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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The First Battle of Taras 490 BC

The Greek colony of Taras in southern Italy was originally settled by Sparta. The indigenous tribe with which they were regularly in conflict were the Messapians - originally of Illyrian descent but who had taken on many Oscan ways of life both domestically and militarily.

In 490BC the full Messapian host advanced on Taras intent on wresting control of the area from the Tarantines.  Fred Eugene Ray in “Land Battles in 5th Century BC Greece” estimates that the Messapians fielded of the order of 6000 foot and 2000 cavalry against 4000 Hoplites, 1000 psiloi and 500 cavalry. Although he has a system to calculate approximate army strengths in the period these numbers are still of course very much guesstimates so I only use them as a very rough guide when translating them into table strengths for wargames purposes.

The historic result was a decisive Tarantine victory.  The Hoplites proved superior to their tribal opponents and the Greek commanders must have been experienced enough to negate their opponents cavalry superiority by careful deployment.

The rules used were WRG 6th.  I normally have a few special rules for historical refights and this was no exception.  These were:

Special Rules

The Messapian warriors get +1 on combat to balance what will be a difficult fight for them against hoplites. To simulate the fierceness of their charge the first warrior unit to declare a charge will add +3 to charge reaction and subsequent units a +1.

Warriors cannot use their javelins as missile weapons


Difficult terrain should be placed on each flank to restrict the possibility of Messapian flank attacks
Tarantine Generals must be placed in a Hoplite unit - the C in C will control the 2 Reg B units which will be deployed on the right and the sub general will control the 2 Reg C units on the right.

The Tarantines deploy their hoplites in a two deep line and cover their flanks with cavalry and skirmishers. The Hoplite line should attempt to keep together up until first contact.

Tarantines deploy first - no off table flank attacks allowed

The Tarantine army list

C in C                             HI LTS Sh
Sub general                     HI LTS Sh     
Cavalry            REG B    HC JLS           7
Cavalry            REG B    HC JLS           7
Hoplites           REG B    HI LTS Sh      24
Hoplites           REG B    HI LTS Sh      24
Hoplites           REG C    HI LTS Sh      24
Hoplites           REG C    HI LTS Sh      24
Javelinmen      IRREG C  LI JLS Sh       10
Javelinmen      IRREG C  LI JLS Sh       10

The Messapian List   
C in C                             HC  JLS     
Sub General                    HC JLS     
Cavalry            IRREG B HC  JLS             9
Cavalry            IRREG C MC JLS             9
Cavalry            IRREG C MC JLS             9
Warriors          IRREG B LHI LS LTS Sh  24
Warriors          IRREG C LMI JLS Sh       24
Warriors          IRREG C LMI JLS Sh       24
Warriors          IRREG C LMI JLS Sh       24
Warriors          IRREG C LMI JLS Sh       24
Slingers           IRREG C LI Sl Sh             12
Javelinmen       IRREG C  LI JLS Sh         12

My opponent for the night was Kev and to be fair to him my experience of these rules is about 100 times his, although I only play very occasionally these days.  Having narrowed the centre of the table with woods on wither side to restrict the effectiveness of the Messapian cavalry I offered Kev the choice of sides but he sportingly tossed a coin for it which resulted in me having command of the Tarantines.

I deployed as per the instructions.  Kev’s inexperience with the rules showed as he deployed all but one unit of warriors in line but included his cavalry in blocks of 3 by 3 in the line where they were likely to be in difficulties against the long spears of the hoplites.

Both armies moved forward.  Simultaneous play is almost unknown in modern rules and takes a while to readjust to! My worry was that my flanks were dangerously exposed.  Although cavalry only move at quarter speed in woods the Messapian foot all move at full speed.  Their disadvantage is that they manoeuvre at half speed and so would take time to exploit any flanking advantage.

The skirmishers moved through the woods and exchanged missiles.  The lines closed and declared mutual charges.  Unfortunately for Kev his left flank javelinmen had a rush of blood to the head and decided to take on the Tarantine C in C’s unit by themselves in an impetuous counter charge!  All the other skirmishers evaded, but one of the cavalry units was forced to declare a charge on the hoplites or risk being charged itself and caught standing.

In the melee that followed the foolhardy skirmishers, the cavalry and one unit of warriors broke.  The right flank warrior unit had gone impetuous but just chased skirmishers in the first round and was only able to get a couple of figures in on the second round of fighting.  On the other flank the elite Messapian warrior unit also went impetuous and chased away the skirmishers but having exited the wood were terribly exposed to the threat of a flank attack by the Tarantine cavalry.

