Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tony Bath - War Game of the Middle Ages and Ancient Times - 1956

Following on from the Herring War game a few weeks back (see earlier post) AM and I made tentative arrangements to meet again across the table of  Mars, AM chose the period, Medieval, so I got to choose the rules.  I was a little surprised at the choice, but pleasantly so as I'd been spending a little too much hobby time working on the 17th and 19th centuries recently and a change is as good as a rest etc.

The lay of the land at the start of the game.  The flower of French chivalry confidently line the southern hills on the left while the bawdy English and their brutish allies the Burgundians are jostled into line along the northern slopes opposite, between them the marshes in the valley floor are swollen from the incessant rains

I mentioned in a previous post here that I had stumbled across the first set of wargame rules written by Tony Bath, founder of the Society of Ancients, in 1956 and since then I have been looking for an opportunity to try them out. 

The English lights - cavalry and infantry rush into the fray

There's something that appeals to me about the idea of using old rules for playing with old toy soldiers.  Now, my medievals don't hail from 1956, they're mostly from the 1960's, (well, some are) so not too far out. When I first read the rules I assumed they were written for 54mm soldiers because the movement distances were what I would expect for larger size figures and of course that was the type most widely available back then.  Also there was something about the game mechanisms that reminded me very much of Wells' Little Wars rules.

The well appointed French heavies - cavalry, infantry and swarms of crossbowmen begin a ponderous advance over difficult ground

Tony Bath actually used 30mm flat zinnfiguren which he imported from Germany for his games as the Ancient and Medieval periods were barely covered by the toy manufacturers of the day and this was long before the advent of the 20mm wargame miniature or even that pillar of the hobby soon to be known as Airfix.  By contrast the historical coverage of the flat manufacturers was, and remains, phenomenal.

Faced with the prospect of a charge from the heavy French horsemen, the English infantry make for the relative safety of the marshlands

Although the name of Tony Bath has become synonymous with the Ancient period it was to be several years after writing these rules that he founded the Society of Ancients and it is clear (apart from the title) that he intended them to stretch to cover at least the Hundred Years War as there is specific provision for "dismounted cavalry in full armour armed with shortened lance as used by the french at Poitiers".

The French crossbowmen have secured the ruined abbey

So, very much an old school game was had, with books under sheets for hills, pine cones for bushes, marshes hastily cut for the occasion from card and aquarium ornaments for ruins.  The Anglo-Burgundian force were mostly Timpo swappets with a hindrance of militia provided by Elastolin Saxons and stiffened by a phalanx of Deetail pikemen.  The French were mostly conversions, some painted in heraldic livery and finished in the toy style.

First blood to the French, the heavy cavalry on their right charges into the first line of Burgundian men at arms while a body of militia forms a hedge of pikes to protect themselves from the onslaught

We wanted to play the game as true as we could to the original rules without any tweaks and we could see that they depend on testing combat strength v mobility between the various differing classes of troops, so to give them a good first run out we made the opposing armies very different in composition.  The French were much heavier with greater firepower, about  30 heavy cavalry, 30 heavy infantry and 30 archers.  The Allies were much lighter but greater in number: 15 light cavalry, 60 light infantry, 10 militia, 10 heavy infantry and 10 archers. 

On the French left more heavy cavalry approach the marshes but are checked and look for firmer ground through them

I was given permission by the British Model Soldier Society to reproduce these rules for enthusiasts but before I got around to doing it I discovered they had been published as part of the History of Wargaming project, edited by John Curry, in Vol 4 - More Wargaming Pioneers so if you want to give this game a spin I would urge you to buy the book, it costs less than £12 and is part of a project that deserves all our support.  What I have done is produce a summary of the rules in a quick reference sheet which I will make available in the next post, but you really should still buy the book because there's a lot more in it.

The English men at arms jeer at the French knights from the relative safety of the wetlands egging them on to come forward

Monday, 26 May 2014

New Replicants figures for the Battle of Lewes

Well the Plastic Warrior Show has come and gone for another year, after all the build up and anxiety it's suddenly all over as though it had never happened.  As usual Replicants showcased their new product at the show, this year there are just two new figures to add to their range depicting the Battle of Lewes in 1264.  Only two? I hear you ask.  Yes, the sculptor Peter Cole has been working on a cartoon booklet and set of postcards depicting actions from the battle (using Replicants figures and conversions from various makers) for the Lewes Castle Museum.  So here are the latest:

The two new figures from Replicants, on the left is Prince Edward and on the right is Silas a mounted Man at Arms who features as a character in Peter Cole's booklet. 

The same two figures seen from the other side, the rearing horse is a particularly nice sculpt.

