Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Trailing the Pike, at last

Before I was so easily distracted by the Eighteenth Century,  I had always meant to resume wargaming with the 'Pike and Shot' era,  and in particular the English Civil War / Thirty Years War period, of  around 1620 to 1650. 

Like most British gamers I suspect, my first contact with the period would have been from reading about the ECW,   which is of course the wrong name, given extensive Scottish and Irish involvement.  'The Wars of the Three Kingdoms'  is a bit of a mouthful,  but more appropriate. By the way, does anyone have a better suggestion?   King Charles' Wars, perhaps?  He was at the centre of most of them, and conveniently his successor after he lost his head was also Charles ('King Charles'- now where have I heard that recently?). I remember Stuart Asquith's series of articles in 'Battle for Wargamers' circa 1978 were quite inspiring.   But for me, there was a turning point when I chanced upon C.V. Wedgewood's The Thirty Years War,  when I was about 18.  I had no idea of that war's  existence beforehand,  I had no knowledge of the political structure of Europe (especially Germany) at the time, and I was rather entranced by what seemed a ruritanian fantasy forerunner of the present polity. As Wedgewood described the multitude of city-states and principalities that made up the Holy Roman Empire, I couldn't quite believe it wasn't all just an invented story, and really happened - and  it was fascinating. Sweden as a super-power?  A fairy story, surely?   And the characters - Gustavus Adolphus, Wallenstein, Tilly, Richelieu, poor Frederick Palatine  'The Winter King' of Bohemia  and his plucky ( English ) wife , crafty old Maximilian of Bavaria, the  Emperors Ferdinand  father and son, dashing French Generals Conde and Turenne - I'm afraid Charles, Rupert, Fairfax and even Cromwell couldn't compete, I was always  going to 'do' 30YW from then on.

I collected Pike and Shot forces in 15mm, which was quite new back then - I have some early Minifigs and a few Peter Laing figures, and quite a few chunky 'Mikes Models' ( predecessors of Essex Miniatures, I think? ).  More recently I've added some modern Essex and Peter Pig figures - many of which still await painting.  An Imperialist army seemed an obvious choice, but I managed to avoid picking Swedes as their opponent - with their salvo-firing foot and hard-charging cavalry, they seemed a bit too 'super-hero'ish.  I plumped for the French - I think I liked the idea that they were perhaps  rather showily-dressed,  and of the elan that won their stunning victory at Rocroi. 

So, now I'm ready to give pike and shot another go, and see how I get on. From the many rule sets accumulated over the years ( see my previous post ) I am going to give Philip Garton's  In Deo Veritas a try. As stated before, it is heavily influenced by Frank Chadwick's classic Volley and Bayonet, and it allows 'big' battles to be fought - my current collection looks to be just about big enough to start playing. Helpfully, the rules have four suggested scenarios of historical battles to recreate, so why not use one of those?  I think I have sufficient forces for the ECW battle of Cheriton - but of course, my troops are supposed to be Imperial and French. So, with a little help from Google Translate,  welcome to Kirchendorf, somewhere in the Rhineland.. The (somewhat dour?)  Imperialists will take the part of Parliament, while the Royalists become the (more flamboyant)  French - that seems fairly appropriate.

To give an idea, here is a slightly wobbly photo of the page from the In Deo Veritas rulebook showing the suggested terrain ( I hope this is not violating any copyrights, if requested I will happily remove the picture ).  Note the large wooded area, and that the Southern part of the table is higher ground. 

Imperialists/Parliament deploy in the South , and  French/Royalists in the North

The basic tactical unit in the rules is the Brigade ( smaller units designated 'companies' ), and  for this scenario the  opposing forces are as follows: 

Imperialist ( Parliament )  : 10 brigades cavalry, 6 brigades infantry,  2 companies Dragoons, 2 batteries Field Artillery.

French ( Royalist ) :  8 brigades cavalry,  6 brigades infantry,  1 battery Field Artillery. 

Each side has one of their foot brigades deployed as 3 'companies' of detached Musketeers, in the wooded area. 

These forces represent armies of about 10,000 and 8,500 respectively, so we have a not-too-big  'big' battle, which should be a good introduction.  I have just about enough figures to make up these forces, where a 'brigade' stand measures 75 by 40mm. I can get about 6 cavalry and 16 infantry figures to represent a brigade , with 3 dragoon or 4 infantry figures per 'company'.  Fortunately my troops are based mainly in threes and fours rather than whole units  for other rules, so my previous regiments and squadrons could be broken down into the  multiple 'brigades'  represented in these rules.

Having worked all that out, now here are the Imperialists : 

Painters of a sensitive disposition may wish to look away now.  Please excuse the dubious painting, (especially the flags) - I was very young, and it was a long time ago, before highlights and washes were invented.. But I am going to keep them just as they are, as they are a connection with times long past.  A little test of figure identification: I think the majority are Mikes Models, but the sky blue coated foot unit at the back is mainly early Minifigs ( the standard-bearer may be Peter Laing? ), the red-coated unit are later Minifigs, and the dark blue coated unit from Frei Korps, all late 1970s/early 1980s vintage.  Not sure about the guns and gunners!  I'm pleased to say that MacFarlane's Scottish  Foot and Horse will make their debut too, the Scots having obviously agreed a good price for their services from the Emperor.

And their French opponents:  

Another mixed bag of figures - I think the foot are mostly Mikes Models ( with a few more recent Essex among them ), this time it's the cavalry that are varied. The left wing horse units (nearest camera) include Peter Pig, Essex, and two generations of Minifigs.  Over on the other wing, Cuirassiers are backed-up by the King's Musketeers, and some (perhaps anachronistic)  Chevaux Leger lancers.  

I think we can sum up the opposing forces as - a right old mixture!

Having sorted out the rules and figures, next we need the battlefield. The rules assume a 6 ft by 4ft table, but I have only 3ft by 3ft, so some adjustment is necessary. I propose to simply halve the movement and shooting distances, so I have the equivalent of 6ft by 6ft.  I've kept the the unit 'footprints' unchanged ( Brigades 75mm by 40mm ) , so in effect they are double the expected size. I thought that making them half-size too would make a 'brigade' into a single rank  of 4 infantry, which wouldn't look (half)  so good.  So, I just have to hope that doesn't cause any rules issues. We'll see.. 

