Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Red Runs the Helmand" - a review..

Third and final in the Morgan series of books.. kudos to Patrick Mercer for not flogging a dead horse in the same way some series do when the author causes them to go way beyond their natural lives... (no way is this book a dead horse, by the way... )

This is the third book in the series the two previous ones being
To Do and Die Dust and Steel (set in the Indian Mutiny)..

Set in the 1880s during the 2nd Afghan War, this book is set almost 30 years after the previous book, and Morgan (now a brigadier and in the twilight of his careers) has been posted to Afghanistan as part of the British force providing support to the entirely ineffective Afghan leader.

The difference with the last book is that his sons, both of whom are brats,  are both serving under him in separate regiments..

I think it fair to say that Mercer is best when he's describing battles and skirmishes - he's not so good on family relations...the depiction of Maiwand is fantastic and gives a clear and riveting description of what it must have been like to fight in a Victorian firing line, in the heat and dry of Afghanistan..

At the same time the book is set late enough that the encroachment of public opinion and the increasing role of the press is also beginning to affect military decision making..

A good end to a better than average series - I recommend all of them for a little light reading.. and I'll give this one a solid 7 out of 10...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Temptation, temptation...

Newline Designs make most of the miniatures I use in my American Civil War project, and I don't think that it's any secret that I like them...  a lot......

Imagine how I felt, then, when I got the latest newsletter from them announcing the following...

20mm Colonials 

Sudan War British Infantry
SUD01 British Command
SUD02 British Foot Standing at Ready
SUD03 British Foot Standing Loading
SUD04 British Foot Standing Firing
SUD05 British Foot Advancing
SUD06 British Foot Kneeling
SUD07 British Foot Kneeling Firing

...gah.....  depending on how soon the Dervish appear I could really be in trouble......  oh, and there are Gurkha's and Indian's as well.....! The existing 15mm project is looking shaky...

Add to that sale prices for Salute (Unit Packs Normally £9.50 Salute Special Price – £7.50, and a buy 4 Packs and get 5th Pack free deal), and it's looking like I might be a little more interested than normal in the Newline stand at Salute...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Operation Cornichon - Game 1 - "Attack on the Camp"..

First part of the campaign...

Move 6 (Red Dice indicates) - German HQ has paused by the chopped tree to contemplate - 1st Section advancing in the foreground (LMG at rear), 2nd Section in the distance - their LMG team will deploy on the knoll - good field of fire...  the French sentries have reached the town - "Zut Allors!!!  Alarme! Alarme! Les Allemands arrivee!" (you get the picture...)

Next Move (7) - The first French reaction tests have resulted in some routing (red tabs heading for the ford) - the other two have got deploy from village immediately results and are heading in the same direction..)

Move 8 or 9 and signs of considerable activity in the French camp as the German sections start to infiltrate - also signs that the French are fighting back - the 2nd Section is filtering along the rear of the barn hoping to get some enfilade shots on the Germans - they don't know the Spandau is setting up even as they reach the edge of the barn...

Move 12 - like someone has shaken up a bee hive... French 3rd Section foreground deploying to cover the crossing but their heavy weapons are still in the village - French 2nd Section file leader has poked his rifle round the edge of the barn and opened fire, succeeding only in attracting attention to himself... French 1st Section approaching the bridge - both German Sections have opened fire and have caused some initial casualties...

Move 14 - which is where I've got to so far, and I think constitutes the end of this game...  black flags are markers to show that the person has been fired at and needs to test morale - red dice are stun markers (person is down for that number of moves as a result of hits)....  the German 1st Section LMG has been particularly effective...  the French have not yet been able to get their LMG's into play, and the French 1st Section gunner has been shot... given the casualties so far the French CO is going to order sauve qui peut in a minute...  on to game 2 in the linked series of teasers
So.. French 3rd and 1st Sections will retire immediately and I'll play out the withdrawal of the 2nd Section just to get numbers for the next game..

Casualties so far - Germans none - French; five dead (permanently gone from the campaign), a number of wounded (who might turn up again depending on dice throws), and two routed as a result of reaction table results (they'll definitely come back for the next game)...

Stay tuned for the next game - may well throw in some "heavy metal" for this game..

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Devil's Charge" - a review..

Long overdue review...

I finished this a couple of weeks ago - it's the second book in the Stryker series, the first of which, "Traitor's Blood", I reviewed here

Either way, time has moved on and it now 1643, the second year of the (first) English Civil War - the armies are becoming more professional but still have a way to go..

As per the previous book, Stryker, who is a professional soldier and veteran of the continental wars (the 30 Years War), is fighting for the Royalists, and specifically for Prince Rupert.

The book opens at the siege of Cirencester where a successful Royalist assault follows the letting off of an enormous explosive device that destroys the somewhat makeshift defences. It turns out that the explosion is the work of a gifted "fire-worker" (explosives expert) in the pay of the Prince.

