Saturday, 13 November 2021

Return of the Fat Tanker

 This week we returned to 'What a Tanker!', after a long hiatus. When the rules were published, back in 2018, we played half a dozen games, in 1/48th scale, using Corgi diecasts. The success of these games encouraged us to embark upon a desert campaign in 20mm. This was hugely popular, involving about a dozen players, and running for 2 to 3 months. It was great fun but I think we may have burned out, as we've not played it since. [Not counting a remote game, in 15mm, during lockdown.]

So it was great to return to the Corgi diecasts and get the big toys out, once again. We played the Barkmann Corner Overdrive scenario, from the Lard magazine. This was the scenario Rich used to demo the game at WorLard back in 2018, and I recall thinking it looked great fun at the time. The idea is to pit a bunch of Shermans (I used four, as that's all I have) against a lone Panther. The catch is that the Panther is an Ace, with all the benefits that that brings. I had envisaged playing this several times and taking turns running the Panther but after terrain set up and a couple of practice turns, for new players, we only had time for one game.

We diced for sides with Oberscharf├╝hrer Ernst Philipmann taking the Panther. For the U.S. the Shermans were commanded by Sergeants Quincy, Billy Bob, Jim Bob and Thunderbolt Pea.

We deployed the Shermans on the table edge and then, to represent the ambush nature of the fight, gave the Panther the choice of where to deploy, after seeing the Allied deployment. The allies deployed to the right of the road with only Sgt. Quincy deploying into the field on the left. In response, Philipmann deployed his Panther behind the wood hoping to pick off Quincy's lone Sherman.

View from the allied lines

Allied advance. Quincy already in trouble taking hits from the Panther - damaged running gear. Jim Bob lags behind - no Drive dice!

After several scary turns under fire, Quincy breaks out into the cover of the lane. Thunderbolt Pea gets in a shot from the corner of the field, whilst Billy Bob makes a dash for it.

A nice attempt at an outflanking move, by Billy Bob, but perhaps a bit foolish!

The action was quite tense at this point - so much so that I forgot to take photos. So the heroic actions of Sgt. Quincy went sadly unrecorded. With the German's attention focussed on the U.S. right, Sgt. Quincy took a left at the crossroads in an attempt to get on the Panther's flank. Unfortunately, this left Quincy side on to the inevitable response and the second Sherman went up in flames.

However, whilst that unequal duel was taking place, Jim Bob's driver had finally woken up and, with a great run of Drive dice, manoeuvred his Sherman into the Panther's flank. Short range, in the open, with an extra aim dice - he only needed 5 to hit.

Did I say he needed five? Oh dear!

To make matters worse, it was Philipmann up next. Spinning on his tracks he fired back at the Sherman - only a six needed.

Oh dear, the gunner was obviously flustered

Unfortunately, for Jim Bob, the Germans still had the requisite dice for a second shot - and this time didn't miss. Three Shermans down and one to go.
With only one tank left, the U.S. were forced into desperate action and Thunderbolt Pea threw his tank forward in an attempt to outflank the Panther. Speed was required here and Pea attempted to gain as much distance as possible by pouring in as many Drive dice as possible. With my legendary dice luck it turns out this wasn't very far. With his lightning attack scuppered, Thunderbolt was forced to seek shelter behind Quincy's burning tank.
By now Philipmann had turned his Panther around and a duel lasting several turns commenced. Somewhat improbably, Thunderbolt kept driving the Panther back to the table edge. At one point, he even managed a damage point on the Panther but it turned out that the Panther had extra sandbags and it was cancelled. Inevitably, outgunned and under-armoured, Thunderbolt's luck couldn't last and Philipmann took his 4th kill.

Burning Shermans

A great game and one that is easy to set up with little preparation needed. I think we will play this one again at some point. It will be fun to take turns at playing the Germans. But will four Shermans be enough?

Saturday, 6 November 2021

The Gangs of Table E

 OK, I admit that I may have gotten a bit carried away. 'Let's get some cowboys', they said. 'You only need a handful' they said. Yeah right!

This was meant to be last year's Christmas game and, although we did play it on Zoom, it's not quite the same as playing face to face. Hopefully, this year we will manage the real thing, as it were.

