Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dramatis Personae, 1461

For this campaign I wanted a specific figure to represent an individual, through 'thick and thin' (or, perhaps more suitably, 'to the death').  I can't do all 25 nobles sensibly, but the six powerful lords of the '12 income' castle areas are certainly do-able.  Rather than write all at first, I intend to follow particularly one random individual, and then see where the 'narrative' leads.

Here are the six power-brokers for our northern war:

Richard Ferrier, Lord Hadley - this fellow is our initial protagonist.  A pro-Yorkist 'new man', he shall be seeking to put down all resistance in the area on behalf of King Edward IV.  He even sports his Blue & Murrey colours as his livery, to advertise his loyalty to the new regime.  His own symbol is a castle tower, which shall hopefully grace more than a few battlefield triumphs.  He is described (i.e. rolled up as described previously) as easy-going and liked, but unscrupulous.  Decently skilled at warfare, his main characteristics on-field are his experience and - above all else - his driven personality, relentlessly pursuing whatever he perceives as necessary.  Pity any servant that fails to produce the goods for the big man...

Thomas Fawcett, Lord Wolviston.  Another Yorkist man, sporting blue & white livery plus a natty 'cross' heraldic symbol, poor Lord Wolviston is a bit too dour to be popular.  Genuine in his morals and dependable as an ally, he is nonetheless a grim figure and something of a 'plodder'.  Still, he's powerful and a decent fighter, so who knows if he shall become the favoured of the crown?

John Demain, Lord Potterchester.  This fellow is a pro-Lancastrian loyalist, giving only notional - if that - loyalty to Edward IV, while his longing for a restoration for Henry VI is an open secret.  His livery is red and yellow, and an ermine symbol is used by his men.  Although of slippery loyalty to those he feels are expendable, there's no denying his formidable reputation: popular and generous with the local gentry and commons, he's well-liked and also said to be a born fighter - deadly on a battlefield, even if lacking experience (no doubt something he'll soon put right.)   

William Johnson, Lord Turstoke.  Sporting red and black livery and a Boar symbol, he is also a Lancastrian die-hard.  Far less well thought of than Potterchester, Lord Turstoke is widely experienced in wars but sadly this has given him nothing but excessive chances to prove his ineptitude and laziness.  He is said to be very charismatic and likeable in person, so clearly he's a decent enough sort - just not cut out for warfare.  More of a lover than a fighter, it seems!

Lionel Perkins, Lord Monkton.  Blue and Yellow livery, with a crossed-keys symbol.  He's a Yorkist, and the younger brother of the Lord Whitcaster (of whom more below!)  He may be a bit sluggish in action and something of a dull, bookish thinker - but when he moves, he moves!  Both skilled and experienced in arms, he is a dangerous fighter on the battlefield (when he eventually decides to get there...)

Richard Perkins, Lord Whitcaster.  With his leaf symbol and red livery, Whitcaster is a faithful Lancastrian.  His conscience has kept him true to the exiled king, even as his younger brother the Lord Monkton has treacherously aligned himself with the Yorkists and split the family apart.  Decent and experienced, he is a solid and capable opponent.

(When generating random names, I never noticed that two of the powerful lords had the same surname.  The chance for the two nobles, close by on the map and split between the two factions, for not being close relatives split by the wars was too good a dramatic fluke to pass up!)  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Personality goes a long way...

One of the more appealing features of the Wars of the Roses is that it allows very wide scope for the personalities of various lords and nobles to have a big impact.  

(Incidentally, this is not always a feature of some wargaming periods, as there seems to be some kind of unspoken convention everybody has agreed upon!  Many American Civil War rules allow for the colourful personalities in the various generals for example, but strangely the 'personal' element is largely absent from, say, WW2 games - obviously figures like Montgomery, Patton, Rommel, etc. were all quite bland and unremarkable types that just rubbed along wonderfully...)

Anyway, the wargaming gods have decreed that WotR games should allow for personalities to have an impact, as this opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities for backstabbing, betrayal, or just good old-fashioned incompetence.  The original Miniature Wargames article outlines a system, which is actually attributed to Tony Bath's famous work on 'Setting up a Wargames Campaign.'  Bath however set out the basics, and never tried to explain how the idea could be applied in practical terms.  Jim Webster in Miniature Wargames sets out a method of putting it into practice for determining how people act.  

For each area we have a lord in charge, and his personality is summed up in seven categories.  Each category is a simple 1 to 6 scale, with the opposite extremes at either end.  For example a roll for morality would be 'paragon' for a 6 (kind, generous, friendly- basically doomed in a WotR setting) going down through an unremarkable person around 4 or 3, then descending down to 'depraved' on a 1 (uses phone in cinema, cracks knuckles, etc.)  

The categories are as follows, along with an explanation of their effect:

This has no direct game effect, beyond being a handy mental 'hook' to hang your notional person on, so they stick in your mind.  In more practical terms, it also provides another dice-roll to use when averaging out your 'popularity' category (see below).

