Tuesday 27 October 2015

HEADS UP: Honours of War web site now up and running

The Honours of War web site has now gone live, so I thought I'd post a link and plug Keith's book. I'm looking forward to their imminent release.


Should be good!

Friday 23 October 2015

Four more units of Austrians. Only fourteen more to go.

Well, I've decided to get my Austrians finished before the end of the year. I want, on New Year's Day, or perhaps the day after (New Year's Eve is my Birthday), to start my Napoleonic collection. I promised myself I wouldn't start them until after the Seven Years War collection was finished. I intend to keep that promise.

I have made a start with four of the last eighteen units. I've done one difficult one and three easy ones.

 First up, a combined Hungarian grenadier unit. These are from IR 2 and IR 37. 
I already have the fusiliers of these units and these extra grenadier stands could be used as a combined grenadier unit or to bolster the fusiliers into 'three battalion regiments'. If you remember, I represent regiments of two battalions with one 24 man unit. Apparently, three battalion Austrian regiments usually comprised a two battalion regiment and a composite battalion from a battle depleted regiment - the Austrians, being particularly bad at replacing casualties, found this organisationally easier. I didn't know that until recently - it seems the 'natural' three field battalion Austrian regiment is something of a myth.

 Three batteries of Austrian guns and their crew. The nearest gun is a crew man short. I'm painting a fusilier playing a mandolin whilst a chicken roasts over an open fire for the corner of this stand. I think the crew man must have deserted from barracks at Front Rank, or perhaps he ran off with the postman.
Six shiny new guns on their yellow carriages. I think it's a particularly pleasant paint scheme. Very smart.

So what's left.

7 eight man units of cavalry.
2 eight man units of Grenzers.
3 twenty four man units of German infantry.
1 twenty four man unit of Hungarian infantry.
1 twenty four man unit of German grenadiers.

By New Year's Eve, deal done.

Thursday 22 October 2015

War Galley - board to table, an AAR

Firstly, let me begin by adding this link to Graham's musings. It seems to sum up last night pretty succinctly. discourses on wargaming - sunk without trace

I'd set up a game loosely based on the battle of Drepana, and loosely based on the scenario given in the War Galley Scenario Book. It looked alright. We would use the rules from GMT's War Galley without amendments - what could go wrong?

The Carthagininians snake out of Drepana harbour (right) whilst the Romans move in the opposite direction (left) in some disorder. Peter and Graham took the Carthaginians whilst newcomer Paul and myself took the Romans.
The Roman van begins the game in total disorder (foreground) as the last of the Carthaginian fleet leaves the confines of the harbour (top).
 Behind, in double line astern the Roman centre and rear make their weary way.
 The head of the Carthaginian line began having already come into line abreast facing the Romans.
The rest of the Carthaginians, in a long and orderly line astern come up into position.

Well that was how it started. All well and good. 

Then the game quickly began to fall to pieces until, at about turn four or five, and 11 pm,  it looked like this. 

It was total bloody chaos, no one knew what was going on, no one had had any fun, and Paul had given up completely.
It was the same across the entire table. 

Sea room, at the sharp end, had disappeared as the game broke up into three pell mell lumps. 

And it wasn't just the confused look of the game; you kind of expect that with galley warfare.

There were just too many things to do each turn. There were just so many 'bitty' things that each ship could do at every stage of the game. 

Each turn was a chore, from beginning to end.

I'm in agreement with Graham on this one. The command and control rules, which directly influence turn sequence, are just too complicated and without an easily recognised or remembered structure. Moving alternate command groups is fine but, when they can change in composition every turn; when each is put through a quite complicated turn sub-sequence before moving onto the next group; when the next group chosen might be at the other end of the table; when the last friendly group is moving to counteract the first enemy group that moved........... it is so tiresome that the game ceases to be fun. The game's structure is so broken up into tiny unrelated chunks that the game ceases to have any easily followed narrative aspect. Because the players can choose, in effect, to move first in different sectors of the battle, the game has no feel of individual 'duels' - once one side has moved first in one sector there is no advantage in acting there second, it seems best to go first somewhere else then go back to a sector where the enemy went first last: any feel of localised cut and thrust is lost.

