Wargaming in Hertfordshire

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Crisis for Six in Dunkirk!

After an uneventful evening Eurotunnel crossing and establishment of the FOB in the IBIS Central in Dunkirk, the intrepid party set off for the Crisis Wargames show in Antwerp. This was a first for us and turned out to be like Salute, but with cheaper parking and the option to have lunch included in the entry price of 20€!! Plenty of traders, a good selection of games, a ‘bring and sell’ section that one could actually get into(!), as well as a nice friendly atmosphere. Recommended.

Intrepid travellers before joining the mammoth entry queue.

Richard Clark looking pensive!

Some familiar faces at the Sharpe Practice 2 table.

Day 2: Dunkirk outer perimeter tour: After causing major disruption in the local boulangerie by having the effrontery to order coffee and croissants early on a Sunday morning, the team set off for Veurne. In May 1940 this town was one of the key points on the Dunkirk defence perimeter. The tour started respectfully in the CWGC cemetery in Veurne, but almost came unstuck when the team was forced to shelter under trees in the corner of the graveyard for almost 15 minutes, while an unexpected “light shower” passed over! We then moved on to the canal defence line and thus planting the seed of a 20mm Early War German engineering assault section, complete with rubber boats, firmly in Greg’s mind!?

After Veurne it was on to an old Maginot Line bunker on the France-Belgium border.

Then came a spot of lively battlefield archaeology, while the team debated which was actually Langley’s cottage, leading Simon to decree that local planning permission should not allow properties to be modified / altered, where such properties appear in published battlefield guide books!

After a brief stop at the site of Ervine-Andrews’ VC winning action, it was onto Bergues, a nice old walled town which formed an important part of the Western end of the Dunkirk perimeter defence. We slogged our way through a coffee and biscuit in a cosy café on the town square, before heading down to then Cassel gate, the area of most of the 1940s action.

After Bergues, it was off to the Wormhout barm massacre site, for a solid reminder of man’s inhumanity to their fellow men! After this sombre reflection, an unscheduled excursion to the Esquelbecq CWGC cemetery, to pay some deserved respects to the victims.

We then headed down to the bunker at Peckel, the site of Cresswell’s epic 3 day siege in 1940.

Next stop was Cassel. The long climb up the cobbled road to the top (in a modern car!) serving as a good reminder of the military significance of the only bit of high ground in the area. Indeed, Cassel has been the site of three battles through the years, even if no-one could name the other two. After lunch in a delightful little café (which could easily have served as the set of ‘Allo ‘Allo!), we pressed on up to the 3 battles monument, spectacular panoramic views and rather more dubious ‘Roman wall’ remains!

Before setting off to our last visit of the day, we drown down past the location of where a knocked-out German Panzer 35t was photographed in 1940, knocked out by a 2 pounder located further up Cassel hill.

Our last stop of the day, was a deviation to the Dunkirk 1940 theme, the V2 preparation / launching bunker at Eperlecques, the aptly named the “Blockhaus”!

The scale of construction is both awe inspiring and depressing and was well worth the deviation from the main tour theme. Despite the grand plans, it was interesting to reflect that Eperlecques never actually launched a V2! The sheer obvious scale of the facility attracting some very severe Allied bombing, including everything up to the 22,000 lb Tallboy and "Disney" bombs. The facility did however continue to process V2 rockets for mobile launchers.

Day 2: Dunkirk and the beaches: The day opened gloriously, with a blue, lightly clouded sky and sunshine, which compensated for the early (well for Rob!) to get out to the beach at low tide. We located the wreck of the Crested Eagle, causing another sombre moment of reflection for the 300 lives lost during her sinking.

After a short diversion to an “Atlantic Wall” bunker sticking out of the dunes, it was back to Dunkirk and the CWGC Dunkirk cemetery, to reflect upon the 5500+ names of Commonwealth Servicemen lost in two World Wars.

After a brief return to the hotel, to check-out, we embarked upon the walking tour of Dukirk, an interesting idea, clearly inspired to fill a bit of a publicity gap after the recent film’s release. Anyway, the many themed blue display boards gave us a nice walk, with Dave claiming that we had walked over 14km all-told that day.

Yet another Atlantic Wall Bunker

On the Mole

The day ended with a visit to the Dunkirk museum, with its interesting and sometimes eclectic mix of exhibits, including model Landrovers on the beach in 1940! Anyway, a great trip. Sedan anyone!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Mons Graupius II

From our correspondent, Simon Tacitus, somewhere in northern Caledonia……

Yesterday, as the mists cleared the might of Rome formed up to face the masses of Pictish barbarians somewhere in the this cursed land. Oh for a bath house and some good wine and garum!

