Thursday, April 29, 2010

Battle of Newbury I

We are on a roll here at Lead Gardens with another face to face game last Saturday!... this time pitting Eric and I in a historic ECW scenario in 40mm. Eric had not yet played "Victory Without Quarter" so since he roundly trounced me in the 18th century I thought I might give him a go in 17th.

The historic battle occurred in the year 1643 when King Charles ably marched his army to block the line of the retreating Parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex. It was one of the critical battles of the war and one of the largest so it would be a fun challenge to reproduce on the tabletop. The tabletop battle was set up based on several map sources including the excellent ones at the UK Battlefield Resources website and the hex map of the battle from the GMT game series "This Accursed Civil War" (interestingly named after a quote lamenting the death of the Royalist Lord Falkland who was killed at Newbury). The maps were brought into Adobe Illustrator and with a few adjustments a reasonably accurate table was cooked up using my old GeoHex to get the sense of the contours of the ground a bit more accurate than is possible using my usual stacked foam hills. For the OB, I used both the GMT game scenario as well as the excellent Nafziger OBs available ( and generously donated and now for free!) at the U.S Army's CARL website. I was able to scale a reasonably good scenario with the figures I had making each "regiment" of figures on the table represent one of the "tertios" of the actual battle.

In the foreground, Skippon's brigade holds "Round Hill" with the Regiments of the London Trained Band in reserve...on the left the enclosures in front of the village of Skinners Green...and in the distance the main body of Royalist foot.

These first few pics show the initial starting positions of each side. (unfortunately the overview picture of the whole table was corrupted so it didn't want to upload...and the usual caveats about blurry pics etc...blamed on my reserve camera that had to be pressed in to service). In order to help getting familiar with the scenario I placed the activation cards for each unit on the table so when Eric arrived he was able to see who was who in his army, (he had declared for the Kinge! he would play the part of Charles I). I took on the role of Essex commanding those dour Parliamentarians.

This image shows the best overview of the table I have, but it gives the general layout....Royalists are approaching from the left...the famous "Round Hill" is the projection of the ridge on the right, and occupied by the main body of Parliamentary foot under Skippon and with their Horse under Stapleton off to their right. Prince Ruperts horse is off in the distance on the Royalist left...the King is positioned in the center just behind the Royalist guns.

Outnumbered 4:3, Parliamentary Horse with their initiative cards laid out before the game face the Royalist left wing across the open expanse of "Wash Common"

Round Hill was actually just a projection of slightly higher ground so I just represented it by extending the main area of the ridge.

Roundhead foot hold the enclosures in front of Skinners Green

A fire and brimstone preacher encourages the Londoners before the battle opens.

Phillip Skippon commands on Round Hill

Sir Phillip Stapelton leading the Roundhead right wing

The battle began with the Royalist Left wing beginning its move forward under Rupert. The card driven initiative sequence of VWC made it difficult for the Royalist to get their attack under way.
But the combination of initiative draws and an event card that called for Stapelton to order a "glory seeking" advance eventually drew the horse into a brawl.

The cavalry melee was see-saw for a few turns with both sides seeing units break to the rear but eventually to reform and return to the fray.

Meanwhile the armies advanced in the center to engage on the forward slopes of Round Hill. The musketry was intense for several turns with the Parliamentarians rolling well and the King having several ineffective rolls (in the real battle the Royalists were short on powder and this had a significant effect on their infantry attack.)

Stapelton leads another charge of Essex's horse.

Throughout the fight the battle in front of Skinners Green was bogged in the heavy patchwork of enclosures, with the Royalist foot never being able to make headway against the stout Roundhead defense.

Late in the day,... the historic battle was 12 hours long and so played with a variable turn length rule so that each time the "Time Passes" card came up we would roll a d6 to see how many 30 minute periods would pass on the clock...with a 1-2 being 30minutes, 3-4 being 60min. and 5-6 being an hour and a half of elapsed time. This allowed us to play out the battle in an easy afternoon's (about 2 1/2 hours) game time.

The two most decisive moments in the battle occured when the Parliamentarian center drove off the Royalist center and began to advance...and almost at the same time Essex rode over to the right wing and threw himself into a final charge of the scattered Royalist horse who were having trouble rallying...

....and a final blast of shot broke the 5th Royalist unit ending the game at 4:30pm on the game clock. The end came with 5 Royalist units routed versus 3 Parliamentarian, still a close game....and a historically similar outcome. The real battle ended with the Royalists running low on powder and both sides content to trade artillery fire until nightfall brought the battle to a close and saw retreat forced on the King the next day.

A couple of images of the final moments of the battle with the desultory fight in the enclosures winding down.

So Parliament came up with the win and best of all we had a great time and as usual, the rules worked great with just a few minor adjustments that we added to the rules...this was the first time I've used them in a face to face game and we found that they played quickly and felt right for the period...someday I'll hopefully be able to send our suggestions off to the author, Clarence Henderson.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spray Paint Army

This weekend found me dealing with a few directives from the CinC Lead Gardens (my dear wife)...and found me juggling a couple of youngsters while she did a charity run for breast cancer...all the while trying to advance my gaming hobby just a bit. I had just caught up with the very interesting goings on at Bob Cordery's Wargames Miscellany blog where he has been pursuing a re-write and update of Joseph Morschauer's wargames rules. It also just so happens that I had dug up a batch of cheap plastic 1/72 figures that I found at the "dollar store" here in town a few years ago and the meeting of Morschauer and Cordery and my ongoing interest in things "Old School" inspired a shot at producing a set of quick armies for the 20th century era so I could try out Bob's rules with them.

I actually am the proud owner of an original copy...a classic found in a used book store years ago for a few dollars!

I based up a few battalions of figures using the cheap "generic" plastic toy soldiers from China and painted them in basic green and khaki and only painted the helmets to give them the "feel" of having been painted while retaining a basically abstract look. The figures are about 1/72 scale so they work fine. I also marked the company and battalion designations to add a bit of color to the bases. I have two generic "tanks" for the set and will try to head to the dollar store to see if I can score some more vehicles....The idea is to make a sort of generic interwar set of opposing armies using whatever I can get on the cheap and quickly paint up. I already have a 4x6 green carpet marked with 4" hexes so can give the rules a tryout as soon as I get a bit of time.

These are definitely "spray paint armies" in that I'm relying on a quick base color of either Khaki or Dark Green spray paint (Krylon Camouflage Khaki or Deep Forest Green (BTW the dark green is a close match to German Fieldgrau) and just painting the helmets to represent a roughly "Germanic" or "Russian" look and not be too discerning beyond that. The figures themselves are not bad but basically just WWII era toy soldiers. I added a few heavy weapons from a couple of Revell 1/72 sets for each side so I have infantry, MG, and mortar stands plus HQ and infantry AT stands to round it out. I used 40mm square bases from Gale Force 9 for the bulk of the forces and a few wood circles for the MGs and mortars. The HQs and AT stands are 20mm squares. The tanks are generic and if all goes well for this endeavor, I might try to add some old Rocco 1/72 vehicles and guns to round things out...or perhaps I can find a few more things at the dollar store! The point here is to generate a cheap "gameable" force quickly...I was able to sort, base, and paint both forces in one day...with time to spare for the kids and of course, ...reports to the CinC... ; )

I'm headed out tomorrow to further develop the set...with whatever I can find...always a great excuse to take the kids to the "Wal-Mart" toy department!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Campaigning

Bleiherzen cavalry reorganizing after their recent victory.

Thanks to all my readers on this Easter Day! Your comments on the last battle report were really inspiring! Spring has brought a renewed energy to gaming here at the Lead Gardens. The last battle with my friend Eric was a blast, and I'm already planning the next...this time I'm thinking a refight of the ECW battle of Newbury. After our last battle, Eric and I got to thinking about the next encounter, and he expressed interest in breaking out the "40s" and having a I'm working on the scenario, and hopefully this next weekend or so we can give it a try. Hopefully, I can also get in a "parade" of my ImagiNations soon as suggested by Jean-Louis (abdul666) is about time to have a show of 18th century military splendor!

I'm also working on a couple small armies for WWII in 1/72 using a few rule sets that I've not played in a while, (Rapid Fire, Crossfire, and Piquet). The new WWII plastics from Valiant have proven to be fun to paint and I'm just keeping the ambitions within reason, building only initially a British infantry battalion supported by an armor company and a corresponding German Kampfgruppe. I once had many hundreds of 20mm WWII and vehicles but liquidated them all on ebay to pursue the 18th century...but now with the advent of cheap plastics I can "dabble" again in a much loved period without breaking the bank!

The main forces are done and I'm just now finishing up the softskins and some supporting guns and such. I haven't built a 1/72 kit in a long while and as you can see the Sdkfz 251 halftracks from Dragon are under construction...truly beautifully detailed kits, but I'm glad I'm not trying to produce a whole bunch of them....they are REALLY detailed. In the pics you can also see a couple of inexpensive "Armourfast" STUG IIIs a fast building simple kit from "Hat" minis. The Valiants are bit large for the vehicles but not in a very noticeable way, and as any died-in-the-wool 1/72-20mm WWII gamer knows, scale compromises have to be made. But the stuff looks great all painted up and detailed and the differences in size hardly noticeable on the table... so I'm happy, and will be posting some pics soon.

And finally Congratulations to Craig (CWT) for correctly naming the battlefield mentioned in the last post. He will be getting a painted RSM general as his prize...and...(CWT drop me an e-mail at!