Thursday 22 December 2022

The Last Post 2022


We have had our Christmas game and that just about signals the end of my wargaming for the year. A very large Muskets and Tomahawks game was arranged by Rob and Ed, there were a further fourteen of us playing. We all had a group of figures, Indians, British, French, Sweepings of the Gutter and I am sure one other criminal element which escapes me for the moment, I had a bunch of Indians, lovely figures and well painted.

Our hero far right.

There were 'treasure' points spread throughout the battlefield and these could garner treasure (points), an enemy or some other diabolical entity dreamt up by Rob, the winner would be the person with the most points. I set off in tandem with Dan who also had Indians and decided to move on Stuart who unluckily happened to be deployed between us. My first treasure was a heap of rather disgusting pelts worth very little. Dan and I eventually got close enough to Stuart's men to surround and attack him, he managed to survive and then fled while we stayed put confused. Dan now turned his attention to some Scots plunging through the woods nearby while I continued to harass the French survivors, we had a frightful melee which left one Frenchie and two Indians standing. I had intended to move on nearby Julian and his cutthroats but not with two men.

Before the game we had our annual meeting and I asked for 28mm hedges, so I shall get in touch with Andy at The Last Valley and hopefully have some in the New Year, it also seemed like a good idea to try and attract some younger members and it was generally agreed to be a good thing, although we did manage to get some older new members who have benefited the club. The Cumbrian Chef, Julian, brought his usual gift of mince pies, a few which made themselves to Casa Anderson for the Memsahib and Rob presented me with a lovely painted French staff officer for my birthday whom I will find time to base over the festive season.

I have a busy time now until I pack away my festive face on the 2nd January for another year, our first club night will be the 3rd so I will have to look at getting back on the hobby horse. My plans for 2023 are not complicated, I shall continue to add to my Italian Wars project and build an Imperial/Spanish army to oppose my French. I had hoped to have the French complete this year but now find I need at least another two cavalry units and a figure for King Francis before I can move on. I have all the figures already to build a large Imperial Landsknecht pike block and populate a small camp (the tents are coming from Slovakia). I also have some Early War Germans on the way as I felt I needed another MMG team and a few extra Landser, I am also looking at a few more vehicles simply because I like painting them, building them is just a necessity. I also have to look at field works for the Italian Wars, especially gun emplacements.

The suits at the LMF have handed in the finances for 2022 and I have spent way too much throughout the year, and coming from someone who is not averse to spending money on himself it was a shock. I have therefore decided on a freeze until all the above is completed before loosening the purse strings again. The files have been taken to the vault and marked "My Eyes Only" and the key disposed of.

 Looking backwards now and the year saw me have a nice holiday in Sicily early on, after which came my retirement and the closure of the Post Office at the end of August. After 23 years I parted with Post Office Limited (very limited) owing me £6, they have now paid up and I have called off Lawyers4U. I started the Italian Wars Project and have enjoyed every minute of it and am looking forward to getting the Imperial army on to the table. I also managed to get quite a bit of gaming in in different periods and made an effort to get my troops on the table both at the club and at home, a big thanks to all my opponents who made it possible.

Next year I hope to have another push at playing more games. I have started a Chain of Command campaign which is off to a promising start, despite having had to give up ground, I have been asked to host the next Napoleonic game as Rob cannot get into the Gin Pit in Grange and I am hoping to get back to the ACW in February with a return to Chancellorsville.

I shall now hang up my keyboard and wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Saturday 17 December 2022

Smolensk: Careful what you wish for

 Ever since deciding to get back into Chain of Command I have wanted to play a campaign, I did manage a couple of solo efforts during Lockdown and although Matt Smith kindly gave me orders and chose supports it doesn't beat playing against another person face to face.

I mentioned this to Matt Crump and sent him a couple of Eastern Front campaigns that I really wanted to do and he jumped at Smolensk 1941: Timoshenko's Counterattack, which is a very intriguing little campaign with some out of the box thinking involved. He chose to be the Russians and his first move was against the central position of Yartsevo on the River Vop, I half expected Matt to attack from the South but he came from the East. I had a measly 3 points of support while the Russians got 12, I took a pre-game barrage and a minefield which I used to block my left flank, Matt took a 50mm mortar, an MMG, Adjutant, SMG's for his NCO's, a Sniper and a pre-game barrage.

