Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Something tells me I'm a bit of a Dogbert....!

So here we are, it's New Years Eve, and the only question I have is where the hell did 2010 go ???! (and yes, I asked exactly the same question last year) It only seemed like yesterday that it was last Christmas... the years are going past quicker and quicker....

I'm still not a fan of New Years Eve - I'm convinced the world is divided into people who like Christmas Day, and people who like New Year - unfortunately, for all her undoubted strengths, the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer is in the latter camp so I'm being dragged out for the night...

So was 2010 any good???

Painting totals were well up - looking back at my records I painted for 122 points in 2009, but with little chance of increasing the score before this evening I show 286 points this year! Good, but still lagging behind 2008's 473.. Most of the painting this year was driven by the American Civil war project, with just two Marlburian regiments to leaven the total. For next year, for sure there will be more ACW, but I also need to consider some of the other periods - looking at my British foot in the Sudan the other day I did think they were a bit rubbish so I may replace them, I haven't painted any AWI (or gamed it) for far too long, and the Marlburian project is far from completion...

We had 82 posts this year compared with 81 in 2009, so a fairly regular output of about one and a half posts a week, but given I hived off the sailing posts into their own blog, my overall written output was probably up slightly.. that brings my sum total to 378 posts in total since I started way back in February or March 2007..

The heart of any blog though is the readers - I don't ever expect anyone to come by this little corner of the web but not only are there now over a hundred "poor deluded fools" but they also seem to read stuff here! The following are my page hits:


Not surprisingly the "active" projects are the busiest.... I really must get down to some AWI project updates soon!

...and what visitors... some amazing deeds of kindness this year which were really touching (& I mean that honestly - as an Englishmen we don't do non-cynical well! ) So in no order I'd like to (once again) thank ...

Prinz Geoffrey over at the Cavendaria Blog [click here] for Captain Lucien Verbeek, as promised he has been present on all my Sudan battlefields... and this year at least, definitely didn't get in to any scrapes - I can't promise that will remain the case...

I'd also like to thank AJ [click here] for a totally unprompted parcel containing some templates suitable for playing Regimental Fire and Fury... all the way from the US, airmail, and wouldn't accept postage....



...both they, and a shed load of my readers who have offered hints and tips & support, are true ladies and gentlemen of the old school.

..last but not least, thanks to my long suffering opponent DG for some cracking games - both physical and virtual - in 2010! Here's to more in 2011.. & Salute approach'eth!

That's it - see you in 2011, and Happy New Year (he said through gritted teeth), I hope the festivities are not too harrowing..... or too long...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reconnaissance in force to Trinkat : Moves 10 to the end.....

So at the end of the last post you may remember that we left the Imperial Gatling gun and naval crew in a slight fix - taking advantage of the Christmas holiday period, and a little less general busy'ness I set out to see if we could save them, and complete the original orders..

...the answer to the former being, unfortunately not as a full unit of Dervish sword and spear men crashed home on the Gatling and crew and literally overwhelmed them... in game terms it was something like eighteen dice to four, so it was never really in any doubt!

Deprived of the Gatling, the British square anchored itself on the rough & rocky area to it's rear - things were tense but not unmanageable - in the picture above, there are three units of Dervish advancing, and in addition the Dervish are manhandling up an ancient smooth-bore cannon that will (at last) give the Dervish the opportunity to inflict some longer range damage. The other two bases you can see are fleeing, having taken sufficient casualties that they can no longer take a real role in the battle... ("pluck", or morale, tests every move!)

The cannon opens fire and immediately starts to inflict casualties on the Anglo-Egyptian Imperial force. Not deterred, yet again the crash of the Martini-Henry rings out across the desert, as three sides of the Imperial square pick their targets...

