Friday, 5 October 2018

Free Rules! 'Simple Seven Years War'

Just a very short post to point readers who might be interested towards my Honours of War website, where I have uploaded some new SYW rules.

I have been experimenting recently with some simpler forms of rules for Horse and Musket wargaming. The SYW being an area where I have a reasonable amount of knowledge, I thought this might be the best period to start with, especially when offering them to others. And a SYW-themed website provides an opportunity to get some informed feedback.

So, I invite you to visit:

The new rules are at the bottom of the list. A note of caution - these rules are a work in progress. They definitely function, but they will certainly be altered, tweaked and otherwise adapted as time goes on. You can be part of that process - just go the appropriate thread and leave any comments:

Be sure to read the 'Notes to the Rules' before sounding off!

Back soon with more interesting shit (as the young people say).

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The English Civil War - Old School Style

As promised, then, time to go back to the first week of August and a meeting with Stuart to give his new ECW armies a run out. The usual visual treat was in place when I arrived, with a fine selection of colourful units laid out on Stuart's 6' x 3' dining room wargames table. The figures were all 30mm Edward Suren sculpts, still available from Tradition of London.

Royalists to the right, Parliament to the left.
In the foreground, Prince Rupert's Regiment of Foot leads out the Cirencester Trained Bands.

Stuart had a selected a suitably old school set of rules to play with - the English Civil War rules by Bayonet Publications (author Mike Wall) from the early 1970s:

We did have some issues during play - for example, the rules used infantry units of around 40 figures, whilst Stuart had created units of 12 figures plus 2 officers and a standard bearer. But as usual, a few changes invented 'on the hoof' between wargamers of good will can quickly improve things. 

I don't think there's any need to trouble the reader with a blow by blow account - we set to with the armies as deployed by Stuart and played through some moves seeing how the rules worked and admiring the figures in action. Therefore I will leave the reader with some photos, the quality of which does not do the figures justice, I'm afraid.

Parliamentary cavalry in the foreground (4 figure regiments). Right to left, The Lord General's regt., Sir James Ramsey's regt., and I believe Lord Fielding's regt. The blue coated figures of Prince Rupert's regt. lead the Royalist counter-charge.
Overview of the action
Close up of Prince Rupert's Regiment of Foot.
The Queen's Lifeguard of Foot in red, supported by Sir Thomas Tyldesley's Regiment to their right.
Royalists to a man.
Parliamentary infantry - John Hampden's Regiment of Foot.
The infantry from the two previous photos get to grips.
The home team - Cirencester Trained Bands.

Colonel John Talbot's Regiment of foot, on the Royalist right flank.
Talbot's Regiment are outnumbered and have taken serious casualties.

This was a distinctly non-competitive game, with the emphasis very much on enjoying the classic figures which Stuart had brought so successfully to life, and adapting the rules as needed. So no need for any discussion of winners and losers. I think, in fact, we were both winners, having enjoyed a peaceful and contemplative afternoon away from the pressures of everyday life. 

I look forward to seeing these fellows on the table again, and getting the rules sorted to our satisfaction.

See you again soon!

Monday, 10 September 2018

The Cotswold Wargaming Day

I have never really been an 'organiser' - organising trips, holidays and events is something I have been happy to leave to other people, both at work and in my personal life. But despite this, in 2018 I organised a modest wargaming event, which I have called 'The Cotswold Wargaming Day'.

I think the catalyst was having a really nice, modern community centre situated only a couple of hundred yards from my house in Northleach. A wargamer's mind never leaves his or her hobby far behind, and passing the centre regularly when walking the dogs I eventually got to thinking that the centre looked a great location for a smallish wargaming show.

My first thoughts were for a very small gathering of as few as 6-8 wargaming buddies, but initial feelers quickly demonstrated that something a bit bigger would be both possible and preferable. A meeting in March had to be cancelled due to the heavy snowfall, following which 2nd September was scheduled. To cut the story short, the meeting went ahead as planned, and 18 wargamers turned up, to take part in 6 games. In the end, my own game had to be set aside to allow the other 5 to have decent numbers of players, but I didn't find this a problem - in fact, it left me with time to join in with a couple of other games, and time to chat with the other gamers, many of whom I had not had the pleasure of meeting previously.

