Monday 30 June 2014

Reading List (Update)

Book I: The Spartan Army: 

Reading more about Sparta is simply fascinating. The more you read, slowly the more you realise how little we actually know and the bits we tend to focus on (or rather I should say "I focused on") namely the cultivated depiction of "The 300" and all events surrounding the Persian invasion, are the exception rather than the norm. Greek unity was the exception, out of context from the general flow of Greek history, as the Greeks were a quarrelsome lot who spent most of the time fighting each other. I found Lazenby's book (see below) a medium to hard read but was worth it for the post Peloponnesian War information, as in Sparta's fall from grace. "Hubris" always seems to be the bane of the Ancient Greek civilisations (see below):

Book II: The Soul of Battle (Thebes/Sherman/Patton)

Following on from Sparta's history was the ascent of Thebes by the hands a brilliant general called Epaminondas, who in Victor Hansons "The Soul of Battle", takes war to Sparta. I knew about the Boetian victory at Leuctra (371 BC) but I was unaware of the follow up campaign by Epaminondas to march throughout Sparta laying waste to its territory and creating the political security for the Helots to free themselves from Spartan rule, thus destroying in one swift blow the previously untouchable Spartan power base (Helots doing all the work for them and they can train for war) for all time. After Epaninondas, "The Soul of Battle" goes on to describe two other historical "marches" by democratic armies. I traveled with Sherman through Georgia (which stirred some ACW Wargaming interest) and I am presently starting Patton's journey (which begs for a 1/300 US Armoured Division to play with) through the Reich. Plenty of happy reading ahead (see below):

Next - Book III: Greek Lives: 

Now I have cleared up to the ascent of Thebes and before I attempt to start reading a pile of books marked Alexander (and behind them another pile of books marked Rome [2015?]) I intend to take a reflective look at the Greeks through Plutarch's "Greek Lives" (see below):  

Seeing as Alexander is the ninth Greek it seems to be a good transition book to link the two periods together.

A nice plan but let's see if I get distracted ;)

Friday 27 June 2014

DBMM (4 of 4): End Game (Rome v Chinese)

The battle reaches its climatic end-game. The power of the blades is self evident as the Roman Legion blows a hole and a half in the Chinese Center (see below):

The only hope for the Chinese is to pull back victory from the jaws of defeat by being victorious on the flanks (and quickly). To this effect the well placed Chinese (Fast) light horse charge in for their place in glory or infamy on the far Chinese Right Flank. It is do or die time for the Roman cavalry (see below)

At the same time the Chinese Left Flank tries to press home its advantage, however no matter what they try the break through is somewhat elusive, losing two (Fast) light horse in the process (see below):

And quite frankly, it just gets uglier and uglier for the Chinese Center, but they are "just to say" holding it together above their morale breaking point  (see below):

Then the Roman Allied Warband blows away the "archers" and the Center will be clearly lost next turn (see below):

The whole Chinese Army (Left, Middle and Right Commands) are teetering on the brink of collapse. Even the favourable cavalry action on the Chinese Right is a damp wet squib, as the Chinese bounce off dejectedly (see below, the Roman Cavalry will dine well recounting the story of that mini battle):

The Chinese Center morale breaking point is now past and it is game set and match to Rome. It was an enjoyable game and well played to my Roman adversary!

Thursday 19 June 2014

DBMM (3 of 4): Furious Fighting (Rome v Chinese)

The Roman army proved its metal and rebounded into the fray. The Romans showed that they too could hurt at a distance as they had a wonder weapon, the mounted ART(Fast) that could even shoot over friendly troops directly in front of it. The first blow caused a stand of Blade(I) to recoil and thus opening up a very dangerous "gap" that could be exploited as an overlap by the advancing Roman legionaries. The Chinese C-in-C (me) at this point was really regretting choosing the "cheaper" of the blade options. Quantity not really helping when you had a looming gap in the line (see below):

The the Roman wonder weapon went one one further and removed the Blades(I) rather demoralising the Chinese commander. This seems to be the fate for inferior (I) troops. Once they are bested their morale can go down and without the metal of the ordinary (O) troops they can self destruct (see below):

