Friday, August 29, 2014

The Field of Lost Shoes

So, I had a spare moment after preparing my classroom for the start of school next week, so I brought out my 10mm ACW figs and refought a palimpsest of the Civil War Battle of New Market.  Like the Battle of Iuka I did with my students last year, this was a small engagement between roughly even forces.  While the maps make it look like a straight up encounter, there are some itneresting choices for each side to make along the way. Essentially, the Confederates under Breckinridge were able to surprise Franz Sigel's Union army in the Shenandoah Valley.  Historically, the ferocious Confederate assault sent the Union troops reeling before they could mount an organized resistance.  Cadets from VMI played a key role in this battle, an element I have always found interesting (some kids will do anything to get out of an algebra quiz...)

The rules are Black Powder (distances converted from inches to centimeters). Most Minis are Pendraken, but there are a few Perrins mixed in for variety.  Most of the terrain is scratchbuilt.


The long view from the southern edge of the battlefield.  Two Confederate infantry brigades with cavalry support stand ready to attack.  One Union brigade is scattered across the battlefield, while the other is in a long march column that is just entering the battlefield's northern edge. In hindsight, a random entry turn for the Union reinforcements would have been more fun.

The view from the Union position.

The long road that would deliver help to the beleaguered Union troops

The first Confederate objective was to drive the 18th CT off the hill ahead of them so that they would be able to get their guns into a commanding position.

The other rebel infantry brigade stalled in its approach, but Imboden's cavalry swept into a good flanking position.

On the Union left, Billy Yank falls back to a position where two regiments could support each other. Meanwhile, on the hill, the boys from Connecticut put of a fierce resistance, but get too disorganized to withdraw.

The end of Turn 1.  The attack on the Confederate left went in piecemeal, but the slow pace of the Union reinforcements means that the situation is not as dire as it might be...yet.

The Virginia brigade finally drives the hill's defenders away.  The valiant Union artillery section blasts cannister until the bitter end.

The Union reinforcements finally get close enough to begin deploying.  Take your time, boys.

Both Confederate brigades begin pushing forward.  The Virginia units are pretty roughed up, while Echols' brigade, while still fresh, continues to move at a snail's pace.  The Confederate cavalry dismounts and begins to threaten the left flank of the Union line.

The lead Union regiments begin to take a punishing fire, having double their number of rifles to their front.  On the Union right, the first regiments of the relief column form a line behind their friends, determined to check the Confederate advance at the crest of the hill.

Finally, Wharton's brigade has enough and melts away. In a game with only a handful of brigades, moments like this can be teliing, and the survivors on the losing side can find themselves heavily outnumbered and outgunned.

But not for long! The Confederate right coordinates an attack that drives the defenders away from their front.  The sides are once again roughly even.

And it starts to look bad for the Union. Those pesky dismounted cavalry remain buzzing around the Union flank, pouring enfilade fire in and pinning the Bluebellies as the VMI cadets enter the fight.

But just when it looks like a final push will win it for the Confederates, things fall apart for them.  Though they routed one union regiment, a botched command roll meant that the cavalry could not continue to press their attack. At the same time, the Union troops who had cleared the Confederates from the hill finally regrouped and swung around, hitting Echols' brigade in the flank.  The Confederates call it a day, having seriously bloodied a larger force but unable to hold the field in the end.  Let's call it a draw.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bolt Action 1940

Another fun night with the Ambler Gamers. This time it was Bolt Action, a scenario designed by Joe and Mark (Mk. I--I'm Mark Mk. II) set in 1940 France. The French have to reinforce a chateau overlooking a crossroads before a reinforced German mechanized platoon can overrun it.

I was controlling the French defending the chateau, while Steve T. ran mes freres rushing to reinforce me. Sadly, his slow and skittish R-35's did what they could to avoid joining the battle, so we would have to make do without armored support in the early turns.

Here is a shot of the lovely die-cut chateau. As you can see from the command die atop it, I have already occupied it with a squad of infantry.  A 25mm anti-tank gun waits patiently for the lead Panzer III to come into range.

Did I say patiently?  My gun crew couldn't wait, so they pushed their gun out into la rue. They got off the first shot, but their shell pinged off the front armor of the Mark III.  They did not last long after that... 

The Germans tried to move around my right flank with a squad of infantry and another Mk. III. I moved my Panhard armored car to slow their advance until my reinforcements could arrive.  Despite the Germans setting up a crossfire, this plucky little vehicle endured four turns of fire  before it got immobilized and engulfed in flames.  Well done mes amis!

Over on Steve T's flank, he had to contend with the other hook of the German pincer. His support weapons occupied a hedge line and fired some feeble shots at one of the German halftracks. Then, a lucky mortar round found its target, devastating the squad riding within.    

Well, Steve and I did not have long to celebrate the joys of pinpoint mortar accuracy when the Steve P's own mortar support found its target. Another lucky shell found its way through two floors of the chateau to devastate my occupying infantry squad.  Of all the things to come down the chimney that night, i would have much preferred Pere Noel.

Another shot of the chateau.  You can see the pin markers piling up on my squad within and on my gallant Panhard.  Steve P. has moved a squad to the hedge beyond the chateau, and I have countered with an MG behind the wall on this side. However, as Steve P occupied the woods to the right, my hold on the objective was starting to slip.

