Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ashigaru Spear in 15mm

I never tire of painting Peter Pig's 15mm Samurai figures.  That is a good mindset to have since a small order arrived two weeks ago!  Taking advantage of a year-end sale, the order was packed and shipped quickly.  Even accounting for increased holiday shipping traffic, the small package arrived within a fortnight.  Always great service from Peter Pig.
The slightly chunky figures hold fine detailing.  The built-in sashimonos, when painted, add a burst of color to the unit.  The chunkiness and fine sculpting lend a certain charm to the figures.  Clustered in formation, the result is a handsome playing piece.  
This unit of ashigaru spear is clad in russet-lacquered armor.  The russet armor is a nice change from the more predominant black or red lacquered armor of many of the units in the collection.

While the iron was hot and motivation high, two more units for this project were pushed into the painting queue.  One more unit of mounted Samurai and another unit of ashigaru teppo will be working their way through the production line.  Before those emerge from the production line, a small mountain of Assyrians for the 25mm Assyrian Wars project will debouch from the workbench.  At last count, seven units will be making an entrance over the next few weeks.  

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Salem Church: East of Chancellorsville

The wargame, Salem Church: East of Chancellorsville (2013) is one of Decision Games' (DG) entries into the Quick Play Musket & Saber series.  The battle is fought over an 11" x 7" map using only 40 counters.  Scale is 352 yards per hex with 90 minute turns.  Units represent brigades.  With many units having either five or six movement points, this is really a battle of maneuver.  Although locking EZOCs exist, flanking maneuvers are easily accomplished unless great care is taken in building a cordon of interlocking EZOCs.

After reading Norm's replay and review of Salem Church (see Salem Church 1863), I was intrigued and ordered myself a copy of the game.  I encourage a diversion to Norm's blog to read his battle report and thoughts on Salem Church.  A longtime fan of The Gamers' Civil War Brigade (CWB) series, I looked forward to giving this DG brigade series a try.  Having a small footprint and only a few pages of rules, Salem Church seemed a good entry point.  The CWB has a different time and ground scale with 30 minute turns and 200 yards/hex.

The game follows an IGO-UGO sequence with,
  1. First Player Movement
  2. First Player Combat
  3. Second Player Movement
  4. Second Player Combat
Within this sequence, there is no interaction between players with the exception that a non-phasing player's unit that was adjacent to a phasing player's unit, not attacked during combat, may launch a counterattack at double its printed strength. This is an interesting rule! Not attacking all adjacent enemy units can carry heavy retribution. Norm makes the comment in his review linked to above as, "it prevents a player making ‘silly attacks, just because they can'." I say it does the opposite in that the counterattack rule encourages silly attacks from the attacker to prevent a possible devastating counterattack!  Norm reinforces this notion of encouraging silly attacks when he retells the account of Wilson at Salem Church launching an attack to pre-empt such a counterattack. There are a number of similarly interesting rules in both the System Rules and Scenario rules.

To attain a Major Victory, the Federal player must exit the Federal train and hold either Banks' Ford or the entry to Fredericksburg.  For the Confederate player, he must hold Bank's Ford and the entrances to Fredericksburg or capture the Federal train.  For any other outcome, the decision is decided on points.  As for tallying Victory Points for lost steps, the rules do not state if points are tallied at game end or accrued throughout the game as steps are lost.  As lost steps can be returned as reinforcement later, this can have an impact on the Victory Conditions. 

Another interesting rule is the functioning of the Federal Army.  On the morning of the second day of battle (May 4) and all subsequent turns, the Federal player must roll for initiative.  This is a Draconian measure for the Federal commander and does much to snuff out the offensive capability of Federal forces on Day 2 of the battle.  Each turn, the Federal player rolls for initiative.  On a 1-2, Federal forces operate under Full Initiative.  On 3-6, Federal forces operate under Low Initiative.  When under Low Initiative, only a Federal stack with a leader may enter into an EZOC.  To do so, the leader must pass a morale check.  If he passes, he may enter the EZOC.  If not, well, he cannot.  To even further stall Federal attacks, once in an EZOC, the primary attacking unit must make a morale check.  If failed, the attack is called off.  Harsh!  If the Federal Army wants to win the battle, it better get moving and try to make good progress on Day 1.  On Day 2, a sustained effort is much more difficult if not impossible.  

Leaders are important in Salem Church. Leaders may increase movement of units stacked with him and disrupted units may enter EZOCs when stacked with a leader.  A leader's Morale Rating can aid one unit to which he is stacked.  A leader may add his Combat Factor to a unit to which he is stacked and disrupted units are not halved in combat.  Leaders are very useful pieces! 

Artillery is important in this system as well.  Artillery is the only ranged weapon.  Artillery has the ability to fire at a four hex range without worry of retribution.  Artillery bombardments, alone, or in combined arms attacks with infantry offer opportunities to soften the enemy and perhaps drive it from its position without much effort.  

