Sunday 28 December 2014

House amendments to Neil Thomas rules

As I've mentioned on this blog many times, I like the simplicity of Neil Thomas' rules. They are well thought out and give a good game. But I'm not quite so sold on his morale rules as they stand. Basically, if you lose an element to shooting or lose a hand to hand combat you must test morale. If you fail, then you lose another element. This has the effect of whittling away your unit as a visual means of communicating combat effectiveness. I, however, like my units to remain intact so that there is a chance that they can rally and play a further part in the battle, while declining numbers increase the liklihood of failing a morale test. So here are my house rules for morale which can replace the morale system as a plug-in.

Morale Tests
1.    Testing morale. A unit must test morale under the following circumstances:
1.    It has to retreat after hand-to-hand combat.
2.    A base has been removed from the unit this turn, as a result of enemy fire.
2.    Morale procedure. Roll a die and consult the table below.
Troops Type
4 elements
3 elements
2 elements
1 element
3.    If the unit fails to achieve the score required, it becomes staggered. This means that it may not advance towards the enemy.
4.    If a staggered unit fails to achieve the score required it will rout. This means that it will continue to move towards its table edge at full speed until rallied. Carry this out as soon as the test is resolved.
5.    If it is impossible to make a morale test the unit is removed from the table.
6.    Artillery always roll as if they are 4 elements.

7.    A 7 is achievable if the unit has a general attached

This involves two stages of morale degradation - staggered and routing. It also allows for a general to join the unit to rally it from either state. The general rules that I use are as follows:

Generals and morale. If a unit is accompanied by a General, it may add +1 to all morale test die rolls.
Generals and combat. Generals may attach themselves to a unit. From that point until they move away they act as part of that unit. They add an additional dice to combat. Use a different coloured dice. If the general rolls a ‘1’ then they are knocked out of the game. Roll another dice. On a 1-2 they are dead, 3-4 they are wounded, 5-6 they are captured.

Generals and movement. Generals may detach from units and move at 30cm per turn. To attach to a unit the general must be in base to base contact.

The Generals in combat rule is a little bit extra for narrative campaigns, and played a part in the last Crimean War battle that I posted.
Please feel free to try them and decide whether they work for you. They seemed to do a good job in their last outing, but then the Russians rolled some pretty impressive numbers - not so much the Suffolk regiment.


PS Thanks for all the comments regarding my spray can mishap yesterday. My eyes are fine today, so we'll just leave that Darwin awards moment in the past.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Public Health Warning

When clearing nozzles of spray cans, point can away from self.
That's right, Soviet Armour - I'm looking at you!
Half an hour of soaking my head in the sink and applying cold compresses to the eyes and they still sting like buggery!
Got it working again though...


Friday 19 December 2014

Building on the World War Two project

I had to order some bases recently, and when looking at Sarissa Precision's website I noticed that they did a range of MDF buildings for NW Europe for 10-12 pounds. This wasn't of much use to me, as my Bolt Action armies are designed for Italy and Russia. But at second glance I fancied that I could make them work in an Italian setting. So I ordered two buildings. here is the first that I've painted up. It is quite orange-red looking, but will be in a town full of more yellowy coloured buildings. 

New Zealand troops cautiously move around the corner of the building.
Now in occupation of the first floor. 'Say, this place is awfully clean for a building that's been hit by artillery!'
Another view with more from the front visible.
I scored and painted some corrugated cardboard and glued it onto the roof to give the impression of tiles. The side that isn't in the photos actually worked much better.
This building does look pretty clean, but when I've completed all of the buildings for the village I'll add in rubble, dust and drybrushed scorch marks to get a bit more realistic effect.


Found the Warlord!

I did have a picture of the Warlord in close up. Here it is.


Thursday 18 December 2014

Something Moor for Christmas

Finally revealed is my 'secret project' for Christmas. I've been painting a 4 point Crescent and Cross warband of Moors for Dan and Marcus. It arrived two days ago, so I can now reveal them in all their glory on this blog.
The whole 4 points Almoravid force
Archers with cavalry behind
The Black Guard with another cavalry unit behind
For some reason I didn't take a close up photo of the Warlord, which is a pity because I was particularly proud of him.

Now, back to the 15mm Crimean War project - cavalry and artillery time.


