Tuesday, 17 February 2015

AAR: 6mm Sudan and Blood on the Nile First Impressions

A fortnight ago I got the opportunity to play the Sudan conflict in a whole new scale, using Paul and Dane's burgeoning 6mm collection. It certainly gave the games a whole new sense of scale. We played the first scenario from the new Blood on the Nile supplement to Black Powder: the Battle of Shaikan. Also known as the Battle of El Obeid, the historical battle it saw Hicks Pasha's Egyptian army utterly annihilated by Mohammed Ahmed's Ansar. 

This put an Egyptian column being ambushed from all directions by the Mahdists. Things started badly for Hicks, with command issues meaning his force struggled onto the table into  disparate lines. 

Aren't they small! 

Meanwhile, the hordes descended...

The leftmost Egyptian brigade is wiped out by the impact and the central brigade enveloped.

They hold out for one turn...

...before also being swept away. This leaves a desperate last stand of the third brigade - a crushing defeat for the demoralised Egyptian army, just like history.

Thanks to Paul and Dane for letting me join in, your collection is looking great and groaning quickly, apparently.

History doesn't reflect well on a Hicks Pasha, who led thousands of men to their deaths with over-stretched supply lines, morale issues and poor intelligence, overambitious objectives and ultimately serving only to fuel the uprising. Mike Snook, Sudan expert and author of 'Go Strong into the Desert' wrote a damning indictment on the ever-informative Victorian Wars forum.

I had chance to flick through Paul's copy of Blood on the Nile. Thoughts? I've not seen the Warlord campaign books before, so I was surprised it was soft back rather than hardback, despite its £20 price tag. Within was a lot of wonderful eye candy, as one would expect, which I imagine is one of the reasons people pick the book up.

A hearty caveat: I didn't have chance to read it through properly, but a good flick through suggested it had a series of engagements of varying size across all of the campaigns, including a neat partial section of the huge 1898 battle of Omdurman. The stat lines seemed to be pretty similar to those given in the original Black Powder book. There were a few special rules to give an era flavour, but I thought these were surprisingly light touch and something that an imaginative player could bolt on easily enough. One could be more imaginative while still using the core BP rules, for example I reckon my amendments, last played in the Autumn, went further.

I was disappointed in the scenario we played, as it was so utterly one-sided: poor quality troops arriving turn by turn in column surrounded on all sides by superior warriors. Two of my units didn't make it near the fight due to repeated failed orders, and we decided our tailing brigade didn't need to turn up as the Egyptians were destroyed before they were available. So about 2/3rds of our force still wiped our Hicks' force with he loss of only one unit. While that is historically accurate, I'd have hoped for a scenario book that offered a more interesting to game for the Egyptian player.

All in all, I wouldn't say I was inspired to pick up my own copy as it doesn't do what I'd be looking for: enrich the games themselves. That's unfortunate as I fancy the Perry version of Colonel Fred Burnaby above. For someone new to the conflict, it's an accessible front door to game it: I'm sure it will suit some people's purposes just fine. But in my opinion, at that price point, I'd say  Go Strong into the Desert is a much better source book, while it only details the Red Sea campaign, it has detailed OOBs, much richer and more insightful background, loads more uniform detail and excellent plates. Mike Snook's Beyond the Reach of Empire that covers the desert and rivercolumns receives   similar praise, though I don't have a copy myself yet.

Perhaps I'm being unfair on Blood on the Nile, having not read it through fully. I'd be interested in what others think, particularly those who have.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Analogue Hobbies Painting Challange V - January

Well, the end of January already. A fairly good month for me in the AHPc, definitely an improvement on December. Its also been a month when side duels have started being finished. I had wagers with both Challenge-master Curt to paint 100 points worth of Civil War infantry ,and a general duel with Juan to hit 250 points. Alas, I was outmatched on both counts, still not having recovered from my sluggish start. But they were a lot of fun and served to get me at the desk in recent weeks to give both a run for their money.

December was a month of finishing off Sudan painting, but January started a new project, the mush-discussed Spanish Civil War using Chain of Command. Its nice to be doing something a bit different and an opportunity to try some new methods.

First up, a test paint for a section of carabineros, or frontier guards.

