Sunday, 26 February 2017

Putting Down Mutiny, 1813

Happy well-belated New Year! First post of 2017.

Today was a long awaited return to gaming, and indeed to Napoleonics, using Black Powder rules and scenarios from Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames.  It was a chance for me to use my newly-based French brigade- 144 figures.
These weren't painted by me, of course; this are the ones that were  a club purchase some years ago now from Mabuhay painting service in the Philippines.    

They won't win any prizes, but they do the job; very acceptable wargames-quality painting that looks good en masse.  After Achilles went back to Greece- taking all his beautifully painted Perry Miniatures French with him- we needed Frenchmen.  Getting them through Mabuhay allowed us to get painted figures on the table fast so that we could get back down to some seriously fun gaming. These are quite the battle-hardened veterans now.

When I first received them, I touched them up a bit (brighter colours on the pom-poms), I gave them some GMB flags, and then put them on some Litko bases and textured the bases with sand.  A lot of work on my part (and extra expense in terms of the bases and the flags), which earned me the privilege of having them on pretty much a permanent loan.  We have gamed with them in this state for some years now, but it always bugged me that I had never gotten around to actually painting and flocking the bases.

On Saturday I finally bit the bullet, sat down and did the whole bunch in one fell swoop, after first carrying out some minor repairs and retouching battle damage where I thought it was worth it.   Normally I don't mind doing basing, but I've never done a whole brigade's worth in one sitting; not the most exciting of tasks.

Still, l think it was worth it; they look so much better now, as they match the gaming mats and the rest of my own army.

Now for the scenario, and some pictures from the game. 

It's late 1813, and treacherous- and ungrateful- Confederation of the Rhine troops (devious Italians/untrustworthy Bavarians/some disaffected and unpatriotic Poles) have risen in opportunistic revolt against the benevolent and righteous rule of the revered Emperor Napoleon. 

Like the rats they are, they have imprisoned the French garrison in the town of Anhauser-Busch in an attempt to defect, with all their arms and equipment, to the approaching- and increasingly successful- Allied armies. Of course, the justifiably outraged French have sworn vengeance, and are trying to stop them.

It may surprise you to learn that I commanded the French.

We haven't gotten together for a good game of BP for a while, so we were rusty. My table isn't huge, so in the interests of space and playability we thought it best to keep it small- the OHWG scenarios are ideal for this. Each side provided a maximum of six units: 3-2-1; three infantry, two cavalry, one gun battery; or 4-1-1; four infantry, one cavalry, one battery; or 5-0-1; five infantry, no cavalry, one battery. Maximum one skirmish unit. 

Gaming in the (less than) Grand Manner, but no less entertaining for it. 

Given the table size, we played using 3/4 movement rates, and command values of eight. Worked well last time, when we managed to get two games in during the day.

The French were the defenders in the triple line defense scenario #26 from OHWG, a scenario based on the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814 (War of 1812). The attacking player has to cross a river and advance down the length of the table to seize a hill on the other side. Easier than it sounds; the defenders are outnumbered, and although they have some advantage in defending in depth, they are crap troops.

My friend Matt and I had played this one last year, but using Anglo-Saxons and Vikings; then the Vikings cleaned the Anglo-Saxon clock. A very challenging scenario for the defender- in fact, almost impossible for the defenders to win given even a moderately aggressive attacker.

My French had no cavalry, as I went with just infantry and a battery of artillery. But my infantry were all barrel-scrapings; ill-equipped Marie-Louise teenage conscripts, fifth-battalion dregs, impressed National Guard, provisional route battalions and other such raw Eurotrash. Whatever could be swept up throughout the rear areas by the French commander in a desperate effort to prevent the breakout of the Confederation troops. 

They couldn't be activated until the enemy came within 12", and were subject to the untested rule: their stamina wouldn't be revealed until they took their first casualty, at which point they have to roll a D6 to see how steadfast they were (or weren't).

The Italian/ Bavarian turncoats were all regular, with three units of infantry, one 8pdr battery, a regiment of Polish Lancers, and rifle-armed Jägers.

As we were using Black Powder rules rather than the ones in OHWG, this time I gave the French a bit more mobility than in the scenario as written, to account for the effect of long-ranged artillery and rifle fire (otherwise the attacker could just stand out of muskets range and blast each battalion in turn to oblivion with their Jägers and artillery). 

But despite this, this time round the (rebellious) Confederation troops couldn't even establish themselves across the river; in fact we drove them back over the bridge, which by the end of the battle was choked with their dead and wounded. We suffered one unit pushed back after having being charged by the lancers, but despite being frighteningly over it's breakpoint, it survived. Basically we got off with just a few scrapes and bruises. 

