Sunday, 21 September 2014

SCW Project: May Have Cracked It (Or: How to have your cake and eat it)

September has me ruminating on the Spanish Civil War project once again. Despite the sage views of those much more expert than I (with particular thanks to Curt, Arlequin/Jim Anibal Invictus and Juan), I hadn't really settled on a platoon and was in fact left with four equally tempting options: The Carabineros, Republican Army, Carlist Requetes and the Italian Corpo Truppo Voluntario.

So, thinks I, why not collect them all? Nay, not a sudden worsening of Wargamer's Shiney-itis, but a reasoned reassessment of the project.



My first thought was that I should collect two platoons, so I can host a complete game. Too many projects of mine are just one side or t'other and that's a habit I'm working to break. This would mean more initial outlay and doing so should leave me enough lead to paint for a good couple of years. After all, I've already got loads of Spanish themed terrain from the Peninsular War project.

The brainwave came when I stopped thinking about whole Platoons of a particular type and focused instead on Sections. Almost all of the Chain of Command SCW lists have two large sections, usually around 18 men each, possibly with few extra troops in the command or mortar sections. Also, the official lists note the frequency that fighting formations were cobbled together from different units in Brigadas Mixtas. Rather than doing this using a 'paper strength' core platoon with support choices from other units, I'll use two different sections fighting together with supports taken from a relevant list. Also, some time along the line, I was reading about the Basque Army (or 'Euzko Gudarostea'), and though they'd be an interesting take instead of a mainstream Republican Army unit. Being cut off in the north, supply problems meant the had a more rag-tag look, with a mixture of available uniforms and civilian clothing.

Basques dated 1936 - mostly civilian clothing. Image credit

And from 1937 - more uniform. I'll probably do a section combining both. Image credit

So looking at my options:
1). CTV can be taken using the small RRS scout platoon (a 22 man motorcycle scout section), which can be supported by a Nationalist Army unit using the Requetes miniatures
2). The Requetes, supported by Carabineros can be used with a Traditionalist Militia list.
3). The Basque Army supported by Carabineros can use the Republican army EPR list
4). Finally, Carabineros supported by militia (either the Requetes or Basques) can fight for either side using the early war Security Services list

With careful planning, I should have the troops to match the structure of the list and have one full section and the command elements be from the relevant list, supported by a secondary section. I'd then get a small spread of support options for each side, without going overboard. Which should give me a good range of early- and mid-war lists which cover both Nationalists and Republicans.

So the next thought was whether all these units would ever grace the same field in Spain. Happily, I believe so: the Northern front until the capitulation of the Basque Army in 1937 saw all of these in action (well, I'm less certain about the Carabineros, though one of the pre-war commands was based at San Sebastián so I expect it to be plausible).

As well as appealing to my indecisive nature, it means I can build up a broader collection of miniatures, around 20 of each from four different types, rather than painting a large number of the same packs or mixing manufacturers. Finally if offers good game potential with a mix of troops that fought in the Spanish Civil War: well-equipped mechanised infantry (CTV RRS), trained but poorly supported Spanish army and security units (Basque Army/Carabineros) and die-hard religious militiamen (Requetes).

Is is quite a mound of lead, being my miniatures budget for many months and the affordability may depend on whether we get a bulk buy discount by doing a large Wyvern club order. Otherwise, I'd probably drop out the CTV.  Now to ensure I don't go overboard on armoured vehicles and support options...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Few More Converted Mahdists

Well I said I was a couple short, so out came the remnants of the Mahdist boxed set. Three more conversions to add to the horde:


One chap hurling a throwing stick (I couldn't resist!) and two with arm swaps with Warlord Games Zulus for variety. I'm looking to get these finished as well as a load of other bits and pieces in time for the next Sudan game later this month - British infantry, Mahdist horse and other odds and sods. I've just finished a batch of Mahdist rifles, though I'm a bit unbalanced and should really be focusing on more spear. I usually finish and varnish up in small groups but as time is quite tight and with a holiday approaching, I think I'll save everything up and do it all together. You probably won't see any painted minis from me for a couple of weeks - sorry! 

I've also been working on actually having two forces for other projects, including 15mm CoC. While the German platoon hasn't arrived yet, I did hunt out some terrain. I was really keen for low effort and prepainted if possible, as I've too much terrain for too many projects just sitting around unpainted. 4Ground got my money - by no means cheap but they look like they'll build up really well. I bought three of the Normany farmhouse buildings as they're now selling them individually. 


I've a box of supplies to make a tonne of hedging and bocage, but that'll have to wait until the Sudan bits are finished off.

