Wednesday 30 June 2010

Before there was Ian Weekley - there was Bill Holmes and Deltorama

Before there was Ian Weekley, making marvellous buildings to order and having lavishly illustrated articles in the wargames press, there was Bill Holmes.

Bill Holmes set up Deltorama in 1967 as the first wargames construction service, making model buildings for Brigadier Peter Young, among others (as refereed to in Charge!)

Early Wargamer's Newsletters were studded with Deltorama advertisements with line drawings of completed commissions. Sadly Bill died around 1970. In May that year Don Featherstone posted a double page tribute made up of some of these line drawing images.

Before doing a little research for this post, I had never made the connection between Bill Holmes and the war journal featured in Don Featherstone's Solo-Wargaming book, the one with the inspirational North West Frontier campaign and pictures of Tradition 25mm figures.

Don Featherstone writing in Solo-Wargaming, Kaye & Ward 1973

“The late Bill Holmes of Deltorama had a series of such journals in which he recorded the activities of his troops, embellishing these accounts with drawings and photographs of their operations. Using as a background the wonderful buildings for which he was professionally renowned, Bill posed his figures most realistically as they attacked forts … or fought against ambushes in the rocky defiles of the North-West Frontier. There is no limit to the ingenuity that the wargamer can display in compiling a journal – Bill Holmes even went so far as to make his own army forms and letter-headings complete with rubber-stamped markings and so on, and inserted them into the journal to record when an order was received from a higher formation, for example. A journal is very much a personalized affair but the sample pages given on the opposite page (below) can serve as a guide.”

Sunday 27 June 2010

Paddy Griffith: War, Wargames and Strong Drink, Wargamer's Newsletter 195, June 1978

I am indebted to the Unfashionably Shiny DC for pointing me to the right number of Wargamer's Newsletter for the Paddy Griffith article I really wanted to post.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Paddy Griffith: A Blast of Grapeshot, Wargamer's Newsletter

I have been wondering what would be an appropriate way to mark the sad passing of Paddy Griffith. There are on line obituaries from those who knew him, such as Bob Cordery's here, and personal memories on a number of fora.

I thought it might be appropriate to post some examples of his earlier articles, which people may not have seen before. In no particular order, the represent his scholarship, his robust line in argument, his wide ranging interests, his willingness to challenge and question established orthodoxy, and his innovation in wargaming.

Reading some of the personal reminiscences, I seemed to recall seeing an article by him on alcohol - the missing factor in wargaming. I have spent much of today looking for it without finding it, so I don't know if this was real or imagined. It would have made an appropriate tribute to an affable man, and would have achieved a pleasing symmetry with Jack Scruby's article on Smoking and Wargames, posted here.

In the first of a series of five posts, here is an energetic response to Fred Vietmeyer, writing in Wargamer's Newsletter. As my copy of this issue has lost it's cover and front page, I can't tell exactly when it was published.

Paddy Griffith: The Prusso-Danish War of 1864, Wargamer's Newsletter 73, April 1968

Paddy Griffith: Marshal Bugeaud's tactical principles, Miniature Warfare August 1971

Paddy Griffith:The answer to limited wargames, Wargamer's Newsletter August 1967

Paddy Griffith: Some thoughts on Napoleonic maritime strategy, Miniature Warfare August 1968

Thursday 24 June 2010

Hinchliffe System 12

Sometime in 1976, I remember a full - maybe double - page advert in (I think) Military Modelling, advertising a whole system of Napoleonic figures and scenic items. It looked a very exciting concept and was Hinchliffe's System 12. Sadly, by the time I assembled anything like enough money to buy some of the products, it had all fizzled quietly out. I think there may have been something about the figures all breaking off at the ankles - it certainly seemed to be a short-lived episode.

The scans are from te 1976 Hinchliffe Handbook and the December 1976 Hinchliffe price list.

Early results from the play test

Early conclusions from the play test seem to be:

Mining was too effective and given too long a reach - only shorter (1 hex) tunnels should be allowed.

