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Taking Stock of Projects: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Posted by Adam on January 16, 2018 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I have previously avoided looking too closely at my wargames hobby in terms of how many projects I have active or stored away for future revival or just hopelessly stalled. Inspired by Ross Mac's no-nonsense look at his own resources and interests on his enthralling blog  and where to commit his hobby time, I have decided to have a crack at something similar. I am writing as I review things, so excuse me if the mood swings violently!


My oldest collection of 25/28mm figures (not including Dungeons and Dragon RPG miniatures) is the Macedonian Successors. Started a little over 35 years ago when I first discovered playing with toy soldiers was a “real” hobby! My first purchases were towards a Pyrrhic army. This appealed to me from the pages of WRG’s 6th Edition army lists due to the diverse range of auxiliary type that could be added to the core of competent Macedonian pikemen and Companion cavalry. Elephants, Italian types, Keltic mercenaries, Cretan archers - basically all the fun of the fayre! Early recruits were able to get into action quickly thanks to my friend Nick starting a Hellenistic army at the same time. We were able to coordinate our buying and painting of figures and combine them into a joint army. (Often Antigonid Macedonian if memory serves.) A good starter army with no one “super-troop” unit that you have to pin your hopes on. There were a variety of dangers presented by this sort of army. I even had the Kelts pull the fat out of the fire one time, beating a unit of Varangian Guards when everyone else had given way.


Macedonian Successors

(Includes some Persians and Indians, who were allies and enemies)

Figures painted: 644 (plus 8 elephants)

Figures unpainted: Around 600 about a third are Achaemenid Persians.

Active status: Very active!





Even after all these years this period of history still enthuses me. The Macedonians are being reinforced on two fronts currently: The Bactrian Greeks are mostly painted and ready for their first game in 2018. Also the Society of Ancients Battle Day is Paraitekene this year so I am adding a small number of units to my phalanx numbers for that game.



So hopefully at least 3 games using these figures this year. This gives quite an “ancients” slant to the year already… My next largest collection I suspect will be Horse and Musket, particularly the 18th Century and Seven Years War. Although these were originally bought as a side project when I acquired a large number of Spencer Smith plastic figures just before they went out of production. It has become my other main period of interest, expanding into the latter part of the 17th Century with the recent Nine Years War focus.


18th Century / Seven Years War

Figures painted: 533 (plus several dozen guns and 8 elephants)

Figures unpainted: 120 or so Indian cavalry and sepoys. Less than a hundred(?) Austrian and French SYW

Active status: Active.





An ongoing interest almost as long as the Ancients armies. These have taken a bit of a back seat to the League of Augsburg / Nine Years War in recent years. However I am determined to get my Ottoman Turk project properly under way this year. Some figures have been bought for this already from Brigade Games, Old Glory and Dixon Miniatures. Some will be home caste and modified plastics and then there is the tantalising prospect of Warfare Miniatures starting their range. Not sure if they will hit the table in 2018 but a round dozen units painted and ready by the end of the year is a reachable target. Hopefully we will get the SYW boys out to play at least once as well.



My other “tricorn based” army, that I mentioned above, has muscled in on the SYW figures’ territory. These are the late 17th Century Nine Years War units, which have benefitted from usage once or twice a year at the League of Augsburg weekends in Derby and Dumfries, keeping them on the agenda. I have no ambitious plans for painting units this year. I am lucky to have a friend (Les) who has collected enough figures for us to play manageable games with our combined collections. If events in the Battle for Britain campaign call for it I may be tempted to paint up a unit or two…


Nine Years War

Figures painted: 336

Figures unpainted: 472 plus artillery? (just a side project  )

Active status: Active.




I will hopefully be able to attend at least one of the games up at Dumfries. I am likely to take along some or all of my painted units if they are needed. A fair chance we will get these chaps on a table closer to home at least once this year too.


My other main focus this year is related to the League of Augsburg via their skirmish rule set “Donnybrook”. I have a mainly Scottish themed 17th Century / ECW Donnybrook collection (~ 60 figures) which will in the course of time be expanded with more figures including Three Musketeers period heroes and villains. I think the rules should work fine for this kind of setting. More of a stretch is adapting the rules set for the new period that I started last year; the 1895 Heligoland Crisis.


This is a Victorian alternative history setting that I am greatly enjoying writing. The main opponents are the British Empire and the German Empire and the initial theatre of operations the British governed Heligoland Islands in the North Sea. I am taking liberties with history (but feasible ones) that have led to an Anglo-German conflict 19 years before the Great War. I am planning on expanding the conflict to include torpedo boat duels in the shoal infested waters around the islands and civilian / irregular forces for the 28mm skirmish games.



