Sunday, 30 September 2018

Warfare Miniatures GNW Russians

I was very excited on Friday to open my mailbox and find that the packaged I'd ordered from Warfare Miniatures had arrived!  They are very beautiful figures.  Now, normally I'd wait until I'd slapped some paint on the miniatures before posting up a review, but Doug asked for photos so here they are.

I ordered a regiment pack, Russian Infantry Defending, and two packs of cavalry, one of cavalry command and one of regular troopers.  I wasn't thinking clearly when I made the order, and forgot that it contains 20 figures, not enough to split into two units of 12 to match our Pikeman's Lament forces.  Now I have to decide if I order another infantry pack or make up the numbers with figures from somewhere else (and if you know me, you know it's just a matter of time before I place another order to Barry Hilton....)

So, here are the infantry.  Nice clean casts, barely any cleaning required.  Only omission is that there are no pikes for the 5 pikemen and no flagpoles, so I'll be making up those with brass rod.  Hands are closed, so I will need to located a pin vise or dremel somewhere to drill them open.

Reverse view

Closed hand!  As seen on a pikeman, same effect for the officers.

Here are the dragoons.  The dragoon standard bearer is cast with an open hand, so I guess I can work on these first.

Quick and dirty comparison shot, showing L-R Wargames Factory/Warlord Games WSS plastic infantry, Warfare Miniatures, Ebor (dragoon) and Ebor (grenadier)

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Brigadier for Pikeman's Lament

No, not Lethbridge-Stewart.

In our most recent game of Pikeman's Lament, Kevin was frustrated that his three infantry units didn't advance across the field in a nice column.  The first would move, then the second would fail its move activation roll.  The result was that the first unit got multiple turns of defensive fire, while the follow-on units dawdled in the rear.  Doug had previously noted something similar in his playtesting of his Napoleonic variant of Lion Rampant, which he call 'Hussar Rampant".  Doug's solution is to allow each force an officer, whose only function is to coordinate movements by a group of cavalry units.

For Pikeman's Lament, I think we can try a hybrid between the PL officer rules with Doug's Hussar Rampant officer.  

Brigadier (Pikeman's Lament)
Each force is entitled to an officer.  The officer is to be individually mounted, either as a single model or as a small vignette (see Kevin's version of Carl XII on his blog here).

  • The officer is not part of a unit. 
  • Officers can move up to 12" in a turn.  Officers move at the end of the turn, without testing for activation, unless they moved as part of a group move.
  • The officer can order a group of units to move together.  All units performing the group move must be within 6" of the officer before the move order is given. 
    • Test for activation (Move) as normal.  If the units have different activation numbers use the highest (most difficult) target number.
    • Move is limited by the slowest movement rate of the units, including penalties for moving in difficult terrain.
  • Officers do not fight and do not shoot.
  • Officers cannot be targeted for shooting or charges.  If one of the officer's units is shot at while he is within 4", however, check for a 'lucky blow' to determine if he will be a casualty. 

Otherwise, officers are as in the Pikeman's Lament rulebook.  (i.e., officer gives +1 to activation tests, +1 to morale tests, and can have officer traits, honour, duels etc.)

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

GNW/WSS foot ideas for Pikeman's Lament

After our game of Pikeman's Lament on Friday, we discussed ways to better differentiate between raw, regular and veteran foot, as well as for grenadiers and mixed pike/shot units.  I've been thinking about these ideas for a few days, and this is what I've come up with so far.  Please feel free to leave your comments!

For this post, I'm only looking at regular foot units from established armies.  No highlanders, tribesmen, clubmen or the like, not even skirmishers or commanded shot (at least not yet).

The thing that really jumped out at us in our game was that all units of a type have the same chance to activate.  This didn't feel right, as raw troops should be hard to motivate to move around, while veteran troops should almost anticipate their orders.  In game terms, raw troops should have a higher activation roll than veterans.

