Sunday, December 31, 2017

The fourth quarter of 2017

This has been a busy few months, and while I haven't updated the blog lately, but I have been busy.

I have been gaming with ODMS (weekly at World's Best Comics, in Newport News), as much as my work and teaching schedule will permit.  Those have been mostly miniatures games, some run by me, some by other club members. Most notably, in December I ran a very lopsided Russian Civil War game. More on that later.

I have been running some roleplying game sessions.  A family only fantasy game, here at GwC HQ, has been great.  I had a good time with a one shot Traveller game.  Recently I ran a more public AD&D (2ed) game at WBC. All fun.

Lots of board game sessions at the house, mostly family oriented.  New Titles we like include Photosynthesis and TtR:Rails to Sails.

I have gotten a new hobby painting are set up.  Hopefully I will see some new figures soon.

2018 looks bright, the Lord has been good this past year, and the gaming has been fine.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Local wargaming club - active and moving forward

The Old Dominion Military Society has reformed and has been gaming weekly with great success for several months. We recently held our summer convention (Guns of August) at the local military museum, the Virginia War Museum in Newport News, and it was a great success.

Check out the after action report on the club blog.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wargaming the Barbarian Kingdoms (6th and 7th century) - Part 2, Visigoths

Visigoths - originally, as Feoderati under the Romans, they established area of rule in Gaul and Spain. The early (but exciting) campaigns of Alaric I predate the period considered here.  In 507, however, the Franks, under Clovis I beat the Goths (under Alaric II) at the Battle of Vouille  Visigoth rule in Gaul was at an end, but the Frank's were established as a kingdom that would give us Charlemagne, France, Germany, and a lot of different kinds of cheese.

The Visigoths, however, survived the loss of Gaul.  They had a kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, or Hispania).  There, they survived (and in harmony with the rest of Christendom after converting from Arianism in 589) until being overrun by the Moors (Berbers and Arabs up from North Africa) in about the year 711 or 712 (the Mozarbic Chronicle of 741, written in Latin, is unclear).  That was the Battle of Guadalete between King Roderic of the Goths, and Tariq ibn Ziyad.

Battle of Guadalete
So, for about two hundred years, there was a gothic kingdom in Spain. It gave us a lot of interesting Gothic architecture and early cathedrals, but not a lot of details on military practices.
Tariq Ibn Ziyad

Looking at what wargames have to offer on the Western Goths is interesting.  Again, turning to the original DBA list (as a conceptual distillation of the 1982 WRG army lists, and benefitting from eight years of further research and debate) we see that there is an infantry core of five elements. These can be either spear, or warband, or a mix of warband and auxilia - depending on which allies or sources you prefer. But that establishes a solid infantry battle line, supported by two units of skirmishers (Psiloi), and finally a solid mounted contingent of four units of four Cavalry units, and a Knight (general) unit.  

King Roderic
This could easily represent the army of Roderic, at the battle of Guadalete.  There, his solid infantry line was a match for the Moors, but he lost because his right cavalry wing under a disgruntled commander abandoned the field allowing the numerous, but lighter, Moorish cavalry to flank the infantry line.  Legend replaces the commander with Count Julian, who turned traitor because his daughter was raped at Roderic's court, but this (while a great medieval narrative) is unsubstantiated.

Visigothic Warriors - from a later English sculpting method.

Refighting Guadalete as a decisive battle that ended Christian rule in western Spain, until the Reconquista, is a worthy war gaming goal, but the lack of other major foes makes the prospect of building a large Visigothic army seem like a futile enterprise.  It is, however, a great example of a balanced army from the Barbarian Kingdoms era.  There are, of course, lots of Possible match ups against sixth century foes, such as Byzantines, Ostrogoths, or even early Andalusians from the other parts of Spain.

For figures, standard dark age infantry (metal conic helms, round shields, and either sword, spear, or bow) make the battle line and Psiloi easy to model. Likewise, the cavalry (cloaks, metal helms, round shields) are readily available. The older Minifigs heavy barbarian horse and heavy barbarian infantry are nearly perfect, as well as many modern manufacturers.

A nice set of pictures of a painted army is here.
is here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wargaming the Barbarian Kingdom Period (6th century AD) - Part 1, Ostrogoths

The story of the Ostrogoths is a very interesting one, including their origin, and how they became to be considered a single people, but from a military/wargaming perspective, their war against the Romans (especially the Eastern Romans, or the Byzantines, as their identity was coalescing following the fall of Western Rome) in and around Italy is the most interesting, and where we find some potential scenarios and campaigns for good games.

The eastern Goths had come into Italy in the previous century, and held (as the result of a number of successful sieges and sacks) many of the key cities of the peninsula.  In a period of almost 20 years, under Justinian, the Byzantines waged the "Gothic War" in order to restore these areas back to Roman (Byzantine) rule.  This lasted from 535 to 554 AD.  Some Gothic strongholds in Northern Italy would hold out for another 8 years, not falling until 562.

The earlier period is the successful sweep of the Byzantines up the peninsula, crossing from Africa, and securing a number of strong strategic points up the Italian peninsula.

Early Phase of the Gothic War

Battles of this period feature an early Ostrogothic army, against a Justinian Byzantine army.  The fighting is suitable for somewhat larger battles, and also (due to the rough country and terrain of Italy) for smaller raids and skirmishes, that no doubt took place between Byzantine forces, and smaller Gothic strongholds and military units.  Eventually the Gothic stronghold at Ravenna would be conquered by the Byzantines in 539/540.

This leads to the second phase of the Gothic War (540-554 or event 562) where a revived Gothic push back against the Byzantines takes place under the Gothic leader of Totila.
Totila, painted by Salviati in 1549
During the push back phase of the Ostrogoths reclaiming the initiative from the Byzantines, the great Byzantine general Narses would suffer because he also was dealing with encroachments from the Franks and the Alamanni.  In 554 AD, Narses was succesful against the Goths, at the battle of Vesuvius (also known as the Battle of Mons Lactarius), by defeating the army of Totila, and also killing the king.  The Goths, after this, retreated north into Austria.