Combat is based upon a Combat Factor differential between the attacker(s) and defender.  The CRT ranges from '-5 or less' to '+10 or more' with seven gradients in between.  The CRT is relatively bloodless.  Results rarely result in a loss although exchanges are possible but rare.  Some results carry a secondary result.  If the loser takes a morale check and fails, the primary result is in effect.  If the morale check is passed then the secondary result is in effect.  The secondary result often requires a second morale check.  The construction of the CRT does not lend itself to easy memorization.  A little clumsy, I think.  Even after two games, I still needed to carefully consult the CRT and results' description to resolve the combat.

The loser of a combat often has the choice to either become disrupted or retreat (for less severe results) to taking a loss or retreating disrupted for more severe results.  Losses are taken in steps.  Most infantry units have two steps.  Artillery and a few detachments have one step only.  With the ability to replace two steps  per turn, each side will be able to replace most attrition suffered during a turn.  Replacements can return to their parent if outside of an EZOC or at one of the designated board edges.

Moving and fighting in woods is interesting.  Movement through light woods is one Movement Point the same cost as open terrain.  Units and entire divisions can pass through woods with little difficulty.  An attacker is halved in value when attacking into light woods from across a clear hexside but no penalty when attacking from light woods to light woods.  My interpretation of this is that firefights, wholly in woods, are undertaken at much closer range.  Therefore, neither combatant holds any tactical advantage.  Now, the halving for attacks across clear hexside into woods could be debated.   

Even with the most current Errata and Clarifications in hand, the rules left several holes to plug.  In addition to gaps, many of the rules could use a careful rewording to bring clarity from confusion.  For example, in Disruption Recovery, a unit may recover from disruption "if not in an EZOC and not eligible for march movement."  How about "if it remains at least two hexes from an enemy unit"  as a simplification? 

Given the large movement values and no hindrance to movement through woods, Salem Church is a game of maneuver and flanking.  If interlocking EZOCs do not extend across the map, outflanking an enemy position is not a difficult task to accomplish.  Given that enemy replacements may return behind your lines, no position is ever unassailable or secure.

Does this system feel like one is fighting an ACW battle?  Not to me at Salem Church.  Seems more akin to a small unit tactical game rather than BMUs of brigades.  Perhaps, I need to reread the historical account?  After that reading, I may change my tune.  With low loss rates and generous replacements, Salem Church offers a surprisingly balanced game.  

Having fought through two playings of Salem Church, I will recap one of those replays next time.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Dyve's Regiment of Foote

The King's Army receives a reinforcement in the form of Dyve's Regiment of Foote.  These 27 figures are from my dwindling stockpile of Renegade Miniatures figures.  The Renegade figures are some of my favorites and they fit well with the bulk of my Redoubt Miniatures ECW armies.  While painted in November of 2019, only now are these lads making their way to the photo box.       
The problem is that Redoubt figures are difficult to find after the company stopped producing.  I found 80 of the unpainted foot figures two years and snapped them up (see An Unfinished "Finished" Project).  With the box of figures counted, I figured three regiments of foote could be built.  Dyve's Regiment represents the second regiment to muster off from the painting desk in this tranche.  
With enough musket and pike figures to build one more regiment, I discovered that I was lacking command for the unit.  Having no more Renegade figures in The Lead Pile, Regiment #3 will likely be led by Redoubt officers.  While I prefer keeping Renegade integrity in the unit, Redoubt officers will have to do.  I have not ordered from Redoubt Enterprises since it changed hands a few years ago.  Hopefully, I can still order a handful of figures.  We will see.

On the painting front, I have been able to hobble down into the basement for short painting sessions this week.  A number of units are in work and sitting at the workbench is not too painful for short periods.  This afternoon with my wife's help in taking figures from the basement to the garage, I was able to DIP some figures.  Two activities I have not been able to find a solution to in my current state is spray primering and dullcoating figures.  With snow and ice everywhere, venturing out into the yard on crutches to spray is not recommended.  I wonder if I could convince Nancy to take on these tasks?  Hmmm.  Probably not.      

Sunday, January 19, 2020

First Impressions: IGaBC

Hot on the heals of Graham Evans’ To Ur is Human, a second set of rules emerges from his rules’ backlog.  Sticking to the road less traveled, Graham turns his attention to the New World and the 1879-1884 South American conflict know as the War in the Pacific.

The author has a penchant for tackling obscure conflicts and the War in the Pacific is no different.  How does one develop an interest in such an obscure theater of warfare?  Well, like me, travel can be the catalyst for a new project.  For Evans, a trip to Peru was that igniter for inspiration.  I came away from my Peruvian adventure with thoughts of modeling various conflicts too but, for me, those thoughts passed.  Not for Graham.  The result of that spark of motivation led to his It’s Getting a Bit Chile (IGaBC).

