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.

Sunday 31 January 2016

An Englishman's Home...

I have been spending some time working on basing and titivating my old Conflix buildings into something more visually appealing on the tabletop than just plonking them down and getting on with the game. A friend of Jon's with access to laser cutting was kind enough to cut me some 3mm MDF bases at a very good price. I chose the sizes of base for each group of buildings by laying them out on a piece of A4 paper and fiddling around until I liked the look. It gives me two about 11" x 8" and one about 9" square.

 I textured the bases with my usual mixture of three sizes [fine,medium & coarse] of Woodlands Scenics railway ballast material, in pale buff, which I sprinkle generously over a coat of PVA. It dries in about an hour I find and then I wash the base all over with a wash of Country Maple, which dries darker than you think as you apply it! I find using the pale buff it takes the colour well and doesn't need drybrushing, if you get the density of the wash right!

Amongst my bits and pieces there is a set Conflix produced of two agricultural waggons and a well. I also had another well from an unknown manufacturer which I pressed into service. Now, the Conflix ones have very thick bases which means my chosen basing method fails to disguise the great step up, so I have diverted the eye with the use of static grass, grass tufts and flower clumps. It works well on the table I find in deceiving the eye, if not so well close up!

I hope the buildings can be used to represent farms, a village or even the outskirts of a town in our games from the C17th ECW to the 1940 Operation Zeelowe/Blandings games. With that in mind you'll have noticed the absence of walls, fences and the like which might tie them too closely to one time period. I will add some detritus from Irregular Miniatures in due course, but I won't catch up with them until later in the year. I also have a chicken coop and a dog kennel from Warbases which I will base up separately to add as appropriate.
I've not neglected figure painting this week and have finished four Hompesch Mounted Rifles from Trent Miniatures, sculpted by Matt of course, and have four more on the painting desk. I know they are slightly out of time and theatre for my 1793-95 project, but they will just have to do!

I found the figures quite straightforward to paint and I'm pleased with the overall look, although as the close up shows I'm not a top notch painter any more, if indeed I ever was! I'd like a small unit of Uhlans Brittanique if I can find some figures which will do. Any suggestions very welcome.
Well, house guests have arrived for Sunday lunch, so that's it for now. Toodle Pip!

Thursday 28 January 2016

Chief Bykelezi's Uprising

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jon and I had planned an Anglo-Zulu War game for this week's session. I devised a scenario where he would be the British player while the Zulus would be controlled by the Auto Generator system in my rules, Washing the Spears, and I would act as Umpire and general dogsbody! The game begins with the British force tasked with escorting supply waggons and cattle to a British outpost overlooking Chief Bykelezi's Kraal. The force faces three Zulu 'Blinds' indicating areas that Zulus might be expected to appear from. His force has an element of native scouts who must approach within 4" of each 'Blind' to determine if it is active or a false report. In fact unknown to Jon each is false, the game only really begins when he has explored all three blinds and realises he does n't know where the Zulus are! He then has 12 Turns to survive to win the game. The table at the onset of the game ~

The Zulu's army is divided into two elements, each comprising two regiments supported by some rifle armed groups. The first half is allocated to the British left flank, with the table divided into six sections, and half to the British front, again divided into six sections. The Zulus soon begin to appear on the British flank ~

Somewhat surprised, Jon found his Natal Mounted Police element right in front of the Zulu entry point! Discretion proved to be the order of the day and they retired to safety rather smartly ~

More Zulus appeared and headed straight for the rear elements of the British column! The artillery had deployed on the low hills, flanked by the Mounted Infantry detachment, to cover the withdrawal of the irregulars! Meanwhile the Lancers were circling the Zulus' right flank ~

The gallant Lancers gathered for the charge and easily defeated the Zulu riflemen, sending them in full flight when their Pluck failed! The warriors now found their flank threatened by the wild horsemen ~

With their dander well and truly up, the Lancers smash into and defeat another Zulu rifle element! Things are not looking good for the Zulus at this point ~

A third element of rifle armed Zulus are summarily destroyed! At that point the Lancers' horses were deemed to be 'blown' and they must regroup before any further offensive action can be ordered ~

So far the British are holding off the Zulus on their left flank, while wondering all the while where the next enemy will spring from! Without the Lancers their flank is rather exposed to attack from the Zulus on the table ~

As you can see, the Staffordshire Volunteers have just realised their are Zulus to their front and have hastily taken cover behind the supply waggons. Only just in time as it worked out! Things are looking far from bright for the remainder of the force at this point! Probably an 'Imperial Brown Trouser Moment' in the game ~

