Tuesday 31 December 2019

End of Year Review 2019

With the final day of 2019 here, it is now customary in many quarters to take a look back at what I've been up to this year, which is quite an interesting undertaking, at least for myself it is. So without further ado:

Rules Bought
Rebels & Patriots (free copy as playtester)
Blitzkreig Commander IV (free copy to replace BKCIII)
The Portable Wargame
Developing The Portable Wargame
The Napoleonic Portable Wargame
Gridded Naval Wargames 
5 Core Company Commander 
To Ur is Human 
WWII Wargaming by S Asquith
Skirmish Wargaming by D Featherstone 
Age of Hannibal 

I seem to have acquired quite a few rules this year, none of which were planned if I'm totally honest, other than the Asquith and Featherstone books to add to my library. The rules which have impressed my most are Bob Cordery's The Portable Wargame and associated titles. I've loved the elegant simplicity in these. The fact that they are played on a gridded or hexed table is appealing, as it aids game play and decision making. I had planned to play more of these games but a lack of suitable terrain, despite my best plans, prevented me from getting them in.

BKCIV finally arrived and was well worth the wait. As with any ruleset there are bits that need clarifying as there is only so much space in the book, unless you go down the unwieldy tome route where you hopefully cover every situation imaginable. To be honest I've carried on using BKCII as I know the rules so well, but have planned to add in bits from BKCIV, but lack of time has meant this has not happened. Something to address in 2020.

Wargaming Books Bought
Fighting the French Revolution: The Great Vendee Uprising
Paddy Griffiths Art of War of Revolutionary France
von Clausewitz Italian Campaign
On War by Clausewitz
The Hundred Days Campaign by Chandler
The Peninsular War by Glover
War of 1812 campaign guide by Asquith
Bloody Big Balkan Battles
Pike & Shotte To Kill a King supplement
Terrain making book
Osprey Crimean War campaign book 
Osprey Russian & Allied armour of Russian civil war 
The Wargamers Annual 2109 (CWS prize)
The Rifles by urban
Campaigns book by Featherstone
Wargames Through the Ages Vols III & IV by Featherstone 
Wargaming Airborne Operations by Featherstone 
Peninsular War book by Featherstone

I'm surprised at quite how many books I've bought this year, which might explain my current storage issues! Many have been presents for birthdays etc and there has been method in my madness. The Featherstone books are again to add to my library and have been delightful reads to boot, especially the Campaigns book which I realy enjoyed and found very useful. 

I decided early on in the year to try and add to my extremely limited knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars and settled upon the Revolutionary Wars (technically not Napleonic I suppose) and the Peninsula War, with the War of 1812 tagging along. I've only scratched the surface so far but the Chandler 100 Days book was as always a pleasure to read and pitched perfectly for someone like myself.

Miniatures Bought
Pendraken Fenian Raids British/Canadian
Wings of Glory Fiat CR-42
Pendraken WWII Italian, Polish & German additions
6mm mdf miniatures
Irregular Miniatures 2mm 
SYW Limbers 
Pendraken farm animals and shell craters 

Again not too many purchases this year, with the Fenian Raids range being the biggest purchase, where they will form the core of my British mid 19thC force, whether defending the UK or gaming overseas. I have lots of ideas for these but then I do for all of my projects, but more of which later.

Miniatures Painted
Leven Miniatures buildings
8 x WWII German Recce 250 half-tracks
3 x French FT-17s 
2 x Italian AA units
1 x WWII US Airborne Battalion for BKC  
1 x WWII German Company for BKC
Imagi-Nations 19thC Russians 
AWI Brigade for Honours of War
18thC civilians
Farm animals 

For once a pretty good year on the painting front, well at least it was for me! Aside from adding some bits'n'bobs to my existing BKC forces, the biggest achievement was completing a US Airborne Battalion for BKC and more importantly, finally having my own 18thC Brigade with which I could play Honours of War. The latter was a real achievement and I'm happy with the way they've come out and the way that I painted them. I've learnt to concentrate on the look of the unit, not each indvidual figure, which is old advice but has taken a long time for me to take it on board.

