Wednesday, 23 December 2009

**Seasons Greetings and all the best for 2010!**

I realise that this is probably a little on the early side but given that I shall be otherwise engaged for the next few days I wanted to take this opportunity to extend to one and all the very best wishes for a super Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

The family are recovering by degrees (and many thanks for all the good wishes - they have been much appreciated) and the last of the prezzies has been acquired and will be wrapped and tree bound early this evening after the last of the food shopping has been tucked away. The beers and wine celler have been placed on Defcon 2 or yellow alert in readiness for the digestive onslaught and I am at the happy stage of 'if-we-have-not-got-it-then-we-wont-be-getting-it'. It will be nice to have the break and it is my avowed intention not to set foot out of the door until boxing day!

In closing then, I hope that everyone has a great time and that Santa has remembered at least a few of the items on your lists - socks are useful but not as interesting as an Osprey or a battle pack of some description!

**Health, wealth and happiness is the toast - Cheers one and all!**

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Bah Humbug!!!

You know I sometimes wonder if old Scrooge had the right idea about Xmas! As I write myself, SWMBO and Holly have all been struck down with the dreaded lurgy and so festive cheer is in pretty short supply in deepest, snowbound Rayleigh. We had to go food shopping and so the car obligingly needed a twenty minute warm up and scrape (Honda Civics do not appear to cope with the cold as well as Volvo Estates.........) with yours truly wishing heartily that he was back indoors, in the warm; preferably under a pile of duvets. To be fair, it was actually quite painless when we got to the supermarket but when we returned home I was presented with a couple of cold related DIY jobs. To start with the lock to the back door had frozen solid and the cat flap was in a similar condition. I discovered the latter when the offending feline, Misty, our nine year old Persian Tom produced a lake of nature's finest the size of Tanganyika behind my back. He then calmly went to the back door, miaowed to be let out and so I duly obliged (this was of when I discovered the cat flap was stuck). I turned around to grab my trusty tin of WD40 and saw the said lake. Why the stupid b*****d hadn't done this the other way around will remain one of life's unsolved mysteries - its probably a cat thing and my last sight of him was of him picking his way gingerly across the lawn avoiding the snow with the amount of dignity only a pedigree cat could manage!

Cursing a cruel fate I set about tackling each of the tasks in turn and was well into them when the thought suddenly struck me. This minor weather blip has caused all manner of mechanical glitches of the frozen kind so how must it have been on the Russian Front 1941 - 1945 when temperatures down to minus plenty and then some were the norm during winter. It certainly puts a perspective on the sheer scale of the weather issue. If a simple thing like a back door lock and a cat flap can keep me amused for a couple of hours whilst suffering from a relatively minor winter ailment imagine trying to get a tank moving whilst suffering from frostbite, bronchitis and sundry other more serious cold related unpleasantness whilst people were busily trying to perforate you in numerous and interesting ways..........

Anyone that has not read Guy Sajer's - The Forgotten Soldier should do so for a fraction of the point I am clumsily trying (and he was much better able to) to make. It is also something that should realistically be factored into any winter or extreme weather games - the issue of winter mechanical reliability.

As mentioned yesterday, my new Bulgarian 75mm artillery has arrived for the Balkan Wars set up so I can at last tackle the serious business of preparing to get them (and of course the Turks) painted.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow...........

I have spent the last two days drugged up to the eyeballs and festering under a pile of jumpers and duvets. I have succumbed to a chesty-throaty-cold-flu type affliction and am feeling pretty sorry for myself as a result. Then came the snow and I had to drag myself around to the doctors for some prescription drugs in four inches of the white stuff. It was horrible, especially as I was given the wrong prescription (it was made out to a David Cook!) but did not realise this until I had gotten to the chemists. So I then had to stroll back to the doctor to get the correct version. I was not best pleased as you can imagine!

I will have to go back to work on Monday so am hoping that the intensive regime of medication will kick in and get me there - sadly I don't get any sick pay!