My feeling is that raw troops should have target numbers around 7+, and veterans around 5+ for most activation rolls.  An exception is for shooting, where a slightly higher target number can reflect all sorts of things that could slow down reloading and firing muskets.  For shoot value, I'll stick with 7+ except for veterans who will get a 6+ to reflect their experience (always having an extra flint, clean barrels, spare powder and whatnot that less experienced troops won't).

Grenadiers should be capable of the same things as line infantry but should be hard core at attacking, much like clansmen or forlorn hope.

Attack value, defence value and shooting value will be adjusted as well.  I think shot in PL is intended only for defence, so have a very poor attack value, but by this time shot will be expected to carry out assaults on enemy positions (once they have been suitably softened by shot and artillery).

Morale values for the game currently vary from 3+ for highly motivated types (eg gallopers) to 5+ for least motivated (clubmen, artillery).  I'll stay within these limits as well.

Here are the trial values I am considering:

Line Infantry (raw)
A7+                                                        AV6
M7+                                                        DV5+
S7+                                                         SV6
Morale 5+                                             Move 6"
Stamina 2
Close order, first salvo

Line Infantry (regular)
A6+                                                         AV5+
M5+                                                        DV5+
S7+                                                         SV5+
Morale 4+                                             Move 6"
Stamina 2
Close order, first salvo

Line Infantry (veteran)
A6+                                                         AV5+
M5+                                                        DV4+
S6+                                                         SV5+
Morale 4+                                             Move 6"
Stamina 2
Close order, first salvo

A5+                                                         AV4+
M5+                                                        DV4+
S6+                                                         SV5+
Morale 3+                                             Move 6"
Stamina 2
Close order, first salvo, ferocious

Mixed pike and shot units should be better at close combat with reduced effectiveness at shooting.  Kevin's suggestion was that P&S units will only roll 8D6 for shooting (4D6 at half strength).  My proposal is that they roll 9D6 at full strength and 6D6 at half strength.

Pike and Shot
A5+                                                         AV4+
M5+                                                        DV4+
S7+                                                         SV5+
Morale 3+                                             Move 6"
Stamina 2
Close order, first salvo, 9D6/6D6 for shooting

As I mentioned, these are my preliminary ideas.  Some things to consider further:
Should raw shot get the close order and first salvo?
Should there be a veteran pike and shot?  Kevin probably thinks so, but the profile above is pretty hardcore already IMO.

I haven't suggested any points values yet.  I'd like to playtest these and see how they go.  

Boring statistics stuff follows:

I ran a few numbers to figure out the odds of getting particular results.  For starters, the easy numbers were odds to activate with different target numbers:

Target Number Probability (%)

From the above, a target number of 5+ will let the troops activate most of the time (>80%).  6+ activation will be successful almost 3/4 of the time, and 7+ will activate more often than not.  8+ (used by artillery, for example) will fail more often than it succeeds.  I am content to stay within this range for the activation rolls.

For morale tests, they seem very good until you realise that there will usually be penalties associated with them (-1 for each casualty!).  And a bad roll can still upset your plans, as I found out when my grenadiers rolled snake eyes on their first morale test and fled the table.  So I'm going to follow the lead from the rules and keep morale levels in the 3+ (for the most confident troops) to 5+ (for the unsteady ones, like clubmen).

 A trickier calculation is the number of successes one can expect on 12 dice (or 6 dice when half strength).  I can figure that out without much bother for up to three dice, but after that the math gets really complicated to figure exactly.  But using approximations, I figure that this table should be reasonably close:

Target number:           Successes with 12 dice:           Successes with 6 dice:
3+                                           around 8                                around 4
4+                                           around 6                                around 3
5+                                           around 4                                around 2
6                                             around 2                                around 1

Target number:           Successes with 8 dice:           Successes with 4 dice:
3+                                           around 5                                maybe 3
4+                                           around 4                                around 2
5+                                              2 or 3                                  1 or 2
6                                                1 or 2                                  1 if you're lucky

I could have done a bunch of math with regressions and things to get percentage chances of getting at least 1 success up to 12 successes for each roll (the odds of getting 12 sixes with 12 dice is about one in 2 billion), but for practical purposes the above should be good enough.  

