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 30 December 2022

Another Year Draws To A Close in GHQ

As is customary amongst many fellow blogging wargamers at this time of year I'd like to close Tales From GHQ for 2022 with a brief review of the past year. I hope it will be at least of passing interest to my loyal reader, so without more waffle here goes...

With regard to games played; a very respectable total of 44 has been achieved. For much of the year in terms of wins to use a football metaphor I was relegation fodder it seemed but my form picked up towards the year's end and I ended by recording 19 wins, 19 defeats and six drawn games. My usual bang average performance then over the year! In past years we have managed more games, a knock on effect this year then from the pandemic I'd guess. Aside from Phil and Jon I also welcomed a new GHQ Irregular in Paul, an old chum from my days at Alumwell Wargames Society. Looking ahead to 2023 I hope to see more of all of them across the tabletop battlefield here in GHQ.

In spite of my hand and eye issues and taking other health and family issues into consideration I still achieved a decent total when it came to painted figures and new units and periods deploying into GHQ. In all I completed 616 figures over the year. For the first time in goodness knows how long I managed to paint some 15mm figures even! This was in response you might recall to Matt's challenge to do something new outside my comfort zone. The resulting Cold War Gone Hot project in 15mm plastic, resin and metal occupied a fair chunk of the latter part of the year and featured in Wargames Illustrated as well. As the year turns attention though returns to 28mm figures and the SYW expansion project. I hope to have something to show for that early in the coming year, though my mojo is sadly very weak at the fag end of the year. Two wider family bereavements in December partly bear the blame for this I'm sure.

With the winding down of government restrictions on our personal freedoms as the Covid pandemic eased further at the start of the year wargames shows were once more back on the agenda. I'd attended the Other Partizan in October '21 (the first for perhaps 18 months?) so I was looking forward, admittedly with some trepidation, to their resumption. No WMMS of course, although I have heard that it may be back in 2023, but I did make it to Hammerhead and both the Partizan shows as well as a last minute trip to Colours. They were all humming with activity and it was good to meet many friends once more. All things being equal I hope Phil and I will get to a few more shows in 2023, time will tell...

In addition to the welcome visits to shows once more I managed to visit Wargames Foundry's Factory Shop, make two visits to Games Workshop HQ, a visit to Warlord Games HQ and finally a visit to Wargames Illustrated HQ. The latter was even more interesting for the tour Dan took me on of the behind the scenes areas.

Turning lastly to my vague aspirations on the hobby front for 2023 I must confess that despite the ever present siren lure of a new period I have nothing planned even in embryo. I've long cherished a desire to try the Mexican-American War, I even picked up the Osprey guide in Hay-on-Wye at the start of the month, but the available 28mm ranges just don't appeal sadly. Anyway, I have a considerable Lead Pimple of figures awaiting the brush for my SYW expansion project, so I really think that will have to do. Is it finally an age thing? I hope not, but who can say...?

Although my blog is about wargaming in the main, I'd like you to humour me as I sign off the year with this small reminder of George VI's first wartime Christmas broadcast in 1939. It's perhaps a tad syrupy for some C21st tastes but it contains an important truth for me in that we set out each day not knowing what may become us and ours, so perhaps we should end by reflecting each day on family, friends and neighbours and their value to us, far outstripping the few figures we might cherish. Happy New Year!

"I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: " Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown". And he replied: "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way".

Tuesday 27 December 2022

The Old 1-2...

...that is, one hobby related Christmas gift and two painted figures, all I have to show for the holiday period. 

Firstly, the gift, a book of rule suggestions and scenarios for sieges in the ECW. In truth a bit off the wall as gifts go, but I must not be ungrateful and will endeavour to put it to good use in the coming year ~

Secondly, the two figures I have completed, in the shape of two from the Warlord Games' Roman civilians pack I bought on my Lead Belt trip. 

The first I finished was an old veteran reduced to begging, sadly a sight we can still encounter here in the C21st.

The second figure represents a senior Roman officer making a sacrificial offering of wine to the gods. (In my case it should probably be to those capricious dice gods!) 

Both figures will be added to the background fluff no doubt in my Republican Roman army for the Carthaginian Wars. Of course honesty compels me to confess that I have completed some other hobby stuff this month in the shape of the three MDF German farm buildings for the SYW games. I also have a SYW French Regiment of Grenadiers Royaux on the go, but nothing approaching the finished article to show until next year at a guess.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Battle of God's Acre

 For tha last game of the year here in GHQ Phil and I settled on an AWI game played out using our preferred Black Powder 2 rules. The scenario sees a Crown force of mostly Loyalists with a core Brigade of Regulars under Lord Rawnsley attacking a largely Continental force of Rebel Americans under  the command of General Bykleigh. The Crown's forces have the initiative and in Turn 1 Phil advanced almost recklessly, putting my Rebellious Americans on the back foot! As is customary then, a photomontage follows which I hope will convey a sense of how the action unfolded ~

Lead by Lee's Legion infantry the American Militia brigades advance towards the fence line. Some Disorder is already in evidence as a consequence of the opening artillery duels.
Facing the Militia the Light Infantry make good progress forward despite casualties, though the Loyalist brigade they are covering is tardy in it's advance.
A brigade of Pennsylvanian Continentals moves slowly past God's Acre hoping to hit the Crown's advance in the flank.
Lord Rawnsley observes a second Loyalist brigade lead by Tarleton's Legion infantry move forward steadily to attack the American left.
Covered by Riflemen and a Light Artillery piece the Continental infantry advance cautiously on the American's left flank. The New Jersey Blues will prove stoic under heavy fire, but their own musketry will leave much to be desired.
The rapid advance in the Crown's centre catches the Americans unprepared. The Light Artillery piece is lost! On the Crown's left, the brigade of Loyalist infantry have almost reached the fence line!
Almost, but not quite. The regulars have withdrawn after seeing off the artillery while the American Militias, boosted by the New York Continentals on their left, have managed to deploy along the fence line and pour a volley into the surprised Loyalists!
On the American left the New Jersey Blues shake out into line and prepare to trade lead with the small units of Light troops advancing on them.
In the Centre Tarleton's Legion infantry are almost in the garden while along the road the reformed Regular infantry prepare to go in again against the defending New Yorkers.
On their left the Crown's Loyalist are beaten back in some Disorder, leading the American Militia into an advance which will prove a costly error.
A general view of the situation across the field of battle at the midpoint in the game. The situation looks at the very least to be favourable towards the American rebels.
In the centre Tarleton's Legion infantry occupy the garden area behind the house catching the Pennsylvanians in the open space before the family burial plot.
On the Crown's right the advance is stalled by the stoic resistance of the New Jersey Blues and some Disorder amongst their newly deployed South Carolina infantry.
Back in the Centre, the Americans seem to be holding their position comfortably while the Crowns forces are Shaken by infantry volleys.
But no, despite appearances the New Yorkers' morale collapsed in the face of the bayonet and they flee!
Suddenly a gap has opened in the Centre of the American lines as a second Continental regiment is forced to withdraw!
The intense musketry duel amongst God's Acre continues with neither side looking to give way. Colonel Brecher urges his Pennsylvanians to stay the course!
Unexpectedly the Virginia Militia manage to stabilize the position and beat off the third assault mounted by the Regulars. The fight is looking too close to call at this stage.
At this point in the battle, although battered the American position still seemed a strong one. The Crown's forces were finding it hard to manoeuvre and press home their superiority locally.
s happens in warfare, of a sudden the American right and centre collapse under mounting losses allowing fresh Regular battalions to exploit the gap and get behind the Americans' left.
Although victorious on their right, it has come at too great a cost and the American left cannot be supported as an attack develops in its right rear.
It's all up for General Bykleigh I'm afraid. Three Broken Brigades' from the five means his Army is Broken and sadly he must concede victory to Lord Rawnsley. 
A grand game and company, what more could one ask other than to emerge victorious. Sadly it was not to be as the game ran away from the Americans in Turns 8 and 9. The beauty of Black Powder lies in this very unpredictability and keeps the tension and interest front and centre throughout the battle. 
But that's it now folks for 2023, have a splendid Christmas break with family and friends. I hope to post a review of the year at the end of the month as I usually do, so keep an eye out if you are interested in my ramblings.

Monday 19 December 2022

It’s Beginning To Look...

 ...A Lot Like Christmas! So it would seem to have rolled around again to the time to send my loyal reader, whoever and wherever he be, warm Seasonal Wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Healthy, Prosperous and Peaceful New Year.

One more game to be played here in GHQ though in the fag end of 2022, an AWI game with firm friend and stalwart opponent Phil tomorrow. I shall hope to put up an AAR replete with photos before the weekend, so pop back later when you have a spare minute to see the record of my last sorry performance of the year.

Thursday 15 December 2022

Old School? Moi?

Shurely Shum Mishtake? Despite the best efforts of the brothers and sisters of Royal Mail, my Christmas present to myself has arrived safely from Caliver Books in Nottingham. It took a mere 12 days thanks to them! My patience, which unlike myself is famously thin, was tested to breaking point. 

I have bought the Wargamers'Annual every year since the first was published. At first there were two a year, but latterly only one published around the Christmas period. As a boy an annual or two was a fixture from Santa so I feel it's an appropriate tradition to continue as an old codger! At first glance the annuals can seem a trifle Old School but closer examination often reveals a more cutting edge in the articles. This year's for instance has a Star Wars piece by my friend Kevin oop north in Aberdeenshire. Each year Charles Grant, who collates the annual, appeals for pieces to include in the next and I resolve to submit something, only of course to forget until it's too late! This year's excuse was that I was busy painting 15mm Team Yankee Soviet Airborne troops and writing about their integration into our forces here in GHQ. That will not see the light of day until well into next year, given lead times for publication, so here's a taster in the meantime.

Obviously in our present circumstances games are on the back burner, though if Phil is safely home from the continent after the weekend we hope to stage the final game of the year here in GHQ. We shall see in due course I suppose. In the meantime my figure painting total for December stands at one figure! A Roman beggar from the civilian set I bought at Warlord last month. If any of you find my mojo hiding behind the sofa perhaps you might nudge it back in my direction?

Monday 12 December 2022

Größerer Bauernhof

A short post, partly in memory of Sue's sister's husband Vic, who sadly passed away last night from MND, the second family member we've lost to the disease inside two years. We spent a very happy visit with them back when Vic was stationed in Celle with the B.A.O.R. The buildings reminded me of happier times...

The three buildings I bought from Warbases which will form a German farm for our SYW games have all had the basic colours applied now. I'm actually in two minds right now about whether or not I'll do any more to them. Spending two hours painting in the individual stones on the farmhouse's ground floor has rather sapped my enthusiasm. Here are the three buildings as is on the table in GHQ ~

The farm scene dressed with some appropriate figures and terrain.
Snouts in the trough, both animal and human?

I think the ladies of the farm do not exactly approve the debauchery going on there!

I think I'll go back to figures for a while now if noone minds. I've started a Warlord Games beggar from the Roman civilians set I bought on my recent Lead Belt Odyssey to ease myself back into small things and take my mind off things in the wider world.

Thursday 8 December 2022

Buildings in wargames

 I sometimes describe myself as a geriatric-in-waiting wargamer and have been knocking around in our wonderful hobby for not long shy of 50 years so it's quite possible that some of what I want to say about buildings in a wargames setting will seem strange to younger readers. A bit of context will help I trust. Back in the mists of time when I first joined Alumwell Wargames Society (1973?) most games were with 25mm figures and buildings were either simple scratch builds, Airfix railway buildings - thatched cottage, country inn, parish church mostly - or Superquick cardboard railway modellers' kits. In most games therefore buildings were representational rather than historic. Though one thing remains true down the years: if you put buildings (or woods) on a tabletop battlefield then wargamers will fill it with troops!

Things move on, they do not remain unchanging, and so firms like Hovels and Grand Manner pop up with buildings in resin, buildings which claim to be depictions of period buildings whatever your chosen period. Then comes MDF kit buildings and now the beginnings of 3D Printer files. All of these riches are available at a price to grace your games but one thing continues to irk me, and that is the vexed question of the size/scale of the buildings we deploy. My early Napoleonic games would feature the Airfix and Superquick buildings, but by the time I ventured into 15mm ACW games I was able to buy some bespoke items sold by Hovels. When I sold my 15mm armies on I kept the buildings for my growing 25mm ACW armies. To me the smaller footprint was what I wanted.

This of course leads directly to the issue of scales/sizes in wargaming. There are four distinct variables, all seemingly accepted without question despite then being mutually contradictory. They are:

Elapsed Real Time v Game Turn Duration

Unit number of figures v Historic unit numbers

Ground scale (both horizontal & vertical) v Figure/Unit scale

Building size v Ground scale.

You only need to look at pictures on this blog to see hills which are lower than buildings for example. Then there is the question of 'When is a building a building or is it representational of a complex of buildings?' - look at any farm or factory and you'll see what I mean. So wargamers will ask of course, 'How many figures can a building hold (see my early point)?' One answer might be to fix buildings onto larger bases and then the number of bases is simply those that physically fit one or more faces. This of course then portrays a single model as a complex of buildings. A simple solution but not very picturesque. Some rulesets accommodate this by restricting the number of shooting dice per face of building.

20mm Warbases German barn with 28mm Casting Rooms Miniatures French Grenadiers.

All of this has surfaced here in GHQ because, as you see just above, I've been building some Warbases' German rural buildings for my SYW games. Like the buildings from rival Charlie Foxtrot the 28mm scale/size buildings look huge to my eye. I would think they were really aimed at the Skirmish Gamer of such iterations as Sharp Practice for example. I want several building options for games but don't want the tabletop battlefield dominated by urban sprawl! My decision was to go with 20mm scale/size options and even the barn I've built and painted looks too large. It will be awhile until all four buildings are on the table in GHQ, even though they are all now built,but it is my hope that they will look more acceptable to the eye in relation to the units and terrain features than their giant brethren. 

Warbases 20mm German farmhouse.

Warbases 20mm German farm outbuilding.

Warbases 20mm German Rural houses.

Of course, this is simply a matter of my taste for the look of games and the size of tabletop battlefield here in GHQ. Over time I have tended towards putting my buildings on a base and calling everything on same as in hard cover, thus alleviating the vexed questions of both the size/number of buildings occupied and the degree of cover benefit. Where I've not done this, then some buildings are merely used for decoration/eye candy and confer no benefits beyond looking nice!

Small 25mm ACW scratch built farm buildings in situ

No doubt I have lost some to boredom by now, so I'll go back to painting the remaining buildings, leaving weathering and such until they are all done, and see what response, if any, this gets.

Monday 5 December 2022

Book Sniffer Persuivant, 1st Class

Now that Sue and I are back from a few days R&R in Herefordshire it's back to the mundane hobby stuff as and when opportunity arises. But first, while we were away, I sniffed out two books on a visit to Hay-on-Wye. 

Firstly, a tome by the late Christopher Duffy on a SYW theme. I paid £5 for this, which I think is a good price. I hope to have a better grasp of SYW gaming as a result of reading this over the coming weeks ~

Secondly, an old Osprey Men at Arms on the Mexican-American War. Ever since I played in a large multi-player game at Dave's in North Carolina I've had a hankering to dabble in the period here in GHQ, I've just never found a range of figures that suit my style or enthuse me sufficiently to have a go. Who knows, I might yet ~
Now finally, and by way of a correction to an earlier post, I've decided to have a break from figure painting and am instead working on the first of my German rural buildings from Warbases, starting with the large barn. It's enormous, so it's a good job I chose the 20mm version as I think the 28mm one would dwarf troops on my tabletop battlefield here in GHQ! So far I've dry assembled the basic structure and must say the joints are super tight. More progress on it hopefully when my hand recovers a tad!!

Saturday 3 December 2022

The First Shall Be Last...

 ...And The Last Shall Be First, as the Good Book tells us. As this is the 1000th blog post I've made I thought I would treat myself to some of my very favourite pictures from games here in GHQ. So, just over eleven years ago the first picture on my new blog was an ACW vignette of Bobbie Lee and his entourage gathered around a map laden table, planning his next master stroke ~

I think my loyal reader will know that the ACW remains my one Tue love amongst the myriad of periods we dabble with here in GHQ, so selecting a few images from those games is both difficult and a joy for me.
General John C. Robinson, Phil's alter ego in our games, often described by his contemporaries as "...in a well bearded army, the hairiest general I ever saw!"

Of course he is sometimes aided by that scion of the family of military incompetents, ol' Useless S Bykleigh hisself ~

Such is the stain this family's military incompetence has left on the sweep of history his brother, Jubal E Bykleigh can often be seen leading the Rebs to their doom~

It's little secret then that I enjoy creating vignettes for my ACW collection, possessing as I do more regiments than I can reasonably fit on the available playing area here in GHQ. So I thought that I'd show a few of my favourites once more ~

Confederate generals deep in thought, or conversation. A Redoubt Enterprises' vignette bought in error due to incorrect labelling!

🎼🎵🎶 Tenting Tonight...one of the many appearances in games of my Union campsite, complete with regimental band!

Scratch built scenery which predates the blog by very many years, Rawnsley Farm and it's various ephemeral buildings. All more 25mm than 28mm in size you'll notice...
Union Generals plotting their latest move pore over period maps downloaded and reduced for verisimilitude. Or because I was bored and had too much time on my hands? 
Possibly less than half the collection out on the table! The same image appearing in a piece I penned for Wargames Illustrated not long ago ~

The last vignettes I've produced for the ACW collection are rather more mundane pieces, but nevertheless adds something in my opinion to the look of the games here in GHQ ~
Two bases using spare figures, with limbers painted back in the mists of time, to place behind a deployed Rebel artillery battery. All from Dixon Miniatures bar the lone 1st Corps figure on the far right. 
Well, that's all folks, hope you have enjoyed my walk through some of my ACW memories and don't resent a little nostalgia for my 1000th post. Thanks for looking, following and commenting over the years. It would be rash to promise another 1000 posts to come, but you can be sure that I'll be doing my best...