Sunday, 10 June 2018

500K + Views, 3 Books and 1 Holiday

It’s that time again. Laurel and I are away from tomorrow for a couple of weeks to the island of Corfu. The plan is to enjoy the sun, some good food and the odd trip to explore some of the island’s history. We have been to the island before but only for a week and for a variety of reasons did not really get to see that much. This is something I fully intend rectifying this time round!

Something a little different but relevant to where we are heading off to

I am fully prepared with reading material as not only am I taking a fully loaded Kindle but also an actual hardback - Gareth Glover’s The Forgotten War Against Napoleon: Conflict in the Mediterranean 1793 - 1815. I read Tom Pocock’s book on the subject: Stopping Napoleon and thoroughly enjoyed it - especially the Royal Navy operations which, given the small size of most of them (I am talking about low level actions here), would be eminently gameable and with the added bonus of combined arms actions.

The other two titles I am looking to read - and are both on my Kindle - are The Story of the Malakand Field Force by Winston Churchill covering the Pathan uprising and Our Friends Beneath the Sands by Martin Windrow which covers the story of the French Foreign Legion. Both of these are in support of my Colonial ‘The Men Who Would Be Kings’ aspirations.

I should also mention that I have just passed the 500K page views so many thanks to all that have dropped by since 2009 and I look forward to repeating the message when I hit a million!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Solo: A Wargames Story

From the pen of late Donald Featherstone....

….and Stuart Asquith.

This is a new one on me but may be useful. At present I do not own any of these but I will look to acquire one or two titles in due course.

I must confess to being a little uneasy using the term 'solo wargamer' as I do not believe I am! It is true that most of my wargames these days are fought solo but I am equally happy to lock horns with a live opponent on occasion. I prefer to think of myself as a wargamer that fights battles solo on occasion!

I fight wargames solo simply for the sake of convenience as my gaming time is generally restricted to the weekend, with the occasional foray to the club, work permitting.

Most of my games tend to be played using whatever rules I am using with little or no special adaptations for the solo player. I can be very objective and impartial when fighting a game so the bias element has never really been an issue for me, at least not consciously!

I like to think I have a fertile imagination and so designing one off scenarios for my own enjoyment is a hugely rewarding experience and so taking the next step and linking some together in a campaign setting is an obvious one.

For me the big advantage of gaming solo is the self indulgence aspect. One can literally do anything - from stringing together a few linked scenarios to designing and populating an entire campaign in a historical or imaginary setting. My block armies were manufactured primarily for solo use in this context although I have used them against a live opponent once....

Thinking about my solo gaming and my rather relaxed attitude to the same has given me something to mull over. I want to enhance my solo gaming experience in a slightly more formal way and so I will be looking to acquire a couple of books on the subject - and there are a few around.

I have a number of ideas for long term solo projects and so I want to have an organised head when planning them. Tapping in to the collective experience of others will serve to help with this.

Monday, 4 June 2018

The North West Frontier Revisited

The latest addition to the library and a period I have long had a hankering to tackle - ever since I saw Kenneth More in the film North West Frontier, not to mention Carry On up the Khyber....

As part of my ongoing plan to tackle something for The Men Who Would Be Kings I have been revisiting the North West frontier for some inspiration. I have a couple of books covering the 19th century in the area - including Churchill's The Story of the Malakand Field Force - but have to say that the above really piqued my curiosity.

Sometime ago I flirted with the idea of setting up an imaginary North West Frontier province based on the fictional Roghan Valley - in fact there is a folder on the blog with some bits and pieces contained therein. I was surprised at how long ago I was thinking about this but I was able to get a couple of games in. I even went as far as coming up with names for the leading personalities on both sides as well as regimental and tribal titles. It was all quite good fun but kind of fizzled out (like many of my ideas!).

I think I am gradually getting close to a decision about which Colonial theatre I will focus on - at least close to narrowing it down to a choice between the Foreign Legion or the North West frontier.

Plenty of time to think about it though and I have no intention  of rushing into a hasty decision.

That will be a first then.....

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Eric Knowles and Madasahatta

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt remember my mentioning the late Eric Knowles and his famous WW1 Madasahatta campaign. To the uninitiated Madasahatta was an island in the Indian Ocean which boasted both a German and a British Colony, several indigenous tribes of natives and an Arab trading concession. The campaign was designed and organised by Eric and was loosely inspired by the Great War in East Africa. The campaign was fought during the late 1970s and early 1980s by a number of gamers including Bob Cordery, Chris Hardman, Neil Fox and myself in the later stages.

It was enormous fun and all that took part enjoyed the experience.

Luckily for the wargamer of today a lot of written material concerning the campaign survived in the hands of Bob Cordery. Sadly, and to the best of our knowledge no photographs are known to exist of the campaign - bear in mind this was pre-digital cameras and computers -  but one could easily picture the scenes described in the campaign 'newspapers'. To remember Eric and to celebrate his finest wargaming creation Bob has turned the surviving content into the book you see below, supplemented by some anecdotes from those that took part and Bob' own personal tribute as well as some Eric related material.

The front cover....
….and the back with a list of the chapters contained therein.

I will not go into detail about what is in the book - it would spoil the surprise - but suffice it to say there is a veritable smorgasbord of good ideas and inspiration. In fact, The Men Who Would Be Kings are a set of rules that could have been written for Madasahatta!

From a personal perspective this is a superb reminder of a wargames campaign that has given me many years of enjoyment and interests I never thought I would have considered - as well as some lifelong friendships. Bob has done a sterling job with this book (and it is available to purchase) and so hopefully the fun that was Madasahatta can be enjoyed by a new generation of gamers whilst those of us that were there have a wonderful tribute to Eric and the memory of some truly great wargaming times.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Bank Holiday Lethargy

I often wonder if these animals have worked out the meaning of life....

Well that is another Bank holiday chalked off for the year! Actually I should say that is a another Bank holiday where I did not get half the things done I thought I would do but did manage to some things I did not expect to....

I did not get the Denmark Strait action fought. Time ran away from me as we had a number of domestic duties to tackle as well as the usual weekend routine 'stuff'. By the time I was able to get into the man cave with every intention of fighting the battle I was too tired to do anything more meaningful than some gluing. My resolve melted like an ice cream in the May sunshine - it gets very warm in the man cave - as, to be honest, I was feeling pretty lethargic and sloth-like as a result of the busy day we had spent.

I was however, able to glue the Royal Navy Axis and Allies ships on to their bases and the Kriegsmarine ships have all been cleaned up. These will be glued to their bases before the weekend so I can at least get them undercoated. The weather has been hot and sunny with clear blue skies but it has felt really oppressive. This has slowed me down somewhat.

Apart from the naval non-event I have spent some time pondering matters relating to my avowed intention of tackling something for The Men Who Would Be Kings and Congo. There is no hurry with this but I want to get a plan in place sooner rather than later. I know this smacks of 'ticking things off for the sake of it' but I find that it helps me to know what I am going to be doing even if I am not doing yet!

The Colonial 'period' has a lot going for it in terms of variety but true to form I would prefer to tackle something a little less than mainstream. Much as I like them this means no Zulus or the Sudan. I rather fancy the North West Frontier between 1890 and 1920 or the Foreign Legion over the same period.

Being primarily a solo gamer I am quite used to thinking about raising both sides for a game and this would be no exception. I am presented though, with a rather delicious conundrum in that (and I have said this before) these rules would work equally well with 54mm figures. In fact I acquired a whole pile of Armies in Plastic stuff for the Foreign Legion era - partially used in  turn to acquire a vast quantity of Axis and Allies material - but never pushed through with it.

Another film from my list of those I have not seen - although I am currently watching it courtesy of iTunes.

It would be easy enough to amass the material required for the adventures of the Legion. For the French I would merely need some artillery (Armies in Plastic produce a rather nice screw gun which would suffice) and a machine gun. It would be nice to have some mounted troops - I have always had a soft spot for French Colonial cavalry - but these would need to be conversions methinks. The Arabs would be straightforward enough as Armies in Plastic produce them although they represent several quite distinct tribal groupings.

Add in some palm trees and perhaps a couple of the Airfix 1/32nd scale desert outposts (actually 'normal' Arab style dwellings would be easy enough even for me to knock up being as they are, essentially boxes of various sizes) and away we go.

I have yet to make a decision as what I am going to do for this period but by virtue of the fact I already have some material to hand for the Legion it would need a compelling argument for me to not to proceed with it - in 54mm or otherwise.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Denmark Strait, 24th May 1941....Game Number 53, Part 2

Bismarck sorties with some Bf110s providing air cover.

Today marks the anniversary of the of the Battle of the Denmark Strait in 1941, pitting H.M.S. Hood and H.M.S. Prince of Wales against the German Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.

H.M.S. Hood in company with H.M.S. Prince of Wales. Ill-fated ships, H.M.S. Prince of Wales was to be sunk by the Japanese.

The outcome of the battle is of course well known with H.M.S. Hood being sunk with the loss of all but three of her crew.

After a dramatic search and chase of three days the Bismarck was finally sunk by the combined efforts of H.M.S. KGV, H.M.S. Rodney and the cruisers H.M.S. Norfolk and Dorsetshire.

The Royal Navy rescued some 111 survivors, the Germans 5.

As with any wargame refight one should always reflect on the human dimension of what we are undertaking using models in the comfort of our own home.

At times like this I am reminded of a passage in the book The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer. The gist of it is “Too many people learn about war with no inconvenience to themselves. They read about Verdun or Stalingrad without comprehension, sitting in a comfortable armchair, with their feet beside the fire, preparing to go about their business the next day, as usual. One should really read such accounts under compulsion, in discomfort, considering oneself fortunate not to be describing the events in a letter home, writing from a hole in the mud. One should read about war in the worst circumstances, when everything is going badly, remembering that the torments of peace are trivial, and not worth any white hairs. Nothing is really serious in the tranquillity of peace; only an idiot could be really disturbed by a question of salary".

I would suggest rather than "writing from a hole in the mud" one could readily substitute "clinging to some wreckage adrift in the North Atlantic".

Something to think about, and to be thankful that one does not have to endure the same.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Naval Accessories

During one of my periodic sort outs in the man cave I rediscovered some shell splash markers produced by Litko that I had purchased but had never gotten around to doing anything with. My usual choice of shell hit marker for naval games has tended to be the black and white pegs you get with the game Mastermind - when stood on their 'head' they make perfectly usable hit markers. If you look back through some of my blog posted naval battles you will see them in action.

Litko acrylic shell splashes - they are currently $5.99 for 10 but I am sure I paid less for them. Mind you, it was a few years ago!
These are rather fiddly blighters to put together as the peg at the foot of the white splash is too large for the blue base. This means filing them down individually to fit. It is not difficult but tedious to do - and I have 40 of them. I have completed 20 and intend finishing the rest off over the next day or so. 
As I recall they are available in three sizes - those above are the smallest - which would be useful for varying calibre hits if needed. It is not urgent but I may get some explosion or fire type markers from them in due course.
I intend using these for my naval games going forward and they will make their debut with the Denmark Strait game I shall be fighting this coming weekend.