Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Pike And Shot Campaigns - Just like a game with miniatures!

A scene from a game of White Mountain.
Whilst I await return of the impetus to finish and the opportunity to use my 6mm armies for Tilly's Very Bad Day, I've been satisfying my enthusiasm for pike-and-shot warfare with my second PC game purchase - Pike and Shot Campaigns (Byzantine Games). Given the prevalence of ACW and WW2 games, it's good to see an historical PC game covering the 16th and 17th Centuries.

The game uses chess-like alternate turns but with some interaction like reactive shooting. There is also an AI-controlled 'residual' shooting phase.

I understand the game is essentially a PC version of Richard Bodley Scott's Field of Glory and it's very like playing a tabletop miniatures game but with the advantages that computers can provide, e.g. hidden units and painless calculations. I would also say that it looks a great deal simpler than FoG, though to be fair I have never actually played it. I was brought up on WRG-style rules but can no longer tolerate the contortions of Barkerese and its derivatives.

Once engaged in melee, units remain committed unless the program decides otherwise and victors always pursue. Some players object to these features but they simplify play and IMO capture the flavour of P&S warfare more accurately than those rules which allow micro-management of 'break-offs' etc. Outcomes can be frustrating, but that's war.

The game is extremely well-designed and presented with excellent tutorial support and very clear on-screen 'signage'. The author undoubtedly knows his stuff.

I've worked through the historical ECW and French-Italian Wars battles and am currently playing the Thirty Years War ones. Community contributions have provided many more scenarios in and out of the core period. You can also fight infinite pickup games with varying degrees of player input or pot luck, but I haven't tried these yet as reliving historical battles at grand tactical level is more my thing.

The game allows both orthogonal and diagonal facing and movement on a grid of squares. It works well and has made me think again about square grids which are easier to implement than hexes unless you have something like Hexon.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Ultimate General: Civil War - First impressions

A scene from the first day at Gettysburg
I'm not getting much painting done and obviously no gaming with miniatures, but I have revived my interest in PC strategy wargames. 

I'd grown tired of the small screen on my ageing laptop so replaced it with an Intel NUC i5 and a 28" 4K monitor. This wasn't with any gaming intentions, but the NUC seems to be adequate for strategy games and having a big screen was an asset I couldn't ignore. 

My first new purchase has been Ultimate General: Civil War. This is a realtime grand-strategy game, but proceeds at a reasonable pace and is not a clickfest. And you don't have to micro-manage each unit. The AI does a lot for you. 

The game certainly works at tactical level. Play is very intuitive though you will obviously benefit from skimming through the guidance document. I've played through all the historical battles as Confederate at intermediate level and am now repeating this as Union. 

The historical battles are split into different stages. This is scripted and I'm not entirely clear how performance in one stage influences resources in the next. I really prefer the approach in the Total War series of games in which you control the whole battle. 

I'm not attracted to the fictitious campaign battles.The game is fun but when I've completed the current round of historical battles I'll probably move on to something else and come back to the game another year.

Friday, 1 January 2021

2021 Plans

Afghan reinforcements for TMWWBK
There are old projects I'd like to return to including my 15mm Elizabethan English and Irish for Irregular Wars and my 10mm Chinese Warlord armies for Red Actions. And there are new things I'd like to progress, particularly my 28mm Ardennes armies for Chain of Command. I've also been thinking of extending my 28mm Elizabethan collection in an Irish direction (using the Hoka Hey Timeline figures), albeit a duplication of the above Irregular Wars project at a different scale. Yes, I am fond of 'Celtic' armies.

However, my time and psychological energy is limited, so I decided to continue my immediate focus on undercoating and putting initial washes on my least complete 28mm Rampant armies as these jobs won't require too much thought or planning and can be fitted in at odd moments, including at night during bouts of insomnia.

I'll also continue the slow but steady collection of 28mm Russian Civil War figures as this requires only hitting the buy button once a month.

Once I've got all the newer Rampant armies to a minimally acceptable (to me) level I'll probably finish the bases on the fully painted ones which will complete them. Apart from minor repairs, additions and paint improvements, I will then have the following completed armies:

Lion Rampant
Late Saxons and Vikings
Swiss and Burgundians
Feudal

Rebels and Patriots
American War of Independence
American Civil War

The Men Who Would Be Kings
British
Zulus
Afghans
Egyptians

The next priority will be to finish the 6mm Thirty Years War armies for Tilly's Very Bad Day, including the application of brush-bristle pike replacements. That will hopefully be complete by the end of June in anticipation of a resumption of gaming.

I'll then concentrate on proper painting of the remaining Rampant armies. These are:

The Pikeman's Lament
Border Reivers, Garrison troops, Tudor rebels
1671 Buccaneers and Spanish

Rebels and Patriots
1798 Irish Rebellion

Dragon Rampant
Elves
Trolls (Orcs)
Goblins
Halflings
Aegean Bronze Age
Nordic Bronze Age
Fantasy extensions to Lion Rampant armies.

