Oh dear, the butterfly has taken wings again. While doing my ironing I watched “The Yangtse Incident”.
Now I want to play it out as a wargame. Should I play it as “hex and counter” or “hex cloth and models”? My inclination is to play it with models on a “rolling cloth” method, but it may be easier with counters.
All opinions expressed in the following review are my own. The review has been sent (without the photographs) to the supplier for comment and any response will be published here..
Wo-Fun Miniatures 18mm English Civil War
Two or three years ago, when I was first made aware of Peter Dennis’s excellent depictions of English Civil War soldiers as cardboard cut-outs in book form, I bought the book. The depiction of the figures is first class.
Having seen just how much work was required to produce the two dimensional figures for the table top I sold it to a fellow gamer at the (pre-covid) annual Don Featherstone tribute weekend auction in aid of Combat Stress.
I recently became aware that the same figures were now available printed onto plexiglass in 28mm or 18mm scales. I thought they might be useful for the games I play with young chaps in my ECW reenactment cavalry regiment during downtime on the campsite. I ordered the basic 18mm ECW pack.
My first shock was the cost when I came to the checkout process. First the bases are an extra cost. The price on the website does not include delivery from Romania (expected), nor the EU VAT added to the base cost plus postage (unexpected).
Thus my base pack of ECW 18mm figures was no longer €81 but closer to £100. But it was my Christmas present to myself.
The figures arrived yesterday. The packing was excellent with a strong card box and several layers of protective foam. The figures are supplied ready to press out on sheets like this.
I cleared the game table and set to work with preparing them.
I made the mistake of starting with a cannon. The guns are printed on a 3mm MDF sheet and pre-cut for assembly.
There are no assembly instructions. While I was trying to work out which of two rectangular holes in the trail pieces was intended for the axle I snapped with unintentional undue pressure both the trail and the axle. By use of a trimmed matchstick and a dab of glue I was able to assemble a gun, but I am still not sure I got it right. I had to trim some bits off to make it fit together. Ah well, there are six more to practice on.
The next issue was the figures for the artillery. The little men press out from the sheet quite easily with a little care. When it comes to fitting them to the pre-cut MDF base (picture below) great care is needed. The slots are the same width as the thickness of the plexi-glass so some force is needed.
The plexi-glass is very brittle and my first attempt resulted in the loss of the locating peg and one foot from my gunner’s assistant. There are 32 figures to fill the 28 slots available, so a replacement was possible, but I am a parsimonious git and managed to stick the man in by use of his wheelbarrow.
That was the first assembly problem. I then started on a foot regiment.
A standard foot regiment comes with twelve ranks of four figures: one colour party, three pike and eight musket. However, only two of the musket are firing, the rest are in what is commonly known as the “port” position with the musket carried across the chest.
This is fine if you want to deploy in four ranks, but then your regiment is only 9cm wide and 4cm deep. Deploying in two ranks means you have two “companies” firing and two standing ready. It’s a small point, but I feel an equal split between poses would be a better mix.
Assembling my first foot unit one of the men snapped off the end of the rank while I was trying to push the peg into the slot. I reassembled the rank with superglue.
Here is a real oddity. The figures are supplied about 25mm. wide and the base is 30mm. x 20mm., with two 25mm. X 5mm. slots. But the location is a single point about 1.5mm. X 1.5mm. Apart from the issue of the fit being too tight, why not make the locator peg fit the slot?
I took the precaution for all future bases of taking a craft knife to widen the slot where the peg would be fitted. With hindsight I would source my own bases and drill a 1.5mm hole for the locating pin.
Cavalry come in ranks of three. There are nine ranks to a regiment, but the bases are slotted for two ranks. Again an odd decision. Later comment. I found single slot bases in the packbut only 4, when there are 6 “flag” strips. Also all the units have white or off-white standards, not useful for identification. When fitting the cavalry, even to a “slot-widened” easier base, I broke a couple of the “over the head waving” swords. (By the way, the only time I have seen that pose in action is when our re-enactment commander signals that the troop is coming to the ground crew for water and incidental tack servicing.)
If I were producing these figures, given that they are printed on transparent material, I would put a protective screen around the more fragile parts like swords and pikes, and make the location peg for each rank at least 1cm wide. Also the base slot should be slightly wider than the thickness of the peg.
And one final point. How did the Irish musketeers manage to source four left-handed muskets with the locks on the wrong side?
On the whole, a simple way of creating a good-looking army without all that painting. But some practical aspects need to be addressed.
