The long silence!

It has been more than a few months since I last posted on this blog and many a moon has passed since I last had a wargame. The last game I played was over a year ago. It proved not to be an enjoyable experience, so I have not bothered with playing wargames at all since. My more recent lack of posts is largely due to a sense of wargaming ennui and some real life unexpected events.

I haven’t been doing much painting either. Although I have made a little effort and daubed a bit of paint on some Tasmanian 40mm toy soldiers. Currently awaiting completion is the company of Launceston Rifles, that I started some time ago, and some Tasmanian Permanent Artillery. There is also a painted but un-based and unvarnished Viking that has been waiting to be finished for a very long time. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it as I find that I now prefer and enjoy a simple toy soldier figure style.

I have continued to develop a few wargaming related projects since my last post and have acquired a number of books as gifts and purchases. My collection of moulds for metal casting has been growing apace with acquisitions made from Prince August during their sales. I really like the idea of moulds as they are full of potential and can just sit in a box until you need a few figures.

PA Colour Party

The Prince August 54mm Traditional Toy Soldiers on Parade Colour Party was a particularly welcome addition. I have also bought some of Prince August’s 25mm fantasy moulds that I carefully selected for their usefulness in creating Dark Age armies. The cannon and crew moulds from the Prince August Wild Geese series have also been picked up to further round out my stockpile of moulds for the French and Indian War. I should probably explain that as I don’t think I have mentioned the project before.

I have long desired to do some aspect of the SYW and originally I had intended to do it in 30mm, using a variety of figures including zinnfiguren and old Spencer Smiths. However the cost of going down that path proved too prohibitive so I started to look around for an alternative. I then remembered Prince August had an assortment of moulds suitable for producing toy soldiers for the SYW in 40mm, a size of figure that I really quite like.

So I narrowed down the focus to the FIW, making the project more achievable. As a result, I have been buying and stockpiling moulds from PA’s Wild Geese, French and Karoliner series, along with moulds from the old Holger Eriksson Cowboys and Indians range. I chose these rather than the newer SYW range because they are more complete and being a bit more generic I can use them for both sides. However, I do want to collect the more recently released SYW moulds down the track.

While my focus has been on stockpiling moulds, I have had other projects on the go. Some of my hobby time has been spent making alien style plants for future sci-fi battles. My major project, however, has involved the continuing effort to gather a 54mm medieval battle host using Britain’s Herald and Deetail toy soldiers.

Britains Deetail Knights

I am a natural collector of things but these will, I hope, occasionally see some table top action rather than just be dust accumulators. I will blog about those in more detail another time. I hope to resume casting in the autumn and I am rather looking forward to start casting some figures for the FIW. So, as you can see, I am still doing hobby related stuff despite my long silence.



Reading Roundup

Summer is now long past but I haven’t as yet resumed painting toy soldiers and I don’t have much inclination to do so at the moment. However, I have acquired some new books over the past few months. The first of these was “Great Military Disasters from Bannockburn to Stalingrad” by Julian Spilsbury. It proved to be an accessible read that gives some interesting perspectives on how great military disasters arise. While the causes prove to be many, good old human incompetence tops the list. Of course the book equally demonstrates how great victories were achieved by the opposing forces, and it certainly proves what a perilous undertaking it is committing your forces to battle.

Great Military Disasters

Next on my list of new books is “Wargaming an Introduction” by Neil Thomas. As the name suggests it provides an introduction to wargaming the major periods from Ancients to WW2. It also provides some excellent rules for gaming each of those. I read this book some nine years ago when I borrowed it from the local library. I enjoyed reading the book then and appreciated the elegance of the rules. The book still stands up as an enjoyable read and rules are still well-designed even all these years later.

I was prompted to buy “Wargaming an Introduction” after reading some online reviews of the WW2 rules it contained. I had been looking for a set of WW2 rules that weren’t too tortuous to play. I have played the WW2 rules contained in “One Hour Wargames” by Neil Thomas and enjoyed them immensely but I wanted to try something that could handle larger and more varied forces. I haven’t as yet used the “Wargaming an Introduction” WW2 rules but I look forward to doing so.

Wargaming an Introduction

“The Battles of Tolkien” by David Day I picked up in a local bookshop. It is a beautiful book to behold with its many gorgeous illustrations and faux tooled leather cover. The book came plastered with the warning “This work is unofficial and is not authorized by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers”. However, it proved an interesting read that more addressed what inspired Tolkien’s depictions of warfare in Middle Earth than an analysis of the weapons and structure of the forces involved. More care should have been taken in the preparation and production of the text in “The Battles of Tolkien” as there are some issues with its clarity and typography. The battle maps could also have been clearer. Despite that, the book is a handy reference and would bejewel any bookshelf.

Battles of Tolkien

My most recent acquisition is “The Soldier” by Chris McNab and was procured from ABE Books for a tiny sum. I bought this book after reading a very comprehensive review of it on the Man of Tin blog. The edition I have was only published last year and is very up to date. The book endeavours to describe the personal experiences of soldiers from the Seven Years War to present conflicts. It is a really well put together book filled with useful information and excellent illustrations and detailed colour plates of uniformed soldiers. It is best described as an “Eyewitness Guide” style book for adults.

