Thursday 29 May 2014

Varras - Saviour of Rome

So, after a break of a couple of months, this week sees the restart of our 2nd Punic War campaign.

I'm afraid, as with most ancient history, some has been lost over time and it is now hard to piece together the occurances in the latter half of 215 BC. What we do know is the army under Flaminius was  soundly beaten in Africa and nothing worth the name ever made it back to Italy. At the end of 215 BC things were looking bleak for Rome.

Here is the situation at the end of turn four - 215 BC. This is how we left the campaign two months ago.

Here is the situation following campaign reinforcements and new consular elections that we carried out last night. 

The new consuls for turn five - 214 BC & 213 BC are Varras and Flaminius, the latter having obviously told a tale worthy of Homer on his return to the metropolis. 

The very first move of turn five, by Carthage, brought about a battle. Hannibal decided to march north (using card number 32) in an attempt to reach Cisaplinia and his Gallic allies before Flaminius and pro-consul Marcellus could bring their superior numbers to bear in the south. Taking the most direct route he attempted to slip past Rome's garrison under Varras. Undaunted by Hannibal's awesome reputation Varras intercepted him with every man he could muster.

Varras' force comprised 5CU and 2 Allied CU plus 2 CU from the garrison of Rome (use in Latium only). It would be represented by a consular army plus an extra 'triplex acies': 24 units total. Varras was a poor commander and was assigned a 5 card Commands and Colors hand (he should have been given 4 cards).

Hannibal's force comprised 6 CU and an allied CU: 20 very mixed units total. Hannibal was assigned an 8 card Commands and Colors hand (he should have been given 7 cards). Carthage won side of table roll and the roll to deploy second.

The Battle of Rome

Both sides deployed conventionally with cavalry wings and infantry centres.

 Rome pushed her legions forward to be met by advancing Carthaginian skirmish lines.
 Fearing an outflanking movement by Numidian cavalry one legion peels off to hold them.
 After a short period of desultory skirmishing things move speedily..
To a resounding crunch!

The Romans become outflanked by Hannibals Bruttian and Italian mercenaries. 

But it is too late.
 The melee is over very quickly. 

Except for the gallant efforts of some Spanish and Italian infantry (foreground) which kill a Roman general and almost carve through an entire triplex acies, the result is decidedly in favour of the Romans.

It will teach Hannibal not to rely too heavily on the French (Gauls).
 Hannibal plays his two card trick (Hannibal is allowed to play two cards one after the other at one point in the game - because he's a genius) and uses it to launch his cavalry in a desperate bid to turn the tables.
 On the right they are successful.
 On the left less so.
 The Romans rush velites to prop up their left flank before becoming enveloped.
 But the Carthaginians burst through. 
 Hannibal is wounded and carried from the field. The Carthaginian army begins to melt away.
Things are close. The Romans need one more victory banner. Carthage needs three.

Carthage gains two banners in the penultimate turn. Rome and Varras seal Hannibals fate in the last.

Varras, favoured by the Gods (extremely good early C&C cards), is the Saviour of Rome.

Here is the situation after the battle. Hannibal is alive, though just. Varras has been severely denuded.

A belting battle to kick things off. The campaign will continue next week.

Thursday 22 May 2014

What next?

Well, I'm feeling a little like I've been fighting the Seven Years War rather than painting figures for it. Although I still have seven units left to paint up for the Prussians and Russians, not to mention a couple of dozen Austrian units to bolster up to 'full strength' (increase from 16 to 24 man units), I'm going to take a break from the 18C for a while. That little pile of metal can wait. I think the guys want a break from playing it too.

Gaming wise the decision is easy. Next week, Peter, Graham and I will take our swords in hand and rub our scutums to a high gloss, and dig into the remainder of our Punic Wars Campaign. It still has five full campaign turns to run (using Hannibal: Rome Vs Carthage). Carthage is in the ascendant following the total defeat of the Romans in Africa, and Hannibal might well be able to bring things to a head in Italy where only one consular army remains. It might not even go the distance. 

The campaign might even inspire me to base up the last unit - a unit of Roman trained Numidian infantry - that was painted back in March 2012 and somehow got missed out of the last basing run. I see them from time to time, beseeching me to finish what I've started. That will teach me to put things at the back of the cupboard.

But what to paint? With no deadlines to make I could mix and match and potter around for a bit. But, I'm rather drawn to trying to get some of the renaissance lead pile in order. Except for the WW2 stuff it is the last of the big shiny piles I have to tackle. I would have no uniforms to paint. I could let my imagination run riot. I could use up lots of half pots of Humbrol before they dry out! It does look splendid and I should do more of it.

Next year it is the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Marignano. I have a copy of this little booklet by the Lance and Lonbow Society which along with Oman would provide the historical details. The deployment map in the booklet is excellent - worth the cover price on its own. The terrain it shows will offer some interesting challenges to both sides and make the table look very pretty to boot. Using this booklet the battle is a frontal assault by outnumbered elite troops on a well set enemy of dubious quality with better reserves held in depth. The battle would be played up the table not across it. 

