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.

Saturday 29 June 2013

"If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail."

"If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail."
 A quote from one of my favourite characters of the American Civil War, Ulysses S Grant, which seems very apt to me in respect of the approach a number of folk in our hobby take to a game. You know the type, I'm sure: slavish adherence to the rules as written, allied with a total lack of imagination, seeming inability to think for themselves and an apparent lack of any historical knowledge beyond perusing the captions to an illustration in the odd Osprey. A harsh judgement you may think, but I've encountered a few of these in my time I have to say. On the other hand, I am blessed with the friendship and company of a small group of like minded chums, for whom the rules ~ even ones I may have written ~ are merely a starting point for discussion. A healthy scepticism in approaching any rule set will, even after much labour, always produce a better experience than merely following the text blindly I believe. Moral of the tale? Rules, like laws, are for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of fools.
U S Grant hisself

Of course, you can deduce from this that I'm not into competitive wargaming ~ the wargames equivalent of synchronised swimming in my opinion! I keep a record of my games each month, purely for fun and to know how our games went, much like I keep a tally of figures painted, places or events I've been to and stuff I've bought, and sold, for the hobby. All just for fun really, but I do look back over it from time to time, to see what I've been up to when the old memory lets me down.
Making notes on the hoof?

I had such a moment recently when my non gaming brother in law mentioned something he'd read on my Blog, so I've delved back into the record just to see...
Taking the first six months of 2013 as my field of enquiry I find that I played 33 games in all, of which I won only 9; drawing a further 6, and sadly losing 18 in all! Clearly as a gamer I'm more of a Wigan than a Manchester United! I played the most games in May, 9 in all, but I find at least I won one game each month! Perhaps I'm not beyond hope after all? But, the main thing is, I know that I enjoyed each and every game, and I put that far above winning as a desired outcome in my hobby.
Probably my 'best' effort at painting

Turning to painting: I find I've painted 279 28mm figures this year so far, in a whole eclectic mix of periods, reflecting the way I've diversified my interests in the eleven years since I retired. I know that I feel that my painting muse is weaker than it was, but the figures don't seem to back this up, so I must have a stern word with myself I think.
Did you say left here Phil?

In the area of visits this year I have been to a number of shows: Vapnartak, WMMS, Salute, Triples and Partizan. I've also been over to the Foundry shop in Nottingham twice, which came as a surprise as I only recalled going earlier this month! Perhaps the visit I enjoyed the most though was to Battlefront/WI HQ to stage the refight of Devil's Den from the iconic Battle of Gettysburg, which I was subsequently to write up for the WI Salute special. A timely boost it proved for my Bull Run to Gettysburg rules too, as I gather Foundry have sold out of them now!
Now, none of us knows what tomorrow may bring, but I do hope that the second half of the year, and many more years to come, will bring my small group of chums and myself great enjoyment, boundless pleasure, and good company ~ an even the odd win for myself perhaps! But, whatever aspect of wargaming floats your boat, I hope no less for you than I do for myself! That our wonderful hobby will reward us with good times, good games and good dice!

Thursday 20 June 2013

The Battle of Paddock's Point ~ a War of 1812 Black Powder game

A game Jon and I played in the fairly recent past, set in the War of 1812-15 between the young USA and the forces in the British Canadas. The game used Black Powder as its rules, with some small modifications to the firing and hand-to-hand capabilities of the many Irregulars, Volunteers and Militia units. Jon took on the command of the American forces, while I commanded the British/Canadian force. Both sides started with some units off table, marching slowly towards the developing action, which we set in the area of one of the Great Lakes, at the fictitious Paddock's Point, the site of a small harbour and outpost, defended by a blockhouse and earthworks.
The table at the outset of the game, with the USS Brecher in the foreground ~

A general view down the table towards the developing British/Canadian attack ~

The earthworks surrounding Paddock's Point were defended by Volunteer units, supported by guns of the regular US Artillery~

Who were in turn supported by units of State raised infantry from Maryland and Pennsylvania~

The British/Canadian attack developed on two fronts: Regulars and artillery, screened by the Glengarry Light Infantry assaulted the works directly~

While a brigade of Fencibles forced a crossing at the bridge attempting to flank the American position~

Fierce fighting saw the British /Canadian forces drive the Americans from the woks, only to be thrown back themselves later~

The prompt arrival of Scott's brigade of Regulars threatened to turn the tide of battle for a while~

But the British/Canadian forces were not to be denied~

Soon what remained of the Volunteers were driven back to the harbour itself and the fort put to the flame~

Even the  valiant, hard fighting Scott's brigade of Regulars was broken as the American army melted away from the field~

In all the game lasted ten turns and the action swirled back and forth, both sides scenting victory and defeat in quick succession. Jon's saving throws were quite remarkable at times, but British pluck and tenacity told in the end, allied of course by some poor morale results at crucial moments which saw American units quit the field. All in all a grand game! Next up here in GHQ, an AWI game on 4 July!


