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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Longstreet at last.

ABOVE: Part of my force. Louisiana Tiger Zouaves followed by the 18th Georgia Regiment
Hi Team
Well I've finally done it. I finally got around to playing a game of LONGSTREET. For those that don't know, LONGSTREET is the latest offering in the Honour Series of wargame rules by Sam Mustafa. Previous offerings have been LASALLE and MAURICE. I'm a big fan of Sam's two previous sets and you can find plenty of AARs on my blog if you are interested.
LONGSTREET is Sam's American Civil War rule set, the previous sets covering the Napoleonic and 'Age of Reason' periods. As you've probably guessed each set is named after a particularly noteworthy General Officer of the period being gamed.
It just so happens that Lt Gen James Longstreet is probably the confederate officer I've been most interested in for quite some time.
I purchased these rules as soon as they were available but unfortunately due to illness I've not had the opportunity until now to actually play a game. Fortunately however my gaming buddy Stan and his beautiful family ended up spending Christmas and Boxing Day with my family and we both we keen to squeeze in a game.
I'd just finished basing some Confederate and Union troops, and Stan had brought with him his ACW collection. Neither of us however had any cavalry, so it was destined to be an infantry dominated affair with a battery on each side.
Much to my shame I was going to have to use troops with unflocked bases but at least they were painted.
We had both read through the rules but I'd never played a game and Stan had only played about one or two games previously.
We settled on playing a scenario and dice roles resulted in the 'Meeting Engagement'.
Graciously Stan allowed me to pick a side, so I chose the side of the Confederacy.
Both sides would consist of three large ten base battalions of infantry and one three piece Artillery Batteries consisting of two six pounders and a howitzer.
All infantry would be EAGER RECRUITS for simplicity and the year would be 1863.
In LONGSTREET the year you are fighting in is of importance as certain advantages will be enjoyed by either the Confedreates or Union sides. For example early in the war (1861 to 62) the Rebs have the advantage. Later in the war (1864-65) the Union become more dominate. 1863 sees both sides fairly even, and this showed in our game.
Preparation for play is very straight forward. Each side is activated and maneuvered through the use of a 'hand' of six cards which is maintained at that level by drawing the appropriate number of cards from you deck consisting of cards based on the side you're fighting for and year you are fighting in.
The battlefield was dominated by a hill on my left flank and a few fields of standing crops in the centre. Three clumps of wood covered my right flank.
 ABOVE: The battlefield with my boys arriving from the upper left and Stan's Yankees arriving from the lower right.
BELOW: A close up of my troops. The 8th Virginians closes to camera

The battle itself was a rather straight forward affair. The Federals moved up between the 'Three Pond Woods' and the open ground to their right. I suspect their plan was simply to stand their ground and shoot me up. The Federal Battery was deployed on the Federal right, and I thought my best option was to rush my Battery forward over Boxer Hill and bring enfilade fire onto the Yankee line.

 ABOVE: My brigade advances and is met with the first shots of the day from the Union Battery.
ABOVE: The Thin Blue Line.
The Louisianans' were to have the privilege off capturing the Federal artillery but someone failed to notice the swampy ground directly between them and the Yankee guns, (Stan played an 'interrupt card' that resulted in the swampy ground being 'discovered') . They were a mixed lot these boys from the Pelican State being the dregs from the 'Tigers' and some fresh faced firemen from Baton Rouge (See Below).

 BELOW: As the Rebs advance they are surprised to find a swamp.

As the  Louisianans' contemplated what they were going to do about the swampy ground before them the remaining Confederate infantry pressed forward determined to settle the matter with the bayonet!
Meanwhile the Confederate Battery finally came into action and started a duel with the Yankee gunners.

