Monday, 24 July 2017

Charles Grant's Ancient Figures & The Trimsos Project

A rather special visit to Stuart's this month. We were going to do a playtest of the ancients rules I have been working on, but the star of the show was going to be an ancients army made up of figures formerly belonging to Charles Grant (senior). When Stuart mentioned a while back that he had these figures in his collection, I was naturally fascinated and have been looking forward to the occasion when we could get them out on the table and not only take a good look at them, but use them in a game as well. I'll let Stuart explain the background...

Trimsos meets ‘The Ancient War Game’? - Stuart Asquith Explains.
"Are we seeing war gaming history here? These 25mm figures were produced nearly 50 years ago, mostly by Greenwood & Ball (Garrison) and with some Hinchliffe models, and all featured in photographs in ‘The Ancient War Game’ by Charles Grant (senior), published by Adam & Charles Black in London in 1974.

All the figures shown here were originally in the collection of Charles Grant (senior); they are painted by him and date from c1971. The figures were gifted to myself – I rebased them on individual circular bases - by Charles Stewart Grant c1985.

Seen here are elements of a classical Greek army, including Boeotian, Corinthian and Spartan hoplites, with peltasts and slingers. Also, units from Alexander the Great’s army in the form of a phalanx (note length of pikes), hypaspists and archers. Finally some figures from a Successor army, plus a small unit of  Persian Immortals.

The ‘river’ has been formed using vac-formed stream sections (also originally owned by Mr. Grant senior) and is spanned by two bridges, all designed by Terry Wise and produced by Bellona c1980. The plastic Alder trees and wall sections are from the Merit range of OO/HO scale railway accessories.

The single contour wooden hills are domestically produced items. The temple is a recently purchased item from the aquatic section of a local garden centre."

Trimsos 5 (or thereabouts)
I brought over some of my own recently completed units to provide opposition. It was certainly interesting to see how the 25mm figures of nearly 50 years ago compared with current 28mm plastic and metal models.

A few photos of the game appear below. The field of Trimsos was slightly modified to create a more interesting battle, with more ground available to the west of the River Trimsos - which is actually more true to the map in War Games than the terrain shown in the book photos. We have also come to the conclusion that the battle will probably work better if the river is crossable throughout its length (rather than just at the bridges), with a suitable movement penalty of course.

Charles Grant's army (naturally, controlled by Stuart) took on the role of the Hyperboreans on the left of the photo.
My own troops formed the army of Hyrkania. No chariots were available to Stuart, but I managed to field 3 elephants.
Close up of the Hyperborean centre.
A unit of Spartan hoplites
Battle commences - light troops skirmish west of the river. Greenwood & Ball metal takes on Victrix plastic!
Melee on Rat Hill. One elephant was quickly destroyed, but the other 2 had their revenge on the javelinmen seen in front of them and were then able to charge the Spartans in flank, causing them to retreat. But not before my own hoplites had also suffered severely and had fallen back.
The master at work. The game showed that different basing between armies didn't really affect how the rules played.
The larger size of the modern figures certainly shows in this photo - but our enjoyment was not affected. The Victrix Numidians were easily seen off by the Hyperborean heavy cavalry.

All in all, a unique and inspiring gaming opportunity which was a real treat. I think the great thing was not just getting out these historic figures and admiring them, but taking the chance to wargame with them. That was, after all, why they were bought and lovingly painted in the first place.

Photo Parade
After the game (which we declared a draw - sadly time was limited), I took some close-ups of the Grant figures for your delectation.

Heavy cavalry. Stuart has resisted the temptation to straighten some of the spears for fear of breakages.
My personal favourite - a unit of Persian Immortals.
Hoplites and Macedonian phalanx.
Archers led by a more modern (and hence bulkier) officer figure.
More hoplites with some peltasts on the right.
This and the photo below give you an idea of the 'Grantian' cavalry painting style.
A second view of the same figures.

Project Progress
So, just in case you've forgotten (or never knew in the first place), the Trimsos Project is about assembling all the units I need for a re-fight of Donald Featherstone's 'Battle of Trimsos', from his 1962 book War Games. I have decided to collect units from any period of ancient history to complete the armies, as the fancy takes me, and I am working on a development of the original rules rather than buying a commercial set. Once I've collected enough units for the re-fight, I reckon I will continue until I have 2 armies each of 10-12 units, and then settle down for some serious (well, actually, not too serious) ancient wargaming.

