Monday, October 29, 2012

For Those in Peril on the Seas

It appears that Hurricane Sandy has taken a Nova Scotia built tall ship, the replica of HMS Bounty

HMS Bounty Sinks

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Regular Blog Service Will Return Soon

It's been a while since my last post, due to an extended period of real life...140 first year stats midterms, and then my wife threw her back out (and yes I really appreciate all that she does here now).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Night at the Theatre

This week my wife and I had tickets to the local theatre company Globe Theatre, as part of our season ticket package.  The first play of the season was Billy Bishop Goes to War, and it was very good.  It's a good story and they put on a wonderful show.  A very simple production, with limited sets and only two players.  But the Billy character, who gets 99% of the lines, takes on the roles of many characters over the play.  Lynne and I were sure that we'd encountered some of the old codger officers over a pint at my dad's sailing club on the Solent!

Of course Billy Bishop was a real life figure, the WWI flying ace with the highest official kill total of any Commonwealth fighter pilot, and a Victoria Cross winner to boot.  During WW2 he was heavily involved in recruitment and training programs.

His story is also not without some controversy as he was a lone wolf and a rogue and some of his claims (such as the action that won him the VC) are based on his accounts only.  However, on balance history gives him the benefit of the doubt, mostly because there was enough that he did do that is substantiated by other accounts.

The play avoids most of the controversy and was in fact written before this arose. Regardless it's a thumping good story that takes you on an emotional roller coaster and gives really good insights into a fellows thoughts in a bloody awful situation.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Action in Wascanastan

End of the action, Bengal Lancers and Indian Mountain gun cover the retiring baggage train.

We had my colonials on the table for the first time in at least 10 years with the CS Grant ambush scenario.  Curt took the Natives and Sylvain the Imperial British.  As is typically with colonials, the key is the balance given the disparity of abilities.  Given memories of many Imperial victories in past games, I may have erred on the side of making the Natives too strong.  More precisely, Curt would have had trouble getting more troops to the fore but an extra unit of Imperial infantry would have really helped Sylvain a lot.  However, we had a good game which walked the knife balance of Imperial Triumph against the odds and Imperial disaster!

Forces were as follows

  • A unit of 12 British Infantry (Rosshire Buffs)
  • A unit of 12 Ghurkas
  • A unit of 12 Sikhs
  • A mountain gun in pack
  • 4 baggage train of 4 camels and civilians (2 nuns)
  • A unit of 6 Bengal Lancers

  • 4 units of 12 irregular tribesman
  • 1 unit of 16 native regulars
  • 1 unit of 9 irregular cavalry

Curt was his typical aggressive self and positioned his cavalry closest to the enemy and charged with everything as soon as possible.  As a result, the Imperial column was boxed in and unable to deploy properly.  Even worse, both the dice and the card sequence were against Sylvain.  The local Iman must have out prayed the Sisters!

Having withstood multiple charges (and seen off half the native forces), the Imperial infantry finally cracked and routed off board.  The Bengal lancers (the column's rear guard) arrived just in time to rescue the Nuns.    We ruled that the Lancers and mountain gun could get the camels back to camp, with the Natives being too weak to follow.  A tactical victory for the Natives, but a strategic draw.

Native horse (RAFM) charge Gurkhas and Scots (Minifigs)

The infantry turn to face, but are not able to fire.

Volley fire!

Natives close in on the imperial force.

Natives advancing in mob.

The british leave a gap in the line, which the natives exploit

The hole in the wall.

The Bengal Lancers counter charge to save the Sisters' Honour.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

With MacDuff to the North West Frontier

This Friday night we are planning a NWF frontier game.  Here's the sit rep and map from Charles S Grant's Scenario book (a must have for any miniature gamer).

The rules I am proposing are Ross Mac's "With MacDuff to the Frontier" which can be found on his blog.  A few notes on troop types.
  1. British Infantry carry Breech Loading Rifles (BLRs), in this case Martini-Henrys.  They get the +1 for BLR firepower but the range is the same as the MLRs (16", 8" short) as confirmed with Ross.  They also count as Elite.
  2. Better Indian infantry (Ghurkas, Piffers etc.) count as British, other Indian infantry aren't as well trained so lose the +1 for firepower and Elite status.  These guys carry Snider BLRs.  
  3. Afghan or other Native Regulars carry BLRs but aren't as well trained so don't count the +1.  They might count as militia or regulars depending on the scenario.  They also carry Sniders or equivalents (often surplus British army ones).
  4. Pathan or Afghan tribesmen count as irregulars, and carry as mix of weaponry counting as Jezails on average.  They make guns over open fire pits, so get the -1 for inferior equipment.  An evil GM might rank a unit or two as Elite or fanatics, but most are just interested in loot.
  5. Imperial Cavalry are regulars and carry carbines (count as MLRs as firepower drill was not great).  Many count as Veteran and lancers obviously carry long pokey things.
  6. Mountain guns count as light guns, travel as pack and take a full turn to unpack and set up and prep for fire.
  7. Other Imperial artillery counts as rifled (or in some cases smooth bores where forced to improvise older weaponry).  
  8. Afghan regular artillery use BLRs (Krupp and Armstrongs that were better than anything the Brits used) or smooth bores.  They get the inferior equipment -1 modifying to shoot.
  9. Tribesmen with artillery have smooth bores and get the -1 for inferior equipment.
But it's thin red line of 'eroes when the drums begin to roll....

Thoughts on the Outdoor Naval Game...

Now that we've thawed out, I thought I would debrief a bit and share some thoughts on both the outdoor gaming experience and the Fletcher Pratt combat system.

As a reminder, three of us set us set out on a cold blustery fall day to play with toy ships in the park.  Details can be found at my earlier post,  and Sylvain's post over at Curt's blog.  For the record I should add that Sylvain used General Quarters for damage allocation, but allocated hits by the Fletcher Pratt ranging guessing method.


  1. Playing in real scale really felt nice.  Curt and I were hitting at 30 feet or 12,000 yards.  It really put things into perspective.
  2. We did really appreciate the need to maneuver your ships in a way to help your gunners.  I've seen some naval games where the maneuvers are so intricate, the ships' tracks look like modern art.  Try that with FP range guessing and your messing with yourself as much as (or more than) your messing with your opponent.
  3. The FP range guessing does reward skill (but not tactical skill - see below).
  4. The combat results did have a "morale" impact on players.  If you opponent is hammering you and you're not able to range in, it is very easy to get panicky and flustered.
  5. It got us out in the (very) fresh air, which my better half tells me is a good thing.
  6. It was fun and forced us to think differently (I found myself estimating ranges in "Sylvains" at one point).
  7. It amused the heck out of my family members!


  1. The range guessing is (literally) hit or miss, all or nothing.  More over, once you've ranged in it's reasonably easy to keep ranging on.  I know it is skill and judgement based, but it actually felt more like luck than anything else.
  2. I would rather blame the dice than blame my eyesight!  To paraphrase Homer Simpson "Weaseling out of responsibility is what separates us from the animals".  More scientifically, when you roll badly, you know that the odds favour you making it up sometime in the future with a good dice roll.  When you can't find the range, the odds are that you'll keep on missing.  
  3. It rewards physical skills over mental ability - and I speak as someone with excellent long range vision and depth perception.  I thought that I endured junior high school gym class so that I wouldn't need to be judged this way an adult!!
  4. It gives the wrong level of command.  I want to be a ship captain or an admiral, not a gunnery officer.  And I certainly shouldn't be acting as both.  I prefer game systems where you have mechanism to account for the actions of your subordinates and let you focus on command decisions at the appropriate level.  The technical term for these mechanisms is dice and combat tables!
I know that there are FP fans out there, but not me.  I enjoy it as a historical experience and a challenge but not as a gaming style. A I think I'd be happier using Fred Jane's striker's to shoot at ship plans.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Outdoors Adventures

So an actuary, an archivist and a French literature prof walk into an open field...

Sylvain wanted to use his 1:1200 WW2 battleships in a Fletcher Pratt style game, so he decided that we would do it grand scale and play in a park.  With winter approaching, this was best done sooner than later so Sylvain, Curt and I went out to play with toy ships in the park today (much to my family's amusement).

Today's weather was, well bloody cold and miserable...Ok my picture didn't work but the weather network has the following readings at 2pm on October +6C (-2C with windchill), and winds of 43kph from the NW.

I had two USN battleships (USS Colorado and Arizona, based on neither ship being at Pearl Harbour on the 7th) while Curt  fielded the Kongo and Ise for the IJN, with Sylvain acting as GM.  After about 35 minutes of game time (about an hour and a bit of real time) we traded some hits with my eyesight proving superior to Curt's.  He decided to cut and run, which was quite alright with me.  I did my running sprinting across King's Road park chasing down ship logs and turning circles blown away by the gale force winds.

I am sure that Curt will post much better pictures but here are the ones off of my I phone.

Colorado (to the right) leading Arizona

Same ships but from a lower angle.

My fleet in line a head.

Sylvain and Curt by the IJN force from the USN position.

Sylvain takes measurements while Curt takes photos.  Note the paint roller shell splashes - very effective!

We're ranging in on the target.

Curt's shots are short but getting closer.

Rules discussion.

A hit!