How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Pudel and Peper attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Wargaming: An Introduction" by Neil Thomas - Reviewed

Got this somewhat battered copy a while ago, and have read all the rules a few times. With chatter at the AMW yahoo group and some inspiration from my pal Steve at Sound Officer's Call! about looking for the right Horse and Musket rules, it's time to look into this book.

BLUF: If you're new to the hobby and have some time to invest in thinking before you buy, then BUY THIS BOOK! If you are an old hand at wargaming but beginning to feel jaded OR an interest in design is starting to get a hold of you, OR you are contemplating new periods to get into, BUY THIS BOOK! At about $20, and with all games perfectly playable with cut-out cardboard bits, there's no way to go wrong.

If you want to know more, then read on!

BOOK ITSELF: Soft cover, 178 pp and solidly bound - no complaints there. Further details in Amazon here where it has 4.5 stars and sells used about $20 with shipping.

CONTENT: has a preface that answers the wife or teacher's question of "Why Wargaming?" Iain Dickie of Miniature Wargames magazine starts off: "Life in today's society is hedged about by complex rules and convoluted relationships. Understanding those rules and deciphering the relationships is essential, not just to create a successful career but also to deal with life's setbacks with equanimity." He then posits quite reasonably that the skills one develops on the game table are ones which will help one do well in life, wither starting a business project, job interviewing, moving house or changing partners." Not bad.

Mr. Dickie also makes some great suggestions for the budding wargamer:

  • Buy all the figures you need to get started lest the manufacturer close down!
  • Pick opponents carefully, some to learn from, others to teach,
  • Look for friends and clubs who share and support your interest,
  • Seek to extend yourself by hosting team games and campaigns.
Noting that all these, skillfully done, can become career enhancements, and are in fact used by military staff and some civil governments.

Mr. Thomas kicks off Ch. 1 "What is Wargaming", stating that "the object of the exercise is twofold; firstly, to enjoy a stimulating game and secondly, to appreciate how battles were fought, and why they were won and lost, throughout history." He then gives a history of wargaming from chess to Kriegspiel to boardgames [started in the USA with Avalon Hill and then SPI in the 1950s] to D&D, to miniatures in Great Britain. This he traces from H.G. Wells "Little Wars" to Featherstone, Bath, and the goal of simple, enjoyable rules.

This heads into a quick foray to WRG and some interesting comments along the lines of "less details and modifiers is actually more realism" that hold real merit, IMHO. He puts forward Phil Barker's DBA as a "less is more realistic" design that puts the gamer in the role of General, not Unit Commander. He then leads us into the "DBA wargames revolution" towards simpler rules, putting forward the Games Workshop designs, including Warhammer Ancients" as results of this sort of thinking - fun can be realistic depending on the player's role in the process, and avoiding tedious paperwork. He concludes that his rules have a similar intention: to use simple processes to bring about historically valid outcomes.

I wonder what he'd say about the bloated monstrosity of Games Workshop over recent years, and the collapse of Warhammer Fantasy, 40K and Ancients for similar reasons - unplayable games with too many special rules that drown the player in paperwork! There's certainly something to be learned here, but I doubt that Battlefront is going to learn it.

Mr. Thomas then brings the reader to the purpose of the book - playing wargames. His next chapter gets you started, and then he gets into the six sets of rules - five periods plus skirmish rules - that make up the books wargaming content:

As you can see, the periods are Ancient, Pike and Shot, Napoleonic, American Civil War, WWII, plus a set of all-purpose skirmish rules [that I've played and worked with several times in my Dark Ages blog, "Spear to the Strife" HERE].

These run from about 3000 B.C. to WWII yet all contain certain design concepts, including: casualty point removal leading to morale checks and base losses that result in Unit disintegration and eventual removal or uselessness. The Ancients set has 11 Unit types all explained, followed by explanation of his concepts for Movement, Shooting, Armor [Armour!], and Hand-to-hand combat. 

