Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Gettysburg Revisited

The divisions of Syke's V Corps moving northwards towards Gettysburg. 

If you've seen the previous post, you'll know that I've made up some 6mm ACW armies to fight big battles with small figs, "in the grand style".

These I took in to our latest monthly Bonsor game night, where Chris (Union), Doug (A.P. Hill & Longstreet) and Gary (Lee & Ewell) were kind enough to give it a try.

Here's the vain pitch I made on our club website:

"Yep, three days of Gettysburg in three hours at Bonsor. 'Bonnie Blue Flag!' home brew big battle rules have been specifically written to accommodate our game night limitations, and these will hopefully allow us to finish the darned battle!  They feature command & control, big operational moves, and fast combat on a 14 by 12 mile table top. Longstreet's dream flanking move to the right and Custer's cavalry battle on the 'East Field' are now do-able. Lots of commands are available, and late arriving corps are there for late joiners."

Well, it didn't go three days, for a start. The end of the first day was the best we could manage -- just four turns and a night phase. That's the bad news.

The good news is that just about everything else worked really well. The players appeared engaged, and really seemed to enjoy what was going on, even if the blood-letting on this July 1st was pretty minor. There were even two or three spectators who were engrossed, as if watching a movie, which I guess is a good sign.

A view of the central part of the field, from the west. Chris's moves his troops up the slopes of Little Round Top. 

What happened, in brief:

Ewell and A.P. Hill moved in on Gettysburg from the north and west, as per the script. But this particular Union Cavalry commander, Buford (AKA Chris), was having none of it, and immediately retreated all the way back to Culp's Hill! That ended any historical resemblance right there (but that's what wargaming's all about isn't it? Why play, otherwise?).  Most of the day was then spent with the Confederates maneuvering to lengthen the Union line in order to create a weak point, while the Bluebellies reinforced ("What? Another Union Corps?" cries Doug. "No, two." says I).

Southern gentlemen pass through Gettysburg.

If you've seen the movie you'll recall the point where the Confederate General complains "Give me one division... one brigade... one regiment, and I will take that hill!" Same here. Gary had a corps of 20,000 men and 90 guns sitting at the foot of Culp's Hill and Little Round Top -- each manned by about 4,000 Union troops -- and refused to move. All afternoon his corps sat, passing on about four opportunities to attack, with fresh Union reinforcements arriving all the while.

The view from the east. Johnny Reb sits at the foot of Little Round Top, which is becoming increasingly infested by Yankees.

Meantime Doug struggled to bring his troops online along the poor road net. Eventually (c. 5:00pm in game time) he found the weak spot he was looking for. The "hinge/elbow" of the Yankee I Corp's exposed left flank was hanging gloriously in the air! with empty heights and an open road to Washington in its rear. Doug threw Anderson's Division and whatever else he could bring to bear at it. But the dice Gods were rather unsympathetic, and a 'Bloody Exchange' was the best he could do.

I'll let Doug explain this inexplicable episode in his own words.

Chris put the seal on Day One with an equally bloody counter-attack in (what else?) 'Bloody Woods'.

Thus ended the game.

One of the reasons I chose to stage this very big battle was because I wanted to see how much I could fit into a single gaming session using my grand tactical rules. I think that one of the reasons we only completed a single day was due to the fact that players were handling very large commands. But if it can work with something this big, it can work with just about anything.

Perhaps something like First Bull Run would be more appropriate?

Thanks to all who showed interest.

The field just prior to the attack of Anderson's Division,
which took place just south of the Wheat Field.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

ACW Armies in Old 6mm

Trumpeter's, like most gaming societies, has a regular 'Bring and Buy'. On one such game night, a small, pathetic, and forlorn looking box of metal was left totally ignored on the sales table, without even a price on it -- just a "Free! Take 'em!" sign. Inside were old -- very old -- 6mm figures, manufacturer unknown, arranged in strips and blocks.