1895 Heligoland Crisis

Figures painted: 58 (plus 7x 1/600 ships)

Figures unpainted: 200ish

Active status: Active.





I have to accept that the effort for this project will be split equally between figures and terrain / rules tinkering. Getting to a usable version of the rules that gives the period a distinct flavour will be key to keeping up enthusiasm for painting new figures and organising scenarios for games.

 

The second ancients period that I have a big interest in is the Punic Wars and more generally the Western Mediterranean. This overlaps with the Macedonian Successors in the form of the army of Pyrrhos which included Italian contingents and of course the Republican Romans who clashed with him and, eventually, the other Successors. This project started for me with my buying and painting an Etruscan army with Gallic allies. There were no Etruscan figures available back then, so I used the multipart QT/Amazon range of figures to cobble together something that worked for me. For the Gallic warriors I used a bunch of the QT figures and a couple of examples from every range I could find. This gave me a fine irregular looking warband in the days before ranges had a lot of variants of any one troop type. This “project” has expanded in fits and starts over the years and now includes small forces for each of the Romans, Carthaginians and Samnites, to go with the Etruscans.



Punic Wars

Figures painted: 432 plus elephants and chariots

Figures unpainted: 300 - 400

Active status: semi-active.





One of our Roman army owners left our small band of brothers, so we were somewhat reduced in the number of Legions we could deploy on the tabletop. I have been bulking up my Romans to fill the gap but I have less empathy for them than other armies so it is less of a priority. Instead of classic Punic wars clashes we have turned to games featuring Kelts and mercenary forces instead. There is always a chance we will gwt these old favourites out for a game particularly if I restart my Truceless War campaign...


These projects I would happily call the "Good". Well developed, with enough figures to have a game. Still plenty of enthusiasm and new figures joining the veterans. I will come onto the "Bad" and Ugly" next time.

Lions Led By Donkeys?

Posted by Adam on January 3, 2018 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)


After our first try out of the modified Donnybrook rules for a game set in 1895 Heligoland, I had a think about the "feel" of the game as experienced. We had discussed right after what had worked and what had not and it was a generally positive impression. But... What niggled at me was the thought that I had, "How was this different from a WW2 or VBCW or Back of Beyond game?" Similar weaponry by the infantryman and an understandable tendency by players to use their anachronistic knowledge of later tactics. Some pondering required, that had to be postponed as work got busy and Christmas landed on me like a tonne of bricks.


A small party from the Suffolk Regiment. Unfeasibly Miniatures, which should be generally available soon.



"Helpfully", Les also sent me some chunks of information about the two Boer Wars (which bracket our 1895 conflict. First Boer War 1880-81, Second Boer War 1899-1902.) Essentially reading up a bit more on the reality of the British performance it became clear my tailoring of the British for Donnybrook 1895 was bollocks. The British seemed to learn nothing from the first war and it took the Second Boer War for them to start the process of sorting out tactics that suited the age of breech loading repeating rifles and modern artillery. My letting them fight as skirmishing marksmen with mad-minute drills was definitely not realistic in 1895.


Some Sikh veterans from an Indian regiment. Foundry figures from their Darkest Africa range.



This brings up the problem that was concerning me. How do you inflict on the players the requirement that they make the same mistakes as their historical counterparts? In larger scale games there can be compulsory formations for battalions or companies that reflect the thinking of the current battlefield tactics. For a skirmish scale game however it would be dispiriting to have to march the figures in close formation into the teeth of annihilating rifle fire, however correct that might be historically.


Seaforth Highlanders. Irregular Miniatures.



Additionally there did not seem to be a simple consensus as to which battle tactics should be used within the same armies in this period. The Prussians had the lessons of the Franco-Prussian war to draw on as well as frequent large scale manoeuvres. The British had almost continuous combat experience around the world on a generally smaller level than European army scale. Both nations (and others) quite naturally observed the ideas and methods of other armies as well. However, not only was there disagreement about what these ideas and lessons meant but there was patchy uptake amongst the generals and officers in translating new ideas into actions on the ground.


A German Navy shore party. Figures from North Star but not sure what they are meant to be...


The reasons for this were complex but from what I have read there was a strong body of opinion drawn from theoreticians such as Clausewitz and the experiences of battle going back to the Napoleonic Wars that offensive tactics were the key to victory. The morale and initiative advantages of attacking outweighed the benefits of being a defender even in prepared positions. Then there were voices that pointed to the more recent examples of the American Civil War and the Franco Prussian war where these certainties had been roughly tested upon the advent of universal usage of breech loading rifles by the common infantryman. One of the interpretation of these examples was that the frontal attack on infantry so armed was no longer a valid tactic due to the very high casualties that would be sustained by an attacking force.