Victory is obtained through reducing the opposition to 25%, or 2 of the 8 Units all armies start with in these rules. There is an interesting twist with exiting your Units off your opponents board edge - it counts as eliminated but two of the enemy Units are also eliminated as they dash away to protect the camp or just panic! So there's a reward for gaining ground and pushing on, in a 2-1 ratio, exactly.

He concludes that his goal is an historically valid, yet playable and exciting game, and reminds us that game rules are always works in progress that may need to be altered.

Each set of rules has an explanation on basing, altho they are not tied to the basing strictly. The Turn Sequence is always:
  1. Charges
  2. Movement
  3. Shooting
  4. Hand-to-Hand
  5. Morale
One is then brought through the rules which are written in the order of the Turn Sequence above. After the rules are five Ancient periods with two armies each, including the Persian invasion of Greece, Alexander's invasion of Persia, The Punic Wars [plus the Zama Campaign], Imperial Rome, and the Later Crusades.

Pike and Shot brings the rules forwards into the 16th and 17th C. with six Renaissance periods, including: the Italian Wars, French Religious Wars, Dutch War of Independence, Elizabeth I's Irish Wars, the Thirty Years War, and the English Civil War.

The rules then jump forward into Napoleonic Wargaming. [skipping the tricorne period, surprisingly] including all the well-known theaters from the Peninsula War to Central Europe, Russia and even Egypt, and in time from Revolutionary France to Waterloo. Some AARs are over at Sound Officer's Call HERE.

From there it is an easy slide forward into very similar rules for the American Civil War. This has very generalized army lists rolled by periods of the war including 1861, 1862-3, 1864-5, and varying in size from 7 to 14. Unit Morale is also based upon die rolling, which can take place before the game or - more interestingly - during the game when the Unit takes it's first morale test! Altho ACW experts [self-declared as well as military historians] may dispute some of Mr. Thomas' conclusions, there's little denying some generalized truths and lots of difficulties and fun in the playing, I think.

Oddly, the book then presents the skirmish rules, which I think are a very solid basic design, and should be able to cover Ancients to pre-maching guns [there are repeaters and revolvers] with no modifications, altho tricky items like chariots and elephants are not provided! Army lists are for the Queen Victoria colonial era, and include: The Sikh Wars, the Indian Mutiny, the Second Afghan War, Zulu War, Egypt and the Sudan, and conclude with the Second Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902.

We then returned to unit-based wargaming with WWII. Here we find a very admirable foray into a period that is bloated with more than just the horrors of the actual war - too many wargames are bloated from the horrors of rivet-counters and Newtonian Physics Phans. These come in at only 8 pages of rules! An AAR is HERE. These diverge the most from the previous four unit-based designs which are very similar.

The WWII Turn Sequence is:
  1. Morale
  2. Movement
  3. Anti-personnel firing: small arms
  4. Anti-personnel firing: artillery
  5. Tank, Anti-Tank Gun, and Assault Gun fire
  6. Close assaults
The sequence of fire should be noted as an important element of the design.

There are 15 categories of Units overall, with 8 for movement, 4 for small-arms shooting, 2 for Artillery, 3 Armor and 4 tank gun categories. Still quite a bit for "simple" rules, but needless to say one doesn't need to use all of them in a scenario! There are 39 tanks from 7 belligerents covered. 

Periods for the army lists are Blitzkrieg 1940, Western Desert 1941 [and 1942], Eastern Front 1942-43, Western Front 1944-45, the Pacific 1941-5. There are four scenarios:
  1. Encounter Battle
  2. Frontal Assault
  3. Surprise Assault
  4. Escalating Engagement
each of which has different numbers and types of units shaping the battle.

Suffice it to say, there is much of the "less is more realistic" philosophy in this set of rules, and I have to say that I've quite come around to Mr. Thomas' way of thinking. This is largely based upon a combination of two things - reading memoirs and the limits of my real life time, tolerance and treasure. Both are slowly but surely pushing me into a "less is more" frame of mind, perhaps better said as a "game of mind". When you read how officers are thinking from company commander up, they aren't terribly worried about the nuances of AT rounds and does Pvt. Snuffy have warm boots. They are trying to set up their company to fulfill the mission given, with the resources at hand. A good frame of mind for the gamer, also.

