Sunday 29 April 2012

Portable Crimean Russians

I've done some thinking about which of my figure collections I could use for a stab at Bob Cordery's The Portable Wargame rules and a terrain set inspired by Ian Dury's tabletop set.

For those of you who missed out it looks a bit like this!

Not knowing a lot of details about this setup I surmised that the figures must be 15mm, I could be wrong, but I have access to a club set of 15mm Peter Laing Crimean War figures and I thought that they would do nicely for an experiment.

A 4 base Russian battalion looks like this on a 3 inch square grid.

The same battalion in column of companies is slightly deeper than the 3 inch grid.

There is plenty of room when a skirmish company is deployed.

On a 2 inch grid the battalion takes up most of 2 squares.

A double line of companies almost fills one square.

Even with a skirmish company thrown out one 2 inch square is not big enough.

Moving up to a 3.5 inch square leaves plenty of room for 4 companies in column.

Likewise leading with a skirmish company is OK.

A battalion in double line of companies has plenty of room.

So much so that a second battalion can be brought into close support.

This experiment has given me great food for thought. Can I develop this plan further without straying too far from Bobs original ideas and also emulating the visual impact of Ian Dury's setup.

Saturday 28 April 2012

NATO Modellers

Looks like those of us who make wargame models have nothing to fear from NATO.

Drill using cardboard boats onboard HMS Illustrious

Mind you, they will be much better at the real thing!!

Friday 27 April 2012

Old School Ancient Wargame

My wargame chums got together to play an Old School Ancient wargame using a set of rules written in 1972 by a veteran wargamer called Slim Mumford. These rules were widely used in several Scottish clubs in the 70's and 80's alongside whatever flavour of WRG Ancients that was current at the time.

The game pitched a Greek Confederation force against a formidable Spartan army.

In the foreground are a unit of Italian mercenaries, heavy infantry armed with pila and sword. They are preceded by a couple of units of skirmishers, slingers to the fore backed up with some peltasts.

In the midground beyond the mounted general are a unit of Theban hoplites who are screened by a unit of archers.

In the far distance the right wing of the Confederation are a hazy bunch.

Meanwhile on the other side of the featureless plain lies the Spartan army. Wall to wall hoplites in an impressive bronze tipped line plus a few menial peasants with pointy sticks and a heroic band of horsemen from Macedonia, a Greek province far to the north.

A close up of the Spartan line.

The hazy bunch on the Greek Confederation far right come into view. Light horse skirmish to the front followed by a unit of Federation Greek hoplites, some mercenary hoplites and a unit of Spartan renegades.

The first attack of the game was an apparantly rash assault by the Macedonian cavalry on the skirmish bowmen in the centre of the Confederation line. Rash it was indeed as the archers caused sufficient casualties on the charging horsemen to test their moral and promptly saw them flee in panic to the rear and probably back to the mountains in the north.

Meanwhile the two battle lines continued to close covered by their skirmishers. The Thebans and the Italian mercenaries shortened their lines which I thought was a bit strange but as I was umpire I could not comment. In general the Confederation skirmishers got the better of the Spartan light troops.

Funnily enough the Spartans shortened their line too. Maybe I was missing something!

A birdseye view of the whole affair.

Up to this point there had been a few morale tests for casualties caused by missiles the most extreme of which had taken the Macedonian cavalry out of the fight. The two main melees saw both sides closing to white of the eyes distance. In the foreground the Spartans took heavy casualties from the Italian pila but their good morale kept them in the fight. In the other scrum both sides fought to a standstill with one Greek unit halted in confusion but otherwise continuing to fight.

The second phases of both of these mass melees gradually saw the Spartans ground down and ready to give way to superior numbers. Additionally the Greek light cavalry were about to take some of the Spartans from behind.

The general flow of the game was fine although we had to debate a number of issues which we hope to resolve with a few houserules. These rules require you to roll lots of dice which is fine by us and both the firing chart and morale chart are easy to commit to memory. All in all we had a great game and will no doubt play it again soon.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Fear God and Dread Nought

I've always been fairly well read on the Royal Navy with the Great War being no exception so I was not expecting to be learning too much from an Osprey publication. This one was entitled 'British Dreadnought Vs German Dreadnought' and subtitled 'Jutland 1916'. It is from their 'Duel' series and I expected to read a fair comparison between them.

