Sunday, March 27, 2011

One Hundred and Twenty Years After

April's Saturday Afternoon Wargame will take place on Saturday 30th April so as to avoid Easter. By popular demand (well, Rob suggested it) we're going to play some more Principles of War.

By way of tribute to the author who got me into wargaming in the first place we'll again be using Charles Grant's Grand Duchy of Lorraine and the VFS as the setting. However, I don't have any 1750s troops so we'll be setting the action at the time of the Franco-Prussian War (hence the title above).

Continuing the Grant theme we'll be playing The Bridge Demolition, the first of the Tabletop Teasers published in Battle for Wargamers between 1979 and 1982. The action was fought between the Grants père et fils and the scenario and results were published in the February and March 1979 editions of the magazine. You can still see them at Steve the Wargamer's blog.

It should be interesting adapting POW to fit this scenario. The approach to command and control is very different to the Grants' original rules. I think the answer may lie in the positioning of, and number of, the Movement Bases POW uses to both speed up the early phases of the battle and to reduce the information generals have about their opponent's deployment.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Army Lists

Army lists have been on my mind today. I spent an hour in bed this morning browsing Principles of War lists over my morning coffee. A pleasant hour; one that saw me speculate about gaming the Tai Ping Rebellion in 6mm or maybe Henry VIII's French expeditions in 15mm. But then I thought, "No! You've just got a few armies finished; don't start on a new one now!"

As a kid, I had the WRG Ancient Army Lists (with the "Confused Roman" on the front and a selection of 5th edition armies within. Some of the armies, "Barbarian Conspiracy" and "Seleucids", were a mystery to me but I spent ages poring over this slim tome and totally failed to apply a realistic approach to recruiting armies.

Those were the days when model soldiers for me meant mostly converting Airfix plastics. With no clear idea of how I would ever approach the hundreds of figures needed for a reasonably sized army, I converted US Marines into Sassanid spearmen and American Indians into Cretan psiloi. I based up a whole box of Ancient Britons as "Irr C LMI" but then found that they included bare-chested axe-men with top knots. A perusal of the lists (and finding a quotation from Tacitus in a book in the school library) convinced me that these few figures had to be Early Germans (another WRG label). And so they were based as "Irr C MI" on smaller bases.

All of these diversions meant that I never got close to finishing a 5th edition army. We played a few games but only with friends' armies and bits and bobs of mine. Soon after, I got hold of Bruce Quarrie's green Airfix guide rules. That started an attachment to WW2 gaming and pretty much ended my flirtation with ancients.

Hordes of the Things doesn't have armies lists of the type you aspire to. An army is small and relatively easily completed. Having struggled for some time to decide how to organise my Border Reviers, I recently had a brainwave. Should they be Riders - fast moving but no good in bad going? Or should they be Beasts - slightly slower, easily defeated by other mounted troops but more effective in Bad Going? Beasts made a certain sense but I had "Slewe Dogs" in one of the forces and they had to be be Beasts. If the mounted Reivers were Beasts too they would lose their special "feel".

The Brainwave was this. The Reivers would be Beasts but the pursuing Warden's men would be Riders. All though the two forces are made up of similar troops - the same people riding in pursuit of Reivers this week may be leading their own raid next - the Reivers are slowed down with booty! If caught driving cattle and sheep before them they will be less able to resist their pursuers!

Well, it works for me anyway. Now back to concentrating on not starting any new armies!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Some thoughts on Sunday's Game

Sunday's game was the first horse and musket game (barring a couple of skirmishes) I've played for years. I think the last time was when John Ansari ran Waterloo on his kitchen table and that must be a good decade ago. It's brought home to me a few lessons; some of them tactical and some more related to game design.

Firstly, it's easy to forget that a horse and musket period brigade takes up a lot of road space when it's stretched out in a column. If you're going to concentrate your forces on a key point you really need your approach march to be along several parallel axes (preferably roads).

Second, if you're going to use dummy forces, they must appear to threaten your opponent and draw him into false moves. Neither of us got the best out of the limited intelligence provided by POW's Movement Base rules.

