Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thoroton Aftermath

Before hastening south to continue the 'Wars of the Roses' clash of arms, it's worth having a quick review of the results in the last scrap at Thoroton. I've mentioned before about my great advocacy of using a board game for campaigns then resolving battles as tabletop games, so here's a little example of how I handle converting from one to the other.

Both sides went into Thoroton with a strength of 13cv's (where cv in the 'Richard III' game stands for 'combat value') which I happen to broadly take as about a thousand men each. On the tabletop, I placed out about 82 or 84 figures per side with my rather arbitrary efforts to field an 'A Coat of Steel' scenario, or almost exactly equal strength (each model being about 80-ish men.)
The outcome of the battle and ensuing rout was the loss of 12 out of 84 for the Yorkists and 34 out of 82 for the Lancastrians - put another way, a loss rate of 15% and 40% respectively.

Going by the percentages, the 13cv of the Yorkist army should be reduced to 11cv, with losses falling primarily among the Norwich Levies and Norfolk's personal retinue. These were both the largest counters/blocks in the game, so that seems entirely right.

The Lancastrian losses are a bit more awkward to assess, not least because Northumberland's command was wrecked and the man himself killed, but also Somerset completely missed the fighting - thus giving them 100% and 0% losses respectively.

Going by the global loss of 40% however, we can see the need to remove 5cv in total, leaving a remainder of 8cv (ouch!) With Northumberland's 4cv block removed, that just leaves 1cv more to come off, and we can apply that to the Newcastle Levies to reflect their shambolic and half-hearted efforts on the day.

The end results for casualties then are 4000 dead on the field itself (1000 Yorkists, 3000 Lancastrian) plus a further 3000 lost in the rout and pursuit (1000 Yorkist, 2000 Lancastrian.) This seems about right, proportionally.
It's up to personal opinion whether Somerset was lucky/unlucky to avoid getting swallowed up in this disaster, largely depending on whether you feel his presence would've changed the outcome, or if he simply would've swelled the casualty lists. As it is however, the fact he survived unscathed means the Northern rebellion is still a going concern for the Yorkist regime with 8000 men in the field and the potential for many more reinforcements to come, against
11000 Yorkists who are already urgently needed elsewhere.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Anglo-Allied Army

Good news! The Anglo-Allied Army is indeed adequately represented! Here is another photo, identical to the one above, showing the figures dealt out to each base.

After lots of snipping figures off sprues, I now have enough for each base. Looking at them all in one go, some things stand out. Specifically, the variation in Quality! Revell are good but a touch thin and elongated; Airfix are strangely mis-shapen; Mars appear to not use plastic at all, but rather some strange substance closer to old chewing-gum than anything else; HaT are good and generally more 'uniform' in pose than anything else. The two stand-out facts are a) Italeri are easily the best quality, and b) there really is no excuse these days to not mould a horse and its base as a single unit (you hear that Airfix, Mars and Esci? We all hate trying to fix some horse's leg into a tiny slot!)

Next up, the job of slowly glueing each set of figures to a strip of cardboard!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Anglo-Allied Stock-taking

I thought I'd just write this up as I go, as I'll probably not get round to it at a later date. Here is, with photos, my attempt to sort out the entire Anglo-Allied Waterloo Campaign army with my plastic purchases!
The 'plastic mountain' in it's full horror/glory. The Anglo-Allied army, because of the variety of unit types it seems to have contained, required the most box-buying of plastics. Now I should be in a good situation to completely, or very nearly, model the whole thing!

Manufacturers are a mad combination of whatever I was able to get my hands on. As a rough rule of thumb, the ones for Italieri & Revell seem to be generally best quality, while Airfix are the most variable. Luck of the draw, really! However, there are sites available which you really can't do without.

On a similar note, what do they all look like? Well, there's another site which I have turned to and it has supplied me with ludicrous levels of information. Generally, for each base/brigade, I have looked up the largest or most notable unit contained within it, and used its uniform as representative. Now, to the plan:

These square bits of card are the 6cm x 6cm bases I intend to use. The four broad columns are, left to right, Orange's I Corps, then Hill's II Corps, Uxbridge's Cavalry Corps and Wellington's Reserve Corps. Roughly each base is a brigade, and it's broadly as per the Horse Foot & Guns army-list, but I have tinkered slightly based on reading through my book 'The Waterloo Companion'. You'll see that some bases have had some figures placed on them - these are the ones which I have taken off their sprues, & base-coat sprayed with plastikote as a test-attempt. Now I'm ready to go Industrial-Scale, and do as many of the rest as I can!

One point of interest, however, on plastic figures: I usually mount figures onto wooden ice-lolly sticks, but the smooth base of the plastics is not as rough as lead-cast figures' bases usually are. Figures I tried here to glue to wooden sticks simply snapped off with barely a touch, but strips of cardboard (from a cut-up cereal box) seem to be much more effective! Plus, you can be much more liberal with the glue - if you're fighting to get them off later, card can be cut away simply enough while a little wooden stick would probably be more resistant than your soft-plastic figures were!

