Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Next New Project - The Dark Ages

So as another figure painting project comes to an end its time to think about another. If you missed my last post about the Afghan forces for the North West Frontier you can find it here.
The Afghans effectively close my Colonials figure painting project for the time being. I still need to go back to the terrain aspects of these games and I still have plans for the River Nile, A walled city (Khartoum), and significantly more rocky terrain for the North West Frontier however for some strange reason my terrain building mojo is still missing – hopefully it will return soon because it has been a long time since a big terrain build has taken place.

So in the meantime I have been considering what to do next and at Salute last month I finally decided. The latest venture will focus on the Dark Ages and over the coming months the plan is to build Saxon, Viking and Norman forces of the Dark Ages. I figured with the wealth of plastic ranges available this would be an opportunity to build some really big armies. Fortunately the Vikings and Saxons are fairly generic with their roundshields etc so I suspect many will be pressed into action on either side.

Unlike other recent builds where every figure is based on his own washer and then slotted into a movement tray these forces will all be mounted on 10cm x 5cm bases. Depending on how these look I’ll placing four horse and either eight or ten infantry on one base.

So back to my Salute purchases –

For the Normans I have procured three boxes of cavalry and three of Infantry from Conquest games. The cavalry in particular are great value with 15 mounted troops for £20.

For the Vikings I bought two boxes of Hirdmen from Gripping Beast and a further two boxes of generic Dark Age warriors from the same manufacturer.

Finally I bought a big Starter Saxon box from Warlord games. This was actually procured post Salute on a deal from Warlord – 128 Foot for £60.

By my reckoning each plastic foot soldier is going to cost around 50p and the Horse around £1.20. I’ll go down the metal route for personalities and commanders but that is way off in the future. Using my previous army projects as a guide I reckon I’m going to need a minimum of 1600 figures to field two good sized armies. I’ll let you figure out the maths on how much this is going to cost.

I have already made a start on assembling some of these figures – a box of the Norman Knights and one box of Norman Infantry. Both sets are really easy to assemble although I was frustrated to discover that there were insufficient Kite Shields in the Cavalry box – did the Normans use round shields? Fortunately there are some spare in the Infantry box and I’ll be able to use them. The Norman Knightbox contains predominant mail clad warrior but there is one figure on each sprue in a simple cloth top. The thought occurred to me that I might be able to use these as light Saxon horse and give them the round shields.

A cursory glance at the three ranges I have bought (Warlord, Conquest and Gripping Beast) suggest that there is not mush opportunity to mix the pieces – some have arms joining bodies at the elbow and others at the shoulder. The heads do look more interchangeable and I’ll report back on these in a future post. It took around three hours to assemble these two boxes.

More soon

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Colonial Wars - An Afghan Army

More news on my British Colonial Wars - now that the Sudan & Zulu Wars are covered it seems a shame not to move East into Afghanistan....;-)

I decided that my Sudan Brits will form the backbone of the  Colonial Forces so I needed some Afghans...

As far as I can tell (and from scouring the internet) there are four compatible ranges out there. These include Perry, Old Glory and Artizan Miniatures (the latter range is carried by North Star Games). The last range is Foundry but given their price I decided to leave these well alone

So what did I do...

I bought every single figure I could lay my hand on including 12 tribal horse and an artillery piece

The total force consists of

3 Command Stand stands
8 units of Infantry (each unit 16 strong)
1 Gun
1 unit of Cavalry

A total of 150 figures

To be frank I don't know when these are going to come out to play but its nice knowing that they are done

More soon...

Monday, 7 May 2018

The Battle of Torrington

Morning All

Apologies for the delay in posts but things have been rather hectic. The good news is that this is the first of four posts that I have written this morning so more content will appear over the next few days.

Last Monday, Mark Alastair and myself fought the Battle of Torrington from the ECW. We used the set up from the ECW Pike & Shotte supplement 'To defy a KIng'. We did consider using the new ECW rules For King & Parliament but because time was short we elected to play with the standard Pike & Shotte.

From a background perspective Torrington was one of the last major engagements of the ECW. Parliaments forces were chasing the Royalists around Devon and eventually caught them at Torrington. Alerted by there pursuers the Royalists had set up a defensive perimeter around the town so this was almost a mini siege.

