Monday 27 May 2019

Wargames Foundry - Devon Wargames Group Day, May 2019

As well as enjoying a visit to Partizan in May, which coming up from Exeter is a bit of an expedition, the chaps from the DWG like to make a weekend of our time away and so have arranged to gather over the previous two trips at Wargames Foundry to pick up some figures and to roll some bones.

Wargames Foundry - Devon Wargames Group 2017
Wargames Foundry - Devon Wargames Group 2018

We had a very enjoyable game of Dux Bellorum this time last year and the rules work well for a large group and with a lot of Dark Age collections between us enable everyone to be kitted out with a suitable force.

Last year we played the 'End of Reign' scenario which saw both sides going at it trying to cause the demise of each others king.

This year we went for the 'Bards Tale' which as you will see produces an entirely different type of battle in that all the players of the different forces are looking to create situations where they are able to cause enemy units to disperse or have their own units do the same thing, provided the bard that accompanies their army is present to witness the glorious end to the combat and add it to their repertoire of songs and poems to be rolled out at the next feast in the Lord's Great Hall.

Thus with every great deed of valour witnessed by the attached bard, victory points are accrued at the end of the game and we end up with the slain littering the battlefield, opposing armies dispersed and the most successful (in a very Dark Ages way) commanders identified, to be long remembered in song and verse.

It's mid-morning and the chaps are setting out their respective forces having sorted out the opposing teams

The more I play Dux Bellorum, the more I like them and they really seem to capture the feel of these kind of battles for me.

My viking line, frothing at the mouths and biting their shields, cant wait to get stuck in.

Tom's Saxon shieldwall with the bard (horn carrying chap seen above the banner to the front) placed near his Lord ready to take notes

Cavalry loitered on both flanks

You really can't beat the look and drama these figures create with their multicoloured banners and shields with two opposing lines ready to get stuck in.

Let slip the dogs of war!

The advance begins as command tokens get placed to make sure everyone knows how to move forward at the right time

The scenarios provided in Dux Bellorum are designed to create the typical types of battles that populate the chronicles recording them, given the sparse amount of detail there is to base that upon.

Needless to say killing opposing kings, fighting for control of territorial boundaries often at river and stream crossings is what this kind of fighting is all about.

However an important aspect of these kind of armies was the bonds that tied them together, with kings granting rings and favours to their most loyal and capable followers and the legacy to be left from a life often short and brutal.

That is where the bard comes in, to make sure that a warriors immortality is guaranteed with his deeds of valour and sacrifice long remembered in song and verse, giving inspiration to those that come after.

Still plenty of ground to cover before the lines clash

What skirmish groups there were kept a discreet distance away from the opposing lines, with archers preeminent.

King's such as Alfred new the importance of cultivating reading and writing within their nobility and making sure that a few well placed supporters within the religious estates were writing the chronicles in a favourable way.

Some of the participants in this particular battle, after reading my account, might ask what's changed, to which I would answer, nothing, my chronicle my version! Ha ha ha ha!

The lines close and groups jockey for any advantage

First clash as the cavalry strike with bards trying to get a good view of the action

Religious houses are always a good source of journalists, especially given their abilities to read and write! However an axe wielding bard can also make a good alternative. Plenty of note taking going on here.

Get stuck in chaps and smile, as you might be going down in song and verse

The two opposing Viking lines in the centre played a cagey start to the battle

One account of this titanic struggle might waste time over petty details, such as Nathan, Tom and Panjo scoring highly in this battle, but the actual version that has come to us from the few remaining sources talks about the valiant Viking king in the centre of the line who anchoring his line, forced the dispersion of the army of the usurper, seen to run from the forward lines screaming to anyone that would listen about how unfair it all was and how they didn't expect to find a force using Shieldwall!!

No cagey starts on the flank with cavalry swords and infantry axes plying a bloody path 

A great period for colour and drama

If you haven't played this scenario, I would suggest you give it a go, coming as it does as one of the favourites of the author.

The victory conditions, with a greater focus on individual combats rather than just which army won or lost, really do produce a more open free flowing kind of game with players losing a lot of their inhibitions about getting stuck in and the fun of working out the best place for a bard at any given time.

You can still lose a combat, but if your bard is there to witness your end, you can still score points.

