Tuesday, November 28, 2023

What I Did On My Thanksgiving Break

 Some of you out there who grew up when I did (when phones had physical buttons and were plugged into the wall) might remember an exercise when you returned from a long break or holiday to your Elementary School.  It was a tough assignment, handwritten in pencil on "loose leaf paper" usually requiring 2 nights to turn in.  For a boy with sloppy handwriting in Catholic School, this assignment was usually a complete nightmare.  Not because of a lack of writing skills, or imagination, but for the simple fact that the many reviews it would go through with my mom would require scores of re-writes due to penmanship, or one word looking like it was misspelled.  In honor of that joyous memory, I present to you What I Did On My Thanksgiving Break written by 9 year old me...There are pictures at the end if you suffer through the entire essay.  Or you can just skip to the pictures.

What I did on my Thanksgiving Break.  

By Steven M Whitesell.  

This Thanksgiving Break I had an entire week off of work.  My Mother In Law stayed with us at our house, which made the house seem very crowded.  My wife was grumpy because her mother was staying with us all week.  My children still had school until Wednesday which was great because I could go down to my workbench, and was not bothered by them needed by them.  When I went down to my workbench in the basement, I painted lots of many miniatures.  So many miniatures I painted so many miniatures that my hands began to hurt.  

While on Thanksgiving Break I finished three 15mm Dark Age Infantry units.  First I painted a unit of Saxon Housecarls, then a unit of Viking Spearmen, then another unit of Saxon infantry with swords.  I was very happy with how these troops turned out so I painted more stuff.  Next I painted a unit of Napoleonic 10mm Russian Grenadiers, and then a unit of Napoleonic 10mm Austrian infantry with helmets.  While I was painting my wife would come down to the basement and ask me to go do things like take out the garbage or do bills or run to the store.  This made me grumpy but I did it anyways because she is the boss.  When I got home returned from my chores, I went back to painting.  I had so much fun painting that I painted even more things, including two Napoleonic 10mm Austrian Uhlans from the 1st Uhlan Regiment and 3rd Uhlan Regiment.  Then I painted two units of Austrian Hussars from the 3rd and 8th Hussar Regiments.  Because I was having so much fun painting these figures, I decided to basecoat and paint even more figures including a unit of Kallistra War of the Roses Billmen and a unit of Kallistra War Dismounted Knights.

On Thanksgiving I ate alot of turkey.  When we got returned home from Thanksgiving Dinner, I painted more troops.  The next day, I put up Christmas Lights outside with my children and helped them bake cookies.  I felt it was entirely too early to do this but they really wanted to so I said ok.  Then I took my wife to see Napoleon.  My wife insisted we see Napoleon because I like to play with toy soldiers enjoy playing with toy soldiers. This was not a fun movie because we sat in the second row of the theater.  Also I thought the battles focused on too narrow of an area and did not give an idea of the scope and scale of Napoleonic battles.  I really hoped there would be some of the personality in the Marshalls but they didn't talk during the movie at all.  I did like the uniforms and thought the musical score and classical selections were good.  Josephine was excellent (and very pretty) but overall, the movie barely skimmed the surface of the period and it would have done the history more justice had it been let as a miniseries.  The beginning of the movie up to the end of the siege of Toulon was very good but "went downhill" after that.

When the movie was over we got bought a pizza and brought it home for my kids children and my mother in law and I did not have enough pizza and was grumpy.  That is what I did on my Thanksgiving Break.

There has been much written already about the movie Napoleon.  I very much enjoyed the movie as a movie-goer.  I did not enjoy the movie as a wargamer, or as a student of military history.  Christopher Plummer will always be Wellington to me (or the first Wellington in the Sharpe Series...he was outstanding).

adorable WOTR Billmen with homicidal intent.

Saxon Housecarls fighting against their favorite enemy - the Vikings

Viking Spearmen eager for plunder

Like painting drums, I always have fun painting shields and shield designs on 15mm troops.  Small enough to be forgiving when you make a mistake, and a palette of color.

