Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Freebie sabot base

I noticed that a piece of laser-cut MDF in the collection of left-overs had five 30mm holes in it. I can't remember which kit it was from but I thought I might as well make use of it.

Trimmed to a 10cm frontage rectangle and with a thin card base added it makes a nice sabot base.

I don't have much on 30mm round bases but it does give me the option of fielding these Picts as a To The Strongest unit.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Workbench update

Looking back through recent blog posts I've noticed a few things that appeared here as work-in-progress but never got the final beauty shot.

First up there's the half-destroyed adobe building. 

Which now looks like this:

This building has already seen action in the Christmas Pavis game but the obvious destination for it is Puebla 1863.

Then there was the 3D printed medieval tower and its destroyed version.

Finished and added to 60mm square urban bases we end up with a couple of nice additions to the Prague 1948 city options.

And finally the Gauls:

These guys, intended for Infamy Infamy, now look like this:

These are Victrix apart from the guys at either end of the rear rank who are from Warlord

This leader is distinguished by his round base.

Finally, Gaullish cavalry in Infamy Infamy come with a free base of stewards; servants holding spare horses who can act as a rallying point for the horsemen if they need it.

The chap with the oval shield is an old white metal 25mm model, manufacturer unknown. The horse-holder is cobbled together model with legs from Warlord, Green Stuff torso and other parts from the spares box. The horse is, I think, Gripping Beast with a Green Stuff saddle.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Caravansarai or Penitentiary?

A few years ago I received an extremely kind birthday present from Richard Phillips. It was this MDF model; the Large Caravanserai from Empires at War

It's a real beast! It played the part of the Wali of Smut's palace in our big Woebetides game and the side modules recently saw action as part of the walls of New Pavis in a recent Christmas game.

It occurred to me, though, that it could also be of some use if I go ahead and do a Sharp Practice game based on the Siege of Puebla, 1863.

One of the large buildings in Puebla that the French are forced to assault is described as "the Penitentiary". I haven't yet researched it properly but a large structure of this type would make a great centre-piece for an urban game.

One of the factors I need to take into account is that the buildings of Puebla were heavily shelled during the siege and street-to-street fighting. There's also some indication of mines being dug by the French. It seemed like a good idea, then, to have the option of partly demolishing my Penitentiary.

Given the modular design of the model, I could build a destroyed replacement section out of foam-core and cardboard.

I needed to build a destroyed corner section too.  

Sadly, at the first attempt I built the corner section the wrong way round - with the parapet wall on the inside! I had to do a quick bit of surgery to fix it - something I couldn't do when I made a similar mistake in my O-Level Woodwork practical in 1980!

The colour matching isn't perfect and I haven't attempted to do the jointed stonework on the interior walls. We'll have to see whether I decide to repaint the whole thing as Puebla planning proceeds.

The next plan is to produce a 270-degree rubble-and-crater base to go outside the collapsed bit of wall and maybe a 90-degree bit to go inside too.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Coulmiers, 1870

It's too early to report on progress with the Muddy River Blues campaign but in between adjudicating on map moves I've been trying out Bloody Big Battles.  I've been playing, solo, the Coulmiers 1870 scenario available from the BBB community at

Coulmiers is a smaller battle featuring inexperienced Republican French against poorly motivated Bavarians. I've had to use virtually every vaguely in-period village or town base to get the terrain required.

The French were attacking from the west (left in the picture above) and trying to force the Bavarians back far enough to capture five out of eight objectives in the eastern third of the table.

To make things interesting I diced on some home-made tables to decide on the tactics (or is it strategy at this scale; one 30mmx30mm base is about 1000 men?) to be used by the two sides. I ended with the French launching a concerted attack aimed a Coulmiers with the plan to fan out from there to capture nearby objectives. The Bavarians would counter this by centring their defence on Coulmiers and using their meagre cavalry force to screen the flanks.

A keystone of the Bavarian defence was the village of Baccon. This was partly fortified and occupied by a small brigade from 1st Bavarian Division backed up the divisional artillery.

Baccon in the grey square in the centre.
I've removed the buildings to give the
Bavarians room to deploy.

The Bavarian infantry holding Baccon would hold on until game turn three, significantly disrupting the French timetable (seven turns allowed for the scenario).

BBB in 6mm doesn't really support taking gorgeous game-in-progress photographs (there are lots of markers on the table) but it does give a good impression of really large battles swaying to and fro.

