Wednesday, 31 March 2010

'Based' on Experience.............

Assuming that I tread the path of the Volley and Bayonet take on army level war games, I now find myself on a collision course with the first of many dilemmas requiring resolution. The first of which is the perennial problem of what base size to use. The standard brigade base of a 3” square can hold a lot of 15mm figures so my existing Balkan Wars collection will scarcely furnish a division of three or four such bases as you would need to have around 12 to 16 figures per base. That is hardly commanding an army and no mistake! The rules have provision for using bases at 2/3rds the normal size (so a brigade base would be a 2” square) which would be better and would use less figures. The best compromise though would be to use half sized bases so a standard brigade base then becomes a 1 ½” square or 40mm as near as makes no difference. The base can then take half a dozen or so figures easily as well as having the inestimable advantage of having the all powerful 40mm frontage so beloved of many other rule sets. This will probably be the option I choose and so the current Balkan Wars set up will give me around 9 to 12 brigades of infantry per side which equates to roughly a good sized corps – not quite army level but certainly heading in that direction. For reasons of table space I will need to trim the move distances and ranges etc and I am sure there is a playsheet contained within the files section of the Volley and Bayonet Yahoo group that has these scaled to allow for the reduction.

Using the 40mm frontage has another advantage in that I already have a supply of Essex Miniatures 40mm square and 40 x 20mm plastic bases that can be readily called into use. Essex Miniatures are happy to cut bases to size and to order using this material which is also very handy. Going down this route I will additionally need 20mm square bases as well as 30mm square. The size of bases used will suit the Peter Laing collection extremely well as they are smaller figures and are much closer in size to true 15mm scale.

The second big issue I will need to address is the number of figures to use on a base. I am planning around using 6 infantry and 2 or 3 cavalry for the main brigade bases. This fits nicely with my previous idea of using 12 figures on 4 bases for a battalion – I will now have two brigades from a single unit. The only potential banana skin is in connection with artillery and MG bases. Under the rules these are sized at a 1 ½” frontage with a 3” depth. Keeping to the reduced scale described a base should now be 20mm by 40mm which is too narrow for the models in question. I will therefore probably adopt the 40mm square base for these units as well. A standard artillery base covers a frontage of around 6 guns so having what is in effect a double fronted based allows for a larger artillery contingent which is more in keeping with early 20th century armies.

The use of these large bases and a roster system brings the whole rules issue full circle in a sense as our old friend Joseph Morschauser also employed a similar device for his grid based rules. This in turn means that by the adoption of these two approaches I am able to enjoy gaming with the best of the old and that of the new!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Volley and Bayonet and Food for Thought

Following on from my previous post I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Volley and Bayonet rules by Frank Chadwick. I am very glad I did this because it has given me a number of ideas to investigate in respect of my Balkan Wars and Early WW1 collections. Although the rules are designed primarily for the period 1700 to around 1890 I cannot see any reason why they should not be used for the period up to and including 1914 - thereby covering both of my aforementioned interests. The ‘modern’ era modifications contained in the rules include magazine rifles, machine guns and modern breech loading rifled artillery so could easily be employed for the wars mentioned. Certainly this has given me much food for thought as it means that the existing Balkan Wars and early WW1 collections can be used in, for want of a better expression, an ‘army level way’ which in turn has implications for basing, scenery and best of all, campaigning. There is a very active Yahoo group devoted to Volley and Bayonet which includes such things as battle reports, rules variants, photographs of games in progress etc and I am pretty certain that a version for use with the Russian Civil War has been designed so I could probably get some ideas from there should the need arise for WW1.

To be honest I am hugely embarrassed at the fact I had completely forgotten about these rules, or rather, I had forgotten exactly what I could use them for. By utilising these rules with 15mm figures I firmly believe that the command level experience I aspire to on the table top is within reach. Organising the evolutions of armies with the constituent parts of brigades, divisions and corps will provide me with a stimulating experience as well as enabling a closer degree of understanding of the ‘manoeuvres of history’ within the context of a game. The beauty of the rule system is that it is simple and easily assimilated and serves to reinforce the old saying that ‘anyone can design complex rules; designing simple ones is the real trick.’

As my painting time has been curtailed due to the pending relocation at home I have had much time to think about the type of games I want to play and how best to play them. The whole ‘DBA variant/When Empires Clash/Morschauser’ experiment has certainly opened my eyes to the sheer pleasure of gaming the periods I am interested in and for sure they are now an important and indispensable part of my rules armoury. If these rules could be described as a ‘takeaway’ then they have no equal and to extend the analogy, Volley and Bayonet represents the wargaming equivalent of the sit down meal. Both have their place and in that sense I am truly fortunate to have both a great takeaway and a Michelin starred restaurant to call upon as the mood dictates!

The potential use of these rules for my own gaming aspirations represents a huge leap of faith to an extent; should I opt to use these for my ‘horse and musket fix’ I fully accept that I will be treading a lonely path as to my knowledge no other members of my club have used them. The DBA variant/When Empires Clash/Morschauser has the virtue of having mechanics that are easily recognisable whereas those of Volley and Bayonet are fairly unique. This is familiar territory for me and I have no problem in being a pioneer in that respect – the challenge will be in persuading others that this is the road to travel!

Monday, 29 March 2010

In the Grandest of Manners

A conundrum I always have in respect of the scale of wargame I enjoy is not so much the size of the figures – more the size of the action they are being used for. As a rule I tend to enjoy games that are pitched at a high level of command e.g. army level type games rather than a 1:20 type brigade or divisional level style affair. I suppose that is a throwback to the almost continuous diet of campaign histories I have enjoyed reading over many years. Ironically, I also enjoy the archetypal brigade and divisional level game when I get the chance but that seems to be few and far between these days – primarily because of the effort involved in amassing the armies required. I have also been known to try my hand (usually unsuccessfully!) at the odd skirmish game or two and most certainly enjoy gladiatorial combat games. Having said that and despite the rise of the 28mm plastic figure (such as the Perry Twins efforts) I think you are still looking at a substantial investment in terms of both financial outlay and time taken to paint an army for, for want of a better expression, a ‘normal’ wargame – even a four battalion brigade of 120 figures plus the added artillery and a cavalry regiment at a scale of 1:20 is a lot of work.

For those hardy and dedicated individuals pursuing such a collection I certainly take my hat off as I would never envisage myself tackling such a project. The more cynical amongst us could call me lazy in that respect and I suppose to an extent that may be the case. In my defence though, I should point out that my own ‘level of operations’ tends to be above the brigade and divisional level and usually encompasses whole armies. At this level you really are playing generals and of course, the game mechanics should reflect higher level considerations rather than the minutiae of such things as battalion formations, deployed skirmishers and the other associated evolutions of the fighting man. I should emphasise that I am in no way denigrating those champions of games at the Brigade and Divisional level – on the contrary, I have every admiration for such practitioners – but they are not my gaming mode of choice.

