Sunday, June 19, 2011

Battle Report: Trouble Up North

Several years having past since I built the thing, my keep finally got its baptism on the table-top. The scenario: a fast and loose representation of an assault on the royal castle in York. The game length: 12 turns to burn the Normans back to hell. The rules: Warhammer Siege and Conquest. The players: Matthew and Guy versus the Unlucky General, all members of the Goulburn Wargames Group.

Matt threw together a slick scenario requiring a half-hearted Saxon uprising with a more substantial commitment from their recently landed Norse allies. It was a haphazard affair as none of us had properly read through the Siege and Conquest rules or prepared the game in our usual fashion but as long time WAB adherents, we reckoned on being able to muddle along. I took to the parapet as the defending Normans and their mercenaries whilst my fearsome opponents took charge of the sieging masses. They figured with two periers and as many onagers and rams, I just couldn't hope to slaughter enough of them before they breached the walls. With only two units of ten archers and as many crossbows and no artillery, I reckoned they were right.

With my crossbow Sergeants in the keep and on its curtain, I placed dismounted Milites in the inner bailey to put some backbone into the ever dodgy mercenaries. My archers took to the outer bailey walls, with my foot out of range but within reach to reinforce the walls. My considerable cavalry force was placed well to the rear as a last reserve.

Starting just beyond bow range, the assault began with some fairly ineffective artillery support. Guy's two onagers, when they weren't misfiring were straying way off target. Whilst taking out some Sergeants on the Keep itself, they never looked like knocking off so much as a splinter from my walls - and so it was to remain. It was to be a job for the grappling irons and a deadly climb to the top for the poor sods running for the motte.

The perrier barrage for the assault on the bailey was slightly less successful again, taking out as many of the attackers as defenders. Good shootin' Matt! As with the motte, those buggers would have to climb the walls too. The walls themselves are a tribute to Matt who practically knocked them up over night in time for the game. Pity he hadn't allowed sufficient width to stand most of our bases but hell ... beggars can't be choosers. Come to think of it, perhaps Matt just couldn't bring himself to ruin his own models.

When his rebel foot hit the bailey wall; however, they hit it hard and all at once. Over the course of the game my archers lost control of the walls, only to have them regained by my infantry. At the same time a ram was beginning an arduous hammering at the left flank section of wall. Thankfully, both rams were brought in too late in the day to break through the reinforced walls in time. The defence of the outer bailey walls was dogged, my Normans giving ground in most rounds - one corpse at a time. Facing Ulfhednar and what seemed an endless army of Berserkers, they lost far more combats than they one. But with only a one figure width, the Normans were able to hold the bailey walls loss after loss, thanks to the leadership of the Bishop with one unit and King William with the other.

Meanwhile, back at the motte, things were not going so well. I had simply failed to garrison the keep and curtain sufficiently. Once at the base of the walls, I had not enough men to cut the ropes and repel the Viking hordes. Racing to the battlements, the Milites took up the fight, dispatching first the Berserkers and then fighting off one of three large warbands. But it was not enough and with no reserve within reach, it was only a matter of time before the Unlucky General failed a crucial morale role and witnessed the flight of the Milites. Worse still, the plodding knights were caught in the rear by a blood-thirsty pursuit and all cut down. Fortunately, this was only after we had agreed to run the play to a thirteenth turn to see what happened - the Norman forces of King William having already held its ground once more conquered! All that was left was to start the harrying in the morning.


We are notoriously slip-shod when it comes to the rules and none of us were as familiar with Siege and Conquest as we perhaps should have been. Still, we worked through it and reckon them to have worked well. At first we thought it too easy for grappling hooks and ropes to achieve figures on the walls. Then again, when properly manned, they are easy enough to cut and repel - my best rolling throughout the game. So, it seems to have balanced out. Whilst this time the Unlucky General was not so unlucky, I think we can safely put that down to the tight time frame for victory and the habit of Matt and Guy to forget to move before their eagerness to start shooting got the better of them. If they could have stuck to the turn sequence I think I'd have lived up to my tag. Nevertheless, the motte curtain was achieved even though the bailey was secure. I think I'll put it down to a draw.

Oh, and one more thing. Whilst the motte was designed with a fair gradient to stand figures on (especially when based in fours) Guy's troops were based singly and in those ugly movement trays. He was unable to place them on the approach without a domino effect wreaking greater havoc than my archery ever did. There's a lesson there I think. Down with movement trays!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Be2a: Part 6 & Final

