Friday, 20 October 2017

Figuring out the Blocks or Blocking out the Figures

A long time ago in a loft far, far away...The original full sized blocks (I still have most of these) in use on the Axis and Allies maps. The action is a Napoleonic 1815 inspired engagement in Belgium.

It seems quite incredible that the action pictured above took place nearly six years ago! I am of course referring to the very first game I undertook using my block armies. This was quite unique as it was one of the very few games that I fought using uncut Jenga blocks - these are now half sized - and my laminated Axis and Allies maps. As I recall I fought the action twice as the first time it was a little underwhelming as a game although the purple prose flowed rather nicely....

The game is in the Games folder but you can find it here should you want to read it.

One of the early decisions I took in respect of the block armies was that they would be used a test bed for various periods so I could fight actions prior to investing monies and time with painting etc. Since I have had the blocks the only painting I have tackled to any great degree has usually involved ships, other than the odd experiment with figures. I have a number of figure based projects to undertake ranging from 1/600th or 3mm up to the 54mm Sons of the Desert set up. However, first of all I need to get some ships painted which fortunately I am able to do fairly quickly using the famous 'Gow' technique. Of the figures themselves the 1/600th kit will feature first, mainly as I can get them painted and ready fairly quickly as well.

The blocks in their current iteration in use with the Portable Wargame (actually an earlier pre-publication version) rules.

So what does all this mean in the short term? Well, I shall be dragging the block armies out again and plan on using them in two similar ways. I will be making use of my Heroscape terrain with single blocks representing units and counters for hits suffered and I shall be using my Axis and Allies double sided and laminated maps with more usual Command and Colours/Portable Wargame sized units (the famous 4 infantry, 3 cavalry and 2 artillery standard).

One of the issues I have faced when using the block armies in the past is that the games can be quite hard to follow after all, one block looks very much like another. I have certainly been guilty of not giving sufficient back story to support the unfolding action in the past and having read some of my older posts can only agree with observation! When used as a '3D military map' it is important that the narrative supporting the pictures is relevant and provides the reader with the information they need to follow the action. When reading about a battle in a book for example, it can be frustrating if the text does not support the map at a given point or even vice versa. As a game should be a dynamic event it means that even more care needs to be taken to ensure that the action can be easily followed and, more importantly, impart a real sense of flavour  for the period.

With this in mind I shall be embarking on some new games (not before time as well!) but with a much tighter narrative to support the action. Some of my previously recorded games followed this approach quite closely and so made for a much more entertaining read - I am not talking about the 'purple prose' here - but the overall quality was very uneven. Oddly enough some of the least interesting games to play actually read quite well.

I enjoy writing but like everything else I do I am notoriously 'short-winded' and have an attention span that can best be described as variable. I need to ensure then that when I fight a battle I need to spend time properly preparing it and making sure that the action is clear and easy to understand and above all, entertaining.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Naval Evolutions or a Tale of Four Battleships

S.M.S. Worth under the flag of Imperial Germany

Back in the 1970s following the conclusion of the legendary Madasahatta campaign organised by Eric Knowles I was fortunate enough to have been asked to take part his next project. This was a naval campaign set in South East Asia starting at the outbreak of the Great War using 1/1200th scale ships and with a modified version of Fletcher Pratt being the rules of choice. I say modified because the actions were fought on an 8ft by 5ft dining table with movement distance being in the order or roughly 30 kts equalling 12" or thereabouts.

Time has dimmed the memory of how the campaign ran on a blow by blow basis but a few of the highlights have stayed with me.

The navies of Great Britain, Germany, USA, Russia, Japan, Austria, Italy and Turkey featured and yours truly was given command of the Turks - a decision which has led to my lifelong interest in the martial history of the Sublime Porte through the ages. As a young and experienced naval wargamer I took my new command very seriously and immediately besieged a local reference library for any copies of Jane's Fighting Ships. I was able to photocopy the complete 1914 Jane's entry for the Turks and set about producing the requisite models. I scratchbuilt the battle cruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau as well as the two protected cruisers Hamedieh and Mejidieh whilst the rest of the fleet came from a variety of sources. The old ironclad Messudieh was represented by a Mercator model (or it may have been Navis) of HMS Nile and the two old German pre dreadnought battleships Brandenburg and Worth were converted from a Minifigs Iron Duke type dreadnought with a couple of turrets removed (bear in mind The Minifigs ships are 1/1800th or thereabouts so are smaller than the preferred 1/1200th).

Mention of the these two venerable old German warships is the main raison d'etre for this post for reasons which will become clear in due course. Suffice it to say that during the aforementioned campaign they were surprisingly effective as both were generously armoured and had a useful main battery of 6 x 11". At the time we fought the campaign no allowance was made for the types of armour used nor of such consideration as length of guns barrels being used - two of the Brandenburg's 11" weapons were short barrelled so had a lesser range (think of the 75mm gun used on the Panzer 4D as opposed to the F2 version for a similar comparison).

Looking back the campaign was a lot of fun but if I am honest the rules really did not work on the tactical side but as we were all under the same handicap it did not matter. If I were to do the same again though I would happily use Fletcher Pratt rules on a table top but with smaller models instead.

Many years after the end of the campaign I raised the Turkish Navy again - this time in 1/3000th - along with the Greeks, Bulgarians and the Black Sea Russians. I fought a number of actions with these models (they posts are in the games folder) but something was not right about the scale. I think for me that 1/3000th as a scale is better for actions where the models are larger which means dreadnoughts etc. As ships tended to be larger in WW2 I think this is where it comes into its own. 1/3000th scale pre dreadnoughts now seem too small for my taste - perhaps it is an age thing.

1/2400th is a different kettle of fish though as the extra size makes for models that have greater presence on the table top. I have flirted with this scale for the Jutland project and it was a revelation for me as to how much better the models look when deployed. The problem though is that there are very few UK manufacturers in this scale meaning using imports from the US - GHQ and C in C being a good examples or even Panzerschiffe. An honourable mention could also be made of Shapeways or the War Times Journal. Anything from the US invariably means high postage and possible customs charges - all of which add to the cost.

