Thursday, 12 July 2018

Ambush on the Nile Part 2

So last week we played a big Sudan Colonial game using the Men Who Would Be Kings ruleset – If you haven’t read that one can I suggest that you head there first and read that one before this post. Don’t worry there will be a link at the end of that post to bring you back here.

Last week’s game was a massive win for the locals – the sight of Dervishes pouring over the dunes and butchering the plucky Brits was somewhat out of keeping with the period but made for a fantastic game. So how did the same game play with a completely different set of rules?

This time we were going to use our trusty favourite Black Powder and I think it is fair to say they delivered an equally fascinating and exciting game.

Scene of some of the heaviest fighting - horses, camels, guns, natives whats not to like

The orders of battle, the set up and the terrain were exactly as before. The only difference being the assignment of commanders – each player received two Commanders with the British being given better ratings. Even the players who fought out last Mondays encounter fought in exactly the same position using the same troops.

Unfortunately there is no battle report but rather a delve into some of the variations of the games. I have chucked in a few photos

In the first game we saw the British slaughtered by a more numerous native horde and perhaps this justifies the points system in play for TMWWBK ruleset. Had the forces been evenly matched on points the result might have been different. The second game saw the result reversed and arguably a better result for historical accuracy. Again the battle was fought in about 2 hours – a rapid game of highs and low points for both sides and certainly some very tense moments. Last week it was evident that the British were going to seriously struggle but this week my forces held their own and delivered their own killer blows to the Mahdist forces. Perhaps most importantly in the first game it was quite evident that the British were going to come off second best quite early on, the second game was a much more tense affair and had die rolls been different the Mahdists could have inflicted some serious damage.

The rear of the column held up well through out the game

Throughout the second game virtually all the British troops suffered casualties and many hit shaken status but there commanders were able to withdraw these units and keep them in the field through rallying orders. Both sides played with no break points.

Why did the same game play out so differently? There was clearly a combination of factors here which I have explained in the past when we tried a comparable exercise with a Zulu game.

Dressing the lines - command rolls much more effective

Firstly the command activations are so very different. In the TMWWBK every unit has an activation value – fail that and the unit doesn’t move/fight/fire but you move onto the next one. The activation levels for both sides were fairly comparable – ie the British Infantry were as likely to move as the natives. In BP the units are commanded by designated commanders who give orders to their troops. Depending upon the success roll could move once, twice or three times in a turn. We certainly had more movement , flanking attacks and positioning in the Black Powder game and given the that command ratings of the British were better than their opponents they were the more likely to carry out the commands.

British Infantry taking continuous fire from the locals

The Black Powder game certainly delivered a more dynamic narrative with cavalry sweeping forward. Guns being overrun in the flanks and regularly watching your troops not wanting to move forward (both sides)

Clearly command actions had a part to play but so did shooting – unlike TMMWBK where you have to order your units to shoot everybody who can shoot /fling spears can do so after their moves. This automatic firing coupled with the fact that you only roll a few dice for fire effect with BP units significantly changes the dynamic. Both sides had rifle fire but for the Dervishes to win they had to get their fanatical spearmen into charge range too inflict damage. On several occasions the mad fuzzies not only suffered casualties on their approach but were literally blown away by closing fire as they launched their assaults. The vast majority of British casualties came from the Dervish rifle units who although not as effective as a British line were able to both disorder and inflict losses. Arguably greater coordination between the Sudanese rifle units and their spear wielding colleagues might have delivered better results.

Cavalry charging - as they should

Another key difference were the saving throws of each unit and the punishment a unit could take. In TMWWBK each time a casualty is taken a figure is removed and by default the fighting prowess of the unit is diminished. This clearly worked in the Dervishes favour in the first game as there are no saving throws but for the BP game not only did the Brits more often than not have better morale (save) they also benefited from their stalwart nature( in BP British Infantry typically get to reroll one failed save and automatically pass their first break). Ultimately this meant the British units had a better battlefield staying power and this was reflected in the final result – every unit had suffered casualties but only one had been wiped out.

At the height of the battle the British were in serious danger of defeat

In summary a combination of greater firepower, better commanders and more disciplined units albeit numerically smaller won the day in our Black Powder game and yet got slaughtered to a man in TMWWBK rules. Clearly for big battles the Black Powder rules are going to give a more historical result but in defence of TMWWBK they were never designed for big battles.

