Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Six hot tips for a wargaming Christmas

Well, it's Christmas already and time to think about how best to utilise the time off work to get a spot of wargaming in, ideally without bringing on a wintry state of affairs domestically.

Here are my tips.

1) Be honest.  Tell the missus what the plans are, but there's no need to be too specific.  Don't go into detail about scenario matters, scale, your emotional state or what prep you need to do.  "6mm...M60A1s...Fulda Gap...really excited" is too much information; "Bruce'" ought to do it.

2) Give adequate warning.  "Morning dear, three of the chaps are coming over for a game in an hour or so. You'll want to go to your mum's with the kids for the day.  We should be done around 7ish.  Thanks!" might have just about been all right for granddad, but it is unlikely to be all right for me.

3) Maintain wiggle room.  Try and keep a couple of days as options in case there are unforeseen difficulties, parties to attend, family outings, unexpected TV character sightings, etc.  There are few more powerful words in the English language than "oh, would Friday suit you better then honey?"

4) Quid pro Quo.  Be prepared to do something in return.  My wife often has various reunion dinners to go to at this time of year.  If I offer to look after the kids while she lets her hair down she will gaze at me lovingly.  I will enjoy that as long as I can before mentioning the gaming plans, but not too long (see point 2).

5) If there are dark clouds in the living room, subtly contrast the wargaming life with the drinking life.  Mention how long it's been since you've done an all-nighter with the lads.  Chuckle about the good old days and that time you nearly got arrested.  Wonder aloud where the best bars are, and where you might have put notorious-booze-hound-mate-numero-uno's phone number.  Several days later, again raise the subject of going out with the lads.  When you see her clutch at the table and shiver, sweetly say there is talk about going round to Murray's for a wargame, and would that be all right with her?  The relief will be so palpable you might even be able to get an extra hour or two's grace to squeeze in a quiet beer!

6) Be cool.  If there are some disagreements over priorities, give a little ground.  Agree; suggest some ways that you can be accommodating for the good of all, and when you find an opening, exploit it ruthlessly!

There you are then, my top six tips.  I cannot guarantee that these will work for anyone other than me - and can barely guarantee them then - but you never know, they might be worth a shot!

Cheers, and happy holidays to you all!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Could use some chariots? They're yours!

I have three painted Gallic chariots in a state of disrepair that I got many moons ago as part of an ebay deal.  The rest of the Gauls were touched up and sent on, but I didn't do anything with the chariots. 

As I face facts, I never will do anything with them, so the choices I have are to turf them or give them away.

The old heart rebels at the thought of callously dumping old and possibly much loved (though not by me!) lead, so if you or anyone you know might like these leave a comment below with some contact details and I'll get in touch for your address. 

Not sure what make they are (Lancashire, perhaps?) but they are 15mm.  One is broken (and the others may well break in transit), but the pieces are all there; they'll just need to be reattached by a suitable method.

If you can give these a good home, they're yours!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Society of Ancients Slingshot sale

The Society of Ancients has a sale on its pre-2011 back issue Slingshots on at the moment.  You can get a year's supply for the cost of one magazine + shipping.
You can find more info about Operation Balearic here.  John Graham-Leigh has done a great summary of the article highlights for each year, and you can find this at the link just given. 
There's some good stuff, and this is probably the last chance to get these issues.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Work in progress - Samnite horse

As a bit of a break from Gauls I've decided to make a start on the small Samnite contingent I need to do to be able to put on Sentinum with Lost Battles.

These horsemen are a real mixed bag: 8 Old Glory Samnite cavalry, 7 Strategia Nova (ex Strategia e Tattica) Samnites, 3 Strategia Nova Romans and - to further make up numbers - a Thracian cavalryman with his helmet trimmed down.

The Old Glory figures didn't come with shields, so I made some up with a plastic folder cover and a hole punch.  Crude, but if I don't mention it on the blog no one need be any the wiser... 

Anyway, these chaps will make 2 units of 9 and a commander.  They are nowhere near finished yet, but it's a nice change of pace after the recent Gallic frenzy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gallic chariot test model

Here's a test model for the Gallic chariots I ordered from Old Glory 15s a while ago.  All chariots are a pain to do for someone of my limited modelling skills and general impatience, but I do love how the blighters look when they are done...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fragmentation of the hobby?

