Friday 31 August 2018

Where has all the time gone?

The time has seemed to zip by over the past couple of days, and until I sat down and reviewed what I have been doing, I must admit that I had no idea where it had all gone. In fact, I have done quite a lot, but on a number of different projects. Add in the demands of normal life (eating, sleeping, shopping, gardening etc.), and the days have seemingly been very full but not necessarily memorable.

So, what have I been doing?

Work on THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME has been continuing - albeit slowly - and the revised Wargame Developments website is waiting to be uploaded just as soon as the ISP has sorted the current problems out. The Wargame Developments database and accounts are up to date, the labels for the envelopes for THE NUGGET have been printed, and the stamped and labelled envelopes are waiting to be filled once I have collected THE NUGGET from the printer tomorrow. I have collated all the briefings I need for my game at Connections UK next week, and I only have the maps to print to complete my preparations.

On the buying front I bought a 40cm x 40cm cork board from WHSmith which will be the basis of a a very light 8 x 8 square gridded playing surface for small-scale PORTABLE WARGAMEs. All I need to do is to mark on the corners of the 5cm x 5cm grid squares, and the whole thing will be ready to use!

Looking back, I have made progress in a lot of different directions over the past few days ... but I hope to take things easy once next week is over and to be able to concentrate on writing my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Problems with the Wargame Developments website

With the publication of the first NUGGET of the year about to take place, I have spent quite a lot of time today tidying up the Wargame Developments website prior to uploading the revised webpages to our ISP. Unfortunately, the latter migrated all their clients to new servers over the summer ... and now the FTP program that I use will not connect to the new server and I cannot complete the upload.

The ISP is trying to sort out the problem, but I suspect that it might take some time. In the meantime, the old webpages will stay available for visitors to view and members wishing to re-subscribe can still do so using the link and relevant PayPal buttons.

Nugget 310

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue to me last night, and I hope to take it to the printer later this week. It should, therefore, be ready for me to collect by early next week to post out to members.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the first issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2018-2019 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder will be sent to you when this issue of THE NUGGET is posted out. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Connections UK: Conference Programme

The Connections UK 2018 conference programme looks like this:

Day 1. Tuesday 4 September
The programme includes Lunch from 1.00pm to 2.00pm and Supper from 6.00pm to 7.00pm.
  • Introduction to wargaming for newcomers (This will be a day-long course, interleaving example games and presentations):
    • Introduction: Why Wargame?
    • Example Game: Tactical Kriegsspiel.
    • Types of Wargame.
    • Example Game: COTS Game.
    • Wargaming Effects.
    • Example Game: Matrix Game.
    • Concluding Discussion
    • OR
  • Megagame (This will be an all-day game on a contemporary topic)
  • Component production (An informal evening session)
Day 2. Wednesday 5 September
  • Introduction: Relating the conference to the MOD Wargaming Handbook.
    • Design (Matt Caffrey)
    • Dilemmas and Trade-Offs in wargame design (Phil Sabin)
    • Game Design as a form of Journalism (Brian Train)
    • Challenges in Wargaming Design (Anna Nettleship)
  • Development (Graham Longley-Brown)
    • Analysis in experimentation wargaming (Dr Nigel Paling and Col Dickie Taylor)
    • Developing the KCL Crisis Simulation (Nick Reynolds)
    • Developing a High North nested games family (Dave Manley and Jeremy Smith)
    • Model calibration (Volko Ruhnke)
  • Games Fair Introduction (Phil Sabin)
Lunch: 11.00pm to 2.00pm
  • Games Fair Session 1 (includes a drinks break from 3.30pm to 4.00pm)
  • Keynote addresses
    • Wargames and systems thinking (Volko Ruhnke) and
    • Creativity in game design and mechanics (Brian Train)
Supper: 6.10pm to 7.00pm
  • Games Fair Session 2
Day 3. Thursday 6 September
  • Execution (Howard Body)
    • Play as Pedagogy (Aggie Hirst)
    • Wargaming case study: 'Cheese, butter & milk powder' (Erik Elgersma)
    • Empowering Defense wargaming through automation (Dr Karl Selke)
  • Validation (Brian Train)
    • Selecting, playing and assessing a COTS wargame (A Distant Plain) (Lt Col Neil Stevens & Lt Col Ranald Shephard)
    • Wargaming and reality: a case study of the Ukraine conflict 2014-2018 (John Curry)
  • Refinement (Graham Longley-Brown)
    • Wargame refinement (Phil Pournelle)
    • Wargaming lessons identified: a Senior Officer's perspective (Lt Gen (Retd) Sir David Capewell)
Lunch: 12.30pm to 1.30pm
  • Analysis (Colin Marston)
    • US/DoD analysis best and worst practice (Lt Col Rob Burks)
    • Designing analytical wargames with a view to successful data capture, management and analysis (Peter Williams)
    • In the eye of the beholder? Cognitive challenges in wargame analysis (Rex Brynen)
  • Facilitation Clinic: A panel session (Graham Longley-Brown, Rex Brynen, Jim Wallman, Tom Mouat, and Paul Strong)