Well, being club's resident "hair roller freak" I couldn't pass these up, so I claimed them.

On close inspection these turned out to be a half-painted collection of Napoleonics, French vs. Russians. Not badly painted at all; brass plates on the shakos, clearly defined Grenadiers of the Guard, etc. But the painter had given up halfway through.

I left them in their box, as some project to be taken up later.

I turned my mind to them now and then, trying to think what I could make of them, for they presented some problems. Any project would have to conform to strict criteria:

  • They didn't match any of the 6mm figures that I own. The difference in scale between 6mm can be very dramatic, and that between these and my mostly Irregular Miniatures collections is greater than that between 15mm and 28mm!
  • There was no way that I could augment what I had on hand -- they were what they were. 
  • I had to make efficient use of all of them, or the remainder would be wasted. 

At first I thought of finishing the Napoleonics paint job, but my painting would invariably not match  the original, and besides, I already have quite a large Napoleonics collection in 2mm 'nano' scale.

Then I thought of painting them up for the Crimean War, but to my mind that period is best suited to 15mm, at the smallest.

Then I remembered an old idea that I had been toying with for some time: an operational/grand tactical collection for the ACW.

"What for?" said fellow gamer Chris. "You've already got a 6mm Civil War collection!" True, but those figs. are really closer to 10mm, and only work for up to Corps level actions using something like 'Fire & Fury'.

What I was thinking of was something on the grand scale, where great, multi-day battles could be fought with sweeping moves on a large table. (We'll get to rules later, but the general idea of scale is one unit represents a brigade, six inches to the mile, and four hour turns.)

So, shown here are some shots of what I've done with those freebies (click to enlarge).

Several Corps of the Army of the Potomac, seen head on.

The Army of the Potomac, 1863

Above is the Army of the Potomac, with the First, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Eleventh and Twelfth Infantry Corps left to right. On the extreme right are the Artillery Reserve and the Cavalry Corps.

Each stand represents a brigade, and has a standard one-inch width. Colour-coded magnetic labels, containing unit ID and game information, are mounted on the rear of the stands. These can be easily changed to reflect different OBs. The unit colours are scratch-made: printed flags mounted on reinforced wine bottle foil, and then varnished.

Below is the Army of Northern Virginia, with, left to right, Longstreet's I Corps, Ewell's II Corps, A.P. Hill's III Corps, and J.E.B. Stewart's Cavalry.

The Army of Northern Virginia, 1863

 Left is a snip of the command stand for the Army of Northern Virginia, showing Bobby Lee himself atop Traveler, and escorted by assorted staff flunkies.

Here's the command stand for Longstreet's I Corps. Left to right are Lt-Col. Freemantle (Coldstream Gds.), Maj.Sorrel, Gen. Longstreet, and the scout Harrison.


Friday, 22 February 2019

'Busted Drum' Unit Status Markers

Featured are a couple of photos of shot up drum unit status markers.

As a general rule I tend to use things like poker chips, beads, etc. etc, as markers, but I could no longer stand up to scorn inflicted by fellow gamers. So I produced some busted drums from the bits box.

The War of the Spanish Succession kit from Wargames Factory gives you about a million of them. The drums come in two halves, one half of which has the drummer's arm holding the drum. The arm was cut away with a utility knife, which left a gaping hole in the side of the drum.  This simply adds to the 'shot up with grape' look.

I thought I might have to toss the superfluous arms, but in fact they held up quite well, and can still be used as arms in slings, or whatever.

The bases are also from Wargames Factory kits.

I was thinking of heating up a pin and poking grapeshot holes into the drums, but decided against it!

Monday, 7 January 2019

The Battle of Long Sault Revisited

(Photo by DougH.)

DougH kindly offered to host a game at his abode this last Friday, and since there was nothing definite on offer, I volunteered to bring in my 17th Century Iroquois versus New France collection: specifically, the 1660 Battle of Long Sault. Participants were JimF, PeterM, DougH, and myself.

This was a game I ran previously at Trumpeter's Salute 2017. (You can click here for the scenario description and details on how it ran on that occasion.)

Luck of the draw had Peter and Doug as the Iroquois, with Jim as poor Dollard,
leading his motley band of freebooters. Jim had to go it alone for most of the game, as I (who also ran the game) was tasked with marching to his relief with a company of Regulars.

In brief:

  • The Iroquois sprang the trap on Dollard's boys, catching most of them in the open.
  • Jim decided to put up a fight then and there -- which lead to the death of most, and the group's resident Jesuit taking to the deep, dark, and Iroquois infested wood with a  handful of followers. (End of game for the Holy Father, but maybe a good skirmish scenario using Jim's new Woodlands Indian collection?)
  • Jim's scattered remains make it back to the stockade, and manage to hold out thanks to an unreasonable amount of luck. Witness: multiple activation failures by Peter and Doug; an Iroquois band -- which made it through the still open gate -- being expelled; numerous unsuccessful assaults on the walls; etc., etc.
  • The Regulars finally march to Dollard's relief (Turn 17!). He and his last two remaining compatriots run to safety, abandoning their fort to the Iroquois -- who burn it out of spite.

So, victory to Jim (I can't claim any), but on reflection I think that the Iroquois were robbed!

Thanks to all, esp. to Doug, who helped supply the (better looking) photos, below.

 Dollard et. al. hold out in the stockade (photo by Doug).

An intruding warband overstay their welcome and are evicted (photo by Doug).

Ah! but Peter's Iroquois sneak 'round the back ...

The Regt. Carignan-Salieres arrive at last! 

The mighty stockade is left to the depredations of the irritated Iroquois.

Some of Peter's overly excited warriors.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

First Saratoga with 'Loose Files & American Scramble'

I recently got my hands on a copy of Andy Callan's AWI rules 'Loose Files & American Scramble', and since I had just gamed  DougH's War of 1812 modification of this rule set, I was motivated to try out the original.

I don't have my 28mm AWI collection ready yet (c. 400 unpainted figs!), so I decided to use my 6mm 1812 figs instead. I wasn't gaming out an 1812 battle, however; simply using 1812 figs to fight an AWI battle.

I've long thought about re-staging Saratoga since reading about it in the Peter Young's 1972 classic The Wargame: Ten Great Battles Recreated from History, (well, that book is how I first got into miniature gaming, really!). The scenario details were taken from Black Powder. The figures are all 6mm Irregulars. The playing area is 36" x 30" and fit nicely on my gaming table, with room to spare.

I won't boor you with the historical outline, which you can read about here.

As far as my solo game went; in brief: The British left (Hamilton's brigade, under 'Gentleman Johnny' Burgoyne) attacked the American line, pushing it back in spite of taking fearsome casualties inflicted by Morgan's Riflemen. Counterattacks by Poor's brigade, led by the American C-in-C on the day Arnold, recoiled the British. The great departure from the actual battle was the attack of the British right, under Gen. Fraser, which totally caved in the Americans under Learned. With the American flank turned Burgoyne resumed his attacks, and the Rebels were sent packing.

Below is some eye candy from the game. The rules use a lot of markers, and the ones I have are functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, which may offend the sensibilities of some (sorry, Doug!). That being said, they worked well.

Note: clicking on images to enlarge them helps a lot.

Burgoyne's left hits the American line, with rebels taking shelter in the woods.

Gentleman Johnny urges Hamilton's Brigade on.

An event from mid-battle: The 62nd Foot (Wiltshires) wait in reserve while the battle rages in front of them.

British Pickets defend Freeman's Farm. Note 'dead guy' marker.

The 2nd Mass. lie in wait.

The 1st New Hampshire hit the 9th Foot (East Norfolk Regt.), so the Royal Artillery blast them in the flank.

