Monday, 16 April 2018

Lightweight terrain

There are two big issues for those of us who have to lug our own stuff: weight and bulk.

The obvious answer to both these issues is to go to the smallest possible scales, but sometimes the appeal of a game lies specifically in using larger figures, i.e. 25/28mm, and then scenery can become a significant challenge.

There are a few ways to get round this, e.g. don't try to do Stalingrad in 28mm, but this post is concerned specifically in paying tribute to a couple of manufacturers whose products are particularly lightweight.

First up are the hollow resin hills from Tiger Terrain which are both very light and very strong. The company originally did a range of these - green, arid and unfinished. They still have some advertised on their website but I think they're being phased out. This is a pity. I'm not aware of anyone else making anything like these.

The other company I'd like to praise is TableScape. As I understand it, their products are also made from resin but they add a foaming agent so that their products emerge from the process as a strong, dense foam which is both light and robust.

I understand this process is unsuited to small items, so their terrain is restricted to 28mm products. I have a lot of their Renaissance buildings and have recently started to accumulate their Islamic-style pieces. The buildings come ready-painted and are extremely high quality.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Modular rolling terrain

A few of my sand-coated cork tiles
I began to to make some modular rolling terrain from cork bathroom tiles. The design approach was totally unoriginal but I can't find the source now. If someone identifies it I'll publish a link.

The 30cm/1 ft tiles are essentially divided into a nine-sector grid. The contours can be naturalistically wavey as long as they meet square on at the grid points. The concept should be apparent from the pictures.

The unpainted sand coating has caught the light
from this angle.
Cork tiles are thin so the contours are in low relief but that's more convenient for storage and transport. I subsequently invested in quite a lot of Hexon.  The cork tiles and Hexon are both rather too heavy and bulky to transport outside the house without a car. The Hexon is more than adequate for use at home so I didn't pursue this project any further. For club games I use standalone hills. I'm featuring it just out of interest but I've now passed it on to a friend.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

TMWWBK - Zulus suffer costly rule error!

View at start from Zulu positions. Tiger Terrain hills and 
scratch-built Irish farmhouse which is not bad for Natal.
This was my first ‘proper’ game of The Men Who Would Be Kings, that is as an actual player. We played Scenario C - To the Last Bullet - with my friend Ian as the British defender and myself as the Zulu attacker. The defender begins near the centre but has the option and objective of legging it to a building near his baseline.

The British had an 18-point Field Force (three 6-point units of Regular Infantry). The Zulus had 24 points - three Married Veteran units with better moralle and three Unmarried Fierce units who are better in close combat, all at 6 points each.
Perspective from the flank.

If the defenders can survive 5 turns without casualtues they win. This forces the attacker  to attack.
The Zulus move in. Cetral British section begins
a tactical withdrawal.

The British deployed in line. I deployed the Veterans on my left and the Fierce units on my right. My idea was to use the Vets as cannon-fodder while the Unmarried warriors got as close as possible before charging in.
The British can now see the whites
of their eyes.

At first Ian was unsure whether to stand or flee. When he did decide to withdraw his troops wouldn't move!
View from the Zulu edge. The outcome is uncertain.

I moved all my units forward using ordinary 'free' moves but this wasn't fast enough and I was in danger of losing the game by not inflicting any casualties in five successive turns. I then switched to Doubling.

I did make contact, did inflict casualties and did sweep away first one and then the other
flank unit, At this point it looked as if the Zulus were going to win, but the central British unit holed up in the farmhouse and in order not to lose the game the Zulus had no choice but to hurl themselves at the building.
One British unit (left) is under pressure. The
other flank unit has been swept away.

Unfortunately a couple of units had by then become Leaderless and it was difficult to activate them. Every British volley swept away a few more Zulus.
The central British unit has reached the safety of
the farmhouse but the other unit looks doomed.

The Zulus did attack the building and did inflict casualties but the trade off in each attack was about 3 Zulus for 1 Brit. The Zulu waves smashed against the British rock and became wasted in the effort. A couple of hopelessly depleted Zulu units were withdrawn to take themselves out of harm's way, but then they all found themselves so depleted that it would have been impossible to inflict any casualties. It was looking like Rorke's Drift...I had lost! But the story doesn't quite end there...

The Zulus close in for the final assault.
When my Zulus were storming the farmhouse, we were converting three hits into a kill. That would have been right for shooting but not for melee. Defending hard cover in hand-to-hand increases the number of hits needed to remove a defending model by one. (Soft cover provides no protection in melee.) Increasing the number by two made the defenders impregnable against overwhelming odds. Had we got this right I think the Zulus might have won. In fact, we were wondering how the Zulus could possibly win this scenario. Now we're wondering how the British can win. We will have to find out.