The Scots on the other flank keeping the stream between them and trouble as they worked their way into the enemy rear

And of course, cavalry are around on this flank as well

The opposing lines start to have gaps appearing as units get thrown into the melee

A bard stands ready with note pad behind shield

The raven's eye view of a scattered battle with units dispersed leaving the hardy few to battle it out for those last points. The legions of the dead lie stacked up behind the stream.

Scots cavalry and infantry have crossed the stream and are starting to mop up the remnants

As you can see from the end of battle shots, both armies were well and truly done in at the end, literally leaving the last men standing.

On the other flank the cavalry are dead or run off but having left the battered defenders in a bitter fight with new foes

The centre ground is now practically empty with the two Viking forces off the table having bled each other and with new members of Valhalla introduced to Odin

Modern day Saxons Carousing - The DWG On Tour, ready to gather in the Lord's Hall for a curry and mead
Left to Right - JJ, Tom, Steve M., Vince, Mr Steve, Chas, Jason, Nathan, Andy and Panjo.

Thank you to Diane Ansell and her team at Wargames Foundry for hosting us again and thanks to the chaps for all the fun.

Saxons Carousing - Pat Nicolle

Here's looking forward to next year.


Next up - I'm off walking Offa's Dyke and visiting Shrewsbury with Mr Steve this week, so will look to do a post about our trip, plus Roman Legionaries and the new Victrix Roman General Officers are nearly finished.

Friday 24 May 2019

Eugene of Savoy - Alexander Innes Shand

Eugene of Savoy, The Memoirs of Prince Eugene of Savoy and: Prince Eugene – Soldier of Fortune by Alexander Innes Shand

The pile of books waiting for me to review has now reached the stage that I have to give a health and safety warning to anyone who visits me in case it should topple. I had also given some thought about doing another reader’s choice poll to prioritise the reviews but in all good faith I cannot guarantee that I will fulfil the results. The writing muse just hasn’t come back yet.

For those who thought the subject of this book is about one of Napoleon's marshals then you are wrong, in this country Prince Eugene is probably remembered as a general who helped out the Duke of Marlbourgh at Blenheim and Oudernarde but there is far more to Eugene than that, far, far more, he was certainly one of the greatest generals of his time and is easily in the top half of all time.

Prince Eugene of Savoy

The book itself is quite short and is in A5 size, it is split into two sections, the first being Eugene’s memoirs as written by him in later life and only slightly edited in 1809, it is written in the style of the times and can be a little tricky in places. The second section in much clearer prose is a summery of his life written at the start of the 20thC using these same memoirs with brief clarifications where necessary and expanding on or including key details which were missing from the edited original.

Eugene was actually French being born in Paris in 1663 and his family background was a mix of Bourbon and Savoy Royalty, his mother was exiled by Louis XIV and Eugene was denied getting any military appointments so he left France and transferred his loyalty permanently to the Austrians.

He first sees action during the last Turkish Siege of Vienna in 1683, he was up in the hills with the relieving army as a nobleman volunteer and took part in the battle that broke the siege. He continued to fight throughout the rest of this war and was given more and more responsibility, by the end of 1685, still only 22 years old, he was made a Major-General. I guess it helps having royal blood but it was clear that he was obviously a talented military leader. At the 2nd Battle of Mohacs his cavalry brigade made a significant contribution and he was promoted again, this time to Lieutenant General.

At the start of the Nine Years War (1688-1697) Eugene, given his connections to Savoy was posted to the Austrian army in Italy, The current Duke of Savoy was trying to play both sides given that he was in the middle of the French and the Austrians so Eugene was sent to keep him onside. Frustrated by the inefficiency of the Imperial commanders and the Savoyards eventually changing sides, Eugene considered leaving Austrian service but the Emperor instead promoted him to Field Marshal.

At the end of the war he was given command of the army fighting the Turks which was his first independent command and in 1697 he decisively defeated them at the Battle of Zenta, a battle I have always been interested in gaming.

Battle of Zenta map

Battle of Zenta from an original copper etching by Jan van Huchtenburgh

The War of the Spanish Succession was next and Eugene much to my surprise spent most of his time back in Northern Italy fighting a series of battles I hadn’t previously heard about and has re-piqued my interest in maybe doing a Marlburian army but in a completely different theatre from the more popular one, the Austrians could also be used to re-fight Zenta and as I found out as I read on, two more battles against the Turks.