More updates as I progress...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Update on Things

It's been a few days since I last posted, so I wanted to at least put up a little post to cover where my attention has been - outside of the real world, at any rate! Over the last little while, I have:

  • Been fooling around with WW2 games
I was at first pondering about a big WW2 Mediterranean game, mainly because although I like my WW2 Desert games, I have no way of linking them together beyond the basic campaign system that the 'KISS Rommel' rules suggested. With that system, I am now on my third game with no change in the campaign-level situation: hardly an exciting model of what was historically a highly mobile & dynamic campaign! I looked at making up my own and fooled about with some maps, then dug out the old board game 'Third Reich' from the loft and looked at using it - only to remember exactly why it was in the loft! (For the uninitiated, it's notorious for being extremely over-detailed and over-complicated.) The search goes on, however!
  • Planning a try at 2mm ACW with Black Powder
Nothing too dramatic, but I had a sudden urge to try an army-level game to the Black Powder rules. It dawned on me that at brigade-level things would be too finicky, but then I had the notion of making divisions into the basic units, and just varying them by size based on the number of brigades they possessed - simple and easy! BP has rules for differently-sized units, so it should (theoretically) work fine.
  • Bought 'Tremble Ye Tyrants'
I liked the rules produced by Chris Peers in the past, such as the ones for WW1 (Contemptible Little Armies) and also various things he did in magazines like Wargames Illustrated, many moons ago. When I heard that he was putting out a set of fast-play Napoleonic rules, I decided it was worth a try. It's triggered something of a basing crisis in my plans, but I think I'll stick with my original intention. Speaking of which:
  • Nearly finished assembling Wellington's Army in 1/72 Plastic
Yes, another binge on EBay and - surprisingly - Amazon saw me bag quite a few of the outstanding boxes of plastic figures for the Anglo-Allied Army (the most awkward, through the variety of troops, I believe.) I am planning to have a big sit-down organising session this weekend, largely because my wife's off out for the day and I can make a vast mess while I organise, without annoying her! :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Battle of Thoroton, 1460

Time to take to the field once again, to battle for the fate of the North of England, possibly even the crown itself!

Lancastrians deploy with Northumberland in the centre, Scots on the left and the Levies on the right. Opposite them up a shallow valley (the hills on each table-side aren't too visible) are the Yorkists - who have Norfolk in the centre, Salisbury on the right and Rutland on the left.

Some of Norfolk's boys awaiting the battle's start. (On a side-note, I'm aiming that this will be the last time any battle is fought with partially-painted figures. Things have now developed enough for me to field only finished ones from here onwards.) Anyway, enough of my modelling talk - let's see how the little plastic & lead men do!

Percy has brought some of this new-fangled "ordonnance" to the field. Now those Yorkist dogs can taste some pre-battle bombardment, yes?

...No. Looks like these gonnes are more hazardous to those behind, rather than to the fore (it'll never catch on.) The armies begin to approach, trading volleys in a more reliably destructive style.

Sir Ralph Grey of Heaton clearly has second thoughts about the whole deal, and the Newcastle levies remain strangely immobile during the advance. Percy presses on, no doubt with mounting concern & anger as his flank becomes exposed, before finally Heaton pulls himself together and commits for Lancaster. Such half-heartedness seems to infect the men however, as they swiftly see their courage dwindle against the superior archery of Rutland's retainers, and quit the field. Little loss, some would say!

Others have the guts to make a fight of it, at any rate - Northumberland's ward soon comes to blows with Norfolk's ward, producing a deadly struggle (and also - plenty of medieval swearing!)

The day could be decided elsewhere however, despite the furies of the central combat which sways back and forth inconclusively. Heaton's levies streaming off the field are an unwelcome greeting for the eventual arrival of Somerset, who comes onto the field to find the battle already far gone. He randomly enters in the right-rear of the Lancastrian army, just as Rutland on the Yorkist left wheels inwards to flank the Lancastrian battle-line. Typical: he's in perfect position to descend on Rutland's rear, but just too late to get there. Damn his caution - his fiery son must be spitting-mad at this!

Caught between the wards of Norfolk in front and increasingly Rutland on the flank, the central ward with Northumberland and Baron Greystoke begins to falter and break up. Lancastrian collapse!

Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland himself, is swept up in the rout and captured by the triumphant Yorkists. With the loss of their Vaward and Mainward, plus their main Commander lost, the Lancastrian army breaks and flees. All Somerset can do is cover the rout as best he can, while the Lancastrian fugitives are swept away.

One final deed remains however, on this bloody field. the Yorkists rejoice in their victory while Lancastrians languish, but it's time to settle some old scores: the Neville-Percy feud rears its head again, and Richard Neville (the Earl of Salisbury) ensures the captured Henry Percy (Earl of Northumberland) receives the reward of all traitors for defying the rule of King Henry VI. A short walk to: the headsman's block!

A grim day, indeed...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prelude to Battle

In the Midlands, the Yorkists head back north again upon the rendezvous between Salisbury & Norfolk, intending to defend the line of the river Trent. However, before they can reach the river the Lancastrians have crossed southwards! As part of the invasion, Somerset has taken his force to swing east and flank the river-line while Northumberland takes it head-on. A good plan, but one that rapidly comes unstuck when Northumberland probes the river-line and finds that he's pushing on an open door. Salisbury has gone, as part of his brief shift southwards to meet up with Norfolk, but of course Northumberland has no way of knowing this and sets off in pursuit. A messenger is sent to Somerset to update him that he's not a cunning flanking blow on a defended river-line any more, but is now badly out of position and needs to catch up with the main army as it heads south.

The Lancastrian advance comes to a halt shortly after it starts, as scouts come riding back with news of the new Yorkist force drawing close. Battle is at hand, and both forces come together near the village of Thoroton, close to Nottingham, for the reckoning. Can Northumberland win single-handedly? Will Somerset reach the field in time to make a contribution?

For the upcoming battle, I proved unable to resist the siren's call of Perfect Captain's rule-set 'A Coat of Steel.' Whatever its problems, I simply don't know of any alternative set that can match it for the 'flavour' of the period. Forces for ACoS are derived from the campaign game 'A Crown of Paper' (ACoP,) so I tweaked the numbers for companies to get an 'instant' army-list for each side that roughly matches the forces in the 'Richard III' campaign game. I did this after reading through some of the ACoS scenarios posted in the Perfect Captain's Yahoo group. A generic unit of 2Men-at-Arms, 4Billmen & 4Retinue Archers seemed to be in use in things like their Towton scenario for nobles' retinues, plus 4Billmen & 4Levy Bowmen units for levies, so I adopted this myself. Bam! Ready-made armies!

The Yorkist set-up is simple, with Norfolk making up the Main, Salisbury on the right, and Rutland on the Left. Norwich levies were dispersed throughout to bulk up the wards as required, and prevent Norfolk's ward from being disproportionately large compared to the other two. Lancastrian-wise, we have Northumberland in the Main, the Scots under Earl Douglas on the left, and the Newcastle Levies on the right under Sir Ralph Grey of Heaton.

A draw through some ACoP contingent-counters turned up a Gonne for Northumberland, so on a whim I adopted that and gave him one. I also used the draws of well-wisher counters to identify potential numbers of minor nobles who might turn up. I used the Minor Nobles list to select plausible backers and fill out Ward commands, adding a good bit more colour.
So, to a look at the Cards, to learn what characteristics will be on show: Gah! Right away, things look bad for the Lancastrians. While the Yorkists field a generally competent crew of old hands and loyalists, fortune has dealt the Red Rose a very worse fate. Somerset is Lethargic - hardly the characteristic you look for in a man meant to be riding to the rescue with reinforcements! Worse, Northumberland is impetuous, meaning he's unlikely to wait for him. Double-Worse, Grey of Heaton is a rank amateur, plus a trimmer who may well swap sides right there on the field. The man's a positive danger!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Queen's Army Lands in England

News arrives back in France of the recent events in England. The details are somewhat confused as news can only arrive covertly from sympathisers, but nonetheless the general shape of events in clear. Rebellion against the Yorkist regime, it's loss of control in the North, and rumour of battle: clearly it is time to move and make the second planned invasion of England, this time from the South and into the Yorkist rear while their eyes are fixed northwards!

Queen Margaret and the Duke of Buckingham will need a major port in the South to support them, which means the choice for a landing is between Bristol in the south-west, or Southampton on the south coast. Bristol is a big city, and also close to the lands of the Earl of Devon in Cornwall, which would be yet more reliable support; however, Southampton offers its own set of advantages: it's near the lands of Yorkist supporters which might persuade them to keep their heads down, but the major one is swift roads to London. If they take the capital by the back door, then Margaret will be reunited with her husband Henry VI and the Yorkist hold on power will be finished.

Margaret, along with her son Edward, Buckingham, the Earl of Wiltshire and a host of French 'supporters' (i.e. Mercenaries) make landfall and soon have the county of Sussex under their control, ready to take the London road.

Yorkists have not been idle while all this takes place, however. First, there's the northern invasion. Plenty of people in the South-East have been happily profiting from trade, now that the Yorkist faction has seen off the indolent and inefficient Pro-Beaufort Court faction and brought a bit of law and order to the sea-lanes. Warwick in particular has been laying waste to pirates, and many towns have grown rich in consequence. Now news of the Beauforts' return would have worried them at the best of times, but news he is marching south with a horde of unintelligible Northern savages (Northumbrians and Scots: the Southerners draw no distinction!) pillaging and despoiling their way towards them... well, let's just say that finding recruits for the force to go and stop them isn't much of a problem.

Salisbury and Rutland have marched away southwards after their little scrap at Duffield, and now they have linked up with their much-desired reinforcements. The Duke of Norfolk has marched north with his forces, and after issuing a Commission of Array on behalf of the king
he has a large mass of Arrayed troops, especially from the Norfolk and the trading cities like Norwich, with which he can bulk out the ranks. Finally, the Yorkists have an army of adequate size to challenge the Northern invasion.

Outside of this Northern conflict, the head of the Yorkist cause, Edward Plantagenet (erstwhile Earl of March but now the Duke of York on inheriting his dead dad's claim to the throne) is in Wales. The Welsh are potentially a source of pro-Lancastrian support, so he's keeping a lid on things in the west with the aid of his supportive Hereford nobles along the Welsh Marches.
To increase his strength he has also linked up with support from Ireland, where memory of his father's rule there has led to it being highly pro-Yorkist.

