Friday, January 28, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #4 - rebasing, books, campaigns, profits..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

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Time for another update...

Getting slowly into the swing of things..  first off the WW2 French rebasing may be complete, but it's now time for the Germans, who are currently based on a variety of base sizes, and with a variety of basing styles..  

I'll be standardising on the same basing I used for the allied contingent...  pennies for the grunts, 2p's for the officers/command, and standardised (as much as possible) basing for the vehicles..

As you can see - three of the bases are done already - the anti tank guns at bottom in the following were the last items added to the project back in 2018..

Quick/cheap basing tip - get a bag of pennies from the bank - did you know you can get a hundred for only a pound - bargain! 😁 

Better get on with it then...

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From the Times last Saturday...  not my cup of tea, but "sci-fi slash fantasy" doesn't offend the modern sensibilities for 'glorifying war', and we've all been locked in for a few years with money to spend and a need for entertainment, so perhaps not so surprising ..

Hornby have seen much the same; "As predicted in a trading update issued in April, Hornby has achieved sales of £48.5m for the year to 31st March 2021, up 28% on the year before. The company said that the company has swung to a pretax profit of £345,000 compared with a loss of £3.4m for fiscal 2020" (source was an industry mag), wonder what their results will be this year?

... interesting, eh?

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Maigret is going about his work in rainy Paris, shadowed by Inspector Pyke who is on secondment from Scotland Yard to study the famous French detective's methods. The routine is disturbed when Maigret receives a telephone call from the island of Porquerolles, and island off the Mediterranean coast of France, just east of Toulon. 

A small-time crook has been murdered, the night after he had fervently declared his friendship with Maigret in front of a large group of the island's inhabitants... 

Maigret and Pyke head to Porquerolles to investigate further and in doing so get to meet an extensive cast of locals, rich (and not so rich) exiles, fishermen, local policemen, waiters and waitresses (since there is always food, and the local white wine)

Stunning book, Maigret is as much about the local atmosphere and scenery, and life, and food, as it is abut the crime, and Porquerolles sounds like the kind of place I would very much like to go to..   9/10

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Click to embigen as they say...
I am being stupidly entertained at the moment by the item to the left that was recommended to me by my reader in a comment on the last post (cheers, Jim!)..

It's available on the Wargames Vault [clicky] for a stupidly small amount of money, and while I suspect that most people will buy it for the myriad ship details/data in support of the rules (and has anyone played them by the way? I am intrigued as to whether they are worth a punt) what was specifically recommended to me was the included solitaire campaign..

I was playing around with this at the weekend, with no intention of starting it in earnest, and here we are several (real) days later and I am at the end of the 3rd day of the campaign! 😁

My campaign is called "Hunt the Chattanooga" but in essence the campaign is about hunting down a Confederate ironclad, on a stretch of river nominally in Confederate hands. 

You play the Union commander with a fleet of 5 ships (3 warships, 2 supply ships) looking to find the aforesaid ironclad which intelligence says is being built/prepared, and which needs to be stopped before it wreaks havoc on Union shipping..

The campaign documentation has an entertaining mechanism to randomly build the course of your river, with river bank terrain, a random effects chart for the Union ships (mechanical defects, rudder issues, etc.) and also what in D&D terms would have been called a "wandering monster" roll for any Confederate forces encountered as you advance up the river...including aforesaid ironclad..

Generating the river as you move along it is proving more entertaining than you would expect and the map following/right shows my progress to the end of Day 3 which as been eventful for the Union to say the least, despite them not yet finding the Confederate ironclad.

"Hunt the Chattanooga" - Click to embigen...

As my Union force I chose a monitor and two good timber-clads (ie. biggish ships, but with light armour although a decent armament), because as David says, where's the fun in a fleet comprised entirely of ironclads, and I wanted a bit of a challenge..

So how is it going?

There have been a number of small skirmishes (too small to put on the table, but easy enough to work out with paper, pen and dice) with battles against gunboats large and small, and also Confederate batteries on the banks of the river armed with random numbers/types/weights of gun. 

