We met at the Club on Sunday for a Russian v French 1812 Napoleonic game using “Bloody Big Battles” with a few mods to reflect the Napoleonic period. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos at all! Apologies.

Anyway, it was an encounter battle with 5 objectives on the table, victory going to the side that controlled 3 at the end of the 10th turn. Three were villages closer to the Russian side (fewer generals and passive infantry made this necessary for balance). One was on the left, one left centre and one right over on the right wing. There were 2 objectives closer to the French – one on a hill opposite the village on the Russian left and one central in a village. There were several hills and woods around the table.

On Turn 1 both sides’ left flanks arrived. The Russians made all haste for the left flank village whilst the French advanced on the right flank village (all from a Russian perspective). Second Turn and the French centre came on, heading for the centre village. Both left flanks pressed forward and the Russian cavalry moved up onto the objective hill to their front.

Turn 3 – the French right appeared in march column, pressing towards the hill objective. The Russian left flank commander, having roundly berated his colleagues for their lethargy, was relieved to see both centre and right finally arrive. The former moved up towards the centre left village, now held by the Russian left flank, although they were thinly spread across the 2 objectives they had secured. The Russian right advanced on the village but the French had pretty much beaten them to it.

The Russian left flank cavalry corps then secured its place in history! They charged into the head of a French column, sending it reeling back after riding down a regiment. They didn’t stop there and carried on into the supporting artillery, riding down 3 batteries with the remainder escaping by the skin of their teeth. This drama was set to continue over the ensuing turns. The supporting French cavalry countered, but failed to drive the Russians off, and they duly charged another column, riding down 2 regiments. However, their days were numbered. The remaining French had deployed and a maelstrom of fire cut the brave troopers down. Nevertheless, they had stopped an entire French Corps in its tracks and they were to spend the rest of the game recovering from the effects of this gallant charge and played no substantive part in the remainder of the battle.

The centre also turned into a stand off as the Russians struggled to get forward and deploy and the French, content at securing the objective and viewing this sector as one for ‘economy of force’, remained defensively poised to protect their gains. The high point was the Cossacks chasing off a French artillery concentration from a hill to the right of the village objective, supported by a Russian cavalry corps, but the local French cavalry soon saw them off. The purpose of the Russian actions had, however, been achieved. They were covering the move of the Russian reserve, the Guard Corps, over to the right to support their beleaguered colleagues.

The right flank developed into the key contest of the day. By stealing 2 marches on their opponents, the French had closed on the village objective as the Russians arrived. The leading Russian division successfully cleared the village but the French follow on forces arrived in numbers as the Russian advance stagnated. The French deployed a grand battery (some 150 guns) to the left of the village, bringing it under sustained fire, supported by 2 divisions deployed respectively to the front and right flank. French cavalry screened the right flank and kept the Russian cavalry at bay. The Russians struggled to get their own guns into action, losing a heavy battery early on, placing them at a marked disadvantage in firepower terms. More Russian troops moved into the village but the combined firepower of the French over the space of several hours saw Russian units dying to a man. As dusk gathered and with the last Russian units struggling (still) to get into the fight and with the Guard still too far away, the French attacked. A desperate attempt to support the defenders saw Russian cavalry hurling itself at the guns and protecting cavalry, if only to give the defenders some respite, but 2 French divisions (actually, one was Italian) stormed into the village and the battle was won.

So, how did it go? Great! Once again BBB showed just why it is such a superb set of rules. The French General on the right, who delivered victory for the Emperor, had never played BBB before but soon had the basics firmly grasped. The game flowed swiftly, swung both ways with moments of high drama that will go down in Club legend, and consistently delivered realistic results. Friction was very evident, but not overpowering, period tactics were rewarded, the French felt like they were Napoleonic French and the Russians felt like Russians. The few mods we had made all seemed to work well and helped give the flavour of Napoleonic warfare. Great success and we will be back in Russia soon for a refight of Borodino!





Today saw us give “Bloody Big Battles” their first run out here at Monty HQ. Steve and I decided on a simple ‘training’ scenario to allow us to work through the various aspects of the rules and we therefore sought to ensure that these situations occurred rather than necessarily doing the sound tactical thing!

My apologies as well for the table. We didn’t have figures to use so counters were used instead. They are all about the right size with the big rounds being artillery and the smaller ones the generals. I’m afraid all the terrain wasn’t painted either, but we wanted to give the rules a run out so went with what we had.

