Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ronda, Spain and la Vuelta

Ronda, Old Town on bluffs of El Tajo Canyon
La Vuelta ended Wednesday's stage in the city of Ronda.  Seeing Ronda perched on the bluff with a birds' eye view from the race helicopter reminded me of my visit to this hill top town.  With dramatic vistas in every direction, Ronda is a perfect stop for a night on the journey from Sevilla to Granada.

Historically, Ronda was a Roman outpost founded by Scipio Africanus and fell to the Moors in 713.  Roman walls and bridge remain as do the Moorish structures.  Arab control ended in 1485 at the hands of the Spanish during the Reconquista.  French occupied the area during the Peninsular War and Ronda became a hotbed for guerrillas and bandits.  Today, Ronda hosts a Bandolero Museum.  The Ronda populace suffered greatly during the Spanish Civil War and many of its inhabitants left the city following the war.

Remember Hemingway's, For Whom the Bell Tolls (FWTBT)?  Hemingway spent several summers in Ronda and fell in love with bullfighting and the town, itself.  In FWTBT, a passage described the execution of a number of Nationalist sympathizers by flinging them off the high cliffs of El Tajo.  Many believe that Ronda was the inspiration for that scene.
Ronda - hotel and restaurant on the precipice
Ronda, Old Town
View of New Bridge from below
New town on left Old town on right
View of New Bridge from below
Bandolero Museum
Cliffs of El Tajo from below
View of Arab Bridge
Arab Baths
View of old city gate from Arab Bridge
Besides the fantastic views and excellent food, what do I remember about my stay in Ronda?  Well, we visited in September and the prickly pear cactus was in fruit.  Curious and tempted by the fruit, I climbed down over the retaining wall to sample a few.  Delicious, but I ended up with hundreds of threadlike stickers in my fingertips as I peeled the skin.  Even managed to get a few embedded into my tongue as well.  Ouch!  Anyway, my wife got a good laugh out of my exploit.
Fascinating place for a visit. The Tapas bars are lively and make an excellent oasis from the midday heat!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

State of the Painting Desk

The Painting Desk has not received the spotlight for awhile so focus today is on the little square of real estate I occasionally call home.
Yes, it is quite untidy but that is how a workspace is supposed to look, right?  Serious work is being done here!  On the table are figures for two units: 15 Spanish-American War Volunteer Infantry from Old Glory in the back and 13 Punic Wars Libyan spear men from Renegade in the fore.  I wonder when Renegade will resurface and begin producing again?  I hope soon.

In the left foreground are a handful of Baccus 6mm light infantry awaiting primering.  From my recent photo shoot of the 6mm Punic Wars collection and the Cannae battles, I realized that the force could use some additional light infantry components of the spear-chucking variety.  The collection has too many slingers and is understrength on light javelin foot.  Given the adage that if you've got them, paint them, I painted enough slingers to field 9 stands of 8.  Too many!  

On the figure front, several packages arrived within the last week.  Taking advantage of BTD USA's recent 50% discount offering, I picked up additional bowman and Spanish or mercenary spear men.  For the Punic Wars project, included in the order were several packs of Celts with a plan to field several warbands. 
With me beginning to plow through Americans for the SAW project, I piggybacked onto Scott's Old Glory order and added more packs for the project.  Most were Americans but one pack of Spanish infantry tagged along.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

More SAW U.S. Regular Infantry

A second unit of 15 U.S. Regular Infantry for the Spanish-American War Project makes its way off the painting desk.  Again, these are fine sculpts from Old Glory and I find this range a real pleasure to paint.  The figures hold much character and this project is likely to see frequent rotation out of the painting queue for awhile.  As with the earlier SAW U.S.R.I. unit, I am still awaiting the flagging of this unit.

On the painting desk are 15 SAW U.S. Volunteer Infantry and another 15 are in the painting queue.  Following my recent Napoleonic comparison shot, I primered one battalion's worth of Elite Miniatures' French alongside 15 Old Glory SAW infantry.  The difference in size was remarkable.  Given that size disparity, I have downgraded the Old Glory SAW range from 28mm to 25mm in this blog's labels.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

La Vuelta a Espana Begins!

My favorite grand tour of the year began today in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain with Team Movistar taking the Team Time Trial.  Who will become the leader of Movistar: The Old Guard in Valverde or the Young Gun in Quintana?
There are a number of Spanish towns and cities with the words "de la Frontera" in their name.  Why?  That moniker is a reminder that, at one point, these towns were on the frontier between the Christian and Moorish kingdoms fighting for control of Spain during the Reconquista (ah ha!  Got in a history reference).