We had to stop it there with the Tarantines having the advantage and likely to make history repeat itself.  I enjoyed setting up the game and it played reasonably well but the Messapians were a tough challenge for a player inexperienced in the rules.  It was certainly good to get my Greeks on the table and my Gauls stood in for most of the Messapians.

View at the start from the Tarantine left

Arty photograthy from behind the Tarantine line

Much more practice needed with the camera! 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Carronade 5th May 2012 - web page now available

If you remember I said I would post a link when we had a web page up so here it is

Please check back regularly - as traders and clubs confirm attendance it will be updated.

I look forward to seeing many of you there on the day

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Visit to Broughty Castle

I had another half day on Friday, headed up to Dundee with Angela and Topaz, and had an interesting hour in Broughty Castle and the harbour area at Broughty Ferry at the mouth of the river Tay.

The castle dates from the mid fifteenth century with the imposing tower being completed in 1496.  It played an important part of Henry VIII’s invasion of Scotland in the mid sixteenth century, the so-called rough wooing.  Having defeated the Scots at the Battle of Pinkie the English arrived on 20 September 1547 at the invitation of its owner, Lord Gray.  He supported the Protestant English King against the Catholic government of the infant Mary Queen of Scots.
The English improved the castle’s defences and were able to withstand a prolonged siege before finally surrendering to a combined Franco-Scottish force on 21 February 1550.

The Gray family were restored to ownership which they kept until selling the castle in 1666.  The only excitement in that time was when General Monck seized it in 1651 from the royalist Gray’s who sensibly left without trying to defend it

The next phase of the castle’s military history was as a result of the perceived French threat of the mid nineteenth century which resulted in huge expenditure on fortifications across the UK.  Broughty Castle ‘s position at the mouth of the River Tay was seen as strategically important so it was remodelled as an artillery fort and remained in service until 1932, being reoccupied in 1939 for the duration of the Second World War.  It is now looked after by Historic Scotland, whilst the Tower houses a small but interesting museum run by Dundee Council.
Well worth a visit if you are in the area.  The views across the Tay are stunning and the combination of late medieval tower and artillery fort unusual but certainly visually appealing. Enjoy the photographs.

                                          View of the castle from the other side of the harbour

                                        An inside out shot with Dundee in the distance

Three 40 pounder Armstrong Rifled Breech Loaders, the only ones left in the UK.  Presumably these were part of the original armament of the castle in it's reincarnation as a Victorian artillery fort.  They had been used as bollards on the Broughty Ferry quay and were only recognised for what they really were in 1989.  They have been restored and placed on replica naval gun carriages of the period.

View from the castle over to the Tay Bridge

Thursday, 26 January 2012

A Few Blocks of Hell

This is a Force on Force scenario form the rule book depicting an incident from the Second Battle of Fallujah in November 2004.

It is a good way to learn the basic rules as it is a straight infantry v infantry slog. The US objective is to fight their way through crowded streets and take 2 target buildings within six turns.

The scenario in the book has the US with 4 fireteams of 4 men each plus 2 squad leaders.  Troop Quality is D8 and Morale D10 (expressed as D8/D10).  Their opponents are made up of two 5 man cells of foreign fighters, also D8/D10, and 5 groups of 5 local Jihadists at D6/D12.  The version we played reduced the Jihadists by one group but introduced reinforcements (a common concept in the rules) which arrived at the end of turn 1,3 and 5 for the insurgents and 2 and 4 for the US.

Chuck took the Americans and Rory and I the insurgents (also Pete who arived a little later) with Dax, who provided the figures and terrain, acting as umpire.

The US set up one fireteam on overwatch and sent their other three teams forward, keeping to the flanks to avoid cross fire.  Their opponents proved more resilient than most of their real life counterparts, helped by waves of reinforcements which succeeded in keeping the Americans at bay.

Highlights included an Apache strike on a crowded building which only resulted in 2 minor wounds. A series of human wave attacks which ended with the capture of 3 Americans.  Some truly appalling American dice rolls.  A remote control helicopter hovering over the battlefield (I forgot to take a picture).  Lots of laughs.

Thanks to Dax for setting it all up – we had a ball.

                                                The view from the initial Iraqi positions

My two groups of local Jihadists, one taken out by fire from the US firteam on overwatch, the other killed to a man after rashly charging into hand to hand combat (you can tell that I'm an Ancients player at heart)

Next week (cue drum roll) WRG 6th

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A World Aflame - Interwar Wargame Rules 1918-39 by Paul Eaglestone

Now pre-ordered on Amazon.  At £8.69 they have gone below my price point for a stand alone set of rules that I have figures for and which sound interesting.  They have Dux Bellorum at that price now as well.  Osprey are looking for more rules authors to expand the series which is excellent news.  Regular readers of this blog may have spotted that I like variety.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Society of Ancients

I have just rejoined the SoA.  I first joined in the late 70’s and was a member for over 20 years, dropped out for a bit and signed up again in 2009.  If ancient wargaming is one of your interests then it is well worth the £20 a year membership fee.

