A poor game…

As part of my somewhat OCD lifestyle my daily tasks are dictated by what emerges from the in-tray.

Today we started with: “Trim back lawn edges”:  No thank you, it is raining.  Task is replaced in the interim tray.

Next: “Trim front lawn edges”:  No, it is still raining.  Similar destination.

“Update blog”:   I have nothing to report since yesterday.

“ASL Napoleonic wargame”.:  Ah!  Now we are talking.  Up to the loft to retrieve the two boxes of stuff – and to get out all the Christmas decorations while I am there.

This game was developed during a week-long solo caravan trip in Spain, between two re-enactment events set in 1710 (Zaragoza) and 1811 (Albuera).

With the boxes of Squad Leader game boards and home-made gaming tokens retrieved, I began to roll the dice.  5, 2, 6 means take the 5th board from the stack, then the 2nd below that and the 6th below that.  I ended up with boards 15, 12 and 12.

Next, each board must be orientated.  Dice again. Odd, Even, Odd.  With an odd number the printed board number is to the right, with an even number, to the left.

Result:

Now to the forces.

Blue and Red dice rolled.  Blue has 2 units, red has 5.Opening the playing tile boxes (note 1), Red’s units are (from top left) :  95th Rifles, Royal Horse Artillery 6pr Battery, Royal Artillery 6pr Battery, King’s German Legion 6pr Battery, 52nd Line.

 Blue has:  3eme Regiment de Ligne, 5eme Regiment de Ligne.

Note 1.  The playing pieces are made by attaching printed sticky labels, designed in Microsoft Excel, onto 13mm x 13mm x 5mm plastic tokens bought from Plastics for Games

Next, dice for sides: higher comes from ‘north”.  Blue.

Both sides now make a plan, assuming they have not yet made contact.

Red is clearly an artillery column being escorted by light troops moving from south to north.  They will take the quickest route on road, with scouts from the 95th to the front and the 52nd battalion to the rear.

Blue is an understrength brigade, moving from the north. A die roll decides that they are deployed, looking for the enemy.

Thus we start the game.

It turns out that the game was most disappointing and not worth reporting,  but I thought that my methodology may be of interest.

Landscaping in two scales, and random thoughts

Inspired by spotting the last available item of steel racking on display in our local Homebase yesterday, I have ordered some “special offer” racking for the shed and for the lock-up in which all our camping stuff is stored.

I hope to better organise this stack of boxes housing my Kallistra terrain hexagons, and at the same time to get the tents and awnings off the sometimes damp floor of their storage facility.

Terrain production for the next Arnhem game proceeds with painting the last two railway hexagons.

While the paints were out and the railway sleepers drying I took the opportunity to paint a few bits of other wargaming projects: some 6mm MDF cavalry horses and the musket stocks of the US “Toy soldier” style infantry extracted from the box game of the American Civil War.

I have discovered that my bench in the shed is really not suitable for early Autumn morning painting.  The amount of sunlight is brilliant, but directly into my eyes! 

But while I have been painting the sun had dried the grass in the back garden so I had a go at mowing what is humorously referred to as a “lawn”.

The weed collection having been trimmed to an acceptable level I ventured out to the garden centre for some restorative grass seed for the bare patches.

One Kilo of grass seed and three bags of mixed soil and horse dung later, covered with a protective grid to keep dog and pigeons off, I could return to small scale landscaping.

(Sparky is not pleased with this new arrangement of his playground.)

While applying a steel metallic surface paint to the top of my model railway lines, and then applying the same to the ACW infantry barrels and bayonets I was reminded of an encounter some years ago at Kirby Hall (a multi-period reenactment event staged by English Heritage).  

 – Returning to the camp from our Napoleonic era display we encountered a Sealed Knot musketeer carrying a somewhat rusty matchlock musket of dubious safety.

– He asked us if our firelock barrels were “dummies”, made of aluminium.  We replied: “No, proper steel, proofed for shot, but clean.”

 – Our cleaning method was to scour the barrel, inside and out, using tools available in our chosen period, followed by an application of olive oil to lock, stock and barrel.  We learned the “olive oil” trick from some French re-enactors at a somewhat wet event on 30th August 1997.  (The date remains in memory because the Princess of Wales died the next morning and our weekend was spoiled.)  Returning to the subsidiary topic, an oil-soaked cloth in a small leather bag, used to wipe the metal parts of the weapon at the first sign of rain prevents rust and keeps the musket working in most weather conditions.  It works equally well for swords and pole-arms.