I've just finished reading the Polemarch's recent post on wargame communities, which struck a chord with me in view of the statistics I noticed today while checking my blog stats.

Now, hits are not why I blog (and the greater good of 'the hobby' is not why I play, for that matter!), but it seems that my hit numbers have been going up.  The last few months I've been getting between 4000 and 5000 hits, and last month I got close to 6000.  While you would think this would be pleasing, my suspicion is that in real terms the number of interested *human* viewers has actually gone down.  The stats show that I have hundreds of hits from various 'vampire stats' and 'crawler' sites, but have remarkably few hits (even by my standards!) on actual recent posts.

As an example, when I post a battle report here I often link to it on TMP.  Two years ago I could expect to get around 300 hits in the first couple of days, with these then dropping off over time.  Most of my older battle reports have somewhere between 400 and 1500 hits, with this presumably depending on whether they were any good, got shared around, turned up on searches or whatever.

But lately I am lucky to get 100 hits from TMP over the first couple of days, and will end up with between 100 and 300 hits in total, from all sources.

This leads to several possible conclusions:

1) my reports are a lot worse than they used to be (quite possible!)
2) people know me, dislike me, and now know not to click (highly possible!)
3) gamers have changed their habits and tend not to click on external links, or are content to see just the 'teaser' photos on the thread (quite possible)
4) there is considerably less traffic on these TMP threads than there used to be (probable)

If the latter is true - and I certainly see a lot fewer posters on the ancients boards than I remember from the past, and recent posts seem to get fewer hits than older posts - then I have to wonder what it is about this hobby that seems to lead to fragmentation.  It happens with yahoo groups and it seems to happen with forums.

Why is it that we split into smaller and smaller cells?  I guess bloggers are the ultimate in 'one cell' groupings, and probably contribute immensely to the decentralisation.

Is it that we are too individualistic and argumentative to put up with forum rules?  Is it that we get bored?  Do we like to differentiate ourselves from others?  Is it that we get a sense that something is dying and move on to somewhere else?  Do we like to pick up our (metaphorical) ball and go home?  Is it that (God forbid) we give up wargaming altogether?

Now, I am not a big believer in virtual 'community' in any real sense.  I'm too much of a cynic probably, though having said that I do greatly value the personal connections I've built up with fellow enthusiasts over the time I've been (virtually) involved with gaming.

But I do think that a loose conglomeration of gamers who drop in and out of a virtual communal clubhouse is a very good thing for the hobby because it is a VERY good thing for individual gamers.  It is no exaggeration to say that I wouldn't have become a gamer without the information, advice and, at times, encouragement I got (and still get) from TMP.

Assuming it is not just a figment of my imagination, it seems to me that this tendency to fragmentation - even if it is natural and cyclical - is not a thing to celebrate. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Caesar's Battles: Bibracte

"It's the Helvetii, Gaius Julius!"

In 58 BC, while shadowing the Helvetii, a migrating Gallic tribe supposedly menacing Roman allies and territory, Caesar took  a detour towards the town of Bibracte to stock up on food supplies.  Hearing of this from deserters, the Helvetii decided to launch a surprise attack.  In the words of the man himself (from the first book of his Gallic War):

The Helvetii, either because they thought that the Romans, struck with terror, were retreating from them . . . or because they flattered themselves that [the Romans] might be cut off from the provisions, altering their plan and changing their route, began to pursue, and to annoy our men in the rear(1.23)

[Caesar]  drew up on the middle of the hill a triple line of his four veteran legions . . . he placed above him on the very summit the two legions which he had lately levied in Hither Gaul, and all the auxiliaries; and he ordered that the whole mountain should be covered with men, and that meanwhile the baggage should be brought together into one place, and the position be protected by those who were posted in the upper line. The Helvetii having followed with all their wagons, collected their baggage into one place: they themselves, after having repulsed our cavalry and formed a phalanx, advanced up to our front line in very close order. (1.24)

In Lost Battles, the Gauls get the first move.  My plan was to have them advance as quickly as they could in an effort to rush the Roman position on the hills.  It didn't look impossible, but Caesar's trump card was having five late-arriving units off-table (shown here in camp) which he could bring on to reinforce the line where reinforcement was most needed.

