Friday, November 30, 2018

Fire and Steel - cutting edge 20 years ago?

Andy, in my Thursday club, looked to me to try a set of skirmish rules, suitable for the Napoleonics erase.   Always looking for a decent set myself I was willing to give them a try.

The ruleset is called Fire and Steel, they are not particularly new.  Long out of print would be more truthful.

Circa 1996
We set up a simple encounter scenario from the rules, with two basically identical forces of troops, representing two dawn patrols.

Opening Dispositions - Imagine it's foggy
The rules are from Wargames Research Group, and so are familiar fare....   Tables and modifiers.
Both sides advance unaware the enemy is out there
In fairness there are a few neat mechanics, but they are hardly ground breaking.  soldiers activate randomly by drawing lots, and can carry out any three of a variety of actions in a turn.

Fog lifts; contact!
But it does come down to the combat table, and fistfuls of modifiers.  Compared to say, DBMM its farly simple stuff, but WRG can't let a dice fall unmodified.

The British begin to withdraw with heavy losses
There are other problems too.  The rules are staggeringly vague - lacking the legal clausing of Barkerese, that sees each rule in DBMM run for several paragraphs of 'ifs', 'ands' and 'unless''.  Several items were seemingly key mechanics, but barely referenced or explained.  Also the Morale system seemed to lack any ability to resolve a game, troops would keep running back and forth into or out of combat, as long as they lived.  Finally, it was apparent it was going to be token heavy, and from an aesthetic standpoint that didn't appeal.

So long as you are happy to concede when it is clear you have been beaten, and can come to some sensible conclusions about the intention of the rules as written, these are not a bad system, as good as Drums and Shako anyway.  But they would struggle with more than a dozen or so models each, and I don't see them as my solution yet.

The search therefore must continue...


Sunday, November 25, 2018

4th Bavaria: Sachsen-Hildburghausen

The joy of 15mm is the speed in turning them from bare metal to painted miniatures.

4th in Line 
Another regiment for my Bavarians, this means two units of foot have been swiftly established.

The rears are where all the detail lives!
Not a lot to add at this stage; next up for these will be some cavalry and a junior commander.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A modest addition - 2nd Glengarry

Formed by order of Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost in 1812, recruited from settlements of discharged Scottish soldiers (and some evicted Scottish highlanders) in Glengarry district.  Originally intended to wear highlander uniforms (kilts, etc.), they wore the dark green uniform with black facings of the Rifle Brigade instead, although they were armed with muskets rather than rifles.  Companies and detachments fought in several actions in Upper Canada in 1813, and the whole unit fought at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. The unit specialized in British light infantry tactics and thus was well-trained in duties such as skirmishing and concealed sentry duty.

Wikipedia (yes, I'm that lazy!)

As an interlude, I painted a few languishing models I found in my Napoleonics bits box, I was dipping in for another secret project as it happens, when I found enough of these to make use of; specifically for my War of 1812 skirmish games.

Although, the records say black facings, illustrations generally show red - more akin to the 60th American than the 95th rifles.  Scottish details were limited to the Shako tape.

These models having muskets are ideal for the Glengarry's:

The line troopers are Essex Miniatures so far as I can tell, whilst the Sergeant is from Wargames Foundry.  all fine models, despite the former's age (well over thirty years I reckon).  

A group of 6 is more than enough for most skirmish games, not least with my eye drawn to the latest iteration of the Lion Rampant system, due sometime after Xmas:

These cover the right period, at the right unit size to go with the units I've - oh so slowly - assembled (over the past 10 years!).  Given how much I've enjoyed the Lion/Dragon rampant rules, I hope these will fit the bill very nicely.

Not that I won't keep trying other rules for the period, but that's a story for another post...


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Villa Malparaiso 1811

We get only one or two really big games a year in at the minute, but each one is a looked forward to event and a couple of weeks ago was the latest, with myself and Gav unleashing the present entirety of my Peninsular War collection for a grand battle.

Aireborough Games Club was our venue of choice, offering us a Leisurely Saturday afternoon and evening to set up and play, as well as all the table space we could need.  In the end we set up an 11 by 6 foot table giving more than enough room for the roughly 800 figures.

