Friday, 11 July 2014

Ronin - Samurai Buntai

Things are busy in my wargaming world at the moment; i'm feverishly building terrain for a Mordheim campaign, looking at the possibility of getting back into fantasy gaming with either Mantic's Kings of War or Games Workshop's Fantasy Battle.  I'm also working on a project with Pendraken miniatures which is taking a lot of time.  And then there's the roleplaying and board games...

However, not content with all that, i'm also involved in a campaign using Osprey's Ronin rules; and this morning my little Japanese dudes turned up in the mail!

There are many options for figures out there, but i chose to go with the Perry range, as they make consistently good quality figures, both in terms of casting and sculpts.  I overdid the order a bit, getting four packs, when two would probably have done, mainly as i like to have options for skirmish games like this.

So, to the initial unboxing.

Perry always send their metals in little jewelry boxes like this.

First impressions: some flash and a bit of deformation, but nothing too serious.  As usual, exceptionally crisp quality detail, and good dynamic figures.  Can't wait to get painting!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Mordheim: City of the damned - Part 3

Our Mordheim project (part 1, part 2) is continuing and the construction of the terrain continues at a pace.  I've finished the first building, a wizard's tower belonging to 'Nicodemus' (presumably now an absentee landlord!)  

The gate to his yard has been shattered by a falling warpstone shard.

The tower itself remains intact, together with its dirt-streaked copper roof; presumably an architectural feature that enhanced the occupant's magical activities.

Here's the second structure.  Bit of a collaborative build this one - we all got together for a kick-off session and put this together over jollity and discussions about what else needed doing.  Its sort of a fortified town house, or perhaps an inn.

I've also picked up some GW fantasy buildings to help things along a bit; namely the Deathnell Watch, the Garden of Morr, and the Dreadfire Portal and Eternity Stair.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mordheim: City of the damned - Part 2

The project rolls on and after a weekend of feverish painting and terrain building we're making progress on the road to kicking off the campaign.  

We now have our final four warbands set to go.

Iz-Nibbs Eshin Gutter Cutters (Me)
Leader (Iz-Nibbs) - dagger, sword, brace of pistols
Sorcerer (Siniss-Terk) - dagger, club, sling (uh...the 'swarm of rats' spell 2d6 S1 hits)
2x Black rats - dagger, fighting blades
2x Gutter runners - dagger, club, sling
4x Verminkin - dagger, club, sling

Lizardmen (Sam)
Skink priest with spear 
Totem warrior sith shield and club 
2x skink great crests with shield club and shortbow
3x saurus with shield and club
4x skinks with shield club and shortbow

Mundo's Madcaps - Forest Goblins (Ben)
Cheiftan - Halberd
Shaman - Spear
Brave - Sword
Brave - Spear
Brave - Shortbow
Brave - Shortbow, Sword
5x Goblins - Spears, Bows
5x Goblins - Spears, Bows

Black orcs (Richy)
Black Orc Big Boss w/ sword, axe, dagger, and shield
2 Black Orcs w/ axe, dagger and shield
2 Youn 'uns / axe, dagger and shield, one with Black Orc Blood
2 Orc Boys w/ axe and dagger
2 Nuttaz w/ great weapon and dagger

Its going to be a real hard tournament, with some excellent players and very different warbands.  The Lizardmen and Black orcs are brutal melee crews, whereas the goblins and my skaven will have to use their wits and archery to good effect.  

Can't wait to kick off!

However, before that can happen we have the terrain to build.  There's a fair few fences and walls built and a couple of buildings too, including this one i put together today - a wizard's tower that has suffered a hit in the devastation that ruined Mordheim.

As you can see it's constructed basically from junk, paper, card, some old cork and other bits and bobs i had lying about.

Obviously it'll look a lot better when its painted!

EDIT: The first rough colours go on.  These are just the base colours so far.  The wood parts will be either black or brown.  the rooves?  I'm not sure yet, but i think a sort of blue slate grey is likely.  I was thinking about maybe red slate, but i think that will jar too much with the overall colour tone.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Mordheim: City of the Damned.

It's funny how these things happen.  After a bit of a hiatus from wargaming (actually I've been working on a major project that should come to fruition this October), i'm diving back into the murky pond with gusto.

One of my groups has just finished a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying campaign and we've been boardgaming for a few weeks as a break ahead of the next campaign (Iron Kingdoms).  Anyway, we've been knocking around the idea of doing a skirmish game for a while.  'What about Mordheim?' Someone says.  'Aye, we could', someone else agrees.  And that's how these things happen!

Next evening I go digging through the darker corners of my plastic mountain, and lo and behold a battered box of Skaven emerge (i'd always wanted to do an army of these but never quite got round to it, before ditching Warhammer Fantasy Battles as a bad job).  

They'll do, I think; and three hours of kitbashing, and painting later, I give you my Mordheim warband: Iz-Nibbz Eshin Gutter Cutters.

Not much to look at i'll grant you but they'll do their duty.

Here's Iz-Nibbs, well armed with a manky sword and a warplock pistol.

He's accompanied by his trusty (as trusty as the rat-kin get anyway) sidekick, the sorcerer Siniss-Terk.

Their band has a couple of Black Skaven armed with fighting claws crudely strapped on where their amputated hands used to be, to led some much needed brawn to the proceedings, and also a couple of gutter runners (not shown).

Packing out the ranks are a bunch of wretched vermin-kin, armed with clubs and slings.

They're up against some tough opposition too; Carnival of Chaos, Lizardmen, and either Dwarfs or Orcs.  Should be a lot of fun!

One thing Games Workshop have done well is produce an excellent skirmish rule set, and I've had many pleasurable hours playing various incarnations, including Necromunda, and the brilliant Legends of the Old West.  This will be my first foray into the chaos of the Damned City.

Next up...bash together some terrain from the junk in the recycling box...

I'll try and keep you updated as the campaign progresses.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The History of the British Civil War in the North East (abridged; the road to High Hold)

1938 was a year of escalating conflict in the north east of England, and that conflict was focussed mainly around the areas to the north and west of Durham.  The conflict had humble origins, beginning with a short and inconclusive exchange of fire between some arms smugglers and the police at a roadblock near Rothbury, but those first shots ignited a terrible series of battles that became ever larger and more costly for all involved.

Three main factions emerged during these early months of the war; the Communist forces commanded from the small mining village of Chopwell, the British Union of Fascists (BUF) garrisoned at Gateshead, and the private army of Lord John Lambton, the 5th Earl of Durham.  The so-called ‘Lambton’s Hounds’

The Communists at Chopwell came to prominence under the leadership of ‘Chief Comrade’ John Harding, a famously hard-drinking farmer and Socialist.  After the dissolution of Parliament, Harding organised local Marxist sympathies into a cohesive force around Chopwell and spent the early part of 1938 looting banks, businesses, and local wealthy properties and families.  The Communists called this the ‘great redistribution’ and it gave them tremendous economic and political power during the initial period of ‘phoney conflict’.  They used some of the money to provide social services to the local population and set up community restaurants, civil defence volunteer organisations, and collective farms.  However, much of it was reserved for the coming war effort, and their early attempts to acquire arms brought them into unproductive contact with the Northumberland Freedom Fighters (involved in the incident at Rothbury).  The Communists attempted to open a supply route to Russia along the River Tyne.  However, the Royalist military to the north, and the BUF at Gateshead successfully closed off this option.  Harding turned to the Comrades down in the Free City of Liverpool and was able to establish a fairly stable supply corridor up through Alston.  As the year progressed, the forces at Chopwell were significantly bolstered with Russian materiel including advisors, small arms, heavy guns, mortars, and even T26 tanks.  By the end of 1938, the Chopwell militia were as well supplied as any army in Britain at the time.