A fair comparison between the equivalent ships in the two fleets it was too albeit at a fairly low level of detail. Nothing much to write home about! At £5.76 plus postage I was not expecting too much at all.

One little detail did catch my eye as a possible typo. No it was definitely an error I thought. I even checked some of my other sources just to be sure. A quick peek through my copy of Janes confirmed my suspicions.

The Osprey stated that HMS Agincourt had a main battery of 14 guns each of 14" calibre. Nope said my memory banks, fourteen 12" guns is what she carried and both Wikipedia and Janes agreed with me.

Now if an Osprey approved author can make a simple mistake like that in a publication then how many other mistakes are there to be found in this publication alone. I will not be spending any of my precious reading time in trying to find out.

Thinking Out Loud

Having seen an evocative image on Bob Corderys' Blog I popped into the local B&Q to see what options I could peruse.

Bobs Blog is at:

The setup created by a wargamer called Ian Dury has called for some investigation.

The tiles Ian has made looked like MDF or carpet tiles or carpet underlay.

At B&Q I found two possible options.

One was Wood Fibreboard Underlay, a big pack costing £24 and would contain enough for an absolute ton of tiles. I have looked at this material before and thought that it wasn't very robust and could be difficult to cut accurately. I also think that it would be difficult to take paint.

The second was standard carpet tiles at £3 for a two foot square. Lots of different colours were available including greens, browns and greys. The tiles had a rubberised backing which might or might not be easily cut with a stanley knife.

Looking back at Ians tabletop I am not convinced that he used either of these options. I am more inclined to say that he used carpet tile without the rubberised backing. I wonder if we can get this question answered directly? (Bob?)

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Flexible Basing

Here is how I base up my 25mm Ancient figures to accomodate different rulesets.

The hoplites here are based for Hail Caesar. The individual figures are on 20mm square bases which have a layer of magnetic tape underneath. The sabot base is made from 3mm thick plastic card topped with steel paper. There is an additional edge about 4mm wide which keeps the figures ranked up nicely. This sabot base is nominally 170mm wide by 70mm deep and can be used to represent a 'standard' sized unit in Hail Caesar. You can see that it needs 24 figures in 3 ranks. Hail Caesar is not rigid in its basing requirements as long as both sides are based similarly and it does not remove figures as casualties.

Here the same figures have been transferred to sabot bases made for my 'old school' rules. These bases are also made from plastic card topped with steel paper and have a thin (1mm) edge strip to keep the figures tidy. These rules need single figure casualty removal and their structure also requires 20% divisions for moral purposes so a five wide base is handy. The figures were transferred from the Hail Caesar bases in seconds.

So this is one solution that meets the needs of an 'old school' regime as well as being useable in a more modern ruleset. If a different ruleset comes along with a different basing requirement then it is just a matter of making up different sized sabot bases.

As my good friend Derek would say 'Simples'.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Old School Revival

Here's a snippet of my next Old School Revival game.

Rules from the 1970's.

Watch this space.

Friday 20 April 2012

Pride and Shame in a Book

While tidying up my book shelves I came across a book I had read a few years ago. It was a book which managed to raise an enormous amount of pride and an equally sized proportion of shame in myself.

On the surface it is a simple story of some footballers who joined the army and most of them were killed. Beneath the surface there is a tremendous tale of glory, sacrifice and shame. A football team who challenged and beat the best clubs in the country, they were the best in the country and then shamed by society for their apparant indifference to the Great War raging overseas. Many answered the call and paid the ultimate sacrifice alongside many of their countrymen.

After the war their story slipped in oblivion until a young local author many years after the events tackled their story and highlighted the shame of those in authority who chose not to remember.

The story is one of football, of soldiering, of war and of sacrifice. When I was reading the book I started to recognise the locales, I am born and bred in Edinburgh. I also started to recognise the characters, the families and the men, the jobs that they did and the society in which the story lives. My mothers father would have recognised much more, he was one of that generation although he had joined up before the outbreak of hostilities and was a regular in the Royal Scots serving in India and Palestine before doing his bit in the trenches. He left many of his chums behind in Flanders.