Fredericus Lepus, the Batavian commander offered to be the 'anvil' upon which the Roman Legionary 'hammer' (Simon) would crush the bearded foe.  The Romans advanced cautiously but two quick failed '1' activation chits brought their careful manoeuvring to a swift end. In close adherence to the pre-battle holding plan, the Picts charged forward with their right flank (Tony) of light cavalry and chariots making spectacular initial gains in territory. The Pictish left also advanced but quickly faltered with a “one” chit.

The Roman right flank “hammer” then began to deploy rapidly forward with legionaries cautiously advancing and their light cavalry and Auxilia trying to outflank the Pictish deep units. The Roman anvil held firm but a worrying gap began to develop between the anvil and hammer…..!

The Pictish right soon began to outflank the Roman left, but also threatening to punch through the centre. Things were looking grim for Rome but these Romans were used to such situations. The Pictish left flank advance faltered with poor chit drwaing, giving the forces of civilisation a chance to envelope the flanks of the deep Pictish warrior war bands and start to cause massive disruption.

Events in the Roman centre worsened as its cavalry and light infantry were wiped out and the Picts gleefully made off with many heads and a few victory medals. All that now stood between the Roman camp and a rampaging deep unit of Pictish fanatics, was the singularly ineffective ballista unit. Miraculously they held in desperate hand-to-hand combat, saving themselves and the camp. Commendation and a Grass Crown to that Centurion whose actions probably saved the day.

At this point Gregius 'Onechit', assuming the cause of Rome to be lost, departed and suddenly the Roman fortunes changed!

Back on the Roman right the judicious movement of the General plus the ability of the Romans to ignore difficult activations when manouevering Legionnaires allowed the Romans to start eating into the Pictish deep warrior unitsn ("Three Victory medals please Tony!"). On the Roman left equally deft Generalship managed to get an Auxiliary unit into the flank of the deep unit attacking the camp. Eventually it too broke.

This technique of allowing the cumbersome Pictish warrior deep units to lumber past the more nimble Roman Legionnaires and then falling on the exposed Pictish flanks, was really starting to work!

The Roman 'hammer' now really started to grind into the Pictish flank, destroying another Pictish deep unit after it failed to pull back to rally.  Roman victory was finally in sight. Even the agile Pictish light units were finding themselves penned in and unable to evade and hence destroyed.


Although the Romans lost a total of only 3 Victory Medals, the game certainly felt a much closer-run-thing than that score would suggest. If the Roman artillery had been overrun and the camp lost, the Picts would have gained 4 victory medals and Fredericus Lepus’ force would have been perilously close to demoralisation and a Pictish victory. However, it was Roman discipline, mobility and staying power, that told over Pictish bravery and aggression.

On the adjacent table Chris and Rob played some weird game involving Wild West scenery and sone rather unsavoury looking figures, of which no more need be said! It looked odd and some of the verbal exchanges sounded decidedly bizarre….. Elsewhere, Brian had dragged out his old copy of Doom, Peter Pig's "Square Bashing" was making another apperance and a game of ACW Sharpe Practice II was looking rather nice.

Next week, the Black Wolf annual quiz!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Thursday, 12th October

Another eclectic games night at Black Wolf.

First off, Dave & Phil were trying out Viking Dux, from the Christmas 2012 Lardies Special.

This Viking Dux game was fun. Dave and I both struggled with how to use the rather unruly Berserkers. Mine ran off straight into Dave’s levy, as soon as he advanced the levy and who's leader had not yet had time to form them into shieldwall. After a couple of rounds and a few dead on each side, my berserkers were driven back. This then caused Dave’s berserkers to charge at my rebuffed berserkers and then having then driven them from the field, Dave’s Berserkers immediately charged headlong into Ragnar and his elite hirdsmen! These berserkers just keep going until they fail in combat! Entertaining, but of limited military utility to both sides, as we used them!? However, the MDF chit activation is much easier than trying to "shuffle" a deck of 8 cards (thanks Warbases). Vikings now make a really nice addition to the Dux repertoire.

Meanwhile on a table across the way and sometime around 236BC…..

Following the 1st Punic War the Carthaginians are seeking to expand in Iberia and grow a territory to economically exploit and re-build to challenge the power of Rome.

The forces of Carthage and their Iberian allies ( Simon and Malcolm) took on a surly Spanish force ( Chris and Tony).  Choosing the army had been quite interesting as it is the Carthaginian army pre-Hannibal and has some limitations in troop selection; hence why Simon had some true “Spanish allies”.