But in the end it did not necessarily matter what was taught at Aldershot or the Prussian staff college. Tactical methods became enmeshed with politics in the German army and the preferences of the Kaiser became as important as those of experienced military planners. The British, who had seen committed attacking armies such as the Zulus and Ansars beaten by their own rifle fire from carefully crafted defensive positions, haughtily disdained these “natives” and many senior officers believed that a professional soldier would be able to press home such a frontal attack.


German Infantry from the 49th Regiment. More Unfeasibly Miniatures from the 2016 Kickstarter Campaign.


My approach to build in this disparity of tactical methods within the game rules is in 2 parts. Firstly I have decided that the officers and characters in the 1895 games need to have some assigned characteristics. Rather than the officer figure being the player’s representative it will be a professional military man with his own ideas on the way his men should be used in a battle. The officer’s understanding of tactics would confer upon troops acting in his command radius benefits and disadvantages. I have tried to distil the complex theorising down to two factors: The preferred formation / control system (close order, loose order or skirmish order) and Tactical school (frontal assault with the bayonet, frontal assault using firepower and standing on the defensive.) I have also tried to give all the characteristics a balance of good and bad effects, whatever history and my personal bias says the correct approach should have been for the period.


A German Officer. But will he be an advocate for the tactics of defence or attack?


The second strand of these rule changes is that units may only act upon their activation card if in the command radius of an officer or character (there is no let off by parking the officer well to the rear where he cannot interfere…;) This I think reflects well the more rigid hierarchy of command compared to the 17th Century. I have written up a draft of the rule additions here for anyone to have a look at and comment on (please!) We’ll try these out in the next opportunity we have to get some figures on a table.


Heligoland First Game

Posted by Adam on November 30, 2017 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Our first run out with new toy soldiers and the draft amendments for the Donnybrook rules was arranged for the weekend. Based around the figures that I had already painted and suitable ones from our collections, the scenario was a scouting mission by a small British force. This comprised of a squad of Heligoland Garrison Regiment (Inexperienced, 12 figures + a sergeant, D6) and three volunteer detachments of veteran British reinforcements. These were from the Grenadier Guards, Suffolk Regiment and Seaforth Highlanders. All regiments with experienced hands who had seen a lot of action recently in India. These were all Veteran, 4 figures, D10. The party was under the command of Lieutenant Delacroix of the Garrison Regiment but with instructions to listen to the advice of the Colour Sergeant of the Highlanders. The Grenadiers, being an advance party without any officers were accompanied by Major Rumbol-Smythe, as theirs was a regiment he had once been seconded to for a mission in the Congo.





The briefing was to investigate a report that a German ship had been seen docked at a secluded landing stage on the estuary of the Jagstavon. Discovering what they were up to and stopping it, if possible, was to be attempted if the reports were true.




 

The German force which was instructed to protect the cargo whilst being unloaded and then until transport arrived to take it inland. To carry out this task the lucky German officer Hauptman Schultz had a squad of the 49th Regiment of Infantry (8 figures, Drilled + a sergeant, D8) Arriving with the cargo steamer was a Seebattalion squad (8 figures, Drilled + a sergeant, D8) and enough spare sailors to provide another squad (8 figures, Drilled + a coxwain, D8). They also had a machine gun…





The landing stage had a small clump of industrial buildings and stockades clustered around it. IT was around these that Hauptman Schultz deployed his troops but close to the gangplanks in case a large enemy force turned up. This allowed the British to infiltrate the buildings without coming under too much fire. The Garrison Regiment occupied a large building that overlooked the landing stage with the intention of punning down the Germans whilst smaller parties worked their way around the left flank to catch them in a crossfire.





The plan worked well. The Garrison squad took a casualty as they milled around trying to get through a door and the Seaforths had one unlucky Highlander hit by a German bullet but the were soon able to start a close range fire on the enemy infantry huddled behind crates and bales. The Germans found themselves being whittled away and when Schultz sent his group of sailors in to shore up the position they took a terrific hail of bullets trying to cross a wall. The remnants of the Reichmarine party hunkered down but were eventually sent retreating back on board the steamer.





On the left the Seebattalion were making very slow progress and their machine gun seemed to take an age to get into the action. When it opened fire the machine gun was able to kill several of the Garrison Regiment in the top floor of their building but not enough to drive them back. The Seebattalion riflemen worked their way into the rear of the British in the meantime and opened fire on the flank of the Suffolks, killing one private before they knew where the attack was coming from. This was potentially bad news for the British. All their soldiers were engaged in the firefight with nobody left to respond to the flank attack.





The crumbling position of the rest of the German force, particularly after one of their sergeants was hit (50% casualties and morale check time) now prevented the Seebattalion pressing their advantage. Hauptman Schultz was forced to order a retreat. Under covering fire from the machinegun, the Germans dragged their wounded onto the steamer and slipped the hawsers to rapidly move away from the shore.