Yes, MORE Russians.  And there are hundreds of them after this.

Austrian Uhlans!


I didn't take pictures of the other units and also finished my last Old Glory French infantry (painted them as French Levy from Hesse-Darmstadt) and am now basecoating Austrians and Russians in the hopes of finishing them off.  Dave is coming over Friday night and I'll put a big Napoleonic bash on the table.  

Saturday, November 18, 2023


Dave was over for our bi-weekly Friday night game and this week we tried out "This Hallowed Ground" American Civil War rules from the "Jay's Wargaming Madness" blog.  I've played quite a few games of Jay's "Empires at War" Napoleonic rules and I love them for the simple fact that they are smooth and well-playing rules, solid fun and deliver a crunchy game that ticks all the required boxes for me.  EAW are quickly becoming my favorite Napoleonic rules out there and look like the Napoleonic successor to THG.

Jay's Wargaming Madness Blog - a treasure trove of stuff!

For the scenario I pulled my "old reliable" scenario off the shelf AKA Scenario #4 from One Hour Wargames "Take the High Ground."  This is a great scenario for testing any rules set as it features timed reserves and a nail-biting defense with the defender starting atop the hill with 2 units.  The full weight of the "blue" army is bearing down on you, and your reserves show up at the opposite end of the table, most likely being committed to counter-attacking the hill.  

Rebel units atop "Stony Top Hill"

So - what happened?  Dave and I diced for sides.  I ended up with the Rebels and "force composition 2" from OHW, so 4 infantry units, 1 Zouave unit, and 1 cavalry unit (!).  Dave ended up with an enviable force consisting of 1 artillery battery, 2 Zouave units, and 3 line units.  We made our Zouave units "veteran" in terms of the THG rules so they have the "tough fighters" special rule.

Stony Top Hill gives cover to troops on it.

I like the way attrition works in THG.  Even units which have taken a beating can still dish out some punishment, and your units have lots of capability.  Tough in melee (if you can press the charge) and tough in shooting, but you take the risk of becoming disordered from shooting and that's bad!

Dave, in typical yankee fashion, starts his assault off slowly and cautiously.  He's seen the ranges and knows the rebel rifles are primed and ready to shoot!
Union troops moving down the road.  The Zouaves are advancing against my right 

Dave moves up into shooting and at long range units still have a good amount of firepower.  Dave's artillery also gets set up and ranges in on my troops on the hill.  Eventually, a combination of small arms fire and artillery drives my troops back!  In actuality, they failed a second morale test while already disordered and are forced by 6".  I love this rule!

Reb troops on the other side of the hill with 9 hits and 3 (!!!) disorder markers.  Disorder markers are removed one per turn and you suffer from CDS when you are disordered (cant do sh**)

The battle so far.  My troops from bottom, dave's yankees at the top.  Dave hasn't gotten on the hill yet, preferring to shoot the hell out of my before storming the heights!  The unit in the lower right are my Zouaves!

A sharp firefight breaks out on the road!  Dave's yankees trade fire with my rebels.  See you in hell, Billy Yank!!!


My Zouaves on the hill on my right flank.  Dave's are creeping up

The constant shooting against my single regiment atop the hill is taking its toll and they are now "worn".  THG has grades of morale much like Fire and Fury when infantry units take 8 hits they worn, 16 hits they are shaken, and 24 hits they are broken.  This significantly affects their morale rolling and ability to withstand attacks without becoming disordered and eventually falling back.  The whole thing is clever, simply and just works!

Taking a beating on Stony Top Hill!

Dave pushing up on his right in the crop field, and his lead element on the road is disordered.  I'm trying to stabilize my line but it's getting difficult with Dave's prolonged fires!  

We both quickly realize the value of the rally order as some of my units are approaching Shaken status!  I also like that you can still shoot when you rally.

Yanks advance through the beanfield

Blurry picture of the rebel line!

