Thursday, December 30, 2010

Carruthers at your service Ma'am!!

Nick Grant and I have talked for quite some time about playing a Big Battle HotT game. We both have a British VSF army, and an army of the Undead, so the plan was to fight a double sized game with the two VSF armies arrayed against the forces of the Undead.

Who was sought out to command the forces of the British Army but Major General Carruthers, encouraged out obscurity and the clutches of numerous 'Mayfair Ladies' by offers which included a bin load of cash (and the chance to redeem his honour - after all only the previous evening one of those ladies had offered her honour, and he had honoured her offer, so all night long it was .... but that's a different story ..).

So Carruthers lead his forces, a vast array with a great aerial armada deployed on his left, and clanking steam powered behemoths scatterd amongst the troops.

Carruthers began by sending the aerial forces on his left to attack the right flank of the Undead.  The airboat accompanied by two smaller flyers lead out.

After much 'argy bargy' and general pushing and shoving (something decidedly un-British) the aerial battle had been pretty much won by the Undead dragon that had swooped out of the skies, leaving the entire British aviation service a series of wrecks littering the ground. Meantime a hideous UNdead God had appeard on the Undead left flank, but had apparently not liked the look of the British forces facing the remainder of the Undead hordes, and had frankly decided to leave them to it!!

The British left would have to be held by the British riflemen supported by the fiendish scientific magician and his Zap gun, and a clanking steam tank.

Carruthers pushed his right wing forward, expecting his riflemen, supported by groups of bayonet wielding Welshmen issuing blood curdling screams, his massed artillery, and a clanking robot, to win the day for him.

In the middle they were confronted by hordes of skeletons and spiders.. uurrrggghhhhhh!!!!

But these were stout men!!

The cursed dragon, fresh from its victories over the British aerial flotilla, soared over the heads of the British troops, but was brought down by a devastating salvo from the mad scientifist and his fiendish Zap gun!!

Meanwhile the Undead chariots advanced on the Undead left, but the British riflemen were waiting, shooting the chariots and their ghostly masters away!!

This demoralised the Undead left flank.

The Undead hero finally advanced on the Undead right, supported by his Grim Reaper minions, carving their way through the British riflemen, and demoralising the British left, so the score was even again!!!!

The Welshmen continued their relentless advance ... the sounds of sharpening steels scraping on bayonets could clearly be heard across the din of the battlefield (actually the clink of coffee cups, and slurping of Christmas mince pies, but you get the idea!!!!).

Back at the Undead Stronghold magicians were furiously trying to raise more Undead hordes to take to the battlefield.

The British set up devastating barrages of rifle and artillery fire, but twice the Undead Hero shrugged off the effects of the British bullets and shells (i.e. he threw a 6 to the British 1 two turns in a row - drats cried the British commander, Yay!! cried the Undead Hero!!!!).

Finally however the Undead hero fell beneath the hail of fire, as the terrifying Welshmen issued forth their blood curdling battle cry, plunging bayonets into the  ghostly skeletal forms of Undead magicians desperately trying to cast hideous spells of curruscating energy upon the daemon-like Welshmen!!

Finally the Undead minions fled the battlefield. Carruthers sat down amongts the piles of bones, pondering the good broth that his army cooks would brew this day from the battlefield spoils, dreaming of  honours and wealth untold, and a life of influence amongst the 'Mayfair Ladies'. His name would once more be spoken with awe and respect in Horse Guards!!

I'd have to say that doubling the size of the game, and playing on a 6'x4' table (bigger than we should have, according to the rules) made this a very different game from the traditional HotT games. It would have been even more spectacular had we played the full triple sized (72 army point) game that is Big Battle HotT. The game was thoroughly enjoyable, a great way to fill a holiday afternoon, and we'll be playing games of this size again!!!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One of those mad ideas .....

OK, so this may be one of those crazy ideas. We have a proliferation of those 'cheap as' shops here in Christchurch, and for some months I've been eyeing up these small mock tudor buildings that they have been selling for $3.90 each. They are garish, but I wondered whether, with a few coats of the Citadel washes (Badab Black and Devlan Mud) I might be able to tone the colours down and make some useful scenery for the ECY boys to battle around.