Complicating matters for the Gauls is that their infantry line is fighting out of a river (attack penalty for the lead unit), fighting up hill (attack penalty for the lead unit), fighting fresh legionaries (attack penalty for the lead unit) and that the army, with no named generals, is short on intrinsic command points.  In their favour, the Gauls have numbers and the better cavalry.

So much for the preliminaries; let's now go to the battle itself.

It begins as the Gauls advance their infantry line into and across the river.

They attack Caesar's left with the veteran cavalry (it's actually illegal to attack up hill when charging from distance, but I forgot that in the heat of the moment).

In the Roman turn Caesar brings two units of legionaries and the light infantry in on the right of the hill, recalling the levy cavalry into position behind them.

The Roman attacks are effective: the cavalry defend the hill line and the veteran infantry fire off their pila to decent effect (4 hits are scored).

His soldiers hurling their javelins from the higher ground easily broke the enemy's phalanx. (1.25)

On their turn the Gauls are finding it difficult to coordinate their attacks (lack of command points due to a low command die roll), but they attack up the hill (an all-out attack succeeds, which hits both the attacker and the defender) and move the cavalry on the left into line.

They do not have the ability yet to advance on the Roman right.

The Romans attack downhill again, with more success.  They shatter the Gallic cavalry assaulting their left and continue to do damage to the infantry line (3 more hits are scored).

The Gallic left advances against the Romans on the right of the hill.

In the centre the tribesmen start to put some pressure back on the legionaries as the Roman first line tires (3 hits).

The Roman second lines come into action with devastating effect. The Gallic line holds, but only just.  The centre is now completely spent (7 hits).

[The Romans] made a charge on them with drawn swords.  It was a great hindrance to the Gauls in fighting that, when several of their bucklers had been by one stroke of the pila pierced through and pinned fast together, as the point of the iron had bent itself, they could neither pluck it out, nor, with their left hand entangled, fight with sufficient ease; so that many, after having tossed their arm about, chose rather to cast away the buckler from their hand, and to fight with their person unprotected. (1.25)

The Roman cavalry - actually allied Gauls - are now in position behind the Gallic centre-right, which is not good for morale, and obstructs any Gallic withdrawal to the hill in the rear.

The Romans are again beginning to tire, but they have more fresh  reserves to call on than the Gauls do at this point (2 hits from the Gauls).

The Romans shatter an infantry unit now, but the rest of the line stands firm (2 hits).

With time running out, the Gauls make one more supreme effort to break the Roman will.  Concerted attacks knock the breath out the legionaries but their experience keeps them from folding under the pressure (4 hits).

At Caesar's command the Romans seize the initiative: a grinding push in the centre shatters two units and panic spreads (a double hit causes two shatters and this is followed by a morale roll of 1).

At length, worn out with wounds, they began to give way. (1.25)

The Gallic left holds on for a little longer, but once the situation elsewhere becomes apparent it also breaks. The cavalry get clean away, but the infantry are not so fortunate.

The battle is over, and Caesar has won an important victory!


The refight followed the general course of Caesar's description fairly closely, up to where the Helvetii retreat to the hill on their side of the field and up which the Romans pursue them. Of course, due to the Roman cavalry in the Gallic rear the Gauls never got a chance to withdraw in the refight.  If they had been able to do so it might have been a different result.

The Romans score 82. 5 shattered, 11 routed, 2 withdrawn.
The Gauls score 76. 11 spent; handicap of 35.

The result is still tight, but the Romans have done enough to ensure the victory.


The Gauls may do better by retreating back to the hill and drawing the Romans forward into the disadvantageous river sections.  Of course, they can't do that with unprotected flanks, so the cavalry on the right has to be better used or, failing that, more successful with its dice rolling.

It was a good fight, and some subtle tweaks to strategy here and there are crying out to be tested.  I was also quite pleased - after recent painting efforts - to be able to field a Gallic army :)  I'm looking forward to using it again.

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