One of my units never even had to move from its initial position, being very un-engaged throughout the whole battle. They just stood leaning on their muskets and watching all the fun from the top of the hill that was supposed to be the attackers' objective.

Giovanni and Sada have never been the most aggressive of players, bless their hearts, and between them managed to throw away a unit of Polish lancers early in the game. To be fair, they could have benefited from a bit better luck with their command rolls. But it worked both ways.

Piccies, in no particular order. Just some eye-candy.
HaT Bavarians
Initial setup- before we added the roads!
The French commander, threatening the lads with some personal GBH if they don't come through...
With roads!
Victrix Italians;  Lt. Topol on the right wishes he was a rich man...
A dreaded disorder flag.  This was to be a constant companion to this particular French battalion throughout the game.
Polish Vistula Lancers.  Prince August figures, cast and painted by Giovanni.  And very nice they turned out, too- I love that simple, but crisply painted, toy soldier style.
"Form Square!!!"
These two battalions went toe-to-toe for some three turns; the Bavarians blinked first, but both regiments hemorrhaged profusely.
All the Confederation units have been forced back over the river; "Vive la France!!!"

Great fun- and a rare French victory! It was good having another Black Powder game, and we are thinking of putting on a big game sometime during the summer, schedules permitting.
Now, back to work on my cuirassiers.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Fiddly Effin' Firepower

Another rare update, and finally some guns for the Japanese. A 105mm Howitzer, 45mm A/T gun, and a 70mm light battalion gun (more like a wheeled mortar).  All in various stages of completion, but all within sight of the finish line.
Lots of other stuff being cleaned up for an outdoor priming session, including another squad's worth of infantry and a mule team.  

I also had some chance to work on basing more jungle terrain and a bunker.  I'll need a number of barbed wire emplacements, bunkers, pillboxes and gunpits for our "not Kokoda" campaign.

Up until now, my Japanese have been mostly an infantry force, along with some limited tank support- which usually dies extremely quickly in the games when up against my regular plate-armoured nemesis, Matt's M-3 Grant. Having to rely on Seishin and on suicide tank squads really is the last refuge of the desperate.
Detroit Dreadnaught, and Crusher of Imperial Japanese Dreams...
The howitzer will largely serve as a game objective, the 70mm is really more of nuisance value, but the 45mm should give me at least a fighting chance against Allied armour.  

Direct and short-range fire with artillery pieces was common in the Pacific.  Interestingly, I was reading of the Aoba Detachment's role in the Battle of Guadalcanal, where Maj. Masao Tamura led his battalion of the 4th (Sendai) Regiment against the Leathernecks on Edson's Ridge.  At one point they managed to drag up a 75mm Regimental gun to a position where it could fire directly and at short range into the American lines.  

It could have changed the outcome of the battle, had it not been for a faulty firing pin.  Shikisho... 

Wartime Miniatures in Oz apparently do a model of the 75mm, so I see an order coming on.  

One thing to add to the list of unpleasant wargaming tasks is putting together split-trail artillery pieces. I had put off working on them because I knew full well just how much of a hassle it would be trying to get the pieces to fit. Plastic models for me are seldom a problem; but with metal kits, and given the often rudimentary- or in this case, nonexistent- instructions, it's a different story.  

The joints between the gun shields, trails and the axles are always weak, and there is never that much surface area to work with; and as these are often points which take the stress of bearing the weight of the model, it's always a real bugger to work with. During construction, the model has to be handled carefully, without inadvertently bending or breaking other those parts that have already been assembled. 

Lots of foul language went into putting these together, believe me. 

The air was turned an especially vivid shade of blue as I struggled with the 105mm.  Although it's a really nice model when made up,
due to the weight of the barrel and gun shield it was a beast to balance on its trails while the glue set.  It took a bit of fancy work with a drill and lengths of paperclip wire to try to make the joints a little stronger, and wads of Post-it wall-tack putty really help here to bear the weight while the glue sets.

I have one more of these to do, and the prospect of doing all that cleaning and assembling one more time does not exactly fill me with joy.

Once painted, the bases will feature quite a bit of foliage, especially for the 45mm piece. Not just for appearance's sake, but also so that the guns themselves don't have to be handled directly, as I don't have much faith in how much they would stand to a lot of handling on the gaming table.

But regardless of all this, I do like the way they look once assembled. The 45mm gun and crew are from Company B via Brigade Games, and while the gun is very nice (if another real pain to put together), I found the crew figures themselves rather woodenly posed and roughcast with a fair amount of flash. Out came the files, pin vice and drill bits again, and I replaced two of the heads with some extras from Warlord so that they look much nicer now.

