Saturday, 3 October 2015

MOAB 2015

Join me if you will on my photo essay about MOAB 2015. No not MOAB the daisy cutter bomb used to such effect in Gulf War 1, MOAB the Sydney Southern Battlegamers annual convention / show. And when I say 'photo essay' that's just a pretentious way of saying there will be more pictures than words. Mainly 'cos I want to beat Kaptain Kobold to the punch, which I should do this time as he's putting on participation games throughout the whole 3 day event, whereas I rather selfishly just went along to socialise, buy and sell, and indulge in participation games ...(No - too late, he's already posted!)

We may as well start with the good Kaptain, as he was staging a rather popular game of 'Machinas', which I've never played but seems to me to be the wargaming equivalent of the old TV series 'The Dukes of Hazzard'....

I daresay theres more to it than outwitting Boss Hogg and Daisy Duke's legs though....

And it certainly seemed to generate much excitement... So perhaps theres a dash of Mad Max in there too - very timely!

Other participation games which caught my eye was a couple of beautifully staged Bolt Action games, one set at a factory site located in a jungle clearing...

And the other at a U Boat base somewhere in France (well, probably La Rochelle, L'Orient or Brest...)

The only participation game I took part in was a wonderfully presented Bolt Action Tank War game, set in a cover heavy NW Europe, featuring 3 US Shermans taking on 2 Panthers. I already have a little experience with BATW, but wanted to see how it was done properly, and learnt some helpful tips and tricks, including how reverse works. The first two brewups were mine, a photo opportunity for Kaptain Kobold who gleefully comment that my tanks burn wherever I play! However, I did eventually win the game by stalking the Panther with side shots. Thanks to my courteous and informative hosts from the Southern Battlegamers.

Another very professionally presented game I saw was of the French and Indian wars, and I think you'll agree this Cigar Box battlemat has been used to great effect. In particular this high quality fleece drapes very well over round hills. Given the costs of US mail I am pleased to hear that these are available in Australasia from Shayne at Campaign Books and Games Logistics although some of the more versatile ones, just fields or grasslands, without roads and rivers, aren't available just now.

Of course one of the best things about a wargames show is the change to catch up with mates. It really is a great hobby when you literally can't walk 5 yards with bumping into an old acquaintance. It was good to see that Matt, the genial giant proprietor of The Hall of Heroes (HoH) Campbelltown, my very FLGS - (Friendly Local Games Store) - is up and about despite a very bad ankle fracture, thanks to the use of an ingenious scooter thingy - much to the envy of his young daughter! As always the HoH was out in force at the show, giving the chance to stock up on another box of lovely Battlefront hard plastic Comets - and no I haven't painted the first box yet! I also picked up a 'must have' copy of October's WI. Two things - since when is October's issue available in Australia at the start of the relevant month!?! Secondly I had to have it since it has an article by Phil Yates about his Team Yankee game! Matt passed on the fact that, whilst the rules are ready for release, they will probably wait until the models are ready before releasing the complete package, hopefully for Christmas.....

I shan't list everyone I bumped into, but it was great to catch up briefly with Scott, who the blogosphere will know as Trailape, and whose blog is linked over on the right. Scott is out of the Army now after many years good hard service, and it was great to see that civvy street is treating him well, he certainly seemed to be having a good time at the show. A great Aussie wargaming 'larger than life' character who also seems to know everyone!

I was please to see that there was a large Napoleonic game going on, with masses of beautifully painted 15mm AB Russian and French minis on the table. I tried to identify the battle from the layout, but failed - perhaps it was a generic scenario! The rules appeared to be a 'Commit the Guard' by GT publishing.
I should have asked, but the guys were totally immersed. Interesting to see the use of a hex based system in this scale. Didn't seem to detract from the overall look though, I'm sure you'll agree!

The Flames of War tournament, organised by Nigel, had I think 50 entrants, and as you can see much attention and effort had been put into the table layouts.

Nigel mentioned that he was thinking of also organising a Team Yankee competition next year, set at 100 points, and I volunteered then and there!

A good variety of terrain was on show for this competition.

Up in the various club rooms other competitions were being held on this 1st day of the 3 day event. The Bolt Action competition also had some great looking games going on...

With a variety of theatres and terrain on show...

