Tuesday 24 February 2015

I owe Keith a beer!

as he has been kind enough to say nice things about "Bloody Big BATTLES!" on his blog http://keefsblog.blogspot.co.uk/, such as:
"I have enjoyed three or four games with these rules, usually in a group of at least 4 wargamers, and all have been an excellent experience."
"[the rules are] straightforward, easily comprehended and neatly summarised on a 2 sided playsheet"
"a very well thought out and straightforward way into gaming large size engagements involving tens of thousands of real troops"
"I'm looking forward to enjoying more games of BBB in the future. They really are something different and well worth looking into."

BBB aside, Keith's blog is well worth a look. Unlike my own increasingly frequent but unvarnished efforts, Keith's posts are always well crafted prose, usually beautifully illustrated, and offering thoughtful reflections on a range of wargaming-related topics - and spiced with a sharp wit. That's why it was listed among my favourite links well before he blogged about BBB.

Another dimension of Keith's web presence is his "Honours of War" Yahoo group:
HoW is the ruleset Keith has developed for the Seven Years War, to be published later this year by Osprey. I've only had one game of HoW so far, but I hope and expect to play more. If SYW is your thing, take a look.

Monday 23 February 2015

Another hot review of BBB! This time in Miniature Wargames / Battlegames

MW/BG 383 includes an expert review of the "Bloody Big Battles!" rules. The BG website is here:

You'll have to buy your own copy to see the review in full, but highlights (for me) include:

"contains a number of original ideas which add subtlety to the outcomes"

"these rules give a quick and fun game, with a lot of period feel"

"well worth a close examination … We both recommend it as a valuable addition to the rules available for this period."

The reviewers in question, John Drewienkiewicz and Andrew Brentnall, are, I believe, two of the most knowledgeable people around as far as late C19 battles are concerned. They are the authors of "Wargaming in History Volume 8: The Austro-Prussian War of 1866: The Opening Battles". See

To have passed muster in their expert eyes is no mean achievement.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

St Quentin - Franco-Prussian War battle - BBB demo game

We are planning to put on a BBB demo/participation/display game at the Overlord show in Abingdon on Sunday 1 March.

The game we chose is the battle of St Quentin, 1871, from the Franco-Prussian War: not just the simple assault of 19 January, but also the far more interesting mobile action (wagon trains and all) of the day before. Earlier this week we had a rehearsal to make sure we were all familiar with the scenario and to lay out for the first time some of the custom terrain we've made for it. Our master craftsman, Colin, has scratchbuilt this model of St Quentin town hall:

Which is an amazing scale representation of the real thing:

See you in Abingdon!

Monday 16 February 2015

"L'ultima carica" - the last cavalry charge in history. Izbushenskiy, 1942.

I have always felt that the (un)preparedness of the Italian and Hungarian armies for WWII was nicely highlighted by the fact that these two nations did so well in the fencing events in the 1936 Olympics. (Italy: 4 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze; Hungary: 3 gold, 1 bronze.)

Fitting, therefore, that the Italian army should also claim the honour of having carried out the last cavalry charge in history. The "ultima carica" was performed near Izbushenskiy on 24 August 1942, by the Savoia regiment.


Who wouldn't want to wargame such an action? A few years back I wrote a scenario for the battle, using the Kampfgruppe Commander rules. Recently, at Dave W's behest, I dug it out again and we happily revisited this glorious episode. The full scenario can be found on Flickr:


In our game, history was somewhat reversed, as it was the Soviet Guards who charged the Savoia dragoons on Turn 1:

As the game starts after the Sforzesca division has been smashed back from the Don, the Italian centre starts as a gaping hole, which the Soviet 203rd Rifle Division is poised to exploit. White counters denote the hills that are objectives for the purpose of determining victory at the end of the game.

On the Italian left, a single pioneer battalion is holding the line, trying to buy time for remnants of Sforzesca to rally in Yagodniy behind the pioneers.

