Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Three Battles; Three Days

Battle of Ucles
Photo courtesy Matt Crump

On the gaming front this week, gaming opportunities abound.  Four games are on the docket this week with games on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday.  Busy, busy week!  The first three games were all played remotely.  The game on Saturday will see a F2F activity.  Not sure if I actually will have time and the stamina to attend the Saturday game but there is hope.  Let's recap.

Sunday - Battle of Ucles, 1108

After a long hiatus on the Basic Impetvs On A Grid, Reconquista front, Matt returns with another interesting battle for us.  This time, we explore the Battle of Ucles in 1108.  Matt provided a brief battle account to set the stage.

Christian’s are outnumbered but have all the heavy knights. Historically they rashly charged in, pushed the Córdobans back but then got surrounded and where pretty much wiped out. You have two commanders Alvar who is in charge but Sancho Alfonsez who is the kings son. The Almoravids will get an extra victory point if Alfonso is killed.

Matt would command the Almoravids while I commanded the Christians. I provide a brief battle account.  While my pictorial is sourced from captured screenshots, I expect Matt will provide a more detailed and photo-centric account soon.  My Christian army is in the foreground, closest to the camera.  Off we go!

Christians lead off with an attack in the center.
All others advance.
First defender overwhelmed and retreats.
Alfonsez pursues.
The Almoravids counterattack!
Alfonsez' entourage is wiped out.
Afonsez falls in battle!
Christians continue deep attack into the Moor backfield.
Two more Almoravid units are destroyed
and the baggage/camp captured!
Two units of heavy knights mill about in the enemy camp.
Taking missile fire on the left, Christian cavalry retires. 
Christian knights charge forward.
The Christian knights cause more destruction in the center
while the two units of knights in the enemy camp struggle
 to recorder themselves to return to the fray.
Almoravids attack on the right.
Christians are driven back with loss.
Almoravids attack on the left.
Having destroyed two Christian units,
Almoravid cavalry races to the enemy camp.
The battle is close.
Can the Almoravids sack the camp
 before they lose one more unit?
No!  The Christian knights in the enemy camp
finally compose themselves and attack!
The Christians are victorious!
What appeared as a path to an easy Christian success early in the battle, the Almoravids turned the battle around and made the outcome close.  While the pursuing knights doddled in the enemy camp, the Almoravids nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  Very Close.  Excellent game and the rules worked well after we cleared cobwebs off of the QRS and our recollections.  Great fun!

Edit: Matt's battle account with close-up photos can be found here.

Monday - Battle of Solferino, Center Sector, 1859

Monday's game was a seven-player, remote contest where I hosted the Rejects in a large, nearly five-hour session.  Since the battle is still in progress with Session #2 scheduled for next Monday, no battle report yet.  Until then, a teaser showing the French Guard attacking the villages southwest of Solferino. 

 - War of Spanish Succession Clash - Playtesting

After little more than a one-year hiatus from Graham's development work on his WSS project, the rules and Graham's newly painted Bavarians see action on the table.  The game was a hybrid in that two players were onsite and playing F2F while Ian and I were remote commanding from afar.  I am almost certain Graham will follow Tuesday's action with a full battle account.  For now, a screenshot from the game showing my victorious British wing encircling the enemy breastworks and routing enemy cavalry.

Edit:  Like clockwork, Graham's battle report can be found here.

Whew!  Needless to say, little activity at the painting desk this week.

Finally, there are still a couple days to enter the Ten Year Blog Anniversary contest.  Details on entry are at:

Monday, September 26, 2022

Battle Day!

Battle as viewed from aerial observation balloon
Battle lines are drawn, armies deployed, and orders sent out to all of the commanders.

Later today the battle for control of the Solferino center sector begins.  With a large, seven player game, played remotely, it would be surprising if the battle is decided in one session.  In an inter-Reject rivalry, who will claim victory?

