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!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Figure comparison - Kennington and Newline Designs

One of my purchases at Warfare at the weekend was a pair of American Civil War staff officers from Kennington Miniatures which I bought in order to be able to compare them with my more usual Newline Design figure as a possible alternative sources of figures.. not that I'm unhappy with the Newline Designs figures (far from it!!), but variety is the spice of life as they say!

In the following then we have the two officers either side of a Newline Designs marching trooper..

The Newline figure is smaller (as I'd heard elsewhere), but not to my mind significantly so.....

Kennington figures are £2.75 for four (I believe... it's not specifically stated on the website! ), Newline are £1.75 for four... that's a difference of 69p & 44p per figure roughly - an astonishing difference!

Nice figures, but am I seeing a 35%+ nicer figure??

Unlike Newline, Kennington don't seem to do battalion packs for their ACW range which might bring those prices down; they do have an army pack but at £90 it's too rich and too big for my blood... shame - looks like I'll not be investigating further, but they are nice figures.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Warfare at Reading (2010)

DG has been down for the weekend, and in addition to a (very) enjoyable if slightly shambolical WWII game on Friday evening (on which another post will follow), we also managed to break away for a trip to the ever so enjoyable "Warfare" show at Reading today..

Warfare is the show that kind of brings the 'show year' to an end for DG and I, we won't get another one now for almost 6 months (Salute next year in April) so we have to make the most of it! It's not a huge show,but it buzzes, and if it wasn't as busy today as I seem to remember it in previous years, there were a huge number of competition games under way, and the general chat would seem to indicate that the traders had done OK...

What pleased me enormously was the quality of the "Flames of War" WWII competition games - very noticeable quality, and a real pleasure to watch - not something I can usually say... It's ok though, the DBMM, and WRG 6th edition competitions showed the usual green blanket and two squares of cardboard acting as a built up area & wood approach..! laughing smileys

Purchases today were entirely random - I had no shopping list at all, but ended up buying a Colonial rule set "A Good Dusting"

A complete and total spur of the moment purchase - not hugely expensive, but they include an automated Dervish reaction mechanism - something right up my street for those of you who have followed my Sudan project blog... The rules themselves are clearly laid out, simple, include saving throws (hurrah - how old school is that!), lots of diagrams, and got me very interested very quickly... really looking forward to trying these, look out for a play test soon. Click the link above for a more detailed description..

Next some wagons for my American Civil war project - I had no idea I needed these (laughing smileys) but was walking past the Sergeant's Mess stand and saw a very handsome wagon set on display at a price I couldn't really justify for the numbers I wanted... thinking on it further though I realised that most metal WWII ranges are usually 20mm so I went browsing - after all the German army of WWII was one of the most horse reliant modern armies there was so surely someone would have something.... and so it transpired that on the Britannia Miniatures stand I found the following at half the price, and bought two... this is a Wehrmacht Horse Drawn Ammunition Wagon

..with the judicial use of a little file, the feldmutze can be turned into a kepi and these guys will be heading for the armies of the Union and Confederacy as ammunition re-supply units for my regimental Fire and Fury rules..

...and that was largely it apart from a couple of Kennington American Civil officers that I bought largely to see how they scale against the Newline figures. Brilliant day - I thoroughly recommend going to wargame shows without a shopping list!

The games on the whole were a little disappointing this year, a lot of them I'd seen at Colours just a couple of months ago or at Salute, but the following was my stand out game of the show (no 2nd or 3rd..)

A Very British Civil War game...

...featuring Fascist cavalry, italian biplanes & armoured steam rollers..

..all exquisitely painted. Nice bunch of blokes running it as well - more than happy to stop and have a chat but they hadn't won a single prize. I was saying to DG afterwards, what is it about me and my favourite games that they never seem to win anything (remember the Blenheim game at last years show, and at Salute, not a sausage at either!)... people are going to start hiding soon, I seem to be the kiss of death to any prize hopes! laughing smileys

One last picture - it caught my eye purely because everyone seemed to be having fun. This was an American Civil War participation game, and I cannot tell a lie it also caught my eyes because it featured a 'certain' zouave regiment..

Look at those kids - are they having fun, or what?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Death to the French" - CS Forester

...my second electronic book - I've been reading them on a Nintendo DS using the home grown "MoonShell" application, which is probably just about as far away from the dedicated e-reader experience (Kindle and the like ) as you can get; having said that you can't argue with the price of the books, and it's great to just slip in your pocket for a read whenever you have a moment.