In the end, however, Byzantines were successful against the Goths in Italy, but it was a fleeting victory.  First, it kept the strength of the Byzantines from dealing with problems in the north and the east.  Second, once the Goths were subjugated, the area was swept over again, by another German group, the Lombards, who would prove to be a lot harder to dislodge (that task being left to the Carolingians).

Battle of Mons Lactarius in 554AD, painted by Adolf Zick (~1900AD)

The representation of the Ostrogoths in miniature wargaming is pretty interesting, even if the army only has a few distinctive troop types.  The DBA rules give a pretty good indication of what we can surmise from history (and how rules writers interpret that history into wargaming terms).  DBA (original) has Army number 86 (Italian Ostrogothic 493-554AD) with 6x elements of Knights, 4x elements of Psiloi, or skirmish infantry, and finally 2x elements which could be either formed as 2x more Psiloi elements, or 2x spear elements.  

Before looking at how they are represented in other rules, it is worth considering the basics presented by the DBA list.  First, is the cavalry. In a gothic army, that is the Ostrogoths that settled in Italy, or the Visigoths that settled in Spain, and the various places these two broad groups came from (stretching all the way back to Northern Eurooe, in what is modern day Sweden), the army was mainly focused on the Warriors being mounted, and fighting in a close order, for shock value.  The other members of the population, as well as absorbed and allied peoples, would generally fight on foot.  Mainly these were loose order skirmishes, designated to a role supporting the mounted warriors. But in the case of some absorbed peoples (like the remnants of local Romanized infantry, which would fight in a dense shielded formation, with sword and spear) the foot troops might actually fight in a formed up formation, not entirely unsuited for a place in the battle line.  Still, however, the main branch is the mounted warriors.

 This is very much the same as what we find in the original 1982 WRG Army List Book Two entry.  There, the army gets a mandatory 44-72 Gothic Cavalry (start at Heavy Cavalry, but some portion can be upgraded to Extra Heavy Cavalry, all with javelin/light spear and shield).  Add to those figures, up to 90 additional Gothic Cavalry (which start at Medium Cavalry, but can up upgraded to Heavy Cavalry, and can be upgraded to match the morale grade of the earlier lot, Irregular B).  This makes for a very strong cavalry section (as you would expect, given the history of the army at battles like Taginae and Mons Lactarius, where the Ostrogoths fought against Byzantines and Germans that countered them with a reinforced infantry center), but without infantry it will have problems against a mixed foe who can reinforce a central battleline of heavy infantry.  The only real infantry presence the Goths have is that of the Gothic Archery (presented in the WRG list as up to 100 Light Infantry, which can remain as Irregular D or be upgraded to Irregular C).

This is a very interesting army, for a wargamer, because of it's strange mix of troop types.  The heavy cavalry is very good, and may be a precursor for later armies in the post-dark ages period.  But, as it is only supported by light infantry archers, it might be tough against some armies.  Where this will do well (a-historically) is in games the give too much credence to archery, and games that do not provide structural problems to cavalry fighting deep formation infantry without support.  I own (and fight with) an Ostrogoth DBA army, but I have not yet tried it with Might of Arms, or Terry Gore's rules.  It should be (at least) an educational matchup against a sixth century Byzantine army.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A move, a return, a restart, and a resumption

Recently, the staff and adjutants at Gaming with Chuck HQ have undergone a move.  This is a return, in a way, back home.

Five years ago, upon completing my PhD, I went off into the world as a new professor, and after teaching for a few years, and serving as a research professor for a few years, Providence has brought us full circle, and we are now returning back to Newport News.

I will be teaching at a local university, and my daughter will be attending my alma mater, Christopher Newport University.  And, I have fallen back into step with my old wargaming club.  There is also talk of regular game days at GwC HQ, and also (gasp) rumors of regular roleplaying.  Where will all the time come from?  Still it is good to be coming home.

Soldier from the wars returning,
Spoiler of the taken town,
Here is ease that asks not earning;
Turn you in and sit you down.

Peace is come and wars are over,
Welcome you and welcome all,
While the charger crops the clover
And his bridle hangs in stall.

Now no more of winters biting,
Filth in trench from tall to spring,
Summers full of sweat and fighting
For the Kesar or the King.

Rest you, charger, rust you, bridle;
Kings and kesars, keep your pay;
Soldier, sit you down and idle
At the inn of night for aye.
      - A.E. Housman, 1922

I mentioned that I have fallen in with the old wargaming club, Old Dominion Military Society, which is now actively gaming again on a weekly basis.  Our summer convention (Guns of August) is being hosted at the Virginia War Museum.  We have plans underway for the new winter convention (Williamsburg Muster), returning to its regular February timeslot.  The local club is also talking about monthly game days (game nights?) where we rent out or acquire access to a large venue, for some big, serious, miniatures gaming.  Maybe at the Museum?  Maybe at a local community hall?  Still working the details.

Miniature gaming, so far, has been of the Thursday night variety.  Which means, typically, smallish games.  Some ODMS members have hosted great things - (The Rules with No Name, FrostGrave, Wings of Glory, DBA, etc etc), and this week we have some Ancients happening, and next week we have some Napoleonics happening.  All very good.

Boardgaming has been quite fun, and with our new game room (the den, or family room, in our new house is dedicated as a game room, with storage for all our board games, and a nice game table, some chairs, a couch, and a computer desk), we have been playing on a regular basis, as a family, and with some guests.   During the move, the inventory and packing/unpacking experience showed us that we have a lot of games that we really like, but haven't played in a while.  And some that we have never played.  To address those issues, we made a list of "games we have not played lately, but want to" and will be using that to schedule Wednesday night family game night. Several recent games of Fantastiqa have been quite fun, and looking forward to some Terra Mystica and maybe some Archon and/or Tempus.

Roleplaying has been discussed, especially with our return to the old stomping grounds, and so many of the players we love playing with from years ago.  There is talk of "getting the band back together" with some of the our old regulars, in an old fashioned roleplaying game (either fantasy, or maybe sci-fi).  Nothing yet, but details will appear in this fine publication.

