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 June 2014

So far, so good...

The year has staggered through to its half way point and summer really seems to be upon us here in GHQ. I usually post a mid season appreciation of what we've been up to in our small, select group here in GHQ (and over in Darkest Rawnsley at Phil's) and I see no good reason to deviate from the plan, even if no one else reads the rambling or bothers much about our doings. It serves to remind my old brain of the highs and lows of my hobby life and helps me to look forward to the second half of the year (DV) with enthusiasm. To mark the half year's end today, Phil and I have played an Ancient game trying out Neil Thomas' rules from his "Ancient Wargaming", so more of that later.
Now-a-days I find I need to keep some notes to remind me of what I've been doing and what I've painted and gamed. I do this on old filing cards which I keep on my painting desk. Looking over them now I can see where I've visited, what I've bought for my hobby, the games I've played (and how I did in each one) and what sort of painting and modelling I've been doing. Sad, probably, but it keeps a tab on at least a part of my life in retirement, and I know of at least one person who regularly follows it as he looks forward to his imminent retirement!
So, in the first half of 2014 I find I have played 28 games. Of these I Won 13, Drew 2, and Lost 13! Pretty much average really, so no surprises there at least. Games wise we played any number of genres, here in GHQ, over at Phil's and even an occasional visit to the Midlands Wargames Centre housed at Stafford Games. In terms of numbers, we've played mostly Bolt Action games, in 1940 Sealion settings and VBCW Blandings games as well as Burma 1943 and even Vietnam! A versatile rule set we found! Besides these games we've had quite a few Back of Beyond games which feature on my dedicated blog, Tales from Rhanzlistan {see side bar for link}. Maurice games have also proved popular, usually set in the AWI, but branching out recently into the SYW and the Wars of the French Revolution. Besides these we've played a whole range of games, many of which feature on earlier blog reports, so we'll not mention them except in passing.
Painting has been steady, if not spectacular so far. My most productive month was January, with 83 28mm figures added to several collections, my least productive turned out to be April with a mere 40 new chaps being finished. All in all I've finished 327 28mm figures in the six months. Not outstandingly productive, but very acceptable all things considered.
Most of my painting has been focused on two projects : the new one for 2014 being the Wars of the French Revolution and the second the Back of Beyond. For the former the bulk of the figures have been from Trent Miniatures and were mostly sculpted by my son Matt, although a number from Front Rank and Dixon have been used to fill the odd gap. For the Back of Beyond project there have been figures from Empress, Copplestone, Pulp Miniatures, Mutineer Miniatures and Brigade Games. In addition I've painted odd figures for the ongoing VBCW/1940 Sealion games set around P G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle and the developing The Great Detective Victorian Pulp setting, that seems to have been in development for ever! Mostly figures from Musketeer and Foundry here. For my Bolt Action Burma 1943 games I've also painted a few more Japanese infantry and a couple of tanks, all from Warlord Games. While we are on the subject of painting, I should perhaps mention my occasional lazy eye problem. Increasingly I have to monitor my eyes' performance, as too much sustained painting leads to focusing problems which take longer to clear than they used to. I can remember the time when a quick glance out of the window restored the focus, but now I just have to stop, go away and do other things, and return when I can focus on the task in hand, literally. My optician says my eyes are healthy, for my age, for which I am thankful ~ as a deaf person I'd dread loss of sight even more I think than I do of hearing. I have special prescription glasses for painting too which give me the right focal length when I'm sitting at my desk painting or preparing  figures. I'm glad I did go to Specsavers really!!!!
I've enjoyed visiting a few shows in the first half of the year: in January the Penkridge Table Top Sale to start the year; in February a visit to Vapnartak in York; in March it was Alumwell/ WMMS just a mile from our door; in April Salute of course; in May Carronade in Falkirk; and finally, Partizan in the Park in June. I enjoyed each and every event, bought heaps of toys, met many friends and saw some really wonderful games. My stand out favourite of all the games I saw was the VBCW game at Partizan, especially the wonderful cricket pitch scenes and figures! Well done to all who entertained me and all the other punters at all the shows, your efforts really are appreciated!
Now, as you'll know only too well, I'm no great modeller, but for a good while I have been working on a 2' x 2' board with an urban theme which will stretch through from the 1880's to the 1950's and beyond. After much deliberation I opted not for the MDF buildings on offer from numerous sources {See the Shed Wars blog for what can be done with these} but for the plastic modular buildings from Oshiro. James was kind enough to supply the combinations I wanted and, although we had a few difficulties, they were all overcome in the end and we are still speaking to each other! The board is pretty nearly done now, just some chinmeys to add and a few bits of groundwork and its done. We may yet see Holmes and Watson battling the Demon Dog of Detford this year in GHQ!
Speaking of GHQ we shall be on the move in the second half of 2014. Our garage is being converted by stages into the new GHQ. It will be a little different, but no less usable, although I shan't paint there, that will stay indoors in the smaller of the two guest rooms. GHQ as is will become our bedroom, with the office area being reimagined as a sitting room with bookcases and a TV with DVD player. This will all cost money and take time away from gaming activities, so I anticipate 2014's second half will be a little quieter...
Now to a few captioned scenes from today's Ancient Game to round the half year off nicely ~
Pompus Maximus