I will be taking part in the Megagame on Day 1 and running a game during the Games Fair Session 1 on Day 2. Other than that, I will be sitting back, listening and learning.

Monday 27 August 2018

Connections UK: Operation Vijay

I will be attending Connections UK again this year ... and my offer to put on a session at the Game Fair on Wednesday 5th September has been accepted! I will be running OPERATION VIJAY, which is about the Indian invasion/re-integration/liberation* of the former Portuguese colony of Goa in 1961.

The brochure for the Games Fair was published over the weekend, and my session is described as follows:
Goa (and several other smaller enclaves) had been a Portuguese colony on the Indian mainland since the early Voyages of Discovery, and after India had gained independence, the government saw it as a priority to re-integrate the colony into India. This had already happened in Hyderabad (successfully) and Kashmir (unsuccessfully).

In 1961 the Indian Armed forces were given the go-ahead to invade/re-integrate Portuguese-held territory into India but it had to be completed within 48 hours. Resources were made available, and planning began. Once the plans were completed and approved, the invasion/re-integration went ahead.

All this took place against a backcloth of inter-service rivalry and very poor intelligence. There was no guarantee of success, and any of the service that failed to achieve its part of the plan was likely to see less funds being allocated to them in the future.

Outside of India, Operation Vijay is little known. As such, it is a very useful tool for those wanting to see the interaction between military and political constraints in an environment that is very different from that the players are used to and within a strict timetable. Although the Indian Armed Services still retained a very British outlook and organisation, they were already beginning to develop their own traditions and modern military history.

The players will take on the role of senior officers of the Indian Armed Services, one being the overall service commander and the other the officer responsible for enacting their service’s part of the plan. The game will begin with a detailed briefing, followed by individual services producing their hour-by-hour plans. These will then be brought to the table and integrated. The format at this stage will be a committee game with elements of Matrix Gaming.

Once the final overall plan is agreed, it will be moved onto the map, with (where possible) hour-by-hour bounds being used. At this stage the game will have moved into a more ‘free kriegsspiel’ format.

Map of Goa. Click on the map to enlarge it.

* I have seen this operation described by writers as an invasion, a re-integration, and a liberation. The choice of which word to use usually depends upon the writer's point-of-view and nationality. I tend to use the word invasion because in my opinion that is the easiest term for players to understand.

Sunday 26 August 2018

The Portable Napoleonic Wargame book: First progress report

Work on my latest book is progressing quite well ... even though real life has a habit of interrupting me when I least want it to!

So far I have written the introduction, a chapter about and containing the first set of Napoleonic wargame rules that I wrote fro use on a gridded tabletop (these rules were based on the HORSE AND MUSKET and FRONTIER ones written by Joseph Morschauser), and a short, illustrated chapter about how I organise the units that I use. I am currently working on the chapter that will contain the Brigade-level rules, after which I will add a chapter that details how the rules work using an exemplar battle.

