Thursday 12 January 2023

Wounded leaders and a Mahdist gun - more for the Sudan

With CanCon only ten days away I'm putting final touches to everything I will need to run the four participation games of Sharp Practice set in the Sudan. The last remaining item was to find a couple of prone British figures to use as markers for when a leader takes a temporary wound that has him incapacitated for a while. 

I have created figures already for leaders that take a wound that remains with them for the duration of the game (you can see how I made these in this post). 

In their case I use a standing figure with a bandage, but for those who are literally knocked off their feet for a while I like to use a prone figure. The quickest solution I could find was to use the two prone figures that come on the command sprue in the Perry Zulu War set. Of course the uniforms are not exactly the same, the main difference being the lack of puttees, but in several other respects they are very similar. The only modification I made was to trim the lace off the jacket sleeves. I thought about having a go at making puttees, but given the figures are glorified markers and may never even see use in a game I thought I'd fudge it a bit and rely on the paint to do the work.

When needed I simply substitute the existing leader figure with the prone figure. Should the leader dust himself off and get back on his feet again then the original figure is returned to the base. Obviously their main role is to serve as game markers, but they also help to tell the narrative and that certainly makes it worth going to the effort of creating them. 

The other addition is a Mahdist gun and crew from the Perry Sudan range. This is a very atmospheric set with three of the crew representing captured Egyptian gunners pressed into service by the Mahdists. A dejected looking lot who are suitably attired in ragged clothes and shackled at the ankle. The fourth figure is their Mahdist overseer who is about to compound their misery by giving one of the gunners a beating.

I've based the gun and two figures together and kept the other two on separate bases so I can remove casualties. I used the sanding tool on my Dremel to make recesses in the gun base so that the figures can all fit around the gun and blend in.

As I said in my post reviewing my 2022 gaming year, the Sudan project grew from a modest start and has taken on a life of its own. It's not finished just yet (if any project can ever be truly called 'finished'), but I think I'm close to having most of what I need for the scale of games I'm playing. On the workbench at the moment are three groups of Naval Brigade infantry and their leaders; one more group of regular British infantry and another twenty Beja spearmen. Once they're completed I think I can be reasonably satisfied I have the units I will need to cover most of the likely scenarios I'd want to play, but hey....never say never, eh?

Thursday 5 January 2023

2022 A Gaming Year in Review

The year started with the completion of a core German and British platoon for the First World War for use with Through the Mud & Blood.

This was one of a few unfinished projects that I set my sights on completing in 2022. The noble idea was to get these all done before embarking on anything new. Well I think it goes without saying that didn't go exactly to plan, however in my defence, I can say that I made a pretty decent job of finishing many of them (and yes, it's true, I did embark on a few new projects.....).

Unfortunately the First World War figures haven't seen as much action as I would have liked this year, but we did play a couple of games at the club, the one below using a scenario set in Pozieres that was published in the 2021 Lard Magazine. I didn't have enough urban terrain in 28mm so we shoehorned the figures into my 20mm urban ruins. It was a bit of a squash at times but we managed to make it work.

Naturally we had the obligatory Second World War campaign using Chain of Command. In this case it was Many Rivers to Cross set in the Netherlands in 1940. It gave my regular opponent Dave an opportunity to use his Dutch platoon and early war Germans. The campaign lasted a total of nine games and to most people's surprise the Dutch acquitted themselves very well, putting up an extremely stiff fight (you can find all the battle reports for this and other campaigns on this page). 

While Dave supplied the miniatures I supplied all the terrain and as is often the case with a new campaign it was an opportunity to add a few extra pieces. In this case a windmill, a barn and a shop.

Most of my buildings have a decidedly French look to them and so I created sets of walled and fenced front gardens which are common sights in many Dutch towns. I made these in a modular way to keep their use flexible.

Having said all the miniatures were Dave's, that wasn't quite true. I took the opportunity to put together a few early war German tanks including these three PzKpfwI which made an appearance in several scenarios.

The Sudan was a project that really grew from a very modest start. Initially it was a lockdown project in 2021. The aim was to paint up a few boxes of Perry plastic British and Mahdist Ansar that had been bought on a whim and had been sitting in the stash for a couple of years. I had intended to use them for a rule set like The Men Who Would Be Kings, but the appearance of a Sudan variant for Sharp Practice in the 2021 Lard Magazine grabbed my attention and absorbed a lot of gaming time in 2022.

I have a British and Mahdist force but a couple of the members of the club also have forces suitable for the period and so my Mahdists took on a few different opponents. Aside from the British they confronted Egyptians and Bashi-bazouk.

And even the Belgian Force Publique.

It goes almost without saying, but as my enthusiasm grew so did my force. For the British there was a 7 Pounder Screw Gun from Perry Miniatures.

A mounted unit was one glaring omission and so a group of Perry Miniatures 19th Hussars arrived to join the British.

The Mahdists were not neglected and a group of Baggara horsemen joined them, once again from the excellent Perry range.

I needed something to be the objective for an escort scenario and this wonderful camel train from Empress Miniatures was ideal.

Slowly but surely I added all the extras that improve the visual appeal of a game like deployment points.

The inclusion of an arm with a sling and bare heads in the Perry plastic sets was all the encouragement I needed to make a few wounded figures to use instead of markers when a leader took a wound.

