Tuesday, 11 December 2018

'Rebels and Patriots' for 1798?

The latest and last set of Rampant rules - Rebels and Patriots - is due out in January 2019 and will fill the gap in the Rampant range between The Pikeman’s Lament and The Men Who Would Be Kings. The rules have been written by Michael Leck and Daniel Mersey.

Osprey wanted the rules to be focused on North America for commercial reasons, but they should be perfectly applicable beyond. One possibility amongst many hundreds is the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in which I have had a long-standing interest, especially since watching the TV mini-series The Year of the French which was shown in the 80s. I go back a long way!

At one point I started collecting 15mm figures for this conflict with the intention of using the Maurice rules, but it would have meant doing another mass army and the rules weren't really suited to pitching a predominantly pike army against musketmen.

So I was quite excited by the prospect of a Rampant set for the horse-and-musket period which would once again allow me to satisfy an historical interest with a relatively small game. I had assumed/hoped that R&P would have some type of 'charging infantry' that would accomodate Irish pikemen but from what I can tell the 'Natives' type in R&P is essentially a shooting type.

At first this put me off and I was wondering about creating a custom unit type or maybe using The Pikeman's Lament instead. However, it is possible to increase Aggression and make Natives Poor Shooters. This would represent a small number of firearms mixed in with the pike in addition to the firearms otherwise fielded by skirmishers, so I think I should be OK after all.

Trent Miniatures (currently available from North Star) do a good range of 28mm figures specifically for this conflict, so I've already begun to use my £5-a-month Wargames Illustrated credit to (slowly) accumulate forces.
Croppy Boys: Trent Miniatures 28mm Irish insurgent pikemen.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Comparison of 28mm Border Reiver samples

The 28mm Timeline Miniatures from Hoka Hey Wargaming will be forming the heart of my Border Reiver collection for playing Pikeman’s Lament as they have that true Border character but I will be supplementing them with some other useful Elizabethan models from the Foundry 'Sea Dogs and Swashbucklers' range which were said to match in height and bulk.

Before sending large orders I decided to get a sample packet of each just to check. I can now personally confirm that both ranges conform to the so-called 'heroic 28mm' size, i.e. they are really 30mm from top of the head to soles of the feet.

Top: Timeline. Bottom: Foundry
The Timeline Reivers were originally sculpted by the late Jim Bowen and are now sold by Alan Rudd. I had a minor query about horses which Alan kindly answered by phone. Foundry is of course a much more corporate enterprise.

Both ranges are nicely animated, clean, and robust, and this style is very much to my taste. I guess the Foundry ones are a little chunkier and deeper-cut but they won't be distinguishable by the time they are fully painted and based.

The seadog-style ‘shorts’ worn by some figures in the Foundry range may need a little conversion to better represent the more baggy hose worn by the 'lower orders' on land. There will also be Garrison troops, and everything may also double up as English Royal and Rebel armies if I want a change of scene.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Twilight of Divine Right

I never got round to playing Twilight of the Sun King but I’m currently looking for a set of Thirty Years War army-level rules and had no hesitation in ordering the 17thC variant of TotSK - the equally evocatively entitled Twilight of Divine Right - together with the scenario book of TYW battles.

The rules are written by Nicholas Dorrell and published by the Pike & Shot Society.

Regardless of how the rules might play, my first inclination with any new rule set is to look at the unit types, basing, and overall game ‘size’ in terms of elements and playing area.

ToDR offers a good range of unit types including four types of infantry formation. Units can also vary in quality and size, and infantry can have different firearm ratios. This is all good, and in a very clever special rule, the short-lived Swedish Brigades can switch dynamically between different firearm ratios during a game to reflect their flexible formations.

The game measures in Base Widths (BW) which can be any reasonable size, but 60mm is suggested with most base depths half that. However, most units consist of two bases and would thus occupy an overall footprint of 120mm x 30mm. As the bases are always placed side by side it isn’t really necessary to use two physically separate bases. A single base would suffice while remembering that a BW is half that. Using two bases would maintain more compatibility with other rules and would be fine for Regiments drawn up in two Battalia with one Battalia on each base, but would not be so good for Early Tercios which I wouldn't really want to split across two bases.

If using 60mm wide bases (120mm-wide units) the table typically needs to be 6’ x 4’ and can go up to 9’ x 5’. I’d certainly want to use smaller bases/units and a smaller playing area, as long as that didn’t make measurement and movement too fiddly. I wasn't quite sure what that size should be but I received some very helpful advice on the TotSK Yahoo Group.

