Saturday, 20 August 2016

Welcome to Zugamba - Fast and Dirty Skirmish

A small dusty provincial town is rudely awakened by the beating rotors of several Mi 8 transport helos. The oppressive regime of President for life Ndango has received intelligence that Joshua Limgabi, leader of the local Popular Front Political Cell, is in town for the night. The government airborne battalion has been tasked to arrest him. A follow up force from the local brigade will aid the extraction.

Unfortunately for the government troops, the local brigade elements were detected moving out of their barracks. Limgabi therefore tasked Comrade Maximum to lay an ambush on their approach route even before the approach of helicopters alerted the rebels.

On hearing the helos, Limgabi and his lieutenants immediately got on their toes, bomb bursting to confuse the pursuit. The airborne platoon engaged and killed one fleeing rebel and gave chase to the other two. They managed to detain the first, but the second ducked into the mosque and evaded capture.

By now the local militia were beginning to organise. A particularly alert unit piled out of the mosque, straight into a brawl with the airborne arrest team. In a brutal short range fight, several rebels were killed but Limgabi was released, somehow surviving the crossfire.

By now the unsuspecting relief column was moving towards the town. Moving in a rather untactical
formation and having forgotten to deploy scouts or an advance guard, they unsurprisingly drove straight into Comrade Maximum's ambush. For his part, Comrade Maximum had been leafing through Sean Bean's top tips, deploying his forces in the well rehearsed 'circular' ambush. This ensured that although some serious damage was done to the convoy, many of the ambushers found themselves under fire from their own comrades across the track.

The ambush zone quickly became an attritional firefight, the column being too long to catch entirely in the killing area. The rear elements deployed and eventually the 14.5 cannon on the BTR made its presence felt. It allowed Lieutenant Vinbaba to direct a left flanking attack on the ambushes from a safe distance in the rear.

Meanwhile, back in town Captain Chadhobi and his airborne platoon began to realise they'd properly kicked a hornet's nest. As rebels appeared all around, their superior training meant they quickly dispersed the rebel groups, but they didn't have the numbers to sustain casualties and keep fighting. With Limgabi on his toes, making for the shanties on the edge of town, all they could hope to do was wait for the column.

Lt Vinbaba had dispersed Maximum's ambush groups and then gathered his last intact section to move into town. Too late to help the airborne, the last running Unimog from the column would have a few spare seats on the trip back.

Rules used were 'Fast and Dirty' by Ivan Sorensen. The activations are card driven and the mechanism gives quick resolutions to most situations. Troop quality is a major factor, hardware being less important. The game meant just about all circumstances arose other than indirect fire. We'll save that for next time when the government returns on a punitive expedition.

Fast & Dirty Skirmish Rules

Much fun was had by all and everyone was very patient with the occasional erratic umpiring. Steve H displayed an uncanny ability to roll for the random arrival of his rabble militia putting them right in the thick of it every time, making life very interesting, as the Chinese curse would have it, for Chas.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

To Defy a King - Scots vs New Model Army,1651

One of the three games staged at this month's Devon Wargames meeting was a late English Civil War clash between a Scots army bent on crossing the border and joining with compatriots to the the south, which would eventually culminate in the Battle of Worcester, and a New Model army sent to prevent their progress.

The resultant clash of the two forces was set up as a meeting engagement somewhere on the borders, hence the rolling open terrain interspersed with light woods, boggy ground and a north-south road from which the two armies had shaken out into battle formation.

The collection of figures is Mr Steve's growing host of 15mm figures from various manufacturers including Minifigs, Peter Pig and even a few classic Mike's Models. The rules were a set Steve and I first encountered at Attack in Devizes a couple of years ago, "To Defy a King" and was only our second go at them, which proves they must have ticked a box to make it through to the "lets have another go at them" stage of rule playing. My part of the days festivities was to provide the terrain, command the Scots and was ably supported by Steve M who led the New Model.

For previous posts about the rules, just follow the links

The two forces deployed for battle, Scots on the left and New Model on the right
Steve did the army selection using the process set out in the rules, which for me is one of the big stand outs with these rules.

The armies during the English Civil War were very non standard one to another and the quality and training could be very different according to year and locality. The establishment by Parliament of the foundations of a professional English army, namely the New Model Army was a major step to eradicating that huge variability.

The rules seek to model this in a rather pleasing way that moves away from the lists by year and points costs, standard approach and instead generates forces in a much more variable process that produces forces that an army commander might well have had to make do with rather than what he would have chosen. It reminds me of the old Gilder system of writing brigade cards of various sized units and quality and then drawing a number of cards to suit the size of game and getting on with the force you have drawn.

