Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Wargaming Odyssey - or the Rise, Fall and Rise of Carthage


The WRG 6th Edition Years

Whilst labelling the second Carthaginian army blocks last night I got to mulling over the rise and fall and rise again of my interest in Ancient wargames. It is ironic that the first army I am labelling for this latest iteration is the Carthaginians - simply because they were the very first Ancients army I owned - back in the dim and distant days of the early 1980s. At the time I was a member of the now defunct Newham Wargames Club that used to meet at Eric Knowles's shop in East London - New Model Army, in Manor Park. A number of the members were 'into' 6mm ancients using WRG 6th edition. the armies were truly enormous and 20,000 points a side was not uncommon (and I might add, usually unplayable!). The top two armies as I recall were Heraclian Byzantine and Sassanid Persian. I was intrigued but never really fancied 6mm as a scale but help was at hand as a number of other members of the club used both 15mm and 25mm and so my interest naturally gravitated to them. It was not long before an opportunity to acquire the start of an army was presented to me by my long time friend and frequent gaming nemesis - Chris Hardman. The army in question was the remnants of his 25mm Carthaginian force, abandoned after WRG 5th edition came out with, if I remember correctly, celebrated (if that is the right word) by the rise of E type archer and the domination of the battlefield by firepower. The transaction was speedily concluded and so I had the nucleus of an army. Some elements needed rebasing and I also had to add some additional figures although not too many. The figures used were a mixture of Minifigs and Garrison and I was very pleased that I was able to replicate almost exactly the painting technique then used (I could no more do that today than sprout wings and fly!).

The armies debut was against Chris Hardman's Seleucid force at Present Arms (a great show but alas no longer on the calender) in Rochford, Essex. As I recall we fought with 2,000 points and the game lasted I think around 3 turns. A sole unit of Seleucid Cataphracts rode roughshod over all of my cavalry (cunningly deployed so as to ensure that when the first unit routed it would happily collide with the one behind it; it turn colliding with the next one and so on - it was not pretty) and my enduring memory of that particular drubbing was that it took longer to set up than to play. Despite this setback my enthusiasm was undimmed.

Over a period of around three years I fought numerous armies and aside from the drubbing described above I only really lost badly to a Late Roman army. I refought Chris and his Seleucids only once more and although I had lost again, it was very much closer than the first time. What usually happened with this army was that it would fight the opposition to a standstill. I quickly learned that fighting was as few points as possible was better because everything in the army was cheap in terms of points costs. I also made extensive use of flank marches - especially with the Numidian Light Cavalry - and by maxing out the number of these horsemen it was rare that I was outscouted (except by the thrice cursed Seleucids!). I had also acquired a 15mm Carthaginian army and with this I had the opportunity to fight, joy of joys, a Republican Roman army. As I recall I fought this particular army on half a dozen occasions and every game ended in a draw. Clearly a pattern was emerging here.

I really enjoyed using the Carthaginians but it was a difficult army to win with. Virtually everything was average C class although the option existed to have a smattering of types upgraded to B. There were few troops with Heavy armour and the cavalry, although numerous, was lighter in weight than most of the available opposition and without a lance in sight. I always felt that you had to fight your socks off with this army just to get a draw. I was happy in the choice of historically based tactics I was trying to use and they often worked out quite well but invariably either opposition quality or weight would tell. Looking back I can now see that my impressions of the army were largely correct in that in order to get the disparate elements to work efficiently you needed the genius of a Hannibal to succeed.

I wanted to own an army that would give me a variety of quality options to use and above all, be a balanced force. So I opted for what appeared to be the answer to a frustrated wargamers dream army - Late Imperial Roman. The army I acquired was Essex 28mm figures and professionally painted. It was a delight to look at, a joy to use and fought exactly three times before I sold it. I beat a Later Roman and a Sassanid army but lost out to an army of Franks. It felt plain wrong using an army purely for the gaming effect under the rules and at the time I had no interest in the period in which the army fought. I also owned an Early Indian army, complete with its full quota of B class elephants. Again, this was a cynical acquisition as at the time I had no interest in the period the army in question operated in. Again, it was a fun but shallow experience. I do remember though the glorious occasion when a general led unit of 9 Irregular B elephants went 'Impetuous' at the top of a hill and charged into a legion throwing the maximum plus it was able to in the ensuing melee - the carnage was magnificent! I disposed of both armies as my disillusion with 6th edition was complete. It was not the rules by any means, it was simply due to the fact that I had to consistently fight armies either geographically or historically remote from those that I chose to use. The latter pair of armies were certainly a triumph of style over substance. I also considered acquiring an Alexandrian Macedonian army with all the extras. Carefully constructed this would furnish a number of 1,100 point armies enabling games to be fought entirely from my own collection. I did a lot of research on this army but never followed it through - mainly because of difficulties with the firm I was using to paint the figures.

As the end of my first Ancients phase drew to a close I did have a couple of 'Plan Bs' on the go. I rather fancied a Parthian army and also looked long and hard at an Arab Conquest collection. I actually researched both of these armies and acquired some figures but due to real life intervening never pursued the ideas. The armies of the Middle East have always held an attraction for me and so this was probably an early indication of where and how my interests would develop in time.