In the meantime, I have been steadily  building my forces for my solo campaign. The idea was kick started by a couple of cracking lockdown games, run on WhatsApp, hosted by our Cyprus contingent, and set in the town of Purgatory. Whilst I didn't want to pinch the characters from Purgatory, I came up with the idea of using the players as the gang leaders for my own campaign. So here they are, the various 'gangs' of the Paradise County Wars.

First off we have the forces of Law and Order, represented by the Pinkertons. It's a bit of an in-joke that my characters are always short-sighted, so when I discovered one of the figures was wearing spectacles, I decided that was the one for me.  Hence, the Pinkertons are lead by Blind Pea, ably assisted by Edmund Reid and Fred Aberline (obviously a second career after policing Ripper Street in London).

Blind Pea, Edmund Reid and Fred Aberline (all Artizan figures)

Next we have a bunch of ne're do wells lead by The O'Finnigan. Casting about for suitable Irish themed names I was quite taken by O'Rourke (Sharpe's nemesis) and Rabbi Milligan (from Fargo).

O'Finnigan, Rabbi Milligan and O'Rourke. (All Dead Man's Hand figures, with Milligan from the plastics set)

Next we have the Paradise County Regulators, under Knuckles McGurk. Knuckles earned his nickname in one of our Zoom games and the name stuck. He is assisted by Ringo and Cheesy Scurlock. The latter based on the Lincoln County Regulator Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland in Young Guns). I was tickled to discover that, at least according to Wikipedia, Doc Scurlock at one time opened a cheese factory; one of his employees being Billy the Kid (allegedly).

Knuckles McGurk, Ringo and Cheesy Scurlock (DMH, Knuckleduster and DMH plastic)

For the next gang I decided I needed some 'European Adventurers'. These are lead by Swiss Michael. I don't know why but I decided that a Tom Petty vibe would look good and gave him a swanky long coat, top hat and long hair. For some reason I also decided he would be an albino. As his sidekicks, I needed two Victorian era European adventurers, so who better than Peachey and Dravot? (Obviously, before their misadventures in Kafiristan.)

Swiss Michael, Peachey and Dravot (all DMH plastics)

Of course, every good western has to have a bunch of sadistic vigilantes, so who better than the Native American hating characters from Chato's land? So here we have Quincy Whitmore, Jubal and Young Earl. In the film, they are all ex confederates but only Quincy still wears a uniform. I decided, that in this version, all would be in uniform and, in addition, Quincy would keep his cavalry sabre.

Quincy Whitmore, Jubal and Earl (all Perry Miniatures confederate cavalry)

Finally, we can't have a cowboy game without some actual cowboys. These are based upon the characters from Open Range. Whereas our Purgatory games had the Cakey Kid, I decided that a sweet toothed alternative was needed here. Hence, the cowboys are lead by Boss Spearmint (Boss Spearman in Open Range - Robert Duvall's greying beard seemed appropriate as well - just saying!). These are possibly the most expensive figures in my collection, but if I was getting Spearman, I just had to have Charley Postlethwaite as well.  The gang is completed with a Dead Man's Hand plastic figure, which I have named Shorty - being much smaller than the Empress Miniatures.

Boss Spearmint, Postlethwaite and Shorty. Empress Miniatures and DMH plastics.

Part of the expense of the Empress Miniatures is that they come as sets of mounted and dismounted characters. Lovely figures though.

Boss Spearmint and Postlethwaite. No horse for Shorty, he just gets to carry the saddlebags!

So that's it for the gangs but that's not the whole collection. I also have Native Americans lead by Smelly Parker and Johnny Tonto. Quanah Parker was a real life war leader of the Kwahadi (Antelope) band of the Comanche. His name is apparently from the Comanche kwana, smell or odour. Johnny Tonto is based on the Johnny Depp  version of Tonto (itself modelled on a painting of a Native American entitled 'I am Crow'). I used a Celtic helmet crest from a Warlords Miniatures plastic set to add the crow.

Dead Man's Hand Renegades

Next up we have a band of Mexicans.

Mexicans by Artizan and Knuckleduster

I also have the Spaghetti Western characters that started off the whole project. These and the Empress Miniatures are easily my favourites.

Spaghetti Western characters. All Knuckleduster Miniatures.

