Sunday, 24 April 2011

"Has God forgotten all I have done for him?"

Myself, John and Rob B got together for a game of Black Powder using Johns rather splendid 15mm Marlburian’s.

John had written a quick scenario pitching the Sun Kings French against Bavarians.

I have commented before that these rules do lend themselves very well to scenario based games rather than straight up head-to-head matches and this game certainly boosted this opinion.

I was playing the French and I had 5 brigades.  3 of foot and 2 of Cavalry.  The 1st foot brigade started the game deployed anywhere on the table and chose to put these on the top of a small rise towards the centre of the table.  Both Rob (B) and I had rolled to see where and when our other brigades were to arrive.  My own from a possible 3 locations on my end of the table and Rob (B) likewise from his end.  Neither of us knew the strength the direction or the timing of the enemies arrival.

I deployed my 1st Brigade with two battalions of Guard flanked by two artillery batteries.  Two reserve battalions of Line infantry were deployed behind but I chose to keep these in Column of March in order to allow for swift movement if needed.

Rob (B) has his 1st Brigade come on wide to my left which meant he was outside the arc of my deployed Cannon.  This Brigade of Cavalry threatened to be able to flank charge my 1st Brigade.  However my reserve columns in the rear came good as they swiftly marched to meet this threat.  Bizarrely; thanks to some appalling command rolling for the next few turns I failed to deploy from Column to line and Rob (B) failed to execute a charge order.

My 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Brigades trundled on over the next 3 turns but again my command rolls kept failing which limited the Brigades movement to a single move per turn. (Units in Column can make one move even if orders have failed).

Rob B was having similar luck with his command rolls so the game slowed somewhat as both sides tried to get their Brigades in to position.

Rob B finally managed to charge one of my Line Battalions that had moved to the right of my Guard battalions on the hill.  They gave effective closing fire and then beat off the charging light horse with such affect that the unit routed.  First Blood to me.

The way both forces had come on to the field;  I was looking very strong on the right but my superiority in numbers would only count if I could now wheel my front line anti-clockwise to engage the enemy Brigades.

On my left things looked a bit shaky.  A brigade of cavalry repeatedly failed to follow orders and though I was hoping to get them in position to secure the French left flank to support the single battalion of French line infantry the cavalry remained too far from the action to have any effect.

Eventually Rob B brought an artillery battery in range and then charged home with two battalion of heavy cavalry which swept the battered French away.  The French left was now dangerously exposed. Although reinforcements were sweeping in from the rear. If I could not get these reinforcements deployed, Rob (B) was position to roll up my whole line.

In the end; though I probably outnumbered Rob (B) on the table, he was much better placed to secure a Bavarian Victory.

The most impressive thing about these Black Powder rules is how authentic the battles seem to look on the table top.  I hope from the photo’s above you will see how these Brigades are being fed in to the line and form in multiple lines in order to provide support.

The beautifully painted miniatures that John has have inspired me to crack on with my 15mm Great Northern War Russian.

Friday, 15 April 2011

A horse, a horse my kingdom for [some light] horse.

A 400 point game using my Medieval Polish against Mick’s Mongol army. 

The Mongol army, as expected is very effective in this game with every single unit carrying a bow and the army basically a mix of light cavalry and medium cavalry.

My poles have been updated a bit using the new Polish/Lithuanian army list published in Extra Impetus.  Unlike the Beta list, this does allow you to field a cavalry only army and also introduces some more cavalry options with the inclusion of Tartars and of Lithuanian Nobles which can be fielded as Medium or Light Cavalry and are equipped with Javelins to give them a ranged attack as well as melee.

I would have liked to have a Cavalry only army but unfortunately my force was built up using the old Beta list and I simply did not have enough of the right figures to do this.  As such I still had to have a significant number of infantry (Town Militia armed with Crossbow and Pavisse).  This was going to cause me a major handicap.

