Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Vintage Cherilea Marlborough

Way back in the early formative years of my toy soldier collecting interest I recall a picture of the hollowcast metal figure of the Duke of Marlborough made by toy manufacturer Cherilea. I think I may have seen it in one of J G Garratt's books?  Whatever, but it struck me as a very fine piece and I've admired it ever since. Everything turns up eventually and after nearly 50 years one finally came my way, so I thought I'd share it.

Cherilea have a well deserved reputation for producing some of the most poorly sculpted and anatomically challenged figures in the entire world of Toy Soldiers, but it wasn't always the case. Back in the 1930's Wilfred Cherrington, a co-founder of Cherilea, worked with the gifted figure sculptor Richard Courtenay and produced the moulds for his early series of medieval knights (Greenhill, Old Toy Soldier Newsletter 1987).  Influence of some sort must have played between the two men as Courtney's early foot figures are very toy like while Cherilea later produced a short range of very fine figures known as the "Baronial Series"

The Baronial Series only ran to three figures, described in the catalogue as:
M1. 15th Century Knight in Gothic Armour
M2. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
M3. Edward the Black Prince

For some reason the figure of Marlborough came with the horse and sword designed for the Black Prince, I wonder why they did that?  I always thought the figure looked a bit over sized for this horse but both are nice sculpts.  Alongside the Cherilea figure is an Infantry Officer of the period made by Tradition, this is a modern white metal collectors figure.

The M1 knight (often called the Great Helm Knight) was also made in plastic from the original hollowcast moulds but sadly Marlborough and the Black Prince never made that transition.  I don't believe in being prissy with my toys so this Marlborough will be taking his place on the wargames table just as soon as I get his troops painted up.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Battle Cry in 54mm

For those unfamiliar with it, Battle Cry is a boardgame set in the American Civil War, it's played on a hexed board using 20mm toy soldiers which are activated by drawing order cards.  Separate terrain hexes can be laid on the board to create an infinite variety of battlefields.   In need of some diversion from One Hour Wargames, and as Anthony had acquired a mat with 6" hexes, we opted to run a game of Battle Cry using 54mm toy soldiers (also I realised my ACW toy soldiers hadn't had an airing since the Gettysburg game in 2013).

The game also includes a number of scenarios based on actual battles showing you where to lay out the terrain features and the starting positions for all units.  We decided to refight the First Battle of Kernstown   This sees the Confederates under Stonewall Jackson inadvertently attack a much stronger Union force due to faulty intelligence.  Here's how the game went:

View of the left and centre of the field from the Rebel side.  The Union artillery dominates the Rebel left from the commanding hills in the background.

The Rebel right and centre, the picket fence running through the middle of the field provides scant cover but creates a clear psychological barrier and rallying point between the two forces.

All movement and weapon ranges are measured in hexes rather than feet and inches, combat is between units rather than individual figures and is decided by simple dice rules. This makes for a fairly fast moving game once you've gotten used to the terrain effects, which are central to the system.

The Rebels hold a naturally strong defensive position, the treeline on their left protects that flank from the Union artillery and helps to even out the disparity in numbers between the two sides.

The Union force commands all the high ground and comprises 9 units of infantry, 2 cavalry, 2 guns and 2 Generals, while the confederates have 6 units of infantry, 1 cavalry, 2 guns and 3 Generals.

Aggressive Confederate cavalry action on the left keeps the Union right wing in check.

6" hexes are the ideal size for 54mm figures and give the game something of an old school Morschauser look.  If you don't want to stretch to buying a custom made mat it's easy enough to make one by cutting out a cardboard hex template and using it to draw around on a plain green sheet (if I can do it any idiot can!).

Most of the action was in the center and it could have gone either way as the relentless Union pressure took it's toll on the Confederates, finally a last desperate counterattack with a Rebel yell sent the Yankees running from the field.

On the Union right a massed attack broke against the stoutly held fence line and suddenly the battle was over. It could have gone either way and the Union force was slightly ahead for most of the game but that changed after the attack in the centre broke.In 1862 the battle was a tactical defeat for Jackson and the Confederates but happily in 2018 they just about managed to hold their own!  The whole game took abut two and a half hours to play.

