Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Herefordshire Campaign in Maps

When I design scenarios for our Big Games, I use a number of maps to help me identify important places in the county. I also use maps to work out how much territory each faction roughly has control over.

My first port of call is the parish map. I find using parishes a convenient way of splitting up the county. If a faction has a greater military presence in a parish, then it is assumed that they control it. However this is not to say that other factions do not have a presence. Control over parishes is largely driven by how I interpret the result of each game we play, plus the occasional arbitrary decision!

I also have maps for rivers, main roads and railways - e.g. the arteries of the county. These help me decide how each faction can get about.

The most important of these is the railway map (from 1922), as it is assumed that railways were still very much the main way of shifting stuff from A to B in the 1930s. It is no coincidence that the current Welsh border campaign is all abut the control of railway lines.

I found this map in a very interesting thesis. Roads were of course becoming increasingly important, with lorries taking on a greater share of the transport burden. However in Herefordshire, I have deemed roads to be of lesser importance than railways, as even today the road network isn't particularly brilliant. What isn't shown on this map is the network of minor roads, lanes and tracks - it is always possible for factions to travel along these without necessarily other factions noticing.

Rivers, when navigable, offer another alternative, but with the Rivers Wye, Lugg, Arrow, Frome etc. not being particularly suited to large-scale river traffic, these are tenuous links. However for the local Anglican League, largely cut off from other rebel groups, river transport up to Ross-on-Wye must be an important lifeline.

At the start of the civil war, the most parishes looked to their own devices, with the Bishop of Hereford declaring the city for the Anglican League and sending out parties to cover the routes of a possible Royalist advance from Worcester, garrisoning Bromyard and Bishop's Frome.

The next map shows the situation after the inevitable Royalist response, with the King's forces capturing the Anglican positions and marching into Hereford and Leominster. Meanwhile the Anglicans retreated to Ross, whilst the Welsh Nationalists took advantage of the chaos to seize Kington.

Next the Royalists secured the railway lines that link Bromyard, Leominster and Hereford, with the BUF garrisoning the former two. The Anglicans sought to regain the initiative and advanced, via Much Marcle, to Ledbury - the first step in a plan to encircle the county, cut off Hereford and isolate the Royalists into submission.

Alas this plan failed after the battle of Little Hereford and a series of Government counter-attacks which saw the BUF gain control over Ledbury, Much Marcle and nearby Colwall, as well as the Instructional Centre at Shobdon. Royalist forces continued to extend their control over the railway lines, while a new player entered the fray in the form of the Landowners' Protection Association, which united much of the gentry along the front line and the lawless Welsh border. A small Socialist presence also appeared, formed by red forces retreating from the battles of Shobdon and Little Hereford. By this stage neighbouring power blocs outside the county, such as the Shropshire Free State, the Worcestershire Loyalists and the Malvern Hills Conservators, had established themselves .

A shift in the Anligcan's fortunes occurred during the 1st Battle of Foy - BUF bigwig Baron Foy's ill-judged attempt to form an armed stronghold in the bend of the River Wye. The resulting battle saw the BUF cut off by the Anglicans, whose prestige following the victory bought many nearby parishes into the fold. Also of note is the arrival of Sir Gilbert Hill, who persuaded many Golden Valley parishes to join his banner after his part in the rebel victory at Foy. The Welsh Nationalists also began to stir, occupying some outlying border parishes.

The 2nd Battle of Foy saw the Anglican League secure the short-lived BUF stronghold, and the booty it contained, further enhancing their reputation and swinging many neutral parishes in south Herefordshire into their sphere of influence. Sir Gilbert's star also continued to rise as he extended his control in the Golden Valley, hoping to dominate the Golden Valley railway line. In response to their defeat, the Royalists consolidated around Hereford.

With the front between Hereford and Ross largely stabilised, the rebels turned to the Welsh border region. With the booty gained at Foy only lasting so long, the need for a decent supply route from Nationalist north Wales became imperative. A plan was thus hatched to advance across the border from Wales and capture a number of strategic railway junctions between Prestiegne, Kington and Hay, thus linking these towns with the Golden Valley railway. The plan only partially succeeded, and had the side-effect of forcing the local LPA landowners into the Royalist camp. For their part in the fighting, the rebels grudgingly allowed the Socialists to set up worker's councils in a scattering of small, out-of-the-way parishes.

