Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Review of 2019

A good gaming year, although perhaps not quite as good as I had hoped.  A move between continents, some serious health issues, starting a new degree course and a very busy new job have all played their part in holding me back! I reckon I played about 70-75 games this year, most of which made it to the blog in some form or other.

Looking Back: The Plans for 2019

So looking back at my plans for 2019, how did I get on?

1.  Try out the following rules with my 6mm Ancients & Medieval armies: Hail Caesar, Practical Wargaming, Lost Battles.

 I batted 1-for-3 here in that I did manage to get Lost Battles to the table but not the others.

2.  Start my proposed refight of Caesar's Gallic War.

I have just managed to start this, although I haven't finished writing up any of the battles or campaign events.  That said, I had a bit of a sense of humour failure during the first battle and nearly jacked it in.  Unusually, this wasn't because of problems with the campaign, it was to do with problems with the battle rules.  I had settled on Polemos: SPQR since that makes a decent stab at simulating some of the specific problems and benefits of commanding Romans as opposed to Gauls.  What I forgot is that the rules are just not very tightly written, particularly in terms of outcome moves (pursuits, recoils, flanks etc.): it is a perennial problem with this family of rules (except in Polemos: Ruse de Guerre) but this one suffers from it quite badly.  Anyway, I need to go back and look at what I did last time I played these rules a lot.

3. Try out DBV and Lion Rampant with my 28mm stuff.

Haven't done it, although I did a few turns with Lion Rampant.  I haven't been able to like them yet.  They feel a trifle too heroic for my taste.

4.  Buy or make some additional terrain suitable for 28mm stuff.  Ideally this should be realtively 'timeless', since it will have to serve across a wide range of periods.

I have just started on this.  To help myself out, I have bought the Paperboys' "European Buildings" pack and put together my first building.  I need to make some more progress on this though.

5.  Try out DBR and Practical Wargaming with my 6mm WotTK/ECW armies.  The only problem with this is that my current basing (a battalia of mixed pike and shot on a single base) isn't particularly suitable for these sets.  I am vaguely considering trying to write my own set to combine elements of DBR with Polemos: ECW for the first half of the C17.  On the other hand, the Twilight of Divine Right rules look very interesting and look as if they would be suitable for my current basing.  I don't imagine I will paint up entirely new armies for the Thirty Years War.  What I may do instead is just create lots of command stands and then use them with my existing ECW figures and add in extra stuff (more cuirassiers, Croats etc.) as I need them.

I didn't try out DBR or Practical Wargaming, since I never got around to either rebasing or putting the work into the rules to make them suitable for the single base units that I actually use.  On the other hand, I did get Twilight of Divine Right and played a reasonable number of the scenarios from the accompanying Thirty Years War book with them.  I enjoyed them quite a lot.  The mechanisms were pretty good and they solved the problem of how to get genuinely big Thirty Years War encounters onto a small table without needing any rebasing.  I thought the number of troop types seemed a bit fussy and excessive (and most importantly, a bit tricky to manage) but apart from that, I really enjoyed using them.

6.  Play the scenarios I haven't tried yet from Wargaming Pike & Shot.

Didn't do it.

7.  Buy a few 28mm ECW figures to try out Once Upon a Time in theWest Country.

Didn't do it.

8.  Finish my small 6mm War of 1812 US Army and then play some more games of Polemos Ruse de Guerre.

Achieved this, more or less.  My US Army needs a little more work but all of the essential elements are there.  I played some more games of Polemos Ruse de Guerre, including all of the scenarios in the book which could be reasonably adapted to my set up.

I was also very pleased to become an honorary member of the the Napoleonic Miniatures Wargame Society of Toronto, which club uses these rules!  The idea here is for me to tackle their monthly game, which they play as a big multi-player affair, as a solo small board game.  It has worked really well so far.

9.   Try out the following rules with my 6mm Napoleonic armies (with appropriate modifications to work with my basing scheme):Morale Napoleon, Shako, WRG 1685-1845, Shot Stone & Steel, Blucher, Lasalle, Grande Armee, the Grant rules, the Quarrie rules, Practical Wargaming, Black Powder, Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun.

I only acheived this with two of the rulesets, Shot Stone & Steel and the Quarrie rules.  I found that I quite liked the Shot Stone & Steel rules, I was impressed.  They look like they could fill a useful niche in my collection for a certain size of battle that otherwise isn't really covered.  I tried to play the Quarrie rules again...and everything that annoyed me about them before still annoys me.  This isn't the 'national characteristics' or over-powered artillery or anything like that, since all those numbers can be changed.  What just doesn't work is simultaneous movement and firing etc. for both sides and that is so embedded in the rules that it is hard to make even a workable bodge.  You can prove this to yourself by setting up an attack or two by three units against three.  All of those have multiple interactions in morale in which the success of one attack depends upon how the other two attacks are going: you therefore have to break the turn down into fifths or eighths in order to resolve the combat according to the rules and even then you have to switch between combats.

10.  Try out the following rules with my 28mm Napoleonic forces: Sharpe Practice, Flintlock & Ramrod, Skirmish Wargaming.

Didn't happen.

11.  Finish my Battlegames' "Martinstaadt Land Grab" campaign.

Finished, and the "campaign" side worked well.  What slightly spoiled it for me was that it ended up being quite one-sided since the French just did not seem to be able to buy a win.  I can't/won't cheat to make it more of a contest since that undermines the legitimacy of the game in my own eyes.  But the fact that it happened  overall makes my gaming experience better, even though in the short-term it was a little disappointing, if that makes sense?

12.  Try out the following rules with my 6mm WW2 armies: Spearhead, Tank Battles in Miniature, WRG 1925-50 2nd edition, Megablitz, Rommel and Combat Command.  This might involve a fair amount of prepatory work for some of the sets.

Didn't happen, since the prepatory work proved to be beyond my resources of spare time this year.

13.  Try out the following rules with my 15mm WW2 armies: Troops Weapons & Tactics, Bolt Action and Chain of Command.

Didn't happen.

14.  Play the scenarios from the Hit the Dirt! scenario book.

Didn't happen, although I have done some prepatory work for this.

15.  Consider getting some 15mm and/or 6mm forces for Vietnam for Bodycount and Firefight and maybe The Sharp End.  I might get a copy of FNG, too.  This would also need me to make or buy some appropriate terrain.

I got a few 6mm figures from Irregular Miniatures but I haven't done much more than prep them for painting so far.

16. Play more airwar scenarios and try and determine my favourite way(s) of recreating air war in miniature.

An unexpected success story this year.  I played lots of games, developing some very good ideas in Bob Cordery's Developing the Portable Air Wargame.  I have made a fair few modifications but left myself with a set of rules which is really quick to play, has very limited book-keeping but seems reasonably tactically valid.  Looking forward to developing this even further.

17.  Find a way to get my 1/4800 Napoleonic naval fleets into action.

Didn't happen.

18.  Fill in some gaps in my existing collections that I have previously identified, in preparation for some things I have in the back of my mind to do in 2020.  These include some more Napoleonic Russians (especially artillery), Austrians and Confederation of the Rhine troops; and some bits and pieces for my 6mm WW2 forces.

This has happened, more or less.  Lots more Russian Musketeers, Grenadiers and Guardsmen  are ready for action, with more Jagers, Artillery and Generals on the way.  French Allies have received some useful reinforcements, with more coming, and a few Austrian additions too.

19.  My two eldest children are quite into the idea of RPGs at the moment, so I would like to run a few games for them.

This happened a little, some of which I wrote up separately here.  On balance though they prefer to play boardgames: The Witches, Thunderbirds and Mansions of Madness have all proved popular (along with Chess)!

What else happened?  I played through the Too Fat Lardies' Pint-Sized campaign 29 Let's Go.

Inspired by Trebian's series of Jacobite Rebellion re-fights, I put on a few of my own (fulfilling a long-time ambition).  I did a smattering of Napoleonic refights (including Wavre and some 1805 and 1809 Franco-Austrian clashes).  I tried out Bob Cordery's Portable Napoleonic Wargame rules a few times.


I also got a few games of Nuts! in and have played the prelude to a 1940 campaign for it.

Shopping & Painting in 2019:
The main effort was to get my Scots armies for the War of the Three Kingdoms completed and this was done, with forces for Montrose and the Covenanters.  I think that I have sufficient models to refight any of the period's battles in some form or other.  I also painted up a load of Cuirassiers for the Thirty Years' War. My Napoleonic armies were expanded, in particular the Russians.  I also increased my Late Republican Roman ("Marian") armies quite a lot, to a force of around 8 legions and auxiliaries.  Unusually for me, my lead pile has mounted up a little over the last few months: I have a few more 6mm Napoleonic Russians to complete, some Napoleonic Bavarians and Wurttembergers and Austrians, some Thirty Years; War Eastern cavalry, some other bits and pieces.  I also have a few 6mm figures for Vietnam to have a go at, plus a few items for the Spanish in the Great Italian Wars.  In 15mm I have Italian and Commonwealth forces for the early desert war.  I have a small number of random fantasy and historical 28mm figures to do too.

Looking Forward: General Plans for 2020
The overall aim is simple: play more games.  The thing to work on is how to make that easy.  There will have to be a certain amount of physical re-organization as my current gaming space isn't really optimized for that at the moment.  It will also require a bit of thinking about how to get to the game more quickly in terms of rules and scenarios and so on.  Put simply, I want to be playing rather than reading about playing or preparing to play.  This means using the rules, figures and scenarios I have to hand as much as possible.
I will still be fairly busy over the course of this year, if not quite at last year's levels, so I want to minimize my modelling and painting commitments to myself, and frontload as many of those as possible to the first quarter.

Looking Forward: Specific Plans for 2020

1.  Continue and complete my Gallic War campaign.

2.  Start my Thirty Years War campaign.

3.  Complete my refights of the actions of the 1805 and 1809 campaigns.

4.  Refight the 1805 and 1809 campaigns.

5.  Refight the TooFatLardies' pint-sized WW2 campaigns for those which I have suitable figures for.

6.  Continue my own Nuts! 1940 campaign.

7.  Prepare some of my 6mm stuff for higher-level games: Spearhead, Megablitz, Rommel and so on.

8.  Play more WW2 air games.

9. Do a Five League From The Borderlands campaign.  I have plenty of figures, but I might need to make or buy some additional terrain for this one.

10.  Prepare some 6mm and 15mm desert and jungle terrain.

11.  Continue my slow progress through old magazine scenarios.

12.  Consider boardgames and magazine articles for campaign rules for the following: Fall of Rome, the Viking Invasions, 1066, Wars of the Roses and the Jacobite rebellions.

13.  Continue with the Polemos Ruse de Guerre Napoleonic and American Wars refights.

Shopping for 2020:

1.  Some additional early war 15mm WW2 stuff, including some French infantry and vehicles, some Africa Korps stuff, a few bits and pieces for the British.

2.  Some additional 6mm Napoleonic artillery, generals and casualty figures.  Possibly expand my Napoleonic Italian armies.

3.  Maybe some additional pikemen for early C16 scenarios (Flodden, early Great Italian Wars).

4.  Maybe Wings of the Motherland.

Concluding Comments:
Many thanks to those who have read the blog this year, particularly those who have left comments either here or on The Wargames Website or The Miniatures Page.  In my turn, I have continued to find great enjoyment and inspiration in many of the bloggers out there.  The podcasting world has just lost the Meeples & Miniatures podcast, but has gained a specialist 6mm podcast, God's Own Scale.  Henry Hyde's Battlechats and the TooFatLardies' Oddcasts have been coming thick and fast too and some of them have been excellent shows.
I was a very long-term listener to the Meeples & Miniatures podcast.  It has had its ups and downs but generally speaking, I have really enjoyed listening to it.  I think the only criticism I would make over the long term is that some of the shows got too long from including too much "what we have been up to" chat in the same episodes as "review of x", since it might be an hour before that review was reached.   I enjoy both types of content, but would prefer these things to be in separate shows - every fourth or fifth show a survey of the hobby or similar.  It has been interesting to follow the way Neil's hobby has changed too, especially how he has veered from boardgames to miniature games to back again.  As a primarily solo gamer then it is a way for me to follow a conversation about painting and collecting and organizing and so on.  I mention such things occasionally on this blog, but generally my blog is focused strictly on the games: rules, scenarios and campaigns.  Neil demonstrating in detail how lead mountains happen has been quite useful for me in working out how to avoid it myself by having a stricter relationship between acquisition of stuff, painting time and playing time.  I am far from perfect obviously but it has helped to keep everything manageable!  Neil's story also shows very much how easy it is to collect miniatures, but it isn't quite as easy to get them into games, particularly as boardgames do make it easy - they are all about the play.  And for me, one of the big selling points of the Meeples and Miniatures podcast was that it was done by someone who actually did get a lot of playing in and made it all about the game.
Being back in the UK now, I am looking forward to getting to most if not all of the shows local to the East Midlands and perhaps there will be a few more show reports this year.


Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Developing the Portable Air Wargame - Amendments Summary

A couple of people have expressed some interest in a consolidated list of changes I have made to Bob Cordery's air rules in his Developing the Portable Wargame in order to make a fast, simple and intuitive air combat wargame (Bob Cordery's original rules are designed as an adjunct to his ground combat wargame).

There are plenty of examples on the blog already  and I will get around to posting some more in due course.

These are the changes:

1 - Aircraft have individual stat lines rather than generic ones, but roughly speaking the SPEED/MOVE characteristic has been halved so an "average" fighter has SPEED 6 & DAMAGE 4.

2 - Aircraft must move their entire SPEED each turn.  All moves are of 1 hex.  Every other move after the first may be a turn, when an aircraft changes facing by 60 degrees (i.e. one hex side) instead of moving.  Firing fixed forward guns cost 1 hex of movement.

2a (Experimental Rule) - I am currently experimenting with Green pilots having -1 SPEED.

3 - Bomber aircraft can only turn a hex-side after every 2 hexes moved.

4 - Turns are strictly alternate.  If one side has achieved a bounce, it chooses whether to move first or second.   If one side is escorting bombers, the other side chooses whether to move first or second.  Otherwise roll, high score chooses whether to go first or second.

5 - Aircraft may start the game with extra energy points.  These may be converted to extra speed as necessary, with a maximum of 3 points being expended as such per turn.  This represents aircraft starting at higher speed or at greater altitude than their enemies (typically 1000ft of altitude or 50mph of starting speed).

6 - Aircraft may fire fixed forward guns at any point in their turn after the first move.  Defensive guns fire when an aircraft is fired upon or when an enemy aircraft ends its move in range of a defensive gun.

7 - A single die is rolled to determine hits.  Fixed forward firing guns hit on:
4-6 in the 6 o'clock position, 5-6 in the 12, 4-5 & 7-8 o'clock positions, 6 in the 9-11 & 1-3 o'clock positions.  Defensive guns always need a  6.  Elite pilots add 1 to their die roll, green pilots subtract 1 (but 6 always hits).

Optional rule - USN pilots hit on 5-6 from 9-11 & 1-3 o'clock rather than 6.

8 - Aircraft are armed with light machineguns, heavy machineguns and/or cannons.  These have the following characteristics:

LMGs - Range: 3 hexes; Damage caused (d6) 1-3:0 points, 4-5 1 point, 6 1 points*
HMGs - Range: 4 hexes:  Damage caused (d6) 1-2:0 points, 3-5 1 point, 6 2 points*
Cannons - Range: 5 hexes: Damage caused (d-6) 1-2: 0 points, 3-4, 1 point, 5-6 2 points*

*-allows another roll for damage, and this sequence can go on indefinitely. 