I've also been working on some Warlord/ TAG US Marines, as we may need a few squads for the Buna/ Gona scenarios in our campaign.  Strictly speaking the scenario calls for army units, but nobody seems to do much in the way of US Army troops for the Pacific Theatre, which is too bad.  All I know of are the Merril's Marauder box by Warlord Games, and that's it. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Resurfacing; Burma, Brandywine, and Battleships

Fresh meat.  The latest Japanese to join the Aoba Detachment.
And my painted Japanese army so far...
Can't believe I haven't posted in over a year. It's certainly not because I haven't been gaming.  

Rather it's because I haven't really been all that inspired to do much blogging.  There have been a lot of demands on my time this past year, and I had long ago been getting the sense that interest out there in the blog was dropping off, which I can fully understand. There's a lot of excellent hobby related sites out these days to compete with. But that in itself is not the real issue, because I used to enjoy working on the blog whether it was one person enjoying it or a hundred.

Most importantly, what with work and  keeping up with email correspondence, I had simply found myself spending way too much time banging away at computer keyboards as it was- I found myself losing that writing mojo.  To be honest I long been feeling that my posts were all getting rather repetitive anyway, and didn't think I was bringing anything new to the party.

But Matt here has been urging me to pull up my tabi and to put up some photos of our last game; an opening meeting engagement in a Bolt Action WW2 campaign (in fact a series of linked scenarios).

It's my IJA vs. Matt's 14th Army again.  The games are set in Burma, but the campaign itself  was designed for  the jungle fighting along the Kokoda Trail in 1942.   I found the (very well presented) campaign online here.  Our first game saw a Japanese victory (again!), but it was close.

The list for the Japanese was created using the Battlescribe App for my iPad, and we organize our forces as historically as we can given what we have available in our collections.

We played the game pretty much to the recipe given; the board was covered in jungle, with the only open area being the river that was fordable along its length.  

All jungle movement was limited to so that the move distances were no more than what is possible for an advance, even if the units were given a run order.  We also used our own spotting rules- we think that visibility in the BA rule book is much too generous for jungle fighting.  Our own involve a certain amount of randomness which seems to fit with what happened in reality.
I won't bore everyone with a lot of commentary; suffice to say that in the opening scenario, a veteran force of Japanese infantry runs into a much larger, but inexperienced, force of Commonwealth troops (including Matt's fearsome Ghurkas, which on the day were being used to represent a Burmese Police unit armed with a number of shotguns- ouch!). 

Basically the Japanese were, time and time again, to Banzai!  themselves out of difficulty and charge on to victory- despite the Dice Gods being very much with Matt this game- how many sixes is it possible to roll?  Reversion to the Mean was clearly on vacation this day, and the Butcher's Bill for the Japanese was fearsome.

The Japanese also had a very nasty brush with a British flamethrower team that sent one of our squads packing- fortunately the flamethrower ran out of fuel after the one attack.  But not before severely testing the most robust of Japanese testicular fortitude.

Still, a clear victory for the Sons of Nippon.  I've been spending a lot of time working on my Japanese this year (another reason for the lack of posts- blogging takes time, time I've been using for painting instead).  I've been very pleased with the results so far, and I'm close to my target of four large squads painted and based, with support units on the horizon.  The next scenario requires mule teams, so I need to get cracking on them.


This past year saw me spend a few weeks back in Vancouver, and included a day of gaming with the usual gang at the North Shore Gamers' weekly bash.  We played an AWI game using Sharp Practice II, and I really had a blast.  

I'd like to run a Napoleonic game sometime in the new year using these rules.  They have a really great feel for horse-and-musket gaming at the sharp end, so to speak.

I'll post about my plans for these rules later- I'm really excited about them, and they may be just the thing for a jaded Naps gamer!


Finally, and of course I haven't always been spending all my time on work and wargaming.  We enjoyed a trip to Yokosuka back in August, and were lucky enough to be there when both the US and Japanese fleets had just gotten back in port after exercises.  

There were two carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and the JMSDF's new Izumo (officially a "destroyer"- anyone remember the RN's so-called "through-deck cruiser", HMS Invincible?).  Also present were assorted cruisers, destroyers, auxiliary vessels and some rather cool submarines.  

And of course a trip to Yokosuka isn't complete without a visit to that venerable old lady, the last of the pre-dreadnaughts and Togo's flagship at Tsushima, IJN Mikasa.  

We took in a fascinating tour of the old island fort at Sarushima as well, which provided a great snapshot of fortress and gunnery design from the smoothbore cannons of Edo times, on through French and British influences in the 1860's to the 1890's and then right up to 1945; by which time the French 10.6" Canet naval guns had been replaced by light AA to defend against B-29 raids.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

The new Izumo-  As large as the carriers that launched the Pearl Harbor raid.
The Ronnie Raygun

Well worth a visit, despite the August heat!

I'll be working on some terrain this weekend, along with some more IJA.  I'll post some piccies when done.