Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Spencer Smith Miniatures and the Zulu War

BZ12 - Infantry standing, pointing backwards. I rather like this figure and reckon he would make a great NCO.

Over the last couple of months I have been browsing the Spencer Smith Miniatures website on a daily basis. Ignoring the myriad temptations it has in respect of STS, the Classic range, Jacklex, Tradition etc the list I have naturally been drawn to is what I would call the original Spencer Smith ranges. For most of us this means the 18th century, the Napoleonic wars and the American Civil War. However, there is also another range included in this section for the Zulu Wars.

I have seen examples of figures being used and well documented from the first three periods but never from the Zulu Wars. As an aside if any readers have done so I would be keen to hear about it.

The range is quite basic and there are a few gaps in the figure selection but there is sufficient variety available to be able to get together an old school style Portable Wargame sized set up. There is no artillery available for this range so one could convert the ACW gun crew to suit and use the artillery piece from that range if one was not too pedantic.

I have posted a selection of figures from the range but suggest looking at the website for the full listing.

BZ3 - Infantry standing firing

BZ4 - Minute man advancing - the catalogue is wrong in this case as it should read Infantryman Marching

BZ13 - Natal dismounted cavalryman standing at the ready

BZ14 - Mounted Lancer + separate lance

ZZ6 - Zulu attacking with Knobkerrie or Assegai (both weapons moulded together with a separate shield - shown with an Assegai)
ZZ7 - Natal native auxiliary standing with shield (can also be used as a Zulu)

The British range has the usual Zulu War thrusting and lunging selection of figures whilst the Zulus themselves include the obligatory warrior in a British tunic and a rifleman as well as an Induna.

The figures appear to be more detailed than the other ranges in this series - ACW, Napoleonic and 18th century - so I am thinking that they were a later range. In any event I will ask Peter Johnstone at Spencer Smith to see if he can shed any light on their history.

The Zulu War for me has enjoyed a chequered career in terms of actually gaming it. My research into the war seems to stick at the first invasion and the actions thereof. I have owned a selection of books over the years that has passed through my collection but I still get inspired by watching the film Zulu for the umpteenth time.

At the risk of offending any devotees of the period I have always looked at the actions as being rather limited from a tactical point of view. I have in the past likened it to the old arcade game Space Invaders where unlimited numbers keep on attacking and are scythed down in droves. However, this somewhat blinkered view has changed over the years as gaming the period presents both sides with opposite tactical problems - which for me is now the basis of a very interesting game.

My order to Spencer Smith for the remaining ACW figures I need will also include some samples from this range - just to see what they are like of course....

Monday, 17 September 2018

Armies for the Portable Wargame

The Dutch Belgian contingent of Bob Cordery's humongous Del Prado Napoleonic collection. With infantry and cavalry units using two bases it is possible to represent formations on the table top. The multiple bases have a two inch frontage whilst the separate command figures use one inch. With thanks to Bob in advance for the use of the picture.

What with Spencer Smith ACWs and the French Foreign Legion I have been recently thinking about Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame and how my planned armies will fit in with it. One of the great things about the system is of course the simple fact that armies do not need to be huge. In terms of the usual playing area for the rules in the past I tended to opt for a Command and Colours sized 13 x 9 grid. This was for when I used Hexon and also on the occasion when I dabbled with Heroscape. I no longer have the Hexon but I do have rather a lot of Heroscape which will be used in due course. For a square grid typically I use 12 x 8 or possibly 8 x 8 when the need arises.

During the long development process of the Portable Wargame via its various predecessors I often fought actions with my block armies. The actions I fought - all of which are in the games folder - varied in size in terms of the composition of forces. Usually it was an attacker vs defender scenario with the latter typically outnumbered. In terms of strength points the largest games tended to have around 45 to 48 for the attacker with the defender sometimes half of that. Working on the basis that a strength point equals a figure you can see straightaway that armies are, dare I say it, DBA-ish.

Taking the playing area I mentioned as a guide and using a 48 point army it is fair to say that the space will be a little on the crowded side when you remember that a single unit occupies a single grid area. Consider the following force:

8 x Infantry @ 4 strength points each = 32
4 x Cavalry @ 3 strength points each = 12
2 x Artillery @ 2 strength points each = 4

Total 48 points

This equals 14 units that will occupy 14 grid areas - so you can envisage the potential traffic jam and congestion. The sweet spot for me in terms of strength points tends to be around the two to three dozen mark which would translate into something like the following example:

6 x Infantry @ 4 strength points each = 24
2 x Cavalry @ 3 strength points each = 6
2 x Artillery @ 4 strength points each = 4

Total 34 points

The above force is 10 units strong which would fit rather more comfortably on the playing area with some space for manoeuvre.

I should point out the forces above are purely representational and naturally can be adapted to suit the particular army or even the tactical situation for the scenario being fought. Also, the above assumes that both forces are on the tabletop to begin with which is obviously not always the case.

A welcome twist to this is the new convention that Bob has demonstrated with his planned Portable Napoleonic Wargame book. He has adopted for his extensive collection of Del Prado Napoleonic figures a system whereby the figures do not directly represent strength points. In this an infantry unit is represented by two bases each of 3 figures, cavalry two bases each of two figures and the artillery a gun model and a base of two gunners. In effect this could be described as being 'one and half figures per strength point'. This looks better as the ‘units’ appear larger. The results of using this method can be seen on Bob’s blog. It occurred to me that this could be extended slightly further by allowing two figures per strength point so that a four strength point infantry units would have eight figures, a three point cavalry unit six figures whilst the artillery would have a gun and four gunners. One could base the figures in pairs and so the typical 4, 3 and 2 point infantry, cavalry and artillery standard would revert to losing a base of figures per strength point hit. As I recall I am pretty certain I have seen this style of basing used for American Civil War Command and Colours games being fought using a variant of the Battle Cry board game.

So what does all this mean in practical terms? I am rather taken with Bob's new basing convention and after having discussed this at length with him I have a far better understanding of the rationale behind it. The 'units' on the table have a little more presence and it is possible to represent formations at a simple level. The trade off is that markers or a roster would need to be employed when recording hits as for cavalry and infantry a single strength point loss does not equal a base of figures.

