Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Looking Back and Forward

Toys for the Boys

Another year almost done, and with the next fast approaching I'm reflecting on all that has happened both on the gaming table and off. Both boys are doing well, and the other day I bought them a couple of packs of Airfix British and German paras.  They've been pushing them around on the living room floor, making same sorts of moves, noises, and strategies that I recall doing forty or more years ago.  Despite the invention of video games and many other puerile entertainments in the intervening decades, I get the impression that deep down small boys have not changed all that much.




Bite and Hold (Through the Mud and the Blood) Battle Report

A belated battle report dating from about fifteen weeks ago.  The evening I ran the game I unexpectedly got a call asking me to fill in as an emergency lecturer at a local college.  I'd taught the subject five years ago: World History to 1500.  The result was a litte more money in the bank, but also the end of my gaming for three months while we raced through a few million years of history.  Anyway, just before all that started I ran a Late War scenario using Through the Mud and the Blood.  British forces had penetrated the German front line and were regrouping, awaiting an expected German counter-attack.  British units were allowed to set up anywhere within the German line, including a pillbox.  British reinforcements would come on by dice roll in later turns.  This was to simulate the arrival of units that had become lost or disoriented in the attack.  They could come along any one of three sides of the playing area, except in the vicinity of the German communications trenches. 
The results were less than glorious for the British side with a lack of coordinated defense perhaps best summing up the reasons for their defeat.  Rather than using the abandoned pill box as a strong point, the British commanders decided to place a lone sniper there.  The Germans had the advantage of being able to pick their entry point, again on any one of three sides except no-mans-land. 
As a game it was something of an uphill battle for me as umpire, with eight players, most of whom had never used the rules before.  The lessons learnt?  Keep it simple, especially for beginners, keep it small (probably four players max) and try to know the rules like the back of your hand.
The good thing was I got to employ some recently painted figures, including light and heavy flame throwers.  I'd used Sidney Roundwood's tutorial on how to make jets of flame.  These turned out rather nicely and looked spectacular on the table.  The German flame throwers were absolutely devastating, particularly when firing down the length of trenches crowded with cowering and demoralized British infantry.  The Hun side delighted in the resulting carnage.  The Brits were less than enthusiastic.  Anyway, below you'll find some of the images of the game, generously provided for me by fellow-gamer Rene (gleeful German combat engineer behind the flame thrower).

British rifle grenadiers approach the German trench

British infantry inch their way towards the lurking Bosch

Agents of death: A German heavy flame thrower

No chance to escape

2013 Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge

I'm lucky enough to have been included among the few, the brave, etc. for the annual Analogue Hobbies painting challenge.  I didn't quite make the cut last year - but this year Curt kindly recalled my interest and invited me in.

My goal?  I've still got more figs to paint up for the Great War scenario I hope to run here in San Diego at Kingdom Con.  It will be a Late War action involving a combined arms attack by the British - tanks and infantry - against a German-held fortified village.  We may also try second game to recreate a variant on the first recorded tank battle in history, which took place at Villers-Bretonneaux in 1918.  My other big project stems from my reading of Jean-Paul Pallud's Osprey Elite Ardennes 1944: Peiper and Skorzeny. I'd bought some Bolt Action Fallschirmjager and Waffen SS on impulse a few months ago. Initially I'd thought of using the FJ for scenarios from the campaign in Italy. Then it occured to me I had some of the raw figures necessary for recreating the Ardennes battles of late 1944. Part of this will involve crafting a suitabe terrain mat and also some other terrain features. It should be a busy few months

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Battle of San Pasqual


Last Sunday, December 2nd, we headed north from San Diego for a pleasant 40 minute drive to the valley of San Pasqual.  It was my first foray, as an observer, into the world of historical reenactment.  Each year on the anniversary of this relatively minor engagement in the 1846 Mexican-American War, the battlefield is once again contested by the Californios and the forces of the United States. 

I'll not repeat the Wikipedia article on the event.  You can read it for yourself.  When it arrived in the San Pasqual Valley, the American column was exhausted after months of travel.  In contrast their foes, the Californios, were well rested and determined to defend their homes and territory from the invading gringos.  Both sides claimed victory, and historians continue to discuss the outcome, but it seems to me that the Californios pretty much won what amounted to a skirmish.  At the same time they were ultimately unable to prevent the colum reaching other American forces that had already occupied San Diego from the Sea.

The reenactment takes place on the site of the battle.  California State Parks has a small but modern museum adjacent.  On the anniversary day there is also a campsite you can visit to see living history interpreters convey what it was like to live in this part of California in the mid-nineteenth century. 
The biggest downside is probably the fact that the viewing public must stay on one side of Highway 78 while the engagement takes place on the other side.  The view is somewhat marred by passing motorcycles, RVs, trucks, and whatever else happens along during the few few minutes when the forces are engaged.  The lead up to the battle is announced in English and Spanish and this actually takes longer than the fight itself.  The day were were there, there was a false start, as one of the charging US dragoons fell of his horse and proceedings were halted while the escaping horse was rounded up and the bruised dragoon escorted to the sidelines.  The charge of the Californio lancers was dramatic, and unlike the real engagement when the US artillery remained limbered, during the reenactment they fired off a shot - a real crowd pleaser.  Hostilities concluded with the opposing forces saluting each other before exiting the field for lunch.

 All this made me think about the possibility of wargaming this period.  One possibility would be to adapt something like Liberators from Grenadier Productions.  Certainly I think there's some potential here for historical skirmish games with a local flavor, as well as a few "what if" scenarios.  We'll see what 2013 brings.
Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South - Click Image to Close