Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Two for one

 Seems like a long time since I got down to blog with a lot happening.

Before I managed to get my Italian Wars game in I had another ACW bash, this time at the club with Simon which I had almost forgot about. It was a simple game due to time contraints and we set up a meeting engagement with two brigades a side fighting for the control of a crossroads, for a change I took the Rebs. 

Simon put most of his effort into the centre while I let my larger brigade try and hold him off with the defense anchored on a nearby wood the rest of my boys pushed against his left flank. The Federals very quickly began to suffer and fall foul of some desperate die rolls, also their position near the crossroads was in a dog leg and flanking fire added to their misery. Simon was now forced to withdraw to lessen the danger to his line while my boys took advantage and closed in on his left, it was now the Federal morale broke and several instant routs caused havoc in the blue line. A victory for the greybacks and a bad night for Simon.

I then missed last week but turned up last night for a Black Powder (yes, I know) Colonial game organised by Rob, with tweaks by Rob. Two British brigades had to make it to an oasis before the Mahdists took control of it, the little hamlet had a small garrison but needed to be relieved quickly, I was in command of the Highland Brigade and the furthest unit from the objective, moving slowly in brigade square it was obvious Simon had the task of getting to the oasis while I had to try and keep the enemy occupied.

When the enemy were deployed I suddenly found myself surrounded by hordes of fuzzy-wuzzies, thankfully for me Osman-Stuart found it difficult to get his men to engage and when they did they came at me piecemeal. Some camel troops charged one of my Naval gatling guns on the edge of the square and although it managed to inflict some damage it was ridden down and the enemy got into the square and hit the Highland light infantry. My boys held, just, and sent the camels packing never to be seen again. It was now time for the Mahdist infantry to try their luck, but this time the matelots stood their ground and shredded the fanatics.

I now took the decision to break up my square as the HLI were pulled back after just surviving another furious assault and replaced by the fresh Royal Marines, my other Scottish battalions prolonged my line and the Dervish waves broke on the thin khaki, blue and red lines. The Navy again proved their worth until their gatling gun jammed, but they survived nonetheless. Only as the dust settled was I able to look across at the second brigade which also had been under some pressure and found out it had managed to break the Mahdist attack and save the oasis. One for the Empire and a good game. Jimi 'the dice' was on the Mahdist side, he was rolling all the right dice, but not necessarily, in the right order.

I haven't done much on my Italian Wars project apart from finish some gendarmes and get some 'archer' heavy cavalry cleaned and primed. I am also getting a chance to look at more rule tweaks after Mark Webb sent me his house rules, there are some nice ideas which Julian and I will have to look at as we get on. I decided on ordering up enough troops to finish, for now, my French army so I have three orders now outstanding with TAG which are French pikes, arquebusiers and Stradiots, I do hope they turn up soon as I need a change from cavalry. I have also got an order of Landsknechts ready for Steel Fist, these are the first troops of my Imperialist army which is the big thing for next year.

I got dragged to the Trafford Centre last week for shopping, not a place I enjoy, but I was quite surprised at the number of units now empty and the lack of people shopping, a legacy of the past two years according to some. On the way four police cars passed the opposite way, at speed and sirens wailing, I said to the missus that some poor sod had misgendered someone somewhere.

I have not done as much reading as I should recently but I am thoroughly enthralled by "The Empire of the Summer Moon" dealing with the Comanche indians, a brutal and eye opening insight to life on the plains between white and red, and red and red. 

I have also come late to some excellent TV, "Slow Horses" and the movie "Kajaki". OK the former takes a 180 degree turn on who the real bad guys are but putting that aside I really enjoyed it, so much so I might pick up the authors books, or at least give one a try, the latter is a gem and a different kind of war movie, I was on the edge of my seat, but you have to give it ten minutes. Then "Dahmer" a creepy biopic on Jeffrey Dahmer played so chillingly by Evan Peters, lastly "Blackbird" a prison tale with a difference based on a real story. You might want to give "Narco Saints" a look, drug dealing in Suriname, a Korean production, yes it is a bit different but I have seen worse.

I continue to be busy with maps and although I have completed several over the past few days I still have seven projects in the wings from Renaissance Poland to modern conflict in Suriname (now there is a coincidence, see above).


Italians on the Eastern Front.


Monday, 26 September 2022


 The big day has arrived, my first game of Furioso Italian Wars rules. Mate Julian was bringing his forces which comprises large numbers of Landsknechts and cavalry, my growing French army has slightly more choices in that I have arquebus and crossbow armed troops, Julian has them but they remain unpainted for now.