Final preparations for the game are winding down with the last of the new recruits making it to the field of battle.  As mentioned in an earlier post, the French have seen limited action in my earlier battles so they lacked a full complement of commanders.  On the eve of battle this shortfall has been addressed.  Left to-do is the affixing of unit labels.  Then, I can sit back and relax.  At least until game time, that is.

Off the painting desk today are 15 French mounted officers.  They are split between four Corp/Divisional stands and seven brigade commanders.  Figures are Old Glory 15s.
Let the battle begin!

Friday, September 23, 2022

French Guard Voltigeurs

In Tuesday's post, I mentioned an upcoming Franco-Austrian battle and the discovery that the 1859 collection could muster no Guard Voltigeurs.  Well, 36 figures were pulled from The Lead Pile and pushed into the painting queue.  After three days of work, three battalions of the 1st Guard Voltigeurs will be present under arms for Monday's fight.  Figures are Old Glory 15s from 19th Century Miniatures.  Knowing that more guardsmen will be needed in future contests, an order from 19th Century Miniatures is hopefully winging its way to my mailbox soon.  No dispatch email yet so the custom order must still be in work.   
The shortage of guardsmen was not the only disovery when preparing for the upcoming game.  Having primarily focused on the Sardinians and smaller French involvement, I was woefully short on French commanders.  Luckily, French command figures are not in short supply in inventory.  Fifteen mounted officers were pulled out of The Lead Pile and shoved into the painting queue. Work still progresses on these officers.  These commanders should be ready for their debut by game day.     
Returning to Monday's upcoming game with the Rejects, the table has been set, troops deployed, and Battle Briefings distributed.  The battle will be fought on a hex grid using my version of Fields of Honor.  I hosted the Rejects back in May with a recreation of the Battle of San Martino.  Coming back for another go, we explore the fighting in the center of the Solferino battle.  With seven players, lots of figures, and not a lot of maneuver space for finesse this ought to be a real donnybrook.

To set the stage, the Battle of Solferino is a large battle.  It was the largest European battle since the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.  With the battle’s size and scope, fighting at the battalion level requires breaking the battle down into sectors. Monday's action will focus on the Center Sector.

The Austrians, having planned to advance against the French and Sardinians to the west were surprised when the Allies jumped into action and stole a march on the Austrian Army.  Having been caught off-balance, the Austrian 2nd Army primarily took up a defensive attitude around Solferino and San Cassiano.  The Austrian 1st Army, with more maneuver room on the Medole Plain attempted to take the offensive.  Even though the French were initially outnumbered on the plain, uncoordinated attacks by the Austrians allowed the French to fight the enemy to a standstill.

The primary avenue of attack for the French was along the spine of the Solferino Heights.  As the French 1st Corps attacked along the spine to the north (North Sector) and the French 4th Corp battled the Austrian 1st Army in the south (South Sector), MacMahon’s 2nd Corps remained idle, sandwiched between these to battles (Center Sector).  If he turned north to aid in the attack against Solferino, he risked being flanked by the Austrian 1st Army in the South Sector.  If he turned against the Austrian 1st Army to the south, he risked being attacked in the flank by the Austrian I Corps.

Finally, about noon, with reinforcements arriving on the battlefield, MacMahon and the French 2nd Corps began moving off to engage the enemy at San Cassiano and Cavriana.  MacMahon needed to engage the Austrians in the Center Sector so that I Corps could neither reinforce the battle raging on the Solferino Heights in the north nor the battle on the Medole Plain around Guidizzolo in the south.

The French goal in the Center Sector is to pin the Austrian I Corps and prevent it from reinforcing either North or South Sectors.  Defeating this Corps in detail will strengthen the odds of taking the difficult heights to the north.  Speed is of the essence!

The Austrian goal in the Center Sector is to hold the center while pinning the French 2nd Corps allowing the 1st Army in the south to overpower the French forces opposing it.  If successful, the French can be defeated in detail as the 1st Army defeats each weaker French Corps in sequence as it fights its way north.