Before adding the newly-painted tiles to the wargame table I watched the film “Stalingrad” in the original German language, and it reminded me what a total shitty waste of lives real war is.  Reminders of H G Wells comments at the end of his book, “Little Wars”. 

Somehow the Germans are able to show the gritty reality in their anti-war films so much better than the English-speaking countries.  Maybe it is something to do with the comparative suffering of their countries?  The only film coming close to depicting the horrific reality of war that I have watched is the Russian “Come and See”, where the director even used live ammunition to enhance the reality!

And with all that in mind, this evening’s plan is to set up the townscape of Arnhem for yet another table top representation of historical futility.

A busy man

Winston Churchill once said: “If you want something done, ask a busy man.”  Clearly this did not involve blogging. (A noticeable exception to the blogging rule is Neil Shuck of Meeples and Miniatures fame. He manages to keep up a daily blog, a weekly podcast and who knows what else in addition to a full time job, a family, a hobby and recently a broken wrist)

Anyway, back to me.  I have not posted for 6 weeks.  I have had plenty to do, but little time at the “real” computer, having spent a lot of time on the iPad and iPhone simply catching up.

So what have I been up to?

I will try to cover these activities in detail later with photographs, but meanwhile, here is the boring stuff.

I have been vainly trying to progress my “Operation Sealion” PBEM campaign, which is stagnating mainly due to the fact that I want to get all my models looking as good as possible on the table (shades of Peter Stringfellow?).

The next battle is the German assault on Brighton, which calls for a lot of railway track.  My blog followers will know that I normally use Hexon tiles for my gaming area, but extensively remodelled by me.  Well, this time I tried to mount the railway track by Irregular Miniatures and Leven Miniatures onto the raised rubber-ish roads produced by Total Battle Miniatures.  This was not successful because everything delaminated, and I am now remodelling all the railway hexagons, and, having spotted it while ordering more track I have a new railway station from Leven to paint.  I should mention that Leven have taken the trouble when asked to cast in resin a new 4-piece set of double rail track that will make a 60 degree curve specifically to fit a 10cm hexagon tile (2 inner curves, 2 outer curves).  I hope to see it on the website for general order soon.

In addition, this battle – without giving away too much to my German commander – needs a lot of British transport.  I have loads of 6mm trucks and lorries for 1944, but I want to get it right, so several packs of GHQ vehicles were ordered from Magister Militum, my UK supplier.

All of this stuff needs painting.

A failure to paint in time resulted in me not taking my semi-portable in-period wargame to the (bizarrely) 217th anniversary of the Battle of Marengo.  For wargamers, I am building armies from the Commission Figurines MDF range, but my figures are glued together in blocks for small people’s fingers to handle.  The project to create, initially French and Austrian,  armies for the French Revolutionary Wars is ongoing.

The trip to Marengo occupied much of my time, including all the necessary requirements of taking my dog camping in Europe and bringing him home again without quarantine. Superb driving over the Alps, including the St. Bernard Pass, last visited in 1989 in full Napoleonic kit for a reconstructed crossing by Napoleon in 1800.

Additional problems are having my car fixed after a sunroof motor failure (luckily it was a heatwave with the roof jammed open) and some kind individual ramming the rear end of my car in the Marengo car park.

We took our new caravan (collected the day after my return from Italy) to Wales for an English Civil War re-enactment weekend, and I am still resolving, and paying for, the failures of the vehicle.

I have also been instructed by my GP to have certain areas of my body checked for issues that affect gentlemen of my age, culminating – I hope – in an hour of MRI scanning this morning.

And so I am returned to the “real world” of painting, modelling, and hopefully actually playing some wargames, with a resolve to post more frequently in future.

 

 

Recent activity

So, what have I been up to since my last posting?

Apart from spending five days at Blenheim Palace for the horse trials (see facebook post from my dog:  https://www.facebook.com/paul.wisken.7/posts/953008101487847?notif_t=like&notif_id=1473884147211044), during which I drafted the rules for my new game “Bomber”,  I have been painting models and constructing terrain.

