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 December 2013

Another Year Slips Away...

Well, here we are again and all too soon it seems since this time last year. As appears to be the 'done thing' here in the blogosphere I suppose I ought to try and sum up my experiences of 2013, although why anyone would really be interested evades me somewhat to say the least.
As I consider myself mainly a wargamer who paints, rather than a figure painter who wargames, and there is a significant difference I think, I shall begin proceedings with a summary of the games we've played this year. Looking over my notes I see I've played a total of 65 games during 2013, a very respectable total in my opinion. Of these I won 29, drew 6 and lost 32 and so I'm clearly heading for midtable mediocrity amongst the gaming community! Rather apt as I'm a long term season ticket holder at Walsall! New games have included Battlegroup Kursk which I've played both at Phil's and with Jon at the Midlands Wargames Centre in Stafford. While I've enjoyed the games, and done quite well in them, I still prefer Rapid Fire! myself. I've also dipped my toe into the Back of Beyond, in the shape of 1920's pulp type games using Setting the East Ablaze, which I first encountered at Phil's but for which I now have my own force {see Tales From Rhanzlistan in the side bar links}. Throughout the year we've dabbled in no end of rule sets and periods between ourselves, from the Ancient World using Hail Caesar, to the Vietnam War using free wargames rules from the web, to Alternative WWII in the shape of Operation Zelowe, Blandings Castle and 1946 and beyond! In all this, my perennial favourite remains the ACW, so its fitting that I should introduce you to the final figures I painted this year, a Confederate command base featuring Jubal E Bykleigh and a few enthusiastic supporters!

Old Jubal was my Christmas gift from Matt and his family, following on from my Birthday gift of a stout Union General, Useless S Bykleigh in May ~ who figures on the heading of the site by the way. Matt sculpted my head and had some cast up. In this case its added to a Redoubt body and mounted on a Dixon horse to fit in with my collection. The two enthusiastic Rebs are from Dixon of course. Thankfully, Jubal is based on a younger and slimmer version of myself this time. Matt remembered my Mexican 'tache which I sported for several years in my post beard phase, hence the slightly sinister look!

As we are on the subject of painting, its probably apt to look at my output this year now. My notes show that I painted some 603 28mm figures during the year. They will have been in any number of period interests, most notably the whole of the Rhanzlistan Field Force and of late the start of my 2014 project, the Wars of the French Revolution, which I mentioned and previewed in an earlier post! Now, if you have been following this closely, you'll recall that I described myself as a wargamer who paints and not a figure painter who games. I do believe that there is a fundamental difference between the two. The former, amongst whom I proud to stand, make up in my view the vast bulk of our hobby, although the magazines and Forum Boards are often peopled more by the latter, for whom I once coined the rather strong label 'Painting Facists'. By that I meant to convey that I felt the painting of the figures was becoming an end in itself and that folk, or some of them at least, had lost sight of the fact that the hobby is called wargaming and that we are all united, despite our different interests, approaches and scales, as wargamers! The little lead folk have no life beyond that which we give them over our table top battlefields. Of course, that does n't mean that we should spray one side red and the other blue, unless we want to of course, but we do well to remember the 3' rule: we see the figures on the tabletop battlefield, not blown up as photos on the web or in a magazine or rulebook. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I feel ever more strongly with each passing year that the object is to game with like minded chums; to have fun and enjoy the social interaction a game brings; not to lead a semi monastic existence, hunched over the painting table like some monk of old carefully illuminating a manuscript for weeks on end, labouring over a single figure.

Another series of events has coloured 2013 for me, though rather less pleasantly than the games I've played, the folk I've met and the places I've visited. I'm referring to my experiences where I was subjected to what I considered to be a form of cyber bullying simply because I asked a few folk to think for themselves about something before mouthing off to all and sundry. I've said before I'm sure that the net should be a wonderful source of inspiration and information for our hobby, and of course it generally is, but sadly it seems to have attracted a small number of socially inadequate folk who have no concept of good manners or of proper behaviour, encouraged as they are to hide behind tags which give them anonymity. Terry Wise once told me that every hobby attracts such fringe elements: sadly the net has given them a voice far beyond their import and a malign influence far out of proportion to their number. My only New Year Resolution is to ignore such elements in our fine hobby entirely!