With the Rejects requesting more fog of war in this battle, the photo of the battlefield below is all that I can provide at this time. 
Battle layout
Edit 23SEP2022:  Received email notification from 19th Centruy Miniatures saying the order mentioned above has shipped.  Hooray! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Back to the Brushes

After a week away from the painting desk, work resumes.  After a few ECW painting distractions, the painting station sees a return to fielding French units for the WAS/SYW.

Off the painting desk today is a 23-figure battalion of Frenchmen from Regiment Boulonnais.  Foot figures are from Old Glory, mounted officer from Eureka, and flags by Not by Appointment.

A number of other French infantry regiments are in the painting queue along with one more French cavalry regiment.  The Lead Pile is running low on Frenchmen so an order from 19th Century Miniatures is on its way.  Soon hopefully! 
The game table has seen no action since the Sumerian game two weeks ago.  Activity is ramping up to host the next remote battle.  On the docket is a recreation of the center sector of the Battle of Solferino pitting the French 2nd Corps against the Austrian I Corps.  I will be hosting the UK-based Rejects in a remote game one week from yesterday as we return to action in the Franco-Austrian War (FAW) of 1859.  Last time (back in May) we tackled San Martino.  Seven players have signed on for the game.

Having the FAW collection out on the table primarily in refights with the Sardinians v Austrians, the French army has seen only limited action in a couple of replays of the Montebello battle.  What I did not realize was that elements of the Imperial Guard supported MacMahon's 2nd Corps at Solferino.  While I could field three battalions of Guard Grenadiers, no Guard Voltigeurs could muster out for the battle.  A quick disruption of the painting queue pushed three battalions of voltigeurs ahead of all else.  My expectation is that Guard Voltigeurs will be ready for action by game day.  I need to order more Guard infantry... 

This week will be busy preparing for the Solferino game.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

National Museum of the Pacific War

Nancy and I have been Deep in the Heart of Texas this week visiting family, hiking, and concert-going.  While our base camp was in Round Rock, we did make a foray into Austin for a concert.  No, we were not there to see Willie and the Boys. 

One day we made the two-hour drive through Texas Hill Country to Fredericksburg to visit the National Museum of the Pacific War and the Admiral Nimitz Gallery.  Fredericksburg was settled by German immigrants of which Nimitz' family was one.  There is even a Freitag's Backyard Cafe in nearby Stonewall.  Including a lunch break, we spent a little over six hours in the two museums with most of that time consumed by the Pacific War museum.  So much to see and read.  With travel time, it was a long ten-hour day. 

The museum accomplishes the difficult task of actually educating the visitor about the history of the Pacific War including the causes leading up to the campaign and its aftermath. The War in the Pacific is told through numerous displays with videos, interactive media, battle narratives, firsthand accounts,static displays, and more.  I walked away with a much better understanding of the war from both political and military viewpoints.  Fascinating.  For me, definitely worthy of a return visit for more focused study.  Nancy even enjoyed it and came away with a broad understanding of this theater of the war.

Highly recommended.

Below is a selection of photos from some of the static equipment displays.  The lead photo to this post shows an eerie display of a downed, Japanese Val airplane.

Japanese Type I Dual-mounted MG.
Bofors 40mm gun.
Japanese 37mm gun.
Browning Automatic Rifle.
Willy's Jeep
My dad still has one of these!
Japanese triple-barrelled AA Gun
Japanese gun.
Bren gun.
Knocked out Stuart tank
commanded by Australians.
Does this visit motivate me to ponder a new wargaming period?  Well, that is a silly question.  We all know the answer to that!

While I may not dive into gaming this period in miniature, tackling these campaigns and battles via hex and counter boardgames certainly sees a renewed interest.

If this looks interesting, the website for the National Museum of the Pacific War is 

Home | National Museum of the Pacific War (

As a reminder, keep those Haikus coming if you want an entry in the 10-year anniversary contest.  Many great poems so far.  I hope to see more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Ten Years Before the Screen

The Palouse Wargaming Journal (PWJ) marches across its tenth anniversary.