Planned upcoming game activities -

Guns of August is going to be in a public place - so it will be a little bit different.  I am treating this as a recruiting and/or community outreach opportunity for both wargaming in general, and for the game club (ODMS).  I will be hosting four (introductory level) wargames, and am in the process of preparing handouts for each, to introduce some history, wargaming, and the rules being used.

1. Introduction to Medieval Wargames - very similar to the games I hosted at Guns of August 2016, with two games going on at once (maybe, Vikings/Saxons, and Crusaders/Saracens).  I'll be using the Neil Thomas introductory rules, and am working on a handout for this game.

2. Wargaming the Revolutionary War - I will probably use a smaller version of the scenario I ran at Thanksgiving 2015, which was a fictional Southern Campaign battle, set in South Carolina 1780.  I won't be using Black Powder for this, because I want it completely friendly to newcomers and kids.  Either some homebrew rules (Patriot's Blood) or Neil Thomas Napoleonic rules adapted for the purpose.

3. Introduction to Renaissance Wargaming - This one will be a lot like the first one, with two battles (four armies), and using the Neil Thomas rules.  One of the battles will most likely be French/Imperialist vs. Italians.  The other might be English Civil War.  Again, similar to the solo Renaissance game I did back in 2016.  The main feather here is the history of the period, and trying to get people interested, so I am working on a nice handout.

4. Introduction to Medieval Wargaming - This one is a conundrum for me.  I have a couple of ideas.  The first is to do the same thing I plan for number 1 above, but maybe with different armies.  The second is to do a 28mm scale game using Lion Rampant, to show what medieval games are like, at that weird mix between skirmish and full army battles (such as LR, but also Saga and some others).  The third idea is to use the Chainmail rules such as my recent games supporting the Lord of the Manor project, and use the handout session to show the connection between miniatures games and the later roleplaying game revolution.  Still deciding this one.

Lots more coming up, including finishing some of the projects here (dark ages wargaming, retro reviews, etc).  Watch this space.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War - review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

I have mentioned my love for renaissance gaming in general, and the English Civil War period in particular, several times during this series of reviews.  This time, I would like to review a set of miniature rules that I came to in the mid 1980s, although they were first published in 1974 (a second edition came out in 1977, and that is the edition that I own).  These rules are the 'Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War' by Bill Protz.  These are still available for sale on Bill's website, along with some of his other excellent rules.

Curiously enough, the first edition of Bill Protz' ECW wargaming masterpiece (i.e. - the volume I am reviewing here) came out in 1974.  It was published by the Myers and Zimmermann wargaming house of Z&M Publishing (Myers and Zimmermann were the lads behind the Angriff rules, and they went on to form a publishing house for wargaming rules - mostly from their neck of the woods up in Milwaukee).

The interesting thing about the publishing year, is that it is one year after the first appearance of Cavaliers and Roundheads, by Gygax and Perren (published by TSR).  From Bill's website, he got interested in the English Civil War, as a wargaming topic, because of Cavaliers and Roundheads (C&R), and also the availability of the Hinchliffe ECW figures.  I seem to recall that TSR needed cash for their new publishing idea, the Dungeons & Dragons boxed set, and that they rushed out C&R for publication in order to raise cash.  The English Civil War must have been a popular period at this time, to not only inspire two great rulesets coming out within a year of each other, but also to convince Mssrs. Kuntz and Gygax at TSR that they could raise capital from selling an ECW rule book.  But they did.  And, furthermore, the Protz book (WGECW) is still highly regarded, and as mentioned above, still for sale.

The English Civil War continues to be a very interesting topic for wargamers, as it not only features in generic, broadbased rules sets such as DBR and Field of Glory Renaissance, but also continues to inspire specific rulesets in popular series' such as Warhammer English Civil War (sadly, now out of print, like the rest of the Warhammer historical series), and Pike and Shotte from Warlord Games (which covers the broader Renaissance, but which has an ECW specific period book - 'To Kill a King' -  due for release the month that this article is being written).  Of course, it has been, and continues a period of interest for me, as well.  On to the rules . . .

WGECW is presented as a 5x8 booklet, 76 pages long.  The book is divided up, generally, into three sections: (1) is an introduction, which gives a very brief overview of the English Civil War, and also reasons for wargaming in this period, (2) is the section containing the rules themselves, and (3) is a series of appendices that introduce information about army composition, painting and uniform information, rules for fighting sieges, and other bits of extra information.  It is this third section that lifts this book from being just a tactical rulebook, to being a wargamer's guide.  C&R did this, somewhat, but not to the extent that Bill Protz has done here.

Initial Concepts
One thing to establish up front, is that the miniatures within the units don't really matter.  Well, that is to say, they matter because it is a miniatures game, and they matter because they bring the splendor and pageantry to the wargame, but they don't matter in the sense of combat being based on particular figures in contact, or even specifically how many figures there are in a unit.  What does matter, is the units CR or Combat Rating.  Now this is typically computed initially from the number of miniatures in a unit (and the point value of those miniatures), but it will change up and down with circumstance, and in fact, the initial CR of a unit might be increased by 25% if the unit is elite.  The unit's CR is what matters, in WGECW.  Combat effectiveness is based on the CR, and losses are subtracted from the CR (although the author suggests that miniatures be removed from a unit, in proportion to CR losses that the unit undergoes).
 The CR is calculated from points values of the miniatures in a formation.  This includes extra points for figures such as officers, flag bearers, and sergeants.  For a mixed formation, such as an ECW formation with a body of Pikemen, and perhaps two flanking bodies of Musketeers, each of those divisions would have its own CR calculated and recorded on a unit roster.

Scale and Unit Types
Game scale is given at 1 inch to 15 yards for the ground, 1 figure to 20 men for the troops.  Basic types of figures are foot, horse, and artillery.

Foot troops can be Open Ordered (such as skirmishing forlorn hope), Ordered (typical musket and pike formation), Double Ordered (half the depth of Ordered formations), or Close Ordered (tightly packed infantry, in order to defend against enemy cavalry).  Finally, there is the possibility of a Ring formation (like a hedgehog, or square formation).

