Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Freebie - The Duke


Just a link for those of you who may enjoy an abstract strategy boardgame you can print and play for free.

Catalyst games offers a Print and Play version of its strategy game 'The Duke' for free on their website.  You can link to it here:

http://www.catalystgamelabs.com/casual-games/the-duke/

DukeProductShot
This is the paid for version, unless your printer is awesome!
The game is chess like, but with pieces whose abilities alternate when used, and a randomly drawn army dictating your tactics.  Looks like it could well entertain wargamers and boardgamers alike.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

War on Two Fronts Played - Orchies 1341

And so here we are with my own interpretation of the War on Two Fronts scenario.  As we are about to play a large refight I felt it would be good to refresh everyone on the rules of Hail Caesar and the period flavour we were going to need; so transposing the scenario to the Hundred Years War was the choice of the day.

The forces matched those in the scenario, with the Blue forces naturally enough being the French, whilst the Red forces were English in zone E - well provisioned with bowmen and infantry - and Flemish in zone F, distinctively armed with pike and some short bow armed skirmishers.

Deployment was trotted through, but without the recourse to maps, there was some wriggle room for both sides to tweak broad positions as their opponents' deployed.  But both sides stuck to a principle of not repositioning a unit by more than an inch or so once placed - just shuffling!

The field of battle in full
The English to the East did not have enough space to fully deploy and so placed some of their bowmen to cover the angle, as if in the midst of redeployment, whilst their melee infantry advanced on in column, to the West the smaller Flemish force had enough room to deploy for battle with their right supported and skirmishers to their left.

The French faced two of their three main battles to face the English, with an infantry battle facing the Flemings.  The Kings Elite knights were held in reserve in the centre, whilst the peasants and artillery took to the fields and outskirts of the town.  The French skirmishers in the small wood to the West.

The French as seen mid morning from the English lines

The English bowmen exude confidence - Pauls' superb painting on show.

The Flemish seen arriving in the distance, faced by a small battle of French infantry.

The French main lines, cavalry heavy...
 I took a support role as the leader of the French town levy and the troops facing the Flemish, whilst James T (hereafter JT) took the main kings force.  He decided to open the engagement with a a full charge of the French knights into the English bowmen before they could deploy.

Paul, commanding the English  looked pensive and asked after his stakes, but given the need for immediate action they'd had no time to deploy any such defences.  Still as the French came in they laid down a withering fire, so much that one retinue of knights failed the charge.  In the ensuing melee, the supported English outfought the disordered and disorganised French, and so the first wave of attacks for the French achieved nothing.

After the attack, the French consider their options.
 Meanwhile the Flemish failed to advance for the first two turns of the day, and James S in command of them (hereafter JS) could only look on as the French infantry slowly advanced to check his position.  The English archers formed an orderly line, but the fringe of the forests (off the table) made it impossible for their infantry to deploy.

Both sides eye each other up from their new lines.
 The flower of French nobility charged again.

The little orange flashes tell a sorry tale.
 The solid English line proved more than up to the task, and the French were thrown back once again.

This time the English were able to follow up the success and began to envelop the French infantry.  JT was still up for another charge, but a blunder saw the freshest of the knights divert their attack from the bowmen towards the English Men at Arms on their right.  A tangle of infantry and cavalry made contact impossible.

Disorder in the the French lines continued.
Paul's Men at Arms couldn't resist  charging, and in a last brave act the French countered, but the English made the better fight of it and already worn Frenchmen retreated in the face of solid English force.  JT attempted to get infantry in position to shore up the gap but instead the exposed themselves to a follow up attack, retreating in kind.

However they did not have it all their way, and rallied French finally managed to break the English bowmen on Paul's' right.  Troops from the town finally advanced into the flank offering support if not actual action.  But by now it was almost too late.  JT's knights were now a broken brigade, and obliged to retire in the face of advancing English, his infantry were offering a hail of bolts on the advancing English foot, but they were in a precarious position indeed.

