Saturday 31 December 2022

A non Review of 2022.

 Its that time of the year again, when one is supposed to 'review' the year that is about to become history. Looking back can sometimes be emotional and other times downright depressing as one realises how you've wasted time that can never be recovered.

So on balance I think its fair to save I've wasted a lot of time I will never get back. That doesn't mean some good things didnt happen it just means I didn't achieve some tasks I had set myself and that I wanted to complete before I shift this mortal coil. Luckily for the reader none of them concerned wargaming and therefore are of no interest to anyone, including myself. If that makes sense.

                        Anyway on to more important and relevant matters, ie Wargaming
I notice certain publications have issued their list of this years best rules, but that's a difficult list to make given how subjective it actually is, especially when I didn't recognise two of the three rule sets, at all. A bit like all new technology, Ive been left behind. 
Their top rules I did recognise and in choosing Lion Rampant which I have played several times, I can understand the choice. I cant argue with them being named as number one as the latest edition of Rampant is a beautifully produced book, well laid out and providing a great set of simple and understandable rules that I have heavily invested in, albeit using a greater number of miniatures than recommended. 
Being the 2000's some pedants cried foul because they were an updated set of rules as opposed to a 'new' set. I do wonder at the mindset of some people. From a personal point of view I think the new Never Mind the Billhooks deluxe rule-set should have at least tied for first place with Lion Rampant even though the pedants could claim that Billhooks is also an 'updated' rule set, albeit now in a proper rule book, with beautiful images, expanded nations to choose from etc,etc.
 I admit I am biased as I have played both regularly.
Wargames rules are subjective as Ive stated, but what I look for now is definitely different from the rules I sought as a wargaming pup.Like most wargamers lucky enough to have been born pre Beatles we sought 'realism' and detail while ignoring the elephant in the room which is key, 'FUN.' I think that back then we were attempting to justify the fact that we played with toy soldiers by emphasizing the research we did to create the armies. Of course you realise that Featherstone and the other pioneers were right from the start, wargaming as we know it can never be 'realistic' and capture the terror and confusion of battle.[Thank God] but the games can provide a feel for the period and hopefully provide similar problems to the generals of the time faced. 
But to be very honest, wargaming and the necessary rules to play the game have to be for me not only straightforward [ie. simple] but also fun with a capital F. 
I can no longer be troubled by lists of factors to determine kills, morale or whatever. Life is simply too short. I want escape. I want my realism to be centered around historical tactics [ which can be difficult] and decently researched uniforms [if there are any] weapons and decisions that don't involve too much mental pain. Gone are the days of lying awake thinking ' if only.' But most importantly it needs to 'look good.' Nothing makes me happier than seeing rows upon rows of toy soldiers marching towards battle.


I'll admit it I am a child,and probably have always been, and nothing takes me back to that feeling better than seeing carefully painted toy soldiers. Its often said that as we get older we regress into childhood. My wife often says I never left it which I fully accept.  
But I digress, this post is supposed to be a review of 2022, not a ramble into childhood.
   When I first started this blog, it was New Years Eve 2009. I was unwell, my wife was very unwell, the weather was terrible and basically I was bored. Tonight as I type this, Im unwell, the weather is unpleasant and my arrangements to see in the New Year have been cancelled, so nothing new. 
  Except Im not bored. Ive undercoated my new Eureka Miniatures Renaissance gun and crew. Ive also prepped some new medium cavalry for Lion Rampant and started the basing of some Burgundian archers. Ive received some new/old Slingshot magazines to read in bed tonight and I still havent opened my copy of Billhooks Deluxe. 
  What a brilliant hobby wargaming is, irrespective of scale, period and rules used. 
   So much to do and so little time to do it in. 
         There that's my review for 2022. 
So all the best to anyone who cares to read this rambling mess and let all your dice rolls be high. 

And finally, the poem I learned as a young child and never forgotten, which has always struck me as how one should live one's life.

Friday 16 December 2022

Hyboria and Lion Rampant.

More Bishop of Durham goodness for Lion Rampant. These chaps are the foot knights. I bought a large batch of unpainted plastic from E Bay. They were glued up and ready based. It seemed a shame to get rid of the bases, especially as they were ready gritted. 
Its probably a coincidence but Black and amber/yellow are the traditional colours of my local football team who have always competed in the Northern League, which was formed by the Bishop of Durham in an effort to divert the young men of County Durham away from fighting and the demon drink. It seemed a good idea although given some of the encounters over the years it didn't work out too well. If anyone pops into the town of Bishop Auckland there is now a great history of the Northern League exhibition at the lovely town hall. If you like 'real' football then I recommend a visit. Oh and there's a rather good museum exhibiting Dali's picture of Christ on the cross. 
[I threw that in just to counter any arguments that I'm a philistine]
County Durham after the Norman Conquest wasn't ruled by the crown, but 'given' to the Prince Bishop of Durham who raised taxes, made the law and also raised and led troops to counter the threat of rebellion and the dastardly Scots, and the Bishop was allowed to hunt deer, usually a royal prerogative.
After the genocidal Rising of the North, William the Conqueror and Bishop Odo had no more trouble from the region having killed virtually everyone. Allegedly on his deathbed, William confessed he had been 'too hard' on the North. A bit of an understatement. 
I think the later Bishop had a better idea by forming a football league. 
Still different times, so one shouldn't judge the over reaction too much and start a campaign for reparations from France, although it would get that dwarf Macron in a bit of a spin.. 

