Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Siege of Portsmouth, 1642 - The Other Partizan, 2018




You might remember that a while back I staged a couple of refights of the battle of Lützen in the Thirty Years War, using 2mm scale figures. Although most of my wargaming since then has involved 28mm figures, the interest in 2mm scale battles and campaigning has never left me.

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of joining my good wargaming chum, Mark Backhouse, in helping run his wonderful 2mm Siege of Portsmouth, 1642 game at The Other Partizan show in Newark, England.


Mark’s game is really fantastic, and graced the pages of issue 90 of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy – including a full campaign guide and ruleset. I really enjoyed the article, and was very keen to play when he asked me if I’d like to join him at the show. It also gave me the chance to model and paint some of Rod Langton’s wonderful 1/1200th scale Anglo-Dutch ships – more of which in a follow-up blog post to this one.



I’ve included some photos of the game in this post, which played very smoothly in the morning and afternoon of the show. We had a fantastic group of players through the day – thank to everyone who took part, and indeed for everyone who dropped by to say hello.


So, what made this game fun to play, and interesting to take part in? I’ve tried to set out my thoughts below, in no order of priority.

(1) Different Possibilities: I’m often at pains to say to my friends that wargaming in 2mm scale does not make a “better” wargame than any other scale, but it does open up a number of possibilities which can be harder to realise in the larger scales of 10mm, 15mm and 25/28mm. The ease of painting figures (really, figure ‘blocks’) in 2mm make armies simple to prepare, build and paint. (For those new to the painting process regarding 2mm figures, I’ve uploaded a guide on painting 2mm figures in the sidebar of this blog.) That leaves more time for terrain making and rules design and play-testing.

  

Mark made the Portsmouth terrain a year or so back, but added a new board in the space of only a week before The Other Partizan. As with my terrain for Lützen, I think we’ve both being surprised how quickly you can make 2mm terrain look eye-catching and appealing to play on.



(2) Helping the Figures: Time saved in painting figures and making terrain means that you can have more time to research, think through rules and perhaps be inventive in other aspects of the 2mm wargaming process. I think 2mm as a scale works best where the figures, the terrain and the rules work together. Another way of looking at this, is to think that “the figures can’t do it by themselves”.

Lovingly painted 2mm figure blocks – like Mark’s – catch the eye, but maybe not for as long as lovingly painted 28mm figures might do. In a 2mm game, the wargame creator needs (in my view) to offer something more, to supplement the figures and terrain. This leads a wargame creator with the opportunity to fill that gap with hand-outs, cards, play aids and other material which complements and augments the game on the table. Of course, this is true with any wargame – but perhaps even more true with a 2mm game, and certainly one at a wargames show.

Knowing that the 2mm figures need a context, a world in which to retain the players' interest spurs you on even further to recreate that world.



 

(3) Think Strategically: The 2mm scale of figures creates opportunities hard to realise in other scales. Mark’s game featured a campaign for the siege of a sizeable town, with events depicted including foraging, supply provision, naval blockade, reconnaissance, construction of field fortifications, field battles, retreats, refugees and amphibious landings.  Pretty much the whole world of the 17th Century Captain General.  The smaller 2mm scale of the figures allows a greater range of actions to be depicted than often occur on a wargames table. Just as the scale of figures reduces, the tactical and strategic scale of the wargame expands commensurately. 




  
So, in the Siege of Portsmouth 1642 game, scouting and reconnaissance, foraging and engineering were essential components of victory in the time context of the game. What resulted was not, of itself, a "better" game, but it was a quite different game to that offered in scales where the combatants just face off over a battlefield. 

(4) Make Your Own Rules: As a scale, 2mm is perhaps never going to be the first choice for most (or, perhaps, any) wargamers. For that reason, it is possible that there may be fewer wargames rules written for the scale than for, say, brigade-level Napoleonics. I don’t see this as a bad thing. It really forces a wargamer interested in playing a 2mm game to think about the type of game they want to play, and create rules to match. Any slight frustration at not having a well-used and widely popular set of 2mm 17th Century wargames rules to use is more than offset by the reward of having to research and write the rules ourselves, to fit the game we would like to play in this scale.




