Saturday, 30 January 2010

The New Morschauserland-Fezian Border Dispute: Play-test 2 – The assault on Fort de Gre

Scenario

After they capture of Fort de Gre the commander of the Morschauserland Colonial Corps (MCC) mobilized as many troops as he could to assault and re-take the fort. He called this new military command the 'Fezian Frontier Field Force', and it comprised:
  • 1st MCC Infantry Unit
  • 1st MCC Native Infantry Unit
  • 2nd MCC Native Infantry Unit
  • 1st New Morschauserland Police Infantry Unit
  • 1st New Morschauserland Native Police Infantry Unit
  • 1st MCC Artillery Unit
  • 2nd MCC Artillery Unit
  • 1st MCC Machine Gun Unit
The Fezians had stationed a substantial garrison in the captured fort. It comprised:
  • 1st Fezian Zouaves of the Guard Infantry Unit
  • 1st Fezian Infantry Unit
  • 1st Fezian Militia Infantry Unit
  • 1st Fezian Artillery Unit
  • 1st Fezian Machine Gun Unit
These troops had no been idle since the capture of the fort. They had extended its defences with earthworks, and were prepared for an attack. It would not be long coming.

The defenders of Fort de Gre.
Note

Because the main rule mechanisms are already well tested, this battle report will concentrate on the main events of the battle and will not report in detail on dice throw and its results.

Turn 1

The Morschauserlanders carefully advanced in an extended line towards the fort, making sure that their Infantry Units kept out of rifle range. The Artillery Units of both sides exchanged fire, and the Morschauserlanders inflicted two casualties on the Fezian Artillery Unit.

The Fezian defences as seen from behind the initial Morschauserland Artillery positions.
Turn 2

The artillery duel continued, but neither side was able to inflict any casualties on the other. In the meantime the 1st MCC Machine Gun Unit opened fire on the 1st Fezian Militia Infantry Unit, and despite the fact that the Fezians were behind earthworks, they managed to kill a Militiaman for the loss of one of the machine gun crew. The three Morschauserland Units on the left flank engaged the 1st Fezian Infantry Unit and cause two casualties for no loss whilst the two Infantry Units on the right (2nd MCC Native Infantry Unit and 1st New Morschauserland Native Police Infantry Unit) successfully engaged in a firefight with 1st Fezian Machine Gun Unit, killing two of the machine gun crew in the process.

The Morschauserland 'Fezian Frontier Field Force' advanced towards Fort de Gre in an extended line, with the Artillery Units in the centre.
The left flank of the Morschauserland 'Fezian Frontier Field Force'.
The 1st and 2nd Morschauserland Artillery Units engaged the Fezian defenders with little effect.
The 1st Fezian Zouaves of the Guard Infantry Unit occupied the centre of the Fort de Gre's defences. To their left was the 1st Fezian machine Gun Unit and to their right was the 1st Fezian Artillery Unit.
Turn 3

The inexorable advance of the MCC continued, and despite valiant attempts by the defenders to deter them, they managed to reach the defences of Fort de Gre. The 1st Morschauserland Artillery Unit opened fire on the 1st Fezian Artillery Unit, thus making it possible for the Infantry Units on the left wing to close with the enemy.

The 1st New Morschauserland Police Infantry Unit fired at the Fezian defenders and charged home. In the ensuing Close Combat both sides lost two men, leaving the 1st New Morschauserland Police Infantry Unit as the victors. The 1st MCC Infantry Unit, who had already flanked the Fezian defences, but whose fire had been ineffective, can be seen tot he left of the picture.
On the right flank the 1st New Morschauserland Native Police Infantry Unit had also assaulted the Fezian defences, but had not yet been able to drive off the 1st Fezian Militia Infantry Unit that they faced. The 1st MCC Machine Gun Unit engaged its opposite number, the 1st Fezian Machine Gun Unit, but was unable to inflict any casualties on that Unit. It was left to the 2nd MCC Native Infantry Unit to assault the section of defences occupied by the 1st Fezian Machine Gun Unit, and in the ensuing Close Combat they overcome the last remaining member of the Fezian Unit at no cost to themselves.

The 1st MCC Machine Gun Unit fired at the 1st Fezian Machine Gun Unit, but caused no casualties. The 1st New Morschauserland Native Police Infantry Unit can be seen engaging the 1st Fezian Militia Infantry Unit in Close Combat.
The 2nd MCC Native Infantry Unit assaulted the defences occupied by the 1st Fezian Machine Gun Unit. Sheer weight of numbers told, and they were able to kill the last remaining defender without loss.
At this point all was lost for the Fezians. They had fought well, but despite their extensive defences the luck had not been with them on the day. The commander of the 1st Fezian Zouaves of the Guard Infantry Unit offered to stop the bloodshed by giving up the fort, and his troops were allowed to withdraw unmolested. Fort de Gre was back in Morschauserland hands again ... but for how long?

The battlefield just before the Fezian surrender. Had the battle continued there was little likelihood that the Fezians could have prevailed in the end, and so they withdrew to fight another day.
Conclusions

This second play-test reinforced the fact that the rules work well as they currently stand. The next step will be to base some sword and spear-armed Native single figure bases so that I can test the minor changes to the rules that I have mentioned in recent blog entries.

The 'Nostalgia' Project

I have the good fortune to live less than 15 minutes drive from a very good second-hand bookshop – Falconwood Transport & Military Bookshop – that (as the name implies) specialises in military and transport books. As I had to drive past the shop on my way to do some of my regular weekend chores, and stopped off for a quick look round ... and I am very glad that I did!

In amongst the large collection of military books on the shelves I found a 1964 copy of DAS KLEINE PANZERBUCH by Dr F M von Senger und Etterlin. Amongst the vehicles featured in the Swedish section were:
  • The Strv 74 tank
  • The Pvkv 71 self-propelled gun
  • The Ikv 103 assault gun
These vehicles are the going to be the designs upon which the AFVs used by Opeland will be based (see my previous blog entry on 13th August 2009), so having both data and - more importantly - scale line drawings is going to be of great help when I finally get this project underway. In the meantime, here are some images of some of the line drawings I will be using:

Wild colonial terrain

Just as I was falling asleep last night I remembered seeing an idea demonstrated at the COW2005 (the Conference of Wargamers that was held in July 2005 at Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire).

During an 'Ideas Exchange' session, Peter Crawshaw brought along a very low-cost method of making hedges using sawdust and white PVA glue.

The method used was to mix the sawdust in a disposable carton with the PVA glue until it achieved the consistency of a stiff paste. Lumps of the mixture were then taken out of the carton, rolled into rough sausage-shaped pieces to the right length and height, shaped so that the bottom edge was flat, and then placed on a flat surface to dry. The drying process could take several days, but once dry the whole thing was solid and could then be painted.

The example he brought along was painted up as a hedge, but after looking at the unpainted one I am struck by the fact that it could easily have been painted to represent a small hill or rocky outcrop.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Wild colonial terrain

Jim Wright sent me an email about creating terrain that gave lots of cover for colonial battles without costing the earth.

His suggestion is based on the sort of hills and mountains that are featured on Major General Tremorden Rederring's Colonial Wargames Page. I know that these work as I have made and used my own versions from thin plywood and balsa wood (see below).

Jim's idea is to make smaller versions to represent small hills or outcrops.

He sent me a sketch to illustrate his suggestion, and I must admit that on seeing it I immediately saw the potential of his idea.

I have all the necessary materials to hand to make a couple so that I can try them out. All I need is the time to make them!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Are Native troops really better in hand-to-hand combat?

Jim Wright has raised a very interesting point in his comments to my recent blog entry. The main thrust of what he asks is:

Why do colonial wargames rules always seem to make Native troops more effective in hand-to-hand combat?

He made this point in response to my latest Unit Data Table, and after thinking about what he had written I had to agree that he was right … most colonial wargames rules – including my own – do make Native troops more effective in hand-to-hand combat. But I could not give a good reason why they did.

My rather feeble excuse was that it this instance I did not have enough single figure bases of Native troops to have a large enough number on the tabletop … but after thinking about it I came to the conclusion that the reality of the situation was that I had just followed everyone else. So what can I do?

Firstly, I can make Native troops have the same Close Combat Power as their non-Native equivalents. This has the added effect of keeping the rule simple (players only have to retain one Close Combat Power for all Infantry Units, one for all Cavalry Units, and one for all Artillery Units).

Secondly, I can actually get round to re-basing some of my Native figures so that I have more of them to deploy on the tabletop.

Thirdly – and somewhat controversially – I could look at the possibility of using my multi-figure Native troop bases alongside my single figure bases. Native troops that are armed only with swords and spears would remain on multi-figure bases whilst those armed with muskets would be on single figure bases. The Units all contain four bases, but the sword and spear-armed Natives have three times as many figures per Unit. The following picture shows what I mean.

A possible solution it might be … but is it a good one? Comments please!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Modified Morschauser ‘19th Century’ Wargames Rules

I have been thinking about adding additional types of Unit to the current list of four to make the rules suitable for fighting colonial battles that involve native troops. These additional Units would be:
  • Native Infantry armed with muskets
  • Native Infantry armed with spears and swords
  • Native Cavalry
  • Native Artillery
The revised Unit Data Table would look like this:

The Native Infantry and Cavalry Units would move faster than their opponents, but would be inferior except when fighting in Close Combat. The Native Artillery would be slower and have less range than their opponents.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

PBEM Kriegsspiel – The Waterloo Campaign

An extract from von Blücher’s diary for 12th June 1815:
I have news that the French are where we expected them to be, and we are moving forward to meet them. So far we have only skirmished with their Light Cavalry, but this suggests that they have something to hide.

I have issued my orders, and I trust my Generals to carry them out. I know that they will fight even unto death for the glory of Prussia and the King, as will our soldiers. They are all fine men, and will acquit themselves as such.

Forwards!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The New Morschauserland-Fezian Border Dispute: Play-test 1 – The relief mission to Fort de Gre

This short skirmish was fought to test the latest draft of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Modern’ Period Rules for the 19th century era, particularly the recent changes that have been made to the turn sequence.

Because the basic mechanisms have remained the same, this play-test will not be as detailed as previous ones that I have written about my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Modern’ Period Rules.

Scenario

Like so many countries Morschauserland sought its ‘place in the sun’, and during the latter part of the 19th century it acquired a small colony in Africa which it named – somewhat unoriginally – New Morschauserland. This colony lay in an area that was claimed by Fezia (another of the colonial powers) and from the very earliest arrival of Morschauserland troops there were a series of minor border skirmishes. This is the story of one of those skirmishes.

Fort de Gre – a large native-style hut surrounded by a wall of sun-baked bricks – marked the edge of New Morschauserland. It was garrisoned by an Infantry Unit of locally-recruited troops who were relieved every couple of months by a supply column. This column usually included a locally-recruited MCC (Morschauserland Colonial Corps) Infantry Unit (which was the new garrison), an MCC Infantry Unit, an Artillery Unit of the MCC, and a Machine Gun Unit of the MCC.

The order of march adopted by the column was:
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit
  • The MCC Artillery Unit
  • The MCC Infantry Unit
  • The MCC Machine Gun Unit
The fort was regarded by the Fezians as both an affront to their country and a potential base for their control of the disputed border area. The local commander – Whali Pasha – decided that the fort had to be captured and the Morschauserlanders taught a lesson. He therefore sent a punitive force to capture the fort. The force included two Infantry Units of the Fezian Army (a regular Fezian Infantry Unit and an infantry Unit from the Fezian Zouaves of the Guard), an Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia, a Fezian Artillery Unit, and a Fezian Machine Gun Unit.

The order of advance adopted by the Fezian double-width column was:
  • The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia on the left and the regular Fezian Infantry Unit on the right
  • The Fezian Artillery Unit on the left and the Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard on the right
  • The Fezian Machine Gun Unit on the right
Unfortunately he chose to mount his assault on the fort on the same day that the Morschauserland relief column was due to reach Fort de Gre.

A map of the disputed area.
Turn 1

The playing cards were shuffled and dealt as follows:

Morschauserlanders
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit in Fort de Gre: Queen of Hearts (QH)
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit with the column: 5 of Hearts (5H)
  • The MCC Artillery Unit: 4 of Hearts (4H)
  • The MCC Infantry Unit: 4 of Spades (4S)
  • The MCC Machine Gun Unit: 5 of Clubs (5C)
Fezians
  • The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia: Ace of Spades (1S)
  • The regular Fezian Infantry Unit: 5 of Diamonds (5D)
  • The Fezian Artillery Unit: King of Spades (KS)
  • The Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard: 3 of Spades (3S)
  • The Fezian Machine Gun Unit: Jack of Diamonds (JD)
The order in which Units were activated was, therefore:
  • The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia: Ace of Spades (1S)
  • The Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard: 3 of Spades (3S)
  • The MCC Artillery Unit: 4 of Hearts (4H)
  • The MCC Infantry Unit: 4 of Spades (4S)
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit with the column: 5 of Hearts (5H)
  • The MCC Machine Gun Unit: 5 of Clubs (5C)
  • The regular Fezian Infantry Unit: 5 of Diamonds (5D)
  • The Fezian Machine Gun Unit: Jack of Diamonds (JD)
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit in Fort de Gre: Queen of Hearts (QH)
  • The Fezian Artillery Unit: King of Spades (KS)
Other than the locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit, all the Units were activated and moved towards their various objectives. As none of the Units were within range of each other, there was no combat.

Turn 2

The playing cards were shuffled and dealt as follows (N.B. from this point onwards the cards will be referred to by abbreviation e.g. 5 of Hearts = 5H):

Morschauserlanders
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit in Fort de Gre: 5D
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit with the column: KS
  • The MCC Artillery Unit: 3S
  • The MCC Infantry Unit: JD
  • The MCC Machine Gun Unit: 5H
Fezians
  • The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia: 4H
  • The regular Fezian Infantry Unit: 4S
  • The Fezian Artillery Unit: 5C
  • The Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard: 1S
  • The Fezian Machine Gun Unit: 2S
The order in which Units were activated was, therefore:
  • The Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard: 1S
  • The Fezian Machine Gun Unit: 2S
  • The MCC Artillery Unit: 3S
  • The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia: 4H
  • The regular Fezian Infantry Unit: 4S
  • The MCC Machine Gun Unit: 5H
  • The Fezian Artillery Unit: 5C
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit in Fort de Gre: 5D
  • The MCC Infantry Unit: JD
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit with the column: KS
The Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard moved forward until it was in range of the fort and opened fire. It hit 2 of the defenders, killing 1 of them.

The Fezian Zouaves of the Guard open fire on the fort's defenders.
The Fezian Machine Gun Unit followed them forward and also fired at the fort’s defenders, hitting and killing 2 of them.

The Fezian Machine Gun Unit also inflicted casualties on the fort’s defenders.
The MCC Artillery Unit moved towards the fort, but was out of range. The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia advanced and opened fire on the fort, but caused no casualties.

The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia moved up and opened fire on the fort, but to no avail.
The regular Fezian Infantry Unit moved to the right flank of the Fezian Machine Gun Unit and its fire killed the fort’s last remaining defender.

The regular Fezian Infantry Unit’s fire killed the last remaining defender in the fort.
The remaining Units – the MCC Machine Gun Unit, the Fezian Artillery Unit, the MCC Infantry Unit, and the locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit with the column – all advanced but did not engage any enemy Units.

The situation at the end of Turn 2. The Fezians were advancing on the now empty fort ...
… and the Morschauserlanders were unable to stop their advance.
Turn 3

The playing cards were shuffled and dealt as follows:

Morschauserlanders
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit: QH
  • The MCC Artillery Unit: 7D
  • The MCC Infantry Unit: 8S
  • The MCC Machine Gun Unit: 2C
Fezians
  • The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia: 2D
  • The regular Fezian Infantry Unit: 10D
  • The Fezian Artillery Unit: 5S
  • The Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard: KH
  • The Fezian Machine Gun Unit: 5H
The order in which Units were activated was, therefore:
  • The MCC Machine Gun Unit: 2C
  • The Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia: 2D
  • The Fezian Machine Gun Unit: 5H
  • The Fezian Artillery Unit: 5S
  • The MCC Artillery Unit: 7D
  • The MCC Infantry Unit: 8S
  • The regular Fezian Infantry Unit: 10D
  • The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit: QH
  • The Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard: KH
The MCC Machine Gun Unit, the Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia, the Fezian Machine Gun Unit, and the Fezian Artillery Unit all continued to advance towards the fort and the Morschauserland troops, but as none of the Morschauserland Units were in range, the Fezians did not open fire.

When the MCC Artillery Unit moved forward the regular Fezian Infantry Unit was in range of their gun, and they fired on the Fezian Unit and killed 1 of its soldiers.

The MCC Artillery Unit opens fire at long range ... and hits its target!
It was then the turn of the MCC Infantry Unit to advance, and they were able to fire at the Infantry Unit of locally-recruited Fezian Militia, hitting them and killing 1 of the Militiamen.

The MCC Infantry Unit open fire on the locally-recruited Fezian Militia Infantry Unit.
The Fezians responded by moving the regular Fezian Infantry Unit forward. They engaged the MCC Infantry Unit, inflicting 3 casualties, of whom 2 were fatalities.

Although they have already suffered casualties, the Fezian Infantry Unit was able to inflict serious casualties on the MCC Infantry Unit.
The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit advanced and fired back at the regular Fezian Infantry Unit, but although they hit the Unit they inflicted no fatal casualties.

The locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit fired ineffectively at the regular Fezian Infantry Unit.
The final Unit to move was the Infantry Unit of Fezian Zouaves of the Guard, which was able to flank the locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit, hitting them 3 times and killing 2 of its soldiers in the process.

The Fezian Zouaves of the Guard Infantry Unit fired into the flank of the locally-recruited MCC Infantry Unit ... and killed two of its soldiers.
At this point the Morschauserlanders realised that they were in serious danger of being overwhelmed, and began to withdraw. The Fezians, who had captured their objective with only minimal casualties, allowed them to retreat unmolested. They then set about improving the fort’s defences ready for any possible counter-attack.

The situation at the end of the battle. The Fezians are poised to occupy the Fort de Gre and the Morschauserlanders prepare to withdraw.
Conclusions

The card-driven turn sequence worked as well as I had hoped, and produced a battle that felt far more fluid and unpredictable. Neither side was able to gain ascendancy early in the battle, and this was reflected in the to-and-fro nature of the combat. Further play-tests might be necessary, but at present they rules work very well in their current state.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Modified Morschauser '19th Century' Wargames Rules

After the recent play-tests of the latest draft of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' Period Rules for the 19th century era, it was apparent that several minor but significant changes needed to be made. These were:
  • The use of a card-driven turn sequence
  • The addition of an extra figure to Machine Gun and Artillery Units
  • The reduction of the strength of a Cavalry Unit from four to three figures
I have now made these changes, and the latest draft of the rules is below.

I hope to play-test this latest draft tomorrow if time and circumstances allow.

Nugget 232

I collected the latest issue of THE NUGGET (NUGGET 232) from the printers yesterday afternoon, and it has been put into envelopes and will be posted later this morning. With a bit of luck it should be with members early next week.

In the meantime I have uploaded the PDF versions of latest issue of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website so that all full and e-members can access it before the printed version is delivered.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Nugget 232

I took the latest issue of THE NUGGET to the printers on Tuesday, and I hope to pick it up later this morning so that I can post it out to members of Wargame Developments on Saturday. With a bit of luck it should reach them early next week.

I intend to upload the PDF versions of the latest issues of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website later today so that full members and e-members can read it before the printed version arrives in the post.

The Visiting Fireman

Last night Tim Gow (a fellow member of Wargame Developments who co-organises the Conference of Wargamers [COW] every year) paid a visit. He was in London for a conference, had a spare evening, and popped over for a chat, dinner, and a wargame or two!

Tim’s visit gave me the opportunity to play-test the current version of my 19th century wargames rules in a face-to-face wargame rather than solo. The results were interesting.

Battle 1: This was fought on a fairly empty battlefield (very little terrain other than a small fortified village and a few native farms) between force of four Units (one Artillery and three Infantry Units) and five Units (one Machine Gun, one Artillery and three Infantry Units). The result was rather unbalanced as the first side to open fire was able to do massive damage to the other side. We decided to persist with the existing turn sequence for the next battle, but increased the size of the Artillery Unit to three figures.

Battle 2: This was fought on a slightly fuller battlefield (consisting of a few native farms and wooded areas) between force of five Units (one Artillery and four Infantry Units) and eight Units (one Machine Gun, one Artillery and six Infantry Units). The result was rather slightly less unbalanced because of the larger number of Units deployed and the increase in Artillery firepower, but the turn sequence meant that one player was left sitting, waiting too long whilst the other player moved and fired. We decided to use the card-activated turn sequence from the RED HEX rules to see if this improved the rules in any way.

Battle 3: This was fought on the same battlefield as the previous battle and with the same number of Units as before. The result was a much less unbalanced battle. The turn sequence made it far less easy for one side to achieve an early dominance on the battlefield that could not be overturned as the battle progressed. All-in-all this was the best battle of the evening, and I am now determined to include the changes we play-tested in the next draft of the rules.

My thanks go to Tim for making this set of play-tests possible; the results have moved the whole process of developing the rules forward by several leaps and bounds. It also shows how important it is to play-test rules in face-to-face battles rather than just in solo ones as I tend to do.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

PBEM Kriegsspiel – The Waterloo Campaign

Generalfeldmarschall Graf Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher sets out to review his troops.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

PBEM Kriegsspiel – The Waterloo Campaign

An extract from von Blücher's diary for 11th June 1815:
News that the 'Beast' in on the move against us fills me with no fear. He was defeated, and he will be defeated again; we and the English will see to that!

I have given my orders, and have sent a courier to His Grace, the Duke of Wellington. All I can do is to wait and see what happens next. With luck we shall catch Bonaparte before he is ready; if not, we shall face him on the field of Mars soon enough.

My boys are young, and many lack experience, but they are true patriots and will fight and die for their King and Country.

A good cigar and a brandy or two should settle me down before I sleep. I have made my dispositions and can do no more. I will sleep knowing that I have done my best for my King and my Country.

Monday, 18 January 2010

PBEM Kriegsspiel – The Waterloo Campaign

I have been asked to take part in a PBEM Kriegsspiel set during 1815. I have been allocated the role of Generalfeldmarschall Graf Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher – commander of the Prussian Army – and I will be writing my/his diary of events as they unfold.
The ‘Beast’ Napoleon has returned from exile and my troops, along with those of my brother-in-arms the Duke of Wellington, are all that stand between stability and anarchy in Europe. The Austrians and Russians are said to be on their way, but I doubt that they will arrive in time to prevent the ‘Beast’ from plunging Europe into bloody war again!
I now have to write my first set of orders as well as sending a courier to convey my intentions to the Duke. More news will follow soon.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

My favourite fiction authors and books

I read a lot of non-fiction books but I do have a selection of favourite fiction – and authors – that I often return to. My collection includes works by the following authors:

Boris Akunin
  • The Erast Fandorin novels and stories
  • The Sister Pelagia novels
Margery Allingham
  • The Albert Campion novels
John Buchan
  • The Richard Hannay novels
  • The Dickson McCunn novels
John le Carré
  • The George Smiley novels
Agatha Christie
  • The Hercule Poirot novels and stories
  • The Miss Marple novels
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Sherlock Holmes novels and stories
  • The Brigadier Gerard short stories
C S Forrester
  • The Hornblower novels
  • Brown on Resolution
  • The Gun
  • The African Queen
  • The General
  • The Ship
George MacDonald Fraser
  • The Flashman novels and stories
Andrew Martin
  • The Jim Stringer – Steam Detective novels
Martin Cruz Smith
  • The Arkardy Renko novels
H G Wells
  • Any of his science fiction novels
Having written this list I noticed common themes:
  • The majority are crime, espionage, or military/historical stories
  • Most are set in the late 19th or early 20th centuries
  • Russia features in quite a number of the stories
It has been said that the books on someone's bookshelves tell you more about them than an hour-long conversation with them.

I wonder what this list of books tells you about me?

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Modified Morschauser '19th Century' Wargames Rules

I finally managed to get enough time to sit down and write the amended draft of draft of my adaptation of Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' Period Rules for the 19th century era. I have incorporated the ideas I laid down in my blog entries of 14th and 15th January, and I hope to be able to play-test the rules by next weekend. In the meantime, here they are:

Read, enjoy … and please make comments!

50,000 hits!

Sometime this evening the number of 'hits' on this blog passed a new milestone – 50,000!

I added a ‘hit’ counter on 11th February 2009, and at the time I expected to average about 20 to 30 ‘hits’ per day. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to get more than a couple of thousand ‘hits’ per year, but by May 2009 the 5,000 mark had been reached … and then things really took off! The number of ‘hits’ passed 10,000 in June and 25,000 in September.

When I started this blog back on 18th September 2008 I wrote that:
'After much prompting ... and not a little reluctance on my part ... I have decided to take the plunge.

I have now joined the world of the self-publicising, self-centred, self-indulgent blogger.

I intend to share my thoughts on wargaming (and other related matters that crop up) with a wider audience ... probably much to the relief of my wife and wargaming colleagues. So watch this space ... and come prepared to be bored!'
Well, I hope that I have not been too boring, and that you will continue to read my blog.

Am I a 'self-publicising, self-centred, self-indulgent blogger'? Well I have tried not to be … but I am probably not the best judge as to whether or not I have been. What I can say is that blogging has given me a great deal of fun as well as giving a much needed structure to my wargaming. More importantly it has also introduced me to a wide group of fellow wargamers who I would otherwise never have ‘met’, and their friendship and support has been the biggest bonus that blogging has brought me.

Many thanks for continuing to read my inconsequential ramblings … and roll on 100,000!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Single figure bases and Morschauser's Roster System

The very positive comments that I have so far received to yesterday's blog entry make me think that I might just have come up with something that will work ... and work well.

Before proceeding, however, I thought that I would re-read the chapter about The Roster System in Joseph Morschauser’s HOW TO PLAY WAR GAMES IN MINIATURE. This is part of what he wrote:
'The Roster System involves splitting Basic Units up into a number of parts, not physically, but on paper. When you form Basic Units on trays you place the name of each Unit on the Unit's tray. These names should now be written one below the other on a sheet of paper. Then after each name a number of small circles. This list of names with circles after each name is you army Roster.

Each of the circles after the Unit name on the Roster is a Section of the Basic Unit. If there are four circles, then the Basic Unit has a strength of four Sections. In general, you treat each Section in the same manner that you treated a Basic Unit in a game without the Roster system. In other words, if a Basic Unit of four Sections fires, it fires four shots; if it melees, four dice are rolled, one for each Section. The Basic Unit tray on your battlefield now represents four rather than just one.

When a Basic Unit of four Sections is hit by an enemy shot, one of the circles after its name on the Roster is crossed off. No changes are made on the tray on the battlefield. The casualty is marked off the Roster, and the tray now represents only three Sections. When it fires or melees, only three Sections do so. The Basic Unit tray should be left on the battlefield until all the circles next to its name on the Roster have been crossed off.

One word of caution: a Basic Unit, no matter how many Sections it contains, fires all of its shots during one turn at the same target at the same time. The fire of Sections of one Basic Unit may not be split between a number of enemy units during one turn. Melee by its basic rule is a little different. If a basic Unit of four Sections melees an enemy basic Unit of three Sections, three dice are rolled for the four-section Unit matching three Sections of Enemy Unit. Melee continues until one Unit is entirely wiped out. Then Survivor Unit may melee another Enemy Unit in range. Fire and melee is, however, still Unit-against-Unit, whether you use the Roster system or not.'
This section of text points the way forward for me. Essentially I am following Morschauser's lead, but without placing the figures on a common 'tray' or base. I am replacing the 'circles' on the Roster with single figures or – in the case of AFVs – with some form of as yet unspecified marker. As long as I remember that Units must stay together in the same grid square, Units may not split their fire and engage more than one enemy Unit during the same turn, and meleeing Units only throw as many dice as the 'strength' of the weakest Unit in the melee, I should be all right and the existing rules will not need much more than minimal redrafting.

I only hope that I have enough time over the coming weekend to redraft the rules and play-test them.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Single figure bases and Morschauser's Roster System

I have been thinking about my recent blog entries regarding single figure and multi-figure bases.

The rules that I am currently developing are based on those written by Joseph Morschauser, and he used multi-figure bases. This means that if I do decide to go over to single figure bases I will have to make sabot bases for my collection ... or does it?

As Ross Mac wrote in his comment of 9th January and that I quoted on 10th January, ‘… if you are using a grid and each grid can only hold 1 "unit", does it matter if the unit is on a base or not?’ There is no reason why I could not decide that an Infantry Unit should have four single figure bases, and so I decided to see what the two alternatives would look like on the tabletop.

On the left is a multi-figure Infantry Unit base and on the right an Infantry Unit made up from four single figure bases.
The first thing that I noticed was that I need twice as many figures to fight my battles; however, the four single figure bases look better than two figures mounted on the same base. Furthermore it will be easier to fit the four single figure bases into a grid square that contains a tree or building than it will be if they are mounted on a larger multi-figure base.

The single figure base option seemed to have more advantages than disadvantages, and I was about to leave the matter there when I happened to pick up Joseph Morschauser’s book to move it out of the way … and it fell open at the section that deals with his Roster System. In actual fact it fell open on the page that gives the number of circles that each type of ‘Modern’ Unit should have on its roster:
  • Infantry Rifle Unit: 4 circle
  • Infantry Machine Gun Unit: 3 circles
  • Infantry Antitank Rocket Unit: 3 circles
  • Field Gun Unit: 2 circles
  • Field Howitzer Unit: 2 circles
  • Tank Unit: 2 circles
  • Armoured Scout Car Unit: 3 circles
It immediately struck me that here was the figure ‘strength’ of my single figure base units – all I had to do was replace the ‘circle’ with figures! The only problem was the Tank and Armoured Scout Car Units, but the strength of these Units could easily be indicated by the use of removable markers.

