Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Thursday, June 21, 2018

An ending and a beginning.

In a piece of masterful timing, as one VASSAL game finishes, another starts.

The game ended saw me manage to lose Yorktown, Enterprise, Hornet, Vincennes, Pensacola and Atlanta while trying to defend Midway Island against a massive concentration of Japanese vessels (and AA factors) cunningly marshalled by boardgame mate Pat in Avalon Hill's Midway. Despite these devastating losses the Japanese troop carriers were destroyed, about ten cruisers were sunk, and Midway held onto to give the US a narrow points victory.

Chikuma, Kaga, Atago and Hosho under attack by American planes from Hornet and Midway.

The end of the Hornet. Already damaged, she and her support vessels could not hold off the Japanese attack.

It was a tense and exciting game and although we (the USN, that is) launched about four air strikes over the duration, we could sink only the weakest Japanese carrier due to the massive AA factors in  Pat's carefully aligned defensive walls and the way that both players deployed fighter aircraft.

There were interesting tactics on both sides. Pat held back to assemble his forces into an almost unassailable mass but did not get near to Midway until the penultimate day of play, which meant he did not have quite enough time to reduce Midway's defenses and invade.

I also held back (mainly because I'd surprised Pat with a very fast and very early advance in our first game and did not want to reprise those same tactics), focusing on staying hidden and out of range of his main force and picking off isolated Japanese cruisers sent forward on reconnaissance. This came back to haunt me though: I wasted a number of precious torpedo bombers in attacks against low-value targets when using overwhelming numbers of dive bombers instead would have seen no losses at all. When it came time for the attack on the main force those torpedo bombers were badly missed. I did not have the flexibility in attack angles I needed to defeat the arrangement of AA defences protecting his main carriers. As a consequence, I felt able to only strike at the periphery of his force, hitting mainly cruisers and light cruisers.

Pat had no such issues, and after sinking Enterprise and Yorktown in two superbly executed attacks using excellent angles and overwhelming numbers, we lost the plane carrying capacity to seriously threaten his carriers and had to fight accordingly.

A very fun game!

As for the beginning, the game is GMT's Great Battles of Alexander, and the scenario is Granicus. As a newcomer to the system (even though I've had the game since about 1995), distance boardgame mate Andrea kindly offered me the job of King of Macedon. It's going to be a challenging fight.

Andrea has already begun pulling some troops back from the river and marching the hoplites forward.

I'm so used to playing grand-tactical ancient battles on square grids that it's taking me a while to get used to the peculiarities of a hex grid (zig-zag movement paths, etc) again. No doubt I'll get over it quickly!



Saturday, June 16, 2018

Hoplite Battles

Here is a list of the troop numbers needed to refight the hoplite battle scenarios in Phil Sabin's Lost Battles rules.

Key: V denotes veteran quality, A Average, L Levy. (IL) is an inspired leader, (AL) is an average leader, (UL) is an uninspired leader.

Delium 424BC (Thebans / Athenians)
Hoplites
Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Heavy Cavalry
14A (AL)

1A, 
1L
4A
14A (UL)


3A


1st Mantinea 418BC (Argives / Spartans)
Hoplites
Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Heavy Cavalry
3V, 12A


1A
8V (UL), 
8A
1A

1L

Nemea 394BC (Allies / Spartans)
Hoplites
Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Heavy Cavalry
16A

1A
2A
6V (UL), 
0A

1A
1A

2nd Coronea 394BC (Allies / Spartans)
Hoplites
Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Heavy Cavalry
14A

1A
2A
4V (AL), 
10A
1A
1A
2A

Leuctra 371BC (Spartans / Thebans)
Hoplites
Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Heavy Cavalry
7V (UL), 
1A, 
7L

1A
2L
1V, 
10A (IL)

1A
3A

2nd Mantinea 362BC (Allies / Thebans)
Hoplites
Heavy Infantry
Light Infantry
Heavy Cavalry
2V, 
13A

1A
3A
1V (IL), 
8A, 
5L

3A
4A

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sekigahara (movie) review

Last week I sat down between rugby tests and domestic interludes to watch Harada Masato's movie Sekigahara. Based on an epic novel by Shiba Ryotaro, it would be similarly epic itself, clocking in at two and half hours of running time. I hadn't read the novel, and had only the broadest idea of the history behind the battle, so much of it was going to be new to me, but I was very keen to see it.

