Monday, 15 July 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....36 and 37

With apologies to any New Zealand readers....

First of all apologies for the delay in the last Sitrep - I was kind of caught up with the aftermath of COW as well as the ongoing sort out in the man cave and other 'stuff'.

First of all congratulations to both the England Cricket Team on their World Cup victory and also Lewis Hamilton for the British Grand Prix. The cricket was incredibly tense at the end and New Zealand were desperately unlucky to lose. I am sure I am not alone in wondering why watching any England  team in a final or a championship of some kind is so painful!

The final phases of the disposal of Eric's unpainted 25 mm late 17th and 18th century collection are well underway. The portion that will be listed on eBay has been crated up (there are four in all) and the rest of the Minifigs are set to one side. The Marlburians are in the process of being photographed and listed and the remaining Seven Years War figures are currently under consideration. I shall be tying up with Bill the arrangements for taking delivery of the 20 mm WW2 kit over the next week or so and so will also be drawing up lists and taking pictures in due course.

Work on the Last Crusade scenarios has begun and has thrown up a gentle reminder of two things I need to do. The first is to get the new command blocks ready - these are the quarter size blocks with a flag and a number for identification - and also to draft a play sheet for the appropriate set of Portable Wargame rules. On the subject of these I will be using those from Bob's original book and I want to use the rules as far as possible as they were written.

Whilst this is going on I have also been revisiting my Memoir '44 collection. I have a couple of mini campaigns downloaded from the net (actually more like a series of themed scenarios than a campaign per se) that are rather tempting and of course have the priceless advantage of being able to be set up easily enough.

The Pirates have been modified slightly in that I shall be looking at the naval side first of all and I will look to tackle the land aspects in a different way to how I intended originally. No details for the time being but I will post about this in due course.

Funnily enough the last three paragraphs in this post are all linked in quite a surprising and overlooked fashion. Some time ago I acquired a selection of 1:600th scale figures from Tumbling Dice - originally to use for generic 20th century armies with the troop uniforms being wither khaki, olive green or grey. I also purchased some of the vehicle that Tumbling Dice produce and supplemented these with some bits and pieces from Magister Militum - mainly WW1 tanks. The plan was to use these for Memoir '44, The Great War, the Portable Wargame and Sam Mustafa's Rommel.

The figures are quite large and are around 4 mm all which fits in rather nicely with the Peter Pig Pirate ships - certainly for the land side if needed. I have not decided on this as I would still prefer to use 15 mm for land actions but they do offer a nice alternative.

As ever, much to ponder....

Friday, 12 July 2019

The Last Crusade Scenarios

As mentioned previously this rule book is a veritable goldmine of information and ideas

As the dust from COW slowly settles I am now in a position to get back to what passes for normality in my wargaming world. I have a lot of things to do - mainly administrative in nature - and of course there is also the ongoing disposal of Eric's collection to consider but I would say that I feel properly enthused following my weekend away. Being surrounded by like-minded souls, albeit briefly, does wonders for one's spirit and I am now looking forward to the rest of the year with renewed vigour.

One of the things I have been doing is reading through the above set of rules that came from the bring and buy at COW and I have to say that my interest in the theatre in question has been properly reignited! In truth I cannot see myself using the rules as such - although they are not as complex as I first thought - but the information and ideas contained within its pages is invaluable.

Aside from the extensive orders of battle for Palestine, Gallipoli, Caucasus, Mesopotamia, East Africa and Arabia there are also a number of theatre specific scenarios. These are as follows:

1. Tank Redoubt, Second Gaza, Palestine, 19th April 1917
2. "The Lighthorsemen", Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917
3. Gun Ridge, ANZAC Landings, Gallipoli, 25th April 1915 (ANZAC Day)
4. Second Krithia, Gallipol, 6 - 8th May 1915
5. Sarikamis, Enver's Offensive, Caucasus, 31st December 1914
6. Battle in the Garden of Eden, Qurna, Mesopotamia, 7th December 1914
7. Ctesiphon, Mesopotamia, 22nd November 1915
8. Salaita Hill, German East africa, 12th February 1916
9. Kisaki, German East Africa, 7th September 1916
10. Tafila, Arab Revolt, Palestine, 25th January 1918

All of the above feature maps, orders of battle and scenario specific rules along with the victory conditions. Mulling them over I have come to the decision  that here is my gaming schedule for the rest of the year as it would be great fun to turn them into something Portable Wargame based using the block armies. It would be relatively straightforward to organise each one and as the entire theatre is something I am really interested in I will certainly enjoy the process. 

