Sunday 29 December 2019

Book Review - The Italian Wars Part 1 Helion Publishing

Something I've not done before, a Book Review, Yarkshire Gamer is turning into Radio 4 I hear you cry !

To make life easier the extensive Production Crew at Yarkshire TV have done a little 5 minute feature on the book.

The book can be purchased direct from the publisher on the link below, £19.95 including post and packing,

There are 128 pages with black and white illustrations throughout and colour plates (example above) in the centre.

It contains everything you would expect from a Book of this type, history, armies involved, battle description etc, I particularly liked the modern day photos of the field and also the "orbat" in the Appendix.

So in short everything I needed a year ago when I started my army ! Is there a conspiracy 🤔 plenty of new ideas for units going ahead. Definitely Recommended

Monday 23 December 2019

Op Compass Game 8 - Don't wake the Sergeant

After a few games clearing forts it was time to get back in the open desert, pack away those almost indestructible Matildas and break out the wafer thin armoured early Cruiser Tanks. Here is the scenario / orbat and AAR of Game 8 of our  Op Compass Campaign.

A9 Cruiser Tanks
If you want more information on the Campaign I have set up a separate page which is updated regularly with updates on rules along with links to all the previous games,

The games are based on an excellent book by Robert Avery which is available from The Toofatlardies, there is a direct link to purchase the 
book on the Resource Page.We use 28mm figures with this scenario taking place on an 12 x 6 table using a home brew set of rules, based on Iron Ivans Disposable Hero's.

A10 Cruiser Tank
Historical Background 

The Italian troops in the area had been bottled up in Sidi Barrani and the British paused to reorganise before making their attacks on the afternoon of the 10th December 1940. The defenders crumbled quickly and by night fall the last defenders of the town were pinned back to the sea.

Our game represents an attack by the Cruiser Tanks of 6 RTR against this final line of Italian troops. The original attack happened during the hours of darkness, I have decided to run the game under normal daylight rules.

Table Set Up and Terrain 

The photo above shows the table, we are playing on the full 12 x 6 layout. A flat area of desert with some undulating sand dunes and some areas of Scrub, a track runs down one edge of the table. I added two buildings post photo one in the far top right of the table and a second to the left of the green hill.

The following Special Rules are in force (see Resource Page for full details)

Bad Going

Italian Prisoners - when Italian Infantry become pinned roll 1d6, on a 5 or 6 the unit surrenders, add +2 to the die roll per additional pin. Once surrendered the unit will March towards the British entry point, it must be accompanied by a British Unit (within 9") until it leaves the table. 1 Tank can safely escort or hold 20 Figures of Italians. Once the prisoners leave the table the vehicles can resume normal duties.

Italian Artillery Crew Morale - they do not take morale tests and fight to the last man.

Dunes - all the hills are soft sand, any bad going rolls made on the hills are subject to a one shift on the dice. I.e. a roll of 3 and 4 on two d6 would not normally bog a vehicle down but a dune, the 3 is modified to a 4 to make it a double 4.

Italian Prisoners (marked with white counter) March towards the British 
British Briefing 

With the fall of the forts it's a case of mopping up the last bits of resistance in the area, Intel suggests there are some small Infantry units supported by a decent amount of Artillery. Be careful, your tanks are thinly armoured and not that reliable !

Squadron HQ 1 x A10 Cruiser Tank and 1 x A10 CS Tank
1st Troop - 3 x A9 Cruiser Tanks 
2nd Troop 3 x A10 Cruiser Tanks 

You have a two fold objective, One, destroy all the Italian Guns (Artillery and Anti Tank) and two, capture (alive) the Italian Captain who is sound asleep in the house at the opposite end of the table.

All units enter the table on the track, in column from the bottom left hand corner of the table (as viewed in the photo above).

A9 tank "Amos" in the dunes

Italian Briefing 

The lakes of Northern Italy seem a distant dream now and you long for home as this war goes from bad to worse.

You are in Command of a group of mixed Guns supported by some infantry units. Morale in the foot soldiers remains very low and you know they could break at any point. The pride in the Artillery units gives you some confidence but this is going to be a long day.