The gallant lads from Staffordshire see off the first Zulus to appear, a small group of allies armed with ancient rifles proving no problem for their marksmanship, and follow that up by defeating the warriors who rush their barricades. Zulu 'Pluck' is proving unusually fragile ~

By now all the Zulus are on the table and pressing the attack wherever they can! Sadly the Zulus run out of time when the twelve turns are up! They have lost too many men to the British forces small losses and so the British are declared the winners ~

Chief Bykelezi m'Tubbi will have to raise fresh warriors to resist the onward 'march of civilization' into his lands. Already runners have been dispatched from the chief's kraal summoning warriors to the defence of their chief and his lands ~

A grand and tense game for the British, which I enjoyed seeing unfold rather more than Jon did at times! The failure of the Zulus' 'Pluck' in several first tests was very unusual and certainly made it less arduous for the British force in the second half of the game. It would have been a very different story had the warriors not fled so easily! I guess the rocket attacks finally broke their nerve!
Next week GHQ should see two SYW games being played, one using the new 'Honours of War' rules and the other using Black Powder. It will be interesting to see how they differ in play. Pop back next week to see how it turns out!

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Onwards, Ever Onwards!

Just a brief entry if you will bear with me here as both Blogger and Photobucket appear to be in a mood, again! Firstly, some of my latest and, for now anyway, last Austrian Infantry for my Wars of the French Revolution project. This is my second Hungarian Infantry regiment of 28 figures, with two extra bases to represent skirmishers in the Black Powder rules. As you will have come to expect, they are nearly all Trent Miniatures, although this time I had to press three Foundry figures into service as I could n't get in touch with Duncan! The Foundry figures are both smaller and slighter, but they are concealed in the second rank in all three instances and slightly elevated from the MDF bases. I used card for this, about 2mm thick. Its disguised partly by the texturing and partly by the grass and tufts I added and it will certainly do for me! If you are interested the three figures are the two standard bearers and an NCO whipping the lads into line! An eye level view of the regiment drawn up in line ~

A view from slightly above which I think shows how well the three little chaps have fitted in, for now anyway. The Brigade command stand to the right rear is a piece I've featured before ~

The Regiment drawn up with its skirmishers thrown forward! The skirmish bases were featured here a short while back you'll find ~

I've also been working on improving the 'look' on my tabletop battlefields of the Conflix buildings we use, for anything from the ECW through to the 1940's! I'm basing each building or group of buildings on 3mm MDF and then texturing and grassing/tufting the small amounts of base you can see. I quite like the look of the first piece, but you can judge for yourselves here ~

I'm working on some cavalry at the moment for the Allied armies. They are the slightly out of period Hompesch Mounted Rifles, which I am passing off as the earlier Hompesch Hussars! They are Trent figures of course and are proving very straightforward to paint, when my hand and eye will cooperate of course! I'll pop them up next month when the unit is complete anyway, so for now, Toodle Pip!                        

Friday 22 January 2016

An Iron Cross or a Steel Coffin!

Earlier this week Jon and I met up in GHQ for a planned WWII game, using my favourite set of rules, "Rapid Fire!" and my 20mm collection of figures, vehicles and scenics. As is usual, I took command of the Germans and Jon of the British. The scenario see the stretched German defenders attempting to deny the British use of the road which crosses the table from north to south. The British are making a reconnaissance in some strength, having no reliable intelligence of the German dispositions, but do know that there are two towns they must pass through, or round, and several farms and hamlets along the way. Unknown to the British, the Germans are very stretched to defend all the choke points and must make hard choices in their dispositions before the British enter the table. The game lasts for up to 10 turns and the British will win if they get one element off the table safely at the German end! If they don't, then the Germans win, except...well, lets leave that aside for a minute. The German HQ is located in the larger town near their edge of the table ~

From here they will attempt to coordinate their forces, including a battery of artillery 'off table', but represented on the far edge of the tabletop for the look of the thing ~

The British have two Infantry units to support their reconnaissance efforts, one in carriers and one in half tracks. The reconnaissance is spearheaded by Stuart tanks and the whole is supported by a Churchill tank company and a battery of off table/on table 25lbers ~

I had deployed one element of infantry in the smaller town nearest the British entry point, hoping to take out a lead vehicle with a panzerfaust and throw the whole advance wide open, perhaps persuading Jon there was more there than he thought. Fat chance, as I missed! The little Fritz's defended the town valiantly, but were destroyed to a man in bitter street fighting, while their supports in a neighbouring farm complex were soon on the run, facing the Churchills with no anti tank capability. It was already clear by Turn 3 that my dispositions had been wrong, or rather Jon's had been better ~

The main German plan in tatters, all rested on my Stug company, supported by two elements of infantry and a couple of mortars. The lead carriers were soon neutralised, driving the remainder back into the town, but I was not so successful with the Stuarts in the next turns! It might have helped if my artillery had managed to hit their target, but no, misses all round. On the other hand, Jon's 25lbers could do no wrong!

