Sunday, 12 July 2020

Ironclad Thoughts and Boot Sales

Rules aplenty but check out the book in the top left - a veritable gem of a title covering the period

For a variety of domestic reasons the posts have been a little on the sparse side and this will, unfortunately, be the pattern of things for a while. I am OK but we have a situation that requires rather a lot of my time at present - as well as being back at work albeit on a part time basis.

Dahlgren and Columbiad will probably the first port of call but only after I have ‘hexed’ them

Although I have not been able to do very much on the gaming front I have made a few inroads into preparing for the naval side of the ACW project as well as for the War of the Pacific. Aside from the material available from Yaquinto’s Ironclads and the Ironclads Expansion kit, together with 3W’s Shot and Shell there is also the material available from David Manley for the period. At this very formative stage I plan to use the counters and map boards from the board games with a ‘hexed’ version of David Manley’s rules. There is also the rather pleasant option of using Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames and the tweaked variant prepared by the redoubtable Mr Fox.

The boardgames have some very useful ship data cards that, amongst other things, shows the location of the ships weaponry which will be handy should I decide to get scratch-building again - which is something I am keen to do, failing that good old Peter Pig will supply the ACW ships from their Hammerin’ Iron range.

A very pleasing haul - all hardback and in great condition and costing a mere 50p each!

Following the continual easing of restrictions over recent weeks I am pleased to report that the boot sales are once again back in operation and out particular favourite is no exception. It was all very well organised with single rows of sellers and a one way system - mostly observed but with a few anti-social types pointing out about their ‘ooman rates’ - and between SWMBO, my daughter and I we managed to get quite a respectable haul each.

I was pleased to get the three titles above for quite different reasons. Band of Brothers needs little introduction and whilst I have seen the TV series have not read the book that accompanied it. The Letters of T.E. Lawrence will go into my modest but pretty good collection of books about the man himself. Finally, I have been after a copy in hardback of Desmond Seward’s history of the Hundred Years War for some time, mainly because I rather like the idea of some Lion Rampant style games using solely Perry Plastics or even some cheapo toy Hollywood style medieval figures.

Not a bad haul for sure and against the backdrop of the ongoing domestic situation a most welcome distraction!

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Preparing for The War of the Pacific

I mentioned in my last post about my plan to raise some forces for the War of the Pacific 1879 to 1884 using Spencer Smith 30mm ACW figures so I thought I would expand upon the basic idea. To be honest it was (and indeed still is) a war about which I knew very little other than a smattering of tit-bits about the naval side. I have come to this point along a varied route and it really began when I picked up a copy of the above book.

An absolute peach of a book and is full of contemporary flavour and atmosphere.

This is a peach of a book featuring as it does the diaries of a Royal Navy officer who was also had that typically Victorian hobby of watercolour painting. The pictures are quite charming and whilst they focus on the naval side there are some scenic views as well as of the various land forces. The book also contains a potted history of the naval war featuring the famous ironclad Huascar.

Lots of good stuff in here - ship specs, scenarios, campaign rules, maps and general information about this facet of the war.

Initially I planned to tackle the naval side using Tumbling Dice 1:2400th models but the project was abandoned. It would however, make an ideal mini campaign and indeed, David Manley has produced a very useful campaign pack in support of his Dahlgren and Columbiad naval rules for the ACW. This is available from the Wargames Vault as part of his Long Face Games label and is called War of the Pacific. Dahlgren and Colombiad are designed with smaller actions in mind so suit the South American wars very nicely.

The original versions of Yaquinto’s Ironclads and the Expansion Set. The rules are very detailed and ‘chart heavy’ (typical 1980s) but there is a wealth of useful information contained therein and of course, the all important ship counters. Shot and Shell by 3W Games added to the above and addressed the problem of firing large numbers of the same calibre guns.

The Ironclad Expansion Kit also includes the ships for the War of the Pacific so when I choose to fight this I will have the naval dimension covered, albeit using cardboard counters! I should also mention that David Manley’s Scenario pack featured above also includes a selection of ship counters that could be printed off, mounted on card and used in lieu of models. I would use models eventually but for now counters will have to do.