That only leaves a few leftovers. which will serve as useful filler.

Miscellaneous Dead Man's Hand figures

So that's it for the 'fighting' figures but being me, I had to have some civilians as well. Admittedly, these are not all from cowboy ranges or even necessarily the same era but I think they work OK. I have half a dozen townsfolk, from the Dead Man's Hand range, to which I have added figures from my Sharp Practice collection and even my pirate collection.

Townsfolk. Dead Man's Hand, Perry Miniatures, Eagle Figures and Firelock Games.

And that's not all. The piece de resistance............

Warbases Stagecoach

So that's the complete collection - at least for now. I have my eye on some more Knuckleduster Miniatures and it's nearly Christmas..................

Saturday, 30 October 2021

A Spot of Naval Gazing

 The last 2 club nights saw us indulging in a spot of naval gaming; always fun and something we should do more often.

First off was a fleet action using ancient galleys. During last year's lockdown I painted up a couple of fleets using Outpost Miniatures 1/3600th ships. I've never been happy with most naval rules that have a dozen or so models per side masquerading as a fleet of hundreds of ships; this way I get to deploy them in numbers that give a better impression of a fleet. I have 200 ships in my collection; still not quite a 1 to 1 representation but a respectable number nonetheless. Of course, using this many ships would require a different approach to normal and the rules need to be designed specifically for fleet actions.

When I started this project, the only suitable rules I was aware of were David Manley's 'Greek Fire and Roman Fury' which appeared in Wargames Illustrated in 2003. This uses stands of multiple based ships and a game engine based on Fire and Fury. I ran a test game and, although not totally convinced, reckoned it was a good starting point to work with. Fortuitously, an expanded version was released, last year, under the horrible title of 'He Hemetera Thalassa, Mare Nostrum'. The mixing of Greek and Latin notwithstanding, they're just a horrible mouthful; we've decided to just refer to them as Mare Nostrum.

I was initially quite excited by Mare Nostrum but unfortunately they don't really add much to the original Greek Fire and Roman Fury rules - the base rules have exactly the same wording. Granted the new version has fleet lists (including a truly horrendous points system) and scenarios but I'm beginning to doubt whether these were even tested. Some of the mechanisms are also unnecessarily clunky. That said we did have fun and the base idea is sound. I've already thought of ways to streamline them and we will definitely be giving them another go.

I didn't take many photos, as I reckoned tiny, tiny ships on blue bases, deployed on a blue mat, were never going to be photogenic. 

The fleets deploy. Romans in the foreground, Carthaginians in the distance.

Roman left attempts a flanking move whilst Carthaginians advance in echelon.

Roman centre in double line

Romans in trouble

The second game was much more successful and great fun. This was a 17th century game, using Firelock Games' 'Oak and Iron'. Yet another lockdown project and, at the moment, my favourite age of sail rules.
We pitted an English squadron, under Colonel Whitemoore, against a Spanish squadron commanded by Don Felipe. The English fielded a 5th rate frigate, a petite fregate and a sloop. The Spanish a light Galleon, a fluyt and a corvette.
We drew the escort scenario, with the objective token situated on the English sloop. The Spanish had 10 turns to capture the objective.
This size game is designed for a 3ft square table but I find that the table can be too cluttered, if terrain is used, and we always run out of sea room. Hence, I decided to try a 6 by 4 play area - the club tables and sea mats are this size, so it seemed easier. In retrospect, the standard scenarios begin with both sides almost in action and the game length takes this into account. In our game the sides deployed too far apart and the Spanish were never going to attain their objective in 10 turns. On the other hand, the extra sea room did feel good. Perhaps I will just increase the game length in future - we finished 10 turns easily in the usual time allotted for a club night.

The English attempt to hide behind the island

The Spanish deploy on the edge of the world

English skirt the island

English advance to shield the sloop

The Spanish Corvette attempts the passage between the island and the shoals but is covered by the English Petite Fregate

A late burst of speed from the Corvette doesn't quite reach the sloop in the final turn. In the distance the 5th rate and the galleon slog it out in a boarding action.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

A Bloody Battle with Bloody Barons

 This week we left the deserts of Africa behind for the green green grass of home. It was to be the first appearance. at the club, of my 10mm WOTR collection, since their lockdown rebase.

I also wanted to try out a few ideas with the game set up.

First off, the table would be 6ft square: in theory, the rules are designed for a 4 by 3ft table but I have found that, for my tastes, a 6 by 4ft playing area works better. The extra 2ft depth, used here, was to trial a square table which would help with table set up.

I'm not a great fan of using a points system and, as I provide both sides, we're limited by what's in my figure collection anyway. Instead, sides are allocated by using a system of unit cards. Each side receives a core force of 1 Household, 2 Retinue and 2 Levy units each. To this are added 8 units randomly drawn from the deck of unit cards. Some of these are blank and any understrength forces (through drawing blank cards) are brought up to strength by drawing cards from a mercenary deck. Finally, both sides draw a card from an ordnance deck to see if they have brought any guns along.

Similarly, to speed things up I have a number of pre-generated generals that are also allocated at random. For this game, Lord Pea, the Earl of Waldridge and Count Catchmole would take on the Earl of Dawlish, Lord Sacriston and Lord Whippersnapper.

Whereas, the Earl of Dawlish mustered a fairly solid force of bow and bill, with the support of light and heavy guns, Lord Pea was forced to hire Scots mercenaries and was without Ordnance.

I'm not a great fan of the so-called Piggy Chase and much preferred the method of allocating attackers and defenders used in version 1 of the rules. Hence, I have added an attack / defence category to the 'Scenario' section of the pregame and upped the available dice to 32 (from 26D6). Using this method, Lord Pea was to be the defender.

As another time saver, I scrapped the terrain generation system (which I'm not convinced gives realistic set ups in any case) and instead diced for which of the historical battlefields we would use. The defender gets to choose which of the four map edges would be his deployment area (hence the advantage of a square table). In this instance, the battle area would be the Hedgely Moor battlefield, with Lord Pea electing to deploy where the Lancastrians historically deployed.

Lord Pea and the Earl of Waldridge took the centre and Count Catchmole headed for the hills on the right. On the far left the Scots deployed to secure Pogle's Wood.

Initial deployment with Lord Pea's forces on the left.

After carrying out defender depletions, it transpired that the maximum of 3 defender's units were placed off-table in the reinforcement zone. This included a unit of Scots. As this zone did not contain a general, they were going to have their work cut out in this sector.
What's worse is that Lord Pea had decided to advance this zone to secure the wood. The Earl of Dawlish advanced his strong centre, including all his artillery.

Dawlish advances. In the distance the Scots hide in the woods.

Artillery centre and Dawlish's units with bows curiously ranked behind the bill.

Depleted Scots occupy the wood

Predictably, the battle began with long range archery and artillery fire. Dawlish's men were on form and Waldridge's ward was horribly battered by artillery fire. They promptly broke, fleeing the table and taking Waldridge with them.

Waldridge in trouble

Archery duel across the front

Luckily, with so many troops waiting in the reinforcement area, Waldridge was able to return with fresh troops and fill the gap.

Waldridge once more into the fray

Lord Pea holds the centre

Catchmole's ward throw their opponents into disarray

So far everything had gone Dawlish's way and sensing an easy win he attacked all along the line. Only to be repulsed all along the line.

Waldridge demonstrates his prowess in combat

This was certainly a reversal of fortune and in following moves both of Dawlish's 2 left hand wards routed.
The action was so hot, at this point, that I forgot to take photos! Another attack went in from Dawlish's remaining 2 wards on his right. Against all odds, the depleted and unsupported Scots, in the woods, through back all comers. Lord Pea also threw back another attack but was killed in the process.
This necessitated moving generals over from the stabilised right to prop up Pea's beleaguered and disarrayed ward. Waldridge moved to take command and Catchmole took over Waldridge's former ward. Unfortunately, for Waldridge, Dawlish seized the opportunity to attack, sweeping the opposition from the field; Waldridge falling in the process.

Pea's ward in trouble

At this point we called a halt due to the lateness of the hour. We had reached about 26 on the battle clock (out of a possible 32), so the battle was close to the end in any case.