The good news for me was that just about all those invited turned up, and everyone who took part seemed to have a good time. Best of all was that the atmosphere was just what I had hoped for - relaxed and friendly, with plenty of people chatting about the hobby and having the opportunity to take part in more than one game. Now I've done it once, I've decided to have another meeting next year. There is room to spare at the venue, so I'm hoping to increase numbers of both attendees and games.

My photos weren't that brilliant, as I'm afraid you can see below. For better and more numerous photos check out the reports here and here. My thanks to Steve and Chris for publishing such thorough and useful posts.

This was Bruce's Battle of Britain game, featuring a scenario based on the Italian intervention in November 1940.
I was lucky enough to play through the scenario against Bruce - a very clever and engrossing set of rules that Bruce has developed himself. It's not often I get the chance to play an air wargame. The planes are 1:600th scale - the standard of painting of such small models was outstanding.
Here the British fighters get stuck in just off the Essex coast.
A very nice Honours of War game was put on by Steve and Paul,
in particular featuring some lovely British units provided by Karl.
The WW2 game was put on by Jon (on the left). Here Jon, along with my eldest son, 
pretend to be enjoying themselves for the camera.
A second SYW game was put on by Willz. Everyone admired the wonderful Spencer Smiths (mostly the original plastics) which Willz had brought to life with his excellent painting skills. He was using the rules developed by U.S. wargamer Jim Purky, which made an interesting comparison with HoW.
Lovely figures, lovely scenery. What's not to like?
A big Napoleonic game was put on by Roy and Matthew - Talavera 1809.
Roy and Chris in the photo.
The lonely life of the show judge! Stuart makes his decisions.
And the winner is... Best Game went to the Talavera demo. Roy and Matthew receive their prizes and the Stuart Asquith trophy. Especial thanks to Steve for making the trophy - a very professional job.
Hmm... taking wargaming too seriously is bad for you. Jon looks heavenwards for inspiration,
whilst Sam stresses over his next move. I played the pair of them in my final game. We called it a draw.

And In Conclusion
I think I can safely say the day was a success. A few more gamers would have been ideal, but I decided to walk before I ran, and was cautious about spreading my net too wide - perhaps over-cautious. I'll be in touch with some local clubs in preparation for next year, but word of mouth and a few blog posts will almost certainly bring in all the gamers I need. Here's hoping.

If you want to attend, and don't already have a way to get in touch with me, leave your email address in the comments section. I'll get back to you, and delete your address from the blog straight away for privacy reasons.

Watch this space for some Old School English Civil War - coming soon!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Air Assault Danzig - Battlegroup Blitzkrieg

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I decided a month or so ago that it was time to get my Ju-52s and DFS-230s out of their storage cabinets and revive my fictional Poland 1939 airfield attack scenario. The original game was played out using the Blitzkrieg Commander rules (that I enjoyed using for many years), but now I wanted to see how the game would work using Battlegroup Blitzkrieg, particularly as the recent Battlegroup Tobruk supplement includes rules for glider and parachute landings as part of the Battle of Crete. Besides wanting to get the toys out the cupboard again, I thought it would be interesting to see to what extent the very different levels of play in the two rule sets affected the game. In the end, the answer was 'not much', of which more later.

My scenario is inspired by the German attacks on the Dutch airfields around The Hague on 10th May 1940. These always looked like great scenarios to re-create on the table, but I didn't want the effort of buying and painting Dutch forces, so I decided to transpose the whole thing to 1st September 1939. Most of you will know that the German airborne forces weren't ready for such an operation in 1939 - a Fallschirmj√§ger regiment was operational (and had a number of potential operations cancelled during the campaign), but the glider and airlanding forces weren't yet available. This game is therefore very much a fictional one, and supposes an attack on the main airfield serving Danzig on the first day of WW2. For some more background, see this post from 2013 and this post from 2012. 

