Sunday, January 29, 2012

Raid on St. Michel - Game 5 - "Heading Home" - set up..

..and here's another bunch heading home after
a bank raid I was reading through my old campaign diary for the "Raid on St Michel" mini campaign (5 linked "teasers" by Charles Grant and Phil Olley...) I suddenly noticed that there was no game report for the final battle of the campaign... Smiley

I hoiked out my ancient and now slightly battered copy of the campaign book and read through it; for some reason, lost deep in the midsts of time, we never fought it - so the campaign conclusion remains undecided...!

For those with an interest the previous campaign battles (four of them) can all be found at the top of this page on the War of the Spanish Succession blog [click here] but in summary a British raiding force (who represent the forces of the Vereinigte Freie Stadte or VFS in the campaign) has marched deep into French territory (representing the forces of Lorraine), captured the treasury from the town of St Michel, and are now heading back to the border and safety just as fast as their feet will carry them..

In the previous game (no.4 - a hideously lopsided affair) the British failed to halt the French flanking force from re-taking the bridgehead so effectively the route home is now closed..  the British will have to fight through if they are to get the treasury across the river and home safe..

The first complication is to make head and tail of my previous casualty returns so I can figure out what the orders of battle are...

First the British then:

All the forces left over from the battle of St Michel (teaser no.3) which as the write up showed, was the death of the British cavalry - DG is very light on horse..  just a half squadron of cuirassiers..

I'm going to make one change, and that is to allow the British an extra transport piece - they will start with 3 wagons..

I'll also allow DG to consolidate his regiments, to make them more effective..

Next the French...  these comprise the forces left over after the previous battle, and in addition the French cavalry from the Battle of St Michel are shadowing the returning British force so can also expect to make an appearance:

Hmmmm...  much more evenly balanced!

Battlefield is as follows..  the French main force deploys this side of the road, the British columns arrives on the table in the far corner - behind the church. The French cavalry shadowing force arrives on the road to the right (theoretically on move 4, but I may make it dependant on a dice roll after move 4)..

Victory conditions; the British have to get two thirds of the treasure across the bridge, the French must stop this. Both sides need to ensure that their forces are not completely destroyed - so no sacrificial blocking by the British.. 

Promises to be good fun...  not sure when we'll fight it but I'm already looking forward to it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Back in August 2008 I painted enough figures for my first unit of Egyptian regulars in the Sudan project - this is they (looking far too shiny for my tastes)

With the rules I was using at the time (and may still return to to tinker with) these two bases represented a company which is the operation manoeuvre unit for the rules...

In the Good Dusting rules the manoeuvre unit is slightly higher (battalion/regiment), so I've taken to representing battalions with four bases - another two bases of Egyptians were therefore required to allow me to represent them on the table top. Happily I had enough figures in the painting pile to do the job - in order to give them some focus I also gave them an officer and piper... it is a curious thing that Egyptian regiments have a bagpiper but an interesting browse on Wikipedia tells me:

"The [highland bagpipes] also spread to parts of Africa and the Middle East where the British military's use of pipes made a favourable impression. Piping spread to Arabic countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Oman, some of whom had previously existing bagpipe traditions. In Oman, the instrument is called habban and is
From the excellent Savage and Solder site..
used in cities such as Muscat, Salalah, and Sohar. In Uganda president Idi Amin forbade the export of African blackwood, so as to encourage local bagpipe construction, during the 1970s."

Got to love Wiki - who would have known Idi had a domestic bagpipe industry in Uganda....???

Anyway - the Egyptian army had it's (re)birth following the battle of Tel el Kebir in 1883, it started off eight battalions of foot, but by the time of Omdurman was up to nineteen. These were comprised of separate Egyptian and Sudanese troops.

My copy of Asquith's "Wargaming the Sudan" tells me that each Egyptian infantry battalion comprised four companies of 200 men up until 1898.

In order of seniority they had regimental numbers of 1st through 8th, and 15th through 18th (the Sudanese would have been numbered 9th - 14th) and the general opinion at the time was that the Sudanese were the cream of the army, with the Egyptian regiments often being placed in the second line as they were seen to be lacking in fighting spirit, or what our French colleagues would call panache...