This system is ideal for use with 54mm figures and we feel this size of toy soldier adds much to the visual aspect of the game.  It can be used without alteration for any of the modern wars in the second half of the 19th century and I have a fancy to try it for a Crimean game sometime (a chance to get out those Britains hollowcast guardsmen in bearskins).  Another bonus with this system is the the order cards provided are ideal for randomising movement if you are playing a solo game (as we all have to sometimes).

Monday, 4 June 2018

OHW Smolensk in 54mm

At the weekend Anthony and I got together for our fourth game using the One Hour Wargame rules. Flushed with the success of our Napoleonic game we felt ready to take the next step and devise our own scenario, I chose to base it on the First Battle of Smolensk in July 1941.  We aren't sticklers for accuracy but do want the thing to feel right so the Germans had to be light, fast, hard hitting and cohesive while the Russians would be steady, solid, and hard hitting but uncoordinated. It's been a long time since I've played a  WW2 wargame with 54mm toy soldiers, here's how it turned out:

The German motorised units deploy to force a bridgehead across the river Dneiper. A reconnaissance unit dashes across the bridge, supported by elite assault troops, heavy and light tanks, antitank, mortar and two infantry units. A total of eight units, see note at end of post for further explanation about troop types.

The Russian defenders lie in wait; on the left, infantry in the woods backed by a unit of heavies, blocking the road to the bridge is an antitank gun, behind it KV1 and KV2 tanks are hull down on the hill, behind them the Guards division is held in reserve and the mortars await firing instructions. On the right two more units of infantry and two of navy have take up position in the woods and ruins of the city's suburbs. A total of 12 units.

A very strong position with defence in depth, the winner will be whoever holds the hill (where the tanks are stationed) after 15 turns.  In the actual battle the Russian forces put up a strong fight with fierce counterattacks but a weak command structure meant that they were poorly coordinated, to represent this we used the Shambolic Command rule (see here) so that the Russian Commander could only move or fire up to four units each turn.

The bridge is a vintage tinplate railway piece made in Germany by Gebr. Bing (Bing Brothers) around 1900, these usually sell for about £60 but this was in such poor condition I got it for £1 (about 20 years ago) I finally got around to stripping and repainting it for this game (there's nothing like a deadline to get things done). I painted it as a road bridge because the rail gauge is too large to go with the British made Triang railway tracks that I have.  The wooden western town buildings represent a peasant village or dacha (or something like that)

The badly mauled reconnaissance unit veers off the road to make way for the Pzw II and Stug following in support.

The Pzw II is a vintage piece made in Germany during the 1930's by GAMA, I thought it looked right at home in this setting.

The infantry have effected a river crossing by boats, just as they did at Smolensk in 1941, to represent this each unit must first advance to the river bank then next turn it can dice to activate the crossing by achieving 6+ from a throw of 2xD6, if it fails it remains where it is. Needless to say, only infantry on foot can cross like this, vehicles must use the bridge.

Units can move or fire in each turn but not both, apart from the mortars they all have a firing range of  2 feet.  The mortars have a range of 8 feet but needs a friendly unit to spot for them, the spotter needs to be within 2 feet of the target and have clear field of sight to them.

The two Russian naval units occupied the suburbs of the city, here represented by Airfix Strongpoint buildings which have been enhanced with fallen rubble and collapsed rafters.

Heroes of the Soviet Navy scramble through the ruins. The individual figures are mounted on metal bases which enables them to stand on uneven or sloping surfaces and prevents the tumbling domino effect. To make two distinct units I painted all the riflemen as white jackets, so they could also double as WW1 Russian/German sailors, the figures with automatic weapons became blue jackets so can only be used for WW2 and later.

Out of shot, at the far end across the river the Russian partisans have finally attacked the German mortar unit but are more of a distraction than a threat and are seen off without difficulty. The use of partisans is another special rule which we devised for our last Napoleonic game (see here) they can appear from any piece of cover or any table edge at any time subject to being activated by a throw of 6+ on 2xD6 - a very simple but effective game mechanism.

The German force has taken the bridge and cleared the surrounding woods but they are now too depleted to withstand the inevitable counterattack. 

