Sunday, December 30, 2012

(Almost) the end of the year report

Instead of gaming, Friday night was a painting spree at the New Buckenham club, a successful feature which might be repeated in future. It offered members a chance to chip away at the lead mountain and demonstrate their painting techniques. My wife and I weren't able to go in the end, but Amanda painted her first wargames figure. The consensus of the club is she did a good job of it. We're so proud! ;) 

Farther poking around in my shed turned up the naval component of the Early Imperial Roman force I mentioned previously. These 1/300th scale galleys are home-made, being cast in resin from a latex mold. 
All are basically of the liburnian pattern, a light war galley used for patrol and coastal work. The model at the rear-right is an incomplete trireme intended for use as a flagship. 

I made space on each deck for a couple of stands of Roman marines, the classiarii. For those current and ex-Marines out there, note I didn't use the proud upper case M in describing the troop-type for a good reason! To quote from the Military Analysis blog, "Being in the Roman 'marines' (the milites classiarii) didn't convey the same prestige as being in the modern US Marine Corps does now [British Royal Marine Commando or Russian Marines for that matter either!]. The Roman marines were provincial or foreign auxiliaries that could fight on or off boat."

My intention is (eventually) to add a Germanic equivalent force equipped with something like the Hjortspring boat, the Iron Age predecessor to the Saxon boats and the classic Viking longboat. Unlike the longboat, the vessel really was suited only to operating in relatively sheltered waters, along a coast or in the Baltic. Quick and nimble, it would've been great for raiding parties.
 The Hjortspring boat, showing the curious double-prow and stern. Purpose unknown, these disappeared in later versions of the boat in its gradual progress toward the Viking longboat design.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Friday night at the club

My girls and I had another great night out at New Buckenham Wargames club. Two games were in progress, a Hundred Years War clash between the forces of England and France, and an aerial encounter between RAF Hurricanes and the Regia Aeronautica. 

These beautiful 15mm models are created by club member Paul Cotton, and are available at Old Glory UK. The RAF may be found here, the Italians here. We have the pleasure of flying the first ones out the mold whenever Paul creates a new design. 

The mission comprised a raid by the Regia Aeronautica. An SM79 bomber had to cross the length of the table, with an escort of CR42 biplanes and a lone Macchi 202 to fend off the unwanted advances from a quartet of Hurricanes sent to intercept them

My wife took one flight of Hurricanes and I the other. Dice are rolled to determine the altitude at which the planes enter the arena. I began at something of a disadvantage, as my flight found itself at lower level than the raiders. It took me some time to climb, so the onus was on my wife to take on the Italians - which she did with some style!

It's hard to describe an aerial wargaming without resorting to the sweeping hand-gestures so beloved of fighter pilots in the mess after an encounter. Suffice it to say the Macchi fighter got squarely in the sights of a Hurricane, which fired two solid bursts in an excellent deflection shot which saw the hapless Italian fighter explode in mid-air. The SM79 then found itself fired upon by both Hurricanes of Cindy's flight, suffering damage to the starboard engine, fuel tank and fuselage. 
The wreckage of the Macchi 202 plunges to earth.

 Ouch! The SM79 finds itself bracketed by Hurricanes out for blood. 
Their cheerful creator Paul Cotton looks on.

Matters took a turn for the worse for the RAF, as the CR42's finally managed to get in a position to defend their charge. Hurricane C "Charlie" suffered a horrible battering from twin 12.7mm heavy MGs and sagged off to starboard belching smoke and leaking oil. The wounded pilot decided to fight another day and headed home.

By this time my own flight had come up, after a dazzling display of formation flying to get to altitude that was of no earthly use in the end. SM79 pilot Chris went for height and managed to elude the last-ditch attempts by the RAF to bring him down. A victory for Italy.
Crowded skies. Two Hurricanes and two CR42s contend for the same volume of airspace.

The rules used are Paragon's Aerial Combat Rules 1916-1918, adapted by Paul. They use car antennae to simulate differences in altitude, and work well. No more "penguin on roller skates," as one hobby writer calls it.

Over on the other table Amanda tried her hand at commanding the right wing of the Hundred Years' War battle. A meeting engagement somewhere in France, the battle went right down to the wire.

She found herself contending the field against a sizable force of French mounted knights. Affairs looked sticky for much of the game, but her archers and foot managed to hold on long enough for reinforcements to arrive to stem then hurl back the tide. The outcome was a marginal English victory, and a stepdaughter developing an interest in gaming. Even her cool, "with-it" friends approve - we must be doing something right!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wargaming archaeology - 1

A spot of excavating in my work shed unearthed a couple of treasures. The first I'm sure many a gamer will recognise.

One of the seminal works on our hobby, I've had years of enjoyment from it. Now I think it's time I gave others a chance so I'm going to put it up for sale. 

The next photo shows my 6mm Early Imperial Roman legion defending a town against a horde of Germanic tribal warriors. Two cohorts of Praetorian Guard and some of the integral legionary cavalry alae stand ready to emerge to attack the German flanks. I'd forgotten just how many of these figures I had. The horde shown is only about half the number.

Obviously the town isn't finished. My intention is to make a few more interchangeable modular insulae and roads. The ramparts and gatehouses are cast from resin using latex molds.  