Anyway, we set the game in the ACW and I had the Union side with the following:

3 units of 6 bases of trained infantry with muzzle loading rifles.

2 fragile units of 6 bases of raw infantry with muzzle loading rifles.

2 units of rifled artillery.

One general.

The whole rated as passive. Comment: we put all these characteristics in to see how they played out.

Steve took the Confederates with:

2 units of 6 bases of veteran infantry with muzzle loading rifles.

3 units of 6 bases of trained infantry with smooth bore muskets.

1 unit of smooth bore artillery.

Two generals.

And all the infantry were aggressive.

Here are the initial deployments:





And the Confederate advance:






The game essentially split into 3 ‘fights’ – on my left I had a trained unit supported by an artillery battery and backed by a raw unit lining the road in front of the woods – Steve advanced a trained unit with a general in range against them. The Confederates pressed forward and we had a succession of rounds of fire, disrupted, recovery and so on but the Confederates closed and drove the Union unit back behind its support. Comment: I never managed to combine the 2 units into an ‘in depth’ formation – a learning point for next time. I should also have made better use of the cover of the woods. Sitting back a little further from the start would have made all the difference.

Steve continued in against the raw unit, even though he was now low on ammo, but the cover of the woods, his low ammo and my 6 to his 1 saw the Confederates repelled and losing a base. The trained unit now recovered and moved forward to take position at the front and, at that point, we concluded that the position had held. What of the artillery, I hear you cry? They were forced back and silenced in the first assault and a succession of poor rolls saw them skulking at the back of the field and taking no further part! Courts Martial are being assembled!

The fight on my left including the crucial dice roll!







In the centre, Steve led with a veteran unit backed by a trained unit against the village, held by a trained unit. The Confederates never managed to close to assault and, by the end, the Veteran unit was spent and the trained unit had taken the lead, but with little chance of success.





On my right, most of the action occurred. Again, I had a trained unit supported by artillery and backed by a raw unit. Again, Steve came at them with a veteran supported by a trained with his artillery and a general between his left and his centre. In this case, the combined fire of the artillery and trained unit managed to keep the Confederates at bay. Silencing and reducing his artillery early on (the work of my own guns) made a real difference and Steve held them well back, so they added little firepower. That said, had they pressed forward, there is every chance they would not have made it.



Clearly Steve played to the aim not to win. We both agreed that he would normally have sought to force me to extend my line, exposing raw units, and then focusing in on them. In that case I would have been much harder pressed. And here we are at the end:



So, verdict on the rules! What we liked:

  1.   The mechanics are simple – within a couple of turns we had significantly reduced our use of the Quick Reference Sheet and were ticking along quite nicely. This is a key point. As a Club, we only meet twice a month and we do play a wide variety of games, which means rules don’t get the consistent and persistent play necessary to master anything too complex. These fit the bill perfectly with mechanisms that are readily picked up even by a novice.

2.   The game is not simple! The simplicity of the mechanisms hides a great deal – these are subtle and elegant rules. I think the rules are easy to master, the game is not. The complexity has been distilled into these simple mechanisms for our benefit, but it is still very much there and we really began to appreciate just how subtle the rules were as the game went on.

3.   It does allow games to be played out in a reasonable timeframe. How many times have we played games and not reached a conclusion? I dread to think. These rules really do offer the potential for resolution in the space of a typical club evening.

4.   Realism! At the end of the day, however simple, elegant and subtle the rules are, if they don’t give a good representation of the warfare of the period, I am simply not interested. Not so with “Bloody Big Battles”. We felt the battle really played out as we would have expected and gave a good and accurate representation of an ACW battle between the forces we had.

5.   Focus. We were always taught ‘2 up and 2 down’, meaning that, as a commander, you should be looking 2 levels below your own and 2 levels above your own. In many rules that try to represent larger battles, we can find ourselves drifting down into the tactical weeds so beloved of wargamers! Not so. The author has kept his focus with real discipline and these rules really do keep you at the level you are supposed to be at.

6.   The ability through the use of a few ‘attributes’ and the number of generals to create forces with a very different flavour but without over complicating things. A light touch here is good and the attributes are very appropriate to the level of game.

7.   The ability to further tailor forces but within the rules framework. For example, we came up with the idea of the characteristic of ‘Resolute’. It works exactly as Aggressive but only when defending.

