Saturday, 25 October 2014

Dear Santa...

Well it is that time of year again, apparently! The Secret Santa was so successful I raced to throw my lot in again. I have my target and hope to get shopping soon.

No doubt my Santa will find clues for me here, but here are some ideas based on my current interests:

-28mm SCW
I've just placed a reasonable order, but some Empress Republican Militia could also come in useful.

-15mm WWII
I've got a US and German platoon and a reasonable terrain collection now. Support options, particularly armour would be welcome. For the US I've already got a Greyhound and Sherman Jumbo. My Germans have a Hetzer, a Sdkfz250/1(0) and a 3.7cm Flak. Other 15mm vehicles or guns from the Chain of Command support lists, perhaps.

-28mm WWII
Yes two scales syndrome. I've a load of Artizan Designs and am loitering at 'half platoons' for both British Commandos and Greatcoated Germans. SWW157, SWW158, SWW152, SWW133, SWW023, SWW079, SWW071 are all be useful to start rounding either force out.
Alternatively, I've a budding desert war collection. I have a Perry Afrikakorps and a Sdfkz222, so either other Perry supports from the Chain of Command list or a Desert Rats plastic box would build it up nicely.

-28mm Sudan
There are always packs to add the the collection, though I've come to a point where I don't expect it will be a focus over the coming months. Still, Perry SB1, SB20, SB41, SB47, SA12 and SA14 are all on my 'I'll pick these up one day' list.

-28mm Pulp
I do fancy pushing the old Pulp project into Mythos games, for which I could do with some cultists or gribblies from Artizan, Pulp Figures, RAFM or Modiphius.

Well, hopefully that's enough to get Santa started!

In other news, a first for me this week, converting 15mm WWII. Fiddly work, but really just a bit of wire, green stuff and clump foliage to make a couple of pioneer teams with a flamethrower to give my US something to worry about.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

AAR: Chain of Command at Wyvern

This week i made it to Wyvern again for a game of Chain of Command against Ade. This had my US Paras (first outing!) attacking and objective: a rather fine radar station. The board looked dauntingly open, with a chateau dominating one flank. 

Despite the attack advantage, a rapid and aggressive patrol phase resulted in:

I didn't quite make the chateau, though the placing of the patrol markers meant Ade was able to get a jump-off point right by it, whereas two of mine were a fair trek away. 

The US paras pack a hell of a punch but lack numbers, so I spent my supports on a regular US infantry squad, with the change going on a pre game barrage. I kicked off with a quad towards the chateau, hoping to deny Ade. Then, the barrage did its job and stopped Ade doing the same, so they edged right up to the walled garden. 

Unfortunately, Ade managed to flip the tables, rolling a turn end then double phase, pushing a squad into the chateau and setting overwatch. Curses - that gate was one to avoid. Meanwhile, i put a considerable firebase along the hedgerow to lay down supporting fire when more Germnan defenders appeared. The regular infantry pushed on towards the radar station.

Hearing the Germans occupying the courtyard, the paras approaching the chateau made a u-turn, over the hedge and up the road: three phases to me. I closed down the turn to claim Ade's JOP: first blood to me without a shot fired. 

With my regular infantry threatening the radar station, Ade laid down his supports: entrenched infantry. With the precious German senior leader there, these would end up being a nightmare to shift without more ordnance.

These entrenched troops put a world of hurt on my infantry in the open, wearing them down and 
stalling their advance in the cover of a copse. 

With my assault being ground down and two exposed squads, I gambled it on a desperate assault against a battered but unpinned German squad. Using a turn end to get rid of Ade's overwatch, a para squad assaulted a German section. 25 dice vs 17, too close for comfort. Neither of us rolled well, but I managed to rout Ade's section and threaten the objective.

The game bumbled along for another couple of phases: we called it as too finely balanced. Victory would essentially depend when the turn end came and morale rolls came crashing in. On the face of it, the Germans were worse off, with a routed squad and two captured JOPs, already being down a few morale points. But realistically, I had two squads on the verge of being routed or destroyed, the third a long trek from their objective facing a reasonably fresh and well-led German section on the objective and a second embedded in a fine firing position in the chateau. Both forces could realistically have quit the field. 

