Monday, 9 December 2019

A Cornucopia of Conundrums and a Comprehensive Collection



You would think that at my age I would know better....

I have had better weekends. You know that horrible feeling you get when you didn’t do what you know you should have but pressed on any way and made a complete pig’s breakfast of things? The horrible feeling that goes something along the lines of  ‘I should have known better’? Well I had this twice over the weekend.

The first occasion was my attempt at a hexed mat. If you recall I had half a green mat to hex using a specially purchased hex template. In theory it was a simple ‘dot the angles and then join them up’ exercise. I had a nice flat surface to work on and the guarantee of being undisturbed for around four hours as my beloved was out with friends.

What I should have done was to draw some guidelines in light pencil to ensure that the hexes were aligned correctly – these could have easily been rubbed out later – and then completed the hexes one row at a time.

What I did was to ignore this basic safety feature and instead I drew on the hexes along the bottom and the side edges – effectively freehand although using the template - making a playing area of 12 by 11 hexes.

So far so good.

I then started to fill in the area between the two axis but not in any particular order. I kind of went along the lines of ‘let’s see how that area would look’ and it was not long before I realised that something was very slightly awry. Some of the lines began to ever so slightly deviate. The further I went along the greater the deviation until, when I was around 85% of the way complete I reluctantly abandoned the effort. The first few rows were OK so what I shall do will be to cut out a 6 x 8 hexed area and use the rest for terrain overlays. This will suffice for small actions but it will mean that I now need to acquire a larger hex grid playing area.

I was kicking myself because not only had I messed up something that I really should not have but that I also wasted hours of my life doing so!

The next thing which again, I could have easily avoided, concerned a trip out to acquire some more of my block army storage boxes. There is a particular type I use and so far all of mine come from a shop called Home Bargains where they are £2.49 each. The same item is on sale in Hobbycraft for £6.99! SWMBO and I drove over to Basildon (being close to Christmas it was packed, even early on a Sunday) and guess what? They did not have any in stock. A simple check online would have told me this beforehand and saved me a wasted journey.

So there are two examples , if any were needed, of the value of the seven Ps. Proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance!


British Infantry doing what they did best - rolling platoon volleys


Close up the guards infantry. These are very similar in build to the 25mm figures produced by Tradition - which is very useful indeed!

Despite all this doom and gloom (and Chelsea losing 3 – 1 did little to cheer me up) I did have one piece of unbelievable good news. I am in the process of acquiring a substantial collection of the Del Prado: Relive Waterloo 25/28mm figures covering the 1815 campaign. All three armies are represented and the plan is to take delivery at the end of January. In one fell swoop this will form the main project for me for next year and in many ways it will serve to complete the circle as my wargaming career began with the 1815 campaign way back in the early 1970s using Airfix figures. There are many decisions I will need to make in respect of basing and organisation – I am currently looking to Bob Cordery’s Portable Napoleonic Wargame as inspiration although Command and Colours will also feature – and for sure I will need to add to the collection in certain areas. Luckily there are occasional items that appear on eBay as well at our local boot sale and also at the Skirmish toy soldier show so I shall be keeping a close eye on these. Luckily the figures seem very similar in build to those available from Tradition in 25mm although these are not the figures available from Spencer Smith (Peter has the 30mm range I believe).

I am really excited about this collection and so Napoleonics will be a major part of next year on the gaming front for me. I fully intend getting the three 1815 armies up to strength and indeed will also look to add representative forces for the Russians and Austrians in due course. Using the size of my ACW collection as a template this will be easy enough to do and so from a figures perspective my efforts will be focused on the latter part of the wars - 1812 to 1815.



Friday, 6 December 2019

A Block for One's Own Back

A generic infantry block

Some 'top down' infantry

A lorry - typically this would be for motorised infantry or logistics, perhaps even in conjunction with the artillery

A generic tank

For bodies of archers


Infantry blocks in formation


Another variant of the infantry block....


....and the cavalry block

Now this was something I never expected to see available! Battlescale Wargames Buildings  have launched a range of resin blocks for wargaming purposes, samples of which you can see above. These are really nice looking and had they been available before I started chopping up vast quantities of Jenga blocks would have certainly made an attractive alternative. I particularly like the small triangular facing indicator (?) at the base of the block which would be very useful when used on a 'free' table top. I also like the 3D effect using raised surfaces to ease painting (even I would struggle to struggle with them!) as well as the symbolic vehicles.

The blocks are sized as follows:

Larger blocks: 35mm frontage x 20mm x 6 to 7mm
Smaller blocks: 20mm x 20mm x 6 to 7mm*

*The vehicle blocks are also available in the 20mm x 20mm size block.

These fit very nicely on the same company's hex tiles which are 80mm across the flat sides (slightly smaller than than the Hexon 100mm version).

I would certainly like to get some of these to experiment with - perhaps with a proper Portable Wargame set up - and I hope that the range is successful for Battlescale, if only so that they persevere with the range and add extra pieces to it.

Who would have thought it? Blocks going all mainstream....whatever next?

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Napoleonic Uniform Books from 'Back in the Day'


Volume 1 and 2 of the Funcken Napoleonic set and....


....the rear cover of volume 2. A striking colour combination in evidence for the Lancers of Berg.

For reasons that will become obvious in due course I have been giving my Napoleonic library some attention. Not so much from the perspective of campaign histories as I am reasonably comfortable with what I have - there are a couple of holes that need attention but nothing major. The one key area that has thus far received scant attention concerns uniforms.