House Rules/Amendments. We came up with one we would apply, and it is a pretty standard one for us:

  1. When measuring for generals, you measure from a prominent part of the base not the base edge. A prominent part could be the general’s head, a standard, a piece of scenery on the base. The reason is simple. We quite often tend to make a little more of our general’s bases –aides, HQ flags, broken guns etc etc. This means base sizes are often larger and not standard so this just removes any risk of inadvertent advantage from doing a nice little model. Yes, space is sometimes tight, in that case we just mark where the general is and measure from there.

What we didn’t like:

  1. Steve was a bit miffed when I ‘jinxed’ his dice for a key roll – “anything but a 5 or less!”, but made merry when, in my next movement phase, I failed to roll above 4 in 5 attempts!! You reap what you sow!

But seriously. We didn’t find anything we didn’t like and we will be playing them again soon. I sort of feel I should find something to balance the positives, but I really can’t – honest! I really do feel these rules are excellent and a tremendous amount of work has clearly gone into producing them – thank you, Chris!


Monty the Desert Rat




Yesterday saw the Grand Opening of the new and very shiny Monty HQ.


After working in a cupboard in the roof for what seems like eternity, over the summer good friend, wargaming buddy and Mr Fixit in the grandest sense, Jimmy, has been hard at work converting our old garage into the new Monty HQ. He has, in short, done a superb job, turning a shell with an uneven and collapsing floor into a fully insulated and lined, light, airy space with room for a painting station, an office area and, most importantly (of course) a permanent table! At the moment, I have a 6′ x 4½’ table set up but I can go as large as a 12′ x 5′ should I so wish. Happy Days!


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After (but with the table still needing clearing off!!) The cage is to keep the dog away from the nasties such as glue!!:

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To mark the occasion, I invited the guys round for a game. Some had family/holiday commitments and pleaded leave to be excused on the grounds that domestic harmony was actually quite important to them …..bizarre!!

So, the stage was set for 4 of us to meet – Steve R (who kindly provided the buildings and beautiful figures – many thanks, Steve), Steve S, Jimmy (yes, the man behind the work) and myself. We have been playing a lot of Lion Rampant recently and having lots of fun. It is quick to grasp, plays quickly and gives a fun and enjoyable game – perfect. We had a 30 point Retinue each and 2 players a side. As we tend to play War of the Roses, Steve R and Jimmy were Lancastrian whilst Steve S and myself were Yorkist. We were essentially defending – I was the local (appropriate!) and deployed on table whilst Steve S was rushing to assist me, arriving on my right. The Lancastrians deployed with Steve R opposite me and Jimmy opposite Steve S. We all had secret, individual tasks to achieve – I had to secure the furthest building from me as it was the local food store, Steve R was also after a building, the one furthest from him (and closest to me) as he had hidden some money in the garden last time he passed through and was keen to recover it. Steve S simply had to break as many units as he could whilst Jimmy had a personal feud with me and needed to see me dead!!

Here’s the table. Looking at the first picture, the Yorkists are on the right with me nearest the camera and Steve S at the top:

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The woods on both flanks actually proved key. On my side of the table, Steve R pushed some Yeomen and his mounted Men at Arms through the wood. I really didn’t want the latter coming out behind my flank and also saw an opportunity to deal with them in the broken ground, which would put them at a disadvantage. I therefore pushed my Foot Sergeants and a unit of Yeomen into the wood to at least contain and, hopefully, destroy them. As it was, this flank played out inconclusively. The mounted Men at Arms wisely withdrew but never really came into the game so, in that sense, I succeeded. However, 2 of my units were drawn in and lost to the rest of the game, engaged rather in a inconclusive struggle in the trees with 2 units of Yeomen, although I did eventually, with the help of my archers, break one unit.

On the other flank, Steve S choose to move through the woods to deploy and it took forever! This left me somewhat thinly stretched and Jimmy wisely moved his men up on to the hill and the lower ground to his right, successively pushing forward a unit of Yeomen down the right hand end of the hill. Meanwhile, his mounted Sergeants pushed into the woods to try and turn Steve S’s right flank.

My archers were split both sides of the village, which was occupied by 3 units of Serfs, one in each building. My expert archers on the left side got themselves into a duel with Steve R’s expert archers and came off worse, freeing Steve R’s expert archers to engage other targets. To the right of the village, I had some archers and some crossbowmen backed by a unit of yeomen. The missile troops did well, targeting Jimmy’s yeomen coming down the hill and breaking the 2 units in succession. However, they were subject to the attentions of Steve R’s other archer unit, a unit of Jimmy’s archers in some rough ground and, for quite a bit of the time, Jimmy’s expert archers on the hill. Slowly my missile men died, retreated and broke. Steve R’s expert archers had shifted fire to a Yeomen unit blocking the road in the village and, whilst not breaking them, he reduced them to half strength and forced them back and out of the game.

