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 30 October 2015

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Well, a good question deserves an answer. In my case, the ongoing Late Roman project I mentioned in a previous post has kept me ticking over when the muse is really AWOL with a vengeance! I popped over to Wargames Foundry for the day a couple of weeks ago, intending to buy a few more packs of appropriate Hussar figures for my Austrians in the Wars of the French Revolution project.
Instead I came away with a few more packs of Late Romans, both cavalry and infantry command packs. As my painting muse is notably absent without leave I think I must have found the Austrians too daunting a prospect and postponed their purchase until next year: its not as if I don't have some other Austrians to be getting on with anyway. In fits and starts I've been painting these Late Roman figures up now to form four new command stands for our games.
Firstly, as Jon has no dedicated command stand when we play, I have made a base depicting Albinus, one of two rivals to Pompus Maximus for the throne of the Caesars. The colour scheme is red and white mainly for this base ~

Then, two new command stands for the various cavalry formations in the two armies. The first for the Huns and Goths I think ~

I'm not so keen on the second one now, the colours of brick red and ochre don't work together as well as I hoped. Perhaps the end result will improve after some matt varnish?

Finally, a foot command stand for one of the infantry formations. Both armies have a number of Saxon warbands as allies, so this will do for one side's Allied General I hope ~

In truth, they are pretty basic paint jobs on the whole, although they seem to have taken me forever. I guess my eye problem and the arthritis in my hand is taking its toll. But, so long as I enjoy it and can get a result which will do, I shall carry on regardless! In fact I've made a start on the fourth British Infantry unit for my 1914 British Expeditionary Force. As my great uncle Albert 'Jack' Boot served in the Coldstream Guards in the Great War I shall dedicate this new unit of British infantry to his memory. So far I've finished three: only twenty seven to go!

Sunday 18 October 2015

Keeping Busy

No games, no prospect of games...but keeping busy trying to move at least one ongoing project forward over the next couple of weeks. Having said that its mostly bits and pieces rather than completed massed units of figures. Any casual visitor might mistake me for a 'figure fiddler', one of those sad types for whom 50 figures is an 'army'. So, some additions to my Wars of the French Revolution project: first, two Brigade Command stands for the British elements of the Allied army, both from Trent Miniatures ~

The photo above shows the standard command figure, sold as the Irish Militia leader, who I've painted before on Command stands, while the picture below shows the same figure with a head conversion, using a head from the Highland Fencibles pack. I had to drill and pin the head on the latter and then use a smidgen of green stuff to create the missing hair plait cut off when I removed the head from the original figure.
Col Alex Salmond reads the latest report ~ the score from the
Rugby World Cup perhaps?

As I discovered in the last FRW game (see an earlier Blog entry) I had neglected to add any Brigade Command stands to the British, despite managing to field two three Battalion Brigades in the game. These two figures will rectify the gap. As you will have read before, I don't really rate some of the latter sculpts in the range, far preferring Matt's work, but needs must, etc. {I've just realised that I did n't finish the tartan on his trews, so after this Blog is published its a quick dash back to the painting desk to put that right!}
Next up, a little something for the Austrian infantry in the shape of a small base depicting a drum and fife band leading the marching columns. Its only five figures and comprises two drummers, two fifers and an officer figure who I felt fitted the piece. Judge for yourself ~

The figures are based on a 50mm square base, from Warbases of course, and will do the job for me of introducing a little character into the Austrian elements of the Allied army and also 'fill in' any gaps on the base line as games unfold. I'm satisfied with how they've turned out anyway.
Finally, the last of the loot from Irregular Miniatures at Derby Worlds in the form of three different camp fire cooking scenic pieces ~

These will do for enlivening camp scenes in any number of the periods we play I'm sure. The castings were of varied quality, needing quite a bit of cutting away in at least one case, but easy to splash the paint on and quite pleasing to my eye now they are finished. The smoke and steam effects are simply pieces of Kapok ~ from the Perry Miniatures boxes I think by now rather than the old three piece suite! ~ stuck in place with a blob of PVA glue. Not the best produced pieces I've tackled but I think they will look ok amongst other items in a camp scene from my Late Romans to the C19th.
Speaking of Late Romans, I have finally managed to finish the command stand for Pompus Maximus, the commander of my Late Roman army. Its been a long road since 2002 when I bough the original figures, which Andy Dumelow painted for me, as I've slowly expanded the collection and arrived at the position where one whole force, which I play, I have painted myself, while the opponents, commanded by Albinus or Baldinus, the pretenders, are now comprised of those originally painted by Andy.