The Plan

I will be fighting these scenarios in the order above and on a 12 x 8 3" square grid (I have two boards this size - one green and one sand coloured). I will be using Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame for the rules. The block armies will be used and for identification purposes and so I will need to get the command blocks with flags and numbers ready in the first instance. I will use all the scenario specific orders of battle and victory conditions and the maps after having adjusted them to a grid. I have even set up a folder on the blog called "The Last Crusade" to store the after action reports in. I am also go to get all these games in by the end of the year!

Best I crack on then....

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

(Trying to get) Out of Africa....

A few years I was given a small pile of books by Bob Cordery following one of his reorganisation exercises. I am confident he is not the only gamer that does this and indeed, I seem to be doing so - and 'churning' my collection overall - every few months or so! Anyway, the book you see promptly joined the East African section of my Great War library and quietly waited until I got around to reading it.

A quite remarkable tome and a wonderful story to boot. Quoting the mantra of COW and Wargame Developments in general "There's a game in that!"

The East African campaign during the Great War is a fascinating story of which the Konigsberg forms a significant part - even after she had been sunk. Her crew and main guns (10 x 4.1") were salvaged and deployed by the Germans both in the field in support of Von Lettow-Vorbeck and as fortress artillery in defence of their colony. Could she have gotten away? I have no doubt she could have gotten to open water but given that she was undermanned, in poor shape mechanically and chronically short of coal as well as being outgunned would probably not have lasted very long.

Her story and ultimate fate are the main contents of this book and the author draws on many accounts from various participants to round out the story. There are numerous contemporary pictures and plenty of technical detail as well accounts of the short but interesting life of the ship up to when she sought sanctuary in the pestilential and crocodile infested Rufiji Delta.

Her final battle in the Rufiji Delta would certainly make for an interesting game in my opinion and so I shall look into this in a little more detail to see how far it will float.

As an aside I should point out that the entire East African campaign was the main inspiration for the famous Madasahatta campaign organised by Eric Knowles.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Home Thoughts from COW 2019....Part the Second

COW is not a trade show but it does maintain a modest bring and buy stand so that those with the urge to ferret around for a bargain there is the opportunity to do so. In my experience wargamers like a bargain and so virtually everyone had a peek to see what was on offer. Then of course there is the prearranged drop off of goods or presents or those that were selling items privately and that were not captured by the bring and buy. The two that fell into this category - there may have been others that I was not aware of - were Trebian and John Curry. The former was selling in support of the Northamptonshire Battlefield Society  and the latter is of course, the History of Wargames Project. Both of these are worthy endeavours.

My rummage in the Bring and Buy turned up the rules you see below.

Covering the Great War in the Middle East and Africa and also including the Caucasus, Mesopotamia as well as the Dardanelles. In other words, right up my street!

I will probably not use the rules but there is a wealth of information contained within its pages as well as some interesting scenarios and orders of battle. I was pleased to have gotten hold of a set of these especially at such a good price.

Originally published by 3W the above is a boardgame covering ACW naval battles and was a development of and is compatible with the old Yaquinto board game, Ironclads.

The above game, courtesy of John Curry, much like the rules above, contains a wealth of information but it is unlikely I would play it as written as it is hugely complex. I used to enjoy the similar game of Ironclads back in the day but I prefer simpler systems these days! My plan is to tinker with the appropriate rules from Bob Cordery's book Gridded Naval Wargames and use them in conjunction with the ship counters and map sheet.

The ship data cards contain a lot of information which will be useful when building my models - especially gun positions - and there is also some very handy templates for measuring firing arcs.

As I drove home I realised I had purchased a couple of items that I would not be using in the way the designers intended. I have previous form for this - Axis and Allies being a good example, not to mention various board games that I have harvested from boot sales over the years.

Does that sit well with the values and beliefs of WD? Based on my experience of COW 2019 I would say a resounding yes!

Monday, 8 July 2019

Home Thoughts from COW 2019

This weekend saw the annual Conference of Wargamers (COW) organised by Wargames Developments taking place in what is almost their spiritual home of Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire. It also marked the occasion of my very first visit to COW despite having been an occasional member of WD over the years. The weekend starts on Friday evening and runs until Sunday afternoon but due to a diary clash I was unable to attend Friday and so I set out for the 100 mile drive to Knuston Hall around 6:20 am on Saturday. with an expected travel time of just over two hours.