Steve S was slowly coming into the fight but the activation dice meant he did so piecemeal and Jimmy’s archers were able to focus on units as they appeared and devastate them.

With the Lancastrians formed up with their archers dominating the ground and our missile troops gone or going, we had but one choice – close and close quickly. I led my yeomen from the centre forward in a desperate bid to get to grips as Steve S’s mounted sergeant’s did the same. The end result was our men looking like a whole bunch of pin cushions!!

And, at this point, we conceded. I had dropped to below half of my retinue’s points and one of the units of serfs had legged it as a result. This left me with my foot sergeants and a unit of yeomen in the wood waaaay over on my right, 2 units of serfs in the village just waiting to be shot to pieces and then bundled out, half a unit of yeomen in full withdrawal mode and me! Steve S was in better shape, but just wasn’t able to make headway against the mass of Lancastrians.

As for our objectives – the routing serfs ran from the food store itself and there was no way I was going to hold, so I failed. Steve R would take the village and so would recover his money. Jimmy had done his very best to kill me, but I survived, so a fail for him. And how many points worth of units had Steve S broken………………..0! So we reckon that counted as a fail as well! (Although, to be fair, he had done quite some damage, it had just been my men that had caused the breaks.)

And the photos:

The early moves:


Here you can see my troops heading off into the woods, Steve S coming on and Jimmy and Steve R establishing their lines:


A close up of Steve R’s troops with the mounted Men at Arms coming back out of the wood:


Steve S struggles with the woods, the stream and a turnip field!


The Yorkist centre! The troops top left in the wood are mine, there I am all on my own to the right of the village, the troops at the back are all dead/routed and it’s not looking too good!


And the final view from the Yorkist right flank (where we had some troops left!)


But the overall aim was achieved – a fun game with friends to mark the completion of Monty HQ and to set the scene for many more games to come!!


Monty the Desert Rat.



Dave was around for another Algy game last Friday and things certainly went better for the RFC. This was very pleasing as we had set out to ‘chart’ the progress of air combat through the latter part of WW1, starting in Jan 1917. After a couple of bruising encounters through the early months of that year we have now hit the summer. The SE5a has arrived and the general quality of RFC pilots is also up – these are the survivors of those brutal months. So we were hoping to see the tables begin to turn.

We decided to go Balloon Busting this time!! A German Observation Balloon has been calling down accurate artillery fire on the British preparations for the upcoming Big Push to break through the German lines and it has been decided that it has to come down!!

The British started with 3 Sopwith Pups with a Junior Ace, an Experienced Pilot and a Sprog. These were to attack the balloon and were to approach in formation with the Experienced Pilot leading, the Junior Ace on his right and the Sprog on his left. They were covered by 2 SE5as with a Junior Ace and an Experienced Pilot. Opposing them were 3 Albatross DVas with the Top Ace, a Veteran and an Experienced pilot. Here we see the Pups on the left approaching the balloon whilst, on the right, we have the SE5a top cover!

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The Germans arrived promptly on the British right and moved to get on their tails:

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It now really broke down into 2 separate combats, so let’s deal with the Pups first! They maintained formation well and made a superb approach to the balloon, diving as the balloon saw them coming and began to be winched down – the crew had jumped at the first sight of the approaching Pups! The German Veteran, however, was hot on their heels! he could tell the pilot on the left was struggling to hold his position and identified him as the easy target. He maneuvered into position but failed to get on the tail and on the Pups flew. Now in range, the Experienced Pilot, armed with Buckingham ammunition, opened fire – a hit and the gas bag was punctured but no explosion! Next up was the Junior Ace and he made no mistake – a long and accurate burst and the balloon exploded. All 3 Pups were rocked by the blast but all pilots retained control. However, the German Veteran took this opportunity to get onto the Sprog’s tail. As planned, the Pups reversed course and dove for home. All except for the Sprog, who lost control and, over the next couple of turns and closely watched by the German Albatross, spun into the ground.


Meanwhile the remaining 2 Albatross and the SE5as had a real dogfight. The German Top Ace decided to try and bag the Experienced SE5a and maneuvered to try and achieve that. His wingman failed to follow and the SE5a Junior Ace spotted his mistake, swung onto his tail and duly shot him down. Strike 2 to the RFC!! The German Top Ace, meanwhile, was on the tail of the other SE5a. A quick burst and the SE5a’s rudder jammed – thank heavens he was heading the right way – for home!


