Friday 28 June 2013

A week to go!

It is now just a week until COW2013 starts ... and I am really looking forward to it.

I spoke to my co-organiser – Tim Gow – earlier today, and it seems that everything that needs to be done has been done, and that if anything unforeseen crops up, we can deal with it.

We also discussed the Operation Vijay session that we are putting on at COW2013. Tim is providing the 'toys', including some wonderful 1:300th-scale aircraft, several small-scale model warships, and enough suitable 1:300th-scale Megablitz units to represent the Portuguese and Indian troops that took part. All that I need to do is to add the finishing touches to the briefing packs that will be given to each side ... and then everything will be ready for the session.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Looking backwards to go forwards

It has been said that if you could test hindsight, it would always have 20/20 vision. We can all be wise after the event ... but how many of us nod sagely, say that we could see it coming ... and then do something similar ourselves? I know that I do ... and the past few days have given me the opportunity to look backwards so that I do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

I recently decided to go back to basics, and to re-examine (and re-use) Joseph Morschauser's FRONTIER wargames rules. As a result I have fought a series of play-test battles that I thoroughly enjoyed, and each battle has taken me a bit further down the road towards my goal ... which is a simple set of fast-play rules that use a gridded playing surface.

Now I have been down this road before, and I decided that it might be a good idea if I re-read the relevant blog entries I wrote at the time. What I discovered was that I got side-tracked at various stages as I tried different ideas out, and that I ended up in several developmental cul de sacs.

This exercise in hindsight made me realise that unless I keep going back to the original rules that Joseph Morschauser wrote to double check that I am staying in line with his basic design philosophy, I am in danger of repeating my earlier errors. This has helped me to formulate my ideas for the future developments I want to make, and with luck I will be writing blog entries about my progress as it happens. Even if I fail to achieve my objective this time around, at least I will be able to look back at some time in the future and realise where and why I went wrong!

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Even more Black Watch Highlanders!

Today's post brought some more additions to my Funny Little Wars army ... some more Black Watch Highlanders (or proper soldiers, as Tim Gow would say!).

I now have 12 of them, including two officers, and they look mighty fine 'on parade'.

I am sure that they will be the backbone of my Highland Brigade, and will serve with distinction alongside my other Highlanders, the Seaforths.

As I expect most of my Funny Little Wars battles will be fought using half-size units, I decided to see what the Black Watch looked like as a half-size battalion/regiment.

Not bad, eh?

(The two 'missing' figures will probably serve on the Brigade or Divisional Commander's staff. The officer will be an aide de camp and the piper will no doubt entertain the Officers' Mess on formal nights ... and scare the willies out of the enemy the rest of the time!)

PS. I did buy some more Seaforth Highlanders via eBay ... but they have yet to arrive.

COW2013 Programme and Timetable

With just over a week to go before COW2013 takes place over the weekend 5th - 7th July, it was vital that I collected and posted a copy of the COW2013 Programme to everyone who will be attending. I did this today, and with luck it should be with attendees by the end of June.

I also had the COW2013 Timetable printed A0 size so that it is ready to pin up on the session board as soon as I get to Knuston Hall on the evening of Friday 5th July.

Copies of both of these documents are available in PDF format as downloads from the Conference of Wargamers page on the Wargame Developments website.

Beware: It's a scam!

For a variety of reasons I was not able to check my emails, read Feedly, etc., this morning, and have only just managed to do so.

I was surprised to see the following in my email inbox:

The reason why I was surprised is because I am not an O2 customer ... so I did a search of the 'phone number (+447126558000) ... and got all sorts of warning messages. It appears that this is a scam, and that it is intended to get you to contact a premium rate telephone number where you will be asked all sorts of personal questions so that you can 'hear' the non-existent voicemail message.

Needless to say, IT'S A SCAM and I strongly advise any of my regular blog readers who receives a similar email message to just press the 'delete' button.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Warship 2013

The second package that was delivered this morning contained the latest copy of WARSHIP. This is Volume XXXV of this annual publication and it is edited by John Jordan and published by Conway (ISBN 978 1 84486 205 4).