I had a first go at setting a table based on the scenario map, and it looks ( with a somewhat creased terrain cloth, that will need sorting out! )  something like this: 

Hopefully you can just about see that the Southern part of the battlefield is slightly higher ground, by dint of the good old-school 'books under the cloth' method. Having looked at it, I am wondering if the woods are a bit large, given the number of units each side has to deploy - and only the three detached musketeer units  for each side will deploy in the woods. I may decide to shuffle the woodland  to the East,  shrinking it  to give the main forces a bit more elbow room. 

So there we are, the basics of a battle, I hope. A few variables that may or may not cause problems, but there's only one way to find out - give it a try! 

If all goes well, my next post will be the battle report - though I'm afraid a lot of 'events, dear boy, events' may get in the way, as they have been doing for the past few weeks. So  I apologise in advance if there is a bit of a pause before that next post appears. But I'm certainly looking forward to giving thse rules a try, and giving my polyglot vintage armies their first proper 'go' in a long time! Until then, keep safe, and well, everyone. 


Tuesday, 30 August 2022

100 Up, and Where Next?

As The Ragged Soldier marches onward, a small milestone has appeared by the roadside : this is my 100th blog post. I'm rather pleasantly surprised to have come this far, and have thoroughly enjoyed both the process of creating the blog posts and the results. Thanks to all who have dropped by, and in particular I'd like to say a big 'thank you' to the elite club of 39  who have signed up to follow the blog,  and especially to all who have left ( unanimously ) friendly and supportive comments.It's fantastic that so many of you have spared some of your time and contributed your always informative and often amusing thoughts. 

 As is ( I think ) traditional, I will take the opportunity for a short break from the forward march, have a sit down on the roadside, lean back on the convenient milestone,  open up the kitbag and take stock of the contents, and ponder where the march might  take us next.

Most of  my effort so far has been devoted to the  Seven Years War period, with the troops acquired from the late Eric Knowles collection.  The campaign based loosely on the 'Soldier King' boardgame  worked out really well, and generated some interesting battles at a variety of different levels, from a small cavalry raid on an isolated outpost to the grand culminating engagement at Zouache. That's the advantage of running a campaign, I'm sure - the unpredicatability and challenges of the different  games that come up.  The campaign has reached 'winter quarters' with Prussia most certainly in the ascendant, and I think perhaps the Austrians will be seeking terms for a peace agreement, or at least some sort of truce.  I think I will continue with this setting for my 7YW games; the question I am debating is whether to resume the campaign as a simple continuation into the new campaigning season,  or re-join the story after a period of peace and recovery.   

Meanwhile some good news  I have ( finally! ) completed painting the first two units of Prussian 9th Infantry 'Jung Kleist'  regiment,  from my 40+ years old Minifigs,  and  here they are: 


Button counters and posh painters look away now, I'm afraid, but they will 'do' for The Ragged Soldier - though I think they need to work on dressing their ranks a bit better in any future pictures! Also I need to colour in the edge of that standard ( bought at the  'Broadside' show  from Flags of War ) before they go on campaign. Very simple block painting is my 'style' and the limit of my abilities -  if I tried anything more complicated I'd never get any finished! The Osprey book I used for guidance had fantastic detail of the different arrangements  of 'lace loops' on the lapels, cuffs, coat-tails etc for every regiment, and I initially thought I might try to apply that - and then realised 'with my eyesight and co-ordination- no way'!  So they got a dab of white at the cuffs and that will do..  they won't fight any worse! 

There are more of those Prussians, and plenty more unpainted figures waiting their turn - including the contingent generously gifted by Neil Patterson of  Aufklarungsabteilung  fame, who I hope will become the army of Saxony, some interesting Austrian border troops, and some nice French Dragoons in their distinctive 'nightcap' headgear. If I can keep up a 'little and often' painting routine, more of these chaps should be available for mobilisation and use in future campaigns.  So, with 7YW it's a case of just keep painting and carry on..


The D-Day Dodgers ( World War 2 in Italy ) has stalled a bit, only one game played so far, but I have ideas - I've been  reading 'The Tiger Triumphs',  which is the official British Army account of the progress of 4th, 8th and 10th Indian Divisions in Italy from 1943 to 1945, and it's been splendid stuff. Admittedly this isn't an objective and balanced account - indeed, 'gung ho' seems appropriate -but it does convey a lot of atmosphere, and the mindset of those who were actually there. I've read it with a modern map of Italy  ( 1 cm to 4km ) close at hand so as to follow progress, and that has helped no end. Describing fighting near San Marino in September 1944, we have 'of this battle, as of nearly every battle in Italy, the story is really of two battles  -  the storming of the high ground by the infantry, and the equally grim fight against time by the sappers and armour to construct crossings and to get support weapons forward before the enemy could throw his reserves at the newly won positions'. The Germans certainly did not simply stand on the defensive - there are challenges for  both sides. It strikes me that the Italian campaign involves markedly different terrain to  North-West Europe, including quite a lot of mountains! And not just wheel-to-wheel tanks, either.  I think that will make it more interesting, certainly 'different'.  

It might be fun to feature the Indian troops quite prominently - given that in  the Indian divisions, each brigade always contained one British battalion, I think I may be able to place my fictional 'West Suffolks' infantry into an equally imaginary Indian Brigade  battling though Italy. Obviously I will need to get some Indian troops mustered  - I have some figures , and am now researching a bit about the various Indian regiments, and which can be portrayed using the dress  (especially headwear) of the available figures.   Unit organisations are going to be inspired by the Rapid Fire rulesets, and Rapid Fire Reloaded looks like it might be a good choice for rules for the games, perhaps alongside  'The Portable Wargame'.  See the picture below for a Rapid Fire organisation - British infantry battalion with attached armour and artillery. 


I may need more Bren Carriers..

So, the next steps with this are simply to get some Indian troops organised and painted, and get them into some sort of action - also think a bit more about terrain. I may need more hills, too.. 

