Thursday, November 28, 2019

Assyrian Tower Revisited

Remember when I purchased the Desert Guard Tower from Steepled Hat Studios in September?  If not, please visit Desert Guard Tower for a refresher. 
The original
At the time, several readers commented that the pair of lamassus likely would have been painted in antiquity.  Scott provided such a rendering found in a Biblical museum.  I do not know the source of this photo but a big thank you to Scott for unearthing this example.  This piece became the inspiration for my version of the tower guarded by two painted lamassus.
Museum exhibit
While not an exact copy of the museum piece, I tried to remain faithful to the replica in much of the coloring.  After painting the two lamassus, the whole tower was given a Minwax stain to provide some depth to the tower and winged bulls.
I am pleased with the result and grateful for the suggestions of giving these mythical creatures a coat of paint.  They are on station to guard over my Assyrian Army when it takes to the field.
On Guard in color!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

2019 GWS - Battle of the Bulge

Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategy (WSS) magazines' annual The Great Wargaming Survey wrapped up at the end of August.  With nearly 11,000 respondents from across the globe, the 2019 edition marked the largest participation to date.  Results from the survey are beginning to be published on the WSS blog (GWS Blog).  Jasper's first blog post on the 2019 GWS covers the basics of the survey (2019 GWS - The Basics) and highlights a few of the initial findings.

While I have participated in the survey as a respondent for a few years, this year, I offered up my services to help with data analysis.  Curious to gain a deeper insight into the wargaming hobby through these surveys, I veered off into the world of exploratory data analysis after remapping, recoding, and summarizing of the survey data.

Over the last three months, I have generated nearly a dozen deeper dives into survey responses in the quest to tease insight out of the mountain of data.  Some of these studies confirm hobby trends and market attributes.  Others provide a data-driven approach to qualifying various facets of the hobby.  Assessments of market-share and direction are investigated.  Still others produce a surprise or two.

Following on Jasper's The Basics post, I take a look at a longitudinal study of age demographics based upon five years of survey data.  In my post entitled, The Battle of the Bulge or "OK, Boomer," I tackle the familiar tune and hand-wringing associated with the “rat in a python” bulge of our aging pool of wargamers moving through its life cycle.

If survey data and results on the state of the hobby are of interest, I encourage popping over to WSS' GWS blog to see the latest summaries and insights.  If a blog post triggers questions or comments, I encourage you to leave a comment on WSS' blog.  For more discussions on my thoughts regarding the survey data or analysis approaches, any question or comment may be addressed here too.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

ECW Cavalry from 1st Corps

With an ECW game out on the table for an extended period of time, it is not too surprising that the daily presence of Southam in situ might provide inspiration.  That is the situation.  Two more units for the ECW project have found their way into the painting queue. 
The first of these two units off from the painting desk this morning is a nine figure unit of cavalry, all brandishing pistols.  Figures are from 1st Corps' recent ECW release of cavalry.  Unlike 1st Corps' ancients cavalry purchased many years ago, these fine fellows are much larger for both man and beast.  In fact, these figures fit in well with the larger Redoubt and Renegade which compose the bulk of my 30mm ECW collection.
In addition to being larger than some of 1st Corps' earlier ranges, sculpting is excellent.  Both trooper and mount are superbly rendered.  Troopers are two-part.  The weapon and hand are separate from the body with the gauntlet fitting over the outstretched arm stub.  These pistoleers make a useful addition to the cavalry arm of the project. 

On the gaming front, Sunday gaming returns to the subcontinent in another bout of Afghans vs the Empire in a repeat clash set during the 1st Afghan War.  The same forces presented in the three earlier match-ups are set to take to the field in a rematch.  With the Natives coming close to victory in two of the three previous contests but still showing 0-3, a search for a winning combination continues.  Rules will remain Commands & Colors: Napoleonics.     

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Old Glory SYW Russian Musketeers

Some of my recent readings have been focused on the Battle of Kunersdorf with an eye toward building a scenario for recreating the battle.  While in a Kunersdorf frame of mind, another Russian musketeer battalion was pushed into the painting queue.  At the level of game-play using Honours of War, each infantry BMU is typically fielded as one regiment of two battalions.  That is, each BMU is a two-battalion equivalent.  Similarly, each two-stand BMU of cavalry will represent four squadrons.  
I digress.  Off the painting desk today is a 23-figure Russian musketeer battalion.  Musketeers are from Old Glory led by a Eureka Russian colonel.  Great figures.  The Russians in waistcoat are especially easy to paint.  Having long ago fielded Old Glory Prussian and Austrian armies in 18mm, I have forgotten how good the figures were.  Yes, I lament selling off those armies so many years ago.  On the bright side, Prussian and Austrian armies have been reconstituted from primarily Eureka's fine SYW ranges.  
Hopefully, more work on Kunersdorf can get underway before I get distracted by the urge to pop another Russian musketeer battalion into the painting queue.  Kunsersdorf, itself, requires a lot of earthworks and gun emplacements all along the ridge.  I need to tackle that aspect of the battle preparation too.  To help me along, an order from Battelscale is in transit.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Old Glory Zouaves in 10mm