In the pic above we can see the French army converging on Coulmiers. The Bavarian infantry have been driven from Baccon and only the dug-in artillery remain. They will soon be over run.

Above we see a typical BBB unit - the Regiments de Marche forming half of the 1st Brigade of the French 16th Corps. They previously lost a base and because they had skirmishers, the base removed was that representing them. As a result of losing that base and of being Raw troops, they are now Spent and will be both harder to activate and less effective in combat. 

Their firepower is further reduced because, last turn, they rolled 11 or 12 when firing. This had a significant impact on the enemy but meant that the firers become low on ammunition. 

Finally we can also see that the unit is Disrupted. We can think of this as meaning that at least some of the companies and battalions making up the unit at pinned down by enemy fire. They will be harder to get moving and less effective when firing. They may even break and run!

The battle went as far as game turn 6 before I called it a day as the French had no possibility of reaching the required number of objectives.

The French in Coulmiers - the red marker indicates one of the two 
objectives the town represents.

My first impression of BBB is very favourable. The rules are superbly laid out; not with gorgeous colour photos but with clear rules, helpful examples, and a minimum of extraneous verbiage. It's really easy to find what you need to know and a double sided QR sheet (included at the back of the book or available to download) gave all I needed to run the game.

It's so clever how by using a few statuses for any given unit (Disrupted, Silenced, Low Ammunition, Spent and a couple of others) we get a clear mental picture of a brigade's current combat status). The rules around these statuses (and how to get rid of them) encourage realistic employment of your troops. 

All this is done without adding complexity. For example the system for Movement manages to combine movement distance, command and control, and morale into a single 2D6 dice roll! Fire combat is equally simple, also using a single 2D6 roll, and manages to factor in casualties, disorganisation and morale effects. Finally The Assault (short range fire and hand-to-hand combat) is done with simple opposed die rolls and reflects all of the factors you'd expect.

I think the best praise I can give to the rules is that in playing them I felt like I was commanding an army of several divisions and not a brigade pretending to be an army.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Just arrived...

 ... from Caliver Books.

In line with this year's plan to make better use of existing toys, I've gone back to the search for a set of rules that will encourage me to get the Irregular Miniatures Franco-Prussian War models back out of storage. I wondered if Bloody Big Battles might do the job.

I quite enjoyed Principles of War but it doesn't really cover whole battles in a war as big as the FPW. I suppose you can squint a bit and say a single POW unit is a brigade or a division but... nah, not really.

Having looked at one of the scenarios available on line (a draft version of Spicheren) I think I have enough toys to do it with BBB. A brief flick through the rules suggests that maybe I need to add a few more to do the larger battles but that can be left for a later date if I decide these are the rules for me.

As I'm still waiting for one of the players to provide orders for the Muddy River Blues campaign, I thought I'd have a quick go at trying out BBB. I picked a couple of the grid squares from the Froeschwiller scenario.

This sees the 7th and 8th Brigades from 4th Division of II Bavarian Korps attacking Ducrot's 1st Division around Nehwiller.

The game started with 8th Brigade marching in column into the woods west of Langensulzbach. No problem, though they were slowed down by the woods and by having to cross the Sulzbach stream.

7th Brigade, however, were more problematic. Despite the presence of General von Hartmann, they failed to get moving thanks to a lousy die roll. Units in BBB have to dice to see if they get a full move, a half move or no move at all, or maybe even a retreat or rout (if they're already disrupted).

To make things worse, the Bavarian Korps artillery came under fire from their French counterparts and were "silenced". This would men that they'd have to withdraw on the following turn. 

On the French turn, I restricted myself to pivoting Ducrot's Zouaves to be in position to fire at the Bavarians when they emerged from the woods. I replaced the village base with a Post-It note because a unit's facing is crucial.

On game turn 2 the roles were reversed for the Bavarians. 8th Brigade's column got lost in the woods and didn't move at all, while 7th Brigade trundled forward across the Sulzbach and onto the Woerth-Langensulzbach road.

Having got there they came under withering Chassepot and artillery fire from the French. The result on the Firefight Table was "1" - this saw them lose a base (one of their original five) and become Disrupted and, because they are classified as "raw" troops, all Spent. This would make them harder to move forward in future and less effective if they ever got to assault the enemy. In addition, the lost base is automatically their "skirmisher" base so they become marginally less effective in fire combat.

