Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Folly of the Earl Of Essex - Pike & Shotte Battle Report

Another week and another opportunity for Aidan’s alter ego; the Earl of Essex, to prove he’s the best man for the job of crushing the King’s hopes for regional domination.  With Prince Rupert (Red) dropping out, and Michael and Dave unavailable, it fell to an unlikely alliance of the Royalist Lord Flasheart (me) and the gallant pro-parliamentarian (but very confused) troops of Luke to defeat the upstart Aidan, aided this time by that master of the charge; Sir Chris Fazey!

Deployment and Scenario:

With the Pike & Shotte rules not wonderfully fresh in our minds we went for a simple pitched battle.  Aidan set up the scenery on an 8ft by 6ft board, and declared we would fight across the width (6ft) stretch, with control of the road being the main objective for both armies, hoping to encourage aggressive tactics.  Chris obviously needed no encouragement to adopt an aggressive footing, and was handed control of the right half of the Parliamentarian army; a mixture of foote and horse (he looked quite confused by the men walking on their own feet), while Aidan and his prized winged lancers were leading a similar mixture on the left.  The Royalists, keen to get going, were set up long before the rebels, with Luke taking the left, and me the right, both with similar numbers of foote and horse.  A gentleman’s agreement seemed to be in place, as the traditional deployment of a foote centre and horse wings was in effect for both armies, with the Royalists outnumbering the Parliamentarians by enough to give them an advantage.

The battlefield, Royalists nearest by the village.

The Parliamentarian troops, with Aidans command being the nearer.

Chris' horse division on the Roundhead right.

The Battle:

The cavaliers won the roll to go first with an ominous ‘6’, and both sides began an advance.  The Royalists were first to act dramatically, sending their horse flooding forwards on each flank in a bold and aggressive charge.  Chris’ parliamentarian horse, facing Lukes cuirassiers and their heavy armour, were rolled backwards into their own infantry, with the cavalier horse in hot pursuit.  The infantry failed to form hedgehog but survived despite taking a number of casualties before their horse recovered enough to counter charge.  A substantial melee, which would last the length of the battle, began.  On the Royalist right my horse suffered a reverse against Aidans, with the winged lancers slicing their way through two of my four regiments before they would even think of retreating!  The remainder were pushed back in disorder.

The Royalists begin their advance, my horse and infantry divisions being the nearest in this picture.

The winged lancers carve up my horse in short order!

Atmospheric shot of the Royalist pike advance.

In the centre Chris was on the verge of declaring that the enemy foote were too numerous, and his current positioning within the hedgerows was the best tactical location, when Aidan shouted ‘Advance!’ in a loud voice.  And so they did.  The Royalists foote, also advancing but more swiftly, suffered from a lack of manoeuvring space.  I had hoped to expand my three regiments into a terico formation of a pike centre with musketeer wings, but was prevented from doing so by a pinch point between some woods on the right, and Lukes advancing troops on my left.  Aidan, spotting an advantage to be had, sent his musketeers charging in, where they impacted on the front of my formation.  The rest of his Parliamentarian foote advanced more slowly, denying his men support for the first couple of rounds, but their impetus, and my inept dice rolling, kept the musketeers in the fight, and prevented me from bringing my larger numbers to bear.  Lukes foote division, advancing to the left of mine, was also unable to assist due to Chris’ foote which was now moving down the road to challenge them.  Again due to the lack of manoeuvring space Luke was forced to take this attack on with even numbers, despite his greater strength.  The centre settled down to a brutal fight which threatened to see huge numbers of units flee each turn, but somehow they never quite did.

Aidan throws in his foote for a cramped melee.

 Back to the horse, and on the Royalist left Lukes division was taking a toll of the rebel horse, with most now shaken, but they were also fighting against some of Chris’ foote and artillery which had joined in, and even the Earl of Essex (the army CO) had headed over to shore up the line.  The battle there see-sawed as each looked for an advantage.  On the right I had brought my reserve third division into play, deploying a foote regiment and storming party to cover the gap left by my disintegrating horse division.  I scored a significant victory when my mortar, with its first and second hits of the day, drove the already shaken and disordered winged lancers from the field, while my last horse regiment broke itself as it chased the last of Aidans horse away.
The mess that was Luke and Chris' attempts to get the upper hand on the Rebel right.

