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:

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..'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:


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

More here...

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!

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Destructive and Formidable : British Infantry Firepower 1642 - 1765" - a review..

I'd spotted a brief mention of this book over on Keith Flint's blog, and upon seeing it in the library a few weeks ago I borrowed it based only on his comment that it was well worth reading... bloody pleased I did...

Let's get the pleasantries out of the way first - this book is without a doubt my book of the year, it is everything the "Marlborough's Other Army" book is (ie. informative, incisive, facts, figures), but also with the additional benefit that it is hugely readable. Lots of anecdotes, personal histories, and well reasoned argument as to why the author thinks a certain way was followed in the absence of clear evidence or proof, make it a very enjoyable read.. I unashamedly recommend this as a required reading to anyone with an interest in 'black powder' military history or wargaming..

Blackmore's book covers the period from roughly Edgehill to the Fall of Quebec, roughly 120 years, but his argument that this comparatively short period of time moulded the British Army to such an extent that tactical doctrine founded in this time still shapes the British Army today.

Starting with the English Civil War he describes the firing methods and drills of the time, explains why they were so inefficient (slow loading matchlocks muskets, firing by ranks/files, too long a range etc), but how developments towards the end of the war (volleys at very close range followed up immediately by close assault) set the stage for developments in later periods.

Moving on to the Nine Years War and and the War of the Spanish Succession he describes how the British Army discovered the "platoon firing" method (and no one knows where it really originated - Blackmore quotes Chandler who argued that it may have been the Swedish under Adolphus, but he also argues it could have been originated by the Dutch) that then dominated for the next 100 years through myriad changes and increases/decreases of complexity.

Put simply - a British battalion of infantry was divided up into "firings", this could be by platoon, by company, or even by rank within platoon (depending on the period), and these firings meant that the battalion was always shooting. The complexities and developments over time were aimed (no pun intended) at concentrating that continuous fire to maximum effect.

The following (and I'd like to point out the copyright bottom left) dates from the War of the Spanish Succession - a fairly simple platoon firing method. By the time the 3rd firing had completed, the 1st shooting had reloaded and was ready to fire again.. the French at this time were still firing by rank, and continued to do so for some time...

It probably reached it's maximum period of complexity under Cumberland (and I have no idea how they managed to control it on the battlefield, I was having enough difficulty sat in a chair in the garage with a beer and a cigar!) where I think they had managed to work up to 13 "firings" involving part platoons and even ranks, but it was simplified, without losing impact, by Wolfe and used to devastating effect at Quebec.

In summary, the British army had discovered a doctrine of firepower towards the end of the English Civil War that developed during these 100 and odd years meant they were largely unbeaten on the battlefield for the next 3 or 400 years..  continuous fire via the platoon firing methodology, at very close range (30 yards is quoted), followed up immediately by bayonet.. seemples..

10/10 ...  now what are you waiting for? My own copy has already been ordered.... 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Warriors of the Storm" - a review

Spotted this in Tesco's of all places at the "stop and buy me, stupid" price of only £10 - it was on the Christmas list anyway but at that price I thought it foolish not to get it..Book 9 (!) of the "Last Kingdom" series which is currently being dramatised by the BBC (first two books, anyway... ) and continues the story of Uhtred of Bamburgh..

So what do we get?? Typical Cornwell, which will either delight you, or not..  I'd say he's at that stage of his writing career where he is well into his specific style, and no need to change it thanks very much... I approach his books in the same way I do my slippers of an evening - you know they're going to be warm and comfortable...  he writes (in my view) some of the best Dark Age military fiction going... he's always been good on the depiction of close quarter battle but there's something about the nature of warfare in this age that seems to resonate with him..  "mud and the blood and the beer" as Mr Cash would say..

So in the 9th book - Alfred is long dead, but his son Edward and, far more 'forthright', daughter AEthelflaed, rule Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia (which they have settled and conquered with Uhtred's help in the previous several books)

Uhtred has been given command of northern Mercia - the frontier of the kingdom, where he has garrisoned the modern day city of Chester. To the north lies Northumbria which is in the control of the Danes who rule from the modern day city of York, but which is a collection of kings and lords rather than a cohesive kingdom.

Enter then, the splendidly tattooed warrior Ragnall Ivarson, who lands an army of Danes and proceeds to march into Northumbria with the intention of carving himself a proper kingdom. He is soon joined by disenchanted Northumbrian's and has a considerable army.

AEthelflaed tells Uhtred he'll have to defend Chester as she won't invade Northumbria without her brothers consent (which is not forthcoming as he is busy keeping his own kingdom under control) so Uhtred starts a guerilla operations against Ragnall and the Danes are forced to march north for York, before turning to start laying waste to the unprotected parts of Mercia.

