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.

Friday 25 July 2014

A Magical Mystery Tour

I was born in the middle of the last century {I know, it sounds pretentious!} and growing up as a lad in the 1950's when car ownership was not so widespread a 'Day Out' was always a special treat! Our local coach company in the village I grew up in would organise every summer a number of Saturday trips to local, and not so local, points of interest, but every now and again would throw in a special, a 'Mystery Tour' where the destination would only be revealed once you were underway! Sounds so naive when you read that now, does n't it? How times have changed in the last sixty odd years. Earlier this week Phil and Di took Sue and I out for the day on our own homage to the 'Mystery Tour' of my youth.
Dianne & Phil


Of course it was not a genuine 'Mystery Tour' as I knew where we were going! Can you guess? Well obviously it had to have a hobby related theme, for at least a part of the day. We went to East Stoke in Nottinghamshire, to visit the new home of Wargames Foundry.

We were all looking forward to our day out and, in rather untypically British style, the weather did not let us down, in fact we were blessed with a really wonderful warm and sunny day. When we drew up outside Foundry's new home we could n't help but admire the view and the location. Not a bad place to have to go to work we all agreed! The welcome was very warm and genuine, someone popping out from the gateway to usher us in and direct us to the new reception area and shop. Coffee and cake were immediately rustled up and Shaun, erstwhile of The Bunker fame, gave us a tour and an insight into the developments planned for the site. Sue and Di settled down for a chat on a bench in the sun drenched courtyard while Phil and I did some serious browsing!
Having reorganised my Late Roman armies onto Impetus sized bases, even though we are currently using Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargames Rules, I knew I needed some extra cavalry figures to balance the sides up. Sue very kindly said she'd treat me to to some figures to cheer me up, as I'm waiting for a full spine MRI scan to help sort out a long standing back problem and view the state of my hip joints! As there are several 'Special Offers' currently available I decided to expand the Late Roman armies ~

Two heavy infantry units, one armoured and one unarmoured. Were my first purchases, along with the extra cavalry figures I needed to round out an extra unit. These were easily picked from the multitude of racks in the extensive shop area. However, some packs were sold out. No problem, the elves in the casting area would scurry about and cast them up while I waited, said Shaun!

Barry, Ronnie and Steve hard at work!

Of course the 'Elves' are really three stalwart chaps, two of whom I've known for a long time. Steve, on the right, has worked for Foundry for over 21 years and must have cast up enough figures to satisfy the cravings of even the most demanding gamer's Lead Mountain! Ronnie, in the background, is busy casting up my additional Late Romans! Barry, who I met for the first time, is new to Foundry but well known in the Lead Belt wargames scene as organiser of the Cannon wargames show at Retford.

My extra command pack for the two new Late Roman infantry units and the Horse Archers. No need to blister them up as I'm there to take them away, still warm from the casting machine! (NB H&S means I took the photo of the casting area from the courtyard door ~ it would n't do to cross the line and risk splattering with molten metal after all!}

As with all orders from the Foundry, a few extra freebies are thrown in to tempt the returning customer! This is one of mine ~
Something for the Bhurpas in Rhanzlistan I felt! Its from an unreleased range I'm told {more of that in a mo.}

After a good night's sleep I've organised the stash into a more viewer friendly picture ~

From the top of the picture:-
Armoured Infantry
Mounted General & Bhurpa set
Unarmoured Infantry
Heavy cavalry {left}
Horse Archers{right}

