Monday, September 22, 2014

The Bridge at Slavdansk

The accession of Murad the Vicious as Emir of Yeshilkara in early 1710 spelled danger to the tiny balkan grand duchy of Zheltarus.  Having disposed of his rivals by the usual method (strangulation) Murad set about conquering his weakest neighbour.

A strong Yeshilkaran army under the vizier Harkan Bey crossed the River Sputh and captured a number of border forts.  Realising that his Frontier Corps was badly outnumbered General Ostrovski resolved to fall back towards the capital aiming to rendezvous there with Grand Duke Mikhail.  First, though, he had to cross the River Rem at Slavdansk.  

On the morning of 21st April the Zheltarussian forces approached Slavdansk only to discover that Yeshilkaran cavalry scouts had got there first.  Ostrovski would have to fight for the crossing if he were to save his beleaguered army.

This was the general briefing for my latest Saturday Afternoon Wargame TM.  This time we used Black Powder as although I really like Maurice, it's not designed for multi-player use and I need a system for 18th century games that we can play as a social event round the kitchen table at Stately Counterpane Manor.

Having said that, pressure of other engagements reduced our number to two players plus me umpiring.  Jamie (playing his last Saturday Afternoon Wargame TM before going off to university) took charge of the Yeshilkarans (Turks to you) whilst George looked after the Zheltarussians.

The scenario was adapted from Fighting Retreat at El Perez in the Black Powder rule book.  I used the rules as written with the exception that all measurements were converted to centimetres instead of inches.  The battlefield can be seen below with the Rem river and Slavdansk town in the background.

Half of the Zheltarussian force can be seen deployed in a line either side of the central woods to hold off the pursuit whilst the other half faces towards the bridge which is held by two units of light horse plus...

and armed dhow (treated as light smoothbore artillery).

The game began with Harkan Bey advancing his cavalry on the left but repeatedly failing to bring on his Janissaries on the right.  In fact a command blunder on game turn 3, when the infantry still hadn't arrived, led to their arrival point moving even further to the right.

Massed Yeshilkaran cavalry advance...

...patiently awaited by General Ostrovski and Schweden's regiment of foot.

On the Zheltarussian left the line was held by a battery of field guns, Viatski's Dragoons and a unit of streltsi militia.  The last of these were to fight with unexpected tenacity throughout the action.

Below we see the massive column of Yeshilkaran horse aimed at the Viatski Dragoons.

Meanwhile, George had deployed a large force to engage the cavalry guarding the bridge.  Three units of infantry (including the Semionevski Guards) plus Meierfeldt's Dragoons were allotted the task.
The Zheltarussians march on the bridge - front (far) rank l to r
Semionevski Guards, Maeirerfeldt's Dragoons, Brigadier Popov,
read rank (near) Gulitz's and Deveson's Regiments
George's advance towards the Bridge looked like being successful and he quickly disposed of one of the two Yeshilkaran light horse units.  When the other, horribly outnumbered, withdrew towards the main force, George put Meierfeldt's Dragoons into column of march and ordered them over the bridge.  Despite fire from the light gun on the boat they reached the centre of the bridge.  

Unfortunately, on the next turn, when anything but a 12 would have seen them march off to safety, George rolled two sixes on his command roll!  The resulting Command Blunder saw the dragoons back on the near side of the bridge and marching off in the wrong direction!

The Zheltarussians were able to march towards the bridge relatively unmolested in part due to the late arrival of Jamie's infantry.  Four failed command rolls including a blunder meant that they didn't really achieve anything much.

In the end, we ran out of time after about nine game turns.  Both sides had routed one enemy unit and the bridge was neither crossed nor properly defended so both sides were happy to call it a draw.

First games are typically slow and this was no exception.  The rules seem to be less prone to unrealistically zippy manoeuvring than I feared on first reading them.  I shall certainly give them another go.  I think we should return to Zheltarus for October's game.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Express Bridge

This month's Saturday Afternoon WargameTM was a Black Powder game based on the El Perez scenario in the rule book.  This involved a force (in my case pseudo-Russians) escaping by way of a single available bridge.