These are a really well thought out and properly play tested set of rules with a lot of useful information about the armies, uniforms, organisations and more contained therein.

The biggest jolt for me concerning this war was when Trebian published his set of rules for the period called ‘It’s Getting a Bit Chile’. Aside from the title of the rules which appealed to my sense of humour - you should see some of his other rule titles - this has been something of a revelation to me about the period. There is not a huge amount of material available on the war in English but Trebian has done a sterling job in distilling it into the confines of his book. The scale of the combats is such that one would not need a vast amount of material to enjoy a good and representative game. For me this is something that ticks an awful lot of boxes! It also falls rather nicely into Portable Wargame territory which is a further bonus and even The Men Who Would be Kings.

With uniforms straight out of imagi-nations territory the look of the armies is colourful and easy enough to replicate using proxy figures. There are some dedicated ranges of figures available but for me the basic ACW cut of most the uniforms (excepting the Picklehaube wearing infantry unit and the helmeted cavalry) means one thing - Spencer Smith

When confronted with a potential new period the first thing one tends to do is to see what books are available - either about the campaigns and battles or the organisation and uniforms of the combatants. There is now the inevitable Osprey title for the war (I do not have a copy of this as yet) but what I did find was the title above. This is a peach of a book and the uniforms of the combatants for the most part can be produced by the simple expedient of paint conversions of pretty much anything wearing a kepi. Whilst not a perfect match the Spencer Smith range are well suited to paint conversions which will suit most uniforms. Naturally there are exceptions to this but I will fall off that particular bridge when I get to it!

I have sufficient figures to field two small forces Each consisting of 4 x 12 figures infantry units, 2 x 4 figures cavalry units (with dismounts) 2 x guns and crew and the inevitable command etc. These will be based individually and use with Trebian’s rules I will need to use movement trays. I plan to paint the figures in an old school gloss varnished style inspired by the work of Old Painter Bob.

It is a project of pure indulgence and the plan is to make a start once the last the ACW Spencer Smiths are completed and the paint conversions for the Del Prado collection. I am now not going to be rebasing this but I will be reorganising it and as a result there will be some excess figures to dispose of.

That is the plan - let’s hope I can stick to it!

Thursday, 2 July 2020

That was the half year that was....

A great doorstop of a board game and ideal for multiple players....

....and a long way from Waddington’s Campaign!

I think it is safe to say that the last 6 months have been rather eventful - from the global perspective certainly and also closer to home. The two are certainly related and I am sure that we have all been impacted to a lesser or greater degree. Hopefully the former!

I am taking stock as today saw me back at work, albeit on a part time basis at home. After discussions with my boss I will be working from home until the end of the year although I suspect I will need to go into town on the odd occasion once we get to the fourth quarter. I am naturally quite pleased at this turn of events as it removes the hassle of two and half hours travelling as well as saving me over £350 a month. I will have extra time at home which may even translate into more meaningful hobby time, especially as virtually three quarters of the house has been redecorated (so nothing else to do in that regards!)!

I really need to take advantage of this whilst I can.

I have not tackled as much as I would liked to have done but I have made some significant progress over the last 6 months - so it has been very much a case of quality over quantity.

I shall be reorganising the Del Prado collection but I am becoming increasingly reluctant to rebase them! I have a definite organisation in mind which means that there will certainly be some excess figures but offloading these should not present any difficulties. My plan is to attend to this once I get the remainder of the Spencer Smith ACW collection completed. The final figures have arrived from Old Painter Bob and are currently being based. This means that I have the Texans to complete followed by a couple of sharpshooter units. That will be the lot! I have a plan for the naval side which  will require some paperwork but very little else unless I wanted to crack on with some models.

Mention of Del Prado figures brings me on to the topic of the rather impressive looking board game you see at the start of this post. Glenn Drover, the designer of the game, and I, conducted some transatlantic figure exchanges and during the course of our messages the subject of his various board games designs came up. I had seen the above game and its ACW version and was interested is how these had evolved from the earlier Eagle versions. Glenn very generously sent me a signed copy of Victory and Glory: Napoleon which arrived earlier in the week. This is a big game although not an intensive one. It is a strategic level game based on the Napoleonic Wars and is designed to be a multi-player game with an Axis and Allies level of complexity. The map board is roughly 4ft by 3ft give or take and is card and resource management based. A great one for a club night methinks!