The dedicated figures painter no doubt has a huge variety uniform books to choose from ranging from Ospreys, Blandfords, Histoire et Collections and a whole lot more besides. Of course there is also the internet which has become a valuable resource in its own right. I suppose because I am a (very) reluctant painter of figures my own efforts to build a library of uniform details has been modest to the point of insignificance.


1815 the Armies at Waterloo by Ugo Pericoli and....


....an example of the plates contained therein. I deft anybody not to be inspired by the sartorial elegance of the Dutch Lancers!

The very first uniform book I can ever remember buying was the title above by Ugo Pericoli. It was first published in 1973 following the release of the film Waterloo previously upon which he worked. My original copy was a large format paperback I remember buying from a market on the Isle of Sheppey. It has long since gone - disintegrated in fact - but I did treat myself to a hardback version a few years ago. Now it may not be 100% accurate in respect of fine detail but as a source of inspiration to a young and impressionable wargamer furiously painting Airfix Napoleonics it was a Godsend. 

The other two books - the Funcken Napoleonic set - I remember having out on almost constant loan from the library and indeed, they provided much information for my Russian Napoleonic Army. I have just acquired these two again and despite the passage of time the quality of the plates contained therein still serves to enthral and inspire.

I now have all of these in my library and they serve as very pleasant reminders of my early days in the hobby. There may well (and probably is) be better and more accurate studies available but for me these will do nicely. I will add a couple of Blandford titles though for completeness as I always enjoyed the 1812, Peninsular War and Waterloo titles.

Happy days indeed.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Even More on a Napoleonic Adventure


Plenty in the box but needs every other expansion to make the fullest use of it. Good job I have them then!


I never tire of seeing this battlefield - images of Christopher Plummer and Rod Stieger circling as I do - and take a look at that board - it is truly Epic....

As the owner of expansions 1 to 5 for Command and Colours Napoleonics – and woefully underused they are as well I might add – I was wary of another addition to the collection without it adding some tangible value. I am of course referring to expansion number 6 or Epic Napoleonics. Boardgamegeek has the following to say about the expansion and there is little I can add so I will not bother!

“EPIC Napoleonics is the sixth expansion for GMT’s Commands & Colours Napoleonics game system. EPIC Napoleonics allows for fighting larger battles with more units. EPIC Napoleonics is actually two game systems in one – the Epic Battles system, and the La Grande Battles system. Although the scope of our Napoleonic game has changed size wise, the historical feel and the basic rules of play, for the most part, remain the same. To experience the maximum enjoyment with these two new Napoleonic game formats, both EPIC Napoleonics and La Grande Battles scenarios are best played using the Command card and Tactician card decks that were part of the Generals, Marshals and Tacticians expansion.
Included in this expansion are six standard sized scenarios that focus on key phases of the battle of Austerlitz, 2 December 1805. This expansion also features 12 EPIC sized engagements and two La Grande Battle scenarios. Also included are two double-sided mounted maps. The EPIC sided battlefield is larger, and at 11 hexes deep by 20 hexes wide, it is almost double the size of the standard size battlefield of 9 hexes deep by 13 hexes wide. When laid side-by-side to form the La Grande battlefield, the battle area is a whopping 11 hexes deep by 26 hexes wide.
In an EPIC Napoleonics game, one player on each side assumes the role of the Commander In Chief (CIC). Each CIC has a hand of Command cards and on a turn must play one card from his hand to order units in one section of the EPIC battlefield. Also on the turn, the CIC must select one card from the Courier rack to play. The card selected from the Courier rack will also order units in one section of the EPIC battlefield. There are only three sections in the EPIC battlefield (left, centre and right) and with two Command cards played each turn, the action quickly becomes very fast and furious.
The Courier rack is a new game mechanic, and starts each battle with five Command cards that are visible to both players. Each turn one card is taken from the rack, so the choice of cards a player has each turn is reduced, until there are only two cards remaining on the rack. The rack is then filled back to five cards before the next player’s turn, and the card selection process from the Courier rack will start again.
EPIC Napoleonic will allow two or more players to enjoy a truly Epic size battle, but it is important to note in order to play most EPIC Napoleonic scenarios, players will need a copy of the Commands & Colours Napoleonic game and its expansions (Spanish, Russian, Austrian, Prussian and Generals, Marshals and Tacticians) This EPIC Napoleonic expansion will only provide enough units and terrain to fill any gaps”.
I know, I know – what on earth has he gone and gotten himself into now? Well if truth be told and in my usual roundabout fashion (aka how I justify what I am doing and how I am doing it) this game has kind of ‘squared the circle’ for me. I cut my teeth on Napoleonics back in the 1970s and the period as a whole has never really gone away. I could never see myself raising multiple armies using hundreds of figures - even smaller scale, 15/10 or 6mm - for the period as there are too many parts of the whole I am interested in. Replacing the blocks with figures on a one for one basis would certainly work though and to be honest is the only way I could see myself doing this. As a result the armies would be large Portable Wargame sized or Dan Mersey’s Rampant-like, very similar to my ACW set up.
There is a smattering of Napoleonic figures available from Spencer Smith which could possibly work well alongside those available from the Del Prado range. The biggest problem for me is really that of choice as to what historical campaign I would get the most mileage from. My fondness for 1815 is well known but I could readily add 1812 in Russia and the Peninsula War, not to mention 1809, 1813 and 1814. Taking that as a whole then you could say the later Napoleonic period rather than the ‘classic’ era up to 1807.
I am keen to get more use out of this collection and certainly all the tools are there. Whilst I like the idea of reproducing the armies with figures it is fair to say that unless something radical happens this is certainly some way off.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

More from Eric’s Collection


A selection of French Demi Brigade infantry from the Minifigs S range I believe and also....