This and all the other books I've recently downloaded were all free from either the Project Gutenberg site, or a new site that I've just discovered called Burgomeister's Books. The benefit of Burgomeister's site is that it has some newer books (I got the Eye of the Needle book from there and also a couple of James Bond's)... worth checking, but note that it is currently down with rumours of funding difficulties for his server.. adult smileys

I hadn't read this book, however, in ages but remember it from my early days in war gaming when I read anything and everything to do with the Napoleonic Wars – written by CS Forester (better known as the author of the Hornblower books), this one is set on land and is about Riflemen Dodd, a green jacket with the 95th Foot in Portugal. Separated from his regiment the book is about his adventures in trying to get back to Lisbon and his regiment, who are there with the rest of the British army...

With Dodd, Forester has depicted his riflemen hero as very much a product of his age and his training.. there are no signs of a certain Sharpe about the place in any way shape and form (although funnily enough a similar Dodd does appear in Sharpe!).. Dodd has no soft edges, he knows his duty and follows it ruthlessly even when it leads to the death of his compatriots.

Unable to return to Lisbon because the of the French siege lines in front of Torres Vedras, he takes shelter in a Portuguese village and organises them to fight the French, a regiment of whom are soon camped near the Portuguese village. The ensuing fight is to the death, and the village is soon sacked... Dodd then moves on to harassing the French by attacking their siege equipment - they are building a pontoon bridge to get over the Tagus - which he manages to burn, but not before the French decide to retreat anyway..

As the book ends Dodd finally manages to return to his companions who are now in pursuit of the French.. typically, he gives no indication whatsoever to his commanding officers when asked how he managed to survive so long..!

Forester gives a fair intimation of what war against the French must have been like - in fact there are close parallels with what was about to engulf Europe just 9 years after this book was published (1930). These parallels are so good in fact that while I was reading the book I did wonder if there was some kind of allegory going on...

Recommended, but it's not a pleasurable read - bit harrowing for that.. Steve the Wargamer gives it a solid 7 out of 10.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Duryée's Zouaves


I approached these figures with a considerable amount of trepidation for a number of reasons.. first the figures (by Newline designs) are very very nice and deserve a certain amount of skilled paint brush'ery, but two, one of the main drivers for my interest in the American Civil War was to be able to have a couple of zouave regiments present! So much responsibility to rest on such tiny metal shoulders

Either way can I present you with the first of the two zouave regiments (one Confederate and one Union) to join my American Civil War project; these are the Union 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, better known as "Duryée's Zouaves" after their first colonel, Colonel Abram Duryée.

The regiment was formed on April 12th, 1861, by a group of military enthusiasts in Manhattan, was formally accepted by the state on April 23rd. It deployed to Fort Schuyler at Throgs Neck, New York Harbour to organise, and was mustered into the United States army to serve for two years on May 9th. It must have been a sight to see; "the majority of the soldiers were educated and above average height".

Colonel Abram Duryée was appointed as the commander of the regiment (that's him to the left - an interesting man, he came from a family of soldiers, made general in the Union army, as did his son, and after the war he became New York City Police Commissioner!).

On the 23rd May it embarked for Fortress Monroe, camped for a few days near Hampton Bridge, then moved to Camp Butler, Newport News, and was attached to Brig Gen Ebenezer W. Peirce's brigade.

The troops of the 5th led the force at the battle of Big Bethel (June 10, 1861; the 5th New York Zouaves attempted to turn the Confederate left flank, but were repulsed) and lost 5 killed, 16 wounded and 2 missing.

In July they would be transferred to US Major General John A Dix’s division. Garrisoned in Baltimore, they would serve in the city’s defences through March 1862 when they were transferred to Brigadier General George Sykes’ Second Division of US Major General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps – Army of the Potomac - with which it fought in the battles of the campaign on the Peninsula. McClellan said that "the Fifth is the best disciplined and soldierly regiment in the Army." During this period Duryée had been promoted to general rank, so Governeur Kemble Warren (now that's a name..) took over command of the regiment.

At the Battle of Hanover Courthouse on May 27th the regiment played only a minor role. However, they had a more major role in the Seven Days Battles (June 25th –July 1st, 1862; a series of battles that prevented the Union army capturing Richmond - 'Bobby' Lee forced McClellan back to the James River)

As McClellan moved his base to the James River on June 27, 1862, the regiment fought against the Confederate soldiers under Gregg’s South Carolina brigade. In a counter-attack, the regiment defeated the initial Rebel attack.

In August 1862, the regiment came under the command of General John Pope. At the Second Battle of Manassas (also known as the Second Battle of Bull Run), the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry regiment was forced to withstand the advancing forces of General James Longstreet. After the hard fighting of the Seven Days battles, the regiment numbered around 560 men – 60 of which were new recruits.

Pope seriously underestimated the size of the Confederate advance and ordered the regiment to support Hazlett’s Battery. The stage was set for their bravest and most tragic moment.....

