Tuesday, June 6, 2023

A Gentleman's War in Olympia

I was initially not planning on attending Enfilade this year (I had not been since pre-covid in 2019). My feeling is that Enfilade gets a bit dull after two or three times, as the same games are mostly run over and over again, and that a lot of the time, I ended up with Portland-area people playing in my games. But my good acquaintance and fellow shiny toy soldier nut Nick S. from California was going to be at Enfilade this year, and it occurred to me that this, indeed, if anything, was the true purpose of attending a gaming convention - to play a game with a true fellow enthusiast face-to-face, which otherwise would not or could not have occurred.

Since I lived closer, I volunteered to haul my toy soldier French and British armies up to Olympia for a game of A Gentleman's War. Nick agreed to this arrangement in a heartbeat, and so it was...

I did random draw from my terrain tiles for the table setup. Nick picked the French and I took the British. 

I recall that I won the toss but decided to try and deploy opposite of the town - I thought the hills and woods provided some interesting approaches. In A Gentleman's War you can deploy up to 18" from your table edge, so the French started the game mostly in the houses or in the woods.

My plan was to mostly ignore the French forces clustered in the houses and church, and shift to my right against the lone house (the 'North House') on the French left.

I attached a general to the my gun on the central hill, allowing me to reroll a missed 'to hit' dice, and started chipping away at some of the French regulars neatly standing in close order around the North House.  Meanwhile the Irish Guards would hook around the hill, and advance with skirmishers deployed. They would be followed by a regiment of British regulars and the Hussars.
On the opposite flank (no photos, really), a detachment of Nick's tirailleurs in skirmish order clashed with Kings Royal Rifles skirmisher detachment and sent them running. And some good artillery fire took out a full half of my other detachment of KRR.

Irish Guards on the move.

Nick's French line infantry got tired of getting shot at by my artillery on the hill, so they advanced out from North House to face the Irish Guards.
I did not do a very good job concealing my Hussars, and they ended up taking casualties from artillery fire.

The French Dragoons were unfortunately never deployed beyond the cover those woods...

I apparently completely failed to take any pictures of all the action on my right flank. The Irish Guards advance and came under heavy concentrated fire from two regiments of French Line Infantry. The Guards fell back and ran off table.  While the British Line infantry in support tried to get in position, the Hussars charged over the hill and and into the flank of a French Line unit.

...the French Line unit had a commander attached and Nick was able to burn a lot of hold cards, so the French were able to turn to face the charging Hussars and let loose some closing fire. The Hussars still 'won' the resulting melee even though there was now not much of the unit remaining. The French fell back and the Hussars followed up, and again the French were able to turn to face and offer closing fire at point blank range! 'Twas the end of the Hussars.

Having thwarted me on my right, Nick had his infantry advance out from the South Houses and Church (I was close to breaking point anyway, calculated as half of total figures, having lost the Hussars, the Irish Guards, and almost all the KRR as well as some artillery crew and regular infantry here and there)

A maxim gun, the remaining KRR skirmishers, and some Royal Artillery took out some French regulars but as you can see, the British position was not strong...

British left, at end of game.

So Nick won the game, rather handily.  My advice is to not try flanking attacks that cause your units to have their back to a table edge! They have a tendency to run right off the table!

A Gentleman's War continues to be my favorite toy soldier ruleset thus far. I think the only thing we got wrong was at the end of the game we started putting entire 12-figure units of regular infantry into skirmish order. Only light infantry units can be completely in open order - regular units can only deploy up to half their men as a skirmisher screen.

Nick gave me a box of oddball Britains figures, including two bands. I gave him my tirailleurs unit, as I am working on a "second generation" casting of that figure.

Nick and I then got dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was slammed. This caused us to be 20 minutes late to the next game session, for which I was rewarded by my GM giving my seat away to someone else. Phooey.  

The next day I was not signed up for any games, but Pete roped me into trying the Perry Brother's Valor and Fortitude rules with his Minifigs collection, which I always enjoy pushing around.  My opponent was Jesse L., who moved from Portland to Seattle last year (or so), so that was enjoyable to play against him once again.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

New Recruits

it was a bit of a mad rush, but I managed to paint up sufficient infantry reinforcements to bring all regiments up from 10 to 12 men, and also created this squadron of Hussars, with mounted and dismounted options:

Hussars, mounted and dismounted options.