As a student of military operations at the army level I tend to me concerned with the strategic big picture and so prefer to be considering the brigade as the basic building block of the army. Fortunately, there are several very good sets of horse and musket era rules that favour this approach. A set of rules that is excellent for the army level approach (and was designed from the ground up as such a set) is ‘Volley and Bayonet’ by Frank Chadwick. These rules employ a roster system and a brigade sized base that can contain any number or scale of figures – from 54mm down. I have fought a number of games using these rules as solo exercises and am really looking forward to trying them ‘for real’. As a general rule of thumb, an infantry brigade consists of from (usually) 4 to 6 strength points representing a force of between 2,000 to 3,000 men. A brigade base is sized at 3” square, so how ever many figures of your preferred scale can fit on the base is how many you can use.

The original version of these rules was designed to cover the entire horse and musket era – from 1700 to around 1900 – with period specific variants to cover both the increase in fire effectiveness and the dilution of overall quality of armies due to the effects of large scale conscription etc. There is a new edition currently available that concentrates primarily on the Napoleonic Wars and future versions will cover the age of reason and the wars of the late 19th century. Frank Chadwick himself organised a refight of the battle of Borodino in 1812 using the above rules and 54mm figures with 4 infantry figures and a pair of cavalry figures per brigade. It looked really impressive but took up a lot of room – not due to the figures size but the scale area of the battlefield itself. The new edition of the rules also allows for using bases half the size so a brigade is on a 1 ½” square – or 40mm square as near as makes no difference. The eagle-eyed amongst you will realise that a 40mm frontage is almost a magic number in terms of rules usage and so the potential of using an existing 15mm army based as such becomes obvious.

For my own purposes I have yet to decide how best to make use of these rules (and have been doing so for many years now!) and what figures would be most appropriate. Using the half size bases (with the corresponding reduction in movement distances and weapon ranges) with 2mm blocks would seem to be a sensible idea and would have the advantage of being cheap, easy to paint and will not need much in the way of storage space.

One of the great advantages of such high level games is that the armies become more representational in their appearance and that terrain becomes more functional rather than decorous. I have no problem with this and if the table becomes in effect a kind of 3d map then so be it. A similar style of game can also be seen with ‘Megablitz’ – the WW2 operational level rule set in which whole battalions are represented by a couple of figures and much of the low level ‘kit’ can conveniently (and correctly) be ignored. Memoir 44 the boardgame manages this equally well and so, for example, the benefits of using a Bren gun as opposed to an MG 42 are discarded as being of little importance at the scale represented.

One of the great attractions of our hobby is the sheer diversity of techniques and approach that can be applied to any given period – be it a man to man skirmish game right up to recreating D Day on a 6 by 4 foot table. Naturally we all champion our own particular ‘command experience’ corner but Vive La Difference I say!!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

A Near Run Thing

I have always had a soft spot for Napoleonics. Ever since my lovingly produced British 1815 period army using Airfix plastics as an impoverished teenager I have always found much to enjoy about the era. I should also point out as well that I am passionately interested in the 1815 campaign which is a comment that is designed to cause the majority of enthusiasts of the period to observe, somewhat disdainfully, that the great man himself was very successful before that fateful year and that perhaps some of his triumphs would make for a more rewarding field of study! That may be true but for me 1815 has always held a particular fascination. I suppose in a way it is because in a matter of a few days the entire Napoleonic wars have been effectively condensed; both in time and scale. The rationale for this can be best described by the following points:

  • Napoleon was at both his best and his worst.

  • All the great Napoleonic unit types were present and saw action - the Old Guard, British Cavalry, Riflemen and Prussian Landwehr etc

  • Dramatic battles with all the expected action - cavalry charges, artillery bombardments, squares, massed columns etc

  • Troops types ranging from veteran grenadiers down to poorly clad conscripts and unwilling allies.

  • The course of the entire campaign can be followed very easily as the actual area of operations was fairly compact.

  • There are an enormous amount of books devoted to just about every aspect of this campaign - biographies, unit histories, uniforms etc.

I have a couple of very good boardgames for this campaign - one strategic 'Napoleon' by Columbia Games and a tactical version: 'Waterloo' by Warfrog. There is also going to be a Command and Colours based version due out later this year from Worthington Games which will be worth a look.

Aside from the aforementioned Airfix army I have also owned the armies for the three combatant nations in 15mm on a very stylised basis and designed for use with a set of rules called 'Le Petit Empereur' by Sabers Edge games. These rules were very DBA based and were good fun if a little sterile. I had always wanted to game this using 'Volley and Bayonet' by Frank Chadwick as the full scale of the campaign would be easy to capture with the scale of a base of figures equalling a brigade - irrespective of the number and scale of the figures used.

The campaign for me has all the elements of a Greek tragedy or a bad soap opera - you can choose your own frame of reference - and for the sheer sweep and scale of action it is hard to better.

With the 200th anniversary of the battle coming up in 5 years I wonder of now would be a good time to think about organising the armies for this, one of history's greatest battles.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Memoir 44: Sword Beach - A Reflection

Last night at the club saw Mr Hardman and I playing the Sword Beach scenario found in the rule book of the original version of Memoir 44. I commanded the German defenders whilst Mr Hardman took the allied invaders. The victory conditions were the first to get to 5 'medals' (two town hexes were worth a medal each) was deemed the victor. The Germans had a strong defensive position with bunkers and plenty of barbed wire and hedgehogs whilst the allies were struggling up out of the water in an attempt to land and push through the defences inland.

The game was a difficult one for the allies to win as try as they might they really struggled to get off the beach due to a combination of mediocre cards and effective German shooting. In fact, I consider the Germans to have been really fortunate in this respect as every time the allies made any headway I always seemed to have the cards for the threatened sector and so any attempts to advance were met with a withering fire from the defenders. The game was won fairly emphatically by the Germans with a score of 5 medals to the allies 1.

Although only a game I could not help but think about the actual battle itself during the drive home and how awful it must have been to have actually attempted the assault in question. It certainly gave me much to ponder over the sacrifices made on that historic day (D Day, 6th June 1944) in the cause of freedom; indeed, on many other such days as well. Many of those young men died having not even gotten on the beach, let alone taking on the defences and pushing inland.

Not wishing to appear maudlin but this was a timely and sobering reflection and was certainly a case of 'lest we forget'.

My thanks to Mr Hardman for the game - it is always a pleasure taking him on over the tabletop and in every case the resulting tussle is usually a major challenge!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Axis and Allies: War at Sea - New Additions

I have mentioned my acquisition timetable for the War at Sea fleets in the run up to the release of the next expansion in June. Thus far I have everything I need courtesy of the final arrivals this morning - namely a pair of HMS Warspite models, or rather a Queen Elizabeth class Battleship. Sadly the Warspite was fairly unique looking in terms of the various rebuilds that the class received (some more than others!) but in the absence of the correct models (and the likelihood that Wizards will ever make them!) the additional copies of Warspite will suffice. These will probably serve as HMS Valiant and Malaya as and when they based and named.

On the subject of ship basing I am now actively looking for a suitable replacement shade of blue to use. Repainting the existing model bases will be a pain but it will be worth it in terms of the aesthetic appeal - they will photograph a whole better with lighter bases and a lighter cloth.

Sadly, at the time of writing, the new Japanese battleship for the Pacific fleet of Mr Fox - the Nagato - has yet to arrive and is probably still winging it's way across the Atlantic.

