Friday, 17 November 2017

History of England Podcast

I've just got to episode 200 of this wonderful History of England Podcast by David Crowther, so it seems a reasonable milestone to blog about it! David's currently at Episode 231 so I'm just under a year behind in real time! In story terms I'm at the beginning of Henry VII's reign, and David is mid Henry VIII with the fall of Anne Boleyn!

If you don't know it the series starts around 600AD, and has been slowly working through English history in 30-40 min episodes. David has a great style, with just the right amount of humour and the odd dramatised interlude (usually involving family and friends). His touchstones in historiography are the Ladybird Book of Kings and Queens, and 1066 and All That! It genuinely is recorded in his shed as you can often hear the birds in the background!

For the wargames and military history buff it has excellent coverage of the major campaigns and the key battles. For instance the 100 Years War covered 61 episodes (including all the domestic events), and I've just finished 31 excellent episodes on the War of the Roses (rapidly becoming one of my favourite periods). The web site that supports the series is also full of maps and original documents to add detail.

David also has a parallel "Shedcast" available to members only which is doing things like a History of Scotland, and he also has a separate History of the Anglo Saxons!

If you aren't listening to it I'd really urge you to start if you've got any serious interest in English History - or drop into the relevant episodes for the things that interest you - but like me you'll soon then just want to start from the beginning!

Monday, 13 November 2017

A Small Skirmish in Africa

Got together with Nick and Alan (Martin - who painted all the figures and scratch-built all the terrain we used - see his tutorials) on Saturday to play  a small game of Osprey's Pikeman's Lament.

I was Portuguese defending a small trading fort/post, and Nick was a Spanish column attacking it, sometime in C17, somewhere in East Africa. Alan umpired (as he knew the rules and I'd never played it before, and Nick only once).

I had two small units of European commanded muskets, two groups of native spearman, and one group of native shot. Nick had two blocks of European musket, one of pike, and two of arab native mercenaries.

The fort had a large area of open ground in front of it, into which came a broad track. Either side of the track was heavy undergrowth/jungle, but with lots of small tracks.

I started with all my troops on blinds, about 16 small dice showing possible jumping off points, but only 5 with units. One native band set up ambush in the left most jungle, one in the right (focussed on the track, and the shot hidden in the bushes near the fort. One commanded musket was in the fort - it could rake fire to the edge of the jungle, the other was in the nearer part of the left side jungle ready to ambush anyone making it as far as the open space.

Nick advanced his Europeans down the track, and put the arabs to work clearing the jungle on either side.

The leading musketeers on the main track spotted my natives who immediately rushed them. They managed to destroy the musketeers, but were themselves toast after taking 1 man off the following unit. It was the same story in the left jungle where my natives destroyed the Arab mercenaries after a prolonged struggle, but were then eliminated themselves as they burst out onto the main track, taking out again just one extra man.

On my right flank Nick's other unit of mercenaries pushed on through the jungle and emerged onto the plain in front of the fort. Before they could rush the door my native shot came out of hiding and lined up ready to take them on, but a few well aimed shots from the fort's garrison sent them scurrying back to the wood.

Nicks two remaining units of Europeans (one each of musket and pike) then pulled out of the track and onto the plain. A firefight between them and my native shot and the garrison gradually wore the force down.

I then pushed my second Commanded Shot detachment out of its hiding place and into Nick's rear. Nick responded by sending his Arab's across the back of his pike & shot to protect their rear, but my well-trained matchlocks made short work of them, but by this time I'd lost my local shot.

Nick two remaining units were rapidly failing though, and we have a wonderful situation where my garrison fire on one, and the commanded shot on the other. Both of Nicks units suffered adverse morale and so had to fall back - into the range of my other unit - who then fired again and sent Nick back to his original position - but losing a man or so each time!

This game of ping-pong lasted a few rounds, but eventually his units gave up the ghost and I won.

Interestingly although I'd lost all my local troops I'd only lost 2 European figures, so I guess that would have been called a result back in those less enlightened days.

All in all a great game, with lovely figures and terrain. A few oddities in the rules and not quite sure about the step change from full to half strength and then no further loss til you've gone, but I guess it made it simple and deadly! Thanks to Alan for hosting!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Middle Guard - 20mm

Finally got the two battalions of Middle Guard I bought at Salute painted. One done as Fusiliers and the other as Chasseurs. Figures are Newline 20mm, and very nice too.

I think I have three more battalions of Middle Guard to do next year to bring the MG up to strength for Waterloo. Just one OG left, but a horde of YG I think.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Battle of Jena - STARTEX

Start locations, French in S/bottom, Prussians in N/top and left

I've had this sat on the table ready to go for a few weeks, but finally got started last night. I'm playing it a Brigade scale, so manoeuvre units are Brigade sized, and the only artillery shown are Army and Corps assets. Figure scale is 6mm (my normal Bn units in Bde sabot bases), and hex scale is 10cm hexon at ~ 300m per hex.

The rules are the "Grand Tactical" version of Steady Lads Steady. The same core mechanics but a bit of simplification and abstraction. In fact I've abstracted a bit more since its last outing, partly as a result of playing Blucher a bit. The main differences between SLS and SLS-GT are:

  • Only Corps and Army guns on table as "grand batteries"
  • Bde and Divisional guns as a DM 
  • Skirmishers as a DM (but need a dominance to get an effect)
  • Small cavalry units attached (as in Prussian Adv Gd units) cancel all skirmishers
  • The Firefight and Resolve parts of the melee process are combined.
  • All units assumed in Column/2 lines of Line unless Extended (occupy 2 hexes, but only 1 line), or Square
  • 30min not 20min turns
On the logistical side I've also now got a slick spreadsheet to go straight from Orbat to unit labels!