Huttus Baldinus

P Maximus draws up his army

H Baldinus draws up his army too

Legionaries & Militia in P Maximus' centre

The two armies move towards each other

First clash ~ PMaximus' Auxiliary Elites into action

On his Flank PMaximus commits his remaining Elite Auxiliary unit

For H Baldinus things are going badly in the centre

With his centre destroyed and the flanks soon to crumble H Baldinus quits the field

The game lasted a little over two hours either side of a leisurely lunch, all very civilized. Phil had made play sheets and unit markers so the game flowed smoothly with only two occasions where something cropped up which needed to be checked. We both liked the feel of the rules and the game they produced. Once committed units fight it out until one is destroyed, though variable dice scores needed for hits and saving mean you need more turns than you think to make inroads. Units which fail morale checks loose an extra base, so cohesion and fighting ability soon crumble, very realistic we thought. We shall be back for more later in the year I hope, as my Ancient collection does n't get the airing it needs.

Thursday 12 June 2014

The Battle of Ballykillmoore...

...or, "To be sure, Sor, those Frenchies really are coming!" A first outing for my Wars of the French Revolution collection and Jon's first try at Maurice. A small imaginary encounter battle set in western Ireland between General Le Blanc's Armée des Marais Ouest and General Wythering-Fyre of the Irish station.  The objective is the strategic crossroads you can see on the left in the first picture. But first, some scenes of the rural idyll that was Ballykillmoore ~
The sleepy hamlet of Ballykillmoore
Paddy McGinty's Goat?

Seamus O'Toole, a blacksmith
Eugene Barry, his hardworking assistant
The right flank of the British force enters Ballykillmoore to deny the French the strategic crossroads. However, French cavalry can be seen ominously advancing in the distance ~
On the British left the French Infantry with artillery support does not daunt the gallant and impetuous (aka suicidal) British cavalry "Stirrups Up men!"~

While on the British right the French cavalry are looking ever more threatening as the move to flank the British line of march ~

With his right flank threatened by the French cavalry, and with only a small force of Light Dragoons as support, discretion proves the better part of valour and General Wythering-Fyre orders the 8th and 12th Regiments to enter the safety of Ballykillmoore ~

Meanwhile, over on the British left, their cavalry's gallant charge is shattered by the French conscripts!

Over in Ballykillmoore a French attack on the crossroads in an audacious attempt to force a win is repulsed by the 8th Regiment ~

Back on the British left, the French infantry are taking Disruption points from repeated Bombard Actions by the Royal Artillery, but continue coming on in their old way ~

Despite their gallant, and at times foolhardy, performance, General Wythering-Fyre's lads are finally broken by their old enemy lead by Le Blanc! The French are in Ballykillmoore! ~

Our game lasted three and a half hours and was keenly contested throughout. At times a paucity of Action Cards hindered us both and both sides suffered from sharply declining Army Morale on occasions as a result of judicious enemy use of Event Cards. In the end I ran out of units and could not deny the French the game objective of the crossroads. A good advert for the Maurice system as both of us were thoroughly engrossed in the contest. Jon is keen to try again, so I think there may be a rematch next month sometime.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

The 12th Regiment embarks...

