Thursday, 23 April 2015

ACW balloon

While tossing about boxes in the household storage looking for something, a box of very old and unused Christmas stuff fell and out rolled a plastic tree bobble.  I intended to quickly stuff it back in, when I was stuck by the shape and size.  My wargamer brain kicked in immediately and I may just work!

So later that evening I put everything else aside and tried to be inventive.  What I had seen was a balloon, a 15mm-ish sized balloon from the 'ribbing' typical of the Christmas tree ornaments.  Well, long story short, I finally came up with a facsimile of a period balloon.  Certainly not historic by any means and certainly not even structurally feasible, probably not aerodynamic to be sure, but kinda looks the part.

Absolutely no mathematics was involved in the following!  I merely started by eyeballing the height which I thought was high enough to look the business but as low as possible to not make it too top heavy. (ed. ~8")  Needing to firmly anchor the, thankfully, light weight bobble/balloon I used a rod of aluminum which I twisted around a real twig/ scale tree. It was further anchored by using one of the 15mm OldGlory weird poses, in this case a soldier heaving a large rock over his head (!) and drilled a hole through what would have the rock and fed the rod through the now grasping hands and then up into another hole drilled in a solid cube of balsa wood forming the basket and thus finally into the hollow interior of the upside-down bobble.

"Engineeringly speaking" I have thus placed all this light weight directly over the anchor point for stability which is further helped by the tree "buttress". All this on a card stand with a surprising and welcomed, small table "footprint".
 I gathered some 'green stuff' to to create the loose part of the balloon under the inflated part which further hides the wire.  The wire, while very thick in scale (hey it was what I had at hand!) was painted to look like rope. While ideally I would have liked to have more soldiers holding the rope none were at hand, so I would hate to be that poor soldier who seems to be that close to being suspended himself, but he makes the use of the wire look like a guiding rope hanging from the basket and thus perhaps the illusion of a flying American Civil War observation balloon.

 A few quick photos before I get on to other more pressing stuff.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

"Save the Whiskey" a French and Indian Wars affair

I had a rare opportunity to attend the Trumpeter club night and with TerryS's ( game director) usual frantic calls for games, I decided to bring my FIW collection out as I thought I had the rules set down tight (incorrectly as it turns out) , and in 28mm should look OK.

My submission described the scenario as thus: Dark Woods, Howling Natives, Provincials scared witless.  But the whiskey wagon must get through.  What more do you want?
The large British escort for the important whiskey wagon

My second misperception of the night was that people actually read Terry's club emails as everyone came by to ask what I was putting on.....

Anyway, KevinA and PeterM decided to give it a go with the former taking the French and the latter the British.  Just because I wanted in, and that the table was the largest area I have used for my FIW so wanted to 'fill some space',  I lead the Natives aka Red Indians aka the Savages.  Probably unfair to use them against one or the other I thought; so I diced per turn and see who I would attack! Hopefully both during the battle.
The French in their summer wear red sleeved waistcoats await the British advance

Both players took plenty of regulars with each thinking as the wagon must go down the road and in open ground, the regulars would be best suited than the Provincials, Militia or lights.  Therefore Kevin lined up his French regulars and started blasting away.
The 'cannonball' markers behind many of the elements represent the number of hits.  The result of the firefight across the open wheat field and road
The British lights covering the wagons move up the road.
The French militia in the lower right gang up on the Gage's boys (in brown coats)

  Peter responded by fanning out with his lights on the flanks but his command was slowed (poor pip rolls) and Kevin took out his lights and with continued fire from the front, eventually eliminated most of the British. With few left, Peter had no choice but to turn the wagon around and get out while he could.  The fort's liquor rations would be slim for some time.
"Jeb, where be the wagon? I am thirsty"  The fort awaits the whiskey.  It was constructed from clippings directly from a gentleman while out for a walk visiting my parents a few years ago.  They will make a great fort I told my incredulous mother.

