Thursday 27 June 2019

Wild Geese Wargamers weekend 2019: Horse and Musket Happiness!

Once again I was privileged to be one of the 24 participants at the annual get together of the "Wild Geese Wargames Group" in  Kenilworth, Warwickshire. This is a very loose amalgam of gentlemen wargamers that has morphed out of John Ray's "A Military Gentleman of the 18th Century" Forum but still keeps its emphasis on broadly 18th century wargaming themes with a high quality of presentation.  It's a visual delight every year and with 5 games each played three times I was spoiled for choice.  As one of the game organisers was fated to go home with one of my paintings as his prize for "Best Looking Game" I felt duty bound to try the most eye catching and realistic looking ones on offer, more of that later.

Thanks to Ken Marshall I get a lift up from Gloucestershire each time, and it's not far so we arrived about 0845 on the Saturday morning, though everyone else had made a Friday night of it and were eager for the "off".

Here's a quick tour of the room near the start:

Will Harley's 1750's Imagi-Nations game
Michael Perry's AWI game before the appearance of troops
Steve Metheringham explains his unique mid 18th century "shiny soldiers" game with wonderful 40mm miniatures
Tony Dillon's humorous take on a Peninsular War hunt/forage/clash of arms
Paul Robinson's large Danish and Swedish armies had yet to appear on the table at this early hour 
After the handshakes and quick hellos to old friends and "catchyoulaters" to newcomers my priority was to set up my military and hussarette paintings display in the adjoining breakout room. 

Pleased to say seven of these did not come home with me - thank you chaps
I'd barely done that when Will Harley was thrusting his annual gift into my hand - a lovely standard bearer from his classic collection, and saying "If you fancy my game the Prussians await you". How could one refuse?!!

Willz Harley - 1750 Imagi-Nations seize the wagons extravaganza
I found myself commanding the allied army of Savoy and Prussia along with Martin Binks against the Tiberian forces of Paul Spence and Gary Phillips - two formidable opponents.  I'll let the briefs do the talking:

The Tiberians had troops and sundry wagons spread all over the crowded terrain between us and the river and Willz had deployed our army roughly along our baseline. He gave us limited scope to rearrange the starting positions so, without much hope in the face of all those hedges and buildings, I gave Martin two powerful looking cuirassier regiments with the suggestion they led a thrust on the left centre while I held and refused the right flank mostly with infantry. Our task was to capture wagons and get our troops over the river, although, as you can see, the latter was guarded by two powerful batteries in redoubts, so I felt it was going to be a case of enjoy pushing the classic Spencer Smith toys but don't expect much chance of winning! However, the game to was to prove to have hidden depths not evident to my Prussians at the start!

Savoy and Prussia on left baseline, Tiberians over most of the battlefield. Battle opened on the left with Martin advancing his Hussars but they were facing Gary's Cuirassiers
Gary and Paul had wagons and troops constantly on the move in both directions - what were they up to? On the near left Martin is advancing his whole wing as fast as possible. My guns and cuirassiers top a hill in the foreground.......
.........where it was evident they would be met by lance-armed enemies
Paul made orderly progress towards me on his left flank
A closer view of Martin's Savoy Army on our left flank.....
.....and the formidable cuirassiers opposite them
A nice overall view at this stage - note the bright red wagon in the centre with all those shiny chests in, wonder what they are?
Martin now had his hands full on the extreme left......
....while the extreme right saw my flank now refused back in echelon.
My plan, if it deserves the name, was to thrust through the centre with my cuirassiers
and guns while edging infantry battalions leftwards to join them - Paul was not about to let that happen!
In addition it was very difficult to make any progress past the walls and
 hedges with those guns opposite
A single Tiberian battalion was to hold that brown-roof house and courtyard against all
 comers throughout the game
Paul was amassing a sinister amount of troops against my refused flank -
 but he was about to overreach himself
Our cavalry finally clashed in the centre. My downhill charge seemed to be
negated by those lances
Both sides had to rally back but because I had taken the precaution of making
 Count Otto Riesling lead my charge I recovered first.
Meanwhile I cruelly used my artillery battery to shoot dead the draught horses
pulling those really fancy chests, so the wagon just sat there awaiting events. 
Not for long - both sides entered the fray, Riesling had sniffed the gold and was not
 to be thwarted easily! Paul's Grenadiers came forward to contest it but happily
 the cuirassiers had strong morale and Riesling to reroll failed morale dice so a fierce
contest was on. 
On our left Gary had managed to amass strong forces to match Martin's cuirassiers
and the latter were not getting the best of it 
Here they are discussing a complex 3-way attack on the brown roof house.......
Never mind the ignominy of the push back Martin, this photo just allows us to drink in the wonderful classic Spencer Smith figures so beautifully painted by Willz
Subtly our opponents were beginning to get their wagons across the river
"Every wargame battlefield needs a pontoon bridge" (Will Harley 2019)
In this overview it appears that Paul has ownership of the pretty red wagon and is bringing up cavalry to cut me off from it while more cavalry are threatening my right flank. But in the centre, somewhat to Gary's dismay, I am, blitzkrieg-like, ignoring the brown roof house and using Grenadiers to storm ahead
"View of the Weser Valley with coffee mug" by Sir Joshua Gregg RA. 
 Er, not quite, but in the foreground those Tiberian cavalry are about to regret coming within
musket range of more Grenadiers
Martin has been repelled from both the brown-roof house and across the whole flank, oh dear!
The initiative dice gods have been helpful, and together with Riesling on hand
 to organise things I am protecting my right while forging ahead with a
Grenadier brigade to get that treasure wagon
Above and below: The indomitable Gary now was determined to thwart me with flanking fire
 but the Morale of those Grenadiers held (Riesling's reroll again!) and they were able to deliver
the death blow to Paul's now very weak wagon guards

