Thursday 30 June 2022

Thoughts on War in the Age of Imperialism

The above represent one of the forces from the game - note the 30 (5 x 6 figures) infantry and the selection of mounted types. There are horses for them as well!

Close ups of the figures - front and back. They are not the greatest plastics you will ever see but they have one significant advantage - there is a lot of them! 

The rather lurid looking box lid for War in the Age of Imperialism.

Sometime ago I acquired a copy of the Eagle Games Age of Imperialism - a strategic level Colonial board game. As is usual with this type of game it was always about the components rather than the game itself, in this case rather a lot of 1:72nd scale generic plastic figures - a selection of which you can see above, and that is just one of the coloured sets available, there being five in all.

The figures are quite basic but are fine for what I have in mind. The infantry are solely available in the standing firing pose which would probably put some gamers off but I can live with it and besides, the command box will certainly add some diversity. They need some additional bits and pieces to make then viable as an army so a swift look at Hat Industries has furnished me with the aforementioned command set (40 figures in all including four mounted officers), a box of artillery and a box of Gatling guns. This will flesh out the choices available when it comes to making up the various forces I am thinking about. In the short term though, they will need some opposition. So what would be best suited to face some Zulu War looking British Infantry? Well, after a lot of careful consideration for all of several minutes I did the only sane thing I could think of. 

Ordered a box of Unmarried Zulus…

In all seriousness, the idea is to use the ‘British” infantry figure as the basis for other European style pith helmet wearing Colonial forces - there would certainly be a degree of artistic licence in terms of fine detail but then if I wanted that I would probably be using better quality figures. The set up will be firmly Portable Colonial Wargame based meaning the forces will be small in terms of the number figures - small enough that even I could manage to slap some paint on them!

In the fullness of time there will be competing European Colonial forces - forces that will inevitably require naval support - alongside numerous indigenous tribal types of various sorts.

Something to think about anyway - and with the possibility of a VSF spin on things as well!

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Wargaming Campaigns and a Logical Extension

This is truly a magnificent volume and with his earlier title - The Wargaming Compendium - form a duo that will the cornerstone of many a war games library I am sure.

Taking part or running a war games campaign can be an immensely rewarding experience. Revisiting such  an undertaking with those that took part serves to cement a shared experience in the best possible way - reminiscing over battles large and small as well as the more colourful incidents that inevitably occur in my opinion transcends the actuality of the campaign. In truth it assumes a life and identity of its own, to be spoken of in terms of endearment and enjoyment, usually in spite of any problems along the way.

It is true to say that there are no limits on how large or small a war games campaign should be and indeed, one of the attractions is tailoring the project to suit one’s own ideas and available collection(s). It can be quite an undertaking to organise and maintain and so proper planning of the undertaking is essential. 

Henry Hyde has written what I believe will become the standard ‘go to’ work for organising and running a war games campaign regardless of size, period or genre. So far I have merely scraped the surface of this truly epic work but one thought above all has struck me. This work should be viewed as the logical successor to the classic works of Featherstone, Grant and Bath but for the current digital and internet age. In short, it brings the concept of the war games campaign bang up to date and to use a Simon Cowell X Factor phrase, makes it ‘relevant’ for todays gaming audience.

The picture below will do the talking in respect of the contents of this work.

I am thinking that the contents list ticks most of the boxes!

The book is a goldmine of ideas and practical suggestions for pretty much every facet of organising and running a war games campaign, regardless of period, scale or genre. When I say scale I mean the size of the campaign rather than that of the figures or models being used. From stringing some scenarios together right up to the full on creation of an imagi-nation, complete with terrain, government, economic and social background this book has it all and much more besides. It really is a treasure trove of material.

Flicking through the pages I could not help musing over how those stalwarts of yesterday - Featherstone, Grant, Bath and inevitably Eric Knowles - would have viewed this work. I like to think they would have been hugely impressed.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough - well done Mr Hyde, an absolutely outstanding effort!

Personal Note

I mentioned about taking part in war games campaigns and how the memory and shared experiences can provide a rich seam of enjoyment over the years for those that took part. In this particular case the shared experience was of course the legendary Madasahatta campaign organised by the late Eric Knowles and in which many of my life long war gaming friends took a part in.

Looking back over the forty plus years since the campaign was fought I have been truly blessed in the friends that I made from that shared experience and that still form my own, dare I say it, ‘band of brothers’ so to speak. 

My copy of the book was a present from Bob Cordery in memory of both Eric Knowles and of the Madasahatta campaign ‘In Which We Served’ that proved to be such a defining moment in our respective war gaming journeys. I have few words to say (blimey, that must be a first!) other than extending my sincerest and grateful thanks to Bob - not only for his incredibly generous gift but more importantly for his continued and unstinting friendship, advice, encouragement and support extended

 to me over the course of my various gaming projects.

It is also once again a mental thank you to Eric for Madasahatta and the many other spectacular war games he organised and allowed this skinny young man (I was then….) to take part in. Not to mention planting the seed for my lifelong interest in the Ottoman Turks!

The Logical Extension

Yes it does include the naval dimension and no, I do not have any plans to buy figures for it BUT, I could give the block armies a spin with ‘It’s Getting a Bit Chile’ by the redoubtable Trebian….

The final part of my Father’s Day Amazon gift card arrived along with Wargaming Campaigns - a great start to a Monday morning I can tell you! - and you can see above it is the new release from Helion covering the War in the Pacific. I am looking long and hard at this from the naval perspective as it small enough to be practical as a solo endeavour - certainly from the gaming perspective - and in terms of the ships involved easy enough for me to model myself. Besides, there is the Huascar….

