Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Crickey, My Bikey!

According to Roderick Spode, every Englishman should have in his possession an honest, British-made bicycle. Surely everyone had a bicycle in the 1930s, but what about their 28mm counterparts?

The trouble is, do you really want to double the size of your VBCW collection by making bicycle mounted versions of all your troops? Sure, Wargames Foundry and Warlord Games both do infantry on pushbikes (I have a unit made out of these figures), but even so…

Luckily I discovered that Dixon Miniatures, in addition to also making bike-mounted troops, also sell pushbikes on their own.

Mounted on whatever small bases I had to hand, these make great ‘mounted’ markers for any unit so inclined to pedal. Two packs gives you enough to give an entire infantry section a bike each, or have a single marker for each section and plenty left over for scatter terrain, objectives and such.

If, like me, you have a two or three minis lying around spare (in my case the survivors from my WW2 Perry plastic sprue and a smidgen of Greenstuff), you can base them with a bike to create messenger/runner (er, peddler) figures too.

These Dixon bikes are very easy to put together (simply glue the handlebars into the hole already provided) and don't take a lot of cleaning up.

"I were right about that saddle though..."

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Fowler Steam Wagon

Following one of my habitual trawls through the For Sale section of the Lead-Adventure Forum, I purchased a trio of diecast steam lorries.

One of them was a Fowler steam wagon, with a blue metal cab/trailer and a bright red plastic underside. Further investigation revealed that it was initially made to celebrate 60 years of Halls Mentho-Lyptus, from 1927 to 1987. However the Halls Mentho-Lyptus lettering had been removed.

An original (not mine, which was missing the decals)
The other two steam lorries were, in my view, too small for 28mm gaming (my fault for not asking what the scale was initially), but they did come laden with plastic barrels, which I was able to prise off to use as scenery, objectives etc.

Both the Fowler and the barrels were sprayed black (courtesy of Halfords) and given a few drybrushes. I was tempted to knock up some decals for the wagon, but in the end I decided that I quite liked the plain, ‘well used’ look and so left it as it was.

Simple yet effective!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

...and Now a Word From Our Sponsors

During the interwar years, many people were alarmed at the increasing urbanisation of the countryside. Notables such as J. B. Priestley, writing of his 'English Journey', and Clough Williams-Ellis, author of 'England and The Octopus', complained of the suburban housing, petrol stations and arterial roads that encroached upon their rural idyll.

Another complaint was the proliferation of advertising hoardings - "roadside placards or other inacceptable (sic) displays" - along the highways and byways of Britain.

Well, with apologies to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, it's time that the dreaded 'octopus' spread it's tentacles onto the tabletop battlefield!

This is one of those projects that I've been mulling over in the back of my head for some time, and, while not fully realised, has to be attempted and got out of the way to make room for other ideas.

I started off by trawling the web for various vintage advertisements, pamphlets and political posters (plus one or two I made myself) and resized them to fit on pieces of card. A search for contemporary photos of such hoardings show a wide range of size and style - some with large single adverts, others plastered with a mosaic of smaller posters.

I cut some stiff card to what I thought would be a realistic size and stuck on the resized adverts etc. Ideally I would liked to have printed each poster separately, overlaying one on top of the other where they overlapped, but as I only had one sheet of sticker paper left (I use sticker paper as opposed to messier paper and glue), I opted to do the layout on the PC first and print them out all in one.

The cards were then lined at the back (hopefully to represent wooden planking) and framed with bamboo flower sticks from the local pound shop.

Two of the hoardings are supported by diagonal bamboo struts (inexpertly held in place with putty and glue), while two were mounted on stilts so that they could stand above walls, hedges and the like. These stilts were then stuck onto small bases - perhaps too small - it remains to be seen whether they remain upright during a game.

These hoardings can be used simply as VBCW battlefield scenery, or maybe as blinds and such. They're not perfect, but they'll do, and more importantly that's one more idea out of the way!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Bloodbath at Bullock’s Mill

Time off work for half term last week, so I managed to squeeze in a day’s gaming at Giles’, with Roo turning up too! As I had yet to field my Welsh Nationalist force, I decided to write a scenario based on the no doubt immanent Royalist advance on Welsh-held Kington, and wrote a blurb accordingly:-

With Titley Junction finally cleared of the Welsh invaders, the local forces of Government are looking westward to Kington. If the troubled border region is to be properly secured, then the Welsh Nationalists must be ejected from this small market town.
 The most logical route from Titley is to follow the railway line, which negates the need to get tangled up in the narrow and twisting country roads. However following the railway has it’s own perils, for it runs along the steep-banked valley of the River Arrow.
 It is for certain that the retreating Welsh will throw forward defences somewhere across this valley, most probably near the disused Bullock’s Mill, where the railway crosses the Arrow twice in quick succession, and where there is a crossing point for the road from Lyonshall village.
 The valley is steep and flanked by woodland, and no Government convoy could advance without having to force the crossing points or clear the valley slopes. Yet this is what they must do.
 Hearing news that a platoon of Welsh Nationalists is throwing up defence works in the area, two Government platoons have been dispatched to see them off and reclaim the crossings for the King. However it is rumoured that Welsh reinforcements are hurrying from Kington to shore up the defences.
 A show-down is imminent. Will the Arrow valley echo with the sound of ‘Land of My Fathers’, or ‘Long Live the King’?