The third mainstay will I hope be the 'Pike and Shot' period, and I am deterimined to get this going pretty soon. 'Back in the day' this was my main interest,  hence the title and quotation at the top of this blog, so I feel the need to live up to the billing! 

Having been interested in the period all these years, I knew I had picked up a few sets of rules - so I thought 'let's get them all together and see what we've got'.  Well, here's the collection: 

what several decades of  impulse buying can achieve..

I had not realised just how bad my rules-buying habit had been... Fifteen in all, do you recognse them? The bottom row is proper vintage, along with the original Forlorn Hope, which I think I rather liked  ( the green cover, top centre with sadly decapitated title is Renaissance Principles of War by T.M. Penn of Leominster, Herefordshire, c.2000 - I have no memory of acquiring, let alone playing, those ! ). George Gush's and Terry Wise's rules ( bottom right ) go right back to the start, late 70s/early 80s, happy days indeed! It would be great to eventually try every set, but I suspect that is a long shot - but I wonder about  little experiment to compare and contrast certain basic mechanisms. It might be quite interesting to just have a couple of foot regiments opposing each other, and play out the 'advance, give fire, charge!' sequence under each of a selection of rulesets, to see how they work. That could be instructive.. 

 But that's not all - there are two more recently-acquired sets waiting in the wings:

I like the look of both In Deo Veritas and Twilight of the Divine Right , especially as they both aim to play 'big battle' games, and that seems eminently possible given the relatively small armies of the period. In Deo Veritas acknowledges the inspiration of good ol' Volley and Bayonet, so they can't be all bad.   I mean to get a game set up with at least one of these quite soon, Until now I have told myself I will review my available figures, sort out the basing so it's all standardised  ( and magnetic )  , and give them proper professional flags and standards in place of the terrible teenage efforts  they are currently lumbered with, and then put on a game.  I think that's not the right approach - I need to get them out, stick them to temporary cardboard bases if necessary, and get them on the table! They've waited long enough. 

So far, perhaps all too similar to the thoughts expressed in my 50th Post in early 2021, which just shows how time flies with too little achieved. But I do have a secret weapon this time, in the form of ( I hope) a bit  more time to devote to all this nonsense. Such are the joys of redundancy  (  I'm not necessarily calling it 'retirement' just yet - that seems, well, so final... but who am I kidding? ) and once all the related admin is sorted out, I do plan to devote more time to the stuff featured on this blog.

As with every other wargamer, there are many, many more 'projects' that take one's fancy for a while and may or may not go anywhere - for example Alan Tradgardmastare mentioned the other week that Lamming miniatures were available again, and I was leafing through a vintage copy of Phil  Barker's DBA, and thinking 'just a small number of figures - Greeks and Persians?'  Hmmm... And what about 19th Century Europe? I wouldn't mind uniting Italy in 1859, and I have a copy of Bloody Big Battles and Neil Thomas' excellent book on the period - how about 6mm or 10mm scale? I just re-joined the Continental Wars Society, too.    Marlborough period?  Slightly intrigued by the other theatres of war, especially Spain.  Italian wars of the 15th/16th Century? Certainly colourful.  Then there's air combat - always had a soft spot for that, since Mike Spick and his genius idea of bisected model aircraft kits back in the day.. and so it goes on.  Not sure how many of those will ever see the light of day, but one can dream!   

For the moment, probably best stick to the three main axes of advance described above, and see how we get on in my new circumstances.  So,  time to stand up, shoulder that pack, and resume the march, by the left... Let's see where the road takes us, and here's to the next 100!  Keep well, and safe, everyone.    

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Fnurban #16 : The Airfix Guide to.. Serendipity

Serendipity is 'an unplanned fortunate discovery';  I experienced a small moment of serendipity the other day.  Walking near home, I chanced upon a few books which had been left out on a front garden wall, for anyone to take. Amongst them, this:   


Airfix magazine guide no.7 ,  Warship Modelling by Peter Hodges, published by Patrick Stephens Limited, 1975.   Well, I could hardly leave that unclaimed, could I?  Especially given that the weather forecast was for thundery showers, which duly arrived later in the day and might  have meant a soggy doom for this nice little volume.

So I picked it up and took it home. It's  a little 'spotty' and yellowed on the first few pages, but otherwise in pretty decent condition and thankfully looks to be mostly acid-free paper. The back-cover 'blurb' sums it up : 

"Now anyone can build accurate models of famous warships! This invaluable book provides detailed, easy-to-follow instructions on assembling, converting, painting and displaying models from the Airfix 1:600 scale range. It includes practical conversion examples as well as guidelines on such diverse subjects as flags and when they should be flown, altering full hull to waterline models, and creating 'sea' dioramas."

It packs a surprising amount of detail into 64 pages!  I'm afraid this is not my subject area, though, so I hoped I could find it a good home.  Quite surprisingly, that only took one email, and it will soon be making its way to a new and appreciative owner. 

Just before it goes, though, I thought I would take a picture of it, temporarily united with my own collection of these splendid little books, all acquired 'back in the day' when they were originally published.   And of course, I had a browse through them, for old times' sake..


I am pretty sure I will have acquired Bruce Quarrie's 'Napoleonic Wargaming' first - it was the earliest in the series ( 1974, price £1.20 )  and I suspect it was ideal for junior wargamers looking for something 'grown-up' and sophisticated. Maybe it also  found a gap in the market, as I think earlier introductory wargaming books by Don Featherstone and Terry Wise tended to use the ACW as their 'Horse and Musket' period - perhaps due to the earlier availability of Airfix ACW figures? 

Bruce's Napoleonic game, and one of many rules charts

Looking at it now, there is a lot of information in it, for example about the varying  organisation of units in the main armies of the time - he suggests different battalion strengths and structures  for different nations to reflect that. I rather like the use of 1:33 'men to figure' scale  ( each figure representing 3 ranks of 11 men? ),  3 figures for 100 men seemed quite easy to grasp, and battalions were a bit smaller than the monster 'Grant-size' units of 48-plus figures in 'The War Game', for example - and thus affordable!  But the rules were pretty complicated - loads of charts and tables ( different movement rates for Old Guard, Young Guard, Fusilier, Grenadier, Chasseur - blimey!), detailed 'national characteristics' which seemed to advantage the French (Pas de merde, Monsieur Sherlock!), and recording individual casualties and removing a figure once 33 'men'  were hit.  Too much book-keeping! But of course, complication meant 'realism'...  Still quite fondly remembered, though. 