Looking forward with enthusiasm now to 2014 and all I hope it will bring us all. I have started a new period, despite vowing this time last year never to do it again. I've already painted 12 French Infantry and 3 French Dragoons as a start, with a further 4 infantry and 1 Dragoon underway on the painting table. These are from Trent Miniatures for my Wars of the French Revolution project. I hope to show the first units to you early in January, so pop back from time to time. In the pending tray, already undercoated and ready to go, I've also got two ACW infantry units from Dixon, some Saxons for my Late Roman armies together with three more Late Roman generals, all from Foundry. 2014 looks like it will be busy on the painting front, DV! I also look forward to more work on my Great Detective project, though that's in the pending tray as I'm waiting for the final buildings to be delivered still. Lots to do, lots to look forward to, and that's not even thinking about the new and shiny which will come along to tempt us all...

So, out with 2013, in with 2014, and A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

Friday 27 December 2013

Christmas Presents

I was lucky enough to have my whole family with me for Christmas this year, making the holiday a real joy from start to finish! I was also lucky enough to receive several wargames related presents this year. From Sue, my wife, I got a battery of Trent Miniatures 28mm French Revolutionary Wars Horse Artillery to add to my growing 2014 project. From Matt, my son, I got the second of my unique 'Personality' figures, a second ACW General; this time a Confederate, Jubal E Bykleigh! More on both of these gifts as they are painted in the coming weeks. From Ruth, my daughter, I got the new Private Eye History in Cartoons which has had me chuckling steadily since I opened it on the Day!
Finally, from my wargaming chums in the GHQ Irregulars I got a fine 28mm German Officer for our 1940 Zeelowe games from Jon and a mystery 'Red Cross' parcel from Phil ~

It contained three wonderful additions to my collection in the shape of a fully assembled and painted 1/48th scale kit of an Airco A10 with its own unique landscaped flight stand. It will do duty in our developing Great War games and also see action in Rhanzlistan I am sure.

And lurking amongst the packaging was a very pleasant surprise in the form of a painted and based Staff Car for the 1914 games next year!

It will need some base work to match my collection and the rear passenger needs some work ~ I painted these earlier in the month for another project but they fit the car so well. But, I'm sure you will agree, a really spiffing set of hobby related gifts to mark Christmas 2013! A final picture of my only win this month, a Wings of War game with Phil: Captain Bicclesworth downs the Hun ace, von Rhobinsaan, the Pink Baron ~

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Turning the Tide...

...or not! A brief photo montage report of a recent Rapid Fire!2 game here in GHQ between Jon and myself. As is usual by now, Jon took command of the British forces while I commanded the Germans. The game is set in July 1944 and sees a retreating German force attempting to stave off an overwhelming Allied assault as it covers the main body's retreat. The game was played down the length of the table and was set at ten moves. After Turn 3 the Allies' plane can arrive on the table, while after turn 5 the Germans can try to mobilise a counter attack ~ their initial force consisting of two Stugs, an 88mm Anti Aircraft gun in anti tank mode, and one Company of  Infantry with an 80mm mortar and MMG support. {The small delaying force faces overwhelming odds in its task but can call on off table artillery strikes on two predetermined coordinates at the German player's will, assuming he can make radio contact that is!}
The table in Turn 3. The 88mm has knocked out one armoured car, while one of the Stugs has failed to hit its target. {The plane is not yet in action}

As you can see in the first picture, the Germans are withdrawing to the second defencive line in order to preserve their small forces integrity and effectiveness. As the Allied force does n't know that it enjoys overwhelming superiority on the table the lines of hedges and he ruined buildings in their mind can become strong defencive positions to be approached with caution.

The first Stug and the 88mm withdraw through the ruins of the town to avoid the oncoming barrage of fire and the predeclared aircraft attack.
The Allies' 25ld battery lays down fire on the ruins, just after the Germans withdrew their force there!
The Stug and the 88 struggle to move to their second position and are in danger of being caught in the open!
The Allies' Churchill tanks bear down on the lone Stug!
The Germans struggle to deploy the 88 to support the unequal struggle of the lone Stug and are bombed by the Allied aircraft!
A second Stug, until now without a target, comes into action from the German right flank and takes out an Allied Churchill!
Finally, at the third attempt, the 88 is destroyed in a bombing run by Pilot Officer Whyte DFC & Bar!
Now, at this point, you may be asking yourself what happened to the German's Counter Attack, as well you might. Three Panzer IVs were available to attack across the Allied line of advance from Turn 5 on a throw of 5 or 6 on a D6. My best effort in five turns was a 2! So, no Counter Attack materialised and when my force's Morale broke the force was in headlong retreat in Turn 9!
The game reminded us both of how much we enjoy Rapid Fire! as a wargame's system for fast and furious WWII games here in GHQ. While its true that I've enjoyed in recent months several games of Battlegroup Kursk with Phil and Jon on tables large and small, I do feel more comfortable here in GHQ with Rapid Fire! for my games. I've bought a copy of Battlegroup Overlord and I expect we'll try it out here in 2014 in due course, but I think it will struggle in my mind to supplant the system I've grown so used to over the years.
It only remains now to wish my loyal reader, where ever he or she may be

