Tuesday 29 November 2016

Seventh Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge - 2016

As you may well have seen from the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge blog of my good friend Curt Campbell, the Seventh Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has been recently announced. From December 20th, through to March 20th, bloggers and internet painters will be feverishly wielding their brushes in a collective bout of hobby madness.

I am sure that this year, like many previous years, will have many fantastic and magical moments from all the many friends participating, as well as some times of exhaustion, sore brush fingers, back-ache, frustration (through lack of time) and general chaos.

The Challenge is a slightly mad, though definitely most wonderful, time. It showcases the best of what the internet has to offer. In that regard, the painting and the (lustrous, lovely and spell-binding) miniatures of all participants are really just the backdrop to the real prize on offer – which is the deep and lasting friendships which the Challenge brings among those who take part, comment, observe, or just read about the Challenge-craziness.

I’m trying to be a little more organised in the Challenge this year, and have been thinking of some ideas for the Themed Rounds, as well as trying to get the figures I would like to paint prepared and ready. No doubt many of the other participants are doing the same. 

Mindful of saying too much and of achieving very little (or even less), I’m reluctant to say a great deal about what I’m hoping to do. I do, however, promise to try and blog a little more about the thought processes behind the entries and the painting and perhaps explain a little of the method behind the madness.

One of the things which was fun this Summer was using Google Hangouts to stage “paint and chat” sessions. Chatting to, and seeing people, around the world at their own painting tables was a great privilege. Hopefully, there’ll be many more of those Challenge “paint and chat” sessions before the end of March.

So whether you’re a grizzled veteran of previous Challenges or a newcomer, whether you’re hoping to paint 3,000 points or just 30, I wish you good luck and that I very much hope to see you in the Google Hangouts “paint and chat” very soon.

Monday 28 November 2016

Crisis 2016, and the field of Waterloo

Over the last few years, I’ve made various trips to wargames shows in the UK and Europe. I don’t always blog my photos from these trips, not least because I’m using Twitter a lot more for posting daily updates. However, Twitter’s not the easiest platform to find anything on – whereas with a blog, I think you can find things a lot more easily through the indexing. 

With that in mind, here’s some of the action from the TooFatLardies’ recent trip to Waterloo and Antwerp in early November. In short it was a cracking weekend. Rather than drive straight to Antwerp for the Crisis 2016 show, we stayed a night at the Hotel 1815, on the site of the Waterloo battlefield. 

So, with that introduction (and well aware that looks at anyone else's holiday snaps is sometimes as dull as watching paint dry), here's my photos from the couple of days we spent in Belgium.  Apologies, my friends, if you doze off... 

Starting with a fine guide to the battlefield (regardless of whether you agree with the arguments concerning Wellington, Blucher and Gneisenau...)

.. and on to the field of Waterloo itself, trampled only by us and thousands of Belgian school parties and battlefield enthusiasts for hundreds of years ... 

The 1815 Hotel was a strange place.  We were refused alcohol in their (empty) bar on account of already having eaten dinner. We enjoyed a quiet drink on the steps of the hotel kitchen, instead.  The hotel did have curious portholes in the bedrooms allowing us to catch fine views over Wallonia on the early Friday morning.

We took the opportunity on both the Thursday and Friday to explore the battlefield, Plancenoit village, Hougoumont and Papelotte. There’s a lot to be said for walking a battlefield, as I’m sure you know. You get a feel for the ground, the terrain, the slight (or steep) folds in the ground which you feel could cause havoc with a column of heavily equipped infantrymen, such as these roads near Papelotte.

You can walk into a village and realise, as we did at Plancenoit, why the imposing church became such a tough and difficult objective for the Prussians to capture, surrounded by steeply dropping narrow roads and pathways.

There's ample time to observe the local architecture (or point out the 18th century brickwork) ... thanks Nick.

Terrain which seems at first sight to be flat, reveals itself with undulations and folds in which cavalry squadrons could reform and or conceal themselves.

Above all, you get a sense of the land, especially when a battlefield such as Waterloo is largely untouched by the following centuries.  Horses grazing just where French and Prussian cavalry vedettes would have clashed, about a mile from Placenoit, was a lovely sight.

It’s a very interesting battlefield, all the better for providing surprises about a battle I thought I knew reasonably well.

Then, after Waterloo, on to Antwerp. As cities go, it’s high up on my list of favourites. Perhaps it’s because I’m always in the company of great friends, and having fun.