 Immediately the 8th Virginians in the centre of my line unleashed a "Rebel Yell" and hurled themselves at the Federal 'Irish' Regiment. The Irishmen stood their grand manfully and the result saw the Virginians driven back a considerable distance.
BELOW: Hot Yankee lead greets Rebel Cold Steel.
 The 18th Georgia Regiment on my right were more successful. They drove off the Yankees they met but soon found themselves confronted by the Federal Regiment that was held in reserve and the reformed Yankees they had had the better of earlier.
BELOW: The 8th Virginian are driven back by the Irish, and the 18th Georgians are about to be monstered by two Union Regiments. Meanwhile the Reb Zouaves agonised what to do about the swampy ground. Apparently no one wanted muddy boots.
 As the 18th Georgians were grudgingly but steadily driven back by the more numerous yanks the 8th Virginians edged forward and engaged the Irish in a musket duel that they steadily got the better of.
As this unfolded the Confederate Gunners also proved to be better at their trade than their Union counterparts and soon wiped out the Union Battery for the loss of one base (two guns) of their own guns.
Suddenly the Irishmen received some confusing orders, or maybe their Colonel decided that an advance was appropriate. Either way they found themselves disordered when part of their regiment blundered into the swampy ground.
It was at this point the Rebel Zouaves decided to throw caution to the wind. With the Union Battery knocked out they unleashed themselves on the Irishmen.
The Louisianans charge inflicted heavy casualties on the Irish and sent the reeling back.
BELOW: The situation after the Louisianan attack through the swampy ground into the Irishmen.
 At this point the Federal commander called it a day. With only one base away from breaking and the Rebs now with the initiative (my turn about to commence) the writing was on the wall.
I was 3 or 4 bases away from defeat myself.
BELOW: The situation at the end of play. Two of the three Union Regiments reduced to half strength or below and their artillery destroyed. The Georgians were down to only 30% strength!
 BELOW: The dogged 18th Georgia Infantry.
My conclusion:
LONGSTREET gave an excellent and 'flavoursome' game. One might ask "Why don't units rout"?
I guess it comes down to this. When units are forced to fall back by the bayonet they can be considered "Driven Back" (a short fall back move dictated by a low numbered die roll) or routed (a high die roll). It's assumed that once they have fallen back the required distance the Officers, Sergeants and other NCOs have got the remainder back into some semblance of order and back into the fight. This seems consistent with my readings of the conflict.
The card driven system ensures a quick paced and exciting game. You never know what spanner your opponent will throw into your gears with an 'interrupt' card.
All the game mechanisms are very straight forward with rolls to hit and then Kill when shooting.
Hand to Hand combat is a little more complicated but is quickly picked up.
The player has the option of using cards to remove some 'Kills' but in doing so might have to give up a card or two that really could prove useful later on. Decisions decisions,...
I HIGHLY recommend LONGSTREET for those that have a hankering for battling Regimental to  Brigade level games in the American Civil War.
All Miniatures were a mix of PERRY MINIATURE (both Plastics and Metals), some Sash and Saber Miniatures and Old Glory 2nd Edition Miniatures. Most of the Rebs were painted by Fernando Enterprise
Comments Welcomed!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

So I've been MIA! Here's why.

ABOVE: The 'King's Palace' at Kabul, Afghanistan. It'll be nice once it's finished I suspect
Hi Guys
Some of you may have noticed I'd not posted to my blog between June and November. It would have been only fair if someone had assumed I've been Missing In Action!
Well the reason is pretty simple.
I as diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder earlier this year. One of the symptoms is a lack of interest in things that use to give you pleasure, (my hobby being a casualty).
ABOVE: Me as a recruit, October 1982.

I enlisted in 1982 as a 17yr old and was allocated to the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery. Moved through the enlisted ranks rather quickly being a Sergeant within six years and being posted to what was at the time the Army's only Medium Artillery Battery (103rd MDM BTY) equipped with 5.5inch Guns and then M198 155mm Gun Howitzers. Soon after I was posted to our only Airborne Battery, 'A' FD Battery (PARA).

BELOW: Exercise Far Canopy or Diamond Dollar in the late 80s. I can't remember which.
ABOVE: As a young Sergeant awaiting a jump with my mates.