A poor choice of miniature for a test paint: I wanted to try a suitable green of their uniforms, but after some blank staring at the mini i realised he was wearing a 'mono', or workers overalls. Drat. I'm led to believe that the 'mono' would traditionally be blue or grey, particularly if he had republican leanings. Well, I baulked at painting those colours again, as I seem to have majored on blue and grey for most of my projects in recent memory. So brown my chaps' monos shall be, in my little corner of Spain.

Next up, a swing back to a previous project, 15mm WWII US, to bulk out my support choices. 15mm isn't my scale of choice, I try to paint them too much like 28mm miniatures, and found differences in scale between and within manufacturers a little frustrating. But, this project was a labour of pragmatism, rather than love, allowing me to play some games with lkocal opponents with relatively small cost. I'm pleased with how the basing came out, i was going for 'autumnal'.

We've a 57mm anti-tank gun and .50 cal, for some firepower

A handful more infantry bases, so I can field a full infantry platoon

Two more engineer teams: minesweeper and flamethrower and a medical orderly. 

Next up, was the SCW proper. The carabineros, or more accurately, Real Cuerpo de Carabineros de Costas y Fronteras were the Spanish frontier guards and customs police and fought on both side of the Civil War, though siding perhaps slightly more often with the Republicans. Though largely deployed at ports and frontier crossings, they were responsible for patrolling their area of responsibility. They were lightly equipped, with just one Hotchkiss machine gun in the armoury of a command of multiple companies. During the Civil War, support weapons would have been drawn from army or other units, which is what the Chain of Command list allows.

I used the painting guide at Balagan, and some other googling about. While I wasn't able to find many useful images of Carabineros uniforms, this was the best:

 I'm loosely basing my forces around the northern front with Basque forces. so my Carabineros will be headquartered in the region around San Sebastian. I went for a ragtag look compared to the above, to reflect supply difficulties.

The bases have a different highlight tone to my usual - Vallejo Iraqi Sand rather than Buff. I prefer it. They're similar in shade to my Sudan desert bases, but I'm adding a lot more tufts, including a white and yellow flower tufts and red flowers. The latter seemed fitting, not only as they add welcome colour, but because the red carnation is the national flower of Spain, apparently! These are all from Silfor Mininatur. I am irked that some recently bought 'late autumn' tufts seem to be different to my usual ones - they're my favourites and get used a lot.

The price of Curt's victory in our duel? These are to be dubbed the 'Campbelleros' evermore. Perhaps I need a Campbell to lead them, a brave Canadian ex-Mountie that emigrated to Spain and took up a role with the carabineros...?

More brown overalls!

I've the rest of the 20-man section on the painting desk and well on the way to completion. After that, a move to the Nationalist side and some Requetes. Or more Sudan units - who knows?!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

AAR: A dabble in AVBCW at Wyvern

I made it to Wyvern again a couple of weeks ago, to play an A Very British Civil War scenario using Stu's collection. We used Chain of Command, as its known and remains popular at the club.

Stu kindly put on a scenario for Mark and I involving the Astwood Defence Association protecting their most prized asset. Stu briefed each player:

Since the opening salvo in the war things have been quiet for the Astwood Defence Association. They had guarded their parish boundary from "wrong'uns" and had cooperated with the authorities when required to do so.

With 149 men to call upon and a WW1 Artillery piece as the centre of power they believed they could see out the current difficulties until peace returned.

That was until the crack down, fliers were posted at the guildhall requesting that all weapons were handed in to the Government to aid in the war effort. Sources within the council has indicated to the ADA that if they did not offer up the Artillery piece it would be taken by force.

With the gun they knew they would be easy pickings for other stronger forces close by. The Gun would have to be moved, if only they had time....

I played the dastardly Fascist forces: two sections of Police and one section of BUF. After a short, sharp patrol phase, this was the layout: the sacks of grain being BUF jump-off points. The location of the gun was not known - my bet was either in or beside the farmhouse courtyard. The ADA would have to move it off one of the exit roads on my right flank.

In a play to start aggressively and throw the ADA off-balance, I brought my armoured wing right on - a recon patrol. Mark realised he hadn't taken any antitank, though we consulted carefully for the MGs vs.vehicles rules, and agreed for the sake of balance and good fun that each of his sections could have a single, precious mills bomb.