I have managed to resolve the Bulgarian 75mm gun situation though so all is not lost!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bulgarian Artillery

This is proving to be a little bit of a challenge. According to Vachkov in his book 'The Balkan War 1912 - 1913' Bulgarian field artillery was based primarily around the 75mm QF Schneider - Kane 1897 ordered from Creusot. He also includes a photo of the said gun which looks suspiciously like the famed French 75mm. There are some photos of Bulgarian Artillery in action with a gun that looks very much like the French 75mm. My sources are a little thin on this subject but my feeling is that the gun the Bulgarians were using was in fact a Creusot manufactured version of the famous French 75mm that was similar to look at - especially in 15mm. I am unable to find any reference to this and so am wondering if this was in fact a cheaper, almost export version of the 'Soixante-Quinze'. The Krupp gun supplied by Irregular looks identical to the 1912 Schneider 75mm supplied to Serbia but I cannot be certain. Bulgaria made use of 75mm Krupp artillery of a non QF variety so I think that some further research may be needed. In any event, I am able to use the models provided although I will be acquiring the Creusot built Schneider 75mm as they are better suited to the army.

Should any readers be able to shed any further light on this I would appreciate it - as would my 15mm Bulgarian gun crews!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Flags for the Memory

I have placed a modest order with Irregular for a few additional figures and gunners and the process of preparation is underway. Thanks to the input from various folks a number of questions I have had have been tackled via the war games bush telegraph. My thanks then, to Messrs Fox, Hardman and Cordery for various inputs - it is much appreciated chaps.

The one issue that is a little thornier though concerns regimental flags. I have seen some pictures of Bulgarian flags - of a pattern a little earlier than the Balkan Wars - that look very similar to Prussian/Russian types but I have no clue as to whether or not this is a standard version or whether the colours are regimental specific. There is always the old standby of the national flag which I could use if need be. I did find a Bulgarian military website, in Bulgarian, which had some great photographs on it but frustratingly little detail as far as flags are concerned.

The Turks are a little easier in that all their flags appear to be red with a white crescent with a stand of arms or crossed cannon barrels in gold with a gold fringe.

I suspect that just using the national flags in each case will have to suffice in the absence of anything more concrete.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Irregular Balkan War 15mm Figures

I have now had a chance to have a closer look at these figures and am thus in a better position to comment on them. I have not bothered to photograph the figures as there are some very nice pictures on the Irregular Miniatures website: so reference should be made to them for closer examination if need be.

These are very nice and certainly look the part - I was particularly taken with the Bulgarian Infantryman advancing as he has a variant with a blanket roll over his shoulder as well as one with the large furry sheepskin hat that certain formations used due to shortages of uniform items. They also feature the leather leggings that were a civilian item of clothing but again, pressed into service due to equipment shortages. The challenge I will have though will be locating details of what Bulgarian infantry flags looked like as standards were still carried (as they were for the Turks as well) in action. There are 3 infantry poses - the two advancing mentioned and a figure kneeling firing. With the revolver wielding officer and the standard bearer there is sufficient variety to be able to mix up the bases pretty well. The final infantry type is the HMG and crew of two - the firer is cast on the weapon whilst the number two is separate. There is a slight variation in these figures in that one of the number twos has a blanket roll whilst the other does not. The cavalry contains a mix of figures with sabres drawn at rest on the shoulder with carbines slung or with the carbine held upright and resting with the butt on the riders thigh. The horses are mostly standing or pawing the ground so the whole unit (8 figures) will look as though it is at rest which I prefer for my cavalry units. The field artillery is from the Really Useful Gun range and consists of a pair of Krupp 75mm field guns and Schneider 12cm howitzer. The gunners are in standard 'serving' poses so need little comment from me. I am not convinced that the guns are correct though - the Bulgarians did capture rather a lot of Turkish artillery (the Krupp 75mm variety) and made use of the same but their main pre war outfit was the the French Schneider QF 75mm which looks very different to the German piece. I will take this up with Irregular and see what they have to say. Finally, the Bulgarian staff officer (which I am using as the overall C in C) is a delight - fully bearded (considered the height of fashion and virility in certain Bulgarian quarters!) and wielding a sword as he no doubt urges his countrymen on to tackle the hated Turk!

On the subject of the Turks, they are even nicer and most of the comments applicable to the Bulgarians are equally usable for the army of the Porte. No blanket rolls or woolly hats but fezzes that are nicely defined. The Cavalry are lance armed types which are very nice and well suited to overawing the locals! Once again I will need to check the artillery as the field gun is the 77mm gun which was in use by the Germans during the First World War. The version that should be use is the 75mm Krupp 1904 variant of the 1896 gun - how similar that is to the 77mm I will need to check with Irregular. Finally, mention must be made of the Turkish General figure - he is absolutely glorious; overweight, wearing a full length greatcoat and looking not unlike Nazim Pasha so I am very much looking forward to painting him.

