Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Zulu using TMWWBK

The British camp defence. The British rifles in line provided huge firepower.  The NNC, with their red rags around the heads for identification,  provided additional firepower....well a bit anyway and luckily were not challenged in combat.  

Having just looked at my 15mm Zulu War collection the previous day when the call went out to host a game I thought of using them - they have been in the boxes much too long!  Hmm, using which rules?  Having played “The Men Who Would Be Kings” recently I figured I could guide everyone through and as JimF also joined, he could help.  Actually the first time using tribal forces by any of us (and it showed!) .

 I took the roll of the Zulu in my recreation of the famous Battle of Isandhlwana so I wanted the British players awed by the numbers facing them. They were not; despite having painted and based the remaining 96 I had yet to do, during the previous day. This ultimately gave the Zulu 6 impi/units with 48 figures each.  Actually not as impressive as it might sound as TMWWBK has the British infantry unit at 12 figures and a tribal at 16.  My 48 still represents the 16 strong tribal unit but in bases rather than individual figures; but the look on the table does somewhat display the historical strength disparity in this battle.
The 'historical attack' of the Zulu upon the British at the mountain of Isandhlwana.
While having appealing mass, still represents the 16 suggested by the rules.

I was discouraged almost immediately by my poor activation rolls for the Left Horn which did not get the order to advance apparently. Wrong side of the hill from the rest?  But the other impis were soon advancing at the double toward the British lines.

Francis commanding half the British which included the Natal Light Horse and he had them scout the plateau then do a sneaky move to go between two Impi,  which had left a gap, to move into the rear hoping to distract them (me) from advancing further.  I ignored that move and managed to move into contact of the left flank British company destroying half of that formation but excellent dice rolling by Jim (six of the twelve dice were 6s!) had my boys bounce off.  That was the closest the Zulu would get to any victory.  The overwhelming firepower by the British would not allow the Zulu to make contact despite their excellent discipline.
The excellent 'leadership' bonus of the elite modifier and my decent die rolling, had the Zulu arrive this far...they will however be shot up soon.....

The Left Horn finally came into range but by then the other units were spent.  In the post battle analysis, my advance without waiting for the Left Horn units was criticized as not timing the attack to arrive together. Probably correct. Using “Go To Ground” activation might have saved those units of ‘the Loin’ shot up, for later.  Also we started to talk of tactics (!) like using one unit in line to soak up hits as others come behind still fresh.  I set up my units as per the historical model and the usual Zulu way, but food for thought.  
only 5 of 16 left but my die rolls their bravery and discipline keep them in the battle.

While using 15mm figures, we made no changes to the rules including that of distances so using inches.  The Zulus with the extra d6 of movement and my unusually good activation die rolls for most of the game had them moving rapidly…into the rifle fire…. and defeat. History not repeated.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Westphalian 2nd Cuirassiers

the element of the 2nd Westphalian Cuirassiers 

The 2nd Westphalian Cuirassiers created in 1810 followed the Grande Armee into the depths of Russia during Napoleon’s ill-fated 1812 campaign from which few survived and the unit was never reestablished.  While historically limited to only one campaign, however the unit has an interesting uniform which I could make out of some spare plastic bits from a larger trade I made recently.  Among the trade items was plastic Perry models still on the one sprue but missing some bits.  A look into my parts-bin replaced some of the missing arms and equipment, etc.  The helmets are really the only difference from the French version and minor at that;  so I could easily remove the French horsehair and greenstuff the appropriate woollen comb of the Westphalians.  The only other major difference having the saddle cloth in the regimental orange. (for the French it was dark blue)

For the rivet counters: The 1st Westphalian Cuirassiers wore white but had only a frontal cuirass but no back plate.  And no, I will not want to try to scrape away the back to make that particular unit. One unit of Westphalian cuirassiers is plenty, thank you.

a wargamer's aside:
What was the worst order in military history?
In First Place:
" Lord Raglan wishes the Light Brigade to advance rapidly to the front...."
and in Second Place:
"Hello, MegloMiniatures? I would like to purchase 182 packs of...."