I thought that for $3.90 it was worth trying just one to see how they look. Here is the result. If there's anyone out there reading this, I'd appreciate some feedback. I'm still not sure.. maybe the buildings are a little too much of a toy caricature for serious historical 'gaming.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cross those Spanish off the 'To Do' list

Feeling very virtuous today, I've managed to complete another project that has sat half finished in boxes for too many years... the basing of the 25mm Spanish Peninsular War army, ready for the Volley and Bayonet rules. The figures were painted many years ago, before we knew about black undercoats, shading, washes and highlights. They are mostly over 30 years old, and so I guess are almost 'artefacts' in their own right. However they look great on the table, and 'en masse'  look just spectacular on the table. Add Spanish style buildings and you have the 'cats whiskers' as they say.

The single figures on the left are the 'command stands' ready to command divisions and corps. There is only one stand of cavalry here, the rest had already been based when I first acquired the figures.

Combined with the figures alreday based and there are now enough Spanish to create a 3000 point army for the Volley and Bayonet Road to Glory scenario system. My French now have a serious opponent!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Underground Warfare

"Underground Warfare 1914-1918" by Simon Jones (Pen and Sword, 2010, ISBN 184415962-0).

I've just finished reading Jones' account of mining in world war 1. This is a well written and entirely readable account of a little discussed yet absolutely fascinating aspect of the first world war. Jones begins with a brief exploration of mining pre 1914, and then begins a detailed description and analysis of mining operations by the French, German and British armies. There is a fascinating chapter on French operations in the Carency, Oise, Les Eparges and Vauquois sectors and I found myself fascinated by the incredible feats of endurance and persistence by miners of both armies at Vauquoios.

Jones then gives extensive conerage to mining operations on the Somme in 1916, and then Vimy, Arras and Messines in 1917.  He concludes with analyses of miners and technology, and tunnels and the infantry attack, before concluding.

In his conclusions, I thought the following was worth typing into this brief review:

... by mid 1917 the effectiveness of mining was becoming diminished by the use of in-depth defence by the Germans. Messines was a bite and hold battle, albeit on a large scale, which was a prelude to further operations in which mining could play no part. It was part of a process of wearing down the Germans and of convincing them that, no matter how they changed their tactics, the British had the will and the means to overcome their defences. The key to the operations which followed Messines, however, was the integration of artillery with infantry, tanks and aircraft - in short the all-arms battle - which restored a degree of mobility and momentum to operations. The invention of this type of battle was the military revolution that occured during 1914-18. Military mining was expanded by mass mobilisation and technology to a scale and intensity which was without precedent but, at the moment of its zenith, it had become obsolete. The scaling down of mining in 1917 by Germany and France, and subsequently also Britain, indicates that it did not have a role in future operations. The integrated battle was the key to breaking the deadlock of the western front, but mining served a purpose in rendering vulnerable powerful linear defence lines."
 Most importantly for me, Jones' account talks of a British (or a French, or a German) Army that was prepared to learn from its mistakes in order to meet the challenges of a new form of warfare, warfare waged within a new technological paradigm.

I would thoroughly recommend Jones' book.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More lead leaves the recruiting depots...

Trying to rediscover the painting 'mojo' of old, I'm getting through those little projects that have sat around for quite some time. Earlier today it was the Irregular 20mm WW1 artillery, this evening it's two battalions of 6mm WW1 Russians, ready for the Great War Spearhead battlefields. These were the left overs from my first order (which I place a couple of years ago as I recall); a long way from the 2 divisions that the Scenario Generation System demands for the Russians, but it's still another couple of battalions.

I quite enjoy the Russians: taking some regiments as random morale creates a very characterful force that can do some unexpected things (like stick around to fight to the bitter death, or run away with a third casualties.. either way it's the stuff of movies, and memorable wargaming moments).

So just a couple of shots of these stands.. more for my own satisfaction than anything else.

WW1 artillery...

The push to catch up on the piles of unpainted lead continues, with four WW1 artillery guns that I bought several years ago. The guns come from the Irregular 'Really Useful Guns' range. More photos can be found on my web page 'The Great Adventure'. Go to the Photo Gallery.