Burgoyne desperately tries to rally the 20th Foot (East Devonshires), but the 'dead guy' markers pile up!

Relief comes to the British on their right, as Fraser's column moves up.

" 'oozah, the British Grenadiers!" as they turn the American left.

No help from these fellows, though. Fraser's native allies take shelter behind the western woods, and refuse to move for the rest of the battle. Fraser tried to motivate them with such encouragements as, "Get forward, you filthy devils! Miserable cowards!" to no avail.

Burgoyne renews his attacks. The 21st Foot (North British Fusiliers), right, are down to less than 70 men. The Americans, however, have fled.

The field at the end of play.

If it looks like most of these camera shots favour the British, it's simply because the American table edge was blocked off by the wall!

I liked the way the rules played. They flowed nicely, yet still had a natural and realistic feel to them --but you really have to keep on top of those markers. It seems to me that they might be better suited to either solo play or a small game with a couple of guys who know the rules. Not sure if they would work well as a multi-player game on a club night. Fun, though!

Commanders are really important, as their 'command points' control the action, rally troops, etc.

Leader casualties were heavy in this game, and that had a great effect on the outcome. British Gen. Hamilton was seriously wounded by a musket ball on turn one and out of the action, while the famous American leader Dan Morgan was killed by British pickets on the same turn (no more 'turkey calls' from him, and just before Thanksgiving, too). Gen. Poor was slightly wounded mid-game, which affected his command ability. Gentleman Johnny, himself, was also slightly wounded, and, on the last turn of the game, Benedict Arnold was blasted to pieces by a cannon ball (at 300 yards) while attempting rally fleeing troops!

I can always tell I had an enjoyable game when I get into the nitty-gritty of stats-taking at the end. Using my 40/30/30 percent ratio (KIA/seriously wounded/lightly wounded), the British suffered 740 (20% loses) KIA & seriously wounded (out of action for campaign purposes) while the Americans 1132 (32% loses). So, pretty much the reverse of the real thing.


Saturday, 6 October 2018

Battle of the Pyramids with 'Blucher' Rules #1

For a change of pace from 28mm I've switched back to the sanity of 2mm 'nano scale' gaming. ;-)

Some time ago I purchased a copy of Sam Mustafa's grand scale Napoleonic rules 'Blucher', but I haven't had a chance to try them out, yet.

I was thinking of doing something like Borodino or the joint battles of Quatres Bras/Ligny with my 2mm Napoleonics, but those battles seem too big for a first try of new rules.  The Battle of the Pyramids seems about right, substituting my 2mm Sudanese for the Mamluks.

Below are a few concept shots of the game; the actual thing would be more expansive.

The French in divisional square. Gen. Bonaparte -- on white horse -- takes refuge inside (yes, I know he actually rode a camel!).

Grand view of the Battle. Note Dhows on the Nile ("Mon Dieu and Death of a Life! There's dhowsands of them!").

The Fellahin surge forth.

A few notes on the Pyramids of Giza: My collection uses a ground scale of 166 yards to the inch for 'Blucher'. Given that, these model pyramids are accurately to scale, both in height and 'footprint'.  Just about all miniature gaming uses a compromise between figure scale and building scale when using buildings, and it's no exception here; my 2mm figs. would be -- at 166 yards to the inch -- about 40 feet high. If the same proportions were to be used with 28mm figs., the Great Pyramid of Khufu alone would be about two feet across.

Where's Sphinx. you ask? On the other side of the pyramid, of course!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Great Northern War Project - Batch #6

Swedish Foot Guards

It's come to the attention of His Peace Loving Majesty Karl XII that the perfidious Saxons have joined with pagan Rus, taking up arms against Christian Sweden, beacon of light in the North.

There's nothing for it, then, but to raise more troops; in this case two units of Foot Guards:

The Guards parade in the Kungliga Slottet, Stockholm.

Will no one aid Sweden in it's Crusade? Gottorp-Holstein? Some Cossacks, maybe?