Saturday, 21 July 2018

Hammerin’ Iron Revisited

The Peter Pig Hammerin’ Iron cloth. Personally I think it is not ideal but will suffice for my immediate needs. Note the strategically placed Kiwi Fruit holding down the corners whilst Hovis the Hedgehog - our doorstop - looks on impassively.

Actually the title of this post should really read ‘Peter Pig 1/600th scale ACW Revisited’ as I am more concerned with the components rather than the rules of the same name! I mentioned a while ago that my collection of the aforementioned 1/600th models was now safely back at Maison Crook - including ships, terrain and troop blocks - but only yesterday did I take (re)delivery of the Peter Pig playing cloth designed to accompany their rules.

Hammerin’ Iron is party of the RFCM (Rules For the Common Man) stable and so are fun, easy to use and give a great game. They are not super detailed or realistic but have more than sufficient period flavour to make then a very popular set. I have fought a couple of games with these and they are hugely entertaining. I own the latest version of the rules and a copy of the land expansion for the earlier edition. For some reason Peter Pig did not include the land rules in the revised version - I am unsure why but it is in my opinion a great shame as they are also great fun and use the 1/600th scale troop blocks from their range of ships and terrain.

Now here is the thing. My plan for the models is very simple as I shall be focussing on the river battles leading up to the fall of Vicksburg and later. I shall be using a version of the rules that Bob Cordery has written in his latest book - Gridded Naval Wargames. I say version as the redoubtable Mr Fox has tweaked them very slightly to add some extra depth. I have a few ideas around this myself so will probably tweak the tweaks to bring them into line with my own ideas on the subject - primarily around ship classifications.

The cloth that Peter Pig sells to support their rules is hexed and covers a playing area of 7 x 13 hexes. As you can see there is a shoreline along both sides  meaning that the blue of the water represents a river. The hexes themselves are 12cms across the flat hex sides. There is sufficient room onshore to deploy the odd fort or field works but the land is not hexed as such, only where it is contact with the water.

In my opinion this is probably not the best way to have done this as I believe it may have been better to have had just one side representing the shore so that their would be a little more ‘sea room’ so to speak. Having said that it does make for a potentially cramped playing area which probably captures the essence of river fighting better. The purist may be offended by the inland waterways of the US being blue in colour but at least there can be no doubt where the wet stuff is!

Once I have some ships ready to use with this (when the WW2 models are finished) I will iron the cloth to flatten out the creases and can then store it flat.

As I say, it is not perfect but will serve for the immediate future or at least until I can come up with something a little more tailored.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Revisiting Risk: Europe and Hollywood Medieval Gaming

The box art - this is not like a 'normal' Risk game, in fact I think it is closer of Axis and Allies in many ways.

The rear of the box showing the components.
The map board - very useful as the basis of some stylised campaigns.
The figures - and they are very nice indeed!

Finally, a game in progress with what looks like Scandinavians and Arab/Turkic types fighting over France....

There are many periods of military history that I have an interest in – there are also many periods of military history that I am unlikely to raise armies for. The Medieval era for me very much falls into the latter category. Of course systems like Saga, Lion Rampant, DBA/HOTT and the Portable Wargame mean that smaller armies are required with the obvious advantage of needing less figures and are therefore much quicker to get into action. That is the theory anyway…. 
If I am honest I have a strange relationship with the Medieval period. I cannot say I am well read on the subject as the only things I have studied at any great length have been the Mongol Conquests or the Crusades and even then only intermittently. I have fought a few games in the period but not for some time. I have come to the conclusion that my ‘interest’ in the period is largely what I would call a Hollywood one in that my ideas of warfare in the period have been firmly influenced by the films I have seen. With this somewhat lackadaisical approach to historical accuracy it is fairly safe to assume that any armies I undertake will probably be of the ‘based on’ variety rather than being super accurate.
That is why I was so pleased to have  acquired a couple of copies of Risk: Europe way back in November of last year.
As mentioned in a previous post this version of Risk is unlike any other and in fact is more like an Axis and Allies style of game. The troop types have various strengths and weaknesses – for example you are not able to attack a castle unless you have a siege weapon – and although the armies are made up of the same types of figures (missile troops, hand to hand fighters, cavalry and the aforementioned siege weapon) the game uses different models for each army. The figures are pretty generic and represent eastern and western European forces, Scandinavia and Arabic/Turkic. They are small 20mm scale moulded in a kind of soft plastic. 
A single copy of the game will net you four armies each of 12 foot, a dozen missile troops and 35 hand to hand fighters with around 4 siege engines – of differing types. Having two sets of the game gives a little extra flexibility.  
Much as I am intrigued by the game in its original form the likelihood of getting sufficient people in the same space-time continuum to actually play it is unlikely. However, as a low cost option for some Medieval mayhem you could do a lot worse. The two sets cost me £20 so there is a lot of figures there and all the other material  - the stylised map of Europe for example - would come in useful for campaign purposes.
These are not on the radar for anytime soon so no decisions really need to be as such in respect of painting or basing, even which rules to use with them. In a moment of weakness I may cobble up a couple of DBA/HOTT forces - these would be great to use for a fantasy set up methinks - as a side hustle so to speak.
Something to think about then.



Monday, 16 July 2018

Battle! Practical Wargaming

The original version of Charles Grant's classic title devoted to WW2 wargames.
The edition currently available from Caliver books. There is a lot of additional material in this although the photo quality for the original chapters is quite poor - even in the original 1970 book they were not great!