The French had clearly found a position magnifique and they decided to remain in place.

On the third turn the Bavarian 7th Brigade failed the movement roll that could have seen them rally off their Disrupted status. They didn't fall back but they remained on the road under that galling Chassepot fire. This would see them lose another base by the end of the turn.

Meanwhile the 8th Brigade managed to sort themselves out into line of battle and make some progress towards the Zouaves' line at Nehwiller. Sadly for the boys in pale blue, the enemy's fire was enough to Disrupt them and force them to halt (actually pushed back slightly into the woods). With both Bavarian brigades effectively pinned down by the murderous fire of the Chassepot I decided that we'd seen enough. 

Bloody Big Battles has a fine pedigree in Chris Pringle's previous games TacWWII and Arc of Fire and I think it's going to repay further investigation. I just need to find some Franco-Prussian War scenarios I can manage with the current forces here at Stately Counterpane Manor.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Muddy River Blues part one

My 2024 gaming year is kicking off with a short Sharp Practice campaign called Muddy River Blues.

Set in April-May 1863, it's an exploration of Mississippi Marine Brigade operations against Confederate raiders in the swamplands of western Mississippi. Richard Phillips and Ron Pearce are signed up to play, respectively, Union and Confederate commanders.

I don't want to share too much information at present as we're only just getting started and hidden movement is going to be a major factor but here's the campaign map. If you were around in the 1970s I trust you will be able to detect the nominative theme.

Each of the grey-outline rectangles is a 6'x4' Sharp Practice tabletop. I'll be adding more details of each of them as the players visit them. The blue strip down the western edge of the map is the Mississippi River. The Union troops begin based at Hendricks and the Confederates at Badfinger.

I'll provide some updates as the campaign proceeds.

Now to check if I have enough in the way of wide river sections!

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Penkridge Purchases

I was in Staffordshire (land of the speed camera) at the Penkridge Wargames Sale on Sunday morning. It's a bit of a trek over the Peak District, always foggy of an early January morning, but worth it to see friends and pick up some bargains.

In a previous post on plans for 2024, I kind of hinted to something that's now firmed up in my mind. I want 2024, hobby-wise, to be a year in which I concentrate on making the most of collections I've already put together. That doesn't mean I won't buy new stuff but it's fair to say that pretty much everything I got at Penkridge was aimed at encouraging the use of existing toys.

These 28mm pack mules came from the Tiger Miniatures stand. They're pretty flexible - I can see them being used in a range of 19th (and possibly 18th) century settings. Their first use will likely be in an ACW Sharp Practice campaign that I'm just getting underway. (More on that in future posts - it's definitely using existing toys!)

Also from Tiger Miniatures was this statue. I previously bought a Ganesh statue from the same "50p any figure" box at Penkridge and it served well in the Hindu temple at Pandigore in the Woebetide Islands. I thought this god looked rather more suitable for turning the temple into a Gloranthan structure. Shame it was just a little late for the Christmas game!

I bought a couple of books.

I have a quite a library of Operation Sealion books and I hadn't seen this one before so it made sense to pick it up.

The book below is from the Osprey History range and it's badly mis-titled. Far from being a detailed look at the Huns at the time of Atilla, it covers Asian nomadic horsemen of many cultures from the first emergence of the Hsiung-Nu on the edge of China to the birth of Ghengis Khan! Still, it was only a fiver and it has some nice colour plates. I just need to avoid being dragged into wargaming 11th century Finno-Ugrians!

One of my plans was to seek out cheap 6mm models. A couple of packs really hit the spot.

This bubble pack contains a substantial number of GHQ modern US infantry. There's enough in there to put together a reinforced battalion for Cold War Commander. Possibly a few too many mortars and a little short on M47 Dragon ATGWs but they're painted to a reasonable standard. If, as I suspect, that's a whole pack, there's over £11-worth of metal in the pack. Cost me a fiver!

Another bargain (at £3) was this bag of Bacchus "Grenadiers-in-tall-mitre-caps". This is just the right quantity to allow me to add a converged grenadier battalion to my Great Northern War Russian army (who more often see the light of day as the forces of the imagi-nation of Zheltarus).

Yet more 6mm goodness in the form of a load of Battlescale resin buildings bought from Richard Phillips. I've painted a few previous buildings from this company and I have to say they're very nice castings. These ones were chosen to add to the terrain for this Spring's big Stary Boleslav game. I'm not sure they were intended to represent rural Czechoslovakia in 1948 but I'm sure I can make they look believable in that role.

