Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Soak far, part three

Honestly, the Coke experiment was a disappointment. The paint that did come away needed a good scrape to remove it, and anything in undercuts was immovable.

So, back to the drawing board. Clearly I needed to get a bit more professional. In the last post on this subject Rumblestrip recommended "Nitromors", which is a paint and varnish removing gel so should do the job.

My visit to the local DIY superstore, Homebase, revealed a profusion of potential products, In the end I went for their own brand, for two reasons:

1) It seemed to have the same active ingredients
2) It was less than half the price of "Nitromors" (£3.25 v £8.99).

The main downsides seem to be:

1) It is more expensive than Coke
2) You can't drink it, even with rum in it.

This stuff isn't exactly liquid and isn't exactly gel. It's more like the consistency of PVA glue, a fairly slow moving fluid.

Anyhow, I put the figures to be cleaned in a jar and topped it up with the cleaner. And put the top on, because this stuff gives off fumes.

As you can see it's a sort of white colour.

After a few hours it started to go a bit browny/greeny, so I gave it a shake to mix it all up. It was clear that flakes of paint were coming off.

You are supposed to leave it for 40 minutes. I took a few samples out with tweezers after an hour and gave them a quick scrub with an old tooth brush and they came up nice and clean. I think I have a difference between figures that were undercoated in grey car paint primer and those where I used thinned black Dulux, but I'm not sure. I couldn't tell at this point if the metal on some of them had become pitted by the process. However on reflection they looked okay.

So I left the jar overnight and by the morning it was definitely
that green/brown vomit colour you got at primary school when you mixed all the colours together during an art lesson to see what it would look like and then got told off by Mrs Stuart because no matter no hard you try there aren't any new colours in the universe for you to discover through the random mixing of poster paint..

I strained the mixture through a sieve and they do seem to have been sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure. I then attended to them one at a time. I should probably have used gloves but I couldn't get a grip on the figures properly. I tried holding them with clamps or tweezers, but that didn't work either. In the end I scrubbed them under running water and I've still got most of my skin left.

The paint came off really easily on most of the figures. Some of those which were a combination of car undercoat, premium varnish and lots of under cuts still have a few remaining scraps that won't come off, but that won't be a problem.

The annoying side effect was that there were a few figures in the batch that I'd had to repair after their first painting. Mr Irregular does sometimes make figures with thin ankles and a few had come off their bases. These are usually easily fixable with superglue. Well, this stuff dealt with the superglue too. And it may have dissolved some Miliput or similar I was using as a base supplement. It certainly did for the polyfilla.

So a success, I would say, with some more figures back into the lead mountain.






Saturday, 27 May 2017

"Am I Boring you?" The Wednesday Worthing Ambush

As I have written before my grandfather was wounded on the First Day of the Somme, and left a set of memoirs of his experiences. He also left us with a good selection of photographs and documents. In addition to being interviewed by Martin Middlebrook he also took part in a BBC radio documentary in 1976. What we were less aware of was that he was also interviewed at length by a local history teacher in Worthing, Peter Barker, who in the mid-1980s tracked down and interviewed all the Great War veterans he could find who lived or had retired in the West Sussex area, of which there were 32. These tapes were then used in history lessons at the school where Peter taught.

A couple of years ago, contemplating his retirement, Peter offered the tapes to the Worthing Library Service who were only too happy to add them to their archives. Their reaction, in fact, was beyond creditable. Not only did they take the recordings, digitise them and store them, they also decided to create an oral history project to obtain further interviews from veterans in West Sussex from any other conflicts of the 20th century. In addition they also researched the original 32 veterans to provide further background. During this research they came across me (through the blog postings) and my brother, through The Great War Forum. We were able to share further details and photographs.

After all this hard work the project had a book and website launch last Wednesday in Worthing Library, so we headed down south to take part. I haven't visited Worthing for nearly 30 years now, not since my Grandfather's funeral. It was a bit emotional, although a lot has changed.

