Monday, April 20, 2015

Spearpoints gleaming

And so the game begun in the last installment continues.

For some reason, my parents collected African art in the 1970's. Anyhow, this Zulu should qualified as art. They gave it to me when they cleaned out their belongings before moving to Florida.  "Hey, Dr. Rabuck. Can I play with your shield?"  "Good God, no."

On turn Three, British reinforcements arrive like the Riders of Freakin' Rohan.  On the British left, a platoon of infantry and some irregular cavalry.

And on the right, some NNC and a pair of field pieces. In retrospect, two field guns are crazy dangerous.

Zulus on the ramparts!

OK, guys. Look badass.  Seriously, is that the best you can do?

After two unsuccessful charges, one Zulu impi breaks through. Lt. Bromhead is killed by an assegai thrown at short range.

Well, don't they make a tempting target, lads?

The infantry screen the cavalry...  Given their firepower, though, the men on horses aren't really needed.

As an added wrinkle, I'm giving the Zulu side the option to pull back and regroup, bringing all dead units back into the fight.  Zombie Zulus!  The downside is that this will allow the Brist to regroup anywhere they want inside the compound.  We'll see how this pans out.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Young Men of Harlech

 My Military History course is offered to second semester seniors. Every kid in class knows that the die has been cast in regards to college admissions.  Thus, keeping them engaged is always a challenge. With this in mind, I front-loaded my Military History course with the academics in January (Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Marlantes).  Then, for the remainder of the year, we did case studies, watching a movie sett in a period, reading four or five quality sources about the engagement depicted, and then playing a tabletop game recreating the conflict.  As you might imagine, the students are having a blast.

The finale this year was the Zulu War of 1879. While the prequel film Zulu Dawn delves more into the politics of the conflict, there is no equal to the 1964 epic Zulu.  At first the students laughed at some of the hammy acting by the extras, but by the end they were wiping away tears as the two armies serenaded each other before the final round of slaughter. How could we not conclude the year with the attack on Rorke's Drift?

We used 28mm figures (mostly Old Glory, with some plastics from Warlord and Wargames Factory thrown in). I picked up the Rorkes Drift MDF buildings for a song on Ebay. they make a fantastic centerpiece for the battle.  For rules, we're using the tried and true The Sword and the Flame.


Zulus, sir, approaching from the southwest.  Several of 'em!

How could I resist the Warlord "Hollywood" minis?  Here, the hard-as-nails Chard and Colour Sergeant Bourne steel for another wave.

The cheeky Hook offers Lt. Bromhead a drink while Bromhead contemplates a career as a butler to a brooding superhero.

Now that I think of it, I may have under-garrisoned the compound.  That's a lotta Zulu.

British soldiers await deployment.

the head and loin of the Buffalo

And the right horn of said Buffalo.

Two of the Zulu players played war chants from the movie on continual loop.  Stay classy, boys!

More to come as the game unfolds.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My sword glows blue...orcs coming!

I began my gaming career with fantasy games: SPI's War of the Ring in 1979 (with the wicked-cool Gondor and Sauron minigames!) and the blue-box Basic Dungeons and Dragons the following year. One could argue that it was all downhill from there. Yet despite my love of the fantasy genre, I never really got into fantasy miniatures gaming, except as a supplement for D+D.  SO at long last, I shrugged my shoulders and said "Why the heck not"? I have a set of medieval rules that I think will work really well with fantasy mass combat (based loosely off of Hail, Caesar!, but I also might give the fantasy version of Impetus a whirl) and an Old Glory Army membership, so off we go!

I started these guys just over a month ago. One nice thing about orcs as opposed to Napoleonic soldiers: a lot less fiddly equipment, straps, and shako plates to paint.

Two units of Warg cavalry.  I was aiming for a shield design with bold colors and jagged lines. Only when I was done did I realize that I had invented the ZZ Top logo. Oh, well. Orcs would probably dig ZZ Top.


The Orc commander.  I'll probably stream a blood-red pennant from the skull-flagpole.

One of the units of infantry. The scuplts are Old Glory 25mm. They come to about a dollar per figure, with the OGA discount.  A much better deal than Warhammer plastics, and I like the look a lot better, too.

Another view of the infantry, this time with flash engaged.

I added a bunch of goblins from Reaper Bones, since they are going for a song on E-bay (less than $.50 each).  I missed out on the reaper Bones Kickstarter, and now that I see some up close, I'm not too disappointed.  While I like the big-headed look of Pathfinder goblins, I found that a lot of detail was lost in the soft resin casting process. Several goblins are also listing to starboard, as the resin bent in shipping and, while many could be twisted back into shape, others could not.  A C- on the Bones at best. 

I had hoped to mount the goblins four to a 40mm square base, but though the models themselves are small, their individual bases are huge. So, they will march three to a base, just like their Orc cousins.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My First Game of Blucher: Bitter Slavic Tears

Last night I played my first game of Blucher at my friend Joe's house.  We were both intrigued by the promise of this new set of rules: corps-level commands that are fast, fun, and playable.  It was the inagural outing for my 10mm armies, French and Russians from Old Glory.  We used only a tiny fraction of Joe's table for the game. Since we are just learning the rules, we decided to forgo the Scharnhorst campaign setup, although they look like a lot of fun.

Here is the setup , using my homemade blinds  With about 26 units a side, this is about the upper limit for a standard game. As you can see, the table looks pretty crowded.  There was still room for maneuver, but once corps were committed, they were pretty much locked in. This meant keeping a reserve  under the blinds very important, as it was the only way to reinforce a sector in need of support.  Note to self: sending cavalry units forward to discover concealed enemies might be a useful tactic from preventing them from using the bounds of reserve movement early in the game.

The overhead view.

Units start to appear on the battlefield.  Even though there appears to be less terrain than we use for our tactical-level games, those woods and villages played a big role by creating choke points.

Joe rolled an 18 for my first Momentum roll. Sicne I didn't want to reveal all of my units, I didn't even come close to spending them all. Seriously, who rolls an 18 on 3d6? Where were those rolls when I was playing D&D?

Joe's units start to come out. I rolled very well to start, and those good rolls probably encouraged  my to keep up the shooting war. As I learned later, that was a bog mistake.  However, my early efforts at melee met with frustration (the infantry to the left of the village tried to assault the French infantry to his front. The combat results were a draw, which meant I had to withdraw to lick my wounds (we later corrected my retreat to two base widths which had the added benefit of blocking my artillery. Joy).

Here is where things get ugly.  In hindsight, I should have just plowed in to the line of French and taken my lumps, trusting in my reserves to finish the job. Instead, I hesitated, leaving my troops in skirmish range. Here, the French had a big advantage, and they shot me to pieces. My early luck with the dice evaporated, and a whole corps of Russians was shattered with very little to show for it. 

Joe surveys the field.  His heavy cavalry has just deployed between the two woods, forcing most of my infantry in the center to go into a "prepared" state. Joe had the artillery at hand to punish them, showing a textbook example of how to use the arms of a Napoleonic army.

I deployed my heavies to counter.  While they screened my infantry, heavy cavalry is far more effective in the attack, and since Joe had the jump on my, my dragoons and cuirassiers had a rough time. The dragoons in the foreground were even eliminated in a single turn! (BTW, that's REALLY hard to do in Blucher, unless spiteful dice gods frown on you).  Still, the melee wore down Joe's cav, and my infantry could breathe easy, for a short time...

At length, my left wing could no longer withstand the firefight I had abandoned them to.I sent in my Guard corps to finish the job. While they might, at length, have turned the tide in that sector, my decision to commit them gave Joe a free hand to deploy his own guard units where he saw fit. By now, my center was battered and beleaguered, and there was no way they could withstand fresh elite units I conceded the game at that point.

All in all, a fun game. Maneuver was a bit clumsier than we were used to, but that gives a good feel for the command level the game simulates. A commander who orders brigades and divisions forward is painting with a much broader brush than a tactical commander. Joe and I doubtless overlooked some nuances of the rules, but we worked things through easily enough and came away thinking that the rules were elegant and clear.

I learned a lot from my mistakes. Lesson one: Russians have good artillery and terrible skirmish ability. Thus, they should engage the french either at very long or very short range. Lesson two: While melee combat may not be decisive (pace, sad little dragoon unit!), it allows you to weaken an enemy position if you have the reserves to exploit it later.  When Joe made his firing line, I should have ignored one turn of close range volley fire and just plowed right in.  I would have taken my lumps, but the ability to pick targets in the assault would have greatly weakened Joe's position, and I had two fresh units with which I could have exploited the results.  Lesson three: The side that keeps units in reserve the longest has a big advantage.  Instead of holding my cossacks as second-rate battle cavalry, it is worth considering using them to race towards still-concealed units. 

Looking forward to another game, with Scharnhorst thrown in to boot!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Young Generals go Fourth

Tim looks nonplussed as his Guardsmen have just withstood a furious attack by British cavalry.

The British abandoned their position behind the reverse slope and pounced on the French center. To compensate , Garrett moved his light horsemen to serve as a reserve.  By Jove, I think he has it!

The Prussians are still in the freakin' woods!  The Prussian line infantry is being overwhelmed by the firepower of the Bavarian lines. To shore up the position, Don moved his Spanish-ified cavalry slowly through the woods to secure the position.

Ryan gazes intently at the British left. His quote of the day: "I have no clue what's going on.  Just give me the dice and tell me what I need to roll."

On the left, French chasseurs take on British line.  Though the Brits were caught in the open, they gave as good as they got, and the cavalry, already exhausted by artillery fire, beat a retreat.  On the right, Bavarian infantry show the Brits how its done when one faces cavalry. 

The Amazons Black Watch Highlanders drive into the French center.  These students do love to charge!

Sensing a moment of decision, the British right pushes forward against the weakened Guard battalions.  Tomorrow is our final session.  Will it be decisive?