Now, this is a project that has seen no action at the painting desk in a very long time.  Checking the Painting Log, over three years have passed since last mustering out any troops for the 10mm ACW collection.  To add some color to the project, off the table are 120 figures split evenly between the 74th NY and 9th NY.  Figured are from Old Glory and are molded in five figure strips.  Some like the figures, others do not.  I like the Old Glory strip figures a lot.  Strips allow for closed ranks and an ease of basing not possible with individually cast figures from other 10mm manufacturers.  They can be painted rather quickly too.
Why a return to the 10mm ACW project now?  Really, I have no other reason than I pulled the box of 10mm ACW lead from The Lead Pile during a search for something else.  With a year-end effort, I figured I could just about exhaust the pile of infantry remaining in inventory.  With 120 Zouaves down, 120 Confederates and 120 Federals remain to hit the painting queue. Finishing these will boost the year-end painting count nicely.

Did I ever find what inspired the search?  Yes.  I was looking for horse holders for dismounted cavalry and found a small handful of them.  The horse holders are from Blaze-Away Miniatures and are excellent sculpts.  One day, I may even paint a few.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

1st Afghan War: A Battle Using Commands & Colors

Afghan Natives man the outpost
As a follow-up to the game two weeks' prior (see Commands & Colors: EIC 1840), Kevin reset the table and the same battle was tackled this past Sunday.

A refresher from the earlier game shows the initial setup and deployments.  Almost all would remain as before in this contest.  Almost all.  The differences from the first game are that EIC firepower has been reduced for infantry and the Natives have upgraded one of their batteries from light to heavy.  The EIC will be attacking in the face of three heavy batteries.   
The Table
The Natives
The East India Company
With the EIC winning the two previous battles 8-7, 8-7, Kevin chose to take command of the Natives.  Since both games were very close, he figured it was about time for the Natives to taste victory.

The battle opened with a protracted long range artillery duel.  Both sides held a seemingly handful of Bombard cards.  When the smoke and dust settled, two Native heavy batteries had been knocked out of action.  The EIC suffered one damaged battery in their center.
Gaps in the Native line where two batteries stood
On the Native left, the heavy battery caused more than its share of destruction among British  formations to its front.  The British light infantry screening to the fore was obliterated and three infantry battalions were severely mauled.  That one gun and crew were deadly.  Hey!  Those guns look like a couple of my old Frontier Miniatures' cannons.
Native heavy gun on the left
Having silenced the opposing Native gun line in the center, the British step off on their advance to defeat the enemy. 
British advance begins
As the British advance, their guns keep a lively fire upon the enemy line.  The Natives, being composed of a mix of drilled and undrilled troops, are forced to withdraw to avoid the constant harassing fire from the guns.  Natives holed up in the Mosque on the Native right cause a number of casualties to the advancing British regulars.  With casualties mounting, the British veer off to bypass the Mosque in the main assault.
The British advance
Frustrated by the English guns, the Natives have had enough.  First, a Short Supply card is played forcing one British gun to fall back to its baseline.  Second, they launch a cavalry charge against the weakened battery in the center.  Unsupported, the British guns are able to repulse the hard-charging Natives with a great loss of horsemen.
Tribal cavalry charge the guns
The battle rages for more than two hours as units are destroyed and the banner count climbs.  Not a one-sided banner escalation at all. Quite an orderly back and forth advance in the casualty count as each side takes opportunistic volleys to wipe out an opponent.  The Natives continue falling back in the center as pressure mounts.  With the Native militia suffering a two-grid retreat per flag, more than one unit is destroyed as is runs out of real estate in which to retreat.  
Center belongs to the English
When a Native leader falls in battle, the EIC scores its last needed banner.  EIC wins eight banners to five.  The Natives are still searching for their first victory in this encounter.  Maybe next time?

Another interesting clash.  The game was a long one with each side likely playing at least 30 activation cards.  With the to-and-fro of the banner count and the pushing and shoving of troops, this contest felt like a real chess match as each maneuvered in an attempt to gain the upper hand.  The kaleidoscopic grid added to the feel of chess.