Monday, 22 March 2010

WW1, Patton, Rock Soup and Collection Culling

After having acquired all the early WW1 15mm models anybody could feasibly need I now find myself in a certain degree of a funk as this whole project has come about in completely the opposite way to how I usually approach these things. As a rule I tend to follow General Patton’s well known ‘Rock Soup’ method when tackling projects i.e. I acquire a few books and read up on the subject a little (this is very low intensity!); then perhaps add a set of rules or two and then finally the models. The soup analogy is that when pouring Rock Soup you will first see the liquid splashing in the plate but in a fairly low key and unobtrusive fashion – then comes the lump of the rock which crashes into the middle and pushes everything else aside. In Patton’s case that would be using small reconnaissance units to feel their way into the enemy position and then the rock in the shape of all manner of armoured goodness would batter its way in.

In my case I find myself unusually bereft of reading material and references for the early days of WW1 despite having played numerous games over the years set in early 1914. I will need uniform details and some campaign histories; perhaps with some actual accounts if possible. I am well prepared to acquire a few titles to support the collection and will have a look around to see what is available. Most of my WW1 book collection at present covers the Middle East so everywhere else will be virgin territory. I am convinced I could raid Osprey for a few ideas and will ensure that the boot sales I visit are properly checked out for any WW1 related items. I must confess that rummaging around in bookshops (both old and new) is a 'not-so-guilty' pleasure of mine and so this should keep me (and my wallet) occupied for a while!

The WW1 and Balkans Wars projects have also served to crystallise my interests to an extent and so it raises the issue of realigning my collection to focus on those periods that are realistically viable. There are a number of periods that I have invested in (usually meaning I have a couple of books and rules on the period in question) that are not going to see the light of day any time soon and so a collection cull will inevitably be necessary. I am prone to doing this from time to time for a number of reasons – the main one being limitations of space. By trimming extraneous periods it also means that I can focus on the priorities without distraction. Such culling also serves to raise funds to support the next project on the agenda as the proceeds can then be cunningly reinvested!

I have yet to decide exactly what periods or projects to trim but will have ample opportunity to consider this in due course as I shall be relocating my ‘office’ at home into my son’s bedroom as he has rather obligingly moved out! The new room is larger and has a better layout than my existing ‘office’ and so I will be able to, at last, add a further bookcase. As the room is at the back of the house facing west it means that the light is far better late in the day which will help with my painting considerably (it certainly needs it!). The room needs decorating but this will be an easy task and all I will need to do then is a run to Ikea for the shelving units etc.

This in itself is another project; albeit of a 1:1 nature!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Peter Laing 15mm WW1 - The Insanity Continues..........

You may recall I recently acquired an early WW1 painted 15mm Peter Laing collection containing French, German and British forces. Further to this, you may additionally remember that another part of this same collection was in the hands of another member of SEEMS (my wargames club) and had lain unseen in the depths of his shed for many years. This semi-legendary collection has now officially been uncovered and is residing safely in my 'office' aka the Rayleigh Factorium.

The collection consists of two armies - one Russian and one Austrian (not German as originally reported) and are both painted and complete in every way with artillery, machine guns, command groups, cavalry and even some supply wagons and a field hospital complete with stretcher bearers. There is also an armoured car, a Russian Tchanka (the MG on a wagon), a Renault FT 17 (I have no idea why that should be included in a 1914 collection either!) and a pontoon bridge.

This means I now own representative forces for all the major powers for WW1 and the Turks and Bulgarians for 1912. It also means my WW1 project has gone from being merely huge to gargantuan! This latest addition to the collection will need a rebase and and a repaint - the painting standard is fine for the figure quality but it is sloppy, much like the other part. I have no problem tackling either of these tasks although the sheer scale involved in this project is quite intimidating - we are talking around 600 foot and a 100 mounted figures after all. The cavalry present an additional problem in that most (if not all) of the lances will need to be replaced with wire so that will be a huge undertaking on its own - not difficult, just fiddly and time consuming. I have decided on the organisation and basing convention for the figures and this will be uniform across the entire collection. I will experiment on the painting front in respect of whether or not I could get away with either:
  • 'Pickling' the figures back to bare metal and starting from scratch.
  • Undercoating straight over the figures as they are and then painting them.
  • Painting straight over the existing coat.

Obviously the last option will be the quickest and mercifully the detail of the figure is such that any loss due to paint 'thickness' would be barely noticeable. It will be essential that I get the painting technique absolutely right from the start in the interests of both speed and sanity!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Axis and Allies: War at Sea - 'Bomb Alley' The Battles

We were able to give the game two run outs last night with the Royal Navy clear winners in the first and the Italians shading the second. As this very much in the nature of a playtest I will refrain from going into tactical detail but will give an overview of how the amended air rules worked out.

In both battles the Royal Navy made use solely of carrier based air whilst the Italians of course used land based. Within the game land based air can attack every other turn whilst with carriers it is every turn. The land based delay no doubt simulating transit times. In the first game the British used the Ark Royal with light cruisers and destroyers and in the second Illustrious paired up with Warspite and a pair of destroyers. The net effect was that in game one there was 2 bases of Swordfish and a Sea Hurricane and one of each in the second due to the reduced aircraft carrying ability of Illustrious compared to her famous contemporary.

The Italians went for a cruiser based force in game one with four air elements - 2 fighter and 2 dive bomber and in the second a battleship, two cruisers and two destroyers and 5 bases of aircraft - 2 fighter and three dive bombers

The first game saw the RN launch a successful strike against a light cruiser sailing on its own using two bases of Swordfish. A base of fighters was assigned to the defence but failed miserably to trouble the Swordfish (whom are very vulnerable to fighters). The resultant torpedo attacks left the cruiser crippled and sinking. The Italian strike against the Ark Royal managed to score a solitary hit after having got through the fighters and avoided the AA from the three ships in the square (normally only two are allowed but the Tribal class DD are able to 'Close escort'. The Italians however had put all their air power into play meaning that on the next turn the RN would have a free hand as the opposition would homeward bound for a game turn.

The RN made the most of this advantage and were able to dispatch a heavy cruiser by the Swordfish and another Light Cruiser by gunfire. The game was ended at this point; the Italians were too battered to continue. The RN had suffered minimally although the Italian fighter superiority had managed to render a Sea Hurricane squadron hors de combat.

A number of points arose from this first game - all of which seemed a fair reflection of airpower in use at sea.
  • Ships on their own are vulnerable to air attack
  • Air strikes need to be concentrated as far as possible to overwhelm the defences
  • Bombers should be escorted where enemy fighters are expected
  • Land based air, particularly fighters should be staggered so there are some airborne on every turn.

Most of these fall in the 'stating the blindingly obvious' school of naval aviation but it was refreshing to see that with the revised rules these principles could be applied effectively.