I now have all the figures I need for the Trimsos battle, although some units remain unpainted and (in the case of the chariots), unmade. I have some extra plastic figures beyond this basic requirement, enough for about 4 units, in my 'plastic hillock'. I must admit that the painting challenge is beginning to frustrate me now - I am impatient to get gaming with properly painted armies but the motivation for painting the last few units is sometimes wanting. Still, I will get there. 

Latest off the painting table is one of my three Warlord Games Assyrian heavy chariots. These are just as fiddly and time-consuming to assemble and paint as they look, but they do make weighty and imposing models once complete.

Assembled and ready to paint is a unit of Warlord Games Sarmatian cataphracts. These are lovely figures and I'm looking forward to having them finished, although some Parthian horse archers (also from Warlord Games) are ahead of them in the queue.

I find that I would prefer to collect all plastic figures, as they are cheaper and also generally easier to paint. But the ranges available are limited and metal figures need to be purchased. Warlord Games are generally my favourite, having a very large range of figures to choose from and usually being just a bit cheaper than other metal manufacturers. I do find their £5 postage for even the smallest orders rather excessive, but on occasion I have just had to bite the bullet.

However, feeling the need for a unit of archers, I decided to try a new source of figures and went for a pack of 12 plastic Levy Archers from Gripping Beast's Saga range. You can also get these in a box of 30. The problem is that you need some command figures, and for these I tried a command pack of Artizan Designs Carolingian infantry (in metal) sourced via Fireforge Games. To make the unit up to 16 figures I added a couple of Greek archers from a Wargames Foundry pack. Representatives of this mixed bag are seen below. The plastic archers (centre) and the Artizan command figures (right) really are particularly excellent. Another unit I am impatient to get onto the table.

The rules themselves are working reasonably well, and seemed to pass the Asquith test during our game, although a number of notes were made regarding possible improvements.

And Finally...
Before my game with Stuart detailed above, in order to boost my enthusiasm and test the rules, I had played the Battle of Trimsos with my old pal Paul, utilising some unpainted units and a group of three SYW wagons as stand-ins for chariots. The set-up is seen below, being taken from the same angle as the photos on the book. Terrain is taking shape, mainly in the form of hills made from 18mm MDF contours. These will need painting to match the felt terrain mat I intend to purchase from S&A Scenics in the near future. One particular difference from the original Trimsos forces is that the three Hyperborean heavy infantry units are changed into two units of greater strength, but keeping the overall number of figures the same. This occurred on a whim, to make the two armies more distinct from each other. 

In the photo below you can see the forces of Latium (Hyrkania in the book) on the left, with the men of Paphlagonia (Hyperborea) on the right. The armies are laid out as far as possible in the starting positions for the original 1962 battle. As mentioned above, the table as photographed in the book differs from the map in the same book, so anyone re-creating the battle has to make their own judgement on the exact placing of terrain and the size of the hills.

All in all, this remains an absorbing and fun project which I am glad to have started and look forward to finishing. I will of course keep you updated as things progress.

Farewell for now, and good gaming.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Hook's Farm (In Glorious 54mm)

Once again my latest battle report is from an afternoon visit to Mr Asquith's dining room. Most of my own wargaming effort recently has been devoted to building up my Ancient Period armies, and games at my own house have been conspicuous by their absence. I hope that may change soon, but for the moment a monthly fix of Old School gaming at Stuart's is most welcome.

This month Stuart suggested playing H.G.Wells' Hook's Farm battle using Britains 54mm metal soldiers. How could I refuse? For some background on Stuart's current gaming outlook, check out his article in the latest Wargamer's Notes Quarterly (issue 2), available free on request via the email address given in the linked blog. For the moment, below is the map of the original Hook's Farm game, and a photo from Little Wars of the original game in progress.

The Game In Pictures
A full game report here is hardly necessary. In truth, figures were moved, dice were rolled and casualties taken off, but this was very much a leisurely afternoon spent discussing wargaming in general and Britains figures in particular. The rules were of Stuart's devising, and as you would expect they were simplicity itself, being similar in character (but not in detail) to those used in previous games. See my previous posts regarding games with Stuart for examples.

The first photo below shows the set-up - Scottish units under my control to the left, English ones commanded by Stuart on the right. 

This view of the table is from roughly the same direction as the original photo above.
Aah! Britains cavalry. 
A melee takes place to the west of Hook's Farm.
English infantry advancing towards the Hovel.
Fierce fighting took place on the ground east of Firefly Church.
On the other flank an infantry clash is pending as the cavalry fight continues.
Hook's Farm in the background.
Control of the Hovel is disputed.
I think I picked the Scots because they had the Britains 4.7" naval guns.
Along with naval crews!
The final fight of the game saw the Scots infantry see off the English near Hooks Farm.