Image from the imdb.com site


The movie opens with a shot of Ishida Mitsunari and a couple of his offsiders on the field at Sekigahara prior to the battle. Ishida Mitsunari is played by pop idol Okada Junichi. This put my wife off straight away. I guess it's a bit like casting Justin Bieber as, say, Alfred the Great: you couldn't get past the fact that it's Justin Bieber, and if you don't like Justin Bieber then, well, tough luck. It didn't bother me though because I don't know J-pop idols from bars of soap, but it did mean that from then on I was watching by myself!

The back story is quite convoluted. Dozens of characters are introduced in rapid succession, often by way of flashbacks, which quickly become overwhelming. After about an hour we find that there are a dozen or so key figures, and once we've sorted out who they are things settle down and the plot lines become easier to follow, even if aspects of the characters' motivations will probably require repeat viewings to properly reveal themselves.

There are a lot of scenes included to illustrate personality. Again, these will enrich the movie as you watch it again, but like a man tipped into a fast flowing river, I was too busy grabbing for the biggest logs to take proper notice of all the smaller bits and pieces rushing by. In real time you could feel the intent but scenes happened too swiftly for me to follow and properly order all the things that the director was presenting. I would suggest this is a deliberate effect: the pace induces in the viewer a state of slightly panicked confusion, analogous to that of Ishida's, around whom events unfold faster than he can understand, and then unravel further just when he believes he has found means to assert some control.

The battle scenes are closely shot, and the people on screen probably never number more than about 150 at any one time. It's not quite history channel level (ten reenactors representing the Tenth Legion for example), but the scale of the battle is implied rather than shown. It is the personal moments that count, and the larger action of the battle is shown through its effect on key characters.

Essentially a tragedy focused on the person of Ishida Mitsunari, I enjoyed Sekigahara first time and it has grown on me the more I think about it.

The acting felt well done, it was beautifully shot, and some scenes have stayed in the mind as particularly memorable. There was a lot to take in and a lot to enjoy, and the Tokugawa Ieyasu character was a very interesting portrayal.

I will give myself another week to think about it then watch it again.

Overall it was an impressive bit of film-making and I would thoroughly recommend it. Just be ready to be overwhelmed, and to need to watch it again!

"We love to share"

I was just reading through my facebook feed this morning and saw this comment from Chris S, a member of one of the wargaming groups there:

I think the best thing about being new to wargaming is that there are so many of us around that did not have anybody to teach us so we had to learn on our own and we love to share.

It struck me as being an excellent observation, and certainly true to my experience. While a lot of wargaming is solitary (army research, painting, rules learning, solo play, etc) Looking back over my wargaming history, there are a few landmark 'shares' which really set the course I've followed.

1) The library and its copies of books by Don Featherstone, Charles Grant, Peter Young.

2) My school friends. We would swap toy soldiers, give each other things we didn't want any more and generally pool resources. Our play wasn't formal gaming at all, but it planted the seed.

3) My mate's brother. He had Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd edition, figures, and a table. These he shared. That hardback book was passed out so many times it's probably just tattered paper by now, if it still exists at all.

4) TMPers, BGGers and yahoo groupers. Back when I came into the hobby of my own volition The Miniatures Page, Boardgamegeek and various yahoo groups were brilliant places. So much advice given on painting, figures, games, rules and ways to approach wargaming. I owe a great debt to those people, some of whom I still have as email, blogging, or VASSAL buddies.

5) Luke Ueda-Sarson. Can't say enough about Luke. Luke was one of the first people I met face-to-face in wargaming, and we've been gaming buddies for over ten years now. He showed me on the first day we met how a base was flocked and how good a big army looked, and has shared so much knowledge over the years that I don't know where to start in recounting it. He has basically been the model (in miniatures gaming at least) for my approach.

6) Pat Hirtle and Andrea Tosti. What Luke has been for miniatures, Pat and Andrea have been for board wargaming. Can't offer much higher praise than that, really!

7) Bloggers. Such a lot of good information, inspirational material, and encouragement around.