The figures are all from Wargames Foundry, of course, and include an Early Imperial mounted Emperor and a Late Roman officer in classical armour, alongside figures from the Late Roman, Goth and Frank ranges I think. I picked up a few more command packs not long ago and these are now prepped and undercoated ready to be painted when I get tired of Austrian White or British Khaki Brown! In the meantime, back to painting Austrian Dragoons to bring the unit up to strength...

Thursday 15 October 2015

Problems and Solutions

As I mentioned in the previous Blog there are no games planned now in GHQ until the end of the month: Phil is away and Jon is too busy with work to spare the time. I have a couple of weeks to myself, so I've decided to apply myself to a couple of issues which have been nagging away at me in respect of my Wars of the French Revolution project. These are hardly big issues I should say first, but they have been things I've been thinking about off and on for a good while now.
Firstly, the issue of 'vignettes' to fill up the base line and give some feeling of reality to the whole look of the battlefield. Now, in my ACW collection for example, I have loads of bits and bobs to fill in the spaces which almost inevitably will appear as the game unfolds. But, for the WFR project to date I have nothing. Skip back a few weeks to Derby Worlds and I took steps to begin righting this void. From Dave Thomas I bought two Perry Miniatures French sets ~ Generals and ADCS ~ which will give me two groups of four figures, one seated around a table scribbling orders and one of a determined looking general and his staff. Strictly the uniforms are too late of course, but careful painting and posing should help minimise that. In the bag of goodies I collected from Trent Miniatures there turned out to be some spare Austrian officers. I also  had bought a whole heap of 'bits' from Irregular, which I forgot to mention in the relevant blog post, and amongst that was a table, bench and chair. The result, a little vignette of senior officers gathered around their maps planning their next move ~

The maps I found by searching on the Net for C18th maps of Flanders which I then reduced to an appropriate size. Pointless in many respects, but I know at least that they are appropriate and that level of detail on so small a piece is well beyond my skills now a days! The piece needs to be matt varnished, but I'll wait until I have a few more done to break out the fan heater and the spray cans!
The second thing which has been occupying my thoughts off and on since Monday's game is the issue of representing skirmishers on the table top. Now, as I understand it, Blackpowder does not require you to depict skirmishers at all, but I like the games to look right. When I looked back over the snaps I'd taken the individual figures loosely grouped just didn't look like I thought they should. I'd got a few oval MDF bases in stock, and Phil gave me a few more, so I began experimenting with the figures and the detritus I'd got from Irregular Miniatures at Derby. I'm quite pleased by the 'vignette look' of these larger bases and at least I feel it looks something like a skirmish screen now. Of course, you may disagree entirely...

Firstly, above, three bases to represent French skirmishers. I've taken some close up pictures of each base, so I'll discuss them in a minute. Secondly, below, some Austrian skirmishers, attempting to cordon off their French opposing numbers ~

Turning first to the bases of French figures: they comprise a number of figures from packs of French Elites in bicorn firing and the French Infantry Firing Line, an officer from the Royalist Vendee figure set, two kneeling Elites, which I don't think are generally available yet, and one Light Infantry figure kneeling ~

On each base I placed one item from the bag of Irregular Miniatures goodies, the three figures, some odd stone pieces from the original bases, and a few discreet tufts.

Now, I know I shall need more bases than this, so next year I will be picking up other figures to paint up and base in a similar style. I believe that Matt made some distinct Skirmishing French figures for Duncan, indeed, they may even now be cast up. Mixed with others of the types already used I hope it will give me a more satisfactory looking French Skirmish screen in future games.

