Monday 31 December 2018

2018 Roundup from The Burrow

Another year over and from a wargaming point of view I have to say it’s been an incredibly fulfilling and productive one. The major achievement was of course moving all my stuff from the old Man Cave to the new Burrow. Nothing lost and minimal breakages.

Here are some interesting/useless facts and figures, in no particular order:
  • I noticed earlier today that I’ve gone past the 600 mark in terms of posts on this blog, and a quick count shows that I posted 143 times (including this one) in 2018.
  • I somehow managed to squeeze in an impressive 33 games this year. With the exception of three (the Wild Geese Kenilworth event, a trip to the Like a Stone Wall club and the demo game at Battleground, the rest were all played at home. 
  • Six were in the ‘old’ Man Cave and 27 were played in the 'majestic' setting of The Burrow.
  • The range of periods played this year was quite wide but there is a definite trend in terms of the ‘most played period’as is obvious from the table below:

           French Revolutionary Wars x 19
           Seven Years War/War of the Austrian Succession x 6
           Wars of Louis XIV x 3        
           Congo/Darkest Africa x 2
           Crimean War x 1
           Great Northern War x 1
           Thirty Years War x 1

  • The games included refights of Kolin, Prague, Zorndorf, Lobositz and Leuthen from the SYW and Zurich and Trebbia from the FRW.
  • Apart from my regular and growing wargaming circle of friends who live locally I had visitors from Stroud, Grimsby, Falkirk and Adelaide! Thanks to everyone, you are a pleasure to play with and to know.
  • I managed to get to quite a few wargames shows, i.e. York, Partizan 1, Claymore, Partizan 2, Border Reiver, Crisis and Battleground. Special thanks to my wife Katherine and `John the Red for driving me there.

As far as the collection goes, it has grown significantly, especially the armies of the French Revolutionary Wars where I seem to have managed to go off on several different directions from the original idea of just doing Suvorov in the Alps. I have no plans or desire to do the Egyptian campaign but everything else is fair game. My Late 17th century Baroque armies have swelled with the addition of more French, Hanoverians and Savoyards, and lately units of Papal and Venetian troops, and my Polish renaissance army has been reinforced so my Ottomans had better watch out. I managed to sell my entire American Revolution collection as I have fallen out of love with the period, as well as a whole bundle of oddments; stuff that I rediscovered during the occasional tidying up of the Burrow, and that I knew I would never get done. Overall, the number of painted troops has increased a fair bit, but the lead mountain has grown a lot too which was not the plan. 2019 will definitely see me finally finish and base up my Sikh Wars armies, and I also have a French SYW army and some Italian Wars stuff in preparation. 

Hopefully next year will be at least as fun and productive for me as 2018 has been. That goes to all of you out there as well. Happy New Year and keep those dice rolling!

Sunday 30 December 2018

More late 17th Century troops to fight the Turk In the Morea

Two more hastily painted units were completed (from scratch apart from glueing and priming) over the weekend. The lead mountain is shrinking perceptibly, and I have also had a big clear out on Ebay, with more to follow.

A regiment of Swiss in Venetian service (Dixon Minis)
A Papal regiment (Reiver Castings)
The uniforms are largely conjectural but there was a Swiss regiment in the Venetian army in the late 17thC (Stockhardt), to which the flags belong. The troops of the Papacy are a mystery but they did seem to wear white with different coloured cuffs etc. Either way, thats another 50 odd figures painted over the Christmas holidays.

Once I've summoned up the energy to do the bases I shall do a review before they all march off to the More in Greece.

Carry on up the Congo - another debacle for the Force Publique

John the Red came over after Christmas and between various family celebrations and Dad's Tax operations for another run out for my Darkest Africa collection before I pack it all away again. You may recall that after the last action the Belgian Force Publique had received a bloody nose at the hands of the Zanzibari Arab slavers, taking heavy losses. They had failed in their objective and had also been unable to make it back to the river, but were able to leg it into the interior as the Arabs and their native allies were too busy licking their wounds. The commander of the column decided to head east towards the Arab slavers' main outpost on the river at Natin Hufratan fi Aljahim, steal some dhows and escape. En route they fortuitously encountered a group of civilian explorers and missionaries, escorted by a platoon of Force Publique irregulars.

