Friday, 24 March 2017

Bargain Basement

Whilst it's great to hear about big projects and buying whole new armies, the dedicated wargaming nerd also knows the distinctive pleasure of modest bargain purchases, especially of things you never knew you needed until you found them online. Here's a couple of my recent ones.

How cheap are your palm trees?
Thinking it was time to assemble a little ancients-style terrain for my Trimsos armies, I started searching for palm trees, and happened on some ultra cheap ones on ebay. Ten for less than £3? And post free, for Christ's sake. I had to try them. 

Thinking they would be junk, I was pleasantly surprised when they finally arrived (about 10 days later). They were actually pretty good, well up to my requirements for wargames terrain. They come with 1cm pegs moulded to the end of the trunk, which I removed before tacking them to some pennies with super-glue. Then I reinforced the bond by spreading Araldite around the base of the trunks. Now it's time to base them up properly. 

These will do fine for me. There's a whole range of them on ebay in different sizes, retailed by the same Chinese company, 'toysloveit'. They also have other types of trees dirt cheap.

Tea Is Served
I have occasionally felt the need for some tea-time style trays which would serve as the middle man between storage cabinets and wargames table. The usefulness of such things was highlighted by my large scale Aufeld game last year, when I had to put the troops out on the table overnight for deployment by the gamers next morning:

This turned out to be a bit inconvenient for the players, who had to shuffle large numbers of figures around in a cramped space trying to get their deployment sorted out. How much easier if the various brigades were available on convenient trays, stored on any nearby level surface, which could be brought to the table as required for the unloading and deployment of the various units.

So again I got busy in the interweb. There's plenty of relatively expensive stuff out there, but then I happened on the products of a catering supplies company called Nisbets and found these babies. Yes, £1.80 each, with £5 postage which gets you next day delivery. I ordered four, once again not sure what to expect.

And once again I was very pleasantly surprised. These are solid, well moulded, hard-plastic items designed to put up with daily abuse in your typical cafeteria. They'll last indefinitely, as far as I can tell, and come in a tasteful British racing green. They have a nice non-slip interior surface which should avoid your soldiers or vehicles sliding around too much.

The photos show some 28mm Prussian grenadiers loaded on board. These small size trays are 10" x 14", but you can also get get medium and large, as well as a good range of other colours. I expect to get some good use out these fellows, but at £13.20 for the whole order, who cares if they only see occasional service?

Happy, Happy, Happy
And so my week has been brightened by the simple pleasure of receiving these items. My wife thinks I'm crazy, but as I always tell her, she should be thankful I don't go online to empty the family bank account through internet gambling. Such rational arguments, however, appear to have little effect on the female mind.

'Til next time!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Leaping Indians

My latest game with Stuart featured a scenario that has been a great favourite of his for many years, a French-Indian War scenario which rejoices in the title 'Leaping Indians', or more prosaically 'The Relief Of Fort Cumberland'. It featured in an issue of Practical Wargamer many years ago (Stuart doesn't remember the exact one), with the fort then called Fort Rodwell. I include the original article below with Stuart's permission. Clicking on the page should make it easier to read. This scenario later formed the inspiration for scenario 27 'Raid On A Stockade' in the 1996 book Scenarios For All Ages, authored by Stuart and Charles S. Grant.

There were a few alterations for our own game to take account of the figures and terrain available, but the basic idea of the game remained identical. So without further ado I append Stuart's rules for this contest and the order of battle we used. Thanks to Stuart for writing these out and providing them for inclusion in the blog.

The Relief of Fort Cumberland (7YW)
(aka ‘Leaping Indians’) by Stuart Asquith

All artillerymen, all line infantry, Compagnes Franches de la Marine
Provincial: The New Jersey Regiment
Militia: Coureurs de bois, rangers, colonial infantry
Irregulars: Civilians, Indians


Regulars and provincials                     1 dice
Regular light infantry and Militia       1½ dice
Irregulars                                             2 dice
(Note: Figures defending the fort are allowed a 6 inch move within the fort).
Light infantry deployed into open order move as militia.
General points:
All figures are individually based.
Regular and provincial troops move at half speed if moving and firing.
Militia and irregulars may make a full move and fire.
Artillery takes a complete move to unlimber or limber up, and cannot move and fire.