Phil Barker's 'Ancient Wargaming' (1975)  I liked, though I didn't actually get as far as doing much Ancient Wargaming.  No rules here, as of course you were meant to buy the WRG Ancients rules which pretty much  held a monopoly at the time. That allowed Phil to use the book as more of a primer on the subject, and he certainly knew his stuff - quoting from Ancient military manuals from page one!   It's a great introduction, it has a nice chapter on how WRG got started, and really useful wargaming advice and tips -  how not to deploy your army on a given battlefield, for instance, and how to deploy effectively on the same ground. There's a pictorial battle report where the much-vaunted Macedonian Successors get thoroughly trounced by a bunch of hairy Celts - a great lesson. That sort of stuff should be relevant regardless of rules, and Phil certainly knew what he was talking about. I've spent an enjoyable hour on a sunny afternoon this week leafing through this one, I think it may be the best of the bunch. 

Macedonians getting drubbed by Celts - and tactical advice

Bruce Quarrie's 'WW2 Wargaming' (1976) - well, again it seemed a step forward in 'accuracy' from Charles Grant's 'Battle: Practical Wargaming' and again, it had masses  of information, this time on a huge range of armoured vehicles, so that kit of a Jadgtiger that you'd bought and hurriedly built could be fielded, alongside all the Airfix Tigers you had  ( and hardly any Panzer III or IVs, I suspect! ). The Tiger I movement rate is 168mm per turn, that's very Bruce Quarrie  ('you  moved it 170mm - you cheat!')   Tank guns could fire more than once per turn - the 88mm could fire 4 times, ouch!  I think that made for pretty bloody battles; and I suspect the Germans usually won - 'national characteristcs' again.  Overall, I don't think I got on too well with these  ( and in contrast, I think Charles Grant's elegantly simple rules probably stand up pretty well today ). 

Bruce Quarrie WW2 move rates - to the mm !

Terry Wise 'ACW Wargaming' (1977) - I had loved his 'Introduction to Battlegaming' ( another book I still have ) which had featured simple ACW rules and a great game report - this was another case of a step up in detail and seriousness, though encouragingly Terry was still happy to use the Airfix ACW figures ( and I suppose Airfix didn't mind that!).  Again lots of useful information on the armies, tactics and campaigns, and a full set of rules, which introduced the concept of the differing firearms carried by various units in  the opposing armies at different times, quite an important 'period' feature.  But I admit some features of those rules put me off - for example he dispensed with dice-rolls for firing.  Maybe the number of casualties could be just calculated based on averages, and that seemed more 'scientific' and accurate,  but it just seemed a lot less fun with no dice to roll! And how to allow for the randomness of damp powder, smoke in the eyes, stressed officers, panicky troops etc?  I had a few boxes of the Airfix figures, still have a few ( on beer-mat bases, very 1970s! ), but it never quite  took off with me. 

Terry Wise 'no dice' firing tables - quite bloody, too

George Gush's 'The English Civil War' (1978) was my favourite  back then, I think - partly just becuase I liked the period so much, having been introduced to it by Stuart Asquith's series of articles in 'Battle' and 'Military Modelling', and George's brilliant 'Renaissance Armies'. Like the Ancients book, there was no rule set included -because again, you were pointed to the WRG set for the period, which had also been written ( of course ) by George.  It's a straightforward introduction with chapters on  The Course of the War, Weapons and Equipment, Organisation and Tactics etc, and of course George really was the expert in the period.  Actual wargaming gets just one chapter, but I loved the account of a  game, an exciting convoy ambush  between 'Puddleby' and 'Little Pottering'  which I still mean to actually play someday.  I  just need to get some wagons.. ( says he, 40 years later ).

Puddleby and Little Pottering immortalised

So there we are - serendipity indeed!  A chance find has led to several happy ( or wasted - should be painting !)  hours browsing through these nice little books and invoking fond memories. I'm sure some of them still have quite a lot to offer, even if the rules systems they propose are no longer in favour.  I am quite tempted to get the George Gush  ECW rules out and try that convoy ambush sometime!   Overall, I think Phil Barker's 'Ancient Wargaming' is the pick of the bunch, for his depth of learning and his fund of good  advice, which has not aged - I bet current gamers  getting into 'Strength and Honour' or 'Mortem et Gloriam'  could learn just as much from it. 

Right, I must get  'Warship Modelling' packed up and posted to its new owner, who I'm sure will thoroughly enjoy it.  After that, I should be doing some painting.. Prussian 9th Infantry 'Jung Kleist' are tantalisingly close to completion at last!   Keep well, and safe, everyone.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Der schnelles tragbares 'drei-mal-drei'-Kriegsspiel..

..which should, more or less, mean 'Fast Play 3 by 3 Portable Wargame' :  Thanks to Google translate for the title of this post. I leave it to proper German-speakers to decide whether it is sensible, or if as John F. Kennedy famously said, 'I am a doughnut!'.  I suppose the following might be the battle of 'Dreimaldrei'..

As introduced in my last post, I thought I'd get back into the gaming habit by trying out Bob Cordery and friends'   'FP3x3' variant, with my  7YW Prussians and Austrians - see that post for forces and initial setup.  I thought I'd use my usual 'Portable Seven Years War' variant rules for formations, firing, close combat etc, fitting them to Mark Cordone and Bob Cordery's basic '3x3' system, and essentially 'kriegspeiling' anything unexpected that came up - i.e. make it up as you go along! If I'm honest, a few things did 'come up', and what with those, taking ( too many ) notes and taking (also too many ) pictures, I wouldn't say I actually achieved 'Fast Play'!  But next time, it will be quicker. The game ran to eight turns before a decision was reached, though that  could have been sooner had the dice landed a little differently. A brief turn-by-turn summary follows:

TURN ONE:   Austrians are attackers, so go first - but only roll two unit activations. Their field gun opens fire on its opposite number, - and misses. Their Grenzer light infantry advances and  skirmishes against Von Kleist Frei Korps in the wood, score a hit and take 1 SP - a good start! Prussians roll a six and can activate up to 6 units - their whole force, if required. Their gun does better, forcing the Austrian gunners to retreat. Prussian Uhlans decide that attack is the best form of defence, coming out of the  reserve area and charging at the Austrian Cuirassiers on their left - get stuck in! The resulting  melee is inconclusive, neither side suffering any hit.

