Friday, 31 May 2013

4Ground Half-Timbered Buildings

First, CONGRATS to Mike at Trouble At T'Mill on reaching an awesome 100,000 views. He's been running a series of giveaways this week including an particularly excellent one today for Too Fat Lardies rules (you know you want to enter).

When I was Salute last month (just), I invested in three of the new timber-framed laser-cut 15mm buildings from  4Ground. As I was putting the last one together, it occurred to me to take some pictures; I was very impressed with how easily they go together and how good they look. Unfortunately I did not take enough pictures initially, so I had to get hold of another one to get a couple of initial shots and that has taken me a little while.

So here are some photos of putting together their 15mm Timber Frame Dwelling (ECW2)

Here are all of the components of the kit laid out. You can see there are quite a few; the timber frame dwelling is the most complex of the three buildings in the 'ECW' range. The pieces go together very easily and bonded well with PVA with a minimum of fuss.

Here you can see how the building assembles from a series of boxes, one for each floor. Each box has a double layer thickness for the walls; the inner wall sections provide the window frames, giving a recessed look and add to the strength.

 The roof just slides onto the top of the box for the upper floor/loft. It fits very snugly.

Here is the final assembled building. I finished it off by painting in the the 'lugs' which show through in the roof  (both in the main roof section and on the ridge line) to match the rest of the roof. Normally, I'm not keen on painting buildings (I avoid it if at all possible) so this is excellent

Here are the empty sprues of the kit; showing it has all gone into making the kit.

And finally, the range of all three half-timbered buildings as assembled. Although labelled 'ECW' I think they are good for later eras such as the Napoleonic wars; a group of French infantry marches into town just to prove it.

... I will have to do some of their dark age buildings next to use with Dux Brit.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Grasp the Nettle (or the Sausage)

Sharp Practice is a subject close to my heart. Although I am not playing it at the moment, I recently voted for it as my favourite TFL game on their facebook page.  If you aren't interested  in it or any of its variants, including Mud & Blood, stop reading now.

The basic turn mechanic involves a card for each big man and a tiffin card (there are also Grasp the Nettle cards which we'll come to in a moment). When a big man's card comes up he is activated and when the tiffin card is turned up, the turn ends. So, in any turn, there is a 50% chance that any big man  will be activated. Although troops which have not been activated can still do certain things (basically fire but not move), that is a high degree of chaos. Certainly it is compared to IABSM where troops can often be activated either by a big man or by a platoon card which means there is generally a 66% chance they can act before the tea break card (which corresponds to tiffin) comes up.
Seize the Moment -
ACW speak for Grasp the Nettle

There are also Grasp the Nettle (GTN) cards in SP which allow you to increase the initiative of your big men. Personally, to reduce the chaos a bit, I have taken to using these instead to allow you to activate one group of troops (not big man) of your choice. This does help quite a lot allowing you to get the troops moving you really need to move. When playing this I only allow one GTN card per side.

Just a few days ago I came across another alternative use of GTN, which I think is really interesting. Here when a GTN card comes up it can be used to activate a big man of your choice of a status equal to or higher than the GTN card. So a status 1 GTN can activate any level of big man, but a status 3 GTN can be used only by a status 3 or 4 big man. I would probably limit it to two GTN cards per side.

Let's looks at what that does to the odds of a big man acting in a turn. Assume your force has say 6 groups of troops and three big men: one status 3 (Lt St-James) and two status 2's (Sgts Paisley and Dagenham).

If St-James is greedy and will take any GTN card, then there are three cards he can use (his own plus two GTNs). That means there is a 75% chance of him acting before tiffin. However, because there is no GTN for the sergeants they only have a 50% chance of acting. If on the other hand St-James is a gentleman and leaves the lower level GTN card to his sergeants, he has only 2 cards he can use and a 66% chance of acting. Then the first sergeant (Paisley) has two cards (so 66%) but Dagenham has only one card (50%) so we can average that out to 58%.

I think it is really interesting the way this introduces more chance to 'master the chaos' and in particular means that the higher level, more important, big men like St-James have a greater chance to influence the game. I will be very interested to give this a try. Thank you Simon.

... And the Sausage? The French Grasp the Nettle card is called ... Graspez le Saucisson.  Anyone know the German or Russian for Grasp the Nettle?

Sunday, 19 May 2013

TCHAE: The First Battle of Kernstown

This is a report of a battle a played (solo) a little while ago using the TFL rules They Couldn't Hit An Elephant (TCHAE). This was the first time that I had played through a sizable action using TCHAE and I certainly was not disappointed. The Battle of Kernstown is the first of three scenarios given in the rules; it pits a significantly smaller confederate force against a larger union one, but the rebels have much better command. In particular the yankees are hampered by having no overall commander; Kimball has to act as both overall commander and command a brigade too. Historically this was one of Jackson's very few defeats; it did not turn out that here.