General points:
Regular and provincial troops suffer standard casualties
Militia and irregular troops suffer only half casualties
Cover reduces all casualties by half. (All troops within the fort are under cover.)



Musket short range: 0-3”, long range: 3-6”.
Rifle short range: 0-6”, long range: 6-12”.
Each figure firing rolls one dice.
At short range a score of 5 or 6 removes one figure, at long range a 6 is needed.
Any casualties have the right to return fire that game turn before they are removed.


Each artillery piece rolls one dice (D6).
Short range: 0-12”, long range: 12-24”.
At short range a score of 5 or 6 removes one figure, at long range a 6 is needed.
For counter battery fire, a 6 is needed at long or short range.
Each hit kills a gunner, three hits and the gun is out of action until new gunners arrive. Two infantry figures (regulars or provincials only) may replace each of the first two gunner casualties, but there must always be at least one gunner serving the piece for it to fire. There are no penalties however, even if the gun is crewed by four non-specialists and one artilleryman.



Conduct of melees:
Roll one dice per base; highest score by one clear pip is the winner.
Variables:        +1 charging
                        +1 regular or provincial troops (bayonets)
-1 militia and irregulars
                        -1 contacted whilst falling back (disordered)
-2 contacted whilst rallying (disordered)
Loser then falls back one move (normal speed) then rallies.
Winner rallies on spot.
Rallying lasts for one complete game move.

Attacking the Fort:
Figures of coureurs de bois, rangers and Indians (only) are moved up into contact with the base of the fort’s wall. They may be fired at by the defenders.
On the next move, one dice per figure in contact is rolled; a dice score of 6 is sufficient to permit the figure to scale the wall and land on the walkway behind it.
If a defender is within half a move, a melee takes place at once, with the attacker being -1 for the first round (only). If there is no defender, the attacker’s figure may not move or fire for that turn, but may do so next turn without penalty (ie not melee at -1).
Apart from engaging in small arms fire, for regular and provincials to attack the fort, the gates must be opened from the inside of the fort.

 5th April 2007

The Relief of Fort Cumberland
French and Indian War (25mm)

Fort Garrison:
General Wolfe (on foot)
Fort Commander (on foot)
Virginia Regiment (10, provincials)
Civilian militia (10, militia)
Cannon and (3) regular crew

French attacking force:
General Montcalm (mounted)
Force Commander (mounted)
Saint Agur Regiment (10, regulars)
Royale Brie Regiment (10, regulars)
Compagnes Franches de la Marine (10, regulars)
Colonial militia (10, militia)
Coureurs de Bois (10, militia)

British relief force:
British General (mounted)
Force Commander (mounted)
1st Bn, The Light Infantry (10, regular)
General Thomas’s Regiment (10, regular)
The Lady Beryl’s Regiment (10, regular)
New Jersey Regiment (‘Jersey Blues’) (10, provincials)
Hessian Grenadiers (10, regular)
Rogers Rangers (10, militia)

Joseph Brant and Red Jacket
Mohawk Indians (10, irregular) – with the British
Huron Indians (10, irregular) – with the French
Seneca Indians (10, irregular) – with the French

The Game In Pictures
The original 8' x 5' table was condensed down to the usual 6' x 3' available in Stuart's dining room, but the essential features of the terrain were retained. One interesting feature of the rules should be emphasised - the move distance rolled had to be moved in full, unless terrain intervened. This created unfamiliar problems (at least to me) of units dashing off uncontrollably or lagging behind, and made force cohesion a real headache. A very simple but very entertaining idea!

Most of the figures are from the Warrior AWI range, except the Indians which are Minifigs 'S' range. The river is made from Bellona stream sections of considerable pedigree, as gifted to Stuart by Charles S. Grant after use by his father. The buildings forming the farm are a Triang Lineside rubber cottage and a Skaledale barn. The house seen in the S.W. corner of the table in one or two photos is another vintage Charles Grant-made building as seen in the 1971 classic The War Game (complete with lift-off outer shell to reveal a ruined inner structure). The fort itself is home made.

