Over the Western Front

With Christmas fast approaching my opportunities for gaming this year are disappearing. It seemed only fitting to squeeze in our end of year Wings of Glory encounter, locally known as “Snoopy’s Christmas”.

During the evening three scenarios were played out. The first involved a more traditional dogfight with Spads involved in a desperate dogfight somewhere over the front. While the Spads sport interesting colour schemes they really lack manoeuvrability! Next was an unusual scenario that found several two seaters battling it out. In part this was designed to provide one player an opportunity to deploy one of his new two seater German aircraft.

Above, a Breguet 14, one of Alastair’s favourite aircraft, along with a Bristol Fighter concentrate on a Roland. A UFAG fluffs around in the background, the pilot determined to not become involved in a head to head encounter with the more powerful enemy.

The final scenario was based around a reconnaissance mission with each side comprising a two seater and an fighter escort.

Above, a rather colourful Hannover CL.III. Below, the other aircraft in the form of an R.E.8, Spad XIII and Fokker DrI.

The lesson learned here by the German pilots was watch out for the R.E.8. It seemed, on this occasion at least, to be very effective!

Despite my Spad, UFAG and finally Fokker failing to achieve much it was another fine evening of gaming. Snoopy’s Christmas, with Wings of Gory, is a great way to mark the end of an enjoyable gaming year.

Epic Napoleonic

Well, what an interesting couple of weeks there have been with the announcement that Warlord Games are releasing their new “Epic Napoleonic” range. Which for those not aware are a range of 13mm high miniatures in plastic often cast in strips. The range is rather proprietary, being at odds with most existing figure ranges. The intent of course is to make larger games more accessible with many more figures on a table. The announcement can be found here. I do enjoy reading marketing announcements which identify something as “new”.

Well, so what will the gamer planning on fighting epic Napoleonic games receive. Well, it seems a great range of bundles covering everything a wargamer could possibly want. There will be British and French infantry supported by cavalry and artillery. There will even be an instant sandpit and fruit trees. All will be available from 2022. It seems we must wait for some Germans just like Wellington had to. As to Austrians, Russians and all those other colourful armies, they may or may not appear.

In the meantime I will clearly have to make do with deploying my existing 6mm miniatures for battle as illustrated here. Fortunately my collection does include Austrians, Russians and Prussians.

The news of the release however has seen plenty of posts on the internet, well in the little corner that I frequent. Opinions of course are varied. A few comments by 28mm players seem to show disappointed by the announcement. Some point out that there is little figure variation while others that the range is too narrow or the choice of the Hundred Days Campaign is flawed. The cynic in me can’t help wonder if some feel abandoned by their plastic supplier of choice who once made 25mm, or was that 28mm, affordable. Now perhaps they have been abandoned as a new money making venture dawns on the horizon.

My reading suggests a number of 15mm gamers are equally perplexed. Having long decried the 28mm market as being overpriced a number seem drawn to the perceived cost advantages of plastics, but being clearly heavily invested in their existing figures are, no doubt, cautious to adopt something “new”. Others point to the cunning marketing machine that will replace the initial “cheap” plastics with specialist figures in resin or metal.

I’ve not yet seen much discussion in 6mm groups regarding the announcements. I’m not sure if this is because 6mm proponents don’t feel threatened or because they are accepting that 6mm Napoleonics is already something of a niche. Then perhaps 6mm gamers are more focused on scale creep between the existing 6mm manufacturers, where an increase of just one milimetre equates to around a 16% “scale“ variation.

From my perspective I don’t feel at all threatened by the announcement. Napoleonic wargaming has always been diverse with more rules and scales than one can imagine. I generally see variety as being a good thing, it is after all a diverse hobby, though I become frustrated at the religious fervour sometimes adopted. Some will see Warlord’s range as an affordable way to refight larger games, which is positive.

However, I suspect that the additional figures which likely will become available will stretch the affordability equation. In addition the realisation that painting several thousand figures is an investment in time, perhaps a greater investment than initially considered. I am less impressed by the proprietary basing, which I think threatens to reduce the long term reusability of the figures. But then the Black Powder rules have been around for a while and are enjoyed by many so perhaps that’s a mute point.

Now while I won’t be buying any of the figures I will be watching the Warlord announcements play out on social media. At the same time I shall continue to happily paint 6mm Napoleonics drawn from my well stocked lead mountain.

The Ideal Wargame

Over recent weeks I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a few games against a range of opponents. Each game has provided plenty of challenges and more than a little inspiration. These games have ranged in size from relatively small encounters to some with a couple of thousand figures. Over the same period I have been mulling over various comments and game photos on the internet. These range from the merits of large games with thousands of 28mm figures, to small games using 6mm or 15mm played on small tables. I’ve also read of players considering their return to competition wargaming after experiencing a pandemic enforced break.

As is to be expected clearly everyone has different views on the features of their ideal game. So with such a vast array of options what makes an ideal game for me?

Firstly, I need to feel the game replicates, to some extent, an actual historic battle. With all such goals compromises must be made. I tend to prefer simple rules yet the rules should create a feasible historical narrative that I at least can identify with. I want my games to comparable to the battles I read of in the history books. Therefore my brigade of miniatures advancing or retreating on the table top should replicate those actions on the historical battlefield or, if it is a fictional engagement, provide features discernible in accounts from historic battles.

