Wargaming in Hertfordshire

Friday, 1 December 2017

From “honest Simon, an educated, upright god-fearing man”……

And so, the forces of God and Parliament met the army of the Godless and Tyranny somewhere in England.  Parliament looked outnumbered; but right would prevail.
And so it looked after turn one. The Royalist left wing cavalry under Goring ( or was that Goering) decided that fighting was not for them, and so left the advance to their cavalry in “the left centre” and the infantry on the center-right.
The Parliamentary Cavalry , fortified by the Lord advanced on the Royalists, and aided by the Godlike Umpire’s rules interpretation, soon seemed to be destroying the front rank. Aussie whingeing pointed out that the umpire had made a tiny mistake and units were restored.
The infantry battle became a true slugging match, with the Parliamentarians stoutly defending the ridge. However ultimately, numbers told and the Royalists broke the line capturing objectives. On the Parliamentarian right the forces of God held the water mill, but could not hold the church which anchored their left flank. It did not matter. It was an Anglican church (a tad early in history) and hence a nest of vipers.  
The cavalry battle too became a war of attrition albeit with more manoeuvre. Swedish tactics battled Dutch tactics in the pell-mell of combat, and no clear victor despite the Royalist advantage in numbers. Will Goring ever command again or will he retreat to his booze and bordellos?
As darkness closed in the battle ended with a marginal Royalist victory which even the slothful Goring described as “Pyrrhic”.  A moral victory for God and Parliament.
An interesting game. It obviously took far longer than a TtS ancients game.  We hadn’t actually finished by the time we “drew stumps” at 10.00. That said we had far more units in play.  I reckon the Parliamentarians had a minimum of 30.  The mechanisms and “record keeping” seems more time consuming than ancients, but that could be just unfamiliarity with the rules.  

Saturday, 25 November 2017

We thought we would try something different with To The Strongest (TtS); an "ambush"! A scenario for Tribola (147BC) was published in Wargames Soldiers & Strategy #92. Eileen, Chris & Tony formed up the Roman column pursuing Viriathus' Lusitanians into the valley, only to find it a trap.

The Lusitanians, under Viriathus (Simon), waited in the hills to the South and West of the ponderous Roman column. The "ambush" under TtS was represented by the Lusitanians being able to set up only 2 squares from the Roman flank. The Lusitanian infantry commands, under Simon & Dave fell upon the 2nd and 3rd Roman command flanks, with Chris's 2nd Roman command suffering particularly badly.

However, the planned move of the Lusitanian cavalry (Phil), sweeping down from the head of the the valley, to threaten the Roman baggage train, rather stalled with a '1' activation chit first out of the bag. This failure to sieze the moment was only matched by Eileen's inability to get the Roman vanguard in motion!

Tony employed this borrowed time well, before the Lusitanian cavalry arrived, to back 3 of the 4 carts off the table (Tony - Ox drawn carts did not actually have a reverse gear!). He also started to reorganise the Roman rear, who started to progressively roll-up Dave's right hand Lusitanian command.

By this time, Chris's 2nd Roman command was demoralised, but Eileen was starting to turn the Roman Vanguard around, putting some real pressure on Simon's central Lusitanian infantry command, Simon managing to pull 3 consecutive '1's in combat!

To relieve the pressure on Viriathus, the Lusitanian heavy cavalry fell upon the now exposed rear of the Roman vanguard, while the numerous Lusitanian light cavalry started to harass the rear of the two rearmost Roman commands. However, Tony brought his Roman heavy cavalry round to chase off the Lusitanian light cavalry, frustratingly chasing many off the table, only to find them coming back just a few squares away!

Victory medals on both sides were now getting scarce and it was left to the Lusitanian heavy cavalry to crash into the exposed flank of the Roman vanguard cavalry, in order to claim the last 2 Roman Victory Medals. Victory to the Lusitanians!!

Another very close run game under TtS and the ambush made a nice change from the usual pitched battle, well the Lusitanians thought so, even if the Roman's did not quite share their enthusiasm!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Crisis for Six in Dunkirk!

After an uneventful evening Eurotunnel crossing and establishment of the FOB in the IBIS Central in Dunkirk, the intrepid party set off for the Crisis Wargames show in Antwerp. This was a first for us and turned out to be like Salute, but with cheaper parking and the option to have lunch included in the entry price of 20€!! Plenty of traders, a good selection of games, a ‘bring and sell’ section that one could actually get into(!), as well as a nice friendly atmosphere. Recommended.

Intrepid travellers before joining the mammoth entry queue.

Richard Clark looking pensive!

Some familiar faces at the Sharpe Practice 2 table.