All in all, a great game of Chain of Command once again. The start was very cagey and I got 2/3rds of the way across the table before a shot was fired.  The game swung a lot: we each had runs of phases to turn things around. I had the firepower but Ade was a devil for 'no effect' damage rolls. I rolled a lot more kills on my men, including a dramatic 8 of Ade's hits doing 4 kills 2 shock in one round of fire, against troops in hard cover!

Even without lots of toys on the table and using a scenario from the book, Chain of Command posed lots of challenging situations. There were plenty of times when I thought of alternative ways of doing things, one of the joys of the ruleset is that it offers a toolkit of how to use just vanilla platoon without overloading the table with toys.

Cheers to Ade for being a good sport and offering a great game. Until next time!

The club was pretty busy and had great looking Russo-Japanese game put on by Stu using Through the Mud and the Blood as well as Paul's French regulars getting hammered at Muskets and Tomahawks. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Last Mahdists

...for a while.

No, not new output, rather a belated post as I didn't get around to posting the miniatures I finished up for the gaming day at Wyvern. It was such a rush I just didn't get time to snap them before they were packed up with the rest of the troops. Well, a month later here they are, though I warn you that you've seen the likes of them all before. First up are more horsemen of the Baggara tribe, including a Sheikh to lead them. I replaced the Perry spears with wire ones - the Perry ones bend so much it drives me up the wall. These don't bend, but will ping off if you catch them at the right angle, whatever glue I use. Some to be packed carefully.

Next up a load more infantry. A few each of warriors and riflemen. This does make my force even more rifle-heavy, over 25%, which I should rectify at some point. But not for a while - other projects beckon!

The Anglo-Egyptian force also got a little love - just a handful of troops I have prepped to round three units up to an even number. Not an efficient way of doing things, but I didn't have time to finish more.

Thanks to all the kind words on my last post. I've not really pushed past the malaise yet, but have started to dabble a little more: finishing up odds and sods and digging the 15mm WWII back out to get sprayed up. Little steps but in a way it is nice to just meander.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Lost: My Hobby Mojo

It's been a couple of weeks since the games up at Wyvern, and it makes me sad to report that despite the enthusiasm from such a successful day, I've made pretty much no progress hobby-wise. Well, I halfheartedly built a 4Ground building and couple of Perry Afrikakorps, but that's about it. Excepting of course playing Clint's excellent play by blog naval game

Image credit

Why is this, after a fairly productive summer? Mostly, work, which has me quite busy and less motivated to do much of worth in the evenings. I was away last weekend too, so no prime time weekend morning slot to kickstart me back into building and painting. The rush to finish a bunch of minis for the Wyvern games day may be a contributing factor too - I usually take a few days down time after a deadline. I've also reached a 'which project next' crossroads.

I've not settled on how best to break the malaise. When I'm tired or less motivated I tend to prepare minis - less brain cells required and can be done in front of the TV. That or grab a random pulpy mini to paint for pleasure. But I've barely managed either. Perhaps I should seek the comfort of the PS3 and TV with the wife for a couple more weeks? Or maybe shineybloodyitis is the cure: not usually a problem for me and the pleasure of some new shinies might get me back at it. Alas, I have bought quite a bit recently, which has just gone on to be added to the pile, though the SCW project lingers, despite some enthusiasm waning at the club.

Though I have half an eye on the fast-approaching winter months, which are often so productive. So, what are the options? Well, in order of 'likelihood you'll see them before Christmas':
-Prep and paint 15mm WWII Germans to face my US paras
-15mm WWII terrain (another 4Ground building and a box of supplies to be turned into hedges, bocage, walls and fences)
-Something Pulpy that I prepared earlier
-Other misc terrain bits
-28mm SCW
-More for the Sudan (still a noticeable lead mound and a recent Grand Manner sale provided some bits to 'pimp my steamer', so to speak)
-28mm Perry Afrikakorps
-Something else

Well that's that off my chest. Does the wisdom of the blogging community have any suggestions for me?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

AAR: Wyvern Wargamers All Dayer

Late September brought a prime opportunity to get the Sudan collection onto the table for a few games: a Wyvern Wargamers all-dayer. So, after a hectic post-holiday week of painting miniatures and finishing off some missing movement trays, I rolled up bright and early on Saturday.