I am drawing maps for the latest volume in Helion's Italian Wars series and it deals with the battle of Ceresole, and on looking at the map I thought I could base our game on it. The only thing we lacked were decent amounts of shot troops but I thinned out what I had and we would just have to compromise. I of course was the French with three pike blocks of French Old Band pike, Italian pike and Swiss professionals along with cavalry and artillery, Julian, playing the Spanish had three Landsknecht blocks (one should have been Italians) and one Spanish along with his cavalry and artillery. The set up was as near as I could get it to the battle map.

French position.

Spanish position.

Before we deployed my army suffered the affects of a recent plague and I lost a stand from a mounted crossbow unit and a group of skirmishers suffered one hit. This could have been a lot worse but Julian was being a gentleman and it was our first game after all, he could have chosen a gendarme stand.

I thought Lady Luck was showing her displeasure, as we rolled our initiative dice about a third of my army went Impetuous and raced for the nearest enemy, I rolled my eyes. This was evened out by the Italians on my left flank along with a nearby skirmish unit refusing to move, until the last turn of the game as it transpired. The Spanish did not show any inclination to rush my line. As the first of my cavalry units hit the enemy every one suffered and were pushed back, I glowered at my Scots in the centre, what was Albany playing at. My infantry continued as fast as they could towards the now advancing Landsknecht infantry, my guns barked and played on the Spaniards, but my cavalry had caused me to fret.

French leap forward.

Spanish left.

The troops had listened and all my cavalry rallied and pushed their tormentors back in the second round, things now looked a lot better as the Swiss smashed into their hated enemies the Landsknechts, my money had been well spent on these mercenaries and the Germans were broken and dispersed. A unit of Gendarmes picked on a poor skirmish unit and rode it down at the same time, things suddenly looked better.

French centre hits the Spanish line.

French right.

Quite quickly all my remaining troops also threw themselves at the enemy, apart from the Italians of course. More Landsknechts charged into the recovering Swiss but then again wished they hadn't as the burghers rallied and set about destroying a second German pike block. On my right my Old Band pike managed to stop being pushed back and then held their opponents to draw several melees despite being outclassed.

The Spanish were now on the back foot as the Swiss cut up another Landsknecht unit and my Italians now at last moved forward, although the Spanish held their own on my extreme right I now had some very angry Gendarmes flushed with riding down the arquebusiers approaching their rear. Julian offered his sword.

Swiss pikes, more bang for your buck.

Nice of the Italians to turn up.

Landsknechts vs Swiss for the game.

Now what of the rules. A bit of a faff with rolling initiative dice for each unit at the beginning but it works, you certainly do not have a great deal of control over your troops, especially if they go Impetuous as most of mine did, none of the Spanish were this keen. We covered pretty much most of the table with what we had so there also was not a lot of maneuver room and the battle was pretty much a stand up fight. The combat is interesting as you get to hit, then save then both sides carry out a Combat Morale test to see how they feel, you can actually lose more men than the enemy but beat them because you feel so much superior. This was especially the case in both combats involving the Swiss above, although they also dealt out a lot of casualties. There is also an Army Morale number which as you lose units your side deteriorates until it breaks, they can be Fragile, Weakened then Broken, in our game it was obvious who was winning so we didn't use this, but it seems like a good idea. You will notice that I mention the Plague above, you can throw on an Events table at the beginning of the battle and this was why I suffered a hefty penalty before we started, I also like this idea. We have some questions which need answering before we make our own rules on these if we have to.

So, I enjoyed it and so did Julian, thankfully no need to look at Pike and Shotte at the moment, how would they fare with bigger games, not so sure but we will get to that some time in the future. It only remains for me to thank Julian for an entertaining afternoon's wargaming and I am ready for more.

Sunday, 18 September 2022

East of Chancellorsville

 With my retirment coming up a couple of weeks ago I organised a Johnny Reb II game for today with Rob, Fran and Stewart who had intimated he would like to join in the next game. I chose a fairly large scenario with five Union brigades and seven Confederate, the deployment and arrival times were dealt from a pack of cards so anything could happen and it would be unlikely if you got the same game twice.

I got lucky and as General Brooks I got to deploy two of my three brigades, Stewart, as General Howe already had his two brigades on the table. For the Rebs General Anderson (Fran) got one brigade on the table with another arriving on turn two, the third would arrive on turn three, Rob as General Early did not get any brigades on table and had to march on, his brigades arrived one behind the other over four turns. A delay the Confederates could have done without.

