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!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Battle of Agincourt II - My Medieval Rules WIP - Pt 2

Rules playing going well, even if  not a lot of time to do it (I blame the Cossacks I'm painting!).

The French Main battle is now approaching, but the front rank of crossbowmen is coming off worst in the firefight with the English archers, and routing French are causing morale damage even on the rear Battle.

Added in some rules for General vs General individual combat, so they should get a good test as we enter the main melee phase.

Really ought to make some "arrow" damage markers to replace the smoke-puffs from my gunpowder era games!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Battle of Agincourt II - My Medieval Rules WIP - Pt 1

A lot better game, rules proving a lot more straight forward, and the card activation a lot easier to keep track off.

Both the MMAA units were routed again by bow fire, and this time there was a mechanism for them to cause some morale damage as they went back. The main French battle sent DMAA into the ends of the English bow line, but the archers are managing to not crumble instantly (in fact I abandoned the "dagger" weapon as they got no hits in the first round, so upgraded them to sword, now doing too well, so now introducing a "secondary weapon" between the two.

Archers vs DMAA on the French right flank - 2 all!
The main body of the main Battle came on, taking damage from the archers. Surprised at even with a 9+ (longbow vs plate) all four D10 could fail to hit (which of course is reasonable). The "stalled" result on a double has also worked well, no triples yet!

The lead DMAA makes contact. It had taken 2 damage out of 4 to get alongside the English archers, but Orlean's then finally managed to roll a bonus command point and used it to drive the DMAA home before the English could get another shot in. Already weakened they lost another damage.

Weakend French DMAA crash into the English bow line

Not 100% sure about the melee system. Currently each side rolls for damage on opposition, but only the DIFFERENCE is applied to the loser. Putting the markers out as I roll so I don't forget works well. It does reduce the amount of damage, but despite an extra rule does mean that the winner of each round is unlikely to take damage.  I used the difference approach so say two lots of heavy knights don't decimate each other in one go - but that may be liveable with for faster degradation of both sides. Will try it once DMAA starts facing DMAA.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

One Page Medieval Big Battles Rules Draft

Given my dissatisfaction with Hordes & Heroes on the last outing, and the mismatch between rules like S&S and TTS and what I want for a big-battle set I've quickly pulled together a 1 page set of medieval big battle rules. Will try them out over the next week on the Agincourt scenario and see how they play.

If you want to give them a try they are at:

Very abbreviated at the moment just to give me some structure - but if you know your rules your can probably work out how they work. The rules use D10 and a similar damage and morale model to my Steady Lads Steady Napoleonic rules. They are designed for 10cm Hexon hexes (but could modify for non-hex play),  with one unit per hex, and unit being about 500 men. Figure scale up to you (but I'll be using 6mm now and 20mm next year).

If they look good I'll gradually work them up into a proper set and possibly put them through either a magazine article or a free PDF.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Battle of Agincourt - AAR

Well that was over quicker than expected! The French cavalry moved forward against the English archers and got obliterated. Then the French Van moved forward  against the English archers and got obliterated. And all without any melee - not how Agincourt went. Same again with the Main battle.

I then let the French take a time-out and do some re-organisation and send the Rear battle in en-masse and against one of the flanks. They finally managed to break an archer unit, and could then start wrapping ip the flank and finally get to grips with the centre without all the fire from the flank.

The battle then disintegrated into about half-a-dozen one-on-one melees. But with equal participants in most cases (English MAA stretched thin!) the melee would only give at least 1 damage for 6/36 rounds (as H&H B&C class need 3+ hits for at least 1 damage), so it was all going to get pretty boring. I called a halt.

One of the final melees

The final situation

When I last used Hordes & Heroes (for Bosworth) I thought it worked pretty well - but this time I just couldn't get on with it. Key issues were:
  • Longbows were devastating even against MAA - they hit on 8+ on D12 (so 42%) - and you're rolling 4x per unit, and the English were getting 2-3 units firing on each MAA TWICE per turn. OK it's not a 1:1 map of hits to damage (hits-3 basically) and with only 3 damage per unit the MAA were gone pretty quick
  • The IGO-UGO model with both wises firing in each fire phase, and melee in both phase made it hard to keep track in the sort of interrupted solo games I play
  • The "flee" result which comes up from about 4 hits onwards send a unit to the back line, where it automatically rallies, even if its only taking 1 hit! So potentially having fought one battle you might have to fight it all over again!
  • The two stage hit calculation/damage chart mechanism is a bit cumbersome, particularly given the chart is a 10x5 grid
It probably wasn't helped by the French having to charge (slowly) into the valley of death - but at least they should have made contact!

