Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Back to Brazil

Arriving just before Christmas this unit had to wait until all the festivities were over and the painting table was properly re-established.

This is the third battalion of the Boys from Brazil this time in broad brimmed hat and in khaki fatigues, which makes it the third battalion and a third uniform variant.

I have another broad brimmed hat battalion waiting in their boxes, which will probably be done in more of a regulation uniform – maybe with a few trouser variants. 

Still more Brazilian troops are waiting to be done, but they need some reinforcements to bring the battalions up to their full establishment and that may be delayed by the increased COVID-19 restrictions now imposed in the UK.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

First Game for 2021

 On New Year’s Day Nick and I played a game to try out “Under the Lily Banners” rules.

We played a scenario “A Knock at the Door” one of three from the 4Play wargaming scenarios booklet “The Baby Wore Red” the  Battle of Walcourt August 27th 1689. The scenario sees four Anglo/Dutch battalions and a field gun formed outside the walled town of Walcourt, while three small German units deployed within the town. The walls of the town were in poor repair and not rated as fortifications, merely hard cover. Opposing the Anglo/Dutch was a French force of eight battalions.

Both commanders were rated as plodders that made activation of our units difficult.

The initial deployment, French on the left, the English in the distance
The French deployment 
Walcourt and its defenders

Both of us rolled badly to activate our units (a situation that would plague me for the whole game), but after a couple of turns our lead units managed to shuffle into range of each other. The first fire did minor damage to both our units.

But next move the French plodder plodded slightly better than the English plodder and the French managed to bring the fire of two battalions to bear against one. The English suffered heavy losses and became shaken.

The English battalion was able to recover and I was able to bring more units into the line and the fire fight continued.

Meanwhile the French right wing advanced against the town.

The positions at the height of the action, about the time we broke for lunch

Soon the French numbers began to tell (assisted by my inability to roll well enough for activation to move more that one unit a turn) and the extreme right English battalion routed.

Then the French had their turn of running away, with two units routing and one retreating (sadly I have no pictures of that) but it didn’t take long for the rot set in and a second English unit took to its heals, then a third was destroyed on a combat.

Around the same time the French broke into the town.

Entry to the town was the key victory condition fir the French...not that it really mattered since three-quarters of my army was in rout or destroyed. 

The table at the conclusion of the game

So how did the rules work out? Pretty good. We made a few errors, but they worked really well and captured the feel of the age. All in all a good way to spend a few hours on a hot summer’s day.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year!

If a picture paints a thousand words, I reckon that graphic says it all. I am sure most of the globe is glad to see the back of 2020. The outlook for the start of the New Year may look grim, but the one thing we can be sure of is that the sun will rise again.

It is certainly not a year I want to repeat in a hurry. Here in New Zealand we plunged into a hard lockdown early in the pandemic and we shut the thing down, but tourism, one of our major sources of income, is in tatters. My work is in aviation an industry that has been utterly hammered. My employer reduced flying at one point by 95% of the schedule and 40% of the staff - many of whom I counted as colleagues and friends of twenty years - were laid off. We had a long overdue visit family in  Canada planned for August and that was quickly kicked to the curb as borders closed.

In late July we heard the sad news that a friend of ours had taken his life - we still don’t know why and never will. Days later, after more than 100 days without community spread, the virus reared its head again and we had a regional lockdown imposed that limited attendance at funerals to ten and we were denied the opportunity to celebrate his life. Then in October her indoors suffered a medical event that caused serious concern - thankfully she is well on the way to recovery now.

All that said, there have been moments of brightness in this dark year. Having eliminated community spread we are enjoying a level of freedom not seen in many other countries, including the ability for face-to-face gaming, open restaurants, theatres and bars, sports events and othe large gatherings and unrestricted domestic travel - something we have taken full advantage of with three wonderful short trips in the latter half of the year to parts of the country not previously visited. Thus far the economic damage has been less than forecast and the only two restrictions imposed on us now are the closure of our borders and mandatory mask wearing on public transport. But we can ill-afford to be complacent since a single slip up at the border could undo all our collective effort - fingers crossed that we can continue to keep this insidious thing at bay.

For me the highlight of the year was our highly anticipated annual wargames week away. This is perhaps the only time in the year that I get to totally relax and while it was a truncated event for me it still provided a few days of peace in these turbulent and stressful times.

Looking back at my gaming year, as I do at this time every year, it shows a downturn across all areas of activity. 

In terms of numbers of games I played a total of nineteen, down five on last year, but there was a good range across thirteen eras: 5x Napoleonic games, 2x American Civil War, 2x Dark Ages and 1 each of 100 Years War, War of Spanish Succession, Spanish Civil War, Modern Afghanistan, English Civil War, First Carlist War, WWI 1918, Crimean War, Western Gunfighters and War of 1812.

My scratch building efforts have been dramatically reduced, with just four small buildings for the Paraguayan War and, of course, my woods bases and swamps. Could it be that I am reaching the point where I have buildings and terrain items to cover all my gaming periods? I think not...more exciting scratch building activities are waiting in the wings and will develop next year.

On the painting front although the item count is still a respectable 1,100 plus items activity has been the lowest since 2015 and down 34% over last year. In part this is because of the strain that COVID-19 has put on international mail services, but largely because I have reduced the number of projects I am working on. While our economy has not crashed as predicted I think I have just subconsciously cut back expenditure. So what did come off the painting table this year?

There have only been two major projects: the American Civil War and Great Paraguayan War. I managed to add another demi-brigade to the French Revolutionary army and painted up half a dozen American War of Independence British figures that had been laying around. The remainder of the painting work this year was accounted for in the Crimean War expansions that were required for the game played at the Tarawera game in late-November. In detail the statistics are:

By item count there were 920 foot figures, 140 mounted figures, 7 guns and 80 scratch built items. 

As a comparison the following table shows progress for the last seven years.

So as the new year starts here’s hope for a brighter year, new projects with shiny new toys and great games. HAPPY NEW YEAR and stay safe.


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

A Bit of a Distraction

A couple of weeks ago an email appeared in my inbox from the Perrys announcing that they have released the first nine codes of a new Prussian 1806 range. That period of the Napoleonic Wars has always appealed to me and I know that to my inner magpie inner magpie this is going to prove irresistible. But the issue for me is the opposition, because no one in our group has 1805-1807 French. Then I remembered that Victrix have an infantry set in plastic and there us a local supplier (albeit at a significantly higher price that ordering from Caliver Books). Since the lead/plastic pile had been flattened and more stock not expected for at least another two or three weeks, on the spur of the moment an order. 

Then to my annoyance I noticed that the Perrys make a few sets in metal and they also make replacement heads for their 1807-1812 plastic sets. How did I miss that? I would have preferred the Perry figures because their real advantage is that most of them are in the march attack pose which tend to damage less by handling, whereas the Victrix figures have a high proportion of figures in more fragile poses. But the Victrix box was here within a day so I was able to at least start the project. Surprisingly I was able to create this first battalion all in march attack. 

Over the holiday break I continued Civil War rebasing project continued and another nine regiments were completed: eight Union regiments (three shown below) and one more Confederate. This leaves another five Union and six Confederate units to go.

Monday, 21 December 2020

Last Game for 2020?

Yesterday (Sunday) while large parts of the globe are facing a worsening situation with COVID-19 seven of us got together on a hot and sunny day to play what could well be our last game for 2020 - a War of 1812 game.

Set somewhere in upstate New York stood a small town of significance because it held a good supply of grain. The place was guarded by a brigade of militia with a n antiquated gun. The town itself was protected by a blockhouse (with a touch of irony the game was played in the Auckland suburb of Blockhouse Bay about 800 meters away from the site of a blockhouse built during the New Zealand War in 1860 to protect the portage track between the east and west harbours of the modern city).

Intent of securing the grain the British mounted an expeditionary force of four brigades (19 battalions and four batteries) of regulars and Canadian militia. Upon hearing of the size of the approaching British force the militia commander called on four nearby regular brigades (14 battalions and 4 batteries) for help.

The British would arrive on the table in the position marked on the map on turn 1. The Americans would bring one column on turn 1 and the other on turn three. In the woods were five units of Indians, two allied the Americans and two to the British. The allegiance of a fifth Indian unit will be determined when contacted by rolling 1xD6 (456 British, 123 American).

The advance started slowly with the British working their way forward slowly, feeling out the woods as they went. They soon contacted a group of American allied Indians that roughly handled one battalion before they were shot to pieces by two converging British units. Then the second American allied unit was found. It too what defeated and sent packing, but not before it had delayed the British infantry for three turns. Meanwhile in the other wood the British found two of their own allied Indian groups and then when the found the fifth, it allied itself to them too.

The action started in front of the fort with the old gun popping away at the British, but doing little damage. Unknown to the militia commander the gun had the potential to burst after three shots and although it failed to burst, disaster struck the militia when a shot from a British howitzer set fire to the blockhouse and the militiamen failed to extinguish the flames. The fire quickly blazed out of control and the place was abandoned.

Meanwhile the Americans formed their main line perpendicular to the town intend in drawing the British on to them, using the militia (as the regulars delightfully described it) as “the speed bump to slow the British advance”.

The British infiltrated the woods opposite the town, but when they came to the edge found an American brigade drawn up facing them and were unwilling to exit the woods in the face of this force. One of the US regiments entered the woods to try to force the issue, but only got itself embroiled into an inconclusive fight that lasted for the rest of the game.

The British were now compelled to funnel themselves between the woods but soon found that the US artillery dominated the ground and although some battalions managed to make some initial headway against the militia, when one of the British brigades fell apart the game was up and they were obliged to concede.

It was a pleasant way to spend a lazy Sunday.

Friday, 18 December 2020

American Civil War Rebasing

Well the rebasing of the Civil War armies is progressing well. The cavalry for both sides is completed, one brigade of four regiments each.

Also based is a brigade of five Confederate infantry regiments (with the VMI cadets front right).

I am really pleased with the result. Maybe over the Christmas break I will get them all finished and have a parade...or maybe even a game!

Friday, 11 December 2020

Confederate Cavalry

The focus on the Great Paraguayan War armies since July has paused work on the American Civil War armies that had dominated hobby activities for the first half of the year. But with the last order I sneaked in a box of cavalry to create these two Confederate cavalry regiments: a small unit and a tiny one.

My earlier experiment using units on single bases has been largely abandoned (except for the tiny units). Since my lead/plastic pile is now flattened I have some time to take the the ACW figures off their temporary bases and fix them permanently. There are still a few dismounted cavalry figures to come to complete this project - probably some time early next year.

I have also been painting a few buildings for a friend. They have been a welcome distraction.