I served with the British Army on The Rhine in 1990 on exchange. Deployed to the Sinai in 1999 attached to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). I deployed on Operation Relex II in 2004 doing border security work and took up a position later that year assisting in the training of US Marines who were deploying to Iraq. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 as a training mentor for 6 months working closely with the Afghan National Army (ANA). I was diagnosed with PTSD in early 2013. For me it wasn't one single incident but rather just the culmination of 31 years of soldiering. It wasn't just what I experienced in the Middle East and Afghanistan but in training. Unfortunately I had mates injured and killed in training accidents. It all came to a head after Afghanistan. My tolerance levels were shot to shreds. I was snapping peoples heads off at work on occasions and wasn't the happy go lucky easy going young lad that had joined up as a keen as mustard 17 year old who had wanted to be a soldier since he was five. My sister died in July 2008, and then my brother died 3 months later. Six months after that, my mother died and yet I was emotionally numb to it all. The combination of my experiences on deployment and in training together with the ridiculous personal standards that I had maintained as a professional soldier had taken their toll. Never being late. Never having as much as a bit of lint on my uniform. Everything having its place and making sure everything was in it place. Always placing the needs of my soldiers and superiors ahead of my own (or my family) for so long became unbearable. Oddly enough however I didn't notice the deterioration in myself. I was a Warrant Officer Class One by 2008. I was posted as Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of an artillery regiment and then RSM of my Regimental School in 2010.
ABOVE: Laying a M777 as RSM School of Artillery. CO firing, (as is his prerogative)For any Artilleryman this would be considered the principal of their career, and certainly not one that would be attained by a 'weak' individual. My wife noticed a change in my demeanour when I returned from Afghanistan. I'd always been a difficult man to live with, demanding high standards from all around me including my family but upon my return I now took those standards to ridiculous heights. My wife and children were reduced to walking on eggshells. My four year old daughter Mathilda in particular was weary of me. My two year old son, (who was only 10 days old when I deployed to Afghanistan) stayed close to his mum. What I considered important, even life saving, was considered by my family as simply irrational. I was reduced to only 3 hours sleep a night from the time I returned from Afghanistan, which after 18months had done nothing to help with my attitude.
My 'tolerance' levels had been shot to pieces and I wasn't suffering fools in the slightest.
Ultimately my unit doctor intervened and I was admitted to the repat hospital at Epping for 6 weeks and then placed on a 12 week outpatient PTSD program. In itself this was not an easy feat for me and was initially impossible to accept. I was a man who had only ever had approx three or four months off for sick leave over a 31 year career, and most of that was convalescing after knee surgeries. Being away from my place of work and those who depended upon me for such an extensive time was one of the hardest parts. I felt 'jack' at times and I refused to accept there was anything wrong with me and that it was all in my head. I was having my own personal struggle about it. Yet as much as I felt bad about not being at work, the thought of returning made me sick to the pit of my stomach. Luckily, I've had excellent support from my Commanding Officer and unit in general. Most critically I've had fantastic loving support from my wife and children. I'm a long way from better, but I'm getting there.

 ABOVE: In Afghanistan with my mates
BELOW: Coming home from Afghanistan late 2011.
ABOVE: Why we fight. So little girls in Afghanistan can go to school. Its a good enough reason for me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Express Miniatures: A painting Service review

ABOVE:"HUZZAH"! Prussian Hussars to be sure, 2nd Silesian.
BELOW: The same Hussars, but from a different angle.
Hi Everyone
Recently I heard a new painting service was operating here in Australia, so always keen to support the local 'Wargaming' community I thought I should send some miniatures off to the new venture to be painted.
I came to know of EXPRESS MINIATURES via The Miniature Page (TMP). I sent Kurt a email and soon had five 12 figure Squadrons of Prussian 18mm AB Miniatures Prussian Cavalry on their way to him. I also sent of twenty BOLT ACTION 28mm World War Two Germans and twenty BOLT ACTION 28mm World War Two  US ARMY GIs to be assembled and painted. I also requested that they all be based and flocked so that essentially they were 'Ready to play' as soon as they arrived.
BELOW: Two Squadrons of Prussian Landwehr Cavalry, 1st Kurmark and 1st East Prussian
As a rule I rate Painting Services on four criteria. These being Painting (this includes assembly, basing and flocking if requested), Value For Money, Customer Service and Packaging.
So how did Express Miniature Fair?
PAINTING: The miniatures were well painted. Neat with subtle highlights and shading. I like my troops to have that 'On campaign' look about them, and Kurt asked me if I wanted my lads looking as if they were just off the parade ground or had been doing some hard marching.
I didn't need to provide uniform references, (which is very convenient). I was particularly please with the basing and flocking however I do like my base edges (I mean the very sides) to be clean and free from any marks. Some of the bases had brown marls on them, detracting from the otherwise 'neat' black edges.
Assembly of the 28mm plastic Bolt Action Germans and Americans was good. I won't say excellent as their were subtle issues to do with positioning of weapons and or hands that I as a professional soldier picked up on as 'odd'. I'm being highly critical it's fair to say.