....what look like British Royal Marines.


No prizes for guessing what these are! The RHA's finest.


French Dromedary mounted cavalry for Napoleon's Egyptian campaign

Part of the unpainted 18th collection lead mountain that belonged to Eric was a force he had earmarked as an 18th century Indian army. The original crate consisted primarily of ancient Indian figures and cavalry but the above were recently uncovered by Bill and are now with me for disposal. I was rather taken with the French Demi Brigade infantry - any military figure wearing a Tarleton-style helmet will always get my vote - and the camel riders. I have no idea as to what Eric had planned for this part of his collection although it looks very much like he would have been raising two European forces to go with the hordes of natives. I would not be in the least bit surprised if Bill unearthed a box of elephants at some point as well as some substantial native artillery pieces.

There is also a unit of what look like French Chasseurs a Cheval but sadly I had forgotten to take a picture of them. They also appear to be Minifigs S range.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

More on a Napoleonic Adventure



Not something one would first turn to when thinking about the Peninsula War....

As sure as night follows day then you can take it as read that I will always looks at the naval dimension of any given campaign I am studying! I even managed to do this for the Arab Revolt and indeed, the potential of the Red Sea as a theatre of naval operations has featured in one of my long term projects. As I am currently in something of a Napoleonic groove whilst waiting on my hexagon template to arrive I came across the title you see above. To begin with I can do no better than quote the words of the Duke himself:

“If anyone wishes to know the history of this war, I will tell them that it is our maritime superiority (that) gives me the power of maintaining my army while the enemy are unable to do so.”

The Royal Navy played a massive part in the success of Wellington in the Spanish peninsula. Not only did the Navy transport troops and supplies to and from Spain but they also protected the all important supply ships (fully 10% of Great Britain’s merchant marine was used to support Wellington in the Peninsula) from interference, supplied gun crews for use in siege operations and carried out raids all around the coast thereby tying down numerous French troops. This was not the war of great lines of battleships (especially after Trafalgar) but that of the smaller ships, the frigates, brigs, sloops and others.

Strange to relate but although I have looked at the role of the Navy in the Mediterranean I never really studied the Spanish dimension. The above book should help to address that oversight.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

A Napoleonic Adventure



 From the Command and Colours website - GG03 or in other words Epic Waterloo. Now replace those blocks with figures and you may well be on to something....Nah! It'll never catch on....

You know that feeling you occasionally get when you realise that what you thought all along was in fact correct? Well, that is exactly what I am currently experiencing in respect of the Napoleonic Wars. My history with the period is long and almost incidental and began originally way back in the 1970s with my Airfix 1815 set up and moved onwards via Hinchliffe, Tradition and Minifigs (my Russian army which I sold to Eric Knowles) – I would not be surprised if it is still lurking in one of the newly discovered boxes at Bill’s house – and then, much later, a large 15mm Hundred Days set up (all three armies) designed for a set of rules called Le Petit Empereur. I have enjoyed the Columbia Games game Napoleon which covers the 1815 campaign and indeed, the 15mm 1815 collection was amassed to use with this board game and of course more recently Command and Colours.

There was another army I raised during the late 1980s that I have not mentioned before. This was during a rather eventful phase of my life and so I had acquired the figures for an Allied division for 1811 for the Peninsula complete with Portuguese, stovepipe shako wearing British and bicorne wearing heavy dragoons. The figures were all Minifigs and at the time my library also included a full set of both Oman and of Napier. Unfortunately I had to dispose of pretty much all of my collection due to some dire personal circumstances and when I got back on my feet again the Peninsula itch was notable by its absence.

These days my interest in the period is still there – with such a rich gaming tapestry it would be difficult to erase completely – but the execution of the same would be very different from way back when.

There are gamers that have happily used Command and Colours Napoleonic with bases of figures representing individual blocks or even single figures representing the aforementioned blocks. The latter is the approach I have adopted with my ACW collection – 1 figure equals 1 block – and for me it works very nicely. For sure the ACW set up has been expanded slightly to what I call a ‘Charge! and a half’ standard as the organisation reflects that of the famous book of the same name. The figures are based individually which means there is a lot of rule flexibility but given the smallish size of forces used in this fashion moving umpteen figures is not too much of a hassle. Such forces would also work very well with the Portable Wargame or anything from the 'Rampant' stable.

I guess it is a perception thing but whilst I have no problem representing a unit with a handful of figures on a gridded playing surface I would be loathe to do the same on a ‘free’ table top. This was why I opted to model my units on the organisation used in Charge! for the ACW collection. A 16 figure infantry unit or an 8 figure cavalry unit looks presentable enough on the tabletop. Transporting this approach into the Napoleonic period would be straightforward but what figures to use would be another conundrum.

