Friday, 23 September 2016

'The Men Who Would Be Kings' colonial rules released

Yesterday was the official release date for the new colonial skirmish game from Osprey, 'The Men Who Would Be Kings' (TMWWBK). There have already been reviews (and even game reports) posted online.

As a means of saying thank you the author Dan Mersey very kindly arranges complimentary copies to be sent to people who have provided feedback, playtesting, photos of painted figures, army lists etc. I know this because I previoulsy received a free copy of Lion Rampant.

Therefore when an Osprey-wargame-book-shaped package turned up on Wednesday I immediately realised it must be a copy of TMWWBK. For some reason I had convinced myself that I wouldn't receive a copy. I reasoned that Osprey might not be keen to hand out so many free copies to all the playtester and contributers, plus the fact that there had been a copy of the book at my local gaming store for at least a week. I had therefore assumed the rules had been already been officially released. I think publishers and games manufacturers (such as Mantic) are now suppling 'bricks and mortar' retailers earlier in a effort to help and support them in the face of competition from online companies such as Amazon.

I was lucky to have a few army lists included in the rules (I actually get two mentions, one in the acknowledgments and one in the main text, which came as a nice surprise). It is surprisingly difficult conjuring up an exact 24 point field force that reflects the units you are trying to portray. If there is any interest I may post a number of alternative lists I initially came up with, either on this blog or on the Dux Rampant forum. As the author, Dan Mersey, often repeats the lists are not 'official' as such, neither are they ones that you are obliged to use. If you don't like the ones provided then simply create your own version that suits your needs or indeed your figure collection.

Another pleasant surprise came when I read through the various scenarios in the book (Scenario C?). This was because this particular scenario wasn't actually included in the playtesting draft copy I had. The scenario is based on the actions of a certain Sergeant Booth that took place during the Zulu wars. I knew of this chap because he happens to be bured in my home town of Brierley Hill in the West Midlands. Details of his story and grave can be found in a previous post [here]. His heroic actions are a perfect basis for a game of TMWWBK.

As you'd expect from an Osprey publication the book is full of illustrations from artists such as Peter Dennis, Angus McBride and Richard Scollins, all three who happen to be some of my personal favourite illustrators. I was slightly taken aback to realise that Scollins had died way back in 1992. I say this because it is probably a little known fact that Scollins was involved in the initial open air Shakespeare productions that are held annually at Stafford castle. Scollins designed the historically accurate costumes (not the leather fantasy versions that seem so popular in modern adaptions) and also used to appear as a minor character in the cast. My brother was fortunate to purchase a number of his original artworks showing his costume designs.

I digress. If you want a copy of the rules you can get it from [Osprey Publishing] direct in various formats.

If you're lucky to have a decent local gaming store (such as mine) Asgard Games Uk you should also be able to buy a copy from them.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

On this day - The Battle of Bladensburg, August 24th 1814

On this day the Battle of Bladensburg, August 24th 1814 took place. An interesting account of the battle can be found  [here]. The following photos, taken by my brother, are from the museum at Shrewsbury castle.
Standard of the 1st Harford Light Dragoons, US Army
taken by the 85th Regiment at Bladensburg

Army 'Small' Gold Medal

Awarded to Colonel (later Sir) William Thorton, 85th, for his gallantry in the battles of the Nive, 9-13 November 1813. Only 896 of these medals were ever awarded, 34 for the Nive.

Col. Thorton was captured by the Americans at Bladenburg in 1814 but was released in time to command the 85th at New Orleans, where he was severely wounded. He died in 1840.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Modified Dragoons, (Warlord) - Part 6 of 6

This final model as I wanted an alternative to the drummer available in other sets. The figure is as usual the plastic firelock figure from Warlord. The trumpet is taken from the Warlord cavalry set, all the detail was removed leaving just the instrument itself.


The musket was taken from another spare Warlord set with the other hand cut away. The cuff and the strap for the musket were made from added using greenstuff.

This is the final figure for my dragoon group. I wanted an alternative to the drummer available in other sets. The figure is as usual the plastic firelock figure from Warlord. The trumpet is taken from the Warlord cavalry set, all the detail was removed leaving just the instrument itself. Due to my heavy handed efforts I managed to break off the mouthpiece. I decided it wasn't worth the time to repair it so left it as it appears here. 

This is the final figure for my dragoon group. Now, eagle-eyed smarty pants readers may have spotted an apparent oddity with my figures from this mini-series Players of Lion Rampant will know that the units consist of either six or twelve figures and Pikeman's Lament follows the same numbering system. However if you add up the number of figures in this group there are actually seven figures in total. Now this is either because it's easier to transport infantry figures rather than a large bulky cavalry group to play at the local store or I wasn't playing attention and made too many. I'll let you decide is more likely. 