The two figure strength point option is worth considering if one wanted units with a little more presence although for my purposes the 'one and half figure strength point option' will suffice. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

I have been to....Skirmish in Sidcup, Kent

After the minor hiccup of the Kurz and Allison title it was with some relief that I spent a very enjoyable Sunday morning at the Skirmish Toy Soldier Show in Sidcup, Kent. I really like this show as it is quite small, is easy to get to (around 35 minutes in the car) and can be done and dusted in a morning. It is normally on twice a year but I missed the early 2018 show - I have a feeling it was when the ‘Beast from the East’ was in full fury - so was really keen to get there this time.

It was a low key affair and the trade stands were  definitely down on previous years. If I am honest I wonder how long they will keep this on for as it seemed quite sparsely attended. There were a number of games being run, one of which really caught my eye, as well as a rather nice Bring and Buy.

Of the games the one that really caught my eye was a French versus Berber action set in somewhere in Morocco in 1918. The games was called ‘Action at Sidi Khup’ took me a little while to work that one out! This was run by Skirmish Wargames and featured some really nice terrain. Sadly I did not take many pictures but trust me, it looked very nice indeed.

The French force had been tasked with repairing a derelict fort to which the Berbers took a dim view.

Fort Soixante Neuf or something similar. Note the legionary washing line....

The bring and buy was pretty busy and quite unusually for me I managed to snag a couple of bargains. I consoled myself that this went some way towards easing my disappointment over the Kurtz and Allison book.

Tomorrow’s War is Osprey’s ‘hard’ Sci-Fi skirmish rule set. This normally retails for £25 I believe - mine cost £6. The Paraguayan War is published by Foundry and is probably very expensive - mine cost me £10 which was pretty darned good in my opinion!

The big news from the show though was that I was able to catch up with three of Posties Rejects - Ray, Big Lee and Postie himself. We discussed matters many and varied, had a laugh and I was honoured to have been asked to attend the Shed of War for a game at some point. There was mention of some kind of strange initiation ceremony but I did not like to dwell on that, at least before lunch in any event...

Bob Cordery was also there and we were able to transact a small amount of business and discuss matters Portable Wargames related. I always enjoy discussing stuff with Bob as it is always a sensible and rewarding conversation. I am quite sure I must drive him bonkers with questions about ‘stuff’ but he always comes back with rational and plausible explanations. I will not go into detail but I have a more rounded and in depth understanding of some of the key Portable Wargame concepts and how these can be used almost as a wargames toolkit.

Thought provoking for sure and exciting with it.

As a result of our transaction I am now the proud owner of some extra sand coloured Heroscape tiles, a couple of Games Workshop gaming mats - one green and one sand - and a box full of metal Spencer Smith ACW figures. The latter will dovetail nicely with the small selection I have and so, aside for the bases and a couple of figures I will need to order the ACW Kurtz and Allison project is now on the runway.

It has been a quite superb day.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

DISASTER!!! Kurtz and Allison debacle....Part 2

After an email last night and a phone call to the dealer in question this morning my Kurtz and Allison debacle has been resolved in a professional and courteous fashion.

The bookshop owner could not have been more apologetic if he tried and conducted the whole issue in an exemplary fashion. In a nutshell I have a full refund and as the book is in effect unsaleable he said I may as well keep it.

I was so impressed by the obvious sincerity that I have registered on their mailing list and left a small ‘wants’ list with them. The dealer may be down half a book and the cost of postage but he has gained a client.

Old fashioned courtesy and quality customer service will get my business any day!

In respect of the book itself I have a rather novel idea. As it is in effect ruined I am tempted to carefully remove the prints - which are high quality and on heavy paper - and get them framed for the man cave.

I still want to get a full copy though!

Friday, 14 September 2018

DISASTER!!! Kurtz and Allison debacle....

Today had been quite a positive day. It is Friday, the weekend beckons and then of course there is the small matter of Skirmish at Sidcup on Sunday. I had a stimulating wargame related email exchange with Bob Cordery and Irregular Miniatures confirmed a few details about their French Foreign Legion figures which was very helpful. I then heard from home to the effect that a large flat parcel had arrived.

I knew what this was and so walked from the train station with a spring in my step and looking forward to opening my parcel.

I was in no hurry as there was a very nice Chilli to eat for dinner first of all.  Small talk with the family was over with as was the clearing up so i sat down to open the mysterious package.

The dust jacket was as described - a little ragged around the edges - and the overall condition of the book was very good - as you would expect for a book with a cover price of US$ 250.00 (I kid you not).

Something was not quite right.

The book is supposed to contain all 36 of the ACW prints in chronological order.

18 prints had been cut out of the book and were missing and one more had been cut out but was still in place so proceeded to fall out when I opened the page anyway.

I am slightly north of way beyond disappointed....

Practical Wargaming by Charles Wesencraft

A blast from the past - another quality addition to the library of old wargames classics

I am rather embarrassed to admit that my recent outpourings of praise for Charge! The Wargame and Battle: Practical Wargaming were not extended to include the above - which is a major oversight! I remember borrowing the above from our local library and being bedazzled by the contents. The rules were very practical and I always thought quite advanced at the time - an impression reinforced by reading the above again after a gap of some forty years.

This is a good book to read and offers many well thought out and practical ideas on how to fight tabletop battles from the ancient period up to the Franco - Prussian war. I am very pleased to have gotten an original version of this book although it is available from John Curry as a part of the History of Wargaming project.

Charles Wesencraft is right up there with Featherstone, Grant, Young and Lawford in my opinion and I still cannot believe I missed him out.

As an aside many years ago he wrote an article for - and I may be a little hazy on this - the Battle magazine Christmas Special with his thoughts on a set of grand scale Napoleonic rules using a single figure to represent a battalion. As I recall he used the 1812 campaign in Russia as an example as he wanted to fight large battles and so he used the Corps of Marshal Ney to demonstrate how this could work. If any readers have a copy of this in their collections I would love to see it.

I remember writing to him asking about the rules and he sent me a rather nice explanatory reply with the full text of the rules. Again, if any readers have a copy I would be really grateful to see the same.

The shelf devoted to wargame books is certainly filling up!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

The French in North Africa

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was currently amassing research material for my forthcoming North African colonial project involving the French Army of Africa and their Berber and Tuareg opposition. With the exception of a couple of Osprey titles I want to get I think the latest acquisitions to the library will more or less provide everything I am likely to need by way of background reading. I already own Martin Windrow's outstanding Our Friends Beneath the Sand covering the period 1870 to 1935 as well the critically acclaimed history of the Legion by Douglas Porch. It is probably fitting then that both of these authors feature in the latest crop of secondhand acquisitions.