The Italian Campaigns

He briefly pops back up north to fight at Blenheim, back to Italy for three more battles and then gets sent to join Marlborough again in time for Oudenarde and Malplaquet, unfortunately like most memoirs they do not cover these famous battles in much detail but what does come through is his admiration for Marlborough.

Marlborough and Eugene meet after Blenheim - Robert Alexander Hillingford

There are no actual chapters instead the memoirs are sub-divided by year; initially these are relatively short but as he rises up the ranks and the wars get bigger then so do his yearly entries.

After Marlborough’s recall and the general desire for peace amongst the allies, Eugene was left holding the baby; with dwindling resources and heavily outnumbered by the French he did well to hold what he could especially when the Treaty of Utrecht left Austria fighting on by themselves until 1714 when Eugene negotiated the Treaty of Rastatt with Marshal Villars.

Battle of Denain - Jean Alaux

Eugene wasn’t finished, the Austro –Turkish war 1716-1718 saw him once again leading the Austrian armies to two more stunning victories at Peterwardein and Belgrade which saw that city permanently regained. Eugene considered the battle of Belgrade his finest victory, besieging a city with 30,000 Turks inside and a huge relief army of around 150,000 entrenched on the hills above, his small force of 40,000 suffering from both dysentery and fever stormed the Turkish positions routing them completely whereupon Belgrade surrendered.

Siege of Belgrade

According to his memoirs with no more wars to fight he retired to his palace to devote time to his garden, his library and playing cards in the evening with friends.

Eugene’s summer palace

In 1733 Austria unwisely got involved in the Polish succession crises which saw them once again at odds with France, Eugene now in his 70’s took the field for the last time but Austria was seriously skint and he could do little more than defend the Rhine and delay the French armies with whatever forces could be scrapped together. For once he avoided battle and held on long enough for a reasonable peace to be negotiated.

He died in his bed shortly after.

His memoirs do have a number of interesting points scattered throughout, during his last campaign he remarked on how he envied the French commander the Duke of Berwick who had just had his head taken off by a cannonball and that the German Prince who was amongst a number of young Royals attached to the army to learn from the old master “showed infinite promise” (later to be Frederick the Great).

The two parts of the book complement each other well as the second section is a little easier to follow being more of an essay written in a modern style, as previously mentioned above it also contains numerous bits that were omitted from the first part.

Eugene was usually where the fighting was thickest and was wounded many times, at the siege of Lille he was shot below the eye which he mentions but in the second part it is expanded:

“everyone thought me dead and so did I ,they found a dung cart and a carried me back.” 

Sometimes an editor will omit parts that they deem unsuitable, having the two sections shows its benefits.

Eugene was for some time not fluent in German, enough to command and for the day to day necessaries but not enough for dealing with Imperial Court matters, French was unacceptable so he spoke to the Emperor in Italian, strange little things like this don’t get mentioned usually.

Prince Eugene is a fascinating person who, if I have added up Wikipedia correctly fought in seventeen battles and countless sieges, this book whilst light on the type of hard detail that wargamers desire still gives you plenty of topics to go and search for later on. It’s an interesting read about an interesting person. (and yes, it is who the heavy cruiser was named after).

Paperback & Hardback
Readable pages: 151
Best Paperback price 9th May 2019 = £8.78 Amazon

This has been a Mr Steve presentation.

Next up, Devon Wargames Group goes on tour to Wargames Foundry.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Partizan 2019

This weekend saw me attending my third Partizan show and it was with great anticipation as this show is always keenly looked forward to as part of our Devon Wargames Group on tour 'annual boys beano'.

Partizan 2019

Partizan is definitely a regular event now on our calendar as it is a show that ticks the box for those of us who like to get inspiration from great games with, in the main, purpose built and created terrain to match well turned out armies and in the company of like minded enthusiasts for the hobby.

This year's show had a revolutionary theme to it in that visitors received, on entry, a 28mm miniature depicting Rosa Luxemburg, a woman who gave her life for her beliefs in the turbulent period in Germany between the two world wars, and was executed for them in 1919.