The two forces were disposed by map deployment as usual, allowing plenty of uncertainty.  I took the French - who fielded 11 infantry regiments and 4 cavalry regiments - whilst Gav went with the British and their allies - 14 foot and 3 horse regiments, but with a lower overall quality due to the propensity of allies.  The battlefield was largely rolling plains, with some isolated farms and light woodland.  Long boundary walls and fences also broke the ground.  Once we had drawn up our maps we reviewed each others and got to setting up:

Looking south, with the French to the Left

Another angle, The French Cavalry set wide to the Right

Looking from the British lines, Spanish and Portuguese on the Right
 Both of us placed our cavalry on the Northern plains, Gav's centre was two British Brigade, whilst his Allies were to the right around the Malparaiso farm, stiffened with a Regiment of Highlanders.  For my part my Guard deployed to the farm, with a Line and Leger brigade in the centre and my allies to the North, adjacent to a small hilltop chapel.

We rolled off for initiative and I got first move.  It struck me that My cavalry advantage would be dependent on outflanking Gav first, and that I could expect an assault around the Farm; to this end I aimed to secure a solid defensive position on my left whilst my cavalry did their work.

The French Advance

The Portuguese and Scottish on the Far Right of the British lines

The Guard, Screened by Caribiniers, advance

One of the British centre brigades

The two lines close, French light cavalry outflanks the Spanish horse

The French form defensive lines as the Portuguese enter the farmyards

A long cavalry engagement begins

The French form a dogleg anchored on the wood in the centre

Spanish cavalry retreats.  A blunder sends French heavy cavalry on a fools errand 

The French Allies try to attack the British, probably ill-advised 
One Spanish Regiment had already quit the field.  The British made slow work of clearing the woodland

The Farm breaks up the Portuguese attack, opening it to withering fire.

The British threaten the centre.  Corsican Voltiguers cover the exposed line.

The Confederation troops fight hard, Whilst Spanish Dragoons mire the French Hussars 

Both sides suffer cavalry losses 
British Pressure in the centre starts to build

French cavalry is ascendant, but their allies are pushed back 

Maximum British pressure, but French guns finally act on an enfiladed target 

As the Portuguese attack falters, the French Guard go on the offensive 

Badly mauled, the French withdraw in orderly fashion from an exhausted British brigade 

Personal leadership keeps the cavalry at bay 

Battered regiments try desperately to gain control of Chapel Hill 

The Spanish attempt to face the French lines 

Carabiniers pursue the demoralised Portuguese brigade

Now the British right is dependent on the  Spaniards

The French allies are at their limit 

And then it is too much for them, and they rout 

At Malparaiso , the Guard turn their attentions towards the centre

Shattering fire and assaults smash the Spanish, the British too suffer losses
This would turn out to be essentially the final coup-de-grace, with the French causing enough losses to break the British army as a whole.  The final couple of pictures showing the ending dispositions:

French cavalry kept at bay, but the British had to draw troops away to shore up the centre 

The French centre is much thinned but the left flank is still full strength
Gav felt he was defeated by the complete failure of the Portuguese and Scottish to make any ground in the Farm, and I tend to agree. My Cavalry were effectively contained, and unit for unit his British outfought my French thanks to their greater fire discipline.  But I was able to disrupt the attack of both his allied brigades for very little loss; mostly degrading its impact with skirmish and defensive fire.  This gave me control of the flank, and crucially a fully fresh brigade at the end of the battle with which to turn on the tired British brigades.

An excellent game.  We made one more revision to our house rules for Black Powder to help things along, essentially that if a Brigade reaches its breakpoint it has only one turn in which to rally or it is permanently broken.  In the established rules, judicious use of rallying commanders could restore whole brigades to action several turns after breaking, in a way I ultimately decided was unrealistc at this scale of battle.  It tended to slow down a decision as brigades went back and forth out of the line.  Now if you can't restore order the first chance you have after becoming broken yo are done; this worked so much better and shaved an hour or more off the play time.

As an aside to this, I don't see us shifting to BP2 anytime soon, ultimately, we've tweaked our play of BP over the years to a point where we are both familiar with and very happy with how it plays.

A good old game, and moreover, we get a rematch soon.  We'll be taking these forces and a similar battle to Recon in December, for a rematch.

Stay tuned...