I've checked out the goodie cupboard, and would you believe it, I have enough stuff to do it providing I scale everything to the Swiss: I have 350 Swiss pike. It might also serve as the impetus to do the bags of Italian pike by TAG, though they will be used to represent the French pike in this battle. 

But, I'm forgetting, there is no rush. I undercoated a few crossbowmen last year with another battle in mind (Battle of the Garigliano?, possibly). I will do the black stuff first.

So, decisions made. No purchases required - I even have 40 metres of 0.047 piano wire kicking about the place to do the pikes. I can kick back, relax, and paint at a lazy pace (maybe 50 figs a month); but I'll start that next month. For the moment I'm going to watch the goggle box, play Rome 2 Total War, and read a couple of books.

I'll report on the campaign next week.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Packed up for Triples 2014

Today I packed up the Zorndorf demo-game in readiness for the Sheffield Wargames Society's show this weekend. Triples 2014 is being held at the English Institute of Sport, Coleridge Road, Sheffield, S9 5DA. We have been given a table in the central isle across the main Hall - we are on table L.

 In truth, except for the number of figures, it is not a big game. There is little in the way of topographical features so the game is not burdened with huge amounts of 'poly-hill and tile' which so often fills the transport to the roof and makes loading and setting up a nightmare. Apart from the cloths to cover the table and a shopping bag with a few odds and sods, the whole lot fits into eight apple boxes - six of which hold the troops.

I've added a few finishing touches to the set up including some labels for commanders and terrain features. It might mean that we actually refer to the generals by name.

The Ilkley Lads no longer do hand outs. We don't think the scant information they allow is read let alone kept; we usually took home as many as got taken; and the cost of printer ink being what it is, they are now an expensive luxury I can ill afford. However, for those with the time and enthusiasm we do provide stuff to read at the table. I would like to thank  Kronoskaf Seven Years War Project for allowing me to use their very well researched and full description of the battle. We have also prepared a file with game notes of a wargaming nature (scenario notes, figures used, etc.). It has all gone into the convention briefcase containing all manner of things we have learnt to take over the years (writing pad, writing implements, scissors, scalpel blade, Selotape, super glue, etc.) after trying to beg or borrow them when we didn't.

Last, but not least, I've packed the Ilkley Lads' bag of wedges: Plywood squares, beer mats and other bits of assorted cardboard.... Hmmm, Duvel..... Trying to get eight trestle tables to level up without these is impossible: Essential. 

So that's it. Royal Victoria Hotel booked for Saturday night. Table at The Wig and Pen booked for the evening meal. All ready to go - 6.30 am start on Saturday, Crikey Charlie - see you there.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Last Run Through Before Triples

Well, having painted and based everything, I set the game to make the deployment map and assign unit qualities. Having spent time doing this it would be silly to just pack it all up again. So last night Peter J. (taking Prussia) and Graham H. (taking Russia) went at it again. Peter decided to be feisty and in a little over two hours play the game had progressed nicely. Next week we'll finish it off before I pack it all up for the demo-game at Sheffield Triples.

Here are some pics of the set up and last night's play.

The Russian right.
Most of the field
The Observation Corps under Browne
The Saltykov's (front line) and Galytsin's (rear line) infantry. 

Fermor (C-in-C) is lurking by his coach ready to make his get away - and yes, there is a "He's gone mad!" card in the Russian deck. He rolls D12 versus the turn number, if he doesn't beat it he seeks business elsewhere and another "Command indecision" card is added to the Russian deck.
The right.

The water features have been repainted this morning in readiness for varnishing, they now look much, much darker and look slower running.
Demiku's cavalry on the right (now based)
Schorlemer's cavalry on the Prussian right
Dohna's refused right wing infantry.
Kanitz's infantry has veered off towards the Stein Busch. I begins the battle having just passed through the gun line.
 At the rear, is Marschal's cavalry (now it has card underlay too, see below, to show it starts the game off table).
The cavalry commands of Seydlitz and Malachowski. Seydlitz is off table. I refuse to scrabble about under the table looking for boxes full of troops when there is enough space to have them on show and easily accessible.
Just beyond and to the left of Kanitz, Manteuffel's infantry have passed beyond the insignificant Fuchsberg - I changed it to an even smaller mound this morning. Beyond are the Russians, thousands of 'em.
Looking towards the Russian centre beyond the Stein Busch
 The Prussians go forward.
 They make great progress, smashing holes in the Russian front line, but they are getting battered in the process.
 Feisty, feisty!

 Russian counter attack. Gaugreben's cavalry smash through Manteuffel's line.
 The Russians launch infantry in support, but their cavalry has gone down under cannister fire.
 Kannitz is trading with the Russian centre in a bloody firefight.
Those Russians (their right) are looking feisty too now. It is the end of the second turn.

Thank you for your encouragement in getting this lot done in time. There were moments when brush and hammer looked similarly attractive.