April 16, 2018

The Walls of Limerick, Part II

A little bit of math, lots of carving, and possibly some harsh words later...

The initial step, and the most important to get right, was to layout the front wall. This is where most of the harsh words came in. All of the angles had to meet up with each other and line up with the edges of the boards.


The walls were detailed by carving scattered stones with a scalple and then going over all of the cuts with a ball point pen. The pen makes a nice bevel on the edges of the stones and ensures the detail won't be filled in by the layers of paint coming up. Cutting the stones in initially with a blade means you can use a piece of balsa wood to press some of the stones into the surface which adds a cool bit of detail with very little extra effort. I'm going to add a few stones cut from slivers of foam that will stand out from the wall as well, adding yet another layer.


The windows were pressed down in the same manner as I just described. When painted it will add to the illusion of depth.





Very pleased how well all of the parts actually fit together...




So here's where I am after the weekend. The angled wall with the walkway will be attached to one board and the citadel and it's adjoining wall be attached to the other. The central wall with the gate will remain loose so it can be replaced with a section of rubble. No, this wasn't deja vu - I explained this in the first post, but I thought it made more sense now that there are photos!



Next up are the details.. gates, doors, trapdoors, stairs... stay tuned!

Oh! And thanks to everyone who reached out to send me photos from Limerick - your contributions are much appreciated!

April 13, 2018

The Walls of Limerick, Part I

Every so often I get the urge to launch some sort of stupid large project. Ever since my partner's series on the Walls of Derry, I've wanted to do something similar. My trip to Derry last year reinforced the desire. Finally, I'm planning to run some games at a small local show if my schedule works out - The Guns of August in Newport News, Virginia. Rather than just set up something from my existing collection, I decided to build a new table and go all out.

Sorting through the mound of books I've collected on the campaign of Ireland, my first inclination was to do something around Derry again. However, then I stumbled on the first siege of Limerick. Gamers often ignore sieges thinking them to be dull., static affairs of battering walls with cannons, but both Derry and Limerick feature several small actions in the form of sallies that make perfect tabletop games.

On August 20, 1690, the besieging Williamite army launched an assault from their siege trenches to capture Yellow Fort, a small, open-backed redoubt outside St John's Gate. It took several attempts, but they were successful. The Jacobites responded in force with a sally by four battalions of foot and three squadrons of horse, countered in turn by more infantry and cavalry from the Williamites, including one of my favorite unit - the Danish Foot Guard.

To bridge the gap between the small forces involved in the initial assault and the battalions that later took the field, I've also decided to reduce the man to model ratio which will give me foot battalions of five to seven stands rather than the standard three. This will allow me to represent the detachments with a significant number of models rather than the 4-5 each would muster at the default scale.

I'll go into more detail about the scenario and forces involved in a later post, but for now I just want to introduce the project.


The walls of Limerick were between 25 and 30 feet high with a narrow walkway on the top. A ditch was excavated outside the stone wall and the spoil used to build a counterscarp, covered way, and glacis. The tiny section of wall I'm building is St John's Gate, seen above on the left end of Irish Town. The old citadel near St John's Gate was pulled down and replaced with a new bastion and an earthen demilune constructed outside. My first step for any project like this is sketches which I then take to the computer to make a scale diagram. This was extremely important for this project because there are very few right angles and it was going to be a pain to make sure everything lines up properly.





I spent a lot of time messing around with scales and angles to decide exactly how to lay this out. There were a few things to take into account...

1. I wanted to avoid a 'square' table. By this I mean 95% of games you usually see... side A is lined up on this table edge and Side B is on the other. The historical design actually helps this as the wall runs away from the gate at an angle. The battalions will actually end up facing down each other diagonally across the board.

2. I wanted the fortress to be permanently attached to the boards, but I wanted to keep things flexible so I can use these for other scenarios. What I decided was to use 2x2' boards. The bastion would be attached to one and the wall to the other, with the gate section remaining loose and 'bridging' the boards. This will allow me to replace that piece with a breach to play another style of game. Not sure if that makes sense, but it will be illustrated as the project progresses.

3. I wanted the counterscarp (and the siege trenches - more on that later) modeled as a permanent part of the boards, but decided to build the demiline as a separate model so I can use it as a redoubt in other games. The Yellow Fort will also be a separate model.

4. I wanted to be able to expand this in the future, possibly boards BEHIND the wall for urban based scenarios.

5. So, yeah - I'm building a new 4x8' table, the walls of Limerick, probably a few city buildings, siege trenches, and oh, and I need to paint around 120 infantry to bring my units up to strength at this scale... by the end of August.

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy and I'll get into the actual construction in the next post...

April 9, 2018

Wandering Around Ireland, Part VI

After deciding no one was going to attempt to follow in the steps of the Dutch Guard and cross the river, we climbed back up onto the road. Walking north we climbed a steep rise and then turned east to walk the area where the Williamite forces advanced. The area was enclosed in a cattle fence, though luckily there were no livestock present that day.

I thought this was a cool bit of detail below. Not that this crag was necessarily present in 1689, but it might have been. I just thought it looked like wargame terrain.


Something that doesn't come out in the photographs is the height of the slopes. Here we see a wee Hilton at the bottom of the hill down which the Williamite infantry would have marched on their way to the crossing. He's probably got a photo of a wee Harrison at the top of the hill..


The ridge north of the same position is possibly where some of the Williamite artillery was deployed.


A view east toward Grove Island. Yellow Island lies beyond, though I don't think it was visible in this photo. The islands were probably less heavily forested in 1690 - I believe the troops could see one another across the river. Contemporary drawings only show scattered trees, but you know how those artist types are...



There's a wee Talbot in the distance. This is one of the few photos I managed which shows how steep the slope leading down to the river is. Waaaay back in the distance you can see the support tower of a very modern bridge that spans the Boyne. That is just about where Drybridge is, the site of King William's less than graceful crossing. For those that don't know King William either climbed down from his horse after it got stuck half way across (or was thrown off depending on the account) and nearly drowned. A burly Enskillener carried/pulled the King across - far different than all of those heroic paintings of King Billy prancing across on a white steed...


Back on the southern side of the Boyne, this time facing west toward Grove Island... or maybe this was Yellow Island... hey, it's been a year. They were both there, I just don't remember which one this is.



Finally, this is aforementioned Drybridge, or thereabouts. We were in the shadow of that great beast of a new bridge. Again, I tried to get Barry and Bob to recreate this crossing, suggested that Bob would make a better Enskillener which put Barry the role of King... they just weren't going for it...


Up next is one of my favorite parts of the whole trip... the Hill of Donore.

March 24, 2018

Wandering Around Ireland, Part V

A conversation I had via Messenger last week...

"Are you ever going to finish blogging about your Ireland trip?"

"What? Didn't I finish it? That was a year ago..."

"Didn't you go the Boyne?"

"Son of a..."

So, yes. Roughly one year ago I took a trip to Scotland to play some games with toy soldiers and then on a boy's adventure outing to Ireland (you can find the other installments here). Barry Hilton, Bob Talbot, and I trekked through the old city of Londonderry, explored Enniskillen, and climbed fences to walk the battlefield of Aughrim. On the last day of our trip, we did indeed go to the Boyne. We drove up from Mullingar after a Full Irish Breakfast (note... White Pudding is neither white, nor pudding) and were joined on our excursion this day by Paul Patrick...


The battlefield was the first one on the trip that resembled an American site, with a welcome center, cafe, and a small museum. However, besides a small field around Oldbridge, the land is still in use for farming and pastures and we would once again be climbing fences to get to access to different areas.

Very quickly, for those who stumble on this site unaware, the Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690 between the armies of King James II and King William III near the town of Drogheda in Ireland. For a brief introduction you can read the cliff notes here.


I had really been looking forward to this as the armies I am collecting are mostly based on those that fought around Oldbridge, Grove Island, and Yellow Island...


 We started at the museum, most of which didn't allow photography except in the yard...





That's Paul Patrick behind the wagon, which should look familiar to fans of Warfare Miniatures. Umm... the wagon should look familiar, not Paul...

Then we wandered down to the site where the hamlet Oldbridge once stood. It was the strong point for the Jacobite defense. Ironically, you can't actually see the Boyne from the site now because there is a thick stand of trees to the north, between it and the river. The open fields south of Oldbridge were the site of repeated Jacobite cavalry charges against the Williamite troops struggling across the river and now form the front lawn of the welcome center...





The last photo is a bit southwest of Oldbridge and is most likely the position held by the Jacobite reserves. All four photos show a sharp ridge and that was where we hiked next, heading away from the Boyne in the direction the retreating Jacobites would have travelled.



Beyond the ridge the land slopes away to the southeast and that highland on the horizon is Donore Hill, where the Jacobite dragoons and assorted other remnants set up a holding action that allowed the rest of the army to escape to Duleek. Just look at the photo for a few minutes and think about running to that hill. Now add a thousand sword wielding soldiers in pursuit mounted on monsters about the weight of a modern smart car. We were amazed any of King James' army survived. More on Donore and Duleek in a future installment...

What? Yes, soon... seriously...

We climbed down the ridge and headed back to the north. We crossed through a fence to a narrow road, and on to Obelisk Bridge - here I had my first real view of the Boyne River (on the bridge, facing west)...



We crossed the bridge and clambered down the steep shoulder to stand on the spot (or very close to it) where William's Dutch Guard launched their assault on Oldbridge.






Heh, I took about thirty photographs of the spot because I knew the cover of The War of Three Kings was going to feature the crossing. I drew the sketch on the plane ride across the ocean...


...and ended up with this...


I tried to get Barry and Bob to wade across so I could get references for the way the water would foam around the soldiers, but they were decidedly unhelpful. Oh, well...

More on the Boyne in a few days...


March 15, 2018

The Cock of the North, Part Four

Well, that was fun! Running a game for players who have no experience with a rule set is always tricky. You can spend a lot of time bogged down in tedious explanations of mechanics and the minutia of the charts and discover that no one remembers it all anyway, or you can just dive in. I explained that the troops mostly use d6s or d8s to resolve their actions (a concept they WERE all familiar with from Donnybrook), told them how fast they could move in line and column, told them the range of their muskets (and that mounted troops can't fire), and explained how to give their troops orders.


I didn't time the game, but I'd guess we played through thirteen turns in about three hours, including the initial explanations. Obviously I am very familiar with the rules, but this was first time running these for other people and with the exception of keeping the charts handy I had little need to refer to the rulebook. The turns were fast and seem to have a nice flow to the action. The simultaneous move system is NOT new, but something that struck me was the fact that players aren't standing around waiting for their turn. You reveal orders, BOTH move their troops, take turns resolving fire which is a quick process, and close combat has BOTH players rolling dice to determine the outcome - it keeps everyone involved at the table and contributes to the speed of play.


Of course, I ALWAYS forget a few things while the dice are flying, but that's EVERY game really, not just ones I helped make! Dragoons occasionally fought as Blade Horse rather than (duh) Dragoons (against each other so I guess it was a wash), a couple of Raw units failed to rout when they lost a round of combat (though this was on turns twelve and thirteen and would have made no difference to the outcome of the game - they WERE destroyed anyway), and I might have missed a couple of required morale tests. Nothing too egregious and I would have gotten away with it too had I not just spilled it here!


There were a few things that would probably have gone differently had the players been more experienced with the mechanics of the game or maybe even this period of history. Attacks were often carried out piecemeal as opportunities presented themselves. Several times units were stranded at point blank musket range in situations that might have been avoided. All in all though, it was still pretty well played. The outcome was still in doubt by turn ten, which is why they wanted to keep playing.


Thoughts from Thomas Grove...

I thought the rules were very smooth and fluid and easily grasped after a few turns. With the order percentage mechanics it made for a very tense and exciting game. We played thirteen turns, fighting to a clear conclusion, and were so engrossed in the action we totally forgot to break for lunch! From what I've read so far, and what Clarence has explained, I felt the game had a good period feel. The scenario was really fun. From the get go, I knew I had a challenge on my hands with the hastily raised militia force of Sir Arthur Rawdon. With cunning use of the DEFEND order to bolster their questionable abilities, and a bit of luck, I managed to come out on top. Cock of the North!

(oh, and thanks, Tom, for letting me use some of your photos from the day)


So that's it! Hopefully you enjoyed this series - we'll try to more in the future. I think this is the best iteration of the rules yet. We are really looking forward to finding out what other people think...