So many people were involved that they had to do the launch twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We got to say something on behalf of the family, - me in the morning and my brother in after lunch. I hadn't written anything specific down, but I'd got my thoughts lined up and made 5 bullet points in my pocket notebook. I only had 5 minutes anyway.

We had the usual introduction from the Project Sponsor and the Project Manager who explained about Peter's tapes and how they'd gone about getting the funding from the National Lottery and the Armed Forces Covenant and expanding the project to the whole 20th century. The project has two parts, a website with clips of audio and also a book, which has biographies and further information on all of the interviewees. The book is almost like a user guide for the website, and there'll be copies sent to every school in West Sussex, and also held in all West Sussex libraries and museums. It's intended as a reference work, and the initial intention wasn't to sell any (there are rules about using Lottery funding for a commercial enterprise, apparently).

After all of that the techie lady got up to do the website demo and play a few audio clips. There's one from a woman who was a code breaker at Bletchley Park, a pilot running Exocet drills for the Navy during the Falklands Campaign, a marine reflecting upon being given his Green Beret and then finally she says something like "This last clip is of Walter Evans. He was our favourite and we all came to love him, particularly the way he asks the interviewer 'Am I boring you?' part way through".

Then she clicks the link, and my Grandad's voice comes out crystal clear, like he's sitting next to me "You see whistles blew at 7.30am, zero hour. Whistles blew and they said 'go on, over the top, over the top' and of course we got up the short scaling ladders we had...." and it's like he's never been away. I'd never heard the recording before, and didn't really know anything of Peter and his project, and then there's tear's filling my eyes, and he describes being shot and trying to crawl to safety, and he pauses and says "am I boring you?" And I can see his eyes twinkling as he teases the interviewer and I've gone to pieces. Then it stops and Emma says "And now a few words from one of Walter's grandsons..."

I'm not often lost for words, but that was tough. Everything I was going to say seemed irrelevant, so I said some other things, about how only 110 of his regiment got back  out of 650, and he wasn't one, how he lay in no-man's land for days before being found by some stretcher bearers, how the ambulance driver who took him to hospital was a Quaker who couldn't abide swearing so they didn't swear, and how you can never know what someone who has gone would want, but that this is what he would want, for the story to be told, and how he inscribed my brother's copy of Middlebrook's book with that well known quote from the philosopher George Santayana "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" and how we all loved him as did anyone who met him. And a load of other stuff too.

Apparently I went on for more than 10 minutes. Normally I can talk for an allotted time precisely, but having been ambushed by my Grandfather through a recording I'd never heard before I was not completely in control of myself.

And then they presented all the veterans and volunteers with copies of the book (I got one too, but felt a bit of a fraud accepting it). It's a weighty book, over 500 pages. A brilliant job done by the project team

They've put together a website with some of the choicest bits of oral history here.  My grandfather's picture is on the front page. That's him on the left, in 1915 at the age of 22 or 23.

My grandfather's testimony about the first day on the Somme that reduced me to tears is here.

The book is available for £10 from libraries in West Sussex, which is a ludicrously cheap price for something with so much information and work in it. They weren't sure about postal sales, but if you contact West Sussex Library Services through this link I'm sure they can sort it out for you. They've only got 400 copies spare, so don't hang about.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Khmer Khollection Khomplete

My DBA army for the Khmer Empire (III/23) is now finished. I used Irregular Miniature figures, and purchased all the options, because I'm like that. And who wouldn't want Maiden Guard and Cavalry or a bolt shooter on an elephant or men waving what looks like a garden hoe.


First off we have an Elephant with a General on it (Irregular Miniatures V36). Whilst we have good information of the physical look of the medieval Khmer Army because of the wall carvings at the various temples I wrote about earlier we don't really have any information on the colours. In the end I based mine on the colours worn in traditional Cambodian ballet performances. Kings are usually depicted in Gold/Yellow. We also have a report that one of the Khmer kings as encased in metal, so he's got an iron breast plate. Traditionally only Khmer Royalty could carry a White Umbrella, so that rounded him off.

Alas on my figure the umbrella pole broke off during cleaning, so I had to drill out a hole and insert some wire. Probably for the best any way.