Fran was to pin my division while Rob was to assault the Union left, outnumbering Howe but taking time to deploy. Fran opted to keep his brigades together and stay away from a Union battery and regiment covering his right most deployment option. This turned out to be a mistake but it did not seem like one at the beginning. I decided to move several regiments forward to take advantage of the woods and a vicious firefight began, I had high hopes for this but they went up in smoke while the Reb replies began to cause heavy losses as Fran moved his regiments slowly forward taking advantage of his numbers and bringing fresh troops to the fore each move. Although my losses were severe my morale was unshakeable and my regiments at times were left with only the standard bearers and a few stragglers who refused to break.

Howe deploys on the Union left.

Early arrives.

Early's numbers increase.

Anderson in a tight corner.

Federal right.

Being hard pressed on my front I only managed the odd look across at the left flank, Rob took some time to bring his forces to bear on Stewart but eventually musketry could be heard in the woods, Stewart was pinned while Rob sent a brigade on a wide march to turn the Federal flank. My third brigade turned up just in time as the gap between Howe and Brooks was now in danger as the Confederate commanders saw an opening. But at the same time so did I, despite being hard pressed to my front and my losses I saw the opportunity to move against Anderson's right as the Rebs were finding it hard to break out from their crush. Although I suffered again from accurate Reb fire I held my nerve with the help of a battery of Napoleons and gave as good as I got, I also managed to peel off a couple of regiments from my late arriving brigade just in case things turned bad. Stewart had also seen the danger and expanded his line towards the gap, at the same time I brought up three fresh regiments to plug the hole, not a moment too soon.

Early advances.

Vicious firefight on Brooks' front.

Somewhere on the Union left.

Things now went badly for the Confederates, General Gordon leading the flanking brigade was wounded and his men slowed to a halt as the new commander was confirmed, although the Union lost a complete battery on this flank they had a few regiments which could be used as a fire brigade to help shore up the danger point. At the same time Gordon's front line was thrown into disarray by a rout on the front line. On my front I now felt secure as the Rebs had to leave the protection of the woods in order to push my right back and my waiting guns and infantry began a slaughter as they tried. Reb morale now broke all through Anderson's division and several regiments now fled to the rear taking others with them leaving a very thin grey line now facing Brooks.

Gordon's brigade about to be held up.

A marksman takes aim on General Gordon.

It was now close to 1600 hrs and we had started at 1000 hrs. As we looked over the debris of battle it was clear that the Confederates could not gain their objective and although there was still fight in Early's troops they were not causing the same problems for Howe as Anderson had for Brooks. We agreed that Early's delay and Anderson not taking the chance on attacking my extreme left with the gun battery had had a detrimental effect on the Confederate attack. The exceptionally high morale of Brooks' men allowed me to hang on until help turned up, but it was touch and go.

So there you have it, a great days wargaming and my thanks to Rob, Fran and Stewart for their company, I can now relax after such a nail biting combat.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Lion Crouching

 Busy week for the retiree this week, as people have said how did I find the time to work (term used loosely). 

I once opined that Lion Rampant was a set of rules which had not made an appearance at the club, and this week Stuart brought the second edition and Norman and Saxon 'armies' to try them out, a new experience for both of us. I had the Saxons and we lined up opposite with no real idea of what was going to happen, I had a loose plan of using my archers to support my heavy infantry while my cavalry would wait and see what the Normans would do.

You have to initiate each unit and if you fail the whole army fails and it is over to your opponent, not conducive to an overall battle plan. My archers advanced into the wood in front of them and then refused to come out for at least around a dozen turns putting an end to Plan A and stopping most of my forces dead. The Normans were slightly better but also had their moments. My elite cavalry smashed forward and took out their opponents then spent several turns trying to avoid the Norman crossbows, which would have eliminated them with a couple of decent volleys as they were only six figures. Stewart sent his elite cavalry over to his left to counter my General and his men.

The heavy infantry clash in the centre was a non event as we both lost these troops to combat and missile fire, my archers had at last moved. My light cavalry took out the enemy skirmishers and as the sun began to set the Normans had their elite cavalry and the crossbowmen against my light cavalry, skirmishers and archers, I won on points.