Today’s skirmish is fought using the rules from Terence Wise’s book: “Introduction to Battle Gaming”. This is the book on which I cut my wargaming teeth. Published in 1969, it was my Christmas present from my parents the same year. Unfortunately we were staying with my grandparents where I had access to neither my soldiers or dice, so I drew a map, cut out paper blocks and devised a “blind pencil stab on a grid” method for die rolls. I replayed Waterloo (as remembered from the recent film) by this method several times until we got home again.
And so to the rules. All units move and fire. Infantry move 5 cm., on roads 7cm. Shooting ranges: Pistol, Grenade 5 cm. Rifles 20 cm. Shooting effect: roll 2d6. Pistol, rifle, 6+ is a kill. Grenade, 6+ kills 3*. Officers are killed if the dice roll a double, but they seem to have no effective rôle in the game. Men under cover suffer half casualties.
* No distance is stated, but with a throwing range of 5 cm., casualties may be assumed to be within 4cm. or less of the aiming point.
I never understood or agreed with Terry’s mêlée rule, based on his “Ancients” rules. All troops within 15 cm. are involved. Roll 4 dice and kill the total. This makes little sense with the rest of the “modern” period rules. Therefore my game will involve single hand to hand combat in which the higher roll wins. If a draw, roll again.
The defenders, having learned that they lose the sentries in the yard early in the conflict, decided to deploy three men, one a grenadier, along the hedgerow on the road. The officer, NCO/radioman and three riflemen were in the farmhouse and three riflemen with one grenadier in the stables. The attackers this time, having worked put that because of the reduced rifle range any attack from the woods would be conducted unsupported across open ground, decided to send half the force along the hedgerow. While the remainder circled to the right to attack the stable building.
it took six turns for the infantry on the right to clear the cover of the woods and a further six to cross the open ground and come within rifle range of the stable block. By this time the group on the left flank had also cleared the woods. These were still out of range.
Turn 13. The Vlaamsers advanced closer to the farm. On the right flank three men were now in range of the stables. One man in the stables was in range. The three Vlaamsers fired, scoring 3 hits, reduced to 2 for cover, but only 1 was in range On the left flank nobody was within range. Inside the stables another soldier took the place of the casualty and fired back, killing one attacker.
Turn 14. On the right flank the Vlaamsers moved towards the blind side of the stables. Three men were still in range and view of the stable windows. Two hits were scored, and the replacement rifleman in the stable window was shot. Again a shot was returned and another attacker was killed. On the left flank the attackers spread out and kept moving forward, but were still out of range. The Wallons at the hedgerow moved to their right to close the range.
Turn 15. On the right the attackers moved into the blind side of the stables, but now one man had come within range of the right-hand window of the farmhouse. He was shot by the rifleman at the window, who was himself shot. On the other flank two attackers were able to shoot at the men behind the hedge, killing one of them. Return fire killed one of them.
Turn 16. On the right flank the four remaining attackers placed themselves as far as possible behind the blind side of the barn. Two were still able to fire at the farmhouse but were in return visible from the windows. The attackers lost two men to the defenders’ one. On the other flank one hit was scored against the men on the road.
Turn 17. At this point the defenders had lost half their number and were forced to withdraw. On the right the exchange of fire caused no casualties. On the left the last defender of the hedge line was killed and the squad advanced towards the farm.
Turn 18. The defenders retreated and left the farm open for occupation.
Conclusions. Ranges are very short for infantry combat, and are more suited to tanks and artillery. Rolling two dice for each hit seems unnecessarily complicated and the result (26/36 chances of a hit) is not far different than rolling 3+ on one die (24/36 chances). Rather than halving casualties under cover I would make it harder to hit in the first place. As in the previous game I would allow fire or movement rather than both.
Today I am, for the first time, playing the rules written by one of the early doyens of wargaming: Joe Morschauser.
Joe was one of the first proponents of the “base of figures” system, which he referred to as a “tray”. Joe’s rules ignore command elements and other oddments of infantry equipment, so stripping them out of my two tiny forces I had two options for my game. 1. Four trays of three rifles attacking three trays of three rifles, or 2. Treat each rifleman as a tray, with twelve attacking eight. Goven the “bang! – you’re dead” nature of the rules and the limited numbers I decided on option 2.
Basic rules. Dice each turn for which side acts first. Move and fire or fire and move. Infantry move 9” and fire at maximum 15”. To hit roll 4 or 6. Mêlée: troops within 2”. Roll 4 or more kills the enemy.
House rule. Joe does not allow any protection for troops under cover. I decided to reduce the chance of hitting models under cover to 6 only.
And so to the game. The attacking Vlaamsers split into three groops. Five moved through the woods on the left flank to close assault the farm. Four moved through the woods on the right flank to distract the defenders with an attack over open ground. Three advanced along the hedgerow to engage the defenders with rifle fire.