I also got some much needed paint supplies ~ several of my shade pots in the range were as good as empty! I also took the time to get the 'Expert Fleash' set. Now I know that's pushing my painting prowess beyond the credibility of most viewers, but I thought it would be interesting to have the option to vary the effect of flesh tones more easily.
Returning for a moment to the theme I mentioned of unreleased ranges, I was genuinely surprised to see how much there was on the shop racks and of such a good standard too. I was especially struck by two ranges: 'Dark Age Germans and Franks' and 'Han Chinese'. Both ranges had some super figures. Phil bought a few of the Germans to supplement the Goth army he's building to fight the 3rd Century Romans he's well on with {I also gave him the extra pack of 'German Characters' I was given} I really do hope that all these so far unreleased ranges will make it onto the new and improved website in due course and get a wider audience than the visitors to the new location will provide.
Foundry have attracted their fair share of criticism in the last few years, but they remain a major player in our hobby and will for many years ahead I feel. If I have one small quibble myself, its with their current apparent obsession with 'Back to the Future' branding. I think that the hobby profile is changing as its demographic changes also. Newer gamers are drawn in by all sorts of new systems on offer which provide an avenue into the hobby for a reasonable cost. My generation was drawn in by the progression from vast armies of plastic toy soldiers or Airfix figures and model kits, today's gamer perhaps ventures into the Historical side of the hobby more likely from Fantasy gaming perhaps. So, no real impulse at first to acquire vast new armies, just a small Saga warband perhaps or a small force for Sharp Practice or Bolt Action. With smaller numbers of figures to be processed before a game can be enjoyed, perhaps gamers appreciate figures with more character which repay a little extra attention on the painting table? Just a personal view of course, but without the need to process yet another 24 or 36 man regiment there is more time and incentive to spend extra effort of a really excellent finish for Olaf, Sharpe or Tommy Adkins. That's not to say that they won't, like the rest of us oldies, be drawn to acquire vast collections to refight large battles from their chosen period of interest in due course, so there's always a place for the other style of figure, but times do change and people have to change with them or risk being left behind. Many more new kids on the block in the form of new firms and the advent of plastic figure sprues must mean that the established giants of our hobby will have to look to their front rather more intently than might be comfortable at times. No? Well, just my two penneth, please yourself.
The rest of our day? Well, lunch in Southwell, a visit to the Minster, some good shopping for the ladies, and for me ~ a book on Anglo Saxon England I've been after for a while for £3, result! ~ a quiet pint in the Minster Restaurant, a slow ride back to Phil's for a very welcome Fish & Chip supper and home in time to see some of Day One from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. As Wallace might have said to Grommit, 'A Grand Day Out'!

Friday 11 July 2014

Burma 1943 Additions

As I seem to remember saying earlier, I've taken a sabbatical from painting figures for my Wars of the French Revolution project for the next couple of months. First up has been an addition to the Japanese forces for our Bolt Action  encounters set in Burma 1943. The figures are all from Warlord Games which I managed to purchase at Partizan in the Tent. First up the flamethrower team ~

I used the same basic colour scheme as before for the uniforms as with my earlier figures: Vallejo Khaki as the base coat base with a highlight of the same company's Japanese Uniform. For an extra highlight to distinguish shirts from jackets I add a little of their Ivory to the second mix. On a whim I decided to see if I could conjour up the flaming effect. I drilled out the end of the handset carefully using a hand drill with a fine bit and attached a short length of off-cut from a brass pike using superglue. The flame effect is a section of the Battleground Flames of War set of coloured material which I bought when the local Hobbycraft discontinued stocking the range and had a 50% off sale. I soaked it in a solution of watered down PVA and then moulded it around the brass rod to get the shape I wanted, having first liberally coated the rod with a mix of UHU and Superglue, which mix hardens really quickly. The slight white tinge is an unplanned side product of spraying the finiahed product with Humbrol Matt Varnish! I'm quietly pleased with the overall effect, but you'll be the judge I think. Next up was the anti-tank set ~


There are four figures in the set: two manning the anti-tank rifle and two rather more daring figures armed with suicide anti-tank devices. Again, the same colour scheme on the uniforms and equipment was deployed. For the anti-tank riflr set I spent a little more time on the bases using rocks and tufts to suggest they were taking cover, rather as I did with the earlier sniper set {I've added a second sniper set, but did n't see the point in a photo.} Finally, a Medic! He came with the command set, which also featured an officer I did n't have, as well as three figures already featured. Here he is rushing to aid a wounded comrade ~

I think the photo illustrates how I do the bases for this project: Warbases 25mm x 3mm bases; railroad ballast of three sizes, washed with Country Maple from a craft store's own range; mixed static grass, from Heki I think it was; tufts from Silfor via Mutineer Miniatures. Hopefully these will all do me proud, or not, on the tabletop battlefield in the coming months.