The second game saw the battleships come out and the Italians had learned from their previous experience and staggered the launching of their land based fighter squadrons to ensure that the Fleet Air Arm 'Stringbags' were always opposed from the air. The Illustrious was well clobbered on turn one by hordes of rampaging Stuka dive bombers that were well escorted by fighters and easily brushed aside the defending Hurricanes and withstood the AA barrage. Meanwhile HMS Warspite used her by now customary 'Long Range Shot' and hit the Italian battleship at a range of 6 squares (mutterings of 'once in her career, not once every game...........' from the sidelines were airily dismissed by the Royal Navy...). Game turn two was pretty uneventful as the sole air attack from the single base of Swordfish against the Italian Flagship was easily driven off by a combinations of defending fighters and AA. Game turn three saw Illustrious being sunk by the next wave of Stukas (thereby doing better than in 1941) and the Guilio Cesare disappearing in a cloud of smoke as the old battleship was riven by a salvo of 8 x 15" guns. the Italians had covered two out of three objective markers and so were deemed to have won the game.

I will need to tweak the air rules very slightly in terms of 'what happens when' but as they are core idea works really well. Having each air base count twice and allowing a successful 'kill' roll to entitle an extra throw (basically if you keep killing then you keep rolling) adds some spice to the proceedings. Aircraft are now a lot more effective but are not invulnerable and still need careful handling - especially in respect of land based arrival times.

I would like to thanks Messrs. Fox, Bryson and Kightly and Ms. Foster for taking part - their enthusiasm and spirit made the evening a most enjoyable occasion.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Axis and Allies: War at Sea - 'Bomb Alley'

Tonight sees the Royal Navy taking on the Italians in a War at Sea action. The numbers employed will be fairly low as we are using 100 point fleets but the game should be good in any event. As mentioned previously, we are testing out some proposed air rules amendments so i deliberately kept the forces small. We will playing the usual game - not the gridless version - and if the air rules work out I shall incorporate them into the Mediterranean based mini campaign currently under construction.

To any readers that are unfamiliar with this game suffice it to say that most Battleships come in at the 40 to 60 points so as you can see, from 100 points you are not left with a lot! At this scale you would expect to see perhaps a capital ship and some escorts with perhaps a cruiser or two. A carrier typically comes about the same cost as a battleship as you obviously have to pay for an air group.

I really enjoy these low level games as you only have a limited number of ships to worry about which tends to make for a more tactical game rather than the battle squadron slugfests of most wargaming fleet sized actions!

I shall report on the outcome in the next post.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Conan the Barbarian

One of the ongoing interests I have in respect of Fantasy and Science Fiction reading (and by extension, gaming) is the various adventures of Conan the Barbarian. A hardback complete chronicles edition is available and I have just acquired the same courtesy of an enormous number of Waterstones loyalty card points. This version has been kicking around for a while and was one of those ‘I-must-get-around-to-getting-a-copy-of-this-at-some-point’ titles that most gamers have. There is also an illustrated guide to the world of Conan that is supposed to be pretty good – if only for the eye candy in respect of how our hero’s world looks – and would probably find its way on to the bookshelves at home in due course. I also enjoyed the film with Arnold Schwarzenegger (although the sequel was pretty dire by comparison – even allowing for dubious attractions of Grace Jones!) and must confess that the idea of gaming some of his exploits would be pretty tempting although are probably better represented on a skirmish or even role playing level – perhaps something akin to GWs Lord of the Rings large scale skirmish game.

One of the great things about this compilation is the background to the Hyborean Age and the maps – these have already been identified as a potential source for an ‘imagi-nation’ style set up (Bob Cordery has already suggested this) – that really help to establish the background for the stories. In the same way, having a background and map to any type of ‘imagi-nation’ is an enormous benefit and really serves to add substance to the storyline and events.

As for gaming the exploits of Conan then I think that perhaps a good fantasy skirmish set of rules should be about right. Large scale fantasy games will tend to lose the ‘heroic’ nature of the genre unless you go down the route of HOTT or the similar Fantasy Rules by Sabers Edge. Figures should not be a problem to come by as most fantasy miniature manufacturers produce ‘barbarians’ of various sorts; usually with a huge two handed sword and wearing little besides a helmet and an animal skin of some sort! Having said that, Pendraken and also Kallistra produce really nice ranges of 10mm barbarians that should satisfy the most anarchic inner Cimmerian……………;-)

I have no intention of embarking upon assembling hordes of Hyborean armies (although lists for these feature in the HOTTs rulebook) – and my only nod to pre gunpowder combat MAY be the odd DBA/HOTT army but that would be it. I have way too many things on the go as it is!

Monday, 15 March 2010

200 Not Out and a BIG Thank You!!!

I suddenly realised that I had completed 199 posts on this blog and so this one is really just to acknowledge the fact that I have now completed 200! Seriously though, I have had enormous pleasure in scribbling over the last year and have been truly fortunate to be blessed with a modest readership that has kept me both inspired and encouraged enough to realise many of those pet projects that previously had lain dormant.

I would like to extend an enormous thank you to all that have contributed, commented or have even just dropped by for a browse - your support and input has been very much appreciated and is most welcome.

Here's to the next 200.................;-)

The 'Aeroclad' in 'Land Ironclads'

One of my (many and varied) interests is Victorian Science Fiction and wargaming within that genre. Land Ironclads is a set of rules available from Wessex Games and Brigade Models covering warfare in an alternate Victorian history where great machines of war cross the landscape and huge flying machines clash in battle across the sky alongside historical late 19th and early 20th century armies. As ever, my interest in this genre revolves around the Ottoman Turks and how the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ responded to the challenge of industry and technology from its own position of being in the lower league of global powers. I have tailored the Ottoman progress in this alternate world to mirror, after a fashion, its actual history over the late nineteenth and early twentieth century so there is a lot of ‘kit’ that is either second rate or poorly serviced; usually both, although with a couple of notable exceptions. The following then, is a brief overview of an idea I have been toying with in respect of the vehicles in use with the forces of the Sublime Porte within this alternate history.

Within the world of Land Ironclads the vehicles that are portrayed are inevitably steam powered and move on a variety of wheels, tracks or even legs. This is fine and probably in accord with most gamers perceptions of what this mode of war machine would have looked like. Allowing for the War of the Words type Martians in their walking devices (powered by who knows what) the variety of locomotive mediums available for the propulsion of vehicles is fairly comprehensive. It occurred to me though, that one type was missing and so I would like to introduce into Victorian Science Fiction Warfare the ‘Aeroclad’.

The Aeroclad is primarily a vehicle that hovers a few feet above the ground in the same manner as a modern day hovercraft. They are built on the same principle as an Aeronef but utilise much less raw anti-gravity raw material in order to be able to ‘float’ just above the ground. This enables the Aeroclad to operate over terrain that a land ironclad is unable to – even, to a certain extent, water, although this does slow them down considerably. They ‘fly’ in much the same way as Aeronef but are configured more as land ironclads so as a result whilst being highly manoeuvrable they are quite slow although faster than the ground equivalents. The weaponry and armour also tends to be lighter than the ground based equivalent – simply because of the reduced load carrying ability.

They are cheaper to produce than conventional land ironclads and require less crew to operate and so are greatly valued by those second rate powers that have access to limited quantities of anti-gravity raw material or have limited industrial capacity for manufacturing anything more advanced. Those nations that use these vehicles tend to use them en masse in the manner of horsed cavalry for reconnaissance and raiding rather than in a formal line of battle whilst the great powers tend to use these vehicles primarily on colonial service where the advantages of ease of maintenance, low manpower requirement and speed are assets that are highly prized.

