Monday 27 November 2023

60 Not Out!

Just over a week ago I turned 60. Now I'm not one to worry about age or birthdays (except at 25 when I felt old!) but there is something about hitting this new decade that seems to have brought on a period of hobby reflection. Now speaking to other friends in a similar situation, I know I'm not alone in this. What have I been musing upon and if anything, what will this mean for my hobby?

The Lead Pile
As touched upon briefly at the end of a previous post, I finally got around to getting everything out of the attic and other parts of the house to have a good look at actually what I've got. Simply put far too much! Heresy I know for many, but I'm being utterly realistic about what I'm likely to be able to achieve in making a dent on this. Like other gamers, some were bought for projects that never saw the light of day, for retail therapy during stressful times at work or for projects that are still in the pipeline. 

Projects & Periods
Looking through the above, some of the bags contained figures that I honestly struggled to remember why I bought them, but most I knew about when I saw them, even if I had forgotten they were there. So a few hours of sorting them into labelled boxes allowed me to take stock of all that was laid out in front of me.

I was confronted with the harsh realisation that given my current painting output, in front of my were well over a decades worth of projects, assuming my eyes and hands could carry on painting 10mm figures. Also it brought into sharp focus that would I in all honesty paint and play with 3 Seven Years War armies, given that these days the ImagiNations route is much more to my liking? Then what of the two Hundred Years War armies, the Baltic Crusades or the 19thC 'Big Game' armies?

In all likelyhood most of this stuff will be sold on to allow me to focus on those core periods I enjoy, namely 18thC, 19thC and WWII. The start has been very cathartic already and I hope to be able to shift most of the stuff in the New Year, maybe before, but with the post being somewhat unreliable in the run up to Xmas, most likely after that.

Over the years I've bought into so many different and new rulesets that promised so much and in most cases, sadly failed to deliver. Luckily over the past 5 years or so I've really settled on core sets that I enjoy and play often, namely BKCII, Honours of War and the Black Pwder stable. Alongside these I would include Bloody Big Battles and Dan Mersey's 'Rampant' series, although these rarely get an outing.

Some other rules will be kept back as they might have some nice ideas in them, for nostalgia value etc, but everything else will go. As other friends have found lately, it is pretty hard to sell old rules and given the cost of postage, it's not really worth the effort, so it will be off to a charity shop if I can't sell them locally. I know I won't miss them and will greatly appreciate the extra space on the bookshelves that this will free up.

Game Time
This year has been a challenging one in which to find time to game, as it's been a busy on on the parent/carer front and I can't see much changing next year. My 2' x 2' games have been a lifeline, with the odd 3' x 2' and 4' x 4' thrown in for good measure. Anything larger is hard to find in around family duties or even to leave set up, as much as I would like to. So this has also driven what I plan to keep and what is surplus to requirments.

Type Of Games
When I first got back into gaming it was via skirmish games, which were prefect for the situation at that time with a young family and little time for anything larger. As time moved on my ideas out grew what I could realistically achieve, such as Brigade level games of BKCII played at home solo that would last all day or more! Currently a reinforced Battalion or Regiment per side is what I can easily achieve and play through at home and played to conclusion in a few hours, with something slightly larger with a bit of planning and approval from SWMBO due to the disruption of leaving the game set up. Again this means that those large army ideas from the early days have led to lots of surplus figures.

One off games whilst OK and a good way to keep you hand in, test new ideas, scenarios and rules out etc, really don't float my boat anymore. I much prefer a narrative driven campaign, no matter the period being played. Sadly this is not always possible but I have reams of paper full of ideas that one day I might even get around to playing. Hopefully next year I might even get to run a few, which would be nice.

I think that this is the hardest part of the hobby to find motivation to do. Certainly after the deadline for the Cotswold Wargames Day, my mojo has waned significantly for a variety of reasons. Not having a dedicated painting area doesn't help, plus after some 30+ years in the design and modelmaking industry, it can feel like a busman's holiday at times. Don't get me wrong, when the muse is upon me, I love to paint, but as each year progresses her visits seem to lessen.