After a furious and protracted struggle, the Savoia cavalry are destroyed in the balka above Chebotarevskiy, leaving only an Italian modernist poster behibnd them:

Similarly, on the left flank, Russian cavalry clear the Italian flamethrowers out of the Kriuska ravine:

The Bersaglieri battlegroup arrives to shore up the Italian centre. Riflemen dismount from their motor tricycles, while the mighty L6/40 light tanks race to the aid of the CC.NN Tagliamento Legion on Hill 193.

But the Soviets have not been idle either. 652nd Tank Brigade has formed up at last, ready to attack Hill 193, supported by the Guards:

But gallant Blackshirts somehow destroy some T34s and deter the rest!

On the Italian left, costly Soviet assaults will eventually clear the pioneers off Hill 208:

The outnumbered Bersaglieri wondered how they could shift the Soviet 203rd Rifle Division. They would need help:

Help was at hand in the form of these Semovente 47/32s:
which boldly raced round to attack the 203rd from the rear, threatening their line of communications. Most of the tiny tank destroyers were soon grenaded by Russian infantry, but they had done their job  and halted the enemy's advance.

Similarly, the light armour sent to support the Blackshirts was attacked by Lend-Lease Lees, outgunned and destroyed.
But they had bought enough time. At game end, the Soviets held just 3 of the 9 objectives, 2 short of the 5 they needed for a win. Viva Italia!

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Baptism of Fire: The Royal Hungarian Air Force and Slovak Air Force, March 1939

While I'm in the mode of recommending friends' books, here are some more. Hungarian military history is one of my particular enthusiasms. Through this I got to know Dr Csaba Stenge. Csaba has published a lot in Hungarian, but for the purpose of this blog I'll limit myself to mentioning a couple of his works in English. He has written this nice work about Hungarian tanks (currently unavailable, I believe):


But his real forte, the obsession to which he has dedicated a huge amount of time and effort, is the Royal Hungarian Air Force. He has personally known many of the RHAF's WWII veterans as friends, has acquired a fine collection of RHAF photos, logbooks, and other memorabilia, and is a (perhaps the?) leading expert on the RHAF.

An example of his work in English is this one, a beautifully thorough examination of a mostly forgotten corner of history:


Saturday 7 February 2015

Nice comments about "Bloody Big Battles!" (BBB)

Now that the BBB rules have been in circulation a couple of months, they have generated a fair amount of feedback. I'm happy to say it has been overwhelmingly positive, to the extent that I thought it would be nice to post a collection of players' comments here. These are taken from various sources, mainly The Miniatures Page and the BBB Yahoo group, but also from people's own blogs or websites. I'm doing this because our BBB games have been some of the best wargaming fun I've had in a long wargaming career, because I think BBB does fill a gap, and because the point of publishing BBB was really to share the fun. My wife would say it's more to do with fuelling my obsession and boosting my ego, but even if that's true, I seem to have made a few other people happy along the way. Here you go: player's comments on BBB, presented by me with all due modesty, with thanks to those who took the trouble to comment, and I'm glad to have contributed to their gaming pleasure:

wonderful example of "Occam's Razor" in rule design – stripping down to the bare essentials

Got my book in the mail yesterday. I feel confident I could sit down and play a game through straight away.

If you enjoyed Fire and Fury but want something a little lighter in concept, you should check these rules out.

a really really good set of rules I recommend to anyone who games the 19th century. Chris is probably one of the most friendly and helpful authors out-there. There is a huge scenario book out which covers many of the major and minor wars in Europe in the 19th century, and Chris has made a bunch of scenarios available for free on the BBB Yahoo Group. So no excuses! Take command and fight Big Bloody Battles!

“we are really, really enjoying these rules”

“enjoyed the game a lot”

“We played the Alma scenario at my wargaming club yesterday.  Everyone enjoyed the rules a lot and our FLGS sold out of the core rules and the scenario book after the game. ”

“Very enjoyable”

“Had a cracking game today”

“it was a cracking game and the scenario went right to the wire generating plenty of 'war stories' along the way and we're all looking forward to the next game”

“am duely impressed.   Congratulations on a fine body of work.”