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Onion Dome Drawer Knob.....

I wanted to have a Russian church to match the meagre village houses I previously made and finally found an design example which could fit upon the small bases I require.  So unlike the previous MDF buildings I started with a foamcore frame.  Took an evening (Ok to be honest, a very long evening and into the early morning) to finish the structure and wood walls.

The onion dome is the quintessential look of the Russian Orthodox church.  Mine is a wooden drawer knob taken from a cabinet. (Geez, I hope the wife doesn’t notice!). The dome shape was built up with a bit of harden clay holding a makeshift balsa wood cross.

Overheard during a wargame:
"A quick game is a good game. Done, over, get over to the pub for beer and talk about it for three hours."

Monday, 26 February 2018

"enhancing" the MDF

Now being what might be described as a ‘veteran wargamer’ I still carry the old thinking that one has no other option than to scratch-build most or all of the required terrain for the painted toy soldiers to play within as we had to do decades ago.  But the proliferation of MDF building packs has eliminated the requirement to start making model buildings from the framing onward.  Heck most MDF models are even ‘pre-painted’ allowing the wargamer to quickly build and simply place on the table, yet  some are still very basic indeed.  I found a pack of these during the local hobby store’s sales and while still expensive compared to what you get I still purchased deciding I could enhance these.
the pictures at least do not cover up the fact these are VERY basic indeed.....

Now when I say basic, it is very basic and the purchaser must do much to make it even look the part.  The door is just a laser cut of the wall as are the windows.  The frames of those do have some nice decoration (most incongruent given the simplistic bareness of the model).
That being said, it IS an empty canvas as the saying goes, and so I could pencil on the outlines of the support beams and make it look like the ‘pimped-up’ 4Ground Tutor style building I created recently as can be seen in the first photo.

Here is the before and after shots:
the very basic building, before....
....and after 

I included railroad plastic windows, rearranged the door to be shifted back into the model and gave it a thin card (cereal box) tiled roof.  The woodwork and cracked lines are merely painted on.
So really, it is mostly scratch-build with only the MDF forming a sturdy and squared frame to utilize.

Using the experience from the first of the two identical models in the package, with the second I have drawn a different pattern of support beams and will probably put a thatch roof to vary the look.

I'll probably end up with a whole town of these MDF buildings

An aside:
Heard a conversation at the club.  The one member asked the other "Why don't more members go to the Annual General Meeting?"  "Probably", suggests the other, "they don't want to risk the chance they might be elected to the Board."

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Engagement at Bombuko Mission House

The Engagement at Bombuko Mission House Feb 2, 1917

JimF offered to host at the Trumpeter’s club’s monthly GameNight to have his nicely painted Belgian Force Publique vs my French Foreign Legion….

Dear Mere,

It is your son, the legionnaire ,  writing again about my latest action. Of the preamble, mine is not to reason why, but to do or die; and so we of the Legion are to advance a great distance to a place to gather some gold but it is that our elite but small force must engage a larger for of Force Publique in dense terrain somewhere in Africa.
somewhere in Africa....

As we must advance, we brought our new artillery.  The colonel did some “horse trading” and sold the original 75 gun gained with the crew and now is using other model.  The colonel says “it looks better the part”.  Whatever.  It was useful in causing many casualties on the nearest blue clad Belgian askari unit.  But throughout the battle it would be slow to move into position.
the new artillery piece (a Reveresco British Howitzer)

To the right, the second company came under long range rifle plus machine gun fire and rapidly were decimated and soon were hor-de-combat. For our part, we also had too many bullets coming our way and loses building.  Only our superior discipline had us still in the fight.

Editor’s Note:  the plus 2 really helps on the dice rolls!
Jim's rather nice FP (Foundry Figures)

But nevertheless we needed to move into a thicket to offer some protection. All thought of advance quickly forgotten.  Captain Premiermont was extorting us with “Think of France! Think of France! when a bullet struck him down.
Pressure from the right

from early in the battle, Captain Premiermort in on the right.  