Next we have an Elephant (El) element (Irregular Miniatures V37). As the Khmer army reportedly based its tactics on a solid mass on elephants drawn up in the middle of the army, only having two in the army (this one plus the General) is less than generous. The overall colour theme for the army is red as, again, soldiers in Cambodian ballets seemed to be dressed in red. The King's trusted councillor is often in Green, so command type figures in the army are in green, like the chap on this elephant.


The army allows you to have a bolt-shooter (Art), and as the carvings at Angkor have one on an elephant (Irregular Miniatures V38) it would be rude not to have one.


At least in that way it looks like you are fielding 3 elephants.


The main body of the infantry are spearmen with long shields (4Ax). These are Irregular Miniatures V38, plus V49, V50 & V51 making a command stand. These are mainly in red, with a green officer but wearing plain linen loin cloths. There's really nothing on Khmer heraldry but they did seem to use flower like symbols, so my army has interlocking figures of eight to give that impression on shields and such like, or clusters of 4 dots on clothing. By  the way I don't see why these would be classified as Auxilia (Ax) and not Spears (Sp). I've read the same sources as the list designer and looked at the same pictures and they look like formed foot to me.



These are Ph'kak men (3Bd), Khmer warriors armed with the traditional axe like implement (Irregular Miniatures V47). As you can see in the one code Ian Kay of Irregular gives a variety of poses and clothing. This is an odd looking weapon and it is hard to see how it would be of much use in any walk of life. Not sure why these are Bd and not Wb.


These are one incarnation of the Maiden Guard (4Ax). I don't recall much evidence for these in the carvings we saw (Irregular Miniatures V45). The army list desciption says that they were armed with ph'kaks but not a lot of evidence about. The ph'kak may well have been ceremonial rather than practical.


For the two bases of crossbow armed psiloi (Irregular Miniatures V52) I departed from the red colour scheme and went sort of blue. Watching Cambodian folk dancing as opposed to traditional ballet the men usually wear blue, although a deeper shade than this one, so I thought that would do for irregular type foot.


These are "archers with pavises" (4Bw) in the army list, but as you can see I didn't bother with the pavises as the figure (Irregular Miniatures V48) doesn't come with one. Don't know why the list insists on the pavise as it comes from one single carving and there are more pictures of them without.


There'll be more of these fellows in my next army as they are Thai (Siamese) mercenaries (3Wb). I can't see me ever using them as they're in the queue behind the elephant bolt thrower and the Maiden Guard. These figures are Irregular Miniatures V55 - "Thai Spearman" although the castings have swords not spears, mostly.


These are the compulsory cavalry unit (Cv). I have a problem with this in the army as the jury is definitely out as to whether the reliefs show cavalry units or command staff. They don't seem to show units, and the Khmer had many elephants and few horses, which had to be imported from India. This group are mounted on "Dragon" horses and also have a "standard bearer", who has a parasol. (Irregular Miniatures V39 and V40). The evidence for Dragon Horses in Khmer armies is pretty thin as well, but having once been mentioned it becomes something "every wargamer knows", so they're accepted. Personally I think these should be an optional element, allowing the way for another elephant. I painted them in green tunics to indicate their officer status.


Finally we have the mounted version of the Maiden Guard (Cv). The evidence for these as a unit is even weaker, but hey-ho, that's what you've got (Irregular Miniatures V41 and V42)


For reasons beyond my comprehension these fellows got missed from the original photo shoot. They are "small shield spearmen" (3Ax). They are wearing the curious tubular armour you see on the carvings, held in place it seems by cords or ropes. I have chosen to paint the armour as buffalo leather, and the helmets likewise, as I think the accounts such as we have point to the King's metal armour being quite a thing, so not likely to be seen elsewhere (Irregular Miniatures V44).


Finally here's all the chaps (and chapesses) all lined up together, with my mini Angkor Wat in the background.