So, if your opponent has stamina 2 (like most infantry) rolling 12 dice needing 4+, you'll likely take out 3 troops, but only 2 if he's stamina 3 and only 1 if he's stamina 4.  Raw infantry needing 6 to hit will probably only get two hits, which could only take out a single infantryman in the open, and would need to be lucky to take out a stamina 3 cavalryman or infantry in cover.  And once you are at half strength and rolling 6 dice, then your chance of hurting your opponent really drops off.

When we look at the reduced number of potential successes for shooting with 8 or 4 dice, then success rates really drop off.  Reducing number of dice for shooting really penalises the pike and shot unit.  I would argue at least that the half strength shooting should still roll 6 dice (on the theory that everyone who can will pick up a musket when the unit takes casualties, and when shooting is needed) and reduce full strength shooting dice to 9 rather than 8.

Note that these are preliminary ideas and I welcome all comments!

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Great Northern War playtest for Pikeman's Lament

Last night at Bonsor, Kevin and I hosted our first playtest of Pikeman's Lament for the Great Northern War.  We ended up having three commanders on each side:  Kevin, Jim and Colin for the Swedes, while Doug and other Jim (Jim F) joined my Russian force.  We didn't worry too much about balancing points, but we had more or less similarly sized forces.  I forgot to bring my camera, so photos in this post are generously provided by Doug. Many thanks to Doug as well for the last minute contribution of a second field gun for the Russkis!

Russians had 10 units (including allies!):  three units of line infantry (raw shot, two from my collection and one from Kevin's), one unit of grenadiers (veteran shot), two field guns (one Russian and one allied Saxon gun provided by Doug), three units of dragoons and one dismounted dragoons (deployed as commanded shot).

Swedes had similar numbers.  There were three units of what Kevin termed his "Ga Pa" infantry (mix of pike and shot, for which he developed some special rules), one unit of grenadiers (veteran shot), two field guns, three units of horse (gallopers) and one dragoons.

We decided to set down lots of terrain, including a small village, two or three woods, some fields and quite a lot of field works. Both sides had fences, while the Russians had four redoubts (based on old CDs).

Here is a view from the middle of the Russian line mid-battle, with Swedish infantry and grenadiers advancing against the dug-in Russians.

Here are a couple of Russian gunners showing off their kartuz hats (modified from floppy hats by me).

Russians preparing for the onslaught of the Swedes. The orange cube is a marker to show that the infantry have not yet used their first salvo special rule.  In future games, we will have more aesthetically pleasing markers (like barrels of gunpowder or piles of shot).

All the players were familiar with various versions of the Dan Mersey XXX Rampant rules (Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant, The Men who would be Kings) but this was the first outing with Pikeman's Lament.  We had read the rules in advance, and came to the table with house rules that we were ready to implement.

Kevin wanted to develop a troop type to better represent the aggressive nature of Swedish infantry, and so developed his "Gå På" profile. This profile is also intended to present a blended shot and pike force, that benefits from the pike in close combat but can still  

Name:  Gå På Foot (Blended Pike & Shot) (12 figures) 
Attack:  7+ to activate
Move    5+ to activate
Shoot:  7+ to activate
Morale: 4+
Stamina: 2

Attack Value:  4+ (roll 12x1D6; 6x1D6 at half strength) 
Defence Value:  4+ 
Shoot Value:  5+ (roll 8x1D6; 4x1D6 at half strength) Musket Range 18”; range over 12+” minus 1 from 1D6s 
Maximum movement:  8” (6” when in Close Order) 

Special Rules
Close Order
 ATTACK and MOVE 6+ to activate
 Attacks +1 (Hits with 3-6)
 Defends +1 (Hits with 3-6)
 Wins ties vs. non-Close Order
 Must be 6 figs min. to form
First Salvo Gets +1 for first attack value, defend value or shoot value roll

