Friday, 29 March 2019

Friday round up

I've had a busy day off today... we're having some unseasonal sunshine so the day has been filled with dog walking and chores.  Now the windows are cleaned, pot of soup made and bags of clothes have been sorted for the charity shop I can hopefully find some time for a spot of painting.

Recently I've been very focused on painting boats for Cruel Seas and making more Paper Jacobites, so it was a slightly odd feeling when I finished all of these and realised I didn't have anything immediate to work on.  Of course I quickly remembered that I had a starter set of 1:200 scale planes for Warlord Games Blood Red Skies which have been languishing in their box for a few months so these have been dug out and I've started painting again.

The starter set comes with 6 Spitfires and 6 Me109s.  I already have quite a few planes in 1:300 and I had thought they would match up ok but having compared the models I don't think this will work and I can see myself investing in more of the larger planes.

Disappointingly the starter.set came with some rather naff stickers rather than decals.  I think this may have been changed in later sets but I'll have to order some better decals.

I've also been giving some thought to Salute purchases.  I'm on a spending limit and don't have any great plans but I do plan to pick up some minis for Burrows and Badgers.  I first came across this a couple of years ago at Salute 2017 where I had a chat with Michael Lovejoy at Oathsworn Miniatures.  They produce the game and a great range of figures.

It's clearly heavily inspired by things like Redwall and Mouseguard and may be a bit twee for some, but the range of fantasy mice, squirrels, badgers and other woodland animals is really well sculpted and the game has intrigues me.  I've resisted until recently when I decided, sod it, I fancy the game!    I've also just seen an ad for this  new range from Northumbrian Tin Soldier which looks excellent.  I've picked up a copy of the Burrows and Badgers rulebook which looks like a decent set of fantasy skirmish rules.... kind of like Frostgrave with bushy tails.The rules are published by Osprey and are very pretty to look at.

Beyond that I have no plans for Salute spending (yeah...we've heard that before!!!)

I played in an excellent game at Eric the Shed's on Monday...a refight of the Zulu Wars battle of Khambula, almost on the anniversary of the battle.    There's a great write up on Eric's blog here.  It was a great game...not least because we managed (just) to not get overrun by the hordes of angry Zulus.

Oh, and I managed to get myself temporarily banned from TMP for a few days for calling an idiot ' a bit of a dick'...ho hum.I   should know better than to get into arguments with right-wing idiots on the internet but I couldn't help biting. :)   The whole moderation/banning thing on TMP is really quite strange and arbitrary  The site itself seems to be a pale shadow of what it was a few years ago and certainly less useful that other sites such as Lead Adventure Forum.

Saturday, 23 March 2019


My son was back for a flying visit from Uni last weekend and so we managed to squeeze in a quick board game.  This was a bit  of an unusual one for us...normally it's something like Twilight Struggle or Carcassone but a friend gave me a copy of Tokaido at Xmas and we hadn't managed to get round to playing it.

This game is published by Funforge and is based around a journey along the of the Five Routes of the Edo period in Japan.  This road linked Kyoto to Edo and the players travel along a route, stopping off at various places/activities on the way.  In a very Zen-like way the game is all about the Journey rather than a race to the finish. Each player can move between the inns along the road but has to stop and wait for the others to catch up at each inn.

On the way you can stop to buy souvenirs, visit temples, sample different foods, build up paintings of panoramas or stop at a hot spring for a relaxing soak.  Each stop confers different victory points (eg collecting a 'set' of different souvenirs, donating the most money at a temple etc).  As you have to stop at the inn there is a subtle tactical game of choosing where to move to and which places to block so your opponent cant use them.  There's nothing to stop you moving directly from inn to inn but obviously you'd miss out on the chance to gain points and acquire goodies.  As the player at the back of the queue on the road moves first you don't want to get too far ahead of your opponent and allow them to casually stroll from stop to stop picking up points.

one of the character cards
Each player has a 'character' selected from a random draw and each has a varying amount of starting money and special abilities.  Very quickly we found that we were able to manage purely by the symbols and illustrations and needed little reference to the short rule book.

The game is one of those ones that initially seems very easy, almost too easy, and then you start to realise that there is a lot more depth and subtlety to it.  The game components are really lovely and beautifully illustrated.  As games take around 45 minutes it's an ideal game for people (eg my wife) who don't fancy devoting a whole evening to a game but it's a great way to fill in some time...highly recommended.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Cruel Seas - Convoy Ambush

This week we had another go at Cruel Seas, kindly hosted by Eric the Shed.  This time round there were 4 players which gave me a good excuse to get more boats on the table.

The scenario was an ambush on a German convoy which had just slipped out of a harbour.  The Germans had 2 Merchantmen to protect which were escorted by a Minesweeper, an Armed Trawler and 3 E Boats.  The British were attacking with a flotilla of Vosper MTBs and a single Elco. 