The Chinese were still hoping to win on the wings, although the rough ground seemed to make it a rather messy combat. On the Chinese Right Wing the Chinese lost a Light Horse stand to rather indifferent dice rolling, but still felt confident that their numbers would eventually tell on their Roman adversaries (see below):

In the Center things got very horrid, as the Roman blades made a huge mess of the Chinese "quantity" making the Roman "quality" a clear significant telling factor in the combats (see below):

Over on the Chinese Left Wing things again were looking more positive, though again the terrain was making progress happen much slower than The Chinese C-in-C would have liked. I was regretting moving the center forward, perhaps hanging back would have been the more prudent option (see below and previous the photograph):

Back over on the Chinese Right Flank the situation looked more promising now as a stand of Chinese Light Horse (Fast) had positioned itself in the rear of the Roman position. It was about to make a telling attack, or so the Chinese C-in-C (as in me) hoped (see below):

Note: Those who play DBM/DBMM/DBA on a regular basis more be rather puzzled that fast moving light horse are not "closing the door" or performing devastating "attacks from the rear" more often. Well "if truth be told" there is a "house rule" in play that states that before you can attack from the rear or close the door, you must have started from behind the flank of the attacked stand. I have to say I don't fully endorse the house rule, but at least it is the same for both sides. It tends to make for more ponderous flank attacks.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

DBMM (2 of 4): Advance and Action on the Flanks (Rome v Chinese)

The Chinese "long thin line" advances en masse (see below):

An early archery strike killing a warband stand fills the Chinese player with hope and the Roman with a sense of dread (see below):

Likewise a stand of Roman auxilla die hard in face of an arrow storm, these pointy things seem awfully dangerous (see below):

The Roman cavalry facing the Chinese Right Flank line out, but err into the range (24cm) of the Chinese massed bow (see below):

They too fall victim of "the arrow storm from the east" (see below):

The omens are looking good for the Chinese, can their luck hold when the fighting becomes up close and more personal?

Tuesday 17 June 2014

DBMM (1 of 4): Three Kingdoms versus Middle Imperial Romans

The battlefield was set with the Three Kingdom Chinese determined as the aggressors, the Romans therefore have the advantage of a small defensive hill and rough ground offering some protection to their flanks (see below, Romans top of picture, Chinese bottom):

Looking from the perspective of the Chinese Army, scanning the Roman lines from left to right, facing the Chinese Left is a small band of light horse and auxillia, seven stands in total (see bellow):

The Legion(s) dominate the Center. Nobody in their right mind would run up the hill at them. Eight stands of blades (four of them superior), four psilloi, sixteen warband (the versatility of the Roman Army is on show here to pick and chose a variety of allies, massed on the right hand side of their centre as the Chinese looked at them)  with the "talking point" of the Roman "order of battle" a Scorpion on a cart (Artillery[Fast] in DBMM terms). This gives it the ability for it to shoot from the rear over friendly troops (see below):

The Roman force facing the Chinese Right is another small band of cavalry and auxillia, again just seven stands, held back in a slightly 'refused position' (see below):

The Romans (like the Chinese) have paid for three commanders, one result of which is the two small Roman flank commands will need to be virtually annihilated (unless they lose their General) before becoming demoralised.

The Chinese left is a massed bow (seven stands) and cavalry force (three cavalry and two Fast light horse stands), with a token element of blade (one stand) and auxillia (one stand). Its function is to envelope the Roman flank before the legions can inflict telling damage (see below):

The Chinese Center is a massed blade (though notably of "inferior" status) and auxillia (again of "inferior" status). The Chinese have gone for the concept of quantity over quality, thinking that troops overlapping do the killing better than more expensive stand-to-stand match-ups. Will this strategy produce the goods though? (see below):

The Chinese Right Flank is a mirror of their Left Flank, bar the fact they have an additional extra "one stand" of Fast light horse. Again a swift enveloping action is hoped for (see below):

The hard part of DBMM seems to be 'building the army'. Some would say this is the curse of the 'points based army battles' as opposed historical re-fights, based on actual orders of battles.