Or maybe its because the good people of Antwerp are a friendly bunch, confident in the beauty of their city, its heritage and sense of style (as well as its prosperity). 

Perhaps its also the fact that I enjoy reading of the history of the city and the Spanish Netherlands in general (as readers of this blog will already know). It was a lot of fun to come across a statute of the great Flemish painter David Teniers the Younger on one of the walks we took on the Friday afternoon before Crisis.

Just wandering through the city is a feast for the eyes, and other senses, including wonderful buildings, fine chocolatier and great beers.

On to Crisis itself. It’s a fantastic wargames show, highlighting some of the best games on the “circuit”, remarkable painting, and great imagination. Crisis is all the better for attracting great European wargamers, including many old friends and faces from the UK. Here’s just a selection of the fine games.

And after all that, the fine people at the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp presented Rich and Nick with a fine trophy, now hanging as a chandelier in Lard Island, no doubt.

A great weekend.  A huge thank you to the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp, who work hard to produce such a fine show year after year.  And thanks also to the various bloggers and readers who came and said hello during the weekend.  

Roll on Crisis 2016 next year!

And, next on the blog, some more 2mm Thirty Years War-themed posting, and news of what I'm thinking about for Curt's 7th Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge!  Catch you all soon!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Lützen, 1632 - a 2mm battle of the Thirty Years' War

During November, I’ve continued to finish off my collection of figures and terrain in 2mm scale for the battle of Lützen in 1632. Sharp-eyed readers of this Blog and Twitter (following @RoundwoodsWorld) might remember that I ran a playtest of the battle in June, at Evesham. Since then, I’ve finished off the Baggage Trayne for both armies, done some additional troops of the Weimarian corps present at the battle, finished off the various commanders present in the battle and also play-tested the rules a little bit more.

Last night, I ran the game at Lard Island for the St. Albans club. Rather than a description of what happened in the game (a very even-handed encounter, with the Imperial forces just about on the top by the end), I thought it might be interesting to bring out the themes which came through last night’s battle. 

Ethos and aim: As you might recall, my intention (along with that of the game rules co-creator, Curt Campbell from the Analogue Hobbies Blog) has been to create a wargame focused on re-creating iconic 17th Century battles in a manageable space, and in a compressed time period (something around 2 to 3 hours wargaming time). I also want to try and capture the visual impression and “feel” of a 17th Century battle on the table top. As I mentioned in an earlier Blog post the visual aim is to try and recreate the “battle paintings” of Sebastian Vrancx and his pupil, Pieter Snayers, in which the battlefield is laid out before the viewer of the painting. Units are clearly seen, and their formations, but individual details are often sketched in. The impression is of the formations in the field, not of individual soldiers. I’m hopeful that the photographs below show that we are slowly getting towards a war-game which looks, even in a small way, similar to the fantastic pictures which Vrancx and Snayers painted.

Portability: A huge merit of the 2mm scale is that it’s portable. The whole game packs down into three boxes, which include terrain, and four terrain boards.  (More about making the terrain and the terrain boards is coming in a future Blog post). Set-up and pack-away time is reduced, making the scale perfect for a club-night or convention game.

Did you bring your spectacles? Yes, 2mm is a tiny scale to look at figures. But, if we’ve done our work correctly, it is the mass of troops in the army, and the battle formations, which are catching your eyes, and not the tiny individual soldiers. Of course, it is sometimes hard to resist the odd figures in a terrain diorama, like these Imperial courtiers watching the battle unfurl from the snow bound hills above Lützen. 

The Council of Warre: The game rules we have been working on start with the players on each side deciding the deployment of their respective armies in a Council of Warre. This involves allocating brigades to named commanders, and locations on the battlefield – the left and right wing, the main battle, the reserve (a key component of 17th Century large battles) and troops sent on "Discoverie" (the wonderful early 17th Century term for reconnaissance).

Decisions made in the Council of Warre will affect not only the way each army deploys on the table, but also the command and control exerted by the army commanders during the game. Last night’s players seemed to enjoy this planning phase, moving units in and out of Wings, Reserve and Discoverie for some time before coming up with what they felt was an optimal deployment for the battle. Hopefully, this is an echo of the Council of Warre which took place before many major battles of the period, with commanders jostling for resources and commands.