Turn 1 from Prussian side: cavalry fight, top centre

TURN TWO: Prussians win initiative roll, and go first with five activations. Their gun hits again, taking 1 SP from 1st Botta d'Adorno infantry. The Uhlans, however are thrown back by Austrian Cuirassiers. Two battalions of von Kleist Frei Korps in the wood do a 'one-two' on Austrina Grenze Light Infantry, who are forced to retreat AND Lose 1 SP.    Austrians roll only two activations again, not very good when they are supposed to be attacking!  1st battalion Botta d'Adorno charge the pesky Prussian artillery, but the combat is inconclusive - the gunners have a supporting unit, and their commander present to gee them up.  

Turn 2: Austrian foot charge gun, but Lights being pushed back

TURN THREE: Austrians win initiative, but only three activations. 1st Botta retire from the combat, allowing Grenze Hussars to charge the Prussian guns! Resulting melee still inconclusive - gunners obviously dived for cover successfully.  Light infantry hang in there,  skirmishing versus Von Kleist. Prussians have only two activations, 2nd Von Kleist goes at the Light infantry with the bayonet, but rolls low, takes another SP loss and is destroyed! Prussian gunners manage to disengage, but are forced to retreat into the Reserve area. I 'kriegspeiled' that, by ruling they have to stay there, inactive,  on the next  move. 

Turn 3 : Grenze Hussars 'charge for the guns'!

 TURN FOUR:  Prussians win initiative again, so much for Austrian 'attack'! Uhlans charge Cuirassiers again, but take a hit and lose 1 SP.  1st battalion 44th Fusiliers try to repel Grenze Hussars, but with no effect.  Austrians have only one activation, but use it well - their gun opens up on 1st von Kleist foot, forcing it to retreat to the Reserve area. That means there are no Prussian units in their right-hand grid areas.  The rules say that 'if, at the end of a player's turn, one or more of his columns does not have at least one unit in it, his army is defeated'.  Luckily for the Prussians, this is at the end of the Austrian player's turn.. but prompt action will be required!

TURN 4: Prussian right flank in danger!

TURN FIVE:  Austrians gain initiative, can they finish the job? Their Cuirassiers keep slashing and thrusting at the Uhlans, but neither gives way. 1st and 2nd Botta foot attack 1st Prussian Fusiliers in the centre, but outnumbered Fusiliers hold firm. Light infantry advance unopposed on the Austrian left, but can't make the Prussian baseline - which would have been a winning move,  as Prussian units can't advance from Reserve into a square occupied by the enemy.  So, on the Prussian turn 1st von Kleist manage to get onto their right-hand baseline square - and force the Austrian Light infantry to retreat - thus Prussians avoid defeat.  Fusiliers and Botta foot continue their struggle, with no hits to either, but Cuirassiers lose 1 SP in melee with Uhlans. This will lead  to  drastic effects on the next turn..

Turn 5: Prussians recover ground on their right, phew!

TURN SIX:  Prussians win initiative: the Uhlans inflict another SP on the Austrian Cuirassiers, who are destroyed. Uhlans can follow-up, that allows them to hit the Grenze Hussars in flank, Grenzers retreat - Uhlans can follow-up again! this time they attack the Austrian light infantry - who retreat. Three combat wins on the trot for Uhlans, chaos in the Austrian ranks! Only the presence of the Austrian gun prevents a further follow-up. Elsewhere, 2nd Fusiliers are able to turn on the flank of Botta infantry, though Botta holds OK , and finally Von Kleist foot charge the poor Austrian gunners, who are unable to retreat, as their Reserve area is already full, so must lose 1SP.  Near disaster for the Austrians!

Turn 6:   Uhlans (centre) create havoc!

But the Uhlans' mad charge leaves  them vulnerable, and on the Austrian turn the Grenze Hussars charge their flank, inflicting 1 SP loss, and the Uhlans are destroyed! 1st Botta d'Adorno fights back aganst the flanking 2nd Fusiliers, push them back and follow up to extend their line to the right. The Light infantry having been forced back into reserve, now re-appear on the Austrian right. Things look a lot more stable for the Austrians, much to their relief. 

End Turn 6 : Austrian stability restored

TURN SEVEN: Prussians win initiative -  Fusiliers keep fighting Austrian infantry, but no hits. 1st Von Kleist attacks Austrian gunners -but again, no hits. Prussian gun takes position in the wood. Austrian Grenze Hussars charge 1st von Kleist on the left, saving their gunners. In the big infantry fight, Prussian 2nd Fusiliers lose their 2nd SP and are destroyed , and 1st Fusiliers are then attacked in the flank by the Austrian follow-up They hold, but the Prussians now have only three units left, and none on their left flank. It could be the end this time..

Turn 7: beleagured Prussian foot, and left flank empty..

TURN EIGHT:  at this crucial  point, the Prussians win initiative; they must get troops back to their left flank on their turn, or lose the battle. They have their gun and von Kleist foot on their right - too far away.  1st Fusiliers in the centre, already engaged by two enemy units, must fight and win! They attack 1st Botta - and roll a '1'!  The Fusiliers must retreat into the Reserve area,  the Prussian  left cannot be saved, and indeed their centre is now gone too!  So, the game ends in a crushing Austrian victory.    

Turn 8: how it ended. Prussian collapse!