My foot sergeants for the same contingent, I like to give them a mix of spears and weapons, so they can form a shieldwall.

I've always been fascinated by the Hyboria campaign hosted by the late, great Tony Bath. I still enjoy re-reading the old articles he wrote regarding the campaign, and Im currently re-reading Royal Armies of The Hyborean Age by Lin Carter and Scott Bizar which is also interesting, well it is for me.
This book and wargames rules is very American so contains army lists and other ephemera but is a good source of information regarding each nation of Hyboria, providing their racial type and colours.
Its perfect for anyone who wanted to create a series of contingents to fight Lion Rampant or even Dragon Rampant, given the magic aspect to the books.
 Tony Bath when writing a review of the book was pretty enthusiastic except for Lin Carter's introduction of woolly mammoths into the lists. On that point, he was very indignant insisting that they were only in one of the Conan story's. Given Tony Bath's love of elephant troops I can only assume he didn't have access to woolly mammoth models and couldnt face'making' some from banana oil and molten plastic. Nowadays Im certain they will be readily available. Wargamers eh? 
Anyway, to any readers out there, have a good Christmas and hopefully Santa will bring more stuff to add to that mountain.


Monday 12 December 2022

Burgundians versus Swiss, a Billhooks battle.

Last week John and I had an inaugural game of Never-mind the Billhooks Deluxe using my Burgundian army against my Swiss. The Swiss are based for Pike and Shotte rules but conveniently are in blocks of 40mm so were perfect for the game.
Most Billhooks games are based around 100 to 150 points, but John and I usually opt for bigger affairs and so selected 250 points of troops. It gave each side between 14 and 16 units, which is perfect for a few hours, unless I command them.
When Andy Callan was writing the new rulebook he was kind enough to discuss and send me his ideas for both the Burgundians and the Swiss. The impression I got was that the Swiss would be virtually unbeatable when facing the poor Burgundians, but I do like a challenge and I also like being the underdog. The new rules have some nice historical features for the Burgundian army. One in particular is the combination of Ordonnance pike and ordonnance long-bowmen. Charles the Bold amongst his many ideas thought it would be a good way to use his mercenary longbowmen. Sadly it was never tested as he was chopped to bits in the final of three defeats against the Swiss.
Anyway I like the idea so based my three main wards around a pike and archer block. I also used dismounted knights in two of my wards and backed them up? with crossbowmen. Another nice rule is my commanders can only join high quality units in the Burgundian army where they can add to the melee factors. For my final ward I used coustilliers, mounted crossbowmen and one unit of gendarmes. All my commanders are rated as average so have two commands per move, it makes a change from having the odd 'dolt' in command. 
The Swiss, are forced to use three wards as per their historical background, but they are allowed allied cavalry. John opted for a unit of gendarmes. The main Swiss block consisted of two companies of pike and one company of halberds with a smaller pike block in support. The Swiss have no commanders as such, but instead have a designated committee of veterans per each ward. They dont offer up extra melee dice, but also mean they cant be killed unless the block is literally wiped out.    
The Burgundians have to deploy first, as in history, where they were caught out in each of their defeats. The Swiss also move first.Oh and they alsso move at a rate of 8 inches as opposed to my 6 inch move. It sounds like the Burgundians are hard done by, but personally I appreciated the historical features. 
I wont provide a move by move account but the sight of the Swiss blocks piling forwards was pretty disconcerting. In an effort to stop the free moves, I quickly started the ball rolling by pushing forward my skirmish arqubusiers who fired at the fast moving Swiss. This halts the free moves and causes the command cards to be used. In an effort to back up my weaker pike blocks I had placed organ guns with each of two wards, whilst the third had a large artillery piece.
John was a tad unlucky with the command card draw and I was able to move my troops forward in the hope of shooting the Swiss before thy came on. Because of the period, the Swiss pike arent heavily armoured, that came later after they robbed the bodies of the dead Burgundians, so do die if successfully shot. My crossbowmen were effective with their first volley, which in the rules means 12 dice, and then in subsequent moves they drop to 6 dice, to signify the slow loading techniques. I managed two volleys before the Swiss pike charged them. The subsequent melee was very short and devastating.
One issue Burgundian commanders will have to get used to,is reaction tests as the poor ordonnance troops rout. As the Swiss charged my crossbowmen, I also lost an archer unit and arqubusiers due to poor dice throws.
One surprise was the archers who whilst hiding behind the pikes managed to rake a pike block and cause it to go daunted which is not a good position for a unit to be in. The subsequent melee between Swiss and Burgundian pike was also a surprise as I managed to hold the initial charge for two whole moves.
I was however losing tokens very quickly as more units fled the field. My poor coustilliers were routed by the allied cavalry and my gendarmes badly shot up even before they charged. But not everything was going the Swiss way and I was winning some tokens which is unusual for me.
John and I had a couple of issues with how the Swiss halberdiers fought and also  how to keep the Swiss in command range of their captains. We also struggled a little in recording the Swiss block causalities, but Im certain we've sorted that problem now.
My organ guns were effective, well until they failed a morale and ran away. Still they are cheap and can do damage.My dismounted knights were my best troops so John made certain they were bothered by clouds of Swiss skirmishers. When I was finally able to charge, they did very well, but after the melees were finished as viable units.
Another nice feature Andy has created for the Burgundians, is that once they have lost their final army token they have lost, as opposed to other nations being able to fight on until additional tokens are required. So managing to throw some seriously pathetic morale dice, a double one is never good, my army was beaten and leaving the field.
So another loss for me, but to be honest it felt more like a moral victory as I had given the Swiss a bloody nose before the collapse. Andy Callan has done an excellent job with the Deluxe rulebook. Im really looking forward to reading mine over Christmas. As for any would be Burgundian commanders I would offer the following advice. Consider the archer/pike formation. My skirmish mounted crossbowmen were effective once they had got around the flank of the Swiss. Organ guns were pretty effective. My heavy gun didnt play a role due to the Swiss skirmish line, me having to advance which covered the gun and finally a morale test which caused the crew to run, but apart from that.....
I can see against lesser armies the Burgundians just might spring a couple of surprises. As for the Swiss, well yes its virtually impossible to physically break the army but they do die, and they do become daunted. Dont even consider sending cavalry against them, its pretty pointless, as in real life.
The one issue was the lack of moveable commanders who could leave a unit and move into command range of other troops. Im certain in a 'normal' Billhooks battle the special rules will work fine, but in a larger, ie double sized battles the lack of physical commanders will cause issues.
But overall, well done Andy for creating an enjoyable set of wargames rules which uses historical research well.  


