Friday 30 October 2020

18th Century Game tomorrow


The road to the pass. The French and Spanish can deploy up to half way along the left (northern) long table edge


The Battle of Castello Melanzana

The 1st Ristorante War came about as a result of French and Austrian rivalry in Northern Italy during the second quarter of the 18th century. Following the War of the Waldensian Succession between 1669 and 1671 (see my blog) and the War of the Spanish Succession the Austrians began to re-exert their influence over Northern Italy, in particular the young and Protestant County of Waldensia which had wrestled a form of independence from Piedmont following the latter’s defeat at the hands of the French in 1671. The County occupies territory that controls several of the major mountain passes from France into Northern Italy holds a key strategic value to all the major powers. The Waldensians have actively courted support from the Austrians in their desire to remain independent in the face of a resurgent Piedmont and the French, who were now allied with the Piedmontese.  Spain, had long (since being on the winning side in the war of 1669-71) been covetous of the territory of Waldensia and was also keen to  extend their influence northwards from Naples.  The French were happy to have the Spanish at their side again, knowing that any territorial ambitions of the Spanish would be short lived due to widespread ineptitude, a lack of money and poor communications. 

Initially it was the Spanish who began, covertly, to establish a wide network of spies based on a growing number of Tapas restaurants throughout the County.  Not to be outdone the French ran their intelligence network through several haute cuisine restaurants, patisseries and chocolatiers. The Austrians were caught on the back foot as Hapsberg cuisine was no match for the best the French and Spanish could throw at them. They  did attempt to launch a chain of Wurst und Schnitzel outlets (mit cafe und kuchen) but demand was low.  The Waldensians were not in favour of so many French and Spanish eateries popping up across their territory as they were driving the local gelato and Tagliatelli dealers out of business, and there was growing civil unrest, culminating in the now famous ‘Food Riots of Waldens’ in early 1732. This episode might have simply fizzled out were it not for the fact that the three great powers were already on the verge of hostilities as a result of the disputed Polish crown in what was to be known as the War of Polish Succession (and which was mostly played out in Northern Italy). The Lotti di Bun incidents soon turned from a food fight to all out war as Spanish, French and Austrian eateries were ransacked, looted or burnt down by each other’s supporters  or simply consumed by the populace,  and opposing armies manoeuvred around the borders of the strategically important Waldens valley. So began the conflict which history was to call the 1st Ristorante War.

The objectives are straightforward. The Franco-Spanish army needs to gain and hold the Waldens valley, the key to which is the Castello Melanzana. The area is held by a combined Austro-Waldensian army.  Therefore, Franco/Spanish objectives are to destroy the enemy force in order to gain control of the only viable pass through the mountains into the County of Walden proper. Without the destruction of the enemy field army invading through the pass is impossible. This is also the only avenue of retreat for the Austrians.

Monday 26 October 2020

Italian Renaissance civilians

 Here are the rest of my Eureka Italian Renaissance civilians ready to populate my city or even the odd tabletop battlefield.

The lovers meet.

Some ruffians and thieves

The duelists. The gentlemen and ladies look on.

More hired thugs and thieves.

The figures are all from Eureka and come as a full set or as smaller themed groups. They're mostly done with contrast paints to start, but I like to mix and match as the mood takes me and add a bit of highlighting. Given that I always put a thin wash over them anyway before highlighting and so                    forth and hitting the varnish it is probably a waste of time but sometimes it adds something to the odd figures. I've put them on clear bases but probably should have clipped off all the cast on figure base before sticking them down. I decided against this as I didn't want to risk wrecking any figures or especially their feet.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Doomed love in my Italian city


After almost three years I’ve finished my Italian Renaissance civilian figures I bought from Eureka Miniatures. As my Italian city grows close to completion I just had to use two of the Eureka figures to recreate a certain icon scene and tale of doomed love in Renaissance Italy.

The other twenty or so figures from this set,  will appear in a post later this week.

Saturday 24 October 2020

Wings over the Hindu Kush book review.

The nice people at Helion kindly sent me a copy of this book to review. Their ‘Asia at War’ series is turning into a repository of an increasing number of really good books on some niche and rarely written about subjects. ‘Wings over the Hindu Kush’ by Lucas Muller is a case in point as the book focuses entirely on the Afghan Airforce in all its various incarnations from under the Communist government’s fight against the Mujahideen, through to the ascendancy and then fall of the Taliban regime during the period 1989 - 2001.  This makes a great change to reading about Soviet and NATO airforces deployed to Afghanistan. 