Keeping a reserve - One of the other key elements in the rules is the concept of a reserve – how large it is, the time in the battle when the reserve is deployed in the battle and the consequences of that deployment. We’ve tried to create a balance between wanting to use the units comprised in the reserve as soon as possible in the Field, and the morale benefits for the whole army in the reserve being held back until a decisive moment. 

This is hopefully achieved by inter-connecting the moment when the reserve is deployed with the subsequent impact of battle events on an army’s morale status. The earlier the reserve is deployed, the more troops a general will have to fight with - but greater the chance that casualties suffered following the reverse’s deployment will adversely affect the morale of the soldiers still fighting.  After all, once the reserve has been committed and they're taking casualties, what else is left....?

Cards: I like the idea of 'games within games'. It's a different dimension to the tabletop, and can create colour, theme, challenges and rewards in abundance.

Card management in fine games like Dux Brittaniarum, Maurice and Longstreet have really opened my eyes to the possibility of what might be achieved using activation and ability cards in an army level game. With this in mind, key actions in our Thirty Years War battle rules are permitted using Activation Cards – such as rallying units, reforming brigades, withdrawing shattered units, deploying reinforcements, re-supplying artillery. The cards interact with special abilities of the commanders on both sides. 

The cost to use a “ferocious charge” card for a cavalry commander such as Count Piccolomini (whose special ability of “Cavalier” reduces the cost for certain aggressive cavalry moves) would be less than the cost for an infantry commander to use the same card. It’s early days, but the players last night seemed to enjoy that aspect of the game even if I didn't do a great job of telling them what some of the cards were actually for!

Combat and formations – one of the aspects of the game which needs more work is the impact on formations of close fighting (such as push of pike or firefights at close range). Taken together, the infantry fighting last night did seem to ebb and flow like the real engagement, which had turned into a really tough infantry slog by the late November afternoon on the day of battle. 

Last night, we saw an Imperial Tercio trundling forward slowly, being difficult to manoeuvre, but relentless in its advance. We saw Swedish brigades deploying a marked advantage in firepower (at least the initial salvo). And we saw brigades being slowly worn down through “disorder”, being “shaken”, then “shattered” and finally “lost” (with coloured markers denoting each stage). So I think it's reasonable to think that we're heading along the right path. 

More difficult were the fiddly rules for things like interpenetration and push-backs. There’s much more work we need to do in looking at the books in this regard – both 17th Century works such as “Pallas Armata”, and modern commentaries like the books of Stuart Reid, Pavel Hrncirik and John Tincey.

Saturn is in quadrature to Mars in Scorpio – one of the things I tried to do before the game was to play a mini campaign by email, featuring just Dougie (Wallenstein) and Panda (Gustavus) as the commanders of both sides. The mini-campaign was a very simple “decision tree” campaign, introducing the big-picture strategic choices for both armies as they raced through southern Germany in the Autumn of 1632. 

I'm hoping to write it up in full and post the mini-campaign here on the Blog in the resources section for those interested. I like staging these mini-campaigns before a wargame.  True, they take a little extra work, but they certainly add some depth to what might otherwise be a one-off battle.  I tried to reflect the strategic choices of the two commanders during the mini-campaign in some tabletop top consequences.  For the Swedish forces, their focus on the mini-campaign on gathering allies was rewarded by a slightly increased number of Weimarian troops available to the Swedish allied commander, Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar.  For the Imperial forces, their requests for a the recruitment of engineers was rewarded by the presence of Count Andrea Marmaladi on the tabletop (who you might just remember fondly from the "Warhammer Siege" rules), and the construction of a small redoubt in the middle of the Imperial line.

One of the elements I tried to build out in the mini-campaign was the role of astrology, superstition and the fascination with  the occult which seems to have been a feature of Wallenstein’s world outlook, as well as many at the Imperial Court in the early 17th Century. I think this was lots of fun, helped build the theme for the game - there’s definitely more to do in this regard as we refine the rules. I ended up making a set of cards just for Wallenstein, each one of which summarised a possible horoscope for the day of battle - Saturnine, Jealous, Rash (and so on) - each with a small impact on the tabletop.

The Thirty Years War was a conflict involving many remarkable, colourful, sometimes quite strange army commanders and noblemen. Somehow reflecting that in either the battle rules or the campaign setting is something I think people will enjoy.

I hope that’s enough of an insight for now. I’ve a few more 2mm posts to come this year, mainly relating to building 2mm terrain boards and Baggage Traynes. And also, in due course, there’ll be more from my 28mm Laarden project, including some book reviews and more figures. So, stay tuned!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...