Wednesday 27 September 2017

Casualty Dice Holders

This week I have spent a little time working on some casualty dice holders. Over at Reject HQ we always use small 5mm d6's to keep track of casualties, the problem is we keep knocking the pesky things over. I'm still working on writing up a simple set of Zulu Wars rules and its clear that I'll need to record casualties in the same way, so a handy solution to the dice problem was urgently needed. At first I was considering making my own but quite by chance I found the ideal solution on eBay. Minibits make a range of laser cut mdf dice frames for different size dice so I bought a load suitable for 5mm dice. Yesterday I spent an hour sticking them to round bases and painting and flocking them. 

I would have liked to share a picture of these dice holders containing some actual dice but you'll just have to use your imagination. I have bought a load of 5mm six sided dice from a company in Hong Kong (a ridiculously cheep purchase on eBay) but I think the carrier pigeon delivering them is walking the route! 

Saturday 23 September 2017

Battle of Beneventum 275BCE

I've finally got my Pyrrhic army out onto the games table, a mere six months after finishing it! Today the Padawan and I played out a battle based very loosely on the Battle of Beneventum.  The tactical setup mirrored the battle but we used the forces available to us rather than trying to mimic the historical order of battle. As usual we used the To the Strongest! rule set and played across a relatively small table with my 6mm figures. The result was a hard fought battle but a decisive outcome.

The Battle of Beneventum (275 BC) was the last battle of the Pyrrhic War. It was fought between the forces of Pyrrhus, and the Romans, led by consul Manius Curius Dentatus. The Epirot king was eager to engage the Romans as another force under the second consul was trying to join up with that of Dentatus. The initial attack forced back the Romans but their reserves were able to route some of the Epirot elephants and this handed victory to the Republic.

In our game we set up the terrain to reflect this rather confined battlefield and deployed forces roughly in line with the historic situation as described by Plutarch over 200 years later. Both force are equal in points value but I gave the Padawan an additional small reserve of 2 Maniples of Velites based in the camp to the left of the Roman line. The camp and reserves are not counted as part of the command until certain conditions arise (any unit in that command being pushed back or destroyed in melee). When these conditions are met they may come out of the camp to join the fight and from that point onward are considered part of the command.

Order of Battle

The Epirot Army - Pyrrhus of Epirus (Me!) - 151 Points
    Left Flank under the direct command of Pyrrhus (+1 Hero)
       2 Squadrons of Greek Allied Cavalry
       1 Squadron of Thessalian Cavalry (Veterans)
    Centre -Commanded by a Mounted General (+4 Heroes)
       2 Epirot Phalangitae
       2 Macedonian Phalangitae
    Right Flank - Commanded by Mounted General
       2 Units of Greek Archers
       1 Squadron Greek Light Cavalry
       2 Units Indian Elephants

Republic Roman Army - Manius Curius Dentatus (The Padawan) - 161 Points
    Right Flank - Commanded by a Mounted General
       2 Turma of Allied Light Cavalry
       1 Turma of Equites Extrodinarii
       Camp containing 2 Maniples of Velites as reserves. 
    Centre - Commanded by a Mounted General (+3 Heroes)
       2 Maniples of Velites
       4 Maniples of Hastati
       4 Maniples of Principes
       4 Maniples of Triarii
    Right Flank under the direct command of Dentatus
       2 Turma Equites Romani
       2 Turma of Equites Latini

The Action
Initial setup. Both armies stare across the plain at each other. We drew Strategum Cards and Emily got "This way effendi" opting to push back my centre command one off the table edge! Lucky this means they come on as reserves but it was still a bit cheeky! 

The action begins as both flanks of my army move cautiously forward. My aim is to hold both flanks down before moving my Pike units forward. I use 10 sided dice rather than cards for my activation's, mainly because they fit on the table. At this scale even small decks of cards would be unmanageable. Yellow dice are my activation's, Purple are the Roman activation's and green dice were used for attack rolls. 

A furious exchange of Javelins and arrows begins on both sides as the light units clash. The Padawan's fire was only slightly more effective than mine, the vast majority of raged attacks failing to even hit a target. 

Ok, I spoke too soon! Damn, one of my bow units is hit by a volley of javelins and fails its saving roll. Light units like this are destroyed by a single hit. I used large red markers to show where units were destroyed (sort of like using casualty markers). No real game value, I just thought I'd see how it looked. 

On the other flank (my left) two cavalry units smash into each other and mine comes off worse, finding themselves disordered. 

Many of the units on this flank took multiple activation's resulting in a rain of Javelins falling and some melee's but ending without a single casualty. 

The pile of used ammo chits grows and grows....and this is just turn two!

End of the second turn and both flanks are firmly locked in a struggle for supremacy. The centre command however are slowly trudging towards each other and the tension mounts. 

The view from the other (Roman) side of the battlefield. That massive manipular Roman centre looks unstoppable!

On the next turn things start to look better. Pyrrhus leads the veteran Thessalian Cavalry into a charge and wipes out one of the Turma of Equites Latini, taking their position. 

The roman Maniples march steadily towards the Macedonian and Epirot Pike-men. 

The Padawan see's an opportunity for some payback and launches a volley of javelins at the Thessalian's. The unit is hit and disordered and worse still Pyrrhus himself is wounded! I'm suddenly re-evaluating the wisdom of sending him into the thick of battle.

End of the third or fourth turn (after a break for lunch) and things are hotting up. Both cavalry flanks are fully engaged in battle and we are moments away from the Centres from reaching each other. Now we'll find out if the Roman Maniples are a match for Macedonian pikes. 

I finally let loose my elephants and they smash through the Light Cavalry of the Romans. Both Light Cavalry units failed to evade and paid the price. With the elephants in the clear the small Roman reserve in the camp is now free to move. 

Crunch! Greek Pike Phalanxes smash into Roman Maniples and there is a furious back and forth melee. Both sides launch charges and counter attacks but after a single turn its clear the Romans have come off worse.  Some of the Phalanxes have been disordered but the Romans have lost nearly all the Hastati.

An 'Eagles eye view' as it swoops over the battlefield. 

By the end of the next turn its clear where this battle is going. The Padawan is cursing a run of bad luck in melee and for a change her dad is having a good game. Both Roman flanks have crumbled and the centre is looking a bit thin. 

With the Roman cavalry destroyed my Elephants have the luxury of space to turn and threaten the flank of the remaining legionaries. With her position untenable the Padawan rather wisely conceded defeat. 

Final positions. That rather impressive Roman army seen earlier is no more and what is left is disintegrating fast. My Pike Phalanxes just rumble forward and have hardly taken a scratch. In the immortal words of Bill Paxton as Private Hudson "Its game over man. Game over!"

Pike Phalanxes Rock! Oh, you want more analysis. Very well. Pike Phalanxes are a steamroller compared to the Roman Maniples. Even when hit they kept on going. Their ability to charge and prevent the enemy from conducting a counter attack is a powerful advantage and one that should be husbanded carefully. The units themselves are not very manoeuvrable so don't expect them to pull off any fancy footwork. Just point them at the enemy and let those 18 foot pikes do the talking! 

I was also very impressed with my Elephants. Again they just kept moving and before I knew it they were clear of any opposition and ready to flank the enemy centre. The Padawan put up a good fight and kept up a constant rain of missile file (she carefully resupplied throughout the game) but was ultimately unlucky not to do more damage this way. 

All in all a very satisfying battle (for me at least) and my honour has been restored after being handed my backside by the Padawan in the last couple of games we played. 

Wednesday 20 September 2017

The Cretan Runner by George Psychoundakis

I've been reading a really excellent book about the Cretan Resistance against German Occupation during WWII. I bought this book while on Holiday in Crete but its available through Amazon and other sellers and is well worth reading if your interested in irregular warfare and resistance in Crete. Its written by George Psychoundakis who during the war served as a runner or courier for the resistance, crisscrossing the island on foot with messages and reconnaissance reports. Travelling in all weathers in constant danger of capture and execution by the Germans his story is a fascinating insight into the workings of the resistance and the Cretan struggle against the invaders. 

George was a young shepherd boy when the Germans invaded in 1941. He knew the island well and moreover he knew how to cross its often mountainous terrain on foot. Distance isn't measured in this book in miles or kilometres but rather in the time taken to walk from one location to another. He joined the resistance and quickly took on the crucial and dangerous job of war-time runner. The physical strain of this role is hard to comprehend with many journeys covering immense distances and terrain that even a mountain goat would find daunting. Sometimes he would be carrying important documents and sometimes munitions or explosives. All would have earned him an appointment with a firing squad had he been captured. 

George was an intelligent lad and unlike many of his compatriots was literate and well read. After the war, he wrote his memoirs as a form of self therapy, describing his time as a runner. It was only some years later these were read by a former SOE officer who revisited the island and met with his old friend George. This officer was Patrick Leigh Fermor, later Sir Patrick, and he convinced George to let him edit the handwritten manuscript and publish it. The result has become a unique, honest and insightful account of the resistance movement in German occupied Crete. 

The book traces Georges 'career' throughout the war and is filled with often well observed accounts of missions that would have otherwise been lost to history. While many tales tell of the dangers and hardships of their existence and the retribution dealt out by the occupiers it is also filled with humour and comic observations that say so much about the determined pragmatism of the Cretan people. 

Amazingly after the war George found himself in jail as a deserter from the Greek Army, despite being awarded the BEM (Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service) by the British. It was only after 16 months that George's plight was discovered by his former employers and his release was secured. He later went on to serve during the Greek Civil War but his life was largely one of extreme poverty until the publishing of this book. Despite this frugal mountain life, and the limited schooling he had as a child, George went on to write several other books including translations of the Iliad and Odyssey from ancient Greek to the Cretan dialect. From 1974 until his retirement, Psychoundakis, was a caretaker at the German war cemetery on Hill 107 above Maleme. He died in January 2006.

Although much of the book does not directly describe the fighting against the Germans it is a none-the-less fascinating insight into the resistance movement in Crete. In particular its description of the harshness of the terrain, and the cat and mouse games played avoiding German patrols, are highly evocative. Anyone interested in playing skirmish type games of resistance, hit and run, guerrilla type warfare in mountainous terrain would do well to read this book. 

Author:     George Psychoundakis
Format:     Paperback, 368 Pages
Publisher:  Penguin (2009)

Rating:      ★★★★★   Highly recommended

Sunday 17 September 2017

Autumn Skirmish

September has come around again and for me that means a quick trip across the river to Sidcup and the Skirmish Toy Soldier Show. The show was a bit subdued this time around partly due to the loss Harfields Military Figures (the previous sponsors) which has retired. The new sponsors Redcoat Models did a good job of organising the show but somehow managed to choose the same weekend as Colours for their event. The result is that some regular traders and many visitors were noticeable absent. I hope this is a one off and the next show in March sees this excellent little event return to normal and continue to thrive.

As usual I took a 'few' photo's and here is a selection of the games seen at this show.

Medway Wargames, Wrath of Kings

Medway Wargames, Wrath of Kings

Gravesend Gamers Guild, Battletech

Warhammer 40K

The Old Guard, an Imagi-Nations game

I liked their dice holders. I have been considering making something similar so its nice to see it works!

Milton Hundreds Wargaming Club, Strike on Karalis, 15mm Sci-Fi

Maidstone Wargames Society

Privateers of London, The Battle of Grand Port 

Skirmish Wargames, Sharpes Village, 54mm 

Skirmish Wargames, Sharpes Village, 54mm 

North London Wargames Group, 6mm Battle 

North London Wargames Group, 6mm Battle 

North London Wargames Group, 6mm Battle 

Rainham Wargames Club

Rainham Wargames Club

Colonel Bills chats to Ray.

Thursday 14 September 2017

FoW Unit Cards... for 3rd Edition

This is something I worked on prior to the Rejects Demo Game at Broadside back in June. Earlier in the year I bought the 4th Edition rules and rather liked the idea of Unit Cards as a simple way for players to understand their troops. However I decided that I didn't want (for the moment at least) to convert to 4th Edition. With the demo game looming I decided to make my own Unit Cards specifically for the simplified version of 3rd edition that I was planning on using at the show. The result was a series of cards for all the LRDG and Italian units that featured in our game, and as a tool for newbie players I felt that worked really well. I have since used the cards again in small scale games at home and decided to expand the collection by making more for other units. 

Here are some examples of the cards I made in June. Note to the rules Lawyers; These are for my simplified version of the rules so any differences to the stats in the rulebooks reflects changes I made specifically for the demo game. 

All the cards were broadly the same, made on a spreadsheet and then printed on card. 

The cards are a convenient place to note down special rules as well as the vehicle or unit stats.

Tank and Armourd vehicle cards are only slightly different

Different movement rates for mounted and on foot are easily accommodated

I was also able to use the cards for units that I created myself that are not in the rulebooks

I'll definitely continue to use these for other games. I'm currently making a set for the units I painted for Operation Compass over the winter. Another advantage of these cards is you can just grab the units and the cards, set up terrain and your ready to play a game in next to no time. If anyone wants a copy of the spreadsheet let me know. Its in a Google Sheet format so I can share with anyone that uses Google Drive. 

Tuesday 12 September 2017

I haz skillz (apparently)

If I had a Travel Blog I
would have been busier.
BLMA has been a bit quiet of late and for that I apologise. Its been a busy summer one way or another and between holidays, work and other commitments, gaming and painting have fallen by the wayside a little. However I know this is just a temporary lapse and things will pick up again in coming months, especially as we get nearer to the Winter Painting Challenge in December. So with the summer out of the way, and my day off otherwise unplanned, I decided to spend a little time tidying up the blog.

About once a year I go back through old posts and try to reestablish broken links, reformat old posts and generally have a 'spring clean'. Its an impossible task of course, there is more to do than can be completed by one person in just a day. After all I have written over 1700 posts over the last nine years featuring literally tens of thousands of links and pictures. I'll keep looking but needless to say if you see a broken link please flag it up for me and I'll fix it asap.

This week I have briefly flirted with Google+ Comments again. This is the third time I have tried it out and I have to say I still don't like it. The main downside as the blog owner is that I no longer have a folder with all incoming comments appearing in it. I check out this folder several times a day to read comments, especially when I publish a new post. Its also a convenient and easy way to spot spam comments attached to old posts that would otherwise be missed. Needless to say I have switched back to regular Blogger Comments after just a few days. I'm normally a bit of a Googlephile, but in this case I think this a feature that needs to be massively improved or killed off!

Try the Blogroll for breakfast,
its delicious!
I have also taken some time today to review things like the Pages I have created, the Gadgets (widgets) that appear on the right hand side of the page and lots of little bits like that. Some of these were no longer active, others needed updating or reformatting, but none of the changes I made are earth shattering or time consuming to complete. The aim, simply put, is to make visiting this blog just a little more user friendly and interesting.

Some time ago there was a problem with the side bar being hidden behind posts, but I was able to insert some code in the template to fix this, but I have no real way of knowing if the side bar even gets used by readers any more. I have striped out some little used tabs and updated the few that remain because I think the sidebar is an often overlooked and underutilised feature. Its an easy way to navigate around the site, find old posts or discover great blogs from my extensive and growing Blogroll (500+ and counting!!).

If you have any comments or ideas, or if you find a broken link that needs repairing, please let me know and I'll do my best to act on any feedback received. 

Wednesday 6 September 2017

The Battle of Sawkhan

I've taken advantage of my day off and the fact that my daughter (aka the Young Padawan) doesn't go back to school until next week. We decided to play another Desert Raiders game using the same cut-down Flames of War rules that I used in the Rejects demo game at Broadside earlier in the year. I employed some of the same units from that game and we set up pretty quickly for a relatively simple encounter battle.

The Setup
An Italian Patrol is investigating a Libyan village that it suspects is being used as a staging post for the LRDG. By coincidence they arrive just as a the first of two LRDG Patrols approaches. Italian forces will arrive one unit per turn while the second LRDG Patrol will arrive on a dice roll so could turn up early or Late.

Order of Battle
  2 LRDG Half Patrols (each containing 5x Chevy Trucks & 1x Breda Gun Chevy)
  2 Jeep HQ Units
  AB41 Armoured Car Patrol
  1 Bersaglieri Campany in Trucks
  CV35 Tankette Platoon
  l AA Truck Platoon

The Action
The setup showing the village of Sawkhan and the arrival of the first LRDG patrol...however the leading Italian AB41 Armoured Car platoon has also just arrived in town.

The Italian Armoured Cars wind through the village cautiously...

But as the first pokes its nose out from behind the buildings it is hit by a mass of Machine Gun fire.

The next turn three trucks race into the village and immediately a company of Bersaglieri disembarks and takes up position in the buildings. 

In the distance the LRDG patrol takes up a defensive position behind a small ridge. This will give them some concealment from incoming fire while retaining clear lines of sight on the village. 

Shooting erupts across the desert as both side open fire. Both sides take casualties with exposed vehicles quickly being hit. 

The LRDG loose many their vehicles but fortunately their crews are all able to escape. 

After four turns without her reserves arriving the second LRDG
patrol finally turns up.

The second LRDG patrol begins to try and outflank the Italian positions while more Italians vehicles turn up and take position. 

The Italian Tankettes don't last long though!

Although the Italian troops still outnumber the LRDG  their position is now becoming untenable. 

The Padawan begins her outflanking move...

...and take apart the Italian units protecting the flank. 

With the Italian position in the town hopeless I send in the trucks to recover the few remaining troops still there. 

Another win for the young Padawan! She played well and I suspect she would have won even quicker if she hadn't had to wait so long for her second unit to arrive. The shear volume of firepower being dished out by the LRDG Chevy trucks overcomes pretty much anything quickly.