Why is La Vuelta my favorite Grand Tour?  Well. the stages are typically a little shorter than either the Giro or Tour de France and the climbs spectacular.  This combination leads to more exciting and wide-open racing.  Also, since this is the last major stage race of the season, riders with something to prove or those wishing to salvage their season target La Vuelta.

I was at the finish line in Madrid in the 2011 edition and it was a great spectacle.  Even my wife enjoyed the exciting atmosphere in Madrid during the race.  From our vantage point at the 150m line, we enjoyed front row action.
Racers approach the finish 2011
Finish line in Madrid 2011
This year's race is not ending in Madrid.  Instead, Santiago del Compostela is the race finish.  With many of the big names in cycling descending on Spain, the 2014 edition of La Vuelta should be exciting.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Napoleonics - Old Glory 2nd Ed. Comparison

Scott dropped by to deliver my portion of an Old Glory order and to get in a couple of games of Commands & Colors: Ancients (CCA).  

The box of lead Scott delivered contained several bags for my Spanish-American War project and a few sample packs of Old Glory's 2nd Edition Napoleonics.  I have a number of manufactures in the 28mm Peninsular War project but no Old Glory.  Scott's positive comments about 2nd Edition figures convinced me to give them a try.

As a comparative exercise, I lined up the different unpainted manufacturers used thus far in this project.  Well, all unpainted save for the primered Sash & Saber figure!  I added a AWI Perry figure since I have no Perry Napoleonics and a Fire & Drum (ex-MindenSYW Prussian. 
25/28mm Napoleonic Figure Comparison
With regards to height, all figures in the comparison photo are similar with Eureka being a little less than half-a-head taller than the others.  If the Bicorne dragoon was standing erect, he would likely be the tallest of all.

Even within manufacturers, size differences exist.  Compare the size differences of the two Brigade Games' French figures on the far right.  Even the Front Rank French legere looks larger than his British comrade.  If one manufacturer is not consistent within its own line, how can we expect different manufacturers to exactly match?  I don't think we can.  Besides, soldiers come in varying heights and weights.  It would be nice if the equipment size was consistent.  

For stockiness, Elite takes top honors with the Front Rank French legere coming in a close second.  The Old Glory Brit is so slender, he probably would not cast a shadow!  Upon close inspection on the gaming table, the Front Rank legere looks noticeably larger than the Sash & Saber figures but the Front Rank Brit does not.  At gaming distances these differences disappear.  I suppose part of that could be an illusion due to the larger shako and massive plume.  The Old Glory Brit standing alongside the Elite Frenchman makes the Brit look puny.  The slender build of the Old Glory figure reminds me of the proportions of the Fife & Drum SYW Prussian.

When I opened the packets, first thing that struck me was how slender the figures are modeled.  Legs and arms are especially scrawny.  To me, the proportion of the arms-to-body seem slightly out of whack.  That is, the arms appear too short.  Otherwise, the detail of the figure is quite nice.  We will see how they look on the gaming table once painted and based.
Old Glory 2nd Edition British
Oh, and I was beaten 2-0 in CCA in two replays of Cannae.  Even switching sides after Game 1, I could not pull out a victory.  I recall losing 7-5 as Varro and then getting beaten 7-4 as Hannibal.  The one victory had I for the evening came with my dinner choice.  That was a success!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Battle of Cannae with CCA in 6mm

Battle heats up on the Carthaginian right
As alluded to in the Punic Wars Project Pass-in-Review posting, I set out Commands & Colors: Ancients for a warm up game.  Battle selected to refight: Cannae.
Having recently finished reading O'Connell's The Ghosts of Cannae, I figured this would be a good battle to refresh my memory of CCA before I meet with Scott this evening for a CCA session. 
The thesis of O'Connell's book is that the soldiers humiliated in the devastating defeat at Cannae later would form the nucleus of the Roman army under Scipio Africanus that brought Hannibal and Carthage to its knees at Zama.  This book wraps many classic plot lines under one umbrella to produce a very readable yarn.

Initial Deployments:
Varro and Hannibal array their armies thusly:
Given the initial deployments, Carthage is heavy on the wings and weak in the center.  Rome, on the other hand, is strong in the center and weak on the wings with limited cavalry.  If Carthage can close upon one Roman flank and defeat it, the Roman player may be in great difficulty as his line is compromised.  Rome must break the Carthaginian center and hold on the flanks in search of victory.
In the annotated game photos, black arrows signify movement; red arrows denote attacks either with missile or melee; and white arrows show retreats.

Turn 01:
Rome plays a Coordinated Attack and advances cavalry on the wings and velites in the center.

Carthage counters by playing Two Right.
Turn 02:
Rome plays Ouflanked moving auxilia on both wings to support the cavalry.

Carthage again plays Two Right and the slingers take a shot at the Roman medium cavalry. Hit!
Turn 03:
Rome plays Three Center pushing forward the second velites and reforming its line.

