Tuesday, 27 March 2018

TMWWBK - Zulus suffer costly rule error!

View at start from Zulu positions. Tiger Terrain hills and 
scratch-built Irish farmhouse which is not bad for Natal.
This was my first ‘proper’ game of The Men Who Would Be Kings, that is as an actual player. We played Scenario C - To the Last Bullet - with my friend Ian as the British defender and myself as the Zulu attacker. The defender begins near the centre but has the option and objective of legging it to a building near his baseline.

The British had an 18-point Field Force (three 6-point units of Regular Infantry). The Zulus had 24 points - three Married Veteran units with better moralle and three Unmarried Fierce units who are better in close combat, all at 6 points each.
Perspective from the flank.

If the defenders can survive 5 turns without casualtues they win. This forces the attacker  to attack.
The Zulus move in. Cetral British section begins
a tactical withdrawal.

The British deployed in line. I deployed the Veterans on my left and the Fierce units on my right. My idea was to use the Vets as cannon-fodder while the Unmarried warriors got as close as possible before charging in.
The British can now see the whites
of their eyes.

At first Ian was unsure whether to stand or flee. When he did decide to withdraw his troops wouldn't move!
View from the Zulu edge. The outcome is uncertain.

I moved all my units forward using ordinary 'free' moves but this wasn't fast enough and I was in danger of losing the game by not inflicting any casualties in five successive turns. I then switched to Doubling.

I did make contact, did inflict casualties and did sweep away first one and then the other
flank unit, At this point it looked as if the Zulus were going to win, but the central British unit holed up in the farmhouse and in order not to lose the game the Zulus had no choice but to hurl themselves at the building.
One British unit (left) is under pressure. The
other flank unit has been swept away.

Unfortunately a couple of units had by then become Leaderless and it was difficult to activate them. Every British volley swept away a few more Zulus.
The central British unit has reached the safety of
the farmhouse but the other unit looks doomed.

The Zulus did attack the building and did inflict casualties but the trade off in each attack was about 3 Zulus for 1 Brit. The Zulu waves smashed against the British rock and became wasted in the effort. A couple of hopelessly depleted Zulu units were withdrawn to take themselves out of harm's way, but then they all found themselves so depleted that it would have been impossible to inflict any casualties. It was looking like Rorke's Drift...I had lost! But the story doesn't quite end there...

The Zulus close in for the final assault.
When my Zulus were storming the farmhouse, we were converting three hits into a kill. That would have been right for shooting but not for melee. Defending hard cover in hand-to-hand increases the number of hits needed to remove a defending model by one. (Soft cover provides no protection in melee.) Increasing the number by two made the defenders impregnable against overwhelming odds. Had we got this right I think the Zulus might have won. In fact, we were wondering how the Zulus could possibly win this scenario. Now we're wondering how the British can win. We will have to find out.

Successive assaults do some harm to the defenders, but the
attackers suffer more. This is where we went wrong.
I found this game very exciting and it fully met or even exceeded my expectations of the rules.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Octavian 3 Anthony 6

The Octavians (far side) boldly advance.
At the behest of my friend, Ian, I dug out my 1:600/1:650 Ancient galleys for a game of Corvus. As far as I can remember I’d previously played only Rome versus Carthage so I took the opportunity to set up a Roman Civil War game using a squadron a side on the standard 3’ square playing area.
Ian got the Octavians and deployed first with his heaviest ships in the centre and his Lembi behind. I concentrated my fewer, heavier, ships on my right flank, with some Quadriremes out on my left to protect the flank of my main force and to worry the rest of the opposing fleet.
The Antonine squadron rows to meet the enemy. My flagship (far right) turns inwards in a rather risky manoeuvre. First blood to me as concentrated shooting wrecks an Octavian vessel (far left of the Octavian line).

I was expecting some head-on rams, but having left too much space between vessels, my opponent was able to move into the gaps and ram me on the sides (two vessels on the left). However, ramming is risky to the rammer even when making a side ram.

Battle is joined along the line with mixed results.

Casualties mount, especially for the Octavians.

The situation at the end of the game. The Octavian squadron has lost a third of its ships in points and flees.

The rules are available from the Society of Ancients and come with some very nice top-down counters. Additional counters can be bought from Tiny Tin Troops.

I'm reminded there are a few minor loose ends with these rules, and I may return to that in another post.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

28mm Dark Age scenery

Adrian's Walls: wattle pens and fences
I already had the usual range of wargame scenery - passable cloth, trees, hills, rocky ground and rivers, but for playing Landwasters and Raven Feeders (Dark Age extension of Lion Rampant), I wanted to add some 28mm scenics of a specifically Dark Age character. OK, my last century vintage figures are 25mm but things have moved on.

I found two sources to help set the scene. Firstly, some wattle pens and fences from Adrian's Walls. I now prefer to avoid resin for larger pieces because of the weight, but resin gives smaller pieces some stability. 