The DBA Years

For me (and probably a good few others), the publication of DBA was one of the biggest events in my wargaming career and it is safe to say restored my faith in the Ancient period as a wargames option. An army of 12 bases? This seemed like blatant heresy to all those brought up on a diet of 300 plus figures for an army. I loved them from the off and have fond memories of cutting out card bases and fighting eight games in an afternoon in the garden whilst supervising a barbecue (doubtless with a drink or two). I lost 7 - 1 but 5 of the games went to the wire. Ironically the single game I won was using, yes, you've guessed it, Carthaginians. I have played a number of games using this over the years and have owned many armies - only one of which was ever painted. The painted army was an Essex Miniatures 15mm Numidian and the only reason I opted for this was because it covered a long historical timeframe and was also easy to paint. It was quite successful but I got bored and offloaded it for what seemed like an obscene price at the time.

I have probably played more games using DBA variants that the base game itself and that is testimony to the soundness of the design and concept. The only thing for me is that a single DBA 'army' looks too small in terms of the figures used. A single DBA army can only really be used for DBA whereas a 'normal' sized army (and if anyone could tell me what 'normal' is then I would be eternally grateful!) can, theoretically furnish several DBA armies. At the very least this would cover a civil war. The 28mm DBA gamers (or HOTTs to be accurate) at my club routinely use double sized DBA armies as they look far better with greater numbers of figures in use. The advice concerning buying armies in matched pairs is sound and I would certainly not consider buying a DBA army in isolation - in fact, if I ever considered using figures for the period I would aim to get all the armies for any one of the stylised 6 sided campaigns suggested in  the rules. My own feeling, and having seen this approach in action, is that using double sized armies, or even double sized elements, adds immeasurably to the look of the thing.

As a campaign 'tool' DBA is ideal and has been used with some success in the past at my club. With the Command and Colours Ancients blocks at my disposal the 6 sided DBA campaign is a certainty in terms of being achievable for my own nefarious purposes.

The 'Dawn' of the Command and Colours Years

Regular readers of the blog will no doubt be aware of the fact that I am a huge fan of the whole Command and Colours series of games designed by Richard Borg. From the original Battle Cry ACW game through to the Napoleonic version via Ancients and WW2 I have had enormous fun with them all. As a game system it has everything that I want from a set of rules being easy to play, fast, decisive, readily adaptable and easily translated into a tabletop setting. The rules are not perfect (show me a set that is!) and they could readily stand having degrees of complexity added to them (especially Memoir 44 although this is heading that way) to bring them into line with more 'mainstream' wargames rules. I am also not a huge fan of the command cards idea although my opposition towards using the same is being gradually eroded! I really enjoy using them for face to face play but have yet to find a solo version that 'does it' for me although to be honest I have not really tried that hard as yet. If Richard Borg and GMT ever tackle any other periods using blocks I would be on it in a flash - regardless of the period covered!

I plan to use the C and C Ancients blocks on bases with a block effectively representing a figure. As the infantry blocks usually have pictures of 2 figures on them straightaway the visual look is improved as the 4 blocks of a heavy or medium close ordered infantry unit will have 8 figures in view. Smoke and mirrors perhaps, but it is an illusion that I am more than  happy to make use of. The only problem I need to resolve concerns the basing aspect. In order to deploy four infantry blocks in a single line the base needs to be larger than the 60mm frontage used for 28mm figures. the blocks comfortably fit on an 80mm frontage - which is the frontage that has been adopted by some of the 28mm armies in use at the club, simply because of the size of the figures. I will try to keep to the minimum depths if I can which will not be a problem for hex based games but will give armies under DBA a broader frontage but a narrower depth. In order to hold the blocks in position I am planning to have a channel on the base - probably from a couple of lengths of plastic strip - into which the blocks can sit. They will not be fixed in place permanently, merely there to be moved around en masse.

With the variety of armies I shall have available the potential for campaigns or one off games is, quite simply, huge. The Salamis idea can now be realised (giving me an excuse to paint some galleys) and my long held interests in the campaigns of Hannibal, Alexander and Caesar can all get a look in. The Spartacus Revolt or even the opening battle from the film Gladiator are also now in sight and so this will enable me to indulge in pretty much any historical flight of fancy from 600 BC to fall of the Empire in the West.

So there you have it, a potted overview of the story of my dabblings in Ancients and how I have reached the point I am now at - tackling a thousand years or so of military history using a couple of rule sets, Hexon terrain and an ordinary tabletop and blocks. Lots of blocks....;-)

Monday, 30 July 2012

Epic Scale Ancients, WW1 and WW2

I am sure that any players of Command and Colours, be it via Memoir 44 or the Ancients series (and, if rumours are true, the Napoleonic version) will be familiar with the 'Epic Battles' concept. This usually involves a couple of mapboards butted to together or a large, purpose produced scenario map, a larger than normal number of units, usually two sides of players (usually up to four a side), a special set of command cards and some additional rules. The idea should appeal to the big battle enthusiast (which probably covers most of us!) and I am no exception. I was highly delighted then, to note that the three boards I collected from Mr Gow are the double sided version. Side A has the usual 13 x 9 hex playing area whilst side B has a much bigger area suitable for butting against another board to make a double sized and then some playing area- a whopping 28 x 9 in fact. The B side also does not feature the Ancients logo and so I guess you can see where my fevered imagination went!

20th century in the desert. Home of the fighting against the Turks in WW1 and the Germans/Italians in WW2. That seems like a good idea but I have no Hexon desert tiles! No problem, why don't I just use the boards that are available (and by extension the ordinary Memoir 44 boards)? Why not indeed? The hexes of a standard Ancients board are a shade over two inches across the flat sides or roughly half that of a Hexon tile. Producing figures in an appropriate scale for use on this board would ideally mean 15mm or smaller models. 15mm would be the obvious choice but not being one to go with the obvious choice I am thinking that perhaps 10mm might be a good alternative. There is a pretty good selection of models available in  this scale for WW1 and WW2 so I think I will give this some serious consideration. the models have the advantage of being easy to paint and are cheap as well. Terrain for any desert set up is minimal but buildings and the obligatory palm trees are available and knocking up hills etc should not tax my modest modelling skills over much. The big advantage though is I would not have to invest in any desert Hexon tiles.