Somehow Rebel Dragoons triggered off the the battle forcing their way across the barriers and into the town. This was quickly followed up by the rest of the Parliamentarian army. By all accounts the street fighting was very bloody and no quarter given.

Parliament won the battle but almost lost their general in the process. An errant gunshot set off the Royalist powder store hidden in the church. The resulting explosion cascaded the area with stone masonry and lead from the roof. The Parliaments commander almost had his head taken off by a roof tile !

So onto our battle. The table is set up as per the book  with the Royalists patently waiting behind their barricades. Their cavalry albeit poor are just outside the town in the meadows by the river. 

The Royalists are outnumbered 2 to 1 with an even worse situation in Artillery - the defenders have two pieces the Rebels seven

Our battle starts with the Governments' Dragoons entering from the top right of the picture above. They quickly man the hedged enclosures but discover that the distance between the hedges and the defenders is just out of long range for their muskets.

At this point the Ironsides (Cavalry) of the Rebels arrives on table. Rather fortuitously opposite the enemy horse (he diced for entrance points for each attacking unit)

The Cavalry was soon joined by more infantry in the centre of the attack and more forces in the enclosures. The attack could start

The Roundhead cavalry charged only to fall short of their target.

The cavaliers, outnumbered and poorly lead,  quickly retreated into the lane and dispersed into the town. There was going to be no valiant charges today

Meanwhilst the Roundhead infantry was forcing a fight along the whole length of the Rebel defence and getting nowhere./ The defenders held their ground and poured shotte into the attacking forces. The attack quickly turned into a rapid retreat.

Infantry attack
Charge !!!

More forces arrive

Driven back in despair

The two Parliamentarian players (myself & Alastair) hastily convened for a new strategy.

Bring up the Guns

Finally our batteries were in place and began to pound the enemy defences. It was going to take sometime

The Royalists take fire from Artillery

Sighting the Guns

After a good forty minutes of game time the royalists had lost a few units but no where near enough to fold and retreat. It just wasn't going to be Parliaments day

We played the rules straight from the scenario book and with hindsight the defenders were too tough. Their stubborn trait allowing rerolls for saves just proved too strong. There was never any doubt that the defenders could hold out and as such the game could never lay out like the real battle.

Great fun all the same

More from the ECW soon

Thursday, 26 April 2018

For King and Parliament - A Review

A few weeks ago I bought the latest ECW rules to come out onto the market called For King and Parliament. These have been produced by a fellow blogger called Big Red Bat. I understand that these rules are a follow up on the successful To the Strongest Ruleset.

Indeed if you were at Salute this year you may well have seen a beautiful ECW game being run by the Big Red Bat himself.

The Rules come in a rather smart book and at first glance looked extremely professional and comprehensive. Subsequent read throughs suggest that this has been playtested significantly and certainly give a very good feel for the period.

As you would expect they contain all the stuff you need for the period - unit descriptions, movement, combat, constructing armies etc.

As of today I have been fortunate to play two games- both at Mark's place - a local gamer who recently put on the first games of 'What a tanker'. We have played the Battle of Montgomery (the battle listed in the book - My Parliamentarian Victory) and more recently the first battle of Newbury (Marks & Stuarts Royalist Victory) - Mark has kindly put up the order of battle for this on Big Red Bats forum.

Link here

The pictures interspersed in this report come from the second of these engagements using Mark's beautifully painted ECW collection. Its fair to say that his painting puts mine to shame.

Newbury Battlefield - if you look carefully Mark has gridded the table using static grass tufts

Until now the Shed has very much focussed its ECW battles on the Warlord Games Pike & Shotte ruleset. These I believe do deliver a good game and benefit from the familiarity that many gamers have earned over the years with Black Powder.

However For King and Parliament do deliver a game in an evening and that works for me.

The rules call for a game to be played on a grid (much in the same way a chessboard is laid out) with each unit moving and shooting across the grids. This removes all need for measuring devices and negates the need for specific basing, frontages etc that plague so many other rulesets.

Parliamentarian Horse

Royalist Horse commanded by Prince Rupert

Infantry can move one square, cavalry two and ranges for small arms are generally restricted to one or two boxes. Artillery can obviously fire much further.

Aside from the grid configuration it is the activation sequence that makes these rules different but if you are familiar with Black Powder and its predecessor Warmaster you can see its origins.

