Wednesday 17 April 2024

New Blood and Back On Track

 We had two of our grandchildren here last week, Gabrielle of course was not interested in wargaming but James was and the first words out of his mouth was "Papa can we have a wargame?" So in the interests of the hobby and bonding I set up a small introduction to the Seven Years War for him, nice colourful soldiers and flags a plenty. The game went well although it was technically a win for me, but who is counting. The next day found us on the plains of Northern Italy, my French took a pounding as James led the Imperials to a hard fought victory, but as I said, the result doesn't count. Tuesday was club night and I took him along to a game of Black Seas kindly set up by Rob, we were the British and although we did not manage to gain our objectives we did sink some Frenchies and took a prize back to old Blighty so Rob gave us the win. What was the downside to the visit, I had to sit through the latest Ghostbusters movie which was a traumatic experience, especially the £7 hotdog.

Italian Wars.

Seven Years War.

Rob with the patience of Job.

The new room is now done as you know and these will be the last photographs I shall bore you with, they are out with the old and look at the new. I should be able to give you a look at the outside in a couple of weeks, then you are free.

I organised a game of Bolt Action with 'Lucky' Jimi last night but first had to pick him up, I had offered as the wheel on his car fell off last week while he was driving and the result was a right off. Once again I decided to go outside my comfort zone with my forces and I took two halftracks and a truck along with a Marder III for support. Now the Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions were the spearhead of the German Army and not a lot was ever successful without them, but on the wargame table you hardly ever see armoured infantry, especially in a points based system as you can get more bang for your buck elsewhere for the short duration of a typical wargame. Anyway, I had stolen a scenario idea from Matt Crump at Wargames in the Dungeon and decided this time to use transports, a first for me really in Bolt Action.

There were secret plans or some other special maguffin thing on the battlefield but neither player knew exactly where, there were three objectives but only one had the goods under it, I had let Jimi know about this beforehand. The game started well and I got my truck right up to the central objective while the two halftracks moved on the flank objectives, I added a supporting infantry squad on the right, Jimi was late to the deployment but the last die was mine and I took advantage as my Marder edged forward and took a long range shot at the British Sherman, a stunning shot took out Jimi's tank on turn one, things did not look good for the British.

The British attack.

As my troops debussed the British seemed to be drawn to the centre objective but they were advancing across open fields of fire and casualties mounted. My two squads on the right easily destroyed the enemy squad there and were preparing to mount up and continue to the centre. It was now with most of his veterans cut down and his remaining forces left with an uphill struggle 'Lucky' Jimi gave up. This left me in charge of the three objectives and the secret thingy was found on the right. Sadly Jimi's luck was diabolical during the game and using the transports certainly came as a surprise to him. I'm sure he will get his own back.

The Germans move on the centre.

Crippling fire mows down the Airborne.

But still they come.

A dying gasp from the British anti-tank gun.

The papers.

Whenever an opponent has the ill fortune to require a good throw and ends up with something bad I usually express my sorrow with false sincerity, "What a shame." This has caught on at the club and I have been a victim myself of this barb, so I got in touch with my inner artist and the result is down below.

 The club recently has taken an interest in Dark Age and Ancient battles and there is a large clash nearly every week now with some impressive armies. Now as you know this is right up my strasse and I have been looking for this for years, am I happy, no, not really. Hail Caesar has taken a hold and these mighty armies have either turned up or been built with this in mind, despite my joy for the lads who are obviously enjoying themselves I remain wedded to War and Conquest. Big Ed has decided to ensure I mend my ways and has got me to promise to join him in a game, it would be churlish of me to refuse but don't hold your breath.

Matt will be here tomorrow to continue with our Eastern Front 1941 campaign, it is game nine and if Matt succeeds in taking the village of Mikheykovo he gains a major victory. If I hold the hamlet we fight the last game as a German attack and I could, however doubtful, gain a minor victory, otherwise the laurels go to Matt. My main problem was that after being pushed back at the beginning I was too eager to cut the Russian supply line and forgot how to actually win the game, ouch. I have also managed to book some games here into May so Italian Wars, WWII, War and Conquest and some American Civil War are all on the cards.