I should add at the end of this list that 2mm games do not have to be huge, or on a grand scale. We’ve had fantastic 2mm games on a table 2’ x 2’. The grander tactical or strategic option for wargames I the 2mm scale is there, but it’s a choice for you to decide if you want to take it

We also ended up winning the Best Participation Game Award at The Other Partizan, which was enormously generous of the show’s hosts, Tricks and Lawrence. So, hopefully, we’re doing something right!


Next time, I’ll look at some of the 1/1200th ships we made for the game, and perhaps offer some entertaining comments on how hopeless my attempts were to emulate the wonderful images on Rod Langton's website.  Hope you can join me for that!

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Laarden contingent at Breitenfeld, 1632


In addition to the old books and ledgers of accounts in Monsieur Monquisard’s bookshop on Hertogstraat in Ghent, close by the north bank of the River Leie, there is a dark leather portmanteau in one of the locked cabinets at the rear of the shop. Within the case is a collection of foxed and aged letters, plans, maps and papers, bound together with a faded blue ribbon. 

It is a singular collection of papers, some damaged, others worn and fragile and nearly all written in a near-illegible archaic Spanish, Flemish and German script. The portmanteau (and its contents) has been unsold for several years, but can be inspected today, along with other more familiar works in the bookshop such as the "History of The City of Laarden” (in Flemish) and the full five volume history of the 1688 Spanish expedition to Laarden (in Old Catalan). 

If you were interested in opening the portmanteau, untying the ribbon surrounding the papers, and wanted to read the letters (after brushing the dust and cobwebs from them), you might conclude that they have some curiosity value. You might well be able to negotiate a good price for the collection, although Monsieur Monquisard drives a hard bargain, and in my experience would be most reluctant to merely sell individual letters. 

It would take some time to work through the papers and letters in order but, if you did so, your eye might be drawn to the following letter dated the 28th February 1689.


Letters from the Marquess de Girona, Envoy of His Most Catholic Majesty, Carlos the Second, King of Spain, to the Flemish Free City of Laarden in 1688 are, I admit, somewhat of an eclectic item. 

However, considering the history of the Spanish expedition to Laarden, and the previously little-known history of the Laarden contingent on the field of Breitenfeld in 1632, such correspondence might well have some value in the hands of a discerning collector.



 *****
I painted these diminutive 2mm brigades in this winter's Analogue Hobbies Challenge, as my "Curtgeld".  Only one of the brigades was finished by March, 20th (the closing date of the Challenge).  I finished the second brigade a few weeks ago, and added some standards.  

I now understand from their new owner, Mr Curt Campbell of Regina, Canada, that they have safely made the journey to Saskatchewan, together with the original letter (which Monsieur Monquisard was clearly persuaded to sell).  Curt will, no doubt, be adding some of his splendid autumnal themed basing to the dusty German soil on which the brigades have formed, ready to receive the Lion of the North.

More 2mm stuff to come, and with a Spanish theme, as regards figures and terrain.  (Apologies for not having finished what I'm working on in time for this week's blog post).

*****

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Duque de Havré's "Spanish" Horse: Laarden 1688


From the journal of Don Fernando de Torrescusa, Marquess de Girona, Envoy of His Most Catholic Majesty, Carlos the Second, King of Spain, to the Flemish Free City of Laarden in 1688

Although I had met the Duque de Havré before, it had been some years earlier in El Escorial.  I have a memory of a small plump child running through sunlit rooms, chasing the Meninas before being scolded loudly by one of the Palace equerries.  Dark, moody, impish eyes in a pasty, fleshy child’s face was my lasting memory, before that face dissolved into a wail of tears, accompanied by a sulky frown.

The years had not changed the pallid complexion of his face.  He bore the trappings of wealth, influence and power openly on the field of Sorée to the south east of Namur, a league away from where the advance formations of the Sun King’s army were forming.

He had exchanged the mischievous, childhood, carefree chase through the chambers of a palace for the forced-calm and assumed sang-froid of a leading nobleman of his House.  But one glance into his eyes betrayed him.  He was little more than a magnificent butterfly, swaggering and gasping by equal measures under the incarcerating bell-jar of expectation, trapped by a hidalgo’s obligations of honour in the autumn of his aristocratic House’s life-arc.

As I looked from his Serene Highness across the dusty, July fields, I could identify clearly the standards of the French Gendarmerie, floating as if gossamer light above the scarlet uniformed cavaliers of France.  

Enemies to skewer your iridescent butterfly wings, my Lord, I thought.

But before I could caution him and suggest a way out of his breathless tomb of asphyxiating pride, he had spurred his Tobiano mare to the front of his Tercio of Horse. There was no lack of courage in the Duque de Havré, even if it was born of despair and an inability to escape the responsibilities of the glittering House of Croÿ.


*******

Now long forgotten by history, the House of Croÿ was once a formidable force in the Hapsberg politics of late 17th Century Flanders, Burgundy and the Rhinelands.  Members of the House of Croÿ were active in the complex politics of the Empire, holding impressive positions in the Imperial Court and ecclesiarchy.  Members of the House were bishops of Cambrai, Arras, Ypres, Tournai; one was the tutor and Godfather to the Emperor Charles V; another was Grand Equerry to the King of Spain.  Many were members of the prestigious Hapsberg Order of the Golden Fleece.



The members of the House of Croÿ who followed the colours and beat of the drum weave through the military narratives the 17th Century.  They travelled and fought in Italy, Spain, Flanders, Russia, Germany and the New Spain.  No doubt their influence, wealth and family connections opened many doors to military advancement and political influence.

It was therefore perhaps unsurprising that on the list of Tercios of Horse, entered on page 13 of the Pike & Shot Society’s book “The Spanish Armies in the War of the League of Augsberg: 1688-1697”, the final Tercio of Horse was that of Charles de Croÿ, Duque de Havré.



While not himself the Duque de Croÿ, Charles du Croÿ held the title of Duque de Havré, entitling him to the honorific title of ‘Principe’, and to be addressed with the predicate of “Serene Highness”. He held the award of nobility of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and I thought that both he, and his Tercio of Horse, would make good subjects for my Spanish army of Flanders for 1688.

The figures are a mixture of Dixons and Wargames Foundry.  I added some arm swaps, and some green-stuff feathers.  For Duque Charles, I added a small green-stuff Order of the Golden Fleece around his neck.  


The Duque’s horse is a piebald, and specifically a Tobiano.  These were popular in 17th Century Europe, as you can see from this study by Pieter Paul Rubens.  


The standard for the Tercio of Horse was reconstructed from the fragments of information we know about late 17th Century Spanish and Flemish flags.  “The Spanish Armies in the War of the League of Augsberg: 1688-1697” states that many of the flags for the Spanish and Flemish cavalry of the late 17th Century featured a Burgundian cross on a red field, but that other family symbols and religious images were reasonably common, often as the reverse of the standard.  I opted for an image of the Virgin and Child, although I could (and might next time) have used the family crest of the House of Croÿ.



I also added tufts from Warbases and Mini-Natur (which I picked up at Salute, 2018) 

As for weapons, this is another pistol-armed unit of Horse from the Spanish army of Flanders. Hopefully, in facing the French, the Spanish and Flemish pistol-bearing tactics will be an interesting contrast to more aggressive French swordpoints.

***
Up next, a change of scale, as I post some of the 2mm Thirty Years War forces I've been completing.

Hope you can join me for that.



Monday, 11 June 2018

'Operation Market Larden' - #OML6 - 9 June 2018

 

Over the last few years, one of the dates which is an ever-present in my wargaming calendar is the day in June set aside for ‘Operation Market Larden’. This is a great, informal gathering of friends in Evesham, in the UK, where all the rules being played are published by, or developed from, the stable of wargames rules from TooFatLardies.