From The Scotsman, Friday, 28 December 1928:

McCrae. - At Turluish, North Berwick, on 27th December, Colonel Sir George McCrae, DSO. Service in Lady Glenorchy's Established Church, Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, on Saturday 29th December at 2 p.m.; thereafter funeral, with military honours, to Grange Cemetery. Those desirous of attending, kindly accept this (the only) intimation and invitation.

A great many people were 'desirous of attending' - as friends, mark you, not just respectful strangers. The turn-out for Sir George McCrae's funeral remains the largest ever seen in Scotland. Businesses closed, traffic was suspended, the streets of the capital's old southside were so crowded that in the words of one was there, 'you might have thought the King had passed away'. Yet today the memory of the man, and of the brilliant battalion that he raised and later commanded on the Western Front, has dimmed to the point of extinction.

This, at long last, is their story.

I can strongly recommend that you read this story!

Thursday 19 April 2012

Featherstone Playtest - Old School Battle

I had a few friends round for a playtest battle using Donald Featherstones rules from the 1960's. None of my friends had played them before and it has been quite a while since I've used them.

We used some of my Spencer Smith 30mm ACW collection on a smallish 6 x 4 table and we allowed infantry units to use double ranks instead of the single rank formations as the table was comparitively narrow.

The scenario consisted of a Southern brigade with some artillery support defending an old foot bridge and a pair of fords on an otherwise uncrossable river. The attacking Union force had two brigades of infantry advancing from several directions who had outstripped their own artillery.

Looking south at the westernmost ford you can see a Union infantry brigade marching down the turnpike towards a rebel regiment on guard duty.

Meanwhile another Confederate regiment guards the easternmost ford as two Union regiments advance in their direction from the north and the east. Note the half battery accompanying the southerners.

The Confederate Regiment covering the western ford crosses over to the northern side to give it room to deploy against the superior numbers of approaching Yankees whose artillery has caught them up.

At the eastern ford the defending Confederate Regiment stays on the southern side of the river hoping that the artillery would boost their firepower in the face of superior numbers.

One Union Regiment falls back up the hill after taking serious losses. Would they rally and come on down again?

Back at the west ford the rebels take casualties but hold their ground against the advancing Union troops.

At the east ford the two adversaries face off against each other dishing out punishment like there was a war on.

The diminishing rebels continue to hold off the strong Union Brigade.

The second Union Regiment at the west ford starts to buckle at the knees under galling fire from the rebels. The Southern troops seemed to have been successful in their defense of the west ford and their neighbours at the east ford received a reinforcing Regiment just in time.

At this point we called the game to a close which allowed us to debate our interpretation of these Old School rules. The consensus was that we would play them again hopefully with more troops on a bigger table.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Holiday Reading, Part Deux

A number of packages came through the letter box this morning with some more of my planned reading material.

The 12th SS, Hubert Meyer, Stackpole Military History Series, I am no great fan of the SS but I have modelled the 12th SS Panzer Division in 6mm to provide opponents for my American Normandy invasion force.

Greek Hoplite 480-323 BC, Nicholas Sekunda (Warrior - Osprey), more background for my Old School 25mm Greek and Macedonian armies.

The Grand Fleet, David K Brown, Warship Design and Development 1906-1922, Bob made me do it :-)

And of course I forgot to include:

The War Game Rules, Charles S Grant, a war game classic updated and due to become a classic in its own right!!

There you go, I now have too many books to actually take unless I leave my kilt behind or wear it all the way. Opinions and reading priorities are welcome.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Holiday Reading List

Here is a selection of books from which I will be selecting my reading list for my forthcoming holiday. I would be keen to hear any valid opinions from those of you who have read any of these books although I would not welcome any spoilers!

SNUFF, Terry Pratchett,a Discworld Novel, a XMAS present which I've been hanging on to for the holidays.

British Dreadnought Vs German Dreadnought, Mark Stille (Osprey),  hopefully this will remind me of all the things I have forgotten about dreadnoughts.

