Friday, November 9, 2018

Not Dead Yet...

Painting and gaming has just about ground to a halt here, although I did pick up the brushes last night for the first time in a couple weeks.  I’ve been busy but also been stupid.  I needed a reminder that standing up under a shelf that’s six inches shorter than me isn’t so bright.  Three stitches in the scalp and a lasting head ache proved a valuable lear8ng experience.  Stitches out, head doing better so pressing on but with a watchful eye overhead.

The article below was in my local paper today.  Hopefully I can visit this WWI bike before it leaves town.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Black Powder 2 First Impressions

So I went in and pre-ordered BP2 earlier this fall.  My copy arrived in the post on Tuesday Oct 9th having been shipped on Sept 24th, not bad turnaround for shipping from the UK to the Canadian backwoods.  Curt got his copy on Friday the 5th, but we had the Thanksgiving Weekend in between so that's only one business day between.  Judging by forum and FB chatter, I'm actually ahead of the curve on this one - that's ominous IMHO!

First off, BP and it's stable mates are a bit like Marmite - either loved, hated or just put with since we don't want to make it ourselves - in the war-game community.  I find that they give a good game and allow a fun game to be played out in an evening.  They are easy to pick up and that works well with new players those unfamiliar with the period in play.  Furthermore they give a good framework and allow the players to tailor them as desired.  Basically you can follow BP like my wife follows a cookbook recipe - keep to the way it's written the first time mostly and then mess around with it once you know how things work out.

I won't go through an in-depth review of changes, because I don't have time to do a side by side comparison, I play HC, P&S and BP and can't keep the subtle changes straight anyway and since we tend to work from the rulebook as we play anyway rather than rely on aging and fading memories.

Briefly here's the good points on the new edition.

  • Visually it's what you expect - high quality printing with lots of eye candy - too bad the proof reading wasn't up to the same production standard (see below).
  • It's well organized.  Hallelujah there's an index!!  I found it very easy to navigate and had no trouble finding the rules I wanted - often there's cross referencing.  Well done lads.
  • I like the selection of scenarios - a wide range covering mainstream and no so mainstream periods.  There's also some valuable design notes on fitting historical battles into war-games scenarios.  Well done again.
  • They've expanded the rules on Generals, adding personality traits and other features.  Most of us could do the same but it's useful to have the rulebook examples as a template to follow along or ignore as we wish.
  • Having pre-ordered my copy came with a lovely figure of Russell Crowe from Master and Commander.  He won't fit into my current projects, but he might appear if I get back into War of 1812.
There are various fine tunings along the way that seem to bring the mechanisms in line with BP's younger siblings HC and P&S.  The ones I noted based on my read through and from following interweb chatter are.

  • Artillery can now ignore skirmishers and fire on supports.
  • Enfilade fire now retools misses instead of rolling twice the dice.
  • Evade rules are more variable- you might get away or you might get caught.  Also I believe March columns can also evade.
  • I think there are subtle changes within the command rolls and unit characteristics but have better things to do that work them all out!
  • There are subtle changes to Irregular units, mostly who gets considered irregular.  In the Napoleonic age Riflemen and Voltigeurs count as irregular skirmishers which seems appropriate.  Furthermore in the 1815 rearguard scenario, both British and French Light Cavalry units are Irregular.  This is no hard and fast rule, but there's interesting scope for the scenario designer or tailor.

Ok now the not so good - the typos.  Here are the one's that jump out at me so far.