It is said that a habit is formed in 21 days.

Publishing a blog for ten years, with regularity, must represent a lifestyle.

With 1,458 blog posts, blogging as a lifestyle decision seems applicable.

With nearly 40,000 comments (OK, half are mine!), this has become a wargaming community and outreach program for me.

What are ten take-aways from ten years of blogging?

  • Averaging about 10 posts per month, I have yet to run out of content.  When I began, I worried that potential material would soon become exhausted.  To the contrary and to my surprise, more ideas and topics pop into my head than there is time to write up.  My list of draft topics is long.
  • Blogging has enhanced my hobby enjoyment. 
  • Perservance.  Keep at it and write regularly.  Regular updates are key to engagement.
  • PWJ seems to attract readers and regular commenters of a similar demographic with similar interests.  How did this self-selection happen?
  • The blogging community is generous and polite.
  • Readers tend to follow the principle of if you cannot say anything nice, don't say anything.  My painting may not be the best nor my games the most handsome but you would never know it from commentary here.
  • I gained new wargaming acquaintances and friends from all over the world.  Many with whom I have even enjoyed a game or two.  Amazing, really.
  • Blogging opened up new possibilities and a venue to share thoughts on gaming, collecting, and wargaming in general with (mostly) likeminded wargamers.
  • Following other bloggers’ works and reader commentary are both motivational and inspirational.
  • I am grateful to anyone who happens to stop in to read my work and doubly grateful for those readers who regularly offer up a comment or two. 
Thank you for your patronage and friendship.

Now for a little contest!

As a small token of my appreciation for my valued readers, I offer up a gift voucher to one reader's favorite wargaming shop or bookseller.  The only constraints are that the vendor must allow for an electronic gift voucher purchase from the USA and the winner must supply an email address.

The Rules:
  1. Create a Haiku observing the traditional three lines of text having 5, 7, and 5 syllables each. 
  2. Theme: What draws you to checking in on actvities at the PWJ?
  3. Enter as many times as you like by leaving your Haiku as a comment to this post.
  4. One Haiku will be selected randomly from my favorite entries.
  5. Gift Voucher amount will be determined by the number of responses.
Below are two examples to prime the creative pump:

Paint desk is busy
Armies march into battle

Thoughts swirl and wander
Inspires; encourages
Quite habit forming.

Contest will close 30SEP2022.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Rules of War

With WSS' 2022 Great Wargaming Survey wrapped up, time to begin digging into the survey responses.

While many of the questions remain the same from 2021, the 2022 survey saw a few, new questions added into the mix.  One of these new questions is the topic for today's installment.

The question of interest is,

What is your primary source for rules.

The available choices were:

Having been in the wargaming hobby for a very long time, a quick glance over to my bookcase of rules shows rulebooks from a variety of sources.  By raw numbers, commercial rulesets seem to dominate shelf space.  However, there are many binders containing free and homegrown rules as well as rules clipped from magazines.  A number of the classic rulesets are embedded within books on wargaming.  A selection of self-published rules take up shelf space as well.  

What is my primary source for rules?  Well, that is an answer that seems to never remain at rest.  In the early days, rules in magazines and books offered inspiration when I had access to little else.  With the arrival of the internet, I found much of value online.  I am an avid commercial rules' collector too.

Inspiration comes from many sources.  The period under study often drives primary rules source too.  Some periods are only addressed by one source.  For me, the answer seems to settle upon the notion that I find inspiration and value in all of the sources listed in the survey.  By linear feet of shelf space, I suppose Dedicated, commercially published rules may take the First Place ribbon.  Being a confirmed rules tinkerer, many of the commercial rules have a tendency to see a house rule or two to satisfy my tastes.  Actually, I tend to tinker with house rules for all of the primary rules sources.

What does the survey have to say on such matters?