Editor’s Note: Yes, once again I rolled double ones for Leader Killed.  But heck with six different rolls of a total of only three on two dice rolled at various times during the game as an indication it was enviable. 

The Artillery having ever so slowly moving at only 4 inches a turn, finally engaged far targets and doing some good but the askari to our right were now putting us under heavy fire.  Again, our discipline kept us together, however, with only three of us remaining we were pinned and finally forced to retreat into the open.  The end was nigh.  As I write this last passage I hope tha…….
The end of the Legion.


Jim’s use of rubber terrain pieces and plastic aquarium plants was fairly effective.  The heavy vegetation did not help either side as the dominance of rifles and modern firepower.  The The Men Who Would Be Kings rules are as we came to understand are not designed for two equally modern armed to have a good game.  Well, OK, maybe good for August 1914 in northern France at the start of WW1 when such conditions helped establish the building of trenches.  In that case, as our game demonstrated in the choices during the game made by Jim and myself, advancing is impossible thus doomed and defensive cover required to survive. Long range artillery is needed and more troops required for any attack.  So in many ways this game was very much like the early battles of WW1 when 200,000 casualties occurred in the first month; but a “classical colonial” game is was not.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Murat at Eylau

Murat at Eylau

Our big Napoleonic game for the upcoming Enfilade! convention in Olympia, Washington State this year is Eylau.  A large, but largely indecisive battle between the French and Russians.  This battle was notable for the very large cavalry charge led by the flamboyant French cavalier Joachim Murat across the snows to charge the masses of Russians during this winter battle.

Many paintings of this event have been produced to portray this colourful character of history.
Murat during the Battle of Eylau 1807
Murat is on the right of the command knot.

While I already have a figure of him in his uniform during the battle of Heilsburg (see my previous post: link ),  this fashionista was notable for his various attire. Each was distinctive at the different battle and as we have one player paying us in beer in order to command the massed French heavy horse,  I decided we must have him play with the correct miniature.

I initially was going to make the model myself out of the plastic bits plus a lot of ‘green stuff’ but then noted that the figure manufacturer “Gringo40” offered a good option.
The Gingo40 version from its website.

I purchased him  (plus three Mamelukes to fill out the order).  Still, the price along with shipping, seemed quite expensive.  The minis, including our Monsieur Murat,  are a bit tall having rather thick bases for the normal 28mm,  as have done with this Murat, I will need to dig trenches in the MDF base to place the figures into, to drop the height somewhat.

The Gringo40 figure is not badly done with the pose obviously based on a famous painting (see above).  However, that absolutely ridiculous sword I removed,  replacing with the proper riding whip
Murat at Eylau without that ridiculous Gringo40 overly-large simitar!

The ground work is incomplete.  The battle, and thus his fur-lined cloak, were for the winter conditions which apparently were horrible with snow and freezing conditions.  This would suggest a snow covered terrain on the base.  However the rest of the armies are with green grass as will be the tabletop terrain.  We will fight the battle in May not February so no snow. Thus the whitened base will look very strange on the table and go very much against my ideal of visual continuity.

But do I portray the snow??, leave as is?? or add the grass and say “what-ev-er!” ??

Ah, these little wargaming hobby dilemmas which keep us up at night  :)

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Stretcher Bearers

The Perrys have created wonderful vignettes including a few ‘casualty’ scenes which I have painted.  The Russian one (link: post ) was built around their Apothecary Wagon to which I added their wounded.  The French Larrey’s wagon is marvellous (link: photo ).  Their ACW wagon (link: Perry site) I converted some of the figures to create one for the Belgian contingent of the 100 Days Campaign (link: my post ).