English knights pursue the French hard
 Meanwhile to the east the Flemish finally made contact with the French.  Thick walls of pikes made their mark of weakly armed and unwilling crossbowmen.

Crunch.
Out of sight the lowlander skirmishers had outflanked French peasants massed in the fields west of the town, JS wanted them to charge and it was agreed they would need 3 orders to do.  In the last command roll of the game he blundered and cursed his luck, until a subsequent 6 saw them eagerly vault the hedgerows and lunger into the peasants.  The final melees saw the pikes break through the French infantry.

As time was beating us we drew to a close there, but it was apparent that nothing short of a miracle would stop the English and Flemish connecting in their next turn.  The French were spent by three charges against the English lines and the Flemish had ultimately made short work of what troops were committed to facing them.  We were in agreement then that the game was an allied victory.

As to the rules used, as stated it was Hail Caesar, but with modifications to suit the small scale of the available table.  The Headingley club is so popular that a 6x4 foot table is all the space we can spare for a figure game.  To that end we used 2/3rd sized units and halved all movement and firing ranges.  To avoid unbalance in a small game I disallowed the 'Follow Me' rule; and I think this was a good idea.

Overall it was a cracking little game, and I think at least, the scenario bore up quiet well.  My thanks to the players, and onto the big game...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tabletop Teaser - A War on Two Fronts


Permit me the indulgence of emulating the style of the great Charles S Grant.  In what may become an infrequent series of scenarios.

A War on Two Fronts


Introduction

War on two fronts is a common enough military problem at the strategic scale, one only has to think of World War two for the most famous examples; but at an operational and tactical level it is not uncommon.  the distinction over a simple flank attack here being that the defender knows he is facing an enemy in more than one zone, and must choose to dispose his forces and battleplan accordingly.  Napoleon's situation at Waterloo being a fine example (though whether Napoleon made the right choices on the day, is another matter).

This scenario places the opposing sides in such a position, with the Red player(s) looking to link up smaller forces in an effort to extract a larger Blue force from a vital position.

Ground



For the most part the terrain is open flat pasture, with little to disturb.  A large, dense forest sits on the centre of the northern edge of the field, and is considered impassable to all but troops in skirmish order.  It is impossible to target troops inside it unless they are in base contact with its edge.  To the south and opposite the forest, stands the edge of an unfortified town, with a field complex to its East, and a small open woodland - suitable for skirmish and loose-ordered infantry - to its west.  A dirt track in reasonable condition leads to the Northeast from the town, but will offer no great benefit to marching troops (and need not be represented if players so wish).

Period

Although written with ancient and mediaeval periods in mind, the conditions of this scenario make it suitable for any period up to the middle of the nineteenth century.  Longer range firepower and artillery, along with high mobility make more modern periods less applicable.

General Outline

Red has been advancing his force for some days on the fringes of hostile enemy territory, in the hope of connecting with the troops of a trusted ally.  The two forces have finally made limited contact, but find a substantial enemy disposed between them.  large impassable features to the North and South mean that any attempt by the two forces to withdraw in the face of Blue will lead to their advantage in numbers and mounted troops ensuring one or other ally is destroyed in a rout.  Therefore the generals decide to attempt to force the choke point and assimilate their forces.

For Blue - having harried and attempted to block Red for days -  a powerful and mobile force finds itself cornered on open ground between two minor divisions.  Either of these, it could confidently take on in open combat, but with a threat to its rear Blue must weigh up the risk of both.  It has hurriedly called up reluctant troops and has limited artillery support stationed on the outskirts of a largely undefended town to its South, but can otherwise look only to its own defences.