Monday, November 12, 2018

A Side Project

Just a quickie.  One of the donated pieces of terrain to the club stockpiles have annoyed me once too often by appearing as the centerpiece of battles in a wholly unpainted, tattily based state.

The only way these things get sorted is by muggins 'ere* taking the offending object home and sorting it out.

I tried a few different techniques on this, most notably a rust wash:  One part Steel paint, one part Cavalry Brown to 8 parts Vallejo Smoke, and water as required.  On a club model it is fine to try these things out!

Actually the effect seems pretty good.  I know a hardcore modeler would be doing this with enamel washes or oils and thinners - I've been watching a lot of Plasmo Models videos of late - but for tabletop purposes this looks fine to me.

Just a couple of hours work, despite the size.  These new GW models are pretty good to be fair.  If what you need is an enormous near impossible to hide and easily targeted fortification.

*Unless Matt does it


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remembrance. To end all Wars


Heads off for prayer!

Oh God, our dirty and muddied old bones
Have crept forth once more from  the trench’s chalky stones.
We appear before you to pray and do not remain silent.
And  ask you, Oh God:

Why have we given our heart’s blood away?
While the  Kaiser’s six sons all living do stay.
We once believed….Oh how stupid we were…!
They made us all drunk….

One man  screamed in his hospital bed for six months,
Before dry food and staff doctors finished him off.
Another became blind and took opium secretly.
Three of us between us have only one arm…

Faith, life, war and everything else we have lost
It was they, the powers, who tossed us into it
Like film gladiators.
We had the best audience,
But it didn’t die with us.
Why? Why?

Lord God!
If you really are there as we daily do learn
Descend from starred heaven and show your concern!
Come down to us mortals or send us your son!
Tear the flags down, the orders, the decoration!
Announce to the countries of the earth how we have suffered;
How hunger. lice, shrapnel and lies our bodies have covered!
Chaplains have carried us to our graves in your name.
Declare they have lied! Is it us that you blame?
Chase us back to our graves, but answer us clear!
We kneel before You as best we can –but please lend us your ear!
If our dying has not been completely  without point,
Do not anoint us with  another year like 1914!
Tell the people and drive them to desert!

KURT TUCHOLSKY (1890-1935)

Kurt Tucholsky was a German-Jewish journalist, satirist, and writer.  He served on the Eastern Front in the First World War.  He later observed the rise if Facism in Germany, latterly from the safety of self-exile in France, then Sweden.  the Tucholsky Prize, a 150 000 SEK grant to a persecuted, threatened or exiled writer or publicist, is given in his honour annually.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Overdue Dragon Rampant Batrep

Well, photo's anyway.

Myself and Matt squeezed a couple of small games in a few Sundays ago, both of us trying different armies out as it happened.

Matt's Forest Friends 
A real mixture of makes and models made up Matt's army, including Fungoid warriors, cultists, Elementals and GW Gryphounds.

For my part, I brought the chosen warriors of Zeus:

Mythic Greece 
This was essentially a case of diving into my Spartan army for all the suitable singly based models, plus the Greek-appropriate figures from the rest of my collection; having a unit of Centaurs in my Dogs of War army certainly helped.

As to the games...
Battle one was based on the grabbing the treasures scenario from the DR rulebook.  We hadn't tried this one before, but it soon became apparent that on a small table it would be a quick game.

Matt gained the early advantage, and the game would've been over sooner had I not forced one of his units to sit on a treasure rather than collecting it.

 My losses built up, whilst Matt had relatively light casualties.

He was able to grab the final objective and end the pain swiftly.  I failed to achieve any boasts and so lost by a large margin.

That taking under an hour, we set up different terrain and opted for a straight battle with the same forces.

I think I advanced better initially, but the two portals were an issue.  We agreed to them acting as a linear obstacle, but crossing either one caused you to appear out of the other.  Matt placed his Elementals on one of the portals and the threat of them outflanking me made it necessary to tie up units in the defense of the position.

My Centaurs tried to lead the charge, but it didn't really work.

Rather it was my skirmishers who were the star players, doing most of the damage.

The game ended with me, probably needlessly, still defending the Portal.  I had at least fended off one attack through it, and had diverted my best troops from defending it in favour of my most aggressive.

However, it was again a defeat for me.  By a significant margin.

A couple of fun games however.