Monday, July 28, 2014

Washing the Spears

The afternoon had worn on before the intruders made their move. Akhona stood in the shade of the trees and watched the straggling line of blue-clad black men emerge from the savannah. They were led by a white man riding a mule, his blocky figure swaying with the animal's motion, a tall white hat like a beehive atop his head, and a thick greying beard adorning his face. Three other men, all black, walked by his side. One wore blue, the others trade clothing. They seemed to be guides. Akhona could see one other white man, clad in blue with a white hat, amid the black soldiers. A sub leader of some kind?

Dakasa came up alongside Akhona and glanced at him. "When?"

Akhona hefted the old trade musket, the weight solid in his grip, the barrel warm on his skin from the day's heat. "Soon. You know our orders. We fire and retire, draw them onto the war bands."

Dakasa grunted, whether in acceptance or disgust Akhona didn't know nor did he care. The intruders came on, caution in their every movement, the one on the mule dropping back behind the line. Akhona nodded. "Make ready..."
Capitain Willem Potgeiter decided to slip behind the skirmish line, the better to see the terrain ahead in some degree of security. He'd hardly done so before an excited shout went up from the askaris on his right. Dark figures emerged from the shadows beneath a stand of trees ahead. Almost at once the edge of the wood blossomed with mustard-coloured smoke. Bullets whispered past his ears, kicked up small spurts of dusty soil. His askaris yelled with shock, Potgeiter noting with unease even in the midst of his own surprise the note of fear underlying the sound. Has the prospect of entering G'Wundaland unnerved them so? "Steady!" he yelled. In front of him Corporal Smets added his own voice to the command, cuffing his men into order. To Willem's relief no-one appeared injured.

"Return fire, damn you!" Potgeiter braced himself for another volley from the woods but it didn't come. Instead the shadowy figures retreated into the copse. Smet glanced back at him, baffled. "That's it, sir?"

Potgeiter scowled. "For now. I think they're trying to draw us in." He rubbed his beard, the bristles rasping under his fingers. "We don't know what lies in wait within those low hills, so we won't oblige them."

He looked over his shoulder. At that moment Corporal Lemmens emerged from the brush at the head of his section, the men formed in a short column. He'd left the bearers further back as ordered. Potgeiter gestured to him to take station on the left flank. Lemmens saluted and began to deploy his men into line. Potgeiter returned his attention to the front and his heart leaped into his mouth. Whilst he'd been distracted a warband had emerged onto the low rise before them. He could count at least twenty warriors, with the possibility of more trending down the reverse slope and out of his sight. Sunlight glinted off a multitude of spearheads, the tribal colours of the bearers glowing proudly beneath. 

Smets saw them too. He uttered an epithet and redoubled his efforts to steady the askari. With an insouciant air the warband began to advance across the hill toward the left flank, where Lemmens attempted to form his men.

Potgeiter glanced anxiously at the copse, but the musketeers had retired into the depths. He wondered at that. Surely they would take the chance to pepper us, perhaps score some hits this time while that war band attacks our left? But no. He dismissed them, turned his attention to the left, where the warband approached at a trot now, menace in every line.

Movement behind heralded the welcome arrival of Sergeant De Vos and his men. The tough veteran looked ahead, nodded to Potgeiter and immediately formed his section into a two-deep firing line. To Potgeiter's annoyance Lemmens was taking too long to form up. "Move, man!" Potgeiter gestured angrily. "Get those men in line now!"

Lemmens pushed the last man into place and shouted the commands. "Ready! Aim! Fire!" The askaris let fly but their shooting was poor. Potgeiter saw one warrior fall on the hill. The others shuddered under the blow then gathered themselves together...

Chulumacha, war-leader of the G'Wunda tribe, waved his spear above his head. "The weapons of the blue warriors sting but little!" He pointed at the fallen warrior then at the gathering enemy. "Only Combela falls, but we shall avenge him! On, my friends! Drive this scum from our lands! Onward! Onward!"

As one they surged down the slope, dust kicking up at their heels. Chulumacha  ran with his men, his blood singing at the prospect of combat. The blue-clad interlopers stood their ground but fear came off them in waves. He could see they fumbled with their weapons but it was too late. Chulumacha had teased Akhona about it when they'd discussed the merits of musketry. "The musket is a fool - only the spear is wise!" He giggled now at the memory - then raised his shield and slammed into the enemy ranks.

The fight proved one-sided. The blue-clad warriors fought hard with their clumsy blade-tipped muskets but he and all but two of his comrades deftly avoided their puny blows. Within minutes the surviving enemy broke and ran, their white leader first to flee.

Chulumacha turned his attention to the next target, a similar line forming up on the left. As the last of their blue-clad friends won clear of the melee, fire and smoke spurted from the line. Chulumacha flinched and warriors fell - but too few to count. He laughed aloud, exulting in living another minute and in the enemy's ineptness. His men looked around, recovered from the shock of the volley, and shared his laughter. From the expressions on the faces of the blue-clad warriors, the sound was the last they wanted to hear. Chulumacha grinned and pointed his spear at them. "Onward!"
A stirring in the copse presaged another advance from native warriors. Potgeiter's heart sank when he saw a second warband emerge, prowling from the shadows with deadly intent. His men had settled down, Smets forcing them into firing line. As the warband drew near Potgeiter drew a deep breath. "Fire!"

