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 26 September 2022

Winter is Coming!

As I write this I'm sitting out in the 'Summer Palace' {aka the family room extension off our kitchen} enjoying a sunny late summer morning, so why is this post referencing winter you may ask? The short answer is that I've been stocking up in the Lead Pimple/Lump in preparation for those long winter evenings to come. I've been prone to SAD most of my adult life it seems, I really detest the long dark evenings, so having lots of figures in store ready to go under the brush has proved a useful antidote over the years.

As chum George can testify I had been toying with two new 28mm imagination armies, he'd even kindly worked up some flag prototypes for me, but in the end courage failed me and my lists in waiting were put away. Instead I have been building up a stock of figures to expand my SYW armies. 

Firstly, I bought more French figures from Foundry s Casting Room Miniatures offshoot: a Line Infantry regiment, already underway as Bretagne; two new Grenadier battalions for the Grenadiers de France and the Royal Grenadiers; and extra cavalry and dragoon figures to convert 12 figure regiments into two 8 figure ones. At the same time I have found enough British Grenadiers to populate four more bases lurking in said Lead Pimple/Lump!

While any sensible chap or chapess would probably regard that as enough to be getting on with for several months, even years, muggins here got well carried away. Two orders to Gripping Beast, for Front Rank figures, and one to Foundry have seen the beginnings of a small Hanoverian force. Jon is largely to thank for the decision here as he gifted me some Foundry cavalry which could make up a Hanoverian dragoon regiment in both mounted and dismounted iteration. I've added a small Hussar regiment from Foundry to these just for the colour if nothing else. The Front Rank contingent provided two Hanoverian foot regiments to which I'll later add to make a brigade I hope.

Getting carried away I also made an order to North Star for some Crusader Miniatures Prussians which with the addition of British officers could make more Hanoverian infantry, or even perhaps a small Prussian brigade to fight alongside the Hanoverians and the British! Of course the Hanoverian element will need some artillery so I added them into the two orders as well as a mounted General and his ADC to command the force. 

When finances permit I intend to make a further order to Front Rank/Gripping Beast for more Hanoverian figures while the issue of flags I intend to solve by free downloads I found on the Internet. Now, right now I have no capacity to store any of these once completed here in GHQ, so something will have to be moved on. Right now the favourite choice for such relocation would be my Late Roman/Arthurian/Saxon collection so I'm open to sensible offers if anyone is interested... When all is said and done, winter is coming after all.

Thursday 22 September 2022

Desert Disaster!

 GHQ Irregular Paul paid his first visit for a game after our complex summer hiatus. We had settled on a Sudan War game using Black Powder 2 as the rules driver once again. Paul would command the British Desert Column and could call on his cavalry force after three turns, arriving simply by passing an order test, and his infantry reinforcements from the zariba surrounded camp after six turns. The Desert Column consisted of four infantry regiments and the Heavy Camel Corps, supported by a Screw gun. I took command of the Mahdist force, fielding a wing of Nile Arabs and Bagarra Horse with a captured Egyptian Krupp gun and crew, while the centre and right of my force consisted of the Fuzzy-Wuzzys, more correctly Beja warriors on foot and on camel. These were supported by a captured Gardener gun with reduced capacity due to adjusting the necessary dice required to fire, to jam and to repair. As ever, a photomontage to give a sense of the action ~

The Bagarra Horse and Nile Arabs assault the Imperial infantry's leading regiments forcing them into a square.
They beat off the horse easily while on the left the Staffordshire regiment forms line to meet the onslaught of the Beja hordes.
The Beja warriors fall in droves before the British volleys which seems to cause the supporting Rhubs to falter in their advance.
The Heavy Camel Corps defeats the remaining Bagarra Horse preserving the Imperial flank from disaster as the Nile Arabs beat the Royal Surreys and break the square!
The stout hearts of the Black Watch are not dismayed by the Surreys fate and their brisk volleys drive off the Arabs!
Losses mount and discipline fails all along the Beja lines. Commanders just cannot get their men through the hail of fire from the British infantry!
The Heavy Camel Corps has destroyed the Mahdist left flank while the infantry have shattered the Beja on the other flank. The British cavalry arrive just as the victory is secured! It was all Too Much for the Mahdi as he slinks away defeated by British pluck!
As ever Black Powder gave a good game where fortunes ebbed and flowed bringing tension and uncertainty to the fore. For those interested in such things the figures are mostly from the Perry Miniatures Sudan War range with a few baggage camels from Castaway Arts and Essex Miniatures. The wadhi is made by The Last Valley and the Palm Trees are from S&A I recall. 

Sunday 18 September 2022

A Late Result Just In...

In a blog entry I made last month, I think, I posted some pictures of my Compagnies Franches de la Marine in New France. David, of the splendid Not By Appointment blog, mentioned in a comment that he had their flags available to download. In fact I'd already seen them and done the same but then had baulked at converting one of my Redoubt Enterprises figures. I was looking to add a few Provincials to the mix and ordering these from Redoubt made it a no brainer to order up a command set for the French that I might 'adapt by brush' for them. Here they are anyway, you can judge for yourself I'm sure ~
Just a little liberty or two with the figures' leggings and footwear combined with a rather more 'wilderness' approach to the base texture and vegetation do the job for me. I hope you agree.
We have two games planned here in GHQ this week. On Tuesday Phil and I will be back in 1983 as the gallant BAOR attempt to repulse the Soviet Aggressors in Northern Germany around the fictional towns of Bikelheim and Grös Bikelberg! While on Thursday Paul and I will be up the Nile, in my case without a paddle, as the Mahdi takes on the Empire! One thing about wargaming you know, you do get about a bit. 

Thursday 15 September 2022

Hold it! Flash, Bang, Wallop! What a Picture! What a Photograph!

 On Wednesday Dan paid his first visit to GHQ since before the onset of 'The Plague' to take photographs of my 15mm Cold War Gone Hot project, which I hope will accompany the piece I've written about it in a late autumn edition of Wargames Illustrated. As Phil was away on a short break the sky holding, terrain fiddling and figure/vehicle/aircraft moving devolved solely on yours truly! I had quite forgotten how tiring this all was! A few pictures before he arrived ~

The whole sum of our efforts over the past few months. I must say it didn't look so much in the storage boxes!
Soviet hordes rushing to their doom? Well, I am in command so it's to be expected.
More sedate Soviet advance. Do these veterans know what is in-store for them I wonder.
B.A.O.R. Forward HQ protected by infantry, a Swingfire Troop and an overflying TOW-Lynx 
For the Soviets the Hind gunship provides cover for the armoured column's advance.
The Soviets attempt to flank the Chieftain MBT line along a wooded ridge.
Bikelberg and Bikelheim have already fallen beneath the heel of the Soviet aggressors.
From Russia With Love? Somehow I think probably not...
Chieftain MBTs await the Soviet onslaught taking advantage of the cover provided along a wooded ridge.
A second defensive line of Chieftain MBTs is formed on the flank of the B.A.O.R.'s Forward HQ located in the farmyard complex.

While Dan was going about his business we chatted as usual about this and that in the hobby universe of which I am a very small part. One topic we chewed over was how many pictures Dan has taken here over the years, in both versions of GHQ, since 2004! It must run into hundreds we decided! We only get to see just a few in the physical magazine, perhaps 10 out of maybe 100 taken on the day and maybe a few more on the Wargames Illustrated web pages. I think perhaps folk fail to appreciate the work he puts in to bring the 'Illustrated' element to the magazine. All that remains for me in the process is to write captions for the pictures he selects to illustrate the article. Meanwhile on Tuesday next week hostilities in the Bikelberg area will commence in earnest.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

A Camp Vignette

 It's now less than a month until The Other Partizan at Newark Showground, so I thought you may like to see the last of my figure purchases at May's Partizan! This is the Perry Miniatures AWI Camp Vignette and features a campfire with six figures to be arranged around it to taste. Although it's suggested that it's suitable for either side in the AWI, to my eye it looks more suited to the Rebel Americans than to the Crown's forces, so I painted it to suggest the same. The figures wearing their uniform coats I chose to paint to match my Virginia Continental infantry ~

As I know I bang on about, one of the issues of aging that I'm having to confront is that of eyesight and arthritic hand. Perry Miniatures figures take me much longer to paint than say Dixon, Redoubt Enterprises, or Trent Miniatures with their bolder style of sculpting. I am comfortable now with my limitations as I hope my loyal reader is too! Next up on the painting desk are four Redoubt Enterprises figures for a command base of my Compagnies Franches de la Marine in the French and Indian War. Again, as I've said, bold figures I feel I can handle comfortably. After these is plunging once more into my SYW project with figures from Foundry, Crusader Miniatures and Front Rank. More on that as the new units are completed. Now, it's time to finish the preparation for Dan's visit today to photograph the Cold War Gone Hot 15mm project for Wargames Illustrated.

Sunday 11 September 2022

A Grand Day Out!

I had an unexpected and unplanned day trip on Saturday. With all the disruption to real life dumped on us by the sycophantic forelock tugging establishment following the death of some old dear the football match I was due to attend was cancelled. An opportunity therefore arose to visit Colours at Newbury courtesy of Phil driving us down. 

Colours is not a show we had attended every year even well before The Plague, but we had gone quite a few times either in tandem or as individuals. Historically then we knew the show to be a fine shopping market, supplemented by some games and a host of competitions for those so inclined. Going at such short notice I did not have the benefit of The List, so my shopping was rather more relaxed. I also had the opportunity to chat with Dan from Wargames illustrated and firm up the arrangements for Wednesday's photoshoot visit. We didn't arrive until after 11.00, so we found the car park very full and on entering the arena found the main trade area rammed with gamers willingly parting with their funds in return for desperately needed goodies! Without more ado we  dived right in among the masses and began our first trawl of the trade stands!

Time flies, they say, when you are enjoying yourselves, and that's certainly true of gamers at wargames shows in my experience. In what seemed like no time we were seeking out the on site catering for a coffee and some lunch. Fortified by our repast it was back to the show, starting with the games on display. I don't think I'm being unfair when I start by saying that Colours is more noted for its marketplace than for outstanding games. There were a number of nice games on show though none which really grabbed my attention: Roundelay Down by Simon showcasing For King and Parliament caught my eye first, followed by Adrianople 378AD with it's fine wagon lager. There was a second nice Ancient game, a 15mm Napoleonic 1813 game, the Wings of War/Glory aerodrome game which were all nice but not exceptional to my eye. Well outside my comfort zone I have to say the Mordheim City Skirmish was really nice.

Colours also has participation games for visitors to join in with. Peter Pig had a nice looking 15mm Mexican American War game and Helion were previewing a new set of rules, Muskets and Springfields. Busiest though by far was Richard Clark's usual Lardy game. Not to my taste as you know but undoubtedly popular with a large swathe of my fellow gamers. As to competition games, well, not much to say as it seemed very sparsely populated to me.

We had a grand day visit to the show, unusually for us staying almost to the close. Despite having no list and wanting to preserve the War Chest for The Other Partizan next month I did make a few purchases: six packs of assorted tufts from Gamer's Grass via Great Escape Games; MDF bases from Warbases; three C18th figures from Colonel Bill; and, on a whim, a bomb marker for our CWGH project just in case the battlefield nuclear option is ever deployed! I made one further purchase, but Phil will tell you about that on his blog I expect.

All in all A Grand Day Out, more valued perhaps by being unplanned and unexpected. When we arrived home, beaten but unbowed, I was delighted to find my order from Front Rank/Gripping Beast on the mat! 

It joins other recent mail orders from North Star and from Foundry of SYW figures to supplement and expand that collection. There will be more about that in a future blog entry by the way. In the meantime I have one or two other things to finish off first.

Friday 9 September 2022

Meanwhile, somewhere on Lüneberg Heath

As my loyal reader must surely know, Phil and I have processed all we set out to achieve for this 'project outside my comfort zone'. We hope that Matthew is satisfied with our efforts. As I've mentioned I've written a piece about our struggles, warts and all, especially my efforts to love plaaastic! On Wednesday next week Dan from Wargames illustrated is due to visit GHQ, for the first time since the plague, to take photos for the article. With that in mind I thought that I'd have a play around at a possible table layout which would facilitate his needs in the confined area around my table.
My first attempt at a terrain layout. Two open spaces at front centre and back right should allow Dan 'wriggle room' to get closer to the 15mm vehicles, figures and such.
An alternative arrangement of the buildings, seeing more modern accommodation for the workers of the factory and extending the settlement of Bikelheim.
The older industrial centre of Bikelberg. My wife has pointed out that I need to flatten out the roads!
A view from the modern industrial centre of Bikelberg towards the more traditional town of Bikelheim.
"From Russia With Love" ~ a film revival perhaps? I could not resist this German film poster I found on the net!
Housing the workers C19th style! Robansahn Metal Fabrik knows how to treat the workers!
The bucolic country scene encapsulated by two farms, one ancient, one modern. I'm not sure how the Creatures Great and Small will take to the coming conflict...
German Black Angus beef steaks may be on the Russian menus it seems.
Bikelheim, a small village which will soon achieve notoriety in the world's press as the centre of NATO defence in the shape of the B.A.O.R. against Soviet aggression!
A different configuration of the buildings, traditional village extended by modern buildings into a small town?

The next task is to lay out possible figure, vehicle, aircraft and helicopter groups to find the best look of the collection in action. Tricky as I've little experience in photographing smaller scale stuff myself. Nevertheless I've tried just one or two layouts and would welcome any constructive comments ~
Soviet T55s move cautiously through Bikelberg, their advance covered by a Hind gunship.
On the distant wooded ridge a Rapier anti-aircraft missile defence system targets the Hind.
While to the Rapier's flank a Troop of Chieftain MBTs await the T55s from the cover of the forest, carefully choosing their moment to open fire.

Wednesday 7 September 2022

Bought on a Whim, Parte the Laste..

I'd like to show you the last of the purchases I made on a whim while wandering around Partizan back at the beginning of the summer. Some of you will probably recognise these three pieces, but for those who don't they are from Empress Miniatures' Anglo-Zulu War range and are sold as a mounted/dismounted version of the 'Prince Imperial'.

I have no idea why I bought it. I arrived in front of their stand with a list of two packs from their Indian Mutiny range, honestly, and just saw the figures and asked for them. Completely unplanned, definitely not wanted, but there you are. Even stranger than that, I'd almost sold my collection on last year, given that we never decide to play the period nowadays it seems. Anyway, passing by on the subject of my unexplained impulse buy, here are the two versions. He will make a useful British officer in any future games if nothing else ~

When I think about it now, I'm still at a loss as to why I bought this pack. I can only conclude we are a strange group in this hobby...

Monday 5 September 2022

An Away Day!

 Towards the end of last week I had the very great pleasure of a trip out to Lord Walton's stately pile, for a WWII bash on Jon's new wargames table of course. Not only did the stars align to make this treat possible, but also to grant me a fine win in what was a really engrossing game. Now, I freely admit I'm no gaming genius, especially when it comes to WWII games - Phil says I am in the 'a tank is something you store water in' brigade! That's as maybe, but headlong assaults as a Russian I can usually manage, no need for much tactical thinking, just get stuck in with numbers!

Anyway, I took a few pictures during the game as Jon's terrain and figures and vehicles are a joy to game with and I'd like to share them with you all ~

One of two river crossing objectives for the Russian hordes! The bridge cleverly lifts out of the bespoke terrain and can be replaced by a destroyed version. Did I achieve this objective you are wondering?
Ominous lines of trenches and a wooded ridge backing the bridge suggested to me that if I ever reached this objective then it would prove costly to take. Perhaps the secondary crossing might prove a better ploy, allowing the Russians to flank any bridge defences?
Ah, the secondary crossing - a ford in the river at top right in the picture - is also heavily defended. This looks like it might turn out to be a bit of a slog!
So, some sort of loose plan - a direct assault and damn the losses - in place, the Russian lead elements set off to probe possible German forward positions. Early mortar fire suggests I will encounter some opposition in overrunning the forward elements. 
Tanks with infantry support advancing on the Russian right try to drive through the defenders here and flank the defensive line. A bit of a blood bath ensued, but the Russians force the position and the first line is overcome. We are drawing chits for lost elements à la Battlegroup rules, but otherwise using a mash up of Rapid Fire Reloaded and Rapid Fire!2. Both sides have a decent collection of chits following this opening phase of the action!
On the Russian left the advance is more costly, but the loss of a few tanks and infantry is as nought to we Russian generals! Forward Commrades...or else!
As the Russian attack unfolds the German's second line of defences is encountered and over run after bitter and costly fighting for both sides. More tanks are lost as one position holds out against the odds. Surely maned by troops deserving of their Iron Crosses with Oak Leaves! But, even heroes can perish...and they duly did!
The climax of the battle arrives with the Russian steam roller crashing into the remaining scattered and demoralised defenders - the chits are mounting up rapidly now for the Germans. One final flurry and the German defence is shattered. The ford is open to the Russians and the route to the bridge is now open, and as it turns out, undefended. A Russian victory but at a great cost!
Well, I do hope you enjoyed seeing Jon's wonderful gaming set up! It was a joy to get to play on his table again after so long and to handle his excellent WWII collection in a fine game! Mind, winning does help I freely admit!