Monday, December 30, 2013

War of 1812 Black Powder Ideas

As my recent Painting Challenge entry shows, I'm dusting off my War of 1812 collections and plans.  Gaming wise, I like the simplicity and flexibility of the Black Powder system so will use this as my starting point.  One feature that really appeals is that a "unit" can represent a battalion for larger actions and a company or detachment for a small actions.

Most frustrations with BP deal with the orders and activation phase, which lead to all or nothing results that differ from command to command.  Perversely I think that this works for 1812 where nothing seemed to go according to plan.  However, I think I'll graft on the old chestnut of the Control Check from RossMac's With MacDuff to the Frontier rules.  Any command that fails it's Order rest rolls a d6 with results as follows.

  • 1-2 Unit may make a single move but may not advance
  • 3-4 Unit may make a single move as ordered.
  • 5-6 Unit continues its last move (e.g. units in a fire fight stand and shoot)
Once a commander fails an order test, any units without orders will also take a control check.

The other nice feature of BP is the "selection of useful rules" used to differentiate between unit qualities.  My first cut on applying this to 1812 goes as follows.

Redcoats:  By this I mean the numbered British regiments of foot who are acting as a collection of companies as a line infantry unit.  Basically, these are units who are trained to fight in the line of battle like Wellington's troops and include officers and NCOs with line of battle experience.  I don't include small detachments, composite units from several battalions, detached light companies, foreign and fencible regiments, royal marines or the Royal Veteran battalions.  The BP rules First Fire (extra fire dice on first contact)Reliable (+1 on command rolls), and Elite (may recover disorder on a 4+ without rallying) would apply to these units to give them an edge in fire fights and more likely to follow orders.  The BP  Mixed Formation (detached skirmishers)would not apply since they detached their light companies to skirmish.  Also the  Form Square (as a charge response) would not apply in North America - the one cavalry charge in the war was repulsed by fire from redcoats in line.

Regulars:  This includes most U.S. infantry regiments, US artillery serving as infantry, Canadian Fencible regiments, permanent Canadian (i.e. Incorporated and Select) militia units, marines acting as line infantry, Swiss and any British units not meeting the definition of redcoats.  These units are bog standard BP units who may used the Mixed Formation  (they frequently detached pickets) but can't use the Form Square rule.  US units trained by Winfield Scott prior to the 1814 Niagara campaign would get the First Fire bonus.

Regular Light Infantry: This includes detached British light companies, Canadian Fencible light infantry, US Rifle regiments, and infantry detachments acting as standalone roles.  They can Skirmish and have the Marauder (ignore distance penalties on command rolls) rule.  These would typically be small units.  Some units might get the Sharp Shooters rule (re-roll 1 missed shot) but I'd use this infrequently for flavour in particular scenarios.  The US Rifle regiments have rifles, but everyone else uses muskets.

Regular Light Cavalry: This includes British and US light dragoons, but not militia units.  They can Skirmish and have the Marauder (ignore distance penalties on command rolls) rule.  These would be small units.

Artillery: I would include not only regular artillerymen but also militia, sailors and marines manning guns.  No need for special rules here, although Crack and Stubborn could give morale bonuses for occasional scenario flavour.  There was a big range in gun calibre used (6-24 pounders) so pick your gun ranges to suit.  The smaller units mean that some howitzers (and mortars) can be used, and don't forget the marine rocket batteries.

Next time around we'll look at militia and irregular units...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

War of 1812 Trojan Greens

I signed up for Curt's 4th Painting Challenge, but was much later off the starting line than many others.  I plead an acute case of real life - 120 Stats papers, 30 Financial mathematics papers, swapping the furniture between two bedrooms in our house and the return of our daughter after a storm delayed flight home from University.  I swear that Curt sets the timing up to put me at a maximum disadvantage - really Curt I have both Final exams and Christmas to deal with.  

Anyway, this year I've decided to keep my submissions to bite sized morsels rather than full meals.  First up are these 8 members of the Trojan Greens, a War of 1812 Militia unit from upstate New York. Figures are kit bashed from the Perry 28mm plastic dismounted French Dragoons.  Construction wise I quite like the Perry plastics, but I am rather ham-fisted in my approach.  

