Category Archives: Editorial

The Year That Was…

With the end of 2016 almost here it seems an opportune time to reflect on my year of gaming. What’s been achieved, what hasn’t, and some general reflections. I’m not one for New Year resolutions but this year I intended to, and generally achieved, an increase in gaming activities. This meant a reduction of posts here as I focussed more on gaming and less on posting. All round this has been particularly pleasing change in focus.

I’m of course fortunate to have so many good natured opponents which has made this an enjoyable gaming year. Indeed, most weeks I’ve managed two gaming evenings. Tuesday has become a regular event with one player who approaches gaming generally from the same perspective as I do. This regular gaming slot has found us playing all manner of rule systems. DBA, BBDBA, DBR and Wings of War are regularly seen as the fit well into the available time. Each tends to go in phases with 300 point English Civil War encounters being the current phase.

Friday evening slots allow greater time for games and generally allow Volley & Bayonet encounters, occasionally supplemented with Spearhead or Modern Spearhead. Larger multiplayer Sails of Glory or Wings of Glory games feature when we are suffering from the impact of a busy work week. A larger group of players attend these events but organising these sessions can be a bit more hit and miss with many opponents travelling or suffering work commitments.

My attendance at wargaming conventions has been lower than I had hoped with only one out of town event and that being in Australia back in January. It seems a distant memory now. This was supplemented by DBA at Conquest here in Christchurch, which was pleasingly well supported by out of town players.

Yet there remains somewhat a hole in my convention gaming. I recall the many excellent Spearhead and Modern Spearhead events in Wellington in years past. It’s such a shame these are no longer organised.

What I haven’t achieved in the year is much progress with miniatures painting. A couple of small projects have been completed but in general the existing projects have languished yet again. Perhaps I need to add this to the list of aims for this year. For example I really need to complete my WWII Soviets for Spearhead, while progressing some long overdue expansion of other armies. Then there is a new 6mm Volley & Bayonet army that has been on my mind for a few years. Not to mention a large batch of 6mm Spanish I was gifted a few years ago. Goodness, the painting projects almost seem overwhelming!

So on reflection an excellent year of gaming. That said I’m rather looking forward to see what 2017 holds…

Great Battles of the Horse & Musket Era

As an amateur historian of the horse and musket era I often read various histories of the great commanders and their defining battles. In doing so I find myself pondering the issues of command and the variable “moments” that define the various key items that mark a significant battle. 

Currently I am reading Gordon Rhea’s excellent book “The Battle of the Wilderness”. As I read I often pause and ponder the critical moments that defined the battle. For example, what if Meade had pressed earlier his attack at Saunders Field? What could have occurred if Getty was delayed on the Brock Road?

As a wargamer I am challenged to refight these battles out on the table. I find it fascinating the degree that such games assist me in understanding the terrain, the period and the challenges of warfare in the period. Sometimes the decisions on the table result in the historical course of the action being followed, yet others see alternate outcomes develop.

This time last week I was fortunate to refight the Battle of Shiloh, a photo of which is shown below. This refight provided, as I expected, a fascinating evenings game as well as an ability to explore some interesting historical alternatives.
  

While some wargamers are interested in the modeling aspects or small unit tactics I have a preference to refighting the larger battles of the period. I have been fortunate to refight a large number of battles from the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War. The rule set that for the last 20 years that has enabled me to do this is of course Volley & Bayonet. Frank Chadwick, author of Volley & Bayonet explained some of his thinking in his design notes:

“…what interested me most about the Napoleonic Wars was the army-level view of the battlefield. When we think about the Napoleonic Wars, I believe that most of us think Waterloo, Austerlitz, Marengo, Borodino, Leipzig, Jena-Auerstaedt, etc., as opposed to the charge of the Zastrow Cuirasiers at the Great Redoubt, or the breaking of the 4th Ligne’s square by the Russian Garde Du Corps on the slopes of the Stare Vinohrady. So my viewpoint of the import aspects of the Napoleonic Wars shaped the scope of the game decisively.”

Since the refighting Shiloh I have been considering the aspects of Volley and Bayonet that hold particular appeal. Firstly, as mentioned previously I’m interested in refighting large battles, rather than regimental actions. Given that each stand in Volley & Bayonet represents 1500 to 3000 men large battles are clearly possible. Then of course the level of the rules ensure that the games focus on the big picture, after all each turn represents an hour. The fact that with the same general rules, modified by period specific changes, I can refight battles from the Seven Years War to American Civil War as a significant advantage. Yet each period has a totally different feel.

Unlike many I’m not focussed on a particular figure scale. So while my Horse & Musket miniatures are all 6mm I’m just as happy to use Volley & Bayonet with miniatures ranging in height from 2mm to 25mm. Each scale has its advantages and while I enjoy the visuals of 6mm other scales can be equally excellent. Take for example this refight of Hastenbeck refought with Volley & Bayonet and 30mm flats which can be found here.

I have of course rambled somewhat in this evening’s post. However, I would ask a couple of questions. Firstly, do you enjoy refighting historical actions, or do you prefer fictional encounters? If you enjoy refights which aspects do you find of particular interest?