I see it as a mini-Sudoku brain teaser myself. You never seem to 'get it right' the first time and there is always changes to be made based on battlefield experiences.It will be interesting to see how right or wrong I have got the above.

Sunday 15 June 2014

"Form Line of Battle" : Napoleonic Naval Small Squadron Action

A small Royal Navy squadron of HMS Thunderer (74) and HMS Canopus (80) spots a suspicious pair of sails on the distant horizon (see below):

The sails turn out to be a small French squadron of two ships Le Franklin (74) and the Commerce de Marseilles (120) obviously intent on conducting a secret mission for the Emperor (see below):

Despite being out gunned the Royal Navy commander decides on a aggressive strategy of cutting the enemy (French) line, so the fittingly named HMS Thunderer leads the charge. HMS Canopus and the Commerce de Marseilles have exchanged fire resulting in "sail and mast" damage to both. As HMS Thunderer blocks HMS Canopus' line of sight to the French flagship Canopus turns her attention to the Le Franklin (see below, British squadron at top of photograph, French bottom):

The ambitious "breaking the line" manoeuvre goes somewhat awry as the captain of HMS Thunderer miscalculates the relative speeds of the two ships and impales herself on a ship twice her size (a crew of over a thousand Frenchmen compared to under five hundred British sailors). This meant interested reading and re-reading of the collision rules (see below):

As a wargame the battle had to be left unfinished, in rather a shambolic state, with the French flagship being entangled with the small British 74 (HMS Thundered). HMS Canopus and Le Franklin meanwhile continued their exchanges of broadside upon broadside, leaving both in a state of mutual "de-sailing and de-masting" (see below):

Chances are the Le Franklin will succumb to the continued attention of HMS Canopus as both ships become static floating fortresses, the rate of fire from the British being better. However if HMS Thunderer cannot untangle herself from the French flagship ultimately the battle will be lost to the French.

A 60:40 probability to the French methinks ;)

Thursday 12 June 2014

PSC Russian AT "Chain of Command" Supports

Further to the Italeri offerings the PSC have a nice duel option kit with the 57mm and 76mm AT guns being available as alternative variants. The number of guns in the pack are nice too, as in four (see below):

The Zis 3 76mm AT Gun and servants (see below):

The Zis 2 57mm AT Gun and servants (see below):

I must confess I was slightly taken aback with the length of the 57mm AT (Zis 2) Gun's barrel. It must have had a heck of a mussel velocity but just did not pack the punch to trouble a Panther or Tiger, so it was replaced by the Zis 3 76mm gun.

Correction: Please read comments for the "real" reason ;)

Friday 6 June 2014

PSC American Heavy Weapons Set

This is an interesting little release from the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) to complement the US Infantry with the miscellaneous variations on heavy weapons (mortars and machine guns) that the US Infantry hand in the Second World War (see below):

These include three each of the following (crewed):

  • M1917 Machine Gun
  • M1919 Machine Gun
  • HMG M2 Browning
  • 81mm Mortar
  • 4.2 inch 'Chemical' Mortar
  • 60mm Mortar

Interesting and "wacky" stuff, especially the 'Chemical Mortar' thing? What's that then?

Thursday 5 June 2014

Soviet 20mm WWII "Chain of Command" Supports: Zis 3 76mm AT Gun

Alongside the Esci/Italeri basic Russian Infantry Rifle Platoon (now complete), the Chain of Command "supports" section lists those "must haves" for any Soviet Platoon Commander. In 1944/45 you need a decent anti-tank deterrent to knock out Pz IV's and at least a Cat (Panther or Tiger). Enter stage left the Zis 3 (76mm) anti tank gun from Italeri (see below):

Even better when you see that you get 'two' to the pack (see below):

It is an absolute hassle free construction and is a perfectly molded kit and superb crew figures. The only thing to note is that the hard plastic gun components beckons super glue rather than poly cement.