Aside from the artillery issues mentioned I will only need to order a few additional pieces from Irregular to round off the collection. I will need some more gunners and perhaps some extra advancing figures just to give a little extra variety to both forces. I need to consider supply wagons as well - mainly ox-driven. In any event, I am really looking forward to tackling these figures - the only issue I have is to find two differing shades of khaki to paint the armies with. The Bulgarian khaki is 'browner' whilst the Turkish is 'greener'. Oh, and the flags!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

"Some Damn Affair in the Balkans....." Part.2

Absolutely staggering!!!! Irregular Miniatures must have the finest mail order service in the universe! I finished my email exchange with Ian Kay at Irregular late on Friday afternoon after the order was placed. It arrived this morning!
This is first class service and no mistake and I shall certainly be looking long and hard at their catalogue for some other bits and pieces for the collection.

The figures are pretty good and are close to 15mm and so seem a little on the small side against, for example, Essex. They are a little rough in finish but not excessively so and will look fine when painted. The figure mix (bearing in mind you have to rely on Irregular's choice of models when purchasing a pack type deal) was not too bad either although I will need to add a few foot just to round up the unit sizes. Also, the gun crews are only 2 figures in the pack rather than the 4 that usually get when buying a gun separately. All in all then, first class service and a very good selection of models for the price.

Friday, 11 December 2009

"Some Damn Affair in the Balkans......" Part 1

The deed has been done and those very nice chaps at Irregular Miniatures are busy beavering away on my order. I opted for a version of their Oh! What a Lovely War! Battlepack which Ian Kay very kindly tweaked to reflect the Balkan Forces more closely than the better equipped WW1 armies. I usually avoid this ‘pack’ type of approach as I am a little fussy on the choice of figure poses preferring to have units in a single advancing pose. However, as the pack deal price represents an enormous discount over buying bespoke as it were (basically you have to have Irregular’s choice of figures), I really had little choice in the matter! In any event, the variety of poses available will look suitably active as the adversaries attempt to come to grips across the tabletop!

The forces will be quite modest in terms of the number of models but will certainly have sufficient variety for all manner of one off games and scenarios using my rules of choice for this period: When Empires Clash by Bob Cordery. Each side will have 48 infantry, 8 cavalry, 2 x MGs, 2 x Field Guns and a Howitzer and a command group of a general, a cavalry trooper and a foot officer. This seems a little on the heavy side in terms of equipment but as mentioned, I really wanted to have the choice. The Infantry will be based in 3s and the mounted in 2s all on bases of a 40mm frontage. I have chosen the Turks and Bulgarians to begin with but will add the Greeks and Serbs in due course. Hopefully the Montenegrins will be ready at some point (Ian at Irregular has them on his ‘to do’ list) so the next battlepack will be Greeks and Turks with the final one Serbs versus Montenegrins. I know that the latter is not a historical match up per se but it is a viable way of taking advantage of the battlepack concept. It means that the Turks will be the biggest single force with the ‘allies’ having greater numbers overall.

Of course having Turks from the 1912 era does raise the question of perhaps some Italian opposition - in conjunction with some Sanussi tribesmen for the Italo-Turkish war at some point. My knowledge of the Italian army of the period is very limited and so I am unsure of what figures, if any, would be suitable for them in 15mm. The Sanussi are also a challenge as although they are ‘Arabs’ they have more of a wraparound headscarf than the usual Bedouin headgear. At first glance they look more like long robed and bare-legged Afghan tribesmen so I will need to research this further in due course.

The naval side has already been taken care of with all the fleets represented (and ready to use) in 1/3000th scale with the exception of the Italians. This will not be a problem though as the redoubtable Mr Fox has a large collection of Italian ships, no doubt desirous of trying to force conclusions with the fleet of the Sublime Porte.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Die is cast, the Votes are in...............

............and the winner of the 20th century mini, DBA-sized project is................................pauses for dramatic effect and the associated drum rolls...............................THE BALKAN WARS!!!!!!!!!!

It was a no-brainer really although the Arab Revolt came a very close second - failing only because I cannot see any suitable figures for the Sanussi; either in 15mm or any other scale!

