Saturday, 30 September 2017

English Civil War - Parliament Brigade Commanders

I came to the conclusion recently that I have nowhere near enough commanders to get the most of out my games.  My preferred rule systems are Black Powder, Hail Caesar and Pike & Shotte and these feature a lot of command input.  Quite rightly, to my mind.  Rules without a heavy onus on command and control is anathema to me these days.

Sir Philip Stapleton

So having too few commanders to get the game moving along is a problem.  I have had quite a few games now where the 'friction element' of the commander not getting a throw below his leadership value has kept the entire brigade stationary for too many turns. Despite the Brigade Commander located nearby and clearly shouting at his troops until he is blue in the face, they just won't move.  Is this realistic? Well it depends on the situation and the faith of the troops in their commander.  Being unpaid and close to mutiny may not help!

So what if the Commander in Chief can ride over and get a grip of the situation?  Surely this would get things moving? Well yes - but the Commander in Chief has his own Brigade to command because I'm short of Brigade Commanders....arrrrrgh!

So with this new impetus to improve my games I have begun the quest to add more commanders to my many armies.  This of course bring it's own painting challenges as one realises that the commander is the figure that everyone expects to be painted to a higher standard than other troops, and of course, you wish to do justice to that historical character.

The figure above is Sir Philip Stapleton from the excellent Bicorne Miniatures range.  He is based with (if I recall correctly), one of the Life Guard figures who make excellent senior officers in their own right.

My main interest in the English Civil War battles are the campaigns in the West, so out of desperation for more command figures I was going to make Sir Philip into a generic commander of Waller's and probably sporting a yellow sash.  However, I do have a fascination with the First Battle of Newbury where Sir Philip was a key commander, so I wanted to be able to use him for that battle representing himself too, should I ever paint about 20 cavalry regiments a side (!).  At Newbury he served under the Earl of Essex so orange sashes it would be.  This caused me a dilemma until I saw the portrait of Nathanial Fiennes, whose sash colour is somewhere between orange and yellow...the perfect solution! Now I can field Sir Philip in either theatre.

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Nathaniel Fiennes

I painted two further Brigade Commanders specifically as belonging to Waller's command, along with supporting senior officers to create pleasing small vignettes.

The senior commander with baton is from the Renegade range and fulfils the role of a generic commander very nicely. Again I have used a Bicorne Life Guard as a senior officer.

Sir Arthur Haselrigge

The Bicorne Cuirassiers are again excellent, and who could the commander be other than the Sir Arthur Haselrigge.  Based as a Brigade commander he can control Waller's cavalry, at least up until the times where Waller lead them on charges.

Painting commanders is a time-consuming business. These six figures took me over a month of evenings and weekend sessions, but I like to think they were worth the effort.

Friday, 2 June 2017

AWI - 1st Foot Guards 1781

It's American War of Independence time again.  I really enjoy painting figures in the fine uniforms of this period.  In this instance the uniforms are heavily modified and result in a very purposeful and practical uniform which equipped the 1st Foot Guards ready for the Southern Campaign and Guilford Courthouse

Lord Cornwallis ordered that both of the Guards Battalions wore brown trousers for this campaign which give a nice contrast to the colours I normally use.

The 1st and 2nd Foot Guards in America were formed of detachments sent from Britain rather than a whole regiment deployment, so the Colours remained behind in Britain.

Lace was removed for the campaign and added to the much more practical appearance of the men - far better for woodland fighting too.

The figures are from the wonderful 28mm AWI British Infantry set in plastic by Perry Miniatures. The options in this box are superb with the different headgear and arms to create two poses.  I opted for this battalion to be advancing carrying muskets at the trail.

I painted quite happily over the lace on these miniatures, any shape detail of the lace showing on the tunics seems to convince the eye that it was the darker hue of the fabric below the removed lace.

More difficult was the drummer.  The lace on the sleeves is well pronounced on this figure and I really didn't want to carve the lace off and make a mess of it.    I also thought that the sheer cost of drummers coats would make the Colonel blanche at the thought of hacking them about.  Surely it would be beneficial in action if the drummer was identifiable to the commanders too?  These reasons were sufficient for me to retain the lace just for the drummer...I hope I don't know come across a primary source saying that their lace was removed too!

