Sunday, 4 August 2019

Balagan's Thirty Years War

The prolific Steven Thomas (of has just published a free set of fast-play Thirty Years War rules called Tilly’s Very Bad Day. You can download them here. As readers may know I've been musing about Thirty Years War rules for a very long time but have never actually got round to trying any of them.

My first consideration is to see if a game is compact enough for my tastes and resources. The last set I was seriously looking at was Twilight of Divine Right but it requires an on-table measurement for mounted pistols which is only 1/8 of unit frontage. This means that unit frontages need to be fairly large if this measurement is not to become impractically small.

Unfortunately, large bases need to be filled with a large amount of lead or plastic, and need to operate over a large surface area, but my current preference is to use 2mm blocks, small bases and a small playing area. TVBD would allow me to use 2" wide bases which provide a good fit for 2mm blocks, would facilitate on-table measurement in user-friendly inches and would require a table size of only 30" x 20" for a small game and 45" x 30" for a large one. In that respect the rules tick all the boxes.

My second consideration is unit types. Many rules covering this period (Eighty Years War, Thirty Years War and English Civil War) differentiate 'gallopers' from 'trotters' etc and early, large formations ('Tercios') from later battalions with a variable number of intermediate troop types. TVBD has only one category of Horse and one category of Pike+shot.

It may well be that other rule authors have overemphasised (or even invented) distinctions, but this is quite a radical step. I won't go into the arguments for this simplification here, but I believe they may well be justified. However, Steven is considering an early, large infantry type on a deeper base and I'm rather hoping he adopts that. For the early part of this period, the Bastioned Square is a defining icon.

The rules themselves appear to be simple, clear and elegant and l look forward to trying them out with counters or substitute figures. My regular sparring partner is particularly concerned that 'Pike and Shot' rules should handle 'pike and shot' warfare. While, at this level, pike and shot are combined and not separately modelled,  we will be looking closely at the 'paper, stone, scissors' interaction of infantry, cavalry and artillery.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

2019 - 6 monthly review

A recent 'cut-down' game of Hammerin' Iron kindly
organised by my friend Ian using his ships. Photo
shows my very bad handling of the CSS Virginia. Ouch.
Of the games I wanted to play this year, I have played:
  • The Men Who Would Be Kings.
  • Lion Rampant.
  • Dux Bellorum.
  • Hammerin' Iron.
I have not played:
  • Dragon Rampant
  • L'Art de la Guerre.
As regards planned projects:
  • Worked on the 28mm Border Reivers for The Pikeman's Lament.
  • Continued collecting 28mm 1798 Irish Rebellion companies for Rebels and Patriots.
  • Got some 28mm AWI Continentals to partner the British for Rebels and Patriots.
  • Made some progress with reorganising, rebasing and supplementing my old 15mm Ancient and Mediaeval armies for L'Art de La Guerre.
Most of my collectong/modelling/painting time has, however, been focused on unexpected and unscheduled (!) activity:
  • Fantasy armies for Dragon Rampant.
  • Buccaneers and Spanish for The Pikeman's Lament.
It's in the nature of a wargamer's life to flit from one thing to another. I'll just have to sell off more books to make room for even more figure-filled RUBs.

My priorities for the rest of the year are:
  • To play more Rampant games of all types.
  • To play some more games of Hammerin' Iron.
  • To base and at least undercoat all Dragon Rampant warbands so they can be tabled.
I haven't spent a great deal of time on the hobby, but I have attended most club game nights and chipped away at a whole load of projects.

I keep a very basic diary of jobs done. It shifts the focus from contemplating an unscaleable lead mountain to enjoying little steps actually taken, and it's a great source of satisfaction and encouragement.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Mounting Slotta figures on coins

Some of my figures for Dragon Rampant (in particular the Knightmare Miniatures Goblins) were designed for Slotta bases but I wanted the figures to match my other figures which are based on coins.

Theoretically I could have mounted the figures on Slotta bases and then on coins, but the smallest Slotta bases I could find were too big. They came almost to tbe edge of the 2p coins and would have made the bases look too thick.

And so, I tried three other methods of attaching the figures to coins. In all cases I first used Games Workship sprue clippers to make a 50% reduction in the depth of the figure's tab and then filed the bottom of the tab flat.