As well as these French Dragoons, also in mounted and dismounted variants.
French Dragoons, mounted and dismounted variants.

For something more whimsical, I also made this batman for the British command. The base figure is at at-ease body, with a gurka head.  The serving tray is a ball of milliput, pressed flat on a piece of wax paper and left to set.  The bottle is also milliput.  The glasses are bits of wooden dowel.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

More Fool's Errand


Continuing my fool's errand (first mentioned last month), here's another batch of Italian Wars command stands/flag carriers rebased from round bases to square 40mm mdf.  The three on the left are Essex miniature with Swiss banners. These were part of a large batch painted up almost two years ago. The one on the right is a Swiss command set by Perry and are carrying a Venetian banner if I remember right. This set came a Swiss piper, whom I have matched with the Essex Swiss stand on the far left, so that the remaining two Perry figures look less Swiss and more Italian or generic.  The tufts are Army Painter.

The Venetian (or whatever, maybe Neapolitan) banner looks a little cruder to me, seeing as its an earlier effort at handpainting my own banners. But that banner has possibly been in every Italian Wars game I've played so I can't just junk it.

Here's one of the rebased Swiss banners in the middle of an Essex pike block. Blends in and looks more a part of the unit than a round base.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Creusot Has Spoken!


A 3D-printed 155mm Creusot breechloader siege gun, better known as the "Long Tom" gun from the Boer War. The print is pretty low on detail - I added the rivets (dots of PVA dabbed on with a paperclip) and the aimer/loader's platform. I have three more so both sides could deploy up to two if they wanted...
French columns coming up the road...

...where British columns await beyond the hill.

British foot artillery, limbered and waiting.

The table at the beginning.

Ghurkas, playing light infantry in this game.

View from British left flank, where Irish Guards stand ready. Those two columns of British regulars are perhaps not positioned very well...

The French take aim for the Creusot's first shot...

...and the results are nasty! Six men lost in one blast and the rest sent running!

Following the first barrage from the Creusot, the first company of British regulars has taken advantage of marching in column on a road to move quite far and then deploy into line, and the British artillery has deployed. Together, they are able to force a company of French regulars to fall back (they can be seen marching in column towards their own table edge past church).  The Irish Guards have advanced and are exchanging fire with Zouaves in the woods.

The French right consists of the 155mm Creusot gun and a Hotchkiss machine gun with half companies of Zouaves (in skirmish order) to each side.  "This is the future of warfare, right here," Jamie declared, pointing.

The French regulars who fell back rally, but I am able to play this 'What Luck, Chaps!' card on them.

The Foot Artillery chipped away the French regulars to their front, but made slow headway against them as they had deployed a skirmisher screen.

The Irish Guards kept firing into the woods but could dislodge the Zouave skirmishers.

End of game, but I have figured out brutal trial and error that advancing in line with skirmishers deployed to the front is the way to go.

Another fun and educational game of A Gentleman's War with Jamie.  Terrain was again randomized using my tiles. Jamie carried the day again, in no small part because he actually makes a plan while I just sort of generally flail about. Regular infantry with skirmish line deployed certainly seems the most beneficial formation for moving up the table. This also resembles the common open order formation in Funny Little Wars which I admire.

We played to the fourth Joker, at which point I counted up my casualties and realized I had lost over half my figures (a faster metric than losing half your units), probably a card or three earlier than the joker's appearance.

The Creusot 155mm seemed a little too powerful, with its six crew throwing six dice, not only decimating the earlier line infantry company but doing some major damage to the Irish Guards toward the end. Rifle fire seemed ineffective as it counts as an open order target so saves pretty well.  We agreed that some fast moving cavalry, getting into a flanking position or in cover and dismounting to lay down small arms fire, might be a good counteragent.  But infantry with skirmishers deployed might also be able to get close and send the gun crews running in close combat.  Another potential benefit possibly not fully explored is is a subordinate commander figure attached to an artillery gun (and therefore granting a single reroll on shooting "to-hit" dice, which could be huge).

I'm slowly but steadily working on dismounted and mounted cavalry figures, and those should be table ready soonish.  I also need to convert more artillery crew figures and I have an idea for some more HQ staff figures I want to do.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

State of the Artillery

The French with their 155s.

