Sunday, July 14, 2019

Historicon 2019 AAR



This year is the the 25th anniversary of the HAWKs, and Historicon has moved to a new venue, the Lancaster County Convention Center in downtown Lancaster.  With those two points in mind, when the call for HAWKs games for the convention went out a few months ago, I decided to sign up.  Unfortunately, right after making that decision, my employer decided they need me in Kentucky through the Friday of the convention.  That left me with space for one game, and I elected to run a Not Quite Seven Years War game.  This was probably not the most considered decision I have made. 

I got back from my trip, which itself fell right after all of the excitement surrounding Norman's wedding, on Friday afternoon, with all of the collecting and packing for my game still to do.

I had considered the scenario in advance, and elected to use one of the tried and true C.S. Grant situations from Scenarios for Wargames, #15, Reinforcements in Defence: On the Table.  In my usual translation of Grant scenarios to Charge, that gave a force of four foot regiments and a cavalry regiment to the attackers, and three infantry regiments and a cavalry regiment to the defenders.  What I hadn't stopped to consider in advance was that I only have six complete regiments of infantry around the house.  I decided to assemble the assorted companies of incomplete units to get the seventh, but it did involve "reflagging" some of the Schoeffen-Buschhagen troops as belonging to some unspecified minor power with similar uniforms. 

I was happy to find that all of the necessary scenery was near the surface, although my scenery storage boxes now definitely need a reorganization, as ad hoc searching through them the last several games have induced a good deal of entropy into the system.  By 10:00 Saturday morning I had everything gathered, and attached it all to a hand cart we got for Gencon the other year.  I had heard that parking was likely to be a problem, so I wanted to be ready to haul the game as needed.


Hand cart test loaded
I got up to Lancaster about 12:30, and ran into my first problem. Driving by myself, I couldn't get the GPS system to recognize the parking structures on the fly, and Lancaster is a twisty little maze of one-way streets, all the same.  So it took a while to find the entrance of one of the official structures.  It was about three and a half rather long blocks from the convention center, so I set out to scout without reloading the cart.  The convention had supposedly arranged dropoff zones and volunteers to watch your stuff, but when I first drove by the convention center the spaces were all full, and I didn't really want to leave even a friend to mind my stuff for an uncertain amount of time while I circled looking for parking.  Anyway, I arrived on foot and found that my QRS code to pick up my badge worked without issue.  I found the HAWKs in a dim, cavernous, and noisy hall, one of two dedicated to gaming.  Since my game wasn't until 7:00, I decided that I would do whatever shopping I was doing and then go collect my hand cart and gear.  I ended up with a couple of 1/72 plastic figure boxes (Silk Road caravan and Etruscans, the latter a potential Sea Peoples tribe for the Bronze Age), a Deep Cuts Studio road pack (for the new table, as a test), a resin rowboat for Ghost Archipelago, and a couple of books.  I had a look around the flea market as well, but, perhaps fortunately, nothing seemed to be immediately necessary or useful.

I can't resist new 1/72; the Airfix imprinting remains...
After that, I walked back to the car and loaded my cart.  As you can see from the pictures, the front wheels are small, so dragging it three blocks across city sidewalks was an adventure.  I dragged it up to the HAWKs space to await set up time.

Eventually, I got things set up.  As can be seen from the pictures, I used the dozen company movement stands to keep things moving along.  By Saturday night most people were starting to run down, so I had only three players of a possible six, so everyone had plenty to do.  The attackers got two players.  I had several situations arise where Charge!'s old school mechanics were troubling players, so I'm not sure that it was one of my better games, a bit disappointing after all the labor to haul it and set it up.

Coalition forces deploy to seize the hill
Anyway, this scenario is a tough one on the defenders, as they are pretty much guaranteed to lose everything initially on the table in the effort to buy time to use the reinforcements effectively.  The Pragmatic Coalition forces started right off with an attempt to charge the gun position at the end of the Alliance line with the Schoeffen-Buschhagen (S-B) hussars, which ended up in a complicated accidental melee with advancing Alliance dragoons.  The hussars attacking the gun were met with a withering blast of canister, and the gun position was secure for the moment.