Above and below: Paul thought he could thwart my attempt by sending his cavalry
between two buildings and down from the hill but my infantry hopped over the wall
and created a crossfire of musketry which first stopped them and then discouraged
 them from staying around

Above and below: Encouraged as I was by my success the sight of our opponents
 inexorably edging their wagons towards the river made me assume all was lost.

.....especially as poor Martin seems to have been repulsed on all fronts (those are his dead lining the baseline!)
End of game and my right flank is pushing back the enemy with a wall of grenadier musketry
backed up by Hussar support
In the centre I'm undisputed master of the red wagon of treasure at last.......but it was the only one we captured!
It was time for lunch and both sides agreed we had played long enough. For our part on the Savoy/Prussian side doing any better now seemed a forlorn hope but little did we know that our opponents also felt they might have lost!  As Willz totted up the points he gave us 10 for the pretty wagon and 10 for completely destroying one of the enemy units, and he did a quick count of the enemy wagons which would get away - that came to 40 points, so why the long faces? appeared that a significant objective for the Tiberians was to get units to safety across the Weser River and all our zealous efforts had:
a. pinned them sufficiently that they'd sacrificed troops for wagons
b. cut off nearly half their army from successful retreat even though we hadn't realised!

Whatever the actual calculation Willz declared it a draw! What a brilliant game it had turned out to be.
We were using once again the one page SYW rules made available free by Jim Purky and this year I got a really good run with them. Gary, as ever, proved a real asset as he masters rule sets very quickly and was always on hand to make sure of a sensible interpretation when we were in doubt - thanks Gary. Although there were a few points we did not necessarily agree with I would recommend these for anyone who wants a reasonably fast game that is rich in nuanced period tactical elements but free of any command and control restrictions.  Both Gary and I suggested that it would have been a better game still for both sides' objectives if there had been more clear areas on the table.  So for subsequent sessions Willz took out quite a few surplus terrain features and reported later that the game was indeed better for it. Thanks Willz for a very entertaining time.

Perry Twins - AWI: Destroy the rebel arsenal

I secured my place in this one before we had lunch as the terrain was just "to die for", and the armies were the Perry's own from their, mostly plastic, AWI range. Rules were Black Powder, which they knew backwards of course, so there was no rule-book scanning or consultation delays. Alan said it was Michael's game but both of them kept things moving well for the next 2.5 hours or so.

Michael and Alan Perry explain the forces to us
I volunteered to be "proper British" as Michael put it, rather than rebel British, but as the commands got handed out I was nominated to command the Hessian Brigade, Tim Whitworth got the British Line Brigade and Dave Andrews the Elite Brigade (Grenadiers, Light infantry, Scots etc). Our aim was to march across a river onto the table then get most of the way up it to take control of a rebel arsenal where we could capture the arms and ammo stores and destroy the buildings - well that was the theory!

Our opponents were Douglas Thomson, Steve Pearse and Stuart Insch

Start of the game: Michael and I are standing near where my Hessians are beginning their march on. Doug is about to roll successful initiative for the first rebel brigade. (Photo - kind permission of Stuart Insch)
Hessians march on the field......
.....but American riflemen are lurking
At the bridge on my right Dave got a poor initiative roll to start
Hessian Jagers suffer casualties and a shaken marker (puff of smoke) from the marksmen ahead
The Jagers fall back but their accompanying amusette gun was allowed to lurk under a beautiful Pear (Perry!) tree
The road became a no-go area and so our left column had to march across the fields while my Grenadiers formed line to try to fend the Americans off. Would you believe I rolled 4 "ones" for my first fire with them! Michael P expressed suitably polite amazement.
Meanwhile a rebel brigade marched up to man the arsenal.......
........and those pesky riflemen took up a new position to my front and inflicted more "shaken" which halted the column
Over on our right flank Dave seemed to have formed a nice looking line with the Elites, driven off the riflemen in the churchyard and was pressing on to the treeline. However, the Americans were giving back as good as they got. See the following two photos for close ups of that action

Opposite my Hessians those skirmishers were now being backed up by a line of, I think, militia along the fence
Tim was trying to find a way past my stalled Hessians with his British brigade
and my Jagers returned to the fray along the road
Here's Tim moving his men up watched by Steve and Alan
Dave had unfortunately been forced back to take refuge around the church.........
...but Tim had found that to be an avenue of approach free of enemy fire on him
Dave's retreat had enabled the rebels to try to form another defensive line,
but in doing so one battalion offered a tempting flank
Above and below: for the moment it looked like the Americans had the
 arsenal secured

At this point the battle seemed to turn in our favour (though for me it proved illusory). I managed to roll the magic "3 moves in a row" for initiative. So this photo shows my Jagers and amusette successfully playing on the American line and my Grenadiers moved in to flank that careless battalion, inflicting sufficient losses to prove fatal to their morale. But those are my "hits" you see in the shade of the tree.........
To my right Tim had formed a beautiful two battalion deep attacking column
 My Hessian line battalions had been able to charge and see off the
marksmen but suffered fire from the fenceline as a result - more shaken
Dave seemed to having some luck reforming his Elite brigade......
.....but at the same time incoming fire finished off my Jagers and forced the Grenadiers to retreat.
It was at that point that Michael, somewhat apologetically, broke the news to me that two thirds of the units in my brigade were at maximum sustainable hits and so the whole brigade had to make an orderly retreat from the field!
Just as well that Tim's troops were doing so well.
Above and below: Dave was managing to bring some of his units back into action,
although those hit markers suggest they are fragile.

This overall photo gives a good indication of the temporary lull that had occurred as the Allies tried to recover from losses and the Americans were forced back in defence of the arsenal
Tim's brigade goes on the attack and receives incoming fire
A successful attack - the fence line breached and the American brigade crumbling
This was the last photo I took and with my brigade out of it I wasn't paying close attention, but given this Move was followed by handshakes all round I conclude the American defence had collapsed and the Arsenal was to fall into British hands
So, not my finest hour, and I'm no more an enthusiast for Blackpowder rules than I was before. My Hessians had been used as good mercenaries - take the flak, absorb the opposition effort and let the big boys move in to take the victory. But hey! I got to game with the Perry's with their toys on their terrain, how much better can your wargaming get? (rhetorical question!)

Michael very kindly answered all my questions about the lovely terrain. The setup normally lives in his home and doesn't travel, so we were doubly privileged. I gather it was originally made by Dave Andrews then has gone through several conversions since, finally ending up being coated over most of the surface by a specially made sheet that includes all the grass tufts ready in place, then cut up as necessary and blended in.  No, they are not Warlord commercial tufts all stuck down by hand! Another advantage of this is that cut pieces can be placed at the base of hills to blend them in, as well as to conceal the joins between baseboards. Here are some close-up photos for fans of terrain and Perry Miniatures.........

Thanks Michael and Alan for a very enjoyable afternoon watching how it's done by the originators!

This was followed by the habitual pint in the sunshine in the hotel garden chatting away merrily with my case catching up with Martin Gane, now sporting a lovely beard since his Antipodean and Southeast Asian tour, and his friend Paul Spence. Coincidentally Paul had purchased all my ex-Quatre Bras Hanoverian Landwehr on eBay only a month before, so this was a great opportunity to get to know one another and see a video of his lovely villa in France complete with two storey wargames barn.

