Saturday, December 29, 2007

Action on the eastern front: 1914 style.

I have just finished fighting yet another WW1 game generated with the Scenario Generation System. The game was set on the eastern front in 1914, with a German Corp attacking a seriously under strength Russian Corp. The table and terrain can be seen below, with the German attack coming from the right hand side of the table. The German attack arrows are shown in red, while the Russian regimental defence areas are shown in blue. The Russian reserve entry point is shown with the blue dot at the centre of the left edge of the board. As I haven't yet completed painting the Russian units, my BEF and ANZAC troops stood in as proxies.

Here the Russian right can be seen waiting for the onslaught. This infantry regiment had a regiment of 76mm guns attached, but each fighting as an independent stand. It was taken with random morale but turned out to be green when it finally came under attack.

The Russian left was more securely held, with troops dug in on the gray contour at the top of the picture. These were also more solid regular troops. The Arab -looking stand was another proxy, standing in for the Corp command stand.

The Russian centre included an outpost of stands waiting in the wooded area through which a German advance was expected. The three companies forming the outpost are seen here expecting to hold up in the face of two entire German regiments ... ouch!!! I wasn't expecting quite such a large force here.. hmm.. that was stupid!! I should remember.. my son always concentrates his attacks well.

The German advance is seen here from behind the Russian left centre. The forest defended with the outposts can be seen at the top right of the photo. Suppression markers can already be seen on both the defending Russian troops, and the advancing German infantry.

The Russian left flank came under extreme pressure as a flank march hit, but the Russian deployment had suspected flank marches on both flanks, and the troops were deployed accordingly. Fortunately the Russian artillery also responded at this time (it had been notably silent up until now!!.. curses from Robin who was commanding the Russians), and the flank marching German regiment was hit by artillery fire from an on board regiment of 76mm guns, and an off table regiment of 122mm guns.. that hurt!!

The Russian centre begins to falter... there is one remaining company resisting in the forest, but the troops are suppressed.. and who could blame them!! There was some fearsome fire coming their way!!

The forward defence in the Russian centre is gone... troops in their secondary supporting position await the onslaught, seen here dug in on the small contour behind the forest position that their outposts had struggled to hold. What's more, at the same time the stands dug in on the heights were forced of the heights by a barrage of small arms and artillery fire. Things were looking very dodgy now.

The game ended with the Russian positions still firm, having driven off both flank attacks. The green infantry regiment on the Russian right had only just managed to hold on, surviving its first morale check. The Russian reserves had been committed and were moving forward to reinforce the Russian centre and right flank.

However the Russian strategy had meant that he had ceded three terrain objectives, in order to keep a tight supportive defence, hoping to inflict sufficient casualties on the attacker to gain victory points through morale checks. The play almost succeeded, but not quite, as he only held one undisputed objective, the other (the bridge) was disputed at the end of the game.

The final result: a marginal victory to the Germans with 7 victory points to the Russian 6.
However, it was another exciting, nail-biting game.. but they always are with the scenario system.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Views over the artillery park

A brief update on the 6mm project with a view from the German artillery park.... as the 6mm armies slowly amass in preparation for the Marne.

Two batteries of German 77mm field guns.

Two batteries of German 105mm in action.

Finally, German 210mm heavies...ouch, they sure hurt when you are under them, although I'm not sure how often these will ever appear on the table top.

Still can't quite get the photo quality I do when photographing the 20mm figures. I maximised the image size, but the results are not too flash. 

I had to throw in a photo of a German 105mm from my 20 collection.. just to re-assure my eyes, you understand.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Real war gaming?

It only takes a little casual observation of war gamers to see that there are as many views on what constitutes good rules and good games as there are 'gamers. In my nearly 40 years of gaming I've seen some interesting opinions (and some even more interesting people expressing those opinions).

One of the more interesting is the view that historical games are real games, while anything else (dare I say ..F..F..F.. Fantasy) is not real war gaming at all. Games other than historical ones are even looked down on with disdain, an opinion equally applied to the games and the gamers who play them. Kids, for example,  should be discouraged from playing the 'F' games, since they aren't real war games.