This leaves Warwick in charge of London itself, keeping close watch on the king and capital. Effectively he's in reserve for the time being, although this changes with alarming speed on news from Southampton. The Queen and Buckingham have returned, seeking to capture Henry VI and London, and now with one Yorkist army in the north and Edward off in the west, only
Warwick is in their path! It's a moment of supreme crisis, and he acts fast. His uncle, Baron Fauconberg, is the Captain of Calais and Warwick sends word begging him to come with the garrison troops with all haste. Meanwhile Warwick turns out the London Levies and experiences a nerve-racking wait while he prays for his uncle to reach him before the Queen does!

He is saved from immediate and total destruction by the pause in the Lancastrian advance. The Queen issues Commissions of Array across Wiltshire, Dorset & Kent. Her powerful nobles quickly gather loyal Lancastrian followers to her banners, while pro-Yorkist nobles in the south try to keep as low a profile as possible while the army grows in size. But assembling the disparate troops takes time, which brings Fauconberg ever nearer to London...

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Battle of Duffield, 1460

The Lancastrian foot trudge southwards, but upon approaching the bridge at Duffield they find the Yorkists, Salisbury & Rutland, waiting for them!

The levies of the vanguard try to deploy, and are rapidly showered with arrows while they try to form for battle.

The levies are having a grim time of it. Where is the rest of the army?
The numbers gathered finally rises to the stage where an assault is made. The Lancastrian horde batters its way over the bridge and attacks Salisbury's ward.
The wily old Salisbury breaks contact and falls back, content that he has done enough damage and the odds are tilting ever further away from him.
He remains defiant through the withdrawal, however. "Neville!"
The crossing at Duffield was a small but bloody affair...
The Earl of Northumberland surveys the scene and counts the cost. No matter: The Lancastrian march southwards continues.

[A quick little knockabout skirmish which, for no reason other than personal nostalgia, I played out with an old copy of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Actually works quite well, when you filter out all the Orcs & Elves!]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Return of the Scottish Lords, 1460

The Lancastrian invasion is on!

Getting whole-hearted Scottish backing, the Earl of Northumberland and the Duke of Somerset cross the border from Scotland into England. They swiftly descend on Newcastle, where they raise the Queen's banner and quickly gather much enthusiastic support. The city levies turn out for them, plus the Percy family's extensive holdings across the north mean that the supporters flock in with alarming speed. In the seeming blink of an eye, a large Lancastrian army has seized Northumbria and is set to march southwards.

Salisbury is of course in North Yorkshire, tasked with stopping this sort of thing. However, he has a few thousand men which is perfectly adequate for putting the metaphorical (usually!) thumb-screws on recalcitrant local nobles, but not for taking on an invasion and mass-rising by the most powerful lords of the north! Having looked over the situation, the canny Salisbury reflects that his number one priority is not dying pointlessly.

He heads south, aiming to link up with Rutland in Derby and draw on more of the support summoned up from the pro-Yorkist southern nobles, in order to have enough strength to make a fight of it.

Somerset and Northumberland have no intention of letting this come to pass, however. The agressive Henry Beaufort leads the Lancastrian host on a pounding forced-march, desperately chasing after the Yorkists as they move southwards, hoping to chew them up before they can be reinforced. After many long days of exhausting marches, the distance between the forces dwindles away and the Yorkists realise that they are going to have to turn and fight in order to buy themselves time to escape, against a force over double the size of their own.

Where, then? And how, so it isn't a walkover?

I should explain my reasoning process that took this from game-board to tabletop scenario. First of all, I looked over the places named on the map-board for a bit of inspiration. I check on Google Maps to see if there's a small town or village somewhere in the area that could plausibly have been a site (and usually Wikipedia it to see if it actually existed back in the Middle Ages.) This provides a name, sometimes even a map idea, then the general situation in the game can supply a scenario.

For this one, the map had the name 'Duffield' written on it slightly to the north of Derby - perfect spot for a stand to be taken north of a prominent town. On googling it, I saw it sits on the river Ecclesbourne just where it joins the larger river Derwent. It also forms (at least on modern maps) a little salient between the two rivers on the northern bank. This made a good potential scenario for a stand, in any case. The canny Salisbury turns a few miles before Derby and makes his stand on the riverbank, knowing that the force-marching Lancastrians will arrive piecemeal and exhausted. When they try to cross at Duffield, then he can surprise them on the banks, plus the narrow approach up to the crossing would prevent them using their numbers to good effect. There's certainly enough here to offset the numerical mismatch, which would normally rule out playing this game out normally!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Barbarossa Campaign - all of it!

Recently, on a random browse through Boardgamegeek, I noticed a pop-up for a company called Victory Point Games. I followed it for a look, and wound up finding the whole thing quite intriguing. It was a company doing small micro-budget games, but they appeared interesting and so, feeling flush for once, I decided to give one a go. I opted for 'The Barbarossa Campaign' because of two reasons: first, it was the Eastern Front in WW2, which is one of the classic wargame settings and typically only ever played out in hugely complicated games. Second,
the game was apaprently a solitaire one, which is a pretty interesting concept.

Basically, you play the role of the invading Axis powers trying to topple the USSR. By capturing cities, encircling Soviet armies and generally displaying good luck, you should be able to win the game before the growing Red Army annihilates you. I've had it arrive in the post, and have had some experimental goes with it, and thought I'd just come straight out and post this: the entire narrative of the Eastern Front from 1941-1945, in a single blog post!