The table was set up to represent the area around Bullock’s Mill, with farm buildings representing this edifice and the River Arrow running diagonally along the length. At either end of the table were the two crossing points (a road and rail bridge respectively) that the Welsh were obliged to defend.

Bullock's Mill and environs

So my Welsh were the defenders, with approx. one and a half platoons, while Roo (Hereford Regiment TA) and Giles (local militia) fielded a platoon each for the attack. I was allowed to deploy some of my force in or around the mill and at the road bridge. The rest were to come on along the table edge, the opposite side of which the Royalists deployed.

Welsh Irregular cavalry

Now before I start this report, I will state here and now that I was very, very lucky! Firstly, when rolling for my troops’ training, I rolled high almost every time, giving me a force of largely regular and veteran nationalists. Secondly, Roo, when rolling for Giles’ militia, rolled low, giving his comrade a force of poorly-trained irregulars. Lastly, my dice rolling and card drawing was uncannily good throughout the game, with the Welsh winning the initiative and scoring direct hits more often than not.

The bulk of my Welsh Nationalist force

So no, I won’t be complaining about my dice rolls this time!

I deployed my troops: an anti-tank rifle team covering the road bridge, and a section of veteran militia hiding in one of the mill buildings (which I had ringed with ranging poles in the hope that this would put the Royalists off from investigating the mill too closely).

Welsh guarding the bridge

The rest of the force came on – L-R irregular cavalry, veteran militia, anti-tank team, regular Hotchkiss HMG team, regular ‘Mountain Goat’ hill fighters, artillery piece and medical back-up, irregular uniformed infantry and HQ, veteran militia and an irregular steam tank.

Giles' Royalist militia

The Royalists then deployed, with Giles’ militia on the hills facing my right flank, including a mortar and ‘Croydon Crusher’ quad bike and Roo’s TA, with artillery piece and toffee apple mortar, stretching from opposite my cavalry on my left to the mill in the centre.

Roo's Territorials

So two mortars and a big gun. Any passive defence on my part would see me blown to bits once they came into range, so, although outnumbered; I had to go on the offensive!

Demonstrating on the left

My Welsh moved forward. On my left the cavalry trotted up to within range of an advancing TA section. As in the previous game their job was to fire and withdraw repeatedly in order to keep this flank occupied. Up the road alongside them marched a section of veteran militia (since the early days of VBCW gaming, Welsh militiamen had assisted the Anglican League, thus earning their veteran status).

Advance in the centre

In the centre my HMG, hill fighters and uniformed militia (eager, but untrained volunteers from the Celtic diaspora) climbed the hills on my side and dipped down towards the river (fordable in one move to infantry). Also crowning the hill were the artillery spotters, who with an elevated view were able to call down fire on a sizeable portion of the battlefield.

My right flank

On my right the anti-tank rifle prepared to face whatever vehicles came their way, while the steam tank and veteran militia moved up to the woodland on my far right flank. Meanwhile in the mill, the final section of militia kept quiet. If the ranging poles kept the Royalists away then they would have room to emerge at a pertinent time and fire on them from the rear. Otherwise they would stay put until such times as they were needed.

Royalist quad bike attacks!

On my left the cavalry and militia soon came under fire from the TA, lining the hedges and fences on the opposite side of the river. On the other flank the Royalist mortar began to fire at my steam tank while their quad bike roared along the road in an attempt to rake my militia with MG fire before they could tangle with the irregular Royalists entering the wood on the other side.

Royalist mincemeat

In the centre, a section of Royalists militia advanced down the lane towards the river and the Welsh positions. As they came to a T-junction they were seen by my spotters. Flags were waved and signals passed… ‘Boom!’ went the artillery! ‘Argh!’ went the Royalists as the entire section, fitting nicely under the template, was blown to smithereens!


My militia turned on the advancing Royalist quad bike, which quickly slammed on it’s brakes and went into reverse, but not before a shot from my anti-tank rifle ripped through it and oil, bike parts and bits of rider splattered across the road.

Wary Territorials

On the left, Roo’s TA were warily edging around the mill, cautious of the ranging poles and unsure of their exact purpose (unlike Giles’ militia, who happily uprooted them as they passed). The TA entered the mill grounds and a section sheltered behind the buildings, but did not go in – yet…

Hill fighters move up

Fire from the TA on my left was proving to be rather hot, so I temporarily pulled back the cavalry and militia, whose return fire had been less effective. In the centre the hill fighters had waded the river and snaked around high hedges as they moved forward to tackle another section of Royalist militia.

Militias tangle in the woods

On my right the Welsh militia advanced through the woods to engage their opposite numbers, giving them both barrels of their shotguns every-other turn and relying on their few rifles and an SMG as they reloaded. My steam tank and the Royalist mortar exchanged fire, with the mortar clipping the tank and immobilising it.