Next Stage: A bit of paint ;)

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Spectator Sport: Romans v Seleucid "Grim Reaper" (2) End Game

The clash of cavalry goes the way of the Romans. As seems to be the way with DBMM, DBM and DBA rules sets, an initial +1 overlap tends to ripple across the battle line to deadly effect. By a subtle selection of where to start fighting the Romans skillfully edge the cavalry battle, with a little help from an adventurous Auxilla overlapping the Seleucid cavalry wing. The Seleucid General is left looking very exposed and is about to be surrounded (see below):

Meanwhile the Seleucid left wing of Pike and Horse is finally (after two additional turns of movement) almost getting to grips with the Roman extreme right of infantry (ie the foot troops unable to march away quick enough). An opportunistic Roman Fast Knight took the opportunity to slay a Seleucid Auxilla (how could he resist from trampling underfoot weak infantry) but now finds itself contesting the centre with a bigger Seleucid General to its front and a Seleucid Pike Block to its flank (see below):

The Roman Fast Knight dies but in so doing offers the Romans a fleeting opportunity to "bag" a Seleucid General. The victorious General being himself a knight is obliged to follow up and thus exposes himself to a second line of Roman Fast Knights. The Romans get their man (see below):

That about does it for the Seleucids as "player morale" broke just ahead of the Army morale. An old wargaming friend and Grognard once said of Ancient wargames, "Fight with your best and don't fight where you don't have to!" The Seleucid Pike Blocks and columns of Fast Seleucid Knights roamed the battlefield, searching in vain for a combat. Whereas the Seleucid Warband and Auxillia found more than the bargained for. The complete reverse of my old friends axiom. The Seleucid Army Morale broke as these latter forces were decimated by the deadly Legionnaires (see below):

In summary this was an impressive Roman performance and left me with many, many questions regarding how to fight this versatile Middle Imperial Roman Army with my chosen Ancient Chinese (Army 63 from Book 2: Three Kingdoms and Western Ts'In 189AD-316AD). 

Any helpful thoughts and hints greatly appreciated ;)

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Spectator Sport: Duelling the Middle Imperial Romans DBMM Style (1)

A wargaming friend has recently completed a spectacular "wargaming project" in 25/28mm, painting a small/medium sized Middle Imperial Romans DBMM army.

The results was quite simply glorious and quite rightly he wanted to play with it as soon and as much as possible. Hence he devised a quick round-robin competition to fight all comers "against a valid time span army" (ie DBMM Army Book 2), though not necessarily an historical opponent. First to beat the Roman Army twice wins or the Romans can claim victory. The flexibility of the Romans versus the cunning nature of the Barbarians. A classic match-up.

Knowing that "Deadly Dennis" the Roman would have done as meticulous a job at  "army spotting" (the troops v opponent killer 'rock, scissor or stone' combinations of DBMM) as his brilliant paint work, I took the opportunity to sit back and watch his Roman war machine at work against the Seleucids. Intelligence wins wars as much as muscle after all.

Note: Both armies were smallish at 200 points with the idea of getting things over with in a night.

The Romans deployed first so suffered from the fact the Seleucid could "line up against his weaknesses" as per the Seleucid troop type (DBMM 'rock, scissors and stone' again) but took it in stoic fashion. The Roman's 'inferior' organic Roman Cavalry [Left] wing is set-up in column presumably for added flexibility, followed by a line of Auxillia, backed with Legion, along to the strange "club-men" (murderous against Knights apparently) [Centre] to the far wing of elite Fast Knights (allies, not organic Roman), Light Horse and Auxilla/Skirmish Psilio [Left] (see below, left wing at the bottom of picture):

The Seleucid effectively nuetralised the Roman Right by placing his elite Pike and wedged Fast Knights against them (two thirds of his Cavalry hitting power) [on the Seleucid Left/Roman Right], a weak Auxillia Warband, Auxillia infantry block[Centre] and a made-do Cavalry [on the Selucid Right/Roman Left] designed as more of a holding force (see below):

Both armies seem to have bulked up with cheaper infantry options (with only 200 points to play with this is as expected) and only two commanders, so command and control could well turn out to be a problem. The Seleucid wants to win on his left so the Roman Commander cleverly realises that his only chance is to refuse that fight and try win on his left (even though it is with his poorer cavalry). So all depends on the balance of the secondary Cavalry wings of both armies. The Roman happily sees the Seleucid come to him as he sees the chance of perhaps using his Auxillia in support, he therefore also sallies forth (see below):

