Friday, 24 December 2021

Soldier King Campaign : a bloody big battle?

It really is time some wargaming got done. 

One minute it's early December, the next minute it's almost Xmas, it seems.. Real life intrudes far too much for my liking, 'time and space', as always are in short supply. Thankfully, the very sociable Mr. Omicron has not approached our door, as far as we know.  In between the shopping and card-writing (and not forgetting, also work), a small amount of hobby activity has taken place - concerning my Seven Years War campaign based on the 'Soldier King' boardgame.  

We left things at the end of Summer 1757, with a daring Austrian cavalry raid on a Prussian outpost, which made off with vital supplies but at some cost, one unit of Cuirassiers being lost; and a  superior  Prussian force still threatened to overrun the Austrian home territories.   The next campaign move therefore being Autumn 1757, I rolled dice for initiative, and Austria won the right to move first - buying them time to  organise some sort of defences.  The dice gods have a habit of getting things right, it seems - it would have been less interesting if Prussia had taken the initiative and possibly just overrun the hapless Austrians before they could get organised.  Rolling a further die gave them four 'marches' , i.e the opportunity to move four 'stacks' of units, each unit being allowed a maximum of two marches. These were used to reinforce the main Austrian army at the city of Zouache, with a small flank guard at the crossroads of  Landsburg - and both of those commands were able to use one 'march' activation to entrench.   Austrian forces are notably weaker than the Prussians, but have made the best of their precarious situation.  With apologies for less-than exciting illustrations, here is the situation:

Zouache on the river, Landsburg to the NE

So, Prussian turn next - they rolled a splendid six marches.  A dilemma presented itself - would they go for the blunt instrument of a straightforward attack on the main Austrian force at Zouache, or try to manoeuvre and outflank them? The lightly-held outpost at Landsburg is more valuable for recruitment, so taking it would be a longer-term benefit ( with the winter recruiting season approaching ) , and would outflank the enemy main force and threaten to cut its communications, and leave the Austrian homeland in danger.  However, the season was late, ( this is the last turn before winter ) the roads somewhat indirect,  and the limitation of two 'marches' per unit would not have allowed exploitation of any advantage if Landsburg was taken. If the Austrian main force could simply be attacked and defeated now, their resistance would be at an end, and the campaign won.  Given all that, I put it to the Dice Gods : roll one die, with a roll of 1 or 2 meanng 'manoeuvre', and 3 to 6  'attack'. I rolled... a '3', so 'attack' it is! 

With plenty of moves available, the Prussians were able to marshal their forces and launch a two-pronged attack - with their infantry approaching Zouache from the North, while cavalry swung in from the West. And so, battle will be joined. 

In 'Soldier King' units, the defending Austrians have the following: 

        Infantry : 3 units Veterans,   2 units Levies 

        Cavalry  :  1 unit Heavy ( Levies ) , 3 units Light ( 2 veteran, 1 Levy ) 

While Prussia's attacking army is as folows: 

    Infantry : 1 unit Guard, 5 units Veterans 

    Cavalry : 3 units Guard Heavy. 

Prussians (blue) stronger in all departments

Translating to The Portable Wargame, that would be about 28 Strength Points of Austrians versus 37 Strength Points for the Prussians. Quite an advantage to the attackers, but against 'entrenched' defenders, that should even things up a bit. 

I now have to decide exactly how to play this out - in particular, have I even got enough figures? That's a lot of Prussian infantry units!  I may need to hurry up and finish painting the troops I recently made  a start on.  Or, perhaps try different rules and/or a different representation of units? Some more  thinking will be needed. Owing to circumstances ( i.e the amazing spread of Omicron ) I do not have any social engagements at all over the next week or so - there should at least  be plenty of  time to spend on this, once the big day is out of the way, leftovers eaten and the washing-up done...

So I hope to report on this fairly soon - in the meantime here's wishing a very merry Xmas to all my readers and followers!  Let's hope things are brighter in 2022. Keep safe, and well, everyone. 

Sunday, 5 December 2021

A fine day out: Broadside 2021

TYesterday I paid a visit to Gillingham, Kent for the 'Broadside 2021' show staged by Milton Hundred Wargames Club - and a thoroughly pleasant day it turned out to be.

The venue was the Medway Park Sports Centre, a new location for the show, and it was a big improvement on the old Sittingbourne venue, which was quite small  ( and when I went their in 2019 they had to open doors for ventilation, not sure that would have been good for Covid and in December!).   As you can see, the new venue is a cavernous sports hall, there was masses of space and ventilation was fine.  I was also impressed by the level of face-covering, quite a contrast to last month at SELWG and  Salute where hardly anyone ( myself included ) was covered-up. Our new 'friend' Mr.  Omicron has changed people's attitudes, it seems. 