While IGaBC states that it is a set of Tabletop Wargame Rules for the Land Conflict in the War of the Pacific 1879-1884, it really is much more than that.  IGaBC is almost a complete package in the tradition of a wargamer’s guide.  At 76 pages in length, this represents an impressive work.  Rules comprise the bulk of the book but typeface is large and easy to read.  In addition to the core rules, topics include, a brief history and chronology of the conflict, figure availability, painting guide, and a useful bibliography. Really, IGaBC provides enough information to get going on a new project straight away.

On to the rules.  IGaBC is an Igo-Ugo system played on a grid.  Options are available and described for non-grid play.  Basic Maneuver Unit (BMU) is the infantry battalion, cavalry squadron, and artillery battery.  Ground scale is 250 yards per square.  An infantry BMU consists of four bases with cavalry and artillery BMUs comprising two stands.  There is no figure/base removal for casualties except in unusual circumstances.  Entire units are either on table or removed from play when ineffective.  This is how I like it.  I prefer figures and units to remain on table as long as possible.  It takes effort to build a collection.  No reason to have the figures put out on the table and then put back into storage boxes almost immediately upon receiving the first casualties.

The Turn Sequence is typical of many Igo-Ugo wargame rules.  The sequence is,

  • Charge Declaration
  • Movement
  • Rally
  • Firing
  • Hand-to-Hand Combat
What is interesting in the sequence here is that Rally follows the Movement Phase.  Units attempting to remove Disorder markers do so during the Rally Phase.  Rally attempts count as movement so units later firing do so with the Firers Moved penalty.  Units may attempt to rally off each Disorder a unit has accrued having a one in six chance to do so.  Leaders may aid in recovering disorder as well as offering customizable traits.  A unit must choose which method to rally (self-rally or leader-aided).  Troop quality does not affect the ability to rally.  Poor units rally with the same probability as good troops.  More about disorder later.

What is the essence of the gaming engine for IGaBC? If I strip away all but the essential elements, the rules can be distilled down to three important concepts.  Those are Formation, Support, and Disorder (FSD for short).  Since only infantry may have support, I will focus on the infantry aspects of FSD.

Infantry can be in one of seven formation stances within a square.  Well diagrammed within the rules, each has its own attributes for deployment, density, support, advantages and disadvantages.  Each unique, diagrammed stance shows, at a glance, the attributes of the BMU.  This is a clever visual concept and reminds me somewhat of Weigle’s 1870 series of rules.  What can be gleaned from a BMU’s stance are facing, the number of firing stands, the number of support stands, unit density, and target type.

Besides unit formation, the two key components of a BMU’s attributes are Support and Disorder. Disorder represents a unit’s loss of combat effectiveness as it sustains punishment from fire or close combat.  Disorder is incremental.  As a unit takes punishment, disorder may accrue if not rallied off.  With no Disorder markers, a unit fights with 1D8.  With one Disorder marker, a unit fights using 1D6.  With two Disorder markers, a unit fights using 1D4.  When a unit accrues three Disorders, it may not fire but fights with 1D4 in hand-to-hand.  Any more and the unit either retires, retreats, or routs. This method of disorder accrual reminds me of Santa Anna Rules and its method of modeling the effects of straggling.  Perhaps, rather than having absorbed Disorder markers placed under the support base, IGaBC could take a page out of Santa Anna Rules and rotate a support base to the rear to denote an absorbed Disorder Marker thus eliminating a need to place Disorder markers under a support base? Once rallied off, the support base would return to its normal attitude.

Supporting bases may mitigate disorder.  Some infantry formations offer support; others do not.  Support represents a unit’s ability to absorb friction from combat.  Absorption of disorder by a supporting base is temporary.  Changing formation from a more dense to less dense stance allows a unit to ignore disorder too. That is another interesting twist.

What about combat in IGaBC?  Depending upon the number of participating stands, level of disorder (remember throwing either 1D8, 1D6, or 1D4 per stand), Target Type, and a handful of column shift modifiers, an attacker sums all of the attack dice and scores one disorder for each multiple of the target’s To Hit Multiple.  If a target’s To Hit Multiple is ‘8’ and the attacker’s attack dice total is ‘10’ then the defenders receives one Disorder Marker.  Fractions are ignored.

While the Chilean Army fielded the better quality troops carrying better weapons than her adversaries, Evans’ warns against playing the ratings too literally.  Top Quality troops with New rifles will likely easily overwhelm Poor Quality troops with Old rifles.  As he says, “It may be realistic but it might not be much of a game...

Does this combat engine model the situation on the ground?  I cannot say but it offers a number of interesting twists to a typical combat engine.  Having multiple, different sided dice (D8,D6,D4) are not something I enjoy.  I understand the rationale for its inclusion but it seems too fiddly to me and ripe for error.  All in all, it looks like it would work despite my personal reservations.