Last week, for an evening and a day, I had the pleasure of the company of MSFOY of Prometheus in Aspic fame. We have exchanged emails and the occasional telephone call over the years but had not met face to face - hardly surprising given the location of our respective residences! I have always admired the attention to detail that MSFOY applies to his armies and games and this is a skill I would most certainly struggle to emulate. Any man that fights Command and Colours games using armies of 20mm Higgins, Hinton Hunt and others on an 8ft by 5ft table featuring 7" hexes is always worthy of my respect and deepest admiration! 

Aside from the dubious pleasure of meeting me and visiting the man cave there was some serious business undertaken of a Napoleonic variety and so I would suggest a quick visit to his blog would certainly be worth your time. For me it was an absolute pleasure to meet up at long last and to discuss gaming, ideas, battles fought and lost and the prospects of the UK following the election and Brexit. 

MSFOY has some very interesting and soundly thought out ideas in respect of his take on Command and Colours Napoleonics and these are ideas that I would certainly consider for my own efforts in this direction.

An incidental but nevertheless significant bonus for me though was finally learning what a Hooptedoodle refers to...



Friday, 22 November 2019

Thoughts on the ACW Afloat



A blast from the past - the original Yaquinto Ironclads and the Expansion set. Back in the day I took part in some epic games of this but they are very detailed and struggle with large actions, especially with ships that use broadsides!

Whilst waiting to take delivery of the bases I need for my 1:2400th ACW Naval collection I have been giving some thought to the rules I will want to use with the models. The first decision I took was that the rules will certainly be grid based. There are a number of options to explore including Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames (including the ACW variant that the redoubtable Mr Fox came up with) which have the virtue of being simple to use, are well thought out and capture the all important flavour of the period. At the other end of the spectrum I could make use of the uber-detailed rules from the old Yaquinto board game Ironclads.

Ironclads is a hugely detailed board game of ACW naval combat that came out originally in 1979. There was also an expansion kit produced that covered more ships for the ACW as well as the key ships from the major European fleets of the period. At a ship to ship level or with around half a dozen vessels per side the system worked well enough but anything larger and it became quite cumbersome. The ship data cards for use with the game are really helpful, especially when it comes to the type of artillery mounted. To give you a flavour virtually every major weapon type or calibre carried by either side had a unique stat line for use in the game. Individual hit location was the order of the day and the rules made use of a number of charts and tables that these days would make my eyes bleed! It was a huge amount of fun to play though, despite the complexity.


Seen as another expansion to the original although a standalone product in its own right, Shot and Shell tidied the rules up a little for using land assets as well as addressing the problem of broadside firing ships.

There was also a standalone game released called Shot and Shell that was independent of Ironclads but that used the same system and is usually seen as an additional expansion to the original series. Both Ironclads and the expansion set were rereleased by Excalibre Games in the early 1990s but with a significant difference. The Excalibre version featured ship counters showing a side profile of the vessel in question whilst the original version (and also Shot and Shell) depicted ships on a ‘top down’ view basis.


The Excalibre games versions of the original Yaquinto editions. The Excalibre version features ship counters showing a side profile rather than the top down view of which the latter is far more useful in my opinion.

For me the key thing with naval combat in this period is that individual ships should have a degree of ‘personality’. By that I mean that the rules should allow for such things as critical hits or specific damage rather than just marking down damage points. A good example of this (although a different period) is Ship ‘O the Line, the age of sail wargame rules originally published by Battleline.  These rules have that level of detail which makes them an attractive set for small scale actions although not in the same league of complexity as Ironclads.

So where is this heading them? Well, one of the very usable things about the Ironclad system is the ship cards, especially in respect of what artillery is deployed where on any given vessel. This very handy as the rules I am currently looking at are a vintage set originally published in Miniature Wargames way back in 1984 (issue number 14 to be exact) and written by that well known and respected rule writer, Andy Callan. the article including he rules is available from the Wyre Forest Wargames club as follows: Wyre Forest Wargames Club

Despite the name of the rules (any set of rules named after an Enid Blyton character would struggle to be taken seriously in my opinion)  these are a well thought out set that feature many of the key elements that one would expect to see in a game about ACW river based naval combat. As ever with a skilfully written rule set the core mechanics will stand any amount of tweaking which makes them all the more appealing in my book. They are fast moving and indeed, the only thing I need to do is to superimpose them on to a grid. Each vessel will need a damage chart but his is very handy as it means that guns can be marked on in their correct positions.

The first thing I want to do with these is to convert them into being hex based and to then think about what extra chrome I need to add. I will also need to draw up the appropriate ship cards.

I am rather looking forward to this. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Following the Duke


Jac Weller's three titles featuring the Duke of Wellington. The above are the paperback editions whilst I own all three in the Greenhill hardback version. I also have both the India and Peninsula title on Kindle courtesy of an Amazon 99p sale day!

I have often ramble on about my formative years in wargames using an Airfix 20mm plastic 1815 period allied army 'back in the day'. I have always had a soft spot for the Napoleonic wars in one way or another and indeed, have acquired and discarded a number of collections and projects over the years. With my current interest in the war of 1812 holding my attention it was inevitable that I would revisit the broader period, particularly given the British involvement against the French in Spain.

It does not need me to add that the Peninsula War is a rich seam for the wargamer to tap into - from the military perspective it offers everything from small scale skirmishes up to major battles and all levels in between. I would enjoy gaming the period again using figures but to be frank it is unlikely I will do so, especially given the availability of Command and Colours: Napoleonic as a viable alternative.