The lines seen from the New Model right flank, with the Scots infantry massed in the centre looking to force their way south along the road.
Thus the forces deployed were quite different one to another with the Scots, the larger of the forces, having two infantry brigades of four and three regiments, all of different strengths and quality and two cavalry brigades like wise. The Scots ended up with some very large veteran units of infantry and cavalry which would prove a challenge to the New Model.

The New Model deployed an infantry brigade of five regiments (two small veterans and three larger trained) and two cavalry brigades, as with the Scots, one on each flank. The problem for the New Model at this period was that their officer cadre was not as good as in previous times with many of the best having quit the service. Their troops however were formidable.

You will see that we dispensed with artillery this time around as we were deploying off the march and moving to contact. The artillery in this period was not very mobile and quite feeble and we decided to dispense with its use (you can imagine it limbered up on the roads behind waiting to move on) and cut to the chase with the more mobile elements of infantry and cavalry.

For a more detailed coverage of unit capabilities you might want to follow the link above to previous games reported here on the DWG and links to the 'To Defy a King' web page that links to more explanations and the rules forum.

The different types of cavalry fighting techniques are illustrated with the sword wielding types (veterans) to the front in a single line and the pistol in your face types (raw) who fight double ranked to their rear
So with both lines deployed we were off with the initiative changing from move to move but with the Scots getting a hold of it for several key moves as the lines started to close.

The problem facing the Scots as they sought to advance on the New Model and exit the table from their lines was that the terrain of open woods and boggy ground interfered with the movement of large bodies of troops. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

The New Model Infantry bar the road south -note the variable strength of the units. Three of these regiments were trained to use Swedish volley fire tactics that effectively allowed them to fire twice in a single round of combat -ouch.
The worst effects of the terrain were suffered by the Scots cavalry on the right flank who emerged from a wood in disorder and were unable to reform before being caught by their New Model opposition and forced to fight very much at a disadvantage.

On the Scots left the weaker cavalry brigade sought to take advantage of a hill top position to fight the New Model cavalry and the veteran Scots regiment to the front, though greatly outnumbered managed with the support of a raw unit of pistol cavalry hold up the combat for most of the game before routing away at game end. (I have covered this combat in more detail towards the end of this post.)

With more infantry to hand I decided to mass close to the road looking to force my way through the New Model lines, whilst hoping my cavalry protected the flanks.
As the cavalry got stuck in, the Scots infantry methodically closed on their opposites and clenched their buttocks as the New Model troops prepared to deliver their fierce, Swedish style, volley fire. This however, through rather unfortunate dice rolling proved fairly ineffectual.

The Scots let out their battle cry and charged in pushing the New Model trained line back in the centre as their veteran infantry held firm on the flanks.

The Scots cavalry are badly disordered (to right with red markers) having got held up in the woods and are desperately trying to sort their ranks as the New Model cavalry seek to take advantage of their discomfiture. 
Steve is gradually aligning his collection to the rules with little marker holders which at present show the morale grading and will eventually record starting strength (nearest camera is 'R' raw Scots infantry, ahead are 'T' trained comrades)  
Veteran New Model infantry flank the trained regiments in the centre
The fighting for this period seems well modelled by these rules as it takes a series of combat wins and push backs to cause units to break and thus the combats generated took multiple moves before we could see where the momentum was favouring one side or the other.

This got quite interesting on the Scots right as their cavalry, caught disordered, suffered initially but through a combination of fortuitous dice rolling and eventual support from comrades in the rear started to reverse the combat.

Both sides were liberal in throwing in commanders to the combats and these rules are quite deadly when casualties are dolled out and commanders have to test for being caught up in the fighting, having a 50:50 chance of getting wounded or killed outright.

The two lines close as the Scots emerge from the close country to their front
The infantry are arrayed with pikes to the centre, able to fight in multiple ranks of bases. This trained regiment are able to drop two bases of musketeers into the second rank whilst manoeuvring between the wood and the bog.
The cavalry close on the Scots right and the pistol shots fly
As the battle reached its climax or rather the day came to an end with the bar beckoning, the Scots infantry looked likely to force a break in the New Model lines but with their cavalry beaten on the left flank and New Model cavalry pinning the Scots right it was doubtful if the Caledonians could have forced the situation and the New Model would probably have lived to fight another day, leaving the Scots somewhat chastened by the experience.