After the introduction and a comprehensive scene setting, we are given an account of the aerial conflict in Afghanistan from the point of view of the various factions, broken down into the Najibullah Government v the Mujihadeen 1989-92, the vicious civil war between 1992-96, the conquest of the north by the Taliban 1996-98 and the further gains then sudden fall of the Taliban between 1999 and 2001. Included in the appendices are unit strengths, equipment and losses. The book is laced with lots of black and white photographs and some handy maps which help put points raised in the narrative in perspective. As expected, there are sixteen pages of colour illustrations, mostly of the various aircraft operated by government and Taliban forces (it never occurred to me that the Taliban operated an airforce, even a small and ill-equipped one). There’s also a few colour illustrations of surface to air missile systems and a large colour map of the area of operations.

So, great photographs and colour plates, a compact, comprehensive and from my perspective highly informative (It isn’t a subject I knew a great deal about and the necessarily brief chapter on the geo-political issues was especially enlightening) account of the air war over Afghanistan during those troubles years. Yet another great book from Helion to add to their catalogue.

Thursday 22 October 2020

City building project continues


Well, I have gone totally over the top! The past couple of weeks have seen me plough through a pile of MDF buildings and plastic city walls to the point where I think I was ready to take a hammer to the lot of them! Well, maybe not that drastic but I was beginning to fell that I was actually creating something that’d never see the light of day other than as a scenic prop at the edge of my table. As I said in an earlier post, the plan was to build the city to run down the edge of my display game at the now cancelled Battleground 2020 show in Stockton, which should have been held next month. That’s not going to happen now but maybe in 2021...or 2022? Who knows.

Anyway, most of these buildings have now been constructed and painted. I managed to knock them off over four or five afternoons. I textured and then painted them and gave them ‘proper’ terracotta roofs. I just wanted to present a sea of rooftops and towers over the city wall and as I doubt I’ll stage any games needing street fighting it doesn’t matter that they look a bit scruffy. Almost all of the buildings are from TTCombat’s Streets of Venice range. They are quite big but given their planned use I don’t think that matters. I’m quite happy with progress so far and by the end of the week they should be finished, well maybe most of them..... but where will I keep them! The walls and the taller towers are Renendra, and I have another two towers and two wall sections to finish. Then, even though I’ve just said I have no plans to fight any games inside the city but I need to complete my Renaissance civilians, football teams and city officials to populate the streets. and speaking of streets, I need some more cobblestone sheets or similar. Oh yes, and some statues for the plinths and columns.

Ps the fortress on the grey hill has nothing to do with this city. I need to tart it up and make it a bit lighter, plus some grass, tufts, etc for the mountain.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

3D printer test runs


I blame the virus and lockdown but I’ve just bought a 3D printer. Why? A displacement activity of some form? I don’t have a clue beyond an idea that I can print out some bits for my Vauban fortress and maybe some 19th century ships or even ancient or renaissance galleys.

So here we are. The big one is a galliot in 1/600 I think. Not bad and should do the job once painted and sails etc added.  The silly round thing is an 1880’s Russian coastal defence battleship, the Admiral Popov. I’ve found where I can acquire 19thC .stl files for late 19thC Turks and Russians so that might generate some fun games. 

Back to normal stuff soon. 

Monday 19 October 2020

Pakistani Airforce in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War from Helion

For anyone wanting an introduction to the 1971 India-Pakistan War this is a great place to start. The book outlines the course of the war in sufficient detail for me, and the inclusion of often detailed narrative relating to specific dogfights or sorties adds a nice human touch. I have to say that this is nowadays only a fringe area of interest for me, but I found this book to be well written and an engaging read to the extent that it has rekindled my interest in the subject. It is crammed full of fantastic photographs of men and their machines taken largely during the war. There are also seven pages of original colour illustrations of the main aircraft that were deployed by both sides during the war. The eighth colour page is a great map showing the theatre of operations which I found really useful. There are other equally handy black and white maps dotted through the the book. The references and bibliography are as one might expect, extensive and include the personal recollections of many of the men who went to war in 1971.