Tuesday 18 June 2013

The Game's Afoot...

I've been collecting and painting various figures and vehicles, for what seems like an age, for a planned 'Pulp' style series of Sherlock Holmes themed games. The figures have come mainly from Foundry's ranges, where their newer Victorian range are currently £5.00 a pack if you can visit the shop, and Ironclad Miniatures. The latter do a nice range of 'unusual' steam powered vehicles, but I've also sourced some horse drawn ready painted plastic coaches from a local Antiques Market, at £5.00 each a steal at the time, and used Dixon Miniatures stagecoach horse for the carriage teams..
What has been holding the project back, apart from funds obviously, has been my indecision when it came to the choice of buildings. Ideally I wanted something to have a 'life' through to 1940 for our Blandings/Operation Sealion games too. I had almost decided to buy some of Sarissa's MDF buildings, but was held back by the price really. In the end I decided on the buildings from Oshira Models, having seen them often in games featured on the LAF threads and finally in the 'flesh' at Salute.
I had thought that they too were MDF constructions, but when I collected my first from James at this year's Salute I was surprised by the weight of the box. They are in fact made from a laser cut acrylic, which appears to be clear but has been very lightly sprayed grey. The parts all seemed to dry fit really easily and the level of detail is quite exquisite, so when my second purchase arrived in yesterday's post I decided to assemble one to see what they would look like. Well, you know how it is folks: one became two; two became three and so on...

As I hope you can see from this photo, I plan to use the buildings in conjunction with my existing harbour and cemetery boards, which feature in my 1920's Pulp Games. Oshiro's buildings are modular, with additional floors and two types of roof structure being available in addition to the two floors that are standard in the terraced houses. There are also additional frontages to allow houses to become shops and a pub.

Besides houses and shops there are already small and large factory buildings ~ the small one is in the left foreground of the first picture, while in the left distance of the same picture, you can just see the same building with an ecclesiastical twist, a different facade  turns it into a mission or chapel.

The enlarged photo of the small factory shows that the method of assembly is very similar to that of the more familiar MDF buildings, such as those I assembled for my Old West project from Battleflag, though using superglue as a bond rather than PVA. The roof of each building comes with a sheet of thin card precut slates, like the shingles you'll see on the western buildings in earlier posts. That will be my next phase of assembly before each building can be airbrushed in the dark red colour I've chosen as the base colour. The latter will have to wait until July when I come back from my holiday, as will the decision about the extra buildings I might buy to complete the board layout. I'd quite like a railway viaduct, such as featured in Overlord's 1970's games, also seen on LAF, but I'm not sure about that yet. More as and when on this project. In the meantime I guess it will be some roofing...

Friday 14 June 2013

Frontier Light Horse 1879

Earlier this year I attended Salute where I picked up the new  Empress Miniatures Frontier Light Horse. For the first time in several years I also attended Triples in Sheffield, where one of the things I was able to pick up to add to my 'Lead Pimple' was an Officer for the FLH, having forgotten to order one for Salute collection! I also got a pack of Boer heads, so I could convert the figure to fit in more readily with the 'look' of the unit. In my AZW collections, mounted units are of two 80 x 50mm bases with two or three figures on each, while the dismounted versions are on 40 x 50mm bases, again with two or three figures on each. Here's the full unit in the early morning light of Zululand ~

The background comprises my Zulu village, which I'm rebasing to fit in more easily with available storage! The 'casualty' figure is from the Foundry Darkest Africa range, with an added shield from the spares box. Some slightly clearer close ups now ~

While the FLH tried to organise their troops by horse colour, I've chose to ignore that for variety in the small unit. Also it seems unlikely that they had any of the earlier black uniform with them by 1879, but I've chose to have the officer with a black coat {private means, you see} and one of the troopers with the back trousers. Again, its just for variety in the unit. The striping on the other figures' trousers represents the cord material used. A poor effort, but it does for me!