Thanks are also due to Richard for handing me a pack of 28mm Grendel fuel drums.  

I'm under strict instructions to paint them up and use them when running some more Rogue Stars for Richard!


Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Christmas Games part two

On the 29th we had a substantial gathering of gamers at Stately Counterpane Manor to play out The Liberation of Pavis - a multi-player Song of Blades and Heroes game. Regular attendees Jamie, Ron, Gus, Sam and Josh were joined by old friends Tom and Matt whom it was lovely to see after far too many years.

The Liberation of Pavis was the latest of a series of games set in and around that Gloranthan city. The players were read the following introductory text:

For those of you who aren’t Glorantha fans, a little back story.

Glorantha is a fictional world invented by the late Greg Stafford. At the time of our game, the history of Glorantha will turn upon the battle for dominance between the followers of two gods; Orlanth the storm god and The Red Goddess of the Moon. The storm-worshipping barbarians and the Lunar empire cannot co-exist peacefully and the long-foretold Hero Wars seem to be upon us.

The Hero Argrath Whitebull has emerged as a leader of the fight against the Lunar Empire and it seems his first act will be to capture the frontier city of Pavis. 

For weeks his motley army of nomads and Wolf Pirates has besieged the city but now they have broken in. How? Surely they know nothing of siegecraft? Afterwards some will say that the city was betrayed from within, others that magical plants, grown overnight, pulled down the city walls and yet others that the Sun Dome templars turned against their former Lunar allies.

Whatever the story, Argrath’s fighters are flooding into the streets of Pavis…

Those of you familiar with the setting may like to know that I based my scenario on the book King of Sartar, on the Chaosium website The Well of Daliath, and on Jeff Richard's Chaosium house Runequest campaign on Youtube.

In the game, Tom took the rôle of Halcyon var Enkorth, the Lunar Governor of Pavis. I knew that Tom was familiar with this character, who in our youth was the Provincial Overseer's representative in Balazar (from the Runequest campaign pack Griffin Mountain). I guessed that Tom hadn't kept up with the latest in Gloranthan lore and that Halcyon turning up in Pavis would be an amusing surprise for him. And so it turned out.

Ron would play Jaxarte Whyded, a recurring character in my Pavis games. By the time of the fall of Pavis he should have been at home in the Lunar heartland but I couldn't resist bringing him back to the city for one more fight (fatal as it turned out). Jaxarte's ticket out of the city (potentially) was the Lady Jezra who, it was hoped, could parlay a connection with the Eiskoli family into a safe place to hide from the invading nomads.

Finally on the Lunar side, Josh would play an isolated group of Lunar peltasts. They hoped the higher-ups would come up with some wonder weapon to save them but they were prepared to sell themselves dearly if need be!

The opposition was also in three groups. Gus was to play Rurik Runespear, well-known to Glorantha fans as the original RQ2 example character and now a Runelord of Yelmalio sworn to kill the Lunar Governor in single combat. I knew that Gus, as an old RQ player who ran up against Halcyon back in Balazar decades ago, would appreciate this task.

Jamie led a group of mounted Praxian nomads of the White Bull Society. I gave him the task of riding around the city carrying out rituals that were needed to bring the city under the control of the warlord Argrath Whitebull.

Finally, Sam ran an assorted group of Wolf Pirates who just wanted to loot the city and slaughter its inhabitants.

Wolf Pirates versus Lunar Hoplites

A confused melée developed in the streets made all the more so by the intervention of assorted non-player characters. I ran some of these but Matt was the main embodiment of the Disorder rune in this regard.

I invented a house rule whereby a gaming gem was placed in a mug every time a player rolled a failure on their activation dice. Each gem could then be spent my Matt or me to attempt an activation by a non-player character. These might be rampaging nomads or Wolf Pirates, additional isolated Lunar defenders or martially minded citizens of the city. We allowed the umpire team to spend these at any time, even if it meant interrupting a player's turn.

Lunars, Sun Dome militia, Praxians and
Wolf Pirates - a confused melée indeed!

Osrtrich Riders threaten fleeing Lunars

At the end of the game nearly all of the Lunars remaining in the streets were corpses. 

