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 28 November 2016

A bit windy today?

It seems at present that my painting efforts are as changeable as the British weather. I normally manage an hour or so first thing in the morning when hand and eye are properly rested, after that it's a lottery really. Having said that, recently I've been a bit more productive. I have finished the 31st Legere for my Wars of the French Revolution project, using the Brigade Games figures I purchased not long ago. These are the first I've tackled from that range, by Hicks I believe. The service from Brigade Games was first rate, just over a week from ordering to receipt. Can't argue with that from the USA to home! On the down side, some mould making or casting issues were sadly present: not so much flash and vent runs as missing buttons on cuffs and coats. Annoying really, as where they had cast correctly they were easy to paint! As I'm on a roll seemingly I've also started the Ligne regiment from the same manufacturer I bought  from the Flea Market at Derby Worlds last month. I hope to finish those before the festive season rolls into view!

Between finishing the Legere and starting the  Ligne I finished working on a European windmill which I hope will do for games from the ECW to the Great War. It has a bit of history to it which might be of amusement to you. I purchased it in March from a sale at Grand Manner. It languished in GHQ until August when I finally took the plunge and cleaned it up and sprayed it dark brown. All was going well, until... I just caught the sails on the corner of my desk! Disaster, the sails shattered into several pieces! Even though the breaks were clean it was obviously always going to be weak and, knowing how ham fisted I can be, it was sure to repeatedly fail. I might have been able to stick it to a backing of plasticard, but I mentioned my disaster to Martin at Warbases and he offered to have a look so I posted the bits northward! I had imagined he might make a 2mm MDF backing for the piece, so imagine my surprise when I rolled up at Derby Worlds to be presented with a completely new set of sails cut from MDF and ready assembled for me too. Now, that is service! they fit the bill perfectly and are lighter than the resin originals, but you can judge for yourselves in the picture I'm sure.

No game in GHQ this week as Phil and Di are away, up north in the Lake District. Looks as if they will have a decent few days, if cold. As I'm back in Billy No Mates mode I hope to make progress with my second Brigade Games French battalion, this time the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Demi-Brigade de Ligne. So, back to the painting desk it is. A Bientot mes Amis!

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Oh, Oh, Oh What a Lovely War!

Phil and I played a Great War 1914 game in GHQ today. We would normally be using our own ever evolving rule set, a project in its own right which will probably rumble on on the back burner as long as we do without ever being finished, whatever that is in our wonderful hobby! Today, as we were both rather tired after the weekend away at Warfare, we decided to use Black Powder instead.
The Great War 1914 is a rare thing for us as a project, in that I painted the B.E.F. figures and Phil the 'Vile Hun'. They are almost all by Great War Miniatures, a fine range which could do with some expansion for 1914 gamers we think. (Some of the Hun are from Muttonchop I think.) We were really pleasantly surprised at how well the game played out, lasting fifteen turns either side of lunch. We played a simple encounter scenario to keep things moving along, giving each Commander in Chief a 9 rating and each Battalion Commander an 8 rating. Machine guns were counted separately from their battalions for morale and casualties but didn't need separate orders necessarily, moving with the battalion in normal circumstances. All deployed infantry units not in column in the game we counted as Partially Obscured. We also gave the B.E.F. the First Fire rule in every turn to try to simulate the "15 Rounds, Rapid Fire!" doctrine of the British. Anyway, enough flannel about rules, on to the game. The British won the dice off for Initiative and so moved first. I ordered the South Staffs forward to the road to dig in, which they failed to do!  The 17th Lancers reached the copse and deployed as dismounted skirmishers, supported by the battery of guns from the RHA. In resonse the Hun occupied the ruined farm and deployed two batteries of artillery on the B.E.F.'s right flank ~

The South Staffs steeled themselves for the storm of fire about to engulf them. If only they could reach the road and dig in they might yet hold their position awaiting support ~