One to look at and ponder further methinks.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Punic Wars, 100,000 plus hits, 120 Followers and 895 posts

It has been a funny old weekend and not at all as I had planned. The funeral of my Uncle Jim has left me somewhat depleted in spirit and so my planned ACW game has been postponed for the time being. Aside from the usual domestic round though I have managed at last to start the great label sticking fest and have managed to complete both armies from the Command and Colours Ancients base game - Republican Roman and Carthaginian. I will have two sets of the armies from the base game couretsy of the recent trade with Tim Gow and so the prospect of some Epic scale Punic Wars games is a mouthwatering one. Especially as I also have (again, courtesy of Tim) a further three map boards which are double sided. The first side is for the usual 13 x 9 playing area whilst the reverse is one half of a double sized 'big battle' board. With the double sized Punic Wars armies I am thinking that perhaps Cannae may get a run out on a multi-player big battle basis which should be enormous fun to do. It also means that I have two sets of the base game terrain tiles which I will need to punch out at some point.

In the meantime though, I realised that the blog has just passed the 100,000 hit mark since I first set it up back in 2009. I am delighted by this for a number of reasons the main one being because it is gratifying to know that my occasionally incoherent ramblings or maddening inconsistency have got some kind of audience in the real world and not solely in my imagination!

I am truly appreciative of anybody that takes the time to read or comment on anything I post and I consider myself to be really fortunate to have, for better or worse, the opportunity to allow the most extreme excesses of my butterfly like imagination out for all and sundry to consider/debate/ponder/dismiss at leisure.

Many thanks to one and all for the unstinting support.


Friday, 27 July 2012

My Uncle Jim - R.I.P.


A Wellington Bomber over the coast - note the four other RAF bomber types in each corner. this was painted when Uncle Jim was a mere 85 years young....;-)


On the Saturday before my return from Turkey (14/07) my Uncle Jim died after a short illness. He was 91 years of age and in full possession of his mental faculties although understandably was 'feeling his years' physically - especially as he was acting in the capacity of a carer to his wife, my Aunt Pearl, during the last year of her life. She passed away last year and obviously my Uncle felt her loss very deeply and the toll it took on him, physically and mentally was immense although he was never one to complain. The funeral was today and was a suitably solemn and moving occasion. His coffin was dressed in an RAF ensign and featured his campaign medals from his service during the second world war. He was very much an influential part of my life during my formative years - especially after my mother and father separated when I was a small boy. I absolutely idolised him as a youngster and this feeling matured as I grew older into one of unstinting respect and reverence.

Uncle Jim was an RAF pilot during the war flying Wellington bombers with Number 9 squadron . In many ways in his appearance he was the epitome of an RAF officer, neat, dapper, fastidious and with a carefully trimmed moustache and lacing his everyday conversation with RAF slang. He was a quiet and thoughtful man, a talented model maker - he loved making kits of fully rigged sailing ships -  and painter (the picture at the head of this post was painted by him for me at the age of 85 whilst awaiting a cataract operation!) as well as an accomplished musician playing both the accordion and the piano. He also possessed a great sense of humour and was always ready with a sparkling comment. The only word that springs to mind when describing him is gentleman, in the fullest and most complete sense of the word.

As a young boy, growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s and bought up on a diet of Commando books and Airfix kits he seemed like a living legend - the embodiment of all that excited me about the RAF and the war years. Like most ex servicemen he was very modest about his wartime exploits and one had to coax most information out of him. He would happily talk about amusing incidents and trivia but of his 29 combat flights he was far less forthcoming. At the time a tour was either 30 missions or 6 months on operations. His two daughters (my cousins) have given me permission to copy his log books with the view to researching the missions he took in part in and to get a sense of what, as a young man, he had to endure.. By his own admission (I had seen them on a previous occasion), these were populated with the minimum amount of information he could away with as he jokingly said that paperwork was tedious. I want to cross reference these to the actual operational records to get an understanding of what flights he undertook and why these have been so uncomfortable for him to discuss. My research will form the basis of further posts in due course.

Our last conversations were centred around the then forthcoming unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial - which he fully intended visiting with a suitable entourage. Sadly he will not be able to make that journey now but those that have survived him, myself included, are going to do so in his memory and also for those that were not so fortunate to have been able to live to see  the day.

It is a clichĂ© I know but they don't make them like that any more.

God bless Uncle Jim, rest in peace and as was observed today, you now have your second set of wings.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Ancient Wargame

It has been a busy couple of days including a visit to meet that very nice Mr Ian Drury at his offices in order to collect the ton of Command and Colours Ancients kit recently acquired off Mr Gow. More of the meeting in a later post (for reasons that will become obvious).

Lugging the collection around Central London in 30 degree sunshine was an interesting experience but it is all at home now and awaiting the great labelling fest.

My copy of the base game arrived yesterday so I shall be able to undertake ancient battles either as per the rules or, as is more likely, using a cardless version on a solo basis. Either way it will enable me to indulge in several hundred years of history at the drop of a hat for which I am very pleased indeed. Command and Colours Ancients has a very good website full of useful stuff such as rules, variants, FAQs, scenarios and tactics and is well worth a look if you are interested - the link is as follows: C and C Ancients

Aside from the expected use with this collection I also plan to use the blocks for DBA (so will need some bases) and also for use with the rules and scenarios contained in Phil Sabin's book - Lost Battles.