Horse troops can be either Ordered (such as typical charging cavalry), or Open Ordered (such as dragoons or other cavalry, spread out in order to screen), or Caracole (designed to allow pistol fire and recall against an enemy unit).

The rules give basing sizes for troops, which generally doesn't change for the different ordering listed above, EXCEPT for Close Ordered Infantry.  In that case, the player is to remove half the stands of the unit from the table, but to record and remember what their CR is - they have just gotten denser.

Foot unit stands represent three ranks of troops, and Ordered and Close Ordered units are 6 ranks deep, so they should be two miniature ranks (or stands) deep.  Double Ordered infantry are only 3 ranks deep, so are only one stand deep (called Double Ordered, because by halving the depth, they double the length of the formation line).  Horse units and artillery have their methods of representing Ordering on the tabletop.  Open Ordered units, it should be pointed out, have the stands dispersed by a short gap between them - typical skirmishing formation representation.

Turn Sequence
The game turn is divided up into a sequence of events.  Since this is a game that practices simultaneous movement, it features order writing.  Regular readers of this blog will know my affection for simultaneous movement and order writing (similar to my affection for root canal).  When we played these rules, so many years ago, we would write general battlefield orders at the beginning of the game, and our specific turn orders were only changes to those, as well as announcing charges etc.  It helps to have a referee.

The sequenced events of the turn, however, are these:
  1. Both sides write down orders for their units.
  2. Both sides read out their orders, alternating who goes first every other turn.
  3. Moves are performed simultaneously according to orders.
  4. Skirmish Fire is assessed, and casualties immediately calculated and removed.
  5. Artillery Fire is assessed, and casualties immediately calculated and removed.
  6. Other Small Arms Fire is assessed, and casualties immediately calculated and removed.
  7. Melee is adjudicated and resolved.
  8. Turn is complete.

Morale tests can be triggered in any of the firing or melee events.

Movement is quite straight forward, and is based on some simple charts showing inches, based on the type of movement (and troop type) performing it.  There are some simple reductions and additions based on different circumstances (road movement, move and fire, direction change, etc).  There are some specifics to be followed if a unit of musketeers is going to be firing by introduction (that is, as the ranks fire, and are replaced from the rear, that they slowly move forward), or extroduction (the same, only the unit as a whole slowly moves backward, as firers run to the rear of their file).

Movement for cavalry is slightly more involved, although the chart is every bit as simple.  For mounted troops, the player must determine if the horses are trotting, cantering or galloping.   Rules are given about accelerating through these different states.  A horse, cannot, for instance, go from a simple stand-still to galloping in one move.  It must start at trotting, then the next turn can proceed to cantering, and finally to galloping.  As with foot troops, there are some simple additions or reductions based on circumstance and operations.

Finally, there is a similar table, with similar rules for artillery pieces of different sizes, and different situations.

Small Arms Fire
Once the type of fire (regular, introduction/extroduction, pistol caracole, etc) is determined, then the number of figures, and their CR, can be assessed.  The following procedure is used to determine the number of casualties (expressed in CR reduction to the target unit) is finalized.
  1. Determine CR
  2. Determine Range
  3. Toss 1 die
  4. Check Die Adjustment Chart for mods
  5. Cross reference die results with range, to get an Effectiveness Letter
  6. Cross reference the effect letter, and the CR firing on the Small Arms Casualty Chart, to get the casualty integer.
  7. Modify the casualty integer by modifiers on the final casualty adjustment chart.
  8. Take the final modified casualty integer, and multiply it by the point value of the target troops, and deduct the result from the target unit's CR
One final consideration, is that armored units (foot and horse) have a reduced calculus of how much total CR damage is inflicted.

Artillery Fire
The procedures for doing Artillery Fire, are somewhat different from small arms fire.
  • First,  determine your target, and then based on range there is a chance for the artillery shot to go awry.  If at short range, it is a definite hit, but at medium and long range there is a chance to miss.
  • Second, determine the ranks penetrated (light guns penetrate 2 ranks, medium guns penetrate 3, and heavy guns will penetrate 4).  
  • Third, for each rank penetrated, there is a one point casualty integer, and these are all summed up (so for 3 ranks penetrated, there is a total casualty integer of 3).  This is reduced by terrain (such as firing up- or down-hill).  
  • Finally, multiply the casualty integer times the CR of the troops hit, and reduce this from the target unit.  This total amount is reduced by half in a number of situations.
  • The final CR total is subtracted from the target unit's CR.
There are similar procedures for other types of shot (the above, is for regular round shot, that does damage by bouncing through multiple ranks of soldiers, and killing them).  Shot types include exploding shell and langridge (case, or hail) shot.

Not surprising, the CR system is core to how melee engagements are adjudicated in these rules.  Each side calculates their current CR (lots of modifiers, such as Horse vs. non-Horse gets multiplied by 125%).  Then, the winner of the melee is determined.  This is done by each side rolling 2d6, and multiplying the result by their unit's CR.  The high score wins the melee combat.  Now, casualties are inflicted as a percentage of the original CR (not the product of the CR multiplied by dice).  The losing side will deduct (from their base CR score) an amount equal to 25% of the winner's CR.  The winning side will deduct 10% of the loser's CR.  The loser then takes, and applies, a morale test.  There are rules for fleeing, pursuits, and how officers affect things.  That is it - it is easy to play out melee combat, and although the impact of multiplying your CR by a 2d6 roll at first blush seems like there can be a lot of variability, the actual casualties (CR deduction) and morale results are more important.

Example combat - Lets say a Royalist Pike and Shot unit, with 12 pikemen (including 2pt command figures), and 12 musketeers will have a total CR of 36.  It is facing a Parliamentarian unit with 8 pikemen and 16 musketeers, or a total CR of 32.  The Royalist player rolls a 7 on the dice, and a total of (7x36) or 252.  The Parliamentarian player rolls a 9 on the dice, and a total of (9x32) or 288.  The Parliamentarian unit wins.  The Royalist unit subtracts (.25 x 32) 8 points from it's CR.  The Parliamentary unit subtracts (.10 x 36) 4 points from it's CR.  The Royalist unit, as the losing unit, will have to test morale

The rulebook is about half full of appendices. The first few of these go over how units should be organized on the wargames table, and a short guide to painting and flags, as well as advice to the 15mm player (a new scale, for the most part, in the early 1970s).