And some lovely looking models...

There was also a DBA competition going on, but the participants looked to be taking things very seriously indeed, so I didn't like to intrude with my camera...


A thoughtful touch was the boardgames library, with games and a separate, quieter room set aside for those who wanted to try their hand. 

Of course no sane bloggist would take his camera into the heaving, foul smelling mosh pit that is the bring and buy, so just a few photos of  some of my bargains, which I was able to fund by selling off some of my older, metal 15mm tanks as I steadily replace them with the lovely new hard plastic offerings from PSC and Battlefront. 

This modern US infantry company will be converted; either Europeanised for TEAM YANKEE with some dashes of black and green to their choc-chip camo for MERDC, and a few patches of green and brown flock; or with a smattering of OG shirts and trousers for Arab and Israeli infantry for Fate of A Nation games. Or maybe both, I don't think my TEAM YANKEE force will need 3 Mech platoons, not for a 100 point force anyhow. Yes as far as 15mm infantry goes, I'm afraid I really am that slap dash when it comes to accepting pressed men!

This purchase, for the princely sum of $4, was pure nostalgia - this Airfix set of 'Modern' British infantry was one of my earliest toys, used for Northern Ireland CT skirmish games, complete with cereal packet buildings. 'We wuz poor, but we wuz 'appy'!

One thing I've noticed about the great Australian climate, and I can whinge now I'm a citizen, is that second hand books, a pleasure I over-indulged in back in the old country, tend not to last too well, and can become quite mouldy and smelly. However, and I have no stake in this, I've noticed that Osprey books seem to last quite well in the 'pre-loved' books stakes, but often keep their price accordingly. So I was thrilled with this slather of Americana at rock bottom prices:

The bulk of my splurging though, to my pleasant surprise, was on Battlefront plastic AFV kits. I expected everyone to be offloading the metal and resin versions as the new plastic kits came out, but I was able to pick up virtually pristine boxes of Pz IVs and SU100s, sprues completely intact. Together with a PSC Pz38t box, I picked up new from the nice chaps at War and Peace games, that should keep me busy for a while! 
Thanks to all at the Southern Battlegamers club, and their hardworking WAGs, for a great show - and for the die! A great day out, and a wonderful start to the austral summer!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Chicken Marengo?

Do forgive the title - we dined at Sydney's latest 'undiscovered gem - must be experienced' French restaurant last night, and I was torn between ordering the Chicken Chasseur or the Joue de Bouef. The beef cheeks won, and were as delicious as I'd thought, but the saute'd chicken wafted by our table on what was surely an unnecessarily regular basis has preyed on my mind...(Actually its probably the half dozen bottles of claret we scuppered that's been preying on my mind and body.)

In any case, the obvious title for this post has already been taken by another protagonist at Thursday's very enjoyable Maurice game, Freiherr Kaptain Kobold, he of the Austrian Imperial Yellow cardigan shown above, in his excellent write up of the game which can be found here: Maurice-Marengo

Something that should be made clear at the very outset, with no obfuscation or attempts to deceive whatsoever,  is that most of the model soldiers you are about to see are shockingly out of uniform for 1800.

Rather than point out the most egregious offences against Grognard sensibility in the military tailoring department, it would be quicker, easier, and frankly less unsettling to those of us whose innards are a little queasy this morning after, to point out those few units which were not 'improperly dressed and accoutred in accordance with Part IV Orders', to whit; a smattering of Austro Hungarian Grenzer, Jaeger, Fusilier and Grenadier Regiments, and, of the entire French orbat, a handful of gunners.

Pretty rare for gunners to manage to turn up at the right place and the right time and in the right rig - anyone would think their CinC was an artilleryman himself...

Speaking of which, Marengo was the battle of which Napoleon was said to have claimed he had lost the battle by four o' clock and won it again by 7!

Of all of Napoleon's extensive rewriting of his battles, in which he rarely accepted blame for anything except the victories, Marengo is the one he changed the most; reworking the official history not once but twice - clearly it was a watershed moment for him and posterity had to tell the right story.