The result of the game? Well, we stopped playing when it was time for me to depart. Beyond that, I don't think either of us paid much attention to who was actually winning.

Thanks as usual to Stuart for such a fine bit of escapism with some truly lovely figures. I think my next post should be an update of how my Ancient armies are progressing. Time to get the camera out!

'Til next time.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Action At Annie's Farm

In late April I once again travelled the short distance to Stuart's house for our monthly game. The table was set out with a particularly delightful collection of figures which Stuart had selected from his Tardis-like set of storage cabinets and boxes. In short, an American War of Independence game had been prepared using 40mm figures from the Front Rank AWI range. Annie's Farm itself is from the Caliver 15mm 'Battlefield Buildings' range.

The units were infantry regiments or battalions of 10 figures each. No cavalry or artillery were present. The British had 7 such units plus a 7 figure unit of Indians, whilst the Americans had 9 units. The slight imbalance was corrected by one British unit being grenadiers. Rules in use were (of course) a much simplified version of Charge!, adapted for the narrow table available. These are appended at the end of the post. I was offered my choice of side, and chose the British.

The Set-Up

A sight to gladden the heart of any true wargamer.
Americans to the left, British to the right. Annie's Farm is top left.

American troops lining a wall adjacent to the farm 

British light infantry opposite the crossroads.

Units of the British centre.

The American centre on the hill to the right of the farm.

The Game

The British light infantry hurry forward and claim the crossroads.

Both sides push forward.

This is the British right/American left flank. The British-allied Indians have infiltrated around
the flank of the advancing Americans, exploiting the cover of a small wood.

Once again the master of pointing exhibits his skills. Quite right Stuart, that regiment of yours
is indeed about to have a bad experience!

Determined chaps - just look at those faces! These Americans are pushing forward near the farm.

Around moves 3 to 4 the Americans hurled themselves forward in a series of
desperate charges right across the table.

The British responded in the same spirited manner. Here the Indians engage on the
British right flank, despite being outnumbered.

Action in the centre, with Annie's farm in the background.
'After you with the dice old boy!'

The British light infantry got the best of the hand to hand fighting at the cross roads.

In fact, this was true overall across the table. The dice were kind to the British and the Americans
suffered terribly. Annie's farm was soon under pressure.

The photos give a flavour of the action. With a number of American units removed from the table after suffering two thirds casualties, Stuart conceded.

The Figures
Just a couple of close-ups of the lovely figures it was my pleasure to handle.

The Rules
These simple, one-side-of-A4 rules proved ample for an afternoon's wargaming between gentlemen. A few additional paragraphs might be needed if we play some more games in future. 

CHARGE! For AWI Rules Summary
(Changes suggested in order to allow
for reduced playing area)

Line Infantry   Move and fire (line)    3”                    (Half rates through woods, over
Battalion in line           4½"                 obstacles, on hills)
Column                        7½"

Change formation        6”                    (Maximum move, no firing)

Light Infantry Movement                    9”                    (No firing)
                        Move and fire              6”


Indians            Movement                  9”                    (No firing)
                        Move and fire             6”



Line Infantry Fire

0 - 3"               5, 6 kills                      (1 dice per two figures)
3 - 6"               6 kills                          (grenadiers add +1 to the dice score)


Light Infantry Fire

0 - 3"               4,5,6 kills                    (1 dice per two figures)

3 - 6"               5,6 kills                       (Note that specific individual targets need 6

6 – 9”              6 kills                          whatever the range)               


Musketry Fire in Melees

Distance of Charge  Type of Target          Range for Musketry Effect

0-3”                             All                               Firing not allowed
over 3 – 6”                  Cavalry                       Long range
over 3 – 6”                  Dismounted                Short range
over 6”                        All                               Long range

(Roll one dice per figure.)
Infantry v irregular infantry and infantry v infantry, individual combats,
grenadiers add +1 to each dice.
RESULT: Draw unless one side scores more than one dice ‘pip’ than the other. Casualties include those from any fire received when charging.
DRAW – both sides withdraw half a move, rally next turn.
WINNER – Rally on spot next turn.
LOSER withdraws one move, then rallies next turn.
UNDER STRENGTH: Units become under strength when they have lost 2/3rds their number and are immediately removed from play.

First Version: April 2017

Thanks to Stuart for arranging such a treat. Once again the world's cares were set aside for a couple of hours whilst we played with our toys in a relaxing and friendly atmosphere. Wargaming at its best.

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!