Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Powder: ACW

We played Black Powder using the Battle Cry game (hexboard terrain and plastic figures) and it seemed to go well. As much as it would have been nice to have seen a 4' x 8' table with about 200-250 figures per side, this was not a bad way to get our heads around the game mechanics.

I'm not sure yet what level of command is right for Black Powder in an ACW game, but the rather generic order of battle (general and 'brigade' commanders) gives them some versatility. We tried a scenario and set up straight from the Battle Cry rules: The Battle of Kernstown. This essentially gave the CSA three generals (Jackson as CIC plus two large brigades) and the Union two generals (no CIC and two large brigades). We will handle things differently when we base a game on historical accounts instead of just taking the pieces and deployment from Battle Cry, but it did what we really wanted to do - give us a better feeling for Black Powder.

We thought we should start out each army's infantry regiments in march column, which might have been a bit much considering their proximity. We learned that forcing troops to begin a scenario in march column can be really ugly - it only takes a failed command roll or two to leave them as sitting ducks even for long range fire. This is a very useful thing to keep in mind for certain ambush scenarios.

We used the Black Powder ACW sample scenario stats for our troops - ie. Rifled Muskets for infantry, Skirmish Order for dismounted cavalry, etc. One thing I think that might be worth adding to ACW scenarios for line infantry muskets is the use of First Volley (ie. the first volley is the best and later volleys tend to be less drilled affairs). Black Powder tends to assign that rule to earlier armies, but not ACW. Granted, my research into the period is limited compared to serious students of the period, but this is one of the things that leaps out of historical accounts I've read, lectures I've heard, and discussions I've had.

Another thing worth revisiting is how Black Powder handles woods and the ability of line infantry to traverse it. I think the sample scenario allows line infantry to temporarily assume skirmish order while in woods but resume regular formation upon exiting - I really need to double check that. We used that in our game, but there might be better ways of working this out. Maybe this should come from the terrain side of things - ie. the woods provide cover, slow movement, and block LOS, but they aren't thick enough to force skirmish order (with its inherent combat bonuses and penalties).  Regardless, the game is made for tweaking and I'm sure we'll come up with something that feels historically 'right' that can be played with minimum fuss.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Bit of Thanks

Thanksgiving Day approaches and I thought I might share a few things with you folks about what I am grateful for in regards to history and gaming. 

I'm grateful for the folks who take the time to read my musings on this blog. I hope you find some value you in what you encounter here. 
Thanks, Chris Perkins!

I'm grateful for the historians, authors, and game designers whose talent and love for their callings really inspired me.

I'm grateful that I have had a chance to explore the world of game design/writing. I'd like to thank a number of editors that have played pivotal roles in this pursuit: Dave Gross, Chris Perkins, Jesse Decker, Mike McArtor, Wes Schneider, Rob Broom, Dan Faulconbridge, and Dave Taylor.

I'm grateful for the generosity and camaraderie of a number of historians, writers, and professional hobbyists: Guy Halsall, Neil Smith, Jim Graham, John Bianchi, Andy Hawes, Shane Grubb, and Heine Baekkelund (RIP).

I'm grateful for all the friends and loved ones that have sat at the gaming table with me through the years. I cherish those times.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wargames Illustrated 278 (A Small Preview)

WI recently updated their site for the December 2010 issue; check out the preview here. This issue has a lot of samurai, a good dose of the ancient Mediterranean, and the Battle of Bussaco 1810. Of course, the WI website offers a lot of extras to support the magazine content on its home page.

I have not received my copy yet, but in the meantime, I can tell you that I have read a draft on the lead article, 'Sengoku Showdown'. It's a great way to jump into the era of Japan's Warring States - lots of good info and quite a bit of energy in the piece. WI's Dave Taylor asked me if I would be interested in supporting the article with a wargaming section and I jumped at the chance.

If you liked my series on 'Wargaming the Roman Army' (and even if you didn't), then check out my 'Wargaming the Carthaginians' in this issue. Dave and Dan had some good ideas for putting more/different gaming aspects into the article and I was quite happy with how it all turned out.

More later once I've had a chance to get the magazine in my hands.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

FOW Project: 251/9 Cs

251/9 Cs before wheels, tracks, and guns.
The FOW summer project was put on hiatus, but I have put it back in action. No long sessions, but I put in a couple of hours this evening. The thing I have been dreading is my German 251/9 C models (the short barrel 75mm support vehicle). 

Why? Well, it seemed the front wheels would not fit well into the resin body. This was an easier fix than I expected - I just trimmed some of the lead wheel attachment piece. I also widened the resin body joint, but I think my time was better spent just working on the wheels. Not a hard project and I feel a little bit better about my very basic modeling skills. 

Regardless, this was no big problem to tackle and I can tell you I never had the wheel fit mismatch with the regular German halftracks. I called it a day on the 251s after attaching the tracks and guns and got started on the Flakpanzers (more on them later).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some Classics on Classical Warfare

I do my best to find recent works when researching a given historical subject, but there's nothing wrong with relying on some old favorites - even if they are a little dated and have some flaws. I can hardly make better recommendations to someone starting a collection than John Warry's Warfare in the Classical World and Duncan Head's Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars.