In this case, the major bashing involved trimming the boot detail off of the rank and filers to represent trousers.  I left the officer in boots and breaches as this seems to be a unit composed of uppity upstate mucky-mucks, and I figured that the officers would be trumped up Johnnies who would dress like gentry.  Otherwise, I swapped in arms from the mounted figures for the trumpeter and officer.  I left them with the cavalry belts and cartage box, I'm sure a button counter will tell me that's not accurate but it works.  

I don't have a lot of info about the unit - they were rifled armed and from the Albany area.  They appear to have served along the St. Lawrence frontier and I believe that they were one of the volunteer units that existed pre-war - with the members providing their own uniforms and drilling on their own time.  I found a uniform plate here, and references here about an existing officer's coat.  The black belts on black facing and plastron always blurs details but I think that the yellow lace shows the difference well enough for my purposes.  I am not 100% happy with my lace work, but decided it was close enough and experience has told me that fussing about with yellow on black just makes things worse.  There is a similar black on black effect with the helmets and crests, but I find that a wash effect on the horse hair shows a difference in texture to get the effect reasonably.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A New Christmas CD Brings Out a Flood of Teenage Memories

If you are British and of a certain age with a certain taste in music, then you likely had a Nick Lowe LP or two.

I'm not really a Brit, OK half my DNA and my birth certificate are British but I've been west of the pond for 46 years.  However, I grew up in Halifax NS, a city that has always had ties with the UK and in the late 70s I was able to go to England quite often to get to know my dad.

So many memories wrapped up in this. I first woke up to new music that wasn't on the radio in 1978 and Nick Lowe was on my playlist a lot. The song was heavy on the family bonfire sing-a-long playlist. His new Christmas album is "Quality Street", a brand of chocolates that was always present at family gatherings. And Letterman's morning show had a direct impact on my attendance in first year English class…

Nick Lowe on Letterman

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Analogue Hobbies Challenge

So once again I've signed myself up for Curt's Painting Challenge.  Hopefully, I do better this year than the complete fizzle I achieved last year (I don't wanna talk about it….).  I've given myself a modest target of 500 points, with the following plans in hand.
  1. War of 1812 British/Canadian and US armies using Perry and Victrix plastics including some kit bashing head swaps and modeller's licence (and maybe some red wine).
  2. WW2 Naval odds and sods - 1:1200 planes and a few 1:2400 ships.
  3. El Cid era odds and sods 28mm.
  4. Other Naval (more to be revealed).
The start date for the Challenge is tomorrow (Dec 15th)….but the start date for me will be some what later (a week or two likely).  I could be jealous of those who are able to jump right in on the 15th but will try and placate myself with the lie that I have more of a life than they do.  Actually what i do have is two University classes writing final exams this week coming (the 17th and the 18th) and a daughter returning from her first year away at University.

So fellow challenges (sp?) - while you're happily painting away think of me slaving away at 130 first year STATs papers and have a glass of red wine for me. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering the Halifax Explosion

My grandmother was a high school student in downtown Halifax that day.  She was saved because her school was protected by the near by Citadel Hill which deflected the blast above the school

Vintage Halifax Photos

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Photos of Our Recent Convoy Action

British Convoy en route to the Med.  Stacey nicely convoyed gluten free provisions visible in the background.

Convoy from down low

The might of the Italian Navy at sea!!

Fortified by wine, Stacey plots his move.
The fleets converge (I'm not sure why either side tried to close so much, but who am I to argue)

There's a gonna be a fight here partner.

Sylvain mulls over his options and his wine.

Smoke - a dastardly British trick!

Getting closer while Sylvain gets closer to the snacks.

The sea is really rolling at this angle.

Red arrows mark the British torpedoes - red smoke from the Trento signals a hit!  I'm not sure of the wisdom of the DD captain who turned back towards his own fish trails.

Same scene from above.

Italian Attack on A British Convoy

It's been a long time since I put on a miniatures game mostly due to REAL LIFE imposing it's ugly head on my important business.  Well last night I brought out my 1:2400 WW2 ships and we fought a convoy action.  And I have to say that my rustiness showed - but we did get a good if much bloodier game than I expected.

