Thursday, 21 March 2019

Wellington in India, in the Peninsula and at Waterloo

"At last we meet again....the circle is now complete...."

Huzzah! At long last I have finally tracked down a copy of the first in Jac Weller's Wellington trilogy - Wellington in India.

I had a copy of Wellington at Waterloo which was swiftly followed by Wellington in the Peninsula. Both of these are first rate works and so, initially more from curiosity than a major interest, I was keen to track down the first volume. Ironically I had picked up the Kindle version during one of Amazon's periodic sales for the paltry sum of £1.19. For sure though, I wanted a hardback version as as I already owned the other two volumes in the Greenhill format it made sense to find a similar edition.

My knowledge of the period of when Wellington was in India is a little hazy, to say the least, but since I have a long standing interest in the wars of the Indian sub-continent it is a knowledge gap that needed filling! I am sure that Jac Weller's book will go a long way towards that. In later life the Duke, when asked what the finest piece of work he ever did on a battlefield simply replied -  'Assaye'. That anecdote alone piqued my curiosity about this stage of the Duke's career.

A scene from the battle of Assaye, 23rd September, 1803.

At this stage I cannot see myself gaming the period - the same can also be said for the 'Clive of India' era - but It certainly has everything I look for in a campaign - smallish forces and an exotic location to fight over. It would be 'doable' from a Portable Wargame perspective but sadly is not on my immediate horizon.

I must confess that recently I have been looking long and hard at the campaigns of the Revolutionary Wars and the British involvement therein. I always had a fondness for Napoleon's Egyptian campaign which would make for a great Portable Wargame style set up.

We shall see.

Monday, 18 March 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 20

It has been a very positive week for your truly, with lots of forward movement in various directions.

A dent has been made in the late 17th/18 century lead mountain as the first units sped off to their new homes. There has been a lot of interest in elements of the collection and so I will need to discuss next steps with Bill upon his return from the US of A. Nothing serious, just a couple of ideas to think about.

Thus far most of the Minifigs component of the collection covers the Marlburian period - hardly surprising really, when you consider that I have yet to tackle the Seven Years war! - which I am rather pleased about. Given that my early 18th century Balkanesque project is set 'twixt 1700 to 1720 this is really handy. In fact, I may even be in a position to properly organise the armies for this so that I can see what I need to add to the collection from Caliver Books.

Work on sorting out the Marlburian elements of Eric's collection is entering its final stages and so by next weekend I should be ready to draw up detailed lists of what there is which I will distribute accordingly.

As it stands at present the models that are in most demand from the collection are Front Rank, Foundry and Dixon. Essex Miniatures seem to be rather 'Meh' from the gamers I  have spoken to. As for the earlier ranges - including Hinchliffe - there has been little interest thus far.

I also made a rather unexpected discovery in one of the boxes marked '1685 Sedgemoor Armies'. I opened the box expecting to see serried ranks of pikes and mobs of peasants when in fact the box contained some 1:1200 rather battered (and non-salvageable) dockyard fixtures and two long boxes marked 'Clydeside'. Between the two boxes there contained two each of the following 1:1200th scale warships - HMS Invincible (the WW1 battle cruiser), SMS Helgoland and SMS Konig. these are unpainted and I have no idea of the manufacturer as yet. I will take some pictures and these will form the subject of a later post.

I had been after a copy of the old Avalon Hill game Wooden Ships and Iron Men for ages so I was really to picked up an unpunched copy (and with two control pads) at Skirmish yesterday. There is a cunning plan associated with this as although the game and the original miniatures rules it was based upon really cover the period from the American Revolution to the Napoleonic Wars, I am looking to make use of them for the Balkanesque project. There was a number of small scale naval actions between the Turks and the Venetians - mainly as a result of the attempted interdiction of supply routes - that would be very game able and involving not only the usual ships of the line but also a host of smaller vessels including galleys and similar. Of course ships of the period in question were not quite as efficient as the later vessels but I reckon extending the tactics and ship types associated with the earlier Dutch Wars would probably be a good base to work up from. In any event I shall consult my local naval oracle in such matters - the redoubtable Mr Fox - as I am sure he will have knowledge about such things!