Wednesday 17 December 2014

One Hour Wargames

I downloaded Neil Thomas' latest book last night. I'd read some positive reviews, and I have really enjoyed his other books. This latest offering is designed for people who are short on time and space to play wargames. Neil goes through many different historical periods and narrows each down into 4 different troop types. The rules are very straight forward and will be easy to remember in a game. I doubt that I would use them 'as is' but the four troop types work well with my next venture, more of which below.
Where this book is worth the price as far as I'm concerned, is in the 30 scenarios and army selector that it contains. Each of the scenarios are well thought out and would work together well as a narrative campaign. Some borrow from other wargamers such as Charles Grant and Donald Featherstone, while others are based on historical situations. Neil's debt to and love of these 'old school' wargames doyens is obvious, and his approach to wargaming reflects those pioneers well.
I'm thinking that I'll try and get a few more Crimean games in using the scenarios in this book - I just need to get some artillery and cavalry painted so that I can use the force selector the way it was intended.

While on the subject of solo wargaming, I thought I'd mention a book that has proven inspirational and indispensable to me in that respect. This is the Military Modelling guide to Solo Wargaming by Stuart Asquith.
I borrowed this photo as it was easier than taking my own and uploading it. Same book though!
I have huge respect for Stuart Asquith. I rate Practical Wargamer as the best wargames magazine ever published, and the bar by which I measure all others. Today, in my estimation, only Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy comes close, and historically only the early issues of Battlegames equaled it (coincidentally Stuart wrote columns in those magazines).
Solo Wargaming is 125 pages chock full of ideas and scenarios for the solo player. Some of these are not as fully developed as one would like, but they provide some great starting points. I'm sure that Featherstone's Solo Wargaming and C S Grant's Programmed Wargames Scenarios are also excellent tomes that would complement this one, but unfortunately I don't own them. I noticed that Don's work is reproduced by John Curry, so I might have to acquire that one. I don't know for sure, but I think that the Partizan Press Guide to Solo Wargaming by Stuart Asquith is essentially the same book, which makes it available new from Caliver Books for those that want to peruse it.

What shall we use to fill those empty spaces? *

I have a space in my cabinet beside the 15mm Punic Wars unpainted lead and just above the 15mm Napoleonics unpainted lead. I've been wondering what unpainted lead should be used to fill this space. I considered 15mm Marlburians and the Austro-Prussian War as candidates. But I already have the Crimean War for mid-19th Century and WWI for picklehauben. And I've already done 15mm Marlburian once and discovered that unless I have 50 units a side I can't capture the feel that I want for that period. The space in my cabinet is not that big. Seven Years War? Too close to Napoleonics, which I've already got. Then it struck me. The Great Northern War. The pikes make it different to the other horse and musket games I play. Charles XII and Peter the Great are fascinating characters. Tricornes and big cuffs! I'm sold. So I've made an initial order with Ian Kay at Irregular Miniatures, and I'm really looking forward to them.
I figure I'll adapt Neil Thomas' Napoleonic rules. They will need quite a bit of adaptation, but in a very simple way. There are four basic troop types - cavalry, artillery, infantry (both armed the same) and dragoons who frequently dismounted to fight. The Swedes need attacking bonuses to represent the success of the 'ga pa' charge and the effectiveness of their cavalry. I'll have a play around and see what I come up with.

*apologies to Roger Waters.


Friday 12 December 2014

The Battle of Bugaroff

I have friends... honest! And they like to play wargames. But we only get together once or twice a month which limits the number of games we play. It also seems that when we do meet, the game played is invariably Flames of War, although I've got a few games of SAGA in this year as well.
So with my latest little project, the Crimean War in 15mm, I have to go solo. This isn't as sad as it sounds. Gaming solo can be every bit as enjoyable as a face to face game, and only the cat looks at you funny when you make booming cannon sounds. And despite acting for both sides, so long as you have a good scenario and systems, games can be as tense and rewarding as playing against a real opponent.

So yesterday, to celebrate finally finishing the school year (ignoring the quick trip I had to make in today to tidy up some issues) I came home and played a game with what I have painted so far - 4 battalions of infantry a side.

The game is set during the siege of Sevastopol, on the allied cordon facing north to deter any attacks by a Russian relieving force. It is really just a large scale raid by the Russians, but with the aim of driving the British off the ridges that dominate the crossing at the river Bugaroff. The river itself is fictional, of course, but modelled on the Tchernaya.

The British have piquets from the 9th Norfolk and 63rd Suffolk regiments overlooking the Bugaroff river. On the next ridge south the rest of the 9th are in bivouac. Further south, over the hill is the brigade camp containing the Coldstream guards, Gordon Highlanders and the rest of the Suffolk regiment commanded by that redoubtable veteran of the Peninsular War, Sir Hew Fotheringay-Buttpimple. Crossing the bridge are four battalions belonging to the St Petersburg and Brest Litovsk regiments. It is foggy and although these regiments are running to time, the second brigade and artillery support has not yet arrived. General Aleksandr Verdlunchko, a thrusting, dynamic and utterly mad commander has decided to begin the attack anyway.