Now lets be honest, GHQ and C in C models are beautiful. They are highly detailed and to my mind are more models than gaming pieces. Panzerschiffe are at the other end of the scale and are more gaming pieces than models - each have their advocates. For my taste the GHQ models are too good to be used for gaming - there are far too many small parts that will either fall off or break under the stress of heavy handling during a game. Again, just my opinion. They are also pretty expensive when you are looking at raising large forces. As an aside a chap in the blogosphere raised the forces for Jutland using GHQ models - they looked superb.

Luckily help is at hand. Tumbling Dice: Age of Battleships is a range of models for the pre dreadnought era that cover at present the Russian, Japanese, Spanish, American, British and German navies with the Austrians and Italians to follow later this year and the French in 2018. There is also a very useful selection of assorted merchantmen (aka targets....) for the period. With the recent release of the Germans for the period I took the plunge and acquired some RN and German types - notionally for overseas use rather than the Home Fleet. Paul at Tumbling Dice has produced some discounted starter sets which I took advantage of. Essentially I have two of the China Station RN packs and some extras (including Triumph and Swiftsure) in the shape of cruisers and destroyers and for the Germans I have the East Asia Squadron (the 1914 version) plus the earlier Boxer Rebellion East Asia force. Guess what? All four of the Brandenburg class took part in this so the Germans now have a quite healthy force - especially as I have also added some destroyers.

I will post some pictures of the models in due course as they are very nice indeed. I would describe them as being detailed but not to the GHQ standard which means they are far 'safer' to use for gaming. This is not in anyway a criticism though! They are quite reasonably priced and the number of parts that require assembly is limited mainly to funnels and military masts. Take a look at the Tumbling Dice website and you will see some pictures.

Of the Brandenburg models themselves they are really quite delightful and I shall enjoy using them in due course - with the armour and main guns properly accounted for naturally!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

White Bear Red Sun by David Manley

The front cover

The indefatigable David Manley has done it again. This time he has turned his attention to the Russo-Japanese naval war of 1904 to 1905. The rules are available as a download from the Wargames Vault and they are certainly worth the money! 

Aside from a potted history of the naval war the book contains a fast play DBA inspired set of rules and a complete campaign system including maps and counters. the rules are very slick and represent the culmination of some 20 years of research and testing so you can be sure they work!

I have a passing interest in the war (I have a couple of titles in my library) although I cannot see myself raising the fleets for this BUT the rules are eminently suitable for the 'pre-dreadnought' era in general. Looking long and hard at the 1/2400th scale range produced by Tumbling Dice (which include Chinese, Spanish, American, Russian, Japanese, British and recently the Germans) one can see where my thoughts may be headed. Austrians, Italians and the French are due over the next six months or so so the range will be very impressive. The models are very nice indeed.

My plan (and indeed, the models are on order) is to raise a British and German fleet based on the China Station and Red Sea/Indian Ocean squadrons for the Royal Navy and the East Asia squadron for the Germans. Conveniently Tumbling Dice produce discounted fleet packs for the China station and east Asia squadron so it was merely a matter of fleshing these out. I was delighted to see that the Germans made a considerable naval effort for the Boxer Rebellion and sent all four of the Brandenburg class battleships and assorted cruisers etc. In the background as I envisage it these will be present and then reinforced by Graf Spee's command.

The Royal Navy will gain some bits and pieces but for the most part will be at a slight disadvantage although they will have numbers.

I should also mention that they will get Swiftsure and Triumph to negate the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

The great thing about naval games is of course the fact that not only do you not need much material for a good game but also the forces are quick and easy to get ready. It will give me something to paint whilst the 54mms are being organised in any event.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Sons of the Desert....Part 1

In my previous post I touched upon the latest bout of wargames insanity I have embarked upon, namely the French Foreign Legion circa 1900 and their Tuareg/Berber opposition. I also mentioned that the figures I am using are from Armies in Plastic in 54mm. With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to show you what he figures look like.

The Foreign Legion

Of the 10 poses you get in a box of 20 figures here are 9 of them. The missing pose is laying down firing - a position I will not be using. The selection of poses in quite sensible and I have sufficient figures to be able make some uniform units.

The 'Arabs'

Again, there are 10 poses in a box of 20 and here are 8 of them. I miscounted when I sorted the figures out so there will be a single usable pose as yet unseen (I will post him when I have found him!)- the other is of course the laying down firing position. Berber tribesmen typically wore a full face wraparound veil unlike the headdress usually associated with Arabs so this set is a little bit of a mixture as the rather natty looking command type (bottom row on the right) is wearing a more usual 'Arab' dress. I will make use of him though as he is rather a splendid fellow. The rest have a selection of firearms and hand weapons - enough to satisfy the most belligerent tribesman. I also have 10 mounted Arabs which I will unveil in due course - they also have the mixed headdress issue.

As far as painting is concerned these will be getting a flat finish and will also be gloss varnished. I need to organise some bases for them which is complicated slightly by the variety of base depths. Infantry will have a 3cm frontage with depths to suit. The mounted figures are on uniform bases so will be easier to tackle. As they will be based individually I fully intend using the figures with The Men Who would be King as well the Portable Wargame.

As far as unit sizes are concerned I am considering wither 12 or 16 figures for infantry and 6 or 8 for the cavalry. Artillery will be a gun and three crew.

Methinks it will be a busy autumn/winter....

Thursday, 5 October 2017

"March or Die" or yet another remake of Beau Geste....

Taken from Google Images but originally from an Osprey MAA title - classic images of the Legion

I offer no apologies for what you are about to read and I suspect that most people that know me well will not be in the least bit surprised. Following on from a very enjoyable and inspirational Funny Little Wars game - the famous Leipzig on the Lawn - I have had occasion to think long and hard about my gaming (or rather lack of) and how I am going to tackle it. I have settled on the rule systems I shall be using - primarily a Portable Wargame/Command and Colours/Morshauser based hybrid of sorts - and also the scale for what will be larger actions - namely 1/600th or 3mm. Now lets be honest, as a scale 1/600th is hugely practical but for me is very much an extension of my block armies as the size makes for very easy painting and works well with Heroscape tiles. In effect I shall be using these models instead of the blocks for the look of the thing - as is only right and proper.

That is all well and good and eminently sensible but hardly a visual treat. Other scales, which in this context means for me 15mm through to 28mm, I seem to have real problems with - usually because of the number of figures I would need to make it look right. I like units to look like units which means in the earlier periods tends to mean using a lot of figures - which in turn means more painting etc, etc, etc...It is very much a personal conundrum. I read somewhere that a lot of the games you see in the magazines these days (I cannot claim to know for sure as I no longer buy any) tend to use a small number of figures - almost skirmish level in fact.

I have said in the past that I am happy using a gridded playing area and so using the above rule systems or variants thereof is quite a natural thing and I am well satisfied. However, using figures is the ultimate aim and so using models that will give the visual appeal I want with the limited numbers I want to paint means that a smaller number of larger figures is in order.

I suspect you can see where this may be heading.

Using a 6ft by 4ft playing area with 6" squares will comfortably accommodate larger scale figures on the 4 infantry, 3 cavalry or two gunners and gun basis. By larger figures in this case I mean of course 54mm.

So here is how it goes. Inspired by the aforementioned Funny Little Wars Leipzig battle - especially the use of 54mm plastic figures painted in an old school fashion - I started to think about using such figures on a 6ft by 4ft table. Initially my thoughts headed to the North West Frontier circa 1890 and the range of figures produced by Armies in Plastic. You may recall the Roghan Valley (there is a folder with the posts associated with it) so revisiting seemed like a good idea. After all, there would be plenty of colour and flavour. I even have a modest library covering the period from 1878 to 1935 so there was little excuse not to think seriously about it.

However, I was thrown a fairly substantial curve ball in the shape of rather a lot of plastic 54mm French Foreign Legion and Berber Tribesmen - not to mention a fort - for a very attractive price and so I took advantage of the same and am now the proud owner of some 200 plastic 54mm figures from Armies in Plastic plus their rather splendid Fort.

After some experimentation on my 6ft by 4ft table one is easily able to deploy two reasonable looking forces without the table looking too cramped. On a non grid based basis and assuming a 12 figures infantry unit deployed in two ranks (covering an area of, for example, 18cm by8cm) one can happily use around half a dozen or more units at side - which is not only suitable for the Portable Wargame but also things like The Men Who Would be King. There is s a lot of potential for sure.

As it stands then the plan is to raise a couple of Portable Wargame sized forces circa. 1900 for both the Legion and their erstwhile opponents, the Tuareg or Berber tribesmen. Although the latter are described as Arabs they are dressed in North African garb rather than Arabian but would also be suitable for use as Sanussi tribesmen for the Great War or even for use against the 1930s Italians. The Legion infantry can be supported by the use of the Colonial pith helmet wearing British with a suitable paint job - which would also apply to the artillery and gatling gun available from the same source. In fact the only real shortage are camels and mules but I plan to source some of these as dismounted markers of some kind.

It will also come as no surprise to learn that I have even thought beyond the immediate use of the figures and what else can be added to the collection. I have even considered inventing a large island off the coast of North Africa inhabited by Berber tribesman but with British and French enclaves at either end. Add in the Turks as supporters of the Berbers (as they did historically during the Sanussi revolt of 1915) and possibly Germans supporting the Turks and you have the makings of something rather special. Dare I say it? Almost Madasahatta like....

Certainly something else to think about in any event....particularly as it would open up the naval dimension which is ordinarily not what one thinks off when discussing the Foreign Legion.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Leipzig on the Lawn - A personal review

On Saturday 23/09 I was fortunate enough to take part in a refight of The Battle of Leipzig, 1813 at a secret central London location. There was in excess of 2,000 54mm figures and the rules in use were Funny Little Wars - an updated version of H.G. Wells original Little Wars with a Napoleonic twist. The action was fought on the lawn and together with the two umpires there was around a dozen of us with yours truly taking the part of Napoleon. the full list of dramatic personae looked something like this :

Umpires - PW and Tim Gow
Combat photographer - Bob Cordery

The French
The Corsican Ogre - Yours Truly
Murat - Eric Kemp 
Ney - Mike Lewis

The Allies
Schwarzenberg - Brian Carrick
Blucher - Russell King
Bernadotte - Conrad Kinch
Barclay de Tolly - Mike Snape
Wittgenstein - Jack Wright

Leipzig city centre - complete with the Imperial Household and the baggage train in the distance

There will be other blog posts about this epic encounter together with some rather better quality photographs of the fun but I wanted to write about the game from a rather more personal perspective.

French Cavalry under the command of Murat (Eric Kemp) - the figures were generally accepted to be the nicest painted models in the game

I was supposed to attend a similar event at the same location and dramatis personae back in 2015 when a refight of Waterloo to coincide with the bicentenary was undertaken but sadly had to pull out at a late stage. I was taking no chances on missing out this time though and so it was I took part in a game that has made me look long and hard at pretty much everything I thought I knew about wargaming and how to fight battles with model soldiers.

Allied cavalry supporting the Swedes under Bernadotte (Conrad Kinch) prepare to administer the coup de grace to the remnants of the Imperial Guard - but at a heavy cost.

The battle itself took place over some 5 hours of game time and started on the second day of the actual battle. This meant that the allies were in contact with the far flung French outlying forces almost from the outset. The French plan was simple - wait until they were rolled over and then retreat with what was left. It succeeded rather too well and at the conclusion the baggage train and the imperial staff were last seen heading towards Dresden and a single unit of cavalry and perhaps some of the guard possibly following.

In truth the French lost faster than the Allies won and at times one was almost reminded of the old arcade game Space Invaders.

The game had everything - high drama, massed cavalry battles, furious melees and some very random shooting. Normal artillery was handled using the time honoured matchstick firing model - in this case a 25pdr - whilst for canister rounds good use was made of party poppers - which was enormous fun for all concerned!

My own role as the Emperor during the early stages of the battle was merely to sit on my hands in Leipzig brooding magnificently, ideally with a Rod Steiger like vacant scowl. I also make a point of quoting every line I could remember from the film Waterloo or attributed to Boney himself - sometimes the comments were even appropriate. For example, in response to a written message from Ney asking whether or not he could engage the approaching Austrians  was responded to with the following missive "Engage. The salvation of France is at stake". I like to think of it as method wargaming....

Special mention should be made of the tussle between the Guard and the Swedes. Despite being outnumbered the Guard fully lived up to their reputation and significantly out shot their doughty opponents. Perhaps mindful of his political position Bernadotte (Conrad Kinch) tried not to cause too much damage to the French although the Guard had no such qualms when firing back....

The sole British unit - the Rocket Troop, assembled by Tim Gow - fell victim to an overshot French artillery barrage - the round in question completely missed the intended targets but such is the way of Little Wars errant artillery....

Camaraderie, good natured banter, lots of figures, good weather, great umpiring, beers, sandwiches, tea and scones and the chance to recreate in some small way a piece of history - what is not to like? Indeed, plans are afoot to conduct another game at some point next year and I only hope that I will be able to participate.

For my own part one of things that came out of the affair was they 54mm figures - even with a simple, flat paint job (old school style) - look quite splendid when deployed for action. Now I am not saying that I will be going full on Little Wars but using a modest number of figures on a 6ft by 4ft table, probably gridded a la Cordery/Morschauser, would certainly look the part.

Much to think about I assure but in the meantime a big thank you to Tim and PW for making it possible and all of the cast and crew - especially my two long suffering subordinates - for making the whole day a memorable adventure.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Indian Takeaway

A little diversion

Something completely out of the blue I know but I could not resist it! I have an occasional interest in the 18th century - mainly due to Charge! if I am honest - and this has tended in the past to be mainly Seven Years War in Europe based with the occasional foray into the American Revolution. However, I have recently been revisiting the campaigns on the 'fringes of Empire' if you like, namely the French and Indian War and also the wars in India.

As a perennial 'small war' enthusiast neither of the above should come as any surprise...

I am very fond of Stuart Reid's titles and so when the above was advertised I was always going to buy the same. The Battle of Plassey was the battle that cemented Great Britain's place as the upcoming premier power on the subcontinent and made the fortune of Robert Clive, one of my historical interests alongside T.E. Lawrence and others.

The book follows the usual Reid template with notes etc at the end of each chapter and an easy, readable writing style. I am going to savour this and will probably revisit Robert Harvey's excellent biography of Clive as a result.

Would I ever game the period? I doubt it as to do it just would require far more time and effort to produce armies for this than I would be prepared to devote but I would certainly consider a board game on the period if such existed.

As an aside it has also reminded me that there is one other book on the period I need to acquire. Just one, maybe two....

Friday, 15 September 2017

Rommel by Sam Mustapha

Glossy, hard-backed and with an impressive pedigree....

It has been an insanely busy few weeks with both the new job, the new kitchen and assorted other DIY and domestic issues. The former is going well and I am particularly pleased with the sensible and grown up approach to the job and the hours. The kitchen is, at last, coming to an end and so would have only taken around nine months....

From the gaming perspective the man cave will be changing slightly as due to the new kitchen I now have a new table measuring 5ft by 3ft with a leg at each corner rather than the old drop leaf version currently in use. As anyone with a drop leaf table will know you are a little restricted for storage underneath so the new single piece table is most welcome. It does mean I will have a 5 ft by 3ft piece of MDF spare should anyone want the same. I am planning to make the change over this weekend.

I took delivery of a copy of the operational scale WW2 rules by Sam Mustapha and whilst I have not had the chance to read them in great detail seem to have ticked an awful lot of my personal gaming boxes. They are square grid based which will suit me down to the ground especially for the scale I will be using - 1/600th or 3mm if you prefer.

The game uses a 6ft by 4ft table divided into 6" squares meaning a grid of 8 x 12. Now I own (and both have featured on the blog in use) a couple of 3ft by 2ft game boards gridded with 3" squares - exactly the same as the bigger version described in the rules. A 3" square looks fine with the 3mm models deployed therein especially as my plan is to base the models for use with Command and Colours as well. This means a typical tank unit will have 3 bases whilst infantry have 4 and artillery 2. Using these bases will enable the models to deployed far more aesthetically within a square than using a single large base.

Am I excited about this set of rules? Absolutely! I have been waiting for something like this for a while and although I have seen and experimented with a couple of other similarly scaled sets I have yet to find the right fit. I am hoping this will be the one.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Kitchens, Work and Boot Sales

It has been a busy three months since the 'compromise agreement' with my former employers meant that I was out of work. The time has certainly not been idle as not only did we have our holiday but we also had the small matter of project managing a new kitchen - and that has been a trial and a half! We are close to finishing this but suffice it to say it has been a stressful and frustrating experience with yours truly tackling some extensive painting - two ceilings, four walls, three doors and frames not to mention the front door and the garage. That is the only painting I have undertaken....

I start my new job this coming Thursday and although I was trying to secure something local it did not work out as I had hoped. This means I shall once again be on the commute but luckily the hours are a little kinder so at least I will have some extra time during the week. If I am honest I will be glad to get back to work for a rest!

On the gaming front I finally managed to tidy and rearrange the man cave - this was long overdue - so I am hoping to get some games in once again. These will be using the block armies initially and I suspect that the Portable Wargame will feature in some fashion. There are a few other things on the go that may appear but not for a while yet.

On the boot sale front I managed to score a large bag of balsa wood for £1.50 with some very useful pieces. I am looking at knocking up a selection of generic warship types for the Red Sea/Indian Ocean during the Great War. This will mean older, second line cruisers, gunboats, AMCs and Dhows. Lots of Dhows. I already have a set of rules in mind for the naval aspect of the project and hope to flesh this out further once I am closer to gaming it.

The models will be made on a 'cartoon' basis with the largest type coming in at around 8 cms long - large enough to fit on a couple of Heroscape tiles.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A Blast from the Past....Part 2

Magnificent figures from a bygone age....

As mentioned in my previous blog post I visited the house of the couple I acquired the three volumes of Miniature Warfare from. Alas the the other bound volumes are not of this magazine - they are instead of Military Modelling. The volumes (again, in binders) are for 1971 and then 1973 to 1985. I shall have a look around to see if anyone would be interested in the same. There is also a large selection of bound copies of the Bulletin - the journal, I believe, of the British Model Soldier Society. Once I have fuller details I will let you all know.

The big news though, is that there is a large number of unpainted plastic Spencer Smith Miniatures - the 18th century types. Of those figures that featured in the War Game by Charles Grant there is roughly some 50 or so of the tricorn wearing cavalry and an indeterminate number of the marching grenadier and centre company types. There is also around a hundred of each of the figures pictured above. I will be getting an exact count soon.

All of the Spencer Smith figures are now available in metal and in my ignorance I thought that only the cruder versions appeared in plastic - certainly not the handsome looking fellows above.

There are also books and Hinchliffe figures to be disposed of and as soon as I have details I will be sure to post them.

Monday, 7 August 2017

A Blast from the Past

Now that is something you don't see very often....

Another Sunday and another boot sale. This time I was able to acquire something very special indeed. I am sure that many wargamers of a certain age will remember the magazine Miniature Warfare published by John Tunstill. I can remember buying a copy of this with my pocket money from the shop that John ran near the Imperial War Museum and being mightily impressed - it seemed altogether a more polished and serious offering than the Wargamer's Newsletter. In retrospect one could argue that Miniature Warfare, with its mention of such things as national conventions and such like, was attempting to bring gaming to the masses and more in the mainstream. It is ironic that after the passage of some forty years my thoughts are more Featherstone-like than Tunstill but things change.

I was able to acquire the first three volumes of the magazine in binders from issue number one for the princely sum of £3 in total and will also be acquiring some later volumes gratis. The seller was disposing of the last of the collection belonging to a deceased distant relative and amongst the bits and pieces therein are a number of books and a lot of unpainted Spencer Smith plastic figures that I will be taking a closer look at later next week.

A quick glance through the contents has some rather interesting articles although naturally some of the adverts are a little on the 'quaint' side....

This is a wonderful piece of wargames history that I shall enjoy reading - I will also take a look at Discovering Wargames and the various spin offs that used to be available from Shire Publications - and it will be interesting to see how much of the content has stood the test of time.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

1/600th Thoughts and the Portable Wargame

Tumbling Dice 1/600th infantry and cavalry with Perry Travel Battle buildings and Renendra plastic bases

As well the plans afoot for the Risk figures mentioned in my previous two posts I have also been looking at something a little smaller - namely 1/600th scale or 3mm to be precise. The only issue is that these figures from Tumbling Dice are in fact closer to 5mm than 3mm but are fairly basic in terms of details compared to other 3mm models available or the more extensive 6mm offerings on the market. These are actually rather nice models in a generic kind of way which suits me ideally. You can see that the figures fit rather nicely with the Perry Travel Battle buildings which is a different project altogether although I may be doing something with these in a Command and Colours or Portable Wargame kind of way. If I mentioned that I have some assorted WW1 aircraft and vehicles on the way you may see exactly where this may be headed....

The Portable Wargame - Volumes one and two - with the front cover....

....and the back which also reveals the contents (and saves me having to type them!).

My old friend Bob Cordery has been a busy fellow indeed. Developing the Portable Wargame is the second book about the concept of the Portable Wargame and what an inspirational read it is. Taking the two titles together is a must in my opinion as the second volume expands upon the first and adds a greater degree of sophistication and variety. If you want a well thought out, extensively tested and extremely well written book(s) about how to fight a wargame then look no further.

Both titles are available in paperback, hardback and ebook formats from Lulu and Amazon and are quite simply outstanding.

I know Bob has some further 'Portable' ideas in the pipeline so check out his excellent blog Wargaming Miscellany for updates as to what is happening and when.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

On the Bounding Main....

From the collection of Chris Hardman. The models are 1/600th scale and were first used for an Armada based game back in 1988. There is rather a lot of it as well....

Well this is a first. I finally got around to not only having a game on a club night but also to play test a set of rules with my old friend Chris Hardman. The rules in question are 'Galleys and Galleons' by Ganesha Games and whilst they have been around for a while getting them to the tabletop has been a challenge for me due to time.

Kaptain Kobold has used these a lot and if check out his blog The Stronghold Rebuilt you will some of the games he has taken part in as well as some rather nifty scratch built models he has Kobold together for the period.

The scenario was the entry level Pursuit contained in the rules book which pitched a very nimble 'Jacht' against a merchant Galleon. The scenario is designed to get the player used to the game mechanics. Now Chris and I (Chris especially) have played numerous wind and water naval games over the years so you would think we would have a reasonable handle on such things as the weather gauge etc.


After much blundering about and frantic manoeuvring to avoid the islands dotted about the Jacht was able to get a few shots aways but with no effect. It was great fun though and the potential is there for for further entertainment.

The picture above was taken on my phone so apologies for the mediocre quality.

The tool box containing the models was revelation although a couple of models would need a little TLC to get them into fighting trim as the years and much travelling had taken its toll. One model in particular was quite badly damaged. The ship in question was called the San Andreas.

Needless to say I pointed out that it had a fault with it....

Many thanks to Chris for his patience - this play test has been months in the making - and for the game and use of his magnificent collection.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Even Riskier Business....

Following on from my post of yesterday I thought it would be a good idea just to see how the generic 18th century Risk figures could look and also to show the variation if styles from notionally the same edition of the game.

The planned basing convention - note the frontage is 40mm in each case.

I am planning units of four bases for infantry, three for cavalry and two for artillery. the base depths are 20mm, 30mm and 40mm respectively. I am toying with militia types being three figures to a base and dedicated light infantry (rifles and jager types) perhaps having two figures although I have yet to decide on this. 

The two infantry types. I have two complete sets of the left hand type and just the one of the right hand figure - which is a more delicately sculpted and scaled figure.

You just about make out the differences between the two types and you can see that the yellow figures have a much thicker base.

The cavalry figure looking suitably dashing.

Finally the artillery. The gun is not great but usable although why the gunner has a flag is beyond me...The gun looks more early 18th century than later but it will suffice.

The figures come out at anything between 12 and 14mm so I am hoping that Kallistra will be close enough to be able to fill in any gaps. I want to keep the project as self contained as possible and reckon that there are a couple of conversion possibilities - I certainly have enough figures available to experiment with!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Risky Business or Needs must and all that....

Slingshot arrived on Saturday but the book came from our local boot sale.

It is Sunday which can mean only one thing in our house - boot sale! Sure enough SWMBO and I headed out to our local boot sale on a day that was extremely hot. We were struggling in the oppressive heat before we had even gotten halfway around but we persevered and were able to pick up a few bargains. Whilst Laurel scored a number of bargains (she has a real 'eye' for a good deal) for my part my acquisitions were rather more modest although I was able to pick up the book you see above and a copy of the boardgame Risk.

By virtue of my postponed (and probably cancelled if truth be told) Salamis project my interest in Ancient Wargames has experienced a little bit of a renaissance recently - hence rejoining the Society of Ancients - and the Later Roman Empire is a period I am keen to learn more about. Where this will go I know not but one thing is for sure - it will not be any time soon!

This particular version of Risk contains some rather useful late 18th century plastic figures - infantry, cavalry and artillery at around 12mm scale

I am sure I am not alone in always looking at a board game and seeing what the pieces can be used for. The above set caught my eye when it first appeared as the figures seemed very useful in a generic 18th century kind of way. The infantry look very much like British troops for the AWI but are suitably generic to be useful for pretty much any nation for the period (echoes of Charge! spring to mind....). Some time ago that renowned fashionista, wit and raconteur Kaptain Kobold cobbled together (or should that be Kobold together) a couple of armies for the Great Northern War using these figures - and mightily impressive they looked as well. The idea was such a good one I am sure he won't mind me stealing it....

I have a hankering to cobble together (actually I am thinking that Kobble would be a more appropriate word in this case) a pair of generic 18th century forces on an image-nation basis for use with, well, a number of things really. I already owned a couple of sets worth of the figures so have plenty of raw material to work with. Something to consider although with the imminent release of Richard Borg's Tricorne AWI Command and Colours game perhaps they may even be turned into Redcoats and Continentals.

The core Lord of the Rings set....

....and the figure selection contained therein.

The Mordor expansion to the base game....

....and the figures contained therein.

 For similar reasons I have also been acquiring a number of sets of the Lord of the Rings Risk set. Again the figures are quite useful and between the two sets you have Elvish Archers, Giant Eagles, Riders of Rohan, Moria Goblins, Trolls, Nazgul, Ents, Mumakils, Men and Knights of Gondor, Warg Riders and Uruk Hai. There is more than enough for HOTTs or pretty much any other massed fantasy system.

For both of the above I am keen to compare the figures with the 12mm models produced by Kallistra as there may be some bits and pieces that are usable with the plastics.

I also have some assorted 1/2400th WW1 ships to finish (leftovers from the Jutland project) which will give me a modest set up - a swift order to Panzerschiffe will provide the missing links - and finishing them is first on the list.

That leaves Travel Battle and a pile of 1/600th Tumbling Dice figures and WW1 aircraft as well as the ships for Lake Tanganyika as also being on the 'to do' list.

As you are aware I am currently out of work so any expenditure has to be very carefully considered - luckily I seem to have a good selection of things I can turn my hand to!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Back from Foreign Parts....

Gotta love a peaceful, empty sandy beach with just the waves and a blue sky for company....

My good lady wife and I have just got back from our two week sojourn to the Cape Verde Islands (actually it was a week ago but I have been rather tied up with a few things) and so now it is back into the domestic round and the inevitable job search. I have a number of 'irons in the fire' so to speak and so am confident that I will be gainfully (or should that be gratefully....) employed in fairly short order.

The island in Cape Verde we visited was Sal and it has been described as a large sand dune in the Atlantic - which is pretty accurate as there is little there for the tourist to explore. We managed a jeep safari which was great fun and swam in the salt lake at the bottom of an extinct volcano - the the Dead Sea experience - so our time was not completely given over to relaxing on the beach. The food and drink were plentiful and the quiet vibe of the place was just what we needed. The motto of the island is 'No Stress' and that is exactly how it felt.

I managed to read two books whilst we were away - The River War and The Malakand Field Force by Winston Churchill - but constantly referred to Bob Cordery's The Portable Wargame for a number of ideas so I suspect you can guess where this may be heading....

Back in the boot sale groove

Sunday just gone saw our first visit to a boot sale for about a month and I was fortunate enough to score the above goodies. The Blandford title needs no introduction and was not only in tip top condition it also only cost me 50p. The Fort by Bernard Cornwall is on my to read list and I am rather embarrassed to point out that I have still not read the paperback version I also acquired from a boot sale ages ago. Still, a hardback edition is very nice to have and yes, there is a plan of sorts behind this.

The final title is a great doorstop of a tome and is one of books that answers pretty much everything you wanted to know about a very specific piece of a war, in this case the fighting in Tunisia as experienced by the second battalion of the Coldstream Guards. Maps, orders of battle, photographs, after action reports, patrol reports it is all there and as a source of gaming ideas and scenarios from Bolt Action/Chain of Command upwards to Memoir 44 you would struggle to find better.

I have absolutely no idea what I shall do with this but for £1 it was crying out to be purchased!

I managed to get a few ideas organised whilst we were away and am currently awaiting a modest delivery to start on the first of these so watch this space as something will be happening - at long last!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The End of an Era and The Start of a New One

Gosh that was a long time ago! Block armies with an early version of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame

It has finally come to pass. As of the close of play 31/05 I am once again among the ranks of the unemployed. I had been with my company for a shade over four years and so whilst the pay off was hardly retirement money it will suffice to keep us going for a few months. It is no secret that the job was demanding - I was working for a recruitment company - and that it took a lot out of me and many aspects of my life suffered as a result. I will not miss the commute and given that the job was largely sales based in an extremely competitive market with a very modest base salary the money will not be a major miss either! I am exploring a few options a little nearer to home so am confident my absence from gainful employment will not be a long one.

In the meantime though I am looking forward to getting some quality life time back - or should I say hobby time - so I fully expect to posting on the blog more regularly than I have been of late. This will also mean more time for gaming, painting and modelling so in a way I rather glad of the opportunity to tackle a few things.

SWMBO and I are off on a belated honeymoon on the 12th of June for a couple of weeks so I am looking forward to relaxing in the sun with my good lady wife, a fully loaded Kindle, a notebook or two and my IPad. I have a few ideas (I always have a few ideas....) I need to add some weight to and also I need to order the project list into something that is viable. Needless to say I will report all in due course.

It is good to be back.....

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Of Charity Shops, Boot Sales and Holidays

Once again life has gotten in the way of anything gaming related so the posts have been pretty sparse. For a pretty significant event (which for legal reasons I am unable to elaborate on....) this state of affairs may well be changing soon and all will be revealed at he appropriate time.

There is a certain style about reading a book by an author with a double barrelled surname....

Last weekend (14/05) SWMBO and I did our annual boot sale in which we attempt to fit a lorry load of surplus clothes, household items, CDs, DVDs and other bits and pieces into the back of our trusty 2003 Honda Civic - and usually manage to do so, albeit with much cursing and shoving. We had a very successful day and as is our usual routine some of the items that had not been sold are then donated to one of the local charity shops - in this case for a local hospice. I duly carted four boxes of stuff to them and whilst they were sorting the items out I happened to notice the book you see above. The very nice lady noted my interest and told me to take it.  A free book from a charity shop? Well she took the view that as I had just donated a whole pile of stuff they could afford to forego the GBP 1.25 it would have cost me.

I have read 'A Good Dusting' before and it is a quite tidy history of the campaigns in the Sudan so I was pleased to add this to my modest collection of books on the subject. It is a book club edition rather than the originally published version but that matters very little unless you are a purist over such things. Just the inspiration one would need for some mini campaigns Portable Wargames style.

A great doorstop of a tome and a steal at £2.00 - pity about the dust jacket though

The second title is rather more imposing and is a copy - sans the dust jacket - of Lachouque and Browns seminal history of Napoleon's Imperial Guard: The Anatomy of Glory. This was acquired this morning from a boot sale for the princely sun of GBP 2.00 so I am feeling rather smug at the moment. The book has a small dent on the cover and some 'foxing' of the pages but all the maps and plates are intact - and very nice they are as well.

At the time of writing we are still no nearer getting the kitchen sorted out - we have now been some thirteen weeks without a kitchen floor and having to go back and forth to the garden shed for certain essentials is fast becoming a chore. At least it is not the winter though!

We are also some three weeks away from our belted honeymoon to the Cap Verde Islands so I have been quietly adding titles to the Kindle for my holiday reading. I shall also be taking the IPad and a couple of notebooks to get some ideas together but the most important thing is that my wife and I will be able to R-E-L-A-X for a couple of weeks - and after the year we have had that in itself will be most welcome!

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Portable Travel War Battle Game....Part 3

One of the things I really enjoy about blogging (and have missed due to the paucity of posts I have written over the last year or so) is that often one is lucky enough to get a comment or comments that really strike a chord - the kind of thing that really makes you think about what it is you are doing and how you are doing it. I had such a comment in my last post from Steve-the-Wargamer and it is to him that this post is dedicated, ably supported by Arthur Harman - and this is no way a criticism of these two worthies. Originally I was going to merely answer the comment but my thoughts took it into a post so I thought, why not?

I have been a wargamer for some forty odd years yet I do not possess a single painted army. I have owned numerous over the years but am blessed/cursed with a very short attention span so many ideas tend to come ago - usually with the amassed material being offloaded at a discount to either the club, my circle of wargaming friends or, more usually, eBay. More recently I have been working in a job that, to be frank, leaves me little time to consider anything gaming related - especially in respect of the work needed to get armies assembled for use on the tabletop. The problem is that I am generally guaranteed to run out of steam with a particular project long before it is ready to be used and the lack of time available tends to make this worse. It was for this reason I made such an effort with my huge collection of block armies - I can game with them in pretty much any period I fancy with the block colours being the sole difference between the two forces. This worked really well as the Games folder on the blog will testify. The blocks however, are not figures.

I have always liked using figures but I am very particular about the type I use. I do not like 28mm as I believe that for armies the figures require too much in the way of work to get ready as well as more space than I have readily available - not to mention terrain and practical considerations like storage. I take my hat off to those who choose this scale and can produce large and fantastic looking collections - it simply is not me. The closest I would get to using this scale would be for skirmish level games - but these are not 'war' or even 'battle' games. I suppose I am a little old fashioned in that I like my armies to look like armies which means a lot of figures. Messrs. Young, Grant and Lawford were able to do this using 30mm figures and large tables - neither of which I have access to nor the inclination to replicate. At a smaller figure scale though that is a different story.

I like figures that are simple in terms of details simply because they are easier to paint and are more forgiving of a basic painting style. I really like the flat colours and gloss varnish approach but most modern figures simply do not look right with such an approach and it is also difficult to find professional painters that want to 'dumb down' their painting skill (and the cost). Detailed figures need a detailed paint job which takes time or money so you can see the problem I have - no time to paint detailed figures and no interest in doing so, nor the finances to consider the professional approach. I am kidding myself if I think otherwise. Smaller scale figures are a different kettle of fish though.

These days even 6mm is fast becoming more detailed and needful of a modicum of effort. It is a scale I could be comfortable with - the same applies also to 10/12mm although they are also becoming more and more detailed with the corresponding increase in time and effort. The downside of course is that there is nothing available hat could be described as suitably generic in a chocolate box kind of way. One could dive into a number of ranges if one wished but, as a crude example, a Napoleonic 1815 British infantryman will always look like one (unless one used them 1812 Americans of course....).

The figures contained in the Perry set have struck a chord with me for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are very generic. They are loosely based on a homogeneous composite of Napoleonic uniforms so the difference between armies can be limited to the uniform colours used. As they are so generic there would be no twinges of conscience when painting up, for example, a French Fusilier figure with a green jacket for an imagi-nation type army. Using a generic troop type in this case is a positive advantage with the useful feature of doubling up as a proto-historical type when needed. If the scenario being fought represents, for example, a battle from the Peninsula War between Wellington and Soult (or whoever) then as long as the two forces can be told apart (mainly red or blue) then who cares? I certainly do not - which means I will probably be burnt at the stake for heresy. The fact that the Perry figures are completely generic is for me a positive boon. I will paint them and will differentiate nations by the uniform colour - possibly even a standard or two - because that is basically what I have been doing with my block armies. The figures themselves will cover a time span or around forty years if you are not too fussy - and believe me I am not!

I could have used historical figure ranges but that would defeat the purpose of what I am trying to achieve.

As far as the terrain in concerned I am really pleased with what is available. For sure one could make or buy something similar but again, that would take time and to be frank I could not do it as well as the Perry twins have done. The permutations of board set up are not endless but should serve to give sufficient variety for all but the most pedantic gamer, especially when one is using scenarios to define victory conditions - terrain will assume much more importance. My thoughts at present run to using a 6 board set or 30 by 20 squares as this will give the army feel I am looking for. this is a personal choice as I believe I could have endless fun merely using one base set.

For the 20th century I shall be using Tumbling Dice 3mm figures and the vehicles available from Magister Militia. Interestingly enough the buildings look fine with these figures so straight away the base set of terrain will be usable for both early years of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The rules are actually not bad within the context of what the Perry twins sought to achieve - I would have no problem using them as they are written. I may add a couple of house rules to go with them but then to be fair what wargamer worth their subscription to whatever society/magazine they take has not 'tweaked' a set of rules in some way?

From my point of view the Perry set has an awful lot to commend it and in many ways is ideally suited to my present circumstances. I appreciate that it may not be all things to all people but then within the diversity of our hobby it certainly serves a need. I also acknowledge that the sum of the parts could be acquired more cheaply but in many ways this would defeat the object of the set.

I would like to end this ramble by thanking both Steve-the-Wargamer and Arthur Harman for giving me pause for thought - which is something I do not get much time to do these days!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Portable Travel War Battle Game....Part 2

Only two copies of the above....for the moment that is....

Well I have gone and done it. I am now the proud owner of not one but two copies of the Perry's Travel Battle boxed war game - and I am very glad I am!

I am not going to write a detailed review of the box and all that is in it - mainly because there are already several very good ones in the blogosphere - but I am going to explain why this set is for me, an outstanding investment. With this in mind I shall outline what I am thinking of in terms of using this wonderful idea.

There have been a number of comments concerning the figures contained therein - especially in respect of the scale chosen - 8mm. I rather like these figures and the fact that they are slightly wooden  in pose and stylised in terms of uniforms and so will suit my modest painting ability very nicely indeed. These are ideal for the 'imagi-nation' gamer but could also serve as historical types if you are not too picky with the details. When painted in traditional national colours they would look close enough to the real thing in a 'Hollywood' kind of way so as to please the historical gamer....well sort of. I do not see the fact that no other manufacturer produces models in this scale as being a problem as I am sure that the Perry twins have a long term plan in mind and have not just produced this item as a one off. For me there are only a few holes in the figure mix that would need addressing and in a way I hope that the Perry twins keep the range restricted as bringing out too many troop types would detract from the concept of the game in my opinion. With the core set I would like to see some Czapka wearing lancers, some bearskin wearing infantry, some skirmishing figures and a static command set for the overall army command.

There has been many comments made about using other scales of figures - 10/12mm or going down to 6mm. For me - and I tested this last night - the 3mm models produced by Tumbling Dice look perfect on the terrain and fit the buildings very nicely indeed. This is a scale I have amassed a modest collection in and it would look superb on the terrain boards - particularly for anything 20th century.

The terrain boards are very nice indeed and I know that there have been all kinds of comments about the terrain being fixed and the only way to have a different type of playing area is to rotate the whole board. I agree with this up to a point in that it would have been nice to have the woods and buildings free standing but with the variety of boards set ups you can conjure up - especially if you use more than the two boards contained therein - with them fixed in place it is not a showstopper by any means.  I would like to see some plain terrain boards with no buildings or woods and perhaps a board with some form of waterway but that would be enough methinks. Having some freestanding terrain items would be useful and I feel sure this is in the mix somewhere along the line.

As far as the rules are concerned after the first reading they actually seem quite reasonable and certainly are in keeping with what the game is all about. These days I tend to read rules whilst thinking about what needs to be done to 'improve' them and I reckon that this set will stand a certain amount of tinkering. In any event my first thought was to make use of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame system as an alternative.

Overall Impressions

You will no doubt have gathered that I am rather taken with this set and that I fully intend to use it not only as is but also with some ideas of my own making - specifically for the 20th century. I think it represents pretty good value for money (yes I know there have been comments along the lines of being able to get much more in metal figures - 6mm or 10/12mm) as a complete package and I hope that the Perry twins have some further ideas to add to the range or at the very least to make the individual components  available separately.

I am very excited about the potential of this product and am looking forward to getting some painting underway - and I never thought I would hear myself saying that!