Thursday, 30 May 2019

Check Out My Junk

Oh God I've done it again!

Apologies to all those folks in "Murrica" who clicked on the site hoping to see something else entirely. I had no idea that "junk" had that meaning over there. 

Anywhoo… since I'm currently in the old country (at TCMB's insistence) making my once every two years pilgrimage to visit folks who would be happier seeing me for 10 mins on Skype I thought I'd chuck in this blatant filler post in an effort to make it look like the blog was still alive.

Having done some "old skool" scratch building I managed to finish off the Dim sum before the two hour drive to Limoges airport and grabbed this piccie before I left.

Not my finest work - but for a lump of milliput and a bit of plastic card I think she'll do.

This is her ship data card - the same model will probably have several differing profiles and names

The data card is designed to do away with the majority of the games damage counters and once laminated a paperclip can be slipped over the icons on the left to indicate (from top to bottom)…

1) Holed below the waterline, which makes her sluggish to manoeuvre and prone to sinking.

2) Captain hit and taken below decks, which amongst other things reduces the chance of the ship doing what you'd like it to do.

3) Rigging and sails damage which reduces a vessels potential speed.

4) Fire, which has a cumulative effect and must be put out before any other actions can be taken by the ship.

5) Rudder hit. This affects the vessels turn rate and it is able to take two such hits before being unable to steer at all.

Along the bottom are its special abilities. 

1) Lateen rigging means the sails are aligned fore and aft in order to better catch the off shore breeze when sailing along coastlines.

2) Intimidating means that the crew are known to come from a fierce martial culture and gain an advantage because of this during any boarding actions.

3) Yare means the vessel is capable of changing heading twice during its turn.

4) Derring - do. The crew are naturally enthusiastic boarders who initially nullify any boarder resistant advantages their target vessel may posses.

5) Reinforced hull, reflects the Chinese practise of building their vessels with internal water tight compartments and in this case aged timbers more resistant to damage caused by collisions.

It'll be back to the ECW campaign next week…I promise!


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

And Now For Something Completely Different

Having started all this as a one off blogging experiment covering a single ECW campaign I was at a bit of a loss after it prematurely finished. Instead of doing the decent thing and folding the project I ended up stretching the whole thing out with stories about France, 17th century swear words, and, as a sign of increasing desperation, yet another ECW campaign.

Now I love the ECW, don't get me wrong, but I can't help thinking that a change of pace and subject might help freshen things up a bit. So with that said I thought we'd take to the briny from time to time using my recently acquired Peter Pig 1:450 scale ships. Given my fixation with the 17th century I shall try to run a small secondary naval campaign alongside the ECW one, set during the first Anglo Dutch naval war - but way out in the East Indies rather than in the more obvious European theatre.

You see while the British had been busy punching themselves in the nuts for ten years during the civil war the crafty Dutch had managed to create the largest mercantile fleet in the world and were busy coining in the gelders.  They'd also created an entirely new concept - that of the corporation state, a business entity with quasi governmental powers, able to wage war on its own terms, strike its own deals and execute prisoners, which they called the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC for short. Founded in 1602, at the height of its powers it had a net worth comparable with a modern day amalgamation of Amazon and Google, so as you can see, it was big business.

Having taken over, (through direct conquest), most of the Spanish and Portuguese bases in the Indies the VOC had quickly established a virtual monopoly on the then highly profitable spice and rare asiatic commodities market. The English East India Company established at broadly the same time, but with a totally different business model, could only look on in wonder.

Due to the far flung nature of their various enterprises it was not uncommon for both companies to share port facilities but friction between the two was never far from the surface and the memory of the Ambon massacre, in which English seamen were executed by the Dutch on trumped up charges could always be relied on to stir the pot.

Coming back to Europe for a mo, the Lord Protector of the Three Kingdoms was not entirely chuffed at  all this Dutch success and in 1652 one of his admirals managed to provoke a naval conflict with a Dutch fleet passing through the English Channel who'd stupidly failed to lower their flags quickly enough (in tribute to the Lords of the sea as English maritime law of the time required).

Given their semi independent nature, the subsequent conflict does not seem to have spread to the Indies, with both parties seemingly reluctant to follow their governments lead, but for the purposes of my campaign I'm going to posit that the English East India Company has issued a Letter of Marque to several independent (and non attributable) privateers with the express purpose of seizing VOC goods and shipping - a not uncommon wider world practise and well within their legal power.

Now then, I think in my very first post on this blog I confessed that I was something of a "method" war gamer, intent on experiencing (through re enactment) the everyday travails of the tiny little chaps I spent so much time pushing around on a gaming board. Regrettably, 5 years ago I moved from a village near a failed carpet town in the middle of the UK to a village near a failed carpet town in the middle of France, neither location being ideal if one wishes to experience the rigours of a life at sea.

Beset by such geographical restrictions I have pressed on as best as I can in the hopes that eating several stale rich tea biscuits (sadly couldn't find any with maggots in them), drinking half a pint of rum and sitting through four episodes of Hornblower would some how get me there. The best I can report from the experience is that the rum helped dull the pain of Hornblower and no doubt was responsible for the hour I spent attempting to fashion a Captain Hook style hand replacement out of an old coat hanger.