We now come to the latest map (now with the rail network and River Wye added) - the situation after the second part of the Border Campaign. The Welsh have been ejected from Titley and that junction is safe in Royalist hands. However the important river crossing at Bredwardine is still being contested, leaving the newly declared Royalists along the border in grave risk of being cut off by the Anglicans and Sir Gilbert. Aside from this very little has changed as both sides plan their next move.

Will the Anglican League, Welsh Nationalists, Socialists and Gilbertines remain in peaceful coexistence now that their plans have been set back? Will they find alternative supply routes or press ahead with their current plan? Can the Royalists and BUF keep their new allies along the border safe and supplied? What will the next move be for the King's Men?

Monday, 16 March 2015

The Second Battle of Titley Junction – Herefordshire Big Game, March 2015

The Royalists are on the offensive and the Welsh are digging in as Fascists and Anglicans clash over a vital bridge – yes, it’s time for the next Herefordshire Big Game!

'The Hill'

Only two tables this time, but with some spectacular scenery, including Roo’s amazing hill, and some brand-new river sections. The table I gamed on (and thus dominates most of this AAR) represented the hill dominating the nearby railway junction at Titley – vital if the rebels were to gain control of the rail line.

Bredwardine Bridge

The other table represented Bredwardine Bridge – one of the few road crossings over the River Wye. Whoever held this crossing would cut off or liberate the Royalist enclave sandwiched between nationalist Wales and the rebel Golden Valley Protectorate.

The other side of the hill

In order to represent the shortages that must have been affecting all sides by now, each player picked an event card before the game started. Some cards inflicted a lack of vehicle fuel or larger calibre ammunition, while in balance others provided a ‘top up’ option.

The King's Colonials

The Titley table was a continuation of the last big game, which saw the Welsh pushing the Royalists off a portion of the hill, dubbed Big Round Top, while the loyal King’s Colonials held on to Little Round Top. Therefore a platoon of Welsh and Colonials started off on the hill, separated by the road bridge over the railway.

Royalists along the river

Coming up to reinforce the Welsh was an Anglican League platoon, including sections of Chinese missionaries (left stranded in the UK whilst undergoing theological training when war broke out). Coming up to support the colonials were two Royalist platoons, including my reinforced Herefordshire TA.

My Territorials deploying

Eschewing the unreliable militia, this time I opted to field three TA infantry units, one of which was a cyclist section, and a section of mounted Yeomanry. Backing up this force was a Vickers Medium MkII tank, a sniper, Boys anti-tank rifle team and a mortar, complete with motorised armoured spotting vehicle.

Welsh defenders

The Royalist plan was for the Colonials to hold the attention of the Welsh with their artillery, whilst the newcomers would attempt to get around the hill and cut them off before the Anglicans got into gear. To their credit, the Welsh immediately confounded this by making the first aggressive move and taking the fight to the Colonials, advancing an armoured car along the bridge, followed by a section of Welsh infantry.

Welsh A/C advances

They also slowed my advance along the left flank, sending down an armoured car and a team of Morris Dancing tank killers and giving my tank commander pause for thought. Further up the hill the Welsh infantry and an HMG team lay in wait, stubbornly refusing to be rattled by my inaccurate mortar fire that was bursting harmlessly around them.

Morris Dancing tank killers

I was at least keeping them busy while the Colonials dealt with the armoured car menacing them with a well-aimed artillery round. My Territorials also kept the Welsh now lining the bridge occupied. Under enemy fire I had brought up my cyclists and cavalry along the railway line through the centre with an eye to moving under the bridge and appearing at the defender’s rear.

Colonials work their way around the Welsh

However the Anglican reinforcements were getting closer more quickly than anticipated and, while the other Royalist platoon was still crossing the river to deal with them, the Colonials advancing around Big Round Top seemed to have the matter in hand.

Territorial Cyclists and Yeomanry

Therefore my cyclists dismounted to return fire from the Welsh on the bridge and cover the Yeomanry as they pulled back.