Saturday 14 December 2013

"The British are coming!"

Earlier this week Phil and I managed to arrange for a day's gaming here in GHQ. We decided to give the 'Maurice' rule set by Sam Mustafa another tryout, as our first effort had been somewhat confusing as we only had the 'lite' rules at the time, and set the game in the AWI. I had n't really warmed to the rules myself, but Phil was keen to give them a go so who was I to refuse?
The table layout for the game. Phil chose to defend as the Rebels and I was to attack as the British and Loyalist force. My objective was marked by the 'outdoor facility' gracing the main farmstead!

George Washington Robinson had drawn his forces up with his right and centre covered by his infantry, while his left consisted of his cavalry and the Continental artillery battery ~

As my objective lay towards my army's left flank, I decided to attack directly towards it with four infantry units, while deploying only two in my centre and my artillery battery and cavalry on my right ~

After an initial failure on my Right, the cavalry regrouped and drove off their Rebel counterparts ~

In the meantime, my main attack snarled up in a firefight which lasted for several turns ~

But unfortunately for my cause, Disruption markers were building up and attempts at Rallying them off were a dismal failure ~

To relieve the pressure on my left I advanced the weaker centre force hoping to flank his strong defence while my cavalry turned behind his artillery to take his centre in the flank  ~

In the centre I managed to overrun his C-in-C! Phil threw the dice and the score resulted in his capture! Hurrah! I got all of his cards as a result, to add to my paltry two at the time. Things are looking up for King George's cause! Here you can see the moment George Washington Robinson was marched away into captivity as 'Gentleman Johnny Bykleigh' surveys the battlefield and notes his army's progress ~

Decisively on the left my infantry suddenly broke under heavy fire, while on my left appalling dice throws resulted in my cavalry failing to beat the flanked infantry!!! My Army Morale reached zero and the remnants quit the field. A victory for the Rebel cause snatched from the very jaws of defeat! A hard end to swallow to an excellent and closely contested game.

Our game lasted some three hours and drew to a conclusion when only two cards remained to be drawn from the pack. I've no idea how many turns were involved though. I have to say that despite my sad loss, I actually enjoyed the game far more this time around. Having a rule book each and the time to consult when we were unsure definitely helped us understand the flow of the game and the nuances of the rules.
The game is demanding in that it causes you to consider all your options, opportunities, and difficulties, continually, rather than in a more conventionally structured game where one side activates any or all or its forces, followed by the other side repeating the sequence. In a sense there is a more realistic sense of time passing as you 'visit' an area of the battle at a certain moment in time, rather than sense it all happening at once. I've never been entirely won over by the notion that a move in a game represents a certain amount of elapsed real time and here Mustafa seems to have addressed and solved the problem rather neatly.
Of course, some will not like the way the game is structured, being used to the I Go - You Go game which most sets follow and I have heard others describe the game more as a card game than a wargame. I'm won over I think at the moment by the way a story seemed to unfold in the game which was believable to both of us, even if seem from different perspectives. Crucially neither of us proved successful at Rallying off mounting Disruption points and at a crucial moment Phil's firing dice became overwhelmingly successful causing me to loose three units in a thrice!
We have decided to give the rules an extended trial in 2014 by playing out an AWI campaign using them. Look out for further battle reports over the coming year!

Thursday 12 December 2013

Battle for the Empire

A while ago Jon and I dusted off my Late Romans/Arthurians/Saxons/Huns and sorted out a game using the Hail Caesar rules here in GHQ. I've not been a great success using these rules, indeed I'm almost sure I'm going to convert the forces into three Impetus armies next year, but we thought the figures should see the light of day for a game before the year draws to a conclusion...

