Thursday, April 19, 2018

Mitrailleuse! 28mm Reffye Mitrailleuse from Foundry

Mitrailleuse and crew in 28mm - gun and crew from Wargames Foundry
Mitrailleuse! Yay! Mitrailleuse! This is a 28mm Reffye Mitrailleuse and crew, all figures from Wargames Foundry and their outstanding "Franco-Prussian War of 1870" range.

Today the French word "mitrailleuse" roughly equates to "machinegun" in English - there are a lot of modern weapons you can apply the term to. Back in 1870, however, it applied to this specific weapon, thought to be a real ace in the hole for the Army of Napoleon III. Most of the information I have found speaks of how the French treated the weapon as some sort of state secret, so secret that it impaired the training and proper use of the weapons when war with Prussia came in the summer of 1870.

Great sculpting by the Perrys as always - particularly love the gunner figure
It was fired using a hand-crank.  The bullets were 13mm, and were loaded onto a plate placed into the rear of the weapon.  There are no rotating barrels or anything like that, but rather a series of individual barrels inside a larger tube that otherwise approximates the shape of a light cannon common to that era. I found a neat video here that offers an idea of how the weapon was fired. In an era where weapons were single-shot (I mean, getting rifled and dangerous, but still) and when troops in Europe still moved around in dense lines and columns, one can imagine how this sort of weapon could have been devastating.

One of the gunner figures is sporting a carbine
In the end it did not have much impact on the battlefield, much less a decisive one. So many things went so wrong so fast for the French army in the Franco-Prussian war, and "should have made better use of the Mitrailleuse" is generally one of the top parts of any set of talking points in a review of the French defeat.  The French gunners had little training with them, the French commanders had little understanding of their potential, and the doctrine of their use was based on using the weapons as artillery pieces.  They were seen, essentially, as an alternative to an artillery piece firing grape shot, rather than something that would work closely with the infantry.  As such, they were deployed like artillery, and not attached directly to infantry formations.

The weapon was tricky to use at range - it threw off a lot of smoke, and it was hard for the crew to track the effectiveness of their shooting when operating at artillery-style ranges (even short ones).  Meanwhile the big plumes of gun smoke that appeared when in use made the Mitrailleuse batteries easy to spot - and they seemed to have been priority targets for the lethal Prussian breech-loading artillery, who duly hammered them as soon as they spotted them on the battlefield.

Excessive use of Tajima wonder I run out of them so quickly....
While there is quite a lot to criticize when looking back at the performance of the French Imperial Army in the Franco-Prussian War, I think picking on the Mitrailleuse is a touch too easy for we of the Monday-morning-quarterbacking-military hobby-types today.  Of course, as wargamers, we can perceive the Mitrailleuse within its proper place on the spectrum in the evolution of military weapons.  It's a rapid-firing, proto-machinegun, and we ask - why didn't the French use it that way?  The French infantry already could out-range and out-shoot the Prussian thanks to their superb Chassepot rifles - just imagine how much tougher those French infantry battalions would have been with a battery of Mitrailleuse right up there in the line!  When you consider the later 19th century overall, and think of the deadly effect the Nordenfelt and Gatling guns had in the various Colonial conflicts that flared up in the period, the French use of the Mitrailleuse seems extra bonkers.

But the contemporary military planners of the day did not have that context...they were coming to this as something to augment artillery. In hindsight, it was not that successful, but I can kind of see what the French were going for, and why they went about it - not sure the excessive secrecy was helpful, as it impaired the training and deployment, and understanding of the commanders regarding how these might be employed.  On the other hand, the performance of the overall French high command was so dismal in 1870-71, I don't think the Mitrailleuse could really have changed what happened.

Prussians in sight...
In gaming terms, this will be fun to use on the table for several reasons.  For one, I feel like it's a bit of an iconic piece for the setting and the period - players will see it and immediately think Franco-Prussian War.  Second, we can do "what-if" type situations where the Mitrailleuse is deployed, perhaps due to evolving or accidental circumstance, in a much more "front-line" position - and do this in a "Black Powder" mass-battle setting, or a skirmish setting.  Finally, use of these early proto-machinegun type weapons, it's always fun to have rules for jamming and other mishaps, and see what happens when the players start employing them...

