Tuesday 31 October 2023

OK .. I really like Blucher Napoleonic Rules and here is why .. Leipzig 1813 "Big" Game (Day One) .. [Long Post]

I had the extreme pleasure of participating in Leipzig 1813 refight (weekend Saturday and Sunday affair) at Pendrakon Games in Middlesbrough. Coming off the high of a two day Napoleonic frenzy (Leipzig) I can say hand on heart that I have never (previously) seen such a huge battle, played to conclusion so, so cleanly. I think we have Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules to thank for that. They were brilliant, even in the hands of a "hard of thinking" confused.com wargamer like myself. Full credit to the game's organisers too (David Lambert being in star pole position) for choosing the right tools for the job. The attention to detail and care was clear to all in this labour of love - OrBats with coloured small dice to track strength points, colour coded to Corp and the level of organisation in the event was fantastic. Thanks must also go to Pendrakon Games for the event hosting and most convivial environment (including a wargaming shop selling fantastic pieces of 10mm kit). For the game itself, it was daunting to see so much precious 15mm Napoleonic kit on the table. Total respect to all and apologies if I have left anybody out worthy of praise for contributing to the fine day, please excuse any ignorance on my part. Note: For me I found this game awe inspiring, as I have long since vowed not to paint 15mm Napoleonic's again - tried it once but it really burned me, I did it far too slowly and could not get into a factory mode of production - you need so much kit to do it justice! So credit to those marathon figure painters! Ramblings over .. on to the game

Day One [Saturday]: Orders from Napoleon himself - "Defend the Town  at all costs, yes that Town (Gahlis, as it s on the left flank of the Northern French Table, do not lose the flank), defend it to the last man". Tactically the very Left Flank lies across the other side of the river [units there cannot support the defence of the town], so that area will be used as a delaying mechanism - trade space for time as it is of no real significance (see below, the set-up - "my" piece of land/real-estate to fight over for the next two days of wargaming, a town [called Gahlis - not even sure how to pronounce it correctly] commanding a bridge cross the river to Leipzig and a "hanging" left flank over the other side of the river (whose name I never learned). I did not defend to the river line as I had no wish to be pinned there and be destroyed by the impressive Russian and Prussian grand batteries of artillery the Allies possessed ):

My French guns and Infantry hold the Town (see below, the figures are based on big blocks rather than fiddly small pieces [you know "those" types of rules, with two man skirmishers that detach from the block] which thankfully makes them by contrast so easy to move about):  

As French Left Flank Commander I am pinning great hopes on the French artillery disordering (or rather inflicting severe casualties on the advancing enemy infantry) on the Prussian attack (see below, a mighty French Grand Battery waits to speak - the Emperor liked his guns):  

There is also solid French Infantry to the right of the town (see below, all part of the same corps, so command integrity should not be a problem): 

My Right Flank (although it is the centre of the actual French line of battle [on Table 1 - yes there were two huge tables, as Leipzig and the French Army was the filling in the middle of a huge Allied Army sandwich]) consisted of excellent regular infantry .. but I am lacking in artillery - or rather Grand Batteries (see below, I am facing a huge coalition [I spotted Swedes (Bernadotte) and Russians] of "combined arms" [Cavalry, Infantry and Grand Battery Artillery] Allied Corps - they simply have too much of everything! - Yes, as a seasoned general  I am preparing my excuses early!): 

A local Corp Level Reserve (infantry and cavalry, held on the baseline (see below, I am hoping to not need them sooner than later, but I know at om point  will need them - Blucher rules note, no they were not held in the wood as that is not allowed (for units under Reserve order - you have to be able to "see" things, this was my Reserve in a "sorting the troops out phase" - and there were a "lot of troops" on the table that day [candidate for understatement of the year]): 

Opening Rounds:
The Russians are coming, quick deploy the Reserve Cavalry (no panic in that voice whatsoever). The somewhat significantly unimportant "hanging left flank" was sentried but not really defended. It was a lure that was aimed to entice the Allies away from the strategically important Town (how important depended on the value of a playing card hidden in a sealed envelope underneath the terrain piece - a nice umpiring touch). As the Russians suddenly became interested in this piece of riverside real estate, two brigades of French cavalry were despatched .. so the French would only be now outnumbered three to one (see below, sometimes as a Napoleonic French commander you have to display a certain national "sang-froid"): 

As things were developing on the left, the Russians and Prussians were shooting .. very effectively. The massed grand battery of French artillery I had placed to much in store by became a graveyard of Imperial hopes and dreams, as it simply disappeared under a storm of counterbattery fire (see below, as the French Commander I was left wondering if I had been too brave in putting it in the front line .. infantry in the same place would have taken more time to have been bled away, a horrible form of calculation to contemplate):  