In terms of content, as well as the narrative covering the war, there is information on the Pakistan Airforce’s combat strength as well as that of the Indian Air Force, and their bases at the start of the war. There are tables detailing a variety of useful facts, such as a list of each Pakistan and Indian aircraft lost during the war, the fate of the pilots, and how the aircraft were lost. I also found it fascinating to learn about the diverse range of aircraft operated by both sides during the war, many of which (e.g. Hunters, Canberra’s, Mirages and F86 Sabres) will have hung from my ceiling in kit form at the time of the conflict . Overall I’d say this is a great book for anyone interested in ‘modern’ (almost 50 years ago) air combat. Who doesn’t like jets and didn’t ever want to be a fighter pilot?

Sunday 18 October 2020

A battle loosely resembling the Battle of Novara, 16 June 1513. (Or, "There's something wrong with our bloody Swiss today!")

 An excellent day’s wargaming was had on Saturday. First I hosted a technologically trouble free live streamed Italian Wars game, based, as the title suggests, loosely on the Battle of Novara in the early part of the Italian Wars.  The city and walls played no part in the game. I’d left it out as a work in progress and also because I’ve not solved yet the question of where to store it. This was quite a small game compared with my usual ones, but it did leave some space for manoeuvring if needed. These photos from the previous post show the table and the deployment of both sides.

The French have been caught with their hose down by the Swiss, nominally under the command of Maximilian Sforza, the Duke of Milan as he was paying them.  The army had made a rapid early morning advance towards the French army, camped in and around a village. The Swiss were in three columns. From right to left, the first was made up of a block of 1000 pikemen and 200 ‘lances’ of Italian Gendarmes. The second contained a unit of crossbow-armed skirmishers and a block of 2000 pike. The third column on the left was 6000 strong, in two huge pike blocks and one unit of halbardiers and a couple of puny light guns. The French had approx 1000 assorted Stradiots and other light cavalry on their extreme left, four large units of gendarmes in and around the camp/village, 4000 Gascon crossbowmen in three units and on the right, facing the main Swiss column, 6000 Landsknechts in two huge pike blocks supported by some shot and two-handed swordsmen. There were also two medium guns. We used Pike and Shot, much fiddled with, and with more representative (ie a bit of thought, not all mine, went into them unlike the ones in the rules) unit stats. I class ‘huge’ units as ones with more than 64 figures, and step further up than ‘large’ units, giving them  extra melee dice and stamina. This was also the first time I fielded my gendarmes in units of 12 instead of six. They looked much better that way and I also gave them a little bit more in the way of stamina but not melee dice. 

A smaller than normal turnout this time. Conrad, Richard and Shaun were the French while Neil and Mark (beamed in all the way from Adelaide) were the Swiss. The French thought they would have a tough fight on their hands to win. How right they were. 

The French Commander, Louis de Tremouille.

The French gendarmes started the game dismounted and unarmed so would have to spend time getting their kit on.

The Swiss/Milanese commande Maximilian Sforza, Duke of Milan. In reality the only troops he had any real control over were the gendarmes.

The stradiots and mounted shot start to move around the flank of the Milanese gendarmes. 

Richard's gendarmes were quicker into the saddle than Conrad's.

The central Swiss pike block launched itself hell for leather against the French crossbowmen in the centre. They made short work of them.

The Stradiots ignored the Swiss pike and put all their efforts into neutralising the Milanese gendarmes.

On the Swiss right Maximilian Sforza led his gendarmes towards the French Stradiots and other light cavalry intent on driving them off. All they did was drive one unit away, become disordered in the process, and then got themselves surrounded.

The disordered Milanese were then, by virtue of their disorder, eligible targets for the Stradiots who hit them in the rear and flanks. This figure is pretending to be the Duke of Milan.

The gendarmes won the first round of melee and drove the Stradiots off, but were disordered still after taking more fire from the French argoulettes. The Stradiots attacked again the next turn.

The gendarmes held the Stradiots at bay for a couple of turns, and even managed a double six after having to take a break test (I always allow an automatic stand with double six). The following turn they again lost the melee and after the break test required them to retreat, they surrendered as there was nowhere to go. Ooops!

The victorious Swiss in the centre then drove off a second unit of French crossbowmen, and as a result that command became broken and out of the fight. 

On the French right the Landsnechts stood their ground while the massive Swiss column advanced towards them. Their medium guns caused a couple of hits on the right hand Swiss block, which were to become critical later in the game. In P&S large units can also convert a potential disorder into another hit, which Mark elected to do in order to maintain momentum.