The Commander sleeps soundly whilst his driver waits outside.
Your Mission is to do as much damage as you can to the advancing enemy whilst keeping your Commander safe.

1 x HQ 2 Figures with Staff Car 
4 x 10 man Infantry Squads each with 1 Sgt with SMG and 9 Rifles 
2 x 47mm Anti Tank Guns and crew
2 x 65mm Infantry Guns and crew
2 x 75mm Fields Gun and crew

Free set up, all units begin the game hidden.

Italian Anti Tank Gun
How did we get on

The Italians set up with some infantry in the forward house, the oasis and the long sand dune, the final squad was guarding the Commander, the first three to act as Art observers. The Artillery was set up by the Commanders house whilst the Anti Tank Guns were both on the long sand dune. The Infantry Guns were split, One near the Oasis and one in the far top left palm grove.

Italian Infantry spotting for the guns

In what was going to be the first of many mechanical issues for the British one of the A10s broke down on the turn of the first event card.

A couple of A9s quickly located one of the Italian Squads.

Some sustained MG fire from the two tanks persuaded the Infantry to surrender and it was round 1 to the British.

It wasn't all plain sailing for the Brits as Italian Guns rained shells down on the advancing tanks.

Things got a little hairy for the prisoners (and the A9s) when some random Artillery rounds landed close by.

It wasn't long before the Italian Artillery hit home as a 75mm shell landed on the roof of one of the A10s.

One of the A9s located some Italian Infantry at the last minute hidden by the Oasis and was safe in the knowledge that they only had rifles.

What they didn't see was the Anti Tank Gun hidden in the dunes behind the Infantry.

The first line of the Italian positions were clear after the Infantry in the house surrendered and the remaining 6 British Tanks advanced towards their objectives.

The CS Tank remained near the base line, it's ranged capability allowed it to both support the attack with its 3 inch Howitzer and remain near the base line to escort the prisoners away.

The Brits approached the last Italian positions and we were in for an exciting conclusion.

The slower moving A10 Tanks ended up in a cross fire from the Anti Tank Guns on the dunes around the Commanders house, the Infantry Gun in the Palm Grove and the indirect Artillery. It didn't end well for the British who lost two tanks in quick succession (see first photo), One A10 was lost to an Artillery round which went off under it's right side track turning it over, the other from an Infantry Gun shell in its side (boy those Cruisers are thinly armoured)

It wasn't all Team Italy though and the remaining Anti Tank Guns were taken out by the British machine guns.

It was desperate stuff, the Italians only had one spotter left for two Artillery pieces and as a last ditch defensive move one of the 75mm guns exposed itself to the machine guns so it could fire over open sights. 

Just at that moment the above A9 set off to get a better shooting position at the gun, only it didn't move, years ground and engine smoked but it was completely broken.

The British had three tanks left now but the A10 CS was about 10 feet in table distance from the action and the other remaining A10 was bogged down near it's destroyed friends which just left 1 A9, the ever dependable "Arnold".

In a rather unfortunate twist of fate as the final A9 advanced towards it's final objective an Event Card draw came up, it was a breakdown, the British roll for how bad it was, a 6 was rolled, total mechanical break down and a very rare total victory for the Italian Forces.

So a 4 point victory for the Italians narrowing the scores for the campaign to a single game span, British 18 Italian 14.

Another extremely close game, both sides had chances to win. On table now is our traditional WW1 Mesopotamia game, expect some more Compass early in the new year.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

A10 Cruiser Tanks for the Desert

I have been really slack this year when it comes to fresh gaming output. I had the big burst of Italian Wars at the start of the year which burnt me out a little, so with this year's Analogue Hobbies Winter Paint Challenge about to start I needed to get back in the saddle, warm up the Pro Arte Sable and start to splash the Vallejo again.

This year I have decided to have a tank theme and try and crack through the huge backlog of 28mm Early War desert vehicles I have lying around in the to do box (I say box I mean small garage). First thing was to get a bit of pre season training in with a couple of A10 Tanks I needed for our next Op Compass Campaign Game.

