Thursday, 17 September 2020

Is Historical Gaming Dying and other stuff

 The excellent Little Wars channel has asked the question is Historical Wargaming dying, they asked a fair few hobby leaders and many Vloggers took to YouTube to give their opinions, we merry few, we band of brothers also broached the subject on our last club Zoom call. Did we get a definitive answer or did the others, nope I don't think so. I have wargamed for over 50 years and in that time I have been a member of two clubs, Carluke and Lancaster, due to the time lapse Carluke was overwhelmingly historical and Lancaster is a mix of historical and fantasy, possibly 60/40 but definitely with historical in the lead. My own opinion is that no, historical is not dying but is it increasing, no I don't think so it is merely holding its own and with the plethora of games available these days that is surely encouraging.

I spent ten years at Carluke and hardly missed a weekend but when I left we still had the same guys who were there when I first joined and we did try our best to get new members. I have been at Lancaster for about four years, maybe five and again a very welcoming club and member Rob and others put on demonstration games at some of the larger shows but again I think we have managed to get and keep maybe two new guys. Against this I look at the growing Aladdin's cave or that warehouse in Indiana Jones and the sheer volume of stuff available for historical wargamers, yes I know the same applies to fantasy etc. but that wasn't the question, this cornucopia just gets better with each passing year.

I watched an interesting video entitled "Are you old enough for historicals" or something like that and I think that does play a part, we in the Old Guard now generally have enough spare time and money to indulge ourselves therefore we keep the industry turning over so they do not have to rely on new blood. So after all that babbling, I do not think we are in trouble, I was in at the beginning in the Sixties and now in the words of a British prime minister "We have never had it so good", or is it "Crises, what crises?"

I am nearing completion with my reserve Waffen SS squad, now I only got these because although I have a full platoon it is always useful to have a reserve squad for games, all my forces now have reserve squads, and though they rarely see the table I of course 'need' them just in case. As I look at them awaiting their varnish I realise they only have one LMG, now that is fine for army units but this unit being Waffen SS they are most likely to also be panzergrenadiers, and they get two LMG's, yes my Germans have more LMG's than you can shake a stick at but the men do not wear Autumn camo smocks and I therefore cannot use these. I could just say that in the heat of battle these guys left their LMG behind or it broke down, but that also won't work, so I ordered up an LMG this morning. Another thing which has been bugging me for a long time is that my War and Conquest warbands are not big enough, they consist of 32 men and should be at least 36, so two days ago I ordered up for each an extra four men, Picts, Welsh, Saxons and Franks along with new, larger bases. Yet still I am not completely happy, I would like another Roman cohort to add to my Imperial Romans and I know I cannot resist this much longer, once Aventine finish redoing their molds I may have to scratch this itch as well. This leaves me with a quandry, my Galatians, I know the unit I have is 'wrong' but they fight like Trojans, Aventine have Galatians and I am torn between keeping the fighters or getting a new, more historical unit, this one may continue to play on my mind for some time yet.

The map front seems to have recovered from the Covid curse, as well as continuing with the Atlas I have recently finished a very interesting set for a book on American naval aviation during the Vietnam war, I don't have the exact details but I had to draw one of their bases in California. I am also doing a large project for a book about Charles XII of Sweden for friend and Helion editor Charles Singleton.



The weather recently has been very nice, an Indian summer here in the North, but Winter is coming. I have now persuaded myself I need city ruins, no more deliberation on that front, only a matter of when, certainly not this month nor perhaps next month as I have a couple of SYW battalions I want, I have the flags so just need the troops now. I shall therefore need to take over more of the lending library shelves in the Post Office but no need to upset the Memsahib yet.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Grand Old Duke of York comes to mind

Just when you thought, no, I can't go into it, one step forward and ten back, no!

Right, on the bright side friend Rob agreed to come over and help me fight the SYW battle I had arranged, I duly spent quite a few hours reading up on the rules as I did not want to spend a lot of time with my head in a book. Honours of War are an easy set of rules but I suspect with a lot of depth in them the more you play and remember.

Rob arrived and promptly chose the French who were defending a fordable stream and bridge from the British, this little affair took almost my entire SYW forces. I should have made the table 8x5 for the 28mm figures but I had already set them up and didn't want to change everything at the last moment. My plan as such was to advance my infantry and slowly wear down the enemy to my front, my cavalry were ordered to smash the French cavalry and threaten their left flank. Things did not start well as Rob diced and got two Dependable generals and one Dashing young blade, while I got one old Dependable and two Ditherers!