Imperial Wall Project

 Since I started collecting my 30k Imperial Fists, I've been thinking about how to best represent the Battle of Terra. There are a few examples such as this and this, but these are more of diorama displays and not quite playable battlefields. The breaching of the Imperial Wall protecting the Emperors inner palace has been a part of the Horus Heresy story for as along as I can remember (which was 2nd edition). How do you capture the grandeur of the wall and still make it playable? My solution was to make the entire battlefield the breach in the wall and the remaining wall sections bookmark the table. I envision the Traitor forces rushing into the center of the table to exploit the breach which is being defended by loyalist forces. The loyalists have thrown together a desperate defenses out of the wall rubble, while more loyalist reinforcements rush in to plug the gap. This would be a mega game befitting the Battle of Terra.

To make the wall I used some large pieces of Styrofoam I found in my garage rafters (the previous homeowner liked to store stuff in the rafters apparently) that served as the wall and various rubble pieces. The Styrofoam wall sections were then covered in drywall patching tape followed by several layers of drywall mud. Once dried, they were sanded and given a thick coat of primer.

 I then sprayed textured paint over it. This still caused some sections to be eaten by the spray, but I persevered and repaired these sections through a process that is too ridiculous to lay out in this blog. At times I thought I was actually building a wall!
I then cut strips of plastic I found at Lowes and glued them onto the front of the wall to represent some metal details. Furniture nails were used to represent studs.

That is an actual tube of caulking in the bottom right.
 I bought some MDF and resin pieces from TT Combat to add some details to the walls. These include firing steps up top, stairways at the back and a resin hatch to enter the wall. The entire structure was painted with craft paint, GW leadbelcher and Nuln oil wash.
I quickly set up a 6x4 board to demonstrate the scale of the wall. The green flocked board doesn't work with the wall in my opinion, but Dallas has several options that would work better I think.
Imperial Fist groundskeepers are the best in the galaxy.

Large sections of broken wall litter the breach. These serve as improvised defense.

Air defense also from TT Combat

Hatch and stair from TT Combat

. Will Malcador the Sigillite resist pressure to call a public inquiry after Iron Warrior "stress testing" revealed that DornCo was skimping on construction materials?

So hopefully after I get a few more units painted for the Fists, we can roll this out for a mega game this summer.

Monday, April 16, 2018

From Faith, Cometh Honour - Massive Heresy Iron Warriors Update

So, as prep for the New Year's game, some desperate last-minute escalation occurred on the Iron warriors front, in the form of a Leviathan Siege Dreadnought, two squads of Iron Havocs, and a mighty Typhon Siege Tank!

The best thing about the Iron Warriors, though, is how quickly the models paint up. Even assembling the Leviathan went quickly. I used magnets to attach the arm weapons for quick swaps, so the model can be equipped with any two of the Siege Claw, Cyclonic Melta-Lance (!), or Grav-Flux Bombard (!!)

As a side note, it was pointed out at the game how comical the naming conventions are for the Heresy-era Forge World weapons. It's like the designers take one adjective from column A, one from column B, and stick a noun in from column C, and there's your weapon name:








Magnets are fun... and the economy that results from easy swaps is undeniable.

Five missile-launcher equipped MKIV Marines add some flexible firepower...

...while a lascannon squad adds some vehicle-killing capacity.

The Typhon Siege Tank is another key addition to the Iron Warriors contingent.

Assembly was mostly straightforward. The sponson lascannons were a bit tricky but still went together OK.

Decal is from the Iron Warriors transfer set with an added numeral.

The Typhon is a mighty chunk of resin for sure! The main gun itself is ridiculous, but cool-ridiculous, if you know what I mean.

Tracks are ready to roll over the enemies of the Emperor Warmaster!