The Soldier

Dark Age Lion Rampant AAR

A recently discovered and translated lost excerpt from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles”…

“In the year 843 the Danes came into the land of Wessex and ravaged all about them. They were led by Jarl Ivar “The Legless”, a great warrior besotted with mead and gold. The heathen men came seeking the golden hoard lost to their number last Summer. Eorl Wulfstan “the Red” went out with all the men of his household and lands seeking to bring the Danes to battle and seize the treasure for himself. Wulfstan’s host met in battle with the heathen men outside the ruined old city, even as the Danes found and took the hoard for themselves.

As the two hosts met, Wulfstan challenged Ivar to single combat and then Ivar slew Wulfstan with three mighty blows. The Saxons did not falter at the loss of their lord but set upon Ivar and his huscarls. Spears were shattered, shields broken and helmets cleft as the loyal thegns battled the Danes. Three times they attacked the Danes and three times they were thrown back. Then another force of Danes came upon Wulfstan’s loyal hearth men and slew them. The Danes, having the power of the field, then drew off taking with them the gold. The Saxons mourned the loss of their lord as the ravens feasted upon the fallen.”

I played my first game of “Lion Rampant” New Year’s Day when John came over with his large army of beautifully painted Saxons. My own force was made up of un-refurbished second hand Vikings. The game was based on a treasure hunt scenario, with both sides attempting to discover the hidden treasure and then exit off their table edge with it. The armies were worth twenty four points each. The Saxon army comprised three units of upper class spears and two units of foot companions, while the Viking army consisted of four units of foot companions.

The field of battle

The battlefield viewed from the Viking side.

The first few turns saw both armies advance towards the terrain features designated as potential hiding places for the lost treasure. The Saxons reached the wood at the left of battlefield but their search (a die roll) failed to discover the treasure. The Vikings searched the hill opposite the woods but also failed to find anything. Wulfstan’s unit then reached the hill near the centre of battlefield but the treasure wasn’t there either. Ivar’s unit searched the orchard but found no treasure and then failed their activation for turn four leaving the Vikings unable to move. This gave the Saxons time to move into striking distance of them.

Vikings reach the orchard

Both sides search for the treasure hoard.

In turn five the Vikings reached the triumphal arch and made a successful die roll and discovered the hidden treasure hoard. With the Saxons now in striking distance, Wulfstan issued a challenge to Ivar to meet in single combat. Ivar killed Wulfstan in single combat forcing the Saxons to take a courage (morale) test. Only one unit of Saxon spears failed and were forced to retreat a short distance before rallying the following turn.

Wulfstan slain and the Saxons repulsed

The treasure is found and Wulfstan is slain.

The Vikings failed their activation in turn six and Ivar’s personal guard were immediately attacked by the nearest unit of Saxon spears. These were driven off with both sides taking a single casualty each. Turn seven saw Wulfstan’s own guard attack Ivar’s unit but they were were also driven back after taking a casualty. The Saxon spears then attacked again and were repulsed again, taking yet another casualty. Ivar’s own companions also took another casualty.

Ivar and his personal guard repulse the Saxons.jpg

Ivar and his companions repulse the Saxons.

In turn eight a Viking flanking force of foot companions, having gone around the orchard, launched an attack on Wulfstan’s body guards and slew one of them. Ivar and the remaining companions were able to begin their withdrawal, taking the treasure with them. A third Viking unit quickly occupied Ivar’s previous position to act as covering force. In turn nine the Saxon spears were now threatened by the fresh Viking unit and formed a shield wall in response. Wulfstan’s companions were then broken by a renewed attack from the Viking flanking force.

The Saxons form a shieldwall

The Saxon spears form a shieldwall as the last man of Wulfstan’s body guard flees.

Over the remaining few turns Ivar and his companions were able to leave the field of battle with the treasure hoard. The Viking force enjoyed the spoils of victory while the Saxons could only mourn their dead.

Ivar escapes with the treasure

Ivar escapes with the treasure.

Lion Rampant rules provide an entertaining game that moves fairly fast and comes to a definite conclusion. They allowed two armies of differing sizes and compositions to do battle on an even footing. Lion Rampant successfully imparts a sense of warfare in the early medieval period in an enjoyable way and I look forward to playing them again.

Ancient and Medieval Wargaming AAR

A few weeks ago a mighty battle was fought between the army of the failing Roman Empire and Saxon raiders bent on plunder and conquest. The armies were paper soldiers printed out from the Junior General website and the rules used were from the book “Ancient and Medieval Wargaming” by Neil Thomas. I acquired the book in 2008 and produced the paper armies to use with it at about the same time. I then played an enjoyable game using the rules and the paper flats back in the same year. Sadly they did not see any further use until recently. Indeed they would still be unused if it were not for a WWII miniatures game that did not eventuate. My opponent for the day was an all-round splendid fellow called Craig.