The defending Wallons placed four men in the farmhouse, two in the stable block and two on sentry duty in the yard.
Turns 1 and 2. The Vlaamsers advanced. At the end of turn 2 the riflemen behind the hedge fired at the nearest sentry, rolling 1,2,4 for one hit. Those advancing on the right flank took out the second sentry with 2,3,5,6.
Returning fire at the enemy behind the hedge the six riflemen in the farmhouse and the stables rolled 2,3,4,4,5,6 for one hit.
Turn 3. The Wallons won the die roll and fired again. Again one 6 was rolled, taking out another enemy. The Vlaamsers continued to advance on both flanks.
Turn 4. The Vlaamsers won the die roll. On the left flank they moved up to the hedge and fired, Only three men could get a line of fire on the front windows of the farmhouse. No kills. The other two men fired at the stable block, and rolled no sixes. The lone soldier at the hedgerow also failed to hit with his shot.
On the right flank the four men fired before moving. No casualties were inflicted. They then moved up to close contact around the barn door and the small windows. Both sides rolled a 4, equalling their mêlée power, so both sides were wiped out.
Turn 5. The Vlaamsers won the toss and fired before closing with the enemy. One hit. Then five men charged the farmhouse. Both sides rolled a 5 for mêlée. Rolling again produced a 5 and a 6. The third roll was 6 for the Wallons and 4 for the Vlaamsers. The Wallons were wiped out and the Vlaamsers took the farm.
So after two battles I have one draw and one Vlaams victory.
What would I change in these rules? 1. Some form of reduction in move distance over obstacles and in difficult ground. 2. As already applied, fire effectiveness reduced for cover. 3. Fire or move rather than fire and move, allowing for supporting fire while comrades advance. 4. Suppression of return fire in case of casualties. 5. Mêlée results dependent on numbers in contact.
Otherwise, well written, easy to play and a believable result.
Having painted up two sections of toy soldiers from the 1970s I am now revisiting the rules of the period. I have a game to play, based on this map of the border between North and South Brabantia in Belgica.
Situation: a patrol of one officer and twelve riflemen crosses the frontier to scout and if possible capture a farmhouse garrisoned by one officer and one NCO/wireless operator with pistols, two grenadiers and six riflemen.
Figures and buildings by Airfix. Trees and fences by Merit. Hedges by Britains. Riad by B&Q. Camouflage cloth by local haberdasher.
Game 1. Donald Featherstone’s “Battles With Model Soldiers”.
The basics of the rules.
Infantry move 6”, 9” on road
Shooting. Pistol range 6”. 6 kills @ 6”, 5/6 @ 3”. Rifle range 15”. 1 die per 3 rifles. -3 @ 15”, -2 @ 9”, -1 @ 6”. Grenade range 6”. Kill half die score. Half casualties behind hard cover.
Mêlée. When opposing sides are within 6”, both sides dice. If attackers win, defenders retire 12”. If defenders win, attackers roll again. 4+, attackers close. Close combat. 1 die per 5 figures. Kill half score.
With these rules, command is not taken into account, so the officer only counts towards close-range firing and mêlée. Riflemen should be in groups of three for shooting and five for hand-to-hand.
The plan was to send six riflemen with the officer along the hedgerow while a second group moved in support through the woods on the left to attack the farm from the left flank.
The defenders deployed three riflemen as sentries along the fence line around the farm.
Turns 1-3. The Vlaamsers moved forward behind the hedgerow and through the woods. There was no penalty for moving through woods. Nobody was in sight of an enemy.
Turn 4. The advancing Vlaamsers behind the hedge were now in long rifle range of the Wallon sentries, but still unseen.
Turn 5. The Vlaamsers behind the hedge opened fire on the sentries. 3 rifles within 6” and 3 rifles within 9”. The sentries were behind an open wooden fence, but had no benefit of cover. Dice rolled 4-1 and 5-2 = 6 potential casualties. Two sentries within range were killed. Return fire from the farm house: 4 rifles at 9”. 5-2 = 3 hits.
Turn 6. The Vlaamsers behind the hedge had to decide whether to shoot at the enemy in the house at half casualties or at the remaining sentry. They fired at the house. Die 4-2 = 2/2 = 1 casualty. One rifleman at a window was hit. Return fire. 3 rifles rolled 1, -2 for range for no hits.
Turn 7. One of the supporting Vlaamser squads reached the hedgerow. Their only target was the remaining sentry at 15”. They missed. The other squad at the hedgerow also shot at the same man. Die roll 5-2 = 2, so he was hit. Return fire at 15”. Roll 5 – 3 = 2 hits. Dicing for which man was hit took the officer.
