Friday 30 November 2012

Liebster Award - For the Blogs that keep on giving

Gee thanks (is the cheque in the post?)....;-)

It is always nice to be appreciated and so by virtue of the latest piece of blog-comms my humble scribblings (not sure if you can scribble on a blog but hey, ho!) have been nominated for the above award by no less than two fellow bloggers - Geordie and Peter  - for which I am suitably thankful (and apologies for the tardy reply Peter!). 

Upon receiving such a nomination the plan is, I believe, for the nominee to list five blogs that would also be suitable recipients under the terms of the award.

After very careful consideration I have to say that happily, I found this to be an impossible task! There are so many blogs that I 'follow' that it would be churlish of me to mention some and not others because I freely admit to getting different things from different blogs. I suppose this probably seems like a cop out but I am going to stick my neck out and suggest that all of the blogs I follow on my list that fulfill the award criteria are worthy of such an accolade.

My reason for this is very simple. I know what goes into running a blog in respect of time and content etc and so anybody that runs a blog in the subject I am interested in deserves praise for being bothered to share their hopes, fears, aspirations, games old and new, ooh shiny stuff or just plain passing the time of day with the rest of the 'blog-o-sphere'.

So to all those that have been nominated and to all those that have not - please accept my grateful thanks for what you do and how you do it - and long may it continue!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Random Shots from an Old Wargamer

Stand and deliver! Your money or your life! (With apologies to Adam Ant and the late, great, Diana Dors....because ridicule is nothing to be scared of....)

I have called this post 'Random Shots from an Old Wargamer' (with a passing nod to Roderick Random) simply because I am feeling old and in need of firing off various bits and pieces!

My work situation is still 'up in he air' as I am waiting on a couple of reference checks to be nailed down before I can start work. This is tedious but has to be done....:-(

I have acquired a couple of brown permanent marker pens which will enable me to grid the sheet of 3ft by 2ft hardboard I have that has been earmarked for a desert based Portable Wargame playing area.

I have also tackled something Portable Wargame related which I shall post in due course.

Apologies for the somewhat enigmatic nature of this post but I am feeling a tad fractious and so long and involved prose is simply beyond me at the present.

Monday 26 November 2012

Just Deserts and Future Plans

Some time ago I acquired a couple of 3ft by 2ft boards donated by Bob Cordery and duly painted, flocked and with a 3" square grid inscribed on the playing area. All I have done is to go over the grid lines of one of them in a green permanent marker and it has already seen action in a few games. The other board was left quietly in the corner of the man cave, unloved and forlorn.

Until now....

I wanted to make a desert-type terrain board and was stuck for an idea of how to do this when I remembered I had a piece of 3ft by 2ft hardboard sitting around doing nothing. Now the 'shiny' side of a piece of hardboard would not be much use for what I have in mind but the rough side is ideal. I also happen to have a pile of 3" square hardboard squares that could be used for hills with some suitable 'elevation' applied. The plan then, is to use the hardboard sheet and fix that over the existing greenery on the spare board and then grid it with a brown permanent marker. I had considered using some cork roll but this is a much cheaper and readily available option.

In the meantime though, I have the plans to make in connection with the end of year Russo-Turkish War battle and so Quintin Barry's War in the East will be my reading of choice for the next few weeks. I plan to cover the game over three posts as follows:

  • The historical background
  • The orders of battle, the battlefield and scenario.
  • The refight itself.
I shall be using Bob Cordery's Big Battle Portable Wargame 19th Century set on a 13 x 9 hex grid with of course, the block armies.

I will certainly be able to get another game in between now and the Russo Turkish action and all being well it should feature something in the desert.

Sunday 25 November 2012

What have these got in common?


The Millennium Falcon.....

The Millennium Dome...

Robbie Williams singing Millennium....

All of the above have one thing in common and that is also something that I feature with as well. Today sees A Wargaming Odyssey reaching its own personal Millennium - that is 1,000 posts!

I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I am to have gotten this far and as ever I should like to thank everybody that have read and commented over my modest endeavours since 2009. Since then I have covered such a lot of ground and I can honestly say that writing the blog and interacting with people from across the globe has truly enriched my enjoyment of our hobby and that the resulting friendships have made the entire thing a really worthwhile effort.

There have been modelling posts, gaming posts, boot sale posts, ooh shiny posts, posts from life for when things were all too grim in the real world (special thanks for them!) and shared posts where the feedback has taken me into new and often uncharted territory.

Many, many thanks once again to one and all and here's to the next 1,000!

Saturday 24 November 2012

With Musket and Tomahawk, North America 1758....Game Number 24

Ambush! Yet another European column is surprised by the cunning of the woodland Indians fighting in what is for them, friendly territory.

This is the earliest game historically I have fought in the man cave using the block armies. I opted for a small French and Indian War action using Bob Cordery's Big Battle Portable Wargame 19th Century rules with only a few 'tweaks'. To allow for smooth bore weapons I reduced the range for infantry firearms to two hexes. I also made the Indian units three blocks strong rather than four in order to make them a little more brittle than their formed and regular opponents. Then I thought about the vexing problem around classifying the units I was going to use. All the regular infantry was rated as average when fighting in the open but as poor when in the woods. Similarly, the Indians were rated as elite in the woods and poor in the open. The Rangers were elite and the militia, poor. Each side had four command points, potentially modified by a dice roll each turn. No artillery was present on either side.


1 x Commander (1) - General James Teakirk
3 x Infantry (4)
2 x Militia (4)
1 x Roger's Rangers (2 x 2)

Strength Points 25 - Exhaustion Level 10


1 x Commander (1) - Comte de Reynard
2 x Infantry (4) - Regiments Bearnaise and Hollandaise
6 x Indians (3)

Strength Points 27 - Exhaustion Level 13

Somewhere in the Ohio Valley....

General James Teakirk and his column had left Fort Enterprise the previous morning, bound for the Walton homestead. His mission was a simple one, to reach the homestead and escort the families back to civilisation as trouble was in the air. The woodland tribes had been restless, no doubt stirred up by the French, so his force was tasked with both an escort and a deterrent role. Nothing had happened as yet although his trusted guide, Falcon Nose, the half-breed Indian scout, had warned him that there might be trouble. Teakirk was confident that his command could cope with most eventualities although he took the precaution of ensuring that the Rangers were deployed out front and on either flank, to scout ahead of the main column. His two units of Virginia militia were positioned with units of regulars all around them - publicly as a show of solidarity with the Americans but privately to make sure that they did not run off at the first sign of trouble. Like all regular British commanders Teakirk was not overly enamoured with the units of militia under his command.

Their route to the homestead followed a winding track through the easier reaches of the forest but it was still a wild and godless place. Very little air or light seemed to penetrate the gloomy depths of the forest and even the wildlife seemed to speak in hushed tones. The only sounds were those of a body of men tramping wearily on to an uncertain fate and losing themselves in their haunted thoughts as they did so. The heat; the stillness; the feeling of oppression all weighed heavily on the men of Teakirk's column as they pushed on. Even the General was not immune to the dank and fetid atmosphere; surely this must be the final frontier, he mused, for we are boldly going where no man has gone before....

The Comte de Reynard was footsore, weary and very pleased that his grueling march through the forest was at an end. Led by their Indian allies they had made a rapid march from deep in the heart of their territory in order to capture the Walton homestead. The families had been escorted away by some of the Indians under strict instructions that no harm was to befall them - De Reynard had given his word on the matter - under the threat of severe repercussions from the Great King across the Sea. He was confident that his orders would be obeyed. His small force, comprising but two detachments from the regiments Bearnaise and Hollandaise had occupied the small complex of buildings comprising the homestead and had also erected some log barricades so the whole place was quite well protected. Some three quarters of his force was made up of woodland Indians from an obscure branch of the great Iroquois tribe under the leadership of their chief, Mingua. He knew the British were coming, his scouts had been shadowing them almost from the time they had left Fort Enterprise; and his preparations were complete. His regular infantry would hold the homestead and the fight would be carried out by the Indians. De Reynard knew as well as any man that when came to fighting amidst the great trees of the forest then Mingua and his warriors had no equal.

The British were walking into a trap.

The initial set up - note the French deployed behind the log barricades at the Walton homestead. The British are following the forest trail, Roger's Rangers in the van.

The British column with the Virginia militia 'supported' by the regulars. General James Teakirk is in the centre of the formation.

The French infantry in the homestead with the Comte de Reynard and the two Indian warbands on either side of the track

Turn 1. With a blood-curdling war-cry the Indians attack the head of the British column but are met with a devastating volley from the redcoats and the supporting Rangers.

Turn 2. The firing ceases. No sounds are heard except the moans of the wounded and the cawing of angry birds. Nervous British eyes scan rapidly all around for a glimpse of their elusive foe.

Turn 3. Those dreadful whoops and war-cries start again - quick as a flash, the British column hurries along the trail and takes casualties from their barely visible enemy whilst the Rangers move off deeper into the forbidding forest; a unit of militia in support.

Turn 4. The leading British infantry unit, caught in a vicious crossfire from a barely visible enemy, routs in panic-stricken disorder. The southern Ranger unit falls back under pressure from the Indians whilst the northern one engages in a long range firefight and prevails.

Turn 5. General James Teakirk takes the situation in at a glance and immediately plunges into the treeline with a unit of British infantry to engage the leading Indian unit. Meanwhile, the southern Indian warbands mass against the Rangers and the supporting unit of Militia.

Turn 6. The situation seems to settle down as the British force manages to shake out into a semblance of order and not a moment too soon as the southern flank readies itself for the onslaught from the massing warbands. 

Turn 7. The southern Ranger unit falls back under pressure as does the supporting Militia. General James Teakirk and his accompanying British infantry battle on against yet another warband - they are holding their own but casualties are mounting.

Turn 8. In the north General James Teakirk manages to prevail against the opposing Indians with the second militia unit in support. Meanwhile in the south the other militia unit battles gamely on.

Turn 9. The fight in the south intensifies, with the second militia unit joining the fray but again, casualties are mounting as the Virginians hang on against their redoubtable enemy.

Turn 10. The end. The militia suffer further casualties and whilst the warbands fall back to reorganise and mourn the spirits of their dead; General James Teakirk, mindful of his losses, reluctantly breaks off the action, thankful that the Indians are in no shape to organise an effective pursuit.

The final score - the British force suffered 10 hits whilst the Indians sustained 11. The French regulars were not engaged.

I was really pleased with this fight and using Bob's rules with just the 'tweaks' mentioned worked like a charm. Virtually all the fighting was at close quarters and from cover and it was, above all, tense and brutal in the extreme. The British had the advantage initially in respect of initiative and then the French managed to wrest control for a number of turns that enabled them to make their numbers count in respect of the Indians. The militia suffered due to their rating when resolving hits - often because they were unable to retreat due to units behind them - and in fact sustained all their losses over a relatively short space of time. The Rangers, by comparison, came through unscathed and were often able to fall back under pressure and then advance to reengage. In the end though, the British ran out of troops.

Just to round off though, this was game number 24 for the year so I have managed to complete my planned two games every month a full month earlier than I intended to. I want to play a further couple of games before the year end - one of which will be the Russo-Turkish War bash as the year's grand finale.

It should be fun.

Blocks in the Dark (Ages)

This ticks a number of boxes for me - although it will also create a degree of work as well!

A recent addition to my library is ‘Road to Manzikert – Byzantine and Islamic Warfare 527 to 1071’ by Brian Todd Carey, Joshua B. Allfree and John Cairns (published by Pen and Sword, ISBN 978-1-84884-215-1). I am very interested in this period of history in the Eastern Mediterranean and so was very keen to get a copy of this title – and I am certainly not disappointed! The book covers the armies of both the Byzantines and the Islamic forces of the Caliphates and how they evolved. It is complete with a very useful chronology of the period, a glossary of terms in use and accounts of a number of key actions fought during the era under review – culminating in the battle of Manzikert itself.

The thing that really caught my eye about this title though was the battle maps. Each of the actions described features maps of the battles at various stages of the fighting which is always a very useful thing in my opinion but that is not why I am so excited. There is a full page legend or map key which features the usual military symbols I have used for my block armies but also with a complete selection of ideas for the more usual troop types of the era – archers, slingers, javelins, horse archers and both heavy infantry and cavalry. Needless to say this has given me much to think about because making up some labels for the blocks for these other troop types would certainly serve to extend the usefulness of my existing collection and open up a whole new world of gaming opportunities.

I have an enormous selection of Command and Colours blocks for the Ancient period and so having a homemade set for use with the ‘Dark Age’ period armies will be a useful addition to my collection - especially as the era of the great Arab conquests has long been of interest to me.

Friday 23 November 2012

Commanding and the Control

I haven't read this but think that it should be on my list

I mentioned briefly in my previous post that I had been looking at Volley and Bayonet by Frank Chadwick for inspiration for my own rules, or to be more accurate, I had been looking at certain parts of them. Now I realise that merely transporting great chunks from various rule sets and lashing them together could be seen as a recipe for disaster and so I shall avoid the temptation to do so. However, taking the concept as a whole is a different matter.

I like the idea of commander driven movement - that is that units have to be within a certain distance of their commander in order to be able to move. Using this approach in conjunction with a hex grid is a very easy way to solve the old activation/command point conundrum - at least it appears to be. I am thinking about using a single hex command zone (that is the hex the commander occupies and each of the six hexes around him) for low level commanders and perhaps a two hex command zone for the army commander. In order for this to work properly it will be essential to have a clearly defined order of battle so that it is clear who commands what on the table.

I do not have anything for this idea on paper as yet but it will certainly be an avenue to explore.

The Joy of Hex - Revisited

Battle of  Antietam

Now that looks pretty impressive! Check out Kallistra for more of the same - its a pity there are no blocks in evidence, otherwise it would be perfect....;-)

Earlier this year I was banging on about coming up with a hex-based variant of Volley and Bayonet - the army level wargame rules designed by Frank Chadwick - and indeed, I spent a little time pondering how best to tackle this and some of the ideas I came up with featured in the following post - Volley and Bayonet on Hexes.

I really like the idea behind these rules and so it will probably come as no surprise that I am keen to make use of some of the concepts for my own purposes. All in good time though, as the first thing I want to clarify is what I am using hexes for.

For me a hex is not just an area that is used to regulate movement and combat - it is (or it should be) a representation of an area of terrain. The sides of the hex should not be seen as barriers as the terrain underneath should be naturally flowing across the landscape being represented - as it is for a non-hexed table top game. It is my opinion that units should be able to make use of the area covered by a hex - especially in respect of formations etc. I am of the opinion that for the horse and musket period the use of formations is pretty much essential and so incorporating this within a hex based rule set is for me is obligatory. I have messed around with some unit formation ideas and am thinking that the following just about ticks all the boxes:

An infantry unit in line - the bottom block is simply there as it does not fit on the end of the line within the hex!

An infantry unit in a march column

An infantry unit in square

An infantry line with skirmishers deployed

An infantry column with skirmishers to the fore.

An infantry unit deployed in skirmish order.

A Cavalry unit in line

A Cavalry unit in column

A Cavalry unit in line with a skirmish screen

A Cavalry unit in column with a skirmish screen

A Cavalry unit in line with a reserve

A Cavalry unit deployed in skirmish order

Artillery deployed for firing

Artillery limbered up for travelling

These are just a few examples of the types of formation I shall be representing for the horse and musket period and the skill of the general in deploying his troops into the correct formation when needed will obviously be of paramount importance.

My plan in the short term is to concentrate on the horse and musket period although I have a number of ideas for the modern era to be going on with.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Opening Pandora's Box

Oh well, here we go - let the insanity commence!

A recent email exchange with Bob Cordery has generated a very useful and interesting post over on his blog that any would-be wargames rules designer would be well served by bearing in mind the points - see the following for exactly what I mean: 10 Commandments.

I have taken the plunge into the world of rules design and have duly applied myself to point number one as a firm foundation of exactly what I want the end result to reflect. I sat down and came up with the following:

  1. A block is a single unit - either as a sub-unit or in its own right.
  2. Only D6 are used
  3. A standard battlefield is 13 x 9 hexes
  4. Combat is resolved at block level i.e. 1 block, 1 D6
  5. The rules are NOT scale specific - ranges and distances reflect relative differences.
So that is the start - the core foundations I want to build my rules from.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

A Wargaming Epiphany

Epiphany: A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization

I have had one. Actually I have had two.

I was happily typing my way through a 1700 to 1850 version of Bob Cordery's 19th Century Big Battle Portable Wargame when I suddenly stopped.

I stopped because it suddenly occurred to me that what I was doing was in effect almost rewriting the whole set - and for what? The rules are absolutely fine as they are - except that they don't feature the points I wanted to add that would have been included in the rewrite....

The same thing struck me when I considered the implication of the changes I wanted to add to the modern set. Clearly this was a conundrum.

The solution? Well, this is in two parts, one easy, one less so. Use the rules as they are - no problem there - they work really well and give a cracking game - and the more difficult option? Write my own set. Actually write my own two sets - one for the Horse and Musket era and one for the 'Modern'.

My first instinct when seeing a set of rules is to see exactly what is missing - or to be more accurate, what I think is missing. I then tend to go into 'now if I added.....' mode which usually starts a process ending with something completely unusable. In this case the game is not worth the candle as there is little point in me trying to make a sow's ear out of a silk purse.

To be honest, ever since I started on the block project I had ideas in mind about drafting my own rules but for a variety of reasons - chief of which was the desire to get some games under my belt - I never really got on with it and instead relied on the excellent work or others.

Time to stand up and be counted.

An impossible task? I don't know the answer to that but I do know that unless I try I will never find out.


A Piece of Napoleonic History

The British DVD cover - I am waiting patiently for the UK Blue Ray version....

First of all I would like to extend my apologies to the redoubtable Mr. Fox for not posting this item sooner!

I cannot imagine that there is a Napoleonic, or indeed probably any wargamer that has not seen the film Waterloo - Waterloo. I can safely say that this film was very much the inspiration for my own Napoleonic adventure back in formative wargaming years and I still have a very soft spot for the film and the 1815 section of my library. I also have not forgotten my plans to refight the campaign using the block armies and (possibly) Volley and Bayonet, or even something entirely different.

What a film - and with not a jot of CGI to be seen!

I was absolutely delighted to receive from the hand of Mr.Fox a couple of weeks ago a copy of the original cinema release program dated back to 1971 and chock full of large sized double page stills (in colour) from the film itself. Given my fondness for all things 1815 related this was a delightful gift to receive and so my grateful thanks are extended to Mr Fox for bringing some cheer to what has been a very trying few weeks.

As a postscript I was surprised and tantalised at the the prospect of seeing the full length version of this great film - it was rumoured to have been in the region of some four hours long when made but was only shown in its entirety in Russia.

One can but hope this version will made available at some point in the West!

Further thoughts on the Portable Wargame

"Just tell me one thing....Are these chaps really the last of the Mohicans?"

I have used Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame rules for both 19th century and modern (WW2 in old school speak) games very successfully and will happily do so going forward. However, being an inveterate tinkerer I have a few ideas to throw into the mix. I am not alone in this as many other gamers have been experimenting with other periods - The English Civil War being one, with Steven Page being the driving force with his blog - Forlorn Hope ECW. For my own part (and much as I would love to tackle the ECW at some point) my immediate needs are far simpler, comprising as they are the 'musket' period (roughly 1700 to 1850) and perhaps some 'tribal' types to add in to the 19th century (and earlier as well). I also have some additional plans for the 'modern' set.

For the traditional 'musket' era my thoughts are fairly simple. I want to include unit formations in some fashion - the traditional 'column, line and square' that feature in many sets covering the period - and also to allow for skirmishers and light infantry. My plans are very much in their early stages with this but the key thing for me is to be able to represent such formations within an individual hex. Once I have some clarity around what I want to do and how I want to do it I will post to the blog in the usual fashion.

"Honestly Sahib, it was only used once a week by my grandmother to visit the local Fakir"

The 19th century will add in some Tribal types for the Colonial era and also for earlier so, for example, the French and Indian War could be gamed with its hordes of woodland Indians. Mention of Indians also raises the possibility of Clive and his exploits on the Indian sub continent as well as the later wars up to and including those campaigns of a certain rather well known British historical figure to boot....;-)

Not seen this version but certainly played the first and second edition

For the modern set the changes I want to try are probably more radical than for the earlier set. I want to be able to break units down so that for my current set up a single block is a strength point and that a hex has a stacking capacity expressed in strength points rather than units. This would enable, for example, a couple of blocks of infantry supported by a machine gun block to be represented. I am also toying with allowing individual blocks having their own combat dice rolls so that the aforementioned unit of two infantry and a single MG would roll 5 x d6 - 1 each for the two infantry and 3 for the machine gun. This would raise the spectre of assigning hits but there are various ways of getting around it with the simplest being to roll a d6 and count around. Failing that, (and is probably the simplest method) just assume that the hits are taken by the majority type first so the formation above would lose both infantry with the MG being the last man standing. I would also like to employ area effects for artillery (one could argue that possibly MGs should be so treated) and at the moment my thoughts are along the lines of if an artillery piece hits a hex then all strength points currently occupying the target hex are attacked. This would encourage players to spread out and avoid bunching which is perfectly accurate in my opinion.

Essentially my thoughts around the modern game are very much geared towards a lower level of action than the earlier set and are probably closer in intent to such rules as Command Decision where a base represents a platoon-sized formation.

All of this in very much in the early, experimental stage and naturally I will report via the blog as and when I have something concrete to convey.