Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas New Year hiatus/catch up...

In to the 'dog days' of Christmas here at Chez Steve the Wargamer and I have the week off... 

The Christmas haul was good, mostly self funded from various vouchers requested, and gratefully received...  the two Arnold titles are novella's by the way ("short books" to you and I) and stupidly cheap for your Kindle - less than a pint * for a good read...  the Kydd book is an absolute bargain though, three books for the price of pint...   I'm well into the 'Prince's Gambit' at the moment (which chronologically takes place just before the Marston Moor book) and it is well worth the money spent...

* as in beer...  currently about £3.70 in the posh south of England.. 



...but the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer did come up trumps with the following surprise...


...concert footage from the Floyd "Pulse" Tour back in the day (she was pregnant at the time with our eldest ...  who is now 20! Gah!!! Where did that time go???) Looking forward to seeing it immensely..

Elsewhere - Steve the Wargamer is not a huge television watcher these days - not enough time (and usually bolleaux on there anyway) but I do wholeheartedly recommend "Dickensian" [clicky] if you get the chance (and for those in the UK it's all on catch up) - what an absolute diamond of an idea - imagine the characters in all of Dickens's books existing in a single story line, and what would happen...  imagination running wild at it's very best by the writers....  the Scrooge depiction, and Fagin, are spot on... hideously recommended, and the BBC at it's very best...

I'd also recommend "And Then There Were None" [clicky] which is another BBC drama, this time of the well known Agatha Christie...  3 episodes and it's edge of your seat stuff..  brilliant actors, good script, fantastic film work, looking forward to episode 3 tonight very much as I have no idea "who dun it"

On the war-gaming front, yesterday I repaired to the loft (where the "stuff" is ) and embarked on the first of two fairly major projects I have in mind for this coming year, which is to re-base the Sudan and AWI collections..

The AWI collection because it is now over 25 years since I first based them, and some of them are looking a little sad and threadbare - I also have a view to change the base style so that more information is available on top of the stand (name of unit, and perhaps some basic rule stats?? etc)..

The Sudan collection because I have grown increasingly un-enamoured of the 6 to a base for the infantry - they're too cramped - so I am moving to four to a base, and also taking the opportunity to standardise the basing material, and move to MDF bases..

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man" - a review..

..not too many posts lately, like everyone else mostly just too busy with work, visits by visitors, and the general run up to Christmas...

I have however just finished this, which was recommended to me as a good general history of the Fall of France in 1940 (a particular interest of mine), in addition to being almost the definitive account of the 'rescue' of the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches of Dunkirk...

It's a big old book (with very small print), so it took some time to get through - the copy I had was a second/revised version, and Montefiore has extensively updated the book,  and included quite a lot of additional/new information as a result of subsequent research.. having said that it only cost me £3.50 new (from our local Tesco's) so I'd say that classes it as an absolute bargain!

So having said all that, what do you get? 720 odd pages, of which I conservatively estimate 50% is personal testimony (from personal, and unit war diaries, reports, court testimony, etc) from those involved int he actual battle - the book is primarily a British perspective so most of this personal experience is from the British point of view..   I was reminded throughout this book of the time I read Alistair Horne's book on the same period [clicky] - they are both equally readable, and as I've always preferred the Richard Holmes approach to military history (personal viewpoints to the fore), absolutely fascinating at times, but they were both also quite hugely depressing...!

When push comes to shove, France was lost due to unpreparedness, stupidity (in some cases), and a monumental collapse in morale on the part of the French (for various and multitudinous reasons) and 600+ pages of that is going to get you down in the end. More than anything though what comes through is the fighting spirit of the British troops (and to be fair some of the French), all they wanted was an even chance to have a go at the Germans, but what they got until Dunkirk was an endless succession of withdrawals and retreats as they time after time found their flanks abandoned by other troops..  when they did get chance to fight (and the stand out is the tank lead counter attack at Arras) they had the ability even this early in the war to scare the Germans mightily..

Once the British got to Dunkirk, it was the sacrifice and fighting ability of a comparatively small rear guard force that then allowed the majority of the army to escape (almost 340,000 men, mostly British, were rescued through Operation Dynamo [clicky] as the British code named it)..

What did interest me however, was the slightly/more unknown story of what happened after Dunkirk, when the British launched Operation Aerial [clicky] which recovered a further 190,000 troops from the western Channel ports (St Nazaire primarily)...  stunning!

Brilliant book, perhaps a litle too detached to make it stand out?? Well worth a read, but the Horne book shaves it for me..  8/10

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sikh infantry for the Sudan

More paint brush butchery... 



This is what I was trying to represent this time..