Another of my ‘go to’ wargames books – although not recently which is rather surprising given my WW2 project – is Battle! Practical Wargaming by Charles Grant. If I am honest I would say that I preferred this to his book the Wargame, probably as when I first read it, I was heavily into WW2 courtesy of Airfix and numerous copies of Commando comic books! 
The subject matter is WW2 land warfare using 20mm Airfix infantry and Roco Minitanks (for the most part). The rules were simple and Grant unashamedly used vehicles for what they represented rather than what they actually were. I recall copying his idea for a conversion of a Russian infantryman kneeling firing into a bazooka gunner using some wire and fashioning a radio operator from the smg carrying squatting figure by the hugely technical use of a small square of balsa wood and a another piece of wire. I also remember making the measuring stick for antitank fire with the angle of strike device as well as the various other templates the rules used. It did not stop there either as I also used to make tanks from cigarette and match boxes as well as buildings and ploughed fields from corrugated card. It was all great fun and driven by my modest financial circumstances.
I fought many games with these rules when I was a teenager on the Isle of Sheppey using unpainted plastic figures although the vehicles, at least when they were kits that is,  were painted. For some reason we never bothered with the Airfix polythene vehicles.
In the book Grant covered most of the usual WW2 tabletop features we are familiar with although there was no mention of aircraft. I enjoyed reading his rationale behind his rules and his comments on visibility and the effects of chance in wargames have stayed with me. I flirted with the idea of ‘hexing’ the rules but did not really pursue it to any great extent. I also enjoyed the actions he fought using his rules. 
I would happily use these rules again and I seem to recall that someone had updated them to include more complete vehicle lists and certain missing weapon types. I believe that a modern version also exists. 
When I first considered using 20mm infantry figures from the Axis and Allies board game my initial thought was to use Charles Grant’s rules as they are simple and great fun to use. I suspect he would not have been overly concerned about aesthetics in respect of what equipment was being used by whom as the game was the thing.
A great set of rules.


Friday, 13 July 2018

Greece is the Word....

Another gem from the pen of David Howarth of Waterloo: A Near Run Thing fame 9and some other great titles as well!)

As part of my research into the Western Balkans pre and post Greek independence I was reminded of the above book in my collection by David Howarth. One of his other works has the dubious accolade of being one of my favourite books – A Near Run Thing, his account of the Battle of Waterloo constructed from the reminiscences of various participants. I picked The Greek Adventure up from a boot sale a couple of years ago and there it has sat on the shelf waiting for me to read it. 
Much like the author’s work on Waterloo this is by no means the most detailed account of the Greek War of Independence but what it lacks in detail it makes up for in respect of being a rattling good read. As a primer attempting to make sense of what was happening it would be hard to beat and it has certainly given me much to think about for my Balkan project.
The War of Independence was disorganised, chaotic, anarchic even as initially there was little thought by the local populace beyond removing the Turks and resuming the almost clannish/tribal way of life that had persisted for centuries. The idea of a Greek nation was firmly in the hands of exiles and westernised merchants living abroad and hoping to bring the benefits of the modern post American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary world. These groups (including the inevitable secret society committed to freeing Greece from the Turks found a willing audience in the aspiration of the Philhellenes of a united Greece along the classical model - despite the fact that classical Greece was always a collection of states rather than a unified entity.
In many ways Greece was rather like Scotland with its clans or even the North West Frontier with its tribes. The biggest difference though is the naval dimension as both the maritime and island Greeks were (and still are) very good sailors, certainly better than the Turks.
Reading Howarth's book has given me much food for thought about what I shall be gaming and how I will be doing it. Certainly the earlier period (by that I mean the period of the War of Independence) has much to commend it in an anarchic sort of way rather than the later 1875 to 1885 when things were a little more settled.
Much to ponder methinks!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Churchill and Madagascar

The set completed at Salute earlier in the year by the addition of the East Africa volume - which features the invasion of Madagascar

The dedicated title written by one of the editors of the set above.
Way back in April at Salute I picked up the final volume of a 'series' of books covering WW2 in the Mediterranean. These books, from the Pen and Sword 'Despatches from the Front' series, are compilations of official reports interspersed with a brief narrative to place the reports into context. As these are official reports the language can be a little stilted at times but they are a goldmine of information for anyone interested in the 'reason why'. I have really enjoyed dipping into these and they have proven to be very useful as well as being full of gaming ideas.
The East Africa volume is probably my favourite simply because of the sideshow nature of the campaign and my soft spot for such things. As mentioned this book also touched on the Madagascar operation and so when I saw that one of the editors of the series had written a dedicated book on the operation I immediately acquired a copy - and very good it is as well!
I can do no better than quote the Amazon description of John Grehan's excellent title thus:
"In the spring of 1942 Britain's far-flung empire was in the greatest peril. North Africa was being overrun by the German Afrika Korps and in south-east Asia the forces of Imperial Japan had captured Singapore and were threatening India. Only the most urgent reinforcement of both war fronts could prevent disaster. But Britain's shipping routes to Egypt and India passed the island of Madagascar. If the Japanese Navy, operating out of Madagascar, could severe Britain's communications with Cairo and Delhi, then the whole of North Africa and the Indian sub-continent would be at the mercy of the Axis Powers. In a desperate race against time, and under conditions of the utmost secrecy, at Churchill's instigation Britain planned to seize Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, before the Japanese could strike. An overwhelming force was assembled and despatched as part of the largest convoy ever to have left Britain's shores. Yet the expedition's commanders were faced with not just military but also political obstacles, because the forces occupying the island were not those her enemy's but those of her former ally - France. The Secret Invasion is the first book to examine in detail this crucial campaign which was Britain's largest amphibious assault since the First World War and the first large-scale combined air, sea and land operation Britain had attempted"
So, British and Commonwealth troops fighting the Vichy French to ensure that the Japanese could not take control of the island and threaten the Cape.
There is a lot of potential here and it is certainly an interesting, if little known, campaign.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Charging into a Wargame