Terrain Made
3 x Vineyards
Modular streams
1 x Scratch built wooden bridge  
1 x Leven Miniatures bridge on river section
Cork dry stone walls
5 x Scratch built hayricks
3 x dead trees 
Pendraken shell holes
ACW buildings bases 

I still love scratch building terrain and have added stuff on and off over the year. I've started adding detail to my terrain, such as civilians and more farm animals, which just adds to the overall look and feel of a game. I'm sure this will continue into 2020 but have no firm plans at all and will just see what tkaes my fancy.

BKCII campaigns
HoW campaign 

For once I actually managed to run some narrative campaigns, which was one of my goals from last year. With Dave back on the scene, this has helped immensely and probably wouldn't have happened otherwise. Playing linked games is much more fun and you think about the game and its outcomes in a very different way.

Games Played
Post of Honour - 4
The Portable Wargame - 4 
Bloody Big Battles - 7 
Honours of War -6
Neil Thomas' Ancients & Medieval Wargaming - 1 
Dragon Rampant - 1 

Despite a slow start to the year, 35 games I'm more than happy with, given the usual pressure and commitments of work and family life. Again having Dave as a regular opponent helped along with visits to Keith to play him or in multi-player games

Wargames Shows Attended
Lincombe Barn Table Top Sale
IPMS Bristol Show
Cotswold Wargaming Day 

I frankly didn't miss attendinging Salute this year and was happy staying local as it were, with Colours being my 'big' show, which I enjoyed overall. The highlight of the calendar was the Cotswold War gaming Day, which was a wonderful day out. The memories are tinged with sadness as it was the last time I saw Stuart Asquith, but he was enthused by our game and as always a pleasure to talk to.

End of Year Thoughts 
So all-in-all not too bad a year on all fronts. As is my custom, some thoughts on the year in no particular order:
  • I'm very happy that I've found a way to paint non WWII units that's to my liking and relatively fast. Thanks must go to Nik Harwood who first showed me his painting technique, some of which I used and to Dave, for showing me that you don't need to paint every detail on a figure as they simply disappear once on the table. As long as they look neat, have good bases and flags, they you're onto a winner.
  • I still don't have a dedicated painting space and am unlikely to have one for the foreseeable future. I had planned to use our daughters bedroom whilst she was away at Uni, but the light is not too good and it gets too hot from Spring to Autumn, so the kitchen will remain my bolthole, which is not the end of the World.
  • Playing narrative campaigns has been the highlight of the year, with out a doubt. This is something we will be playing more of in the New Year, as it adds so much more to the whole gaming experience IMHO.
  • I'm still attempting to downsize my figure collection and made a dent in it with the local table top sale earlier in the year. I think I need to really see exactly what I have (stuff is stored in several places about the house), then decided what to keep then base them up. Anything left over will be given away or sold off. Easier said than done but I need to do it.
  • Core rules wise I think I've hit a sweet spot, with Honours of War, Bloody Big Battles and BKCII/IV covering the 18th - 20th centuries for most of my games. I want to try some more Neil Thomas rules as well as Black Powder, certainly for some of the smaller scenarios in the 19thC.
  • ImagiNations has once again piqued my interest, especially for the 18th & 19th centuries. I have plenty of ideas but need to firm them up so that this can move forward.
  • I haven't missed my subscription to WS&S at all, nor have any of the other magazines interested me at all. I think there is still a place for them but they are no longer for me.
  • I'm more than happy with playing games on a 4' x 4' table, with many being on a 3' x 2' one. Using 10mm figures and reduced distances this equates to an 8' x 8' or 6' x 4' table. This is something that seems to be a theme across a few Blogs I follow, so it's nice to know I'm not alone in this. I even tried BKCII on a 2' x 2' table which after a failed first attempt, worked really well and is something to develop more next year.
  • Storage is a bit of an issue at present as I have stuff semi permanently in the lounge, where my gaming takes place. Luckily SWMBO is accomodating on this front as she knows it is my hobby. However moving forward it is something I want to address and hope to have some units in the lounge in the New Year specifically for my wargames stuff. Of for a dedicated wargames room...
  • Blogging, is it worth it? I sometimes wonder and I know I'm not alone in this, as more often than not, I will only get 2 - 4 replies at most to my posts, despite having some 80 odd followers. Given an AAR can take longer to write about than the actual game, I think is it worth the effort? I have decided to carry on for the present as I think Blogs are more valuable to a gamer than Facebook, Twitter etc, but it would be nice to recieve more comments. Afterall I always try and comment on posts of Blogs I follow. We shall have to wait and see but maybe my gaming is too niche and not big battle 28mm?