I (as in the French commander on the spot) have a cunning plan to disrupt the Russian advance on the left with a bold and daring advance of a brigade of French Cavalry. The plan was to stop them as they crossed over, if I defended the river-line I would be meat for their guns (and I had already experienced that in the town). Therefore as the first Russian cavalry brigade crossed, a French one was in position to attack it (see below, this also showed the beauty of the Blucher game system, whereas in other rule-sets there would be forty pages of carefully worded instructions [whose interpretation that nobody ever agreed upon] here we would just fight a battle without angst and fuss, but with casualties and consequences): 

The result is not good for the French! Perhaps I should have used the Blue (French) dice [4 v 1]. Despite their "wet" hooves the Russian Cavalry bested the French (causing two hits to the one on the Russians) and will cause them to retreat back. Again another shout out to the beautiful Blucher system, simplistic but sane. If you fight you lose a strength point too (regardless of if you win - so no superhuman Napoleonic Panzer Tank formations that never take a hit - nothing is free) and if you lose, you will take usually an extra hit at most (unless infantry caught out side of a square or grand batteries pummelled into kindling) but be forced to retire (see below, we are trading Russian Command Cards for time, but paying in French strength points - exchanges like that I think are the essence of the Blucher system):    

The battle on the French left Flank as see from the French Commanders perspective (see below, the French Infantry "eagerly" awaited its outcome with some trepidation): 

The French Cavalry regrouped and were sent in again but in the meantime more Russians had poured across the river. To cover this crossing the Russians opened up with [devastating] long range artillery on the far right French Cavalry unit (remember it vaguely from the last photograph?) - the "good Russian dice" meant it disappeared (Russian Heavy Artillery has a certain "zing" to it) as an effective fighting force (as in, it was removed from the table and put in the dead pile). Blucher can be cruel, but the Allies were trading vast amounts of artillery ammunition for French strength points so there is a logic to it all (see below, the French left is beginning to look a tad precarious and sparsely held): 

A close-up of the second French-Russian cavalry action (see below, yes those are Cossacks following the Russian cavalry, with infantry on the Russian far right - thankfully artillery cannot cross the river unless at a bridge, the only one being behind the French held Town)

Sadly for the French it all ended in pretty much the same manner as the first (see below, French cavalry retiring, somewhat bruised, to the safety of some low lying hills): 

Meanwhile the French Commander had deployed his local Infantry Reserve to a position behind the Town, as there were signs of an impending [big] Allied attack (see below, there will be great need of French reinforcements and perhaps even a counterattacking force in the very near future): 

The first Prussian attack goes in at 1-to-1 odds and bounces, but it still serves to wear down the French infantry - some unlucky person has to be first in after all. It is very important not to let the attacker have 2-to-1 odds (see below, French infantry positions to the left and right of the town will move up to soak up the attention of additional Allied troops, if need be [or rather as it will be]): 

Forward line of  French Defence. The French infantry is literally bled dry, dying in place but defending the town (see below, both of the French units left and right take horrendous causalities and are retired or destroyed in the course of the "hot" action): 

The second line of French defenders recycle in but as the Prussians put in all-in Corps attack on the Town, the odds now go 2-to-1 in the "attackers" (Prussian) favour (see below, the far right French reinforcements do not get to the town in time to stop the 2-to-1 attack going in): 

The "Town" (Gahlis) Falls to the Prussians (see below, the only concern the Prussians now have is that the Prussian troops to their right, fighting outside the town, were beaten back - which leaves the town environs as a Prussian salient surrounded by very angry Frenchmen): 

The French conduct a counter-attack with that "well placed" Infantry Reserve (see below, it is imperative NOT to lose the town as it will unhinge the position of the French Right on the "southern battle board" - [yes, directly behind me, there was either 28 foot or 30 foot of battle was in play, the French were in the centre facing outward and players "back-to-back"] AND it would mean that the French would have to re-take it [always harder] the next day - as in Day Two of Leipzig which we were going to play on the Sunday): 

French honour is saved .. the Town (Gahlis) is re-taken .. done quickly before the Prussian are given time to prepare its defences (see below, as a result the Prussians are now worn-out and have little offensive firepower left in them. For the time being the town is safe and therefore by definition the French Southern Right Flank is merely only fighting enemy to their front and not their front and rear!): 