I think that's interesting. A little voice in my head (yes I have one of those) says "and the games the historical gamers play aren't fantasy?" You see, to me all games are good games. They all have the same benefits, especially for younger players, but for all of us really:
  1. We have to socially interact with others.
  2. There's plenty of reading required, and not a little comprehension; great learning for younger gamers, and a great way to keep the brain active for those of us of slightly more mature years.
  3. For anyone who 's into figure games (pick me... pick me.. pick me....) there's  a lot of manual dexterity required in preparing and painting figures, vehicles, aircraft and scenery for the table top (and my eyes make it slightly more difficult as each month goes by).
Now for my money that's not a bad start, and it's true regardless of whether you are creating armies of Orcs, Spanish infantry for the Peninsular, Russian infantry for the eastern front 1914, or Chieftains for a little rumble in cold war Europe.

And let me explain an earlier comment as well: to suggest that there is something inherently superior about 'historical' games is perhaps a little misguided. I reckon that all of our games are essentially fantasy: few of us have ever had to face the terror of combat. We don't know what it is to defecate in our trousers from the gut wrenching fear that post combat interviews suggest is experienced by so many men prior to, or during, combat.  By the way, take a look here for a discussion of Marshall's post combat interviews with infantry. Were they real?

So what's my point? All gaming is good gaming. In common with all other gamers, I have my favourite rules, and those rules sets I abhor. For example, for me Flames of War does no more to simulate WW2 combat than tiddlywinks. The Spearhead family of rules (yes, one of my favourites) far more effectively represents the types of command decisions that commanders faced. So I choose to play Spearhead rather than Flames of War. BUT... FOW is just as valid a game as any other. If people like to play it, then that's their choice. This doesn't impact on my choice to play the rules sets I enjoy. And FOW players have a good time, which is what it's all about.

Either way, that's about as real as I want my war games to be.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quality is....

Quality is different things to different people. When I worked in the tourism industry we defined quality as 'exceeding customer expectations'. With my work over the past few years building world war 1 armies in particular, I have had a number of experiences that fit this description, and I wanted to share these here. Many people often regret things they have said, but too often in life we actually regret things we have not said. Here's my chance in the hobby world (hopefully not my last though).
Here's an example. I decided to build an ANZAC division for Great War Spearhead using the HaT ANZACs (wonderful figures.. and there's another example of quality). I needed some MMG crew, but the HaT figures came with no heavy weapons at all. I wrote to Ian Kay at Irregular, having found that their 20mm WW1 range seemed to be the most compatible with the HaT plastics. There are no ANZAC MMGs in their range, so Ian proceeded to sculpt some new heads for his WW1 Brit range: the result is here below. I thought this was stunning service, and a measure of quality.

While on the subject of Irregular, I decided on good advice to use the Irregular range to build my new 6mm GWSH armies. When the figures first arrived I was pretty disappointed. But judicious use of dry-brushing revealed a lot of pretty useful detail. They're not too bad.

Then, talking about service again, I regularly use Spirit Games for my Heroics and Ros 6mm figures. Phil at Spirit Games is pretty amazing: orders from Phil are almost always in my hands within 7 working days (and on the one occasion when they weren't, I had an e-mail explaining why).

Both of these suppliers have, in my book, a record of outstanding service... that's quality for my money.
Now I'm not trying to suggest that these are the only suppliers of quality in the wargames world: for example I love the qualty of the miniatures from companies like Essex and Games Workshop. I just wanted to highlight the service from Spirit Games and Irregular as great examples of quality. We need to support suppliers like this, that's our best protection against poor quality service.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The 6mm project gathers momentum ...

The 6mm project is well underway for 'The Guns of August'. Troops are pouring in to recruiting depots in  London, Canada (where are you at the moment, Shawn?) and Christchurch. The recruits in the photos below have graced the depots in Christchurch.

The building is one of a number of Hovels buildings used to create the 3"x3" town sectors needed for the coming actions on the Marne. The town sectors themselves are not yet complete... another project on the list.

