Sunday, June 18, 2017

In space no one can hear you scream "Wagons ho!"

This is a close-up photo of my new "space" mat from Cor-Sec Engineering. I bought the 80" x 60" size as a basis for my enlarged 1/2500-scale StarTrek: Attack Wing project - or whatever I end up playing. Says Cor-Sec:

Our mats are printed on heavy fleece. This synthetic fiber allows for a durable and vibrant mat. The colors are not shiny like vinyl mats.  It is 100% Polyester. It doesn't fray and can be folded or machine washed. They can be transported easily and hold up to heavy use.

The mat is very light-weight, the printed color is vibrant and the edges are folded and "hemmed" for durability.

So why Wagons ho?! I got a new wagon. The new Conestoga wagon from John Jenkins Designs. It's very cool (can an 18th-century wagon be cool?) with a complicated bit of hook and chain harnessing for 6 horses. It will be very complicated to "move" during a game so it may become part of a set-piece terrain unless I figure out a way to base it with horses that is functional and looks good. Might be a tall order. . .

And. . . if you happen to live in the Twin Cities, you are invited to play Muskets and Mohawks with us at The Source this Saturday afternoon. No experience necessary : )

Happy Father's Day!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day, Martian Legion and Two Hour Wargames

Jack is no longer with us, but he wants to make sure we remember to thank our veterans for their service and their sacrifices on this Memorial Day. I think those of us who turn history into games have a special responsibility to remember those who made the history in the first place.

Next topic: there's a book called The Martian Legion that I was able to resist for a long time. But I caved; it's about John Carter and Barsoom, after all. And every other character ERB ever created. . . and just about every other Pulp character ever created. It is a big, beautiful over-priced book that is supposed to be a big, beautiful mash-up of ERB and The Pulps. I have a feeling I'll be underwhelmed by the big, beautiful mash-up but the book itself is big and beautiful and the paintings by Craig Mullins are EXACTLY how I picture Barsoom.

The unveiling. . .

It is beautiful. . .

Next Topic: Two Hour Wargames. They are not for everybody, but I am a fan of the "reaction" mechanics and the way that you are forced to manage the battle as opposed to commanding it. The only character you are ever in complete control of is YOU, no matter what set of rules you are playing. . . or genre or level of command. AND you can play solo. Really solo, against the game rather than just playing both sides "honestly." AND the "fog of war" is real, due to the game mechanics. Watching the movie Midway this morning reminded me just how critical that "fog" is to a more "realistic" impression of history in our games.

So I am going to spend some time playing through some THW rules for the French and Indian War and World War 2, and eventually Sci-Fi and Pulp (Barsoom, again?). Not exclusively, but seriously.

See ya!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stupid Human Tricks, Colonial-Style. . .

While reading A Wilderness of Miseries by John E. Ferling, I came across this passage in a chapter about typical military discipline during the American Revolutionary War that surprised me:

"Some of the orders were designed to protect the troops from one another, to prevent accidental or deliberate injuries; for instance at the outset of the war officers were notified to fine soldiers around Boston who tried to catch British-fired cannon balls before they stopped bouncing."

Who has to be told, under threat of fine, not to catch a cannon ball?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Dead Trees Are Done!

Finished the bases for the "dead trees" this weekend, including adding magnets to the center of the bottom of the bases to help hold them in place both on the game table and in their travel box. Next up are some boulders on new cork squares.

I've been spending some time with the Sharp Practice 2 rules from Too Fat Lardies for my French and Indian War gaming. I want to set up a solo run-through soon. SP2 has lots of interesting ideas but lots of "moving parts," too. 

Who's played Sharp Practice 2 and what do you like or not like about it?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fiinally Finished the Beast. . .

Well, it took a while. . . partly because I don't plow through one book at a time. . . and partly because the Butterfly Brain gets distracted by all sorts of topics both historical and contemporary. . . and partly because An Invincible Beast is a bit of a dense read. I'm a big fan of Dr. Matthew's combination of research into primary sources with physical recreation, ballistics testing and re-enactment, but it is not exactly summer beach-reading.