As for me, I'm not content with the way dragoons are presented in the rules.  As written, the PL dragoons are likely a good representation of irregular skirmishing cavalry like cossacks.  However, for dragoons, who were more or less infantry who'd been put on lower quality horses than those provided to 'proper' horse regiments, the idea of them skirmishing and evading on the fastest horses in the game just feels wrong.  So instead I pretty much copied the mounted crossbowmen variant of sergeants from Lion Rampant.  The profile I used was this:

Name:  Dragoons (GNW or WSS) (6 figures) 
Attack:  5+ to activate
Move    5+ to activate
Shoot:  7+ to activate
Morale: 4+
Stamina: 3

Attack Value:  5+ (roll 12x1D6; 6x1D6 at half strength) 
Defence Value:  5
Shoot Value:  5+ (range 12")
Maximum movement:  10"

Special Rules:  none

I didn't take notes so I won't be able to write a proper report on the action.  We divided each of the armies into three commands, so that each player was responsible for a number of units.  We modified the "failed activation ends the turn" rule so that it applied to each command individually.  This meant that each player got at least one chance to activate troops, and thus for each army there were at least three chances to activate each turn.

With the division of commands, there was a mix of action happening across the table in every turn.  

Here is a shot of the right of the Russian line, showing Repnin's Grenadiers and Kevin's regiment of Russian line, with a couple of units of dragoons in reserve.  This was my command.  Facing me, I had only a single unit of Colin's Swedish dragoons sitting in a wood to my front (left of the Swedish line).  Foolishly, I decided that I would advance my infantry, push the dragoons out of the wood and then roll up the Swedish line.  Unfortunately for me, things didn't go according to plan.

I managed to get both my infantry advancing in line across the field, but with some good shooting, Colin knocked down two grenadiers.  My morale test, which ought to have been an easy pass, failed dismally (I rolled snake eyes) and Repnin's grenadiers were removed from the table before they even had a chance to shoot even once!  Colin subsequently managed to shoot up the other infantry unit and one of the dragoon units before I gave up on my attack.

In the centre, Doug had a relatively easy time of things for the first part of the battle.  He just stayed behind his defensive works and let the artillery crews blast away at the enemy opposite them.

On the Russian left, Jim F had a great deal of fun playing cat and mouse with Swedish Jim's impetuous horse (gallopers).  We joked that the Swedish horse didn't really need to have 'wild charge' tests since that's what Jim would have done with them anyway.  Russian Jim started off with dismounted dragoons hidden away in a small wood (these were fielded as 'commanded shot' in Pikeman's Lament terms).  He made good use of his evade and skirmish rules to harass but avoid contact with the Swedish Horse.  Meanwhile the Swedish Horse chased him into the woods, where they were out fought by the lowly dismounted dragoons!  Meanwhile, the rest of the Swedish horse chased the rest of the Russian dragoons as best they could, but they also were shot up and then badly mauled (again in the woods) by dragoons that they would easily have dominated in open ground. The last of the Swedish Horse impetuously charged the Saxon field gun in a redoubt, and were also sent running, this time by gunners fighting with ram rods and buckets.  It was a valuable lesson that Horse has no business chasing anyone into forests or fortifications.

The battle was very bloody.  By the end of the action, most of the units still on the table were severely depleted for both armies.  One of the Swedish infantry units managed to enter the Russian defensive lines, but there weren't any more units in the army left to support it.  However the Russians left facing it were quite depleted and probably wouldn't have been able to force it out.  So most likely it was a Swedish marginal (or Pyrrhic!) victory.  All players enjoyed the game, though, even our suicidal Swedish cavalry commander!

Some thoughts that we shared after the game:

Brigade Orders:  We want to add a rule allowing a senior officer to brigade units together so that they can all be activated (or not) at once.  Kevin's advance with his infantry was dogged by one unit advancing while the follow-on units failed their tests.  The basic rule will be that a group of units will be limited by the worst unit in the group (i.e., whichever unit has the hardest test to make).  Brigade orders can only be made for units that are not in close combat.