(1) Lump of Greenstuff

Greenstuff alone: the figure kept keeling over.
This looked straightforward but the figure kept on leaning over before the Greensuff set.

(2) Matchsticks

Matchsticks: strong but time-consuming
I superglued two short lengths of matchstick to a coin to create a slot and then superglued the figure into the slot. This was highly effective but also fiddly and time-consuming.

(3) Superglue alone, then Greenstuff

First stage: Superglue and faith alone.
I got this advice off a forum. You superglue the figure to the coin to fix it in position. I used three or four separate small blobs of Gorilla superglue gell. You have to hold the figure in place for a few seconds, and then leave it for a day. At this stage it's a bit fragile as the point of contact is so small. Next day you reinforce the join with a lumps of Greenstuff which you push against the sides of the tab.

Second stage: Reinforcement with Greenstuff and all is well.
The third option was both successful and straightforward so that is the one I pursued.

I also had a few Orcs on Slotta bases. These were quite big figures and had very wide stances with their toes coming almost to the edge of the coins. For these I had to remove the tabs altogether and just superglued the bottoms of their feet directly to the coins. These are not going to be as robust and only time will tell if the bonds are adequate.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

TMWWBK - ‘Get off my land’ replay

I posted a game report of this scenario before. We decided to run it again but changed ends, as it were. I took the Mahdists - three Irregulars and three Tribals - whilst Ian had the British - three Regular Infantry and a Machine-Gun.

The scenaro makes the Attackers deploy their range away from any edge, but as my range was an upgraded 24" there was nowhere to deploy them on a 6' x 4' table! So we changed this to 18", the same as in our first game.

By choosing to deploy on the edge he did, Ian was almost on top of three of the objectives right from the start, but as luck would have it the centre of this edge was also the zone I had nominated for two of my Tribal units to pop up in.

This allowed me to place them at 8” from the British. This is almost as good as it gets, but would have been better if I could have placed them in cover. If they survived Ian's next turn and if I could activate them, I could charge home without the risk of failing to double adequately.

Beginning of Turn 2. My Irregulars are the three grey units in the centre (C, A and B) flanked by two of my Tribal units (F and E). The Tribals have been placed so as to be able to charge either of two opposing units. British unit H has been pinned by fire. Mahdist unit E loses four casualties and becomes pinned during this turn, neutralising half of my attacking force. This is a decisive moment.
Beginning of Turn 3: Mahdist unit E recovers from pinning but can only sit there. Mahdist unit F fails to activate and cannot charge. This is the other decisive moment of the game.
Beginning of Turn 4: Mahdist unit A takes the hill, but Mahdist unit E loses more casualties and is pinned again.
Beginning of Turn 5: Mahdist unit E is effectively no more. Unit C manages to charge but is beaten off.
Beginning of Turn 6: All the Mahdist units are now too depleted to be effective.
End of Turn 6: a technical win for the Mahdists at this premature end to the game but their fate is sealed.
Had I made contact I might have overcome one or two of the British units. Failure to do so left me exposed to the cycle of being pinned, attempting to rally and gradual or not so gradual extermination.

Our club AGM curtailed our gaming time. At the point we decided to stop I was technically the winner as the British had by that time taken only two of the objectives. But had the game continued I think I would have been wiped out, so I take no satisfaction in this 'victory'.

We are still trying to work out how best to use Tribals - how to survive and how to make them more than a one shot, one tim e weapon. Perhaps it's too early to admit defeat but I'm inclining to Ian's view they should be reduced in price to 2 points.

We also had some dreaded Line of Sight issues but I'll gloss over that until we've had more time to think about it.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Of Trolls, Orcs and Goblins

Hobgoblin: Coincidentally one of my favourite
bottled beers. In the wargaming world Hobgoblins
are usually regarded as larger and stronger
than ordinary Goblins.
I've been collecting figures for my Elf, Troll (Orc) and other armies for Dragon Rampant, so this is a good time to share some more ideas.

As I outlined before  my inspiration comes more from Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword than it does from Tolkein. Having said that, the Fantasy market has long been engulfed by the Tolkein tsunami, so it is not easy (or necessarily advantageous) to escape the influence that has had.

Tolkien originally used Goblin as an alternative name for Orc, while Anderson has Goblins as a separate ‘race’. Even if you reach behind their depiction in modern literature to the folkloric origins of Giants, Trolls, Orcs, Goblins and Ogres, these concepts are overlapping and confused.