But then the appendices get more interesting.  There is a subset of rules for doing siege games.  These cover the specifics of affecting fortifications and buildings, as well as rules for grenadoes and other siege equipment.  A series of six different classes of storming/sieging are described, as scenarios and what is to be done in each (as well as victory conditions, and how to represent that sort of siege on the tabletop).

There is a set of notes regarding the organization of armies and the proportion of units, etc, in the years of the First Civil War (1642-1646).  And finally, there are some blank and sample unit rosters (showing a clean way to record unit CR and orders/status).  Lastly, the book ends with a nice glossary of ECW military terms.

I owned this book before I owned either Forlorn Hope or 1644 (both of which I played more than these rules).  In fact, the only renaissance/ECW rules I owned before these were the George Gush rules from WRG (and, eventually, Universal Soldier).  I only played these a few times, but I returned to the book for information about the period, and units, artillery types, etc many times over while in my early years of ECW playing.  This was one of those rulebooks that back then (in the 1980s) was in many of the wargaming shops I visited, and also on the rack at vendor booths at wargaming conventions. I saw it a lot, but unfortunately the people I played with did not use it.

One of the things I found disconcerting (more below, as I discuss this effect in regards to shooting) is the fact that the unit is kept track of by its CR, and casualties and effects are based on total CR engaged, and not individual stands or figures.  I understand the reason for this, with mixed units of pike and shot, but it seemed to introduce as many difficulties as it solved, see my comments below about shooting (both musketry and artillery).

The basic scale and representation of the game (in terms of figures per unit, movement and shooting ranges, and also turn/time sequence) works very well.  But for some reason, these rules never quite were the thing in the group I played with. I include it here, because of the impact the book had, and Bill Protz's excellent writing about wargames, not so much because I played it so often (I played almost all the other ECW rules mentioned in this review series - Forlorn Hope, Cavaliers and Roundheads, Universal Soldier, Hackbutt and Pike, and the forthcoming Gush rules and 1644 - more than I played the Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War).  Eventually, I would get other resources on wargaming units and uniforms and army lists, etc (Forlorn Hope was excellent in that regard, but also great books from Caliver), but early on - this is the book that made me fall in love with wargaming the period.  Even if the rules in this book did not.

Pros/Cons for Musketry and Artillery
Okay, this seems (to me) to be a bit overly complicated, mostly because of the basic structure of WGECW.  The casualty integer is a number of enemy figures killed.  But the final step, of converting it back to points and then deducting it from the CR, is because of the requirement to discuss everything about a unit in terms of CR, rather than in terms of figures. 

I give the author (Bill Protz) the benefit of the doubt, because there are benefits of doing a unit as a whole, even when it is comprised of disparate parts (like pike, officers, halberdiers, and shot all in a large battalia, for instance).  That is always hard to do, and rules for the period (even the latest modern rules) always struggle hard in how to do hybrid units.  The CR system is an elegant way to do it, it just didn't appeal to the people I was playing with.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Card based system for wargames deployment

One of the features I like about the various strains of card driven board wargames, is the decision involved in playing a card for activation.  Clearly this does not apply to all card driven systems, but the ones I am thinking of have cards with multiple options on them, that the player must choose from when playing a card.  Does the player use the card for bringing on reinforcements, or to activate an event, or for a special ability/modifier, or simply to activate units/leaders already in the game?

This seems like a useful thing to try and bring into a miniatures wargame, to put a little spin on that old standby scenario - the meeting engagement.  So what I am considering here is a system of cards, each with two different pieces of information on it. Each player would, in turn, place one of these cards, from a small handful they have to choose from, on the table, in one of three different sectors.eventually, each player will play two cards in each sector.  Each sector would have one card, for that player's forces, that corresponds to one of the two categories of information on he cards (so, one card for forces, and one card for deployment).

The first piece of information is a partial basic order of battle. It would list a number of units that would belong to one of three sectors on the battlefield (left, center, right).  Depending on the period and the number of units a player owns, this could be tailored so that a personal collection could provide the figures needed. This could easily be three or four units, or as many as a dozen, depending on period, scale, and rules used.

The second piece of information would control the deployment of forces in that sector.  Are the forces arrayed in a single line? Some units off board? In column on a road?  Dug in with scouts deployed?  Again lots of possibilities, depending on period, scale, and rules.

An example might be this, for Blue Army's Left Flank... (Fictional situation, of course)

Forces Card: Infantry Division, 6 units of line infantry, 1 medium gun battery. 
Deployment Card: Probing Line, All units in a battle line, 12" in from base edge.  Up to two subunits (converged flank companies, or detached squadrons) can be deployed up to 24" in from base line.  

I can see this used in several ways. The easiest, and maybe most interesting, is to deal out six cards to each player, and they need to use all six.  The second way, is to deal three cards each, and as a player places a card, they draw a new one.  Other possibilities exist, but in all cases, the players roll initiative, and high roller places one card, and then the players alternate until all six cards for each side are played.

I am looking forward to trying a set of these, maybe for Napoleonics first. Loads and loads of possibilities exist, including special event cards, special decks for special scenarios, and ancillary effects of cards, like logistical conditions, weather, or affects to limit or increase command.

A neat project to ponder.

More on Arthur

I have found a nice blog, by Guy Halsall, on his wargaming activities. Dr. Halsall is an academic that makes a fine study of sixth century history, and starting back in the late 1990s he combined his history pursuits with his wargaming and published a series on King Arthur.  Much of the series found its way into Wargames Illustrated, all of it is on his blog.

Halsall goes on to complete a lengthy, and excellent (once he moves away from the touchy subject of Morris) series on both Arthur and the wargaming of Arthur inspired scenarios.  He has a nice introduction to campaigning, here giving a set of simple mapless rules (but with excellent scenario generator guidelines), and also a set of map based campaign (more detailed, naturally) rules. He discusses lists and rules (as I had done earlier here  but while I chose to compare lists against each other, he is comparing them to what he projects to be proper warfare for the period, based on his scholarly research).  In his discussion of rules, he gives kudos to Dan Mersey (Glutter of Ravens) and to Simon McDowall (Goths, Huns and Romans), both of which I highly regard.

In short, a great article series. Halsall's historical work is top drawer, and even his criticism of Morris is well placed (he takes down one of my favorites, John Morris, for writing history that is more of the "enjoyable narrative" rather than the "rigorous scholarship" type of work).  I am forced to agree with his criticism, even if I have a strong fondness for The Age of Arthur

For me, as a wargamer, I am perfectly fine with a strong narrative version of a potential historical Arthur.  It was not an especially literate time, so the lack of much literary evidence doesn't bother me - and an actual King Arthur is not necessary to me as much as a potential Arthur that is consistent with what we do know about the history. 

I find very appealing the notion of an Arthur-like figure in the sixth century keeping alive the spark of Romano-civilization against the inevitable sweep back into Germanic paganism.  And so it follows that I would want my wargaming to be based on that idea. It is my world view, and my sense of myth and legend of the West.

So, I will stick with Morris, and Arthur, warts and all.  And still enjoy the great work of Guy Halsall, as well.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 6 - 19th Century

Wargaming topics and possible theaters of battle in the 19th century are extremely varied and provide for a lot of exciting gaming possibilities.  One of the most popular is of course the American Civil War.  But not for me, I have tended to avoid that conflict ( I had a collection in 25mm, but I only used them for imagi-nations gaming).

This period, from the perspective of military operations and wargaming potential, is fantastic.  It is the century that sees musketry evolve from a weapon of mass application (with little precision), into the dominant force on the battlefield (as we evolve from the age of muskets, to the age of rifles).  The introduction of the railroad and mass production also mean that armies and logistics are evolving, so that operational campaigns are very different.  Naval capability changes from being wind and muscle driven, to being steam driven - which means that imperial and global colonialism is not only possible, but commonplace (with the colonial wars that go along with it).

I will include in this listing a few armies from the very early (pre-WW1) 20th Century.

Mexican-American War
This is a big enough collection to put on a 6-8 player game. Maybe a thousand Mexican figures, and maybe eight hundred Americans and Texans.  All painted, recently rebased.

Mahdi Rebellion
This is a larger scale (in terms of larger scale battles) and more serious study of the two parts of the River War (as Churchill called it) than my 28mm TSATF collection ( which is, appropriately, for small scale skirmish engagements).  I have British (painted), Egyptians (unpainted, but also suitable for the Arabi Revolt), and Mahdists (hundreds painted, but hundreds not painted).

Zulu War
Probably not worth mentioning except for an impressive stash of very nice, but unpainted, Zulus. Hundreds of 'em.

American Indian Wars
This is a recent acquisition for me, a set of very nice (but individually mounted, so suitable for skirmish gaming) figures including US cavalry forces (mounted and dismounted), and a large selection of American Indian figures.  There are leaders and a variety of figures for both sides.  I have not gamed with these yet, but I am planning on trying The Tomahawk and the Flame, Pony Wars, and/or Hey You in the Jail (one of my favorites, now available as a PDF download).

Spanish American War
A few years back, Patrick Wilson re-released the Richard Houston Lyzard's Grin collection. I bought in. I have a few hundred figures, all painted nicely by John Callahan. Both sides, and big enough for a modest game. No Philippines or Moro figures.

Boxer Rebellion
Very nice Old Glory 15s, this is at heart a nice, large collection of unpainted Boxers, and some Europeans. Started this collection to take advantage of Americans (from above), and Russians and Japanese (both from below).

Russo-Japanese War
Another nice OG15s set, painted (by me) and large enough for a meaningful game. Maybe a dozen infantry units per side, with 2 or 3 cavalry and artillery units for each side. Many more troops for Russians. In addition, maybe another dozen units each side, of infantry.

Part 6 - 19th Century (this article)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Medieval Periods - Middle Dark Ages (6th and 7th centuries)

Following on my first article about wargaming in the various sub periods of the Medieval Age, I would like to address what I am here referring to as the middle Dark Ages.  For me, this is roughly the 6th and 7th centuries, so definitely in a Post (Western) Roman setting, but one where the rise of new entities and the rise of Byzantium provide rich war gaming possibilities. As with the first article, I remain focused on Europe.
As far as I know, there is no common reference to this period, at least as a period distinct from either the earlier dark ages, or the later dark ages.  If anything, the earlier dark ages, and this period (I am thinking of approximately the 6th and 7th centuries) are part of what is usually referred to as Late Antiquity, although that really stretches back further than I wanted to (Late Antiquity is usually 300-700 AD).

But here I am talking about the 6th and 7th centuries.  In the early period (5th century, into the Age of Arthur.  To me that is the interesting activity going on in that period (from a European perspective) for wargaming.  In this period, there are really three things going on that provide for good wargaming.  As I see them these are:
beginning of the 6th), I covered the
  1. Consolidation of the Barbarian/Germanic Kingdoms
  2. Muslim Conquest (starting in the 7th century, but lasting into the 8th)
  3. Byzantium Ascendency, starting with Justinian in the 6th century 
As with the other Medieval periods, although infantry is still a very common component of armies of this period, the strength of cavalry is one of the hallmarks of many Medieval military systems (at least for me). That was the reason why I thought of the Romano-British as an example of a very early Medieval army (even though, it is extremely Roman, and infantry heavy, in flavor).

So, from a wargaming perspective (although just the history of this period, leaving aside gaming for an instant, is itself completely fascinating) here is what I see for the three periods.  I think I might list things like miniatures rules, board games, and army lists for each in separate posts.

