Monday 25 February 2019

New School Imagi-Nations - Choosing the figures

Thanks to all who commented last time. My ramblings seemed to have struck a chord with many... which is very gratifying indeed. So, on with the rationale behind our new project...

We settled down, one summer lunchtime, in our Top Secret favourite haunt (Fosseway Indie-Fencibles HQ, somewhere deep in the Cotswolds) over gammon and chips, to discuss figures.

Yes, gammon and chips… “No pineapple ring, thanks mate.”
Whoever first thought about putting a pineapple ring on top of a piece of gammon should be… well, let’s not get carried away…
Back to our storyline…

Right at the outset, we agreed that the painting of the figures is what derails most wargaming projects. Or rather, the not painting of figures.
How often has a wargamer, practically every wargamer, certainly including me, got started on a new project, a new collection, with vigour and intensity…

Then something happens.
Something gets in the way.

A new range of figures, a new shiny project, a new thought that creates the “wish I’d done it differently” moment that results in “now I need to change the figures/ change the basing/ change the painting style” moment of doubt that derails the whole thing.
So, we decided to have a lengthy planning phase.  This also allowed us to bring to fruition a few other little projects, or at least get to the point where energy and focus could be devoted to this one.

Choosing the figure range (and therefore the period to set the project in) was crucial. We wanted speed and ease of mail ordering (this would allow a ‘unit at a time’ approach, rather than having an over-facing lead mountain). We wanted single figures, separate riders/horses, and a complete range (so not a case of waiting for new releases to keep the project moving). The decision to go with the Front Rank WSS range was taken on this basis. Not only that, but they are figures we both admire, and have a penchant to paint.  

above: Vaubarian Infantry Regt 3 - Breitner 

This was also aided by the desire to set the project firmly in the horse and musket period as we feel it is most suitable for the types of games we want to play… the ubiquitous balanced forces of Horse, Foot, and Guns being the order of the day.
Now, we won’t pretend that it was easy to reach this point. Although, the period and figures were mentioned right at the outset in our conversations, we subsequently visited practically every century, perused every range of figures, and explored every avenue of possibilities to decide on our project. At one point, “sending off for a few sample figures” became, “oh dear, I seem to have ordered a whole brigade!” … and not only that, a brigade for a period we subsequently discarded! Frequent emails, meetings at our adopted HQ, and get-togethers at wargaming shows, allowed us time to make the right decision. This also allowed time for a few other existing hobby ventures to be given full attention and brought to fruitful completion before launching properly into this project. 

Above: Astrovian IR1 - Frankl

Next time, I'll talk about the countries we've settled upon and some of the other "essentials" of the new venture.

Friday 22 February 2019

New School Imagi-Nations?

Following my previous post about The Skirmish at Sprengenhof, I received a fair bit of email correspondence and some general interest on a few forums and the like, all of which has prompted me to give a little background into the whole WVS project...

Introducing the Fosseway Indie-Fencibles...
This is a loose alliance of wargamers, dispersed along the ancient route of the Fosse Way in England who meet on an irregular basis, to collaborate on wargaming projects that take our fancy.

Well, ok… in reality, it’s just a couple of middle-aged blokes playing with toy soldiers…
In fact, most of what we’ve been up to so far has simply involved meeting up for a pub lunch and waxing lyrical about the hobby, as I’m sure many do.

We do, however, have a certain vision, an unwritten set of criteria, that is the filter through which we have decided on the projects we wish to embark upon. And this, we hope, will become clear …
Whilst embarking on an “Imagi-Nations” style project, we decided that we wanted to avoid the “old school” label in terms of figure choice, painting style, terrain, unit organisation, and rules, amongst other things.

Imaginary countries don’t have to have Spencer Smith figures, or Staddens, or even Mindens, painted in an older style, with battalions of 60 figures. Not that there is anything wrong with that either. But, it can be done a different way… and that’s what we’ve decided for this project.

Our desire was to have a setting in which we could play a number of “teaser-style” games, starting with modest forces and building from there. And we also decided that although we do have an outline schedule, we would take as long as we wanted to paint the figures – no deadlines or painting pressures. It’s a hobby.
We, therefore, present for your enjoyment (we hope) our take on what we’re terming …
“New-School Imagi-Nations”.



Some thoughts and criteria for our venture

During one particularly interesting and valuable PTSD session (that’s PTSD: Post-Traumatic Salute Discussion), we began piecing together what we wanted from our gaming.
Salute 2017 had been, in my eyes, absolutely crap! Just a personal point of view... But, it certainly felt like a completely different hobby than the one I wanted for myself. Our discussions revealed that I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t just me who was out of step. For quite some time I mused on this, and started to consider why I felt that, and what I wanted from the hobby.