Looking from the French baseline, the Coureurs de Bois lead the 2 Indian groups onto the table.
Fort Cumberland and its defenders.
Stuart looks on with approval as his British relief column enters the table.
Unfortunately, low dice rolling for movement slowed their approach to the fort.
The French-allied Indians have rushed ahead in their desire for scalps and have reached the fort walls.
Let 'leaping' commence!
British forces grind forward. Roger's Rangers lead the way, with the light infantry behind.
Table overview as the game progresses. The Compagnes Franches de la Marine are fording the river,
with the French regular companies coming onto the table behind them.
The old Charles Grant house is seen at top left.
Roger's Rangers and the Mohawk Indians forge ahead of the slower British regular troops.
A number of Indians are on the battlements fighting desperate melees with the British defenders.
Beyond the fort the Coureurs attempt to block the advance of the British Rangers at the line of the second river.
The Rangers are disadvantaged by fording the water in the face of the Coureur's musketry and suffer accordingly.
Above the fort gate, 4 indians have made it onto the walkway. A number of the defenders have already fallen.
The French regulars had as much trouble advancing as their British counterparts.
Here they struggle across the river east of the fort.
The Mohawks join the remaining Rangers and charge into the now outnumbered Coureurs.
Most of the combats were 2 to 1 and the Frenchmen suffered heavily. When melees are fought as individual combats, it pays to have a thoroughly experienced pointer to ensure fair play. Stuart is one the best, as demonstrated here.
To the right can be seen a further group of Indians waiting to ascend into the fort.
Sadly, we had to call an end to an excellent game while there was still all to play for.
It was time for me to visit Lidl with my lady wife. Such are the pressures of modern living!

Stuart's simple rules and excellent scenario had created an absorbing and enjoyable game, which had to end before either side really gained the ascendancy. I'm hoping we can re-visit this particular game in the future, but we are lining up a whole series of other games in the months to come. Stay in touch for more Old School action!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

HCH Figures Elephants

Well well. Here's a funny little wargames-style story of unexpected consequences.

A few months ago, I was gifted a whole stack of old wargames magazines. 'Gifted' would be a term challenged by my dear wife - 'burdened' might be her preferred word. But she just doesn't understand the way the mind of a dedicated nerd works. For example, she recently suggested that the best way to solve the problem of disappearing shelf space was to dispose of one of my current military history books whenever a new one was bought! Where do women get these ridiculous ideas from? The concept that I had been patiently and assiduously creating a library of reference works over the last 30 years seemed entirely alien to her.

Anyhow, I have been reading through these old mags and binning those with nothing of current interest, which meant about 70% of them going into the re-cycling. On the plus side, I have been surprised by a number of thought-provoking articles and some interesting scenario ideas. This particular story, however, starts with an advert in a 2003 issue of Wargames Illustrated. This featured a company called HCH Figures, a UK trader who were offering painted wargames figures in association with Tin Soldier UK. Buying wargames figures ready-painted has mostly been my preferred method of building an army over the years, a method I am usually prevented from using by financial constraints. Surely HCH would be out of business by now?

Not so. The business seems to be thriving, and I was about to find out why. Cruising the HCH website quickly established that, mostly, my aforesaid financial constraints still applied, but there were a couple of areas where I was tempted - chariots and elephants. I am currently eagerly awaiting the plastic elephants promised by Victrix, and nervously girding myself for an expensive purchase of some Hittite heavy chariots from Warlord Games. So I was in the market for resolving one of these problems. The heavy chariots available didn't quite fit the bill, but there were some rather nice looking elephants. And what was this - the armoured 'Successor' elephants were currently a sale item at £22 each.

I was a bit concerned that the range of figures was described on the Tin Soldier website as 25mm. Being an obviously well established range of figures (a polite way of saying they looked a bit old-fashioned), I thought they might be undersized in relation to modern 28mm plastic and metal figures. But if I was buying elephants, that sort of thing probably wouldn't notice, would it? So I closed down the website, took the dog for a walk to give myself a chance to re-consider, and on my return ordered two of the fully painted Successor elephants (code SUC8). Total £44 plus a very competitive £2.90 for postage.

