Thursday, December 29, 2011

Praetorian - a review..

Hard to believe that this is the 11th in the Macro and Cato series, and I look back with not a little fondness to those earlier books where the stories were firmly set in the Legions, and the adventures and dangers they faced were of the more "believable" kind....

These days however, Prefect Cato and his blunt sidekick Centurion Macro have caught the eye of one of the Emperor's special advisors, Narcissus, and as a result they tend to get involved in more high flown drama's...  think that's been the case for a few of the books now...  and this one is no different.

The Emperor (Claudius, as in the superb BBC drama series based on the Rober Graves Books "I, Claudius) is the subject of a plot to assasinate him by a shadowy Republican group. Implicated in the plot are members of his own personal guard, the Praetorian Guard, Macro and Cato are sent to Rome with new identities and placed undercover in the Guard to find out who the traitors are.

Set against the famines in Rome, with shortages of grain from Egypt, spectacular gladitorial games to distract the mob, riots, and a dangerous hunt to expose the traiters, Macro and Cato are now moving in exalted circles...  we are introduced to Claudius's stepson Nero (and given he was the son of Claudius's niece who Claudius had married shouldn't that be step-nephew??) his own son Brittanicus (who I'd not heard of before)

All in all this is an enjoyable romp, the back story is splendid (good detail on the Praetorian's), there is a reasonable plot twist, the baddies are nasty, and the goodies are believable...

Steve the Wargamer gives this one 7 or 8 out of 10; 8 I think as there are signs at the end of the book that more normal ventures may about to be thrust upon them....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sometimes you know..

...that you got very lucky indeed on Christmas day..




...now that* should make blogging a little easier!

* A Hewlett Packard Mini 210-3025sa Netbook in Grey no less...and as an unalloyed geek...  a thing of total beauty..

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!



...and so another year is drawing to a close, and it falls to me to wish all those followers desperately hoping for something interesting here, a cracking Christmas (or "holiday" depending on your religious temperament)...

For those of you working (and there will be some) I hope it's not too onerous, but to the rest of you I can only wish, cool (as in temperature) ales (real of course), fine foods, and a film on the TV you haven't seen before....  oh, and loads of "soldier stuff" (as my spuds insist on calling my past time) under the tree.. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit..

...the official trailer is out.... 





...but you're going to have to wait 12 whole months to see it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Difficult to believe..

..that the lost post was ten days ago, but the dates don't lie - I can only plead "Christmas" in mitigation...

Running around like a blue ars*d fly at the moment either getting ready for the big day or on aligned activities - social events, shopping, wrapping, add in eating, working and sleeping, and that's it... not time left for wargaming - asolutely worn out...  the boat is being ignored as well....

In a particulalrly arid hobby patch I did have a good day in the loft on Sunday having a massive clear out.. three bin bags of various books, folders, papers, video's (that I can no longer play!) and assorted "stuff" have made their way to the garage where in the end they'll make their way to either tip or charity shop....

I'm continuing to play the Battle of Waynes Junction which winds it's way towards a close....I'll put a report up when it finishes but it's going to be a close finish...

Other than that, the perrenial wargamers standby is a good read and I'm currently well over half way through The Praetorian - no complaints - watch here for a full review when I've finished it....

In the meanwhile.......only 5 days to go!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big update to the Marlburian project page..

It must be one of those afternoons... warm and cosy in the loft is the definite place to be...


Anyway - I took the opportunity while sat in comfort to have a big virtual 'sort out' on my Marlburian project page [click here]....

  • Done a major update to the layout so as to aid simpler navigation by moving all of the sections to their own pages (see list at top of page). 
  • I've also added details of the "Raid on St Michel" campaign that DG and I played end 2009/beginning 2010 (see Game Reports page)
  • Game report added - "Sawmill Village" (ditto)
  • Game report added - "Holding Position"(ditto)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Heartstone".. a review

I've read one or two of Sansom's books and have never been disappointed - they invariably veer on the large side* and this book was no exception weighing in at 600+ pages....  (slightly amusingly, this was in the local library's borrow it for a week section - no chance!!)

So what do you get in your 600+ pages??  A story set in the summer of 1545, where England is threatened with invasion by the French (when are we not!).

Henry VIII's invasion of France to try and imitate his antecedents, has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel.

Conscription has been called, the currency has been debased to try and pay the massive costs of the war, and seemingly the whole of England is on a war footing.

In Portsmouth the royal fleet has gathered but is hideously outnumbered by the French.

Against this background Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer, is given a legal case by an old servant of Queen, Catherine Parr. He is tasked with investigating claims of 'monstrous wrongs' committed against a young ward of the court resident just north of Portsmouth.

Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth to try and discover what the secret is, and at the same time try to find out why one of Shardlake's acquaintances is incarcerated at Bedlam...

The background detail is fantastic -  at one point Shardlake goes aboard the Mary Rose - there is a clever plot twist, but it's not a frenetic book and I can't help thinking it would have been better for being a bit shorter....


Worth reading for the history - I had little or no knowledge of this period of my country's military history - not a bad story..  Steve the Wargamer rates this one six out of ten...

* as an aside what is it about the 21st Century that we focus so greatly on "large", "extra large", "go large"? There was a time when I was younger (oh no I hear you say... another Daily Mail diatribe about how things were better in the "old days") when coffee came in small mugs, music albums lasted no more than 45 minutes (two albums, or a double album, on one C90 tape cassette) and burgers (served only by Wimpy) were single slices of nothingness with no sign of extra cheese/bacon/sausage/vegetable matter/salad or anything else...  at about the same time if you picked up a thriller they would invariably be 250-300 pages.....  at some point in between someone said "more is good" and all of the previous examples have gained size/quantity, but not necessarily the quality to go with it (Wimpy excepted - they never had quality in the first place...
)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

He's back...

...rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated....

...but the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer and I are freshly returned from three nights in Bath for our traditional pre-Christmas trip....

...not bad for a view from the bedroom window.....
...quite astonishing quantities of carbohydrate were consumed, along with copious draughts of the landlord & vintners finest....

...and what can you say to a view like this outside your front door??
...and both of us have come back "larger" than when we went...  and also tired out, never seen crowds like it - I won't believe anyone who tells me that we are currently in a recession - the good folk of Bath were certainly spending on Christmas fit to bust!


..no wargaming or military visits to report (I'd wanted to go to Landsdown which is just up the road but we simply didn't have time) but as a parent there is something very sybaritic about being able to sit in a pub (that's it just above - next door to the Firehouse.. both are thoroughly recommended)  the whole afternoon on a Sunday and read the papers from back to front.....

...normal service should be resumed soon...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fusilier Regiment Erbprinz joins the ranks..

This unit has been awaiting completion since I got the figures through a private sale back in 2008.. (sorry for the delay, Jim! )

They were partially painted so in this case only required some touching up - some blue ink on the coats, flesh wash, re-painted the gun barrels, and I decided to colour the wigs a more natural colour as I assumed they would soon have "lost" the originals on campaign...  that and a base makes all the difference...

I've taken a bit of a liberty as this regiment became a musketeer regiment in about 1780 (so just before the Yorktown campaign which is my "timestamp" for the AWI project) but as I had the fusilier figures, and the uniform colours were correct for Erbprinz, I decided to go with it anyway...

This regiment was one of four fusilier regiments (the others being von Ditfurth, von Knyphausen and von Lossburg) from the German state of Hesse-Kassel. They were also known as the Prince Hereditaire Regiment. I have not managed to find any difference in function, or equipment, between the fusiliers and more normal musketeer regiments other than the distinctive fusilier cap..  any difference would have been lost in time, traditionally the fusiliers would have been the men who guarded the artillery - I suspect like many regiments they would have guarded the outward signs of their difference jealously, and hence they were still wearing their caps in America..



Each Hesse-Kassel musketeer or fusilier regiment had five line infantry companies and a grenadier company of about 135 men each; the grenadier companies however, were detached before leaving Germany and were formed into four composite grenadier battalions.

The Regiment arrived in America in August 1776 and saw it's first action in the New York area. The regiment arrived in Virginia in March 1781 where it was under the command of British Major General William Phillips. When Phillips died, the unit was temporarily under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, who was commanding troops in the British army by then.

A week later the unit came under the command of Cornwallis during the Virginia and Yorktown Campaigns.


As above the field strength of the fusilier and musketeer regiments were supposed to be around 500-600 men, but during the Siege of Yorktown Erbprinz consisted of approximately 400 men - during the siege they lost an estimated 23 killed, 57 wounded and 16 missing. The regiment was commanded throughout by Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Fuchs.

My reading/research would indicate that by the time of Yorktown, the fusilier regiments Erbprinz and du Corp, and musketeer regiment Trumbach, were superior in quality to the other musketeer and fusilier regiments from Hesse-Kassel. They were better trained and had higher morale.

The figures are Minifigs 25mm - and splendid they are! Base no. 48 & 49.. and coincidentally the 60th unit in the American War of Independence project!

