Friday, 17 April 2015

Basing and ID labels

They say plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy. This has proved the case with my plans for the continuation of my plan for my SYW Austrians. Instead of painting IR42 Gaisruck, which has been started, I decided to take a bit of time out and do some basing.

I hate basing. I put it off, then I put it off some more until the task becomes a big one. At some point, it becomes essential to get it done before it becomes so daunting it may never get done. 

This week I've taken a few hours to do some mass sand and gritting, ink washing, dry brushing and flocking. In a few more hours the job will be done. I really do hate basing!
I have chosen to label all of my Seven Years War units when I base them. Each unit has two labels. 

Firstly, at the rear of each 'flag base' (or 'command base' where a flag isn't present) I have put a small disc with the unit number.  In the case of the Russians I used the first three letters of the units name. I have kept the label small on a natural background colour to keep things unobtrusive, neat and tidy.
This unit is Infantry Regiment 22.

The disc was made out of thin light brown card with a hole punch. 

The panel pin, BTW, is for holding two coloured pony beads one above the other. One (the bottom one) denotes unit quality. The other (the top one) is a 'first fire' marker. The latter is removed after first fire.
More information can be found under each numbered base on a second label. 

These give a list of inhabers (regiment 'owners') and battle honours. These labels were printed onto self-adhesive paper.

The labels rarely serve any purpose, but they finish things off nicely.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Esterhazy Hussars

Lately, it feels like I've been painting nothing but infantry and other foot sloggers. Fortunately, I have several units of cavalry in the lead pile to help break things up. It has been weeks since I painted a horse, so I decided to do a unit of Austrian hussars. This unit represents HR 24 Paul Anton Esterhazy - and it is a very colourful unit.

 Figures are by Front Rank. They have been painted in enamels.

I used three painting guides to do them: Kronoskaf, of course; Greenwood and Ball; Osprey. 

The Osprey shows a figure without lace on the thigh of the breeches, so to save some time I've gone with that. 

Kronoskaf's written info on the shabraque and the sabretache is muddled. They are the wrong way around. The shabraque is blue and the sabretache is red as shown in the diagram.

Kronoskaf describes their Regimentsstandarte as a swallow tailed light blue  flag with a golden central device. It does not indicate what this device is. I have so many white cavalry flags (liebstandarte) that I decided to go for it and guess that the central device might be the Esterhazy heraldic symbol - a gold griffin (?) rampant standing on a crown holding a posy of three red flowers in one claw and a sword in the other. It is probably wrong, but at least it is different and quite pretty!

Lastly, for those new to this blog, I will explain why my cavalry are only eight figures strong rather than twelve figures strong.

I game counting one twenty four man unit of infantry as a two battalion regiment. This means that a cavalry regiment of five squadrons should have twelve figures. However, at this unit scale a regiment of cavalry and a regiment of infantry should cover about the same frontage and I can't fit twelve cavalry on a frontage of 180mm, so I've gone with units of eight. My rules don't count heads, and I don't do casualty removal, so it works for me to have artificially small cavalry units on the same frontage as infantry units. What a palaver!

Next up will be Austrian Infantry Regiment 42 Gaisruck in violet facings. It will be followed by a unit of combined Hungarian Grenadiers and a two gun battery of Austrian artillery. After that I will do a mass basing - I'll have a game-able army 34 units of Austrians to do.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

At last, some progress

This post is a general update on what I've been up to. 

For the last few months I've been absolutely snowed under with commissions under deadline. Thankfully, these are now completed, I'm back to regular hours of steady slog and I find myself with the time do do things that have been on my 'hobby to do list' for some time.

First up, whilst my wife was in hospital and I was looking after Alex, I managed, bit by bit, to hex out the main table surface. The drop leaf extension still needs doing, but 12 x 6 will suffice for some time to come. It was the most boring chore I've done in ages - there are 1,450 on that table! 

I have ordered a copy of GMT's War Galley from UGG in Germany (for the reasonable price of £66 including postage) with an eye to playing it on the table with miniatures. 

Now I have time to spit, I have started painting my SYW Austrians again. 

More figures by Front Rank. This time in the classic SYW marching pose. 

These are IR 23 Baden Baden and IR 29 Loudon.
I like this figure pose a lot, probably because it is so SYW, but I still prefer painting the Austrian figure marching with his musket over his shoulder because that figure takes a third less time to paint. Still, variety is the spice of life so I'll continue to ring the pose changes.
Neither of these blue faced regiments had pompoms, they had rosettes instead. So, I cut off all of the pompoms and replaced them with round disc slivers of white metal 'spear shaft'. After doing this, and after painting the figures up, I have decided it was a pointless exercise and I'll not do it again. 

I gave these units yellow Regimentsfahne standards, mainly because the yellow brightens things up. I'll do the next infantry units with white Liebfahne. The first of these will be IR43 Gaisbruck (undercoated today) with violet facings. However, first I'm going to do a unit of Austrian hussars: H 24, Esterhazy, in light blue Pelisse and Dolman with yellow braid, red britches and yellow boots.
Lastly, like all gamers, I suffer from storage difficulties. Today I moved my board games (most of them) across the room to the top of the wall cabinets. My original plan was to invert the cabinets first because they have a 'shelf' that protrudes a few inches at the bottom - actually its a 'foot' because the cabinets were designed to sit on the floor - but, sadly, the construction of the cabinet at the top is not strong enough to allow this. At some point I'll buy a shelf I can screw along the top. Until then the games can stick out a bit further than I'd ideally like.

The space this has made has finally allowed me to store my TSS tiles safely out of the way when not in use. This too is a temporary measure. I will, at some point, put up a 6' long, 2' deep shelf up above the door (you can just see the edge of the door in this shot). This will not look very attractive, but it is another storage solution and good use of idle space.

Thankfully, I still have one of the Bjursta cabinets to fill. It's being saved for my Peninsular War collection, and something to be decided (it's the one full of shoe box lids, the one I use for WIP).

Friday, 27 March 2015

I'll put a hex on you

The other night Peter J. and I played out a few hours of the Actium scenario. Peter was playing Antony's lot and I was playing the part of Octavian. Peter decided that the surest way to win was to break out with as many ships as possible and fight only as the situation warranted. It was a sound plan, and at the end of the first evening's play it was obvious that Peter would break out successfully with his centre, in all likelihood with Cleopatra and the treasure ship. I conceded defeat. Here are a few of shots of the action.

 On my right, Lurius' engages with Publicola. The battle is pretty even.
 I decide to egg my pudding with some support from my centre under Aruntius as some of Publicola's ships break through the first line.

Win the flanks, then attack the centre.
 I also send some support towards my left as Sosius nimbly by passes my blocking squadron.
In the centre Insteius', Acco's and Cleopatra's vessels join together a devastatingly large squadron. I have depleted my centre to gain the flanks but I will not be able to get them to turn inwards in time to prevent the bulk of Antony's fleet escaping.

I quite like this battle, and having recently read the War Galley (GMT Games) rules I thought it might be nice to give them a go, with miniatures, for this battle. Problem, I don't have a hexed table to play on.

You know how you sometimes have a moment of madness.......

What the bloody hell was I thinking when I knocked up a hex template on a sheet of transparent plastic, putting holes I could mark through at the line intersections. 

Why did I think it was a good idea to I start marking out the hexes on the table.
It began to dawn on me..........

The hexes are two and three quarter inches across flats (the lines are 4 cm long to accommodate the bases of my ships). My table, if you include the drop leaf extension is fifteen foot by six foot. 

.............this is going to take me ages.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Battle of Actium 31 BC

The history leading up to Actium, the institution of the triumvirate, Antony’s wife, the general political situation in Greece, and all that, is a complicated subject and I hope those familiar with the facts will forgive my superficial historical background notes.

The order of battle I have for Actium is sketchy. Agrippa had few big ships with fives in the front line and smaller vessels in the second. Agrippa believed that it was an economy of force to have two lines, with smaller ships in the second rank to prevent an enemy diekplous manoeuvre. Antony chose to fight an all ‘big ship’ battle to overawe an enemy superior in numbers. I might have over egged the number of Antony’s big ships but I think the feel is right, especially under Fleet of Battle rules. I have taken a liberty with the ratio of ships present; at 1:10 there should be 23 warships for Antony and 40 warships for Octavian; I have given 25 to Antony and 39 to Octavian. This was done to balance the size of squadrons and to allow Antony to have his own flagship – as I understand it, he alighted onto a light vessel at the outset to better oversee the battle - and it might also improve game balance.

The map below shows the gap between Leucas and the mainland as salt marsh. The Osprey shows it as the passage taken by Antony to Actium. 

Note that, quinqueremes pictured with corvus are standing in for vessels without a corvus - I only have 30 quinqueremes without one and this scenario calls for 36.

Anyway, here is the scenario, I hope you like it and it proves useful to some of you.

Historical Background

As with many wars in history Actium was the culmination of a simple (but relatively hard to explain) dynastic struggle. In this case the dispute arose over the ultimate inheritance of Julius Caesar and his legacy of an accepted dictatorship. This was a war to become, or at least control, a hereditary dictator – the winner would become the first Emperor of Rome. On one side was Julius Caesar’s adopted son and official heir Octavian and the majority of the Senate with a power base in Italy, on the other side was Mark Antony, Cleopatra and her son Caesarian (professed to be the true offspring of Julius Caesar) and a minority of the senate with a power base in the east.

In 32 BC Anthony concentrated his fleet in the Gulf of Ambracia on the west coast of Greece whilst his army was stationed at Patrae and in other outposts. In 31 BC Octavian moved to confront him by launching a surprise campaign against his fleet. Antony became aware of the threat only just in time to get the soldiers he had immediately available to his fleet ahead of his rival. 

When Antony arrived he found his fleet had wintered badly. He had lost a third of his fleet's crew to disease, malnutrition or desertion. When Octavian's fleet offered battle Antony was forced to decline. Octavian was unwilling to risk his ships entering the narrows of the gulf so a stalemate occurred.

As the campaign season progressed, both sides built up the strength of their land armies and the stalemate continued. However, at sea, Octavians fleet was going from strength to strength; slowly but surely his admiral, Agrippa tightened the noose around Antony's position. Suffering from disease brought on by a badly placed camp, and unable to run supplies past Agrippa’s blockade, Antony’s forces were being rapidly starved, depleted and demoralised. 

Antony and Cleopatra were at crisis point, their army and fleet could not survive long, given its predicament, and they risked losing the war by default. At a council of war they decided to forcibly recruit enough men locally to man the oars of the fleet and burn any ships that were unable to be crewed. The fleet would be risked in a breakout to Egypt; here, the escaping army would form the nucleus of a new attempt on power. The legions left behind in Greece were to hold out as long as possible. Providing that the vast Ptolemy treasure which had accompanied Cleopatra and Antony could be saved the plan was strategically sound - Octavian’s forces were in better shape, and his fleet was undoubtedly superior, but Octavian had cashed in everything for his cause. He was desperately short of money and his war effort was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy; if Antony, Cleopatra and their treasure made it back to Egypt Octavian would be forced to sue for terms due to lack of funds. 

On 2nd September 31 BC, Antony and Cleopatra’s fleet of 230 warships and some transports emerged from the Gulf of Ambracia to give battle with Octavian’s fleet of almost 400 warships. 

Octavian’s Order of Battle

Fleet Commander: Agrippa. D12 fleet die. Seasoned fleet sequence deck.

All ships have trained crews for ramming and raking. All ships count as seasoned for boarding actions and seamanship. All ships are fast (see notes on enemy fleet).

All quinqueremes and triremes are heavy. 

All quinqueremes have catapults and one tower; all may shoot harpago. 

All liburnians are aphract. Liburnians suffering a ‘hole’ and ‘fire’ due to a single missilery hit are immediately sunk.

Left Wing:

Front line (A): Agrippa: Squadron die D12
·         7 Quinqueremes

Second Line (B): Drasus: Squadron die D10
·         3 Liburnians
·         3 Cataphracted Triremes

Front Line (C): Aruntius: Squadron die D12 
·         7 Quinqueremes

Second Line (D): Agricola: Squadron die D10
·         3 Liburnian
·         3 Cataphracted Triremes
Right Wing:

Front Line (E): Lurius: Squadron die D10
·         7 Quinqueremes

Second Line (F): Octavian: Squadron die D10
·         2 Liburnian
·         4 Cataphracted Triremes

 Antony and Cleopatra’s Order of Battle

Fleet Commander: Antony. D10 fleet dice. Poor fleet sequence deck.

One ship in Acco's squadron must be secretly noted as carrying Cleopatra. 

One ship in Acco's squadron, or a cargo ship, must be secretly noted as carrying the Ptolemy treasure - it may be Cleopatra's ship.

All ships have poor crews for ramming, raking and seamanship. All ships count as seasoned for boarding actions.

All quinqueremes and triremes are heavy. Antony’s trireme is fast.

All quinqueremes have catapults and one tower. 

All septeremes have catapults and two towers. 

All decares have catapults and three towers.

All quinqueremes, hepteremes and decares have strengthened hulls which reduce the effect of enemy ramming – the enemy are down 1 for ramming. This strengthening reduced the speed of Antony’s ships - in game terms this makes Octavian’s ships fast.

Left Wing (G):

Sosius: Squadron die D10
·         2 Septeremes
·         4 Quinqueremes
Centre (H):

Insteius: Squadron die D10
·         1 Decares
·         2 Septeremes
·         3 Quinqueremes
Antony (X):

Independent fleet flagship initially deployed on the right: Squadron die D10
·         1 Cataphracted Trireme

     Right Wing (I):

Publicola: Squadron die D10
·         1 Decares
·         2 Septeremes
·         3 Quinqueremes

Reserve (J):

Acco & Cleopatra: Squadron die D10
·         1 Septereme
·         5 Quinquiremes

Transports (K):

Squadron die D8
·         4 Cargo ships (under sail only)
 Victory Conditions

This scenario is, as yet, untested. Victory points have been set on a 'best guess' and may change in future. I don't think it is possible for Antony to win a straight up fight, but I've never played such an unbalanced battle (big ships Vs little ships) before, so I'm assuming his best chance of victory is to claim the bonuses for escaping.

As a basic rule of thumb it is Antony's objective to fight his way through Octavian's fleet and escape with as many ships as possible, especially including his own, Cleopatra's and the treasure ship. Octavian's objective is to sink and capture as many enemy vessels as possible and acquire the treasure ship. Antony's ships only count the western and southern table edges as safety - ships escaping via the northern table edge are deemed to be captured later.

At the end of the game, each side awards itself one point per 'oar' of enemy vessels sunk, surrendered and captured (E.g. five points for a Qunquereme, seven points for a septereme. Liburnians and cargo ships count as two points each). 

The Antonian fleet is awarded fifteen bonus points each for reaching the safety of the open sea (western and southern table edge) with Antony and Cleopatra. Reaching safety with the treasure ship is worth thirty points. Each ship reaching safety adds two more points to the total.

The Octavian fleet is awarded a bonus of fourty points if it captures the treasure ship - if it sinks it is lost to both sides. 

The player with the highest points total wins.

Fleet Of Battle Rule Amendments

Ships may not board ships MORE than two brackets larger or vice versa: E.g. Triremes cannot board decares (tens), liburnians cannot board sevens.

One Fleet Missilery card has been added to the standard sequence deck. It allows all ships, with catapults, to shoot. Each deck now has 25 cards.

Tactical Advantage cards no longer allow missilery by the whole fleet. They allow one vessel to shoot with an Up 1 modifier immediately the card is turned.

Liburnians and other smaller vessels suffering a ‘hole’ and ‘fire’ due to a single missilery hit (more, evens and Vs natural 1) are immediately sunk.