For Bomber I have been painting up 14 1/600 Lancaster bombers and some 1/1000 buildings.  At the same time I have painted 5 GHQ 1/285 Shermans and about two dozen 30mm Plastic Spencer Smith Grenadiers.  I also painted two regiments of 6mm MDF figures for ny “in period” Napoleonic games.

My new method of getting things done is to leave new purchases on the painting table until they are ready, even if I have moved on to a new interest while waiting for delivery of the models.

For the ongoing Operation Sealion campaign I have made some new hexagon tiles for the engagement at Postling (see the image with this post).  Several new hedged roads were needed for this scenario.

So, what for the future?

More MDF figures to be painted, mainly cavalry.  Bombers to be finished, and JU88 night fighters to be started.  many more 1/1000 buildings to be painted and based.  Rules for Bomber to be playtested.

A Blast from the Past

One of my roles in re-enactment is that of a pensioner of les Invalides at the time of Napoleon I.  It is a totally inaccurate representation as I still own two arms and two legs, and thus would be disqualified!

In that role I like to demonstrate, and to encourage visitors to play, a small game whereby I relive my past glories and try to rectify the errors of the past. This game has evolved over the years and is now played in a form akin to chess, on a card table ruled into 144 squares.  I can set up a fictitious battle or a stylised representation of any of the battles of “my youth”.

Today I played a solo game of an actual battle – or as near as I could represent it.  The original battle was fought between less than 700 troops, so it could be represented on my table almost on a 1 figure:1 soldier basis.

Here is the latest version of the rules, updated after this battle ton reduce infantry firing range.  The latest version restricts infantry shooting to one square range, but differentiates between moving to attack or shooting without moving.  Unlike many wargames, shooting without moving is less effective than when moving.  This is because the first reperesents trading volleys while the second represents a column attack.Battle Chess 1800

And here is the report of the skirmish at Rumégies in May 1792, played to the above rules. Rumegies 17920519

An interesting exercise, taking a couple of hours from start to finish including the reporting and photography, all done on an i-Pad in my ManCave.

 

 

 

More on Code Breaking

Following the surprising amount of interest in my recent code-breaking activity publicised by the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, here is a little background.

Some years ago I was invited to take part in a historical event held at Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey. My character for the week was to be the spymaster Philippe d’Auvergne. I was provided with a small look-out post at the top of the tower and a telescope. The weather was not the best and I decided to restrict my outdoor forays to a minimum, and prepared instead to display period code-breaking activities based on the story of George Scovell, who cracked the code used by Napoleon’s armies in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War.  For the benefit of visiting youngsters a set of simple cyphers was prepared for them to try their skill.

First I needed some coded documents. I wrote a computer program that would mimic the French coding system. The basis of the coding was that a single letter could be represented by up to half a dozen numbers of one, two or three digits. A number could also represent an entire word or group of commonly used letters forming part of a word.

I found some historical reports from the period in French and fed them into the program without reading them first. All I knew was the subject matter of the reports. I armed myself with pens, pencils, a notebook and an original 1791 French/English dictionary, as seen here:

Code breaker

Over the course of four days I managed to decode and translate one long document of about two pages and parts of several shorter ones that I used as cross-references. Sadly I have not been able to find any of the documents, but here from my notebook is a sample of my working:

My code-breaking notebook
The right hand page records the deciphered numbers, while the left hand page contains all the relevant notes.

I found this a most satisfying exercise, and I have recently used the same coding in my Peninsular War wargame campaign where the players requested messages to be in code.

Battle of Valencia 6 July 1808

This is one of those really annoying newspaper reports that gives no map and no pictures, just in the style of “The Times” in the early 1800s.

Marshal Moncey with 9,000 French approached the outskirts of Valencia with orders to take the city.

Don Jose Caro, commanding a militia force of 7,000 men defending earthworks to the north-west of Valenica, somewhat rashly decided to attack the French.

(The wargame was fought using the “Commands & Colors” system with house rules for roads, etc. and for the campaign rating of generals and unit commanders. The main rules amendment was that a cautious officer would refuse to move on a D6 roll of 1 and a rash officer would exceed his orders on a D6 roll of 6.)

From “The Trumpeter” 7th July 1808

The battle started with an advance in the centre by Brigadier-General Perdiguero with his 2nd Brigade.

On the French side General de Brigade Dubois attempted to advance on the right flank with 35eme de Ligne and 2eme de Ligne. His intention was to capture the village on the right flank. The officer of the 2eme being somewhat cautious decided to hold back and the 35eme advanced alone.

