustrated 403

Just a quick post of a self-serving nature. But then I guess most blog posts are of a largely self-serving nature, when one thinks about it.

Anyway, issue 403 of WI has an article on Shadow of the Eagles, written by me. It forms part of the 'Designer Notes' series.

Many thanks to Dan Faulconbridge for the opportunity - the layout/design guys have done a really nice spread for me over 4 pages. I'd also say the rest of the magazine is well worth a look.

I'm hoping to feature an SotE game soon with real Napoleonic figures, so stay tuned - 'til next time!

P.S. - that Napoleonic game can now be seen on the Shadow of the Eagles blog.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

The Engagement At Kopiec

This little solo battle was used to test the current state of play with my revision of the 1973 WRG WW2 rules. It is, of course, entirely fictional. However, for inspiration it uses the north-easterly advance of the Germans towards Warsaw in early September 1939, in particular the well-known Battle of Mokra where an armoured train helped to hold up an attacking Panzer Division for a day or so.

The structure of the scenario came from the Bolt Action rule book, being scenario 1, 'Envelopment'. This fitted nicely into a narrative of Panzer units hurrying forward trying to bypass Polish units, only to find a determined defence in place backed up by an armoured train. The Bolt Action book only gives basic set-up zones and table proportions, so I had to fill in the terrain detail myself:

The table was 4' x 4', using 15mm figures and models.

The Poles could deploy anywhere south of the line A - B. The Germans started off-table, and moved on from the northern base edge in move 1. The WRG rules use a 1 to 1 scale, with one vehicle model representing one actual vehicle, and infantry based as 'elements' or 'groups', four to a base. In fact, very similar to Flames of War. Forces were:

Company CO.

Infantry Platoon
HQ: command group, ATR group, light mortar group.
3 x sections each: 2 rifle groups, 1 rifle/lmg group.

Tank platoon: 3 x R-35 tanks.

Light Tank platoon: 3 x TKS tankettes

Mortar section: 2 x 8cm mortars (off table). Mortar observer.

Armoured Train: train no.51, Pierwszy Marszalek.

Company CO.

Panzergrenadier Platoon
HQ: command group, ATR group, light mortar group.
3 x sections each: 1 rifle group, 1 rifle/lmg group.

2 x Tank Platoon: 3 x Pz.38T, 1 x Pz.II.

Heavy Tank Platoon: 2 x Pz.IV, 2 x Pz.II.

Mortar section: 2 x 8cm mortars (off table). Mortar Observer.

Normally I would make an attacking force stronger than the defenders, but the Bolt Action scenarios are designed for equal points battles. I decided to give this a go, and in fact it worked well. I used the points from the WRG 1973 book and the two forces came out at around 750 points each.

The Germans would score 1 victory point for every Polish element knocked out, 2 victory points for every friendly element inside the Polish set-up zone, and 3 victory points for every friendly element that managed to move off the table via the Polish baseline.

The Poles would score 2 victory points for every German element knocked out.

The Game In Photos

The set-up.
The green markers show the target points for the German preparatory bombardment.

A couple of moves in.
By some miracle (well, a throw of 11 with 2D6) the Poles have conjured up an airstrike.

The CO of the Polish R-35 platoon was responsible for picking off a Pz.IV.

Move 4 and a Stuka appears. Scratch 2 R-35s!
At top right the German heavy tank platoon has 3 tanks out of 4 knocked out

One of the Pz.38T platoons advances with some infantry support.

On cresting a small rise, 2 more German tanks are knocked out by the guns of the armoured train.

Move 5 and more close air support arrives for the Germans - an HS-123 strike.
More importantly for the Germans, their left-flanking tank platoon
has exited the table to the rear of the train.

Game over. The Polish centre is holding but the train is badly shot up,
 and the Poles have been by-passed.

After 6 turns the score was Poles 20 points, Germans 26. There was no way back for the Poles from this situation.

This turned out to be a fun little solo game, and very valuable in sorting out my revised version of the rules. An armoured train is a particularly tricky subject to make rules for - the 1973 version of the rules doesn't mention armoured trains, and the guidance in the 1988 version is limited. An armoured train is a big unit and has to be counted as a company-level formation. They were heavily armed and can be deadly against both tanks and infantry.

I'm definitely sticking with this project, which seems to offer a simpler experience than Battlegroup with no re-basing and a nice old school feel.

Getting back into face-to-face gaming has been delayed by various commitments in June, which is a shame. It appears even the retired cannot entirely escape from life outside gaming! But at least the summer appears to be here. If you're reading this, I very much hope your own post-lockdown wargaming is flourishing.

'Til next time!

Monday, 12 April 2021

Cotswold Wargaming Day - It's Back!

So, it's time at last to schedule the post-covid Cotswold Wargaming Day. This year it will be a little later than in 2019, and is currently planned for Sunday 3rd October 2021. Venue is the same as in previous years:

Westwoods Community Centre
Bassett Road
Northleach GL54 3QJ

I'm hoping to be able to accommodate a few more than in 2019 (we had 30 of us that year), but at the moment the centre is opening for a maximum of 30 people. By October that should have improved. If you're not already on the mailing list, contact me via the comments section if you are interested in attending or putting on a game.

The current holders of the Stuart Asquith Trophy for Best Game.
Stuart Surridge and the Wyvern Wargamers.

There will be the usual facilities (kitchen area, free tea, coffee and biscuits), and the usual prize giving for various categories of achievement. Car parking is free and plentiful. This is an all-day event from around 08.30 to around 17.00 - the caretaker is very flexible. The normal £5 voluntary contribution to cover costs is requested. 

I am hoping the day will not clash with other covid-delayed events - I know that The Other Partizan has been re-scheduled for the following Sunday. I'll certainly be trying to do both!

To conclude, just a little bit of eye candy to remind us of our lost friend Stuart Asquith, who lived in Northleach until his untimely death in 2019, not long after attending the show which he had inspired. These are a couple of photos of his collection of Suren 30mm figures.


So, fingers crossed and we will have a lovely day of relaxed wargaming, meeting old friends and making new ones. Hope to see you there!