Whilst I struggle to find the mojo to paint, the complete reverse is true of scratch building terrain for my games. Again I have loads of sketches for ideas dotted about all over the place, but finding the time to make them become reality is my biggest issue. Hopefully with the figure cull and focusing on core periods again, I can get back into the garage to make stuff.

A perennial issue but after getting everything into one place, I have at least been able to make a start on organising stuff better, whether it be finished armies or part of the lead pile or terrain. SWMBO did mention that when our son eventually moves out, I might be able to have that as my man cave-cumgames room! Whilst small it is at least a start!

Less Is More
So I'm hoping that with the above fresh in my mind, I can actually make a 'fresh start' to this new decade once I've had a good clear out and re-organisation. As mentioned earlier the start has been cathartic and I hope to maintain the momentum to that I can have less projects moving forward, but ones that I really want to play and enjoy playing them.


Sunday 26 November 2023

Reveille 2023 Wargames Show

This morning I took a quick trip to my local wargames show, Reveille, organised by Lincombe Barn Wargames Society. Small by most standards, I try and attend each year as I feel it is important to keep these going as they provide as nice place to meet other local gamers, showcase the hobby to potential new players and give local traders some much needed business I'm sure.

So first off some photos of some of the games:

Never Mind The Ruckus - Medieval Skirmish 28mm. This was just starting and appeared to be card driver and possibly based upon Never Mind The Billhooks mechanics?

Some nice details, such as these beehives.

6mm WWII by Quick Fire Wargames Club. Sadly no idea on the rules in use.

Lots of table 'detritus' on show, due to no space to put it anywhere else!

54mm French-Indian Wars.

Lots of very impressive stuff to see, whether figures of terrain.

Rapid Fire WWII - 15mm?

1930's Gangsters - 28mm.

Loads of lovely buildings on show.

Loved this monument.

A nice contrast to all the other buildings.

Post Show Thoughts
I arrived not long after it opened and spent just shy of an hour there. A few musings on what I thought in no particular order:
  • The show is spread across 4 rooms of varying size, due to the fact that it's held in a village hall-cum-community centre. This naturally limits what can be put on games wise and also the space for the traders to display their wares. This year I thought they got the balance right, as the main hall didn't feel as crowded as previous years and you could get a decent view of the games, even if you did have to edge past the odd rucksack!
  • The quality of the games this year was the best I've seen for a long time, with a nice mix of scales too. Sadly the compact nature of the venue means that there is not space to display games info and somehow I was not given a leaflet, which might have shown some info on who was running what game etc.
  • The show was well attended when I arrived just after opening, with a good mix of ages, especially some new young bloods with their parents, on show. So despite the obvious greying of the hobby and the familiar faces I saw, it was nice to see more younger players than previous years.
  • It was nice to catch up with a few people too, but sadly didn't have the chance to have as many chats as I would have liked.
  • As ever the traders selling second hand stuff seemed to be busy, but not as bad at the Colours infamous B'n'B scrum! To be honest I wasn't after anything but it's always nice to see what is 'new' in the hobby, given that I don't buy magazines anymore.

Even though it was a splash-and-dash visit, I was glad I went and the games certainly gave me some ideas for table dressing items I could add, albeit a bit tricky in 10mm!


Tuesday 14 November 2023

Somewhere in Belgium, 1940 - A BKCII AAR

It came as rather a surprise to me recently when I realised that I had not played a single game of BKCII all year. I had had plans to run a campaign during the Spring, but for various reasons that fell be the wayside. So after a lot of fun 18thC action of late, it was high time for a complete change and what better than a game of BKCII?

I had thought of digging out my AVBCW collection, but during a sort out inspired after reading Jon Freitag's Blog post on unpainted miniatures, I came across a Battalion of WWII German Infantry that I simply forgot I had painted! So aside from this getting my butt into gear to sort my various piles of toys out (currently well underway), it was high time that they saw some action on the table.