The Men Who Would Be Kings (variant)
Russian Civil War (still being collected)

The 1798 armies are already part painted, but there's a huge amount of work in completing the rest, hence my 'play now, paint as I go' approach. At least I am confident enough of this year's fancies to describe them as plans.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

2020 - the year that was cancelled

Bought yesterday - the bristles are for
6mm Thirty Years War pikes.

Although I'd expected to get a lot of painting done during the Plague Year, things didn't turn out that way because of other distractions and circumstances. In the first half of the year I did make considerable progress with painting my 6mm Thirty Years War armies for Tilly's Very Bad Day and I also made some progress with my all too numerous 28mm Rampant armies which I wanted to bring to a level where I could put any of them on the table even though they would not be 'fully painted'.

This essentially meant basing, adding filler to the bases, undercoating and adding an initial wash in the dominant costume colour. They would not be pretty, but they would be identifiable and distinguishable. I will reiterate yet again that I am committed to further painting before any given army is brought out again. I should also stress that some of my Rampant armies are already painted.

Well, I did get all the relevant armies sorted, cleaned-up and based, and I applied filler to the vast majority of those requiring it. That’s as far as I got but it was some sort of achievement. Before everything went pear-shaped I also managed 4 games - one of Lion Rampant and three of Rebels & Patriots.

I wasn't initially affected by the ennui that other wargame bloggers reported but I'm beginning to feel rather demoralised since they closed the coffee shops, pubs and restaurants even though there was no evidence they were spreading infection. They provided a little relief in a year when social and hobby activity has been closed down. Endless walks are fine in spring, summer and autumn but less attractive in the bleak midwinter.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Musing: Early 20thC wars in South and Central America

I'm not actually planning anything new just at the moment, but this is an area of on-going interest. My historical education at school was very Anglo-centric with some extension into Continental Europe and North America, and last century wargaming followed a similar pattern. Being able to branch out into the history of the other Americas is refreshing, as is the prospect of modelling their armies and gaming their wars.

Anyway, on to the specifics.

Firstly, I bought another book on the Chaco War - The Chaco War 1932-1935 - by Antonio Luis Sapienza and José Luis Martínez Peláez published by Helion. Helion have a prodigious output. They also overwhelm you with marketing emails which I was about to cancel when I saw this title. The book is nicely illustrated with contemporary photos and some coloured illustrations, and is a worthwhile addition to my collection.

I've taken an interest in the Chaco since Khurasan launched their 15mm range. There are also plenty of vehicles available in that scale. I own that prior to that I'd never heard of it. I like the Chaco War because it's offbeat and obscure, and I'm particularly attracted by the 'quirky' interwar tankettes, but these were used in such small numbers that I could really only justify their use in a skirmish-level game. 

Here I think the most promising option might be Chain of Command as this would allow for tanks and all sorts of other assets - HMGs, mortars, field guns, trucks etc - all fielded in penny packets. Using CoC for the Chaco was discussed here.

For those seriously interested, a great collection of links to Chaco War resources can be found here.

Secondly, I note Peter Pig has launched a range of 15mm figures for the Mexican Revolution. This is another area in which I've had a long-term interest. Here I would be inclined to adapt Red Actions or something on that scale, i.e. companies of say 4 bases with multiple figures on each. This would be a higher level game and require more figures.

For 'mass armies' I remain more inclined to 10mm, but there's no sign of that happening and 15mm is at least a step in the right direction. I'll stop there. I'm not hitting any 'Buy Now' buttons. Well, not yet, anyway.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Russian Civil War in 28mm

Copplestone Ragged Whites
Lockdown was to have been a period of consolidation. It started well but there was a hiatus in hobby activity in May followed by the usual Summer distractions. And so my only wargaming-related activity in recent months has been the purchase of some 28mm Bolsheviks and Whites from the Copplestone 'Back of Beyond' range using my Wargames Illustrated/North Star monthly discount and a couple of books. This is another slow-burn project as it will take me over a year to collect the figures before I feel obliged to base or paint anything.

The RCW has long been on my wishlist and I eventually decided to go with the characterful Copplestones and The Men Who Would Be Kings rules. There are many other rule sets I could use but I already know and like these Rampant rules, and extending them to Interwar skirmish ought to be fairly easy. An adaption of TMWWBK to the RCW was discussed here and using them for the Mexican Revolution here. A further mention of using them for interwar colonial skirmish can be found here.

The main issue is how to accommodate vehicles and the most useful inspiration is Pierre Aymeric's WW1 Foch extension. The original version appeared on the Wargames Illustrated website here but a newer, fuller version is available from the author's blog here. I've yet to try these out but I also have ideas of my own having already been thinking of extending TMWWBK to cover shotguns and armoured trucks for the Irish War of Independence.

