Monday, August 29, 2011

Of Tape Measures

Sat watching Stephen Fry's top one hundred Gadgets on Channel Four* I notice that the tape measure comes in at number "32"

A new contender for the blog's dullest picture ever!

Now of course to most wargamers, these are essential gadgets, and I fully appreciate the entertainment as well as practical use one can get from them. 

For my part my favoured measure is a cheap as chips Chinese orange number with a drum brake styled locking system.  I had this little 3 metre number for a good 25 years now, by dint of its' apparently crappy design, it's never been stolen!

So here's to the humble tape measure, greater apparently than the Gameboy and Corby Trouser Press!

*Channel Four+1, other nationalities will have to accept this means nothing to them!

The Big (little) Sell Off

Having had to move house for the second time this year, I've looked more critically of late at the mass off wargames figures that during such times hang like the proverbial Albatross around my neck.  Now they are not the only items contributing to the problems of keeping my life mobile (why do I still have four snowboards, when only two are serviceable?), but they are in the firing line as much as all my other possessions for something of a culling. 

First to go are my Dwarves.

 Regular readers will know I have these occasions, where I resist the urge to horde and sell on things that seem to just take up space, and alas the Dwarves fall into that category now.  Most gamers live with this dilemma, usually dictated to in part by wives' partners or parents, circumstances or whims.  A mixture of the latter two lead me to sell these chaps on.

It's not without some regret mind, some of the little lads have belonged to me since I was a teenager (too long ago to mention), and have been painted, stripped and repainted to their present fine standard.  But sadly their undoing was the battlefield, they just were not fun to play.

Well let me clarify that point, they tended to simple, static tactics and acted simply as a wall for other armies to crash against.  As a player, I wasn't getting enough from them, though I'm sure for others this sort of reliable certainty is just what they are looking for.

So it is to ebay with them, and probably not the first of several armies in the future months.  Looking at my collection during the move, I found whole periods that I simply thought "when am I ever going to use those again?"

Naturally, irony will ensure I sell all the items that 5 years from now I will kick myself for flogging, when after some future move I find myself at a club that only does 20mm ancients and 15mm ultra moderns.  Such is life.

At the time of writing the army is up to £75 on eBay, if you fancy a punt the sale is here...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Poitiers 1356

Several weeks ago, as it happens, I took Craig - owner of of the Leeds Wargames Centre - Through a game of Hail Caesar.  It was at the time my first solo flight with the rules and so I was trying to be reliant on my knowledge of the game mechanics from Black Powder, without confusing the key distinctions.

Anyway, I decided on a refight of Poitiers;  Being the smallest of the big three English victories in the Hundreds Years War, a chance to roll out some of my extensive medievals collection.

 The forces and battlefield were a fair reflection of the day and were as follows:

The English
Edward the Black Prince - 1 unit of longbowmen, 1 unit of men at arms, 1 unit of Gascon Lancers (Pike)
Warwick - 1 unit of longbowmen, 1 unit of men at arms
Salisbury - 1 unit of longbowmen, 1 unit of men at arms
Grially - 1 small unit of mounted knights, 1 small unit of longbowmen (in a reserve flanking attack)

The French

Clermont - 3 units of Mounted knights
The Dauphin - 2 units of crossbowmen, 2 units of spearmen
The Duke of Orleans - 2 units of men at arms, 1 unit of spearmen
King Jean - 2 units of men at arms, 2 units of spearmen 1 large unit of peasants

Deployments were initially as history suggested, with the English in three battles defending a line of hedgerows flanked by marshes, whilst the French came on in four battles in column.  On the day they were afraid the English were to slip away and so came on in something of a rush.

Craig took command of the French and tried to come on to the English, but struggled to make his many lines of men move in good order.  For the English there was little to do other than close the gap in the hedges; but a blundered order instead saw the Gascon Lancers march off to the left.

Instead the longbowmen laid down a withering fire on the mounted knights, goading them to the attack.  The Black Prince reorganised his lines as the French cavalry finally crashed into their lines.