Scenario - The Assault On Danzig/Langfuhr

Langfuhr aerodrome. A 6' x 5' table was in use. Bridge objective in background.
Langfuhr was a real airfield (now defunct), situated on the outskirts of Danzig, but the representation of the airfield on the table is entirely generic. The airfield and a nearby river bridge are to be seized by German airborne forces, basically consisting of a glider assault platoon, a parachute platoon, and an airlanding (luftlande) platoon with supporting heavy weapons. The gliders will land off-airfield (to avoid blocking the runways) and concentrate on the bridge and airfield headquarters area. The paras will simultaneously land on the airfield itself to seize the runways and attempt to suppress the airfield defences. A few moves later, the airlanding units will arrive on the airfield to finish the job. 

The Polish aircraft based on the airfield are considered to have been dispersed to less vulnerable locations, or destroyed in air combat - German air superiority is already established in this part of Polish airspace. The airfield has some good AA defences and a modest infantry presence, along with a small unit of armoured cars which are temporarily based there. The nearby bridge is defended by a couple of pillboxes. Reinforcements will arrive during the game consisting of mobile recce units and more infantry, along with a couple of old Renault tanks from a nearby training base.

Now, I could list the full forces in detail, as I have done for many scenarios in the past, but I think you get the idea. I actually found adapting the scenario for BGB made for an easier game. I used the parachute and glider landing rules from Tobruk pretty much as written, and found once again that these work well. I was disappointed that the supplement didn't include rules for airlanding operations, especially as these featured prominently in the air invasion of Crete, but creating my own wasn't really much trouble. I decided the landing Tante Ju's would be subject to AA fire as they arrived, under the normal rules for air attacks, which would mean the defending AA units would need to have 'ambush fire' orders as far as could be managed by the Polish defenders. Ju-52s were allocated 4 hits. A 'return to base' morale result would involve the relevant aircraft joining the next wave in the following turn. After any AA fire, a landing table similar to that for the gliders would be employed, but with a higher chance of a safe landing.

The forces for the game were reduced from my original 2013 bash so that playing time would be less onerous - in particular, only three waves of Ju-52s would be needed. I have 8 model aircraft, and 4 were allocated to each wave, so survivors from the first 2 waves would need to take off again to form the third. This represented the need in real operations for aircraft to get airborne as soon as possible after deploying their loads, in order to avoid being destroyed on the ground. There was thus also a 'take off table' to match the landing table, based on a roll of a D6:

1 - crash on take off, aircraft destroyed.
2,3 - unable to depart due blocked take-off run.
4,5,6 - successful take-off.

For interested Battlegroup players, the German forces came to around 800 points with a BP of 61. The Polish forces had around 450 points, BP 33. And so, without further ado...

The Game In Pictures

Turn 1. A timed Ju-87 strike severely damages the airport HQ buildings and destroys the Polish HQ.
The parachute and glider landings are rather dispersed but broadly successful.
Some of the German paras landed almost on top of the Polish dug-outs.
Assaults on the Polish AA positions were determined and effective.
The gliders on the LZ south of the bridge landed pretty well.
On the northern LZ, one glider miscalculated and hit the trees of a windbreak east of the LZ.
All on board were lost.
Turn 4. The first airlanding wave arrives. AA opposition was limited.
Turn 5 - second wave.
On the left some motorised Polish infantry have arrived to reinforce the defenders.
They rake the airfield with effective fire.
The bridge is in German hands. The flamethrowers of the assaulting engineers were put to good use.
Turn 7. Casualties on both sides were high, but on this turn the Poles reached their BP number and were defeated.
It had been a close run thing, however, and the Germans were only a few points from their own BP.

So Much For Scales In Wargames!
Well, in BKC one stand equals a platoon, whilst in BGB one figure equals one man. But I played the same scenario on much the same table and terrain, using the same figures and models with both rule sets, except that with BKC a 'battalion' of airlanding troops supposedly arrived, whilst with BGB a 'platoon' arrived. How come those 1980s rule books were so hung up on the importance of accurate scaling? As I have found so often recently, those 1960s pioneers who just went with what worked were absolutely right.

Anyway, this is a fun scenario that I hope to play again. The vagaries of airborne arrivals are dramatic and create a game that will be different every time. My main disappointment was that the Renault FT-17s arrived too late in the game to see combat - blast! I think I have demonstrated that this kind of speciality game can be developed without a shed-load of expense and months of work on tailor-made terrain and figures.

As a coda, I decided the airfield needed decorating with at least one Polish aircraft. So I purchased a Zvezda Russian Po-2 biplane. This will be painted in Polish colours and will pretend to be an unserviceable Lublin R-VIII stuck on the aerodrome:


Thanks for reading. See you next time!

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Some Recent Ventures

My recent rather single-minded commitment to the ancient period has at last dissipated, and this has led to some rather more diverse projects and purchases. I thought I might flag some of them up by combining them all in a single post.

Sticking with ancients to start with, I want to develop some scenario-led battles to play, rather than the more traditional (and rather unimaginative) 'line 'em up and go' idea which seems so common in this particular period. One route to that end was to get some buildings to fight over, which could join my fish tank temple on the wargames table. I settled on the Renedra 'Mud Brick House', of which I bought two. These are best bought direct from Renedra rather than Warlord Games or other outlets, as the former are presently doing discounts on buying more than one, as well as providing free and rapid delivery - I got mine within 48 hours.

The models come as hard plastic kits, which are easy to put together and paint. You might find a bit of filling is required here and there, depending on your personal modelling standards. Well worth getting.

I am currently reviving my Air Assault project from 2013 (I can hardly believe it was 5 years ago), using Battlegroup Blitzkrieg rather than Blitzkrieg Commander - similar titles but very different rules. Look out for a future post on this project, but of course I couldn't resist the excuse to buy something. Fortunately my 'needs' were modest and I went looking for some 15mm-size Kettenrads. Sadly, my favoured source of 15mm WW2 vehicles, Skytrex/Command Decision, don't seem to do these, so I settled for the Battlefront ones.

I sourced these from Element Games, who I have used before for a variety of stuff and are generally reliable. The models themselves are fine - as is so common with Battlefront, not entirely accurate but easy to put together and perfectly OK for wargaming. When finished, these will tow the 75mm infantry guns and 37mm anti-tank guns of my airlanding troops - kettenrads were carried in the old bomb bay areas of Ju-52s.

A rather whimsical purchase to finish - some 1/32nd (54mm) plastic soldiers. Another project I will be flagging up in a future post is a set of simple Horse and Musket rules, aimed at 'toy soldier' style battles. The project was partly inspired by Stuart's collection of 54mm Britains metal soldiers, and I began looking around for what was on the market in 40-54mm these days. Thus I happened upon the products of companies such as Armies in Plastic and A Call to Arms which I had never encountered before. Now, I have no intention of building any kind of collection of such figures (no, honestly, I haven't), but, on finding that a box could be bought quite cheaply, my inner child couldn't resist purchasing some.

Prices for the various boxes of such toys can vary, and some ranges are hard to find, but at their original prices these are a very inexpensive source of decent 54mm toy soldiers - less than 50p a model. They are crisply molded and nicely detailed.

I might even paint some of them up for display at some stage. A fun purchase.

A couple of long-overdue purchases of classic wargaming books have been made. The first was John Sandars' An Introduction To Wargaming, from 1975.

Of course, as an introduction to wargaming the book is rather lacking. The work is really just an introduction to Mr. Sandars' rather idiosyncratic and unique approach to wargaming, and mostly deals with only one particular campaign in one particular period - the Western Desert campaign in WW2. So, not much of a general introduction; but I had fond memories of getting it from the library and reading it many decades ago. In those days it represented an interesting alternative approach to wargaming the Second World War. However, the rules contained in the book were incomplete and lacked the detail to actually play a game, as well as being rather over complex for my tastes at the time - and indeed they still seem rather over-egged. Nevertheless, nice to have a copy on my shelves.

