Somewhere In Holland

Some time ago Dave made up and painted a squad of Polish paratroopers which have never seen the light of day so with the gang back together again we decided to do a multi player skirmish set in post Market Garden, Holland.

The basic scenario was, the para’s and a cell from the Dutch resistance have captured a fortified house guarding a crossroads on the route of XXX Corps, unfortunately the defending Germans managed to get a message out prior to being overpowered and a young resistance fighter has just cycled in to say German reinforcements are on their way!

The para’s were allowed to position themselves anywhere around the house and the Dutch anywhere around the windmill and ruined barn, so essentially covering the north south and east west road approaches. The Germans had 4 squads and 10 potential entry points so each squad diced for where they would randomly come on and if it was a road they had the option of using a truck. As it turned out 1 squad came from the north down the road by truck, 1 from the south by truck and 2 squads from the south east, emerging from the wooded terrain. The allies were outnumbered 2:1 but did have the advantage of extensive cover and in the case of the paras better training.

Because the Germans entered at different points and were commanded by different players there wasn’t too much co-ordination (no radios = no player chit chat) so probably best to describe each squad’s ‘journey’ as a whole.

The squad on the northern road (3rd squad) drove as far as the wrecked lorry blocking the way and then de-bussed to head for the windmill (no Dutch were visible at this point) with the aim of using it as the fire base to pin down the defenders of the house. This plan deteriorated quite early on when the para sniper picked off the lmg gunner as the squad crossed the hedge ๐Ÿ˜•

The squad were then involved in a race for cover as the para Bren also opened up and by the time they reached the windmill area they had several men down. At the windmill the Dutch started to open fire but their poorer training meant they weren’t so deadly (by now the para’s had other Germans to worry about) so they were soon dispatched. Once at the windmill the Germans were able to outflank the resistance fighters who were outflanking the Germans advancing from the south and gunned them down. By game end this squad was settled in the windmill but nursing 50% losses. The Dutch had ceased to exist as an effective fighting force and the survivors slipped away.

The Germans on the southern road (1st squad) drove about half way to the crossroads then debussed and crossed the hedge to their left to advance on the house, reckoning that to drive any closer would invite a Piat shot (actually the paras didn’t have a Piat but the Germans didn’t know that ๐Ÿ˜€). The corporal and one other stayed by the truck to engage in long range distraction of the paras now visible on the bunker roof- they eventually downed one para who was bandaged up by his mates.

It was a long slog up to the crossroads and at the corner they took an unexpected casualty from the firing slit in the bunker door which covered the break in the hedge – this was a pure accident of the terrain placement and despite a bit of debate we agreed it was a legal shot. Alerted now, most of the the squad scrambled over the hedge and advanced on the house using the burning Hanomag as a screen, things were looking good as 2nd & 4th squads were converging on the house.

Now out of angle of the bunker door the squad prepared for an assault…….

Boom! Unfortunately one of the resistance team hiding out in the barn was positioned at the window, hidden by the other burning wreck, and let fly with a panzerfaust which exploded against the Hanomag taking out 3 of the squad in the blast ๐Ÿ˜ฎ – the funny bit was that the Dutch player thought that the guy he had placed there was armed with a rifle ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

The result of this debacle was that the sergeant died of his wounds and the resultant morale test saw that group ‘pinned’ and then ‘gone to ground’ which meant they crawled away from the action until rallied – they didn’t.

The remainder of the squad, a couple of guys the other side of the burning vehicles and the corporal and his mate, belatedly advancing up the road, pulled themselves together enough to kill off the Dutch in the barn (I wonder if it was a ‘Dutch barn’?) but that was them essentially done. A noteworthy postscript was that in the dying light of the day the corporal managed to place a charge against the bunker door and blow it in – the figure was equipped with a bunch of grenades bundled together for tank busting so we agreed that was a feasible outcome.

The German 4th squad emerged from the eastern woods into the sunlight and started out across the open field toward the house only to take rifle fire from the upper windows that downed the corporal, but the sergeant urged the men on, leaving behind a man to dress the corporal’s wound. They flung themselves into cover at some shell holes and returned fire supported by the lmg of 2nd squad behind them, after a couple of turns of no firing from the house (the para had been hit and was being treated by another) they rushed to the hedge in front of them and vaulted over and into the street.

Once in the street there was a ‘lobbing grenades into the house competition’ which saw grenades get through the window but land nowhere near those inside (as the Germans couldn’t mark their target the impact point was randomised) but the concussion from grenades going off in a small room were deemed to have concussed those inside. The main plan however was to rush to the rear of the house, storm into the yard and up the stairs.

However, as soon as the first soldier entered the yard a shot rang out from the bunker (this bloody bunker!) and down he went. This completely stuffed the plan and the squad was now stuck exchanging useless shots at a bunker slit knowing full well only a lucky hit would be enough – they never got lucky. One bright spot was a single soldier who had been sent crawling into the under house garage space, but more of him later.

The German 2nd squad emerged from the south east slightly behind 4th squad so when the 4th took fire the lmg team quickly deployed and opened up on the house – it was actually their fire that inflicted the casualty. While the lmg team remained deployed, the rest of the squad advanced, using the eastern hedge line as cover, arriving at the hedge to the south of the house just as 4th got set to advance round the corner.

Vaulting the hedge like their predecessors, the 2nd also went for the grenade lobbing trick but what a disaster ๐Ÿ™„, the grenade hit the windowsill, bounced back and exploded amongst the squad, killing the sergeant and one other! Despite the shock the corporal rallied the squad and led them up the road away from dangerous grenade throwing and into the hell that was the crossroads fighting.

The corporal firing his smg at the bunker firing slit this provided enough of a distraction for the lone private from 4th squad who’d crawled through the garage space to get to the side of the slit and post a grenade – boom!

In the fading light the rest of 2nd squad got round the side of the bunker but there was still no way of launching an effective assault. In desperation surrender terms were offered but the paras said they hadn’t got room for so many prisoners ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚ (if you’re going to steal, steal from the best), even the blowing in of the bunker door failed to convince them!

At that point we decided the Germans would fall back far enough to keep the paras bottled up and hope to starve them out before XXX Corps arrived, which was probably a vain hope.

Overall we had a great time, plenty of tactical decisions to be made; when do you run across open ground, how many men are you prepared to lose in a suicidal assault, remembering to fire and move, etc. We also got a sense of the frustration of close assault against prepared positions, especially when those positions are held by good quality troops, although the fortified house was a lot harder nut to crack than we envisaged,

Anyway, we played, we bantered, we had a good game, all you can ask for really.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your gaming.

Action At Cho Ra

Calm before the storm

So, after nearly two years apart, we managed to get most of the gang back together and thought we’d ease ourselves in with a multi player Indo China skirmish game. The rules were our WWII skirmish rules modified for jungle insurgency warfare and the figures a mix from The Assault Group, Empress and Britannia. The game was played on a 6×4 at the home base, movement phase was by randomly dealt cards (one per unit) but in this variant the Viet Minh could put their card back in the ‘pack’ (it’s only 6 cards!) once per unit so as to try and get the drop on the French – home court advantage and all that๐Ÿ˜ .

Peasants go about their business

Our scenario saw the peaceful village of Cho Ra going about it’s business under the benevolent/oppressive eye (delete as appropriate) of the French protective/occupation forces (delete ….) located in two nearby compounds. The village was located at the northern end of the table at the confluence of a river and stream, the stream could be crossed without any major difficulty but the river would have to be swum. The two compounds were located south of the village on either side of the stream, the eastern compound housed a single squad from 1/4 RTM (Moroccans) and the western compound housed a single squad from 1/2REI (Foreign Legionnaires); there was no support weapons or contact with artillery/air cover, and any reinforcements would be in response to flares or runners. The Legionnaires were Veteran & Cadres (averages in normal parlance), 12 men strong armed with rifles, smg’s and one lmg, the Moroccans had two Veteran sergeants (one Moroccan, one French) armed with smg’s and the rest Cadre with a couple of Recruits, 10 men with rifles and an lmg.

One of the compounds before deployment

The Viet Minh were a Bo Dai platoon from Regiment 120 operating in the area and consisted of, a small HQ element (3 men including an RPG), the 1st & 2nd Assault squads (around 12 men, mainly small arms) and one Support squad (essentially two lmg teams), team leaders were all Veteran and the rest varied from Cadre to Conscript representing the spread of experience.

Moroccans and Legionnaires

To start the game the French had to occupy the compounds but could also spread out across any the playing area and would deploy first. The Moroccans opted to place the lmg team in the edge of the jungle covering the footbridge over the stream near their compound and send a two man patrol out south from the bridge along the cleared ground, the remainder of the squad manned the compound including the all important watch tower. The Legionnaires deployed a three man patrol at the most southerly end of the track heading back toward the two Moroccans, the rest manned the compound. The Viet Minh had 6 jump off points placed around the gaming area by the umpire (visible to all) and 6 counters each marked with a squad designation or the designation ‘dummy’ which they could place at any of the jump off points, but only one per jump off, these would then be moved as play progressed until they revealed themselves or they were spotted. The Viet Minh players opted to have the two assault squads on the northerly jump off points in the jungle near the river on either side of the stream, the support squad was in the south west jungle and the HQ at one of the temple ruins in the western jungle. The Viet Minh plan was simple enough; in the east, the two full squads overwhelm the Moroccans by sheer weight of numbers and in the west the RPG prove enough of a distraction for the assault squad to penetrate the defences or at the very least prevent the legionnaires from helping the Moroccans.

Viet Minh HQ

The first couple of turns was the Viet Minh keeping the French guessing as they moved the markers through the jungle and keeping shy of the dead zone at the edge of the jungle where the observers in the towers could see them (3″ in from the edge). The Legionnaires and Moroccans met on patrol, the Legionnaires headed back to the compound and the Moroccans headed into the jungle, mainly in response to the 3 counters which were moving through this section, only one of which would be the enemy.

Moroccan patrol

First to open the ball was the 1st Assault Squad who didn’t wait for the RPG to hit the tower (what is that saying about plans and first contact?) and blazed away at the Legion compound to absolutely no effect ๐Ÿ˜’. Not to be outdone in the failure stakes the HQ section did indeed get off the RPG shot (after the shooting started๐Ÿ™„) but completely missed and then scuttled back into the jungle realising that they were few and the Legion were many. The 2nd Assault Squad were next to open fire and did a little better, downing Driss Menou in the compound necessitating first aid

1st Assault Squad

The two assault squads then went for the standard tactics of the time and surged out from the jungle hoping to swarm the defenders – we had discussed this prior to the game and all credit to the Viet Minh players for going for period immersion although I am probably going to have to write something into the rules sooner or later. As it turned out this was an utter disaster for the 1st squad as their sergeant was killed outright by the defenders fire and the resultant morale test saw them fail and become Pinned. The 2nd did better and despite their own losses forced the Moroccans to give up the northern edge of the compound losing corporal Belabiche in the process.

Moroccan compound under attack

The tale of woe that was the 1st squad got worse when their corporal was killed and their next morale failure saw them Go To Ground which essentially meant withdraw from the fighting until rallied, which they never did. They left about half their number dead or dying in front of the Legion positions and crawled back to the river behind them. They were later rounded up by a Legion fire team in the closing stages of the fight much to the embarrassment of the player.

The capture of 1st squad

The success of 2nd squad continued as they treated their wounded in the field and pressed on forcing Sgt Chef Antonin and privates Said & Ahmed to hop over the sandbags at the southern end of the compound and face north into the compound to try and contain the Viet Minh and provide enough cover fire for Sgt Ali Sahraoui, who was trapped by the stores shack, to get away.

The Support Squad arrives

Despite the breathing space the Moroccans had gained themselves they were in fact in bigger trouble because no sooner had they hopped over the sandbags than the Support Squad finally arrived – it was a longer slog from their jump off point, and opened fire from the edge of the jungle into the backs of Antonin and his men. This was one of those classic “I forgot about them” moments and from an umpiring point of view a satisfaction with the counters idea, there had been 3 counters in this part of the play area and one had been discovered to be a dummy by the two man patrol but then concentration was lost and the Moroccans paid the price. Both Said & Ahmed were seriously wounded in the initial fusillade and later died of their wounds but Antonin survived long enough to gun down Lam Binh, one of the lmg loaders and rifle fire from privates Oman & Mohammed in the tower killed the other loader, Van Nhien. Ultimately, however, sheer weight of fire killed Antonin and silenced the tower.

The Moroccan lmg team

All was not over yet in the Moroccan theatre, in a bizarre turn of events the Viet Minh advance had not revealed the lmg team that had been deployed by the bridge – this was partly a player thing, they simply forgot ๐Ÿคฃ but also a good rules thing because the distance we had allocated for vision within the jungle did indeed mean they had moved past without seeing and so the Moroccans redeployed and opened up. A couple of the Viet Minh went down in the initial burst and it did distract from some of the firing on Antonin and his men but quick thinking Corporal To Van Phu lobbed a well thrown grenade and the lmg was history. Just to complete the theatre of this mini battle the two man patrol of Amar & Haza emerged from the jungle to cut down one of the lmg gunners with rifle fire but they paid the price for their intervention and were cut down in return.

End of the Moroccan compound

The closing act to the Moroccan affair was the looting and firing of the compound by 2nd squad and the Support squad but not before Sgt Sahraoui got in a final burst from his smg, downing the last lmg gunner before slipping away east into the jungle, the only survivor of his squad.

Legion compound

While the Moroccan action was playing itself out the Legion compound was not completely quiet. While Sgt Wallisch had been directing the fire that drove back the 1st squad (some would say they got a lucky break ๐Ÿค”) Legionnaires Pflimlin & Echevary up in the tower had been playing cat and mouse with the HQ team who couldn’t work out why 1st squad weren’t pressing their attack. In a series of gunfights, as the HQ team tried to use the jungle to their best advantage, RPG gunner Tan Hoa and Lt Le Van Tien were both wounded but they did manage to kill Pflimlin, however, as the firing died down, Sgt Van Diem noticed Legionnaires Verzat & Molinier leading the lmg team forward to flush them out and hustled his comrades deep into the jungle and away.

Vet Minh victory

And that was it, an exciting action packed game with most of the group, rather than just me and Dave flying the flag, and all played in the right spirit with a feeling of historical accuracy. The final body count was, Moroccans wiped out except the sergeant, Foreign legion one dead and a couple of walking wounded, Viet Minh, 1st all dead or captured, 2nd two dead and some walking wounded, Support two dead and most wounded, HQ enough wounds to avoid censure ๐Ÿค.

Tranquillity returns

We hope you enjoyed reading as much as we enjoyed playing.

Aleppo Comes To Newark

Hind over Aleppo

Conventions are back! Much awaited and much anticipated we were back at The Other Partizan on Sunday October 10th and it was like we hadn’t been away ๐Ÿ˜Š Everyone was super excited and there were some excellent games on display although our chance to to view them was restricted by it being just the two of us this year and so our time was taken up with our own game.

Quiet before the storm

We took along our Syrian Civil War city streets game with the superb terrain from Task Force Terrain and had our streets populated by the crew of a downed Hind, Syrian Special Forces on a search & rescue mission, various representations of the numerous insurgent factions and Hezbollah units bolstering the government forces. The rules were Spectre Operations V2 which we are fairly confident with these days hence the numerous factions (9 different units in the end plus armour support) but as we were at a show and we knew we’d get distracted we didn’t deploy all in one go but rather fed them on as we went.

Syrian NDF deploy outside the police station

Elsewhere in the hall were some excellent games, none of which we managed to take a picture of, but from memory the outstanding ones for us were; a 28mm Plains Indians War game, excellent Indian village and what looked to be quite an innovative basing system – wish I could have stopped and chatted about this, a superb looking C18th game complete with star fort and two enormous galleons out to sea (I mean the size of the things you see in antique shops!), very visually arresting, an excellent looking El Cid game, although I couldn’t see Charlton Heston ๐Ÿ˜ and a quite extraordinary 60/70mm ancients Macedonian v Persian game – wow!

Insurgents take the high ground

On the trade front it did seem a bit thin; the stalwarts were there, Foundry, Warlord, Empress, Dave Thomas, and Warlord and Foundry occupied a significant amount of hall space but I did have a feeling of something missing. This could of course be just not enough time to look around properly or the fact that October is now brimming over with conventions, SELWG on the 17th and FIASCO on the 31st plus Battleground and Warfare in November so maybe traders are taking it steady in the post pandemic times.

Insurgents clash with Special Forces over the downed Hind

In terms of attendees the morning seemed very busy and we spent a lot of time chatting with interested gamers and meeting familiar faces who we literally hadn’t seen for 18 months! Certainly by the time I got home my voice was gone ๐Ÿ˜‚. The numbers were a bit worrying in these post mask times and some people were wearing and some were not, we wore ours to start but eventually abandoned them due to the difficulty in conversing and with so many people not wearing it all seemed a bit redundant. The fact that the weather was kind to us meant that the double doors could be open so there was plenty of air circulation. What was very noticeable was that by 2.00pm the show was largely depopulated, why I have no idea but it was far more acute than ‘normal’.

Insurgents occupying a building

What did strike me this year, from a display gamer point of view, was that the little extras (the coffee vouchers, the free figure, the raffle tickets, etc) were not on hand which was mildly disappointing; hey there’s no rule that says they have to be available it’s just one of those nice Partizan traditions. Maybe with no revenue from 3 cancelled shows some of the costs had to be throttled back and I get that, we also didn’t see anything of the organisers either which was unusual ๐Ÿค”.

Into the ruins

So, was it good to be back? Of course it was! Will we back next year? Obviously ๐Ÿ˜. So many thanks to Laurence, Richard and the the Irregulars, well done.

Holowczyn Refought

Swedish vanguard crosses the river

Many, many, years ago we fought Holowczyn as part of a convention tour, simulating the ‘tour’ of Russia by Charles XII, culminating in the battle of Poltava, so 3 battles, 3 conventions, but we’ve never played it since so we thought we’d roll out the collection and give it a go.

Bieltz’s Grenadiers

For those not in the know, Holowczyn was the opening battle in Charles XII’s campaign against Peter the Great’s Russia which kicked off in the summer of 1707. By the summer of 1708 the Swedes were well into Russia struggling to come to grips with an enemy that kept retreating and burning everything – that sounds familiar ๐Ÿ˜’ but on June 30th Charles and the Swedes found themselves facing a dug in Russian army over the river Vabitich.

The long line of the column

In what would become his signature approach to battle, Charles opted for the mad idea ๐Ÿ˜, so in the early hours of the morning of July 3rd 1708 he and his men waded across the river at an unguarded point, advanced through a marsh, deployed on the flank of the enemy and attacked. The Russians were slow to respond, not being sure whether it was a full attack or a diversion, and ended up conducting a fighting retreat in a confused and haphazard firefight. Further infantry reinforcements merely added to the confusion and when the Russians committed their cavalry the outclassed dragoons were swept away and the field was clearly in Swedish hands. It was however somewhat of a phyrric victory, Russian dead were 4x that of the Swedes but most of the Swedish wounded (around a thousand) would succumb to their wounds and the losses were mainly among the guard infantry, losses that would be felt at Poltava.

It took a while!

The reality of the battle was that Charles was attacking one division (Repnin’s – the biggest, comprising 2 brigades) of the three positioned along the Vabitch and was inserting himself between Repnin on the left and Sheremetiev in the centre while Hallart was out on the right; to the left of Repnin was Goltz’s substantial cavalry division of 3 brigades. The only other troops to get themselves involved was a brigade detached late in the day from Sheremetiev’s division. The Swedes comprised the vanguard foot brigade, commanded by Charles himself, featuring the 4 battalions of the Guard plus 2 other battalions, then a 2nd brigade of 6 battalions and finally a cavalry brigade featuring the Guard Cavalry & Guard Dragoons and 3 other cavalry regiments.

Charles XII

Looking at our collection we easily had the numbers (and we’d sold a third of it back in 2020!) and even had most of the named regiments/battalions, unfortunately only 3 Guard battalions but we reckoned it wouldn’t make much difference (it didn’t ๐Ÿ˜Š). Measuring up the space that would be occupied by the battalions representing the actual number of Russian battalions behind the earthworks we reckoned they would need about 5 foot, give or take, so the 8 foot x 6 foot standard table would allow us to deploy them, allow space for the marsh and give space on the table end for the later Russian reinforcements. Our trusty river section we positioned 2 foot in and used the section with a pontoon bridge on to represent the crossing point (the Swedes did have pontoons but abandoned them – why do it the easy way?) and at that crossing point we constructed a substantial marsh. Along the rear of the Russian table edge we put on plenty of trees and down part of the left flank; into these we placed Goltz’s cavalry division (on the left) and Renne’s reinforcing infantry from Sheremetiev (on the right) while in the centre behind Repnin’s division we put on the army camp.

Swedish field artillery

Our thinking with the Russians was that Repnin’s 2 big brigades would be positioned facing out across the river and wouldn’t start responding until the Swedes emerged from the marsh and then only the brigade that could see them (Schweden). The reinforcing cavalry and infantry could only be activated by Repnin finding out from Schweden that they were under attack and sending a message off to Goltz who would then roll a D6 for the number of turns after receipt for when he could start to emerge, said messenger would then carry on to Renne to release his infantry using the same process. The process was made deliberately slow (wargamers are very good at responding to things they can’t see unless you stop them ๐Ÿ˜‰) which is just as well because both reinforcement commands rolled a 1! Deploying the Swedes was more straight forward as they only had one route so we strung out the infantry battalions, led by the Guard, all the way from the table edge, across the pontoons and into the marsh with the 1st Guards on the edge of the marsh, somewhat disorganised, ready to go; this signalled the start of turn 1. As a side note, the Swedes, for once, out gunned the Russians so we placed some regimental guns next to the crossing point to fire in support and some big field guns on a low hill to pound the entrenched Russians, the Russians only had regimental guns strung out along the line.

Guards face off to the Grenadiers

Rather than go balls out, the Swedish commander decided to remain stationary with the 1st Guards to shake the accumulated disorder and wait for the 2nd Guards form up alongside and do the same, this gave the Russian grenadiers time to about face and wheel out of their entrenchments to face off and allow the Russian high command to panic and send for help.

Repnin and Schweden

With the grenadiers and Guards in range both opened up on each other at effective range, losses were even, so no morale failures and the rest of Schweden’s command started to turn about as more Swedes emerged from the marsh. Another volley and Charles decided it was time to force the issue so the 1st & 2nd Guards moved into close range and fired again forcing one of the grenadiers to rout and punching a hole in the the shaky Russian line.

1st Guards

First brigade morale test of the day (due to the grenadiers rout) and Schweden’s brigade failed spectacularly, hotfooting along the entrenchments and into the camp. Fortunately Repnin and Schweden were able to rally some of the units further back and start to restore order but they would now count as a failed brigade for any further tests which for Russian morale was always going to be a worry. The collapse enabled Dalcarian (2 battalions) and the 3rd Guards to get out of the marsh and form up with the 1st & 2nd into a fairly coherent line while Sparre and the other brigade marched on through the marsh to eventually emerge at the top end and march south on the other side of the camp.

Rallying the troops

As Repnin and Schweden tried to stem the flight Goltz received the request for help and rolled his 1 so Illfland’s brigade was first out of the woods and headed along the top edge of the camp in what would become a collision with Sparre. Back with the Guards, Charles went all out now and threw the 1st & 2nd into close combat with the rallied Russian foot, who of course had almost no losses at this point and managed to repulse the Guards, shouts of “huzzah”. Testing for losses the 1st Guards failed and routed but the subsequent brigade test was passed with ease (it helps having Charles XII as your brigade commander ๐Ÿ˜‚) and the 1st were rallied by him pronto but sat out the hard action for a while as they called in stragglers and tended to the wounded.

That’s a lot of cavalry!

While the infantry slogged it out on one side of the camp Illflands dragoons advanced on Sparre’s infantry, who due to the terrain could only deploy two battalions abreast, but non the less Vasterboten forced Narvski back and slowly ground forward – the dragoons were never going to charge the Swedish infantry so it became a shooting match which for a while the dragoons did ok in but eventually legged it for the woods.

Vasterboten v Narvski

Seeing how ‘well’ Illfland was doing Goltz realised that his other two brigades were going to be no use in the limited space so made the fateful decision to send them both into the woods to outflank Sparre and attack the rear of the Swedes; a bold plan which the Sparre player could realistically not respond to and was a calculated gamble by Goltz that he could be through and out before the Swedish cavalry under Creutz got through the marsh. An alternative plan could have been to dismount in the woods and fire on the flanks of Sparre’s command which might have forced him to stop and deal with the threat – we discussed this after the game and the Goltz player took the view that as the real Goltz didn’t do it neither would he!

If you go down to the woods today…..

Back at the real battle ๐Ÿคฃ Charles and his brigade were definitely in and amongst the entrenchments facing off to a hastily constructed second line by Schweden which Chambers was extending out to the right effectively forming behind Illfland’s withdrawing dragoons – the size of Chambers brigade (9 battalions) made cohesion quite difficult in the space available and we could see why in the real thing they just faded into the woods.

Guard cavalry

To force the issue in the main battle area Charles summoned the Guard Cavalry & Dragoons from Creutz along with Nyland to punch Schweden’s already weakened brigade; this was a risk, it weakened Creutz’s command and if the Guards didn’t do as well as envisaged they wouldn’t have their commander to rally on. Always willing to “roll the hard six” the Swedish cavalry blasted their way in and made some big holes although the Dragoon Guards did pay for a reckless pursuit and got themselves shot up ๐Ÿ˜’


Unfortunately for the Russians the holes punched by the Swedes was in Chambers brigade and in the ensuing test for routing units and having Schweden’s failed brigade on their flank the big brigade failed and ran for the woods. Not surprisingly, Schweden’s already shaky brigade didn’t survive their test and they too duly headed for the woods.

“you’re going the wrong way!”

While all this was happening Heinsk’s dragoons emerged from the woods, somewhat disorganised, but all they needed was a bit of a breather and they could catch Sparre by surprise. Even better was the emergence of the lead battalions of Renne’s infantry from their wood. It could all be saved!

Oh dear

Unfortunately for Goltz and Heinsk, regiment Hielm of Creutz’s reduced command had other ideas and charged home smashing the lead dragoons off the table who routed through their brethren behind who were caught in the pursuit and equally smashed resulting in a brigade morale failure (surprise๐Ÿ˜) and the end of the flank move.


That was really it, both infantry brigades were on the run, Illfland’s & Heinsk’s cavalry were shattered and running, while Hesse Darmstadt cowered in the woods; the fact of Renne’s arrival was insignificant, yes it was a substantial brigade (6 battalions) but what was it going to do? Clearly a substantial Swedish victory.

It’s all ours

When we analysed the game the Russians initially did better than their historical counterparts – well they stood and fought! but low morale and poor command levels meant they were never going to last that long once things went wrong. I think it’s interesting that wargamers will stand and slug it out even when the odds are stacked against them unlike the historical prototypes who couldn’t get off the field quick enough – mind you it wouldn’t have been much of a game if the Russians had just turned round and retreated! For the Swedes bold play paid off, so very historical but the casualty tables also equated to history with the Guards showing the kind of casualty figures that would make a general think about amalgamating regiments, everyone else was pretty much insignificant.


It was nice to give the GNW collection a run out, good job we didn’t sell the whole lot! The rules were our own ‘Ga Pa’ – oh how original, we hope you enjoyed the write up, feel free to fire in any questions.

Ian & Dave.

Afghanistan Rescue

The quiet before the storm

This game was born out of wanting to use our new toy, a Cougar MRAP, and to get back into playing Spectre Operations again with a ‘small game’ to re learn the rules. We would have put it up on LAF but the archaic rules about post 2000 conflicts and our last interaction with the site put us off even trying.

3D print

Our basic scenario was an Afghan police station is under attack by increasing numbers of Taliban who have infiltrated the town disguised as civilians. The police are a small squad with their own leader but happen to have a senior leader in the building which will help with their command roles. The Taliban comprise three battle groups of around ten men each spread in a crescent through the town and already in small arms range.

The cop shop

Due to the presence of civilians senior command has rejected a danger close airstrike and opted for calling in two nearby SAS teams to effect a rescue.

The hard men

After dicing for random entry points for the SAS we got underway; Red team approached on foot from the east and immediately sent Trooper Winner off with the FN Minimi to find higher ground, Sgt Phillips, Cpl Firmin & Trooper Horsfall, headed for the rendezvous point at the central market, motioning civilians to go home (ironically); Blue team approached from the south in the Cougar with Cpl Curry manning the HK GMG.

Red team

The opening firing was solely between the police and Taliban; to the north of the town Hajji Barri’s group manoeuvred from the buildings they were occupying towards the hesco barriers, exchanging shots with Pvt Berri who was covering the side door and who managed to seriously wound Barri – realising their leader would bleed out the group left him to be with god and pressed their attack.

Barri’s group

Almost directly opposite the police, Rezza Jaffar Abbas and his fighters were getting themselves into better positions with a sniper and RPG on resident’s roofs as the citizenry cowered inside, covering this positioning with AK fire from the rest of the group.

Abbas’ team get into position

To the south west Ahmed Ali and his group moved out of the compound toward the market place, planning to flank west and around the side of the station – this didn’t go well.

Ahmed Ali urges his men out into the market place

Although the air was fairly thick with AK fire casualties were at a low level so far, the police station walls proved effective and Captain Gul urged the small police team on (in other words his command level prevented them becoming suppressed and rallied them if they did); all this changed however as the Cougar nudged its way into the open.

Cougar appears as Ahmed Ali’s group advances out of their compound

Seeing a group of armed insurgents at nine o’clock Cpl Curry let rip with the grenade machine gun (we’d never used one of these before – bloody hell!)

First salvo from the GMG

The firing wasn’t entirely accurate but the drift took out the sniper team on the roof of the compound (pure luck) and dropped a couple more fighters at the compound gates; Ali and several of his lieutenants took cover at the water trough by the market stalls and hoped their RPG guy would take out the metal monster.

RPG fighter gets ready just before the first salvo

Unnerved by the barrage the RPG fighter missed his shot and sent the rocket into the building behind the Cougar killing a man and his son with the falling masonry.

collateral damage

While mayhem reigned in the market place the other two groups pressed their attacks, avoiding losses from police RPG fire…

RPG miss

but not missing themselves when they put a shot into the room containing Sgt Alamyar, killing him outright.

death of Sgt Alamyar

Fighters from Ali’s group reached the south west corner of the police station giving a clear shot at the soldier defending the sandbagged front entrance…


and the fighters from Barri’s group had reached the hesco barriers, pouring more fire into the police station.

fighters closing in

The SAS teams were acutely aware that the battle was moving away from them so another salvo from the GMG went in on the market place with slightly better grouping, taking out Ali and his lieutenants behind the stone trough and effectively finishing off that group. At the same time Sgt Lane and Trooper got out to lend their small arms weight to Red Team.

death of Ali

With the soldier at the front entrance down, Captain Gul realised that every gun now counted so picking up the discarded weapon he joined the fight only to be picked off by Abbas’ sniper on the opposite roof.

Captain Gul

More pain for the police followed, their lmg man went down to concentrated AK fire and an RPG into the front entrance took out the police RPG guy just as he steadied himself for a shot.

Afghan fighter narrowly avoids becoming collateral damage

Cpl Curry now turned his attention to the Abbas group on the building ahead who also realised there was a big noise behind them they needed to do something about. However better training won out and Curry got his shot in first, raining death on the building.

“stop shooting at my house!”

Abbas, one other fighter and the sniper died in the barrage but Curry was out of effective targets now and the market place was more congested than aerial reconnaissance had suggested so it was over to the foot sloggers.

Red Team

Despite the loss of three leaders the Taliban were still very much in the fight and with the fire from the station ending (morale had collapsed and everyone was either dead, bleeding out or stunned) closed in on their prize.

victory in their grasp

In the town the wisdom of dispatching Winner to find higher ground paid off when a sneaky Taliban RPG fighter in a side alleyway revealed himself for a side shot on the Cougar but, again, superior training won out and Winner cut him half.


Despite the losses it couldn’t be denied that the Taliban had achieved their objective and the SAS had not. The police station was set on fire as the Taliban pulled out leaving behind a dead senior Afghan officer and a brave police section who had died fighting to a man. The SAS had barely fired a shot other than the mayhem wrought by the GMG and although the Taliban losses were around the 50% mark that didn’t matter in terms of the propaganda victory.


We had great fun with this game, we got back into the rules a lot quicker and easier than we thought we would and managed to operate 6 different ‘factions’ with relative ease. The GMG is a monster and in a different game we would need to beef up the Taliban with more serious firepower – recoilless rifles etc.

Looking back over the game we didn’t actually play that many turns but in the average Spectre turn a lot can happen in the phases and each ‘faction’ gets a full go so there’s more going on than you think. Overall it seemed to capture the kinetic energy of up close modern contact without too much bookwork so we came away happy.

We hope you enjoyed our AAR, please feel free to comment. Thanks. Ian & Dave.

The Welsh French Came To Visit

So finally I got to host a game for Lord Raglan and repay his hospitality from 18 months ago! As Gareth is getting into Italian Wars in his usual full on style we decided a game at my place might be a nice little motivator.

I chose the armies from the lists to our rules and set out the terrain but deployment had to wait until Gareth arrived and had time to study the ground on behalf of his majesty King Francis I. The Spanish Imperialists, under Don Antonio de Leyva chose to have a powerful infantry centre and punchy cavalry left wing; the right, behind the river, was home for the camp, the guns and a solitary Italian crossbow unit. The Spanish foot, under d’Urbina. formed the first line of the centre alternating shot and pike units across the front with a second line of two landsknecht pike, under Frundsberg, behind the shot to fill the gaps as they fell back, the left was formed of five cavalry units in line being a mix of Archers and Knights, under de Leyva himself, supported by two units of condottierre, under the Marquis of Marignano, behind them; in a fit of stupidity the Imperial commander (me) completely forgot about the wooded pond on this flank and so when it came to deployment realised that the Swabian & Burgundian knights were right behind it! The French opted to deploy the bulk of their Gendarmes & Archers in the centre supported by Gascons, under Vicomte Lautrec, where the going was better with the Swiss on the centre left and two units of Italian mercenary horse supported by Archers, under La Palice, on the far left; the right wing was the the Italian mercenary command under the Marquis of Saluzzo comprising two units of condottierre and two units of crossbow just behind the villages.

The opening moves saw a general advance all along the front as much as the skills of the generals would allow – each General has a Military Skill, ranging from 1 to 5, which is the number of units he can attempt to activate, usually the units outnumber the skill level. The French advance was a bit more disjointed than the solid central infantry block rolling forward on the Imperial side, on the far left the Italian cavalry just would not move and after several turns of La Palice urging them forward (and using up valuable skill points) they were left to their own devices, on the right Saluzzo was having trouble negotiating the villages which both slowed and disordered the condottierre of Malvezzo & Pitigliano; that said, the Imperialists had their own motivational problems with the condottierre of Varolo & Bentivoglio but it didn’t matter too much because the Swabian & Burgundian knights were going so slowly through the ponds!

Apart from some desultory firing, the first real action was on the Imperial left where Count Porto’s men at arms (the ones not stuck behind a wooded pond!) charged Malvezzo’s cavalry as they cleared the villages and scattered them (a specific morale failure rule were each base/squadron goes in a random direction until rallied, looks quite messy and renders the unit out of action for a couple of moves), the glory was short lived however as the charge exposed their flank to Longueville’s Archers who scattered them in turn with some well placed crossbow bolts.

In the centre, the bulk of the Gendarmes & Archers quickly realised that taking fire from the Spanish arquebusiers was not going to win them anything so a series of glorious charges were launched (and it was glorious to watch) which did see off Zamudio’s arquebusiers but Biron & Grammont’s gendarmes along with Lorraine’s Archers fell beneath Spanish pikes, with Grammont himself losing his life. All was not lost however as de Prie’s gendarmes utterly shattered the Burgundian knights and von Schaumburgs Archers and in the pursuit captured de Leyva who stupidly hadn’t got out of the way!

Despite the loss of their commander (and his skill points) the Imperialists fought on and on their left Bentoviglio’s condottierre surged forward and saw off their opposite numbers under Pitigliano which should have seen their way clear to the French camp but the two Italian crossbow units had managed to get themselves into decent positions amongst the buildings and halted any further advance thus effectively ending the action on that flank.

As the day wore on the action inevitably transferred to the centre as the opposing foot neared each other. The Imperial plan of alternating the shot and pike units along the line had worked so far but with Zamudio gone on the right and the Burgundians destroyed on the left, the flanks were open and de Prie and Montmorency were roaming free forcing the landsknechts to form schiltron to prevent their flanks being attacked – although the cavalry units were quite small the flanks of a pike unit could do very little against a charge; this left Ramassot to face the Swiss avalanche alone and despite some valiant fighting his unit gave way with heavy losses.

With the light fading the chance of a decisive victory was fading with it. The collapse of Ramassot left Frundsberg’s block to face both Swiss columns and although this was a veteran block the result would eventually only go one way. Sittlich’s block was pinned waiting for de Prie’s inevitable charge which it would crush but this meant it couldn’t help Frundberg. In the middle of the field the advance of Cardonna’s pike flanked by the arquebusiers of Arriaga & Romaeo was pretty much unopposed other than by the less than effective Gascons and they could look behind to see the Swabians and Varollo moving up to support.

Night fell and what did we have? The Swiss had powered on through and made a hole and were pretty much unassailable, the competing condottierre had cancelled each other out on the village wing and in the middle of the field the remaining Spanish were as isolated as the Swiss.

Marginal French victory we thought, mainly due to the Swiss and bonus points for some glorious gendarme charges.

Overall I think we had a reasonable approximation of an Italian Wars battle, as much as we can tell from the information available to us, the rules played well and Gareth seemed to pick them up pretty quickly which is always a relief as a rules writer. Most importantly we had fun and hopefully it wont be 18 months to the next one!

Street Fighting In Syria

This was a game of firsts. Our first for a couple of months due to Dave being laid up after his surgery, our first modern game for 18 months and our first game with the new terrain set up.

Originally we planned to use our go to modern set, Spectre V2, but when it came to it we thought “well seeing as we’ve completely forgotten Spectre and we know we’re going to spend loads of time chatting, let’s try a set we’ve never played, it couldn’t be any worse!” So out came Black Ops which we bought over two years ago and never played!

Our scenario was a Syrian army detachment has been left holding two political prisoners in a district police station somewhere in battle torn Aleppo and are awaiting a prisoner transport vehicle – to be randomly decided by a D6 for the turn and a D8 for the street it was arriving on, which actually turned out rather well, turn 3 for arrival and the street right next to the police station. To the north of the station, just beyond the hospital, two cells from Liwa al Tawhid were forming up to storm the station. Objectives were simple, for the army, get the prisoners into the transfer vehicle and off table, for the insurgents, capture the police station and eliminate the defenders, releasing the prisoners would be the icing on the cake. If things got hairy for either side random reinforcements were available, for the army, a Hezbollah detachment was active to the north and could be contacted, for the insurgents, further cells could be activated (or not).

The game started with a growing crowd of locals protesting outside the police station inconveniently being filmed by a western press crew so the usual government response was somewhat muted – the rules had civilian response and movement rules which we freestyled with until the shooting started and then had them running for the nearest cover; one of the civilian figures was depicted carrying a large holdall which we decided could be deadly if she got close to anything military but as it turned out, not this time ๐Ÿ™‚

The insurgents opened the game with Amer Soudani’s cell moving east to attempt a junction with Etai Luskin’s cell who were themselves heading toward the hospital, aiming to use it as a secure location from which to fire on the police station.

Both cells dropped off their support weapons guys to act independently, Soudani sent Abu Bakr south with his RPG to target the parked up army BTR60 and Luskin sent his sniper, Ruslan Auchev, into one of the apartment blocks. The army contented themselves with trying to move on the civilians and intimidating the film crew while the BTR crew played cards inside the station.

The first serious action was when Luskin’s technical roared down the street, under the hospital entry balcony (right behind the film crew!) and let rip with the mounted mini gun at the soldiers in the street. Poor training meant the shots missed but it did send the soldiers, the news crew and the nearby civilians running for cover – most of the non combatants headed for the side door of the hospital and remained there for the rest of the game. The soldiers in the station who were at the windows fired back, mainly ineffectually but sheer volume of fire did drop the gunner seriously wounded and showered the driver in glass.

Unfortunately for the technical this was the arrival time for the BMP prisoner transfer vehicle (nothing but the best) which after a bit of a delay got off an equally poor shot …….

which set the technical on fire causing the driver, Rashid el Andouri to bail out and head for cover.

Inside the station a lot of shouting by Sgt Tariq Ahmed (and dice rolling by me) got the reluctant BTR crew up and into the vehicle to roll out onto the street in the direction of the firing which rather neatly presented their rear to Abu Bakr lurking in a store front.

Now things were getting serious. As the BMP pulled up outside for the prisoner transfer the station was rocked by an explosion, Bakr had missed the BTR and hit the building! On the street Cpl Imir Shah led a section out past the burning technical and across the intersection searching for insurgents, one half of whom (Luskin) were infiltrating the hospital while the other moved up with the second technical.

The 2nd technical and Soudani’s cell started exchanging fire with Shah’s unit which went on for several turns and ultimately led to the death of Shah and one of his team.

During the firing across the street the other RPG guy from Soudani’s team damaged the BMP enough for it to be unusable for troop transfer although he did lose a fighter to army automatic fire.

After its reluctant start the BTR60 proved its worth, shooting up the technical and then brewing it up completely.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and the RPG guy from Luskin’s team in the hospital took out the BTR. Sgt Ahmed desperately got on the radio as his men exchanged fire across the street at the hospital windows covering the BTR crew as they fled inside, during which an RPG from the army blew out one of the hospital windows taking out the insurgent LMG.

Amazingly (good die roll!) the Hezbollah unit was just down the street and headed inbound with their trusty T72.