The table layout and forces early in the game. Jon's commands were attacking from the left towards the ruined temple {my only bit of ancient terrain} with the objective of capturing the ruin and preventing its reuse for vile pagan rites...

On my right flank the cavalry of both sides were manoeuvring for advantage ~

But my lads, buoyed by the exhortations of the rightful Emperor, Pompus Maximus, were soon getting stuck into the usurper's  hordes ~

Meanwhile, over on my left flank,events were much slower to unfold, due entirely to timid generalship or poor command dice ~

My Hun allies were pushed off the low rise after some desultory efforts to shoot at the approaching enemy ~

My Saxon mercenaries were even less inclined to get stuck in for the cause, and soon my whole left was being pushed in on the centre ~

Although over on my right, the forces of the usurper had been driven from the field in disarray, I now found my cavalry too far from the action to relieve the mounting pressure in the centre and on my left flank ~

Despite a little success for my infantry against enemy skirmishers, I found my centre suddenly overwhelmed and my cause in disarray ~

It was suddenly all up for my men, two broken commands and an army loosing faith in its commander's cause. The dismal sight at the end of the game as Pompus Maximus can only flee the field of Mars, again... The old gods may not be as powerful as they once were after all.

My Ancients collection is comprised entirely of Foundry figures. Some were painted for me by Matt and by Andy Dumelow and just under half by myself over the years. I must say that despite getting a tanking in the end I thoroughly enjoyed the run out of Hail Caesar. I may have to reconsider the plan...

Wednesday 11 December 2013

The Great Detective ~ update

A few shots of the progress I've made recently with the Oshiro Victorian buildings. I'll combine them on the tabletop with the existing Dock tile and Cemetery tile from the Pulp set up. I'm waiting on two more buildings from James: a two storey shop front and a small pumping station. A general overview in period look ~

The local industry: Josiah Robinson & Son, import & export to the Empire. The walls, from Hovels, will need repainting before I finish a base for this piece ~

St Editha's Mission - to Seamen & Fallen Women - and an Ironmongers ~

The Ironmongers' window display ~

Two shop front buildings: a butcher and the Britannia Inn ~

The butcher's window display - downloaded from the net {and resized} after a long search. The inn's windows are greaseproof paper ~

A row of terraced houses ~

The advertising boards, like the shop window displays, are the result of long trawling on net searches. As I don't plan any interiors for the buildings this time around, I thought a few window displays were in order. I still have to make the shop front name signs.
When all is done I have to solve the problem of back yards for the buildings and a cobbled texture for the roads, but all that will have to wait now for 2014...

Tuesday 3 December 2013

En Avant!

I've broken a promise I made to myself earlier in the year! I had decided that there would be no more major painting projects undertaken, where I would paint both sides' armies in 28mm. I've spent the last two days, on and off, cleaning up and spraying figures for the first of two new 28mm Armies ~ the Republican French for the Flanders Campaign in the 1790s. I still have the bones of a British force to deal with, though that will have to wait a few days now anyway ~ sore fingers and out of white acrylic spray!
I bought the two forces from Duncan Macfarlane's Trent Miniatures stand at Partizans and at Derby earlier this year. I need to explain my motivation to undertake this project: I have decided that I am not old after all!{ I met a 72 year old on Sunday at Wargamer. Not only still actively wargaming at the local club, but a part of the club's demonstation game team! Age, I have decided, is all in the mind! At least, that's what I'm telling myself for now!}
I also want to sell my SYW collection next year, or at least a part of it, as I shall move its focus from Europe to North America. More on that plan in 2014 I hope! My son, Matthew made the masters for almost all the French you'll see on this entry, with the exception of the 8th Cavalry, and some of the British as well I believe. The whole force to date ~
I've got three Line and one Legere battalions at present, together with a battery of guns {a 12lbr and a Howitzer}, some Dragoons and some 8th Cavalry and a command stand! I've got a few pictures to show the character of the figures, which was a further reason to choose them, as if I needed one that is...
I decided to publish them 'in the raw' like this as I found it motivated me to get started with the painting when I did a similar post for the RFF {see an earlier Blog entry} and so I'm hoping for similar progress with this project next year.
The British force is slightly smaller ~ well, it is only French rabble they are up against! In fact, both sides will be expanded next year I'm sure as I make inroads into the units I've prepared for painting action! I may add an entry when I get the British troops ready, but they are still a few odd figures light which I'll pick up early in the new year, so I may not bother until I've got some painted.