ABOVE: Prussian Landwehr at ease. 1st Squadron, East Prussia

VALUE FOR MONEY: I would rate Kurt's painting somewhere between 'Collector' and 'Showcase' quality. For example he charges $6.00 for a mounted figure, ($6.50 for Hussars). Given the savings on not having to send the miniatures overseas the charges are pretty darn reasonable. All in all I'd suggest that Express Miniatures are reasonable to good value for money. Convenience is a big factor here as I live in Australia and posting miniatures overseas for painting can be expensive and stressful, (Will they arrive ok? Will they return ok?).

CUSTOMER SERVICE: Quite simply this was excellent. I was always kept informed in regards to progress, and provided photos to comment on. For example I was sent a photo of the BOLT ACTION GIs and I wasn't really happy with the colour of their trouser, (too dark). This was quickly addressed and a new photo was sent within 24 hours for my comment.
Kurt even returned the miniatures to me personally.
Consequently I cant comment on PACKAGING as like I said, they were hand delivered.

BELOW: 1st Squadron, Pomerania.
You can see more photos and get some commentary on how these miniatures were painted and based right from the horses mouth so to speak HERE 

BELOW: The BOLT ACTION 28mm Plastic Germans.

BELOW: The BOLT ACTION 28mm Plastic American GIs

In summary I would recommend EXPRESS MINIATURES to anyone who wants their miniatures painted to a high standard for a reasonable price.
Trailape Out! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Four score and seven years,...

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’. Only recently I returned from a holiday in the US, and was fortunate enough to visit the battlefields of Antietam and Gettysburg
Given the date I thought it might be appropriate to share just a few photos of my visit to Gettysburg.

My beautiful wife Raechel accompanied me on my battlefield tours and I honestly thought it would be torture for her but much to my surprise she really seemed to enjoy the visits. So much so she got dressed up whilst at Gettysburg. Many thanks to the lovely ladies at the Gettysburg Emporium by the way.

To quote Raech:
To my dear friends at the Gettysburg Emporium thank you so much for such a lovely time on my recent visit to Gettysburg. When I entered your shop, I had in mind just to have a bit of a look, perhaps try on a dress or buy a bonnet, what I got instead was a warm, heart felt experience and pampering and some lovely life-long friends. Thank you and I can't wait to return to Gettysburg and visit with you once again some day xox
Anyway we had a fabulous three days at Gettysburg. The people were very friendly and we were blessed with fantastic weather.
I’d like to recommend that if you do visit Gettysburg a great way to see the battlefield is on horseback. Raech and rode along with a tour from Artillery Ridge.

The perspective of being on horseback was excellent, and our tour guide knew her business answering all the questions I threw her way.
The highlight for me however was having my photo taken in a Union Officer’s uniform with Raech dressed as a lady of the day with a camera that was over 150 years old. We now have ‘Tin Plate’ photos that will stay in the family for years to come. However the best part was actually seeing how the photos were produced and the photographer Rob Gibson was only too pleased to show us the entire process.

Above: A visit to Gettysburg would not be complete without a visit to the Visitors Center. Below: An immaculate 'Napoleon' artillery piece at the Visitors Center. 

ABOVE: Just a small part of the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Just awesome!

BELOW: Raechel looking the part. She convinced me to get into a uniform, so being a 'Union Man' I selected that of a Federal Artillery Officer.

Friday, June 14, 2013

MAURICE at Canberra Games Society.

Hi All
Well, its been a long time since I've posted on this blog, (and more on the reason why later) but here is a long overdue addition to my reports.
I've been staying in Canberra for the last few weeks, so I took the opportunity to catch up with an old gaming mate David and get in a game of MAURICE.
David provided all the miniatures and terrain and gaming aids.
My army was a Hessian force with some Pfalz allies. David's army was Russian. 