This morning, in the cold light of day, I played through another hour or so, solo. 

The knotted masses of ships did tend to break up and sea room was again available for some greater tactical movement but the same problems, especially with the 'squadron command' rules and turn sequencing were still very much in evidence - and I knew what both sides were doing, and when! 
I left the game looking like this. 

It will possibly look to the Lads that this is just how they left it, but in actual fact the fleets have just about cleared through each other and would, in all likelihood, turn around in the next turn or two to go at each other again from the opposite directions. 

I left the game with the following overall result. 

Romans: Ships lost rammed and sunk: 6, Admiral Pulcher drowned (with his chickens), Squadron commander Fabius drowned.

Carthaginian losses: Ships lost rammed and sunk: 4, Ships lost captured: 2.

Tactically, the Carthaginians were probably in a stronger overall tactical position.

Conclusions about War Galley. 

Firstly, moving it to the table with bigger heavier ship counters with room to put the recording tokens was definitely a great improvement on the board game proper - though it did throw up some 'virtual space' issues.

I like some of the combat mechanisms. The combat tables for ramming, raking and boarding have a simplicity that I quite like: they are 'no fudge' decisive.

I like the notion of cruise and 'ramming' speed but I found the fatigue rule laborious and I think, overall, one speed would be best. Having speed determination as a separate part of the turn sequence is essential because of how War Galley works, but it was just another tedious turn stretching thing to have to do. I liked the half speed penalty when some stuff happens an awful lot.  

I hate the missilery rule in WG. How and when ships can shoot is a pain. Shooting once per turn should be enough - choose when and mark as fired, please - and I'm pretty sure that is wasn't that effective, historically, anyway.

The rule for 'passage' of enemy lines, the 'diekplus rule',  leaves as many issues as it solves. Having said that, we did play it slightly wrong. You can't diekplus a ship head on unless you pass between it and another enemy ship. This doesn't solve Paul's issue with the rule and hex space. In fact, in the situation that threw and annoyed him so much it just makes it worse as neither of his ships could do a diekplus! Silly bloody rule.

Finally, as stated before, the command rules are, well they are pants with a capital 'P'. Too complicated by half and all they do is confuse what is a confusing type of battle in the first place. I'm not sure if these could be simplified to good effect, perhaps this is where the rules started from and why this key element makes the rules feel like a Greek tragedy.

So, what to do? 

Well, as it stands War Galley is not the game I thought, or hoped it would be. It is not one of GMT's best games.  It has no flow, and you can see the surprises coming from a mile off. It has to be a lot slicker to float my boats. 

When I come to 'hex write' Fleet of Battle, I may try to incorporate one or two of the success / failure combat resolution mechanisms and some of the factors that I'd not placed too much importance on in Fleet of Battle as it stands. I'll certainly incorporate the half speed mechanism somewhere. 

I will not be playing War Galley again - "Huzzah!" I hear the Lads shout. I feel an ebay lot coming on!

Anyway, it was nice to see Paul after meeting him at Derby, and I hope last night's disastrous game doesn't put him off coming again. Next time I'll set something up on dry land.

Thursday 15 October 2015

War Galley - The miniatures game?

As some of you will know, a few months ago I embarked on a mission so boring that even I thought I was mad to do it. 

Believe me, hexing out a 12' by 6' table in 3" hexes (actually 7 cm across flats) is not a joyful experience.

I did it because I'm coming to the opinion that ancient naval games are probably best played out on a gridded playing surface, a hex grid (or 'squexes') probably being best. The grid might also prove useful for future games with WW1 aeroplanes.