Saturday 6 April 2024

I'm Calling it Done

 I wasn't at the club last week so nothing to report wargame wise, apart from having cleaned and primed some early war Germans which I probably do not need but decided that I might at some time. As readers will know ever since I retired I had plans to convert the Post Office, a very large room in my house, something the council could not get their head around until I had spent a load of money unnecessarily to convince them, into my wargame room/study.

The work was started during the last week of January and this was the beginning of a big headache for us, all my wargaming paraphernalia including all the troops had to be found space in our living quarters, under beds, in cupboards and along walls. Then from first thing in the morning the builders appeared to destroy the Post Office, build a new ceiling, new floor and new walls along with a shower room and toilet in the old store cupboard. They managed all this through the front of the old shop and even built the new outer wall inside before taking the horrible shop front away. The worst thing to remove was the now redundant safe, this weighed a ton and they impressed me by getting the thing outside where a tractor borrowed from a local farmer had to be used to get it on the back of a scrap wagon. They did manage to drop it once and the pavement will forever have a large scar on it.

As the build progressed and the new outer wall was finished the old shop front was taken down and then the plumber, electrician and joiner had to use our front door, this meant I had to be up, booted and spurred by 0800 hrs to let them in. The front now has to be rough casted and a stone wall built along the pavement in line with next door so that I can reclaim my long lost garden, or rather the wife's. This is supposed to happen next week.

Also with the inside sorted it was now the painter took who took over, I was continuously asked which colours I wanted and continuously ignored so I got Cornforth White! Bookcases would be required and a couple of small tables so Ikea got the order, I even had to go there, several hours I will never get back at this stage, the troops etc. would go on garage shelving, I got some excellent stuff from Rhino Racking. I had thought of getting a wargame table built for me, about 15ft in length but after some serious thought and the price tag I decided to stick with my trusty 9'x5' ping pong table. I had to move this outside during the build and although I tried to protect it the surface has taken some water damage, nothing which will effect the playing surface but annoying. I still have a portable 6'x4' table so if I did want to stick it on the end I could have a length of 13ft which realisticly I should hardly ever require. I saved some dosh on my desk as well, I varnished the wood a medium grey (blue the missus says), I did this as a new one was in the £600 bracket. Some folding chairs were also got along with my new luxury office chair, you know I am worth it.

With everything now sorted inside it was time to repopulate the place, I was very pleased to get all my prints back up on the walls, some I had forgotten I had, I also managed to get a few of my sketches from 34 years ago up. I had a Eureka moment and from out of the blue decided on two replica helmets for the large, bare window sills, I chose a Roman Gallic helmet with crest and a Gothic Sallet, one to honour the XII Legion and one for the beginning of the Italian Wars. I had been generously given some money for my 70th birthday and had wondered what to use it for, it now came in very handy as replicas are not cheap. All that is left apart from the outside, which has nothing relating to wargaming so my interest on that is waning, is a new step from the living room into the new room which will then allow me to finish my last bookcase.

I am extremely happy with the work which has been carried out and all my purchases which have given life to my new wargaming space. Friends have all volunteered names for my new empire but the missus and I cannot stop calling it 'the shop' after 23 years of it being so, and why not, it was actually very good to us, so 'The Shop' it is.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Swiss Cheese and Other Stuff

 As you know it has been some time since I have played a game of Italian Wars but I have been giving a bit of thought to the almost unbeatable Swiss. In Furioso it is very difficult to beat these mercenaries, so much so that it can unbalance a game, so I decided to look into things rather than simply take it "that the Swiss are the best infantry in Europe". Their reputation is warranted for their superb victories against the luckless Charles the Bold, but should it carry on for the next forty or fifty years?