I do have another ECW project on the go at the moment but I'm making (very) slow progress with it. I currently have more than enough figures (for myself and an opponent) to play a standard 24 point game of The Pikeman's Lament so I'm under no particular pressure to get these done.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Modified Dragoons, (Warlord) - Part 5 of 6

Although dragoons are normally only depicted with muskets they could also be armed with pikes (see the link in the original post). To represent this figure is portrayed as a pikeman using the ubiquitous plastic firelock figure from Warlord.

The arms were taken from a Perry plastics set (WoTR I think). Gaps in the shoulders were filled in with greenstuff. Using the same material the sleeve cuffs were also added. 
Looking at the figure in the state show above I kept on thinking that something didn't quite seem right. As the figure represents a pikeman I realised I had to extend the shaft. To do this I used a spare polearm.
Little tip: whenever you have to join two rods/bars of plastic together cut the shaft at a diagonal angle (45 degrees if you can, using the lines on your cutting board as a guide). this increases the surface area and helps form a stronger bond than the usual perpendicular cut.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Modified Dragoons, (Warlord) - Part 4 of 6

This set was inspired by accounts and paintings [seen here] of the Battle of Waterloo where Scottish infantry latched onto cavalry to help them speed into action.
Rider - Left hand made from greenstuff as the previous hand was too low.
The musket was taken from a spare Warlord figure. The powder box and strap were added using greenstuff. Sharp eyed viewers may notice that I had forgotten to remove the sword hilt from the mounted figure, this was done later, as can be seen in the painted version.

Runner - The right arm was taken from a Perry miniature WoTR set with the left arm and the staff of the pole arm removed.


The powder horn, strap and both straps for the muskets were made from strips of greenstuff.

I'm not entirely happy with this specific set (and I'm not fishing for compliments here). I've since had an idea how to make a similar composition of a running figure more realistic but that will have to wait unit I can find a suitable base (yes I do need to get out more). Once this is done I may then retire this particular pair.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Modified Dragoons, (Warlord) - Part 3 of 6

This group was inspired after reading part of Osprey's book Pike and Shot Tactics 1590-1660.

"it was common to support ... with Shots – provided either by dragoons or by infantry temporarily mounted or riding double behind cavalrymen."
This seemingly simple comment provided me with the most difficult challenge while trying to make this look halfway realistic or natural. I thought I may be able to model two men on one horse. This was easier said than done and involved a lot of cutting and carving of the horse's back and rump (as well as a fair dose of industrial language which I find always helps).

With the first/forward most rider I removed the tassets from the thighs to facilitate moving the body of the figure forward towards the horse's head. I cut away some areas from his back so the two figures would fit closer together. The musket was taken from a spare regular figure. The powder box and strap were added using greenstuff.
The second/rear rider's right arm taken from the cavalry set which was originally holding a flagpole. After reading the article about dragoons, rather than using a short carbine model, I used a part taken, as usual, from a Warlord's Firelock figure. Just to make things awkward for myself I also removed his sash. I'm not entirely sure this was worth the time and effort to achieve the unique look of this set but as it's a one off for this project I'm unlikely to ever repeat the process. Well that's what I told myself as I was cursing the general lack of any form of co-operation from the figures.
The sash, baldric, sword handle and the straps for both muskets were made from strips of greenstuff. Yes, you've read that correctly, I added details to the figure after cutting the original one away (will I never learn? no..probably not).

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Modified Dragoons, (Warlord) - Part 2 of 6

During the long preparation (it turned out to be a rather long thinking process) of these models I considered various options of how to make these figures represent dragoons. Fortunately I eventually recalled the autobiography of Phillipp von Boeselager, a German officer who served on the Russian front during WWII and was involved in the closest attempt to assassinate Hitler, the book is titled Valkyrie: The Plot To Kill Hitler (you'll have to bear with me on this one). He was one of the very few who survived the executions that followed the failed coup d'etat. Although the modern perception of the German army during WWII is often that of large armoured columns attacking across all fronts, vast numbers of horses were still used for transport and haulage.

