Nugget 225

I hope to collect the latest issue of THE NUGGET from the printers tomorrow and I should be able to post it out to members later this week.

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.

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And now for something completely different …

After spending so much time and effort of late preparing for Cruiser 2009 and Salute 2009, and with COW 2009* not taking place until July, I can now think about doing some work on one or two of my other wargaming ‘projects’.

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.


Solferino in Thirty Minutes – A report on how the Salute 2009 games went

I must admit, although I knew the game was a good one, I was unprepared for the response it received from a lot of people who stopped to watch or to take part. One passer-by even asked when the game would be on sale, as he wanted to buy a copy!

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!

– o 0 o –

The following summary was given to all the players and to interested passers by.

Player Summary

Context:

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.

Military Significance:

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.

Game Design:

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.

The Board:

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.

Playing Pieces:

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.

Game System:

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.

Movement:

  • 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.

Command:

  • 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.

Combat:

  1. 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.
  2. Multiply by Average Dice (+1 French attack/C-in-C adjacent).
  3. 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.
  4. Compare scores: Attacker>=Defender x2: Defender annihilated; Attacker >=Defender x1: Defender retreats; Otherwise no change.

Objectives:

French must take Solferino and retain Medole for a marginal victory, and take Cavriana or Guidizzolo for a decisive victory. Otherwise the Austrians win.


Salute 2009 – A short report

In spite of having a very heavy cold I managed to make it to Salute 2009 to help run the Wargame Developments game SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES. I was kept very busy helping to run the numerous games the members of WD put on during the day; however, I did manage to walk around the show and take a few pictures of the games that really took my eye.

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)

As any regular visitor to my blog would have gathered, games that use a gridded playing surface always get my attention, and this game certainly managed that!

The playing surface appeared to be some sort of printed patchwork (probably curtain or blind material) and the figures were 40mm ‘toy’ soldiers.

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.

Other highlights

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.

General impressions

  • 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.

    The name may have changed … but the game is the same!

    After a number of play-tests SOLFERINO IN TWENTY MINUTES has been renamed SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES.

    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.


    Feedback from visitors always welcome

    This is the 100th blog entry I have written, and it is appropriate that I use it to thank all the visitors to my blog who have made comments. You have all been very positive and helpful, and have encouraged me to push forward with various projects that might otherwise have languished in the ‘to do someday’ pile. Now that I have got the blogging ‘bug’ I intend to continue to blog as often as I can, if only because the drive to write about something is a great incentive to actually do it!

    Many thanks!


    Solferino in Twenty Minutes – my work is done!

    I finally managed to complete everything that I need for SOLFERINO IN TWENTY MINUTES, although I still need to print off the handouts for the players and spectators once Richard Brooks sends them to me.

    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:

    The activation cards represent each of the major commanders present at the Battle of Solferino:

    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.