Dave goes for broke!  His Zouaves assault Stony Top Hill!

Turn 8 Dave decides to launch the assault, which he wins handily, pushing my troopers back.  Dave has a foothold on the hill and pushes the other Zouave regiment up the hill to solidify his hold on the hill.  More Yankees along the road and scrambling to get up the hill now and a fierce firefight breaks out with my reserve troops, who are fresh.  By Turn 9, almost all of my units are in some state of disorder and the turns are getting faster and faster.  I turn in the towel on Turn 10 with barely any combat power left to sustain the defense!  The hill is lost!

surveying the carnage the next morning - Dave and I tried an experimental charge with my cavalry.  First they failed their pre charge order test (some orders, like charging, require a test regardless of unit status or casualties)

It says alot when you note "they're still battle worthy they "only" have 9 hits!!"

Firefight on the road.  Note the union troops off right on the hill.  Dave ended the game with 4 units on the hill.

So what did we learn?  Well we both loved This Hallowed Ground and will return to them for more ACW clashes in the near future.  While the guns are still warm though, and both sides are counting their casualties, there are lessons to be learned from this engagement!

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!  Units launching a charge from within 8" do not suffer from closing fire in THG.  This is huge because you get alot of dice at that range with small arms.  If an enemy unit is massing against you within 8", give ground or suffer an attack going in against you without being able to deliver a closing volley! 

MONITOR YOUR UNITS:  I lost track a couple times of the unit status.  I'm going to think on how best to make Worn/Shaken units but I was treating some Shaken units as "worn" and that's totally my fault for being careless/tired.  A nice reminder during the heat of battle like a marker would be helpful.

SHOOT EVERY TURN:  You need to try and force a disorder on your opponent, especially at the point of decision in the battle.  A disorder result at the proper time can be crippling.  This is also why placing your guns in an advantageous position where they can sit and shoot the entire battle is better than losing a few turns and not getting to fire them.

PLACE COMMANDER WITH THE BAD TROOPS: The Zouaves received a natural reroll for their "Tough Fighter" abilities and so the commander was kind of wasted on them.  I should have placed them with the worse troops along the road where his reroll could be better utilized.

THE PLAN: All in all, I probably should have been more mobile with my defense, IE moving the 2 regiments back below the hill top where they would not have taken artillery or small arms fire, then counter attacking with the Zouaves and fresh troops.  Dave's plan was a good one which was to soften up the defenders then launch a brutal bayonet assault.  All good stuff here and it was blast regardless.

After playing I did have some questions which I'll email to the author - namely:

  •  do troops in THG pick up a disorder after losing a melee?  I am assuming yes but could not find the answer (it was 11pm and I was a bit tired so I could have missed this - will look again)
  • It looks like there is a rule whereby the winner of a melee can make 4 x free attacks if the loser retires.  I am assuming this is an attack at 4+ like a regular melee To Hit, and that the loser makes a melee save (6).
  • is there a risk to attached commanders from fire or melee?

So there you have it, a great fun game for a Friday night and one that we are keen to play again.  I'll give this a try with my Chickamauga scenario soon.  Next game we may go back to World War II with some Battlegroup Fall of the Reich or Battle of the Bulge gaming!  

Friday, November 17, 2023

Warlord Epic ECW Minis For Tilly's Very Bad Day - WIP

Some of the biggest hobby news in the last couple years definitely has to have been Warlord's "Epic" Black Powder range of miniatures releases which I was very enthused over.

While I already have a "shedload" of 15mm American Civil War and 10mm Napoleonic troops, the Warlord Thirty Years War / English Civil War (TYW/ECW) line seemed a perfect and convenient starter for someone dipping his toes into what could be, according to this American correspondent, a very confusing subject.