I tweaked the OOB slightly from that in the TCHAE book adding an extra bases (or two in some cases) to some of the very weak confederate units with only 2 bases. I also opted to start with all units on blinds and none deployed on the table. (My figures incidentally are mounted 2 to a base rather than 4 to a base.)

The table from the Confederate right
The Confederate plan was for Garnett and Fulkerson (the two blinds furthest on the left) to attack down the middle road and take Pritchard's hill (the big hill in the centre). Meanwhile Burk in the centre would take Kernstown itself and Ashby's small cavalry brigade on the right would demonstrate against the Union brigade opposite them. The Union, didn't really have much of a plan as they all start on 'Hold' orders, though there was an intention for Kimball in the centre to detach artillery to hold the high ground of Pritchard's Hill.

Close-up of the centre and Kernstown; Pritchard's Hill
is in the background. The central wall was my own
addition but in fact it did not prove significant .
The confederates clearly were much the keener as their blinds 'flew' across the table, quickly crossing the central wall and almost reaching Pritchard's Hill. The Union were clearly still asleep, failing to make any initial head-way; the coffee card (actually poker-chip), which ends the turn, came up before union blinds could move. Kimball did eventually advance towards the Hill, albeit slowly, but Sullivan on the Union left was stuck awaiting orders from Kimball.

A critical moment came when the Union CinC, Kimball did manage to get some troops onto Pritchard's Hill. These were then spotted and Kimball deployed his (still-limbered) artillery at the front of the brigade hoping to get them deployed in a commanding position - big mistake.

Unfortunately, this underestimated the speed at which Fulkerson, who was still on a blind could close and when Fulkerson's 'card' came up first his troops charged up the hill, capturing the guns and causing the rest of Kimball's command to fall back and one of his raw units to rout. [Sadly, this was so exciting, I failed to get a picture!!]

Meanwhile Kimball's command was also pressed
The wheels come off  Kimball's command
on the their right by Garnett commanding the 'Stonewall' brigade who were all rated as aggressive, which is very powerful in TCHAE. They caused serious damage to Kimball; pretty soon Kimball's command was down to just one functioning unit and two which were 'defeated' (or shaken).

On the confederate right things moved at a somewhat slower pace but Burk duly marched into Kernstown unopposed while Sullivan continued to await orders from the increasingly desperate Kimball.

Conf Right: Sullivan keeps a wary eye on Ashby.
Burk's command can be seen in the background

As Burk managed to get around the flank of Sullivan the threat did become more apparent and Sullivan finally received some orders. However, the confederates were able to deal with Sullivan's units one at a time. Before long two of Sullivan's units had been put to flight leaving just two more units on the far side of the hill.

From Jackson's position on Pritchard's Hill
all seem to be going well
So far all was very much going the rebels' way. However, before the Union position collapsed entirely, Tyler's brigade arrived on their right to reinforce Kimball and challenge the stonewall brigade. They were bravely led by a zouave unit, with an inspired leader, which took the fight to the rebels. They routed one unit as they counter-attacked Pritchard's Hill before ultimately being thrown back.

The final (successful) attack on Sullivan
However, things continued to go badly for the Union on their left. Sullivan's two remaining units managed to turn so that they could could defend the crest of their hill. This though was not enough to withstand the rebels as their reinforced attack went in with a resounding yell. Even the presence nearby of Kimball was not enough to save Sullivan and his command disintegrated.

Tyler's brigade withdraws
At this point, with two out of the three Union infantry brigades broken, I decided to call it a day. Tyler's brigade would withdraw in good order, but this was definitely a victory for Stonewall Jackson.

All in all this was an excellent game. I would highly recommend TCHAE to anyone with an interest in the ACW. The crucial point here was the abject failure in the Union command and in particular the CinC Kimball being pulled in too many directions as he tried to act as CinC and control his own brigade. In contrast Jackson was able to keep things going according to plan and his presence near Garnett (rated as 'Cautious') prevented the cautious 'card' causing the rebels any real problems.

I am very tempted to play it again to see what might happen if the Union is given a separate CinC (Shields who was injured). In that case I suspect the outcome would be very different.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Dvx Brittanniarum: Cattle Rustling

The table - the Saxons will enter from the far side 

I have been running an occasional series of Too Fat Lardies Dvx Brittanniarum games. Not a formal campaign as such, but a series of linked scenarios set in Caer Gwynntguic, which is around Winchester. (This area featured prominently in a  certain Pendragon campaign). Here is a report on the latest of these which was a cattle raid near Clavsentum on the South coast. The Saxon raiders, led by Uffa the Swift were played by Phil while the Romano-British, led by Constantine the Just were played by Mike W (who more usually plays the Saxons).