The most obvious benefit for members is the magazine Slingshot which comes out 6 times a year.  It is a high quality publication with a good mix of history and wargaming normally with book and figure reviews as well.  It is all written by members and there is no advertising to distract you.  There are also society products, discounts, a yahoo group to contact other members etc.

One of the things that encouraged me to rejoin was the Society championship as I thought it might help me find some new opponents.  It’s an elegant system where any two members can play virtually any ancient wargame and have the result count in the competition.  Unfortunately I have struggled to find Scottish gamers interested in taking part (in 25mm at least) but my activity on the yahoo group did result in me finding a new occasional opponent with whom I’ve had some excellent games.

If you are interested check out the website

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Purple Heart Valley

On Monday I had a game of Purple Heart Valley.  I have only ever come across these rules at the Falkirk club and have not been able to find any reference to them online so I thought I would start with a review of the rules.

They are subtitled ‘Wargames Rules for the American Daylight Bombing Offensive against Germany 1943 – 1944’  which sums them up quite neatly.  The author is NP Roberts, they were published by phv games in 1992 and run to 24 pages.

There is a historical introduction setting the scene and describing the tactics used by both sides.  These essentially consisted of American bombers flying in box formation to maximise defensive fire supported by fighters which were often operating at extreme range.  German single engine fighters would attempt to occupy the escorts leaving their twin engine colleagues to deal with the bombers.

The rules are designed to be played on a hex mat.  Bombers fly straight and level to the target and back with fighters from both sides able to operate above and below them.  The Germans attack, the American fighters attempt to intercept but those that get through try to shoot the bombers down

A key feature of the rules is the damage tables.  When a plane is hit there is a wide range of damage that can be done from cosmetic which has no effect to a fuel tank or bomb bay hit which will blow the plane up.  The results are decided by throwing percentage dice and vary depending on the angle of attack.

There are optional rules covering the likes of rocket attacks, aces, collisions etc. and also some campaign rules.

At the club we play a simplified version of the rules.  The bombers still trundle across to board to bomb the target and return to base but there is no hex movement.  The effect of the fighter escorts is abstracted into an interception phase.  The German fighters are  either intercepted or not.  If they are the players roll to see if attacker or escort is shot down and in any event intercepted German fighters cannot press home an attack on the bombers that phase.  The damage tables are used fully and provide much of the drama as the bombers take hits and the effects are assessed.

The number of turns the bombers take depends on the target and how deeply they have to penetrate over occupied Europe.  If casualties are high the raid can be aborted.  If German losses are high they may choose not to pursue the bombers on their homeward journey.

The games are very light-hearted affairs with plenty of banter going on and Monday was no exception.  Three German players took 4 fighters each against 9 or 10 bombers.  Mine planes were FW 190s.  I keep a record of missions flown and had an ace together with a pilot on a score of 3 in one pair with the other pair both being rookies.

My ace had little luck being bounced by American Thunderbolts each time but my other experienced pilot was able to take down a B 17 and so is now only one kill away from being an ace himself.  The other two were happy to survive unscathed.  Between us we accounted for 4 B17s and a Thunderbolt at the cost of some damaged planes but no pilot casualties.  The Americans decided to abort the raid so it was a good day for the Luftwaffe.

                                                   The Bombers await their first attack

I have a game of Force on Force planned for next week so watch this space for a report on that game.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Playing Favourites

Plagiarism rules!  Several of my favourite blogs have had a go at listing their wargames favourites so I decided to have a go as well.


All time – WRG 6th edition ancients.  I have played them every year since they came out in 1980

Current – Impetus – they give a great game in an evening session and I have thoroughly enjoyed the 2 tournaments I played in 2011, which were the first such events I had played in many years


25mm – my scale of choice from Ancients through to 1700.


My favourite figures have to be my old Asgard medieval infantry who have served in many a battle.  A close second are the Essex medieval knights.  When they came out I got them all in both foot and mounted poses.


I don’t tend to draw much inspiration for wargaming from films.  The war film that I will watch almost every time it comes on is Kelly’s Heroes.  My real favourite is the extended version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


I do tend to draw inspiration from books and I many I time I have started to plan out how I might game the campaigns and battles portrayed.  Fortunately I am pretty good at only converting a small number of them into actual projects.