I would say that while the Union fleet have been successful to date, their progress has not been without incident..

On day 3, when the force was taking on a Confederate hidden battery, that had surprised them by suddenly opening fire, the return fire from the Union ships resulted in one of the two guns on the monitor exploding - a fairly major setback as the two guns on the monitor are the largest the Union have, and will be critical when taking on the Confederate ironclad

As well as that, other engagements have also seen ships being damaged, but as of the end of day 3, the Union fleet is still complete, and I would calculate about 75-80% effective - supplies are good (one of my supply ships is carrying fuel, one ammunition) and there's no need to withdraw yet. 

Next step for the Union commander is to push on round the bend of the river to see what awaits..  

As a campaign resource very much recommended, and for not much more than a pint in cost - stay tuned for further campaign updates...

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 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Friday, January 21, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" # 3 - Riverine encounter, books and tanks

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update, and settling into our new name...... 

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Back in November of the year before last I added some more iron/cotton/timber clad ships ships to the ACW Naval project (22/11/20 [clicky]), but as I was tidying the loft up the other day I was reminded that I hadn't actually used them in a game yet!

I'm a die hard fan of an (as yet?) unpublished set of rules for the period that I got from the inestimable Bill Gilchrist [clicky] donkeys years ago.. to my mind they play well with just the right level of complexity and simplicity to allow a thinking mans game that isn't too mired in the minutiae of how many inches of armour, and pounds of shot the ships are carrying that a lot of other rules for the period suffer from..

Decision made, and striking while the iron was hot the table was set for a swift set to primarily featuring the new additions..

Table set up - Confederate navy starts from the top of the following picture, which depicts the engagement area - a wide stretch of river with a few islands, one of which is occupied (but plays no part)..  as is so usual in the period, one force (the Confederates) are trying to get through to the other side of the table so as to force a passage for much needed supplies, but are opposed by a smaller, but better quality, Union force..

Opposing forces, following - Union on the left, Confederate on the right.. I thought a 3 vs 4 game might be fun - as said I've even up the odds by making the Union force slightly better lead in terms of commander quality..

Start of the game:

Opening positions as follows..

The Confederates win the initiative and dive to the right so as to pass the island to their left, the Union force conforms (possibly a mistake, but we shall see) - initial fire is largely ineffective, with only a couple of hits.. (black pompom in any of the following signifies a hit)...


In following moves the Confederates turn to port so as t open up their broadsides for firing, and rain steel down on the Union ships, causing multiple hits..

It is at this point that both commanders (ie. me) realises it would have made good sense to get one or two ships down the other side of the island so as to flank the other force, but too late now, and as is often the way with wargames, a 6 foot by 4 foot table is entirely negated as the entire action is fought in an area one foot square!

The Union double-ender following is running perilously close to shallows, but you can see the weight of fire concentrated on just three ships.. the damage to the small gunboat in particular is considerable (from memory, in addition to the loss of strength points they also suffered damage to steering, and also confusion on board - the gunboat was hit hard.

In the next turn the Union win the initiative, with 3 actions, but with the exception of a success in stopping the double ender careering off the table, their firing is largely ineffective.. The Confederate turn is mostly concerned with recovering damage on the small gunboat which they manage to do only by using all action points, but they also manage to shield it by interposing another one of their ships by way of an obstruction..  the iron continues to fly.. 

Close quarter manoeuvring continued, both sides were on no more than 3" movement (dead slow in rules terms)

..until eventually the inevitable happens and the small Confederate gunboat is sunk (bottom in the following) and the Union sidewheeler (top middle) is also dispatched..  both sides have lost a ship, but the Union ship carried more firepower and is the greater loss..

Key point - the Confederate side wheeler has tried to force it's way through so as to open up some space for manoeuvre, but the Union double ender is having none of it and rams them causing considerable damage both to themselves and the sidewheeler (neither of them are specially equipped for ramming) - honours go to the sidewheeler though - she fires everything from both sides and both ends and causes huge damage to the Union stern wheeler..