Day 2: Dunkirk outer perimeter tour: After causing major disruption in the local boulangerie by having the effrontery to order coffee and croissants early on a Sunday morning, the team set off for Veurne. In May 1940 this town was one of the key points on the Dunkirk defence perimeter. The tour started respectfully in the CWGC cemetery in Veurne, but almost came unstuck when the team was forced to shelter under trees in the corner of the graveyard for almost 15 minutes, while an unexpected “light shower” passed over! We then moved on to the canal defence line and thus planting the seed of a 20mm Early War German engineering assault section, complete with rubber boats, firmly in Greg’s mind!?

After Veurne it was on to an old Maginot Line bunker on the France-Belgium border.

Then came a spot of lively battlefield archaeology, while the team debated which was actually Langley’s cottage, leading Simon to decree that local planning permission should not allow properties to be modified / altered, where such properties appear in published battlefield guide books!

After a brief stop at the site of Ervine-Andrews’ VC winning action, it was onto Bergues, a nice old walled town which formed an important part of the Western end of the Dunkirk perimeter defence. We slogged our way through a coffee and biscuit in a cosy café on the town square, before heading down to then Cassel gate, the area of most of the 1940s action.

After Bergues, it was off to the Wormhout barm massacre site, for a solid reminder of man’s inhumanity to their fellow men! After this sombre reflection, an unscheduled excursion to the Esquelbecq CWGC cemetery, to pay some deserved respects to the victims.

We then headed down to the bunker at Peckel, the site of Cresswell’s epic 3 day siege in 1940.

Next stop was Cassel. The long climb up the cobbled road to the top (in a modern car!) serving as a good reminder of the military significance of the only bit of high ground in the area. Indeed, Cassel has been the site of three battles through the years, even if no-one could name the other two. After lunch in a delightful little café (which could easily have served as the set of ‘Allo ‘Allo!), we pressed on up to the 3 battles monument, spectacular panoramic views and rather more dubious ‘Roman wall’ remains!

Before setting off to our last visit of the day, we drown down past the location of where a knocked-out German Panzer 35t was photographed in 1940, knocked out by a 2 pounder located further up Cassel hill.

Our last stop of the day, was a deviation to the Dunkirk 1940 theme, the V2 preparation / launching bunker at Eperlecques, the aptly named the “Blockhaus”!

The scale of construction is both awe inspiring and depressing and was well worth the deviation from the main tour theme. Despite the grand plans, it was interesting to reflect that Eperlecques never actually launched a V2! The sheer obvious scale of the facility attracting some very severe Allied bombing, including everything up to the 22,000 lb Tallboy and "Disney" bombs. The facility did however continue to process V2 rockets for mobile launchers.

Day 2: Dunkirk and the beaches: The day opened gloriously, with a blue, lightly clouded sky and sunshine, which compensated for the early (well for Rob!) to get out to the beach at low tide. We located the wreck of the Crested Eagle, causing another sombre moment of reflection for the 300 lives lost during her sinking.

After a short diversion to an “Atlantic Wall” bunker sticking out of the dunes, it was back to Dunkirk and the CWGC Dunkirk cemetery, to reflect upon the 5500+ names of Commonwealth Servicemen lost in two World Wars.

After a brief return to the hotel, to check-out, we embarked upon the walking tour of Dukirk, an interesting idea, clearly inspired to fill a bit of a publicity gap after the recent film’s release. Anyway, the many themed blue display boards gave us a nice walk, with Dave claiming that we had walked over 14km all-told that day.

Yet another Atlantic Wall Bunker

On the Mole

The day ended with a visit to the Dunkirk museum, with its interesting and sometimes eclectic mix of exhibits, including model Landrovers on the beach in 1940! Anyway, a great trip. Sedan anyone!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Mons Graupius II

From our correspondent, Simon Tacitus, somewhere in northern Caledonia……

Yesterday, as the mists cleared the might of Rome formed up to face the masses of Pictish barbarians somewhere in the this cursed land. Oh for a bath house and some good wine and garum!

Fredericus Lepus, the Batavian commander offered to be the 'anvil' upon which the Roman Legionary 'hammer' (Simon) would crush the bearded foe.  The Romans advanced cautiously but two quick failed '1' activation chits brought their careful manoeuvring to a swift end. In close adherence to the pre-battle holding plan, the Picts charged forward with their right flank (Tony) of light cavalry and chariots making spectacular initial gains in territory. The Pictish left also advanced but quickly faltered with a “one” chit.

The Roman right flank “hammer” then began to deploy rapidly forward with legionaries cautiously advancing and their light cavalry and Auxilia trying to outflank the Pictish deep units. The Roman anvil held firm but a worrying gap began to develop between the anvil and hammer…..!

The Pictish right soon began to outflank the Roman left, but also threatening to punch through the centre. Things were looking grim for Rome but these Romans were used to such situations. The Pictish left flank advance faltered with poor chit drwaing, giving the forces of civilisation a chance to envelope the flanks of the deep Pictish warrior war bands and start to cause massive disruption.

Events in the Roman centre worsened as its cavalry and light infantry were wiped out and the Picts gleefully made off with many heads and a few victory medals. All that now stood between the Roman camp and a rampaging deep unit of Pictish fanatics, was the singularly ineffective ballista unit. Miraculously they held in desperate hand-to-hand combat, saving themselves and the camp. Commendation and a Grass Crown to that Centurion whose actions probably saved the day.

At this point Gregius 'Onechit', assuming the cause of Rome to be lost, departed and suddenly the Roman fortunes changed!

Back on the Roman right the judicious movement of the General plus the ability of the Romans to ignore difficult activations when manouevering Legionnaires allowed the Romans to start eating into the Pictish deep warrior unitsn ("Three Victory medals please Tony!"). On the Roman left equally deft Generalship managed to get an Auxiliary unit into the flank of the deep unit attacking the camp. Eventually it too broke.

This technique of allowing the cumbersome Pictish warrior deep units to lumber past the more nimble Roman Legionnaires and then falling on the exposed Pictish flanks, was really starting to work!

The Roman 'hammer' now really started to grind into the Pictish flank, destroying another Pictish deep unit after it failed to pull back to rally.  Roman victory was finally in sight. Even the agile Pictish light units were finding themselves penned in and unable to evade and hence destroyed.


Although the Romans lost a total of only 3 Victory Medals, the game certainly felt a much closer-run-thing than that score would suggest. If the Roman artillery had been overrun and the camp lost, the Picts would have gained 4 victory medals and Fredericus Lepus’ force would have been perilously close to demoralisation and a Pictish victory. However, it was Roman discipline, mobility and staying power, that told over Pictish bravery and aggression.

On the adjacent table Chris and Rob played some weird game involving Wild West scenery and sone rather unsavoury looking figures, of which no more need be said! It looked odd and some of the verbal exchanges sounded decidedly bizarre….. Elsewhere, Brian had dragged out his old copy of Doom, Peter Pig's "Square Bashing" was making another apperance and a game of ACW Sharpe Practice II was looking rather nice.

Next week, the Black Wolf annual quiz!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Thursday, 12th October

Another eclectic games night at Black Wolf.

First off, Dave & Phil were trying out Viking Dux, from the Christmas 2012 Lardies Special.

This Viking Dux game was fun. Dave and I both struggled with how to use the rather unruly Berserkers. Mine ran off straight into Dave’s levy, as soon as he advanced the levy and who's leader had not yet had time to form them into shieldwall. After a couple of rounds and a few dead on each side, my berserkers were driven back. This then caused Dave’s berserkers to charge at my rebuffed berserkers and then having then driven them from the field, Dave’s Berserkers immediately charged headlong into Ragnar and his elite hirdsmen! These berserkers just keep going until they fail in combat! Entertaining, but of limited military utility to both sides, as we used them!? However, the MDF chit activation is much easier than trying to "shuffle" a deck of 8 cards (thanks Warbases). Vikings now make a really nice addition to the Dux repertoire.

Meanwhile on a table across the way and sometime around 236BC…..

Following the 1st Punic War the Carthaginians are seeking to expand in Iberia and grow a territory to economically exploit and re-build to challenge the power of Rome.

The forces of Carthage and their Iberian allies ( Simon and Malcolm) took on a surly Spanish force ( Chris and Tony).  Choosing the army had been quite interesting as it is the Carthaginian army pre-Hannibal and has some limitations in troop selection; hence why Simon had some true “Spanish allies”.

The game began well with the forces of civilisation winning the scouting. So Tony and Chris deployed first.  Disaster in turn 1 as the Carthaginians quickly drew two 1s to end their turn. Spanish triumphalism was short lived as they too drew quickly drew a 1. Eileen looked on with grim amusement, and we could sense the spirit of Greg ("I've found all the 1s") in the room.

The two left wings both cavalry-heavy quickly advanced and started to win their  own battles. The centre turned into a hard battle of attrition for the infantry.

Casualties steadily mounted for both sides and we thought it was all over for us when the Spanish camp fell. Miraculously a unit of elite Balearic slingers charged the Spanish light cavalry in the flank and destroyed them recapturing the camp and saving Malcolm’s Spanish from demoralisation.

By 21.30 both sides were down to only 3 victory medals each. It was clear that this would be the final turn……something would have to give. The Gallic mercenaries in the centre made one final charge for the Carthaginian camp and glory….only to fail and die heroically in the Spanish counter-attack giving victory to the Spanish.

Once again an excellent game that proved what a good set of rules TtS is.

Elsewhere we had some Peter Pig Square Bashing (sorry no photo), a game of Congo and a interesting ECW game. Another mixed night at Black Wolf.