The Austrians are from the German Infantry firing line packs. I had five spare figures for each of the two Line Infantry Regiments I had already painted up, hence the bases of three and two figures. I'd no spare officers at that time, but I don't feel that's an issue with these bases anyway. I just happened to have the French officers going spare!

I have some suitable spares also for the forthcoming Hungarian Infantry I have in the painting queue, so I shall mount these on similar sized and styled bases to complete the 'look' I'm after for the armies once deployed on the tabletop ~

They won't appear though for a couple of months! First up I'm working on two Brigade Command stands for the British Infantry part of the Allied army and the three Austrian Dragoons I bought to bring the unit up to strength! I also plan to tackle my fourth British Infantry battalion for the 1914 project as I see Phil has started his Germans! I've also got three camp cooking pieces from Irregular which can appear in several periods camp scenes I hope. That's October spoken for, at the very least, so we'll see how it goes! I'd appreciate any feedback on either mini project idea which might help me develop my thinking and improve the end product, so do comment if you feel you can add anything to the pot!

Monday 12 October 2015

The French are Revolting!

Now, I realise that there are a number of ways you can take the title of this piece, you will just have to believe me when I say that on this occasion it refers to a recent Wars of the French Revolution game Phil and I played out here in GHQ. Phil took command of the French, with a total of 17 units plus artillery and command elements while I commanded the Allies with a total of 18 units plus artillery and command elements. As we were using Blackpowder once again, we agreed that the French would have slightly better command ratings than the Allies overall to represent their revolutionary zeal! The first photo gives an impression of the table layout at the beginning of the game viewed from the Allied right ~

The French had the initiative and Phil immediately 'Blundered' in his advance, seeing one unit dash forward for three moves! He redeemed the mistake when other units advanced to cover the flank of the overenthusiastic troops! In the Allied turn the Austrian infantry holding the centre advanced to block the French while the British left flank cautiously moved forward.

The French second line in their centre and their right flank were still not prepared to advance, leaving them vulnerable t an Allied thrust towards the farm, if only they could pass their Command rolls and muster some enthusiasm for the fight!

At last the French second line and their right began to make progress, just when the Allied left had decided to call a halt for a reorganisation!

In the centre the Allies suffer their first reverse when, after initial success, the Austrian Grenadiers are driven off in route by the French!

The remainder of the Austrian infantry brigade deploy into line to bring their greater firepower to bear on Les Bleus! British light cavalry move to protect their flank and also screen the British advance from unwelcome French interference. Austrian 12lbers play on the advancing French columns.

Both sides are keen to occupy the farmstead to secure their flank. The French fail in their turn to reach the objective, leaving the British free to try in their turn! Meanwhile rival Lit Infantry exchange fire.

The farm falls to the 33rd Foot supported by a regiment of Hanoverians, while the Lowenstein Chasseurs and Rohan's Freikorps confront the French Light Infantry!

As French pressure builds, the 'Dunwhinngin Fencibles'/42nd Foot ready themselves for glory!

Meanwhile, away on the Allied right the Austrian cuirassier are inexplicably thrashed by the French 2nd Hussars!

In the Allied centre the Austrian infantry have fled the field and on the right things are going badly for the Allied cavalry! British infantry struggle to fill the gap in the line as French columns surge forward sensing victory!

From the French lines you can sense the power of their attack and appreciate the thin red line readying itself to meet the attack!

The remnants of the Allied cavalry on their right makes a last ditch attempt to stem the French tide and protect their remaining infantry's flank!

On the Allied left the fighting reaches a crisis point as units exchange fire seeking to break the will of their enemies!

Sadly its the Allied resolve which snaps first as the ninth unit flees the field! Although badly mauled, the French will claim a victory!

