Friday, February 23, 2024

Battlemasters with Kinchlets

"Pay attention Sir Harry, the Hun is here, here and here." - LadyBaby

Finished up a practice game of the old MB Games/Citadel miniatures game Battlemasters with the Kinchlets (with feline auxiliary). They successfully defended the tower from the baddies. We’re playing a Dads v Kids game on Saturday with their cousins and I'm looking forward to it. 

“Imma gonna punch that goblin inna snoot” - Bear

I had planned on giving the kids special characters, but they asked if they could have “gifts” like the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. 

One quick rewrite later and we are sorted.  The mechanical affect was exactly the same, but the kids enjoyed being able to pick one over the other.  The LadyBaby picked a diamond bottle filled with a healing elixir distilled from flowers grown in the mountains of the Sun (she has always loved Lucy in the Narnia stories) while Bear plumped for a sword and shield like Peter.  

The mechanic effect was that Bear added a die to a units dice when attacking while the LadyBaby could heal a point of damage from a unit each time the Mighty Cannon card was turned. 

“We should get him, he’s a meanie” - LadyBaby

Thus the band of Chaos Warriors were doomed. 

The LadyBaby used her diamond bottle of healing potion successfully.  Bears magic sword was less successful - he spent the game with the artillery - but he’ll remember for next time.

The LadyBaby showing Colonel Sir Harry Flashman VC the next card. 

The card mechanic where turn order and unit activation is randomised definitely keeps the kids engaged.  The LadyBaby in particular enjoyed turning over the next card to find out what would happen next. 

The LadyBaby took charge of the cavalry at an early juncture.  She approves of knights it seems. 

Slowly tipping one die at a time into the Dice Tower is apparently the secret to Bear's success. 

The game ended with a resounding Kinchlet victory as they managed to hold off the hordes of Chaos for long enough that a relief force arrived and the tower was saved!

Thoroughly enjoyable game.  What interested me most about this one was that the Kinchlets took more ownership of what was going on.  They talked between themselves to try to formulate a plan and considered different options.  The simple mechanics made it possible for them to grasp all of them and not just engage with the rules, but also with what they were actually trying to do. 

It was wonderful to watch. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Art of Coarse Airbrushing

Say 'ello to my leetle tank

I picked up an airbrush last year and to be frank, I've found it quite difficult to get to grips with.  I had trouble with keeping it clean, it seemed to be constantly clogging and I was spending quite a lot of time on it to little result. 

But after several attempts and over the course of a year, I've gotten to a stage where I'm happy with it. 

The trick appears to be; 

1. Always put your thinner and flow improver in first
2. Clear after every colour change
3. Use Isopropyl alcohol in a solution for cleaning
4. Use special airbrush paints until you are *very* comfortable with thinning your own  

The plus side is that when the airbrush runs well, it's an absolute dream.  

Thin, even coats of colour, applied very quickly.  There's a good bit of work in setting the airbrush up to work, but once you get it going, you can get a lot done very wuickly

I've a very basic Spamax model which I picked up with a compressor and some other equipment and very good it is too.  My pal, Savage, has a compressor which can handle multiple airbrushes at a time, so I went over to his place to do a bit of airbrushing together.  It was a very pleasant evening and we're hoping to do it again.  

The plan is to do a Courland scenario later in the year and that's going to require some suitably snow camouflaged big cats (and which will eventually be deployed to the Bulge), so I tried an old modellers trick with cheap hairspray.  

I had first painted this panther in the early 2000s and didn't make a particularly good job of it.  I gave it a coat of Hairspray and let that dry.  I then gave it a coat of Vallejo White German Camo (there's a funny German name for it which escapes me) and then let that dry. Once that was completely dry, I went back with a wet baby bud and reactivated the hairspray around the high traffic areas. 

This is called "chipping" and gives the impression that the paint has been chipped and worn and adds visual interest to a fairly monochrome vehicle. I'm told chipping fluid from a proper model shop is better, but I was quite pleased with this.  I've a few more tanks to do, but this should make it a lot faster and easier.  Just add some weathering and a few decals and we'll be done. 