The Heligoland Garrison Regiment had soundly beaten the invaders (with a little help.) The delivery of supplies had been stopped but still it was not known. What was this mysterious cargo?




The Heroes of Heligoland

Posted by Adam on November 20, 2017 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Steadily painting up the combatants for the two sides but I snuck in a couple of command characters (who might bear a resemblance to friends I game with*.)

 

First is Sir Leslie A. Rumbol-Smythe, Archie to his friends.

 

 

And his old sparring partner, Baron Nikolaus von Langenfordt

 

 

These two will have some backstory including previous encounters in other parts of the world. Archie is rumoured to be a handy chap in the sort of situations where Her Majesty's Government cannot get directly involved. The Baron is a fanatical patriot and has used his family fortune to support various schemes (dastardly ones natuarally) that he sees as advancing the cause of Greater Germany.

 

No images exist at the moment for the notorious Anarchist leader known as Adamos de la Hay...

 

I cannot for the life of me remember where the British office figure came from, maybe London War Room's old range of figures for battles on Mars. The Baron is a Westwind Miniatures chap from a pack called German Archaologists (I'm not sure how you use a sabre in a dig but there you go.)


(*Mainly the names to be honest...)

The Battle of Epping 1693

Posted by Adam on October 15, 2017 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (2)

Another weekend in Dumfries, another chapter of the Battle for Britain "what if" campaign set in 1693.  


Following the Battle of Drax earlier in the year, where the Jacobite army was defeated as it tried to drive the remaining Williamite forces from the north of England, a new threat had emerged to King James' English Crown. An army composed of hired and allied soldiers from the Continent had landed in Essex (having intended to sail up the Thames) led by the rising star of the Hapsburg Empire, Prince Eugene of Savoy.


The fog lisfts to reveal the marketplace is full of Williamite cavalry.


The first game on Saturday morning was a skirmish between leading elements of the two armies in a thick fog around the Essex town of Chelmsford. To simulate the very real fog of battle, units were initially represented on the table by markers and only revealed when close to the enemy. In addition there was a strong chance that each unit would be some distance from the location of its marker and even facing in a different direction.  This made for a challenging task for both attacker and defender but with the aid of lurking Essex militia the scratch Jacobite force was able to hang on and deflect the majority of the invaders away from the crossings over the River Chelmer. 


Danish mercenaries flee from companies of Essex Militia supported by Jacobite musketeers and dragoons.


The Jacobites made good use of the delays inflicted on the Williamite army. Every available man was assembled between the approaching enemy and the road to London and all the artillery available gathered. On the edge of Epping Forest the Jacobite army made good use of the available trees to construct a series of  hefty bastions that their regiments could shelter behind.  The large and professional Mercenary army had combined with the remnants of the northern Williamite army under General von Tettau. There were also a couple of  newly raised English regiments as a fig leaf for their legitimacy as forces of the English king William.  When they arrived  near the small Essex town of Epping they discovered the Jacobites well dug in in multiple defensive lines in the forest. This would be a tough nut to crack, but the opportunity existed to crush the remains of the Jacobite forces in England and capture London.



The massed Williamite regiments (left) advance on the Jacobite lines.


The Williamite army struck first at the left and right ends of the Jacobite earthworks. This was when they discovered that amongst the standing trees a series of hidden trenches were across their path. The concealed musketeers within only slowly gave up their ground at the point of the invaders' bayonets. With the way through the trees untenable the Williamite generals would have to take on the earthworks head on.Eugene committed his men against the full length of the right hand redoubt whereas General von Tettau attempted a more surgical approach, sending a massed column against just a few points on the Jacobite left.



View from behind the left hand Jacobite bastion.


Ultimately both methods ran into the same rain of destruction before the Jacobite fortifications. Whereas the soldiers of King Jmes could shelter from the worse of the enemy fire behind thick log ramparts, the Williamite regiments were exposed to devastating musketry and cannon fire before they could attempt to storm the enemy positions. Wave after wave of the best professional  soldiers in Europe marched up to the Jacobite barricades and the remnants streamed back the way they had come. A moment of crisis did occur on the Jacobite left when a popular Brigadier was plucked from his saddle by a snipers bullet. The dead general's regiments were shaken by his loss and Polruwans English Guards started to retire from the fight. It took the personal intervention of General Hamilton to steady the line and put heart back into his troops.


Polruwan's Foot Guards return to the fight.


The continuous attacks were however gradually wearing down the front line of the Jacobite defenders. The First Battalion of the Kings Foot Guards fought all day to see off massed assaults on the right of the position and by sundown had not a man left who wasn't dead or wounded. In the centre Lord Louth's Regiment heroically fought against three battalions of  fearsome Dutch Guard and only grudgingly did the survivors retire with their colours held high as the Orange Guards broke through.