...and having summarily despatched the crew of the gun, the square continued to deal out death and destruction while continuing it's advance to the village - though by now it should have been clear that the 'rumours' of Dervish activity were well and truly valid! Free Happy Smileys

Post Match Analysis:
  • Major the Honourable St John Wade-Smith's mission was to "complete a reconnaissance of Trinkat, a native village, where rumours of Dervish activity have been reported". This was completed and accordingly I considered this to be a British victory.
  • Casualties on the Dervish side were heavy with only a couple of half units escaping the battlefield to fight another day. On the Imperial side, Wade-Smith lost the Gatling and crew (no room in the square so it was always exposed), one base of the Sudanese, and just over a half a base of the North Middlesex Regiment. Captain Lucien Verbeek (and his horse Teufel.. Free Happy Smileys) remained unscathed though slightly shaken by the ferocity of the Dervish attack
  • The rules played well - there are a few area's lacking clarity, but nothing that you can't very easily surmount with a little bit of thought, and by playing the feel of the rules.. I especially liked the pluck test though as mentioned before I'd be tempted to bring in some kind of casualty modifier. The best part however was the very simple Dervish automated movement feature - in three parts, first check their pluck (if required), then see if they move (a dice throw - which is not required at all for Beja), followed by a quick dice roll on a movement table to see what they do (usually advance towards the enemy but there are some other options..) I'm wondering whether I could incorporate these in my own Gilder/McNally based rules.
  • Steve the Wargamer rates the "A Good Dusting" rules as a solid 8 out of 10 and at just over £10 why would you not want them?!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Len Deighton "Fighter"...

Just finished this, and despite the amount of time it took me, this was purely down to lack of time to finish it rather than any other reason.. I blame Christmas and the lurgy!

I must have first read this almost 20 years ago as I do remember reading it, and the companion volume "Bomber", and thinking at the time they were good - well, a re-read all these years later has confirmed the view...

Deighton is probably best known for his fiction ("Hook, Line and Sinker" series, "Winter", "Ipcress File" etc.) but for my money he also writes very, very readable military history..

This book was written in 1977, and benefited from a lot of then recently uncovered documents and diaries. It covers the classic period of the war known as the Battle of Britain - the summer of 1940 - both in terms of technology, but also tactics & personalities.

He starts with the lead up to the battle first in terms of the development of the aircraft from both the German and British perspective - the Messerschmitt BF109 E and the Hurricane/Spitfire, but not in the tradition Anglo-centric way of comparing everything the to the perfection of the Spitfire. There's some good information on how each plane was good in it's own way, but also how each had imperfections - the Spitfire was in overall terms the better of the three but not perfect. Some interesting snippets on the political infighting within the Luftwaffe that lead to the delay in development of the Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter, and the Focke Wulf 190 which was a far better plane than the 109.

He covers off the standard tactics of both sides, and how thanks to their wars in Poland and Spain the Germans were considerably in advance of the RAF at the start of the battle... the RAF however soon caught up.

He then covered off the other technologies, radar which the RAF only really got into full operation months before the battle, but turned out to be a real winner for them. At the same time the Germans were experimenting with their own radio beam technology which they were fitting to their bombers to make them frighteningly accurate - I hadn't realised as well that it was the Germans that developed the pathfinder tactics that the RAF was to use with such devastating effect later in the war.

Couple this with an almost day by day coverage of the height of the battle, and more scenario idea's than you can shake a stick at, then if you have an interest in wargaming the air battles of the summer of 1940, this book is an absolute must have - I don't have the wargaming interest (though it does tempt!!) and I still rate this as a nine out of ten - absolutely recommended!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all my readers...

Rest assured that normal service will be resumed next week following an extended period of gluttony, television watching, and general sybarite'ism - but lets not forget what it's really about... free smileys

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reconnaissance in force to Trinkat : Moves 5 to 10...

Just a brief update to let you know that the game is progressing, albeit more slowly than I would like due to a hideous lurgy striking me low.... I was fairly certain during the early hours of Sunday that I was dying, but the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer assures me that what I actually had was a nasty bout of flu, and given she's a nurse I'm inclined to believe that this may actually have been the real deal, rather than the more universally derided "man flu"..