The sets are not cheap but they are high quality and come ready-painted. The animal pens are particularly impressive - you can almost smell the dirt. There's one in particular I wouldn't want to fall into.

4Ground Saxon/Medieval dwelling
For buildings, however,  I avoided resin and turned to MDF,  specifically the ready-coloured Saxon/Medieval buildings from 4Ground. These need to be stuck together, including the teddy bear fur thatch, but don't need to be painted.

I've now completed both buildings. These are the first laser-cut building kits I've tackled. The instructions were clear and the parts fitted perfectly. I was pleasantly surprised by the finish and the level of detail. The kit was very quick to make, indeed, the main walls need to be constructed in toto before anything dries.

4Ground Saxon/Medieval hovel
The experience was far better than I expected and I will certainly look at 4Ground buildings for other scales and periods.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

28mm Pathans for The Men Who Would Be Kings

Pathans with muskets
I thought my 28mm Zulu War (1879) British for The Men Who Would Be Kings might be recycled for two other conflicts around that time - the Urabi Revolt in Egypt (1879-1882) and the Second Afghan War (1878-1880).

I have no doubts that the British regulars will be fine for Egypt, but the North-West Frontier is more problematic.

Pathans with swords
Khaki was adopted earlier for Indian service and this was the normal British dress for the Second Afghan War. However, I’m not too worried for the following reasons:

1. Scarlet coats and blue serge trousers are reported for the beginning of the war.
2. There were earlier actions on the North-West Frontier for which the appearance of red coats is more likely.
3. The British figures could be replaced later.
4. Let's not be pedantic.

A neat looking light gun and crew
So far the only Afghan figures I’ve collected are irregular Pathan types, so I’m not yet actually committed to the Second Afghan War. The figures are a mixture of musketeers and swordsmen. For TMWWBK they can be fielded in predominantly firearm units as Tribesmen (Irregular Infantry) or in predominantly hand-to-hand units as Ghazi fanatics (Tribal Infantry). Having individually-based figures gives you a lot of flexibility.

The figures came from two different eBay sources with rather differing ideas about light and dark finishes, but both sets of figures were well-painted and I'm very pleased to have them.

I just need to paint up (groan) a few more to complete the army, and add some steel paper under the bases for storage/transport. Steel paper now seems unobtainable, having been replaced with ferro sheet, but steel paper is thinner and I should have enough stocks for these figures.

Friday, 2 March 2018

28mm Plastics for the Swiss-Burgundian Wars

Perry Late Medieval European infantry.
Despite my current aversion to and lack of time for painting, let alone assembly, I've been completely seduced by 28mm hard plastics. Of course, they've been around for some time, but as I hadn't previously had much use for 28mm I never gave them serious consideration.

I did feel plastics were 'insubstantial' but since taking a particular interest in Dan Mersey's rules and scanning eBay for used 28mm recruits, I was struck by the fantastic appearance and quality of these figures.

Besides having better detail and proportions than many metal miniatures, and their potential for variation and customisation, they are also, obviously, lighter to carry and less likely to get damaged in transit or use.

I recently bought some second-hand 28mm Afghans for The Men Who Would Be Kings and it wasn't until I started handling them that I realised that they were a mixture of metal and plastic, so I had inadvertently already bought my first plastics.

However, I'm really interested in using plastics for a new project. There are very few ranges in comparison with metal figures but one area that has taken my fancy and is available from Perry Miniatures is the High Middle Ages which I wanted to do for Lion Rampant. The figures are sold as Wars of the Roses and European Mercenaries. There are currently five boxes as well as a range of metal figures to fill the gaps, e.g. artillery, although that's not particularly appropriate to a skirmish game.

I already had 15mm Wars of the Roses armies which I had no desire to duplicate, but I didn't have anything for the following Swiss-Burgundian Wars. I do in fact already have Swiss in 25mm but they are circa 1525 and based for Impetus.

The big question for me was whether to buy the boxes new or try to pick up figures second-hand. If I bought the boxes I would be able to organise, customise and paint exactly as I wanted. But then I took a reality check, realising that I would probably never have time to finish them.

If buying second-hand, on the other hand, I would have to choose carefully as most second-hand figures would probably have been painted for the Wars of the Roses. This is not an insurmountanble problem as many, but not all, livery colours could be recycled. The Burgundians wore blue and white so any figures with that combination or which could be easily overpainted could go to that side.

Some Swiss cantons also sported blue and white but that would be confusing. Bern was the biggest canton and its colours were red and black. These are strong colours which could, if necessary, be painted on top of other colours. And red and white were both cantonal and the 'national' colours of the Swiss Confederation, I think red, red and white, and red and black should all be fine for the Swiss. It would be more the suggestion of a uniform than an actual uniform, but I think that is quite realistic and what I would have wanted to achieve if I had painted the figures myself.

Anyway, I was very lucky to pick up some useful lots from eBay which I'm currenlty waiting to be delivered. I won't have any pikemen but I will have quite a range of other troop types.