With the Stugs both destroyed the German's last hope was their Panzer IV, initially deployed hull down on the higher ground on the German left. It had successfully destroyed on Stuart already and forced the remainder to retire hastily to the cover of the wood. Now it advanced bravely to block the Churchills' advance on the final point of resistance ~

The final moments in Turn 7. The Panzer IV enjoys some success against the half track borne infantry, but is in turn knocked out by the Churchills!

The German morale finally collapses and they leave the table in route at the conclusion of Turn 8! This leaves the British to enter the final town in triumph, leading to much celebration and consumption of wine! {Or in our case, tea and cake!}

A grand game full of action and tension but, in the end, you cannot buck the dice gods can you? Well, that's my story anyway...
Next week should see another WWII bash at Phil's, but on the Eastern Front this time and using the new Cross of Iron rules I believe. Perhaps Otto Bikkel will have more luck out East? Or not... Later in the week Jon and I hope to stage a Zulu War game in honour of a certain anniversary, so pop back to see how the rejuvenated Chief Bykelezi gets on!

Monday 18 January 2016

Making a stand!

Phil came over earlier today for our weekly game, this time featuring the third of our linked scenarios set in the Wars of the French Revolution. The French, having beaten both the British and the Austrians in separate encounters, were now poised for all out attack to drive the beaten enemy from Flanders!
Phil would command the French and had at his disposal: 2 Brigades of Heavy Cavalry; 1 Brigade of Light Cavalry; 2 Batteries of Horse Artillery; 3 Demi-Brigades of Infantry; 1 Light Infantry Battalion; 2 composite Battalions of Elites. The French needed to drive the Allies from the field in 12 Turns.
I commanded the Allies. The Austrians and British forces have not yet successfully joined forces. The game begins with the Austrians deployed around the village of Oopstuphaam. The command comprises: 1 Brigade of Heavy Cavalry; 1 Brigade of Infantry; 1 Brigade of Freikorps; 2 Batteries of 12lbers. The Hanoverians could enter after Turn 2, comprising one lone Battalion of Infantry, while the British could enter from Turn 4 ~ first their Light Cavalry, then the Heavy Cavalry Brigade, then the 2 Brigades of Infantry and Batteries of 6lbers.
The Austrians carefully draw up a defensive plan ~

The Austrians have quite a wide front to defend and lack the manpower to hold the whole front in depth. The Freikorps are thrown forward to shield the troops in and around the village ~

The French make a strong demonstration on the Austrian left, defended only by one Infantry Battalion! Skirmishers are thrown forward to shield the line, while a wary eye is kept on the enemy's Light Cavalry ~

On the French left the Heavy Brigades are drawn up, opposite the inferior numbers of Austrian cavalry, supported by an Infantry Demi-Brigade. In the centre French columns hurry forward to assault the village's defenders before their British Allies can arrive ~

The French centre and left wing hurry forward, sure of a decisive victory over a shaken enemy! Around the village, the defenders are waiting, muskets levelled and guns loaded and ready to deal death and destruction on the revolutionary upstarts ~

On the Austrian right the first clash sees the Heavy Cavalry of both sides engaged! While the cuirassiers defeat their French counterparts the Dragoons are broken. But, French cavalry attack is stalled, so the Austrian infantry and artillery have time to draw breath and deploy for action ~

Action switches to the centre and the fight for the village of Oopstuphaam. The Freikorps are holding their ground, supported by a Battalion of Grenadiers and a Battery of 12lbers. The French suddenly loose their elan and the attack falters ~

With things stalled on the left and in the centre the French ready to press their advantage in cavalry over the weakened Austrians. Just in the nick of time the British Heavy Brigade arrives on the right flank of the line and steadies the situation ~

With the right stabilized and the centre holding just in the nick of time a Regiment of British Light Cavalry reaches the field and moves at once to shore up the Allies left flank ~

The Austrian Cuirassiers take heart from the French confusion and the morale boost of their British allies timely arrival and smash into the unsuspecting French Infantry. One Battalion is beaten, but the other stands resolute. The Cuirassier will have to withdraw!