The arrival of Hezbollah turned the tide for the government and after a couple tank rounds down the street Soudani’s team failed their morale and disappeared into the ruined streets leaving Luskin to quietly exit the hospital from the west side away from the Hezbollah fighters.

As a bit of a random side note, as the Hezbollah fighters advanced toward the action in the first turn of their arrival Dave realised he had a lone insurgent who had fled to cover earlier and was now on his own with a line of sight on the Sgt. Can I? Why not. So the dice were rolled and down went the Hezbollah Sgt! It didn’t effect morale but I guess it does show that the random nature of war can be replicated on the tabletop whether we want it to or not.

So, how did the rules play? Well, pretty well actually, we probably didn’t get things quite right but seeing as we’d never played before, we managed to get a half decent game done which seemed about as good as anything else for representing the period. What was striking was that a set that is advertised as being all secret agent and commando like (Black Ops) translated very well into a bigger more open game and we reckoned with some local tweaks could cater for a multi player game quite easily whereas the set designed for combat operations (Spectre) actually works better in more confined scenarios mainly because of the more detailed weapons rollouts and the concentration on individuals within the group which makes it less adaptable to local rules. The upside for us is that we now have two sets we can mix and match depending on scenario and mood so win, win ๐Ÿ™‚

Bad taste. For those who follow us on Twitter you may have noticed the tweet about the beginnings of this AAR being taken down by LAF for contravening their rules about acceptability on their Cold Wars forum which revolves around nothing being allowed which is post 2000 or maybe post 2010 – the cut off point is a little grey so games set in Iraq and Afghanistan have appeared and good luck to their authors. When I foolishly got into a (losing) debate about it the nub of the reasoning seemed to be that showing a hospital building and referring to political prisoners was in poor taste, now the rules are the rules and I have to accept them if I want to post or comment on the forum but I don’t think we can talk about taste and at the same time push metal figures around depicting less than savoury conflicts in less than savoury parts of the world whatever the time frame.

As always we hope you enjoyed the post and happy gaming wherever you are.

Au Revoir Mes Braves!

Back in 2007/2008 Dave and I were fortunate enough to be able to travel to the US and participate in Cold Wars. Apart from the obvious fun of seeing how US gamers held a convention and getting the chance to play in a wide range of games I was fortunate enough to play in one of Bruce Weigle’s ‘1870’ Franco Prussian games. Prior to this I’d never played anything smaller than 28mm other than a brief flirtation with ECW in 15mm but this game in 10mm (or was it 6mm? I just can’t remember ๐Ÿ™‚ ) blew me away and I felt that this was the answer to the problem of how to game those classic ‘horse and musket’ battles of the C19th. Dave wasn’t so convinced and pointed out that we were already doing ACW in 28mm big style and we weren’t going to suddenly start all over again with a much smaller scale. He was right of course but I was completely taken by the possibilities for Franco Prussian so I bought the rules and when we returned to the UK started buying up Pendraken packs and getting them professionally painted while I read up on the period.

Fast forward to now and we’ve played a goodly number of the scenarios from the 1870 book and even helped play test one of Bruce’s later publications so with lockdown easing we got the figures out from storage and gave them another go with our own scenario.

The scenario saw MacMahons 1st Corps deployed along one of two major north – south roads in Alsace awaiting the arrival of 5th & 7th Corps for an advance eastward. Unfortunately Kirchbach’s V Corps & Tumpling’s VI Corps plus 2 Bavarian Corps under Tann & Hartmann had advanced across the border and were deploying along the other road. The French objective was to push the Germans back from the other road (major victory) or at least hold their own road (minor victory), the Germans was to force the the French off the designated battlefield – victory or death!

The game went well, as always; the French opted for an early attack by MacMahon all along the line once the 1st Division was in place, keeping the cavalry division in reserve to support 5th & 7th Corps when they arrived (randomly diced for), the Germans opted for the 2 Bavarian Corps to hold the left and left centre while using their cavalry divisions to launch spoiling attacks to slow down the French, the 2 Prussian Corps would march on and deploy on the right and right centre and immediately attack.

In brief; the attack by the French 1st Division shot the Bavarian cavalry to pieces (so much for slowing the French!) but once at the German road line ground to a halt in the face of the Bavarian Corps, the 2nd Division had trouble with it’s order activation resulting in a piecemeal attack on the Bavarians which actually saw it’s brigades fall back, the 3rd Division got into a fierce firefight with the Prussian V Corps and lost badly and fell back on the deploying 5th Corps, the 4th Division took and held some high ground hoping to use it as an anchor for the main attack.

Over the subsequent turns the numerical superiority of the German artillery told on the French, weakening 4th Division on the hill so that VI Corps could by pass them and join V Corps in rolling over 3rd Division and crashing into 5th Corps which ultimately yielded the road. The arrival of 7th Corps was late in the battle on the French right centre where they were easily able to hold the road in their section as the remains of the 2nd & 1st Divisions retreated from attacking the Bavarians. With the specified number of turns played the French had one full strength Corps on part of the road but off to it’s left was the bruised but still capable Prussian Corps so no French victory could be claimed and common sense said the French would withdraw leaving the field to the Prussians and Bavarians.

It was fun, but as we packed away we asked ourselves how many more games of this were we going to play? and the reluctant answer was, not many, we’re 28mm players and despite all the problems that gives for ‘big games’ we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for the collection to go to a more deserving home. So with that in mind here are some details of the collection.

The French is the Army of Alsace under MacMahon comprising the 1st, 5th & 7th Corps. These comprise 10 infantry divisions which total 40 regiments of 3 battalions plus 9 battalions of Chasseurs. There are 4 cavalry divisions of 20 regiments of 4 squadrons each (actually 2 bases on the table) plus 40 guns, 10 machine guns and command stands for Corps, Division & Brigade level. There are also some extraneous elements from 2nd Corps just because there were some figures left over.

The Prussians are the Third Army under Crown Prince Friedrich comprising the V, VI & XI Prussian Corps and the I & II Bavarian Corps. The Prussians comprise 6 infantry divisions of 22 regiments (3 battalions per regiment), 3 jaeger battalions and 6 cavalry regiments plus 34 guns; also 2 separate cavalry divisions of 11 regiments. The Bavarians compromise 4 infantry divisions of 11 regiments, 10 jaeger battalions and 4 cavalry regiments plus 14 guns; also 2 separate cavalry divisions of 6 regiments. Just like the French there are command stands from Corps down to Brigade level.

The terrain consists of; 13 town units, 4 ruins, 5 hills of various sizes, 4 dense woods, about 40 separate tree clumps, 24 rough ground patches (quite useful for putting the trees on), 2 feet of hedges/fences, and 30feet of straight roads plus various curves and junctions. Along with that are tape measures, dice, damage markers, spare flags and a copy of the rules and quick play sheets.

The total number of French figures is around 1200 foot and 100 cavalry and for the Prussians & Bavarians around 1100 foot and 130 cavalry. Those who want to can work out how many Pendraken packs that works out to and a quick google search will give you the painting rates of those who paint for a living, I would say the collection is painted to a good wargamers standard.

What do we want for it? Well we are looking for offers north of ยฃ2.5k and if you are interested in making an offer or want further details contact us at:

As always, enjoy your gaming.

Science Fiction Side Bar

Back in 2017 I was at my first Games Expo and as I wandered round it struck me that there was more to the whole Sci Fi/Fantasy gaming thing than my very narrow view allowed, ie it didn’t all have to be the Games Workshop juggernaut; but that was it really, although I did notice that at the TTCombat stand they were selling complete sets of various ranges for around a hundred quid and cunningly had them all made up to seduce you! I did think to myself ‘well it doesn’t have to be lasers and light sabres, some kind of near future thing could work…..’

Come October I was at what turned out to be the last Derby show and during my browsing came across the Pig Iron Productions stand and was completely taken in by the figures. Now these aren’t the greatest figures in the world but I thought they had a real down to earth charm which fitted with my half formed idea of an arid planet somewhere in a galaxy, far, far away ๐Ÿ™‚ and the perennial conflict between order (an empire/corporate holding) and independence (rebels/pioneers/free traders) – I think I’ve read Dune too many times ๐Ÿ™‚ A long chat with the very helpful owner convinced me into an impulse buy of an assortment of figures that could match my vague vision and into the ‘pending projects’ box they went. However, come May of 2018 I was back at Games Expo and the ‘show deal’ of a load of buildings for a hundred quid was on again and this time I looked a bit closer and there was their Sandstorm range saying ‘buy me now’, so I did.