The vehicles are from Warlord Games and will join another 3 A10s that I already own. The vehicles are painted in the early war Caunter Scheme as most of my vehicles are, I've gone for a very pale blue grey for my third colour on these. I have given up debating Caunter Colours and stick to my own interpretation, I have vehicles in the official colours (the earliest) and then others with various shades representing my interpretation of the colour change / fade for the third colour.

There is also a (shock, horror !) conversion on one of the vehicles, it sounds big and clever but all I have done is taken a 3" CS barrel from a Rubicon Models Crusader it (cheers Steve 👍) and replaced the two pounder barrel on the original model to get a Close Support version, which is required for the game mentioned above.

It's nice to get a couple of new vehicles finished and hopefully this will get me in the mood for the challenge. After all looking at the pic below I have 11 Honeys, 4 A13s, 7 Crusaders, a Matilda, 5 Panzer III, 2 Panzer IV, an 8 rad, 3 Sdkfz 222, a Panzer II, 3 Mark VI Light Tanks, 3 Italian M13/40 tanks and 6 M11/39 tanks to be going on with.

The plan past year during the Challenge was to complete a small unit of 6 Cavalry each week to keep me driving forward, it worked a treat. This year I plan a minimum of 3 vehicles each week, so there are more than enough in these boxes to keep me going.

I only started playing around with weathering of vehicles a year or so ago so I'm quite new to it, there are some washes, some chipping and a bit of streaking on these, I don't want to go too far with it (some models are all weathering and no paint) but I'm happy with my progress.

The vehicles are due in action straight away so will have the opportunity to perform dreadfully (as all new units must) pretty soon.

So the wing table will be mostly empty for the next couple of weeks whilst I get this lot cleaned up, washed, dried, built and primed ready for the start of the challenge on the 21st December. See you at the start line.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Italian Wars - The Movie

The last post on the blog covered our first on table adventures in the Italian Wars and in that piece I did some written explanations of the rules we were trying out, Furioso. A link to that post below,

In addition to that I did some video run throughs of a small set up game just to make things easier to grasp.

The first video gives a basic introduction of the rules along with an description of the Initiative phase which is the prime driver for the rest of rules.

The second video covers the first move, before units get into real action and shows how the moves sequence works and covers some basic shooting and Artillery.

I noticed the odd dice missed off the odd throw in that run through, it's a new set of rules and I'm talking without a script, that's my excuse 😎

The third video is quite long (half an hour) but goes into a bit more detail as in the second move units get into contact, there are run throughs of three seperate melees which hopefully illustrate the process involved.

The final video in the series covers a few parts of the rules that I didn't cover in the videos, some stuff we didn't use in our tests and some thoughts on some house rules we used.

All in all a positive experience and hopefully the videos and previous post will give you an idea if the rules are for you. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Let's Play Italian Wars - Furioso Style

Regular readers of the blog will be aware of the last large project I embarked on, 28mm Italian Wars. It went remarkably quickly and I managed to plough through a big chunk of figures during the 2018/19 Analogue Hobbies Winter Paint Challenge, producing a pretty large Papal Army in the process. The figures went on to win the Challenge Choice Award, which was nice.

Swiss Pike clash with their fellow country men.
So over the last few weeks the collection has been out on the table getting to grips with some rules and getting a new period up and running here at Yarkshire Gamer. Along with my figures, regulars Harry (with his large French contingent) and Steve with his Landsknechts added to the weight of the table.

Landsknecht Shot
There wasn't much of a plan to the game, on the usual 12 x 6 table I set up a symmetrical layout with a couple of built up areas and some trees and lined the troops up ready to go.

Our troops are based on 60 x 50 bases, 8 Figures on a Pike base, 4 on a shot base and 6 on a "other" base (Sword and Buckler, Polearm etc). Cavalry is on a 50 x 60 base with two figures per base. This isn't for any particular rule set, it looks right to us and any rule set we use will just be adapted to this basing (I don't rebase !).

Papal Pike Block
So our chosen rule set for our playtest is Furioso, they are avaliable from Alternative Armies for £10 as a Pdf. Link below.

The company also do an additional supplement specifically covering the Italian Wars adding Mercenary Units etc but we didn't use that in our initial game so I won't comment further on that now.

