Friday, 23 February 2018

The Hill

We didn't get to fight a boardgame this week as I had to concentrate on some map projects which were priority but we did manage a Bolt Action game yesterday to have a break from our sword and sandal epics.

I have been busy so I dug out a Bolt Action scenario book I have (D-Day to Berlin) but have never used and decided to play Hold the Hill, loosely based on some Polish troops holding a hill would you believe. I also decided not to fill the table with buildings and roads, so I put down a rural battlefield with one ruined house, the hill and lots of hedgerows, not bocage. Both sides had four squads, some support weapons and two tanks along with a vehicle for the commanders. Each player got points for destroying an enemy unit and having troops on the hill at the end of turn six.


Kevin took the Germans and my 'Poles' were hit by a preparatory bombardment at the beginning, this caused a lot of pins, a few kills and destroyed my command vehicle, a bren gun carrier. The Germans then came on quite aggressively and aimed straight at the hill, one squad tried to manoeuvre against my left flank. I simply held the line and kept my tanks back for the first few moves while I sent my reserve squad towards the outflankers. Kevin continued to push forward with his StuG and PzIV, obviously with the idea to sending them against my tanks which were at opposite ends of the line, I did warn him a PIAT team were in the area but the he was sure it was no threat having read it was pretty useless.

I threw the PIAT team forward for a shot at close range into the PzIV's side armour, bang, a hit, sadly the monster did not blow up, it merely ground to a halt throwing a track, which now effectively gave the Germans a pillbox on the hill. The PIAT team were immediately picked on and killed, so they had no chance to finish the tank off. I was now thinking of bringing my Cromwell over to hit it in the flank. I kept my Sherman back to help my reserve squad stop Kevin's flanking move but they got the drop on me and sent them packing, the Sherman was shooting at them and a squad to the front, I was also wary of not being flanked by the StuG. The StuG however roared over the hasty defences on the hill and into my rear area where it took out my mortar, which had not been of any use throughout the battle due to my bad positioning of both it and the observer. As the end approached I tried a couple of shots at the StuG with the Cromwell which all bounced off as did a return shot from the assault gun. My Sherman I now brought on to the hill and loosed a shot at the rear of the PzIV, missed! This gave Kevin's outflankers an opportunity to fire a panzerfaust at the Sherman, sure enough it hit the rear and started a fire, down but not out thankfully.

We counted the scores on the doors and I scrapped through with three points ahead, much closer than the beginning of the game promised. One thing which gave me an advantage was that Kevin threw 'Fubar' (two sixes) three times, twice this caused squads to run to the rear but the third time it resulted in his own command unit being decimated by friendly fire from the immobilised Panzer!  This turned out to be a very good game, exciting and hard fought.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

I Feel The Pain

Back to War and Conquest last night and once again a run out for the Seleucids, this time they were up against Legio XII under the command of Simon, we went for 2,200 points this time but it proved a mistake, more later.

I managed an average Seleucid force with three phalanxes, Thureophoroi, Thorakitai, javelins, slings and Cretan archers plus the elephant, no cavalry at all this time, I couldn't spare the points to be honest. Simon sent his list to me so that I didn't have to lug too many boxes, it surprised me as it consisted of four cohorts, some skirmishers and two bolt shooters, and only seven horse archers no versatility there, my hopes rose as I realised my flanks were more than likely going to be pretty safe.

We used a little format I have for choosing terrain and I put one wood down to upset the line of sight of the Scorpions and Simon helped by putting another down, I could keep Nellie out of the way until I needed her. I put a phalanx with support on my right with the intention of tackling the cohort opposite while my Thorakitai would take out the bolt shooter on the hill, my lacklustre slingers would shield and help where they could. I also planned to attack in the centre with the remaining two phalanxes which left the elephant and  Thureophoroi to tackle the last cohort which I hoped to hit in the flank. Simon had chosen three raw cohorts but with the Centurion upgrade and a Tribune leading each their morale was going to be tough to break.


I set out to destroy the enemy skirmishers and had fair success at this if not overwhelming, my Javelins beat the slingers and my archers took down the horse archers, they also started shooting at the bolt shooter to their front and made it move. I now had to withdraw my skirmishers while the two phalanxes went into the attack. On the right I destroyed the bolt shooter on the hill and got ready to hit the cohort engaged with my phalanx in the flank, I had to run my skirmishers up against Simon's here otherwise they might have shot down the Thorakitai to the point where they would have had to test and may have run. On the left the elephant crashed into the cohort to its front while the Thureophoroi got ready to charge in support.