Snappy Nappy and DBN - another couple of strings to my Napoleonic bow!

My fondness for Command and Colours and the Portable Napoleonic Wargame is well known but I have also been reading a couple of other sets - such is the power of persuasion from various blogs - which have some interesting ideas for large scale games ‘off the grid. so to speak. My Del Prado reorganisation has a little something else to think about!

Naval goodness from the prolific Mr Manley!

One of the decisions I have made though concerns my naval games or rather the lack thereof at present. I have the trinity of games comprising Ironclads, the Ironclads Expansion set and Shot and Shell - all of which are super detailed hex based ship to ship board games covering the ACW mainly but also some European ships (Lissa and the Danish war) and for the Pacific War. Plenty of choice for sure and it would be churlish of me not to make use of them. So I will - and if the mood takes me I will worry about the models in due course. The data cards, counters and map boards will certainly be used but for the rules I prefer something a little less 1980s chart heavy - so either Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames (or a derivative thereof) or perhaps Mr. Manley’s rules (possibly hexed?).

Mention of the Pacific War and Spencer Smith leads me to the inevitable ‘Ooh shiny’ moment. I have sufficient excess figures left over from the ACW project to tackle a couple of small forces for the War in the Pacific. I must confess this will be something very much in the realm of pure indulgence. A combination of things have served to inspire this apparent bout of insanity. Trebian’s quite superb rules ‘It’s Getting a Bit Chile’, the basic simplicity of Spencer Smith figures and the painting style of Old Painter Bob have all left their mark will have to wait it’s turn.

It has been a rather eventful half year and so I am hoping that the second half will be better. It is with this in mind that I have made these tentative plans and hope that circumstances will enable me to realise them!

Saturday, 27 June 2020

The Return of an Old Friend

The original version of a truly fantastic boardgame. Avalon Hill took the game to another level in terms of production values.

The ‘new’ version - and what box full of naval and aerial goodness!

Now this is a little on the embarrassing side. Way back in the late 1970s I purchased a copy of the board game Flat Top by S. Craig Taylor Jr and then published by BattleLine. As an aside I purchased my copy from Tradition when they were open in Shepherd’s Market, Mayfair. I was working in Berkeley Square at the time which was just around the corner so many a happy lunch hour was spent browsing in that goldmine of a shop.

The game is based on the carrier battles in the South Pacific during 1942 - not including Midway although the Avalon Hill version includes the ships required to run this - and, at the risk of being repetitive,  it is a truly fantastic experience. S. Craig Taylor Jr was one of my favourite game designers and using the Flat Top system he produced a game called CV published by Yaquinto which covered the Midway campaign.

The reason for the embarrassment is that I sold my original Battleline version many years ago after having played it death. I then repeated the rather hasty disposal after I had acquired a copy of the Avalon Hill version some years later from Mr Fox which was again moved on during one of my periodic reorganisations - primarily as I had not fully appreciated the full potential of the newer version, a story Rather depressingly repeated back in 2012. So that is three copies of the same game that have gone through my collection!

For what I hope will be the final time I have acquired a further copy of the Avalon Hill version and this time I have seriously thought about exactly what I want from the game and how I will be able make use of it. Great thoughts have been thunked for sure!

A number of these ideas I will outline in a further post and they will certainly fit within my avowed intention of having a frugal gaming approach. In the meantime though, take a look at the components.

A 44” by 28” two part mounted map board

Two pads for plotting purposes

Rules and game charts

The 1,300 counters!

Without going into too many details and aside from what the game is designed for I am looking to the Great War and some ‘Hunt the Raider’ style actions. Something that will not require a huge amount of setting up in terms of material.

Something to think about anyways.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Waterloo A La Carte....Game Number 56, Part 3

What a coincidental find! My first visit to a charity shop for nigh on 3 months and on the 18th June I found a copy of the above for £2. 

Waterloo Sunset....