Finally, it's really hard to know how big an army is "too big" (or conversely how small is "too small") with a new set of rules. People who know POW have said I was too ambitious with those armies for a first game but I could equally well have not got the proper effect by fielding armies that weren't big enough. Next time I run POW I think I'll use smaller armies in the hope of getting to a conclusion in the time available.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


The latest Saturday afternoon game actually took place on Sunday because of a clash with Millie’s birthday.

Our game was a first attempt at playing 19th Century Principles of War. As my Franco-Prussian War armies aren’t properly organised for a historical battle I decided to honour the memory of the late Charles Grant by pitting the Grand Duchy of Lorraine against the Vereinigte Freie Städte.

John Wostenholme and I commanded the distinctly Gallic forces of Lorraine,

whilst Rob Connolly took on the role of the VFS commander Field Marshal Langemarck.

The Lorraine forces attacked on a broad front aiming to swing round and attack the VFS supply lines with our large cavalry brigade (a regiment each of cuirassiers, dragoons, lancers and chasseurs à cheval. The coloured cards are movement bases, used to disguise the exact nature of the advancing forces.

The VFS plan was less subtle. A massive column of infantry, preceded by dragoons, was to push forward in the centre and force its way into the two villages. The superior artillery (Krupp rifles of steel construction) was to form a powerful massed battery on the left.

Rob was unfortunate with his dice rolling and the VFS column took ages getting started. The Lorraine Chasseurs à Pied managed to get into the larger village first. It proved impassable to cavalry and the VFS dragoons were forced to pull back.

Here we see General von Busch, the VFS staff officer directing his artillery to fire on the Lorraine forces rounding the village. (Prussian General element by Irregular Miniatures).

This is the VFS Cavalry commander General Hamman. (Prussian commanders by Baccus).

And, of course, Grand Duke Louis of Lorraine himself (again from Baccus).

On the Lorraine army's left, the grand flanking manoeuvre eventually saw the imposing cavalry brigade form up to threaten the VFS lines of communications. In the foreground the Zouaves, Turcos and Marines of the second infantry brigade emerge from the woods.

The climax of the battle saw the Lorrainers taking casualties around the central village but looking well set up to defend for a while. The great mass of VFStroops spread out along the road was going to be threatened by the enemy cavalry.
As so often happens with a new set of rules, we ran out of time but the general opinion was that things had generally gone the way of the Lorraine forces. A prolonged slogging match would have followed the VFS organising themselves to continue their push forward.

I think I'll give Principles of War another go.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lunars? Lunars!

I have half a dozen projects on the go, several of them with deadlines. So why have I just spent an hour painting Lunar Empire spearmen?

Must concentrate!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Flea Market Purchases

The Market near my work is always worth a look on Mondays - you occasionally find interesting bargains. Today I picked up some second hand figures that, stripped and suitably repainted, will probably join my Wolf Pirates army.

This first one I think might be an old Citadel RuneQuest figure. It certainly looks similar in style to the ones I remember.

The Wolf Pirates are a cosmopolitan lot. These Japanese Ronin types will be great for Vormaini.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

On the workbench - March

I have a real mish-mash of stuff on the go this month.

The early 18th century Russo-Turkish project continues. Our first pic shows a Turkish skirmishing infantry unit, painted and with the base 'glooped' with tile grout. I shall do a batch of base painting and decorating later. The figures are all Irregular Miniatures.

Also Turkish and also Irregular Miniatures are these Sipahis...

...and this general element.

My Russians for the same project are all from Baccus 6mm. Although the Baccus figures are individually nicer sculpts, the two ranges go fairly well together. The bases are of similar thickness and the figures stand at similar heights. Painted and based, the differences in style aren't too noticeable. These are dismounted dragoons.
At Hammerhead I picked up some Streltsi and these are the first unit I've painted. They represent the 7th Moscow Streltsi. They were disbanded in 1699 but in my campaign they'll be representing provincial forces, perhaps even Andreivians.

Also from Baccus, I have a few Franco-Prussian war general elements to do. In this period the difference between the Baccus and Irregular seems more noticeable. The Baccus French kepis are rather over scale and compared to the Irregular ones.

Finally, in 15mm scale I've bitten the bullet and started back on the Border Reivers. Two done, another thirty-odd to do!