Hessian ORBAT:
2 ELITE Cuirassiers
2 TRAINED Dragoons
1 ELITE Foot Grenadiers
5 TRAINED Musketeers 
1 IRREGULAR Foot Jagers
National Characteristics were Steady Lads and Rally To The Colours

Russian ORBAT:
2 ELITE Cuirassiers
1 TRAINED Dragoons
2 ELITE Foot Grenadiers
5 TRAINED Musketeers
1 IRREGULAR Cossacks
National Characteristics were Artillery Academy and Clerics
I chose to defend.
BELOW: My forces deployed facing David's Russian hoard.
I deployed with three battalions of Musketeers on the right of the enemies objective, the town of Hayleystadt with two forward and one in reserve on the high ground.  My irregulars were deployed in and around the wooded area on our far right flank. I garrisoned the town with a battalion of musketeers and deployed my two guns in front of and slightly to the left of the town. My left flank consisted of the Elite Grenadiers and a a Pfalz Musketeer Battalion.
Finally I massed all my Cavalry in reserve in March Column behind the left flank battalions. My notables consisted of the Rev.Whitehorse and Hans Von Gudarian (I might have changed their names)  ;)
Gudarian was my choice to command my mounted reserve, adding a +1 to all rally rolls for the Regiment he was attached to.
The Rev Whitehorse was commanding the right flank infantry.
David decided to stack his right flank. I looked like he intended to try and clobber my left flank infantry and then roll up my Cavalry reserve in a combined arms attack. He massed his artillery in the center, I assumed to provide support to either flank, in either defence or attack.
 ABOVE: David's first move. He advanced his massed artillery and in a coordinated move worthy of a Prussian Drill manual swings his cavalry regiments out towards his right flank.
 Before I could exclaim "Mien Gott"! david was able to sweep all his horse around to threaten my left.
Fortunately I was able to wheel my Pfalz Musketeers back and refuse my left flank and change the facing of my own Cuirassiers to face the threat.
I was able to hold off the Russian attempt to roll up my left flank. Quickly David now advanced his Elite Grenadiers and Musketeer to support his cavalry.
 ABOVE: The threat to my left flank.
BELOW: I advance my right in an attempt to distract David, to no avail.
 As David threw his men at my left I attempted to distract him by repaying him the favour by advancing the three battalions on my right. All my attacked achieved doing was destroying one of his Artillery with a combination of brisk musketry and artillery fire. (see above and below)

 ABOVE: My Hessian ELITE cavalry, Cuirassiers, and BELOW: the Russian equivalents.

 The action now centered on my left flank, with fire-fights and the occasional charges into hand to hand combat between our flank forces infantry and cavalry. My Pfalz Musketeers performed feats of valour, consistently rallying of disruption and delivering devastating volley fire resulting in the dispatching of one battalion of Russian Grenadiers, and then a supporting battalion of Musketeers after some torrid hand to hand combat. (see below) 
Not to be outdone, two of my cuirassiers then routed one of their opposite numbers after an initial setback. Adding insult to injury the Russian artillery was whipped out gun by gun by the less numerous Hessian gunners.
BELOW: The fog of war; Pfalz Musketeers blaze away at Russian Dragoons and Hessian Cuirassiers destroy one of the Russian Cuirassier Regiments leaving only one left to continue the uneven fight
 With the Regiment of Russian Dragoons being routed by musket fire (see above) the Russian army fell apart and routed from the field.
 David played an excellent game, but just couldn't turn hits into disruption. Furthermore my lads consistently rallied of what disruption they did take showing incredible discipline.
David's gunners were a huge disappointment, with my gunners performing beyond expectations.
A great game, lots of fun and done in two hours including set up.
David's comments:

"I simply did't expect you to refuse your flank by falling the Pflaz battalion back. But I was disappointed (embarrassed actually!) with my artillery.Still a very enjoyable game played at a good pace".

David's miniatures are the beautiful EUREKA Miniatures 18mm infantry and Artillery and the Cavalry are Old Glory or Essex miniatures I think.
As usual, comments are welcomed.