Saturday 30 June 2012

Birkaç hafta sonra görüşürüz!

Monday sees the myself and the family heading to the Eastern Mediterranean for a two week holiday in Turkey. My son will be minding the shop, watering the plants and feeding the cats so all will be well whilst we are away. I have packed my case and have selected the books to form my holiday reading - as well as taking a a couple of notebooks and writing equipment. two weeks of R and R are just what the doctor ordered and so some serious chilling out will be the first order of business!

I have a couple of projects to consider whilst away that I will post about upon my return (in fact the books I am taking would give the entire thing away if I told you!) and so I will leave the final word with Mr. Schwarzenegger:

Hasta la Vista and all that....;-)

Thursday 28 June 2012

The Die is Cast....

Ancients Dice - and no sign of the Rubicon anywhere....

Although I shall not be taking delivery of the huge selection of blocks from Mr Gow just yet I have already been giving some thought about using the ancients for gaming purposes. I large amount of the printed material   from the base set and the expansions can be readily obtained from a variety of sources on the net with the GMT website being one such place. The one thing I needed to get though was some of the special dice used in the ancients game. I must confess to being a convert to using these special dice (which feature in all of the Command and Colours series of games - although not in the Worthington Games Napoleon's Wars) rather than ordinary d6 as they seem to give 'clearer' results than using ordinary d6.

I have a source of dice for both the ancients and the Napoleonic versions of the game - Valley Games - and so have ordered a couple of sets of the ancient version and one of the Napoleonic.

The only thing I may have some difficulty with is a set of the ancients command cards so I will check out the GMT website to see if extra sets may be ordered.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Y Viva Espana! - and yet more blocks!

The Spanish have arrived - roll on the Austrians, Prussians, Russians and (hopefully) a whole host of minor nations!

Yesterday saw the arrival of the Spanish expansion for Command and Colours: Napoleonics which will round off the armies of the Peninsula War rather nicely. I hope to have a good look at this tonight when I get home from my business trip to sunny Edinburgh (and yes, it is actually sunny!). Sadly no chance to have a look around as I am staying on a business park outside of the city but I am quite near the airport.

The following review has been taken directly from the GMT description of the expansion.

The Spanish Army is the first expansion for Commands & Colors: Napoleonics.

At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Spain was only a shadow of its former power. Spanish troops and leaders, as many Napoleonic historians point out, performed badly on a large number of occasions. Yet there are a number of battles, Bailen, Tamames, Alcaniz and San Marcial where the Spaniards fought valiantly and gained victory. Ironically, the point most historians overlook is the fact that the Spanish armies constituted a threat that the French simply could not ignore. As good as Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese field army was, that army faced multiple French armies. They could only defeat one French army at a time. The Spanish Armies and the accompanying guerrilla warfare against French troops tied down the remainder, allowing the Anglo-Portuguese army to ultimately emerge victorious.

In this expansion you will find 18 historical scenarios that focus on Peninsular battles fought by the Spanish army from 1808 to 1813, plus all the new units you’ll need to field for these engagements.

Bailén - July 19 1808
Zornoza - October 31, 1808
Gamonel - November 7, 1808
Espinosa - November 11, 1808
Somosierra - November 30, 1808

Medellin - March 28, 1809
Alcaniz - May 23, 1809
Maria - June 6, 1809
Talavera (Spanish Flank) - July 28, 1809
Tamames - October 13, 1809
Ocano (Cavalry Action) - November 18, 1809
Ocano - November 19, 1809
Alba de Tormes - November 28, 1809

Barrosa (French Attack) - March 5, 1811
Albuera - May 16, 1811

Vitoria (Hill's Attack) - June 21, 1813
San Marcial - August 31, 1813
Ordal Cross - September 13. 1813

The quality of Spanish troops varied, from very poor to good, and the Spanish National Unit Reference Card presents a wealth of subtle unit characteristics that set the Spanish Army apart from all other Coalition armies that opposed Napoleon. Command of the Spanish Army, therefore, will truly challenge even the most experienced Commands & Colors: Napoleonics player.

I am looking forward to using this in its own right but also have a cunning plan in mind for another use, details of which will follow in due course.

Thoughts on the Recent Game

Enjoyable as it was the recent game was not without a couple of minor but significant issues. To begin with, I believe I deployed the opposing forces too far apart at the start of the action. With C and C Napoleonic movement distances as they are (and I was fighting on a 13 x 9 hex playing area - the same size as the game board used for any of the C and C games) it meant that it would be four game turns for infantry to reach the bridge when deployed on the edge of the board (line infantry for both sides move one hex when ordered). Going forward I think I will allow for deeper deployments excepting of course, when the scenario demands otherwise. Obviously this is no reflection on the rules as such - just a minor design issue and so the fault was entirely mine!

I am going to abandon having a Memoir of Battle based artillery phase - during the game this was used only on one occasion and to be honest, I kept forgetting about it! Keeping artillery in the players game turn is a lot tidier although I will possibly make some provision for grand batteries in due course - probably on a scenario specific basis rather than as a general rule. The French artillery in the game saw off a unit of British cavalry that wandered rather too close for comfort (not quite within charging distance though) but the British guns did not even get into action.

Having the initiative phase worked well and this swung backwards and forwards throughout the 24 game turns and averaged out exactly 50 50 by the end.

The command point idea worked out pretty well overall, albeit a little overdone in terms of execution. Comments received from Ross Mac of Battle Game of the Month fame have given me a similar idea although somewhat easier in its operation than mine and so my next step will be to experiment with this instead. I also know that Bob Cordery over at Wargaming Miscellany is pondering something these lines for solo use.

Throughout the game both sides were pretty poorly served by their command points and the subsequent location of these. To me this replicated the frustration often experienced when playing any of the C and C series of games when you have a hand full of cards for the wrong sectors. Coupled with the distance between the two armies and the fact that initially everything was located pretty much in the centre you then had all the ingredients for a, shall we say, sedate game!

Combat worked as well as expected and needs little, if anything added.

