Heth roars down the pike and deploys to assault Buford and his cavalry. I Corps arrives on Buford's right to offer support.
Prufrock's Wargaming Blog
Friday, December 11, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
I had some nice news from Japan recently. One of the little traditions that developed over my time there was to put on an annual game (usually around Christmas time) and invite along members of the local foreign community who might be interested in trying something different. We had a number of successful days and it was a good way for people to get to know others who weren't necessarily in their usual circle of acquaintances.
Anyway, I heard recently that a few of the lads had decided to start getting together to play Dungeons and Dragons. I am devoid of evangelical zeal when it comes to matters gaming (and am opposed to the idea that we should be out there flapping our arms in an attempt to draw others to the light) but it was nice to hear that they felt starting a game group was a worthwhile thing to do.
In other small matters, on one of the wargaming facebook pages there was a how-to video posted by a fellow who makes 2mm ancient armies from scratch. Well done that man!
Finally, leaving small matters behind, huge congratulations to the Argentine rugby team for yesterday defeating the All Blacks for the first time. As much as it pained me to watch it unfold, it was a victory thoroughly deserved!
Monday, November 9, 2020
In the grand tradition of wargamers who haven't done very much recent wargaming, I went and placed an order with a favourite online wargames shop on the weekend.
The games I'd had my eye on for a while, but as they were both in stock and the prufrockian coffers had been slightly swelled due to a bit of overtime, it seemed as if the wargaming stars had aligned.
Dien Bien Phu is by Legion Wargames, a newish company I've heard good things about but not yet played a game from. A tense siege - modern but not too modern - easily soloable, and an epic situation fixed in the mind by boyhood reading of those collectible magazine sets from the '80s on famous last stands or some such thing. I missed out on the first edition so it was happy chance that NWS had a second edition left in stock just when I was there browsing.
Battle Hymn Volume 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge is by the legendary Eric Lee Smith, building upon his Across Five Aprils system from many years ago, published by Compass Games, and enjoyed by our own Norm Smith whose review of this system I remember reading but cannot find.
For some unknown reason Gettysburg is a particularly important battle for me. It causes a weird emptiness in the stomach. I've played it out with Summer Storm, Thunder at the Crossroads, and Battle for Gettysburg: the First Day. They all have an honoured place on my shelf (especially the last - as it was a desk top published game with actual paper maps I put it in a Very Safe Place and have not been able to find it since!), but I'm still looking for that game you can set up and play solo (or with a friend) over a couple of evenings with components attractive enough, end point visible enough and game system engaging enough to see it through to the end.
Whether the games live up to my anticipation remains to be seen. Going by previous experience the answer is likely to be 'no' - I'll likely open them up, have a look, put them on the shelf with satisfaction and then never get round to playing them - but we'll do our best to change the pattern!
Anyway, it's a pleasure to deal with NWS again, and I'm looking forward to trying out the new games when they arrive.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
It seems - looking around the blogosphere - that I am not alone in currently going through something of a down phase in the wargaming cycle.
The aspects of wargaming I get the most enjoyment out of are (in no particular order) finishing up a painting programme, getting my teeth into a set of rules, seeing a game set up and ready to go, and writing about our little hobby.
At the moment however, none of those hold much appeal. I do set up the odd game, but blogging about it feels more like a chore than a joy right now.
Still, I am not closing up shop, and do look forward to adding to the post tally given time and rejuvenated interest.
Until then, take care all!
Saturday, August 8, 2020
When Perseus succeeded Philip V as king of Macedon in 179 BC, Macedon was already partially incorporated into the Roman sphere as a subordinate ally kingdom, and had been since Philip's defeat at Cynoscephalae in 197 BC. Macedon had been largely left to run its own affairs, but over time, resentment at having to toe the Roman line and Roman suspicions about Macedonian policy combined to raise tensions. Convinced at last that Perseus was a boil needing lancing, Rome acted, and in 171 an army was raised and sent to confront the king.
Fast forwarding to three years later, Rome still had little to show for its efforts. Against a background of mounting frustration with the conduct of the war, the republic turned to Aemilius Paullus, a 60-year-old veteran who had served successfully in Spain and Liguria and been consul before in 182, to finish the affair.