Sylvain took the Royal Navy side and was assigned a small convoy of 5 merchantmen escorted by;

  • HMS Carlisle an old WW1 cruiser refitted with 4" AA guns
  • HMS Manxman the fast minelayer/AA cruiser/fast transport/jack of all trades
  • 3 H class destroyers
  • 3 Hunt class destroyer escorts
  • Readers with keen memories might recognize this as the covering force that Curt used when we fought our larger convoy action against the Kriegsmarine.
  • Originally I had intended to have a covering force of 4 RN cruisers and 6 DDs (3 Tribal and 3 J class) to play the part of the cavalry and arrive part way through the action.  However this was downsized to 2 cruisers on sober second sight when I starting laying the ships out on the table and these never made it on table.

Stacey took the Italian Side with the following forces

  • the cruisers Gorizia, Trento  (both 8") and Bande Nere (6")
  • 3 Soldati class DDs
  • 3 Navagatori class DDSs
  • Again readers might recognize this force as being approximately 1/2 of the forces from the Savos Island games.  
  • Once again, the other half of the Savos Island RMI forces were intended to be on table but got downsized on reflection.
The RN arrived on the east end of the table and were intercepted by the Italians from their Northwest.  The convoy had to get across the table to exit on the west edge.  The RMI were given orders not to take serious damage, and couldn't follow off the west edge for fear of land based air on Malta.

Rules were of course GQIII and despite my rustiness, the lads made a good fight of it.  In the end the two sides closed far too close with the Italians trashing most of the escort at the cost of hull damage to 2 cruisers and several destroyers.  At this point I ruled that both sides would retreat, the convoy back to the east to fall back on the distant escort and the raiders to nurse the cruisers back to home ports.

Photos to follow…oh yes the action included a collision between two cruisers and an intention ramming attempt.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Defeat of the Auld Enemy

I should have posted this last week.  Readers will be glad to hear that my wife took the initiative to dispatch the cabbage while I was at work and the cabbage rolls were in the oven when I came home.

The cabbage rolls were delicious and no actuaries or wargamers were injured in the process.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Return of the Auld Enemy

Yes it's harvest time so this week at the market I got another killer cabbage for cabbage rolls.  Wish me luck as I prepare for the upcoming knife fight with the beast.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

OMG An Actual Miniatures Game!

After what seems like an eon, I finally played a mini game this week.  Pics and story over at Curt's featuring his lovely SCW figs.

We took  my daughter off to Halifax to install her in residence on the Labour Day weekend.  It was a hectic week since we picked Katie up from work at 4:30 Wednesday and caught the overnight flight at 7!  We spent the week buying stuff for residence and trying to navigate narrow Halifax streets in our rent-a-mammoth SUV.  We flew out the next Wednesday so that I could stagger into class on Thursday am.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Donald Featherstone RIP

I've noted a number of blog postings this morning about the passing of Donald Featherstone at 95.  Like many others, my introduction to wargaming came from Don's books which appeared on my library records many times during my teenaged years.

On other fronts it's been a busy few weeks with family stuff, but things should return to something close to "Normal" now that the Fall semester is starting.  I played one game in the last 6 weeks, but hope to have more to blog on shortly.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Colonial or Funny Little Wars Inspiration

Quality is not great I am afraid - taken on my IPhone, it was hot and there was sangria involved!

Contrary to what some wags would say this is not the latest in Canadian Military fashion and weaponry.  Those are bolt action rifles and a MLR artillery piece dating from the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.

It's been a busy musical period in the Queen City this past 10 days.  Last Friday - Sunday it was the Folk Festival with some pretty good headliners.  We passed on this as we had McCartney tickets, but caught Neko Case and Rosanne Cash in a free set on Sunday pm and they were both wonderful.  Wednesday was Sir Paul and then yesterday was the Regina Symphony Orchestra's free outdoor concert in the park.