The fruit of two hours work and very pleased I am too.  A certain amount of that was setting up the airbrush and cleaning it afterward, but once I got into the swing of things, I got paint on tanks very quickly. I think one of the ways to get the best out an airbrush would be to plan to do as much airbrushing as you can in one sitting.  This would mean that you'd get the most amount of painting for the least amount of set up time. 

Location, Location, Location Endor Edition

Of course Savage, turps drinking artistic type that he is, got rather more out of his painting session - it must be the smock, the floppy hat and the red haired ladies in a state of dishabille. It's a testament to just how much work you can do with an airbrush that he covered some very large spaces in jig time with a relatively small amount of masking. 

And very impressive it is too.    

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Everybody's got something to hide 'cept for me and my War Elephant - The Battle of Nowshera 1823

Sikh Akalis (Wikipedia) 

Behold their fancy hats! What kind of battle has Sikh holy warriors (Akali) and a personal War Elephant? Only the best kind of battle. 

Ever since I read Ian Hernon's "Britain's Forgotten Wars" as a young man, I've been fascinated by the Sikh Wars and by the Sikhs. They're such a contradictory, decent, turbulent and interesting people that they repay study. I've wanted to play out some of their battles on the wargames table for ages and I had the chance to yesterday.

I picked up Tim Tilson's Colonial Campaigns - Rise and Fall of the Sikh Empire book years ago and I've had mixed success in getting it to the table. But a hefty Newline Miniatures order and a willing confederate in the person of the Welsh Wizard has presented a golden opportunity to make 2024 the year of the Sikhs.

Tilson's Book is a supplement for Larry Brom's classic The Sword and the Flame colonial rules, but rejigged for big battles. It's one of those curious things that shouldn't work, but really does. We're still getting to grips with the rules as neither of us had played them in years, but Tilson's amendments are actually quite small and work well.

Ranjit Singh - a pretty tough customer 

But what of the battle of Nowshera? 

This was a battle between the nascent Sikh Empire and the Afghans.  The Sikh's were led by a chap called Ranjit Sikh, a tough, one eyed general who built an army that married European style infantry to Sikh cavalry and an impressive artillery arm. Eager to expand his territory, he pushed into that part of Afghanistan held by the Durrani Empire and took Peshawar. 

After conquering the territory, he withdrew after leaving a small garrison.  The governor of Peshwar, an Afghan fella named Azim Khan (half brother of Dost Muhammed Khan of whom you may have heard), got understandably shirty about this. Khan gathered an army, proclaimed a jihad and made his way to Nowshera where the Singh had built a fort.  

Ranjit Singh countered by deploying his own forces to Nowshera and fell upon that part of the Afghan army that had arrived there. Khan had not yet reached Nowshera and his allies had taken up a defensive position there. 

Singh attacked this isolated part of the Afghan army and crushed it, storming the Afghan entrenchments after a powerful artillery bombardment. 

Khan fell back and Singh retook Peshwar, razed it and broke the Durrani power in the region.  Khan withdrew, possibly to see off a leadership challenger, but would soon die of cholera.

The Welsh Wizard contemplates his deployment, I'd sent him pics the day before so that we could get started quickly. 

The Durrani Afghan's put everything in the shop window, lining the walls with their infantry and keeping only their cavalry in reserve.  Both sides were awaiting reinforcements, but how long would it take them to arrive? 

I began the game with only my regular European trained infantry present, but I decided to drive on.  My plan was to refuse the right flank and press hard on the left, concentrating my best and most disciplined infantry there to crush that part of the line and roll up the position. 

The Sikh figures are almost all Newline, while the Durrani Afghans are a mix of Hagen Mahrattas, converted Cossacks and later period Afghans.  

The Durrani position was strong, but I had the qualitive edge in infantry, which I hoped would would prove decisive. One thing about Tilon's rules is that musketry was well modelled.  We thought the hit rate was quite low, but it seemed to work well and gave the right feel as units could move, but would be ground down over time. 

The musketry duel between my lads and the Afghans started to take effect. 