On the Scots left the opposing cavalry fight for control of a small hill that offers a little extra help to the hard pressed Scots and produced an interesting challenge to the rules.
Whilst the cavalry are otherwise engaged the Scots infantry look to press home their advantage in numbers.
So what are my impressions of these rules?
There is something about "To Defy a King" that is really appealing and I think it is the feel of the period expressed in the design, together with the army generation that really captures my imagination. I like them even though my appreciation is tempered with a frustration that they are a set of rules not quite finished in the clarity of the explanation and meaning of particular rules.

This was highlighted in the previous game when we couldn't divine how a particular cavalry combat should be resolved and a question to the forum generated a reply that suggested the players should decide on their own resolution.

That is all well and dandy, but requires a significant investment in time between friends to agree a common house rule on the situations where these considerations crop up. You would hope that rigorous play-testing prior to publication would have ironed out these seemingly straightforward situations beforehand.

The Scots lancers are still disordered and poorly place to support their comrades as the infantry press forward
This particular game threw up another situation when a Scots cavalry brigade changed their orders from advance to hold, seeking to hold the hill they were tasked with controlling.

With one unit forward and the other close behind in support, they were charged uphill by the enemy. The front unit was able to counter-charge taking advantage of their uphill position, but the other unit was not permitted to advance in its move phase to occupy the previous position held by its comrades (so not moving any further forward than when the hold order was actioned) and thus maintain support range because the brigade, had "hold" orders!

The rules seem unclear as to whether we are applying brigade or unit orders as the implications of a hold order implies that a supporting unit of cavalry could not move forward in support of a combat being fought in the position its brigade was ordered to hold, namely the hill, after the lead unit had counter-charged enemy cavalry attacking up the hill. Why? Because a hold order prohibits the unit from doing so. This implies a hold order, literally means 'don't move forward' even if that movement doesn't take you away from the position the brigade is to hold, which seems a bit daft.

An example of what I think a 'Hold' would look like might be:
• Defend/Hold
Attempt to hold current positions. You may return fire, but may not charge/attack enemy unless
in compulsory pursuit, have an attached officer, are mounted or wishing to perform a counter-charge.

Thus with the example orders above, the unit could support by manoeuvring accordingly, within its current position.

Surely a brigade commander should be able to fight his brigade as he chooses, within pre-defined limitations, provided he does not take his brigade away from the position it has been tasked to, in this case, hold. Thus on repelling an attack he would be forced to rein in and fall back to his position.

The rules seem to imply a much greater limitation in the ability of the units to manoeuvre and initiate combat against units attacking the position they are on or in.

I say seem, in that this is our second go with these rules at club and the last time was few months previous, so perhaps we have got the wrong end of the stick. Mr Steve has tasked himself to see if we can get some clarification.

The two infantry lines meet as the New Model troops let fly with their fancy firing, fortunately for the Scots with minimal effect
Scots infantry lining up for a go at push of pike
The situation outlined and the previous one are not unsurmountable to a house-rule revision and agreement but it is a frustration that these situations are not better defined.

The pressure builds as the Scots get a push on in the scrum. The 'three' counter indicates the New Model, having lost in a round of melee, have been pushed back three inches.
So there we are, another interesting game of To Defy a King which produced a very good little set too with two very different armies. Steve has plans to produce courier figures to better represent the position of orders moving between commanders along with the other markers mentioned and has produced a lovely looking collection.

Thanks to Steve M and Mr Steve for a very entertaining afternoon back in the 17th Century. I look forward to the feedback from the forum.

Monday, 1 August 2016

15mm Old Glory 7YW era Ottoman Cavalry

The final two bags I have to show you are of the two types of Ottoman cavalry I bought , I only got 2 of the 5 types available as these are the ones that I will using the most off , Siphai and Tartars.
Plus I can show comparison pics of some Siphai I had already bought  from "By Fire and Sword" ( through Wayland Games) , I am hoping that I can use figures from their Ottoman and Cossack Renaissance range to cover gaps in the Old Glory 7YW range. 

Ottoman Siphai
 The pack comes with both Lance and Sword armed figures which is a bit annoying as I wanted all my Siphai to have lances , or at the very least 75% , which would have been Ok. The Command figures are also a little disappointing as you just get an officer and a flagman.  
Close up of Types
 Next are the Alternatives I looked at from By Fire and Sword , they have 2 versions of European Sipahi available , with or without Lances , I needed to find some figures I could use to represent Provincial Cavalry which in the KK army lists don't have Lances ,so I bought the no lance version. What I could do is to transfer some of the OG Swordsman into this unit and maybe use the Donnington samples (see below) .