Anywhoo… having warbled on as usual, here's a few crappy pictures to whet (wet - did you see what I did there?) your appetite. Serious naval types - please look away now, because I'm sorry, Langton's they aint.

A Sloop, Schooner and a Brigantine (as defined by Peter Pig) with a 6mm pikeman to give a scale comparison.

A Dutch Fluyt, a medium generic Merchantman, Frigate and East Indiaman / Man O War.

The same bunch from the back (sorry still getting the hang of this…the stern)

Being pre Napoleonic the ships have yet to adopt the checkerboard patterns and national colour affiliations you'd expect from that later period and all are based on clear acrylic bases since I now have a lovely sea cloth to play on (whose patterns would be very hard to replicate with a paint job - and which shows nicely through the clear acrylic). Now of course being set out in the Indies I'm going to need a fair selection of non European shipping and as far as I can see there are only two manufacturers of the very common Junk, i.e. Navwar and Grumpy (neither in exactly the correct scale by the way). If I'm going to buy product from Grumpy's (based in Australia?) the cost of postage to France would make it cheaper to actually purchase a real Junk and as for Navwar… jeez its 2019 guys, is it too much to ask for a fecking picture of the product and an electronic method of payment? Waddya want me to do... send a ruddy five bob note or a postal order for something I cannot even see?!

Necessity being the mother of invention and armed only with some miliput and a a bit of stretched sprue I've started making my own. Behold the "Dim Sum" in an early stage of construction.

Junk rigged sails and a canvas cover from the main cabin still to be added - but you can see how it'll shape up.

Now as to rules - I've tried a number of them out and the later Napoleonic ones all seem to revolve around sailing in long lines, firing broadsides and ticking off boxes as damage accrues. I'd kind of  given up on the subject until I stumbled across Kaptain Kobold's blog where he was merrily playing something called Galley's and Galleons and apparently having great fun.

Intrigued, I purchased a copy from Ganesha Games and immediately fell in love with the game engine which adds a level of risk (and a frisson of tension) into every decision you make. Now there were counters involved as well as three dice for each ship, and since you know I've no great love of table clutter I've managed to reduce the counters to three (a grappling hook for boarding actions, a reefed sail for reducing speed and an anchor - for well…when they're anchored.

The ship dice and all other pertinent information are contained on a small off board card like this:

A ship data card
I have produced several different ship data cards for each ship type which is why the models themselves are not named. I'll explain the card in more detail at a later date but suffice it to say that they've been laminated and a paperclip is slipped onto the left hand edge (to show what's actually been damaged) when a critical hit is scored.

Just need to create some islands, a few more Junk's and a selection of reef  / shallows and I can kick the whole shebang off.


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Sparky Malarkey And The Great Cat Caper

I think it's fair to say I'm not really a people person. In truth The Current Mrs Broom has been my main interface with the world for the last 35 years, my social KY jelly if you like. If "we" have made any friends out here, or indeed anywhere for that matter its been through her efforts and her efforts alone. So it was TCMB that met and naturally befriended the only Japanese women within hundreds of kilometres and more importantly for this story, her husband Lionel (pronounced Lee oh nell. NB. To make it sound totally authentic you have to say it through your nose while adopting the expression of a man making love to a beautiful woman), the Gendarme whose patch we now lived in. How a provincial policeman met and married the concert pianist daughter of a very wealthy Tokyo couple is a story for another day but for the purposes of this pile of nonsense we'd best leave it be for now.

About a month ago or so ago TCMB came back from shopping in a great flap because just outside of the village she'd passed a gathering of the Klu Klux Klan. Knowing how I felt about Illinois nazis (sorry that was a gratuitous Blues Brothers joke) she naturally expected me to go and chase the feckers off or do something manly with a rifle (until I actually went to go and do something manly with a rifle of course at which point she'd be all - "leave it Mark its not worth it"…Women eh, pah). 

Anwhoo… while I trotted off to go and have a look see, she got on the blower (apologies to my cousins across the pond - I meant her "cell phone") and called Lee oh nell, (yeah you're nearly there with that).

I arrived at the indicated field to find the bastards practising their disgusting white power rituals and took this picture as the boys in blue turned up.

What's that…bees you say?

I expected a right ticking off for wasting police time but I forgot how bored Lionel and the boys up at Crocq are. Once the explanations had been made and the guns put away we went back to maison broom for a glass or two of Pernod, (or improving community relations as they probably explained it later to their boss).

Now the local Gendarmerie station is no place for a thrusting young go getter like Lionel because to be frank there is no crime out here, and the few incidents that occur always revolve around the same two or three individuals. Hardly taxing on the sleuthing front. From what I gather it's a bit like getting assignments in the British Army. The organisation finds out what you are good at then gives you a job role that doesn't include any aspect of it.

We were only on our second glass when he asked me if I'd recently seen any cats with blue tails? Now his English is pretty good so I naturally assumed this was some kind of joke that I just wasn't getting. Seeing my confusion he obviously felt obliged to elaborate and he asked me if I knew Agnes at the other end of the village? (Ann yes. Yeah go on, try it).

For any regular readers you'll recall that the lady in question is the white "crusty" with dreadlocks, bad teeth and a heroin complexion who served us a boiled baby's head in a pot she'd found at the local tip. (see my previous post c'est la vie dans la creuse if a refresher is needed). Yeah that one. As it happens our relationship with said "lady" had deteriorated somewhat over the weeks following that sumptuous repast - because she kept knocking the door late at night feigning some kind of emergency.

Now it's bad form to ignore a neighbour having an emergency especially when its a small village in the middle of nowhere and you are trying to be a good ambassador for your country, however the details of each emergency never seemed to become clear despite the large quantities of our brandy that she managed to get through. The final nail in the coffin was when she called at 2pm one morning weeping and wailing that my wife's pyjamas were disgusting and demanding that TCMB immediately cut off all of her dreadlocks.

I'm told that the French language only has a third of the words available to us in English and I have to say that I've been very disappointed with their lack of decent swear words. Given such a poor choice I immediately resorted to my mother tongue - where thankfully no such lack of variety exists. Agnes was physically expelled by my good self, despite TCMB's protestations, never to return, amidst, I'm proud to relate, a very inventive torrent of abuse.

To get back on track for a second it transpired that Agnes was one of the two or three individuals in the department the Gendarmerie could always rely on to be behind any mischief and that for a little while  she'd been sticking cats tails in blue paint as a mark of protest. At this point I probably looked as confused as you are so further elaboration and more Pernod was urgently required.

Unbeknown to pretty much everyone, Agnes had one day declared herself queen of all the cats in the village and as a result of this proclamation had decided that they all automatically belonged to her. Even those that didn't.  Now I've no especial problem with that if you are going to feed them, take them to the vet, get them neutered etc, but Agnes's concept of ownership did not apparently encompass such earthly trifles. As a result of the aforementioned proclamation the vast brood of feral moggies that inhabited her house / barn would triple in size two or three times a year then take it in turns to wander off into the hedgerows to die.

It seemed that on this occasion several half starved kittens had escaped the jaws of her underfed dog Jayke and crossed the paddock by the church to a house owned by a normally absent Normandy couple. Fortunately for the kittens their luck was in since the pair, both in their late 80's, had come down to the Creuse for a week and were only too pleased to feed and pet the grateful little things.

Naturally there is no such thing as privacy in a village like ours and when the elderly folks went and added cat food to their basket in the local shop this bit of hot gossip soon found its way to Agnes who was naturally incensed. How dare the pair of old bastards prevent HER cats from starving to death. Being a scary harridan she did the decent thing and went straight round to the old folks house and scared the living shit out of them by screaming through the letter box. Its the French way apparently. Said old folks called the Gendarmerie who came out and calmed things down. If Agnes actually owned the cats, they said, she should identify them with a collar. Not unreasonable I'm sure you'd agree. The cops were pleased. Situation resolved. No paperwork to be filled in. Back to the football on TV.

Now Agnes was not prepared to enslave natures creatures with a coarse symbol of servitude like a collar, but she was prepared to dip the tails of any she could catch in an old pot of blue emulsion by way of an identifier.

All would have been well except that those sodding little cats wouldn't go off and die in the hedgerow like all the rest and kept coming back to the elderly couple who could do little but continue to feed them, an elderly couple who did their darnedest to scrub off the paint the little darlings both seemed to have somehow got on their tails.

Agnes apparently took this abjuration of her clearly defined ownership quite badly.

A morning or two after the cat cleaning was discovered the poor old dears woke to find "VOLEUR!" daubed in blue emulsion on their front door and "LARCIN PETASSES" with a big arrow pointing to their house scrawled on the road in capital letters. (I'll let you do the google translation for yourselves).

When the Gendarmerie eventually arrived Agnes protested her innocence until they made her follow the drips of blue paint from her shed all the way back down the road to the old couples house. The coppers conferred. Although they'd enjoyed the bit of sleuthing that following the paint trail had entailed there would be a lot of paperwork to be completed, way too much for their liking. They gave Agnes a stiff brush a bucket of water and a choice - scrub it all off under their supervision or spend a couple of days in jail while the matter was resolved at their leisure. Given her need to daily tend the weed plantation she'd been cultivating around the back of the church there was no way she could afford to be in jail - so the brush was accepted and the scrubbing began.

The Gendarmes were once again pleased. Problem solved. No paperwork. Rapid return to the TV in the Gendarmerie.

I don't know if the authorities reluctance to arrest Agnes contributed to the next story but I'm pretty sure it emboldened her in some small way.

Some time later the the village woke up to a new mayor. Apparently it can happen from time to time when the local farmers decide the old one hasn't organised enough euro agri grants. With that said someone had obviously ballsed up here because this one was a reformer. This one had decided from the off that the village needed bringing into the 20th century (even though we were now in the 21st) this one had decided the village needed…street lighting!

Tractors made out of hay bales. Interesting art form or cunning way of securing more euro subsidies? You decide.

A tiny note was put up in the Mayors office window advertising his intent and Msr Perrier, for tis he, called up his mates in the public works to get things moving. Unfortunately for his mayoriness Maude who lives opposite noticed the note and pretty soon everyone lodged a complaint. The Creusois are peasants first and foremost and the increase in their tax de habitation to pay for such an inessential extravagance was bitterly resented. No one goes out at night in La Mazierre Aux Bons Hommes for the simple reason that there is nowhere for them to go. Why would they possibly need street lighting? The last time there'd been any light at night in the village was when they'd burned down the monastery in 1368.

