Camps for To The Strongest

In addition to the extra figures I need for To The Strongest, my current war game of choice, I also need some camps: about six i.e. three a side. They need to be big enough to take a guardian unit (so at least 120mm wide) and deep enough to carry a bit of “dressing”.

The components for these I picked up at Warfare on Sunday, still one of my favourite shows, and quickly painted up as follows:

I’m not sure where the bases came from, but the pyramids, huts and Sphinx all came from The Square, an excellent place to find all sorts of useful bits of resin. I always make my way there at the end of the day and spend whatever I have left in my pockets!

They paint up easily as well. The huts are undercoated in light brown, then very heavily dry-brushed white with the roofs dry-brushed in a variety of yellowy-brown colours. What makes the difference is that I have filled in the doorways and windows with a bit of woven hemp: giving a bit of depth and texture.

The Sphink and pyramids are simply painted sand yellow, washed with GW Agrax Earthshade, and then dry-brushed with GW Screaming Skull. Whole lot took me about half an hour.

First of the New Hoplites

To cut a long story short, I am increasing the size of my 15mm Vis Bellica armies in order to play To The Strongest using two VB elements per TTS element.

My Vis Bellica Hoplite Greek army is very powerful: four bases (elements) of Hoplites, four bases of Spartan Hoplites, and loads of light infantry in support.

Unfortunately, however, To The Strongest classifies Hoplite units as “deep”, meaning that I need to field four VB bases to represent one TTS unit…and as most Hoplite armies have a minimum of five Hoplite units, that means I need a minimum of another twelve VB bases of Hoplite infantry, which at 12 figures per base is another 144 figures to paint and base!

It’s also been some time since I’ve bought any ancients, so I thought I’d try a “new” manufacturer: Xyston Miniatures.

They have a wide selection of Hoplite figures, so I chose to get my first unit as Later Hoplites in Linen Cuirass:

These are lovely figures: crisp and largely flash free. The only pain is that the shields and spears come separately: which means sticking 48 shields onto 48 arms, and then remembering to buy a pack of wire spears, cutting them down to size (from a pike-sized 5cm to a Hoplite-spear sized 3.5cm), and then sticking them in place as well. Just adds another session to the process.

The Xyston figures are easy to paint. First undercoat in black, base coat the flesh and tunics, and then carefully paint the cuirass white using the black undercoat to get the detail. Then paint the shield strap in leather; and. the spear and back of the shield in a wood brown. Tip the spears in dull silver, and leave to dry. Then highlight the tunic, and brass the helmet. Front of the shields in white all over (for the moment), highlight the flesh, paint the crest. Done!

Why paint the shields white? To take the decals of course. I used the Little Big Man Studios transfers designed specifically for Xyston shields. They are easy to use, have a wide variety of designs and, as you will hopefully agree, look really good. Again another fiddly bit: after you put the transfers onto the (white) shields, you’ll need to paint the shield rim to get a nice finish. If you don’t get the transfer dead centre, then you’ll have to paint around the design by hand.

So all in all highly recommended. Only another two units to go!

Second Game of To The Strongest

Now that I’d built the Assyrians up to a decent level, it was time to get them onto the tabletop again. As the Beardless King was unavailable (school!), I persuaded long time wargaming buddy Neil to give the rules a try for game two of my To The Strongest journey.

The Forces Involved

I would play the New Kingdom Egyptians again. My troops consisted of three commands:

Pharoah

  • Two units of guard two-horse light chariots

  • Two units of regular two-horse light chariots

  • One unit of bowmen to guard the Camp

The Blue General

  • Two units of shieldwall spearmen

  • Two units of bowmen archers

  • One unit each of marines, axemen, spearmen and Nubian bowmen (this last guarding a Camp)

The Canaanite Ally General

  • Two units of raw spearmen

  • Four units of raw lights with javelins (one guarding a camp)

Pharoah and his army (well, most of it: there are more chariots out of shot to Pharoah’s right)

Neil would command the following Assyrian troops:

The King

  • Two units of regular four-horse heavy chariots

The Cavalry General

  • One unit of guard cavalry

  • Two units of regular cavalry

The Infantry General

  • One unit of veteran infantry

  • One unit of regular infantry

  • Two units of raw infantry

  • A camp

The General of Light Troops

  • One unit of Assyrian light bowmen

  • Two units of raw Javelinmen

  • A camp

The Game

As I had loads of light troops, King Neil (“Kneel before King Neil!”) deployed first. He placed his lights on his right, his infantry in the centre, the heavy chariots just to the left of centre, and his cavalry out on the left.