Anyway, these are just thoughts and I'm in no rush. Winter is coming and it's going to be a long one...

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Dragon Rampant: The Trolls/Orcs

I continue to plough through my Rampant armies adding filler to the bases. Here is another of my Dragon Rampant warbands which has recently had the bases levelled as part of the Great Lockdown Leap Forward.

Following Poul Anderson's world, these are Trolls but they're equivalent to Tolkien's Orcs (who Tolkien sometimes called Goblins). Anyway, to avoid confusion for other wargamers, I will probably have to start calling them Orcs and reserve the name Trolls for larger figures, a couple of which are also featured below.

The figures come from various manufacturers. It's been a while since I bought them, but I'll do my best to identify them. Their physiognomy is similar (I avoided very pig-like features) but clothing styles differ. I'm confident the divergent styles will be brought together once I get some paint on them.

These larger Orcs (Reaper) will provide the Troll King and units of Bellicose and/or Elite Foot.  It's now common to assume that Orcs should be violently green-skinned. Anderson's Trolls and Goblins are both green, but Tolkien visualised his Orcs as swarthy and 'Hunnic' in appearance. I'm compromising on this by painting my Trolls (Orcs), Goblins and giant Trolls in a light olive green, but Hill and other Giants will be completed in human skin tones.

The mass of Trolls/Orcs will be fielded as Offensive Heavy Foot. Some of the more weedy ones may be drawn out as Scouts. The most appropriate Trolls I originally found were the CP Models Orc clubmen but it's a very small range, so I also ordered all the Reaper figures I thought would do, and then added some from a new range by Elite Wargames. I also bought some newer armoured Orcs and Orc bowmen from CP Models but these are disappointingly crude and lumpy designs and I won't be using them.

These Half-Orcs (ex-Grenadier from Mirliton) will be Offensive  Medium Foot. I looked at the Grenadier Orcs but they were anatomically very extreme and I think Trolls and similar are most sinister when they are closer to human form.

There are a few bow-armed figures scattered amongst the various types. These will be ignored or used to indicate units additionally armed with missiles depending on how I want to field things.

Ogres (Otherworld). Great figures but the spear arm on the lower right one was a devil to fit.

Various opportunistic Nasties as Troll/Orc allies. Front row: A Witch (Magister Militum) with Rat (Eureka) flanked by two large Trolls (North Star). Back row: An archetypal 'Fairytale' Giant and a Fantasy Viking-style Frost Giant (North Star OGAM).

Wolves (various manufacturers) as Lesser Warbeasts. They do look a bit puny now, especially next to my wolf-riding Goblin cavalry.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Dragon Rampant: The Elves

Clockwise from bottom left: Elf King, Champion,
Companions, Shaman, Enchantress, spearmen,
swordsmen and archers. The figures will
have a variety of greens and reds etc added.
As I said before, my 28mm Elves and Trolls (Orcs) for Dragon Rampant were to be based more on Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword than on Tolkien, but in actuality I've been restricted by what was readily available in the form of models.

My Elves are 'old school' Grenadier miniatures now sold by Mirliton in Italy. They're obviously Celtic rather than Viking (as I originally conceived), but they're lovely designs and the castings are very clean.

They were previously photographed in a game but I’ve since expanded their ranks and added filler to the bases.

Despite the Celtic look, organisation is still posited on Viking lines so there are Huscarls (High Elves) and Bondi (Wood Elves). I prefer to deploy the archers amongst the spearmen so that every single unit in the warband has a sting. This really unsettles opponents!

There is also a Grenadier Shaman (Druid) and a Reaper Elf Enchantress.

Friday, 1 May 2020

The Pikeman's Lament: My 1671 Spanish and Buccaneer companies

Devoid of the usual May festivities I’m devoting this not-as-merry-as-it-could-be month to work on a range of Rampant armies. My overall minimal aim is to level the bases with filler, and get them all undercoated and base-coated while we wait 18 months for a Coronavirus vaccine or herd immunity.

To kick off, here are my 28mm companies for The Pikeman’s Lament based on the Buccaneer attack on Panama of 1671. The Buccaneers are flintlock-armed veterans, the Spanish firelock-armed militia.

The figures are mainly North Star and Blood and Plunder.

The Spanish (1): Back row: Mounted Captain, Gun and crew, Horse. 
Front row: Lanceros, Pike.
The Spanish (2): Three units of matchlock-armed Shot.
The Spanish (3). Front row: Captain on foot with some extras. Indian scouts as Commanded Shot. 
Back row: Armada de Barlovento (Marines).
The English: Four units of flintlock-armed Buccaneers with their Welsh leader, Henry Morgan.