Summer 1941
I decided right from the off that the chief aim would be Moscow, basically because most histories of the war tend to criticize the Germans for not doing so. I was curious: were they right?

The first turn unfolded with spectacular advances, as the German spearheads plunged with alarming speed into the heartland of the Soviet Union. Riga, Minsk, Brest-Litovsk, Kiev, Odessa: all of them were swept aside in the initial torrent. A ludicrous total of nine Soviet fronts/armies were bagged in huge encirclements and wiped out, and by the end of summer the bulk of White Russia and the Ukraine were taken. I had expected more of an advance in the north, but spectacular combat results in the south meant that the Luftwaffe-supported Axis plunged deep even on this 'secondary' front. The Red army even held a thin strip of coastline into the Baltic states, for the time being, at least.


Autumn 1941
German industry seemed to play a blinder in the opening stages of the war, as events like 'Luftwaffe Surge' and 'Panzer Production' handed all sorts of good industrial advantages to the invaders - only the loss of armour superiority (with the appearance of the T-34) spoiled the trend. In Autumn the thrust to Moscow was renewed, taking Smolensk (while encircling two more armies) and pressed the Panzers right up to the outskirts of the city. In the south, the remainder of the Ukraine changed hands with the advance bagging Rostov. The Crimea was also cut off, with Sevastopol having all its fortifications reduced but stubbornly holding out. Soviet counter-attacks fell flat everywhere, being fatally compromised by the shortage of tanks & equipment. This was good stuff for the Germans, but critically their luck just fell short of getting a high enough score to gain another victory point.

Winter 1941
Snow! The German line largely stabilised over the winter as blitzkrieg attacks couldn't be carried out in the harsh conditions. More small-scale assaults took place however, with Sevastopol finally succumbing in the south and the offensive progressing on Moscow. Unable to take the city in the snows, the Axis attempted to establish jumping-off points to take the city early the following year and sent Panzers northeast to try and increase pressure on the capital. This resulted in disaster however, when the winter began and a massive Soviet counter-attack erupted in the faces of the ill-prepared Germans. The Pz spearheads collapsed and were driven back in with heavy losses against the new Soviet shock-armies that emerged. A full five hexes had to be given up in front of Moscow before the line stabilised, which was a high price to pay for neglecting to dig in with prepared 'hedgehog' positions.

Things were also bad up in the far north, as the
Finns agreed to commit fully to warfare against the Soviets. They advanced, over-extended, and then suffered a spectacular collapse back to their starting borders as Soviet troops broke through. No gains right now, although at least Finnish commitment did threaten Leningrad's ability to resist in the following year.

Spring 1942
With the first year over, the springtime mud forced a pause on both sides. The industrial advantage of good production in the early days had to be spent on replacing the winter losses, rather than building up the Panzer force in the east. Where, once the mud cleared, were the Germans to go now? Clearly Moscow was in the sights, but the other critical city of Leningrad was also exposed, while Stalingrad could be reached before long. It was entirely plausible that all three cities could be taken in 1942, triggering an all-out Soviet collapse.

Generally sluggish advances saw Moscow and Voronezh approached, while in the north Talinn and Leningrad were cut off. Soviet counter-attacks quickly re-opened a route to Leningrad however, and a similar offensive at Voronezh pushed the Axis away. The mud badly hampered moves this round, preventing any large encirclements. An attempt to close a pocket around Kharkov proved too ambitious. The city had to be taken by direct assault with the salient falling in like a collapsing bag, as opposed to an encirclement. A disappointing start to the year.

Summer 1942
The Soviets make the last of the spring with orders given to fortify Stalingrad, and the beginnings of a partisan war behind enemy lines. However, with the return of good weather, the German offensive resumes with new vigour. The southern front races eastwards, another Soviet pocket is encircled, and Army Group Centre manages to storm both Moscow and Voronezh! The Soviet capital has fallen! Soviet counter-attacks quickly regain Voronezh, but Moscow remains in the Axis grip. With this boost, the fate of Leningrad (almost cut off) and Stalingrad, both of which now have German corps closing in on them, hangs in the balance.

Autumn 1942
The loss of Moscow is also combined with the 'STAVKA Turmoil' random event, essentially leaving the USSR leaderless while Stalin's regime relocates eastwards. German advances in the south are minor, but Voronezh is retaken and the front pushes all the way to the Volga river East of Moscow. In the north, the rugged terrain still prevents the Leningrad corridor from being closed.

Winter 1942
Yet another grim winter descends. German infantry dig in with defensive hedge-hogs to protect Moscow, and the jump-off points before Stalingrad. The Soviet leadership stabilises and oversees a Production Surge, and the economic scales tip ever more heavily in the USSR's favour. The line in front of Moscow holds steady, but the defences in the south before Stalingrad collapse in the face of counter-attacks. The Axis units East of the Don have to rapidly retreat to the river-line to stabilise the front. The initiative record is still held by the Axis, but just barely. Unless further success follows, it will become contested, and Soviet actions will gather pace.

