Wednesday, 23 May 2018

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains....

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

I'm pretty sure it's the law that you have to start any post about a North West Frontier game with a quote from Kipling.  Of course for real artistry and class you don't need to look any further than Scotland's other national bard, William McGonagall...

And the battle that followed at Candahar was a complete victory,
And Lord Roberts’ march to Candahar stands unrivalled in history;
And let’s thank God that sent Lord Roberts to conquer Ayoob Khan,
For from that time there’s been no more war in Afghanistan

Hmmm...I'm not sure McGonagall got that last bit right...

Anyway, last night saw another outing for my 54mm NWF troops.  The game was kindly hosted at Eric the Shed's which meant I was able to use his fantastic collection of terrain and a table big enough to use my limbered gun.  On a normal 6' x 4' table this would look too large but Eric has a massive table...we only used a part of it giving us somewhere in the region of 8-10' x 6' to manoeuvre on.

On Eric's blog you'll find several accounts of a series of Napoleonic skirmish games that we've been playing using A Fistful of Lead: Horse & Musket.  These are a really excellent set of skirmish rules and ideal for multiplayer games where you want a fairly heroic, cinematic style of game, so they seemed an obvious choice for this game.

The rules use a card deck with figures activating in sequence but certain cards give a bonus (+1 on shooting, a free reload etc).  The rules are simple enough that it was possible to have the key points along with info on each character on an A4 sheet.  Each player had 5 characters which feels about right for an evening's gaming.  In each group one of the characters had a bonus skill such as Clever or Fearless but there was also a character with a bad trait such as Cowardly or Unlucky to give a bit of variety.

The rules include scenarios from the French & Indian wars through to the ACW so I adapted some of the later period rules to reflect different weapons such as Martini Henry's, Sniders and Jezzails.

The scenario involved the British running the gun up the length of the table to safety while the Afghans ambushed from the rocky cliffs.  Originally there were due to be 6 of us so each side would have had a cavalry unit but in the event only 4 made it on the evening so the horses never arrived.

The British decided to push the gun forward as fast as they could while the infantry advanced on either side of the pass.  The Pathans on our left took up position in the rocky cliffs while mine on the right hid in some rocks and in the ruined building (the old Airfix Desert Outpost).  Eric's Highlanders quickly realised that they'd have to cross open ground under Jezzail fire to reach me and Eric's Unlucky Private began to attract a lot of rifle fire.  The plucky Highlanders decided to go for glory and striking up 'The Black Bear' advanced within rifle range.  We settled into a long range gun battle which slowly whittled down the Scots and luckily I was also able to knock out the riders on the Gun Limber bringing it to a halt.

The Gordons advance up the ravine

On the other side of the ravine Mark's Pathans opted for a much more direct approach charging into bloody melee with John's British troops who were scaling the cliffs.  This proved a very messy affair with troops charging up and down the slopes and the bodies began to pile up.  The resident vulture spent a lot of the game flapping around the cliff top with plenty of rich pickings!

The battle for the heights

A well fed vulture...

Back in the centre my Pathan leader faced off against the Gordon's Captain as we tussled for control of the gun and limber.  A pistol shot cracked out and my leader fell to the ground!

The Gordon's Captain and Sergeant bravely leapt onto the gun limber and started to ride the gun off to safety but Snider rifles from the outpost and the cliffs made quick work of them, leaving Mark's cowardly Leader to nip out from his rocks and claim the gun and the horses for himself.

The cowardly Pathan finishes  off the riders

The 2 remaining British soldiers beat a retreat back down the pass leaving the Pathans bloodied but victorious.

It was a great game which went down to the wire.  I can highly recommend the rules for fun, cinematic Skirmish games.  They're available to order online as a hard copy or a PDF which makes them a good bargain and can be found here

A write up of the game can also be found on Eric the Shed's excellent blog here

Sunday, 13 May 2018

A Red Actions battle

A chance this week to dig out one of those armies that hasn't seen the light of day for several this case my Russian Civil War armies.  I built these up several years ago and they used to get a regular outing but they've languished for a long time, banished to the Loft of Despair.

The figures are mainly HaT 1/72 plastics with an assortment of odds and sods acquired via EBay.

My rules of choice for this period are Red Actions from The Perfect Captain website.  If you haven't come across this site (although I'm guessing most people have) it's well worth checking out the range of rules on there and available for free.  Red  Actions is a very comprehensive set covering the Civil War and also the various Nationalist wars that followed.  The only draw back is that it does require a fair amount of printing: the rules themselves are fairly brief but there are a host of counters and unit cards that go along with the game.  Luckily my previous job gave me plenty of opportunities to print stuff cheaply!