It all over - essentially. As you can see, I have finished rigging by Be2a (one of them) and mighty relieved I am I confess. The rigging line is a twisted metallic coloured rayon thread which certainly gives the impression of twisted wire - perhaps a bit to stripey - I'm still undecided.
This model is the one where I made the wheels myself as well as the skid rails. The prop-head is just a dress making pin but serves well enough as they had no spinners and were minimal in size. The wiring was fiddly, though I should be getting used to it. It's actually one of those pain points that I keep putting off.
Pleased to say that no struts gave out in the rigging process which is always a possibility when under strain. Now for a few admissions. The guides on the tail plain should also be underneath - not just on top - and if I did this again (which I doubt very much) I'd make a penetrating peg with receiving holes to tie through, top and bottom.
I suppose this is why I am a model maker only as far as wargaming directs me. If I were a modeller proper, my Be2a's would be far more precise but as it is, I'm only after a reasonable representation - which I have probably stated before. Even as I write this I realise I haven't yet put my stabilizer skids underneath the wing tips - on to that shortly.
I am extremely satisfied with the engines - I had no idea how that would work, being a first effort. I ended up not weathering or dirtying the airframes. I have spent long enough and certainly blogged enough on this build already. Whilst satisfied, I'm glad it's finished. It's certainly been worthwhile as I now have two airframes which to date are rarely seen over the table-top.
Together with my Avro 504 I now have the aeroplanes which were used in the TV Series Wings and therefore have essentially covered the early war standard airframes for the British in WWI. During the last two months I have also obtained a Revell De Havilland DH2 which I am going to need if I'm to campaign in this specific period.
I have also bought a Fokker EIII to partner up with my Pfalz EIV so I can field both sides in a few scenarios at home if a random game should be needed. For the time being; however, I have to say goodbye to WWI aviation modelling as my Airfix 25pdr and Quad models have turned up and that's another build which requires completion. If it weren't for blogging, I'd never have the motivation to get anything done.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Williamite Warfare

One of the two reasons I have been deathly quiet on the blogging front is my boots and all leap toward what I have called Williamite Warfare. I have completed the first draft of a core adaptation of Warhammer English Civil War (WECW) rules and the first of a series of 3-5 army lists for the Dutch.

The period under review is the late 17th century in Western Europe, covering the campaigns of William of Orange: The Franco-Dutch War from 1672 through to the end of the Nine Years War in 1698.

I have created a blog site onto which I am intending to upload the rules adaptation and army lists named, not surprisingly "Williamite Warfare". Until I have completed a French list for the first half of the Franco-Dutch War I shall be refraining from posting much and have not really 'anounced' it - which may be up to a few weeks off yet.  I am also seeking permission from whomever owns the rights to Warhammer Ancient Battles and WECW - which is proving difficult to discover. Any help would be appreciated.

Apart from harbouring a long-term love affair for the fashions of the period (social and military) I believe it to be a unique period where the armies of Europe underwent a revolution toward the linear system and experimented with rapidly developing technologies: the swan song of the pike, introduction and replacement of the plug bayonet with the socket, the uptake of the flintlock over the matchlock and the supply of cartridges. Combined with this, drastic experiments with fire delivery systems, cavalry doctrine and the development of the battalion as the logistic and tactical organisation still with us over 300 years on.

Needless to say, I'm looking at the project as a strictly not-for-profit venture. Everything will be freely available. I've put a lot of time and effort into the exercise thus far, writing and re-writing as I go. When I learn how, I'll link it to this blog for anyone interested. Finally accompanying the long standing ranges of Dixon and Foundry, Riever Castings, Copplestone and Front Rank have developed wonderful new sculpts to fill complimentary ranges in 28mm. My colleagues at the Goulburn Wargames Group will be building 28mm armies and posting as we go.

So ... if you're interested, stand by. I suspect some of you may be as I have two followers already - thanks for the vote of confidence.

Be2a: Part 5

As you will have noticed from the activity or lack thereof on any of my blogs, progress to date has been glacial. Glacial that is, unless you are into research and rules writing like I seem to have become. I'll leave that to another post but to say I derailed myself is an under-statement and half. For the first time in weeks I finally motivated myself to sit quietly at my work table instead of the library and move the latest builds toward their conclusion.
As you can see, I fixed the top wings and painted the struts the same wood colour as the skid assembly and undercarriages, which are now also fixed. Another error in my modelling was the angles of the twin exhausts. Both models have the exhausts running wide at the front end, narrowing at the rear. They should in fact be straight and parallel. This became an issue when attaching the skids but in gaming, no one will notice. In other words, this will win no awards for precision or accuracy but should serve as a fair enough representation for my purposes.

What I am pleased about; however, is how the engines and exhausts appeared after painting. After undercoating, they got a thick coat of gloss black mixed with gun metal (enamels) and a heavy dry-brush with gun metal and then a lighter dry-brush with gun metal mixed with steel/aluminium. They have smoothed over the balsa base quite nicely to my eye. I don't think I'll bother dirtying the engines of planes - but I may change my mind.
The cardboard skids seem to have ended up sufficiently rigid (thank goodness) and provided workable flexibility, which given the exhaust situation, made them preferable to my toothpick versions. I'm also pleased how the tyres I made have turned out and they should pass muster after painting - which is underway. To be honest, both planes pitch too far back on their undercarriages when upright but as they will spend most of their time mounted on flying stands, they'll look fine - I hope.

The last thing I need to attach is the tail rudder which I will also fit with a double ended pin joint for further strength - all fused with SupaGlue. Done by tonight, all that will be left is the rigging for which I have purchased some 35wt rayon thread with a metallic twist colour - we shall see how it comes off. I'm looking to avoid painting wires - it's bad enough I'm rigging these things at all.