Either way - here's the first picture of the new recruits...  the officer is typical (see bottom of this post for a cracking contemporary photograph), and for the Egyptian regiments were usually British - British officers seconded to the Egyptian any were given a commission of one or two ranks above their own.

The Egyptian (and Sudanese) infantry were armed with the classic colonial weapon, the Martini-Henry rifle and triangular socket bayonet.

Opinions on the fighting quality of the Egyptian regiments changed markedly after the battle of Ginnis, when the Egyptian regiments cleared part of the village in stiff hand-to-hand fighting and captured four Mahdist guns - clearly the training had paid off - from that point on the Egyptians were seen as "steady" while the Sudanese were seen as the shock troops....

...and here's the entire regiment deployed as one.... the two new bases in the middle with the originals on the wings....  I applied a layer of Dullcote to the original regiment which has matted them down nicely, but I think I'm also going to re-base them as the new MDF bases are considerably better....

So there you have it - either two company's of the 1st Egyptians, or the 1st Egyptians, depending on which rule set I use.... figures are 15mm and (I think) largely Peter Pig, not sure about the officer/piper, he may be Lancashire from the first big bag of figures I bought way back at the start of the project...

So 12 painting points, thank you very much - next on the painting table a regiment of Confederate infantry for the American Civil War project.. promised a contemporary photograph - if this doesn't show a certain insouciance I don't know what does!

Anglo Egyptian army officer - from the Soldiers of the Queen web site..
Other sources:

The Egyptian Army 1880 - 1900 the Savage and Soldier magazine article by Doug Johnson

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Conquerer - a review..

Cover courtesy of
The fourth in the series and one of my favourites - this and the first one (about Genhis himself) are unputdownable...

Conqueror tells the story of Kublai Khan one of Genghis's many grandchildren and by far the most famous of the Mongolian khan's alongside Genghis himself.. 

His early life was a somewhat book'ish boy and at the end of the previous book his older brother (who is cast in the old school) sends him off to fight the Chinese, with his own army & advisors - a Mongol version of "sink or swim" if ever there was one..

At the end of the previous book Mongke is killed by assasins and this books deals with Kublai's rise to power, and the Mongol nations first civil war caused by Kublai's other brother, Ariq Böke, declaring himself Khan in Kublai's absence..

 Kublai is campaigning against the Song Dynasty in South China when he finds out - he immediately gives up on his Chinese campaign and gathering his supporters declares himself the Great Khan in opposition. The book deals with the campaigns, treaties, bribes and politics and the eventaul final battle where for the first time Mongol fights Mongol, and Kublai wins..

Gripping from beginning to end...  Steve the Wargamer rates this 9 out of 10 - read it!

Somewhat surprisingly (to me anyway) this turns out to be the last book in the series, I was expecting at least one more book with further detail on the life of Kublai, who was the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, reigned for 30+ years, founded the Yuan Dynasty in China, and who met Marco Polo...  in the afterword Iggulden says that he decided not to, as just for once he wanted to end a series where the major player lived...   can kind of understand that!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bad luck comes in three's...

..and can seriously bite into your available wargaming time...  

Not my legs, or my wheel - same fault though.. this week I'm cycling to work on Monday and one of the spokes in the back wheel "pings" - when I get to work I check it out and I find that it's completely loose and has come free at the rim...  that's completely free at the rim of the new back wheel I only bought nine months ago....  the back wheel that is double skinned, because British roads are so poor (and I'm such a fat bas**rd ) that I wanted the wheel to last..  the back wheel I paid a premium for....  gah...! Bike shop said (rightly I think - they're nice people) it's a 50:50 - either manufacturing fault or I hit a pot hole...  I end up buying a new wheel, they gave me free labour on swapping over the chain block...  that takes care of Monday/Tuesday and Wednesday (bought the wrong replacement wheel, had to go back and swap it, the whole story is too tedious to recount in full)...  the good news is that the bike is now back on the road...