The Seleucid is somewhat irked at seeing the Roman retreating away from where he wanted to it fight (a good sign methinks of the Roman astuteness), as the Roman calculated that the troop match-ups were a "no-brainer win for the Seleucid" do he should form column and "get out of dodge" with what he can save (see below):

The Seleucid's problem now is that he is trying to catch horse with Pike (four legs good and two legs bad in this race). The Seleucid faster elements being drawn up on the outer left of his army (with the intention of outflanking the enemy that has suddenly bolted). The Seleucid has a lot of ground, too much perhaps, to make up. Cleverly the Roman lights and Auxillia seek cover in rough and watch the powerful formations that once formed the backbone of Alexander the Great's Army harmlessly match by bypassing them.

Next: The Fighting Tooth and Claw

Monday 2 June 2014

Liebster Award (2014)

To use a name that I always associate with "Black Adder II" and  "Black Adder Goes Forth" I must pay my thanks to "Bob" for nominating this humble blog for a Leibster award :)

I am honoured, for praise from Bob is indeed high praise indeed.

Questions and Answers: 

Why did you start blogging?

  • Born out of frustration really, I was surrounded by the unadulterated clutter of the bric-a-brac and toys of my wargaming hobby. I never seemed to achieve anything or make sense of what I was doing despite poiring seemingly hundreds of hours and pounds (an underestimate here methinks) into the hobby. I decided therefore I needed a form of visual diary of the "pretty things" I had painted and a "potted history" of the games played. This perhaps would help me in some small way to organize or at least understand (and also inspire new) my thoughts by "brain dumping" all of  my crazy projects into the "blog sphere" for comments. 
If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?
  • Rule lawyers, those that have turned to the "dark side" of the force, it is in us all and there is always the acute danger that we too can be turned to it (or even worse we are already there and don't yet realize it)
What is best in life?
  • Generally the "free bits" we underrate and take for granted, like "fresh air" and soppy stuff like "love" (careful I am getting all "tearful and chokey")
Fame or fortune?
  • "Infamy, infamy they've all got it in for me!" Sorry I could not resist it. I would say fame, or rather acknowledgement and respect of my peers and perhaps a contribution to the good of the wider world. Naturally I hope my wife will not be reading this bit ... somehow fortune and wargaming don't seem to go hand-in-hand.
What miniatures are you most proud of having painted?
  • Generally speaking, the last ones that have passed across the painting table, which I think is a healthy and good thing. Currently this is some traditional Russian World War II Esci/Italeri "plastic infantry" not in the least bit flash but very satisfying to get painted to a decent standard. I hope my best is yet to come :)
How do you deal with burn out?
  • I "potter and paint" in my hobby mode or if I am too shattered I try to "sleep" lots
Why is a raven like a writing desk?
  • OK, I started thinking about it, but could only come up with "But they are not alike?" felt so, so stupid, so I Googled for it and saw the references to Edgar Alan Poe and Lewis Carroll's 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party'. I also note that there are far, far more cleverer (and far less literal) people in the world than me and hence I want to move on quickly moving onto the next question
Star Wars or Star Trek?
  • Oh, depends on my mood. Currently it's Star Wars but I think that is because it is far easier for my kids to follow and hence for me to watch with them. I have a feeling they will drift into Star Trek more as they get older (when in their teens?)
If you could only buy from one miniatures company from now on, which one would it be?
  • Plastic Soldier Company (PSC), but I would have to ask them to expand the diversity of what they produce to cover the ancient period in 15mm, WWII in 1/200 and 1/300 as well, naval in 1/3000 (WWI, WWII and modern), naval in 1/1200 (Napoleonic and WWII), could they also produce the Airfix back-catalog and consider doing some Sci-Fi ... I think I missed the point of the question or the answer is perhaps I could not live with buying from one miniatures company (I don't think I mentioned 1/144 WWI, WWII and modern planes or 2mm Napoleonics either)
What is your favourite takeaway?
  • Chinese Egg Fried Rice with Chicken in Capitol Sauce,. There that was really easy!
My nominated Blogs that may be NEW to people: 

If you have not already tried these yet then may I suggest you give them a go :)