Friday, February 11, 2011

35. Battle of Rorke's Drift

January 22-23, 2011 was the 132nd anniversary of the Battle of Rorke's Drift.  (For those of you who don't know about this battle, see here for lots of good information.)

My friend Tom just happened to be in town for Friday the 21st and Saturday the 22nd, so we decided to have a go at re-fighting the battle with my 15mm Old Glory figures.  We've been playing the same battle a couple of times a year, usually at Christmas when we've got time off from work.  We've been refining the "beer-and-pretzels" rules that came with the figures (no author credited) each time we play, trying to create that "perfect" set of rules.  We're still trying.  Every time we make a change, it seems to tilt too far in favor of the Zulu, so we make another change and then it seems to tilt too far in favor of the British.  You know how it is.
We're pretty happy with the state of the rules (although there are a couple of tweaks we'd like to make for next time).  They're almost unrecognizable from the rules with which we started.  It was the Zulu war, and specifically this battle, that really got me hooked on Historical wargaming (and Colonial wargaming in particular), and it's mostly Tom's fault for suggesting I read "The Washing of the Spears" by Donald Morris (Amazon link).  Then I watched the film "Zulu!" and all hope was lost:  I bought the Old Glory 15s box set of 300 Zulus, 62 Brits, and resin buildings (although truth be told I bought it from WarWeb on sale).

We also invited my friend Patrick, who is a novice wargamer but a stout-hearted history buff.  He had played once or twice before, so he and I divided the British between us:  he took Lt. Bromhead and the storehouse while I took Lt. Chard and the hospital.  Tom ran the Zulu.  We actually played on Friday the 21st, but it was late in the evening, and since South Africa is 8 hours ahead of us it was actually the 22nd there when we played.  Yay!

Anyway, here are some pictures of the game.  You'll be happy to know that history is preserved!  While there were some tense moments early in the game, in the end the British held on for the win.

The defenders in position.  Left:  the storehouse.  Right:  the hospital.
Battle begins, and early in the game the Zulu reach the walls, causing casualties in the British line.

A close-up view of the action in front of the storehouse.  Patrick decided to build the redoubt, and completed it in record time:  2 turns!  Lt. Bromhead surveys the fighting from a place of safety.

Blimey, more Zulu!  Plus those pesky snipers on the hill.  I need more guns on the wall!

Only 8 stands of 30 made it to the wall, but since this was only around Turn 6 (of 24) I thought we were well and truly done-for.

Three sections of the wall are under attack, and Patrick is bored enough to get creative.  (Most of the attacks had been on my half.)

Of those 8 stands, one actually made it inside the perimeter!

And hard on the heels of that attack...another!

A couple of turns have elapsed here:  I whittled the nearer attack down to 3 stands, but I was also under assault on the exact opposite side.  I pulled my men off both walls and formed a double firing line.

The is the same scene, viewed from the other side where 11 stands are about to gain uncontested entry inside the perimeter and move into close combat.  I honestly thought the game was about to be over.

The Zulu attack in very strange formations....

And then....  After a single round of close range rifle fire, all the Zulu were dead or fled.  As suddenly as the end had been about to arrive, it departed.  The Zulu never regained the initiative (ie, Tom just couldn't roll for attacks when he needed them).  There is one attack on the far side of the hospital...

...which my suddenly-targetless soldiers had no trouble in devastating.  Except for that one stand.  It held of for three turns!  It couldn't advance, it wouldn't run away, and nobody could kill it for the longest time.

We almost called it quits, but decided to press on.  This represented the Zulu's last best chance, one final massive push with a very large mob of warriors.  I got my men in to a double firing-line again, but it took precious time to do so, time I was not able to spend shooting.

So the Zulus made it to the wall nearly unscathed!  Ahhh!

But one turn of close-range shooting and close combat saw them all dead or fled, again.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (or storehouse), the Zulu had managed to breach the roof, pushing the defenders down and into the "courtyard," plus there was an attack from the opposite side.  Where to send the guns?
As it turns out, that's the last of the pictures I took.  The two men shooting from next to the redoubt killed the two stands of Zulu on the roof, and the wall of rifles saw off the Zulu attack.

I know this report makes it sound like the rules unfairly favor the British, but in the last two games (played as recently as December) the Zulu won pretty comfortably.  That's partly why I feel the rules are pretty good, because neither side has an obvious edge each time.

The way the rules work, the Zulu attacks are randomized, both in location and in size.  It's worst for the British when there are attacks occurring in consecutive turns; when the Zulu can't roll for a new attack, it gives the Brit's breathing room.

So history is safe from re-writing (at least insofar as our game is concerned), although Lt. Bromhead did bite the dust.  Gallantly, though.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

34. More Gems and Dinosaurs

After trying a few solo games using my new red gems to represent gun shots, I decided I didn't like them so much after all.  (You can see here if you don't know what I'm talking about.)  They are simply too difficult to pick up off the table.  Their flat bottoms, small size and rich red color make them look great in the scene, but they were too much bother.

Accordingly, I went back in search of better items.  I thought very seriously about using those glass beads that are so common in collectable card games such as Magic:  The Gathering, but felt that in general they would still be too large in comparison to the figures, especially if I decided to play with 15mm as opposed to 28mm figures.

I found these "Crystal Dazzlers" in the floral section at Hobby Lobby, and used one of their weekly coupons to get 40% off.  There are waaaay more in the package than I will ever need, but oh well.  I think these will work quite nicely.  They are just as richly red as the gems, but are easier to pick up, and they're not as large as the glass beads so should work fine for both scales of my gaming.