In June of the year 168, Paullus and his army came upon Perseus deployed in a strong position behind a stream near the town of Pydna. Unwilling to attack prematurely, Paullus prepared to wait Perseus out. His troops however appeared to have other ideas, and a local clash between rival water-gathering parties became general.
We pick up the action in turn one. With both armies surprised by the onset of battle, only four units can be brought on table per turn. Each side starts the contest with a unit of cavalry and three units of light infantry deployed.
For Paullus, Scipio Nasica commands the cavalry, thwarting the disruptive efforts of the Macedonian horse with exemplary personal leadership.
His initial attacks unsuccessful, Perseus brings on four more units - the maximum allowed - these being his guard phalangites, a unit of Gauls, and a unit of Thracians.
Paullus is likewise unsuccessful in his attack, but he orders four units of veteran legionaries forward to support the light infantry.
The next round of attacks are more effective, forcing both sides to rush in additional troops. Perseus, suffering from difficulties with his signalling, can only bring on three units of phalangites; Paullus brings on four more units of legionaries, two of which are veteran.
|Perseus reinforces his left; Paullus matches this while also throwing troops into the centre.|
|The legionaries come up.|
The commanders are faced with a stark choice: do they prosecute their attacks to the full extent of their ability, or do they prioritise bringing up reinforcements? Both choose the latter.
|More troops are thrown into the fray|
|The clash becomes general.|
With both sides fully deployed, the battle takes shape. Both sides fight in earnest on the Roman right / Macedonian left and in the centre. On the other wing the fighting is less intense: the cavalry skirmishing prevents the heavy infantry from becoming involved.
|The fighting rages on.|
By turn seven, the heavy infantry of both sides are now wholly committed. The phalanx proves irresistable in the centre, but on both wings the strength of the Roman challenge is obvious.
|View from the Roman right around turn 8.|
With the sun setting it is clear that time is running out. Both sides still stand their ground.
|The armies as darkness falls.|
The battle ends with the issue undecided. Given the disparity in the forces, Perseus has done remarkably well to hold the Romans off. The day is his.
The battle proved to be very interesting, and Lost Battles yet again showed itself to be a ruleset ideally suited to the solitaire gamer who wants to revisit historical clashes.
Monday, July 20, 2020
Using just a dozen or so cards per army, coloured sticks, and six dice per side, the game allows you to recreate dozens of historical battles on your table, each playing out in somewhere between ten and thirty minutes of real time.
The rules are very succinct - just four pages - but they are flexible enough for all kinds of situations and eras to be gamed.
Take Pharsalus, for instance. Pompey begins the battle with four cards on the table representing the commands in his army, being, from left to right, Labienus, Pompey, Sulla and the Cilicians. He rolls his six dice, and can allocate these dice to his commands according to the rolls, the card limitations, and his design. Allocated dice allow him to activate his commands to attack or react to enemy attacks.
His command has two wings - Labienus and everyone else - and he can give dice to one card per wing per turn.
The oval number tell us how many blocks (hits) a division has. Labienus can be activated by doubles, Pompey by fives or sixes - but only one or the other, and only one die per turn (brackets limit number of dice placed per turn to one), Metellus Scipio by threes or fours, and the Cilicians by ones or twos. The orange headed boxes indicate which enemy the division can attack, and the damage it does. The pink headed boxes indicate reactions, which are performed when the enemy attacks.
After the dice are rolled the best choices are to load Labienus and the Cilicians so that Pompey has two good options to activate next turn.
It is now Caesar's turn to roll and allocate dice (note that the turn is just two parts: act [or react], roll and allocate dice; then the other side does the same), with his various possible actions all laid out on the cards as Pompey's were.
An an additional subtlety, Caesar has his Fourth Line in reserve, meaning they can only be activated once Caesar's horse have retired. A close look at the cards shows that the horse cannot attack, with the best they can do being to react to an attack on themselves by forming a screen (screens have the effect of negating an attack and preventing hits on either side).
In this case, Caesar elects to use the horse to screen any potential attack by Labienus and to add one die to Anthony so that he can hopefully deter an attack by the Cilicians.
The game now begins properly, with Pompey activating the Cilicians to attack, doing three hits, taking one themselves, and then another when Antony reacts with his command. Dice are rolled again and allocated, and because Caesar had to respond to Pompey's attack, Pompey is able to retain the initiative and choose where he will activate next.