My barrage was quite effective and Matt took a long time to bring all his forces to the table, but he had the benefit of cover and hid behind and in the station building, I did not at first have a clear field of fire. Anastasia the sniper opened up first and wounded one of my squad leaders, she then quickly became a real pain so a lot of my efforts went to find her and kill her, I did break her small team and she fled, I gave a sigh of relief. Matt now opened up from the station and mortared my right hand squad on the bridge and soon shock began to build on them, I brought another team on in the centre of my position but he still concentrated on the right flank.

I did manage to send his MMG team packing and things looked good for a while as I still had a squad in reserve. The Russians now made their play and two squads left the safe area behind the station, one on each side, I smiled inwardly as they were in the open and I could throw a bucket'o'dice at them, but despite this my shooting had little effect, quite a bit of shock was being handed out but no casualties. My own troops were suffering from both shock and casualties and before long the concentrated firepower of the Russians forced me to retreat, I had to try and minimize the damage as I only have two infantry platoons while the Russians get a new platoon every game.

It was Matt's first game and I was a bit stunned, but he played the terrain well and my lack of kills was frustrating.  Despite losing, the morale of 1st Platoon is fine and the toll at the end was three men dead, two in hospital and two back with their comrades. The initiative remains with the Reds and they are off to a good start, will I have to spend valuable resource points to bolster my defenders, who knows. I did make some mistakes with the rules as it has been a long time, but I think we will catch up on those by the next game.

You can find Matt's take on the game and the view from the Russian side here, I recommend it.

 Just when I thought my trips to Italy were over for the campaigning season I was offered a game by Rob Martin, so a couple of days before the above clash Rob and I met across the table in yet another game of Furioso. Once again I had halved my French army, Rob set up with two pike blocks on his right and one on his left with cavalry and artillery in between and a couple of mounted units on each flank, I put all my infantry in the centre, cavalry on my right and artillery and shot on my left with some cavalry even further out.

My troops were keen to advance but not overly so that they went hell for leather with no control, a welcome surprise for me. Rob on the other hand quickly lost control and his men rushed forward, all apart from his Italians who sat out the whole game without moving, maybe they knew something was about to go wrong. As the cavalry clashed on both wings my boys were very successful and Rob's mounted troops were crushed, meanwhile his Landsknechts had raced across the battlefield to meet mine, with hatred in their eyes these mercenaries clashed and once again my enemy were cut down and my troops victorious, surely Rob had to get a break at some point.


Rob on the left, me on the right

My infantry bathe in the sunlight

My artillery

Landsknechts led by the Duke of Suffolk

As my Swiss advanced against the enemy centre their cavalry swept down crashing into the pike block, having lost a pike block previously to cavalry I was a bit worried as these were elite Gendarmes, but I should have trusted my men and soon the French nobility were a bloody mess underfoot. With his own Swiss slowed by the hill to their front and facing cavalry to front and flank Rob handed over his sword. A really good morning's wargaming over too soon but Rob expressed an interest in the rules and hopefully we can get to grips again at some point. Rob left a gift of excellent pork pies from his local butcher so it was a win, win for me.

 Over a week ago I got a message asking me to phone a number, thinking it was a scam, I am very suspicious, I did not bother, I checked again later had second thoughts and phoned. The call was from a longstanding wargamer who wanted to give away his collection due to downsizing and wanted it to go to people who would appreciate it, all free. I passed on the information to the club and also put him in touch with some of the lads and the club have benefited from his kindness. He is not a million miles away and perhaps once he has settled he might visit. How nice is that.

 I finished some scatter terrain gifted to me ages ago by friend Matt Smith, it was a nice, if quick, change from painting Italian Wars, for my birthday I received a nice surprise of two pieces of painted and finished scatter from Matt. Many thanks mate.

Previous goodies from Matt

An unexpected birthday gift

Talking about painting Italian Wars I have finished yet another Gendarme unit led by another Scot, Robert Stewart, captain of the Kings guard and eventual Marshal of France. I have another Archer cavalry unit ready to paint but I have put them to the side for the moment as I have a lot to concentrate on with maps and the upcoming festive season and maybe just a tad jaded.

I eventually gave in and watched the latest Batman movie, I am a big fan as you know, but had had a bad feeling about this one. I actually liked it, a different take on the Dark Knight from what I am used to, in film if not in comics. But yes, one piece of woke rubbish got my hackles up when Catwoman declared "Let's take down all the white privileged rich folks" or words to that effect. I don't know about you but I am still waiting for this privilege to kick in.