This edition includes:
  • Editorial by John Jordan
  • Rebuilding the Australian Cruiser Squadron 1930-1939 by Peter Cannon
  • The Fourth Fleet Incident and the Fibuki Class by Hans Lengerer
  • The 'Semi-Dreadnoughts' of the Danton Class by John Jordan
  • The Battle Cruisers Lion and Tiger at Dogger Bank: The View of the Ship's Medical Officers by Matthew Seligmann
  • Modern European Offshore Patrol Vessels by Conrad Waters
  • The Unlucky Destroyer Espingole by Philippe Caresse
  • The Soviet Aircraft Carrier: the Interwar Projects by Richard Worth and Vladimir Yakubov
  • Securing 'The Ripest Plum': Britain and the South American Naval Export Market 1945-1975 by Jon Wise
  • Toulon: The Self-Destruction and Salvage of the French Fleet by Enrico Cernuschi and Vincent P O'Hara
  • Russia's Coles 'Monitors': Smerch, Rusalka and Charodeika by Stephen McLaughlin
  • Warship Notes
  • Naval Books of the Year
  • Warship Gallery
I am looking forward to reading this book at my leisure over the coming weeks, especially as there are one or two articles of particular interest to me.

Another six and eightpence!

No sooner had I written my earlier blog entry of today about my latest additions to my Funny Little Wars army when the doorbell rang ... and a courier delivered two more boxes of 54mm Britains figures!

The latest additions are twelve Welsh Guards ...

... and the eleven Seaforth Highlanders.

Some of these figures are over thirty years old, and have one or two minor painting errors or chips ... but for the moment I intend to use them 'as is'.

I have some more Highlanders that are yet to be delivered, and when they arrive I will try to arrange a 'parade' of all the Britains figures I have recently acquired.

Send another three and fourpence ... better make that six and eightpence!

Not one but TWO packages arrived in the post today ... and one of them contained two boxes of Britains 54mm figures to add to my growing Funny Little Wars army.

One box contained six members of the Black Watch ...

... and the other ten soldiers of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

I now have the beginning of an Army Red ... although I will have to come up with a 'proper' name for it in due course.

As to the other package ... well more of that later!

Monday 24 June 2013

Send three and fourpence ...

Some further Funny Little Wars recruits arrived in this morning's post (the first of several tranches I hope to receive this week!) and they have joined the ranks of my US Marines.

I now have 22 US Marines ... which is enough figures to form a full-size Funny Little Wars Battalion/Regiment (the two terms are interchangeable in Funny Little Wars) or a small two-Battalion/Regiment-strong Brigade for half-size Funny Little Wars battles.

I have several more 'units' on order, including some Black Watch and Seaforth Highlanders (the latter being in campaign rather than parade dress), members of an English Line Infantry Regiment (the Yorks and Lancs), and some Guards (Welsh Guards to be precise).

Rest assured, as and when they arrive, they will be featured on a blog entry.

Additions to the COW2013 programme already!

The metaphorical ink was hardly dry on my very recent blog entry about the COW2013 programme when two more sessions were added!

They are:

I’m a Christian. I’d like to suggest that you need to put on Catholic Specs to see Western military history more clearly. For most of our recorded history, Britain was Catholic. Yet even our military historians have a blind spot about this.

NEWBURY 1644 (Phil Steele)
An ECW toy soldier game with historical commands and restrictions.

I suspect that there might be even more 'new' sessions to come, but once I have taken the programme to the printers I will not be able to add them to it.

The programme for COW2013 is almost ready

My co-organiser of COW2013Tim Gow – sent me the programme on Saturday and I will be taking it to the printer later this morning.

Besides the session timetable ...

... the programme contains a list of the sessions that will be on offer, and they are currently as follows:

Homo Sapiens vs. Neanderthal. The 2013 plenary game will be a 'cardboard simulator' representing the first great victorious war of mankind – that in which Homo Sapiens Sapiens eradicated the Neanderthals.

TEN ROUNDS RAPID (WD Display Team North)
Plucky Brits trying to bag a few Huns before going home by Christmas. A fast-paced WW1 participation game.

FLETCHER PRATT ON GRASS (Tim Gow, John Armatys & Martin Rapier (so basically WDDTN again))
The Fletcher Pratt Naval war game with 1/200th-scale toy ships – on the lawn!

The game of political advancement in the Roman Republic which involves much rolling of dice and instructing stone masons to carve suitable inscriptions on tombs. An entertainment for up to six players.

GENTLEMEN GO BY (Sue Laflin Barker)
It's still the morning after the smugglers have landed their goods. They are still trying to deliver the contraband to those who have ordered it and the Revenue are still trying to intercept it. I have made some adjustments to the rules which I hope will make the game run more smoothly. As before there is room for up to 4 tavern keepers and up to 3 revenue.

THE FORTRESS (Jim Wallman)
A committee game set in World War II about designing and constructing a scheme of fortifications.

A Game for Boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books. Basically cocking about on the lawn with big toy soldiers and matchstick firing guns.

TAIPING ERA (Graham Evans)
A brief description of the session - 15mm rules for warfare in mid 19th Century China. The mechanisms are designed to cover combat between Imperial forces (their European style supports such as Chinese Gordon's Ever Victorious Army) and the various rebels (mainly the Taiping) and also the Barbarian Invaders. The core system uses the EDNA approach to simulate unit cohesion.

BATTLE 1945 (Phil Barker)
A WW2 ‘Sharp End’ toy soldier game.

The first mega-game, the worst commando raid in history, how Paddy Griffith prevented World War III, why WD never ruled the (wargaming) world, video interview by ??, the true story of Don Featherstone’s Skirmish Wargames, the demise of the Wargames Newsletter, and future directions of the History of Wargaming Project.

This will be a recreation of the almost unknown skirmish game from the early days of modern wargaming. Hidden scenario, limited situational awareness each player will command small band of men. Whether these men are equally determined as the players will be seen.

BOSWORTH (Phil Steele)
A talk and presentation about the Battle of Bosworth. This will be followed by:

BIG BOSWORTH (Phil Steele)
The new 54mm DBA version of Bosworth.

Another singalong session following on from last year’s triumph. This will have a nautical theme…

ZONA DI CAMORRA (John Bassett)
Liberated Naples, 1943: a small team from British Intelligence. hunts for leading Fascists in an ancient, starving city rife with racketeering, prostitution and vendettas. A rather dark role-play on post-conflict reconstruction with some adult themes.

A simple game of carrier action in World War II
World War 2 aircraft carrier battles were immensely complicated affairs, with many types of aircraft, weapons, different types of carrier and multitudinous other ships. Or were they? 16 card Carrier Strike portrays the essence of carrier battles in a simple format requiring cards, dice, markers and a playing area to represent the ocean. Cries of Tora!, Tora!, Tora! are completely optional.

A rather complicated WW2 tactical / operational miniatures game.

TURKISH DELIGHT! (Wayne Thomas & David Brock)
A 15mm foray into the Balkans circa 1912 using a "Far Away Wars" variant. Greeks v Ottomans

A second demonstration of GENERAL QUARTERS III: this time a night action off Guadalcanal in late 1942. All aboard for the Tokyo Express. . .

OPERATION VIJAY (Bob Cordery & Tim Gow)
A planning session followed by a map-based wargame (with toys!) about Operation Vijay, - the Indian ‘liberation’ of Goa in 1961.

Being a game set in the 18th century somewhere in Kent. It may (or may not) have something to do with smuggling ...

The first major battle between German and Russian forces in 1914, refought using Richard Brooks's rules with the same pinboard hidden movement system recently used in our refight of Mons-Le Cateau.

A session which replays in a group format the infamous SPI political game "Chicago-Chicago!" about the 1968 Democratic Party convention and presents some of the very odd and - for their time - innovative ideas behind it.

HAPSBURG LIP 2013 (Mike Young)
Leave the waging of wars to others! But you, happy Austria, marry; for the realms which Mars awards to others, Venus transfers to you

An attempt to see if we at COW can come up with a peace settlement that would work in Syria in 2013. Players take the role of Assad, the Alawites, the Sunni, Iran and the USA. Using a combination of a COW committee game and a Decision Workshop we see if we can come up with some ideas of what might work in Syria. We can then compare it with what happens over the next year, and see how well we do compared with history. One map, 1 page A4 briefings, Politics on a single screen… Want more details? Bring a newspaper.

The interesting thing is that additional unofficial sessions will no doubt 'appear' on the programme timetable once it goes on display on the Friday night.

It looks like being yet another great conference, and as long as the weather is not too bad, one where we will be able to do quite a bit of al fresco wargaming.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Recreating Morschauser's original gridded wargame in 54mm-scale

Until recently I have been working to recreate Joseph Morschauser's gridded FRONTIER wargame using 15mm-scale figures ... but as I now have a growing collection 54mm-scale figures, the possibility of running a game that will look like one of Morschauser's original wargames is growing.

I have been trawling eBay for possible additional figures for my collection, and I have several bids in place which will, if they are successful, increase the size of my FLW army to approximately twice it's  present strength.