The smallest measurement in the game is the range of pistol cavalry at a 1/4BW. Assuming you didn't want this measurement to go below 1cm, the unit bases would have to be at least 80mm wide (i.e. BW of 40mm). That would reduce the table size to two-thirds which would be 4' x 2'8" up to 6' x 3' 4", which would be much more manageable sizes for the space-challenged.

So how many units would you need for a battle? The smallest scenario has 21 units while the largest has 80. With numbers of that order and my preference for smaller unit bases, I’d probably go for 2mm blocks, Kriegspiel-style blocks or MDF counters, but all these musings are highly provisional.


Rules author Nick Dorrell mentioned a possible reason to stay with 2 bases per unit, rather than 1 large one. For the largest battles you can then use a single base as a unit.  That's a very interesting option as it instantly halves the figures and playing space you need for larger battles while retaining visual impact for smaller ones.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The Pikeman's Lament

In looking for Border Reiver rules I had first envisaged a 'true skirmish' game In which each figure was autonomous and had initially alighted upon En Garde. I may return to it, but while I'm not looking for games with mass armies, the number of figures used in En Garde (up to 20 a side) was smaller than I really wanted for this particuar project.

Then I remembered The Pikeman's Lament (2017) by Daniel Mersey and Michael Leck (Dalauppror), a rule set I had looked at after I had started playing The Men Who Would Be Kings but before I started playing Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant. I also came across the reports of Border Reiver games using Pikeman’s Lament on Angus Konstam's Edinburgh Wargames website. That clinched it, but before the headlong rush into hitting the 'Buy' button, I thought I'd better try out the rules and period by substituting my as yet unused Late Mediaevals and playing a Reiver game.

The Rampant games are commonly referred to as skirmish games, and one figure does represent one man, but the idea of skirmish needs some qualification. In wargame terms I tend to think of these games as squad games in which individual figures act as strength markers. That is not a criticism, just an observation, and it is a type of game I prefer to 'true skirmish' games.

We staged a stand-up fight (Scenario A) pitting a Reiver family, retainers and servants (commanded by my friend Ian who has Border ancestry!) against garrison forces of the March Warden supported by other Reivers (commanded by myself). The backstory is that the Reivers  were ambushing a Hot Trod (or pursuit).

The Reivers comprised:

1 Reiver Family mounted* (Dragoons – customised) @ 4
2 Reiver Family on foot (Forlorn Hope) @ 6 = 12
1 Retainers (Clansmen) @ 3                   
2 Retainers (Commanded Shot) @ 2 = 4       
1 Armed servants (Clubmen) @ 1               

The 'Dragoons' had customised values which upped their Attack Value and Stamina in compensation for losing their Shooting factor and Skirmishing ability.

The Warden’s forces:

1 Border Horse* (Gallopers) @ 4       
1 Garrison Pike @ 4                
1 Garrison Shot @ 4                
2 Hot Trod Reivers (Forlorn Hope) @ 6 = 12

*Officers with these units.

The photos show the course of the game. In order to speed things up and maintain momentum we tended to make assumptions and bluff our way through on the basis of our knowledge of other Rampant rules. We inevitably cut corners and made a few mistakes but these were mostly corrected and probably didn't affect the outcome of the game.

Ian's force (far side) and mine (near side). My force was slow to start moving but I was relatively pleased about the match-ups. I hoped to out-shoot the enemy on my left flank, charge the Retainers with my Reivers and charge the enemy mounted troops with my lancers.
Ian's Commanded Shot 1 get the worse of a fire fight with my Garrison Shot. A Wild Charge by the Retainers and an Ordered Charge by Ian's Reivers 1 on my Reivers 1 is beaten off with losses on both sides. Both Ian's units are Wavering. The Retainers never recovered from this setback.

The Officers' units square up for a fight. The Retainers fail to rally and keep retreating.

The mounted Reiver unit attacks my lancers but bounces back.

The March Warden's unit attacks eliminating the Reiver mounted unit and the Reiver Leader. Tests all round for loss of Officer. The Warden's unit has ended up within 3" of a third party, the Armed Servants. We weren't quite sure what we were supposed to do about that illegality. We left it there.

Ian's Commanded Shot 1 is eliminated by overwhelming fire power.

