Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Basing tutorial

As many of my fellow wargamers are volunteering to do up some units for our Napoleonic games I have been asked to provide a tutorial on how I have done the basing technique of our units

I like to have a clean, and 'unified' table without what I think of jarring effect of dissimilar terrain.  This is important to the look of the figures, the look of the game and indeed the rules themselves, the type, shape and size of the base of miniatures can be as important to the game as the miniatures themselves.

The compliments which Seth and I receive for the look of our games come in no small part from the unifying effect of a universal basing style which we will stress to maintain as more of our fellow wargamers join us in collecting for these Napoleonic rules.  With that in mind, I have produced this tutorial on our simple basing technique which is easy and IMHO looks very good on the table.

Da Basing - Step by Step
Step 1 - attach 'painter's tape' found at your local Home Depot or hardware or even dollar store, which will cover an area at the rear edge of the stand.  We find 2" by 0.5" is adequate.  Although I must admit that for some units I make it a bit longer to accommodate some of the commanders very long names !

Step 2 - glue down the figures and dice frame. A 7mm d6 in black is used.  These can be found at:
http://www.minibits.net/Hit-Marker-Dice-Frames-c22/7mm-Frames-sc62/

Step 3 - once that glue is dry (!) smear on the Elmer's "Walnut" wood putty.  See photo captions for more details. Do note that it can dry within 5 minutes or sooner depending on thickness applied so perhaps do two at a time, going back to first once the second one is 'smeared' to touch it with the dappling brush to give more of a look of dirt .

Step 4 - detach tape and paint exposed areas with brown paint.

Step 5 - if not previous done  [ I find it cleaner to to this step initially ] paint or repaint the edge of the base with black paint.

Step 6 - glue on flocking.  Inevitably there will be parts missed or don't look that earthy; perhaps you still may see some "wave" action from the application of the putty.  No fear.  Simply cover those areas with the Woodland Scenics "Blended Turf" flocking.  I tend to cover most of the edges of the base and quite a bit all over but do to your satisfaction.  Additional representation of small bushes and vegetation can be done but for the most part these steps will produce basing that will match all the other fellows and produce an excellent look to the game.

The tools of the trade.  Note the size of the base for all infantry and cavalry is 12 cm x 6 cm [ 4 3/4" by 2 3/8" )  The wood - MDF or plywood - is 1/4" thick.   Painter's tape, several old stiff brushes along with coffee stir sticks or any such tool to apply the wood putty which is a paste.
the "earth " we use.  no need to paint , easy to apply.  Also very easy to clean with water, non-toxic - but I wouldn't eat it  - and have never found an irritant (??) and can be cut easily once dry if necessary.  Water will dilute so try to keep it from moist brushes.
the green 'painters tape' is placed at the rear of the base and is usually 2 inches by 1/2". The dice frame is place at the rear right corner. { most people are right handed and so this is the easiest place to reach to change the dice facing }
the initial smear of the wood putty ( my newly painted British Light Dragoons )
our grass, man   No. Not THAT type!  
the stiff brush in action
the idea is too roughen up it a bit to give the putty an earthy ground effect and to obscure any 'wave action' created in the application of the putty.
The putty cover.  You will notice the lack of putty and smooth effect under the horse of it's base.  This will be covered by flocking later.
You may notice that a bit is missing and other imperfections. These can be simply covered by glued flocking later.
Any thin areas dry quickly however these are usually on the outside edge which I mostly cover anyway as to blend into the mat surface covered in the same material.
Hmm, I tried removing the tape before the putty had dried and it came off well.  Still should wait until the putty fully dries before painting the exposed areas of wood.  The area is kept 'clean' so to allow easy attachment of our "Command Labels" These are pieces of green card on which the particular General's name in historical command of this brigade and which can be changed for each battle or scenario.  The labels are attached by 'Blu-Tak' or similar low adhesive gum.
While in the past I have used a home mixed versions of the colour of the wood putty, I have found this paint in my local hobby store. It is called "Shield Brown" #09161
Previously done French cuirassier with and without a Command Label

Well that is it, I guess.  Yup, that easy.
Hope this helps.
....DougH

Borodino Tabletop Beta Test

Napoleonic megalomania strikes once again!
Very happy with the the big game we had recently and now encouraged by at least three of the guys joining with promises to paint up specific corps of Russians, I wanted to see if we indeed could pack it all onto a regular convention sized table of 8 x 5 feet, be proportional to the actual field of battle, have enough room for all the terrain and...do it in glorious 28mm!

