Thursday, September 29, 2016

Old school lead

Nostalgia makes us do silly things.  I've never been able to bring myself to get rid of some Lamming 25mm ancient figures I bought from Games of Liverpool in about 1980.

I have the cataphracts above, one base of Roman legionaries and some auxiliary slingers and a few Ancient Britons.  Not enough to do much useful with but it's fun trying to make them look as good as I can given the crudity of the castings.

In a moment, well OK two moments, of madness I've just bought a couple of lots of distinctly old-school figures on eBay.  Arriving soon will be 24 more Ancient Britons and some Numidian light horse.  I plan to base them for To The Strongest with the option of using them for ancients-themed games of Dragon Rampant.  More when they arrive!

Monday, September 26, 2016


I'm making an effort to reduce the amount of crap cluttering up my games room.  I'm adopting the policy of disposing of one item each day.  Mostly at the moment that means throwing away boxes I kept because they looked like they'd be good for storing future terrain projects.  A couple of unwanted toys have gone to the charity shop.

It occurred to me, though, that a few unwanted rules sets could go to some of the local kids who are showing an interest.Hammers Slammers and 1st Ed Rapid Fire are going that way.

My printout of DBMM, however, has gone straight into the recycling bin. Discuss.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Aegean Strike part two - photos

On the Sunday of Aegean Strike weekend I took over umpiring the air support, which left me free to take more pictures of the tables.

Castle tourist attraction in the Aegean coast sector of Table 2

Hotel Ibis - a Timecast building based and detailed by
Richard Phillips

On Sunday my Spanish Matadors finally saw action

More Timecast buildings

Mark Fry's Sheridans in MERDC camo

These Cobras made repeated appearances in support of NATO
forces (rotor discs by Hurlbat I believe)  

These Spanish/Italian buildings from Alan Millicheap's
collection looked really good despite being notionally for
10mm scale

Mark F's Greek CO element featured three ranks of new recruits being
harangued by the big man himself! 

On Table 1 Keith T (left) expanded the Warsaw Pact bridgehead
on the Black Sea coast.  He was opposed by Portuguese forces
commanded by Ian S (right)

Confused fighting between Nick G's Russians and
Andy T's Turks

Russian assault engineers with flamethrower
(Irregular Miniatures, from their WW1 range)

Another look at Alan M's lovely Mediterranean buildings, here being
visited by my BRIPAC company (Spanish paras) in support of
Mark F's Greek armour 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Aegean Strike part one - Disaster in the Balkans

On Saturday morning I drove over to Broughton, near Chester, for the Cold War Commanders' weekend event Aegean Strike.  The weekend was two days of 6mm scale gaming of World War 3 in the Balkans in 1985.

I took along my long-owned but never used Spanish Marine Brigade (Tercio de Armada).  It was always going to be a chancy pick.  With a force consisting of two light infantry battalions and three outdated tanks (M48A3Es) I only really stood a chance if I found myself up against a Bulgarian Motor Rifle Regiment in a built up area.  Sadly this was not to be.

In fact, Saturday was pretty dispiriting from start to finish. On arrival I was informed that the Mistral SAMs I'd spent ages sourcing (and in a couple of cases scratch-building) were out of period!  I then found myself in an encounter battle over more of less open ground with only a couple of small woods (too small for a deployed battalion) as cover.  There was some built up area on the table centreline and whoever got there first would inevitably dominate the game.

Our sector - but missing 15cm or so of open ground from
baseline to woods
Hastily selecting about 3000 points from my whole force, I found that my opponent Steve was using units from a Soviet Tank Regiment (I think) in T-62Es, some of them armed with the latest in through-the-barrel ATGMs.  I was in trouble!

Steve went first and rolled really well with his command dice.  Before my Marines were even on the table he was deploying into the centre-line built up area.
Steve's BTRs have reached the middle of the table already!
On my first game turn a blunder by my neighbour (Hi Neil!) saw two of my units, including my only ATGWs (a Dragon and a Landrover-mounted TOW)  hit by friendly fire.  The TOW was immediately eliminated and the Dragon was suppressed!