The Confederates push the advantage and continue to attempt a force through..  the sidewheeler pulls away from the collision firing as it goes, their big sidewheeler is trying to pass (left in the following) and the big cotton clad (bottom right) is also moving up..

Boom! 

Five hits on the Union stern wheeler (following) and she disappears beneath the muddy water in an explosion of smoke and steam - the Union double ender, their last ship - top right - deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, opens up all the valves and scarpers for home..


...the butchers bill..  a victory to the Confederacy but hard fought..

 
Post match analysis:
  • A most enjoyable game - you'll note in the last picture that I knocked up some plastic heat sealed ship templates, with a handy picture of the actual model to help navigate through multiple cards. In the old days we would have used chinagraph pencils [clicky] but I use old dry marker pens from work to mark off and remove any specific damages/speeds etc move by move...
  • I would say 3 or 4 ships a side is about the maximum that you can play solo - the wipe off cards were a big help as there was space for any specific notes I needed to remember move to move (eg. moves required because of turning, or rudder damage, heavy gun reload etc. etc.)
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Well this one was a pleasant surprise..  it was offered for free on Kindle as a loan under my Prime membership - not something I've seen before, but as the subject matter looked interesting I took them up on the offer, and because I was fresh from an extended stay in Dickensian London and was looking for something light to clean the palate I started this straight after..

Well worth it I would say - even though I got it for free - while it wasn't 100% polished, the story, and characters, developed nicely as the book progressed and the background was interesting as well. 

The story concerns one Jack Pembroke, a Royal Navy Lieutenant in WW2, suffering what we would now call PTSD as a result of events/wounds at Dunkirk, but after physical recovery given command of a small group of converted trawlers equipped for mine sweeping in South Africa. 

The story concerns his coming to terms with the psychological effects on him of his experience at Dunkirk, but also at the same time learning the in's and out's of command over a disparate bunch of sailors (regulars and volunteers, British and South African), while at the same time doing the hideously dangerous job of clearing mines, but also dealing with the risk of German surface raiders, and increasingly, U Boats.

Bodes well for the next book which I will definitely be reading..  8/10.

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The French tanks in the last post, or more particularly the camouflage, seemed to chime with my reader, so by way of an interlude - here is something that popped up on my Farcebook feed this week...

I had the very good fortune to visit the Musee des Blindes in Saumur (which is the French equivalent of Bovington) years ago (2006!! 😲), so have followed them on FB for some time..  the R35 in the video had been out on loan and returned to the museum recently so they put up a short video..  brilliant isn't it... 😀

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'Laters', as the young people are want to say...

Friday, January 14, 2022

Weekly Musings # 2 - ACW rules thoughts..

Trying to get into the swing of regular posting, so a weekly post, antholog'esque in style (anyone remember "Firing into the Brown" in the old Wargamers Newsletter??😀), seems achievable even if on some occasions they may be short... 

Before we launch, the spammers are also strong this year, so apologies I've added the "I have to approve" thing for if my reader needs to comment..  apologies again, it's a pain but it saves everyone being offered Cialis/Viagra..  though some of the recent offers were decent prices! 😂

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..I've been giving some thoughts to including officers in the ACW rules DG and I worked up (link [clicky]) from those in the Neil Thomas "One Hour Wargames" book..

As I mentioned in the last post, the use of officers to convey/gift strength points back to a unit mid-battle at first sight is a little counter intuitive given that the whole point of the rules is to get a quick game, and adding points will extend the game, but there are some counter arguments..  and besides it's always fun to tinker..

Also I can think of a few scenario specific reasons for doing it in some cases..  for example, I am looking to recreate a particular battle or skirmish where:
  1. the actions of an officer had a significant effect on the outcome, or 
  2. a unit/regiment/whatever, that on the day performed in a super human way, and remained active far longer than would normally expect,
  3. .. etcetc. 
 Anyway - the rule would be optional - I can't see it being needed for every game - and my current thinking is leaning towards including them in a couple of ways...