Production quality is good.  While a few typos and errors crept into the final copy, these did not distract from the work.  The rules are well diagrammed to illustrate a number of the key concepts.  Examples of play are numerous too.  One of the inclusions that I appreciated in To Ur is Human and continued here is a comprehensive QRS printed onto the back cover.  This should be a standard practice unless QRS’ are printed separately, detachable, and included in the rules.

Alan Curtis’ painting guide to the war is a very useful addition to IGaBC.  My only complaint is that while the Chileans are listed as having adopted French style uniforms, no mention of the uniform cut for either Bolivia or Peru.  When I ordered IGaBC, I also ordered Esposito and Pinto’s The War of the Pacific.  While not listed in the bibliography, this is an excellent book covering the war, the armies, and uniforms.  Filled with a number of color uniform plates, I wonder how this 170 page work compares with Esposito’s Osprey?

Has this tempted me into a new period?  The jury is still out on that one.  Armies tend to be small and colorful.  Graham has mentioned that FPW French and ACW figures could be pressed into service to field most of the combatants.  This could be an interesting research project to find alternative figures outside of the figures produced by Outpost Wargames Services in 15mm.  That might be worth the effort in and of itself. This work has piqued my interest.

In conclusion, IGaBC is comprehensive piece of work for a little gamed period.  Keep in mind, my First Impressions are just that; first impressions of the rules, themselves. I have yet to try the game in practice.

Well done and thank you, Graham, for opening my eyes to a new frontier!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Old Glory 10s - Federal Infantry

In a continuing effort to draw down the 10mm ACW figures in The Lead Pile, 150 Federal infantry were pushed through the production line in December.  This tranche of figures makes good headway in reaching that goal.
What I have here today are 5 x 30 figure regiments of Federal troops ready to take to the field.  Figures are Old Glory 10s.  Molded in strips, the shoulder-to-shoulder stance allows for really close formations; something not possible with individually cast figures.  Details may not be as crisp as other figures but en masse, I think they look good.    
A bunch of unpainted Zouaves remain in stock along with a large number of guns and some cavalry.  After painting about 400 of these little fellas over the last two months, I may hold off on pushing the Zoauves into the painting queue.  After all, I only recently finished painting  36 15mm Algerian Turcos.  A guy can take only so much.  I need a rest. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

2020 Plans Spiked!

Spiking the guns
The type was barely set on my 2020 Project Plans when fate spiked those freshly laid plans.  Enveloped in a winter snow storm, I went down with a broken leg.  Ouch!  After finishing shoveling the driveway of four inches of new snow, I set off to fetch the mail.  On the return, I slipped, turned my ankle, and heard and felt a loud "crunch."  A bit dizzy and in pain, I picked myself off of the snow-covered street.  Looking towards the house sixty yards away, I wondered if I could make it home.  In a combination of hobbling and dragging my foot behind me, I headed back to the house.  I must have looked like Boris Karloff, pale and dragging my foot, when I entered the garage, opened the door, and called out to my wife. 

Having her help in removing my boot, I could see the foot quickly swelling.  The pain excruciating.  Calling the nearest Urgent Care Clinic,  Nancy announced that if we could get there within a half hour we could be seen and evaluated before they closed in ninety minutes.  With the snow coming down even harder and the streets a mess of snow and cars sliding around, we set off.  Arriving at the clinic within the thirty minute deadline, we noticed the clinic was already closed.  Trying to draw someone’s attention to the door, Nancy finally received a response.  Due to the storm, management decided to close early.  What?

Luckily, another clinic was only a few blocks away. With snow piling up quickly, we were happy to see this clinic still open and taking patients.  Quickly taken to X-Ray, an evaluation showed a broken fibula.  Immobilizing the leg and given a prescription for pain meds, I was sent on my way.  "Call an orthopedist on Monday," the physician said.  That is what I plan to do. 

How does this early year mishap change my project plans?  Well, like Napoleon before the gates of Moscow in winter, my mobility is reduced and a few plans may need to be spiked or adjusted.  Without knowing if this break will require surgery, a few changes are obvious.

First, there will no cycling until Spring.  That seems a long way off.  Cycling is an activity I enjoy and part of my daily routine.  How much fitness will be lost in six to eight weeks?  Not so young anymore, it may take a long time to recover.

Second, living in a house with three floors, getting between floors may prove challenging.  Bedroom is on the top floor.  Game room and painting area are in the basement.  Yeah, this may be a problem especially when negotiating two flights of stair on crutches.

Third, standing for any length of time is painful and fatiguing.  Unlikely to have many sessions at the large gaming table in the basement game room any time soon.

Where does this leave me? No cycling, for sure.  Gaming may, by necessity, move to either the kitchen or dining room table where I can sit and play.  Smaller wargames of the hex and counter type that can fit onto this smaller playing surface will see some attention.  Commands & Colors whether in the original blocks or miniatures will see increased gaming opportunities.  Smaller miniature wargames may see action too.  I may take a page out of Norm and others' play books and switch to gaming in small places for awhile.  As for painting, well, I still think I will sneak down into the basement for short painting sessions.