On page 399, Dr. Matthew summarizes (sorta):

Diodorus declared that 'Macedonian spears had conquered Asia and Europe.' The organization of of Hellenistic pike formations onto units and sub-units, combined with an elaborate and symmetrically distributed command structure, made the pike-phalanx a very ordered instrument of war - one that was mutually supporting, offensively and defensively strong, and adaptable to the varied tactical requirements of the ancient battlefield. Phalangite formations, for example, could be deployed to different depths, with the most common being that of sixteen ranks deep, but could also be arranged in deeper or shallower configurations depending upon the terrain, the size of the opposing force, the decisions of those in command and the situation of the day.

It seems that pike phalanxes were in a more open order than usually depicted, to make room for 5 ranks of deployed pikes, and the great length of the pikes were generally used to hold the opposing forces at bay. 

This allowed the pike-phalanx to effectively pin an enemy formation in place as part of the standard tactic of pike-phalanx combat - that of the hammer and anvil. Across the entire Hellenistic Period this tactic of using the pike-phalanx in the center to hold an enemy formation (or part thereof) in position while other, more mobile troops swept around to strike from the flanks remained unchanged. This in itself demonstrates the integral part that the pike-phalanx played in the conflicts of this time period.

While the functionality of the phalangite remained little changed cross the Hellenistic Period, the tools and strategies of war constantly developed in attempts to overcome the advantages held by the pike-phalanx, particularly during the time of the Successors following the death of Alexander the Great in 323BC when pike-phalanx fought pike-phalanx and a decisive tactical advantage of some kind was required to secure victory. Consequently the sarissa (pike) itself became longer to outreach an enemy armed in similar fashion, and beasts such as elephants were more regularly employed to try and smash an opposing formation apart. Many of these tactical 'experiments' met with mixed results; the pike could only be increased in length until a point was reached where it was almost impossible to wield, and contingents of elephants could be countered with other elephants, a solid wall of pikes, missile troops or other measures. As a result, the phalangite, and the pike-phalanx, retained its position of supremacy on the battlefield.

Yet for all its advantages, the pike-phalanx did have its limitations. This was mainly the potential for gaps to open in the line - due in part to the phalanx being comprised of semi-independent units and sub-units. If such gaps could be exploited by a more mobile opponent, one who could get inside the rows of projecting pikes, this was when the pike-phalanx was most vulnerable as the long sarissa made the phalangite a very ineffective individual combatant, and larger units were incapable of turning to meet threats from the sides once their pikes had been lowered. It was the ability of the Roman legionaries to take advantage of this inherent weakness in the Hellenistic pike-phalanx which ultimately led to the formation's demise.

 Sounds like DBA to me : )

If you want to know how the Romans defeated the pike-phalanx, or exactly how it was organized, or when and where it was first developed, and by who, you'll have to read the book.

I stumbled onto another book when looking up the author John Ferling, some of whose work about the Revolutionary War I have read - but I was not familiar with A Wilderness of Miseries, which is about the "warriors" of colonial America. Its sociological angle immediately drew me in. I AM "plowing" through this one!

I'll have some more F&IW terrain to show soon, as well as some thoughts on rules for the period I am considering.

See ya!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Light Horse, You're My Heroes!

Bruce and I played a Big Battle game of DBA 3.0, in 15mm, this weekend. I didn't take any photos so pulled a "stock" photo out of the archives. . .

I used my Later Carthaginians (II/32a), maxing out the Libyan Spears and Numidian Light Horse options. Bruce played the early version of the Pontic Mithridatic (II/48) army, with Pikes instead of imitation legionaries as Blades. Not quite contemporaries, but very close in spirit! 

Hannibal attacked Mithridates on a nearly featureless plain. Our foot troops were quite similar - Pikes, Spears, Warband and Auxilia -  so fighting along the infantry lines could therefore go either way. I decided to gamble with the 6 Numidian Light Horse elements by deploying them, along with all of my Cavalry - 3 elements plus the command's General - on my left flank opposite the 3 Pontic Knights and some Light Horse, and rushed them immediately. It was scary at first, but then the Numidian Light Horse (with a second rank in support) Quick-Killed all of the Pontic Knights and broke that command. I lost 2 Light Horse during the fight, but the remaining Numidians and the Cavalry then regrouped and fell on the flank of the center infantry line, killing the General of that command and helping to break it while Hannibal himself held off the Pontic Light Horse on the opposite flank. Both of my flank commands were within 1 element of becoming demoralized when the Pontic army broke, so a well-fought contest on both sides.

DBA 3.0 is, in my not so humble opinion, the very best version of a great set of rules. They really shine in the Big Battle format with multiple commands.