And my Natives?  Well, my leading war band charged and took out the unsuspecting French militia (mon du, are dey no on ouwer side?!) but switching sides the next turn, went up against the Highlanders and were "quick-killed" - basically an all or nothing fighting unit these war bands! With their loss, I would have to roll higher than the number of native elements left which I did not do so the others left for the longhouse.
Images of Bushy Run?

painting of the Battle of Bushy Run by Don Troiani

The longhouse is a resin bought years ago and I think OOP.  Took some effort to paint it to look realistic.

Players view of the battlefield. The stick is actually a stem from my spring clippings.  I thought that they would make great measuring tools rather than rulers as to 'blend' into the terrain somewhat.  I have them in differing lengths.  They can be seen in some of the other photos.  Some of the blank markers might be seen - but blend in quite well!
Kevin and Peter gave good input into the rules and my phase sequencing and so Peter and I with a bit more time in the evening, set up again with the British and once again mostly regulars escorting the whiskey wagon.  I took the Indians placing them randomly around the forest using blank stands (artfully decorated with 'shrubbery' ) not knowing who is real and who is not.  No command control for the savages!
Checking out shadows in the woods.  I have many of these blank stands to create a bit of fear of the unknown wihtin the woods for the player.
However with the blanks, Peter was unsure which way to face as I moved the natives to all sides of his developing 'square formation' but he left a gap uncovered so I had one group move to take the wagon. With all the British still around, the tribesmen decided moving the wagon was unfeasible and so merely smashed in the kegs feverishly drinking the contents! That, we decided would make them go "warband" but next turn the British regulars would shortly dispose of the Indians to their front and next turn and eliminate the last native threat.
Close up of a war band and the 60th line in their campaign dress with dark blue gaiters

We ended the game continuing to examine the rules with the result I will now need to totally revamp the entire set.  Two steps forward, two steps back.

I hope the boys enjoyed themselves and it is good to get the collection photographed under the nice lights.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Star Wars - Armada intro game

SeanR., our local Star Wars fanatic, invited me for an intro game of Armada, the new-ish game from the Star Wars stable.  While he does have the 'X-Wing' version which is the more individual 'fighter' vs 'fighter' game, "Armada" employs the big boys and more of them, in fleet actions including the small Tie and X-wing fighters in squadron formations handled in a more abstract method.  I think this is the game envisioned by the huge big screen battles of the movies.  Now one can have truly large  Imperial Destroyers, the big transports and such.
The "beast"

The rules are built in such a way as one can continue to add complexity and nuance with special abilities and characteristics (different armour, weapons, etc) if wanted or just the average-joe type for the beginner or occasional player.  All the measuring devices, dials, symbols, numbers presented on the various chits, bases and cards all - eventually - mean something and are quite well thought out.
As only one example, to indicate a squadron's "activation" the game designers have a sliding card which can moved through the model' base from one side to the other, each side having a different color.  As each turn is either one or the other, the player can easily see if the said squadron has been activated. With the many squadrons used, this is a very simply but effective game tool.
four squadrons of Tie Fighters

Now as everyone who knows my wargaming, I am a terrible pilot, be it in a Sopwith, Spitfire, MiG 21, or Tie Fighter.  Some of it comes from just poor move planning, much from simple lack of regular play, and some from just bad luck.  So it will come as no surprise that in our intro game, my inexperience, SeanR's recent extensive play and good die rolls, and frankly, my bad luck created yet another "flying" loss.  Fun though!

I include a photo of the one and only critical damage card which, flying the Imperial beast of a Destroyer - a ship powerful but extremely unmaneuverable, had its one and only (!) yaw ( read: turn )  cutting my rudder cut as it were, and so.... I calmly sail straight ....and off the board..... .   You see, I did not plan for any repair chits [ with this beast you must try to think what you will need, three turns in advance.  What will happen 3 turns from now, eh?! ]  On the flip side I did order command for my squadrons and thus at game end could beat up on the Rebel fighters.
 My ship sailing off to Hoth aside, our points based on squadrons lost were actually even 40 - 39.