As with the above, the combination of Disposition & Morals is just to make the character recognizable as a personality.  It could also be used if necessary to see how two figures cooperate, I suppose - after all, a paragon is hardly going to be close to some depraved monster, is he?

The first real game-centric trait: how skilled is he as as a tabletop commander?  It's a straight 1-to-6 rating, but of course this can easily be tailored to pretty much any rule-set you care to use.  It also lets us settle off-table matters like sieges by rating his competence.  A lord with a '6' will be certain to topple any castle within a turn, but a level '1' incompetent could well be there until doomsday.  

This rating is again very similar to the above, rating how much of a rookie our man is.  In the Webster rules many rolls for checking military competence allow you to use "either his aptitude or experience" - so this is effectively a "do over" roll, to stop you getting saddled with a dead-beat.  Interestingly, I notice that Tony Bath's original system allowed the characters' experience to be raised with time over various battles, so a character - providing they stayed alive - would steadily improve their rating.  Webster ditches this for simplicity, and probably wisely: say what you like about Tony Bath, the man wasn't afraid of complex and detailed book-keeping!

Basically, how swift in action is he?  If the lord commands a section of your army and you need him to bring it to the battlefield, he needs to roll against his activity level to see if he does it promptly.  A level '6' lord will clearly be bounding to your aid with Tigger-ish enthusiasm, while a lazy '1' lord may well only be out of bed before your crisis has come and gone!

Things don't always go well, and when you get beaten in a battle, those lords that had been submitting to you might take new ideas into their heads!  A roll against loyalty decides if your followers stick with you after a setback, or ditch you.  It would be a calculated risk to accept help from a highly skilled and powerful lord if he turns out to be as treacherous as an icy step...

Sometimes lords can submit without fighting doomed battles, if you're stronger than them or also if you're more popular than them.  Popularity is dependent on other personality features, so instead of being a dice-roll, the Popularity number is an average of the six previous rolls.  Unless you've rolled for the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, it very frequently comes out as being a 3 or 4, for generally liked/disliked.  One notable feature - a character with loyalty of 1 or 2 is rated as a '6' for calculating the average, as he is taken as a shameless dissembler - presumably channeling Richard III from Shakespeare!  

In addition to the above I have added in a few tweaks based on the characters' pro-Yorkist/Lancastrian bias.  When checking against a test for a similarly pro-'X' lord, I usually allow a pass when 'either' rather than 'both' conditions are met.  For example, a pro-Yorkist lord seeking to take over another pro-Yorkist will get a fight-free submission if he is either stronger or more popular, while a pro-Lancastrian target would fight unless he was both weaker and less popular.  Likewise, a lord on the tabletop who has an independent command may fail you if he is pro-Lancastrian and you are pro-Yorkist, just to keep that prospect of treachery alive and well...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Setting up the Wargames Campaign

To continue with my adaptation of the campaign system discussed previously: not everybody will have a Miniature Wargames with Battlegames (MWwBG?) copy handy, and although I'm adapting it and shall explain a bit of my thinking - I still strongly advise anybody interested to get a back-copy online!  

I wanted the campaign to be in a fictionalised region of the North of England, so I kept the basic notion of dealing out a random 5 x 5 grid of playing cards.  The result for me is in the picture below:

The numbers of the cards represent the strength or wealth of the region, the higher the better.  Court cards are naturally something special, so they are taken as a strength of 12 and represent a city, castle, or other powerful noble's personal estates. The other feature of the cards is their suit - since the Wars of the Roses is split between two factions, I took all the red-suit cards (hearts & diamonds) as nobles with a pro-Lancastrian leaning, while the black suits (clubs/spades) are taken as having pro-Yorkist sympathies.  Our protagonist lord may still have to fight in feuds with pro-Yorkists as rivals for royal favour, but they are generally more amenable to him than the Lancastrians.

From the photo above you'll see that I got a not-bad draw.  There are about 15 pro-Lancastrian regions compared to 10 pro-Yorkist ones, and an above-average six cities/castles.  I drew 4 Lancastrian strongholds against two Yorkist, but I felt this might be a bit too lop-sided and decided to switch one to make it three-each.  

Next, a bit of character to each region - which I think is an important bit of any campaign.  By looking around on Google Maps, I was able to get a quick list of appropriately 'Northern'-sounding names for each area.  I didn't want any actual places in the fictional map, so I split each name in two and randomly mixed them up.  For example, places like 'Whitbeck' or 'Cornforth' can be switched around to make 'Whitforth' or 'Cornbeck', for example - non-existent places, but they sound right.  You can do it manually, or - as I did - rig up an excel sheet to randomly generate match-ups for you.