The whole line was now in combat and I was on the receiving end of the legionaries, at first I was winning three of the four combats, but then Cohors I turned the tables and started to knock one of the phalanxes back, the melees were taking a long while as the struggle ebbed too and fro, the Roman command, despite losing a couple of Centurions, kept their men at the front. As we approached the witching hour Simon was prepared to give me the game, at that point I was winning two fights while on the right I was just about to flank that cohort which should have put an end to their struggle, but unless you actually fight who knows. One of my phalanxes in the centre was being beaten and I think it would eventually have gone.

What with chatting and setting up we lost about an hour before we started and this, along with the extra points almost ensured we would not finish the game as it is now obvious that my Romans do not simply break and they have to be cut down to almost the last man. My dice luck wasn't bad but it wasn't brilliant either, Simon's seemed to pick up in the latter half of the game but he still had his moments, several times in combat we both failed to inflict casualties or only one. Simon's four cohorts held out a lot longer than I had thought, however there was not a lot of time to properly destroy the flanks before sending in my centre which is what I would have preferred.

I got the elephant rules wrong, again, I only struck the enemy with three strikes when it should have been five, I better buck up as the Postie has just brought my second elephant. I also have to take care and avoid the long pikes, I hit them several times leaning across the table. Bolt Action next week against Julian's Italians or DAK, not sure which, but it will be nice to command the British for a change.

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Thunderbolts redeem themselves, just.

I was in two minds to once again bring out the Seleucids but decided against it as I felt the Twelfth needed the chance to gain revenge on the Carthaginians and I really want to get the Seleucids up to 3,000 points for home games. This time however the full force of the the Legion would be on display, Kevin is now past the beginner stage and that, along with the natural toughness of the Carthaginians means I have no qualms calling on all my resources.

To this end I brought four green cohorts and one Auxiliary cohort supported by archers and the Lanciarii, I weighed the cavalry arm with cataphracts, Contarii and horse archers, these were to be my strike force. Kevin brought his usual line up of African spearmen, a small Italian contingent and his huge Gaul warband, supported by javelins, archers and several cavalry units, all inferior to my own in weight. I believe he is going to paint up more of the allies but everything takes time, he also has a Pyrrhic army in his sights.

I deployed with a rather weak right which I intended to retire if need be, a solid centre of legionaries and all my heavy cavalry on my left as the ground there was more open. The enemy had a strong left and centre but the right was very weak and open, it looked like I would have to follow my plan as things looked decidedly dodgy on my right.

Rome on the left, Carthage on the right.

Kevin immediately saw the danger and turned several large spear units towards his right while removing his cavalry on that flank from my advancing heavies, the advance of his centre was soon in trouble as the Lanciarii and the cataphracts turned in to threaten his phalanx. On his left he again advanced quickly but left his Italians in the rear as a reserve, although my archers ran from a cavalry charge they were in turn destroyed by my massed archers, they then sent the javelins packing. It now looked like I could hold the right, I was sure my Auxiliaries would stop the warband long enough for the Praetorians to flank them, things were looking very good for the Thunderbolts, all was going to plan.

Kevin's archers on my left became a real pain, they fled but returned, so I had to keep my horse archers out of the battle to counter this, as they had been reduced in numbers it also meant I had to send the Lanciarii to help. Sure enough in the first clash Cohors I and the cataphracts destroyed one phalanx, the cohort then went on to hit another, this time the Contarii charged in, I was looking for another swift kill, but it didn't happen, it was a tough struggle although I eventually won, very displeased with the Contarii who, over several rounds only killed one man I think. No big deal but the Legion seemed at this point to give up trying as I had been heaping praise on them, but although the writing was on the wall the Carthaginians were not giving up easy.

Carthaginian centre begins to crumble.

On my right the Gauls turned the tables on the Auxiliaries who had been beating them, the Praetorians were prevented from joining the fight as they had to take care of some enemy cavalry. This gave the Gauls the time to defeat and pursue the Auxiliaries, Kevin now advanced his Italians and the Praetorians found themselves staring at flank attacks, they failed one charge due to the rough ground, I got the chance to send them in again and this time they made it, however they had to beat the Italians pronto to prevent the Gauls hitting them in the rear, they did not, I had lost the right flank.

Roman right in trouble.