The British came out on top in the early artillery duel and their early success may have set the stage for the direction of battle.  Can the Natives stand up to the EIC in a toe-to-toe clash?  I hope to find out.

After the game, talked turned toward another refight.  Having built up a Russian and Native force for a potential Great Game project years ago, perhaps, my Russians and their native warlords will take to the field some day?  With two gun models per battery deployed, I need to increase my Russian artillery arm if I want to approach parity with the English.  

Monday, November 11, 2019

Celtic Cavalry

Following up on the Celtic warband of last week, two units of Celtic cavalry trot out from the painting desk.  The two stands muster out as medium cavalry suitable for either Impetvs or To the Strongest!  Figures are from Crusader Miniatures.
With four BMUs of Celtic cavalry now available for battle, the core of the Celtic cavalry contingent for Telamon may be in place.  If needed, another two BMUs of Germanic cavalry can be pressed into service to fill out the ranks.  Spanish heavy horse could see action too if the OB requires more cavalry.  I really should begin looking closely at the force strengths and begin refining an OB.  After focusing much of my attention on fielding Celts, I may find I need to call up more Romans for battle.  With one more Celtic warband in work, I will pull the collection together and put together a representative battle plan.  Am I nearly completion?  I think so.  Time to find my source material on Telamon and build the Order of Battle and a scenario.  Will the battle be fought using Impetvs or To the Strongest?  Perhaps both but TtS! is more recently in mind.  

Work at the painting desk was brisk last week.  A couple of hundred 10mm ACW infantry saw action as did more work on the 30mm ECW project.  One of the units for the ECW project included the first glimpse of 1st Corps' expanding ECW range.  The 1st Corps' cavalry figures in work are very nice and seem to fit in well with the Redoubt cavalry that dominates the collection.        

Friday, November 8, 2019

Yet Another Celtic Warband

Yes, one more Celtic/Gallic warband storms off the painting desk today.  This dozen warriors comprises the third Celtic warband from Crusader Miniatures completed in 2019 and the eighth such warband unit for the year.  With almost one per month, that is a good rate of production and builds up an army quickly.  Enough Crusader Miniatures' figures remain in The Lead Pile to field one more warband.  When this last is completed, a dozen warbands will be ready to take to the field.  Will this be enough for a scaled down Telamon battle?  It may be but I need to work out the details. 
Two BMUs of Celt cavalry are in work and will be joining the Celtic army soon.  Plans were to add a couple more chariots and two more cavalry units but those plans have been dashed by the non-delivery of a Black Tree Design USA order placed in May.  Even after the proprietor made a call for those awaiting orders to contact him, my repeated emails have gone unanswered.  After more than five months, I recently gave up and submitted a claim to Paypal.  We will see if I get either the goods or my money.
With BTD orders seemingly in limbo, a search for compatible chariotry begins.  Options include Newline Designs, Foundry, and Crusader.  Will any of these approach the size of BTD?  Unlikely but the army needs a few more good chariots.  I see that the Crusader cabs are MDF rather than metal.  That is a surprise to me!  With Newline announcing their annual Holiday sale, I may give their chariots a try since I have a few things needed for other projects.  

On the gaming front, a refight of the 1840's India game using Commands & Colors is planned for this weekend.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Commands & Colors: EIC 1840

Over the weekend, Kevin hosted an early colonial game set in 1840's India.  The gridded battle was to be fought over a huge 15 x 9 tile grid using Kevin's large 28mm collection of British colonial figures.  The method in which the tiles were painted provided an Old School look to the battle.  The variety of units provided a very pleasing spectacle.  Many of the units were set to receive their first taste of battle.  With the stone fireplace flanked by a wall of books on one end of the room, smoking jackets and ascots would not have been out of place.  Yep.  Civilized gaming with a very Old School feel, for sure.   
The Natives
The rules of engagement would be governed by Commands & Colors: Napoleonics (CCN) with some modifications.  One necessary modification was the translation of movement and combat from the hexagonal grid of Commands & Colors to the squares of the gaming table.  Changes from hex to square were minimal with how to compute diagonal distances the major consideration.  Otherwise, play was guided by CCN rules as written.