This allowed me to choose where to deploy my troops. I decided to follow the same tactics as last time: placing my infantry in the centre flanked by the Canaanites on the left and my chariots on my right. The plan was for the chariots to keep his cavalry busy with missile fire and evasion, hold and perhaps chew up some of his infantry units in the centre, whilst the Canaanites used their superior numbers to overwhelm his light troops and then took all his camps.

Unfortunately, things did not go entirely to plan!

On my right, the chariots steamed forward and began pelting the Assyrian cavalry with arrows, evading them when they charged in reply. So far so good, but my chariots rapidly began to run out of room, as the Assyrians followed up every charge with another one.

This became a particular problem when King Neil threw in his heavy chariots as well: one unit of which drove some chariots right back towards one of my camps, much to the amusement of the Egyptian archers therein: everybody likes to see the nobles get nobbled!

Meanwhile, in the centre, my Egyptian infantry had advanced into bow range and then into contact. Unfortunately, they failed to make much headway, and the centre soon developed into a stalemate, with each side able to disorder the other, but not quite manage to break and force any to rout.

Particularly annoying were my axemen (veteran troops with two-handed cutting weapons). I had high hopes for them, but their first advance saw their attack repelled, and the enemy counter-attack disorder them. Methinks the royal crocodiles won’t be going hungry tonight!

The axemen are out of shot, but are about to hit the Assyrian blue unit top right.

So it was all up to the Canaanites.

They were raw troops, but there were a lot of them: in fact they outnumbered the troops in front of them two-to-one.

Unfortunately (I seem to be using that word a lot in this report!) their numbers actually told against them. I tried to cram them into the space in between the left flank of the Egyptian infantry and a patch of rough ground, and got completely jammed up. It took several turns to get everything sorted, and to drive back the infantry in front of me, opening up a way through to the Assyrian camps.

Canaanites (anachronistically dressed as Spartan Hoplites to scare the opposition) finally force the gap, although the High King’s chariot has to mount the curb to get by

All well and good, but all this delay had allowed the Assyrians to disperse my chariots and get their heavy chariots back into the fray. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so have a look at the below…

Yes: that is a unit of Assyrian four-horse heavy chariots crashing into the flank of my main battle line!

Suffice to say that a general rolling up of my line occurred, and I began haemorrhaging victory coins right, left and centre. To add insult to injury, the other unit of heavy chariots looted one of my camps, and that, as they say, was that!

Aftermath

Another great game of TTS. The activation system is quite fun, but brutal if the cards start to go against you.

The battle was won in a satisfyingly traditional way: Neil’s mounted troops drove off my mounted troops, and then returned to hit the flank of my main battle line as they attempted to push forward over his.

It could all have already been over if the Canaanites had got their skates on, but I mishandled them badly and they didn’t!

The Egyptians are now officially sacked, and I’m now busy painting Hoplites to bring my early Greeks up to scratch for TTS!

Robert Avery

Building up the Assyrians Part 2

As mentioned before, converting my Vis Bellica Ancients armies for To The Strongest means making them bigger, especially where chariots and deep units are concerned.

My Assyrians were already a large VB army, so didn’t need a huge amount of augmenting to bring them up to TTS strength. I’ve already posted about the chariots, now here is the extra cavalry I need: a VB unit of Guard cavalry and a unit of Regular cavalry, allowing me (with what I have already) to field three TTS cavalry units, one Guard and two Regular.

That’s the Assyrians finished, now on to either the Egyptians (need more chariots!) or the Hoplite Greeks (need more Hoplites for those TTS deep units).