The game opened with the Guard Grand Battery blazing away the Prussians W of Closewitz and the fell back before the infantry of V Corps could make contact.

V Corps advanced across its front. It took a couple of turns to remove the W most Prussian units in the woods - no melee but a succession of adverse resolve checks on the Prussians, but with the French refusing to actually close to melee (which is the way SLS is meant to work, so nice).

It also took 2 French Bde on the E to get into Closewitz, but they did close to melee and routed the Prussian defenders.

At the end of turn 3 just the remaining Prussian Bde in Luterzode to remove to establish the first French line and clear space for reinforcements. St Hilaire's Bde of Soult's IV Corps is also pushing forward to the NE of Closewitz so we're not far off on the historic timings. The Prussians are making a move to defend forward though.

Lannes prepares to take Luterzode

Thursday, 19 October 2017

British Army Orbat in World War 2

A nice find at the local Oxfam bookshop - a 2 volume set (foolscap I suppose) of the official HMSO description of the British Army orbat for the whole of WW2!

As well as more "conventional" organisations, the books also have things like who were the garrison units in all of the out of the way places across the globe who probably never got around to firing a shot!

There are also two annexes at the end, one with a detailed orbat for El Alamein, and a second for a detailed orbat of Overlord!

Friday, 6 October 2017

6mm Napoleonic Russians - Batch 2

The table is currently being set up for Jena so I'm afraid these guys will only get the mantle-shelf treatment.

My first batch (about 1/2 a Corps) were some of the first Napoleonic 6mm I painted and were some donated Heroics & Ros (thanks Alan again!). So it was nice to round off my c.4 yrs of bulk 6mm painting with another 1/2 Corps of Russians, but this time from Baccus.

Six battalions of mitre'd Grenadiers - Pavlovsk and LiebGrenadier. Blame Peter for only selling them in packs of 96!

Normally I have 12 cavalry in close order on a base. For the Cossacks I decided to go with 1/2 sized bases and only 3 per base - so I think that gave me 8 regiments worth! Painted one as Guard Cossacks and another as Bashirs.

Four regiments of heavy cavalry, two as Dragoons and two as Kuirassiers.

The LiebGrenadiers again (its the red disc at the top of the mitre to tell the difference!)

The other end of the heavy cavalry line-up.

There were also 6 battalions of Musketeers (2 each of Tobolsk, Volhynie, Kremenchoug facings) and 3 of Guard (2x Preobrazhensk, 1 x Semenovsk) and 3x Grenadiers with Kiver (Kiev, Moscow, Astrakhan facings I think).

As mentioned that bring to the end my "bulk" painting of 6mm Napoleonic so I now have about 2-3 Corps of French (+Guard), 2 of Prussians and one each of British, British Allies, Russian and Austrian.

The aim now is to paint a "batch" (~30 units) every year of "fun" stuff or to fill in gaps - but that will be shared with ECW and Medieval. Some more Spanish seem to top the list at the moment (esp the guys with the long tails on their hats!)

Monday, 2 October 2017

Battle of Towton 1461 - Battlefield Walk

Heading back from dropping elder daughter off at Durham, and seeing as the dog needed a walk I decided to go and take a look at Towton as it's only about 10 mins off the M1/A1(M)/M18. We left it a bit late, and a huge rain storm had just been through, so every thing was wet, muddy, and eventually dark!

An official walk was set up a few years ago with 10 information points. Unfortunately its really around the rear of the Lancastrian position, so apart from the spur out to Point #2 in the middle of the Yorkist lines you cant really walk over the big field in the middle of the road fork, so the Towton Dale/North Acres area where most of the fight would have been.

Looking S from the cross to the Lancastrian R/York L
The walk is on a reasonably well kept wide path between fields and is about 3km. It takes you from the cross along the edge of the Cock Beck, and then into Towton. We turned round at #9 as I didn't want to bring Paddy back along the road in the dark (the roadside path was more or less impassable).

From cross to the centre of the battlefield

In the image above the lone tree is just behind the York centre. Not really evident in the photo is that there are 4 (4!) major power stations visible on the horizon - including Ferrybridge (the sight of the skirmish the day before). It probably just highlights how empty this area is!

The real take-way from the walk is how deep a gorge/valley the Cock Beck is in. This image shows the start of the drop - and you can easily see how routing troops in moderate armour would soon be toast as they slipped and slid down a steep muddy bank. "Bloody Meadow" is more or less in the middle of the photo.

Paddy learning about medieval weaponry!

It was getting dark by the end! This is from #2, looking from the Yorkist centre to the Lancastrian lines. Towton dale which cuts across from L to R is quite pronounced, and this was only just up the S (York) slope, so the view N towards the Lancastrian lines was very limited - my guess is that the main York position would be further S up the slope so as to get a better view - which matches the battle diagram above rather than the board description. Again the slope being quite pronounced would have readily facilitated a field of carnage in the dale with muddy ground and lots of armour.

Overall whilst a quite minimalist site its really is an atmospheric place, and when we visited it probably as bleak as it was on the day!