Monday, 8 August 2022

Walking With Royalty *

A few days ago, my wife and I took one of our favourite walks near to where we live, namely from Swineford, up to North Stoke and onto to Landsdown Hill, site of the famous English Civil War battle. We are very lucky to be so close to such wonderful countryside as well as so much history, from the Iron Age onwards. I'll cover more in other Blog posts, but for the moment I shall concentrate on this walk. So without further ado.

The view from the car park at the start of the walk. The small hill topped by trees just off centre at the top of the ridgeline is Kelston Round Hill. To me it always looks like the classic hill that young children draw. Only recently did I find out that the summit had a tumulus burial on top of it. Not a bad place to be buried.

The Lord of the Rings moment on the walk. This is an old and still legal road that runs down from North Stoke to Swineford and is an ancient trackway. It is the easiest route down from the village. Time and erosion has made it 12' deep or more in places.

Another view back down the trackway.

Old workers cottages in North Stoke. Some years ago one was being renovated and the decorators had come over from Switzerland. Let's just say that you need some serious money to be able to live there, or at least in these older buildings.

My wife on top of the steps leading to the parish church of St Martins. Normally to the right of the picture as spring from up the hill is constantly providing water to a cattle trough, but due to the exceptionally dry weather this year, it has dried up.

A view from the church steps to the main farmhouse, which has the most stunning views and a very nice garden too. Frankly the sort of house, garden and view I would love to have!

The church of St Martin, built on the site of a Roman temple.

A rather poor shot looking towards the original west entrance of the church. There has been much restoration from the 19thC onwards.

The original eastern end of the church can be seen by the archway.

Wall plaques marking the families involvement in India. Fascinating stuff for a chap like me.

More of the same.

Rather hard to read, even in the best of lights, but one family memeber died on the day War was declared on 3rd September 1939.

The baptisimal font was carved from an old sacrificial altar.

I found this very moving and poignant.

Fighting that Harry Patch attended the dedication. He lived for another year after this.

North Stoke is behind the treeline on the middle left. The track by the wall is part of the Monarch's Way, the route taken by Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. The view is towards Bristol and not clear in the photo, but you can see the Black Mountains in Wales on most days.

Another view across towards the Severn Valley and beyond. 

A view towards the Mendips and Keynsham, but the latter cannot be easily seen. Over this hills in the middle distance came the Duke of Monmouth and his army. He got as far as Keynsham before turning back.

A stone marker at the end of the Parliamentarian left flank on Landsdown Hill, carved with a contemporary image. 


Information boards are dotted across the original line at the start of the battle.

A view towards where the Royalist troops, most particularly the Cornish one, attacked from. The terrain is rough and broken but the defending troops would not have seen them until almost the last minute and most likely would not have had too much time for more than a few shots before the attackers could have closed with them. 

The hill in the middle is one side of the saddle over which both sides cavalry fought a running battle before the main battle was joined.



Another nice marker stone.


Sir Beville Grenville's monument.

Sadly falling into disrepair in places. The monument is covered in graffiti, much of it from a long time ago, than can only be seen easily in centre light.


The info board from the final Parliamentarian position.

Another marker from the same place.

Looting was obviously part and parcel of battles and campaigns during this and many other wars.

A view from the Parliamentarian position and the clear and open ground that the Royalists would have had to have crossed at the end of the battle. I can see why they were reluctant.

The Parliamentarian soldiers lined the stone walls, which made a very strong defensive position. 

The rather beautiful valley that the Parliamentarian troops retreated down, unbeknownst to the Royalists.

You'll have to take my word for it, but the next field to the stone marker and there are the remains of an iron age settlement, which can just be seen if you look carefully enough. In this photo, there is a small ridge running on the left side of the image to the middle of the trees at the top. For much better photos and information, see the following:

https://www.bacas.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Lansdown-Little-Down-Field.pdf


* The reason I chose this title is for no other reason than walking part of the Monarch's Way and the fact that my wife is a Princess. Sadly this does not make me a Prince, but just a commoner!