I would, I planned, use my big (80mm width) river sections.  Unfortunately, at 8pm on Friday I discovered that I didn't own a suitable 6mm scale bridge!  All the 6mm bridges I have are either modern or attached to 30mm river sections (or both).  Several of them are also in Wirral awaiting next weekend's CP6 big battle at Deeside Defenders.

So I did what any self-respecting wargamer would do.  I built a new bridge.

The base is a piece of cork tile painted black and varnished.  The riverbanks are tile grout painted in my usual combination of browns with a Vallejo Iraqi Sand dry brush.  Static grass and Woodland Scenics clump foliage complete the look.

The bridge is made from lengths of coffee stirrer, each scored to make it look like two planks.  The piers are short lengths of bamboo skewer.  A little Green Stuff was used to help secure bridge to river-bank.  Paint, dry-brush, bish-bosh, job's a good un.

More later on the bridge's role in the game.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Crisis Point IV

Not much in the way of newly painted toys to show off of late but I have settled on the date and booked the hall for 2015's Crisis Point Big Game.

On 28th and 29th March 2015 we'll be returning to Andreivia.  More fighting in downtown Tcherbevan is sure to follow but we'll also be exploring the action in the surrounding area.  With expressions of interest from ten players already we should be able to support a multi-table game.

I can hardly wait!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Berkeley 2014

The traditional start of my wargaming year (each September) is the annual Berkeley Hordes of the Things tournament.   Jamie and I were up about 5am and off down to Gloucestershire by 6:15.  Maybe one year I'll try going down on the Friday afternoon?

To be honest I play very little HOTT these days; we’d played just the one game since last year’s event.  Instead, my main reason for going is social.  The Berkeley lot are a grand bunch of people and for several years now my anticipation has been more focussed on the craic during the day and the opportunity to play other games during the evening.

I can honestly say I enjoyed every game this year, win or lose.  There seemed to be an unusual percentage of extreme die rolling though.  Don't think I've seen so many 6:1s or improbable survivals by hopelessly outclassed elements.

First up I played Andy Unwin who was sitting in for the absent Tony Horobin.  Andy is a skilled HOTT player - I know he's beaten me at least once previously and I don't recall ever returning he favour.  On this occasion he was aided by my rolling a spectacular number of low scoring dice.  My Wolf Pirates were down 12AP in pretty short order.  Andy was using Mark Fry's Fellowship of the Ring army and at least I had the satisfaction of taking out Legolas before the end!

Andy about to slaughter some Wolf Pirates
The Wolf Pirates prepare to march.
Game two saw me up against Mark Fry himself with the matching pair to the Fellowship, the Moria Goblins (they have a cave troll, and indeed a Balrog).

The Balrog (rated as a God) arrived on game turn 2 and immediately destroyed (rolling 6 to my 2) a couple of Wolf Pirate Warbands.  Fortunately, Mark then rolled a 1 and the Balrog got bored and wandered off.

This left Mark with a rather cramped battle line fronted by a large number of Hordes.  With two Heroes and a Paladin backed up by the four remaining Warband, I was pretty sure I had a good chance of battering through the Hordes and taking out the Warband General and Magician sheltering behind them.  Unfortunately I'd failed to take into account the fickleness of the dice Gods.  Two consecutive 6:1s in Mark's favour saw Hordes take out Gunda (Paladin) and Harrek (Hero General) for an overall 12:6 win.  Unbelievable!

With Game 3 my luck changed definitively.  Owen Webber's War Gods of Aegyptus had a four Blades, four Shooters and two Magicians, which I felt was a combination I could probably handle if I didn't lose my Paladin.  I lost my Paladin!  Fortunately, though, Owen's PIPs dried up almost completely and Harrek was able to chase Owen's Blade General almost to the walls of his own Stronghold before hilling him to give me a narrow 10:8 win.  This time it had been Owen's turn to be incredibly unfortunate with the dice.

The Wargods await the arrival of the Wolf Pirates
I'd originally intended to go in with the Warband to fight Owen's
Blades but at the last moment I remembered that Mounted (Heroes
and Paladins are mounted whatever the figure shows) can interpenetrate
friendly foot.  Here we see Gunda about to die and Harrek about to
punch through the enemy line.  That's so Harrek!
For game four I was paired with my son and heir.  Jamie was using his 15mm Army of Cornetto (renaissance Italians with Leonardo additions) so I picked out my Asag and the Stone Allies.