Of course, all new models acquitted themselves admirably as detailed in the battle report!

Prussian Artillery and 28mm FPW Odds & Ends

Some Prussian artillery and a few foot-slogging odds & ends for my 28mm Franco-Prussian war projects
Over the weekend I finished a few more bits for my 28mm Franco-Prussian War project(s), and here they are!  Up first are a few spare 28mm figures for my skirmish-gaming side of things - these are the extremely awesome sculpts from "Eagles of Empire".  The more I paint these castings, the more I love them.  They have some new figure releases lined up for 2018, and I'm pretty excited to see them - especially the French Turcos!

Chasspot rifles being prepped for action in defence of the Second Empire!
There are four French infantrymen here, intended to "round out" the four squads of French infantry I have painted from seven models to eight models each.  While that difference makes no difference in many skirmish rules, if I can ever sort out "Sharpe Practice" from Too Fat Lardies I think the base elements of four/eight in the infantry units will make a difference.

So much detail on these lovely "Eagles of Empire" castings
These fellows show all of the lean, tall beauty of the "Eagles of Empire" sculpts, with all sorts of excellent detail.  The uniform of the French infantry from this era is just beautiful, and I love to paint them up.
Drums of war! Prussian drummer beats the charge - need to close the range on those Chassepot rifles!

The animation of the "Eagles of Empire" sculpts is really something - you can feel the beat!
There is also a lone Prussian figure - a drummer.  Again, this is mostly intended to "round out" my collection of individually-based 28mm Prussian troops.  Each package of Eagles of Empire Prussians includes both a drummer and a bugler...since the bugler is also carrying a rifle, I used the bugler as command figures, and did not use the drummer.  Now that most of my individually-based Prussians are completed (well, for now, at any rate), I thought the drummer would be a useful figure to have around, so I finished painting him up over the weekend.

And then, we move to an artillery piece! While this may have some application for skirmish-type gaming, the gun piece is intended to accompany the 28mm Prussians I am painting for "Black Powder" type games.  The gun and crew are all from the War-games Foundry FPW range, which was sculpted by the Perry brothers.

Prussian artillery - gun and crew castings from War-games Foundry
The Prussian artillery was devastating in the Franco-Prussian war. While the Prussian infantry were out-gunned by the Chassepot rifles of their French opponents, the steel breach-loading artillery of the Prussian army was a great (over) equalizer.   The Prussian guns out-ranged the rifled muzzle-loading French artillery and would generally blast them to pieces before turning their attention to the French infantry positions.

You can see a bit of the breech-loading mechanism for the artillery in this shot

Ready to fight for the King, and blast those upstart French to pieces! This Krupp weapon will come in handy...
Gaming certain periods in 28mm calls for some distortions, and the FPW games will be subject to this as the ranges would generally stretch beyond most tables, at least for the Prussian guns.  Indeed, when the time comes to finally play a 28mm game, I expect I will be telling the players that the Prussian guns are somewhere off-table...

Still, having some of the lighter guns represented on the table isn't the worst thing in the world - it's always fun to give the players control of some artillery, and then some of the issues that come with it (watching for the firing lanes etc).  Vague off-table threats are one thing, but having the artillery piece on the board will be useful for focusing the minds of the players.  This will be a useful addition to the forces of the Kingdom of Prussia when that distant time arrives for a game of "Black Powder" using massed 28mm figures...  

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More Foundry Prussians

Another unit joins my 28mm Prussian collection...
I'm continuing to burn the brushes painting up figures from the late 19th century in Europe and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.  This is a second unit of Prussian infantry, rather similar-looking to the first unit I completed a couple of weeks ago.  That similarity is no accident, as both are comprised of 28mm Prussian castings from War-games Foundry, and use GMB flags.  There is some slight variation in the ground cover and the nature and placement of the officer figures, but overall still very familiar - 20 figures based in the main unit, and four figures on individual round bases to represent the deployment of skirmishers.