Well, that was actually a lot of fun! As I said before  I was very slow,  too busy taking pictures and making copious notes as it was my first attempt, but I reckon a game played under more 'normal' conditions would have needed less than one hour. I had a few issues come up that had to be resolved on the hoof, so to speak, as follows: 

(1)  Skirmishing - I wanted the Light Infantry to be able to skirmish, i.e. shoot up enemy units without making close contact, but the '3by3' rules simply merge shooting and melee into 'combat' for any unit adjacent to the enemy. In effect I simply allowed Light Infantry to use the musketry procedure from my 18th Century rules ( max range 1 square only, though ) rather than 3by3 'combat' - so they could shoot and inflict hits with no comeback from the target. But of course, I had to allow opposing infantry to fire back in the same way on their turn - OR declare a charge and go for 'combat', which they usually did. I wonder if it might be better to allow the Lights, if in skirmish order, to roll a dice for an 'evade', allowing them to cancel any hits when attacked, or reduce the likelyhood of hits? I'll think a bit more about that.            

(2) Two units in a square: with 18th Century units mostly deployed in line, they occupy the full width of a grid square. So if there are two units in the square, it sort of implies one is in front of the other. If an enemy unit attacks, is it assumed to attack the 'front' unit? Or maybe it can choose which?  Important if there are, say, an infantry and a cavalry unit sharing the grid square. I need to think about that, too- I rather 'bluffed it out' on a couple of occasions. 

(3)  Supporting units - Mark Cordone's original 3by3 variant says if two units are in a grid square and one is attacked, one unit fights but gets a plus one for the supporting unit. Bob's 19th Century version in the next chapter of his 'Compendium' book rules that supporting units must be of the same type to give the 'plus 1'.  Hmmm... I think I'm with Mark. I wasn't sure how to handle artillery as a 'support' in close combat - artillery are obviously useless in melee, but if this is more generic 'combat' over a short range, then canister should be allowed for - that must be a significant bonus?  Again, some thought required. 

Apologies to seasoned players who have discussed and settled all these issues on-line - I'm afraid I don't do Facebook, so I haven't seen the 'PW' group there! Maybe I need to sign up with Mr. Zuckerburg, however reluctantly. 

 Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, the '3x3Fast Play' concept is great for getting an easy game on the table when you don't have the time or space for something more serious, and there's got to be scope for 'mini-campaigns' where the battles can be quickly fought out this way - as I think fellow blogger Maudlin Jack Tar is indeed doing.  I commend this idea to The House.. 

Hope you've enjoyed reading this, as I did playing and writing it up.  If you haven't already, why not give it a go?   Thanks to Bob, Mark and all the other contributors to the '3x3Fast Play' idea.    Keep well, and safe, everyone.  




Sunday, 31 July 2022

One door closes..


The slightly grubby rucksack in the picture ( it's been carried between my house and my partner's,  weekly for several years ) contained my 'work PC' and phone- a nice man from DHL came to collect it last week, finally ending my 24 years supprting  IT systems for a major UK supermarket.  Five different employers in that time, mind you - oh, the joys of outsourcing and  'TUPE' transfers.  What does this mean? In the short term,  an email bombardment from an outplacement agency re:my 'jobsearch',  and would I please upload my CV? To which I answer 'what CV?'  I haven't had a job interview since 1997... I think I'm going to be a disappointment to them.  

It's surprising just how much mental effort and 'bandwidth'  is required by the process of  being made redundant, and the result is clear from the reduced frequency of blog entries here and the total absence of gaming in the past few months. But now it's done, I think I may have a bit more hobby time, which is very welcome.  I need to have a bit of a think about how to use that - expect some sort  of  'thinking aloud' post on future plans quite soon. 

The good news is, some gaming has indeed occurred - the first instance of which was a 'Command and Colours' Austerlitz extravaganza,  which has been covered by the host, Liverpool Dave, on his St Cyr on Wheels blog,    It was a brilliant  afternoon, and a great pleasure to meet fellow blogger Nundanket again too. Cheers guys!

I've been mssing getting actual figures onto a table too, and I wanted a quick and easy way of getting back into that habit. Something 'Fast Play', on a small gaming area ( say, a 3 by 3 grid? ).. I think we can see where this is going, Having prepared a pinboard gaming 'table' for 'The Fast Play 3 by 3  Portable Wargame' not long ago, it was high time to give it a try. Everything required was to hand, in Bob Cordery's recent The Portable Wargame Compendium, as follows: 

(i) Terrain:  see page 92,  Pre-Generated Terrain by Mike Tabor - just roll a D20. It came up '7' which gave me this very simple terrain: 

Just one wooded area, on the defender's baseline, right flank. 

 (ii) Forces : page 85,  Army Composition by Mark Cordone. Each side will have six units plus a commander, simply roll a D6 for each and select the suggested numbers of common unit types. I used my Seven Years War forces, and rolled as follows: 

Prussians rolled a '6' and got 

-  Four Line Infantry units ( 2 battalions 44th Fusiliers, 2 battalions Von Kleist Frei Korps ) ,

- One Cavary unit  ( 1 squadron Von Kleist Uhlans ) 

- One Field Gun and Crew. 

Austrians rolled a '1' ,  resulting in

- Two Line Infantry units   ( 2 battalions Botta d'Adorno foot )

- Two Cavalry units ( 1 squadron Cuirassiers, 1 squadron Grenze Hussars ) 

- One Field Gun and Crew

- One Light Infantry Unit ( 1 squadron dismounted Grenze Hussars ) 

Plus one commander for each side. All units have 2 SPs ( Strength Points ) and I decided that all units would be 'average' quality. So, an interesting mixture! 

Lastly dice for attack/defence, and the Prussians were deemed Defenders - which seemed quite appropriate given their infantry-heavy array. Both sides set up, as seen below: 


Prussians on the right. The units are set up on their respective baselines, with some held back in the 'Reserve' areas behind.   Prussian infantry covers the whole front, with their Uhlans held in reserve: Austrians have their Cuirassiers massed on their right, and Light Infantry  ready to skirmish in front of the woods on their left. Attackers move first on Turn One, after that dice for initiative each turn. So, Austrians to start Turn One.  And that's where we'll leave it for now: a full battle report will be the next post on this blog. Meanwhile, keep safe, and well, everyone. 