Leonardo's Flyers nibble at my stone Hordes.  The Behemoth is unmoved.
I got to attack and decided to use a couple of Beasts in a fast left hook towards Jamie's Stronghold.  I tied down his centre by means of a general advance with my Behemoth and Hordes (as well as another distracting Beast on the right).  Everything went according to plan and Beasts and Aerial Hero were able to take the Stronghold.

Just before the Beasts arrive
So at the end of the first day my usual mid-table obscurity was achieved despite a shaky start.  More later on the Saturday night game of Pulp Alley.

Sunday morning began with a battle between my Sun Dome Templars (Jamie wanted to use the Wolf Pirates) and Jane Williams's Lunars under the command of James Ewins.  

I'd thought it might be interesting to fight across a strip of Bad Going acres the centre of the table but the dice put the BG along the battlefield rather than across.  We therefore ended up with another narrow, cramped field down which I advanced with Spears and Hordes while the Hero, Paladin and Riders tried a left hook flank attack.  

The Hero of Garhound was lost in a melee with Lunar Blades but the main clash of Battle lines saw James's Lunar Hero General facing off with Solanthos Ironpike, my SunDomer Spear General.  Fortunately I was able to manoeuvre some Sun Dome militia (a Horde) onto the Lunar General's flank and the subsequent roll of 6:1 (yes another) saw him skewered on Solanthos's eponymous weapon.

Above centre: Solanthos Ironpike (yellow cloak next to
Belvani with the purple and green shield) faces the empty space where
the Lunar Hero General used to be!
Game 6 saw yet more Gloranthan action as the Wolf Pirates took on Jane Williams with he Kallyr Starbrow army.  This was to be the closest and most dramatic battle of the weekend for me.  

Another narrow battlefield - this time the Heroes lead.

Jane tried repeatedly (and with some success) to disrupt my advance by attacking the rear of my line with sylphs (Flyers).  Eventually, Harrek lost patience and broke away from the battle line to destroy one of them.  This would prove very significant later.

Lef to right: Argrath, Gunda, Harrek
When the two battle lines finally clashed, Harrek was out of the ideal position away on the left hand end where he ended up matched with Kostajor Wolf-Champion (another Hero).  I had a 6:5 advantage in factors but threw yet another low score and lost my Hero General!  Game over, I thought, but you always continue to the end of the turn and Gunda narrowly beat Kallyr.  We checked the rules and it turns out that Heroes are killed if beaten by Paladins.  

This meant that both Generals were lost, and because of the pesky Sylph that Harrek had previously swatted from the air, Jane had lost more points and so I'd won.  Gosh!

After lunch I faced off against young Josh Jones who was using a Vampire army.  

Sadly for Josh, he'd put a line of Beasts in front of his main line.  Beasts are killed by any mounted troops in contact and shortly after the picture below was taken, Harrek, Gunda and Argrath dashed through the Wolf Pirate lines and engaged Josh's wolves.  All four Beast elements died in one turn as even the one faced by a Warband that had dashed forward in support managed to throw a 1 to my 6.

After this, the end was nigh.  Josh's Aerial Hero General was unable to intervene helpfully and when Argrath and Gunda took out his Flyer and Magician the Vampires were down 12AP.

So the last game saw me with an unprecedented (for me) five wins in a row and fighting Steve Price.  Steve had won six games and was likely to win his own tournament for the second year in a row if he won this last game.  Surely I would be roundly scorned if I allowed this to happen?

It was Wolf Pirates vs Vampires again but this time, as you can see above, Harrek deserted the main scrum and headed off to the Vampire Count's stronghold.  A turn or so later he managed to capture it and will the battle.

So six wins, my best ever performance and my best ever placing (joint second) at Berkeley.  Equally pleasing, Jamie recovered from four defeats on Saturday to finish fourteenth out of 21 with three wins on Sunday.

As always, the weekend was hugely enjoyable and thanks must go to all involved and to Steve in particular.

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.