Napoleonic 1/2400 Naval

I’ve been toying with the thought of naval wargaming for some time. I’ve always been fascinated by sea battles and as a teenager, I played GW’s Man o’War, a fantasy naval game that was great fun. However, this time I wanted something more historical. The medieval naval project that I started with scratchbuilding a cog is something special, as I intend to use it for small-scale actions with 15mm figures. So what else?

 

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It was K. who proposed napoleonic, as she really liked the battle scenes in the movie Master & Commander. Ready to oblige, I looked into the miniatures available. For me, two options were interesting: 1/1200 or 1/2400. I pondered the pros and cons of each for a while. K. argued for 1/1200 as the ships look really nice, but then she wouldn’t be the person doing the rigging! I was very doubtful if I could get this done. Although I don’t mind modelling small stuff, once it gets too fiddly, there is a point when I lose my patience – and once it’s lost, it’s gone for good. Also, transporting 1/1200 ships seems to be a nightmare and I had the idea of making the naval game suitable for taking with us on travels – after all, there is no need for terrain, a blue table cloth, some dice and a couple of ships will do. However, the decision really presented itself when I calculated the cost of the models: Langton 1/1200 with the full monty (brass etched ratlines etc.) are lovely, but quite expensive (and those are the ones I would have gone for)! Too expensive, I thought, for throwing a tantrum when trying to thread thin nylon string around tiny masts.

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So I went for 1/2400 and ordered five third rates from Tumbling Dice. The models are larger than I thought and have stunning detail, so I am very happy with the choice. Also, Tumbling Dice has great costumer service. When I made a mistake ordering, Paul immediately helped a landlubber get his bearings!

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The ships come with sails that have to be attached to the masts. This was no problem once I discarded superglue and discovered the joys of a two part epoxy glue. They also come with a nice scenic base. In the photos, you can see a French line consisting of a 74 and two 80s and two British 74s. The French have superior numbers, but the British have superior crews, so this should even out. And yes, I did some rigging by glueing bristles of an old broom onto the masts, and when I did it I was very glad that I wouldn’t have to do more than that.

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Rules wise, there were only two sets that interested me: One was Trafalgar from Warhammer Historical. As I said, I have fond memories of Man o’War and those rules seem to be based on the old game. However, it’s out of print and second hand copies are quite expensive; also, I have read that they tend to give some dubious results from a historical point of view. So I decided to go for Kiss me Hardy by TooFatLardies. Now I am something of a Lardies fan and very much enjoy their approach to wargaming. After reading that you don’t have to have any knowledge of sailing to play the game, I was sold. I had a quick preliminary read and they look solid and fun. I am looking forward to giving the little ships some action!

Also, for those of you thinking ‘What, he started another project?!’ – this is no new project, just a little diversion. The real new project will be coming soon enough, and it’s going to be big…

SAGA Once Again!

Autumn 1070, somewhere in England: A Norman Warlord assembles a convoy to get winter provisions into his castle. As they approach a road fork near a church, they spot a Viking raiding party. Can they guard the baggage train, or will they lose all their victuals and spend a hungry winter?

Fitting to the local weather, which is ghastly and not at all summery, we decided to play a game of SAGA. It’s been a while! We played the ‘Escort’ scenario from the main rulebook with 5 points each. I positioned my archers and crossbowmen in front of the baggage train, a unit of foot sergeants to their right and the cavalry on my far left – stubbornly refusing to learn from my mistakes, I had planned another one of those elegant outflanking manoeuvres that never succeed. K. faced me with the Vikings pretty much evenly distributed, only one of her Hearthguards were hidden in the woods (she fielded no levies this time).

The set-up.
The set-up.

The scenario meant that I had to cross the table with all three parts of my baggage train (a flock of sheep, a cart and a group of peasants carrying what turned out to be precious stuff), while K. had to eliminate at least two of the baggages. Everything else would be a draw. We followed the suggestions on the SAGA forum and made a modification to the official rules: The baggage did not generate SAGA dice and had instead a free activation for each of the three bases. This, we thought, would make the game more balanced, as the defender would not just spend all his extra dice on pummeling the attacker.

The game started with what can only be called shock and awe. K. had initiative, rolled some fine SAGA dice and immediately threw her pumped up warriors against my levies, killing all save one, who retreated behind the church never to be seen again.

Shock and awe!
Shock and awe!

That set the pace. Again and again she relentlessly punched into my lines. The cavalry I had moved over to cover the gap was slaughtered by her Berserkers, my crossbowmen by one of her Hearthguard units. Without hesitation she exploited the gap and came at my baggage train. The cart was easily done with and I almost lost heart. But what happened then is still denied by some Viking officials as ‘Norman propaganda': Her berserkers drove into my sheep like wolves, but the sheep showed teeth and dragged the Viking elite along into Valhalla! What an embarrassing defeat at the hands, or better hooves of a flock of woolly creatures.

Beware of the sheep!
Beware of the sheep!

Now my Normans seemed to wake up. With a cry of ‘Sauvez le vin!’, they set out to at least save the last remaining baggage train containing the precious Norman wine. In a bold move, my left flankers rode around the church to attack the Viking Warlord from behind. This clash was inconclusive as the Warlord proved to be resilient and my knights had to retreat. Not for long, though! They threw themselves onto the Viking warriors who threatened the convoy, slaining them all. The remaining foot sergeants closed the front and covered the wine carriers, while the knights again set out to attack the Viking Hearthguard. Another victory for those gallant riders. Now only the Viking Warlord was left, and side by side with his trusty knights, the Norman Warlord punished him for his bold raid onto the winter provisions. In the end, the Normans managed to make off with the last baggage train. This winter they are going to get hungry, but at least they won’t be thirsty.

What an exciting game! At the beginning, I already saw myself losing after only a couple of turns. Only through derring-do and luck I managed to pull off a draw. In the end, K. payed a price for her aggressive tactics: Having sacrificed too many of her troops in the initial onslaught, she had difficulties upholding the pressure over time. It was my flank Hearthguard, which showed unprecedented bravery and commitment, that saved the day.

The cavalry doing what it does best.
The cavalry doing what it does best.

We both felt that this was a close game and we really liked the scenario, which provided some interesting tactical challenges. We will certainly play it again, this time me being the attacker. I will, however, make sure to beware of the killer sheep.

15mm Vignettes

I am still making stuff for the Wars of the Roses. Lately, I have tried my hand at making vignettes, as I think those really enliven the tabletop. The first one depicts two guys trying to repair a broken axle while their officer loses his nerves.

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The vignette will be useful for one of the random events from Sharp Practice, which is ‘A broken axle’ and means that your cart can’t move for 1D6 turns. However, I got the idea when I read my favorite wargaming book, Scenarios for all Ages by Grant and Asquith. There is one scenario which features a broken down railway engine and which sounds like fun. Now I don’t play any period that has railways, but why not make the objective a broken down cart?

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For the cart, I used a Magister Militium ammunitions cart I had lying around. The two lubbers trying to fix the wheel are Essex artillerists. The hot head is a disordered marker from Peter Pig’s Wars of the Roses range. I very much like this range, there are lots of original and expressive sculpts to be found.

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The other vignette is an addition to the farm stuff. I bought the small dunghill at TACTICA as it looked nice and I was certain to find a use for it. I had it lying around till now, as it looked kind of isolated and boring on its own. So I finally decided to stick it unto a base, add a pig and a peasant model and paint it up. Looks quite cute.

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Last but not least I stuck the beehives I got from Unit Models some time ago unto a bench made of matchsticks and painted them up. I thought about adding a bear that tries to steal the honey, but K. argued that this would be a little bit too much…

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Aaaah! Bees in my bonnet!

Pirates Ahoy!

With the fabulous pirate game on Crete still in mind, we decided to stage our own swashbuckling extravaganza. Of course, our table can’t compare with Jon’s and we use only six figures a side. But it’s always fun breaking out the crews and having a go with Genesha Games’ great Flashing Steel rules!

We set up a town scene and decided to generate the scenario with our secret mission system, where each of us draws a card which states his or her mission. As I had to get at least half of my crew across the table to the opposite edge, I positioned my shooty guys to cover the town square while the rest prepared to dash along the beach. This also meant that my shooters could cover the treasure in case K. wanted to get it.

Covering the square.
Covering the square.

The first couple of turns saw cautious advancing from both sides, coupled with some shooting. I have to say that my pirates aren’t any better than my Wars of the Roses handgonners when it comes to handling black powder weapons! There was a lot of smoke but no effect whatsoever.

Cornered!
Cornered!

When one of my crewsmembers got cornered by two enemy thugs, I had enough and charged. Brandishing his rapier, my captain headed for Sela, one of K.’s best figures. One round of melee later the brave pirate lay on the ground in his own blood while a grinning K. informed me that killing my captain had been her objective!

As this game was over in a much shorter time then we had expected, we decided to have a rematch. This time, my objective was to take out at least two thirds of the enemy crew. I set up almost exactly like last time, as I was still convinced that the plan to cover the square with the shooters was, in principle, a solid tactic. K. made no fuss and headed for the treasure in complete disregard of my shooty guys, which delivered their usual performance. So I also rushed forward and soon a series of melees erupted on the town square.

Trouble brewing in the town square.
Trouble brewing in the town square.

I managed to bring in my flanking boys from the beach while K. also directed her stragglers to the scene of action. I played quite aggressively and managed to kill off three of her guys, among them her best figure (the one who killed my captain during the last game!). But then her captain really got angry and cut down two of my crewmen in one go! Carrying the treasure chest, she moved back to get to her side. Things were getting close now.

Stop her, she's getting away!
Stop her, she’s getting away!

Soon K. had her captain one move away from her table edge. I had only two options: I could try to stop her by moving into melee with one of my figures – if he managed to get two actions. However, alone he wouldn’t last long in melee and it was quite probable that the captain would get away anyway. The other option was to try to fulfill my objective before K. could fulfill hers by killing off another of her crewmen. The only one in range, however, was Kaballah the Coloss, who, as his name suggests, is very strong in close combat. I rushed him with three figures but, in the end, didn’t manage to bring him down. Another victory for K., whose captain carried the treasure unopposed over her table edge.

Those were two quick, fun and exciting games! Flashing Steel is great as it gives fast games, which allows for the possibility to play more than one in an evening. For the next game though, I might modify my crew a bit: It seems that I should forget firearms and stick to pointy sticks.