Lost Battles: Reconstructing the Great Clashes of the Ancient World

I have been waiting for the chance to dabble with this book for an age!

I forgot to mention that also included within the transaction with Mr Gow was the complete set of blocks and labels (not to mention the terrain tiles and mapboard) for the Napoleonic version of the Command and Colours game for which I have a number of very special ideas....;-)

Of course a by product of this Ancients collection is that I will need to, shall we say, enhance the appropriate section of my library although probably not by as much as would usually be the case!

Once again for many thanks to Tim Gow for the trade and to Ian Drury for supplying the logistical element of getting the collection in my hands without the use of a delivery lorry or two!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Thoughts on recent games and a nice surprise

Despite a rather busy day yesterday - both on a work and a domestic level - I managed to give some thought to the two games I recently played over the weekend. There are a number of points arising that will require attention in due course, with suitable terrain being at the top of the list. As it stands at the moment my NW Frontier and Balkan battlefields are, well to be honest, a little on the green side and so some rocky outcrops and perhaps some more arid looking terrain tiles may be order. From the Hexon range you are able to obtain examples of both of these types and so an order may be on the cards at some point.

I will also need to add in to Bob's Memoir of Battle rules a few additions of my own - so that it is easier to remember them as much as anything - that I have been regularly using (the 'battle back' rule mainly) as well as clarifying the rules for concealed units and spotting. Nothing major, just a couple of tweaks as the core set is robust enough to stand any amount of well intentioned 'tinkering'.

The blocks worked out as well as usual and I really must get the other labels printed and attended to for the 20th century kit - together with the revised artillery labels. As I am taking collection of the vast quantity of blocks from Tim Gow's Command and Colours sets tomorrow I shall be knee deep in labelling of one sort or another for some time to come!


Ooooh, shiny! Not to mention very colourful indeed!

Some time ago, just before we went to Turkey in fact, I ordered a copy of the above Osprey title to round out the small South American section of my library and it finally arrived yesterday morning. Glancing through the colour plates (and lets be honest, the colour plates are  usually the first port of call when opening an Osprey - at least they are for me!) was a very inspiring experience and the thing that struck me was how relatively easy it would be furnish the armies for this period using ordinary Napoleonic troops. Of course there are a number of exceptions but nothing that should be a challenge for even the most modestly capable modeller - in fact I reckon even I should be able to cope but of course that is probably not going to happen any time soon....;-)

Why do I keep seeing converted 28mm Perry Plastics when I look at this?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Striking the Match - The Roghan Valley, 1895....Game Number 14

 General Sir Charles Vere Cramp was not happy. A deputation from the Basmati elders had come to him with tales of increased Jalfrezi raids at the head of the Dhansak Pass resulting in much hardship and distress for the peaceful villagers. He was aware that the hill tribes were restless (to be honest probably no more than usual) but was keen to avoid being too confrontational with full scale troop deployments and such like. Nevertheless, action of one kind or another was needed as the only thing these recalcitrant tribesmen understood was the application of force. Her Majesty's government could not be seen to be idle in the face of provocation. He had decided therefore, that some selective destruction would be called for as a demonstration of Imperial displeasure and a warning of what might come to pass should these raids continue. The target he selected was the summer residence of Shere Khanaj himself, some half a days march from the fort at Dovecot. A small force of all arms would march to the old palace and the engineers would dynamite it. It would be noisy and sufficient to make the point intended. Naturally Colonel Bindon Oliver Goff V.C. had raised a number of concerns - mainly that the force was too small, the aims too limited and the target not important enough. The discussion was becoming rather heated until the timely intervention of Lady Cramp bringing her husband's medication with afternoon tea served to cool the atmosphere somewhat. The Brigadier prevailed and so the good Colonel was tasked with taking a battalion sized force with support for the half day march up to the palace where it was to be destroyed. With barely concealed anger he rode at all speed to Dovecot in order to ready his force.

Imperial

1 x 1 Commander - Colonel Bindon Oliver Goff V.C.
1 x 4 A Coy. 1st Battalion The Sheppey Light Infantry
1 x 4 B Coy. 1st Battalion The Queen's Own Medway Fusiliers
1 x 4 A Coy. 4th Peshwari Rifles
1 x 4 B Coy. 6th Kashmeri Rifles
1 x 3 D Troop, C Squadron The 13th Malabar Horse
1 x 3 E Troop, C Squadron The 13th Malabar Horse
1 x 2 section of F Battery, City of London Artillery
1 x 2 platoons Royal Engineers

Total strength of 27 - exhaustion level dependent upon the number of Jalfrezi units used (experimental house rule) up to a maximum of 10.

Ram Ditin was seething with anger at both his father, Shere Khanaj and his close advisor, Prophet Abul. Here was a golden opportunity to strike a telling blow on the thrice-cursed infidels as they brazenly marched into the Dhansak Valley. His spies amongst the Basmatis (to be accurate, spy) had told him of the plan to destroy the palace and of the composition of the force that was being sent to undertake the task. He had pleaded with his father on bended knees to allow him to raise the sacred banner and raise the tribes in revolt but to no avail. Instead they counselled caution as the Imperialists needed to flex a little muscle occasionally and it served no purpose in provoking them unnecessarily. Certainly the march should be opposed but only enough to make point and to save face. Ram Ditin sullenly agreed to his father's behest but privately decided to ignore him. He had sent out messengers to a number of local dignitaries 'inviting' them, in the name of Shere Khanaj to send men to teach the accursed infidel a lesson. He had stretched the truth a little in this but then he could not be certain as to how many would respond and so it was better to have too many than too few. He could justify this to his father if needs be but borrowing the two twelve pounders would be another thing altogether. He resolved to cross that bridge when he came to it. The force assembled was made up of the following.