The Russian heavies move in for the kill as they retake the hill and woods around the bridge.  In hindsight I think I gave the Russians too much cover, even with just four units firing each turn they were able to pick off the Germans quite leisurely. Also I made a tactical error in trying to punch through with the armour from the start, I should have infiltrated infantry across the river one unit at a time to spot for the mortars and soften up the defences before releasing the tanks. Ho hum!

The Russian mortars, these truly are the kings of the battlefield.

In 1941 the Germans forced the crossing and held the bridgehead against repeated counterattacks but the Russians retreated due to the threat of being cut off in a pocket by other German armies advancing to the north and south of them. I could have replicated the effect of this by requiring the Russian commander to make a graduated withdrawal but I didn't think of that at the time.  We play and we learn.

We both felt that the game worked visually but wasn't as satisfying as the previous Napoleonic game, it was just a bridge too far!

A note on the use of unit types.

This post assumes some knowledge of the One Hour Wargames rules that we use, these are very easy to assimilate and are designed to give fast play games for players who are short of time and space.  For each historical period both sides are allowed up to 6 combat units, which must fall into one of four different unit types, so for WW2 games the rules provide for infantry, mortars, antitank and tanks.  

This can be rather limiting if you hanker after a larger scale game and as we are not short of time or space we have expanded on the concept by increasing the number of units used and bringing in troop types from other historical periods, i.e. the machine age (WW1) rules provide for heavy units - slow moving but hard hitting and cavalry - very mobile but with reduced fire effect (which we used for the German reconnaissance unit). Other troop types were brought in from earlier periods; the Russian Guards and German Assault units used the zouave profile - elite units that move faster and hit harder, while the Russian Partizans use the skirmisher profile - light troops, very mobile but with reduced fire effect. 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Plastic Warrior Show 2018

The Plastic Warrior Show has come and gone for another year, a part of me is always glad to get it over with, another part can't wait until the next one, we collectors are indeed a curious race.  Some new Replicants mounted Comanche Indians were unveiled at the show, I haven't included pictures of them as they are already poping up all over the blogosphere and on their revamped website which is well worth a look here: Replicants.

Dan Morgan made this rather nice medieval diorama to showcase Replicants civilian figures.

Adrian Little treated us to an extensive collection of Malleable Mouldings figures, of which this is just a small selection

There were a couple of these Polish Renaissance gun teams on Steve Vickers table, they are quite large size, the figures stand about 70mm high

One of the French dealers brought this interesting landing craft over with him.

The Melton Brothers from York had an interesting selection of early English plastics

more of the above!

This was the offering from Belgian collector Daniel Lepers

.....and more of the above.

That's it until next year folks!

Friday, 11 May 2018

War of 1812

A deputation from the Funny Little Wars group visited recently in the form of Paul and Jack, looking to try out some ideas for smoke, confusion and subterfuge in the age of Napoleon. Keen to get a recently acquired collection from the War of 1812 on the table, I thought this would be an ideal scenario to try out the new ideas.

Setting the scene, a company of British infantry picquetted in the outlying town, across the river from their stockade, are surprised by a raiding party of American regulars, militia and native scouts. A firefight breaks out but the company are quickly overwhelmed and forced to flee for the safety of the fort as the Americans overrun the village.

Troops in the fort stand to and give supporting fire to the hard pressed company. Guns fire every other move and puffs of smoke indicate they are reloading. Similarly blankets of smoke are laid down for each infantry volley, with each successive volley more smoke is laid and begins to role away but has the effect of obscuring aim, it also gives irregular troops the opportunity to slip away unseen, only to reappear elsewhere.

At this point the forlorn Company find their way to the fort blocked, pinned on three sides they decide to try crossing the river.  At this juncture a band of natives, allied to the British emerged from the woods to the right of the stockade, their musketry forces the American Militia across the footbridge to fall back but it is too little too late to save the beleaguered company across the river.

A salvo from the American guns dispersed the native allies, while our gallant Company, caught in a crossfire, were unable to cross the river and surrendered to the Yankee Regulars.

The action concluded with the American Militia snipping on the stockade from the safety of the woods while their Regulars formed up for a frontal assault which they carried despite fearful casualties.

The new rules were easy to administer and worked very well, the scenario itself made for an interesting game which could have gone either way.  A very pleasant way to spend a midweek afternoon with old friends and it's great to be getting more gaming in.