I have gone with a perennial favourite – The Airfix Guide to Ancient Wargaming.  It must be the most often revisited book in my collection and it was inspirational in getting me into ancient wargaming.


Has to be Slingshot.

Non Ancients favourite

The above reflects the fact that the Ancient /Medieval period has long been a firm favourite of mine.  Readers of my blog will be aware that I do game a fairly wide range of periods/rules/scales.  I thought I would pick one out to balance the above and after much deliberation decided on  ACW Fire and Fury in 15mm. 

So - what are your favourites?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Support your local library

On Friday I called into my local library in Grangemouth.  Over Christmas I had bought Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion, the omnibus edition of a fantasy trilogy.  I really liked it and, seeing she had written quite a number of other books I looked her up on the library website, ordered a couple, got email confirmation that they were in, then went along and picked them up.  I read one of them on Friday night!

Not only would buying theses books have been expensive but I honestly don’t have room to store all the books I would like to read.  Libraries are also great places to browse – both for fiction and non fiction.  Unlike in a bookshop where I have to be pretty sure I will like a book to buy it in the library if I am unsure I will borrow it anyway – no harm done if it is not my cup of tea.  If I am researching new a wargames project the library is always a great resource – what they don’t have they can usually get.

Despite all I have said above I don’t visit as often as I would like.  In the UK the library service is funded by local councils whose budgets are under a lot of pressure at the moment, so they need to justify their existence or they will disappear.  I have decided to make a concerted attempt to borrow more books and have set myself the target of reading 52 library books this year.

One final benefit arising from my library visit on Friday – I picked up the Osprey Vanguard title Armour of the Vietnam Wars from their for sale section for 30p.  I never could resist a bargain.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

It is never a good plan to mock your opponents dice rolls….

More on that anon.

So it was Monday night which normally means a trip to Falkirk and District Wargames Club for some gaming goodness.  My first game of the year was against long time opponent Rory.  He offered me choice of systems and I chose WFB.  Chaos Warriors v The Empire.

I had not played a game of Fantasy Battles for about six months and the plan was to give the rules a good read through and tweak the list a bit.  In the end it was a matter of digging up the list I used last time and rummaging through my very disorganised wargames space (the attic) to find the rules and the army about ten minutes before I left the house.

We were a bit late starting after wishing club members happy new year, shaking hands, enquiring about Christmas (Goose was recommended) etc.  We threw some trees and hills on the table, Rory rolled higher than I did and asked me to start deploying first. The plan was dogs on the flanks, infantry to right of centre and Chaos Knights to the left.

Having got half way through deployment I realised that I has forgotten that I also had a unit of Marauder Horsemen to deploy – there was just room on the far right flank in a double column so that’s where they went (and took no part in the battle).

Rory had several large units of infantry in the centre – flagellants, militia, swordsmen and one other.  His knights were to my right and a unit of mounted pistoleers guarded his other flank.  He also had a cannon on a hill.  He had 3 characters including a level 2 wizard and a warrior priest.  I just had 2 one of which was a level 1 wizard.

Not much happened in the first turn, Rory advanced as did I if more slowly, attempting to get my horse around the right flank.  On the second turn the level 2 magician miscast and was lucky to survive, only going down one level. Then a unit of knights charged my right flank dogs who went down without a whimper.  On the other flank it was a different story a unit of foot charged my leftmost chaos knights. The result was 9 to 0  and when the foot broke they threw 2 and hence were destroyed.

I then remembered that I was using Chaos Warriors and not Early Imperial Romans so I charged in everything that I could.  The victorious knights slaughtered the pistoleers.  The next 2 units, knights and warriors, won but against unbreakable opposition (to be fair the flagellants gave the warriors a bit of a fright). 

Then it was the big showdown – a unit of Empire knights led by a general against two units, one of marauders and one of chaos warriors led by my general.  Now my chaos characters always have to challenge opposing characters if they meet them.   Being armed with a Great Weapon meant that I had to go second, so it was with some trepidation that I watched Rory throw his 4 dice.  It was quite funny when he rolled four 1s but I probably should not have taken a photo as that was when the dice luck (previously very much in my favour) changed.  My attacks in retaliation scored no hits and then his horse bit my general making him lose one of his two lives!  Despite my numbers advantage I only just hung on and if there had been time for another round I would have been in a lot of trouble.

Moral of the story – never take pictures of your opponent’s poor dice rolls.

So that was game one of my projected seventy this year.  Next week it will be a game of Purple Heart Valley.