The end of the first phase of the action at game turn 6 was fitting as it enabled me to address a couple of things. To begin with from Game turn 7 the Prussians may arrive and also the French can call upon the Guard. I had also made a mistake with the artillery as it only scores a hit on a unit at a range of 1. At range 2 or 3 it can only cause a disruption result so the ‘destroyed’ French artillery has dramatically reappeared....

French Turn 7 - 7 Action Points. With a renewed sense of urgency the French pressed on. Their Curassiers attempted to charge the Belgian horse but to no effect whilst their infantry resumed their assault on Hougoumont. At last the Scots Greys received a hit whilst moving up the Brussels road came the leading elements of the Guard - in this case the Young Guard.

Allied Turn 7 - 5 Action Points. The Prussians are coming! The first troops of Blucher’s army appear next to Papelotte. The Belgians in Hougoumont are holding their own as are their mounted countrymen. The ridge is holding but will the French be able to prise them off it?

French Turn 8 - 6 Action Points. The attack on Hougoumont eases off whilst the French redeploy for a fresh assault. Not waiting for the outcome the remaining French cavalry is ordered to move around the chateau to attack the ridge from the right flank. Meanwhile the Scots Greys are finally seen off whilst Ney busily rallies the conscripts for a fresh assault on La Haye Sainte.

Allied Turn 8 - 6 Action Points. More Prussians arrive and so to gain some time the Duke some infantry on his left flank to advance from the ridge between La Haye Sainte And Papelotte against the massing French. The Belgian cavalry fall back and the ridge from the chateau to the Brussels road is suddenly covered in squares in readiness for the cavalry assault to come.

French Turn 9 - 7 Action Points. Mindful of the fast approaching Prussians Ney sends some infantry out to engage them on his right flank. Meanwhile the Old Guard has moved up the Brussels road whilst the cavalry masses to the north of Hougoumont. The situation looks serious but are the French in danger of losing faster than the allies can win?

Allied Turn 9 - 6 Action Points. The Prussians continue to emerge from the woods on the French right from Papelotte southwards. The Duke and his infantry are rooted to the ridge awaiting the inevitable cavalry attack but for the moment are content to be spectators. From the great man downwards, all know that they will not waiting for long.

French Turn 10 - 6 Action Points. After some ineffective fire against the chateau all eyes turn to the great mass of French cavalry thundering you the right flank of the ridge. Their impetus was blunted slightly by the ground and the squares of the infantry held firm. The British artillery suffered casualties as they dare not leave their guns.

Allied Turn 10 - 5 Action Points. The gallant Belgians in Hougoumont succeed in driving off their assailants whilst to the north the French light cavalry streams back down from the ridge chased by canister from the British artillery.

French Turn 11 - 6 Action Points. Once again the French cavalry thunder up to the ridge but again to little effect. The Cuirassiers manage to push the Belgian cavalry back which could prove to be costly.

Allied Turn 11 - 7 Action Points.  The final Prussians arrive close to Plancenoit whilst the great cavalry battle continues on the opposite flank. The ridge continues to hold and the Duke now has a large force of infantry deployed from Lay Haye Sainte to Plancenoit so pressure can at last be applied to the flank and rear of the French position.

French Turn 12 - 5 Action Points. Breakthrough! The gallant Chasseurs charge the British artillery once again and succeed in destroying the guns line (these were painted by Ray Rousell hence their panache and flamboyance....)! The allied infantry is now isolated on the ridge - can Ney apply the coup de grace?

Allied Turn 12 - 7 Action Points. The garrison of Hougoumont chases off yet another wave of attackers and in doing so secures the flank for the time being. The infantry of the left, including the newly arrived Prussians, are gradually shaking out into an ordered line with the French in the vicinity of Plancenoit already being engaged. If only the ridge can hold firm - “Give me night, or give me Blucher....”

French Turn 13 - 5 Action Points. The impetus of the French attack was fading rapidly. The cavalry, despite their success against the British artillery were unable to make any further headway against the resolute allied squares. The bulk of their infantry was too far away from their Cavalry to be able to influence the outcome and now that the Prussians were beginning to make their presence felt a successful outcome to the action seemed further away than ever. Was there still time for a final twist in the tale?