What did we want our wargaming to be about?
Here are some of the outpourings of our conversation…
  • Skirmish games are ok… as the wargaming equivalent of an amuse-bouche, or an after-dinner entertainment over cigars and brandy. But not as a "main course."
  • Having said that, games don’t have to have 1000+ figures to be enjoyable. In fact, a couple of forces of half a dozen units can give as much fun, if not more, and with carefully crafted scenarios can produce interesting tactical challenges.
  • Units need to be large enough to be representative, but not so large as to be over-cumbersome on the tabletop. The thought of a unit arriving on table in column and almost reaching the opponents deployment area seems just wrong. It stunts the game.
  • Let’s avoid “Biggism”… the trouble with many horse and musket periods is the desire/ requirement to make it huge… so not for us an amorphous mass of 1805 French infantry; 12 battalions of 36 infantry before your orbat allows a squadron of cavalry. No thanks. Partly because, we are realistic enough to know that the days of painting in such numbers are over. 
  • Tables don’t have to be huge either. We decided to limit the number of figures per unit, the units in our orbats, and the table size to create something eminently achievable by anyone… we hope to be emulated, but that’s up to you, dear reader. So, the ability to play on a 6x5 table, expanding in time to 8x6 max seems about right for us. 
  • Terrain: keeping it simple, effective, and attractive, without being cluttered or diorama quality.
  •  Fast-play is a turn off! Yep, there I’ve said it. Getting the game over quickly is not a deciding criteria. We want games to last as long as they need to… and we want to take the time to enjoy it, not wizz-bang, you’re dead, game over, next… draw a card, and off we go again.
  • Painting and building the forces, the scenery, the buildings is to be pressure-free, and as enjoyable a part of the hobby as the gaming.
This is not an exhaustive list of the things we chatted about, by any means. To know that we had the same ideas, the same ethos, was very encouraging, and comforting.

Driving home after this chat, it was as if all was suddenly well with the world. And as I switched on the radio in the car, they were playing an old classic. I hadn’t remembered it from before, but when I arrived home, I downloaded it. “Sebastian” by Steve Harley/ Cockney Rebel. It just so happens that St Sebastian had already been ear-marked as Patron Saint of Vaubaria. A sign?
The sun was shining, and I felt I had a hobby again…

Over the next few posts, I'll talk more about figure choice, choice of period, rules and so on...

Sunday 17 February 2019

Skirmish at Sprengenhof

Yesterday, Steve and I played out the first action using our Wars of The Vaubarian Succession collection. It was a bit of a playtest of the rules we have in development, and so we fell back upon a fairly familiar scenario... with a simple balance of horse, foot and guns.

Later on, we reset the table with fresh terrain and a new scenario, and introduced some light infantry into the equation in order to 'workshop' additional rules.
But for now, we'll stick with the first action.

It's 1704.
The Emperor of Astrovia and The Elector of Vaubaria were at odds. As this was a fairly common state of affairs, it requires no further explanation. Suffice to say, b
oth despatched field forces to seize the vital crossing point of the river Sprengen at Sprengenhof: The Vaubarians under the command of Markgraf Karl von Orff, and the Astrovians under the notorious Reichsgrafen von Schwarzenatter.

Here is the deployment map...

Phase one saw the Vaubarians stride forward confidently, the hatmen of the Dremel regiment getting their feet wet crossing the river, whilst their artillery unlimbered (a little too early as it turned out, as their fire was largely ineffective at long range for much of the day).
For the Astrovians, the Kuirassiers von Klammer also crossed the river, and before long, in the shadow of the Sprengenberg, they were engaged in the inevitable crossing of swords with their age-old foe, the Vaubarian cuirassiers von Vogts.

As the infantry closed into a firefight, the two cavalry regiments fought a bitter duel. The Astovian horse were first to break and routed towards their baseline, never to return. The Vaubarian cuirassiers were, however, in no fit state to follow up the advantage and returned towards their own lines to recuperate.

The infantry firefight by the farm was evenly balanced, with the Vaubarian infantry having slightly the best of it, until the Astrovian gunners found their range with supporting fire into the right flank of the Breitner regiment.

The first infantry to break were the Astrovian regiment, Frankl, finally bucking under the pressure. but the arrival into the line of the fresh, and eager, regiment Schrodinger was the last thing the Vaubarian infantry needed to see, and with their own cohesion severely tested, it wasn't long before they were shaken and routed.

By this time, the Vaubarian cuirassiers von Vogt had recovered sufficiently from their earlier exertions to put in a death or glory flanking ride. The Astrovian gunners, however, spotted the wide, sweeping arc of the enemy cavalry, and repositioned their guns. As the Vaubarian horse crossed the river to launch their charge, they were met with a hail of grapeshot, and the game was up.

A terrific first outing for the collection... Hope you enjoy the pictures and maps.