Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Fire and Furry....A Tail of the ACW

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but in this case it is just the one - and I will leave the choice of expletive to you....

I had a rubbish day at work yesterday. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did (with but a single redeeming bright spot) and so the endless stream of client and candidate related mishaps seemed unrelenting. I was hugely relieved when eventually it was time to make my weary way home! As I headed out from the office a WhatsApp message appeared from my beloved timed as having been sent at around lunchtime.

“What is under the cat do I need to move her?” Said the message (and see the picture above for what she was describing). I looked at the above picture with a sickening feeling and was really not sure how to respond. The scene was from some five hours before I had seen it and I was willing to bet that Mango, the offending feline, would have moved on to pastures new so the damage, if any, would have already happened. This was the icing on the cake of a horrible day as far as I was concerned.

When I eventually got home, cursing a cruel fate and generally feeling sorry for myself, the first order of business was to see what had happened. The first thing that struck me was that everything that was on the top of the box (which was closed) was now inside which in itself was a shock. For the record the top of the box had a newspaper, two emery boards, a bamboo skewer, a paint brush, two packs of MDF bases and some grip top plastic bags, not to mention a newly bladed modelling knife. Mango has completely ignored all of these anti cat obstacles and had calmly curled up on top of them and on the box and had gone into a blissful and no doubt untroubled sleep.

It what universe could that position have possibly been comfortable? Not being a cat I have struggled to understand how she was able to manage it, especially due to all the paraphernalia she was curled up on.

The box contained two Spencer Smith 30mm ACW cavalry units and six guns. The cavalry were deployed facing each other with the swords pointing towards the centre of the box, guard of honour style. Mango is a small and light feline – if it was her daughter then the table would probably have collapsed – but her weight was sufficient to stove in the box lid and so her weight was supported by ten cavalry swords with the obvious result – swords bent into passable impersonations of fishing hooks. I was able to straighten them out (some of them are now weakened on the bend so to speak) and by a copious application of super glue have hardened the weapons (oooer missus) sufficiently to render them proud and erect once more….

The box now has a cat proof cover that will enable her to sleep on the box rather than in it.

If she dares that is….

Monday, 16 September 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Number 46

September of course means the Skirmish show and whilst I did not take many pictures I was rather taken with this 54mm Mexican Revolution game organised by Skirmish Wargames. The information sheet said 'please take one' so naturally I did!

The rules are homegrown and the figures are from various sources and feature a number of very nice conversions. The buildings have appeared on many a stricken field over the year!

Apologies for the quality of  the pictures but I hope they give you a good feel for what was happening.

Now I am embarrassed to admit that whilst I have seen this club on numerous occasions at Skirmish (usually fighting games on a grid) I cannot for the life of me remember who they are! This time it was the Spanish Civil War using Peter Pig's Bayonet and Ideology rules and 15mm models. I really liked the way that the square grid was marked out using flocked dots to mark the corners. 

Messing about on the river (well watching it anyway) - dinghys, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards doing what they do best. Also available was the cheapest cream tea I have ever seen at £1.20 each!

A busy week for sure and a lot happened!

Work on the ACW 30mm collection is moving along nicely and the bases for the Union and Confederate infantry, gun crews and mounted command are now at the varnishing stage. The cavalry of both sides has had the first coat on their bases and so I am expecting to have them ready for varnishing alongside the rest of the collection in the next couple of days. There is a degree of minor touching up on some of the figures - mainly just some exposed metal here and there - which will need to be done before the gloss varnish can be applied. I have had a change of heart and am now going with matt varnish for the bases rather than the shinier alternative. Once all this has been done I can finish off the artillery pieces. All they need is some gloss varnish, 'blacking' of the muzzles (I was going to drill these out but am now not going to bother) and painting of the wheel rims to be ready. I am quite pleased with the progress so far although it has taken me longer than I anticipated.

Something for a little later and worthy of a Portable Wargame set up or even a Memoir '44 variant

Yesterday saw my second visit of the year to the Skirmish show held at the Sidcup and Chislehurst Grammar School. It is always a good way to spend half a day and I was able to catch up with the core of Postie's Rejects - Ray, Lee and of course Postie himself. the pictures tell most of the story and my only purchase was a copy of Antony Beevor's The Battle for Spain in hardback for £6 which I was very pleased with.

The afternoon saw SWMBO and I attending the local Hullbridge Regatta. Now Henley it is not so no straw boaters or jugs of Pimms in evidence but it was a nice afternoon by the river and with the pleasure of listening to a really good local blues band belting out some very good Santana covers.