Each area needs a lord to represent it, of course - and the names of the lards are handled in pretty much the same way as the place-names above.  A Google search for 'northern english surnames' turned up plenty of examples, and then I prepared a list of common first names - I used the character cards from 'Perfect Captain' but there's no great surprise to them: lots of Johns and Richards, etc.  Again, I randomly paired up the results.

Basically knocked up on an Excel spreadsheet - complete with clip-art for the Castle in Wolviston
Here's an example of some regions and nobles.  More on the personalities in the next post.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wars of the Roses Northern Campaign, 1461

I have been so busy painting and gaming, I've not actually managed to update my blog for ages!  Well I thought I would hang off until I had something of interest to report back with, so here I am at long last with an update on my Wars of the Roses plans.

As some may remember, I have been re-creating the Wars of the Roses (WotR) at some length, in fits and starts, for some time.  My last big outing resulted in a climactic battle which handed victory to the Yorkists under Edward IV, and saw the Lancastrians flee to exile.  After the monster-sized battle of Baunton that concluded that one, I felt I wanted to tone things down and reduce the scale a little, to make it a bit more manageable.  

As the campaign moved into the 1461-1465 phase which saw the Yorkists trying to establish their rule and putting down rebellions across the North of England, it seemed to me like a good chance to make it more 'local'.  I also had the notion of creating a fictional lord and following his personal little 'narrative' as he fought to become a more powerful noble over his rivals - true WotR stuff, basically.

I had to leave it for a while, as I simply couldn't really work out a good campaign system to adopt.  I tinkered around with a couple, read Donald Featherstone & C S Grant, and struggled to figure out how I wanted to approach things.  Nothing was really quite how I wanted it, but then I came across something rather out of the blue - more specifically, out of 'Miniature Wargames' (with Battlegames) Issue 377, from September.  It had an article by Jim Webster which outlined a system of using playing-cards to produce a playing area of various regions, added in some character-personality profiles, and rules for how to conquer a little mini-empire.  The article specifically dealt with the fall of Late Roman Gaul, but he himself pointed out that the system he used was first thought up for Biblical warfare (back in Issue 368 of the same magazine.)  I loved the idea, and since it had proved adaptable enough to cover two periods already, I knew it could be tweaked enough to do for the WotR.  

I've played around with some medieval adaptations of the rules a little, and am now satisfied enough to give it a go.  The next while should see the blog back in use as I explain how I've set up the world, run through the game in practice, and then finally return to the tabletop.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Republican Roman Cavalrymen

Something of a random departure here - some Republican Roman Cavalrymen I recently painted.

This is basically prompted by the fact that one manufacturer (Agema Miniatures) have just released a great little boxed-set of Roman infantry, and another (Victrix Miniatures) appear to be on the brink of releasing their own.  I've long fancied a Punic Wars force, but the appearance of 28mm plastic minisseems to have pushed me over the edge - much in the way that I got into WOTR when the Perrys released theirs.  

My plan is to put together a modest force of Romans, probably in line with a 300-point force for Impetus, or around a dozen bases.  Until Victrix get their finger out and release their plastic infantry box, I'm making do with the other units required, such as Cavalry.  The above are, I think, Crusader Miniatures models.  Th epainting isn't entirely finished yet but I've also made a go of painting them more in the three-shades style that I believe Kevin Dallimore promotes (basically a bit more abstract, with black areas between coloured regions to add lines, impressionistic painting of faces etc. in a way that looks excellent from a distance.)  

I'll see how this one runs with the upcoming releases over the future months, at any rate!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Altar of Freedom & Longstreet Bases

I haven't posted for a bit about my ACW doings, so I thought I'd share my latest thoughts/plans.  I'm still playing away at the FDWC club campaign of Longstreet, and the Longstreet rules do seem to be excellent in my opinion.

However, my own taste is for large-scale battles in ACW and this is not what Longstreet is really intended for.  I had been pondering scale-changes etc. to try and do a big battle in part, but then a friend at the club put me on the the rule set 'Altar of Freedom' which is available at and from (I think) Iron Ivan.  
This does things at my favoured scale of 'one base per brigade' and the emphasis is very much on flanking with divisions and corps, while trying to manage your prickly corps-commanders so they do what you want.  
The rules themselves are pitched at 60mm x 30mm bases of 6mm soldiers, but of course I couldn't bring myself to restart ACW collecting in 6mm!  Instead I would use my numerous unpainted ACW 15mm models I've been nabbing off ebay, which proved to be available in such quantities I could do even the biggest battles from the Eastern Theatre (Gettysburg, inevitably, is the largest game).  So, how to base them in a way that lets me do Longstreeet, and also Altar of Freedom, and - if at all possible - sticks to the intended base-size for each?

The result, courtesy of a lot of well-priced stuff from Warbases, is the above.  I'm basing the infantry on 25x25mm bases for Longstreet use, then sitting two bases on a 60x30mm 'sabot' base for Altar of Freedom.  The slight overlap in sizes also gives me space to write brigade names & modifiers, as a nice extra bonus.  Artillery and supply-limbers are on 50x25mm bases normally, and so also work on the same AoF footprint.

With a scenario and game in mind as my objective, I'm now off painting and basing to get them on the tabletop as soon as I can!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

First Battle of St Albans, 1455

Monday last week, I was at the club for a game with a friend - we had promised each other for some time that we would give one of the historical scenarios in 'Bloody Barons' a go, and so we started at the start: the First Battle of St Albans.

The Main Street, which put our model-houses collections to the test!
Things actually came out rather historically, with a Yorkist victory.  The Duke of York himself was stopped in a protracted battle with the Earl of Northumberland's men, which started dramatically with a Yorkist captain being shot down right before as the two sides charged in, then their reinforcements taking their time in working their way through the alleyways to assist.  Salisbury had a slow advance due to a unit of Levies winding up at the front of the road, who were distinctly slow to push ahead.

It was Warwick in the centre who really decided things - he charged in and fought with the Duke of Somerset, who had decided to lead from the front.  Somerset took two hits and needed merely to roll 2+ on each save roll to survive: he promptly (inevitably?) rolled 'snake eyes', which is basically double-dead!  With their leader slain, the whole Lancastrian centre took to its heels, forcing the gloomy Henry VI to run for protection with Lord Clifford's men, hotly pursued by Warwick's troops (no doubt yelling explanations that this was all just a big misunderstanding!)

Henry VI with Yorkists in hot pursuit
The game came to an end at this point as the time-clock ran out, with two out of the three Lancastrian wards routed and one of their big leaders dead and another one Northumberland fleeing.  Due to the routing of one of the Yorkist household units, plus the town-scape slowing advances across the board, it came out as only a 'Marginal Win' for the Yorkists, but it certainly felt far worse!

Monday, May 26, 2014

WOTR Workbench

The last wee while has seen me gather quite a bit of Medieval stuff for the WOTR, and I have been particularly emphasizing 'personality' figures, to help make the next campaign a bit more 'narrative' in style.  So, I've stocked up  Here, in no particular order, are some of the things cluttering the work-bench.  Some were ordered pre-Carronade, but most were picked up opportunistically on the day itself!  

16 Archers from Front Rank.  Pleasantly 'chunky'-seeming next to the plastic ones, as if wrapped up against a cold day.  

4Ground house model - marvellous little thing!  It is also a 4Ground wagon, which has been stuffed with plastic Renedra barrels, to provide army supplies.

10 Archers by Old Glory.  I got these guys because they are dressed very much in the 'peasant' style, with hoods & padded armour more prevalent and metal armour much scarcer - should be good for levies.  

A pair of Perry Cannon with crew.  These are the 'single-arc' cannon for elevating the barrel, which should make a bit of contrast with my existing one (twin-arcs, looking a bit heavier)

15 Billmen by Wargames Foundry - also includes the odd captain figure.  Remarkably appealing models, some of them so long-faced and stern they are practically cartoonish - love that effect! 

Command Group by Crusader Miniatures - two generals/nobles, a herald & (a bonus?) trumpeter.  I got them because I feel my nobles would often want a bit of a 'riding company' to announce their brilliance to the world.  

Command Group by Corvus Belli - a general, standard-bearer/champion, plus a herald & trumpeter.   The champion is hoisting a sword roughly his own size, while the general looks angry enough to kill the entire world.  

Wargames Foundry Captains - excellent little bunch, perhaps fractionally on the stocky side, but how couldn't you love 'em?  I particularly like the one who is head-to-toe in plate, with only his nose poking out between his Bevor & Sallet.

Some random extra freebies here - Wargames Foundry sent me a mountainously-plumed general with my order (not period-appropriate, but he looks lovely) plus a standard-bearer of great use.  While I ransacked Colonel Bill's stand at Carronade, they gave me this peasant from their pick-and-mix box.  My first civilian commoner!

Perry mounted personalities - finally, my nobles don't have to walk!  The figures (at least notionally) are Edward IV swinging on horseback, Salisbury waving his helmet, and York sitting rather contemplatively, holding a hammer.  (Best way to ensure no interruptions while daydreaming, I suppose.)

Last, the Front Rank personality set for 'Warwick' plus a standard-bearer, a noble adviser, plus a squire close-by with a horse.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Battle of Baunton - Aftermath

Following on from the battle of Baunton, it's high time to deal with the aftermath.  I'm on the brink of new campaign phases, as mentioned in previous posts, so it's only right to tidy up the loose ends of the previous phase before moving on to fresh fields.  Let's recap on the climactic battle of our campaign!

At the start of 1461 it must have looked pretty grim for the Yorkists.  The north in rebellion; Henry VI "liberated" to join his queen Margaret; Warwick routed and fled to Calais; London lost.  Poor Edward of York was looking like a doomed man after this run of poor luck, but he was located in his Welsh-border heartlands with a good army - so when the Lancastrians marched on him to settle the whole business, he was more than happy to oblige.

The armies clashed at Baunton in a day-long grinding match, before the Yorkists emerged triumphant.  Losses on both sides were very high, but the Lancastrian army was routed off the field and disintegrated.  Result: a decisive victory for the Yorkist dynasty, and Lancastrian hopes completely devastated.  

The two sides probably lost about half their army's strengths in the battle through dead, wounded and (the majority) fled.  The Lancastrian force however then underwent a complete disintegration as the surviving nobles fled for exile.

With defeat, comes the reckoning: Henry VI has fled with his queen into exile, to France via a fast ship from Southampton.  Buckingham, his most powerful lord, is likewise heading overseas to sanctuary.  His erstwhile puppet-master, Edmund Duke of Somerset, lies dead on the field.  Edmund's son, Henry Beaufort (now the new Duke of Somerset, thanks to his father's death) is wounded & captured by the Yorkists.  Historically, Henry Beaufort led the Lancastrian army at Towton and was defeated, only to later be pardoned - apparently the Yorkist regime wanted to show it could forgive and forget, plus Edward IV and Henry apparently shared an appetite for wine and women - therefore, it seems only fair that in our re-fight that he receives some similar forgiveness.  (True, he's just had his dad killed, but 'forgive and forget' works both ways, right?) 

Many other Lancastrian nobles wound up dead on the field, or fled with the king to exile - those captured all turned out to be either related to Yorkists who would save them (Baron Neville of Raby, for example, is part of the Warwick faction) or were too minor to be worth executing in place of a flamboyant pardon.   Those that fled are, of course, attainted by the next parliament to let Edward confiscate their properties & titles.  

On the Yorkist side things are mostly rosier - fewer dead, at any rate; and prisoners are largely abandoned back into friendly hands when the Lancastrian army routs.  The one notable exception is Edward's brother - Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland.  He was taken prisoner when Trollope wrecked his ward on the field, and he would have gone as a prisoner to Edward of Lancaster.  There seems little reason to doubt how the seven-year-old would have been prompted by his mother, when it came to sentencing the son of the great Yorkist usurper!  Taking a lead straight from his historical behavior at the Second Battle of St Albans, we decide that he orders Edmund beheaded on the spot.  Shame really, as if he had been spared he could have been a useful bargaining-chip for later use.  

For Edward however, the loss of his younger brother is a blow to be offset against the triumph of his house.  From tenuous control of the prisoner Henry VI a year ago, he is now the sole and undisputed ruler of England - fresh from his claim being 'vindicated by the god of battles'.  He proceeds to London where the crowds receive him, and he is crowned Edward IV.   

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Carronade 2014

It's that time of year again, when I basically do my one big show of the year - the FDWC 'Carronade' show!  It was a highly successful trip for the club no doubt, but also for me personally!  

The resulting plunder of a day spent roaming the stalls:

1 Box of Perry Plastics WOTR Infantry
(Yes, I know I swore I'd never put myself through it again, but the new WOTR campaign has got me pursuing all sorts of new purchases to flesh out my medieval campaign-world!)  

Set of 'narrow road' strips for my tabletop, from S & A Scenics
(Been meaning to get scenery for ages, and I've been steadily growing my supply by getting the odd thing at each show.  Last year was streams, so this year it's roads!)

Pair of 4Ground MDF Houses - one Tudor timber framed cottage, one late-medieval dwelling
(4Ground appear to have taken over the world, as practically every stall had at least a few of their MDF kits!  I can see why, though - look good, and pretty much 'instant' terrain....)

4Ground Peasants' Ox-Cart
(I want my WOTR forces to have more of a baggage-train, so this fits the bill nicely!  Couldn't find any medieval-style tents anywhere, however.  Unfortunate.)

Pendraken pre-ordered wedge of Undead 10mm Fantasy figures
(I haven't played Fantasy since I did Warhammer in my early teenage years, back about 20-odd years ago!  I'd never pay to get back into it again, but Ric - my friend from the club - and I have recently fallen into a plan to make 10mm armies for the Mantic Games ruleset 'Kings of War' - which is apparently a quick-&-fun successor to it!  The rules are free online, look good, so that's me entering into a new wee painting project.)

Two bags of mini-sized dice & MDF 'frames' to hold them on a base
(Damage markers for the undead - I picked purple dice, to suit the creepy undead-magic vibe.)

Two paint-brushes, & two paints
(basic inventory-stock-up stuff.  Dull, but important!)

Two Perry Artillery pieces & crews
(I have, to date, got one artillery piece from them - a double-arc cannon.  I bought two single-arc cannons, to represent lighter pieces, and bring the artillery numbers up to three.  The bloody barons rule-set has many historical scenarios, and definitely shows how cannon became far more common as the period continued - time to stock up!)  