Enough of that, on with the show. I met my good friend Dave 'St Cyr' at the venue,  and we fell easily into our usual routine of  'games, then lunch, then traders'.  It's not a large show, and that made it all rather relaxing, plenty of time to see the games and chat to the players if we felt like it - I always feel a lot  of time pressure at Salute!   There were 14 club  games listed on the program, plus some trader's participation games, an in contrast to Salute I think the no-show rate was very low, or maybe even zero - good news.  I thought the standard of games was pretty high, there were a lot of really nice-looking tables, and plenty of time to watch and chat. 

Montenotte: French columns coming from all directions..

I think our favourite was  'The Battle of Montenotte, 1796'  staged by Postie's Rejects; a refight of Napoleon Bonaparte's first battle as Commander-in-Chief  of the Army of Italy.   Dave was always going to be interested in this, he's a complete Napoleonic nut!  It was an interesting and 'different' game, being more 'Revolutionary' Wars  than 'Napoleonic', with the French mass-conscript columns taking on the Ancien Regime  Linear warfare Austrians - plus, I really liked the wooded North Italian terrain.  We were warmly welcomed by the Rejects and given a thorough and interesting explanation. We went back at intervals to see progress - which went as per the historical event, with a convincing win for Napoleon. The Austrians always looked to have a tough gig, with French columns emerging from the woods on all sides. 

the end is nigh: note nearest Austrians in full retreat..


'Who were those masked men?'

Several other games looked good, and here's a selection of the ones I managed to photograph: 

Ireland 1798 : rebels mass to assault the castle

 Real Time Wargames are always interesting, and were only 2 years later than the Rejects with their 'The Year of Liberty: 10mm Irish Rebellion 1798' mini-campaign game. One of their trademark  'twists' being  that  players represent the various British district commanders, who are in fact rivals trying to best each other, as much as the rebels.   Again, we were made thoroughly welcome and given an enthusiastic explanation. I think they said they had completed four games in the course of the day!  

 Shepway Wargames Club put on an impressively  large 1914 game  'You Will Be Home Before the Leaves Fall' , played down the length of a long table, complete with Taube and Bleriot spotter planes flying over the battlefield. 


 Old Fritz  appeared to be doing pretty well, with lancers securing a vital bridge, as the local populace (including a party of nuns)  rushed to escape, and presumably blocked the road.


Gravesend Gamers Guild played 'Cold War Gets Hot: Team Yankee 1985'  with masses of armour and Tornado airstrikes.  

Deal Wargames Society ran a great-looking Vietnam War participation game, 'On the Way To Hue' 


South East Essex ( SEEMS )  put on 'An Affair of Outposts'  set in the Peninsular War (I think) using 'Rebels and Patriots' rules  Napoleonic variant    


 That's all the games I photographed - I'm slightly embarrassed to say I omitted to get pictures of the game which was declared 'best in show' - I think that was Friday Night Fire Fight with 'Warmachine Invason'. Sorry I missed 'em!

 After a quick sandwich and a chat,  we toured the traders -  I have to admit that they weren't exactly looking rushed off their feet by the afternoon, so one felt duty bound to spend a little! 

I went for transport for my 7YW forces and  housing for 30YW,  courtesy of Parkfield Miniatures (metal wagon) , 1/72nd models ( HaT baggage wagon )  and Blotz  ( medieval house and shop ). I like a good supply convoy scenario, so  they'll do nicely. 


Dave picked up a bag of trees and some cardboard buildings from the Bring and Buy, at a bargain price, so we may be a step closer to seeing his Napoleonic troops take to the table.  Finally  I sadly failed to  find any excuse to buy from  this stall - aimed at Live Action Role Players, it seems.

 And that's about it. I had a thoroughly pleasant day, it was relaxed and friendly, well-organised by the  Milton Hundred club and a much improved venue. I wonder if the attendance was maybe  a bit sparse, which is perhaps not surprising in current circumstances - the large hall did not seem crowded, but it would have easily soaked up a big crowd without feeling anywhere near rammed.  Anyway, we saw several very nice games and enjoyed talking to the players,  and  made a few essential purchases, can't ask for much more.  A slight bonus for me is the nostalgia factor, having lived in Gillingham as a small child, and then grown up in Sittingourne, home of the Milton Hundred club ( I even had a chat with some chaps from local Rainham Wargames Club, of which I was a teenage member c.1976-81! ).  

The organisers  have already scheduled Broadside 2022 for June, and I will put that in next year's diary (when I get one!). In the summer, you could probably do the show,  and then visit the historic Chatham Dockyard, just down the hill.. Let's hope life is a bit better by then -  meanwhile many thanks to all who worked to put on yesterday's show, and all who ran games and tradestands, hope to see you next year!  



In the meantime keep safe, and well, everyone.  