Nevertheless, between periods of high temperature and foul headaches, I did do a couple more moves which I'll share the pictures of with you - click on any of them for a larger and hopefully improved view..

A reminder of where we were at the beginning of move 5 - that red dice indicates that those Nile Arabs have taken casualties:

Over the next two moves all the rest of the Dervish units appeared, and Sod's law, they all appeared close to, or adjacent to, the British square...

Such that, by the beginning of move 8 (next picture) things were looking decidedly dicey with the plucky British square surrounded on all sides by advancing Dervish troops...

Steady volleys however, some lucky die rolls (for the Imperial side) and steadfast bayonet work in the melee's (there were two) have so far seen the British square bloodied but still intact...

In the following we see the first melee as the Arab horse reach the square in move 8...

..it takes two moves for the Imperial troops to drive them off (they lost the first round of the melee but passed a "pluck", or morale, test to remain engaged for a second round)

This had an unforeseen benefit to the Dervish though as it stopped the forward momentum of the square and allowed other Dervish units to converge.. in the next move the far flank of the square was attacked with similar results, another two move melee, the square had now been halted for three moves, until in move 10 with flank and front clear the final Dervish charge went in against the Naval gatling & crew..

We've now had one round of melee, and somewhat amazingly honours are even!!

Half time score:

  • The Good Dusting rules continue to remain flexible, but with the emphasis on flexible as some interpretation by the player is required - happily these are not competition rules... Examples in this phase of the game include
    • mention of long and short range for artillery but no difference in the way casualties are calculated (??) - I've assumed it's an oversight so in my game I'm throwing double dice for short range as per small arms firing..
    • Another would be that there is a separate (larger) movement distance to allow "close to combat" for Dervish troops, but no mention of when it can be used that I can see - in my game I play it that they use normal movement at all times, until they get within the "close to combat" move of an Imperial unit, at which point I allow them to us it.. in my minds eye I have this picture of the menacing advance and then a ferocious acceleration as they get closer. Ace..!
  • Casualties on the Dervish side are heavy - they are currently two units down with some casualties on all remaining units,against the British who have no more than 3 or 4 casualties in total..
  • I do like the pluck test, but it's a straight dice throw against a moral factor and I do wonder if there shouldn't be some kind of casualty modifier as a decimated unit has the same chance as a fresh unit to pass at the moment
Right - back to the game - I have a gatling to save and orders to complete!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reconnaissance in force to Trinkat : Moves 1 to 4...

As per my last post, here's a start on the write up for the Sudan game using the "A Good Dusting" rules.... I'm playing this game solo using the automated Dervish elements of the rules and am being fairly leisurely about it, I tend to do a move or two before I leave for work in the morning, accordingly, despite have started the day before yesterday the following shows the game up to move 4 only.. Free Happy Smileys

First impressions are that the game flows very quickly (as I expected it to, to be fair) though there are some 'holes' in terms of interpretation of what specific rules may mean... I find that adopting the spirit in which the rules were written helps to get round these... I'll highlight where this is the case as I go through..

So without further ado - let us again to the sands of the desert...

Orders of battle:

The rules indicate that for largely Imperial forces (ie. fewer or no Egyptian or native contingents), then a ratio of 3:1 is advised for a close game. Now I could 'recycle' the Dervish, but I can actually do this if I limit the Imperial force to a couple of battalions and as this is a first game, that's plenty big enough anyway..

British/Imperial:

All the following are under the overall command of Major the Honourable St John Wade-Smith, and accompanied by his Majesty Leopold II's observing officer Captain Lucien Verbeek (and his horse Teufel.. )
  • 1st Battalion - North Middlesex Regiment
  • 10th Sudanese Infantry
  • Gatling contingent "HMS Thunderer"
Dervish:
  • 4 units of Arab sword/spear men
  • 1 base of Arab rifles
  • 1 base of Arab horse
  • 1 base of Beja sword/spear men
  • One smooth-bore cannon with Egyptian prisoner crew
Mission:

The Imperial force has been landed by gunboat (just off table) in order to complete a reconnaissance of Trinkat, a native village, where rumours of Dervish activity have been reported.