An excellent set of rules and with plenty of background material to kick off an army or two. From the pen of that well known Bon vivant, wit and raconteur Graham Evans aka Trebian

At this stage I have no plans around figures for the land side of the war but this would be ideal block army territory and aside from the Portable Wargame there is also the excellent rules produced by Trebian which have languished for far too long in the rules section of my library (and that actually came very close to being disposed of at one point - I am now glad I hung on to them!) and so need a run out at some point.

All in all then, what with England completing a clean sweep against New Zealand in the cricket, it has not been a bad couple of days!

Sunday 26 June 2022

A Wargaming Smorgasbord of Sorts

A period of global impact - not one I am hugely familiar with but needless to say there is cunning plan of sorts….

….and it may be something like this! Available from the Wargames Vault, David Manley’s supplement covering the Russian Civil war to go with his excellent Steamer Wars rules. 

Saturday morning saw the arrival of the second part of my Father’s Day haul - the latest book from the renowned military historian, Antony Beevor (see the first picture). I must confess to having a very limited knowledge of this particular period but hope that this book will fill that gap or at the very least give me a nudge along yet another project….

I know of several good rule sets that cover this period as well as figure ranges so who knows? I may have a Portable Wargame sized dabble at some point.

Laurel and I had an impromptu day out to the Promenade Park in Maldon for the Armed Forces Day. I took a few pictures and picked up a dash of sunburn as well fed some very enthusiastic ducks! The picnic with friends was great fun and it was nice to get out for the day. A selection of the items on display are below:

A wise wargamer once said “you can never have too many trucks!”

Lovely looking and with a Bren mounted

I always remember the Matador from the Airfix kit with a 5.5” gun

I was rather taken by this heavily armed jeep - just the thing for securing a parking space!

The first in a selection of display pieces

Paratrooper attire - note the Bangalore Torpedoes bottom left

The unmistakeable Bren LMG

Typing up orders, requisition forms or leave requests!

There were rather a lot of jeeps in evidence but the armed version caught my eye for sure - sporting weapons galore!

Sadly time was against me in respect of any progress with the Portable Charge! Wargame but I was able to spend some time earlier this evening messing about with turrets in advance of the great pre dreadnought model build. The first examples are based on a circular design typical of early turrets - for example on the U.S.S. Monitor. The model for this style of turret was originally designed to use standard bamboo skewers for the gun barrels - for smaller calibres, say 6” or smaller, I will use cocktail sticks. Ironically the turret you see in the picture below is actually the first I have built that features gun barrels - all the ACW and Russo Turkish types merely have the gun ports. Given that the weapons were muzzle loaded I merely assumed that the guns were inboard being loaded!

Examples of large calibre main gun turrets - these are 20mm across with the bottom ‘slice’ 3mm thick as is the middle ‘notched slice’ whilst the turret roof is 2mm thick. The gun barrels are a little on the thick side but not overly so and besides, they fit in well with the overall simplistic building style I will be using.

I have looked at many turret styles and it would be easy enough to reflect national differences but that kind of flies in the face of what I want to do. I have a design for a more ‘modern’ looking turret in hand and have decided that I will stick with the above circular type and the new version for simplicity. 

I built the above just to see how it would work out and more importantly, how it would look on one of my standard large hull templates. The answer is fine!

All in all then, it was a rewarding weekend although not quite in the way I had planned it and so hopefully next weekend I will be able to catch up!

Saturday 25 June 2022

Castles in the Air

Gotta love a flying battleship!

As part of my Father’s Day haul I picked up a copy of the newly released rules from Osprey - Castles in the Air by Eric Farrington. I have enjoyed Victorian Science Fiction based games for many years and ‘back in the day’ scratch built fleets of dirigibles for the Ottomans, Greeks and Bulgarians to use with Wessex Games Aeronef rules, I even co authored a campaign supplement for them - my counterpart hails from the Antipodes - featuring the Turks which was huge fun.

Available on the Wargames Vault I believe - it was a great collaborative effort!

I had a quick run through the rules and have to say they look pretty good. The mechanics are straightforward and one of the things I am intrigued about is the whole 3D aspect. Yes, you can climb and dive a battleship!

The background is OK although to me seems a little overextended in respect of the timeline. The ‘history’ picks up after the Martian ‘War of the Worlds’ invasion in 1872 and assumes that the alien technology used by the invading forces had been extensively picked apart and adapted for use by humanity culminating in the use of the Air Screw as a means of of power and lift. This is then run up to 1914. From a personal choice I would have preferred to have stuck with the pre dreadnought era but them that is just me!

I am certainly keen to try these out although initially it did present rather a dilemma. I want to build pre dreadnoughts but I also want to tackle similar on a VSF style footing. I am not keen on building two sets of models though - yes, I shall be making some for this - so will stick with the planned pre dreadnoughts in due course, but with a twist.

Lightbulb Moment….

When I get to the pre dreadnoughts I plan to also build some flying bases to go with the models. These bases will consist of the stand itself and an entire lower deck assembly featuring lift/steering vanes and the air screw. The idea is that when I want to take to the skies all I will need to do will be to place the ship model on such a base and Voila! An instant flying battleship!

It is with this in mind that I am accelerating my plans for the design of the bits and pieces I shall need from Warbases to include some sabot lower hull assemblies.

I reckon that is two gaming experiences for the price of one which is pretty damned clever in my book!

Friday 24 June 2022

The Portable Charge! Wargame….Part 2

The above needs little introduction from me! The plan is to use this as the basis for the Portable Charge! Wargame - needless to say I have a few ‘tweaks’ to apply!

The blocks of war. Infantry, cavalry and artillery with the black stripe across the bottom used for grenadier/heavy/elite types whilst the white stripe denotes light troops. For the purposes of the game an regular line infantry unit will have two ordinary blocks and one each of the black and white striped types.