On the "Refused (some rude people would say "hanging") Left Flank" .. all is quiet, but it looks rather precarious in the longer term for the French (see below, the Allied command focus has been mainly concerned on the battle for the town, which has resulted in sluggish Russian movement [there are rather a lot of them] up to the river line - the French Commander had to activate his last local reserve [a cavalry Division] to fill out a rather pathetic looking ensemble of a defensive line - thanks to the ravaging appetite of the Russian Heavy Artillery): 

Meanwhile the Russians are crossing over the river on the French "northern board" Left Flank in considerable force (and that is somewhat of an understatement if you ask me). It is a long route over but they are considerably out numbering the French defenders. The French Left Wing Commander (as in me) is facing the cream of Mother Russian - The Tsar's Imperial Russian Guard. Thankfully by crossing the river they are leaving their Imperially Heavy Russian Guard Artillery on the other side of it and out of effective combat range (see below, the Tsar's Imperial Russian Guard is getting its bonny feet wet, included in its midst there is a certain French emigri Colonel 'A' who now sides with teh Russians, and has a point of honour to sort out with the French Left Wing Commander General de Brigade 'F' , they first met at Tilsit in 1807, leaving as friends but are now facing each other as deadly enemies in 1813 [after a small issue of unpaid Russian rent owed from 1812]): 

The Imperial Russian Guard Grenadiers are advancing in splendid form. The French can hear the terrible sound of their drums, but with it night also approaches now. Despite a few skirmishing rounds both sides bivouac - camps fires are seen coming to light around the battlefield (see below, these fine Russian fellows will see hot action tomorrow morning): 

Next - Day Two: Which will be - to "Defend the Town" against all-comers (again). As the Emperor wishes it, so it shall be! I have been promised "quality" reinforcements? I just hope it is not like that time in Russia all over again .. I don't like crossing rivers, but at least this one is not frozen.

Footnote: Aids that helped me to learn to play Blucher, plucked from the web:

The official Blucher site: 

Monday 30 October 2023

Airfix 1/72 Shooting Star - Korean War

After reading a good book on a subject, I invariably get the itchy modelling fingers. So it was with the Korean War book from Max Hastings. I therefore bought an in period model kit to make. As it happened it was a "model I missed as a child", aka the Airfix Shooting Star (re-released in the Vintage Kit series for old nostalgic fogies like me to buy). As a kid I was still very much a "WWII Spitfire Propeller" aficionado. I thought jets were a bit like cheating and not as interesting as the "piston-engine" planes (see below, I did not quite understand jets, I thought they were flying vacuum cleaners):  

A bucket-list project for the winter months. This also means I will be on the lookout for Airfix re-releasing their Mig-15 [and as Bob Cordery pointed out .. The Gloster Meteor as flown by the RAAF and just as importantly, available in Airfix Vintage].

Sunday 29 October 2023

10mm Pendrakon British Cold War and their Paint Schemes

While at Pendrakon HQ, on impulse I picked up a couple of packets of their lovely 10mm Cold War British. To be honest this was on a bit of a whim and fancy - as most of my wargaming projects start (see below, confession - I thought these were the normal Ferrets (Reece Scout Cars), but on closer inspection these were the Vigilant Swingfire Anti-Tank missile version, which all seems a tad exotic and heavy hitting for a lightly armoured Recce Scout Car - careful before you to decide to engage that T-55 or T-62):  

The other packet I picked up was much more of a rarity or stylish collector piece - the last true British Heavy Tank (before they became designated MBTs I think). It's roots lay in tank design and thinking in the late 1944's. Perhaps they were thinking of something taking on the likes of the German Tiger, King Tiger and Panther classes of tanks (see below, the British Conqueror, it is a fantastic model - looking a bit Sci-Fi if you ask me, but the T-55 had a ceratin out of this world look to it too):

The kits were staring at me in their unfinished silver so I quickly primed them in my favourite Airfix Acrylic Grey and set about looking for teh official looking Vallejo painting guides to give me a list of paint codes to chase. Luckily for Flames of War - Team Yankee they had a Cold War British Camouflage Pack, even better I already had the paints (see below, a Conqueror in a weather base coat, not finished but it is starting to look the part): 

Other wargamers who preceding me [many thanks Stefanof] giving advice is always welcome: 

Vallejo reference material from:

More of this to come, in due course, methinks.

Monday 16 October 2023

You know when you are liked .. and when you are not .. introducing, the mighty King Zog

I thought Charles de Gaulle had it bad with an alleged thirty assassination attempts (source Alistair Horne, "a Savage War of Peace"), but another European leader had it even far worse, the colourfully named King Zog - who survived an amazing fifty five assassination attempts! (see link below, he certainly had a long a colourful life): 

There must be a (rather black) game in that backstory!

Friday 13 October 2023

Note to Self: Naval Kindle(?) Books - Russo Japanese War

I have a strange (hot and cold) interest in the Russo-Jap war (as in I am trying to justify a large collection of 1/3000 Navwar ships of the period). So I was thinking to myself, maybe I should re-kindle it ("Gedit", ok corny joke) with some background reading. An Amazon scan revealed: 

Russo Japanese War Titles:

  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Maritime-Operations-Russo-Japanese-War-1904-1905/dp/1591141974  
  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Maritime-Operations-Russo-Japanese-1904-1905-ebook/dp/B00PSSK61W/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1697060788&refinements=p_27%3ASir+Julian+S.+Corbett&s=books&sr=1-2&text=Sir+Julian+S.+Corbett
  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Russo-Japanese-Naval-1905-Vol-Maritime-ebook/dp/B007PS9CFO/?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_w=xAgvB&content-id=amzn1.sym.3413293e-3815-4359-96ba-1ec5110e0b30&pf_rd_p=3413293e-3815-4359-96ba-1ec5110e0b30&pf_rd_r=257-4679612-4309404&pd_rd_wg=Np39d&pd_rd_r=e23957dd-e77f-4a2f-b07a-d33a4e35a167&ref_=aufs_ap_sc_dsk
  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Russo-Japanese-Naval-War-1905-Vol-ebook/dp/B007PS9CTU/ref=d_pd_sbs_sccl_1_1/257-4679612-4309404?pd_rd_w=wE0Ig&content-id=amzn1.sym.35f2c042-27ab-4aa8-8df6-255fec069b2b&pf_rd_p=35f2c042-27ab-4aa8-8df6-255fec069b2b&pf_rd_r=HVT7DGNDQ3Q7W0KGPMY2&pd_rd_wg=O2N9h&pd_rd_r=d735b6d5-e8ff-4267-a830-d35553e430a7&pd_rd_i=B007PS9CTU&psc=1
  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Imperial-Japanese-Navy-Russo-Japanese-Vanguard/dp/1472811194#:~:text=Book%20Description,in%20Asia%20and%20the%20Pacific.
  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Russian-Battleships-Cruisers-Russo-Japanese-Vanguard/dp/1472835085/ref=pd_bxgy_img_sccl_1/257-4679612-4309404?pd_rd_w=GXXZQ&content-id=amzn1.sym.40f919ed-e530-4b1a-8d7e-39de6587208d&pf_rd_p=40f919ed-e530-4b1a-8d7e-39de6587208d&pf_rd_r=FZYWPR69M0T1R6J7H7GH&pd_rd_wg=akY3A&pd_rd_r=c74aab2b-56ca-4ec8-bfff-6f15dae30360&pd_rd_i=1472835085&psc=1
  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tsushima-1905-Death-Russian-Campaign/dp/1472826833/ref=pd_bxgy_img_sccl_2/257-4679612-4309404?pd_rd_w=0gV2P&content-id=amzn1.sym.40f919ed-e530-4b1a-8d7e-39de6587208d&pf_rd_p=40f919ed-e530-4b1a-8d7e-39de6587208d&pf_rd_r=M3KFVA2DVGKCEJMAZW4W&pd_rd_wg=iQ5PY&pd_rd_r=6201f873-7c82-45bb-bbf9-34295464d57c&pd_rd_i=1472826833&psc=1

Note: I did have the two Corbett titles but my interest in the period waned and I passed them on (mostly unread, that was the problem - I just could not get into them, unlike the WWI books by the same author, which I devoured). Also for Corbett's books it seems strange how the Kindle version is the same price as the paperback one - at least the one that is currently available!

For my reference material on this period I fell back on a game (see above), the Russo-Jap 1904-05 Avalanche Press naval campaign game and David Manley's "White Bear Red Sun" naval wargame rules. A game and a set of wargame rules instead of books, crazy but true!  