Looking through my notes for the proposed campaign, I decided to do a very simple little action due to the usual time and space constraints, based around a British Recce force covering a bridge and some fords, with the German Recce force advancing to contact and trying to seize it intact. It would also allow me to re-acquaint myself with the rules, my ideas for the campaign and also to try out how both sides forces played on the table.

So without further ado, the usual annotated photos to show how the game played out:

An overview of the 2' x 2' table, with the British defending South of the river.

Dug-in British troops await the Germans as the Belgian farmer carries on ploughing.

Another unit dug-in covering the bridge.

German AFV's ready to advance down the road, with Cavalry on either flank.

An overnight bombing raid misses the bridge, but ruins a Belgium house.

The pot pourri of British AFV's will come on as reinforcements.

An overview at the end of Turn 1. The Germans push forward quickly unaware of the British troops covering the bridge. They come under fire, forcing the Cavalry to dismount and the Armoured Cars are engaged with Boys ATR's.

Opportunity fire sees the 221 Armoured Car just avoid being knocked out.

The German left flank advances, but is screened from view by the fence line.

A German Cavalry unit if suppressed as it came under fire whilst mounted, leading to them all dismounting.

Early on in Turn 2. A good start for the Germans as two British Recce Infantry unit are knocked out in quick succession.

The German Armoured Cars push over the bridge and avoid the rather ineffective Boys ATR fire.

The knocked out British Recce Infantry unit. The British left flank is rather exposed...

The German left flank has pushed forward and the dismounted Cavalry begin to cross the ford.

The German Armoured Cars ready to support the troops crossing at the ford.

The end of Turn 2. With the British situation appearing desperate to say the least, the timely arrival of the British Armoured Cars help restore the situation somewhat.

Combined ATR fire sees both the 221 and 222 Armoured Cars brewed up in quick succession.

The German troops are suppressed as they try to ford the river.

The view from the German side of the mayhem unfolding across the bridge.

The end of Turn 3. The German attack stalls on their right flank, but at least they manage to knock out the British Recce Infantry unit that was dug-in in the ploughed field, as well as a Vickers MkVI Light Tank.

The British right flank is open and they lose a Vickers MkVI there too. The Morris CS9 Armoured Car advances to duel with the German 232 Armoured Car, but to no avail.

The Germans do not have it all there own way and lose a Cavalry Infantry unit that had their ATR, which is a bit of a blow.

The stalled German right flank when the way is open for them.

If only the 232 Armoured Car can knocked out the British CS9, then the way would be open too to cross the bridge.

The end of Turn 4. As the German right flank pushed over the river and to the edge of the cornfields, their left flank pulled back to the relative safety of the fence line. The 232 Armoured Car managed to hit the British CS9 and suppress it. What was left of the British force failed to activate.

The remaining British Recce Infantry look on from the farmhouse towards the burning wreacks by the bridge.

The British attached MG unit is unable to see the German troops as they push forward to try and turn the flank.

The CS9 Armoured Car unable to take the fight to the Germans due it being suppressed.

End of Game
There was still a slim chance for the British if they could knock out the German 232 Armoured Car, but at the start of Turn 5 the 232 armoured Car rather easily dispatched the CS9 Armoured Car. So with that and the losses they had already taken, the British were not in a position to contest the crossing any longer and so withdrew. Although a win for the Germans, it did come at a price and would slow their advance down as they needed to re-group before pushing on again.