From battling with Berbers to....

....tussling with Tuaregs. 

I am rather embarrassed to say that this is the second copy of this book I have purchased - the first went during one of my periodic clear outs!

I was particularly pleased to get all of the above in hardback rather than soft cover and the three volumes combined came to a little over £20 which is pretty good. Aside from some slight sunning on the Sahara title (which one could argue is pretty appropriate really!) and 'the dust of ages' they are all in fine fettle.

Both the Porch titles will be invaluable given their coverage but it will present me with a delicious dilemma. Do I opt for the Moroccan Berbers or the Tuareg version? With the Portable Wargame i could even consider both as the armies are quite small.

One to think about going forward methinks....

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Kurz and Allison Civil War Prints

This is the book I have been really keen to get a hold of. I finally tracked a reasonably priced copy down and am waiting to take delivery. Naturally I am very excited about this and for a variety of reasons the timing is extremely fortuitous....

The Battle of the Wilderness - one of the 36 prints produced by Kurz and Allison

I am really pleased to have finally tracked down a copy of the book published by the Fairfax Press in 1987 that includes reproductions of all 36 American Civil War prints produced by Kurz and Allison. In fact it is possible to buy actual prints from the series but I doubt I would have room to display them all - not to mention the fact that SWMBO would probably take a dim view of such imagery adorning the lounge! I was not sure I would be able to get a copy of this as secondhand versions seemed to be exclusively available in the US for, frankly, silly money - especially when you factor in shipping and customs etc. I know it would be posted as 'printed matter' but the HMRC can be a little belligerent about these things on occasion...

For those that are interested I got this for £12.80 all in which I am very pleased with. I will post a fuller review when it arrives.

The reason I was so keen to get this book is because my plan is to use the uniform details depicted in the prints as the basis for my old school Spencer Smith 30mm collection. Taking the pictures above as an example you can see some quite wonderfully neat and tidily attired gentlemen going about their martial endeavours. It is very stylised for sure but but for me therein lies the attraction.

For the most part it is safe to say that Union troops looked a little tidier than their Confederate opposition - a situation that deteriorated even further for the South as the tide of war turned against them and the blockade of their ports tightened. certainly one would not have expected to see troops such as depicted above in 1864!

The wooden and stylised nature of the Spencer Smith 30mm ACW range is ideal for replicating on the table top those images from the great war between the states.

I am really looking forward to starting this project.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Adding to the Library (Again!)....

Rather embarrassingly this is the second copy I have purchased of this title - the original I fear met a sticky end along with my copies of Conway's Fighting Ships (since replaced)...

Now available in paperback from the Works although I opted instead for this rather spiffy hardback version - to replace a copy that originally went 'oop North....

Working on the basis that more is less I am now being VERY selective about the books I add to my collection. The past couple of years have seen a huge number of titles heading out the door and, if truth be told, probably more than was prudent - the two books above being  good cases in point.

Needless to say the first title - which has a rather nice ACW section - will be very useful for my two immediate projects whilst the second will come in handy when I take to air once again. I suspect hat a couple of repeat watches of The Blue Max and Aces High will be in order first...

Preparing for the ACW Big Build

A selection of scratchbuilt ACW ship models built by Jack Alexander of Jacklex fame

The 1:600th Peter Pig ACW ships have finally gone to their new homes -  say homes because the collection has split into two parts. I probably lost out on the deals financially but not so much as to make it too painful on the finances. As wargamers I am sure we are all familiar with the curious concept of diminishing returns and of buying things that seemed like a good idea at the time!

The only part of the collection I have retained is the hexed Hammerin' Iron gaming mat as this will play - at least initially - quite an important role in my ACW project. The hexes for this mat are 5.5" across the flat sides which means I can build larger models than for the 4" Hexon version. This also means using a more robust building material so I shall be taking to Basswood rather than Balsa. i will need to lay in a supply of suitable construction materials and tools as most of my modelling gear is designed with Balsa, card or plastic in mind.

The models will be 'cartoon style' in that they will be taller in relation to their length so as they can appear alongside the Spencer Smith figures should the need arise. As the collection is very river focused I expect some combined operation type games or at the very least making use of naval gunfire support.

When I built a similar collection a few years ago the models based on specific types. This time around I shall avoid this as I am more concerned with using generic types. The river fleets featured a whole raft of converted merchant types, ferries, passenger vessels and many other assorted types that were pressed into service and whilst specific purpose built types existed I am thinking that the former motley selection would be more fun build. I shall certainly include some specific types - probably around a third of the collection - but I want to have some fun with this.

A monitor and casemate ironclad trade blows at close range. Taken from Bob Cordery's book Gridded Naval Wargames

In Bob Cordery's excellent Gridded Naval Wargames book he provides some construction details for a typical casemate ironclad and a monitor type warship which are very helpful and will certainly provide me with some valuable guidance.

The biggest difference with these models though is that not only will I not be basing them but I will also be giving them fictional names.

There is a very good reason for this and all will become clear in due course....

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Portable Foreign Legion

Eevee (named after a Pokemon character) taking her ease in the office aka the isolation tank or even ‘juve cube’

It has been an interesting weekend. To begin with we have a new addition to the family in the shape of Eevee - a four year old female cat courtesy of the Cats Protection League. We made the fatal mistake of going to one of their cat homing shows and so lo and behold - the feline contingent at our house is now back up three following the recent loss of our beloved Maisy. Eevee is in isolation at present until she settles in a little more and then we will introduce her to the rest of the gang - no doubt to much hissing, spitting, tail bottling and vocal indignation!

Laurel and I had a quick run out today - not to a boot sale - and I had high hopes of getting some essential modelling bits and pieces courtesy of the Works and Hobbycraft. Sadly I was disappointed on both counts which was a tad frustrating. I wanted to get some supplies in for the great ACW ship build but came home empty handed. As these models will be larger than those I built a few years back I want to use Basswood for the hulls and superstructures as it is a more durable than Balsa. I will take a look online and am sure I can get the material I need - and knowing the prices in Hobbycraft probably for cheaper as well!

Enough of the frivolity and on with the main point of the post.

I have more or less worked out the composition of the forces I shall be raising for the Portable Foreign Legion and indeed am also pretty sure about the figures I shall be using. Initially the set up will be for Morocco so Berbers will be the opposition of choice. I want to be sure that I get these right as they will also be featuring alongside the Turks against the Italians for the war of 1911/12 as well as for the Great War and after. I reckon that after this project is complete I will have Portable Wargame sized armies for around six forces. That sounds a lot but each one will be pretty small - which is one of the great attractions of the Portable Wargame.

The Legion will have a couple of cavalry units in support - Spahis and Chasseurs D’Afrique as well as artillery and some Turcos. At the moment I am looking at either Minifigs or Irregular Miniatures but have yet to finalise this. I am waiting on a specific book to arrive before I make this decision.

I will also need to think about some terrain to go with this project as for Morocco we are not just talking about sand. At this stage I am thinking about rocky outcrops and some buildings but I will need to be sure about the table footprint of the models I use.

I am waiting on my small order from Navwar for the ships for the WW2 project and the plan is to finish those before starting anything else. 

Friday, 7 September 2018

Victorian Science Fiction

I remember it well and as I recall my sole contribution to this was the section on the Turkish Army and the suggestion that 1:1200th should be the scale of choice so as to be compatible with Aeronef. 

Many of my recent posts have been quite reflective in nature. I offer no apologies for this as events of this year have given me much pause for thought about things I have done and things I have yet to do whilst I am still able. From the perspective of this blog it has manifested itself in my revisiting many abandoned projects and taking a second look. For sure there are many that were lost in time and will remain so but there is the odd few that have surfaced that have given me a few ideas.

I should qualify this by saying that the contents of this post fall definitely in the hibernation state - projects that WILL be looked at in due course and not consigned to the landfill of my gaming history.

Victorian Science Fiction is something that I have enjoyed reading about via Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and others and a number of years ago I was very heavily 'into it' via Aeronef (from 1999 as I recall) and the follow on rules set in the same timeline called Land Ironclads  both published by Wessex Games under the stewardship of Steve Blease.

Enormous fun and responsible for launching an enormous range of models available from Brigade Models and even a few suitable types from Irregular Miniatures.

Aeronef, written by Steve Blease and Matthew Hartley, covered Victorian airship combat with everything from single seat heavier than air craft up to giant sized armed dirigibles. It is huge fun to play and there were many exciting games fought at SEEMS back in the day. The rules were supported initially by Brigade Models  and the range of nations represented and classes of vessel is enormous. As an aside Brigade also have another set of rules available called Imperial Skies which cover a similar type of combat but with an alternate timeline and a rather more detailed approach.

My own contribution to this was limited to scratch building air fleets for the Turks (no surprise there!), Greeks and Bulgarians using mainly converted model aircraft bombs - the nations represented, being minor powers, mainly relied on dirigibles for their fleets - and lots of plastic card and sprue. I also made use of that rather nice small kit of the Hindenburg for a couple of ships including a Turkish aircraft carrier. This was of course before Brigade released any Turks....The scratch builds went to a new home as Steve Blease took them off my hands. I am sure I have some pictures kicking around somewhere of the models but they were built a couple of computers ago.

I penned a couple of articles for the journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Wargames Society (SFSFW) around the back story of the Turkish air fleet -the Ottoman Air Fleet or OAF for short - and one of the extraordinary things that came out of this was the start of my 'long range' friendship with Paul O'Grady of The Man Cave fame. I say long range for the simple fact Paul lives mostly in Australia. We have met a couple of times when he has been in London and have swapped wargaming stories as well as downed a few beers as one does in these circumstances...

I really enjoyed working with Paul on this one and we planned to write a follow up. Sadly we never got around to it. Note the very attractive walled town scratch built by Steve Blease using a CD for the base and with the walls and buildings fashioned from plastic sprue.

Paul and I co-wrote a mini campaign supplement for Aeronef which was hugely satisfying and a very enjoyable experience. We planned to follow this up with a further adventure but life got in the way and the idea faded away.

I was rather more involved with Land Ironclads in that I penned the section on the Turkish army and proposed using 1:1200th as the scale of choice to tie in with Aeronef and the proposed naval set called Aquanef. The armies raised for use with the rules largely featured the extensive range of figures in 2mm available from Irregular Miniatures. The Land Ironclads themselves again were produced by Brigade. I played this game many times on a solo basis and it was great fun. I even got around to converting some Irregular Miniatures models into something a little more Victorian looking - well I added funnels and flags so that should count!

Aquanef  - the naval set - was to have been the naval set to tie in with the others. The game was play tested at a show by Steve Blease I believe but he rules never made it into print as far as I know. I can remember play testing an early version of the rules at the club featuring a battle between two undersea Aquanef. The game featured a 3D system with 5 or 6 depth levels ranging from the surface to the 'Stygian Depths'. The show play test featured surface and subsurface elements with the surface ships based on upturned clear plastic pint glasses and sea coloured CD bases. I would have loved to have seen the rules come to print but alas it was not to be.

What does all this mean then in terms of where I now? Well I am not planning on rushing out an order to Brigade Models anytime soon but there is some potential to bolt on some land elements to the 1/600th models I have. This idea has some mileage especially as Brigade produce some rather nice Martian 'not quite War of the Worlds' fighting machines. I think the point here is that should I wish to I could readily tackle some Land Ironclads style actions merely by investing in a few models and using them in conjunction with the kit I already have. Whilst it is not on my immediate agenda it is something work remembering for the future.

Aeronef is something else. There are models aplenty available but with my usual degree of perversity I would prefer to build my own. Sadly my time is rather limited at present so this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

I have rather enjoyed this little ramble around a piece of my wargaming history and I fully intend not letting the whole VSF thing sink without a trace again - I will do something with it in time.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

"The minds, they are a-changin'...."

Kurz and Allison - The Battle of Five Forks

I have at last got my small order to Navwar in the post which means that work on the stalled WW2 North Atlantic naval project can resume once the models arrive. I shall be pleased to get this off the paint tray as it has dragged on for longer than I would have liked. Changing my mind about the models to use (if you recall it was a destroyer related issue - the models are too large) midway through the first batch did not help, neither did the summer heatwave!

I have made enquiries about the models I shall be using for my Portable North African Wargame and so expect to start acquiring material for this shortly. Initially it will be the Legion and the Berbers but phase two will see the addition of the British and some Turkish advisers for the Sanussi revolt during the Great War. This will give me a good excuse to get some Rolls Royce Armoured Cars! The beauty of this project is that, in true Portable Wargame style, will be pretty compact in terms of the amount of material I will be need.