Four 155mm Creusots, manufactured by Schneider in le Creusot, France, probably designed by Charles Ragon de Bange, and infamously used by the Boers in at the siege of Mafeking (the "Long Toms"), are all done (although three need more gloss varnish for extra shine). Also completed are additional converted crew figures, for both French and British.

British crew with their 155s

Although I am a big fan of using old Britians spring-loaded guns, crewed by any spare infantry available (or even by cavalry as in Little Wars), steady home-casting has slowly but steadily changed my toy soldier armies from Army Red/Army Blue+Green alliances of convenience to something more in line with the forces from The Great War in England in 1897.  When I started to drift in this direction, I initially considered securing nationally-appropriate artillery for both sides (so 75mms for the French, etc.), but sadly this involved investing in 1/35th scale kits, mostly, so I decided both sides could simply use the excellent Krupp guns by Armies Plastic for field artillery, with gussied-up limbers from BMC.  When I wanted to add heavier guns as well, the decision was more about choosing a single gun for all nations that was in character with the period rather than specific to each nation.  The Long Tom 155mm is pretty emblematic of Wells' pre-Great War era, and sadly there is not a 3d print readily available of the 4.7" naval gun (that I could find).  Because they add so much more character to their armies, here's both the British and French artillery parks together...

I would love to make more of the chap with the shell in his hand, but I could only find the smallest piece of the wooden dowel that the shell is made of (it might actually be a bamboo skewer). Its an easy conversion compared to the prybar guys, but no point in moving forward without the wood for the shells.

Sadly I realize I need to roughly double the number of crew, so that each side could man both the two Krupps and two Creusots at the same time.  Currently, they would have to choose two of the four guns and deal with it.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Defense of Lisette en Croute

The British in their initial deployments.

I have been aware of the rules A Gentleman's War for many years now, but had not really thought about trying them until recently.  I think this is because my 54mm armies simply were not at the necessary critical mass, and it so turns out that A Gentleman's War is very much written for a Belle Epoque army in a larger scale.  So I grabbed a copy form Wargames Vault for $10.  I will admit that on initial flipthrough I was not impressed - there were many charts for resolving shooting and close combat, which appears needlessly complicated at first glimpse.  But while on Spring Break vacation I read the book cover to cover and came away much more impressed.

British starting positions, on the right.

Once back, I roped old opponent Jamie into a game. We used my random terrain tiles to set up the game and deployed a generic scenario. Jamie played the French, and I the British.  Jamie arranged two units of French infantry into an oversized attack column, with two half-units of tirailleurs to each side of the column. He also placed all his artillery on his right flank. I piled a lot of infantry into the walled village, but indecisively spread everything else out across the table.

French starting positions, on the left.

The game was perhaps overlong, as we spent a lot of time trying to get the rules right.

British light infantry - the Kings Royal Rifles.

The general flow was that some tirailleurs were able to chase off the crew of the British field artillery on the far British right, although these were subsequently over powered by a flank charge from British regulars. 

The French attack column was able to use Aces to good effect and closed with British regulars quickly and overpowered them.  It then wheeled to its right and closed with another British regular unit.

By this time, though, the British had organized themselves a bit and finally brought a lot of fire to bear on the column, sending it running back towards its own center. Also around this time, the "What Luck, Chaps!" cards dropped a rainstorm on the battle - half movement and all ranges counting as two bands further!

On the opposite flank, the French artillery had been faring poorly trying to chase off the British light infantry.  They fared even worse when rain ruined the visibility!

These Worchestershires drove off the tirailleurs who had driven off the field artillery, but then spent several card turns moving an inch or two in the mud at a time.

Eventually the rain subsided (back to regular ranges but still half movement), but before anything else could happen, we drew the Fog event card, which again halved movement!  It was already almost 10:00 pm, but we agreed to call the game on account of bad weather (!).

These are the remnants of the French attack column.

French fire trying to chase of pesky light infantry.

A lot of carnage in the British center...

We then spent some time counting total figures lost to determine an actual percentage of starting forces lost for each side.  Turned out the French fared a little worse, but their situation was clearly more favorable. If I have one complaint its that a more concrete end game mechanic would be nice. The old "first side to lose half breaks and runs away" is not a favorite.  Still, its an easy fix and I have no complaints about the rest of the rule, which are an excellent fit for the Belle Epoque period.  

The name Lisette en Croute was issued by Jamie.  He tells me its a sort of French equivalent to a British village being named Samdgley-On-Broclishfire.