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 29 December 2017

Onward, ever onward...

...but keeping one eye at least on the past year! As the old year draws inexorably towards its close I, like many other Bloggers, like to look back at the year’s hobby activity and hopefully forward to the coming year’s expectations. As my blog is in its seventh year now I’m sure that my regular reader will know exactly the sort of thing to expect so, without more blathering away, here we go! In a year’s hobby activity somewhat constrained by real life issues, on my part and on others, I managed to play a total of 59 games, a very pleasing total given the last three months of the year! They were mostly with Phil and Jon of course, although Kevin came down from Aberdeen for a weekend and John came up from Cheltenham, while new GHQ Irregular Brian played his first games too. I hope to welcome them all back  to GHQ in 2018. Of these games I won 26; 10 were drawn; 2 had no result due to circumstances; and finally, I lost 21. As usual a pretty average year of gaming if you go solely by results. For me though, and I hope for many of my fellow gamers, the result of a game matters little, rather the friendship, fun and learning matter far more. I hope those factors will continue to be to the fore as we head into 2018 and beyond.

One game does stand out though, even though I suffered a very public defeat, and that was the Wars of the French Revolution game played with Colin Ashton and Duncan Macfarlane at Wargames Illustrated HQ in Nottingham. It was an opportunity to see my armies and Colin’s on what for me was a big table. It was a memorable two days and was followed up when our joint article describing the game and its genesis, accompanied by many photos taken over the two days, appeared in Wargames Illustrated later in the year. On a personal note, I received a framed print of the first two pages of the article as a surprise Christmas gift from Dan and it now hangs proudly in GHQ. Another memorable event was another visit by Dan to take photos of my VBCW collections to accompany a piece I had written on researching your local history and twisting it for a VBCW campaign, in my case set in Wolverhapton and South Staffordshire.

I hope readers will recall that I started out the year determined to start no new periods and to devote my painting time and effort to expanding existing games here in GHQ.  I managed to stick to that
resolution, probably the first I have managed to keep in my entire life! I painted 691 figures over the year, all in 28mm, and for a number of the games we play. I expanded the Wars of the French Revolution forces and the VBCW/1940 forces mostly, but added to others along the way, notably in the SYW, the ACW and the AWI. Waiting in the painting queue patiently for there moment in the sun are AWI units for both the Crown and the Rebels; BEF and Wehrmacht Infantry for 1940 games; a new Brigade of three Union Regiments for the ACW; a 4.5” Howitzer for the VBCW, when I sort out some gunners; and finally, some additions to the Wars of the French Revolution cavalry in the shape of French Dragoons, Scots Greys and Hussars De Beon. Should keep me busy I think, don’t you?

One of the aspects of our hobby I still enjoy is visiting wargames shows and events to meet friends, see wonderful and inspiring games, look at the new and shiny products just released and, of course, buy some new toys, even though I probably don’t need anything new, ever again if I’m honest with myself. My ‘Visit Year’ runs from the Table Top Sale in Penkridge in the first week of January to the Wargamer Show in Halesowen in the first week of December. Along the way I took in ROBIN, a new show in Nottingham; WMMS in Wolverhampton; Carronade in Falkirk; Partizan in Newark; Barrage in Stafford; Claymore in Edinburgh; and Derby Worlds, in Leicestershire. Of these, I shall continue to support the Penkridge TT Sale, mostly because it’s just up the road, Barrage as again it’s local, and Wargamer because it usually has good games and I see some good friends just before Christmas. ROBIN I shall give a miss next year as it wasn’t worth the journey. WMMS is a mile from our home, so even if I wasn’t emotionally attached to it as a former organiser I would still support the event. Partizan is a given unless circumstances intervene as they did in August this year. Our trip to Carronade with Phil and Di is an annual event now, though next year we hope to stay nearer Glasgow for a change. Claymore similarly has become a long weekend stay for Sue and I as well as a chance to catch up with friends from Aberdeen. That leaves Derby Worlds, now a longer trip from home, which could well fall from the calendar next year. Of course, any of these could fall foul of my hip replacement, which I’m told I now need, but we shall see. As well as attending the above events I enjoyed the occasional visit over to the Lead Belt, mainly to Wargames Foundry in East Stoke, but also to Dan at WI HQ, Arcane, Warlord Games and my chum Duncan of Trent Miniatures.