To begin with each player needs two decks of playing cards. All the picture cards are removed leaving him with a deck of 80 numbered cards.

Once players have determined who is going first the leading player nominates one brigade to activate. This can either be the whole brigade or a specific unit. He then draws a card. Typically anything but an ace will allow that unit to activate. This requirement is modified by the calibre of troops, the terrain and or whether it is a difficult manouever. If he activates the unit performs the action required.

Two regiments of Royalist Infantry advance

Engage !!

This action could be a move, a turn facing, shoot or even something else. Once the first card is played (lets assume its a five) he can either activate the same unit again or move to another unit in the brigade. Secondary actions require the number on the next card drawn to be greater than the first (Think of Bruce Forsyths Play your Cards right). You can switch between brigade units throughout the turn until you either draw an ace (automatic fail) or the card drawn is lower than the first. At which time the brigade ceases its actions and you move onto the next. Once all brigades are activated play passes to the next player.

One of the great things about these rules is the use of commanders - were a commander attached to a unit then this allows the unit to redraw a card if the activation fails (or indeed if a high card was drawn first time round - as it is always preferable to draw low to high). The placement and attachment of commanders is crucial.

Royalists advance in the hedgerows supported by a light field piece

The Royalists push forward against a numerically stronger Rebel force

Assuming units are in range for charges/shooting combat is very simples. A unit that is not disordered typically requires 8+ to hit (each unit gets a number of attacks and can spend extra ammo counters or dash chits to get extra attacks). Each hit forces the defender to save (dependent upon cover, calibre and other factors) - standard saves tend to be 7+. Fails disorder the unit and remove hit points. A typical unit has three lives.

When a unit is shot at/charged the defender can automatically react (without playing an activation card) so following offensive actions the defender can retaliate assuming he is still present and has not been routed.

As you would expect there are rules for rallying weakened units, the impact of routs on friendly troops and breakthrough charges.

Furious cavalry fight on Rebel right wing - the Cavaliers break through

More Royalist Cavalry

Cards or dice (d10) can be used to drive combat - we elected to use dice as this is both quicker and more appealing.

When units ether have more disorders than hits, or all hits are removed the unit routs off the table. If the winning unit were a cavalry unit they tend to then pursue the defeated enemy off the table (all very Cavalier)

These mechanics lead to a very tactical and rewarding experience with my only criticism being that the results can be quite swingy, with a 30% chance to hit and 40% chance to save extremes do happen quite frequently which is inevitable when you use a d10 mechanic. We had the same issue with Frostgrave !

Fierce action in the hedgelines

Victory in a game is achieved when the winning player amasses a certain number of points (with each defeated unit counting towards this total). This does force players to husband their resources and withdraw weakened units from the fray.

Its all over for the Earl of Essex

So a couple of thank you's

Firstly my thanks to Simon Miller (Big Red Bat) for the rules,

Secondly my thanks to Mark K for hosting these test games

More soon

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Sharpe's Brest

A couple of weeks ago I ran another episode of Sharpes Alternative adventures in the Shed using the Fist Full of Lead rules  - the first of the these can be found here

Sharpes Pursuit

Sharpes Hazard

This time our brave Riflemen has been signed up for a bit of a suicide mission - he has to enter the French Naval port of Brest and kidnap the infamous Irish agitator known as Father Ted. The British authorities are concerned that this man might be successful in leading a rebellion in Ireland and thereby opening a new front front for Napoloeon against the British.

Sharpe would enter the city from the landward side and make his way to where Father Ted was reported to be hiding. Sounds simple ...well the Royal Navy has other plans. During Sharpes mission they have decided to bombard the city from off shore. The Royal Navy's latest three decker HMS Indecisive is shelling  the port.

Each turn a number of random rounds will land in the city potentially destroying buildings, ships and of course our players figures.

Unfortunately I didn't take enough photos in game to write up a full AAR but I was able to capture some shots of the table before I cleared it all away. I hope you agree that the pictures do suggest an early 19th century port.

What of Sharpe - well sadly he failed his mission  - no promotion yet !. Father Ted escaped to the Naval Fort. Most of the chosen men died and HMS Indecisive's newly promoted captain Horatio Trumpetsucker had a really bad day at the office.

Sharpe will return soon...

Onto the pictures

Come back soon