Some of the fiercest fighting was along the river bank

Following the conclusion of our games we sat around and chatted about the two versions. Both games had been equally fun and so very different but I believe there was a concensus that the second of the two games had proved the better and more playable (not having to remove individual figures from the field of play) might have had something to do with it. Furthermore we all agreed that the scenario is crucial in any colonial game. Had the British been in their defensive lines from the start it would have just been a slaughter and not a great deal of fun for either side. The Ambush scenario provided the Mahdist side with an opportunity to win and that all you need for a Colonial game to succeed.

What these games also provided was a wonderful spectacle on the table top and hopefully these games (and others in the future) vindicated the many hours it took to paint the units. Indeed there are still several units I want to add to the collection and once I have completed my Khartoum build I have a mind to turn my attention to these.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

RAF Flypast 100th Anniversary

Earlier today I took the opportunity of taking my lunch hour in Green Park London (along with 10's of thousands of others) to watch the commemorative flypast celebrating 100 years of the RAF.

It was great and very British - well done to the RAF !

No text just a few pictures (cursing the fact that after 40+ straight sunny days in London the event was on a day when it was overcast).

The camera was set for high speed hence the rotors on the planes and choppers look static

Its coming home !!!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

A Million HIts plus...

Six and a half years ago I set up my blog and I am proud to report that a few weeks ago I went past the million hits mark – this was going to be a big milestone but sadly the machinations of the Russian bots in the last part of last year seriously made me question the validity of tracking real numbers through the platform. However saying that those extra thousands of hits seem to have dropped off and I am back to the regular 10-12k per month. But privately I am quite chuffed that the million mark has been reached.

This got me thinking about the longevity of blogs and the effort that goes into creating content. I reckon I average at least one post a week which is typically a battle report or an update on my latest project. Every so often I chuck something else into the mix (like this post) just to create debate and hopefully an interesting read.

I do count myself fortunate as I have a great venue, a wide group of gaming chums and a collection built up over the last 20 years that allows pretty much any type of game in a large number of genres. We make a real attempt to play at least once a week because what is the point in having all these toys and never using them?

My blog is in a way a dedication to all those that come and play in the shed as it is them that keeps me motivated and hungry to push into new areas or challenges. A simple conversation during one game can lead to host of new ideas and that itchy feeling that needs to be scratched.

I do think that in a way us bloggers are helping to promote the industry, to keep it vibrant and dare I say it inspirational. Based on the comments received here and those posted to my links on the TMP and LAF there does seem to be an appetite to read and review the latest news from the Shed and for that I am extremely grateful. Keeping this blog going has been tough, there are times when I wish I’d never started and others where the motivation to set up the photos, type the copy (badly) etc just hasn’t been present, but looking back it has been rewarding and has most certainly created a sense of purpose.

Sometimes I read something on one of the forums asking about X or Y, this will spark a memory of how I tackled the issue and subsequently I’ll go back and review what I wrote in the past. The blog is most certainly a diary of my gaming hobby over the last six years and it is with some regret now that I never kept a diary of my life. However I am trying to put that right and in moments of solitude I am putting pen to paper to try and recapture my past memories. This was made more poignant by the loss of my father almost two years ago. I know much about his life whilst I have been alive but know little or nothing about his earlier life and his childhood. Perhaps more importantly I never knew his feelings, what drove him on or why he did what he did. This blog continuously illustrates to me that history is important and serves as an important link intro the future. Writing my story will be that link for my children and future generations, whether they choose to read it will be another matter but it will be there somewhere in writing.

So for the moment Shed Wars is not going to disappear and yet I can’t help noticing that many of the blogs I used to read avidly are no longer posted to as frequently or have just passed on by.

Has the world of wargaming blogging moved on?

I think a number of people start off with good intentions, they want to get a buzz from seeing their posts out there in the big wide world and hopefully a steady stream of positive messages, and when it doesn’t happen they give up. To be frank I think the success of a blog (can I be so bold as to suggest that mine is?) is down to three components – these being chiefly

  1. Content is King – if the content is rubbish, inappropriate, poorly written and/or has no pictures then the blog does not deserve to be successful. I am amazed that people write up battle reports with no pictures, or folks post their latest excellent scratchbuilds with no tutorials on how they have been built.
  2. The posts have to be frequent – there has to be a reason why people will keep coming back. I try to run a mix of ongoing projects interspersed with other activity. Each update has a link to the previous and the next one in the journey. My readers can begin at a project and work their way through the whole journey. In the business world this is called the consumer experience and is aimed at building loyalty.
  3. The blog has to advertise itself – there are only a few routes to doing this in our hobby world but all should be exploited. Use the forums to notify folks of an update, provide a brief intro and if possible pictures. If they are interested they will visit. Secondly follow other people’s blogs it’s likely that they will do the same for yours. Finally and perhaps most importantly consider the titles you give to your post. For example ‘28mm Sudan A new project begins’ - is likely to feature much higher on  google search than just ‘My Sudan Project’.