So yes, I am still about and chipping away at things, slowly! 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

AAR: Recent games at Wyvern Wargamers

The summer has brought quite a few visits to Wyvern Wargamers to push the lead around. Way back in July, Stu put on the latest of his 'Adventures of Claude Canard of the French Sloop "Le Vendeen"' our hero adventuring in Egypt against the Ottoman menace. Stu's fuller AAR can be found here, in Lardy tradition, we used Sharp Practice.

Our hero Claude Canard finds himself separated from the main column and pursued across the desert by the blasted Ottomans. Spying a village on the horizon, the French column is urged to reach it before the cavalry bear down on them.



The advance party enter the market - safety at last?



The rest of the column take up positions to repel the Turkish cavalry



The Ottoman cavalry circle warily at the edge of the French range. Upon taking an optimistic volley, the French infantry realise that their powder is damn (in a desert? Really?!)



Seizing their chance, Ottoman riders plough into an alleyway to attack the French sailors....



...while their counterparts attempt to cut off any escape



The battered sailors slip around the corner and form a ragged defensive line for the second assault. Meanwhile, the French infantry search in vain for fresh powder.



The game ended with the Ottoman cavalry repulsed in the market square, through some good fortune on the part of Claude Canard. The Ottomans had a mountain to climb once the French made it to the safety of the town and weren't able to bring their infantry to bear. A minor victory for our heroes!

Cheers to Stu, Dane and Paul for a very enjoyable game, once again Sharp Practice gave good service. I do like the asymmetric forces of Stu's Napoleon in Egypt project.


And a couple of weeks ago, Stu put on another game, this time using his modern Africa project that he's been churning off the workbench. Pitting the dastardly petrocorp mercenaries against the local militias for control of a key road through the 'Zikanga' jungle. We used a Two Hour Wargames ruleset, Stu's writeup is here.

The mercs' advance party creeps through the thick foliage, stumbling across militia sentries. Unfortunately, they were alert and manage push the mercs back.



Meanwhile, bravo team's initial assault is silent and deadly (OD being Obviously Dead)



And before the militiamen can react, they are also put down by precise fire



As the professional heads to check the bodies, the cowering survivor (in his most fashionable yellow hoodie) pops up and blasts away with his dual handguns (wielded side on, no doubt). Despite his training, the pro is shot in the head and instantly killed. 



Hearing the commotion , the militia in a nearby village start their technicals and pile down to defend the bridge.



Fwooosh...kaboom!!! Charlie team makes its first kill



The fighting rages, with the mercs consolidating a hold on the bridge while the militia push Charlie team back to evacuate their wounded to the bridge. This enables the junction to be seized - can e mercs break through?



Err, no. Casualties mount on both sides but neither is able to claim a further advantage. Despite their training, the mercs couldn't open the road - the militia were too numerous and able to organise themselves.



I've mentioned before that THW aren't my favourite ruleset, I find them hard to remember and can't get my head around the high/low dice. But I can see that they give a good modern era simulation and of course, Stu's modern Africa project looks awesome anyway. Cheers again Stu!


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Still Here: Bits and Bobs off the Painting Table

No, my absence isn't due to some wonderful, long holiday in the sun. Busyness, partly due to greater responsibility at work, has stymied my painting over the summer. 

I did finish this French Officer for the Great War Painting Club over on LAF. I like these impromptu collaborative painting challenges as they offer a chance for me to paint something random from the lead pile. 


The horizon bleu offered a challenge - I basically fudged it from VMC ultramarine, black and white. Hopefully it won't offend any Great War aficionados. 

For a suitably gritty appearance, I went with lots of my recently purchased Vallejo weathering powder, including mixing a paste for mud effects on his puttees and coat. 


This is absolutely not a new project for me, he was a free sample from Forgotten and Glorious. A really nice sculpt, quite tall all and chunky that means he painted up really well. Barely any cleanup required either. The original characterful Adrian helmeted head would be my only criticism. So I swapped it for something suitably Gallic from the plastic spares box: Victrix Napoleonic French, I believe. 


I did also finish off a few more Mahdists in time for the game at earlier in the  month. Just four as I thought that's how many I needed to fill the trays. But damnation, I was still two short - not sure how I miscounted really! Ah well, I can fix that easily enough. 


With such pitiful offerings, I've been indulging the hobby with the Wargamer's UXB. In my defence, I've decided to try not to just have one force for a project. So, with the 15mm Chain of Command flying through the painting table recently, I've rounded out that project by dropping an order in for opposing panzergrenadiers. Just a platoon at first, but before long I'd found a free shipping and 5% off code: as long as one makes the minimum spend! So I've a supported platoon equivalent to the paras making its way over, which should enable me to put on some games at Wyvern myself. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

New Improved Crop Fields


I've been overusing the old coir doormat 'crop fields' - they've been a good way to break up large areas with area terrain cheaply and easily. But they do, frankly, look like cut up bits of doormat. So, inspired by a better example at Lonely Gamers, I set about to make some improvements:



The one on the right has been recently been cut and the chaff left, or perhaps has been ruined and trampled by a battalion passing through. All in all, a simple job that only took a while because of the drying times. I want to make more up but I ran out of the foamed PVC that I use for the bases after these two. I reckon I could make use of another 4 in varying sizes and in different tones. I've a load of Perry fencing around too - I'll fence in the next ones in and make up some matching fencing strips to link the fields up.