Tuesday 6 December 2022

Wargames Shows, and how to suck eggs.

Im a close follower of the Yarkshire Wargamer, partially because Ken had the good taste to 'interview' me for his podcast.But I would like to think we both enjoy wargaming and want to see the hobby thrive. On his blog, yes he is that productive he was discussing wargames shows, their future etc. 
Like so many things, the Covid restrictions damaged wargames shows and Ive no doubt that some will never see the light of day again for whatever reasons. 
Certainly for example,Salute, the biggest UK wargames show suffered a setback as it climbed ever upwards. My personal view of this show is that it had become just too big and impersonal and perhaps the last two years offers up the hardworking team the chance to reset the show and look at its core values, ie what is the aim of Salute. Now I think it would be very cheeky to advise the organisers what they were doing wrong, because basically they were doing everything they could to make a success of things, just it was a victim of its own success and grew exponentially. For me the show penciled in for next year should perhaps consider finding a smaller venue and focusing on what made it successful, ie quality wargames, the exhibitors striving to win the coveted awards. A painting competition that was open to all and offering them a chance to win and perhaps introducing a class that previous winners would enter which would allow lesser mortals the chance of glory and not see the same brilliant painters winning year after year, and finally affordability, which in London is very difficult.It looks like Im telling the Warlords how to suck eggs and no doubt they will have looked at many things before they re-enter the maelstrom that is Salute, one thing they will no doubt be looking at is volunteers to help, because I know they were always battling that issue which must affect all wargames shows.
So is there a future for wargames shows? Absolutely. Do there need to be changes? Most likely as nothing ever stays the same. Will wargamers return to the shows in large numbers? Probably, especially if the show organisers can find a balance of a good venue, cheapish food, a wide range of trade stands and a mix of table attractions, ie similar to the mix Partizan have achieved.
 So really more of what we already had pre-lockdown but focusing on quality not quantity. I admit Im biased, because Ive always enjoyed wargames shows, both big and small, and attended some pretty dire ones over the years, but they all allowed me to appreciate the hobby and receive a frisson of excitement as I paid the entrance fee and walked into some dingy room where toy soldiers were being exhibited and sold. And to emphasize the good bits of wargames shows Ive completed some of the figures I bought at the bring and but at Battleground;   

Some of my purchases from the Battleground Bring and Buy. They needed some touching up and rebasing but they have come up very nicely. These are for my growing Burgundian forces and will hopefully be used in our first Billhooks Deluxe game against the Swiss. I expect defeat, but hope for a winning draw.

I painted these archers using a recent purchase from E Bay. Yes they are dressed a tad early for the Burgundian War period but these are lovely sculpts from Foundry, so I had to paint them up. The one mistake, I based them on the wrong sized base, but its too late now. 

Another purchase from the bring and buy at Middlesbrough, There was only five but I had a spare figure in my scrap box that was fine. I think they are Mini Fig riders with different horses.

Now, ancient Nubians that I bought part painted from a stall at Fiasco, Leeds. I wanted another archer unit for my Persians, definitely anachronistic but I liked the figures so they have been drafted into the horde.

And finally, a figure that I paid full price for. She is one of the lovely Belt Fed range sold by Colonel Bill and is Queen Elizabeth 1st. Now, she will lead my Lion Rampant units. 


My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating