Monday, 22 December 2014

Army Showcase - Horrors of the Dreamtime

In my previous post I looked at my Australian Aboriginal army for HOTT. A couple of years after I built that army I finally completed their opponents, the Horrors of the Dreamtime. This army is a mixed bag of nasties from various myths and legends, under the control of the evil god Marmoo.

Here is the army.

It is made up as follows:

1 x Flier General (Marmoo, The Evil One)
1 x Behemoth (The Wulgaru)
1 x Behemoth (The Great Whowhie of the Murray River)
1 x Magician (Goose Women)
1 x Beast (Cheerooneer)
1 x Beast (The Terrible Old Woman and Her Dogs)
1 x Lurker (Yara-ma-yha-who)
1 x Water Lurker (The Bunyip)
4 x Hordes (Insect Plague)
Stronghold: A sacred site (the same stronghold the other army uses in fact; only one of them needs it at a time.)

The Wulgaru was an attempt by a wirinun to make a man from rocks, stones and paint. In the story his creation runs amok. It's also only man-sized. When I tried to model one I got carried away and produced one that scales to 20' tall. The model is made from twigs, stones and paint - just like the real thing.

The Goose Women were evil witches who beset a hero in one story. They are naked women from Museum Miniatures, with geese, also from Museum Miniatures.

The Great Whowhie should have six legs, but who's counting. It was a giant lizard/crocodile monster which terrorised an area until defeated by an alliance of tribes. My model is a plastic lizard toy (a blue-tongued skink I think) with a new paint-job.

Marmoo, the Evil One, is the source and perpetrator of all kinds of bad things in various legends and stories. Whilst he could be classed as a God, I didn't have the points and neither could he then be the general. So he's a Flier instead. He's a Feudal Castings warrior, representing his human form, along with a GW bat above a scratchbuilt dead tree.

The Yara-ma-yha-who are blood-sucking monsters who lie in wait for the unwary, described as small red men with big heads. These GW Warmaser trolls seemed just perfect.

GW also provided the figure from my Bunyip water monster, from their Man O'War sea-monsters range.

Cheerooneer was a dog-headed man who terrorised tribes with his pack of dogs. The Terrible Old Woman did much the same. Together they make a nice pair of Beast elements. The dogs are all Pendraken, I think, whilst the humanoid figures are Feudal Castings and Chariot. The Feudal Castings warrior has a Peter Pig wolf-head. If you've not checked out Peter Pigs head range, you should.

One of Marmoo's evil plans was to flood the world with bugs. Lots and lots of bugs, insects and creeping things. Hordes galore.

They are made up of various figures from manufacturers I forget, although I think that this glorious spider is from Copplestone Castings.

The beetles are lentils and the butterflies scratchbuilt from paper.

As a HOTT army this is pretty rubbish, with only the Behenoths providing any strength and too many other bits and pieces to make co-ordination easy. The Flier general is a bit isolated with no other aerials, and vulnerable to an army that is strong in its own aerials - including the Aboriginal army it's designed to fight. One day I shall rework it to make it a more viable opponent, but the trick is to do it without affecting its current good looks and charm.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Army Showcase - Australian Aboriginal

The new edition of HOTT contained a few new army lists, some of which I contributed. One of these were a pair of lists for Australian Aboriginal myths and legends, so I thought I would showcase the two armies I have produced based on them, They both date from ten or more years ago.

In this post I will cover the Aboriginal list itself, and in another post I will look at their opponents, the Horrors of the Dreamtime.

Here is the Aboriginal army. It consists of:

1 x Warband General (Wirinun and elders)
3 x Warband (Warriors)
1 x God (Baiame, The Great Spirit)
1 x Hero (The Winjarning Brothers)
1 x Beast (Warrior with Dingoes)
2 x Lurkers (Tuckonies)
2 x Fliers (Warrawilberoos)
Stronghold: Sacred site with rock paintings

The core of the army are the warriors, led by their wirinun (a kind of shaman), the white-bearded gentleman in the middle of this element. Although armed with ranged weapons such as boomerangs (although some are just used as hand-weapons, and few designed to return) and spear-throwers, they did not seem to be in a dense enough formation to count as Shooters. It's an option though.

The Wirinun could be classed as a Magician, but true to many other cultures around the world, offensive magic is generally regarded as a Bad Thing, so I would reserve it for morally ambiguous or evil armies only.

The figures were from Feudal Castings and are true 15mm. I don't know who makes them now. It was a good value pack - 24 figures, plus assorted weapons and shields.

I indulged them in plenty of war-paint and decorations.

The Winjarning Brothers appear in a number of legends, travelling the country righting wrongs and defeating monsters and magicians. They too have war-paint, but to show them as outsiders it takes a different form to that of the warriors.

Baiame is the Creator. In a few stories, however, he becomes directly involved in the affairs of his creations.

Tuckonies are tree-spirits, and are very small - no more than a couple of feet tall. They have high squeaky voices. Mine don't have any trees, but bear this with great fortitude. For figures I used 6mm Mahdists and Zulus from Heroics & Ros.

I'm not sure who made the dogs upon which I based the dingoes. The ears were modelled with modelling putty, so I'm guessing that they were something lop-eared before.

Warrawilberoos are whirlwind spirits. I chose to depict them as warriors riding on pillars of wind, made from wire and tissue-paper.

The stronghold is a simple affair made from painted stones.

With the experience of many years I now look at those bases and think that they are little sparse in detail, but I'm loath to do anything about it because I like the colour and am not sure I could ever reproduce it.

This army has performed admirably over the years, with the Hero and the Warband providing some punch and the other elements tagging along in support.

In my next post I will look at their opponents, the Horrors of the Dreamtime.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Bridgehead At The Mius River

On Thursday Ralph put on a great big Battlegroup:Kursk game, using 20mm figures and a 12' x 12' table (split, for those of us with short arms, into two 12' x 6' table). I covered the German counterattack on a post-Kursk Russian bridgehead at the Mius River.

The right-hand (from the Russian point of view) table.

And the left, with the German commanders. The hill on the centre-right, was the German objective.

The Russians had considerable quantities of artillery, some on- and some off-table.

Wall-to-wall Tigers.

Other tanks. Not Tigers. The ones with skirts are crossdressing Panzer IVs I think.

T34s. Most of the Russian stuff was dug in, making decisions about movement pretty simple.

Tigers mill about in an uncertain manner, whilst some Russian infantry watch from a field.

The scenario was glorious to look at, but probably too big for an evening's play with people who didn't know the rules. The two problems I had were that the command points didn't really give either side enough to do in a turn - most troops sat around watching the battle, and we had at least one situation where German units drive through a line of Russian troops who didn't fire at all because there were no order to do so. In addition, whilst none of the rules seemed that complicated in themselves, there seemed to be a lot of checks and tests within a particular procedure. And quite often it still produced little in a way of a result. It was like playing Rapid Fire, but fiddlier.

At the end of the evening it looked like the Germans, although driving forward, were going to be hard-pressed to both take the hill and clear the surrounding area of Russians as well. So, a Russian victory of sorts.

Update; Ralph's post HERE has more detail on the set-up and the thinking behind the scenario.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Frigate Action - British vs Dutch

On 30th May 1781 two British frigates out of Gibraltar encountered and engaged a pair of Dutch frigates.

The British ships were the Flora (36) and Crescent (28). The Dutch were Castor (36) and Briel (36). Despite being of the same nominal size as a Dutch frigate, the Flora out-gunned them, with both heavier long-guns, and new-fangled quarter-deck carronades.

In the ensuing action the Flora shattered the Castor, whilst the Crescent was hard-pressed by the heavier Briel until the Flora came up in support, at which point the Briel withdrew.

I refought the action using 'For Line of Battle'. The ships were as follows:

Flora - 5th Rate, Gun Class A
Crescent - 6th Rate, Gun Class B

Castor, Briel - Inferior 5th Rate, Gun Class B

All ships were Class 2 with a Turn of 3 and Veteran crews (the Dutch were pretty good at this stage, whilst the Royal Navy could still be a bit iffy.)

If you're not familiar with FLOB, the Flora's Gun Class gives her an extra bonus at point-blank range to allow for the carronades; the other ships just have long-guns. The Inferior rating of the Dutch ships means that they get a penalty when firing at the Flora, so in a straight duel the British ship should have a significant edge in gunnery, especially at very close range.

Both sides closed rapidly on their opponents, edging to get the weather-gauge. The Dutch ...

 ... and the British. Note the new sea bases, in action for the first time.

With the Flora being dangerous at close range, the Dutch opened fire at long range, hoping to inflict some damage before she got too close. They were successful.

The British came on towards the Dutch, Flora in the lead and Crescent behind. The British had to be careful not to let the Dutch double up on the weaker Crescent.

As the Flora approached Briel she took a devastating broadside which holed her below the waterline.

The British cut around the stern of the Dutch ships, but their firing lacked skill or enthusiasm, and they inflicted far less damage than they hoped. The Briel's captain was wounded though. In FLOB this is a short-term disadvantage, but in the long-term it actually gives a bonus to morale (getting the captain killed is a penalty all round, however.)

Even a stern-rake from the heavy guns of the Flora did little real damage.

The firing became general, albeit at a longer range than the British would have liked.

The Dutch kept up a steady, accurate cannonade on the Flora. Her mainmast fell, and shortly after she struck.

This left Crescent outnumbered and outgunned. She tried to work onto the stern of the Briel at the rear of the Dutch line, but the Dutch were equal to the task of preventing this.

As the Crescent tried to engage the Dutch ships, Castor sent a boat to take possession of the Flora.

Eventually the Crescent was holed below the waterline as well, and in a severely damage state broke off the action. The Dutch opted not to pursue, instead sailing their prize to the safety of Cadiz.

Damage to the Dutch ships was light; the Briel took the brunt of the British gunnery, but was still in good fighting fettle, despite her injured captain. The Castor was essentially undamaged.

The battle was won by some good medium range gunnery by the Dutch, multiplied by unlucky rolls when the British fired at close range. Unable to give as good as she was receiving, the Flora was forced to strike, leaving two relatively undamaged ships to face a smaller, damaged Crescent.

Such is the fortune of war.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Convict Rebellion

There aren't many battles in Australia which can be converted into playable games, so I was quite please when, browsing through Wargames Downloads, I came across Vinegar Hill. This is a game covering the skirmish which ended a convict rebellion in 1804. The convicts almost seemed to have pulled off a successful rebellion, hindered by issues with communication and a coup de main where their leaders were pretty much arrested during a parley. The skirmish seems to have been a pretty foregone conclusion after that; Government troops fired on the rebels who broke and fled.

Wikipedia has an article:

Castle Hill Convict Rebellion

(At the time of writing it looks like someone with strong pro-Irish sentiments has peppered the article with commentary. But that may be gone by the time you read it.)

The game covers the skirmish. One side is the Government, with a force of musket-armed troops. The other is the rebels, who have a few guns, but the bulk of whose troops are described as Spears (although Any Weapon We Can Lay Our Hands On seems most likely).

As you can imagine the balance is suspect, but there's a victory condition of sorts where the rebels can win a moral victory by achieving certain things before their force breaks and flees.

Anyway, I printed off the game and set it up this morning.

Here it is.

The game has a bizarre turn sequence, which seems to be Side A Fire-Side A Move-Side B Fire-Side B Move, but with a couple of non-player specific melee phases thrown in as well. I can live with that.

Unfortunately the rest of the rules don't seem to work. Movement is OK, with units limited in manuever, but not too much. Facing is important, so covering flanks and so forth is worth doing. Fire combat has an OK mechanism, but breaks down because the numbers make it very difficult - I would go as far as to say impossible in the case of the rebels - to inflict any real damage on the other side. Government troops may be able to do damage if they seriously concentrate their fire, but with only two firearm equipped units on their side the rebels have a tough job making any impact on enemy units.

The melee system is a basic odds system, but only the attacker rolls, possibly inflicting a rout or retreat on the defender. However the rules don't state how attacker and defender are determined in melee. There's an order, but since that's 'top of map to bottom, and left to right', and no indication is given as to which edge of the map is the top, it's not much help. The order implies that melee is resolved hex by hex, but another statement refers to them being resolved by unit cluster, and it seems to be assumed that units from different hexes can attack one target hex.

I gave up after a few turns, because I just couldn't be doing with trying to work how how I was supposed to play the game.

I suspect that, one day, I might have a go at putting some workable mechanisms to this game. And the counters kind of act as an order of battle for trying it with other games - a simple square-grid Battle Cry type of game would serve for example. But for now I think this game is going into storage, Although I do have it to thank for introducing me to a small part of my new home country's history.

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