I think it's a nice looking army, and my painting and photos haven't really done justice to it. As indicated above I have an issue with the army list, which I think should look more like this:

1 x General (El)
2 x Elephant (El)
4 x Long shield spear (Sp)
1 x Small shield spearmen (3Ax) or Ph'kak men (3Bd)
1 x Archers (4 Bw)
2 x Archers/Cross bows (Ps)
1 x Bolt shooter (Art) or Cavalry (Cv)  or Maiden Guard (4Sp or Cv) or Thais (3Wb)

Given longer time to thing I might change it even more.

BTW I see that the DBA list covers both Khmer & Cham (the Muslim rules of the Vietnam area of the time). I can't see why that is the case. They each deserve to be treated separately and the Cham as depicted on the reliefs are distinct, - mainly from their helmets/head pieces which look like they are made from overlapping scales. These are ubiquitous, and aren't worn by the Khmer. This means you can't use the same figures for both armies. Reading the description in the army list and having possession of all the quoted references, I feel that this list and the statements about it are pushing our knowledge to the boundaries.

Anyway, on now to the Siamese,  who sit undercoated on my painting desk.

It's Raid!-ing Again

I had Shedquarters newbie Gary over for a game or two on Thursday. We had resolved to play SPI's "Raid!" as Gary likes SPI games, and I transposed it into a toy soldier game, because I like them.

WE played a couple of the simple scenarios to get a hang of the rules.


First of was "Raid on Entebbe". This is a two turn game where 6 Israeli fire teams try to destroy 3 Ugandan equivalents. It's fast and furious and not as dumb as it sounds.

The Ugandans are in the airport buildings, the Israelis out on the runway. I assume as this is classified as "Medium" terrain that there are supposed to be aircraft and such like on it. I just put out my black Mercedes Dictator car for show. If memory serves the Israelis took one with them on the raid to dupe the defenders into thinking Idi Amin was paying a visit.

I was the Ugandans and got first fire, which was lucky, and suppressed two bases in the middle of the runway (red markers) and hit one base on the right hand end (white ring, - and also a suppression marker). Suppression prevents movement and gives a negative modifier on fire.


Gary returned fire with his suppressed units, hitting one of my bases (it may have been two, - one out of shot at the other end) and then close assaulted my left.  After a few rounds of fighting my base had been eliminated, leaving the Israelis in possession of the left hand end of my line.


I can't quite get the sequence here (pathetic, I know, for a two turn game) but I was able to use opportunity fire on the group attacking the control tower and kill it. Either that or I did for him in close assault. Probably the latter.


In turn two the two Israeli units from the left hand end then stormed into the next square of buildings, and did for the defenders. They had earlier managed to shoot at and suppress one of the bases on the runway.


The bases in the middle had shot in support of the central close assault and so couldn't fire at the control tower. This had greatly helped the central assault, but condemned the group attacking he tower to being gunned down on the runway as they charged the building.

Win for the Ugandans. Then we swapped over to see how we would do with the other side each.


Gary spread his opening fire fairly thinly, so I was able to close assault in turn one, after a solid round of suppressive fire from the units he had hit but not killed. This meant I was mostly going into action with an advantage for the first round of combat. I had wins at the left and right hand ends, and took a beating in the middle.


Not a problem as I then rolled him up in turn two, having comprehensively shot up the defenders. Solid win for the Israelis.

We realised we weren't quite playing the firing correctly. The Israelis are armed with "Auto" weapons, and the Ugandans with "Semi", so have a CRT* shift advantage, as well as a DRM**. We also came across one of those stupid situations where a base can't do any more damage but the enemy has to get a 6 to kill it. In theory hand to hand like that could go on forever. I'm not sure you should ever be in a position where you can't do any damage at all. In practical terms we were talking about one individual firing at very close range at a group of three people in a building and completely unable to kill any one at all. Doesn't feel quite right for a tactical game.

Anyway, having mastered the basic scenario (we thought) we moved onto something more complicated, - the raid on the Son Tay camp by US forces to free prisoners from the Vietnamese.


