Sunday, January 21, 2018

More Boardgaming

I've been busy with craft knife and paper glue the past week.  As well as having a go at assembling some paper buildings I found in the bits-that-might-be-useful-for-terrain-drawer I've finally got around to putting together the counter for a Vae Victis magazine game.

The game in question is Alsace 1944 from Vae Victis issue 59.  Appropriate given my plans to build an American platoon for that campaign for Chain of Command.


The game covers the French First Army's battle to fight their way through southern Alsace to the Rhine in November 1944.  This is interesting because most of my reading so far has been about northern Alsace and the battles around the German Nordwind offensive in late December and January of 1945.

Most of the boardgames in my possession date back to the 1980s - Squad Leader, Dragon Pass and the like.  Boardgames have got a lot prettier since then:



Unfortunately I don't think any of my regular wargaming mates are going to want to put aside the time to get the hang of the rules for this game so I'll probably have to play it solo.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I've Got a Table

I spent some time over the weekend tidying the absent Jamie's bedroom and making room for a folding table we recently acquired from friends who were clearing an elderly relative's house.

Having set up the table I thought (a) this might be big enough for a small game, and (b) I could leave something set up here for weeks without it being disturbed.

So here we go.  I've dusted off (literally) Sixth Fleet and will be exploring the solo joys of 1980s-style hex-and-counter boardgaming.


Now can I remember how this works?

Update: I can now. Played the "Aircraft Carrier Operations" scenario.  Marginal victory for the Americans; they lost USS Kennedy but wreaked havoc among the Soviet convoys first.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My Gaming Review of 2017

Slightly arse-about-face here but having looked forward to 2018 how about last year?  I'll follow again the structure used by the Meeples and Miniatures guys starting with best games of 2017:

In fifth place is a board game, Tsuro.



In terms of its physical components this is the most gorgeous board game I own. It takes no time to set up, not much longer to explain and about ten minutes to play.  As such it's been brought out more than once when Saturday Afternoon Wargames have finished early.

In fourth place it's Arc of Fire.



This set of twentieth century large skirmish rules just carries on delivering for me.  It's been the game engine behind the large, multi-player Andreivian games at Crisis Point and has worked equally well for 1918 and the 1990s. This year Chris Barnes and I got in a game with his new Cold War Brits too.

In third place this year it's the X-Wing Miniatures Game.


This is another game that you can just pull out and play without too much preparation (not as quick as Tsuro though).  Although it's mostly played one-on-one with equal-point forces, I prefer to use it for scenario-based games such as the bombing run game we played this Christmas.  TIE Bombers are just so cute!

So that's X-Wing down a place from last year.  Its previous second place has been taken by Sharp Practice 2.


SP2 is a considerable improvement over the first edition. The new command-flags-based mechanism is very clever and the game seems to be slightly less prone to chance events completely screwing a player's game experience and an umpire's carefully designed scenario.  Even so it's taken me a while to appreciate that the way to go is to keep the scenario very simple and let the game mechanics drive an interesting narrative.

And in first place, again this year, it's Chain of Command.

 
Although it's not quite been the most played game this year (SP2 takes that crown) it does remain the game I'm most keen to keep playing. Just as, a few years back, Cold War Commander resurrected my 6mm scale moderns collection so CoC has me looking at my 1/72nd scale WW2 toys with fresh eyes.  A winter 1944/45 American platoon is now approaching the painting desk.

So now we move on to the Biggest Disappointment Category.  Here I'm afraid it's the Gripping Beast plastic Dark Age Cavalry.


Although the timing of their arrival was ideal for me, the actuality was underwhelming. Only three basic poses and all of them with those annoying short-sleeved tops....  They aren't at present demanding that I finish them.

The Favourite Models of the Year category goes to another 28mm plastics manufacturer. The Victrix ancients range has provided me with Numidians, Carthaginians, Romans and Italian allies so far and I won't be hesitating to buy their Iberian cavalry when the painting schedule allows.


So that was 2017 in gaming for me.  Boardgames aside I reckon I played and/or organised 18 games; not as many as I'd like but probably as many as I should given other commitments!


Plans for 2018

So I thought I'd set down some objectives and aspirations gaming-wise, for the coming twelve months.  No I'm not going to call them resolutions.

So what games do I want to play?

Well, more Chain of Command is definitely top of the list. The Big CoC game of Operation Archery at Gauntlet was great fun.


For yet more Too Fat Lardies excellence I definitely want to keep going with the Borsetshires in the Peninsula series of Sharp Practice games.


Jamie and I tried to get a game of Lion Rampant in before he went back to university but other family duties got in the way.  We did, however, get enough done to remind me that it's a fun system and my Swiss and Burgundian forces deserve to spend more time on the table.


