Sunday, 31 May 2015

AMG Game at Partizan

I've had a fantastic day at the Partizan show today. Normally I just turn up, wander round looking at the games and buying stuff for a couple of hours, and go home fairly happy. Today I was participating in the 'A Military Gentleman' forum group game with about 20 other members, and had an excellent time. It was also nice to have a catch up on the Saturday with Iain, Andy and, briefly, Simon. We visited the new Civil War museum in Newark, which was interesting, and enjoyed a fairly sensible (we had early starts!) evening out and a good natter.

At the show, Graham Cummings had organised things very well and, with the help of others, put a lot of effort into making the game a big success. Members of the forum (which is run by John Ray, and comprises people who have bought the book of the same name) came with their figures from far and wide; from Scotland to Plymouth, and Jim Purky came from the US to be part of the event. Everyone seemed thoroughly delighted to be there and I think lots of fun was had by all. There was a social side too, with people meeting up in their various hotel locations and we all had a chance to put faces to names we've become familiar with on the forum.

There were actually two battles being played out at the same time on adjacent tables, effectively re-fighting Ligny and Quatre Bras but using our 18th century armies. The rules were Charles Grants' 'The Wargame Rules' and we had a pre-game briefing on the rules and scenarios by the man himself, who was chief umpire for the day and a pleasure to meet.

The tables were laid out with a teddy bear fur terrain, prepared by Graham and the best I've seen done. Other features included extensive streams, roads shaved into the 'grassland' and buildings from Phil Olley's collection. With the figures in place, and some gorgeous collections were represented, it all looked superb and seemed to go down well with show attendees.

As ever, Kelham Hall was very dim inside, so taking decent pictures was a challenge. My phone did OK, but hopefully there will be some better shots appearing on the web at some point.

I played on the larger Ligny table, holding the right flank of the 'Prussian' army, which was in fact largely represented by Prussian mid-18th century forces. Alongside me were Jim Purky from the US (of Fife & Drum and Minden Miniatures), who was a pleasure to meet and fun to play the game with, and John Ray, who's figures graced the table and held the centre. Colin and Dave (Jarvis, who painted my hussars for me and which fought as well as they look) formed our left flank, which they held in style throughout, fighting the hordes of French that were thrown at them.

Although we all spent a lot of time welcoming and talking with people who came over to see what we were doing, we actually got through a lot of gaming. I think we managed 7 full turns, which considering the number of players and figures, and a general lack of familiarity with the rules, was quite good going. There was certainly plenty of battle, and everyone seemed to have a fair share of highs and lows. I fought opposite Guy and John (who fortunately knew the rules and guided us through, which was hugely helpful) and they were very gentlemanly opponents.

Overall I think we held our own, having some good musketry successes and, after a very poor start (a 6-0 drubbing!) even started to get the better of the enemy cavalry in melee. Our position was finally imperiled on the last turn with the arrival of D'Erlon's corps (or at least some tricorned fellers standing in for them) who had actually made an appearance in this re-fight - unlike in the real thing. Charles declared a good defence by the Prussians, but an inevitable (though orderly) withdrawal. We'd be intact to fight another day, so honours were pretty even. On the other table the allies held back Ney's French after a bloody fight, and the players had a good game there too.

I did get to have a quick wander round during a break in play, and managed to buy a few bits and pieces. A few more boats and small bits of scenery, so not too much lead. That said, I did pick up a few Minden cavalry from Gary, so they'll go into the schedule for later this year.

After over 30 years of wargaming, this was definitely a high point for me, The spectacle of the game, the camaraderie and friendliness among the group, and sheer enjoyment of fighting the battle, all contributed to an unforgettable day. There were even some thoughtful gifts from John and Jim as mementos of the day, which was much appreciated. I also met Mark Allen, a very friendly and talented chap whose work I have admired over the years, and we agreed a plan for him to paint some flags for me.

Fantastic all-round!

Friday, 29 May 2015

A Change of Scene(ry)

One thing I'm going to be needing in the future for my colonial Sharp Practice setting is some jungle. Fortunately I have an old, stalled, project to produce some jungle scenery so I've got something of a head start. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of work to do.

I'll be making about 50 bases worth, containing a mix of plastic fish tank foliage and Games Workshop jungle trees. The former are on the bases already and the latter are assembled (although foolishly I didn't paint them on the sprues first and it'll take a lot longer this way!).

To get started, and provide myself with a bit of inspiration, I've finished a couple of samples and I think they look OK. Some will have rocks/boulders on them as well but this first pair just have the trees.

With a 28mm figure for scale:

Clumps of these bases should provide a decent jungle effect, and I can use taller normal trees behind them to add some height to the canopy. I'm a fan of multi-purpose hobby stuff, so these are nice and generic and might get some use in other scales and periods too, eg:

Only another 48 to go....

Lion Rampant - First Game Pics and Thoughts

Lots of fun, but surprisingly challenging too - that's my verdict on Lion Rampant after a few solo games. The rules mechanisms are simple to learn but offer a lot of subtlety for how you play the game and how you use your units. I have definitely joined the ranks of those who think it's an excellent set of rules and I'm intending to play more in the future.