Given that I’m typing this in 2021, clearly the project just sat in a box and did nothing. Well not entirely but other things certainly had more priority; the Cartel project took up a lot of time and creativity and by the end of that I was kind of done with MDF buildings, the Benghazi/Syrian project with the accompanying learning curve of the Spectre rules and the Indo China project all took up time and head space. However I did manage to get the figures painted up (and buy some more, which are still sitting in a box!) and get hold of several rule sets ranging from simple to complex to browse through but this was very much my gig so motivation was an effort. Now 2020 should have been the year to crack on with all that enforced spare time but as I’ve already alluded to, a death in the family and a general lack of motivation meant that nothing new got done. However, at the beginning of the year one of the guys we used to game with and hadn’t seen for a while let us know that he was packing in the hobby altogether and had sold off most of his stuff for ‘proper money’ but had some odds and sods that we might be interested in, amongst which was some sci fi figures. So, we took a look and I sorted a few out that weren’t too outlandish and then Dave said ‘you know what I might give this a bit of a go’ and a project was kick started! Since then Dave has picked up a whole load of ‘sci fi clutter’ from another mate and with the ancients rules now well and truly underway it was time for another MDF buildings outing.

First up was the Sandstorm Hovel A (strangely there is no ‘B’), a single room octagonal dwelling for the ‘poor folks’, very Tatooine like. I had two of these so I built them one after the other and then painted both.

This was an easy build. Everything punched out of the sprues with no difficulty and once I’d filed the nubs where the pieces were connected to the sprues flat I was off and running. Basically there was the 8 wall sections plus buttress sections, one of which was the door section, some arched sections to create the recess for the door, a base, a roof, the grey card roof dome pieces plus mdf frame and a couple of loose bits for controls and air vent type things.

The usual dry fit run seemed to indicate all was good so I just worked my way round the base with the walls, wood gluing as I went. Next the door surrounds, which on reflection I should have pre glued, the door and the various ‘twiddly bits’. While that all dried off I tackled the roof piece and the flat grey card which is intended for the domed roof – a bit of a play here on current day domes on buildings of the middle east. Now I have never been entirely clear whether TTCombat want the roofs to come off or not as the fit is always an interference fit but they are marketed for skirmish gaming and the tongue and groove fit kind of implies that. For our purposes we always want the roofs off so in this case, as in all the Cartel buildings previously done, there was a bit of ‘finessing’ to get the roofs to be able to come off, part of which included ditching the grey card section that went from the dome to the door surround – the roof would never have come off otherwise.

Before creating the dome, the individual sections that provide the skeletal frame for the card to sit on needed to be assembled together and then glued into the slots on the roof piece, this took longer to do than the actual building! Once that was done the flat grey card just needed to be folded along the drawn lines into a dome and fitted over the frame and glued in place as you worked round the circumference slotting fins into slots on the roof piece which got more and more difficult as you worked your way round – what I should have done was open out all the slots for the fins before hand as I ended up ripping the card on the first dome, luckily I was going to tetrion over it afterwards.

Next up was a spray undercoat, I used black on this one but I don’t think it really matters, the mdf soaks it up anyway. After that an all over brush coat of a vaguely sand like match pot and painting of the door and control panels then a mix of tetrion with a desert colour masonry paint plus watered down wood glue daubed on and fine sand sprinkled over immediately afterwards. Once it was dried, a couple of dry brush runs and some staining and ready to go. So far so good.

Next up was the Sandstorm Dwelling, two of them again but this time a square building with the dome, I guess this is meant to be a step up the social status ladder.

The strange thing about this piece was that there was no floor section. Now I don’t know whether this TTC being a bit cheapskate or there was a logic that said ‘well four walls will stand by themselves pretty easy and the roof will tie them in’. If that was the thinking then clearly having a removable roof wasn’t going to work so I cut myself my own floor section, put together the 4 wall sections (well 3 and 1 doorway) with wood glue and put on the roof panel without glue to hold them straight, then once dry took off the roof panel. The open box I had now created I then stuck to my own floor panel – frankly it looked better and I reckon the space is big enough for me to create a separate ‘bedroom’ with card at a later stage.

Everything was much the same build as the hovel except that with the roof the dome sits on it’s own raised dais and that sits on the roof panel; the awkwardness of the grey card dome build was much the same but I couldn’t see much of a way round it.

After that it was the spray undercoat and the first coat of paint and then the terion and sand mix. What I did find with both types of dwelling was that once they were dry I had to file the tabs and/or the grooves again to rid of excess tetrion; there’s no way of hiding the join which can look a bit incongruous but I guess it’s the price that has to be paid for removable roofs – this is where someone like Blotz scores because their roofs are inset thus creating a bit of a parapet and hiding the join.

Next up was the Sandstorm Cantina and this was a complete pig to build! In fact, so much of a pig that I would advise anyone not to buy it and I really like the TTC products.

Once again there is no floor – why? As you can see from the picture this is not a 4 walls and away you go kind of building and they’ve supplied the odd shaped roof section so why not another for the floor? The online instructions are also completely disingenuous, they seem to imply a ring piece of the building shape into which the various wall pieces slot but in fact it is a series of separate pieces – 11 of them, which you have to line up just right and then fit the walls into them and get the walls to line up with each other plus a roof; complete nightmare.

To make this build work I had to again source my own floor section, but this time it wasn’t the vanity of wanting the roof to come off, this time the build couldn’t happen without it – luckily I found a piece of card thick enough. Then I had to align the 11 floor pieces on my floor section – and it wasn’t obvious where each piece went, and glue them in place knowing full well that the nature of mdf cut parts is that there is no margin of error built in. Just to repeat myself here, this was a piss poor piece of design.

Before attempting to fit the wall sections I decided to sub assemble the buttress pieces (just like on the 2 other buildings) so I wasn’t pushing against the walls with extra pieces, which had been easy because the place for the buttress are marked on the wall sections.

Great, worked a treat but imagine my frustration when I placed my first wall into its floor piece and found that if assembled as shown, the buttress now fouled against the floor piece! So now I had to lever/rip the buttress pieces off the walls (and anyone who’s glued mdf buildings knows how well they come apart – not!) and raise them up. I did do a bit of an experiment to see if it was due to me having created my own floor and the answer was no.

Next was the walls themselves, all 11 of them, but unlike the 2 earlier builds where the walls just butted against each other, edge to edge, and any daylight was covered by the application of the tetrion, these had little half moon jointing pieces (4 per join) that you had to push between the walls as you put each wall section to the next with absolutely no margin of error. There were 32 of them and no spares.

So I worked my way round the assembly, and as anyone who has worked in engineering knows, once you get an error that error is chased around an assembly until you get to the last operation and all the error is then in one place. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened, the smallest of error in lining up 11 floor sections and then walking 11 wall pieces around the assembly, wood gluing as I went, inevitably led to disaster.

Remember, a roof still has to go on this! In the end I had to hack a section out to relieve the stress, then forcibly line up the walls and clamp in place with the roof on to set the walls – this involved a lot of opening out of the roof slots so they would align to the walls. Once set (I let it dry overnight, not something you usually have to do with wood glue), I then set about filling the daylight in the hacked wall joint and the floors where the wall tabs hadn’t sat down fully with spare mdf pieces I had – this was where keeping ‘useful’ pieces of old sprues in a box came in very handy.

The end result wasn’t too bad, especially as it would be tetrioned later so then it was on to the roof.

The roof was how the floor should have been. There were a lot of slots around the periphery, one lot for the upstand tabs on the wall sections and another lot for a decorative parapet that encompassed the circuit. The parapet served no useful wargaming purpose but it did serve the purpose of ‘hiding the join’ of where the walls joined the roof. There were quite a few ‘twiddly bits’ to be made up as vents, controls and other non descript ‘sci fi’ stuff which were ok although I do think this is an area where mdf fails, these kind of add on items are far better executed in plastic or resin. The dome was just like the earlier ones, I’m getting used to them now which is just as well because they are a feature of the range.

The usual painting and tetrioning hid most of the sins of the build, although not perfectly, and once complete it’s a sizeable space for a New Hope/Mandalorian bar shoot out; what it needs is a bar, tables and made up sci fi stuff on the walls so I’m going to have to trawl the internet for something usable.

Because this was such a pig I’m going to leave the sci fi project for a little while, especially as the remaining buildings are bigger and potentially more difficult. In the meantime thank you for reading, more to come in due course.

“You’re nicked!”

The Battle of Barbastro

The choice for our 2nd historical re-fight of 2021 was this Carlist War encounter of June 2nd 1837 using Dave’s lovely collection.