In order to complete this mission the column needs to get to the village and return to their home base edge..

The Game:

A view from behind the Imperial force towards Trinkat..

Move one - the Imperial force enters the table, I decided to deploy in brigade square but with four bases per Battalion it's a small square and there isn't room for the Gatling in the centre.

In the Mahdist move I dice for the first time for their arrival, but with no success...

Move two - the Imperial infantry continues to advance towards the village, but this time in the Mhadist turn the throw to see if they arrive is successful, and in the subsequent throw to see how many units arrive a "1" comes up...

As per the rules a direction dice is thrown, followed by a movement distance dice and this lead to my first query - one, the rules are not clear on what a "direction" dice is; by a process of elimination I've identified that I think it looks like a Warhammer scatter dice (a D6 with five sides covered in arrows, and one side with an X). The second query was as to where the Mahdists actually appear, I've picked table edge as the rules are not specific - but in the spirit of the rules I guess I could make my mind up - where the dice lands? A distance from the dice? A distance from the nearest Imperial unit? etc.) Either way a unit of Arab sword/spear men arrive - this is them arriving..

Move three - the Imperial infantry is still behind a dune and can't see the Dervish who arrived in move two - they continue to advance.

In the Mahdist phase they again throw successfully on the percentile dice and another unit arrives - this time Beja sword and spear men. I again start them from the table edge..

Move four The Imperial infantry moves forward again and is now at the end of the dune entering the gap between dune and rough ground - the Arab sword and spear men can be seen, but not the Beja.

The Dervish units both move forward (based on their automated move die roll). As the Arab sword and spear group are in range the Imperial infantry decide to open fire. Range is long, so only the front rank of the front edge of the square can fire - 9 figures throw 9 dice (!), and any of those that scored hits throw again for kills resulting in two casualties to the Dervish... I'm tracking casualties with those little mini-D6's to save paper work.

(Note: I can already see that for me one small problem is going to be tracking Dervish "ranks", as I have my units based Gilder style on larger single bases. One suggestion discussed was to treat each of these as two bases - which I am doing - but then I need to figure out how many figures I have so that I can work out how many in front and back ranks.. I think I will just say that all foot bases have 6 figures in two ranks of three)

Onwards and upwards - move 5 beckons

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Too much going on and not enough time to blog it..!

So in not so short detail....

  • WWII re-basing continues a-pace - practically all the British foot units are completed, I need to order a few slightly bigger bases for the artillery, AFV's and other vehicles... I'll do some comparison shots soon to show the difference, which I think is significant enough to warrant continuing...
  • The first Sudan game using the "A Good Dusting" rules that I mentioned has finally kicked off - I am taking pictures and noting progress.. in summary, two battalions of Imperial foot (one British, and one Sudanese) with a Gatling gun manned by the Royal Navy have been tasked with completing a reconnaissance of a native village where rumours of Dervish activity have been reported. Will they make it to the village to complete their investigations, or will the distant muffled drum sounds metamorphosise into something far more threatening?? For now, here is a shot of our gallant fellows, accompanied as always by their favourite Belgian, the now (in??)famous Captain Lucien Verbeek, observer for his majesty King Leopold II of Belgium mounted on his trusty steed "Teufel" - click on the picture for a far larger/more pleasing view of this example of Queen Victoria's might....

  • I have spent many (geekily happy) moments updating the Campaign Blog to add far more detail to the campaign diary - all the basic campaign rules are now added, and also the outcomes from the first two hours of the actual campaign... my cavalry already have a contact! In real time we are some way ahead of this and DG and I are just starting to play out our first contact using Battle Chronicler. I will make every effort to get up to speed in the next few days....
  • Lastly, somewhat of a milestone, I've just noticed that I now have 100 "poor deluded fools" following the blog.... you're all mad... Free Happy Smileys

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Weapons & equipment of the Victorian Soldier" by Donald Featherstone

I've had this one sitting on my bedside shelf for ages (that shelf fairly creaks - there are far more books in this world than I'll ever have time to read so why do I keep buying more!) and finally got around to reading it over the last few weeks based on my refreshed interest in things "Sudan" as a result of getting the new rules "A Good Dusting" at Warfare..

