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Friday, 15 March 2019

Mr Wesencraft and the Battle of Blenheim

At this time of year, it's easy to find a quiet corner in the delightful grounds of Blenheim Palace.

Well, what a fool I've been. Since I moved to my present job 6 years ago I've visited Blenheim Palace many times. How did I miss the diorama of the battle in the museum area, with its thousands (yes, thousands) of 6mm miniatures? Whilst kicking myself and admiring the work, what did I see in the bottom right hand corner but the nameplate in the photo below:

Hmmm. I seem to recognise that name...
Yes indeed, the Charles Wesencraft. Wanting to know some background, I did what one does these days and searched the internet - which duly came to my aid. The diorama was created in 2003-4 almost entirely just by the man himself for the 300th anniversary of the battle. That's 6000 6mm Baccus figures painted by one man in well under a year. Crikey. He tells the story HERE.

The battle is depicted as it was at 5.15pm. This is Oberglau, viewed from behind the British lines.
Blindheim/Blenheim assaulted by the British.
Between the two towns.
A close up of some of the cavalry figures.
Oberglau again and the cavalry contest to the west.

Intentions must have changed since the display was installed, as it has remained in the historical exhibition located in the old stables, and has not moved to the palace as Charles mentions in his story.

A further treat is in store for anyone hanging around outside the gents toilets (as I often do; it's all entirely legal you know). But let me put it another way. In the lobby area outside the rest rooms there is a fine display of models from the National Collection of the British Model Soldier Society. My photo shows figures from the wars of the 18th century. Some beautifully painted flats can be seen on the lower shelf. Surprisingly, many people seem to hurry past without even noticing the treasures on display!


Anyway, if you've never looked into it, Blenheim Palace is a fantastic visit on many levels - as the birthplace of Churchill, as a glorious piece of architecture, as the location of extensive and beautiful grounds which can be explored at will, and as an historic building linked to one of the most famous battles in history. Visit if you can, and allow all day.

I'll be back with some wargamey stuff, asap!

Friday, 8 March 2019

The Engagement At Fontoney

Only yesterday I saw a copy of Charles S. Grant's Scenarios For Wargames available from Caliver Books at £60. I'm not calling that a rip-off - you can pay the same on Amazon. I guess I did well a couple of years ago to buy a copy of the book for £20 at the Colours show - I knocked the seller down from £25. 

The book is a classic, and why it hasn't been re-printed is a mystery to me. The copy I bought did have a few pages at the back stuck together. Maybe it was owned at one stage by the kind of misguided gamer who describes our hobby as 'exciting'. I mean, the book's a classic, but it's not that good. I separated the pages carefully and the final few scenarios could still be read.

Anyway, I have been remiss in failing to use the many excellent ideas contained in the book to enhance my wargaming. Apart from being clever in concept, the scenarios score by mostly using quite small forces, which means they are easy to stage and can be played comfortably in an evening. Of course, it has to be remembered that Mr. Grant uses 48-man infantry battalions, so perhaps in his case the battles aren't as small as they seem to be to me. Whatever the case, recently I started at the beginning and took up scenario 1 as a try-out for my Post of Honour rules. Even better, the stars briefly aligned and I would be able to play the battle twice in less than a week against 2 separate wargamers, both of considerable experience. So I would play Paul in game 1, and Steve in game 2.

My table size was 6' x 5'. The scenario maps are sized for a 7' x 5' table.

The map for the scenario, taken from the book, is shown above. Any Horse and Musket wargamer worth his salt will see straight away that the source is the Battle of Fontenoy (1745). Hence the slightly altered names of places, which are my own additions.

The defenders of the line B-A-C (in my case, SYW Austrians) number only 4 infantry units, a light infantry unit, 2 units of heavy cavalry and 4 guns. The attackers (Prussians) have to form up on the line X-Y and have 8 infantry units, a unit of light infantry, 2 units of heavy cavalry, 1 unit of light cavalry and 4 guns. Basically, the Prussians need to control 2 out of the 3 positions A, B and C, or make the Austrians suffer sufficiently to flee the field, in order to win. The defenders must set up first, allowing the attackers to deploy in full knowledge of the defender's positions. 3 of the 4 defender's guns are required to be in the 3 redoubts.

I thought giving the Austrians 4 guns was a little generous, but I was proved wrong (and not for the first time). To even things up a bit (as I thought), I made 2 of the Prussian infantry units grenadiers, and hence 'superior' quality in my rules. I also intended to to use my 'pre-game bombardment' rules which would allow both sides to use their artillery to soften up their opponents before the first turn.

So now, let's look at how the 2 games proceeded.

The Engagement at Fontoney (1)

The defender sets up first, then the attacker responds with his set up. Paul (Prussia) concentrated
all his infantry in his centre and right, leaving the guns on the left with unhindered lines of fire. 
An Austrian battalion plus artillery in Fontoney.
The Prussians concentrated on cracking open the centre of the Austrian position
by assaulting Fontenoy in overwhelming numbers
They are completely successful - the defenders are driven out and what remains
of the Austrian line are considerably outnumbered.
On the other flank the Austrian gun positions in redoubts 1 and 2 were
eventually wrecked by the concentration against them of all 4 Prussian guns.
A conclusive victory - the Austrians are notable by their absence
in this shot at the end of the game
Redoubt "C" remained in Austrian hands, although harassed by Prussian jaeger.
On the opposite flank, Angoint remains in the hands of a unit of Croats -
but their position is untenable and they will have to leave quickly.

A fairly straightforward victory for the Prussians, mainly due to Paul doing all the right things. I decided to add in another Austrian battalion for the second game.

The Engagement at Fontoney (2)

Another day, another costly assault. With the Prussians now under my command, and the Austrians
fielding an additional infantry battalion, things might not go as well for the forces of Frederick.
Once again Fontoney was the key to the position.
The assault is well under way. The Prussian battery in the distance pounds Fontoney,
supporting the infantry advance.
Oh dear. Two Prussian battalions appear to be routing! That wasn't supposed to happen. 
Unfortunately the Army Commander was killed at the same time - the gold counter marks the position 
of his demise. With luck his subordinate will reappear in the next move to take over.
My clever little flank move isn't having much success either.
Artillery from the redoubts sends cavalry and infantry running for their baseline.
About here I decided it was all up. I have a toehold in Fontoney,
but not much to back it up. Plus the town is being reinforced already.
The desperate struggle in Fontoney.
My flank moves had resulted in Angoint being disputed, but the attacking
battalion was on its own. They would have to retire.

So I lost the second game as well. It was obvious that the key to this scenario was partly following the British tactic from the real battle - channel all your forces into the relatively weak sector east of Fontenoy/Fontoney - but with the addition of a strong attack on Fontoney/Fontenoy itself. My flanking foray in game 2 was just a waste of resources. So I lost both battles but had 2 really good games, both completed in around 2.5 hours. Thanks for coming over guys.

Post of Honour
I was pretty pleased with how the rules played, but in the second game in particular some confusion occurred when multiple units were retreating in bad morale, and we were trying to work out how they affected each other. So I got to thinking about simplifying the morale rules with some inspiration from Kings of War Historical. There will be a new version of Post of Honour available soon on the HoW website, with the new ideas incorporated.

Check out Steve's thoughts on Game 2 here.

Until next time!

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.

Grrrrr...

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