In his book von Boeselager describes combat experiences which, for to me at least, closely resembled those of dragoons during the ECW. During reconnaissance or defence actions soldiers, under von Boeselager command, would dismount leaving one man holding the reins of anywhere between four and ten horses. This single man would then ride away a short distance to a safer area. This soldier could quickly return to the others troops if and when needed. With this in mind I thought I would try to replicate this using these models
This group depicts one rider holding the reins of three other horses. There are four horses in total simply because that's how many would neatly fit onto the base (from Warbases). The single rider is a bog standard figure straight out the box. I cut away the moulded plastic reins and remade the connecting new ones using lengths of greenstuff. Again using greenstuff I built up the saddles on the riderless horses. This are perhaps the easiest modification of the entire set. Don't worry, the other modification caused me a lot more grief - all for your viewing entertainment.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Modified Dragoons, (Warlord) - Part 1 of 6

The models detailed in the next half dozen posts have been modified to depict dragoons during the English Civil Wars (ECW). Drgoons were mounted, mobile infantry. A very interesting article about their use during the conflict can be seen [Here be Dragoons]. The name itself may derive from the weapon, a dragon, that this type of mounted infantry originally carried or possibly be derived from the Dutch word meaning mounted infantry.
Unit of Dragoons for The Pikeman's Lament
Although the famous Streeter map of the Battle of Naseby shows the dragoons dismounted and an individual holding the reins of half a dozen horses I preferred to depict a more dramatic look for these models based on the experiences of a WWII soldier. More of this in a latter post.
View from the Parliamentarian positions looking diagonally across the Naseby battlefield towards the Royalist right wing. Colonel John Okey's dismounted dragoons attacked Prince Rupert's cavalry using the cover of the hedges approximately along the far left of the photo above.

For this particular project I also wanted to attempt a slightly different basing method to the one I normally use and make these particular figures instantly recognisable as dragoons and not regular cavalry.

The upcoming (January 2017) The Pikeman's Lament rules recommend using a mix of mounted and dismounted models to represent dragoons and there are six models per unit for this particular type. 

To my logic this would consist of three mounted and three regular infantry figures fixed on round bases (although typically I didn't stick to my own rules). The use of round bases aren't required by the rules, it is just to make it immediately obvious when playing a game to differentiate which models are proper cavalry and which models represented dragoons. I'm playing fast and loose with the basing system here as the Pikeman's Lament rules are flexible enough as to which basing method you prefer (already use) isn't particularly important. Individual figures probably give a better impression on the tabletop of a skirmish game. Multiple based figure just require a method of recording the casualty numbers. I simply use a single die to keep track of a unit's casualties and then remove bases as and when necessary.

The next few posts will detail the models themselves and the modifciations made to them.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Mortar and crew, Bicorne Miniatures

I picked up this pack (Code: BIC-ECWG018 - Mortar & 3 crew) at the Alumwell show (WMMS) earlier in the year, it consists of the mortar and three crew but not the barrel. The set is nicely cast and is easy to paint up.
The plastic barrel is from Renedra. The slightly dodgy joint lines which I've tried to cover over with greenstuff. g greenstuff I made the leather bag from greenstuff.
Roaring Meg
I had assumed the model was based on the only surviving large period mortar, know as Roaring Meg, which is currently on display inside Goodrich Castle. I now think it is based on the cover of Osprey's 'English Civil War Artillery 1642-1651' book and that the illustration was based on the original piece. The figures look very similar to the Oprey book.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Pikeman's Lament - Rescue Mission

These photos were taken at a recent demo game of The Pikeman's Lament (TPL) held at my friendly little game store, [Asgard Games Uk] in sunny Walsall. 

We were both had, more or less identical, companies: two units of pike, two shot, two units of mounted troops. Sam chose to try a units of dragoons and Gallopers whilst I had two units of Gallopers.

As I happened to have a spare figure I decided to play out the 'Rescue Mission' scenario. I rolled the higher die thus becoming the attacker in this game.

The scenario was to rescue Sir Marmaduke Quondam, the daring garrison commander of Bescot Hall, who has somehow managed to get himself captured. Sir Marmaduke was being held in the local priory ruins awaiting transfer to higher authorities and is being guarded by ruthless units of pike and shot under the command of equally ruthless Lady Samantha de Bermingham (a.k.a. Sam who was playing her first game of any of the Lion Rampant variants).

As this was Sam's first ever game I didn't want to overwhelm her with the full version and so agreed to just concentrate on the gaming principles and mechanics. Therefore we didn't create the commanding officer's character nor background or use the Honour Special Orders (the equivalent of Boast points in the original game).

Being the best defensive troops Sam (units marked blue) set up two units of pike and one of shot amongst the ruins to guard Sir Marmaduke (circled in yellow). 

My tactic was to simply try and dash in with a single cavalry and use the rest of the company (marked red) to try and block or hinder Sam's defending units.