 I also found some more dinosaurs at the Dollar store (actually it's Dollar General, I think) [edit:  It's Dollar Tree; I drove past it today].  I found them individually, and they just by purest chance almost exactly match the skeletal dinosaurs I purchased there in December.  They only had three, but they look pretty close.  Now I have Before & After dinosaurs!  That's got "scenario" written all over it.
Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

33. International Solo Wargaming Day

January 11, 2011 was International Solo Wargaming Day, a day when all solo wargamers could come together and game separately.  Wait, that doesn't sound right....  A day when all solo wargamers could play together, alone.  Ahhh, nevermind.

At any rate, 1-11-11 was ISWD.  See all the ones?  Gettit?  I don't think it received much press, and the solo gamers probably didn't tell each other 'cause, you know, they're not gaming with anyone else.

I suffer from, yet embrace, solo wargaming.  I have access to a few gamer friends, but more often than not, scheduling conflicts get in the way.  Work, family, kids, outside events, school events, LIFE!  You know, the usual excuses among those folks to whom gaming is not as important as it is to others.  (And if you're taking the time to read this blog, you know exactly what I mean.)

To celebrate ISWD, I played a quick game of Pith Helmet using some very odd troops.  My traditionally-dressed French Foreign Legion versus their traditional enemies, the North Africans, represented in this case by Dark Eldar figures (because I don't have any North Africans painted)(or, at the time I played this game, even purchased).

The FFL would act "as British," and the Dark Eldar "as Pathans" (who are not actually North African, I know, but Pith Helmet doesn't precisely address the FFL or North Africa, so I fudged it).  Since I was playing solo, my opponent did not object.

The Foreign Legion garrison a small, out-of-the-way outpost.
Two squads of D.E. advance in open formation.
The view from the outpost.
D.E. squad 'B':  much desert to cross.
The battle begins with the D.E. advancing, either one or two squads at a time, depending on the card draw.  The FFL are out of rifle range, so they wait.
Turns 2 and 3 saw the D.E. out of range of the FFL.  Turn 4 had the D.E. activate first, move into rifle range and fire.  The D.E. caused one potential hit, so the FFL had to react.  No problem for these cool customers.  They merely had to roll <75 on a d100, and...
...I promptly rolled a 100.  The FFL retreated 15", directly away from their nice safe defensive position!
The D.E. advanced again.
(The fallen FFL is not actually there; per the rules he's in limbo until he either dies or returns.  That's a simplification, but I thought it made a cooler looking picture this way.)

At the end of Turn 4, the FFL were able to restore their morale to normal.  Just prior to that, they formed a supported firing line.
On Turn 5, the D.E. again seized the initiative (based on the draw of the playing cards) and advanced to within 10", where they had to stop to let the FFL react.  The FFL reacted by not reacting; no Action Points were spent.
The D.E. advanced again, inside the defenses.  Only 6 of them could see their target, but their rifle fire caused a casualty.  The FFL reacted by not reacting, again; no AP were spent.  Then it was the FFL turn to fire; their shooting caused 2 potential casualties, and the D.E. had to react.  Their coolness rating required a roll <50 on d100, so...
...naturally I rolled another 100.  Fate is funny sometimes.
The D.E. 'B' squad retreated 18", shaken, with no Action Points remaining this turn.  In the Morale Phase, they retreated yet again 11".
Turn 6 saw 'A' squad try it's hand at attacking, but not before the FFL moved up closer to their defensive bulwarks.  In the Morale Phase, 'B' squad retreated 12 more inches, coming very close to leaving the table.
I decided that the way the walls were placed meant both squads were unable to fire at the other, so the D.E. double-advanced to within 10" with the intent of charging into close combat.  At the 10" mark, the FFL reacted:  needed <80 on d100, rolled 31; their reactionary fire caused 1 potential casualty, but more importantly forced the D.E. to themselves react:  needed <55, d100=68.  They retreated 17", shaken, out of APs.

In the Morale Phase, the 'B' squad rallied, but the 'A' squad retreated 7" and remained shaken.
Turn 8 began with the forces in almost exactly their starting positions.  The FFL gained the initiative, and would move back to their defensive walls, less one man who had died.  The D.E. were down three men who had died.

I decided that the D.E. (aka Pathans) would concede defeat.  They had actually achieved a lesser objective:  probing the defenses of the hated foreigners, so they had that at least with which to console the widows.

I know that the true historical die-hards reading this are probably red in the face at my using Dark Eldar as stand-ins, but they're all I had.  I have since purchased a substantial quantity of Old Glory Arabs/Berbers to give my Foreign Legion a more suitable opponent.  (That is, if any true historical die-hards actually made it to the end of this post.)

The box they came in weighed 10.5 lbs! and the mere packs spread out quite far on the table.
There are some more Foreign Legion in there as well.
Woot!  Got a whole lotta paintin' waitin' for me.
I have been forced to turn to the dark side of painting.  I know there is no way I'll ever paint that many figures to the standard I prefer, and still be young enough to play games with them, so I am going to try "dipping" them.  They should be perfect for the technique.  I've heard/read about the Future Floor Polish method as well as the Minwax wood stain method, so I bought a container of each to try for myself.
I'll have to tint the formula myself but that allows more flexibility in color.

I decided not to use the oil-based stain, and instead bought the water-based version, which I had tinted with "Classic Black."
The Classic Black color looks like this:  Minwax Classic Black .  They also have Onyx, which looks blacker, but the Classic Black seems to have a nice brown to it, which I think will look more natural with the tans, browns and beiges my Arabs will be painted.

I'll update when I try some, but be warned:  it might be a while.  I'm still finishing other projects (can you say "Dahomey"?  I knew that you could).
Thanks for reading!