The one chink of light came when I rolled double ones when calling in an air-strike.  I got a "broken arrow" - all the aircraft from five draws from the support deck!  I actually got two Tornados, four A10s, two Phantoms and an F-5 Tiger.  Sadly, we were playing the rules incorrectly, it later turned out, and the strike had virtually no lasting effect!

My first two Marine companies deployed to the only cover available - the woods on my right flank.  Sportingly, Steve sent his tanks forward into range of my C-90 infantry anti-tank weapons.  These proved ineffective and an attempt at close assaulting the tanks foundered on my inability to roll dice decently.

The Marine battalion was pretty quickly at half strength, whist my tank company found itself swamped by T-62s.

When it became apparent that I was rapidly losing the battle (and, personally, the will to continue) Umpire Richard P allocated me a battalion of US Marines and a tank battalion in M60A1s to arrive on my baseline by mobile deployment.

Unfortunately my die rolling got no better.  Half the tank battalion arrived and took up firing positions from just ahead of the baseline.  There seemed no reason for them to go further as there were plenty of T-62s already at close range.  Sadly the next command roll (to fire) was a blunder and half of the newly arrived tanks pulled back off table and were lost.  The other half of the tank battalion, some recon elements, and a Marine infantry battalion all failed their rolls to enter scoring 10, 10 and 11!

At this point I'd had more than enough.  I decided not to prolong the inevitable and started to withdraw.  Even that I couldn't do.  With Soviet artillery raining down most of my remaining infantry was pinned as the enemy tanks approached.

In consultation with the Umpires we decided to close down the sector and plan something else for the morrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Fugitive

Andy came over last night and we played another game of Lion Rampant.  The scenario was The Fugitive, in which one side (in this case my Burgundians) was trying to find and rescue and hidden person.  I decided that the fugitive would be a Burgundian spy (Jacobus Bund) who had recently escaped from Swiss custody.

The table had six areas of bad going (woods and rocky outcrops) any one of which might conceal our man.  The remaining single trees were just for show.

I lined up along my base edge so as to have the ability to reach all of the potential hiding places.  From the far end in the picture below I had mounted men-at-arms, longbows, coustilliers (mounted sergeants), bidowers, and more mounted men-at-arms.

Andy lined up opposite me with, again from the far end, bidowers (Italian mercenary crossbows), halberdiers, mounted crossbows, pikes, more pikes, and more bidowers (Swiss hand-gunners).

The game start well enough for me.    My Burgundian bidowers reached the first woods and confirmed that the prisoner wasn't there.  My coustilliers advanced to engage Andy's mounted crossbows.  My longbowmen advanced to just short of a second woods.

But then things began to go horribly wrong.  The men at arms on both flanks refused to advance.  The coustilliers, who should have defeated the mounted crossbows didn't and the longbowmen, who just didn't have enough move left to get into the second woods, came under fire from Andy's Italian mercenary crossbowmen (bidowers) from the opposite woods. Immediately the longbowmen failed their courage test.  They would spend the next few turns being gradually whittled down by fire before they finally fled without once getting a shot off!

The coustilliers charged Andy's mounted crossbowmen and should have driven them off but I rolled poorly and was soon they were in a bad way too.

All this time Andy's pike were advancing slowly towards my right centre.  They threatened to overwhelm my coustilliers and then, the coustilliers having joined the longbowmen in rout, to cut off the escape of the left flank men at arms who I'd finally managed to roll forward into the same area.

On the right flank I committed a grave error.  My right flank men-at-arms, finally advancing, headed forward to explore the rocky outcrop to their front.  Suddenly among the tumble-down boulders they spotted some red-clad Swiss.  With a sharp battle cry they charged!  This was a Wild Charge - exactly the kind of thing men-at-arms are prone to and exactly the  kind of thing you don't want them to do in these circumstances.

The Burgundian knights, the impetus of their charge broken by the bad terrain were cut down and forced back.  But of course they would continue to throw themselves at the elusive enemy!