IABSM AAR: Stopping the Gap

Another excellent battle report from Carojon of the Devon Wargames Group.

This game was a small fictitious battle from a free scenario designed by Richard Clarke using IABSM. The scenario recreates what must have been one of many similar struggles going on in the closing days of the Normandy campaign in late summer of 1944 as the allies fought hard to close what became known to history as the 'Falaise Pocket'.

Click on the picture below to see all:

Building up the Assyrians

As mentioned in a previous post, using my 15mm Ancients armies originally designed for Vis Bellica for To The Strongest has proved easy: two VB bases (or four for deep units) neatly equals one TTS unit, and allows for disorder to be easily shown.

The only problem is that that means that each of my existing armies is now half the size that it was before (or a quarter for those with deep units e.g. hoplites, pikes and some warbands). Fortunately, I always went big for my VB armies, but there is definitely a need for some topping up to take place. This is a good thing, as I haven’t painted any Ancients for ages, and a change is as good as a rest, as they say!

Here, then, is the first of the topping up: two heavy chariots (i.e. one unit) and three foot figures to represent heroes. All Essex, apart from a couple of the chariot crews, which are Museum.

TFL Painting Challenge: A Quiet Update

All a bit quiet on the Painting Challenge front. I’m going to assume that you are all too busy painting to send anything in! Only a few weeks to go, mind, so don’t delay too long: the Challenge waits for no-one!

Here are today’s entries:

As always, clicking on the name of the person above will take you straight to their gallery, which will open in a new window. I do recommend the odd visit: some very inspiring work on display.

Here are today’s pictures:

In Flanders Fields

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In Flanders Fields

John McRae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

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Q13: Quar Tanks?

Regular visitors will recall that I took part in the original All Quiet on the Martian Front kickstarter. I was very happy with what I received: I only really wanted the tripods anyway, all of which have now been painted and are prepped for action.

The trouble was that I also received a whole bunch of quasi-WW1 tanks and infantry as well: the Earthlings that are fighting the aforementioned Martians.

I’m still not sure what to do with the infantry, but mention the words “quasi-WW1” and immediately one thinks of Zombiesmith’s excellent Quar range. I have small 15mm forces for all three factions, but not really enough to play the sort of large games of Q13 that I enjoy.

Here then was the perfect use for the AQOTMF tanks: Quar tanks. Here’s the first batch painted up:

I actually can’t wait to get these onto the tabletop, so will move the Quar up the priority list for forthcoming games of Q13!

First Game of To The Strongest

Whilst I was up in Edinburgh playing IABSM the other week, I also had the opportunity to watch a game of To The Strongest, a set of quick-play Ancients rules based on drawing playing cards as opposed to rolling dice, and using grid-based movement rather than tape measures. Well it all looked quite fun, and a useful way of getting some of my Ancients figures out onto the table for the first time in years.

I’d rather have been playing my own Vis Bellica rules, obviously, but the fashion these days is for quick-play, so if I want to get some games in with the group I usually play with, it was TTS all the way!

A quick trip to the BigRedBat’s shop (you can click on the pic of the front cover to go there) and I purchased a copy of the rules and a suitably grid-ed mat. Army lists are free to download, along with a rather handy army calculator that does all the hard work of picking your force for you. Everything arrived quickly and correctly, so all in all a jolly good start to the TTS experience.

All my 15mm figures are based as elements for Vis Bellica, but I soon realised that combining two VB bases would give me a suitable TTS unit with a frontage of 12cms, perfect for the 15cm grid mat I had bought, and allowing me to show a unit as disordered merely by putting the two VB bases at angles to each other. VB bases with a narrower frontage (elephants and light chariot units) could be fielded as four VB narrow bases.

Formed and disordered units for TTS, along with a dice to mark ammo. Note grid intersection just to the right of the ordered spearmen.

What this would also mean, of course, is that I effectively needed double the size of a normal VB army for a TTS force…so double the number of figures!