First - as per the last game, give them a fixed number of strength points they are allowed to gift to any unit, the officer has to be attached to the unit they are gifting (as in base to base contact), and while doing that they can potentially be adversely affected by any casualties the unit takes from firing or melee..

Second - the same, but give them a variable number of strength points they can allocate (say 1D6 worth, or half a D6 worth rounded down, etc)

Movement would be at cavalry rate.. 

While attached to the unit the officer figure would be subject to any damage the unit takes while in combat or under fire..   there's a handy little rule in the AWI McNally rules I use that will cover that nicely.. 

Risk to Generals/officers

If the general /officer is with any unit that suffers losses from melee/firing throw 2d6
  • 2 - 8 No effect.
  • 9 - 10 Suffers a light wound and moves at 1/2 speed.
  • 11 - 12 Dead.
If a general/officer suffers a second light wound he is incapacitated and is removed from play.

Job done..  on a shallow level it also means I have a use for all those officer figures I painted.. 😁

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Finished off a few bits and pieces on the paint table from last year..  by the by is there anything sadder than a water pot that has dried out??  😀

These were tail ends of the WWII skirmish re-basing for the French - I need to go back and check but this rebasing project may now be complete..? (post edit - yes the French are complete - need to crack on with the Germans)

Before...


After..




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The Christmas Dickens is now finished, as above, it was "Our Mutual Friend" this year and what a monster of a book - took me weeks! LOL..

I think that completes most of his works for me now and funnily enough this is apparently the last complete novel that Dickens wrote so it is kind of serendipitous that the two events should conjoin..

Quite good I thought  (Dickens and "quite good" in the same sentence anyone? 😀) the story concerns one John Harmon believed lost at sea/murdered, and heir to a not inconsiderable fortune that in his absence transfers to his aged (and much loved) guardians the Boffins. The story is basically about how Harmon clears his name, and struggles with how he can reclaim his fortune given it will deny his guardians the money while along the way he enrols as their secretary (without them knowing as they haven't seen him years), falls in love and eventually marries ..  but while that is a fairly simple story, along the way there is a simply huge cast of associated and not associated characters that allow Dickens to really go to town on the social inequalities of the time...  "the satire is strong in this one, Obi Wan"... read the passages about the Veneers (what a brilliant and wholly illustrative name for a character) and you think as you (don't) watch "Made in Chelsea/Essex/Jungle", nothing's changed..  excellent 8/10

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Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Friday, January 07, 2022

Weekly Musings # 1 - ACW mini game

"Hood's men began the assault at 4 p.m., immediately overwhelming Warren's two regiments, the 5th New York (Duryée's Zouaves) and 10th New York (the National Zouaves). Within the first 10 minutes of contact, the 500 men of the 5th New York had suffered almost 300 casualties, 120 of them mortally wounded. This was the largest loss of life of any infantry regiment in a single battle during the entire war. The Zouave regiments had been wearing bright red and blue uniforms, and one of Hood's officers wrote that the bodies lying on the hill reminded him of the Texas countryside when the wildflowers were in bloom..." (from the Wikipedia article on the battle - my highlight..)

First post of the new year.. in the words of the Ramone's.. "Look out below!!"

Without a doubt one of the wargaming highlights of the Christmas period was/is the anthology [clicky] that Norm publishes on his blog - the reader of my end of the year blog/review will have known that there was a curious case of ennui in the Steve the Wargamer loft-waffe over the course of the second half/two thirds of last year, but one of the articles in his anthology has only gone and resulted in little metal men manoeuvring on Steve the Wargamers table top for the first time in 9 months!

The article in question was the skirmish/mini-battle based round the "The destruction of 5th New York Zouaves" at Second Manassas (or Second Bull Run according to your leanings)..  no idea why, but it really caught my imagination, and as I am increasingly these days a smaller battle, smaller game type of wargamer, I immediately hot footed it up to the loft to have a go myself..