I'm also keen to get my 6mm scale 18th century collection into use.  Maurice would be my first choice; it's a wonderfully clever piece of design that might readily be sub-titled Chandler's The Art of War in the Age of Marlborough - The Game. The only down-side of this plan is that my games tend to be multi-player affairs and Maurice is defiantly two-player in its approach.


Black Powder, then, is perhaps the option I shall be forced to opt.  It's not a game that cries out to me to play but I think we could have a fun time giving it a go.

Something else I'd like to go back to, after many years away, is Victory Games' Fleet Series. I really enjoyed these hex-and-counter games in the late 80s and would love to get in a game one weekend.

And what events am I committed to?

First and most important is Crisis Point. 7th and 8th April at Dungworth Green Hall near Sheffield.



We're doing another 1918 Andreivia game this year.  It looks like we're going to have enough players but more are always welcome.  I don't particularly need to build much new stuff for this year's event but I'll certainly have a go at some more specifically Andreivian terrain.

Joy of Six is always a fun event.  I've managed to persuade the rest of the Cold War Commanders to have a go at putting on the same game (a Warsaw Pact tank regiment attack on a NATO blocking position) over the same terrain at three different dates (probably something like 1956, 1968 and 1989).  Need to build some suitable terrain for this.

I'll probably go to Gauntlet again this year.  I don't think there's an SOTCW event planned but I rather fancy playing some Big CoC again.

And lastly for now, what projects to I want to progress?

Apart from the events above, I really want to finish the 28mm Punic Wars project I started last year.


I've mostly finished my Numidians and Carthaginian citizen levy.  A Roman Legion is done but there's a whole box of Victrix Italian Ally legionaries to build and paint and some Roman and Gaullish cavalry to complete.

Baccus Swedish army pack is sitting in its packaging just waiting to join my 6mm Great Northern War collection.  The Maurice/Black Powder question will get no closer to being answered when they are done but done they must be.

Something that's been on the to do list for the past three years is my plan to build some terrain for the Big Rubble of Pavis.  I have lots of bits and bobs of resin that are earmarked for the project but it's never come to the top of the priority pile.  Maybe this year?

As a general rule for 2018 I'd hope to have the self control to focus my spending on terrain items rather than more figures, at least until the Italian legionaries and Swedes are done.  We'll see though; the "Ooh, shiny!" effect can still be expected to exert it's evil power!

 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas Games part three - Sharp Practice

December 27th saw the latest episode in our exploration of the fortunes of the light company of the Borsetshire Regiment during the Peninsular War.  This time the Light Company faced a major French assault.  This was the British player's briefing:

The comforting sounds of the familiar morning routine of the British army all around him, Major Horace Markham, a contemplative pipe in hand, peered into the pre-dawn murk. The frontier village was stout enough but it was not a location he would wish to defend against a larger French force. The sooner he could march the light company back to the safety of the rocky heights and beyond to Wellesley’s army, the happier he would be.

Markham’s mind wandered back to his hurried briefing the previous morning. Lt Colonel Pargeter had begun by apologising for sending him on a Captain’s errand.  Only a company was required but General Wellesley wanted to get Captain Elliott and his rocket detachment out from under his feet and Elliott was senior to Captain Archer of the Borsetshires’ light company.  As this was clearly a job for the lights, Markham must take command.

Seeing Markham’s confusion at this rambling introduction, Pargeter had hurried on. An exploring officer, an Irishman by the name of Hugh Cairns, was to be met at the village of Rebolosa and escorted back across the rocky hills, back into the bosom of the army. For reasons of military convenience, a detachment of rocket troops was to be attached to the force.

The rocketeers had proved excessively wearing during the march.  Knowing the country, Markham had insisted on their taking only pack mules and leaving their carts and wagons behind.  Even so the light company had been delayed by the inexperienced gunners and had only reached Rebolosa at nightfall.    

Ron took on the role of British commander:

British

Major Horace Markham, Level II leader (Red 1)
Corporal Brown, Level I leader (Red 2)
Two groups of 8 Light Company in line, muskets

Captain Archer, Level III leader (Red 3)
Two groups of 8 Light Company in line, muskets

Lieutenant Smythe, Level II leader (Red 4)
One group of 6 95th Rifles, rifles

Sergeant Goodison, Level I leader (Red 5)
One group of 6 95th Rifles, rifles

Captain Elliott, Level I leader (Red 6)
One group of 5 Royal Horse Artillery, rockets 

Jamie and Andy ran the French:

French 

Colonel Paul Remillard, Level III leader (Blue 1)
Sergeant Boutin, Level I leader (Blue 2)
Three groups of 8 Line Infantry, muskets

Captain Laroche, Level II leader (Blue 3)
Two groups of 8 Line Infantry, muskets

Lieutenant Didier Delabord, Level I leader (Blue 4)
One group of 8 Dragoons, carbines and sabres

Lieutenant Loisier, Level II leader (Blue 5)
One group of 6 Voltigeur Skirmishers, muskets

Sergeant Dalembert, Level I leader (Blue 6)
One group of 6 Voltigeur Skirmishers, muskets

Captain van Niekirk, Level II leader (Blue 7)
Two groups of 8 Nassau light infantry, muskets
One group of 8 Nassau grenadiers, muskets

Captain Etienne Chouxfleur, Level II leader (Blue 8)
One group of 8 Hussars, Scouting Cavalry, sabres

In the photo below the red star shows the  British exit point through the mountains.  The red oval surrounds the wagon that marked the British Deployment Point.  The French Deployment Point was on the edge of the table to the right of the blue square.