The finger pointing begins...'The point of decision is on our left flank!'
Of course it would be unfair to say that the original account contained any untruths - but there were some significant omissions - particularly Napoleon's plea to Desaix at 1100 to "Return, for God's sake"

'Or perhaps on the right...'
In any case, the historic record is somewhat, shall we say, 'dynamic' about the battle of Marengo of 14 June 1800, which of course is always a good thing when devising a wargames scenario - particularly if you are having to fudge the model troops on a heroic scale and are experimenting with applying a ruleset designed to replicate 18th Century warfare to the Napoleonic era, albeit with a nod to the French Revolutionary Wars.

It was Caesar - pictured in the Revolutionary French Blue jumper - who devised the scenario and orders of battle to enable this intriguing experiment, and the ever industrious Rittmeister und Kaptain von Kobold has replicated his work here: Maurice-french-revolutionary-and-early

As this is now the third blog post about this particular game, I shan't trouble you with a blow by blow battle report of the evening's events, even were my brain cells not more than usually eaten away by too many bottles of  Sainte-Emilion's finest.

There's more than a passing resemblance between the good Colonel here and your balding and rotund bloggist...
Instead, I will crave your indulgence to make a few brief observations about Maurice, and the broader aspects of the differences between 18th Century warfare and Napoleonic warfare, at least as pointed up by using a ruleset designed for one era to play another.

I trust that amongst educated gentlemen of the right sort, it is now generally accepted that Maurice as a ruleset provides an elegant framework to recreate 18th Century linear warfare - the regular exchange of volleys by infantry in line forming an almost automatic and unconscious backdrop to the real gaming challenges of assembling and concentrating a puissant force at the point of decision without overtaxing the limited command and control mechanisms, all the while satisfying the needs of courtiers and the conventions of the time.

Cavalry is of little use against anything but other cavalry, and so does seem to have no other function but to add a little tone to what would otherwise been an unseemly brawl...

And irregular warfare forms a distinct, if exciting, sideshow to the main event.

The first thing that emerged from the experience concerns the scale of the battle. Whilst Maurice lends itself easily and quickly to scaling the size of the battle being refought up or down, with each 4 base unit able to represent anything from a battalion to a brigade, the game works best with no more than 2 players and an upper limit of about two dozen units within the 100 point constraint on paying for an army. That's not to say you can't restage the larger battles of the 18th Century, and indeed we have done so regularly, and I have commented often that, to my surprise, I have gotten that 'big battle' feeling from playing Maurice. 

But for Napoleonics, I am nothing if not an megalomaniac - the bigger the better, and if there are not at least three players to a side, each commanding a division, if not a Corps, then its really not a Napoleonic experience! My default rules for such games are Black Powder for 28mm, and, latterly, Blucher for 15mm.

However, history is never clear cut, and the epic clashes of massed nations in arms which so quicken my blood - at a safe remove over the tabletop - didn't just happen from 1792 onwards. Marengo, a decisive and significant Napoleonic battle, had a total of just over 60,000 combatants, much smaller than the combined armies approaching 200,000 present under arms at Oudenaarde in 1708. So whilst the mid and later period of Napoleonic warfare featured armies the size of which would have shocked Marlborough, there was an early period where armies were on 18th Century scale, and where of course at least one of the protagonists clung to 18th Century linear tactics and organisation.

Size alone then is no reason for not extending Maurice into the early Napoleonic era, particularly with Caesar's thoughtful use of National Advantages and troop stats to reflect where changes in tactics and theory had taken place - most obviously of course as provided for by the A la Baionnette, Skirmishers, and Professional train attributes.

However, after what was a most enjoyable and exciting game, I begin to realise that for me, Napoleonic warfare is not only characterised by the size of the armies, more mobile artillery, the use of skirmishers and columns, and increased shock effect of battle cavalry.

Regressively, perhaps, Napoleonic warfare seems to be a distinct step on the road to massed, total warfare - fast paced, aggressive with few lulls in the blood letting, even more so than some of Frederick the Great's bloodier affairs. The very ebb and flow of 18th Century warfare, with frequent lulls, so well recreated by Maurice; with the need, just when great opportunities are presented, to 'pass' and replenish on action cards; seem to be the antithesis of the speed, prioritisation and brutal blowtorching towards the objective so necessary when playing Blucher or Black Powder. This was a great and enjoyable game, and, like Sam in the movie, I'd 'play it again', but, for me, it wasn't Marengo...