For the Italian Wars we kick of with Cerignola 1503, the Swiss attack with their usual disregard for what else was happening, they did not wait for the French rearguard, but were unable to break the enemy front and harrassed by arquebusiers and light cavalry were driven back with heavy casualties. Next up is Agnadello 1509, although a French victory against 'B' team Venice the Swiss did not cover themselves in glory as they failed to get to grips with the enemy due to the terrain. Novara 1513, just like the old days, the Swiss heavily defeat a French army fighting on their own behalf with the Duchy of Milan.

Two years later at Marignano 1515, on the second day after some success the night before the Swiss made a determined attack on the French, cut to pieces by artillery and flung back by Landsknechts the Swiss managed several other assaults but had to withdraw in the end. Now we come to Biccoca 1522, usually described as the nail in the coffin of Swiss hegemony, a self confident Swiss contingent came on in the same old way to be met with a hail of cannon and gunfire from behind fieldworks, to be eventually pushed back by the hated Landsknechts, their casualties being horrendous. After this we have Pavia 1525, where the Swiss contingent of the French army is thoroughly trounced in a stand up fight against the Imperials. Some kudos was regained at Ceresole 1544 as they took part in the French victory but this was in conjunction with the French infantry and it had been a hard fight against the Imperials.

So, what do we have, one complete victory at Novara, a lacklustre performance at Agnadello, Marignano, Bicocca and Pavia are defeats two of them heavy and a combined victory at Ceresole. Granted they were never hesitant at throwing themselves at the enemy but this tactic began to fail in the face of artillery, guns and fieldworks along with modern tactics evolved by the Spanish. In light of this I am going to reduce the effectivness of the Swiss in Furioso and drop them to a combat factor of 4 from 5, this leaves them with an edge but one which can be blunted, and more realistic.

It was ACW at the club this week, Fran had set up the battle of Wilson's Creek from the Black Powder scenario book, I took the Union centre on Bloody Hill and saw no reason to hazard the end result by unhistorically attacking the Confederates, Ed on the right was going to do the same while Ian on the left did have an opportunity to attack if Franz Sigel's flank march turned up in the right place. The Rebs on the other hand had no leeway and had to attack.

The battle begins.

The Union right.
My boys on Bloody Hill.

The Rebs close in.

The Federal left.

As the gray masses approached the heights volleys were traded and the enemy lines shuddered, it did seem that the Federals were going to be overwhelmed and I thought about moving my two reserve regiments to the flanks in case Ed or Ian required help. For a time it looked like the Union were going to beat off the enemy attacks, Sigel had turned up albeit not in the best place but very soon the flank attack combined with some bad luck for the Rebs ensured that the Union left would hold. Ed was now being heavily pressured on my right and was pulling back, my boys also began to suffer and although fighting bravely simply could not hold against superior numbers. It was about this time that Ian's aggressive moves went wrong and his original brigade now broke as did all the Union forces on the hill, only the flanking brigade was left. It had been so close but in the end the Rebs won, as they had done back in 1861.

For the first time in a while I managed some painting and completed a set of Looters and one of Villagers from Warlord Games as scatter pieces for the Italian Wars, it has taken me a while but I got there in the end. I have just received some Early War Germans from Crusader, a squad of infantry and a couple of 5cm mortars just to beef up my forces for the upcoming Gembloux Gap scenario which I hope to start once the dust has settled from the building works. That is all I am planning for now and have still to make my mind up as to my way forward on the Italian Wars armies.

Preparations are now being made for my take over of the old shop as work nears completion, at least on the inside. I am going to stain my work desk to a clour more suited for the new room, not something I will enjoy no doubt as I detest any kind of DIY, but it will save me a nice bit of dosh. I got a new paint holder for all my GW contrast paints, I sprayed it black as well as my Vallejo rack and they do look nice. Book cases are on the way and shelving for the troops will be ordered after Easter.


