Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Far Seas

A very good primer for the period and with plenty of gaming ideas

I suppose it is inevitable in some ways that despite my fascination with dreadnought battleships and fleet actions I find myself increasingly looking at naval actions at a much lower level. In the context of WW1 - and ignoring the gunboat type of action for the time being - this leads to actions involving cruisers and destroyers. I must confess that some of the best naval games I have ever taken part in have not been the great slugfests between lines of battleships (although they do have a fascination all of their own) but actions involving single cruisers or small surface action groups.

In recent times - no more than a few years ago - I fought a number of actions in 1/3000th representing the Balkan Wars. The forces were not large but nevertheless gave some very good games - more so on the tabletop than in history if truth be told. 

Moving on to the Great War then we have the potential for some cracking actions - both historically and the all important 'what if'. The exploits of the German cruisers in the early years of the war - Von Spee's Far East squadron, the cruise to the Emden, the escape of the Goeben and the Breslau and the hunting down of the Konigsberg for the basis for some cracking refights - and again, the all important 'what if?'.

Going back in time to the days of the legendary Madasahatta campaign I seem to recall (and no doubt stand to be corrected) that the naval side was quite small in scale although a few dreadnoughts were involved - not so much on a squadron basis, more like a couple or so at any given point. This is the size of action that works best for me so the cruiser scaled engagements of WW1 tick a number of boxes.

With this in mind - and if I am completely honest very much on the spur of the moment - I acquired via EBay the title you see above for a give away price. It is the usual Pen and Sword style title and is an account of the exploits of the German cruisers at the start of the Great War and of the Royal Navy efforts to bring them to account. This they did but not without cost. From a naval wargame perspective the old standby of 'Hunt the Raider' is an ideal scenario generator - and given that 'hunters' were often older or less effective vessels the player has a number of challenging decisions to make in respect of how he conducts his operations.

Bryan Perrett is a well known historian and his account is a superb introduction to the subject. I have more detailed works on the period but as a one stop primer this is hard to beat. I suspect it has been remaindered which is why i was able to get it so cheap but even at the full price i would have been tempted.

Mention of this type of operation and Madasahatta in the same post was no coincidence - and if you read my post about Lawrence of Arabia recently (which I enjoyed watching again enormously) you may have an inkling of where this may be heading....

Of course I couldn't possibly comment....

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Perusing Persians

Mmmm - obscure and exotic - just how I like my wargames!

Some time ago that very nice chap Kaptain Kobold happened to mention that a friend of his has written the above tome and that it was available as a PDF from the Wargames Vault. I had a quick look and duly acquired the same and am I glad I did!

The book is quite simply simply outstanding. It contains a history of the Persian army over the period in question as well as details of the numerous battles they fought - against the Turks, Russians, British, amongst themselves and against any number of assorted petty Khanates and tribal types. There are illustration galore - many in colour - with many of the being reproductions of assorted watercolours painted by the numerous Western travellers in the region. There are also a number of very nice battle maps that could easily be turned into tabletop games and so in many ways the title is a 'one stop' reference book. I fully intend printing off a hard copy of this and am only sorry that someone has not picked it up to publish as a book - I would certainly add it to my collection!

Given the variety of opponents the Persians fought against and that the  title runs up to the war against Britain at the very end of the period covered it does present me with a rather interesting option for something Crimean War based.

There are also some rather nice figures available for the period as well - 15mm from Irregular Miniatures and 28mm from Westfalia Miniatures.  

Much to ponder here methinks.


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Ultraviolet and T.E. Lawrence

Peter O'Toole looking suitably dramatic

Way back in 2012 I received a copy of the above film on Blu-Ray for a birthday present. Needless to say given my longstanding interest in the life of Lawrence I was highly delighted. Contained within the case was the option to obtain a free digital download using a special code from Ultraviolet. I duly did this but at the time I was using my old HP netbook and try as I might I could not get the wretched thing to load or run. After several attempts I gave it up as a bad job and resigned myself to only watching the disc itself (which I have, several times, all in the name of, ahem, research....).

Imagine my delight then, when I discovered an App for my IPad which enables you to watch or download Ultraviolet films called Flickster. After a few emails to Ultraviolet to sort out my account details - email and password, you know the kind of thing - I was able to download David Lean's epic film and am now watching the same on my train journey to and from work.