The US force of 6 fire teams and one platoon commander are delivered by four transports, supported by one gunship. The Vietnamese have 12 fire teams but no command. The US forces have to break into the compound, free any prisoners there***, kill all the defenders then escape having only lost the equivalent of one fire team.

I started by attacking the compound buildings with my helicopter gunship rockets.


My forces then landed, - bottom left, top right and top left. The black markers are demolition charges for the walls. As the Vietnamese have no command structure they can't fire in the direct fire phase. They also aren't allowed opportunity fire in the first couple of turns. That's pretty good for the US forces, but the killer is they are allowed overwatch fire. Consequently the moment the US forces open fire they get absolutely swamped with small arms fire.


I blew in the wall of the compound, and attempted to shoot my way in. However the returning overwatch fire wiped out the groups outside the base. By this point I had lost more than four men (ie one fire base) and the best I could hope for was a draw. I fought my way into the compound and did a lot of damage, but eventually everyone ended up dead.

We reset and played again. I swapped my tactics slightly, making better use of the gunship and not firing until I really had to and only close assaulting after the gunship had softened up the target. Alas the gunships only get three rounds of HMG fire and two rocket attacks. Still got beat.

It was when we were tidying up that Gary noticed we'd been playing the HMGs from the gunship wrong. They actually hit three squares/hexes in a row, not just one. That means that if you line it up right, and don't do anything with the infantry for the first three turns you can take out 9 defending fire teams with the gunship as you are guaranteed to destroy a base per shot. The rockets them can badly damage another two. That takes 5 moves of time, so you probably need to be fighting your way in as well as you have only 7 turns to blow in the compound wall, search it and then exit. It's a tight scenario as the Vietnamese only need to be lucky once or twice and you've taken 4 hits. I may replay it solo.

Although this isn't the most complicated tactical game - the rules are shorter than PBI, IABSM and Crossfire - they are quite involved and it is easy to forget stuff as I have in all the games I've played. Clearly repeated playings are needed to learn the game, but I think Gary is less inclined to do this than he was previously. He prefers strategic/operational games, and I'm good to go with those on my gaming outings with him, as I can get enough tactical stuff from my local group.

There are quite good things in the game. I like the simple command and control system and the way that units out of command can only react through opportunity/overwatch fire. The single CRT with simple modifiers is handy, but in the end there isn't enough variation. When things are most favourable you can't miss, and when things are bad you can't hit. It is also odd that when firing into a zone you can completely wipe out one base in the square/hex, but the others are unaffected, - not suppressed or pinned at all. And the close assault system rolling to see who hits first in each round of combat is nearly unworkable at times.

Other thoughts? Well, it transferred okay as a figure game, and possibly if I had Hexon tiles I'd look at it more. My squares were a little tight once I'd popped terrain on them. It looked good, however. Helicopters on wine glasses is always a winning combination. And the scenarios are interesting. I think I might revisit them for games with PBI or perhaps even an "AK47 Republic" variant.

But it has certainly made me wonder even more why our group has never developed our own rules for such games.

* CRT - Combat Resolution Table
** DRM - Die Roll Modifier
*** There aren't any

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

My local model shop

I was in need of some grey paint and some Persians and some paint brushes last week so I toddled off down to my local model shop.


We're very lucky in Northampton (not something one often finds one's self saying) in that we have a proper, traditional, model shop. Very originally it is called "The Model Shop" and it is in the Wellingborough Road. It has been there as long as I've lived in Northampton, - over 30 years now - and according to their website, even longer. The chaps who run it are unchanged from when I first went in there, although admittedly greyer of hair.


The window display is always fun, as you never know what they'll have tucked away in there. As you can tell they're mainly in to model railways and remote controlled aircraft, but their general plastic kit selection is pretty awesome for a high street shop.


They're not too shabby on the plastic soldier front, either. They've always had a good spread of Hat figures (who buys these locally? Apart from me, I mean) and when Zvezda were really active in the 1/72nd market were good for those too. This display got me into ancient wargaming in the 1990s, when I went in there and stumbled upon the Hat Republican Roman and Carthaginian figures, followed shortly by the Macedonian and Persian ranges. If they hadn't stocked them I'd probably never have known and a lot of my wargamiong history would be different.