The battle of Borodino (bor-rod-nee-yo) has always been on my war gamer 'bucket list' but I was not going to get involved in the usual uber-game which we all come to expect, with hundreds of battalion.  Be they large or small, these are still units which firing and melee calculations must be dealt with...in their hundreds .  And so a very slow game and with only limited time in the day they end with the typical, "well you kinda won over there; we are beating you over here and if I can march my guard over to the redoubt, and with some good rolls I might be able to......."

Baa.

   As you can see only some 64 elements for the Russians which will be handled by many players.  The combat rules and firing rules are very easy to pick up and players start quoting the numbers by the fourth turn.   But it seems to work and feel like you the player are a corps commander whose job is to time the deployment of your reserves. And surely numbers will come into play as the photos will attest.
I have listed the main terrain points as reference to the actual battle.  Maps abound but I have used primarily that of the well known expert Christopher Duffy which I had for, well, forever.  Obviously with such high ratios and specific base size [ which has no known size ratio/calculation! but simply cause it looks "right"] I found it all worked well to create the proper dimensions.

I used about 2/3 my collection, merely grabbing elements out of boxes to position them, so you ignore the uniforms, troop types and even nationality all you 'button-counters' out there! Grin. But cavalry will be a cavalry element, infantry is infantry if not of the correct type.

The whole field of battle / the whole tabletop of Borodino in our scale anyway. 8 x 5 foot table.  The view is from the south, looking north with the French to the left, Russians to the right.

The battlefield's centre showing the Russian positions of the Grand Redoubt, Fleches and the destroyed village of Semenoskaya in the center.  Davout's Corps nearest on the right, Ney's and Jerome's Corps to the left.
Raevsky's Russian Corps in the middle 
The Russian right flank.
The French left of Eugene Corps with cavalry supports
From Kutusov's view of his army and the French columns in the distance
The Fleches will need to be modelled as they had a smaller footprint on the tabletop but not of lesser importance. And yes, Davout's Corps will start only inches away in the game. As historically, no manoeuvre; just straight at it!!  
The southern end of the battlefield with Tuchkov's Corps defending against Poniatowski (at right) And who said there was no room?

 Yes, it is a "tight" tabletop but then again, it was historically.  I believe we wargamers spend too much real time merely marching our figures to action. Three or four turns lifting up and placing back down bases which have moved a few inches moving in a roughly straight line towards the enemy.  Heck, we generally don't have too much options where to fight the combats on the table anyway.  All that manoeuvring should have occurred before getting on the field anyway.  Much like for Borodino when Davout's wide flanking move was rejected by Napoleon. So now just up the middle.  All the tactical moves of regiments are not of our concern, only the bigger picture.
 So in that respect I must say this Beta test was a success, now just to paint up a few Russians, eh?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The big Summer Battle

The call out was made and Bob and James drove all the way from Oregon to play our Napoleonic rules!
I hosted my annual big Napoleonic game with a fictional battle between my Prussians and Seth's (also American by the way) Austrians/Bavarians.  Local boys Ian and Bob joined for the early morning start.

Once coffee was on, we got all the food and drink settled and all have arrived I present a very brief  outline that with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Prussia is back being irked that they did not get the whole of Saxony from the Congress of Vienna, and so they and the Austrians are at it again.

The leading Prussian brigades foot sore heard of a shoe factory at Wantizburg but thereby bumping into the lead elements of the Austrian Army.  Having designs on the territory, the Prussians did not want to destroy the town, as likewise did the Austrians and so each did not contest the town, for the benefit of the game play and this historical action.

I challenged the players to identify the tabletop.  I said it was well-known historic battle but not Napoleonic.  James got it straight away.  Gettysburg (what you Wantiz is not always what you Gettys..... yeah, silly but I got to call it something!)   Where forth we ended up calling it Gettysburg regardless of the troops and surprisingly, it turned out very close to the real thing!
The battle of "Gettysburg" looks to be about early "Day Two"

We had 7 smallish corps on the Austro-Bavarian side and 4 larger corps on the Prussian side. (some 55 elements in total for the Prussians alone)  Very similar in corps numbers to the historical action.
The Confederate masses of Johnson and Early's brigades... I mean Thielemann's Prussians commanded by James.
View from the NNW with Ewell's/Bulow's Corps under "American Bob" pushing back the Bavarians of Howard's Corps under local Bob's command (he later took Sickles' Corps also). 