And so I wanted to continue the theme for my other contingents of Napoleonic armies.  So far no Prussian offerings.  Sigh.
For the British also nothing era related.  The new range of Cape War does offer a stretcher party. (link: photo ) I could work with that.

original Perry model from their website.
While the cuffs are wrong, that was easily remedied with removal and the lace painted on. The coat tails are longer but I left those; as too the rolled blanket-pack which I merely painted black to match the trotter style packs of the rest of my British collection. The very era looking heads or caps were cut off to be replaced with correct plastic versions.  I liked the stovepipe look better so went with those as they were used at Waterloo by some British and Hanoverian regiments.

While probably more just for eye-candy for the tabletop and fill in some of the open spaces, it could be employed to identify the zone of retreat for the army should it be required.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The "Rustmobile"

And now for something completed different….

My friend’s new offering of Mad Max racing boats (see his posts building of and game) had me reminisce about the time I created a Mad Max style vehicle made from a toy model of a HMMV (Hummer).  A long time ago, one of the more creative members of the club came up with a game that would have armed and armoured vehicles race around laps through an obstacle course in Mad Max themed mayhem.
Each item of defence or attack or other aspects like driver qualities had a point system so hypothetically each player was equal with different equipment.  The points were linked to the dice rolls in attack or defence if I recall correctly.

I took the toy Hummer and cut the top off, added plastic sheets for armor, a flame-thrower on the front and a heavy machine gun/bolter in the back. The vehicle’s crew are old Games Workshop Orks (roughly 28mm sized.  The model about 5 inches / 12 cm long) .  The rules included pit stops so I made one including a goblin mechanic holding a large screw driver tool and decorated with tool boxes and bits of rusted metal found on an old construction site and splotches of oil stains.

Built and driven by Orcs, I figured they were not into aesthetics nor maintenance and so I painted the thing as a rusted out piece of sh*t.  It was quickly named by other players the “Rustmobile”

Based on the point system related to the effectiveness, one could choose any sort of propulsion system (track, wheel, rocket), amount of armor, type of weapons etc.  I went for heavily armoured, slow and poorly driven (they ARE Orks are they not?) saving those points to give me firepower up front with a flamer, and in the rear with a heavy bolter gun.

This was years ago mine you, but still remember one game in which I started the game at the very back of the field but within three laps had burnt any vehicles in front or shot up any vehicle which had the temerity to try to lap me; thus winning the race!

Like bringing out of storage the old stuffed bear you had as a kid, it is fun to dig out an old model and give it a view.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The battles of El Nowhere-a

It was the monthly club night and being available WillB and I decided to again bring out the collections of "colonials" for a game of "The Men Who Would Be Kings" ( TMWWBK) rules.

In this case his WW1 Kings African Rifles would face my 1920's era French Foreign Legion  somewhere in what is now modern day Mali during a border dispute in 1927.
My French Foreign Legion contingent in action near El Nowhere-a 
Will's KAR 

We were joined by the two Jims,  JimF becoming "French Jim" and JimL becoming "British Jim".

We rolled for our commanders and poor French Jim rolled double ones which left him with an absolute poor leadership rolls to make all game long.  Mine were only a bit better but the leadership number in these rules are extremely critical.  Will did very well with his British rolls, "British Jim" not as much.  
The old mud 'temple' is one of those mash paper paste packing crates and one found in my brother's recycle bin at Christmas.  The original and rather too regular oval top opening was enlarged and made ragged and a few wood rods glued in to give the impression of a fallen roof. I didn't put much time into it in any event.   The 'market' is from Will's collection of terrain pieces.
 The tents are old 'dixie' paper water cups, cut down and overturned. Now OOP I assume.

Again I will not go into the details of the game, mainly as I cannot remember them (!)  not having them jotted down at the time as I do when doing solo play. But do remember my machine gun giving the British "Hero of the Empire" unit a couple of casualties causing a pinning and later another poor roll by Will in their rally test thus have them depart the battle rather early in the contest. One could say they did a ignoble scarper or if you want the British perspective, you can read Will's post at link

 However the French could not move with their poor leadership and the firepower of the British eventually overwhelmed the legionnaires.  
The elite FFL under what had become rather dubious leadership.