2020 Vision
Looking forward to the New Year, what plans do I have, if any?:

  • Campaigns and more of them. Already in the pipeline is a linked ACW one based upon the Recce campaign from Grants Solo Wargames Scenarios. This looks to be fun and there will be more updates in January when hopefully thinks will kick off.
  • The American Civil War. It's been on my list for many years but it has never really grabbed me. So I aim to expand my knowledge of this conflict and then see where it takes me. Afterall we've had some great games using BBB, so I expect I will end up taking the plunge and getting some 10mm armies.
  • Basing and Painting. As mentioned earlier, this is something I need to do more of and as well as focussing my mind, it is very cathartic too. With the lead mountain hopefully at a manageable height, I may be able to plan out my future gaming more.
  • Ancients gaming. It still nags at me but it is not a high priority to be honest. I did buy Age of Hannibal as they look a good set of rules for the odd Ancients game. I have loads of figures, mainly Middle Ages, but may end up selling them to focus on my ocre periods.
  • ImagiNations. As time permits I would like to flesh out my ideas more so that I can develop this further. I have plenty of fluff on various bits of paper, bit it all needs to come together in a more cohesive form. This will also aid my planning of what forces I require, so that I can base and paint them. As I have quite a lot of 19thC troops already based, this should be one of my priorites early on in 2020.
  • Books and Rules. Frankly I need to read what I've got and not buy too much next year! Easier said than done with other distractions, such as various forums and Blogs, but one can but hope.
So to end, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and let's hope we all have a great 2020!

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Merry Xmas!

Just a quick post to wish all of my readers a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. I hope that Santa has brought you all some nice presents and that you have a peaceful day where ever you are. I'm at that age where I have everything I really need and the lead mountain is large enough to appear on OS maps, so a few token books by Featherstone are more than enough this Xmas day.

So whilst I get a bit of a gaming fix flicking through these, the following have plenty of good stuff to read through, to help off set all of the other stuff going on today:

An excellent downloadable pdf from Norm's Blog where he reflects upon the year gone by and looks forward to 2020. Well worth putting some time aside to read this.

The latest issue of Warning Order from Matt and the Wasatch Front Historical Gaming Society is now avaiable to download. As always full of interesting AARs, scenarios and observations of a wargamer who started out in the 1970s like me. Better than many magazines IMHO.

My end of year review is in progress and will appear sometime around New Years Day.

Sunday 15 December 2019

The Battle of Sittingbad

Keith Flint hosted a few gamers today to replay the Battle of Sittingbad as featured in 'Charge! or How to Play War Games' by Young & Lawford. This was a favourite scenario of the late Stuart Asquith and as we were using some of his wonderfully painted miniatures, it seemed a fitting way to pay tribute to this important figure on our wonderful hobby.

I was paired with Roy and Nick, with us commanding the outnumbered Imperial force, whilst Craig and Paul took command of the Electorate force. In broad terms we had to survive and/or stop the Electorate troops getting into Sittingbad and seizing the supply train. A tough ask but we were up for the challenge, fools that we are!

As always on these occasions, the game was played in the right spirit, with plenty of badinage and good humour. Keith played the umpire and guided us along with the rules as and when we required it. I took no notes and can barely remember any names of the troops, so I hope the following 'photos and captions will give an idea of how the action unfolded.

The troops already set out as per the scenario. The Electorate troops would arrive via the top table edge over 4 moves, with the Imperial troops trying to form a defensive postion astride the road.

Sittingbad at the bottom with the village of Eisenberg towards the top.

The Imperial cavalry (my command) with Imperial troops to their right.
The Imperial cavalry and infantry withdraw to try and form a better defensive line close to Sittingbad.

The Electorate cavalry already threatening the Imperial flank.

It'a all a bit tight as the Imperial troops try to find room to manoeuvre.

The Imperial cavalry have been pushed back to the outskirts of Sittingbad by several attacks from the Electorate cavalry.

Electorate Hussars have to charge the Imperial infantry behind their gabions due to a follow up move after successfully pushing a unit of Imperial cavalry back.

A view from the Electorate side.