UPDATE : thanks very much to all for sympathetic comments re: the redundancy. It wasn't voluntary, but it wasn't entirely unexpected either, and I think I am at an age and situation where I can accept it and move on to a new stage in life.  It is rather strange thinking 'what to do today?', and little things like not having to finish my morning walk ( habit acquired in lockdown) in time for the 'daily stand-up' meeting!  

One very sad aspect, though: back in May, on a day walking by the Thames near Richmond, I had a very useful conversation with an old friend, Kevin,  who had much experience of working through TUPE/redudancy processes, also in the IT sector, from both worker and manager point of view. What I mainly got from him was 'don't take it personally, don't get angry, they are only working to a budget, good luck to them if they are making a mistake, on their heads be it. Make the best of it, take the (hopefully  generous)  payout and enjoy life'.  That helped me quite a lot, and I looked forward to meeting him again now, to tell him I had gone through the process OK and was looking forward to the future - he had himself managed to retire about 6 months before. But that was not to be, Kevin passed away suddenly in June, and today his family and friends gathered to mark his passing and remember him. Cheers, mate, and thanks, I won't forget.


Saturday, 9 July 2022

Fnurban #15: An Imposter at the Festschrift

 On Tuesday I was lucky to be able to attend a rather special event - and all thanks to the generosity of  most excellent fellow blogger Nundanket .  This was the 'Festschrift'  presentation organised by Helion & Compamy in honour of  Professor Christopher Duffy,  which launched  their new publication 'The Changing Face of Old Regime Warfare: essays in honour of Christopher Duffy'.    



Perhaps I should add this ( from Wikipedia ) "In academia, a Festschrift (German pronunciation: [ˈfɛst.ʃʁɪft] ) is a book honoring a respected person, especially an academic, and presented during their lifetime. It generally takes the form of an edited volume, containing contributions from the honoree's colleagues, former pupils, and friends. Festschriften are often titled something like Essays in Honour of... or Essays Presented to... ." 

I'll admit I hadn't heard of the concept before!  Here is Helion's description of the event :

For over half a century, Professor Christopher Duffy has produced ground-breaking and
definitive works on a wide range of military history topics. Perhaps best-known for his

work on the armies and campaigns of the mid-eighteenth century, with books on Prussians,

Austrians, and Jacobites, he has also tackled key battles of the Napoleonic era and even the

climactic closing campaign of the Second World War in Europe. Throughout, his work

has taken deep research and scholarly rigour and made it available to a general audience.

As Helion continues to reprint some of Christopher’s
best-known books, we are also seeking to pay tribute to the influence that his work has on the generations of historians who have followed in his footsteps.The result is a Festschrift edited by Dr Alexander S. Burns and containing 16 essays by historians from across Europe and North America that pick up on themes from Christopher’s work and build on his legacy to add new detail to our understanding of warfare during the eighteenth century and beyond. In an exclusive launch event, generously supported by the British Commission for Military History, the Festschrift will be presented to Christopher in the Field Marshals’ Room at the Cavalry and Guards Club on Tuesday 5 July, with talks being delivered by both the volume’s editor and its honouree.Places are limited to 40 guests only 

Nundanket is a very big fan of Proffessor Duffy's work and was 'over the moon'  to be one of the 40 lucky ticketholders, but then sadly 'sick as a parrot' when it transpired that this clashed with his family holiday. He kindly offered the ticket to anyone else able to take it up, and with some trepidation I took him up on the offer - being by no means a Duffy afficiando, I did feel  quite an imposter. I have read and very much enjoyed a few of his books,  but I wouldn't call myself an expert! 


 Cavalry and Guards Club - Wikipedia

The venue was an interesting element - no less than the Cavalry and Guards Club in London's Piccadilly. If I wasn't an.imposter among Duffyists,  I certainly would be at the Cavalry and Guards!  Fortunately I did think to check the club rules - jacket and tie required, of course. I haven't dressed even remotely smartly since a family wedding last year, but I was quite glad to do so. ( another chap arriving at the same time as me was stopped by the staff and asked to put on a tie - they had a handy box of 'spares'! ).  I wasn't going to risk ejection by getting my camera out, but you can get a good idea from their website:  -  it's not too scruffy.  Curiously enough given the exclusivity,  no-one actually asked to see my ticket - one must just look the right kind of chap.

And so to the event itself : a rather pleasant, informal evening. Andrew Bamford of Helion hosted, and we were given short speeches by three speakers including Alexander Burns who has edited the book, and William Philpott of the British Commission for Military History (BCMH) who were co-sponsors of the event, Professor Duffy having been a founding member back in the mists of time - it seems no-one can remember exactly when. A third speaker's name escapes me ( sorry - I think I'd read another club rule about not using notebooks! ) , but was a colleague of Christopher's when lecturing at  Sandhurst. All three were fulsome in their praise, of course. 

Professor Duffy is 86 now and uses a wheelchair, a little frail of appearance and voice, but still entirely 'with it' and also gave a short address, with some quirky anecdotes - he seems to have made a speciality of visiting archives behind the Iron Curtain, long before the end of the Cold War, surprising for a Sandhurst man? Also of meeting a notorious WW2 character ( who was subsequently murdered ), and told of being chased back to an army Landrover by an angry pack of 'Catholic' dogs  during a research trip to Northern Ireland in the 1970s.  A man of surprisingly wide interests and experiences - and still busy thanks to Helion. I think they  said he currently has no less than  three books 'on the go'. 

The speeches took up about 45 minutes, giving way to informal mixing and  chat for the last hour, rather than overtaxing the guest of honour with a formal 'Q&A', and that seemed fair enough.  I wasn't so forward as to introduce myself to the great man, but very pleased to have seen and heard him.I did have a pleasant chat with the chaps from Helion, and also with representatives of the BCMH  ( their website: ), including  Andrew Grainger and Tim Gale. 

Since I am soon going to be having more time on my hands ( I think it's called 'leaving the work force' ), I have been thinking I might be interested to try to do some 'proper'  study of Military History - any suggestions welcome -  though I wouldn't be able to run to the fees for taking a degree-level course.  I was unaware of  the BCMH and am now thinking it might be interesting to join - they do say 'enthusiasts' are welcome, not only professionals!  