The game was decided in the ninth turn, leaving enough time fortuitously for coffee and chocky biccies! The figures are all from my collection: mostly Trent Miniatures, supported by Front Rank and Foundry. The trees are from the Last Valley and the farm is a foam casting I got from eBob and which Phil kindly painted for me! The French flags are from the Vexicology site while the British and Hanoverian are from GMB Designs. The Austrian flags are from the Warflag site. I have a few things on the painting desk for this project: some Austrian general officers gathered around a map table; some vignette style French skirmish bases; a small Austrian fife and drum corps and the extra base of Austrian Dragoon to bring the regiment up to strength. I hope to finish these this month as there are no more games scheduled before the last few days of October due to my friends' work and holiday plans. That will leave me once in 'Winter Quarters' to tackle my two Hungarian infantry regiments and the Homsesch Mounted Rifles for the Allied cause. I'll let you know how things go...

Friday 9 October 2015

A Bloody Affair at White's Farmstead

As I hope some will recall, Jon and I started a large Blackpowder ACW game last week, with a view to playing over two, or more, sessions to help me learn the rules! In the first session we played 12 Turns and when I wandered into GHQ occasionally to look over the table in the intervening week it seemed to me that the Union were up against it. A quick review of the table at the end of Turn 12 ~

When Jon turned up this week we got straight down to action. As He had the initiative in the game he at once pressed the Union boys wherever he could in the first turn. My boys are driven from the corn field and on my right one regiment breaks under great pressure. The 5th New York hurry to fill the gap and hold back the Reb tide ~

In Turn 14 of the game the Reb cause was held up by poor Command Rolls, including an unwelcome Blunder! The 144th New York counter attacked the stalled Rebs while the 54th Massachusetts stormed the Rebs held up in the corn field by the restored US Sharpshooters!
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With the Union right holding up well more Boys from New York rushed forward to hurl the Damned Rebs back, despite their mounting losses!

In Turn 15 the Union Regulars drive the remaining Rebs from the corn field and stabilize the centre. Losses are heavy on the Union right though and finally the last of the US Colored Troops is broken. Fortunately the Rebs are also broken on that flank so all is looking up for the Union cause.

Away on the Union left, the fighting around White's Farmstead has settled into a prolonged fire fight with neither side able to advance due to a storm of 'Disordered' results turn after turn! The Pennsylvania troops, supported by elements of the Irish Brigade trade lead with the enemy with quiet determination.

In the centre the Reb generals simply cannot urge their men forward while the Union boys consolidate their position and the artillery plays havoc with the enemy's morale!

Sadly though, at the moment of triumph, many Union units cannot take it any more and melt away, as do their Reb counterparts. A quick check in Turn 16 shows that both armies are Broken by a combination of Routs and Shaken units. The game has run out of legs in a bloody draw!

The Reb right was broken by sustained volleys from the last of the Union regiments holding their ground.

The Union centre was still strongly held though, even at the end fresh units were marching to the front full of confidence!

While over on the UNion left the boys from Pennsylvania simply could not be dislodged by the Rebs!

The final indignity for the Reb cause was the simple lack of a decent Command roll in the centre, leaving a whole Brigade to trade ineffective rifle fire with their foe for four turns!

The game ended, as I said, after 16 Turns when both armies were reckoned to be Broken due to a combination of Routed and Shaken units. the four turns played this week took 1 1/2 hours to complete as there was much firing, combat and morale resolution to tackle for both of us in our turns. Jon's Rebs were thwarted by a combination of poor Command Rolls and unusually poor shooting dice, while the Union cause was redeemed by some smart bayonet work at times! All in all a great game over two sessions and a fair result we both thought! Next up for us will be a pair of Ancient games using first Hail Caesar and then Neil Thomas' Ancient and Medieveal rules. In the meantime, Phil and I have scheduled a French Revolutionary Wars game next week so pop back to see how that went in due course.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

The 'Derby Worlds' and the 'Rugby World Cup'

I usually go to Wargames shows with Phil or Jon, as I find I enjoy them more when I have good company, but on this occasion I had to go to Derby Worlds wargames show on my own - Phil was elsewhere and Jon was helping "Roland's Rats" with a 6mm Napoleonic demonstration game at the show. I arrived about 10.50 on the Saturday morning and was really surprised to see a long queue still evident. We usually go on the Sunday when it seems quieter; now I know why we choose Sunday, as the show was humming with folk all day and the traders seemed very busy taking money! As I'd walked along the front of the Exhibition Centre to join the queue I'd noticed the large ACW game in the window: easily identifiable as Gettysburg by the very large Lutheran Seminary prominent on the battlefield. As it turned out it was the only area where the lighting was not 'green' when you took a picture using my iPhone camera, so it forms my only photographic record of the games I saw! But first I decided on some shopping. I even had a list!