English brutality writ large (and in blood!)

By now my HMG team had hauled their Hotchkiss over the hill and down to a hedge near the riverbank. They were seen by the TA’s spotters and an artillery shell duly appeared above them… BOOM! As the dust settled the HMG team dusted themselves off, unhurt, but, horror of horrors the Welsh doctor and his nurses lay in stricken in the ground! English perfidy at its worst! This callous shelling of non-combatant medical staff, bearing the sacred Red Cross, will go down in the annals of atrocity.

Fighting over the mill

Hiding in the mill, the militia veterans did their best to keep quiet, but right on the other side of the door the TA were lurking, debating whether to enter the building. Time to act! Bursting open every available door and window the militia opened up on the startled TA. Alas the result wasn’t as severe as I had hoped, and the Territorials soon recovered and charged into the building. It took us a while to work out how to proceed rule-wise, and in the end, to make things clearer, we queued up the defenders on the open ground outside the building, and added one extra attacker to each queue for every victorious round of melee that went to the Royalists.

Anyone fancy a kebab?

In the centre the hill fighters fired at the Royalist militia as my untrained uniformed infantry crossed the river to support them. However, thanks to a chance event card (one of the perils of getting the highest initiative card is that you run the risk of triggering a random event) they had discovered a stash of beer barrels en-route and were by now well and truly plastered! With negative modifiers on both movement and an already rubbish to-hit score, these irregulars were now pretty useless.

Steam tank, tanked out!

In the woods on my right, my militia were slowly gaining the upper hand and were outflanking Giles’ troops. However the Royalists were selling every inch dearly, and to cap it all their mortar, which had held steady under my steam tank’s MG fire, now scored a direct hit and knocked the poor old girl out of action.

Back for another crack at the flank

From left to right then: my increasingly flaky cavalry section was trotting back and forth, shooting and getting shot at. My militia was duking it out in the mill, while another section warily advanced up the road in the teeth of TA fire. The uniformed mob was drunk and staggering towards the mill while the hill fighters stalked the Royalist militia. The HMG and artillery fired at targets whenever they presented themselves and the anti-tank rifle and militia section moved through the woods past my stricken steam tank.

I hope there's a loo in here!

The territorial’s artillery blasted forth once again, landing a round near my drunken uniformed infantry. Shaken, but largely intact, they took refuge in the unoccupied mill cottage, kept in order by the Welsh morale officer.

At the T-junction of death

The hill fighters had by now cleared the tall hedges and crossed the ‘T-junction of death’, boots crunching over pieces of Royalist militia in pursuit of the other section, who were carrying out a fighting withdrawal.

Turning the Royalists' flank

The Welsh militia eventually cleared the woods on the right, and with the anti-tank rifle acting as a glorified sniper, began to shoot at the Royalist mortar and HQ teams. The mortar was soon silenced and the Royalist standard bearer felled.

Moving the gun forward

To my surprise, my advance was doing rather well, even if I was paying a heavy price for it. Deciding that it was time to bring up the big guns, I limbered my artillery piece up to my caterpillar tractor and crossed the river – the spotting team advancing before it.

TA artillery suffers

There then followed a couple of rounds of counter-battery fire between the Welsh and the TA, with the TA coming off worse. Soon my HMG team had felled their spotters, enabling me to blast away with relative impunity, taking out a hefty chunk of the TA section that had finally won the firefight with my cavalry and was now advancing to the centre.

Pressure mounts at the mill

In the mill, my rapidly dwindling militia section was being soundly roughed up by the TA, but their fellows had advanced to a nearby hedge and were shooting at the TA mortar team, which, after being inactive for most of the game, was now lobbing toffee apples at them.

Hill fighters push on

On the right and centre, Giles’ Royalists were largely at the mercy of the hill fighters and militia, and were also being fired at from behind by the drunken Welsh in the mill cottage.

Closing scenes

With nowhere to retreat to, the militia in the mill had fought to the last man, but the TA eventually secured the building. While the Royalist’s left was crumbling, the TA on their right was bloodied but unbowed, and still enjoyed the support of their mortar and a battered but intact artillery piece.

Closing scenes

For my part, the Welsh could claim to have held the vital crossing points and dealt the Royalists a very bloody nose, but had also taken a beating for their trouble. My artillery and HMG was largely untouched and effective, and my hill fighters still going strong, but the rest of my force was either too far away on the flank, too depleted or just too drunk to be of much use!

Closing scenes 

A pyrrhic victory for the Welsh. The railway line to Kington remained blocked, but only temporarily as the Welsh would not be able to muster enough reinforcements in time to defend against a further push by the Royalists. The route to Kington is open.

Perhaps I shouldn't have posted a militia section in the mill, as being holed up in there meant that they were largely wasted, and perhaps I should have done more with the uniformed infantry before they got drunk – questions will be asked in the Senedd!

Giles' account of proceedings is in four parts, starting here.

In conclusion: a very enjoyable game against two worthy and honourable opponents!