Lord Louth's Regiment, heroic defenders of the central redoubt.


The battle had reached the moment of decision. As the victorious Dutch Guard streamed into the central redoubt, the Jacobite cavalry seized their chance. Leading the way, the squadrons of the Volunteer Gentlemen of London, who spurred their horses and charged into the disorganised mass. King William's Foot Guard had fought their way out of many tighter straits than this, but on this occasion the exhausted Netherlanders had nothing left. They broke and scattered pursued by the victorious cuirassiers.



The thin red line of Jacobite defences.


On the Williamite right a fresh assault had been sent into the fight by von Tettau. His hand picked Danish regiments had always fought hard for their Chief and did so again. The Jacobite Earl of Antrim's Regiment, which had taken the brunt of the fighting all day, finally could take no more and sullenly retreated away from the prolonged hand to hand fighting. The defences had been breached! It was at this very moment however that von Tettau got the news from his commander. Eugene of Savoy had taken stock of the situation. His army was now dangerously depleted. Any reverse could turn into a disaster and thus he had ordered the retreat.



The Danish regiments finally break into the defences but it is too little too late...


It remains to be seen how this Williamite reverse will affect the ongoing "Battle for Britain" campaign but the failure to best the previously despised Jacobite Foot by the cream of European regiments for hire, will be a major psychological blow to the Williamite cause.

(As usual click on the photos for larger versions.)

The First to Fight

Posted by Adam on September 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The initial armed encounters of the Heligoland Crisis in 1895 were between units of the invading Imperial German Army and the islands' sole defenders., the Heligoland Garrison Regiment. The Heligoland Garrison Regiment (HGR) was an unusual and neglected offshoot of the British Army. The first garrison of the newly captured islands in 1810 was a handful of men from the Invalids Company Royal Artillery and a battalion of  the Royal Veteran Regiment. After Waterloo and peace in Europe the islands' defence was taken over by a ragbag of auxilliary formations, which had fought for the British in the Peninsula and elsewhere. Gradually these units were disbanded and the soldiers returned to their homelands, more or less enthusiastically.  


The need for a permanent garrison was recognised but under ancient  and renewed rights, the population of the islands could not be compelled to provide any military service to the islands' ruler. The inception of the Heligoland Garrison Regiment was only possible in 1818 by the recruitment of a core of French Exiles, who could not return to Royalist France. In the main these Frenchmen were officered by "volunteers" from British line regiments and, unsurprisingly, these officers were not high calibre men that a Regiment's Colonel was going to miss. Fortunately the rank and file had mostly seen service through the long years of war on the Continent, so a passable imitation of a military formation was acheived. In later decades a compromise was concluded, that allowed Helgolanders to serve in the HGR on a "permanant loan" from the islands' volunteer militia. However foreign recruitment was still practised and  French surnames continued to feature strongly amongst the officers and men of the unit.


The inexperienced soldiers of the Heligoland Garrison Regiment bravely confronted the elite German forces that landed in 1895, only grudgingly giving up their native farms and villages as the invader's numbers told.


The HGR had settled to a constant size and organisation by the middle of the century. Not conforming to any typical pattern the unit was formed of four companies, three of "fusiliers" and the fourth all gunners. A static defence role was seen as the regiment's only real option manning the battery positions and coastal forts its natural home. Some of the unit's commanders had other ideas training their infantry element as everything from light infantry to ship-board marines, but the reality mostly remained a coastguard/customs role. The gunners of the HGR tended to have a higher status (at least in their own eyes!) Their drill was up to the highest standards even if much of the ordnance was of an older or inferior stock.


The uniforms of the Regiment followed the general scheme of other British Regiments. The War Office beurocrats rigorously supplied the latest equipment and uniforms to the Islands even if not with the highest priority. The unusual status of the HGR did lead to their most distinctive item of uniform. In 1879 the regiment received a supply delivery including tropical service, white pith helmets. As a foreign stationed unit they had been mistakenly sent on the assumption that Heligoland was in warmer climes! As the unit had not yet received their new spiked Home Service Helmets they enthusiastically adopted the pith helmet into their parade order of dress. Despite occasional demands to relinquish them, the HGR  steadfastly kept them and they were worn almost without exception in preference to the Home Service headgear.


Shown here the typical dress of the HGR circa 1889. The tricolor flash

on the left upper arm the most obvious regimental distinction.