The Trent Miniatures I had pre-ordered from Duncan at The Other Partizan and Dan from Wargames Illustrated had kindly brought them along for me. They contained some 'extras' as a surprise, notably a Hungarian standard bearer wearing the early casque helmet and three fine French Elite company figures kneeling in a mix of firing and loading poses. Otherwise they were the three Austrian Dragoons I needed to bring the regiment up to strength; a unit of eight Hompesch Mounted Rifles, as a variant for the British Light Cavalry in my Flanders force; the Hungarian drummers and officers I needed to complete the two units I bought earlier in the year; and finally, some Austrian drummers and fifers, to make a small drum and fife band to inspire the troops into battle! From Foundry I got a pack of Late Roman cavalry to complete my new command base for Pompus Maximus. I got a great discount too, so 'Thanks!' Marcus. From Dave Thomas I got two packs of Perry Miniatures, Generals and ADCs, to make a couple of command vignettes, inspired by ones I'd seen on a fellow enthusiast's Blog! From Warbases some pill bases for the cavalry and a Hen House, which turned out to be a dog kennel when I got home! More of that later! And finally, from Great Escape Games some more Gamers' Tufts!
Turning then to the games I enjoyed a leisurely meander around and the occasional chat with chaps I knew involved with the games' presentation. There was a fine Waterloo themed game in 28mm which I admired, especially the buildings ~ made by Nick Buxby I believe and now cast up by Caliver Books I think.

Then, back into the light to explore the Gettysburg game I'd mentioned that I'd admired on the way in. In fact not one game, but two! A 10mm{?} game/display depicting Pickett's Charge to judge by the lines of advancing Rebs, as well as the 28mm monster table!

The Lutheran Seminary dominated the table top battlefield ~

A general view lastly to try to show the scale of the whole enterprise ~

Sadly that's all the game pictures that were even marginally presentable! The rest were so 'green' they made me feel nauseous just to look at, so I deleted them rather than inflict them on the unwary visitor! I often find now that lighting at wargames shows leaves much to be desired ~ Salute, Wargamer and Partizans of old spring readily to mind!
I almost forgot: wandering the Flea Market in the afternoon I came across this ~

And only £5.00! A bargain as it contains not only all the scenarios for the game but also the additional rules for 'Mass Combat' which I can use in our Blandings/Zeelowe 1940/F&IW games instead of my 'house rules'. I just need to light on Issue Number 2 now! All in all a great day out! I met some good friends, saw some good games and spent some money on new stuff for the hobby! Pretty much perfect!
Fast forward from Saturday to Tuesday and you find Jon and I at the King Power Stadium in Leicester for the Rugby World Cup. I'd mentioned to Jon that I'd seen World Cup soccer and Test Match cricket, but never World Cup rugby. He got two tickets for the Canada v Romania and so we braved the monsoon between Wolverhampton and Leicester to arrive in good time for the match, and even park close to the stadium!

As you'll see, we arrived in the sun! The monsoon was just all the way there! It was all very well organised, with volunteers to steer you on your way, and we were soon inside the stadium and finding our seats. But first, the obligatory photo of Jon with 'the cup' ~

As we are 'Englishmen' through and through we decided we would support Canada, although that didn't run to learning the words to the national anthem!

We had a great time at the match, there was some good play by both sides at times, and the Romanians finally came back from 0-15 down to win with a breathtaking penalty kick with less than two minutes to go 17-15! A couple of shots to finish: the anthems before kick off and action from a line out! The Canadian number 2 I christened Gimli, as he was dwarfed by the other forwards and sported a magnificent beard!

As I said, a good game and a great experience I can mark off from my bucket list! Thanks Jon! I'd certainly go again if I had the chance! Now, back to wargaming and part two of our mega ACW game tomorrow!