The second classic needs no introduction - Charles Grant's The War Game from 1971.

For a collector of old wargaming books, I have come rather the late to the party in this case. The main reason is that, as with John Sandars, Mr Grant's approach to wargaming differs widely from my own, both at the time of publication and now. Combat rules that are rather over-fussy (not to say clunky), and units that are far too large. And of course, copies of the original edition are getting rather pricey these days. Still and all, not having it on the shelves suddenly became no longer acceptable, and I found a slightly battered but sound copy on eBay for £25, which I thought was pretty lucky. Checking again today, imagine my chagrin to see a 'buy it now' copy for £7.50 plus £3.40 postage. Some people really are a bit dim - the item is right below a copy of the same book priced at £67.63. Ah well. It was still a pleasure to give it shelf space after all this time.

Flames of War? Are You Quite Mad?
Yes, Roy is quite a FoW aficionado, and has more FoW armies than you can shake a stick at. It's been ages since I had a go with these rules, which as readers will know are something of a Marmite phenomena in wargaming. Anyway, the subject of early WW2 gaming came up, and before I knew it I was at Roy's fighting a fictional Italians vs. Vichy French desert game. Tremendous fun, with enormous Italian infantry platoons and the usual collection of useless early war armour. Even more remarkable, I actually won - although of course, I had to be guided through the rules for the duration of the game. A few photos are included below just to get the gist. Thanks Roy!

Maybe controlling the French was a mistake Roy.
Italians swarm into a village.
Human Wave 1 - overcoming a couple of unfortunate Renaults.
Human Wave 2 - the Italians advance. Lovely terrain mat from Tiny Games.

Readable Rules 
I came across an interesting opinion piece recently on the Glorious Little Soldiers blog. Andy's "Mr Angry" writing style is always entertaining, but the point I took away from the piece is that it really is time that some rules appeared that were a pleasure to read. I have sometimes fantasised about writing a wargames book in Old School style that would not only present a set of rules, but might work as a book, rather like some of Charles Grant's original works from the 70s. Of course, actually writing something that someone would consider publishing is another thing entirely. Nevertheless, perhaps this could be the Next Big Thing in wargames literature.

As Andy mentions in the comments section, sets of rules like FoG or the typical WRG sets are lost causes when it comes to being a pleasure to read, but Black Powder made a stab at this goal, although the book was criticised for being too wordy and making the rules hard to look up. So what's needed is a readable book laying out the principles and background to the rules, with a straightforward rules summary to finish off. I'll get word processing immediately...

New Projects
So, two new projects happening at the moment - resurrecting the Air Assault game, and a new set of basic Horse and Musket rules. More on both soon. Oh, and I've written an article for Slingshot, based on my ancients project. A reasonable chance of publication, if the editor's initial reaction is anything to go by. A problem I find with this kind of thing is how long one has to wait between acceptance and actually seeing the article in print. This is unavoidable, and I remind myself that patience is a virtue!

See you again soon.

Friday, 29 June 2018

The Ancient Battle of Gordium

Time to have another go with my ancients rules. I have risked sending them off to Osprey as a formal submission, but my hopes are not high. There are already so many ancients rulebooks available, and then there is the problem of how my rules would fit into the Osprey Games range. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal. Having put in a good deal of work on these rules, I am determined to make them available by some means or other. Time will tell how that plan works out.

Asymmetric Warfare
I have found that one needs to play a variety of types of game to test a rule set effectively. The Battle of Gordium poses the problem of a high quality army faced by a much larger, but low quality opponent. Here I was helped by my use of imaginary armies. Units could easily be shuffled around and two suitable armies produced without getting all unhistorical - or even worse, waiting a year until I had painted enough (for example) low quality Persians. In point of fact, I very much had the Alexander the Great vs. Darius example in my mind whilst preparing this game. The rules need to make it possible to re-create something like Gaugemela, and give the Greeks a good chance of victory. Apart from the battle rules, my points system would receive a test as two armies were assembled equal in points but very unequal in quality and numbers. I hoped a massacre either way would not result.