The book concludes with some useful addresses, a short but good bibliography, and - amazingly - an index.

Summary: Almost anyone can use this book, including the wargamer who didn't get "just what he wanted" for Christmas. Grab a copy and become edified, and even challenged, by Mr. Thomas' direct prose and relatively simple - but not simplistic - games. Further thinking on this book is available in these threads at Sound Officer's Call HERE to which I happily refer you since Steve has played more of the games than I have.

Next up - my first foray into the ACW rules from this book, using a OHW Scenario.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Romanoff Pikemen - RTW1 'Charge Your Pike!'

This set has the same approach as the other Romanoff packs, 5 multi-pose figures who therefore require some thinking and assembling. This does result in an ability to play with the poses and reduce the "toy soldier effect" if desired, and get more realism albeit at the price of some more work. There are:
  • 5 identical bodies / trunks in back-and-breast with tassets [no gorget],
  • 5 identical nicely sculpted swords,
  • 6 pairs of arms [2 types - one set has the right had pushing the pike from the rear end of it, the other set has the right hand holding the pike shaft, so based on the provided arms you will have three of one and two of the other],
  • 5 heads with helmets in three types [2-2-1, the 1 has no mustache, the two others both have a slightly different face with very different helmets].
All are pretty clean with nice small details like the fastening buckles on the armor, etc.

When assembled, they will look something like the below pic; this nicely shows both hand sets and the narrower helmet of the closest pikeman compared to the others, so for example you could have pikes up as high as about 45 degrees or completely leveled with the ground:
with gracious permission from Andy the OGUK chap! Check out his site for more pics.

It should also be noted that the arms all have the somewhat "older fashion" of wings on the shoulders.  These are part of the arm sculpt and as they were falling out of fashion during the ECW one may consider trimming them off or down a bit.

For me, I like a little more variety in the leg posturing, and I've included the pic from my other post on Romanoff musketeers firing, to show how I snip the base and then use it as a lever to manipulate the leg somewhat. Combined with some head and arm posing differences, and you get a nice natural and realistic effect.
Based upon the above pics, and a close examination of the two sets of arms, I can actually see a few other possibilities for "postures" [poses] of these pikemen.  Looking at my trusty copy of de Gheyn [by Dover Editions] I'd say that the most restrictive pair of arms is the one with the long-extended right arm, but could still have the following postures:

Granted, these are not radically different poses!  But you can see this as both a fighting posture and a transitional posture in the notations.

For the other pair of arms, there's several different postures:

These two show a high point, useful to spare cavalry figures in contact a spear in the face! The second is some sort of trailing pike posture, which also shortens the distance the pike tip would be in front of the figure and therefore within the base.

These two postures have an interesting facing, with a flat body but forward pike. The lowered tip will - again - keep that tip out of the way for gaming. Only thing about this posture is the left hand would have to be flipped over so the palm is down [twisting, or cutting off and gluing back on].

I think these pics show how effective a real drill manual is - that is also easily accessible - and how simple it is to not only get variety of pose but also to find historical postures that are "gaming friend" and teach a bit about drill in the 17th C.

Hope this is useful for you if you are considering getting into 40mm, ECW, or just picking up a few packs of these sculpts to make a unit.  Mine will make their way into my ECW story as some sort of Trained Bande for the county in which my fighting will take place.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Going Small p.2 - 6mm Bacchus Fig prep

EDIT: Started this post and it was basically finished before I got busy with 1:1 Army and departed for a while.  Returned and things have just been too busy and motivation was not there.  I then departed again for more 1:1 fun and while away got a great email from a gaming pal who sent me Neil Thomas' "Simplicity in Practice" which I devoured in my tiny amount of down time in billet. Anyway, here's P.2 of the 6mm saga...

Having decided on the 6mm project, I'm pretty excited to see how the figs prep and paint up. I'm very much hoping that it will be faster than 10/15mm and certainly than 25mm. Needless to say, this will depend on technique and some practice working with them. I've put some thought into it and am also timing the project so that you can see how long it takes for yourself.