The biggest single piece of news though, concerns the 30mm Spencer Smith Balkan project.

For a variety of reasons I shall not be pursuing this. The figures I shall be getting which are from the classic ACW range will instead be used as intended - in other words they will be used for the ACW.
I shall still be organising them using Charge! as a guide and with figures based individually. I will also use the wonderful Kurz and Allison prints as my painting guide so expect a suitably garish (and glossy) old school toy soldier vibe with them! I shall use the armies with a variety of rule sets with the Neil Thomas 19th Century set added to the Portable Wargame, Charge! or even Battle Cry as the mood takes me.

I have opted to do this simply because the variety of troop types for the Balkans is much larger than the Spencer Smith range can readily cope with. 

The naval dimension in support of this project will be scratch built and the plan is to have generic looking models that will fit on to a 5.5" (across the flat sides) hex. This means they can be slightly larger than my previous models. I also intend painting these in what I would describe as an old toy soldier style so clean and tidy and stylised.

The Grand Duchy of Artois and the Electorate of Kronenbourg will appear in due course but in their 18th century plumage - as I originally intended.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

"For the Glory of the Legion"....Part 2

March or Buy? More Hollywood than history....

In my previous post I outlined my thoughts around the French Foreign Legion project (more accurately I should refer to it as the Berber project being as how they will feature more often than the legion should my Great and Interwar ideas come to fruition!) and the choice of figures I would be using. I mentioned that I would be using 15 mm figures from the extensive range produced by Minifigs and available from Caliver Books. As well as the Legion I shall add in Turcos, Spahis, Senegalise Tirailleurs and the Chassers D'Afrique amongst others whilst the opposition will comprise Berber tribesman for the main North African theatre and Tuaregs for the Saharan. I should point out that whilst the Tuareg are of Berber stock they look rather different to the more usual Berber types.

That well known bon vivant, wit and raconteur Geordie and Exiled FOG posted a number of comments on my previous post which certainly fired up the creative juices so to speak; chief of which was a link to the recently released battle set produced by Italeri - Beau Geste - the Algerian Tuareg Revolt 1877 to 1912 and is pictured above.

What you get for your £59.99 from Hannants

On the face of it this set looks like a great idea as you get 150 figures, a rather splendid looking fort produced in MDF and a small set of very useful accessories - everything you might need to kick start a set up. So far so good. What lets in down though and is the reason I will not be buying it are the figures themselves. These are the old ESCI French Foreign Legion and Muslim Warrior sets and for a fuller review of these sets read here.

The figures are not bad from a detail point of view but both sides suffer from some problems - the 'Arabs' more so. I am by no means an expert on the subject but the set consists of Afghans, Bedouins, Berbers, Tuaregs and even Mahdists - each of which wore quite distinct dress. This would mean that should one wish to raise a purely Berber force then one would need to invest in a number of boxes to extract the appropriate figures - which is hardly economic. The figures for the Legion also have some issues around uniform details and equipment but this would be less of an issue.

I do not consider myself to overly picky but for my purposes this set simply does not work as I have no need for Bedouins, Afghans or Mahdists. I have no problem with 20mm as a scale, nor with using plastic figures but this set does not seem such good value when you think about the extra figures you would need to inject a degree of accuracy.

In many ways this is a real shame as the idea is sound and the fort looks very nice indeed - an update on the old Airfix version produced in the current material of choice, MDF.

Many thanks to Geordie for flagging this up for me.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

"For the Glory of the Legion"

Embattled Legionnaires in action 

The Colonial era (for the purposes of this post I mean the ‘Waterloo to Mons’ timeframe) is an extremely popular period for fighting battles with model soldiers and rightly so. The troop types are colourful, exotic even and there are tactical and operational challenges aplenty. Coupled with the availability of figures in every imaginable scale as well as an ever-increasing range of written material and dedicated rule sets it is easy to understand its popularity. I would also add the asymmetrical nature of most games – usually in terms of numbers engaged, weaponry and tactics employed and motivation.

It is probably safe to say that the big three periods for the Colonial scene within the timeframe mentioned are the Sudan, the Zulu Wars and possibly the NW Frontier.  This is very much a generalisation on my part and I have no desire to offend anyone that operates outside of these three. I have taken part in games from each period and have enjoyed them immensely but, aside from a very brief flirtation with 42mm figures for the Zulu War some years ago have never really mined the periods mentioned. For sure I have acquired and disposed of a number of books over the years but by and large have not really invested in them to any great extent. I have also gamed both the Zulu War and the NW Frontier using the block armies but other than that not a thing.

Whilst for the most part I have not really committed to anything in great detail  I have made a couple of forays into 54mm of all things for the NW Frontier and The Foreign Legion using  Armies in Plastic figures but both of these have fallen by the wayside – mainly because I would be unable to source many of the figures I would ideally need at a cost I would be prepared to pay.

With the advent of The Men Who Would be Kings I considered investing in a 28mm Foreign Legion set up but again was not thrilled with the prospect of 28mm figures although there are a good selection of available. With this in mind I quietly parked the idea – this is an important point as ‘something Colonial’ is not a new project as such; rather it is one that has been kicking around for some time (probably around 15 years or so as near as I can recall) but for the life of me I was unable to think about how best to tackle it. Fate however, stepped in to lend a hand and rescued the notion from the project backwater it was currently residing in.

I have a modest collection of books on the French Foreign Legion of which Martin Windrow’s excellent ‘Our Friends Beneath the Sands’ is the leading tome alongside a couple of his Osprey titles and the work by Douglas Porch on the Legion (more about him later). I was glancing through Martin Windrow’s superb history this weekend when I came across the section on Morocco which triggered a long forgotten memory. I have in my collection a book I acquired ages ago called ‘Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956’ by Gavin (Ring of Bright Water) Maxwell. I dug this out of a box that was destined for a local charity shop and am very pleased that I did. After a little further ‘Google Fu’ I discovered that Mr. Porch had also written books on the conquest of Morocco and the Sahara – both of which are now winging their way to me – so I would have plenty of background material to work with.