We used the rules mostly 'as is' but added a few  ideas from the David Manley Amendments (which sounds a bit like the latest attempt to sort out Brexit!).  I didn't use all of these but I did change the turn rules and added in the use of star shells and flares from Action Stations.  The rules in Cruel Seas seem far to simplified when it comes to visibility.  We also played on a much larger table(8` x 4`) with rocky islands to break up the open seas, and ignored the turn limit.

The MTBs split into 2 groups and my group attacked first...firing off torpedoes rather optimistically at the larger boats and trying to avoid the illuminated areas of sea.  The enemy boats managed to steer away from the torpedoes and the E Boats sped in to attack the Vospers.  Normally you'd expect games like this to be full of high speed manoeuvering but at one point the E Boats had shifted down to 'slow' and then came to a halt as they struggled to hit the speeding MTBs in the darkness.  This tactic paid off and they were able to shoot up the passing boats.  One of the Vospers suffered a Bridge hit and sped headlong into the side of the German minesweeper with catastrophic results (for the Vosper...I'm not sure the crew on the minesweeper even noticed!).  This has happened to me in every game of Cruel Seas I've played so far!!

Close (and very slow) action

My Elco was able to fire off his last torpedo before speeding off into the night.   It missed the trawler but passed on into the side of one of the Merchantmen.

Torpedo hit!

My half of the flotilla was now spent...the 2 Vospers had been sunk and the Elco had sped off once he'd run out of torpedos.  I did have a last surprise for the Germans...the flares and explosions had attracted the attention of a Blenheim which dropped in on a bombing run aimed at the 2nd Merchant ship.  On its way in it drew fire from the 2 E Boats which drove it off before it could tackle the larger ship.

Incoming Blenheim...

The 2nd MTB group had now worked their way round to attack from the other side and quickly finished off the Minesweeper with gunfire before taking on the trawler.  In a last flurry of torpedoes the other Merchant ship was sunk and it was  convincing (if costly ) victory for the Royal Navy

The rules again worked proved very hard to hit in the dark unless boats were at Slow (which I guess is pretty realistic) but no one made much use of flares and illumination to help with this.  I think the Germans found the slow speeds of the larger boats quite frustrating (just getting the Merchant ships on the table took a couple of turns!) and I think  it felt a bit inevitable that they were going to get torpedoed eventually.  Despite this I think everyone had fun!

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Hastings 1066

I've been a bit slack in getting this post written up but here is my account of a truly epic days wargaming courtesy of Eric the Shed's grand Hastings game which took place a couple of weeks ago.

All the details (and there are a lot of them!) can be found at Eric's blog... here.  There is a full explanation of the set up of the terrain as well as the adaptations made to Hail Caesar including special event cards that both sides took great delight in playing at key moments.

The table was played on a 3.5 x 2m table built on boards that had been bolted together with a deceptively steep slope to the north which was where Harold was making his stand

This was a rare all day game making full use of over 1000 figures that Eric has been painting up over the last year.  I'm very chuffed with myself if I can get enough figures painted for a skirmish game so this is really impressive.  The day began with a very well-received bacon roll before we began planning our tactics.  Along with Steve and Glen, I was on the Norman side and had the honour of holding the centre as William and Bishop Odo. 

The full table length...Normans on the left

Our plan was a relatively simple one.  Hold back the Saxons on our left while the centre and right commands cut off the hill and kill Harold.

The view looking up towards the hill

On the Norman right
...and on our left

As usual our plans didn't quite go as expected.  On our left Steve did a sterling job, tying up the Saxons while Glen on the right pushed forward and drove into the Saxon left.  The Saxon dice throwing at this point proved spectacularly bad and Glen was able to drive his opponents right back to their table edge where they did manage to stage a bit of a rally before eventually succumbing

The Normans push ahead on the right

In the centre my advance was much more steady...mainly thanks to unspectacular dice throwing.  In the event this worked in my favour as it meant the Saxon centre couldn't easily assist the flanks.  I tried several times to use the event cards to lure the Saxons off the hill using Feigned Flight but they had clearly been reading their history books and stayed firmly put.

Advancing slowly towards Harold on his hill

Eventually the Saxon centre began to fragment as Glen's attacks on the right forced them to respond, and Harold abandoned the hill and his Huscarles to the safety of the Saxon left flank where they were still intact but now hemmed in.  I decided it was now time to push up the worryingly steep hill and threw everyone forward.  We discovered that Norman knights are incredibly powerful...they cut their way through several Saxon warbands before eventually becoming a bit beat up but they'd done their job...sadly in the course of this Bishop Odo fell leading a cavalry charge.