Of those nationalities that are the largest users of these vehicles the Ottoman Turks are by far the greatest exponents. Harking back to the days of the Akinji raiders on horseback; or even the tradition of the armoured Sipahis; the Ottoman Turks employ these vehicles in large numbers and unusually, often use them in a formal line of battle. This has not been without problems as often these vehicles sustain very high casualties when used against determined opposition. This has led the Turks to develop heavier versions, better armed and armoured to operate on the battlefield although this has been at the price of reduced speed. Ottoman tactical doctrine however, accepts the trade off of reduced armour and firepower compared to the purely land based equivalents as the Aeroclad is able to operate in areas that a conventional Land Ironclad is unable to traverse. The lifting ability of the Ottoman Aeroclads is unique in that it is derived from the use of Cavourite shutters on the underside of the hull rather than the more usual use of R matter. This accounts for their relatively light build as cutting great chunks or metal out of a hull has the effect not only of lightening it but also reducing its ability to carry much in the way of armour plate. In fact, the heaviest Turkish Aeroclad is comparable in fighting value to most other nation’s older heavy vehicles.

This is the idea I am contemplating – model wise I envisage using vehicles of a similar size to the existing ranges available from Brigade Models – and certainly the historical ‘background’ needs fleshing out as do the ideas for models. I am sorely tempted to scratch build the Aeroclads using a combination of scrap plastic bits and pieces and cast metal turrets etc from Brigade Models. I have a number preliminary ideas for this but will need to consider the whole idea in more detail.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Balkans and WW1

After a herculean effort I am happy to announce that the Bulgarians are fairly close to completion so pictures will be forthcoming in due course - I shall be tackling the bases during the week so all being well next weekend will see the grand unveiling.

I have also been very industrious in respect of the first of the Peter Laing early WW1 collection. The British have been taken off the bases and organised into units. I now have six twelve figure infantry battalions organised into two brigades of three. The first brigade consists of advancing figures and the second of standing firing. Each unit consists of four bases of three figures including a command base comprising an officer, a marching figure and either a standing firing or an advancing figure depending on the brigade. The bases are 40 x 20mm. I have two HMGs issued at one per brigade, as is the artillery, as I only have two models of each. I am putting the HMGs on a 40 x 30mm base as it looks a little lost on the 40mm square. There is a 40 x 30mm command base for each brigade and a 40mm square army command base as well. The cavalry I have not touched yet but will comprise a unit of twelve figures based in twos and split between the brigades - three bases each.

This is fairly compact and will be more than sufficient for my purposes - especially within the context of the rules that I shall be most likely to use.

Boot Sales Back Again!!

For the first time this year (and to celebrate Mother's day!) we headed out to our first boot sale of the year. Sadly no great treasures were unearthed but I did manage to get two rolls of Fablon style self adhesive plastic in a cornflour blue shade. It has a slight sheen to it and is lighter than my existing cloth so I thought perhaps I could find a use for it as a naval wargames playing surface - perhaps stuck on some hardboard. It will take a permanent marker pen so will grid easily enough although it still seems a little on the dark side. I may see if there is anything I can do to lighten it but in any event it is a better shade than the dark blue cloth I have.

The two rolls are 2 metres by 45 centimetres and cost me, together with a roll of transparent self adhesive plastic (2 metres by 67.5 centimetres), the princely sum of £1.

Axis & Allies: War at Sea - Reinforcements

Enthused by the list of models yet to come in the next expansion for War at Sea; I sat down and ordered the additional models I wanted to complete the current organisation I have for both the Mediterranean Royal Navy and Italian Fleets. As mentioned previously there is a healthy market in single models available on ebay and so I was able to secure my immediate requirements with relative ease; albeit from a number of suppliers.

For the Royal Navy I managed to get a couple of HMS Warspite models which will serve as HMS Valiant and HMS Malaya. I have no desire to add the other two from the class at the moment - three will suffice! The purist will be able to spot the differences but I doubt if Wizards will ever produce the correct models so this will have to do.

For the Italians I have acquired four of the Orsa class torpedo boats, four of the Re 2001 fighters and a Guiseppe Garibaldi class light cruiser. I have yet to tackle the French but they will be next as ideally I would like to have everything based and named before the new expansion is released.

Roll on June and Condition Zebra - I am looking forward to seeing an R class battleship, as well as the Narvik and Soldati class destroyers.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Axis & Allies: War at Sea

This coming Wednesday will see a War at Sea game taking place at the club - primarily to test the amended air rules that have been proposed as an alternative to the original system. The problem with the original set was that we felt that aircraft were of limited effectiveness. It was way too easy to drive off attackers and with the large model scale - one base equals 25 aircraft (single engined types) an airstrike could be wiped out with a couple of good dice rolls. This had the effect of ensuring that carriers with a modest carrying capacity (e.g. HMS Illustrious) compared to the big Pacific ships could completely lose any offensive capacity very quickly.

The solution we will be experimenting with is to have each aircraft base counting as two. This means that a two base strike (the maximum from the aforementioned HMS Illustrious) will in effect represent four squadrons of twelve aircraft. Most ships are only able to engage in AA fire once per attack so this means that the two base strike will lose a maximum of one squadron to AA leaving three to make the attack. A further refinement will be that should the AA fire destroy the squadron then the remaining squadron represented by the base is driven off - Aborted in game parlance. An aircraft base that has lost a squadron should have a hit marker placed on it.

I am hoping this will ensure a number of things:
  • Aircraft will last longer - they will still be able to be driven off though, especially if attacking in small numbers.
  • Aircraft users will want to concentrate strikes so that the defences will be overwhelmed.
  • Ships will need to ensure that they take the aerial threat seriously as a four base strike (the maximum allowed under the rules) now represents eight attacks. If a ship is in a sector unsupported then it will have to face a minimum of six attacks assuming that it successfully destroys the first squadron with its AA fire (the second squadron would then be counted as driven off).

I will report back when we have tested the aircraft amendments and should they prove satisfactory then I shall incorporate them in the forthcoming Mediterranean mini campaign.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Axis & Allies:War at Sea - Condition Zebra

The next expansion for Axis and Allies: War at Sea called Condition Zebra is scheduled for release in June of this year. This is most welcome and the full listing of what will be available has been posted on the War at Sea community section of the Wizards website but I thought I would take the opportunity to post it here.