The Hun sensed an early opportunity and hurried a Battalion into the orchard opposite the South Stafford's position to support the Jaegers holding the ruins of the farm. In the distance you can just make out the columns of the Scottish Division, who are making very slow progress up the road to the front ~

While the Gordon Highlanders and the Borderers made slow progress towards the front line, the RA battery was already in position and shelling the enemy held farm. There was no sign of the bulk of the Hun force as yet, but there was no time for complacency in the British command ~

Brigadier Bykleigh takes stock of the position, taking advantage of the cover provided by a high wall! He is awaiting news from the front line troops before committing the remainder of his force to action. "Where are those Hun Battalions?" ~

Well, if he waits for a certain Captain Blackadder to pass on the information the war will be over! ~

The South Staffords remain exposed short of the road and suffer dreadfully from the Hun artillery. They anxiously await support, which seems very slow to materialise. In the distance the Scottish Division Battalions are also stalled as they try ot flank the Huns in the farm ~

On the B.E.F.'s left flank the Gordon Highlanders are stalled and the Borderers are caught in column and take heavy casualties. Note: its a bad idea to fail a command order roll when facing entrenched machine guns and infantry! At last though the Dragoon Guards reach the artillery copse and offer some support to the beleaguered Staffords. The Shropshire Light Infantry are still a long way in the rear though! ~

The B.E.F.'S position seems to be steadying now. The K.O.S.L.I. and the Highlanders are both getting into action in support of their hard pressed colleagues. The Hun in and around the farm are proving very stubborn foe, despite being Shaken and Disordered they hold their ground bravely. There will be a few Iron Crosses awarded today I feel ~

In fact so stubborn is their resistance that they force the Borderers to Retreat and lick their wounds! I was finding the Jaegers an especially tough nut to winkle out of the farm ~

At last the Battalion supporting the Jaegers has Broken and flees to the rear. Despite a number of machine gun 'jams' the tide is turning slowly for the B.E.F. With the Gordons now Shaken and the Borderers still regrouping the game could still go either way ~

Back in the B.E.F.'s centre the Staffords are forced to Retreat Shaken while their Machine Gun Company holds their position to cover the retreat and the RHA battery threatens the flank of any advancing Hun. The situation is tense here ~

Despite being Shaken and Disordered the Staffords and their supports force the Hun along the ridge opposite to Retreat. The fortunes of war are swinging first one way, then the other ~

Finally, in Turn 14, the Hun's resolve collapses and his troops rush to the rear. The Gordons have finally driven the Jaegers from the ruined farm and the Hun's centre has collapsed under fire from the K.O.S.L.I. who late in the action arrive in the nick of time to save the day ~

A splendid game, swinging first one way and then the other. Black Powder worked so well with a few tweaks to the characteristics of the troops. In three weeks' time when we are next gaming here in GHQ we will be trying the game for a second time. In this replay we will make a few changes: Battalions will be represented by 5, not 10, bases of infantry (even though we will have to deploy an imaginary  machine gun company for the second battalion) and machine guns will have a close range bonus at 12" not 6". As Phil will be away next week it will be a good while before there is another game report from GHQ. I hope to use the time profitably to finish more troops for the Wars of the French Revolution project and for the VBCW. Pop back soonish to see how I get on.

Monday 21 November 2016

Safely Back from 'The South'!

I am safely back from 'The South' and am none the worse for it! Phil, Di, Sue and I have been down to Reading over the weekend: the ladies for a shopping fest and us chaps to take in the Warfare show. It must be four or five years since Phil and I have been down for the show, which once used to be a regular on our calendar. We had a good time I think, though our plans for today's trip home were somewhat  scuppered by the tail end of Storm Angus ~ bl**dy Jocks even stealing our storms now! To be serious though for a moment, I enjoyed my day at the show. I met some good chums, who I'd not seen for a time, chatted with some new folk about their games, saw several fine games too (pictures in a minute, patience please) and, naturally spent some money on toys and sundry bits and bobs! But the real highlight was chatting with Martin and Diane from Warbases and seeing my Roman Villa prototype in the round, and watching others' reactions to the pieces. I'm really looking forward to the first one wending it's way to me in December, I have great plans for it too! Now, to the games! I should say there were others there which I didn't photograph; not because they were necessarily poorer than the ones I chose, but rather that they were in periods or scales which didn't push my buttons as a wargamer. So, here we go! First up a couple of games from the Wars of the French Revolution period: Napoleon in Egypt and the French in Fishguard ~
Napoleon in Egypt 28mm by Steve Deeprose and chum