The fifty percent rule (or exhaustion level by any other name) made for a definite finish and so I will keep this in place or, again, make use of a scenario specific sliding scale of some kind.

The terrain was quite sparse but then the original action was similarly set up. I was able to use an actual hill rather than a copy of Tradition magazine which looked rather better than in the original version. The only difficulty I had was that I do not possess any fields. As far as I know Hexon does not produce any field tiles so I will need to furnish a few of my own making and so some blanks tiles will need to be acquired in due course for some terrain making duties. I will also need to improve on the bridge!

Overall I was pleased with the look of the C and C blocks on the terrain but I am giving some serious thought to making some movement stands in some fashion. My thinking at the moment is to have some kind of central 'groove' on a stand that the blocks will sit in. This would need to be quite shallow as the bottom of the block label when standing on its edge has the unit type emblazoned along the lower edge. Should the 'groove' be too deep then the text would be either cut in half or would disappear altogether. Again, I shall experiment with a few designs and see what comes out in the wash. Whatever I opt for though will need to be simple to make as with the acquisition of some 1400 blocks worth of C an C goodies I will probably need a reasonable number of them!

To sum this rather rambling post (Rambling? Moi?) up I would say that the initial scenario set up was flawed and this in turn was aggravated by the consistently poor command rolls. Despite this, the game was an absorbing one to fight - perhaps for those very reasons that made it such a frustrating experience on occasion!

Monday 25 June 2012

The Battle of Despergar el Puente, Spain 1812....Game Number 12

The following action was fought using a slightly modified version of Command and Colours Napoleonics - slightly modified in that whilst all movement and combat was as per the game I applied a dash of Memoir of Battle to the affair; coupled with a nod to Napoleons Wars. Essentially I had an Artillery Fire Phase, an Initiative Phase followed by the individual player activations. I did away with the use of command cards and also using banners for victory conditions - instead the fifty percent rule was employed so that when an army was reduced to fifty percent of its starting strength it was no longer capable of taking the offensive and could only fight in its current position or attempt to withdraw from the action. For unit moves instead of the command cards I used the activation system found in the Worthington Games: Napoleons Wars rules. Essentially these rules are Command and Colours based but without the cards.

The forces were made up as follows with the numbers referring to the number of blocks in the unit:

French - General de Brigade, Pierre Jeune La Ford

2 x 4 Cuirassiers
4 x 4 Line
1 x 2 Foot Artillery
1 x 1 Commander

A total of 27 blocks which, using the 50 percent rule equates to 13.5 blocks or 13 rounded down.

Anglo-Portuguese - General Charles Featherstone - Grant

2 x 3 Dragoon
5 x 4 Line (3 x 4 English, 2 x 4 Portuguese)
1 x 2 Foot Artillery
1 x 1 Commander

A total of 29 blocks which, using the 50 percent rule equates to 14.5 blocks or 14 rounded down.

Somewhere in Spain, June 1812....

So far the Chorizo Valley had managed to avoid the depredations of the hated French invaders but this state of affairs was about to abruptly change. A detachment from the formation under the command of General de Division, Jean Luc, of Picardy (described as an enterprising fellow by his countrymen), and headed by that well known Beau Sabreur, General de Brigade, Pierre Jeune La Ford, appeared at the head of the pass on either side of the Rio Rafaga. His orders were simple, to collect as much forage and supplies as he was able in order to supply the main army. It was thought that the 'Rosbifs' were nearby but in what strength was unknown. This was of little concern to La Ford as surveyed his command marching proudly into the valley. His immediate destination was the small bridge in the centre of the valley across the Rio Rafaga as this effectively split his force in two. Securing the bridge would ensure that he could forage on both sides of the river without fear of having either detachment cut off. With this in mind La Ford split his small force almost exactly in two with his cavalry in the van followed up by the infantry. He decided to keep his artillery concentrated and determined to secure the small hill that overlooked the bridge in order to command both the approaches. After seeing that his dispositions for the short march were in order La Ford raised his plumed hat into the air and waved it three time giving the signal to advance.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the valley....

General Charles Featherstone-Grant was aware of the French intrusion into the Chorizo valley by virtue of the reports received from the local Guerilla chief - El Toro - but as ever, he treated these 'reports' with caution. The Guerillas were enthusiastic enough but they tended to colour their reports somewhat - usually depending on what they thought you wanted to hear. Featherstone-Brant had already decided what to do in any event and so he deployed his cavalry, artillery and the two battalions of Portuguese infantry on the right of the Rio Rafaga and the three battalions of British infantry on the left bank. His plan was move up and occupy the small farm and the hill on opposite sides of the river; thereby covering the bridge from either end. he was confident that should be able to do so as the French lacked sufficient force to take either position without their force being combined and with the bridge secured from both approaches the French would have to withdraw.

The initial dispositions and a 'Can you tell what it is yet?' moment....

The Anglo-Portuguese forces under the watchful eye of Messrs. Young and Lawford - note the cavalry deployed entirely on the right bank of the Rio Rafaga

The French deploy with the Cuirassiers in the van and the main bulk of their infantry on the right bank of the Rio Rafaga

One of the two cavalry regiments - largely on the initiative of their hard riding commander - gallop off to find the enemy

The British cavalry rounds the hill and sees the French artillery deployed to their front whist the French Cuirassiers move up on the bridge

Meanwhile, oblivious to the events on the other side of the river, the British infantry advance to secure the farm and its environs

The French cavalry engage their opposite numbers and come off second best

Whilst the artillery shattered remnants of the leading British cavalry regiment retire on their hotly engaged countrymen

The fight was short and brutal with the Frenchmen completing the work of their artillery but only to suffer in return, engaged as they were to the fore and the flank

Meanwhile, on the opposite bank the French advance to  secure the farm

The end of the French cavalry on the left bank of the Rio Rafaga - taken in the flank and to the fore despite a  gallant fight

The leading British infantry unit engages their French opposite number

Whilst the French unit was repulsed with loss the support was not far behind

The British infantry suffered casualties and was in danger of being isolated and overwhelmed