She was quoted as saying "History is the only true teacher, the revolution the best school for the proletariat." As a firm believer in the value of having a solid understanding of national and world history in helping to educate well rounded citizens, I think Rosa was spot on, although I have always leaned towards evolution over revolution any day; with the former often being the more peaceful way to change, winning minds by conviction rather than at the point of a gun.

However the revolutionary theme was well chosen to highlight that Partizan will be having a revolution of its own, next year, as the organisers plan to stage the second show held each year in October instead of August, which has got some of our group, me included, considering on making a second trip in the year in 2020 to attend both events going forward.

Planned new dates for 2020 are Sunday 17th May and Sunday 11th October.

As far as the history theme, historical wargaming is a great way of informing the younger generations in the hobby as well as the casual visitor, and I had the pleasure of the company of my eldest son Tom, as we took time to look at lots of tables, with a particular emphasis on WWII themed games which gave us a chance to remember and chat about Tom's grandparents and other relations who participated in those world changing events.

I mention the WWII theme as I, like many other gamers are very interested in WWII, and I couldn't help noticing the trend this year for that period to be very prominent, particularly in the larger figure scales.

I love 28mm figures and, as you will see, so does my camera, as the scale is so photogenic, but WWII was all about the empty battlefield and so I often find myself enjoying the spectacle of these big games but questioning that pleasure when considering the distortion to scale and appearance to produce them.

Anyway on with the show report with pictures of the games that grabbed my eye this year in no particular order.

The North Hull Wargames Club are a long established club who once boasted a hobby celebrity as a club member, Mr Peter Gilder, and I was particularly keen to see their AWI game recreating the Battle of Brooklyn, in 20mm.

The chaps were using figure collections built around the models from B and B Miniatures, see link below, a range that I, like many it seems, was unfamiliar with, but a range that has obvious attractions to those of us who want to stage big games like this but still have figures with plenty of character and attraction for the eye, especially for an old pair such as mine!

I was really taken with the detail and variety in these little sculpts and, like AB in Napoleonics, provide lots of potential for producing large affordable armies that wont take up an aircraft hangar to refight the Battle of Brandywine for example.

Many years ago Tom and his brother Will got very enthusiastic about Greeks taking on mythical beasts after watching old sixties films such as Jason and the Argonauts.

To foster their enthusiasm for all thing miniature gaming, I bought them some ancient Greeks and some skeleton warriors that now are boxed up in my loft waiting for some TLC.

Of Gods and Mortals had two games on show featuring their rules designed for staging just those sort of filmic skirmish style games and Tom and I took more time than usual to take in this game and the figures on show - you never know, those skeletons might still get a resurrection at some stage!

I particularly like the use of teddy bear fur in this game and its use to recreate the Celtic style hill fort.

Now here we are, just what we were getting re-enthused about, Greeks and mythical beasts, including Harpies, Neptune at the Clashing Rocks and of course, complete with the man of bronze, Talos and his Achilles heel.

Oosterbeek 1944 - The Witches Cauldron
I saw the game below, staged by Old Pikey's Gaming Group from Bournemouth, at Crisis in Antwerp last year and was very enthused then by the attention to detail the chaps had brought to their recreation of the fighting in the Arnhem-Oosterbeek perimeter, capturing the positions of the multiple Victoria Cross recipients amid the carnage of this bitterly fought battle.

There were other games at this year's show that I posted about from my visit to Salute last month and which I left out of this post, but I felt compelled to include this game again as the lighting at Partizan afforded a better opportunity to really do justice to the modelling in this game and the Pegasus flags dotted amid the models showing where the VC actions occurred.

We have done several family trips to WWII battle sites in Europe and Tom and Will have both been to places their Grandfather fought, but Arnhem remains one to be visited and it was great to see Tom's interest in this battle which resulted in the failed link up between Guards Armoured Division and 1st Airborne Division.

The display really captured the intensity of this battle and served as a great memorial to the chaps who participated in it.

The theme for this particular game rather than the game itself was what caught my attention.

I am not a small scale enthusiast, well, smaller than 15/18mm, as I find that the sweet spot for me in having eye-catching models set amid eye-catching terrain is at its limits at that scale and I have gone through my hex terrain period in my hobby when it wasn't fashionable.

A personal taste, as are most things in wargaming are, but I can still appreciate the ability to capture a big battle look in the smaller scale and when combined with a dramatic period in history such as the Mongol invasion of Hungary and the threat posed to European Christendom that that invasion heralded, I want to take the time to appreciate the modeling.

