Monday, September 1, 2014

End of Year Review

And so, with the arrival of September, we reach the end of another wargaming year.  My painting diary for the year from September 2013 shows that I've reduced the size of the lead pile in all but one category:

  • Buildings and terrain - 91 items completed, 55 new ones acquired
  • 6mm scale vehicles - 1 painted, none added
  • 6mm scale infantry, artillery and cavalry units - 21 completed, 4 acquired
  • 20mm scale figures - 53 finished, 28 added to the pile
  • 20mm scale guns / vehicles - 11 done, 4 more acquired
  • 20mm scale aircraft - 2 finished, 2 more acquired
  • 20mm vessels - one completed , none bought, and
  • 28mm figures - 55 completed, 54 bought.

The focus has been quite different last previous year when the emphasis was on 20mm models, and the year before, when my 6mm lead pile was being finished off.  This time the attractions of Pulp Alley and Song of Blades and Heroes have pushed me to complete far more 28mm figures than I would otherwise have painted.

This year I also set myself some targets:

  • Organise Crisis Point III - DONE
  • Play at least one 18th century 6mm scale game - DONE (though at the start of the year I thought I'd be using Black Powder or 18thC POW rather than Maurice)
  • Play a big game of Sixth Fleet - not done yet
  • Finish the Advance to Bleid campaign from Rommel's Route to Verdun - nope; still got to finish painting enough WW1 German and French infantry
  • Play some more pulp - DONE (though Pulp Alley has replaced .45 Adventure)
  • Get my WW2 Germans and French based for Blitzkrieg Commander - not done but I've made pretty good progress (and decided I have too many of some models).
All in all I'm pretty pleased with the progress made.  Several bits of the collection that were incoherent mixes of figures are now properly constituted armies (or leagues, or warbands). 


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bavaria 1964

Having a few days off work, I decided it would be fun to play a small, solo game of Cold War Commander.  Somewhat to my surprise, it's over a year since I last played.

I settled on a 1964 timescale in which Kruschchev has launched a surprise attack into West Germany as an attempt to recover international prestige and Politburo support lost during the previous year's Cuban Missile Crisis

For this purpose I cobbled together a couple of 1000 point forces, American and Soviet.  The Americans had a CO, six M48A1 tanks, three infantry (with M20 Bazookas) and three M113s.  The Soviets had four T-62s, three infantry (with RPG-7s) in BTR-60P, and a battalion of three 122mm howitzer batteries in support.

The table was small (the top of my map chest) and cluttered with woods and hills.


The scenario was the standard CWC "Encirclement" in which one side (in this case the Yanks) tries to escape up the length of the table (from the near edge in the above pic) whilst the other side moves in from either or both flanks to cut them off.

In terms of the above picture the BTR-60s moved to occupy the last (small, green) hill crossed by the road before it leaves the board (far end) whilst the tanks and the artillery's FAO were to come on from the right hand side.

I put one of the two M48 companies onto the biggest hill as an over-watching force to shoot at any Russkies who showed up (not that this would be easy given the wooded terrain).


The remaining Americans were to make a dash down the road, relying on the fact that the distance-from-the-command-unit modifier to command rolls doesn't apply if your whole move is along a road.



The game was fun with a couple of command bonuses (one each) and a couple of blunders.  Both of the blunders were by the Soviet FAO.  The 122s never managed to fire at the Americans but they did destroy one of their own infantry platoons (the perils of open-topped APCs) before losing two thirds of their own strength to enemy counter-battery fire!

The T-62s didn't arrive until game turn 4 thanks to lousy die rolling.  However, they did then manage to overrun the American CO!

In the end (after 6 turns) I called it a day as I had to make dinner.  I called it a marginal American victory as they got a tank and two loaded M113s off the board but lost 25% casualties in doing so.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quick, let's play Pulp Alley!

Saturday saw what Reggie's brother-in-law from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin would have called "A bit of a cock-up on the communications front" when my feeble attempts not to play a Saturday Afternoon WargameTM to allow time for shopping and the watching of the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final, failed miserably.

Faced with four players (self, Jamie, Andy and Richard) I dragged out the Pulp Alley rules and we played a hasty four-player game.   We may not have had the most considered and logical plot justification but we did demonstrate Pulp Alley's ability to give an enjoyable game with virtually no preparation.

I have pre-prepared sheets for all of my Pulp Alley leagues in the ring-binder that contains my copy of the rules.  Jamie chose to play the Atlantean Guards whilst Andy took on the Pirates of Pan Tang.  Richard played the 1920s version of UNIT and I took on the role of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I think I can carry it off).


We played the simplest "Smash and Grab" scenario on a board depicting a ruined Atlantean city.  The cyclopean walls gave plenty of opportunities to position Plot Points and characters in precarious positions.  As I found to my cost when Willow was gunned down by UNIT troops on turn one!


Jamie found the Atlantean Guards hard to play.  Just as when I'd tried them out, they lost Guardsmen (rated as Followers) at an alarming rate.  However, their leader, Polemarchos did manage to take on Buffy in an attempt to challenge for the secret of the giant bronze cup.  Here Buffy holds him off whilst Giles studies his books.


Andy took an early lead, picking up a couple of plot points, one of which was the treasure hidden beneath the mysterious scarab statue, which happened to be the Major Plot Point for the scenario.

Andy dons the I-have-the-inititive hat
This gave Andy a 4:1:1:1 lead, which meant everyone, not least his own son, was incentivised to gang up on him.  UNIT bullets proved most effective against tigers and Pantangian armour did little to protect its wearers.


By the end of the game, Lt Lethbridge-Stewart had seized the treasure of the scarab from the Pantangians.  Xander Harris had just failed to prevent an Atlantean guard lugging away a mysterious, chained coffin but Rupert Giles did at least have the secret of the bronze cup.

We ended with Richard the clear winner.  He had the major plot point and everyone had one minor one each.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Zheltarus - a possible imagi-nation

I decided to have a go at writing a bit of background fluff for a possible "imagi-nation" campaign using my Great Northern War period Russians and Turks with the Maurice rules.


Zheltarus was one of the smaller Grand Duchies that cluttered the map of eighteenth century eastern Europe.  Its thin, rocky soil produced little (mostly turnips) for the merchants of neighbouring empires and kingdoms to covet.  Likewise the Grand Ducal family’s crop of princesses (who tended to the porcine) rarely excited the marriage market of the Balkan courts.

That said, the Grand Duchy was at least reasonably peaceful, being halfway between nowhere in particular and nowhere else. Campaigning foreign armies rarely found the need to struggle up its rock-strewn hillsides or to cross its rickety bridges.

All this changed, however, with the arrival of Murad the Vicious. This notional vassal of the Ottoman Sultan intrigued and murdered his way to power in nearby Yesilkara.  Having settled himself on the Emir’s gilded divan, he turned his rapacious gaze upon the weakest of his neighbours.

The Grand Duke at this time was Mikhail III.  His predecessor, also a Mikhail, had been renowned as an intellectual who owned several books and was known to have read at least one of them.  He had also introduced the staircase to Zheltarus.

The third Mikhail continued his father’s modernising by turning his attention to the army, reorganising the traditional, politically troublesome, district militia into infantry regiments in the Western European style.  By 1715 bayonets and tricorn hats had largely replaced berdische axes and fur-lined caps as the infantry embraced modern, linear tactics.

The cavalry was more of a challenge with much of the senior arm being made up of tribal horse recruited under ancient treaty from the Cossacks of the Slavitsa basin.  Nevertheless Mikhail did manage to create a handful of regiments of native Zheltarussian dragoons.

The Grand Duke’s particular pride, though, was the artillery.  Employing foreign specialists he built up an impressive arsenal.  He also created what may have been Eastern Europe’s first modern artillery train. Unlike the wagon masters of the earlier Zimbielo dynasty, these professionals were expected to move their guns even on saints’ days and could generally be relied upon to remain in the same district as them after battle had been joined.

If I decide to go with this I'll have to come back later to cover Yesilkara.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Slaughter of the Turks

Jamie and I had a first proper go at playing Maurice the other day (after my solo attempt).

We stuck to small forces, all made up of Regular, Trained troops and we used no advanced rules, National Advantages or Notables.   Jamie played an Ottoman Turkish force (4 cavalry, 3 infantry and 2 guns) and ended up as attacker at which point he took an additional unit of cavalry as mercenaries.

The Ottoman army lines up for battle

On the Ottoman left, the heavy guns await the order to open fire

I had Russians (4 infantry, 3 cavalry, 2 guns) and managed to defend with my right flank anchored on a wood and my cavalry deployed on my left.  Jamie matched this deployment.

In the early turns Jamie marched forward his cavalry whilst I bombarded with my guns.
Ottoman cavalry advances
The Russian artillery ones fire!
At this point the smoke of battle got into this reporter's eyes.  I couldn't quite see why but for some reason, the Ottoman right-wing advance became disjointed.  Only two of the cavalry units approach close to their Russian counterparts who, in massed formation counter-carged and wiped out the enemy mercenary horse!

The hole in front of the green and blue dragoons is where the
Ottoman mercenary horse used to be.

Meanwhile the Russian centre stood impassive under the nervous gaze of their Commander in Chief.