Which brings us to the photos above.  The concert ended (as always) with the 1812 Overture which requires things that make large booms.  Most years the RSO gets help from the Army lads (although one year they gave the audience members paper bags to burst in unison on cue).  This year however, the bangs came courtesy of the RCMP who arrived in full dress.  The RCMP has both it's training depot and its Heritage Centre (where the MLR lives) in Regina.  This is still the dress uniform and we do get to see it reasonably often in Regina - often at the airport when new officers meet their parents arriving for graduation.

Hat's off to the guys and gal, who were happy to pose for photos, interact with dogs and kids and made appropriate bangs for Mr. Tchaikovsky.  And most of all managed not to keel over from heat stroke since it was 35C with 50% humidity.  My wife and I were melting in loose cotton and the RCMP was in Red serge, leather knee high boots and leather gloves.  The only thing remotely climate appropriate was the hat which while felt at least kept the sun out of their eyes.

Anyway it was a nice afternoon out - we brought a yummy picnic including sangria and met up with our daughter after her work shift ended.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Way off Topic - McCartney Concert

It's been slow on the gaming and modelling front of later.  I've not played a game for 3 weeks due to other commitments and the household is focused on getting our daughter ready for University.

However, this week I did a chance to see one of my childhood heroes in concert as Paul McCartney was in town and played at Taylor Field (the home of the local football team).  It was an amazing show - a 3 hour sing along and he and his band sounded great.  I home that I have half his energy when I hit 71!
Photos from the Ministry of Truth (or the CBC)

We told our daughter - look if your learned to play the bagpipes you could have been on stage with Sir Paul
The wife of a former student gets Paul to sign her wrist - it was turned into a tattoo within an hour.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Reading Shelf

This week I've been reading

Or as my family calls it the Cyberman book!!

Anyway it's very good, if off my current painting and gaming areas (must resist).  It's a big canvas covering the Late Roman (i.e. Byzantine), Sassanid and Arab empires and touches on a lot.  Much of the book is about the development of the key religions during late antiquity and the interactions between religion and state politics.

A topic that I found interesting was the fate of some of the lesser known sects and religions that lost out in the politics.  I had encountered Manichaeism and Nestorian Christians in earlier readings about the Silk road, and it was interesting to find out where they came from before they self-exiled themselves to Central Asia.

So far I'm half way through and still haven't hit the conquests of Belisarius, Heraclius or Muhammad and his followers.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cool Site on Hoplites

Last week my wife and I took a day trip to Saskatoon (2.5 hrs away) to visit Lee Valley Tools and McNally Robinson books two fine stores which we lack in Regina.  The morning was spent in Lee Valley buying watering system gadgets for our garden and drooling over wood carving tools (must resist a new expensive, messy and time consuming hobby with the danger of self injury).  Then we went to the bookstore, where I found (but did not buy) a book that hit both my wargaming and wife's sewing hobbies.  A How to on making linen body armour.  A quick google search led to this site by the prof at UWGB who co-wrote the book.

Also we have a how to poster  and a pattern.

So what if I get my wife who sews to make me a Linothorax?  Then I get my 18 year old (who teaches at a sports camp including archery) to shoot arrows at me while I wear said armour to test it out?  Ok maybe we'll keep this on the drawing board for a while.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Readings and Ramblings

So the recent Hail Caesar game got me thinking more about my ancient (mid 80s) greek armies.  I could have sworn that I had a bag of left over Greeky bits (odd figures and spare Rafm spares) but I thorough scrounge through the spares and unpainted piles came up short.  So back to the drawing board on getting new figs....Maybe when the kid is off at uni I can justify a small order.

Meanwhile I been trying to figure out how to base my units for Hail Caesar.  No firm decisions on questions like 16 or 24 man units?  2 or 3 ranks deep?  Use the official HC 20mm per fig or the existing 15mm per man frontage?  Oh well.

On the plus side I've been reading!

Highly recommended - if majorly depressing.  It's always a wonder that those darned meddling Hellenes managed to buy their hatchets long enough to turf the Persians out of Greece.  Any way I learned that the Hoplite class was real read and needed to be burly to cart that panoply about.  Plus apparently olive trees are really tough to get rid of (the author tried to take out old fruit trees on his land and broke his axe).  While the big hoplite clashes were limited, there's plenty of scenario based stuff to work with.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hail Caesar Thoughts

OK so we've played several games of HC so far, and so it giving fun games and the basic system works well.  We've used it for encounter games using cavalry heavy armies (El Cid era) and a slug fest using infantry heavy armies (ancient Greeks).