Spring 1943
The Soviets fortify a Guards Tank Army east of Voronezh, seeking to stabilise their centre. The Germans attack and destroy it in a local encirclement, but only with great difficulty. In the north the Leningrad corridor finally collapses and encircles the city, plus the city of Vologda changed hands twice in fierce fighting. In the south however, an advance over the Don was pushed back yet again - the Soviet army is now fielding ever more Guards and Tank Armies, making it a tougher proposition. Now the mud has gone, the initiative is still tenuously Axis - how much more can they do, as 1943 is clearly going to be the year the Soviets either break or prevail?

Summer 1943
News from the West, as Italy surrenders and their 8th Army withdraws from the Eastern front. To replace this loss however, the Germans get an SS Army to send to the front - more than adequate compensation! As Soviet Industry reaches it's maximum potential, the Germans strike out to encircle Stalingrad with offensives to the north and south of it. Panzers even penetrate East of the city, over the Volga, before the inevitable counter-attacks push them back. Advances in the south even probe to the edges of the Caucasus Mountains. Assaults are launched on both Leningrad and Stalingrad, but each holds out. Axis losses in Armour are painfully high at the fortified Stalingrad, but the city just can't be taken. The city is saved from encirclement and now merely sits at the tip of a salient. The SS are sent to the front and arrive in the North, the aim being to cut Archangel supplies from reaching the USSR, as this is the one part of the Soviet industrial build-up to be lagging behind. At the end of it all, initiative becomes contested - now the Soviets can actually launch offensives of their own creation!

Autumn 1943
Salvation seems to arrive for Germany! The special event 'Axis counter-offensive' is drawn, meaning a boost to initiative if a Soviet city can be taken this turn. It comes when the Panzers that survived the inferno at Stalingrad strike eastwards and reach across the Steppes to take Astrakhan, thus cutting the link between the Caucasus and the main Soviet front-line. The cities of Leningrad and Stalingrad continue to hold out, but the narrow strip of ground held to Astrakhan is too brittle to hodl out - Soviet counter-attacks slice through it, cutting off a large pocket of German Panzers and Infantry. The Soviets also attack the Axis main line in the south, forcing them back to the Don river line. All of which means that the initiative tips precariously back into Axis territory - but at what a cost in lost Panzers!

Winter 1943
Soviet Armour technical levels reach the maximum, meaning that the counter-attacks will be even more dangerous from now on. The axis have the initiative again, but what to do with it in the dead of winter, and with the Panzer formations ruined? With all the losses of the south, the SS Corps is the only special unit that the Germans can field in the East as a good offensive unit! The winter counter-attacks hit hard, with Vologda lost and Voronezh approached, but there is one belated piece of good news - Leningrad finally falls. Too late in the day however, as the initiative becomes contested yet again, and only just fails to become outrightly Soviet. Unless German industry somehow manages to pull some Panzer production out of the hat, things look bad.

Spring 1944
Increasing partisan activity, Soviet initiative, counter-attacks - the list of problems grows alarmingly! The SS and the Luftwaffe counterattack the Soviet bridge-head over the Don, but the line swiftly gets puched westwards. Voronezh falls, and the line closes in once more on Moscow, creating an alarming Salient around the captured capital. Even the approaches to Leningrad seem risky. Initiative plunges ever-deeper into Soviet hands. For god's sake, get Albert Speer to sort out armaments, fast!

Summer 1944
Moscow is fortified with hedge-hogs to try and hold it, but the sheer scale of the crisis quickly becomes clear. Rostov is lost, the Crimea is lost (cutting off Rumanians in the Kuban bridge-head,) and then the great disaster - fortified Moscow is lost! Hot on the heels of this, the Soviets launch themselves westwards both north and south. Smolensk is lost, Kharvov falls, and Sevastopol vanishes also. The front-line now sits on the Dniepr river in the south, up to Leningrad in the north. Initiative drops yet further into 'Axis Collapse' territory - now the Soviet advances will be even more spectacular.

Autumn 1944
The list of cities lost to the Red army continues to grow. Leningrad, Kiev, Tallinn... Things are very nearly back to pre-war borders, and Germany itself is in danger.

Winter 1944
Riga and Minsk are fortified, to no use - Odessa falls, leading to a Soviet plunge into Rumania which loses Bucharest and the Ploesti oil wells (not such a loss, as there's no large Panzer formations to need the oil!) Brest-litovsk falls too, and we're back on the German frontier - minus Romania of course, who collapse with the occupation of their country.

Spring 1945
Can Berlin hold out? The fallen include Warsaw, Budapest, Konigsberg, Belgrade, Prague, Vienna... It's like an A-Z of Axis cities! Hungary is destroyed, Yugoslavia is now a battleground.

Summer 1945
It is over. The long retreat has finished, and the Axis war-machine collapses into defeat at Berlin. A clean sweep of the board, despite larger-than-historical advances. I don't think I handled the retreat very well, but as I had burned up all my Armour in an all-or-nothing advance, there was pretty much nothing I could do to even slow the incoming tide. The Capture of Moscow probably gave me an extra years' grace, making 1943 the turning point rather than the historical 1942. Those objective cities really are tough nuts to crack, even when not fortified! Overall, the game was excellent fun - and although I 'lost' against the solitaire mechanism (it came out as a 'Minor Soviet Victory' I can't help but feel happy that the Nazis lost. :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

France, 1460

Recently I did a little 'Alternate Wars of the Roses' historical update and covered the Yorkist regime's tenuous position. They are, however, at least in power in England. What of the Lancastrian court in exile, the pro-Beaufort faction around the Duke of Somerset and the Queen Margaret of Anjou?