Whilst I intend to re-write my Fleet of Battle rules for use with hexes at some point, I also purchased War Galley by GMT games. This hex based board game was recommended to me at a show a couple of years back. 

Last night, Graham and I played through the smallest scenario. We didn't use miniatures. Instead we used the board game straight out of the box. 

I thought this would be the easiest way to play the game for the first time. 

The game played quite well, I think. The rules are complex enough to make the game interesting but simple enough to pick up quickly. The most complex part of the game is sorting groups of ships into squadrons for activation at the start of each turn - ships are not in fixed squadrons. This isn't difficult in itself; remembering what is in each squadron and what has activated in each turn is more so, even with just a dozen or so ships a side. 

What was irritating about the game was the small size of the hexes (20 mm), ship counters and recording counters involved in the game: War Galley is probably the most 'fiddly' game I've ever played - it is awful! Perhaps it's because I'm no longer used to playing these small counter board games; whatever, I doubt I'll play it as a boardgame again.

Next week we will play it again, but this time on much bigger hexes using my model galleys. 

We'll use the recording counters from the game but as the table hexes are three and a half times bigger, and have sufficient vacant room to hold them easily, we will not endlessly knock stuff in nearby hexes about.

Beads denote side (red Roman, green Carthaginian). Each fleet has two grades of quinquireme. This Carthaginian galley has one green bead - so it is 'type 1'.

I'm going to do a scenario based on Drepanum in the scenario book. I've scaled down the number of galleys involved from 31 a side to 21 a side; otherwise force composition is as per the GMT scenario. This should make the game quicker and give a little more sea room. Having played last night, I don't see any advantage in fielding 31 galleys a side; I think 21 will do just as well. Scaling seems to be quite arbitrary within the rules, ranging from one to one to one to ten; I've increased the scaling for this scenario from one to four to one to six, which still falls well within range. 

I've also changed the initial deployments to something that I believe is much nearer to the starting positions just before battle was joined proper. It's something close to a halfway house between the two possible set ups in the scenario book.

I've played this battle several times before using other rules, so it's quite a good one to do using War Galley mechanics. 
It will give me a good idea of what these rules can offer. 

I'm hopeful about these rules; I'll post an after action report at the end of next week.

Note to self - get the back of that office chair fixed!

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Basing Conundrums

I thought I was fairly well set with how I was to proceed with basing and organising my Napoleonic infantry units for the Peninsular. Now, having done some 'blanks', I'm not so sure any more.

Here are some shots of the possibilities using British figures in 'firing line' poses.
This shot shows the three basic possibilities and shows the relative frontages quite nicely.
24 figures on six 40mm x 40mm stands. This was the original plan. Thing is, they look a bit skirmishy with this frontage.
24 figures on four 50mm x 50mm stands. Now this looks better to me, but four bases means a loss of formation flexibility. I'd do six stands with this spacing but, I feel, little stands (32 mm width) might be a pain to move about.
36 figures on six 50mm x 50mm stands. This is the pricey option. The tactical flexibility of six stands with good figure spacings. Downside, apart from cost and painting time, this unit has a one foot table frontage - you're not going to get that many units on the table and big battles become much less viable.
From the side the difference in the spacing looks even more stark. I do like that 24 man unit on 50 by 50s but four stands doesn't give much variation in unit formation and 12 figure cavalry formations will be 50% wider.
I like this too. But one foot frontage? It would allow for 12 cavalry to have the same frontage I suppose, and that makes good war gaming sense. But, would 12 figure cavalry units look a bit small next to 36 man infantry units? 
 Well, there is food for thought. What do you think?

Monday 5 October 2015

Marignano 1515 at Derby - Everyone's a winner!

The Ilkley Lads took Marignano 1515 to The Derby World Championships convention last weekend as a demonstration game. It's only the second time I've visited this two day event; the first time I went to this show I went as a volunteer to man a Leeds Club game on the second day. This year, with War Torn being cancelled, and the fact that Triples isn't an option, Derby was the obvious choice to take The Ilkley Lads' 2015 weekend game. Derby is as far south as we've ever been but, if the show is always as good as it was this weekend, it will go on to the Ilkley Lads calender from now on.