Run by Ade Deacon (@AdeDeacon on Twitter : and very ably assisted by Ade’s wife, Patsy, and sons, Liam and Connor), the OML gaming day has grown from a venue filling a small local village hall to one commanding a large function room at one of Evesham’s Hotels. It’s a great event for meeting old friends, making new ones, and trying out familiar and newly-developing ‘Lard’-focused games in a great atmosphere. I’m sure you all know the kind of thing – an event which you’re looking forward to for some time, when you can simply relax and play wargames in a relaxed environment.

This year’s ‘Operation Market Larden’, or #OML6 as we enjoyed calling it, was no exception. Each of the tables was of a very high quality, with lovingly painted figures and often spell-binding terrain. I had the privilege of playing two games from very different eras and worlds. 

Up first was a game of “Seven Spears”, a Dux Britanniarum version set in Sengoku Japan, authored by Dick Bax and Thierry van de Burgt (in the TFL "Summer Special", 2014) run by podcast-host supreme and all-round Gentleman, Neil Shuck. Neil had crafted some great terrain and wonderful Senjoku-era troops, complete with cherry trees, a Japanese village and groups of samurai and ashigaru running around with sashimono banners streaming behind them. All extremely Kurosawa. 






I had a super game with Ralph, a great friend of Lard who was one of the players of my Verdun game at #OML2, way back in 2014. We had a good time trying to bash the heck out of each other’s army, while the target for my forces (a group of monks carrying secret intelligences) stole their way away from the points of my katanas and yaris towards their own baseline.



The second game featured Jim Ibbotson’s stunning low-fantasy figures, both converted from Games Workshop Empire figures and assembled from Fireforge Games’ medievals. Jim and Mike Hobbs have been working on the rules for a fantasy version of Sharpe Practice for some time, entitled “Swords of the King”. 




I was very impressed with Jim and Mike's rules so far, and they gave a well balanced game, with just the right about of mystical magic, braced throughout with combat mechanics which seemed to work well. Phil H, a great friend from previous OMLs and Curt’s annual ‘Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge’ was my opponent for the game and, before long, we were busily activating warlocks and leading our forces forward across the battlefield. 




Jim and Mike have created some excellent rules for “warming up” your warlock to ensure they can effectively cast spells and weave mists of terror across the battlefield, together with launching lightning bolts, spreading terror and various other wizard-ly antics.  They can also be struck dumb, confused or teleported to a different plane of existence if they get tremendously over-worked, which is perhaps a lesson for all of us who spend our working lives reading thick books with very small print. At the same time, both Phil and myself locked combat between our forces in a manic, bloody combat which swayed one way, and then the next, before Phil’s forces eventually came out on top in his well-deserved victory.



So a thoroughly enjoyable couple of games, umpired brilliantly by Neil and Jim and with rules which were both familiar (from their respective starting points within the ‘core’ TooFatLardies’ games), but which added on some great new ideas and mechanics.

Also on display were many other stunning games, including a fantastic winter attack on the village fo Foy in 1945, taken from the "Band of Brothers" book and TV series, staged by Ade Deacon and Al Sherward.....







A cracking game of the Indian Mutiny was run by Simon Walker.....








.....with Geoff Bond running a brilliant game of a Japanese attack on a U.S. Navy escort carrier in the Philippines Sea in 1944.






Rich, Nick and myself also managed a podcast episode in the car on the way to, and back from, Evesham. We were joined for the podcast this time by fellow St Albans wargames club chum and great friend, Dougie Train – which was great, as it will have resulted in less talking from me into the microphone when the podcast finally drops into your podcast-picker of choice.

***

I should add at the end of this blog post an apology. I’ve not been posting during April and May owing to some work commitments which saw me in the office far more than I would ideally have liked. Hopefully I can get back to a more regular posting schedule. 

Many thanks, everyone, for hanging in there and being patient with me!
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