Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quick Hill Terrain From Wal-Mart

20mm Jacklex Guides Cavalry
I was running some errands at our local "big box" store with two kids in tow...not thinking about gaming at all, when my "inner gamer" pokes me and says," wait! there is something I can use!" It turned out that I found some simulated stone garden pavers made of some sort of recycled rubber material that make great hills for my colonials. Here is what they look like:
The material seems like compressed rubber "grains" and is very tough and dense. They come in different sizes and colors are irregular in shape and the surface undulates slightly so they look pretty convincing on the table. I got mine for 4 bucks each on sale, but I think they are normally 6 each. So not dirt cheap but you don't have to paint them and they are indestructable. The only drawback is that they are a bit heavier than a plywood hill might be. But that is no real problem unless you have a lot of convention traveling to do.
Here is one with a rock outcrop made of styrofoam stacked on top...and a few Jacklex 20mm Pathans. I got both a couple of grey ones and couple of brown ones for variation. They are about an inch thick.
...if I use the cork table you see in the background or the desert flip side of "the green mile"...the rubber hills would blend in just great.
Here is a small NW Frontier game running with the hills in use. The British assault a Pathan tower guarding a pass.
Ral-Partha Ghurkas in the lead followed by 20mm Jacklex Highlanders...the figure height difference is not significant to my eye so I'm happy to use both lines together.
The RHA gun shelling the heights...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A "Way" Old School Fort

This summer I have resolved among other things, to empty out a storage space that I rent outside of wife will be the happier for it and it will free up some money to make ends meet. So in the process, it's giving me some really nice "re-discovery" moments. This latest is a old fortress made of "particle board" that I bought from a great friend in my first year of college...a fellow named Bob Wehr...I lost track of him, but his fort lives on!

I remember I paid 100 USD for the fort and it served for many years in my basement where I lived with my parents...way back in 1975... It got a refurbish and a repaint in the mid-nineties but has been in storage since until just last week. I thought it would make a good addition to my 20mm colonials project.

It needs some repair, but my son and I set it up last week just to have a look.

20mm Jacklex Highlanders man the parapet

The fort has definitely "old school" feel and I think it will serve nicely for those "marching out of Kohat" pics that I so fondly remember from Don Featherstone's "Solo Wargaming" book. The fort is in individual sections that can be recombined in different ways and it includes a "breach" section (not shown)...I remember Bob, who had great ideas about gaming innovation...talking about terrain that could be varied for the battle at hand...and I think he actually had the idea for "hex shaped battlefield tiles" back in 1975 (he even wanted me to skip college and go into business producing gaming terrain)...way before it was done by GHQ and later Hexon... I can only hope Bob found his "pot of gold" in life...but he sure did give a young lad, such as I, much inspiration!

I'll be repairing and refurbishing it in the coming weeks so stay tuned...
My son, (the hand in the pics...) is already obsessed... But it's the good kind of obsession!

Friday, May 20, 2011

20mm Colonials Progress

Between games of "Portable Wargame"...and writing up final comments to my design students...and putting more figures up FOR SALE on ebay...and deciding to limit my focus this summer to one project only...that being 20mm colonials....and other smaller annoyances this week... I managed to lay out a small skirmish with the colonials I have painted so far. I'll post the AAR this weekend, but until then I caught a few pics of a British punitive column moving through a hostile Pathan village on the North West Frontier circa 1877...

the buildings are those cheap cardboard boxes available here in the states at "Michaels" (see the conversions here). I'm finding it a fun challenge to "downscale" from my former 25/28mm colonial terrain using the terrain elements I already have.

I even unearthed a few steep rocky mountains...

...and the "green mile" still does good service as a table since most of my original sources speak of green verdant agricultural valleys crisscrossed with crops and villages flanked by rocky peaks with pine forests in between as typical NW Frontier terrain...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Portable Wargame: Quatre Bras

I find myself strangely compelled by "The Portable Wargame" by Bob Cordery... it really appeals to my sense of simplicity and abstraction. So I decided today to put the rules under a bit of "stress" by posing a historical of my favorites,... the 1815 Napoleonic Battle of Quatre Bras. I used the order of battle found on Wikipedia to get a proportional set of armies...and I was off and running.

I used a larger hexboard that I pirated from  another Command and Colors Game "epic scale board" that system.

The units in the game equated to brigades in the historical battle. The order of battle breaks down in units as follows:


15 infantry units
3 Field Artillery units
2 Light Artillery
1 Dragoon unit
1 Cuirassier unit
1 Guard Lancer unit
2 light cavalry units
1 command unit of 25 units plus 1 command


11 infantry units
5 artillery units
2 cavalry units
1 command unit
total of 18 plus one command

as I am still getting used to the rules so I didn't differentiate for "guards," "lights,"  and such but I think such distinctions can be integrated into the rules later.

the French advance...

the Brunswickers occupy Gemioncourt Farm...

The battle was fought as per the rules with the addition of my "squares rule" mentioned in the last post.

The French came on in fine style and made good progress initially  by turning out the Brunswickers from Gemioncourt Farm in the early stages... but not without losses.

Eventually the French assault gathered momentum and the assault on Gemioncourt became a full scale fight.

The French captured the farm after a sharp fight...and then consolidated to make an assault on the Quatre Bras ridge.

but in the process the British force held on doggedly and caused significant casualties...the French send light cavalry unit around the British left flank but it meets the firm defensive squares of the Highlanders

a view of the attacking French columns

Wellington moves to the crisis point!
the British hold firm!
...ultimately, the French make a game assault on the village of Quatre Bras but their strength is spent...and a final flurry of musketry from  the British Guards seals their fate and they remain in possession of Gemioncourt Wood as well as the crossroads of Quatre Bras....

...and as the Iron Duke would say..."it was damned near run thing!"

The rules again gave a good game in 1 hour...and the rules worked for a historic scenario, which in my book is real test!....again, the rules are bloody, but as Ross noted in the last game, it demands that commander be aware of his reserves...and that was decisive in this it was in history. the French exhausted all their infantry, and at the end the British had 3 brigades of infantry intact, hanging on to Quatre Bras,... so the battle went to Wellington!

One of the interesting things about this battle was that the forces were unequal...the Brits were outnumbered, but the managed to hold the French as in the original battle...a very good outcome for the rules, and one that begs to be tried again.

I am interested in developing a better use for the command unit...instead of being just a seems like it runs from the enemy instead of moving to the crisis points. Perhaps it can influence combats in the vicinity or such...

I have a new interest in my 6/10mm because of these rules!!

Having a Go With Hexes

It's been raining here in SW Virginia for so long I think I might apply for "Honorary Brit Status"...or maybe move to Seattle and be done with the sun for good... and to cap it off my son was sick and home from school as well so nothing to be done for it but...break out a game!

We decided to try out Bob Cordery's "Portable Wargame Rules" based on Joseph Morshauer adapted to hexes. I had just read Ross McFarlane's AAR of a game using the rules and thought they would be just the ticket for a quick game.
We used my 6mm Napoleonics and the hex board from a Command and Colors game from GMT. The terrain was some of my homemade (using Polymer clay) buildings and a few store bought buildings as well. We fabricated a few hills by tracing around some of the C&C games tiles on to 1/4" balsa and sprayed them...(amazingly building the hills took only about 20 minutes)...and then we got to it.
We each had an army of 18 stands (the rules call for 1 1/2 times the number of baseline hexes to set the size of the army).

Now Napoleonics are a notoriously difficult era to simulate what with all the "rock, paper, scissors" nuances to deal with and such, but for this game we decided to use the rules as written to see how they worked and then adjust them later for Naps.

As the game progressed, I did cook up a simple "infantry squares" rule that seemed to work well: We said infantry could elect to form squares when an enemy cav unit moves doing this the infantry gives up it's roll against the cavalry in the Close Combat phase. The cavalry in turn has it's combat power reduced to 2, and if it fails to destroy the infantry unit, it is retreated one hex after the combat and is pinned. The infantry unit while in square cannot fire and takes an initiative point to change formation out of square.
We managed a few turns before my son lost interest (he's five after all...), but I soldiered on. The French after a turn of cannonade, advanced a strong force on the left and pressed the Brits hard. A couple of Highland units stood fast until destroyed by overwhelming numbers. The rules are bloody, but fun in true Morschauer style, and I didn't mind the level of abstraction at all, as I found you quickly had to get into making some hard command choices as with casualties your initiative dice begin to dwindle.

those 6mm fellows are tiny but aggressive!
The rules as written have a two hex infantry fire range which seemed long using 6mm, (but would work great in mid to late century battles).  I used it anyway and chalked up the long range fire to skirmishers and "tactical" (i.e, non Grand Battery) artillery fire. In a future Napoleonic rules "tweak" I might try making two hex infantry fire a "pin only" result.

The battle was winding to a close as the French assault on the left slowly began to strangle the British command rolls...but we had to wrap up the game when the wife came home from work and said, "Is this what you guys have been doing all day?"

.... ahh the lot of a married wargamer is fraught with peril...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Some Intel Needed: Part 2

OK so here's a quick follow-up on the last post showing the "mystery man" as he is painted up in Grolstein regalia...

I'm still leaning towards Holgar Ericksson, but maybe it's wishful thinking...I'm off to check the Spencer Smith catalog to see if a match can be made..

He is splendid regardless!

Some Intel Needed

I was doing some Spring cleaning in my storage space and I happened on these old figures...not sure of the make but the horseman this evening has already been black-primed and converted for duty as an ADC of the mighty Army of Grolstein. I was guessing he might be a Holgar Ericksson sculpt, but the base is stamped with "S. Africa" like the grenadiers shown here in grey primer. Anyone have a take on what make these guys might be?  I cut the pistol off the figure and moved the arm so it is not original anymore. (the figure in the distance (a musketeer with long coatails) has a different smaller base so I'm guessing he might be a Stadden or Tradition??)...any help on ID on these figures would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Battle of Weissenberg Part 2

Got a chance late this afternoon to play a few turns of the Battle of Weissenberg. I'm using "Black Powder" for the rules just to change things up and give a quick moving fight in between all the other things I have to do.

The battle heated up early when the Grolsteiners launched their combined grenadiers at the walls of Weissenberg stoutly defended by Colonel Gerlach's Jagers and an entrenched gun. The grenadiers were shaken by the intense fire and faltered under the walls...never getting into contact, they were soon in hasty retreat.

...almost simultaneously, a Grolstein brigade delivers a solid assault on the Bleiherzen right, and ferocious firefight erupts.

and finally the main Grolstein assault on the chateau in the center develops into a fierce melee arount it's walls...

...after three turns of melee, the Yellow grenadiers are turned out of the chateau and the battle turns in favor of Grolstein.

and just as things are looking grim for the Bleiherzener's, a squadron of Kuschen Hussars arrives on the scene and immediately charges a body of Croats who have enveloped the Bleiherzen main battleline...

...the Grolsteiners are frustrated after taking the chateau, with their infantry making little headway against the Bleiherzeners firm grip on the walled road beyond the chateau.

...and a final order from the Grolstein CinC for a charge of the Grand Duchess' cuirassiers seems too little too late... the charge of the Hussars sends off both Croat light infantry units in full flight... and the infantry remaining just has no punch left to continue the fight and the win goes to the Koinigreich!