I'm sure we've all benefited in some way from other hobbiests sharing their knowledge, advice, time and toys with us. The attitude of helping others and sharing what we know is one of the things about wargaming that I value most. Long may that continue!

Monday, June 11, 2018

A few more hoplites

More hoplites done. This batch is Xyston Spartans (you can see they have frosted a little under the matt varnish. Will need to hit them with the gloss to get rid of that), a few Old Glory command and 64 Black Hat later hoplites.



Black Hat are nice figures (and are cast with shield and spear), but are a bit smaller than the Xyston, as you can see here.


You can see from these photos that there's a bit of a drop off in quality paint-wise from the last batch. I think I'm a bit tired of painting hoplites! I might come back later and tidy up a few things.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Xyston Greeks and Hypaspists finished

My first batch of 15mm figures for the year has just been completed and flocked. As recent posts have suggested, they are Greeks, with a few extra hypaspists to bring the tiny force I had up to a full unit of 16.

These are all Xyston figures and are intended to provide a force of 'generic' Greeks who can be used as anyone. I have plenty of Thebans and Spartans (most still unpainted, sadly!), but you need a bit of variety and flexibility in your Greeks, and these will go some way to offering that versatility.



There's actually quite a nice story behind these figures. Years ago I'd taken advantage of Brookhurst Hobby's ongoing clearance sale on their early Xyston stock to pick up tonnes of unarmoured hoplites, and lots of Spartans and Thebans. I was dreadfully short of armoured hoplites though as they'd all gone by the time I heard about the sale. Anyway, the figures arrived and all got filed away for use when I got around to painting them.

A few years later by chance I found a chap who had a bunch of Xyston figures he was trying to get rid of. They were painted and based, but not quite to finished standard, and he was letting them go at a very good price. They were just what I was looking for, and this fellow being a great guy to deal with was happy to send them over to me here in Japan with no problem at all. The upshot was I ended up with about 50 mostly painted armoured hoplites, which, when I added in my unarmoured and a few other bits and pieces, were great incentive to get cracking on this contingent.

They are finally done and it's nice to feel that I've been able to do justice to another fellow's project as well as to my own.


Who could that handsome balding hero (albeit no longer in the first flush of youth) with a A on his shield be?


A teeming mass of humanity...
So a most satisfying bunch to have ready for action. This means I now have 13 units of Xyston hoplites of various stripes as well as 5 others from different manufacturers. Almost getting to gameable territory!





Midway refight

Over the last couple of weeks boardgame mate Pat and I have been using Skype and VASSAL to play the occasional session of Avalon Hill's game Midway (1964 version). It's been good fun. I'd not played Midway before, but the game is quite simple (by board wargaming standards), and there is a nice tension between planning, decision-making and luck. There were a couple of times when I really had that 'this is what wargaming is all about!' euphoria.

Over the course of the game, which lasted from June 3rd to June 6th, there was a combined total of six air attacks. In the first, launched at 0500 on June 4th, the US caught the IJN unprepared, sent the carriers Soryu and Zuiho to the bottom and damaged the Kaga, but took fearfully heavy losses in aircraft, particularly torpedo bombers.

First US strike on the IJN main fleet.

With the location of the US task forces now pinpointed, the Japanese retaliated with a strike which sunk the Enterprise but in which Hornet, crucially, escaped any damage. Both sides launched simultaneous attacks on the afternoon of June 4th, and, again, it was the US Navy that had the better of the exchange. The battleship Haruna and carriers Hiryu and the partly damaged Kaga were destroyed, and while the IJN was able to damage both Hornet and Yorktown, neither was sunk (how different this result could have been had a hit or two registered against Hornet in the first strike!).

Both sides lost each other overnight and it was not until June 6th that further strikes were able to be launched. With both fleets now desperately low on aircraft, the US aborted its final attack in the face of formidable anti-aircraft factors, and the IJN, despite the best efforts of its gallant pilots, was unable to penetrate the anti-aircraft screen to get at the Hornet and Yorktown.

At game end Midway was safe: the IJN had lost four carriers and the vast majority of its experienced pilots; the US its entire torpedo bomber force, half of its dive bombers, and the carrier Enterprise. It was a very bloody affair indeed.

Thanks to Pat for a close-fought and entertaining game!

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