The show was a very good one. It was busy on both days, all day. The busyness of the show came as quite a shock. Usually, especially on the Sunday of two day shows, the mornings are busy then they quieten down mid afternoon - tumble weed blowing down the aisles has been reported at some shows after 3 in the afternoon. Derby bucked this trend on both days and we delayed our expected departure to the hotel on Saturday until after 5.00 p.m. because it was so much busier than we had expected. I think the fact that it hosts the World Championships keeps people around longer, and I think a lot were hanging around for friends to finish competition games. It is fortunate that war gamers are an honest bunch; leaving over 1000 figures on a table with hundreds of people around always feels risky - at roll call next morning not one of the little buggers had deserted, bless 'em.

The list of traders was impressive and very diverse. You could spend a lot of money at Derby very easily, even in small spends, because the list of stuff available was so extensive. According to the traders I spoke to, business was brisk, and sales totals were very satisfactory.

The standard of games on show was good, certainly better than average. The scope of the games was also very good, there was something for everyone.

Thanks to our hosts who were very helpful. I congratulate them for putting on such a successful show.

I talked to scores of people during the show, about our game, to others putting on games and to people I met around trade stands. Some old friends, old faces, but mostly new people who don't come further north than this. If we met and talked, it was a pleasure. I look forward to seeing you again. Special thanks to the guys putting on the samurai game who gave me some very useful pointers.

So, all in all, I think everyone came away a winner. The Ilkley Lads came away winners too. The Lads all managed to buy what we were looking for from the many and varied set of trade stands and, what's more, our Marignano 1515 game won best demo of show. Huzzah! Usually you get your name put on a plaque, or you get given a certificate for your winning efforts; it came as something of a shock to be given a brown envelope with a wad of prize money in it! Prize money in cash - I approve! - and it's already destined to be spent on the shiny Napoleonic stuff.

BTW, if you are wondering where I've been for the last couple of months the answer is varied. I've been busy with work, I've been on holiday, and my camera broke after years of good service. I've also had something of a health scare (involving lots of hospital trips) which threw me for six: I was given the all clear just last Friday, so no need to worry. A new camera has been obtained (used here) and work has been caught up with and is back to normal, so regular posting will now begin again.

Anyway, here are some shots of the Derby game. We fought it twice, neither time to a complete finish, starting afresh on each day, so these shots are best described as mixed bunch.
The initial set up from behind the French. It clearly shows the four distinct formations. In the distance the cavalry screen led by Fleuranges, then Bourbon's French vanguard holding the earthwork, then the mainward of Landsknechts and cavalry under King Francis I, and lastly Alencon's mixed rearward formed up behind the main French camp.

Against all of that lot, the ferocious Swiss and Sforza's cavalry and guns. Directly in their path are the light cavalry of Fleurange's.

Another shot of the French position. Bourbon is deployed in two lines; one immediately behind the earthwork (Gascons and guns under Pedro Navarro), and their supporting pike, and cavalry under Bourbon in the second rank. This is the area where most of the fighting takes place. The village of  Zivido (centre) is usually the high watermark of the Swiss attack.
The three Swiss pike squares supported by arquebusier and a couple of knots of halberdiers. The latter are essential for the Swiss to make anything of a game out of the scenario for the Swiss.
The Swiss break into the French position during Saturday's game.
The game reset for Sunday.
A shot of some Landsknechts - because there should always be one.
And some Gendarmes. The French fielded 14 squadrons of heavy cavalry in this scenario - there should have been even more. I had to substitute several units of light cavalry (mostly crossbows) to make the numbers up to 10,000 horse - the organisational 'lance' structure allows for this [?] at a pinch.
Height of the action during Sunday's game.
Anyway, onwards and upwards.