1.HMCS Uganda - HMS Jamaica CL reprint - U
2. Bearn - CV new sculpt - R
3. Dewoitine D.520 fighter new sculpt - C
4. Lamotte-Picquet CL new sculpt - U
5. Provence BB new sculpt - R
6. V.156 Vindicator - Dive Bomber new sculpt C
7. Giorgios Averoff - CA new sculpt R ( Greece )
8. Proteus - submarine new sculpt C ( Greece )
9. Vasilissa Olga - DD (modified British G class) new sculpt C (Greece) 10.Witt de With - DD new sculpt C (Netherlands)
11.HMS Cossack - DD Tribal/Arunta reprint C
12 HMS Royal Oak - BB new sculpt R
13 HMS Victorious - CV reprint R
14 Short Sunderland Mk 1 - patrol bomber (flying boat) new sculpt U
15 B-24D Liberator - patrol bomber new sculpt U
16 F4U Corsair - fighter - new sculpt C
17 USS Allen M Sumner DD - (Laffey reprint) C
18 USS Houston - CA new sculpt R
19 Lexington - CV reprint (Saratoga) R
20 S-37 - submarine new sculpt C
21 USS West Virginia - BB new sculpt R
22 Arkhangelsk - BB 'Royal Oak reprint' R
23 Vainamoinen - BB/Coast Defense Ship new sculpt U (Finland)
24 Fi-167 - torpedo bomber new sculpt C
25 Gneisneau - 'BB' reprint R
26 Nurnburg - CL new sculpt U
27 Z32 - DD new sculpt C
28 Ascari - DD new sculpt C
29 Caio Duilio - BB new sculpt R
30 Leonardo Da Vinci - submarine new sculpt C
31 Trento - CA new sculpt R
32 Z506 B Airone - Patrol bomber (floatplane) new sculpt U
33 Agano - CL reprint U
34 Chikuma - CA reprint R
35 Fuso - BB reprint R
36 Junyo - CV new sculpt R
37 Matsu - DD new sculpt C
38 Murasame - DD reprint C
39 N1K1 'George' - fighter new sculpt C
40 Suzuya - CA new sculpt R

R=Rare, U=Uncommon and C=Common.

There are many things of note on this list which will be most welcome – I am very pleased to see an R class battleship and a Sunderland for the Royal Navy; HMS Cossack I already have as the Tribal class DD has already appeared in the Canadian and Australian Navy. The Germans get a Narvik class destroyer (hooray!), Nurnberg and Gneisenau (which I already have via her sister Scharnhorst). The Italians get the Duilio and a Soldati calss DD and the Trento together with a floatplane patrol bomber. No comment in respect of the Pacific theatre but of additional interest is the Greek Georgios Averoff and the Vasilissa Olga – DD; not to mention the Finnish coastal defence ship Vainamoinen. The French also score the carrier Bearn , Provence , some aircraft and a new light cruiser. One of the great things about the expansions for this game is that if you are a naval war gamer then buying ships in multiples is usually a must. There is a very healthy market in single models on ebay and I am sure that I shall be making full use of this once the set has been released.

It looks like I shall be busy this summer as my ‘small basing exercise’ for the new acquisitions for my fleets has suddenly gotten a whole lot bigger!!

Struggle for the Middle Sea - The Great Navies at War 1939 - 1945

Following on from my earlier post describing the new models I now have for Axis and Allies: War at Sea; I took the opportunity to revisit my library and dip into the modest selection I have concerned with the naval war in the Mediterranean. I tend to get no more than a handful of titles for a specific period and I always try to ensure that they are ‘quality’ tomes. A recent acquisition to the library is a book called ‘Struggle for the Middle Sea – the Great Navies at War’ by Vincent O’Hara, an American naval historian. The book provides an encyclopedic coverage to most of the actions fought in the Mediterranean and covers the Royal Navy, the Italians, the French and the Germans. The coverage also extends to the end of the war rather than just when the Italians surrendered. I have really enjoyed this title although it will upset many Royal Navy admirers as the author is quite objective about his observations and as a result the Italians fare rather better than most histories give them credit for. I am all for objectivity but see that this may be viewed as controversial! For what it is worth my own opinion is that the Italians were nowhere near as bad as they are usually made out to be – their naval forces suffered from many defects (fuel being the most obvious) but were still able to inflict reverses against the so-called ‘moral ascendancy’ of the Royal Navy. This is by no means intended as a slight to the Senior Service – the reality of their achievements was real and tangible enough – rather it is acknowledging that their opponents were not as bad as they were routinely portrayed!

Each action features the order of battle, the weather conditions applicable and the fate of the combatants. Interestingly enough, the author assigns damage as one of four categories rated from D1 – light splinter damage to D4 which is with fighting power and movement ability finished i.e. dead in the water. I have a set of rules for WW2 naval games that uses this system – Battlestations! Battlestations! by Decision Games. Certainly from a rules design perspective this may be worth considering for any of my future naval sets. There is also much in the way of strategic considerations under discussion to support the battle reports which is helpful when placing events in their proper context.

If I have a criticism of this title then it is that it would have been useful to have ships specifications included. I know these are really easy to come by but having them all in one place would have been helpful. Also the use and effect of air power could have been covered in a little more detail but again, this would be easily sourced from elsewhere.

I wholeheartedly recommend this title as a very useful encyclopedia of the naval war in the Mediterranean but ideally it needs to be supported by some other sources.

One of the things that came out of this book was the number of actions involving the French Navy – all three of them! The pre surrender navy, the Free French and the Vichy forces all had an active time and I am now regretting disposing of the navy I owned for Axis and Allies: War at Sea – especially now as the latest War at Sea expansion set includes another destroyer and a cruiser. It will be an easy matter to rectify this via ebay and so moves are already afoot – together with the acquisition of the missing Italian kit I need. I will not be touching the US navy though as four fleets should be enough for anyone!

As I have mentioned previously, the great attraction for me of naval games (and in particular this system) is the ‘pick up and put down’ nature of such a subject. All I need to do is to base and name the vessels and they are ready to use. I have the card and the flags for the bases so merely need the arrival of the models and an evening or two to bring all the fleets back up to full strength with their newest acquisitions.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Morschauser at the Charge!....The Aftermath

I apologise in advance for the apparent brevity of this report - this is due in part to the frenetic nature of the action not allowing sufficient time to record specific details!

It was a pell-mell kind of a battle from the word go! We were using the 'blind card' system with the unit activation cards placed in plastic door stands from an early edition of Space Hulk. We also used the version of Morschauser's rules without commanders.

The defending Germans had deployed well forward (I am sorry I don't have a map to hand but reference to the book Charge! should supply the topographical details!) with infantry in the left hand woods and on the right hand hill; together with the buildings close by the French entry edge. A small garrison was deployed in Sittingbad itself and the cavalry supported the foremost infantry in front of the village. The French were tasked with securing the bridge in Sittingbad itself within 12 game turns whilst the Germans were to prevent this before retiring across the river and blowing the said bridge.

The French cavalry surged on to the table on turn one and almost immediately came into action - with both the outnumbered German horse and whatever infantry was close enough to open fire. A swirling cavalry melee in the centre developed with saddles being emptied on both sides. Although the French superiority in numbers eventually overcame the Germans it was at a heavy price as the beau sabreuers of France were effectively ruined as a fighting force. The shattered survivors from both sides were however, allowed scant breathing space before being used again in ever more desperate circumstances.

At this point (turn 3) the French infantry arrived and from here on in there was only going to be one winner. Remorselessly (and due to the canny German deployment) the blue tide pushed forward; taking horrendous casualties as it did having to winkle out the stubborn Germans from the woods and buildings. This the French were able to do eventually but not without substantial loss and it took time. As with the cavalry action, eventually numbers told and with the massed French Artillery about to enter the lists the battered German survivors prepared for a last stand in Sittingbad itself.