The first two guns are German 150mm, the 'workhorse' heavy guns of the German army.

The second two are British 6" howitzers, with the characteristic lack of gun shield.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Empires clash!!!!

Final game before the Christmas season begins, and it's a clash of mighty empires as Hittite and Egyptian kingdoms collide. We were using Adrian's 15mm armies, and the Armati rules. I commanded the Hittite army, with the green bases, while Adrian commanded the Egyptians with the brown bases.

Each of us had our heavy infantry in the centre, with strong chariot units on the wings each supported by our lights and skirmishers. In Adrian's case he had a series of bow armed heavy units that he interspersed with his spear.

The action predictably opened with the lighter troops on the wings, each of us vying to win the battles here and turn the flanks of the chariots. I managed to win the battle to control the right (and eventually the left too, but too late to influence the main event in the centre).

The centres collide!!!

The action looked as if it was going to go the way of the Hittites.. the Egyptian line seen on the left in the shot below, thinning out as the Egyptians lose valuable heavy units.

My victory on the right had even allowed me to flank the Egyptian chariot line.

However the centre crumbled... five 1's in a row for combat, and I lost every combat on the crucial turn!!!

Below is the Hittite general, having attached himself to a Hittite spear unit, still managed to not win a single combat in the entire game!!

However another great fun game.... and a suitable finale to the year. A few more games to be had, but not before some serious feasting, and generally good times with family and friends.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Lost Battles' and some...

With work winding down for the Christmas break, I've managed to get stuck into quite a few painting projects (actually finishing several projects that I'd started over the past few years - more later), and we also managed a couple of games over two evenings at the end of the week.

Of great interest was my first ever game of 'Lost Battles' (the games system designed by Phil Sabin). Andrew Taylor ran the game, and Keith hosted it at 'The Wargames Room'.

Andrew wrote up a good after action report, and Keith has posted it along with a few photos. The game system was very interesting, and I'd like to play some more. It simulated a number of aspects of ancient battles that I've read of in various contemporary accounts, and the game also look amazing with Andrew's 60mm wide bases packed with 6mm figures, so this really looked like a battle from a 'birdseye' view.

On the following evening we also managed several Wings of War games. I've posted on this game system beofre, and all I can  add is.. I really must get in to our local supplier (Comics Compulsion) and buy a couple of the box game sets of my own. I'm also tempted by their WW2 version of the game, so look out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The bane of the wargamer's life: rebasing figures. However this little exercise is really about finishing something I began a long time ago. Volley and Bayonet (Frank Chadwick) became my rules of choice for all 1700-1900 'gaming, and I set about some years ago completely rebasing a very large 25mm French napoleonic army. Several years ago I was lucky enough to acquire a large Spanish army to use as an opponent, most of which had already been rebased for VnB. However there were quite a few figures still not done, and no command stands. The size of the forces was really too small to fight larger napoleonic actions as well. Our game last week really drive me to the point where I decided to do something about it.

So I've set about finishing the rebasing the remaining infantry (9 regiments worth), one remaining regiment of cavalry, and enough command stands for the entire army. This will give me about 3000 points worth of Spanish in VnB Road to Glory terms.

This is also a part of my current drive to finish a number of nearly finished projects. Next are the alst of the Dwarves to finish the WFB army, and I've line dup in my sights some behicles that will allow me to put the 40K IG army to bed as well. There's a certain smug sense of self satisfaction in getting things finished ... and it's nearly Christmas.... yep!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Mud beneath my boots'

A colleague from work recently lent me a copy of the book 'Mud beneath my boots' by Alan Marriott. Mr Marriott has used the journal kept by his uncle Len Coley to produce this extraordinarily good account of one soldier's personal experience on the western front from 1916 to 1918.

Len enlisted at age 17 (lying about his age,  using an assumed name of Len Collins ) in 1915 and served with the NZ Division in France, fighting on the Somme, Ypres and again at the Somme in 1918.
The book is well written, and provides a fascinating insight into both the fighting, and the 'war weariness' that must have engulfed so many soldiers after years of war.

Here is a small extract from the book, describing action at Passchendaele in 1917.