 I bought a bar of Tony's Chocolonely because it is the same size as chocolate used to be before Cadbury's etc. went to 5 mm. It is made in unequal chunks because, you guessed it, life is unequal, all I wanted was a decent chunk of chocolate, not a lecture.

I have an apology to make to Olivia over my grumpiness last post, my parcel was delivered on time by the said Olivia, a charming young lady with a lovely smile.

Thursday 8 December 2022

North Italian Plain about dinner time

 What a cold, dark night to be abroad on my latest trip to the club, but I had offered Stewart a trial of Furioso so made my way to Lancaster, once again thank you to the World Cup for the ease of parking although I do wonder if there are enough Moroccan's in Lancaster to make a mess of the city centre if they win again, but I digress.

I had brought the same troops as last week although I had learned a bit more of the rules, or rather remembered them, I had tweaked the QRS but failed to laminate the new sheets as my laminator had inexplicably decided to not work, something it had caught from my mouse a few days ago. Why does this stuff suddenly just give up, anyway I had to dip into the LMF to renew said items.

Back to the game, I deployed all my cavalry on my left, the pike blocks in the centre of the battlefield and my field gun and shot on the far right, as it turned out Stewart had put his infantry on his right with his Gendarmes and on his far left his gun, shot and the remainder of his cavalry. As the battle opened my Swiss went haywire and bolted across the field to their nearest enemy, which just happened to be Stewart's Swiss, this had the unhappy effect of cutting off the rest of the pike blocks from easily getting to each other. My Gendarmes also ran forward despite the entreaties of my general, the Admiral, I therefore decided just to go with the flow and supported this attack with my heavy cavalry and mounted crossbows.


My forces

Stewart lines up

The Swiss clashed and thus started a melee which went back and forward for most of the game with my guys slowly being ground down. My cavalry managed to push the enemy back but I lost the Duke of Albany while doing it and although winning I failed to actually break anyone. One good thing was that Stewart's Old Band pike and Landsknechts had no opening and no opponent they could engage, the same applied to my Landsknechts as the Swiss fight in the centre prevented a lot of movement. My Italian pike therefore were the target of Stewart's impetuous heavy cavalry, I was ready for them and again had a unit of shot and my field gun placed to sweep them with lead as they thundered past, but again it did not happen, just like last week. No matter, surely the cavalry were mad to attempt a frontal charge against the pikes, but they did and my pikes were soon in trouble.

A traffic jam on Stewart's left

The Swiss

My Landsknechts have no room

Nearing the end with my Swiss ready to run in the background

As the time flew I perused the wreck of all my hopes, my cavalry were winning but ever so slowly, Stewart had two fresh pike blocks ready to move on them, my Swiss broke and even more incredibly so did my Italian pikes. I surrendered to the inevitable.

I felt more at ease with the rules this time and enjoyed the game, although my die rolling was dire and Stewart's was far better, I think I counted two good rolls in the entire game. The Swiss did for me haring across the battlefield and not winning their fight, this upset any plan I had to recover. That is probably it for the Italian Wars for now until after the festive season which is almost upon us.

I have six Gendarmes on the painting tray at the moment, the horses are almost done and I expect the unit to be finished some time after the weekend, after that it is one more heavy cavalry unit and that will be the French done for now, no, I still have the king to buy and paint. 72 Imperial Landsknechts are in reserve.

I still await my camp paraphernalia. I received my first 3D print today, a really nice piece in resin but even as I took it out of the box I knew it was too small, it is supposed to be 1/56 so compatible with the rest of my resin and plastic kits, but I will never take to it despite how nice it is. The company has a returns policy so it is going back, a real shame.

I was being dragged around Lancaster at the weekend and we popped into Clarks Shoes as the missus wanted some new boots. this is part of an advert of what Clarks' idea of The World Ahead looks like, at least for white guys. It's not just me, is it?

I have just received an email telling me that my parcel is being delivered by Olivia and the vehicle is all electric. If I get my parcel in time it could be steam powered, and no, I won't fill in the next email to tell you how brilliantly Olivia opened my gate and handed me my parcel.

Sunday 4 December 2022

Italian Wars: Furioso

 When I decided at the beginning of the year that my final project was not going to be the Seven Years War and I was happy with what I had, I turned to one of those periods we all have but never get around to, one of mine was The Italian Wars. A large display at FIASCO on the battle of Fornovo by Ken Reilly, the Yarkshire Gamer, and the fact I was drawing the maps for Helion's series on the wars from Volume 2 decided me, my last hurrah would be Renaissance warfare. I won't stop adding bits and pieces to what I have or tarting up my terrain but this is my last big period and I expect it to be quite a size by the time it is finished.