As the Borsetshires rushed to their posts, the first French infantry formed up in an open column near the road.



Some Voltigeurs arrived and advanced along the road...


Under the direction of Captain Elliott the Light Rocket Battery hastily deployed between the large house and the barn.  They launched a first rocket but it fell short and exploded harmlessly.


Meanwhile, Captain Archer had started to deploy half of the company to stop a French advance down Rebolosa's main street whilst Major Markham took the other half of the company to escort Cairns to the mountains.

Archer deploys into line.  Is Markham (in the background) preparing
to leave the rest of the company in the lurch?

Archer's men come under fire from the advancing French voltigeurs who are backed up by Delabord's Dragoons.


Meanwhile something of a traffic jam is developing on the French right....


As the French columns converged on Archer's small line, voltigeurs supporting on their flanks, the RHA fired again.  Once more the rocket fell short but this time it fell within shrapnel range of Sergeant Goodison's riflemen!



On the roadway, Archer's men were charged by Delabord's dragoons.  


Sadly for Delabord, his men had not quite reached the point of contact when the Borsetshires let loose an impressive volley of musketry.  At this point I made an error in applying the rules.  One group of the Borsetshires was routed but so was the group of Dragoons.  The result should have been different with the shock and casualties on the British side being shared equally between the fighting and supporting groups.


Either way, though, it had been a small victory for the British, although their Force Morale was falling faster than that of the French.

At this point Ron began to try and extract his forces from the tightening trap.  Although the Dragoons had been driven off on the right and seemed unlikely to bother him again, on the left French pressure was beginning to tell and the Hussars threatened a wide outflanking sweep.  The narrow main street of Rebolosa was soon thronging with confused British soldiers.


Menaced by Voltigeurs, the rocket troops withdrew.


It had taken Lt Chouxfleur an age to get his hussars through the wheat fields (not that they were bad going but suddenly Andy was unable to roll anything higher than a two on his movement dice).  

Faced with a choice of dashing for the higher ground and perhaps safety or standing and firing at the approaching horsemen, Lt Smythe of the Rifles made the wrong call.


The brief fusillade was ineffective and Smythe's men were badly mauled.  The lieutenant himself fell senseless and had to be dragged away by the few survivors. 


Although Major Markham, having escorted Cairns to the safety of the mountains, returned with one group of infantry, the collapse of the British position was already underway.  Force Morale was down to four, with the loss of one command card resulting.



As the British attempted to push through the village to safety, the first group of Voltigeurs entered Rebolosa...


... only to find themselves scattered by rampaging livestock!


The damage to French pride and cohesion was minor, however, and further casualties to Sergeant Goodison's rifles tipped the balance. British Force Morale reached zero and the retreat turned into a rout.


So the Borsetshires have taken a very bloody nose at Rebolosa.  Who will manage to escape the clutches of Johnny Frog?  Perhaps only the need for Lt Chouxfleur to rally his Hussars gives any cause for hope?


I think there's a case for the next scenario being a chase across the high moorland as the French continue the pursuit of Major Cairns.  I shall have to give this further thought.

Christmas Games part two - Argad

Our second game this Christmas period used a new set of rules (to me) and the only one in my collection that was originally published in Breton!  Rather appropriately our first game of Argad was set in the part of Gaul that is now Brittany.

Armorica in the fourth century CE was notionally part of the Roman Empire but was de facto an independent state controlled by the bacaudae.  Historians seem to differ as to whether the bacaudae were bandits, proto-proletarian revolutionaries or simply bourgeois Roman citizens keen to avoid paying rent to absentee Roman landlords.  In this game my interpretation tended towards the last.

Our table was set up thus:


The table represented the civitas (in this case meaning a district) of Kerantrech, home of some members of the thoroughly Romanised Coriosolitae tribe.

A large villa (home of the local magistrate, a coriosolitae noble by the name of Syagrius) is the economic centre of the civitas.  A village stands nearby, it and the villa being set back from a nearby Roman road.

At the northern (near) end of the table a watchtower overlooks a small inlet.  A handful of soldiers of the local limitanei (border force) keep watch for Saxon or Irish raiders.