Counts by Source for Rules

From the survey counts, more than 50% of respondents choose commercial rules as written.  Add in those that may supplement commercial rules with house rules and the percentage climbs to almost 80%.  Is this result surprising?  Perhaps not.  The advertising and visibility in the hobby press likely drives demand.  The remaining 20% of the market is splintered among four categories.  Self-published commercials rules make up only about 2% of the responses.  I know some self-publishers produce outstanding products, many of which are comparable to dedicated commercially published rules.  I wonder if this niche will grow over time?

Given the dominance of dedicated, commercially published rules, are there any tendencies that can be teased out of the data?  I examine a few attributes.

Source for Rules by Age Group

When examined by Age Group, do any broad generalizations emerge? Yes.  Younger cohorts tend to rely upon free or magazine/book rules more so than do the older cohorts.  Older cohorts are more likely to explore homegrown rules.  These older groups are also more likely to add house rules into a commercial ruleset.

Source for Rules by Primary Wargaming Interest

When survey results are stratified by Primary Interest (primary wargaming interest, that is, between historicals, fantasy/sci-fi, or a mix of the two), a big distinction between Fantasy/Sci-Fi and Historical gamers surfaces.  Fantasy/Sci-Fi wargamers tend to stick to the rules as written (RAW).  There seems little place for house rules, homegrown rules, or tinkering.  Why is that?  Perfect rules, focus on tournament play, or something else?  The survey suggests that historical wargamers are more rules tinkerers than other groups.  If you are an historical wargamer, is this your experience too?  Are you a rules tinkerer?

Source for Rules by Years Spent Wargaming  

As seen in tendencies from past survey analyses and the results for age and primary interest above, years spent in the wargaming hobby (Duration) offers no surprising results.  In fact, duration confirms what has been presented.  That is, newer wargamers tend toward free and magazine/book rules more so than do the old veterans of the hobby.  These seasoned vets are more comfortable adopting house rules and homegrown rules than those with less time in grade.  

In whichever category you find yourself, whether by age group, primary interest, or years spent wargaming, I am always interested to read your thoughts on your sources for rules.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

More ECW et al.

Following up on the ECW command stand presented last week, today more ECW figures depart the painting desk.  Off the table is a nine-figure regiment of horse in buffcoats and floppy hats.  Figures are TAG cavalry from the Thirty Years War range (Swedish?) but I am pressing them into service for the ECW project.  Nice sculpts but a bit fragile.  Upon close examination, one can see that the trumpeter has already lost the bell of his instrument.  This mishap occured during the photoshoot.  Fragile little thing.  I may try to reconnect the bell to the pipe.

Game #2 with the Sumerians and Basic Impetvs occured on Tuesday.  With hosting a four-player remote game, once again, the players kept me hopping and photos were few.  I may be able to create a patchwork summary battle report but perhaps, not.  

While the game was entertaining, the post-game discussion prompted a useful analytical exercise.  The discussion continued on to email where the relative merits of rules and resolution of specific tactical situations were debated.  This conversation sparked a chance to ponder topics on game design, theory, computational validation, and testing.  Perhaps fodder for another posting and further discussion.

Finally, after a few days of very smoky skies from assorted wildfires, the air cleared for my daily, morning ride out on the bike.  Number of miles put into the legs today was 36 traveling north along the Spokane River.  A few photos from today's ride follow.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Sumerian First Game!

A little over one year (13 months, actually) after starting a Sumerian Army (well, actually two!), my Sumerians take to the field of battle.

Following on Graham's Sumerian battle in last week's remote game, I offered up my Sumerians for another look at Ancient Mesopotamian warfare in this week's game.  In preparation for hosting the weekly remote UK game, Kevin volunteered to help me put the armies through their paces with a Basic Impetvs variant I devised.

Battle lines are drawn

We would use two matched armies in the contest with the victory condition of breaking the enemy army in a straight-up fight.  Each army would contain 17 BMUs.  Plenty of units for a big battle.  I would play the Red Army.  Kevin would play the Blue Army.