The volley roared, to little effect. As the smoke drifted away on the easterly breeze the warband came on, impacting all along the line with a triumphant scream and a crash of arms. Potgeiter drew his pistol and shot into the hacking stabbing mass, uncaring if his own soldiers got in the way. Five of his men fell, but only three tribal warriors. The askaris' morale wavered and they fell back, Smets roaring at them to stand their ground. 

"No!" Smets looked up as Potgeiter shouted, the corporal's face red with fury and fear. Potgeiter waved to the left. "Form up on De Vos!"

The askaris had other ideas. They fell back farther than Potgeiter wished, leaving De Vos' flank open to attack.

A glance that way showed Potgeiter such concerns were no longer necessary. The first warband had smashed into De Vos with furious speed. 

The fight took longer than Potgeiter expected, the askaris fighting with a ferocity born of desperation. Eventually De Vos and his handful of survivors fell back, leaving almost as many G'Wunda warriors dead as they themselves had suffered before the askaris morale wavered.

The end came soon after, the second warband charging home and combining with the first to extinguish any hope Potgeiter had of holding the ground. Turning the mule with main force, he and the pitiful remnant of his command joined the flight back into the bush.
As the land fell silent Akhona wandered out of the copse, crossing the bloodstained ground at the head of his musketeers to gaze with curiosity upon the fallen enemy. He noted the tribal scars on the cheeks of the fallen, wondered what tribe would so submit to such weak, pale-skinned leaders. He stooped and rested his musket on the ground, picking up a fallen weapon from a dead blue-clad warrior. The man's eyes stared sightless at the vault of the sky, his life spent. A vicious slash had cleft the red fez he wore in two, the cut continuing into his brain.

Akhona turned the weapon over in his hands, noting the breech-loading mechanism with a stirring of excitement. Dakasa picked up another rifle. He grunted. "They could have done so much better."

"It's good for us they didn't." Akhona sighted along the barrel. "Have the men pick up all fallen weapons, ammunition. We can use these."

Chulumacha walked up, his oiled chest still heaving from the exertion of combat. "We saw them off! They run like antelope back to their lands, and won't return. We'll harass them as far as we can before night, maybe pick up some more booty." He grinned and pointed at the rifle. "Do you still insist that's the best weapon, after witnessing what my warriors did with spears alone this day?"

Akhona smiled. "You did indeed do well, my friend." He slung the rifle over his shoulder by the strap. "One day I'll show you what my friends and I can do."
* * * *
The game, a one-sided affair, was fought to Sharp Practice rules with my own modifications for Colonial warfare. A few thoughts on the game, with the implications for the campaign in general, will follow soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Other Side of the Hill

Capitain Willem Potgeiter of the Société belge de commerce africaine military force sat on his mule and surveyed the terrain ahead with mixed feelings. The savannah had felt endless as he and his little column trekked across it for days, but now it appeared to have finite limits after all. The ground ahead trended to low hills and increasing scrub, with stands of taller trees here and there. A perfect place for an ambush. He gestured to the guide, standing patiently beside him. "Thomas, are you sure we have to pass through that?"

Thomas, whose real name the Belgian couldn't pronounce, screwed up his eyes as he peered in the direction Potgeiter pointed. "Yass, bass, we do. The lake lies three days beyond." He hesitated. "We close to G'Wunda lands, bass."

Potgeiter rubbed his beard and frowned. "Uh."

The lake. Or inland sea. Rumour of which had reached the Société's headquarters at Leopoldport on the Atlantic coast. Orders from the Director arrived by telegraph at the outpost Willem commanded. He and his men had been dispatched to discover the lake, estimate how big it was, and gain an idea of resources - including natives - in the locality that could be exploited in the Société's usual ruthless fashion. The Director had also mentioned growing British influence in the area, so the race was on to reach the lake and claim the region before the mighty Queen-Empress did so.

All very nice in theory, but Potgeiter believed the warriors of the G'Wunda tribe would have something to say about that. Their reputation for ferocity had spread far and wide. So far the military arm of the Société had not encountered them, as the G'Wunda territory lay well to the east of the company's current border. After the relative peacefulness of the march, Potgeiter thought that was about to change. He glanced back at the platoon, felt annoyed at how it straggled through the trackless  brush. Thirty or so men, not including bearers, native askari with white NCOs. "Too small to attract a hostile response, too big to be overwhelmed by mere natives." Potgeiter knew the argument, promulgated in breezy fashion by the Director. Yes. He sensed Thomas' growing nervousness, looked again to the east. The afternoon sun cast deepening shadows in the folds of land. We'll see... 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some progress

Clearing the decks of my last project means I can finally line up a game or two! To that end I took my gaming cloth, a few yards of calico, and added some mid green areas with a rattle can. It now looks more suitable for African and even European games. I really need more scenery but will get there in the end.

