Painting is going quite smoothly at the moment. The ACW is still my main interest and I’ve decided to do a Grierson’s Raiders force for Sharp Practice. I already got the figures from Peter Pig, but before I actually start with them, I wanted to finish the dismounted version of the Confederate cavalry.
Here you can see dismounted Confederate troopers as well as three horses for the ‘horse holder’ marker – I don’t actually put eight horses plus two guys on the table, but use a small vignette consisting of one horse holder and three horses.
Here is another trooper and the horse holder. The unpainted guy with the binoculars is for a special project – more on this another time.
As you can see, I’ve also started painting Romans for the Punic Wars. Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy has announced Project 217, which somehow will deal with conflicts in 217BC, and it would be nice to be involved in some way. Those four velites are at least a start – they make up two elements for DBA, an easy way to make progress!
Finally, I’ve done some figures for the Mice & Mystics board game. Those are plastic models and they are nice, but the details are not as pronounced as one would wish. Still, they paint up rather quickly and I didn’t spend too much time on them anyway – they are going to be used by children and I don’t want to worry about them destroying an elaborate paintjob.
It’s been a long time since we had our last game. However, I finally felt up to it and we decided to inaugurate the new gaming table with Sharp Practice.
I’ve adopted an excellent scenario published in Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy 85 for the ACW. The idea was that a small Union force was holding out in a fortified blockhouse guarding a railway station. Union reinforcements were on the way.
A small band of Guerrillas has led a somewhat rugged force of Confederates towards the fort. However, the Rebel cavalry went looting the train station, so they were out of control. The WS&S scenario included a unit of cavalry without a Leader attached, which I rationalised as the officer being busy trying to collect his troops.
The primary Confederate deployment point was at the road to the opposite of the blockhouse. We diced for the location of the Guerrilla (Confederate secondary) deployment point, which ended up to the right of the barn. I used the ‘moveable deployment point’ ability to move it forward and deployed the Guerrillas in the woods.
Unfortunately, my main force was very slow to deploy. Due to unlucky cards, I barely managed to get the line into position but was unable to advance them. The same was true for the gun, which I brought in limbered, as I wanted to get it into a good position to cover the blockhouse without being blocked by my advancing infantry. However, it crawled along at a deplorable rate and entered the fight pretty late.
At the beginning of turn 3, not much had happened and K. brought in her relief force. Dicing for their position, they entered in the field on the eastern edge of the table. She swiftly deployed her small mountain howitzer and her skirmishers and attacked my Guerrillas in the woods.
The Union boys put up quite a pressure, and when my Guerrilla leader was wounded, my guys no longer posed a real threat to K.’s flank. She deployed her regulars in line and marched them across the field and over the fence, where they started firing into my main line attacking the blockhouse.
K.’s relief force came just in time, as the Confederates had stormed the breastworks and made short thrift of the defending group of bluecoats.
However, the Rebels were now caught between a rock and a hard place, receiving fire from the skirmishers holed up in the blockhouse as well as from the Union line approaching from the right. After my Leader was knocked out, the Sergeant commanding the skirmishers rushed forward and took command, but to no avail – the Confederate Force Morale was plummeting fast and I conceded defeat when it was at 1.
This was a very exciting game for both of us. Often, games with one side defending a stationary object can a bit dull for the defender, but thanks to the relief force there was lots to do for the Union commander. Perhaps I should have delayed my main attack to bring my cannon into position and also to use Command Cards to apply more pressure on my right flank so as to stall K.’s relief force. I never used the leaderless group of dismounted cavalry, as I felt that I needed all available Command Cards for my main attack. I wanted to get the job done quickly, but as always, my attack was a bit unorganised. K. deployed her troops well and used her skirmishers and her mountain howitzer to do away with my threat to her flank pretty efficient.
Other noteworthy things: We both had few casualties, which is another thing I like about Sharp Practice, namely that games can be decisive without being bloodbaths. The Rebel commander however, poor Col. Trenholm, was very unlucky: Entering the fight thirsty (first random event), he got shot by a Union skirmisher (minor wound), then sprained his ankle (second random event) and then got knocked out by a second minie ball. Ouch! The very light gun performed well and K. told me that she was happy to have it, as it boosted her morale and gave her confidence – and that’s exactly what those small guns did historically!