The status of the HGR was in doubt for a time when the negotiation for the handover of the islands was under way. The decision had been made to disband the unit and distribute any personel who wished to remain in the Army to other regiments. When the treaty fell through the HGR found itself in a bit of a limbo state with all War Office plans for the future already regarding them as no longer in existence. The Regiment continued its normal duties but it was some years before it regained official acknowledgement as being still operational. This did nothing to improve the already disgruntled morale of the unit. They entered the conflict in 1895 with out of date uniform jackets and black powder rifles but with the burning indignation of a disregarded servant to the British state.

The Heligoland Crisis 1895

Posted by Adam on July 29, 2017 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (3)

Here is the background notes for the 1895 campaign set on the Heligoland Islands.

 

The Heligoland Crisis 1895

 

In February of 1895 a small group of “scrap metal dealers” raised the flag of the German Empire over an abandoned herring canning plant on the uninhabited island of Duene. The significance of this action lay in the ownership of this sandy speck in the North Sea, the British Empire.


Following the collapse of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, the small island group generally just known as Heligoland, had become an unwanted diplomatic headache for the British Government who had administered the islands since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Their preference had been to hand them over to the newly united German Empire in return for a few useful concessions in Germany's expanding African colonies. A finely crafted treaty had been scuppered at the last knocking by the young German Emperor Wilhelm II.



The departing Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck arranged for publishing of the minutes from a meeting with the Kaiser, where Bismarck had queried the real value of the islands compared to potential colonial wealth. The Kaiser had responded with a stream of bellicose abuse and bravura openly bragging of his wish to build a German navy that would control the World’s oceans and allow Germany to control any overseas colonies she saw fit. To what extent Bismarck stage managed the meeting is hard to know but his fingerprints are certainly on the route that it took to a journalist in the Washington Post after his resignation.


“As fine a piece of political chicanery as I have ever seen,” commented one Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister. Whatever the real machinations were behind the newspaper story, it effectively killed off any chance of the treaty being ratified by the British.


 



On hearing the startling news that Kaiser Wilhelm was planning for the Royal Navy to be demolished by his new German fleet, some voices within the British Admiralty were raised in support of keeping a naval base which could observe and if necessary block aggressive naval forces emerging from the Kiel Canal. That wiser heads did point out the difficulties in defending a station only 50 miles from the German coast, only served to cause there to be a political deadlock within the British establishment. National pride was feeling bruised in London and Berlin, but little appetite could be summoned to hash out a face saving compromise. With the Kaiser’s credibility still in tatters it only took the activities of a small nationalist society to bring matters to a head.


The Bremen Fatherland Society had a well organised "Rifle Club" including several off-duty NCOs from the Imperial German Army. On February 20th 22 of their number were transported to Duene on the paddle steamer Ozeanwelle. Reports that this was crewed by Kriegsmarine personell were never substantiated and quite unlikely. Within 48 hours their provocative flag raising had been noted by passing fishing vessels and reported to the British authorities.



The first response was a visit from HM Steam Patrol Boat Fowey, which scouted out the small island on the 23rd February. Seeing the German flag still flying over the old cannery and a ramshackle group of tents erected around the crumbling buildings, a small shore party was landed.


Lieutenant Franz Hoeskstra of HM Coastguard decided on low key approach to the situation taking only one Seaman with him to go and talk to the interlopers. Neither man had a firearm despite the shore party being well equipped with modern Lee Metford rifles and Hoekstra by regulation should have been wearing his holster and Webley revolver. The Coastguard officer's diplomatic approach had no sway with the Bremeners and all he receive in return was nationalist slogans and personal abuse. When the first shot rang out the pair were already halfway back to the boat and the remainder of the shoreparty. Hoekstra was killed instantly by an expert rifle shot to the head and AB Dudley was hit twice as he attempted to carry his stricken officer to safety.


The shore party was thrown into confusion at this turn of events but cooler heads amongst them were able to lay down some covering fire (perhaps causing the only German – non Coastguard German that is, casualty of the encounter.) Whilst retrieving the shore party the HMPB Fowey fired rounds from its 2“ gun into the cannery where the initial shots were supposed to have come from. The Bremeners had already made tracks however, crossing the tiny island to where they had boats hidden and splitting up into several smaller groups. Effectively their task was complete.


The importance of this incident was not initially realised. The newspapers in London and Berlin ranted and complained but none of them openly predicted that this would be the spark to a wider conflict. The British reaction was initially muted. The German Ambassador was not summoned for almost a week to the Foreign Office and then it was for an informal discussion. In the War Office it all barely raised a flicker of interest. On the islands themselves the Heligoland Garrison Regiment stepped up shoreline patrols and the small police force was on the lookout for the Bremeners in its own way.


It was not the Bremeners who the Garrison Regiment members of B company found on the 28th February however. Just before dawn the five man patrol almost walked right into a full company of the German Imperial Army (Lower Rhine Fusilier regiment, No. 39) recently disembarked in a secluded bay under the cover of darkness. Luckily the sergeant was an old India hand and realised that getting word to his superiors was of more importance than any heroics. Embassy staff in both Capitals were about to have a very long day!