With a rapid conclusion of that battle, we had time for another.  We changed the table orientation to allow the forces to get at it quicker.  We also forego any leadership trait rolls opting for a universal 6+ for each side. The elite Foreign Legion having +2 discipline, the KAR +1 as per the unit points.  
British Jim's unit in soft cover of the market during the second engagement.

Again in this game, numbers would overwhelm quality, with the poorer shooting KAR getting more shots into the outnumbered but elite Legion who could make most but not all the necessary pinning and rally tests required of them from the lead flying their way.  
This will probably be the outcome, tactical mistakes not withstanding, with most regulars vs regulars actions.  In more asymmetrical battles, this may not be the case.  

Two tents.  Will B. suggested I should try to relax.

You can get the British perspective with Will's very nice write-up on the games (see:link)

Friday, 12 January 2018

The 2nd Battle of El Blundar

After the debacle against the Arabs, see my previous post for details [link ] , the Legion assigned those officers to less dangerous posts and assigned new officers to command the escort of the donkey train to a distant fort....or in other words I rolled up their new characteristics.  Not too bad with good numbers and only one coward! He must had been a Flashman type as his leadership was very good meaning the unit will follow orders and maintain cohesiveness but not allowed to get near the enemy charge distance. Oh well, shooting will be the standard tactic this day.

The rules certainly do not require officer characteristics and these smack a bit of role-playing.  There are more generalized charts to establish command qualities; rolling a 1 will give you a fairly poor leadership, a 6 very good; and this varies being regular or tribal.

In this case I gave the French Foreign Legion units very good commanders and reduced the firepower of the Arabs giving them 'tribal' status which gives them more units and better fighting characteristics.

With the forces set, the battle plans were made.  The Arabs would again wait in ambush withholding fire...what worked once will work again.  The legionaries with knowledge of the ambush would attack the southern flank of the wadi and roll up the line. The machine gun on the left would cover any attack over the open ground and the middle rifle unit would be a fire reserve.  Thusly the Legion's right flank rifle unit, the 1st company,  advanced in skirmish formation and started firing into the wadi full of the waiting desert men.  The close range shooting did significant casualties prompting that unit to lose heart and vanish into the desert. The tribe beside it seemed unaffected by such self-preservation and were not pinned. Indeed that unit fired at the 2nd company who were at long range for the Arab's obsolete weapons causing no hits among the riflemen.
The 1st company in firing position.
Using their free actions, the 'right flank' Arab units moved along the wadi toward their 'left' and the advancing FFL to prevent the enfilading of their position.  Despite the protection of the wadi, the legionnaire's 'sharpshooter' status paid off as the Arabs suffered many casualties and continued to be pinned in the wadi.

While the firefight was going on at the wadi, to the north-west, the two units of Arabs emerged from behind the hill and advanced upon the FFL left held by the machine gun.  Despite the 'free action' which allows the tribal forces to move without an leadership/activation test, they had a lot of flat desert to cross and the machine gun opened up at long range causing casualties and with pinning tests and subsequent failed rally tests, very quickly both Arab units were swept away by the effective (read: lower dice roll required for hits) of the well-manned legionnaire gun.
Arab units in the wadi with casualties markers and pinned indicators.  Masters of concealment aren't they!

The second company having briefly helped the machine gun deal with the western attack, they now moved to the right and with the combined firepower of the formed up 1st company, quickly dissipated further Arab resolve.

The path to the fort now lay open.
Due to having only two units of rifles and only one machine gun, I was 'forced' to upgrade them significantly to obtain the prescribed 24 points of a field force.  As I have no intention of increasing the legionary numbers and think the upgrades suit the perceived quality of the FFL in any event, I am very pleased the numbers which happened to be in the purchase do work for the game.

Of obtaining and painting the Arabs?  I actually think the use of the sisal mats quite interesting as I can place the markers directly on them and think they play the part well.  Could use dust storms with coloured cotton batting, but I have more of the sisal and will, I think, cut appropriately sized circular patches.