I used my Hagen Mahrattas (painted by Krizstian Takacs) as Durrani.  The Welsh Wizard used his fire cleverly, inflicting casualties that while they didn't wipe out units, slowed them down and made them linger longer under their guns. 

The Teddy Bear stuffing marks units that have fired their muskets and therefore need to reload. 

I concentrated my attack on the angle of the position on the grounds that it would put me in dead ground from the Afghan guns. Attacking a position held by greater numbers even of inferior troops is no joke and my reinforcements were nowhere to be seen...

I spread my fire evenly across the defending troops and managed to bait some of them into charging out of their position (this is reflected in a special rule in the scenario and did actually happen in reality) to attack my troops toiling up the slope. 

This ended predictably as the leading paltan of Sikh troops let the charging Durrani get within pistol shot and then gave them a volley at point blank range.  

With predictable results. The Durrani were broken and started running. Unfortunately for me, the Welsh Wizard brought his reinforcements in just in the nick of time and before my troops could get themselves organised and push on to solidify their hold on the position, he had managed to bring up several units of Ghazi, ferocious Sons of the Prophet, fired with religious zeal. 

This was a turning point in the game as we could hold this part of the entrenchments, Ranjit Singh would be well on the way to a victory.

Fresco in Jammu depicting Akali Phula Singh and his Akali-Nihang warriors making a last stand against Afghan Ghazi warriors in the Battle of Nowshera (Wikipedia)

This led to a turn where there were good decisions and mistakes on both sides and which was so exciting that I completely forgot to take pictures.  In brief; 

- the Ghazis faced with two disorganised Sikh paltans coming over the wall decided to stand and fire rather than charge in. 

- my reinforcements finally arrived, two units of Gorachurra (traditional Sikh armoured cavalry) and two mobs of Akali (the Sikh equivalent of Ghazi, religious warriors with giant hats and killer Frisbees) led by Poona Singh on his personal War Elephant.  I ran these lads forward as fast as I could, trying to take the weakly held left flank of the Durrani position. 

- Afghan cavalry made an attempt to flank the advancing Sikh infantry by jumping the entrenchments and swooping into their flank only to get enfiladed by the Sikh artillery who punished them severely and sent them scurrying to the rear. 

The Afghan fire hurt the Sikh regulars, but not enough. 

Meanwhile, my Gorachurras decided to chase the fleeing Durrani cavalry, supported by the Akali, who were spoiling for a fight. 

(Angry Punjabi Elephant noises)

The Durrani defenders managed to shoot up the Gorachurras on the way in and broke one unit of them and sent them fleeing to the rear, but the remainder got stuck into the rallying Afghan cavalry who attempted a counter charge, only to be simultaneously hit by Poona Singh and the Akalis. 

(Sounds of Punjabi chanting "Na na na na, Na na na na Wahey Goodbye!")

Meanwhile on the other flank, the Sikh regulars took a risk and dropped their muskets.  Drawing their tulwars they went straight in at the Ghazis.  One lot of Ghazis took one look at the line of ferocious looking beards and blades coming towards them at speed and decided that they had urgent business elsewhere.  They were chased down and butchered to a man. 

And here is where the battle took a fatal turn. My regulars took on the second unit of Ghazis and a fierce battle ensued. Tulwars clashed and bayonets flashed and the screams of the dying rent the air.  

The Ghazs either fled to the rear or fell wounded, all except their leader.  History does not record this doughty warriors name but he ended up fighting on alone.  He struck down three Sikh warriors and ended up facing General Hari Singh*.  General Singh here being played by an Ottoman mounted leader from Zvesda's Turkish Cavalry set because I haven't painted my Sikh generals yet. 

Now, I had thrown General Singh into the fray because if I'd managed to destroy this unit of Ghazis it would have meant that I would have secured one third of the trenches (worth victory points), I would have destroyed another Ghazi unit (also worth victory points) and I would have been poised to completely dislocate the entire Afghan position. 

We rolled and the result was a draw. 

We rolled again and not only did I lose the combat, but I also rolled a one, which meant that General Singh was not only defeated, but he was dead. 