Although I have lots of notes, the process of setting down the rules takes time, as does taking the photographs I want to include. As a small taster of the latter, here is a photograph of a brigade (with caption) that I will be including in the book.

A typical brigade-sized force. This brigade consists of three infantry battalions, a detachment of rifle-armed infantry, a cavalry squadron, and an artillery troop, all commanded by a Brigadier General. Assuming that all the units are rated as Average, it has a total Strength Point value of 27 SPs and will reach its Exhaustion Point when it has lost 9 SPs.

Saturday 25 August 2018

A good idea is always worth 'borrowing'

I have been following Archduke Piccolo's recent blog entries about how he organises the armies he is going to use for some operational-level wargames.

He is using small dice holders and D6 dice as a means of recording a unit or formation's current strength point, and I liked the idea so much that I though that I would give it a try. I paid a quick visit to the Warbases website, placed an order ... et voila, everything that I needed arrived in the post yesterday!

I have yet to glue the dice holders to the small bases that I ordered for them, but that should not be too onerous a task. Once that is done I will probably paint them to match the figure bases I use ... but I don't nee to rush that as they will be usable 'as is' until I get around to it.

The Internet is a wonderful place for finding ideas that are worth 'borrowing', and in this case I must thank Archduke Piccolo for inspiring me to copy his example.

Friday 24 August 2018

Armies of the Italian Wars of Unification 1848-70 (2): Papal States, Minor States & Volunteers

Last year I bought a copy of ARMIES OF THE ITALIAN WARS OF UNIFICATION 1848-70 (1): PIEDMONT AND THE TWO SICILIES and when it was announced that the second book was going to be published, I pre-ordered a copy. It was delivered yesterday and it looks as interesting and inspiring as the first volume.

The book is split into several sections, including:
  • Introduction: An overview of:
    • The Second War of Independence (1859)
    • Garibaldi's rising in the South (1860)
    • The events of 1861-66
    • The Third War of Independence (1866-70)
  • A chronology
  • The 1866 campaign: The Battle of Custoza, and the naval clash off Lissa
  • The Conquest of Rome, 1870
  • The Papal Army, 1848-70: Its organisation, uniforms, weapons, and tactical performance
  • The Minor States' Armies, 1848-70: The organisation, uniforms, weapons and tactical performance of the forces of:
    • The Grand Duchy of Tuscany
    • The Duchy of Parma
    • The Duchy of Modena
  • Patriots and volunteers, 1848-70: The organisation, uniforms, weapons and tactical performance of Italian patriots and foreign volunteers, including:
    • The Roman Republic (1848-49)
    • The San Marco Republic (1848-49)
    • The Kingdom of Sicily (1848-61)
    • Garibaldi's Redshirts and others (1848-61)
  • A select Bibliography
It is interesting to note the changes in military fashion that took place between 1848 and 1870. At the start of the period uniforms are still very Napoleonic in look, but by 1870 the kepi seems to have replaced the tall shako and the tunics that come halfway down the thigh seem almost universal wear. As one would expect, amongst the volunteers there are some interesting (and sometimes anachronistic-looking) uniform variations being worn, and recreating them on the tabletop should certainly appeal to wargamers who like to field units a bit exotic or odd looking.

ARMIES OF THE ITALIAN WARS OF REUNIFICATION 1848-70 (2): PAPAL STATES, MINOR STATES & VOLUNTEERS was written by Gabriele Esposito, illustrated by Giuseppe Rava, and published by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 2624 4) as part of their Men-at-Arms series (No.520).

Thursday 23 August 2018

Interesting medals up for auction

A few weeks ago, one of the numerous TV programmes about antiques featured a visit to an auction room near Dartford, Kent. As Sue and I live only a few miles away for its location, we decided to pay it a visit today as it was the viewing day for tomorrow's auction.

In amongst the many items that were on sale, ranging from boxes of honey pots, clock parts, and costume jewellery to Victorian wooden chests and large wooden dressers for displaying china, there were a number of items of militaria. These included a German SA dagger, an ornate Indian wrist dagger, a night sight for an AK47, and a box of Soviet-era Russian medals. The prize items were a set of medals (including the Crimean War Medal with clasps) belonging to someone who took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade, ...