The Imperial cavalry are taking a beating.

The Imperial infantry leave their gabions to shoot at the retreating Electorate Hussars.

Imperial infantry try to come to the aid of their hard press cavalry.

Massed Electorate troops stream onto the table.

The victorious Electorate cavalry ready to try and push into Sittingbad.

3-1 advantage to the Electorate troops.

More Electorate troops press forward.

The action hots up in and around Eisenberg village.

The Electorate Hussars have dismounted and are supported by Line Infantry.

Light infantry fight it out in Eisenberg.

More Electorate cavalry has dismounted to try and advance into Sittingbad.

The Imperial troops have reached their breakpoint and quit the field of battle. The troops at the bottom are Imperial casualties.

Two Imperial infantry units face six Electorate ones.

Eisenberg is surrounded as the Electorate troops close in.

The supply train falls into Electorate hands.

In the end a convincing win for the Electorate troops, but the Imperial troops did manage to hold out for 8 out of 10 Turns, so close but not close enough. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game that looked stunning, thanks in no small part to Keith's and Stuart's troops. There is something about 18thC warfare that just appeals to me, with great uniforms, flags and unit names. After playing this game I'm going to re-read the AAR in 'Charge!' to see how it played out. 

So thanks to Keith, Paul, Roy, Craig and Nick for a great game and wonderful company. Let's hope we can do this again sometime next year!

The Battle for Heimsdorf - take 2.

Having finished our 18thC Brexite campaign this week, I felt I needed a break from painting turnback and tricornes. So looking at several of my projects that have been on the go for varying amounts of time, I decided to try and finish of my WWII US Airborne and actually start getting some WWII Germans onto the table. The latter I have had for an embarassingly long amount of time and were probably my first purchase from Pendraken. 

After a few painting sessions I had added another Company of US Airborne, thus completing the Battalion, bar its organic artilery and anti-tank support. A concentrated spell then led to my first Heer Kompanie which, although not much, was a big step forward in getting a Battalion finished. The beauty of the Heer is that, like the British, the same uniform works from 1939 - 1945, which is really rather useful.

Having finished off these units I felt they needed blooding on the table and so started thinking about a simple BKC game, nothing fancy but something small and fun for an evenings gaming. My 2' x 2' board would be perfect for this and my mind went back to my earlier attempt in the year to fight in a heavy BUA environment. This didn't work but I learnt a lot from it as well as getting some very useful suggestions from replies to my Blog and on the Pendraken forum. It was then a case of coming up with some forces and bunging some terrain down onto the table.

Rough OOB
Initially I had planned on a Battalion per side with some armoured support, but as it all ended up a bit last minute, I went with a couple of Companys of infantry plus a mix of tanks and half-tracks. I didn't worry about points or anything, but more or less put the infantry down and then took out the armour as it tookk my fancy.

Terrain & Deployment
The terrain was based upon a sketch I made a few days ago, which gave me a good idea of how I wanted the table to look. Then it was a case of setting the river down, then the roads, followed by the houses, fields and orchards.

As this was a sort of advance to contact type game, there was nothing fancy in terms of deployment. Both sides started off board and used mobile deployment to come onto the table.

The Germans would come in from the Northern end of the table, the Allies from the Southern. The river was counted as fordable across its length.

A view down the road to the quiet village of Heimsdorf.

A view towards the church and its stone walls.

The US Airborne.

The British amroured support.

The German Kampfgruppe, with a mix of Heer, Fallschirmjager and mixed armour.

Turn 1
I randomly rolled to see who would go first and the Germans won. The Heer on the left flank moved towards the farm wall and the 250's to the edge of the orchard. In a simialr move the Fallschirmjager with PzIV support moved up to another wall and a hedgeline. The CO sent the Tiger I to the bend in the road to dominate the approaches to the village.

The US Airborne on both flanks pushed forward to the river and crossed it in some places, being careful not to send the armour too far in advance without infantry support. The CO failed to arrive, which meant the Firefly wasn't on the table.

The end of Turn 1.

The Allied right flank with the Stuart leading the way.

The Allied left flank with the US Airborne safely in the house over looking the bridge.

The Tiger I can be seen in the distance dominating the approaches to the bridge.

The German right flank with the PZIV's by the hedgeline and the Fallschirmjager by the stone wall.

