Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Pass at Gelbehuegul (Player’s Commentary)

 Ross Macfarlane and I were planning to run a couple of games using A Gentleman’s War at Huzzah in Portland, Maine next month.  With Huzzah cancelled for this year, that isn’t going to happen, but we decided to go ahead and try a remote game using the rules anyway.  I volunteered to host the game, and decided that I would deploy my Alpha Gaming Table in the library, as it seems likely that the extra space (4x6 vice my dedicated game table at 3x5) would be welcome when using the 40mm figures.

 There isn’t a lot of aisle space around this table when deployed.  I like the Alpha Gaming Table, but there is no denying that it trades portability off against stability (i.e. it shakes when bumped), which means I’m happier playing solo on it when in tight quarters.  I have nobody to blame but myself if things get knocked.

Ross left the choice of scenario to me, and, having nothing particular in mind and wanting to see how AGW handled the use of our usual scenario library, I dug into C.S. Grant’s class Scenarios for Wargames.  I resolved to set up the first one that I came to that a) I hadn’t tried before and b) seemed suitable for the force and table constraints.

The Green Book

I didn’t have to look very far, as Scenario 3 was one that I had not set up before.  

Holding Action (1)
Now, as it turns out, I had forgotten that Ross had run that same scenario as an NQSYW game using A Gentleman’s War as well.  I should have read that report before playing this game as the attacker.

In any case, the order of battle was such that I could pull it out of my troop boxes without any problem, with 1 Grant Green Book unit equal to 1 AGW unit.  (I have a translation note for Charge games, which don’t work out as well at a 1:1.). The game is supposed to have a time limit, but we decided to leave that question open, since AGW doesn’t have a specific time translation built in.

So, at the agreed time, I had all the forces pulled out and dropped on the table.  Ross was represented by an iPad perched on a ladder, with a power cord available in case the game ran long.  I have finally gotten smart and ordered an iPad mount for my actual photograph tripod, which should be an improvement over ladders and such when it finally arrives.


The view from his perch was approximately what is seen in the first picture.  

To spread the work around a little bit, I asked Ross to handle the card deck.  I pulled out a deck as well, so that I had a visual reminder of the hold card situation, requiring only some occasional questions to keep up to date.

Ross talked me through deploying his troops, and I rolled dice to distribute my forces into the two columns discussed in the fictionalized version of this report.  As it turned out, my cavalry all ended in one column, and that one being the one whose natural avenue of advance was into the decidedly cavalry-unfriendly hill.  

My main player problem was that I couldn’t get an  substantial attack organized.  Deployment out of the town was slow, and each unit, advancing to create room for the next to try to deploy, was shot up by Ross’s cannons, perched one on each hill.  It took him a few moves to get into his troops into his final battlefield configuration, but, when he did, it only took 2 cards for him to activate his entire force, clear his activation markers, and start over.  At best, with 13 units on my side, it was going to take 4 cards to cycle and start activation again, and I got scattered and was not always able to approach that, often needing 5 or 6 cards to cycle.  

The net result was that any unit approaching his position was likely to be fired on 2-3 times between its actions, which meant that I needed to assemble a mass to dilute the effect of the fire, or to be lucky on activations.  Attacking piecemeal was certainly my own fault, but I feel that my luck was a little below average on the saving throws against fire and the morale checks...and it would have to have been considerably above average to have prevailed.  

Both of my forlorn hope attacks on the guns, one by the hussars on my right and one by the light infantry on my left, had one chance to succeed, and luck wasn’t with me.  (Luck is not a strategy...) After that, the cycle advantage took care of those troops as well.

By the time Ross ground my 3:2 advantage in troops down to less than parity, I could see the handwriting on the wall, and decided to throw in the towel.  

I should note that the cycle advantage that Ross was exploiting so ably is a deliberate feature of the rules.  Had we played using Charge, it would have been difficult for the defender (i.e. Ross’s side) to put so much unanswered fire on the attackers.  I suspect that I have avoided using that scenario with Charge due to an assessment that the attacker’s superiority in numbers would render the situation impossible for the defenders. (Now I’ll have to test that in some future game...)

In any case, it was a good afternoon, and I’m always glad to see the NQSYW troops on the table.  perhaps I’ll now be inspired to paint some extra standard bearers for them, so that I can deploy my 60 man Charge units as 4 or so AGW units each with a distinctive flag.

One note on the fiction: In our game fiction, the Not Quite Seven Years War proper is a conflict between Schoeffen-Buschhagen (and allies—The Pragmatic Coalition) and North Polenburg (and allies—The Northern Alliance) and takes place around 175x.  When none of the principal armies of the Alliance are available because I (and my sons, before they grew up and moved away) are playing at home, our fictional convention is that the battles take place in the earlier War of the Western League (around 174x).  It stays rather more loosely defined, to avoid “historical” anomalies.