I thought that this idea was worth pursuing, and so I put together a few Units to see what they looked like …

On the left is a Field Howitzer Unit (two single figure bases and an Infantry Gun) and on the right is an Infantry Unit (four single figure bases).
On the left is an Infantry Machine Gun Unit (three single figure bases including one armed with a Machine Gun) and on the right is a Tank Unit (with two green counters on the engine deck to indicate its 'strength').
… and I was very happy with the results.

This has given me something to ponder on over the next few days, and may well lead to a few changes to my existing adaptations of Morschauser’s rules.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

NOBO magnets and steel figure bases

I have never, ever mastered the art of painting figures that were stuck on multi-figure bases before being painted. I was always unable to get my brushes into all the little nooks and crannies that needed painting, with the result that the figures looked rather poorly painted.

Until now the only method that I have been happy to use has involved mounting each figure on a large, temporary base that I could hold whilst I painted the figure. When the figure had been painted and varnished, I then removed it from its temporary base and fixed it to its permanent base.

NOBO 30mm diameter display board magnets.
One of the benefits of using steel washers (or coins) for basing figures is that you can use NOBO 30mm diameter display board magnets to hold them whilst you paint the figures. These magnets are easy to grasp, and the figure (and base) can be removed after painting by just sliding them off. I have about twenty of these magnets – which is the average size of a batch of figures that I would normally paint – and I am looking forward to using them in the very near future.

A painted and based 15mm scale Essex Miniatures US Army officer on a NOBO 30mm diameter display board magnet. This figure gives some idea of the size of the magnet.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Single figure bases: Cheap bases

Having decided that I should base all my figures on single bases that I either use 'as is' or grouped together on sabot bases, I began looking round for suitable bases.

My first thoughts were to use steel washers with small centre holes. These are apparently called fender or repair washers, and can be bought in varying sizes and quantities from DIY stores, hardware shops, and building supplies companies. The smallest that I could find were 19mm in diameter, which sound like they might be about right for 20mm scale figures but a bit too large for 15mm scale ones.

I was wondering what to do when I remembered reading that one and two pence coins minted after 1992 are made from copper-plated steel. A quick check showed that they will 'stick' to magnetic sheets just as well as a steel washer ... and the one pence coins are smaller, do not have a hole in the centre, and much cheaper!

Now I know that defacing coinage used to be criminal offence in the UK, but I think that the relevant law was repealed back in the 1980s. If it has been, then using one and two pence coins as bases might be a possible solution to my basing problem. All I have to do now is find out if using them for such a purpose will make me a criminal or not ...

Monday, 11 January 2010

Richard III, Edward VIII and a Very British Civil War: Images of the vehicles

Tim Gow has very kindly searched through his collection of photographs and found some of the images he took of the vehicles used in the making of the 1995 version of RICHARD III. These pictures are now available to view on his blog, MEGABLITZ AND MORE.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

I never understood the fascination with Fantasy wargaming but ...

I enjoy reading well-written fantasy novels – in fact the whole LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was read to me whilst I was at Primary school – but it is not a genre that has every attracted me from a wargaming point of view. I know that there are some excellent and widely-used rules for fighting large-scale fantasy battles – HORDES OF THE THINGS (HOTT) and WARHAMMER immediately spring to mind – and that Games Workshop produces a vast range of fantasy figures, but fantasy wargaming has never appealed to me.

I suspect that the reasons for this are related to the use of magic in some shape or form in the rules (although why this should be a problem for me, I do not know) and that they are all set in a vaguely ancient historical setting. Battles fought before the invention of gunpowder have never held any particular fascination for me. I have – on occasions – fought wargames set in what is usually referred to as the ‘Ancients’ period, and have generally acquitted myself fairly well … but although they were enjoyable I have never bought or painted a single figure for the period.

It is therefore all the more surprising that today I bought a copy of THE COMPLETE CHRONICLES OF CONAN (Gollancz [2006] ISBN 978 0 575 07766 9).

So why did I buy this volume of collected stories?

First and foremost it is because of Tony Bath and his Hyborian Campaign. As a younger – much younger – wargamer I was enthralled by what I read about the campaign. This was not just a collection of battles; this was a real campaign, with political infighting, broken alliances, and lots and lots of ‘characters’. This interest was recently revived when Rudi Geudens made the text and images from the original campaign available via the Internet. Secondly the wife of a very good friend of mine was intimately involved in its publication. Thirdly I had been given some money as a Christmas present, and I decided to buy something that I would not otherwise have bought.

I look forward to reading these stories with interest.