And that is pretty much way things run.
The game is won when a) one side has no morale cubes left,* or b) the active side has no target remaining that they could, given the right dice, legitimately attack.
* when a division loses its last block that side must surrender a morale cube - or two if it is a 'star' division - but if both divisions - attacking and defending - lose their last block at the same time, no cube is surrendered
Game play is mandated by the rule that if a side can attack, it must [correction - I am wrong here; attacking is a may action] - though it can choose which attack to employ if there are more than one option - and if a side can react, it must [this part is correct!] - though again it can choose among multiple options.
When a side reacts, this counts as its own action, and play returns to the other side. Initiative therefore is very important. If you make a play which does not require a reaction, then the other side now takes the initiative and can choose where to attack, including planning where or how to force reactions themselves. This creates intense dynamic interplay over a number of turns as players try to set the conditions for a devastating attack or else attempt to wrest the initiative from the enemy so that they can dictate play for a period.
In our test game, Pompey's Cilicians and Antony's division cancelled each other out, losing their final blocks at the same time...
|Neither side loses a morale block because the removal of the cards was simultaneous.|
But Pompey was able to largely keep the initiative and defeat Domitius' division which, having a star on it, was worth two morale cubes, thereby giving Pompey the victory.
The game is short, but the interplay is dynamic and there is a nice range of options in how to approach each battle. The games I've been playing are all solo, but I can see how much fun it would be to settle down with a friend and play out a series of battles over an afternoon or evening.
Verdict: a really fun game. It all fits together so nicely you sort of feel like you could have come up with it yourself. But of course, you didn't - Tom Russell did, and he deserves a bit pat on the back for having done so. As an added bonus, it is available cheaply in a print-and-play version on Wargame Vault if things are a bit too tight to be paying for shipping, and with (at current count) four expansions available, there is a lot of play to be had.
Monday, July 6, 2020
Napoleon begins with a boom! - the Grand Battery roars its delight at battle commencing. Anti-climactically, the mud interferes, Orange is unaffected, and a relieved Wellington passes the baton to Blucher, who gets lost.
The Grand Battery fires again. This time Allied morale suffers. Blucher brings a division onto the field. Good man!
Once more the Grand Battery barks; again the mud interferes.
Blucher brings on another.
Napoleon changes plans. Reille is activated and Hougoumont threatened, but Wellington calls upon the Reserve, and Hougoumont holds.
Reille attacks again with casualties on both sides. Blucher brings on a third division.
Kellerman is activated to strike at Hill. Allied morale is affected, but at a cost. Hill, having formed square, orders his troops back into line.
Reille attacks again: more casualties on both sides. Blucher brings on a fourth division. Reille continues to attack, and the Reserve is called upon to reinforce Hill. Reille attacks again with more casualties to both sides. The British cannot sustain the fight, and Hill's command is broken.
Wellington turns to Blucher, who brings on another division and is now present in considerable force.
Reille threatens Hougoumont again, and for the last time the Reserve is used to preserve the position. Milhaud attacks, but Orange goes into square and staves off damage. Blucher launches, and the Guard must activate to prevent Plancenoit falling.
Blucher moves to bring on another division. The Guard attacks Orange with Napoleon's blessing, and does good work.
Blucher launches at Plancenoit again, and this time it succumbs.
The Guard attacks once more, and the Allied army, morale test failed, routs. Victory to the French!
The Grand Battery fires off again, and Blucher navigates his way to the battlefield. This interplay continues for some time. Eventually Kellerman moves against Hill, who goes into and comes out of square. Reille hits Hougoumont but is repulsed. Casualties mount.
Reille throws his all into the attack on Hougoumont. The Reserve activates to hold the French off. Blucher comes as quickly as he can; so quickly that Lobau counter-attacks him.
The Guard moves and Blucher comes on in force. Casualties mount; the French push, but, just as they are about to drive Wellington off his hill, their morale breaks. An unlikely victory for the Allies!
And so W1815 provided an entertaining couple of hours play. The French were very unlucky in the second game to fail a morale test just as they were about to break Wellington on casualties alone. They rolled a six for morale, and with two plus-ones in play, just tipped over their breakpoint. It must've been the spectre of the Prussians that did it!