3 x Base, 9 Figures, Flag and flag pole

Rider close ups, quite a few variations
By Fire and Sword have recently changed their packs sizes from 18 figures to 9 ,  I got caught up in the middle of this and eventually I received 2 packs of 9 , the contents are similar in each pack apart from the flag design .The one problem I have with these figures is the man to horse size ratio , The horses are big , I have some comparison pictures against Old Glory but I am not sure I get across the problem very well .

Left Old Glory : Right By F&S
I think the horses are too big for my taste as they tower over the OG versions , so when I went to the Devizes show recently  I bought a handful of Ottoman Sipahi cavalry from Donnington so that I could look at their horses as a possible substitute , the picture below shows the same By F&S rider on 3 different horses

from L to R : Old Glory, By F&S , Donnington

What I might do is get my hands on a batch of Old Glory horses and re-mount whatever By Fire and Sword cavalry I pick up. Whilst a unit all riding the same size horses wouldn't stand out on their own, they will look out of place amongst an army.

Finally for now are the Tartars , these are from the 7YW range as Timecast didn't have any of the Renaissance versions in stock which prevented me from doing a quick side by side comparison , these look Ok for what I want ,probably a few too many bowmen if I had to be picky , I would have liked a few swordsmen/pistols for variation.


That's it now for (who shouted Hooray ?) until I start the Russians sometime in the next 9 months and as there are no pictures available for this range either , I will try and remember to post something up when I buy the figures . I did however buy one pack of Russian Musketeers which I am currently painting up , first impressions are that the figures must be reasonable new molds as they are quite crisp.      

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Winter of '79 - Battle of Rockbeare

Stung into action by the Brexit result, Chas put on a "Winter of '79" game, covering the last opportunity this country has had for "proper" revolution.

The scenario was set on the Rockbeare straight, where the Rockbeare militia had set up a roadblock to earn some beer money from spurious tolls and a local politician had turned up to inspect the operation and take his cut. Not to be out done, the Whipton militia from the Revolutionary Socialist Republic of Exeter (RSRE), had set up their own barricade further down the road. Knowing that a rebel army unit would be travelling down the A 30 trying to seek refuge in Exeter, RSRE forces lurked in the fields off the Rockbeare straight, hoping to force a passage through the loyalist blockade.

Rebel army units approach the loyalist militia barricade
The action opened with the DSRE militia and trained fighters commencing an unprovoked attack on the loyal people of Rockbeare, causing the loyalists to fire back in self defence. Both sides suffered casualties and the survivors sought the best available cover. PC JJ ran to the last working phone box in east Devon and, braving the stench of wee, called up reinforcements. At this point the rebel army column came into view down the main road. "Hellfire" said Ted the gamekeeper "they've got a ****ing tank". Not only that, but a Saracen APC and a Ferret armoured car were soon in view and the barricade was under machine gun fire. The loyalist militia were hard pressed and their fire slackened, with only a few rifles from the buildings and the local politicians bodyguard able to return fire.

Wolfie Smith pictured catching the train down to Devon
Wolfie Smith leads the Rockbeare Militia on a bit of house clearing - "Power to the People!!"
A loyalist militia sniper forced the "Pig" APC to button up just long enough for a loyalist TA APC to arrive from Broadclyst and debus an infantry section at the junction of the A30 & Broadclyst road. Fire rippled up and down the line and a Rockbeare militia man blocked the main road with his land rover and ran for cover.

Who would of guessed what the ultimate tank trap would look like - a Land Rover?"
Seeing the Land Rover, "Red Chas" ordered the Centurion to "crush the capitalist swine's symbol of oppression". Now ordinarily a Landrover would not be much of an obstacle for a 50 tonne tank, but the wreck managed to cause the tank to throw a track, immobilising it and a petrol bomb from the barricade set it on fire. In a flash Ted was pointing his twelve bore into the commander's hatch, prompting the crew's surrender. Well, he looked cool for all of 30 seconds, until a burst of fire from the Whipton boys cut him down.

An army Pig heralds the collapse of the DSRE militia as it charges through the barricade, only to succumb to a ATGM
As the Pig crashed a wire fence and swerved round the barricade, the swoosh of rotors heralded the arrival of a Wessex helicopter. Despite two RPG rounds passing close by, the helicopter disgorged regular troops and they were soon giving fire to the rear of the rebel army column. An anti-tank guided weapon (ATGM) ruined the Ferret's day and small arms fire reminded the DSRE militia they had an important appointment elsewhere.