The rules for mortars and howitzers made these weapons almost completely ineffectual in the siege.

Either we should have gone with field batteries instead or Tony needs to tweak these rules.

(given the ineffectiveness of much of the besiegers' artillery and the destruction of most of their battering train, the excessive power of their mining operations proved their only opportunity of making a breach).

Consideration needs to be given to starting fires in a town.

The setting of a digging standard for each day had little effect and it was unclear how this did (or should) relate to mining options.

In general the basic mechanisms of the rules worked well enough to make it now worth adding extras such as a general morale barometer for the inhabitants of the town, consider chance cards etc, as well as revising mortar and howitzer fire, and mining rules, as above.

I also should metion the 15mm Vauban fortifications shown are from the Terrain Warehouse.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Napoleonic Siege Wargame play test - the assault

The crater at the front is from the first mine, which exploded underneath the glacis. The third successful British mine destroyed a bastion, the ravelin, and the section of wall under bombardment from the sole remaining 18 pdr.

Two battalions of Hessians marched forward to block the breach, their skirmishers to the fore.

The first battalion was routed before contact and the Portuguese attackers took the ground. The second battalion of defenders fell back into the town.

More allied battalions pour into the town.

The Portuguese in possession.

At any point in the siege either side can opt to "go tactical". This indicates a shift from siege rules where one bound equals twenty four hours, to tactical rules where a bound represents half an hour. The tactical rules are to cope with sallies, raids, assaults and other occurrences. They are a cut down version of Tony's main battle rules, which are hex based and computer managed.

The siege and tactical rules are not yet computerised, as we were testing them to make sure they are workable first. More play testing is required, with various tweaks suggested by our weekend's experience.

I will be posting some photos from the pitched battle we fought between Portuguese/Spanish and Italian/Spanish forces on the other figure blogs.

Napoleonic Siege Wargame play test - digging parallels and batteries

Digging parallels and batteries is the task of the infantry battalions taking part of the siege. While out of artillery range (the first and second parallels) this is relatively risk free, but owing to the survival of the majority of the defenders' artillery attempts to establish the third parallel led to heavy casualties among the digging parties. This was only resolved by the success of the third mine, which meant the third parallel was not required.

In the test, wooden blocks (from cheap Jenga-like games) were used for trench sections. Parallels need to have both a front and reverse side. Parallels are dug by subunits (six men in two ranks).

Batteries require digging parties two sub units deep, which provide consequently better targets. We used field emplacements from the Italeri artillery sets (French Napoleonic and American Civil war) for the battery postions once established.

Napoleonic Siege Wargame play test - British artillery

The British artillery park beyond the line of countervallation centres on the rocket battery - S Range launchers, crew, draught horses and drivers, with Lamming limber and rocket wagon. An S Range heavy mortar and crew is visible on the front row. (Apologies for a fuzzy photo).

These two 18 pdrs on field carriages are from Fine Scale Factory, with Hinton Hunt crews. The guns scale out almost identically with the more easily available Hinchliffe 25mm model of the same piece.

Standing in as the ill-fated second heavy battery are these two Hinchliffe 18 pdrs (not 24 pdr as I previously thought), one on a garrison carriage, the other on a naval carriage. Really these should also have been on field carriages but they were what was available to us. As events unfurled, these four guns were barely enough and did not themselves secure a breach.

Other supporting artillery included rocket, field, mortar and howitzer batteries. While the rockets enjoyed one success they also blew themselves up, and the mortars proved extremely ineffective at counter battery fire. In the end the British would have done better with fewer specialised and more general batteries.

Napoleonic Siege Wargame play test - French garrison artillery

Tony's fortress is 15mm scale, to allow for an acceptable footprint and leaving enough room on the table for three parallels and a line of circumvallation. This leaves little room on the walls so he has special garrison batteries, using Newline naval guns (to represent garrison carriages) and Zvezda gunners.

I brought three Lamming 12 pdrs, with S Range crews, which were posted on the three bastions. With their longer range these guns proved invaluable to the defence, and were a major hindrance to the progress of the siege.