Glad I did mind - for your money there is a huge amount of information between the covers - it's a complete and total data dump of a book, little extraneous text. I can almost imagine Don sitting down over his multitude of notes taken over many years of gaming and deciding how best to condense them into the number of words the publisher has allowed him!

So... 130 pages (in my edition) of copiously illustrated (black and white) information, which are divided into chapters on Muskets/Rifles, Bayonets, Swords, Pistols/Revolvers, Lances, Machine Guns, Artillery, Mountain Guns (good chapter!), Rockets, Equipment (packs/webbing etc.) and a very good Bibliography.

Each of the chapters includes loads on line drawings of the subject matter (by John Mollo - the same guy who illustrated the classic "Uniforms of the American Revolution"), along with period photo's as appropriate.

The period covered is from 1854 (The Crimean) up to approximately 1901 (Boer War) and the changes in weaponry in this period were quite astonishing - the chapter on RECRUITING SERGEANTS AT WESTMINSTER, 1875the musket/rifle is particularly good as it shows the natural evolution from Brown Bess to Lee-Metford which the British army used well into the second half of the twentieth century.

Brilliant book - I especially liked the diagrams showing infantry/cavalry/artillery regiment deployed in there various configurations - very useful to see what close column of companies, battalion square, and a deployed artillery section etc. actually looks like...

Steve the Wargamer rates this as a definite 9 out of 10 - definitely a must have for any Colonial/Victorian wargamer...

The second photo by the way is from the book - it features recruiting sergeants of (from left) the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, 14th Kings Hussars, Royal Engineers, Scots greys, 5th Dragoon Guards and 6th dragoon Guards outside a pub in Westminster in 1875... magnificent - someone needs to do a sculpt of the guy on the right .... where's my shilling! evil grin smileys

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Campaigning...!

DG and I have both invested significant amounts of time (and money!) this year in the "Regimental Fire and Fury" wargame rules, and also in building up forces of miniatures to allow us to play games... DG in 12mm, myself in 20mm (as documented in extraordinary and detailed depth on my main blog..)


Whilst chatting after our last game, our thoughts turned again to campaigning, so I suggested that DG might fancy running one set in the American Civil War... happily, he took me up on the offer and the map above shows the area of operations..!

For this campaign we will use Berthier for the strategic manoeuvring, Regimental Fire and Fury for the battles and Battle Chronicler when we can't meet face to face..

We diced for sides and I chose Confederate..you can read how the campaign unfolds on the re-vitalised "Campaign Diary" blog.. so far it has some background information and maps... more to come!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Brrrrr......

It's hard to believe that only 7 weeks separates this, which was the last major sail of the year,in (t)shirt sleeves...

..from this..

..and this, which was taken this morning when the temperature was still -2' C!

The UK is going through an unseasonal cold patch - we don't normally get this kind of weather until January or February which had lead me to think of contents of "Papillon's" bar.. yes, she does have one..

Sub-zero temperatures do nasty things to pressurised cans of beer, and not wanting to have a major clean-up on my hands I decided to go and empty the bar on my way to work..

This was what I came away with....

.. what can I say - it was a hot, dry summer..

=======================================================

On the wargaming front I'm still fired up following the trip to Warfare last weekend and have a number of projects on the go...
  • The table is currently set for my first game using the "A Good Dusting" rules, looking forward to that..
  • I'm currently re-basing my WWII troops using the same basing style as my Sudan figures ie. with real sharp sand as opposed to the sand coloured flock - they look better and at the same time I'm also taking the option to standardise on 30x30mm bases wherever possible..
  • The ACW wagons are now assembled and look great - I'm waiting for a window of opportunity to undercoat them and the Kennington officer figures
  • DG and I are currently engaged in an American Civil War campaign using Berthier, which I may blog on once we have reached a critical mass in campaign terms...