I like to think of Goblins as halflings and separate from, if allied to, Orcs/Trolls, and this view seems to be generally favoured by other gamers and figure manufacturers.

Doom Goblins from Knightmare Miniatures (not my painting - though I wish it was).
In the interests of variation - a key element of Fantasy armies - I was surfing the web for Goblins with the intention of adding a unit or two to my Troll army when I came across some relatively new  greens sculpted by the prolific Goblin sculptor Kev Adams. I found these particularly appealing and an enquiry on the Lead Adventure Forum pointed me to Knightmare Miniatures, a company based in Spain.

Anyway, I was so entranced, specifically by the 'Doom Goblins' that I ordered enough figures for a whole Goblin Warband. I even included Goblin wolf-riders. Although I think that is purely a Tolkein invention, I liked the idea of having a DA force with some Riders in it.

I was thinking of reinforcing these with other makes - Midlam, Otherworld, Weyland and Artizan, all of which I like, but I now have all the Goblins I need without having to bother about compatibility.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Two games of 'The Men Who Would Be Kings'

Continuing this year's focus on Rampant games, my friend Ian and I played two games of The Men Who Would Be Kings.

North-West Frontier

Our first game featured the 'Run to the Hills!' scenario using my British and Afghan forces. The Brits (me) had to reach the far end of the table while running the gauntlet of the Pathans (Ian) who were on their first tabletop outing.

We used random Leader Values and Leader Traits, but found the latter hard to remember. I wanted to minimise on-table clutter so abandoned the unit cards used in earlier games in favour of off-table rosters but we soon realised it was still necessary to ID the units on-table which we did with temporary pieces of paper. I've since utilised some lettered Scrabble-style tablets.

We initially made a mistake in the Pin Tests, subtracting for casualties in the game rather than casualties just inflicted. The minor differences between different Rampant games are easy to confuse, and I am currently working on a spreadsheet to compare them.

The photos show the course of the game. Owing to the Pinning Test error, the British appear a lot more battered than they should be. Allowing for this rule error, this game was or should have been a British victory.


For our second game Ian brought his newly acquired Sudan forces, and we did the 'Get Off My Land' scenario with the British vs Mahdists.

Ian laid out the table with a scattering of hills, some small clumps of vegetation and an area of soft ground. Six markers were distributed as per the scenario rules. The British had to search these by  Standing To when in contact with them.

The Mahdists had three upgraded Irregular Infantry units (@ 5 each) deployed centrally and three Tribal units (@ 3 each) which could pop up in nominated sectors during the game.

The British had three Regular Infantry units and a well-drilled Gardner Gun (all @ 6 each).

We agreed to drop the Leader Traits. Once again we adopted paper IDs to identufy the units. I also added the LV values to mine as this was the only difference between my infantry units.

My plan was to destroy the Mahdists piecemeal while searching at least some but not necessarily all the objectives, so I deployed on the edge furthest away from the main enemy concentration. It was the Falklands strategy.

My progress was entirely systematic. I moved towards the objectives, shot up any Mahdists encountered and only Stood To over the objectives if all the closest Mahdists had been neutralised by pinning or elimination.

Basically it all went like clockwork and a point came when it was a virtual impossibility for the Mahdists to win.

Ian's chances weren't helped by forgetting to bring on one of his hidden units when it might have made a difference. He did bring it on but late in the day and unsupported, so it just got chewed up in its turn.

IMO it's hard to fight Regulars with Tribals. Tribals will tend to have twice as many units as Regulars and need to attack in that 2:1 ratio, i.e. sending at least a pair of units against each single Regular unit. The latter can, of course, only shoot at one unit at a time.

In this scenario the Tribals also need to 'Go to Ground' to optimise their chance of survival. Even this is tricky. If Gone to Ground the Tribals can't be targeted beyond short range so the Regulars will be obliged to advance to within 12" of them. At that point the Tribals can try to Activate (with a 58%, 72% or 83% chance of success depending on the LV) followed by a 50% chance of Doubling into contact (4+ on 1D6).

If you attack with two units your odds of getting one of them into contact is better than evens and then you will have 16 to 12 dice in the melee. If, however, they are caught in the open they will be subjected to a cycle of being shot at and then having to rally which will have only one outcome.

