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.

Saturday 29 February 2020

Mat matters

When GHQ first entered service, back in its original site in 2004, sorting out the base terrain over which games would be fought was an obvious early priority. The first solution, covering the 6'6x4' table top with railway grass matting sheets , proved reasonably pleasing to the eye if not hard-wearing. In the light of experience Phil volunteered to make bespoke terrain tiles similar to those he employed at OHQ games. These proved visually very pleasing with their combination of two green colours of towelling , green teddybear fur and grass matting. So much so that over the years when time and finances permitted more tiles were added to the repertoire.
Of course, tiles proved both flexible and restrictive in equal measure: the former was always welcome while the latter grew increasingly frustrating if I'm honest. When added to the slowly growing realisation that the older tiles were reaching the end of their useful life and looking very tired and frayed it dawned on us both that an upgrade was overdue. When it came down to considering costs and time factors it was obviously a bigger job now we are both 15 years older! The solution proved to be not tiles, but a game cloth similar to the one deployed in the recent Sudan game ~
The trouble was that most firms' cloths seem to max out at 6'x4' and the table in GHQ MK2 comes in at 6'x6'6" now. As it happens I've recently been scanning the Big Red Bat shop site, having done a figures for rules swop with owner Simon. There I found a Plains Green cloth available in 6'x8' format and so I took the plunge and ordered it up. It's now in situ here in GHQ following exemplary service from Simon in delivering it while my cheque was in the post ~

I have removed the rubber Scenic Effect dirt roads from the old tiles and in due course the river sections and emplaced hills will also be freed up to give us increased flexibility in table top battlefield construction. There are even enough serviceable flat green tiles left to make up a table using our beach sections, so the old look is not entirely lost. You will be able to judge for yourself over the coming months in any case, so do have your say as you see fit. Back to finishing off those Canadian Voltigeurs now though...

Monday 24 February 2020

The Sands of the Desert...

...are red with blood, etc. In other words, a return to the Sudan War, pitting the Barmy Bykli against Robinson Pasha. First off, an overview of the table, less Mahdists obviously ~
A British column sets forth to relieve the beleaguered Egyptian garrison defending El Zbelz. The Mahdists can appear after Turn 1from either table edge on a random dice throw, with the chance increasing in every turn. All obstacles for movement cause a reduction in move distance, 12" for the Anglo-Egyptian units and 6" for any Mounted Mahdists. The rocky outcrops are impassable to the Anglo-Egyptian forces, the Mahdists may cross them at a movement loss of 12". They may also occupy them and thus cannot be engaged hand-to-hand. Otherwise we used the rules from Black Powder and the supplement Blood on the Nile as given. On to the action ~
The relief column organises itself to march to the relief of the garrison of El Zlelz.
The Camel Corps advance towards a rocky outcrop searching for the Mahdists (who had failed to appear in Turn 2.)
While the Naval contingent accompanying the machine guns struggle across the desert sands the detachment from the Indian Army, led by the Tandoori Horse, move forward to support the Camel Corps.
Turn 3 and the Mahdists make a surprise appearance on the flank of the column. The Tandoori Rifles form a firing line and prepare to repel charges by the Beja camelry. Meanwhile the rifle armed warriors advance to occupy the rocky outcrops threatening the flank of the Camel Corps.
An overview of the developing battle hopefully giving a sense of the difficult decisions facing Robinson Pasha. The Naval detachment are still struggling in the soft sands of the dunes and the deployed machine guns have both jammed after one turn of firing!
With disciplined fire power, backed up by cold steel and pluck, the Tandoori Rifles Drive off the Bejac camelry under the eyes of Robinson Pasha and his Staff Officers.
More Mahdists now flood into the action, taking advantage of the cover provided by the Wadi, to rush towards the Tandoori Horse who have formed up to protect the approaches to the fort at El Zbelz.
As the Beja hordes sweep forward to the attack they are supported by their allied Bagarra horsemen sweeping around the flank of the fort and so surprising the Egyptian garrison that they omitted to fire on them!
As the Beja warriors sweep forward on the relief column a second wave of sword and spear armed fanatics are rushing to their support.
The Tandoori Horse stray themselves ready to charge the onrushing warriors, but ever wary of the threat posed by the sudden appearance of the Bagarra horsemen to their front.
With Lances lowered for the charge the Tandoori Horse crash into the mass of Beja warriors whose wicked swords hack and slash in response.
On the opposite flank of the wadi the dismounted Camel Corps troopers receive the Beja warriors charging them. A volley of devastating Closing Fire, backed up by a touch of the cold steel, sees off the Beja. Two 1s thrown in a Morale save would seem to suggest, "They don't like it up 'em, Sir, they do not like it up'em!"
Although the first wave of Beja fanatics are beaten off the Tandoori Horse have no time to reform before the Bagarra horsemen crash into them.
Steel crashes on steel, horse and men scream and fall, but again the Tandoori Horse are victorious!
As fresh elements of Bagarra allied horsemen, backed up by more Beja fanatical warriors, appear in the column's rear the Egyptian garrison's cavalry finally responds to frantic heliograph signalling and charges out on the enemy!
It's had been a desperate struggle over 11 Turns, but the morale of the Mahdist army is finally broken. The surviving warriors withdraw from the field of battle leaving many a brave man's corpse for the vultures circling overhead already!
All the figures are from my collection of Perry Miniatures, supported by odd bits from Essex and Castaway Arts. The fort walls and towers are from the old hard foam Battleground range made by Ian Weekley and are 15mm really but look fine to me! Phil scratch built the various buildings you see and the resin pieces are from the Hovels range. The mat is from Tiny Wargames Mats I believe.

Saturday 22 February 2020

Canadian Voltigeurs - a trial base

Just a quick blog entry to show any interested passers by my first go at painting the Brigade Games Canadian Voltigeurs. As the main part of the unit will be based 3 figures to each 40x50mm MDF base, I opted to paint 2 of the figures for the 40mm round base of skirmishers ~

I wanted to try a couple first before starting on the main bases of the unit because I was unsure how I might tackle what is essentially quite a subdued uniform. The bulk of the rank and file are in Foundry Granite shade, highlighted lightly with the mid shade. All the boots, gaiters, straps, accoutrements and headgear are black! I used Charcoal Black mid to highlight the gaiters and head gear, Slate Grey shade to highlight the rest. A little relief comes with the haversack in Arctic Grey shade, picked out in Boneyard light, with the water canteen in Union Trouser Blue shade, highlighting it with the mid tone, and the canteen's strap in Deep leather shade, highlighting in the light shade. The musket is Foundry Musket Stock Brown shade picked out lightly in the light shade. The metal work is Blackened Barrel light picked out in Metal light.
I've three more ready for the highlighting phases, when I have a spare hour this weekend, and two more with the flesh and gunmetal base coats blocked in. I still hope to finish these this month, but it will be tight.

Thursday 20 February 2020

New Jersey Militia muster in!

The main four bases of figures are now finished for this latest addition to my War of 1812-15 expansion project. These are Brigade Games figures who will represent a regiment of New Jersey Militia. The flags are home produced using images I found on the net after a Google fest! I doubt they are strictly historically correct but they will do for my purposes ~

As I mentioned the four remaining figures  are mounted in twos on two 40mm round bases to use as markers for skirmishers ~

 Next in line in the painting queue I have the Canadian Voltigeurs to work on, who will be based to the same pattern, and another Command base for the US forces using up spare Foundry figures I have in stock.
If I manage those this month then I plan to paint up the Vickers 6 ton tank Phil gifted me for my VBCW collection. After that I have two regiments of Dixon Miniatures ACW Confederate infantry I would like to paint up for our campaign in the second half of the year. Wish me luck...

Saturday 15 February 2020

War of 1812-15 ~ New Jersey Militia 1

Despite the longstanding problems I needn't go on about I am pushing on as best I can manage with my planned month of War of 1812-15 painting. The second Brigade Games unit of US Militia are well underway in the form of the skirmishing pose figures in hunting shirts.
When I came to plan out the look of the unit I found that 4 figures on a 40x40mm base just didn't work for me, so these are now 3 figures each on four bases of 40x40mm and 2 figures each on two 40mm round bases, rather like the skirmish bases I made last year using up surplus US and British regular figures to represent skirmish lines. (As an aside, the Canadian Voltigeurs will also be based in a similar manner.) Here are the first two bases I've completed  so far ~

The colours for this unit, like those for the latest New York Militia unit, I made after a Google search for suitable images. It works for me, but I freely acknowledge that it may not be entirely historically accurate. But, hey ho, it's my game with my toys so frankly they will do just fine.

Friday 14 February 2020

Marching through Georgia!

Just over a week ago Sue and I went over to Much Wenlock. It was a nice sunny day and we enjoyed a mooch about the town and a spot of lunch in a local hostelry. We also spent some time in a second hand bookshop there.
They must have recently acquired someone's ACW collection, as there were a decent number of shelves with ACW themed books. Perhaps back in the day when I wrote scenarios for Wargames Illustrated I might have bought two or three, but for now I bought just one ~
A snip at £7.00 I thought and so far it's proving a good choice. A few years ago now I followed Sherman's route from Atlanta with Joe Moore, visiting a number of sites along the way. The book has bought back some very good memories, perhaps I ought to think about another trip stateside, I've never visited Shiloh and Vicksburg...

Wednesday 12 February 2020

War of 1812-15 New York Militia

As any regular visitors to the blog will recall I'm sure, I've been working on the first of three Brigade Games units for the War of 1812-15. I posted a sneak preview of the first base of 4 figures, depicting a unit of New York Militia, in hunting shirts and in the marching pose, in an earlier blog entry but now they are finished I can show the full unit ~
The figures are very well sculpted and detail is clear, so they were relatively easy to paint once I'd decided on a colour scheme and worked out the best order of colour application. The flags I made myself utilizing designs I'd found through a Google search. They may not be historically accurate but they will suffice for me ~
I have the second US Militia unit ready to go now, but making use of a different colour scheme for them should hopefully help them stand out. They will be from New Jersey and again will be carrying home made flags. In the meantime, a picture or two in more detail of the New Yorkers ~

When the New Jersey unit is completed, hopefully later this month, that will leave just a unit of Canadian Voltigeurs, also from Brigade Games, to complete this mini project. I still have the additional Command stand I'd like to complete in this phase, but that must wait on these first. In addition there are two US Infantry regiments in the later war uniform and tombstone shako from Wargames Foundry in the Lead Pimple, but they will be waiting a while yet to reach the head of the painting queue.

Monday 10 February 2020

Canal crossing defence 1914

For our regular Monday game, despite the best efforts of storm Ciara - who dreamt up this daft idea of naming storms - Phil and I met up in GHQ for a game set in 1914. The game sees a small British force defending vital road and railway crossings over a canal. If the enemy can cross here in strength then two Corps will be split from each other and the retreat towards Mons placed in jeopardy. As usual Phil took command of the Germans and I took the British. As is usual, a photomontage to show the game unfolding ~
A general view of the situation facing the British defenders strung out thinly along the canal side. Two battalions of infantry supported by some dismounted cavalry and artillery.
To the East of the road bridge crossing the canal the South Stafford's are supported on their right by the dismounted cavalry and to their tear by s battery of 4.5" howitzers.
On the left of the British line the Derbys are making use of the cover offered by a ruined farm and the orchard to its west. The British infantry get the First Fire rule and the Sharpshooter rule to reflect the 'mad 5 minutes' of their shooting training.
On the German right a battalion of Jaeger's have made slow progress along a wooded ridge overlooking the British right. Their fire will prove a major problem for the British trying to respond to pressure elsewhere along their front.
On the German right flank progress is slow die to confusion over orders (poor Command dice) and the effects of the terrain.
Casualties begin to make their way to the Field Dressing Station past the British commanders poring over their maps.
The 4.5" howitzer battery scores a bit on the German 77mm. The batteries would indulge in a counter battery duel more or less all game with little damage to either battery!
Fire from the Jaeger battalion causes Disorder to two companies to the east of the road bridge. They were Disordered for most of the games turns, pretty much reducing their own fire effectiveness to zero in many cases.
A German battalion on the right advances on the railway bridge over the canal. The British defenders can be seen in the distance over the wheat field.
The battalion machine gun has deployed near a ruined house. It's fire will help to support the attack in the coming turns.
Casualties are beginning to mount for the South Staffords but they are doggedly holding on.
The Germans begin to cross the railway bridge despite the concentrated fire of the defenders.
The Jaegers do not need to advance, they have pinned the thinly spread British right with their rifle fire alone, making use of their Sharpshooter rule. The battalion machine gun is in the rear having been driven back by the British sharpshooting!
Casualties are becoming more noticeable for the British around the two bridges. The Germans are concentrating for an assault on both sites.
Despite the overgrown nature of the orchard the Derbys move two companies out on their left to try to fire into the flank of the attackers. A good idea undermined by slow movement (or poor Command rolls!)
Fire from one of the RHA batteries has damaged one German 77mm battery and an infantry company has received heavy casualties from machine gun fire. The attack across the railway bridge has been blunted.
"Charge!" The German battalion sends two companies over the bridge in an attempt to break through and support the attack across the railway bridge. Closing fire fails to stop the attack and vicious hand to hand fighting ensues over the barricades.
The Uhlans canter across in support of the infantry attack hoping to break through into the rear of the British defenders and wreak havoc.
Despite being Shaken by mounting losses the defenders drive off the first wave of attackers with heavy losses.
In Turn 10, the final turn, the German army morale breaks and the attack on the bridges has failed. In the end this was due to one failed melee on the British left where a Shaken company defeated a German charge lead by the battalion commander in person. Despite the odds British steel, backed by British pluck, saw off the Hun in short order!
We used Black Powder 2 with our own in-house developments for 1914. They were featured in a WI article back, I think, in 2018 sometime. They produced a close game which might at the death have swung either way.