The only small bonus was that, in falling back from the first, confused melee, they did so accompanied by Jacobus Bund who had been hiding among those same rocks!  

I could now win the game but only if I could find a way of disposing of these Swiss hand-gunners who would otherwise continue to lure my men-at-arms to futile death among the boulders.

My own Burgundian bidowers (a mixture of crossbows and hand-guns) were fortunately within range.  From among the trees (of the first wood we'd entered) they kept up a a reasonably constant fire. Would they clear out their Swiss opposite numbers before the Burgundian knights dashed them selves to destruction? Or before the whole force broke as a result of losing the other group of knights surrounded in the centre?

Fortunately for me the dice now began to be kind.  One more than one occasion my knights failed to make a Wild Charge into the rocks and on more than one occasion Andy's pikes failed to close in on my centre.  All the time the Burgundian bidowers were killing more and more of their Swiss counterparts in the rocks.  

Eventually the Swiss hand-gunners broke and Guy de Gadbois, leader of the retinue and lone survivor of his unit, was able to escort Jacobus Bund off to safety. 

Our opinion at the end was that this was the most Pyrrhic of victories.  I had only two units left on the board at the end.  My bidowers would probably sneak away but the remaining men at arms would, had the action continue, have smashed themselves to pieces charging Andy's now rapidly approaching pikes. 

For the first time we had two poor leaders. The Vulnerable Guy de Gadbois has led the Burgundians through half a dozen small actions and remained unscathed whilst the Insipid Gerhardt Schupp now became the first of our Swiss commanders to survive a skirmish!

Monday, September 12, 2016

A New Scale and a New Period

But don't worry, they're not for me.

One of Jamie's first post-Lord of the Rings figure purchase was a Pendraken Miniatures army pack of 10mm scale British troops for the American Revolution.  I think he was inspired by the Assassin's Creed game set during the AWI.  He's never had a clear plan of what to do with them, though. I wondered if they would work for Sharp Practice 2 so, with Jamie's permission, I've had a go at painting and basing a Group's-worth accordingly.

For the basing material I've used sheet magnetic material recycled from one of those word-play-on-your-fridge-door sets.  They are on 1cm squares and I've made a sabot base from a piece of artist's mounting board with steel paper attached.

Cutting error, layers of paint and tiny gaps between the figure bases mean that the sabot base, although 2cm by 4cm, has come out slightly small so it's not easy to pick them up by the base without knocking figures off.  I think I'll try again with maybe a 45mm wide base.

It's over to Jamie now to see if he wants to pursue this approach with the rest of his figures.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Junk Shop Find

A recent Sunday morning saw the family in Sheffield's (increasingly gentrified) Nether Edge area having breakfast at a cafe we've recently discovered.  Nether Edge has gone up in the world since I lived there but it still has a fine crop of interesting junk shops.

We were passing one of these junk shops when Stella suddenly said, "Hey, that looks great for your room!"

I looked down to see a large, oval, Victorian mirror with a carved, dark wooden frame.   "Sad", I thought, "my wife's succumbing to senility."

"No, that!" she said, pointing to a small, metal filing cabinet.  "I thought it would be good for 25mm figures."  We first met over a role-playing game so she's not completely devoid of knowledge where toy soldiers are concerned.

£21 later (it was £20 for cash but the local corner shop's cash machine charged for withdrawals) I was the owner of a new piece of furniture for the workshop.

The drawers are slightly over foolscap paper sized, which probably says something about its age, and an inch of so deep.  So a little shallow for today's oversized "25mm" figures but just fine for 6mm scale units.

When I get magnetic material attached to the bases of all of my Great Northern War and Late Roman forces, they'll be safely stored and, because the drawers come out easily, safely transported too!

Meanwhile, by way of a bonus pic for you guys, currently on the adjoining workbench is this:

It's an Italeri Mil-24 Hind.  When finished it will bear the colours of the Andreivian Air Force.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

On characters and campaigns

I just thought I’d set down how I created the characters for Zheltarus and Yeșilkara in my previous post and say a little about how I intend to use them.