These aren't really Sudan terrain, though could serve for more fertile farmed areas near the Nile and towns. They will come in useful for games in Spain though: both Napoleonic and SCW. I've always been meaning to make up a vineyard too and I've twice the reasons now.


The 95th patrol through the Spanish countryside

I've also realised I didn't get around to posting up my photos from the excellent Blog-Con back in May. How the summer has flown. Well that means I didn't get chance to public ally show my appreciation to the esteemed gentleman Curt, who very kindly made a contribution to my Pulp collection. Yup, you guessed it: true to form, it's a Mountie (photographed by me in the Curt style):



Thanks Curt: Lovely paintwork and very much appreciated. He will take pride of place in the collection.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Black Powder Sudan AAR: Scouting Hashin

Last weekend I have the opportunity and pleasure to put on the first game of what will hopefully be short Sudan campaign at Wyvern Wargamers. Dane took command of the Mahdists against two British commanders in a small engagement of scouting forces. The initial briefing was:

Spring 1884: Egyptian-ruled Sudan is in turmoil. El Mahdi has emerged and gathered his 'Ansar' around him: the tribes Korfodan, Beja and Arabs. Egypt maintains isolated garrisons across the Sudan, but two European-officered field forces have been destroyed by the rebels, at Kashgil November 1883 and most recently, El Teb on 4 February. Britain rushes to support its protectorate and secure Suakin, a port on the Red Sea to secure shipping to the far reaches of the Empire.
One cavalry and two infantry brigades are hastily landed at Suakin, commanded by Major-General Sir Gerald Graham. As they are assembled, Graham orders a small force to reconnoitre towards the town of Hashin in the west, to ensure the security of Suakin and sufficient water supplies. The bulk rest of the British force assembles to face Osman Digna's main body, still believed to be to the south west.

Colonel Ashburnham leads four companies of infantry, plus scouts and support elements. As no large bodies of Mahdists are expected so close to Suakin, engage any Mahdist scouts at your discretion.

The British command was:
1st Brigade: Major M Greenham
-King's Royal Rifle Corps
-28th Bengal infantry
-Screw gun
-10th Hussars
-Irregular horse

2nd Brigade: Major A Cathcart
-Royal Marine Light Infantry
-Naval Brigade
-Gardner gun
-Mounted infantry

With no Mahdists immediately in sight, the British commanders advanced cautiously, sending out cavalry scouts to identify and draw out any Mahdists. Looping ahead of the main force, the British Hussar troop round an escarpment and loop back towards the infantry square.



The British square advances steadily, with the Royal Marine Light Infantry on the leading face. The scouts fail to identify any Mahdists forces, with the irregular horse heading off on a wild goose chase on the British right flank.



Before the British cavalry make it back to the square, the Mahdists spring a trap - charging at full pelt to engage the exposed Hussars*. The British wheel about to receive the charge and a swirling melee ensues with no clear winner.



As the cavalry break apart, the Beja camelry engage, routing the beleaguered Hussars: the shame of Her Majesty's cavalry! The British mounted infantry take a sporadic fire from nearby shrub and mill in confusion, re-mounting and surging to front of the square.**



Meanwhile, the battered baggara cavalry plough into the locally-recruited irregular scouts. Seeing the proud British cavalry routed, they too turn tail and flee. The British cavalry are no more, though the Mahdists cavalry are weary and spent.


As the cavalry engagement peters out, the square opens up on the remaining Mahdist cavalry. Under a hail of rounds, they are similarly routed from the field. Meanwhile, the Mahdist infantry emerge, throwing up great clouds of dust as they surge towards the British square.



Realising the need to bring firepower to bear, the British form a line with speed and precision. The guns sit centrally, the line anchored by the Bombay infantry and KRRC.



The British open up on the horde of Beja, who stall under the steady fire**.



The scrub is finally cleared of Beja skirmishers by bayonets of the brave lads from Bombay.
As the Emirs of the Arab infantry wing finally rouse their troops for battle,**** the Beja surge forwards into the a British fire once again. Slowed by the rough ground of the dry riverbed, the charge falters without contact.



The British line prepares to fire once again. With the day slipping towards evening and many brave warriors strewn across the field, the Mahdist force melts away to fight again another day. The British scouting force claims a minor victory, having repelled the Mahdist scouting force without significant loss. But they did not have it all their own way, they didn't reach the ridge to scout Hashin, the British were cavalry battered and shamed and the square didn't receive and repel anything like a full charge. They turn back for the short march to Suakin before night falls.