Staying with the naval theme I also sorted out the 1:2400th scale WW1 ships for the 'Not Quite Madasahatta' project. I needed to add a couple of models from Tumbling Dice (duly ordered and received) and upon enquiring had the welcome news from Paul Sulley that at long last the French fleet was nearing completion. It will be rather large in terms of the range of models. He also mentioned that ideally he wants to have all the pre 1914 models completed by the end of the year.

I have always a soft spot for the French Navy of the period and many years ago owned a 1:3000th fleet that regularly used to cause the Austrian Navy of Mr Fox to have some, shall we say, exciting and  interesting moments....

It all changed though when he wheeled out the Italians! 'The Devil at the Helm' was the rules we used - very detailed and the more modern the ships became the longer the games took to fight. Good fun though.

The library has also benefited from some new additions but these will form a separate post.

Finally, I had a very helpful and informative chat with Bob Cordery at Skirmish about the whole self-publishing thing which have aided my thought processes immeasurably. Many thanks once again Bob.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

I have been to....Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames Show

Once again Sidcup in Kent saw the biannual Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames show held at the Sidcup and Chislehurst Grammar School. I always like this show as it is quite small, has a reasonable selection of trade (although not as good as in recent years), a pretty good Bring and Buy (again, not as good as in recent years) with a nice range of wargames to look at. This spring the theme was the Sudan so there were four games devoted to the same and with rules ranging from The Men Who would be Kings to Sharp Practice as well as a quite superb old school 54mm scale action.

I met up with Big Lee, Postie, Clint and Bob Cordery which is always a pleasure and as ever we discussed our various projects and how things were progressing (or not). I managed to take a modest selection of pictures, so without further ado....

The first picture from the outstanding 54mm Sudan game (based on Tel El Kebir) organised by that very nice chap Andrew Stevenson, proprietor of Replica Metal Soldiers  and Models - able assisted by one of the leading lights in the toy soldier world, none other than James Opie. The figures are of course British infantry.

The Rifles.

Egyptian Infantry.

The Egyptian position. Note the artillery deployed at the apex of the trench line.

The thin red line preparing to advance.

Egyptian Artillery deployed at the ready.

Egyptian cavalry in reserve and busy guarding the Fez in the background.

Another view of the Egyptian position. I am unsure if the gentleman in the background is at prayer or tying his shoelaces....

The ‘khaki’ portion of the army of Her Majesty - including some stout fellows representing the ‘Jewel in the Crown’

British artillery or Woolwich Arsenal’s finest....

Indian Cavalry

Andrew Stevenson and James Opie, well known toy soldier expert and author of a number of books devoted to the same - the squint of the latter was no doubt due to some dastardly Egyptian plot to ensure that the British would be advancing into the sun. For the record I would like to extend my warmest thanks to both gentlemen for taking the time to talk to me whilst I wandered about taking pictures.

Another Sudan game organised by Rainham Wargames Club (with Clint in the background). No prizes for guessing the rules being used!

Maidstone Wargames club with a Sharp Practise Sudan game

Skirmish Wargames Presents....What a Carry On Up The Nile! 28mm and check out the paddle steamer....

Described as being ‘Action at Skur-El-Mish - Somewhere in the Sudan 1884’ the steamer used for this originated from an antique shop and received rather a lot of TLC to convert it to the above. Quite superb!

First of all I should apologise for the quality of the pictures as these were all taken on my phone and the bright sunshine wreaked havoc with them. I hope that they have given you a good idea of what the show was like though and of course, there was a little retail therapy....

A real blast from the past - unpunched and with two ship control pads rather than just the one. This is the board game version of my favourite set of ‘wind and water’ naval wargame rules called Ship of the Line by the late S. Craig Taylor. The board game uses hexes whilst the original rules used squares.

Wooden Ships and Iron Men is one of my favourite board games and ‘back in the day’ I played this many time along with the miniatures version it was based on. I have a cunning plan to make use of either 1:2400th scale or even 1:4800th scale models to go with this system - being a modelling philistine there is little or no chance of me emulating the wonderful models of Mr Fox in 1:1200th so the smaller models will at least have a fighting chance of seeing the light of day. Suffice it to say that my cunning plan with the above dovetails in with the 1700 to 1720 Balkanesque Minifigs project....

As mentioned earlier in the post, I am rather fond of this show and hope that it long continues although it seemed that the number of attendees and of the trade was down on previous years. It is not a pure wargames show as such but is worth attending all the same.

All in all I could think of worse ways to spend a Sunday morning.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Planning Armies - Portable Wargame Style

The original book in the series....

....and taken a stage further.

Possibly the pick of the bunch but I couldn't possibly comment....Seriously though, these rules will be forming the basis of my 18th Century project and by merely tweaking a couple of minor points will serve me admirably (note the basing convention used by Bob on the cover).

Whilst the grey matter has been absorbed with planning and organising the Minifigs portion of Eric's collection I have also taken some time to review some of the games I have posted about on the blog. For the most part the land battles used Command and Colours inspired rule variants as well as the Portable Wargame and its predecessors. In each case a grid-based playing area was used - either hexagonal (typically 13 x 9 - the same as a usual Command and Colours playing area) or squared (12 x 8). I used three sizes of hex - 4" (Hexon), 3" (Axis and Allies maps) and 45mm (Heroscape). the squares were a uniform 3" throughout. Each size (and shape) has its advantages but for me now the optimum will be 4" and squared.

One of the difficulties that arises when using a grid is that if the unit of troops is physically large then the room for any terrain is restricted. In my opinion a unit occupying a grid space should not take up more than half the area if terrain is a feature. With this in mind, and given that my wargames going forward will be largely Portable wargame based, I intend to use Bob's basing convention for my 25mm Minifigs armies. This will be 2 x 3 figure bases for an infantry unit, 2 x 2 figure bases for cavalry and a gun with two gunners for the artillery. Foot command, gunners and riflemen/skirmishers will be on a 1" square base and mounted command on a 1" x 2" base. Using this system means that when a single unit occupies a grid area there will be sufficient room to deploy any terrain that is required.

I have opted for a square grid as opposed to hexagonal simply because terrain will be easier to both build and to configure on the playing area. At this stage though I am still debating about using an offset square grid rather than the usual chessboard style. This would combine the best of both worlds in many ways but I have not made any decisions as yet.

One of the other points that arose with all this concerns army size. Based on the size of my usual playing area - 13/12 x 9/8 grid areas - a good sized game can be fought with around 8 or so units a side. On occasion I have fought actions larger than this but not by much. As a good benchmark a field force of around dozen units will cover a variety of army selections for use on the tabletop and depending n the scenario being fought. It is always a good idea to have and army slightly larger than you would routinely use so that special units can be cycled in and out of the collection as required. Using the Portable Napoleonic Wargame as a guide I am thinking that my old idea of building up an army consisting of a Charge sized infantry regiment and a cavalry regiment with a gun battery would readily translate into 8 x 6 figures infantry units, 6 x 4 figures cavalry units and two gun batteries. That translates into a full strength army of 16 units under the Portable Napoleonic Wargame which is larger than the biggest action I have fought by 4 or 5 units. I would add a further gun and crew and some rifle/skirmish infantry to the mix meaning in total the whole army would top out around 66 foot and around 28 mounted with three guns.

As I survey the inordinate quantity of unpainted metal currently occupying the man cave this figures regime seems the perfect way for me to translate the ideas I have into a gaming reality and so that will be the next step.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

A Vivid Imagi-Nation(s)

The great figure sort out of Eric's lead mountain continues and the constituent parts are gradually being sorted into some kind of order. I picked up a couple of hundred plastic grip top bags to help with bagging up some of the figures as well as some other bits and pieces to help with storage. I will need to replace some of the crates Bill used as they have taken a royal battering and in many cases would not survive another move. One of the ongoing problems I am experiencing concerns the small, square blue Hinchliffe boxes. Eric used hundreds of these for his units but they are so old that when you take the lid off the four corner tabs that hold the box together immediately fall off. The house was littered with small brown tabs - the glue had long since dried out - but luckily the lids are not so afflicted and can be used to, in effect, hold the box together.

I really need to get out more....

The Minifigs component of Eric's collection is quite large and extremely diverse. Every army in this collection has a contingent of these figures - some more than others - but on their own would be insufficient to produce much beyond a good sized Portable Wargame/DBA inspired force. For me this is perfect as my ideal size of army tops out at around the 150 models mark. Despite the quantity of figures present there are some notable omissions - artillery being the main culprit as there are very few guns in this collection. Eric has a massive painted artillery park and so Bill and I concluded that Eric would have been happy to have used his existing collection and merely replaced the gunners with more modern figures.