The advance went well while we were outside musket range, but as soon as we got into range my boys got the worst of it thanks to the French artillery, my line faltered while I tried to bring as much firepower to the front as possible, this was proving a long process. The French meanwhile were doing well at confounding my plan. On the right my cavalry got into position but the stream meant that unless I got a double move I could be stuck halfway across and then charged so caution got the better of me as I inched forward, centimetered forward doesn't have the same ring. Anyway I have forgotten to mention the lack of moral fibre in my two Ditherers, this meant things went even slower than normal.

Halfway through I did manage to create a hole in the French center as the regiment Lorraine ran, hopes rose, I had also stopped an aggressive move by Rob to advance over the bridge so the cavalry of both sides still sat and stared at each other. Despite the at times heavy cannon fire I threw my infantry forward to take advantage of the gap, the long red lines looked really good, Rob threw in a battalion of Gardes Francaises and to both our surprise the 33rd Foot stood then routed the Gardes things looked really good.

The French now retired most of their line out of harms way, frustrated I tried to follow up but my Generals would not have it. On the right the French cavalry under their Dashing leader charged forward, two troops of British horse fled the field while the enemy lost only one, so much for threatening the French left. On my left my Highlanders closed with the Irish mercenaries and came off the worst, I was losing too many battalions. I still however had one almost full brigade, half of which were grenadiers, onwards I shouted at their leader, now! Sadly said leader instead led his men to the rear, I looked over the shattered field of honour, my remaining cavalry troop had done well but were still outnumbered, one battalion was holding on from First Brigade and my one and only full strength brigade had retired leaving my artillery way out on its own. I called a halt and retired to prepare courts martial papers.

What went wrong, well let me tell you. I had inadvertently given the French a mainly superior army and it showed during the musketry, I have since read that I did this wrong, the mercenaries do not get superior status. I also should have downgraded the French fire when my lads were in the stream and should have had cover from the banks. My main problem however was my two Dithering commanders, Rob also got some rolls where he could not advance but he was happy to sit and wait, I on the other hand needed to get as many men up front as I could and this proved elusive. I also have to admit that in the first half of the battle I sent my men in piecemeal rather than getting my grenadiers and the rest into a half decent line, mea culpa. No matter, I really like the rules and it was a terrific game.

In other news, I will base and finish my Paras this weekend, I have also just taken delivery of an extra Waffen SS squad to give me some reserves. Before I start them however I am going to paint those 25 Prussians for Rob. My interest has once again been restored for the SYW period, so once all this stuff is off the table I can see me getting some more, two more infantry battalions for each side and maybe two cavalry troops. I am now going to add Hanoverians to the British forces. Oh, Duncan handed in an excellent book on German armour at Arnhem last week, I found everything in use there from PzIII's to King Tigers, what really got me going was a battalion of French Char B's which had been turned into flammpanzers, this information will come in really handy when Too Fat Lardies get around to completing their Arnhem book.

As I pack away the SYW what next, I would like to get a War and Conquest game in otherwise back to WWII more than likely, maybe some Bolt Action this time.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Interesting week

The week started off well with the weather being very nice indeed, I don't know where the weathermen got the idea we would be freezing but they have not explained it so far and no doubt never will. The only job where you can be wrong every day and still get paid at the end of the month, oh no wait, politicians.

Anyway I took advantage of the nice weather to pop up to Duncan's for a coffee, I found him beavering away in his huge man cave full of vehicles, he has built an extension to house two new jeeps, he wanted to show me the Flak 38 in the open rather than a quick look under the tarpaulin. First up the German built Ford truck would not move, so we changed three batteries, I say we, I watched, Duncan got to the bottom of it and it was something to do with the dilithium crystals and the ION drive, or some such thing which my non mechanical brain could not compute, anyway I gingerly held back a piece of pipe for him. Once he had fixed the pipe thing he worked out that perhaps there was no fuel in the tank, gallons later the thing sputtered into life, success!

We drove the truck out into an open space and I climbed up into the back, WWII stuff was not built with comfort in mind. So, with a huge smile on my face I settled into the gunners position and swung the gun around and up and down, oh how I would have loved to have fired it, in my mind I got at least two Jabos. What a great way to spend a morning.

I have packed away the WWII table for now and decided on something different for a change so I have set up a Seven Years War engagement based very loosely on a scenario I found online. I am using Honours of War again for the second time, I made some mistakes the first time around but enjoyed the game nonetheless, so I hope to learn more this time. I should have used two battle mats but didn't and it's too late to change the terrain now. I hope to get some moves done this weekend.