The advance up the Hill

The final act came as William led his knights up the slope and into the Huscarles who weren't able to stand and broke

The Saxon Huscarles stare down as William and the Norman Knights approach

The table towards the end of the day

So the history books were right and the Saxon line ended at Hastings.  It was a great days gaming with great company (and pizza!).  Despite the very unlucky dice throwing on Harold's side it felt like a close result.  I've only played a couple of games of Hail Caesar but it does give a very good feeling of a real meat-grinding battle with defence in depth adding lots of support.

Many thanks to Eric and to everyone who took part and made it a really fun day.  Now I'm off to knock up a quick tapestry....

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Some Cruel Seas reinforcements

More boats have been added to my Cruel Seas fleet...just in time as I am planning a game in a couple of  weeks at a friends.

I already have the Vospers and E boats from the starter set, supplemented by the freebies that were included in recent issues of Wargames Illustrated (including some, as yet, unbuilt Elco and Higgins PT boats...these are next on the to-do list) and the mdf Freighters that I posted about here

My fleet has been a bit lacking in larger boats which are really essential as the MTBs and E Boats would generally have been tackling these rather than each other so a quick bit of bargain hunting online was called for.

The first addition is this Isles class Armed Trawler which I bought from this seller on eBay who I can recommend checking out.  It is a very nice 3d printed always these aren't necessarily as sharp or detailed as the kits that are available but it definitely looks the part and painted up well.  He's also working on some other boats so I'll be keeping an eye out for future models.  Although it's a RN trawler it may well see service as a Kreigsfischkutter as well.

My other eBay bargain was this Warlord Games M Class Minesweeper...I figured the Germans will need some escorts for their convoys and this should provide a bit of firepower, as well as giving the MTBs another target to torpedo!

Friday, 8 March 2019

Paper Highlanders on the march

So all my efforts with scissors and glue have finally resulted in a game!  My Paper Soldiers had their first run out in a proper game this week after a lot of cutting and sticking.

Although the book comes with a set of rules by Andy Callan,  I decided to stick to something I know...Black Powder, using some of the amendments in the Glory of Kings 18th Century supplement.   The main changes are that troops can't make multiple moves and fire in the same turn and some restrictions to deploying out of column into line...neither of which had any bearing on our game.

I'd decided to go for a historical scenario and picked the Battle of Falkirk Muir.  It was a Jacobite victory but didn't feel as one sided as either Prestonpans or Culloden.  My opponent Anthony kindly hosted and took on the Government forces.  Both sides started deployed facing each other: I had considered having the Government arrive in column but skipped this phase and went straight for the opening of the battle as a starting point.  The Government's artillery begins the game bogged down in a marsh and needs to roll each turn to free itself. In the event we forgot about it after a couple of turns as events had overtaken us by that point.

The Government army

...and the view from the Jacobite lines

I decided to head straight for the enemy lines, not wanting to get drawn into a firefight against better troops.  Despite the popular image the Jacobites weren't averse to using their muskets effectively but their strength lies in the charge so this seemed the best tactic.  In typical Black Powder fashion the command dice caught me this case my entire army steamed straight into the enemy lines in one turn!  Good for the Jacobites but it did catch me a little by surprise: I'd kind of hoped to have a little time to manoeuvre.

At this point Anthony and I both had visions of the game being over in about 30 minutes.  My left flank hit the Government lines and went into melee.  On my right the 'Terrifying Charge' bonus for the Highlanders meant that the opposing infantry didn't stay around to fight and pulled back in disorder

The Jacobites charge home

Unfortunately the Highlanders failed to break their opponents in the first round and settled down to slugging it  out with the bayonet armed line infantry.  On my right the better Government line troops had pulled back leaving the Glasgow Militia and Argyll Militia to face the Highlanders.  Despite being second rate troops they very effectively poured musket fire in and forced their opponents to stall and then halt.  On my extreme right the Government cavalry moved onto the flank of my line and, after dispatching the rather weedy Jacobite horse, ganged up on the Highlanders.

This clan's days are numbered...

In a couple of turns the battle had turned and the Jacobites broke.  In the photo below the black counters mark Shaken you can see there are quite a lot of them!

...and it's all over

So, despite re-writing history and losing the Battle of Falkirk Muir the game was great fun.  I hadn't taken account of the speed of movement in Black Powder and really the Jacobites shouldn't have been able to contact the enemy in a single turn but luckily my inept dice throwing and some skilful flanking moves on Anthony's part meant the game definitely wasn't one sided.  On a normal 6' x 4' table  I'd maybe do something with the movements rates to slow things down a little.

The Paper Soldiers themselves looked great en masse.  I still have some more to make up and add some extras to existing units to build the armies up.  It's been an interesting project...I've enjoyed making the paper soldiers but for other periods I'd probably stick with actual figures.  The Jacobite period was one I'd always wanted to do and the Paper Soldier concept made it very do-able and has certainly let me scratch that itch.  As a way of fairly quickly putting together armies it's been very cost effective and looks great,