Over in France, the exiled queen and her supporters have their court in Koeur-la-Petite, courtesy of the French King. (This is Charles VII - currently down sick with a leg sore, a fever, and the host of other ailments that shall soon see him dead.) What are the French doing sheltering the Queen and the under-age heir to the throne on England? After all, not so long ago little Prince Edward and his nobles would've been at war with the French to conquer the place. Well, there's actually some very good reasons for the French to do all they can to help the Lancastrians.

The chief Lancastrian magnate is the Duke of Somerset Edmund Beaufort, who lost against the French at the tail-end of the Hundred Years' War. Given the choice between the able and belligerent Edward Plantagenet running England, or Edmund Beaufort - the man whose one indisputable military skill is the ability to lose wars against the French - it's pretty clear who they'd choose.

To the forlorn and cash-strapped court in exile of little Prince Edward then, who is currently 6 years' old and in the care of his mother the Queen plus the Lancastrian nobles like Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire. We shall turn our ears from the widespread rumours that either of these two might be the actual father of Prince Edward - such talk is merely vile Yorkist propaganda!

Edmund Beaufort is now 53 or 54 - pretty old to still be galloping off to war. Luckily his son Henry is 24, and in his prime to carry on the Beaufort cause. Also filling up the overcrowded court is the aforementioned Earl of Wiltshire, plus a list of the other minor & major nobles that fled following the defeat at Lawford Heath. The notables are the Duke of Buckingham & the Earl of Devon, plus the powerful Percy Earl of Northumberland.

Not all Lancastrians are abroad, however. The Earl of Pembroke & Viscount Beaumont also fled in 1459, but these two lords have returned to take advantage of the Yorkist amnesty that tried to patch up the rupture after York's death, giving some legitimacy to Henry VI's rule under Yorkist 'guidance'. Not that it'll do the Yorkists any good, as both are die-hard Lancastrians and will rise as soon as 'the French Lords' return to England.

The Lancastrian plan to retake the throne is simple. Northumberland and Somerset will head north to Scotland, and cut a deal with the Scots - military support in exchange for the city of Berwick being handed over to the Scottish crown. Once they invade and the Yorkist clique are distracted northwards, the French Lords with the Queen and the Duke of Buckingham shall land in the south to liberate Henry VI in London. With that, the Yorkists shall be crushed between the northern and southern invasions, delivering England back into the hands of Henry VI, Prince Edward, Queen Margaret and Edmund Beaufort.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New WOTR Figures!

The final (as it is now visualised) part of my Wars of the Roses armies have been ordered, and arrived! Perry have sent the latest of their figures, pictured above. Chief among them are three boxes of archers' stakes, to allow some field defences to be built (they were particularly popular according to the military thinking of the day.) Some, however, allow new units to be fielded.

I now have two bases of Currours (or Scourers, depending on your inclination) to give the armies a little bit of a mounted element. Everybody would usually fight on foot, but having some light horsemen is handy as they seem to have been used primarily for scouting, and also the odd ambush.
Lastly, I have also gotten myself some lead men at arms. These add some variety to the plastic ones, but mainly they replace the six figures I modelled as banner-bearers to follow the leaders about. The six I removed for that needed replacing to give me the desired number of bases, as otherwise I was slightly short on potential command-bases. One final, major, painting push could see me there!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


It's been a little while since I posted, and there are also various projects on the go. So, I thought a round-up to update everything would be a pretty good idea:

Wars Of The Roses
I've found the 'mass-painting' method of progressing things is excellent, and so I have proceeded further down this road. I can now report that all weapons have been painted an appropriate wood-colour. I don't know why it should be so, but for some reason the thought that my WOTR project has no longbows or bills to paint any more really does make it feel like it is almost over!

Seven Years' War
On my other blog primarily, but I have a new campaign up and running at long last. It's being done along DBA lines, to make it a bit more 'zippy' and quick, which I think is what's needed most.

Waterloo in Plastic
The first batch of figures in the Anglo-Allied army is undercoat-sprayed and painting is now underway (although secondary to WOTR, for now.) Also need another batch of Ebay reinforcements to do the entire Anglo-Allied army, as I seem to have gravitated to this first. I'm also now thinking of 'Black Powder' as my main choice of ruleset.

Board Games
My game of Barbarossa to Berlin (B2B) is finished successfully, but lots of notes now need to be sorted out. I'm going to try and do a game (possible Paths of Glory) as an 'in progress' report to show how it might be done. I'll need to get some maps drawn up for noting progress of the game, so this should hopefully come shortly.

Desert War
The next battle between the Afrika Korps and the Eighth Army has been fought - and is a rather dull draw. I was going to post an account, but it turned out to be lots of head-on pounding which makes for very poor game after-action reports. Still, I made use of some modelled defences, in the form of minefields and entrenched units. I'll put up the pics to show these, shortly.

That's it, for now at least!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Day of Paint

Hooray! Yesterday (Monday) was a very successful day off to 'work' all day at hobby painting. I spent the day doing nothing but working on my Perry Miniatures 'Wars of the Roses' figures, and by virtue of concentrating all efforts on this, I've managed to make some strides forward!

