David Bickley's Wargames Blog

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

Monday 30 April 2012

HMS Sea Dragon departs on her sea trials

At Salute I collected the stuff I'd pre-ordered early on in the day, as it was n't bulky and troublesome to carry around the show. I've found that this approach to Salute, coupled with marking up a floor plan before the event with the traders you'd like to shop with and the games you'd most like to see, leaves you freer to enjoy the event and can lead to surprising acquisitions...

This is the former Flagship Games Victorian Shark submersible, I believe, though perhaps with different gun and hatchway.
I've been after this for an age with no success, so was really chuffed late in the day to see it on the Black Hat Miniatures stand, hidden away in the bottom of the display case. "I'll have that!" I thought, and now I've painted it up to add to my growing Victorian Pulp game.

Here the HMS Sea Dragon, an experimental submersible vessel, can be seen departing dock on her maiden sea trials under the watchful eye of her creator, the brilliant but eccentric inventor Professor Braynstawme. Meanwhile, on the dockside, Queen Victoria {"Gawd Bless 'er!"}, flanked by her trusty servants and troops from her Household Guards, watches as the vessel slips silently from her moorings...

Even back in the golden days of Empire, Royal security was always a concern for the Home Office. Here we see the stalwarts of the newly formed 'Flying Squad' from Scotland Yard, standing ever ready to defend the Queen's person from some dastardly plot...
The figures in my Victorian Pulp collection are a mixture of Foundry, Ironclad and the Partizan freebie figures. Even though we've only played a game or two with them, I keep adding bits as I go along. I hope to get some buildings next to go alongside the dock and the cemetery tiles I made for my 1920's Chicago Gangster games.

Sunday 29 April 2012

Battle of Moore's Farm, 26 April 1862 ~ 2012 really...

On Thursday Jon and I got together for an ACW game here in GHQ, using my own "Bull Run to Gettysburg" rules, published by Wargames Foundry {Shameless plug #1}. I set out the battle with unequal forces before Jon arrived and he chose to be the Confederates before seeing the table. We then diced to see who would be the attacker, having the initiative for the first six turns. Jon's dice out performed mine [yet again!] and so his slightly numerically inferior Rebs attacked my brave Union lads! The defending Union army had to stick with the initial deployment, while the Rebs were able to reorganise before the game started.
The Union left was held by a Brigade of Regulars, while the centre was held by New York and Pennsylvania troops.

The Union right was held by two New York Brigades ~ who held off the Rebel attacks throughout the game but could not dislodge them from the farm.

The outnumbered Regulars on my left flank held off a strong Rebel thrust, aimed at rolling up my line...

...while Rebs from Virginia and North Carolina surge forward to attack the Union centre.

A heavy firefight developed in the centre of the line, with the Union expending ammunition at long range to little effect!

The Union centre collapsed suddenly in Turns 10 and 11, when mounting casualties lead to Morale Check failures and subsequent routs!

The correspondent of 'Harper's Weekly' braves Rebel fire to bring you, the readers, an account of this gripping action.

The game lasted about two and a half hours and comprised eleven turns. Jon, as the attacker, held the initiative for the first six turns, thereafter we diced each turn for it. On the whole Jon's plan seemed to be a steady pressure on the centre, while holding the Union flanks by demonstration attacks. I failed to clear a far inferior force on my right from the farm complex and thus failed to appreciate my centre needed shoring up until it was too late. Never-the-less, a great game which was fiercely contested and went to the wire...

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Victorian Additions ~ at Home and Overseas

At Salute on Saturday I bought the two new sets of characters from Empress for my Anglo Zulu War collection. So far I've painted up Chaplain Smith and the 'Surgeon Reynolds' vignette ~

I've also completed a sniper for the Boers in our First Boer War games later in the year ~
On a different tack, I was given some Victorian street traders on a trip to Foundry late last year and I've finally got around to painting them up ~
Now, I must get around to making up and painting the terraced houses, pub and shop which I acquired last year so Holmes and Watson can grace the table in further adventures here in GHQ...

Monday 23 April 2012

Dinning Room to Display Game...

I went to Salute on Saturday, but I don't intend to write much about that today, instead I feel its appropriate to allow myself a little more nostalgia, prompted by the old photos I mentioned finding in my previous post.

Seeing all those wonderful games and chatting to several of those responsible during the day, its easy to forget my early wargames fought over the dinning room table.
In the picture you can see my early Minifigs Napoleonic armies clashing in front of a rather incongruous Airfix thatched cottage, and all on a nice plain green felt cloth...

Of course, even then my favourite period was the American Civil War, using Minifigs figures again for my two early war armies...
From the look of the table it seems we were in the middle of building some terrain, to replace the old cloth in the first picture. We seem to have used 15mm buildings from Hovels by then too, so the old Airfix stuff must have gone to a better place...

Of course, Phil and I did n't always game exclusively across our dinning room table. In the 70's and early 80's we'd been members of a local gaming club and, in company with one or two other hardy souls, had even put on display games at several Partizan shows and other lesser events in the Central England area.

One of our more memorable outings was with a 15mm Mons 1914 game which we staged at a show one Sunday in November in Bedworth. It turned out to be Remembrance Sunday of course, and we found our game prominently placed in the venues' main window, directly opposite the local war memorial where the Remembrance service was taking place... 'Embarrassing', I felt at the time if I remember correctly.

Another memorable failure was an early attempt at a Crimean War display game at Partizan. So out of mainstream at the time we hardly attracted a passing comment and were even shunned by the photographer! Quite odd now when you look at the current edition of Wargames Illustrated too... That's Phil, by the by, sporting one of his more tasteful shirts I think.

