Sunday, 18 February 2018

Fighting Retreat

Last weekend our stalwart wargaming friend, Anthony, called over to test out another scenario from One Hour Wargames (OHW) by Neil Thomas. This time dice were thrown to select the scenario and fate handed us Fighting Retreat, myself on the run with two units of knights, one of men at arms and one of archers, while Anthony took up the chase with four units of knights, one of archers and a hotch potch of the levy.
Here's how the action panned out:

The opening moves see the renegades cross the river, do they make a stand and hold the two fords or run for the hills?  My natural instinct was to pull the archers back into the treeline where they would be safe from the thundering hooves of the knights, I'm sure this is what they would have done in reality but the rules don't allow any units into the woods. With these medieval rules, archers in woods would be nigh on unassailable so we went with the premise that if the footmen reached the safety of the woods they would just disperse and melt away into the undergrowth.

The archers got off one volley before the horsemen were upon them, the outcome was never in any doubt but the footmen were now playing for time and held out rather longer than one might reasonably have expected.

I couldn't think what toys to use for the levy (in the right foreground) so I quickly cobbled together some odds and ends of Robin Hood figures. I really don't like putting unpainted figures on the table and was doubly annoyed after the game to remember my Elastolin swappet Saxons which would have been perfect for this role, drat!

The archers succumb to the onslaught from the pursuing knights and their own horsemen, waiting in support, finally pile in to hold the line at the ford.

It was much the same story at the second ford, where the men at arms held off their attackers until being ridden down and eventually reinforced by their own body of knights.

And that was about it, the renegades held out until about round 12 before being eliminated, leaving the pursuers to ride on and capture the objective by round 15, thus winning the game.

There's a lot I like about OHW, primarily the simplicity, easy to learn, quick to set up and play, needing little space and few figures. But after two games it's feeling a bit limited to me, I feel a larger area and more units are needed to give more flexibility, as it stands there isn't much room for manoeuvre and units in melee can't disengage until one is eliminated so it's all too easy for a game to end up as one long slugfest (or perhaps I'm just a crap General?).  

Where we see this going is to continue using the core game system but use the whole 10' x 6' table area (as opposed to 6'x6') increase the max number of units from six to ten, increase troops types from 4 to 5/6 and set out terrain based on sections of historic battlefields.  Will these alterations change the dynamic of the game? What do you think?

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Shambolic Command!

What a great phrase! it's the title of a scenario from "One Hour Wargames" written by Neil Thomas, which Santa brought me for Christmas, and it's the action which AM and I played yesterday using his rather sumptuously painted English Civil War figures.

The opening positions see the forces of Parliament above occupying a contested hill while the Royalists approach from the north.  The winner will be the side that either holds the hill at the end of fifteen turns, or eliminates their enemy, whichever comes first.

The figures are made by "A Call to Arms" and the rather wangy plastic pikes that they come with have been replaced with brass rod.  

Parliament fields six units but are led by a poor commander (hence shambolic command) who exhibits his incompetence by being allowed to only move two units per turn. The Royalists have only four units but are more ably led and can move all units each turn. A nice, simple mechanism to distinguish variability between commanders, I thought.

The Royalist infantry use their greater mobility in a frontal assault while their horse move around the flank, massed volley firing blows away a Parliamentary Regiment but the Royalists begin to run short on ammunition!

As the ammunition runs out the royalists charge home but are greatly weakened by counter volley fire and hand to hand fighting.  The twenty sided dice, seen behind each unit were used to keep track of the casualties it had suffered.

During the first half it looked as if my Royalists had the game in the bag but then attrition began to take it's toll and with fresh Parliamentary Regiments moving up they could no longer take the pressure, and it was all over.  Victory to the Parliamentarians.

Each scenario in the book is based on an actual battle so you can look it up afterwards and see what should have happened, in this case the course of history was changed!  The game took us about two and a half hours to play but could probably be done in about half that time had we been more acquainted with the rules and not spent so much time gassing on about toy soldier stuff.

We played on an area 6' x 6' and doubled the movement/firing distances, the rules are quick and easy to pick up and I thought they were ideal for skirmish games with 54mm figures.  I liked their simplicity and the fact that much the same structure, with just subtle changes, was used for every historical period, which is ideal if you tend to flit from age to age as we do.

The rules have come in for some criticism of over simplicity and I can see how they wouldn't sit well with some people but I felt they were fine for giving the feel of a period without tying one down into the straightjacket of too much detail.  The only thing I wasn't too keen on was trying to keep track of the casualties/hits for each unit, we attached a D20 to each unit to record this, which worked well enough but was a bit fiddly and would be rather onerous on a larger sized battle (to which I aspire)  and I'm sure we can find a better way to tackle this.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Lion Rampant - a skirmish wargame in 54mm

This  weekend my erstwhile sparring partner, Anthony and I tried out the Lion Rampant wargame rules using 54mm figures on a table 6' x 8' to see how well they would adapt to larger size figures. It was my first time using this system so we kept it all fairly simple, the two forces were drawn from sample army lists (retinues) for late French and English troops in the 100 Years War and the scenario (also from the rules) was "defending the indefensible".  the only change we made to the rules as written was to double the movement distances and missile ranges

English men-at -arms supported by foot sergeants and expert archers close on the French

French foot sergeants and crossbowmen defend the sacred relic while mounted men-at-arms charge into the small English force from the flanks.  The English foot are pushed back but the French charge loses momentum and falters.

The French Lord carries his standard forward and issues a challenge to personal combat against his English counterpart.  Sacre bleu! the challenger is killed and the French must all take a morale test.

The French cavalry all fail the test and break, the foot all pass and are left to face the English onslaught.

Furious melees take place in the centre as the French foot hold the line and force the English back.

The french cavalry rally and return to the fray.

Further melees ensue and the fight flows back and forth, the outcome could go either way.

Finally the English break through and seize the objective to win the game. Zut alors!

The game took about three hours to play but would have been much quicker if we had been more conversant with the rules.  The system is easy to pick up and flows very well, it's ideal for a skirmish wargame with 54mm figures.  We had a total of 42 figures per side, individual units being always based on 6 or 12 figures so you don't have to amass a large collection to get started.  The rules include sample retinues for a wide variety of Middle Ages armies from the Baltic Crusades to the Ottomans and there are other examples to be found on the internet covering such types as Elizabethans and Samurai.

There is a lot of flexibility with this system, I played the French and made the foolhardy decision to engage in single combat (just to see what would happen) and came to a sticky end!  I forgot to take any pictures during the game and so what you see here is an action replay by the leading actors.  My observations on the rules? I felt casualties caused by archers should have been higher and I think we were both surprised when a unit of archers received a charge from mounted men-at-arms and in the resulting melee saw them off, despite this they made for a very enjoyable game.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Toy Soldier Auction at Sheffield Auction Gallery

Time for a post on proper toy soldiers!  Last week a large collection of toy soldiers went up for sale at the Sheffield Auction Gallery, I didn't get along to it myself but I hear from those who did that the bidding was brisk.  Surprise of the show must be the prices achieved for boxes of Airfix figures: 17 assorted boxes of 1/32 made £220 against Estimate (E) £30/50 while 17 assorted boxes of HO/OO made £320 (E) £60/100, That's about £13 a box for 54mm, which seems reasonable and about £19 a box for 20mm, which doesn't, or am I out of touch?

Anyway here are pics of some of the more interesting lots, or at least the ones that I thought were.  As always, click the picture to enlarge, click again it's even bigger, all photos courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery:

One of the earlier lots typical of those being offered this one went for £35 (E) £30/50, many similar lots were (E) £20/30 and sold in the range of £30/40.  I'm showcasing this particular lot because it has some interesting Continental figures and I noticed several Malleable Mouldings in there. Most of the other mixed lots of this size were less interesting and generally sold above estimate.

This Marx Big Top Circus made in Swansea reached £28 (E) £20/30, the box is tatty but the tinplate tent was there without any figures.  How much would this have sold for in the USA? No doubt someone will tell us, there isn't the same interest in Marx tinplate in the UK and several other lots went for prices that our American colleagues haven't seen in decades.

This shot has a good view of the Marx Movable Indian with all his accessories, issued about 1967, I remember seeing them in the shops and they have remained a firm favourite ever since. Sold £22 (E) £20/30.

The Barzo Davy Crockett Playset, of recent manufacture in the style of the old Marx playsets it is now out of production and eagerly sought after in the USA. Sold £40 (E) £20/40

An original Marx Cape Canaveral playset, I'm not really interested in anything non military but included this because we didn't get these playsets over here in Europe during the 1950s and 60s so a lot of people won't be familiar with them and this is quite a good example. Sold £70 (E) £50/80

A selection of 17 Carmen figures, solid lead, made in the 1930s/50s by W Y Carman (President of the British Model Soldier Society) for adult collectors, these are a bit knocked about but I love 'em.  Sold £180 (E) £30/50.

A good selection of rareish plastics: an original box of Cavendish "British Regiments 1751" made for the tourist trade along with Henry VIII and his numerous wives, an unpainted SEGOM figure from France, Monarch Highlanders, several pieces from the Charbens Francis Drake set, 2 from the Gemodels Humpty Dumpty set and various Cherilea/Crescent oddments. Overall a great lot. Sold £120 (E) £60/80

A complete set of the Benbros hollowcast Robin Hood set, nothing special about it but it's a good pic of a very nice set.  I have them in plastic....what's that you say...but Benbros never made them in plastic! True they didn't but Giles Brown of Dorset Soldiers acquired the original moulds and cast a few sets when he was experimenting with plastics. Sold £110 (E) £25/40 (I did say it was a nice set!)

A nice pic of the box art for the Cherilea Medieval Castle, notice the strange squared off triangle shape of the Keep, I could never figure out why they did that? Also the Cherilea Toys logo, the late version after the company had been taken over by Sharna Ware and the gawky Hong Kong knockoffs of Timpo swoppet knights. The castle was made to go with their 65mm knights so why didn't they use them in the picture? Sold £28 (E) £20/40

There's nothing special about the Kleeware castle, it turns up all the time and was reissued by Timpo at one point but again it's a nice pic of the original box art. Sold £25 (E) £25/40

Britains hollowcast Territorial Army, these five unremarkable figures sold for £440 (E) £20/40 so they must have something going for them!

Two figures of Charles II by Courtney, again they aren't really toy soldiers, having been made for the adult collectors market, but they do have a certain vintage and you don't see them very often so it's nice to be able to showcase such a good shot. Sold £80 (E) £20/40

More Courtney's, this time 2 x Elizabeth I together with Henry VIII and three of those unfortunate spouses, Sir Francis Drake resplendent in white, someone bowing that I can't make out and one other by Vertunni. Sold £160 (E) £80/100

Finally a group of 5 figures based on the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Graham Farish, the sixth figure on the extreme right (which has been misdescribed in the catalogue) is Marie de la Queillerie made by SAE (Swedish African Engineers) and was given given away free with petrol in South Africa

There was lots of other good stuff, not least of which was a Lone Star Dick Turpin which sold for a respectable £75 (E) £20/40 and you can view more of them here Sheffield Auction Gallery I don't know how long they keep these results up for so take a look soon if you're interested.  Having worked in the auction industry I can tell you that on average a general art sale will expect to get a sell through rate of about 50%, specialist sales like this tend to get a much better hit rate, looking through the results I could only find three lots that didn't sell out of 320 in the toy soldier section, that's over 99%.  A stonking good result and food for thought for all those Jonah's out there who delight in telling us that the hobby is dying.

Monday, 9 October 2017

WW1 Austin armoured car.....sort of?

I have always been drawn to car boot sales, charity, junk and aquarium shops, in fact anywhere that might offer something which can be used to enhance my toy soldiers. Over the years I've accumulated a whole pile of what might loosely be called crap which "might be useful one day".  I suspect I'm not alone in this, at least I do hope I'm not.  This is the sort of stuff I mean:

A wooden car, some sort of tourist tat but the right size for 54mm figures turned up in a charity (thrift) shop for £2 (yes I know I was robbed but it is for charity!).  The transparent spheres are lids from toothpaste dispensers and the block of wood is, well........a block of wood.

The champhered front planes of these toothpaste tube lids just screamed out to be used as turrets for an armoured car, the MGs are made from bits of chopstick from the Chinese takeaway and the pointy ends from a cocktail stick.  Sometimes an idea just comes together from out of the blue, as I become increasingly aware of getting older I've started to make a list of these projects and I'm working my way through them. A major stumbling block is my own lack of confidence that an idea will work.

The almost finished item, posed with a DeAgostini figure of a Russian Company Commander 1919, it maybe needs a lighter green paint scheme, some Cyrillic graffiti and a big red flag.  It's only a bit of fun and it's very robust so perfect for wargaming in the garden.