In the historical encounter, the Isabelinos (also known as the legitimate government) under General Oraa attacked the Royal Expedition army, notionally under Don Carlos but most likely commanded by General Moreno. The Carlists were positioned amongst olive groves on gently rising ground to the west of the town, with their left flank resting on the river Cinca and the right on some high ground and comprised 4 infantry divisions and 1 fairly large cavalry division; the Isabelinos were in 3 larger divisions and 1 cavalry division, although 1 division did have it’s own attached cavalry. Both sides were comprised of battle experienced troops, although the idea that both were comprised solely of veterans is probably a bit of a stretch. In terms of noteworthy units the Isabelinos had, 2 battalions of Guard Grenadiers, the French Foreign Legion battalion and the cavalry division included, 1 squadron of Guard Horse Grenadiers, 1 squadron of Guard Cuirassiers, 2 squadrons of Guard Lancers, 3 squadrons of Princess Hussars and 1 squadron of Polish Lancers; the Carlists had their own Foreign Legion – the Argelinos battalion, essentially deserters from the other side and the Grenaderos de Ejercito. The main Zaragoza – Barbastro road pierced the centre of the Carlist line but had no significance in the battle.

The Isabelinos did all the attacking and spent most of the day doing so, generally to no avail. The Carlist centre gave ground early on but was reinforced and regained it’s ground sending the government troops back to where they came from. On the Carlist left both sets of Foreign Legion clashed and blazed away at each other for most of the day resulting in the effective destruction of both units. The Carlist right withstood a mass attack led in person by the frustrated Oraa but Moreno threw in his last cavalry to outflank the attack and then led a counter attack to force the whole government force back to it’s lines. Both sides of course claimed a victory and losses were about even but the Isabelinos had failed to dislodge the Carlists who were free to cross the river a couple of days later unmolested and continue their campaign.

For our refight we had the bulk of the units required and where we didn’t have the specific units we had another rather like it – let’s face it, one guy in a beret is much like another guy in a beret! We most certainly had both the Foreign Legion battalions plus all the noteworthy units mentioned above. Terrain wise we played on the 11′ x 6′ foot table in The Bunker (the big shed, because that way we could kid ourselves we were ‘outside’) with a large low ridge in the centre with an open space at either end and then two smaller low hills stretching away to the board edge at one end and a river section at the other end, trees were dotted around to simulate the groves but were not deemed to be an impediment. Like the historical antagonists we had 3/4 infantry divisions and 1 cavalry division each with the option to split the cavalry into smaller brigades if desired – the government certainly seemed to have allocated a number of squadrons to each division but it must be said that the information is sketchy and in some cases downright contradictory so we did the best we could to be as close to the history as possible. The Carlists were deployed on the rearward slopes of the ridges, with the option to move up and occupy the top once we got started, placing 1 division (which included the deserters & Ejercito) behind the left hill, one division behind the centre low ridge, 1 division astride the road and 1 division on the right hill – although referred to as divisions the Carlists were in reality brigades; the cavalry were kept in reserve to the centre rear. The Isabelinos deployed on the plain in front of the rising ground, placing 1 division/brigade on the left backed by by some mountain guns, 1 division of 2 brigades continuing the line up to around the point facing the centre of the ridge and were supported by some of the cavalry and then the other division, again of 2 brigades (the right one including the Legion) plus artillery running from the other half of the ridge to the river but split at the centre by the cavalry of the Guard & Princess Hussars – this was a slight cheat to enable the Foreign Legion battalions to be in the same part of the battlefield from the off.

Victory conditions were quite simple; the Isabelinos had to drive the Carlists from their positions and hold all the high ground by the end of the game, the Carlists had to hold on (not surprisingly) and suffer fewer casualties, anything else was a draw which would actually count as a marginal Carlist victory, so no pressure Isabelinos!

The first couple of turns saw both sides order a general advance which allowed the Carlists to crest the central ridge and their cavalry division to move off to the right flank where the road was but this later turned into a bit of a traffic jam as they tried to get round their own infantry. On the left and right rising ground the Carlists also established their positions; the Carlists now owned the whole ridge line but were not quite in the right shape to defend it.

Turn 3 saw government skirmish fire and artillery fire drive off the Carlist light troops on the ridge and a squadron of the government Borbon lancers managed to work their way up onto the ridge to threaten the Carlist line infantry who duly went into square. On the Carlist left hill their skirmish troops exchanged shots with their opposite numbers but both commanders hung back with their Foreign Legion troops which rather favoured the Isabelinos who started to filter their cavalry between the gap of the hill and the ridge.

Turn 4 saw the action hot up as both sides launched their initial cavalry attacks; on the government side this didn’t go so well as the Carlist square on the ridge stood firm and eventually saw off it’s attackers; on the Carlist right the first attacks of it’s cavalry division saw it’s one Hussar regiment get pretty badly mauled and retire but one of the Navarra lancer regiments saw off it’s opponent and opened up a gap for the rest of the division.

Turn 5 and on the ridge line the Carlists generally stood firm (this was when the cavalry attacking the square left the fight) under artillery and musket fire although one unit (1st Navarre) did retreat but rallied on the lower slopes. More interestingly the government Princess Hussars launched themselves into the Grenaderos de Ejercito who opted to stay in their attack column and empty and few saddles with musketry fire before being contacted in what became quite a murderous melee. On the Carlist right the lancers squadrons started to get organised in the space that was opening up, mainly because their infantry got the message about “stay out of our way!”. On the extreme Carlist right the one brigade was facing off to it’s opponents and frankly nothing much happened here for the whole battle – the poorer quality government troops eventually fell back after a single melee, but this did mean that the brigade astride the road could manoeuvre unmolested behind the lancers.

Turn 6 saw the Isabelinos charge their Guard infantry into contact on the ridge where the Carlists stood their ground in what would be a bit of a slog for a couple of turns, elsewhere along the ridge both sides exchanged fire – the government artillery fire gave the Isabelinos the advantage here. On the Carlist right centre the cavalry started to make some in roads as two regiments launched attacks, one hit a line regiment that elected to stay in line and the other drove off a skirmish battalion and ran onto a hastily formed government square.

Turn 7 was the ‘high water mark’ of the Isabelino attack on the ridge as the Carlist unit facing the Guard retreated from the melee, but crucially didn’t rout, the Isabelinos now had most of the ridge but on the Carlist right the Guides de Alva launched a charge which routed their opponents and they pursued down the ridge thus unhinging the government centre from its under pressure left. The Princess Hussars fell back out of their melee having pushed off their opponents but were in no position to do anything else so withdrew to their lines. For the Carlist cavalry the good times now started to roll, the government line who stood the charge now routed and were pursued back towards their lines paralysing the surrounding units, the square beat off the first wave of lancers leaving them bloodied and disordered but an immediate follow up attack by another Navarre lancer regiment broke them immediately and they were pursued off.

Turn 8 saw both sides achieve break throughs between the ridges. On the Carlist right the victorious cavalry division was romping through the gap left by the fleeing government infantry and had started to turn left to move along the base of the centre ridge; importantly they were now being followed by a completely untouched infantry brigade. On the Isabelino right the Guard cavalry had now worked it’s way between the ridges taking fire from the Carlists on the left hill but unlike the Carlists had no infantry support. In the centre the ridge was becoming government real estate as the Carlists retreated. Over by the river the Foreign Legion battalions were finally in action as they blazed away at each other but it was nothing like the battle of annihilation of history.

Turn 9 was decision time for the government, did they continue on down the ridge to try and rout the retreating Carlists or stay on top of the hill? They decided on staying where they were as that was the objective but that rather left the Guard cavalry squadrons with nowhere to go, there was no enemy visible except those in the high ground shooting it out with their government opponents and behind them was another contest of equals, so they stood their ground.

Turn 10 we called it. On both flanks nothing decisive was going to happen and the Foreign Legion battalions had disappointed. The centre was the decisive point; so yes the Carlists had been driven off but now their cavalry (or at least the squadrons not pursuing) and an untouched infantry brigade were between the Isabelinos and their deployment lines so not so good for the government and given the objective for the Isabelinos was to take all the high ground we judged they had failed.

Much like the real thing it was a hard fought battle with honours being about even in wargaming terms but not in objective terms. Talking about it afterward we agreed we probably should have had the Carlists well and truly on the high ground at the beginning in order to minimise time taken in both sides manoeuvring and also enable the Isabelinos a better chance of softening up the Carlists, who had no artillery. The rules were our own and by and large they coped with the larger game size pretty well, no obvious problems and we had fun, so result ๐Ÿ™‚

We hope you enjoyed the read, next one in due course.