I must thank SeanR for the game.  He is an excellent instructor.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Waterloo game photos

Waterloo in the initial stages.  We are looking from the north-west with Hougomont the brick complex on the right and Plancenoit between the hands of DaveB in the purple sweater.  The road from far end to curve near the bottom (east-west) represents the crestline of the ridge. (for those who follow this historical battle!)  The table is 9 by 6 feet so we have plenty of maneuver room.  The scenario is designed for even a smaller space.

Using our measuring stick, "Napoleon" moves up the French Imperial Guard foot. 

d'Erlon's Corps behind the Guard Foot Artillery of the Grand Battery

Right out of the history:  the British Heavy Horse of Ponsonby's and Somerset's Brigades charge the French column of d'Erlon

Our rules allow artillery fire through friendlies.  No, the Hanoverians are not taking canister fire onto their backs!
The French advance in forlorn confidence 
Milhaud's Cavalry Corps.  The whole thing!
French advance around La Haye Sainte

French cuirassiers.  I just love the look of these guys!

Monday, 30 March 2015

"Trumpeter Salute" convention March 2015

This weekend was the local annual war-game convention. It seemed that this year suffered, not from a dearth of games, but from participants as many games suffered from lack of players for all three days.  Many a game host ( including myself as I will discover) were in want of players to fill out their games.  With John Westra looking for a third player, I reluctantly entered his game, certainly not because his games are poorly done, far from it, as his games I found to be well run and his 1:300 planes very well painted with lots of cool markers; but that I am such a poor pilot - read poor knowledge of airgame rules, poor dice roller and poor "plan ahead-er",  that I inevitably get shot down!  In this game I do not disappoint as I have 3 or 4 planes downed with the third heading home having failed to create any enemy damage. I was reminded that I actually managed to collide two of my own wing together crashing both.  Sigh.
I played a wing commander of flight of Japanese floatplanes defending a destroyer convoy against American dive-bombers with some escorts.  Rather unsuccessfully.  The Americans managed to shoot down more of their planes from friendly fire than we could!
Japanese 1:300 planes above 1:700 ships (with a bit of salt as a wake.  Simple but effective)
John Westra's beautifully painted planes.  He has an extensive collection seemingly for every WW2 theatre and year!
John's well conceived bombing run.

Early morning the next day had me setting up my 28mm Waterloo game.  Again the dearth of available players had much fewer numbers than I would have liked. I joined the Allied side as the cavalry commander Uxbridge while DaveB helped assist the French players becoming Napoleon for the game.
view of the Waterloo field from the southwest with Hougomont to the left, La Haye Sainte at the upper centre of the photo and La Belle Alliance at the right.  The French attacks have just begun.
The Allies await.  The road represents the crest line of the ridge. Only their artillery and poor Eylandt's brigade (under the held measuring stick ) are shown to the French.

I used the historical set up but allowed the French carte blanche for their attacks.  These became Reille slowly moving around and attacking Hougomont, Lobau moving in column toward La Haye Sainte,  d'Erlon moving toward the Allies bringing the Grand Battery along, and the Guard infantry moving up immediately. Kellerman's and Milhaud's heavy cavalry corps moved toward the left and right flanks respectively. This left the Guard Horse to move to the east as the sole defence against the expected Prussians.
d'Erlon's attack was met with the British heavy horse, recreating the historical event.
The British heavy horse charge in historical fashion!

Reille's Corps was wrapped up in attacks on Hougomont and so when that complex finally fell, it was severely weakened.  While having suffered no brigade losses, most elements were down to one or two strength and the Allies were still in good positions and strong enough to weather further assaults. Lobau's advance stopped to take LHS which the Allies unhistorically used Kielmanegge's Hanoverians to defend, shifting Ompteda's KGL elites to fend off the open field assaults ( 'town' assaults are one of numbers and chance than that of skill and so the elites are played more advantageously in the open).  The two heavy cavalry corps were not committed leaving the Guard to try to open up the Allies lines.  However the Dutch-Belgian heavy horse attacked the Guard successfully in well timed ( and dice rolled! ) attack against the French veterans.
The Dutch and Belgian heavy horse attack the French Guard!