Napoleon in Egypt 28mm by Steve Deeprose and chum

Napoleon in Egypt 28mm by Steve Deeprose and chum

Napoleon in Egypt 28mm by Steve Deeprose and chum

The French invade Wales by Tring Wargames Club

The French invade Wales by Tring Wargames Club

The French invade Wales by Tring Wargames Club

Next up, a 28mm Ancient game with lots going on to catch the eye but no attribution I can be certain of, sorry~

Now, forward in time to WWII ~
Americans in Normandy? By Huntington & District Wargames Society?

Americans in Normandy? By Huntington & District Wargames Society?

The Ardennes by Earlswood Wargames Club

The Ardennes by Earlswood Wargames Club

Now, I'll apologise again to any gamers whose noses are out out of joint because I haven't featured their games. My selection is arbitrary and purely personal, based on my interests and what I think makes a good wargames show game. The next chap along might well have totally different views and produce a different selection. One man's meat, etc...
Some other observations based on the visit after a four or five year hiatus: I've gone right off Bring and Buys, too much overpriced tatt for my tastes; shows of this size are all a bit samey, for me the standout ones have the standout games; some traders are as old, or older, than me ~ that's a worry for the future of our hobby; shows need some extra sitting space, some of us are not as young as we once were!
Frankly, there are just too many shows of the same ilk, showing the same things, far to often, taking too little notice of anything beyond the bottom line. If this sounds harsh, well, I've been a show organiser myself in the past (WMMS 1970's - 1980's) and we always strove for standout games. If it didn't measure up you weren't invited back. We wanted the show to grow for both the punters' and the traders' good.
Games presented by a couple of chaps who really want to play are counter productive, you need someone to talk to visitors about your game and its unique qualities. If, like Phil and I were before age forced our retirement from Display gaming, you are only a couple of chaps then you need to sacrifice playing for chatting to the visitors, perhaps incorporating a bit of programmed movement and activity (Dave O'Brien and Barry Hilton of the League of Augsburg are very good at this.)
Finally, 'Competition Games', what is the point? A bit like synchronised swimming if you ask me! That leads me to my final observation, what is the rationale behind a two day show? We were there on the Sunday and it was very quiet at times. Think of the traders's expenses needlessly wracked up just so some chaps can roll dice and push little men about for two days. If I were a trader I definitely would n't bother with the expense of the second day ~ think of Triples' fate...
Now, in case you think I have become a curmudgeon over the weekend, I did enjoy my visit to the show. But, it has a definite 1980's air about it: the dated sports hall venue; the poor car parking facilities; the overpriced and limited catering facilities; the general lack of care and tidyness in that area. Something else which strikes me now: the very amateur, locked in time nature of the look of many of the trade stands. The C21st has not reached some areas of our hobby yet.
For us its about as much travel time to Warfare as it is to the Partizan shows; which would  I choose if I had to? A no brainer for me, the new venue Partizan every time ~ modern venue, ample free parking, light and air, seating, only the catering letting the site down! Would I go to Warfare again? Well, yes, but not every year I think.
Finally, my loot ~

Definitely not the last of the big spenders am I? Pulp Figures' Drawing Room Detectives; Perry Miniatures French Napoleonic Staff set from Colonel Bill's; F&IW British and French Regular Infantry from Redoubt; Gamers' Grass tufts from Great Escape Games; much MDF from the kings of MDF, Warbases! Now, back to painting my French Light Infantry to complete the Light Demi-Brigade of 1793-95 in Flanders...