A guy came in this morning and asked about the display, he said he was an ex Royal Machine, sorry, Marine, now this is where the scary part comes in. I told him I was exRN and he said he used to work with submarines on exercises, swimming to and from them. I then told him I had just recounted a story to a customer the day before about the time we had to go and search for a body (we were a minehunter and had a big sonar) in the River Clyde of a guy who had not made it ashore from an underwater exercise. It turned out he knew the poor bloke, and we did find him.

We had to go to Sheffield this week to pick up our new car, Covid struck again as the sales girl, or person or whatever could not enter the car with us to show us the controls, so we drove back using kilometers and on European time, getting back an hour before we left. I spent an hour that evening on Youtube learning how to use the Starship Enterprise dashboard, oh and it talks to you, so I now have the missus, Alexa and Hi Mercedes giving me gyp, I can however say 'shut up' to two of them.


I have not managed to get any painting done this week, the Paras are primed and ready to go and the Prussians stare up at me and whisper 'October, October' from their bag. I did take some time out to make my terrain easier to get at and sort all my WWII vehicles to make better use of the Really Useful Boxes. I also have a map commission which is going to take a lot of work, not what I am used to but a nice challenge.

Books are a lending library, but I'll get those shelves as well.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

The tide turns.

Having held off the panzergrenadiers at the church just outside Ranville in the last game I had a hard choice to make, I could hold my ground and hope to inflict a second defeat on the Germans or I could counterattack into Ranville itself. I was loathe to counterattack as our forces would be on a par with each other and I knew this time Matt would bring some armour, also the terrain favoured the defender with all the high walls in the village, it would be an almost impossible task I thought for the Paras to win, but simply fighting in the village would put a second delay on von Luck win or lose.

Matt chose his supports and did indeed bring a Lorraine Schlepper assault gun along with an extra squad and MMG, I managed an extra squad and MMG along with my only anti-tank a PIAT team, I had high hopes I could use these guys in an ambush. Just as we had sorted this mate Rob popped in for a visit, he saw the table set up and volunteered to help me play the game, this was really good news, Matt had made his choices and I passed his orders on to Rob, all that was left was to play the game.

Rob turned up on Saturday around noon and we set to. Rob came through the orchard with three squads and the MMG, the last squad made for the Cafe Normandie on the left flank. I had meanwhile set up my MMG in a house at the edge of the village and therefore had the Jerry left flank covered, hence most of them ended up on the right flank. I also set my two Bren squad in the ruined house also on the edge of the village, during the game this house got the moniker 'the house of death'. The squad in the house began trading fire with the main German line and slowly but surely started to wither without really handing out very much punishment on the grenadiers. I brought a second squad on and started to use the mortar to bring down smoke to help the defenders, a little later I brought on a third squad on my left and made my way through the woods to near the surrounding wall.

House of Death
More Paras turn up.
SPG turns up and targeted by smoke rounds.

At this point the self propelled gun turned up and added its considerable firepower against the ruined house, I now had no choice but to get my surviving men out of the line of fire and therefore withdrew the few still standing down to the ground floor. I now deployed my last squad in the empty upper floor, and yes they too began to suffer from the sheer volume of fire aimed at them. Thankfully I managed to keep putting smoke down in front of the Schlepper preventing it from dominating the battlefield. I at last managed to get a full Chain of Command dice and launched  my PIAT team in an ambush, the lads hit the monster but only stunned the crew for one phase, I was a tad disappointed. Rob now took an aggressive stance and moved two squads forward, one I think he wanted to assault the surviving Paras in 'the house of death' with. This came at the same time I advanced my own left flank squads (getting a very handy double phase) and the resulting fire halted and eventually broke the rash panzergrenadiers, German morale fell.

Germans advance on their right.

Grenadiers heading for the ruined house.
Paras advance and clear the field.

Despite this my own morale also fell as the last defenders of the ruined house fled for the rear, my PIAT team also died as Rob interrupted their last chance at taking out the SPG, I needed something to happen quick before his armour once again dominated. I managed to advance and clear out most of the enemy on the north/south road and was very close to an enemy Jump Off Point, with his last phase Rob got ready to repel this move. It was now my turn and I got an exceptional run of luck, I got three sixes, ended the turn (lifting off all non rallied troops and leaders) and of course getting a second phase with which to take the JOP and get into a good position to attack the last German squad on the road. German morale now failed, we shook hands and I gave a sigh of relief, the Orne Bridges were now safe, the engineers can remove the demolition charges.

