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.


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Cardboard 40 years old now...

The new year inevitably brings thoughts of our time and the ever lengthening of our life.
This hit home within days of the change of the calendar when using a piece of thick card I have been employing to primer figures....for 40 years now!

I remember buying cheaply (I must assume) the board game 'Alexander'.  This was in 1978 in my junior year in high school.  I never caught that particular bug and so have not acquired the taste for wargames using chits and hexes.  Obviously I thought the board very sturdy and so it was put to "better use".

But FOURTY BLEEPING YEARS?!  Ugh.  It might well be the oldest thing I still own......

"Alexander" board section.  I suppose I should take solace in that I did not deface the playing surface.
The abused backside from 40 years of use albeit mostly covered in newspaper while being used

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Engagement at El Blundar. FFL action.

January 6, 1927

Dear Mere,

I have my arm bandaged but do not worry as I was lucky to receive but a minor scrape.  I am afraid many were not so fortunate.  

Yes the bullets were flying but only from the Arabs. (see previous post for pre-action report

The first shots mowed down our machine gun crew along with its officer in the first moments. The remaining soldier made a runner quickly thereafter.

We literally did not see the enemy the whole time, with them in cover, the dust and the smokeless powder of their rifles.  They are very good shots and surprisingly well-led with the ability to keep up the fusilade.  

We just could not reply. Once the casualties immediately occurred, we were pinned and could only try to rally with the sergeants and corporals yelling us to keep together. Our officers were useless. That is all we could but try, sometimes with our superior discipline to keep order.  Then another round of fire would occur and again all we could do is rally.  No order could be given to fire back.

I did hear the rattle of the Arab machine gun but it quickly stopped for a time but later would add to our woes.  

Within minutes all our units were moving away from the enemy.  Surprisingly the volume of fire diminished and a new unit, unseen by many but I am told was ready to pounce upon us from a slight rise but did not make any move nor did any from the wadi.  It is what saved us from total destruction. Nevertheless, we had 16 casualties from 31 of us who started the battle.  

I know that you like animals and can be relived to know the donkeys had more sense than our officers and bolted immediately and thus were well out of range and thus spared.  

I am tired but hopeful our next battle will fair better.  
Love to the family 

Editor notes:  While the discipline of the Legionnaires was very good at +2, the poor officers I foisted upon them rolling for officers at 9+  - ugh - certainly did not help the die rolls.  The units lasted longer than one could hope but it just meant they were in for another round of fire.  The arabs activation was universally good (of course I would roll well FOR THEM as, if you were like me, cheering for my newly painted unit of the French Foreign Legion….) but like the narrative letter above indicates, the hot streak of the Arab's activation would lessen eventually and allowing the Legion to retire.

“The Men Who Would Be Kings” rules do have their quirks and should units fail to un-pin, little can be done with them but given the scenario, probably a logical outcome.
The rules do allow for a more respectable 'choice' of leadership.  Random dice still, but giving more competent leadership quality.  My roll for the Arabs was exceptional of course!.
Note the substantially fewer models, and the pin markers.  My 'desert dice' on show.  You need lots of dice for TMWWBK.
Arab units somewhere in the distance unseen.

Friday, 5 January 2018

The new FFL

The Wargame Narrative

January 5, 1927

Dear Mere,
Happy New Year  
Sorry to not have written for sometime now but, really nothing to write about. We must still do our chores, clean the latrines, clean up, do the laundry.

But yes, some fun stuff too like get ready for our march into the desert to relieve a small fort near the mountains.  For us it will be a new experience.  Recently we veterans were grouped together in a new unit and given a fresh ‘regimental touch-up’ .

Of the trek I cannot say much. I am told it will be a boring travel over flat, featureless terrain and we will probably not see the natives should they dare to have at us.

We are commanded by officers we are not familiar with, so none know their quality - more on that later!  But we are of the Legion Etrangere Francaise so can probably overcome any deficiencies of any officer foisted upon us.

                                                                                                                        Page Deux

The march is well under way under the unrelenting sun.  Sous-lieutenant Premiermort turned to the sergeant and stated he “has a feeling the natives are close”  We look around but see nothing but flatness, a broken line of thin bush and heat waves.

Then the bullets start flying….


My preparations for the game:

I gained this collection of French Foreign Legion c. 1920s , as a fellow wargamer quietly brought a box of partially painted figures of mixed origin to the club.  A kinda aborted project he needed space and put a very low price on them.  Normally I do not buy painted figures but this was a good bargain and he gave me puppy dog eyes :)

 Originally I was going to re-primer but upon further viewing decided to just touch up and give them a wash.  With two coats of dullcoat I am pleased with the results. Not my usual style of painting but certainly do play the part well; the “regimental touch-up” as noted in the letter above. Also note that veterans means experienced by another - like pre-owned cars and 'experienced' golf balls....

The number of figures were pleasantly perfect to create a complete Field Force to which I added a few smaller sized donkeys I had waiting for some paint,  to include for any scenario design and simply because they look good together!

As the previous owner super glued the figures to the bases and had applied a couple of different methods of basing using sand,  I could not redo the basing - at least not with a heck of lot of effort! - and so did what I could to make myself happier with the bases. While not ideal, the GW round bases are not bad for the type of game.
A mixed collection of manufactures including I think (?) Old Glory and Tiger Miniatures
The basing is still a work in progress. Might dry brush additional sand colours and add a bit of dead grass to cover up the obvious figure's base lines.
The donkeys baggage train.  Many scenarios employ baggage for victory conditions.

Re-reading the above "Narrative" preamble, the reader will induce a number of issues which will influence the game.  Boring terrain for example as I have nothing for North Africa!  And of not seeing any natives?  It will certainly be the case as, again, I have none to play with and so the game will be the ultimate solo affair ; without another player, without terrain and without an enemy!  All will be up to my imagination and the dice.
The featureless terrain - as I have little for this period and region.  The scrub is brown lichen and the clumps of 'straw' are markers for the hidden Berbers.  They are obviously masters of the art of fieldcraft and are impossible to I have none! ;)

I am using “THE MEN WHO WOULD BE KINGS” rules by Dan Mercey for colonials.  Among its fun characteristics is that of rolling for the traits of the officers commanding each unit.  Well, as
suggested by our legionarire writer to his dear mother, my die rolling poor, as it often is, was to foist officers of 1-2, 1-3, and 6-5 onto the three units of my field force.  That is to say, one officer has “ a fine moustache” (which indeed the diced for figure actually does have!) but he is very poor commander ; as is #2 but he is “bullet-proof” so unlikely to die and bring in a better rated sergeant!   And for the machine gun, it’s officer is short-sighted so the machine gun cannot fire to advantage at long range targets…

And as I determined the officers not to be of the highest quality, they did not think to have scouts and so will be ambushed accordingly.

The terrain, what there is of it, has a small dry stream bed behind thin scrub to hide three groups of riflemen with modern arms together with a machine gun but poorly handled.  The fourth rifle unit was in hiding laying down behind an almost indiscernible rise of land.

The two Legion rifle units are in line of march with the machine gun and baggage mules between.

Each side has 24 points.

We start the game with the bullets flying….