Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Neil Thomas: 19th Century rules

Back at Xmas I acquired a set of Neil Thomas' 19th Century rules having heard good things about them at the Guildford Wargames club. Last night I finally got a chance to try them out.

For anyone with an interest in the Continental wars of the 19th century the rules are well worth reading. They're presented in a traditional book format and the rules themselves only make up 8 pages out of 193. The remainder of the book is made up of a lengthy and very interesting explanation of Neil's ideas and why he has designed his rules in the way he has and a detailed discussion of 19th Century political and military changes [anyone that references AJP Taylor is alright in my book!].

The rules themselves are brief and give every impression of being simple, but as is usually the case with rules like this they're actually more complex than they first appear. Having set out the mechanics of the game there are then several scenarios [Pitched Battle, Meeting engagement etc] in which a random element of the armies may fail to arrive, be delayed, arrive on a flank etc. I've always enjoyed games where the set up and composition of the armies is slightly degraded by random factors... Peter Pig rules are particularly good for this... as I guess few Generals every really got to play with all of their toys exactly as they'd planned.

The rules also include a number of army lists with specific rules for each period/theatre and appear to cover most of the 19th Century on mainland Europe.

I'd convinced Andrew to give these rules another go... he'd played them on a previous occasion and had some reservations but kindly agreed to indulge me! My armies for this period are in 6mm with all the figures from the excellent Baccus ranges. I have a French and Prussian army but have been slowly building up some additional Austrians and Piedmontese which should allow me to get away with at least 3 wars for the price of 1!!

We played out a Pitched Battle scenario with the French taking the initiative and attacking Andrew's Prussians. As the defender Andrew was able to deploy a couple of units forward of the main army and took advantage of this and occupied one of the 2 towns with his Skirmishers. The French were making a Flank attack so their cavalry and 1 Infantry unit were held off table till turn 5: we assumed that the Prussians wouldn't be aware of which turn this happened in although this wasn't clear in the rules.

In the NT rules units can't move while in Line formation so the both sides began marching steadily towards each other in columns but the French [despite being the attacker] quickly halted and deployed into line to take advantage of their Chassepot rifles longer range. Meanwhile the Prussian Steel Rifled artillery began the process of knocking lumps out of the French Infantry: luckily being in Line meant there was a better chance of saving some of the hits but it was still painful

On the right the French managed to occupy the 2nd town but came under heavy fire which slowly whittled down the defenders. On their left the Prussian columns were beginning to pay the price for having a shorter range carbine and having shot up the leading Prussian unit the French decided to go in with the bayonet in true French style. This was very effective and wiped out the Prussian unit but left the French weakened and vulnerable to a 2nd Infantry column that had advanced and to fire from the Jaegers who had advanced out of the town and moved around the French flanks. Another Prussian column had advance bravely towards the French guns and was shot to pieces for their efforts, even getting close enough to allow the French to deploy their Mitrailleuse.

A pretty equal exchange of fire on this flank meant that all units were becoming pretty battered and the Prussians were able to charge into the French Zouaves and drive them back... despite this the Zouaves held on with a handful of men and continued to rather annoyingly pick of Prussian infantry. 

The Prussians charge the French Zouaves

As turn 5 dawned the French flank forces finally arrived. The Infantry advanced against the Jaegers while the cavalry deployed against the Prussian Kurassiers. Andrew was able to quickly charge one of the French Heavy Cavalry and drive them back and at this point I discovered the lethality of artillery vs cavalry. The Prussian Krupps guns swung round and began knocking large holes in the 2nd unit who steadily advanced under the hail of fire and almost reached the guns... it was all very gallant and brave and I'm sure there were medals given for it but it was equally pointless! The Kurassiers meanwhile chased the French Cuirassiers around the table to no great effect.

The French cavalry decides to turn up...

The Prussian guns take aim at the doomed French Hussars...

By this point the game had pretty much reached an end. The French had no real intact units left on the table and the Prussians were equally battered but had a couple of units the remained effective so were able to claim the victory.

So what's the verdict on the rules. I knew Andrew hadn't been a great fan before and I'm not sure this did anything to change his mind but I have to say I really enjoyed them. As I said earlier they appear a fairly simple set of rules but have quite a bit of depth to them [some of which it would have been helpful to realise beforehand... cavalry and guns don't mix!]. They certainly emphasise the bloody nature of warfare in this period of breech loading and rifled guns. As someone at the club later commented: " The Franco-Prussian War... like the American Civil War but without the intelligence..." [but with prettier uniforms!]

Sunday, 20 January 2013

It's the Snowpocalypse!!!!

I'm updating my blog from the snowy wastes of Surrey where we're in the grip of 2" of snow and have been largely cut off from the outside world.  The Tesco Express next door has row upon row of empty shelves [not even an horse burger to be seen...] and we may have to eat the dog if they aren't restocked soon [... only kidding... he's too skinny, we'll have to eat my son instead!]

It's the annual weekend of snow that we get here and everything grinds to a halt... this is where I should go into a rant about how it wasn't like this when I was young/ they're all southern softies down here in Surrey/ everyone's hysterical etc, but actually I've been mainly preoccupied by the fact that our heating and hot water packed in and it was bloody freezing!!!  We now have heat but not hot water but at least I can grab a shower at work so it's not too bad.

The snow has meant a quiet weekend though so there was a chance to do some more work on my Saxons [see... I really am trying to stick to my plan!]  I've built 20 of my Gripping Beast plastic Saxons and had part-painted them last year so wanted to try and get them finished.  They're now painted and had an ink wash and just need to bases finished off.  Somewhere I have some shield transfers for these and for my Vikings but I couldn't find them anywhere so have had to give them some rather boring shield patterns.  Hopefully the transfers are in a box in the loft and I'll be able to track them down for the next batch as they really did make a difference to the Viking shields.

