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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Because somebody has to . . .

Years ago, I traveled to a convention in Pennsylvania sponsored by HMGS East.  One of the participation games was the Battle of Agincourt and it looked beautiful.  The game was subtitled: Was the long bow that good?  So I approached the game master with two friends to play on the side of the French.

Me: Those are great figures. We'll sign up to play the French and see if we can beat the English this time.

Game master: Great!

Me: We've got some ideas on the French attack and how they should be organized.

Game master: We are going to use the historical organization.

Me: Not a problem.  Here is a sketch on how we are going to deploy and when we will launch our attacks.

Game master: You have to deploy just like the actual battle and attack with their units when they did.

Me: (Long Pause).  Ummm . . . what are the objectives in this game for the French?

Game master:  To beat the English.

Me: So we have to  . . .

Game master: Charge the English.

Me: We can't use some of the alternative plans that were discussed at the council of war the night before?

Game master: Nope.

Me: Can we use some of the other historical tactics of the period?

Game master: Nope.

Me: Do we get points if we capture someone or not die as much?

Game master: Nope.

Me: (Paused as I looked at the cool figures ) So why play the French in this game?

Game master: Well . . . the purpose of the game is to show the superiority of the long bow.

Me:  Didn't the dead French knights in the actual battle prove that?

Game master: That never really settled the argument.

Me: Uh . . .it didn't?

Game master:  Some historians believed that if the French deployed differently they could have won.

Me:  Exactly!  Here is a sketch on how we are going to deploy and when we will launch our attacks.

Game master:  Then the English might lose . . .

Anyway we played the game as designed.  I charged with the flower of chivalry right up the middle and got massacred.  Quickest participation game ever.  I'm going to think about ideas about some ideas on designing historical scenarios to be "games" which gives each player a chance to "win."

British Division Command Stand

I had an extra figure left over from when I had painted the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) for my British Peninsular army for Volley and Bayonet.  The figure is an officer of the RHA from Front Rank and it is a beauty: one of the best sculpted and animated figures I have seen in a while.  The level of detail is great making it an easy figure to paint.  I remembered in an old Osprey book, Wellington's Generals that there was a color plate with General Craufurd and an officer of the RHA.  I also had an extra Wargames Foundry British officer and with just a little conversion work it is now a general officer which will represent General Craufurd (or any other division commander) for the British army.

In addition, I have officially declared a Napoleonic burn-out.  Even though I have started the Perry Miniatures below as members of the 9th Legere, I need a break from Napoleonic figures.  Now the question is, what will I paint next until I'm ready to get back to the Peninsular project?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's a Major Award (note holiday movie reference!)

Finally my genius has been recognized with a major, prestigious award nomination: The Liebster Blog Award!  

I've been hooked on wargames since I received as a birthday gift Avalon Hill's classic boardgame Panzer Blitz in 1971.  Believe it or not, I still have it!  Since that time I probably owned almost every Avalon Hill boardgame and at about the same time, I started collecting 20mm plastic Airfix miniatures.  I painted my first soldiers when I was about 16 and there has been no looking back.  Over the years I have met many interesting gamers from all walks of life: soldiers, lawyers, business men, teachers and the list goes on and on.  With the advent of the internet, the hobby has gotten stronger and enthusiast all over the world can share their miniature adventures and passion.

The rules of the Leibster Blog Award are as follows:

(copied and pasted from My Little World of Dementia - thank you, Col Killgore!)

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog linking it to the blogger who has given it to you.

2. Pass the award to your top 5 favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers by leaving a comment on one of their posts to notify them that they have won the award and listing them on your own blog.

3. Sit back and bask in that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that you have just made someone's day!

Sure it's an internet Ponzi scheme, but let's get the show on the road!  Nominations for the Leibster Blog Award in no particular order are:

Number 1The Grand Duchy of Stollen This is one of the most enjoyable blogs out there as the events of the Grand Duchy of Stollen during the era of Frederick the Great are reported.  Beautiful figures and gaming in the "grand manner" with witty dialogue, visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen never leave without a smile on their face.