The scenario was thus. The Zanzibaris are deployed (I think there were 5 or 6 units plus cannon in the town) around their settlement, alerted to the approach of the column but also to the presence of two Force Publique gunboats heading their way. An Awishmawai native village was nearby, but their involvement was not guaranteed.  We swapped roles this time so I took the plucky Belgians and John the Arabs, and used The Sword and the Flame again.

The two Force Publique gunboats, each holding a section of Askari as well as their crews and the District Commissioner and his staff. 
The town. The Arabs had a couple of old cannon mounted on the rooftops, and they began lobbing  roundshot in the direction of the gunboats almost at once.
The Awishmawai village. Quiet for the moment.
Disaster. A lucky shot holed the gunboat on the right, which managed to run itself  aground before sinking. Two further incredibly lucky shots put two holes in the other gunboat, which began to sink immediately. Three of the crew and two passengers were drowned but the others made it so shore, three of them being too injured to continue. What to do now?
The still quiet village......
The fugitive column. The advance guard has just crossed the stream to the left, while command group and civilians can be seen approaching the stream. Bearers and porters escorted by armed servants bring up the rear.  The rearguard, the Force Publique irregulars picked up en route, are acting as a rearguard. Just in shot at the top of the photo is the machine gun, set up to cover the column as it crosses the stream.
The leading section of Force Publique askari spring an ambush by a large group of Ruga-Ruga riflemen. The latter's fire is thankfully ineffective.
The civilians and their armed servants cover the flank of the main body as another group of Arabs start shooting from  the jungle.
Speed being of the essence I ordered a bayonet charge. One section refused to charge but the other  one made it, although it was outnumbered almost 3:1.
The doughty Belgian machine gun was well placed to cover both the advance and my left flank should the need arise.
The heavily armed and rather deadly civilians blasted away and decimated the Arabs in the jungle.
After fierce hand to hand combat the four remaining Belgians were in full retreat, but the  Ruga-Ruga were also in a bad way. John decided to re-occupy his original position.
John had sent an envoy secretly to try and stir up the natives.  I spotted him crossing the stream but the best I could do was to wound his servant. Of course shooting in the direction of the natives was guaranteed to upset them a little.....
The section of cowardly askari began enfilading the depleted Ruga-Ruga  in the bush while the civilians  kept the other  Arabs,  who had retreated to the rocks, under fire.
Meanwhile the landing party had been badly shot up by the Arabs in the town, and the appearance of some Baluchi matchlock men in my rear didn't help the situation. I began a withdrawal to the stricken gunboats, taking all my wounded with me.
The first war band of angry natives leave the village and head in my direction. A lucky shot by one of my bearers killed their leader.
Another band of natives (Boro supporters?) heads out of the village.

The first group of natives moved to cross the steam. My machine gun managed to wound three more of them as they crossed.
My deadly civilians, including several big game hunters, entered the rocky area to stalk the Arabs hiding within it. The latter took more casualties and ran as fast as their legs could carry them.
John's Ruga-Ruga retreated in the face of the Belgian advance.
Heroes of the day! The Askari machine gun (slightly anachronistic but who cares?) continued to provided support to the main body.
The surviving Belgian askari are now within sight (and range) of the settlement, but take more losses from the Arab defenders. They would be cut down if they attempted to attack.
With both my gunboats out of action my plan had been to take the settlement and steal a couple of dhows. That, as they say, was not going to happen!
The shore party continued to skirmish with the Baluchis, who managed to wound yet another European  officer.
The force commander (in white) had collected almost all the wounded around the grounded gunboat. The two wounded askari nearest the settlement had to be left for the time being as the two sailors who volunteered to bring them in were both killed before they could get the to safety. They will of course be nominated for an award.
The three groups of Awishmawei crossing the river, still under fire from the machine gun on their flank. Facing them was just a single group of armed bearers and servants.
The Belgians are again in serious trouble. The two sections of Askari are both down the half strength, leaving the civilians and armed bearers the only groups at full strength.
The armed servants and bearers now formed the rearguard.
Thankfully nobody chose to enter the jungle on the table edge, otherwise this jolly bunch of Pygmy warriors would have been activated. ALL of them!!!
These Arab swordsmen were hiding on the flank of the settlement. Any further forward movement by the Belgians would have meant they would've been spotted. Thankfully that never happened.
This and the following two shots show the range of units available (on a random basis) to the tribesmen in the village.