Carthage plays its third Two Right advancing two heavy infantry.

Turn 04:
Rome plays a Two Center and continues to array its battle line.  Velites take a shot at slingers to no effect.

Carthage plays Leadership Any Section +3 and uses that to activate Maharbal and the light cavalry on the right wing.
Maharbal scores two hits and the Roman medium cavalry is destroyed.  
Banner Count: Rome:0 Carthage:1 
Turn 05:
Rome plays Three Left and advances the auxilia.  One of the auxilia attacks the light cavalry under Maharbal.  With no retreat open, the cavalry stand and suffer one hit.

Carthage, with heavy infantry and cavalry in contact with the enemy on the right, play Clash of Shields.  Heavy infantry attack the auxilia and destroy it.  Maharbal and LC attack the auxilia to its front.  Auxilia suffer two hits and LC take one hit.
Banner Count: Rome:0 Carthage:2 

Turn 06:
Rome plays Three Center and the velites put one hit on the slingers.

Carthage Orders Medium Troops and the two warbands strike out from the battle line towards the exposed velites.  The velites on the Carthaginian left suffer three hits but repulses the warband.  The velites on the right, likewise, repulse the warband with no casualties.
Banner Count: Rome:0 Carthage:2 

Turn 07:
Rome plays Inspired Left Leader +4 and moves up on the left to support the auxilia while fortifying the line in the center.

Carthage plays Inspired Leadership Any Sector +3 and uses it to activate Maharbal on the right along with the two heavy infantry and light cavalry.

The heavy infantry on the right attacks Paillus and the auxilia.  No hits but the Roman medium cavalry battling back inflict one hit on the heavies.  The other heavy infantry has much better luck and destroys the auxilia with four hits.

Maharbal and the light cavalry attack an auxillia (two hits already) causing one hit and forcing the auxillia to retreat.
Banner Count: Rome:0 Carthage:3 

Turn 08:
Rome plays Counterattack which was Inspired Leadership Any Sector +3 and activates Paillus.  The velites take on the slingers with no effect while the Roman medium infantry tackle the one hit Carthaginian heavy infantry.  With Paillus adjacent, three hits destroy the heavy infantry.  

Paillus and the other medium infantry attack the remaining Carthaginian heavy infantry.  The heavy infantry takes one hit and retreats.  Paillus advances to attack Maharbal and the light cavalry.  Maharbal and the light cavalry evade suffering no hits but end up adjacent to Paillus and the medium infantry!  In the battle, the light cavalry is destroyed and Maharbal retreats to safety of the heavy infantry.  

Carthage smarting from the loss of two banners in one turn orders Two Units Left.
Banner Count: Rome:2 Carthage:3 

Turn 09:
Rome plays Three Center.  

Carthage plays an Outflanked card and begins working from the wings.  Hasdrubal and the heavy cavalry hit a medium infantry unit and destroy it.  Hasdrubal and the cavalry advance to support an attack on auxilia by Carthaginian medium cavalry.  The medium cavalry gives two hits but is repulsed.  Finally, in a follow-up momentum attack, Hasdrubal and the heavy cavalry attack a second medium infantry.  The Roman medium infantry suffers three hits while the Carthaginian heavy cavalry takes one hit.

Banner Count: Rome:2 Carthage:4 

Turn 10:
Rome plays Three Right.  Varro swings around to pin Hasdrubal and his heavy cavalry.  Leading with the auxilia in an attempt to soften up Hasdrubal's heavy cavalry, the auxilia attacks but does no damage.  In the battle back, Hasdrubal deals out three hits to the auxilia. 

Now Varro goes in.  Varro leading the heavy cavalry inflict three hits on the heavy cavalry destroying them.  Hasdrubal goes down in the slaughter as well!  Two banners to Rome!   

Carthage plays Four Units Left.  Medium cavalry and warbands advance to attack towards the center.  The warband attacks Varro and the medium cavalry.  Varro plays First Strike! The warband takes one hit plus a second hit when its retreat is blocked.

The medium cavalry charges into the auxilia which already has three hits.  The remnants of the auxilia are run down and destroyed.  One banner to Carthage!  Not to be stopped, the medium cavalry continue and attack the second, damaged auxilia.  It is destroyed as well!  One more banner to Carthage! 

Banner Count: Rome:4 Carthage:6 

With the Carthaginians holding six banners and heavily damaged Roman units scattered about the battlefield as easy prey, the Romans concede the game.

The Roman line was shattered and the Carthaginian center never was asked to engage.  All damage was inflicted by the two active Carthaginian wings.  Getting heavy infantry and cavalry engaged early seems to have played heavily upon the outcome.  For me, Another entertaining solo outing with CCA and a good rules' refresher.