The French
Just to give you an idea of the forces involved they were as follows,

French Right Wing 
3 x French Gendarme (3 bases each), 2 x French Archer (3 bases)
2 x French Skirmish Crossbow (3 bases each) 1 x Old Band French Pike (9 bases)
1 x Light Gun

French Centre
3 x Landsknecht Pike blocks (1 with 9 bases, 2 with 6 bases) each with skirmish screen bases.
2 x Polearm / Zwei hander units (4 bases)
1 x Landsknecht Formed Shot unit (4 bases)
1 Heavy and 1 Medium Gun

French Left Wing 
3 x French Gendarme (3 bases each), 2 x French Archer (3 bases)
1 Light Gun

Papal Centre
Papal Right Wing 
2 x Familia Ducal Cavalry, 3 x Condottiero Cavalry, 1 x Mounted Italian Crossbow, 1 x Italian Light Cavalry, 1 x Stradiots (bow) all 3 bases.
1 x Landsknecht Formed Shot unit and 1 Swiss Polearm unit (both 4 bases)

Papal Centre
1 x Landsknecht Pike block (8 bases, plus two skirmish shot bases)
1 x Swiss Pike Block (6 bases, plus two skirmish shot bases)
2 x Romandiole Pike Blocks (6 based, plus two skirmish shot bases)
1 x Swiss Guard (4 bases)
1 x Sword and Buckler unit (4 bases)
1 x Heavy and 1 Medium Gun
1 x Stradiot (with Lance) and 1 x Italian Mounted Crossbow, both 3 bases.

Papal Left Wing
1 x Familia Duca Cavalry, 4 x Condottiero Cavalry, 1 x Stradiot (Lance), 1 x Stradiot (bow), 1 x Italian Light Cavalry, all 3 bases.
2 x Landsknecht Formed Shot units (4 bases) 1 x Light Gun.

Papal Cavalry
With chucking everything on the table (and why not !) We didnt use the Army Morale System in the rules as we were about 3 times over the sizes mentioned, nothing like a "small" game to start with !

We didn't use the Generals rules (other than plus 1 in Combat Morale if in range).

So let's move onto the rules themselves. I am going to do a seperate post with some video examples of the mechanics of the rules just waiting for Speilberg to come free to finish the edit.

Landsknecht Pike
Firstly some basics, the rules are relatively straight forward and all units are in "bases" - each base having 4 hits before it is removed, units are built up of numbers of bases. Our figures are set up differently to the rules so we just played with the number of bases we had per unit and it worked fine. All die rolls are d6 and all rolls need a 5 or 6 for a success, so very easy to remember.

Run Away !
Each unit has a stat line to define it's character, they are as follows,
Type - e.g. Gendarme, Raiders etc this can give the unit a special ability for example units fighting Gendarme lose 1 d6 in combat if the Gendarme charge.
Tactic - Galloper, Skirmishers etc
Combat Factor - Base number of Dice per base when fighting (2 to 5)
Initiative Modifer - as it sounds
Weapon - defines type
Armour Class - None, Armoured, Heavy, Extra Heavy
Move - basic in inches (for 28s)
Size (suggested number of bases)
There is also a points value but as you know I hate points systems so this was immediately discarded !

Swiss Pike clash with Landsknechts
We (as usual) ignored the set up rules and just got on with it.

At the start of each turn each unit rolls 1 d 6 and adds (or subtracts) their Initiative Modifier from their stat line and that determines when they will move in the turn. We simply left the rolled dice at the rear of the unit as a marker to remind us of an initiative score.

Units such as Gendarme and Swiss gain +2 to their roll, if the net score goes over 6 the unit become Impetuous and charges of at the nearest unit, much as those units did if they thought the Commander was being a touch cautious.

Papal Pike to the rescue
Impetuous units remain so until they get into melee or fail a morale test.

Units with an Initiative of zero don't move or fire but can defend themselves in melee.

Each unit completes it's turn with the highest dice going first. So all Impetuous first, then 6s go then all 5s etc.

If a unit choses to move it's move distance is it's base move from its stat line plus it's Initiative Score, so a Gendarme moves 8 inches normally, if it had a 5 for initiative it would move 13 inches, simple really.