Enter the Saxons with cows
 Uffa's men entered in two main formations, three groups of warriors led by Ana and Cynric and two groups of hearthguard led by Uffa himself. Behind them, hopefully shielded from the British were a group of archers used as cowherds.

The Saxons made some progress towards their objective (exiting from the far table edge), before the British began to arrive on their left. Naturally therefore the Saxons inclined towards their right to try to put as much distance between them and their pursuers.

The Comanipulares are caught isolated
The British initially arrived with just a group of archers and a group of elite companions (Companipulares) led by Constantine. These were followed on the next turn by their warriors led by Octavius and the levy with Keredic. Unfortunately, the companions got a little over-enthusiastic and allowed themselves to become isolated from the rest of their forces. Sensing an opportunity, Uffa led his hearthguard across the ploughed field to attack the British elites. With one groups against two, things were unlikely to go well for Constantine, but fortune certainly did not favour him; the companions lost their amphorae and fled the field leaving Constantine to take over the levy.

Standoff in the centre

There was then a fairly tense stand off as the British and Saxon warriors faced off against each other and the levy adopted a defensive shield wall. Gradually the Saxons edged their way across the table towards their objective on the far side.

The Saxon hearthguard strike again
Then Uffa sensed another opportunity and led his hearthguard against the British warriors. A hasty 'step forth' card allowed the British to form shieldwall allowing them to put up a fair fight. Again though they were unlucky and the fight went against them. The British were pushed back and their shieldwall was broken. Things were not looking good for the warriors but a disengage card allowed them to escape. They would not threaten again though, so the British really were down to their levy.

The cowherds are attacked by British archers
Another period of maneouvre as the British levy now moved down the table to try to catch the Saxon warriors, still shielding the cattle. The Saxons brought their hearthguard back down the table while a small archery duel developed as the British archers tried in vain to cut off the retreat of the cowherds.

So we came  to a situation with Constantine's levy facing off against Ana's two groups of warriors supported by the hearthguard. Somewhat desperately the levy charged...

The British levy take the fight to the Saxons
 .. and crunch. One group of the hearthguard was close enough to join in the fight, but not the other. With great valour the levy manged to kill nine of the Saxon warriors and clearly bested their opponents man for man. Sadly though Keredic fell in the fight and Constantine was wounded. This was too much for the British whose morale broke and they fled the field. In fact everyone fled from that fight except for the hearthguard!

Almost everyone runs away
The Saxons were able to get the cows away and scored a notable victory (with 4 retreat cards in hand). They gained two more warriors and would have a period of unopposed raiding.

This was a very fun game and my thanks to Phil and Mike to playing it in excellent spirit.

You can also read Mike's report of the same battle on his blog Trouble At T'Mill.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

More about me

I thought that I would start by saying a bit more about who I am, and how I got here.

I am a 40-something (well almost 50 actually) wargamer living near Cambridge. Like so many people of my generation I started wargaming as a kid at the school and wargaming club. Mostly that was WW2 though I always wanted to do Napoleonics but never had enough energy to paint them. I had much fun but when I got to university wargaming was not practical and got dropped. Besides I had got very into RPGs, something which I remain active in as I still play in regular weekly sessions.

Then about 5 years ago or so, I happened back into wargaming. I had a bit more time as my kids were growing up and no longer so demanding. Then I came across a couple of computer games set in the Napoleonic period and I thought; 'it would be fun to do this with figures'. Since then I have been building a collection of figures in 15mm mainly for Napoleonics and ACW, plus a few dark age figures.

I am especially fond of the Too Fat Lardies stable of games. I first came across them about 4 years ago when I bought copies of Sharp Practice,  and Le Feu Sacre, their Napoleonic rules for skirmish and larger scale games. To be honest I did not quite 'get' them to start with, but when I watched Richard Clarke running a game at Salute a couple of years later, it clicked. I really like the way their mechanisms for 'friction' and 'fog or war' add to the uncertainty of the game and they get away from I-go U-go. I might also add that my background in RPG has been one where I have always enjoyed 'tinkering' with rules systems; this is certainly something I still enjoy doing and it goes well with the Lardie the philosophy.

In truth I do not have that much time available as I have a pretty busy job which is in London. This means I only have time for painting at weekends; I am not especially quick even then, so things move at a fairly slow pace. For similar reasons I have not joined a wargames club, though I do have some chums that I play games with; more on that to follow. 

I am married to an illustrator and printmaker (see link to her art website). My other interests include cycling, opera, history more generally and walking our two rescue dogs, Twix and Lucy:

Two of my favourite friends