 I am a cantankerous old git when it comes to appreciating historical movies or series and whine about every wrong piece of armour or where the movie people deviate from my historical take on things as I flaunt my knowledge to anyone who will listen. No more, I have learned my lesson. With nothing to do this afternoon I sat and watched Paul Woodadge of WW2TV interviewing Stephen Rosenbaum, the visual effects supervisor on the recent "Masters of the Air" series and I was humbled. The detailed knowledge and hard work of Rosenbaum and his crew and their efforts to make the action and more as real as possible is a tour de force and a very exciting watch, your jaw will drop.

Friday 22 March 2024

The Rain In Spain

 I have recovered from my 'special' day last week and for now am back on an even keel, in so much as I can be in this madhouse of a world.

A flurry of activity in what I am beginning to call my 'Fortress of Solitude' this week, the floor is in, most of the woodwork is complete and the bathroom is also done. The shop front has now gone, well almost all of it so that leaves the new wall to finish and a garden wall to be built, obviously I am more interested in the inside and when I can annex it to my wargame empire. To this end I have now ordered bookcases, shelving, chairs etc. so light at the end of the tunnel and maybe a wargame or two.

New floor.

New front, almost.

Old Front.

This week I was introducing Fran to Chain of Command with the intention of kicking off a small campaign once everything is ship shape, I chose The Gembloux Gap as it is small and I can get my French troops out for a run. So I put something together for the game and off we went. I was the French and Fran took the bad guys, he took an extra squad and a PzIII, I had a Panhard armoured car and a 60mm mortar, which I forgot all about until the last turn.

Normally I would have waited several turns before putting my defenders down but that would not serve to introduce game mechanics so I popped a couple of squads and my grenadiers on fairly quick, the Germans managed to get most of their troops on and started to heap some hurt on my Frenchies or sit on overwatch waiting for the rest to turn up. I did not have a lot of luck and thankfully there were a few times when Fran also annoyed Lady Luck, I brought on the Panhard and traded shots with the PzIII to no avail, although I did catch its attention. 

As the time ran out the Jerries at last made a move towards my line but we stopped the game and packed up, Fran had had a decent run at the rules and is happy to give the campaign a try once I am ready, so I shall look forward to it.

This morning I headed north to Penrith and Matt's Dungeon, I asked if we could give WWII a miss and could he put on something colourful. I arrived to fight on the plains of Spain as two Arab armies faced off against each other at some point of the Dark Ages. We both had typical armies of the time and I also had a contingent of Christian mercenaries, Matt also had mercenaries, Turks I think. The object was to have more troops on the far side of a small stream at the end than the enemy, along with killing more enemy than you lost and thirdly there was an enemy camp which could be captured.

We were using Kings of War, a set of rules which I have never played and never had any intention of playing, simply because I have War and Conquest for my pre-gunpowder armies. It was going to be a sharp learning curve.

My first plan was to use my Christians to smash Matt's left flank and then turn in towards the centre and the camp over on the enemy right. This did not go so well and about three moves in I had a large gap in my line as I lost a couple of crossbow units and had had to withdraw my heavy cavalry due to enemy missile fire, it looked like an early bath for me.


The battlefield somewhere in Spain.

The bad guys.

The good guys.

I now made an effort on my left with horse archers and some medium cavalry and managed to see off the enemy horse on that flank, I now sent my infantry towards the enemy centre while Matt reciprocated, my right was only just hanging on and I sent some infantry across to stop my camp falling into enemy hands. Slowly, very slowly I began to get the upper hand on the right although things were still messy as both sides strove for an advantage. Then, out of the blue things swung my way and in the dying light of day I held my right, and smashed the enemy centre, the enemy were left with two units and the casualty roll was in my favour while my troops had secured the far bank.

My long suffering Christian cavalry get their own back.

I ford the stream and attack.

More troops are drawn into battle in the centre.

The game was different but exciting, the combat worked well but I had the impression that archery was too strong, now this might just have been because these armies relied a lot on missile troops and had plenty, Matt also assured me that it worked fine in the end, the jury is still out on that one. The rules are fast and easily picked up, I would be very happy to play them again, especially with the lovely troops and battlefields provided in the Dungeon.

