Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Time For a Change!!

No, this isn't an Obama post. I have another blog for that. As the summer nears an end, however, I'm going to shift gears very shortly and put down the HYW for a few months. I'm losing some painting enthusiasm, and it's time to take a break from them. Since Enfilade, I've finished the following:
  • 64 longbowmen
  • 16 crossbowmen
  • 6 mounted men at arms
  • 24 dismounted men at arms
and I have another 24 dismounted men at arms primed and will complete them. It's not a bad start. The 48 dismounted men at arms represent the Prince of Wales command at Poitiers, according to David Green he had no archers in his battle, the center. When I am finished with the lot it will represent about 130 figures. Just a down payment on the period and the project, but I'm pleased with the progress.

My Space 1889 order arrived from RAFM today, and I'll work on wrapping up the unpainted figures I have for that project. Including what I've received, it's probably less than 150 25mm figures, and includes some gunboats, mounted troops and other funky stuff. However, I don't really need anything else, and will consider the project complete.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Coming Down the Home Stretch

It's the last week of summer break. It's been a nice long break, and I think I've used the time reasonably well. I've painted a lot. In fact, you can see my painting calculations on the right. Mostly I've painted 25mm HYW figures. Because this is a new project, and I want sizable armies, it's going to take a while to get everything done. I've now finished 15 bases of archers, four bases of crossbowmen, three bases of cavalry, four bases of Irish kerns, and two bases of dismounted men at arms (with another six bases started. All in all, that's 114 figures painted or under way. Throw in a few hydroplanes and that doesn't look bad for a summer's work.

I'm going to finish the men-at-arms under way, and then take a little break from Poitiers. I'll probably take a little trip to Mars and work on some of the goodies I have there. There are some mounted troops, a some sepoy types, and I'm hoping that my order of militia men arrive soon. After that, it may be back to the HYW, or maybe a different direction. I still have about ten DBA armies to paint, more AWI, the War of 1812, and Wayne's Legion. Let's see what gets my attention.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ironclads on the Meyerhootchie

Let me just state right up front that, once again, I forgot my camera so I have no pictures. Doh! Michael Koznarsky, in the last issue of Historical Miniature Gamer, reviewed some newish Thoroughbred Miniatures, as well as discussing 1/600 ACW ironclad games using Ironclads. Being an Ironclads enthusiast for many years, and possessing about 60 painted ships as well as a few unpainted, I broached the idea of a game at our August game day. Michael was interested, and yesterday we played it out.

The scenario required a flotilla of Yankees to escort a trio of transports up river to invade Fort Shein. No problem, right? Ahhh! The Johnnies had two nasty ironclads and a few river rams to keep us from exiting our transports from the board. I commanded a double end gunboat, one of my favorite ship types. Though I was pretty much on the periphery of the action, the two 100 lb. Parrotts on swivels allowed me to reach out and touch the wooden rams from quite a distance. On turn three at medium range, I inflicted a boiler explosion on Dale Mickel's Gen. Bragg, which soon burned and became a non factor. Two of the Yankee gunboats ran interference for the transports, commanded by Gene Anderson and Michael and were shot up and rammed by the combined fire of the Confederate ram Richmond and the river rams. The Confederates made their job much more difficult through a couple of self inflicted collisions. The Richmond sailed through the Union squadron, only to find itself unable to chug back into the action, though it continued to shoot up the Mark Waddington's Keystone State. Picture below is of the USS Octorora, the gunboat I ran in the game. The ironclad ram, Richmond, commanded by Gary Griess in our game is below it. Illustrations from the Naval Historical Center, U.S. Department of the Navy.

After my initial moment of glory, I found myself in the difficult position of trying to steer my ship back into the action. Scott Murphy's Chickasaw and Keystone State seemed to be traveling in the same arc I was, and a sudden right turn would have resulted in a collision. I kept finding my gunfire masked, as well as my ship protected from enemy fire. I took one shot from the ram Fredricksburg, which did minor damage. I finally hit the Queen of the West, which did some good flotation damage and was able to run interference on the last turn protecting the transports hotfooting up the river, and the game ended.

I love Ironclads. It was a crowded game, and it did take some time to get through the turns, but it was still a lot of fun.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Poitiers 1356 in the present

Poitiers, from the Hundred Years War (as opposed to Poitiers from the 8th century, also known as Tours) is now one of my battles. Along with Cowpens, Agincourt, Battle of the Pelennor Fields and a few others, Poitiers is one of the few battles I just have to game. I feel compelled.

Of course, in order to fight the battle I have to paint the figures. For the English that's about 250 wee men. For the French, double it. Needless to say, I'm nowhere near the number for the Anglais, and I haven't even started les frogs. Poitiers in 2011. Maybe sooner if the wind blows right.

Why Poitiers? It's an interesting battle. It comes at the end of Edward the Prince of Wales' destructive chevauchee or raiding mission. He is forced to battle by an army led by King Jean the Good (not good as in good general.) The English choose a strong defensive position and are obligingly attacked by waves of French infantry after shooting down the handful of mounted knights. What makes the battle unusual is that the English longbowmen play a diminished role in the battle for several reasons. One is that this is a fairly small army so there aren't that many of them, 2,500-3,000. Another is that proportionally they are actually outnumbered by other infantry types. Figure 3,000-4,000 dismounted knights and men-at-arms, while at Agincourt the ratio of archers to men-at-arms was three-to-one. At Poitiers, the archers have an important role, shooting down the French cavalry, but are less effective against the dismounted knights, and run out of arrows after the third wave of the French attack. So, this is much more of a medieval slog. Armored men bashing on armored men until one side tires of the whole business. In the end the French succumb to a daring mounted attack, King Jean the Good becomes King Jean the Captured throwing France into a tizzy for the rest of his life.

One thing I have done is acquire books and read about the battle. The first of four is by Donald Featherstone. Published as part of a series of wargaming guides back in the 70's, Don used some pretty traditional resources to provide a spiff little resource to gamers, giving a background on the battle, suggested commander ratings, and other suggested factors to figure into a miniature scenario. Also included, is a very simple set of rules for gaming Poitiers that seem like fun. I think I may use them with my singly mounted figures just for laughs. Being more than 35 years old, Don's recommendations for figures is pretty amusing. Though he names Minifigs and a few other old manufacturers, his chief recommendation is Airfix due their price and the suitability of the Robin Hood range as longbowmen. Times have changed.

I've also picked up two important books by Richard Barber on Edward the Black Prince. The first is a biography. It's a bit of a slog, written in 1976, that tries to debunk the mythology surrounding Edward. I learned a lot about the way he made war, his close companions that fought with him pretty much all his life, and I also learned about the large gaps in our knowledge about the Prince, and the assumptions we've made because of those gaps. The other Barber book is actually a documentary history of Edward. This includes the journals of Geoffrey Baker and the anonymous herald for Sir John Chandos, the Prince's great captain and friend. I haven't read this book yet, but it's high on my list.

Poitiers 1356 was a recent birthday gift, and a wonderful one too. Published in 2002, and relying on more recent scholarship, author David Green does his best to focus on the battle and depict the action. His wife is an artist and she provides some nice color plates, while Green adds color maps and even a section devoted to wargaming Poitiers!! Though brief, it is a very handy guide and unfortunately out of print.

Like many Hundred Years War battles, our knowledge of this battle is imperfect. The troop positions, their movements and motivations are simply unclear. Though we've stepped back from the belief that the French regularly outnumbered the English ten to one, actual numbers are simply not known and are based on some records, but tainted by supposition and common sense. Even so, this action has my attention and I look forward to actually fighting the battle some day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Getting back into the swing

I'm back from Ellensburg at last. I got home Saturday evening, celebrated my birthday on Sunday, had to chase around for school most of the day yesterday, so this is the first time I've been able to devote much thought to gaming. I am playing in an Ironclads game on Saturday, and those are always fun.

On Monday I was able to drag out my painting, and have begun working on sixteen crossbowmen. We don't often think of the English as having a lot of these, but their Gascon allies did not have the tradition of the longbow. So, these four stands of guys represent a portion of the Gascon element in the Black Prince's army during the Poitiers campaign. Should be finished with these in the next day or so.

I just finished reading Richard Barber's biography of the Black Prince, a title that didn't fall into use until at least he 16th century. Though a bit textbookish, I learned a lot about him. I also ordered Barber's collection of sources about Prince Edward's campaigns, and hope to have David Green's 2005 book on Poitiers soon. So much that we don't know about this battle, it's hard to know how to represent both armies.

I received a stipend for my supervisor's work at J-Camp. I invested part of it in the RAFM sale. Their Space 1889 figures are 40% off, which makes some of the later Martian figures affordable at $1.75 each. I ordered 55 figures and a medieval organ gun to use as a sweeper. These will be militia in the rebellious city of Shastaphsh from the Frank Chadwick world. They'll be a nice break from medievals.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wings of War before the Winds of E-Burg

Tomorrow I leave for Ellensburg and Central Washington University for eight days. It's the annual summer journalism activities and I really need to attend them. For half of the time I'll be focused on improving my meager understanding of the Adobe CS3 suite, and the other half I'll spend with my students attending what is called J-Camp. If it sounds like a drag, believe me it isn't. I attended last summer for the first time and it was incredibly helpful and fun.

I'm busy a lot of the time, but there is down time too. I'll get some reading in, and I'm bringing along my Replay Baseball game, so I hope to get some of that in too. It's going to be hot while I'm there--high 80's and 90's projected through the 9th. No painting, unfortunately, and probably no blog posts unless I am mindlessly bloviating about some trivial topic.

On Wednesday I made my way down to the cards and comics shop in Olympia to play Wings of War. I've certainly seen lots of folks with the planes and decks, and everybody seems to be having a good time when they are playing. Dale Mickel set up a game for Wednesday, so I drove down and had at it. First a word about the shop. What an amazing place. Lots of board games and RPG's, a few minis but no historicals except for the WoW planes. There was also tons of cards, collectibles and other stuff to look at-more than I had time for. I'll have to go back just for another looksee.

I'm not very good at air games. I admit it freely. I'm not a very good planner, and I'm just as likely to half-loop into a mountainside as I am to make a useful maneuver. In fact I have half-looped into a mountainside. (Ask any Air Pirate how Kevin puts out fires!!!) Wings of War is played with card sequences, and I think by the end of the night I was able to start figuring that out.

We played two games. In game one I ran a couple of Sopwith Camels, and teamed with Dale who ran a Snipe and a DH (we love to explode) 4. The two German players, Scott Murphy flying two DR 1's, and Jeff, flying two Fokker D VII's left Dale in the dust and headed immediately for me. My Italian Camel blew up rather quickly, and the second Camel was forced from the board with heavy damage-but it did survive. Dale eventually arrived with the cavalry only to find himself outnumbered. Surprisingly the DH 4 was the only Brit plane to make it off the board.

In the second game we each took one plane. I opted for a Spad XIII, which maneuvers a lot like a garbage truck. It's pretty fast and can take a lot of damage, but I managed to take more than a lot of damage falling out of the sky with all struts shot through and my top wing falling off. I did however manage to blow up Jeff's D VII first, which gave me a little satisfaction as my plane augured into No Man's Land. All in all it was a pretty fun night for my first time out. Good to make it down to Olympia too. The guys always make an effort to come up to Tacoma, and it's nice to be able to replay their effort.

I'll be back from Ellensburg on the 9th. I'll be heading back toward work the following week. Not every day and not all day, but I'll be getting started.