  • This one is just annoying and has no effect of play but on p19 a picture of two lovely Napoleonic Chasseurs a Coeval Cheval Elite Company is labeled as French Cuirassiers.  Seriously?   You couldn't find a proof reader with even a rudimentary knowledge of the most well studied army in your period? Not one of you read a Blandford or Osprey or bought a box of Airfix Waterloo French Cavalry?  Reminds me of the first club armour game I played as a 13 year old and I confused T34s with Stalins.
  • This one is far more serious.  On p49 the Morale Dice (Saving Throw) modifiers in the table are completely wrong - they cut and paste the mods from the command roll table.  After 5 minutes of WTFing about why distance from the General affected casualties I worked it out.  Luckily the table on the QRS got it right, and it hasn't changed from what we're familiar with.
  • The enfilade fire rule mentioned above is correct in the rulebook p53, but wrong on the QRS p96.  So now we're left with the conundrum of is the rule book right (as with enfilade) or the QRS (like Saving Throws)?
Frankly I am disappointed with Warlord over the typos.  Personally I am a typo machine (ask my students) and I can work with typos in a lot of the hobby press.  But this was a high production, big box store rule book from an outfit that occupies a leadership position in the hobby.  I expect high production, leadership type production quality in proofreading as well as glossy pictures.  Warlord are not a cottage industry or a hobby press, they need to pull up their socks.  I've yet to see an official errata sheet or FAQs and that needs to hit the web ASAP.

However, once the typos are worked out I'm sure that BP2 will generate lots of fun games and get a lot of usage.  Hopefully it will generate interest in the Horse and Musket period in the hobby.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Volontaires de l'armée Completed

It continues to be a bit of a slow slog on the painting desk, but there is progress and I finally got these guys finished this week.  Hopefully, life will return to the normal level of chaos and I can get some more painting time in over the next month.

In my earlier post I described how Volontaires de l'Armee were ad hoc units formed on campaign from regular infantry regiments and used as light infantry.  More details on these units can be at Kronoskaf.  I've used Front Rank French Regulars from their FIW range, as I think the stripped down uniform works well for these units, plus it gives them a distinctive look compared to formed battalions.  These guys have taken off their coats, showing their sleeved waistcoats.  Some hats have been replaced with forage caps or bandages, and they have added a hatchet to their kit. 

I quite like these FR figures, and there's a lot more variety of poses in their FIW range compared to the SYW range.  They painted up nicely and I'm pretty happy with the results. They will do well for Kliene Krieg actions with Sharp Pracice or larger actions using BP/HoW.  Now I just need to find those skirmish sabots I got from Warbases earlier this year...I know I put them away carefully.

Friday, September 7, 2018

On the Workbench Volontaires de l'armée

Having let the blog go dormant for waaaaay too long earlier this year I will be trying to keep up with it better this fall.  It's been two weeks since my last post, so figured I'd better get back with it.

I had hoped to go with these lads once they were finished, but real life kind of got in my way.  There fore I'll go with what's currently on the workbench.  This is a mostly finished unit of Volontaires de l'armée, French Light Infantry for my Seven Years War project.

The French army of the period formed a lot of irregular light infantry units, like the Chasseurs de Fischer, some being very god and others not so much.  They also formed ad-hoc groups of Voluntaires to perform similar tasks, the units being formed by detachments of soldiers "volontaired" from parent regiments.  The officers certainly did volunteer for these units as they gave ambitious young men lacking social standing a chance to shine, I suspect they just hand picked the men from their own companies.  Typically the ad hoc units were named after the commanding officer.  later in the SYW, several regiments formed more permanent chasseur companies to perform similar roles, which would eventually lead to the Voltigeur companies familiar to Napoleonic gamers.

I've painted this lot of 18 as members of the Orleans regiment, although they could be from any one of several regiments with the identical regimentals.  The figures are Front Rank from their FIW range, and are depicted in campaign dress.  They have removed their coats and operated in sleeved red waistcoats and have modified their kit to suit an independent role.  I figure that they will do very well as a unit of light infantry on table.

Still to be finished are touch ups and details on the face and hands, adding brass buttons and basework.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pooltime Ponderings on Recent Italian Wars Game

It being summer I get my my regular exercise swimming laps in my local outdoor public pool.  I show up when it opens at 8am with a bunch of older and grumpier old farts and then head off to what ever office I'm haunting for the rest of the day.  This morning while getting my cardio in under clear blue Prairie skies I did some pondering about the recent game that I GM'd.  There were two problems encountered - slow deployment times and too much disruption - under the Pike and Shotte/Black Powder/Hail Caesar system.  Here's what my oxygen starved brain came up with.

Slow Deployment From Column of March
The issue here is that for the scenario I wanted to have the attacked deal with the issue of entering on in column of match and deploying on the go.  But with basic P&S movement rates this becomes a slow process, especially when the columns have to deploy. 

In this particular scenario had I let the attackers come on deployed they likely would have rolled over the defenders.  I also have issues with too perfect deployments when historically sub commands showed up early, late or in the wrong place on occasion. So incorporating some ideas filched from Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules, here's how I would approach this scenario next time under P&S/BP/HC.

I'll use this map as a reference.

  1. The attacker puts his units into divisions and gives an order of march for  the units within divisions and for the divisions themselves.
  2.  The defender plots his deployment up to line X on the map, keeping units in cover or dead ground (including everything behind line Z)  off board.
  3. The attacker then gives orders to each of his divisions subject to the restrictions of his deployment move below.  So given Curt's order of march we might have something like.  "The cavalry division advances and deploys on the front slope of the hill facing X on the map.  The main body deploys and advances to a position just north of the woods in the pass.  The rear division advances onto the northern hill and then deploys."
  4. The attacker then moves his divisions on one by one according to his order of march.  They get a special deployment move equal to X plus the number of moves indicated by a command roll.  So for this action I might make X=2 and then each division would have between 2-5 moves to make based on their command roll.  To avoid getting too cheesy I'd restrict these so that they couldn't close to withing musket range (16") of the enemy, so that the defender has a bit of a chance to react as they come on.
  5. Each deployment move would be a regular infantry move (8" for our P&S games).  Each column would enter in column of march and need to deploy, this taking one move to deploy a whole division.  Cavalry would be moving at a walk, but an all cavalry division could make a free deployment.
  6. The orders should note when deployment takes place.  Given the sample orders above a bad roll (i.e. 2 moves) would see the centre division deploy then move 8" on table.  On the same result the rear division would move two moves (16") without deploying.
  7. Blunders on a deployment could see a division be delayed, too far left or right or too far ahead depending on the result.
  8. The defender gets to go next and for each division can elect to either have one move without a command roll, or take their chances on a command roll.  This allows them to reposition as the enemy advances and possibly get some shooting in.
The same thing could be used with reinforcements arriving from off table, where the entry point is some distance away from the enemy.-

Too Many Disorders
Under the P&S/BP/HC any natural 6s on shooting cause a disorder, preventing the target unit from doing anything in their next move.  This seems to cause the attacker's a undue hardship in the recent game - Stacey rolled many 6s leaving the attackers effectively pinned in a fire zone at times.  I am thinking of letting the target unit taking an immediate save roll against disorder once all the shooting on the unit is completed.  This lets better troops more likely to shrug off disorder while inferior troops will be more likely to be disordered.  I think that there may be two exceptions when no save roll is permitted.  First, any units charging into contact are auto-disorder by fire.  Second, any unit taking two or more disorder results in shooting are also auto disordered.

Any that's what my brain came up to this morning, we'll see what a night's sleep does with these ideas.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Pike and Shotte Game - Pass Clearance

This Friday I GM'd an Italian Wars game at Curt's using Pike and Shotte.  Curt's Imperialists were tasked with clearing a pass defended by my Italian forces.  The Scenario was "Pass Clearance" from CS Grant's "Programmed War-games Scenarios".  Followers of Curt's AHPC blog will recognize many of the units from the past 3 challenges.  Curt and Jeremy took the attackers and Stacy the defenders, although he offered me the command of his reserve which I gladly took.

The defender's map - 16th century mapping skills being what they were, the actually terrain was somewhat different.  The attackers enter on the left, the defenders deploy on the centre and right sections.  The right hand section is dead ground until the attackers enter the middle section.

In the end the game was a bit of a disappointment, due to a combination of bad dice rolling and poor GMing on my part.   However it made good eye candy.

Defenders in the middle of the pass.  We used all of Curt's hills but could have used more. 

Defenders from the other flank.  The units placed in front of the village are occupying the buildings.

Curt's lead battalia of Cavalry enters.

Close up of Curt's superbly painted and based Gendarmes complete with mutts!

Stradiots make a charge of Italian men at arms.

And get repulsed.  Worth a gamble as it would have saved time.

The man in deep thought.  Cavalry splitting off to the flanks while the first pike block enters.

The hosts move forward.  Curt's pike block's are particularly impressive.  The red exclamation marks disorder caused by shooting, more on this later!

I'll own up to the first game issue.  I like the Table Top Teaser games especially when they include pre contact manoeuvre and wanted to get this on table so had the attackers enter in column of units from the board edge.  With the P&S command rolls movement is variable.  Curt and Jeremy managed a lot of "one move only rolls" which meant the pike columns plodded forward 6" per turn making for a loooong approach march.  Given the inflexible nature of these armies it would have been better to let them deploy on table or at least enter deployed.  But a couple of good rolls would have had the pike behemoths on top of the defenders and a very quick attacker victory.  In the end I'll chalk this up to a mix of rules quirks, bad dice and GM incompetence.

The lead Swiss pike block approaches the Italian MAAs, while the Italian reserve hustles up from the rear (I did get a 3 move roll!).  Note the blood chits marking shooting casualties which mounted quickly.
Shooting and especially disorder caused by shooting was another source of table top friction.  My Italian army is very shot heavy and their close fighting infantry is easy pickings for Swiss pikes.  Stacey had very,very good dice rolls consistently getting one or more hits plus disorder on two dice (in P&S 4+ causes a hit, 6 causes disorder).  With the slow approach slog and good shooting rolls, the casualties mounted quickly.  Worse still the disorder results stopped units in their tracks and prevent movement for a whole turn making the approach march even slower and giving the defenders more shots!  This was particularly a problem when the head of the column took the disorder.

It's finally coming up to a decision point.  The Swiss are about to steamroller the MAA while the other pikes deploy.  Note the disorder on the Gendarmes in front - this was rallied off at the end of every attacker turn only to come back when the defender's shot again!

Game end.  The Swiss vaporized the pole armed MAAs but took enough casualties to become shaken and then were charged by pikes.  The Swiss broke and Curt declared the game over!

Once the Swiss were gone, Curt had enough and called it a night.   It had been frustrating for him given the slow approach and the shooting results, but I think he quit too early.  He had several large pike blocks in excellent shape and the defenders were looking thin on the ground,  Their pole arms were gone, their pikes were worn down and they had nothing to stand up to Swiss and Lanschenkt pike blocks.

Scenario design wise there is an imbalance between our two armies that I'm struggling with.  Curt's is very strong in melee infantry - as it should be.  Mine is weak in melee infantry and strong in missile troops - as it should be.  When we fight a set piece, Curt rolls over my infantry line PDQ.  When we fight a manoeuvre battle, the shooting does Curt in before he gets to grips with my army.

For this scenario I should have let Curt deploy his first battalia on table and have the remaining battalias deployed behind them.   And if he ever let's me run a smilier Grant scenario again that's what I'll do.   Otherwise we'll do a set piece battle next time.  He'll steamroller me in 3 turns and then we can hit the Chianti big time!  It'll be great.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Travel Reading Pt 2

I picked this up in Waterstone's in Chichester.  It's a mark of how busy our trip was that we were in the UK for 18 days before setting foot in a bookshop!  Excellent stuff and tons of source material for gaming.  Grab your cup of mead and get ready for an adventure.

The cast of characters is truly epic.  Saints galore - Columba, Wilfrid, Cuthbert and plus Oswald himself.  Panda of Mercia and Sutton Hoo man himself also appear on the pages, and the Venerable Bede is a key source.  We're talking wild and wooly stories in the gray area between history and myth, the ear that inspired Tolkien.

There's source material for a fantasy series, an epic RPG campaign,  or wargaming on multiple scale -  Dux Brittarium, SAGA, Hail Caesar or old school WRG.  Speaking of WRG, if your recall Phil Barker's throw away comments in many of the dark age army lists - many of these occur in this story.