Close of play

This was a very hard fought battle and could have gone either way. Despite their unlucky pregame and early moves, Lord Pea's forces did actually win most of their combats. At the end everything was still to play for - Pea still had several units in the reinforcement area - but the valiant deaths of both Pea and Waldridge probably swung the balance. Special mention must go to the Scots who held the wood all game - granted they were down to a mere 1.5 bases by the end but they had seen off multiple attacks.

A cracking game, and I'm pleased with the revised pre-game set up. I think we'll stick to a 6 by 4 table next time though, if only for the sake of my back

We played this with 2 players but I do think it will stretch to 2 per side. There was a surprising amount going on in the game, certainly enough to keep 4 players occupied.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

McKellen's Finest Hour

This week it was the final game in our Sudan play test series. It was almost a full turn out, which was stretching the format a bit, but seemed to work nevertheless.

Dramatis Personae

Major Pea, Galloping Major and the evening's Sir Garnet.

Major Eyeswater, Galloping Major.

Capt. Cakey, Adjutant

Majors Whitemoore, Dundarse and Young Winston, Intelligence officers.

Major Stroker, posted overseas.

Once again, Madly Barking was back with the convoy, the aim being to see how far the convoy could advance during the game.

Once more El-Babaji commanded the Dervish according to the guidelines laid out in our Radical Babbage variant.

Major Eyeswater deployed his battalion on the British right opposite the donga, with Major Pea's battalion to their left opposite a mimosa covered hill. Both battalions deployed in square with the convoy between them. Out in front was a screen of 2 units of mounted infantry and a unit of Abyssinian scouts, all commanded by Capt. Cakey.

A cautious deployment by the British - do they know something?

The Dervish then rolled for deployment and deployed all 4 mobs on their left.

It's quiet out there - too quiet

The British advance - as the convoy passes them by, Major Pea and the Durhams take a moment to reflect (ahem...)

It soon transpired that the Dervish were not messing about and their dander was up. Eschewing any attempt at concealment, the leading mob charged forward and was soon across the donga, where they were engaged by the Balamory Highlanders supported by the mounted infantry.

The Balamory and Midsomers shake out into firing line and blaze away for most of the game

With the Dervish attack on the right halted by massed fire, the Durhams deploy, as an attack in the centre heads towards the Abyssinian scouts in the donga,

The Durhams form close order, as the mounted infantry winkle out a horde of screaming Beja on Mimosa Hill.

Too late for the scouts, who are wiped out to a man. With dice rolling like that, they can only  be led by Sheik El Liot!

Cumberbatch orders fixed bayonets as the Beja charge down hill.

Cumberbatch's company put up a fierce fight but pay a terrible price and are pushed back

With Cumberbatch out of the fight it's now the turn of Brett's company to face the wrath of the Mahdi. Both companies are now down to 3 figures.

With the British left barely holding, the Dervish infiltrate the donga.

It turns out that there was an awful lot of Beja hidden down there.

The Beja threat is halted by crossfire from Rathbone's company, the Midsomers and the Mounted Infantry. In the centre a unit of Beja is down to one figure as is Brett's company facing them. To cries of 'pot that man!' Brett levels his revolver - it's a hit! We instantly awarded Brett a medal. In an attempt to get into a fire position, McKellan has advanced on to Mimosa Hill.

On the far right, suffering from incoming rifle fire, the Mounted Infantry fix bayonets.

McKellen faces off a cavalry charge.

McKellen pushed back down the hill. Cumberbatch provides supporting fire from his 3 remaining figures - 3 hits. Good shooting!

Rathbone's company charged by Beja but miraculously wipes them out.

With crippling casualties the Dervish drift away.

So the British hold the field but at a terrible price, particularly amongst the Durhams. That said I'm giving this game to the Durhams; they clearly took the brunt of the hand to hand fighting. McKellan's company, in particular performed heroically, surviving multiple attacks from both Beja and cavalry. They also advanced farthest out of the all the regular infantry.

An honourable mention goes to Capt. Cakey, in charge of the Mounted Infantry and Scouts, who did a grand job of flushing out the Dervish. The Mounted Infantry also performed the only bayonet charge of the game.

All in all, it was a cracking game and the Radical Babbage system was a great success. So it's all steam ahead for the Sudan campaign. We have a tentative format worked out and all the players have signed up, so we will definitely be returning to the Sudan in the future.