This is not my kind of game, it is a game to me and not a wargame, it could have been jelly babies moving on the table rather than Stuart's lovely figures due to the lack of historical flavour (see what I did there). I found it difficult to understand why a unit only just over 50% strength fought and shot with a full hand of dice despite the losses it had incurred. It also seemed very difficult to rally a unit once it had taken a few casualties, and if it did and got another one off it went again reaching the point of no return very quickly. I know the rules are popular and there are many variants of them, I opined to my mate Matt that we can expect Lion Rampant Napoleonic's soon. You heard it here first.

The very next day I was off to Penrith and a game at Matt Crump's dungeon, no relative to the above Matt. Matt plays online with another blogging friend Jonathan Frietag and his AWI games always looked good so I asked him to set one up on this visit. It was a meeting engagement played with Rebels and Patriots rules, yes I was surprised that my prediction had come true, they are a Lion Rampant variant! Matt took me through the motions in a little pre game action and you can easily see the link between the two sets of rules, one big change was that if you fail an initiative roll only that unit fails not your whole army, a huge improvement to the game. I did wonder that the regiments were 'blobs' much like the medieval versions and this was the main way to move around the table, yes you can form up into a line but it takes time and can easily be disrupted. I just did not get this at all for the period.

Anyway on with the game, I set up with the intention of advancing my right, holding in the centre and sending my superior light infantry out on the left to give Matt something to think about. Things started well and I got rid of two American skirmish units quite quickly and got a third down to under 50%, then it happened. My attacking troops lost faith in my attack and either refused to move or could not hit a barn door, I must have used a full magazine of black powder trying to take down one skirmisher behind a headstone, and as for my elite Grenadiers, aargh!

British set up on the right, Americans on the left.

Matt's Dungeon.

The main American position.

The British deploy.

Matt advanced some Militia to keep an eye on my light troops and this gave my elite Guards an opportunity to open up on them, but once again my elites could not hit a barn door, but the light troops fought magnificently eventually beating the Militia. Matt now tried to advance his centre and although he had pushed mine back my artillery caused havoc with every shot. It was now my turn to have an annoying skirmisher, two of them had somehow got very close to the American line and loosed a devastating volley which caused the Yanks lining a nearby fence to withdraw. Slowly losses rose in the American ranks and a revitalised British force took the victory as the Rebel general left the field taking most of his remaining troops with him. The British artillery played a decisive part in this action, the Americans had two smaller caliber guns but they missed out on firing quite a few times while the Royal Artillery did not.

My hopeless right flank.

...and almost hopeless centre.

My hero skirmishers.

The most annoying figure ever.

The excellent light troops.

American general tries his best.

Now this was more of a wargame, I still have reservations on the game mechanics but I felt I could put a plan together and attempt to carry it out. I also enjoyed very much playing over an excellent table with beautifully painted troops. I would certainly play this again, but I would not rush to play Lion Rampant.

What else is going on, well I finished the first piece of terrain for my Italian Wars, a nice building from Colin at Charlie Foxtrot Models. As usual I had no patience and made a couple of mistakes which I managed to rectify or cover up, when will I learn. I textured the building then painted it with an ochre shade in a test pot, this I then darkened with GW Seraphim Sepia wash and finally dry brushed with white. The tiles were again a test pot of a terracotta colour with a GW Agrax Earthshade wash, watered down but with patches of full colour, I was going to drybrush this but I like how it has turned out, so it is done. Buildings don't do much on the battlefield but are needed I think for local colour.

I am still plugging away at the Gendarmes but they are now 90% done and will be attached to their horses at some point today. I have 18 more cavalry and 8 arquebusiers in the drawer next, I think the infantry are next up as they are very easy to paint. The rest of the terrain I might get to along the way. Andy at The Last Valley should have my poplar trees ready in the next week or so so I am hoping they will be here for the game with Julian.

Sunday is a large ACW game with Fran, Rob and Stewart here at Casa Anderson, the first game in my empty Post Office, the first of many I hope, the place will possibly be refurbished next year but I don't want to think of that yet.

I am off to Ulverston this afternoon to get the car serviced, this will be my last Mercedes, the service costs are astronomical and disingenuous for a vehicle which is supposed to be at the pinnacle of German engineering. If this is so why does it need servicing every year whether you do 5,000 miles or 35,000 miles, you could keep it in your garage and never take it out and they still want you to have an eye wateringly expensive service every year, greedy swine. I might also have to get a Timex as well as my watch is about due for a service and I shudder to think what that will be. 

Maps are coming in regularly at the moment and on the shelf waiting are Confronting Napoleon, Belgian Forces in the Congo, Chinese Railways and Polish battles in 17thC.

Polish SOE operations.

Omdurman campaign.