 It was now an infantry battle on the right, and my troops swiftly gained the advantage through superior numbers, particularly of pike, and wiped out several musketeer units there, breaking that flank.  At the same time in the centre more of the long-suffering rebel musketeers finally gave up the ghost to much Royalist cheering, while the pike block of the King’s Guard did the same for me under heavy cannon fire.  A breathing point had been reached, and we took stock of each army.  For the Royalists my horse division was broken and a spent force, with Lukes nearly at the same point, however our foote divisions were all still strong.  However the rebels were in much worse shape, with both horse wings broken, as well as Aiden’s foote division, only Chris’ infantry were still unbroken.  With time almost up and their army about to disintegrate the Parliamentarian CO threw in the towel – Royalist Victory.

Chris' infantry on their way to support Aidan in the centre, with Lukes leading elements just in sight at the top right.

Post Battle Thoughts:

Overall a good game, in which the Royalists were always favourites due to their greater numbers.  However the parliamentarians used the battlefields width to good effect, denying them this advantage for the large part and stemming the tide.  The horse divisions on both wings acted very much in character; breaking themselves in the process of driving away the enemy horse, and it was left to the foote to push on.  Lukes cuirassiers stood out in this with their armour making them more resilient and causing Chris all kinds of problems which his superior numbers (foote and horse against just horse) should have solved but couldn’t.  Chris’ luck and reputation with horse suffered a few blows early on, but returned with a vengeance later.  Aidans winged lancers were fearsome, and after the initial exchanges I was actually avoiding them and hoping for a few lucky artillery shots!  Fortunately (for me) they were worn out from singlehandedly decimating my horse division, and a couple of lucky mortar shells did for them when they were already retreating.

In the centre the parliamentarian musketeers charge initially looked foolhardy, but the Royalists couldn’t bring their numbers to bear, and it was a slugging match which took much longer to force the rebels back, some very poor performances from the Royalist pike blocks.  Victory to the Royalists, but full tactical marks to the Roundheads.

Final note; almost every model was fully painted, and the game attracted note even from the fantasy players, my favourite comment being one about 'how many days ago did we start playing' from a 40k player, good stuff.  

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Battle of the Olives - Hail Caesar Battle Report

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in an age which history has kindly forgotten, mixed up, and become generally confused about, the Romans, with their Celtic allies, launched a raid into that powerhouse of industry; Greece.  Having filled their carts full of that most precious of cargoes; olives, they set off back towards the border for a date with wine and pasta.  The ancient Greeks were not so keen to see their olives made with so freely, and dispatched a force of historically inaccurate hoplites and peltast to block the road while further re-enforcements made their way to the scene, drawn by the smell of the Celts choice of (or lack of) bath materials.

And so the scene is set, my Romans, their column led by Luke’s celtic warbands, heading home in a march formation along a dirt track thinking about olives and lovely boys called Mario when a force of hoplites and Greek skirmishers leap out from behind some blades of grass.  Commanded by Chris ‘Damn your whinging sir and Charge!’ Fazey, they are aiming to hold up the column long enough for the remains of the Greek army (Red presiding) to hit the flanks and wipe out jonny foreigner.  Victory goes to the Romans if any of their 3 supply units (2 carts and a donkey train of 2) get off the board at the roads end, or the Greeks are beaten off.  The Greeks win if everyone else dies first.  Simple.

Technical’s; the board was 10ft long by 5ft wide, the Romans and celts in 4 divisions moved down the road towards Chris’ 1 division at the roads fork, while Red’s troops came on at a predetermined time and place known only to Red and Chris – the more advantageous the place, the longer they had to wait for the troops to arrive!