More granularity for raw or veteran troops:  We generally felt that the differences between normal, raw and veteran units was not really what we wanted to see.  Raw shot had a higher target number for shooting, and veterans a lower target, and that was it.  We want to play around with the activation rolls.  Raw Russian infantry are going to be great once plunked down behind fieldworks, but will be harder to activate to get them to move anywhere (i.e., give them a higher Move number to roll against), while Swedish Gå På Foot should have a relatively low number to test for an attack, to reflect their historical enthusiasm for getting in close with the enemy. We're going to have more detailed discussion about all the profiles, and as it progresses I'll be tracking the decisions here on this blog.

Generally we enjoyed the game, it ended up being a very close contest.  Doug will no doubt say that the ridiculously high number of very bad rolls was due to having two 'unblooded' armies on the table at once!  But I feel that this is a game we can modify to bring it closer to what we want.  Kevin and I will carry on the discussion about whether we give PL another try, or if we look at testing out other rulesets.  Some of the games we've contemplated include Black Powder (not feeling much love for BP, though), Thomas Årnfelt's Gå På rules, and Beneath the Lily Banners (neither of us have a copy of BLB).

Meanwhile, I'm going to increase the size of my Russian army!

Sunday Update!  Doug has sent me a few more photos to add to the post.  Thanks!

Russian dragoons move up (including horse holders!)

Near the end of the battle, one unit of Swedish Gå På Foot has pushed into the Russian lines, supported by the sole survivor of the Horse regiments.

Russian gunners in action.  These turned out to be an effective unit, as they got off quite a few telling shots in the early part of the game.

Another view of the Russian lines early in the game.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Paper soldiers and Paper ships! Helion Paperboys

For the past month or so, I've been slowly constructing paper ships for the French, British and Spanish fleets for The Battle of Trafalgar from Helion and Co., by Peter Dennis and Florian Richter.

I had seen the Paperboys series of books advertised in places such as The Miniatures Page and Wargames Illustrated, and reviewed by gamers like Roly Hernans on his blog.  I thought these would be good for Arthur, if I could find one of the books that aligned with his interests.  As one of his favourite historical figures is Admiral Nelson, the Trafalgar book was an obvious choice.

The book includes more than 70 ships that can be made in profile, one for every ship in the combined navies at the battle, plus a few extras like shipwrecks, a whaler and a few Indiamen to allow for extra scenarios.  The ships are very easy to assemble, just cut them out, fold them and glue them to the base.  I used some cardboard on the first ship (HMS Victory, of course!) to make it stronger, but it really wasn't necessary.  I did however use cardboard stiffening for all the bases.

Sample ship profiles and bases:

The book also comes with a page of flags, so you can jazz up the ships some more!  

The directions included provide instructions about carefully cutting out all the white space, leaving masts of 1 mm width or so, to which appropriate flags can be added.  As I'm handing these over to a 5 year old for play, I went for much simpler construction.

Arthur then started modifying the ships himself.  The Spanish 136-gun Santissima Trinidad has been reflagged to the Russian navy and rechristened Petropavlovsk:

I also purchased another book, the Castle Assault book, as I suspected that Arthur would be interested in the Scottish, English and Welsh armies.  The problem with this one, and I understand with most other books in the series, is that the armies are not intended to be cut directly out of the book.  While it's a nice idea that you can photocopy the armies and make as many of each troop type or building as you like, it means that you need access to a colour photocopier as the sheets are printed on both sides, with different images on each side.  Eventually I stopped by a print shop and copied enough sheets to get started on the armies.  Arthur started with King Edward, King Robert Bruce and with Robin Hood and the Merry Men.  As you can see, building the figures is easy enough that a child can do it!

Buildings on the table are from a previous project, a paper New England Village, assembled by my wife.

All in all, a fun project with my son!

Monday, 23 July 2018

Afghan motorbikes (Eureka Miniatures)

Family coming home tomorrow, so this will be my last post for while, as I will quickly become too busy celebrating having them back!