S-B Hussars charge, bravely but futilely
Undeterred by this failure, the Coalition commander next sent in the Wachovian light infantry to seize the gun.  They succeeded, but were driven off in turn by the first reinforcements to arrive, more Alliance dragoons.  A complicate cavalry melee developed at the end of the alliance position (typical in most of the times I've used this scenario).  Meanwhile, Coalition infantry rolled forward, generally holding up well in the firefight with the Alliance infantry.

Cavalry melee develops as Alliance dragoons attempt to buy time
As the Alliance commander sounded the retreat at the hill, the cavalry melee broke up, and new Alliance infantry arrived on the scene.

Alliance reinforcements begin to deploy for battle
However, this had taken quite a while, and sunset was close.  (See below.)  As the armies made ready for a rough night on the field, a small party of Alliance dragoons had pressed forward to find that the survivors of the von Nordhafen regiment had retired.  The other leading Coalition regiment was near to breaking as well, and the issue the next day, when the infantry would have been nearly equal, was still in doubt.  Possibly the Coalition forces would have been able to use their superiority in artillery and cavalry to drive off the Alliance army, but vital time had already been lost...

Situation as night falls; hill remains contested
It turned out that the convention center had booked the main gaming halls for another event on Sunday, so we had to clear out by a hard deadline of midnight.  With the logistics involved in stowing 550 individually based figures for travel, I didn't want to press the issue, so we called the game around 10:30.  One or two more turns wouldn't have been decisive in any case, so the Alliance was deemed to have succeeded in their orders to hold until nightfall.  The next day here would make for an interesting scenario; perhaps I'll have a go at translating it into AGW for fun and play it soon.  

Also, I'm not a night owl, and it was a somewhat tense drive home, well beyond my usual bed time.  Duncan Adams helped me out by watching my cart while I got the car.  I wasn't thrilled by running out of the regularly inhabited zone of the downtown district at 11:30, but I got back to the convention center with the car, where I found that the designated parking was all blocked by non-Historicon people.  Nevertheless, we got things loaded up.  Rough roads on the way back were hard on the travel boxes; the cavalry, in particular, don't have enough steel area to "grab" the magnets of the boxes for their weight.  Happily nothing was damaged, but the appearance upon arriving home was alarming. 

Rough roads home from Lancaster

Overall, I'm cautious about the new venue.  It's much nicer than the decaying Host had been, but the difficulties around parking and unloading don't appear to be easy to address.  The center also had three of six escalators malfunctioning, and an elevator problem would have been serious, given that the spaces used were stacked on four levels.  If I go again next year, I'd prioritize running a more portable game, just for some extra margin with contingencies.




Thursday, July 11, 2019

Gencon Preparations — Oathsworn Squirrel

With Gencon now just a few weeks away, it’s time to temporarily set aside the historical work (regardless of how motivated I might be) and finish up the last few figures needed to run the games that my brother and I are signed up for.  


Since I’m now feeling a little time pressure, I decided that this would be a speed painting practice run as well.  I needed 50 minutes to finish this figure, so I need to work a little harder before the convention.  I’ll hope to have the basing done by this weekend, and the warband sheets filled out and laminated as well.