Probably the most controversial aspect of these rules (and their sister set Black Powder) is the "all or nothing" movement which randomly leads to some troops moving lots and others staying put.  Having played through a few games I've decided that overall I like the movement/command roles much as I find them frustrating at times.  Of course I've been GMing rather than playing and I might find it more frustrating as a player.

Some thoughts on making the system work.

  1. Use a big table, specifically one with depth (or cut the movements rates to match your table depth).  That way troops have to make a few movements before coming in contact.  That gives the attackers a couple movement rolls which tends to average out the "all or nothing" rolls.  And if one division moves in contact faster than the rest of the team, well there's plenty of historical precedent for that stuff.
  2. Give each player a couple of divisions to run.  That way it's likely that every one gets to do something each turn - and if they roll really badly send them on a beer run while every one else moves.
  3. Make sure to remember the General re-roll rule (one that we tend to forget in the heat of dice rolling) or mulligan.  Once per turn the CinC can reroll a failed movement roll.
  4. Encourage the players to make division moves at least in the early stages.  It doesn't reduce the probability of a no move turn, but it does increase the expected number of units that get to move (Ok that's the actuary talking).  Plus it prevents the division getting disjointed, like the last game when one of Sylvain's pike blocks blundered through another pike unit.  Also that's how armies move - in big blocks - and the rules are flexible to allow let units reposition themselves along the way.
  5. Use the "special rules" to your benefit.  Troops in column get a free move on a failure.  Drilled and eager troops get free moves too.  Upgrading a General from an 8 to a 9 increases your movement rates and likelihoods.  Similarly remember to use the penalties for the inferior troops (militia and levy rules).   And recall that once you get within 12", you can move once on initiative.
  6. Sometimes the dice know better that you do!  It sucks but sometimes sitting tight where you are or a sudden blunder move to one flank is exactly what the doctor ordered (see the example below).
  7. Read your history - especially the primary sources- before you vent off about how "that would never happen in reality".  Two things become abundantly clear about ancient and medieval battles.   The first is that no one really knows what happened as the source descriptions are brief, often incomplete (dang those Christians who burnt the library in Alexandria), full of propaganda and focus on individual heroics rather than command control.  And really it is an educated guess as to how the battles unfolded.  You can find some very scholarly debates about the better known and documented battles (Marathon, Gaugamela, Hastings).  In a lot of cases we still can't be sure where they happened let alone how they played out.
  8. The second thing that is clear from the sources is that command control sucked back then.  Units show up (or not) in the wrong place and at the wrong time with great frequency, and yes stand about examining their own navels at the most annoying times.  So accept your bad rolls as fate, karma or the will or the gods.  Be philosophical, enjoy your beer and deal with it!

As noted above the ancient sources are notoriously scanty on details.  But later on, we get much better documentation of what happened at the command level.  Plus we get armies with better command control and better time pieces (this actually is important in figuring out what happened, and when and where it did).  And guess what we still get lots of examples of "failed command rolls".  Here's the classic case - so classic that it appears in one of the great novels.  So taken from Mr. Tolstoy we have what Christopher Duffy calls one of the most famous exchanges in military history (from the morning of Austerlitz).

"Why aren't you beginning, Michael Ilarionovich?" said the Emperor Alexander hurriedly to Kutuzov, glancing courteously at the same time at the Emperor Francis.

"I am waiting, Your Majesty," answered Kutuzov, bending forward respectfully. "Not all the columns have formed up yet, Your Majesty."

"You know, Michael Ilarionovich, we are not are not on the Empress' Field where a parade does not begin till all the troops are assembled," said the Tsar 

"That is just why I do not begin, sire," said Kutuzov in a resounding voice, apparently to preclude the possibility of not being heard, and again something in his face twitched- "That is just why I do not begin, sire, because we are not on parade and not on the Empress' Field." 