Unusually for me I jumped in without a clue about the rules I would use, Pike and Shotte is used, with amendments, by many for the big battles associated with the period, this is not a 20 figures a side played on a two foot board in half an hour wargaming, this is real, old fashioned wargaming, and therefore another plus for me. There are quite a few Ancient/Medieval rules out there which can be tweaked but at the end of the day the Italian Wars start with medieval armies and end with the beginnings of modern warfare where gunpowder weapons begin to reign supreme, also the tactics and organisations, the experiments along the way are unique to the period and do not deserve just to be bolted on to a set of rules dealing with Romans or Crusaders.

I have an online edition of Pike and Shotte and several kind people have sent me their amendments and ideas on how to give them an Italian Wars feel and they are in reserve. Nonetheless I settled on Furioso from Alternative Armies, a surprisingly cheap, black and white publication bereft of eye candy and the eye watering price associated nowadays with such publications.

Furioso was written for the period and is full of Renaissance flavour pertaining to the Wars. There is a basing convention, I found it best to double up my pike bases as they looked better and it helped with moving. The core of the rules is the Initiative roll, each unit gets to roll a die and add or minus initiative points, elite Gendarmes add 2, which makes them hard to control while unenthusiastic troops like Italian Militia have a minus number, making them quite reluctant to do what you want them to do. The units with the highest initiative scores move first, with each side taking it in turn and completing shooting and or combat before the players move to the next unit. How this would work with really large battles I am unsure, perhaps an initiative score for each command, we will see.

I like the combat system, the first phase is to see how many casualties you can deal out, veterans and elite units like the Swiss and Gendarmes have an edge over most troops, you then have a chance to save these casualties before moving to the third phase. This is how the unit feels about what has just happened and even although you took more casualties your morale can help you withstand this and turn the tables on your opponent. Each army has a number of Army Morale Points and as these are lost their will to continue fighting lowers until they break.

I mentioned the flavour of the rules above and this can be found in several sections, Hazzards where Mercenaries can strike, troops will desert or the army can suffer fatigue from a long march, Pre-Battle Events with Papal blessings, assassinations or unknown ground can help or hinder the army. You do not have to bring these into play and I have been on the wrong side of every Pre-Battle Event so far. The last section of the rule book has army lists for all the main protaganists and wars from 1494 to 1551 it also gives you unit cards for deployment and character cards for generals.

Having played four games now Julian and I have not changed much but have dropped the requirement to move the full initiative move whether you wanted to or not, we are also looking at the high instance of being disordered when moving in bad terrain especially if you are lackluster troops and we are not entirely happy with formation changes. It is still too early to have a knee jerk reaction to these and we will see how more games play out. Steve Danes the author is willing to answer any questions you put on the Alternative Armies Facebook page, even after the rules first came out in 2017.

The rules also have a supplement, this has historical scenarios and rules for introducing mercenary captains and solo play. It also allows you to bring in Da Vinci's tanks and flying machines along with all sorts of other inventions to wander off to a place where I would not be comfortable, but that's me.

I have almost completed my French army and it has taken me since March, Julian got the Warlord Games Landsknecht starter army and boxes of cavalry and has done a great job on them, he plans to choose an army for next year and incorporate what he has into it. I myself will be moving on to an Imperial army but I want to get some research under my belt first.

I did some online retail therapy yesterday re The Italian Wars, I want a camp so got a couple of large resin tents from a company in Slovakia, I aim to populate the camp with some characters from Warlord Games, Landsknechts arming for battle and a little bunch playing cards or dice on a drum plus a few civilians. I was going to get some carts but I have some Dark Age types which will do the job. This only leaves fieldworks, the gun emplacements are easy to buy but I might try and build my own palisades.

Thursday 1 December 2022

Two for one II

 Bolt Action last time, Italian Wars this time. On Club night I offered to introduce Simon to the joys of Renaissance warfare albeit being a novice myself having only two games under my belt. No matter I split my French forces into two small armies almost identical apart from Simon having Old Band pike and my lacklustre force being Italian pike.

I kept all my infantry in the centre and put my cavalry on my left, a mix of artillery, shot and light cavalry were on my right, opposite Simon had put two pike blocks on his left and then mixed the rest of his units along the line. I saw that my cavalry wing was more powerful than Simon's so led with them, my Swiss as usual went hell for leather across the table aiming for the Swiss on the opposite side supported by my Landsknechts while the Italians ever so slowly advanced. I kept my right where it was.