It failed to break the sturdy English and the remnant s of the cavalry were force to withdraw.  Still the rest of the French lines were far away from the English.

The Gascon pike dared to advance beyond the hedgerow, trying to draw the French spear into a fight they would most likely lose.  But this was if anything, expecting too much of the French who were still struggling to for a cohesive line of attack.

By now, other English troops were crossing the hedges, eager to join the fight, and in the distance Grially appeared with his knights from behind  a hill to the French rear.  Now Jean was facing the enemy on two fronts.

Though at this time, the French had at last arranged their main attack, and they threw everything at the English line, putting it under pressure in a grand melee.

But in a desperate tussle to break through the gaps in the hedgerow, the French again came off worse, where several units broke.  And although the rear attack from Grially was being contained, the French could see that the battle was lost, and so began a general retirement from the field.

History, largely then, was reflected on the tabletop.  The English did an excellent job of holding their ground whilst the French were too tangled in their own deployments to make a conclusive blow to the enemy. 

I think Craig enjoyed it, and hopefully it is another potential player to the ranks of Hail Caesar.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Havelange, Belgium

Finally I've finished the flames of war terrain boards, by completing the Belgian village.

The two foot square terrain board contains a cluster of fourteen scratchbuilt buildings, and all told took about 25 hours alone.  I hope the new owner appreciates it!

Even though I'd pretty much lost the will to live by the end, I was still able to add a few finishing details:

Well it's all very nice, and it covers up to ten feet by four as part of the wider set up.   And I don't even play flames of War!  Though it will work for 15mm European games back at a pinch to about 1800.  So maybe I'll get the odd Napoleonics game over it one day.

Additionally, I was passed some trees to freshen up for the LWC/club.  The first handful are done, but with a bagful more to get round to, there'll soon be the whole of the Ardennes to fight through.

Monday, August 22, 2011

70eme Ligne

"The 70eme Ligne was posted to the Peninsula in 1808, where it saw service at the siege of Zaragoza; 15 June - 4 August 1808, the clash of Rolica; 17 August 1808 and the battle of Vimiero; 21 August 1808.

The Regiment remained in the Peninsula the following year and saw action at the battle of La Corunna; 16 January 1809, the 1st battle of Oporto; 30 March 1809 and the 2nd battle of Oporto; 12 May 1809. The Regiment's only major engagement during 1810 was the battle of Bussaco; 27 September 1810. On 3 April 1811 it clashed with Welllington's forces at Sabugal.

The 70eme Regiment de Ligne was spared the ravages of the advance to and retreat from Moscow. It did however, see action in its own theatre of operations. It was involved in the clash at Osorno; 28 March 1812 and the battle of Salamanca; 22 July 1812.

In 1813, l'Empereur brought elements of the Regiment from Spain to Germany. The troops brought to Germany fought at the battle of Bautzen; 20 May 1813 and Leipzig; 16 October - 18 October 1813.

Those left behind in Spain were also engaged at the clash of Sahagun; 15 January 1813, the battle of Sorauren; 28 July 1813, the battle of the Nivelle River; 10 November 1813 and the clash at St Pierre d'Irube; 11 December 1813.  During the hundred days, the Regiment fought with l'Empereur at Ligny; 16 June 1815 and with Grouchy at Wavre; 18 June 1815."

And so my first Napoleonic regiment in a couple of months is finished.  I feel out of practice on these big units, having spent so much time in the last few months on simple pieces or high detail skirmish and display models. 

Getting the balance right is tough!  As a result these took longer than usual too, but the results are satisfactory, if not spectacular.  This now means I have three line, one guard and one foreign battalion for my first French brigade.  Time to start on some more cavalry or some artillery...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A host of Glittering Spears - 881ad

Although there is a massive backlog of posts to get through, it felt appropriate to jump the queue and get the outcome of our refight of  Saucourt En Vimeu up.