In the car on the way home from buying the (wrong..) wheel I notice road noise from the passenger side - "hah" I think, "I've forgotten to close the window fully" - buzz, click whirr, window disapears rapidly into door, smashing sound ensues..... double gah!!! Coldest night of the year & no passenger side window.. Car goes to garage - they've just rung me with the news..  you don't even want to know how much...  scuba diving in menorca

...and I get home and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer says "don't get upset"...  oh no I think, what else could be worse??  Only my favourite beer glass cracked in the dishwasher...  I can take that..... what has this got to do with wargaming...??

Only an excuse for not having completed the Egyptian Sudan infantry currently on the painting table..

I have enought for two bases so as to complete the unit to the right.. wearing the tan campaign jumpers (as opposed to the dark blue that the Sudanese regiments wore) and a pleasing extra variable to add to the Imperial forces...

Next, I want to see if I can find some infantry to represent the various Indian regiments present in the Suakin [click here] theatre of the war, there involvement was such that it would be a great shame not to see them on the table top...

15th Bengal Native Infantry in the Sudan 1885 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

...but not before I first paint some more American Civil War infantry....


Separately, it's greatly pleasing to see how much use is being made of the Tabletop Teasers [click here]on my project blog - there's been a veritable splurge of acticity there recently...

When I first put them up 5 years ago I had no idea they would end up being as popular as they are - I liked them, I had no idea others thought the same; a true testimony to their entertainment value, and the skill of their author Charles Grant....  I should thank Charles again publicly for being willing to let me post them, so I will - thanks Charles!

Top 5 Teasers (in terms of downloads):

5.  April 1979 - No. 8 - "The Hasty Defence and Relief of a Town"...  282 downloads
4.  August 1978 - No. 4 - "Hold Up in the Badlands".. 292 downloads
3.  July 1978 - Playtest of Teaser #3 - "The Advance Guard Action"... 297 downloads
2.  April 1978 - No. 2 - "The Wagon Train"... 376 downloads

...and in the no. 1 position...

1. June 1978 - No. 3 - "The Advance Guard Action".. with 463 downloads!

Friday, January 13, 2012

First off the painting table in 2012.... Beja and Hadendowah

As promised the first painting efforts for 2012... after my desultory efforts last year I decided I needed to be a little more productive this year so here you go... on the painting table we have some Sudan period Egyptian infantry ready to get the treatment...

First though a base of Arab camelry for the same project...

Figures are from Peter Pig.. in rules terms these represent a half unit using the "A Good Dusting" set - I already had one base so these were painted to allow me to represent a full unit on the table... the challenge was matching the colours to the other base!

Next some Beja, the famed Fuzzy Wuzzy of Kipling fame - a fierce enemy as the British found on a number of occasions....

I'm trying to focus the Sudan project around the Suakin campaign where the Beja of Osman Digna featured heavily so there'll be more of these guys this year... figures again are Peter Pig - I think - not so keen on the pose of these figures, but they look good en masse...

So we're off the starting block and I make that 16 for the Beja, and 12 for the Camelry, and a grand total of 28 points...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Playing Favourites

... a cracking post at the Too Much Lead blog [click here] inspired me to take up his challenge to document my own favourites..

In summary, we all have favourite games, periods, inspirations and so on, the challenge then is to document what they are so that we can all see what drives each of us...

Wargames Period
Where it all began for Steve the Wargamer

Way back in the day I played Napoleonics (good old Airfix!) as it was about the time they were bringing out all those gorgeous boxes of new figures - British Hussars, Royal Horse Artillery, they were works of art. I also played WWII - 20mm, Airfix, Western Desert, with rules taken from "War Games" and modified to include those vehicles and AFV's that didn't feature..

Since then I must have played almost every period except the Russo-Japanese War (there's still time...), but if I'm forced to make a decision then my favourite period would be either the American Civil War, the War of Independence,the War of the Spanish Succession, WWII or Sudan Colonial....  and yes I know that's five - spooky that they should also turn out to be the same as my current projects though..

If I was forced to make one choice then, probably Marlburian - it has everything.... 