But help was at hand as the SE5a Junior Ace spun round and latched onto the German’s tail. Realising the balloon was down, that one Albatross was down and that the odds were unfavourable, the German Ace pulled hard away off his target’s tail, losing his own tail in the process, and both sides withdrew.

So, a much better show from the RFC. The better planes in the SE5a really made a difference and we are expecting the Camels to arrive next time – watch this space!


Monty the Desert Rat



Generally speaking, there are 3 ‘systems’ of wargames terrain:

1. Fixed, landscaped boards that interlink.
2. A flat surface with terrain laid on top.
3. A cloth covering some form of shaper to create contours and then terrain on top.

I have long since adopted System 3, based very much on the mats I make but, whether you follow number 2 or number 3, you need terrain to lay on top. This can become a real challenge as much in the way of terrain is inflexible and so you can end up with bits of roads sticking up into the air or being confined to putting them on the flat. The answer is, of course, flexible items and so my long search for the right solution has gone on and on – BUT NO MORE!! Early War Miniatures:

have the solution.

I have the Open Tracks 20mm to 28mm scale:

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The Open narrow Tracks 20mm to 15mm:

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and the Flowing Streams 20mm to 15mm:

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And I am absolutely delighted with them. Why?

Question: Are they really flexible?

Answer: Yes, very much so – you can bend them to angles you would never need on a wargames table without problem.

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Question: How easy are they to paint?

Answer: Very. You need to use water based paints but I mainly used hobby paints rather than the more expensive modelling ones and they worked really well. The detail is clear and distinct and really helped with dry brushing. I wanted my roads to be widely useable theatre wise and so did a simple base coat and a dry brush and job done, although you could do several layers of dry brushing. The addition of grass also really brings them to life, as I did with the streams.

Question: Aah, but surely the paint flakes off when you flex them?

Answer: Not at all! The material is a latex and the upper layers are ‘porous’ and so the paint actually sinks in and becomes part of the material – it is almost as if you are colouring the material. I have given mine some rough treatment and lost not a fleck of paint so far! Here is a shot taken immediately after I had curled the road up for the shot above:


As you can see – perfect!

Question: Do they need varnishing?

Answer: No because the paint sinks in. That said, I used gloss varnish for the water and they are still more than flexible enough.

Question: What’s the range like?

Answer: Good and expanding.

Question: Where can I see them?

Answer: Either at the Early War Miniatures Trade Stand or come along and see me at any of the Shows I attend:

Question: Where can I buy them?

Answer: From Early War Miniatures:

although you can order through them and collect from me at a Show, if that is more convenient for you.

So, overall, I am VERY impressed with these. They fit my needs exactly, look great, are easy to paint and are very robust. I really do recommend taking a look at this growing range. Five Stars!!

Monty the Desert Rat





As some of you may know, I have been busy working away on a Post War version of Chain of Command in conjunction with Richard Clarke of TooFatLardies and I thought it about time I gave an update, so here goes!!

The first thing to say is that the structure and time periods are not yet set in stone. We will be covering the period from about 1960 – 1990 but we need to see whether the period between 1945 and 1960 is best done as supplements to the WW2 version of the rules or as supplements to the Post War ones. With the latter period, it is also a question of how far the rules will stretch to cover and at what point we need to stop.

At the moment, the plan is a core set of rules backed up by conflict specific scenarios – The Cold War, Vietnam and Indo China being the ones at the top of the pile, but with others to follow after that.

And what stage are we at? Initial playtesting. We have a mature enough set of concepts to expose them to some real action testing and so the next couple of months will be devoted to that. For me, that means lots of Cold War action. My Brits will face off against the Soviet horde on Friday (report to follow) with further engagements planned for the 26th of Feb and the 19th of March. So stay tuned for more over the coming weeks!!

Monty the Desert Rat




Very much so! The lads of the Durham Club were great hosts and extremely helpful, especially to a one man/one rat band trying to do it all on their own! The atmosphere was very open and friendly, I thought the layout worked well, using the space to best effect, and I really do recommend a visit if you can be in the area at the time.

I had my Eastern Front Chain of Command set up there as normal (at least for this year!) along with my ‘pre-order collect on the day’ setup for Battlefront and Plastic Soldier Company. And here are some photos:


Hope to see you there next year,

Monty the Desert Rat