Mark shut down the quickest road route with a MMG team and sniper, forcing me to avoid the danger by pushing through the wheatfields either side.

Brave ADA troops leapfrogged the hedgerows under covering fire. This was to oppose my troops which were massing on the right flank, particularly after the MMG drove my 'armour' off the road. THat suited me in the end, as they could draw line of sight to the exit points for the gun. 

Seeing the right as a knotty problem to be unpicked slowly using the armoured cars, I pushed asecond section of policemen widely around the left to avoid the loitering ADA sniper. I hoped that Mark would be too focused on the other flank to pay them much attention. Then, they could seize the gun ansd claim victory - bwa ha haaa! Alas, another section of ADA emerged from the farmhouse, and the two sections settled down into cover to trade shots

With my left flank ploy blunted, I turned back to the right, pushing police into the dead ground behind the barn. But....


The local farmer's association were inside, preparing the gun to be moved. A melee ensued and the my police driven off, though the farmers were also mauled and combat ineffective. A burst of fire from the armoured cars' lewis guns saw them rout too. The combat was hotting up.

The dispositions - both forces split either side of the road - I nestled a sniper to the rear of the central field with the corn stooks, with good lines of fire. I also held the advantage of a third section off-table. But where to put it on, to swing the game?

Morale was balanced - both of us around the 5-6 mark, and I couldn't see an obvious way to swing the game in my favour. For a few turns, I spent all my command dice on the police section and my sniper on the left - firing both if possible every round meant they could see off the more numerous and lewis-gun carrying ADA section. While the recon, fairly safe from significant harm on the right, just sat on a hedgerow, reluctant to proceed further without support.

With the left won, though my section now below strength, both our morale around 4, Mark pushed a fireteam down the road to the barn, no doubt in a further attempt to move the gun inside and claim victory. Seeing my chance, I spent a CoC dice moving a jump-off point far up the left, putting my BUF section in good cover with flanking fire.

A sharp of fire burst saw the attempt to move the gun blunted and the ADA team fleeing back down the road. At this point, Mark's morale collapsed and he conceded.

All in all, a cagey game of Chain of Command. Investment in attacks on one flank or the other paid off for me, as I wasn't afraid to withdraw to the lee of hedgerows when out-gunned. Really, the ADA section with lewis gun should have beaten the police, but I just had more command dice to spend so won out. And something to be said for patience - having a fresh section to bring on when a moment presented itself paid dividends and claimed the win.

My taking armoured cars did riskunbalancing the game, without any antitank on the opposing side. Mark had 10 support points too, the shame! But actually, the MG against vehicle rules worked well - they could mount up shock (forcing me to spend orders removing it) or drive them into reverse or towards cover. While I had two mobile lewis guns that were fairly safe from fire, this just made up for me having one less to start with. It didn't overly unbalance the game - though I suspect Mark will have learned a lesson to bring something with a pit of punch.

Its interesting that as well as the different feel of AVBCW, playing CoC in 28mm felt rather different to 15mm - much closer terrain and larger footprints of units gave even more of a different game. And boy was I happy not to be attacking against German MG42s once again!

I've always been intrigued by AVBCW, and can see the appeal of it as a platoon game with esoteric and underpowered supports compared to more historical games of the era. So I'm glad I got this game of it in, cheers to Stu for putting on a great fun scenario. All of the miniatures and terrain are from his collection.

I couldn't make the club tonight, but who knows what will be in store in a fortnight? 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge V - December

Over a month into this year's Fifth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge and there have been such treats on offer - the bumper crop of participants with around 250 entries so far.

I did n't manage to make a strong start - busyness at work hit the preparations (some of which I'm still working on), then Christmas sapped time away from the painting table. So I'm floundering in both side challenges with Curt and Juan.

My entries for December also firmly sat in my comfort zone - predominantly tidying up loose ends of the long-running Sudan project. But it'll be all change for January...

To get me out of the block on the first weekend, a small unit of skirmishing Sudanese Bazingers.

Bazingers were African irregulars, either mercenaries or slave-soldiers. They could be found in government service or the private employ of Arab slavers and merchants. They formed part of the garrison at Khartoum and Suakin and fought in Egyptian service at El Teb. They can also serve as the troops of local Shaykhs and warlords loyal (or not so loyal...) to the Egyptian government, provided with standard-issue Remingtons. 