Knuston Hall - a quiet and tranquil country retreat - usually (well until the first weekend in July!)

Sure enough I arrived as breakfast was in full swing so after having checked in and dumped my bags I headed off for something to eat (to avoid repetition I have to say that the food is excellent!). After some very tasty scrambled eggs and bacon with some much needed coffee I started to have a wander about. I am not a regular driver (I average less than 4,000 miles a year) and so after any drive of over and hour and so - especially to somewhere I have not been to before - I invariably get a slight nagging headache which takes a couple of hours to shake off. With this in mind I made the decision to avoid booking in to any of the games until later in the day - in fact not until after dinner - so that I could worth through the headache and take a good browse around at what was going on.

Tim Gow, the sartorially elegant bon vivant, wit and raconteur 

Tim Gow had other ideas though as he greeted me in the lobby and gave me an impromptu but very welcome guided tour of the place as well as regaling me with tales of COWs gone by and the areas outside that have been used as battlefields (who can forget the Knuston Heights?) previously. Tour complete it was time to 'do the rounds' and see what was happening and where. I was also on a mission to meet as many people that I had previously only interacted with via blogs and emails as well as satisfying something rather special and a longstanding personal ambition of mine

Well it wouldn't be COW without some of the real thing would it?

The immortal Trebian running a quite superb looking 20mm plastic game set during the Jacobite Rebellion - Culloden I think - using his own rules (which he kindly gave me a copy of). Look closely and you may well recognise some Airfix American War of Independence infantry.

Trebian, in conjunction with Phil Steele, also ran a very nice looking War of the Roses game based on the Battle of Edgecote. As well as having fought the battle he has also written about the same and is a tireless supporter and campaigner for the Northamptonshire Battlefields Trust

Sue Laflin running her Asterix and Redbeard's Treasure game which looked like a huge amount of fun!

One of the highlights of the conference for me was the opportunity to meet, in person, both Phil Barker and Sue Laflin and to express my thanks for the enormous amount of pleasure everything WRG has given me since the late 1970s. I am adult enough to admit to being initially quite starstruck but I needn't have worried as they were both quite approachable! I was able to swap anecdotes with Phil concerning WRG 6th edition ancients and also his 1685 to 1845 set which was a lot of fun. The word legend can be used very easily these days but let's be completely honest, Phil and Sue are right up there with Featherstone, Grant, Lawford, Young and others in my opinion and their contribution to our hobby has been immense. It was an absolute pleasure meeting them.

John Armatys and the WD Display Team North with the delightful '10 minute Operation Market Garden' game. I thought I had missed this as it was scheduled for Friday night but John very kindly ran it again for me and it was enormous fun.

Needless to say the quotes from 'A Bridge Too Far' came fast and furious!

The battlefield. Essentially the game was about 30 Corps advancing to Arnhem. I played it twice and the first time got as far as Elst (next to Arnhem) whilst the second time I successfully reached the bridge relieved the British 1st Airborne with a day to spare for sightseeing and picking tulips....

Over the Hills (and far away) - a hypothetical divisional level action set somewhere in Spain during the Peninsular war. The rules in use were written by Wayne Thomas and cover the period 1790 to 1840 using a square grid. David Brock and Colin Maby provided support and Wayne very kindly gave me a copy of his rules for which grateful thanks.

Another view of the same action, this time from the opposite end of the table. The game featured 15mm figures and a really nice cloth.

COW, 54mm figures and Tim Gow are almost obligatory/inevitable and this year was no exception as the large scale kit came out to fight an action - Gandesa - from the Spanish Civil War. Originally this was supposed to be on the lawn but the weather turned slightly inclement so the indoor option was preferred. I did not take part but contributed by carrying 6 empty pint glasses to and from the venue for use as flight stands for the air support. Nerf guns, dartboards and oasis blocks (the things that florists use for flower displays) all featured and Mr Gow supplied all the toys except for buildings I believe. there were some truly inspired pieces of conversion work, painting and inventive bodgery in evidence and indeed, Tim is a past master of such inventiveness!

The scene at the end of the battle. Whilst this was being fought I was busy taking Arnhem....

Carry On up the Nile organised and run by COW stalwart and old friend Bob Cordery

I can do no better that to quote directly from the conference brochure - "An opportunity to try out Chris Engle's battle rules, POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS / SIMPLE STUPID RULES.