Not the way I envisioned the start of the New Year!   

Friday, January 10, 2020

2020 Foresight

Time for the annual uncloaking of the crystal ball to take a peek to see what 2020 may hold for the Palouse Wargaming Journal.

Battles to Fight
On the miniatures gaming front, 2019 represented a banner year at the gaming table.  By my count, over 30 games made it into the books in the year just past.  The most gaming in one year in my recent memory.  Can this become a trend and continue into 2020?  Stay tuned to see.
In the 2019 Project Planning post (see Project Plans 2019), I proposed conducting four monumental battles.  While 2019 did not see the full complement of four planned monumental battles hitting the gaming table in 2019 (Trebbia, Kunersdorf, San Martino, Abensberg/Eckmuhl), two of these battles saw action over several playings (San Martino and Kunersdorf).  The Kunersdorf battle just made it under the year-end wire and it continues into the early weeks of 2020.  

Preparing and gaming these monument battles took more effort (and available time) than anticipated with the research, battle mapping, figure painting (if needed), and coordination of my time for other hobby activities.  Add into these preparation activities,  the constraints of work and travel, I quickly ran out of hours in the day.  Therefore, attempting a feat of four large historical battles seems out of reach for 2020.  I like the concept of planning for a few big battles but will dial the number back for the New Year.  Two such battles will be penciled in for 2020.  Of course, Kunersdorf will likely remain on table for awhile longer as we challenge Frederick to do better than he managed historically.   

Which battle monuments are under consideration for 2020? 
  • Abensberg/Eckmühl.  Still on the list but research for Eckmühl suggests this may not provide a competitive situation.  Even with that caveat, it may provide insight into these twin battles for which I am lacking from readings alone.  Having walked parts of the Eckmühl battlefield, presenting Eckmühl would provide a more personal touch.  
  • Rivoli.  Keeping an early Italian Napoleonic battle from the 2019 list in the mix, I switch to Rivoli over Trebbia.  While it would be rewarding to see Suvorov's Russians take to the field, I will be content to challenge Napoleon with Austrians alone.  I could still change my mind.  
  • Telamon - With a dozen Celtic units crossing the painting desk in 2019, time for Telamon, I think.  Besides, four more chariots from Newline Designs have arrived in-house!  Add those chariots to the painting goals for 2020.  
Other battles to consider?  With so many collections, it is difficult to sift through all of the choices and narrow it down to a number of games that I can actually find time to present.  The 10mm ACW collection has not been on the gaming table in more than a year.  Maybe more than one of the smaller battles can squeezed onto the table in 2020?  Perhaps a brief return to Norm's Two Flags-One Nation for smaller games on a grid?  Looking at the current Five Years Ago on PWJ widget, Chadd's Ford battle from Brandywine shows up.  Five years ago.  Seems more recent than that.  How many years since I last fought an AWI battle in 15mm?  Too many to count.  I should consider pulling the AWI troops out for a muster too.

With a number of blogs over the past year showing multiple battle reports and rules' reviews set during WWII including at least one interesting campaign, I am motivated to get some of my WWII collections out onto the gaming table.  Whether it is skirmish-level in 28mm using Chain of Command or battalion-level or larger in 15mm,  I plan to make an effort to getting WWII back into game rotation. 

I imagine Commands & Colors will be a frequent choice in the New Year as it was in the Old Year.  Coincidentally, a Commands & Colors battle set in 1850s Caribbean is on the gaming slate for this weekend.  The British and the EIC take on locals forces in a battle in 25mm.  That should be interesting.

I would enjoy getting the troops for Samurai Battles back onto the table whether using Commands & Colors or ImpetvsImpetvs has not seen action for many years.  I will try to get Impetvs back into a regular rotation in 2020 along with To the Strongest!.  Good candidates for Impetvs and TtS! include Great Italians Wars, Assyrian Wars, and English Civil War.  Yeah, that's it.  2020 will see a return of Impetvs to the gaming table.  I hope I still like it!

Figures to Paint
While I had no new projects planned in 2019, I suggested that starting a Hittite Army for the Assyrian Wars was a possibility.  That did not happen.  In 2020, I commit to starting a Hittite Army in 25mm.  My initial goal is to complete one unit per month for a total of twelve by year-end.  If I stick to that plan, I may have enough Hittites to field a small, gameable army for Basic Impetvs or TtS! at least.  I also plan to add more units to the already large Assyrian Army.  Year-end 2019 saw work return to the Assyrian Wars project and those efforts continue into the New Year.  