All in all a productive week and weekend.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Tudor Rebellions

"I can resist anything except temptation...."

I mentioned in the last Sitrep about the two rebellions of 1549 – The Prayer Book version in Devon and that of Robert Kett in Norfolk. Inspired my recent visit to ‘Prayer Book Rebellion’ territory and the prospect of visiting Norfolk at the end of the month I figured, as is my customary wont, that undertaking a little research would be appropriate. Mention has already been made of the magazine articles devoted to each but I wanted something a little more tangible. I have no plans to undertake either rebellion as a figure based game but certainly there is potential using blocks or similar. Having said that perhaps a DBA style set up or even one for one of the Rampant series of rules by Dan Mersey may be an idea.

In any event any such undertaking is so far down the project batting order that you would need the Hubble telescope to see it!

There is something quintessentially English about the Tudor period. For my own part my interest usually only goes as far as the Armada or the exploits of the various ‘Sea Dogs’ but there is a lot more to explore. Deep down I suspect that my interest is more about the English taking their first tentative steps on the world stage against a backdrop of domestic change.

Anyway, coming back to the subject in hand, I did a little trawl of the net (always dangerous when the inspirational urge is upon you….) and came across the above book by Julian Cornwall. It is not a military history per se; rather it is a social history of the background to both revolts but it does have a good account of each campaign. It is a useful addition to the library although as mentioned above it is unlikely I would game it in the foreseeable future.

One for the ‘to do’ list methinks.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 2

The Kurz and Allison print of the Battle of Antietam

A detail from the same picture - note the stylised nature of the uniforms.

I spent some time yesterday evening painting the first coat on the bases for the Union infantry and gun crews. This evening I will repeat the process for the Confederates and then will tackle the cavalry. I am using a Humbrol satin enamel (as per how the original painter tackles his models) green (number 131) and am wondering if going overall satin for the figures and bases would be the way to go. It means the models would be shiny but not excessively so. Something to think about for when they are ready.

The models are not quite Kurz and Allison in respect of uniforms but they still have that simple and very effective look about them.

I am hoping to have then ready over the coming weekend and will of course be posting pictures of them when they are finished.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Weekly Sitrep....Numbers 44 and 45

The bridge at Clyst St Mary - scene of a battle and the subsequent slaughter of some 900 Devon and Cornwall rebel prisoners

An oversight on my part for sure - I managed to forget to write this last week following on from my ACW collection post so apologies for the delay!

From Wednesday of last week SWMBO and I headed west to stay near our friends place just outside of Exeter. For a variety of reasons we did not get out and about very much other than the daily six minute drive from the b and b we were staying at to their house although a couple of walks with the family dog did take place. We stayed at small Devon village called Clyst St Mary and the significance of this is that there was not only a battle fought there but also a subsequent massacre in 1549 during the Prayer Book Rebellion. The whole area of the rebellion is within that locale and being Devon is still relatively untouched or developed although Exeter itself seems to be getting bigger.

Whilst I have not explored the area of the campaign, nor indeed the campaign itself, in any great detail (I have driven though or arond the area many times) it is something I would like to do in due course as it took place over a fairly compact area amongst some wonderful Devon countryside. Even the place names that featured in the Rebellion sound evocative and, well, country like: Fenny Bridges, Ottery St Mary, Clyst St Mary, Sampford Courtenay, Crediton and Woodbury Common - all solid rural sounding place names.

From a gaming perspective I recall a number of years ago my old friend Chris Hardman et al were involved in running a game based on the rebellion with the royal army consisting of Italian Arquebusiers, Landschneckts and German troops against bluff and hearty Cornish and Devon yeoman featuring longbows and bills etc. I will have to ask Chris about the game as it was a while ago.

I discovered, after some trawling of the net, that an article by Andy Callan appeared in Miniature Wargames Number 13 and featured a solo campaign game for the rebellion and this was used to very good effect on the following blog: Heretical Gaming written by JWH.

As an aside the other rebellion from the same year - that of Robert Kett in Norfolk - also has a personal connection in hat my sister in law and her family live walking distance from the rebel camp at Mousehold Heath near Norwich. 1549 was a busy year on the rebellion front!

Work will resume on the 30mm ACW collection this evening and I am aiming to have the whole lot finished, photographed and blogged over the course of next weekend. When this is done I will need to think about the accompanying naval elements but I have a couple of plans in mind for this - more of which later.

Monday, 2 September 2019

ACW Collection WIP....Part 1

Says it all really - but not that I am having trouble opening an umbrella....