Having said that, raising a pair of armies for the period is actually not too daunting assuming one has a specific army size in mind. For me what is fast becoming my 'army template' in terms of figures would mean that around 60 to 70 foot and around 20 mounted figures with a couple of guns would be more than sufficient for a variety of options. One could replicate the scenario specific forces for Command and Colours or use the same with the Portable or One Hour Wargame rules - even something from Mersey 'Rampant' stable would fit.

The three books pictured above have been at the heart of my Napoleonic library for years and whilst there may be more up to date histories available still stand up well. They are all easy to read and provide much useful information for the wargamer including maps and orders of battle.

Much to ponder methinks....

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Pining for Georgia


Bargain of the day - 8 trees for a pound in two sizes. They are around 7mm thick with the ruler alongside for scale.

Today could have been one of frustration - I will not bore you with the details - but for a pleasing win courtesy of the Works. SWMBO and I headed off to Basildon for some bits and pieces - mainly Christmas related but with a built in browse around as well - and as is my custom when over there I always make a point of stopping in the Works. There was little on the book front to tempt me but I a quick glance at the arts and crafts section led me to the packet above.

The big trees are 6cm whilst their smaller brethren are 3cm. Both are the same thickness - 7mm. For my Spencer Smith project these are ideal (I purchased 5 packs but probably should have gotten some more - I will try the Rayleigh branch (no pun intended!) to get another 3 packs methinks.

I wanted 2D trees as the table footprint is minimal which is an important consideration when using a grid. I am in two minds about how to base these. I am tempted to use the idea below with four trees on a 4” by 1” deep base for some of them and to also to base a few up individually. The advantage of this idea is that the base could be deployed along the grid side nearest the enemy meaning that any troops deployed in the square would be largely invisible to the enemy thereby providing an element of ‘the fog of war’. The individual trees could be used to add a little local colour rather than representing wooded or forested areas.


Rebels lurking in a wood of good Georgia Pine

Obviously the trees will need painting but even for me these should be pretty straightforward. All I need to do now is to get some similarly styled buildings, again with the 2D idea in mind, and work on the scenic aspect of my ACW project will really move along.

I am sure that the purist will point out that the Georgia Pine does not really look like a Christmas tree but such things do not bother me and in any event, these will also work well for the Russian Front!



Saturday, 16 November 2019

American Civil War Afloat


Published by the Naval Institute Press ISBN 1-59114-882-0

I reckon that for now I have pretty much all the material I need for the naval side of my ACW project. In addition to a couple of titles on the ships and the two volumes by Jack Coombe (Thunder along the Mississippi and Gunfire Around the Gulf) there are also some sections contained in Battles and Leaders and a number of Osprey titles. There is also the Kindle based Gulf and Inland Waters by Mahan - available for free from Project Gutenberg - which is a good read.

Despite all of that I was missing a good overall history of the naval side of the Civil War so when I spotted the above I figured it would be a good way to address this. I can safely say I was not wrong as this book is really rather good.

To give you a flavour here are the contents.

1. The Union and Confederate Navies: Organisation, Personnel and Shipboard Life
2. Resources, Facilities, Warships and Naval Ordnance
3. Union and Confederate Naval Strategies and the Start of the War
4. The Blockade and Early Atlantic Coastal Operations
5. Early Union Riverine Warfare in the West
6. The First Clash of Ironclads
7. Union Operations on the Lower Mississippi: The Capture of New Orleans
8. Union Riverine Warfare Continued: Vicksburg
9. Union Operations against Charleston 1863
10. Unconventional Weapons: The Torpedo and The Submarine
11. The Commerce Raiders
12. The Red River Campaign
13. The End of the War: Coastal Operations
14. Conclusion

There are also notes, a glossary and an extensive bibliography to support the above which is always useful. As a one volume overview of naval warfare in the American Civil War this certainly ticks all the boxes.

There are a couple of other titles it would be handy to include in the naval section of my ACW library  but for now I have more than sufficient to be going on with. I have the models I need and merely need a single packet of MDF bases (currently on order) to crack on with the painting. As far as rules go I have a number of options to explore - some old friends with some newer stuff and the odd homegrown option.

This will be a lot of fun.



Friday, 15 November 2019

WW1 in the Middle East


Sand, camels, palm trees, Arabs, Aussies, lots of cavalry (including yeomanry), armoured cars, biplanes and THAT film, not to mention the Lighthorsemen....What’s not to like? 

The Great War in the Middle East and the Mediterranean has long been of interest, specifically the two Arab revolts - that of the Senussi early in the war and that of the Bedouin Arabs in the latter part. For the wargamer both theatres have much to commend them. The forces involved tend to be small in size and there is colour aplenty in the shape of the tribal armies. These are important considerations for the time and cash poor wargamer with a taste for the exotic!  Although the two revolts have taken up much research time for me over the years the one area that I did not really get into in quite the same way was of course the main focus of the war in the area -  the Turkish attempts on the Suez Canal and the subsequent Allied push to Jerusalem. I freely admit to ‘dabbling on the periphery’ of this in so much as where the main event impacted on the sideshows and indeed, a number of years ago I purchased a collection in 20mm geared very much towards the same. I was always diverted away though by the exploits of Peter O’Toole, I mean Lawrence of Arabia, so the ‘big show’ never really captured the imagination to quite the same extent. Inevitably the collection was broken up and sold on.