A none to serious sequel to last year's SAVE GORDON! game. Can a second British relief force (led by Sir Sydney Ruff-Diamond) breal the siege of Khartoum and relieve Gordon and Sir Garnet Wolseley? Will the 3rd Foot and Mouth (the famous 'Devils in Skirts') give the Dervishes a whirl they'll never forget? Not so much Khartoum as Khartoon...and more Charlton Trotter than Charlton Heston! (Charlton is Rodney Trotter's middle name. Not a lot of people know that.)

This was how Bob had set up the action initially but, once the players became involved all this was to change, and quite dramatically.

Note the position of the relieving gunboat and troop transport

Note the marauding Burpas under their feared leader Bungdit Din but wait, who is that mysterious figure standing on his own facing the troop ship? It is none other than Randy Lal, the Khasi of Kalabar (played to stunning effect by yours truly....)

The action by this stage was well under way and by virtue of the Mahdi decisively out-praying the infidel note the dice score where 6s are very good....

I am not going to write up a blow by blow account of this game as I believe that there will be better accounts available in due course. I will add my personal observations once the official reports are out from my residence in exile from a leaking cottage just outside of Norfolk... Suffice it to say it was enjoyed by all and if anyone had made a recording of the dialogue then it would have seemed liked a Carry On tribute show! 

Sue Laflin with her Pirates of the Spanish Main Game using the ships from the Wargame the Spanish Armada book by Peter Dennis and Andy Callan available from Helion.

The action underway. My Piratical career got off to a less than successful start as I managed to drive one ship onto a reef and then had three others sunk out of eight!

John Curry of the History of Wargames project. A very nice chap chock full of 'stuff' - and all wargamers like 'stuff'!

I drew this ship at random. Honest....

The allies look on whilst plotting the downfall of the Germans (they did not have to worry about this as they managed it quite well on their own!)

The action underway - note the very nice shell splash markers.

The game that John had organised was based on the US Naval War college wargames devised between the wars. The games was very much pre aircraft and indeed, was based on WW1 ships. The rules were designed very much for teaching command and control rather than being a detailed set of naval wargames rules so big guns and battleships were very much the order of the day. John only had 1:3000th WW2 ships available so these, in true Hollywood tradition, substituted for their WW1 counterparts. The gratifyingly relaxed nature of COW means that such considerations as using the right models for a game are very much small beer in the overall scheme of things.

The scenario was very simple. It was early 1914 and a small German squadron had to exit the straits of Gibraltar to head home to Germany. The allied force of British and US warships (I told you it was hypothetical) were tasked with stopping them. The two sides were settled upon and we then had to randomly draw to see what ship we would be using. I was VERY pleased to see that I had drawn the German battle cruiser Seydlitz – my fondness for this ship is well known – and so the final match up was that the allies had four dreadnoughts and a battlecruiser whilst the Germans had two battle cruisers and three dreadnoughts. The allies had a substantial advantage in weight of fire. After resolving a few scale and distance issues – John agreed that using the Avalon Hill Jutland counters would have worked better – we got under way.

In many respects the game resembled the old arcade of Space Invaders in the allies merely orbited from side to side whilst the Germans moved closer and closer and got more and more shot up. In many ways it replicated the way the war went in that whilst the Germans had parity of numbers in terms of capital ships (historically they closest they got was, I believe in late 1914/early 1915) they were certainly outgunned and so It was not going to end well if we had continued but luckily lunch intervened. It was an interesting system in use – no dice – and it could potentially be expanded out into something more ‘wargamey’. Details of this and many other early wargames that are available to purchase can be found of John’s website here.

Another example of COW wildlife - there were loads of them!

For me COW is much bigger than the sum of its parts. For sure there is a veritable smorgasbord of games on offer and you would really struggle to not find something that appeals. I managed to get 5 games in (to qualify that one of them I played twice so 4 if one was to be pedantic) over the weekend but it could easily have been double that. The best part had to be the people. Here was gathering of like-minded individuals that could interact in a serious or light-hearted way, united by a common cause which may or may not involve using model soldiers, tanks, ships or aircraft to have fun and to play games. Ideas were batted about, anecdotes flew like confetti as battles gone by were remembered as well as those that were no longer around. I was a COW novice but any apprehension I may have had disappeared within minutes of my arrival and the entire weekend was one of cracking good fellowship.