Napoleonic Siege Wargame play test - sappers and engineers

The siege rules we were play testing required the use of engineer officers and teams of sappers and miners for - wait for it - sapping and mining operations. Driving forward the saps to move forward and enable the digging of the next parallel was specialist work, as was the digging of mines and counter mines as the siege drew towards its conclusions.

In our play test mining seemed too easy and too effective - the French destroyed one of the two main siege batteries, while the British blew up two major sections of glacis and covered way, and then made their breach through successfully mining and destroying a bastion, ravelin and section of wall. As at this point they were down to one 18 pdr siege gun, if the mine had failed they would have faced a long trickling bombardment or a risky and costly escalade.

By contrast the allied digging parties seeking to establish the third parallel (before the detonation of the final mine) suffered huge casualties, as the garrison's artillery remained in numbers and could use canister fire.

Suitable vintage figures are few and far between. We mustered a few pioneers - an early Hinchliffe British one, and two (I think) Minifigs 20mm French pioneers. Hinton Hunt provided engineers of the guard (firemen) and some of the strange David Clayton line engineers, which he produced by swapping the heads on guard Engineers with heads in shakos.

Therefore we relied on plastics - the Strelets engineers in siege armour and the LW French engineers set, which I had no recollection of owning and came across while locating the Strelets figures. A very useful find as it contains a high proportion of officers, and the rules require teams of one officer and three men.

Suitable British figures were harder to find. We ended up with HaT sailors and a few orion English pirates. A couple of S Range Spanish officers in greatcoats with telescopes, and an S range infantry officer, were pressed into service as engineers.

Later (current) Minifigs include a set of French engineers in siege armour and a British set of sappers and miners, but I am not aware of these being produced in the S Range.

Help please - anyone recognise these?

I purchased these a while ago on e-bay and I wondered if anyone knew who the manufacturer was. I think they are 20/25mm scale rather than 15mm. The photo shows a bastion, two sections and a ravelin. The material is a light yellowish resin. Any leads would be appreciated.

Siege Warfare - Siege Warfare in the Pennsula 1808-1814 by David Chandler

The Hinchliffe Handbook for Wargamers and Collectors was published in 1976. Spiral bound, it contained lists and Norman Swales' line drawings of Hinchliffe ranges, with articles including one by Scotty Bowden on Organization and Uniforms of the American Civil War by Scotty Bowden.

I had been saving up the second article, by David Chandler, as a possible post here. When I contacted Ian Hinds of Hinchliffe for permission to use it, he told me it has actually been republished in Miniature Wargames, with lots of lush photos, around 14 months ago.

However, for those who hadn't seen it, I thought it would be useful to have the original version available. Thanks to Ian Hinds for agreeing to its posting here.

Siege Warfare - Siege of Dendermonde, by Ron MIles, in Battle Magazone

Shortly after the discovery of Christopher Duffy's Fire & Stone in the local lending library, Battle Magazine for Wargamers published a series of articles on a massive siege wargame run in Southampton by Ron Miles. This was a Marlburian siege, illustrated with photographs of the town set up, some rather lovely S range figures, and maps and plans of the town.

Henry Hyde has built a pdf containing all these articles which is available for download from the Battlegames website here.

Siege Warfare - Christopher Duffy's Fire & Stone

One of the books that suffered excessive borrowing from my local library in the mid-70s was Christopher Duffy's Fire & Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare 1660-1860.

Although fascinating in its own right, one of the major attractions was Appendix 3: 5 pages of simple rules for conducting a siege, accompanied by photographs of a siege wargame conducted by the Kriegspiel Soiety of RMA Sandhurst. This proved siege wargames were possible....

Duffy's rules have formed the start point for others, from Henry Hyde's War of Faltenian Succession siege rules to Tony's rules we were play testing in North Berwick last weekend

First published in 1975, Fire & Stone was reprinted in a smaller format by Castle Books in 2006.