The Landsnechts under Shaun charged the Swiss and held them, winning the first round of combat!
The Swiss block was slowly pushed back after it became shaken (those artillery hits etc early in the game came back to haunt Mark)

The central Swiss block then charged the other Landsnechts, but failed to destroy them as they passed their break test. Mark's Swiss halberd unit charged the Landsneckt two-handed swordsmen but lost the melee and were broken thanks to a rubbish dice roll!
With their opponents gone the swordsmen were ideally placed to charge the Swiss pike block in the flank.

The left hand Swiss pike block was being pushed back but hanging on thanks to a rule in P&S that allows Swiss pike to ignore any break results and just withdraw so long as all the other units in their command were not also shaken.

Then the other huge Swiss block broke after failing to fight off the Landsnechts to their front and flank, leaving the entire column shaken or in rout.

The French artillery only had one shot the whole game but it was a critical one.  Very old Hinchliffe cannon and powder cart crewed by TAG gunners. I made the design on the little flag up (a flaming bomb with sparks shooting out).

In the centre the Swiss pike block had advanced unhindered towards the French camp. The gendarmes had managed to arm and mount themselves fairly quickly but pulled back in the face of the Swiss. The other gendarmes had left the village on the other side and were positioning themselves to attack the Swiss rear.

I don't know why but the Swiss elected to charge the gendarmes! This immediately made them disordered and they lost any advantage they might have had against enemy cavalry! They'd have been better off forming a massive hedgehog as they were by now threatened in the rear as well.

Yep. Conrad's gendarmes swung round the village and charged the already engaged Swiss in the rear. It was a massacre and the Swiss were destroyed.

His army shattered and himself a prisoner, the Duke is taken into captivity. Chroniclers recall that he was heard to say "There's something wrong with our bloody Swiss today!" Admiral Jellico, maybe it was Admiral Beattie,was to say something similar during the Battle of Jutland 400 years later.

So, despite it not being as big a game as I'd normally offer on a Saturday it went rather well, with a complete and utter decisive victory for the French. The players had enough figures to play with and the French, despite thinking at the start that they were in for a good kicking, managed instead to give the Swiss the good news in a very dramatic victory. Thanks to everyone for taking part (and Mark especially for staying up way past cocoa time in Adelaide). The technology was faultless, the players managed to use it to good effect, switching between cameras, and the rules are Ok I suppose for games like this.  It was good to see that the Swiss are by no means invulnerable, but I'm not really sure the French light cavalry would really have been able to play Red Indians (sorry, Native Americans) with the Milanese. Oh well. 

The afternoon was rounded off with another hour and a half of banter and sharing of all things Wargames related with the Virtual (and global) Wargames Group run by Phil Olley. After the usual excellent ‘show and tell’, another Tidders’ Time from Alan Titchmarsh, a presentation of his new cavernous games room by American member Chris Bump that left us in awe, I rattled through a presentation on my refight of the Battle of Ferozeshah in the First Sikh War. 

Today’s bad bit of news came from Shaun. He told us that a former but previously long standing member of the Durham Club had passed away after a short fight with Covid. I’d first met Big Ron Emery back in 1975/76 when we were both in D Co. of the 5th Btn the Light Infantry, a TA unit with close links to the famous but by then disbanded/merged Durham Light Infantry. We’d only been in sporadic contact over the last couple of years but I was sad to hear of his passing. Ronnie was an inveterate terrain maker and DIY person, so I’m sure he’ll be knocking up some excellent terrain boards, shelving and gaming tables for the other Big Guy in no time at all. 

Friday 16 October 2020

Saturday’s Game all set

 A quick post to set the scene for the game tomorrow. Another Italian Wars scenario between the Swiss and French, very loosely based on the Battle of Novara on 16 June 1513. Check here for more info.

The Swiss left, 6000 men in three blocks, supported by a couple of light guns. Around 160 figures in all.

The French right was held by 6000 German Landsneckts in two massive blocks and one smaller one. They have two cannon in attendance.

The French left, lightly held by around 1000 assorted Stradiots and other light cavalry. They’re only facing a smallish Swiss pike block and some Milanese Gendarmes so they should survive a little while. Beyond them is the French baggage train, and beyond that a village with the main French camp and lots of Gendarmes and Gascon crossbowmen.There are Swiss crossbowmen in the woods to the left of the village.

It should be an interesting game. I hope so anyway.

PS the city isn’t actually there and plays no part in the game. I just haven’t finished it so wanted to leave it out as a work in progress, not that I know where it’s going to be stored of course!