So where exactly, is all this leading? Well, I have mentioned that a Colonial set up is definitely on the cards and indeed, has been for some time. I am great admirer of Bob Cordery’s Sudan set up for a number of reasons, chief of which is that he has proved time and time again that one does not need huge resources and large armies to be able to fight very satisfying wargames. His collection, when used in conjunction with the Portable Wargame is fully in tune with how I want to run my games. All that was needed was a subject that could inspire me to take up the baton.

For a variety of reasons this will be in 15mm. The main reason for this is because I can make use of the extensive range of suitable figures from, of all people, Minifigs. There is sufficient variety of troop types for the French (I am thinking circa 1911/12) which are all suitably exotic not to mention the usefulness of the Berber tribesmen whole will provide the main opposition. Mention of the Berbers is important as these will also form a substantial part of the forces for the Sennusi when fighting the British in WW1 They could also fight alongside the Turks against the Italians in 1912 or indeed, against the Italians themselves, not to mention the Spanish during the Rif War. There is plenty of potential for a variety of games across the Colonial, Great war and Interwar period using what would be a unified rules system in the shape of the Portable Wargame. One could even consider escalating the Agadir Crisis and factor in the Germans as well – that would bring in the naval dimension, at least at the gunboat level. Crucially for me the amount of figures required will be relatively small and being Minifigs should be fairly to painless to paint – even for me!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Playing Surfaces and Boot Sales

Earlier today I managed to spend a little time in the man cave reviewing the various playing surfaces I own and what I shall be doing with them. My table is 5ft by 3ft and I have two 3ft by 2ft boards - one green and one sand coloured - which have been marked off in 3” squares meaning that they are 12 squares by 8. I also have a fold up 6ft by 4ft board which folded makes two 4ft by 3ft surfaces.

Taking all of that into consideration you can see that I have a pretty good selection of playing areas to use, albeit at the smaller end of the scale. The 6ft by 4ft has been used a couple of times but not recently and will only come out on special occasions for large actions. The two 3ft by 2ft boards came to my from Bob Cordery and all I did was to cover one with a piece of hardboard to represent a desert surface and then grid each one using a couple of Letraset permanent marker pens. I made some hills to go with both and already have a selection of buildings to use - roads and rivers were cut from strips of felt.

The rather nice chessboard that, since I acquired it, has never seen a chess piece (despite the fact I enjoy the game). Very suitable for use in a desert or arid setting.

The other playing surface I have - remember the Portable Wargame was originally tested on a chessboard (8 x 8 squares) - is a a wooden chessboard I picked up from a boot sale some time ago. This was a home made effort with 6cm squares and could be used for desert or arid battlefields more or less as is. I needed to reglue  the edges of a couple of the tiles but other than that it is fine - it even has the felt pads on the underside to stop it scratching anything. I have a number of ideas for things to use this for and the size of square is ideal. All will be revealed in due course.

Three books and 4 bases of palm trees (there are two on each base) which will be used with a particular project I have in mind. The top two titles are in pristine condition but the bottom one is slightly shelf worn. Everything you see above cost me a mere £2.60!

On the subject of boot sales Laurel and I, together with our daughter, Holly, paid a visit this morning to our local car boot and I managed to score some goodies. I must confess that my boot sale pickings for this year have been pretty thin thus far so I was really pleased to get back into scoring form once again.

The Great War at Sea by Lawrence Sondhaus is a relatively new history - published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press - and makes much use of newer sources so in a sense is quite a modern history. My interest in the period is well known so I shall enjoy this book for a fresh look at the naval dimension of the Great War.

More than Courage by Phil Nordyke is the story of the US 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War 2. As part of the 82nd Airborne Division the 504th saw extensive action during WW2 from Sicily to Central Europe via Naples, Anzio, France, Holland, Belgium and on into Germany itself. This is a combat history and makes use of many first-hand accounts and interviews thereby giving the view from the frontline added relevance compared to a more general history. A quick skim through has already thrown up plenty of ideas and I reckon the Chain of Command/Bolt Action devotees would enjoy this.

King, Kaiser and Tsar by Cathrine Clay is not a military history per se, rather it is an account of the family ties between the three rulers during the run up to the Great War. I am a sucker for this type of thing and justify it on the grounds that this type of book helps to set the scene and place things into their historical context.

The trees will be used for a particular small scale project I have in mind - more of which in due course.

All in all then it was not a bad day out.

Friday, 31 August 2018

A Return to the Swampy Bayous....

Bob Cordery's excellent book on naval wargames using a grid - and with much more besides. Note the rather fetching scratch built models in action on the cover.

My relationship with the American Civil war has been a chequered one for sure. I have bought and sold more material for this period than any other I can think of over a period of some forty years or so. Age has mellowed my temperament somewhat and so I am now able to see the war between the states with a greater sense of objectivity about the military and naval challenges the conflict offers the wargamer. My recent acquisition of the four volumes of Battles and Leaders and of Thunder Along the Mississippi have reinforced my intentions with the period and I would also add that Battle Cry - the Richard Borg designed Command and Colours boardgame - was probably the instigator of this apparent renaissance.

My situation at present with the ACW is that aside from a copy of the aforementioned Battle Cry my only investment in the period is around 40 1/600th ACW ships from the Peter Pig Hammerin' Iron range, together with some scenery. For figures I was considering using a fusion of Tumbling Dice and Peter Pig 1/600th figures in support of the ships or alternatively my block armies. Readers of the blog will no doubt recall a couple of river based games I fought using a combination of the block armies and my scratch built river forces. Two of the most notable games can be found here:

Raiders of the Lost Arkansas

The CSS Arkansas in trouble....

The Attack on Fort Duvet

...and about to be so again!

These games were fought a long time ago and reading the blog posts associated with the great scratch building effort I undertook to produce a pair of river fleets (there were over fifty ships in the collection eventually of which around a third were painted - only the ironclads for both sides) reminded me of how much fun I had actually building the ships.

I enjoy scratch building and whilst I do not profess to be a super detailed modeller producing ships for the American Civil War is not difficult. My old friend Bob Cordery has produced some really nice generic ship models and indeed, details how he made some of them in his very useful book Gridded Naval Wargames. Bob is very fond of making what he calls 'Cartoon Style' models - models that have the overall profile of the intended ship but with length shortened whilst being exaggerated in respect of height, typically with the use of Hexon tiles in mind. The big advantage of this is that whilst the 'footprint' of the model is small in relation to the height it looks better alongside the figures being used. Using the cover of Bob's book as an example these models look absolutely perfect alongside his Sudan collection.