I lose my Reiver 1 unit but the March Warden's unit ploughs into the Armed Servants who are chaff to the scythe. We should have gone on until there were only three units left in total on the table but the outcome was pretty certain at this point.
In conclusion:
  • The rules worked well (as expected) and there were no difficulties in stretching these Seventeenth Century rules back to the Sixteenth Century.
  • I probably wouldn't use the customised Dragoon option again. Any mounted Reivers will simply be treated as Gallopers.
  • Using substitute figures was surprisingly distracting and it would have been better to use MDF counters.
  • This is the first time I've played with my Late Mediaevals and I didn't like the rectangular figure bases as it's difficult to avoid lining them up. I'm therefore going to rebase all the infantry on 2p pieces like my other Rampant armies and this will make it easier to keep them in the prescribed clumps.
  • We both enjoyed the game. Reivers are a colourful option despite the Hodden Grey. I am going ahead with this project and have ordered some sample packets.

Friday, 23 November 2018

L'Art de la Guerre

In my first wargaming career as an adult - from the late 70s to the early 90s - WRG Ancients was the game I played more than any other, and I progressed through various rule editions, scales and rebasing experiences. When I returned to wargaming sometime after 2000 I couldn't go back to the mental contortions of Barkerese and took up other periods and games like Crossfire.

Over the intervening years I played a few games of Ancients with various different rule sets including DBA, which I did enjoy,  but I didn’t commit to any of them. Just recently a couple of friends at my wargames club, Bernard and Chris, organised a game of L'Art de la Guerre in which two other players - James and myself - enjoyed minor roles. None of us had played the game before, and my only introduction had been looking at the rules for an hour earlier in the day.

The game featured Sassanids versus Byzantines. In order to speed things up a small amount of scenery was arbitrarily placed on the table, but otherwise I think we followed the proper procedures. The game is said to be playable to a conclusion in two-and-a-half hours. We managed four moves each which for a first game seemed reasonable.

It's early days but all four players were positive about the experience. The photos show the course of the game as far as it went.

View of the Sassanid army from the Sassanid side.

The Sassanid and Byzantine armies from the Byzantine side.

The armies skirmish on the left and in the centre.

My command gets stuck in with mixed results.

The Byzantine centre weakens, but my light cavalry catch the Sassanid left flank.

The left flank conflict is as yet indecisive. The Byzantine centre is partly eliminated. The Sassanid left flank is under pressure. The Sassanid centre is strong and unopposed but can it be brought to bear on the flanks?

ADLG is now strongly established so I'll just comment on a few aspects that struck me. The standard game is fought with very convenient sized armies in a reasonably convenient area. The army lists are clear and strike a good balance between simplicity and complexity. They are also realistic and avoid the obscure gimmicks that are a feature if other rule sets, and which competitive players latch onto if it brings them game advantages.

While DBA is a game of sudden outcomes in which units die or survive unscathed, ADLG units suffer cumulative damage before destruction. This introduces a significant element of attrition, and seems to invite the need for intervention by reserves. Once the troops are locked in combat there is otherwise not a great deal of use for Pips.

Of the Ancient games I've played in recent years - DBA, Impetus and Sword and Spear, ADLG seems to be the most promising for my tastes, so I've set about reorganising my 15mm Ancient and Medieval armies and will rebase and supplement them where necessary. It will be good to get these armies out of their long retirement.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Border Reivers?

Something to whet the apetite? 28mm Border Reivers
from Timeline Miniatures.
From Easter until at least the end of August, wargaming takes a backseat due to other interests and commitments. I try to play a few games if I can piggyback on the efforts of others, but it’s not a time for being proactive. This year has been particularly busy and I've not got back into wargaming at all, hence the lack of posts to this blog.

In the first quarter, however, I did make some progress. I now have British, Zulu, Pathan and Egyptian forces for The Men Who Would Be Kings. The Pathans and Egyptians haven’t yet been used, but I’ve staged two Zulu War games and have now added a unit of Natal Native Contingent. For Lion Rampant I not only have the Dark Age and Late Medieval armies but have also begun to collect figures for a Medieval Anglo-Irish project.

I haven’t posted anything about Dragon Rampant but I had some ideas for armies and have played a couple of games kindly set up by my friend Ian. I started to write some posts but they are months old now so I don't know if I'll return to them.