I came across the above titles during one of my occasional rambles over the internet and with the pressing need to satisfy the knowledge gap for Portable Wargame reasons providing the flimsiest of justification, I promptly snapped them up.

Over the two volumes the books cover the war from 1914 to 1917 (one wonders if there will be a third volume) and feature a lot of very useful material. There are maps and orders of battle and a nice selection of photographs. For me the big attraction of these tow books is that they tackle the war in the region as a whole rather than as separate entities. One of the points that cropped up was the fact hat the Senussi revolt featured tribesmen supported by Turks against the Imperial forces whilst in Arabia it was tribesmen supported by Imperial forces against the Turks. I shall enjoy reading these two titles and indeed in some ways it will help with my projected Indian Ocean campaign. 

Now here is the thing. I own two unpainted Irregular Miniatures Portable Wargame sized forces - one Turkish and one Arab - that would certainly suffice for the Arab Revolt. I would want to add some specialist units to the Arabs - French artillery, British machine guns and armoured cars and possibly some air support for both sides - but the set up is pretty much OK as is in the short term. I am now of the opinion that sticking solely with the Revolt may be a little shortsighted in the long term. In a nutshell the Revolt was one of raids and sabotage which makes for some great wargame scenarios but I am not convinced that such actions would maintain sufficient interest over time. With this in mind I will need to raise a 15mm Imperial force to include yeomanry cavalry, Australians and armoured cars. This would enable me to fight in a number of ways as each force would be able to fight any of the other forces (as they did historically if one is not to picky about the Arabs being used) and in the case of the Arabs even amongst themselves. It would give me a lot more flexibility for sure.

Time to start looking at catalogues again methinks....




Thursday, 14 November 2019

Solving a Hexagonal Dilemma

A Plastic Quilting Hexagon Template. The bold lines feature a hole on each angle to mark the material with a pen.

After the success of my brainwave of adding a square grid to half a Games Workshop gaming mat my thoughts turned naturally to doing the same thing with the other half but using hexes. This was going to be potentially a whole new world of pain to produce and so my thoughts have been directed to all manner of DIY solutions. I was doing some Google Fu on the subject when I came across the above item that is used by the quilting fraternity.

The above clear plastic template enable the user to plot the angles of hexagons from 1" across the flat side up to 5". This is an ingenious device that, for the price of a cup of coffee, is going to save me a lot of hassle. All I would need to do is to plot the hex angles and then simply join the dots. It will mean a much tidier finish and also I will be marking out lines in a far more controllable fashion.

The points on the mat will be marked quite finely but the lines will be thicker. One could even just make the points bolder and dispense with lines altogether but that is an option I will not be using as it does not bother seeing grid lines.

My template is on order so as soon as it arrives I can get to work. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

My Terrain of Thought


An old picture of the mark 2 block armies - the interim set. I have used the Town in a Bag buildings on many occasions but will need something a little larger to go with the 30mm collection. I have always liked the style of these buildings so something similar but larger would be ideal for my purposes (and also vaguely American looking although the church is not too bad!).

Now that I have settled on the grid size to use with the ACW collection I am at last in a position to think about suitable terrain. This will be very much from the ground up (not sure if that qualifies as a particularly bad pun….) and includes just about everything – buildings, trees, hedges, walls/fences, hills, roads and rivers. I will also need to consider fieldworks.

In keeping with the whole ‘old school’ look I am planning to tackle as much of  this on a DIY basis if I can. This is really going to take me back to my early days in the hobby and to be honest, I am rather looking forward to it. I am leaning towards using a 2D/3D approach for buildings and woods so that the grid square has stylised 2D images around the perimeter so that troops can be deployed on the inside. This will be important as I want to avoid the huge table footprint that ‘scale’ models have. In effect these areas will be almost cartoon like. Linear obstacles – hedges, fences and walls or barricades (including mealie bags) - can be to scale.

I am rather looking forward to this part of the project as it will give me the opportunity to complement the look of the figures that Old Painter Bob has painted for me. This will mean a homemade and old school look about things so expect to see craft sticks of assorted sized, green scouring cloths, sandpaper, foam board and other odds and ends in use!

This is the second post I have written with the same title as follows:

 - https://awargamingodyssey.blogspot.com/2018/12/my-terrain-of-thought.html

but much of what I was thinking about in respect of the terrain to go with my block armies is equally applicable to my 30mm ACW project (and is equally applicable to my next 'old school' adventure).

Sunday, 10 November 2019

On The Grid



In all its glory - my new 4ft x 3ft square grid playing mat

It has been a busy weekend with the domestic round but I was able to solve a rather pressing problem. I have mentioned about about my grid dilemmas, rather I have mentioned about the size of the grid areas themselves and also whether or not to go squared or hexed. I looked at some commercially available mats and the cost was sufficient to give one careful food for thought.  I am happy to say that I have solved the problem in a rather novel way.

A couple of years ago, as the result of one of his occasional reorganisations, I was gifted a couple of vinyl Games Workshop gaming mats by Bob Cordery. There was a green mat and a sand, desert version. These were sized at a shade over 6ft x 4ft. I could have used these as they are but I decided that as my ideal playing area is 4ft x 3ft that it would be an idea to cut them in half and grid one of them.

If there are any Games Workshop disciples reading this then apologies for this apparent act of desecration....