The two books that have had the most lasting impact on my own wargaming odyssey.

Covering the same period, using the same large units and the with same use of the imagi-nation for the forces used therein.

I am sure I am not alone in having an enormous amount of affection for the above seminal books on wargaming: Charge! by Messrs. Young and Lawford and the Wargame by Charles Grant. In a moment of whimsy on a particularly irritating train journey I went through a mental exercise of thinking about the wargames books I have read and what has stayed with me the most. Furthermore, from those titles what, if anything, would be relevant to my gaming today.   

Taking the two books together the first thing for me is the difference in style. Charge! reads far better in my opinion than the Wargame but the latter is far more, dare I say it, analytical in content. In that way they complement one another rather well. Both titles use the 18th century as their period of choice and also make use of large units of individual figures and fictional armies. Indeed Charge! goes even further and actively encourages the formation of fictional armies rather than historical ones. Finally, both titles include actions fought using the author’s rules.

I think it is safe to say that as far as wargaming is concerned these two books more or less single-handedly instigated a whole plethora of ‘imagi-nations’ – helped by the actual historical patchwork quilt of small states across central Europe at the time.

For a long time the idea of fictional armies was very dear to me until, dare I say it, ‘history and accuracy’ took hold. I have no axe to grind in respect of the purely historical gamer - the person that builds historically accurate armies based on a specific campaign (or part thereof) and that plays their games set solely in that era against armies of the appropriate opposition.
I often wonder though, if one is missing a trick by following such a course - I am pretty sure I have over the years.
One thing that did occur to me though concerning both of the above books was their use of what are nowadays unfashionably large units. Taking as an example one of their suggested infantry regiments/battalions - the exact nomenclature is not really important - of some 48 rank and file and half a dozen officers and supernumaries, drummers, sergeants and standard bearers etc one has sufficient figures to break the unit into smaller units which would fit in well with alternate rules. Taking Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame as an example a standard infantry unit consists of four pieces. I say pieces intentionally as each piece could have a single figures or a base of figures contained therein. This means the 48 figures could furnish units of 12 x 4, 6 x 8, 8 x 6 or 4 x 12. It matters not as long as the four bases for the unit are manned.
What is the point I am trying to make? Well, I have been a huge fan of the above rules for as long as I have been wargaming and whilst I can never see myself whole fielding armies using their suggested organisations I can see no problem raising a single infantry regiment in that fashion. The same would apply to the cavalry and artillery organisation. There is something very atmospheric about having separate command figures, musicians and standard bearers etc for the horse and musket period rather than having such worthies assimilated 'into the brown' on an anonymous base of multiples.
The days of massed armies in 30mm are passed for many of us - time, expense and the sheer effort involved of churning out a couple of armies of several hundred figures is prohibitive - but I for one am loath to lose sight of the legacy of Messrs. Grant, Lawford and Young.
With this in mind I shall be organising the units for the Western Balkans and the North West Frontier as per those laid down by those worthy gentlemen. My sole concession is with the cavalry as 3 troops of 8 figures for a regiment is a little unwieldy for my taste. I suspect that two troops of the arme blanche would be sufficient for my needs. Any additions to a force would be added using the company/troop/section organisation so preserving the Charge/Wargame effect.
I have organised the first two armies for the Western Balkans on that basis and at this stage will be amassing the figures accordingly from Spencer Smith.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Revisiting Across Four Oceans

The Across Four Oceans logo

Way back in 2012 I posted about a set of WW2 Naval rules inspired by Axis and Allies: War At Sea available from Boardgamegeek. The set was called Across Four Oceans and there is a link to them in the post mentioned.

The rules and fleet lists. There is a tactical and an operational set of rules designed for campaigns.

Whilst is the very warm man cave (sweating profusely I might add!) I came across my folder with the rules contained therein and so thought I would take a further look.

I am very pleased I did.

A number of years ago Mr Fox and myself spent a lot of time (and money!) amassing fleets using the 1/1800th scale models available as part of the Axis and Allies: War at Sea collectible miniatures game. We had some superb games at the club using the huge cloth that I had marked out with 8" offset squares. The rules were simple and involved great handfuls of dice. As a game it was enormous fun but it always felt a little like a Chinese takeaway - satisfying in the short term but leaving you hungry for more shortly after. Our enthusiasm waned and the fleets were disbursed to the four corners of the globe. The models were nice but the scale was a little on the large side for anything other than large playing areas - meaning the dining table was out. You could use the rules with smaller models but this was not an option we ever really thought about - which in itself is surprising as there are plenty of 1/3000th scale fleets at the club.

Across Four Oceans have essentially taken the Axis and Allies system and 'wargamered' it. The rules are far more detailed and are designed for use on a hex grid although there is a hexless variant. Aside from the tactical rules there is also a very nice set f operational rules that can be used for campaigns.

I have the rules and three fleets lists printed off - the Royal Navy, Kriegsmarine and the Italians - but there are a whole host of others as well. These also include aircraft.

I shall spend some time rereading these as, on the face of it, they offer a complete system for WW2 naval gaming including air operations. They also have the additional scale of detail that the Axis and Allies rules lack.

For my part using these rules would make my WW2 project easier to initiate as a lot of the work has already been done. I also think that using the models I have from the Axis and Allies strategic board game on a 4" hexagonal grid (or even gridless) this could work very nicely from a space perspective as the size of the models would not look out of place on a tabletop.

As ever, lots to think about.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Memoir ‘44: A Request

Just a quick post for today. If there are any readers of the blog that have Memoir ‘44 or any of the expansions and have no use for the miniatures or terrain tiles/counters contained therein please let me know as I will happily take these off you.

There is a cunning plan in mind.....

In other news I have - despite the temperature being north of 30 degrees in the man cave - managed to get some more painting done on the WW2 ships so am in good shape to have these ready for the end of the month.

And of course there is the small matter of a World Cup semi final (potentially a final as well!) to consider.

It’s coming home? I suspect France/Belgium/Croatia may have something to say about that!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Ali Pasha of Janina (not the Tortoise)

A little earlier than the period I shall be gaming but it would be churlish not to factor him in somehow some 50 years later!
I first saw this book a while ago and have to say that my curiosity was piqued! With my thoughts plated firmly in the Western Balkans and the Ionian Islands it seemed like a good idea to invest in a copy - purely for research purposes you understand....
I have yet to read it and so will quote the back cover instead so you can see why I am so pleased to have this.
"The Authors chart the rise of Ali Pasha from Albanian Brigand to a player in world affairs.
Ali Pasha carved his own semi-autonomous empire within the Ottoman Empire and much of Greece.
An astute politician and skilled general, Byron called Ali Pasha the Mahometan (Muslim) Bonaparte.
During the Napoleonic wars Ali's favour was courted by all sides; he allied himself first with the French and then the British.
Ali's actions and eventual demise hastened the decline of Ottoman rule and the commencement of the Greek War of Independence.
The epitome of an oriental despot in Europe, Ali became a living legend and Western visitors such as Lord Byron queued up to visit his court in Yanina (Ioannina)."
I am hoping this book will help to flesh out the background to my planned Western Balkan undertaking and when followed by the Greek War of Independence should give me plenty of information to ponder for my project.
Ali Pasha the Tortoise is another story altogether but worth a look all the same.
Ali Pasha the famous Tortoise


Using One's Imagi-nation....Part 3

Spencer Smith ACW Infantry in kepi advancing - this will the basic infantry figure I will use for the Russians circa 1875 to 1885. There are a number of incorrect details but they will be painted to look the part.

ACW Union Cavalryman. This chap will be used as a Russian Dragoon, again with the appropriate paint job.

The ACW gun crew pack - I will need to swap a some heads for the other non-kepi wearing nationalities but luckily not that many!
The ACW Zouave. Turkish or Albanian methinks although I may do something with the backpack - possibly just removing the bedroll.

From the 18th century range you have a Pandour which would be useful alongside....

….his Slavonian counterpart.
The above are a small selection of the figures I shall be making use of from the Spencer Smith SSM range for the Western Balkans/Ionian Islands set up. The British will be sourced from the SSM Zulu Wars range. I shall try and keep the conversions to a minimum (although the Greek Evzones will be interesting!) and so am relying on the paint job to set the scene so to speak. The figures are going to be block painted with no shading or highlighting, gloss varnished and will also be based individually. Furthermore the bases will be unflocked. I have opted for individual bases for a number of reasons but mainly to give me sufficient flexibility in terms of the rules I shall use as not only the Portable Wargame feature but also A Gentleman's War and The Men Who Would Be Kings.
I am trying to get a proper 'old school toy soldier' look with this collection and this will also be carried over into the terrain I shall be using.
The forces raised will not be large by any means - the Russians are currently at around 60 foot (which includes gun crews and command), a dozen or so mounted and a couple of guns.
The naval dimension is something I shall be looking at over the weekend whilst I am painting the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine....MUST STAY FOCUSSED....MUST STAY FOCUSSED....

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Using One's Imagi-nation....Part 2

The Ionian sea and the islands therein

During my recent holiday on the island of Corfu I learned a number of interesting facts about the place - facts that have given me much to think about from a gaming perspective. I was vaguely aware of the British connection with the island (and indeed, with the '7 Islands' of the Ionian sea) but not that it was in fact ruled as a protectorate for some fifty years up to 1864 complete with a Lord High Commissioner. I was also not aware of the combined Russo-Turkish occupation during the early years of the Napoleonic Wars.

The flag of the Ionian Islands. Note the lion of Venice from the days of their occupation of the islands. 

Against the backdrop of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, the rise of an independent Greece and the unification of Italy the area has seen a lot of activity from any one of Britain, France, Italy, Venice, Russia, Turkey and of course, Greece herself.

The potential from a gaming perspective beyond the purely historical is pretty substantial and for me at least captures the all important naval dimension. I have been mulling this location over as a going concern since my return from Corfu and reckon there is certainly some mileage to be had from the area if one applies a little 'imagineering' to the theatre.

I am currently thinking about using this setting as the basis for an 1880s (actually around 1875 to 1885 thereby straddling the Russo Turkish war) set up with Portable Wargames armies made up from a selection of metal Spencer Smith figures. These figures, which have adorned both the internet and the written word since (in the latter case) the 1960s are very basic, crude even, but have the huge advantage of being cheap, fairly generic looking and able to be painted simply. This is a HUGE advantage for someone like me for sure!

I am sketching out a rough background to see where it goes but the basic assumption is that the British still hold the Ionian islands as a Protectorate. The Greeks want the islands but dare not challenge the British. The Turk/Albanians would also like them as well as reincorporating Greece into the Ottoman Empire. The Russians will act as a safeguard for Greece against the Turk/Albanian menace (all the while being carefully watched by Austria and being supported by Serbia) whilst the British are content to sit back and watch. Then there is the Italians who are keen to announce themselves on the international stage by reacquiring the islands formerly owned by Venice.

I have yet to flesh out the full details but this is where my thinking is headed.

Using Spencer Smith ACW Union infantry I can, with a simple paint conversion (and purists of the period look away now!), raise Russian, Serbian, Greek, Austrian and Italian infantry. the British are available from the Zulu Wars range - redcoats and all - whilst the ACW Zouave can pass muster as any amount of Turkish/Balkan types. There are a few 'specials' that may need some conversion - the main one being of course the famous Greek Evzones.

Greek Evzones wearing the famous Foustanella pleated kilt.
This idea is designed from the ground up as a Portable Wargame project and indeed, the only way I would have considered undertaking such a thing is simply down to the availability of Spencer Smith figures in metal. I am aiming for a specific look to the collection - the traditional shiny toy soldier approach - and these figures are the best way for me to achieve this.
The naval dimension will feature but as yet I have not given it too much thought.
In other news work on the WW2 ships has started again following my holiday with the plan being to get them finished by the end of the month. I have also nailed down more details for the NW Frontier although this is (and indeed always was) very much a slow burner.
Best crack on then.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Using One's Imagi-nation

My streaming head cold has abated somewhat but a growling chest, rasping throat and a cold sore large enough for its own post code remain (the after effect of the streaming nose). No other family members have been suffering and so I am confident that this current malaise was acquired courtesy of the three hour flight home from Corfu but I digress....

As is my wont I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about gaming 'stuff' and in particular the whole 'imagi-nation' thing and how and why one would use such a vehicle for one's gaming. There is no simple answer to this and I suspect that many gamers have their own ideas as to why and to what extent such a course is followed. I use the word extent deliberately as there are imagi-nations and imagi-nations in my experience and it is interesting (to me anyway) to see how far along the path gamers go when choosing this route.

There are many gamers that indulge in imagi-nations to a greater or lesser degree and I apologise in advance if I have not mentioned any particular favourites - this is not intended to be a definitive guide to the subject; rather it is just a casual overview.


At the top of the list is full blown made up country set in a particular time frame with assorted armies based on that particular era. This gives a player free rein to use whatever forces he or she likes and to create units, uniforms, personalities and all the other wherewithal to set one's games in. the obvious choices in this regard would have to be (and this is by no means anything like an exhaustive list) something like Tony Bath's famous Hyboria ancients campaign or Grant's 18th century set up. Henry Hyde is currently plotting something similar set in the 18th century in something akin to the Indian subcontinent. Bob Cordery has also set up a 'world' for 1891. There are many others.

Henry Hyde's big picture....

….and a small detail from the Dahlia and Chindrastan map featuring the dedicated Madasahatta Archipelago with the capital Knowlesabad

Running something like this is a real labour of love and goes way beyond painting up some figures and fighting battles on the tabletop. I also believe it is ideally suited to the solo gamer as they can immerse themselves fully without worrying about prejudices from live opponents - those that don't get what you are trying to achieve. In my experience if the background, however colourful it may be, is historically credible then most gamers will happily take part in it if asked. When I say historically credible I of course mean that if something is being offered as an 18th century set up then the table top action should of course be in line with expectations.

Eric Knowles Madasahatta

Next up is the imagi-nation populated with historical troops - for which I would say Madasahatta. For the most part the troops were, for want of a better word, conventional WW1 Colonials with the locals being based on various historical tribal types. This option would be easy for the dedicated historical gamer to dabble in something a little out of the ordinary but again, it relies heavily in my opinion on the credibility of the background offered. My planned adventurs

The final category is not really an imagi-nation per se; rather it is taking an historical country and adding troops that were never there. From own experience to me this means the Turkish South East Asian Fleet and supporting ground troops based on Sumatra during the naval campaign devised by Eric Knowles as a follow up to Madasahatta.

For my part I have always been (and this may come as a surprise to many) slightly torn about the whole 'imagi-nation' concept from a practical perspective - although certainly not from a theoretical one. I would prefer to design my own uniforms and populate my own countries but of course, once you go down that path it means you have a collection of painted figures that may or may not be suitable for something historically based. Some gamers can be very picky about such things although most of my crowd would not be overly concerned matching their historically accurate figures with some 'never wozzers'. It would take a leap of faith to cross that particular Rubicon fully in my case but it is something I am coming around to more and more.

For a variety of reasons I have been looking long and hard at some 'imagineering' for a particular idea I have in mind. Previously I had made much use of the ideas of other people - nothing wrong in that - but I have come to the conclusion that there is always something that does not hang right in other people's worlds. This is by no means a criticism as many of these are far more detailed and ambitious than I would have attempted. In order to satisfy my own requirements I believe I will have to do my own thing and so this is what I am going to. I will offer no details at present but suffice it to say it will feature the second half of the 19th century with an optional follow on up to the Great War.

Friday, 29 June 2018

The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde's famous Victorian satire
I am feeling rough. A thick head, sore throat, streaming nose and nagging cough have all conspired to make yours truly feel positively wretched so thank the heavens it is Friday!
In a moment of whimsy - mainly because I was unable to concentrate on anything and the football last night was particularly dull - I had a quick look over some old blog posts from 'back in the day'. I must confess that there were quite a few cringe inducing moments in terms of profound statements about what I was doing and how I was going to do it. It seems to have been a continual round of plan, counter plan, discard plan and repeat.
Are all gamers like that or is it just fickle old me?
I set out with earnest intentions about project x (whatever that may be) and even occasionally manage to see them through to a conclusion although perhaps far less often than I would like. As I have often said there are those periods of history that I keep returning to in one form or another but I guess that in the past I have struggled to find the form of game I want to settle on, hence the revolving door of collections and material (not to mention time, effort and resources).
I genuinely believe that I have at last found what works for me in terms of the style of game and the periods of continued interest after a lifetime of experimentation - at least for the most part that is as there is always another corner to be turned. I think in the past I have allowed myself to be seduced by the latest 'ooh shiny' thing - which of course we all have at one time or another - which has had the knock on effect of making me lose sight of what is important to me. My own ideas and schemes are wholly worthwhile (at least they are to me) and whilst they may not appeal to the masses or even be described as mainstream or 'on trend' are personal and so should be celebrated. For sure I can have the occasional dabble into something new but for the most part my core interests will be nurtured
I am fortunate in having a gaming circle that values me and my ideas for what they are and even occasionally to take part in them so my path is not a solitary one despite some of my ideas being a little 'off piste' so to speak.
As soon as my head clears I shall be back to the painting of the Axis and Allies WW2 ships with a view to getting some games in. Whilst they are under way I will also look to get Denmark Strait action fought.
That is earnest intention and of course it is important to be so.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Gridded Naval Wargames and the ACW

The latest offering from the pen of the indefatigable Bob Cordery….

….with the contents contained therein.
It is always nice to get home after a journey - and it is even nicer when a parcel arrives! So it was when we arrived from Corfu on Monday and I received a copy of Bob's latest book - Gridded Naval Wargames.
It has been a long road to get to this stage but well worth the effort in my humble opinion and it is a worthy addition to the Portable Wargame series. If I am honest I actually think this is the best of Bob's titles - whether it is because he has developed and honed his writing style and technique or because the subject matter is close to my heart I cannot say but this is a superb work. As an introduction to the steam, iron and steel era of naval warfare this books ticks an awful lot of boxes. To begin with, not only are there no less than 6 sets of rules contained within its pages but there is also a 'how to' guide to making basic ship models, discussions about the use of various grid types, technical and tactical developmental notes as the period advanced through the years and also the rationale behind the game factors for various types of ships. There is an extensive bibliography as well as a number of actions fought using the rules including combined operations (with a nod to a similar game run by the late Donald Featherstone). Finally, there are some suggestions around taking the rules into the Dreadnought and carrier ages meaning of course, the use of aircraft.
A newcomer to the period could do a lot worse than buy this book and even seasoned old sea dogs will find plenty of inspiration within its pages. Gridded Naval Wargames is available from Lulu in hard and soft back editions and as a Kindle version on Amazon.
One of my favourite ACW naval books
Of course being armed with Bob's book alone would not be sufficient to embark upon some nautical wargaming adventures unless one had some historical background to work from. So it was that I acquired my third copy of the above title. I am flushing with embarrassment at this point as my original version is now in the hands of Mr Fox when I rather rashly decided to offload all my ACW naval kit. The second copy (an ex-library version) went to Mr Hardman - along with a few ships, since (mercifully) returned - and the third version is now sitting in the bookcase where it belongs.
I guess this could be described as a valuable lesson in the art of thinking, or in this case NOT thinking decisions about disposing of wargaming material through clearly enough!
I have a varied collection of as yet unpainted Peter Pig 1/600th scale ACW warships designed for use along the rivers and so Bob's book is a very timely prompt about the period, arriving as it did when Jack Coombes did. Synchronicity in action eh?
Thunder Along the Mississippi does exactly what it says on the tin and covers the river battles up to the fall of Vicksburg. There is a sequel called Gunfire Around the Gulf (again, in the hands of Mr Fox - what was I thinking?) which I shall try and lay my hands on covering the naval war up until Mobile Bay as I recall. I also have the Mahan volumes covering the Gulf and inland waterways on my Kindle (free from Project Gutenberg) whish will provide some more historical perspective as well as the four volumes of Battles and Leaders.
For now though I have my hands full painting WW2 ships but the temptation to jump straight in afterwards and tackle the 40 odd ACW ships is a real tease for sure.
In the meantime though I would like to extend my congratulations to Bob for producing yet another excellent title and I would encourage anyone to but a copy, if only so that Bob will keep on producing them!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Return to the North West Frontier via Corfu

35th Sikhs in action during the 1897 uprising

You may recall that before we went away I listed the books that I was going to read and also that I was hoping to spend some time visiting some places I had not gotten to during my previous trip.

I am happy to report that I was able to tackle a sizeable chunk of what I planned to do - meaning we will need to revisit the island at some point in the future to see those things we missed out on this time!

Our visit to the old fortress in Corfu town and the wander around the town itself will form a further post but for now I want to confine myself to the wargaming side.

After having very carefully weighed up the two Colonial projects I was considering - the French Foreign Legion and the North West Frontier - by revisiting Our Friends beneath the Sands and The Story of the Malakand Field Force I have settled on the North West Frontier for my solo The Men Who Would Be Kings and Portable Wargames fix. It was however, a very close thing.

I believe there is a lot more mileage from the NW frontier in terms of game value than with our friends of the legion (there is absolutely no disrespect intended!)  - and this is a very important consideration for my solo gaming. There is a wealth of material available for the period (I am focussing on 1897 initially) in terms of books and figures and also a much larger political dimension to be considered. There is also the Russians.

I intend upgrading my Roghan Valley setting based on my  research into the background of war of on the frontier to incorporate a whole raft of additional features to add the all important flavour.

As to figures I am as yet undecided but, given that this will be a largely solo effort, I am looking very closely at 20mm - as this would tie in with my WW2 ideas.

At the risk of sounding slightly north of bonkers it would not be beyond the realms of possibility for me to raise, in 28mm, a force for the Legion for use amongst my gaming circle. The number of figures required would not be large and there is sufficient suitable opposition from the collections of my gaming fraternity by for me own use the NW Frontier will hold sway.

So, in effect, I am tackling both - I hate it when that happens.....

More to follow in due course.

Monday, 25 June 2018

The Return of the Native

Kalispera! I have just returned from a rather nice two week sojourn to the Ionian island of Corfu with Laurel. It was a fantastic break and has given me some much needed R and R and PLENTY of ideas for gaming.

More to follow just as soon as we have unpacked and caught up with everything and everybody during our absence.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

500K + Views, 3 Books and 1 Holiday

It’s that time again. Laurel and I are away from tomorrow for a couple of weeks to the island of Corfu. The plan is to enjoy the sun, some good food and the odd trip to explore some of the island’s history. We have been to the island before but only for a week and for a variety of reasons did not really get to see that much. This is something I fully intend rectifying this time round!

Something a little different but relevant to where we are heading off to

I am fully prepared with reading material as not only am I taking a fully loaded Kindle but also an actual hardback - Gareth Glover’s The Forgotten War Against Napoleon: Conflict in the Mediterranean 1793 - 1815. I read Tom Pocock’s book on the subject: Stopping Napoleon and thoroughly enjoyed it - especially the Royal Navy operations which, given the small size of most of them (I am talking about low level actions here), would be eminently gameable and with the added bonus of combined arms actions.

The other two titles I am looking to read - and are both on my Kindle - are The Story of the Malakand Field Force by Winston Churchill covering the Pathan uprising and Our Friends Beneath the Sands by Martin Windrow which covers the story of the French Foreign Legion. Both of these are in support of my Colonial ‘The Men Who Would Be Kings’ aspirations.

I should also mention that I have just passed the 500K page views so many thanks to all that have dropped by since 2009 and I look forward to repeating the message when I hit a million!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Solo: A Wargames Story

From the pen of late Donald Featherstone....

….and Stuart Asquith.

This is a new one on me but may be useful. At present I do not own any of these but I will look to acquire one or two titles in due course.

I must confess to being a little uneasy using the term 'solo wargamer' as I do not believe I am! It is true that most of my wargames these days are fought solo but I am equally happy to lock horns with a live opponent on occasion. I prefer to think of myself as a wargamer that fights battles solo on occasion!

I fight wargames solo simply for the sake of convenience as my gaming time is generally restricted to the weekend, with the occasional foray to the club, work permitting.

Most of my games tend to be played using whatever rules I am using with little or no special adaptations for the solo player. I can be very objective and impartial when fighting a game so the bias element has never really been an issue for me, at least not consciously!

I like to think I have a fertile imagination and so designing one off scenarios for my own enjoyment is a hugely rewarding experience and so taking the next step and linking some together in a campaign setting is an obvious one.

For me the big advantage of gaming solo is the self indulgence aspect. One can literally do anything - from stringing together a few linked scenarios to designing and populating an entire campaign in a historical or imaginary setting. My block armies were manufactured primarily for solo use in this context although I have used them against a live opponent once....

Thinking about my solo gaming and my rather relaxed attitude to the same has given me something to mull over. I want to enhance my solo gaming experience in a slightly more formal way and so I will be looking to acquire a couple of books on the subject - and there are a few around.

I have a number of ideas for long term solo projects and so I want to have an organised head when planning them. Tapping in to the collective experience of others will serve to help with this.

Monday, 4 June 2018

The North West Frontier Revisited

The latest addition to the library and a period I have long had a hankering to tackle - ever since I saw Kenneth More in the film North West Frontier, not to mention Carry On up the Khyber....

As part of my ongoing plan to tackle something for The Men Who Would Be Kings I have been revisiting the North West frontier for some inspiration. I have a couple of books covering the 19th century in the area - including Churchill's The Story of the Malakand Field Force - but have to say that the above really piqued my curiosity.

Sometime ago I flirted with the idea of setting up an imaginary North West Frontier province based on the fictional Roghan Valley - in fact there is a folder on the blog with some bits and pieces contained therein. I was surprised at how long ago I was thinking about this but I was able to get a couple of games in. I even went as far as coming up with names for the leading personalities on both sides as well as regimental and tribal titles. It was all quite good fun but kind of fizzled out (like many of my ideas!).

I think I am gradually getting close to a decision about which Colonial theatre I will focus on - at least close to narrowing it down to a choice between the Foreign Legion or the North West frontier.

Plenty of time to think about it though and I have no intention  of rushing into a hasty decision.

That will be a first then.....

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Eric Knowles and Madasahatta

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt remember my mentioning the late Eric Knowles and his famous WW1 Madasahatta campaign. To the uninitiated Madasahatta was an island in the Indian Ocean which boasted both a German and a British Colony, several indigenous tribes of natives and an Arab trading concession. The campaign was designed and organised by Eric and was loosely inspired by the Great War in East Africa. The campaign was fought during the late 1970s and early 1980s by a number of gamers including Bob Cordery, Chris Hardman, Neil Fox and myself in the later stages.

It was enormous fun and all that took part enjoyed the experience.

Luckily for the wargamer of today a lot of written material concerning the campaign survived in the hands of Bob Cordery. Sadly, and to the best of our knowledge no photographs are known to exist of the campaign - bear in mind this was pre-digital cameras and computers -  but one could easily picture the scenes described in the campaign 'newspapers'. To remember Eric and to celebrate his finest wargaming creation Bob has turned the surviving content into the book you see below, supplemented by some anecdotes from those that took part and Bob' own personal tribute as well as some Eric related material.

The front cover....
….and the back with a list of the chapters contained therein.

I will not go into detail about what is in the book - it would spoil the surprise - but suffice it to say there is a veritable smorgasbord of good ideas and inspiration. In fact, The Men Who Would Be Kings are a set of rules that could have been written for Madasahatta!

From a personal perspective this is a superb reminder of a wargames campaign that has given me many years of enjoyment and interests I never thought I would have considered - as well as some lifelong friendships. Bob has done a sterling job with this book (and it is available to purchase) and so hopefully the fun that was Madasahatta can be enjoyed by a new generation of gamers whilst those of us that were there have a wonderful tribute to Eric and the memory of some truly great wargaming times.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Bank Holiday Lethargy

I often wonder if these animals have worked out the meaning of life....

Well that is another Bank holiday chalked off for the year! Actually I should say that is a another Bank holiday where I did not get half the things done I thought I would do but did manage to some things I did not expect to....

I did not get the Denmark Strait action fought. Time ran away from me as we had a number of domestic duties to tackle as well as the usual weekend routine 'stuff'. By the time I was able to get into the man cave with every intention of fighting the battle I was too tired to do anything more meaningful than some gluing. My resolve melted like an ice cream in the May sunshine - it gets very warm in the man cave - as, to be honest, I was feeling pretty lethargic and sloth-like as a result of the busy day we had spent.

I was however, able to glue the Royal Navy Axis and Allies ships on to their bases and the Kriegsmarine ships have all been cleaned up. These will be glued to their bases before the weekend so I can at least get them undercoated. The weather has been hot and sunny with clear blue skies but it has felt really oppressive. This has slowed me down somewhat.

Apart from the naval non-event I have spent some time pondering matters relating to my avowed intention of tackling something for The Men Who Would Be Kings and Congo. There is no hurry with this but I want to get a plan in place sooner rather than later. I know this smacks of 'ticking things off for the sake of it' but I find that it helps me to know what I am going to be doing even if I am not doing yet!

The Colonial 'period' has a lot going for it in terms of variety but true to form I would prefer to tackle something a little less than mainstream. Much as I like them this means no Zulus or the Sudan. I rather fancy the North West Frontier between 1890 and 1920 or the Foreign Legion over the same period.

Being primarily a solo gamer I am quite used to thinking about raising both sides for a game and this would be no exception. I am presented though, with a rather delicious conundrum in that (and I have said this before) these rules would work equally well with 54mm figures. In fact I acquired a whole pile of Armies in Plastic stuff for the Foreign Legion era - partially used in  turn to acquire a vast quantity of Axis and Allies material - but never pushed through with it.

Another film from my list of those I have not seen - although I am currently watching it courtesy of iTunes.

It would be easy enough to amass the material required for the adventures of the Legion. For the French I would merely need some artillery (Armies in Plastic produce a rather nice screw gun which would suffice) and a machine gun. It would be nice to have some mounted troops - I have always had a soft spot for French Colonial cavalry - but these would need to be conversions methinks. The Arabs would be straightforward enough as Armies in Plastic produce them although they represent several quite distinct tribal groupings.

Add in some palm trees and perhaps a couple of the Airfix 1/32nd scale desert outposts (actually 'normal' Arab style dwellings would be easy enough even for me to knock up being as they are, essentially boxes of various sizes) and away we go.

I have yet to make a decision as what I am going to do for this period but by virtue of the fact I already have some material to hand for the Legion it would need a compelling argument for me to not to proceed with it - in 54mm or otherwise.