In the evening we had a brilliant curry dinner and more games for those who weren't suffering (yet) from excess of food and drink. I had a pleasant hour rolling some dice in a game of "Blood and Plunder" put on by Gavin and Leigh. This is a commercial Pirate game they sell in the shop in Redcar as well as online. Looks good to me if you are into small area, but intense and challenging, skirmish games. Here are some photos of the beautiful figures and ships:

Tony Dillon - being sharp in Spain!
Sunday morning came around and I needed to get my own back on Tony as he's attended a few games at my house and now here was my chance to play one of his. Besides that he had intrigued me a couple of months earlier by sending me a copy of his "Napoker" rules which he had used at a participation game at a show. Very simple to pick up but harder to master. Unfortunately my opponents here were Tony's friend, Phil Walters, who was very familiar with Napoker, and Aly Morrison, who can be guaranteed to thwart an opponent with a combination of devil-may-care attitude, an "I'm always unlucky"modesty, and broad Scottish humour.  I had to handle 11 British and Spanish units on my own, taking on the guises of both Richard Sharpe and Prince "Sweet" William of Orange, so I had very little time to relax and even less to take photos. Happily all the ones I took turned out well.

Phil and Aly in a rare moment of seriousness
The photos can't tell a proper story as I didn't really know what was going on! My units had to find Richard Sharpe's wife Teresa - here's a photo "anyone seen this woman?"

And here is the beautiful Spanish village tabletop on which she may be found. Also it was part of the victory points to gain food, drink or gold in the form of game tokens. The French characters spent a lot of the game (and movement points) in conveying couriers, wagons, supplies, a pontoon bridge, ladies of ill repute, a French Lieutenant's woman and goodness knows what else. Boy, did they appear busy and diverted! But they still found time and energy to send many squads against my men.
The terrain is based on guidance in the "Touching History" Peninsular terrain making book and Tony told me some of the buildings were bought from author Paul Darnell himself. The rest are skilfully made by Tony or adapted commercial resin buildings and scenery. Walls are made from cat-litter!

Above and below: Sharpe's and Billy's Rifles kick in doors and explore
 the houses for loot and Teresa

Above and below: All a mystery to me - skinny dipping French
engineers with a pontoon bridge to build, and various ADCs delivering letters

The next pictures show that some kinetic action was taking place between the protagonists and I was getting the worst of it.

Wagons come into town carrying who knows what?
Tony takes a well earned drink (of fizzy water!). He was working hard to keep it all on track
No, Aly's not bowing to my camera - he's taking a picture with his own while
Phil directs Aly's attack on a house where they think Riflemen are lurking

The pontoon bridge takes shape while the workers display their torsos as if starring in "Poldark"
I had found Teresa fairly early but had a hairy time getting her back to my baseline. Here I'm using Spanish groups to fend off Aly's voltigeurs while she escaped
The French had engineers to help them bash in the doors

Tortured bodies of Frenchmen are discovered

After I got Teresa away and just kept on trying to find the provisions and gold the game seemed to be getting tedious. This was because of the way the playing cards were allocated, and we were both generally firing from cover, no casualties were being lost......until the French discovered one of their objectives. These were the bodies of comrades tortured by the Spanish and it so incensed Phil's forces that a dice roll indicated three of his units had to rush into the open and charge the nearest enemies to get revenge. Unfortunately for him I had a really nice hand that turn with an Ace and a King for Firing and Melee - practically unassailable and Phil and Aly lost about 8 figures in one turn.
that greatly evened up the body count with me still at a deficit of 2. We both achieved maximum points for objectives but I had a 2 point advantage on goods found. So honours were exactly even and it was a draw. A brilliantly devised scenario that kept us guessing all the way to the glass of "looted" wine served to me by Tony just in time for another big lunch and the prize giving!

Tony won the popular votes for both "Best Looking Game" and "Best in Show", so his head was soon too big for his chapeau - well deserved though and he had worked hard to entertain all weekend from the Friday night Quiz onwards.

The other games
There is just not enough time to try everything and it's inevitable that I neglect the games I did not participate in. Here are a few pics of Steve M's and Paul R's games and you can find more on other blogs - especially Aly's (link below).

My personal haul
The WG weekend is always a nice chance to exchange presents or get new stuff without postage.  Willz always gives everyone a hand painted classic figure - he is very generous, thank you. Colin had organised souvenir mugs and at his suggestion I used my painting of the Wild Geese Clare Regiment 1743 to digitise a new design for WGWG19 for us to use on it. Although Graham Cummings couldn't make it we all received our orders of Crann Tara figures via Gavin. In my case it was a load of the new 18th Century sailors and some armed civilians. And to give them something to sail in I got two of the Blood and Plunder longboats from Gavin's store Gaming Figures

So another great experience under my belt and some new acquaintances made. Thank you very, very much to Colin and Katherine Ashton for all they both did to organise everything and make sure it ran so well.

I mentioned the other blogs so here are links to the ones I can find that record this wonderful weekend