Below, pic of the Bacchus figure blocks - they come in groups of four figures marching side-by-side [meant to stay together] or in file [meant to be cut apart and mounted in skirmish groups].  The blocks are very easy to work with and I highly recommend using them instead of Adler if you are interested in speed. I cleaned them in warm water with dishsoap then a quick brushing with a soft toothbrush to clean off any casting residue - about 30 min.

Below, final concept for these ACW brigade bases.  The bases will be 6x3", with six stands of 1.5" x 3.4" representing about 3-6 regiments. Each stand fits 16 figures in two ranks, or four blocks. The pennies represent one small base for a mounted leader - the Brigadier - and two small bases for skirmishers. They'll look good on the Unit base, but also I'm still toying with using them as indicators for skirmish deployments in the advanced rules.

Below, I took the blocks and organized them into Brigades as above, each craft stick has 32 figures so are two bases of the six, ergo three sticks is a Brigade. The file blocks of firing figures - skirmishers - also make perfectly good shooting regiments, and as I've plenty of them and little need for many skirmishers they're becoming a Brigade also, but have half as many figures per stick, so you can see them clustered together in the left column.
The total is five Units - Brigades - plus several bases of gunners, mounted generals and enough skirmishers for two small bases per Unit. Combined with the painted figures I have from the trade, this'll give me nine Units of infantry and 2-3 of Artillery. No cavalry yet. The gluing process went quickly, about another 30 minutes for one hour total thus far.

Below are the primed figures. I toyed with a few ideas including using white for them all, or sky blue for the Union. As most of the leather is black, I went with black for the Union to block paint the jacket blue. The Rebs are grey and brown [butternut] so I'll have to paint their leather at least in part. I'm hoping to figure out if it is easier to paint the grey primed figs some brown or the brown figs some grey! The Union sky-blue trousers should be easy to hit with paint, especially in the blocks. This took an hour to spray then hit again with a brush using thinned-down pain, so I'm at two hours for about 500 Bacchus figs - that's FAST!

Below, some close-ups of the figures, the lighting shows the details much better when they are primed than when they are bare metal, especially the straps and pouches.

So far, very happy with this project. It is going quickly and I think the blocks of 32 small figures will look good on the bases. I put a lot of thinking into it, and so far I seem to be correct in many assumptions and approaches - hope it stays like that!

Despite feeling a bit overworked on the big-battle ACW rules, I like the concept of where the 6mm is going, and am considering a few other options like using Simplicity in Practice or perhaps Altar of Freedom, and I've a pal who thinks Volley and Bayonet are "all that and a bag of chips / crisps".  We'll see!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

S&S Dragoons - 40ECW101 & 102

Ok, the first of the reinforcements in my mind is the dragoons.  They come in a pack of 5 foot or 3 mounted for $14.50 or $23 respectively. All the figures are very nice, and they are a must for any serious gamer as they are present in every engagement, and they are basically the "first to go, last to know" people of the ECW.

The foot pack has two firing, one loading, one cocking and one ready to fire, but not leveled yet. There are five heads with brimmed hats [cavalier style] and one Monmouth and one Montero cap.  All are very crisp, nice castings, and look like a pleasure to paint in the near future.  The interesting thing is that with two mounted packs [6 figs] and one foot pack [5 figs] you get the one lost figure who's holding horses.   Still, they are a lot more expensive than regular foot, so it is great that they are lovely figs.

Each stands about 32mm high without a head [granted, an important issue for all soldiers of the ECW] and has cavalry boots and about 12 "apostles" of powder to load with, which distinguishes them from regular cavalry or infantry.

Below a comparison shot of Romanoff officer from the command pack and one of the dragoons. Clearly, the Romanoff is about 3mm taller, in the 35-56mm height range, that's not taking into account the height of heads that are interchangeable, in any event.

As for the mounted dragoons, there are the same three as usual horses. Two figs are identical and holding a matchlock musket in a hand that is unattached. One is holding the musket braced against his thigh in one piece. There are 4 big hats, one montero and one monmouth head.