**UPDATE** : more and much better pictures in Big Lee's report, and he says the organisers told him attendance was pretty good, comparable to past years. The larger hall was clearly a good move! 

Thursday, 2 December 2021

All directions, and none..

After 'Salute' I was quite inspired and motivated,  but 'time and space, dear boy...'  Not a lot of time has been available for hobby activities, but with a true wargamer's butterfly mind I have tried to do several different things at once.  Most practical was at least getting the paintbrushes out :

1760 meets 1943 on the painting table..

On the bottletops we have 16 Prussian  Seven Years War line infantry who will represent the 9th 'Jung Kleist' regiment, when they finally get their  Prussian Blue coats.  Then some  additional artillery of various types for the 'D-Day Dodgers' - German Wespe and 20mm AA gun, British  M7 Priest and  40mm Bofors AA. That Priest was more of a Devil when it came to building - far too many parts and I couldn't get it to fit together!  The Germans also get the mandatory Puma armoured car, much more common on wargames tables than in reality, it seems - but they do look so good...

The plan, in a wave of Salute-based optimism, was to have a 'hobby hour' most days and paint 'little and often',  That hasn't quite taken, I'll admit, but tomorrow is another day.. 

something of a literary warm bath

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the late Charles Grant's 'Wargame Tactics' , which I caught up with at SELWG - a mere 42 years since publication ( sadly it seems he very sadly  passed away just before it was published, so very much his last work ).  His style is complete comfort reading for me, and this is really just a series of reports of games, with a little light military history  ( I hadn't thought about Cataphracts and the Kontos in many a long year ).  The stated aim was to show that usng correct historical tactics should result in better wargames -  and, hopefully,  more victories.   I'm not sure that prinicple was rigorously  followed, but the eight lovely battle reports and introductory chapters on the relevant periods were just a pleasure to read.  No less than three battles were set in the 'Ancients' period, and doubtless would have been played under a version of the  WRG  rules which dominated the period at the time. I was struck by how important morale, and the trademark 'reaction test' was for them - quite often the rout of one unit suffering in combat would have quite a large 'ripple' effect on friendly nearby  units, and that seems quite astute. The rules are regarded today as rather too complicated, with all that  counting of individual casualties and massive lists of plus/minus factors, but I wonder if we are missing something if we overlook that emphasis on morale?   After all, 'the moral is to the physical as ten is to one' - as a prominent wargamer ( 1:1 scale ) once said..   My favourite battle report, however, was the Seven Years War game - which Charles grant named 'The Battle of  Langensalza'.   One aspect of Grant's games that I like is the use of map movement to facilitate the initial setup of the battle, giving the chance of some concealment and surprise in the deployments - and that feature was quite important for this game.  By pure chance, the 'real' Langensalza is the subject of a series of blog posts on  'Not Just Old School Wargaming'  blog  - which are rather spectacular! 

As you may have noted, my reading has now moved on to Stuart Asquith's 'Wargaming 18th Century Battles'  which I picked up at Salute, and I am enjoying - more about that in a later post, perhaps.

'From Our Own Correspondent'

More reading matter which I am rather pleased with is the three issues of 'The Foreign Correspondent' , the newsletter of the Continental Wars Society,  which I am now pleased to be a member of. The magazine is a rather lovely production, with a great 'period-appropriate' style and illustrations, and of course interesting articles too. Twenty pages four times per year, for a subscription of £8 - great value, too! Many thanks to Ralph Weaver for his prompt and friendly service too - I can't resist quoting from his email to me, after I said that my interest in the period sprang from reading G.M. Trevelyan's ‘Garibaldi and the Thousand’ many years ago, and  more recently, Neil Thomas’ ‘Wargaming 19th Century Europe’ . Ralph replied  "We cannot claim Trevelyan as a member, but Neil Thomas certainly is" .

Finally, and just to confuse matters even more, I have ordered a copy of the 'Twilight of the Divine Right'  wargames rules for ECW/30YW period from The Pike and Shot Society, of which I am also a member. I've been meaning to get them for ages, and the final nudge was provided by chatting with the P&SS chaps at Salute where they put on their fine Poltava game.  I await delivery and will be very interested to read, and eventually play, the rules.  

So, we have covered the Seven Years War,  World War 2,  19th Century, and Pike and Shot periods - which of those to spend time on next?  And there's the rub - finding the time. Well, given 'the current situaton'  and word of the week 'Omicron' , it's not looking like I'll be going out to many parties in the near future, and there may be plenty of time at home this winter... 

Thanks for your patience if you have read this far; admittedly this post has been something of a wool-gathering exercise, but it has at least got the writing mojo working after a slightly longer than planned pause. Next on the agenda, I hope, is a visit to Gillingham in Kent this Saturday for the 'Broadside' show - I'll take my camera,  notebook and pencil, and hope to report back after the event. Meanwhile keep well, and safe, everyone.