Luckily, I went big when I bought my VB armies, so was able to field a force of New Kingdom Egyptians and Assyrians without the need to do anything except remove a bit of dust from the figures.

I did however realise that my hoplite and Macedonian armies were going to be short a pikeblock or four: TTS phalanxes are double depth, so I’d need to field them as four VB bases, and even I didn’t have a four-times-normal sized Greek or Macedonian force. The same was true for Celtic warbands, so my Ancient Brits might also be short of a few warrior units. Ah well, if I like the rules I’ll just have to buy some more figures…

Ed.’s Wife’s Note: Any excuse! He bought them already, before he even tried TTS out.

The Cast

TTS is advertised as a game ideal for novice gamers, so bearing that in mind my opponent for my first game was my ten-year old daughter. As it was game one, and she has never really wargamed before, I set up all the figures before we started:

The Egyptian (Pharoah Dad)

Command 1:

  • Attached Senior Heroic Mounted General

  • Two veteran light chariot units

  • Two light chariot units

  • Hero

  • Camp

Command 2:

  • Attached Heroic Mounted General

  • Two spearman units

  • Two archers units

  • One axeman unit

  • One Marines unit

  • Hero

  • Camp

Command 3:

  • Attached Heroic Mounted General

  • Two units of bowmen

  • Two units of skirmishers

  • Hero

  • Camp

The Assyrians (the Beardless King)

Command 1:

  • Attached Senior Heroic Mounted General

  • One unit of veteran 4-horse heavy chariots

Command 2:

  • Attached Heroic Mounted General

  • One veteran cavalry unit

  • One cavalry unit

  • Hero

  • Camp

Command 3:

  • Attached Heroic Mounted General

  • Four shieldwall units, one veteran and two raw

  • Hero

  • Camp

Command 4:

  • Attached Heroic Mounted General

  • One unit of bowmen

  • Two units of javelinmen

  • Hero

  • Camp

Each side therefore ended up with 12 victory coins. Each time you lose an asset, you lose one or more coins. Lose all your coins and you lose the battle.

The Game

The game began with a strong Egyptian advance across their entire front. Activation of units seemed very simple and easy to understand, and choosing which units to try and activate first and pulling the cards did indeed prove quite fun.

The Assyrians also moved forward strongly, with their cavalry heading straight for the Egyptian chariots seemingly unphased by the superior number of pyramid builders.

I then realised that I had a slight problem. My light chariots, being of the light troops variety, couldn’t charge the Assyrians head on: I could only shoot them and evade their charges whilst trying to get around their flanks and rear. Unfortunately, the Assyrian cavalry were just as fast as my chariots, and one unit of veteran chariots was soon no more than a pile of kindling and dog food, with the mildly exerted Assyrian Guard cavalry sailing forward looking for their next victims.

The chess game between the two units of Assyrian cavalry and three remaining Egyptian chariot units would take up most of the rest of the game, as I tried frantically to stop his cavalry running over my light troops whilst looking for a way through to his flanks, rear and camps. The Beardless King was, however, equally determined: forming an inexorable line of cavalry that just kept of coming.

Meanwhile, in the centre, the two lines of infantry had come together: first the arrows flew in either direction, then the units got stuck into each other. The Assyrians had the advantage of having combined units of spear and bow-armed infantry, but I had stacked my spearmen and bow units two to a hex (i.e. a unit of archers behind a unit of bowmen) with some success.

Unfortunately, just as I was about to firmly win in the centre, the Assyrians committed their reserve into the combat (at my suggestion, I hasten to add!) slamming a single unit of veteran four-horse heavy chariots into my exposed flank.

But it was actually on my left flank that I lost the battle!

There, each sides’ light units had clashed, with victory going to the Assyrians. I had already committed my reserve to prop up the chariots, and one pesky unit of Assyrian javelinmen broke through my light troops and managed to sack not one, but two of my camps!

The enormous cost in Victory Coins of losing two camps was too much for my Egyptians, and they fled the field.

A somewhat embarrassing defeat!

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Post-Match Analysis

Well that was actually a jolly fun game. We got loads of the mechanics slightly wrong, but know what to do right next time.