Jamie, Richard P, Kevin and Leo came over for this game.  Argad sits somewhere at the intersection of wargame and role-playing game.  The character roles for the players were:

  • Jamie - Antonius Mago, representative of the Roman landlord who theoretically owns the civitas
  • Leo - Syagrius, the magistrate of Kerantrech
  • Richard P - Ellifer, the commander of the limitanae
  • Kevin - Clodis, leader of a group of Franks who have papers to say that they have been given the civitas in exchange for service in the Roman army
  • Richard C - umpire and all other roles.
Our story began with Antonius Mago, arriving on the road in the south, meeting up with the lady Genovefa who was travelling to Kerantrech to be with his sister, the wife of the magistrate, who was expecting her first child.

Genovefa's raeda passes the old pagan temple 
Antonius Mago had an escort of legionaries and some mercenary Alan horsemen.

Part of Mago's escort - perhaps not the finest legionary soldiers but
professional enough?
The southeast corner of the civitas saw the arrival first of Bishop Severinus (come to baptise the child) and then of Clodis and his mixed force of Franks and Roman spearmen.

Richard P, Leo and Jamie (l to r) look on at Kevin deploys his Franks
Argad moves pretty quickly and with Syagrius out patrolling the civitas and Ellifer busy trying to ensure that Bishop Severinus didn't bump into Malgwyn the Druid as the latter conducted a pagan blessing of the orchard, Clodis was soon in possession of the villa and seeking to dictate terms to all and sundry.


Clodis soon brow-beat Syagrius into supporting the new status quo.  The fact that Clodis had possession of the letters wife and newly-born daughter was pretty crucial here.

Meanwhile, Clodis found his newly achieved domestic tranquility disturbed who Antonius Mago's legionaries tipped over the statue in front of the villa and began digging under its plinth.

A fight developed between the Franks and the legionaries for possession of a strongbox found buried under the statue.  In the end the Franks were successful and Antonius Mago was forced to withdraw with nothing to show his sponsor back in Rome.  All in all it was a victory for the Franks - so in line with the broad sweep of history then.

As a final bonus, here's a shot that captures two random groups that entered into the action; in the foreground some Sarmatian mercenaries and in the background, Agravaine son of Lot with his Numidian servant seeking the Holy Grail (idea stolen from Fabrice of Argad).



Friday, December 22, 2017

Not another project?


Sometimes you feel like a plaything of the gods.  The muse of wargaming seems to be following me around and whispering stuff in my ear at the moment.

Back in 2010, with the considerable help of SOTCW colleagues, I finally managed to get to the table the long-cherished idea of a big game of Rapid Fire based on the US Rangers’ and RM Commandos’ landings on the left flank of the September 1943 Salerno landings.

I needed some extra kit to complete the Ranger battalion I was contributing and so I went out and purchased the Revell US infantry.  I knew they would give me the 50cal HMG and the mortar I needed to add to my Italeri yanks.  What I’d not checked was that the Revell chaps, lovely though they are, are in distinctly wintery garb.  As a result they mostly stayed unused.

Cut to a few years later and I’m in a second-hand bookshop.  I find a copy of Lise M Pommois’ book on the fighting in Alsace over the winter of 1944/45. It’s full of detail and, while I have no plans to wargame Operation Nordwind, it’s from a small French publishing house and I’m unlikely to ever see another copy on sale.  I grab it.

Later still, a family holiday is mooted.  After surprisingly little discussion we settle on a week in the Northern Vosges region of Alsace.  It’s a lovely place and I especially enjoy our visits to the Maginot line at Schoenenbourg and to the magnificent 18th century Citadel of Bitche.

All goes quiet until a couple of weeks ago. Tom Davis has borrowed and now returns my copy of this Osprey book:

 


I looked anew at the cover and thought, “I could use those old Revell figures and do a winter 44/45 platoon for Chain of Command!”

Looking at the platoon organisations for the Americans in the rules, though, I’m short of about a dozen riflemen so I go back to the model shop that provides for my plastic soldier needs.  They haven’t got the Revell winter Americans but they do have a similar pack from Italeri.  I take them home.

The Italeri chaps prove a very good match for the Revells in terms of stature and sculpting style so I’m happy.  But what’s this?  Three of the figures are armed with the rather rare M1919A6 .30cal light machinegun with bipod.  Who were they issued to?

Well it turns out there are two US army divisions that get the M1919A6.  One of them sees action in Brittany in summer ’44.  The other is the 100th Infantry Division.

The 100th Infantry Division?  What can I find out about them?  Well, they saw action in the Vosges during the winter of 1944/45, they stood up to German attacks during Operation  Nordwind and they are now known as the Sons of Bitche because of their fierce fighting for that town in early 1945.

I think my destiny is clear don’t you?