By now the Prussians were on the field and the French saw their numbers pour forth.
It is at this point - and the fact that the gaming-period time had expired - that Napoleon declared his army would retire quickly back while he still had an army to do so.  Couldn't disagree with his decision.

The game was tied with the other much larger table 15mm Waterloo game held during the same time for runner up for Best of Session.
the 'other' Waterloo game during the session. original set up showing "Wellington's ridge" This in 15mm. Photo by ThomasM.
I believe the 'other' Waterloo was conducted on a 12' long table. Photo by ThomasM.

With those players now departed I had a couple new guys signed up for game two.  With the limited numbers I abandoned the large battle for a smaller simple affair of a British division, Dutch-Belgian command and the Brunswickers defending LHS against two small French corps with cuirassier support.   Great battle as it turned out with both sides always rolling well for their Corps Morale rolls thus making the battle much more enduring than would be anticipated.
The second game's early moves and attacks
The Dutch-Belgian corps.  Most are plastic conversions by me.
Another view of the D-Bs

Players from both games seemed to be very pleased with the effects of the rules and we had no issues.  I think we are there.....

Quite exhausted from the day hosting and the previous late night,  I would have been quite happy to wonder around but Steve Allen looking for players ( as I say a common theme ) roped me ( once again ) into his games ( always fun however nonetheless ) this time Circus Maximus - the chariot racing game.
SteveA's chariot game table. He plans to add stands around the perimeter.

Now this game is a regular staple of the monthly game sessions and so many of the players are very familiar to the rules and indeed have formed teams (father and son) or rivalries.  Having absolutely no idea about the rules, the game, the pre-game betting (!) and horse trading,  I was the lamb to the slaughter as it were.  However SteveA guided me through the cart set up in which I apparently rolled for quite well as many were impressed by my various stats.

Like all rookies I was overwhelmed by the event and so can relate very little of the race.  All I wanted to do is go fast and stay out of trouble. How to do that best was still rather unknown so I played it safe and moved to the outside lanes as to continue to maintain speed without much "flip" testing. Lots of charts etc which were a complete mystery.  All I know is that as players moved by me in the game's random, phased movement,  they would whip my horses!  What the heck?! The responses were "Hey I need the experience points" or "Great way to slow up for the corners"

Long story short, I ended the race in a respectable fourth place of ten carts/players and third in the money as the 3rd place finisher had to pay out his bribe money to other players NOT to attack him during the race!  Lots more going on there than this newbie was aware of!

Next day again had me in casual mode.  The attractive 2mm (!) set up by Kevin Aldridge of the WHOLE campaign of Waterloo had me in conversation with him.  Later, chatting with Christine of Stronghold ( a vendor ), she remarked that indeed the game looked very good. I suggested she could play in the game and as it was near she stall she could keep an eye out for customers.  With her participation I too joined in the role of Napoleon.
A big chunk of Belgium
My French moving toward Quatre-Bras. "The crossroads. He is bound to go for them"
While maneuver command control was simple, the mere number of brigade chits made moving them a long procedure.  There was no way we could get a conclusion but we managed a preliminary battle between Gerard and Vandamme's French Corps and a Prussian corps which I forced to retreat eliminating its rear guard elements.  Both armies were concentrating at Genappe for the showdown battle as we concluded.
a preliminary (and only) battle of the campaign being conducted.  The cards are very useful identifiers as the little boys get kinda confusing after a short time! 
His simple yet effective terrain.

The game KevinA converted from a board game to the representation of 3d terrain - the various high grounds and ridges were created by hard foam cut outs and old socks ( -love it!) under the felt.  Roads are fabric softener sheets, dyed grey and cut into strips and used as they have a low profile and stick to the felt that he can thus just roll up.

A lot of a convention for me is the ideas from others. Good stuff.