Work on the figure element of the 30mm Spencer Smith ACW collection is moving along nicely although it is about to stop as I shall be away for a few days in the West Country. I have based 100 foot and 24 mounted figures - remember these are based individually - on their MDF bases and have also sealed them using matt varnish. A bonus of doing this is that the varnish has completely evened out the basing colour green. As the first batch of figures were done some time ago the colour appears different to the more recent addition. It was quite noticeable for sure. Whilst I am happy for the figures to be gloss I wanted the bases in matt. There will be a little touching up of the lower leg areas on a few figures as well as some boots that need some TLC - on other words black paint - before an application of gloss varnish.

I never thought I would hear myself say this but I have really enjoyed handling figures and using a paintbrush on them! I know I did not paint them but I always feel that doing something to them kind of makes them your own in a way. Silly I know but I can't help it!

I am not going to show any pictures of the figures until I have finished them so although I will post updates the eye candy will be a little way off. Allowing for my few days away I reckon a couple of weeks at the latest.

They will be worth the wait....

Thursday, 29 August 2019

My ACW Collection - The Foundations

A Kurz and Allison print of the Battle of Franklin, 1864

First of all the biggest news surrounding this project. The balance of my Spencer Smith 30mm ACW Kurz and Allison/Old Toy Soldier inspired figures arrived yesterday and boy, oh boy are they something special! I need to base them before they get their blog post review and this will taking place over the next few days. There is 116 foot, 24 mounted and 6 guns in all - the foot and horse will be mounted on individual bases whilst the guns will be free standing. the artillery component seems rather large for the number of figures - especially when you consider that there are only 12 gunners in total, 6 for each side - but bear in mind that his collection is replicating the components of the board game Battle Cry. If I was using the maximum amount of artillery in a game then two gunners per piece would be in order (the same as Battle Cry and the Portable Wargame), if using two guns then the crews can be three figures and a single piece could have four - one has to be mindful of the aesthetic appeal after all....

As befits the basic, even crude, nature of Spencer Smith figures opting for a glossy, old toy soldier style paint job was a no brainer. You will have to take my word for it (at least until the bases are done that is) that they look lovely and I am so pleased with the end result. Again, full details will be forthcoming on the appropriate blog post.

Supporting the figures and ship models I have quietly built up a modest library of relevant titles but one must be mindful of the fact that the American Civil War is covered by the written word on a truly epic scale and the real difficulty is picking out what not to buy rather than what to buy! As a rule I tend to take a high level overview of the subjects I am interested in but will drill down further into a specific area if required. Whilst I fully applaud and admire those hardy souls that can quote to the day and specific regulation when the lower cuff button of the Umpteenth Foot's officer's mess jacket changed that level of detail is usually way beyond my level of attention!

For the Civil War the library looks something like this:

Battles and Leaders - 4 volumes plus Annals of the Civil War which was a kind of extension to the base set.
The American Civil War - John Keegan
Rally Once Again - Paddy Griffith
Battles of the American Civil War, 1861 - 1865, Kevin Dougherty et al
Thunder along the Mississippi and Gunfire around the Gulf - Jack Coombe
Ships of the Civil War 1861 - 1865 - Kevin Dougherty

For uniforms there is a very good section on the ACW in the Encyclopedia of 19th Century Uniforms which is very handy..

The above selection is very modest indeed and for sure I will add to it but only on a selective basis. I would be keen to explore anything in connection with the War in the West, especially anything river based as well as the campaign leading up to the fall of Atlanta and the 'march to the sea'. I would also like to expand the naval section where I can.

The important thing though, is that I have a solid core of books to be working with in the short term.

The games I will be playing with the collection will be Command and Colours/Portable Wargame based with the occasional foray into A Gentleman's War and Rebels and Patriots. I also envisage using the figures as units on a campaign map for when a strategic game takes my fancy so my recent acquisition of A House Divided has assumed even greater importance in the overall scheme of things.

From a practical perspective I need to think about some suitable terrain and of course a playing area. I am torn between investing once again in some Hexon or getting a dedicated gaming mat - neither of which are cheap options. An alternative will be to hex grid one of the GW playing mats I have using a permanent marker. Laborious but cheap to do and with the advantage that the off cut section could be cut into hex sized terrain pieces. I also need to think about ships. Realistically I can see me making around a dozen models - fifteen at the most - and these will be generic types rather than detailed historical models. I have already mentioned that these will be larger than my previous efforts - I am working to 5.5" grid - and that I plan to make them usable for both sides as required by the simple expedient of having interchangeable flags.

This modest collection of figures will enable me to fight wargames up and down the scale from strategic down to skirmish level and the realisation of this fact has given me much to ponder for my future endeavours.