The fusilier regiment as they would have looked prior to being designated a musketeer regiment and painted by the inestimable Mr Troiani


NB. As per my previous post [click here] this regiment will replace the existing unit with the same august name - the old unit will become either Grenadier Regiment von Rall or one of the other Fusilier regiments; in the previous post I said I'd need to summon up enough nerve to have a go at the red stripes of the von Rall trousers - following the recent successful experiment with the Tiger Zouaves and a fine drawing pen however, and I think I may have the tools at hand...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Battle of Sawmill

Time I think to let you know how the Battle of Sawmill Village turned out... this was a scenario from Charles Grant's "Scenarios for Wargamers" (scenario #41 titled "Chance Encounter")

In essence two roughly equal sized forces approached a village in the centre of the table from opposite diagonal edges - the mission was take and secure the village in order to win.

The following shows my interpretation of the map in the book:


Sawmill Village in the centre - a barn just to the right (that's south) of the village and the church wood west of the village. The entry points for each side are the corner nearest (bottom left), and the opposite diagonal corner...

In rules terms all slopes (including the flat surfaces on top) "were gentle slopes"; all woods (that's the trees on the extended bases, rather than the individual ones) were "open"; fields had no terrain impact/effects...

We diced for sides and I got the French, we then diced for entry point and I got the corner nearest the church...

Orders of Battle:

As mentioned above the two forces were roughly equal - I allowed 14 units each, plus one medium artillery piece - the 14 units could be anything from all the units painted to date, but no more artillery.

As the French, I would say that I was already at a disadvantage - the British and Dutch infantry get firing bonuses (simulating platoon firing), the British cavalry get melee bonuses (simulating their effectiveness as shock cavalry) - but knowing DG as I do, I decided to go for a force that included all the cavalry I had, as my plan was to get to the village first, occupy it, and then screen off either approach - I was guessing DG would go for a force heavy in infantry, and cavalry are real infantry killers (providing they close in the melee!)....

My force therefore comprised the following:


Seven squadrons of cavalry - two of them heavy (cuirassiers) - and seven of infantry... my entry order of march was as per the bottom..

DG, as I guessed, went for a  force strong in infantry:


Each side was only allowed to enter in column of march up to two units wide - it would therefore take two or three moves to get all units on the table..  units could deploy on their second move...

Only question was whether my plan would work!

The Battle:

Started off much as I'd planned...  French entered with all their horse...

A bucolic scene somewhere near the Rhine in 1704 - a merchant and herdsman heading for markets to the south of Sawmill Village spot the approaching troops and speed up...

I pushed forward as fast as I could, when the artillery arrived I sent it straight up the hill for maximum visibility and range....

First brigade (cavalry) deployed east, second brigade moves toward the village..my C-in-C oversees activities...


..meanwhile DG is bringing his troops on as fast as they can - he is slightly perturbed at this stage by the amount of French and Bavarian horse flesh on display..


He pushes his cavalry north - sweeping round the large hill between him and the village - at this stage my plan was looking good - three of my cavalry squadrons were holding all four of his squadrons..  meanwhile the second brigade was taking up position either side of the village while the foot advanced rapidly to occupy the village (which for this game is represented as a built up area the size of the tile the houses are standing on)

Merchants wagons continue speeding southwards!
...and it was at this point that my plan started to fall apart...

...spotting that DG was having a lot of problem manoeuvring in the limited space on top of the hill I decided to have a go at causing him some discombobulation by charging with a couple of squadrons of cavalry... in the first of the evenings devastating volleys his infantry just ripped me apart like a hot knife through butter...  (DG had these 'devil dice' with him on the night - seemingly incapable of throwing anything but 5's and 6's!) in short order both squadrons were basically rendered irrelevant - and that was my cavalry advantage gone....

On top of the hill one squadron has routed (red pin) - the second squadron has taken it's place and received more of the same (shaken - yellow pin)
I had assumed this was such a good plan that I had also bought up the cuirassiers for a little more of the same - on the plus side I had occupied the village...

Cuirassiers stand ready at the bottom of the hill
The Cuirassiers charge....  and get the same treatment as the other cavalry (yellow pin - shaken again!) - I even had my infantry ready to take the top of the hill once the cavalry had done their job....   no such luck - with two further devastating volleys the cuirassiers were also sent packing...

There comes a time when you realise that the evening is not going to go your way - this was it!
DG was now free to bring his cavalry round the hill and take mine on - he now had the advantage in numbers - four fresh squadrons versus three plus a half strength one...

Massive cavalry melee which the French held their own in whilst knowing the writing was already on the wall
...and then he bough down those masses of infantry - gulp...

Grand assault - 1
..different shot of the same assault..