Arquebusier 34/3

It seems November was the month for wargaming and military history journals, as in addition to Slingshot my copy of Arquebusier recently arrived. Arquebusier being the journal of the Pike & Shot Society.

With a much smaller membership the Pike & Shot Society Journal is also more limited, comprising around 48 A5 pages per issue. This of course means there are fewer articles. However, as in previous editions it retains its academic flavour and as such it will find favour more with the student than the casual wargamer.

The current edition comprised what looks to be the start of a series entitled “A Study of Orders of Battle from the Age of Louis XIV”, by Iain Stanford. The first article being a review of British Regiments at the Battle of the Dunes (1658). An interesting introduction soon develops allowing the author to review details on the various regiments, both from the New Model, but also those of the Royalists who fought in the campaign and battle. Comprising just over 20 pages it is clearly the centre piece of this issue. As well as placing the orders of battle in a campaign context there are some particularly interesting gems in this article for those interested in the British Civil Wars. A very interesting article.

The second article is that by Stephen Ede-Borrett where he reviews the regiments of Turenne during the Thirty Years War and Franco-Spanis War. While the third main article is part two of a price on Muscovite Select Soldier Regiments, translated from Russian. Both interesting but heavy and outside my area. A short review of the rules Maurice is provided before the useful book reviews section that completes the edition. This time however these book reviews have more warnings to perspective purchases, than recommendations which is not a bad thing!

So another solid issue ideal for the student of the period and one which may well encourage me to break out my own New Model army for service on the table. They having been on garrison duty for too long…

Slingshot 296

It has been two weeks since the latest copy of the Society of Ancients journal “Slingshot” arrived in my mailbox. After a series of editors, along with a series of publication delays, the current editor and his team seem to be getting the publication back on track with one journal being published every two months. I take my hat off to these stalwarts that pour so much time into the society.

IMG_0023.JPG The latest journal has a focus on the Society’s “Battle Day”, with several reports on one battle refought with different rulesets. The Battle Day is a Society meeting held each March where players gather to refight an Ancient or Medieval battle with different rulesets supported by one or more guest speakers. On one hand I find these post battle reports fascinating, while on the other hard going as the rules discussed are not always familiar to me. The authors of course try and explain the rules, but throw in a battle I’m not familiar with and I need to concentrate to understand the dynamics of each game and how they replicate, or not the battle in question. This time the battle was Montaperti. I should be on more solid ground next year when the Battle Day will cover Hydaspes…

Battle day reports aside there were two other articles that caught my interest.

First, was that by Justin Swanton and comprised eleven pages with illustrations and solid references. In his article Mr Swanton explored the Macedonian cavalry wedge using historical textural references across five battles. He then explored the dynamics through theory and scale diagrams. An interesting article especially as I’m catching up on painting some long overdue Greeks and Macedonians at the moment.

The second was that by Richard Taylor who in this issue completed his four part series on wargaming. In this article he looked at troop classifications, units and victory in various wargames rules. We all have some views on rules, Mr Taylor provided some considered thoughts which I suspect would provide most wargamers with some points to ponder.

All up, an interesting issue.

Accessible Gaming

Having been under the weather for a few days I found myself today listening to a podcast by Sam Mustafa regarding his new Naploeonic rules “Blucher”. Now while I have no intention of purchasing the rules, being very happy with Volley & Bayonet, his podcast touched on what I thought was a very interesting point.

Specifically, he noted that in recent years there has been a significant increase in smaller games, often skirmish games, requiring both less time to build armies as well as less time to play. Effectively, these provide a lower cost of entry. It is an interesting observation and one I had noticed myself. I had considered this trend towards skirmish games would pass, but Mr Mustafa suggested that it was more a result of a wealthier but time poor society. He made note of the considerable undertaking required to both paint and assemble armies before they can be deployed and the impact the obstacle this creates for new gamers. An interesting thought and on reflection, one I can understand.

When I visit local wargames clubs or conventions I can not but notice the decreasing numbers of young players playing large historical game systems, especially those playing Ancient or Napoleonic systems. Instead I see an increasingly ageing player base playing ever fewer large games. Interestingly many of these older “traditional” players are so caught up in their rules system they only speak of the excellence of their rules, their large armies, or the one true scale and take little interest in anything else. As an example I heard the story of one player who recently moved towns and while having his own small 15mm Ancients collection was told that at this club “We only play rules XYZ and in 28mm”.

I suppose that is one of the reasons I do hope that the latest version of De Bellis Antiquitatis with its revised, expanded and more accessible format, is successful.

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DBA has a low cost entry point, especially in the area of time required to paint an army. It should therefore have much appeal to the new players. Combined with a reduced learning and game length it has the ability to open ancient wargaming to a greater number of new players. Certainly I’ve seen this myself in a number of new players that I have introduced to DBA in the past.

I’m not suggesting that DBA is the final point in Ancient wargaming. However, I do think it has, and will in the future, open Ancient & Medieval Wargaming to a new generation. That must be a good thing, or is that just me?