Barbarian Kingdoms
These are large groups of (mostly) Germanic people's, or confederacies of people's, that were occupying lands in or on the border of the (former) Western Roman territories. They either had been invited to settle and become feoderates by the Romans, or else migrated in on their own, or (as in the case of Theoderic) would be contracted to come in by the Eastern Emperors. Because there are lots of clashes, both with remnants of the Western empire, and with other barbarian kingdoms, there is a lot of wargaming potential here.  Some of the people's I am thinking of (although there are many, many others):
  • Ostrogoths - the Eastern Goths, mostly in and around Italy
  • Visigoths - the Western (or Bright) Goths, mostly in and around the Iberian lands, filling the space previously occupied by Vandals and Suevi
  • Franks - Extremely successful on both sides of the Danube, and against other tribes/confederacies, this period includes the Merovingians.
  • Saxons - As in the earlier period, this may also include related peoples such as the Jutes and Angles, both in Britain (which is now becoming, finally, Angle-land, or England) and back in Europe.  On the British Isles, the series of struggling Kingdoms form the Heptarchy, although rarely is it exactly seven kingdoms.
  • And non-Germanics from the East - Alans, Avars, Huns, etc. 
There are a lot of miniature wargaming possibilities here, but also some board gaming titles as well.  Right away, I am reminded of Barbarian, Kingdom and Empire, as well as Catan: Struggle for Rome (a great game, but maybe not a wargame?).  Possibly Rise and Fall  but possibly not (and it is very similar to the already mentioned BKE).  A game I used to play quite a bit is the area control game, Attila.

Muslim Conquest
Starting in the early part of the seventh century, the armies of the Prophet and his successors provide a history that is ripe with opportunities for Wargamers who want to recreate the battles of this period.  This is divided up into an early expansion period, starting with the battle of Bedr, in 624 (two years after the flight of the Prophet to Medina) and ending in 661 when Muawiya Uthman had the Prophet's son in law (Ali) killed in the civil war for succession.  Muawiya then formed the first Caliphate.  

The armies of Islam, with roots in a popular religious undertaking, necessarily had a lot of simple (but effective) foot elements, but also (and increasingly as time went on) both a professional infantry core and large amounts of mounted troops developed.  The Arab cavalry favored the Lance, although there are some Persian elements that use the bow.  This is, tactically, a very interesting army.

It clashed, of course, with many of the other armies described in this article, so a Wargamer seeking to develop a collection for this period, would have a lot of scenario possibilities if he were to include the elements that make up this army. A very useful collection of essential troops, that would serve for representing this army over many centuries, would be a decent sized collection of Arab spear, Arab archers, and Lance armed Arab horse. As the conquest settles into an imperial mode in the later part of this period (starting with the establishment of the caliphate) other troops can be added in, representing absorbed people's. This includes horse archers among other things, and even extends to elephants.

One of the more interesting enemies of the Arab Conquest, of course, is the Sassanid Persians.  This fantastic army will be described in a later article on the Arab Conquest.

Board wargames about this period are rare, and I am only aware of a few. There was a Canadian Papercut games.  More recently, there was, in Freng from Griffon Games, a good looking design called Au Nom d'ALLAH that covers the expansion period from 632-732 AD.  Finally, and this is the one most accessible I think (from the preview material), is the title Apocalypse in the East  from Against the Odds magazine, to be published in 2017. It is about the ten year struggle between the first Caliphate and the Byzantines. Victory Point Games is working up an excellent solitaire, called The First Jihad which should be published soon.
Simulations game back in the early 1980s called Jihad, but I don't think it has a following any longer. More recently, three titles come to mind. There was a game in 2007 called Caliphate, that was never quite finished, but is available as a free print and play download from 

As the surviving successor to Rome, the empire in the east begins this period with an army very much in the tradition of the old Legion system of the Western army.  However, starting under Justinian, and coming full circle under Maurice, the army transforms into something different - the Byzantine army, which is very much more reliant on cavalry.  This will last throughout the period covered by this article, but will eventually give way to the feudal Thematic system (still cavalry dominant, but structured and supplied very differently).

A nice overview and description of the army under Maurice (the Maurikian Byzantine Army) is provided on this DBA page - it talks about DBA army elements for this army, but also gives a nice short history about the various components.  Some very interesting fighting by the Byzantines, in this period, takes place in the Balkan peninsula, as well as else where, and against some of the other armies described in this article.  Other enemies for the Byzantines exist as well.

Options for boardgame Wargamers might include a number of titles, such as Justinian from GMT or Byzantium from Martin Wallace. There are some other traditional wargames that touch on Byzantine warfare, but I'll mention them in a later article, as they cover later Byzantine history.  In addition to board wargames, there are even a number of other strategy games in this theme, that may or may not warrant the name "wargame".  Some examples might be Justinian from Mayfair (a Byzantine politics game) or Constantinopolis (Trade in Byzantium in the 7th century).

That is my start for this topic, but I think I will develop some information about army lists, and tactics, and possible scenarios/campaigns for each of these separately.  Each of these three focus areas has lots of great personalities, will have strong links to the previous and the succeeding historical periods (and armies), and present loads of interesting wargaming possibilities.

Note: Since writing this article, I started on a series of articles talking about wargaming the Barbarian Kingdoms.  Here they are, so far:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Rebellion in the Colonies

My recent cataloging efforts revealed to me that it would be nice to know a little about what I have in each collection, in terms of numbers and composition.  And since my 15mm AWI collection is strewn across my work area, in a variety of trays and boxes, due to the recent rebasing operation, I thought it would be a nice place to start.  So here are the totals (below).  


All infantry are based on 40mm wide bases, with three figures per frontage. 
Cavalry are on 30mm wide bases, with two figures each.  
Artillery are on 40mm square stands, with 4 crew each (fewer crew for my two grasshopper gun models).  
Generals are on 40mm squares with three mounted officers.
Brigadiers are on 30mm squares with two mounted officers each.
Division Officers are on 25mm squares with one mounted officer.

American (Rebellion) Forces
Infantry 1092 figures
Cavalry 34 figures
Guns 12 guns and crew
Officers 38 officer figures

French Battalions
Infantry 132 figures

Natives (Indians) 
Infantry 78 figures

British Forces
Infantry 627 figures
Cavalry 30 figures
Guns 8 guns and crew
Officers 27 officer figures

Infantry 249 figures

These, of course, are all divided into units, with unit command figures, including officers, colors, and musicians.  