Saxon Warlord and Standard bearer


On another note I saw that Warlord Games have reduced the price of some of their rule books in the last week or so.  I decided to order a set of Hail Caesar at the reduced price of £20.  One of my quests has been to try and find a decent set of rules for my Italian Condotta and Swiss armies.  I originally used these with DBM but it's a rule system I struggle to love although I really do like DBA!
I've tried FoG which is the Ancient/Medieval rule du jour at the club but again struggled to get along with it.  I quite enjoyed them but never really felt like I knew what was going on [... nothing unusual there!]. 
I've also been having a look at some of the Perfect Captain rules  [ http://perfectcaptain.50megs.com/captain.html ], especially Strongbow and A Coat of Steel to see if these could suit the early Renaissance period.  I'm a big fan of Black Powder though so Hail Caesar seemed like a good bet for the Italians and Swiss.  I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Forza Italia!!!

This week saw us dipping our toe in the water of a WW2 air and sea campaign at Guildford.

We've just concluded an excellent naval campaign based around a Japanese invasion of Port Moresby in which the allies somehow managed to snatch victory from the sinking carrier of defeat [although I'm still not entirely sure how we managed...my Australian Admiral had been brushing up his handy Japanese phrases for weeks...].  This inspired us to have a look at a Mediterranean based campaign...we've still some way to go before this gets off the ground but Keith and I thought we'd brush up our skills at Bag the Hun, the excellent air rules from Too Fat Lardies.

Keith obliged by providing the planes and his rather neat double sided mat from Hotz Mats.  I have one of these with 3" hexes which I've used for 1:300 planes but Keith's mat has [I think] 1" hexes and he has some really neat 1:600 planes.

The scenario pitted 2 pairs of the Regia Aeronautica's elite Fiat CR42's against 2 Blenheims that were trying to get safely across the Med.  Bag the Hun is a deceptively simple system which encourages formation flying and, like many TfL rules uses a card activation system.  Neither of us had played it for some time and it took us a couple of turns to get back into the swing of the manoeuvre system.

The Falco's [or should that be Falchi] buzzed around the Blenheims blazing away to little effect.  The leader of Flight #2 was so keen that he'd expended all his ammo in 2 passes and had to settle for becoming the wingman to his less experienced colleague.

The Blenheim's were able to return fire but this also proved pretty ineffective and both sides continued to display some neat formation flying if nothing else.  A damaged fuel line on one of the Falco's all the tailgunners were able to achieve while the Italians managed to kill a gunner and reduce their effectiveness but little else.

After several turns the RAF reinforcements which had steadfastly refused to appear finally turned up... a flight of 3 Tomahawks.  The Italians fired a last blast at the Blenheim's, forcing one to take evasive action by diving... Keith then had a couple of nervous turns as the pilot struggled [and failed] to regain control and continued heading for the Med before he finally managed to pull the plane out of it's dive. 
The Tomahawks which eventually turned up.

The Falco's buzzed past the fighters and rapidly headed for home, having decided that the fight had suddenly become a bit unfair.  Here the Italian Junior Ace who was leading Flight #1 showed why he was the superior pilot by rapidly overtaking his colleagues and heading for the table edge at record speed!

Zoooom... the Falco's break the sound barrier while heading for home!

So, a really enjoyable game where no one died!!  I'd guess the reports back at the respective bases would tell how the Blenheims had been badly shot up and almost certainly destroyed while the Falcos also had to battle against dozens of RAF fighters, or that the bombers had come under wave after wave of Italian fighters and had driven them off with British pluck!  Medals all round I'd say!!!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Blogs and Picasa

Seems to have been a bit of a change in how to upload photos recently.

I used to have a folder on the laptop for blog photos and could upload from there straight onto the blog but it now looks as though I have to do this via Picasa which I find really unwieldy tool.  In the course of trying to get this to work I seem to have deleted several photos from last post... Damn!!

I'll have to experiment some more later.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The post-Hogmanay guilty planning

First, what did yesternight deliver?
'Another year has gone for ever.'
And what is this day's strong suggestion?
'The passing moment's all we rest on!'
Rest on - for what? what do we here?
Sketch New Year's Day. To Mrs Dunlop - Burns

Well, traditionally this is where I should be reflecting on last year's progress or lack of it and drawing up a set of New Year resolutions and setting out my plans for 2013.

I have to confess I've never been very good at the whole planning thing [which could explain why I often lose games!] but here goes...

Projects lingering on from 2012 that I'm hoping to 'complete' [I know... I know... how many wargamers ever actually complete anything!] include:

  • 6mm Samurai... I got these last xmas and made a good start on painting but haven't moved them on much.

Baccus Samurai...sadly not mine!

  • Finish the Gripping Beast Vikings and Saxons that I acquired for Saga.  I've just spotted that the latest Too Fat Lardies Xmas special has some rules for including Vikings into their Dux Brittanium rules.  I've downloaded the special but have got round to reading it as yet but reviews of DB sound very promising.

  • Finish and add to the Napoleonic figures I have for Sharpe Practice.  The Napoleonic period is one that has always left me cold but I found that I really liked the narrative driven style of SP... much more cinematic and fun.

  • And finally... actually do some painting!  We acquired a dog back in October and since his arrival I haven't painted a thing... mainly due to being knackered due to excessive dog walking.  My stamina seems to have finally caught up so hopefully I can now build back in some painting time

Trigger... the anti-painting dog

I made a start this evening with doing some work on the Saxons while my son made much faster progress on his new Dark Eldar army that he got at xmas [the one consolation is that his painting rate is even worse than mine!!]

Some of the Viking hordes... Saxons to follow...