Down he goes.   This provoked a round of morale tests throughout the army and badly shaken by the loss of their leader, the Sikhs began to withdraw.  With the Sikh position unravelling and the Welsh Wizard needing to return to his Tin Mine, we called the game there. 

This was a hard fought game that went all the way to the second last turn and which could have gone either way until the end game.  I've always enjoyed The Sword and the Flame because it creates these moments of drama. The heroic last stand of the unnamed Afghan leader shall live on in story and song. 

It's been a real pleasure to get back to gaming with the Wizard, a reminder of times when we were both teenagers and playing Warhammer Panzer Battles with Airfix figures.  It was also good to get my Sikhs on the table, I'm looking forward to maybe getting a few more Sikh games in this year. 

Fingers crossed. 

*This leader is listed in Tilson as General Blabharda...which I'm assuming is a joke.  I mean really.  Blab Harder?

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Review: The Wargaming Compendium by Henry Hyde

I have started experimenting with YouTube a little, mainly because it offers the chance to record something short and to the point without too much prep.  A friend of mine asked my opinion of "The Wargaming Compendium" by Henry Hyde - in short it's rather good, but pricey for the new wargamer who will benefit most from it. 

I might do some more of these. 


Monday, April 18, 2022

Just passing by

Sir Harry Flashman VC in pensive mood - poor chap clearly hasn't been fed in ages...

I had to the pleasure of hosting a "proper" (i.e. in person) wargame for the first time in ages a few night ago.  I have been more active on Twitter than I have been here over the last two years and it was a delight to get one of my Twitter pals, Molloy the Younger, around the table for a Zulu War game.  The rules were "The Men who would be Kings" by Dan Mersey and the scenario was "Just passing by".  

This scenario is played lengthways with each force attempting to get their units across the battlefield.  There are points going for inflicting casualties, but the real prize is getting your force, as whole as possible, past the enemy. 

Their dressing leaves something to be desired.

This was the most basic of Zulu War games, though we played with slightly truncated forces as I didn't have quite enough Impi painted (something I'm going to have to rectify).  We used 18 point forces rather than 24.  

The Royal Mallows of great and august memory with an attachment from the Rifles, made up the British force. 

They were;
First Platoon led by Molloy the Younger, stout fellows all. Molloy was a calm professional who gloried in an an exceptional leadership rating courtesy of the randomly rolled Leadership traits table. 

Second Platoon led by "Slasher" Egan, a fire-eating Corkman who was as dangerous with a sabre as he was to the reputations of respectable gentlewomen. 

First Platoon, the Rifles, on attachment, led by "Dead-Eye" Cribb, a nice boy from Kent who was very good at shooting things.   

Molloy the Younger took on the mantle of the British commander, while I donned the head dress of the Chief Induna.  The objective was that we were each to get as many units as we could lengthways across the table in fifteen turns.  

"Sir, I wish to protest the lack of anchovies!"

Proceedings were occasionally interrupted by Colonel Sir Harry Flashman VC who launched himself on the table to bat the odd die around the table and complain about the messing facilities. 

Molloy took the initiative and hatched a bold scheme in the first few turns. He deployed First Platoon  and the Rifles in an abandoned kraal, while sending Second Platoon on a longer loping run up the flank with a view to getting them off the board. 

May the Heavens shake with the thunder of our coming!

Zulu regiments were much like regiments elsewhere.  They have a sense of pride and were distinguished (to an extent) by their shield patterns.  Their regimental titles were in Zulu and this may shock you, but I don't speak Zulu, so rather than trying to butcher a number of Zulu names, I decided to use nicknames instead. Nicknames are quite common in Zulu culture. I used some real regimental titles (The Wild Men, Shaka's Own, etc) and some of my own invention (The Dancers and the Bull Killers). 

My force was made up of units of Tribal infantry, some of whom were Fierce (i.e. had a bonus in melee) or were Veteran (more likely to follow orders). 