Thursday 3 July 2014

The Bridge at Ballykilmene

Recently Jon and I managed to get ourselves organised for a second War of the French Revolution game in our ongoing Irish setting and using the Maurice rule system. Once again, Jon as Le Blanc commanded the French invasion forces, leaving yours truly to handle the British side of the action as Wytherin-Fyre. The scenario is set in the immediate aftermath of the French victory at The Battle of Ballykilmore {see earlier post for the gruesome details!} General Le Blanc is keen to press home his advantage before his opposite number can regroup and reinforce. For his part, General Wytherin-Fyre knows he has had a mauling and must buy time for his forces to gather their strength before he can repel the enemy! The British must hold the bridge at Ballykilmene to buy time for their reinforcements to assemble. Wytherin-Fyre has charged Lt Col Dytheringe and his brigade of infantry, with some artillery support, to hold the position at all costs while he gathers reinforcements. Dytheringe is outnumbered in both artillery and infantry and has no cavalry at all. The table layout at the start of the game can be seen in the first picture. The British have erected hasty defences and fortified Ballykilmene Manor, a rather run down pile dating back to the C16th ~

The British position at the start of the game. After ten turns their reinforcements may arrive IF the British have issued March Orders in at least 50% of those turns. Its pretty much a case of sitting tight for Dytherin's Brigade and for the French the problem is to get their forces into action before the enemy can be reinforced ~

The British reinforcements would enter from the far side of the table, I hoped, so one regiment, supported by a section of guns, held one of the four objectives to cover their arrival ~

Le Blanc's problem is how to use his force to achieve his objective of a bridgehead across the river before Dytherin is reinforced by Wytherin-Fyre's force. Jon chose to send one force of two infantry battalions across the river to assault the second British regiment holding a second objective ~

He supported that force with a battery of horse artillery on the opposite bank. Despite the gallant lads manning the guns, no Disruption Points could be inflicted in several turns of Bombardment!

Le Blanc now advanced his second brigade of infantry, supported by a regiment of Dragoons, towards the bridge, which was one of his four objectives. Dytherin's force was inadequate to cover all four objectives, so reluctantly the passage of the bridge was not contested directly ~

Le Blanc's first brigade assaults Dytherin's position, but is beaten back by Volley Fire and picks up several Disruption Points in the process. However, the second brigade is seen in the background about to cross the river ~

Faced with being flanked by the second brigade of French infantry, Dytherin orders his left battalion to retire into Ballykilmene Manor. The French now hold two objectives and the British the remaining two. Still no sign of Wytherin-Fyre and his men!

With all the cards in play its nip and tuck now. Le Blanc sends men over the bridge in numbers ~

With no reinforcements in sight, Wytherin_fyre's second regiment flans the French on the road in an attempt to halt their assault on the manor. Once again, no Disruption Points result from their Volley fire!

The French hold the bridge and have a foothold on the enemy's side when darkness falls {the last card is played} and secure a Narrow Victory! The dice were cruel to the British cause both in Volley firing effect and in converting hits to Disruption Points. In Combat they fared much better, repulsing the impetuous French assault on their works. The decisive factor was the failure of the reinforcements to arrive, again the result of dreadful dice on my part. The game lasted 18 turns and we both agreed was very tense and surprisingly close. In the next game the French will be consolidating their position having secured a crossing while the British will be massing to destroy the invader decisively!