Two of Bob Cordery's 'Cartoon Style' models shown to good effect.

I think for my planned needs I probably have too many models to consider with the Peter Pig collection - which was also true of the scratch built collection of several years ago. Dare I say it? It was a classic case of 'project creep'.

With this in mind I have taken the decision to part company with the Peter Pig collection (this time for definite!) as I want to build the models rather than use commercially available versions. It will take longer to get them into action but since I only envisage needing around a dozen models it should not be too onerous.

I have learned a lot from the original scratch building project in terms of construction techniques to know what I need to do this time around as the models will be more generic and will also be larger than the previous versions. Whereas I was modelling specific ships before this time around I shall focus more on the type being represented.

With the above in mind I have been quietly stockpiling building materials and so hope to start work once the WW2 ships have been finished.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

A Balkan Intrigue

A selection of uniform styles for Russia and Turkey from the Crimean War to that of 1877. For my part the Russians will be wearing the kepi whilst the Turks will have the classic Zouave style uniform with a turbaned fez.

It has been a busy weekend on the domestic front but I have managed to nail a few things down in respect of my modelling and painting arrangements and also with the Balkan project.

After some internal changes concerning the man cave and our lounge I now have some dedicated storage space downstairs. By deploying my fold up table and desk lamp when needed I will be able to paint and construct models to my hearts content - without the trip and monastic retreat into the man cave when I want to do anything. The man cave will now be primarily a library and gaming room.

I have finally settled on the shape of the Balkan project and so the initial forces will be Russian, Turkish and Greek. There will be a number of Balkan irregular types thrown in to the mix that can be used as allies where required or as forces in their own right. I have yet to scope the back story in detail although I have the basic framework in place. 

The armies will be ‘based upon’ rather than detailed representations which will suffice for my needs. There will be plenty of colour for sure and the naval dimension will also have a lot to offer.

My criteria for this project are very simple - I shall be using Spencer Smith 30mm figures exclusively, the figures will be painted in an old toy soldier style which will mean gloss varnish, plain bases and block colours with no shading or highlighting and the basic organisation of the forces will based on that from Charge! For the naval side I suspect that the Portable Naval Wargame will be used or possibly something from David Manley.

The rules I envisage using are Charge! (The Victorian version), the Portable Wargame, The Men Who Would be Kings, A Gentleman’s War and possibly the Neil Thomas 19th century set for when I am feeling serious.

I am unsure about the naval dimension merely because I have not researched the fleets sufficiently but I will probably make use of what I can from the Peter Pig ACW range or else raid the Tumbling Dice 1/2400th series - mainly because they make a lot of Victorian-era ironclads. There is also the possibility of scratch building which could be fun. 

However, before all this fun and games commences I need to get back to the WW2 ships and my change of plan in respect of the destroyers for the British and Germans. With this in mind a small order will be winging its way to Navwar very shortly.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Answering the The Eastern Question

The Greek army for the period under consideration - I rather like that very elegant looking lancer officer. I will take a look at some other sources for some closer details but reckon that the ACW kept wearing infantryman from Spencer Smith could serve quite nicely if one was not too pedantic about minor details.

OK then. You probably remember me mentioning an idea I was flirting with based on the Western Balkans and the Adriatic and set around the 1865 - 1875 period. This would involve the Greeks, Turks (via those areas that were still technically part of the Ottoman Empire) the Russians and the British - the latter as I wanted them still around occupying the Ionian islands. All of this came about as a result of my recent holiday in Corfu and seeing all the British buildings in the old fortress. The British had a governor on Corfu from 1815 until the mid 1860s when the Ionian Islands were passed over to Greece. For a variety of reasons I opted to shelve this in its intended form with the view to revisiting it at a later date.

Well, the later date has arrived via some further research into the period from the start of the Greek War of Independence until the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War.

Over the whole period the permutations of alliances and influence was, to say the least, rather complex.

Initially the plan was to maintain Ottoman territorial integrity to ensure that Russian influence was in the area was kept honest (thus pleasing Austria). However, the notion of Greek independence had gotten a hold in the minds of many influential people across Europe and so the idea of autonomy for the region but under Ottoman suzerainty was mooted. This did not go far enough and so the French, the British and the Russians sent forces to support the Greek rebels - especially as things were going so badly following the arrival of the Turkish allies from Egypt. At this stage a concerted effort from the Turks may well have ended the Greek resistance but for the Allied naval victory at Navarino in 1827. 

The French then sent an expeditionary force to help with the subjugation of the remaining Turkish garrisons and remained around until relieved by the Bavarians when Prince Otto arrived to assume the kingship of the newly independent Greece.

The Russians went to  war with Turkey in 1828 as the Turks, in retaliation for the Russian involvement at Navarino, closed the Dardanelles strait to Russian shipping.

The Battle of Akhalzic 1828. Note the white trousered Russians and the rather nonchalant drummer!

With Greece now an independent nation and supported by both Britain and France the Russians continued to be the champion of the Slavic peoples and thi ultimately led to the war in 1877 as the Turks went from being a cause celebre to (almost) international pariahs. Britain and France (not to mention Austria) were always mindful of the Ottoman geographical situation and usually were supportive of their territorial integrity - especially where Russia was concerned.

I have thought about all the permutations of historical alliances and how this could translate into an 1865 to 1875 style set up. 

You will have no doubt noticed that at this point I have made no mention of imagi-nations. This is deliberate as I genuinely believe that the situation is this part of the world during the period under consideration was diverse enough generate sufficient interest using historical forces. However, therein lies a potential stumbling block. The forces I would consider for this will be made from Spencer Smith figures and so I am limited to an extent what can be produced. In fact it is fair to say that the armies will not be accurate representations of their historical counterparts - rather they will be ‘based upon’.  If tweaking a historical period and producing armies that are loosely modelled on their actual counterparts constitutes ‘imagi-neering’ then so be it. In any event the background is the thing and the armies (and navies) will be there or thereabouts in terms of what they look like and what would be available.

For the period in question the Spencer Smith ACW kepi wearing infantryman will be well suited for use for the Russians, the French, the Serbians and the Greeks (if one is not too fussy about the headgear). The kepi wearing cavalryman will be useful for both the Greeks and the Russians whilst the ACW Zouave will of course work for the Turk - as well as for many of the Ottoman Balkan subjects although I will need to lose the back pack. I can raid the other Spencer Smith ranges for assorted Balkan irregulars, other cavalry types and even, if needed, Bavarian infantry.