The Battle

Its was the Celts that started it, their lack of understanding of the concept of ‘march column’ meant they were already in their default attack setting of ‘angry rabble’, which then barrelled down the road towards the Greek blocking force.  The bulk of the legionaries were in the following division which, led by the Roman general, swung to the right off the road to support the Celts movement.  The second Roman infantry division, a mix of legionaries, auxiliaries and slingers, followed the Celts down the road guarding the baggage, while the Roman horse division brought up the rear.

The Celts leading the column as the Roman 1st division files off the road.

Chris' Greek roadblock waiting for them.

The table in general around turn 2-3.

 Red decided to get his troops in early, and brought his first division of two units (taxis!) of hoplites and some slingers on beside the village to face the Romans 1st infantry division just as it deployed into line.  The 1st Cohort (a large unit) charged in on the nearest hoplite taxi (all the hoplites once more being large units), supported by two more cohorts of legionaries, while the hoplites had the other hoplite unit in their division as support.  Red rolling appallingly, and for the first time in RGMB ancient history the hoplites broke and fled in the first round, with their support joining them!  Given the lack of Greeks this would have made for a very one sided and boring game, so we allowed the Greeks an extra (identical) division, which promptly reappeared in the next turn in the same location and hurled itself into its previous conquers, pushing back the 1st Cohort, and wiping out one of the other cohorts as the hoplites pressed their advantage.

Messy - Celts vs Greeks on the road, and the first Greek division to fight the Romans on the left.

A meeting of minds which the celt warband eventually loses.

Roman escorting precision.

The Roman 1st division in trouble and crushed against the woods.

On the road in the centre the Celts (also big warbands/rabbles) came face to face with the hoplites blocking their passage.  They wiped out the Greeks supporting peltasts, but came to grief against the Greek heavies themselves.  Chris’ hoplites pushed back and wiped out the central rabble, before coming up against the lead baggage cart which I had foolishly allowed to get far ahead of its Roman escort.  Fulfilling character obligations I blamed Luke for allowing the Greeks to break through to the valuable olives!  The Celts other two war bands turned, intending to charge the rear of the hoplites, but decided that it was either unsporting, or too suggestive and stopped short of the act.  The hoplites had no such qualms, and dispatched the baggage cart with ease, although one unfortunate Greek did catch an ox’s hoof in an unfortunate place.  

The Greek hoplites are through, but the celts turn on them.

In the fields the Romans came under the cosh; the hoplites pressing their advantage and, crushing the 1st cohort against an inconveniently placed wood, then wiped out the 3rd and last legionary cohort in that division, destroying the Roman generals command.  They continued on, making for the road and the two baggage units there.  The Roman second division reacted by swinging off the road and deploying in front of them, a formation which the hoplites ploughed into in an attack column formation, one supporting the other.  This time the Roman legionaries, having been rolled back a move in the first charge, stood firm second time round supported by legionaries, auxiliaries and slingers, plus some more awful dice rolling from Red.  The last turned into a theme, which saw the Hoplites perform their disappearing trick for the second time in the game to cheers from the Romans, which turned even louder when the Celts finally got stuck in on the road and Chris’ command vanished under a wave of random hair doo’s.

The last Greek hope was a final division which appeared on the Roman right flank, only to have to contend with the Roman cavalry division, which had finally worked out there was some fighting going on at the head of the column and had hotfooted it up there.  With the demise of the Greek centre however, and the solid line of legionaries, auxiliaries and cavalry facing this last division the Greeks called it a day, and conceded the field to the enemy.  Victory to the Romans and Celts!

Reds greeks come within touching distance of the road and the baggage, but no further.

The last Greek division - too late to help.


Not a terrible scenario, with perhaps the Greek re-enforcements arriving a tad too late at the end, and the Greeks playing to their enemies strength by spreading out against a more numerous Romans and Celtic army rather than blockading the road and daring them to push through.  Given the difference in sizes of the armies I tried to create a scenario which the Greeks could use to their strengths.

The Romans scored an early impressive victory which caused us to resurrect a Greek division rather than ruin the game, while the celts stood up for longer in combat that Luke had expected them to after the initial clash.  Chris almost got some revenge in with some slinger fire at the baggage, which I’d left exposed again, but they were fortunately chased away by the Celts!  