Hmm, not a problem as such but I have discovered that the work needed to bring this battle to the chessboard is going to need rather more effort than anticipated. The blocks, roster sheets and the playing surface based on the map have all been successfully scoped out but the sticking point at the moment concerns the terrain itself. Bearing in mind I am looking at using 6cm squares some of the pieces I originally earmarked are simply too large to be comfortable. With this in mind I am going to spend some time making the requisite pieces so it is now unlikely to take place over the weekend. What I shall be doing though, will be trying out my rule amendments so something Charge related should be appearing….

As well as having unit as well as army based exhaustion levels I am also looking at having musket ranges extended somewhat. My thoughts at present are for a two square range with adjacent squares being close and range two being long. This has a bearing on other relative measurements but for what I want to do the additional work will be not too onerous to factor in. I have yet to map this idea on to the Portable Napoleonic Wargame rules but believe that it should fit in well enough.

Melee will stay largely as it is although I shall be still using the ‘sub unit block as a unit’ idea meaning that, for example, a three block cavalry unit would roll three d6 in combat.

You will probably have guessed that this part of the process is something that I enjoy doing and so should it work out it will lay down a marker for future projects.

That is the theory anyway….

Wednesday 22 June 2022

The Portable Charge! Wargame….Part 1

A soft back facsimile edition of the classic book that cautioned us accordingly ‘Let no man set out lightly upon the war-gamers’s path, for it is fraught with perils’

There can be few wargamers of ‘a certain vintage’ that have not read or owned a copy of Charge! Or How To Play Wargames by Brig. P. Young and Lt.Col. J.P. Lawford. Originally published in 1967 I first came across this book in the early 1970s in the local library and I seem to recall having it out on more or less continual loan until I moved to London in 1977! My own personal copy came much later but I can safely say that this book was and indeed remains, one of the most influential titles in my wargames library. 

It would be tedious of me to regale readers of the perennial appeal of this book - I am pretty sure there would be little for me to add to what is the almost universal high regard and esteem in which it is held - so I am not going to attempt to. Suffice it to say the good Brigadier and Lieutenant Colonel would probably be harrumphing disapprovingly at what I am planning to undertake. In my defence I would say that the plan is very much a ‘doffing of one’s cap’ in respect of their magnificent work.

The map and opening positions for the famous Battle of Sittangbad. 

My plan is a simple one. I am going to refight the Battle of Sittangbad using the block armies and my 8 x 8 chessboard for the playing area. The rules will be derived from the Portable Napoleonic Wargame Divisional level set and all being well I am hoping to tackle this over the coming weekend.

I have fought this action a number of times in the past including a memorable version using early WW1 28mm French and German figures which was enormous fun. I have never fought this using blocks or a grid so in that sense it will be a first although again, I can picture in my mind’s eye the good Brigadier and Lieutenant Colonel harrumphing mightily at this apparent heresy - “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.” Hmm, that ship has sailed methinks….

Opening thoughts on making it so

The first order of business will be to translate the battlefield into an 8 x 8 grid and then think about the required terrain. I will also need some way of identifying the individual units and of course to draw up a roster for recording hits etc. Given that the original rules made use of units formed of companies and squadrons it is actually quite straightforward converting these into blocks based formations.

For example, an infantry regiment from the battle itself consisted of four companies - two centre, one grenadier and one light. In my block based world that very handily converts into a regiment of four individual blocks which coincidentally is a typical strength point total for a unit of foot. Similarly, cavalry had three squadrons and artillery two guns. As you can see then, the usual 4, 3 and 2 strength point system works rather nicely.

I am thinking about using a d6 per subunit for combat purposes - mainly because for me one of the great things about the original rules was using volley fire - a full strength 48 figure line infantry regiment would roll 1d6 per 8 figures so rolling 6d6 for a full regimental volley (especially at close range) was so satisfying - as long as you rolled high enough that is!

The order of battle for the opposing sides looked something like this:

The Imperial Army 

Lanciers de Saxe (light cavalry regiment)

Kornberg’s Cuirassiers (heavy cavalry regiment)

Kleist Frei Corps (light infantry battalion)

Isembourg Regiment (line infantry regiment)

Coy Waldeck Regiment (one company, line infantry)

Pandour Regiment (line infantry regiment)

B. Battery Field Artillery

3rd Engineer Battalion (two companies)

The Electoral Army

1st Uhlan Regiment (light cavalry regiment)

Dragoons of Montmort (heavy cavalry regiment)

Gendarmerie Regiment (heavy cavalry regiment)

The Garde Jaeger (light infantry battalion)

Erbprinz Regiment (line infantry regiment)

Steinzeit Regiment (line infantry regiment)

Electoral Footguards (line infantry regiment)

The Gentlemen Pensioners Regiment (line infantry regiment)

Three batteries of Field Artillery

Engineer Battalion

Some of the units are shown on the map above in their starting positions - the challenge is going to be accommodating them all and the terrain.

Thoughts on the rules

As mentioned I want to experiment with combat at a sub unit level. In practise this would rolling a d6 per block rather than the whole unit. At the moment I am keen to use a roster system for recording hits and perhaps having exhaustion levels per unit and with an overall army level score. I need to think about this further though so if anyone has any ideas let me know!

The Reason Why

This particular battle is a perennial favourite of mine, not only due to the wonderful spectacle it provided (even if the pictures were in black and white) but also the tremendous account of the action that followed. I also hugely enjoyed the whole imagi-nation set up of the thing. Regular readers of the blog will no doubt recall my long abandoned Spencer Smith ACW set up which was organised as per the units in the book. I have often thought about tackling an imagi-nation set up based around the third quarter of the 18th century (along with many others!) using Spencer Smiths but to be honest it is not something I will be attempting anytime soon. Who knows? Perhaps it would make a great retirement project.

This is a little distraction from the ACW naval set up to be sure but it is a welcome one. The ACW rules are very close to having what I hope will be the final draft ready and of course, the remaining ships are STILL on the modelling table….

Monday 20 June 2022

Historical Battles and the Portable Wargame

Missing a couple - Pike and Shot is currently in the man cave and my copy of the compendium is en route! I included Gridded Naval Wargames as this sits firmly in the ‘Portable Wargame’ school in my opinion!

First of all a belated Happy Father’s Day to all the Fathers out there! I am delighted to say that I was thoroughly spoilt by the children (aged 33 and 26 respectively) and the resulting retail therapy will feature just as soon as the large South American river disgorges its goodies for me!

My post about Waterloo to mark the anniversary has taken me somewhat rather by surprise in that it has really gotten the creative juices flowing again! I rather enjoyed the chessboard based lash up that I undertook a couple of years ago - it was great fun to do although as mentioned the figures (28mm) were too large for the squares (6cm) and the rules used were not the Portable Wargame - they were a straight conversion from Jay Ward’s excellent ‘Waterloo A La Carte’ game (which now adds a Quatre Bras version) - I always intended to revisit this with my block armies, the Portable Napoleonic Wargame and some rather more effective looking terrain but was then somewhat distracted - and continue to be so - by ACW ironclads and the like.

The comments section of the Waterloo post has prompted me to think about the whole chessboard Portable Wargame idea once again and so I thought I would share some of my thoughts about where this might be heading.

Old friends looking to make a triumphant return to the wargaming stage!


There is absolutely no doubt that the whole Portable Wargame phenomena is a hugely versatile system to game with. Whichever way you slice or dice it with house rules, scenario specific rules, tweaked changes, variants of every imaginable hue or whatever else takes one’s fancy the core system is nigh on unbreakable. Of all the game I have fought using the system myself I can count on one hand minus four fingers and a thumb the number of occasions where I have used them as written. Invariably I always add something or other by way of a degree of personalisation. To be honest I think most wargamers are inveterate tinkerers - either secretly or otherwise - and I am no exception to the rule! It is this inbuilt potential for versatility that I believe that makes it such a popular system.

Portable Wargame units can represent formations of every size from platoons upwards and, rather like the hugely successful Command and Colours series of boardgames, with little apparent loss of the overall flavour within the context of the scale of action being fought.

I have used the system for platoon level WW2 games and for corps level actions generally with a similar number of units on the table - typically from half a dozen upwards a side. The key thing is that a unit can be whatever it needs to be - and this is why I tend to be rather more comfortable using blocks rather than figures!

The Personal Portable Wargame

Try as I might I find it very difficult focussing on a single period of military history! I can get inspired by any number of things - a new book, a film or TV series or even a visit somewhere - all of which is a lot of fun but can be ruinously detrimental to any kind of ongoing project! The block armies have been a real boon in this sense in that I have been able to use them for a variety of periods up and down the timescale from the Seven Years War onwards (don’t worry, pre-gunpowder games will be featuring at some point!). To date I have mainly used them for ‘based upon’ style games and whilst these have been enormously enjoyable I am conscious that I have, in a sense, missed a trick. 

Revisiting the Waterloo game reminded me of a Russo Turkish War game I fought some years ago using a hex based version of the ‘Big Battle’ Portable Wargame rules - Breaking the Camel’s Neck with Part 2    And Part 3 - which was something I researched and turned into a game and throughly enjoyed the experience doing so. When I fought the Waterloo game I was using the excellent order of battle and map designed by Jay Ward straight off the bat so to speak (apart from cramming his hex based map into a an 8 x 8 square grid) and whilst I really enjoyed the experience it was a little bit of a cheat on my part. When I tackle Waterloo again I will ‘map and orbat’ it myself. The Russo Turkish game was a very different beast altogether as I read about the campaign and battle, mapped the terrain onto a 13 by 9 Hexon table and then translated the order of battle into the units I would be using. I really enjoyed the whole process from start to finish and promised myself that I would do more of the same but instead drifted along churning out a seemingly inexhaustible stream of games that seemed to lack any kind of context despite usually being great fun.

In a nutshell I want to refight historical battles using an 8 x 8 game board, my block armies and the Portable Wargame system.

The Plan - and yes, there is one…sort of…

I have in my mind an idea of how I want to approach this. To begin with I will choose a particular campaign or battle and, for want of a better expression, ‘pick it apart’. This will mean translating the terrain into an 8 x 8 grid - obviously ensuring that key features are properly represented and contextualised  in the rules - and then looking long and hard at the order of battle. Both of these parts of the process are great fun and are worth spending some time and care over. When drawing up the game order of battle this is the opportunity to grade units according to their historical performance in respect of morale, strength and equipment etc. The same would apply to the grading of the relevant commanders. Finally, consideration should be given to the principal events of the day and where and when these happened. 

I should perhaps point out that my idea of refighting a historical battle is NOT to slavishly follow each step as it happened - I prefer to have the starting set up and forces mirrored with due consideration for ‘what happened and when’ factored in - as that falls very much into Einstein’s ‘quote’ about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome (he never actually said that but you get my drift!). The challenge will be for the player stepping into the shoes of whoever is being represented and attempting to change the outcome.

We are fortunate that military history has a very rich and varied palette for us to experiment with and so I will certainly not be short of raw material to choose from. In many ways this is the what the block armies were designed for - to be able to field opposing forces for use on a table top without requiring vast amounts of figures (although to be fair a typical Portable Wargame does not use many figures anyway - even less if you are using a 3 x 3 variant!). 

So what does this all mean then?

Fighting historical battles is by no means the be all and end all of what I want to game. It will be a side hustle in many ways but one that I want to explore using the Portable Wargame. Figures and models will still feature in my gaming, as will battles and nations of my own design, so I am not pursuing some zen like state of solely using history as ‘the way’. It is just a bit of fun but on more rather more formal footing - meaning that I shall be putting rather more work into setting up a battle than just throwing blocks and terrain on the table with the vaguest of context.

In many ways Waterloo A La Carte reminded me of what I had been missing - taking a historical battle and turning it into a challenging game - as all the essential spadework had been done for me. By using the potential of the Portable Wargame system I hope to be able to tackle battles through the ages that are recognisable as such in a compact 8 x 8 format. Why bother? I hear you say. Well, for sure you could take the scenario books from any of the Command and Colours series and a big chunk of the work has already been done for you. The map, the forces and victory conditions, together with any special rules is all there and ready to use. For me the challenge will be doing it my way - not because of feeling in anyway superior but because for me setting this kind of stuff up is half the fun.

Just like Breaking the Camel’s Neck….(not literally, before you ask!)


Saturday 18 June 2022

Summer, The Last Time….Random Waterloo Thoughts

1815 section of my library. Small but perfectly formed for my purposes.

“It was a hot afternoon, the 18th of June, and the ridge was a demon….” (Diddle, diddle, diddle ding….(that is the thinking piano part))

“The Allies threw shade, at the Frenchmen’s parade,

And their bayonets gleaming.”

Trying to pen a poem about the Battle of Waterloo to rhyme with Bobby Goldsboro’s 1970s hit Summer, the first time, has been a mildly amusing and whimsical experience but try as I might it did not seem to work out and besides, it is currently far too hot for that kind of effort! I only got as far as “I told Marshall Ney, that the farm of La Haye, was a part of my thinking…”

Seriously though, the anniversary of arguably one of the greatest battles in history never fails to draw me back to Napoleonics and misty-eyed memories of painting hordes of Airfix plastics ‘back in the day’. For me it was all formative and inspiring stuff and even now, old and world-weary cynic that I am, I can still feel a thrill thumbing through the pages of any one of the books you see above.

A couple of years ago I refought the battle using Del Prado Relive Waterloo figures (now no longer part of the collection) using a square based version of ‘Waterloo A La Carte’ available from the Numbers, Wargames and Arsing About blog written by the legend that is Jay ‘Old Trousers’ Ward. It was a great game to fight and worked out rather well - it was spread over four blog posts - and I would certainly revisit it at some point but this time using the block armies. As a reminder the initial set up looked like this:

Blimey! It almost looked like a sensible wargame - whatever next?

My cheap and cheerful handmade chessboard that formed the basis of the battlefield acquired at a boot sale some years ago for a ridiculously cheap price (£2 if I remember correctly). The squares are 6cm and the 8 x 8 grid is perfect for Portable Wargames. 

‘Old Trousers’ original hex based map - there is now available a similar version covering Quatre Bras which I will be casting an eye over at some point.

I have often mentioned of my fondness for the Battle of Waterloo and the significant role it has played in my wargaming journey. In many ways the campaign of 1815 contained in a microcosm all the elements of over twenty years of war - glamorous uniforms, the massed cavalry charges, columns attacking lines, grand batteries of artillery and clouds of skirmishers scurrying hither and thither. There were moments of great gallantry and of sheer panic and rout and above all the ebb and flow of generalship. I remember reading somewhere the campaign being likened to a Greek Tragedy with its extremes of fortune on either side - I can’t comment on that as my knowledge of Greek Tragedies is rather limited - the benefit of a non classical education I suppose (he says, tongue firmly in cheek) - but the few days of the campaign certainly pack a lot in.

Thumbing through my 1815 library has been a real pleasure in a nostalgic kind of way - I certainly have some very pleasant Napoleonic memories to enjoy - and needless to say it has triggered a few ideas, nothing fancy or far reaching, just something for a change.

I shall make a point of watching Waterloo again - for the record I had not planned to but hey, ho - and will doubtless reach for my copy of Bob Cordery’s Portable Napoleonic Wargame for further inspiration and who knows? I may even do something with it!

Monday 13 June 2022

The Return of an Old Friend

Jane’s 05-06 edition - including some details around the Russo-Japanese War as well rules for F.T. Jane’s Naval Wargame. In very good condition and a mere £10.

The last week has not really gone how I expected it to - not necessarily in a bad way, just different! I was looking forward to fighting a game this weekend but it never happened although the alternative is potentially rather handy - more of which later.

Laurel continues to improve albeit slowly. Her physio came to the house for another initial assessment - this is the fifth physio she has seen -  and he was  hugely encouraged by what she is able to do - Laurel is anything but impressed at this stage though and frustration is her constant companion. She is now just waiting on a further enhanced MRI scan which will hopefully highlight what is happening where and when. As ever, small steps are the way.

Dropping through the letterbox today with a resounding thud is the title you see above. I have no words to describe how pleased I am to get this and so expect a whole raft of pre dreadnought ideas to flying out into the ether as a result! Of course the great thing about this edition, apart from the wonderful amount of detail, is the inclusion of some information about the Russo Japanese War as well revised rules for F.T. Jane’s Naval Wargame. I am really going to enjoy revisiting this old and dear friend!

In other news I have had an interview for another position within the company I am working for. This is officially a fully remote role rather than the one I am currently in with the ongoing 3 month reviews as to whether it not I need to be in the office. I will know by the end of the week if I am successful but the key thing is that I get it the I will not have to worry about being needed in town which is of course essential at present.

I will naturally post as soon as I know what is happening but in the meantime I shall be thinking about ships and how to build them….

Thursday 9 June 2022

For the Honour of Turkiye.…The Sea of Marmara, March 1878….Game Number 73….Part 2

Given that the Royal Navy had originally sailed into the Sea of Marmara without Turkish permission and at readiness for action it should have been no surprise that steps would be taken once diplomatic protestations had been ignored. In truth though the Turks would have been unable to match the full weight of the Mediterranean squadron but an isolated ship was fair game and it would certainly prove that the ‘sick man of Europe’ still had some fight left in him. Captain Bellend of H.M.S. Superb was determined that not only was his ship going to rejoin the squadron in good order but also that he would teach these upstart Turks a lesson in seamanship they would not forget in a hurry!

Notes on the rules

After recent testing and further careful consideration I have reverted to my original system for firing whereby ships roll to hit with the number of d6 determined by their gun factor and then roll d6s for damage based on the hits scored. Penetration and Armour factors are applied to the damage roll as modifiers. I have opted to do this as the ‘pace’ of the action feels better. There is still the chance of scoring an significant amount of damage in a single salvo but this is further along the ‘cruel vicissitude of fate’ scale or that of Dame Fortune being a fickle mistress….(and there is nothing worse than a fickle mistress, apparently….).

The opening positions. As the Turks had the initiative for the first turn they opted to allow the British to move first. The three Turkish vessels are now about to enter the playing area. 

Turn 1. There was no firing during the first turn - the single round from one of the 20 pdr BLRs was as much a warning shot as anything - so after H.M.S. Superb entered the playing area so she was beset on all sides by Turkish ironclads. Her guns were ready but whom should she engage first?

End of Turn 1. At the top of the picture the Turkish flagship prepares to cross the bows of the British ship as does the Feth-i-Bulend. Meanwhile, the Mukadeeme-i-Hayir follows but somewhat tardily and so prepares to face the full broadside of the British warship!

Turn 2. H.M.S. Superb wastes little time in engaging the nearest Turkish ship - the Mukadeeme-i-Hayir with a full broadside. The British guns are rated at 4/4 so 4d6 are rolled to hit and requiring a 4, 5 or 6 to do so at a range of one square. There are no other modifiers. The rolls are a 2, a pair of 4s and a 5 meaning that there are three damage rolls to be made. The British guns gain an overall plus 1 to the three damage rolls as their penetration factor of 4 is partially offset by the Turkish armour rated at 3. The dice rolls are truly miserable 1 and a pair of 2s! Captain Bellend was heard to mutter something along the lines of “There is something wrong with our bloody guns today!”

Both the Turkish flagship and the Feth-i-Bulend fired, each with identical chances to hit as they both have guns rated at 3/4. The flagship fires first and scores a 3, a 4 and a 5 meaning three damage rolls. These were made at a net minus 1 as the Turkish penetration factor of 4 is offset by the British armour of 5. The dice come up with a 5, a 4 and a 2 adjusted down to 4, 3 and 1 meaning that a single point of damage has been scored against the British ship for the adjusted roll of 4. First blood to Ali Shuar! The Feth-i-Bulend rolls a pair of 1s and a 3 and so fails to register a hit

For initiative the Turks rolled a 4 whilst the British rolled a 6. Captain Bellend allowed the Turks to move first.

End of Turn 2. Whatever his shortcomings as an individual Captain Bellend was no fool and even he could see that the Turks were looking to engage in succession. He immediately ordered the helm hard over to starboard and so the great ship heeled alarmingly as it moved away from the Turkish ships. The respite was temporary as the Feth-i-Bulend, followed by her sister, headed straight for the British ship. Ali Shuar’s flagship was suddenly found herself badly placed following the unexpected manouevere of the British ship with her stern facing the enemy warship. Luckily for Ali Shuar the Muin-i-Zafer was heading away from H.M.S. Superb who was in turn about to be engaged by the rest of the squadron.

Turn 3.  H.M.S. Superb immediately opened fire against the fast approaching Feth-i-Bulend. Due to the angle of approach of the Turkish ship the British warship was able to engage using her aft battery and half a broadside making four d6 rolls to hit at a range of 1 meaning 4, 5 or 6 was needed. A 2, a 4 and a pair of 6s! The two 6s generated a further pair of rolls coming up with a 5 and a 1. In total there were four damage rolls to make at a net modifier of plus 1. A 1, 2 5s and a 6 were rolled making adjusted scores of 3, a pair of 6s and a 7. The 1 was discounted and the natural 6 meant a further roll which came up as a 5 adjusted to 6. This meant that the three scores of 6 and the 7 equated to 4 points of damage - 1 more than her Hull Factor and so a Critical Hit roll was made scoring a 6 - She was on fire! Sadly for the Turks no ship had the British ironclad within a usable firing arc.

For initiative the Turks rolled a 3 and the British a 2. The Turks allowed the British to move.

End of Turn 3. After seeing the effect of the storm of fire unleashed upon the hapless Feth-i-Bulend Captain Bellend immediately looked to engage the next Turkish ship - the Mukademme-i-Hayir. Unfortunately, in his current frenzy of bellicosity, Bellend neglected to to take into account the damaged but still operational Feth-i-Bulend crossing the stern of the British ship. Meanwhile the Turkish flagship continued its turn as hard as she was able to.

Turn 4. The blazing Feth-i-Bulend failed in her attempt to douse the flames but so far the fire remained under control. H.M.S. Superb opened fire with every gun that could bear on her port side - the full broadside supported by the forward and aft batteries - 6 d6 in total. A pair of 1s, a 5 and 3 glorious 6s! The additional rolls came up with 1, a 2 and a 6 which in turn rolled a 3. Five potential damaging hits, all at a net of plus 1. The dice were truly abysmal - 3 1s, a 2 and a 5 meaning a single point of damage was scored against the Mukademme-i-Hayir. She returned fire. A pair of 6s and 1. The additional rolls came up with a 4 and 5 meaning that there were four potential damage rolls all at minus 1. A 1, a 4, a 5 and 6 meaning that only the 5 and 6 counted and were adjusted down to 4 and 5. The extra roll was a further 6 and then yet another 6! It could not last and so a 1 promptly appeared but even so, 4points of damage were scored against the British ship. The Turks were not finished yet as the Feth-i-Bulend opened fire. Despite her recent battering she was still game albeit at reduced effect due to the fire. She was able to score a single point of damage against the British ship.

For initiative the Turks rolled a 5 and the British a 6. The British allowed the Turks to move first.

End of Turn 4. The burning (note the red counter with a white Mastermind peg being pressed into service as a fire marker) Feth-i-Bulend attempts to breakaway from the British ship but Captain Bellend has other ideas on the matter and immediately (and some might say recklessly) puts the helm hard over to attempt to pursue the burning Turkish ship. His turn took him bow on to the second Turkish ship and so the crew braced themselves for the battering they would surely receive. Ali Shuar, his turn complete, was now well placed to engage his opposite number - the reckoning was due!

Turn 5. At last the fire on the Feth-i-Bulend was extinguished and she made ready to reenter the fray. H.M.S. Superb immediately raked her stern but to little effect with only two potential hits being scored from six d6 - 2 1s, a 2, a 3, a 4 and a 5 scored. Her damage rolls at overall plus 1 were a 2 and 5 meaning the adjusted 3 and 6 yielded but a single point of damage. The Mukademme-i-Hayir rolled her three d6 and scored a 1 and a pair of 6s. The two 6s threw up a 6 and a 5 and then a 2 so there were four potential hits to roll for, all at a net minus 1. Two 6s, a 3 and a 2 meaning two extra rolls - a pair of 6s! - this run of good fortune then ended with a 3 and 2 but nevertheless, four points of damage were inflicted on the British ship.

For initiative the Turks rolled a 4 and the British a 2. The Turks allowed the British to move first.

End of Turn 5. Captain Bellend knew his ship had been sorely tested. The shattering and accurate salvoes of fire from the second Turkish ship had caused widespread damage but fortunately his engines were still functioning. Gambling that the Turks would not pursue - an easy assumption to make given that two of the three enemy ships were facing in the opposite direction - he reluctantly ordered the ship to break off the action at best speed. The collective sighs of relief from his crew went unheard as Captain Bellend went below to compose his after action report. He had been surprised by three Turkish ironclads but had seen them off in a short but vicious action in which he was able to severely damage one enemy ship and damage a further.  It would certainly look good in the morning newspapers and not upset any civilians at their breakfast. Hmmm, he pondered - perhaps there may even be a knighthood in the offing for his part in this gallant little affair.

Ali Shuar watched the hastily departing British ship recede into the distance with a degree of disappointment. His mind was teeming with ‘what ifs?’ He knew he had come very close to scoring a major victory over the British ship with his three much smaller vessels. It was a close run thing and it was only the seemingly foolhardy nature of the British Captain that had unhinged his plan - the violent manoeuvring of the enemy warship, largely towards his own ships rather than the more obvious route away and to safety - and that was something he had not considered. He would have even more disappointed had he known that the British Captain was handling his ship without any plan other than to engage the nearest enemy, whatever the cost! Of his three ships the Feth-i-Bulend had been roughly handled but had still done her part whilst her sister, the Mukademme-i-Hayir had been but lightly damaged. Her crew were now convinced that she was a lucky ship. His own flagship was unscathed. For now though, thoughts of repairs loomed large in Ali Shuars’s mind - that and the reaction of the Sultan when he heard of the affair.

No prizes for guessing what this brisk little action was based upon! Captain Bellend’s unshakeable faith in British naval supremacy, regardless of the quantity or quality of the opposition, certainly seemed to be borne out as H.M.S. Superb engaged whatever was nearest and at every opportunity. Brave? Certainly. Lucky? Damnably so, especially as his ship was in very real danger of being sunk from under him when he broke off the action. Arguably the correct course of action would have been for H.M.S. Superb to have ‘got the hell out of Dodge’ as soon as she had recovered from the initial surprise - she was certainly in the position to do as her first turn away (turn 2) had surprised her attackers. However, Captain Bellends thirst for glory had far outweighed any tactical considerations as he threw his ship, some would argue needlessly, into the fray.

Ali Shuar’s plan worked up to a point - the initial approach and suprise of the British ship was masterfully executed - although only managing to engage the British ship with two of his three ships was less than ideal. In truth he had not considered the the option of the British ship turning in to engage his force - if placed in a similar situation he would have certainly disengaged as there was little point in pushing an apparently hopeless tactical situation merely for the sake of glory. As his small squadron retired Ali Shuar concluded that he was both fortunate and unfortunate at the outcome but overall his ships had acquitted themselves well under the circumstances. He made a mental note though, to expect the unexpected when engaging an enemy!

Thoughts on the Rules

Everything held up well with only one very minor amendment required. I am thinking that I have pretty much gone as far as I can go in terms of the overall system and so all that now remains is for me to look at diagonal firing arcs and to formalise some 3 x 3 mechanics around reserve areas - or manoeuvring zones as I prefer to call them. I want to run a full sized game using a larger playing area and so will look to get the 6ft by 4ft table out at some point but for now some further editing of the final draft is  needed and then it is back to the testing team - hopefully for the final time.

Oh and I STILL need to build the remaining ACW ships….

All good fun though!

Tuesday 7 June 2022

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

A selection of ships from along the river - no introductions necessary!

Work on the ironclad rules is fast approaching the climax. I am currently scribing what I hope will be the final draft that will shortly be pinged over to my trusty testing team to be picked apart. Their help has been invaluable and they have certainly earned my grateful appreciation for sure!