Remember this conversation the next time that you fail a command roll.  And while you are at it, recall that although the Allied plans (and Napoleon's plans to boot) Kutusov's column was to have cleared the Pratzen heights and join the attack on Napoleon's right flank.  Instead they ended up sitting tight in exactly the right place and time to meet Soult's assault.  If more columns had failed their command rolls the battle might have gone very differently!  In fact I'd suggest a read (or reread) of Duffy's Austerlitz book for any war gamer who entertains any idea of command control.  If Napoleonic armies blunder about like that, how can we possibly expect ancient and medieval armies to run by clockwork?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When Spouses Hobbies Have Common Goals

So long story short, I have a 9x5' wargaming table in my basement !!!!!!  And my wife likes it too!!! It's in the form of the old classic the folding ping pong table.

My wife and I have been clearing out our basement of accumulated stuff.  One of her goals was to clear enough floor space so that she could set up a table to hold quilts so that she could sew the batting and backing on the tops she has finished.  Having got to the point this weekend that that looked to be doable, we started a conversation about tables....

After a prior go through she had used my wargaming terrain boards (2" thick pink Styrofoam insulation) on top of a smaller table.  My old board had died and gone to the dump after a basement disaster so we had to price things out.  It turns out insulation prices have gone up and it would cost us $75 to buy enough foam for a 8x6 table (the size calculated to fit both quilting and gaming needs).  At this point Lynne says "gee a wonder how much a used ping pong table goes for?"

So you know where this is going I am sure but the sequence is...(the serendipity is quite marvellous at certain stages)

  1. A check of Kijigi showed a used table going for $10 provided we took it this weekend- the add was 29 minutes old.
  2. The table was owned by a long time sewer who bought it 40 years ago for her daughter but now used it for cutting cloth.  Daughter and family were in town for the weekend, clearing mum's house out so that she could downsize to a new apartment hence the need for speed.  Daughter could sell it since it was originally hers.  Mum was sorry to see it go but was happy it went to a sewer.
  3. Having no friends on quick call that both owned a truck and had a positive "favour" balance in our favour, we rented a Uhaul Pickup for $4 for "$19.99" OK $50 when you add in insurance, mileage charges and taxes.  Throw in $10 for gas and we're still under the cost of a flimsy Styrofoam table.
  4. The thunderstorms cleared away en route the table, sellers hubby had returned from the hardware store in table to disassemble the table and help us get it into the truck and our teenager arrived home from work just in time to help get the table downstairs.  
  5. This morning my daughter and I got the table together, but just as I was tightening joints a loose joint caused it to flip over and the half the table top came loose.  
  6. Quick use of and my daughter's new St John's ambulance training fixed my scraped knuckle, since I made my blood sacrifices to the gods of handy work when the table flipped.
  7. But quick use of my limited carpentry skills (I am mechanically declined) fixed the table.
  8. Bingo!!! 

Old School Figures

Well when I hauled the ancient Hellenes out of their box, it was a real walk down memory lane.  The figures (and paint jobs) are mostly 25-30 years old but mostly stood up well.  Here are a few thoughts about the old school figures - which almost all true 25mm as opposed to the 28mm guys who had taken over since that time.

Ral Partha
At one time these were the bulk of my figures.   You can still find their historicals on ebay etc, but they don't seem to be made anymore (unlike the fantasy ranges).  This is probably just as well!  There are some very good figures in the range, but there are a lot of oddities in gear, clothing, anatomy and clothing.  However, picking through the better figures they certainly fill out the numbers well.  I have strong attachments to my Rhodians (the RP Balearic slingers) which are nice figures and the first ever 25mm ancient unit I ever painted.

Rafm Multiparts
Still available (here) and many of them standing up well.  These came with separate weapons, shields and heads which mean that you can combine packs (and get separate packs of heads) to get a variety of equipment.  For a phalanx that means getting a range of helmets. The phalanx and skirmishers work really well, although for hoplites the lack of a Corinthian helmet sucks.  The cavalry figures are wimpy and static so not really worth the bother, but the heffalumps are wonderful!  These guys need some TLC as they lose not only spears and shields but also heads!