I also added to my collection of 1/600 ACW ironclads for Hammerin’ Iron, a long-term intention which had been awaiting the appearance of ready-painted models on eBay.

On the home front I hit and overcame (for now) a storage crisis by disposing of unused figures and scenery, with a lot more heading for eBay when I can find the time to organise it. I also came to terms with my lead mountain by reducing my to-do list to current interests only. Anything not on the list may also become a candidate for disposal.

Buying second-hand, ready-painted armies overcame my lack of painting time but is in danger of bringing me back to the brink on the storage front. Buying is easier than selling but I will have to find the time and energy to ensure that accumulation is balanced by disposal.

As and when my interest in wargaming rekindles, it would be sensible to use some of my existing armies or even to paint some of the figures from the lead mountain, but where's the fun in that? This is wargaming. I need a new project in order to rekindle my interest! I've been looking at a couple of options.

First up was the French and Indian War using 28mm figures and the forthcoming Rebels and Patriots rules, another set from the Rampant stable, but as Ian was inspired to take the initiative on that one I've now moved on to the idea of a skirmish game using 28mm Border Reivers. Because of the typically (though not exclusively) small scale of Reiver activity, this would be a 'true' skirmish game in which figures operated individually rather than in units, and would therefore be played with a relatively limited number of figures. As such the project is potentially more realiseable than one requiring mass armies.

I'm currently looking at rules and will be trying them out with tokens or substitutes in order to make sure they have enough player appeal, and to avoid the debacle that I had with Rommel which failed to gain local traction.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Bespoke foam trays

Custom-made trays from Just Lasered. The centre one
is pick'n'pluck.
I didn’t want my new Dark Age resin scenery rattling round in a box when I transported it. I had already been looking at foam trays for figures, but I couldn’t find any to fit and fill my favourite storage solution - Really Useful Boxes.

Then I found Just Lasered whose products include RUB-friendly foam trays made to order. If you know exactly what you want you can get the cavities ready cut, but I decided to go with the pick’n’pluck option. Just Lasered are brilliant at meeting bespoke requirements and provided just what I wanted.

As the term suggests, pick’n’pluck allows you to create your own cavities by pulling out the partially-cut foam pillars. This allowed me to tailor each cavity to each individual piece of scenery, minimising rattle and making best use of the available volume. The pick’n’pluck comes in various thicknesses and some people favour a layered approach so they can pick out various different depths. This is possible but I found it a little tricky.

I will certainly be considering Just Lasered for future storage requirements where appropriate.

Just Lasered

Monday, 16 April 2018

Lightweight terrain

There are two big issues for those of us who have to lug our own stuff: weight and bulk.

The obvious answer to both these issues is to go to the smallest possible scales, but sometimes the appeal of a game lies specifically in using larger figures, i.e. 25/28mm, and then scenery can become a significant challenge.

There are a few ways to get round this, e.g. don't try to do Stalingrad in 28mm, but this post is concerned specifically in paying tribute to a couple of manufacturers whose products are particularly lightweight.

First up are the hollow resin hills from Tiger Terrain which are both very light and very strong. The company originally did a range of these - green, arid and unfinished. They still have some advertised on their website but I think they're being phased out. This is a pity. I'm not aware of anyone else making anything like these.

The other company I'd like to praise is TableScape. As I understand it, their products are also made from resin but they add a foaming agent so that their products emerge from the process as a strong, dense foam which is both light and robust.

I understand this process is unsuited to small items, so their terrain is restricted to 28mm products. I have a lot of their Renaissance buildings and have recently started to accumulate their Islamic-style pieces. The buildings come ready-painted and are extremely high quality.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Modular rolling terrain

A few of my sand-coated cork tiles
I began to to make some modular rolling terrain from cork bathroom tiles. The design approach was totally unoriginal but I can't find the source now. If someone identifies it I'll publish a link.

The 30cm/1 ft tiles are essentially divided into a nine-sector grid. The contours can be naturalistically wavey as long as they meet square on at the grid points. The concept should be apparent from the pictures.

The unpainted sand coating has caught the light
from this angle.
Cork tiles are thin so the contours are in low relief but that's more convenient for storage and transport. I subsequently invested in quite a lot of Hexon.  The cork tiles and Hexon are both rather too heavy and bulky to transport outside the house without a car. The Hexon is more than adequate for use at home so I didn't pursue this project any further. For club games I use standalone hills. I'm featuring it just out of interest but I've now passed it on to a friend.