Thursday, 30 September 2010

Black Powder

Battles with Model Soldiers in the Age of the Musket (1700-1900)

Let me get straight to the point ... this is one of the best rulebooks I have ever purchased. Hardback and 182 pages. It's beautifully produced with lavish illustrations and superb photos throughout. The style of writing is light hearted and jovial without being comical. Rules are clearly explained along with the authors views on how gentleman should play wargames.

Let me dispel a few potential myths about needing large tables, lots of figures and whether the rules are 'rules' or merely 'guidelines'.

Firstly, large tables are not essential as the authors give guidance on scaling movement and weapon ranges for smaller tables. Distance is generally calculated in blocks of 6" or 12" so a simple adjustment for a smaller table, e.g. halving distances, is very easy. This view was supported when I asked about table size on the WAB forum.

Secondly, lots of figures in huge units (whilst desirable) are not essential. Units are classed as Tiny, Small, Standard or Large. The authors view of Standard is approx 30-36 but again they give guidance that the size classifications can easily be adjusted to suit your collection. So battalions of 12, 16, 20, etc are perfectly ok.

Thirdly, this book is definitely a complete set of rules. Like all rules there's bound to be occasions where the rules do not fully cover a particular situation, so like all rules a little bit of player common sense is required. I also feel that they are quite elegant and will prove to be rather subtle. Whilst I have yet to play a game I get the impression that with these rules you'll feel more like you're fighting a historical miniature battle rather than playing a game. Particularly with the orders phase where players are encouraged to give orders very much in the style of their historical counterparts.

These rules have *really* inspired me to properly get in to gaming Napoleonics. I feel that they'll suit my own relaxed style of play very well indeed. So much so in fact, that I've ordered some more figures from Front Rank, plus a couple of boxes of Perry British - huzzah!

At just £21 (incl free delivery) from Amazon, this book is well worth adding to your collection, even if you're only an occasional gamer. Whether it's the battles of Malborough, the '45 rebellion, the Age of Napoleon & Wellington, or just the Thin Red Line fighting Queen Victoria's enemies in far flung places - anyone with an interest in the black powder era will find the book a fascinating read.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Newly Painted British Redcoats

At last ... some new painting!

I've been working on 8 British Napoleonic Light Infantry that will (when combined with some of my existing skirmish collection) give the first half-battalion of my British force.

Here's the first four. Two firing, one loading and one sergeant to direct his men. All Front Rank figures.

British Redcoats
(click for a larger image)

Here's the other four. In the foreground are 4 of my skirmish figures.

British Redcoats
(click for a larger image)

Painting these figures has been fairly easy and, more importantly, really enjoyable. My skirmish figures were painted years ago and took me ages which effectively put me off collecting larger forces. However I now seem to have figured out a good style that I'm happy with and that doesn't take too long to paint. The latest figures took around 1.5 hours per figure. It's a mix of the Foundry one and two colour styles.

Basically, the painting scheme is

Black undercoat
Shako, boots, cartridge pouch, etc - quick and very light drybrish with mid grey
Metal - (Bayonet, barrel, etc) GW Chainmail or Shining Gold
Skin - Foundry Flesh Shade then Mid
Red - Foundry Redcoat Shade then Mid (Scarlet works very well too)
Blanket - GW Codex Grey then Fortress Grey (Foundry Arctic grey shade/mid would be ideal)
Musket - Foundry Conker Brown Shade then Mid
White - GW Fortress Grey then White
Plume - Foundry Forest Green Shade then Mid
Facings - White then Yellow

The trick is not to worry too much about every little detail. No piping or buttons, etc. Also, leave plenty of the black showing at the edges as this (a) makes it easier to paint areas as less neatness is required and (b) delineates the red, white, etc more clearly when viewed from 2 or 3 feet away, i.e. wargaming distance. It's all about painting quickly and for effect. Up close they are rather untidy compared to my EIR for example, especially the highlighting which is basically semi-random splodges. But en-masse, on the table, at wargaming distance they'll look great. Basing will be six to a base arranged 3 x 2, so a 24 man unit will be on 4 bases.

Next post ... I'll be giving my thoughts about the Black Powder rules.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Musings on British Redcoats

Their coats are definitely red, but exactly which red? Yes, I have a bunch of British Napoleonic infantry on the painting table and I'm in a quandary about how to paint their jackets. I've used Foundry Bright Red but the result is too pink for my liking. I appreciate that the vagaries of supply, combined with the rigours of campaigning in all weather, would result in anything from pink through to dark red or brown, but on the tabletop I want them to look red. In an attempt to solve the problem I've ordered some more paints from Foundry ... Scarlet and British Redcoat. Hopefully these will solve my dilemma. I also ordered a palette of French Blue. Why not eh?

So you can see that I'm getting some sort of Napoleonic project off the ground (again). The big difference this time is my approach to painting. I'm keeping it simple, clean and bright. No worrying about each and every buckle and button. This should make progress faster and help with motivation. We shall see. I did consider dipping the miniatures as that proved very successful with my Celt army but after reviewing the few test miniatures I decided that the finished article was a little too drab. So I'll be using a basic colour scheme painted in a more conventional style.

Also I'm not following my original plan for recreating the Light Division. This is because I want a more general purpose British force for the Peninsular War, something along the lines of:-

1st Brigade
British Light Infantry
British Line Infantry
Detachment of Rifles

2nd Brigade
British Line Infantry
Portuguese Line Infantry
Detachment of Rifles


Regiment of Hussars or Light Dragoons
Royal Artillery Battery

This is approx 140 figures and I have around 20 or so already painted with another 8 on the painting table. Initially they'll be 24 man battalions, based on four bases 3 x 2. Then they can be increased to 30 man battalions simply by adding another base.