Although 2019 saw the completing of more than 1,600 painted figures, don't expect the same effort in 2020.  That pace is not sustainable.  I set my painting goal to 900 for 2020.  If 25mm turns out to be the focus, fewer than 900 figures will see the brush.  If 15mm sees more activity then I may finish a few more than 900.  Besides pushing Hittites into the painting queue for the first time, expect more of the same as 2019 as various projects see additions to their numbers. More 1799, 1859, and SYW troops in 18mm are planned to move into the painting queue, for sure.  Perhaps I will begin an 1866/1870 Prussian Army in 18mm? 

Expect more units for many of the 28mm projects to include adding a few units to the Great Game project.  After playing a few Commands & Colors games using 19th Century British in India armies, I picked up some Foundry figures including Russian Crimean War artillery and Afghans.  About time to bolster their numbers and get my Russians and Natives into a game.  Enough figures remain in inventory to field one last, 40-figure Landsknecht pike block and a couple of units of Gendarmes.  Those go onto the 2020 list too.  

By completing 1,600+ figures in 2019, one might expect The Lead Pile to see a noticeable dip in size.  Well, I cannot see a significant decrease.  Let's see if I can reduce both The Lead Pile through painting and reduced purchases.  Reducing purchases?  Is that possible when I have great difficulty passing up a sale?  

Rules to Design, Develop, Test
After playing Summer of '59 and Wars of Coalition from QRS' exclusively for a couple of years now, 2020 may finally be the year to begin codifying the rules into a coherent body of text. I know, I said that in 2018 and 2019 but I really am serious this time!  If 10mm ACW sees action on the table in 2020, I ought to re-examine Republic and see how it has held up over the years. A few amendments may be needed to bring it in line with my current thinking. 

Boardgames to Explore
While I had hoped for regular boardgaming sessions in 2019 and we did get in several good sessions, the frequency was not as often as expected.  A large number of current and out of print board wargames came into the house throughout 2019.  I would enjoy getting at least a few of these onto the gaming table in 2020.  Oh, and I really should cut back on wargame purchases in 2020.  I went a bit overboard in 2019.  Every time Nancy sees the game closet, she mentions that, "you really have a lot of games."  When will you play them?  I say, "when I retire."  There are also several games covering Operation Mercury that would be fun to explore in 2020.

A couple of the games added to the collection could be played as possible campaign games to generate tabletop battles.  I am thinking specifically of Assyrian Wars, Sekigahara, and Imperium Romanum to name just a few.  I have often considered using Clash of Arms' Campaigns of R.E. Lee as a battle generator in a campaign game.  So many great choices if I drift off into a campaign.  Maybe even using Victory Games' 1809 or TAHGC's Struggle of Nations as a campaigning tool?  

Expect to see blog updates averaging one every three to four days.  This is a comfortable pace and I have yet to run out of material to publish.  Expect wargaming topics to be broken up by my occasional ramblings on cycling around the Palouse and travels around the world.  A big backlog of travel stories still awaits to be committed to paper including a two week exploration of Egypt and the Nile Valley.  Still more travels around Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland remain as well as exploration of ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.

2019 saw me offer some data crunching services for the Great Wargaming Survey.  While several of those analyses have been published, a stack of other interesting analyses await.  Expect to see a few of these in 2020 too.  

Having completed the Napoleonic cavalry refit in 2019, time to consider photographing the collection.  Maybe I should get this collection onto the gaming table a some point during the year?  A few units still remain awaiting a slap of paint.  Perhaps, 2020 sees the completion of the 28mm Peninsular War project with figures on hand?  Several battalions worth of Spanish infantry await in The Lead Pile.  Having received a nice-sized Brigade Games' voucher for Christmas, it could be put to good use calling up more troops to the colors.  Other projects could use a turn at the photo booth too.

Enough rambling.  That is likely plenty to keep me busy in 2020.  Planning is an iterative process; expect change!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

BatRep: Kunersdorf

With preparations finished, time to let the combatants take to the field for a refight of Kunersdorf.  The Kunersdorf battlefield is huge and the number of units staggering.  Still, a two-player game seemed accessible.  I took command of the Prussian Army under Frederick the Great while Jake led the combined Russo-Austrian Army under Saltykov.  For scenario information, please see Battle of Kunersdorf: A Scenario.