The Heer on the German left flank, with the 250's at the edge of the orchard.

The Tiger I in a commanding postion.

Turn 2
As the Heer push forward on the left flank, the 250's come under Opportunity Fire from the Sherman and the Stuart. The Sherman easily brews one up, but the Stuart fails and takes 1 hit in return. The Heer put their MG42 into the farmhouse as the other units move towards the stone walls. On the right flank, the Fallschirmjager quickly push forward into the churchyard, with one PzIV moving forward towards the next hedgeline. With shooting breaking out on the left flank, the German CO orders the Tiger I forward, where it then engages the Stuart, but takes 18 shots (!!!) to destroy it.

The US Airborne on the right flank fail to move, possibly as a result of all the shooting from and at the armour.  On the left flank, the US Airborne move into the orchard with Sherman support. they come under Opportunity Fire from the Fallschirmjager, who hit and suppress one unit. The Sherman shoots back but fails to hit anything, but takes 1 hit from a Panzershreck. The CO arrives and the Firefly shoot at the Tiger 1, causing 4 hits but not suppressing it. In return the Tiger I causes 3 hits on the firefly but does not suppress it.

The end of Turn 2.

Smokes rises from the destroyed AFVs as both sides engage each other.

The US Airborne come to grips with the Fallschirmjager in the orchard, supported by the Shermans.

The PzIV's deployed in depth.

A view from the Firefly towards the Tiger I.

Turn 3
The Heer on the German left flank failed their command roll, but were in a good postion anyway for Opportunity Fire should the Allies troops advance. The Fallschirmjager and US Airborne firefight continued, with the Fallschirmjager taking hits, but no suppression. In contrast they managed to  suppress the US Airborne MG unit as well as destroying an infantry one. Shots from the Panzershreck destroyed 1 Sherman and caused hits on another. The action continued as the CO ordered the Tiger I to continue to engage the Firefly, which it brewed up, then turned its turret and suppressed another Sherman on the Allied right flank. A blunder then sent the German CO back towards his baseline.

The Allied CO looked at his remaining units that were very depleted on the armour front as well as the left flank taking hits and facing an enemy in a strong position. With this in mind he decided to withdraw and try and call in artillery upport in preperation for a future assault to take the village.

The end of Turn 3.

The Allied right flank, with the Sherman suppressed and in full view of the Tiger I.

The Firefly burns as the Tiger I looks on in the distance.

The action in the orchard and churchyard.

Another view of the action on the Allied left flank.

The PzIV's line the hedgerow to threaten the Allied left flank.

The Tiger I dominating the road junction.

The Fallschirmjagers in the churchyard and orchard.

The Heer and the German left flank.

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was a fun game and worked much better than my first attempt. It certainly had the feel I wanted, but is still very much a work in progress. So as always some thoughts on the game:
  • The whole table layout worked much better, with smaller BUAs, linked by fields, roads etc. rather than the large blocks I had before. I still need to make some bespoke bases to represent the BUAs, similar to the ones used in our last game.
  • For a quick game it worked really well and was well worth setting up and playing. Some things still need testing, such as mortars or the usefulness of artillery and FAOs. A more though out scenario and table will help with this, which I hope to do next time.
  • I really liked the feel of the close range firefight in the churchyard and orchard. For once infantry anti-tank weapons such as the Panzershreck actually get used, as in my normal games it is rare for the infantry to be in range.
  • Once in a firefight, infantry can succumb very quickly, especially when using Elite troops such as the US Airborne with their higher rate of fire. Next time I will probably go for British and maybe Italians on Sicily, to see what, if any, difference this makes.
  • Having had my Germans for such a long time, it was great to finally get them on the table. They may not have contributed much, but I am keen to finish a Battalion off so that I can game a wider variety of conflicts, such as France 1940.
  • The 2' x 2' table provided a really nice game with a different tactical challenge to normal BKC games. It is perfect for mid-week games as the game is over much more quickly, given both sides make contact pretty quickly and there are less units involved. It's not to say you couldn't increase the unit count, but you would probably need to keep units in reserve. Again something to try out in the future.
So now it is a case of trying to paint up more Heer units over the Xmas period before our gaming resumes in the New Year at some point. I'm sure I will get in some small games such as this, but it is subject to the usual family pressures at this time of year. So until next time...