Thursday 12 October 2023

"The Korean War" by Max Hastings - Audible Book

I seem to have hit upon a good working theme, or problem solving rule. If I have an interesting book that has been sitting on my shelves for a very long time [denoting I was at least interested in the subject matter at some point] and I have not got round for one reason or another to reading it (or alternatively I haven't passed it on to someone else) - then, if there is an Audible version of it, I kickstart the learning experience with listening to the spoken word (which sounds a little bit like cheating). So far it has worked pretty well for me (yes, it is a bit like "still taking two bottles into the shower" and if you get that old TV advert reference you have my respect), but at least there is some knowledge transfer. The Korean War by Max Hastings got this treatment (see below, to be fair it works in reverse too, a good Audible book has caused a paper copy to be purchased too! Especially if there are nice diagrams and maps to be had in the paper copy):  

This book seemed a natural follow on from Mig Alley (which I also highly recommend) to take in the Land Battle element of the Korean War, with a little bit of naval Carrier and Raiding parties. It is also an old book, written in 1987 and was consequently I think a little dated with respect to the air war. Listening to the history I felt the giddy sense of nausea like a naval battle, akin to Jutland with the "Run to the South" and then the "Run to the North" analogous to the armies running up and down the Korean peninsular until they end up back where they started on the 38th Parallel - back to where they started from, which was very sobering! Not forgetting the Inchon landings. It was a thought provoking lesson of how much the world was in a dangerous place in the 1950's. 

I had not been aware previously of the intense danger of the period, the world tension and the novelty  of a New World Order that was slowly emerging and moving away from the pre WWII power structures. The world seemed to be awash with countless small fires. Absolutely fascinating. 

As I mentioned the air chapter stood out as a bit dated, clinging to the 10:1 kill ratio that Mig Alley (2019) robustly  dispelled, although it was very salient about the premature announcement from air theorists claiming "the death of" and "no need for" armies or navies, as the air force would do it all. To quote Hastings (p326-7): 
The experience of World War II showed that intensive strategic bombing could kill large number of civilians without decisive impact on the battlefield , or even the war-making capacity of an industrial power. Bombing could inflict a catastrophe upon a nation without defeating it. ,... Nor could the airmen claim that this problem had not been forseen. Alexander de Seversky was only one among many thoughtful students of air warfare. As early as 1942 he wrote: 'Total war from the air against an underdeveloped country or region is nigh well futile; it is one of the most curious features of the most modern weapon that it is especially effective against the most modern types of civilisation.'  .... it remains astonishing that ten years later, in Vietnam, they were allowed to mount a campaign under almost identical circumstances to those of Korea, with identical promises of potential and delusions of achievement , and with exactly repeated lack of success."
Yes, the mistake was repeated in Vietnam and who is to say that it is not being repeated still! As Mark Twain once said, "History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme." 

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Cool Maths Lecture on Games - Professor Sarah Hart

Well worth registering and logging in to see this (and best of all it is free). Mathematics for Board Games - a very interesting topic and non-trivial but presented in a easy to digest way (see below, and tell me why was Maths not this interesting at school for me?): 


Lots more interesting stuff on the site too!

PS: Hope for humans playing Go against AI too:


Monday 9 October 2023

Caesar Miniatures - 1/72 Modern US Infantry

In the "box of goodies" in the loft I found two of the excellent Caesar Miniatures sets of modern US figures (see below, Iraq and Afghanistan are covered here): 

The sculpting is of an incredibly high standard (see below, certainly for one like me who was used to a variable Airfix standard as a child [of the late seventies and eighties] - the Caesar semi-rigid plastic is very forgiving, not too brittle not to soft): 

For a more European (ETO) feel a similar group of figures and poses was found in this set (see below, excellent sculpts):  

The basing process has now started, PVA and grit to follow, then prime. I think I will skip the PVA coat (as I think it would cover up too much detail) and rely on generous coat of varnish to hold the figures rigid (see below, a nice little platoon formation): 

They should mix well with the old, but still good, Italeri [as in old ESCI mould] US Modern set I have got to the partially painted status!

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Waterdeep - The Tavern of the Yawning Portal

Waterdeep - The Tavern of the Yawning Portal (see below, a rather challenging task for a DM to describe to the adventurers as they are hauled up for the first time): 

Instead of walking in through the tavern door like most folk - mysteriously the party are pulled up one by one from a room (which I inserted) in the Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure! A curious seg-way perhaps but the characters seemed up for it!

Monday 2 October 2023

Sting Ray Toy - Junk or Treasure

Intercepted before the dustbin claimed it, I stare looking down at a tiny Sting Ray toy and "see" some recoverable sci-fi potential in it, or am I just too sentimental (or a hoarder) to lets things like this go (see below, I can visualise those Gerry Anderson puppets, the mermaid being the favourite and Sting Ray's torpedoes heading towards the reptilian green "Killer Fish" ships): 

Saved from the breakers yard today (after one of those epic house cleaner sojourns .. new kitchen - say no more, where all manner of odds and sods appear from nooks and crannies. Do I keep to the original TV series colour scheme or choose a "better" camouflage scheme?