I hoped to paint another AWI battalion straight after this one, but I do find that I'm wiped out after the amount of detail that I like to put into these and then I need a change. Something completely different (or at least later in date!) is up for posting as soon as I finish them!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Musketeers - ECW - Sir Robert Cooke's Regiment

Well that's been a while!  A longer break from blogging than expected but I am back.  I had prepared a battle report several months ago, but I just could not face making the map from the software I use - I just don't use it enough to ever get to know it properly. So after attempting to sit down and produce something and failing, in the end I deleted what I had and decided to start afresh with my latest painted pieces.  Far easier than producing a battle report!

This unit represent one block of musketeers from Sir Robert Cooke's Regiment of Foote.  The Regiment was one of Waller's in the Western Army and fought in many of the actions in the West Country, either as detachments or as a regiment.

The uniform is hypothetical, but a good washed out looking red/russet gave a suitable campaign look and looks believable enough for my liking.  The contrast of the men with the officer's more expensive red uniform is deliberate.

This is the 2nd block of musketeers that I have done for this unit. The pike are currently on my painting desk and as long as my Perry Samurai figures don't arrive too quickly, I should crack on with those shortly.

The figures are 28mm and are from the excellent Bicorne range.  In a departure from the usual 'battle ready' poses which I usually like, these are marching as you can see.  The pike have their weapons over their shoulders also marching too and I will post pics of these once I have competed them.  This pose should make a nice contrast to the other troops that I have so far.

I started these last week as I went on holiday into the mountains of Wales for a week. I took all my paints and many of my modelling tools, and I spent my perfect week, walking, reading and painting.  Just what I needed!   I read Brigadier Peter Young's Cropredy Bridge book which was very inspiring and ensured that I put lots of effort into these fellows.

 Most of the paints used were from the Foundry Triad paint system and gave very satisfactory results.

A few close ups below.

 I usually paint the name of the unit beneath the stand.  I don't know why I have until now been so averse to using printed labels instead.  I think I assumed that it would make the magnetic base fail to stick to its travelling cases, though it actually makes little difference.  Once I found 'Old English' as a script then I knew that the labels had to be done!

Well now, that didn't take too long to publish!  Hopefully another posting soon - I have been busy painting.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Team Yankee - Playtest Game - Thoughts

This isn't a battle report as such, more a notepad to share my thoughts on the game Team Yankee, the recent offering from the Battlefront stable.  I must admit that I have never really tried playing a modern game since trying to get my head around 'Challenger 2000' in the late '80's/early 90's.  So Team Yankee looked like being something that I might get to fill this gap in my wargaming.

Last year I found a set of WW2 rules which I thought were superb but which would take some getting used to.  These were Battlegroup Panzergrenader (2nd Ed), which took me a year of dipping in and out of before I took the plunge and actually played a game with them.  I found that these actually gave an excellent game.  The author of these is an ex-British Army officer and has an understanding of  the effects which really need to be modelled into rules.  The game proved this right.  My thoughts at the time was that I would make my own version of these rules modified for a WW3 type encounter.

Well the last year has shot past and I could not even remember how BG Panzergrenadier was played when I picked up the glossy and very attractive Team Yankee.  Reading through it the rules seemed very playable.  I got out my 1:285 GHQ vehicles and played the rules in sections.  It all came together very well.  There were a few small niggles; I really couldn't understand what role commanders had in the game. It seemed that if one was killed, you got to throw again and if you got 3+ he is resurrected. If not he is dead - though this doesn't seem to affect play in any way.

Likewise, there is a mistaken target rule which protects valuable teams (the word 'team' is used a lot - and certainly more than it was used in the British military in 1985 - and really it gets confusing and almost like a sports match - it's also used to a excruciating degree in modern parlance 'team this' and 'team that', its becoming a pet hate!).  I digress, this rule seems a bit unnecessary to my thoughts. If you have a valuable 'team' then tactically position it where it could be better protected.
This rule was ditched immediately.  I'm getting better with experience at spotting stinkers.