I have to admit I am hooked on Shogun and this week I managed to get that tin of bog standard beer and enjoyed it with the latest episode last night, although I still can't get cheese and onion square crisps. I also got two new books having finished the two volumes on Rorke's Drift, due to my renewed interest on the bombing campaign against Germany I settled on 'Dresden' while my eyes also lit upon a history of the emperor Justinian. I should have looked at the latter closer, I make it a policy not to buy history books without maps or using BCE/CE rather than BC/AD, yes daft, but hey, that's me. Justinian has maps but I missed the other bit, grrrrrr.

Friday 15 March 2024

View From The Window: Special Edition

 "Let's go to Lancaster" says the missus as our house is again home to the builders, cue the rain. We can stop by Bathroom Supplies for a toilet roll holder, towel and soap holders, fairy snuff says I as I only have some details to put my latest, large, map project to bed. Enters what seems to be an empty shop, ten minutes later we form a search party for the owners and set off. Having at last succeeded in tracking someone down we swiftly wished we hadn't as the price for the three everyday items came to around £200. We left sharpish.

We decided on lunch before some shopping, we normally go to a basic but excellent chinese restaurant, it must be because all the Chinese students eat there, but instead walked a bit further to 'German Doner Kebab' as we had been intrigued by the name. I looked at the professionaly taken photographs of what was on order and chose the Doner Quesadilla, the missus had a Doner burger, yep, seems you can put anything between a roll. My meal turned up minus the lovely looking pot of salsa on the photograph, I made my way to the counter, you forgot my salsa says I, there is no salsa with the Quesadilla she says, yes there is, there it is on the photograph, no, that's just a photograph she insists, yes but one with a pot of salsa on it. Does the Doner Burger come without the burger because it is just a photograph I enquire but watch my caustic remark fly over her head and disappear behind the drinks machine. I rarely complain about food, I leave that to my sons and my wife, but this time I am going all the way to Glasgow, yes, that's where the head offices of 'German Doner Kebab' are!

What I got.

What was promised.

Then as we walked back to the city centre I ran the gauntlet of morons texting while expecting oncoming normal people to move aside, the sheer amount of these creatures leaves me without words, well I actually do have words but this is before 9 pm. I also do not move from my intended path.

Things were not improving, the wife bought one item in a store where only one of the six tills had a server at it, and who would be there at this till but a Gen Z'r texting while the assistant passed a large family's clothing allowance for the year through the zapper while her mother ran to and fro collecting even more clothing. I tried to get the missus to leave the growing queue on the basis they didn't really want money or there would be more people.

Coffee and a cake then home the Memsahib promised. We found a table, hunkered down and I waited to be served hand and foot while she went to get the drinks and eats, wait, on the opposite table sat a guy with a glass of water taking up a table of four seats piggy backing on the cafe's wifi while doing god knows what on his laptop for free. This annoyed me, I tried to appear interested in what the wife was saying but my eyes kept straying to the free loader next door, hoping someone would force him to buy something or move. That doesn't happen these days, I do remember when I had the paper shop and someone would blatently pick up a newspaper and leaf through it, I would quietly sneak up and whisper, this is not a library!

At last we headed home, I felt the urge for some beers, just bog standard British beer with an alcoholic kick as a change from zero as it might put a smile on my face, but mainly to sit and sup with some Walkers square crisps, cheese and onion while catching up on the latest episode of Shogun. The supermarket had every beer or lager from Paris to the Urals but no bog standard booze, the only square crisps they had were salt and vinegar, so back to zero alcohol for me. Then I tried to pay for it, the 'fast' checkout had a queue of 10 patiently and not so patiently waiting for the new assistant to speed up while, yes, only one of the six tills had someone in attendance.

A poll this afternoon in Lancaster.

So endeth the day.