So the scenario posits a part of the battlefield where two isolated Union regiments protecting a battery of artillery, are attacked by three regiments of Confederate infantry, forerunners of a bigger Confederate push on the day..

Setup..  
  1. all units start the game at full strength
  2. all Confederate regiments were described as 'Veteran', in the rules then they are classed as 'Zouaves' for firing/melee (+1 basically). 
  3. On the Union side the unit representing the 5th were of course Zouave, but the other infantry (representing the 10th) were classed as regulars, as were the artillery.
  • My rules don't account for senior officers but for this game I fielded them with the proviso they had 4 strength points they could allocate to whomever they wanted throughout the game..
  • To represent the initial skirmish in the woods that resulted in the 10th being ejected (and pretty roughly handled) immediately before the main feature, I allowed the Confederates one D6 of casualties on them before the game started - they threw well inflicting 5 points of damage (33% casualties before the game even started!)
  • Seven turns  only - the Confederates get a major win if they destroy the artillery, a minor win if they destroy both Union infantry regiments, the Union win by denying the Confederacy either of those..
Game:

Turn 1:

The Confederate infantry started out of range so advanced rapidly - the artillery inflicted their first casualties on the Confederate regiment to their front...


Turn 2:

A fairly early observation was that the Union were throwing well in this game and since that decides not only what unit activates first, but also of course casualties, they were moving and firing first a lot of the time meaning their casualties affected the Confederate units when their time came to activate..

At this point the Confederate regiments had closed to long musket range..


Turn 3:

A real blood bath this turn with both sides dealing out damage, and the Confederates now concentrating the fire of two regiments at the artillery..  they are not getting all their own way however, and the Confederate regiment on the left (following) is getting battered..


Turn 4:

Both commanders allocate their command points, the Confederate brigadier to the aforesaid regiment of foot, the Union commander to the artillery..  


Turn 5:

Further exchanges of fire - the Confederate commander is only waiting for the optimal moment to charge forward..  (in our rules unless it is flank or rear, you need a 5 strength point [SP] advantage over your enemy to be able to charge home) - this move would see that Union regiment on the left (following) falling below the 5SP difference..

In the first blood of the game the Union Zouaves cause the middle Confederate regiment to break and run - sheer weight of firepower has seen them done for..


Turn 6:

...and having thrown well for initiative - the Confederate regiment charges home and despite a retaliatory volley from the Union regiment sends them barrelling off the field, and at the same time opening up the Union flank..  Worth noting, that at this point in time, because of Confederate target priorities the Union Zouave regiment is unbloodied and at full strength. The artillery however is not, and uses it's move to limber up and start withdrawing..


Turn 7:

Talk about down to the wire.. initiative would be key for this move but two against one is always going to be difficult... the Union commander orders the Zouave regiment to turn and face the greater threat but this opens them up to a flank charge from the other severely depleted Confederate regiment - they charge home (and I was sure I could hear a tiny rebel yell) inflicted a huge number of casualties on them (12 for the record - flank and Zouave bonuses outweighed the casualty penalties)...  following up with a volley from the other Confederate regiment and the Union Zouaves were simply destroyed...  as were their historical counterparts..


End turn 7:

Boom.. 


The butchers bill..  exclamation mark indeed..  Pyrrhic victory for the Confederacy

Post match analysis:
  • right up to the last move I thought the Union were going to win it, and in fact, they could have if the damn Zouaves had just withdrawn instead of turning to face the onslaught (I think the idea was I was trying to save against any encroachment or fire on the artillery as they were on their last legs) - what a final melee though!
  • the idea of the commanders with their "strength point donation" ability has legs.. it goes against the ethos of the rules; they are quick play - and the moment you put in a flavour of  "saving throw" mechanism you extend the game, but it's an interesting mechanic though, and I will write it into the rules as an "optional" (along with some other idea's on points donation)
  • Cheers for getting some muscles and synapses working again after a long period of inactivity, Norm!

Further reading: