Monday, September 26, 2016

Zombicide Black Plague - It's no Snakes and Ladders....

Remember those rainy Sunday afternoons of the 70’s all gathered around the coffee table for "family time" with the battered boxes of Ludo, Monopoly or Cluedo... how things have changed in 40 years – Blood, Guts and Zombies….

Sunday saw what is becoming a regular family outing of Zombicide – Black Plague.

What could be better than a co-op game, no cheating, no falling out and everyone as long as we all make it off the board wins…. Perfect for family harmony.
Turn one half the family set off in the wrong direction from the agreed plan, they hack and slay their way into Yellow and then Orange before the parents are even out of Blue, We are chased by every dead thing on the board and are only armed with what might as well be a wooden sword and a feather pillow.

Pinned in a hovel hunting for a big weapon that might save the day only to be confronted by several nasties all interested in having us for lunch.
Well you can guess the rest….
Oh how I miss those simple days of Snakes and Ladders….

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chinese Cross Bows - The last of the bare metal...

These seem to have been on the paint table for months now, but with the urge to paint something new and the Wargames Butterfly starting to take a grip again.  I thought I would press on and get the last of the Chinese off the production line.

These were the original crew from the War Wagon. I went for a slightly different style in terms of uniform, while technically the Infantry of the Sung period did not have a formal uniform I figures these will be suitable for a number of scenario's.

Next up return of an old favourite....

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Men Who Would be Kings - The opening volley.

Wednesday night saw the first run through of The Men Who Would be Kings Rules and what a close run thing it was.

A typical 24 Point British Force.
We opted for Scenario H "A sigh of Relief"
A classic scenario suited to the Zulu wars which see's the British holding the camp as the Zulu's deployed on the table edge looking to over run them before reinforcements come on to drive them away.

On the face of it, it could have been all over in a couple of moves, the Zulu's filled the table edge and the limited defenders stood and waited as the range markers went out. They needed to hang on long enough for the relief to arrive.

Was this enough to hold the line?

The Zulu's advanced forward in a clasic formation with the horn's looking to encircle the the British, with a free activation to move they looked unstoppable. In a rare moment of bravery The Natal Native Contingent charge into the Zulu left wing, but are badly beaten and forced back.

Turn 2 the British let off a ragged volley which kills few but does pin a Zulu unit, but those damn Zulu's are getting rather close.

Turn 4 British Reinforcements start to make their way onto the table as the right horn moves forward to slow their advance. Menawhile the chest makes it's move on the camp.

Turn 5 in the British Centre a poor command roll leaves the British unable to form close order and  open to a charge by the Zulu Impi which forces the British back due some rather good Zulu dice.

Turn 6 With the British now falling back through the camp the Zulu's push for victory. But do you think I could shift the last of the British despite being down to two figures the Officer and his trusty Colour Sargeant they hold the line and defeat the next zulu attack, the Zulu's are pinned attempt to rally and fall back.... Good old British cold steel...

Turn 7 The British Player gaining experience hits upon a tactic that was to ultimately win him the game. Concentrating his volley fire on a single unit, he empties its ranks of warriors, shooting down it's leader, pins it  and then sends in the cavalry.

Turn 8 The Zulu's morale starts to falter as units are shot to pieces and are ultimately destroyed, the Zulu line on observing this halts, units become pinned and start to fall backwards, just as I felt they had won the day and were ready to press home their advantage.

Turn 9 The Zulu right wing finally comes into action having ditched the idea of moving at the double and simply taking it's free activation to move, it charges into the British line and scores well reducing another British unit down to a single Officer.

Turn 10 The number of casualties on the Zulu side starts to take it's toll and units are pinned across the battlefield and every failed rally checks forces them backwards. The Zulu's had lost a number leaders which was making the recovery of units and issuing of order really hard. 
The Cavalry picking their moments continue to drive the battered units backwards charging into pinned units before they can recover.

By the skin of their teeth the Brits hold on to win the day, the Zulu's unable to get to formed units to stand infront of the camp for a turn are forced from the table. The only significant Zulu unit left has no leader and every rally check failed will only force them backwards away from the objective.

The rules have a very satisfactory feel to them and the result a fair relection of the troops available, the NNC were rubbish and the Red Line held firm, The figure removal can occasionaly make the table look a little thin with 2 figure units still running around but that could be put down to good dice rolls.

The rules are not overly complicated and the don't have endless charts to refer to which means turns flow quickly allowing you to get through game turns fast, really important during an evenings gaming as they allow you to get to a an outcome rather than the "what if's" when we just run out of time.
An hour in and we knew the required scores and orders without the need to refer to the rule book.

In terms of in house tweaks we considered altering the rules on Volley Fire, within the rules thay have an 180 degree arc which we considered limiting this to only frontally and perhaps introducing a CinC to step in with one extra test espically if you have a bunch of Officers who are pretty bad...

We missed out the additional Officers Characteristic's but will bring these in next time as they look like they will add an interesting touch to the games.

Tonight the Boxer Rebellion...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Men Who Would be Kings Rule Review

Dan Mersey and Osprey have the unique ability of bringing many of my figure collections out of retirement and back on to the tabletop, first there was the Narnian Forces with his Dragon Rampant Rules and now the Boxer Rebellion with The Men Who Would be Kings.

My gaming preferences tend to lean towards larger skirmish and playing the game rather than recreating the real thing in miniature so anyone who opens their rule writing with the compulsory viewing of Zulu at Christmas and Easter gets my vote... (53 viewings and counting just for the record..).
Although the wife and kids are getting rather annoyed by me quoting the lines before they are actually said.

The Men Who Would be Kings Rules landed on the door step this Saturday morning and it's fair to say I am not disappointed by Dan's latest offering. 64 Pages of Colonial goodness, with plenty of Illustrations and eye candy to get the juices following.

The unit sizes are very much in keeping with his earlier rule sets and my own collection for that matter and Dan has made the troop types fairly generic allowing them to fit most conflicts.

  • Regular and Irregular infantry: 12 models per unit.
  • Regular and Irregular cavalry: 8 models per unit.
  • Tribal infantry: 16 models per unit.
  • Tribal cavalry: 10 models per unit.
  • Crewed weapons: 1 gun plus 4 crew models.

Each unit must have a leader and keeping them intact appears to be key to keeping your troops in order and pin free to win the the scenario's of which 8 are included in the book.
A typical field force consists of 24 points with unit costs broken down as follows.
  • Regular units: 6 points per unit. 
  •  Irregular units: 4 points per unit. 
  •  Tribal units: 3 points per unit.
  •  Crewed weapons: 4 or 6 points per weapon.
Units can be adjusted by upgrading or downgrading unit abilities which gives you the national variants - e.g. Zulu's with Fieldcraft at +1, but perhaps poor shots at -1 if you follow the movie....

After sneaking off for a quiet read in a pub at lunch time no less.
They appear to be a rule set where leaders of units are the key to winning the game.
Each unit of troops has to 'activate' each turn using their leaders Leadership Score, however some actions for each troop type can take a Free action these are different for each unit type.

The unit Leaders quality is rolled for and will be influenced by whether you are Regular or Tribal and extra colour is added by applying traits for officers, very similar to those found within the Sharp Practice Rules another favourite of mine.

There are some nice features within the rules such as the ability to fire through pinned units which allows you to spread your fire and keep the sword welding hordes at bay rather than having to break or destroy the closest enemy before you can turn your attention on the unit hiding behind it...

A whole chapter is dedicated to playing against "Mr Babbage" or Solo play which takes me back 20 years when "Soldiers of the Queen" was popular and everyone wanted to be British sitting in a square. :-)

Dan has included 30 army lists to allow you to build your forces for various encounters from the likes of The Sudan and Zululand through to the Plains Wars in America. (tempting...)

My only niggle is that with a number of references and illustrations relating to the Boxer Rebellion it would have been nice to see an army list for the conflict.

But it does give me an excuse to dust off my own collection and with 7 days before the first real outing it will allow me to draw up the forces for both sides and play around with the troop traits, with only a small number of generic unit types it should not take long to create such a list.

It's nice to get the Boxers back out of storage, just as I was thinking about letting the collection go.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Battle of Cowpens 1781 - AAR Sharp Practice 2

Last Sunday saw the Wyverns put on a large Sharp Practice 2 game with 7 separate Brigades deployed on the table and a table some three times our regular gaming space.
I give you The Battle of Cowpens 1781 or The Battle of Squirrel Wood as it will be known locally.

The British have the choice of deploying from two deployment points, whilst the Americans have a Primary point at the far end of the table which must be held and a secondary point at the base of the gentle slope in the centre of the table. Which if lost effects all American Force Morale.

True to the original engagement the Americans deployed clouds of skirmishers before the British could secure any material advance. The benefit of the Tiffin Card appearing in the last quarter of the deck on the first two turns.

The Americans had gambled on splitting their commands detaching all of their light troops to the front this would ensure that none of the separate commands would suffer to heavily if the skirmish troops were pushed back. A long range musket and rifle fire fight followed with the British appearing to not want to advance in face of so many light troops.
The British with only 12 Support points available purchased extra Artillery and began to fire on the skirmishers but this would be a long hot morning trying to wear down 8 separate groups all benefiting from the extra layer of cover.

Tired of watching their comrades fall and unable to make see a target from their position at the back of the firing line the Gilmore Rockbridge Riflemen make a dash for the woods on the flank of the British force.

This bold move spurred the British into life, the Cavalry were unleashed and the 17th Dragoons supported by the British Legion and Ogilie's Troop galloped head long into the skirmish lines driving them back towards the secondary deployment point and the slope were the American militia were forming up. Things were looking a little concerning for the Americans as the skirmish began to falter.

The American brought forward the the State and Militia line together with Continential Light Dragoons to support the line. Fortunately for the Americans and unfortunately for the British  cavalry in single groups don't fair well when hit by mobile skirmishers.
Shock started to build as the Americans turned all their attention to the riders and without close Infantry support the British were unable to press home their advantage.

Meanwhile with the Rockbridge Riflemen making a nuiscance of themselves in the woods to the left of the British, a whole British brigade including the experianced Light Infantry were spending valuable time trying to clear Squirrel wood of those damned patriots...
The Americans commanders laughed as the mild mannered British commander swore at his miniature troops who were simply not performing.

3.00pm The British on the right begin their steady advance but time is not on their side.

A controlled volley from the Highlanders shows the American light Infantry the power of the Thin Red Line. A fistful of shock drives them back.

But with the British Cavalry Brigade in tatters and several big men wounded including Col Tartleon things are looking tough for the British command.
Not helped when a final volley from the pesky skirmishers drives the Cavalry Brigade's force morale below 0 and they leave the field taking the guns with them.

5.00pm draws near and with the British finally on the move but facing Continential's and Militia on the slope who are fresh to the fight and still with thier first volley open to them.
The field was left to the Amercians.
History repeats itself.

A great days gaming which was touch and go for both sides.
The rules stood up really considering the number of players involved, everyone was active each turn which can be a risk in large games.
With all the support flags in play their was always the option to bring units into play, surpisingly 3 in a row very rarely happened.

The cavalry made short work of the skirmish line but without infantry to follow up were soon driven back and first volleys were perhaps wasted at long range for both sides when a rapid advance and close range volley might have made more progress on the day...

A fine days gaming and plenty of laughs along the way....

Sunday, August 28, 2016

BIG Battles using Sharp Practice - The Battle of Cowpens 1781

Less than two weeks before the Wyvern's Annual all dayer and this year we are taking Sharp Practice up a level.

One of the best things about gaming in a club enviroment rather than the mid-week kitchen table experience is the ability to bring several players together on a far larger gaming area. Over recent weeks many us have played Sharp Practice with a single force. But could this be scaled up to a larger battle keeping everyone engaged and retaining the original feel of Sharp Practice?

Carl at the club has a massive AWI collection which needs a good outing every now and again and with several players willing to take part. The challange was to find an encounter that played to the strengths of Sharp Practice and gives everyone a full days gaming experience rather than having people playing a bit part or having nothing to do for long periods.

Battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1781

After much consideration and flicking through the bookshelf The Battle of Cowpens 1781 seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

This encounter has several elements which make it perfect for Sharp Practice.
  • Around 1000 combatants per side.
  • Both sides experienced faltering morale which they need to recover to get back in the fight (Shock.)
  • A number of seprate bridgades of which could have a separate commander and force morale.
  • A limited amount of Cavalry on both sides, but scope for extra's (Support points).
  • Well known Big Men Lt Col. Tarleton of the 17th Light Dragoons and Colonel Daniel Morgan of the Continential Army. Both of which have a significant part to play.
  • A table layout with lends itself to Deployment Points within the rules.
  • An encounter played over a narrow frontage with the option for strength in depth which allowed players to be engaged all day and reach the centre of the table (Always a must on BIG games.)
Account. The war in the southern colonies had become something of a stalemate, neither side having sufficient strength to hazard full out offensive operations.
Tarleton had made his reputation in the southern colonies as a ruthless and impetuous commander. Pursued by Tarleton, Morgan determined to make a stand by the Broad River. He selected a simple position on two low hills in open woodland in the expectation that Tarleton would make a headlong attack without pausing to devise a more subtle plan. Morgan was correct in his assessment of Tarleton’s actions.

Map of the Battle of Cowpens
Morgan placed the Georgia and North Carolina militia in front of his line with a further screen of riflemen to their front. His main line was on the first and higher hill and Washington’s dragoons were placed behind the hill. He had no guns.
If my workings are correct the American commander should be able to field 3 Separate Infantry forces and 1 Cavalry force.

Tarleton marched his force onto the battlefield and attacked immediately.
I have browken the Loyalist command down into three core sections, one made up of regulars, one of Loyalists and a cavalry command.
Tarleton's first move was to send the 17th Light Dragoons to disperse the riflemen. The dragoons were driven back by accurate fire.
Tarleton formed his infantry line and began the advance; the Light Infantry on the right, the infantry of his legion in the centre and the 7th Royal Fusiliers on the left. 

Troops of light dragoons flanked the foot. The reserve comprised the 71st Highlanders and the cavalry of Tarleton’s legion.
Image result for battle of cowpens 1781

Morgan’s riflemen opened fire on the British line and made a point of shooting down the “epaulettes” (the officers), before falling back behind the main American line.

A troop of light dragoons pursued the riflemen and were attacked and driven back by Washington’s dragoons.

As the British foot attacked, the 71st Highlanders extended the line to the left, outflanking the Americans. The American line withdrew but in good order. The British line lost its cohesion as it hurried to pursue the Americans who halted and gave fire before Washington’s dragoons again attacked, this time in the rear of the British line.

The Americans went onto the offensive and the British line was overwhelmed. The 71st continued to fight until finally forced to surrender. Only the Royal Artillery gunners fought until they were all killed or wounded.
Tarleton fled the field with the remnants of his column, the cavalry of his legion having refused to charge from the reserve.

The British lost 39 officers and 60 soldiers killed. 829 were captured. 12 Americans were killed and 60 wounded. The Americans captured the British baggage and the colours of the 7th Foot.

Converting the battle to Sharp Practice - Scenario Defence in Depth.
The British must capture the American Primary Deployment Point.
Each side holds 7 command cards and may not deploy more than 12 Big men.

British Force.

British Regulars 1781
Leader Status III (Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton)
Three Groups of 8 Regulars, Muskets. - 71st Highlanders
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 Regulars, Muskets. - 7th Foot.
Leader Status I
One Group of 6 Light Infantry Skirmishers, Muskets.
1 Light Cannon - 3 Pdr.
Points 68
Force Morale 11

Provincial Loyalists 1781
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 Provincial Regulars, Muskets - British Legion.
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 Light Infantry Skirmishers, Muskets - Coverged Light Infantry Battalion.
Leader Status I
Two Groups of 6 Loyalist Ranger Skirmishers, Rifles.

Points 54
Force Morale 10

Loyalists Cavalry 1781
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Dragoon Cavalry, Impact Cavalry -17th Lt Dragoons.
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Loyalist Cavalry, Impact Cavalry - Ogilie's Troop.
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Loyalist Cavalry, Impact Cavalry - British Legion Cavalry
Points 40
Force Morale 11

Support points available - 12

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton - Commander of the British Field Force.

Amercian Force.

Continental Command 1781
Leader Status III (Colonel Daniel Morgan)
Three Groups of 8 Continental Line, Muskets. - Maryland and Delaware Continentials
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 6 Continential Light Infantry Skirmishers, Muskets - Mar/Del Light Battalion
Leader Status I
One Group of 6 Frontiersmen Skirmishers, Rifles.

Points 59
Force Morale 11

Southern Militia Command 1781
Leader Status III (Colonel Andrew Pickens)
Three Groups of 10 Rebel Militia, Muskets. - 1st/2nd Spartan South Carolina Militia Regiment
Leader Status I
One Group of 6 Rebel Militia Skirmishers, Muskets - Cunningham's Georgia Militia
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 6 Frontiersmen Skirmishers, Rifles - McDowell's North Carolina Riflemen
Points 43
Force Morale 9

Southern Militia Command 1781
Leader Status III (Lt Col. John Howard)
Two Groups of 8 State Line Troops, Muskets - Tripplett's Virginia Militia
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 State Line Troops, Muskets - Hammond's SC State Company
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 6 Frontiersmen Skirmishers, Rifles - Gilmore Rockbridge Virginia Riflemen
Points 47
Force Morale 9

Continental Cavalry 1781
Leader Status II (William Washington)
One Group of 8 Continential Light Dragoons, Impact Cavalry - 3rd Dragoons
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Continential Light Dragoons, Impact Cavalry - South Carolina State Dragoons
Points 26
Force Morale 10

Support points available - 24

Image result for Colonel Daniel Morgan
Colonel Daniel Morgan - Commander of the American Field Force.
So the plans are in place.

The core forces have been posted to the lead commanders allowing them to consider what support points are needed for each commander or whether a new brigade should be formed?

Each side can see what worked on the day and what the opposing sides core forces are, but have no idea what support points will be spent on. Battle plans and support points will be drawn up on the morning of the game over. 

Let's hope the plan survives the opening volley?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Smugglers and Wreckers.

The blog and hobby generally has really fallen behind in recent weeks, what with a couple of holidays and trying to play catch up at work to make up for the "rest". 

Devon was rather wet.
What did I expect for August in the UK?

However looking for things to pass the time I wandered into a couple book shops who had a number of small booklets on the Smugglers and Wreckers of North Devon. Perfect as I had been looking at the Black Scorpion range for several weeks thinking about how I could find a use for them.

 Privateers 2

During the 17th and 18th centuries smuggling or Free Trading was commonplace in the West Country and considered to be a very profitable way of life!

Smugglers were known to have used Lee, Ilfracombe, Heddon’s Mouth, Watermouth Cove and Morte. Some of the smuggling operations were clearly considerable; in 1785 a 96 gallon cask of rum  was found at Watermouth Cove and in 1801 224 gallons of gin and 164 gallons of brandy were found on the foreshore near Ilfracombe. 

Pirate girls 2

Wrecking was another popular activity, as goods were washed ashore from a wrecked ship were regarded as common property. The wreckers of Mortehoe were notorious and feared by sailors it was said a sailor would rather drown than come ashore at near the men of Morte.
Any ship in trouble brought locals to the shore and in no time the ship would be destroyed and its cargo carried away. It was illegal to claim salvage from a wrecked ship if anyone was found alive on it. Therefore the wreckers would dispose of any survivors!
One of Mortehoe's most notorious wreckers was Elizabeth Berry, who it is thought used her pitchfork to drown sailors." (she was arrested for plundering the William and Jane in 1850 and given 21 days hard labour).


It seems that everyone was involved; in 1783 all the Ilfracombe pilot boats were suspected of smuggling and one, the Cornwall, was seized and cut up into three parts. An Ilfracombe Collector from 1804-1824, Thomas Rudd, was father in law to a known smuggler, Cooke, who was never caught. In 1825 the richest man in Combe Martin, John Dovell, was prosecuted for handling smuggled goods.

The most infamous smuggler in north Devon was Thomas Benson, who in 1747 became MP for Barnstaple. The following year he was granted a lease on Lundy Island and entered into contract with the Government to carry convicts abroad. 
However, he landed them on Lundy instead to run his smuggling operation. He became over confident and was fined for smuggling and stripped of his office. He didn’t pay and his lands in Bideford were seized. To recover his losses he persuaded the Captain of the Nightingale to fire it for the insurance, but the plan was discovered and he fled to Portugal. 

Now they sound like some cracking scenario's to me....
Just the tonic to kick start the hobby again....