Kallistra 'Hordes & Heroes' blister - Undead Command
(Kallistra also do lovely 10mm fantasy figures, but I didn't want to use them as many come in pre-set strips, which I wasn't sure about.  However, the command pack should provide many individual 'hero' figures for use!)  

Five 'Colonel Bills' bags of second-hand figures - all WOTR
(I have officially lost my mind - more Wars of the Roses figures?!  I won't even tell you how close I came to buying a group-discount boxed set collection of the Perry plastics!  Anyway, although I was aware of Colonel Bills' shop, the fact that they traded in second-hand figures from other manufacturers' ranges had somehow slipped by without sinking in.  Seeing them at a games-day however, it suddenly dawned on me, and I went mental.  I wound up getting a bag of 4 foot command (Grenadier Miniatures); 4 mounted command with heralds, pages (Corvus Belli); 10 peasant-levy archers (Old Glory); 15 Billmen (Wargames Foundry) & 16 Archers (Front Rank) - in total, 53 individual figures - 54, if you count the pick-&-mix peasant they chucked in for free!)

Two Warbases Archery Butts
(Basic camp scenery, but cheap & fun! Plus, it has now dawned on me that I have bought very nearly 100 new WOTR figures, so they need somewhere to practice!)

So, that's that - enough to keep me going for quite the while, I should hope.  Reviewing it all, there are a few odd things that leap out - I didn't get a single rule-book or anything to read, which was surprising.  Also, besides the particular fantasy-themed project, pretty much all my focus was on growing my WOTR collection, rather than starting something new.  I was also within budget when I managed all this, so in total: I'm pretty damn happy with myself!  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spotsylvania, Early 1864

1864 has dawned, and it is time for the Confederacy to be finally conquered!  Hardtack's division is with Grant's Army of the Potomac, and taking part in the Overland Campaign.  This game sees our man somewhere close to Spotsylvania, where he has been ordered to take up position on some tributary to the Po river, and deny the rebels a chance to cross.

Very wooded ground, of course - and with streams breaking up the Federal side
Hardtack splits his force into four, putting one on each of the three fords he can find, and keeping the fourth back in reserve (the large and untested 70th New York.)

"First order of business: dig in everywhere!"
It soon becomes apparent that the left-most ford is actually far larger than previously thought, with many more crossing-places.  It also sits rather forward of the rest of the line, and this inevitably becomes the region targeted by the Confederate advance.

The crossing is watched by a group of veteran regiments: the 122NY, the 27PA, and the 1/11MA.

The Rebs come charging ahead, before all units have even managed to dig in.
The Federals dig in while just inside the woods, to save themselves casualties from the enemy artillery.  Hardtack also doesn't much about, and orders all the reserves he can to rush to the scene.

Firing begins across the rebel ranks
Things soon become desperate - the tiny 122NY is routed by the throngs of rebels, and while the 27PA keeps solid, the 1/11MA goes charging out under the leadership of it's glory-hunting "hero" Colonel!  

"Back into the river with them, boys!"
Elsewhere, a second rebel force tries to approach the central ford, btu swiftly gives it up: artillery crouched in the woodland, and the crossing practically encircled by the zig-zag trenches of two Colored regiments, just playing something is unwise enough to try a crossing.

"Washington this way!"
Over on the critical left, the 1/11MA was facing a disaster from rebel fire, but thankfully the steely Hardtack's 'Drillmaster' tendencies pay off, and they are able to fall back swiftly and in good order, back into the trees.  Rebel casualties keep on steadily mounting from the draining Federal fire, while reinforcements are getting close.

The Confederates just can't break through the wood

A panorama of the entire field
A desperate rebel charge with cold steel is met with a stone wall-like defence: rebels fall back in confusion, and the blue line holds!  Just as the Reb attacks peter out, the 70NY & 31VT arrive on the scene to relieve the battered 1/11MA.  

Charging back into the rebel bridge-head, the fresh troops sweep through the thick smoke of the rebel defensive fire and charge home.  The Confederate attack has collapsed, and been routed back over the river!

"A Victory!"

The field at the close of day.
For the first time in a while, Hardtack has a victory to boast of - and quite a good one too, featuring successful defences and also charges back from his own side.  The Confederate forces do seem weakened now, what with their deck-sizes being plagues by shortages, and also a judicious bit of sabotage from cavalry raiders where appropriate!  The victory gives Hardtack his full promotion to the top of his military tree, a 4-Eagle commander.  

His division has to say goodbye to the disbanded 122NY, but at least the 70NY have seen the elephant and proved themselves capable troops.  One thing that all his victory produces is evidence that everybody loves a winner - he gains a 'Friend in the Statehouse' when his state's Senator decides that associating with Hardtack might not be such a bad thing, and begins pulling strings for him.  A fresh infantry and cavalry regiment are added to the division, to boost it up, plus Hardtack finally gets some further artillery reinforcements in the shape of two new Light Rifle sections.  Ah, friends in high places!