But are we seeing the death of Wargaming blogs – personally I think the answer is no. That is unless the various operators decide to stop supporting them or we see more scenarios like the photobucket debacle. However I do see a time where there are fewer blogs relating to the hobby – new ones will come and go but hopefully there will  be a few stalwarts to maintain interest.

Much depends on what the industry wants – I am still constantly surprised by the dearth of advertising for specific games manufacturers on certain blogs. It strikes me that some of the big wargaming blogs are getting tens of thousands of hits per month but are not festooned with banners etc from some of the leading manufacturers. Indeed the total number of hits on my blog surpass each month the circulation of any of the wargames magazines and yet have any manufacturers ever approached me to see if they could advertise?

I’d be happy to support games related advertising for goods in return – I’ll keep you posted if anybody takes me up on that 😉 I’d even be happy to do reviews as well. Perhaps if there was a financial or goods incentive more bloggers would sustain their content and posting frequency. I genuinely think the industry is missing a trick here to further their reach or to broadcast their wares to an audience that perhaps doesn’t follow the printed press.  Blogs could offer a low cost route for the smaller manufacturers to advertise their wares.

Whilst talking about advertising as an experiment 18 months ago I signed up for google ads – as of today I have made almost £250 from advertising. This income is not going to change my life but its interesting to note the more content I add the greater the number of hits and indirectly the advertising revenue stream will grow. I still get viewers looking at stuff created five years ago and adding comments. 

Anyway enough of my ramblings - have a great weekend and come on England !

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Ambush on the Nile

On a very hot Monday night the Shed reconvened for a game in the Sudan – rather apt given the weather we have been experiencing here in southern England. This time we opted to use The Men Who Would Be Kings ruleset.

The British Column snaking towards the river in the distance 

The scenario was quite simple a British Column stretched across the table marching towards the Nile at the far end. Mixed into the column were several wagons and a camel train. The British objective to escort the wagons to the shoreline. Of course nothing is that simple the column is going to get attacked by the Mahdist forces. These would enter from along the long edge and the short edge furthest away from the river.

The rear of the Column

The Forces

6 Regular Infantry Units (each 12 men strong)
1 Regular Infantry Unit (Naval shore Party (12)
1 Naval Gatling Gun
1 British Artillery field piece
3 units of regular cavalry (8 strong)

The centre


6 irregular infantry armed with obsolete rifles (12)
9 tribal spear waving warrior units (16)
2 crew served guns (captured)
5 units of tribal cavalry

View from the enemy lines 

Mark, John & Callum commanded the desert warriors and Alastair and myself the British.

We made a few minor tweaks to the rules which we believe speeden up play. Most noticeably we did not create individual leaders for each unit but instead gave each player a commander for their forces. These commanders provided a +2 boost to leadership scores and any orders/rallying roles etc. The leader would be attached to the unit he wanted to confer his bonus to. The figure gave no bonuses to combat but if the unit was destroyed so would the leader.

As you see from the pictures below the British forces were completely spread along the table with little or no cover. The natives could take fiull advantage of the hills and close quite quickly with the enemy. There was not a great deal of long range firing.

Charge - the Tribal Cavalry launch the first attack against the rear

In sizeable numbers

Crashing into the thin khaki line

A full assault across the length of the column

The plucky Brits exchange fire and seem to be holding their own

Steady volleys keep the locals pinned down

But not all the locals - waves of angry natives crash into the rear

Carnage ensues

More natives pour over the dunes

By now the head of the column is under sustained attack

Across the field the locals sweep to victory

So how did it play out – it was brutal the numbers of Mahdists (close to 2 to 1) swamped the defending Brits and it was a complete massacre. Unlike black powder where whole units remain on table until routed, TMWWBK rules remove figures once destroyed. It was rather nervy watching the British units just evaporate in the Sudanese waves of attacks.

It was great fun and despite have significant numbers of figures on the table the game played out quickly in about 2 hours. One of the main themes of shed gaming is to keep the pace going – it not only means we get games fought to a conclusion in one night but also adds a frenetic sense to the battle. No deliberating moves, measuring in advance etc

We are going to fight the same action again next week using Black Powder – forces and deployments will be the same – will we get the same outcome? Well you can read it now ...