I use differently coloured dice when aircraft have more than one weapon.

9 - Both individual aircraft and formations are subject to morale: when an aircraft is damaged to a third or more of its damage points, it must break off and head for the nearest (safe) map edge.  When a formation of aircraft has lost more than one third of its total damage points, all aircraft must break off.  

10 - Example Stat Lines:

A6M2 Zero: Speed-7, Damage-3, 1xCannon, 1xLMG
Ki43-IIa Oscar: Speed-7, Damage-3, 1xHMG
D3A2 Val: Speed-5, Damage-4, 1xLMG, 1xLMG rear gun
B5N2 Kate: Speed-5, Damage-4, 1xLMG rear gun
G4M1 Betty: Speed-5, Damage-6, 1xLMG front, left, right guns; 1xCannon rear gun
F2A3 Buffalo: Speed-6, Damage-5, 2xHMG
F4F3 Wildcat: Speed-7, Damage-5, 2xHMG
F4F4 Wildcat: Speed-6, Damage-5, 3xHMG
P39D Airacobra: Speed-7, Damage-6, 1xCannon, 3xHMG
P40E Warhawk: Speed-7, Damage-6, 3xHMG
TBD1 Devastator: Speed-4, Damage-5, 1xLMG, 1xLMG rear gun
SBD3 Dauntless: Speed-5, Damage-6, 1xHMG,1xLMG rear gun

It will be noted that these ratings suggest that even early on in the war in the Pacific, US aircraft were as good or better than their Japanese opponents, with the exception of the fairly wretched Devastator - unless I am badly misreading the performance data. This implies that the early Japanese advantages were heavily dependent on situational and environmental factors.  US pilots, especially army pilots, need to be penalized early on.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Battle of Caldiero 1805: A Horse, Foot & Guns Refight

The Battle of Caldiero

I converted a scenario for the 1805 Battle of Caldiero from Michael Hopper's scenario book Rise of Eagles 1805 into one suitable for Phil Barker's Horse, Foot and Guns.

Caldiero featured Marshal Massena's Army of Italy trying to dislodge Archduke Charles' Austrian Army from a position near Caldiero.

The Imperial French Army:
1 x Command Post*
2 x Elite Light Infantry
2 x Elite Bayonets (inc. 1 x Italian)
13 x Bayonets (inc. 1 x Italian)
2 x Dragoons
2 x Light Cavalry
1 x Cuirassiers
2 x Field Artillery
1 x Horse Artillery

The Imperial Austrian Army:
1 x Command Post*
16 x Muskets
9 x Elite Bayonets
4 x Light Cavalry
2 x Dragoons
3 x Field Artillery

*optionally either the Austrian and/or the French CPs can be made "Exceptional" depending upon one's views of the genius or otherwise of the Archduke Charles and Marshal Massena.

The French must try and take Caldiero, take the heights and inflict more casualties on the Austrians than they recieve.


Caldiero is the built-up area in the centre, the other built-up areas are amalgams of 2-3 smaller villages. 

This shot makes it easier to pick out the heights behind Caldiero (right) where the Austrians placed their defences.
The Austrians defend the high ground (top) and Caldiero itself (centre-right); Massena's men approach (bottom)

The view from behind Massena and his staff on the French centre-right; the hills and defences can be clearly seen

Another shot

View from behind the French right; Colloredo's Austrian grenadiers hold the open flank in front of them (centre-background)

Another wider shot
View from behind the French centre-left
 The Battle:

Massena begins the battle by advancing in the centre-right up the valley, whilst using skirmisher fire and artillery against the defenders of Caldiero
The French infantry struggles to make progress in the face of Austrian artillery fire
However casualties begin to mount amongst the garrison of Caldiero and Massena prepares to launch an infantry assault

The defenders stop the attack by musketry fire short of their objective (right)

Further infantry attacks begin against the main Austrian position
With reserves waiting to exploit any success as the assaults go in (top-left)
The French Right remains quiescent for the present

The French infantry is thrown back form the redoubts
With the Austrians engaged along the line, Massena starts a flanking movement (right)

Further infantry attacks, supported by artillery, increase the pressure on Caldiero itself (centre)
Massena orders another infantry assault against Caldiero (centre), whilst the French infantry re-organize again (left) to try and force the valley

So another assault is ordered forward

The French infantry is again thrown back from Caldiero

Massena brings another brigade into the attack, whilst the Light Infantry regiment moves to the flank to face advancing Austrian Grenadiers (centre-right)
The French infantry is again thrown back

And is being held in musketry duels before Caldiero

French infantry on the left make an attempt to force the gap between redoubts against the Austrian artillery

The French infantry casualties are really starting to mount in the centre (bottom-left), primarily from the emplaced Austrian artillery
The French  leading brigade has failed to get its way forward through the artillery fire and has now been attacked on the flank by Austrian infantry leaving the redoubts

The French have struggled to make real progress despite the mounting casualties

French infantry (centre) and artillery (left) support the attack

Whilst Massena gets his troops together on the Right ready for an advance against Colloredo's Grenadiers (centre)

The French infantry have broken one of the Austrian brigades (routing, centre) and the other has suffered heavily (centre-right)

However, the enfilading Austrian artillery fire pushes the French back down the slopes (centre) (just out of shot on the left, the French Horse artillery has been smashed by the emplaced Austrian artillery)

Massena orders his men forward again, trying to overwhelm the disordered defenders

Massena simultaneously orders an attack on his Right

Over on the slopes on the French centre-left, the Austrians have held on yet again and pushed the French infantry back

Whilst on the French right, both sides have suffered appalling casualties

Now effectively isolated, Massena renews his attacks upon Caldiero despite the attack having suffered heavy casualties

Further French attacks on the centre-left are stopped by musket and cannon

Massena throws in Severoli's Italian Divison (right) against Caldiero

This time there is no mistake and the Italians break the Austrian resistance and seize the town

The Austrian Left under some pressure but still holding on

A wider shot: the French have finally made some progress, taking Caldiero and putting pressure on the Austrian Left (right)
Massena reforms his troops on his Right ready for another attack
Despite being able to reinforce his centre with guns (centre) no longer needed to bombard Caldiero (right), the French infantry have suffered even more casualties trying to get forward (centre)
The advance of the French Right is successful, breaking further Austrian units and leaving the Austrian Left somewhat battered

However, the extreme left Austrian brigade (centre) is still holding, driving back the French infantry with its disciplined volleys

The French and Italians try to turn the left of the Austrian line of defences (centre)

But stout Austrian resistance pushes back the Imperial forces

A wider shot - since the fall of Caldiero, the French have made no progress and their losses are mounting
Austrian reinforcements (top) race to the threatened flank.  At this point Massena called off his attacks, knowing that the moment at which there was a possibility of victory has passed.
Game Notes: A good game and an interesting battle.  It always felt a little like hard work for the French and they just didn't get the breaks necessary to create a real opportunity for victory.  Caldiero was eventually taken in fine style by the Italians, but it held out for so long (c.three hours) that the French only had a little time to exploit their victory, by which time they had suffered quite a number of casualties in their pinning attacks.  Despite the French artillery creating some good opportunities, the Austrian infantry fought magnificently behind their earthworks and the French fusiliers could just not get in.  The most successful French attack was their attack on the right flank, with the combination of skimisher, infantryman and Dragoon initially proving very successful until the Austrians managed to defend the "hinge" of the position, then rush reinforcements to stabilize the line.
It has been a little while since I used these rules and I made a few errors in the early turns.  I did get back into the swing of it quite quickly however.  I really like these rules, they do give an excellent "distilled essence" game and they are very suitable for both solo play and the small-board wargamer: this is played over a 3'4"x2' board, well within any gamers space scope. The scenario, although designed for Shako II, was also very clear and comprehensive and converted into a very suitable HFG scenario.
Buildings by Total Battle Miniatures, figures by Baccus 6mm.