The King and Prime Minister Moseley were very concerned about the potential loss of the Durham coalfield and early in the war they despatched a contingent of BUF troops under the command of Arthur Wendbury-Pace.  These forces were drawn from Essex and Suffolk and were garrisoned in Gateshead, near the mouth of the river Tyne.  They were initially supplied from London by sea, but as the year developed they were increasingly able to rely on local resources, including recruits.  Gateshead had a large Jewish enclave, but also harboured an extreme right wing ‘Gateshead German League’ who quickly allied with the BUF in return for a free hand in dealing with what they perceived as the ‘Jewish problem’.  This alliance had a significant effect on the BUF in the north east.  The link with the authorities in London became weakened, particularly as the fighting across London severely reduced the supply shipments up to the north.  The BUF began to receive ‘lend lease’ supplies from Germany including Wermacht advisors, materiel, and armoured vehicles.  Nazi advisors also provided military and political training to the BUF Legions, forming them in to a highly effective fighting force that rivalled the regular army of Lord Percy’s Tenantry to the north of the Tyne

The third protagonist force was the private army of Lord John Lambton, the 5th Earl of Durham.  Lord Lambton suspected that trouble was brewing long before the political troubles and the dissolution of Parliament, and he used a sizeable part of his fortune to purchase a significant stock of French Great War army surplus kit.  His troops were drawn mainly from his estates and took to the field in the French blue with yellow painted helmets of his livery.  These eager amateurs were supplemented with paid mercenaries that provided training and a much needed backbone in the field.  Lambton also maintained a fleet of armour Rolls Royce cars which were his pride and joy throughout the war.  It was said that he would forgive his commanders for losing a battle, but not for losing a Rolls Royce.

By mid-1938, the dominance of the Chopwell Communist forces, in terms of size and supply, forced the BUF and Lord Lambton into an uneasy ‘royalist alliance’.  They were united by their common opposition to the ‘Red menace’, support for the King, and little else.  Despite this, they fought alongside each other in a series of escalating battles throughout the year.  These culminated in the major action at High Hold, and the subsequent engagements during the rout.  After a series of planning meetings, the royalist alliance gathered at Ousten, Urpeth, Pelton, and Pelton Fell with the intention of invading the Communist heartland to break their burgeoning power.  Lord Percy also sent Tenentry support from north of the Tyne, to try and bolster the royalist attack and hopefully end the thorn in his side that was the Communists.  He had far greater troubles dealing with the Northumberland Freedom Fighters, Ashington Socialist rebels and Scottish nationalist border incursions and was happy to supply aid to try and nip the Communist threat in the bud.  The assembled forces moved west into the outer Communist defences at High Hold on the morning of 30th August 1938.  Their initial scouting, especially by motorised BUF patrols, has shown the Red militia in the area to be very poor quality.  The royalist commanders were also astonished at the apparent lack of fortifications or even basic defences in or around High Hold, which in part was the reason for concentrating their attack in that area.

The central defence council in Chopwell were labouring under the assumption that High Hold was a fortified in accordance with their orders and was a well defended outpost beyond their main garrison at Stanley.  They had invested a great deal of resources and placed a series of what they assumed were competent commanders in that area with the expressed purpose of defending it strongly against a much anticipated attack from Gateshead.  Testimonies from after the war suggest that the commanders sent to the area were incompetent and complacent and failed to undertake the work they were assigned to.  Joseph Cardwell, in his excellent book The Chopwell Communists, suggests that the deficiencies were more to do with corruption among the administrative and logistics brigades, and that the resources intended for the fortification of High Hold never arrived.  In any case, High Hold was a poorly fortified position but still well defended with a large force of militia.  To the royalists’ misfortune, the night before the attack, a visiting force of the Socialist Boiler Maker Union Federation of the Working Men were camped in the area.  They had concluded unsuccessful negotiations concerning the possible alliance with Chopwell and were intending to return to Newcastle the following morning.  They would take part in the battle in aid of their Socialist brothers, and later survivors said that this was simply as they had nowhere to go except through the royalist lines.

The Battle of High Hold was the largest engagement of the war so far and was undoubtedly a bloody affair.  Full details of the action can be read elsewhere, but the outcome was a significant victory for the Communists.  The royalist attack was halted at the outskirts of the village, although a concentration of Tenantry armour on the northern flank almost broke through.  The Communist immediately pursued, initially as an ill-disciplined rush and quickly as an organised counter attack and the royalist retreat turned into rout.  Lord Percy’s Tenantry fled north and made it to safety across Wylam Bridge, despite being harassed by Communist local defence units on the way.  The BUF and Lambton’s forces retreated in disarray, many units being pursued to the outskirts of Durham.  This pursuit was halted at the two day battle at The Duke of Wellington public house.  Despite the Communist armour attacking in force, a ragtag collection of royalists commanded by General Morley-Lustworth, who had been badly injured the day before, was able to hold the crossroads and deny the Reds access into Durham.  The Anglican League, ostensibly in control of Durham at this period of the war, offered no help in defending this ground on their border.  Subsequent to the action, Lord Lambton issued various scathing articles and communications concerning the battle.  Privately he was most furious with his own commanders who he felt had wasted the lives of their men defending Anglican territory.

