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.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

“I likes a bargain, I does!”

On the ‘first Sunday after soap and backa’ issue I found myself in the company of Phil and Jon at the biannual Penkridge Table Top Sale. Penkridge, a village in South Staffordshire, is about 8 miles north of Wolverhampton where I live so it’s a very short journey up the A449 to the venue in the Peace Memorial Hall. Admission is free and there’s usually ample parking on a Sunday, except around the immediate area. It’s a real scrum inside and superficially looks full of Games Workshop plastic tatt, but saying that I’ve never failed to get a bargain or three. Mind you, you have to be prepared to hunt around a bit! Past scores have included Redoubt F&IW painted figures at metal prices, obscure early Napoleonic medical figures, the GW Historical Waterloo and most recently four Ian Weekly Battleground hard foam Medieval/Renaissance tents and marquees for £10. I’ve already repainted two and glued them to a Warbases Terrain base I had left over ~

I need to assemble suitable detritus and figures next, a b*gger of a task since Irregular no longer do shows and their website is Steam Powered! I shall gird up my loins and manfully struggle through to get the bits and pieces I want for the task, though it may take a while...

The two remaining tents I’ve put on individual MDF bases, which size I had already in stock, so that the whole becomes more versatile on the tabletop. I need to process this in the next few weeks as Dan is coming over next month to take photos to accompany a piece I’m working on about our Italian Wars project, which may appear sometime in the late Spring I’d guess given lead in times at Wargames Illustrated ~

For those interested, the next Table Top Sale is usually in June, just before Barrage in Stafford last year for example. In truth, would I travel any distance to it? Well, no if I’m honest with you. But at a few miles up the road it’s doable in a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. If you are one of the saddos though who does fantasy games and likes GW plastic tatt it’s probably an excellent event.

Friday, 4 January 2019

By Air to...bottle it!

As promised for the start of the new campaigning year a second WWII Rapid Fire2 set too. I kept the table layout largely the same, but switched the forces around. This scenario saw a British glider borne assault holding Le Grand Bains against a German counter attack from Kampfgruppe Whytt. The Airborne had no armour support but did have a battery of howitzers, another of 17lbers and a 6lb antitank gun. They also enjoyed air support after Turn 3 in the form of a Typhoon with 2 Medium Bombs and one straffing run. As usual now a days, a series of captioned pictures to give a sense of the unfolding action ~
A game changing error: deploying my 17lb anti tank battery in
the only position the German spotter could see it!

Amongst the ruins Brigadier General Bykleigh considers his

Artillery fire was to be the Airborne's only hope against the
German armour. The 6lb antitank gun is already retiring!

The Stugs are out of sight of the Airborne's spotter and the
infantry dug in around Rumfordeville.

Herr Whytt considers his next move while anti aircraft gunners
nervously scan the skies!

Airborne hopes are raised when one Panzer IV is knocked out
and a second heavily damaged by HE. A false dawn sadly as
it turned out!

A cautious advance by Infantry supported by Stugs on the
Airborne's extreme left flank is worrying!

In the German centre infantry go into action supported by their
battalion artillery.

Jabo! No cause for alarm though...
The bombing run fails to destroy the advancing Stugs!

As the Typhoon readies itself for its second straffing attack it
proves too little too late and its all up for the Airborne, failing
their second consecutive Morale Test at the start of Turn 6!
"For you, Herr Bykleigh, the war IS over!"

 I can’t really claim it was a ‘game’ in the sense of an event in which each did their very best to win though. I made a fundamental error in my first two turns from which I miserably failed to recover, though Jon’s subtle play kept me on the ropes I have to say and I was thrashed in six turns! On reflection I think that ‘Personal Morale’ as out lined by Robbie Roddis on his Blog last year played a big part in my defeat ~
I realised my error but was paralysed by what I could do in response and bottled it frankly! Not my finest hour!
The Allied version of the Field Hospital as the German one in
the last post proved popular! Once more though, the busiest
chaps on the Airborne side!

Next up in GHQ will see a long overdue return to Rhanzlistan where another scion of the military incompetents who are the Bykleighs will pit his wits against Robinski and his S.P.I.F.F. Meanwhile, its back to painting SYW figures!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Rapid Fire resurgent!

