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.

Friday, 27 March 2015

A wargamer's conversation with his wife

 Packing all the many figures I have collected in the last couple of years into the boxes readying for my game of Waterloo for the local convention this weekend,  I had this conversation with my wife:

The Wife: (with her favourite sweet waved in front of her) ...and I don't need the temptation dear...unlike when a pack of Perry miniatures is placed in front of you!
The Husband: Oh, thank you for reminding me.   I want to place another order with them.
The Wife: A large one?
The Husband:  I have been trying, trying mind you, to 'perry' it down.
The Wife:  Yeah, right.  Ha. (as she removes the credit card to a safer location)
The Husband (thinking to himself) :  Well that bit of humour was as effective as a lead balloon.
"Now Maitland, now's your time!"  Scene from the Battle of Waterloo. The British First Foot Guards in action. (the 'wheat field' is simply a straw foot mat cut to fit) (plastic Perry figures)

Monday, 23 March 2015

ACW ambulance stations

Moving back into my roots a bit,  painted the last of my 15mm ACW collection.  This was remarkable in that the last time I painted 15mm ACW was some 7 years ago (!) and that for some Confederate cavalry adding to the previous endeavours some 9 years before that!

Had to do a bit of reorganizing to get all into the plastic bead trays I hold within the one carrying bag.  I include photos of both a typical tray - in this case my Union Zouaves some 180 figures - and the opened carrying bag itself which actually has all the space filled with these trays.

I have made specific instruction for the wife to grab this bag on her way out of the burning house.  Forget the wedding photos Dear, but make sure this is safe along with the adjacent terrain bag......

I also include a couple of other photo from the collection; the signal tower so I can tell my war game opponent that I indeed HAVE instant command with my far flanks and the pontoon punters to WILL allow my crossing of the "unfordable" river.  Hee hee....

some of the odder posed figures were cut in half, the muskets cut out of the hands and replaced by barge poles so that the pontoons could be pushed across.  The pontoons are solid pieces of balsa wood

I also painted the last of the Generals I had in storage for years now, including one of the famous Confederate commanders.  The stone wall I created on the base is a literal and figuratively big give-away!

All the figures are from the Old Glory 15mm ACW range which is extensive and with nice touches such as the ladies offering comfort to the wounded in the ambulance vignette.  The two identical sets can be, as I have done, painted as Union and Confederate.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Waterloo Battle #2

Finally happy(-ish) with the rules, I invited a group to my place for a good playtest and another go at Waterloo (being 200th and all).  Like herding cats, trying to get the guys all here and knowing the rules had the game start an hour and a half late.  As weekday evening, at only mid game were the complaints of "gotta go" heard.  And this after tea/coffee was ready and served.  Perhaps I will need to offer RedBull instead.....

I knew the likelihood of the reconvening was almost nil, so I slowly worked through the game myself, trying to follow the initial plans by the French and try to play out each side as well as possible.  Of course, being solo, I could co-ordinate the various commands which would be less likely with different players commanding each, but the dice seem to enjoy making this more difficult than one would believe !

The Allies win again in a very close near-run-thing!

The rules are specifically designed for the convention setting so simplicity is the key and I was happy to find that the players had the concept by Turn 4.
The deployments were historical but each side were allowed to develop their own strategy.

  The French decided to ignore the historical strongpoints of Hougomont and La Haye Sainte.  It was apparent from the initial moves that Reille and Kellerman's heavy cavalry were to move against the Allies right flank, dErlon to pin the Allies centre with Milhaud's cuirassiers and Lobau to attack between  Hougomont and La Haye Sainte.  At least that is what I surmised looking at the initial moves.  Other than the Young Guard and the cavalry having moved to the right to counter the Prussians just coming on the table, was the only move by the French Imperial Guard.  It stayed well to the rear.  Whether by design so it would not be overly committed in any one direction so to exploit any of the various attacks, will not be known.  It was not helped forward as Napoleon was on his "sick-bed" for extended periods during the game.

This rule had a 50-50 roll whether Napoleon was on the field and could a) contribute to any formations movement and b) move the Middle and Old Guard (the 4 infantry elements) as only he personally allowed.

  The Allies had less decisions to make in their defensive role behind a ridge.  However, coordination between commands would prove troublesome (even as a solo effort)  due to the tight confines of the battlefield.

The Terrain:
The battlefield is one of the most known of history and quite easy to replicate.  I did not make the ridgeline but used a road to indicate the crest, with movement unaffected but artillery random if firing across (only allowed one shot per element and at a major minus).  Initial reaction by the players seemed to think this was fine and simulates the historical situation well enough.  All strongpoints could be defended - but were in any event not attacked. But the Allies still had to defend with the historical elite troops despite.

I will let the photo captions do most of the talking.
Overview of the battle in its early stages looking from the east.  The lower portion shows Milhaud's moving behind d'Erlon's massed corps while the 'Grand Battery" and Quiot's Division stands guard.  In the centre, Lobau's Corps in column moves to between La Haye Sainte (grey buildings) and Hougomont (brick complex upper centre).  Reille and Kellerman's heavies move around to attack the Allied Right.

Closer view with the initial French moves done and the Allied players positioning their Generals.  
Picton's command behind the ridge and the Allies Heavy Horse behind.

French army in full display.  La Belle Alliance in the centre of this photo.
Showing the French moves on their left. Hougomont upper centre, La Haye Sainte upper right, La Belle Alliance slightly south.  A tight battlefield even by the standards of the day.  But still lots of maneuver room with 28mm on a 8x5' table.

Reille's Corps ignoring Hougomont and rounding it's west side.
Close-up of the Allied right/west flank.   The multiple commands in this area made coordination of the different arms difficult. One wonders how Wellington made it work.

The Prussians would make little impact this day.  Bulow's poor consistently poor command rolls would not allow much forward movement.
Forced into action, d'Erlon attacks would ultimately fail. 

Finally off his sick bed, Napoleon personally led his Guardsmen.  The Brunswickers ( in black) would not stand.
The Highlanders of Picton's command could finally move and thus defeated the Guard in a flank attack. 

The conclusion:
The initial game ended at the start of Turn 8 with very little combat.  I had played the game out until Turn 15 but the game starts to increase its tempo (shorter real time game turns) as morale/combat effectiveness collapses in ever increasing amounts.  Rather like the real thing.  At Turn 15 only the French Guard was left and the one element loss to the Highlanders meant Napoleon could no longer force his army forward.