It may seem like a late ‘U-turn’ at this stage but I have reverted to my original firing system - whereby the firing ship rolls first to hit and then rolls for damage - as opposed to the various methods I have been trialling. The cost of some additional complexity in the process is minimal and of course it still has the all important ‘dice rolling fun factor’. The most important thing though, is that the relationship between the number of d6 being rolled and the specification of the actual ship being represented is much closer. In my experience this is an important consideration as naval wargamers are at their happiest when they can get a feel for the ships they are commanding - and I am no exception!

The firing arcs have been simplified from the original version which has had an impact on the ship specifications in terms of what guns can fire from what arc. My early efforts were too complex to be easily transposed onto a ship placed in single square grid area so they needed some work. The end result is abstract but not uncomfortably so.

Pretty much everything else is good to go - there may be the odd tweak here and there but nothing major (at least I don’t think so!). I am sure there will be gaming related adjustments over time and of course there are bound to be numerous situations I have not allowed for but it would be impossible to cover every eventuality in a simple set of rules. It has been a long road to get to this point but I have been delighted to travel along it!

However, there is the rather pressing matter of what fate will befall Captain Archibald Bellend of H.M.S. Superb so….

….Meanwhile, somewhere in the Sea of Marmara….

To be continued….

Sunday 5 June 2022

Broadside, Bargains and….Octagons?

The Haul. The rules courtesy of Mr Fox (many thanks old chap, much appreciated), Star Wars Rebellion courtesy of Raymondo and the three books from Dave Lanchester

 Yesterday saw yours truly heading south into Kent (always a pleasure) to the wilds of Gillingham for Broadside, the show organised by the Milton Hundreds Wargames club. As both my son and daughter were at home for the day it meant that I could go out without worries which was a welcome treat.

I arrived at around 10:30 and immediately made my way to David Lanchester’s military book stall to say hello to him and his wide, Lynne. As is normal for me I has volunteered to help him clear away at the end of the day and also to transact some book related business. In a nutshell a lot more went his way than mine! 

On the subject of transactions I has a small matter to attend to with the legend that is Ray Rousell - this was a long planned arrangement and successfully concluded on the day.

It was curious show in many ways - the trade was around the outside of the hall, the games formed an inner ring and the centre was dominated by the flea market. There was some really attractive games to see and as is usual I managed to get a few pictures as follows.

Postie’s Rejects with their Beau Hunks game (organised by Big Lee) that won best of show. A lovely looking game using Blue Moon Foreign Legion figures and scratch built terrain. The rules were The Men Who Would be Kings but there was sub game involving Laurel and Hardy as well.

Big Lee overseeing the proceedings - and there was cake, lots of cake….

Maidstone put on a Star Wars skirmish featuring this quite magnificent scratch built Jawa Sandcrawler

SEEMS took to the skies over southern England in 1940 with this Angels 20 derived Battle of Britain game overseen by Neil Fox (who very kindly donated a copy of the Devil at the Helm ironclad rules mentioned in a previous post.

More of the same but this time with the channel featuring!

Skirmish Wargames with a 28mm Mexican Revolution game

The three books I acquired are very much gap fillers in my collection. The Samurai title is in support of my self contained Command and Colours: Samurai Battles game - self contained in that the likelihood of me ever painting figures for it ranges from slim to nonexistent. The same applies to the British Army in India title - I have a fondness for the Seven Years War in India and America - in that whilst I would love to game both (I have gamed the French and Indian using my block armies) the likelihood of me painting figures for either is remote. The final title about the Mongols is something I would rather fancy painting up for Lion Rampant or similar at some point but it is a while away yet.

Star Wars Rebellion needs little introduction. The original trilogy of films is the backdrop for this strategic campaign game featuring all the usual suspects - Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie, Lando, the Emperor and of course the big bad Darth Vader himself. There are a lot of miniatures in the game from two versions of the Death Star - one built and one being built - down to Imperial stormtroopers and many of these would be quite usable in there own right.

Devil at the helm I have mentioned previously and once again my thanks to Mr Fox for his generosity.


An Octagonal battlefield

One of the stands I visited featured a new boardgame that will be coming to kickstarter in August. The game is called Iron Thunder by Chiswick games and the subject matter is an abstract WW2 themed semi strategic level offering. It looked intriguing but what really caught my eye was that the board uses octagons for movement.

The designer looking very pleased with himself - as well he should as the game looks a lot of fun!

A close up of the Octagons in use (with apologies for the light flare)

I was then hit by a lightbulb moment. 

It is no secret that I have been really struggling to get firing arcs and diagonal measuring sorted out for my ironclad rules. The problem with the former was that you needed both orthogonal and diagonal arcs. With the latter it was avoiding the lateral distortion when moving/measuring diagonally against orthogonally. Well, and this is where my thoughts are now, why not use an octagonal grid? For sure it would mean some challenges marking out a playing surface but nothing that a little care could not solve.

What about the squares in the gaps? I hear you say. Simple, and this is the best bit of all. By allowing the corner squares to only be used for diagonal movement a ship would simply enter it at a cost of one movement point. Firing arcs off of this square would be the same as normal as the arcs would be drawn based on squares. It sounds more complex than it is in reality but I reckon it would work well for what I want.

First order of business then will be to organise a playing surface with Octagons and the I will need to change certain elements of the rules.

In closing

It was a great day out and despite the size of the haul I barely spent anything - which made it even better! (Yes I know the items I exchanged had to have been purchased originally so technically it was not a cheap day out!)

Once again my congratulations to the Rejects and thanks to Mr Fox, Raymondo and David Lanchester - and I hope that Mr Lanchester has changed the wheel on his trolley!