35th Sikhs - later period Sudan (approx 1896) from Wikipedia
Though this is more representative - the following is a picture of the 15th Sikh's (Ludiana) - not sure where but the time is correct for their deployment to the Sudan - you'll note the lighter puttee's/gaiters...  all leather equipment is brown, uniforms khaki, officers are European (typical at the time), weaponry would have been the Snider rifle (precursor to the Martin Henry in the British Army, but foreign troops always had one level of equipment older, either for financial or safety reasons - memories of the mutiny were still strong) - details from the wonderful Perry Miniatures page [clicky]

15th Ludhiana Sikhs at Suakin in the Sudan - 1885
The 15th were one of three Sikh regiments (if my research is right) raised just before the Second Sikh War (the British clearly understood the fighting qualities of the Sikh's!), and the present day 15th is the most highly decorated regiment in the Indian Army. They took part in the Battle of Tofrek (where they won the battle honour "Tofrek") and throughout both Suakin campaigns - the earlier 1885 campaign, and the later 1890 Omdurman campaign...


When I ordered the figures I should have got three packs so I was short of figures to make my usual 4th base...  three will do for now and I'll pick up another pack at Salute if Caliver are there..  I boosted numbers with a couple of European figures - the officers head gear is incorrect, but whose to say he didn't win it in a game of whist after arriving in Suakin?

The figures are 15mm from Minifigs and are 'passable' - no excuse for my paint butchery other than that it's been a while and I find it takes a few units to get my poor hand back in to the groove..



Other references:

http://www.sikh-history.com/sikhhist/archivedf/feature-june2001.html

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Warfare 2015

Another triumphant effort by the Wargames Association of Reading as last weekend was another run out for their Warfare Show - one of the highlights of the year for me (and I think DG)..  It's not a big show, but I've always associated it with the end of the season, and that the run up to Christmas (my favourite time of the festive season) starts from that point..

It's primarily a competition weekend so there's no masses of eye candy demonstration games to look at, but they have a well stocked dealer hall, enough eye candy to keep the interest up, a Bring and Buy, and a very definite buzz from all that competition....

A particular hybrid of Homo Sapien - Homo Wargamus Competivus

Purchases were small - I have more than enough lead to keep me going given the almost glacial speed with which I complete units - but I did want some more paint; refills and replacements mostly, especially basic horse colours (a variety of brick red's for Bays). The Vallejo stands fulfilled that requirement pronto, and then I spotted a bargain on the Bring and Buy


..not only that there was an entire box of them, all mint condition, and mine for £3 - I was so enthused I bought two and gave one to DG...! 

So on to the games - once I'd discarded all that were of no specific interest to me (usually ruled out on one or more of period, scale, or featuring hexes ) there were just two worthy of inclusion, but one worthy by special mention... 

So in second then, this game on the Battle of Fornovo [clicky] by Malvern Old Wargames group who were using Advanced Armati Renaissance rules.. 


Not an outstanding game compared to some, but I am drawn to games that look like they are being played.  It's like the difference between a show-home, and one that's lived in and loved...


So a single terrain cloth with no join down the middle would have been better, but the figures were lovely and there was lots of them!



In first place, a demonstration game for the new English Civil war rules "To Defy a King" [clicky]. Some of my reader (singular) may remember that these rules and the attendant game featured in my 'top whatever' last year..


This time the Scots featured - a very very pleasing set up - not particularly bothered about teddy bear fur but these units looked just right in terms of numbers and scale..



...it's all very tempting...


Notice the ones on the end? 


So lastly, and very much worthy of mention was this offering on the Society of Ancients stand, who as part of the their 50th anniversary celebrations (blimus..  50 years...!  I was a member for a while anyone else remember the endless discussion in Slingshot in the mid 70's on what a rhomphaia was and what an Argyraspid did in a Macedonian army ?? )

Anyway - this was a bit of a treat...  a game using Tony Bath's actual/original flats!



How many battles have these guys fought over the years? If only they could speak... (note authentic corrugated cardboard!)


Recognise these?


Yep same ones as here:


Fantastic..

 
 Have left this at full size so you can click and embigen to the full wack - an interesting read..
 

More here...  http://soawargamesteam.blogspot.sk/2015/11/14th-and-15th-november-reading.html

Brilliant show - bring on Salute!

Monday, November 16, 2015

"One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 6 - "Flank Attack (1)" - Set up & Game

With DG down for the weekend for our annual visit to Warfare it seemed a shame not to get together for a face to face game, and as out usual games are via Skype, which is not a medium suited to games where the units don't 'stand out' I suggested a desert game, either WWII or Sudan...  after brief discussion via email we chose the Sudan using the "A Good Dusting" [clicky] rules..