A set of three medals awarded to T Dixon, 17th Lancers. Besides the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was awarded four clasps for his Crimean War medal for the Siege of Sebastopol, and the Battles of Inkermann, Balaklava, and Alma.
... a single medal Crimean War Medal (also with clasps) belonging to another soldier who was present at the Charge, ...

The Crimean War Medal awarded to T Brown, 17th Lancers. It has three clasps for the Siege of Sebastopol, and the Battles of Balaklava and Alma.
... and a medal from the Second Afghan War that was awarded to someone who was reputed to be one of the 'last eleven' at the Battle of Maiwand.

Second Afghan War Medal awarded posthumously to Lieutenant Maurice Edward Rayner of 66th Foot (Berkshire Regiment). He died during the Regiment's last stand at the Battle of Maiwand, July 1888.
The medals have all been checked and authenticated by Mark Smith, formerly the Curator of the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich, and currently a battlefield guide and militaria expert of the BBC's 'Antiques Roadshow'. The are expected to sell for something in the region of £10,000 to £15,000 for the group of medals, and £4,000 to £6,000 for the individual medals.

If only I had the money to put in some bids ...

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Watermans Auction Rooms.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

The Portable Napoleonic Wargame book: Work begins!

I started work on writing THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book this morning and have already written a draft introduction and begun work on the first chapter. The latter will contain the rules that I wrote in 2011 and which were based on Joseph Morschauser's HORSE AND MUSKET and FRONTIER rules. I used these rules to fight two battles from the Cordeguayan Civil War and my later PORTABLE WARGAME rules were based on them.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

As one writing project comes to an end, another begins

Last Friday the printed proof copy of my book about the members of the Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge (No.4090) who served in the military in the period up to 1920 arrived, and it has been closely scrutinised to see if any errors could be found. Several were, and these have now been corrected and the book is now ready for publication. As I want to it become available for general sale as close to this year's Armistice Day as possible, I will probably release the book in early September.

So, as one writing project comes to an end, the next starts ... and my plan is that this will be entitled THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME. One thing I realised over the weekend was that although I have enough renovated, varnished, and based figures, I don't have any based artillery pieces to use in any photographs. As a result, I decided to base some, and the results can be seen below.

British Artillery

French Artillery

I'm not sure if I'll need to renovate, varnish, and base any more at present, but as this is a relatively easy job, doing some more should only take me a couple of days.

Monday 20 August 2018

Possible changes to my Operational Art rules

In light of some of the comments that have been made to earlier blog entries, I have been thinking about the changes that I might like to make to my OPERATIONAL ART rules. At the moment these can be summarised as follows:
  • Replace the use of D12s and D10s with D6s
  • Re-examine the Activation Card system and possibly replace it with something slightly more restrictive in terms of how many units a formation can activate each turn
  • Simplify the current strength and morale marker system to reduce the possibility of confusion
  • Try to make the existing Combat Resolution system easier to understand
The necessary changes to the rules should not be too difficult to make, and with luck I should have a working draft ready for play-testing sometime soon.

Sunday 19 August 2018

Operational Art: Original battle report redrafted

After re-reading the original battle report I wrote in 2009, I decided to redraft it with the explanations of the rule mechanisms removed. It actually reads much better as a result, and I have reproduced it below as I thought that it might be of interest to my regular blog readers.

A Russian Army is mounting an offensive against the German front-line. In this particular sector a German Luftwaffe Feld Divisione is defending a vital gap in the range of hills that cross the Russian main line of advance as well as the only asphalted roads in the area.