I haven't quite sussed out how to make the photos appear in the body of the post, so here they are at the


Rory in classic wargamer pose

The armies are about to meet

The four ones!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

1000 point Late German Great War Army (plus WAB)

I have just ordered (on my wife’s credit card) 5 packs of Renegade figures.  My friend Marco of Rif Raf Miniatures will hopefully paint them for her so she can give them to me as a birthday present.  This will then complete a Sturmabteilung company.  I’ll post pictures when the full force is assembled.

These guys are primarily for use as Freikorps but will also allow me to play a WWI game straight from the Great War book.  I always believe in keeping options open.  So I’ll be looking for opponents next.

Angela is also buying me the new WAB book in the half price sale.  It’s the last day of the sale today and I hesitated over getting it but finally succumbed.  Once again it keeps my options open for Ancients games.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Visit to Dirleton Castle

I took a half day’s holiday today and we went for a drive to Dirleton, which is near the coast east of Edinburgh.  We started with an excellent lunch at the Castle Inn, perhaps a little pricey for a lunchtime but excellent food and situated just across the road from the castle

We then had a fairly brisk walk around the castle.  The weather wasn’t bad for January if a little nippy and overcast

During the Scottish Wars of independence the castle was held for a period by the English before being slighted by Robert the Bruce, the fate of many Scottish castles.  The English used castles to dominate the country and ready built Scottish ones were an ideal source. The Scots did not have the resources to properly defend all of them so slighting those most at risk of capture was seen as the best way to deny their use to the enemy.

The castle was subsequently rebuilt and became a fine residence as well as retaining it’s defensible characteristics.   It was not however able to resist Cromwell and it fell once again to military action in 1650.  Not long after it was abandoned and became a picturesque ruin.  It is in the care of historic Scotland and if you fancy a visit I would suggest looking up their website for directions, prices etc.

We have visited before and in the summer the gardens are spectacular. They seemed to have only suffered minimal damage from the recent storms but are of course not at their best at this time of year. I took a couple of photos but the light was not that good.


It would be good to have some comments as to how interesting this sort of post is.  We often visit castles, abbeys, battlefields and other historic sites on days out and when on holiday so my hope is that brief reports such as this will be a regular feature.

My photography will improve!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Games Workshop – Love ’em or Hate ‘em?

Whilst I would not say that I have ever actually hated Games Workshop I certainly used to look down my nose at them. Not ‘proper’ wargaming  - overpriced figures – overly simple rules - played by kids who didn’t know any better would have probably summed up my views.  Although I did give Warhammer Ancient Battles a go when it came out and had some reasonable games I wasn’t overly impressed by the bucket of dice approach and felt that the characters were far too powerful .

In recent years, having joined a number of internet forums, I have been exposed to the wider world’s take on GW - everything from the fanboys to those who consider it to be the evil empire.   Those that post do tend to be those with the more extreme views but I was surprised at the venom in some of the anti GW material that is out there.
I became something of a convert to the gaming side when I moved up to Scotland and joined the Falkirk club. There I found a number of the members gamers playing Fantasy Battles, 40k and Mordhiem and decided to give them a shot.  I found that I enjoyed the games and, in a non historical setting, throwing lots of dice and having powerful characters worked quite well.

My view now is that they are an important part of the hobby providing good games in their own right whilst acting as an introduction to the wider hobby for those that want to broaden their horizons.  Their figures are expensive but as I don’t see the company making huge profits I presume that this is because they have significant overheads to cover.  I can’t see myself buying very many, if any, of their products directly but then again 90% of my purchases are in the second hand market anyway.  Their rules are generally well written and fun to play.  So pretty much the opposite of my original position, although not quite Love!

What has prompted this blog entry is the fact that my first game of the year, on the 9th, will be with the 8th ed. Warhammer Fantasy Battles rules.  Last year some of the guys at the Falkirk club ran a campaign which sparked my interest and I decided to see if I could get hold of an army to join in.  Eventually I picked up a painted second hand Chaos Warriors army, although by then it was a bit too late to join the campaign.  It has been on the table a couple of times and I intend to expand it and get fully up to speed with the rules this year.  I’ll post a report of the game and hopefully will be able to  include some pictures from my new camera.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Dux Bellorum by Dan Mersey

Having played and enjoyed Dan Mersey’s previous offering for this period, Glutter of Ravens, I had no hesitation in placing a pre order on Amazon (it’s due out in August)

For more information have a look at the author’s blog

I can provide figures for both sides for Glutter of Ravens and should be able to do so for Dux Bellorum as well so if anyone is interested in a game give me a shout