*I allowed a rather ambitious attempt to spring a trap and charge from off-table, for which Dane rather fortunately rolled a triple move to make it in one turn with the Baggara horse. The poor Hussars, charged from the rear, could only wheel to face.
**Second British blunder.
***All three units disrupted - most unfortunate for the Beja as the charge falters!
****The second Mahdist infantry wing twice failed its command roll to advance on the square. Third time lucky they got moving, but too late to threaten the square wig a coordinated charge. Having said that, the Mahdists had the better command rolls for most of the game, with the British blundering three times throughout the game!

Conclusions 

All in all, quite a close and tense game - the British definitely didn't have it all their own way and for a while it looked like they might actually struggle. Black powder gives a satisfying game in 3 hours or so, and is easy to both pick up and run. A nudge more period flavour needed perhaps - the random events table ended up only being used once.

I think it works well to present the British commanders with the challenge of a bare field so they don't quite know what to expect. A British defensive game should be good too, 'recycling' the Mahdist units to wear the square down and target it's weak points.

I was keen to confirm the stats of each unit were suitable, I'd modes away from those in the Black Powder rules and upped the British firepower to 5 but also the stamina of most units. This made the Mahdists harder to drive off in one turn, but easier disrupt with a '6' from the 5 firepower dice. I think I'll add a limited ability to 'shrug off' disruption using a 'Follow me' order, to allow the Mahdists an unexpected way of delivering a charge to the British line - even once they get it it should be a close fight 1-on-1 so I'm not concerned about it unbalancing things.

The Beja skirmishers were overpowered, intended to be more of an irritant. They need to lose a point of stamina and I think I'll deduct the benefits of skirmishing to it harder for them to hit and make them easier for the Brits to hit with shooting.

While I've put on a couple of games with Sam last summer, this is they first with everything on the field painted and all the movement trays finished. Looking good! This isn't quite the whole collection, but from here I can just add bits and pieces to bolster each force and change the compositions.

Thanks to the players for an enjoyable evening and to Paul for the loan of a desert mat - just the right colour it turns out. 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Potential Spanish Civil War Project: Plenty of Possible Platoons

So, a few of the Wyvern Wargamers chaps have declared 2015 project to be Spanish Civil War, which presents an opportunity to invest in some of Empress miniatures' highly acclaimed range. The idea is to play Chain of Command, which we're already familiar with for WWII, so I'd be looking at a supported platoon. 

There is plenty of choice in both the official lists and the Empress range. I've been reading around the subject a little, most recently Ernest Hemingway's SCW classic, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and resources on Arlequin's and Curt's great blogs. 

I remain stumped over which platoon I'd like to start off. My initial preferences were:
1). Republican, partly because of the classic English support for the underdogs
2). Not irregular platoon (i.e. militia). I've always struggled choosing a good colour palette for pure irregular forces. Uniforms tend to come out better, a little variation is appreciated.
3). Avoiding grey and navy blue uniforms, both colours that I've painted a lot of in recent years. 
4). A platoon with a better range of Empress sculpts: at least 3 packs plus some support options. Though I am willing to do conversions such as head swaps. 


My first thought was Peninsular Army Cavalry. Advantages are that it would look great, the mounted Empress miniatures are excellent. I also haven't seen a any cavalry, let alone a whole platoon in the few SCW-related blogs I follow. Unfortunately, my initial enthusiasm dimmed when I started totting up the cost: really rather expensive, once you get into mounted and dismounted options for multiple units, plus support options. And I don't particularly enjoy painting cavalry at the best of times, never ideal for finishing a project, though they do often look great when finished. Back to the drawing board. 



















Second plan used the lovely Assault Guards models. THey can be Republican, multiple packs and 
separate heads for conversions, check. Ah, but Guardias de Asalto wear a navy uniform, or grey overalls, which isn't ideal. Humm. Then a moment of inspiration, the Carabineros: frontier guards. Doable with the same minis, but they wear 'pea green'. Better! This remains a fairly strong contender. 

Then I saw the Italian Tankettes, so cute:

CV33, available from Empress Miniatures.


Which put me onto the Italian Corpo Truppe Voluntarie (CTV). While they are Nationalist, they fit the regular and colour requirements. Once again, I don't recall seeing any painted up in the English blogging community. The platoon is very well equipped and led and they have a plethora of support options. But that doesn't really feel right for the SCW: one might as well stick to WWII if you have the luxury of LMGs in every squad and armour support on hand! 

Which leaves the current choice at Carabineros or CTV. There are other options, but can anyone suggest anything I might not have thought of that fit my original criteria?