Notice that one unit of heavy infantry (spear) on each side of the table is of the opposite color.  Whoops.  That was a last minute mix-up on my part.  To even out the two armies, I swapped one of the red shielded spear with one of the blue unshielded spear.  I forgot to swap their colored VBU dice.  This would cause me some confusion later in the game during the heat of battle.

The armies advance.
To begin the battle, Red launches a broad advance across the battlefield (remember I am playing Red and positions are relative to my place standing behind the Red deployment zone).  With skirmishers ineffective against skirmishers in missile fire, the skirmishers in the Left Battle Group (BG) charge the skirmishers facing them.  In the melee, one Blue skirmisher is scattered.  One of the Red skirmishers is damaged and disordered.  Marginal success!  I try the ploy again, this time using my Center BG.  Unfortunately, my two-skirmisher attack is repulsed with heavy casualties.
Skirmishers contest the center of the battlefield
while control of the pond is up for grabs.
Seeing the success of skirmisher vs. skirmisher melee, Kevin attacks my weakened skirmisher on the left.  His attack sends both my skirmisher and its support into retreat.  In the center, his slingers damage the javelinmen screening my center.  Kevin's army plods slowly forward.  My skirmishers on both left and center sectors are running for cover.  To cover their retreat, the heavy infantry advance while the battle cart in my Left BG trots forward through the skirmishers.  Is the enemy within striking distance?   
Red skirmishers in flight.
Red Lugal surveys the situation.
He is!  Wasting little time, my Left BG's battle cart strikes!  Seeing the activity on the left flank, my Right BG plunges into enemy skirmishers.  Luckily for Kevin, all of his skirmishers manage to successfully evade my heavies.  Hope my attacking formations have not over-extended themselves.
Red attacks!
The attack with my battle cart on the left goes much better than the attack on the right.  While my cart is disordered in the clash, the enemy spearmen are driven off with loss.  My attacks are looking good as the battle unfolds with roughly even losses to each.  An enemy cart stands vigilant protecting the retreating infantry while awaiting its chance to pounce on my disordered cart. 
The enemy is driven back!
but at what cost?
As expected, the enemy battle cart does not wait long to strike.  It moves forward, wheels, and attacks!  Beaten, my battle cart retreats to safety.  The enemy Lugal, in his battle cart, charges ahead into the Red battle cart of my Right BG.  Again, my cart is overpowered with heavy loss.  It, too, is forced to make a hasty retreat.  The battle is turning against me.

In a futile attempt to stabilize the situation and salvage the battle, Red's Lugal charges forward into enemy heavy infantry.  In a prolonged melee, the Lugal goes down and the cart destroyed.
Red Lugal in melee!
Red Army begins to waver.
With Red Army reeling, the enemy Lugal, flushed from success, pursues into the wavering skirmishers.  The skirmishers are cut down like standing grain.  As the Red center collapses, the left fares no better.  Blue heavy infantry are hunting down the buckling enemy.  In an instant, the battle is over.
Hunting down the vanquished.
Victory to the Blue Army and Kevin!

What looked like an evenly matched battle that was developing into a slugfest, quickly changed to a destruction of my Red Army.  The key to victory for Kevin was that he pushed his pursuits against units that had taken casualties and were in no shape to offer up significant resistance.  When it rains, it pours.  I went from an army in good shape to broken in two turns.  I think Kevin was surprised by his success.

As for the rules, I think they did the job.  Having a warm-up game before the six-player remote game on Tuesday was a good choice.  This game provided a chance to bring up a potential kink that is easily resolved.  With activation by BG, it was easy to lose track of which unit belonged to which BG.  Now, VBU dice will be color-coded so this confusion will not interfere with the next game.  Having the results from this contest and the QRS fresh in mind, Tuesday's game has a chance to proceed more smoothly. 

Thanks again to Kevin for a very useful and enjoyable outing.  Oh, and congratulations on a resounding victory.