In the centre however Cohors II and the archers were within a move of finishing off yet another fearsome fighting phalanx who stood magnificently despite being flanked, the rest of the army were about to overwhelm the last Carthaginian unit in the centre when we called it a day. I was more than pleased with the way I handled the army, my luck certainly seemed to drain away in the second half of the game though but we eventually won through after some very heavy fighting. Despite being hit in the flanks those phalanxes put up a desperate defence.

It's all over.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

East and West

A little pressed for time this week, several new map projects and another on Kursk, 1943, this will be the third and it has suddenly dawned on me it is the 75th Anniversary, hence the interest, a couple of the books are from Russian authors and one German, also one of the former may prove to be a tad controversial. No matter I am enjoying drawing these as they are mainly in colour which is no harder than black and white but somehow more rewarding.

Last week my main PC went down again, stop, start stop etc. I have had enough and ordered up a new one as I cannot trust this 'Friday afternoon' job, nothing but trouble since the day I got it, this has hit the Anderson mapping fortune hard what with the new chair, so I am entering a self imposed austerity campaign for the rest of the year. The new PC has just arrived, so a busy afternoon ahead for me.

A few days ago Kevin and I settled down to our second game of Holdfast:Eastern Front, I was the Germans this time. I cocked up the movement for the first two turns but soon got into my stride as we thundered into the Ukraine. As the campaign progressed I decided to head for Leningrad then turn south on Moscow, the winter of 1941 was a tough one on me and I could barely move my forces while the Luftwaffe closed for the winter. With the coming of Spring Army Group North plunged ahead while AG Centre wore down the Russian defences in defending the route to Moscow. By the end of the summer I had Leningrad surrounded and AG Centre could see the spires in the Red capital. However I could not shift the defenders of Leningrad in order to release two Panzer armies to reinforce the push on Moscow, Winter hit and it was obvious I was not going to take two major cities in order to win the campaign. I had made about four or five attacks on Leningrad and got nowhere, with the game over I tossed a pile of dice in disgust at my luck and if we had still been playing the city would have fallen! The winter of 41/42 had delayed me so much along with my stupidity during the first two moves that the Russians managed to get some tough defenders in the city, Kevin will be returning as the German commander in the next game.

Muskets and Tomahawks at the club last night, it was the climactic game in a series of three which began with the ambush of the British forces last year. This time we had a line of British irregular troops trying to stop Indian warbands from making off with their prisoners and booty, once again we each had a unit on either side and to stop any smart moves it was bad news if you met your opposite numbers in battle. I had a bunch of Scots led by the fearless Lt. Fraser Cameron (an ancestor of the brave Lord George Black VC, see Vapnartak report). Cameron advanced and fired on any passing warbands usually causing them to retire back into the forest, during one of these firefights he managed to rescue a young farmer from the savages. My Indians were very aggressive and caused one bunch of Rangers to recoil, this left a gap in the British line and they headed for it, Julian saw this and cunningly moved his men from across the battlefield to foil my plan. I managed to kill some of his men but they wouldn't budge, Ian now brought his Indians into play and I hid mine behind them, Ian moved the Rangers and I followed him across the river, first success for me.

If you got a group off the table you were given another, my second group sprinted down the left hand table edge pursued relentlessly by a bunch of white eyes commanded by Stuart, he would not give up and charged in hoping to destroy my warriors, but it was Stuart who lost and his men ran far enough away to enable me to get my second group of warriors off the table. Lt. Cameron meanwhile had pursued and caught the Indian chief, and although a fine warrior Cameron was deadlier and the brave man fell to a claymore swipe. The chief had been hauling a white woman along who surprised Cameron by lunging at him with a dagger, she was disarmed and set loose again in the forest, the Jocks now took it easy, sauntered back to the road and 'rescued' a wagon of corn and escorted it from the battlefield.

Roger's cosy little camp.

The 'lady' ran and was scooped up by a nearby unit of Rangers, here she joined another rescued damsel and was made a great fuss of by Roger's troops, who now hunkered down, set a fire, prepared a meal and sang a sonnet to the women, all of which gleaned him points from Rob the umpire. My squeals of indignation went unheard. As night fell we counted coup, both Roger and I had 30 points each, a toss of the die came down on my side and I was declared the winner, I don't think anyone lost as the game was great fun. I still feel that I should get troops for this.

Elsewhere we had a boardgame (Julius Ceasar), a Dark Age Saga game, and a Bloodbowl league game, eight of us played Muskets and Tomahawks.