Number 2WAB Corner.  Wish I had known Dean when I was stationed at Fort Lewis, WA as Tacoma is only a few miles up the road.  WAB does not stand for Warhammer Ancients Battles but instead is "Wargaming All - Kinds of Battles. The variety of periods and the quality of the painting is outstanding.  Plus - the games sound like a lot of fun!  I'm not sure how many followers the site has so he might be "ineligible" but heck - it's a great blog.

Number 3: Colonel O'Truth's Miniature Issues.  I love Colonial Wargames.  I love Colonial Wargames with dinosaurs.  If you want to know how to scratch build or modify figures, or figure out how to make electromagnetic guns for Her Majesty's forces, this is the site for you!

Number 4Raglan's Welsh Wargaming.  Raglan is a phenomenal painter with periods ranging from Ancients up through the Napoleonic period.  Of particular delight to me are his units from the War of Spanish SuccessionI am not ashamed to say that I have used his units as painting guides for mine.

Number 5: Grimsby Wargaming.  Gaming, gaming and more gaming from the Grimsby Wargaming Society.  Great blog with some great games from a great group of guys.

Honorable MentionBigLee's Miniature Adventures.  BigLee is not eligible for the award as he has more than 200 followers but I had to mention his site.  One of the first blogs I started following, BigLee covers it all: Conventions, games and museums with detailed reports with a dose of humor.  Read his posting "The Dice Gods hate me" and you will see what I mean.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Great Birthday Present

Received a great birthday present from Honorable Son #1 and his wife.  It is a vintage toy soldier produced by Barclay Manufacturing Company.

It is model number B9 American machinegunner and was made between 1935 - 1940.   

Barclay Manufacturing was formed by Leon Donze and Michael Levy in 1922. The name of the company came from Barclay Street in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. During the 1930s, the company was based in North Bergen, New Jersey. In its heyday Barclay produced 500,000 toys a week, making them the largest toy soldier manufacturer at that time in the United States. Prior to the company's temporary closing in 1942 due to World War II the foot soldiers were purchased individually for five cents.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fire and Fury in Tuscaloosa

For those of you in the United States you know it's football (American Football) season.  Tuscaloosa, Alabama is the home of the University of Alabama, the defending national champions and winner of 14 national football chanpionships - and we have a good chance of winning number 15.  Yeah . . . they take football seriously in the South.  It's been said that Tuscaloosa is a drinking town with a football problem.

Anyway, with football going on I haven't done much painting or gaming lately but I am now getting back on track with my hobby.  Last night I hosted two friends, Michael Fox (creator of Dogfight: Starship edition), Damon Toney and Honorable Son #4 to introduce them to what I feel is the standard bearer in gaming the American Civil War (ACW):  Fire and Fury.  

I purchased the first edition of the rules way back in 1991 The pages are now falling out and there are creases, but I love it!  I'm not sure if it is in print anymore as the creator of the game is focusing on Regimental Fire and Fury. 

Fire and Fury is a grand tactical scale game that uses brigades as the maneuver elements allowing larger battles of the ACW to be fought. Players take on the role of Division and Corps commanders. Battles such as Gettysburg, Manassas and Antietam are easily recreated completely with this set of rules. It is not for gamers that want to dabble in the details of regimental level ACW wargaming but is suited for those that would rather recreate the larger battles of the war.

The game can be played with all scales with just some modification of base sizes.  I have seen the game played in 25mm, 15mm and 10mm.  I use 15mm with base sizes of 1" x 3/4" and mounting 3-4 infantry figures representing either 150 or 200 men while each gun model represents a complete battery of 6-8 guns. Units average 5-7 stands for Union and 6-9 stands for Confederate forces but can be as small or as large as necessary to represent historical brigades.  It was the first set of rules I saw that used markers (Disorder, low on ammunition, wrecked batteries, etc.) made from miniatures instead of casualty caps or cardboard chits like other wargames to add to the "feel" of the tabletop battle.