(Before I get any grief from nutters and button counters, please let me make it clear most of the above is an alternative history exercise in "what-ifs..." I have for a start added a sizable companion to the real main island at Heligoland and the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty did take placeand wasn't scuppered in 1890. Much is based on truth however: the Kaiser's unfortunate penchant for saying the wrong thing to newspapermen, the falling out between him and Bismarck and the wish by some in the British Establishment to keep hold of the island - Queen Victoria for one!)

Final Units

Posted by Adam on July 25, 2017 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the problems with assembling a Bactrian Greek army is the vagueness and lack of detail in the information available. Don't get me wrong a scarcity of information means there is more latitude to make your own decisions on what the army looked like, which can be more interesting. If we can be sure about anything though, it must be safe to say the army contained war elephants.


As the Satrapy and then later Kingdom of Bactria was a neighbour to parts of India, well known for its war elephants, that would seem enough to validate their inclusion.  However we also have the histories of Polybius which tells us that the Selucid king Antiochus III took possession of the Bactrian elephant herd as part of a peace treaty, after he campaignedin the country for two years to try to reassert Selucid control. And if this weren't enough we have a surviving image of what the Bactrian war elephants looked like.




In the Hermitage Museum in Moscow, there are several metal discs or shallow bowls (phalera) with the war elephant engravings complete with fighting towers and warriors in them.  The inclusion of the tower eliminates any doubts that the elephants took an active role in battle, rather than just being a general's viewing platform or a parade mount for the king. Neither elephant image is wearing any armour so this could mean that  the climate would cause elephants to overheat if they were covered over or the artist had never seen it in action?.


Mine are armoured. (Well half of them.) I decided to add a second pair of elephant models to my original veteran pair that started life in a Phyrric army. Piquet's Archon ruleset has 4 bases as the "standard" size of a unit but elephants get a special dispensation and can field 2 of the bases showing  light infantry to represent escorts I suppose. I decided to go for the more costly option of fielding 4 elephant models for the unit  as this undoubtedly looks more impressive!


My original pair of models were from Essex Miniatures. Superb represetations of the beasts but requiring a lot of filling and sanding to ge the two halves of the body to match up. Les reminded me of this, having had the pleasure of assembling 8 of them for his Indian army. Despite this one of my reinforcements was an Essex model (how hard can it be...) The other is a Newline Miniatures figure. This is another nicely sculpted model and importantly very close in size to the others.Also it had been sitting around in the leadpile for many years. The only  drawback with the model is the trunk is very thick with little detail sculpted on the end. I added a more elephanty end with greenstuff but the girth is not an easy one to fix.



I can now start to understand the preference for resin elephant models where the whole body can be cast as one piece (and they're a fair bit lighter.) The Hermitage plates show something of the decoration on the saddlecloth (if that's what it is called.) I had a crack at painting the greek key pattern on one of the cloths and soon gave it up as a bad idea. Plan B was to use some "print your own" decals to help with the trickier details. I plundered the internet for images containing various Greek Key patterns that would print out at a small enough scale to apply to the elephants' housings. As I had half a page of decals to use up, I found as many Macedonian stars and Greek myth pictures that I thought might work as he centre of shield patterns. Plus a lot of spares, as I can be a bit cack-handed with decals.


A comparison between the Essex and Newline Indian elephants and an Aventine African elephant. Similarly good detail but the African example should be a fair bit smaller than his Indian cousins. He will maybe do as a big bull elephant for a general. Anyway that's a different project, for this army I am sticking with smaller representations of the elephants and war mammoths can wait for another day.


Medieval Wagon Train Scenario

Posted by Adam on May 20, 2017 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)


I fished out an old Tabletop Teaser scenario for our most recent game.  Called "Wagon Train" it is a convoy of vital supplies to a fort or town; with one side trying to stop the wagon train and the other side trying to protect the wagons. We hadn't had the medieval figures out of their boxes for many months so I set this scenario in the Italian Wars with a Milanese wagon train being intercepted by a French force.




I had decided to concentrate on the day to day mercenary and utilitarian troop type for this game rather than the battlefield elites (knights and good quality pikeblocks.) The Milanese had a choice of two directions to come onto the table or to split their force. They decided to go for "B".


The Milanese led the convoy with their only unit of Knights (somewhat unenthusiastic Condotta kinights...) Their main issue was starting the game in march column as a formation chage card proved very elusive. The column very quickly ground to a halt whilst the knights desperately tried to chnge into a battle formation. The "Deploy" card was difficult to turn when they kept getting measly amounts of  initiative and being forced to discard useful cards. (This was partly a poorly remembered part of the rules for initiative - my fault there!)