A brief update on my ongoing Wars of the French Revolution project seems in order as today I finally finished my fourth British infantry regiment, the 12th Regiment of Foot. As you may recall, I've chosen the regiments to depict in my force for no other reason than I have some spare SYW flags which will do the job for me. They are from GMB of course and the figures are from Trent Miniatures again. The regiment drawn up in line on the table for the first time ~

The command group next, illustrating the problem when sculptors change during a project. The drummer an the two 'ensigns' being by a different sculptor after Matt and Duncan parted company. I know I am biased, but the new stuff is vastly inferior in terms of animation and general sculpting skill, harking back to the days of Garrison or Minifigs in terms of detail, but I have done my best with what I had.

Of course, while trying to avoid the newer offerings wherever I can, I am left with a bit of a problem when it comes to flank companies. There are none in the old style, so I have continued the experiment I started with the previous unit and have painted the wings on!

Purists, otherwise known as 'Napoleonic nerds', will be having a choking fit by now I would guess, but I really don't think they look too bad. Put it another way: 'They'll do!" to quote a friend. In case you think I have a downer on all the newer sculpts in the Irish {British for me} range I will say that I quite like the drummer, though find him a tad tall for my liking, and the new casualty figures will do very nicely ~

On a different tack now, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my eyesight is not what it was. When I see the figures on the screen now a days its the best idea I get of what they actually look like to other folk. I can see loads of issues when I study them closely, but on the whole I'm still quite pleased that they look OK. I just hope others think so too. I'd be mortified if folk were being kind to me as an elder statesman!
I have two extra French Dragoons on the painting table to finish off a unit of eight and then two British Light Dragoons to bring that unit up to eight. That will mark the end of phase one of the project and I shall be venturing off into other projects in July and August for a welcome break. I hope to paint up "Aston's Scouts" for my Rhanzlistan Field Force project and some extra Japanese infantry for our Burma 1944 games. In September, DV, I hope to return to the FRW with more French infantry, a fifth British infantry unit, and the first of the Austrians. I have preordered from Duncan two 30 man Fusilier Battalions and a 24 man Grenadier Battalion together with some gunners. All figures made by Matt so I shall be on safe ground painting them I know. I shall have to order the guns though from Front Rank, who have already provided my Generals!

Monday 9 June 2014

A Good Thrashing!

Phil popped over this morning for our usual Monday game, a prearranged first try at Longstreet. As regular followers might have noticed we have both enjoyed games of Maurice, by the same author, so we were both happy to give the ACW rules a go. We have both been reading the rules off and on for a while in preparation for a game and felt ready to give the basic game a good going over today. We settled on a Brigade a side from my ACW collection and set our game in 1862, removing any cards from inappropriate years of the war. Phil took the Rebs and I took the Union ~ our usual choices in ACW games over the years. The table had a sprinkling of terrain features in the form of a few stone walls, some light woods and low hills. Turn 1: Brig Gen Useless S Bykleigh opts to advance in column for the extra movement allowance ~

While Jubal E Robinson opts to move forward in line, reaching the walls running alongside the turnpike! An ominous position for the Union and only one turn played through! Having won the dice off for initiative was to prove vital to the Rebs in every turn we found.

The position going into turns 2 and 3 were very favourable to the Rebs. Being forced to play a number of cards to reduce hits from fire meant I found myself unable to manoeuvre as freely as I hoped through terrain which disrupts troops. Hence, the Union right became somewhat behind the rest of the attack, leaving the Rebs free to concentrate their fire.

The Union plan had been to drive for the crossroads, the game's objective, while occupying the flanks with diversionary attacks. Problems in deploying and manoeuvring the largely Enthusiastic Recruits making up his Brigade was already proving too much for USB! Casualties began to mount up by Turn 4 and cards seem to slipping through my hands as I tried to stem the losses the boys were suffering! As you can see, the Rebs were holding a strong hand now in the action and pouring it in to my boys!

Using cards to mitigate Hits on your units seems like the thing to do when things hot up, but it does limit your choices in the firing/movement/combat phase of the turn. My boys were nearing breaking point and were having little success in dislodging the Rebs from the safety of the stone walls!