...and this was DG's own picture he was so proud! Awe inspiring shot though...



...and that was it - the French recognised that even though they held the village at the moment - they could not prevail - and the British would eventually have to take it....

DG's plan was to hold back the infantry while he finished off the French cavalry - he could then swing his cavalry round and just roll up the French line - leaving the village until last if required...  couldn't argue with his plan....   or those devil dice.... so I conceded.

Post Match Analysis:

  • It was one of those nights where the dice just couldn't do any wrong for DG - hugely demoralising for yours truly - it's a game but you like to think that you may get some even breaks and I got few to none.... 

  • I think it's important not to over-react when deciding changes to a scenario based on a whupping as comprehensive as this... undoubtedly DG had some lucky dice throws (and I've had games like it in the past), but, ignoring the chance element, I would still recommend that the French get some kind of benefit, or bonus, to balance out the undoubted benefits the British/Dutch get in firing and melee. For the next time we play this scenario (and we will, as it is deceptively simple) either give the French another couple of units, or for that game only cancel out the British/Dutch bonuses...

  • I thought long and hard after the game about where my tactics had gone wrong and came to the conclusion it was with the commitment of the cuirassiers to the fight on the hill... up until that point in time, the use of two squadrons of cavalry to cause an untold amount of discombobulation was a good gamble - I failed in the face of those dice throws, but reinforcing the failure by throwing in the cuirassiers was not a good gamble...  I should have pulled back and conserved my strength. DG played the long game and won a convincing victory....

  •  Refreshments on the evening were down to DG who bought some beer from a local craft brewery... all I can say is that i9t was a very definite highlight of the evening - and I've had two or tree other beers to sample through the week as well - thanks very much DG!




Until the next time!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Warfare 2011

Fresh back from the yearly trip to "Warfare", and time I think to report on how the show/day went...

All in all I'd say that this year was very quiet - it's something I've notcied this year, as both the Reading & Newbury shows are slightly unusual in the UK in that they are two day affairs. Given the choice, DG and I will always pick the Sunday, in my case at least, that's the day the family are least likely to be doing something on so it's easiest for me to get away. In the case of Colours and this weekends Warfare though, it was noticeably less busy...  still a buzz, but not grooving and a shaking like it normally is...  economic effects??  Who knows - I do wonder about the economic viability of two day shows in the current climate...  the traders are not going to turn up for two days if no-one is buying on the second day...  it did seem to me, by the way, that not a lot of cash was changing hands - purely a perception....

So what did Steve the Wargamer buy???  Not a lot really - I have enough stuff to be going on with so I was there mostly for a good mooch around

I pre-ordered three unit bags from Newline Designs (who are having a rather awesome 25% off sale running up to Christmas!) so I picked those up and saved myself the postage, they will re-stock the lead piles nicely, and will eventually end up as three new regiments, four if there's enough figures lying around to make a scratch/"scruffy" Confederate regiment...

On almost the same subject I also picked up some Vallejo paint - a butternut & a better shade of grey for the Reb infantry, and I also cracked and bought a Yellow of quite outstanding custard propensities...  I don't have much luck with yellow (in acrylics I understand it's a difficult colour to get to work) so I'm hoping Vallejo is better - I'll advise when I've had time to test....

Last of all I also picked up some more copies of "Practical Wargamer" - at only 10p a copy it would have been foolish not to...  I've almost set in my mind to try and collect a complete print run of this much missed, wholly underestimated, periodical...   just wish someone would do that on CD or DVD.

...and that was it.... so ignoring the figures, I spent exactly £5.65 - rubbish!

...and so the the games.... Warfare has never been what I would call a "demo show" - it's primarilly a competition weekend - but they do have the occasional jewel (remember Blenheim from a few years ago?? ...who can forget!), this year though was a little light, and I could only consider two of them as particular favourites.....

In second place was this little set-to by the guys from Tiny Terrain Models a 15mm Blitzkreig Commander Game based on the 101st Airborne drop on the Cotentin Peninsular at night on D-Day..


Deceptively simple terrain - loved the windmill...


..also loved the bocage - really claustrophobic effects...

Overview from the other end..
..lovely game - loads more details and pictures here [click here]

My winner was this game - a huge 20mm set-up based on a fighting withdrawal to a steamer, somewhere in the Far East, at the start of the Japanese invastions of WWII.

I leave you to guess what first caught my eye... 




Loved the storage tank - guessing it was once a childs sand bucket...!

Lots and lots of detail everywhere you looked...

Little do those vehicles know that the Japanese are already ahead of them...
...and there you have it - another Warfare come and gone - next stop Christmas, and then Salute 2012!