My slow advance along the flank

With my tank, mortar and sniper resolutely failing to soften up the Welsh defenders on the left, my veteran infantry section paid a high price for a probing action at the base of the hill, being whittled down to just two men before even getting the chance to shoot back.

Reinforcements square off

I knew I had to abandon any idea of splitting my platoon for fancy flanking actions and concentrate on these defenders, using weight of numbers if necessary. Meanwhile the Anglican reinforcements were grappling with their Royalist counterparts.

Massing for the attack

Therefore the cyclists and cavalry mounted up and retired along the road to join the rest of the platoon, who had at least managed to punish the Morris Dancers for their gaiety, leaving the road clear for the Vickers to roll forward as the Welsh armoured car hastily reversed back up the hill.

Chinese and Welsh under mortar fire

My mortar still failed to damage the dug-in Welsh defenders, but was at least overshooting enough to land shells into the ranks of the Anglican Chinese who had arrived to shore up the defences.

King's Colonials cross the bridge

With my TA slowly advancing on the left, the Colonials over and under the bridge on the right and the other Royalists making their presence felt along the river, not even the arrival of the Anglicans on the hill could save the position and it was only a matter of time before the Royalists would triumph.

The rebels pull back

The rebels thus decided to retire in good order to Welsh-held Kington while they were still in reasonably good shape. Titley junction was once again safe in Royalist hands.

Vickers and spotter vehicle

Being engrossed in the battle for the hill, I missed most of the action at Bredwardine, but it appeared that the first half of the battle saw both sides jockeying for position. The BUF, supported by the Malvern Hills Conservators (on a rare field trip away from the Malverns) reached the all-important bridge first, and parked their tank on it to make the point.

BUF at Bredwardine

While a platoon of Royalist ladies squared up to Sir Gilbert’s men, the Anglicans attempted to dislodge the BUF with a pincer movement, at one point ramming the MHC’s ‘tricycle of death’. However at the end of the game the BUF (with the aid of a strange mobile pillbox) held on to the bridge and could claim a narrow victory, although this remains open to debate.

Fighting at Bredwardine

So the rebels have been unable to consolidate and move on to capture Titley Junction, while the Royalists bordering the Black Mountains have been given a temporary lifeline for as long as the BUF can hold Bredwardine Bridge. Will the other border parishes swing to the Royalist cause? Has the Anglican’s dream of opening a supply route by rail been dashed? Will the forces of the King be able to maintain momentum? Well, that’s for the next Big Game!

Mobile pillbox!

My platoon didn’t actually advance very far, with the exception of some to-ing and fro-ing in the centre, and most of the time didn’t actually manage to hit anything, but it was still another cracking day’s gaming! The players were gents all round, and much fun was had!

Welsh defenders
As usual, here is a list of links to the other players’ AARs, which I will update as they come in.

Royalist mobile guns

The thread on the VBCF.
Giles’ accounts – part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4
The latest in the annals of Sir Gilbert Hill

Some photos from the end of the game:-

Monday, 9 March 2015

'38Fest 2015: The Spectred Isle

For the last year or two, attempts have been made to put on a big VBCW community event, either by holding a series of linked Big Games across the country, or by having a massive get-together at a single venue. Sadly neither have managed to quite work.

This year however, VBCW maestro Pete 'Panzerkaput' Barfield has come up with a cracking idea - it's time to fight for The Sceptred Isle...

This year's VBCW game at Partizan will see two sides fighting over the Crown Jewels. The interesting thing is that players are invited to play this exact same scenario beforehand, in the comfort of their own clubs/garages/man caves, during the month of May.

So long as the scenario and terrain is roughly adhered to, players can use any force, rules, scale, table size etc. The results of each game will then be fed back to Pete, and will have a bearing on the big game at Partizan.

This means that anyone, be they in the UK or foreign climes, can join in, from a solo game on your kitchen table to a full-on club game, using whatever models are at your disposal.

Please take a look at Pete's blog for more details!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Last Past The Post

(Drum roll......)

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you....


Firstly, the remaining Pass of the North US cavalry figures, painted up as Anglican League mounted command.

And finally, bringing up the rear, this BUF mounted officer from Footsore Miniatures (Musketeer as was).

Now, where did I put those plastic kits?

*For now at least.