Simon left, me right

Italians and Swiss

My infantry advance

My cavalry did OK, the Scots again riding down their opponents and moving towards the enemy rear, my second Gendarme unit was beat and dispersed and the enemy in turn made for my rear area, as the Italians had not moved far I turned them to face this threat. My Swiss meanwhile had met their brethren in the service of the enemy and soundly thrashed them and they fled the field, my Landsknechts were getting ready to square up to the enemy mercenaries but time ran out. Simon's remaining Gendarmes had galloped across the battlefield and hit my right wing heavy cavalry while the bullets and shot from my artillery and arquebusiers failed to make even a dent in their armour, my cavalry however remained standing after the first clash albeit pushed back, a real surprise against such a highly motivated enemy.

The bell rang and Simon professed he liked the rules, I again made notes of several things which came up. On the table the Duke of Albany was behind enemy lines, their Swiss mercenaries had gone and his strong left had still to make contact, there was more fighting to be done but we had to leave it. Another good fight ruined by me leaving my phone at the club and panicking when I got home as well as taking flak from the Memsahib. Friend Matt went back to the club and found it on a chair now that its cloaking device had run out of steam. Oh, and parking was very easy, some kind of football tournament on, hope it lasts.

Swiss clash

My useless gunners

Julian was coming over for another large Italian Wars game and I chose the Battle of Fornovo from the Furioso Supplement, it looked quite interesting and we had, just, enough units to fight it. I was a bit dubious about the outcome as the French army is vastly outnumbered in cavalry and artillery and had to march the length of the table to escape off the far end, also Julian is not as docile as the real Italian commanders, but it looked worth a try.

Fornovo and river Taro

French baggage

The battle opened with the Italian light cavalry on their right fording the river Taro and aiming to cause some trouble for my Vanguard, elsewhere the enemy all moved towards the river. I turned my cavalry towards the enemy along with the Swiss and kept my other pike blocks and baggage train moving towards safety a long way away. the Scots again dashed forward and although they destroyed the Stradiots they could not budge the mounted crossbowmen behind them and this fight dragged on all afternoon and saved the enemy artillery line from a crushing charge from Albany, I was miffed. My Swiss hit the enemy Landsknechts and again this fight went back and forward before the Swiss were victorious but badly blooded, again I had lost precious time, for a moment it looked like I would win here before the Italians organised but a nearby cavalry unit was destroyed and my hopes were dashed.

Run away!

Italian Army

Enemy at the river

First attempts to cross

As the Italian pressure mounted I had to turn my Old Band pikes towards the enemy while the desperately slow baggage train trundled along, I had given up all hope of making it off the battlefield, but if I could yet cause some loss to the enemy I might salvage something. As my Old Band hit the Venetian Militia my high hopes were dashed, Alencon was pushed back. Italian cavalry were now all across the river and moving to flank my pike blocks, cut off the road and grab the baggage train, all was lost. I called a halt to the slaughter.

Old Band vs Venetian Militia

Italian view

Chaos reigns but looks good

The battle the way it is presented in this scenario I would think is nigh on impossible for the French to win unless all they do is storm along the road before the enemy manage to cross the Taro and even then half of the army would have to turn and fight. Nevertheless it looked really good on the table and we had a very enjoyable day fighting it, I do have the Helion book on Fornovo but didn't find the time to do my own research, I will now and see if there is a better way to fight it rather than the objective being to run off the table, perhaps have the French already turned and awaiting the assault. Julian beat me in the dice war and my units surprisingly had a hard time winning and winning quickly despite the odds being in their favour, the Scots are gaining a reputation and that of my Swiss took a bit of a knock, the army seemed to have no heart in this game.

Once again I have arquebusiers ready to join the army, I am done for now painting shot units, I have enough now, I do have a couple more packs but I am arquebust out. I have Gendarmes and heavy cavalry in the pile and not sure I will do those either, I might have a break and catch up on that 250/1 halftrack I did recently and add some baggage to the sides, I also have some scatter bits and pieces given as a gift from mate Matt in darkest Somerset which need work.

I have sent away for my first 3D vehicle, it is one which I cannot get a kit of although Warlord Games does a resin one, but I wanted the one with the machine gun on it, what is it you ask, you will see in the fullness of time.

Right, it has been a full day and I have another training game of Furioso at the club next week with Stewart.