As for the composition of the French force ... I'm still not exactly sure but it will similar to the British.

I have the Foundry ruleset 'Napoleon' which would be okay, although needing some clarification in a number of areas. It's a great looking publication but the manner in which the rules are described make them hard to follow in places plus it would require quite a few cards and counters to be placed on the table. A big part of this era is the visual spectacle of all the splendid uniforms, so having the table littered with cards/tokens is far from ideal.

So I'll probably be ordering the Black Powder rules by Messrs Priestley and Johnson. When they were released there was some speculation that these rules required huge table and similarly huge armies but this is not necessarily the case according to the chaps on the WAB forum. I posted a question here and got some favourable replies. Scaling the movement to fit my 6x4 should be easy. Naturally, bigger armies and tables would be better but you have to start somewhere.

Hope to have some new painting to show off in a few days.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

WAB2.0 and ... The Painting Block

Warhammer Historical (aka Forge World) must be doing something ... I just can't figure out exactly what that might be ... ???

WAB2.0 came out around April this year and five months later we're still none-the-wiser about what else is coming along for WAB. That's assuming there is some sort of plan. It seem obvious to me that a re-launch of a ruleset should be fairly quickly followed up with supplements to fill in some of the gaps in the WAB range. Some of these supplements have (according to those in the know) been written for quite some time. Now, I know turning a finished document in to a published book takes time, money and effort but after five months you would have expected some hints from WHW/FW about what's in the pipeline?

Even the launch of WAB2.0 seemed a bit disorganised with very little in the way of advertisement. I can't help but feel that it was a little rushed. There's quite a few typos and, given the level of discussion on the WAB forum, still a lot of grey areas in the rules. Credit should be given to those involved in getting an errata out fairly quickly but there's still plenty to resolve. Plus the production quality of the book (i.e. artwork, photos, painting guide, etc) could have been so much better.

However, all this doesn't mean that I've given up with WAB, but I am a little concerned about where WAB might be headed. I enjoy playing the game and would like to see it more actively supported by WHW. There's quite a few other rulesets out there (Crusader, Impetus, FoG) plus new rules on the way, like an ancients version of Blackpowder, and Phil Hendry's Augustus to Aurelian. WAB cannot simply assume that players will continue to play it without new material to generate continued interest. It's certainly making me wonder about other rules.

As for the other half of the title ... well I've really been struggling for the last three or four weeks to find the motivation to pick up a brush. To be fair it's been *really* bonkers at work, long hours, etc. But that's partly an excuse if I'm honest. I just seem to have lost the joy in terms of painting. I've got a bunch of BTD Auxlia on the painting table - really nice figures - but I just can't be bothered!?

After giving it some thought I've decided on a new plan. For a while I'm just going to paint whatever figures take my fancy with no real thought as to what unit or army they'll belong to. In fact I'm going to forget about trying to get a particular unit done by a certain date, or trying to get X points painted in Y weeks, etc. This is supposed to be a hobby.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Smaller games... some thoughts

We've been playing a series of fairly small games recently (approx 800pts per side) in order to get a better understanding of the 'new' WAB 2.0 rules.

Armies were

Early Imperial Romans
o 15 Legion C/S/M
o 15 Legion C/S/M
o 15 Auxilia (+javelins) L/S/M
o 9 Auxilia Archers
o 9 Celt Skirmishers

British Celts
o Chieftain (General)
Army Standard Bearer
22 Warriors L/S/M
o Chieftain
23 Warriors L/S/M
o 24 Warriors L/S/M
o 9 Light Cavalry L/S/M
o 9 Slingers (+buckler)

These forces were chosen as they're large enough to give a 'proper' battle, playable on a 4' x 3' table, games take around an hour to play and they have a good mix of special rules (e.g. warband, stubborn, etc) without being overwhelming.

You can see a short battle report of one of the games on the WAB forum at

The first couple of games were fairly convincing wins for the Celts. The Romans just didn't seem to have enough numbers to repel, or even hold, the barbarian horde. However, to be fair the Celts rarely failed any warband tests so they were able to manoeuvre freely (as well as the new warband rules allow!?) for a more co-ordinated attack. Also, after the first game the warbands were re-organised to be 6x4 rather than 8x3. Making them deeper seemed to give them more staying power thus allowing them to beat the Romans in a protracted fight.

Another factor has been the formation of the Legionary units. Fielding them 5x3 doesn't give them the stamina (i.e. ranks) for a protracted fight, nor does the narrow frontage allow enough attacks in the first round (with Heavy Throwing Spears) to blunt the warband's charge. Just 2 casualties from slingers - a surprisingly common occurence - and they lose a rank. Plus, if a charging warband manages to inflict 3-4 casualties then that drastically reduces the ability of the Romans to hit back in that vital first round of combat.

This led to the Legions being fielded 6 or even 7 models wide, so only one rank. The result was definitely better for the Romans - though in the end the battle was still a narrow victory for the Celts.

Better use of the Roman allied skirmishers also led to improved results for Rome's finest. Quickly getting the skirmishers close to the Celt line so that they can pelt them with javelins, and keeping them near so that any warband failures cause the Celt line to become disorganised, is vital.

What seems fairly clear is that the Romans need more troops capable of holding or turning flanks, i.e. some skirmishing Auxilia or, even better, Auxilia Cavalry. This would make the Celt attack less co-So guess what's going on to the painting table next?

All in all, I like the new WAB rules and playing a series of smaller games is definitely helping in terms of faster play and less looking things up in the rulebook. Plus it's jolly good fun to push a few toy soldiers around the table.