The German fighting retreat from the forward positions was conducted almost too well as the withdrawing troops were for the most part caught up with by swarming French Infantry and ruthlessly despatched.

The action came to a halt (at the end of turn 7)as time had run out and we were at a convenient lull in the action as the French needed a breathing space in order to organise themselves before assaulting the town itself - an undertaking probably more to the liking of the high command than the troops involved; especially after having seen the horrendous casualties already suffered. Sittingbad would fall but the German forces had extracted a very high price for the dubious delights of securing such renowned buildings as the famous Grunterhof!

Overall the game went very well and the use of 'blind' cards was a great idea and really added to the uncertainty each turn. Casualties were severe - neither side had any cavalry left and infantry casualties were in the order of nearly half the French and three quarters of the Germans. Cavalry need to be used very carefully (historically accurate in this period!) and troops need to get into action quickly to try and minimise casualties. Cover is vital where possible and the butchers bill was probably a fair reflection of the way the battle developed.

The French plan was to simply batter through the Germans and rush the town (prior to the engineers blowing it up!)as soon as possible. They say that quantity has a quality all of its own and thus the lavish expenditure of Frencg soldiery may well have been in accordance with their doctine of the offensive but when faced with determined and resolute defenders is a recipe for heavy casualties.

This was a gloriously satisfying affair with the role of fate in the shape of the card draw and the dice rolls favouring both sides equally - there were some dramatic saving rolls made; equally fortuitous melee results and some spirited firefights.

The only observations about the rules that both Mr.Hardman and I agreed upon were that they are fine as they are but that a command group would be nice - if only to add to the flavour - and that perhaps some morale allowance could be made. A suggestion would be total up the number of figures in the army and to have a percentage of losses based on this score requiring the army to pass a morale test. Given the size of the units it would not be practical to adjudicate it at this level but as an overall army score may be more effective.

In summary then this is exactly the kind of game I got into wargaming for - fast, furious, easy rules and mentally challenging. What more could you ask for?

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris Hardman for the game and the use of his superb 28mm Early WW1 collection; not too mention the coffee and biscuits and the flash of the ginger terror!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Morschauser at the Charge!

This evening will see myself and Mr Hardman embarking upon (for me certainly) a piece of pure wargaming indulgence. We are testing the most recent draft of Bob Cordery's version of Morschauser's grid based rules to stage a refight of one of the most famous battles in wargaming history - the Battle of Sittingbad from Charge!

We shall be using Mr Hardmans 11 x 17 4" squared cloth and his superb collection of 28mm early WW1 figures for the refight. The units will be made up of two Morschauser style for each Charge! equivalent i.e. eight figures (2 x 4) equal a Charge type regiment. This is huge difference in terms of numbers but it will all be relative.

I will post the outcome on the blog on Thursday - it promises to be a lot of fun and I will try and get some pictures for posterity.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A Balkan Enigma

The Balkan Wars collection continues to head towards completion despite my best efforts to delay the process! I was originally going to use a stain painting technique on the models (as explained in the designer’s notes of Volley and Bayonet by Frank Chadwick) but have now abandoned the idea as they will look out of place with the WW1 collection. The WW1 collection will of course be getting a fresh coat of paint in due course and I want to ensure that the technique employed is uniform across the whole set up. All the models will be ‘block’ painted i.e. flat colours; I have yet to decide though if I will be ‘dipping’ them using the Army Painter method.

I did some size comparisons of the Irregular Miniatures 15mm Balkan Figures against the Peter Laings and although in terms of height the Irregulars are slightly taller as far as overall build is concerned they are not vastly different. The most noticeable feature I though was the fact that the weapons (rifles and lances) on the Irregular side are chunkier than the Laings. By careful painting and basing though, the whole collection, Balkans and WW1, will be compatible and will not look too out of place on the tabletop. I will be making use of Irregulars WW1 era staff car and generic lorry; as well as the Moraine and Taube monoplanes in due course.

The asute reader will no doubt be thinking that the size issue would be largely irrelevant as early WW1 French, German and British troops would not be lining up against 1912/13 Bulgarians, Turks and various other assorted Balkan types. Ordinarily this would be the case but, as ever, there is a cunning long term plan in the pipeline – details of which will be forthcoming in due course.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Axis and Allies: War at Sea

One of my ongoing interests is WW2 naval and I have a reasonable collection of models from the Axis and Allies: War at Sea collectible miniatures game. I have focused on the the Royal Navy, the Kriegsmarine and the Italian Navy as my interests are more North Atlantic and Mediterranean facing than in the vast expanses of the Pacific. Thus far the game has seen the original release and two expansions with a further due in June of this year.

From the current expansion - called 'Flank Speed' - the Royal Navy gains a number of useful models including the following:

HMS Repulse

HMS Belfast

HMS Saumarez

A Martlet for the Fleet Air Arm and via the Canadian Navy; a Flower Class Corvette.

These are all really useful and I have managed to source two each of Repulse and Belfast, six of the S class and four each of the Flower class and the Martlet. All of this will give the RN additional flexibility - both in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

I was reading about HMS Repulse and was staggered to discover that she had managed to avoid 19 torpedoes before being hit and sunk during the action in company with HMS Prince of Wales against the Japanese.

The War at Sea ship card allows her the chance to completely negate a torpedo attack once a game with a high enough dice roll - the ship was eventually overwhelmed in the end and sunk pretty quickly after she was hit and the sustained a number of additional torpedo hits. The class was fairly lightly built and so once this form of damage had been sustained it was only a matter of time before it told.
The Germans now have a full wing of JU 88s (four models), six of the T26 type torpedo boats and two of the Schleswig Holstein class battleships. I am not sure what to do with these although I do have a couple of the Russian Gromkiy type destroyers and a Kirov class cruiser.
There are also some additional Italian ships that will serve to round out the Mediterranean set up although I really need to add a couple of additional Queen Elizabeth class battleships - HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth probably. The only problem I have with this is that the only ship thus represented is HMS Warspite which was fairly unique looking compared to her sisters. I doubt that a new model that is better able to reflect the differences between the ships in the class will be forthcoming so I may have to go down the route of using the Warspite for the others and ignore the varying degrees of rebuild they were subjected to.
Much to ponder methinks although as it stands the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean is a little light in terms of capital ships - even if they are WW1 rebuilds!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

In Praise of the 'Mehmetcik'

When our friends at Osprey first mentioned that a new Warrior title devoted to the Ottoman Infantryman of 1914 to 1918 I was highly delighted. The title has now been released and the redoubtable Mr.Fox acquired a copy for me at the recent Tonbridge show - Cavalier - on 28th February. Written by the prolific Middle Eastern military historian David Nicolle and illustrated by Christa Hook this book is quite superb. It has the usual Osprey format; lots of black and white photographs and the obligatory colour plates - together with a useful glossary of Turkish military terminology.