After the siege Rupert entrusts Stryker with a secret mission to discover what has happened to Lisette Gaillard (the French super spy working for the Queen who Stryker met and fell in love with in the previous book) and the man she was protecting - either way, events conspire to try and stop him doing this, and a trumped up charge of murder results in him being imprisoned, where he then escapes and proceeds on his mission as a way of evading capture...

He heads for Lichfield where after many adventures he is involved in the successful Parliamentary siege of the city - he then escapes his second imprisonment, and is further involved in the Battle of Hopton Heath (superb section of the book - Arnold is very good on English Ciuvil War battle experiences....)

Throw in a psycopathic Puritan religious nut (the delightfully named Major Girns) who is trying to kill the fire-worker and his brother (named the Blaze brothers would you believe - and both masters of artillery), as much as Lisette and Stryker are trying to save them and we have a cracking read....

Publisher - drop the stupid Sharpe comparisons - the books/characters stand on their own merits....  8 out of 10 and the English Civil Wargaming fires are stoked again....

Thursday, March 22, 2012


...a permanently set up wargame table in it's own room; is it a benefit, or a curse...???

Apologies guys - but with only two and a half weeks to launch date, the boat is taking priority on my already stretched time.. this weekend promises to be no different...

I'm drinking beer all day on Saturday (a long running event, at the inestimable Dark Star Brewing pub the Evening Star in Brighton - much beautiful beer will be drunk, rubbish spoken, jokes swapped, and games of  Shut the Box played - looking forward to in enormously!)

I'll be laying comatose under the boat slapping on anti-foul on Sunday....

....and the cryptic exam question?? Well as I cycled to work this morning I had reason to think that it was probably the latter - having the table there all the time means there is no urgency to get back and finish the first game in Operation Cornichon!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Operation Cornichon - something wicked..

..this way comes...

1st Section approach the hill recently occupied by the sentry...  support weapons in tow (A & B), force commander just beyond them with his staff....

Apologies for the dearth of posts - real life continues to impinge - game is up to move 5 and the French sentries who were activated on Turn 2 have now reached the village to raise the alarm - the brown stuff is about to hit the fan...

In game terms:
  • dawn has now broken - all movement now normal
  • the Germans have just passed the hill the sentries were recently occupying (map/table in last post)
  • the Germans get one further move and I then start rolling the French reaction..
...getting interesting - and all the more frustrating that I can't get enough time to focus!


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

WWII Skirmish Campaign - Game 1- Setup..

OK...  we're off...

First, I guess I need a somewhat more 'snappy' name for this campaign than the title of this post, so we'll call it "Operation Cornichon" (which is French for pickled cucumber apparently..  )

Forces are now decided - I had a super enjoyable evening sorting through my old 15mm skirmish troops - it's been at least 5 or more years since I did this so I had no idea what I had, or how they were organised... the additional, and enjoyable, complication is that DG gave me his French some time ago, and I had even less of an idea how they were organised....

Either way, it transpires that DG and I decided on the section as our basic manoeuvre unit, and furthermore decided on an fairly arbitrary NCO/6 riflemen/LMG as the composition of these sections...  clearly this may well be a-historical but it works so please don't tell me that French sections were bigger, smaller, didn't exist, or whatever..

Next step was to decide OOB's..

The Teaser that starts my campaign is #9 "Attack on the Camp" (from Charles Grant's "Scenario's for Wargames"), and in it Charles indicates that the force in the camp needs to be slightly stronger than the attacking force... after much thought I decided to go with three sections for the French, and for the Germans I went with two sections - each side will also have a C-in-C figure representing a Lieutenant/Captain, who in turn have two or three riflemen attached as runners and such....

This is a bigger discrepancy than designed, but I intend balancing it by adjusting the morale of the two sides to see if that brings them more in line with the OOB's Charles originally designed; accordingly the Germans will be classed as veteran while the French will be regular/conscript.

By way of an answer to Mike's comments in the last post, the rules I'm using are a set that DG and I put together and automated (we used Visual Basic) years ago - I have no idea what the source was other than a healthy dose of Featherstone, and some other rule sets we had at the time that I can't remember the name of ("Two Up and Bags of Smoke" may be one??); they allow 5 morale classifications, so the Germans will be "A" and the French "D" (just one better than worse)

Next step was to grid the village and decide where everyone on the French side is being billeted..  so we have 7 habitable accommodations - it seemed likely to me that the C-in-C will have his own house - that's just the way it is so I diced for the house he has commandeered and rolled a "6".. that then leaves 6 available billets, or half a section per billet - it seemed likely to me that armies being what they are, sections would adopt a fairly hierarchical approach, so I've decided the section NCO's will bunk with the machine gunners, and the riflemen would form their own group....  accordingly...

Building #
  1. 1st Section - Riflemen
  2. 1st Section - NCO/LMG crew
  3. 2nd Section - Riflemen
  4. 2nd Section - NCO/LMG crew
  5. 3rd Section - Riflemen
  6. C-in-C
  7.  3rd Section - NCO/LMG crew (upstairs)

For the actual game I'll print this out and place the actual figures in their relevant grid... makes it much easier to see where everyone is...