The figures looked good on the table, and I am pleased that Simon Miller, the author of TTS, shares my belief in the importance of holding your line of battle strong whilst seeking to punch through or outflank that of your opponent, exactly as VB does. This wasn’t a question of a fight between a series of individual units, but two armies clashing, with victory going to the army that held its overall shape for longest.

I shall definitely have more games of To The Strongest, and am now very tempted by the English Civil War version: For King and Parliament. I’d better get those extra hoplites and pikemen painted up first though!

Here are a few more pics of what turned out to be an excellent game:

Polish Tank Crews

I like a tabletop battlefield uncluttered by intrusive markers, so like to take any opportunity to replace a marker with something that looks more in keeping with the surrounding.

A good example of this is “Bailed Out” markers for tanks: especially useful when playing early war WW2, when you can expect far more bailed out than destroyed tanks.

I have the TFL marker pack that has some transparent oval disks with “Bailed Out” on them. I have some FoW markers: circular pieces of plastic in a variety of nice colours with little logos on them. But what I really like is a small group of painted crew figures that can be placed next to the bailed out vehicle in question.

I have these for my Germans, Soviets and British, but am mostly playing games set in the September War (Poland 1939) at the moment. Now the Poles don’t have a lot of tanks, but we’re just coming up to the period when those tanks were being used (and lost!) in almost every encounter. Time for me to paint up some Polish tank crews.

Battlefront used to be excellent for this. Every tank came with one or two standing crew figures that were designed specifically to represent bailed out and then fleeing crews. As far as I can tell, they don’t do this any more, which is a colossal shame, but I carefully kept all the ones I didn’t use just for a time like this when I needed some.

Somewhat ironically considering Poland’s fate in 1939, the above are a combination of Soviet and German tank crewmen painted up to resemble Poles. They are not perfect: the commander’s beret is a bit the wrong shape, and the crewmen should be wearing dark green mini-helmets rather than the padded version worn by the Soviets, but at a range of three feet (and just for a marker!) no-one is going to notice.

Sorted.

Q13 AAR: Stalemate in the Crop Fields

Time for another game of Q13, so time to get the space Dwarves back onto the tabletop to battle another of my so-far-untested forces: the Tah-Sig.

This would be an encounter battle fought across a battlefield consisting of crop fields separated by a series of access roads and narrow strips of open ground. The storyline was that this time it was the Dwarves who were the aggressors: outnumbering the Tah-Sig by a fair amount and needing to get as many units as possible off the table on the Tah-Sig side.

Click on the picture below to see what happened:

Battlefront BTR-60s

I’m still working my way through the extra Arab-Israeli forces I bought in the Battlefront Fate of a Nation 25% off sale. My aim was not so much to reinforce my existing Six Day War forces, but more to add what I needed to re-fight actions from the Yom Kippur War too.

The latest example of this is the Battlefront BTR-60 APC company for the Egyptians/UAR:

These are lovely models that go together and paint up really well.

I now have three different paint schemes for the Egytians/UAR. I have a terrible grungy brown colour for the ex-WW2 tanks and assault guns; a quite bright yellow for the Soviet 1967 vehicles; and this very pale yellow (the most historically accurate of the three!) colour for the Soviet 1973 kit.

Anyway, these are highly recommended. Just one word of caution: the gun barrels are quite fragile: just take a little care when either clipping them from the sprue or dry-brushing.

IABSM AAR: The Second Battle of Tomaszow Lubelski

The last week of September 1939 saw a combined “Northern Front” Polish army join the attack towards Tomaszow Lubelski. Due to bad communications between the different Polish divisions, the result was a series of largely uncoordinated attacks by Polish unis arriving from the north-east, launched in the direction of the city only to be shattered wave-by-wave by the German defenders.

This scenario would represent one such attack: with Polish and German forces brawling for control of the centre of the table. Four objectives would be placed there, with each side entering the table and attempting to take and hold them. The game would end after ten appearances of the Turn Card, at which point victory would go to the side that held the most objectives. If, however, one side managed to hold at any point three of the four objectives, then the game would end immediately, with that side wining the battle.