We are certainly spoilt for choices of places to go round these parts, but I hope to visit a few more places that might be of interest from a gaming  and history perspective. At present we are entering yet another heatwave where it will be too hot to paint (currently forecast to be 34C on Thursday!) or to much else to be honest. As always plenty of plans but for once the glorious weather rather than lethargy on my part of putting pay to any progress.

At least I feel over Covid now and am trying to build up my stamina again for bike rides, but am not overdoing it, as I don't want to regress having come this far. So until next time keep healthy and stay safe.


Sunday, 31 July 2022

Less Is More?

About 3 weeks ago I finally succumbed to one of the new Omicron variants of Covid. It hit me really hard for abour 3 - 4 days and then about another 7 to feel almost 'normal'. After that a few issues with some Long Covid symptoms but fingers crossed I'm over it now. Whilst KO'd by the damned virus and with plenty of fatigue and brain fog keeping me glued to armchair or sofa, I had ample opportunity to reflect on the current state of my wargaming. 

As many of my followers know I have been pondering downsizing my leadpile for some years now and had planned to do more until the various lockdowns hit a few years back now. But the enforced rest chrystalized all my thoughts and forced me to confront the reality that, for me, I have far, far too much stuff! For those of you that have not fainted from the shock of such a heretical statement or are now busy writing letters to the Times newspaper to have me black balled from the 'club', please read on.

The Library
I wish I had one to be honest but it is what I call the collection of books, rulesets etc that fill a couple of bookcases and some piles on the floor next to them. Not very attractive by any means and a bit of a mess if I'm completely honest. Thankfully SWMBO tolerates this state of affairs for the moment, but the time has come to really sort this all out.

I love books which is one of the causes of the problem and have over the years bought many that in all honesty have never really been looked at or referenced. Add on top of this rulesets too, which like the books, have often never seen the light of day after a cursory read through of them.

I know I only really play about 5 core sets of rules and these pretty much tick all the boxes as far as I'm concerned, with a few others being dabbled with now and then. It is all too easy to see a new set and think they might be worth looking at, only for them to join their cousins on the shelves of shame. A case in point recently was General de Brigade where I thought to buy them purely for their post battle campaign rules. But upon reflection I knew that some of the books by Featherstone et al had similar stuff in them that I could use, but due to the books being spread everywhere, I never can really access them to find this sort of stuff. So time for a clearout!
 
Rulesets
Aside from the sheer number of rules that I have, one issue that I've come across that seems to be pretty universal amongst gamers is trying to remember all the rules that we play. This has become increasingly more difficult overtime and with the reduced gaming over the past few years due to Covid. Before that in all honesty I only really played the following:

Honours of War, Black Powder II, Shadow of the Eagles (new admittedly), Bloody Big Battles and BKCII.

These accounted for probably 90% of my games. More importantly they all, with the exception of BBB, had a very similar core engine mechanic meaning that the main game play was very easy to remeber when swapping from one set to another. The 'hard part' was the subtle nuances and period 'tweaks' between them, but that really wasn't too much of a challenge to be fair. What this allowed me to do was actually focus on the game, what I wanted to do and needed to achieve, rather than spending half the game with my nose in a rulebook.

Now there are plenty of excellent rulesets out there, but the aforementioned just work for me and as importantly, for my chums. You don't need lots of 'chrome' to make a good set of rules or a game. What you need, IMHO, is to be completely at ease with them so that you can focus on the game itself, coming up with scenarios, campaigns etc.

Periods To Play
I'm as guilty as any other gamer in that I can be tempted down a rabbit hole of a new period by some shiny troops in a magazine or Blog article and have, over the years, succumbed to such. But sadly most of these have just sat there on the shelf of shame after that initial buzz has faded or another article has caught me eye and taken me down another route for the same thing to be repeated again! 

So as with the rulesets, I had a good think about what periods do I really, really enjoy and will continue to play for many years to come. Broadly speaking we have:

18thC Imagi-Nations, Napoleonics, 19thC Europe circa 1848 - 1870, ACW, A Very British Civil War and WWII.

Again I reckon that these have covered at least 90% of my games over the past few years, if not more. I enjoy the challenges that each of these periods brings, as well as reading the historical background to the battles and campaigns. 

