David Bickley's Wargames Blog

The occassional ramblings of an average gamer, journeyman painter, indifferent modeller, games designer, sometime writer for Wargames Illustrated and host of games in GHQ.

Monday, 24 October 2016

"The boys was spoilin' for a fight!"

It seems like an age has passed since Phil and I last managed a game here in GHQ, so today's game here was eagerly anticipated by at least one of us! We had settled on an ACW game before Phil's recent holiday, so over the weekend I had laid out the terrain, determined the objectives for the two sides, organised the orders of battle and worked out the turns each brigade would enter the table: all this while battling gallons of snot and runny eyes with a stinker of a cold! It was more than worth it though when battle commenced this morning!
We chose to give the Black Powder rules a run out, incorporating some of the rules suggested in the Glory Hallelujah supplement, which I confess I've only glanced through a couple of times before today's game! Phil would command the Confederate and I the Union forces. Turn 1 sees the Union army encamped along a river somewhere in northern Virginia, with one Brigade and supporting artillery guarding a strategically important bridge and a second on the road to support their position as Reb scouts have been seen in the vicinity in recent days. In fact the Rebs have managed to deploy a force threatening the Union's position, with three brigades able to enter the table on turn one. Phil opted to send one brigade along a road on his left flank as a diversionary attack, while the other two Brigades entered the table and marched straight for the Union position. {The Union's third brigade, of New York veterans, could only enter down the road when the Regulars ahead of them had cleared the way. Their fourth brigade could not enter until Turn 5 on the Union's left flank.}

The early turns saw both sides failing command rolls: Phil's diversionary attack on the Union right was bogged down on Virginia's unseasonably muddy roads, while the Brigade of US Regulars found their approach blocked by an ambulance evacuating casualties!

A view from Battery B, US Artillery stationed on the heights overlooking the bridge, and in the early turns the only Union presence on their threatened right flank!

After initial confusion amongst two Reb brigades, caused by Command Roll blunders, the attack finally gathered momentum along the front of the Union position. Useless S Bykleigh can be seen anxiously scanning the enemy advance as he awaits news of Union reinforcements marching to the sound of the guns!

Just as the attackers were gathering strength for the assault, the diversionary attack on the Union's right finally got underway. Those roads must have been mired and rutted!

In the nick of time the 'New York boys' make for the heights overlooking the bridge, while the Regulars brace themselves for the expected charge from the onrushing Rebs! Over in the centre ominously large numbers of Rebs can be seen approaching the nervous boys holding the fence line! "Pour it into 'em boys, pour it into 'em."

Turn 5 came as a massive boost to the Union forces with the reinforcing brigade successfully entering the table and making three moves on the Reb's right flank. Meanwhile the thin blue line continued to hold the fence line against increasing Reb pressure.

Back over on the Union's right flank, the Rebs pressed again to get a foothold over the bridge. The Regulars were coming under fire from supporting regiments within the Reb brigade, while artillery played on their flank from close range. Surely the lads could not take such punishment for long! Indeed they could not, suffering the indignity of becoming 'Whipped', they retied to safety!

Despite the loss of the Regulars, the right flank held and the Reb attack was bloodily repulsed. In the centre the Rebs kept on coming despite losses and finally a Union regiment failed, becoming whipped and leaving a yawning gap in the line.

The Union brigade on the left flank was poised to crash out of the dense wood into the Reb flank and turn the tide of the game once more in the Union's favour. At least that was what I planned. Phil had other ideas and sent a regiment successfully against the tail end of the Brigade line. The fight there was bitter and inconclusive for two turns.

With both sides 'Shaken' the Union came off the worst in the Morale Save roll and another regiment became 'Whipped'! At the same time the 'Confused' rule played against the Union's planned flank attack and they retired 3" further into the woods! Things had turned suddenly against the boys in blue!