In between everything else I have been getting up early and bedding down late to finish the next unit for the Seleucids, the Galatians. I wasn't too keen on the figures when I got them and was about to waste another £24 at Vapnartak getting Foundry Gauls to mix in, then thought better of it, I am glad I did as the unit has turned out fine, especially with the Little Big Men Transfers which are a delight for these troops. I now have a scythed chariot half done and my last phalanx primed and ready to go. I must slow down though, there is no need to hurry with these troops.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Bloody Cavalry!

The big day arrived and I led my Seleucids out this afternoon against Kevin's Carthaginians, boy did they look good, but could they fight.

As I said before I did not have my comfortable core of infantry but hoped my phalanx numbers in melee would make up for it, I took elite Cretan archers and experienced Skythian archers along with some Elephant Escorts for supports along with the elephant and a unit of Thorakitai. Looking across at the Carthaginian hordes I felt a little unsettled, there were a line of African spearmen, Italian spearmen, Numidian light cavalry, archers, javelinmen and two more units of heavier cavalry. Kevin felt confident enough to warn that my right flank looked weak, he was right but I didn't confirm it.

Carthaginians left, Seleucids right.


My plan was to win on the left, using the superior firepower of the Skythians to help this, hold in the centre and see what happens on the right, the Thorakitai were there to watch the right flank of the phalanx while I hoped the elephant would look after the left along with the cavalry. Things started out very well, on my right I used the javelins and Cretans aggressively and chased the Numidians away and destroyed the enemy javelins, on the left I shot a small unit of cavalry to death and moved on the second unit with my Macedonian heavy cavalry. I organised my left flank attack well, the cavalry countercharged the enemy and the elephant caused them to take morale checks ever turn, it was now that once again my cavalry could not beat inferior horsemen, when will they ever. I had to get the elephant into a position to flank charge and help my useless troopers, but Kevin won the initiative and charged the elephant, things were going awry, he also managed to charge two of my phalanxes. The elephant took casualties and went amok, running away from both armies in panic, never to be seen again. Over on the extreme right the Numidians came back and chased off my javelins who refused to come back, the Cretan archers pulled back only to be later picked on by the enemy archers and the light cavalry and disperse.

My left crumbles.

My phalanxes were having a real struggle against the large spear units and after a time the first one broke, my left flank now did not exist apart from the Skythians trying to dodge all the enemy units in my rear, it looked like it was all over. At this low point my right hand phalanx beat and dispersed its foes and smashed into the Italian spearmen and broke them as well, the Thorakitai also managed to chase away the enemy archers. In a titanic struggle in the centre of the battlefield my second phalanx first held then turned the tide on some African spearmen, but sadly the spearmen simply would not break, this stalwart effort on their part allowed my poor troops to get hit in the rear and disperse, this seemed particularly unfair after their brave efforts for most of the battle.

My right rescues my honour.
 As we neared the end of turn eight, a long battle for WAC, I had come back into the game from staring defeat in the face due to the efforts of my purple phalanx on the right, I could make the draw more convincing if I dispersed the last of the Carthaginian cavalry units which was teetering on the brink. I took a last shot with the Skythians who obviously decided not to bother as the game was over because they were one casualty short of my aim as the arrows fell.

The game was a tough battle for the Seleucids and once again Kevin played well admitting he now knew my tactics and was trying to put me on the back foot, his new tactics certainly seem to be having an effect. Of course I am going to moan, it is part of the enjoyment, why can my cavalry not win a fight, every time they end up being ground down until they are almost useless as the battle progresses or they simply get beat. And all this while I take care to put them into fights where their numbers or/and equipment should ensure a win. My use of the elite shooters worked at times and at others they let me down, so overall I think I will use these again, the Feigned Flight ability of the Skythians was a real boon in keeping them in the fight. The Carthaginian morale was splendid throughout this battle and saved them on several occasions, especially the cavalry from the elephant fear and that damn spear unit which must have been planted in front of my phalanx it simply would not run. This is going to be an interesting army to use, far different from the others and out of my comfort zone.

So another excellent game, Kevin is now looking at adding a Pyrrhic army to his collection, I shall look forward to that and he has threatened me with four elephants in the future with his Carthaginians. There are not as many photographs as usual because the game was so intense I forgot. And those sharp eyed among you will have noticed my Elephant Escorts were nowhere near the elephant!