To keep things simple, Cargo sailing vessels cannot move into the wind at angles of 45 degrees or less. They can move with the wind on the bow at greater angles at a rate of 3". With the wind from other angles they move 6". They can only make forward progression twice on a cruise card, though they can use a third move to turn, and they cannot move backwards. They turn in increments of 45 degrees. They count as sevens (due to heavy construction) if rammed and they cannot be raked. They cannot ram and count as an aphract bireme in all other circumstances.

Fleet Of Battle Rules

Fleet of Battle rules, along with some playing counter art for those without ships, are available to download, free of charge, from the Wargames Illustrated website. Links: 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Ancient Naval - Roll Call

Today I finished painting the last of my ancient galleys. They are 1:600 Xyston models and conversions. I have been collecting these ships for years. The collection started with a good sized purchase from Wargames World in Ilkley when, as a promotion, they were being sold on a 'buy one get one free' and Chris A. also threw in 'mates discount'. Since then I have scoured ebay for bargains. At first they came up quite often at good prices but, over the years, they have become much more scarce and I haven't bought one for at least twelve months. As this is only a 'filler period', or at least that is how it started, I think I have enough now - more than enough.

My 'galleys to do' box is now empty. I have a few strips of crew to do and I'll knock these off this week to finish the new arrivals - including a second ten that I converted from a seven (sevens are the largest vessel Xyston does so larger vessels need to be conversions). So, it's time for a..................Roll Call!

The fleet was not collected to fight any particular battle - I pretty much just bought what came up. Unlike any of my other collections it is not all painted by me. A dozen or so, mainly triremes, were painted by Wargames Illustrated's painter for a photo shoot for an article here a couple of years ago; I was given the ships at the end of the shoot.

The fleet comprises:

Biremes x 8 
Triremes x 20 
Cataphracted Triremes x 11
Quadriremes and Quinquiremes x 46 (including 16 with corvus)
Severns x 7
Tens x 2
Cargo ships x 9
Wrecks x 15.

Two Decares (Tens) which have been lengthened, widened and made higher than the original model. It is not a perfect solution because the oars banks have not been lengthened, however, the effect is pronounced and makes them easily recognisable as significantly bigger ships.

The next battle here, in a couple of weeks because we are playing Commands and Colors Napoleonic at Graham's place, will be Actium 31 BC, a battle where the big ships can be used.

Before I'm jumped on for historical inaccuracy, I am fully aware that galleys fought without masts, often putting them ashore before battle, but I decided early on that the models looked better with a bit of height, and the masts were useful for measuring missilery ranges (mast to mast) and LOS accurately in crowded situations.

As requested by ncc1717 here is a closer look at my trading vessels
Here you can see two kinds. The ones with the white swan backs are by Xyston. The ones with the less detailed sterns are my efforts that I described here: Drop casting my own trading vessel. I recently re-rigged these with spare masts and sails from the triremes given to me by Dan Fauconbridge of WI.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Enthused, what the hell does that mean?

You might well ask.

I've just come back from one of the best war game's weekends I've ever been on. Right now I should be buying figures, I should be making roads, rivers, hills.....Nope.

I looked at the huge table I played on last weekend and thought about the patch of beige that has intersected my own table since I added the permanent extension.....

Yesterday I went down to my local hardware shop (I'm lucky to have a good one) and bought some 20mm half round moulding for the table edge and a couple of 250ml match pots. A few hours later I had a new sea scape (15 x 6) and a table that no longer snags clothes. The moulding cost more than I'd hoped because the 8 foot length was two inches shorter than the eight foot of edge - so I had to buy two. However, being able to buy match pots enabled me to paint the 'extension' for less than £4.00, so swings and roundabouts.

I didn't know you could get any colour you like by Dulux in 250ml pots before yesterday. Wow! I went back today and bought several more, in several weird colours that confused the shop assistant no end.  I don't dare to think what he thinks the walls in my house look like!

My wife does not like most painted war game tables because they are too plain. I can help her with this by the simple addition of 'borders'. Apparently, according to my wife, a nice border makes a gaming table a piece of furniture [grin].

The picture of the sea doesn't accurately portray the actual colour, which is more like the colour in this shot. It is Dulux Azure Fusion 2, code: 70BG 11/257.