..this guy turned up on the tree outside my loft window the other day - very imperious...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

WWII desert set to...

As promised some time ago, just a short post to describe the somewhat shambolical game that DG and I managed to get in while he was down for the Warfare show weekend..

We played using Blitzkrieg Commander ver 2, and the scenario had two forces of about 1000 points each meeting up at a village in a gorge between two dominating ridge lines.

German orbat was as follows:

1CO (CV10)Command
1HQ (CV9)Command
3Infantry UnitInfantry
1Support Unit (MG)Infantry
1Support Unit (Mortar)Infantry
1HQ (CV9)Command
3Infantry UnitInfantry
1Support Unit (MG)Infantry
1Support Unit (ATG, 37mm)Infantry
1HQ (CV9)Command
3Light Panzer Unit (Pz-II)Armour
1HQ (CV9)Command
2Light Panzer Unit (Pz-III 37mm)Armour
1Dive Bombers (Stuka)Aircraft
10Transport Unit (Trucks/Half-Tracks)Transport


British orbat was as follows:

1CO (CV9)Command
1HQ (CV8)Command
3Infantry UnitInfantry
1Support Unit (MG)Infantry
1Support Unit (ATG, 2pdr)Infantry
1HQ (CV8)Command
3Infantry UnitInfantry
1Support Unit (MG)Infantry
1Support Unit (Mortar)Infantry
1HQ (CV8)Command
3Light Tank Unit (Vickers Mk-VI)Armour
1HQ (CV8)Command
3Cruiser Tank Unit (A13) ArmourArmour
1Artillery Unit (25pdr)Artillery
8Transport Unit (Trucks)Transport
3Transport Unit (Universal Carriers)Transport

..in addition the British also had ten artillery stonks at their disposal - five of smoke, and five of HE.

We diced before the game and the British (me) ended up as defenders, tasked with blocking the gorge to the German advance.

I deployed with my tanks hidden (behind the ridge) but my infantry dug in along the ridge lines either side of the village, with the 25pds and the CO in the village - the following shows my left flank with DG's forces advancing on them..

DG largely mirrored this set up himself, with his Pz II's on the left and the III's on the right...

...and so the shambles started! war smileys

I think it safe to say that the first failure was that DG's Paznzer II's never did get to the battle line - German HQ's have better ratings than the British (command roll under 8 is all that's required on 2D6!) but again and again, DG kept throwing over - that's going some!

In move two or three I threw boxcars while dicing for my firing on the the right flank - command blunder in Blitzkrieg commander terms! Checking the ensuing result ended with my safely entrenched infantry throwing themselves down the hill at the advancing Germans! See following for before..

..and after!

Next, DG diced for the arrival of his stuka - all that infantry was far too tempting a target...war smileys He then proceeded to roll the deviation dice to see where the bombs landed only to find out that his guys were so close to mine that they got bombed as well!

Shortly after this my 25pdr started to brew up his Pz III's, and the infantry on my left flank started throwing in all the metal at their command and before we knew it, the Germans were at breakpoint and the British (amazingly) had won!

Post Match Analysis:
  • A fun game despite the shambolical way that it played out... we blame it mostly on the lack of practice, like most rule sets Blitzkrieg Commander deserves close attention and DG and I hadn't played since April
  • Artillery and air support are powerful - everything within a 20cm square template is hit
  • We toyed with the idea of allowing casualty points and suppression to be carried over between moves - the game would be more bloody as a result
  • Something about targeting doesn't seem quite right - when we diced for hits from multiple firing stands we tended to pick one base and concentrate all the fire on it in order to destroy it quickly. Would all stands in a unit fire at the same target?? We talked about ways of dividing the shots randomly amongst all bases in the opposing unit - we might be better perhaps to use target priority rules, or fire at closes first, etc. More thought required
  • Refreshments on this occasion was a lovely glass of Badger "Tanglefoot" along with curry spiced nibbles - it seemed right given the desert theatre!