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The American Civil War – An Odyssey in 6mm

This post is fairly late in the day in terms of purchases because I’ve spent so much time painting English Civil War troops I’ve rarely found time to post.  So here we go.


The American Civil War is a period I’ve had an interest in, although not much of a knowledge of, for quite a while, primarily thanks too a series of Miniature Wargames magazines which appeared to have an ACW article virtually every month on different battles.  Given that it is apparently one of the most popular periods to wargame – second only to Napoleonic’s in some views – that is unsurprising.

 I originally had the notion that the Confederacy was the way to go – they often seemed too win!  However for Christmas I had been bought a book on the American Civil War book; Battle Cry Of Freedom: The American Civil War (James M. McPherson).  It is well worth a read, much less battle detail than most and quite long (850-odd pages), but very well written about the causes and surrounding issues.   Within the pages it gives a general image of the confederacy as gallant underdogs against the North’s superior industry, technology and numbers, but further reading through it doesn’t appear to be a foregone conclusion, with political forces and differing aims of the North’s commanders conspiring to aid the South.  In the end I chose the North.  This was based on my dislike for the pro-slavery attitude in the South, although that was hardly an attitude retained solely in the South, or the sole reason for war, but is a reason as good as any to pick a side, and although it may give me a sluggish army to command it is at least better in moral terms, just.

Buying the Models

After a fair bit of indecisiveness over scales I decided to plumb for 6mm.  The Perrys superb 28mm plastics came close to victory, but I simply couldn’t face painting that many 28mm infantrymen, even if I could absorb the cost of buying them in the first place!  20mm plastics and 10mm metals were also gradually ruled out thanks to a couple of influences; firstly an old Miniature Wargames magazine with an article about the difference in size and perception of scales of models, which made the 6mm scale look much more appealing.  Secondly I was able to see a few games being played at the Deeside Defenders in that scale, and was impressed with the imagery of the big battlefield, the many battalions and even the detail that could be seen close up! 

I have previously owned 6mm figures, buying some heroics and ros modern and WW2 tanks years and years ago, but only a very limited number.  For modelling and painting experience I have to go back to my Epic 40k playing days (now sold to gain more historical figures), 15 years ago.  I also had an additional major boost to get going when Andy (see blog: ) from Deeside offered to collect one side, leaving me to only have to make up one army rather than the two I was thinking I would have too do.  Andy gave me the choice of side and as before mentioned I went for the Union so he started looking for his grey paint.  Since then Luke and Aidan have also shown an interest, with Luke going so far as to choose the Confederacy and buy an army pack at Triples.  His painting already far exceeds mine in numbers!  Blackpowder is the ruleset of choice, and the basis for how we’re making the armies.

The First Painting Attempts

 To get started I ordered some figures from a company called Baccus which specialises in 6mm troops and scenery for a variety of periods.  Their work came recommended, and I’d seen them online on a number of blogs and websites, and I ordered an infantry pack with hats, a cavalry pack, and a battery of artillery.  I paid around £2.50 postage to take it up to £19 overall, and for this I got 96 infantrymen, 48 cavalry, and 4 guns and crew.  They arrived around a week and a half later, and I was suitably impressed with the quality of the detailing – amazing for that scale, and the immediate thought was “oh sod, I’ll never be able to do that justice!”  I was right.  An attempt at painting enough men (4 strips – 16 men) for a single base was disappointing, the colours were dark, the image wasn’t great, I started too wish I’d picked the grey, I’m better at painting grey!  A couple of suggestions of painting styles from others didn’t work, and it went on the back burner.