Morschauser mounted three 54mm-scale foot figures, two mounted figures, and two gunner figures and a cannon on a 3-inch square base. This would mean that I would need less than 50 figures per side to fight a battle on a 12 x 12 grid ... and this quite achievable.

I decided to see what 54mm-scale figures would look like on 3-inch square bases ... so I put my latest Funny Little Wars recruits onto some pre-cut 3-inch bases that I had to hand!

I must admit that I am quite impressed with the 'look' of the whole thing ... although the 'gunner' at the back does need a companion to properly complete the set-up!

With the current upsurge in interest in Old School Wargaming, I might just have 'found' a possible session for COW2014.

My latest Funny Little Wars recruits ... out of their boxes!

Some years ago James May bought a boxed item of Hornby model railway rolling stock at an auction as part of his TV programme about his Top Toys. (I think that it was a 'Car-a-belle' ... but I am not sure.) He bid against a number of collectors ... and some of them were shocked when he stated to camera that he fully intended to take it out of its box and run it on his model railway at home.

Well today I am going to shock a few collectors of Britains toy soldiers ... because I have taken my latest Funny Little Wars recruits out of their boxes ... and here they are!

I think that they look great ... and cannot wait for an opportunity to try them out on a tabletop (or even a lawn!) battlefield.

Three wargames in a week ... and with more to come!

After several months without fighting a single wargame, I have actually managed to fight three in one week!

Admittedly they have all been play-tests of my various developments of Joseph Morschauser's FRONTIER wargames rules, but nonetheless I enjoyed the experience tremendously ... and I hope that I can keep up this sort of tempo over the next few months. Mind you, that should not be too difficult as COW2013 (this year's annual Conference of Wargamers) is being held on the first weekend of July ... and that is now just two weeks away.

I have seen the draft programme for COW2013 ... and there are lots of sessions that I want to attend. In fact, I am spoilt for choice, and it looks like being yet another excellent weekend of wargaming in pleasant surroundings and with a great bunch of people!

As to what will happen after COW ... well one priority will be to write a long blog entry about the conference and another will be to draft my session reports for THE NUGGET. I then hope to carry on developing Joseph Morschauser's FRONTIER wargames rules as I think that they are going to be the basis of the rules I want to use for my planned Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project. I also want to try some half-size FUNNY LITTLE WARS battles, and I know that there is going to be a large Megablitz battle held in the middle of August that I want to take part in.

It looks like I will be having a somewhat busy time ahead, with lots to look forward to!

Saturday 22 June 2013

Last stand in Strackenz

It was the Spring of 1945 and the Allies are pushing across Germany from the east and west. The former Duchy of Strackenz lay in the path of the advancing American Army, and advance units had already captured Strackenz City. All that remained was for the last remaining units of the once-might German Army that were still in the area to make a stand at the bridge that the Allies needed to cross to enter Mecklenburg.

The German defenders comprised:
  • 1 Self-propelled anti-tank gun unit
  • 3 Landsturm machine gun units
  • 3 Landsturm infantry units (armed with Panzerfausts)
The American attackers comprised:
  • 3 Tank units
  • 1 Mortar unit
  • 1 Machine gun unit
  • 4 Infantry units, 1 of which was equipped with Bazookas
The opening positions
The Germans had dug in on the eastern side of the river ...

... and the Americans advanced along the road from Strackenz City.

Turn 1
There was no artillery fire by either side, and although the Germans had the initiative, they chose to do nothing. The Americans therefore advanced towards the bridge.

Turn 2
For the second time neither side fired their artillery, the Germans did not move, and the American continued their advance.

Turn 3
The leading American tank unit opened fire on the German machine gun unit that was to the left of the bridge ... and missed it.

The Germans chose to do nothing and the rest of the American units continued their advance and began to shake out into line.

Turn 4
The American tank unit fired at the same target as it had previously ... and missed! The mortar unit also targetted the same German unit ... and also missed!

The American had the initiative and continued to advance of a broadening front.

Yet again the Germans chose to remain in their defensive positions and await developments.

Turn 4
The leading American tank unit and the mortar unit again fired at the dug in German unit to the left of the bridge. The tank unit missed yet again ... but the mortar unit was on target and destroyed the German unit despite the fact that the Germans were dug in.

The Germans chose not to react to this loss, and the Americans continued their advance.