Needless to say I have been pondering what to do with such a varied and diverse collection. My plan originally was to replicate a number of forces for the 1700 to 1720 period in the Balkans with Venice, Austria, Turkey and Russia being the combatants. This has a lot of appeal and is a nice alternative to the more usual War of the Spanish Succession. However, there are a couple of problems with this idea in that whilst it would have been easy to tackle using the modern ranges of figures in Eric's collection, the Minifigs portion does not have quite the same degree of historical coverage.

The solution I am fast heading towards is to use the Minifigs collection as the basis for something set in the region but on an imagi-nation footing. You may recall that this was something I was considering for the mid 19th century following my visit to Corfu last year. All I would be doing would be taking the timescale back 150 years give or take.

As mentioned previously, Eric had organised a pair of imagi-nation forces - the Electorate of Bustenberg and the Kingdom of Umbriago. The former was very Germanic flavoured - at least the unit names are - although the figures Eric used ranged from British Napoleonic Heavy Dragoons, French Guard Horse Artillery and Revolutionary era Bicorne wearing infantry to Spanish Napoleonic Grenadiers. The latter was Italian inspired - I rather liked the Hussars de Borgia - although the figures for the infantry are largely Minifigs English Seven Year War.

It would be unforgivable if these armies never saw the light of day and so I am obliged to do something with them in some fashion. I have decided to produce them both but using solely the Minifigs portion of Eric's collection rather than the figures he earmarked (especially those for Bustenberg which appear to a fusion of Hinchliffe and Essex). I shall retain the unit names for each side and for their respective historical counterparts I shall look to Austria and Venice for inspiration and ideas.

To round out the idea of course the imagi-nation versions of  Russia and Turkey will need to be considered (and indeed, I am doing just that) but I am also going to factor in the Grand Duchy of Artois and the Electorate of Kronenbourg in due course. There are more than sufficient figures to cover these armies as long as the sizes are kept manageable. Although my army standard size is around 150 pieces all in, the actual on table fighting portion would typically be roughly around a hundred figures per side, often less.

The armies will be organised with the Portable Napoleonic Wargame in mind as these need minimal alteration to suit the earlier and besides, they are a cracking set of rules!

The main aim of this expansive project is to make the maximum use of  the Minifigs portion of Eric's collection and from a cost perspective I want to have to purchase as little as possible to complete the armies. There is no doubt it will be good to see these table top veterans taking to the field and I hope that in doing so it will help to preserve elements of Eric's legacy and to acknowledge the debt that I, and many others owe him.

Monday, 11 March 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 19

Minifigs 25mm Pathans (code IC for Indian Colonial). the chap on the right - IC08 is described as a Pathan Officer on the Caliver website which is currently being investigated by Mr Ryan. They are rather nice figures and so i have asked to see if there are any pictures of IC 7 - Pathan Advancing. The numbers in circles refer to the amount of figures in each pose.

What they should look like or thereabouts.

Following Bill's arrival earlier in the week I have managed to sort out the remaining figures from Eric’s unpainted lead mountain and so now have a much clearer of what I am dealing with. I have mentioned previously that Eric had a fairly relaxed approach to mixing manufacturers within not only the same army but even at unit level. A typical example would be an infantry unit with Dixon rank and file, Foundry command and Minifigs grenadiers. The first order of business then, was to take out those figures that are ‘out of step’ in respect of compatibility - essentially the Minifigs, Hinton Hunt, Higgins and older Hinchliffe types.

By doing this, or rather by starting the process, I have managed to sort out fully the 1680 to 1700 ranges for the British, French and Irish armies. There are more figures that would drop into this period contained in the other armies but this will suffice for the time being. In practical terms this equates to around two full crates of figures. Taking into consideration these other armies I reckon there is probably another couple of crates of figures which I shall sort out next before moving on to the Marlburian period.