Overall, these are great figs, and well worth my time and effort. While I'm not thrilled about the horses, I'll hope that they all fit together better than the cavalry.

Since dragoons are "force 1 figures" who fight nearly all the time, I'm glad these are nicely done. They will figure prominently in skirmish and larger games, providing a mobile force of firepower and seizing objectives just like they did in real life.

The only thing that's a tad annoying is the expense - a force of 6 mounted and 5 dismounted dragoons is about $60, but one doesn't have to field them as a single force, so I look at it as about two small units for $30 each. I figure in colonial times, these mounted men would serve as scouts and work the road networks most likely, as well as occasionally venturing out into the less densely overgrown wilderness, so will be very useful.

In any event, looking forward to painting these up!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

40mm Reinforcements Arrived! Terrain gathering...

Well, they arrived quite a long time ago - almost exactly a year ago.  So long ago that I'd forgotten I ordered them! Quite embarrassing, really.  So just to remind myself what was ordered here it is:

40RTW1 Armoured Pikemen "Charge Your Pike" 5 figs @$17
$17 to make Romanoff Trained Bande of 15 figs + command

40ECW3 Musketeers Firing, 20 figs @ $45

40ECW202 Infantry Command B, 5 figs @ $17
$62 for 25 more foote

40ECW5 Cavalry in Back-and-Breast 7 figs @$45 [parliament cavalry with Pistols]
40ECW203 Cavalry Command 3 figs @$23
$68 for 10 more cav figs

40ECW101 Mounted Dragoons 3 figs @$23 x 2 = 46

40ECW102 Dismounted Dragoons 5 figs @$14.50 x 2 = $29
$75 for 6 mounted and 10 dismounted dragoons

TOTAL = $ 222.00

Shipping from Old Glory was pretty quick, I remember, and no problem despite the Christmas season.

So, first comments...The figs look great - especially the dragoons, who I'd definitely get more of.  The firing musketeers are also very nice.  The cavalry and Romanoff are like the previous cavalry and Romanoff, needing some assembly and work. The foote dragoons and firing musketeers just need their heads screwed on [don't we all...] and a little cleanup.

All are very nice figures, and I'll be doing a series of reviews of them very soon.  This force puts me around 100 foote and 28 horse, enough to do plenty of games.

Along those lines, my recent inspiration has been to play skirmish games where 1 Figure = 1 Man.  This way even just 10-15 men will make a game.  I also have some cattle from my 40mm adventure in Vikings and Saxons - they were acquired inexpensively at a train shop [since closed, regrettably...the train and hobby stores are closing quite regularly in the region].  The only thing left to get organized is the terrain.

To that end, I'm grateful it is Christmastime [well, almost Christmastide] which is when the craft stores will be dumping all their extra stock of Christmas towns, etc.  I'm prepared to hit the local Michael's and wherever else on Christmas Monday to see what they want to get rid of - previously, I've done quite well, acquiring a village wall, plenty of hedges and a few odds and ends. I wasn't sure they'd fit in here, but the hedges are just around gun height, and I'm considering making some stands for the hedge bases in the future:

The hedges look a bit shorter at this angle, but you can see that the second fellow has his hand near the top. In the distance, you can see that the classical ruins from the pet store [for aquariums] are a little small, but not bad, while the 25mm hills just don't fit. Featured to left is my fiery Cavalier general, who is clearly giving an oration to his safely hiding musketeers - is he exhorting them to advance, or just berating them for sacking a local village without his permission? That story has yet to develop!

Very much desired on my holiday shopping will be a bridge, some craft birdhouses and wagons. Plastic floor mats make good planted fields, and there are some sources for Canadian Pine Stems here, which I shall look into:

These sources were found at Lead Adventure Forum, at this nice little batrep I saw recently:
not only does the terrain look great, but it is about a game with just what I was thinking - using Muskets and Tomahawks for the late Renaissance, including Colonial Adventures!  More on this very soon...

Hope the return to 40mm is interesting to followers of this blog - interestingly, there will be more on 6mm and rules to play them very soon, but they are all headed in the same direction, which is interesting and fast play with interesting and fast painting!