Blue Force

Within deployment zone A, Blue may field the following:

  • One unit of Elite Heavy Cavalry
  • Three units of Heavy Cavalry
  • Two Units of Medium infantry with missile weapons 
  • Four units of Medium infantry with hand to hand weapons
(Alternately for horse and musket periods replace the missile weapons with light infantry units, and the other infantry with line units)

Within deployment zone B, blue fields:
  • One unit of Artillery with suitable field fortifications
  • One unit of skirmishing light infantry
  • Two units of levies of poor quality
(Artillery may be Ballistae, Onager, Bombard or Cannon as period dictates, its defences should offer a last stand defence to the crew.  For later periods Levy infantry should be of very poor quality militia, Skirmishers as Jaeger's or similar.)

Each force should have at least one commander as rules and balance dictates.


Red Force

Within deployment zone E, Red fields:

  • One unit of Elite Heavy Cavalry
  • One unit of Heavy Infantry with hand to hand weapons
  • Two units of Medium Infantry with hand to hand weapons
  • Four  units of Light infantry with missile weapons
(Alternately for H&M periods, replace heavy infantry with Guard/Elite foot, and use 4 Units of Line and 2 Units of Light Foot)

Within deployment zone F, red should field
  • Three units of Medium Infantry with hand to hand weapons - distinct from any type fielded in zone E
  • One unit of skirmishing Light Infantry
(As force F is culturally different from force E - conditions apply to the infantry composition, for later H&M periods this distinction would be insignificant, treat force as 3 units of Line infantry - but see also notes below - and one of skirmishing Jaeger's or similar.)

Each force should have at least one commander as rules and balance dictates.

Playing the Game

Each player should use a copy of the map to indicate their initial dispositions.  If two or more players divide the red forces they may not confer on their initial deployments; in a similar situation Blue, may.  With the exception of skirmishers, treat the northern forest as impassable terrain, skirmishers will still treat it as difficult ground.  All templated areas of terrain to the south are difficult going, treat all other ground as good going.

Winning the Game

The game ends after 6 full turns for each player (unless preferred rules would not reflect a full game in this time).  Red wins if units from Force E and Force F meet on the field, this will occur when either of their units comes within a half infantry move of the other - so long as both units are steady (i.e. not broken, shaken, routed or similarly of low morale).  Blue wins if it destroys either Force E or Force F outright, or if after each sides limit of turns it has prevented the two allies from connecting up.

Notes

The game should be balance so that Blue at A has a more potent force than Red has in force E, but that it cannot ignore force F except at its own peril.  As E and F are intended to represent different nations they should each have distinct fighting styles (for example one might be Spanish, the other Iberian Celt; against a Roman army), these distinctions in troop type will fade into the black powder eras, but national personalities may remain distinctive.

Time should be a factor, as Red has much ground to cover, but the number of turns should permit at least some leway in movement rates for Red to have a fighting chance of making it if things go well for them.  Rule systems which make it difficult for troops to deploy between two enemy forces will need adapting accordingly (and probably won't suit this sort of game anyway).



We recently tried this scenario out with my Hundred Years War collection, and the Hail Caesar rules, a report will follow in due course.  I hope this scenario will inspire some of you out there, and I'd be happy to hear about any other plays it gets.



Saturday, March 21, 2015

Troublesome Bills

Not much modelling or painting this week, but I did finish assembling the second half of my Lion Rampant polearms unit.

L-R, Bill, William, Billy...
A little careful carving resulted in some simple 13th Century billhooks for these men to wield, and vicious looking little things they are too.  Additionally I extended the shaft of one of the spears in the set to make a standard pole, resting on the ground; then I added a sword to the fellow's left hand, producing my favourite model in this group.

Overall I think the poses are better in this second effort, more dynamic, the whole unit would be the devil to rank up were they not based on 25.5mm rounds (AKA 2p coins).  But now I must put them to one side, and get on with study for my Masters Degree.

Grumble, grumble... when I agreed to go back to university for work I thought it'd be an opportunity to get up late, watch 'This Morning' and 'Neighbours' and go clubbing on weeknights again, like it was when I was in my twenties.  Apparently not.  Weekends are presently absorbed with work.

Which this is blatant procrastination from!



Monday, March 16, 2015

Of Fauchards and Berdiches



Pottering about I've been working on my Lion Rampant Retinue, getting a dozen models made.  I was able to purchase the Fireforge Templar Knights and Foot Sergeants for a very reasonable price from Fat Spider; giving me all the models for the 13th Century Feudal English force I chose to begin.


 


Not maybe the most imaginative choice, but hey, don't mess with the classics!

I'd already put two knights together as a test, and so got down to finishing the first unit.


They need cleaning up, but I'm reasonably happy with the group.

The Sergeants box contains some 48 figures, with parts for crossbows, hand weapons and spears.  But when looking at the descriptions of infantry of the period, one item that are regularly referenced are polearms and long axes.  My basic plans for the box had left a dozen figures wanting a role and it seemed appropriate to see if I could convert some figures to this type of weapon.

Historically polearms evolved from simple designs in the 12th century to the more complex forms and variety of later centuries:


I figured that the spear arms and the open crossbow arms could combine with a little reposing to make acceptable forms, that just left the weapons themselves.  The axes in the set would provide some of the weapons, but for the others it was a simple case of working with some off-cuts of sprue.


Half a unit took the length of the F1 highlights to assemble.  They have a decent range of poses and I can visualise a few more to get from the parts available.  Each large unit will have a standard bearer as a leader model, as y'know, you can never have too many pretty flags n an army.  Then this lot will be ready to fight in the Barons wars, raid and invade Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the continent; or play the role of other foreign nations if needed.

It's just a case of finishing them first!


Taudis Français et un Camp Anglais

This week I've not gamed, but I have found time to prepare more terrain for our upcoming duo of Hail Caesar games and for more general use in medieval and dark ages gaming.

Firstly I found two camp elements from my HYW collection, which were based in a typical retro style and in dire need of revamping.  The problem was they were flocked with light-fast static and I'd long baulked at dealing with them or any of the armies I had based with this stuff.  But then I thought 'I wonder if I could simply paint over it?'...

Turns out yes I could.  This proved very easy, and whilst you could feel it give a little under the brush, it was no real issue.  Don't they look nice.

Next on to a couple of buildings:


The thatched hut is made from a variety of card and art board, with a scrap of luric green teddy-bear fur for the roof.


The other is the Warbases Grub Hut, made from laser-cut MDF, with added card details including a shingle roof.  The roof was painted a dark brown then given a layer of Vallejo Smoke (the first good use I've found for it) which added shade and texture; before being vertically streaked with highlights.  Fairly effective.


Two village buildings and some upgraded tents for less than a fiver, you can't really go wrong with that.  Added to what is already available to me they should make for a reasonable battlefield.

Progress on infantry progresses too.  but they are for another day...  It's late.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A whole evening with nothing to do...

Such a rarity at the minute.  But around the other tasks lined up for the week it was the only possible hobby time so I made the most of it.  Firstly with a rummage in the loft.

I only went up to put some bits away, as you do - wink,wink - one of the many exiled gamers excuses.  In my window of time I threw together some stakes, for an upcoming big game.  I already had a bag of barbecue skewers and some art card kicking around, a knife and a hot glue gun were the rest of the formula.  Rummaging for other bits I found an ancient Grenadier princess model; who will finally get a lick of paint for Lion Rampant scenarios.

This model is old-school 25mm.  Next to modern figures she's very much a petite lady
Moving downstairs I was able to get a little painting done.  Not the most rock and roll Friday for me, but you have to make the best of the time you've got (or YOLO as the grognards would definitely not say!).  Also I gritted and began to paint the stakes.  I blended a 60/30/10 PVA/water/brown paint mix - the paint helps you see where you've applied it to - and then slapped it on and sent the bases for a sand bath.

Whilst they dried I dug in to a couple of boxes of recent purchases.  Firstly a box of Fireforge Templar knights.  I used the time to examine the contents and managed to assemble the first two knights - a leader with sword aloft and a pennant bearer to accompany him.  Four more are needed for this unit but it's a start.  

Also in shot, minging paint blanket on which I work to avoid making a mess.
Records do not disclose when it was last washed.
Secondly I had a package from Warbases to investigate.   The main contents were 60x40mm bases for a rebasing project (my gaming nadir, as for most wargamers); but also a few more exciting bits.  Oval bases for my knights for one.  As the infantry are to be on rounds to separate them from massed rank troops so I wanted to ensure the cavalry were similarly impossible to neatly rank up.  The 50x25mm ovals seemed the very job, though having applied them above I think 60x30mm would have been even better.  Still they give the look I wanted.

Then on a roll I threw together the hay cart in the pack.  A super simple model which took two minutes to assemble.  Added to a Warbases draught horse and with a converted dark-ages infantryman to guide it along it'll make another centrepiece for Lion Rampant games.

Around this time for the PVA to dry had occurred and so out with the tester pot browns.  A quick lick of paint dried in minutes and was ready for a drybrushing.  The stakes were getting there.  Then back into the Warbases bag to assemble a 'Grub Hut' from their scenery range.  Essentially the frame for a generic hovel from around 500-1500ad  it is not really a finished model and the company admits as such, but it is a sturdy template around which one can add your own detail.  at £3.50 it seemed a bargain, and should be tough enough to survive club use.

Time to finish the stakes:

So very tired now.

OK by now it was getting late but I was grimly determined to finish the job.  A quick application of PVA in patches and a dunk in some dark moorland static grass, followed by a coat of (20 year old GW) brown ink to shade the stakes.  And they're done.

For scraps, they look pretty good.  and I found the darker scatter worked well on this background.  It may make an appearance in a project soon.

All over the most intense session of model making and painting I've had in a couple of years.  I went to bed burned out but satisfied.

To think I used to be able to do that three or four nights a week though...

Monday, March 02, 2015

200 Objects of Waterloo

There is a pretty well known (amongst us War-gamers anyway) anniversary coming up later this year, and the National Army Museum is commemorating it with a variety of coverage: http://www.nam.ac.uk/waterloo200/

In particular I was taken with the 200 objects section of historical artefacts, which includes a variety of items relating to or from the battle itself; one can only wonder at the tale attached to this breastplate, which is as matter as fact about the reality of war as one could ever be faced by:



Events are ongoing around the country for this, along with debate on the historical impact of the defeat of Napoleon on the European and worldwide landscape of today.  There are from a British and European standpoint other significant military anniversaries this year (as every year I guess, which in some ways is rather sad) but few have as lasting a legacy as the end of the Hundred Days campaign...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Norse Gael is Blowing through

Myself and Paul are alternating games and last Thursday was Saga's turn.  I decided to try one of the boards from the Raven's Shadow supplement, and rolled out the Viking-variant force, the Norse Gaels.

I'd only played the Gaels once before, but recall their main abilities revolved around the use of Challenges, and these could prove deadly.

Paul had his Anglo Danish, who are a tricky proposition in terms of toughness, but not hugely mobile.  We rolled for scenario and got the duel, where both warlords start within spitting distance and are in for a slog to the death.


Here we see them eying each other up with D12's for life point counters.  Whilst above it is apparent how far away their allies would be.


Now we both realised there would be issues with this match up.  Paul is a regular on the forums and already knew that the Norse Gaels were broken (to use the parlance) for this scenario; on re-reading the challenge rules and the Warlord rules I picked up the situation pretty fast.  

In short at this range warlords could stand still or charge one another, nothing else.  And only a sporting fool would play the Gaels and not load up his leader with challenge dice, modifiers and a challenge, as it is the only situation in which a warlord can be killed by a single hit; as a successful challenge always kills one model outright - and an isolated Warlord cannot use an ally to take the fall...


And there you go.  Whomp.  After a turn of grace, we realised it was simply procrastination to carry on, Paul blinked first and charged, scratching me in combat.  Battle joined I got a challenge ready and in the ensuing roll off  I sixed him for an 11-0 victory, before any other warriors so much as swung a sword.

It was a hollow victory really.

Given it took all of fifteen minutes it seemed only fair to reset and change scenarios.  We opted for the default Warlord battle; similar, but permitting our lords to start in the battleline.


Indeed this is what Paul's Anglo Danes should excel at, and to that end he did form a tight shieldwall at the back of the board.


The Norse Gaels came on hard this time, but suffered some terrible early luck when a unit of warriors charged slingers on a rocky outcrop.


This unit, this god-damned unit is rapidly becoming my bogey foe.  Recently in an unrecorded battle they drove off two cavalry charges in a similar circumstances.  This time they all but wiped out my warriors, winning the challenge and then thrashing us after a lacklustre melee round on the Gaels part.  Led by the wargames worlds ugliest man (see picture) they are a peasant force to be reckoned with.

But the rest of the battle was going better.


Our heavy warriors tore through the enemy ranks, and along with my warlord were taking a heavy toll.  But the numbers were no to stack up; at the end of the battle neither warlord had fallen, but there were more Danish dead than Norse, but more of the Norse were high value warriors.  Paul's slingers had gone on to pick off a more lightly armoured unit of axemen and with the small number of hand to hand casualties it still resulted in a narrow points win for Paul.

So after a couple of hours, honour was restored.

Personally I like the Norse Gael list.  Like a lot of the supplement lists they are trickier to use well, but as a result more fun to play.

Just don't expect to get any satisfaction from a duel!

Monday, February 23, 2015

...In with the New - Lion Rampant Retinue: First Steps

As alluded to I'm selling my 28mm WW2 to make room for more new models, relating more to current interests.  I figure my space being limited, my painting time and gaming time similarly compromised, why clutter them up with items out of favour.

Pleasingly the Germans are already up to £200 and certainly going to sell.  So I had a rummage about in the loft for some models I knew would enjoy a second chance in life.

I'd been donated a couple of dozen medieval's some years back, but most were either broken, cannibalised or mutilated with enamel paint; and tiny to boot.  But amongst them were about ten of the classic Perry Bretonnian archer models (there is probably some unwritten rule about mandatory ownership of a handful of the Perry models by all Wargamers,  I imagine).  These will make an ideal bidower unit for my envisaged force.  I see these gentlemen as Welsh or Borders bowmen.

I added a couple of oddments from the spares pile and did a bit of trimming and reposing to the leader.


It would've been nice to Greenstuff some hoods instead of helmets, but in my last move I appear to have lost a metre of the stuff.  Back to eBay plumbing spares it is then.

Additionally some spare Gripping Beast Dark Ages infantry  made for some slingers.  Records for the period I'm looking at show that slingers were still used for skirmishing, with contingents being raised from Nottingham Forest (not the football team mind, and presumably not Robin Hood's merry men either).


I undercoated these chaps before deciding to add the buckler shields and a couple of knives.  The leader has an heirloom sword added, which judging by the pommel could be many hundreds of years old...


I don't expect to get to painting these guys just yet, and it is more likely the rest of the their retinue will arrive in the post first and supplant them in terms of immediacy and coolness.  Still it is progress on my first 'New' project in two years.


In other news, I got to see American Sniper over the weekend (at the GF's behest no less, either she likes war movies or Bradley Cooper/men in uniform, either way a woman of taste).  I can certainly see why it has been hugely popular in the States, it's certainly patriotic stuff.  The battle sequences leave the Iraqi's as largely unsympathetic characters, and mostly quite one-dimensional.  The set pieces are impressive, but it is the quietness within it that is most affecting, the difficult times at home where combat stress is clear, the tension of facing the realities of who and where the enemy can be.

Overall a good film, but not a great one to my mind.  Not one that would encourage me to start wargaming the 21st century (see very old posts for that), but worth seeing for insight on he realities of the conflict and its' sad outcome(s).