The mayors plans called for two lights, one at the top of the village and one at the bottom and although the honour of France was clearly at stake (which usually trumps everything) he called a meeting with all those in the village who felt they had an opinion on the matter. The meeting did not go well. Passions were inflamed, angry words were spoken and fists apparently shaken. The mayor made a careful note of all those who made the most fuss.

After this failed exercise in consultative democracy the work unsurprisingly began, as it had undoubtedly always been destined to. Surprisingly there were now five lights rather than two and three of them were placed right outside the bedroom windows of those who'd been the most vocal in their protests. I'm sure you'll not be surprised to learn that Agnes was one of them.

Perhaps convinced that the laxity of the boys in blue meant she was untouchable she spent around a week shooting out the bulb in the light next to her house with her sons pellet gun, only for it to be replaced everyday by a little man with a ladder (and I'd like to think a Gaulois hanging disdainfully from his bottom lip). The mayor showed no sign of running out of bulbs but Agnes was clearly running out of patience and in her own special way she chose to "up the ante". Jimmying open the electricity transformer box thingy one night (sorry I'm no expert) she doused its interior with petrol and subsequently flicked in a lit match. The village was once more enclosed in the soft embrace of darkness…well apart from the flashing blue lights of the Gendarmerie paddy wagon that turned up to take her away that is.

Agnes wasn't detained for too long - since they couldn't find any actual evidence other than her own open and consistent admission that she did it, the lights were back on within a week, and soon everything returned to its usual sleepy normal. The real victim here of course went unnoticed, its death unremarked. I'm told that was the weed plantation shrivelled and died within days of her detention.


Sunday, 12 May 2019

The Battle of Bromsgrove - Midlands Campaign Operational Phase - Turn 4

I think I learned enough during last weeks FK&P testing to let the outcome of this next battle be considered a valid outcome for the assault on Bromsgrove.

The intercepting Royalist force was scaled down a little to be more reflective of a scratch force assembled in a hurry, and the terrain on the map ended up being changed a tad as well. I continued to avoid using a lot of the chrome like gallant gentlemen and stratagems in order to consolidate on the things I'd picked up previously. While I'm certain these extras will add to the flavour of the game, they're going to have to wait a while until I'm more comfortable with the basics. Here are the amended orders of battle:

Okay then, if you recall the Parliamentarians had sent a marching army westwards across the midlands with the express intention of gaining control of Worcester, the Royalist regional capital. Passing most of the way through "friendly" territory their onward progress was blocked unexpectedly by the tiny garrison of Bromsgrove. Despite the garrison commanders generally cowardly nature (see previous strategic campaign phase), the Parliamentarian's summons to surrender was rejected after news was received that a relief force was close at hand. The Parliamentarians had arrived late in the afternoon and it was nearly dark before their commander Lord Nathaniel Hyde received the garrisons polite refusal to march out unmolested. Having prayed on the matter for a spell he resolved to punish the town for its impertinence at first light.

Deploying his regiments in a line across the heath he summoned his senior officers and while he dined he held an informal council of warre. The overall intention was simple enough. A preliminary bombardment by the artillery would be followed by a general advance across the fields by the foote, protected on either flank by a sufficiency of horse. The town had nothing but chains across the main road for its defence and spies had informed him that the garrison was ill led and very small.

The Parliament initial line up with master gunner Barnabus Pyke and his enormous weapon in the left foreground.

At first light the newly arrived siege cannon "Gog Magog" lobbed a ball high over the town with a thunderous crack, signalling the Parliamentarians intent. The corpulent Lord Humphrey Stokenshaw, Royalist commander of the recently arrived relief force had huffed and puffed his way to the top of All Saints church tower in time to see its crew, a distance off up the Birmingham road, slowly readying it for another shot. Though the visibility was poor and his perspective glass foggy, from his high vantage point he picked out enough of his opponents deployments to set about making plans of his own. Having discerned from a  group of deserters that the enemies ultimate target was Worcester his mission was clear. Protect Bromsgrove for as long as possible but if necessary abandon it and fight a delaying action that would wear down the Parliamentarian's ability to prosecute an attack on the regional capital. As his dishevelled forces mustered in the streets below he sketched out his intended dispositions and handed them to an aide.

Thankfully Stokenshaw had access to Microsoft Office when he was sketching out his deployments. White flags are colonels, orange and blue generals, and the red flags are the force commanders.

Stokenshaw had fought under Count Tilly at White Mountain and noting the numerical weakness of the enemy's cavalry on the Parliamentary right flank resolved to concentrate all his cavalry upon them in a massive left hook. His foote were to take up position behind the hedges of an enclosed field system, across which his opponent would undoubtedly have to advance. The weak spot in his line was the right flank, covered by a raw, pike heavy, regiment of foote with only a unit of dragoons as reserve.

With any luck it would be tempting enough to draw the Parliamentary cavalry opposite across the heath and away from the real point of decision far off to their right.

The Royalist left hook gathers. God there's a lot of clutter on the side of that fridge.

Lord Hyde had been surprised to see a Royalist force march out of the town with drums beating and flags waving in the stiff spring breeze. His own men were of course already mustered but being a gentlemen he ignored Lt General Asquith's urgent demands to be at the enemy before they had fully deployed and comforted himself that since he seemed to have the advantage in numbers he could allow the malignants to comport themselves as they chose. Eventually, the enemy appearing to be ready, he rode over to John Birche's regiment of foote, more or less in the centre of his line and gave the signal to advance.