So far I've played through three games and have a fourth on the go, which I'll get back to this evening. I've used the same forces each time (as per the previous post), but moved the terrain around quite a lot for each game to vary the setting. I've just been playing straight forward clashes rather than full scenarios, and ending things when one side loses half or more of its starting points worth of units - which feels about right.

For me, the unit zones of control (where no unit, friend or enemy, can come within a certain distance of another without actually attacking it) are probably the toughest thing to keep remembering and applying, but it does add an interesting dimension requiring planning and the need to be careful with your unit and figure placement.

I've tried a bit of everything, using the various units' special rules and options, such as Evade and Skirmish, and of course Wild Charge which is lots of fun - but of course you tend to lose control of knights ('mounted men-at-arms') and fierce foot pretty quickly! The activation rolls make for an excellent solo experience as you never know exactly what will happen, and can just concentrate on trying to make the best decisions for each side when it's their turn. I'm looking forward to some 2-player games where there should be a good mix of planning and luck dictating who gets to do what.

A few pics, mostly from the first game..

In the colourful corner, Sir Malice of the Golden Chalice, defender of the realm:

And in the brown corner, we have Vog, Lord of the Marshes and all-round thug.

The game underway. I like the force to space ratio - it feels like a big skirmish rather than a handful of individuals fighting it out. There's about enough room for manoeuvre (and hiding where appropriate!) on a board of this size with 15mm figures.

Crossbowmen and Bidowers (as skirmishers are called in LR) set up a 'Valley of Death' for the raider's cavalry to hopefully blunder into:

Knights and Fierce Foot replace tactical finesse with out-and-out aggression.Very enjoyable, unless you're the one standing still when the enemy charge.

More of the same. I've spotted a ZOC error in the bottom left corner :(

Run Away! Must have been a savage rabbit somewhere, as the enemy were seen off at the same time.

'Not me face!' Although, even outnumbered like this the knight still gets 6 fighting dice so he actually managed to cut down an enemy horseman before going under.

A later game, with the hovels moved to a hill and the game played along the length rather than across the width. This made the space a bit tight, but still generated plenty of interesting action and events.

Interestingly, the Feudals have won all three initial games, but I'm not sure how. The knights haven't generally been all-conquering battle winners, scoring some successes but doing badly on occasion too. The extra numbers of the raiders don't seem to have had much impact, probably because I've not protected the fierce foot enough from missile fire before unleashing them where they can do the most damage. Ah well, learning to do better will be fun!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Lion Rampant - First Game

I've only heard good things about these rules from Dan Mersey/Osprey and have decided to have a go with them. I bought them when they came out and was impressed by the clarity of the writing and many of the basic concepts behind the rules.

I didn't have a clear idea of how/when I would get into gaming with this ruleset but then along came an idea among the LAW forum and Ayton crowd to plan for a multi-player Lion Rampant weekend in 2017, and I started to think about a 28mm force (or 2 opposed retinues, you know how it is..). Now, 2017 is a long way off (the 2016 game being already planned), but as is to be expected with wargamers, excitement has already built up to a point where a late 2015 get-together is being discussed. I'd better get cracking then!

A friend has been working on a 15mm Medieval project and kindly sent me a QRS he's written, which incorporates some post-publication clarifications, and a unit/troop type roster. With the table still set up from the Sambre game I decided it would be silly not to have a go, so removed a few terrain boards from one edge and swapped out the Roman fort for a couple of thatched cottages and some scattered scenery.

I'd be playing the game in 15mm, with all distances halved. This meant a board of 3 feet by 2-and-a-bit feet would be fine for a game that recommends 6'x4' for 28mm. For figures I raided some fantasy and Dark Ages forces to gather together a fairly traditional Feudal retinue to fight against a slightly less colourful, and more warband-like mob from the fringes of civilisation.

The rules offer plenty of troop types and, on top of that, a number of equipment and upgrade options to customise things further. A sensible person would tackle a first game with smaller than standard forces and just a few unit types. That's why I decided to go for full 24 point retinues and loads of variety. Well, I was in no hurry and would work through things over as much time as needed.

The forces are as follows:

2 x Knights (Mounted Men-at-Arms @ 6 pts) 12 pts (1 incl. Leader)
1 x Spearmen (Foot Sergeants @ 4 pts)                   4 pts
1 x Crossbowmen (@ 4 pts)                                       4 pts
2 x Woodsmen (Bidowers @ 2 pts)                           4 pts

24 points, 48 figures

1 x Heavy Cavalry (Mounted Sergeants @ 4 pts) 4 pts (incl. Leader)
2 x Light Cavalry (Mtd Yeomen w/Javelins @ 3 pts) 6 pts
2 x Warriors (Fierce Foot @ 4 pts)                              8 pts
1 x Archers (@ 4 pts)                                                    4 pts
1 x Skirmishers (Bidowers @ 2 pts)                            2 pts

24 points, 60 figures

Naturally the scenario for this first game was based on the standard encounter clash - called 'Bloodbath' in the book. Sounds like it should be about right. The cottages would inevitably offer a focal point to fight over, and the wooded hills would both channel the main forces towards each other, while offering cover and concealment to the rest.

Here's the table and (hopefully) pretty much everything I'd need to play the game.

Next post: some pics from the game and thoughts on how things went.

Battle of the Sambre

At the weekend I thought I'd fit in a solo game of some sort, and after a bit of prevarication over a coffee I decided to dust off some Romans and Gauls and try out a modest re-fight of the Battle of the Sambre. This is something I've fancied doing for a long time, since first reading about the battle and the wargame re-fight in Charles Grant (Snr)'s 'The Ancient Wargame' - which I must have owned for over 30 years.

The Romans (6 legions of them), commanded by Caesar, have marched up to the river Sambre in northern Gaul/Belgica and are busy working on their overnight fort when they're surprised by a huge horde of hairy locals intent on mayhem and blood. The Romans have to try to form up and defend themselves while hoping that the remaining 2 legions, who are following with the baggage, arrive in time to help.

I used home-grown rules, written by a friend, to play the game in 15mm on a gridded board. It played as a fairly standard-sized game, to which I added a few scenario-specific rules and of course played around with the initial deployment to reflect the Romans' state of unreadiness.

So, what happened in my re-fight? I'll aim to tell the story with more pictures than words..

The Romans in the process of constructing their marching fort. The leaders had to use the majority of their early command 'pips' just to reform their troops, leaving little scope for forming up a sensible battle formation - or even a full line.

The tribes burst out of the opposite treeline slope on turn 1 and ploughed into the river. On the left the Nervii made up the largest contingent (which was to give them some command and control challenges), with the smaller Viromandui and Atrebates contingents making up the rest of the coalition army. The river was a minor obstacle, but moving fresh and eager warbands towards an enemy is never that difficult!

Caesar did manage to make some semblance of order out of the chaos before the Gauls hit, but it was tough fighting from the start and isolated VII Legion on the right wing was steadily pushed back, creating a real risk of the whole army being outflanked. The few Roman skirmishers did quite well, causing a delay here and there and buying some time for the heavy troops to form up.

The Roman auxiliary light cavalry had clearly done a very poor scouting job, and although they passed their 'flee' test when the enemy charged out of the woods, they contributed nothing to the battle - basically due to the Roman generals being too busy elsewhere to try to get them to do anything. Reasonably historical really.

Caesar posted himself with his best troops, X Legion, on the left, trusting his sub-commander to hold the right flank.

The XIII and XIV Legions were on their way though, and the retreating right wing was clearly where they were most needed - and where they'd be able to make the earliest intervention. The death of the Roman general on this flank was a nasty set-back at a crucial point but the army's command structure soon organised a replacement and disaster was averted.

Fighting was very fierce over and around the unfinished fortifications in the centre. The Gauls had the best of the initial clashes, but couldn't quite destroy any of the legions to enable them to break through in the centre. Eventually the Roman fighting discipline told and, although it was touch and go until the end, they held firm and saw off the enemy here.

On the right it continued to be tougher, with the King of the Nervii leading a furious attack which looked likely to win the day.

The late-arriving column comes into play, with VII Legion on the brink of collapse and about to be saved by a timely Roman quick-step unit replacement manoeuvre. After this the Nervii tried to re-group for another attack but the Romans had effectively shored up their line and the right flank was secure.

On the left Caesar got stuck in and helped to keep the lads steady, and fortunately just when the line was about to give way, the King of the Viromandui was struck down atop the ramparts and the rest of his tribe melted away. Although the Atrebates had made progress against the Roman left flank, they were now isolated and decided to follow their allies back across the river.

The end of the battle, with the Romans victorious - although many of their units were on the brink of being destroyed. The Gallic alliance had just fallen short in some key combats, and couldn't make their greater numbers tell. History had repeated itself, and although Caesar had had a bit of a scare, he knew his invasion of northern Gaul would now proceed more smoothly. He'd just need to give some thought to how he'd write things up for the Senate and the People...

All in all it was an enjoyable game, and it was nice to play a scenario I'd been keen to do for so many years.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Loose Ends

Before getting back to my 6mm FPW stuff, I painted a few 28mm figures on returning from the Ayton weekend. Normally I'd be burnt out after hitting the big deadline, but apparently not this year!

Nothing special, just a few more bits and pieces ahead of further Sharp Practice games I want to play this summer. They were painted in 1s and 2s and weren't too onerous. I'll probably pick off a few more lead-pile stragglers over time just to keep my interest levels up while I concentrate on other projects.

The Medetian marines finally get their Big Men - 2 officers, from the Gringos Maximilian-Mexican range (great beard on the senior guy!):

Then there were a couple more Fleurian line infantry that I didn't need for Ayton but who will round out my 3rd group of 10 for Sharp Practice, plus some further Fleurian light troops. These include a couple of big men (an officer and a sergeant) and a couple of extra soldiers to go with the mountain gun to make the crew up to the normal group of 5.