So difficult as to my mind certain scales fit certain periods...  easier to say what I don't like (1/300 or 6mm, as it happens - gah.....  why don't you just use cardboard counters and be done with it.. )

I have this twisted view that the lower the organisational level of the game then the bigger the figures should be... for brigade level games then 20mm or bigger is perfect - but Newline are my benchmark - if I was starting the AWI project again, then 20mm would be my scale of choice (if the range was available)...  the bigger the battle, then the smaller I go...  so 15mm is ideal for Marlborough ie. multi-brigade games just seem to need a smaller scale...  WWII however is made for 10mm - it's a range & space thing that can't be met by 6mm (see previous comment!)

If I was forced to make one choice then probably 15mm - it is so ubiquitous...


This one's easy... Will McNally's American War of Independence and Seven Years War Rules...  these two sets of rules have given me more fun games over the years than any other set I've used apart from perhaps the Don Featherstone WWII rules from War Games

An honourable mention goes to DBA... DG and I must have played it every other work day lunchtime for years at one time...


Chess - I love it and play every day on one of those correspondence chess web sites...  absolutely rubbish at it but I still love it...  I occasionally win, but as I never read those hideous strategy/famous chess openings books, the win is always a pleasant surprise! 

Other than that I would put my vote on Scrabble which I like to play with the family (but we don't score so we never have a winner or a loser...)

Despite having a fascination with wargame based board games (I love the maps/boards) I've never found them to be a satisfactory alternative to seeing little metal men on a wargame table...

Figure manufacturer

Some of Front Rank's finest..
No plastics feature - sorry, been there, done that, moved on.. 

So in the metal ranges...
  • 15mm Dixon Marlburian Cavalry
  • 20mm Newline American Civil War
  • 15mm Minifigs Marlburian Infantry
  • Front Rank American War of Independence range


"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members". Groucho Marx

....'nuff said...  I tend towards solitary endeavours - except when DG is down....!


Easy...  DG - but to be fair he's my only opponent unless you also put a vote in for.... errrrr...  me.... 


"Last of the Mohicans"

"Waterloo" was  the defining wargame related film for me - as an 11 year old I remember going to the cinema three times to see that film in the same week (DG has a cracking print of the aerial shot of the French cavalry attacking the squares on his wargames room wall)

Other than that I would put "Last of the Mohicans" for it's fine flavour of what it must have been like to have fought with black powder musket and tomahawk in the French and Indian Wars - Daniel Day-Lewis, and Wes Studi as Magua, are superb...


"War Games" started it all for me - and that's a hobby that's lasted almost 40 years now so I guess that can be classed as inspiring...! From "War Games" I moved on to "Battles with Model Soldiers", "Advanced Wargames", and all Don's other titles but the book I subsequantly pored over more than any of the others was "Solo Wargames" - there's not a duff page in it...

On the fiction front it's easy - Aubrey & Maturin, and Matthew Hervey have no competition - all other military fiction is mere fluff....

A very honourable mention however, goes to Ronald Welch - when I was a spud his series of books about the Carey family were read again and again (and again).....


William Stobbs illustration..
Three artists seem to convey my view of military activity better than all the others....  in no order
  • Bob Marrion does fantastic depictions of the common soldier in uniform - I particulalry liked his work in the Marborough books Charles Grant did for Partizan
  • Don Troiani - just superb pictures of the American Wars and fighting men - makes you want to reach for a paint brush whenever you see them...
  • William Stobbs - a little known illustrator but he provided the pictures in some of the earliest Ronald Welch books...

The Interweb

If I ignore GoogleReader (which is where I keep track of an implausibly large number of blogs) then my favourite web sites are Red Hot Pawn (that's a chess site!) and Blue Max (for playing Blue Max and Wooden Ships & Iron Men) oh, and I couldn't live wothout Google.....

  • favourite table size: 8x6 feet (an despite mine being 6 x 4 I haven't changed my mind..)
  • favourite tank: Panzer IV with Grant as a close second
  • favourite colour to paint uniforms: deep blue, perfect colour for inks..
  • ..can't think of anything else....
As Aki said in his post if you like the idea, now poach it for your own blog, it'll be interesting to see what other peoples preference are too...