The Parliamentary Army - Asquith's Brigade in the foreground.

Asquith, who'd been champing at the bit was first off the mark and his three regiments of horse, notionally required to keep pace with the foote, set off a stiff trot getting further and further ahead of the main line as the relative weakness of the Royalist flank ahead became obvious.

Asquith's brigade of horse move swiftly across the heath towards the Royalist right flank while Musgrove's regiment of foote struggle up onto the crest of a small hill.
At the same time the Parliamentary foote reach the hedge line. Webb's horse set up an ambuscade and Monk's troopers (bottom right) wheel around.  At the top right of the picture the two Royalist cavalry brigades gather.

Over on the right hand Parliamentary flank Commissary General Sir Edward Broughton had seen what his master Lord Hyde had not - a growing number of enemy horse filling the heath before him. Hoping to create an ambuscade of sorts he sent the seasoned troopers of Sir Bernard Webb's regiment into their prospective path but bid them hide behind the thick foliage of a small copse until the enemy passed by. As they hurried into position he led the raw but enthusiastic men of Monks' regiment in a wheel to the right.

In the Royalist army Colonel Swain was as equally anxious to get on with it and even before John Sefton's brigade had finished forming up behind him he led his own two regiments forward. With Swain himself well out in the lead he was the first to clatter between two small copses and observe Webb's regiment trying to form up in the lea of the woodland. Signalling the charge he led the bulk of Rowland Fox's men, who were just behind him, straight into an unexpected melee.

Swain and Fox's boys get unexpectedly stuck in. Webb's horse subsequently failed to save any of the three hits produced by the cards on the right.

The Parliamentary horse fired off a desultory volley but it did not serve to check the pace of the oncoming cavaliers. The Royalists held their fire until they were in the thick of the fray and the shock of discovery, the violence of the assault and a sudden slew of casualties caused Webb's regiment to disintegrate.

This unexpected early success saw the handing over of three of Lord Hyde's seventeen victory medals.

Fox's men surged over the heaps of men and horses, madness in their eyes as they flew off in pursuit of Webb's survivors. George Ogilvy's horse, Colonel Swain's second regiment who'd been following up behind, pulled up sharply at the sound of the encounter unable to discern the outcome of the action through the trees. Also hearing the gunfire and realising that his hanging back might be misinterpreted for cowardice Colonel Sefton finally got his his two regiments moving along in Swains wake.

Ogilvy's horse had drawn a 3 for activation and I was ready to push them on and put the second unengaged Parliamentary horse regiment under pressure when they drew a 2 and failed the follow up activation. Doh!

The Parliamentarian's Master Gunner, one Barnabus Pyke, had watched in horror as Webb's cavalry folded under the sudden onslaught of the cavaliers, horror because (saving the small group of mountebanks and nare do wells currently serving his gunne) there was now nothing between him and several hundred very angry men on horseback. Earning himself the unwelcome sobriquet of "Shityerbreeks Pyke" he took to his heels and ran for his life.

Cowardly yes, but the loss of the gunne seemed imminent and the corresponding loss of the master gunner (who I'd classed as a colonel) would have only added to the enemy's score.

Sir Edmund Broughton realised he was all that now stood in the way of the rampaging cavaliers and despatching a rider to urgently appraise Lord Hyde he finished wheeling the raw and clearly nervous troopers of William Monk's regiment directly into the enemies path. Urging them to remember their training he ordered the troopers to span their pistols and only fire on his command.

Monk's Dutch cavalry gave the pursuing cavaliers a bloody nose.

When the command came a dozen or more onrushing cavaliers immediately fell, the rest, their pistols spent in the previous melee were unable to reply in kind and were forced to close to handyblows.

The rider Broughton had sent to warn Lord Hyde passed Sir Alexander Gould's regiment of foote at the hedge line and managed to alert the knight that his flank was in danger of being turned. Ordering an immediate redeployment through 90 degrees he swung his regiment around and blazed away at the distant Royalists. Receiving instructions from Gould, Robert Fleetwood's men, also  redeployed hastily to refuse the flank.

"Shityerbreeks Pyke" struggles to draw breath (bottom left) as he reaches the relative safety of the redeploying Parliamentary right flank foote.

Unaware of the potential collapse on the right and indeed the fury of Lord Hyde as his cavalry support rode off into the wide blue yonder, Asquith's three regiment brigade made rapid progress towards a very flimsy looking Royalist flank.

Taken aback by the effective pistol fire from the fresh parliament horse to his front Colonel Swain reorganised Fox's men and charged them a second time. Though raw, Monk's men had been well trained and a second last minute volley caused the enemy assault to dissolve in a tangle of bodies and fallen horses.  Colonel Swain received a pistol ball in the shoulder but managed to retire with Fox's survivors to join with the second of his oncoming regiments.

Proud of his men's resilience but aware that they were now very low on powder and ball, Broughton wheeled his men about and retired the way he'd come.

Cavalier horse regiments are smaller than than their Parliamentary counterparts and only two of Stokenshaw's victory medals were handed over to General Hyde for the loss of Fox's horse.