One of these days I'd like to get my Romans in Germania Libera campaign going again. Luckily I found the notes and data for it stored on back-up CDs just the other day. Like many a wargames campaign, it thrived for a few months before dying out due to people becoming busy with other things. We had one major battle which saw an eventual Roman victory after a titanic struggle. The game was memorable for the Roman commander ordering the execution of two cohorts of auxiliaries on the spot after they retreated in the face of the enemy!

More goodies will be displayed as I excavate them...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Renewing old acquaintances

My first gaming night in over three years at my old club was a family occasion. My wife came along as war correspondent, and Amanda, my archaeologist stepdaughter, decided she'd like to find out more about gaming. The club membership has expanded considerably since its early days, with easily four times as many folks in the hall last night. A nice bunch of fellows, they made us welcome, and we settled down to game.

My choice for the evening was a 28mm game set in Spain, 1050 AD - the beginning of the era of El Cid and the expulsion of the Moors from the Peninsula. Amanda is developing her studies into the Iron Age. She and I fielded Christian Spanish/Normans vs. Abussid/Berbers. We used Impetus rules, which I hadn't tried but heard good things about. 
Three gamers contemplate their forces.

The terrain was generated at random and featured two sizable woods and two small but craggy hills. Set-up by both sides used hidden deployment. We decided to concentrate our heavy infantry on our left flank facing the most cluttered terrain. The majority of the cavalry, including my high-quality Normans deployed on our right, where the terrain between woods and hills was more open. From my location I could cover the avenues of approach. Our center had a reserve of heavy cavalry, screened by Basque light cavalry and skirmishers armed with bows, crossbows and javelins. 

Gamer at play - contemplating the soon-to-be-destroyed Berber forces. 
My light cavalry are poised to slam into their counterparts to the left of the shot. Stuart presides over all.

Our opponents had more cavalry, but - we guessed - of a generally lower quality. They divided them between both flanks, with the Normans soon facing off against the Berber nobility. 

    A general view of the tabletop. My Normans get to blows with the Berbers nearest the camera. Off in the distance is a Flames of War: Holland - 1944 game.

Impetus relies on U-Go-I-Go movement using initiative dice. The rolls favoured both sides about equally. Firing is more effective within 10" range for bow and crossbow armed troops, although the effects can be mitigated by dice rolls. Both sides found it rather frustrating to get a few valuable hits only to see their opponents shrug them off. 

As the main cavalry thrust developed to our right, I rode out to meet it. It soon became apparent the main Berber infantry attack would develop on our left, once they had found their way through the difficult terrain. That aspect of the battle was in Guy's hands. 

The cavalry melee developed, with my forces winning the roll and charging into contact. It turned out to be a more difficult task than I anticipated. I had every confidence I would win the day, but the opposition put up a good fight. One of my cavalry units succeeded in destroying a (supposedly) less able enemy force, but had to be led, fainting and gasping, to the sidelines after suffering a battering in return. 

On the other flank, Amanda became worried about the developing threat. The Berbers had pushed forward the rest of their cavalry and were bearing down on our largely immobile heavy infantry, backed by their own infantry. (At this early stage of the Reconquest, the heavy infantry of Christian Spain lacked the long spears which later proved so effective against cavalry. The Berber infantry were well-equipped with these spears from the first). Amanda sent her cavalry speeding across to assist Guy's forces, and arrived in the nick of time. 

In the center my light cavalry charged and put to flight a unit of Berber light cavalry that had unwittingly exposed themselves to danger. A follow-up charge put paid to a hapless unit of crossbowmen who had - to that time - posed no real threat to us. This blew a nice big gap in the Berber line, and put worried expressions on the faces of our opponents. They had spent most of the game getting their heavy infantry over the hills. Now they had to stop and turn to face my light cavalry - or risk a charge into their flank. A band of Berber javelin-armed skirmishers in the wood tried ineffectually to harass the cavalry, but wisely decided to lie low and take no farther part in the battle. 

Amanda's cavalry helped Guy ward off several serious attacks which would otherwise have destroyed his infantry, although one unit was caught in the rear-flank and obliterated. A charge by her heavy cavalry caught and destroyed the enemy after a brutal to-and-fro contest.

Over on the right, my cavalry charged and counter-charged. I lost one unit, which put us perilously close to the army break-point. But soon after I ground the Berber nobility beneath the hooves of my Norman heavy horses, and that put paid to the Berber ambitions. Their break-point had been passed. Game over.

Amanda enjoyed her first game and is looking forward to a new meeting next week. Our thanks to Guy, Stuart the umpire, and our opponents Chris and Mark for a great game.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back in Blighty

Mercury, god of travelers was kind, and we arrived safely in the UK, beating the bad spell of winter weather by a few hours. The flights were trouble-free, even landing early in two cases. 

Much to my regret I had absolutely no room to stash any figures in my luggage to game with here, let alone any painting gear. I do have a number of figures I had to leave here in England, 25mm ACW, 6mm Ancient Romans and Germanic tribes, among others. They're currently residing in my old work shed, which has been used as something of a repository for a lot of stuff over the last few years. Tackling the clearing-out of that isn't something I'm looking forward to, but I was much cheered to find a Darkest Africa big game hunter on our bedroom window sill - like a small welcome committee! 

At the moment we're getting over the jet-lag - no fun - but I hope to toddle off to the New Buckenham club for a game or two soon. 

On another note, I've had to delete three lots of spam from the comments on this blog. Although it's irritating to some posters, I might be forced to resume the anti-spam measures if it continues. 

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