I keep threatening Phil and Jon with a WWII Rapid Fire game, but somehow always put it off at the last minute! So, as one year ends and another begins not one but two games of Rapid Fire here in GHQ in the same week! Although the tabletop battlefield remains substantially the same for both games, the battles themselves are quite different. It means that, with the exception of my D Day  landings specific items and one of two planes, the whole of my 20mm WWII collection has been out on the table! Anyhow, enough blathering from me, here are some photos of the action from the first game played with Phil on New Year's eve starting with the rival commanders ~
General Lord Rawnsley organises the plan of attack!

Von Bikkel considers his increasingly limited options!

Germans dig in around Le Grand Bain
German 120m mortar battery awaits the call to fire!

The Germans reinforce their left acting on intelligence from
the 120mm Artillery Battery spotters in Le Ferme Blanc.

What the spotter saw! The Irish Guards supported by Churchill
tanks on the Allied right and Cromwells with a Sherman Firefly
driving for the centre.

While laying down smoke on the Allied centre, the artillery
spotter missed the dash on the Allied left by the Rifles

An Allied Cromwell is halted by German anti tank fire! But
elements of the Irish Guards flush the German spotters out of the
farm ruins!

I really should have paid more attention to these chaps!
With the action hotting up on the German left, a Company of
Panzer IVs drive forward to engage the enemy armour!
Meanwhile, the Firefly trades shots with the emplaced 88mm
Battery and emerges the winner. A serious loss in the German

To make matters worse, an Allied bombing raid succeeds in
halting the Panzers in their tracks!

Two tanks destroyed and the third routed! Ominous signs for
von Bikkel!

However, its not all bleak news for the Germans, as the Stugs
knock out two Churchills!
And at last the German Reserves enter the battle, although 
not where they are most needed I have to say!

The commander of the Tigers immediately attacks the Allied
Firefly, trading shots to little effect. He really should have paid
more attention to the PIAT group on his left!

The Stugs and the remaining Tiger all fail the Morale Test and
rout! That takes German losses over the Army Morale
threshold and the whole army is 'Pinned'!

With that result, von Bikkel's attempt to shore up his right
flank is thwarted...

...allowing the Rifles to get one company behind the German
Its all coming unstitched for von Bikkel now as a Typhoon
attack ads to the Germans' woe!

A shot from the rear of the 25lb Battery. Phil rolled so many
1's for failed radio contact that they hardly fired a shot in anger
for eleven turns!

With the German's pinned for two turns the Allies are free to
rush more of the Irish Guards into action against the weakened
enemy centre!

Allied infantry begin to roll up the German right flank. Its all
up for them now, with four consecutive Morale Tests and a 
dice roll of 1! The army routes or surrenders at the end of
Turn 11.
The busiest man in the German army that day!
A splendid game we both felt in the end. Before the Germans' first Army Morale test the Alies just scrapped through one of their own with a Pinned result. Another day they might have routed then! What we did realise though was how rusty we were with the rule nuances! A natural combination of aging memory and playing too many periods on my part I fear! Still, the second runout tomorrow hopefully when Brigadier Bykleigh's Glider borne coup de main will be assaulted by Kampfgruppe Whytt. Pop back at the end of the week to see how it went...

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Onward, Ever Onward!

As time like an ever rolling stream flows ever onwards it’s an opportunity as the year's close approaches to look back on past hobby activity and look forward to what hopefully 2019 may bring. As ever I’ve kept an old fashioned desk diary in which I record my hobby related activities under the general headings of ‘Games’, ‘Painting’, ‘Purchases’, and ‘Visits’. Although I sometimes feel this might be a tad OCD I genuinely find it helpful in seeing the balance over time of where my hobby interests are taking me. Straight away I can see that compared to previous years I have made fewer hobby related visits, to Shows or to Stores, than in any of the most recent years. Mainly this was due of course to my hip replacement operation in early May and the enforced travel ban during the immediate recovery period of several weeks. In fact since The Other Partizan in late August it will probably be WMMS in early March before I attend a wargames show again, that's assuming we don't count the Penkridge Table Top Sale in January. While age and disposition might partly be the cause, I have to say I find wargames shows increasingly disappointing, though it’s hard to say why that is. I should probably return to this theme later and give it proper thought and consideration. We’ll have to see...
Back to the review of 2018 though for now. I see from the aforementioned diary that in the year I played 50 games, mostly against my friends and steadfast opponents Phil and Jon I should say, winning 22, drawing 14 and loosing14. Overall a pretty average performance, as ever of course. What was new though was a conscious decision on our part to consolidate the rules we played, rather than dip into numerous sets. This meant sadly leaving several sets I had written and published in favour of Black Powder as I found I simply could not cope with remembering what went where in each game. Age brings wisdom they say, but not improved memory I’ve found, so it’s simpler to use one core set for several genres we play. When we branch out into Ancients, ECW, Italian Wars and WWII I find I lean heavily on Phil especially as he’s far more into rules than I am now a days. Hardly fair to him perhaps but it seems to work for us.
Painting continues to be a solitary pleasure, though developing arthritis in my right hand allied to early stage cataracts in both eyes has sometimes made for difficulties. I see from the record I added 536 figures to the stock of resources in GHQ, though the Lead Pimple remained resolutely of the same sort of size. Must be some sort of magic thingy at work there! I only paint 28mm figures now of course, still in a range of periods and genres, but mostly in the late C18th to the early C20th. I’ve never thought of myself as more than an average standard of painter but I’m still generally really chuffed by the look of my armies on the tabletop, if not so much close up! I put this down to some advice I was given years ago now: ‘Faces, Flags, and Bases’! Well, Flags I can buy for almost any period now; faces I'm less good at now, having largely given up on eyes for example; bases I do work a little harder at now, though the benefits of laser cut MDF can’t be underestimated in the overall finished look of a unit or individual base. As the Lead Pimple has recently expanded significantly I hope 2019 will prove to be equally productive and satisfying as 2018 was!
I’ve already alluded to a significantly reduced frequency of visits to wargames shows and hobby stores and explained partly the reasons behind that. I’d like you to humour me a little though as I share my thoughts on this important aspect of our hobby for a while. I always used to look forward to the opening of the Show Circuit each Spring, usually back then at WMMS, and would often chalk up 20 plus Shows in the year, several in company with Phil and our Demo Game for that year. I really enjoyed showing our games to fellow enthusiasts, even those of the Trappist persuasion, but advancing years and the onset of hearing issues lead to that aspect fading away. Now in the role of just another punter I have to admit I find many shows a bit samey. I find them a bit like Medieval markets really, moving on from place to place over the year, but still featuring the same faces in the Trade and Gaming aspects. I realise that’s not the fault of either organisers or featured gamers, rather
perhaps it’s me in a new phase of my hobby life. This is one reason I enjoy the Scottish shows of Carronade and Claymore, featuring some traders and gamers who don't venture down south as well as the chance to meet my many Scots friends. I no longer buy much at shows, thanks to the net of course, and while I can admire a grand game I can often see it later and better on Blogs and Forum Boards. I still enjoy chatting with old chums of course, but the buzz of shows has largely evaporated for me.
Finally in the review of the year I ought to mention purchases. Well, far too many if I’m honest would be my initial thought. But then what fellow hobbyist wouldn’t say the same I wonder? Certainly if you look at Bring & Buys, eBay and the like a lot must be bought and never painted or used! On the other hand I did part with three collections this year: my 20mm Vietnam War game; my Samurai skirmish game; and lastly, my C19th Great Detective game all exited GHQ for good. In truth the first two were played out without unlikely investment in new components while the latter simply never worked for us as a game for two players. I’ve found that my penchant for Pulp type games more than sated by the VBCW genre, so next year should see my Pulp Adventures collection also departing GHQ, with the resulting cash being reinvested in more popular and enduring games here in GHQ.

Where do I hope to be going then in 2019 in our wonderful hobby? Well, judging from a recent inventory of the aforementioned Lead Pimple the answer is the Black Powder era with additions to the AWI, the ACW and the SYW.