The game was fought as a three hander, with Mark in charge of the Franks, and myself and Mike splitting command of the Vikings.

For the Carolingians, or Ottonians or Franks as they most likely thought of themselves at the time, the forces were as follows:

King Loius (+2 Command 8) led 3 units of Milites with the wedge special rule

Carloman (+1 Command 8) led 3 further units of Milites, lacking wedge

Bishop Arnulf (+1 Command 7) led 4 units of Liberi spearmen and 2 units of Coloni bowmen

For the Danes the order of battle was thus:

Olaf lord of the Northmen (+2 Command 8) led 3 units of Hirdmen and also had a unit of Besirkir, more under their own control than otherwise

The Jarl of the East (+2 Command 7) had 4 units of Bondi, one of whom had bows

Svein of those in the boats (+0 command 8) had two units of Bondi in reserve and three units of Thrall skirmishers with bows

The battle poem giving little description of the field on the day, opted that this meant terrain must have been pretty inconsequential to the engagement, so opted for a largely open field.  The Vikings were given a large hill to deploy on, with one secured flank, whilst the Franks approached in depth across rolling meadows.

The franks chose to swing Loius' cavalry against the right flank of the Vikings, more heavily defended than the left, but more exposed too.  Meanwhile the Vikings largely elected to stand their ground, in particular, confusion over who was in command and where led to inactivity.  The Frankish cavalry wedges smashed into and straight through the Viking lines instead.  Just like in the poem.

Carloman used his cavalry to draw the Besirkir into a charge off the hill, but Mike wisely threw some of Olaf's Hird in to support them too and bounced the cavalry away, on the next turn the Vikings came down in force and surrounded the hapless milites with such numbers as to ensure their destruction.

Far to the rear the Franks of Arnulf were making only slow and unwilling progress to the front, though they did so in perfect order.

Carloman recognised the risk of the Viking attack and responded with a timely flank charge, but it did little to blunt the impetous of so many Northmen, The Northern general joined the fray looking for Frankish royal blood to adorn his axe.

And received it.  As the cavalry were cut down by two handed weapons, their lord fell amongst them.  To the Viking rear though the Milites of Loius were still mopping up the Jarl's men and making moves upon the reserve of Svein.

A desultory exchange of fire between the bowmen concluded the day in the end.  Carloman's command was destroyed, and, although largely intact,  Loius too exhausted to fight on.  Similarly, the command of the Jarl was wiped out, and the heavy core of Svein's men thrown to the winds too.  Only the centre of the Viking line remained strong, and the serfs of Bishop Arnulf had no will to take on the Viking line.

Many things went just as the poem would tell us, but as the troops of Loius got tangled up in the flank, unable to support the centre the battle lumbered to a more marginal victory for the Franks than history suggested.  Viking losses were heavy,  perhaps a thousand or fifteen hundred men in scale, but then the Franks lost some six hundred cavalry, the flower of early chivalry.

The rules held up well, and gave the sort of lively, fast paced game on hopes for.  Next up report wise, will be a game played several weeks ago, that in some ways is very similar, but with very different results...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Empire Manor House

Things are slowly getting back to normal at Toomuchlead Towers, with the new laptop up and running I am slowly getting towards being fully operational, just need to install some more software.

In the mean time we can have the odd update on painting, with some gaming to follow very soon.

I have had a commission of some GW Empire buildings kicking around for some months, and with the need to clear space it seemed a good time to make a start on them:

The client had already assembled and part painted this one in two shades of grey and a dark red roof, so I was able to work with the base coats to get a nice finish.  All the usual points about GW terrain apply, though I will add this goes together much better than the arcane fulcrums, sticking as it does to flatter forms.

It's a little ambitious to call this a manor house, it's really too small to justify such a lofty title, but it looks nice, and wargaming has a proud tradition of using model buildings that are really too small, after all in games where ground scales are skewed to fit a small table, this isn't an issue...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Last Argument of Kings - Preview

It's not really one of my periods,  but I did get shown the first supplement for Black Powder yesterday.