Frustrated by his situation, the Milanese general sent his Condotta knights gallopping down the road with the intention of alerting the town garrison and triggering assistance from that direction. This bold move was however what the French crossbows had been stationed in the woods to counter. Their volley of bolts ripped into the passing column emptying many saddles.


To really make their day, the knights next found themselves being charged by a scabby squadron of segeants, who fancied their chances against the depleted and surprised knights. Predictably the Italians crossed swords for a few moments before breaking and heading for the safety of the town. It was very much a Phyrric victory for the sergeants as their charge and partial pursuit took them well within range of the cannons on the town walls. They quickly found their range and stone shot was soon tearing through the victorious horsemen, prompting them to retire out of range.



Behind the wagon traffic jam some more of the guards had made their tortuous way onto the table. This was more than balanced by the entrance (random timed event) of a unit of Swiss mercenaries from the north edge of the table. The mercenary pikemen were quite keen but unarmoured which could be fatal in the crossbow rich setting they found themselves in.



 

 

The depleted Frenchsergeants cantered back along the road to see what more mischeif they could get into. Teh Milanese were pushing marching columns of foot past the wagons to give them some cover but the need for speed was leaving them vulnerablwe in their columns of route formation.




The Milanese militia were not too shabby (or they might have been hangunners, either way they didn't get to use their missile weapons!) In hand to hand they were almost the equal of the Sergeants. However even in their depleted state the French horsemen were able to beat a unit in march column.


More bad news for the Milanese was another unit of good quality mercenary crossbows marching to the sound of the guns. In a fit of enthusiasn the French general also flung forward his Italian levies, which may not have been a realistic threat in a stand up fight but added to the pressure on the stymied relief column. In an attempt to turn the momentum the rallied Condotta knights and some mounted crossbows from the town garrison sallied out to worry the French about their exposed position.




The heroic sergeants finally pushed their luck too far as they sautered past the set up Milanese crossbows. The unit was pincushioned and the sad remnants left the field. This did though open the way for the Swiss to charge into the wagon convoy before any of the covering Milanese units could interpose themselves. The Swiss duly chopped heir way through the wagons, not even bothering to capture any of the contents for their starving French colleagues!  With the convoy destroyed there was no more point to any heroics and the Milanese retired to leave the town garrison to their fate.



The main learning points for me for scenario design  was that it does not take many units present on the tabletop to give the players plenty of challenges and a lot to think about. (Maybe with a full army of 15-20 units the loss of one is a more slight psychological impact than when you have just a handful...) It also showed up that there is no foolproof initiative system (we used a card based one so that the balance between red and blue would even out but I did slightly misinterpret the rule for discarding action cards and it hit the Milanese side at the worst possible time in the game (mea culpa.) Despite being outnumbered the entire game the French side took their chances and used the freedom of movement to maximum effect.

A Gallic Scrap

Posted by Adam on March 29, 2017 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Last weekend we brought together most of the Gallic/ Keltic troops that we all have in 25mm. These amounted to approximately: 320 infantry, 70+ cavalry and 8 chariots.



There was some initial fiddling about with an idea for a four way micro-campaign but we ultimately decided to do a straight forward tabletop encounter with the majority of the foot figures fighting in 2 loose alliances. Each player had 3 units of veteran warriors and 4 of normal tribal soldiers. Althjough this might sound like a predictable force  In the Piquet Archon rules every unit has a Basic Dice Value that their combat skills and Morale value are developed from.



The result of this is that any unit can start the game with an average value, battle weary, enthusiastic or keen as mustard! The variation is on a simple bell curve with only the score of 1 to 4 and 17 to 20 on a twenty sided dice (D20) changing the BDV from an average D6. Pluses and minuses on this dice roll can be quite powerful, but it is a nice simple way to incorporate effects such as good, veteran troops being shorrt of supplies or other reasons to be under-motivated.




Once we had rolled for the BDV values Nick had the most gung-ho enthusiastic command any of us had ever seen, Jim and Adam had average troops and Les was lumbered with a sorry pack of battle weary skivers! Even though we all had identical troop rosters it meant that every one was different with it's own unique character. What strategy we adopted was only partly based on these differences. Adam attempted (with some success) to draw away a part of Nick's command so that Jim could crush the remainder. Despite Nick feeding his heroes into the fray piecemeal Jim's progress was positive quite slow.

 

 

 

 





Last unit of naked Gaesati about to be engulfed...


On the other flank, Adam's gambit to draw the enemy his way reaped it's rewards as every unit of his Kelts managed to lose the close combats the got into.  So, a victory to Les and Nick and a nice occasion to see a lot of our various collections of Gauls/ Kelts on the table.





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