A number of interesting things have arisen from going through all these figures and one of these is that Eric was very fond of his artillery! The number of gunners for everything from siege artillery down to battalion guns and all points of the gunnery compass in between is prodigious. He was also very fond of engineers, sappers and miners and so there is also a good selection of figures for these arms of service. There is also a significant number of Command figures - Eric made substantial use of the Wargames Foundry Marlburian range for this - that goes way beyond the merely functional and typical ‘officer, standard bearer and drummer’ we often see. Substantial numbers of mounted commanders, multiple standard bearers, sergeants, drummers, fifers and officers are the norm and Eric certainly never skimped on this aspect of his armies.

Potentially there will be the situation whereby a number of figures are left hat will defy all efforts to be sold - either to known interested parties or via EBay or similar. A chance conversation threw up the question of the ultimate fate of old figures of being melted down, in effect, scrapped. Even this is not an option considered lightly as the older figures have a far higher lead content - presumably ideal for the home casting brigade - so apparently there are only a few figure manufacturers that would consider them. In any event the financial recompense would be minimal.

The famous Minifigs logo

The Minifigs component of Eric’s collection is throwing up a lot of usable material when taken as a whole, rather less so on an individual army basis. My plans for how best to use the models are many and varied but I will reserve my final decisions until I have them properly sorted. Given the diversity of types my thoughts have been very much imagi-nations focused as this would be the most effective way of making use of the variety therein. There is a historical precedent of sorts in that I am pretty sure that the armies of France in the first half of the 18th century were behind the curve in respect of uniforms (I am sure that Mr Fox can enlighten/correct me on that score!) so early period figures - Marlburian and late 17th century - could find a home in the Grand Duchy of Artois whilst the more modern looking, Seven Years War era types, would furnish the Electorate of Kronenbourg.

The Indian portion of Eric's collection looked very much like it was designed to fight alongside Clive although the mix of figures is somewhat eclectic even by Eric's standard! There are lot of very early early Minifigs ancient Indian spearmen and cavalry with some Renaissance types as well as some 19th century Afghans. The latter consists of Minifigs infantry and Wargames Foundry command and cavalry. I would not be in the least bit surprised if there are some boxes of Foundry infantry lurking around and awaiting discovery.

The Minifigs Jannisary figures I have look rather like this dashing fellow with a full set of plumes on his headgear.

The Turks are rather a mixed bag with most of the infantry (including the Janissaries) consisting of Dixon and Essex but with mainly Minifigs gunners. There are a couple of units of train guards consisting of Minifigs Turkish infantry armed with what looks like a Jezzail - Eric had added these so I will need to find out what the original figure was. Two boxes of Minifigs Janissaries (around 80 figures worth) and some 60 or so cavalry complete the collection.

Plenty more to do in the great sort out but having the entire collection to hand is very useful and makes life a lot easier when sorting it out. The only downside is that my man cave is rather congested for the present....

Friday, 8 March 2019

Looking back and going forward

Better late than never....

Way back in 2013 Pen and Sword published the above book by the well known wargamer, Henry Hyde. For a variety of reasons - as I recall primarily financial - I never got around to acquiring a copy. A short while ago a digital version was made available via Amazon for the paltry sum of £1.19 so I quickly snapped this up. On the back this I then tracked down a copy of the hardback version because this is really a book that any wargamer worth their salt should own.

Henry is, I believe of a similar age to myself (possibly he may or may not have the advantage in years on me) so much of what he has written strikes several chords. In many ways this book is a reflection of wargaming as I, and many others, have seen it and how it has evolved since the late 1960s. There is much that is old and indeed both acknowledges and celebrates the fact; there is also much that is contemporary and relevant for the future. In short it is as though the years 1970 to 2013 have been reset in some way and that this is almost wargames v.2 - that is how I have seen it. It is very much in the nature of 'this is where we are and how we got her and how all this can take us forward'.

There is much in the way of wargaming basics - period and army choices, scales of figures and games, practical details of painting and modelling as well as considerations of rules etc. The key for me though is that these are couched very much in present day terms. I suppose the downside is that this will date but given that most other books of this level of coverage are now forty odd years old Henry can be forgiven for this. It is relevant for now (at least for 2013 anyway!). 

I will not give a detailed review of this book - this has been addressed in a far more eloquent fashion than I could - as I would be likely to lapse into a rose-tinted, staring into the middle distance with a vacant expression on my face as I wallow in a bath of nostalgic reverie.

I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this and indeed, I am eagerly looking forward to embracing some of Henry's ideas or rather, RE-embracing them.