It is still play-testing, so we tried out as new rules: the use of sub-commanders, we looked at the new artillery usage and quickly developed new corps morale [ Seth and I were exchanging emails the night before! ] and these were further refined during the game.  We did a lot of discussion during the 8 hours of play and even so, got a conclusion based on objectives if not corps morale breaks (as everyone kept rolling very well for these)

I had each corps come on the table in generally the same time and direction as historical; perhaps waiting or placing on the table as the situation dictated for the "storyline of Gettysburg" but it worked everyone seemed to think.
Seth's Austrians playing the part of Sickles Corps marching just in time to occupy the Round Top hills.  Old Glory figures on the left, Perry plastics on the right.
The battle was a close one and at the end, the Union Army (sorry, Austro-Bavarians) kept a hold on the flanking hills of Culp's and the Round Tops to eke out a victory.  The key combat was, and this so mimics history as to be almost scary,  a final desperate attack uphill by my two beaten up elements vs "Canadian Bob"'s isolated brigade.  The odds were even - I had numbers, he had the uphill position - and we were all at the minimum 1 MP. As our combat rule goes,  if I roll higher than he I win and take no hits and thus will take the absolute flanking hill of the A-B army.  If we tie, we both mutually destroy our combat effectiveness.But at least he is gone.    I roll a 2 but...he rolls a 3 (the best roll possible and only 16% chance of making!) and thus takes out both my units without loss to himself.  While this occurred not on Little Round Top but on the representation of Big Round Top, it was certainly the ultimate 20th Maine moment and assured the victory for the Union, aah, Austrians as it did in the real battle
Sorry for the fuzzy photo but I guess I was excited about the opportunity to take Big Round Top hill (at right) with my two brigades at the very left flank of the Austrian army and perhaps win the day for the Kaiser.  But as I describe in the text, Bob rolled high and he had a 20th Maine moment alas.  All game my corps move rolls were very poor and so I had many unsupported and disjointed attacks and Plum Creek along with Devil's Den - note the large rocks - disordered any moves I tried to make. Gneisenau was not impress by my performance this day
Had the Prussians had a heavy horse cuirassier division at this point we would have thrown it at Cemetery Ridge in a Pickett like gamble but alas I have not collected any as none were present in the 100 Days Campaign.  Hmm should I do them up regardless?? Oh lord, that Napoleonic black hole is gaining strength.....

Seth and I spent a bit more time after the other's departure going thru the action and the rules.
 We are getting there.

Thanks for James, the two Bobs, Ian and Seth for joining me in the big game and it proves that Napoleonics can look good, be a massive game but still play quick and fun and to conclusion.





Friday, 15 August 2014

27th Reg't of Foot - The Inniskillens

"Your old friends, the Inniskillens"  "Ah, yes, Delancy" , says Wellington, "I have flogged more of them than the whole army put together."

I love the movie "Waterloo". Not because of the subject matter, but that the characters, at first viewing seem so over-the-top in their acting; especially one would image Rod Steiger playing 'Napoleon' but the more I read about them, especially the actual correspondence, one come to better appreciate the dialogue of the movie.  I read one of Napoleon's letters to his brother Jerome and it was a screaming rant! So Napoleon, the Corsican he was, was quite the emotional man.
Wellington was not, or outwardly anyway, but perceptive regardless, and the scene with him and his aide coming across the Inniskillen soldier with a plundered pig in his pack was a funny one.

"Take off your pack, sir" demands Wellington of the poor soldier.  "Me. Sir?" "You, sir!"

The 27th is one of those "buff" regiments and while some debate rages whether the army continued the old practice of then having matching buff leather work belts, I chose to do that as it will make them that more distinctive from the other British units I will do. This and having the flags - excuse me - 'colours' of this regiment, and with its fame, I had to paint it and,of course,  re-enact this film's scene on my stand.

"Wellington" is a Essex French officer with lapel removed and the bicorne severely reshaped to give it a more Wellingtonian curve.  It looks quite the part I think.  The poor soldier I did in plastic with strips for the loose straps as he holds it out for his commander's inspection.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Battle of Wartenburg replay


"Hey Doug, I'm in town. Are you available tomorrow evening for a game?", asked MikeB on the phone.  "Heck yeah!", was my response, so I had to come up something quick.   I am still on my Nappy bend and the big game is in a week so good for a primer game.

The scenario I had in my back pocket was the Battle of Wartenburg.