Turning to the coming year, none of us know what it will hold, in hobby or wider life terms. As I said, I expect I shall have a hip replacement at some time in mid year, NHS permitting of course. That may change all my hopes and expectations hobby wise, but will be good for my mobility and whole lifestyle really. I shall just go along with the flow there. One thing I do hope for though is the continued support and understanding of my wife Sue, my family and my friends as together we travel life’s pathway, of which this wonderful hobby of ours is just a part.


Friday 22 December 2017

From the Lead Foothills...

...to the tabletop battlefield! I’ve finished two units of Perry Miniatures AWI American militia. They are both from Virginia for game purposes, as we mostly seem to set the AWI games in the northern theatre. They do include though a number of ‘southern’ figures in shirt sleeve order, just for a different look to the unit. I got the flags for these two new units when they were free downloads, though now I see they are sold through the League of Augsburg site ~ well, that’s a stereotypical Jock for you I suppose ~

I've also added some artillery in the shape of a Continental 6lb gun and crew from Foundry and an amusette vignette from Perry Miniatures. These were painted by Phil for me ~

This leads me nicely to the point I’d like to make. Both the militia and the gun crews are the work of Alan and Michael Perry, but in my opinion the quality of the older Foundry product far exceeds those more recent castings from Perry Miniatures. Same sculptors but different mold makers and casters of course. I’m not the most talented painter, I know that, but it does help no end when the moulding is clean and the castings are crisp and flash free. The next units I’ll add to the AWI expansion for these reasons are all from Foundry; two units of British Line Infantry regulars and one of Light Infantry, followed by two units of Continental Infantry also from Foundry. Since striking out on their own Alan and Michael may have produced more animated figures, but much detail seems lost in the production process to me. And let’s not touch on the issues of mold lines, flash, rogue metal lumps and endless vent runs which plague their figures. Of course, I still considered their figures when expanding the project, I’ve some 16th Light Dragoons in stock which I shall hope to paint at some point in 2018, unless Phil relents that is...

I’ve also completed three bases of Confederate dismounted cavalry skirmishing, by Dixon Miniatures of course, who else’s figures would I buy? I need to order some guidons though from GMB as I’ve run out!

And finally, a BEF 2” mortar team for our 1940 Operation Zeelowe/Blandings/VBCW Games. The figures this time are from Warlord Games ~

I’m coming round to the idea that my style of painting, if I can call it that, and my aging eyesight combined with the arthritis in the painting hand, lead me to find some sculpting styles easier to work with than others. In the meantime, on with more Warlord Games BEF in the form of two 2 man Bren Gun teams.

Monday 18 December 2017

The 3.10 from Oxley

As I hope many of you will have seen my description of the game background in last weeks post, “Action at Oxley Sidings”, we can move straight into the report of all the action, excitement and, yes, even disappointments. Phil, cast entirely out of character as the fascist Lord Rawnsley, commanded the forces of repression, while I commanded the gallant Railwaymen of Oxley Sidings, their Socialist allies and the volunteer units from the Mander’s home at Wightwick Manor defending the People’s Cause and Freedom, oh, and the train of course.
The armoured train is the objective for the Government forces
The Vickers MkVIc is immobilized by a hit from the 18lber
A rousing cheer from the miners of Hilton Main
greets the hit on the Government tank!
The thinly defended hedge line is supported by an assortment
of mortars
A hit on the tank by the Leach catapult fails to add to the
The Blacker Bombard immobilizes the Boulton Paul workers'
armoured car!
The volunteers are stalled at the line of stone walls. Can they
carry their attack on the weak flank?
With 'encouragement' from Lord Rawnsley himself the anti-
tank rifle team take careful aim at the immobilized armoured
car. It must have worked as the vehicle goes up inflames!
The NUR men lining the hedgerow are under heavy fire, the
pin markers are starting to mount!
FUBAR! "Don't panic! Don't panic!"
Despite the best efforts of the mortar teams to support the NUR
the centre is crumbling!
As the Regulars of the South Staffs finally make headway
 through the woods the men manning the train reveal their
presence and open a devastating fire!
The NUR men's morale collapses and the centre is wide open!
On the right, the Miners' are 'Down' and face multiple attacks
With the right in tatters the Volunteers surge forward to turn the
enemy's flank
The train gets up steam finally, but too late to escape the
clutches of Lord Rawnsley's victorious forces.
Over the two Mondays we played our usual twelve moves, seven last week and five this. After some initial success on my part advancing the two armoured cars to disrupt the Government advance, allied to Phil's Regulars largely showing a marked reluctance to attack, the loss of the Rolls Royce armoured car enabled the enemy to recover the initiative. That left the Boulton Paul workers' improvised armoured car isolated and unsupported later to be knocked out by the anti-tank rifle team. That in turn left the workers manning the carriages with no real support, the collapsing centre isolating them effectively, as by then all the reserves had been committed elsewhere. While at the end of Turn 12 the train was still in the workers' hands it was clear that they could not survive a further assault by the masses of Volunteers on the right and the Regulars in the centre, and so I conceded the game to Phil. 
And that is that as far as games go in GHQ for 2017. Our next scheduled meeting is on 3rd January 2018, but first there is just the little matter of Christmas and New Year to negotiate, so we will leave that to take care of itself for now. Season's Greetings to all my readers!

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Action at Oxley Sidings

We’ve had rather a lot of snow here in the Midlands over the weekend, in Wolverhampton our first for four years I think. Phil and I had planned a VBCW game for Monday of this week, but by late Sunday after 7” of snow that looked very doubtful. But, we are not that easily subdued here in GHQ and Phil gamely battled the rush hour hordes to drop Diane off at work (up the hill from GHQ!) and duly presented himself at the door before I was washed and dressed! We had a leisurely breakfast and then repaired to GHQ to prepare our game. Just when we were having a coffee before starting, disaster struck! A pipe leak under the kitchen sink! An hour spent clearing and drying, then the plumber arrived! We were fixed and off we went into GHQ for Turn 1.
In all we managed seven Turns and a break for lunch, so the game will restart next Monday, when hopefully it will be less cold and dramatic. As ever in our VBCW games we were using Bolt Action 2 for the rules, a set we are comfortable with now and which keeps the interest of both players at a high level of involvement with the random dice activation. 
The action referred to in the title sees the Government forces attempting to capture, or destroy, an armoured train which the railwaymen of Oxley Sidings have been working on since the summer. Phil commanded the Government forces :- two large Brigades of Infantry, one Regular, the South Staffords, and one Volunteer, mostly from that nest of reaction that is Tettenhall, supported by cavalry, a Vickers Mk VIC tank, a Blacker Bombard, a Medium mortar, MMGs and an anti tank rifle. I commanded the Socialists, two brigades of Volunteer Militia, supported by three mortars, two armoured cars and an 18lb gun. 
I don’t want to give two much away before Part 2 is played out, but here are a couple of action shots to wet your appetite ~
The Armoured Train and its defenders.

The forces of Repression advancing in numbers.

The gallant railwaymen of Oxley Sidings.

All being well we shall play the game to a conclusion next Monday, so pop back next week for some pre-Christmas cheer, hopefully.

Monday 11 December 2017

Bah, Humbug!

Going by all the snow outside,”It must be Christmas!”

Let’s hope for us all it’s a good one!

And that that we all get some new, shiny toys!

MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY NEW YEAR from all the GHQ Irregulars!

Friday 8 December 2017

The Battle of Brocton

You may have noticed a dearth of games here in GHQ in the last few months. Illness and household chores have all played their part in the sorry saga which has been my hobby related activity since mid October. But, we seem to have turned the health corner here and the household is all straight again, at least for now. So, this week saw a game here in GHQ with Jon and I locking horns in the English Civil War using Pike & Shotte rules for a change of scene.
As is usual Jon commanded the Royalists in his persona as Lord Walton and I commanded the Parliamentarians as Obadiah Bykleigh, gent. The action supposes that the two armies have met on the edge of Cannock Chase, somewhere around Brocton it seems.The battle takes place astride the main Stafford to Cannock road. The Royalists enjoy superior quality Horse, the Parliamentarians better artillery.I was too engrossed in the action to take photos as we went along, but I hope these few after action shots and informative captions have the flavour of the unfolding drama ~

Lord Walton confers with his Sergeant Major General whilethe artillery
soften up the enemy.

"Have a care!" The Royalists pound the enemy enthusiastically, if

The Oxford Foote have the honour of holding the Royalist army's right flank.

The main infantry fighting took place astride the Stafford to Cannock road.
The Parliamentarians fought doggedly and could not be driven off!

To their right, Obadiah Bykleigh's Foote we sorely pressed and had formed
 Hedgehog as a defence against the Royalist Horse, only to be attacked
by a Battalia of Royalist Foote! Despite fighting stubbornly, they were
eventually driven of in rout!

Royalist baggage train, safe from the marauding Parliamentary Horse!
Very safe as it turned out!