Jow and Steve P survey the field at the end of the game.  Steve T's infantry finally reached the chateau, but the Germans had a substantial force ready to pounce.  We decided to call it a well-fought draw, with lots of wild twists of fortune to make it a fun game night. One highlight was the lucky shell from a French 75 that glanced off the Panzer III that had taken out my ATG earlier.  While the damage was superficial, the tank commander was apparently so rattled that the tank remained immobile for the next four turns.  From what I have seen on other boards, the early was does not get a lot of love from Bolt Action players. I hope scenarios like this show that 1940 can be as wild and fun as 1944. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Deus vult: a work in progress

This year, I am teaching an elective in the Crusades this year, so I thought that would be the occasion to paint up a smallish force of Crusaders and Saracens.  I always found the First Crusade more interesting than the later ones, so that is roughly the period I chose. My Muslim force has a lot of Turkish light cavalry, but if you pressed me, I would say that it is Syrian or Egyptian. I went with very small units (6-12 figures per unit), and I figure I will use Hail Caesar or a set of even simpler house rules as a guide to push them around the table. Right now, the two armies are each about 60% done, and I am racing to get the whole lot done by late September. The figures are a mix of Old Glory, Crusader, and Gripping Beast.

The Saracen (ooh, the medieval historian in me bristles at that term!) force.  Archers to the right, cavalry to the left. 

I mis-glued one of the Muslim generals, so that he looks like he is stage-diving off of his horse. Rather than re-glue him, I decided I liked the look. Makes him look like a badass. 

Can't have an army of crusaders without a bunch of angry armed pilgrims.  You can see Peter the Hermit off to the left. 

The massed proto-chivalry of Europe.

Frankish and Norman spearmen, the anvil of the Crusader army.

The hapless European crossbowmen.

Arabic heavy cavalry.  Colorful and hard-hitting.

Lots of Saracen archers.

The Turkoman light cavalry. Should be a bee in the Crusaders' bonnet.

The lone unit of Arab spearmen I've painted so far.  They will be joined by their compatriots soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Of COURSE I'm going to find the minis...

FOUND: in an antiques shop on the north shore of Oahu, near Turtle bay.  Not my thing, but they looked pretty cool.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ambler Gamers: All Quiet on the Martian Front

Several members of the Ambler Gamers invested in the All Quiet on the Martian Front kickstarter, and with all the cool new models to be had, it was a natural fir for our group. I missed the inaugural AQMF session, but tonight's game saw more models, more heat rays, more carnage.  For those unfamiliar, the game picks up where the HG Wells book leaves off. Ten years after the first Martian invasion, the little green men and their tripods are back. This time, they brought a cure for the common cold.  Humanity has not been sitting still, though. They are armed with steam-powered "land ironclads" and are determined to make the Martians pay for every inch of earth land they conquer.

That's Scott Washburn surveying the battlefield. His Paper Terrain company has the license to create buildings for AQMF. All of the buildings you see here were designed and built by Scott. 

A closer look at an armored column rumbling through at Grovers Mills.

Scott actually rigged his tripods with tiny battery-powered LED lights for a really cool heat ray effect. You can read about how he did it here.


A reserve platoon of Rough Riders revving their engines, eager to get in the fight.

Civilians!  I'm sure they will stay out of harm's way...

Behold the hypnotic eyes... (Well, technically speaking, Martians don't have hypnosis rays. yet.) 

The first game ended rather abruptly. My tripods failed to flush out the human infantry.  Then, a vicious counter-attack  by tanks popping up over the ridge scored some lucky hits on the tripod in the center of my line. Naturally, it blew up.  Then, the shock caused damage to the tripod next to it, which in turn also blew up.  A third tripod was heavily damaged by this second blast and had its steering malfunction.  We decided to start over...

That's our gracious host Joe Alexander on the left. Steve Turn is on the right. He painted most of the models we played with tonight.

In the rematch, my Black Dust-throwing tripod bought the farm early   a second time. This time, the damage was limited. My goal was to clear a fortified ridge and dispense with the armored reserve behind it, so that I could incinerate the village at my leisure.  My normally swift walkers were hampered by the rough terrain. This was going to be decided by firepower, rather than maneuver. 

Pesky army tanks, taking advantage of the crest of the hill.  The infantry in the  fortifications are starting to take casualities. 

Finally!  My tripods reach the crest of the hill. At about this point, my terrible dice rolling started to balance out in my favor.  Just ignore the Rough Riders who have circled around me.

Two tripods tried to provide flank support by going around the hill. They were met by a solid wall of Land Ironclads.  While my two tripods survived, one lost control of its steering and the other lost both steering and fire control.  Basically, it was a random roll as to who got to control the moving and steering  of each. While frustrating, it was a really fun rule!

Suck it, humanity! We're coming for the town!

As lopsided as the first game was, the second saw a decisive victory for the Martians.   Joe looks out over the smoking remains of the US armored units.

A Tripod contemplates the fickle dice which give victory on one hand, and snatch it away with the other.  I will personally strangle the next person who says "Hay, roll anything but a one." Hey, are you trying to rout my entire army?