Successive assaults do some harm to the defenders, but the
attackers suffer more. This is where we went wrong.
I found this game very exciting and it fully met or even exceeded my expectations of the rules.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Octavian 3 Anthony 6

The Octavians (far side) boldly advance.
At the behest of my friend, Ian, I dug out my 1:600/1:650 Ancient galleys for a game of Corvus. As far as I can remember I’d previously played only Rome versus Carthage so I took the opportunity to set up a Roman Civil War game using a squadron a side on the standard 3’ square playing area.
Ian got the Octavians and deployed first with his heaviest ships in the centre and his Lembi behind. I concentrated my fewer, heavier, ships on my right flank, with some Quadriremes out on my left to protect the flank of my main force and to worry the rest of the opposing fleet.
The Antonine squadron rows to meet the enemy. My flagship (far right) turns inwards in a rather risky manoeuvre. First blood to me as concentrated shooting wrecks an Octavian vessel (far left of the Octavian line).

I was expecting some head-on rams, but having left too much space between vessels, my opponent was able to move into the gaps and ram me on the sides (two vessels on the left). However, ramming is risky to the rammer even when making a side ram.

Battle is joined along the line with mixed results.

Casualties mount, especially for the Octavians.

The situation at the end of the game. The Octavian squadron has lost a third of its ships in points and flees.

The rules are available from the Society of Ancients and come with some very nice top-down counters. Additional counters can be bought from Tiny Tin Troops.

I'm reminded there are a few minor loose ends with these rules, and I may return to that in another post.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

28mm Dark Age scenery

Adrian's Walls: wattle pens and fences
I already had the usual range of wargame scenery - passable cloth, trees, hills, rocky ground and rivers, but for playing Landwasters and Raven Feeders (Dark Age extension of Lion Rampant), I wanted to add some 28mm scenics of a specifically Dark Age character. OK, my last century vintage figures are 25mm but things have moved on.

I found two sources to help set the scene. Firstly, some wattle pens and fences from Adrian's Walls. I now prefer to avoid resin for larger pieces because of the weight, but resin gives smaller pieces some stability. 

The sets are not cheap but they are high quality and come ready-painted. The animal pens are particularly impressive - you can almost smell the dirt. There's one in particular I wouldn't want to fall into.

4Ground Saxon/Medieval dwelling
For buildings, however,  I avoided resin and turned to MDF,  specifically the ready-coloured Saxon/Medieval buildings from 4Ground. These need to be stuck together, including the teddy bear fur thatch, but don't need to be painted.

I've now completed both buildings. These are the first laser-cut building kits I've tackled. The instructions were clear and the parts fitted perfectly. I was pleasantly surprised by the finish and the level of detail. The kit was very quick to make, indeed, the main walls need to be constructed in toto before anything dries.

4Ground Saxon/Medieval hovel
The experience was far better than I expected and I will certainly look at 4Ground buildings for other scales and periods.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

28mm Pathans for The Men Who Would Be Kings

Pathans with muskets
I thought my 28mm Zulu War (1879) British for The Men Who Would Be Kings might be recycled for two other conflicts around that time - the Urabi Revolt in Egypt (1879-1882) and the Second Afghan War (1878-1880).

I have no doubts that the British regulars will be fine for Egypt, but the North-West Frontier is more problematic.

Pathans with swords
Khaki was adopted earlier for Indian service and this was the normal British dress for the Second Afghan War. However, I’m not too worried for the following reasons:

1. Scarlet coats and blue serge trousers are reported for the beginning of the war.
2. There were earlier actions on the North-West Frontier for which the appearance of red coats is more likely.
3. The British figures could be replaced later.
4. Let's not be pedantic.

A neat looking light gun and crew
So far the only Afghan figures I’ve collected are irregular Pathan types, so I’m not yet actually committed to the Second Afghan War. The figures are a mixture of musketeers and swordsmen. For TMWWBK they can be fielded in predominantly firearm units as Tribesmen (Irregular Infantry) or in predominantly hand-to-hand units as Ghazi fanatics (Tribal Infantry). Having individually-based figures gives you a lot of flexibility.

The figures came from two different eBay sources with rather differing ideas about light and dark finishes, but both sets of figures were well-painted and I'm very pleased to have them.

I just need to paint up (groan) a few more to complete the army, and add some steel paper under the bases for storage/transport. Steel paper now seems unobtainable, having been replaced with ferro sheet, but steel paper is thinner and I should have enough stocks for these figures.

Friday, 2 March 2018

28mm Plastics for the Swiss-Burgundian Wars

Perry Late Medieval European infantry.
Despite my current aversion to and lack of time for painting, let alone assembly, I've been completely seduced by 28mm hard plastics. Of course, they've been around for some time, but as I hadn't previously had much use for 28mm I never gave them serious consideration.

I did feel plastics were 'insubstantial' but since taking a particular interest in Dan Mersey's rules and scanning eBay for used 28mm recruits, I was struck by the fantastic appearance and quality of these figures.

Besides having better detail and proportions than many metal miniatures, and their potential for variation and customisation, they are also, obviously, lighter to carry and less likely to get damaged in transit or use.

I recently bought some second-hand 28mm Afghans for The Men Who Would Be Kings and it wasn't until I started handling them that I realised that they were a mixture of metal and plastic, so I had inadvertently already bought my first plastics.

However, I'm really interested in using plastics for a new project. There are very few ranges in comparison with metal figures but one area that has taken my fancy and is available from Perry Miniatures is the High Middle Ages which I wanted to do for Lion Rampant. The figures are sold as Wars of the Roses and European Mercenaries. There are currently five boxes as well as a range of metal figures to fill the gaps, e.g. artillery, although that's not particularly appropriate to a skirmish game.

I already had 15mm Wars of the Roses armies which I had no desire to duplicate, but I didn't have anything for the following Swiss-Burgundian Wars. I do in fact already have Swiss in 25mm but they are circa 1525 and based for Impetus.

The big question for me was whether to buy the boxes new or try to pick up figures second-hand. If I bought the boxes I would be able to organise, customise and paint exactly as I wanted. But then I took a reality check, realising that I would probably never have time to finish them.

If buying second-hand, on the other hand, I would have to choose carefully as most second-hand figures would probably have been painted for the Wars of the Roses. This is not an insurmountanble problem as many, but not all, livery colours could be recycled. The Burgundians wore blue and white so any figures with that combination or which could be easily overpainted could go to that side.

Some Swiss cantons also sported blue and white but that would be confusing. Bern was the biggest canton and its colours were red and black. These are strong colours which could, if necessary, be painted on top of other colours. And red and white were both cantonal and the 'national' colours of the Swiss Confederation, I think red, red and white, and red and black should all be fine for the Swiss. It would be more the suggestion of a uniform than an actual uniform, but I think that is quite realistic and what I would have wanted to achieve if I had painted the figures myself.

Anyway, I was very lucky to pick up some useful lots from eBay which I'm currenlty waiting to be delivered. I won't have any pikemen but I will have quite a range of other troop types.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Cavalier 2018

Tonbridge Wargames Club: Segesvar 1849. The writing is
on the wall for somebody...
Just a very short personal report on Sunday's Cavalier show staged by Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society in nearby Tonbridge. (The two towns are often confused by strangers!)

Tonbridge has its own club (Tonbridge Wargames Club) and they put on a demo game of the battle of Segesvar from the Hungarian Revolution 1848-1849. The game evoked a lot of interest.

On the credit side I got rid of a lot of stuff at knockdown prices on TWWS's excellently-organised Bring-and-Buy stall. It can't be much fun to spend the day running that so a big thank you to those involved for providing this facility.

On the debit side I bought a 28mm adobe house from TableScape, ordered a couple of  rubber-backed mats from Tinywargames and got some heavy-duty magnetic sheets from the charming people at Products for Wargamers.

Segesvar: the background

Thursday, 22 February 2018

First Game of The Men Who Would Be Kings

Natal Mounted Police and British Regulars.
This was my first game of The Men Who Would Be Kings and the first outing for the Zulu War figures I've recently been accumulating. Please excuse the unfinished bases made from Coins of the Realm. Queen Victoria would not have been amused and I would have been doing hard labour, but times have changed.

I didn't actually play myself but ran the game for two other players who had played it before so I could piggyback on their experience. The table was set up for Scenario A, a sort of ‘passing engagement’ in which each side is aiming to get off the opposite end of the table while picking up additional points for inflicting casualties.

I persuaded the players to throw for Leadership Ratings but not for Leadership Traits as they didn't want to be faced with too much innovation.

First move: the Zulus waste no time.
With faster moving troops the Zulu player (Bernard) had the initiative. Some units bolted for the far end while others concentrated on cutting off the British. This seemed like a good strategy.

The British move out a little but are outpaced.

The British (Chris) were inevitably slow but also handled  cautiously.

Over-confident Zulu attackers are pinned.

The Zulu blocking units advance in the open and suffer badly from British firepower. In this photo they are pinned. They recovered from the pins and managed a couple of charges, but were beaten off. Perhaps they should have stuck to the cover.

The Great Escape, but is it enough?
Three of the Zulu units, followed later by a fourth, make it off the table, but not without suffering some casualties from long-range fire. The damage was minor but was to cost points in the final reckoning.

Two Zulu units are wiped out, but the British haven't got very far.

With four Zulu units off the table and two annihilated, the British were left unopposed but still had to make it off by the end of the scenario (turn 15). One didn't, resulting in a draw. With my godlike impartiality and benefit of hindsight I'd say the British were too cautious and the Zulus not cautious enough.

Both players seemed to enjoy the game though Chris is more of a fan of Lion Rampant. Both players have played both games before. I look forward to taking command myself.