There are some really good elements to the rules.  It is quite fast play. The firing and armour protection seems to play really well.  I like the fact that crews bail out of tanks out of panic of being hit. Accounts from Normandy show even Tiger crews getting multiple hit on their tank would sometimes panic and bug out of a perfectly good (if shell dented) working tank. Self preservation is a powerful thing. It was great to use a whole range of really interesting kits in non-complicated way on the field - great to see and for the first game, a great novelty

The 2nd play test involved Ian's superb 15mm models.  These are all by Battlefront.  Ian has done a great job on these.  The DPM uniforms on the British look great as do the Soviet uniforms too.  The Battlefront models are great and the books (like 'Iron Maiden' are superb).

It was an enjoyable game but the list of weird rules to look at started to grow.  It became apparent that the rules when matched with what I hope/expect to see in a rule set, and also compared to my understanding/experience of modern warfare, the rules have some major holes in.  Holes you could drive a troop of Chieftains through.  Not only could they drive through but they could advance up to the enemy point blank and shoot. Because there is no defensive/opportunity fire for the defender. This is a major flaw and actually makes it all a bit silly.  There is also no bonus for being point blank and shooting too - you might as well stay and hold off at max range - it's the same dice throw for 20 yards or 2000 yards for a modern MBT in this game!

Command and Communications are one of the most important elements in warfare. This is more true now than it ever has been.  There really is none in Team Yankee. Everything just seems to do what the heck it likes.  You want to drive your tanks through that gap and up that hill and shoot - no problem just do it.  There is no 'friction' for commanders, no hard choices, no scope for 'Murphy's Law' to kick in.  Any of us who have spent time in field knows how this will kick in often repeatedly, even on exercise.   Communications are horribly fallible - sometimes the oik manning the radio has simply nodded off after being awake for so long, sometimes the commander is too busy with a crisis, sometimes the commander doesn't want to receive the orders he has. Command and communications should be portrayed in the rules in some way or otherwise what we are trying to represent fails badly and we are better off playing a fun game like snakes and ladders and forget trying to represent modern battle in any way, game, shape or form.

'With skies darkening there were no clear orders coming over the radio, only curses, claims of hits and reports of vehicles brewed...."  5 Royal Tank Regt. Western Desert. 1941.

Ditto for reconnaissance - really I couldn't see anything of value in the rules relating to this important aspect.  Wellington always wanted to know what lay on the other side of the hill.  Well in Team Yankee you could just drive straight over and have a look as there seems to be no hidden units (other than an ambush mission at the back of the book). No having to use skilled recce troops to spot the enemy.  It seems pointless having lovely looking Scorpion tanks and having no role for them other than to use as shell stoppers to protect your Chieftains.  I'm not sure the Household Cavalry would have been too impressed with that as a role.

There is a pinned down rule (thank goodness) but it depends on either 12 teams taking 8 hits or a smaller group taking 5 hits in a single shooting step.  I think this could be made to work better.

The melee rules were confusing and I have so far been unable to devote the time to fathom this out properly. It seems better than the melee rules in Flames of War which just seemed daft.

 So what am I doing about it. A magazine recently was critical of the way many wargamers interfere in a set of rules to improve it.  I don't have a problem with tampering with rules.  The Black Powder set of rules is robust and sees itself as a tool kit to add as one wishes.  It works very well like that. There are major changes I have made with ideas, Ian and I have devised or I have gleaned from other clubs and sources online.  I think Black Powder with these modifications is now a superb set of rules but it needed these tweeks to become that good.

Many wargamers are extremely well-read, using first hand accounts, actual post-battle reports etc and have really studied their chosen areas of research in detail.  Some wargamers also have first hand military experience which they can bring.  Very often this far exceeds a rule-writer's knowledge. Combining all of this can and often does really enhance a set of rules.