Sunday 13 November 2016

The Chillington Mounted Rifles, 1938

After completing several British figures to populate the skirmish bases I wanted to add for our Wars of the French Revolution games {see previous blog entry} I quite fancied something different as my current painting focus. I'd returned from Derby Worlds with several units to add to our VBCW games set in and around 1938 Wolverhampton. Two of these were small mounted units: Mander's Horse and the Chillington Mounted Rifles. The former are the Perry Miniatures WWII Mounted Yeomanry scouting, the latter the Mutineer/Footloose Miniatures BUF/Yeomanry figures. As I'd figured out an acceptable colour scheme for the Chillington Mounted Rifles I started with them! As an aside, I've noticed in other folks' VBCW forces some fairly gairish colour schemes; a fact which always struck me as odd given the experiences of 1914-18 and numerous small Colonial engagements many VBCW recruits and volunteers would have experienced. Still, each to their own of course, but for my VBCW there will be only muted colours.
Back to the figures now! I painted them up in pairs of the Mounted and dismounted versions of the figure. It worked fine until I reached the last pair where I found the two versions had different heads: one face sported a fine 'tache, the other was bare as an infant's bottom! It seems my pack of three Mounted troopers contained a duplicate rather than three distinct figures! My solution? I painted the hair as a blond and added the 'tache that way. Not perfect but it will do for me! Anyway, to the figures ~
The Chillington Mounted Rifles

The lads in dismounted action

As a uniformed 'Rifles' unit I naturally chose a green scheme, adding a touch of red in the piping on the side cap reflecting the red on the unit's colors. As you probably realise by now, Pete Barfield made the standards for me, which really set off the figures I'm sure you will agree! A few close ups now, to disabuse any of you with a remaining idea that I can paint ~

The command group consists of an officer, a sergeant and an colour bearer. The pack of Troopers consists of three mounted figures with rifles. One oddity is that all the figures bear an arm band on their left arm, except the dismounted officer, who has none even though his mounted persona clearly does! As the figures are catalogued as BUF I neded some design for this arm band and chose a green 'CH' on an Ivory background as easy to duplicatee over eleven figures.

At Derby Worlds I'd also picked up some of the Footloose Miniatures civilians on the Flea Market. Frankly I've always thought them way overpriced for detritus in a game, so getting them at half price was a bonus. They are from both the packs in production, 'Town' and 'Country' figures ~
Two members of  the gentle(?) sex  and a schoolboy

Three chaps not yet in uniform

And finally, yet another clerical gentleman! I thought I could do with some help from a 'higher authority' so here he is, the visiting 'Bishop of Matabeleland', home for some well earned rest and recuperation ~
The Right Reverend Bishop of Matabeleland

I've decided to take a break at this point from the VBCW painting and return to my Wars of the French Revolution project for the rest of the month, in the form of a unit of 24 Brigade Games French Legere. The gunmetal is already applied to all 24, courtesy of my Valejo paints propensity to suffer 'premature ejaculation' when its opened! I've started with the central command stand of the unit and I have decided already that I'll not be up to painting in the eyes, there's just not the bold detail my old eyes need to do that! I'll pop some up on the Blog next week sometime when I've finished a base or three. Tomorrow its off to Phil's for another WWII Battlegroup something or other game. I'm sure it will be heavily features on his 'News From The Front' blog not long after.

Monday 7 November 2016

Marching to the sound of the guns!