The first step was to roll up a character for each of the command elements in my collection.
I started with a system straight out of Black Powder.  The Personal Qualities of Commanders rating in that rule set is rolled on a d6 but only the extreme values (one for “low”, six for “high”) are taken account of.  Three dimensions are considered - Aggression, Decisiveness and Independence.  Any resulting characteristics on this scale and their impact in the game are shown in italics below the narrative descriptions.

Those narrative descriptions are all my own work (modestly examines fingernails after polishing them on the front of his crimson velvet smoking jacket) but built upon a framework provided by Henry Hyde.    Following Henry’s The Wargaming Compendium, I created random values (from 1 to 100) in Intelligence, Initiative, Courage, Charisma, Strength and Health.

Occasionally there would appear to be a clash between the two systems.  For example, if the Black Powder Personal Quality was low decisiveness (Hesitant) but the character came up with Initiative in the 90s under Henry’s system, I gave precedence to the Black Powder rating.  In such cases I would swap the offending percentage rating with the value at the opposite extreme in the character’s profile.  Thus a Hesitant commander with Initiative 91 and Charisma 10 would become Initiative 10, Charisma 91 before the narrative was constructed.

The final numerical value I allotted was Social Status.  In line with the Maurice rules, this is on a one to four scale with four being the highest.  My commanders in chief (Mikhail II and Murad the Vicious) automatically got four.  The rest were rolled randomly on a d4 (actually using the Dice Bag app on my iPhone).  I plan to restrict the allocation of generals to commands in a true-to-period way.  Higher status officers will lead the cavalry regardless of their capacity to do so effectively!

Interestingly all of the Yeșilkaran generals so far have come out with Social Status 3 quite by accident.  I must consider what this says about the hierarchy within the Emir’s inner circle.

Meanwhile, I’ve neglected to do the command element for my Janissaries.  So let’s do him now.

The Dice Bag app rolls 2, 3 and 5 so there are no Black Powder Personal Qualities and we can go straight to Henry’s attributes.  I fire up the percentage dice function and get:  Intelligence 92, Initiative 15, Courage 66, Charisma 92, Strength 63 and Health 10.  Finally, rolling a virtual d4 his Social Status is 1.  This last value is interesting.  Clearly the Janissaries have a significantly lower status than the Sipahi in the Emir’s court.

Hall Inalcik’s book The Ottoman Empire is a good source of Turkish names.  In this case I choose Ishâk Pasha for our Janissary commander.

Now we need to consider the extreme values above.  Ishâk Pasha is very bright and will be popular with the men, all the more so because he won’t be prone to get them killed in rash advances.  He’s not a particularly well man, though.  So all in all we end up with:

Ishâk Pasha, commander of the Janissaries
Social Status 1
The Emir values his devoted slave Ishâk for his steadiness in battle.  The Pasha is a skilled but cautious political operator and has built his power on the unwavering support of the Janissary corps despite his lack of status within the Emir’s court.  Ishâk is a eunuch by conventional designation only. He is accompanied on his campaigns by a physic who supplies him with powders and ointments to mitigate the effects of regular “conversation” with foreign women.

So how will I use these ratings?  The initial inspiration to create them came out of my limited feel for the period.  I’ve read so much about twentieth century warfare that I find it easy to come up with interesting scenarios for games.  In the 18th century I don’t have that instinctive understanding and wanted a bit of game mechanism to help me.  By populating the region with defined characters I’m hoping plots will emerge naturally.

What I don’t plan on doing is running a full campaign on the Hyboria model.  Zheltarus and Yeșilkara will simply provide a framework for the narrative around occasional battles using Great Northern War-period toys.  I also don’t plan to give the numeric stats (other than Social Standing) to the players.  They will remain in reserve in case I want the dice to reveal whether an officer, not currently under the control of a player, behaves in a particular way.

That’ll do for now but I’ll also want to add equivalent characters for my Poles, who are planned to appear in fictionalised form as the Kingdom of Tszervonsk.  More on these later.