So I think I'm going to park H&H. But where to go instead? I've tried both To The Strongest and Sword & Spear and both have nice points, but they aren't really solo big-battle rules. I had c.43 units on the table, so single activating every one as both rules require would be a real pain. I've tried and passed on Impetus and DBA variants.  I might do a quick look on freewargamerules, but other wise there isn't a commercial rule-set I can think of that fits the bill - so probably time to write my own simple set!

Should be play-testing by mid-week!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Battle of Agincourt - 1415 - Prep

Agincourt: View from above the French lines

Having finished my 6mm Medieval a month or so ago it's time to play a game with them - and what better than Agincourt. I'll be using Kallistra's Hordes and Heroes again which worked pretty well for Bosworth last year. I use single 80mm width units, and then just use damage markers to simulate the reduction in "bases" from 4 to 1. Given that H&H is about 1 hex = 100m, that makes each of my units about 4-500 men assuming 4-6 deep.

Based on Anne Curry's book I need about 9000 English (so 18 bases) and 12000 French (24 bases). English are biased heavily (75%) to Bow, the rest DMAA. The French are the opposite, about 25% Box/Crossbow and 75% MAA.

One mistake I made ages ago was interpreting (mainly from popular media!) those MAA as being mostly mounted, hence I bought about 4 packs of Mounted  MAA to paint. Now I prep for the battle in detail I realise that only about 2000-2500 (4-5 units) were mounted, and the rest were DMAA - so I've had to supplement my meagre DMAA stocks with Bill for the game (but treat as DMAA). I'll do another pack of DMAA next year to give a decent amount for other battles.

Clignet de Brabant poised to attack early on the French right flank

The battlefield lays out quite nicely with Hexon, that alley of death between the two woods, and a slight rise at either end - and an English baggage train ready to be sacked at the far end. All terrain is being counted as broken to reflect the sodden state on the day - so all move at 1, no impact, but I will allow missiles to fire over it.

English archers with stakes line the wood edge

The final orbat I'm going with is:

  • 5x MAA (two for the initial assault on the bows, rest in Rear Battle)
  • 13 x DMAA
  • 4 x Crossbow
  • 2 x Longbow
  • 1 x MAA
  • 3 x DMAA
  • 14 x Longbow
  • 1 x Spearmen (guarding the baggage)
  • 3 x Commanders (one per Battle)

I've given the two French advanced MAA and the two English flanks of bows their own Commander under H&H (Move1/Range1), otherwise they would fall fowl of command distances.

The English centre, stakes up,  Henry ready to give the order to advance!

The aim is to roughly follow the historical battle, so English move forward (just 1-2 hex), French cavalry charge, French Van attacks, and we'll see where it goes from there!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Russian Napoleonic 6mm WIP

This months figure painting batch is just over half a Corps worth of Russian Napoleonic from Baccus.  I already have a similar number, but they were some of the first 6mm I painted and were slighter Heroics and Ros figures that I was given by Alan. This is the first Russian lot I've done with Baccus to being in to line with the rest of my armies.

The first units painted are 6 battalions (15 figures each, so about 1:33) of Musketeers. Also in the batch to do are:
  • 2 regiments Kurassier
  • 2 regiments Dragoons
  • 6 battalions Guard/Grenadier
  • 6 battalions mitred Grenadier
  • 4 regiments Cossacks
That will actually bring my 6mm Napoleonic painting to a close (sorry Peter!). Although I have promised myself one month of 6mm painting each year to paint whatever Napoleonic/Medieval/ECW takes my fancy!

Without a macro lens and a flash I'll hold off on any more photos til the whole batch is completed!

"New" Bosworth Battlefield Walk

Having acquired a dog it appears that one of the advantages will be an increase in the number of battlefield walks - you might as well have walkies somewhere interesting!

For a first outing we went to the "new" Bosworth battlefield. We Parked up at Shenton and then walked across the huge fields to Fenn Lane Farm - pretty much through the Yorkist front line an into no-man's land according to one of the current interpretations. Crossing Fenn Lane we then walked over more fields (all arable, one incredibly ploughed up, Agincourt like) and through the Tudor lines. As we approach the canal and foot of Crown Hill on the only bit of road the fisheries and ponds gave a hint of the "mere" that was once here. Cup of tea by the canal and then along the canal (not there in 1485!) before finally striking back NW across the fields, just behind a supposed artillery location, to the start.

Looking SW across battlefield - Crown Hill behind the big tree at left

Nice walk, not very scenic, but certainly shows how flat and open this space is comparison to the "old" site, and the Crown Hill ridge is a very mild rise above the rest of the terrain.

My 2016 table with deployment areas - photo above position in yellow