Finally I was forward enough to introduce myself to Professor Gary Sheffield, using the old 'I know your friend Bob Cordery' line.. He fell for it  ( well, it is true! ), and  is clearly a thoroughly nice man ( and I thought his book 'Forgotten Victory'  about 1914-1918 was brilliant ). It was great to meet him, albeit briefly, and that completed a really interesting evening. Many thanks to all concerned, especially Mr. Nundanket ! 

p.s. Reader, I bought the book.

Keep well, and safe, everyone. 









Thursday, 30 June 2022

Fnurban #14 : Northumberland - Moss Troopers, Anti-Tank Cubes and pre-Wells Wargamers

All a bit quiet here recently, partly due to a pleasant week's holiday in Northumberland; as it turned out, there was quite a lot of what might be called 'hobby interest' there.  I suppose if you go anywhere in Britain, there will be history waiting to be discovered, of course - but Northumberland seems to have had more than its share!  Unsurprising, perhaps, given its location close to the English/Scottish border,  the scene of centuries of warfare.   

The area is peppered with fortifications  of various ages, styles and states of repair: a great example was the village of Elsdon, in Redesdale,  within a handful of miles of  our cottage ( which was in Coquetdale ). A walk fron the village started close to  a well-preserved Norman  motte and bailey: 

In fact the village, rather picturesque now, is a completely militarised landscape. The motte and bailey is on the right, and in the centre the large building is a Pele tower ( fortified manor house ) dating from the early 15th Century - the neighbouring church has thick walls so as to be defensible, and the the village green ( left ) was surrounded by a defensive wall too. They were well-prepared to see off any Scots raiders, Reivers or 'Moss Troopers'.  The churchyard also revealed a mass-grave, probably of  casualties from  the battle of Otterburn ( 'Chevy Chase' ) nearby in 1388.

The Norman castle at Elsdon was built by Robert de Umfraville,  soon after the conquest, but abandoned by about 1160 as his descendents moved to nearby Harbottle, where we also visited the  ruins of their stone castle.  


Mind you, it did them no good, as the new castle was beseiged and taken by the Scots in 1174, only a few years after it was built! the castle fell into decay after the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England in 1605, which presumably brought peace to the region, after hundreds of years of strife. Until 1689, 1715 and 1745, that is! 

Moving forward a little in time, we also visited the splendid National Trust property of Wallington, home of the splendidly intellectual and eccentric Trevelyan family, and childhood home of historian G.M. Trevelyan, whose histories of Marlborough's wars  and of Garibaldi will be known to many. It's a good visit for anyone, and the Walled Garden is a particular highlight if gardens are your thing - we were lucky to see it in mid/late June, peak flowering season.  But there is a bonus, especially for readers of this blog. In the former servants hall, we saw this: 


"20 mil Semi-Flats sir, thousands of 'em!"

The guide book explains :

"The collection of model soldiers, now totalling 3,800, was acquired in the early 1880s for the three sons of George Otto Trevelyan - Charles, Robert and George. They were made in Germany. 

The boys set them out on the floor of the Museum above the Saloon, following plans of actual battles of the Marlborough and Napoleonic Wars. Books were used to represent hills. Careful calculations were made as to the correct fire-power of the guns and the agreed number of soldiers laid low at each volley: a battle might therefore take several days to complete. 


French infantry looking more 1880s than 1815 ?

Plenty of Cuirassiers!

 It was to this study of the game of Kriegspiel that G.M. Trevelyan attributed his own capacity for so vividly describing battles, and both he and Sir Charles gave Kriegspiel as their hobby in Who's Who, even as adults. 

and 'Prussian Guards' Grenadiers

 The soldiers are today laid out in regiments of Napoloeon's, Blucher's and Wellington's armies, exactly as Sir Charles left them in the Musuem."


and sets of ( surprisingly tiny ) kriegspiel blocks

Impressive stuff, and 25 years before H.G. Wells!  Though of course, Kriegspiel was around well before that.  The figures looked to me about 20mm ( maybe 25mm? ) and 'semi-flat' style, there was no information on the makers apart from 'German'.  Would any experts out there like to hazard a guess?  Much of the French infantry are uniformed in contemporary ( c.1880s ) style, but I'm sure they performed splendidly under the command of Bonaparte! 

 Now on to the 1940s: we spent a lovely sunny afternoon at Almouth beach, where we found another relic of our island's warlike history - a nice  grouping of 1940 vintage concrete anti-tank cubes.  These were part of the very rapidly-contrstructed defences which were installed all along the South and East coasts of Britain following the defeat of France - we are familiar with them on  East Anglian beaches too. 

What with the pill-boxes and other fortifications that still pepper the landscape and once made up the multiple  'stop lines'  intended to delay Hitler's Panzer Divisions if they invaded, I'm sure I've been told that this was the largest civil-engineering program in British history up to that time.  Though perhaps it was  overtaken only two or three years later by the construction of airfields for Bomber Command and the U.S. Army 8th Air Force, which resulted in  a concrete runway being withing 5 miles of pretty much any point in East Anglia.   

these are rather scupltural - good use of corrugated iron!

The sheer amount of effort that must have gone into these things, in a very short timescale,  is impressive  - but when confronted with them so far North, I have my doubts about them. Would Hitler have really tried to land an army here?  The whole point of The Battle of Britain being that air supremacy was a pre-requisite for successful landings, there was surely,  simply no chance of the Lufwaffe being able to put effective ( i.e. single-seater ) fighter cover over  beaches and sea-lanes so far North - they just wouldn't have the range. That must have been known at the time, so one wonders why so much effort was put into these defences. I suspect it was perhaps more about stiffening morale at home, and 'being seen to be doing something'. Does anyone have a view, or specialist knowledge,  on that?

So there we are - a very  pleasant week in Northumberland ( we were very lucky with the weather!), with lots of historical/hobby interest thrown in. All those castles, pele towers and defensible churches,  and the general landscape,  gave me ideas. Must dig out my copy of 'The Steel Bonnets' and learn about the Border Reivers and their exploits.  Hmmm, would it make a Portable '3 X 3' Wargame?    Keep well, and safe, everyone.