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.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Border Reiver Project 4: First wash

The next step was to apply an overall light wash - light in colour and light in thickness. Washes are easy to apply and gentle on brushes. I use a GW Wash Brush. In this case the wash is a light yellow-brown (Coat d'arms 228 Buff ) appropriate to the predominant 'uniform' colour which in this case are the jacks with which most of these figures are kitted.

Coincidentally, brown is also the best colour for leaving in the shadows although most of that will be contributed by the final stain. Brown is also the main colour of clothing, hair, and weapons, though I will probably be using additional, different browns to pick those out. Humble Border clothing was typically a dark 'hodden grey', but that was actually more brown than grey.

Now, I could have mixed brown into the gesso undercoat, replacing two jobs with one. The brown wash, however, brings the figures into relief and gives them more definition and this will make the detail easier to see. That's the theory. I'm not entirely convinced it's very significant. The initial wash is very light in colour because I want to be able to add other washes over the top of it.

As with the white undercoat, I go through the figures again to touch up the wash. I don't want to discover any white patches or specs at a later date. This is a good time to review the forces.

Reivers. Front row: Reiver Household (two units as Forlorn Hope). Dog handler with bloodhounds (personality figure). Mounted Reivers. Back row: Reiver Retainers (two units as Clansmen). March Warden (who should really be with the forces of law and order in the next photo).
Garrison and Militia. Front row: two units of Bows (as Shot). Second row: light gun and two units of Shot.  Back row: three units of pike.
Animals, Civilians and 'Tudor Rebellion' figures. Front row: sheep and shepherd, cattle and cowherd, assorted and pitiable Border civilians. Second row: Gentlemen Adventurers (including a Lady Adventurer), Rabble.

Some of the figures weren't quite dressed for the Borders so the project has grown into the area of 'Tudor Rebellion' - Protestant against Queen Mary or Catholic (or unprincipled opportunist) against Good Queen Bess. When playing Tudor Rebellion rather than Border conflicts, the Garrison troops will be split between a Royalist force and defecting militia throwing in their lot with the Rebels.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Classifying Irish pikes in Rebels and Patriots

Battle of Vinegar Hall
My 1798 Irish Rebellion project may not reach the table before next year, but I’ve been doing some research on Irish pikemen which has led me to think again about how they should be classified for Rebels and Patriots.

The Irish pikes of 1798 were typically 8-12 feet including the head, and while sometimes referred to as "half-pikes" because they were shorter than the lengths that had been used during the Civil War and earlier, they were nevertheless pikes and used in the same way. (My model pikes will be 60mm, i.e. about double the height of the foot figures.)

Rampant rules typically have an infantry type equivalent to Lion Rampant's Fierce Foot. In Dragon Rampant it's Bellicose Foot and in The Pikeman's Lament it's Clansmen. In RAP there are Natives, but these are more like skirmishers.

This suggested that I might have to invent a new unit type to accommodate charging pikemen, but putting aside the question of firearms for the moment, contemporary sources (see below) have convinced me that the closest unit definition is in fact Line Infantry.

While it might be assumed that Irish pikemen were a wild mob of uncoordinated warriors fighting as individuals, and while they may have been poorly trained and disciplined, they were drilled to manoeuvre and fight as close order infantry and could and did see off cavalry.

The Irish leader Joseph Holt left memoirs in which he wrote: "My pikemen were the most difficult to manage. I had to teach them to step in time, to face about, countermarch, wheel about, but particularly to disperse and form rapidly, and to march in quick or double quick time."

Contemporary illustrations depict Rebels
with mixed weapons.
Now to the question of firearms. They were scarce but preferred to pikes if they could be obtained. Civilian blunderbusses were supplemented with stolen civilian pieces and captured muskets.

It makes good military sense to organise differently-armed soldiers into separate units, and there were separately organised firearm skirmishers such as the famous Shelmaliers with their long-barreled fowling guns and sharpshooter reputation.

However, it also seems likely that Rebel bands would randomly accumulate a proportion of firearms without being reorganised on a rational basis, and this is how they are depicted in contemporary illustrations.

The memoirs of the Irish Rebel, Myles Byrne, specifically refer to small mixed units. Byrne says that they had nothing to fear from the Yeomen, "for twenty pikemen that kept together, with two or three with fire-arms, was quite sufficient to keep the best of those corps at a respectful distance."