To begin with we used Bob’s new pre-battle phase which he has been working on.  The two armies engage in three pre-battle phases which can effect the army and bring to each game a more individual scenario.  The phases are Pre-Battle Manouvering, Pre-Battle Foraging and Speed of Approach.  Dice are allocated depending on the number of commands and command structure of the army and a winner and loser of each phase established.    Depending on results you can end up with not all units on the table at the start of the game, tired units (losing a point of impetus on their statistics), being able to deploy anywhere outside the enemy’s deployment zone or occupying a terrain feature before the game begins.  These supplementary rules will be put on the clubs website shortly.

The idea is good and seemed to work well though needs a bit of tweaking.  As I write I think version 1.2 has just landed in my in-box.

I managed to steal a march on Mick and though one two of my units were straggling behind I was able to deploy one command anywhere outside of Micks deployment zone.  I opted to push main command as far forward as possible.  When ever I play the Polish I find that the heavy cavalry hardly ever manage to contact an opponent as they are in fact quite slow (movement of 8cm compared to the 12 of light cavalry).  I threw a screen of light cavalry in to try and soften up the enemy medium cavalry and disperse the enemy light cavalry.

My other command was a mix of light cavalry and my infantry.  I accepted that the infantry were effectively useless, they were too slow to be able to engage the enemy so they simply had to be an anchor to try and keep that command from routing if/when the light cavalry started taking casualties.  The plan was to pin Micks right wing with this command while trying to wipe out his left with the death ride of the Polish Knights. 

Of course I knew I was in trouble before we even started.  This Polish army is very difficult to play.  The knights are really powerful while fresh but they take so long to get in to combat that they invariable have taken casualties before they contact which considerably weakens them.  Unfortunately I have found it difficult to find the right balance to the army which has enough supporting light cavalry to provide an  effective screen.

To date I have only won a single game with the Polish Army and I had yet to cause a single casualty with My Polish Knights, supposedly the strongest part of the army.

My objectives were limited therefore to just trying to kill a single unit of Mick’s with my 4 units of Heavy Cavalry.  I was to be disappointed.

Mick is learning to handle this Mongol army effectively  and as I rumbled forward with the heavy cavalry, the manoeuvrable Mongols slipped to the side and in manner which; must have been so familiar to their contemporary western enemies; poured arrows in to the flanks of the cumbersome heavy cavalry.  Mick rotated his light horse units up both flanks, my miniscule light horse screen was torn off and the knights were exposed to volley after volley of missile fire.  Before long all 4 units were disordered and taking casualties.   

On the left things were no better.  I did not have the numbers of horse to take on the Mongols and my infantry were; as expected trudging forward at a painfully slow rate.   They would have held long enough if the knights would have been able to do their job but after a short while the knights were surrounded and lashing out impotently at an enemy that they simply could not come to grips with. 

The result was a one sided thrashing similar to the majority historical encounters.  I lost a total of 5 units and those that were still on the field had all sustained significant casualties (except the infantry that were still sauntering towards the action).  I had failed to destroy a single unit of Mongols…….again.

The new Polish/Lithuanian army list will give me much more flexibility than the old list but it will require me purchasing some more figures (not that I am complaining).  I would like to try it out with an all mounted army with the focus on more of the lighter cavalry than the heavy knights which so far have failed to stand up to any opponent.  The alternative is to go heavier with the infantry and War Wagons and simply sit in one place and force the opponent  to attack which may be effective but is a bit dull!

So it’s more scratching of the head with my Poles.  I am sure there is a historic win for them somewhere but it is a matter of coaxing one out of them! 

Monday, 4 April 2011

Pour la France et la République

Last year I finally started on a Napoleonic Army after years of avoiding them due the expense and difficulty painting them.  I had briefly flirted with a Baccus 6mm army but got so little enjoyment out of painting them I shelved that. 

However once Perry, Victrix and Warlord started producing the 28mm Plastics then the expense thing was not really an issue and so it was just the time and skill needed to paint up a decent sized 28mm army. 

Painting is a big bit of the hobby for me so I decided to take this on.  I chose the later Napoleonic French. 1812 onwards and purchased my first box of French Infantry from Perry Miniatures.

I was determined to learn lessons from past folly with this project by organising and planning the army from the start. Unfortunately I am one of those wargamers that buys pretty toys and starts painting them with no idea how I am going to use the figures painted up (hence my single Prussian Sky Fortress for Dystopian Wars!).

For 28mm I did not want to base each figure individually as the army would ultimately be quite large.  At the same time I wanted to have some flexibility in respect of rules and be able to use the figures for various games including skirmish games and bigger battles.

The chances are that the army would be used for Black Powder more than any other rule set so that was the reference point for organisation.  

It was also important not to be too ambitious in respect of the scale of my army.  I wanted it to be in a position to play quite early and also have the opportunity to add to it over time.  Given the time I have to paint (about 1 hour a day on average) trying to do battalions of 36 figures each was simply going to take too long.


8 out of 10 Line Infantry and Grenadiers/Guard were based 40x40mm bases with four figures a base.  2 out of 10 based individually on 20x20 mm bases. 

4 out of 6 Light Infantry based on 40x40 based with 2 figures a base with 2 out of 6 on individual 20x20mm bases.

These were then placed on 100x40mm movement trays with 10 figures per tray.  

Two movement trays together with a 40x40mm Command Stand makes up a “unit” for Black Powder.  This allows for a frontage in line of 240mm and allows the unit to form Line, Attack Column, March column and Square relatively easily (see below).

Cavalry had a similar System.

6 out of 8 Cavalry based on 50x50 bases with two figures per base.
2 out of 8 Cavalry based singularly on 25x50mm bases.
Command and Musician figures a based singularly.

Cavalry are then formed on to 100x50mm movement trays with 4 figures per tray.  Two trays (8 figures) plus a command/musician make up a “Unit”

My logic here is that with relatively few figures I could put together a number of “Brigades” each with 2 to 3 units in and maintain enough flexibility to represent the different formations.

A “Brigade” could be made up of a Brigadier and Staff (say 3 figures) and 3 of the above “units” (about 60-70 figures).  Added to this are 4 Voltiguer/Light Foot bases that can be attached/detached to the foot units.

  A Cavalry Brigade of 3 “units” would be about 27 mounted figures.

Artillery can be based on singles due to the small number required.  I experimented with basing the artillery piece separate to the crew so the piece could be reversed and placed next to a horse team for limbered and then the crew “attached” to in when unlimbered.  I wasn’t happy with the result of this though so decided to base the artillery with crew and spend a few extra quid on a limbered piece to replace the unlimbered when playing.

Paint Schemes.

My painting skill definitely falls in to the “mediocre” category.  Though I do enjoy the research I felt that basing the army around particular historical formations was a waste of time as my painting skills do not allow for extensive detail on the miniatures such as shako plates etc.  The Perry Miniatures are perfectly designed for paining bulk armies as so many are in great coats than one does not have to spend hours and hours picking out the piping and uniform detail.

There has been a lot of discussion about “dipping” recently, especially with the Army Painter specialist dips now available.  I opted for “dip lite”.  I simply did each miniature in the base colours and then painted a heavy wash using the Games Workshop Sepia ink.   I found this just the finish I was looking for.  I plan to take much more care over the officer and character figures of the army than the core troops.

It has taken me a long time to come up with a basing method that I am happy with.  Now I use a coat of PVA glue with fine to medium ballast mix.  I then seal that with a coat of watered down PVA mixed with dark earth coloured paint, dry brush that with a light/sand colour and then pick out veins of static grass and flock with the odd feature of grass clumps etc.

The Result.
So far I am happy with the result.  I should be in a position to field the army in a few months and I can also keep adding to it and steadily enlarging the unit sizes.  Let’s not kid anyone; when compared to what we see on Saxon Dog’s website, this army is not going to win any prizes for painting but I am satisfied enough so far on how it looks on the table top.

I am currently taking a break from the blue and white of the French to work on a 15mm Wallachian army for Impetus which I started a long time ago before getting side tracked.  However once complete I will post a photo for the full army which should be:

2  Line brigades,
1 Guard brigade
1 Light Cavalry Brigade
1 Heavy Cavalry brigade.