Monday, April 28, 2014

eBay & Campaign Indecision

Following on from last week, I was pondering my notion for a campaign in a more 'narrative' style.  As I wrote, I had considered putting together an ACW campaign to use my 1/72 figures in a more 'old-school' style of game.  Problem is that the notion is just as applicable to the other campaign I am progressing, the Wars of the Roses.

I spent about a week pondering the two options, weighing up the pros and cons of each.  The end result: both options have lots of 'pros' and very few 'cons'.  Nice, but not helpful about making a decision anytime before the sun burns out.  

Things came to a head when I was browsing on eBay.  I know that for wargamers, the phrase "I was browsing on eBay" ranks alongside "I set off alone to explore the haunted house": a danger signal that no good is on the way!  I found a sale, for a mountain of plastic 1/72 ACW figures.  I put in a bid, sensing it could well be a bargain.  The rest of the week was spent in a state of constant mood-swings.  

What was I buying them for?  What would I do with them?  I already had hundreds - what would hundreds more do?  I couldn't even fit them all on a table!  But imagine having them.  They'd be great!  I'd never need to buy any more ever again!  I could do Charles Grant-style massive units - think of the visual effect!  

Of course, the other question was "What about all my Wars of the Roses plans?"  I really wanted to do that too, but which one would get the first go?  Fate would have to decide.  

In the end, by the time the eBay sale ran out I had reached such a state of indecision that I had hidden my mobile phone from myself, so last-minute emails wouldn't tempt me into upping my offer!  I was outbid right in the closing minutes, and then experienced the usual mix of relief & regret that accompanies every eBay bid I ever make.  So, the ACW plans have instantly receded into the background.  Wars of the Roses have taken pole-position, and I have sent off for some new figures for them instead.  What a way to run a (miniature model) war...  :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Big 'To Do' List...

I've been quite busy in different wargaming areas recently, but not managed to post too much about it all.  So, it seems sensible to get a bit of organisation on the go, and list things I'm planning on doing.  In no particular order, these are:

Longstreet Campaign
There's no doubt that the FDWC wargames club has had a big success with the Longstreet campaign - fourteen-odd participants, and we're now more than two-thirds of the way through it: quite a success!  I am, however, a bit less successful myself in terms of winning battles!  (Two wins out of seven games, to the time of writing!)  My Union force has been posting game-results, and there are only 3 more to go, so I will 

Wars of the Roses Campaign
I made a vast post about the decisive battle of Baunton as my last contribution, but I need to move things on - for one thing, there are quite a lot of ramifications from the battle, who lived and died, etc.  So I need to resolve all of that and put my notes in order.  

Another big thing to ponder is  how I'm going to move the campaign on.  So far I've been using the Columbia Games board-game 'Richard III' to control the campaign, and this has worked alarmingly well.  However we are now entering into the period of the wars 1461-1469, when the ruling dynasty is basically putting down rebellions in the north.  This means local lords fighting out family feuds, plots and intrigues, plus a few sieges to winkle out the old regime die-hards.  All new territory for my campaign, and trying to do it with 'Richard III' doesn't seem to appropriate.  So, I'm pondering a kind of 'mini' campaign within the larger campaign, to reflect this.  Still at the brain-storming stage, however.

ACW Old-School/Narrative Game
Speaking of brain-storming, I've been forced recently (due to some DIY) to hold off playing games on the table and thinking about what I want to do.  From reading online blogs, I went back to some classic ones such as the popular 'Campaigns of General William Augustus Pettygree'.  ( - Sorry, but my tech-skills don't seem to be up to providing a quick-link, however I strongly recommend that you go see it!)  What caught my imagination most was the way in which the posts work so hard to produce a complete miniature world - it's not just miniatures on a table for units in a battle, but rather a narrative to produce games with various fictional characters, plus a huge quantity of figures & scenery to completely 'fill out' a mini-world of camps, towns, etc.  Most of all, the title-characters' army is a full-formed force with an HQ staff, engineers, signallers, supply-troops, etc.  

It would be a strange wargamer indeed that didn't find such stuff an inspiration for daydreaming!  I was pondering where I could do that as a gaming idea, when I happened across the blog 'old school acw' (  The blog sadly appears to have gone dead (last post: May 2013) but it suddenly made me think: "What about all my old 1/72 plastic ACW figures?"  They were collected & painted and have largely been sitting gathering dust, since my initial plan to base them and use them for a DBA-style game fell apart.  I have still been clinging to the old basing system however, so I had a sudden epiphany that I should completely rebase them - individually, if need be - to revitalise them, and create full armies.  I also suddenly realised from online searching that I could also obtain vast amounts of other things for use in 1/72 scale: wagons, camp supplies, etc.  Suddenly the idea of a fully-detailed ACW world in 1/72 seems plausible!  I shall post more on how my notions evolve, to see if I really can do a game with them, possibly in the style of Charles Grant's 'The War Game' or something similar. 