Sunday, July 7, 2019

Encounter at the Old Stone Bridge

 You know that your family is deep in geekery of various sorts when the activity for the morning of your son’s wedding finds you setting up a skirmish game in the hotel room. (Of course, the groom and the groomsmen were engaged in a game of Magic: The Gathering at the time...). My brother and I are running two sessions of Osprey/Oathsworn’s Burrows and Badgers for Gencon, and we thought that it was an opportune time to practice a bit more before the convention.  Happily, a work desk in the room allowed us to set up something about 2 feet by 3 feet.  We just used the basic battle scenario, looking to rout the opposing warband, and entered along the road from either direction.
The Battlefield
My brother chose a warband led by Reynard the highwayfox, with Red Sam the armored squirrel as his lieutenant, backed up by three mice, one of whom was a magic user.  I had a troupe of six, led by Blacknose the otter, with Wild Ned the highlander ferret as his lieutenant, a mole landsknecht, a crossbow-weasel, an herb-hedgehog, and a highlander mouse.  Reynard’s band advanced quickly and began to cross the bridge, but were met by Wild Ned who engaged in an extended fight with Red Sam.  As other beasts piled into the fray, Reynard attempted to wade across the river, only to be sorely wounded by a crossbow bolt from the weasel.  By the time he finished wading across, it only took one more bolt to drop him.
Reynard’s beasts reach the bridge...
At the bridge, beast after beast joined the fray, and soon it was too much for Sam.  A final blow from the mole put him out of action, and the battle was over.

...but the ensuing melee doesn’t go well for them.
It was probably just as well, because it was time to get dressed for the wedding.  So, we ended the day with a beautiful ceremony and the addition of a new member to our family.
And then there was a wedding....

Saturday, July 6, 2019

An Aviation Digression


With the wedding this weekend, the whole family is in town.  My father has always been an aviation enthusiast, so we took the opportunity provided by a quiet morning yesterday to make a visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Facility out near Dulles Airport.

My brother, my father, and me at the museum in front of the Boeing 307 Stratoliner

I have to say, if you have any interest in the history of aviation or space travel, it is worth a visit.  Just to give a flavor, I took this shot from the upper deck in the center of the hangar space, just looking in one direction.  There was at least as much stuff behind me, and the space equipment hangar is off to the left from here.
A view from one of the upper balconies

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Two Battles


As I mentioned in my previous entry, my son William was in town for a visit, and we played two games with the 40mm home cast soldier collection.  While these figures are ordinarily used for the Not Quite Seven Years War, a long-running conflict with Schoeffen-Buschhagen on one side and North Polenburg on the other (along with some long-standing traditional allies on each part), most of the forces resident here are traditionally allied, and most of the enemy forces reside elsewhere.  We've established the the NQSYW takes place in the 1750s, so when we are at home and restricted to our own collections, we usually set the scenarios in a more roughly sketched out earlier conflict, the War of the Western League, sometime in the 1740s.  This involves the League (consisting of Schluesselbrett, Hesse-Hattemstadt, and Saxe-Weilenz) against the Alliance (consisting of Schoeffen-Buschhagen, the League of Free Cities, particularly Wiegenburg, and Wachovia).  

All of which is merely intended to say that the narrative behind these games is a bit thin...


A Regional Map of the Seat of the Conflict

In deciding on the day's gaming agenda, William expressed a desire to see his Wiegenburgers on the table, and agreed to give A Gentleman's War (AGW) a try, so we tried using the random army generation table to put out seven units per side, rolled from the main force chart.  He ended up with four line infantry, a light infantry, and two guns, and I ended up with four line infantry, a light infantry, a heavy cavalry, and a light cavalry.  In trying to decide what that meant to the narrative, we concluded that the Alliance army was protecting a siege train moving into position, and that their cavalry was elsewhere, while the League army represented an advance guard which had force-marched and outrun its artillery, and was attempting to deliver a hasty attack to prevent the opening of the siege. (Of some unnamed city...)

The first battle: Attempt to Prevent a Siege; League on the right; Alliance to the left

After the field maneuver game over the Memorial Day weekend, I decided that I would work up a dedicated ground cloth for the table well, three feet by five feet.  I have been a little short on time since I bought it, though, and we cut it to size just before the game.  Its color is pretty similar to the Cigar Box Battles plain mat I used for that previous game, and I thought the cloth roads needed a little more contrast, so I cut some new ones as we were setting up.  I'm not sure about this color either; more experimentation is in order.

At any rate, we put our a fairly generic field and rolled for choice of sides.  William chose the left side in the picture above, and that left me with a difficult task.  Maneuver room to make use of my cavalry was limited, and the walls (as will be seen) provided significant protection for his forces.  