Click on the picture below to see the extraordinary events that followed…

Q13: Vornid Infantry Re-Based

Although I like my Vornid infantry (15mm sci-fi: homicidal plants with thorn guns from Khurasan), I haven’t used them very much because, up to now, they have been based a singles and the way that the figures are made means that the bases don’t fit into any of my sabots. That means that using them involves moving lots of single figures round the table individually: a right pain!

I therefore decided to re-base them: each squad of ten Vornid based individually converting to six bases of five Vornid each. That gives me the same three squads, but the capacity to field ten fireteams if needed for another system.

I had two four-squad platoons (i.e. eight squads) but they proved a bit unwieldy. I therefore painted another squad up and now have three platoons of three squads each, all efficiently based for moving round the table.

Here’s my revised Vornid company, plus one of the individual platoons. You can see the detail of the entire force in the Vornid gallery.

Arab Israeli AAR: Rumi El Bakhara

I hadn’t gamed with old friend Neil for at least 18 months, so it was a pleasure to get a date into the diary and push some lead around the table again.

We decided to have a battle set in the 1967 Six Day War between an Israeli and an Egyptian (UAR) force. The game would be a fictional encounter battle using the TooFatLardies Charlie Don’t Surf Vietnam rules adapted for the theatre and available elsewhere on this site.

Click on the picture below to see all:

TFL Painting Challenge: Another Big Update

Two months to go before the end of this year’s challenge, and I can see that activity is really hotting up.

In no particular order, today we have:

  • Travis Hiett with some AWI civilians

  • Joe McGinn with some more Napoleonics

  • More Shieldmaidens and supporting Norse-types from Carole

  • La Haye Sainte in 15mm from Sapper

  • Andy Duffell sends in a mixed bag of Nazis, Soviets and ancient French

  • Mervyn is still in Middle Earth

  • Stumpy with a mix of Napoleonics and WW2 BEF vehicles

  • And last, but by no means least, Steve Burt with (allegedly) the last of his Assyrians

As always, clicking on the name of the person in the list above will take you straight to their gallery (opens in a new window).

Here are today’s pictures:

A Lovely 15mm La Haye Sainte from Sapper

Joe’s Dismounted Dragoons

BEF Carriers from Stumpy

Half-track crew from Andy Duffell

IABSM North of the Border

A quick trip to Edinburgh to visit daughter #1 at university gave me the chance to catch up with old friend Mr Hodge down at the South East Scotland Wargames Club.

Derek put on a game if IABSM set in France in May 1940, using his excellent 10mm figures.

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That's not me with Derek btw but my opponent!

I played the French: commanding seven H-39 tanks (good armour, but armed with a pop gun), two 25mm anti tank guns (good panzer killers!) and a platoon of infantry.

Facing me were five Panzer 38(t) tanks (excellent at this time of the war), two Panzer IVs, a platoon of motorcyclists, and some other infantry that never arrived or got off their Blinds.

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I deployed my tanks along the treeline and waited for Rommel's boys to attack. This they did, their motorcyclists appearing first: dumping their metal steeds as soon as I hit them with some HE, and then rushing forward towards a nearby field.

Meanwhile his P-38(t) tanks had appeared and advanced towards my line over open ground. My tanks engaged, and a firefight broke out: his five Panzers versus five of my tanks and, soon, my two anti tank guns.

His tanks were considerably better than mine, but stationary and out in the open. Mine were carefully concealed in the edge of the wood, and some lucky dice rolling meant that soon three of his were abandoned for the loss of two of mine.

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When one of his Panzer IVs also succumbed to anti tank gun fire, the Germans decided that they'd had enough and retreated. Victory to the French!

All in all it was a good, if quick, game. My tanks performed much better than I was expecting (one of them proved almost indestructible despite being hit many times) and the tactics chosen by the Germans suited my deployment perfectly.

My thanks to Derek and the rest of SESWC for their hospitality, and I'm already looking forward to the next time I'm up.