All in all, the references to close order drill and the concept of pike units with mixed weaponry would, I believe, justify the definition of Irish pikemen as:

Line Infantry, Aggressive, Poor Shooters, Green @ 3.

This keeps them within the standard rules and distinguishes them from their Militia opponents who I would define as:

Line Infantry, Green @ 3.

If you wanted to discount firing altogether, then you could define a new unit type with no firing and, maybe, a cost of 2, but I personally prefer to avoid house rules if at all possible.


The Irish Pike

G. A. Hayes-McCoy
Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society
Vol. 20, No. 3/4 (1943), pp. 99-128

Methods of Using the Pike in Ireland: 1798-1921

Saturday, 6 April 2019

My Salute 2019

I went to Salute this year with a more positive attitude and came home with some 28mm Otherworld fantasy figures for Dragon Rampant, some Blood and Plunder Buccaneers/Spanish for The Pikeman's Lament and a few bottles of paint.

I also said hello to Dan Mersey and Michael Leck whose Rampant games are currently my favourite wargaming activity.

I took only a few photos but here they are:

Michael Leck's spectacular Rebels and Patriots game featuring the last stand for the Swedes in Swedish Pomerania as the French land to attack a fort outside Stralsund.
Battle of Aughrim using Maurice presented by the Crewe and Nantwich Wargaming Club.

A Batman-themed game presented by Thor's Hammer Gaming Club. I took this shot of the scenery for future inspiration.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Rebels and Patriots - same scenario, different war

My second game of Rebels and Patriots was against my most frequent sparring partner, Ian. It was the same scenario as in my first game, 'First Clash at Lament Ridge', but set in the American Civil War.

Ian is a strong believer that rules covering an extended time period should nevertheless deliver a satisfying degree of period specificity. In his words:

"Do these rules really work in letting you believe that one week you're playing AWI and the next ACW? For me, not having played twice, the answer was "yes" because I realised, as a result of what you said, that the key lay in army creation and that's the important point. If you remember, we talked about the possibility of creating silly armies which would still be legal under the rules, but serious players like you and I can create period specific armies which would look and play quite differently from each other."

I couldn't express it better myself so I won't.

Once again I've got limited figures so I drew up the Company lists in advance.


Veteran Line Infantry, Aggressive, Poor Shooters 6
Veteran Line Infantry, Aggressive, Poor Shooters 6
Veteran Line Infantry, Aggressive, Poor Shooters 6
Skirmishers 2
Skirmishers 2
Skirmishers 2

Green Line Infantry 3
Green Line Infantry 3
Green Line Infantry 3
Green Line Infantry 3
Medium Artillery 6
Light Cavalry 6

Ian's Officer got Fortuna Belli giving a reroll of any set of dice once per game. I got Army Engineer which allows you to put one unit in breast-works if Defending.

Ian explained his strategy:

"I chose tactics that I would use in any game - the bulk of my forces looking to seize the objective, cavalry watching one flank, artillery in the best place I could find for covering as much of the battlefield as possible, leader in the centre to maximise coverage."

My strategy was to press forward behind a protective screen of Skirmishers and, as far as possible, to avoid the enemy artillery. Ideally I would Attack to close quarters as my Confederates were Aggressive but Poor Shooters.

It was a close-fought game that could have gone either way. Ian's Officer's unit was routed and Ian hit 50% casualties, but he controlled the objective for two turns to my one, so Ian was judged to have won. However, this game was a little rushed in some respects and we missed certain tests and factors owing to lack of familiarity with the rules. Had we properly played by the book I think the outcome of the game would have altered to the detriment of the Union side, so there's probably not much point in tracing the course of the battle in detail. The pictures show the general flow.

A number of observations might be made. In no particular order:
  • In comparison with my first game, this one involved much more use of Close Order
  • I began to appreciate the fundamental importance of Disorder and Rallying.
  • Green affects Activation etc but not the actual Firing/Fighting factors. So as long as they obey orders, Green troops can be pretty deadly.
  • I didn't make a determined effort to charge home, but I wonder if I would ever have made it. Perhaps the target needs to be Disordered first. This could be quite a challenge for Poor Shooters.
  • Officers are vulnerable. You really don't want to lose a unit, lose your Officer and lose 50% of your Company at the same time.
Prior to starting and given the use of so many Skirmishers,  we spent some time at the beginning wondering whether my Line Infantry could charge through my Skirmishers, a common tactic in other rules. First of all there would need to be a gap that allowed the formed unit to see the target, but what happens if the charge falls short?