Scenario Specific Rules:

  • All movement is at half distance because of the pre-dawn darkness.
  • The German force enters in two halves from top left, and top right of the picture in the previous post - dice for which column the C-in-C is with
  • The French deploy one riflemen from each of 1st and 2nd Sections as sentries - these are placed on the small hills NE and NW of the village (top of the picture is N)
  • The French sentries throw 2D6 each move and will spot the enemy on a 7 (add 1 to the dice per turn) - once spotted the sentry needs to reach the village (I know that you're all thinking - "all they have to do is let off a shot" - I'm taking the view that this is quite an active area and there are shots going off all over, all night), and the alarm is triggered when he touches the edge of the camp.
  • If a German section can reach the village without the sentry seeing them, the sentry is considered captured, and the alarm is triggered when the force touches the edge of the camp.
  • Once the alarm is raised (for either reason) it may be considered to be light enough for all units to move at normal speed except when in the village which is always half speed.
  • The alarm must be raised before any movement may begin in the village. From the point at which the outpost reaches the village, the warning spreads inwards through the village at the rate of 10 cm’s per period and units activate.As each grid is alerted, each element within the grid throws two dice which will decide its action as shown in the tables below. The LMG's count as a single element.
Slight change to the table layout (moved the river further towards the right hand edge) - sentry's are in position - Germany entry points bottom and top left..

French Reaction Tables:

2Break and run, unarmed : cannot be rallied*
3 Break and run, armed. May rally when out of camp if not attacked.
4 Stand for three periods during which they will run if attacked, but may rally (basically, blind panic). Throw again after three periods.
5 & 6 Stand two periods then throw again. They may defend themselves if attacked.
7 Stand two periods, then deploy out of camp moving south
8 & 9 Stand two periods then deploy out of camp by the shortest route
10 & 11 Stand one period then deploy out of camp by the shortest route.
12 Deploy out of camp by the shortest route in the next period.

Any bolting or running moves are compulsory and are done before normal moving at the start of a period. In the case of running infantry, anyone in the way must throw a D6, three or more being required to avoid being swept up in the rout.

On with the game....!

Monday, March 05, 2012

I love the smell of petrol.. the morning.. (with apologies to Mr Duvall for stealing and adulterating  one of his finest lines)..

The sentry yawns, rubs his hands together in a failed attempt to try and impart some warmth, and turns for yet another round of the small hill he has been told to guard... deep in thought he thinks could it only be two weeks ago that he had woken, bleary eyed and warm (oh God, to be warm again), next to his beloved Yvette, with pleasant thoughts of his first coffee and Gauloises of the day before work stated on the farm? 

Pah... that had all ended with the arrival of the poste and his call up papers, and ever since then he'd been rushed from one God-forsaken armpit of a camp to another, retreating, always retreating in the face of the damned Bosche, poor food (when he got any), even worse coffee, blisters, and............ cold........ 

In the distance the horizon there is a hint of light, dawn is coming, maybe, just maybe Gaston has managed to scrounge some real coffee beans.... time for another circuit before he is relieved in an hour or so...

...skirmish campaign starts tonight....

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Now that's a piece..

...of wargaming terrain...  I wonder if anyone else had the exact same thought I did when they saw it.... 54mm perhaps?? for the full story...
 ...absolutely superb though - model terrain making of the highest order.....

Thursday, March 01, 2012

I've got an idea....

...that maybe I could do the linked series of scenario's/Teasers that I did for Jeff in this post [click here] as a skirmish campaign... set in WWII to be precise...

Bear with me..... so the background is France 1940 - clearly the Germans would be the attacker...

Picture courtesy ...
I remember building this very kit...
First Teaser

So we open the campaign with Teaser #9; "Attack on the Camp" (which is, as near or dammit, the "Dawn Attack" tabletop teaser available from my Teaser's page) this time though the camp is a French army advance post manned by a squad/company of infantry with some support weapons.... play it exactly as per the teaser but instead of units it's sections, or less.... I'll give the Germans similar numbers, perhaps better quality......

Teaser 2

Escaping towards safety following the previous rude awakening, the French (lorried??) are moving quickly when their OIC decides to halt and turn and try to stop the German advance(Teaser #3; "Holding Action (1)")

Same rules apply w.r.t digging in (the French can't - the Germans won't want to)

I may allow the Germans some mechanised transport - Hanomags...

If as expected the Germans win they push the French on, both sides recover any casualties, and we come to the final teaser..

Teaser 3

"Reinforcements in Depth (2)"; Teaser #16.. the French, exhausted and near end are told that reinforcements are on the way and that they must stop and hold at all costs... we need to keep the balance, but if we allow the French some armour, we need to ensure the German's get something that puts them on a par - either A/T or AFV....

The idea was prompted by two things - first, I found my old PC based skirmish rules the other day.. these were a joint effort between DG and I and must be at least 15 years old... I also came across our old 15mm skirmish set up on one of my shelves and was once again taken by the excellence of those early war French AFV's... watch out for this on the blog soon - I'll play it solo and use a small 4' square table.....