Hopefully I'll get time tomorrow to run a Darkest African scenario. I'm also setting up leagues for Pulp Alley games.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A few buildings

My 10mm VBCW set-up is somewhat lacking in buildings, so I rectified the situation by making a few out of foamcore and card. 
They're quick to make and look reasonably good from a distance. The one at the back is a work in progress which I'll finish as flint-walled twin cottages in the style of my home county of Norfolk. 

With luck and a following wind I'll get the Chain of Command rules soon. Other gamers have already done a lot of work creating tables for AVBCW and I'll use the rules for that and also WW2, by the by.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Beginning the BUF

Summer has been a bit busy, what with writing, gardening and prepping for art shows, but I've begun putting together a BUF force for AVBCW. 
Most of the figures are Pendraken Miniatures drawn from my Socialist militia platoon (which had over-strength sections anyway), given a new paint job and Bob's your uncle. I had enough spare figures to create a command group including standard bearer. I chose to represent the platoon wearing army surplus jackets and forage caps died black, with army equipment and RAF uniform trousers. I reason that supplies are limited and every unit has to make do with what's available. The 18 pdr and Vickers MMG crews were already painted as BUF with khaki jackets and black trousers. 

This will be a platoon from the BUF Suffolk Legion based around Bury St. Edmunds, out to help impose the government's will on the East of England. They will clash with the Socialist forces operating out of Great Yarmouth and the LDV of the area. A nice chap on the VBCW forum by the name of Leics_Gamer makes excellent standards for the various factions around the UK. He produced an array for County of Suffolk forces, including the East Suffolk BUF, which I will print off when I can persuade our cranky colour printer to work. 

To the right of the picture is a section of Police auxiliary, reluctant associates dragged in to support the supposedly legitimate government. The police box is a home made resin casting.

In time I'll add a couple more sections and a Boyes AT rifle team or two to the force, and probably a pair of Italian L3/33 tankettes for armoured support. I'm tempted to increase the armour my VBCW forces have by getting a Vickers E type A or B or Vickers Medium Mk II for the BUF, and a T26 for the Socialists. Not quite sure what kind of tank a LDV force would have. Suggestions welcome! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Doctor Doctor..!

With my wife resting after an operation last week I suppose it's not surprising I have doctors on my mind. Since she's a big fan of Doctor Who I thought I'd press on with painting up the figures I bought from Heresy Miniatures and Black Tree Designs.

The Ninth Doctor (front right) and Tenth (right column, 3rd from front) need just a coat of varnish. The Third Doctor (front row, second from right) is almost finished. I'll deepen the colour of his cloak using inks. The pterodactyl in front was coloured using brown acrylic pain for an undercoat and green and yellow acrylic inks, tips I picked up from Colonel O'Truth's blog. I'm debating whether or not to add a red stripe down the spine from the head to the tip of the tail.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

G'Wundaland Volunteer Force

Here we have the G'Wundaland Volunteer Force, composed of would-be settlers fighting for the Crown in exchange for land and gold. Armed with US Army surplus Sharps carbines they will serve as a civilian auxiliary to the regular army.

The figures are from Dixon's Miniature Pony Wars range, painted to look more like a civilian body with a few elements of military uniform here and there. I believe the figure at the far right is supposed to be Custer, so I made him the commender of this band. 

The base-work is in progress. The first layer is liquid nails, which adheres well to the metal washers. Next layer will be a spackle/PVA mix with sand and coffee grounds for effect.

(The tentacles in the background are a work in progress Peril for Pulp Alley).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

An Afternoon in 1863

My wife and I have a great time at a local re-enactment event today at Green Springs, Ohio. The 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry were among participants for a small action based on the ACW Battle of Gray Goose Creek, June 21 1863, itself a prelude to bigger events at Gettysburg. Although space precluded anything larger it was a fun demonstration, and the 3-inch rifled cannon got to fire.

Among the re-enactors were President Abraham Lincoln and local hero General James McPherson. It was fun to chat with these chaps, as they knew a wealth of details about the era.

On the gaming side, I've nearly finished the irregular force for Darkest Africa. Hopefully I'll get time to finish them and see them in action.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fresh off Lead Mountain

I spent a little free time this week painting up some fantasy figures which languished on Lead Mountain, some for the better part of 25 years. A slightly blurry photo above shows the more-or-less finished results. The only new figure is that of the Reaper Miniatures elven mage on the left, by talented figure sculptor Sandra Garrity. The others are a mix of Citadel and Ral Partha. 

Some time next week I hope to get the auxiliaries-to-be on the painting block, so they can contribute to the British strength on the Barsetshire's next excursion into Darkest Africa.   

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New recruits?

Having a dig around in the lead pile can pay off. I found these chaps from a large batch of Plains Wars figures. 

They're Dixons Miniatures dismounted US cavalry, but with a suitable paint job I think they can represent a militia made up of white settlers in Colonial lands. Armed with near-obsolete weapons they can defend their settlement until the army arrives, or serve as a useful adjunct to the regular force in the field. 

There's probably three times as many figures again in the collection they came from, but ten or so seems enough.


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