The Letraset pen I used - the pointed cap covers the pointed end whilst the flat cap covers the chiselled end

Some time ago (about three years as I recall, maybe longer) I purchased as couple of high quality permanent marker pens made by Letraset from a local art shop. These are double ended - a broad chisel end and a fine point - and come from quite a large range of colours. I have used them for a couple of things but today was their biggest test yet. The forest green pen I used to grid the 4ft x 3ft mat with 4” squares giving me a 12 x 9 playing area.

I am really pleased I did this - I may even hex the the other half - and using a 4” square with the 30mm figures is perfect. I can deploy a 4 figure infantry unit in line within a square and the whole look is far less crowded than using the 3” version (I shall use that with 15mm figures).

I can now start planning terrain pieces to go with this set up but for now I will need to improvise. I have a couple of novel ideas for this which will feature in a later post.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

A Barbary Interlude



Part of my research into the naval side of the war of 1812 touched on the Americans and their wars against the Barbary Coast. Naturally the prospect of anything touching on the Ottoman Empire or the constituent parts of it was always going to be of interest and so my research led me to acquiring a copy of the above title.

The story of the Karamanlis family, that threw off the Ottoman yoke and were the rulers of what is now Libya for some 120 odd years, is one of intrigue, internal and external conflicts and the latter included Britain, France and the USA. The armed forces of the Karamanlis were paid for by piracy, slavery, bribery, extortion and all manner of dubious practices and the story was enriched by The appearance of some colourful characters that could have been straight out of a pantomime.

I have only just started reading this but already the creative juices are flowing. I reckon there is plenty of scope for all manner of punitive expeditions, combined operations, raids and similar. The naval side would feature the usual low level stuff - frigates, brigs, sloops etc whilst such things as Xebecs make an appearance - both sail and oared varieties.

I have already decided that the naval side will again in 1:2400th and this ‘sideshow of a sideshow’ represents a minor addition to the 1812 collection. Tumbling Dice produce all the models I would need so as is usual, all I need is a slot in the project list.


Tuesday, 5 November 2019

ACW Decisions

Oh yes indeedy! I have been after a copy of this for years and have finally scored one that does not involve selling body parts to pay for it!

It has been a day of decisions in respect of my ACW project. To begin with I have decided to forego adding a unit of Confederate Zouaves to the collection and instead will raise a units of smartly attired Texans. I say smartly attired as the formation I am thinking of – Hood’s Texans – apparently received a new issue of uniforms just before Gettysburg. That was all the excuse I needed to field some smart looking Rebels in sky blue trousers and brown slouch hats with the officers sporting sky blue kepis as well. Let is not forget the lone star flag as well. The formation also fought against the New York Zouaves (which I have) so it works on that level as well. 

I have finally managed to track down a copy of Mark Adkins tome The Gettysburg Companion, written in a similar vein to his Trafalgar, Waterloo and Western Front volumes. It was not cheap but I have been after this for an age so it will fill a hole in the collection rather nicely. There is a painful tale about this book or rather how I missed out on getting a brand new copy for £7 but the memory of  what might have been is still a raw one….

I have settled on the scale for the naval side and it will be 1:2400th. My reasoning is very simple. The models are cheap and easy to paint and it means that I can not only make use of the sea map from Honour and Glory but also the vast array of Heroscape  tiles I have – this is an important consideration given that most of the actions I will be fighting will feature river banks in some way, possibly islands as well. I have ordered a nice selection of types from the rather modest range that Tumbling Dice produce but there is sufficient variety for my needs.

The first order of business with the ACW collection will be to get the additional figures organised and front and centre of this will basing the Union Zouaves I have. The final organisation for each army is very much based on the unit set up from Charge! There will be three infantry companies (16 figures in each excluding officers etc) a light company (sharpshooters - 12 figures) and a grenadier company (16 figures) - Zouaves for the Union and Texans for the Confederates. There will be a squadron and a half of cavalry (12 figures) and an artillery battery of 3 guns and crews (a battery and a half under Charge!).

I also need to think about making a map for the campaign setting - this is something I am really looking forward to!

Monday, 4 November 2019

The Battle of New Rayleigh, August 13th, 1864....Game Number 54


Kurz and Allison print of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek

Atlanta had fallen and so the blue juggernaut advanced remorselessly to the sea, laying waste the countryside along its line of march. The battered Confederates could do little other than offering a  token resistance at selected points and even then such undertakings merely delayed the inevitable.

A scratch force of Confederates under the command of the veteran General Gaylord Beauregard the Third found itself temporarily billeted in the small town of New Rayleigh. His command has suffered fearful casualties and had been chased by the Yankees before, during and even after the fall of Atlanta. Supplies were non existent, his troops were a mixture of too few veterans and too many greenhorns, his artillery was greatly reduced, he himself was carrying a leg wound that was showing no signs of healing and he was fast running out of territory to retreat into. At least in New Rayleigh he had been unmolested by the Yankees for a week or so and this had given him and his small command a chance to reform and reorganise, even resupply or at least to be able to forage without interruption.


The Battle of New Rayleigh, August 13th, 1864.

The town of New Rayleigh sat between a range of small hills and a wood and featured a single road running through it and down which any Union advance would have to be made.

Beauregard had prepared the town as well as he could with some fieldworks either side of the main road into town. He deployed his artillery in the centre supported by an infantry unit with a further two units in fieldworks on his left. A single cavalry unit was deployed on the far right and his sole reserve, his last remaining infantry unit, occupied the town. The position had plenty of open ground around it which meant that any advance would be exposed to fire. It was not a perfect position by any means but it was the best that Beauregard was able to do with the resources he had to hand.