I have yet to finalise the shape this project will take and it will be very much a ‘what if’ style of set up. The troops fielded will be ‘based upon’ their historical counterparts and so in true Hollywood fashion ‘and resemblance between persons or events living or dead is purely coincidental and not intentional.’

That’s the plan anyway and so the Grand Duchy of Artois and the Electorate of Kronenbourg will appear in their 18th century guise in due course - as I always intended.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Thoughts on Imagi-nation Uniforms

A selection of French Zouaves wearing the turbaned fez. Note the 'camp follower' on the shoulders of the right hand figure!

My recent blog posts concerning imagi-nations have generated a number of comments that have given me much to think about – for which I am very grateful to those that took the time to write in.

In the interests of clarity I would like to detail what it is I am going to do and how in respect of the Spencer Smith project.

Initially I will be producing a pair of 1860/1870 armies organised as per Charge! and intended for use with a number of rules sets including A Gentleman’s War, Charge! (there is a Victorian variant on the Old School Yahoo Group as I recall), the Portable Wargame and The Men Who Would Be Kings (yes I know they are designed for Colonials but they would work well enough for what I am planning).

I was considering using the ACW figures as intended to support my 1/600th naval collection but have decided instead to follow the imagi-nation route as this will give me a lot more creative licence. The forces in question will be supported by a full back story complete with the all-important map (which will naturally feature some water for the naval side) and the essential dramatis personae.

At this stage I have not settled on the two armies yet  - whether they will appear as Kronenberg and Artois or Fezia and Rusland. The figures I will be using initially are kepi, trouser and tunic wearing ACW types and so there will be plenty of historical examples of similar uniforms to serve as inspiration. The kepi, trouser and tunic combination was a very popular style of uniform for the 1860 to 1870 period until the Prussian style came into vogue (and I am indebted to Bob Cordery for mentioning that to me). Aside from the American Civil War, uniforms of this type featured in the Italian Wars of Unification and the Pacific war amongst others which means that the standard kepi-wearing ACW infantryman is a very useful figure indeed. Fezia on the other hand, will be a little more problematic as there is but a solitary Zouave figure in the Spencer Smith range wearing a turbaned fez.

The Zouave style of uniform was again very popular for a while during the period in question and so would allow for some elements of the exotic in the armies under consideration. Should Fezia make an appearance then this fellow would serve as the rank and file for the regular army and probably as a Bashi-Bazouk style irregular alongside the Croats, Pandours and other assorted Balkan types available from Spencer Smith.

The Spencer Smith ACW Zouave - again wearing the turbaned fez

The 84th New York Zouaves from the brush of the very talented Jim Duncan 

Chronologically speaking I am approaching this toy soldier project from the wrong way round. I hope to tackle the 18th century in due course but for now the third quarter of the 19th century will hold sway. Of course there is also the small matter of the Napoleonic Wars ‘twixt the tricorne and kepi period….

....And the naval dimension....

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Just my imagi-nation....Once again

Founded in 1664 the Electorate of Kronenbourg changed the spelling of their name in 1715 to remove any Gallic overtones.

The Grand Duchy of Artois dates from 1366 and has been bickering with Kronenberg on and off since 1700. Aside from border disputes and police style actions there has been at least three wars directly between the two sides

In my last post I mentioned about the two ‘imagi-nations’ I came up with several years ago, originally for an 18th century set up. The Electorate of Kronenberg and The Grand Duchy of Artois were inspired by Messrs Grant, Young and Lawford and took their names from two well known beers. I liked both the names but ‘Germanised’ the spelling of Kronenbourg so it looked less French. I had great fun looking up names of German and continental beers for the regiments in the army of Kronenberg and the names of wines for those of Artois. As an example the senior heavy cavalry regiment in the Kronenberg army is the Holstein Kuirassiere whilst Artois has the Cuirassiers du Chablis. You get the general idea. I also toyed with the idea of having a ‘British’ force where all the units were named after cheeses but the idea never really matured….

My own opinion is that one has to make a huge leap of faith to produce an imagi-nation to its fullest extent. By its fullest extent I mean designing uniforms and standards etc as well as the terrain and the whole back story because, let’s be honest, most imagi-nations are very much personal affairs meaning that inevitably a carefully painted unit of one’s own design will not find favour with the more serious historical fraternity – other than to admire the brushwork perhaps. You would also probably have a job selling them on should the need arise. If I am honest this had always been a problem for me as I am a notoriously slow and reluctant painter so painting something with little resale value was not something I was keen on. Churning out a unit based on a whim is all well and good as long as one is fully committed to the cause and is in it for the long haul. I am far more relaxed about this kind of thing now – I am pleasing myself primarily after all - and so ‘imagi-neering’ is a lot more viable. I suppose I am at that stage of my gaming career when the idea of ‘pleasing myself’ rather than ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is far more important!

Messrs Young and Lawford mentioned in Charge! about the advantages of using mythical armies and of being able to design one’s own uniforms and standards etc. I have no problem with this and have even worked on the basic colours used for each side. The end result will not surprise you in that the main coat colour for Kronenberg infantry is dark blue whilst those of Artois are mid to light grey. Regimental facings would be applied to the usual places – turnbacks, cuffs etc and the cavalry would usually be more colourful and not follow the uniform conventions of their foot compatriots.

For the 18th century I would opt to use the Spencer Smith War of the Austrian Succession range rather than the later and more traditional figures seen in The Wargame. I would do this simply because the choice is far better and more complete than the original eighteenth century range and the figures lend themselves to an easier paint job.

There is also the possibility of pitting the two opponents in later years so it would be possible to raise Napoleonic forces – again, Spencer Smith have a small Napoleonic range - and then the same for the third quarter of the 19th century – naturally with a naval dimension adding to the fun. Producing pairs of armies for three different periods is obviously a long term project but it would enable different types of games to be fought as tactics and technology evolved. One could ensure a degree of continuity between the combatants and their units which helps to flesh out the story.

For me at the present time the great debate is whether to go historical or imagi-nation for my Spencer Smith project and if the latter will Kronenbourg and Artois see the light of day or will those old adversaries Fezia and Rusland cross swords once again?

I have time to think about this and so am not going to make any hasty decisions – I have done this far too many times in the past and have lived to regret it – as I have a number of supporting ideas to consider as well.