Needless to say they also have a good stock of acrylic paints (Tamiya) and the likes of copper tubing, balsa wood and so on.

So, in summary, it's great and long may it continue as it enters its 80th year of continuous operation. They do mail order, but alas most of the wargaming products aren't in the on-line shop.

Anyhow, if you're in the area you should pop in and support it, because it's great.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

PBI in the desert

After we'd had a go at Paraitacene we turned our attention to the Vichy French holdings in North Africa. Phil had brought along his tiles and hills and I provided the white buildings and most of the palm trees.

This was a PBI scenario aimed at getting Phil's rather tasty Vichy FFL and Italian Desert Forces (newly bolstered by some Bring & Buy purchases at Campaign) onto the table. I got the French, Richard got some German paratroops and the Italians.

The central aim of the game was to capture the broken down Tiger tank in the middle of the board.


I came on, mostly, from the left hand edge, but I had some armoured cars who also turned up from the right hand corner. I also had some Arab partisans, hiding out in the black limo (see below). Quite by chance I put this in the area which ended up being the most heavily defended. What I really wanted to do was shoot up the defenders, then have the Arabs pounce from the neighbouring square. As it was I opened up on a square that had both mine and Richard's forces in it, and inevitably killed one of my own. To make it even worse, of course, it turned out to be their leader.


I was able to get some of my FFL into the buildings on the left, then the Arabs leaped out of the car and started to hack at the defenders....


....some of whom fell in pools of blood. Having wiped out the defenders, you'll be pleased to know I failed the morale test the next turn and had to withdraw from the square.


My armoured cars then pulled up and blazed away ineffectually at a truck with an autocannon on the back. Failing to knock it out or kill the crew turned out to be unfortunate.


Talking of being unfortunate my airstrike ended up shooting up empty squares as well. Curses.


I did get some reinforcements on (that cursed PBI reinforcement mechanism that ensures you can bring many toys to the table but you can't get them on) and they're jolly nice AA guns in trucks. All of my other stuff stayed resolutely off the table edge.


Richard got some reinforcements on too, up in the top left hand corner. I had a run of those dice rolls when you end up motivating troops with 1AP or not motivating at all, and them achieving lots of hits which are them saved (or in my case, not saved). I think that the PBI motivation system which piles disappointment upon disappointment can be a trifle wearing sometimes.


As it was the lack of APs on my side and an abundance on Richard's lead to my main forces getting caught in the open and shot up quite badly. By now it was getting late, and Richard needed to leave for the West Country. In any event, I think I had been comprehensively stuffed, and it was just a case of playing out the end game from here. Phil's more detailed report with more pictures can be found here.

I continue to have a love/hate relationship with PBI. It winds me up something rotten from time to time, and whilst it isn't broken the Motivate/Activate sequence is now a bit much. I'm inclined to prefer a command radius type of Motivation approach and then use average dice for APs. On the other hand I haven't seen anything I prefer to it. PBIs zonal system has a lot going for it, for a start.

The low level modern (say 1930 -45) game is one area where we/I play games and we/I have never gone as far as writing our own rules. Perhaps once I'm through the current projects I'll take a look.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Basic Errors

So, time for another of our quarterly gatherings, with Richard Lockwood, the organiser of the SoA's battle day coming up to visit us in Northamptonshire.

This gave me another chance to have a go at Paraitacene with Basic Impetus, as it is the battle for next year. Richard described the battle as "an open goal" for ancient rule sets. It is a straight classical period line up with all the expected troop types and no complicated terrain or surprises. What this means is, if your rules can't do this battle satisfactorily without major surgery then they're not really suitable for ancient warfare.

For this game I abandoned some of Phil Sabin's analysis and broadly had one unit of horse per 1,000 and one unit of infantry for 2,000 men. The elephants were more problematic, but basically I had one unit per 30 beasts. It is a moot point as to whether a unit of 30 elephants is the equivalent of 1,000 horse or 2,000 foot. Possibly not, as the game showed.