I am hardly in a position to tell you what these authors got right or wrong from the perspective of a formal historical discipline. I can only really say that I've done more reading on the period since I acquired these titles in the early/mid 1990s and I think they missed a few points - or even broad strokes. 

Regardless, there's good nuts and bolts type of info to be found in both books (and lots of nice illustrations) that should be of some help for those building tabletop armies for the period and/or those just simply interested in the wars of Antiquity. 

Of course, don't overlook the bibliographies - especially the primary resources. Nothing like reading about the ancient world in the words of Caesar, Livy, or Ammianus Marcellinus.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ammianus Marcellinus: The Siege of Amida

If you like wargaming the Late Roman period, I highly recommend Ammianus Marcellinus' history, The Later Roman Empire (AD 354 -378). He was a Greek officer who served in the Roman army during the mid-Fourth Century and offers a lot of anecdotes and personal perspectives on the era's politics and wars. The  heart of the work focuses much on the rise of Julian the Apostate.

The Persian siege of Amida is a great read. The assault against the Roman-held city walls has all the kind of punch you might associate with Speilberg's 'Saving Private Ryan'. Marcellinus really pulls you into the exchange of arrows, slingshot, and artillery missiles as the Persians try to take the city by escalade (ladders), earthen ramps, and siege towers. The city eventually falls after 73 days, but Marcellinus makes a narrow escape with a few other survivors. All kinds of game scenarios, big and small, suggest themselves from these pages. 

On an an army-building note, Marcellinus often refers to the barbarian clients/allies/mercenaries in service to the Persian King of Kings, Sapor. Unless I am mistaken, it kind of reads like Marcellinus was able to identify these Middle Eastern troops from 'true' Persians. Maybe an analogy might be to compare Roman troops and irregular auxiliaries. While I have never played a Sassanid Persian army (I have fought a few, at least on the tabletop), it did make me wonder what kind of possibilities there might be for them in miniatures. I'll admit, I have not done any manufacturer research on the army in years, but it seems whenever I see pics of Sassanid infantry, they often appear to be the standard levy lot. Sounds like I may need need to do some more digging around.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Normans in Ireland

I was quite pleased how my Normans in Ireland (the ca 1170 invasion) article turned out in Wargames Illustrated 277. Dan F did a fantastic job of translating the game scenario into tabletop pics and Matt Parkes did some pretty cool conversions for late 12th Century Normans - its kind of a transitional period between First Crusade and High Middle Ages for their armor and weapons. 

I have been intrigued withe subject matter since I encountered it in Tim Newark's Celtic Warriors in the early 90s. While I don't necessarily agree with the book's pan-Celtic theme - I'm not sure all Celtic peoples shared a common bond or identification throughout the ages, nor that they viewed the world in terms of 'Celts v. Everybody Else - especially those Saxon/Norse Types' - it made for some good reading and had a lot of ancient and medieval sources.

Gerald of Wales wrote a contemporary/near-contemporary account of the late 12th Century Anglo-Norman invasion. I highly recommend an online translation for anyone interested in researching the period. There's lots of wargame scenario ideas, from skirmishes to battles to be found there - and it has lots of flavor. Be warned, Gerald may be a little biased towards the Normans. Gerald of Wales' History of the Conquest of Ireland may be found online at the University of Toronto Library. 

Also of note: Wargames Illustrated has been digging out the ancient archives to support recent articles, and they pull out a series of 12th Century Anglo-Norman battles this time around. Follow this link to download PDFs for Lincoln, Oxford, and Wilton (written by Stephen Simpson, originally published in WI 29-31).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wargames Illustrated 277: Haitian Revolution

I have been away from the blog quite a bit due to some heavy projects and other things, but here's the promised follow up to Wargames Illustrated 277 (at a glance).

First off, I have to say Neil Smith's article on the Haitian Revolution ("An Island in Flames") ranks as one my favorite piece written by him. It is interesting subject matter; I only had a vague understanding that there was a war in Haiti (remembered through DC's Weird War Tales #20 and #25, pictured right) until I read this article. More importantly, as one expects from Neil, he goes the distance in bringing the period alive, both from historical and gaming perspectives. 

Before you know it, you wish you had some French Revolution soldiers mixing it up on rough terrain with rebellious Haitians. In case you had not already figured it out, the Haitian Revolution is ugly. The article includes a skirmish scenario and small battle scenario, using Warhammer Historical's Legends of the High Seas and Warlord Game's Black Powder, respectively. If you don't play those games, the scenario details are descriptive enough that you can use whatever rules you have  at hand. 

There's lots of great photos accompanying the article, include pics of Trent Miniature's 'Caribbean' and 1790 ranges. Also of note - the article closes with a teaser about 'Trouble in the Caribbean' material in the future. Haiti's struggle for independence will be covered in the next installment.