Battle On The Seven Seas, Gary Staff, German Cruiser Battles 1914-1918, should be a good read.

Napoleonic Wargaming, Neil Thomas, yet another set of rules.

Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878, Neil Thomas, looking for ideas.

I have a few more on order which should arrive before I leave in three weeks time.

Friday 13 April 2012

Birthday Book

Today is my birthday, happy birthday to me and those who share the day.

My good lady rarely knows what to get me these days and said so as I was reading online that Charles S Grant had produced an updated form of The War Game. Logic soon followed and an order was placed via Ken Trotman Ltd on Tuesday of this week.

Lo and behold a brown envelope fell through the letterbox this morning (Friday) before I was even out of bed.

A ruleset with 40 years of playtesting, 50 odd pages of explanatory pictures and text, a couple of quick reference playsheets (3 pages each) and a 4 page Action guide.

What is there not to like about this and at £15 plus postage a bargain to boots!

Happy birthday to me!!

Sunday 8 April 2012

Brilliant Book, Dire DVD

A chum of mine offered me a book to read. It turned out to be a cracker.

Apologies for the poor second scan. My scanner took a 'wobbly' and defied me for a while.

The book itself was a very very good read, I enjoyed it immensely.

The first chapter told the story of Black Knight and the early days of the British Space program followed by a view of Concorde which I hadn't appreciated before. Chapter three covered the early days of home computing, BBC Micro and all that. I greatly enjoyed this part as I spent over forty years working in a computing environment and saw a lot of the detail first hand. The next chapter told the story of the development of the mobile phone network, enlightening it was too! The penultimate chapter went on about the Human Genome Project and some scientists who didn't play to the same rules as many others did. The final chapter saw us back in space plunging towards Mars and doom and disaster.

All in all it was a damn fine read and I can recommend it to anyone particularly if you have worked in any of the technologies covered.

My recent work on restoring and collecting 25mm figures from Ancient Greece encouraged me to reread some of my old books, purchase some new ones and also to buy a DVD on The Greek and Persian Wars from the History of Warfare range.

Disappointment was an understatement within minutes of watching this DVD. Scene one showed a motley collection of 'hoplites', some with bent spearheads and others with their shields upside down. The quality did not improve with further viewing despite some stirring words from actor Brian Blessed and historian David Chandler.

I was quite unable to view much further although I did spot check some scenes later on. Dire, dire, dire was this DVD, avoid it if at all possible. I have had more fun poking my eyeballs with sharp sticks.

Friday 6 April 2012

Cotton Wool Ball Battle

A couple of my chums came along to my hut for a game. I surprised them with a Cotton Wool Ball Battle which hasn't been played for a few years. In fact one of them had not played it before.

The French squadron commanded by Admiral B consisted of the Cochon Noire and the Premier D'April.

The British squadron was made up with Useless and Incapable and was commanded by Admiral H.

The French crept cautiously from their corner while the British boldly headed for the centre of the battle area.

Admiral H gentlemanly held his fire (probably finishing his tea) while the French commander had no problem getting stuck in.

As you can see his opening salvo was devastatingly inaccurate!

Incapable leading Useless across the French T.

The French perform the famous 'you go this way and I'll go that way' naval tactic.

This allowed Admiral H to concentrate his fire on the Premier D'April.

Horribly outgunned the Premier D'April turns back to rejoin her comrade Cochon Noire.

We paused the game at this point to review the game mechanics and came up with a revision of the target template.

I hastily redrew the template on a handy piece of cardboard making it much larger. We also discussed adding a third dimension to the target in the form of little boxes around each of the target areas to catch the cotton wool balls as they hit the target. Its construction will have to wait for a later day.

Premier D'April was beginning to suffer by this time, reduced to half speed although her fire power was undiminished.

Damage continued to accumulate on her taking her down to quarter speed. It wouldn't take much more to stop her dead.

A final hit on the bridge made her uncontrollable as she limped homewards covered by her erstwile comrade in arms Cochon Noire.

The Useless had taken severe damage to her brasswork and oak planking so Admiral H decided to head home in time for afternoon tea. Meanwhile the Admiral B thought 'Lutter contre un autre jour'.