Tuesday 21 August 2018

I've been to The Burrow............

.......and survived!
Only kidding Colin, it was great!

In our aging years the Duchess and I are trying to see bits of the UK we haven't been to before. The North East coast is part of that unknown but as we planned it we realised it was far too big and interesting for just one week's holiday, which was all the time we could spare this year. The attractions of the North Yorkshire Moors were obvious as we like walking. Whitby was alluring as an 18th Century shipbuilding port with many old streets and buildings intact (and fish and chip shops!), not least because, as the home port of Captain James Cook, it gave us another opportunity to investigate the Duchess' mariner ancestor. William Peckover, born at Aynho, Northamptonshire only about 15 miles from her Oxfordshire birthplace, sailed on all Cook's voyages of discovery as well as with Bligh on the Bounty, so that was an easy choice.  But secretly I knew that fellow partners in 18th century crime, Colin Ashton and Graham Cummings, live at Middlesborough and Redcar respectively, and so, with a little persuasion we included them in our NE coast meander.

The reaction of most Southerners I meet is "Middlesborough?" why do want to go to that xxxxxxxx? But in fact we were impressed, lots of modern development, no smoky factories or mines now, very green entry roads and suburbs, and easy access to all the above-mentioned attractions. Oh, and some of friendliest strangers you could ever hope to encounter (and that from a man who lives near big- hearted Stroud).

The Burrow
But the best attraction was Colin Ashton's new Burrow.

Situated in a lovely big house in a leafy suburb of Middlesborough Colin, well supported by his wife Katherine, has made a wargamer's haven. Many of my readers will be familiar with Colin's wonderful blog link here and he has done a very nice account of the battle he laid on for me to play, set in 1793 between the Revolutionary French and the Prussians and some Allies. Here it is Battle on the frontier.
It is a very good and almost accurate report of our day and he has done a far better job of describing it than I could; please take a look. So in this post I am concentrating mainly on the environment in which we played as it might give more insight into Colin the Wargamer and generally jolly nice bloke.
Here is his painting table
It sits in "Chris Gregg corner" so I'm very flattered that he surrounds
himself with my paintings while he works.........
.....obviously a man of excellent taste.....
......as I'm in good company - his many, many original Bob Marrion's populate another wall
That's his latest CG original over the doorway, then an Austrian flag I believe, and more Bob Marrion's
Oh.!.....I was there too! Under all the helmets
Just some of the many cabinets of figures...and there were
loads more boxes neatly stacked under the table and against the other wall.
At least SYW, Franco Prussian War, late 17th Century, besides the
very large Revolutionary War armies of which we used but a small part

Seeing inside The Burrow convinced me that Colin is not a
skirmish enthusiast but a "big battle" gamer, and he confirmed it.
A lovely Napoleonic cutter 
Revolutionary Wars Italians led by Pavarotti on the rocky hillock! Colin is known
for his many amusing vignettes - don't mention the Sheep!
Our Game
Just for balance here are some of my photos of the game in progress and very exciting it was too at times. We used General d'Armee rules and about 1200 figures and played from about 1115 till 1715 with 30 minutes for lunch break. Not quite a complete result but sufficient for a reluctant Colin to declare of himself "Well, I haven't won!". Lucky I had a mainly defensive objective and since I knew nothing of the rules just played it cool most of the time. However, Colin had mentioned in an off-hand way, how miffed he had been when one day a few years ago an opponent had given up after Move 2 reckoning he had no chance. So I wanted to be sure I kept my army intact as long as possible to show my host his efforts were worthwhile.
A beautiful regiment of early Chasseurs, I think Colin said he commissioned these specially
Specially commissioned or not those Chasseurs couldn't stand against a Large unit of Heavy cavalry
Colin weighs his chances attacking my heavy battery
View from my Horse guns on the right flank
But his infantry boldly went in on a quick move helped by multiple ADCs
My Chasseurs returned to the fray and luckily redeemed themselves
The 12 pdrs were overrun but my infantry intervene from the left

Here is another view - you see I had far too many good infantry intact to let him steal
those guns
My Light Cavalry eventually giving a good account of themselves

Overhead view of the action. Lots of red hearts indicate many casualties in Colin's other column

And at that point, with 5pm approaching, I charged with my Heavy Brigade. The Carabineers (beautifully painted by Mark Allen) cut through two German battalions and helped Colin come to his decision about the outcome
The end position. Every wargamer needs a windmill but Colin
already has three. I can make windmills to order if required, see Download sidebar
Windmill models
Detail of the force under my command

General d'Armee Rules
I had asked Colin if we could use the General d'Armee rules as Kevin and James are trying them out for whatever Napoleonic extravaganza they are planning after West Country Quatre Bras and I thought it would be useful locally to have that experience. So I must thank him for organising the game accordingly and conducting the whole thing with minimum effort for me. With such a competent host, and me in holiday mood anyway, I absorbed the bare minimum from the Playsheet and just let him guide me. We went at an efficient pace but had a lot to chat about besides the game action. So first impression is that it was very good for two wargamers to get an unambiguous result in 5 hours or so playtime with over 1000 figures, yet the feel of unit tactics was still evident. We used a lot of skirmishers, but the system is slick for that, and plenty of cavalry and infantry charges with lots of artillery support. Without me having tried to understand the rules in detail these are a  few observations for what they are worth:
  • The ADC system is good but difficult for a newcomer to get the best out of it as there is a table to get to know in order to understand how to accumulate your ADCs to achieve specific effects (like extra charge distance or heavier artillery fire).
  • The restraints of this command system were largely responsible for getting the game sorted in good time, as frequently brigades do not move much, if at all through lack of ADCs or poor dice.
  • The artillery could be decisive close up but not necessarily so, and at long range were just a realistic irritant providing longer term attrition. Used in the numbers we had they were not a game changer
  • Most results with melees, and particularly cavalry, seemed logical but were still fun and exciting.
  • Defeated units that were not destroyed could recover and still be useful - a definite plus to me.
  • The only thing I could not understand was that squares could only fire at short range and very reduced effect. Their value seemed to be almost entirely notional in pre-contact morale, making it difficult for the cavalry to charge home, which is reasonable. Also they were allowed to move quite far. I was left with a bit of a peculiar feeling over squares and it may be as I did not have the chance or inclination to read the rules in detail. Something to watch for carefully if we use them locally.
On balance a good set and I know they get a lot of praise from wargamers whom I respect. So good luck Colin and thanks for your wonderful efforts.

Crann Tara Miniatures
On the Sunday morning we were passing by Redcar on our way from Middlesborough to Whitby and Graham Cummings had agreed to entertain the Duchess and me for coffee. It was great to see his neat house and my original oil painting  "Jacobite Charge, 1745" on his wall. Graham willingly explained at length what it is like to found and run a model soldier company and we learned a lot even though we did not see his wargames room or garden office.  We were treated though, to see the super master figures of his new Saxon range, hot from the casters, see his blog Crann Tara Saxons.

And, as one does, I could hardly visit Graham without pre-ordering a little something....So this time it was his dismounted Hussar range and horse holders, more limbers and horses for my 18th Century artillery, and best of all, a regiment of French Mousquetaires. Here are some pics as I prepped and based them at the weekend. 

I will be having both 1st and 2nd Companies on grey and
black horses respectively

I particularly like the metal engraved standard, and although I have to paint it I
am saved the chore of selecting and downloading one from the Internet, resizing
 and printing it and sticking it in position.
I could not resist buying one of these dynamic ADCs clutching his tricorne
If you want some for yourself take a look here Crann Tara French cavalry
Graham also gave me two of the originally printed St Paul books which he was personally involved in producing since Neil Cogswell is a near neighbour.  Thanks for your generosity Graham and for your time.

None of this excitement for me would have happened without the now passed A Military Gentleman Forum, so thank you too to John Ray.