Longstreet’s soldiers easily outnumbered the small regiment, and the Texas Brigade (a battle hardened group that included the 1st, 4th and 5th Texas regiments, the 18th Georgia and the Hampton South Carolina Legion - four or five regiments to one!) quickly inflicted over 330 casualties on the regiment. One hundred and twenty of the zouaves were killed within eight minutes (!), the greatest single battle attrition of all Federal volunteer infantry regiments in the entire Civil War. The entire colour guard was killed, except for one man. The only officer to survive the battle was Captain Cleveland Winslow (who went on to command the regiment - though it would seem the men didn't particularly like him as he was a bit of a martinet).

"Forced to retreat towards Henry House Hill, nearly a mile to their rear, the few remaining Zouaves gathered around the regimental flag, which Warren had ordered jabbed into the ground. As Hennessy described in his authoritative narrative on Second Manassas, 'Warren sat immobile on his horse, looking back as if paralysed, while a handful of his men, formed in files of four, blackened with dust and smoke, stood under the colours as silent as statues, gazing vacantly….A murmur of surprise and horror passed through the ranks of our Regulars at the fate of this brave regiment.' With only sixty of its men filing under the regimental flag on Henry Hill, five hundred lay scattered - dead, wounded or missing - on the stubble field one mile to the west. The scene of slaughter was not missed by the charging Confederates, with one of Hood’s men stating the scene was 'a ghastly, horrifying spectacle.'"


Later, at the Battle of Antietam on September 17th, not surprisingly, what was left of the regiment was held in reserve.

Three months later they fought at Fredericksburg, and on December 15 helped cover the Federal retreat from the town.

Following several months in winter quarters, Winslow (who was now colonel) led the Zouaves in their final campaign culminating in the Union defeat at Chancellorsville (the Confederate victory was tempered somewhat by the mortal wounding of "Stonewall" Jackson to friendly fire, a loss that Lee likened to "losing my right arm.").

"The officers and men of the Fifth New York behaved as they have always done," brigade commander Patrick O'Rorke reported; "I can give them no higher praise."

On May 14, 1863, the regiment, commanded by Winslow, was honourably discharged and mustered out of service. Its three years' men (the newer recruits still with time to serve) were transferred to the 146th New York Volunteer Infantry.

During its service the regiment lost by death, killed in action, 4 officers, 126 enlisted men; of wounds received in action, 2 officers, 47 enlisted men; of disease and other causes, 37 enlisted men; total, 6 officers, 210 enlisted men; aggregate, 216.

Figures are Newline Designs, 20mm, and painted largely with inks - Winsor & Newton calligraphy ink (blues and blacks), and Daler Rowney FW acrylic ink for the red (nicer shade than the Winsor & Newton equivalent)..

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At some point in time this week I noticed that the number of visitors to the site snuck past the 100,000 mark - only one word for it, "blimey"... oh, and all of you need to get out more! adult smileys

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rumours of War

...just a quick review least you think this web site may be turning into a Matthew Hervey/Mallinson fan club! I was cycling to work the other day though and realised that unless I saved some of my reviews from over there on the left - they'd just get lost... which seemed a shame given that this blog does form the function of a diary/notebook of sorts..

So - in this, the sixth book in the series, with peace in Europe Hervey wangles (with a lot of help from his lover, Lady Katherine Greville) his way onto a military mission to observe and advise on events on Portugal where civil war in the air following the death of King John VI.

A group of British officers is sent by the War Office to provide support and guidance to the Queen, and to provide advice to the British government on what their actions should be in supporting their old ally.

It is 1826 and the return to the country 30 years later sparks many memories of his earlier army career when, as a callow cornet with the 6th Light Dragoons, he was in Moore's retreat to Corunna. I really liked this, as the book constantly provides flashbacks to the retreat, and we get a good impression of what the regiment did, and how Hervey served at the time..

This is set against his actions to try and sway the leader of the British observing group that his assessment of the situation is more correct, whilst also embroiling himself personally in the first skirmishes as Spanish supported Portuguese troops of the rebel party clash with the Queens forces...

His personal life is no less stormy - Hervey learns that Lady Katherine's interest comes at a personal price that he is not willing to pay... I foresee storm clouds ahead!

Steve the Wargamer rates this one as a nine out of ten...

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Coming up soon - the Zouaves!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

I have been to... Edinburgh Castle

Last week the Steve the Wargamer road train (the only way you could possibly describe the sheer magnitude of our family going on holiday!) headed in the direction of Scotland for a weeks stay with my dad in Edinburgh...

To be honest, the presence of Steve the Wargamer and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer was neither here nor there, I have long accepted that we are at best "tolerated" as a necessary evil in allowing my Dad to spoil his grand-children rotten for a week; the benefit of this though is that Steve the Wargamer and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer had some spare time to go and do some stuff on our own - invariably, being Edinburgh, this involved some retail experiences, but on the Friday I got away to have a good explore of Edinburgh Castle...