So what else did I buy.........well not a lot really.  There was plenty to see, lots of rare stuff and lots of bargains had by other people but I had decided to run a stall myself to shift some of the surplus that invariably builds up over the years and that kept me so busy I didn't have the time or mental faculty to go around buying.  Ah well there'll always be another show or ebay or whatever to spend the money I took.  More pics of the show etc. to follow in another post.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Williamite War at the March 2014 London Toy Soldier Show

 A couple of weeks ago I went along to the March 2014 London Toy Soldier Show, I would have to say that since the move to the new venue this show has been in something of a gentle decline.  To spruce things up a bit the organisers have decided that the December 2014 show will be a two day event, the existing Toy Soldier Show to be held on the Saturday and on Sunday the venue hosts a modelling competition and exhibition.

One manufacturer which has been around for a long time is Alexander's Toy Soldiers, who have generally concentrated on making white metal figures of the Napoleonic Wars.  I've tended to bypass their stand in recent years because I've had a bit of a downer on that period but as things were a bit quiet I took a closer look and I was very glad that I did.

They have a small but rather delightful range of figures depicting the Williamite Wars which just happens to be my personal historical plat du jour.  I have been lead down this dimly lit road in the quest for Jacobitism, the well trod path lead off towards Scotland but a narrow lesser known track took me towards Ireland, where I have greater familial associations, and brought me into the sunlight and the gleaming vista that is..... The League of Augsburg blog.

This post is pure indulgence on my part but I'm confident dear reader, that you will agree these figures are very easy on the eye.  Did I buy any? er.......well no.  But that's because I'm already in the process of converting some figures into Dutch chaps like the ones seen above, so expect to see a bit more of this period here at some point in the future.

However I didn't emerge entirely unscathed financially from the ATS stand as they were selling a range of spare parts and I managed to pick up some heads in mirleton caps which I have been searching for to make some Seven Years War Hussars........Hurrah!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Anyone for Herring?

With the recent upturn in the weather we had been eagerly awaiting our first outdoor Funny Little Wars game of the season, the plan was to run an amphibious landing, set during the "Herring War" between Norway and Denmark, with a fortress assault in the style of Port Arthur.  Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men etc..... the weather turned, rain stopped play and the game was taken inside:

The layout of the table after the first few moves had been made, The Norse have occupied some of the houses and dug in along the tree line at the far end while the Danes tentatively approach the town.

The plan now was to try out some rules for fighting in built up areas, the scenario was to occupy an inland town with the objective of taking the strategically important coaling station.  AM and JW lead the Norse while PW and I played the Danes.

As the game unfolded, snipers became increasingly active.

Danish Jaegers advance supported by the Royal Guard and heavy artillery.

The artillery might have dominated the game if not for the erratic marksmanship displayed by both sides!

A shell bursts over one of the houses which has already been pounded to rubble.

Lessons learnt: troops sheltering in houses attract heavy bombardment and the concentration of so many men leads to high casualty rates, by contrast the resulting piles of rubble provide a bulwark that can subsequently be easily defended.  A fast furious game played with about 100 infantry and three guns a side it turned into a real slugfest with lots of hand to hand melee among the ruins, great fun and all done in about three hours.

I'll leave the reader to identify the figures used, the Danish expeditionary force was cobbled together from various units in the spirit of Put Everything on the Table.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Plastic Warrior Magazine hits 30 and I have a late life crisis.

At the weekend the latest issue of Plastic Warrior Magazine hit my doormat, I opened the cover and browsed the contents which are headed by a statement "The original plastic figure magazine first published in 1985" and then it hit me this means PW has now been in continuous uninterrupted publication for 30 years.  That has to be some kind of a milestone, there aught to be a party at the very least.  I remember the excitement of receiving the very first issue and the magazine has been a constant element for more than half of my lifetime.  But where have all those years gone?  I don't feel any different now from then but I see myself in a recent photo and I could be looking at a picture of my Dad and it all happened in the blink of an eye!
It's okay just a momentary wobble, here's the latest issue:

Inside you'll find: News, Views and Other Stuff, an in-depth research of Britains Eyes Right U.S. Sets, a look at the collection of one of the readers, an interview with new manufacturer Austin Miniatures, Readers Letters, Book Review - Spot On models, Elastolin 40mm siege engines and artillery etc. New Products - from Pvblis, A Call to Arms, Armies in Plastic, Pegasus and Expeditionary Force.  Converters Corner: the Brooklyn Red Legs from the ACW.  A review of plastic models of Napoleon.  Minor Makers - VP Boxed Set. Wot The !&*$? identification of readers unknown figures.  Media Models - featuring the work of Joe Black. and last but not least Readers Small Ads.

Posts have been sparse this past nine months as I have been back at work, a simple, undemanding 9 to 5 job which I assured myself would not affect my work/life balance.
Alas this is not working out as planned........... ho-hum.