A somewhat rotund officer directing his men in the firing line...
There is also an additional figure on a round base at the corner in the photos - this is an artillery officer.  He looks very similar to other Prussian officers, but the helmet is a little different - a rounded thingy on top instead of a spike. His artillery piece and crew hasn't been painted yet, so he joined this infantry unit for the group photo.

Artillery officer in the front left of the photo...would stand in well for a general infantry officer too, I think

Individual castings on round bases will be used to represent the deployment of skirmishers
These Foundry figures are, as before, a complete joy to paint.  Figures sculpted by the Perry twins always seem so familiar, even when the period or setting is relatively new. It has been great fun to paint these fellows up.  In general, I still continue to be pretty locked in on this period and am even dabbling in some other scales!

Love these Foundry castings!
As before, still a long, long way to go with this project - even though I can now report that the forces available to the Kingdom of Prussian have doubled! Last time I mentioned an approximate goal of 166 infantry castings for my 28mm Prussian forces.  With this second unit done, that is 48 castings out of the way, leaving only 122 or so to go...patience, patience, slow and steady will be the path to the goal here...just need to keep chipping away, adding a unit here and there, and maybe by the fall or winter it will be time for a game of "Black Powder"...

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Greeks first battle!

After working all winter on a huge number of Ancient Greeks, it was time to get them out and on the table for a battle.  While the plan is to run a few story driven battles with everyone at Dallas's place, I really wanted to get a handle on the rules in a one on one game before attempting a big multi player game.

So, last week with Dallas away and no regular game booked, Greg and I got together to hash through the "Hail Caesar" rules and make a go at a game.

The protagonists were made up of a group of allied Greeks (Athenians and Thebeians) vs a smaller but more elite force of Lacedaemonians (more commonly referred to as the Spartans).   The battle field was made up of a lot of open desert area, with a well blocking part of one flank, and a few fields scattered around the edges.

Here are some of the Allied Greeks.

And here are some of the Spartans.

The rule set we used is "Hail Caesar" but most of you will be familiar with it in it's many other incarnations as: Pike & Shotte, Black Powder, or originally as Games Workshops Warmaster!

The game started with a lot of manuever failures on the side of the Athenians, with several units just refusing to follow orders. Eventually though after about 2 turns of minor move and adjust, both Greg and I went "Screw this!" and slammed our forces into each other.

 The initial hit, shattered an Athenian unit and sent it running right off the bat!  I suddenly worried that the game would be over in 30 minutes flat and that I would need WAY more units for a viable game.  However, it turns out that was a fluke, and things settled down after that with the push and counter push (literally) that phalanx combat was known for.

 Down the huge battle line, things went good and bad for each force.  In the center we fought forever back and forth, on the Spartans right flank they pushed through, and on the Athenians right flank, they pushed through.

The Spartan push on their right flank went well to start and then due to a number of bad rolls for them, and great rolls for 2 small skirmish units, they got held up for a large number of turns.  They finally routed the 2 small units but were too late to help elsewhere by that time.

On the Athenians right flank, they pushed forward, but then got pushed back 3 or 4 times all while shaken and disordered!  Amazingly they never ran and held several units in check for most of the game!  They finally did route near the end, but by then it wall in in the center for the game.

The center of the battle tied up at least 3 units on each side and was back and forth for a long time.  In the end both sides were battered, bruised, and shaken.  The deciding factor ended up being both of us throwing our generals in for a few extra combat dice, and units deciding to run due to being shaken and having to test on tied combats.

There were a lot of tied combats since phalanx units count anything that is a loss of up to 2 as a draw.  This meant that until they were shaken and had to test moral on draws, units just stood and took it!  The Spartans even more so, since they can reroll a failed armour save each turn so took far fewer casualties.

In the end, it was a blood bath with I believe 4 units left on the table!  Greg and I had a blast with it though, even though we made many mistakes, but figured them out along the way and corrected most of them.  We now both understand the rules much better and hope to have these figures out for a Thursday night game sometime soon!