Alliance troops await the attack

Schluesselbrett infantry with some Saxe-Weilenz jaegers on the League right

The League left wing; with the purple cavalry standing in as Saxe-Weilenz light dragoons
 I decided that the only chance I had was to jump out with my light infantry and attempt to occupy the woods at the left of the Alliance army.  I got off to a good start with a high movement roll, but the activation cards did not favor me, and the Alliance light troops occupied the woods first.  My jaegers were quickly shot to pieces.

Hesse-Hattemstadt infantry attacks on the left

An attack by the line infantry to the left also bogged down, and, as can be seen in the picture above, the Alliance forces were able to anchor their right flank on the woods beyond the wall position, leaving no opening for any threat by my cavalry.

So, I admitted defeat and withdrew.  Since it was still early, we agreed to reset for another game.  Having decided that the narrative of the first game was an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the siege, clearly the siege was now in progress.  William cleared the troops from the table while I went to dig in the boxes of siege gear in the basement (as one does, William noted) and came back with an artillery emplacement, a couple of mortars, and some trench sections.  We kept basically the same armies, save that I added a gun to the League, and set the table up so that we were fighting down the length.  We decided that the League had to destroy two objectives, the mortar emplacement, and the supply magazine.  Of the Alliance troops, only two started on the table, and we agreed that a face card could be used to enter the next reinforcing unit, as the Alliance army gathered from the lines of circumvallation.  The League troops would enter from the far end of the table. (See below)

The objectives; guns and the supply magazine/headquarters




League columns marching on; showing overall set-up

This turned out to be a much more interesting game, and the situation was uncertain for a long time.
William noted that the rules are very swing-y, which is probably an intended design feature.

At any rate, he was turning up face cards at a good clip early on, so that my initial advantage in numbers didn't last long.  The League cavalry had one shining moment when they overran an Alliance artillery unit (after passing the morale test from the pointblank canister fire) and went on to disperse the siege gunners and engineers.

Hesse-Hattemstadt dragoons ride down the gunners...

...and rides on to spike the mortars.
The Alliance started with one gun defending the magazine initially, and a lucky sequence of activation cards allowed them to turn the gun and finish off the dragoons as they started across the field toward the magazine.

With the cavalry gone, I attempted to bring up two infantry regiments in columns screened by the Saxe-Weilenze jaegers to attack the magazine.

The Wiegenburg infantry was mostly in position by the time the attackers arrive


Wachovian "Wilderin" light infantry arrive in the nick of time


I suspected that attacking into the muzzle of the cannon was going to be difficult, but it got worse as Wachovian reinforcements arrived for the Alliance.  My lights were split to screen against two threats, and were shot up again.

So, the attack on the right flank stalled.

On the left, the Schluesselbrett infantry did better against the Allies.  We were starting to roll up the Alliance flank, which was alarming to the Allied commander, though a long way from the critical magazine.  
Red coated Schluesselbrett infantry in their final attack on the Wiegenburgers

With a final brave effort, though, the Wiegenburger foot managed to reorient to meet the threat, and broke the Schluesselbrett attack.  With that, 50% of my units were gone and those remaining were at much reduced strength, and the retreat was sounded yet again.  It was probably just as well, as the players needed to make some dinner and clear the table in order to serve it.  Having a gaming table doubling as a dining room table does have a few disadvantages, and a 40mm game is too tall to put the table topper back on with the game in progress.

William agreed that the rules were fun.  I hope soon to be able to run a game for some people who have played before so that we can throw in a few more complications such as the unit distinctions and perhaps some cameo roles.












Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Pair of Games (preliminary)


These are exciting times in the Dean family.  Senior son (and Prince Palatine of Wachovia) is getting married on Saturday, and the family is converging on this area.  Younger son William arrived in town over the weekend, and we were able to get in a couple of games yesterday.  

William expressed a desire to command his NQSYW army of Wiegenburg, which he hadn’t been able to do for a couple of years, so we set up a quick scenario using  A Gentleman’s War.  In the first, we used the random army generation system, and decided that this looked like a hasty attack on the main body of an army while its cavalry was occupied elsewhere. So we agreed that the army of the Western League was attempting to prevent the Allies from starting a siege.  Due to the random factors, I ended up with a nearly hopeless attack on a strong position and I quickly reached the agreed  army breakpoint and declared a withdrawal.