Readers might recall reference to the column's rearguard, made up of irregulars in the pay of the Force Publique.  I forgot to bring them on so Guess its fair to say that they were lost, or overwhelmed by a hoard of angry Pygmies. A shame as they would have made a difference. Not much perhaps but....
So, at that point John was clearly the victor. The Force Publique were shattered. The riverine part of the expedition had been scuppered (literally) by early lucky shots by John's cannon, meaning any attack on the settlement would have to cross a large open area without the support of the gunboats. I tried it and suffered for my pains. The Column did well to get as far as it did but would now struggle to join up with the remains of their river-born comrades before making an attempt for freedom.  Casualties had been high (around 50% of the Force Publique killed or wounded), especially among European officers and NCOs. The Arabs and tribesmen also suffered heavily (about 50 killed and wounded) so perhaps would not be too keen on pursuing the Belgians.  The stoic machine gunners were of course overwhelmed and killed to a man as they refused to join up with the Column, preferring instead to provide covering fire for as long as they could. Heroes all!

It was a fun game and quite a challenge, for me at least. I still like TSATF but they are a bit 'hollywood'ish' in places, so I am going to give 'Congo' a try next, or maybe Death on the Dark Continent (DOTDC) or The Man Who Would Be King (TMWWBK).  Sharpe Practice might also work but as John noted, it doesn't have a big enough name to make a long abbreviation so .....

I have the chaps round for a game on Friday. Certainly going to be something other than Darkest Africa.

Monday 24 December 2018

Late'ish 17th Century Savoyards

The four regiments in the top photo were completed (by me!) over the last week and a bit and now await their turn in the basing queue before they join their comrades to march east in the New Year to fight the heathen Turk in defence of the borders of Christendom. Not my best, but ok. I don't think Savoy sent any troops to help the Venetians during the latter's war against the Ottomans in Greece and Crete but they might have, and I had the figures and flags so there you go.  The 'uniforms' are conjectural, based on what we know what was worn in later in the 1680's. 

 I had previously completed two other regiments, and here they are. Quite a colourful little force.
I will do a regiment each of horse and dragoons and a couple of guns in the new year. I'm currently prepping a couple of Venetian regiments and have a Papal one on the painting desk half done. I already have several Luneberg-Celle regiments in the collection and these certainly did fight against the Turk in support of Venice.

Merry Christmas!

Friday 21 December 2018

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from 'The Burrow!'

I will probably post again before Christmas but in case I forget, here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2019!

Thursday 20 December 2018

Helion conferences 2019

Helion and Co are running two more conferences next year. I went to two of their events this year and they were excellent so if you are interested and can get to one of these I reckon they'll be well worth it. I plan to attend the London one in September.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

The Sword and the Flame in the Congo

As promised, something different. I have an extensive (i.e. far more than I remembered having) collection of 'Darkest Africa' figures that haven't even been out of their boxes for maybe 25 years. John the Red fancied a game, originally with Death in a Dark Continent, but back in the day we (Joe Newton, Steve Holden and the lads at the Durham Wargames Group) used The Sword and the Flame all the time in a mega Darkest Africa campaign (I still have my campaign diary) as well as stand alone colonial-type battles. The Sword and the Flame will be 40 years old in January 2019 so it seemed fitting to see if I remembered how they worked, which I did, almost, and as the game progressed most came flooding back.

The Force Publique under Captain Jean Lerouge had landed close to the village of S'Pungabobn where a large consignment of illegally acquired ivory and stolen trade goods were about to be sold to the local Zanzibaris. The Captain commanded four sections of Force Publique Askaris, each commanded by a European. He also had a light machine gun and his headquarters staff (the Adjutant, Sergeant Major, drummer, bugler, standard bearer and valet with the drinks tray). In total, excluding bearers there were 8 Europeans and around 50 Askari. Obviously the natives and the Arabs were not keen on their stuff being impounded and quickly armed themselves to resist the attack. I marked six locations on the map where units might appear so that I chose to activate a unit i wouldn't know where it would start. Also if the Belgians came within 18" of one of the potential hiding places there was a chance that they would force a randomly generated unit into action. John knew nothing of all this which made it interesting. Here are some photos which will hopefully tell the story.

Two Belgian steam launches which I scratch build maybe 30 years ago.

The Force Publique bearers assembling.
The mule train
A section of Belgian Askari parading before the expedition.
The Captain and his staff.
The villagers go about their daily routine.

The native shrine.
The wrong continent but why not have a giant Elephant God statue?
The expedition heads off.

The first ambush is sprung, much to my dismay as the natives were shot to pieces and failed to make contact.
The Captain passes the mule train on his way to the head of the column.

The surviving natives routing off the table.
The column begins to get strung out and overextended as more natives appear all around them.
Another unit of natives, bowmen this time, are shot down by the Askaris.

The Belgians have spread out into a firing line before their final advance on the village.
Despite the almost continuous rifle fire life in the village in uninterrupted. Some Zanzibari riflemen take up a position inside the stockade.
Village life
The chief's house, with the man himself seated beyond it.
The Belgians are now truly assailed on all sides, but are holding the natives off despite some poor marksmanship. 
A mob of native spearmen surged out of the undergrowth and attacked the Captain and his entourage, who happened to be right in front of them. 
A leaderless section of Askari leg it for the jungle, carrying their wounded European commander.
Yet more Arabs appear from the village and take cover in the undergrowth.
More native spearmen running away after their unit was cut down by John's Askari and machine gun.
A furious melee between the surviving spearmen and Captain Lerouge's entourage.
At the end of the melee, the Captain and the Adjutant lay dead, but the natives had been annihilated.
The now leaderless column is in danger of being cut off from the boats as more Zanzibari musketeers  emerge from the village and from the undergrowth at their rear. It was at this point that John conceded defeat as their was little chance he would be able to even reach the village let alone liberate the ivory and trade goods.
The native Shaman thanking the Big Mouthed God for their victory.
An elephant does likewise.
The natives rejoice!

.....and life goes on.

The head of the column seen from the village, clearly in disarray after the heroic death of their brave leader.

So there you have it. I enjoyed the game and hopefully so did John. The rules are a bit dated and the chances of hitting with missile fire seem rather low, with little to differentiate between Belgians with modern breach loading rifles and arabs with muskets. Nevertheless I think I got the hang of them and I certainly like the card driven systems for movement sequence and shooting. Losses were pretty high for the natives and Arabs, with I think over a dozen killed and 30 wounded out of a total force of just under 100 men. Belgian losses were slight, with only 2 Askari killed and 5 wounded out of 50 men, but the greatest loss was the Captain's death and that of 2 other Europeans, with another European wounded. That worked out at 50% losses among the Europeans!

I like the rules and have since found the supplement for playing in Darkest Africa. I would certainly like to try them again now that I understand them a bit better. The randomness of where the natives appeared and how many added to the fun (for me anyway). I will give Death in the Dark Continent a go, and will even take a look at the Man Who Would be King, but at the moment the pure nostalgic element of the rules and my enormous and long forgotten collection getting back on the table has been enough to whet my appetite for another game. When I look at these figures I am amazed at how good they are and how much care has clearly gone into them compared to some of the stuff I churn out now some 25-30 years later. A last thought; I might even resurrect the campaign....

I hope to have a game or two over the holidays and have a couple of dates pencilled in already with John, so, merry Christmas if I don't post again before the Big Day.