The name for this battle commemorates the use of the desert terrain hills, since my hill upgrade remains a future element of the whole scenery upgrade program, so the town ends up being named after the distinctive Yellow Hills to the north.  Town buildings are Dave Graffam card models built at their default scale (for 30mm figures) and are therefore somewhat sub-scale, which does not seem inappropriate with the overall toy soldier look of a game in action.

The Pass at Gelbehuegel

In the summer of 174x, the Nth year of the War of the Western League, an army of the Pragmatic Coalition was advancing northward in an effort to lay siege to the city of Schluesselbrett, and perhaps cause the Archbishop to sue for peace separately.  However, the Archbishop had turned his defenses over to General Schachlaufer (reportedly a nom-de-guerre of the notorious mercenary general MacDuff).  Schachlaufer, whose coupe de lo’oeil seldom failed him, looked over the possible approach routes to the city, and chose to make a stand at Gelbehuegel, where the northward roads converged, and the then combined route ran through a defile which would allow him to make the most of his limited troop strength.

The battlefield, before the arrival of the armies. Schachlaufer’s line of deployment in red, roads used by converging Coalition columns in green, North to the top of the picture.
 He had available to him two brigades of troops, a native Schluesselbrett contingent of two infantry battalions, a battery of artillery, and a squadron of light dragoons, and an allied brigade of two infantry battalions and an artillery battery from Hesse-Hattemstadt (in blue coats) and a battalion of Saxe-Kirchdorf jaegers (in purple).

Later in the battle, but illustrating the deployment of the League forces, with Schuesselbrett troops on the southern hill, allies on the northern, and the light dragoons in reserve on the road

As seen in the illustration, he elected to deploy with his local brigade guarding the hill to the south (his right) and the allied brigade guarding the hill to the north (his left).  With the troops emplaced, there was nothing to do but await the approach of the enemy.

The plans of the Pragmatic Coalition that day were flawed from the outset.  Bad maps had led General Nordstrom (a distinguished Wachovian officer in overall command of the Coalition forces) to believe that two roads continued to parallel each other beyond the defile at Gelbehuegel, and that the actuals hills north of the town were less of an obstacle than was actually the case.  He had divided his forces into an infantry column (of five battalions of line infantry, a battalion of jaegers, and a battery of artillery) and a cavalry column (four squadrons of various cavalry supported by a battalion of veteran Wachovian line infantry and a second battery of guns).

Coalition infantry deploying and attempting to assault the northern hill
There was a great deal of confusion as the heads of the columns ran into each other in the streets of Gelbehuegul.  General Nordstrom found himself stuck in the back of the infantry (left) column attempting to bring some order to the chaotic situation.  At the front of the infantry column, his subordinate, General Adelmann, was the first to see that that the enemy had decided to make a stand at the defile.  He ordered the lead battalions of infantry to deploy and to attack the lower slopes of the northern hill, where the enemy artillery could be seen deployed, and the King Rupert Jaegers to attack the southern hill, using light infantry tactics to (hopefully) suppress the battery there, and allow the remaining infantry to deploy.  The attack was unsuccessful, and the Jaegars suffered fearsome casualties, pinned down by canister fire from the guns.

Visible at the top right, the Jaegers make their unsuccessful attack on the Schluesselbrett position

Meanwhile, on the Coalition right, the cavalry brigade, under the command of Prince Norbert of Schoeffen-Buschhagen, attempted to untangle itself from the traffic jam in the streets of the town. The Prince sent his light cavalry, a mixed lot of Hussars from both Wachovia and Schoeffen-Buschhagen, forward to see what could be done.  The S-B hussars gallantly attempted a charge against the gun position on the northern hills, but difficulties in traversing the terrain left them exposed to the fire of the guns, ably supported by the Saxe-Kirchdorf light infantry infesting the woods, for far too long, and they withdrew (a considerable distance, as it turns out) to the rear to regroup.

The Coalition infantry attempts to organize an attack

General Adelmann’s attempt to attack in the center was doomed from the start.  Coalition forces were unable to suppress the League artillery, and the entire area of fields north of the town were swept by artillery fire.  As each infantry battalion debouched from the tangled streets of the town and attempted to deploy, it was raked in turn by the deadly fire of the massed artillery.

The Coalition artillery finally reaches the battlefield, as the cavalry begins to clear the town

The provosts were finally able to untangle the mess in the town, and a lone Schoeffen-Buschhagen battery began to deploy, hoping to finally bring some fire onto the seemingly impregnable enemy position.  But it was too little, too late.  General Nordstrom, riding forward to view the situation, was appalled by the shambles left by the attempted infantry attack.  He ordered the General Retreat sounded.  The attack on Schluesselbrett might yet succeed, but not today.  As night fell and the guns fell silent, the battered Coalition army withdrew, to reorganize and perhaps try a more deliberate attack.
Remnants of the King Rupert Jaegers and infantry from the attack in the center stream off the field

Wachovian hussars withdraw, and the Wachovian infantry arrive, just in time for the retreat.