Americans include Continental Army, Colonial Militia, and Minutemen.
British include regulars and Tories (Loyalists).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 5 - Napoleonic

My first Napoleonic figures, from many years ago, were TTG 15mm Prussians, which were quickly rounded out by innumerable Minifigs.  Alas those figures are long gone, the product of a good many army trades, swaps, re-trades, failed repatriation, exile, and political captivity. But these days I have a fairly decent sized accumulation of Napoleonic figures.  If ever there was a collection in need of a good figure by figure survey, this is it. I have grown this period by leaps and bounds over the years, and have not done a good inventory of it all together.

I will add in comments after a good visual inspection, but for now, this is basically a good high level inventory.

Napoleonic Figures
Peninsular War British
Later Prussian

I don't think I'd like to add to this collection, much, as I don't ever see myself modeling a Turkish or Austrian force.  But maybe I might fill in some gaps, especially in the French order of battle.

This series includes
Part 5 - Napoleonics (this article)
Part 6 - 19th Century

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 4 - Eighteenth Century

With the recent completion of my AWI collection, that brings my current stable of 18th century sets to exactly two - as below. I at one time had some Seven Years War figures, and recently parted with a large collection of painted Marlburian figures, but these days it is only the two below.

Eighteenth Century
French and Indian War
Size: Not too large, maybe 250-300 figures, total. But this is for a skirmish game.
Condition: Painted and individually based.
Notes:  These were acquired from someone who organized them for The Sword and the Flame, so twenty man units. There are regulars for both sides, as well as some irregular infantry (coureur de bois, and rangers) as well as some Indian units

American War for Independence 
Size:  Nice collection, probably around two thousand figures or so. Almost all factions represented, except some odd Spanish (really only present in some far southern engagements). But the main actors are here - British, Tories, Continentals, States Militia, Patriots/Minutemen, Hessians, French, Indians.  Infantry, cavalry, guns, officers.
Condition:  All painted, recently undergone mass rebasing (two month project). Bases in many cases not flocked.
Notes:  Played with these under Black Powder at a Thanksgiving Day game in 2015, have only done some small solo Neil Thomas scaled stuff since then.  Eager to play Konigskrieg, British Grenadier, or more Black Powder.

Some details on the AWI collection can be found here.

What else would I like to do for this period in 15mm?  The Jacobite Rising of 1745?   French Revolution (1789-1799)?  Vendee Revolt (1793-1796)?  Not sure.

This series includes
Part 4 - 18th Century (this article)

Taking Stock - 15mm Collections pt. 3 - Renaissance

This is part three of my 15mm cataloging effort. This time, my Renaissance armies, to cover the late 15th through the mid 17th centuries.

Renaissance 15th - 17th centuries
Italian City States
Size: Enough to do two large armies.
Condition: Painted, based and recently played.
Notes: I can cover any two of the Italian states from the wars of the 1490s through the mid sixteenth century. This includes the armies needed to run a campaign based on the old Avalon Hill game Machiavelli.

Imperialist or French
Size: Plenty for an HRE or French Catholic army.
Condition: Painted, based, ready for subjugating small Italian republics and Heugenots.
Notes: I could use some more lighter cavalry and a few more artillery pieces, but a very nice large army as it is. Lots of Landsknechts. Enough options to cover either an Imperial or a French army.

Size: Lots of pike and halberd. Big enough to take on any of the other 15th or 16th century armies. A few Knights, some shot units.
Condition: Painted, based. Looking for employers.
Notes: Brutally effective in most rules, but not a lot of diversity in the army.

Size: Big army. Might be a match for two other armies, certainly big enough for a large multiplayer game.
Condition: painted, based, ready to play, mostly. Some stands need flocking, some cavalry needs rebasing.
Notes: Ready for Italy or the Low Countries. Could use some more lighter troops.

Dutch or Huegenots
Size: Big enough to fight a scaled back Spanish or French army. Ritters, gendarmes, pike, shot, and could borrow landsknechts.
Condition: Painted and ready to earn either religious liberty or a sack full of guilders.
Notes: A nice 80 Years War campaign is beckoning.  This set could cover either army, either Dutch Protestants or French Protestants.

Size: These are 16th and 17th century Poles. Not a large set, but several units of lovely winged hussars, cossacks and haiduk infantry.  With German mercenaries, could fight an Imperialist (16th century) or Swedish (17th century) army.
Condition: Painted, needs rebasing.
Notes: This set makes me want to consider Muscovites. An early campaign against Gustavus Adolphus might be fun, also.

English Civil War
Size: Two armies, with some generic, and some specific troops present. Moderate size, as is, but with either more painting, or judicious borrowing from the TYW set, could put on a large battle.
Condition: Most is painted and based. See TYW section for those troops. Artillery needs work, and some infantry needs painting, but plenty playable as is.
Notes: one of my favorite periods, some of my troops go back to the 1980s.

Thirty Years War
Size: very large collection with several battalia each for all the main participants (Imperial, Swedes, Bohemians, Bavarians, Saxons, French, Dutch, Spaniards) plus cavalry, guns, commanders, etc.
Condition: All painted nicely.  Ready to play as is, but would like to do a complete rebasing to MDFstands.
Notes: Again, this begs a multiplayer campaign.

Size: Two large armies. All elements including monks, foreigners, etc.
Condition: All painted. Rebasing is desired, but could be played.
Notes: Many different factions and clans are represented, could easily become a campaign.

Joseon Korean
Size: Large army, intended as a foe for the Japanese.
Condition: Painted, needs organization and basing.
Notes: I would like to build some turtle ships...

Ming Chinese
Size: Large army. Collection may also include separate Mongol horde, but needs to be sorted.
Condition: Unsorted, unpainted. 
Notes: if I ever pursue this project, I may get the Mings professionally painted.

This series includes
Part 3 - Renaissance (this article)