The rebel "Pig" looked sure to get away, but an ATGM from the TA unit cooked his bacon. No one being more surprised than the unit that fired it !

I am sure the rebels would have given a different slant to the action, but, to borrow from Brennus at the capture of Rome, "Vae victis".

A fun game to "Winter of '79" rules, all played out in 28mm under the watchful eye and light touch of umpire Chas.

Many thanks to Si for riding to the rescue and to Chas and Steve H for playing the opposition.


Sunday, 17 July 2016

Normans vs Saxons - Crusader Rules

Normans V’s Saxons played using the Crusader Rules. The armies were just over 6000 points each

Before the report just a note on one major idiosyncrasy that I observed, a unit will conduct ALL of its
actions before the next unit is activated. If your unit routs then no other of your units can be activated
in that turn. Choose very carefully which units to activate first otherwise you may be up the creek
without a paddle.

The Cast.
Normans: General Junker (Nathan), General Tusk (Steve L).
The Saxons: Lord Nigel of Farage (Nick), Lord Boris of Johnson (Ian) and Lord Michael of Gove (Steve M).

View from behind the Norman right flank
The very friendly Normans have crossed the channel in the hope of civilising the very uncouth Saxons but as usual the Saxons get uppity. The Normans, under the command of their very famous generals have advanced towards some low hills with a small farmstead in the low ground leading to it. On the Normans right there is the house itself. In the middle is a small wooded area and on the left is a walled field.

View from behind the Norman left flank
The Normans and Saxons then deployed units alternately until they were arrayed in all there splendour.

The Normans had the cunning plan of holding their right flank with their not so very good infantry and then smash the Saxon infantry on the left with their poor to very good cavalry and hence roll up the Saxons from the right all the way through.

The Saxons deployed with Ian (The Dice Master) on their right, Steve M in the middle and Nick on the left. This is where the Normans plans unravelled.

On the Saxon left Nick moved forward to occupy the farmhouse. This was countered by Norman
infantry and skirmishers. In the middle Steve M pushed his bowmen forward this was countered again by the not so good Norman infantry.

On the right Ian waited soiling his underwear as the Norman cavalry advanced. The Normans flung their worst cavalry at the waiting Saxons. Up goes the Shield Wall, long pointy stick and all. The dice are thrown by both sides. What are the Normans thinking? The Dice Master is there. Cracking dice from Ian, not so good from Nathan and the cavalry rebounds with minimal losses. OK now the Normans know. Huscarl in all their armour and with all the training known to man are not to be trifled with using poor cavalry. Undaunted the Normans try again using slightly better cavalry and against another unit. Surely it can’t be as good. They are not, Thegns in medium armour this time, the results are worse, the cavalry routs.

On the Norman right Steve L, after exchanging arrows with Nick, launches a couple of charges. One unit of skirmishers is routed from the field but the other unit holds on. This has the effect of stalling the Saxon left.

In the middle Steve M has now become the Dice Masters apprentice and proceeds to push back all
attempts to get at him and then pushes forward himself.

On the Norman left Nathan puts in his third unit of cavalry. You can’t beat the Dice Master Nathan. OK change of tactics. The Normans have two units of very good cavalry left. They are withdrawn and pushed against the centre where Steve M awaits. Nathan is confident. Surely there can’t be anymore Huscarl or Thegns. You are right there. Instead they are Viking Mercenary with medium armour. Still heavy horse should do the job, except Steve M is now the Dice Master’s apprentice and Nathan is out thrown again. The Norman Cavalry is pushed back.

All the Saxons are now pushing forward and are relatively unscathed having had no routs at all.
The game is decided as the Normans call it a day. One in the eye for the French then?

Junker and Tusk are unhappy and accuse everybody of everything and Brexit is still 950 years, god
knows how many wars and a referendum away. Meanwhile in France the King, Tony Blair the first, has been accused of getting his intelligence chiefs to “Sex Up” the intelligence to enable him to launch an illegal war against those poor Saxons.

No political opinions intended, much.

On the whole I think everyone enjoyed the rules if not the outcome. Nathan and Steve L were well and truly out thrown. Personally (Steve L) I am not sure that I like the “unit does everything before moving” bit. The game seemed to stutter a little bit. As an alternative to Hail Caeser it has somethings going for it and I will certainly play then again. It was, after all, only the first time that four of the five had played them. Three or four more goes and I will give you a definitive opinion.

Game Report by Mr Steve L.
Pictures by JJ.