Just 2 days later the parcel arrived. Two days - that's Amazon speed for £2.90 postage. Warlord Games take note (£5 postage and 4-5 days to arrive if you're lucky). And I was bowled over by the elephants themselves. Firstly, they were beautifully packed, with the three figures, javelins and pila for each one included separately (individually wrapped in tissue paper, no less). And the quality of painting was very good, as far as I was concerned. Plus, the figures do match the proportions of other current ranges, as in fact promised on the HCH 'About Us' page.

Assembly was a pleasure (the figure bases need to be filed flatter to get a good 'fix', but otherwise everything fits neatly). A quick basing job and there I was - the proud owner of a pair of great-looking model elephants. I had a happy grin on my face for quite a while. I think the pictures say everything about these fine products. I find them thoroughly contemporary, with a charming hint of Old School in the posing and general look.

Not being used to such happy outcomes, I checked the Hinds Figures website, to find that even elephants much more expensive than the ones from HCH didn't look as good. And the cheaper ones from Hinds looked positively sad.

There we are then - more units added to my Ancient armies for no effort and a very reasonable monetary outlay. Result! Even more so for being unexpected and unintended.

Stay tuned for a forthcoming report of another cracking Old School game with Stuart Asquith. See you then.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The 'Blue Shields' Phalanx

I know what you're thinking. I bet he's not making much progress on that ancients project. The bugger hates painting. Ah well, that's where you'd be wrong. I'm hardly leaping ahead, but progress is being made. Some photos of the latest completed units are shown below.

The Blue Shields formed in 4 ranks. Plastic Warlord Games phalangites, with metal
officers and standard bearer from the same company. Stuart, you might recognise
some of the shield transfers you gave me being put to good use.

And now in 3 ranks. I know, 22 figures isn't much of a phalanx for some people. But the secret of getting
this project underway is making it do-able. So I'll start with fairly small units until I have my basic army.

Light cavalry, from the Victrix 'Numdian Cavalry' box. All plastic figures.

Zvezda bolt thrower with converted Victrix figures for crew.

A second phalanx unit is next, then it will be time to work on a box of Warlord Games Companion Cavalry. And then I'll need to finish off some command figures. So far, enthusiasm and motivation are holding out, which I actually find quite surprising. I didn't know I had it in me!

I'll keep you posted, as they say.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Action At Pfaffenhofen

Many players of Honours of War have contributed battle reports and scenarios to the HoW website. Personally, I don't recall a bad one amongst them and I have gained much enjoyment and inspiration from reading about these battles and checking out the photos.

Perhaps one name does stand out, a gamer with the username damnitz. Damnitz uses historical battles, particularly from the War of the Austrian Succession, to inspire many of his own scenarios, but also has a knack for fictional situations. I have often promised myself the pleasure of using one of his ideas for a game of my own, and recently got the chance. I selected his recreation of The Battle of Pfaffenhofen from 1745, where an Allied army of around 7,000 French, Hessians and units from the Palatinate faced an Austrian army of about 10,000. The scenario developed by damnitz recreates the situation after Pfaffenhofen itself had fallen to the Austrians, leaving the Allies attempting to form a defensive position to the west of the town.

I updated the setting from 1745 to 1761, with the Prussians defending and the Austrians attacking. This would be a 'tactical withdrawal' situation, where the Prussians were attempting to escape from an Austrian trap. The situation is shown on the map below, courtesy of damnitz himself.

Austrians in white, Prussians (originally France & Allies) in black.

The original scenario featured a large proportion of small sized units with a good number of them being inferior class, to represent the units actually present at the battle. I used full sized units, as well as a smaller table (6' x 5' rather than 8' x 6'), so my battle field was rather more cramped than damnitz intended. I found that adjusting some of the formations (such as placing the right wing Austrians in column) did the trick. Below is my version of the scenario.

The Action At Pfaffenhofen
27th February 1761

Overnight, a Prussian force has taken up a defensive position between some wooded high ground and a stream. Unfortunately, their scouts have let them down and during the hours of darkness the Austrian force opposing them has managed to infiltrate light forces around both their flanks.

Now the Prussians must extricate themselves from the trap. The nature of the ground behind them means their units must exit the area along the line of the road that leads off the battlefield to the west.