That ought to keep me occupied for a fair chunk of next year {DV}...

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Christmas Greetings!

With no hobby related activity worthy of record planned between now and New Year's Eve it seems an appropriate space to wish all the Followers and many anonymous visitors to this blog


The usual 'End of Year' musings will probably appear nearer to the end of the year, for those of course who are interested in my ramblings...

Saturday, 15 December 2018

20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

My real passion, if I can say I have one as a wargamer, has been the American Civil War almost since I first got into this hobby. In my time I have owned three collections of both factions in the conflict: a 15mm Minifigs collection; a 25mm Minifig collection; and, lastly, a 28mm Dixon Miniatures collection. Even with my larger table in GHQ Mk2, I have more figures than can be accommodated in any game, so why I have bought more figures is a source of some concern, but buy three more regiments worth of Infantry I did last year! Madness, I know... Of course they are all Dixon Miniatures, quite simply in my view the most characterful and comprehensive range on the market, I just enjoy painting them! Well, one of those three new purchases has had its moment in the sun and reached the painting desk! A Union Regiment, the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Flags From Redoubt Enterprises ~

The 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, known as the "Harvard Regiment", served in the Union army in the ACW. The regiment gained its nickname because the officers of the 20th were young Harvard graduates. In addition some of the private soldiers had attended Harvard. Perhaps it’s most well know member as far as wargamers are concerned was Oliver Wendell Holmes, later a Supreme Court Justice. The 20th was organized in August 29 to September 4, 1861. After training they left for Washington DC on September 4. They would fight until the war's conclusion; being mustered out on July 16 and discharged July 28, 1865. With the exception of First Bull Run the 20th participated in all of the major battles and many of the smaller battles fought by the Army of the Potomac from Balls Bluff on October 21, 1861 through the Seven Day’s, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Petersburg and finally theAppomatox Campaign.
Painting is restricted just now by caring for Sue and necessary domestic duties, compounded by the pre-Christmas crush. I'm pleased to say Sue is progressing well! In the circumstances I'm pleased to have completed these. I've also just started some Foundry SYW British infantry to represent the 23rd Foot.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

British Blustering and Posturing!

Things have been a tad hectic here in GHQ this last week or so. Sue was rushed to hospital two weeks ago with acute appendicitis, operated on, cared for in New Cross and finally discharged to my care last Wednesday. Needless to say painting and gaming with little metal chaps was not a high priority. But, Sue is making good progress post surgery and so I felt able to host Phil this Monday for our regular game. My choice was a SYW game, which I would have played with Jon but for the aforementioned medical incident! As ever, a photomontage to try to convey a sense of the unfolding action ~
Lord Rawnsley oversees the deployment of his army for the
coming action!

Le Comte du Merde similarly directs the French deployment.

A rash charge by the Scots Greys sees them routed by the 
Mestre de Camp regiment! A significant action in the game's
outcome withhindsight!

Lord Rawnsley's failures in early Command rolls handed the
initiative to du Merde's forces.

French cavalry secures the infantry's right flank allowing
unopposed deployment into firing line.

The British Horse Guards and Horse Grenadiers were very
loathe to enter the action. This exposed the British infantry's
left flank to the threat of French cavalry.

The French mass for an attack as the British hesitate!

The Cuirassiers du Roi advance on the hesitant British cavalry.

The British infantry is pinned by the threat of the French and
refuses its left flank brigade.

British cavalry finds itself outnumbered two to on the army's
left flank and has no appetite for the struggle, leaving the
infantry stranded.

The French Guard and Line Infantry Brigades advance in close
support of one another.

Lord Rawnsley decides to withdraw from the field, feeling his
position is hopeless.

Vive Le Roi! Vive du Merde! The French claim the field of
Battle as the British army quits the field in good order!

As I’ve previously stated, I was mulling over a new project for 2019, the WSS was in pole position in my thinking. In the end I settled for an expansion of my SYW collection as I couldn’t face two whole armies it seemed! I have reinvested the funds raised by selling on my Vietnam War 20mm game, so no overall hit to the warchest, as yet...