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Fire and Fury dice woes...

...I've just got my 2012 painting tally off the ground with a couple of units of Beja and a half unit of Dervish camelry for the Sudan smileys (trust me, no one was more surprised than me given the veritable painting drought until now)

So while I wait for the inestimable Tony at East Riding Miniatures (wholly recommended for fast service) to send me some bases so that I can finish them* off, I gave some thought to some issues that DG and I are batting back and forth at the moment....

We are now fairly comfortable with the Regimental Fire and Fury (RF&F hereafter...) rules for our ACW gaming; they are the better of the numerous sets we have used, and while over the last few months I have had moments where I seriously wanted to throw them at the wall, and then into the bin, we've put in enough time that we can start considering some "house mods"..

Number one on the list  is the matter of dice...  all RF&F random decision points are based on a single D10 - clearly this can lead to vast swings in fortune from one move to the next, and while I accept that the dice is there to introduce randomness & luck, I do have a bit of an issue with the degree of randomness... Both DG and I agree that something needs to be done so we've been passing ideas backwards and forwards with a view to making some kind of change...
  1. first idea was to use the average of 2D10 but the primary concern was that this would make the extremes so unlikely that (in my eyes at least) the effect would be as unrealistic on the flow of the game as the issue we were trying to fix.
  2. next option was to use 2D6 as this gives a bell curve of results that is known and quantifiable - the downside of course is that the range of results is greater, and we would have to make some changes to the outcomes list so as to mvoe ranges of results up or down....
  3. DG has come up with an idea (he's far more mathematical than me) to use 2D6 where one is positive, and the other is negative...  I understand the concept but need more time to think about it...
  4. The latest idea, and perhaps most simple option, would be to throw 2D10 wherever you would normally throw 1, and then just take the best result...  I think we're settled on this as an option for the next game...
The second issue is with terrain - RF&F treats buildings in a most obtuse manner for a set of rules that are theoretically regimental level - at Corps or Divisional level I can understand the way they treat them but my understanding is that any size of house at the level we are playing at are significant....whereas RF&F nly treats some of them that way - not a major beef but we'll change it for the next game...

My last issue (and this is not such a problem to DG) is the morale rules for artillery....  infantry/cavalry is basically good or disordered, for artillery they have separate descriptions (damaged/silenced etc) which I for one have problems equating wih the infantry equivalent (and that's after a year playing them!) - I'd like to change the rules so that all troop types have the same morale condition....

Be interested int he view of any Fire and Fury players out there....

* I'll post on them when they're done - I seem to have a thing about not doing work in progress shots - I must be a "completist" If you're in need of an immediate Sudan fix though, can I direct you to the brilliant One Man and His Brushes [click here] blog where he has just finished some lovely looking Dervish

Sunday, January 01, 2012

That was the year that was... 2011

Happy New Year!

...and so another year disappears down the pan...

It seems de rigeur among the wargaming bloggerati to put up some kind of view of how 2011 was, and what your plans are for 2012, so why on earth should I want to buck the trend...??

I've got to say it wasn't a stand out year... painting totals for the year turned out at 223 [click here], but most of that was the WWII re-basing project so the number of new units joining the ranks was low - I stand in awe of the output of some of my fellow bloggers (they know who they are) but my favourite new unit this year was the Tigers [click here]

Ninety three posts this year (c/w 81 in '10) so that was pretty good (in fact I'm a bit surprised I was so prolific - it didn't seem like it!)

Only four table top games all year (pitiful) - but two massive virtual games that DG and I have been playing all year (Rogersburg and Waynes Junction)
Three brilliant shows though - Salute, Colours and Warfare - some fantastic books read, got to see the Mechanics again (brilliant night - Dad-dancing to the fore!), a fine holiday, and some good sailing [click here] made 2011 an overall good'un...

I don't make New Years resolutions - what I'd like to do is a little more painting, and a few more table top games than last year......  I'd be happy with that!

All the best to you and yours for 2012....!