Sadly, at least from my point of view, Turn 9 saw the Union army broken and leaving the field. The Rebs had achieved their objective of seizing the supplies in the Union camp, defeating Useless S Bykleigh along the way. The centre crumpled away under sustained pressure over several moves despite gallant defense by the boys holding the fence line, in the end the punishment meted out proved too much, while the over ambitious flanking attack ultimately failed to turn the game. The Reb diversionary attack on the Union right succeeded despite losses, drawing in the reserve Union brigade which might have bolstered the centre later in the game.
We both felt the game played well and the new rules definitely gave more of an ACW flavour than naked Black Powder rules had. The fortunes of both sides ebbed and flowed throughout with neither side seeing a clear victory until the Union broke. I'd certainly give them another go again! As ever the figures are from my own collection, mostly Dixon Miniatures of course. The bridge is by Hovels and the trees and walls by The Last Valley, while we scratch built the fences in days gone by! Of course, the terrain boards and hills were made for me by Phil as I'm sure you know by now!

Friday, 21 October 2016

"Something Old, Something New...

...Something Borrowed, Something Blue", as the old saws would have you know. A good title for this post as well I think you'll find! Continuing the Billy No Mates existence has lead me to complete a wagon set for my French army in the Wars of the French Revolution project. It's the Perry Miniatures wagon set, slightly late for my chosen period of 1793-95, but hey-ho, it's a wagon, it's French and I liked it, so it'll do for me! It took me a week's worth of painting time as well; it's not heavy but it's fiddly for my arthritic hands - they chose this week of course to play up, having behaved beautifully for ages before! The body of the wagon is a soft resin, easy to trim excesses off, and the wheels, shaft, two horses and two passengers are metal, and come with the sadly expected yards of vent runs and flash to deal with! I cut the head off the driver, drilled out the neck, and replaced it with a Trent Miniatures head in bicorne. I carefully painted his trousers in revolutionary red,white and blue to locate the piece firmly in my chosen period. Anyhow, this is the 'new' the title mentioned ~

Something old is up next. I've been steadily increasing the figure count for my VBCW collection over the past few months. I've also been trawling eBay for Lledo vehicles with a Wolverhampton link.. But this one I found in the loft recently during a sort out ~

It also qualifies as 'something borrowed' since I'm pretty sure it was Matt's about 25 years ago! Sadly it seems that Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries never had a promotional or commemorative vehicle, but I'm tarting up a six wheeler for myself with a period advertising hoarding I found through Google. That brings us to 'something blue': appropriately its the 'boys in blue', Wolverhampton Borough Constabulary's finest ~

If, like me, you find the news coverage at present a tad annoying ~ full of remoaners as it is ~ you can always find solace in the local paper, which, if its anything like ours, probably espouses views to the right of Attila the Hun! The 'Express & Star' was always going to be a must have element in my VBCW games, and here they are complete with transport, the Express & Star Rifles ~

The Editor is a Copplestone 'fine fellow' I think, the rest are Musketeer/Footloose Miniatures. The next unit on the list is the Chillington Horse, which I hope to start in November. At present I'm working on British skirmish bases for my Wars of the French Revolution game. I hope to finish those 14 figures this month as it will round off that aspect of the collection. Back to the painting desk  for me then...

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Absent Friends?

Or Billy No Mates? (Answers on a postcard from any interested parties please.) No game this week in GHQ: Phil is away on some Greek island for a week's R&R and Jon is still hors de combat, laid low by life's repeated kicks in the nether regions! But I am trundling on here in GHQ, buoyed by the belief that things can only get better, at least hobby and games wise if nothing else! (Readers might recall I'm a season ticket holder at Walsall, so I'm well versed in living on mere slivers of hope!) I've been occupying myself with painting as and when I can, and for a number of different projects that are on the go at present too! I've taken a few pictures of progress so far this month, as much to encourage myself to keep at it as anything else.
First up, some bases of French Light Infantry for the SYW. These are Front Rank figures mounted on Warbases 100mm oval bases representing the Voluntaires de Soubise ~

I've spent quite a while on the next offering: Battalion guns for my Wars of the French Revolution French Demi-Brigades. The figures and cannons are from Trent Miniatures ~

I've also been adding to my VBCW forces, using Footloose Miniatures, which are my first choice for this genre. I've added a command figure, Lewis gun team, and standard bearer for my Tettenhall Militia ~ thanks to Pete Barfield once again for the smashing bespoke flags ~

I've also completed some VBCW figures for Princess Sudhera's Rifle Company ~

Next up will be some of Wolverhampton Borough Constabulary's finest, again using Footloose Miniatures; in this case the Irish Constabulary set and the uniformed figure from the IRA command pack. Pop back next week to see how things are toddling along here in GHQ Solitary...

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Battle for Bhyklabad Bridge

Earlier this week Phil came over to GHQ and a game for the first time in a good while, or so it seems to me! We had decided to give my Indian Mutiny collection a run out and to see how the game fared using Black Powder instead of our more usual rules ~ my own The Devil's Wind. Phil would command the HEIC/British army and yours truly the Mutineers and their various native allied troops. To reflect the Mutineers lack of higher command ability the C-in-C was rated at 8 and the Brigade Commanders at 7. Mutineer infantry were armed with smoothbore muskets.The Badmash elements we rated Freshly Raised and the Raja of Rhanli's own guards we rated as Steady. For the British/HEIC forces, the C-in-C rated a 10 and the Brigade Commanders were 9's. In addition the Gurkhas rated as Tough Fighters while the European infantry elements were Stubborn and took First Fire also. They were armed with rifled muskets in the case of Europeans, smoothbore muskets for the loyal native troops.The regular Lancers we rated as Marauders, to accompany the lance bonus.
The scenario sees the Mutineers scraping together a force to defend the bridge on the main road to Bhyklabad, which the British/HEIC force must capture intact within 12 turns. To complicate matters the immediate defence of the bridge and its open flank falls to the Raja's guard and the local Badmash elements, with the 'better' Mutineer infantry arriving from the rear. The bridge takes six turns to prepare for demolition and then can be blown by the nearest Mutineer commander passing two successive Command Rolls. The British/HEIC force is divided by the river and so cannot easily find one arm supported by the other. The game proved to be very nip and tuck, with fortune favouring first one side and then the other before a rather sudden collapse of one, but that's getting ahead of ourselves.
Early moves saw the Raja's horse boldly cross the bridge, supported by some mounted hill tribesmen, to engage the enemy. You can see the Raja's Great Gun of Bhyklabad covering the bridge approaches, supported by other Mutineer artillery batteries on the high ground flanking the crossing. Away on the Mutineer left the Badmash and hill tribesmen are surging forward. In the centre the 'better' Mutineer infantry was remarkably unwilling to join the fray in early turns!

The Badmash's bold advance is halted by the Dragoons and Hussars! The hill tribesmen still surge forward and the Raja commits his war elephants to their support. At last the first of the Mutineer infantry joins in the battle, crossing the front of the Great Gun to support the beleaguered Badmash.

Despite taking casualties the charging Badmash defeat the Dragoons and Hussars, forcing them to fall back. Casualties mount for the hill tribesmen and they become disordered by artillery fire, just as the infantry close with them supported by the Lancers.

On the opposite flank ominously solid formations of Regular infantry and Neil's 'Blue Caps', with the Gurkhas skirmishing on their right flank, are advancing on the bridge. The Raja's Guard cavalry have been thrown back in disarray so it was up to the mounted hill tribesmen to carry the fight to the ferengi!

Fighting became a fierce exchange of musketry along the front on the right of the Mutineer position as their desperate commanders threw arriving units into the defensive line and the enemy infantry steadied itself for the inevitable charge across the bridge in the teeth of a storm of shell and shot! On the Mutineer left the war elephants charge the enemy guns ~ quite mad! They are in turn charged by the Dragoons and Hussars and comprehensively beaten!

The Mutineers have shown themselves aggressive fighters, willing to take the fight to the enemy, but their losses have inevitably been mounting steadily. Suddenly in Turn 7, with the loss of the war elephants their army is Broken and must flee the field, leaving the bridge intact to allow the victorious enemy to march on towards Bhyklabad!
A grand game, despite the sudden collapse of the Mutineer army. I should have said that they were comprised of six small brigades in a further attempt to mirror the disarray and rivalries amongst their local commanders. With three of these Brigades Broken in turn 7 their army fled the field, forgetting to try to blow the bridge ~ I put that down to excitement myself! As I do the lack of pictures of the end of the game, sorry!
No game here in GHQ now for two weeks. Phil is away on some Greek island for an Autumn break and Jon's situation shows now hope of immediate improvement in game possibilities, so I'm on my own here for a while. Not wanting to waste time I've pressed on painting the Battalion guns for my French in the Wars of the French Revolution project and cleaning up, spraying and basing some VBCW figures from Footloose.

Monday, 3 October 2016

I have been to...

...Derby Worlds at Castle Donnington Exhibition Centre with Phil. There will be no photos of queues ~ there were none ~ or games ~ the dreadful lighting would have turned them sickly green ~ just my observations on our day out and reflections on the direction our hobby seems to be taking. Oh, and the obligatory photos of my purchases!
I took up wargaming in 1973 when Sue and I moved to our first house in Walsall following our marriage and I was introduced to the Alumwell Wargames Society, by Wilf who worked in the local model shop where I had been buying Hinchliffe 25mm Napoleonic figures to paint as a change from Airfix 54mm plastic kits. A couple of years down the line I met Phil, and shortly after I became the club's Secretary, and Phil the Treasurer. Together with the others on the committee we organised the first WMMMS in the mid 1970's, a show I'm proud to say is still going strong today in a new venue, about a mile from our present home! I mention this out of interest in providing a context to any observations I make in the following paragraphs.
Why do we go to wargames shows in this age of the internet? I know in the early days of WMMMS we all looked forward to seeing new product in the round and were always interested to see the fine games staged by visiting clubs on the day: a chance to see other peoples' figures; their painting styles and techniques; their approach to terrain making and to scratch building! Fast forward to 2016 and all of that is instantly available on the internet, through dedicated Blogs, Facebook pages, Forum Boards and YouTube, not to mention shopping for the latest 'Oh Shiny'!But then still we go along on the day. Is it a case of 'Old Habits Die Hard' do you think? Well, it could be for we 'geriatrics in waiting', but what of the younger elements amongst us?
I don't think the answer is profound myself, its still better to see something you may want to buy in the round rather than on a screen, where you have no guarantee that the image has not been doctored in some subtle manner ~ think of adverts showing portion sizes, for example, where smaller plates are used to enhance the apparent size of the food portion. I still feel that seeing someone's painted army in action gives you a better idea of what your's might look like than any picture, still or moving. The same applies to seeing a rule set in action and most importantly talking to the author in person or to someone who has played the rules a lot.
But what of we old chaps? Well, all of the above still applies in my book, but I put meeting other gamer friends and making new ones higher on my list now a days. So, to Derby Worlds yesterday with my chum Phil, where we could chew over wargaming all day with no fear of interruption, except by other like minded chaps of course! A leisurely drive in the sun from Phil's, arriving about 10.30ish to find ample parking and no queue for entry: result No1! Enter the shed to find only a £1.00 reduction for Senior Citizens ~ Boo! Into the hall to find myriads of games and shed loads of traders! Lots to see and do and temtations to spend ~ Result No2! Now, Phil and I usually split up at this point to collect our pre-orders and take them back to the car ~ thanks Phil ~ before settling into full show mode! I beetled off to Warbases to collect the windmill sails Martin had kindly made for me, to attach to my windmill having stupidly shattered the resin ones! From there to Wagames Illustrated to collect some figures they were holding for me ~ 'Thanks Dan!' Then on to Great Escape Games for my Gamers' Grass Tufts and finally some Valejo Gun Metal Grey paint!
Then its our habit to wander the trade stands looking for anything which might take our fancy pertinent to our many projects, chat with the many Traders we have known for more years than we or they might like to admit, and then finally to take in the games, some in passing and some in depth, depending on the whims of our current interests or the 'Wow Factor' of the game. I had been looking forward to seeing the Ilkley Lads SYW extravaganza and was not disappointed. In every respect it was a stunner to see and was being vigorously played every time I ventured back! Worth the day out on its own for me. Other games that piqued my interest were: the South American Wars of Independence; the Rorkes' Drift game; the Thirty Years War game; and, the Walls of Athlone, even though it was my third viewing of it! In fairness, there were lots of lovely games on show, perhaps too may to take them all in fairly, but I did notice quite a few bijou sized games. Now, we play some of these ourselves, so no cause for gamers' snobbery there, but I do feel that at shows I like to see the spectacular and visually expansive game. Its just what I enjoy on the day and look forward to seeing in the round!
To conclude on a personal note: as an old hand at show organising and at game hosting I appreciate more than many punters on the day the months of effort that have gone in to realising what we see before us. I know that many things are beyond the ken of organisers to address and that anything involving volunteers can go pear shaped at the last minute. So, to all involved a big 'Thank You!' for my grand day out. As to the dreadful lighting, which spoiled the enjoyment of some spectacular games, and the hard floor, which b*ggered my knee and hip for the evening, there is little they can do, so I freely exonerate them! It did n't spoil my day.
Now, the obligatory pictures of my haul ~

In addition to the pre-orders I mentioned: from Dave Thomas a Perry French Baggage Wagon set for the FRW; and, my 'Star Buy' from the Flea Market, a Battalion of Brigade Games FRW infantry, at 3 figures for £1.00, with some VBCW Footloose standard bares, civilians and some Perry Austrian generals. All for £10.00! Then this afternoon the Light Infantry I'd ordered from Brigade Games turned up in the post too!

The VBCW Footloose and Perry WWII for the VBCW project which Dan had collected for me, together with some Austrian Limbers and a Caisson set for the FRW project. My 'Lead Pimple' has become a 'Lead Mountain' overnight! Finally, also in the post today ~

From an eBay Action at £1.99 some transport for my Express & Star Rifles in the VBCW. All in all a good couple of days, topped off by the 'All Clear' result from the Bowel Cancer tests we old folk get every three years! I've even finished some SYW French Light Infantry today and played an Indian Mutiny game, of which more in a future Blog entry! "That's All Folks!"

Friday, 30 September 2016

Open Fire!

In the last three or four weeks I've been adding some support and heavy weapons to my VBCW forces. I've already featured the Stokes mortar and crew, together with the Leach catapult, crew and bomb making vignette; now I've finished the 18lb quick fire gun and crew. They all have civilian looking crew figures from Reiver Castings as I wanted them to be interchangeable between the various factions and forces in my games set in and around Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire, as well as popping up in 1940 Operation Zeelowe or Blandings games. The mortar and catapult are from Great War Miniatures, but the provenance of the 18lb gun is a mystery, perhaps Renegade? Its certainly not the guns sold by either GWM or Woodbine Designs.

A reprise of the earlier heavy weapons ~

And all together ~

The Reiver civilians look, I think, surprisingly good, given that I thought them a little on the 'primitive' side as sculpts. I don't mean to be scathing there, rather to say they remind me of figures from an earlier time, when the world and I were younger!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Ministering to the Troops in 1914

Phil has almost finished his troops for our joint 1914 project. Its been a long slog fitting it around his commission work, family commitments and other activities, but we are nearly ready for a full game at last in GHQ. I decided to add a small set of vignettes to depict a Casualty Clearing Station, just to fill in along the back line of the table, an often empty area in games we have found. I bought a decent sized tent from Old Glory last year, and that will be the hub of the pieces. I've so far completed a Padre from Great War Miniatures  ~

Together with a small vignette from Woodbine Designs of 'Woodbine Willie' distributing cigarettes to a wounded Tommy ~

I plan to add the 'Casualty' set from Wargames Foundry's Great War range when I next pop over to their factory/shop in East Stoke. This should n't be too far in the future as I need to replenish certain paints too. I have an ambulance already, a die cast model I picked up cheaply a while back now, so taken all together it should make a nice set of pieces to provide some game infill. We shall have to see how we go beyond that then, although an army doctor and nurse[s] would be nice I think ~ all suggestions welcomed.