Friday 27 September 2019

A Brief Visit to a Warmer Climate and Cossacks!

Last week we took advantage of a slow time for us both at work for a brief trip to Fiji. Three days in and around the pool in temperatures of 29C (84F) with a full butler service and free drinks during the happy hour (as evidenced below as cocktail number four miraculously appeared in my hand on Friday evening).

Only four decisions were required the whole time we were there: read book or swim in pool; beer or cocktail; burger or pizza (there was a salad option, but who really wants salad on holiday?); where to eat dinner.

For reading material on this brief trip I took with me the Robert K. Massie biography of Catherine the Great that I have had sitting around unread for several years. And quite topical given the upcoming mini-series starting Helen Mirren. What a fabulous read and I have powered into it – no mean feat for me because I am easily distracted and it usually takes me a months to finish a book. Could this be the start of a Seven Years War or even a Potemkin’s Wars collection?

Of course my sojourn was all over too soon and I have been back at work this week in a wet and windy Auckland. Which leads me to the Cossacks!

As a part of the Crimean War cavalry expansion, which involves changing the basing for all of the cavalry units from two figures per stand to three, all three Cossack units from the collection have been expanded by three figures each and then rebased.

The same units, of course, will be able to be used with the Napoleonic Russians.

Thursday 19 September 2019

Recreating Risk

As commanders of armies, albeit of miniature armies, we are exempt from consequence. Our battles conveniently end when we accumulate enough victory points, or when domestic duties call or have simply had enough and the troops go back into their boxes to fight another day. We don’t have to live with the damage that our decisions create. A defeat does not end our careers or bring shame and disgrace on our families. We don’t have to write letters to the relatives of our little men who are killed in battle, nor do we have visit battlefields and hospitals to face the human wreckage. I am thankful for that.

But the concept of consequence or risk interests me. I want to explore how to introduce it into a wargame. Brigadier Peter Young, a decorated WWII commando officer and avid wargamer, reckoned that the only way you could reasonably recreate risk or consequence in a wargame would be to make  players hand over every figure that is lost as a casualty to the opposing player who must immediately smash it flat with a hammer. That would be extreme, although it would sure make you think twice of sending that freshly painted cuirassier regiment against that infantry square because there is always  a chance to win - you may need to roll three sixes and he may need three ones, but those are acceptable odds, aren’t they? You can keep that hammer away from my figures thank you! Maybe there a less extreme method?

In my recent series of French in Egypt games (a sort of loosely structured campaign) casualties were carried forward from one game to the next. I thought that might be a useful means of taming the wargamer’s natural urge to throw every unit at their disposal into the fight. Afterall in any sort of campaign you need to manage your reserves carefully. But that did not act as a sufficient deterrent to committing everything in each game as though there was no tomorrow. And there was no tomorrow because it’s only a game and all the players wanted to be a part of the action so nothing was held back. They knew that if they won the game the series of games ended. Which led me to the conclusion that wargamers being wargamers will always commit whatever forces are available because the consequences of doing so have no real impact on them.

The reason I am thinking about all of this is that I have a large Crimean War game planned for our next annual Wargames weekend planned for sometime next year. The plan I have for this is for a scrambling defence in which one side will be outnumbered, holding a good position, with other troops coming up and the option of calling on still more reinforcements.  I want those reinforcements to come at a cost, but how to make that cost relevant? There is no point in simply allocating a victory point deficit for taking them, because any wargamer worth his salt will play the odds.

The answer may lay in the way we play our games at that weekend, which is a that we play four games on consecutive days. What if my Crimean game was up first and penalty for taking those reinforcements was applied to the next day’s game? It doesn’t have to be too punitive, but maybe some units have low or limited ammunition, or where a player originally had four units in his command one is removed. It just needs to be something to make them think about the implications of their actions. What if that penalty could be applied across more than two games, perhaps compounding as the week went on? What if one side deliberately chose a defeat, but were able to extract the bulk of their force intact to fight another day? Could this mean that they get some advantage in the next game?  I have already begun discussions with two other game organisers and I want to see if this idea has a pulse.

But enough of things philosophical, what about the toys? Well there aren’t any this week, although much has left the painting table this week - they are still in the basing queue. There will be much to show after the weekend I am sure.

Saturday 14 September 2019

Guns and Hussars

Three more items have captured the attention of the painting butterfly this week.

First, there are two British Peninsular War artillery sets each comprising a gun, four crew and the limber (with two riders and a foot gunner).

These are lovely sets with the action of the gunners loading and firing the guns beautifully captured.

The limber drivers in their fatigue caps make for a different model.

The completion of these finishes the British Peninsular project (although there is a British four-wheeled ammunition wagon that is really tempting).

Then as discussed in a previous post, are the two expanded and rebased regiments of Russian hussars for the Crimean War. As with the dragoons, three figures were added to each unit. 

And just to fill up some post space, here are a few pictures from our Napoleonic we played last Sunday. This was the first outing of my French 1812-13 collection.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Flatboats and Dragoons

The evil butterfly is still at work on my painting table flitting between projects.

This week’s first task was to complete the third and final British flatboat that I intend to use for coastal operations in the Napoleonic Wars.

I am getting really good at these now and managed to complete the whole set in four days including the basing. It is a shame that I don’t need any more of these now that I have the process well practiced – it’s a bit like wallpapering…you haven’t done it for ages so it takes time to get back into practice, but the time you are finished you are an expert again…then you park that skill for another five years and go right back to the start again. The water effect is still setting - our recent cool wet weather has delayed the cure.

Again I have furled the flags and stored in their waterproof coverings. I have also changed the positions of a number of the crew that are sitting aft to get a little more variety. 

And here is the “fleet” of three models, packed on their storage tray.

Also coming off the painting table is a batch of reinforcements for the Russian Crimean dragoons. The main part of these unit, six figures each were done back in 2016, but three more figures have been added to each and the regiment have been rebased with three figures to a base.

Similar reinforcements for the Russian hussars will follow.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Limbering Up

Last night I was looking to see what happened on 2 September in history. There were a couple of things of a military interest (apart from being day two of the Second World War...after the Germans attacked Poland on the 1st). In 1864 Sherman took Atlanta. Six years later Emperor Louis Napoleon III surrendered at Sedan, followed shortly thereafter by the collapse of the Second Empire.

On a slightly more amusing note in 1752, 2 September was the day that the Calendar Act came into effect, ending the use of the Julian calendar in Great Britain and her colonies with the switch to the Gregorian calendar. This resulted in a major adjustment in the calendar where it was advanced 11 days so that Wednesday 2 September was followed by Thursday 14 September. The loss of eleven days left many people feeling cheated and some sources claimed that there were riots during which people demanded the days back.

Meanwhile in Auckland, New Zealand on 2 September 2019, where spring has sprung and we had three successive days without rain for the first time in weeks and the first of the Daffodils and Irises are in flower,  I finished the bases of four Spanish and four Russian Napoleonic limbers. Of course I didn’t get a chance to post the pictures until a day later, when the sun is gone and the rain returned.

Another four Russian limbers are to be completed when they arrive in a couple of week’s time.