The Russian objective is to clear the first ridge-line and establish themselves on the road running through the saddle on the hills where the Norfolks are bivouacking by the end of the game. The British objective is to prevent the Russians from gaining a foothold on those same hills.

The Russian battalions cross the Bugaroff.
The British piquets guard the road from behind cover on the ridges
A bird's eye view of the battlefield with the location of the figures and the various objectives.
The view from the ridge line as the Russians come into view.
Battle is joined. The St Petersburg regiment deploys and moves to drive in the piquets.
The Russians find the terrain slow going and the British exact a hefty toll while their enemies toil up the steep ridges
As the piquets are driven off the ridge the Brest Litovsk regiment marches along the road
As the St Petersburg regiments continue their frustrating chase of the piquets, the Brest Litovsk deploys into attack column.
The Norfolks have been alerted to the attack and are deploying on the ridge, about to be faced by the Brest Litovsk regiment.
Sir Hew is aware of the attack now, and leads his column out of the camp to the rescue of the Norfolks.
The Norfolks unleash a devastating volley. 3 shots, three hits, three kills!
Depleted but undaunted, the Brest Litovsk regiment climbs the ridge in the face of the inferno of British rifle fire.
Another devastating volley as the Russians charge in! Although reduced to two elements, they started their charge with three and are thus able to get to grips.
The Russians are only human, and they are repulsed by the thin red line.
The British reinforcements arrive and begin to deploy.
But the Russians only know one way, and that is forward.
The piquets fall back and join the Suffolks, bringing them up to strength. The Norfolks finish off the Russians in front of them.
The Brest Litovsk regiment charges into the newly formed Suffolks and forces them to retreat, staggered! Sir Hew is caught up in the rout! He rolls a 1 - he's out of action! He rolls another 1 - it is a glorious death for the old chap! 
The Russians are on the ridge. But with their low strength what can they do? The Norfolks have turned to pour volley fire into the flank of the Brest Litovsk regiment, and the Gordons have deployed to knock out the remainder of the St Petersburg battalion.
The remaining Russians pour fire into the Suffolks. They rout!
Watch them run! It is our moment of victory tovarich!
It is a short lived triumph. The Norfolks charge the flank of the Brest Litovsk regiment, leaving only the depleted men of the St Petersburg regiment left on the hill. 
The Russians are heavily outnumbered and cut off. It is the end for them.
Although the Russians lost their brigade, the game was a draw. The British couldn't keep the Russians off the hill, and the Russians never got to the gap.
The game took two hours and was played using my amended version of Neil Thomas' 19th Century Wargaming rules. 
I was really impressed with the way that the piquets were able to hold the Russians up with the use of the terrain and by falling back just outside of charge distance. At the start of the game I read the wrong column, and so their fire was more effective than it should have been (they were hitting on a 3+ rather than a 4+), but this didn't take away from from some excellent rolling.
The Russians tried to stop and fire a couple of times, but this was not particularly effective. In hindsight, they should have simply pressed on as fast as they could pushing the piquets back to the ridge.
The Russians were right up against it in this scenario, and could have done with another two battalions or so. They were lucky that the Brits rolled poorly for communication so that it took the maximum three turns to activate the Norfolks and then another three turns before Sir Hew and the British camp woke up.
The highlight of the game was the death of Sir Hew (sorry Ms Fotheringay-Buttpimple). It was at one of the most dramatic moments in the game, and had the Russians had another unit to exploit the collapse of the Suffolks, it may have been a decisive turning point.
In terms of historiocity, the Russian desire to get to grips with the enemy and the effectiveness of the British fire all seemed to square pretty nicely with what actually happened in the Crimean War. I've got another Russian battalion and some skirmishers on the painting tray, so I'm looking forward to getting them into the fray for next time.


Wednesday 3 December 2014

Apocalypse survivors

The last of my commission for Geoff are eleven Apocalypse survivors (including two who didn't survive). Mostly Hasslefree figures with a Copplestone Castings Werewolf hunter.
The whole group of figures.
Hasslefree figures channeling 'Shaun of the Dead'
A couple of the boys in blue
'Zombies! I'll get my katana!'
'Cool. I'll get my chainsaw!'

'We can't both be Kate Beckinsale - put some red leather on and dye your hair!'
'I think they got us...'
 Sorry if some of the pictures are a bit blurry.I'm still experimenting with the macros setting on my camera.