A few years ago, Dan Carlin produced an excellent series of podcasts, as part of his Dan Carlin - Hard Core History  series, 'Wrath of the Kahns' covering the rise and threat posed by the Mongols, that both Tom and I have listened to, and this game had us both remembering that presentation as we took in the detail of this game.

The Northampton Battlefield Society do a fantastic job helping to protect the battlefield heritage in their locale and in particular, battlefield sites from the Wars of the Roses.

I have bought copies of their excellent book covering the Battle of Northampton together with the interesting board game they produce recreating the battle and its key events, and have been very happy to support their efforts.

This year will be the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Edgcote fought in 1649 and the Society will be holding an anniversary conference about the battle on Saturday 27th July 10am to 4.15pm in Northampton

More details can be found at

Wargame Developments are an interesting group with some great ideas for developing games.

I am primarily a figure gamer but am always on the lookout for ideas from boardgames and groups such as this to provide mini-campaign mechanisms that could provide context for my figure games.

One of the games on display was this Arnhem inspired, playing card driven game in which players were looking to drive XXX Corps up the road to Arnhem in time to link up with the British 1st Airborne.

The chaps from Blitzkrieg Miniatures epitomise my comments earlier about big scale figures in WWII games.

There is no doubt that the eye is easily drawn to these well turned out models on nicely produced, functional terrain but to my eye, once I start to think about it, imposing huge compromises on ground scale.

Perhaps it is because I am looking at these games off the back of a Chain of Command campaign in 15mm where the ground scale is tailored perfectly to 15mm and my eye has become accustomed with that look and empty battlefield appearance.

Despite my comments about scale compromise, you can't argue with the visual appeal of these models.

Steve Jones had a very nice turned 'old school' style WWII game that rather reminded me of the  Rapid Fire games I used to play, back in the day.

Of course it may be Old School, but beefed up with some very nicely turned out models and terrain.

In a similar vein the Derby Wargames Society continued the NW Europe WWII theme with another nicely turned out Normandy bocage style game, that has me inspired to work up my new Chain of Command collection around the new ranges of plastics due out from Battlefront next month.

Regular visitors to Partizan are the Perry's who brought along their Napoleonic British in Egypt collection to put on a game in memory of Adrian Shepherd who recently passed away.

Loads of eye candy in this particular game that kept my camera quite busy so I hope you will forgive me if I have 'gone to town' with this game.

The League of Augsburg chaps are regular attendees to most of the larger shows and are pretty well guaranteed to put on a spectacularly looking game.

Another game making good use of teddy bear fur showing what a versatile product it is for producing good looking table cloths.

The Boondock Sayntes appeared to be having lots of fun with their eye catching recreation of Assaye 1803, complete with an Indian rocket battery, players in dress uniforms and a few glasses of vin rouge to help the game swing along in style.

The players dress code for this game made me think that we might have to start raising our own game at the Devon Wargames Group for our occasional club spectaculars.

The Too Fat Lardies were in attendance rolling out Richard's new Malaya collection for Chain of Command that has been getting a bit of attention in recent outputs on the Lard Channel.

I thought the jungle looked spectacular and performed as well as the real thing in that the cover it provided almost caused me to miss spotting the figures deployed in it.

Now this is what you call an empty battlefield, or is it?

The chaps from 1st Corps reinforced the Normandy themed games with another teddy bear fur table scape capturing the look of British troops advancing into summer cornfields.

Finally I finished my tour around the games with some pictures of the Grimsby Wargames Society's Great Northern War 28mm game with some gorgeous winged hussars amid the splendour of green, yellow and blue clad infantry and serried ranks of multi hued cavalry.

Another very enjoyable Partizan which left me coming away inspired to get that paintbrush back in hand and carrying a few packs of Perry and Foundry Napoleonic miniatures for a planned Sharp Practice collection - more anon.

Thanks to Laurence Baldwin, Richard Tyndall and the organising team for Partizan for their continued good work in putting on this excellent show, to all the people I managed to chat with during the day who added to the whole experience and to Steve M, Steve H, Andy, Vince, Chas, Tom, Jason, Nathan, Andy and Panjo for their company and here is looking forward to the next one.