Following on from all the grey in the last post, the next step was to upgrade the cork tile pieces to provide a bit more visual interest. It occurred to me that I could do something different on the reverse side of each piece and, after discarding various colours and patterns, I decided on a muted pallet and some random blocks and lines (while still maintaining the 1″ grid that helps with alignment and movement, etc). Apparently it’s a sort of unintended Mondrian style knock-off.
The colours are pretty much those used in my terrain boards, so although they don’t bring a lot of extra brightness to the grey, they do tone in well with the majority of my stuff. I just used a fine marker pen and painted some of the sections.
First test pieces:
Some pics below of this scenery being used for a few Five Parsecs campaign battles. Using a mix of both the grey and coloured tile sides offers lots of variety. I don’t pretend that the settings make sense from an urban or industrial perspective, they’re really just 3D obstacle courses to fight over.
This is the first of a series of catch-up posts, talking about a project that started back in lockdown. It led to being able to play a lot of games, and generated a decent level of hobby productivity compared to my usual slack level.
I’ve had a 15mm Sci-fi collection for a lot of years, which was initially used to play games of Laserburn back in the 80s (yes, some of the figures are that old).
Over the years there have been attempts to play some squad and platoon-level skirmishes but finding the right set of rules was always the challenge. Attempts to write my own tended to get close, but somehow not really hit the mark. This didn’t stop me buying figures (and even painting some), although I didn’t really have any scenery other than standard green grass, trees and rocks to fight over.
Fast forwards a few decades and I settled on Dragon Rampant as useable for a fun game, and flexible enough to field pretty much any type of troops, weapons and vehicles. Now of course there’s Xenos Rampant, which look excellent and will probably do the job perfectly going forward.
Before that though, I picked up a copy of Five Parsecs from Home from Nordic Weasel (the 2nd edition), which looked very interesting for playing small RPG-lite games and running a ship’s crew through an evolving campaign. When the 3rd edition came out via Modiphius, I decided to go all-in and actually start playing – but of course I needed some scenery.
There have been some excellent campaign write-ups on the web, with bloggers and tweeters entertaining us with lots of great interwoven narrative and blow-by-blow battle accounts. I’m not going to get into that here, but I’ll summarise by saying I’ve run 2 solo crews through 20+ campaign turns, as well as having a fantastic time in a 2-player collaborative campaign that’s gone on even longer. Frankly, it’s been some of the most enjoyable wargaming I’ve been involved in, always offering up challenges, fun and surprises. They’re a great set of rules (and the supplements add a lot too) and all credit to their author Ivan Sorensen.
Part of the enjoyment, of course, is creating the settings and laying out the battlefields. These can involve any type of terrain, buildings and features – whatever you’ve got basically, so long as you ensure there’s a fair bit of cover. Without that, firefights tend to be pretty quick and bloody, and you’ll be rolling up a new crew every five minutes!
Building upon the limited amount of stuff I already had, I really got into it and over a couple of years put together a variety of stuff that give me a choice a of settings. Most of it is interchangeable and look OK on the table together, but by having some discrete sets of buildings and other features, coupled with my terrain boards and a few mats, I’ve managed to get to the point where I can choose to create a different look when my crew moves to a new planet. Of course it’s not really necessary, but it does add something to the already immersive Five Parsecs experience.
So, in an attempt to get some pics posted and re-invigorate the blog, I’ll follow this post up with a few more showing some of the game settings I’ve used for Five Parsecs, and some of the modelling and painting projects that happened along the way.
With the Austrians becoming the latest member of the German Confederation to be bundled back across the border (the Wurttemberg border, defended by the French), the Confederation found itself frustrated on all fronts. While their troops recovered and took in fresh supplies and recruits, they held a conference on 10th July at Ansbach to agree how to re-invigorate the campaign.
Once the arguments about uncoordinated attacks and accusations of slow mobilisation (everyone looked at the Austrian representatives) had run their course, they got down to business. With the schnapps poured, the generals and their political masters hammered out a plan intended to deal a fatal blow to the the rebel states and their meddling allies.
This time there would be no disjointed attacks by separate forces. Instead there would be a great concentration within eastern Wurttemberg, set to strike towards the heart of the enemy at their capital, Stuttgart.
The Prussian II Korps, recovering from their rough handling at Auenwald by the French, would march south east to Crailsheim. The Bavarians would again cross the border on the road to Schorndorf, while the fresh 2nd Division of the Austrian I Korps would come up from the south, crossing the Danube at Heidenheim. These coordinated movements would begin on 17th July, with assembly at Huttlingen to be completed by the 19th.
Together, they would muster an army of over 60,000 men – surely enough to brush aside the tired French, British and Wurttembergers.
Meanwhile, the allies were confused by reports from the front lines. In the north and south, there were no signs of second thrusts from the Prussians and Austrians respectively. In fact things had gone very quiet, as indeed they had in the east where the Bavarians seemed subdued after their defeat at Schorndorf. Though glad of the time to rest and regroup, they were suspicious that something was brewing. Scouts, agents and diplomats kept every ear and eye open, and finally on 16th Marshal Pelissier of French 1st Corps received intelligence that the Confederation were about to make their move in the east.
With great haste, an urgent defensive plan was hatched. The newly (finally) assembled Imperial Guard would march to Mainz via Mannheim, to relieve Canrobert’s 1st Corps who would hasten east to support Pelissier for a decisive confrontation. As a result of the Confederation’s somewhat ponderous implementation of their plan, the Allies were actually able to begin their response a full 24 hours ahead of them. It would be a race to see who could get into position first for the great clash to follow.
I just came across these pictures from a 4-player game played back in July 2019, which I don’t appear to have posted. I thought it would be a good way to get going with the blog again this year.
This was a basic free-for-all style scenario with treasure to grab and opponents to back-stab. Lots of fun was had and hopefully we can get this group back together again sometime for a re-match. Each visiting player painted and brought their own warband, which was a very good effort considering no-one really had any 15mm fantasy figures beforehand.
The game was played on a 4’x3′ table, using my water base and canal features for the first time. Some of the pictures show fog and wall spell effects in use, and gems for treasure.
I’ll try to get back to more regular posts in 2021. It’s not a new year’s resolution, just an general intention!
Without the customary Austrian dithering, General von Blomberg went straight into the attack, ordering his lead battalions to form up for an immediate assault on the French position.
With only a shallow stream to cross, the cavalry peeled off to the left to find a way to outflank the French.
As their attack on the inn was about to start, the Austrians were alarmed to see a French regiment approaching at speed along the other side of the stream. Fortunately the reserve battalions were still in column and were able to be quickly diverted onto the high ground overlooking the waterway, and the newly arrived enemy.
The Austrian attackers stubbornly ground forward, and after half an hour of fierce fighting they ejected the French from their original position.
The 2nd French regiment pulled back to maintain contact with the retreating units and, believing this was their moment, the Austrians pursued off the hill and across the stream. It was a rash move, and brought them under intense fire from two sides. Having suffered heavy losses, they were ordered to withdraw and were a sorry looking lot when they finally made it back to the high ground.
Elsewhere the French had received further reinforcements in the form of another brigade of infantry, and one of cavalry. The infantry shored up the line and counter-attacked at the inn, only to be eventually repulsed. The cavalry were charged by their Austrian counterparts and honours were largely even in this melee – until the French brigadier was killed, causing disruption and a command vacuum on this flank.
From his vantage point, Von Blomberg took stock of the situation. Although victory appeared close, with the sudden the loss of one of his brigadiers, heavy casualties to his infantry, and his cavalry out of position, he realised that he could not risk prolonging the battle. The bridgehead across the stream was isolated, so he reluctantly he gave the order to withdraw. The relieved French gladly let them go. Both sides would need time to recover and their commanders were soon to be writing hasty dispatches to headquarters asking for orders and reinforcements.
The Austrian invasion in the south was halted, for now.
With drums beating and much fanfare the Austrians finally marched into the war. Baron von Blomberg’s Division had set off from Ravensburg 2 days earlier and, after crossing the Danube at Blochingen, his cavalry patrols reported French troops covering a river crossing just short of Sigmaringen.
The French were a regiment and one battery from General Epinasse’s 1st Division of I Corps, which had been ordered to guard a bridge on one of the Danube’s tributaries. Sensibly, the French were bivouacked around the inn conveniently situated beside the bridge, and their officers had been enjoying a most comfortable stay while their men camped outside.
Alerted by the sighting of the Austrian scouts the Colonel assembled his men and messengers were sent to the rear and along the river in both directions, calling for reinforcements. Before any help arrived, the first Austrian infantry could be seen marching down the road towards the bridge…
With the Prussians and Bavarians sent tumbling back by a resilient defence in the north and east, it was the turn of the Austrians to make their own isolated and unsupported attack. On 9th July the commander of 1st Korps’ 1st Division, Baron von Blomberg, was ordered to cross the border and scout for the enemy around Sigmaringen. The rest of the formation would be assembling behind them and would follow as soon as possible.
Taking the Korps Cavalry brigade with him he left Ravensburg and crossed the Danube, seeing no sign of any enemy activity. Perhaps Wurttemberg had no troops left to watch their southern border due to all the fighting to the north?
Following on from the pre-amble in the last post… with the two armies approaching in column of march, the allies from the south and the Prussians from the north, a head-on clash was inevitable.
Orders of march were established and the first turn saw each side’s lead infantry brigade appear, heading for the town.
Note on rules: As each turn starts, a roll is made for formations due to arrive that turn. On a 2-5 they arrive on time, on a 6 they arrive and get a bonus move (as though they’d arrived earlier than expected), and on a 1 they don’t turn up. They can roll again next turn, but of course it means that plans may be delayed – and of course all formations behind them on the same road are also held up. In this game there were a few 1s rolled, the first being the 2nd Prussian brigade, which left the first arrivals somewhat isolated at the start of the battle.
As the battle developed, both sides were anxious for their reinforcements to reach the field. Unfortunately for the allies, the British brigade managed to roll 1 on two consecutive turns and arrived an hour late – resulting in cries of “Perfidious Albion!” from the embattled French!
The difficult terrain presented deployment challenges to both sides, with hills and woods pretty much in all directions as soon as you left the road. Nevertheless, it was possible for fresh troops to make progress and by early afternoon the battle had extended 1-2 km to either flank.
Seeing an opportunity to pin back the allied left flank, the Prussian commander unleashed a cavalry charge down the valley alongside the road. Preceded by horse artillery to draw the enemy’s fire, 4 regiments were ordered to attack the French guns deployed on the low rise to the west of the town. Only 3 managed to assemble in time, the slopes beside the road impeding the cuirassiers’ attempts to form up. Dashing along the valley floor and past their own guns, the Prussian uhlans reached their objective and a desperate struggle took place around the cannon. Both sides showed great courage and stayed in the fight despite growing losses.
The late-arriving British shook themselves out into fighting formation with admirable speed, and went in with the bayonet. Despite putting up a tough fight, the uhlans were sent packing and the gun line was secured. There was barely enough time to catch their breath before the doughty highlanders came under heavy artillery and infantry fire as the Prussians brought up more troops. Under a rain of fire and, towards the end of the battle, a final Prussian infantry assault, the British losses mounted but they held their ground. The left flank was secure.
Across the field brigades of cavalry stood back in reserve while each side’s infantry tried to gain some advantage among the fields and woods. In the end, despite some successes, the Prussians failed to dislodge the French and Wurttemberg troops. Their Divisional commander was killed leading an uphill charge and his men’s morale faltered. In the centre, the 1st Prussian Division, engaged since the start, eventually crumbled and was driven back the way they’d come, covered by the reserve artillery. Prince Karl ordered a general withdrawal back into the hills.
The allies had won an important victory, their second in 3 days, and a fitting reward for their hard marching. The Prussians would have to think again, both Korps now having recoiled from their attempted invasions. Both armies now had some time to re-group and prepare for the next stage of the campaign.
Following their hard-won victory at Weinstadt, the allies under Marshal Canrobert received some unwelcome news. While the Prussian’s 1st Korps was still re-fitting at Frankfurt, their recently assembled 2nd Korps had left Wurzburg, crossed the River Maine, and was marching for the Wurttemberg capital, Stuttgart.
Leaving a British brigade behind to watch the retreating Bavarians, Canrobert ordered his army to about-face and move to intercept the Prussians before they reached their objective. He had the advantage of operating on internal lines, which was all well and good as long as his troops could stand the pace.
By the morning of the 8th July the allies were on the road north from Stuttgart, aiming to confront the Prussians as they descended from the hills south of Swabisch Hall. Canrobert would have preferred to have his entire Corps with him but news that the Austrians were finally beginning to stir from Lindau forced him to maintain a strong watch on the Danube.
On the Prussian side Prince Karl, commanding 2nd Korps, had been surprised to cross into Wurttemberg without meeting any opposition. Fearing a trap, and not being a particularly bold or dashing leader, he had moved somewhat cautiously south and was running about a day behind schedule. Would this delay prove to be a missed opportunity?
On the morning of the 8th, his advanced guard reported Wurttemberg cavalry patrols at Auenwald, a small town along the route he’d chosen for the final stage of his march to Stuttgart. Suddenly anxious to avoid being trapped in the passes, he ordered his men forward to capture the town…