In Turn 6 the Union losses reached  close to their Shatter Point, leaving Jubal only needing 3+ on a roll of a D x 6 to equal the 14 Shatter Points of our forces. He duly scored 4 and won the game!

US Bykleigh's boys melted away as Reb cheers echoed loudly in their ears! It was sadly all up for the Union!
Our game lasted two hours, with relatively little time spent on looking up things in the rules. Did we enjoy the game you ask? Well, Phil more than me I suspect. Would we try it again? More difficult we thought. It did not really produce the game we are more used to using Bull Run to Gettysburg or Black Powder for example and seems rather more suited to groups of club players where the focus of the ongoing campaign is on the narrative of your 'personality' figure. The cards never really favoured the Union side and loosing the initiative rather put them on the back foot in each turn, having to use cards to mitigate hits suffered to reduce potential base losses. In truth, I soon realised I would not dislodge the Rebs with my Enthusiastic Recruits and the game rather slipped away from me with that realisation. Jubal handled his boys well, gaining four Epic Points in the end to Useless's two {For turning up, as the rules so baldly state!} Will there be a follow up? Well, we'll see...

Thursday 5 June 2014

The Pah'Doc Patrols makes a rare return to GHQ!

I have a small 20mm Vietnam War collection which I started on impulse many moons ago when attending a small show, I've forgotten which one, near Manchester. They had a Bring and Buy, with all sorts of stuff laid out in any old order I recall. Amongst this was a large plastic bag full of unopened SHQ Vietnam War infantry packs and a small A5 rule set, 'Bodycount' I think. It was priced at £5.00 so I snapped it up, as many gamers would I think, and only when I got home did I wonder why! Beyond TV coverage as I was growing into adulthood I knew next to nothing about the war, after all our Government carefully avoided any involvement. The packs stayed in the cupboard a long time I remember that! But, eventually, I decided to take the plunge and paint the little chaps up. Of course, being a wargamer I then decided I needed a few more figures; and some buildings; and a few civilians and livestock; and some vehicles; and finally a helicopter or six! I needed some rules, having rejected three different sets for various reasons, and I lighted on a free card driven set on the net somewhere, I've long since forgotten where before anyone asks. We used those for our occasional games for a number of years before interest waned and they collection was boxed up and put away. Enter Bolt Action rules, followed by an interesting set of suggested amendments in an issue of Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy. Jon and I decided to give it a whirl in our latest game here in GHQ recently and what follows is a photo montage of the game. A 12 turn cliff hanger as it turned out!
The first picture shows the table in the opening turn. Lt Weissmann has to safely escort his convoy from an up country base, exiting the table either at the top or bottom road point as you look into the picture. Each vehicle carries a squad of 5 men and a driver while the jeep carries the HQ and Medics. The VC under the command of the veteran Ho Bic Li are represented at this stage by the yellow encounter markers - 5 blanks, 5 Infantry Squads, two of ten with heavy weapon support and three of five with an RPG and a LMG team, and 5 Booby Traps. They are placed randomly so the VC player does not know where each type is exactly ~

Lt Weissmann organised his convoy in the first two turns, not straightforward as he has one fewer dice in the bag than he has units. The VC or the Booby traps will be activated when a vehicle of squad passes their location. Only the M113s and the jeep can operate off road, where they may only move at 'walk' speed. Lorries may only stay on the roadway but can move there at 'Run' speed if they wish. The road will only take single file traffic, so a destroyed vehicle blocks the road!

With one of the M113s taking the point, the Free World Forces encounter their first enemy. It turns out to be a booby trap. Counting as Regulars, the crew must pass a Morale Check or the trap explodes. It would automatically wreck any soft skin vehicle and the driver and squad on board would dice as if they were casualties. The M113s would need to be penetrated at 8+, with a basic 4 for the trap. I needed n't have bothered, Lt Weissman's men sailed through the test and the trap proved to be a dud!

Moving forward a turn or two another encounter proved to be a second Booby Trap; one which was a dud too just like the first! However, a squad of VC were also activated, position at 2 x D6 inches from the marker in a random direction. The VC were in RPG range and opened fire on the convoy with all they had. Result? A paltry Pin Marker! While they in turn were pinned by the M113's HMG.