On the weak Royalist right flank, the expectation had been that any Parliamentarian cavalry advance would be thrown into confusion and probably halted by a sudden need to go back and check Stokenshaw's bold left hook. Unfortunately Lord Asquith and his three regiments of horse had no idea of what was happening on the other side of the battlefield and out of musket range they had turned through 90 degrees to face the weak defence in one long line of potential trouble.

Edgar Blackstone's Royalist foote had only recently been recruited and while possessing a surfeit of pikes had very few firearms of recognisable calibre. They'd watched the oncoming enemy horse trot onto their flank and as if on parade wheel to face them. Knowing there was nothing they could do to strike them at even pistol range men began to look over their shoulders to the imagined safety of the town.

Parliamentarian horse prepare to wreak bloody mayhem - and draw a 1, preventing the rest of the brigade from activating and catching the unprepared Royalists in the flank.

Purple faced with fury, Stokenshaw made his presence felt via several hurriedly dispatched aides. Blackstone's colonel still worriedly leafing through his copy of De Gheyn's The Exercise of Armes received his instructions in an unexpectedly more concise verbal format. Very untidily his regiment turned to present the Parliamentarians with a thick circular hedge of steel points.

Stokenshaw's only reserve were Norton's Dragoons and he ordered them forward to plug the gap between the hedge line and his reforming right flank. They arrived and dismounted just as the Parliamentarian horse finally advanced into pistol range.

Note Onslows horse advanced right up to the points of Blackstone's pike hedgehog and expended all of their pistol ammo into it (to no effect despite the modifier for firing into such a closely packed body of men) since they were unable to charge an undisrupted unit in that formation. Once again the curse of the 1 reared its ugly head and the remaining horse regiments were also once again prevented from doing anything at this critical juncture. It was some consolation that the dragoons deployed right in front of the enemy horse were unable to fire on them because they too drew a 1. What are the odds?!

Over on the other side of the battlefield the regathered Royalist horse had also swung out into a line that faced the enemy flank. Knowing they had but one chance the crew of the isolated siege gun levered it around to face the enemy and as the cavalry lowered their sword points they gave fire.

The Remaining Royalist horse arrive enmasse (top of picture) and the gunners on the siege gunne come to the chilling realisation that there is no time left to request a transfer to the navy.

The siege gunne was never the weapon with which to engage swiftly advancing cavalry and unsurprisingly they missed.

Seeing what was coming Gould's and Fleetwood's foote prepared to receive horse by forming their own hedgehogs unwittingly given extra time by the gunners who fought desperately with whatever came to hand, forcing Harcourt's Royalist horsemen to charge them twice before the last of them fell and the mighty cannon was overthrown. Distracted by the sight of the Parliamentarian baggage train hurriedly attempting to escape (we'll have to imagine they're just off board I suppose) Harcourt's men lost interest in the bristling pikes of the redeploying Parliamentary foot and hared off in hot pursuit of the disappearing plunder with their colonel giving chase but failing to restore order.

The loss of the siege gunne added saw the transfer of another victory medal from Hyde's to Stokenshaws pile. Score so far 4 to the Royalists and 2 to the Parliamentarians. 

Harcourt's Horse decide there's gold in the enemy baggage, Swain chases after the retiring Parliamentary horse and the foote that are meant to be advancing on Bromsgrove are forced into defensive hedgehogs not far from their original start line by the presence of so many enemy horse.

Noticing that his horse had failed to break the week enemy flank Lord Hyde ordered (practically at pistol point) Birche's regiment to break through the hedge line cross the field to catch his opponents in the flank.  A similar request saw Musgove's foote up on the hill descend with the same intent.

Birch's foot reluctantly cross the hedge then come to a grinding halt with the draw of yet another 1! Musgrove's foote (far left) come down off the hill to add some firepower to Asquith's assault.

In the centre of the Royalist flank Wagstaffe's foote had been trading blows with horsemen that seemed ill inclined to charge, and having overcome their shock gave them two solid volleys that shredded the enemy and forced the survivors to flee.

I've had cause to use my dead and dying counters far more than I thought!

A combination of poor activation draws saw Asquith's three horse regiments semi marooned in front of one seasoned foot regiment, a hastily deployed dragoon regiment and Blackstone's raw pike heavy  regiment. Because Blackstone's were not disordered and could not be charged I sort of forgot that the others could have been... so the combination of poor activations and lack of anything but close in pistolling did not produce the most decisive of outcomes. The loss of another Parliamentary horse unit made it 7 victory medals surrendered by Hyde and still only 2 from Stokenshaw.

Low on powder and ball the remains of Asquith's horse brigade began to retire as their foote arrived to take their place. Two powerful volleys from Hyde's advancing foote chopped down the veteran dragoons behind the hedge who were busy jeering at the retreating troopers.

The loss of the dragoons evened things up a bit but scoring only two points for them meant the totals for Hyde remained a disappointing 7 - 4.

Norton's Dragoons caught out by the advancing enemy foote.

Taking advantage of the retiring enemy horse Wagstaffe's men retired while maintaining their facing, rallying back some of their lightly wounded as they did so under colonel Crowthorne's inspiring leadership. Blackstone's abandoned their hedgehog and reformed their line to follow suit.