Prussian Force (Lieutenant General Imhoff)

1. Freikorps Brigade
  2 battalions of Freikorps (inferior)

2. Infantry Brigade
  6 battalions of musketeers

3. Cavalry Brigade (dithering commander)
  3 regiments of dragoons
  2 regiments of hussars
  1 medium artillery battery

14 units,  ABP = 7.

Austrian Force (Lieutenant General Romann)

1. Light Infantry Brigade (dashing commander)
  2 battalions of Croat light infantry

2. Infantry Brigade
  4 battalions of fusiliers
  1 medium artillery medium

3. Grenadier Brigade
  2 battalions of grenadiers (superior)

4. Cavalry Brigade (dashing commander)
  2 regiments of dragoons
  1 large regiment of Saxon chevauxlegers
  1 regiment of cuirassiers (superior)

5. Combined Legion
  1 regiment of hussars (inferior)
  1 battalion of Croat light infantry
  1 light artillery battery

16.5 units,  ABP = 8

Special Rules and Victory Conditions
The Austrians are the designated attackers.

The Prussian force takes time to absorb its new orders and cannot move on move 1, except to react to Austrian actions (e.g. turn to face, evade, retreat etc.).

Each Prussian unit exiting the table via point ‘A’ counts as 1 point if it has 0-3 hits, or ½ a point if it has 4 hits. The Prussians must exit 8 points worth of troops through ‘A’ to win. Units must exit the table on the road or up to 15cm north or south of it.

As usual, if either side reaches its Army Break Point before the end of the game it has lost.

The Game In Pictures

The set-up, looking south with Austrians on the left and Prussians to the right.

The Prussians. General Imhoff (background) and his main body of infantry.

Major General Luzinsky commanded the right-hand brigade of Austrian infantry.
The rather spindly artillery man behind him is an old Spencer Smith figure.

The Croats under their dashing commander Colonel Pellegrini quickly infiltrated through the woods and
fell on the rear of the Prussian Freikorps. 

Similarly, the dashing Austrian cavalry commander also double moved. As the Prussian hussars turned to face the approaching Austrian light infantry, the Austrian cavalry fell on the remainder of the now outnumbered Prussian horse.
The Austrian hussars from the flanking legion also plunged in. In the right background the Austrian cuirassiers fall on the Prussian guns.

Overview on the next move. The Freikorps are panicking and one unit has already scattered through the woods (background, top right). The other is under pressure to flank and rear. Units of the Prussian centre are filtering back to their baseline but things are proceeding at rather too stately a pace.

General Imhoff watches as his second and third line form up and move west.

Next move, and the remaining Freikorps unit is about to crack under the pressure.

The Prussians have lost 3 out of their 5 cavalry units in a punishing melee (foreground left).
The Austrian cuirassiers have scattered the isolated Austrian gun battery to the four winds.
The Austrian grenadiers hasten forward in column to reinforce the success on the Austrian left.

Behind you! The Prussians are moving back, but not quickly enough to avoid the lively Austrian attack.
Blue and red-uniformed Croats are already in the Prussian rear, whilst the slow-moving baggage is being
overtaken by Austrian dragoons.

In move 5, it was obvious the Austrians had won. 6 Prussian units were Done For, and a seventh
(the last remaining Freikorps unit) was about to rout off the Prussian baseline (outside the allowed exit 'gate').
The Prussian force would break in move 6. 

This had been an all-action 2 hours of wargaming, with heavy casualties and a number of flank and rear assault situations testing out the rules. Predictably, the only addition I had made to the scenario conditions (one move's delay before the Prussians could react) turned out to be unnecessary. I will definitely play out this scenario again without that condition, which will give the Prussians more chance of a clean break. 

An excellent evening's wargaming was had by both players. Thanks for coming over Paul.

Another update on Ancients progress coming up soon. See you then.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Rosemary & Co Brushes

About a year ago I followed a recommendation from Henry Hyde which appeared in Miniature Wargames magazine. The recommendation concerned the brushes produced by a company called Rosemary & Co.

On the basis of Henry's glowing report I ordered a set of 5 brushes. Now, after a year of light-medium use (using both acrylic and enamel paints), I am re-ordering as the brushes are just beginning to lose their points.

In short, I have found these the best brushes I have ever used. The 'Series 99' which I use will suit most wargamers, being reasonably priced and IMHO about twice the quality of similarly priced items. More expensive ranges are available if you want even higher quality.