I also re-evaluated some of Sabin's and my previous classifications. One change I did make that is significant is the changing of two units of hoplites into peltasts to cover the Antigonid phalanx.

The main consequence of these changes was to require a longer table as we had more units on the board. I also felt we needed a bit more room to manoeuvre as well.


For this game Phil swapped sides and ran the Antigonids. I was hoping to have four of us, but a late drop out meant two players and one umpire. This may have had an effect on how quickly the game played.


As with the previous game the Antigonids sent their light horse out wide, drawing Eumenes out to cover the envelopment. Richard as Eumenes also sent his elephants left and right to support the cavalry on the wings.This is clearly saying he doesn't like the historical deployment as he thinks they're in the wrong place. This is an issue for refights unless you take Sabin's position and allow a completely free troop deployment. That's fine as far as it goes, but really means you aren't actually refighting the chosen battle, just using the armies for a "pick up" game.


Some of Phil's skirmishers make a brave attempt to stop Richard's elephants getting at his cavalry.


Soon the whole of that Antigonid right flank is a whirling mass of cavalry and elephants. This all takes a long time to resolve in game terms, and the speed of resolution may be an issue for the game itself.


Centrally the Antigonid phalanx starts to close down the centre. The peltasts are doing a good job of scaring off the elephants. They will eventually do great things.


Out on the right there's so little room to move about that the elephants are able to hunt down some cavalry. Both armies are trying to manufacture a position where they can get at the flank of each other's phalanx.


The two phalanxes steadily closed the ground between them. An impressive sight.


On the Eumenid right the heavy and light horse continue to dance round each other. The relative ineffectiveness of mounted bowmen is an issue. With only a VBU of 3, reduced to 2 because they're moving and halved because they're shooting to the side, leaving the need to roll a 6 for a hit they're scarcely the problem that Eumenes had to deal with*.


It's starting to get a bit tasty in the middle, with an elephant sandwich in prospect (!). The peltasts start to shower the Hypaspists with javelins.


The far end of the table is getting a bit crowded and a bit messy. Lots of attritional type action that doesn't look a lot like classical period combat.


The peltasts finally get in close with the Eumenid elite Silver Shields and Hypaspists.


This doesn't turn out as expected. Due to some outrageous luck in the Cohesion test, a unit each of Hypaspists and Silver Shields recoil from the peltasts' ferocious onslaught. At the end of the line the other unit of Silver Shields and their peltast opponents stay locked in combat.


The Eumenid phalanx has really started to fall apart here, with the right hand end falling away due to the shock outcome with the Silver Shields and Hypaspists. And the left hand end is having issues with some of its own elephants getting in the way.


The phalanxes finally closed (we can't push them completely together due to the levelled pikes). Phil is also taking measures to guard his left flank, by turning one of his pike units as a flank guard. In the middle we started to have issues with the BI rule that requires all units to be offset and not lined up (this is a rules issue that also came up in Armati 2 and caused a lot of heart ache). This rule assumes that units of opposite sides can never match exactly (unlike DBA where it is compulsory) and that it should always be possible to fight 2 :1 on a front face of a unit. I suppose in theory this is fine, but the random sideways shift causes an issue when you have a group of units like a phalanx and some units don't make contact in the first turn. It is then possible for their comrades to be shunted sideways in front of them, blocking their charge path. This looks wrong and really, honestly, this rule is a bit pointless and awfully gamey.


There's been a bit of carnage in the middle with some of the deep units no longer being deep because the rear unit has been broken. We had some discussion about whether the "Units in Depth" rule makes sense. It does feel a bit odd, fighting with the front and taking casualties off the back but I think it works. Phil, who is much more ancient savvy than I am, is not convinced (to put it mildly) and Richard is bit more philosophical about it.


Eumenes has finally seen off the light horse archers on his right, by chasing them off the board. Further up the table the Silver Shields have finally sorted out the peltasts and are about to get back in the game.


The Silver Shields are lining up the end of the phalanx and are preparing to give them what for. That flank guard is looking essential as the elephants have broken free of the cavalry haunting them.