For the first game of the new month here in GHQ Phil and I had settled on a Wars of the French Revolution game, largely I think because I had only recently finished the skirmish scenic bases for my British and Hanoverian infantry regiments. Continuing our theme of trying to master Black Powder as a rule set I had developed a scenario which I hoped would throw up some challenges for both players and for the rules. The scenario envisages the French commander, General Phillipe de Rawnslie, getting wind of a British plan to land a force along the coast behind his lines and flank the French position. The British have stolen a march on him and already landed an infantry Brigade to secure the town and port, with artillery and light cavalry to protect the flank of the beachhead. The French force is divided into three elements, each attempting to enter the table in successive turns and prevent the British capitalising on their landing. To enter the table each element of the force tests against its commander's Command Rating, passing to each element in turn by ignoring failed throws. The British can land additional troops from Turn 2 in the same manner. So, to the scene of today's action ~

The British force has seized the port of Peendeforde and awaits reinforcements landed by the jolly tars of the Royal Navy. Meanwhile, De Rawnslie ~ he'll later drop the 'De' quietly as revolutionary zeal takes hold ~ has managed to get his army's advanced elements deployed against the British ~

Advanced elements of the French secure a line around the church: in the foreground the Light Cavalry Brigade protects the French horse artillery while in the distance the Light Demi-Brigade advance to secure the bridge by throwing skirmish elements forward of their advance. At the end of Turn 2 a second French Demi-Brigade appears to support the cavalry on the French left ~

Fortunately for the British commander, a second Light Cavalry regiment disembarks promptly, accompanied by the first of the second Infantry Brigade. Worryingly though on the British left the enemy Light Demi-Brigade is closing with the 42nd Foot ~

Although the French 2nd Hussars see off the British 16th Light Dragoons they n turn are comprehensively beaten by the Hompesch Hussars and flee the field. The French Demi-Brigade is forced into sqare by the threat while inexplicably the 9th Chasseurs a Cheval stand idly by ~

The 16th rally and charge the shaken French square. The result is a resounding win for the Light Dragoons and the French battalion flees to the rear. Sadly, the British losses prevent 'Sweeping Advance' and the Chasseurs live to stand another day! Despite this setback for the French, De Rawnslie receives news of his final Demi-Brigade marching to the sound of the guns ~

Sadly for him, as it turns out, the progress of these fresh troops is slow and the British left s also proving a tough nut to crack. While the leading element crosses the bridge to flank the British line, the remaining Battalions' progress stalls badly ~

By Turn 6 the tide is slowly turning in favour of the British. Fresh infantry are landed by the tars and advance boldly into action in support of the beleaguered troops holding the outskirts of the town. The fresh troops give new heart to the infantry engaged in heavy fighting and thy defeat the Light Demi-Brigade in Hand-to-Hand combat ~

Away on the French left things are suddenly looking very bleak for De Rawnslie. The Chasseurs simply refuse to advance, forcing the remaining infantry of the Demi-Brigade holding the low hill into square, in which formation they receive withering fire from their British opponents. More British troops can be seen disembarking on the shore line ~

Despite one fresh French battalion seeming to flank the Highlanders, the advance on the British left has stalled, due to congestion on the narrow bridge, and the Light Demi-Brigade's assault has been drive off with serious losses ~

As ever more British troops are landed by the navy, the artillery is free to move to counter the French flanking move over on the British left flank ~

Although the leading Battalion of the last Demi-Brigade to arrive successfully flanks the British left its isolation from its fellows and the threat posed by the newly positioned British artillery makes it a fruitless move. The battle has turned against the French ~

The final scene on the field of battle sees the French cente exposed by the collapse of its right and left supporting Demi-Brigades. With three Brigades broken De Rawnslie has no option but to order a retreat, allowing the British to consolidate their bridgehead.

Some elements of his army appear to have already anticipated the order! The 2nd Hussars rout towards the safety of the main French Army of the North ~

The battle played out over seven turns, the rules coping well with the vagaries of the scenario and the 'Freshly Raised' status of the French line Demi-Brigades, which all passed the necessary Morale Check the first time they came under fire or were involved in Hand-to-Hand combat! After all Phil's 'Blunders' in the last game here in GHQ today there was only one, by yours truly, which fortunately had no lasting effect on the battle's outcome. Another successful outing for Black Powder we thought. The more we play them, the more subtleties we discover in the rule set, the more we like them. I think you may see more Black Powder games here in GHQ in the months ahead as we explore the rules' toolbox approach in more depth.