Fairfax and Essex's Foote attack across broken ground on the Parliamentary
army's left flank. Well, they would have if mydice rolls had been better!

Pressure mounts in the centre of the Parliamentary battle line, but the Foote
 hold despite overwhelming odds. Twice the pike charge and twice they fall
back. Meanwhile the right hand sleeve of Shotte falls back Shaken!

Obadiah Bykleigh's Foote assailed by a whole enemy Battalia cannot be

The Lifeguard trot forward in a vain attempt to hold up the Royalist
Horse in its victory charge!

The disaster on Parliament's right flank! Loosing the Hand to hand combats
resulted in four Routs! Dice, what did I ever do to upset you?

Surveying the wreckage of his army, Obadiah Bykleigh consoles himself with
 a cup of wine! At least the baggage is safe, for now...

It was a wonderful game, despite the eventual resounding defeat when three broken Battalia saw the Parliamentary army quit the field and fall back towards Rushall. Both Jon and I were new to Pike and Shotte but felt we coped reasonably well, with only one minor hiccup, and that the rules gave a good, fast flowing game with outcomes which could be clearly seen to be viable. Weather permitting, Phil will be here on Monday next week for a VBCW tussle in our other ongoing campaign, this time featuring an armoured train!

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Austrian 12lb gun and crew.

In keeping with my ‘year of no new projects’ I’ve just completed a third 12lb gun and crew for my Austrians in the Wars of the French Revolution project. The gun is from Front Rank and the crew from Trent Miniatures, found among the bag of figures Matt kindly gave me earlier in the year. Although the Black Powder rules as written designate one gun and crew as a battery I can’t warm to that myself and my French and Austrians now have three gun batteries, I just prefer that look on my table. The British are not yet up to that strength, but they will join the three gun battery ranks during 2018 I expect. It will mean an extra gun and crew from Trent and a powder wagon and horse team, most likely from Front Rank.
I always find it’s a bit hit and miss when I paint up figures and vehicles to join existing units or armies even though I’m careful to consult the existing pieces in an attempt to match up the new with the old. What I’ve discovered about my painting though is that I don’t always pay attention to how I got to the finished article and have to try and reverse engineer the process. It doesn’t always work though! I’ve also found that my style is changing with age, eyesight and arthritis all playing a part. Anyway, enough waffle, here’s the new piece, see what you think ~

I’ve also completed a generic artillery hoist from Warfare Miniatures staffed by a labourer from Trent Miniatures. It serves no purpose but it will provide baseline interest in games in GHQ.  The base needs texturing, colour washing and then grassing and tufting so no picture yet I’m afraid. I’ve also finished several Dixon Miniatures ACW Confederate dismounted cavalry figures, but the above also applies to them. Best news though - Jon and I have a game tonight!

Monday 4 December 2017

“In a much bearded army he was the hairiest general I ever saw!”

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve added yet another Command stand to my ACW Union army. The two figures represent General John C Robinson, described by a contemporary as “...the hairiest General in the whole army!” I used a Redoubt Enterprises Figure, but Mounted him on a Dixon  Miniatures ACW officer’s horse and placed him with another officer from Dixon to represent his staff ~

I would have liked to have asked Matt to sculpt Phil’s head for me but the truth is he’s far too busy to bother and I’m rather short of cash anyway so close to Christmas. I took one liberty in choosing the figure to represent himself, but I hope Phil will forgive me! Either way he won’t be making his debut on the tabletop battlefield here in GHQ before next year, so he has time to get used to the idea...

Friday 1 December 2017

AWI Vignette

A change of scene is as good as a rest I’ve found, so from the mid C20th to the late C18th, from the Colander Girls to All the King’s Men might put it better. As I mentioned last month my Lead Belt Fest included a blow out shopping trip to Wargames Foundry. Amongst the haul were figures for the AWI, both for the Crown and for the Rebels. When I’d sorted out the figures and temporarily fixed them to MDF bases I found I’d four left over, three officers and a grenadier drummer. I’ve combined them with another ‘bird on a post’ from Warbases to form a vignette which can be placed in the game to provide visual interest or deployed as an objective. See what you think anyway ~

I’ve also been working on an ACW Union Command stand which uses a Redoubt figure alongside a Dixon Miniatures figure, both Mounted on Dixon ACW horses to match the rest of my army. The Command stand will represent General Robinson, described by a contemporary as “...the hairiest general in the whole army.” I’ve taken one liberty with interpreting that for my choice of figure. When he’s finished you will need to judge for yourself.