Another House for the Scenery Upgrade

In between other activities yesterday, I finished up another resin building for my (mostly fantasy) scenery upgrade project.  This one is simply called the cottage in the catalog of the Tabletop World 
company.  As with the Apocalypse Miniatures house I finished recently, I owe this one to my brother, who found an American distributor carrying them a few years ago at Gencon. I bought two, this one and a forge.  The forge is still awaiting work.  

While the painting work on this was spread out over several sessions separated by many months and a household move, it wasn’t particularly difficult, and, as you can see, the pieces are highly detailed and very cleanly cast.  They are not inexpensive, but I would happily buy soon as I get a few other things done, and provided that I can come up with a good storage system for them.  Unlike the Apocalypse Miniatures buildings, this range is hollow (in fact, it has some basic interior details), and is therefore lighter and perhaps a bit easier to transport.  This is still likely, though, to remain as part of the “home” set of scenery.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

A Slow Weekend...

Under the current circumstances, I am finding it more difficult to get anything hobby related done than I had hoped.  However, I am stress-baking like everyone else, so at least we have nice bread.

My neighbor gave me a sourdough starter on Friday, so I am experimenting with a loaf smells good, at least.
Bread baking results

I was politely asked to clean up my hobby space a bit, and one of the things cluttering the floor was my ready supply of bases.  I took the opportunity to replenish from the reserve stocks, so my bases are now neatly organized (and restored to their designated “place”) and merely need a few soldiers:

The Really Useful Box company sells the organizer trays; two will fit in a 4-liter box, and I have 60x60, 60x40, 60x30, and 60x20 bases and their flexible steel bottoms ready to go, as well as several sizes of round bases and a few specialty things like the 25x50mm cavalry lozenge bases in the bottom right pocket in the second picture.

Even if I haven’t been painting, I did find time for a game.  I mentioned that my brother and I had a Chaos Wars intro scenario on off at Cincycon last month.  Unfortunately, it had some balance issues, and we discovered that one side (the elves) would find it nearly impossible to win if the other side (the orcs/goblins) played a reasonable game and paid attention to their objectives.  We wondered, in retrospect, whether the basic forces were at all balanced.  So, my brother set up the two armies for an open field battle.  I took the elves, who had lost consistently during the demo games.  We played via Facetime, so all I have for pictures are some screen captures.

Here, as the armies advance to contact, the elves attempt to maintain a solid formation, and hope to use their bows to maximum advantage.

After some elvish dancing about, firing and falling back, etc., the elves were doing pretty well.  

As the orcish casualties mounted, the situation grew ever more dire.  At the end, only one elven unit (some horse archers barely discernible at the lower right) was routed, and the goblins had but a single relatively intact unit.  As it was a unit of longbows who had wreaked significant damage on the elves, it was decided that the elves would not press the pursuit closely, but would permit the orcs to retire and lick their wounds.

All in all, not a bad game for an idle two hours on a Saturday afternoon.  The elves won so handily that we agreed that the problem we had had was the result of a scenario/victory condition issue rather than a basic imbalance of forces, so the next game is likely to be about changing the victory conditions for the demo scenario.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

“Look, sweetie, I painted the house...”

...although maybe that wasn’t what she had in mind? 😁

I sat down at my painting desk one day last week, and realized that I had two resin buildings sitting on one side of the desk. Before I knew it, I found myself finishing one off.

In 2017, my brother was in a scenery building campaign, and talked my into back a Kickstarter by Apocalypse Miniatures for some fantasy resin buildings.  I ended up with ten, ranging in size from a large farmhouse to an outhouse (which I painted in November).

This piece is in the Apocalypse Miniatures catalog as the “Apothecaries Rest”.  I painted an Oathsworn miniatures Burrows and Badgers resin building a while back, and received some comments on it that my weathered wood shingles were too close in color to the stone grey of the walls. I decided that I would go ahead and make the shingles on this building a little browner, for contrast.

I like the aesthetic of this series of buildings, but I do note that they are SOLID pieces of resin.  This building is about two pounds of resin (935g for the metric enabled).  They were always expected to be part of my non-convention gaming, but the weight confirms that they are not going anywhere.  For conventions, I will continue to work with card models.

As long as I am working on these, I dug out the next two buildings to wash, in anticipation of priming:

Unfortunately the roadbed of the wooden bridge is a little warped, but we’ll see what happens when I glue it together.