To recap, I have a massive 'to do' pile of 32 bases (10 figures a base, so 320 figures - just for the regular bow-and-bill units.) I have 11 bases done already, which I showed off earlier as my Basic Impetus Yorkist army. So, 21 bases to go!

There's two approached to painting a large project, I find: break it up into small nibbles and fully complete a section at a time; or do the whole thing as a mammoth one-off and try to do the whole thing in one batch. I find the first method is best at the early stages, just to avoid getting discouraged. Towards the middle stage of a project, I find that it can actually get worse as one completed 'chunk' goes away and gets replaced by yet another identical 'chunk'. After a while, it's good to switch to a huge pile, so you can see the entire thing and think 'yes, it's a lot to do, but once this is done, that's it!' My WOTR project is now at that stage, thankfully!

I have been painting away at all the un-showy, laborious and off-putting jobs, which have now been swept out of the way. Specifically:

Green bases - never again shall a paintbrush undercoat the lush grasses of Medieval England for these guys!
Steel - all arrowheads, sword hilts, bills, sallets and plate armour are done. Blacksmiths across England have filed for bankruptcy!
Flesh - the hands and faces are done, meaning that when the police investigate the aftermath of a battle, the photofit people will at least have somewhere to start. (Assuming the 15th century had the photofit. Or the police.)

This metaphor is getting even weirder.

The end result of this dull-but-worthy painting is that I'm now on the downhill - only materials like liveries, leggings, etc. remain, plus some detailing on belts, etc. Then it's all done, save for the dip/varnish finish!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

There's a plan in place...

Just a brief post here, to say I'm underway with a quick-fix bit of gaming (board game, as it happens - I'll post the narrative sometime soon.) However the main update is that I have arranged for the next Monday to be a day off work, and I intend to spend it on a massive painting binge for my Wars of the Roses figures. Hopefully I can get a big bound forward with them by devoting an entire day to it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gaming Quick-Fix Options

Thinks have been a bit quiet here on the wargaming front. I've been dividing my attentions between the Wars of the Roses figures and the growing Waterloo Plastics project. I need something that's a bit more of a 'quick hit' for a gaming fix. I've done a little towards this with my old stand-by option of my Seven Years' War collection, which I've launched into a little mini-campaign with (I'll spare you the full details as they're on my other blog) In any case, it's proven a nice refresher.

So, what else is there? As ever, I'm long on ideas but short on resources (money, and particularly time.) So I have to fall back on what I already have or something I can do with only counters or something similar I can make easily enough.

I aim to continue with the other two, and root around for something else. I was wondering though if any other wargamers have come up with an ingenious solution to this sort of quick-fix problem, where every project threatens to be a monster-sized epic, and nothing can get done in the here-and-now?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Prussian Guns

The final outstanding arrival has turned up - two boxes of HaT Napoleonic Prussian Artillery. These ones were quite difficult to find, and I wound up ordering from America through ebay International. Fine service, although shipping took quite a time (obviously) and also the box was battered & squashed (thanks, postman!) Thankfully the packing the sender used, plus the soft & flexible plastic fo the figures themselves, meant these guys were practically indestructible. Only the boxes got a bit crumpled!

Now I can get on with some serious painting - there's not been too much model-painting recently, sadly, as I had a bit of a DIY disaster here and most brush-wielding efforts have been directed at the walls of the flat! Still, I'm hoping to get some work done this coming weekend - and possibly even a game!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Napoleonic Progress

Good News on the painting front, as I have my first shot at painting a unit completed - I've painted up a base of British Infantry, just to try things out and get my eye back in (last time I painted plastic Napoleonics would have been probably in the very early 1990s, and that was quite a while ago! Still, it's good fun and I liked the end result. The figures here are painted and washed with Devlan Mud, giving them a bit of shadowing. I plan to matt-varnish them and then base them. The learning curve is also continuing, as I have been reminded that glueing the plastic figures onto lolly sticks to paint them is not exactly like doing so with lead figures. The plastic figures' bases are too perfectly smooth, so the clue doesn't hold them - most of the ones shown here simply popped off when I tried to paint them! I shall score the underside of the figures before I try and fix them to a permanent base.

Ah yes, the bases. I got a good comment from Jim on my last post, when I trotted out my first guess at base sizes. Sensibly, Jim suggested using 60mm x 60mm square bases for everything, and I quickly realised this was an excellent notion. (You see, I don't do this blog to share all my efforts: I just do it so the wargaming community at large can save me from my own blunders!) :-)

Anyway, the photo above shows a 60mm square infantry base with some figures arranged on it. Taking advantage of the larger base, I can even depict the infantry in varying formations! Shown above (with some Highlander figures, but we'll just skip that for now) is a possible 'Column' formation of a 4-man row at the front, backed by a second and third rank of three men in each. This still leaves loads of room around for safety's sake to prevent figure-bumping, and lets those troops who habitually fought with 'columnar tactics' get a better showing. Likewise, I'll place formed Light Infantry further back on their bases, and put a big skirmisher screen to the front for them.

There's also been a bit of card base-cutting going on. This monster-stack above represents all the bases needed to represent the Anglo-Allied army, in its entirety. 53-odd bases in total, I believe, excluding Supply Camps and Command Parties. (Flippin' heck, this really is a big project I seem to have somehow blundered into...)