I was delighted to have met many so many people that I have only previously interacted with via the blogosphere and apologies in advance if I have missed anyone out – Geordie – an exiled FOG (I now know what the ‘Exiled FOG’ means!), Trebian, John Curry and Martin Rapier.

Geordie was on good form and over several beers we swapped war stories as well crossing swords over the table in Bob Cordery’s game. Trebian the Passionate made sure that one could not fail to be enthused by his lunchtime speech about battlefield preservation – he is heavily involved in this - and our heritage. John Curry shared his obvious dedication to his History of Wargames project and this is one that deserves all our thanks. It was a real pleasure to meet up with Martin Rapier and we spent some time discussing what he was up to and how it was all going. This was a common theme throughout the weekend as was the sharing of ideas and the willingness, without exception to talk about projects old and new.

I drove home from COW just after lunch on Sunday and as I said my goodbyes was universally asked if I enjoyed it and would I be back next year (with the occasional observation that I had survived the experience!). I would be delighted to do so as the whole weekend reinforced all of my ideas about what wargames should be like, more importantly, how they should be played. Comradely good fellowship, good food, stimulating conversation and a wonderful selection of games makes COW a fantastic experience and I am richer for having been there.

My sincerest thanks to both Bob Cordery and Tim Gow for encouraging me to attend and for having the patience to wait until I did – all I can say is that it is better late than never!

Friday, 5 July 2019

There be Pirates!

Three sets of rules in one - sea, land and a campaign system all ring bound with high quality colour throughout, not to mention separate card play sheets. The rules are currently £24 plus postage. 

Today I took delivery of the latest version of Pieces of Eight - the naval, land and campaign system from Peter Pig as part of their RFCM (Rules For The Common Man) system and in support of their 15mm figure and 1:450th scale ship ranges. The original version of the rules came out in 2000 and it has been continually updated in the light of additional playing experience ever since. In fact they mention the fact that some of the play testers racked up an impressive one hundred or so games during this latest revision.

At first glance these rules appear to tick a lot of boxes for me for this particular project although sadly the galleys and Xebecs used by the Barbary Corsairs are not included despite their being figures for them. I hope that this omission will be rectified at some point!

Whilst aimed at the world of the Pirates and Privateers and covering the period 1650 to 1730 there is probably no reason why these should not be used for the later post 1750 period as long as one is not overly 'picky' about points of detail.

I have been looking for a good excuse to buy some of the 1:450th warships and reckon these rules have clinched it so I shall sit down at some point and see what I can come up with.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Naval Estimates

Bob Cordery's excellent tome, full of inspiring stuff like....

....these two very effective looking scratch built models.

In advance of the figures being completed for the Spencer Smith 30mm ACW project I have been giving some thought to the naval dimension. I have mentioned previously that my plan is to scratch build a dozen or so generic looking river types that will be around five to five and a half inches long, two to three inches wide and around two inches or so tall (excluding funnels). These will definitely be ‘cartoon-style’ and will not, for the most part, be designed to replicate specific types. I also plan to have around half of the total useable for either side merely by swapping the flags over. Furthermore, I will be including a monitor or two in the mix rather than just casemate types. Bob Cordery’s excellent book Gridded Naval Wargames has some very neat ideas for building similarly styled models.

Historically both sides made use of hastily requisitioned and assorted river craft so giving these the ability to serve in both navies is fine. There will a few fleet specific types – for example the Rebels will not have any monitors whilst the Union will not feature any casemate ironclads although a couple of casemate paddle gunboats will feature (USS Carondelet or similar).

I plan to use these in direct support of the land operations I will be conducting so the cartoon-style approach will be ideal, especially as I am using 30mm figures. The height of the models will help with the visual aesthetics.

The models will be made from assorted pieces of timber and various odds and ends from my scrap box. Unusually for me these ship models will not be based so no worrying about ‘waves, wakes, names and ensigns.’ As a rule they are designed very much with combined operations in mind although the odd purely naval action will undoubtedly arise. My plan is to run a small river-based series of linked scenarios or even a mini-campaign.

Many posts ago I mentioned about my acquisition of a Peter Pig hexed gaming mat. I still have this and so the size of the models I am planning have been designed with this in mind as the hexes are 5.5” across the flat sides. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that I use a 6” long hull as a maximum but I will fall off that decision bridge when I get to it.