Saturday 29 November 2014

Saturday 22 November 2014

WWI 1914 German test elements

I wanted to do a test paint on the Lancashire Games figures in between jobs for Geoff. I did these guys up last night to test colours and how well they would paint up. I have to say that I'm happy with the final result. The colours I used were those provided by Mark Hargreaves from his blog 'Over Open Sights' - he has painting guides available upon request.. As always, by the time you switch on macros and go for the fine detail 18mm figures lose some of that effect that they have from three feet, but they still look alright.

Advancing and firing figures
And from a slightly different angle - the photo makes them look more blue-grey than they really are.
Marching figures
And again from a slightly different angle.
It will probably cost me a fortune, but I'd like all of my 1914 bases to have summer flowers because I really thin kthey bring that August and September in the north of France to life.
The figures themselves paint up very easily and have just the right level of detail. There are incised lines on the cuffs which you can follow to paint in the red piping.
OK, the next week is going to be a bit messy - I have 70 junior exams to mark, their reports to write and Year 12s to prepare for their Classical Studies examination on Friday. Then I have the last of the figures that I'm painting for Geoff - some Hasslefree Apocalypse survivors - and then I need to finish my secret project. Then and only then, will I get into finishing the Crimean War project. After that will be the 1914 WWI. No plans beyond that though, as I'm notoriously fickle, and I have a hankering to get that ECW 28mm project underway. I will also fit a couple of test-paint elements of WWI French in there somewhere as they will only take one session to do, and I'm always more motivated when I have some painted figures to add to, rather than starting from scratch.


Thursday 20 November 2014

Samurai Commission

The latest figures that I've painted for Geoff are these Samurai and civilians from Perry miniatures. I have to admit that I was a bit flummoxed when it comes to the colours of Japanese clothing, so it required a bit of internet searching and a bit of imagination. Without any further ado, here they are.
The Samurai themselves in everyday clothes.
Three women and a monk (?). I took his colours from the Perry site as i'm not sure what he is. I thought he might have a flower in his hand so I painted it red, but if anyone has a better guess I'm willing to repaint it.
The peasants - an old man and three labourers.
I don't know if they came out as pretty as I expected them to in terms of the time that I put in, but I did enjoy painting them. Oriental flesh was something new for me, but I think it looks OK, and suitably different from my normal caucasian skin tones. I hope Geoff likes them. I still have the apocalypse survivors to paint, which I'll get stuck into as soon as I paint a trial stand of WWI Germans.


Monday 17 November 2014

Early War arrives

My birthday present arrived three days ago, only three months after the event itself. I was OK with this because it was my preorder for Lancashire Games new early WWI range. I worked out what I would need for a French and a German army for 1914. Initially I had planned to buy the British rather tha nthe French, but after reading Ian Senior's Home before the leaves fall I changed my mind. If you haven't read this book and you enjoy WWI, I heartily recommend it. I borrowed a copy from the library and was so impressed that I ordered the paperback version entitled Invasion 1914 in order to be able to refer to it regularly to devise scenarios.
Anyway, I thought I'd post some pictures of the figures as they are very nice, but they are also very big - 18mm rather than 15mm - and people wondering whether they mix with figures like  Peter Pig might want to have some comparisons.
A base of Lancashire Games WWI Germans Marching next to a base of Battlefront Late War Germans.
Left to right: Battlefront, Lancashire Games, ESCI 1/72 (20mm), Perry Miniatures 28mm
So calling them 15mm is a definite case of scale creep! I'm not perturbed though, as I had not planned to mix these figures with any other companies. The Marlburians that I painted were of the same scale, and it made them very easy (and enjoyable) to paint.
Lancashire French Dragoons on the left, my 15mm Crimean Cossacks on the right.
The same sizing is true for the cavalry, which is just as well, or the horses might look a bit silly next to the infantry. I am really impressed with the cavalry figures - the ones with the upright lances are particularly well molded with virtually no flash in he difficult area between the lance and the trooper's leg.
An example of the German artillery and 77mm field piece
The artillery is of the same scale. The gun sculpts are utilitarian rather than excessively detailed. For instance, the seats on the gun shield of the 77mm are not sculpted. They come in three pieces - the gun and carriage are one sculpt with two wheels to glue on. I like this because fiddling around with lots of parts on 12 small guns (6 German and 6 French) doesn't sound like my idea of fun. They should paint up quite nicely.

A German unit
Finally here is a German platoon that I based up just to see how they fit together. They are on standard sized Flames of War MDF bases that I bought from Sarissa Precision. In Flames of War this is a platoon, but I'm looking calling it a 'unit' - which could be a platoon, company or a battalion depending on how people want to see it. In my mind it is a battalion. That makes having an artillery battery in support make sense.

I'm looking forward to painting some trial figures once I've got the next part of Geoff's commission out of the way - the Samurai and peasants are about 1/3 finished.