The Confederate position. Note the cavalry deployed out on the extreme right lank and the reserve infantry behind the church 

From the other side of the hill....

Elements of the Army of Georgia had been detached under the command of General Kyle. E. Minogue to harry and pursue any Confederate forces along their line of march, a task complicated (at least in the opinion of General Minogue) by a shortage of cavalry and artillery. His infantry was plentiful which was just as well due to his shortfall in the other arms of service.

His scouts had reported that the small town of New Rayleigh had been occupied and subsequently fortified by the Confederates. They estimated the strength to be roughly at brigade level meaning that in infantry alone he was able to outnumber them roughly two to one.

Minogue was well aware of how effective troops behind fieldworks could be and so he was under no illusions that this would be anything other than a tough fight. With this in mind he decided to attack from either flank and demonstrate in the centre. The Rebels would not be moving from their positions so he could dictate the action. The terrain either side of the town could be used, especially the woods to his right. He gambled on the Rebels staying in their defences and so either flank had three units of infantry whilst the artillery in the centre had but a single regiment in support. His cavalry was deployed on his left. His disposition complete, Minogue took up his position at the centre of his command and issued the order to commence the attack.

The Forces

The respective forces consisted of the following:

USA

7 x 4 infantry
1 x 3 cavalry
1 x 2 artillery
1 x 2 Command

Strength Points 35
Exhaustion Point 12
Action Points 4

CSA

4 x 4 infantry
1 x 3 cavalry
1 x 2 artillery
1 x 2 Command

Strength Points 23
Exhaustion Point 8
Action Points 4




Turn 1. The Union (4 APs) advance three infantry units on the right and move and unlimber their artillery in the centre. The Rebels (3 APs) content to observe the Union preparations, respond by cautiously moving their cavalry forward and opening fire with their artillery but to no discernible effect.


Turn 2. The Union (4 APs) advance on their right continues whilst their artillery unlimbers and opens fire - to no effect as the range is too great to have any impact on troops in fieldworks! The cavalry also trots forward. The Rebels (5 APs) meanwhile order their reserve to support the cavalry whilst the artillery opens fire on its opposite number and draws first blood.



Turn 3. The Union (3 APs), handicapped by poor command, are only able to move into the woods opposite the Rebel position whilst the artillery, seeing discretion as the better part of valour, limber up and retire out of range of the Rebel guns. The Rebels (4 APs) are content to bide their time and merely order the reserve to the top of the hill overlooking the town and in support of their cavalry.



Turn 4. Still hampered by poor command the Union (3 APs) opt to strengthen their right flank attack and also move up on the left. The Rebels (5 APs) again are content to observe developments but they know that the attack will not be long in coming.



Turn 5. The Union (4 APs) right flank infantry poured out of the woods to attack the Rebel position. Rather than charging in they pulled up short, deployed and opened fire, catching the defenders by surprise. Rebel casualties began to mount although they fought back hard against the middle of the Union line. The Rebel artillery also came into play and scored against an infantry unit sent to support the right flank attack. Meanwhile on the Rebel left the cavalry cautiously moved forward whilst the reserve infantry consolidated their position on the hill.


Turn 6. At last the Union command sorted itself out (5 APs) but not in a good way. The cavalry, seeing the Rebel horsemen ahead immediately charged and in the ensuing melee succeeded in their own destruction but not before severely damaging the Gentlemen of the South. On the Union Right the flanking attack continued to blaze away at a distance rather than closing in but to little effect. The Rebels (4 APs) were similarly afflicted in that there was much shooting but with little result.


Turn 7. Both sides had their standard Action Points i.e. 4 each. The Union decided to assault the Rebel position and charged in only to be met by a ferocious fusillade of fire (see the dice scores - the Rebels needed 5 or 6s...) that decimated the attackers ranks. Meanwhile the numbers were beginning to tell as the casualties in the more central of the two fieldworks began to mount. The remnants of the Rebel horse fell back behind the right hand hill.



Turn 8. The Union once again experienced some command difficulties (4 APs) but it was enough for them to deploy sufficient men and firepower to finally break in to the Rebel position albeit at a cost. The Rebels had sustained sufficient casualties to take them over their exhaustion level of 8. Two cavalry and eight infantry had been lost against the Union one artilleryman, three cavalrymen and seven infantrymen. It was a Union victory, albeit a Pyrrhic one.

Summary

The game was an enjoyable run through of the rather hastily cobbled together set of rules I was using (those from Worthington Games board game Honour and Glory) and of course featuring the 30mm ACW collection. The playing area was a 12 x 8 square grid with 3” squares.

The rules worked well although with some occasional improvisation which will be incorporated in future usage. The action points worked well and the whole movement and combat flowed well enough without any major issues other than some pints of detail I will address.

The Union had a dismal rum of action point rolls meaning that their overall plan was a little disjointed in execution. Their artillery was completely ineffective as  the combat modifier at extreme range meant that it was impossible to inflict any casualties. The Union opted to move their artillery out of range rather than suffer any further casualties.

There was little for the Rebels to do although their reserve could perhaps have been better employed on the opposite flank. Having said that its appearance in support of the cavalry at least served as a deterrent to any Union moves against them.