Overall, the game is nicely balanced, and there are different strategies to explore. It is mostly the French who drive the action, but there are moments when the Allies can apply pressure and force Napoleon into desperate choices. Well suited to solitaire play, I think.
Don't tell the missus, but I enjoy this game so much I've ordered its scion - Hollandspiele's Table Battles and all its expansions - from the US. I wonder if I can smuggle it into the house unnoticed? The chances are not good!
Saturday, June 20, 2020
Before I got into miniatures gaming I was involved in the PBEM Diplomacy scene. It was huge fun, though a little too demanding of time and attention to continue for very long. Norm's game - well conceived and very efficiently run - was a lovely reminder of how enjoyable multi-player PBEM play can be.
If Norm ever runs something similar again, I would advise anyone with the remotest interest in it to jump at the chance to join in.
Sunday, May 24, 2020
We called him Ear Bevan because, man, he just heard about everything before anyone else, you know? Amendments, expansion tweaks, QRS adjustments, rule changes, scenario conditions, VASSAL protocols, you betta believe he would hear about it and use it before any other cat. He heard it and he brought it and that was that. Ear Bevan, m*****f******. Brian Malmouth
He gave you nothing. We all know how he used to put 'Greetings' into the text box instead of 'Hi', 'Hello', or whatever, but there was more to it than than. Subtler stuff. Not many people know this, but he would type 'GG' after a game (for 'good game' - editor) win lose or draw. It was like his – I don’t quite know how to put this – sign off. He was just an intimidating presence. Dayne Kerr
The thing was he thought he was the best, but I was pretty good too. The first semi in ‘08 I had his measure. I was up like four banners to one with just two needed and I thought I could rile him a little and have some fun. You know, play him a bit, get some payback. So this one game I called him 'Minimus'. Just typed it in and waited. Well, I was two banners up when I said it. I never got another banner all match. He just went to another level. That’s the kind of player he was. Now, looking back, I sort of wish I’d just called him 'Bevan', or 'Ear', or just typed ‘your turn’. Toppie Buller.
Know what he said to me after that game? 'Nxt time, call me Divi Filius Minimus :) GG.' Toppie Buller.
I didn’t have a hoarding problem; I had a storage issue. Gerald Maximus Bevan
Friday, May 15, 2020
Fortunately, there were three cracking coffee-table hardcovers with Prufrock written all over them:
1) Peter Connolly's Greece and Rome at War
2) Peter McIntyre's Peter McIntyre: War Artist
3) Barry Cunliffe's Rome and Her Empire
All three have some sort of sentimental value for me, and were swiftly snaffled. The first because it's a classic that I did not have in the collection, the second because I used to read it at my grandfather's house (and he'd fought in some of the places and actions depicted), and the third because I remember looking it over admiringly at the library as a youngster.
A good lunch-break's work, I think.
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Here then is a Comprehensive List of suggested other things a wargamer can do to while away the hours of isolation when between games, paint jobs, or books.
Learn an instrument. Were you bullied at school because your parents thought it would be splendid for you to play the concertina? Now is your chance to knock that trauma for six. You can even do it with help from the internet. As the Wiki How website says:
"While how easy the concertina is to learn depends on the type you use, you can be playing some folk tunes in no time!"
That's right - folk tunes in no time! What's stopping you? Not Buttley of the 4th anymore, that's for sure! This is the moment to demonstrate exactly how little effect his taunts still have on you several decades later.
Make a video. Continuing the musical theme, why not follow the heartwarming example of relatively minor celebrities medleying 'Imagine' while pretending to be in isolation? Combining with wargame buddies to make a similarly heartwarming cover of a similarly totemic composition, such as 'Number of the Beast' or 'Ace of Spades', would be a glorious opportunity to raise profiles while also seeming like fun and empathetic people.
What could be a better way to show that we're all in this together than hum-howling the opening riff of, say, 'Smoke on the Water' and then turning it over to a mate to hum-howl the next four bars, another the next, and so on? And all this before even getting to the vocals or the guitar and organ leads, which would obviously be the highlights of the song.
Get blind rotten drunk. If people say that this is unbecoming for a middle-aged-guy-who-is-indisputably-carrying-a-few pounds-too-many demographic, stuff them. It may not be a good look to get rolling drunk and dribble on yourself, but who's going to see you (provided you do your drinking and your video-making on separate days, of course)?
It could be great way to let down a remaining hair or two, and as a bonus it has the potential to lead to a need to stay in bed for a day or so afterwards - the odd bolt to the bathroom notwithstanding - thus bringing the end of isolation closer.
Leave commentary on online news articles. When you find a news article online written from a perspective that you disagree with, let the author know about it by leaving a comment. The author may well take heed of your thoughts and publish an updated form of the article which addresses your concerns, removes any hint of partisan bias, and renews faith in the unrelenting efficacy of logic.
Be witty on social media. It's not only on news sites that you can put your keen powers of observation to good use: social media also provides boundless opportunities to contribute good sense and good-natured banter.
Good situations to drop in on might include your teenage niece's conversations with her friends (she will appreciate your sense of humour, and her friends probably will too), your self-made school friend's house and land renovation picture diary (he will love your jokes about how far he's come), and your partner's friend's travel pictures (she will be glad to be reminded that she won't be able to do any more of that sort of thing for a while, and most especially if you can include a pun or two).
Make some new friends. Judging by advertisements on the internet, there is a surprisingly large number of lonely women from exotic countries in my area who would love to get to know people in the vicinity, and I daresay it is the same for other male bloggers. For our female wargamers, I gather there is an abundance of somewhat older gentlemen with a lot of money and very busy lives who would be eager to make their acquaintance with a view to cultivating long-term friendship.
Now that we have some time on our hands it might be a good chance to chat with these people, get to know them a bit, and invite them along to a family barbecue once all this is over.
Video call fellow wargamers. This could be just the moment to get to know other wargamers who - to this point - you know only from reading blogs. You can share awkward periods of silence matched only in awkwardness by periods of simultaneous talk; you can experience lagging internet connections in real time; participate in bouts of sneezing; explore mysteries of idiom, dialect, and tongue.
That you have skype, messenger, facetime (or whatever) doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it.
Publicly reveal that you are a wargamer. Perhaps this is the best opportunity you will ever have to put a positive spin on wargaming to people who would normally think it was weird. While various people in isolation are struggling to read 'Ulysses' or learning to appreciate jazz, you can smuggly extol the virtues of a hobby that has already accustomed you to long periods of time alone and exacerbated anti-social tendencies that some are only now coming to comprehend.
Just breathe. I know it's one of those cod psychology catch-phrases that at first, second and third look appears stupid and pointless, but when you think about it, breathing is quite important, and perhaps it is something we could consider continuing to do?
At any rate, I hope that this list will provide some helpful ways to fill fellow wargamers' quiet times over the next week or two, when you need a break from painting, gaming and reading about the same.
Thursday, March 12, 2020
The hoplite battles have quite a distinct feel. They are over very fast, and you have to pile in with all you've got as quickly as you can.
Monday, March 2, 2020
Method 1: magnetised bases in steel-lined drawers.
This was recommended by various people. I didn't have enough space to send as many drawers as I would like, but I used this for elephants, chariots, pikemen, and figures which had a variety of poses on each base.
Method 2: magnetised bases in biscuit tins.
This is an extension of the first method. Used for baggage trains, cataphracts, heavy cavalry.
Method 3: intensive packing.
This was something I thought would save space, and might actually protect the figures provided I had varnished them as well as I thought I had.
This is a brief explanation of the method:
1. Box measuring approx. 330 x 300 x 100 is found and labelled in pen for easy reference and in the hope that it will deter the customs man at the New Zealand end from opening it...
2. In the box matching base is stacked on top of matching base so that the figures are horizontal and the base edges themselves are holding any weight. Sometimes the figures slot together; other times they sit head touching head.
3. Bases are stacked along bottom of box in rows, with some variation to make sure they are packed tight enough that they will not move around.
4. Figures mounted singly on coins are inserted into the gaps head first.
5. Contents are covered with packing material so that nothing can move.
Box is closed, taped, and subjected to several species of incantations chanted in an ancient and barbaric tongue.
6. Contents are pulled out of box at destination and inspected.
And it's not too bad: two shields and a pilum came unglued, and one Miniature Figurine bendy spear broke. Otherwise, no damage.
Three more boxes' and an ice cream container's worth to go!
Hopefully they will come out in similarly good nick.