Papal Guard vs The World 
Each side should move one unit and then the next side and so on, I could see how over a club night table this would work fine but over a large table it became restrictive so we just broke the table down into areas of action and moved units in sequence in that area.

Each unit completes it's turn before moving onto the next unit.

It's wouldn't be long before we introduced a house rule (it never is !) We found that there was a problem when you have units in consecutive lines (Cavalry mostly) when the units in the rear end up with higher initiative than those in the rear, because of the move system the unit at the rear was effectively stuck and was therefore at a disadvantage due to it's higher initiative. We solved the problem by allowing units to exchange their Initiative dice front to rear, the payment for doing so was reducing both dice by 1.

Landsknecht pointy end
Shooting is done by base, 2d6 if short range, 1 if long or if moved. Roll the dice, 5 or 6 hits. The target has a save of 1d6 per hit with additional dice for cover and armour, saving a hit on a 5 or 6.

So a stationary unit of Landsknecht Shot with 4 bases firing at a unit of Gendarme with at short range would throw 8 dice, let's say for 3 hits. The Gendarme would throw 3 save rolls for the hits, plus 3 dice for their armour, - 1 for the fact they were fired at by a gunpowder weapon giving 5 dice to save 3 hits. Remember each base has 4 hits before it is removed.

French Pike on the move
Nice and straight forward and picked up in a couple of moves.

We added our second house rule for Mounted Crossbow and Bow, reducing their ranges. It's open to historical debate but I am in the "crossbows were used from horseback" camp, but they used a latch type loading mechanism which would give less draw weight and hence less range. So our house rule fitted that.

The other thing we weren't sure on was the basing for shot troops, skirmish units are in three bases, side by side which is fine, but formed shot is in 4 bases, 2 x 2 which to me doesn't look right, we have left it as is for now but might come back to that.

The Pope in action
Melee combat occurs when units contact each other and multiple rounds of combat can occur in one turn, for example a unit with an Initiative of six contacts and fights a unit with an Initiative of three, they fight once of the turn of the unit with 6 and again on the turn of the unit with 3.

Sword and Buckler unit 
Combat is based around the Combat Factor of each unit, each base in contact generates dice equal to the CF of that unit. So a French Gendarme unit with a C.F. of 4 will generate 12 dice (for 3 bases) as a start, there are additional modifiers (Cavalry charging get plus 1 to their dice, giving a total of 15 for our Gendarme example, these dice are rolled, with 5 or 6 being a hit.

The unit that has taken the hits gets the opportunity to save, 1 d6 for each hit plus a number of Dice to represent the Armour of the unit, with a 5 or 6 saving.

More Landsknechts
The outcome of the melee is determined by a Combat Morale Test after the casualties are calculated. This is based on the CF to start with modifiers to the number of Dice for most casualties, losing a base, size of unit etc. Both players roll their dice with a 5 or 6 (as usual) counting as a success. It is the difference between these results that determine the outcome. 1 difference pushes back the loser 1 base and causes 1 casualties, 2 difference, 2 push backs, 2 casualties. Three difference adds disorganised to the losers woe whilst 4 push backs kills the unit.

Units that have a traditional rivalry (Swiss and Landsknechts) can become "Furioso" when close to each other, this drags the units into combat and intensifies the fighting, which is done twice before any Combat Morale is taken.

We found that the system worked well but because there is no cumulative effect round to round melees went on until a unit ran out of figures. After the first day playing we decided this wasn't working for us and made the push backs add up, turn on turn, so a 1 push back this turn after a 1 push back the previous turn would count as 2.

Morale is done by a simple test when a unit loses a base in shooting or when a general is killed, the rules do have an overarching morale system which is based on the overall losses but this is designed for games a third of the size we were trying, it's something we didn't use during this play test but will be looked at again, next game.

So general impression is very good and we will definitely be using them again. We made a few minor changes but I have to be honest and say that only a couple of sets of rules survive intact after contact with the Yarkshire Gamer ! There are some nice touches in the rules, like hazards (when you throw 4 1's in any roll).

I've done a video run through of the rules which I will put up on the blog early next week.