Things are further complicated for Uhtred as his daughter is married to Ragnall's brother, but he then finds that the brothers are at war with each other - the secret to his problem of how to pacify Northumbria lies in this relationship.

I'll not spoil the story any further as I don't doubt some of my other readers may well be getting it - but it is an absolutely cracking story from the master story teller..  I like Uhtred, he's torn every which way and rarely if ever seems to make decisions based on rational choice, but usually on instinct, heart, or honour...

Not a spoiler to say there'll be another Uhtred book - but you sense he is reaching denouement...  Steve the Wargamer rates this one 8 out of 10..

Saturday, November 07, 2015

"One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 5 - "Bridgehead" - Set up & Game

Without a doubt the "One Hour Wargames" book has quite possibly been the best ten pounds I've spent all year...

Certainly it has triggered a substantial re-surge in the number of games I've played - this is the fifth scenario I've played never mind other non-book related games, and I only played 6 games in the previous two years!

Clearly, small games, a clear challenge, and Skype are the answer - well for me (and I hope DG!)

So it was that on Thursday last week I thought "I fancy a game", shortly followed by "we haven't played a scenario from One Hour wargames in a while" - the challenge was issued and DG accepted...

So the following game was played out on the standard 4' square table I usually use for the scenario's (I think he recommends 3' square DBA style in the book, but with my TSS terrain tiles 4' is easier) - as we had enjoyed the last game (#4 "Take the High Ground" [clicky]), we decided to make this an American Civil war outing as well...

The premise is a contested river crossing where both sides are trying to consolidate a hold on one edge of the river; I played Union, and was the defender - DG the Confederate/attacker. I started the game with one unit on table on the contested river bank side - DG's job was to clear all Union troops by end game (turn 15).

Forces were random - 6 units again (as per the previous scenario's) but with the added complication that not all forces are on table at the start of the game - they arrive on set turn numbers, and in the case of the Confederates from one of three random entry points...

DG suggested that for this game we use the rules straight out of the can - so the game was played using the two page (!) set in the book.

I modified the random table we used in the last game (Neil doesn't differentiate between small arms types, so the rifle armed column was redundant)

Zouaves Artillery Cavalry

*Roll again 1/2/3 = Inf Musket, 4/5/6 = Zouave

For this game DG rolled 1, I rolled 5, my modified roll  coming up "Zouaves"..

So on to the game..  DG won the dice roll for first move and brought his first troop on (the artillery and two regiments of musket infantry), I started the game with my Zouaves deployed on the contested side and started to give fire..

The following is a couple of moves later (turn 2 or 3) - DG's artillery is about to deploy, my Zouaves are blasting away, my first reinforcements are coming over the bridge (by the by - I reckon that Bellona bridge is getting on for over 35 years old now), but so are DG's..  that's the Tigers in the distance...

Three or four moves later and I'm already sunk....  my cavalry was destroyed (there is no option for close assault/melee in Neil's rules - our assumption is that given the level of abstraction in the rules, he didn't think bayonet to bayonet, or sabre to sabre action took place often enough to be representative), as were my Zouaves - the last of my reinforcements are filtering over the bridge...

End game..  in this move and the one after the unit contesting the wood was destroyed, as was the unit facing the Confederate zouaves - combined fire power is the key in these rules..

Too little too late I decided to try an alternative strategy - holding my infantry back for the last move and a quick final assault - but they were destroyed in turn.. the Confederate yell whipped out across the table...

Post Match Analysis:
  • The rules are very (very) simple, but they gave a quite enjoyable game (I thought - and I lost! ); at the nub of them is the premise that there is no melee (as mentioned), but that you either move or fire - you can't do both....  there are no cover rules (apart from town and wood), there are no formation rules (just lay the unit out in the formation that seems fit), there are no movement modifiers for terrain.. they are simple, but it certainly frees the mind to think about what you are doing...
  • Given the aim of the game is to capture the opposite river bank then the Union player is almost always moving, all the other player has to do is get two or three units in place and then leave them still...  the dice will do the rest (each unit scores a D6 when it fires, some negative mods for artillery and cavalry, units destroyed when they get to 15 hits) DG destroyed my entire army, I managed to destroy just one of his units...  a narrow win for him then, but I graciously conceded
  • The game took 13 turns to get a result - the scenario allowed 15 - and I think we completed in a little over an hour...
  • The game winner for DG was the artillery (I think) - a 48" range meant that he could strike out anywhere on the table...
  • I'd like to play this game again as I have some idea's for alternative tactics
    1. Deploy the single Union unit at the start of the game in the wood...
    2. Deploy the Union army behind the river bank and force the Confederate player to come to you..  keep one unit in reserve to dash the bridge at the opportune moment
    3. ..I'm sure there are others...