I have yet to read this fully but at first glance it reinforces the fact that the Turkish soldier, when properly equipped, supplied and led was a match for any of the empire's enemies and that the main failings existed in the middle command echelon and the appalling logistical handicap they operated under. The army as a whole was not in any sense prepared for a long war - the infrastructure and economy, not to mention the industrial base, was never up to the task of fighting a long and modern war. Having said that, the army, and by extension the empire, outlasted both the Romanovs and the Hapsburgs - by a few years at least which was not bad for the so called 'sick man of Europe'. The raw material of the army was excellent but was poorly served by both faulty leadership and logistics. You could apply the 'Lions led by Donkeys' analogy very easily to the Turkish Army.

I realise I may be biased in favour of anything Turkish related but this book is a welcome reminder of the reasons why the allies held the 'Mehmetcik', the ordinary Asker, in such grudging respect.
I have not checked the Osprey website but I hoping that a Men at Arms title will appear covering the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1912 for obvious reasons - well, they are sitting on my paint tray as I write!

The Wargame of the Book of the Film...Part 2

No surprises but it looks like Zulu may be the hot favourite inspirational film for wargamers. It would be easy to see why - the sheer epic nature of the subject matter; the heroic defence against hordes of hostile 'savages'; the believable characters from across a broad spectrum of Victorian stereotypes and the relentless but relatively anonymous Zulu warriors; coupled with that soundtrack! The chanting and shield bashing - especially if you were fortunate enough to experience the film on the big screen - is guaranteed to get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. If the film could do this imagine what it would have been like for real!

Nigel Greene's portrayal of Colour Sergeant Bourne is, for me, one of the definitive portrayals of an NCO in service - or rather what I would expect one to be like - a sonorous voice, authoritive and yet with the men's upkeep at heart. Tremendous stuff. Michael Caine as the 'stiff upper lip' officer offset by Stanley Baker's dour engineer makes a great screen dynamic and is one of the big screens great partnerships.

The rank and file, Hook, Hitch and the various Williams, Jones etc were all varied in their characters but represented a typical cross section of what the Victorian army probably looked like. I enjoyed the Choir.......;-)

Over the top? Certainly. Historically accurate? In places - but never let the truth stand in the way of a good story! The soundtrack? Awe inspiring and really gets under your skin.

One of the great unknowns from the film though was how did one hundred British infantryman with a stirring rendition of 'Men of Harlech' manage to out sing four thousand screaming Zulus?

For sheer entertainment value and jaw dropping inspiration with more than a passing nod to what actually happened this film is hard to beat and so is rightly at the top of many gamers favourite film lists.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The War Game of the Film of the Book..........

By way of a diversion, and this is not really a poll as such; more like a piece of research - What film or films above all have been the ones that have inspired you to war game? Just a film title would be easy so I would also like a reason as well so no pressure! I am also only interested in your top three choices so no long lists please! I suspect that the responses will not contain any great surprises in terms of choice but I would like to hear peoples reasons anyway!

I will start the ball rolling and tell you that for me the two earliest cinematic influences on my wargaming career were Zulu and the Battle of Britain. That is odd because I have not played many Colonial games and all my aerial activity has been via boardgames - mainly Air Force by Battleline/Avalon Hill. I would also have to add Waterloo to the list although I did not see that until it came out on video by which time I had moved on from Napoleonics.

Zulu blew me away at the cinema - the sheer scale and scope of what was on the screen was truly epic and the characters unforgettable. The same applied to the Battle of Britain with the added bonus of breathtaking aerial action. I enjoyed Waterloo because it was the visual interpretation of a truly pivotal battle and showed all the elements of a Greek tragedy. I actually enjoyed the film leading up to the battle and one of my favourite scenes was Rod Steiger as Napoleon dictating to his secretaries - exactly how I imagined the man himself to be.

Colour Sergeant Bourne (aka Nigel Greene), Napoleon (aka Rod Steiger) and Christopher Plummer as the Duke in Waterloo all really captured the flavour of the characters they were portraying and although the purist can, and probably will, drive holes through the historical accuracy of the films, for sheer entertainment and inspirational value they are be hard to beat.

I often stick the DVDs of these films on when I am between chores; even only for short time, for a quick fix of inspiration and they never disappoint.

'Alright said you could stop working............'

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A Memoir 44 Too Far............

Due to a variety of circumstances I was unable to get very much tackled yesterday other than to punch out the last of the counters from the various supplements I have recently acquired for Memoir 44. All I need to do now is to organise a filing system for the rules etc. I always put most of my rules in plastic wallets and ring binders simply so as I can add or remove pages at will and ensure that the pages stay clean. Disintegrating rule books with well thumbed and grubby page corners is a bete noir of mine so I always strive to keep them protected.

I am very impressed with the scenario packs – particularly the double sized maps printed with the terrain in place and these are designed with the Overlord supplement in mind. Basically the Overlord supplement uses a double sized standard 13 x 9 hex board and the games are designed to be multi player with ideally two teams of three and an overall C in C. This looks like a lot of fun and would be ideal for a club night game and so I am giving this some serious though and will suggest this on Wednesday. One of maps is a stylised version of Operation Market Garden which would be enormous fun to run as a club night game and has many of features that would capture the imagination of even the most cynical of gamers. Lots of ‘elite’ troops, desperate defending, King Tigers and the chance to use quotes from ‘A Bridge Too Far’ at every opportunity – sounds pretty compelling to me!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Morschauser Afloat - The Reckoning

At long last I was able to finally finish the ship charts for the naval version of Morschauser’s grid based gaming system. They are a more detailed than perhaps Morschauser would have intended but I have tried to stay true to the basic simplicity of the mechanics employed i.e. opposed dice rolls. Assigning dice to individual ship classes is perhaps a degree of overkill but this is necessary due to sheer variety of types during the period covered. As a long term naval gamer I tend to baulk at ships being lumped together for convenience sake as there are usually many exceptions to the rule in terms of weapons carried, protection and speed etc even within ships of notionally the same type. This is the main reason why I have looked at ships on an individual class level rather than by type. The game mechanics are simple enough and oddly enough, playing the Napoleonic naval game last week made me realise that my thoughts on the movement of ships under power at long ranges is probably about right. I want to give these a final play test before letting them out and this should in the next couple of weeks. The reason for this is simply so that I can get any final wrinkles ironed out. For my own purposes I will be using these rules with my 1/3000th collection of Balkan and Black Sea fleets. The French will make an appearance at some point (I don’t have any models as yet so this will be well down the list!) but I suspect that will be it for the theatre. Mr Fox has the Italians and Austro Hungarians so all that would be needed would be a token RN force which I am sure exists somewhere within the various club members collections. I will also use the Minifigs ships I have tucked away for some hypothetical naval action of some kind – more of which in due course. Again, this is well down the batting order but the models will have the advantage of being much more visible and will make for better photos.

From a practical perspective I will certainly have to change the playing surface I have as it is simply too dark – this will probably also mean ship bases which I am really loath to do! Whilst I really like the blue I have used it does need to be lightened somewhat – in fact, probably using a sky blue with a blue ink wash would be about right but I shall have to see.

It only remains then for me to extend my thanks and appreciation to all that have contributed their comments and encouragement to this project. It is safe to say that this communal effort has made my own task in merely drafting the rules very much easier!