During the Autumn campaign in Germany of 1813, The Prussians looked to find a crossing across the Elbe River and moved at Wartenburg.  Morand's corps awaited the Prussians confident in their defence as the area was low lying and crossed with marshes, woods, muddy ground and irrigation canals.
Looking north-west with the town of Wartenburg on the top of this photo with the Prussians to cross the Elbe River at the far table edge.  Historically they did attacks against the village as they made their way south to take the village Bleddin seen on the bottom of the photo sweeping up to the hamlet of Globig [ upper left ] thereby flanking the French and forcing Morand's retreat.
As with most re-creations on the tabletop, there is much compromise in the terrain as this very is dependent upon what items one has, their dimensions and scale.  A large determining consideration must be the rules themselves and how the terrain will effect movement and combat results which will approximate the historical battle.
seen from the south west, the centre pond and plowed fields represents the difficult terrain facing the Prussian attackers.  The villages of Wartenburg and Bleddin at left and right respectively and the hamlet of Globig nearest. The Elbe River along the upper right forms the extent of the battlefield.
view from the north and that of the Prussians.  Always in these photos, the amount of 'green area' looks soooo much more than the actual eye conceives.

The troops deployed were of near equal strength with both corps at some 12,000.
 Prussian OOB  French OOB
Due to the 'small' size of the battle, at least for these rules, I dropped down the ratio to 1 infantry element to 1,000 actual men and cavalry elements to a few squadrons each.
The lead Prussian elements
Surprisingly little on the net for this battle but I had an old article from the now defunct Practical Wargamer magazine by Phil Wilkins which I used as a basis.
Again due to the 'small' size of the action, as each force was of corps strength, I placed each under one command and allowed the player to take elements as they saw fit with no regard to divisional integrity as usual. I kept the historical organization and deployment for the French but for the Prussians I left it open.  [I used Bulow's corps of the 100 Days campaign which fit well and thus I did not need to change the labels!  The French labels were also not adjusted so ignore them for the narrative ]

Knowing the scenario and with the French in a passive mode, I gave MikeB the Prussian attackers. I took the French forces which included Italians and Wurttemburgers which are as yet unpainted in my boxes, so more French were employed.

Historically they apparently made a passive defence as the Prussians masked their positions with heavy attacks.  Nonetheless,  a thrust was made to the south end of the position at village of Bleddin thereby flanking the French position around the hamlet of Globig forcing a retreat.

With the look of his initial column of troops Mike had me thinking he was going to follow history,  as the lead light horse units with accompanying horse artillery moved near Bleddin.
In an attempt to divert some of the lengthy column I sent out, foolishly, a lone brigade which was quickly routed and with its loss, further weakening my forces.
The Prussians swinging around to assault the village of Wartenburg 
The Prussian infantry then turned right and moved toward the town and the defended muddy field.  As historically the French benefited from irrigation canals in the area to break up the Prussian attacks I placed a small waterway so the Prussians are disordered in their assaults.  Mike was hoping for good artillery support but the French artillery had quickly silenced much of his artillery so his assaults were stalled and his additional artillery could not do much effect on the French in the town.

Meanwhile, the Italians of Fontanelli's command awaited the Prussians across a disordering muddy field to mimic the boggy fields of the area through which the Prussians were forced to move through.
The round markers with abandoned backpacks indicate these elements have been disorganized by muddy fields and such. I  always use 'discrete' markers for my games liking a nice, clean battlefield!  
We each had 14 elements and each had only a d6 for PIP movement.  To provide a greater degree of command control, The Prussians were given two General stands to better keep elements in command range.  For future games, this might be employed for those multiple commands for example.

As it was late in the campaign and the French corps having many allied contingents, I kept the French element strength levels fairly low while the Prussians were given higher values for their "War of Liberation".  With similar strengths but with important disordering terrain to fight over, the forces were thus even and this showed in the combat which wore down each side tremendously.
"Vorvarts!!"

 Having a well timed barrage, the French were able to weaken the last of the Prussian strong brigades and thus drive the battle into a stalemate with each side unable to amount any further attacks - all elements were at only 1 MP at this point!
It was a good point to end the game as Mike needed to get up early for more business appointments. Later as I tried to get a conclusion to the game, it became apparent that nothing would be resolve as each force was on its very last legs and combats merely destroyed both.

While the artillery seemed now to have the correct effect and firepower in the rules, "divisional morale", to use the Shako rules parlance, needs to be addressed somehow. Each battle seems to produce a single emphases on the rules which is thus thought upon and corrected which has thus been a good thing for its development.  Perhaps this "army morale" question is the final puzzle to be solved?

Mike seemed to enjoy himself and got to push around some lead - mostly plastics mind you - and I was happy that the scenario worked and we could have a 'big' Napoleonic battle on a small 5' by 4' table size with 28mm.