At the end of the fighting the borders were restored, and the positions remained largely unchanged.  Many of the ‘old timers’ who’d fought in the Flanders trenches remarked how the fighting over the year had been just like the Western Front; a lot of men lost for no gain.  The most significant outcome for the battles over the year, and in particular the massive effort from all sides around the High Hold campaign, was to deplete the supplies and reserves of the Communists, the BUF, and Lord Lambton.  Ammunition in particular was now extremely scarce, and it would remain so until well into 1939.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Defending the Duke Part 2

The Chopwell Communist attack on the Duke of Wellington public house had been repelled, but the forces under Comrade-Lieutenant Leonard Parkin didn't retreat far.  Overnight the Reds called up replacement militia and what reserves they had left in a final effort to break through to Durham.

The BUF and Lambton forces remained encamped in their positions while General Sir Arthur Morley-Lustworth withdrew north to the Lambton stronghold up near Washington.

At the break of dawn, the Red forces attack again.  This time Parkin's platoon was reorganised and reequipped for assault, and supported by a battery of mortars.  The remaining T26 tanks were organised with militia support.  The plan was simple; break through to capture Potter's bank at all costs.

Parkin's platoon advances across the fields to the south of the Duke of Wellington, ready to advance on Lambton's positions.  Armed for assault, they even have a pack of vicious hounds along for the fun.

Facing them are Lambton's Hounds dug in in their positions from the day before, but this time supported by an armoured car brought up from the rear.  

They also have some fighters pushed forwards to the west of the main road in ambush.  

They open fire on the Reds in the open causing a few casualties, before being cut down to a man by the torrent of Communist return fire. 

Over on the northern flank, the Chopwell armoured force, supported by hastily mustered militia rumble forwards towards the well positioned BUF regulars. 

To their surprise, during the night the BUF brought up some heavy firepower to supplement their field guns, including a Panzer II and and armoured car with an autocannon.  

Before the Reds can advance much beyond their starting positions, two T26s brew up amid viciously effective BUF anti tank fire.

The BUF to the rear give a great cheer as the news of their success spreads fast.  

The remaining Chopwell tanks creep around the copse and manage to destroy the Panzer II, but the militia advance on the northern flank is effectively halted before it begins.

In a brutal exchange of heavy fire, the remaining Red tanks are neutralised and the militia are cut to pieces as they valiantly attempt to push on into the BUF positions.  Disciplined fascist rifle, machinegun and field cannon fire make short work of the advance and the Communist northern flank collapses having barely touched the fascists.   

And so the attention turns to Parkin's action in the south which fares far better.  Well supported by a mortar battery, the Communist irregulars advance to forward covered positions and let their field support do the work.  

Lambton's positions are shattered by mortar bombs and the shell-shocked survivors flee for their lives.

The Duke of Wellington is heavily shelled and reduced to a burning wreck.

They do put up a bit of a fight though, and the remaining Lambton artillery give a good account of themselves, but its not enough.

Parkin pushes his platoon north to take the remains of the Duke of Wellington.

The BUF move off of their positions and head south to meet the the advancing Communists.


However, before their forces meet both commanders reevaluate their positions and decide to withdraw before sustaining further loss.  

The battle finished in a a bloody draw, or rather withdrawal.  The door to Durham remains closed, and after two weeks of battles, the High Hold campaign ends with the borders and positions back exactly where they were at the start.  

It was not without consequence though.  Lambton, the BUF and the Communists at Chopwell had each expended massive effort and most of their supplies.  Many men and much materiel had been lost.  Ammunition stores were depleted.  At the end of 1938 it looked like the war would calm down over winter.  Restocking would be vital for all concerned.

An honourable mention goes to Graeme, for stepping in on the war correspondence duties when my camera died early on in the fight.  

And finally, a summary of our war in the north east during 1938.