The battle would be decided by the elimination of eight units of your opponent.  With the ragtag composition of the Natives and the superior firepower of the British EIC, I did not expect a close game.  With that bias going in, I was surprised by the outcome.
The East India Company
The battle, as laid out, pitted the British India Company against a wide variety of Natives fielding an assortment of guns and cavalry.  An eclectic bunch, for sure.  Quality on the Native side was suspect but with flanks secured by two fortresses, the British would be forced into frontal assaults. 
The Natives
In Game 1, the Natives got off to a great start and bombarded and shot my poor EIC troops to pieces before I could close.  I scored a few banners but the situation looked grim for the British.  I was ready to through in the towel and admit defeat.  My opponent convinced me to fight on, so I reluctantly did.  Luckily, I pulled two RALLY cards in quick succession from the card deck and put them into play to bolster my troops.  With those reinforcements, the EIC turned the table on the Natives and managed to press on to a very close 8-7 victory.  Did my opponent ease up on me?  We may never know.
In Game 2, I took command of the Natives and in a similar fashion to Game 1, my troops were being manhandled by Kevin's EIC early on.  By mid-game, the situation looked hopeless.  Sticking with it, I was able to hold my right while concentrating on the British right.  Using combined arms and playing a well-timed Cavalry Charge card, the British right was turned.  Unit after unit fell to the tenacity of the Natives.  In the end, the Natives rolled up the British line to take control of the middle of the table. With the banner count standing at 7-7, the Native flanking maneuver finally ran out of steam and the British won the game 8-7.  

Usually, a game of Commands & Colors can be fought to conclusion in under one hour.  In Game 2, the hard-fought battle lasted more than two hours.  That was a titanic struggle and good fun.

Looking forward to trying this again.

Friday, November 1, 2019

ECW Battle of Southam, 1642

Having refought the ECW Battle of Southam three times in August, I returned to the drawing board to see what could be done to affect an historical outcome.  All August battles ended with a decisive Royalist victory which ran counter to the actual outcome.  In the historical encounter, the Royalist foot and artillery suffered from the imbalance in the number of their kind opposing them and fled the field.  Only the more numerous Royalist horse was able to cover this withdrawal.  

In all three earlier games, the Royalist cavalry superiority played havoc with any attempt by Parliament forces to come to grips with their opponent.  Superior in cavalry on both flanks, the Royalists quickly dispatched their less numerous counterparts and controlled the field of battle.  Given the historical outcome, I needed to investigate how this came about.  Since this is a solo game and I will be commanding Lord Brooke's Army, all photos will be taken from that perspective.  References to "left" and "right" will be assumed to be seen from the Parliamentarian side of battle unless specified.

For game specifics, first, I likely rated all cavalry on the field as having a better Combat Effectiveness (CE) than warranted.  Being early in the war, these ratings were likely too generous.  I will begin by downgrading all horse regiments across the board.  Some formations will be rated better than others but a general downgrading is in order.

Second, Parliament fielded six guns to two.  In the August battles, Parliament was allocated two gun stands to the Royalists' one.  To keep the gun ratios historical, Parliament will receive a third gun stand.  Being light pieces, all guns will be able to prolong a little farther than in the earlier battles.  More numerous and slightly more mobile, perhaps artillery may play a larger role?  
Initial dispositions
As a reminder, the Order of Battle for Southam is:

Parliamentarian Army OOB:
Army Commander: Lord Brooke: Average

Colonel John Hampden's Foot (CE=3)
Lord Brooke's Foot (CE=4)
Colonel Denzil Holles' Foot (CE=3)

Left Wing Cavalry: Fiennes Horse (Trotters CE=3)
Right Wing Cavalry: Goodwin's Horse (Trotters CE=4)

Three artillery stands (CE=3)

Royalist Army OOB:
Army Commander:Earl of Northampton: Good

Earl of Northampton's Foot (CE=4)
Sir William Saville's Dragoons (Dismounted) Cavalry (CE=4):

Wilmot's and Carnarvon's Horse (Galloper CE=3)
Legge's and Clarke's Horse (Galloper CE=3)
Compton's and Northampton's Horse (Galloper CE=3)
Saville's and Middleton's Horse (Galloper CE=4)
One artillery stand (CE=3)

Lord Brooke advances off from heights
Turn 1:
Royalists take the initiative and begin a timid advance toward Lord Brooke's position on the heights.  Too far out to allow his cavalry dominance to come to bear, the Earl of Northampton closes the distance to Roundhead positions carefully.  Lord Brooke gives the signal for a general advance and his army descends from the heights.  Having the advantage in foot and guns, Northampton urges his center forward while his two cavalry regiments protect the wings.