"Meanwhile, I made arrangements to move up to the right flank of the Hawkes Bay Company. With the aid of willing helpers. I secured my position from snipers. I erected a barricade of timber and sandbags taken from a dugout that was useless to us. I was sure Fritz would post snipers on the ridge overnight to try and silence our guns in the early morning and I wanted good protection. I completed my job and took a rest while I had a chance.

Their second attack came at 4pm. But my gun was now cool. I had cleaned it and it felt in beautiful order. I wanted to get down to tin tacks straight away. If Fritz succeeded with this attempt, it would give him a whole night to consolidate his position. And we had to prevent that at all costs.

Fresh reinforcements for the Germans poured over the ridge in front of me and I decided to hold my fire. The Germans were a poor target with the sky behind them. I waited until the face of the hill gave them a background. I opened my fire, emptying one drum in a single burst. When I gave a short burst from the second drum it jammed. It took nearly   minute to clear the expanded cartridge case, and I was at it again.......

...... Our concentrated fire from four guns at this end played havoc with Fritz. We wiped out their right wing, their remaining men fleeing. This broke up their attack and we lengthened our range another 200 yards towards the German right wing. We could see that the Aussies were being hard pressed. The fleeing German line in front of us probably saved them on their end. The whole German attack now gave in very quickly."

This is an extraordinarily good book, a great read and thoroughly recommended.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The sun was streaming on through...

Walked out to the games room to pack up after last night's game and there was the evening summer sun streaming through the window onto the GW games mat and the figures in-situ after last night's game. I just thought this was pretty cool.

Swirling Spanish melee

Last night we introduced a couple of new players to Volley and Bayonet, with the 25mm Napoleonic armies (French and Spanish). Brian and Frank joined Adrian, Andrew and me in a small battle using two 2000 point armies constructed using the Volley and Bayonet Road to Glory points system. The battle featured a couple of very cool episodes in particular.

The first was a swirling battle on the Spanish right flank as the French tried to defeat this wing quickly before their own left was enveloped by a division of Spanish cavalry. The second was an all out assault by the Spanish centre on the town that dominated the centre of the battlefield. Here are a few shots from the evening.

A couple of shots of the protagonists.

The Spanish right wing about to be assaulted.

First blood went to the Spanish when a unit of Spanish cavalry struck the French centre routing a French infantry brigade, and then making a break through move to rout a limbered French artillery battalion.

The Spanish right under assault.

The victorious Spanish cavalry in the centre didn't last too long after their initial victory. The French CnC threw in his army reserve of Chasseurs who promptly routed the Spanish cavalry.

The Spanish assault in the centre: four infantry regiments supported by a couple of artillery batteries. The attack didn't go well however. The assualting troops were repelled from the town, and the French then went on to the offensive, attacking the Spanish while they were still recovering from their assault. The Spanish centre was pretty well decimated in two turns. 

The Spanish right also finally began to crumble, well before the advancing Spanish left wing cavalry division had had a chance to get around the French open flank and into their rear.

All in all a great game with plenty of 'movie moments', and maybe a couple of new VnB converts: go Brian and Frank!!!

Setting up the game did reveal the first earthquake damage I've discovered on my armies: some books had fallen off a shelf above the boxes of French infantry (that was it in terms of effect on the 'games room, by the way, we were incredibly lucky!!), and this has broken off all of the infantry standards, and quite a few bayonets and hat plumes... sigh!!! However in the scheme of things - 'big deal', considering that just a block and a half from us there are families who have lost their homes ... have to keep these things in proportion.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Green-ness glory - more show-offs!!!

Couldn't help noticing recently that one of the boxes of figures in my games room was a rockin' and a shakin'.. and it wasn't another Christchurch earthquake. It seems that my Warhammer 40K Orks were pretty b****y annoyed, because they have never appeared on this blog, even though there was I showing off my recently acquired GW games mat. So I guess it's about time (they were after all the first 40K army I painted) ... and here are a few of them, including a couple of war bosses (it's most imprtant that the big bosses are kept happy, eh???), respendent in all their green-ness on the new games mat. Hopefully they'll stop rattling their box for a while.....

..... or maybe I just need to get them out of their box on 'exercises' a little more often. Regardless of the gaming, they are beautiful miniatures to paint though!!

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...