The situation in the centre is becoming tense. The Freikorps are under increasing pressure and taking losses. The Austrian commander hurries forward to bolster his men's resolve ~

Suddenly the Freikorps' line collapses when the units can take no more! The French gather themselves for the final assault on the village ~

Although the French are pressing hard in the centre, on the Allied right the situation is now more favourable and the French threat has eased thanks to valiant charges by the Heavies of both Allied nations ~

As darkness falls - its Turn 12 of course - the Allies are hanging on in the village despite some losses, but hold the field on their left and right. In the end the French concede defeat and march away to lick their wounds and regroup for the next stage. The exhausted Allies can do no more than hold their ground and savour their hard won victory!

So, in our series of linked battles the Allies have repulsed the French after two previous losses and set the scene for them to go over onto the attack later in the campaigning season. I have painted one Battalion of Hungarian infantry and have a second more than half done. When they are ready we will consider continuing with the action, but that will be a while yet. Next up in GHQ will be a WWII game using Rapid Fire! later in the week. More on that later...

Friday 15 January 2016

In Flanders Fields...

As I am in full flow at the present with my ongoing Wars of the French Revolution project, I set up a game for my latest tabletop encounter with Jon, our first of the year as it happens, which loosely followed on from last week's game with Phil. The scenario is set following on from General Dytherin's recent demise, and his force's failure to halt the wild Revolutionary hordes. It sees the Austrian commander, the ageing General Karl Meztitzoop, marching to block French reinforcements keen to exploit the bridgehead so recently seized. He has at his disposal a Brigade of Heavy Cavalry, a Brigade of Infantry, a Brigade of Light Troops, and a battery of 12lb guns. His plan is to force a crossing of the river on the French flank with his line infantry to engage the enemy's infanrtry, while commanding the approach to the bridge with his Light Troops and artillery, leaving the Heavies to threaten the French approach rout. The initial force available to the French to hold their gains is that which successfully seized the bridgehead in the last game. Reinforcements of four Infantry battalions and a battery of Foot Artillery are marching to their aid, entering the table potentially after Turn 2. Sadly, the Brigade's commander has a low rating of only 6 making their arrival far from sure. In the eventuality of their failing to march to the sound of the guns after Turn 5 they are belatedly joined by General Le Blanc, command rating 9, for a better chance of arriving in the nick of time! The game is set at our usual 12 Turns.

At first the Austrian plan seems to be going well. The enemy infantry is all drawn to defend the crossing point while the Austrians superior fire helps to whittle down the French infantry, weakening them for the attack with the bayonet!

The French commander is forced to sacrifice his Light Cavalry Brigade in a charge to halt the Austrian Cuirassiers who are moving to seize the bridge. In fierce hand to hand fighting both sides become 'Shaken' and have to test their morale. The cuirassiers withdraw 'Disordered' but the French are hurled back two moves and are also 'Disordered'. Austrian Grenadiers march forward to deny the bridge to the French reinforcements as they eventually arrive!

Le Blanc finally arrives on the battlefield and hastily deploys his brigade to meet the Austrian threat. Sadly his artillery are nowhere to be seen and the Austrian Dragoons are threatening a charge on his left hand Battalion!

The Dragoons spur their mounts forward, the ground reverberates under the weight of their charge and, despite heavy French fire, they crash into the mass of French infantry! The Austrians sense blood and set to with gusto to cut the French down!

Just when it was all going well and victory was within their grasp, the Austrians seemed to loose heart! The line infantry were driven back over the river by a wild French charge; the Chassuers rallied and moved to attack the Cuirassiers once more; while the Dragoons were inexplicably beaten off by the French masses! {That is to say, my dice luck finally deserted me and Jon's came good with a vengeance!}

Despite a courageous manoeuvre by the Austrian Grenadiers, taking the French massed infantry in their flank, it was to prove too little too late. The Austrian army collapsed and fled the field leaving the French victorious!

To the stiring tune of Le Marseillaise, Le Blanc crosses the bridge to greet the commander of the bridgehead force and offer his congratulations for a job well done. The Austrians withdraw to regroup and refit ready for the coming decisive encounter when, with their ally, the Grand Old Duke of York himself, they will finally drive the French from the field! Or not...

The battle should be fought out next Monday when Phil will inherit the French command here in GHQ and I will take the Allies and seek to reverse my recent defeats!