Turn 2:
Lord Brooke seizes the initiative.  With his cavalry within striking distance of Royalist horse, his cavalry push forward to engage the enemy.  On Lord Brooke's left, Fiennes' horse charges forward.  Opposing Fiennes, Carnarvon's horse, counter charges.  Before the two bodies of horse collide, one of Brooke's light guns gets off a shot on the oncoming horse.  The light gun scores a lucky hit.  Carnarvon fails his response test and falls back.  His withdrawal is halted when he reaches Clarke's Regiment of Horse.  Fiennes follows up the retreat but pulls up short of contacting the enemy.  
Cavalry clash on left
Royalist horse repulsed
Goodwin's Horse on the right charges forward.  Middleton's Royalist Horse responds.  Both become shaken during the charge but both close.
Cavalry clash on right
In the clash, Middleton suffers a hit and retreats passing through Northampton's Horse to the rear.  Northampton's Horse calmly allows Middleton to pass through before charging Goodwin's Horse, himself.  Being shaken from his earlier effort, Goodwin cannot respond and takes the charge at the standstill. 
Royalists repulsed again
As Northampton closes, Goodwin's trotters, armed with pistols, get off a shot.  Shocked by this close range pistol discharge, Northampton's troopers turn tail and retreat.  Their panic carries them into the already shaken troops of Middleton.  This is too much for Middleton's wavering troops.  Middleton retreats back toward the bridge.  The Royalist left seems to be in peril.   
Goodwin vs Carnarvon
While the Royalist left is disintegrating, on the right, Carnarvon withdraws through Clarke's Horse in an attempt to remove himself from harms' way and seeks a place to recover.  Unfortunately, Carnarvon's move disorders Clarke and his troops become shaken.  In the center, the sole Royalist gun fires into Brooke's Foote at short range.  Brooke takes a hit but remains in place, shaken.
Royalist cavalry falling back
Seeing Brooke's regiment wavering, Northampton rides over to join his own regiment of foot.  Leading his regiment, he encourages his men to push into Brooke's regiment.  As Northampton bears down on Brooke, the defenders fire an ineffective volley before Northampton closes.   
Infantry fight in the center
Lord Brooke's Regiment of Foote repulsed
In the close combat, Brooke suffers heavy casualties and falls back between the gap separating his supporting regiments.  Northampton's regiment suffers casualties but stands firm.  For now, Northampton and his regiment are victorious.
Northampton's Regiment of Foote
Turn 3.
Lord Brooke retains initiative. Fiennes' Horse, now, precariously situated far from support and within the sights of Saville's Dragoons, falls back in search of a less hazardous place to reform.  As Fiennes disengages, the dragoons send off a parting volley.  Many troopers are left on the ground as the regiment withdraws.
Fiennes' horse falls back out of harms' way
In the center, Hampden's Foote fires into Northampton's Foote.  Northampton's Foote suffers casualties when the volley finds its target by a fortuitous reroll.  Not only does the infantry regiment take casualties but the Earl of Northampton is unseated and falls to the ground dead.  With the death of their commander, the fighting spirit of the Earl's army drops.
Push of pike
The Royalists fight on until the Earl's battered and weary army can disengage.  While many of Northampton's force are teetering on the brink of collapse, the fatigue in Lord Brooke's Army leaves it in no position to pursue.  The Royalist army retires from the field.  Minor Victory to Parliament.
For the Royalists, the battle is lost
Well! Parliament finally sees a victory on the ground at Southam.  Luck played a role in the outcome of this battle.  First, Parliament's outnumbered cavalry saw limited success on both wings.  With Royalist cavalry superiority negated, this early success set the tone for the battle.  Having many of the regiments on both sides either rated raw or poorly trained, there was little margin for error when combat effectiveness began to ebb.  Staying power was fleeting.  When the Earl of Northampton fell in the center, the effect of his loss rippled throughout his army.  The result was most of the army was shaken and nearing the brink.  A slight shove would have pushed the entire army over the edge.  

Was the result a fluke?  Perhaps.  Maybe the historical result was a low probability result too?  Had the light gun not found its target when Carnarvon counter charged Fiennes in the first charge of the day, Carnarvon may have defeated the Roundhead cavalry.  An early victory here would have opened up that flank for exploitation.  Did adding the third gun to Northampton's army make a difference?  I think it did.  While not many casualties were caused from artillery fire, its presence may have entered into Brooke's calculus on how to tackle the battle.  Allowing the light guns to prolong helped in supporting Brooke's general advance in the center.

An entertaining action.  The battle was swift and developed a plausible narrative.  A battle I plan to repeat before putting the soldiers back into their box.  Has Southam really been out on the table since August?  Yes, it has.  If nothing else, having Southam on the table and in sight every time I enter the game room for a painting session, has motivated me to push a few more ECW units into the painting queue.