The order to Irregular will be on its way this weekend so watch this space for progress.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.............

It was an exhausting weekend and assessment day yesterday and tonight sees the final college session so after that I shall be able to sit and draw breath! I hope it will all be worthwhile and that a training/teaching position will result.

In the meantime preparations for Xmas have been proceeding apace with yours truly dropping several broad hints about what he wants on December 25th!

I still think that small is beautiful and so will be pusuing the DBA style forces mentioned in earlier posts. I must confess that I am intrigued by the prospect of the Arab Revolt and have been looking at it anew - particularly the Sanussi invasion of Egypt. Turkish backed tribesmen with regular infantry, MGs, artillery and hordes of Bedouin opposed by Imperial infantry, yeomanry cavalry and Rolls Royce Armoured Cars certainly has my vote as a gameable period!

Much to ponder methinks..............again!!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Decision, Decisions, Decisions...............

I must apologise for the paucity of my posts this week – the new job and several acres of rain forest being used in my final college assignments have taken their toll of what remains of my grey matter! I have a very busy few days coming up so will probably not be in a position to post anything further until next week when hopefully the dust will have settled somewhat. In the meantime I will offer up one of my occasional rambles for your perusal and comment.
By way of a diversion from the aforementioned college and work related ‘stuff’, I have been following with much interest Bob Cordery’s work contained within his inspirational blog in connection with the Modern Morschauser rules and am very excited by the possibilities they offer. They are a simple grid based set of rules designed by Jo Morschauser for the modern period (for modern read WW2 and earlier – basically the first half of the 20th century) and are ideal for fast play, solo or club night games. The original rules are very old – early 60’s vintage in fact – and Bob has been bringing these back to life and updating the core ideas in a more usable format suitable for today’s audience. They are very simple but challenging and make use of a square grid for ranges and movement. They suit my own ideas as to how rules should be written and games played and so I am eagerly looking forward to Bob’s final version of this set and fully intend using them for my own projects – in whatever form they eventually take! I remember reading somewhere that “anybody can write a complex set of wargames rules; writing a simple set is much more difficult”. How true this is and so, in my opinion, simpler sets covering a couple of sides of A4 should be more than sufficient for an evening’s entertainment. Simple does not have to mean simplistic and I could use the old standby of chess being a simple to game to play but rich in mental challenge.

I am hoping that my as yet unfulfilled interest in the Spanish Civil War may become a reality using these rules and so I have been dragging out the Peter Pig catalogue to see what is available for this conflict. My other two 20th century periods of choice – the Balkan Wars and the Arab Revolt – will be fought using another set of Bob’s rules - When Empires Clash - which are also available in a Colonial version for the small wars of the 19th century. As I mentioned earlier, take a look at Bob’s blog for some really informative and inspirational stuff, it is well worth a visit!
It has been quite liberating to take a step back from my ongoing naval considerations as they have taken up much of my gaming and modelling time this year and so a change of direction is most welcome. I was undecided as to whether to use 20mm plastic or 15mm metal but my current thinking is that 15mm will have the advantage of ensuring that I only need one scale of scenery. The associated considerations of cost and space are also significant so I am therefore thinking that from a practical perspective 15mm should be the preferred scale. Initially I was a little disappointed by this as I have always enjoyed 20mm plastics and the associated kit bashing but given that I will not actually need very much in the way of vehicles it will be a sacrifice I can live with. The Ottoman Turkish 18th century/Napoleonic army I have is in 15mm and also this is the preferred size at the club for DBA games so it makes even more sense for me to work in this scale.

As you may have gathered the three 20th century projects I have in mind (i.e. I would like to tackle each of them but will limit myself to just one to start with) are the Balkan Wars (Irregular Miniatures), Spanish Civil War (Peter Pig) and the Arab Revolt (Minifigs). I am really unsure as to which to tackle first although I suspect that either the Balkans or the Arabs will feature in the final showdown!

I intend to post an argument for and against for each of these periods and am unashamedly using the blog as a sounding board for the ideas around each of these periods/projects.
So there you have it - I know what rules I shall be using and what figure scale I will employ. I have the three periods mapped in my mind for consideration and have already identified the figure manufacturers I shall be using. All that remains for me to do is to decide which period will come first and that will be the next challenge!