The Armies
Paphlagonia: Aristodemus Zephyros (rated 'brilliant'); Nicomedes; Theopompus.
A. Minerva Cavalry
B. Victrix Archers
C. Antium Infantry
D. Yellow Shields
E. The Black Legion
F. Blue Shields
G. Auricomus Cataphracts
H. Companion Cavalry

Latium: Maximus Decimus Meridius (rated 'dreadful'); Tarquinius Superbus; Spurious Larcious.
1. 100 Suns Mounted Archers
2. Medjay Cavalry
3. Galchobar Warband
4-6. 1st, 2nd & 3rd Regiments, Kingdom Infantry
7. Broteas Infantry
8. Zagora Archers
9. Na'Arun Slingers
10. Serpant's Tongue Infantry
11. King's Elephants
12. Guard Chariots
13. Sinope Chariots

Paphlagonia were outnumbered 2 to 1, but 5 of the 8 Paphlagonian units were elite, whereas 5 units of the Latium army were poor, and none elite. Points totals were therefore equal.

A traditionally terrain-lite ancients table! Not much to get in the way of the action, and a basic face-to-face encounter scenario. The town of Gordium is assumed to lie off the table to the west. The first army to break would be defeated.

The Game In Photos

Set up from the Paphlagonian side. I didn't put too much effort into the terrain.
Don't tell me - you noticed that already
And from the Latium side. The Latium right wing, led by Tarquinius, I mentally labelled the 'novelty wing',
formed as it was from just elephants and chariots.
The fragility of 'poor' quality units was soon in evidence. A charge by a single unit of Paphlagonian light cavalry across and down the hill (personally led by Nicomedes) put the Latium mounted archers to flight, and the warband and  other Latium light cavalry were quickly on their way as well. They didn't stop at the board edge!
The Latium left flank is now open for exploitation.
The Latium right flank rumbles forward - the tail of Tarquinius' horse is just seen between the elephants! Jon skilfully moved his cavalry aside and confronted the elephants with the Blue Shields phalanx. Long pointy things are certainly very handy in such an encounter. Aristodemus, in a very Alexander-like move, fought side by side with his phalangites.
The Na'Arun slingers put up a spirited defence to keep the Paphlagonian horse at bay. In the background, I try to do something with my heavy chariots. Looks a bit like a wild goose chase!
Fighting between the Blue Shields (supported by the Companion cavalry), and the King's Elephants (supported by the Zagora Archers), was intense and bloody. The much reduced Blue shields are seen here holding their ground, whilst eyeing with some trepidation the circling Latium heavy chariots. Three of the four King's Elephants are destroyed - but considering they were rated 'poor', the elephant's had done pretty well. The small ivory-coloured dice record arrows expended.
End game. After around 8 moves the Latium army had lost the equivalent of eight units and was defeated. The three regiments of the Kingdom Infantry are still fighting hard but are reduced in numbers and sorely pressed - they will surely crumble soon. As can be seen, the heroic and apparently tireless Aristodemus is now fighting with his cataphracts. At bottom right the remaining slingers would appear to be doomed in their fight with the Paphlagonian javelin men.
... a most enjoyable and quite intense game. A number of detail rules that I had skated over in past try-outs were implemented and seemed to work OK. The higher quality army, ably commanded by Jon, had won out, but not in such a way as to indicate the points system was out of whack - I think it could have gone the other way if the dice gods had been kinder and I had played a more tactical game. Thanks and a 'well done' are due to Jon, who found himself fighting with unfamiliar rules in an unfamiliar period. Rating his alter ego Aristodemus as 'brilliant' may have helped a bit - the initiative was with him throughout the encounter!

'Til next time.