As a battlefield reminder, the Russian Observation Corps upon the Muhlberg finds itself nearly encircled by the Prussian army when the battle begins.  The battle begins with a Prussian artillery bombardment of the earthworks prior to launching its attack.  For much of this battle report, I will provide commentary from the perspective of Frederick the Great.  After all, that is whose boots I stepped into for this replay. 
Terrain features of Kunersdorf
Unfortunately for the Prussians, little damage was done against the Russian defenders.  Hopefully, the defenses can be softened up as the attack advances toward the heights.  More damage is accomplished by the Russian guns in counter-battery against Prussian guns on the Kleiner Spitzberg than the Prussians, themselves, can execute against the Muhlberg.
Prussian Army steps off on the attack
Russian counter battery proves effective
One feature of the Kunersdorf battle that becomes apparent almost immediately for the Prussian attacker is that the battlefield, while HUGE, is quite constricting.  On first glance, the Muhlberg position, indeed, sticks out like a sore thumb and seems ripe for the taking.  On closer inspection, moving toward the Grosser Spitzberg is extremely challenging.  Kunersdorf is burning and impassable.  The lakes and marshes along the road to Kunersdorf are either impassable or difficult.  How do the Prussians bring their forces to bear in this tight space?  If they choose to break out into the small plain, what next? 
Prussian cavalry tip-toe through the marsh
On the north face of the ridge, the water meadow presents an obstacle as well.  How does the Prussian army come to grips with the main allied line on the backside of the ridge even if the Muhlberg falls?  This difficult topographical challenge is magnified by being heavily outnumbered by the defenders.
Prussians close in on the Muhlberg
As the Prussians plod forward negotiating the difficult ground along the Hubner stream, Villebois' command decides to take the fight to the Prussians. Scrambling over the embankments, Villebois' Russians descend the heights.  On the extreme end of the Russian position on the Muhlberg, Galytsin's Observation Corps awaits the inevitable attack.
Villebois descends from the heights
Observation Corps looks on
Having crossed through the difficult terrain, Prussian brigades ready themselves for assaults upon the Muhlberg.  Casualties mount as the Prussians close within long range.
Keeping up a covering fire from Prussian batteries firing from the high ground surrounding the Muhlberg, the Prussians advance.  Elements of the Observation Corps begin to crack.  First, one of the batteries is driven back from the ramparts.  Then, the Russian grenadiers retreat back from the defenses after having taken much punishment from both muskets and cannon. 
Russian gun falls back
Russian grenadiers retreat
Before the Russian grenadiers abandon their position against the earthworks, they put torch to the abatis.  This action has a couple of important consequences.  First, it prevents the Prussians from overwhelming the northeast end of the Muhlberg since the attackers cannot move through the burning abatis.  Second, the smoke from the fires block line of sight for about one-third of the attacking Prussians and the guns targeting that end of the earthworks.  The Russians have bought themselves some time.
Abatis is put to the torch
Assault on the Muhlberg stalls as the abatis burns
While the attack on the Muhlberg heats up (literally!), cavalry clashes occur on both shoulders of the Muhlberg.  Finck sets his wing into motion, crosses the stream, and reorders his troops for an advance.  The huge cavalry wing under Schorlemmer meets Jeropkin's cavalry wing near the Water Meadow.
Schorlemmer vs Jeropkin
The clash
In the clash, destruction is widespread.  Schorlemmer loses three cavalry regiments with a loss of two regiments to Jeropkin.  Being outnumbered, Jeropkin can ill afford an attritional battle and he breaks off seeking cover in the relative safety of the Water Meadow.
Widespread destruction of cavalry
On the other side of the ridge, Prussian cavalry formations make their way through the marshy ground to deploy out on the plain.  Met by Demiku's Russian cavalry wing, the forces collide.  Outnumbered and outclassed, the Russian cavalry wing at first gives ground allowing Villebois' infantry time to come up and cover his left.
Prussian cavalry advance on the left
as the Russian defense forms
In a series of charges and counter-charges, the fighting is fierce.  While the Russian cavalry is driven back, Demiku has bought enough time for Villebois' infantry to successfully plug the gap.  Prussian thoughts of pursuit are cut short by a wall of musketeers.  In one impetuous moment, Platen's Prussian dragoons charge into the waiting Russian lines of musketeers.  Faced by disciplined musketeers in good order, the dragoons are sent reeling back toward the bridgehead.  
Cavalry clash on the left
High watermark of Prussian cavalry on the left
Impetuous dragoons charge well-ordered infantry
Victorious in the cavalry clash on the right and stymied in the cavalry clash on the left, the Prussians settle in for another attack on the Muhlberg.
Battlefield overview
With Russian reinforcements prevented from relieving the Muhlberg by the presence of Schorlemmer's cavalry on the right, the Observation Corps prepares for the impending assaults.  Having nearly completed encircling the Muhlberg, the Russians face a difficult decision.  Do they defend in place for honor or try to break out before being over-run?
Fighting for the Muhlberg
As the noose closes around the Muhlberg position, the abatis has burned itself out on the northeast face of the defenses.  The Muhlberg is attacked from both the neck and northeast face.  Casualties to the defenders increase as pressure mounts.  With the Observation Corps wavering and the gaming session drawing to a close, we halt the action.
The noose tightens on the Muhlberg defenders
Situation at the end of the session
After calling the game due to time, we discussed the possibilities for both combatants if play continued in a follow-up session.  Consensus was that the Muhlberg position would be lost.  The main Russian positions could not be breached as reinforcements arrived from farther down the ridge to counter any threats from the outnumbered Prussians.  Cavalry casualties were extremely high in this battle.  Infantry casualties, in comparison, were relatively light.