Photographing 6mm figures may well be more of a challenge than I had thought.... certainly it seems that good results matching the 20mm figures may take a little more time. I may come back and delete these photos as I improve the technique... the first photos are the newer ones, those down the page are first efforts.

However, half the German division is done, and the other half is nearly there. That will leave the artillery.

The worst of all this is of course that collecting is an addiction.. in my mind there is already a Russian Corps ready to fight the rapidly growing German Corps.. having read Golokov's account of the battles collectively known as Tannenburg (or The Masurian Lakes, depending on which nationality you are) . It's a disease. Well, maybe it's something a bit more than that. As someone famous once said: "the force is strong in this one!!!!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

'The Guns of August'

Sometimes I have good ideas ... only sometimes, mind you. 'The Guns of August' is, I hope, one of the better ones, and it has resulted in the next big project - painting two 6mm divisions for Great War Spearhead (only two? I hear you ask.. well, look, honestly, I know when to stop.. two will do....."me thinks he doth protest too much").

I am no stranger to painting 6mm of course: my WW2 and Moderns armies are both 6mm. These Chieftains have done good service on the battlefields of cold war Europe (the photo comes from Keith McNelly's site 'The Wargames Room').

However I am more used to painting figures like these (HaT 20mm 1914 Russians):

The New Zealand national war games convention for 2008 is to be held here in Christchurch at Easter 2008. The idea: invite a group of players from around the world to attend the convention and play a series of WW1 games using the scenario generation system that we had published earlier in 2007. 

I figured that this was  a bit of a long shot: travelling half way around the world to play war games might just possibly seem like a bit of an extravagance to some. But.. I was flabbergasted, and ecstatic when the two top GWSH minds agreed to come over and play: Shawn Taylor, and Robert Dunlop... wow!!!!

The idea has evolved since then. The three days of gaming will be themed around the August 1914 invasion of France. The format is: on day one we will play a series of scenarios generated using the scenario generation system. The results of these games (probably 6 games) will then feed into a large game, covering (we think) an 18 foot long table, representing the first battle of the Marne. There will be 6 or 7 players, and the game will take place on the second and third days of the convention. 

My initial idea had been to have the scenario game splayed using three scales: 6mm, 15mm and 20mm, since the rules are currently played in all three scales (Robert also has 2mm, but I'm not sure how many players are using that scale at the moment). However logistically it would have proved too difficult to generate enough terrain for all three scales, so we have settled on 6mm for all of the battles.

And that's how my drive into 6mm Great War Spearhead armies began. It's not an abandonment of my favourite 20mm, but a chance to branch out, using one of my all time favourite rules sets, covering a much under-rated war games period. Watch out for some photos of my 6mm troops as they roll off the production line.

Sometimes I have good ideas ... only sometimes, mind you.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why another war gaming blog?

In 2005 I set up the web site "The Great Adventure'. I had been inspired by good friend Keith McNelly, and his own war gaming site 'The Wargames Room', and decided that I wanted to create a web site that would inspire others to take a look at a war gaming period close to my own heart (World War 1) and to try the set of rules that had allowed me to play enjoyable games in this neglected period: Great War Spearhead. 

The web site is a more formal vehicle on which to promote the period, and the rules. It is filled with resources, scenarios, after action reports, and photos. But sometimes I just want to ramble, when I have things to say. Sometimes these things are not even related to World War 1. Sometimes I just want to tell everyone about a great battle I have fought, without posting a formal AAR. Sometimes I want to share my enthusiasm for a new project, and any war gamer reading this will know what that feels like. How many of you have been part way through a project only to find your attention taken away in the excited buzz of some new period or rules set? Come on , own up..  I know that's probably almost all of you!!!!

So those are some of the purposes of this blog. I don't have any specific intention to be controversial and provocative: but hopefully I might prompt someone to respond sometime, or maybe just have a chuckle, whether with me or at me.

Hopefully some reading this will even feel the urge to join me in my ranting and my child-like excitement. I could of course just be talking to myself.. my, it's quiet in here.

Forcing the Uvarova

The vastness and the difficulty of the terrain through the Caucasus meant that by 1915 there were still avenues to be explored if victory wa...