I am fascinated by different periods of history and therefore my gaming interests are diverse. Yet within these periods my preference is to deploy armies that historically fought each other.

For instance I have a preference to see battles between Alexander’s Successors or against Rome, as I have outlined in these two reports. Equally, I prefer the Yorkists and Lancastrians to deploy opposite rather than campaigning against Biblical Egypt. In some periods this desire for pitting historical opponents against each other is particularly narrow, limited to a particular year or campaign. To enable this I make choices in figure and ground scale to fit my interests, without breaking the bank. These decisions flow into the table dimensions I use.

I prefer my tables to be visually attractive. Of course improving terrain and miniatures is something of an ongoing process I’m certainly not drawn to battlefields with overly stylised terrain such as square hills. Yes, a feature of some 28mm Ancient competition games. Yet, from a storage perspective I accept that compromises with terrain must be made.

I acknowledge that I have a limited time to play games. Typically I can allocate a few hours in an evening to a game. This time element in part influences the rules I use as I need a plausible result within the gaming window. Sometimes I have a little more time allowing larger games, but these are exceptions.

Skirmish wargaming is increasingly popular with some truely inspirational photos of such games on the internet. I can see the appeal of smaller forces with the ability to create some great terrain to support the battles. Yet I am not drawn to skirmish games which, for me, lack the command challenges of larger battles. I clearly prefer the great commanders of history and their battles and campaigns, rather than Richard Sharpe’s exploits. I wonder if I will always resist the lure?

Finally, my games need to be a rewarding social experience. I am not interested in games where the aspect of winning is paramount. This increasingly means I find myself avoiding competitions, despite having enjoyed them in the past.

Well, enough of me, what defines your ideal game?

Waterloo & Wavre Anniversary Battles

The anniversary of the Battles of Waterloo & Wavre have come and gone. As planned we managed to mark the anniversary this year with two battles played simultaneously on two separate tables.

Fought over a single evening some 2,600 6mm miniatures sought advantage, attacking with as much determination as their historical counterparts.

For those interested a summary of both battles can be found here.

The Road to Brussels

The other week one of my wargaming friends pointed out that the anniversary of the battles of Waterloo and Wavre would fall this year on a Friday. With Friday evenings being a regular gaming night it seemed fitting to mark the anniversary in some way. The question that perplexed me was how?

My armies for the Waterloo, while well progressed, are currently incomplete as I have insufficient Prussians – just two corps of the required three of Waterloo. In addition my revised terrain for the battle is not ready. Clearly an historical refight of Waterloo was not achievable. Wavre was of course one option and I find this an enjoyable battle to refight. But we have refought it recently. Clearly some additional thought was required on how to mark the anniversary.

In the end I came up with a scenario that assumes the Prussians have fallen back along their line of communication towards Namur, instead of towards Wavre, and Wellington redeploys to the east in an effort to retain some semblance of contact with the Prussians.

Our scenario will see two battles played simultaneously. The main battle will see Wellington facing Napoleon on the northern table. Meanwhile the smaller battle, where the Prussians will be engaged against Grouchy, will be on the southern table. In addition with limited time on a Friday evening a scaled down battle will be required. Having completed the orders of battle, all based on the historical battles, the situation can be described generally as follows, the wording taken from the player briefings:

The twin battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny fought on the 16th of June were extremely bloody affairs. The Prussians suffered particularly heavy casualties and the three Prussian Corps involved at Ligny were split in the chaos following the battle. They have fallen back on their lines of communication towards Namur though becoming more dispersed in the process. Wellington, aware that Napoleon is trying to split the allied armies, has moved his army east in an attempt to remain in communication with Blucher. To do this he has establishing a new line of communication with Brussels via the Brussels to Wavre Road.

Napoleon pursuing east has dispatched a portion of his army, including those troops under Grouchy, to cover parts of the dispersed Prussian forces while protecting his own left and rear from attack from those British forces deployed around Hal. Napoleon has his main army concentrated against the Anglo-Allied army commanded by Wellington. Wellington has drawn up his army to halt the Emperor. Unfortunately his position is not as strong as that around Mont-St Jean where he had planned to fight. On the morning of the 18th of June the Emperor has assembled something in the order of 42,000 foot, 10,000 cavalry & 118 guns in his immediate vicinity. Wellington meanwhile has at his disposal some 38,000 foot, 9,000 cavalry and 100 guns, though the quality of his army is mixed.

Simultaneously a smaller French army, commanded by Marshal Grouchy, is facing those Prussian forces nearer the Anglo-Allied army. Grouchy forces are unfortunately not fully concentrated. Initially they comprise Vandamme’s III Corps of some 16,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry and 36 guns. Opposite the Prussians have drawn up Pirch’s II Corps. This comprises 24,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry and 60 guns. Like Grouchy’s French the Prussians are also not fully concentrated with additional forces likely to arrive. When and where these reinforcements arrive is not yet clear.

Currently we should have six players involved. Four on the northern table and two on the southern. I hope this will provide an enough room for confusion and command challenges, while providing some opportunity to model the impact of these twin battles. Only time will tell of course.