Post Game Thoughts
Well it was great to be playing BKCII again after so long and despite a rather simple scenario with quickly knocked together forces, it made for a fun game and as always, nice to have some armour on the table! A few post game thoughts in no particular order:
  • The higher German CV's and their flexible tactical doctrine did help and as one would expect, felt right for this period of the War. I did bump up the British to CV's of 8 to make it more of a game and to reflect the possibly higher training etc of the Recce units.
  • MG only armed tanks or armoured cars are really of little use against each other, with the 'strength' coming against infantry or ATG's etc in the open. Any troops dug-in or in BUA's have little to fear from them to be honest.
  • In this game the 20mm armed German armoured car and the Boys ATR's were the 'big hitters', which is not something you get to say everyday!
  • I had not used cavalry for a long time and although they are pretty speedy, naturally they are rather vulnerable to direct of indirect fire, so need to be used with care.
  • Despite the British infantry being dug-in, they did not last long due to some rather good shooting by the Germans. I need to double check I played it right for BKCII and checking last night on BKCIV errata, it is played somewhat differently.
  • Recce troops are less durable than normal infantry, which certainly speeded things up, but not helped by the fact that I was using too many die when shooting!
  • As always after a first game for a while, I need to re-read some sections just to double check on a few things. However the game flowed well and I really only needed to use the QRS for most of the game. BKCIV has some units not seen in BKCII, such as the CS9 armoured car, so will again check these moving forward.

And In Other News
Not a lot else going on at present for a variety of reasons. My painting has ground to a halt, but at least I am starting to have a thorough clear out and organisation of my leadpile and mixed boxes of troops, to try and make some order out of the chaos. This has felt very cathartic and frankly has been long overdue!

Moving forward I fancy playing some more BKCII games, but it's unlikely I will get some units I need for the France 1940 campaign painted before Xmas. So I have some fall back ideas, with one campaign roughed out and some one off games too. Time for a ponder as which to go for...


Sunday 5 November 2023

Fight For The Factory - An 18thC India Honours of War AAR.

Having enjoyed my first solo game since March, I thought I'd try and keep the momentum going with another outing somewhere in 18thC India. Like all kids with a new toy, I wanted to try and include my Factory model, for no other reason than I like having it on the table! Searching through my scenario books I took Scenario 16: Forlorn Hope 2 from Stuart Asquith's 'Scenarios For All Ages' as inspiration for a simple scenario. 

Simply put the Franco-Indian force is trying to make a surpise attack on the HEIC Factory, before it can be reinforced with more troops. The HEIC have added some quick field defences in the form of gabions to try and help bolster their defence. They have some Light Cavalry out scouting for the enemy, which they've failed to spot, but may turn up later in the game. The game starts as dawn breaks, with the Franco-Indian forces arriving out of the early morning light.

An overview of the table.

The Franco-Indian right wing.

The Franco-Indian centre and left wing.

The HEIC right wing, with its Dashing commander.

The HEIC field defences.

The Franco-Indian guns ready to open fire.

The end of Turn 1. The Franco-Indian right wing failed to move, but their left advanced and came under fire from the HEIC artillery. 

The end of Turn 2. Once again the Franco-Indian right wing failed to move! The HEIC right wing advanced to meet the Franco-Indian threat to their front. Both sides opened fire, causing some hits, with the artillery missing.

Both sides engage in musketry.

The end of Turn 3. Finally the Franco-Indian right wing gets moving, whilst their left wing closes with the HEIC. Artillery and musketry ripples out, with the Franco-Indian Sepoys routing as a result.

The Franco-Indian Sepoys rout, but the HEIC Sepoys take plenty of hits too.

Finally the Franco-Indian right wing advances.

Early on in Turn 4. The Franco-Indian right wing gets a move on, with a double move, finally bringing them into the game. The action hots up on the HEIC right wing...

... as the Franco-Indian Light Infantry charge the Sepoys, leading to both sides retreating back. In the musketry exchange, the Franco-Indian commander is killed!

The action kicks off on the HEIC left wing.

The HEIC Sepoys retreat back.

The Franco-Indian right wing retreats to reform, as the French Line Infantry take an additional hit as the Light Infantry retreated past them.

The end of Turn 4. The HEIC right wing is somewhat disjointed, but safe for the moment. The left wing however is under pressure.

The end of Turn 5. The action turns to the HEIC left wing and centre, as the HEIC Light Infantry are done for and rout.