The British commanders Stu, Ian and Jon were given the following briefing following follows on from the last game:

10 March 1884
General Graham's defeat of Osman Digna at El Teb in late February avenged the Hicks expedition, but the British expeditionary force in Sudan faces near-Herculean tasks. While Suakin itself and the vital Suez Canal route to British India has been secured by the British troops, the Suakin region continues to simmer with tribal tensions and must be secured more permanently. The truculent tribes must be suppressed and loyalties to Egypt restored. Graham marches against Osman Digna once more.

Further, Major-General 'Chinese' Gordon is in Khartoum and has begun to evacuate the city in the face if the Mahdi's strength. To support Major-General Gordon, routes to central Sudan should be opened, one option being the old caravan route from Suakin to Berber, which offers a staging post on the Nile between Cairo and Khartoum.

While your performance at Hashin was not exemplary, you have field experience against the Mahdists. You are to march to Handoub with a bolstered force, including Egyptian regiments recovered from the remnants of those defeated at the first battle of El Teb. While they of questionable quality and experience, they must be blooded as the long-term safety of a Suakin depends on the Egyptians.
March northwest to Handoub, seize and hold the town and water supplies. Firmly suppress Mahdist resistance.

Commander-in-Chief: Colonel Sir C. Ashburnham (Stu)
1st Brigade:
  • The King's Royal Rifle Corps (Steady)
  • 28th Bengal Infantry (Steady)
  • Screw Gun of the Royal Artillery (Steady)
  • 10th Hussars

2nd Brigade: M. Greenham (Jon)
  • Royal Marine Light Infantry (Steady)
  • Naval Brigade (Steady)
  • Naval Brigade Gardner Gun 
  • Mounted Infantry

3rd Brigade: A. Cathcart (Ian)
  • Egyptian Infantry (Wavering)
  • Egyptian Infantry (Wavering)
  • Irregular Egyptian Infantry (Wavering)
  • Irregular Egyptian Horse (Wavering)
  • Hales Rocket Trough (Steady)
The Mahdist commander (me, also umpiring) was to stop the British advance and deny them the water at Handoub.

As the players were less familiar with Black Powder and my tweaks, I kicked off with a quick ambush scenario to show them the mechanics. The Anglo-Egyptian force, marching in two columns, spies movement on their flanks.

With admirable precision, the Egyptians wheel into a firing line and Stu's British form up to fend the ambush off the other flank. The cavalry screen sees off marksmen in the scrub then a few tight volleys cause the threatening tribesmen waver, then are seen off.

Well, its almost a square...

Throughout, Jon's Naval Brigade barely move from their start positions - not boding well for precise maneuvers!

The second game brings us to Handoub. The British entry, on the top left (vaguely southwest), sees the town and a ridge ahead. The primary objectives are the vital water source and town itself. The three hills forming the ridge are secondary objectives.

The British marched swiftly across the front of the ridge, in good order. Once again, Jon has trouble bringing the Royal Marines and Naval Brigade to order. 

Mahdist scouts in the scrub
Stu's vanguard - KRRC and Bengal infantry in their sharpest formation.

While captured Egyptian gunners and their Krupp gun open the score from the ridgeline under a watchful overseer

More Mahdists emerge to contest the central ridge

Note the Naval Brigade lagging behind - damn sailors!
Stu sounds the advance while the second and third brigades form up behind

In a fit of jingoistic fervour, the vanguard surges forward to assault the ridge on the far northeastern/left flank. While overenthusiastic (*ahem*blunder*), it was pretty much as intended.

Cold steel to the fore, the stalwart British throw the Mahdists of the ridge in disarray. But many hundreds more surge behind them.

Can the line hold?

....apparently not! The fresh units behind the ridge catch the British line exposed and unprepared. A vicious melee ensues and the line disintegrates. The British overextended itself and may be in trouble.

Her Majesty's hussars, in all their parade-ground finery, spur their mounts down the hill to take  revenge on the Mahdist horde, a risky move by Stu with the horsemen of the Baggara tribes finally making an appearance.

While the melee swirls, the enthusiastic tribesmen face down another British line. Finally - the Naval contingent arrives!

Hussars ride down the celebrating Mahdists.

While the furious fire of the plodding Naval troops sees off the threatening tribesmen.

British artillery sees off the captured Egyptian gunners, but the rocket team suffers a dramatic malfunction as a rocket detonates in the trough.

Suffering 'first outing syndrome'
With that, the Mahdist forces pushed off the ridge, there is a lull in the fighting, The battered Anglo-Egyptian force consolidates its gains, able to build makeshift defensive positions. But the day is not done - while a number of objectives have been met, the town is not secure.

The British, having reformed their battered troops, take an audacious tack once again (all Stu's fault, I suspect) - surging into the town before the fresh wave of Mahdists can threaten. But they immediately take a withering fire from captured remingtons and krupps before they can reach the relative safety of the buildings.

The mauled KRRC, reformed after the previous charge, once again take the brunt of the Mahdists' religious fury. 

But while they are flung back, they hold their nerve. Egyptian troops, unscathed until now, are able to start garrisoning the town.

The Royal Marines see off an initial Mahdist charge.

Another lull, but more Mahdists form up to throw the British out of their town.

While a flanking force threatens from the western flank.

A second assault reaches the town and the Marines are caught up in another melee on the rooftop.

Nowhere to escape to
The British are pressed on all sides - as one side of the town is cleared, the Mahdists threaten from another. Can they hold out?

Even the mounted scouts are called upon to charge into the fray to prevent the Hussars being overwhelmed. 

Casualties mount on both sides
It looks desperate, but have the last resrves been seen? Will the foothold in the buildings hold and the day be carried on pluck and the heat of battle?

The day draws to a close - Mahdists mill in the streets, under a steady fire from the buildings, each of which remains in British hands. Managing to displace so many disciplined, well-armed troops is not likely. The Mahdist forces withdraw. A reasonable, but not comprehensive victory for the British!

A fine day's gaming with the chaps: thanks to the three of them for going at it with gusto and thanks to Wyvern for hosting another great all-dayer. This was a milestone game for me, I've put on a few games before but this had everything completely finished: a pleasing moment given how long I've been painting the whole collection. I also got lots of great compliments on the collection, which were very much appreciated.

I controlled the Mahdists, with the dust clouds serving as spawn points, which would be the deployment for 2-3 fresh Mahdist units before I moved them to another point to represent the next wave or flanking force. This mechanic worked well - I could make best units of my limited numbers of units, keep rotating them onto the table and the British could see something was coming and prepare, but not be sure what was threatening.

As the series of games follow one another, I ran them with a very basic campaign system: the morale of infantry and cavalry moved up and down a sliding scale of morale states: Black Powder special rules 'Steady', 'No rule' or 'Wavering'. Troops will lose or gain these states based on good or poor performance. Steady would be normal for British troops and Wavering for Egyptian.

I also ran out sub-plots to add tensions between the players and think these went down really well. We changed them between the two main games. Stu managed to pull two of the most fun: 'Glory Hunter' ("Have one of your units be the first to seize or complete a major objective") and Personality Clash ("Prevent your nemesis from Routing more units than any other allied commander"). Black Powder, in its simplicity, takes such modifications rather well and they evoke the era of adventuring characters looking after their fame/careers rather well!

Black Powder is good for a day's gaming, allowing a fast flowing game on a large board without anyone having played before. No doubt I missed some rules, but that doesn't really get noticed. One niggle was the at-times dramatic shift from a relatively fresh to a routed unit removed from play, particularly if Mahdists managed to charge while relatively fresh. While I see the benefit for ease of play, it doesn't quite evoke the furious but short melees of the period and difficulties in actually breaking a line/square totally. The Bengal infantry and KRRC both being smashed in one round is a prime example, though poor luck on the first two morale checks played a part. I'd be tempted to have another state ("shattered"?), where the unit still exists. It is also off that a battered Mahdist unit is almost as effective as a fresh one: perhaps another thing to tweak given the immense numbers of casualties wreaked by volley fire of the Martini-Henry rifles. I accept that all this fiddling could break what is means as a smooth, process-free game - perhaps starting with a period-specific ruleset would remove the need.

Having said that, the Mahdists still need to have a chance: they have a tough job as it is.
this is why I like GMing them - it is more about presenting a challenge to the British and having some fun rolling the dice than a 'fair fight'. Having read around the period a little and noting the overwhelming advantage of firepower, I'd count routing a British unit as a Mahdist victory (well, a moral victory at least). The British won fairly comfortably and achieved most of their objectives, but in my view, such losses would be unsustainable over a campaign. They would have been well above the proportions registered in the major engagements, with the mauling of the KRRC and Bengal infantry, plus most other regiments having received charges or fire. Perhaps the Mahdists could lose every battle yet win the war through attrition?

Well, that was a long post, thanks for reading if you made it to the end!