Whilst the Ottoman infantry seemed reluctant to intervene.


On the open flank the cavalry melee continued, though, with the second unit of Ottoman cavalry handled even more roughly than the first! Doubled in combat score is often enough to rout an enemy. In this case I out scored him by 12 to 1.  Twice!


To be fair to Jamie, he'd never played either the rules or the period before so he was at something of a disadvantage. Having seen the way the wind was blowing he ordered forward his infantry centre.  I continued to bombard his advancing troops, "Passing" from time to time to build up my hand of Action Cards.

As the cavalry melee continued to develop...

The Russian artillery fire canister into the ranks of the Turkish Sipahis.
The infantry in the centre clashed.....

Two lines of Russians (nearest camera) prepare to exchange fire
with the Turks.
Finally, with another two Sipahi units lost in the grand cavalry melee and a unit of Janissaries lost in the firefight, the Turks' morale broke and they fled the field.  The only Russian loss came when Jamie played a Death of a Hero event card that would cost me one or two points of Army Morale depending on what Jamie rolled on a die.  It was typical of Jamie's luck throughout the game that I lost only one point!


Overall I have to say I really enjoyed Maurice.  The only thing stopping me from adopting it as my 18th century game of choice to the exclusion of all others is that it is definitely a one-player-a-side game.  For me wargaming is at its best when I can have a bunch of mates round and host a multi-player game.  As such Black Powder and 18th Century Principles of War are still in with a shout but I don't think Polemos has a chance. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

New 6mm Horse and Musket Units

The units here have previous appeared on their 60x30mm bases for Polemos: GNW but I've given up on those rules; they're too complicated and require far too much effort to build a sufficiently large army.  Now I've added 30x30mm extensions to turn them into units for Maurice.

First up we have a unit of Polish haiduk infantry from Sandomierz district:


They are unmodified Streltsi from Baccus's Great Northern War Russians range.

Then we have King Jan Sobieski's janissaries:


These are again just paint conversions; this time of Ottoman Turkish janissaries from Irregular Miniatures.  Although the two ranges are somewhat different in stature, I find that they work OK as long as you don't mix them on the same bases.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A First Go at Maurice

Last night I tried out the Maurice rules for the first time.  I've been looking for a set of rules that would enable me to use my Great Northern War Russians and my Ottoman Turks.  Jamie's also keen to try some American Revolutionary War gaming in 10mm and these rules might work for that too.

I tried out the most basic rules on the kitchen table and managed to play for about three hours without reaching a conclusion but I can see Maurice playing much quicker than that when I'm more experienced.  Not least of the problems was that I started with the armies too far apart. In the pic below the "Russians" (who included some Polish figures) are on the right.


I had the Russian commander launch a strong attack on the left flank with four units of Cossacks.  Like all units in this first game, they were treated as trained regulars for simplicity's sake.


Maurice takes some getting used to.  Game turns are VERY short - you can expect to get through many more in a game than you might with a more conventional set.  In each turn, however, a player only moves one unit or group of units.  The four Cossack units above represented one group for most of the game though there were times when I treated only two of them as a group.

This means that you, as commander of your army, need to decide where you want to focus your attention.  Any troops for which you don't spend resources (Action Cards) to move will just sit there and wait for you to give them appropriate orders.  This may seem unrealistic but my impression so far is that it seems to work.

The "Russian" centre
Turkish artillery bombards
There aren't too many counters or markers disfiguring the battlefield - just one "Disruption" marker per unit.  I reused my Impetus painted stones.

A Cossack unit takes maximum Disruption in one turn from
the fire of Turkish infantry
So far I've only used the basic rules.  They use action cards that, in a way reminiscent of Pulp Alley, have two functions.  Each card may be used for its Span (a printed number on the card).  To activate a group of units you must play a number of cards whose Span totals at least the distance from your C-in-C to the nearest element of the group.

Alternatively each card also has a specific function.  For example "Stirrups In" cards give a bonus to charging cavalry, whilst "Find the Way" helps you move through bad going without picking up additional Disruption markers.  The rather splendid "That's Not on the Map!" lets you put down a previously unspotted area of marsh or rocky ground!

In the case below a units of Cossacks in massed formation have taken a Turkish infantry line in flank.  The Cossacks have used "Stirrups In" to give them a bonus but the Turks have countered with a similar bonus from "Hold the Line!"  Sadly this wasn't enough to overcome the -6 modifier for being flanked and the Turks were routed.


In the end I was forced by the clock to call it a day with both sides having lost one unit.


The plan next is to get Jamie involved in a game and then to try out the advanced rules, at which point I'll report back here.