The demise of the HEIC Light Infantry.

The French troops advance towards the HEIC Sepoys behind their gabions.

The Franco-Indian troops are in a good position, but are on 3 hits apiece and facing artillery and superior infantry.

The Franco-Indian left wing reforming.

A view from the Franco-Indian side as they press forward towards the objective, namely the factory.

Early on in Turn 6. The Franco-Indian troops rout the HEIC Sepoys, but lose their French Line Infantry in the process. The HEIC Line Infantry charge into the Franco-Indian Sepoys, surviving closing fire as they do so.

The HEIC Sepoys break, followed by the French Line Infantry.

The HEIC Line Infantry rout the Franco-Indian Sepoys, but have to retreat themselves, only just avoiding routing too.

The end of Turn 6. The HEIC right wing has retreated to reform, as their Light Cavalry arrives in the nick of time to support them. The Franco-Indian left wing has reformed and starts to advance.

With no troops left on their left wing, the HEIC troops are still in a good position, with the artillery and Light Infantry making it hard for anyone to assault the factory.

The 7th Light Cavalry arrive to save the day!

Colonel Hathi's elephant artillery somewhat isolated and alone.

The Franco-Indian left wing reformed, but now with a Dithering commander.

The Franco-Indian high water makr as the troops can only look on and ponder what might have been. Some Urn-Brew perhaps?

They couldn't hit an elephant even if they tried!

End of Game
With the arrival of the HEIC Light Cavalry and the loss of so many infantry, it was obvious that the Franco-Indian force was spent. The HEIC commander breathed a sigh of relief!

Post Game Thoughts
Well that was fun, even if it didn't go quite as I expected it to! As always a few musings on why this might have been etc.
  • Frankly I thought that the artillery would be more effective, given that the Franco-Indian force had a heavy gun to bolster their attack. The problem was that they could only fire every other Turn (which I forgot early on!) and being Inferior Artillery, with troops behind cover, meant that they needed a 5 each time they shot to actually cause a hit. In fact all game the Franco-Indian artillery did little damage and certainly none on their HEIC counterparts. The Medium gun would have been better used in moving up to support their left wing and having the chance to get off a whiff of grapeshot.
  • So attacking troops in entrenchments, behind cover or BUA's, then howitzers of mortars are probably a better bet. At least I have some so they need to jump up the painting queue.
  • The gabions certainly helped keep the HEIC in the game, as without them I think they could have been overun rather quickly. 
  • If the Franco-Indian right wing had not had two Turns of inactivity and had been able to make a co-ordinated attack, then I think things could have been harder for the HEIC. As it was they could deal with each attack in Turn, concentrating their fire where it mattered most.
  • With the above being taken into account, I think it fair to up the strength of the Franco-Indian force, with certainly a howitzer/mortar and at least another Sepoy unit.
  • Yet again the Franco-Indian force lost a commander during the game. Normally I like to do a random roll to see the quality of the replacement, but this time I just went with the rules and that they drop down  a level, hence the Dithering for the replacement.
  • I rated the French artillery as Superior for shooting only, as per the amendments for the Austrian artillery, with all other stats being Standard. This feels right to me and I'll see what Dave thinks.

So there we are. Two games in two weeks: feels good! I even remembered to replace the light bulb with a brighter one and one that is more daylight in hue. It certainly made it easier to take photos, but it does cast quite a shadow. It is 60W so might replace it with a 40W one and see if it is less harsh.

What Next?
My painting mojo hasn't returned, but I'm hoping it will soon, so that I can add more core units to my forces. I think that after the concentrated spurt in advance of the CWD, I needed a break. After all it is meant to be fun and not a chore.

Games wise I think it high time for a complete change. I've had some ideas kicking around for some AVBCW action for some time, so might dust these off and see how they grab me. Probably something bigger than 2' x 2', but you never know. The only worry is that it might distract me away from the 18thC India project...