War & Empire Kickstarter
Here's a bit of a random, out-of-nowhere new thing!  Back in December last year, there was a 'Kickstarter' project called 'War & Empire' which I decided to back, for 15mm ancients.  They are currently modelling up the figures and sometime over the next few months I should be able to order two big armies to rival each other in the ancient world.  Good job they are taking their time over preparing it, as I am still pondering what to do with it!  

So, that's it then.  Nothing trivial on the go, obviously...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shelton Railway Cutting, 1863

After being denied a victory at Hackett's Farm, then mauled at Gettysburg, Hardtack is feeling a bit dejected.  Enough of all this defending and getting buffeted about - next time he's going to attack!  

Unfortunate, then, that the next game would be the railway cutting...
In late 1863, Hardtack brings his division up and discovers a Rebel force defending the line of a railway embankment - a formidable position, and one he intends to assault immediately, with extreme violence.  Victory or defeat is an irrelevance by now: he wants prestige, glory - epic renown!

Dodging a wood near his setup zone, Hardtack moves up in column.

The waiting Rebels
The Confederates have a veritable grand-battery of artillery present!  Hardtack has virtually nothing, so there's no chance of sitting back for a fight - it's a straight-out rush to close the distance as soon as possible.  

The terrain in front is painfully open - only a small hillock for cover
As the columns move up at the quickstep, the Rebels reveal they have heavy rifles and start banging away at the columns - Hardtack is a distant, but dense, target.  

Much like the man himself.
The plan is to march in column across the enemy front, get behind the cover of the hill, left-turn into line, and then move forward in one compact mass to strike the enemy line with repeated charges.  
However, long-range fire was not part of the plan.
Things go quite painfully slowly, with a constant drain on Union units as casualties slowly mount - and they're not even in position yet!

"I knew I should've done their parades under live fire..."
Finally, the Union line is ready and begins moving forward - largely side-stepping the guns now, but the Rebel infantry are ready and waiting.

Oh, it's all going wrong - but at least, hopefully, in an epic manner!
Almost there - regiments are losing bases every turn to this ridiculous artillery fire - shame that Hardtack is learning all the problems of attacking (concentrating your force, using covering terrain to stop line-of-sight) in 1863, rather than 1861 when everybody had far less artillery to point out mistakes with!

Critical musket range - almost in charge range!
At the crucial moment: disaster strikes!  Some slack-jawed yokel with Secessionist sympathies has tipped off the Confederates to all the good advantages of the ground, and the Federals run straight into a killing-zone.  [Or, to put it in games-terms, I held two cards which would allow me to make a move-and-a-half, plus fire and charge.  Enough to give me a crucial edge over the last few yards - or would've been, if the Confederates hadn't played 'Southern Sympathizers' and removed them from my hand, right before contact!]

Shelter, at long last!  Some welcome defilade behind the embankment.
Musketry fire breaks out, with each side shooting over the railway-line. Finally, some Rebels are dying! 

To make things even worse, the insufferably smug Col. Mottram leaps up onto the tracks for all manner of heroic posturing - and somehow doesn't get shot down.  Hardtack can't catch a break, today.
Violent work - the old 122nd NY is wiped out altogether, the survivors pelting off to the rear.  The heroic Col. Ganderpoke is among those dead on the field.  

Oh, it's all just too horrible!

The subject of many a Lithograph, no doubt (Symbolism, anyone?)
Robbed of his chance to charge, Hardtack can only watch as the Confederates duly pile on the misery by doing so themselves!

"Don't you know playing on railway lines can be dangerous?"
The chance of repulsing the attack briefly flickers up, but although the 1/11th Massachusetts veterans do their bit, and so do the 13th Delaware cavalry, the colored recruits of the 154th New York have clearly been put through too much for one day - they are pushed back by the Confederates after a close fight.  

Still, they do gain a hero in their Colonel, so at least that's something.
It's over, and the result is a terrible, terrible defeat.  Hardtack's division has been mauled, and undeniably given a first-rate whipping on the battlefield.  

Hardtack never thought he'd look back on the Gettysburg wheat-field nostalgically...
Back, then, to camp for the winter.  Although he took a lot of losses, he actually doesn't lose any regiments wholesale - although the survivors are largely a more sober, circumspect bunch, unsurprisingly.  Two new large regiments, the 70th New York and the 57th Pennsylvania, are attached to his division to help bolster it.  Also, at long last, he gets two sections of Parrotts which give him a (solitary) full-strength battery of guns.  Hardtack is also moved enough by the experience of covering open ground to hire a Scouting expert, to try and give him some more information on future battlefields.  Following in the footsteps of Colonel Mottram, another glory-hunting Hero colonel gets himself transferred into Hardtack's division, to head up a regiment.  At least Hardtack's command has a reputation as a fighting force, to be attracting all these fire-eaters.