I then went to Triples with a Union army pack on my list and on visiting the Baccus stand got talking to the owner, and a few others who were there.  The owners tips on painting all made sense, most interesting of which was that I was using the wrong shades of colour.  Apparently a smaller area (such as a 6mm figure) makes any colour look darker, so the way to go was too use lighter than usual colours for everything.  Armed with this knowledge I was also invited to do a 6mm painting workshop by one of the guys nearby, and later in the day took him up on his offer.  I sat down and painted 6 mini union troopers using his paints, and following the colour scheme.  The result was amazing, the troops really looked the part!  He then showed me a variety of ways of basing the models, although I decided to stick with the style I’d already agreed with Andy.  For painting the following few things were key:
  • I was using the wrong paints – they needed to be much lighter, and with different colours for the webbing etc (black was pointless, a sand however looked ace).
  • I was being too precise – my 28mm painting meant that I was caring when it wasn’t perfect, I should ignore it unless it’s a disastrous mistake.
  • Don’t detail –for example paint the gun all just metal, and the butt light brown.

I made notes, said a big thank you, and set off to get some new paints!  I picked up an additional 5 paints, and Luke ordered me the ink required and even kindly gave me an extra batch of 40mm by 20mm MDF bases.  I managed to forget to buy the additional base sizes I needed for the other troops (dismounted cavalry and cannon), but it was a very good start. 

Where Now

Back home the models have been sadly confined to boxes while I focus on getting my ECW done in time for Gauntlet, but once they are out I’m very hopeful I’ll be able to paint them quickly!

Base Sizes

For anyone wanting to emulate the armies, the base sizes we’re using are 2mm deep and:
40mm by 20mm for infantry (2 ranks) and cavalry (4 figures per base) with 3 bases per battalion.
30mm by 30mm for dismounted cavalry (4 bases per battalion).
40mm by 30mm for cannon batteries, a single cannon on each base.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Work In Progress.....May 2013

Its been a busy month for painting horses, and for buying models with the Triples show seeing a trip out to pay plenty of cash for a variety of bits including plenty of American Civil War Union troops and a lot of modelling bits for various projects.  I didn’t manage to secure a few bits I wanted so I’m waiting on an order from Redoubt Enterprises for those (which sadly takes around 1 month to come, but that ‘should’ be in time for Gauntlet).  I also ordered a copy of Dreadball having been impressed when playing the game at the RGMB again the Dutch wizard.  My Saga forces also had plenty spent on them, most of which remains unmade with a late burst of modelling enabling me to make the 4 hearthguard and the horses for the mounted warriors, as well the petard assault team from Warlord (supplemented by spare renegade models to make up a storming party for my Royalists).

Painted Vs. Purchased: I did some tallying for the Painted Vs. Purchased figures, and almost fell off my chair.  Thanks to my expenditure at York and Sheffield I have now purchased a grand total of 441 models since October!!  My work painting 40 model (all English Civil War with 32 horsemen, 1 horse mounted officer, and a diaroma with 7 different figures all being completed) has been severely diluted by this, although there are mitigating circumstances.  Firstly my purchases of American Civil War troops in 6mm accounts for around 150 of these models, at a cost of about £55.  Being 6mm they have been counted as one strip of 4 figures = 1 model, so once I start painting them they should rack up fairly quickly.  Secondly to purchase anything I have sold, primarily my old Games Workshop collection.  The most recent to go onto eBay was my warhammer Bretonnians, who funded the entire trip to Sheffield, and numbered 206 models.  Whether I should take these away from the ‘purchased’ column I’m not quite sure, probably not.

This is actually part of an interesting swing in my collection/gaming interests from the fantasy/sci-fi games I used to play (40k, Warhammer etc) to my current wish to play historical wargames.  I always wanted to do so, but earlier in life it wasn’t easy to find someone with a similar interest and I turned to Games Workshop as another option.  Now I’m very much turning back with a wide variety of periods and scales. 

Painted: 205
Purchased:  441

This months task: Its almost all Royalists in the run up to the game at Gauntlet.  I’ve two units of dragoons which top the list (19 on foot and 12 on horse), followed by a supply wagon, cannon limber, storming party (11 models) and a castle gatehouse.  I’ve also got 4 Welsh hearthguard for my Saga warband, and some goats on the painting table to provide a distraction.  It’s a fair amount, and, very critical of the possibility of finishing the lot, I’m prioritising the dragoons on foot and the gatehouse as essential, followed by the wagon and limber and the dragoons on horse.