I hope to upload the PDF version of the latest issue of THE NUGGET to the Wargame Developments website on Thursday so that members (including e-members) can read it before the printed version arrives in the post.
I am not yet sure which project will get my attention first. I still intend to fight at least one more battle from the Lauranian Border War using the TABLE TOP BATTLES rules, and I also want to try out the naval wargame rules in the book. Doing the latter will require at least four suitable ship models to be built, and building them from scratch should not be too difficult or time consuming. It would also give me the opportunity to explain the processes I use.
I am also very taken with the idea of re-fighting the War of the Pacific, particularly as I own what is currently the definitive uniform guide for the three warring armies (UNIFORMES DE LA GUERRA DEL PACIFICO 1879 – 1884). The land and sea battles that were fought were all quite small, and could easily be re-created using the TABLE TOP BATTLES rules. Although there are no figure ranges available for the Bolivians, Chileans, and Peruvians, the uniforms are very similar to the French, German, and US uniforms of the period, and could be reproduced with a reasonable degree of accuracy using paint ‘conversions’.
The Eastern Front has fascinated me for a very long time, and now that I have two sets of suitable solo rules to use – my own mid-20th century variant of TABLE TOP BATTLES and RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES (TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED) – I am very tempted to start expanding my Russian and Axis forces.
In addition to all of the above, I also want to re-fight the Bay of Pigs incident, re-build my Spanish Civil War armies, inject some life into the presently stagnant colonial campaign I started some years ago, and build up some small armies for the post-World War I Wars of Independence that took place around the edge of the Baltic Sea.
So many potential projects; where should I start?
*For those of you who don’t know, COW is the Conference of Wargamers, which is the Wargame Developments annual conference. It takes place at a local authority-owned country house in Northamptonshire from early Friday evening until late Sunday afternoon.
So how did it go?
Well during the course of the seven hours from opening time at 10.00 am until closing time at 5.00 pm the game was played through at least eight times to my knowledge. Amongst those who commanded the French or the Austrians were several past and present members of Wargame Developments, a chap whose name I do not know but who always makes a point of playing the WD participation game at Salute, and a retired Major General who served in the Royal Engineers.
The results were very interesting; in five of the seven games I witnessed, the French achieved a marginal victory by capturing Solferino, retaining Medole, but not capturing Cavriana or Guidizzolo. In the other two instances the Austrians not only managed to retain Solferino but also managed to push back the French troops commanded by General Niel. The crucial factor in both of these cases was the Austrian 2nd Army Cavalry, which should have retreated in the face of the advancing French, but did not.
Several ‘improvements’ have been suggested; for example, making the composition of the deck of activation cards more random and giving the Austrian artillery the same range as the French artillery. Although these suggestions are good ones, they would change the nature of the game, which is – essentially – a re-fight of an historical battle. That said, several people have indicated that they intend to use the basic game mechanisms to re-fight other nineteenth century battles such as Chancellorsville and Fröschwiller.
Richard Brooks (the game’s designer and the author of the newly published Osprey book about the Battle of Solferino), Ian Drury (a long-time member of Wargame Developments and also a prolific game designer and author), and Alex Kleanthous (the current editor of The Nugget), having a quick run through of the game.
Richard Brooks looking somewhat astonished (or possibly even alarmed!) as I try to photograph the game over his shoulder. During this run through I commanded the Austrians … and made a right mess of things!
The following summary was given to all the players and to interested passers by.
The battle of Solferino was fought in Northern Italy on 24 June 1859 between a Franco-Sardinian army commanded by Napoleon III and an Austrian Army under Kaiser Franz Josef. The latter’s defeat made possible the unification of Italy during the 1860s.
Solferino was the first major battle where both sides used rifled muskets, supported on the French side by rifled field guns. The last great battle in the Napoleonic tradition, it foreshadowed the mass industrial wars of the future.
Solferino was a very large battle, involving 259,000 combatants, on a 12 mile frontage, and lasting 15 hours. Wargaming so large a conflict in a convenient time and space demands a high level of abstraction.
Represents the 6-mile square central part of the battlefield where the French engaged the Austrian main body. Its chequered pattern reflects the patchwork of fields south of the ridge around Solferino village, and defines frontages, ranges and movement.
Represent divisions of Cavalry, Infantry, or Guards, their supporting Artillery, and Commanders-in-Chief. Set up as at 9 a.m. following the initial contacts.
Simple mechanisms bring out key features of the fighting:
- Personalised command cards transfer initiative to different sectors of the battlefield.
- Chess-like movement encourages historically appropriate manoeuvres.
- Combat resolution rewards combined arms tactics and intelligent placing of commanders.
- Limited duration: The game ends when all cards are drawn: rain ended the battle at 5 p.m.
- 1 square any direction, except infantry & guards only move forward/diagonally/backwards.
- Cavalry may also make a knight’s move, but not over enemy occupied squares.
- Towns are impassable to guns and cavalry; Cavalry never enter ridge squares.
- Cavalry and infantry never stack; artillery and C-in-Cs may do so.
- No diagonal movement between enemy units or past enemy directly in front.
- Players only move own units, except Napoleon may let MacMahon move his artillery or a Guard unit. MacMahon may transfer a cavalry division to Niel.
- Austrian Armies never cross the centre line of the board, except cavalry.
- Count attacking and supporting units able to enter/fire into enemy square under attack:
- French guns have 1 or 2 squares range.
- C-in-Cs never initiate combat.
- Max 1 attack per unit per turn.
- No attacks at <= odds.
- Multiply by Average Dice (+1 French attack/C-in-C adjacent).
- Defending unit rolls Average Dice (+1 friendly artillery or C-in-C adjacent):
x3 Built up area; x2 French guns or any infantry in open; Else x1.
- Compare scores: Attacker>=Defender x2: Defender annihilated; Attacker >=Defender x1: Defender retreats; Otherwise no change.
French must take Solferino and retain Medole for a marginal victory, and take Cavriana or Guidizzolo for a decisive victory. Otherwise the Austrians win.
The Battle of Wagram (Newark Irregulars)
This 6mm re-fight of one of the largest battles of the Napoleonic Wars looked spectacular. I was particularly impressed with the terrain, which combined simplicity with effectiveness, and the figures. There is nothing to beat 6mm figures en masse to give the impression of the sheer numbers of men who fought in these huge battles.
It was also nice to meet Steve of Newark Irregulars (seen below in the green T-shirt), who follows this blog and who went out of his way to come over to the Wargame Developments table to introduce himself.
The Battle of Jarama (Nick Eyre)
The Spanish Civil War is one of my ‘pet’ periods, and any game that recreates battles from that conflict always catches my eye. This was no exception. Yet again, the terrain was simple but effective, and the 28mm figures looked superb. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to stop and talk to Nick, who was in deep discussion with an onlooker when I made my visit.
The Battle of Novara (Continental Wars Society)
The whole thing looked like it had been brought by time machine from the late nineteenth century. I loved the ‘look’ of the whole thing … and furthermore, the people playing the game seemed to be having FUN! This was something that was missing on one or two other games that I passed on my walk round the hall.
The Great War in Italy – The Battle of the Piave (Scarab Miniatures)
As I use Kallistra Hexon II terrain in many of my games, the sight of its use here drew me over to look.
Unfortunately I was not able to track down which group was running the game, but the new 28mm trenches that Kallistra are now making looked very impressive, as did the figures.
Steve the Wargamer – another blog follower – introduced himself towards the end of the day and we managed to have a nice chat before we went out separate ways. I also saw and talked to a lot of old wargaming friends, particularly the members of the South East Essex Military Society who were running their World War I air combat game and to Duncan Macfarlane. Now that Duncan has given up editing wargames magazines after doing it for over 25 years, he told me that he would be taking a sabbatical for a year before beginning work on expanding his range of figures. I wish him well, and hope that his next venture is as successful and long lasting as his magazines have been.
- There was a lot more space than in previous years, which made it feel less claustrophobic in the hall;
- I find the lighting in the venue – along with the ventilation – very oppressive, and the flooring is very tiring on the feet if you have to stand for too long;
- The guide – which was produced by Wargames Soldiers & Strategy – was excellent;
- There were a lot of traders who seemed to be doing a reasonable trade BUT there were one or two ‘regulars’ – Irregular Miniatures – who seemed to be ‘missing’. With so many wargames manufactures and suppliers based in the Midlands and Northern England it is perhaps not surprising that they may have preferred to go to Triples rather than to make the journey to London.
This is the only change that has been made, and other than a few last minute bits that need to be printed off – for example, the summary sheet for the players – everything is ready for Salute tomorrow.
If you are going to Salute, please pop by the Wargame Developments stand and say hello … and if you have time, try out the game.
To get some idea what the game will look like at Salute, I laid out the playing board, added the built-up areas, and placed the playing pieces in what I think are their correct locations; the result looks like this:
Now I can take a bit of a rest from the nineteenth century … until next Saturday when Richard and I shall be running the game at Salute. I hope I will see some of the visitors to my blog there, and maybe they may be able to play the game. In the meantime, I might actually manage to make a list of what I am going to buy at the show.
My first attempt was to print on both sides of the card so that the inside of the box was not so stark, but I could not get my Inkjet printer to print on both sides of the card with the level of precision that this needed.
My second attempt was to print on coloured card – I chose a buff colour to try to match the colour of the buildings – and whilst it was less stark than the white card still did not look quite right.
One problem that I had with the ‘boxes’ was how intrusive they looked when placed on the playing board. I wondered if cutting the ‘boxes’ on the diagonal might make them less intrusive, and so I tried it. The result looked much better.
I sat down at my computer, and using the desktop publishing programme I had used to design the original ‘boxes’, I manipulated my designs so that I could print a corner unit that had pictures of the relevant buildings (and the name of the built-up area) on the back and front of the two sides of the corner unit. The result is shown below:
It has turned out to be much better than I hoped, and I will be using this method to make the other built-up areas that I need for the game. They are printed on both sides – and are therefore less stark – and take up less room on the playing board – and are therefore less intrusive. A side effect of this change has meant that they can be stored in even less space, as they will stack together. All this came about because of the feedback I got from visitors to this blog … thank you!
I persisted, and several attempts later I had some playing pieces cut and ready to put into the plastic cards stands I had bought. Then my second problem reared its ugly head … they were too top heavy for the stands and would not stand upright!
By now I was beginning to feel a bit desperate. So I did what my wife always advises me to do when this happens … walk away from the problem and give it some ‘think time’. I went to bed and tried to sleep. As I was just dozing off I had an idea; print the images and text from the original playing pieces on to small labels, stick the labels to both sides of a blank business card, and then laminate them.
On Saturday morning I set of for the local business supplies store and bought everything I needed. The labels took a bit of time to get just right, but once I had set up the template correctly everything went like clockwork. By just after lunchtime I had a very neat pile of laminated playing pieces and activation cards (also printed onto blank business cards and then laminated) that fitted into the plastic card stands perfectly.
To all intents and purposes everything is now ready for Salute … but the feedback from visitors to my blog about the built-up area ‘boxes’ I have made has given me food for thought and I may have a re-think about them.