Ok can we get any more old school than Minifigs?  Still to be found here.  These are like Marmite (google it you non-Brits) but I like 'em.  The castings are old, lacking the details and posing found today.   But they have a real toy soldier feel and with the right paint job they look wonderful - especially in phalanxes.

Likely the least well known figures in my collection, but I like them.  I had to google them, but found that they are still available as the Skyraider range.  These are nice figures with some useful poses and a decent range and the best cavalry figures in my army.  The major issue is that the original Corvus range featured soft metal weapons, OK for a xyston or javelin but an epic fail for a sarrissa.  The actual pikes were wonderfully cast with accurate head, butt spikes and central join but soft metal doesn't cut it.  Stacy dubbed these the wet noodle brigade and that about says it.  So I'll be at them with the brass rod!

Take your opinion of Minifigs and go to its polar opposite and that's likely how you feel about this well known range.  These were among the first of the Cro-Magnon 28mm that muscled the Neanderthal 25mm off the evolutionary path.   I have some, I still field them but wouldn't want any more.  They dwarf my other figures and I don't really like the sculpting and poses.  Plus the equipment is more Hellenistic and Greek and Persian wars era.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Kicking Old School Style With the Ancient Greeks

So last night my vintage 1980s Greek and Pyrrhic armies hit the field of battle for a game of Hail Caesar.

The scenario was the Broken Ground (Scenario 2) from CS Grant's "Programmed Wargames Scenarios".  The Spartans had 3 units of Spartan Hoplites, 3 of Allied Hoplites plus 3 units peltasts and one unit each of javelins, cavalry and Rhodians.  They were split into Spartan and allied divisions and were defending a set of hills controlling two exits off of the southern board edge.

Pyrrhus had  a phalanx including 5 units of phalangites and 1 of levy hoplites.  Support troops included 2 units each of peltasts,elephants, skirmisher units (Cretans and javelins), light cavalry and heavy cavalry.  The cavalry were all in one division led by the man himself and the others divided evenly into two phalanx divisions.  Pyrrhus needed to capture the hills controlling the exits.

One of my go to sources for wargames ideas.  Do you self a favour and pick yourself a copy.

Photos are from my iPhone hence the quality.  These were taken late in the day.

On the right, Pyrrhus (Stacy) is attacking Curt's Spartan line while in the centre my allied hoplites are giving Sylvain's phalanx a rough ride, while my figure rounds up a sheep!

Close up of the allied hoplites vs Sylvain's infantry.

What a scrum!  Hoplites, phalangites, light cavalry, peltasts and elephants all in contact.  My allied cavalry looks on.

Curt's Peltasts take on Stacy's heffalump!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fletcher Pratt Outdoors

Looks like Tim Gow has followed our local gamers' lead by taking Mr. Pratt outdoors.

Now of course, real men would have experienced the North Atlantic conditions that we played in


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Big Lee, Considered Yourself Pimped

Ok, besides shameless selling my soul for the chance of getting free swag, there are reasons to plug
Big Lee.  His blog is both educational and entertaining.  Go check it out.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Who Put These Guys In Charge of Western Civilization

Recently I've been (slowly) reading the following books.  Both are highly recommended.

Of course the companion to these is the original source.  I really like the Landmark edition with its maps, pictures and articles.

Most of my readings of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea were very wargames focused - high on tactics and strategy but lacking much of the historical context.  It was therefore to remind myself just how tenuous the Greek states were, especially Athens.  Also despite knowing how the film turns out, it is clear that the result was very much up in the air and the odds favoured the Persians.

Time to haul out the 1980s vintage ancient Greeks methinks.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day!!

My Canada plans involved pottering around the back garden.  However, I decided to yield ground to the tree expert so that he can have room to swing a chain saw on a 10 foot pole.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Odd Headlines - You Can't Make This Sh*t Up

I don't know about any one else but the first thought to my mind on reading this was to ask it if was a whomping willow

Flying car crashes near Vernon, B.C., school

Thursday, May 9, 2013

WWII Naval - Thoughts on Night Actions

Recently I ran two games featuring night actions - or more properly I ran the same game twice.   I thought I would commit some afterthoughts to the virtual paper in the Ethernet.