Against general expectations it covers the 18th century, rather than pushing back the core rules to the 17th as had been suspected.  The style is very like the original rules, particularly the example battles section, though additional special rules and details on commanders are also included.

The book covers all of the major engagements, and a few more minor (if popular) ones, including the War of the Spanish Succession, the Austrian Succession, The Great Northern War, the Jacobite Rebellion and the colonial wars in India.  They stop at about 1775.

The book also includes army lists of a sort, that is to say they allow you to put a realistic balance of commanders to a realistic proportion of units.  Points values remained notable by their absence*.  Lastly, for each period a sample battle is included.

112 pages in full colour for £18; if you are a fan of the rules and this period, it seems like excellent value.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Poetry corner - Das Ludwigslied

Looking for a historical battle for Hail Caesar to use my Dark Ages armies with I struggled to find an engagement with any real detail outside of the English speaking world. No surprise perhaps; but I did eventually pull up the battle of Saucourt En Vimeu of 881ad. Moreover this battle is supported (to a point) by a rare piece of narrative poetry from the ninth century.

However, on the net at least, it was only available translated to German so with the aid of Babel Fish, I made a stab at the job myself. Thereafter I polished it up and summarised it as best I could. The translation is at times literal, and not always clear, but then it is third hand at least, and with only a little tinkering on my part:

I know a king: Ludwig is his name, [who] serves God with whole heart. I am certain, he it him will be worth. He [already] lost the father in recent years, but received it immediately replacement: The gentleman took care of its and became its educator.

Ludwig, a pious man, had lost his father but became king in his stead.

Here he transferred a crew, [imperious] attendants, to him [gave him] in the franc country the throne. Still for a long time he may enjoy of these gifts! - It divided the rule soon with Karl man, its brother, the sum of the joys. When was carried out, God wanted to examine it,

Ludwig divided rule of the empire with his brother

Whether it would be able to exist young [still] on years, dangers. He let heaths come over lake, in order to remind the people of the francs of its sins because of. The one were lost immediately, the others [to the eternal welfare] were chosen. Hard punishment had to now suffer, who had lived up to then in sins.

Heaven knows? Sounds like travails upon the people

That before times a thief, began too chamfered: thus it saved and became still another good humans. The one was a cheat, the other one a robber, third lived without each control. But also it freed itself from this fault by penalty. - The king was in the distance, which was realm from confusions shaken.

Whilst the cat’s away, the mice will play; Raiders or corrupt leaders ravage the lands
Fully anger was there the holy Christ. Blows, the realm had to pay for! But God was [also] fully pitying, it knew the dangerous situation completely, and so it ordered Ludwig, without riding a hesitating there: " Ludwig, my king, help you to mean people! The Normannen harassed." it so much;

Raiders from the North come, God sends Ludwig to sort them out

There Ludwig answered: " [Sire], I will do, if death does not prevent me from it, everything, what you commandest." It was recommended, raised that war banners to its God and ridden against the Normannen in the franc country. There thanked God, which had expected it.

Ludwig accedes to god’s wishes and raises the army

All spoke: "[Sire], we wait [already so] for a long time for [you]." In a loud voice however Ludwig said to that to property: " You, you [close] friends my combat companions! God sent and ordered themselves me, if it were you an assistance to fight here

Ludwig’s troops swear fealty and he answers with loyalty to god’s cause

Not to preserve me, until I would save you. Now it is my desire that all follow me, which in God grace. Our terrestrial it is limited after the will of the holy Christ. If it wants our death, then it has in addition power. Who achieves God will courageously here,

If god wants us to die so be it, save me only if I save you first

That I will be worth it, if he gets over living the fight. It remains for its relatives however in the fight, [I repay it]. Whereupon it took the sign and the Speer. Courageously it rode [all in front]. He wanted to speak a clear language with his enemies. After not all too-long time it pushed on the Normannen.

Ludwig makes a clear statement of intent by leading the army against the Norse.