As you probably know, until now we’ve been gaming on the dining table. This meant that I couldn’t set up and prepare a scenario in advance and things had to be put away immediately after the game was finished. Apart from prolongating our precious gaming time, it also made it impossible to interrupt a game and finish it the next day.
Now K. has finally allowed me to get a second table for the living room to use as a gaming table. As it had to be a smallish one, so it wouldn’t take up too much space, I went for an extendable IKEA model named BJURSTA. Measuring 90cmx90cm, it can be extended to 168cm length, which will be enough for our demands.
Assemblage was, as always, a bit of a hassle – this time, I managed to screw on the legs on the inside instead of the outside! I’m much better a building 15mm scenery, I have to say, but at least I provided some entertainment for K.
In the end, everything turned out fine and now I’m the happy owner of a gaming table!
To celebrate, I set up a small game of DBA with my El Cid figures. K. was busy, so I tried to play solo, which – apart from having a dunderhead as an opponent – worked ok. It gave me an opportunity to learn the rules a bit better, although I’m not sure I did everything correctly. The game was surprisingly interesting and also felt historically correct. The flank attack by the Almoravid light horse was easily driven off by the crossbows (I was a bit surprised how easily), but the Almoravid spears held their ground against the Spanish knights and managed to drive them back step by step. However, as the Almoravid flank had broken, the Spanish only needed to destroy one more unit, which they managed – a clear Spanish victory with one one unit lost.
DBA really is more fun than it looks. Next time, I might be able to convince someone else to game with me. However, the first proper game scheduled on the new table is another scenario of Sharp Practice!
While I’m normally pretty restrained when it comes to buying miniatures, my big weakness are books: I can seldom resist a visit to a bookstore and when I’m getting into a new topic, I tend to amass books on the subject. I’ve got an ebook reader and I do buy electronic books, but I ususally prefer paper versions, especially for historical stuff which I intend to consult more than once. Many of those books I buy second hand – platforms like eurobuch.com offer great prices, especially if you don’t mind to get copies discarded from libraries (which have some stamps, but most of the time are otherwise in a fine condition).
So what’s currently on my nightstand?
I’ve just finished Mounted Raids of the Civil War by Edward Longacre. It’s an older book – it was published in 1975 – and I got it second hand. It presents twelve Confederate as well as Union cavalry raids, among them J.E.B. Stuart’s Chambersburg raid, the botched Richmond raid of 1864 and the famous Mississippi raid by Grierson. It is very well written and offers lots of inspiration for wargaming. In fact, I was so captivated by the story of Gierson’s raid that I intend to paint up a Union cavalry force for Sharp Practice – and I’ve already ordered some more books on the subject…
I’m still halfway into Barbara Brooks Tomblin’s The Civil War on the Mississippi. Published this year, it tells the story of the Union effort to control the Mississippi. There are already several books on this subject, but Tomblin offers a comprehensive narrative that draws on the latest research and uses lots of sources. This leads to a view that is more ‘from below’ than the studies I’ve read before, so you get to know the perspective of sailors and commanders. This also means that overall strategies are neglected a bit, but those have already been covered in detail in other places. If you’re interested in Civil War riverine warfare, Tomblin’s book is a recommended read.
I have to admit that I’ve started my Punic Wars project without knowledge of the subject. To change this, I bought Adrian Goldsworthy’s The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146BC. Although I’m mostly interested in Hannibal, it was good to get a broader understanding of the rivalry between Rome and Carthago. The author is not only a good narrator, he also offers critical discussions of the sources. Most importantly of all, he clearly states when sources are contradictory or when we just don’t know enough about events to be sure of something – and there is a lot we don’t know about the period. This can be a bit unnerving, but it also offers some freedom for the wargamer, as no one can prove you wrong!
I’ve also finally started to read Marko Kloos’ Chains of Command, the fourth novel in his Frontlines series. I’m normally not a fan of military sci-fi, but I really enjoyed his books. He writes in a relaxed style, the characters are interesting and the aliens are something different for a change – at least I’ve never before read a novel where grunts are up against kaiju. The latest book starts a bit slow but picks up pace and seems to head towards new revelations regarding the overall plot line, so I’m pretty curious where this is going…