The colours are fairly uniform but the poses and motley equipment suggests they are irregulars, I think they'll sit well alongside my Egyptian regular troops. I wish I'd bought more and will likely add another pack and command. As always, they are Perry Miniatures. 

Next up, the second theme round: 'Mounts and Riders'. Nothing too imaginative , I already had the last three Baggara cavalry prepped up, so painted them to match my existing ones.

The glad is courtesy of Flag Dude (and is damned fragile - I've already broken it once!

Here's the Mahdist cavalry wing - I should paint more camels to match it these fearsome horse!

Next, a little dalliance with single miniatures, first a particularly flamboyant a Egyptian officer. He's a fantastic sculpt from Gringos 40s Maximillian Adventure range. I'm really pleased with how his face came out

Last up, the Spanish Civil War onslaught begins. He was a freebie from Empress miniatures because my club put in a large joint order. In fact, the order was so big that eight of him were included! Happily, there is a 'priest' option in the Chain of Command SCW support lists, he can offer some religious zeal to my Requetes

An entirely new project offer the chance to use new methods, many picked up from this community. I'm reducing my use of washes as I think they slow my painting down quite a bit and often aren't necessary - AP strong tone has become a bit ubiquitous recently. So only one wash used on him, though he was a very simple paint job. I've also used a new colour for the highlights on the base: Vallejo 'Iraqi Sand' rather than 'Buff' and added more variation to the shade. I think it looks much better, but I'd be very interested what you all think as he project develops.  Unfortunately, it won't match my terrain, but that's already in a motley collection of colours as I've changed my bases a few times for different projects. I also used more definition to the face and a slightly different flesh recipe, though this one didn't quite come out right. Further improvements have been made though. 

That's it for December, I currently sit at 181 points, a good way to my 500 target but 50 behind Juan. Do check out the Challenge blog for everyone's excellent entries, if you don't already! 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

In Search of Pea Green

It's time to start the Spanish Civil War project. First onto the painting table are a squad of Carabineros, dashing in their "Light Grey-Green...lighter than that of the Civil Guard; one source described it as “pea” green" (from Balagan).

My paint selection wasn't big on greens. Having bought Vallejo out of potential colours (a fairly limited range made difficult by needing to do it online), I find myself undecided  on the best combination - there's no clear shade and highlight combination that I can see. I'm undecided if I'm after a grey-green or just a pale green. My Googling has unearthed no colour plates, just the description above and a handful of painted examples.

There is lots of a SCW knowledge no this community, so any sage advice for me from the options above?


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas everyone

Just a quick post to join in the chorus of 'Merry Christmas!' posts. I hope each and everyone one of you enjoyed days filled with happiness, wherever you are or however you spent it. 

Image credit

I had a good hobby Christmas, with Sudan reading material from the mother-in-law, a paint station from the wife and of course the annual Secret Santa organised by Ian and Cath. Santa kindly sent the 15mm Germans some armoured support with what appears to be a Peter Pig PzIV platoon. One looks a bit worse for wear from allied bombing though.

Thanks very much Santa - excellent choices!

Christmas brings a pause from the brushes, but I hope to be back at it soon. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The 2014/15 Challenge Box

I usually post a picture of the box file of prepped minis for the Analogue Hobbies painting challenge just before all he fun kicks off. Well, the box wasn't filled in time but I finally managed to base up the rest of my initial minis over the weekend. So, full box:

So from me, the challenge should bring:
-A few bits leftover from last year's challenge, mostly to round out the,Sudan project
-Quite a lot of 15mm WWII to round out two platoons, including a few vehicles. They take up a lot of space, hence the overflow
-The first of the SCW platoon
-Test Perry DAK minis
-A handful of Pulp minis
-Oh dear, that's it!

I've not actually counted how many points this offers (how's about that, Miles and Millsy, fans of meticulous planning and spreadsheets) but don't think this will get me to my target of 500 without a couple of bonus rounds. But of course I've plenty of bare lead that I can dig into in the new year - including the other 2/3rds of the SCW project.

The box not being finished in time has a knock on effect - lots of basing to start the challenge with. Normally I get most of it done before challenge start, as the rules permit. This year I was behind, so have spent this week getting through it, with little progress to post following my first entry.