The scenario dictates that the defender (Lady Sam in this case) had to have half her company guarding the prisoner while the other half were off patrolling the area to the north. These units could try to move onto the table at Turn 2. 
Charging in to engage the enemy.
"Hang on Sir Marmaduke, we're coming!"
The gallant forces of continental dandy Lieutenant-Colonel Eduard Van Verloren Wapen, (a.k.a. me) supported by his loyal Scottish infantry, coming to the rescue. These came charging in across the river from the south-east. His task was to make contact with Sir Marmaduke and ride off into the sunset together (these continental types are very...well... continental).

Sam was fortunate that she activated her other forces quite quickly. Her dragoons came in blazing over the bridge to bolster the guards. She was less lucky when she rolled a double one during her activation phase followed by another equally low die. This resulted in her losing a whole unit of infantry just after they had entered the field. This is a new concept in the Lion Rampant family rule set where double six rolls equals a reward and double one means you suffer a penalty to various degrees. This new feature is probably my favourite addition to the rules if only because it creates the funniest reactions - either good or bad depending on the results and how it affects the game. 
Congestion - 17th century style
My right wing cavalry unit charged in early and were lucky and managed to push the defending pike unit back. This pike block were forced to retreat and I initially thought this game would be over pretty quickly. How wrong was I!.

My other, left wing, unit of cavalry got completed battered by first Sam's unit of shot and then by the dragoons. They eventually somehow managing to scarper back out of range. Equally my two units of shot got decimated with one breaking and leaving the field. Fortunately both of my pike units held. 
"Don't panic men, we can still retreat..oh dear..cavalry."
Sam sent a unit of Gallopers (regular cavalry) sweeping around the back of my forces which was quite sneaky, I thought. This would force me to engage them in order to succeed in the mission. 
"Charge boys, they're gaining on us!"
Having repeatedly charging pike units (not the best tactic) my cavalry unit made contact with Sir Marmaduke, turned tail and tried to make their escape. Again I thought the game would soon be over as I left the pike units to try and block and delay Sam's company from trying to recapture Sir Marmaduke. Sam's units quickly began their aggressive counter-attack.
Sir Marmaduke (circled in yellow) sees his chance for freedom as my brave pike blocks try and fend of Sam's attack.
What I hadn't taken into account was how tough and deadly Sam's remaining units would be. The Gallopers that had swept round the back of my company slammed into the rescue party and wiped themselves and my unit out leaving Sir Marmaduke sucking his thumb on the edge of the field. Sam was unlucky again as she failed to activate her units thus prevented them from closing in on their prey.

I just about managed to get a unit of pike to contact Sir Marmaduke before Sam did, meaning he could finally escape.

Technically it was a victory for my company but a Pyrrhic one at that. At least we both had fun (I hope) playing the game. Sam played a good game and used clever tactics (better than mine) but she was let down by her unlucky dice rolls which prevented her being able to activate units when she needed them.

It is pretty typical of the kind of games Pikeman's Lament generates. The units are balanced, without one particular type being unbeatable. The tide of battle swings back and forth so we are never quite sure what is going to happen even towards the very end of a game.
Sir Marmaduke rides into the sunset.
"Thanks lads, I'm off."
As usual I was having too much fun playing that I forgot to take enough photographs but hopefully the images will give you a favour of the action.

Regular readers will know that I've never produced a batrep for this blog before (I didn't even know what AAR meant until I looking it up). I don't want to give away too much info about the rules and spoil the fun for anyone in the future, so I've deliberately left the game mechanics vague. Plus I think it would seriously annoy the writers and the game isn't due for release until early 2017 anyway. Nearer to release I may discuss more games and detail a few more of the new aspects of the rules but I'll see what the reactions are like to this post first.

Friday, 1 July 2016

On this day - Battle of the Somme starts 1st July 1916

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Somme. Although most may not know all the details the battle has entered the subconscious of the British people. The Somme is now a byword for the suffering and horrendous conditions that resulted in trench warfare.

The object shown is a percussion fuse No. 85/44 for a 18pdr shell fired from a British gun [18 pounder] in the Somme area. 
The 'BSC' stamp indicates that this fuse was made by the Bethlehem Steel Company. 
These American built fuses were mainly used with 13 and 18pdr field guns. At the end of the war there were over three thousand 18pdrs in the field which had fired nearly 100 million rounds (99,397,670 to be precise) on the Western front. 