As an aside watching a film set in the desert on a cold, dark and frosty morning certainly has the psychological effect of warming you up slightly!

I wonder where this could possibly be heading?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year and Oldish Ideas

First of all a very happy new year to one and all! 

Like many others I shall back on the treadmill tomorrow and the holiday seems to have flown by. I have not achieved very much on the hobby front to be honest but I have managed to get some ideas together - rather I have given some form to some older ideas - and these will form the basis of this post and the activities of the coming year.


The additional bases I needed for the models have been ordered so it is merely a case of acquiring the extra models I need for this project to really get under way. I have all the Heroscape hexes I need and I have also made a start on drafting the rules for use when I refight the battle. All told there are around 60 triremes of various sorts to be painted but they will be easy enough to do once I can get to them.


I will certainly be commemorating the centenary of the battle in some form but as yet I have not decided exactly how. It may well be I will revert to using the Avalon Hill Jutland game as it is simple to put together and gives a nicely representative action.

The Caucasus

This is going to be a slow burning and long term project - mainly because I have yet to decide which pair of the four main wars I want to tackle. WW1 is a certainty but I am wrestling with the choices from the 19th century. The main protagonists are of course Russia and Turkey but there are a number of potential twists that could be applied to the mix. The Persians and assorted Asiatic tribes could readily feature and it would not be stretching a point too far to include the British Indian Empire. I need to think about this in more detail but my thoughts at the moment are very much looking towards the 1880s as a good compromise.

Fantasy and Sci-Fi

I want to tackle something from both genres if possible but only as a sideline - the list above will give me plenty to be going on with - and am keen to take a look at both Frostgrave and Dragon Rampant in due course. The size of force required for both of these is fairly modest which is a very important consideration in respect of the time I will have available.

In the meantime though I shall continue to use the block armies on an ad hoc basis as and when I need to get my gaming fix.

One thing that will need to happen though as a matter of priority is that I will once again need to have a long and hard think about what I want to hang on to as the man cave is getting a little, how shall I put it, crowded!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Christmas: Friends, Family and the Force Awakens


For a variety of reasons this post has taken a while to get to and as a result is in fact a combination of three. Christmas has been and gone but Maison Crook has been busy with all the usual pleasantries - Christmas Eve at the local church for their Christingle concert, family visits and the sheer joy of having our 5 year old grandson to stay. Needless to say industrial sized quantities of Lego have been built and repaired as well as umpteen readings of the assorted Marvel Heroes adventures (note to self - I must make a concerted effort to acquaint myself further with the adventures of Iron Man and Captain America). We have certainly eaten too much and and have (probably) drank too much as well but it is only once a year after all.

The three stooges meeting on a rather wet Monday in the heart of the West End of London. Yours truly on the right, Paul in the centre and Reilly doing the honours in respect of the 'Selfie'

At a personal level the holiday season really started on Monday 21/12 when I had the pleasure of meeting my long time partner in VSF crime - the redoubtable Paul O'Grady and his son 'Right Stuff' Reilly. For a short while before the day we may have also had the company of Bob Cordery but sadly he had to pass due to unforeseen circumstances. Nevertheless we hoisted a cold one in his honour.

The last time I met up with Paul was around 6 years ago so it was a real delight when he mentioned that he and his family were passing through London en route down under (via Norway for Christmas) and that a meeting could be slotted in. We spent a very pleasant Monday afternoon including a very good lunch, numerous examples of the Brewers art (ahem...) and a flying visit to both the Orc's Nest and Forbidden Planet. We talked gaming, life, the universe and everything in it - and also swapped a couple of purchases to avoid ruinous shipping charges. I will describe mine a little later but will refrain from mentioning my side of the arrangement as I am sure that Paul will prefer that pleasure in due course! Reilly is a delight to talk to and I have seldom met a more grounded and mature 14 year old - you do not get to be an Eagle Scout for nothing - and it was a privilege to meet him. I would certainly not want to play Bloodbowl with him though - he sounds far too good for my modest abilities!

The title on the left I have coveted for some years now - I did not paying some £40 for the UK paperback version though! The title on the right came as a very unexpected surprise - and one that I am truly grateful for!