Surprisingly, despite having visited Edinburgh for years- this was my first trip, but my Dad was up for it so off we went...

Having paid the entry (not excessive in my view given the sheer amount of things to see and do), what was a huge surprise to me was the number of separate museums within the castle... the castle holds the Scottish War Museum, and also the regimental museums of both the Scots Dragoon Guards and the Royal Scots - all of which we visited, though I will admit that I took a bit longer than my Dad! The Scuba Site

The site is spectacular - no wonder they built the castle there in the first place - in fact the first archaeological and historical references show that the first castle was built around 600 AD though the fort didn't start to look like it does today until much later (late 1500's) ..

The National War Museum of Scotland (not surprisingly) focuses on the Scottish experience of war, both before and after the Union of 1707

..lots of really interesting stuff, especially on the '45 (Culloden and the Bonny Prince etc) but also on the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars - the museum holds the original painting of the Thin red Line which is stunning...

Of the two regimental museums both were good but the Royal Scots regimental museum scraped the "win" for me...

In the Scots Dragoon Guards museum I learn that the Scots Greys should be more properly known as the "Royal North British Dragoons" - political spin was prevalent even then!! The current regiment dates from 1678, but as is the way with British Regiments have been through endless amalgamations since they first formed - the timeline [click here] on the web page is brilliant - at least three regiments that went on to be amalgamated into the current regiment served in the Wars of the Spanish Succession.. they also have the French eagle and the regimental flag captured by Sergeant Charles Ewart at Waterloo..

Good stuff.. but I enjoyed the Royal Scots museum more - I think because the early history was covered much better. My interests lie in pre- SYW history, and to be honest both regimental museums focus on the Seven Years War (probably not surprising given that it could probably be classed as the first "world war") and this regiment had a good coverage of this period... like the Scots Dragoon Guards, the current Royal Scots are the product of many amalgamations, but at least one of the early regiments served in Tangiers.

The regiment dates its origins to 1633 - in regimental seniority they are the 1st of Foot - Charles I issued a warrant to Sir John Hepburn to raise a regiment of troops for French service. They were recalled in 1661 (that must have been a culture shock after 30 years!) and in 1680 they were sent to the aforementioned Tangiers where they won their first battle honour. They were designated Royal on their return (by Charles II) and went to serve at Sedgemoor and under Malborough during the War of the Spanish Succession... brilliant museum - much recommended...

..topped off with watching the one o'clock gun being fired, a visit to the The Scottish National War Memorial (very thought provoking and a magnificent memorial to the Scottish dead of many wars), a good look at Mons Meg (one of two siege guns given to James II of Scotland in 1457 - absolutely huge - weighs over 6,000kg, and fired 150kg stone cannonballs - it was cutting edge at the time but to the modern eye looks astonishingly cumbersome) and that was it...
..and the afternoon was nicely rounded off by a trip to the The Guildford Arms

..where they were running a Derbyshire Beer Festival.. sigh... you come all the way to Scotland and end up drinking English ales! Nah - they were brilliant... My dad and I tried three or four - the outstanding choice for me was the Thornbridge Brewery "Jaipur" a whopping great 5.9% but so chock full of hops you can feel it cleaning your teeth while still retaining a slight citrus flavour...very nice! The Scuba Site

Brilliant day out...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Call to Arms & the The Sabres Edge...

...simply fantastic... Mallinson goes from strength to strength in this, the fourth and fifth books in the series..

In a "Call to Arms" with his wife dead, killed in Canada by native Indians, Harvey has left the army and travels to Rome with his sister where he meets Shelley (as in the poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley). Conversations with him cause Harvey to reconsider his abandoned army career, and he re-enlists by purchasing a commission back with his beloved 6th Light Dragoons.

Having arrived back with the regiment, and a far more enlightened Colonel, Harvey is given the job of training a new troop - but he only has weeks before they depart for India...

Once there, in order to bring them up to operational readiness as soon as possible, they are given a detached service but Harvey soon finds himself embroiled in the beginnings of the first Anglo-Burmese war in an attempt to stave off early defeat by destroying the Burmese war boats....

In "The Sabres Edge" Harvey's regiment are still in India, but with little opportunity for cavalry action in a campaign that is largely fought in the dense Burma jungle, he volunteers as an aide de camp to the office commanding the expedition.

The regiment however are soon called upon to face a different enemy, when rebellious elements elsewhere in India, taking heart at the setbacks the British army are facing in Burma, rise in open rebellion and take cover in the fortress of Bhurtpore. Once again, Harvey is at the forefront of the subsequent siege...

Excellent - Steve the wargamer gives both these nine out of ten... there has to be the option for a better book but it's difficult to see how!