In conclusion Team Yankee is a fairly good basic set of rules. It has some really good elements and some bad and some huge gaps which need filling to make it into something really worthwhile.  I am currently devising rules to cover the C2 element and the recce elements.  I am inclined to borrow heavily from BG Panzergrenadier, particularly the HQ Command Points, phased play to allow defensive fire, recce and melee.  It could be that eventually I will just adapt Panzergrenadier to a modern setting.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

An Attic Discovery!

Two posts in three nights what am I thinking!  Well this rapid post is all due to a discovery made in the attic yesterday.  This probably represents the turning point for me from being a modeller to being a wargamer.

From the age of about 8 I stuck model aircraft (and my fingers) together and attempted to paint them.  After a good many kits and reaching the age of around 14, I had become fairly proficient for my years.  Other recent attic finds have surprised me at the detail I tried to put in at that age. I even had a 1/24th Scale Hawker Hurricane where I even painted a handlebar moustache on the pilot!

Certainly, I went through that phase of throwing marbles at plastic 1/32 airfix figures in garden gaming, not exactly HG Wells style but I had fun. But I hadn't tried wargaming 'properly'.  A friend had shown me how to use a ruler to give rifles a distance and grenades other distances but lethality was decided by who was in range rather than any dice throws, effects of cover etc so it was barely one up from the marble method.

I think there were 3 co-incidental factors which happened at the same time.

1.  A history project  in class which we had to work on and present (I chose Waterloo because of the next point).

2.  A rather good book on the Battle of Waterloo which I had on near permanent loan from the school library. There was something about the first hand accounts which wouldn't leave my imagination alone.

3. This battle set produced by Esci especially the artwork by Rick Scollins, I mean look at it!  It has everything - drama, colour, desperation, heroic officers, smoke, battle lines wavering.  This picture inspired me as I painted as many plastic 1/72 figures as I could get my hands on - (not realising that within a few years the paint would ping off!).

When I found this lid,battered as it was, it all came racing back, those thoughts and inspiration which it gave me some 33 years ago.  I have the box sat behind me at the moment rescued from the attic.  I don't know what to do with it.  Thoughts of framing it come into my mind.

One thing is for sure though - I'll be keeping it safe now and seeking inspiration from it anytime I need it.  Thank you Rick Scollins (sadly deceased now I understand) for helping me to get into this fine hobby with your amazing artwork!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

AWI - 4th Virginia Regiment

Just squeeking in a last posting in 2016!  This should bring me up to beat my posts in 2015 by one! I noticed a small decline in posts over the years and hoped that 2016 would be an increase in posts.  I don't tend to post unless I have something fairly worthwhile to say, hence my few posts.

 Here we have the 4th Virginia Regiment.  This Continental regiment are shown very well turned out in their later war uniform.  This regiment fought at Guilford Courthouse and are another unit to get closer to my aim of representing all of the units who were there.

The figures are 28mm from the plastic boxed set produced by Perry Miniatures.  I love these figures and really enjoyed putting them together and painting them.  I'm not normally a fan of marching poses, preferring the more dynamic poses of shooting or attacking with bayonet (it's my Airfix upbringing!), however I do really like these.

This is my second attempt at finishing this unit.  The stars and stripes flag is produced by GMB and is beautiful.  As I couldn't find any images of the flag for the 4th Virginia I decided to paint my own regimental colour.  This looked pretty good and I used a gel pen to produce some pretty nice scroll work and writing BUT overnight the gel pen ink spread like a fountain pen on blotting paper so by morning it looked like I had used the flag to wipe my tears (which I could well have done at that point!).  This yellow flag is instead a replacement and rescued me.  It is produced by Flags of War and is lovely.  I have just in the last few minutes painted the edges of it and replaced my duff flag.   I am really pleased with this flag.  Flags of War allow you to choose your own regiments and colours for the unknown colours and then they print it to your desire.  A perfect solution.

Paints used were my usual combinations of Foundry, Vallejo and Citadel.  I went for the the Foundry Triad French blues which are a tad darker to my earlier painted units, but I feel this has the right look.

I have about 6 minutes now before New Year so I had better post a bit quick to get it into 2016 as mentioned earlier!  Enjoy the rest of the photos!