The game began well with the forces of civilisation winning the scouting. So Tony and Chris deployed first.  Disaster in turn 1 as the Carthaginians quickly drew two 1s to end their turn. Spanish triumphalism was short lived as they too drew quickly drew a 1. Eileen looked on with grim amusement, and we could sense the spirit of Greg ("I've found all the 1s") in the room.

The two left wings both cavalry-heavy quickly advanced and started to win their  own battles. The centre turned into a hard battle of attrition for the infantry.

Casualties steadily mounted for both sides and we thought it was all over for us when the Spanish camp fell. Miraculously a unit of elite Balearic slingers charged the Spanish light cavalry in the flank and destroyed them recapturing the camp and saving Malcolm’s Spanish from demoralisation.

By 21.30 both sides were down to only 3 victory medals each. It was clear that this would be the final turn……something would have to give. The Gallic mercenaries in the centre made one final charge for the Carthaginian camp and glory….only to fail and die heroically in the Spanish counter-attack giving victory to the Spanish.

Once again an excellent game that proved what a good set of rules TtS is.

Elsewhere we had some Peter Pig Square Bashing (sorry no photo), a game of Congo and a interesting ECW game. Another mixed night at Black Wolf.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Mons Graupius, AD84, or Black Wolf, 21st Sept 2017?

Calgacus (Mal) surveyed the terrifying scene before him. These Romans certainly were persistent! They had remorselessly pursued his forces up into the highlands, until now, with their winter food supplies threatened, the Caledonians were forced to turn and face the deadly Roman killing machine in open battle.

The battle started very badly on the Caledonian left flank (Phil’s bit). An overwhelming superiority in Caledonian light cavalry (the Romans had put all their cavalry on the more open left flank) was rapidly decimated by the fire from the Roman Olympic archery team! Never-the-less, the massed ranks of the Caledonian warrior blocks still pressed forward in the centre.

Amongst the sweating, grunting and blood-letting (and this was just the players!), fortunes were going either way, but slightly more in the favour of the Romans. The pila, scutium and gladius combination was working its age old grim reaping, although the Caledonians did manage punch a couple of holes in the Roman line, it was at a high cost, with most of the deep warrior units carrying 1 or 2 disorder markers. Then the Caledonian left flank started to crumble, after the loss of 2 of its big warrior blocks.

However it was left to a motely group of women, boys and old men (single peasant deep unit) to hang-on on to the Caledonian far left, distracting four Roman legionary & Auxiliary units from the task of rolling-up the Caledonian centre. This struggle however was only going to go one way, but they had bought much needed time for the Caledonian right flank and in the process shamed the manhood of Rome!
Calgaus (Mal) used this time to press into the two small holes created in the Roman centre and at the same time completely envelop the Roman right flank (Brian). Soon Caledonian light cavalry and light infantry was pecking vigorously on all the exposed flanks of the hard-pressed Romans and their chariots were threatening the Roman rear.

A loss of two Roman legionary units suddenly started to even up the medal tally situation (which had left the Caledonians down to only 2 victory medals for the majority of the latter part of the game). The Roman left (Dave) now started to fall upon the Caledonian troops enveloping the right hand side of the now hard-pressed Roman left. At one point, a Roman legionary unit mounted four attacks into the unprotected rear of a Caledonian warrior (deep) unit, only to come away with inflicting a single disorder! In fact the Caledonians did not even deign to turn to face the Romans. They just fell while still facing the forward! (Although some suspicion started to fall on the motivation of the Roman units?!).

Yet, the Caledonian centre still refused to collapse! The Romans too, were now down to only 2 Victory medals. So, in the end, it was left to Mal’s wide riding light chariots to sweep into the Roman camp and scoop-up the last 2 Roman victory medals. Caledonia was now free, a new history is forged! The dingy place in the North was free of Southern civilisation attempts….hang-on, has anything changed?!
Yet another nail biting game from ‘To the Strongest’ and another lesson that, with these rules, one should never give up! “You can disorder our units, but you will never take away our last victory medals!!”, was the cry.

Elsewhere, a very strange sight greeted to the club members, Pete using a computer!! At least 4 club members had smart phones out to capture the occasion, concerned that others would not believe them. He was looking like he actually knew what he was doing, well until he went round the club members, asking them to scribble their email addresses onto a scrap of paper. He was later found trying to poke this piece of paper into the optical disk drive of the laptop!