I painted the unit by tackling one mounted and dismounted version of the same figure at a time, so they would match in both modes. Pitiful, is n't it the lengths we go to sometimes in organising our toys! Now I'm working on some 1940 German motorcycle troops from Foundry, just for a change.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Off the Beaten Track...

...otherwise known as the Back of Beyond {Possibly twinned with Newark!} I've enjoyed the Back of Beyond games I've played with Phil, using his wonderful collection of Russians and Chinese. So much so that I've decided to have a force of my own, British of course, which can 'intervene' in the affairs of our fictional North West Frontier province of Rhawnlistan, not far from that hot bed of mutiny in the C19th which is Byklabad. Of course, the Russians and Chinese will also be 'intervening' as and when we get together for a game here in GHQ or over at Phil's OHQ. Now I want to say straight away, for Phil's benefit mainly, that this is not an outbreak of Darkest Africa Syndrome ~ named after my descent from "I'll just have an expedition of my own!" to the acquiring of a full collection in no time at all! Honest, I won't be going down that road this time......
Here's a picture of the whole force, now its all been cleaned up, spayed white and the figure bases and movement trays textured all ready for painting~

The figures I've been acquiring for the Rhawnlistan Field Force are sourced from a number of miniature companies: Brigade Games{through Wargames Command Post}; Copplestone; Empress Miniatures; Great War Miniatures; Pulp Miniatures {through Miniaturicum in Germany}; The HLBS for the Rolls Royce armoured car. As well as the RFF itself, there are a number of Pulp-type figure groups, as I hope to develop our games along the lines of a pale imitation of the campaigns of General Pettygree ~ http://generalpettygree.blogspot.co.uk/
The Diplomatic Corps

The Royal Geographical Society Expedition to Rhawnlistan

Mustapha Leihk, the 'Mad Prophet of Rhawnlistan'

Brigadier 'Tubby' Bykleigh & Staff

The South Staffordshires

The Royal Surreys

The Gurkhas

Bhurpa Tribesmen

And finally, the Russian Mission to Rhawnlistan, in the person of the veteran fighter ace of the Revolution, Hero of the Soviet Union, scourge of Wun Ung Lo ~
Ivan Justukov and the Russian Mission to Rhawnlistan

I hope to start painting these in July, when I come back from a holiday in Sunny Devon {well, here's hoping, anyway}. In the meantime I'm finishing two mounted and dismounted bases of Empress Miniatures Frontier Light Horse for my AZW collection. I also have some Dixon western gunfight civilians on the go and a German motorcycle reconnaissance patrol from Wargames Foundry to finish for 1940 games. I'll keep you posted from time to time as the Rhawnlistan Field Force takes shape.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Marching through Georgia...

...well, almost! A recent game here in GHQ pitted Jon, as Joe Johnson, against yours truly, in the guise of William T Sherman. As ever, all the figures are from my collection and are overwhelmingly from Dixon Miniatures ~ supported by a small number from Foundry, Redoubt, Old Glory and the long defunct Front Rank range {see if you can spot him!} The game also featured the on table debut of my personalised command figure {see previous post.}

And there he is, urging his boys forward to give those pesky Rebs the cold steel!

Those Rebs sure held a strong position, behind a stone wall and supported by a battery of guns.

Here the first wave of US Bykleigh's Division braces itself for the charge. Although the lead unit was repulsed, following elements of the Brigade pierced the Reb line, only to be thrown back in the final bound!

Over on the Union's right, fierce and prolonged fighting finally saw the Rebs thrown back in rout, but too late to influence what had developed in the centre.

The Rebs held a strong position, having seized White's Farmstead early in the game. Repeated attempts by a brigade of Colored troops were thrown back with heavy losses, while the Louisiana Tigers beat off every attempt to flank the position!
The game lasted twelve turns, with time sadly running out before a decisive result could be determined. While the Union carried the right flank, the Rebs held the centre strongly and were gaining the upper hand when a fourth brigade finally arrived on table on the Union's left flank in turn nine. We called it a draw, although I think both of us would have loved to fight on, it was so finely poised. As is usual, the rules were my own Bull Run to Gettysburg, published by Foundry, and as always enabling a fast and furious game to flow easily for those who know the rules well. Though of course, that's just my opinion...