There are countless reviews of the miniatures line, and tutorials on the "delightful" [sarcasm] experience of painting the blighters, so I wont go into that here.  Suffice to say that the commentary I have read about painting the Epic minis has been so far pretty on point.  They are easy to paint for sure, but the overall look of them in my humble opinion, leaves much to be desired when painting with "regular" paints.  I've seen some units painted with speed paints and they look good enough but for the amount of work that went into painting 80-100 figures (took me about a week painting in the evenings to finish 1 "Foote Regiment") the results just didn't pay off.  Take into consideration that it would take me at least a year to paint up enough units for Warlord's "Pike & Shotte" rules that I eventually moved on after painting 4 units of Pike & Shotte.
NOT my troops...

The whole time I was painting though, part of me wondered what the troops would look like if I kind of, sliced into them....  IE slice the Pike line in half and slice the line of matchlock's in half and plop them onto a 4" x 2" base for a game like "Tilly's Very Bad Day" or "One Hour Wargames" or even attempt Black Powder's "Pike & Shotte" but with singular based stands.  

I know we've gone down this road before but this was an experiment afterall, so let's see how we got on.

Not bad.  I recycled old 4x2" stands and added some of my grit mixture.  

Many folks out there had lamented over the fellows holding their pikes at a "battle carry" position as if they were about to engage or be engaged.  1 sprue is enough to fill out a single 4 x 2 stand with 4 x lines of pike with enough leftovers to field a 4 x 2 stand with 2 lines of pike, 2 lines each flank (sleeve) of shot, and a rank of men holding their pikes at the ready.  I think the result is pretty convincing!

So 1 sprue of minis was enough to fill 2 x units for Tilly's.

A full brigade maybe.

I liked the results.  So much so that I chopped up all of the other units I had completed, and completed another unit that was spray painted on the sprues, awaiting their full uniforms.  It's amazing that with only 4 sprues worth of troops, I was able to field 8 full units for Tilly's Very Bad Day.  The "Push of Pikes" Starter Set which I pre ordered has literally so many more sprues that I'll have plenty for a full Army, likely being able to field historical forces for much larger continental TYW battles, or a full range of ECW battles using these guys as units.  The actual Epic units were about 6" wide and about 2" deep.  With them shrunk down, I can field way more on the table.

Right now I have 8 or 9 Pike and Shot units based up.  Not all of the bases are "finished" with flock, detailing, etc but they look good on the stand.  I'm going to continue on with this basing scheme as I like it and I dont have to paint up quite as much as I would have had to if I went the full "Epic Battles" route.  and thankfully I will not have to purchase anymore, as I am well provisioned with the "Push of Pike" box.  

Close enough for government work - but whose government?  King or Parliament???

I was so excited I finally started on the artillery, cavalry and the generals.  The cavalry are a hot mess at the moment and I have been sorting them out but was able to start on a command stand and an artillery stand.  Still have to start on the commanded shotte.

A work in progress but they're coming along.  I bought the "personality" pack of generals so hopefully you'll get to see Fairfax, Byron, Cromwell, and if you're lucky, the King himself on a battlefield in the near future.

ditto - started slapping some paint on them but they're coming along.  they're not the best but then again see comment above.  They look the same whether you put in a ton of effort or a little effort. 

In Tilly, each wing has a commander and many have artillery.  My plan is to field enough units for an "infantry heavy" force and a "cavalry heavy" force, and at least enough infantry and commanders for a small scale battle to be fought.  

So there you have it.  A nice TYW/ECW force starting to take shape and I may even be able to put on a proper game of Tillys Very Bad Day by Christmas!

Also, I've heard rumors that the next line could be ancient - possibly Republican Roman and Carthaginian.  I already own close to my body weight in 15mm metal Early Imperial Romans and barbarians but I may have to take a serious look when they come out.  I think the important take away here is that if you purchased these guys and had second thoughts, they are versatile (and malleable enough) to base in different configurations.  You just need to touch up with paint where you cut, and use a very sharp knife.

Anyways Dave is coming over and we're finally getting some ACW action on the table.  Stay tuned and keep your powder dry!