Ordering direct from the website is easy - the only possible problem is that you need to make an order of at least £10, which with Series 99 will mean 4 to 5 brushes in one order. The website is very professionally presented and has an enormous range of brushes to choose from. Service is good, postage reasonable and delivery is prompt.

You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Ancients Progress

Buy! Buy! Buy!
Yes, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, so the next stage in building my ancient armies meant ruthlessly indulging my urge to consume. This time, I turned from those lovely boys at Victrix Ltd. to their competitors Warlord Games.

I had decided that the Victrix hoplites would be opposed by a phalanx of phalangites (that is, a Macedonian-style phalanx of quality troops with very long pikes). Warlord do a nice 40 figure box of plastic phalangites so I went for those. Unfortunately, unlike Victrix, you can only produce ordinary infantry from the Warlord box of plastics, so I had to purchase the required officers and standard bearers in expensive metal (around £2 a figure). Ho-hum. 

I also decided to treat myself to some heavy cavalry. Again, no manufacturer has heavy-style cavalry in plastic so I chose the Warlord 'Companion Cavalry' box, which had to be supplemented by an extra 3 figure pack to make an 8 figure unit plus 2 officers and a standard bearer. So this lot eventually came to £65 including P&P.

Aah! Shiny! Shiny colours!

In a more serious tone, note that my new Warlord plastics (unpainted on left)
are a good match for the size of the Victrix hoplites.

Hold The Line!
Some decisions on the naming of my 2 imaginary ancient nations have been taken. In the end, I decided to turn away from Tony Bath's world of Hyboria and make the project more personal by making my own choice of names. By chance, I came across the name 'Latium', which the ancient experts among you will know refers to the area of Italy containing the original set of villages which grew into the city of Rome. So this would be one country, which might be allowed a bit of a Roman flavour. The other country, I decided, would have a modest Greek tendency, and after browsing some maps of the ancient world I found myself drawn to the name Paphlagonia, which is a region of Anatolia on the Black Sea coast. I had never heard of this area before, but the name rolled off the tongue very nicely, I thought.

So then I felt it was time to select a couple of generals to command my armies. This quickly became a no-brainer, as whilst browsing the Warlord Games site I came across 2 very obvious choices. Firstly, they did a figure called 'Hold The Line!', clearly based on the Russell Crowe character from Gladiator, charging into battle with his dog. I love that film, and the prospect opened up of attaching this figure to any cavalry charge I might make, whilst haranguing my opponent with cries of 'Hold the line! Stay with me!'. Now that should be really irritating. As for naming, I decided in the end to go with the film name of the character - General Maximus Decimus Meridius. Obviously, he would command the forces of Latium.

My other general was also found on the Warlord site - their mounted figure of Alexander the Great, which is paired with Phillip of Macedon on foot. A suitably grand figure for my other general, I thought. For the name of this general, I happened on a figure from history called Aristodemus, the only Spartan survivor of the Battle of Thermopylae. Filled with survivor guilt and the subject of contempt from fellow Spartans, he was killed showing reckless courage at the Battle of Plataea. The character of Dilios in the film 300 is based on Aristodemus. To make the name a bit grander, I added the patronym Zephyros, which again I chose because I liked the sound of it (Zephyros was the Greek god of the west wind). So, a warm welcome to General Aristodemus Zephyros, the Paphlagonian commander.

On the left is General Maximus with hound and accompanying foot officer, on the right
General Aristodemus with the Phillip of Macedon figure, also masquerading as a senior officer on foot.

Rather obviously, then, both nations now have an official favourite film.

To Work!
Now commences a period of painting and basing. These recent purchases are the first metal ancients figures I have had. Straight away I found that cleaning them up and undercoating is much more time-consuming than with plastics (in fact, I didn't even bother to undercoat some of the simpler plastic figures). I expect to find painting a bit more tiresome as well. But I console myself with the fact that they should look great when completed, and I will continue to keep things as simple as possible.

Chariots, elephants and some horse archers are the main missing units now. These will wait until the present tranche of figures are painted, or at least mostly so. In particular, I await the forthcoming Victrix plastic elephants with ill-concealed avarice. Ah, the pleasures of consumerism!