The second M113 engaged the VC squad before the RPG could do any damage. Firing across the rice paddy they saw the enemy take casualties - and another Pin Marker!

Blazing away at the enemy, 'Born Loser' advances into the rice paddy: a risky business as every turn could see it bogged down for D x 6 turns on a throw of a 6! Again, Lt Weissmann's men pressed forward regardless!

Taking advantage of the confusion caused by the fire fight, the lorries in the convoy make towards their exit point. They activate a third Booby Trap which proves to be a further dud! Re-education for some poor soul I would think! They also activate a second 5 man VC squad, again of RPG*, LMG*  and three riflemen { *Only one man teams in this game}. The RPG fires and again the VC fail to register a hit!

Held up by a VC assault, some US troops debus and flank the enemy.

A bitterly contested fire fight ensues as both sides take casualties and Pin Markers. "Medic!"

No one is left behind of course, so the stretcher bearers from the HQ rush into action even though under heavy fire!

Finally one of the larger and more heavily equipped VC squads is activated. The column faces a real threat now, as a knocked out lorry will block the exit!

Sure enough, the VC dice at last behave themselves and a lorry is destroyed, blocking that exit. However, Lt Weissmann has succeeded in establishing radio contact and called in a helicopter gunship strike! The VC find themselves under heavy fire {12 D x6} in the next turn! Only one casualty, but another Pin Marker results and, with fire from the M113 and the remaining US infantry the squad accumulates markers for fun and finds itself pinned down, failing an order test in three successive Turns.

By then Lt Weissmann has decided it is too dangerous to try the alternate road exit, knowing there are two squads of VC and two Booby Traps still to be activated. He abandons the two lorries and with the jeep, the two M113s and the remaining infantry foot slogging their way off the table we called a halt in turn 12. Bolt Action together with the suggested WSS amendments and a house rule or three gave us a really good game. Then it was Chow Time here in GHQ!

Sunday 1 June 2014

All The Thrills of the Big Top!

Phil and I went to 'Partizan in the Park' yesterday, my first ever experience of a wargames show in a marquee! I admit to having been very sceptical about the event when I first heard of the double booking solution and the decision to hold the show in a tent! What would it be like if it rained? If it was hot? If so many attended both events you could n't park? If the caravaners turned up? Talk about a dismal Johnie! As it was, we set off at some ungodly hour and arrived at Kelham at 9.20, parked up easily and sat outside the Pavilion eating a very acceptable bacon buttie and drinking a cup of coffee - and watching the queue grow until it reached, and then passed, our table. The queue abated quickly after 'opening time' and in we went!
First impressions: it was so light you could see everything in comfort; the first tent was muggy and crowded but the other two were much better at first; it all got a tad close but then folk opened side panels here and there and it was much better; the loos were a long walk away; traders seemed busy and had all on my list, always a bonus; the games looked really good, so clear you could marvel at every detail; the VBCW folk are all very friendly, but totally crazy too! So, some pictures, starting with the VBCW game, my personal stand out game ~

Many of the other splendid games provided for our entertainment ~

Having reflected on the games overnight, I hope you'll agree with me that they provided a visual spectacular, whatever the size of the table and however many figures graced the table top battlefield. For me, attending shows is always first and foremost seeing the games {I'm clearly sold on the view that wargaming is a visual spectacle or its nothing, the Cecil B De Mille approach I guess!}; meeting friends, and making new ones; oh, and of course a tad of shopping! My purchases then ~

If you believe in Karma: I received a kind gift of some WWI Brigade Games Indian cavalry from Dave P. Later in the same day I came across 9 more on Colonel Bill's site and bought them to add to the Rhanzlistan Field Force {collecting at Partizan earned me a 10% discount too}. When I picked them up I learned that only minutes after someone had contacted him complaining the site would n't let him buy the Indian cavalry still listed of course at that stage! Talk about a lucky strike for me!

So, a great day out with spiffing company and wonderful weather to boot! A special Thank You to Dave and Ally of Great War Miniatures for the kind gift of a British Cavalry machine gun set and to Duncan at Trent Miniatures for sorting out my preorder for odd figures for the French Revolutionary War project! Roll on September!