“have had one useful game to try them out and was quite impressed. The movement and firing systems seem fine and I like the way movement and morale are done together.”

“I picked up a copy from the Caliver stand at Warfare yesterday. I'm impressed.”

I like the rules.

I must commend you on the rules, some really neat ideas.

the movement activation rules are something I liked.

And possibly my favourite so far:

“thanks for such a wonderful set of rules. It is a long time since I have been so enthusiastic about gaming.”

WWI recommended reading: Murray, "The Rocky Road to the Great War"

If you're interested either in the First World War, or in the late nineteenth century conflicts that preceded it, I highly recommend that you read Nick Murray's book. Nick examines how the theory and practice of fortification change in response to developments in technology and doctrine, and his insights really help the reader to understand why WWI took the shape that it did.

Disclaimer: Nick and I have been friends for many years, and I played a small role in helping him with his research that led to this book, including an eventful trip to Plevna together. If you look carefully you'll find me in one of the photos in the book.

Buy this book!


Bull Run ACW game using BBB

Vincent and his buddies in New York have been using BBB for ACW. He wrote a scenario for Bull Run aka 1st Manassas, which sounds like it resulted in a fun game. He's posted a really nice photo-report here:

I wrote the "Bloody Big Battles" rules in the first instance so that we could fight the major actions of the Franco-Prussian War and other continental conflicts. Apart from Gettysburg and a couple of the other biggest ACW actions, I haven't really touched ACW with BBB. Although an ACW scenario book is an obvious thing to do at some point, it would take a long time for me to do it myself, and isn't necessarily a priority for me. Given the amount of interest in BBB for ACW from players out there, I expect people will just create their own scenarios and maybe I won't need to!

Tuesday 3 February 2015

BBB-fest - Montebello, Langensalza and Spicheren!

Last night was something of a BBB-fest at the local club. Six of us fought three of the new smaller scenarios I've created recently. One pair fought the full Spicheren 1870 scenario (a corps-sized Franco-Prussian battle) comfortably in 3 hours. The other two pairs fought Langensalza 1866 and Montebello 1859 (both roughly division-sized), and finished these quickly enough to swap tables and fight them through to completion a second time. Obviously we are all experienced BBB players, but even so, to finish a game in an hour and a quarter seems like a good result.

The Spicheren game resulted in a hard-fought draw with plenty of casualties piled up on both sides. The French were still hanging in on the Rotherberg, but there were Prussians in their rear in Stiring Wendel and behind Forbach. A view from the Prussian end of the pitch here:

Spicheren 3 - T5 or so, still fighting over the Rotherberg

Langensalza was a real teaser. As one of the lads put it, not so much a wargame as a tactical puzzle. We played using the adjusted victory target: Prussians needing just 1 objective for a draw and 2 for a win. In the first game, every Prussian unit was destroyed - Hanoverian win. In the second one, I thought my Prussian opponent was going to embarrass me. He managed to Attack for 6 successive turns, preventing me from crossing the Unstrut. That left me just two turns to cross the river and seize all the victory locations. I managed it, but was a little fortunate that my movement dice didn't let me down. I'm keen to have a go as the Prussians and prove that they can win this!

 (There are some nicer photos than that in my Flickr stream.)

Montebello was similar but different. Again, the pressure is on one side (this time the French) to attack so as to discourage their stronger Austrian opponent from advancing. This seemed to produce exactly the right effect. When I played it I did actually get von Hessen's troops not only onto the table but into the Cascina Nuova. However, the French broke them and pursued them to take Foliarina. I had a chance of capturing Genestrello but my two passive units, who outnumbered the battered French defenders by 4:1, decided not to charge. So I lost. The other pair to fight this achieved a draw.

Which, with one victory and one defeat, plus last week's KGC game which Colin ruled a draw, brings my tally for the year to:
Games played to conclusion - 8. (not counting the one I refereed)
Won - 2.
Drawn - 1.
Lost - 5.

So I commend these games to you - Montebello and Langensalza are both really quick and fun tactical challenges, and easy to set up. Great for a small evening game!