Jalfrezis

1 x 1 Commander Ram Ditin
1 x 3 Bodyguard Cavalry
1 x 2 Artillery
8 x 4 Warbands

Total strength 38 - exhaustion level 10. This was quite low as Ram Ditin did not want to lose too many loyal warriors on what was only supposed to be a demonstration.

Game Notes: The rules in use were Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle but with an experimental house rule designed for ambushes in solo play. Basically, all the ambushing sides units are set up in their desired positions with a red counter on them. Assuming they are in cover then the enemy has to locate them before he can engage them. This is done by rolling the combat dice as though carrying out a normal attack up to the maximum range of firearm in use by the army. Only infantry and cavalry are able to do this (assume cavalry have a range of 3). Should the searching player score a hit then the ambushing unit has been spotted and the red counter removed - it is in effect now in play. This rule gives cavalry a proper reconnaissance role although infantry are only able to search when moving one hex. If they are moving two then they are going too fast to search properly. For each unit either located by searching or revealed by the ambushing player the searchers exhaustion level increases by the size of the unit located/revealed. The effect of this rule is to encourage the ambushing player to be frugal with his force because should he only use a single unit then he could hold up the entire army by inflicting hits equal to his size e.g. 4 for an infantry unit.

The table was 12 x 8 hexes and the Imperial forces were required to enter the table rather than be deployed.



Into the valley of death - note the Jalfrezi units in their ambush positions with the red counters. The palace can be seen at the top of the picture.


With C troop of the Malabar horse in the van the Imperial column enters the valley. Goff took the precaution of sending out two companies as reinforced picquets on either side of the line of advance - one company from the Sheppey Battalion and one from the Peshwaris.


Contact! The Peshwaris stumble across a lurking warband of Jalfrezis but at a cost! Meanwhile the Sheppey Light Infantry are about to make a similar discovery.


As the column moves further into the valley a crashing volley sounds from cover and the Peshwaris reel under the blow.


Several things happen at once as the two units on either side of the leading Imperial cavalry open fire at no effect but the gallant horsemen lower their lances, swing around and charge the right hand assailant, chasing them from their position with the fury of their charge! The Sheppey Light Infantry open fire on the previously hidden tribesman taking casualties in return. The Peshwaris, battered but unbowed fall back to regroup.


Meanwhile, the Medways enter the fray in support of the cavalry. The gallant horsemen, the target of artillery fire and a charge from  Ram Ditin and his bodyguard finally succumb to enemy action. The second troop of the Malabar Horse charge the tribesman threatening the right hand flank of the column - the same tribesmen that inflicted the coup de grace on the Peshwaris. Whilst the Sheppeys pursue the fleeing Jalfrezis. Critically for the Imperialists, casualties have been inflicted on the engineers.


As both sides pause for breath Ram Ditin and his bodyguard fall back to their lines whilst the Imperialists regroup and reorganise. 


The final reckoning.


The final positions - note the unused Jalfrezi units and the sangars deployed as defences.


As the sounds of gunfire subsided to be replaced by the groans of the wounded and the jangle of assorted weaponry both of the commanders took stock of their position and of the outcome. For Bindon Goff any further advance into the valley was clearly out of the question with the numbers at his disposal. He was angry   at the loss of his men, angry that his advice had not been listened to in the first place and angry at how this apparent reverse would be viewed. He pondered this whilst the units formed up to retire back to Dovecot and decided that his report would depict this as a resolute defence against huge numbers of unexpected Jalfrezi tribesman.

Ram Ditin listened to the adulation from his fanatical warriors uneasily. He had outnumbered the Infidels but the trap had been discovered too early. His warriors were fanatical but short winded and so he resolved that the next time (and he was certain there would be another time) he and they would be better prepared. He raised his sword in salute to the cries of his men, his face an impassive mask.

Game Summary

It was short, sharp, chaotic and enormous fun and sets the scene nicely for the ongoing adventures in the Roghan Valley. The visibility/ambush rules need a little work but overall panned out OK so I will write them up for further use in due course.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Buildings and a Sniff of an Idea

My head is now clear and so all that remains of my general illness is the Niagara like running nose and the chesty cough. I can put up with both of these (although the cough is quite wearing) but the 'cotton wool' head  feeling tends to knock the stuffing out of me and so it was with some relief that it finally disappeared to coincide with the sun finally appeared after the monsoon of a downpour last night. SWMBO and I decided that some fresh air was in order to reinvigorate me further and so we hit our local Saturday boot sale. To be honest, I was quite surprised that it was on given the recent downpour and I was not alone in this as the number of sellers was fairly modest compared to usual. I picked up a couple of bargains though, including two of the Greek ceramic buildings from the same range as my existing collection for a pound and also a copy of the Lord of the Rings version of the popular boardgame Risk for one pound and fifty pence.


The two buildings - I already own one of the left hand versions but not the very impressive looking church


"One ring to bring them in, and in the man cave bind them!"

I have absolutely no intention of playing this game as is but will certainly look to use the figures at some point as well as the map board. The figures are pretty good and are made from hard plastic and so would serve for the forces of good and evil in a cheap and cheerful way. The eagles are very nice models although I reckon they could easily have the bases removed so they could be mounted on flying bases. The figures could easily be converted (as could the vast supply of 18th century figures I own from that particular version of the game) where required and for terrain there are some suitably useful aquatic fortress or tower models of the type used in aquariums that would make some fantastic looking strongholds. I even have a Battle Cry/Memoir 44 set of fantasy rules that could be pressed into service if needs be and so the potential for some Middle Earth action is certainly there. In the meantime though, I will see about acquiring another couple of sets to build the numbers up and then see what develops. This will be a slow burner though....;-)


Friday, 20 July 2012

Defeat in Detail? - The Balkans 1912....Game Number 13

Despite feeling dreadful for most of the day with this wretched cold/sore throat/chesty cough I rallied sufficiently this afternoon to tackle a small action based on the Balkan  war of 1912. As per usual, the block armies were out to play with my Hexon terrain as usual providing the backdrop. I kept the number of units down to quite a small level as I was unsure as to how long my concentration would last for! The rules were an earlier version of Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle 19th century set but with a couple of house rules thrown in - one of which raised a point for further consideration, more of which later.

Somewhere in European Turkey, November 1912....

The Bulgarian advance continues as the Turkish front line is breached in several places. A small but vital crossroads, running through a ramshackle village, lies along the line of advance of the leading Bulgarian corps and if captured would allow the next Turkish position to be speedily outflanked. A force has been hastily assembled to take the crossroads and village - known locally as Dort Kollari - and comprises the following:

Bulgaria

6 x 4 Infantry units armed with magazine rifles
2 x 3 Cavalry units
2 x 2 Artillery units armed with rifled field artillery
1 x 1 Commander

35 strength points - exhaustion level 12 points

Despite the magnitude of both the losses in men and material the Turks had thus far sustained fighting the Bulgarians they were able to rapidly identify the threat posed by losing this position and so a force was detached from the main army in order to defend the village whilst their shattered armies regrouped and reformed in the rear. The Turks were outnumbered for sure but were able to quickly entrench a number of key positions on the outskirts of the village and there nervously awaited the Bulgarian assault.

Turkey

2 x 4 Infantry units armed with magazine rifles
2 x 3 Infantry units armed with magazine rifles (Redif reserve units)
1 x 3 Cavalry unit
1 x 2 Artillery unit armed with rifled field artillery
1 x 1 Commander

20 strength points - exhaustion level 7 points.



The initial dispositions with the Bulgarians attacking from the bottom of the picture


The Turkish defenders - note the fieldworks and the two 'Redif' formations on the left


The Bulgarians prepare to attack


First blood to the Turks as their artillery opens fire on the leading Bulgarian infantry (black counters are placed on artillery units that have fired whilst white counters represent hits inflicted)


The Bulgarians continue their advance taking casualties as they do whilst their artillery deploys on the hill in the foreground. The leading Bulgarian infantry unit is already locked in combat with the Turks in the centre, despite their earlier losses.


Although seemingly engaging the Turks on the own the leading Bulgarian infantry unit can at last see the support beginning to arrive. Will it be in time?


A murderous exchange of close range rifle fire leaves the Bulgarian infantry dashed against the Turkish positions. Ignoring the Bulgarian cavalry (admittedly out of sight on the other side of the hill) even the Redif unit of the extreme left moved out to engage the hated Bulgarians.


With some final exchanges of rifle and artillery fire the Bulgarians reach their exhaustion level and so fall back to regroup and await the rest of the army in order to renew the assault. With a final flourish the Turkish cavalry chase their Bulgarian counterparts off the hill. The Turks had held on!


The losses for each side



The final positions at the end of the action

Phew! It was a short and sharp action and great fun to play. The rifle fire was very effective and the Bulgarians arrived at the Turkish fieldworks both uncoordinated and badly cut up. Numbers would have prevailed eventually but they need to be at the right place and at the right time and the Bulgarians simply did not manage this. They arrived piecemeal and were made a meal of in pieces. The artillery would have been effective had it gotten into action sooner but the Bulgarians had gambled on the speed of their assault carrying them through as it had done so many times previously.

The rules worked very well although I am unsure about the ranges. When my head is clearer I will think about this further but I am leaning towards a 3 hex maximum for all firearms but with adjusted effects for range and quality of weapon being used. As I say, I will need to give this some further thought once the drugs kick in.

I am now convinced that Bob's idea of plus or minus a strength point for good or poor units is the right way to go as the effects of battlefield durability based on quality work very well using this idea.

All in all then, it was a pleasant way to spend an hour or so.






Thursday, 19 July 2012

A Bit on the Side....Part 3 and the end

Product Details

My choice of holiday reading consisted of three books and to my surprise I actually managed to complete all of them during the two weeks. For light relief (and with a project in mind) I chose to read Sharpe's Devil (ISBN 978-0-00-723517-9) by Bernard Cornwell and set five years after Waterloo. The novel sees Sharpe and Harper going to Chile (via St. Helena) where they meet and become embroiled (rather unsuspectingly to be fair) in the plot to rescue the fallen Emperor and to set him up in South America. During the course of the story (in which Sharpe is supposed to be finding out what happened to Don Blas Vivar) out two heroes become involved with the famous Lord Cochrane and so much buckling of swashes results.

The plot to rescue Napoleon came to naught but is a tantalising thought all the same.

Product Details

My next title was Cochrane - The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain by Robert Harvey (ISBN 1-84119-162-0). This is a fabulous book and I thoroughly enjoyed it from cover to cover. Aside from his fights with the French, the Spanish, the Admiralty, Parliament, the Stock Exchange fraud the book also covers his exploits in the Pacific (and the inevitable rows that followed) and the Mediterranean trying to help the Greeks during the war of independence from the Ottomans. He was very much a naval Don Quixote in my opinion but was probably one of the finest sea captains this country has ever produced.

One of the things that fascinated me about the man was how forward thinking many of his ideas were - which would naturally set him at odds with the establishment. he was great believer in the power of a deterrent in terms of national defence and although his ideas of gas and chemical warfare may be viewed with a degree of incredulity he was firmly convinced that the advantages to be gained by a quick and decisive win far outweighed the horrors and suffering involved in a long and drawn out state of war. He was also a great supporter of the use of steam power for ship propulsion. A fascinating and complex character.


The final book I read whilst away will probably not come as much of a surprise given the subject matter. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres (ISBN 0-099-47898-6) s set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between the Greeks and the Turks. It is set in south west Anatolia and tells the story of the small combined Christian and Muslim community in a particular village and how they peacefully coexisted for centuries. The comment by the Independent newspaper best describes it as follows: 'A mesmerising patchwork of horror, humour and humanity'.

It is a magnificent read and had me captivated from the first page to the last.

A number of gaming ideas have sprung up from this selection of holiday reads and I will outline these as they take some more clearly defined shape as well as after having tackled some further research.

The pictures are all taken from Amazon but are of the versions I own - apologies then for the poor quality but I could not be bothered to take any better versions as I have a splitting headache and need some sleep!


Feeling under the weather

It had to happen I suppose - back for three days and already under the weather; doubtless due to the change in temperature/humidity and prolonged exposure to assorted air conditioning systems.

Sore throat, muzzy head, alternate hot and cold spells and a general feeling of lethargy ensured that I was in the office for a little over an hour and was told in no uncertain terms to do a 180 about face and go home. At least I made the effort!

The house is empty so a hot drink and some industrial strength drugs followed by some sleep is very much in order methinks.

Somewhere over Russia, 1942 - The Italian Job

It was a busy night at the club last night with yours truly putting in a shift for the first time in ages. Mr Fox had once again arrived with his large box of Axis and Allies: Angels 20 aircraft and so we took to the skies for a rather unusual game set on the Russian front circa. 1942. Unusual in that it featured Italians versus Russians for a change.


Macchi C.200 Saetta


Macchi C.202 Folgore

The Italian fielded three Macchi C.202 Folgore and a pair of earlier Macchi C.200 Saetta whilst the Russians made use of a pair of Polikarpov I-16 "Ishak", a lend lease P40 and three Yak 1s. Points wise it came out at 148 to 150. The Italians were under the tender mercies of Mr Fox and yours truly whilst the red horde were driven by the two Steves and young Brad.


Yak 1


Polikarpov I-16 "Ishak"


P40 in RAF service

The Italians, with the communication skills for which they are justly renowned, (usually involving much shouting and gesticulation) immediately split into two groups so that the poorer C.200s could take on two thirds of the Soviet air force comprising the Yaks and the P40 whilst the three formation flying C.202s watched the lurking and very dangerous I-16s. Both of them.

Fighting I-16s is an art form all of its own as they are nimble, quite rugged and cannot be ignored (they are like flying terriers) but they are s-l-o-w.  Mr Fox and the pair of C.200s was soon in trouble, both qualitatively and quantitatively and were downed in fairly short order despite making a real fist of attempting to stay in the air. Meanwhile one of the C.202 roared over in support (much too late I might add as by this point one of the C.200 was shot down and the other was crippled and trailing smoke, Italian swear words and no doubt vast quantities of Chianti in equal measure) and calmly slotted onto the tail of the P40. The firing was spectacular to say the least with an obscene number of 6s in evidence and so the lend lease machine exploded in a cloud of metallic debris.

The remaining C.202s had managed to cripple both the I16s and eventually downed them both but it took far longer than it should have and hastened the messy end of the the pair of C.200s.

Time was getting on and so we called it day with the Fascists securing the honours.

In retrospect what should have happened is that the two C.200s may have been better advised tackling the I16s whilst the C.202s handled the rest. Although both I16s were downed it took far too long and so hastened the demise of the C.200s, engaged as they were in a very unequal fight.

As ever, many thanks to Mr Fox for the idea and the toys and to the two Steves and young Brad for a very enjoyable and challenging game.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Bit on the Side....Part 2


The famous 'Whirling Dervish' - sadly my own pictures were quite poor and so this is courtesy of Google Images

Our hotel - the Alba Royal, Colakli - featured both evening and daytime entertainment of varying types and so I was able try my hand at .22 rifle shooting, archery and numerous games of French bowls or Petanque on the gloriously sandy private beach. The shooting was good fun - I finished 4th out of sixteen - as was the archery with both taking place at a range of 25 metres. I was rather better with a rifle than a bow and so can see why the impact of the firearm on military history was so considerable - either that or I am desperately unfit! The games of Petanque were great fun and my usual partner was a Swiss gentlemen and neither of us were particularly good the banter more than made up for the accuracy of our respective aims.

The evening entertainment was usually mimed versions of the highlights of a variety of West End shows including Dance of the Vampires, the Blues Brothers (complete with the audience hurling empty plastic bottles at the cast prior to the theme from 'Rawhide'!) Grease, Zorro (really enjoyed that one) and, inevitably, Mamma Mia (cheesy but very funny). These were all a good laugh and were very well put together and appeared quite professional. We also had a very good Turkish Folk evening.