Jamie had completed the objective of the White Bull Society and activated a ritual coving about a third of the table. The ritual was deemed to have some greater significance to be discovered later but an immediate side-effect was to give all invaders within its area the special rule Hate Lunars!

Gus-as-Rurik managed to catch and kill Halcyon var Enkorth. Or so he thought! In reality, and in line with events described in King of Sartar, Halcyon and his lover Marusa the Shrew escaped the city. It turned out that Rurik had killed Halcyon's look-alike! Never mind though, both Gus and Rurik are still claiming the credit for victory.

The Lady Jezra eventually reached the Eiskoli house to claim sanctuary. She did so, however, without the company of Jaxarte Whyded. His promising career was brought to an end by a nomad javelin on the dusty streets of Pavis.


The game worked well despite having eight people around the table with varying levels of familiarity with the rules. We started off with one player at a time activating figures but after just one turn everyone was sufficiently au fait with things to allow us to run all three players on one side simultaneously. Having experienced SOBH player Matt on board (he was volunteered into the umpire team on his arrival) helped enormously when it came to keeping things moving.

The system of activating NPCs worked fine. I think I'll keep it in my arsenal of techniques for future SOBH games where a third force needs to be represented.

All in all I was very pleased with the day. It was great fun to bring to the table top characters many of the players had previously met in classic RPG adventures like Griffin Mountain, Sun County, and Borderlands

Thanks to all who came along to play in the game and chat afterwards. A Happy New Year to all and to those of you reading this!

Monday, January 1, 2024

Christmas Games part one

I always try to get in a couple of games over the Christmas-New Year period. By the nature of things these have to be (a) multi-player, (b) capable of adjustment for last-minute drop-outs or arrivals, and (c) easy to pick up. 

On Wednesday 27th I arranged for two games; What A Cyberman (using an adaptation of the What A Cowboy rules) and Action on the Rippach (a semi-historical Thirty Years War fight using The Pikeman's Lament). Both games played quickly enough that we were able to play them through and then swap around so that everyone (except Jamie and I) got to play both games.

What A Cyberman is, of course, a Doctor Who themed game. In it 1920s Torchwood soldiers fight Cybermen in a tunnel complex while the Doctor goes about a mission of his own. First time around I refereed the game for Stuart, Matt, and John. It looked like the Cybermen were going to successfully kidnap the Doctor when, at the very last moment, one of the players managed to roll three sixes with their Action Dice and the Doctor escaped! As the first Pikeman's Lament game had just finished, we decided to call it a draw.

A Cybermat menaces the Doctor

New cave entrance bottom left

The new cave entrance (brown in the picture above) was added to give an alternative route into the heart of the tunnel system. It meant that it was harder for the Cybermen to bottle Torchwood up in the corridor leading from the rope bridge.

In the afternoon I played the role of Torchwood commander against Andy.  My ability to resist was hampered by Andy's skilful deployment of his Cybermats and my inability to roll decent numbers on a die. Despite the new route through the cave, Andy managed to restrict my movement significantly. His Cybermen successfully kidnapped the Doctor.

The scenario has the Doctor moving to a new location the moment anyone throws three or more sixes to activate. The first time I playtested the scenario this happened four times, which rather gave me a false impression of how the scenario typically plays out. I think next time I'll try it with the option to spend two Bonanza tokens to move the Doctor. This should see the Doctor move more frequently and allow for a bit more tactical decision-making by the players.

At the other end of the kitchen table we had a couple of games of The Pikeman's Lament based very loosely upon the fighting across the Rippach stream on the eve of the battle of Lützen.

In the morning session Andy's Swedes sought to cross the stream in the face of Jamie's Catholic trotters and Croat horse. This was the first time Andy had played the Swedes without the Wild Charge special rule and I believe he was much happier with at least a modicum of control over what his forces would try to do!

I always like to have a new terrain piece in any game I run and this was no exception. The river board (top, above and below) features a nice resin watermill by Baccus 6mm.

Jamie's Catholics were hampered in the first game when, shortly after the photograph below was taken, a random event meant that a quarter of their force was called away for other duties by the General.

In the afternoon we added a third board and additional forces to allow Jamie, Stuart, John and Matt to play a four-handed game.

For a set-up that was conceived as a portable option to allow play "down-the-pub", the Thirty Years War toys have proven very useful, albeit they are yet to see action in their intended environment.

More to follow later when I write up Friday's game.