The plan was to continue the game after the holidays fighting the battle to conclusion.  That did not happen.  In the interim, more discussion led to the decision to reset the game and begin the battle anew.  The way in which the battle was headed, we agreed the historical outcome was the most likely.  That is, the Prussians would take the Muhlberg but that would be the extent of the ground gained.  We both learned valuable lessons in the first battle especially with respect to time and space trade-offs over this large battlefield.  Maneuvering troops over such a large expanse takes time.  Given those considerations, we felt play could be improved upon if the battle was started again.  Would the same battle plans prove appropriate in a second game or would alternate plans be brought to the table?  The battle provides challenges to both players.  We shall see when we return to Kunersdorf again.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Algerian Tirailleurs in 1859

After a gap of about five months from the last time any painting activity was seen for the 1859 project, I recently tackled a regiment of Algerian Tirailleurs.  One regiment of Turcos saw action in the 1859 campaign so that singular regiment finally joins the collection.  
Mustering out in three battalions of a dozen figures each, this 36-figure regiment is composed of Old Glory 15mm figures from 19th Century Miniatures.  As an aside, 19th Century Miniatures is holding their annual Christmas sale for one more day.  Get your orders in soon to take advantage of the sale!
Although only one regiment of these light blue-clad Turcos participated in the 1859 campaign, they offer a good choice to field for adding some diversity and color to the French Army.  Present in MacMahon's II Corps, the Turcos saw action at Solferino.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Painting Log: 2019

With year-end, time to take stock of the progress made in getting figures painted and onto the table.  Well, painted anyway since getting figures onto the gaming table is sometimes a challenge.  Less of a challenge this year than in years past, though.  I managed at least 26 games not counting a number of solo games and several multi-game sessions which I counted as one.  In that respect, 2019 was a leap forward in gaming activity.  Let's see if I can keep the momentum rolling in 2020.

On the painting front, 2019 exceeded my expectations on the number of figures passing across the painting desk.  Back in January, I posted a goal of 900 figures for the year.  I ended 2019 at a count of 1,630 figures painted.  As my grandfather was oft to say when playing bridge with him, "you have grossly underbid, kid."  That perhaps is the case but this year's totals are a bit of an anomaly, I think.  I don't expect such output in 2020.

Before focusing in on the 2019 painting activity, let me bring up a historical perspective of my painting output.  The chart below illustrates painting production for the years 1995 to 2019 by era.  Looking at the number of tightly-packed bars, each containing a number of eras in a kaleidoscope of colors, it is hard to believe that I have been tracking these data for 25 years.  It is a colorful picture.

Looking at the stacked bars, some years show more diversity in eras worked than others.  2019 was certainly a year of project diversity.  2019 saw thirteen eras receiving attention with some eras experiencing work in more than one scale.  It is fun to look back through the years and witness the ebb and flow of projects as chronicled within the Painting Log.   
When viewed from a Painting Point basis, output has been relatively consistent since 2008 hovering around 4,000 painting points per year.  The graphic certainly leads one to infer that productivity experienced a regime switch between 2007 and 2008. 
From the perspective of painting and scale, effort continues to focus on either 15/18mm or 25/28mm.  2019 saw a bit more diversity in that six different scales crossed the painting desk.  Diversity is good, right?
When digging into the details of 2019, are there trends to be discovered or simply a random parade of figures across the painting table?

First, it looks like I really dug in and got busy in October and November.  Those two blips are driven primarily on getting some 10mm ACW troops into the painting queue.  Second, a mix of projects tends to see action each month without a clear focus on any one.  I suppose that helps keep interest and painting motivation high.

So, a bit random with some focus...
Looking at 2019 as a whole, the Franco-Austrian War and the American Civil War projects take top honors with about 340 figures each completed.  The Seven Years War, Punic Wars, and Suvorov's 1799 projects round out the Top 5 in figure counts.  The Punic Wars project is no surprise since 2019 was spent fielding Celts for a potential Telamon refight.  I averaged one unit per month of Celts coming off the painting desk.  Good to see the mainstays of my 15/18mm projects, 1799, 1859, and SYW consistently in the mix.  I never seem to run out of these figures in The Lead Pile!   
When examined by scale, it is no surprise that 15/18mm takes top honors at just over 50% of total activity given the focus on the three 15/18mm projects highlighted above.
Well, that puts another year into the books with respect to painting effort.  2019 was a productive year at the painting desk with more figures completed than imagined at the start of the year.  What will 2020 hold on the painting front?  More of the same with a mix of projects and scales working through the painting queue.  Very little chance of duplicating the 2019 effort but a target of 1,000 figures seems doable in 2020. 

Happy New Year and May Your Brushes be Sharp in 2020!