I rolled a more mixed bag of leaders than Molloy the Younger did.  I had three really good ones, who had great leadership scores, one of whom was a hero of the Kingdom (got an extra activation) and another was a great trainer of troops (+2 inch move).  Of the two duffers that I had, the first had very poor eyesight (couldn't shoot at long range targets, not issue for my spear armed infantry) and the other was an idiot who commanded "The Kickers". 

This meant that I had to roll a die each turn and on a roll of 1, Molloy the Younger would get to move him rather than me.  

This came back to haunt me - I certainly felt like kicking them. 

The Mallows take up residence in the abandoned Kraals, while the Rifles fall into a skirmish line out front.  Despite this formidable position, First Platoon were to take remarkably little part in the battle. 

Meanwhile, Egan and his troops double time it to the other side of the board. 

With Molloy splitting his forces, I thought that I could bring enough force to bear on his isolated platoon to wipe it out.  I sent three of my Impi to cut off and surround Egan's platoon, while my other two screened his forces in the Kraals. 

Disaster struck when my idiotic leader forgot his favourite snuff pouch and had to return to the main body to find it, this left The Wild Men to face Egan's platoon alone. 

They won't be happy in Montenotte. 

My brave lads to close the distance under cover before going at the Mallows in a rush.  Despite taking a few casualties on the way in, they managed to make it contact and wipe of Second Platoon to the last Cork man. 

Meanwhile Cribb and the Rifles had been doing great execution against my infiltrating Zulus.  I hugged the terrain and mounted three separate charges against his line. 

Dead Eye Cribb managed to miss with an entire volley on the first round, but the only shot that told struck the Induna of The Bull Killers, who went down like a skittle.  This left the Impi milling about and leaderless and they were mown down by Martini fire as they tried to scurry back to cover. 

Trift Shop!

Flush from their success against Second Platoon, the Wild Men (note Induna at the back wearing a snazzy looted red coat) ran for the board edge.  With one British unit in the bag,  I knew that if I could get at least two of my units off the board,  Molloy didn't have a counter. 

From a distance you don't look anything like a friend. 

On the British left, I charged again at the Rifles only to blow the roll to close, which left me stranded two inches away from making contact.  

I need anything but a one and rolled with all the grim inevitability of Greek tragedy, a one. 

The Rifles did not let that piece of bad luck go unpunished and another Impi was sent running to the rear. 

Meanwhile on the Right the Wild Men, despite one tremendously lucky shot from Molloy at extreme long range that pinned them for a turn, managed to rally and make it off the board. 

The Kickers -again- fluffed their roll and ended up hanging around scratching their backsides.  We were only lucky that while the First Platoon's volley at them downed three warriors, they were able to gather themselves sufficiently to avoid being pinned and were able to keep moving. 

They don't like it up 'em!

My third charge was launched on the British Left and I finally made it contact with the Rifles.  

Sadly, to qoute an unnamed Zulu Induna "There was something wrong with our bloody spears today."

Molloy had managed to whittle me down to equal numbers with Martini fire, so my advantage was reduced, but Cribb's boys set to with swords with a will and actually saw off the Zulu attack. I couldn't roll for toffee and we only killed three of the Green Jackets. Our morale broke and we legged it for the rear.  

Thankfully, if my rolling in that combat was poor, someone (I can only hope a grizzled Zulu NCO) had managed to apply the business end of an Iklwa to the backside of the leader of The Kickers and got him moving.  He lead his men off the board bypassing the British position and securing victory. 

Molloy the Younger magnanimous in defeat

The game ended with the Zulu's victorious seven victory points to five.  Molloy had managed to destroy about 50% of my force, while I took a third of his in return, but we accomplished the mission we had been given and that was enough for victory. 

This was my first in person game in a while and I can't say how I enjoyed it.  Molloy though not a regular wargamer grasped the basics of the game quickly and the battle took about an hour and a half (including smoke breaks) at a leisurely pace.  The Men who would be Kings showed itself to be a simple and robust set of rules that gave a game of movement and decision in a satisfactorily short period of time. 

I look forward to playing it with Molloy more often, though I think he'd like a shot at some Napoleonics.