More interesting was a weekend we spent at Boscobel House, as guests of English Heritage, where we staged a 25mm ECW game based on the Battle of Wigan Lane in the venue's Education Room. We did n't game overmuch, but we spent a good deal of time chatting with numerous visitors to the house on both days.

But when I look back on it all now, where ever we were, it seems that we had fun: as the photo of those two {rather young} chaps seems to suggest... its Dave Paddock, on the left, and yours truly,on the right, by the way.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

The Way We Were...

I was trying to find something this morning, with the expected lack of success as it turned out, when I came upon some old photo albums ~ you remember them don't you, the things we used to have before digital photography? They turned out to be collections of pictures relating to my gaming activities going back into the mid 1970's...
Here I am {taking up rather less space then I see} at the conclusion of a Sunday game at Alumwell Wargames Society in the late 70's. I can't recall much about that game, other than the terrible defeat I suffered...

A very faded photo of the very first WMMS, which Phil and I had organised, probably round about 1978{?}.
Anyone recognise themselves there?

I took this sometime in the early 1990's, while staying with my friend Dave P in Fayetteville, NC. Its a Mexican-American War game played over some of Dave's wonderful terrain in his gaming suite! I can't identify all the players now I'm afraid, but on the left is Sean, a Colonel last time I saw him;
Joe Brecher is the seated chap and to the right of him is Dave P. Can anyone identify the remaining members in the photo?
I do remember this day game quite vividly, with my Mexican peasants routing one of Dave's Regular units and then almost capturing his personality figure too! The group rejoiced under the name of the Fayetteville Area Gamers, or FAGs...not so politically correct today I suppose?

I've spent quite some time looking through the albums, admiring all those figures I so lovingly painted and wondering where they all finished up, and thinking where all those years went to so quickly? Not wasted years of course, but gone all the same. I'll try and post some other pictures in a day or two when I've got a minute or two; perhaps it will spark your very own bought of nostalgia?

Friday 13 April 2012

The end of Chief Bykelezi...

Today Phil and I managed to get our schedules into harmony and met up for a game here in GHQ, our first for a while due mainly to Phil's new work commitments. Phil chose an Anglo-Zulu War game, using my own 'Washing the Spears' rules. The Zulus were set up first on the table, then Phil chose a force selected from my collection of Empress Miniatures figures.
The British and Imperial force at the opening of the battle: the 80th, the Staffordshire Volunteers and the 24th, the 2nd battalion the Warwickshire Regiment.

Hordes of Zulus swarm towards the British lines. The figures are almost all Empress Miniatures metals, supplemented by a few from the newer Foundry range. {None of these cheap plastic figures for me!}

An early success for the Zulus! The Natal Mounted Police contingent, covering the ford across the river, are surprised by the swift attack of the Zulu and wiped out in a fierce hand to hand struggle.

The firepower, or lack of, from the lads from Staffordshire fails to halt another rush of Zulus and fierce fighting rages along the line. For a while things look bleak for Lord Rawnsley's force as losses mount on both sides.

But, despite heavy losses, the British 'Pluck' holds strong while the Zulus break and flea. When it came down to it, "They don't like it up 'em!" seemed to be their sentiment of the day! We called it a draw at this point. My Zulus were not strong enough to see off the remaining British troops and their rear was threatened by the Mounted Infantry across the river.

Thursday 5 April 2012

March on Pretoria ~ a 1st Boer War battle

Action at Bronkhorstspruit, or at least a game based on the action fought on 20 December 1880 during the First Boer War, was the subject of today's game here in GHQ between Jon, commanding the Imperial force and yours truly commanding the Boers.
The Imperial column snakes across a river using a pontoon erected by the Royal Engineers.

A reporter pauses to refresh himself and his mount as the Infantry cross the pontoon bridge.

The column is screened by a detachment of Mounted Infantry.

Boers engage the Mounted Infantry, with very little success I have to say...

Kommandant De Byklei, in the top hat, coordinates the fire of a Boer Kommando and a gun ~ without much success I'm sorry to say!

A fierce firefight develops along the line of march, with Infantry deploying to assault the Boers' position on the heights.

Boer 'Pluck' finally evaporates as their losses mount and they contemplate the glint of bayonets marking the British Infantry's steady climb up the heights. Kommandant De Byklei orders a general withdrawal, or as Jon might say, a flight to safety...

The figures are mostly Empress Miniatures, from their Anglo-Zulu War range, although the Boer gun is a Foundry Krupp and the gunners are conversions from the Perry Miniatures' Mafeking 'Armed Civilians' pack. We used an amended version of my own 'Washing the Spears' rules ~ available from Caliver, Redoubt and Dave Thomas at shows or by mail. We played thirteen turns in about two hours, until the Boer losses mounted and a 'Pluck' failure ensued...

Monday 2 April 2012

17th Lancers in the Anglo-Zulu War

I've completed the first base of Empress Miniatures' 17th Lancers for my Anglo-Zulu War collection.
Its taken me a week to paint these three, which is very slow by my usual pace I have to say. The Ebob horses, as ever, are wonderfully rendered, but their very active charging poses, when combined with the action poses of the Lancers themselves meant a real challenge for my old eyes and unsteady hands, so be kind when you judge them/me...

These are the most challenging figures I've tackled for a very long time and at times very frustrating as my 'skills' did not match what I wanted to achieve. I don't think I've ever overpainted so many colours during the painting process to correct me mistakes. I have to say I'm satisfied with the overall effect, but would really like to have done better. {I've actually finished a fourth lancer and both of the remaining horses for the second base!}