The 85 fuse was based on a 1907 U.S. model, this particular model was introduced in 1916, and made at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. This firm [Bethlehem Steel] was America's second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder. The company provided steel for some of America's most iconic building and structures such as the Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge and the Chrysler Building. 
I've been fortunate to have visited a number of the WWI battlefields, such as Beaumont-Hamel and the Lochnagar Crater. You can (or could) buy these fuses from various shops, museums and cafes collected from the fields (please note that metal detecting in battlefield areas is illegal and dangerous in France and Belgium). 
British 18 pounder gun
Travelling through the French and Belgium sites you will still occasionally see rusty pieces of ordnance stacked by the roadside waiting to be disposed by the army. My dad often tells the story that he saw, a few years ago, two old gents in Belgium kicking round an old shell at the edge of a field. My dad walked away as quickly as possible before the war could claim another victim. 

Although this object may seems a little morbid I use this as a paperweight and it serves to remind me of the futility of war and "man's inhumanity to man". 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Short S184 (8359) - The Battle of Jutland

The picture below shows the only actual British aircraft to take part in the Battle of Jutland, the decisive naval battle that took place one hundred years ago today.
Short 184

This aircraft, a Short S184, is located at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil. From Wikipedia:

"A Short 184, aircraft number 8359, was the only British aircraft to take part in the Battle of Jutland. Flown by Flt Lt Frederick Rutland (who became known afterwards as "Rutland of Jutland") with Assistant Paymaster G. S. Trewin as observer, the aircraft was launched from HMS Engadine at about 3.08 p.m.: flying at about 90 feet (27 m) due to low visibility, they spotted four cruisers of the German fleet, reporting their presence back to the Engadine at about 3.30. The aircraft was presented to the Imperial War Museum in 1917, where it was damaged in a German air raid during the blitz. The unrestored forward section of the fuselage is now an exhibit in the Fleet Air Arm Museum." 

The reference to "damaged in a German air raid" during WWII is interesting. The fuselage is actually peppered with bullet holes, something that was only recently noticed during conservation efforts.

More details about the pilot from the Osprey Publishing website:

"Rutland received a well-deserved DSC for his gallantry, and was thereafter known as Rutland of Jutland. He left the Royal Navy in 1922, apparently becoming a consultant. Setting up shop at Honolulu, Rutland sold his expertise on aircraft carrier operations to the Imperial Japanese Navy. British intelligence, unamused by his enterprise, interned Rutland shortly after his return to Britain in October 1941."

Role - Two seat reconnaissance, bombing and torpedo carrying seaplane
Manufacturers - Westland Aircraft Works, Yeovil
Power Plant - One Sunbeam 225hp/240hp or 260hp
Wingspan - 63ft 6.25ins
Length - 40ft 7.50ins
Height - 13ft 6ins
Weight - 5,363lbs loaded
Max Speed - 88.50mph at 2,000ft (Sunbeam 260)
Duration - 2.75 hours endurance

Armament - One free mounted Lewis machine gun aft, and provision for one 14in torpedo or various bombs up to a maximum of 520lb

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Mine Entrance, scratchbuilt - Part 2 of 2

Although not generally well known the use of mine warfare was fairly common throughout the medieval and 17th century English Civil War (ECW) periods. During the medieval period RochesterDover and Bungay castles were all attacked using mines.

Throughout the ECW mines were used at the sieges of the castles at Harwardine, Sherborne, Goodrich, Wardour and Pontefract. Mines were also used against the city walls of YorkNewcastle-upon-Tyne and Lichfield cathedral to name ones I'm aware of. In fact the first known use of explosive mine in England took place at the siege of Lichfield in 1643 by Prince Rupert.

Also of interest are the mine and countermines created at the 1546–1547 siege of St. Andrew's castle in Scotland. These are particularly impressive, you can watch people walk above you through a grill in the pavement as you stand in the original mine entrance.

As with the sap in a previous post [Part 1 here] the base for this model is a CD with 20mm thick extruded Styrofoam glued onto it to build up the groundwork.

The trenches were cut out with a craft knife and lined with horizontal coffee stirrers and vertical barbeque sticks. Gaps in the foam were smoothed over using DAS white modelling clay. I've no idea if it is any different from the terracotta version apart from the colour.
Entrance (hidden) from the enemies point of view
For the entrance supports I used dowel whittled to give the impression that it had been rough hewn from timber. The entrance for the mine with downward facing coffee stirrers facing diagonal downwards, which looking at the images again you can't actually see in the photos.

I'm still in two minds as to whether I should add a blanket/screen to the mine entrance. I'm not sure if this was simply to keep out the rain or had another practical reason.

The figure is from Wargames Foundry.