I am a sucker for so-called 'folk' evenings and this was actually very good indeed. Their was a band of dancers/drummers that provided numerous examples of traditional dance and an excellent drumming display which reminded me of the fact that traditional Ottoman armies were usually accompanied by hordes of musicians - in fact I own a CD of Ottoman Janissary marching music - and so any such miniature version should reflect the same (difficult to do with a block army though....). The absolute highlight for me though (and no, it was not the obligatory belly dancers!) was a display by one of the famous 'whirling dervishes'.

A good potted history of the Mevlevi Order can be found here: Mevlevi Order

The lights were dimmed and a solitary flute commenced playing a slow and melodic tune. The exponent walked slowly to the centre of the stage with his arms crossed over his chest. He bowed to the audience and raised his arms in the appropriate position and then began to 'whirl'. It was not fast, just at a measured pace. The performance lasted for several minutes and the exponent did not move from the spot he started on, such was the degree of his control.

I was absolutely entranced by this performance and at the end he crossed his arms over his chest, bowed to the audience, took two steps back and left the stage. The audience was deathly silent for a couple of minutes, so mesmerised were they by what they had just seen and experienced. The applause was muted but sustained and I like to think this was out of respect of what had been witnessed. It was a profoundly moving experience and one that will stay with me for a long time.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Bit on the Side....Part 1

Side (pronounced See-Day) was the nearest town to where we were staying during our recent Turkish adventure and whilst it is a fairly modestly sized place it has a full and interesting history. Further details can be found here - Side


We decided to travel there for a visit and rather than using the local Dolmus (a local bus service based on minibus sized vehicles) instead opted to use the sea and travel by boat. The seas around Side are awash with tourist boats based on the traditional Turkish Gulet and decked out to look like stylised pirate ships. The Gulet itself looks something like this:


A selection of Gulets

The tourist version, complete with imitation sails, cannon and usually some crew members looking like a vague approximation of Captain Jack Sparrow look more like the image below so you can see the origins of design.


Tourist Gulets ahoy!

I should point out that some of the larger examples we saw were triple decked and given the relatively shallow draft of the basic design one would have to wonder how they would cope in any kind of a sea as the centre of gravity would be pretty high! Our own transport for the day was a fairly modest vessel and is pictured below in Side harbour, just along from the Temple of Apollo.


The good ship Calypso - wi' a curse!

After a short cruise (around 45 minutes we arrived at the small harbour at Side and overlooking the same was the famous ruins of the temple of Apollo. Before we headed off to have a look around we passed a number of bars and small shops located around a central square in which featured a statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - the founder of the modern Turkish republic (see Mustafa Kemal Ataturk).


The much revered Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - the driving force behind the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic


The inscription on the base of the statue.

It was a short walk from the square to the ruins of the temple of Apollo which must have been a very impressive structure in its heyday - especially when viewed from the sea.


The remains of the entrance....


....and the surrounding buildings (the columns were behind me for this shot).


This was my 'artistic' shot! I took rather a lot more pictures of the temple but the above will give a good idea of what it was like.

After having a look around the site we headed into the town for the short walk to the remains of the 15,000 seater amphitheatre still used for musical evenings to this day. 

The heat was beginning to tell (it was 45 degrees in the shade) so we had a couple of drink stops en route and looked in some of the souvenir shops for presents. Sadly no buildings but the effects of the air conditioning was most welcome!

There was a small shady square by the amphitheatre and so SWMBO and Holly opted to take advantage of the greenery whilst I tackled, Indiana Jones style, the climb to the top of the amphitheatre. The view was quite simply, stunning.    


From the top looking down....


....to the right....


....and the left.

The town itself was full of old Ottoman style buildings that had, for the most part, been turned into souvenir shops but they still retained plenty of character. The mosque was a quite charming looking building with a single minaret but with some quite beautiful tile work in the courtyard in the area designated for the completion of the required ablutions before prayer.

I would dearly have liked to have photographed this but was unsure if this would have been permitted and so erred on the side of caution and kept the camera switched off.

So, after a couple of hours baking in the heat we headed back to the boat for some refreshments and the welcome sea breeze for the short cruise back. The final shot was taken from the sea as we headed home and captures the sheer history of the area from ancient through to medieval times and with the statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk bringing the story of a couple of thousand years or so up to date.


The temple of Apollo with the town of Side to the rear - note the mosque and the Taurus mountains in the background.

It was an exhausting but rewarding visit and so arriving back at our hotel for a shower and dinner - together with the odd chilled libation - was a very welcome end to the day.









Return of the Red, I....


A Dark Lord of the Sith wishing he had packed the factor 50....

....(with apologies to George Lucas!)....

I arrived back home at around 10:30 last night and coping with 15 degrees and rain at Gatwick at 8:30 after 50 degrees plus and blue skies in Antalya earlier in the day was a fearful shock!

I am refreshed, recharged, reanimated, re-inspired and chock full of my usual impractical ideas for war games projects so let the insanity recommence!

I will be checking blogs and emails and will be penning a number of other posts once I have tackled the inevitable after holiday domestic round so expect belated comments etc, during the next day or so.

It is always good to go away but it is even better to get home!

PS. Yes, I did manage to get burnt but not in a Darth Maul kind of way.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

C and C Spanish Update

I almost forgot to mention - I have labelled all the blocks from the Command and Colours Napoleonics: Spanish expansion. There was also rather a lot of additional French chaps present including additional line infantry (4 x 4), some new line grenadiers (2 x 4), a unit of light lancers (1 x 4), some Guard light cavalry (2 x 4), some light cavalry (2 x 4) and some dragoons (4 x 4 heavy cavalry).

This means that when my additional set of the base games units arrive from Mr Gow there will be the potential for some truly epic Peninsular games.

Methinks I am going to be very busy upon my return....;-)