Turn 8. The last Vlaamser squad reached the hedgerow. 1 squad fired at 6” and 1 at 9”. 5-1 and 2-2 = 4 hits, in hard cover = 2. The Wallons had now lost 6 of 10 men. In the farmhouse were only two men with pistols and one with a rifle. The two pistoliers were in range, but their fire was ineffective. The single rifleman, not covered by the rules, was adjudicated based on the pistol rules. (15”: 6 hits, 9” 5 hits, 6” 4 hits). He missed. From the stable block 1 rifleman scored a hit.
Turn 9. The Vlaamsers, without their officer, planned to charge, but failed their dice roll and withdrew. With casualties at 7 for Vlaams and 4 for Wallon, but with Vlaams in retreat, it was declared a draw.
Tomorrow, all being well, I will try the same scenario with Joe Morschauser’s rules.
There is a period in wargaming known as “modern”, which is generally accepted to be post 1945. But can you compare the Korean War to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan?
The period from 1945 to 2021 is longer than the period between the Zulu War and the Second World War. Would we use the same game systems and rules for those conflicts?
My thinking is that we should at least subdivide the “modern” period into pre- and post- “electronic” warfare. The first subdivision is where the war was similar to The Second World War but with upgraded weapons, missiles and the nuclear threat. The second era is the “electronic” or “digital” age with remote instant command possibilities such as drones, helmet-cams, wi-fi earpieces, etc.
For wargaming purposes I would set a period division around 2001, while realising that this has, like all military developments, been a gradual process.
Getting away from wargaming for a moment, I wonder if the modern all-seeing eye on the battlefield will have its consequences. If the man at HQ can see what the man on the ground can see via “helmet-cam” from his remote HQ, how does the man on the ground progress from experience to be the man at HQ? Is the squaddie destined to become a mere battlefield semi-robotic pawn?
While working on my Belgican forces for 1951 I came across these old Matchbox figures, painted up in high gloss “toy soldier” style as two “platoon” sized groups for the Second World War. Germans are in 1940 style uniforms and British in battledress, probably more appropriate to 1943 onwards.
Weapon allocation was decided by available models, hence the British have far more vickers MGs than expected, but no Bren guns. German MGs have no No.2, so reloading could be an issue. Both British and Germans are bizarrely equipped with American bazookas. The Germans have loaders for these, the British none.
I have finished painting one “company” for each of the North Brabantian and South Brabantian infantry.
The models are part of a long outstanding project that I came up with when I retired : to resurrect the old, sometimes unaffordable, toys of my youth. When I retired I stocked up, usually from eBay, on such things as Merit alder trees, Britains hedges and walls, Airfix “La Haie Sainte” buildings, and best of all, the old Infantry Combat Group.
I had to supplement the infantry with their old opponents, the somewhat rigid German Infantry, and as many of the old polythene tanks, guns and vehicles that I could lay my hands on.
I am wonder why Airfix decided to make most of the first range of these ready-made vehicles in the 1950s and ‘60s, but they did later release Second World War models, which now demand silly prices.
I was hoping to equip the North Brabantian (Army of Vlaams) forces with Centurion tanks, but alas, one of the two models in stock has suffered from brittle deterioration. The barrel has snapped, as has the turret pin. Trying to extract the pin the entire hull shattered.
Anyway, here are the forces as currently assembled:
Note that in Belgica Regimental facings are retained in the cuff colours and officers’ hatbands. And looking at the photo’s I see that the application of spray varnish has removed the faces from some of the North Brabantians. That must be revisited. 🙁
My wargaming butterfly has taken flight again, and inspired me to revisit an old plan in a new way.
I have long planned to campaign on the island of Belgica.
For those who have never heard of it, Belgica was an island in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Europe. Fiercely independent and never incorporated into the European Union, “Belgicexit” was never an issue. Strangely it never became a holiday destination for millions of British tourists, possibly because in its isolation from reality the brewing of beer was never discovered.
But Belgica has been waging a civil war between the Walloniens and the Vlaamsers for six centuries until the disastrous nuclear accident in January 2021 in which the island was incinerated and sank beneath the waves like a latter-day Atlantis.
Henceforth (Butterfly willing – all hail the butterfly) my battles, although still taking place in randomised years and akin to real world history, will be unconstrained by reality and gradually piece together a history of the island. (Well, that’s my dream!)
Thus, the 1951 conflict referred to in my previous posts will in fact be taking place between the forces of Wallonie and Vlaams, somewhere along the border.
But first to the painting table to prepare the armies from very old Airfix soldiers. I remember buying my first box when they cost 1s3d (converted today as about 6p (UK) or 8.5c (US) or 7c (EU)) for a box of 48 figures. They cost me substantially more six years ago on eBay as nostalgic purchases.