Turn 5
The German slef-propelled anti-tank gun unit fired at the closes American infantry unit ... but missed it!

The American gained the initiative and continued to advance ... and this finally brought the two sides into contact.

A number of battles were fought. Near the location of the German self-propelled anti-tank gun unit an American infantry unit attacked a German machine gun unit ...

... and was beaten off.

Near the bridge the German infantry unit fought an American tank unit, supported by an infantry unit. It used its Panzerfaust ... but this failed to destroy the American tank unit.

On the other flank the American Bazooka-equipped infantry unit took on a German machine gun unit ...

... and pushed them back.

The Germans remained on the defensive ... and only movement the made was when the infantry unit near the bridge pulled back.

Turn 6
There was no artillery fire, and the Germans had the initiative. They used the opportunity to pull their vulnerable infantry units back toward the forest.

The Americans now pushed forward with further vigour, and more battles broke out when units form both sides came into contact.

The attack by an American infantry unit on a German machine gun unit ended in a draw, whereas the American infantry unit that attacked the German self-propelled anti-tank gun ...

... was forced to fall back.

Turn 7
The German self-propelled anti-tank gun and the nearest American tank unit exchanged fire ... and the Tank unit was destroyed!

The American mortar unit then fired at the German self-propelled anti-tank gun ... which it destroyed!

The Germans had the initiative, and now that their most powerful weapon was destroyed, the infantry retreated further towards the forest.

The Americans were now free to continue their advance towards Mecklenburg. The last stand in Strackenz was over!

Armoured fighting vehicles were treated as per the ideas laid down in an earlier blog entry (i.e. they move 2 grid squares; they fire at a range of 4 grid squares as if they are light artillery; they may not move and fire during the same turn; and they have a battle Power of 7).

The Landsturm were all rated as being militia and therefore had their Battle Power reduced by 1 (i.e. their battle Power was 4) except for the units armed with Panzerfausts, who had a Battle Power of 6 for the first battle they fought against an enemy armoured fighting vehicle unit (against other types of unit they had a Battle Power of 4). After the first battle against an armoured fighting vehicle unit, the Panzerfausts were deemed to have been used up and the Infantry unit reverted to its Battle Power of 4.

The American unit armed with Bazookas had a Battle Power of 6 against enemy armoured fighting vehicles but did not lose that rating after battling enemy armoured fighting vehicle units as it was deemed to have a plentiful supply of ammunition.

The mortar unit was treated as if it were light field artillery.

The new rules worked even better than I had expected, and the casualty rates on both sides were much lower than I would have predicted. With the introduction of armoured fighting vehicles, I do think that I need to giver serious consideration to increasing the range of artillery ... but as the period I was wargaming is much later than that the rules were originally designed for (and military technology had advanced considerably), this does not seem to be unreasonable.

I really enjoyed fighting this battle, although I did have a few problems fitting the vehicle models into the grid squares. (For 1:100th-scale model vehicles the grid squares need to be at least 50mm x 50mm and not 40mm x 40mm as they were in this wargame.) It gave me the opportunity to use some of the Axis and Allies Miniatures that I have acquired over recent years ... and I suspect that the rules I used to fight this battle were probably a bit less complex that the ones that come with the Hasbro game.

My latest Funny Little Wars recruits

The recent spate of blog entries about the half-size Funny Little Wars battles that have been fought in Sheffield by Tim Gow and Martin Rapier has encouraged me to think about staging some similar battles. I have quite a few artillery pieces and four infantry regiments (and some cavalry) in my Cordeguayan Funny Little Wars army, but most of the toy soldiers are plastic Britains Deetail figures ... and these have a tendency to fall over rather too easily if the terrain is not very flat. I have, therefore, been looking for some additional, all-metal figures to supplement my existing collection.

The Cordeguayan Funny Little Wars army is almost exclusively made up of American Civil War and Wild West figures, and I decided that the most obvious thing for me to do was to look for metal Britains figures that would fit in with my existing figures ... and discovered that the company had produced a range of US Marines in ceremonial dress (dark blue jackets, light blue trousers, white peaked cap) and sets of these figures were available at reasonable prices on eBay ... so I bought some!

So far I have bought a box of six marching US Marines ...

... and a box with eight marching figures and two standard bearers.

I am on the lookout for some more of these figures so that I can field at least one large 'regiment' of marines for full-size Funny Little War battles ... which will also allow me to have a small 'brigade' for half-sized FLW ones.