  • An umpire is really, really helpful with any game featuring hidden movement or fog of war elements.  Clearly a naval night action needs both (as do day actions in limited visibility like North Sea fog).  In our group, we typically use a non-player GM for most scenarios so this was an automatic for us.  In the past I've often had the GM take an active role, but I have to say I find the "neutral" GM leads to a much better game.  Furthermore, it's fun to be the GM and not just so you can see heckle both sides afterwards.

  • We used dummy counters and pre-plotted movement prior to sighting as per the GQIII rule book.  It worked really well and the element of surprise was there until the moment that the last dummy was removed.

  • In each of the two games we had newbies playing and (because I am a sadistic so-and-so) I gave them the no-hoper Italians.  Actually, the GQ rule book suggests that newbies take the RMI or early war USN and the old salts take the IJN or RN.  It does simulate the lack of experience in the crews and also gives a pretty easy hurdle to jump over in some cases!  However, our landsmen acquitted themselves well.

  • In this particular case, it helped to have the newbies play the more passive roles - in this case steaming on fixed patrols.  It gave them less things to screw up and also gave them a few turns to learn the system. I continued this for the first couple of turns after sighting (that is after the RMI saw anything - the RN typically spots stuff much earlier), by having the old salts plot their movements and then we walked the newbies through moving their ships.  In no time at all, the new hands were able to solo.

  • I did not use the fratricide rules from GQ - although there were a  couple of instances where there probably should have been the potential for "friendly fire".  To be honest, it was a combination of faulty memory and a wish to be kind to players (and the GM).  However, the GQ rules seem to be more appropriate for the Guadalcanal battles - where the USN hurt itself more than they hurt the IJN at times.  Friendly fire doesn't seem to be a common event in the Med night actions.  This may be related to the fact that the RN typically knew where their own ships were and the RMI had no idea where the enemy was until they started blowing them apart!

  •  For the players, there is a definite learning curve and it chiefly involves patience.  Just because you spot something doesn't mean you should open fire on it!  In fact, the side with the intelligence advantage will get the best bang for buck by waiting until they can properly capitalize on it.  Get you sights locked on, get in proper position and then open up.

  • In the GM's role I should have given the players a memory prod in tactics at time.  A few comments like "you may want to wait", "do you want to use searchlights or star shell" can take the place of tactical doctrine and training.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Aahhhhhh - End of Term

Got my last set of marks posted for the semester this morning.  It's all over but the crying and I can relax.  There are some who say that Alice Cooper is the one to play for moments like this, but I was never much of an Alice fan.

So I will post an alternate end of school video...

This movie came out in my final year of high school, the same year that I had tickets to see the Ramones at  the Hammersmith Odeon.  Unfortunately they cancelled due to illness and I never got to see them.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Savos Island Game 2 Photos

I received the photos from Curt last night.  These are from the second of our two games with Sylvain running the Royal Navy and Newbie Jeremy the Regina Marina.
The British maneuver in two columns on the right, zig zagging to avoid torpedoes.  On the left the Italian picket DD is under fire (one of Curt's wonderful splash markers) and a torpedo spread marked by the post-it arrow which didn't post to Curt's mat.

Same situation from above and behind the Royal Navy.

HMS Orion finds the spread of torpedoes, but Sylvain steam on undaunted. 

The lead two cruisers are Curt's, the rest are mine.  Another Litko marker marks the end of the Orion.

Curt was obviously fixated on this moment

Torpedoes launched everywhere as the Royal Navy splits and opens fire with full broadside.  An Italian cruiser sinks in the middle of Jeremy's line.  Sylvain has pulled a fast one and done a simultaneous 180 degree turned away with the group at the bottom.

Same situation in close up.

Close up of the Tribal class DDs at the end of Sylvain's line.

Royal Navy cruisers and DD.  That's Curt's HMS Exeter to the left, formerly at the head of the line and now tail end charlie.  She is preceded by HMSs Gloucester, Eurylaus and a destroyer (all my models).  The post its mark Sylvain's position at the start of the move prior to his Uey.