The battlefield.
To capture it the Russian Army Commander has allotted:
  • Two Rifle Divisions each with an Average General (CV = 2) and:
    • Three Rifle Regiments (CV = 2 each)
    • A Field Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
    • Divisional morale = 6
  • Part of a Tank Corps commanded by an Average General (CV = 2):
    • A Tank Regiment (CV = 4)
    • A Motorised Rifle Regiment (CV = 3)
    • An Anti-tank Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
    • Tank Corps morale = 6
  • Army assets commanded by a Poor General (CV = 1):
    • Three Heavy Artillery Regiments (CV = 3 each)
    • Army asset morale = 5
The Russian Rifle Divisions.
Part of the Russian Tank Corps and the Army assets allocated to support the attack.
The German defenders are dug-in, are commanded by a Good General (CV = 3) and include:
  • Three under-strength Luftwaffe Rifle Regiments (CV = 2 each)
  • A Luftwaffe Mountain Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
  • Divisional morale = 6
The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione awaits the Russian attack.
The Russian have a total CV of 46 and the Germans have a CV of 12, giving the Russians a superiority of almost 4:1.

The Battle Report
The activation cards did not favour the Germans as the first one turned over was for the Russian Army assets. The first Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment immediately opened fire on the left-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment, but their artillery fire had no effect.

The second Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment followed suit, but again the Russian artillery fire had no effect.

The third Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment joined in the barrage and its artillery fire caused the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment to lose one point from its CV and the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione to lose one point from its divisional morale.

The second activation card that was turned over activated the right-hand Russian Rifle Division. Its Artillery Regiment opened fire on the right-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment which lost one point from its CV and the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione lost another point from its divisional morale.

Two of the Russian Division’s Rifle Regiments advanced into contact with the right-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment and initiated combat with it. The combat was decisive. The German unit lost another point from its CV, and this destroyed the unit. The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione also lost another point from its divisional morale, which was now reduced to three.

The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione was then activated. Its Mountain Artillery Regiment opened fire on the leading Rifle Regiment of the right-hand Russian Rifle Division, with devastating results. It destroyed the Rifle Regiment and reduced the Russian Rifle Regiment’s divisional morale by two.

The centre Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment engaged one of the leading Rifle Regiments from the as yet to be activated second Russian Rifle Division. The combat reduced the Russian Rifle Regiment’s CV by two – thus destroying the unit and reducing the second Russian Rifle Regiment’s divisional morale by two.

Finally, the left-hand Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment engaged the Russian Tank Regiment, but to no avail.

It was then the turn of the Tank Corps to be activated. Only the Tank Regiment was in a position to engage the Germans, which it did ... ineffectively.

The final formation activated during the turn was the second Russian Rifle Division. Its Field Artillery regiment opened fire on the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment, but its artillery fire had no effect.

The two remaining Russian Rifle Regiments rushed forward – accompanied by their Divisional General – and attacked the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment. This resulted in the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment losing both its CV points and being destroyed. It also reduced the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione’s morale to one.

The situation at the end of the first turn.
In subsequent turns the Germans managed a fighting retreat off the tabletop although it was a close-run thing. This was possible because their activation card came out first during the second and third turns, which allowed them to move away from the attacking Russians. In addition, the Russian threw some appallingly bad dice scores for the rest of the game.

Saturday 18 August 2018

I have been to ... Battery Dollmann, Pleinmont, Guernsey

The third military site Sue and I visited on Guernsey was Battery Dollmann at Pleinmont. The site is currently being restored by a local group called Festung Guernsey, and comprises four gun pits (one of which contains a French 22cm K532 (f) gun), a fire control point, a fire control tower, ammunition bunkers, and numerous trenches.

The battery was named after Generaloberst Dollmann, who commanded the 7th Army during the early stages of the Battle for Normandy in June 1944. He was relieved of his command by Hitler after the fall of Cherbourg, and died on 29th June 1944 of a heart attack ... although it has also been stated that he committed suicide by taking poison.

As stated above, one of the gun pits has been excavated and now contains a French 22cm K532 (f) gun.

Only a few minutes walk away are the main fire control tower (started by the Kriegsmarine but handed over to the Wehrmacht before completion) ...

... and a local fire control position.