Behind British lines.
Behind German lines.

The tide turns.

So ended a very good game, casualties were very heavy on both sides being around 30%. We both took advantage of opportunities to advance on the enemy and it was just fate that Robs ran into trouble while I managed to take advantage of a couple of decent double phases. I think this campaign would be more suited for face to face play rather than solo, having said that it has again been enjoyable and a big thanks to Matt for playing von Luck and Rob for taking part yesterday. 
Duncan 'the Pakman' turned up in a Willys Jeep to watch the proceedings, god knows what the neighbours thought of it parked outside.

Right, my new tanks are now finished, I really enjoyed building and painting these, Rubicon have more models on the way which I might pick up but not for now. Next up is the extra para Squad and the Prussians for the Waterloo exhibit, what will it be after that, we will see.

I see the Covid scaremongering continues so I am resigned to not playing at the club until possibly late next year, if this changes I shall be very surprised.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

A dreich week

A fairly lazy week so far, I based my new Paras but still have not made a move on getting some primer, I hope to persuade the memsahib to come in here for an hour so that I can get to town today and then get moving on everything that needs primed.

I finished the second of the Panzer III's this morning, no I am not impatient I just left some bits and pieces off last night and it was only going to take a few minutes to glue them. These kits are very good and cover every PzIII you would need to take you from the invasion of Poland to the odd few left in the ruins of Berlin. I chose an M and a command tank. The panzerbefehlswagen of course has several aerials, now two of these are to be modeled in the down position but you can change this and put the aerial base in the upright position. That sounds good but a brush bristle as recommended or thin plastic I suspect are not going to last long on a wargame table, I therefore used wire for my aerials and had to drill the holes on the two at the sides close but not on the aerial base, once painted I suspect no one will notice. I was hoping to be able to build the Flammpanzer turret from all the spares but you do not get two turret base plates, you could bodge it but I won't, what a lot of useless plastic you are left with, better hope Extinction Rebellion don't get a whiff of it.

Sprues from about four kits.
 I have also completed my Kriegsmarine squad, a nice little group of figures from Warlord, while reading Bloody Streets I now might add Spaniards, French and another German Waffen SS squad which I use as panzergrenadiers and need, would like, a reserve squad for them.

My next Von Luck game is a Para counterattack back into Ranville, possibly a bad move for the Red Devils but it is needed to put a delay on the panzergrenadiers and some pressure on Matt. I hope to build the table today and get started this week at some point.

The missus had booked us away for the weekend in the North Lakes, as you know I am not an outdoor type but I did need a break from the PO, don't laugh, we arrived at 1692 near Gosforth and it was first class, a five bedroom farm conversion finished to a very high standard. Did I mention it was raining on the way there? We were very close to the Roman Fort in Hardknott Pass and I said I would like to see it before our intended walk along Wastwater lake. What a desperate journey, the roads are very narrow and in places you have to back up if you meet anything coming the opposite way, the road up the pass was simply horrendous, thank god we did not meet anything on the way up, it was only suitable for a Roman cart. We eventually pulled in at a little sign which if you blinked you would have missed it, the laughable parking space needed some TLC from some Roman engineers. You cannot see the fort from the road but I took charge and headed up the hill to the crest, and yes there was the fort. It is a very good example of an Early Imperial fortress, I suppose it does protect the pass but I suspect that the Wall made it redundant, it was abandoned soon after building and only used once again for a short time thereafter. It was manned by a cohort of Dalmatians for whom I suspect it was a dire posting having come from the sunny Mediterranean. Oh, yes and it was raining.
The downpour at the lake prevented us getting out of the car so we gave up and went back to base.

On the Sunday we headed to St. Bees and a walk along the beach, I have never been so wet, despite all the foul weather clothing the rain eventually began to seep through. We managed to get a coffee and the high wind dried us out a bit in between the rain showers. Off to Seascale and another sodden tramp, a rather nice ice cream cheered me up but it was no good, out came the white flag and back to base. If our accommodation had not been so good we would have gone home. And the day we returned to civilisation, beautiful!

Friend Rob has just popped in and for a change we were not overly disturbed by customers while chatting. There is a huge diorama of Waterloo being planned and the organiser has asked for volunteers to paint up the figures, Rob has asked the club and we are doing a Prussian Landwehr battalion, he popped in my contribution so I can get started, 25 figures for now. He also volunteered, real life permitting, to join in the Ranville counterattack above, so watch this space.