Ian currently believes that Tribals are overpriced at 3 points. I'm reserving judgement.

All figures are Perry plastics, undercoated but not yet painted.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Border Reiver Project 5: Levelling the bases

The horse aren't actually on coins but I did them as well.
With individually-based figures, I would normally leave all aspects of base texturing to the end, but it has always been my intention to start using these figures before they are finished and I think the coin bases look particularly unsightly. I therefore decided to level off the bases as a priority.

It amazes me that some people who are much better painters than me don't bother to do this, but will go staight to flocking and thus leave a very obvious, unrealistic and ugly ridge at the edge of the cast figure base.

I have used cheap, Pound Shop, filler for levelling, but I fear it is rather powdery and brittle so I returned to using Tetrion, a robust filler with a proven record.

I apply the filler with a thin coffee stirrer, scraping it off around the rim of the coin and then prodding it towards the edge of the cast base of the figure. For this job I use the filler neat or with a tiny drop of water.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Rebels and Patriots: Skirmish at Tumbledown Farm

Deployment: My Rebels on the near side.
Ian's British on the far side.
I concocted this Rebels and Patriots scenario as a variation on 'Scenario A: First Clash at Lament Ridge'. Instead of controlling a point on the hill for more turns than your opponent, 3 Honour points are awarded for occupying a centrally-placed farmhouse at the end of the final turn. It was also used as an opportunity to try out trees, Natives and use of more Sharpshooting Skirmishers.

Grenadiers Shock Infantry 6
Veteran Line Line Infantry (Veteran) 6
Light Infantry Light Infantry (Small) 5
Native Americans Natives 4
Native Americans Natives (Small) 3
Continentals etc Line Infantry 4
Continentals etc Line Infantry 4
Continentals etc Line Infantry 4
Riflemen Skirmishers, Sharpshooters 6
Riflemen Skirmishers, Sharpshooters 6

I don't yet have any Native Americans, so I had to substitute some Natal Native Contingent Zulu War figures.

Ian commanded the British. He was the Attacker which also meant he was better placed to occupy the objective first. He used his larger unit of Natives as 'greyhounds'.

Natives move forward to occupy the farm house.
Although he grabbed the farmhouse, this unit was isolated and I was able to concentrate most of my line against it. The Natives were shot out of the farmhouse despite its rating as Hard Cover.

Natives suffer concentrated fire from five Rebel units.
Ian next occupied the building with his Grenadiers but they eventually suffered the same fate.

Grenadiers move in.
Grenadiers accumulate casualties and are Disordered.
My skirmishers (left) and my right-hand Line unit take casualties.
With the game drawing to a close I was in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but I had just enough time to occupy the farmhouse myself and win the game.

The Grenadiers are on the run and my central Line unit is about to take the farmhouse.
I had some good dice, but this game is another example of what happens if you send a unit out on a limb, inadequately supported. If an opponent has a solid line they can concentrate their fire - indeed they are compelled to shoot at the nearest target.

Skirmishers were again good value for money.

Creating variations on existing scenarios seems a good way forward.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

In search of the Shelmalier guns of 1798

What's the news, what's the news, oh my bold Shelmalier,
With your long barrelled gun of the sea?

Eighteenth Century Irish fouling piece (from contemporary auction listing).
Shelmalier or Shelmaliere is an area in County Wexford, and the farmers of east Shelmalier were accustomed to shooting wild fowl. In the 1798 Rebellion the Shelmalier men were renowned for their marksmanship, but what exactly were their "long guns" so celebrated in prose and song?

Somebody has probably written a history of the Shelmaliers, but if so I haven't so far been able to find it. Rather more information is available on hunting pieces in America. These were widely spread amongst civilians and could be used to shoot solid shot (for deer or to fend off Native Americans) or bird shot (for the general hunting of small game).

Superficially they resembled muskets or, more particularly, Kentucky Long Rifles and they were manufactured from the same components. But they weren't rifled. They were essentially long-barrelled smoothbore shotguns. They were not as robust as military muskets and they were not designed to support bayonets.

I don't know if any of the 28mm Trent Miniatures have long guns. It's not essential as there would have been a lot of variation and maybe not all fouling pieces were actually longer than muskets. I was just interested to track this down.