 A selection unit cards and commander counters that are used in the game

The rules are written in a odd question and answer style ('Tell me comrade, how does shooting work?') which is mildly amusing for the first few pages and then becomes a bit irritating...that, combined with an erratic layout and lack of index means that the rulebook, although brief, can be hard to navigate.  Despite this they are excellent and really suit the open nature of the RCW.  Casualties are surprisingly light for a WW1 era game but units readily acquire 'Terror' markers which severely limit their fighting ability.  It's also quite easy to remove these but it requires units to do nothing else for a turn, so games often take on a pattern of units engaging and then falling back to recover before going back into action...very fluid and dynamic.

Each unit consists of a number of platoons (up to 6) figures were all individually based and although I could have used 6 figures as a unit I find it looks better with them double based so I had temporarily remounted them onto 30 x 30mm bases...I say 'temporarily' but that assumes I'll ever get round to fixing them permanently.  There are unit cards for a whole host of Red and White unit types as well as Western Interventionist troops and various Nationalist armies such as Poles, Latvians, Freikorps etc.

I'd put together a straightforward scenario with both armies trying to occupy a railhead and some rolling stock in the centre of the table, no doubt containing vital supplies of caviar and vodka (I know...leave no stereotype unused!).  I'd probably gone a bit overboard with the number of units on each side but it was the first time in years I'd had all the toys out!  Both sides had a mix of infantry types and a cavalry unit.  The Reds had brought along an Austin armoured car and an FT17 tank for support while the Whites were accompanied by a British unit who had also brought some support: in this case a Mark V and a Whippet.  Both sides had some supports which would arrive on a dice throw...a plane for the Whites and an Armoured Train for the Reds!  More on these later...

We both immediately pushed our cavalry towards the buildings around the railhead and the White's won the race.  I'd tried to drive them off with mchine gun fire from my Austin armoured car but Andrew was able to hold on and then sensibly dismounted his cavalry and piled into the cover of the buildings
In the centre of the table both tanks were facing each other but quickly realised that they were unlikely to cause each other much damage.  In Red Actions armour is pretty impregnable: it can only be damaged by artillery or another tank and the chances of this are pretty slim.  This does seem a bit over-powered although reading contemporary accounts of tank actions backs up the notion that they rumbled around terrifying the infantry but only being susceptible to artillery or to bogging down in difficult ground.
Both tanks decided to ignore each other and concentrate on beating up the infantry:  my FT17 and an accompanying MG were able to batter the British who had been advancing through a wheatfield.  The Mark V concentrated on attacking the Red Cavalry which prevented them getting close to the railhead.

The fighting had now focused on the buildings (which was probably a mistake on my part).  The Whippet and Austin slugged it out on the left flank, taking turns to drive each other off with close range MG fire before eventually the weight of fire forced my Austin crew to abandon their vehicle and run off!

The evil imperialist lackeys were then lucky with the dice throws and a fighter turned up: these only stay around for 3 turns but it caused mayhem in this time, routing one unit and causing terror markers to pile up on others.  Simply being attacked by a plane or a tank is enough to cause a terror marker,even without a hit so this, couple with some lucky dice, meant my forces were taking a least it didn't stay around indefinitely.  And still no sign of my train...

dakka, dakka, dakka....

My brave revolutionary heroes were now looking a bit depleted and the Terror markers were coming in faster than I could remove them.  All I was able to do was rally these off each turn, only to acquire another few next turn.  This was forcing my troops to hunker down in cover or to pull back so, as the evening was also getting late, I conceded and left the White forces to enjoy their spoils of war.  Of course we decided to give one last dice throw for reinforcements and what should turn up but Tomsk the Tank Engine to save the day...too late!

This was a great game...the evening had flown by and it has definitely renewed my interest if getting these armies out more often.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Some Bank Holiday figure prepping...

Traditional UK Bank Holiday activities would normally include DIY and barbeques and I have to confess to having been out gardening for the afternoon.  I'm not a natural gardener which explains the overgrown state of my garden, but today's tasks involved indiscriminately attacking the garden with a set of heavy duty hedge-trimmers which is something even I can manage.  At least I managed to avoid slicing through the cable which is what I usually do (thank goodness for circuit-breakers!) but I did manage to devastate a couple of rose bushes which became collateral damage when I was attacking a clump of nettles and brambles!

I've nursed my scratches and stings and got on with more hobby-related tasks....prepping some figures for a game tomorrow.  I have a game arranged at my friend Andrew's and at his suggestion have dug out my Russian Civil War armies for a game of Red Actions.  These are an excellent free set of rules from the Perfect Captain website which I used to play quite regularly but haven't for, oh, at least 5 years I reckon.

All my figures are based individually which is a bit of a pain in Red Actions so I have temporarily re-based them onto a batch of 30 x 30mm bases using PVA.  If the rules inspire me I may look at permanently re-basing these.

I'll post an update after tomorrow's game...unless I lose in which case this will never be spoken of again...