I then sat down to think of a scenario, but had a bit of a brainwave and decided to have a look-see at what the next scenario was in One Hour Wargames, to see if it could be modified or used..  the scenario is based on Salamanca - flank attack on a moving column - perfect, so the decision was made...

Rather than use the random force generator in the book I went with a vanilla solution based on the rules. I stuck with 6 units for the Imperial forces - one of Lancers (how could I not?? ), two of British regulars, 2 of Egyptian regulars (one Sudanese/one Egyptian), and a Gatling gun detachment. DG had the honour of commanding the Imperial forces, I took the Dervish...

Table was as follows:

Dervish arrival points are on the lower table edge - three tiles, 1/2 for the left, 3/4 for the middle, 5/6 for the right....

A road/track down the middle (vaguely marked by the scrub), leads to an Arab village garrisoned by one unit of Dervish, and an ancient 12 pounder crewed by captured Egyptians...Imperial entry on the left..

The rules recommend two to one, or three to two, for the Dervish but in the end I went for two to one as I thought the Imperial force would tear them apart and I wanted a balanced game... I rolled for the Dervish arrival as per the rules; starting at a high percentage on move 1, and deducting 10% per move, roll higher than or equal to the percentage to trigger Dervish arrival that move. If I got a positive result I then rolled for the number of units (1 to 3), the unit types, and I then rolled again for arrival point as per the caption above... I kept doing this, until I'd reached my 11 units and in the end I had 5 or 6 units of spear armed Nile Arab units, 2 of rifle armed Beja, 2 of cavalry, and one of camelry...

Let the game commence!

Next - DG has started his advance on to the table, but despite my telling him this was a Salamanca inspired scenario, and the first Dervish units having arrived on his left, he sent off a unit of foot to cover his right flank, while he cautiously probed forward...


Next - three units of mounted Dervish appear but get a rousing welcome from the Sudanese...


Who break off and loop back round to  look for easier targets leaving a unit of Beja riflemen to cover the gap..  on the hill in the middle distance the British infantry are suffering small, niggling, losses to long range artillery fire from the Dervish cannon. red dices in the following pictures are tracking casualties...


Next - BANG! Pluck tests are passed and the first hand to hand engagement is triggered on the hill as two units of Nile Arab spear men charge up the hill - elsewhere that Beja unit in the foreground is down to one base (blue dice) out of the original four it represents...


Next - all over bar the shouting - somewhat to my surprise, the Imperial forces were overwhelmed (??), and with not enough units to trigger his victory condition, DG conceded on move 20 or 21...


Post Match Analysis:
  • This was my fifth or sixth run out with the "A Good Dusting" rules, and while I'm reasonably happy with them, I took delivery of the "Sands of the Sudan" rules [clicky] some time ago and want to try them as there are some niggles with this set:
    1. There is a lot of dice throwing which can be fun to start wiith but is a bit of a faff after a while - a fully 'spammed' up force of four bases is throwing roughly 16 dice for casualty calculation, units then "hit" on a 3, 4 or 5 (depending on type), and have to throw those dice again for a "kill" - lots of dice throwing..  If I was going to stick with the game I'd modify it to fire by base rather than figure - throw one D6/base
    2. Imperial fire was fairly ineffective throughout - DG was getting the hits, but not the kills..  If I was going to stick with the game I'd modify it to fire by base as mentioned but unit scores the total as the number of 'hits', then throw for the 'kills' (or just leave the hits as actual kills for a really bloody game!)
    3. The "Pluck" (or Morale) rules are a little static...  an average Dervish unit for example has a pluck rating of 7, you have to get equal or less than that on two dice to pass..  the pluck value stays the same irrespective of how many casualties the unit has taken, so you get a situation where a unit could be down to it's last base but still has the same initial pluck..  If I was going to stick with the rules I'd drop the pluck rating by one for each base lost...
    4. The Gatling was pretty ineffective - despite hitting and killing on a 3, it only gets four dice - this doesn't stack with my readings of how devastating a weapon it was - but it was also a temperamental weapon and in the rules only jams on a double six...  If I was going to stick with the rules I'd allow more dice to hit, and a bigger chance of jamming?
  • Drinks up on the evening were an IPA [clicky] (has to be really given the period ) and on this occasion was "Ghost Ship" from the Adnams Brewery [clicky] snacks were BBQ Beef Hula Hoops (other potato starch based products are available...)
All in all then a good game and an excellent preparatory for Warfare, a veritable hors d'oeuvre for the main event (of which there will be a separate post), but not a wholly engaging result for the game..  time for a change!