Around Bromsgrove the Royalists had reformed a defensive line with two uncommitted and fresh foote regiments able to join it if required. Asquith's men were low on ammo and dash while Hyde's available foote were now outnumbered. On the original Parliamentary start line the remaining predatory Royalist horse regiments circled the defensive hedgehogs of the foote that should have been busy ransacking Bromsgrove's taverns. Hearing that the siege gunne he would need to overawe Worcester had been lost Hyde called off the assault and began to withdraw.

How it finally looked at the end

After four and half hours I felt the game had reached a natural conclusion. Both sides had sustained proportionate losses and while the day might be best described as a narrow Royalist win, in the context of the greater campaign they had scored an important victory by eliminating Lord Hyde's ability to bombard Worcester.

Game wise the whole thing moved far more efficiently thanks in no small part to the generous donation by Gonsalvo of his super QRS sheet, and perhaps to a certain degree by a growing familiarity with the rules in general. Without a physical opponent its sometimes easy to overlook things (witness Asquith's men failing to charge the dragoons, who without pikes would have been easy meat) but I was heartened one more to see that Dutch horse tactics could inflict losses and might even prevail if not confronted by superior numbers. Pike hedgehogs, which I used for the first time worked well and even ammo limitations which I have always considered to be too much detail, played a significant part in the final outcome without being onerous to record.

All in all a great game which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Trial By Fire

This was of course meant to be the battle report for the next stage of the midlands campaign but in my hubris I'd forgotten one tiny issue...

I'd never actually played FK&P before.


Oh sure I'd conferred on the matter with the sagest of the sage and read the rule book from cover to cover several times; but actually playing a game with models on the table…erm…no.

So on the morning of the appointed day my doubts grew. Was I about to make an arse of myself in front of a world wide audience? Didn't I have a duty, especially to my eager blog readers in the Indonesian porn industry, to get this right? After some deliberation I decided to scrap the game itself and report instead on my humble attempts to get to grips with FK&P itself.

Now I have it on good authority that the Eskimo's (I know, I know, sorry Inuit) have 250 words for snow but you might be surprised to learn that we here in the Limousin have more than a few for the colour grey. Why grey? Well for six months of the year it's the regions predominant colour. The day of the great FK&P test was what we term "LSG" or Limousin Suicide Grey, which, coupled with a 40 watt light bulb, 6mm miniatures and a camera phone rescued from a Chinese landfill (that my granddaughter's would refuse to be seen with), boded ill for the reports potential picture quality. I mention this now in the hope that it will dampen your expectations (which if you're not a new visitor to the blog will already be fairly low, thank God).

On the plus side the days gaming was going to witness the deployment of several new innovations at Maison Broom, the first of them being the "Insta-table T5000"*. A 6 x 4 gaming surface with telescopic legs which folds down into a handy dandy pocket sized** surface that you can easily take with you wherever you decide to play. The second was the first deployment of the Big Red Bat Cave's battle mat.

I was very pleased with the mat from the get go, the quality was spot on and though I'd opted for the grid lines rather than the corner dots the lines didn't leap out at you against the colour of the background.

The Insta-table T5000 - see what I mean about the lighting. Shocking.

I deployed the forces I'd intended to use for the campaign battle and randomised the terrain as per the rule book. The various stratagems and the more esoteric units were ignored since this was going to be as "vanilla" an encounter as I could make it.

if you are too lazy to go back a post, these were the units that were going to be involved.

You'll note that the Royalist side has sunk a fair few points into the command structure instead of pointy shooty stuff, something several had counselled me against as unnecessary but which I was resolved to try; they also had more veteran units.

Two errors became obvious right from the start. Firstly one of our cats with unexpected factional sympathies had previously mangled a regiment of horse and they were still unusable even though I'd forgotten about the fact and included them in the parliamentary set up. Secondly in the Royalist table above the general in charge of the centre was actually Sergeant Major General Lord George Whitehead, not the stupidly duplicated Caldwell. Must pay more attention to detail in the future. Soz.

Anywhoo… things eventually got set up and looked a bit like this:

View from the Royalist left.

Freed from the need to secure victory for one side or another I set about testing the outcome of various fairly predictable encounters. First off a charge by Dutch horse against Swedish horse. The Dutch horse in question are the ones at the back on the far left in the picture above.

The Dutch horse thundered past the pub but just before they came into contact with the Swedish horse the buggers countercharged them - as the rules allow. Suddenly hunter became hunted and the damage inflicted by the Swedish horse was severe. Though they have less ammo than the Dutch boys it is used to greater effect and at closer range. A two turn tussle saw the Dutch horse disintegrate and the Swedish horse go thundering after the survivors in a rule enforced pursuit.

A brief experiment to see if cards looked better than the tokens as the Dutch horse and the Swedish horse collide. 

Dragoons (on the right) burst into the pub while the victorious Swedish horse thunder over the bodies of the fallen in hot pursuit of who knows what - denoted by the bloody great red arrow marker in front of them. 

I was pleased with the outcome since it seemed "right". Fortunately for me the series of charge and counter charges the Swedish horse had made in the extended melee had rendered them "blown" (You can just see the triangular "dash" markers on the info plate beneath the unit have been marked off along with their pistol ammo). This meant that though they were now intent on haring off board...they were doing it slowly! You'll also notice that attached to the unit on its right is one of the colonels that were deemed unnecessary. His presence managed to check their progress in the next turn thus saving me from losing them off board for a chunk of the game.