The Roman army consisted of a unit of horse archers, a unit of heavy cavalry, and two units of auxiliaries, one unit of militia and one unit of legionaries, along with a unit of regular infantry archers. The Saxon host was made up of one unit of mounted nobles (a little anachronistic but necessary to make up the Saxon army strength), one unit of noble infantry, four units of spears and one of bow armed light infantry.

The armies deployed.

The Roman and Saxon armies deployed.

The battle opened with both sides conducting a general advance. The Roman heavy cavalry, with support from the horse archers, raced ahead from their position on the Roman left to try and catch the small force forming the Saxon right before it reached the relative safety of a minor hill to the front of their starting position. The mounted Saxon nobles moved off from their position on the Saxon left and rode hard to intercept the Roman cavalry.

The Roman and Saxon cavalry charge towards each other.

The Roman and Saxon cavalry charge towards each other.

The Saxon right reached the hill and the light infantry archers let loose on the Roman cavalry which then veered off to engage the oncoming Saxon nobles. The Roman horse archers turned about and rode back around to the rear of the advancing auxiliaries to provide support. As the two lines moved gradually to contact, the cavalry clashed in the centre.

The Roman and Saxon cavalry melee while the opposing armies advance.

The Roman and Saxon cavalry melee while the opposing armies advance.

At this point we had a break and partook in a splendid lunch of cheese and nachos with salsa and sour cream. This was followed by whiskey wings and washed down with cider. Having been suitably fortified we returned to the fray.

Both of the opposing cavalry units took heavy casualties in the melee and from supporting bow fire. The Saxon nobles broke first and were removed from the field. However the victorious but much depleted Roman cavalry were in turn broken by the arrows loosed by the Saxon bowmen upon the hill.

The Saxon war bands moved quickly to join up with the right of their line and then, with the threat of cavalry gone, they continued their advance. The entire Roman line kept up their own advance. The auxiliaries, supported by the horse archers, headed for the middle of the Saxon line where a second war band of Saxon nobles stood. The Roman legionaries on the far right of the Roman line endeavoured to out flank the left of the Saxon line, while the regular archers tried to whittle down the Saxons with continuous archery.

The Romans attack, with the auxiliaries leading the way.

The Romans attack, with the auxiliaries leading the way.

The Saxons formed a shield wall just before the Roman auxiliaries hit them. The auxiliaries with their furious onslaught did some damage initially but could not break through the shield wall. The flanking manoeuvre of the Roman legionaries was halted by a Saxon war band that had turned to meet them, resulting in a fierce melee as each tried to eliminate the other. The Roman militia bravely went forward to support the auxiliaries in their attack.

The Saxon shield wall holds firm against the Roman onslaught.

The Saxon shield wall holds firm against the Roman onslaught.

The battle hung in the balance for some time as neither side could gain any real advantage. Then the legionaries engaged against the war band protecting the Saxon left flank broke and were eliminated. The auxiliaries unable to make any further impression on the Saxon shield wall were slowly ground down and eliminated after the unengaged right of the shield wall wheeled into them. The victorious Saxon right then launched themselves on the flank of the Roman horse archers that had been supporting the auxiliaries. The horse archers having ventured too close to the Saxon battle line were quickly slaughtered and eliminated, and with their loss the last Roman units broke and fled the field.

The last stand of the Roman army and the final moment of the battle.

The last stand of the Roman army and the final moment of the battle.

The “Ancient and Medieval Wargaming” rules proved easy to grasp and provided a reasonably fast and historical game. The paper flats definitely have an aesthetic appeal of their own (in addition to a pecuniary one). It all made for a very enjoyable game with congenial company, and that is of course the ultimate goal of battle games for pleasure.

Viking Books

I am currently reading a couple of new books on those marauding seafarers the Vikings. The first I bought from a second hand bookseller online. This book is a near mint hard back edition of “The Vikings Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder” by Mark Harrison, Keith Durham, Ian Heath and René Chartrand (Osprey, 2006). It is lavishly illustrated, including many plates by Angus McBride, and combines material from the previously published Osprey books “The Vikings” (Elite 3), “Viking Hersir 793-1066 A.D.” (Warrior 3), and “Viking Longship” (New Vanguard 47). Consequently the book provides a very good outline of Viking history, weapons and warfare. However, the section on the dreaded longships is interesting but a bit overly technical for non-seafaring types such as me. Overall it is a fascinating read and a very useful edition to have on the bookshelf.

The Vikings Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder

The Vikings Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder

The second book was a somewhat serendipitous find on the sale table of a local newsagent. “Vikings a History of the Norse People” by Martin J. Dougherty (Amber, 2013) is another good but basic overview of Viking culture, history and warfare. This book features a surprising amount on weapons and fighting techniques and is also extravagantly illustrated (although some of the plates are a little archaic and anachronistic). Both books are a pleasure to read and are packed full of useful information on the Viking World.

Vikings a History of the Norse People

Vikings a History of the Norse People