Eureka Miniatures has some of the nicest modern Afghanistan figures on the market today, especially for civilians who might be trapped when their home suddenly becomes a battlefield.  I keep an eye out for when they add more to their collection, so when I saw these advertised a few months ago, I knew that I had to get some.

I ordered one of each of the motorbikes, which includes two Afghan families sharing a ride on a bike, one chap who has pulled over to make a phone call, and three bikes with an armed insurgent riding pillion.  The riders include one armed with an AK-47, one with an RPK light machinegun and one with an RPG grenade launcher.  Sculpting by Kosta Heristanidas is exceptional as always, but I have one minor quibble which is that the vests worn by most of the men are too short.  They look right on the two family men, extending past the hips, but on the other figures are cut off above the waist, which is incorrect.  On the other hand, I didn't take the time to do the easy fix of extending the vests with greenstuff, so it's on me as well :-P  

Pictures are regrettably poorly lit, as I didn't have time to wait until morning to take them with natural light.  If I get time I'll redo them, and also touch up the painting where I've seen a few things that I can easily fix.

Added to the four bikes that I picked up from Empress Miniatures, I now have a small fleet of 10 bikes to add to the streets of Kandahar!

Here's a group shot of the six Eureka bikes:

The two family bikes.  Note the length of the vests on the fathers.

And here's the chap making a very important phone call.  Note the length of his vest!  As I described in my story of Engineer Ezzat in an earlier blog post, phones are common in Afghanistan and most of the time they are used for completely innocent purposes.

Here are the three armed bikers and riders.

Some group shots showing the Eureka bikes next to the Empress ones.  They mix quite well, no problems having them on the same table.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

1880 armies on parade

Time to clean up the work area, and get the toys properly put away.  But before I get everything shipshape, I decided to get a good measure of my 1880-era NWF and Central Asia armies.

Currently ready for action, I have three armies; Indian, Afghan and Russian.

Indian Army is the largest:
HM the Queen

RHA gun, crew and limber

22 Indian Lancers (these are actually from my WWI army but I'm using them here as proxies as I don't have any 1880 cavalry right now)

23 Gordon Highlanders

20 Sikh Infantry (rather unfairly, I call these the 'generic Sikhs'; I should assign them a regiment as I have for the 66th Berkshires!)

20 Gurkhas (as with the Sikhs, these brave Nepalis should also be assigned a regiment!)

12 Rattray's Sikhs

20 Dismounted Guides Cavalry (I've been meaning to add some mounted Guides cavalry to balance out these men on foot - hasn't happened yet and I'm pretty sure I have higher priorities for spending both time and money these days!)

12 16th Regiment Bombay Infantry

15 29th Regiment Baluchis I

12 72nd Duke of Albany's Highlanders 

24 English redcoat infantry (these are generic redcoats marching; they are a bit out of kilter with the rest of the khaki mob)

24 66th (Berkshire) Infantry (these could also easily be renamed the 'generic Englishmen!')

Dr Watson and medical attendants

The Sergeants 3 and Gunga Din, and Peachy, Danny and Billy Fish, just to add some more character to the army.

That's approximately 185 infantry, one gun and 22 cavalry.  

Russian Army

Mounted commanding officer

54 Infantry

Gun and 4 crew

9 Cossacks

Afghan Army

Emir and advisors

48 Afghan Regular Army Infantry

Gun and 4 crew

Tribal mountain gun with crew

34 tribal horse (including two time travellers!)

50 musket/jezzail/rifle armed tribesmen and 52 tribesmen with hand weapons, flags, drums

I also have a couple of dozen modern Afghans, who could be pressed into service and hope that no one notices.  I will be using these modern Afghan casualties as markers for battered units, not historically accurate but certainly will look better than using dice or coloured tokens!

Wow, I could really have a sizeable battle game with these armies.  My task now is to convince myself that I have achieved an elegant sufficiency, and there is no need for me to add any more.  But I want an Indian mountain gun, and to increase the size of the Afghan forces, and to find some Russian regular cavalry...