Talking of Sharp Practice, my original project for these rules - the American War of Independence, was not entirely brushed aside by my enthusiasm for the Sudan. I was determined to stick to the task for the year and continue to finish off the projects that I had started. One of which was two groups of generic loyalist infantry. I had made these using the plastic Perry sets taking a torso from the American infantry set and adding arms and hats from the British set.

They were put into action quickly at a game I ran at another club in Sydney that I attend from time to time.

I ran an introductory game of Sharp Practice also set during the AWI for one of the members at my regular club.

Another unfinished projects I had hoped to complete in 2022 was a group of Native Americans. In this case a dozen metal figures from Perry Miniatures.

These come in sets of six which gave me only enough for a core group of twelve without a leader, so rather than buy a command group I decided I could scratch build a leader using a torso from one of the Perry AWI plastic sets and arms from the Sudan Mahdist Ansar set. Hair and bag involved a bit of simple sculpting with Milliput. The end result gave me a fairly distinctive looking figure.

The Second World War remains my major interest for gaming and so little surprise this took up some of my time on the workbench. Much of this was motivated by my desire to complete more of those various unfinished projects. I have many of the Plastic Soldier Company sets of 1/72 tanks and often I have one more than I need and it's been my intention with some of the British and American tanks that I use them as lend-lease vehicle for my Russians.

That's allowed me to paint up a PSC Valentine and M4A2 (76) and a spare S-Models Matilda that were made some time ago but remained unpainted. Crews are from AB Figures.

Talking of AB Figures they do a very nice set of Russian tank riders and as I have a platoon of SMG armed Russians I thought it would be great to have a T-34 with riders mounted on it. Whether I'd actually have them ride into battle on a Chain of Command table is uncertain given the hazardous nature of the close range, but gosh, they will look nice!

The Russians were not the only ones to have their tank pool reinforced. The Bazooka Town campaign for Chain of Command that featured in the 2021 Lard Magazine included two Tiger II, a tank rarely seen in a skirmish level game, never mind two of them. It was the incentive I needed to pull out the box from Pegasus Hobbies that quite conveniently includes two models.

As the campaign also called for the Americans to have a Pershing that required a new purchase and a slight diversion from the year's goal of finishing the unfinished before starting something new.

They also have the option for an M36 Jackson and I didn't have one of those either and so, yes, another small distraction.

I spent some of the year play testing a few of the new rules that will be incorporated in the forthcoming Far East and Pacific Handbook for Chain of Command and so my focus also shifted to that theatre. The new rules add much to make games in the Far East interesting from specific terrain rules through to those that reflect Japanese tactics and the Allies growing proficiency at jungle fighting. The play test games were a good opportunity to get out the Far East terrain and figures.

A few of the unfinished projects included filling a few gaps in the Far East forces. It was only fairly recently I discovered that the venerable 18 pounder gun that had served so effectively for the British and Commonwealth armies in 1914-18 was still in use in the early part of the Second World War including the Far East. The gun was modified slightly with a new carriage and pneumatic tyres to enable it to be towed by a vehicle but was otherwise the same gun. Fortunately SHQ make this version and so with an added crew from AB Figures (in this case a few of their Western Desert force 25 pounder crew) I was able to make good this omission in the British arsenal.

Similarly I'd been missing a 47mm anti-tank gun for my Japanese and this gun and crew came from SHQ.

SHQ also do a few Japanese casualties, figures that always come in useful when taking the photos for the AARs on this blog.

Staying with the Japanese I also painted three AFVs that had been lingering in the unfinished pile.

While we tend to think of combat in the Far East and the Pacific as mostly jungle fighting, that is only part of the story. Urban fighting took place in cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai. With that in mind I allowed myself to become a little sidetracked and try my hand at converting a few die cast trucks for use in this theatre. The main intention was to use them as scatter terrain, especially for fighting around rail depots, docks or warehouses. These are all from the Lledo 'Days Gone' range and they've been given a paint job and a new set of decals.

I've been doing a bit of work on a Chindit campaign and so I've given some thought to possible ambush scenarios and that in turn has led me to think about suitable Japanese transport and supply columns that could feature in scenarios.

I decided to use one of the die cast trucks to represent a captured or repurposed civilian vehicle in military use with the Japanese.

For more remote or rural locations I added this set of mules and handlers from 172 Scale Miniatures.

Aside from the Chain of Command and Sharp Practice games the year also saw the usual mix of other rule sets that is one of the benefits of a club where members have a variety of interests. Games took me well out of my comfort zone and usual gaming mix and included Marvel action with Crisis Protocol.

Action on the moon in the 1980s between the Americans and Russians using Lunar.

Before returning back to more familiar historical ground where I joined in a game set during the War of Spanish Succession using Maurice.

I had several opportunities to use my 12mm Second World War collection, this time for Crossfire. Played at this scale on a 4x4 table worked very well for a club night.

All in all a very productive year with lots painted and a good variety of games played. On the wider hobby front the only thing I didn't do as much of as I would have liked was reading. The unread pile is growing much faster than my ability to read it. Not sure quite why that's the case but for some reason I'm not getting through books as quickly as I used to.

One major highlight of the year was a trip up to northern Queensland to the impressive collection at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum. I went with three friends who have gamed together for many years and we had an excellent weekend making the most of two full days at the museum for their Armourfest event featuring their running vehicles and much more.

2022 was a good year to get back fully into the hobby after the disruptions of previous years. While lockdowns never stopped me painting or making things it severely curtailed gaming and shows and so it was last year was a welcome return to a more rounded gaming life. Let's hope 2023 continues in that vein!