As the French artillery moved up on the left bank of the river the cavalry moved onto the bridge where the remaining British cavalry charged them - outnumbered two to one they were defeated but not without inflicting casualties on their cantankerous opponents

The French artillery was now up to the bridge and with infantry support moving up things began to look ominous for the Anglo-Portuguese

With a sole infantry regiment in position, Featherstone-Grant leads the assault against the bridge

At last the other British infantry regiment is moving up in support of their beleaguered countrymen 

Meanwhile, the French consolidate their tenuous hold on the bridge and the line from the hill

With unhurried precision the the two British regiments align and the stronger of the two determines to take the fight to the enemy whilst the remaining unit, under the watchful eye of Featherstone-Grant continues to rake the French horsemen on the bridge with a withering fire

With impeccable timing - albeit rather fortuitous - the newly arrived British infantry regiment; together with the unit directly under the control of Featherstone-Grant, deliver a series of crashing volleys into the nearest French infantry regiment and destroy it entirely!

The final score - the French had lost 15 blocks whilst the British had suffered less than half their total. the French had been defeated as they had fallen beneath the 50 percent level.

The battle was over and the French were in full retreat. Featherstone-Grant was unable to mount an effective pursuit as his cavalry was ruined. The French horse was not in much better condition but at least they still possessed a mounted arm. Once again the steady and disciplined volleys of 'that finest of instruments, the British infantry' had triumphed and so the remorseless pursuit of the French armies in Spain could continue. All in all it had not been a bad day.

La Ford was beside himself with frustration as once again his infantry had been bested by the 'Rosbifs' and without even the satisfaction of seeing his cavalry triumphing over the much vaunted British cavalry. True enough they had eventually seen off the British cavalry but just what was the commander thinking leaving them sitting on the bridge as a target for the enemy infantry?

Sadly for La Ford the cavalry commander had died waiting for both support and orders and so was thus unable to request either from his celebrated chief.

With heavy hearts the remnants of the French force gathered their wounded, formed up and headed back up the valley, their hunger ever present and with a feeling of impending doom dogging their weary footsteps.

Raison D'Etre or why?

I wanted to try doing something a little different and so decided to give the classic game from Charge - the Battle of Blasthof Bridge - a dash of a Napoleonic board game twist and so fought the same using Command and Colours: Napoleonic with a couple of home made tweaks. The battle was actually very easy to translate into such a game although I did have a momentary twinge of conscience as the words of the two authors echoed down through the years as if in admonishment of my efforts - "You will not, we suppose, be so lost to all feeling, as to represent your units and formations by counters, blocks of wood or cards."

I rather fancy that I have missed that particular piece of sagacious advice....;-)

Sunday 24 June 2012

Solo Command and Colours Napoleonics - Without the Cards

I have fought an action this weekend using using a rule set that primarily consisted of Command and Colours: Napoleonics with a few extras - the main one of which I shall describe here. I am not a huge fan of command cards for solo purposes although will happily use them in face to face play. I am very fond of the 'friction' that   the use of the cards causes and so I wanted to replicate this in some fashion. I decided against using a purely dice driven command point system (similar to DBA) because I wanted to have an element of uncertainty about the location of where a command could actually be used.

The system I have devised uses a version of that which is used in Worthington Games: Napoleon's Wars in that each side has a set number of command points that can be varied on a turn by turn basis by a dice roll. This is fine for face to face play but I wanted add the 'zonal' effect which would serve to add uncertainty as to where troops could be commended.

For the purposes of the game I fought I gave each side a base of three command points. The random d6 roll that followed looked like this:

  • 1 = -2 command points
  • 2 = -1 command point
  • 3 and 4 = no change
  • 5 = +1 command point
  • 6 = +2 command points
Then followed the second part of the process. For each command point the side then has they roll a further d6 with the results as follows:
  • 1 and 2 = left zone
  • 3 and 4 = centre zone
  • 5 and 6 = right zone
Overall it worked out pretty well and injected just the right amount of 'zonal uncertainty' with also the possibility that a side may not be able to order troops at all if the dice rolls go the wrong way. The game played out OK - 24 game turns in all - although the random rolls were very unkind which prolonged the action, perhaps too much. It did occur to me that perhaps a mechanism whereby a degree of manipulation to the command points available based on the location of the commander - perhaps a dice modifier. The reason for this is so that a player can exert a degree of control depending on where the commander is.

I will still need to work on this but the first run out of this idea proved the feasibility of the concept. 

The report on the game will follow - once I have sorted out the photos and trimmed it down by several thousand words!

Friday 22 June 2012

I Know, Its only Block and Sold....

...With apologies to the Rolling Stones....

Well this is curveball into the left field of the unexpected but very, very welcome all the same! It suddenly occurred to me a little while ago that if many gamers were busy playing Command and Colours Ancients and Napoleonics on hex terrain and with models - what did they do with all the blocks and labels? Did they keep them tucked away out of sight, forlorn and unloved; never to be seen again? Well, it would come as no surprise to learn that as a confirmed block user, the possibility of relieving dedicated figure gamers of their unwanted blocks seemed to me to be rather a good idea indeed. The thought process went something like "I get some new units and the seller recoups some of their outlay and gets funding for something else". That looks like a big win all round in my book!
So it came to pass and after some gentle persuasion that the very nice Tim Gow of  Megablitz and More  fame has agreed to part with his Command and Colours blocks from the Napoleonic set; the ancients base set and the first 4 expansions - complete with the 30 sheets of labels which indicates the scale of the collection. A very rough calculation of the size of this little lot puts it at around the 1400 blocks mark - all of which are double sided in respect of labels! That will be a man-sized undertaking and no mistake - and will probably take me an age to label!
What does this mean for yours truly then? Well, ancient gaming is something that I have played a number of times in the past and have also owned a few armies as well (I have even, shock horror, painted some....!!!!)  My main ancient games were fought using WRG 6th edition and over the years have owned Cathaginian (15 and 28mm), Later Roman (28mm), Indian (28mm), Gallic (15mm), Viking (28mm DBA), Numidian (15mm DBA) and a number of others that I never quite got around to getting painted! Having access to this resource, covering as it does pretty much everything of note for the 800 years from the 5th century BC, means that I can happily indulge in all manner of ancient gaming using the blocks as, in effect, bases of troops - which is what I am doing with the Napoleonics.
I have a copy of the core ancient rules and could probably source the combat tables and such like - I may even be able to get the command cards as spares (perhaps - I will need to check this). I believe that there are a lot of he scenarios on the GMT website so again this will be easy enough to organise. To be honest though, this is not actually essential for me as I have in mind a large number of possible rule sets that would merely make use of the blocks themselves.
This is very much an instant solution for me as I have no plans to paint any ancient armies in the forseeable future and so the sheer range and variety of armies that could be represented with this collection is huge. The timing of this, given my recent noises about Salamis and ancient naval gaming could not be better and the fact that expansion number 6: The Spartans is now available really brings it all into the realms of possibility.
As a thought that has just occured to me there is also the opportunity of being able to run one of those DBA mini campaigns - the ones with 6 armies.

This is a really great coup for me and so if anybody else reading this wants to offload any unused Command and Colours blocks let me know!

My first flight of fancy with this collection may well feature King Leonidas and God King Xerxes and so I will leave the last words to one of the 300....
We are with you, sire! For Sparta, for freedom, to the death! 

Winding down towards Foreign Travels

I am feeling very weary and in dire need of a holiday - which fortunately I am having very soon - in order to rest and recuperate and recharge the batteries. As is usual for such an occasion I have been busy applying myself to the all important packing, specifically the packing of my 'holiday reading'. I am not taking any electronic hardware so no laptops, IPads, net books, e-readers or hand held gaming devices - I do not even possess an IPod or indeed any other MP3 player. Nope, it will be very old school in respect of a couple of books and a notepad or two with all the associated writing kit. 

Our holidays are usually meticulously planned (this is SWMBOs domain - I merely act as the 'Gopher') in respect of getting to and from the destination but after our arrival is usually a lot more informal. Over the two weeks we tend to spend a few days doing the tourist sight seeing thing (usually around the middle period) and the rest of time is relaxing. I must confess to enjoying on a daily basis the hour or so during late afternoon whilst the ladies are preparing for dinner (most chaps can usually be ready in fifteen minutes - showered, shaved, dressed and on the balcony with an aperitif or two....) as I will invariably be sitting outside, with a book and a drink, feeling clean and refreshed after a day of sea, sun cream and sweat and with the merciful relief that comes with the temperature having dropped a couple of degrees.
I can read, or think, or dream of table top glory in some fashion simply because I can. There are no worries about jobs, commuting, setting the alarm or any one of the hundred other myriad distractions of daily life that contrive to chip away and erode the soul. It is my time, for me and I am for a fleeting moment the centre of my universe as I whimsically ponder the age old of question of the Mediterranean - where does the blue of the sea end and become the blue of the sky?
Enough of this pseudo poetic babble and on with the good stuff.
I have selected my reading material and for reasons that will become apparent after my return it is a rather unusual choice. I normally practise what could loosely be called 'method reading' in that invariably at least one of the books I take would be based around or having something to do with the place I am staying. Not this time though so no Turkish or Greek adventures for me - my reading material will be a world away from the domain of Homer and others.
I have a cunning plan (to be accurate this is not solely my idea!) for something that I shall be working on whilst I am away that will appear on the blog upon my return and believe me when I say it is cheap, easy to do, can be picked up or put down with ease and will appeal to anybody with an ounce of the romantic or dramatic in them!
Oh, and crocodiles will probably feature....;-)
And unfeasibly large moustaches....;-)

This will probably seem like an odd post from someone that is not actually going anywhere just yet but I must confess to being very excited at the prospect of getting away (and going to Turkey I might add) - given that we booked this last October it is perhaps understandable!

In the meantime though, I have to survive long enough to get to our departure date intact (despite the best efforts of work to the contrary!) so have a plan for a couple of gaming things I can cheekily fit in over the next week or so. In the spirit of defiance to my ongoing workload and bonkers domestic schedule I have decided to run another game, tentatively for over the weekend, using Command and Colours Napoleonics as written. Obviously it will be a solo bash but I will worry about how I shall work that at the time.

Oh, and it will be something that will strike a chord with many gamers of, shall we say, a certain age or inclination....;-)

Thursday 21 June 2012

The Scale of my Naval....Part 2

Following on from my previous post concerning sizes of ship models it dawned on me that perhaps in the past I had been guilty of allowing the tail to wag the dog to an extent. How many of us I wonder, have been attracted to a model or models and have purchased the same only to then realise that perhaps for the game they were intended they are either too large/small (delete as applicable)? Guilty as charged M'Lud is all I can say! Now that I have a naval 'clear slate' so to speak, I can look at the subject with a good deal more objectivity about what I want and how I want to do it.
Anything from the Ancient era up to and including the Napoleonic Wars means for me large battles with squadrons of ships. Yes I know that small scale actions with perhaps a handful of models a side are equally rewarding (indeed, for some periods would appear to be almost obligatory - take the War of 1812 as an example) but that is not what I want to game as a rule. Using my 6 by 4 ft table means that if I want a reasonable number of models on the table - say up to 50 a side - then I will need smaller models. If I wanted to tackle a small action, again taking the War of 1812 as an example, I would look to use larger models or the smaller models on a smaller playing area.
The ACW for me at present means my 'large' models that vary in scale (in fact I could not tell you what scale they are!) are the models of choice simply because the ranges they fought at were pretty close. Essentially even large scale river actions occupied a relatively small area so visually using the larger models looks fine. My thoughts were along the lines of anything up to the close of the pre dreadnought era using larger models - again because the gun ranges were shorter and so they would not look out of place within the confines of my table top. The only problem is obtaining models for the era larger than 1/3000th and without having to sell the house! Tumbling Dice have the makings of a nice little range of Victorian warships in 1/2400th and are now producing models for the period after the ACW - including some torpedo boats of the 1884 variety. Now I would have no problem using these en masse although probably for hypothetical engagments or 'imagi-nations'. Are they too small to use for this period, or indeed earlier periods? Well the answer to that particular question would have to be yes and no. Yes because they are so small and so would not really be suitable for small actions (or so some would say....I could'nt possibly comment....) and no because they are ideally suited for large squadron or fleet sized engagements. Using these models would raise a number of issues concerning the use of Hexon tiles simply because a single model, even a largish type for the period would look alittle forlorn within the 4" span of a tile! One could argue that visually they would actually look better from a scale perspective but then the numbers you could deploy would be limited by the larger hexes used. The answer would be to use smaller hexes (assuming one wanted to stick with 1 ship in a hex) but that would mean that the Hexon collection would be consigned to the store cupboard as a result. A solution would be to use multiple ship bases but I have never really been sold on that idea. Allowing models to double up (perhaps allowing two to occupy a tile) may be an idea but I will have to give this some further thought.
For WW1 and WW2 the solution is far more straightforward as 1/4800th would work really well on a 6 x 4ft table and with a Hexon tile based set up. the diatnces between forces would look sensible and the range available from Mike Yarrow is sufficient for most of the key types for WW2 and even a fair amount of WW1. Again, this is a subject that I want to tackle but need to be sure that I am not going down yet another blind alley.
The whole point of this ramble has been to help realign my thinking about what I want from my naval games in terms of the game itself and the how the models can best serve that. To that end I have drawn the following conclusions:
  • I want to use my Hexon with its 4" hexes on my 6 x 4ft table
  • I want large scale games (squadron or fleet level) for the periods up to the ACW
  • I want large or small scale games for the ACW and including the 20th century
  • I want to use larger models when the action is up close or with less models and use smaller models when the action is further apart or with more models
Essentially the bigger the game, the smaller the models - usually, and I can't believe I hadn't considered this before!

Wednesday 20 June 2012

The Scale of my Naval

At the time of writing the only warships I own are are my scratch built ACW models - these are not scale specific - which are roughly a third complete from the painting perspective; together with a number of unmade plastic 1/1200th WW2 models centred around the Airfix: Sink the Bismarck set. All of my 1/3000th  collection has gone (as have the WW2 Axis and Allies: War at Sea collection in 1/1800th) and as yet I have made no inroads into anything concerning the use of the 1/1800th Minifigs models.

I must confess that being bereft in this fashion is somewhat unusual for me given my fondness for naval gaming and so I determined to address this in some fashion and hopefully sooner rather than later. To be honest I prefer using larger models but in the interest of getting models on the table may well have to stick to the smaller scales for gaming in the 20th century.

I am not a huge fan of 1/3000th models as to me they seem to be neither fish nor fowl in terms of scale - I cannot explain this viewpoint but they just look 'awkwardly sized' to me. As 1/1200th are too large for the normal table top (except for coastal type actions 'twixt smaller ship types - MTBs and such like) the next scale that would be logical would be 1/2400th. Oddly enough this seems to me to be a good compromise but for the 20th century you are stuck for model availability. I know GHQ produce a lovely range for this scale but they are not cheap and, I believe, would be made more so due to having to ship them over from the US. Panzerschiffe  - Panzerschiffe - produce an enormous range in this scale in resin but the problem would shipping once again from the US.

1/2400th is rather well covered in the UK by those very nice people at Tumbling Dice - Tumbling Dice UK -  but their ranges are limited to pre 20th century. This is not a bad thing by any means and I must confess to having had a number of naval ideas that are leaning towards these models - especially anything involving masts or oars. the ranges available are ancient (not on the website yet but an email to them will furnish the details), 16th century including galleys and the Armada (that covers Lepanto and 1588 very nicely), the Dutch Wars, Napoleonics and the Victorian era including the ACW and the Pacific (featuring the famous Huascar). Again, there are some models available that are not on the website as yet - including some new Victorian vessels and some ACW fortifications etc. For all the ranges there are also a selection of the all important merchant vessels (aka targets) and even 1/2400th flags.

I shall certainly be giving these some careful consideration especially as this scale is probably the only way I would tackle anything with rigging or oars!

Coming back to the 20th century I am now seriously looking at an even smaller scale. Figurehead ships - Nobleminis - have a huge range of models available but for me they are not only too small, they are also expensive and when combined with shipping from the US for me prohibitively so. Which brings me back very nicely to yet another scale - 1/4800th. This scale seems to offer a lot of potential for what I want to do and there is a fairly large range available from Mick Yarrow Miniatures - Mick Yarrow Miniatures - at quite reasonable prices. I am leaning towards using this scale for my 20th century kit and take solace from the fact that the two scales I am looking at - 1/2400th for anything pre 1900 and 1/4800th are both divisible multiples of the only true scale for naval war games - 1/1200th!

As ever, much to ponder methinks!

Monday 18 June 2012

18th June, 2012 is of course....

..The 197th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

No prizes for guessing the battle featured above - note the use of blocks to indicate troop positions - that seems I like a good idea and I wonder if anybody has ever thought of doing that? 

Today see the anniversary of one of the most important battles in history - that of Waterloo, 1815. The final defeat of Napoleon at the hands of the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian armies in Belgium needs no introduction from me as the number of books on the battle must run into the thousands and so it can be very easily researched. For me the battle and campaign has held an almost mystical attraction going back to the early 1970s and my very first tentative forays into the world of the war game via the range of Airfix 20mm plastic figures. In many ways the campaign captures in the three days the entire sweep of the Napoleonic wars and could be likened almost to a Greek tragedy with the inevitability of the ultimate defeat of the main protagonist after his spectacular rise to glory.

Generalship of the highest and lowest order; gallant but occasionally futile sacrifice; heroism rubbing shoulders with craven cowardice; uniforms and soldiery of a bewildering variety together with columns, lines and squares and the thunder of charging cavalry all cast their spell over the gamer and I for one have never been able to ignore the attraction!

Coincidentally as I write, it is pouring down with rain and if you have ever read David Howarth's Book - A Near Run Thing you will appreciate the opening paragraph with the weather in the UK as it currently is....;-)

Sunday 17 June 2012

Volley and Bayonet using a Hex

I have not been able to get much done this weekend of a practical nature (painting or modelling) but I have been able to spend some time giving some thought as to how best I can convert Volley and Bayonet into a hex based system for use with my Hexon collection. It is early days with this but I have come up with an idea that may be worth considering and so I shall explore the following further.

(A) A 4 strength point infantry brigade deployed at the rear of the hex with the area in front representing 2 increments.

Essentially I am going to 'open up' a hex tile. A Hexon tile is 4" across the flat sides and measurements for Volley and Bayonet are in inches. All I am going to do is to convert the actual ranges and distances into increments or measurement points with a single Hexon tile having 4 such increments. How to orientate the unit within a hex is the complication but my current thinking is to assume that a unit occupies two such increments. If the unit is positioned along the back edge of the hex it has, in effect, 2 increments in front of it or, if you like, 2". I should point out that maximum range for a smooth bore musket is 2" so you can see why I am thinking along these lines as otherwise using any ranges etc under 4" would be impractical. You simply would not be able to call a whole hex as range one as it would serve to swallow up all the distances and ranges in less than the nominal size of a hex. Coming back to our sample unit should it be deployed in the centre of the hex then it would be assumed to have 1 increment of range/distance all around it. A unit deployed along the leading edge would have no increments in front of it but would then have 2 increments to its rear.

(B) The same brigade deployed in the centre of the hex with, in effect, a single increment all around it.

As far as ranges and move distances are this now becomes very simple to 'measure' as all that needs to be dealt with carefully is the units positioning within the hex. Flanks and rear arcs should be equally straightforward to adjudicate, again bearing in mind the units relative position within the hex and the fact that we are now dealing with 60 degree angles rather than 45s and 90s.

(C) Finally, the brigade is at the 'top' of the hex - with a 2 increment zone to its rear.

Obviously I will need to consider relative increments depending on where an attack is coming from - I have a few thoughts around this but need to tidy them up a little and so will report on them when I have!

(D) The two opposing brigades are centrally deployed and so would count as being at a range of 2 increments - which is maximum range for a smooth bore musket.

(E) The same brigades closing the range - this time it is down to a single increment.

Contact! As a rule of thumb should a unit be attacked in melee then if it is deployed in the centre the attacker is allowed to move fully into the hex which has the effect of pushing the defending unit back an increment. Obviously if the defender is at the bottom of the hex (as in A above) this is not a problem; nor is it if the defender is at the top of the hex (as in C above).

I have a number of other considerations to factor into this and I guess that in effect I am attempting a board/table top war game hybrid of some kind. Once this idea has been bedded down the rest of the rules should work as they written - that is my intention anyway - and the use of the hex will then not be such a handicap compared to using a free table.

As usual, any comments and observations would be much appreciated!

Saturday 16 June 2012

Volley and Bayonet with a dash of Salamis

Several titles of a certain vintage....still they do say that certain things improve with age!

With many grateful thanks to Nick Atkinson (the return envelope is on its way!) I can now start my plan for hex based global domination with the conversion of Volley and Bayonet into a hex based system for use with  the block armies. Not only did Nick supply me with the rules he also had a spare copy of the ACW supplement which is really useful for my ideas in that direction, that is along the rivers. Of course it will mean in the short term a reread of the rules - never a bad thing in my opinion - and then I can see about how I shall be converting the system into a hex based version. It also means that my idea for 1815 is now even closer so I ought to think about finding some, ahem, volunteers for the various commands - as well as seeing about Columbia Games: Napoleon will work as a campaign driver. Luckily all of this is very much an exercise in writing and thinking and so can be fitted in and around work thereby not impacting on my rather busy domestic schedule at present. Painting and gaming are a different story though as I am only able to tackle this at home and in the evenings or weekends - like most of us I expect. The only problem I have at the moment though is that work is really knocking the stuffing out of me and so picking up any form of painting is going to be a struggle.

The painting side of the ACW is of course the ships and the only other task I have with a paintbrush is my collection of WW2 1/100th aircraft for Axis and Allies: Angels 20. I have the list drawn up of the last 54mm figures I will need for the NW Frontier and I plan to get them in the next few weeks. Ideally I want to start painting them once the ships and the aircraft are completed which will probably not be until the end of the summer but we shall see.

The other piece of news concerns the small and unassuming looking title in the photo above - The Battle of Salamis by Richard B Nelson. Over the years I have dabbled in many periods of naval warfare but the two galley eras (ancient and renaissance) have thus far eluded me. I have a modest library devoted to both of these periods and fully intend gaming them at some point (although Lord alone knows when!). I picked up the above title at Broadside for a measly £3 and after having read it cover to cover during the course of the week I can honestly say that I have been really inspired to tackle ancient galleys in some form. The book covers the campaign leading up to the battle (not forgetting the all important land element - more of which later), a brief overview of the ships and tactics of naval warfare at the time, a suggested set of tactical rules for refighting the battle and also set of simple strategic rules for running the entire campaign, land battles and all, using counters and a simplified map of the theatre. I should point out that the rules are hex based (which was pretty radical way back in 1975) and are a simplified version of the authors own set that were available from WRG - a copy of which I managed to acquire a couple of months back. there are three refights of the battle reviewed - the historical version and a couple of feasible 'what ifs?' Finally, there is even mention of what models to use, from scratch builds to commercially available kit - including some Minifigs galleys would you believe! I checked with Dave Ryan at Caliver Books about these a while back and sadly they are long gone.

I have to say that for me this book is an object lesson on how to write a campaign specific war games title and although it was published way back in the 1970s it is a peach of a title. I have absolutely no idea where this will go in terms of models etc but in the short term I could once again consider making use of the Junior General as I am almost certain Salamis features as one of their battles.

Much to ponder with this BUT, I have a number of other priorities to contend with first!

Friday 15 June 2012

Why do we do what we do?

I was casually flicking back over some old posts on the blog and the thought suddenly struck me that I seem to be almost continually tweaking sets of perfectly usable war game rules. In doing so, I seem to spend rather a lot of time testing, agonising over minor changes (which usually seem anything but at the time) and then yet more testing. I can offer no detailed explanation for this curious pattern of behaviour (I am sure that the psychoanalysts amongst us could probably explain some of it - presumably just before they run screaming from the room!) other than I guess that I am continually seeking something rather more elusive than I can lay my hands on any any given point in time.

A restless spirit, forever adrift on the ocean of war games variety or something like that.

Is it some kind of intellectual vanity? Do I think I can make things better than the original author? I am inclined to think that it is neither of these, rather it is more a case of having a particular need from a gaming system and shoehorning any idea into that vision - usually regardless of whether or not it is a good idea or even if it will work. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is undoubtedly true up to a point but for me I often lose sight of what actually is broke and indeed will try to fix it regardless of whether or not it actually needs fixing!

If it is my war gaming cross to bear then I guess I will have to carry on doing so because, and for reasons I have yet to fathom, I can. Besides, it is fun lifting the drain covers and seeing what makes rules tick!

Volley and Bayonet, Command and Colours, Angels 20, War at Sea - the road goes ever on and on....;-)

....So does my list of 'minor' rules tweaks!

Thursday 14 June 2012

Being careful of what you wish for....

Now lets be completely clear about this - I am absolutely delighted to have acquired not only a copy of Volley and Bayonet (1st Edition) but also the ACW supplement for good measure, courtesy of one of my blog readers and all round good fellow, Nick Atkinson (many thanks once again Nick!). The only note of reservation is probably as much a nod to my guilty conscience as anything else - especially in connection with the ACW river fleets I have that have lain forlornly in need of some painting TLC for what seems like an age. Try as I might I think I have just about run out of excuses or futile justifications as to why these have yet to be completed but now that I have the tools to really tackle the land element in terms of material (block armies, Hexon terrain and not one but two very good rule sets) and so I really must roll up my sleeves and get on wth it.
The first order of business will be to take V and B and 'Hex' it. I already have a number of ideas as to how this can be done so the preliminary testing could probably be undertaken fairly quickly. Assuming all is well I will knock up the obligatory play sheet which will then lead me to the next step which may be slightly more problematic. There is a campaign system in the ACW supplement based on the boardgame 'A House Divided' - not surprisingly really as this was also designed by Frank Chadwick. This covers the entire war which is a little on the grand side even for me and also the naval side is, I believe, abstracted somewhat. I have a couple of sets of naval rules that treat the land side similarly so finding a happy medium with both the land and naval side equally represented and united by a common set of rule mechanics will be what I shall aspire to. A naval version of Volley and Bayonet may be the solution and I know this has been tackled for the age of sail and also for ancient galleys so it must be 'do-able'. The finishing of the ACW ships must now be accorded priority and for two reasons. Firstly because I will be able to use them purely in their own right and secondly because I will need them for support to the land element. Cynics could also add a third - because they have been sitting around for long enough!
1815 and all that goes with it has now shifted slightly simply because the orders of battle are already in place and so once the hex based rules have been tackled this will be ready to go. I have some campaign specific units to label up but little more than that really. In fact the only task I need to tackle is how to tie in the divisional level units from Columbia Games: Napoleon to the Volley and Bayonet brigades. In theory this should be easy enough - which probably means it will be anything but!
Back in the world of Memoir of Battle I shall be making use of the C and C Napoleonic blocks as well as my normal military symbol variety - indeed, for the 20th century stuff they will be obligatory - and looking very closely at the offerings on the Junior General website. Once I have the Spanish expansion for C and C Napoleonics I will certainly look to tackle some of the more obscure actions of the Peninsula War as well as exploring the possibilities of the South American Wars of Liberation for something a little different. My initial forays into the Roghan Valley on the North West Frontier will probably be block based as the 54mm figures are still sitting in boxes (although they have bee organised into units) and awaiting not only reinforcements - not that many though - but also painting!
Axis and Allies: Angels 20 is still shy a starter set so I will attempt to pick a final copy up for use with the Battle of Britain set up - which will need to be painted in due course but will not even be attempted until after the missing set has landed safely.
That all looks like a lot but aside from the two painting tasks all else falls under the heading of 'cerebral projects' which are far easier (at least they are for me) to fit in.

Nothing like a plan, is there? And that is nothing like a plan, is it?

Army-Corps-Division-Brigade-Battalion; Considerations of Gaming Thereof

I have been tormented over this vision of army level games and how to achieve them - more specifically the whole Volley and Bayonet piece. In a nutshell the whole concept is exactly what my block armies have been designed for and so once I can tweak a hex based version then the resultant potential is enormous. It is no secret that I have some long term ideas around campaigns of various sorts and this system is exactly the tool to use to fulfill that desire. Of course the version I cobble together with feature a number of personal changes - not least of which is the fact that I will be dispensing with bases and also the use of a roster will be somewhat different from the original rules themselves. I plan to have a block per strength point and when one is lost then a block is removed. the roster will be for the order of battle and for detailing any special abilities the unit may possess and also the all important chain of command. At the time of writing a couple of potential sources of the rules have come up and so it will only be a matter of time before work can begin in earnest on the hex based version.
Mention of the block armies has given me a smug warm and fuzzy feeling because in choosing to go down that particular path, unusual as it may have appeared, I now have a system that can easily be used to represent anything from a platoon level skirmish to an army corps engagment and with none of the problems of scale considerations that routinely bedevil games using figures. The 3d military map is now a 3d board game in all but name.
For games at the level of Memoir of Battle (which I like to think of as being at brigade or divisional level) I am sorely tempted to use my C and C Napoleonic blocks or any of those pictures available as labels from the Junior General as, and I am not saying this with my tongue in cheek, the visual appeal of images of actual soldiers on a block looks far better than the purely military symbols at the level they are being used at. In practise this will mean a rethink about games at the lower level as I will not be looking to build generic looking armies - rather I will be tailoring the set up on a campaign specific basis. In reality at the present time I shall concentrate on the Napoleonic period and possibly dabble in the Ancient period using the C and C blocks as they are very attractive, for the most part readily available and they cover most of what I would need in the short term. The next expansion for the Napoleonic set is, I believe, the Austrians and both the Prussians and Russians will follow in due course.
Does this represent a sea change in anyway? I am inclined not to think so as all I have done is to shift my emphasis slightly. The blocks will still feature on centre stage and will continue to march and fall on many a stricken Hexon tile - all I am planning to do is to vary the method of delivery slightly. In a very rough and ready way the plan then will be to use the conventional blocks for my army level games or for Memoir of Battle where I do not have anything more attractive. The C and C blocks will stay firmly at the brigade/divisional level (or for any Ancient adventures I may dabble in) - as will any of the  junior general  kit should I use it.

For the record - this does not really qualify as a new project, rather it is a variation on an existing one and as usual, if I keep telling myself that then eventually I will believe it!

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Mustang on a Typhoon

The design of the scenario for the Angels 20 game at the club last night was left to the tender mercies of yours truly as Mr Fox was recovering from brain overload as a result of his Battlefleet Gothic heroics at the weekend. As is usual with anything I design it invariably tends to be slightly over engineered in concept and this was exception in that it was a fight in two parts, or rather in two levels. The first was a typical low level ground attack mission by a pair of Typhoons with the added bonus of four P51s providing top cover. As it was 1944 the allied air superiority was making itself felt and so the Luftwaffe could oppose the attack albeit with much reduced numbers. The low level attack was to be contested by but a single FW190 whilst the top cover could muster up a pair of 109 Gs. The two targets are protected by a smattering of light flak and the pilots were going to be a varied bunch. The Allies had an ace, two veterans, two average and rookie pilot whilst the Luftwaffe had one each of ace, veteran and rookie. The Allies were at level 1 and 5 (for the Typhoons and the P51s respectively) whilst the attacking Germans came in at level 2 and 6 and from behind so it was in effect, a typical 'bounce' type scenario. The targets had to be hit in the same way as an aircraft and they were deemed to the equivalent of a MS 406 in respect of the damage capacity. Surprisingly there are no rules for light flak - only heavy flak 'fields' which are more accurately used against level bombers. A degree of improvisation was called in this respect and so I merely allowed the flak field rule to be dropped down a level so it could only engage targets at level 1 but with the same effect as a heavy flak field.

The dogfight during one of its more sedate phases....note the damage markers on the bases and the very nice paint job on the 109Gs - well done Mr Fox!

The action was fast and furious and the Typhoons came barrelling at low level and very quickly had the measure of both the objectives. the flak blazed away to no effect and in fact only succeeded in but a single chance to hit anything! Retribution was swift though as the FW190 tasked with the low level intercept made short work of one the Typhoons whilst the other escaped at high speed.

Meanwhile the 109s were mixing it with the Mustangs and it ended with the Rookie Gustav pilot going down under the guns of a P51 whilst the ongoing whirling dogfight ensured that all but one of the top cover aircraft had some damage. Numbers prevailed and this was hardly surprising at this stage of the war.

An allied victory for sure but great fun to play and for me, confirmation of why I prefer the FW 190 at this period of the war (actually at ANY period of the war!).

As ever many thanks to Mr Fox for the use of the toys and to Mr H for his valuable support and participation.

Next week we shall be revisiting Summer 1940, over the Kentish countryside....

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Volleys, Bayonets, Life, the Universe and Everything in it....

The past couple of days have been very trying. I have been caught in a maelstrom of my own making - a veritable smorgasbord of choices and the indecision inherent in such a Bacchanalian debauch. Why, oh why? You may well ask, but it all comes down to a very simple thing. I want to convert Volley and Bayonet into a hex based game using my block armies. The idea of using these rules was one that I had not considered in any great detail until the arrival of Napoleon Returns (covering the 1815 campaign) and the consequent reignition of my old army level aspirations.

It is certainly something to think about - long and hard.

The only problem I can foresee is converting the ranges and move distances into hexes. They have been converted into squares (for the 18th century) and this will be an avenue I shall look at in further detail and so will report back via the blog in due course.

In the meantime, my search for a copy of the rules (the 1st edition) and the ACW supplement continues.

Monday 11 June 2012

Volley and Bayonet - Another example of Synchronicity at play!

The set that launched thousands of my own dreams of tabletop glory

Way back in the mid 1990s I purchased a copy of Volley and Bayonet by Messrs. Chadwick and the late Greg Novak. I can remember being hugely excited at the sheer nerve of the game scale and how they were designed first and foremost as a 'big battle' set of rules. The basic unit was the brigade and many of the usual tactical considerations that gamers set such store by - formations and similar - simply did not exist. I had a few solo 'dabbles' with them but for one reason or another never got around to getting figure based armies to use with the set. I can remember acquiring the ACW expansion and also the one for 1815 to use in due course but as real life and a couple of house moves intervened I got shot of the same some years ago, forever pursued by dreams of 'if only'.

The ACW expansion - chock full of goodies including some very good campaign maps (as I recall designed to fight the entire war!) and some generic ACW organisations

Fast forward a number of years and the arrival of the second copy of the Napoleon Returns was most welcome for the brigade level orders of battle but I had forgotten about the fact that it contained much else besides in terms of basic army information, campaign maps and period specific tweaks to the core rules. It got me thinking.

It got me thinking along the lines of the scope of the original rules was was effectively the entire horse and musket period - just like my block armies.

The rules work off a roster system with strength points being typically 3 to 5 for an infantry brigade - just like my block armies (and Command and Colours).

The rules are designed for free table use but why couldn't they be turned into a Hex based set for use on my Hexon terrain set up?

This is a development of profound significance for me and one that I will need to give some careful thought to. Could these rules, in conjunction with my block armies and my Hexon collection be the answer to my army level gaming aspirations?

The hunt is now well and truly joined as I need to source a copy of the first edition rules and the ACW supplement if I can - as a matter of some urgency!