In the centre the infantry of both sides moved up towards the hedge lines on either side of a large field. For the Royalists this movement meant the immediate loss of their small attached falconets / robinets which I was not chuffed about. The guns in question sit on a carriage about the size of a wheelbarrow and though there is obviously ammo and powder to be moved along with the guns, they can keep pace with the foote, (I should know because I've ruddy well pushed them - and carried all the tackle). This is one aspect of the rules I will be ignoring in the future. Their two ammo limit is about right and in my view restricting enough.

Parliamentary foote advance. Note the tokens rather than cards which helped keep things neat and tidy.

An overflying witch took this shot of the same units.

As the foote moved forward the Royalist right wing horse thought they'd try their luck with the stationary Parliamentary Dutch horse opposite them.

Note the presence of colonel Swain who helped this horse unit recover from a failed activation, reaffirming my view that the points spent on the colonels was worthwhile.

The Parliamentary horse stood their ground and pistolled the Royalists as they closed - to great effect. This was good to see since it proved that when properly handled, Dutch tactics could prevail and that they are not just there to be bowled over as has been my experience with numerous rules sets to date.

The Dutch horse give the Royalists both barrels.

And this was the outcome!

The Swedish horse might be tough when they get in close, but they are also brittle.

Parliament had been burdened with two cannon and an expensive master gunner which was a requirement of the original scenario. The guns were reassuringly useless making a hole in the front of the pub but only getting one shot off in the whole game. I also had a bit of a problem when the cannon needed to fire diagonally between two friendly units (one to its side and one in front). Was that allowed? I opted for not…and resolved to look it up later when I had more time.

Parliament's siege cannon fires on the pub. Is nothing sacred?

In the centre the Royalist foote crossed the field (sans light gunnes) and when activations failed the requisite officers were on hand to push them forward with new activation draws. As they advanced they attracted a fair amount of fire from the waiting Parliamentarians but suffered nary a scratch, and for the first time in a long time I actually got units into push of pike.

The temptation for me has always been to keep forcing units on into a melee until they are spent but this rules system rewards those who back off a spell and rally off losses before returning to the fray. This was (on reflection) probably a weakness in the otherwise brilliant C&C ECW rules but nothing that couldn't be easily fixed if Msr Foy has a will to do so.

The FK&P rules allow for multiple activations of a unit within a brigade as long as the next chit / card drawn is higher than the previous ones for that unit. While I think that introduces a lot of flexibility it made me realise how "safe" a player I am. Having drawn a 7 on one unit and needing to use the unit again I didn't, because a failure to draw higher would have meant the possible end of the entire brigades turn. No gambler am I, it seems. This is not a major issue if your brigades are relatively small but this was the Parliamentary centre brigade of five units, so the lesson here seems to be, keep your brigades to a moderate size and an officer of field rank close at hand.

To my surprise, having built up the complexity of the game in my mind to mammoth proportions, it soon began to flow and the the number of save cards or hit cards required for a unit became second nature before I knew it. Without an opponent waiting as I thumbed nervously through the rulebook for some arcane ruling I had the time to learn without the stress of having to cope with someone else's expectations.

I called the game after five and a half hours since my back was playing up. But it could have easily been played in four if I hadn't been checking the rules on and off or trying to prevent a mad wild rabbit from coming through the cat flap. The score was twelve victory medals to the Royalists and only two to the Parliament but with that said my Royalists had taken a pummelling and there were a number of units looking very flaky indeed. A few more turns and the result would have been much more equal.

FK&P has taken a considerable investment in time and for me has been taxing on fairly limited resources. It has also suffered from being nearly four months from my initial discovery to getting models on the table, four months in which some of the shine had begun to wear thin. With that said, apart from the light artillery issue the system worked well and produced results I was comfortable with. Did I enjoy playing it…YES. Will I continue to use it…absolutely. I have heard that the QRS sheet is awful but I've not had cause to use that yet and may well develop my own if necessary.

To head off the inevitable questions about the rabbit, indulge me a moment while I explain. Last year the village was overrun by lapin and since they were eating items of value in my garden I…err… dealt with them. Ruthlessly. Early this spring I was walking along the edge of our field, gun in hand, when a rabbit popped out from under the trees and hopped up to sniff my boot. I looked at him and he looked at me. I thumbed off the safety catch but he just nibbled at a bit of grass completely unconcerned. Now I'm no softy...but honestly…I just couldn't do it. We've called him Lenny and since his only company to date has been our cats he's begun to act like one. Fortunately despite trying several times it appears he cannot fit through the cat flap! To make matters even more confusing my chief mouser Lola now believes she is a bird and has taken to sitting in the bird table. Its either that or she's developed a cunning new stratagem to up her kill count.

Lenny the wild rabbit cat and Lola the cat bird.

I'm pretty sure that as a result of working through the rules I can now conduct a proper battle for the campaign but will need to tweak a number of the parameters before embarking on it next week sometime.

***LATE EDIT*** If you can hear the sound of munching it'll be me eating humble pie. I got the rules wrong for the light guns  - they can move with the foote units to which they are attached but become lost if they are deployed to fire and the attached unit subsequently moves elsewhere. Doh.


* Not its actual name

** As long as your pocket is two foot wide and four foot deep.