Each side alternates taking turns, first Union then Confederate. The turn's sequence of play is identical for each side, consisting of three phases:

  • Maneuver Phase -- Each of the moving side's units is diced for prior to movement. Fire and Fury combines the morale with the movement of each unit. Units that are disordered or have suffered significant casualties will suffer, or recover from, loss of cohesion in this phase. Penalties range from limited movement to complete unit dispersal. Each unit may move in turn after their movement roll.
  • Musketry and Cannonade Phase -- All units which can fire may do so. Non-moving troops fire first, then moving troops in two separate sub-phases.
  • Charge (Combat) Phase -- Combat is resolved with a simple system of combat modifiers that are applied to each sides units die rolls. Combat results are applied immediately. Play then switches to the non-moving players phase.
As a gamer and former military history instructor, this game to me best simulates the ebb and flow of ACW battles.  But more importantly, it's a FUN GAME!  Sometimes we forget that they are games and we should be having fun with them!

Editors Note:  I broke my digital camera (sob). Honorable Son #4 allowed me to borrow his iPhone to take pictures of the battle.  My hand was a little shaky and the light wasn't great, but the pictures give you an idea of the game.

Union Zouaves advance toward the Confederates.  My ACW troops are veterans and were painted between 1991 and 1994.  Broken bayonets, chipped paint and bases are in rough shape; but, they do not suffer from shiny new toy syndrome!  Zouaves from Essex miniatures and Confederates are Old Glory Miniatures.
For the introductory game, I made a chart that represented the formations of the units and the advantages and disadvantages of each formation; e.g. line will maximize fire power and march column is for moving quickly.  After a quick overview of the game mechanics, the forces were already set-up and we got the game started.  I acted as "gamemaster/umpire" to help with the game. The scenario was simple and designed to get the action started as soon as possible to teach the rules. As the Confederates started crossing a stream at a bridge and a ford they run into a Union force that is marching to their front.  The objective: Beat the other side.  Victory points would be awarded per the rulebook (points for making an enemy brigade"skedaddle", destroying or captured artillery, etc.).  The game would be 10 turns.

 Michael and Damon commanded the Union forces while Honorable Son #4 commanded the Confederates. The Union was the II Corps with 3 divisions consisting of 10 infantry brigades and 4 artillery batteries.  

This is the stand that represented Damon on the battlefield, the might commander of the Union II Corps.  All of the figures are from Essex except for the standard bearer which is Old Glory,  I don't remember who made the artillery.  The mounted commander behind the Corps commander represents a Division commander and it is also an Old Glory miniature.
The Confederacy was also a corps with 2 divisions with 6 brigades and 2 artillery batteries.  Though a smaller force, the Confederates had favorable which would prevent all of the Union forces from attacking at once.

Corps commander for the South painted as Stonewall Jackson.  Looks like I need to fix that bent flag staff!  I think a meeting was going on as both division commanders are there also. The mounted figures are Old Glory and the dismounted office with binoculars is Essex.  Most of the infantry is Old Glory.  Note the casualty marker that designates the infanty brigade as disordered.
After 2 turns, all players were comfortable with the game sequence and knew how to move, shoot and fight.  For the rest of the game, I calculated scores for everyone (it's not as hard as it sounds), offered tactical advice and cheered and groaned with both sides as the game unfolded.  

 Confederates charge the Union left flank.
Honorable Son #4 put up an aggressive, spirited defense and was close to ruining the fortunes of the Union II Corps when disaster struck.  One brilliant Confederate attack in the middle failed while on his left flank a brigade of rebels ran from the field allowing the Union to outflank the line.  

The Union attack that made the Rebs "skedaddle".

Another view of the attack.  The dark green felt represents the woods.  I'm a little short on model trees right now as many of them volunteered to join a school history project.  I like to use felt
which leaves no doubt as to where the woods start and end.   

The Rebs were able to fall back toward the ford licking their wounds as they surrendered the field to the Union forces.  Final tally:  Union 8 Victory Points and the Confederates earned 2 Victory Points.

Birdseye view of the final stages of the battle as both Confederate flanks are being pushed back.  The casualty markers in the river are not meant to be ghoulish - it was a convenient place to put the markers that weren't being used!
 We played a Corps on Corps action with players new to the game in 3 1/2 hours - including a break for supper!

Special thanks must go to the Army Quartermaster, my lovely bride of 26 years, who made stuffed potatoes and provided snacks and drinks!  I love my wife.