The gun pits were protected by a number of buried defensive positions (this one was armed with a French FT-17 Tank turret) ...

... and a series of trenches that were covered by camouflage nets.

Friday 17 August 2018

Operational Art revisited

Way back in 2009 I wrote a series of blog entries about designing an operational-level wargame. In many ways it was a step on the road towards HEXBLITZ and – to a lesser extent – THE PORTABLE WARGAME. On 28th April 2009 I set out my design parameters. These were:
  • The terrain will be divided into 10cm hexes (i.e. Hexon II)
  • An individual stand will represent a regiment-sized unit or a divisional/corps/army HQ;
  • Stands will be grouped together to form divisions (e.g. three infantry stands, a field artillery stand, and a divisional HQ stand form an infantry division) or to form corps/army assets (e.g. a tank regiment, a medium artillery regiment, a heavy artillery regiment, and a corps/army HQ stand form a corps’ or army’s assets)
  • Activation cards will be used for each division or group of corps/army assets
  • Only stands from the same division or group of corps/army assets will be able to occupy the same hex
  • Each stand will be allocated a combat value based upon its experience, training, and equipment. This combat value – which will be indicated by a numbered magnetic marker – will be degraded during the battle as the result of combat
  • Each HQ stand will be allocated a morale value for the division or group of corps/army assets it controls. This morale value – which will be indicated by a numbered magnetic marker – will be degraded during the battle as the result of combat
  • Combat will be hex to hex, with the one stand in a hex – with the support of any other stands from the same division or group of corps/army assets that are in that hex – attacking an enemy stand in another hex
  • The combat system will use a D12 for German forces and a D10 for all other forces (i.e. Russian and Axis allies)
  • The combat system will be resolved by comparing the attacking stand’s dice score added to the attacking stand’s combat value and any relevant combat factors (e.g. cover, terrain) with the defending stand’s dice score added to the defending stand’s combat value and any relevant combat factors
I used the following photograph to show what I thought a Russian Rifle Division might look like.

Kind of looks familiar, doesn’t it? In fact it could almost be one of the Rifle Divisions that formed part of my Thistlebarrow concept Russian Army.

I then followed this up with a series of blog entries that justified the design choices I had made and how they were incorporated into the rules.
Looking back at the above – and especially the last two – I am struck by the fact that I never quite finished this project. I had a set of operational-level wargames rules that worked … but which were not particularly fun to use. As a result, I did not devote any more time to this project and moved on to work on what eventually became WHEN EMPIRES CLASH!

Re-reading the play-test was particularly interesting. After unpicking all the explanations about how the rules worked, the battle report read rather like the sort of description of a battle one would read in a military history book.

If I am going to embrace the Thistlebarrow concept for my World War 2 project, it strikes me that a developed version of my OPERATIONAL ART rules might be a better set of rules to use than HEXBLITZ.

It is certainly something for me to think about over the next few days.

Thursday 16 August 2018

I have been to ... the Guernsey Occupation Museum

Besides the La Vallette Military Museum, Sue and I also spent time at the Guernsey Occupation Museum, Les Houards, Forest. The museum developed from the owner's personal collection of Occupation memorabilia, and was originally displayed in a small cottage adjoining his family's home. From these early beginnings in 1966, the museum has been extended and expanded. This expansion began in 1976 when the transport corridor and tea room were added, with the Occupation Street being added in 1987. The most recent extension took place in 2001 when displays and information about the Island's deportees to Germany was added.

When you arrive in the car park you are greeted by a German 88mm Anti-aircraft Gun ...

... and a French 105mm Coastal Defence Gun.

The entrance is 'guarded' by the turret of a French FT-17 Tank.

Amongst its collection, the museum has an interesting selection of German military vehicles, many of which are horse-drawn.

It also contains a recreation of the inside of a bunker with a Czech-built 47mm Fortress Anti-tank Gun.

The museum's collection also includes a large amount of German equipment.

As one would expect there are a lot of exhibits that tell the story of life under German Occupation ...

... as well as the Liberation of the Channel Islands in 1945.