My half of our mutual purchase arrangement was a hardback copy of a book I have been after for some time but was reluctant to order from the US as the shipping would have been expensive and the value of the item would be sure to incur customs charges. Taking both of these factors into consideration it would mean that the price would have been effectively double - and certainly not financially viable for my budget. A paperback version is available in the UK but this is in fact dearer than the hardback version from the US and if I am honest, I really begrudge paying out more than the cost of an Osprey campaign title in softback. An exchange of emails with Paul whilst he was in the US meant that he acquired this for me and carried to the UK whilst I got some goodies for him (top secret at the moment!) - with the exchange taking place over a couple of very nice beers. What I was not expecting though is that Paul had also acquired the Russian Campaign title by way of a surprise for little old me! I can't thank him enough for this gesture and it is a very welcome addition to the Russo-Turkish section of the library. The Allan and Muratoff title covers everything you wanted to know about the campaigns in the Caucasus between 1828 and 1921 between the Russians and the Turks - maps, orders of battle, campaign details - everything the aspiring war-games campaigner could need! I will review both of these titles in more detail once I have had the chance to read them.

So to sum up this part of the post I had a really good afternoon with an old friend and his son which really set the tone for Christmas. I should also point out that whilst the new Star Wars film was discussed at length Paul was diplomatic enough NOT to tell me what happened other than that they both really enjoyed it!

Christmas loot - and it rather reflects my somewhat eclectic tastes! The Serbian title further complements my growing Balkan collection.


As far as the Christmas present haul was concerned I was a very lucky chap indeed! My fondness for anything Balkans related was acknowledged by SWMBO who also knows that I am a sucker for anything to do with spying, secret agents and special operations (I have bored her incessantly over the years - especially as I recall when we went to Crete for a holiday - the scene of the operation described by Patrick Leigh Fermor) hence the new Max Hastings title and Patrick Leigh Fermor's account of the kidnap of General Kriepe. SWMBO also surprised me with the copy of Frostgrave - rather she surprised me when I said I was going to get it so she could wrap it up for me for Christmas - she readily agreed which in itself was rather unusual! I enjoyed Master and Commander on DVD so the Blu-Ray was a welcome surprise from Holly who is currently home from University. Finally my son, Reece, surprised his old man with a very welcome £50 Waterstone's voucher which I am sure to put to good use.

The Force Awakens

Holly, the redoubtable Mr Fox and myself are going to see the new Star Wars film tomorrow and needless to say I am really looking forward to this. I would ask respectfully that any readers refrain from posting any spoilers by way of comments although I have a pretty good idea of what happens and I also have a theory about what will happen in Episode 8 and 9....:-)

So in closing I hope that you all had a very pleasant Christmas and in case I do not get the chance to post again before 2016 have a healthy and safe new year!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Return of the Mac

At last! After 11 phone calls, 5 emails and 14 text messages the broadband service to Maison Crook has been returned to full power. In fact it is now faster than previously so I can at last get down to some serious work on the new family PC. Attempting to commission a new computer without the net has been a frustrating experience to say the least....

Our new PC is an IMac so for home use it is goodbye to Windows and hello Apple - and I am really excited about the potential of this brave new world.

In the meantime though, I have a number of posts to complete and publish and these will include a battle report, a couple of reviews and most importantly of all - a meeting with a fellow blogger that took place in the rather wet West End of London on Monday afternoon just gone....

More to follow - and it is good to be back!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Internet Issues

Aside from the usual work related dramas I have also been struggling with a very poor internet service from our friends at BT. After some nine phonecalls to the wilds of Bangalore or wherever else in India the Broadband technical support team are located they have finally discovered that the problem is in fact a line fault that an engineer will be fixing next Tuesday. At least I think is what he meant when he said he would 'see you next Tuesday'....

It has been really frustrating but to be fair we have never really had any problems with BT over the years. It does make it doubly frustrating when you are also trying to set up a new PC as well!

I hope to be posting on a more regular basis after Tuesday with not only a battle report, details of a couple of new additions to the collection but also a very important meeting tomorrow taking place between yours truly and a well known member of the blogosphere.

I will say no more at this point so as not to spoil the surprise....;-)