It praised God; now he is to see, what he wished! Boldly the king blew up in front, a holy song on the lips, and all fell with “Kyrie eleison [Christ have Mercy]”. The singing was [hardly] [faded], there raved already the battle loosely. The blood seemed by the cheeks, gladly hunted there the Francs.
The king leads a charge? The battle is disordered, which seems to favour the Franks

It fenced each warrior, but none as Ludwig, so courageously and so boldly? it was innate it. , Pierced he, the other perforated he. [He challenged] without break its enemies indeed bitter drink. Always blows over its life! –

Ludwig fought personally, and was the better of each man. He attacks mercilessly, and is personally unharmed

God omnipotence is praised: Ludwig became winner. Owing to also all holy ones! Its fight became the victory assign. You however, Ludwig, Heil, you our king, in the fight fully luck! - It always was to the place, where its assistance necessary was. God the gentleman always receives it in its grace!

Clearly, Ludwig wins.

After such a piece of propaganda a couple of points can be added, firstly that whilst the poem records the king as Ludwig (and probably therefore, Ludwig the third) History appears to record Louis the Younger as victor at the battle; and the Name of the brother, Karl - who elsewhere is recorded as dying in the battle, is a strong match to Loius' in the Carolingian French - Carloman. Ludwig may therefore be a Germanising of Loius, but I have to sit on the fence a little, not being a specialist on early Medieval German history.

Secondly, the casualties for the battle are recorded as around 5,000 Vikings. This is a suspiciously high number, and yet the lowest quote made. I would guess at 1-2,000 being more accurate, perhaps from an army of the hailed size; though it is not impossible a mounted army could have slaughtered the Vikings if it fell to pursuit, which again the tenor of part of the poem suggests. Also unmentioned in the poem is the fact that Ludwig lost his son in the engagement.

So what does this suggest? Well with limited additional information it seems reasonable to conclude that although a pitched battle, the Franks caught the Vikings on ground that favoured their mounted forces. It would be expected for a Carolingian king of this period to have fought mounted with his ‘imperious attendants’ and so an energetic charge would appear to have broke the Viking lines. As is often the case on close inspection the Northmen are a great threat to their foes, but prove entirely mortal in a real fight, intimidation was their forte! They fall into a rabble in combat and are picked off. What part Carolingian foot troops would have had in this is pure speculation, but it seems plausible their involvement would have been limited.

How will this translate to the wargames table? We shall see…

Monday, August 08, 2011

Better than Last Time

After a nervy weekend, I now have a secure flat again; even though I move out in just three weeks (hopefully to a much nicer home).

As part of the fallout, I went into my mobile broadband provider to cancel my account; and came out with a new, free, laptop instead! Now I just need to wait for delivery and keep it squirreled away until I move.

So to return as best we can to the usual business, we are into a new month and so it must be time for a gamers pledge update.

July was largely consumed with two projects, one as yet unfinished for the Napoleonics and the other completed in August for the Iron Owl competition. What was painted has all appeared in the blog, and amounts to 37 points: 27 Spartans, three 15mm KV-1's, and one Anima Tactics model.

The aim is thirty points per month, and whilst this figure and last months too are distinctly average, to date I find I'm at 380 points versus a target thus far of 210.

So, some good news overall!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Good news, Bad news

Firstly, more on Boyes' foray into gaming supplies; another update from my man in the field:

...Quick update - popped into the Ilkley shop today and the range is - FoW box sets, Mantic army sets and some units, Victrix Napoleonics, Perry Napoleonics, ACW and Medievals, Plastic soldier company, Games Workshop, and Airfix and Revell models + plus some 1/32nd figures for diaramas.
On a less happy point; I was burgled yesterday, and the Laptop was pretty much the only item of any consequence stolen.  Hence blog posts may be a little curtailed for a week or two.

I'm surprisingly calm about the matter, but nonetheless hope the scrote gets caught and nailed buy a sweaty man in prison for his trouble.