William commanding the Allies
 Since it was still early, we reset the table and tried again.  Following on in the narrative, I pulled out some of the stock of siege materials, and declared that the League was now making an attack to attempt to break the siege in progress.  My objective was to cross the table and destroy a gun emplacement and a supply dump, while William was attempting to inflict 50% casualties before I could do that.  This was more balanced, although we decreed that most of his forces were off the table and had to arrive piecemeal.  Nevertheless, I still lost.  William agreed that it was a fun set of rules.  While I wouldn’t want to use them exclusively, they do make for a very engaging game in the confined space of the dining room gaming table.  A little polishing and the second game could be a good scenario for reuse...Anyway, I hope to post a fuller report before the weekend arrives and the festivities overtake us.
Last gasp of the League attack; note the mortars emplaced in the top right

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Playing with Molds

In addition to the package of molds from Berliner Zinnfiguren, I also received a new casting pot in the mail this week.  I have a 10-lb bottom-pour Lee pot, but it has been troublesome in some respects the entire time I've owned it.  Between times when the valve won't close and metal keeps draining out while I fiddle desperately with it, and times that the rate of fill of the molds is so slow that they don't cast completely, I have been wanting to try something different.

So, after a couple of days of bad schedules, I finally got a chance to fire things up today.

Lower tech casting pot

The Zinnbrigade marching figures cast easily, although it looks like a vent or two might be needed for some of the more active poses.  The only other mold I tried was of an infantryman running and an infantry bugler, and neither figure cast in two tries, so I set it aside for another day and/or some vent cutting.


Zinnbrigade Marching Prussians

I borrowed two vintage Schneider molds from Chris Palmer recently, and had little success with them in the previous casting session.  They make a sheep a goat, a cow, a fence, a farmer, and a milkmaid, and by using the new pot to pour more quickly, I was actually able to get all of them to cast, although the sheep was the fussiest, with only one decent example.  I could have a herd of goats, though... Cue Julie Andrews...  These will likely end up as part of the Not Quite Seven Years War collection.

Late in the session, I finally got around to trying some Meisterzinn multi-part molds, but it wasn't the day for that, or I was already getting tired.  I suspect that these will still be easier with a faster pour rate, but it remains to be seen.  I wanted a few extra horses, so that I can start work on some general figures.

Old farm molds plus a few Meisterzinn pieces
So, in the previous casting session I was playing around with a vintage mold and had another go at it today.  But I have also acquired another Rapaport Brothers/Schneider mold making sailors.  I got two of them to cast, but they are pretty big compared to the Zinnbrigade figures (see below), and I probably won't end up using them for that.  I cast the fox and hounds from a Prince August mold, so the hypothetical general mentioned above can be accompanied by a dog.  I also cast a handful of knights from a new (though of vintage design) metal mold from Castings.  I'm considering notions for a 54mm fantasy project, and this may help get it out of my system...


This one's complicated
Vintage sailor vs. a Zinnbrigade Prussian

Last time around, I made a few of the running Meisterzinn musketeers to be head-swapped with bicornes for the French Revolution (see below).  Ross had suggested that the Prince August Rossbach Prussian grenadiers would probably work as well, and I figured that I had two molds for them, so it was worth a try.
Prince August Rossbach grenadiers and Meisterzinn musketeer for head swaps

If everything is successfully converted, that's another unit and a half worth of troops.

Meisterzinn single-piece musketeer with a bicorne head swapped


I also received a Scad mold for an 1870 Frenchman, but it unfortunately seems to be deterioriating.  Once metal was poured, the mold seemed to be oozing something, and that was bubbling the surface of the casting.  Apart from that, the Scad mold came with vents pre-installed, and doesn't look difficult to cast cleanly.  I don't know if this will clear up after a few casts, or whether this one is dead.

Scad French; sadly, looks like a mold decay issue