And this is about how it looked when we decided to pack up. The Antigonid army had lost 21 of 51 army points, and the Eumenid 13 of 50, so a win for Eumenes, but not by much. We'd had three-four hours of game play out of it at least.

The game provoked a lot of discussion as I was packing away and over dinner and subsequently. The question of whether BI handled this battle well troubled all of us and we had a few specific problems, some of which have already been alluded to.** We also had some clarification questions that I have since mostly found answers to on the official BI forum.

We had the devil's own job trying to get the flanks resolved before the phalanxes hit. Flank resolution is a feature of classical Greek/Macedonian/Successor warfare. It can look like it is all going to clear up quickly, then you end up with two cavalry units on VBUs of 2 hacking at each other looking for a 6 that never comes to resolve it all. The inability for faster units, such as Light Cavalry, to break off from combat against any troop type is clearly an oversight.

Other issues we ruminated over, in no particular order, were:

Disorder: This is a really important mechanism but its main effect is to slow the game down as you have to halt to clear it or lose your Impetus eventually. This can have really significant effects on a phalanx, where one lucky shot at the ends unit stops the entire beast moving forwards.

LC Shooting: I've already touched on this. LC, and also Skirmishers, can end up with no dice to roll when shooting, even at close range. This doesn't look or feel right. What's more it is quite hard for them to dart in, shoot, and retire out of range in a controlled fashion (you can do this in AMW, which is a much cruder set of rules, so no excuse really). Especially when you bear in mind you can't break off from melee if you get caught by a charge (also see "Evading" below).

Elephants: Much too powerful. They aren't significant at this battle, but they have to be there. Even a single unit is a frightening prospect and I can't help but thinking that they are inaccurately portrayed. Having said that most ancient rules don't do elephants well, - a legacy perhaps of Tony Bath's love and use of the animals. I'm thinking of creating a hybrid Light Infantry/Elephant Unit type not in the army lists to deal with this.

Evading: Why can units only evade if charged from directly in front?

Offset Rule: I've talked about this above, so I'll move on.

Interpenetration: The interpenetration rules can have some odd outcomes, - forcing interpenetrated units to move forwards, for example.

Depth units: We have some need to clarify how these work. It looks like you do the Cohesion Test against the front unit, then take the hits off the rear unit with residual hits coming off the front unit. Say you have two pike units with VBUs of 4, and the rear unit is reduced to 3. If the unit takes 6 hits, it is testing against -2 (4-6=-2). A "1" is an autopass, but if a 6 is rolled, it looks like you take 8 permanent hits, which is enough to break both units.

About face/Wheeling: Units, particularly light units (not skirmishers), are quite clunky to move about. The restriction that prevents wheeling and moving without picking up disorder is a bit odd for light and all mounted units. I'm prepared to accept it for heavy, densely packed, infantry but otherwise it isn't giving the right answer.

Infantry Movement Speeds: Heavy and Light infantry move at the same speed. Yes. Peltasts and phalangites move at the same speed. On what planet is that right?

Phil has other concerns as well, - he also thinks the evade rule should be changed more than I do. Whilst that might be better the BI rule works okay if we remember to apply it properly, The same could be said for the retreat & pursuit rules which I didn't get absolutely correct (and the Initiative system which would have been better using the BI Big Game rules).

My concern is this. BI in it's current form isn't modelling this battle as well as I would like, bearing in mind it is "an open goal". This means I have a choice. I can put the game on "as is" and point out in detail in the Slingshot write up where all the problems lie. Or I could produce some scenario specific rules. Or I could take a knife to the rules and perform some surgery. However my concern would then be that at some point it ceases to be BI.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to do. And I've gone and bought extra figures too.


* Phil remarked after the game: "I am not sure any ancient authors say something like ... 'the Medes did no casualties because they tried shooting while moving which their horsemen find difficult'"
** It is possible our concerns are addressed in the full Impetus rules, but BI is sold as a standalone set now, so I feel justified in asking these questions.