The Lead Pile
In relation to the above, the lead pile has invariably been added to as new periods have hoved into view, only to disappear all too quickly over the horizon. Even with my core eras to play, do I really need say four Seven Years War forces? Of course purists would say yes and of course they have a good point on this front. Afterall I take this approach with my WWII wargaming so can't really argue against this. But of late I have almost taken an 'Old School' Imagi-Nations approach where I simply make two opposing sides from figures I like with a good OOB that reflects the period and then simply game with them. It works for me which is of course the most important thing, especially for the solo gamer.

This approach can be seen with my Commission Figurines Red & Blue forces that could, in all honesty, be used to game all of the above periods with the exceptions of the 20thC. However I do still like to paint and play with nice figures, so will slowly build up these forces until I can get them onto the table. 

This Imagi-Nations approach will certainly help reduce the lead pile, allow me to focus on core forces rather than many for each period, which should hopefully prove cathartic and boost my painting output too! I do add in a slight caveat that this will not happen (yet) for my WWII forces, due to my love of the various marques of AFV's used throughout.

Battle & Campaigns
When I returned to wargaming some 20 or more years ago, it was very much skirmish based gaming, due to the pressures of work, storage, finances and having a young family. Over time this grew to planned all day games with multiple WWII Battalions per side. They were fun for the most part but were tiring and took an awful lot of time and energy, which I no longer have these days.

For me I now prefer battles that last maybe up to three hours with a few Bde's per side (12 - 15 units). Along side this I really like to have my battles as part of a campaign, rather than a stand alone game, where there are consequences to your actions. No Pyrrhic victories here! Skirmishs sometimes play a part at the start of a campaign or when map movement suggests that sort of thing, but they are few and far between these days.

Moving Forward
In light of the above, the main thing is to really have a damned good clearout and begin sorting stuff into piles to keep, piles to go and the inevitable maybe pile. This will allow really see what I have, which is hard to do with spread all over the house. Oh for a dedicated game room where everything was in one place!

This will be a long process due to the physical space issues involved, but a little and often should work. How I dispose of this is another matter. Probably a combination of advertising it here, forums, Facebook and ebay. Then there is the issue of pricing it all up. Some stuff maybe so hard to sell that it is simply given away.

At Present
So that's all in the future of course, but currently I've dug out my 19thC Imagi-Nations force that had planned to make it's debut at the Cotswold Wargaming Day last year, but a last minute change of plans put pay to that. So subject to Covid etc, they are due to take the field in September, so I need to paint at least another Brigade of Infantry and some Squadrons of Cavalry, plus some Command bases. Nice to have a deadline which always focusses the mind!

So until next time, stay safe and keep healthy.


Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Missing the Duchess of Richmond's Ball

As you will have gathered by now, I was due to attend a Waterloo game this weekend with friends in the lovely Cotswolds village (town?) of Northleach, with myself taking on the role of his Grace the Duke of Wellington. However after attending a weekend holy communion for my wife's God daughter, I started feeling rather iffy yesterday and by the evening I had all the symptoms of Covid, but tested negative. Feeling even worse today another test came up full blown positive. The good Lord giveth and all that...

So as a result I will be missing the game which I was really looking forward to, unless by some miracle I suddenly feel better and test negative a few days in a row. The chance of that are very, very slim. Bugger!

At least I have been able to keep myself sort of occupied, by flitting between reading the superb 'Red Storm Rising', watching Amzon or Netflix and surfing the internet. Thank God for these choices as given that the weather has been superb today, I would have been bouncing off the walls otherwise.

In anticipation of the game and to improve my general knowledge, I have been watching the battlefield walks 'The Waterloo Collection' on Amazon, which comes highly recommended. This is the second time I have watched it and given my prep for the game, things made a lot more sense. I also ordered 'Waterloo, Four Days That Changed Europe's Destiny' by Tim Clayton, as it was a steal at about £3.50 and looks to be good. I am eagerly awaiting it given my current situation.

I have been pondering which forces to go for, or more honestly add to, my planned Cold War forces, given that the main protaganists will be Great Britain vs the Soviet Union, both sides fielding battlegroups in one form or another. The Dutch look interesting given my family have a direct link back to circa 1580 when they came over to drain the Fens. I still have family living in the same village that they settled in way back when, which is pretty impressive. Plenty more planning to be done, once the old noggin is less fuzzy and painful.

I have also been thinking about a rather drastic thinning my lead mountain. In reality so much of the stuff i bought over the years is unlikely to ever see the light of day, given my role as a parent/carer and my ever degenerating shaky left arm, which makes painting something of a challenge. Since playing with my Commission Figures Red and Blue forces, which I am very fond off, I have thought why not use them for most of my Black Powder games, as they work for me and are very easy to paint given my current predicament. I need to have a long and hard think about this, but shifting some more stuff will be rather cathartic and allow me time to try and focus on finishing projects and ultimately get more games in. Watch this space.

I'm hoping I don't feel too bad for too long but currently am feeling like I have a really, really bad case of the flu. Fingers crossed. I am now semi isolating in the house given that our son is CEV and will not venture out until I feel fine and have tested negative two times in a row. hopefully that will be sometime next week. So if you don't hear from me again, maybe the it's not 'Au Revoir', but 'Goodbye!' Watch the following superb sketch to get my drift😁:






Friday, 1 July 2022

Waterloo Warm Up Games - Part 3 - They Came On In The Same Old Way

I decided to re-run the same braod scenario as per the last game, but with a few tweaks. Namely:
  • Pre-game bombardment for the French with their heavy 12 pdr guns.
  • The French have a few Inspiring commanders.
  • The French have one Inferior infantry unit and one Superior unit.
  • The British 95th Rifles are classed as Superior all round.
So onto the action!

The same layout as before, but French ave weighted their attack to their right wing.

The French 12 pdrs in the middle, flanked by Company Columns.

The British take some hits from the preliminary bombardment.

The 95th deployed and waiting.

The French advance immediately starts to take hits from the artillery and deployed Light Battalions.

The 95th gets to work.

The artillery is rather effective on the left hand Company Column.

The Light Battalions pull back as the French deploy part of their force into Line.

The French push on as the Heavy Cavalry arrive in expectation of exploiting any gaps in the line. On the extreme right the French assault the British line.

The left flank struggles to move forward.

The French close in on the ridge.

The Company Column assault goes in but the neighbouring Line Infantry fail to support the assault with musketry.

The French are pushed back and morale saves keep them in the game.

More attacks go in and although the French are taking hits, the British Line is coming under pressure.

Suddenly the action on the right and centre leads to three routed French units and one British.

The French attack struggles but the British Line is under pressure too.

Any hope of a French breakthough evaporates next Turn as the French left disintegrates.

The French left routs.

The French right now lacks enough mass to effect a breakthrough.

The British Line was under pressure, but morale saves kept them in place and able to fight.

Post Game Thoughts.
Another fun and interesting little game to keep trying out the rules. So what did I learn this game?

  • Both sides managed to do quite a few important morale saves to take hits off units to keep them in the game. The British had slightly better die rolls, but the odd failed one here and there could have led to a rather different outcome in front of the French right wing.
  • The pre-game bombardment was good and not too effective, but enough to aid the French, which if theire shooting had been better, might have made the difference to the result.
  • Counter Battery Fire is something that I used more in the game, given that the French 12 pdrs outranged the British artillery. Again some better die rolling might have led to the loss or at least falling back of the artillery, thus allowing the French infantry an easier chance of breaking the British Line.
  • Again the Superior British firing was enough to make a difference throughout the game.
  • The French should move into Line earlier to allow them to bring great firepower to bear, then move into Company Column for the assault when the British are Weakened.
  • Closer to the enemy, it is better to move a half speed to avoid the penalty for a Significant Move.
  • Unfortunately for the French, neither of the Generals managed to mkae a double move, despite having two rated as Inspiring. Allowing them to close very quickly with the British Line, thus reducing the amount of fire taken would make a difference, thus helping them to have a better chance of breaking the British Line.

Next game time for something different in terms of a scenario. Probably a sort of Hougoumont or La Haie Saint assault on a fortified building could be good to see how this works out games wise. Plenty to think about for sure.

So until next time, stay safe and keep healthy!