The Spanish retaliated by sending their cavalry to hold the village. The Valtueña cavalry entered the village from the south.

The French then ordered attack in the centre, hampered somewhat by the rugged hills. Two light infantry regiments (29eme and 41eme Legere ) struggled to move forward in the poor terrain while the 111eme de Ligne made no attempt to move.

On the Spanish side General Perdiguero advanced with the regiments Talamillo del Tozo, Valle de Tena and Alemanas. This was a somewhat foolhardy move, abandoning the defensive earthworks that had been so painstakingly constructed over the previous weeks.

The French struggled forwards in the centre, the 29eme Legere making some progress.

The Spanish abandoned the fortifications on their right, general Ribagorda ordering the regiments Vales, Valdeavero and Torres de Segre forward. This was countered by an advance through the woods by the French 2eme Brigade commanded by General Mousseaux-Neauville, who ordered three light battalions (38eme, 64eme and 62eme) to advance through the woods.

The French artillery, despite not having fired a shot, decided that this was the time to retire to the rear to replenish their ammunition, but at the same time their infantry advanced on both fronts. 24eme Legere entered the village on their right flank, while the 62eme and 142eme legere advanced through the woods on the left. Once again the 35eme Legere refused to move forwards.

The 24eme Legere drove the Spanish cavalry out of the village and took possession of the western side.

The Spanish now made an all-out push forwards. The regiments Pantá de Sau, Talamillo del Tozo, Valle de Tena and Valdeavero advanced on a broad front. None of these regiments were able to find a reasonable target so fire was withheld.

The French moved forward in the centre, the 41eme Legere driving the Talamillo Regiment back to the rear. The 29eme Legere also managed to score decisively against the Valle de Tena Regiment.

On the Spanish left an attack by the Pantá de Sau battalion failed against the village, but on the French left the 64eme de Ligne, 62eme Legere and 38eme Legere advanced through the woods. The 62eme came against the Spanish Valdeavero Regiment and destroyed them.

The Spanish response was an attack across the whole line with the Generals at the forefront. Panta de Sau attacked the 24eme Legere and the Torres de Segre regiment killed many of the 62eme Legere.

The French countered with an enveloping attack. On the right the 73eme de Ligne and 5eme Cuirassiers advanced, the Cuirassiers coming against the Andrés del Rio light cavalry and winning the fight.

On the left flank the 38eme Legere and 64eme Ligne advanced against the Vales and Valle de Tena regiments, forcing the Valle de Tena to retreat.

The Spanish now went on to a defensive footing standing and firing against the French attacks. Torres de Segre held off the 62eme Legere and the Vales regiment sored equally against the 38eme Legere.

The French now switched their attention to their left flank. The 64eme de Ligne, 62eme Legere and 38eme Legere attacked the Alemanes and Torres de Segre regiments, causing many casualties.

The Spanish made a limited attack across the entire front. The Almensa regiment drove the 29eme Legere back with many casualties, and the Torres de Segre regiment caused the 62eme Legere to retreat.

The French attempted to mount an attack on their left flank, but a party of guerrillas intercepted and killed the couriers with the orders.

In the centre the Spanish prepared a new attack. The Alamenes regiment fired at the 41eme de Ligne and inflicted several casualties.

The French replied on their left with considerable success. The 64eme de Ligne destroyed the Vales regiment, while the 38eme Legere forced the Torres de Vedra to flee the field.

The Spanish finally employed their artillery against the 5eme Cuirassiers south east of the village and wiped them out. The French attacked on their right towards the village. The 24eme Legere killed many of the Pantá de Sau Reiment and the 73eme de Ligne drove back the Andres del Rio cavalry. General Morera de Monstant was forced to flee.

The Spanish regiments Panta de Au and Torres de Segre recovered and were able to reincorporate many of their men who had run from the field, but the French kept up the pressure with an attack by the 41eme Legere against the Alemanes Regiment.

The Spanish made a desperate counterattack in the centre. The only success was the Alemanes Regiment against the 41eme Legere.

Against this the French made an all-out attack. The 29eme Legere attacked the Valle de Tena and the 38eme de Ligne and 64eme de Ligne attacked the Torres de Segre.

The Spanish line broke and retreated.