Allied Turn 13 - 5 Action Points. The Prussians began to bend the French line back on itself via Plancenoit whilst over on the other flank the gallant Belgians in Hougoumont successfully dispatched the Chasseurs milling around in the British artillery gun line. Their mounted comrades successfully charged the Cuirassiers and finally succeeded in forcing them back. Sensing a decisive moment the Duke stood in his saddle and waved his hat furiously above his head. Everyone, down to the lowliest drummer, knew what he meant.

Marshal Ney, astride his fifth horse of the day, surveyed the field of battle through the smoke and haze of a summer sunset and knew that the day was lost. His cavalry was a spent force and his infantry would be forced to fight just to survive the approaching Prussians. His plan had failed but where was the Emperor? Ney was a fighter and his master provided the brains but on this occasion this was noticeably absent. Wearily he turned his horse around and began the long trek back to the Emperor’s headquarters and then to who knows where. The Napoleon he knew, the master f his destiny, no longer existed.

I called a halt at this point as it was impossible for the French to achieve their victory conditions of destroying 7 allied infantry units and exiting three of their own off the allied baseline. The final casualty count looked something like the picture below.

The Allies lost the Scots Greys, the Guards and the artillery whilst the French lost the Chasseurs, a unit of conscripts and a line infantry unit.

The game played rather well (aside from my minor artillery faux pas) and it is certainly one I will revisit - in fact I plan to do so on my hex mat with larger units and possibly a better aligned (and expanded) order of battle. 

The author, Jay Ward, has been in touch with me with some thoughts and ideas which I will experiment with going forward so a big thank you to him for this and also for providing such a great toy to play with!

Monday, 15 June 2020

Wofun and Games

A selection from the 28mm Jacobite Rebellion range

The infantry deployed on the base in two ranks (40mm x 30mm)

Another view of the samples - note that lovely Peter Dennis artwork

Nothing on part 2 of the Waterloo game just yet - simply because I have been out and about following the decorating and I also realised what the date is. June 15th - three days until the 18th which is of course the 205th anniversary of the actual battle. I figured it would be appropriate to post this on the anniversary of Waterloo so there you have it.

In the meantime though, a chance exchange of emails with that very nice chap Andy Callan led to a small envelope arriving this morning with the above samples from the Jacobite Rebellion range produced by Wofun Games .

Wofun produce a range of plexiglass 2D figures from various periods in both 18mm and 28mm with the artwork by Peter Dennis. In many ways these are like Peter’s paper soldiers but without the hassle of cutting them out! 

Andy is writing the rules that go with the figure ranges (check out the link above to see what is available) in the same way that he has with the Paper Boys range published by Helion.

I really like these figures and as a reluctant painter they certainly tick a number of boxes - much to ponder methinks!

Friday, 12 June 2020

Waterloo A La Carte....Game Number 56, Part 2

The opening dispositions with the Allies in the North.

First of all apologies for the delay in getting to this after action report but we decided to decorate another room! That is now complete and so I was able to get to the game and managed to get it fought and completed over two sessions. I opted to write the report as I went with two pictures for each turn - one for the French and of course one for the allies. The report will be in two parts with this post featuring up to (and including) turn 6. I have needed to redo some of the pictures from the second half which has proven a challenge due to it being very overcast and our electrics being on and off as some 15 or so sockets have been changed! 

The opening positions are above and so without further ado I present Waterloo A La Carte Part 2 by Jay Ward but fought on squares rather than hexes!

French Turn 1 - 7 Action Points. Attacking both Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte with artillery moving up in support of the latter and bombarding the former to the discomfort of the Guards forming the garrison (note the white disruption counter that gives a +1 to an opponents attack dice)

Allied Turn 1 - 6 Action Points. The Guards soon recovered and drove off part of the attacking French columns whilst the artillery scored a telling hit against their opposite number (note the black counter which indicates a hit). The rifles engaged the attacking French to their front whilst the Scots Greys moved up in support. The Belgian horse moved out wide of Hougoumont whilst some of their countrymen occupied Papelotte.

French Turn 2 - 5 Action Points. The fight for Hougoumont intensifies as a hit and a disruption is scored against  the gallant Guardsmen as more French infantry are thrown into the fray. The attack on La Haye Sainte makes little headway but wait - French Cuirassiers are seen moving up into new positions....

Allied Turn 2 - 5 Action Points. The garrison of Hougoumont fought back and inflicted a telling blow against their assailants whilst the supporting Belgian cavalry launched a thundering charge into the Voltiguers scoring two hits! The French fell back for one hit and took the second as the cantankerous horsemen continued to cut a bloody swathe through their ranks. A devastating series of rifle shots from La Haye Sainte proved too much for the young conscripts facing these grizzled veterans as they broke and ran.

French Turn 3 - 7 Action Points. As the Voltiguers fell back the Cuirassiers immediately charged into the Belgian cavalry but to little effect. The artillery continued to bombard the allies but again, with little result whilst some fresh infantry headed up the Brussels road to resume the attack on La Haye Sainte.

Allied Turn 3 - 6 Action Points. The Belgian cavalry, not wishing to push their luck against the heavier French horse fell back to their supporting infantry whilst the Guards continued to blaze away at the attacking French. The British artillery has rather better of the duel with their counterparts and so the Frenchmen pulled back slightly to the main gun line. Meanwhile, and spoiling for a fight, the Scots Greys launched a charge into the approaching French columns and pushed them back relentlessly to the main French position.

French Turn 4 - 5 Action Points. Hougoumont falls! With what was certainly going to be the last attack on the chateau from the investing French unit a single hit that was not saved despite the ‘elite’ status of the Guardsmen was enough to finish their rather undistinguished day. The Cuirassiers pursued the Belgian horse but to little effect. Similarly, the attempts to attack the milling Scots Greys were also ineffective.

Allied Turn 4 - 4 Action Points. The Scots Greys continued to push on into the main French position but with impetus lost and horses tiring it was to little effect. The British artillery made up for this though with a telling blow against their French opposite numbers! The Belgian cavalry continued its uneven fight with the Cuirassiers whilst their infantry moved up to Hougoumont.

French Turn 5 - 6 Action Points. The French moved cautiously into Hougoumont with the Voltiguers  in support. Further infantry moved up to exploit the open allied flank. Unfortunately this was to be but a temporary advantage so further reinforcements, especially artillery, was urgently called for.

Allied Turn 5 - 5 Action Points. Reacting to the fall of Hougoumont quickly the Duke immediately ordered the Belgians forward and redirected the artillery to bombard the wrecked chateau. Their fire was extremely effective and the new occupants, already weakened from their fight with the Guards, beat a hasty retreat out of the blazing ruins. With the Allied right flank under threat the Duke sought to redress his deployment and so a right shift took place. The Allies had rather better of the engagement this far but they were being pulled out of formation.

French Turn 6 - 7 Action Points.  As the French sought to realign their attack to take advantage of the now unoccupied Hougoumont, a lull descended over the battlefield. For sure the presence of the Scots Greys milling around in the centre of their position was a distraction but it was a mere inconvenience. The French artillery finally got its eye in and scored a telling hit on their opposite number whilst their other cavalry began to move to support the right. 

Allied Turn 6 - 4 Action Points.  The Belgian infantry moved into the charred wreckage of Hougoumont as more of their countrymen moved along the ridge to support the right. The Scots Greys, now barely at walking pace, continued to mill around, looking for an opportunity to cause some additional damage but to no avail.

We have now reached a convenient break in the proceedings as the remaining game turns feature the potential arrival of the Prussians as well as an appearance by the French Old Guard. The former arrives randomly whilst the latter pitches up regardless.

As far as the action itself went the French plan was to launch a diversionary attack against Hougoumont as well as La Haye Sainte. The former succeeded whilst the latter did not but in both cases losses were heavy. So far the British have held their own (despite losing the Guards) but they are being pulled out of position. The French, perhaps somewhat taken aback by their success on the right, are trying to hurry reinforcements over to potentially turn the Allied flank. The Scots Greys, by maintaining their presence in the heart of the French position, have held them up rather more effectively than by the casualties they have caused.

The rules have worked well although I did make one critical mistake that I will adjust for in the second half.

To be continued....